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EVIL GIVES WAY | WRITING OUR OWN NARRATIVE | SHOULDER TO SHOULDER
GREATEST OF ALL TIME 1942 – 2016
VOL 45 NO. 5 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 visit isna online at: WWW.ISNA.NET
COVER STORY 22 Muhammad Ali – A Canary in America’s Coal Mines 28
What Muhammad Ali Means to Me
Punching to Inspire
22 CONVENTION #53
17 Turning Points: Navigating Challenges, Seizing Opportunities
ISLAM IN AMERICA
32 Writing Our Own Narrative 33 The Conversion and Second Resurrection of the Nation of Islam 35 Sharia Online
MUSLIMS IN ACTION
36 Planting the Seeds of Anti-Poverty Work 38 The Case against Fossil Fuels Investments 40 42 44 45
Evil Gives Way In the Wake of Exclusivist Political Rhetoric Lessons Learned Facing Fear and Acting for a Better America
HEALTH & WELL-BEING
46 The Addictions Epidemic
THE MUSLIM WORLD
48 Kashmir for Kashmiris 50 Cooperation Serves Democracy
6 8 10 58 60
DEPARTMENTS Editorial ISNA Matters Community Matters New Releases Food for the Spirit
52 The Great Age of the Seljuqs 54 Exhibition of “The Art of the Quran”
56 Abdul-Sattar Edhi 57 Asad Husain
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
DESIGN & LAYOUT BY: Gamal Abdelaziz, A-Ztype Copyeditor: Jay Willoughby. The views expressed in Islamic Horizons are not necessarily the views of its editors nor of the Islamic Society of North America. Islamic Horizons does not accept unsolicitated articles or submissions. All references to the Quran made are from The Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Amana, Brentwood, MD.
Strengthening the American Muslim Narrative
his Labor Day weekend in Chicago, Muslim Chicagoans will welcome thousands of their kin and friends at ISNA #53. This year’s theme, which builds on the ISNA #52 theme, challenges attendees to move beyond their comfort zones: “Turning Points: Navigating Challenges, Seizing Opportunities.” During the closing weeks of 2015 and on into 2016 [and as things show, predictably onward], anti-Islamic bigotry continues its caustic buildup, despite concerted and collaborative efforts by Muslim communities and organizations to promote Islam’s teachings and engage, partner and ally themselves with their non-Muslim counterparts. This relatively new approach represents a “turning point” in how the community and mainstream North American society both perceive and are willing to learn more about each other, despite the ongoing fear mongering from certain quarters. ISNA #53’s theme is broad enough to allow serious and realistic deliberations at the various sessions and roundtables. The focus is simultaneously historic, both from the vantage point of past and recent turning points in Islamic history. The uplifting message will be: “Yes, there are challenges, but we can navigate them even as we organize and empower our communities to seize the opportunities to deepen our faith, impart its teachings, and address socially complex issues facing all North Americans, regardless of their faith or lack thereof.” In this regard, the following words from First Lady Michelle Obama’s address to the Democratic Nation Convention in Philadelphia on July 25 are a guide on how to stand against hate, against Islamophobia and against ignorance. “…That is what Barack and I think about every day as he tried to guide and protect our girls from the challenges of this unusual life in the spotlight. How we urged them to ignore those who question their father’s citizenship or faith. How we insist that the
hateful language they hear from public figures on TV does not represent the true spirit of this country. How we explain that when someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. Our motto is, when they go low, we go high. “With every word we utter, with every action we take, we know our kids are watching us. We as parents are the most important role model.” In the summer of 2015, preceding ISNA #52, Black Lives Matter (BLM) activists began to publicly challenge politicians — including the presidential candidates — to state their positions on BLM issues. This movement began when George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, was acquitted in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, a seventeen-year-old African-American teenager, during the summer of 2013. BLM has touched Chicago in a personal way: the police shootings of Ronald “Ronnie Man” Johnson, Pierre L. Loury, Bettie Jones and Rekia Boyd. Yes, #BLM is as much a Muslim American and Canadian issue as is standing up against hate, intolerance and ignorance. Taking ISNA #53’s theme to heart, we must finally move beyond our communal concerns or things “back home,” thereby proving our oft-stated assertion that we are Americans or Canadians. We must “navigate the challenges” that face us where we actually live and “seize the opportunities” to get involved and ally ourselves with those working for social justice, instead of just concentrating on our own issues. As the next issue of Islamic Horizons (Nov./Dec. 2016) will reach many after they have voted, we again refer to the First Lady’s convention address: “Make no mistake about it. This November, when we get to the polls, that is what we are deciding. Not Democrat or Republican, not left or right. In this election, and every election, it is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives.”
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRESIDENT Azhar Azeez SECRETARY GENERAL Hazem Bata EDITOR Omer Bin Abdullah EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Faryal M Khatri EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Parvez Ahmed (Interim Chair), Iqbal Unus, M. Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Hazem Bata. ISLAMIC HORIZONS is a bimonthly publication of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Copyright @2016 All rights reserved Reproduction, in whole or in part, of this material in mechanical or electronic form without written permission is strictly prohibited. Islamic Horizons magazine is available electronically on ProQuest’s Ethnic NewsWatch, LexisNexis, and EBSCO Discovery Service, and is indexed by Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature. Please see your librarian for access. The name “Islamic Horizons” is protected through trademark registration ISSN 8756‑2367 POSTMASTER Send address changes to Islamic Horizons, P.O. Box 38 Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 SUBSCRIPTIONS Annual, domestic – $24 Canada – US$30 Overseas airmail – US$60 TO SUBSCRIBE Contact Islamic Horizons at (317) 839‑8157 / (317) 839‑1811 Fax (317) 839‑1840 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ADVERTISING For rates contact Islamic Horizons at (703) 742‑8108, email@example.com, ww.isna.net Canada Post International Publications Mail Product (Canadian Distribution) Sales Agreement No. 0666300 CORRESPONDENCE Send all correspondence and/or Letters to the Editor at: Islamic Horizons P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
ISNA MATTERS AN END TO VIOLENCE
Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, National Director of the ISNA Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances, participated in the June 16th Orlando shooting-related observances hosted by Dr. Susan Crowe, director of the General Board of Church and Society — a general agency of the United Methodist Church — in Washington, D.C. The joint statement stated: “This and other acts of hate and terror cannot be blamed on Muslims. Those who perpetrated this tragedy are not reflective of Islam or of the larger Muslim community. During this holy season of Ramadan, we know that Muslims around the world are peacefully fasting, reflecting and praying in praise and love of God. “Persons from any culture who are radicalized must not be allowed to claim the integrity of the world’s great religious traditions. As persons of faith we must stand with all religious persons and communities who seek peace, compassion, and a brighter future for all.” The statement also reminded those in the audience that “addressing gun violence must be a priority for our leaders at every level of government. Doing nothing is to be complicit in the continued murder of innocent people.” On June 15, Syeed joined faith leaders from across the country in Washington, D.C., to pray for the victims and families of the Orlando massacre and for another issue critical to our safety and security: The reform of those systems responsible for raising the number of currently imprisoned Americans to 2.3 million, the highest incarcerated rate in the world, by changing the federal sentencing guidelines. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 (S. 2123), which landed on the desk of Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.) after receiving wide bipartisan support, has languished there since Oct. 2015 — almost one year. Faith leaders met with Senators and Representatives to urge that both this stalled reform and others move forward. Syeed said that while Muslim Americans constitute hardly 3 percent of the nation’s total 8
population, they now make up over 10 percent of those incarcerated. He proclaimed, “We need to see how the criminal justice in America is reformed to take justice its course in integrating people with light crimes back in our society.” This event was sponsored by the National Council of Churches (NCC), the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Interfaith Criminal Justice Coalition and the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism (RACRJ). “In the face of a tragedy like we experienced this week, we people of faith come together to bear witness that the world as it is, which is broken with suffering and oppression, is not the world as it need be,” said Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Director of RACRJ. “And so we lift up our moral voice today in outrage and in prayer.” In a time of bitter partisanship, sentencing reform has been perhaps the single issue that has received support from both Republicans and Democrats. “Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all spring from a story of freedom, of a God who liberates the enslaved and gives second chances,” said Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). “We believe this is a matter of faith and morality, and we urge Senator McConnell to do the right thing and bring this bill to a vote.” Senate Bill S. 2123 reforms the “Three Strikes” rules, which can sentence a person to life in prison for minor offenses, and changes some of the mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. “We have been supportive of this bill since the beginning, and still feel that it is the best chance we will have to see meaningful change for years to come,” said Aundreia Alexander, Associate General Secretary of the NCC. “If this legislation is not brought to a vote in the next few weeks, it likely will die. Time is of the essence. We urge Congress to act now.” The prayer vigil was led by faith groups from across a wide spectrum of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and civil rights groups. “This campaign is neither conservative nor liberal, left nor right. It involves something we all agree on: Every person in prison is made in the image of God and deserves just punishment and the opportunity for restoration,” said Craig DeRoche, Senior Vice President of Advocacy & Public Policy, Prison Fellowship. ”The disproportionate sentences that contribute to federal prison overcrowding infringe on our freedoms, are expensive, and do not represent our values.”
MYNA LEADERS MEET The outgoing and incoming Muslim Youth of North America (MYNA) National Executive Committee, Regional Executive Committee, Advisory Board, Majlis Youth Council and several ISNA staff members met for their annual Summer Leadership Summit from June 15 to 21 in Flint, Mich., where they were hosted by neurologist Jawad Shah, a MYC member. The weeklong summit, a crucial part of MYNA, lays the foundational training for the youth involved. Thus 35 of the 2016-17 MYNA officers cooperated with each other to devise a program of leadership and position training, along with spiritual training through khatirahs, taraweeh and ibadah in honor of Ramadan. The summit was an opportunity for participants to learn and ask questions about their roles and improve their departments, as well as to work on new events, initiatives and programs by utilizing the expertise of past EC, MYC and staff members. MYNA held five summer regional camps nationwide so that as many youth as possible could attend at least one of them. Under the theme of “Stop, Submit, and Serve,” the camps took participants through a weeklong process of submitting to God and improving their selves in order to serve the community. The camps helped connect campers to the importance of the deen after just saying goodbye to Ramadan, the need to establish and maintain community ties and to becoming agents of service and change within their wider spheres of activity. The programs included such recreational activities as zip lining, canoeing, swimming, hiking, archery and bonding around campfires.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
PHOTO NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES
WORKING FOR THE COMMON GOOD
Coinciding with the Democratic National Convention, ISNA and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) co-sponsored a breakfast in
Philadelphia on July 27 for fellowship and to talk about issues of concern to Muslims during this election year. The event highlighted how ISNA has
2016-17 MYNA OFFICERS TAKE CHARGE MYNA welcomed its new officers for 2016-17. The incoming Executive Committee and Regional Executive Committee will begin their training and take office at the ISNA Convention during Labor Day weekend. President: Alaa Abdeldaeim (Crown Point, Ind.), Vice President: Sana Khan (Carbondale, Ill.), Program Chair: Zeba Kokan (Carmel, Ind.), Outreach Chair: Hadeel Abdallah (Lexington, Ky.), Treasurer: Sana Baban (Gainesville, Fla.), Secretary: Sarah Siddiqui (Dayton, Ohio) and Public Relations Chair: Yaseen Najeeb (Milwaukee, Wis.) Chair: Mariam Soliman (Cincinnati, Ohio) is chair of the Midwest Regional Executive Committee; Program Chair: Ozair Hasan (Dayton, Ohio), Secretary: Izza Ghani (Flint, Mich.), Finance Chair: Nabiha Mushtaq (Louisville, Ky.) and Public Relations Chair: Hoda Shalash (Lexington, Ky.). Yousef Abdeldaiem (Crown Point, Ind.) is chair of the North Central Regional Executive Committee; Program Chair: Ameer Qadri (Naperville, Ill.), Secretary: Nabila Qadri (Naperville, Ill.), Finance
Chair: Haroon Khan (Lindenhurst, Ill.) and Public Relations Chair: Dina Hussein (Crown Point, Ind.). Mouadh Ayachi (Dallas, Texas) is chair of the South Central Regional Executive Committee; Program Chair: Aisha Ahmed (Dallas, Texas), Secretary: Dalia El-Giar (West Monroe, La.), Finance Chair: Aseel Atalla (Phoenix, Ariz.) and Public Relations Chair: Hammad Husain (Wichita, Kan.). All officers of the Midatlantic Regional Executive Committee are from Washington, D.C. Ameenah Habib is chair; Program Chair: Duha Salem, Secretary: Hasib Zaman, Finance Chair: Abduelwahab Hussein and Public Relations Chair: Amani Hagmagid. Juveriyah Salat (Fremont, Calif.) is California Regional Executive Committee Chair; Program Chair: Aliyah Rasheed (Fremont, Calif.), Secretary: Azza Abid (Fremont. Calif.), Finance Chair: Zainab Khan (Fremont, Calif.) and Public Relations Chair: Shayan Bawaney (Dublin, Calif.). MYNA inaugurated it newest chapter, MYNA Milwaukee, which has been meeting and planning for local MYNA events since Feb. 20, 2016. On June 24 its members hosted their first event, a MYNA Qiyam. Nearly 40
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
fostered inter-religious partnerships to address domestic and international issues that are critical to our country’s future. The danger of proposals advocating the exclusion of Muslims is palpable and leads the nation away from achieving the “common good.” It was reiterated that anti-Muslim rhetoric makes America less, not more, safe. Speakers included Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer, Director, Department of Multifaith Studies and Initiatives and Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Wyncote, Pa., Catherine Orsborn, Shoulderto-Shoulder, Patricia Anton, graduate student, Hartford Seminary, Sayyid M. Syeed, Rev. Ron Stief, executive director of NRCAT, Rev. Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, and Dr. Christopher Bail, assistant professor of Sociology at Duke University. NRCAT, based in Washington, D.C., is a decade-old national interfaith coalition of over 300 mainline Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic, Muslim, Sikh, and other faith organizations. youth turned out, including some from out of state, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Among the featured sessions were a workshop on using your time wisely, some exciting icebreaker games to get to know each other and a talk about youth activism by Qari Noman Hussain, imam/religious director at Masjid-Al-Huda in Greenfield, Wisc. and founder of Ilm Oasis. In July, this new chapter hosted a community service outing at St. Vincent de Paul’s Soup Kitchen in downtown Milwaukee.
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COMMUNITY MATTERS Quranic Guidance For the third time in three years, the joint 41st Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)-Muslim American Society (MAS) convention, entitled “Quran: The Divine Guidance,” was held in Baltimore, Md., on May 28-30. Speaking at the opening session, ICNA President Naeem Baig remarked that they chose this theme in order to explore the sacred text’s beauties while dispelling misinterpretations of Islam and Muslims in the country’s mainstream media and various politicians’ rhetoric. “We feel our duty as Muslim Americans [is] to talk about our faith, to talk about our being, to talk about the book of God,” Baig said. He added, “It is our belief that this Book is divine and that it has the answers to everything that we face in our lives.” Imam Hassan Amin, who serves at the Johns Hopkins University and as a Baltimore Police Department chaplain, told the Baltimore Sun on May 27 that ICNA’s willingness to hold its convention in this city after the Freddie Gray riots last
spring testified to the organization’s — and Islam’s — values. Oussama Jammal, secretary general of the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations,
said that now is the time for Muslim Americans to unite against the growing threat of Islamophobia. To stress the importance of voter registration, former ICNA president Zahid Bukhari manned the event’s voter information/registration booth. Topics addressed during the three-day convention included how to deal with the on-the-ground realities faced by Muslims living in North America, Islamophobia and discrimination. The dawah workshop led by Hamza Tzortzis and Fahad Tasleem was followed by street dawah at the Inner Harbor.
Two sessions on Hispanic Muslims were also held, one in English and the other in Spanish. On Sunday, a group of Muslim volunteers sought to give back to the community by handing out 700 “Mercy Bags” filled with toiletries and other essentials to the area’s homeless, low-income residents and seniors. Baig told the Baltimore Sun that these items were chosen based upon the products looted from convenience stores during the Freddie Gray protests. The convention featured a bazaar, a Quran recitation contest, a career fair, sisters’ events, youth sessions, a revert session, children’s activities, dawah workshops and talks by Islamic scholars and imams. In addition to the available food options, there was an outdoor halal food court with a wide selection of traditional Muslim foods. This year’s entertainment session featured Karim Jabbari’s “Light from the Heart,” which consisted of using handheld light and long-exposure photographic techniques to capture the transient form within a real setting. Youssef Edghouch, Preacher Moss, Khalil Ismail and winner of spoken word contest, also performed.
Philadelphia and New Jersey School Districts Recognize Eid The Jersey Journal reported on May 20 that built on the idea that while we may be different in Jersey City (N.J.) public schools will close for Eid nationality and ethnicity, the city welcomes all to al-Adha, as the school board has voted unanimously worship and practice the faiths of our culture or to add this holiday to the school calendar. “On behalf our choosing.” of the Muslim community, we made history,” said “Because the calendar for the 2016-17 school year Jessica Abdelnabbi, a Muslim mother who lobbied has already been finalized, those who wish to take the day off will be given excused absences,” Schools for the holiday. “My [three] children will not be excluded.” Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said, adding that Jersey City joins other districts around the in the future these holidays will be treated like any other holiday. state, including in Paterson, Trenton and Atlantic City, by officially recognizing Eid al-Adha. Board Michael Rashid, chair of the Philadelphia Eid of Education president Vidya Gangadin said the Coalition, said citywide Muslim religious leaders William R. Hite Jr. unanimous vote acknowledges the city’s diverse have agreed on the relevant dates for the next five population. The board will create a committee, which will include years. In the 2017-18 school year, Eid al-Fitr will fall during the religious leaders of various faiths, to determine what holidays the summer and Eid al-Adha on a Saturday, meaning the first new district should add to its calendar starting in 2017-18. holiday that the entire district will have off will be Eid al-Fitr (June The Philadelphia School District has added the two Eid holidays 14, 2018). to its calendar and, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the city Philadelphia contains an estimated 200,000 Muslims. Mayor will create a task force to look into following suit for its own calendar. Kenney noted that making the days city holidays will require buy-in “Philadelphia’s history is based on being a place where religious from the city’s municipal unions and that the newly created Mayor’s freedom is part of its founding ethos,” Mayor James Francis “Jim” Task Force on Cultural Inclusion will focus “first and foremost” Kenney (D) said at a news conference on May 31. “Our city was on that issue; however, the focus could broaden in the future. 10
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
Report Exposes U.S. Islamophobic Groups On June 20, 2016, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Center for Race and Gender at University of California Berkeley released their joint report, “Confronting Fear” (www.irdproject.com). In addition to revealing that during 2008-13, 33 Islamophobic organizations spent approximately $206 million to incite hatred against Islam and Muslims, it presented a four-point strategy designed to achieve a shared American understanding of Islam in which being “Muslim” is something positive and in which Islam has an equal place among this country’s other faiths. The report documents the negative impact of Islamophobia, including: (1) AntiIslam bills became law in 10 states; (2) Florida and Tennessee passed laws revising how they approve textbooks for classroom use; (3) In 2015, mosques were targeted in 78 recorded incidents. Seventeen such incidents each were reported during November and December, numbers almost equivalent to an entire year’s worth of reports from 2103 and 2014; and (4) The appearance of “Muslim-free” businesses and armed anti-Islam demonstrations, both of which raise deep concerns.
Corey Saylor, director of CAIR’s Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia, stated: “The counter-Islamophobia strategy presented in ‘Confronting Fear’ offers specific advice on how to push back against the well-funded effort to promote and exploit anti-Muslim bigotry nationwide. By advocating positive action on issues that are not necessarily directly about Muslims, but are nevertheless about the preservation of justice and human dignity, we
Hajj Inspires Multiuse Jacket Haroon Pasha, who graduated from Hood College in May, told the Frederick (Md.) News-Post on May 10 that going on the hajj inspired his idea for the “Backet,” a combination backpack and jacket that he and other members of Hood’s Enactus group designed for the homeless. Inspired by a post-hajj video showing a Syrian woman and her children in a refugee camp inspired him to think about what those refugees would need, he focused on a developing an appropriate item that would combine various functions. Several months later, Pasha pitched his idea to the Enactus group. David Gurzick, an assistant professor of management and the group’s adviser, said they recognized that he was offering more than just a product concept, for the Backet would be water resistant and provide warmth, while the users could 12
wear their clothes in layers underneath it. It appears to be a normal winter jacket, but one with a difference: One can fold it into a compartment, leaving only the backpack visible. This latter portion, which has foam padding inside, can also be used as a pillow. The students raised $10,000 for startup costs. The next step is to hire four homeless people to make 50 Backets, thereby giving them the chance to gain job skills and earn a paycheck. Pasha said that they are working with the Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs to bring that program to life in the fall. The finished Backets will be handed out through community organizations. The team hopes to develop a premium version that can be marketed to the general public. For each one purchased, a basic version would go to a homeless person.
remind our nation that Islam is a force for good in the society. The contributions of Muslims to America are significant, and we plan to expand that positive work.” Hatem Bazian, director of the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project at the Center for Race and Gender at UC Berkeley, noted: “The work of the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project at UC Berkeley is enriched and inspired by the partnership and the hard work undertaken jointly with CAIR to produce another annual report that exposes the bigotry-producing industry in America while providing opportunities and strategies on how best to reclaim an open, democratic and religiously inclusive society.” He added: “The hope is that this report and others like it will provide the needed grounding for communities across the country to use for effective engagement with policy makers, educators, civil society leaders, and media outlets. Education and applied research is the best avenue to uplift and bring about a social justice transformation in society and this report is a step in that direction.” Piscataway, N.J., teen Saheela Ibraheem, 16, who was accepted by six Ivy League schools and eight other colleges, has started school at Harvard. She is one of its youngest students. This Wardlaw-Hartridge School, Edison, N.J., graduate and daughter of Nigerian immigrants, wants to major in either neurobiology or neuroscience and plans to become a research scientist who studies how the brain works. Not only did this hijabi athlete play outfield for the school’s softball team, defender on the soccer team and swim relays and 50-meter races for the swim team, but she also sang alto in the school choir, played trombone in the school band and served as president of the school’s investment club. Her father Sarafa is an analyst and vice president at a New York City financial firm.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
Conference on Islamic Bioethics
by discussing approaches for “Rejuvenating Islamic Theological Ethics.” She emphasized two recurrent themes: The Muslim community is a “work in progress” and being a Muslim is “fundamentally more about becoming than being.” She suggested that the current state of flux in which we find ourselves is both a challenge and opportunity, which is certainly true in terms of bioethics. Mattson also touched on themes that commonly remain unaddressed, such as gender justice in clinical care and research, the key role of chaplains within Islam’s ethico-legal and theological traditions, as well as in administering “healing” to patients, care givers and families. The diverse range of attendees, speakers and facilitators indicated that this event is the platform from which a discursive and enriching environment can be formed to propel future work and collaboration. This nascent field requires a careful and balanced articulation of the right questions in order to provide the necessary substrate for on-going debate and discussion. The presenters’ candid perspectives, which included their personal stories of scholarship and being part of an organic process of forming a community of respectful disagreement to enable a cross-pollination of ideas, were particularly valuable. (By Mehrunisha Suleman, DPhil candidate, Nuffield Department of Population Health, Oxford University.)
Yet Another Hijab Controversy Nisreen Eadeh, Arab America staff writer, reported on June 1 that some parents and Medford, Mass., residents created enough commotion to get Medford High School’s Hijab Day, scheduled in conjunction with the Feb. 1, 2017, World Hijab Day, canceled. The event, sponsored by the Arabic Club’s Arab, Muslim, and non-Arab/Muslim students, was approved by Principal John Perella after due process. Medford School District Superintendent Roy Belson had also appreciated the idea, which Parella said “was really [to] develop empathy and to give voice to a minority group in our building that does not typically have voice.” In keeping with the country’s rising Islamophobia, the complaints alleged that the event was a “proselytizing mission” and a “latent religious exhibition.” Some even went so far as to say that it was part of a plan to destroy America [emphasis added]. World Hijab Day founder Nazma Khan has stated that the event “hopes to counteract some of the controversies surrounding why Muslim women choose to wear the hijab” by fostering a shared experience of wearing it together. Ironically, the Medford City Hall hosted an iftar.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
CITY OF LOS ANGELES HUMAN RELATIONS COMMISSION
The Initiative on Islam and Medicine (II&M) at the University of Chicago held a multidisciplinary conference on Islamic theology, law, and biomedicine on April 15-17. Entitled “Interfaces and Discourses,” the event built upon the organization’s annual Islamic bioethics workshops. Director Aasim Padela, an assistant professor of medicine, and his II&M colleagues arranged an insightful pre-conference workshop on Islamic bioethics to provide attendees with a comprehensive and realistic understanding of the deeper philosophical and epistemological challenges encountered by those involved in the field. The conference itself was a stimulating balance of presentations, discussions and informal conversations that brought key scholars, theologians and practitioners into dialogue on theological and biomedical issues. Shaykh Amin Kholwadia, founder and director of the Darul Qasim Islamic Institute, emphasized the “Role of the Ulama in Expounding an Islamic Theosophy” and argued for balancing scientific forays with insights gleaned from revelation. His presentation was complemented by Prof. Ebrahim Moosa, professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Notre Dame and co-director of the Contending Modernities project, who cautioned against “Paradigm Idolatry.” He challenged the notion that the traditional pre-modern seminarian paradigms can solve the moral problems encountered in modern science and modern societies. The future of Islamic ethics and bioethics, he opined, depends upon continued scholarly flexibility, which is likely to lead to positive ethical approaches to the inherently difficult bioethical problems articulated by the presenters during the sessions. Ingrid Mattson, a former ISNA president and chair in Islamic Studies at Huron University, summarized and closed the conference
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission awarded Muslim Public Affairs Committee president Salam Al-Marayati with a Community Leadership Award on June 14 at the mayor’s Annual Interfaith Iftar. He told the over 100 attendees that the “Muslim community thanks you for being Los Angeles, not a part of Los Angeles, being Los Angeles.” Also honored were psychologist and counselor Shamin Ibrahim, founder and executive director of Niswa Association, which provides resources, information and support for Muslim families in Southern California, and Atila Kahveci, Pacifica Institute, which develops social capital. Haroon Azar, regional director for Strategic Engagement, U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security was the keynote speaker. 13
LA Footies Live the Dream Ruqaya and Qassim Azam, eight-year-old Los Angeles twins who attend Al Huda Islamic School, were selected as Chevrolet Mascots for the Manchester United team. The twins, who share a love for the game, received their jerseys from Denis Irwin, a Manchester United legend during the early 2000s. At the end of August, they will walk a game along with the players at Old Trafford, the team’s home ground, in front of approximately 75,000 fans and millions more watching via various media outlets around the world. As part of the mascot experience, they will meet the players and legends, attend Manchester United Soccer School, tour Old Trafford among participate in other activities. Their father Ahmad, a senior professor at DeVry University, is president of the Islamic Center of Hawthorne’s board of trustees, a member of the Shura Council of Southern California and a long-standing leader of the Muslim American Society. Their mother, an active member of the Muslim community, has taught at Al Huda Islamic school for many years. Each year, the Manchester United Football Club of U.K. honors 11 children who live by the spirit of play as Chevrolet Mascots — the team’s official sponsor. Those selected are rewarded with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take the pitch with their heroes at the team’s home ground. Hawthorne Police Department’s Sergeant Chris Cognac started Qassim and Ruqaya’s initial selection when he invited them to start the process on behalf of the community.
World Refugee Day U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry and actress Angelina Jolie spoke at the interfaith iftar held by the All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center of Sterling, Va., on June 20. The goal was to encourage interfaith leaders to continue to do all they can to welcome refugees displaced from wartorn countries. Kerry and Jolie were among the estimated 375 people and several area religious leaders at the World Refugee Day event. Kerry asserted that the world is looking to the West for leadership and compassion toward refugees. He noted that the U.S. will accept 80,000 refugees this year and 100,000 next year, and that each of them will have to undergo stringent screening before they can resettle here. “There is absolutely zero evidence that refugees that make it through our process 14
pose more of a threat than members of any other group,” he said, prompting loud applause. “Let me be clear: There is nothing ideological about coming to the aid to someone in need. … Americans say here we are what can we do to help. That’s who we are.” Jolie, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Special Envoy who has dedicated much of her time during the past 15 years to the world’s refugee crisis, stressed that those who are accepting of people of different religions, cultures and backgrounds do not do away with their own identity. “When we are at our strongest is when we draw on our diversity as people, to find unity based on our common values and our identity... We are not strong despite our diversity; we’re strong because of it.” Board chairman Rizwan Jaka commended those in Northern Virginia, especially the faith community, for accepting refugees with open arms.
Muslim Canadians Help Fire-Ravaged Fort McMurray On Eid al-Fitr (July 6), the Toronto-based Muslim charity International Development and Relief Foundation announced a gift of Can $250,000 to the people of fire-ravaged Fort McMurray. This gift, raised during a pre-Canada Day dinner in Markham, Ont., was attended by local MP and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship minister John McCallum. It will be sent to Habitat for Humanity to rebuild and repair the homes of residents with minimal or no insurance coverage. In early May, a massive wildfire forced the evacuation of more than 80,000 residents, destroyed 2,400 buildings and damaged thousands more. They were allowed to return in June, but only in early July did the Alberta government declare the fire under control — thanks to recent rains. In a press release, IDRF board chair Zeib Jeeva asked “What better way for Canadian Muslims to celebrate both Canada Day and Eid than to join hundreds of thousands of other Canadians in helping the fellow Canadians who’ve had their lives turned upside down in Fort McMurray?” The Financial Post noted that IDRF, founded in 1984, was one of Canada’s top 25 charities. Meanwhile, on July 9 the Muslims of Halifax donated Can $10,000 dollars worth of stuffed bags of food for families who rely on Feed Nova Scotia, under their Share the Spirit of Ramadan program.
The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago convened its 19th Annual Catholic-Muslim iftar on June 27. This event, hosted by member organization the Zakat Foundation of America, was held in Bridgeview, Ill. The topic of discussion was coming together to stop Islamophobia. Over 200 Catholics and Muslims attended. For Archbishop Blasé Cupich, the guest of honor, it was his first iftar since he became the Archdiocese of Chicago’s ninth archbishop.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
For the first time ever, according to WCAX News report on May 24, Norwich University, the nation’s oldest private military college, has allowed an incoming freshman class (Class of 2020) to wear the hijab as part of the student’s Corps of Cadets uniform. Sana Hamze had requested the religious accommodation to cover her hair and neck while in uniform, and for uniform accommodations that allow her to cover her arms and legs. The policy change at this nearly 200-yearold private school located in Northfield, Vt., will also allow Jewish cadets to wear the yarmulke with their uniform. Norwich president Richard Schneider, who declared that “Norwich University is a learning community that is American in character yet global in perspective,” noted that it is not the first senior military college to grant such religious accommodations. Her father, Nezar Hamze, a deputy sheriff, is also regional operations director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida.
On June 10, the Islamic Center of Maryland (ICM) hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on the 48,000 square-foot multipurpose building. This is the first building of a three-building, three-phase expansion project that dates back to 1990. Each phase is devoted to one building: a multipurpose community center building, a mosque and a full-time school, respectively. ICM, which raised $4 million to reach this goal, expects the mosque to be completed in 2020. Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, who addressed the approximately 300 community members in attendance, said, “What you are doing here today, what you are building is a symbol against all the hatred today, and we are confident it will stand for generations to come.” Wael Elkhoshairi, chairman of ICM’s Board of Trustees, served as the master of
ceremonies. County council members Sidney Katz and George Leventhal, Reverend Mannsfield Kaseman, and Montgomery County Police District Commander Nancy Hudson also spoke at the event. Teaneck, N.J., swore in Mohammed Hameeduddin as mayor on July 1 after he was selected for the job. He was not the only Teaneck council member nominated for the position at the reorganization meeting, called in the aftermath of Mayor Lizette Parker’s unexpected death in April. He had previously served as mayor from 2010 to 2014 — the first Muslim American to hold this post in Bergen County. The new mayor was sworn in by the likely 2017 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop. The New York Police Department reinstated Masood Syed, who was suspended without pay for refusing to shave his beard. He said that he grew it for religious reasons. On June 22, a little more than a week later, Syed, 32, was allowed back on the force and permitted to keep his one-inch beard when U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel ordered the NYPD had to reinstate his pay and benefits, according to NBC News. Syed, a law clerk to administrative judges, said that he loved his job as a police officer in the nation’s most diverse city, but that as a Muslim, he was also very attached to his beard. The NYPD, insisting that it was more than 1 millimeter in length, claimed that it breached regulations. Syed said he had worn the 1-inch beard for most of his 10-year career and had only occasionally drawn critical comments. Brooklyn patrol officer Rohail Kahlid, whose beard is about a half-an-inch long, said that enforcing the rule could often be arbitrary, depending on who the boss is. Syed’s lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, would help more than 100 police employees who find the religious exception to the department’s no-beard policy insufficient because they say the length allowed is not reasonable.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
On June 13, the Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management presented its 2016 Excellent Emerging Organization Award to the Muslim Women’s Alliance. The MWA’s representative, upon accepting the award, proclaimed: “We are rejuvenated by this recognition and renew our commitment to building a stronger organization that develops women leaders, serve the community, mentor women and empower the community through awareness and action.” Cobb County approved a proposed 12.5 acre Muslim cemetery that will be run under the leadership of East Cobb Islamic Center (ECIC). The land for what has turned out to be Georgia’s largest Muslim cemetery was acquired in May 2015 for $335,000 and paid for by donations raised by the center in collaboration with other mosques located in the county: the East Cobb Islamic Center, Masjid Ibad-ur-Rahman, Masjid Al-Hedaya, Masjid Furqan, Masjid Al-Farooq, the Roswell Community Masjid and Masjid Suffah. Metro Atlanta has long been served by a six-acre Muslim cemetery operated by Masjid Al-Farooq that was established in early 1980s. About 60 percent of that cemetery has already been used. The other significant cemetery is located in the northeastern metro-Atlanta suburb. The property, to be named ECIC Cemetery, will be professionally maintained, fenced off and gated from the adjacent roadway. Arrangements for funeral services will be outsourced, and alternatives are being evaluated at this time. It is anticipated that this property can accommodate over 9,800 burial sites. Burial plots will not be sold to individuals, but rather offered for a reasonable price to members of the Muslim community who need a plot for their recently deceased loved ones. Indiana University Research and Technology Corp. protects, markets and licenses intellectual property developed at Indiana University so that it can be commercialized by industry. It reported that during Fiscal Year 2015-16, four startups were launched by IU researchers through the Spin Up program, a nonprofit business accelerator focused on technology-driven businesses. 15
COMMUNITY MATTERS One of them, Emission System Solutions Inc., was founded by Sohel Anwar, associate professor of mechanical engineering in the School of Engineering and Technology on the IUPUI campus. The company seeks to improve the fuel efficiency of diesel engines by offering an innovative, accurate soot load sensing system to optimize the regeneration operation of the particulate filter. Anwar, a faculty member at the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at the IUPUI campus in Indianapolis, is vice president of the Association of Muslim Scientists, Engineers, and Technology Professionals (AMSET) and program chair of the AMSET Conference 2016 at the ISNA Convention. In addition, he is a member of the board of trustees of the Al-Huda Foundation (Al-Huda masjid), located in Fisher, Ind. Arab Termite & Pest Control, an Indianapolis-based business owned by Syed Anwar and Janet Shah, received the Mayor’s Minority Business Enterprise of the Year Award on July 11. During January 2005, it also received the Consumers’ Choice Award, presented by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.). In 2007, it had been nominated by Indiana
University–Purdue University Indianapolis among the states of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Wisconsin; and the National Minority Supplier Development Council recognized Arab as Supplier of the Year. A small business started in 1929 in Indianapolis, it has survived wars, economic depressions and even a tornado. The Shahs, who have been married for 41 years, have, coincidentally, been associated with this company for the last 41 years. In 1994, Anwar Shah helped establish the Masjid Al-Fajr Cemetery. In addition to being head of the cemetery committee and Muslim burial services, during 2001 he was treasurer of the Indianapolis MTI School of Knowledge building construction committee and, for three decades, served the Indianapolis Muslim Community Association as vice-president and treasurer. The Islamic Society of Greater Lima (Ohio), which comprises about 200 Muslims, formally inaugurated its newly built mosque on July 6 and held an open house two days later. Established as a non-profit religious organization in the late 1990s, members held the Friday congregational
prayer in a small two-bedroom apartment. In 2011, they joined Lima’s Al-Muwahideen Society and began observing the prayer in a small house.
Houston’s Planning and Development Department has instituted The Mohdudul Huq Excellence in Customer Service Award to both honor its namesake and to recognize staff members who provide outstanding service to its customers. Not surprisingly, the first recipient is Mohdudul Huq, a senior planner in the department.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
53 RD ANNUAL ISNA CONVENTION
Turning Points: Navigating Challenges, Seizing Opportunities ISNA #53 offers a new format to enhance the Convention experience BY FATIMA SALMAN & ALTAF HUSAIN
the time this issue of IH magazine reaches you, some of our readers will already be in Chicago’s Rosemont Convention center for the 53rd annual ISNA convention. We want to welcome you; to encourage you to make the most of this weekend, which is full of insightful lectures, parallel sessions and roundtables; and to network with other attendees to help each other escape from the usual anti-Islamic bigotry for a weekend. In this article, we explain some of the thought process that went into developing this year’s convention theme and program. Please let us know what you think of it so that we can improve and build upon the progress that we have made so far.
IS EVERY WORD OF THE CONVENTION THEME REALLY DELIBERATED AT LENGTH? Each year, members of the ISNA majlis, executive committee, and staff represented on the Convention Program Committee (CPC) exert a tremendous amount of effort to formulate the convention’s theme. Uppermost in all of our minds is the need to examine the prevailing on-the-ground realities in order to deepen our understanding of the trends and patterns impacting the Muslim American (and Canadian) communities. Input is also sought from community members. A similar process was followed for the 53rd annual convention. Participants noted that although there had been a tremendous rise in anti-Islamic bigotry during the last part of 2015 and the early part of 2016, Muslim communities and organizations had PLANNING THE CONVENTION: (L-R) Mukhtar Ahmad, Hind Makki, Hazem Bata, Fatima Salman, Basharat Saleem
done their best, on their own and with other organizations, by to promote Islam’s teachings and engage other Muslims as well as allies and partners within society at large. This remarkable approach represents a turning point in terms of how our community views the mainstream society and how the latter is coming to terms with the growth of Islam and Muslims.
THE THEME The CPC eventually decided to build upon last year’s successful theme: “Stories of Resilience: Strengthening the American Muslim Narrative.” Thus, this year’s theme is “Turning Points: Navigating Challenges, Seizing Opportunities.” Feedback from our stakeholders was varied. Some suggested that “navigating” was not assertive enough; others suggested replacing “seizing” with “embracing.” Ultimately the CPC recommended, and the leadership approved, the wording that you see today. However, selecting a theme early in the year so that the necessary marketing and promotion campaigns can be conducted means that later events can either help sustain the gist of the theme or, perhaps, challenge its premise. We intentionally chose a broad theme so that we can deliver a high-quality program that is both interesting to our attendees and allows for robust deliberations during all of the plenary, main and parallel sessions as well as the roundtables. The focus will be at once historic, both from the vantage point of turning points in Islamic history as well as in recent times. The uplifting message will be, “Yes, there are challenges and we can navigate them while
53RD ANNUAL ISNA CONVENTION
CHECK OUT WHEN YOUR FAVORITE SPEAKERS ARE SCHEDULED, BUT ALSO MAKE TIME TO LISTEN TO NEWER SPEAKERS, FOR ONE OF ISNA’S PRIORITIES IS TO KEEP INTRODUCING UP-AND-COMING SCHOLARS AND COMMUNITY LEADERS. simultaneously organizing and empowering our communities to ‘seize the opportunities’ to strengthen our faith, to impart its teachings, and to address socially complex issues facing all of us.” The last part of this process included selecting a verse from the Qur’an that most closely reflects the convention’s overall general focus. The CPC discussed this matter at length, and we are grateful to Dr. Muzammil Siddiqui, chair of the Fiqh Council of North America, for recommending Q. 2:148: “Every community has its direction to which it turns, so race to do good deeds…”
KEEPING THE PROGRAM RELEVANT By the time our program was finalized, CPC members were working hard to find a way to incorporate the events that had unfolded later on in the year. As naming all of them would be quite a challenge, we advise everyone to attend the “NewsMakers: The Year in Review” session to meet and hear from fellow Muslims who have made us all proud. We have done our best to fill that session with speakers who will share their insights on the most critical turning points in Islamic history, Muslim American history and, of course, contemporary society. Throughout the weekend, speakers will address how Muslims have “navigated challenges and seized opportunities” historically and share their insights on how we can apply those lessons in our lives at the individual, family and masjid/community levels. Yet another historic event occurred as this issue was going to press. Moments before Secretary Hillary Clinton accepted her historic nomination as the first female presidential candidate of a major party, as the address by Khizr Khan, father of Capt. Humayun Saqib Muazzam Khan, 27, who was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart for his bravery in protecting his fellow soldiers. This University of Virginia graduate and former active member of its Muslim Students Association chapter, is among the 14 other Muslim Americans who have died in the line of duty. Many Americans agree that his father’s speech was one of the most powerful prime-time speeches delivered at either party’s convention.
diverse perspectives, there was a high level of frustration because each speaker did not have enough time to delve deeper into the topic. To deal with this, this year we are introducing a “plenary” session in the largest hall available, during which time there will be almost no other parallel sessions. Each speaker will be given more time to present his or her own perspective. In addition, the former “main” session will now feature one speaker who will talk for 45 minutes. Attendees will be able to select one of three main concurrent sessions. We hope this format will afford them the opportunity to hear their favorite speakers deliver a more in-depth lecture in a slightly more intimate setting. Feedback also indicated frustration over the large number of concurrent parallel sessions. A unique feature of the ISNA convention is that each year we invite various community members to propose a parallel session that reflects the event’s theme. This year, we purposefully limited these categories to three: focus on the individual,
FINE TUNING THE PROGRAM FORMAT Attendees have been very forthcoming with feedback and ideas to improve the program format. This year, we have sought to incorporate your feedback by making several fundamental changes. Throughout our history, ISNA has been honored by the participation of preeminent scholars and both local and national community leaders. Offering each of them an extended speaking time was not feasible, in part because of the program format. We received mixed feedback on the main sessions, which often featured three and sometimes four speakers: While the attendees appreciated their 18
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
family, and the masjid/community. CPC members devoted long hours to selecting the five best proposals for each category. Realizing that nonprofit organizations had often been disproportionately represented in the proposals submitted, this year we created a new track for non-profits. We hope that they will submit competitive proposals that present their successful projects, initiatives and programs so that the community can consider supporting them.
WELCOMING YOUNG PROFESSIONALS In order to accommodate yet another reality, this year’s convention also includes the Young Professional Track. This track highlights Muslim professionals in various fields, what kind of work they are doing and their contributions. Along the same lines, the Association of Muslim Scientists, Engineers and Technology Professionals has organized a job fair for Saturday and Sunday. Several employers and businesses have reserved booths in the designated area so that job seekers can meet employers, network with professionals and learn how to grow in their careers. A tandem business development fair, which will enable aspiring Muslim entrepreneurs to network with each other and perhaps obtain the resources and guidance they need to start and develop their envisaged businesses, has also been arranged.
ROUNDTABLES: TACKLING MAJOR CONTEMPORARY CHALLENGES Finally, we will continue the roundtable format introduced in 2015 to address such ongoing challenges and contemporary topics as “Drugs, Gangs and Human Trafficking,” “Critical Thinking and Engaging with Scholarship,” “Civic Engagement,” “Race Matters,” “Masajid,” and “Social Justice.” Once again, attendees will have the chance to sit face-to-face with other Muslim Americans who care about that particular challenge/topic, listen to insights from experts and, most critically, develop those skills needed to move beyond words and towards achieving the desired goals and objectives at all levels of society.
MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME AT THE CONVENTION Take a minute to check out the ISNA App, which contains the entire convention program. Check out when your favorite speakers are scheduled, but also make time to listen to newer speakers, for one of ISNA’s priorities is to keep introducing up-and-coming scholars and community leaders. Remember that your ISNA convention experience will be enhanced by shopping in the bazaar, viewing the art exhibit and film festival entries, meeting authors of recently released books, listening to the top young reciters of the Qur’an, enrolling your children (6-11 years old) in their own program, observing the entrepreneurial competition, joining the basketball tournament or maybe stopping by the health fair for free health screenings conducted by our health professionals from the Islamic Medical Association of North America. We pray that you and your family will have an enjoyable experience at this year’s convention. To ensure that the next one is even better, please complete and return the evaluation forms! Fatima Salman, Chair of the Convention, is the Central Zone representative of ISNA, the Chair of this year’s convention program committee (CPC), and the newly appointed Executive Director of MSA National. Altaf Husain, Vice President, ISNA-US, is Co-Chair of CPC.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
ISNA CANADA CONVENTION
Leading with Love and Faith
The 42nd Annual ISNA Canada Convention was the climax of months of planning and engagement with over 200 volunteers BY ISNA CANADA CONVENTION TEAM
he 42nd Annual ISNA Canada Convention was held under the theme “Principles of Success: Leading with Love and Faith” at its headquarters in Mississauga, Ont., on May 15-17. In response to a community survey, the convention team assembled a fusion of concepts and topics referencing, among others, youth engagement, strategic community building, personal development, social justice, family dynamics and strengthening faith. Based upon careful analysis and
insight, the emerging theme sought to combine creatively all of these valuable ideas into an essential reality present in the divine guidance and care, as well as the teachings and comprehensive example of Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). Thus the event focused on the wisdom and power of love and faith as tools with which to lead and achieve specific results and success, aspects of successful leadership and such more pressing topics as the Muslim presence in Canada. Prominent speakers came from across
ISNA Secretary General enjoys company from the Down Under 20
the nation: Shaykh Daood Butt, Shahina Siddiqui, founding member and chair of the Federation of Canadian Muslim Social Services, Jamal Badawi, emeritus professor at Saint Mary’s University, Mohamed Zeyara, outreach director at PiousProjects, Dennis Edney, the lawyer for Omar Khadr, Imam Hamid Slimi, resident scholar and founder of the Sayeda Khadija Centre, Katherine Bullock, a founding member of the Federation of Muslim Women, Keith Neuman, Executive Director of the Environics Institute, First Nations Elder Cat Criger, ISNA Canada Executive Director Shaykh Abdalla Idris and ISNA Canada director of religious affairs Shaykh Alaa Elsayed. ISNA President Azhar Azeez, ISNA Vice President Altaf Husain, ISNA Secretary General Hazem Bata, Imam Siraj Wahhaj and Imam Mohamed Magid, All-Dulles Area Muslim Society — all of whom came from the U.S. — were also present. Edney, a champion of justice and human rights, spoke about “The Rule of Law in an Age of Fear,” held a Q&A session, and concluded with a personal account entitled “Leadership in Adversity.” The second annual entrepreneurial networking session, managed by the ISNA Compass program, enabled aspiring entrepreneurs to meet with other like-minded individuals. The successful entrepreneurs elaborated upon how they had conceived their vision, brought it to reality and what they had to deal with along the way. The would-be entrepreneurs then got together to share their ideas and network. Imam Siraj Wahhaj captivated the attendees by encouraging them to look inward and improve internally in order to better help our communities and the world at large. Bata focused on mosque management, the importance of women and youth involvement, and excellence in management practices. He emphasized the need to adhere to the model laid down by the Prophet in this regard, as well as the necessity of reversing the “un-mosqued” phenomenon. The ISNA Canada Business Session was held on Sunday to review the presented 2015 annual and financial reports. Several members suggested ways to serve the local and national community more effectively. All members of the ISNA Canada Board, as well as other interested people, attended this session, which was chaired by ISNA-Canada President Syed Imtiaz Ahmad.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
Elder Cat Criger
The convention recognized the First Nations’ land upon which the convention venue is situated, with a special note in the Convention Program booklet: ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: OUR ISLAMIC OBLIGATION TO ESTABLISH JUSTICE REQUIRES THAT WE ACKNOWLEDGE THAT WE ARE ON TRADITIONAL LAND OF A FIRST NATION We acknowledge the Elders and Leaders of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation as Traditional Custodians, past and present of the land where we live and work. We give honour and respect for their enduring stewardship of this land, and recognize their continuing love and care for the environmental, social, cultural, political and economic fabric of our society. We arm our shared humanity, our brotherhood and sisterhood, and confirm our mutual responsibilities to one another and the Earth. During a special session entitled “Righting Wrongs: Learning & Relationship Building with the New Credit First Nation of Mississauga,” Elder Cat Criger, Muneeb Nasir, Asmaa Maryam Ali, Dawood Zwink and Shaykh Abdalla Idris highlighted the current and historical injustices experienced by the Indigenous peoples through European colonization and centuries of successive European immigration. Elder Cat explained the historical significance of this particular community and the land upon which the convention was being held. ISNA Canada is committed to building relationships and vibrant strong dialogue with First Nations in order for us to grow stronger together as a united community.
There was ample opportunity to enjoy tasty food at the exhilarating bazaar, where the community experienced some timely Ramadan season shopping and light
Imam Siraj Wahhaj
IMAM SIRAJ WAHHAJ CAPTIVATED THE ATTENDEES BY ENCOURAGING THEM TO LOOK INWARD AND IMPROVE INTERNALLY IN ORDER TO BETTER HELP OUR COMMUNITIES AND THE WORLD AT LARGE. entertainment. Parents could relax, assured that their offspring were well attended to in our free and unique children’s program. The organizers said that the ISNA Canada Convention is truly a community affair, one suffused with barakah. We’d like to thank our distinguished speakers, sponsors and incredible team of staff and volunteers, all of whom worked tirelessly throughout the weekend and, above all, our vibrant and dynamic community that came together in celebration and education. The convention continues to offer a full range of accessibility. Our vision is to create a truly inclusive event in which all community members can participate, enjoy themselves and derive benefit. For the third year in a row, ASL interpretation, designated seating and attendant care were made available. We encourage and promote learning and growing together as a strong, fully represented and accessible community. This event was the climax of months of planning and engagement with over 200 volunteers. It was led by Convention Chair Mohamed Bekkari, a child clinical and school psychologist and vice-president of ISNA Canada. The weekend concluded with a beautiful
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
fireworks display presented by the ISNA Canada team against a full-moon backdrop and nasheeds celebrating Prophet Muhammad and the soon-to-begin month of Ramadan. The attendees, especially the younger ones, greeted rescued animals from a Toronto-based shelter — an experience that gave them first-hand insight into caring for animals. A surprise guest was an Australian native: a kangaroo.
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I AM AMERICA. I AM THE PART YOU WON’T RECOGNIZE. BUT GET USED TO ME. BLACK, CONFIDENT, COCKY; MY NAME, NOT YOURS; MY GOALS, MY OWN; GET USED TO ME.” —MUHAMMAD ALI
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
LIKE THE COAL MINERS’ CANARIES,
MUHAMMAD ALI PLAYED THE ROLE OF
SAFETY SENTINEL FOR ALL AMERICANS
MUHAMMAD ALI – A Canary in America’s Coal Mines BY JAMES JONES
est anyone think that Ali really thought he was “the greatest,” he declared, “This life is not real. I conquered the world and it did not bring me satisfaction. God gave me this illness to remind me that I’m not number one. He is.”
Canaries, despite their striking beauty and singing talent, were used by humans until 1986 as easily expendable “collateral damage” to protect America’s coal miners from the undetectable toxic gases that could easily accumulate in the mines’ deep interiors and elsewhere. Countless canaries died as sentinels for safety in an industry that once fueled America’s industrial revolution and rise to economic prominence. Hence the origin of the phrase “canary in a coal mine.”
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
COVER STORY These often dark, foreboding places were the energy backbone of this country from the early 19th to the first half of the 20th century. Without coal, the 1,907-mile first transcontinental railroad would have been impossible. Without coal, the North would have had a tougher time winning of America’s bloody, brutal Civil War. The emblematic coal-fired transportation and industrial systems of its superior economic and resource capabilities made a decisive difference. Kentucky, which had tried to remain neutral, joined the North for the duration of the conflict after an aborted attempt by the Confederacy to take it over. Coal mining was an important economic engine for the state that lasted from the mid-18th century until railroads and households switched to
376 in a class of 391, by the time he turned 18 this handsome young man had already made his mark as a successful amateur boxer. Like the canary, he was beautiful and vocal.
THE U.S.: COAL MINES
EVEN AS HE WAS IN HIS LAST DAYS ON EARTH, MUHAMMAD ALI WAS A CANARY WARNING US OF YET ANOTHER TOXIC IDEA IN THE U.S. POLITICAL COAL MINE. oil and gas during the 20th century. In addition, the 1990 U.S. Clean Air Act made its medium-to-high sulfur content coal even less profitable.
CLAY: AN UNLIKELY CANARY Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. was born in the coal-mining state of Kentucky on Jan. 17, 1942. Growing up as a handsome, eloquent, quick-witted young man in his hometown of Louisville, one cannot help but wonder what kind of life he would have had if he had been born in a different place at a different time. Despite his dyslexia, had he not been born in a Jim Crow state, his sharp intelligence may have led him to choose a profession other than boxing. Unfortunately, during these years only certain forms of athletics and the still very segregated world of entertainment were open to black people seeking fame and fortune. As in most Jim Crow states, the local school system was racially segregated by law. If they were anything at all like the segregated public schools I attended in Roanoke, Va., from 1952 to 1964, this meant that the “colored” school’s books and equipment were almost always second-hand. Consequently, our black teachers always had to do more with less. The so-called “separate but equal” 24
segregationist Jim Crow doctrine, enshrined into law in 1896 by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson, was a thinlyveiled cover for the continued subjugation of this nation’s former slaves. Sub-standard, segregated schools were just one part of an overall plan to continue dehumanizing the country’s darker-skinned people. Like coal miners, black people were expected to work long hours with low pay in poor working conditions so that richer (usually white) people could live more comfortably. Even though the dyslexic Clay graduated
Muhammad Ali died on June 3, 2016, as a man who was beloved by Americans. However, like the coal miners of his native Kentucky, his economic success was a mixed blessing. Similar to the black lung disease that once plagued the state’s coal miners, racism was always lurking in the background of his many successes. Nevertheless, between 1942 and 2016, the 74 years that Muhammad Ali lived in this country, things changed a great deal. For black people, the America of 2016 is not the America of 1942. In his eye-opening book Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America (Anchor: 2010), Eugene Robinson points this out by entitling the first chapter: “Black America Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.” He persuasively shows that the socioeconomic make-up of the African-American community has shifted dramatically since the Civil Rights movement. Between the gains that it sparked and the elimination of race-based immigration laws, also spurred by this movement, we find a “Black America” that is, economically speaking, somewhat better off than it was over a half century ago. However, in spite of this apparent progress, Ali still had to function in a coal mine of lingering racial injustice. An example occurred in 2014, when he tweeted his support for the #Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. So even though African Americans have seen major changes in discriminatory legal and institutional policies, in
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
Ali’s extraordinary boxing career is but one part of this extraordinary man’s national and international impact. The three-time heavyweight champion of the world dominated opponents both inside and outside the ring. In doing so, like the coal miners’ canaries, he played the role of safety sentinel for all Americans. Unlike those doomed canaries, who signaled the presence of toxic gas by going silent as it killed them, Ali managed to warn us again and again in at least four important ways. First, he warned us about racism’s corrosive effects on the American psyche. He famously said, “My enemy is white people” in 1967 during his Vietnam draft refusal controversy. In this statement, he was reflecting the hurt and pain of a people who had been released from slavery into a legal Jim Crow system that continued to debase them. This was the Black nationalist Nation of Islam phase of his life, which he had long left behind at the time of his death. However, this voice and sentiment is one that still needs to be heard and understood when dealing with race in America today. A quick Google search on the Internet reveals that many black “spokespeople” and ordinary black citizens are still expressing this angry feeling. Like his mentor Malcolm X, this “canary” ultimately embraced a different understanding of race relations and humanity. Second, he warned us against uncritically accepting our country’s foreign policy decisions, particularly when they impact the human rights of others. Most famously, he empathized with his “brothers and some other darker people” in Vietnam by refusing to be drafted. However, few remember his statements in solidarity with the Palestinians. For instance, in 1985 he traveled to Israel/ Palestine in an attempt to secure the release of Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli-occupied southern Lebanon. In addition, he made several public statements in support of the Palestinians. As a canary in the U.S. militaristic coal mine, once again Ali managed to warn us and survive.
Muhammad Ali always kept ICNA pamphlets on Islam with him so that he could sign them and give them to autograph seekers. He was a regular volunteer at ICNA’s dawah booths and always followed the same procedure.
Muhammad Ali joined the ICNA Chicago team to distribute meat on Eid al-Adha in 1990 or 1991. Standing beside him is current ICNA president Naeem Baig and a young Aisha Yusuf.
In the early 1990s, Muhammad Ali volunteered at ICNA Chicago’s meat distribution’s event at Masjid Al-Faatir. (L to R) Imam Misbahuddin Rufai (now urban development director, Council on Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago), Sikander Bajwa, Mahmood Hussani, Taufeeq Ahmed, Muhammad Ali, Abdul Malik Mujahid (president, SoundVision), Jaber Muhammad (brother of Imam WD Muhammad), and unnamed.
PHOTO COPYRIGHT ISLAMIC CIRCLE OF NORTH AMERICA
ALI: A CANARY IN THE COAL MINES
An Unreported Aspect of The Champ
PHOTO COPYRIGHT ISLAMIC CIRCLE OF NORTH AMERICA
2016 the country remains just as dangerous for African Americans as coal mines used to be for canaries and coal miners in Kentucky. When it comes to justice for African Americans and other marginalized groups, the U.S. can often be seen as one type of dark foreboding coal mine or other.
Ikram Hussain, then president of the Islamic Circle of North America’s (ICNA) Chicago chapter reported that during the mid-1990s, when the chapter organized information booths on Islam outside the Dan Ryan train station, Muhammad Ali “would always ask for a pack of 250 of his favorite ICNA pamphlets: ‘Islam Explained’ and ‘You Should Know This Man.’ He would distribute them Muhammad Ali invited Abdul-Malik Mujahid in about 40 minutes, while it took the rest to “punch” him. of us 2-3 hours.” Muhammad Ali was also part of ICNA’s Bosnia Task Force, which was formed to call attention to and demand an end to the Bosnian genocide. As part of the national Muslim leadership delegation that met with UN Security Council members in 1993, Ali addressed a packed press conference on Bosnia at the UN headquarters. Of course, The Champ was the main attraction for both the diplomats and the reporters.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
ALL PHOTOS COPYRIGHT ICNA
COVER STORY Third, he warned us by his courageous example that participating in such a lucrative and brutal sport as boxing has a very real downside. His very public battle with Parkinson’s should serve as a clear warning to athletes in the well-established National Football League and the relatively new up and coming mixed martial arts “sport.” The prevailing view of the medical professionals who treated him is that his Parkinson’s was likely induced by the head trauma he had suffered as a boxer. He was particularly vulnerable to such trauma at the end of his career, when his speed and skills had eroded dramatically. Clearly, concussions can have serious consequences. Athletes in sports that involve continuous head trauma should pay particular attention to this “canary’s” warning in the “coal mine” of professional “contact” sports. Fourth, in one of his last public statements, Ali spoke out against radical Muslims and Islamophobia. In response to the now Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s proposal to “temporarily” ban all Muslims from entering the U.S., he proclaimed, “I am a Muslim and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world. True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so called Islamic Jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion. “We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda. They have alienated many from learning about Islam. True Muslims know or should know that it goes against our religion to try and force Islam on anybody... I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murders have perverted people’s views on what Islam really is.” Even as he was in his last days on Earth, Muhammad Ali was a canary warning us of yet another toxic idea in the U.S. political coal mine.
ALI: HIS LEGACY Muhammad Ali’s body was barely cold before people took to social media arguing about “Whose Muhammad Ali was he?” Did he belong to Black people, Muslims, social justice activists, or his legions of sports fans? In my view, such arguments are a waste of time, for this exceptional human being clearly transcended all such distinctions. He informed, entertained, 26
Azhar Azeez (second from left), Mohamed Elsanousi (third from left) and Hamza Yusuf (fourth from left) await The Champ’s janaza
and inspired millions. His many humanitarian acts included securing the release of hostages from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and talking a suicidal man off a 9th floor ledge in Los Angeles. For many, he was “the Black Superman.” Superman or not, one thing we know for sure is that the federal government (National Security Agency) saw fit to spend our tax dollars on a secret operation code-named “Minaret” that intercepted his communications as well as those of other leading Americans (e.g., the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Frank Church), journalists, and many others who criticized the U.S. war in Vietnam. In addition, King, Ali, and others were targets of the FBI’s more famous and more intrusive COINTELPRO (Counterintelligence Program), which sought to prevent the rise of a “Black Messiah” among the leaders of the Civil Rights movement. Yes, it is true that Muhammad Ali symbolized many things to many people. Upon his death, the outpouring of accolades and affection were overwhelming. The crowds that descended upon Louisville for his July
9th funeral and the following day’s memorial attest to this. So many foreign and American celebrities and dignitaries attended that you could be forgiven if you thought that a head of state had died. Muhammad Ali, born a canary named Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. 74 years earlier, warned all Americans about the deadly and dangerous effects of racism, militarism, traumatic brain injury and Islamophobia. While acting as a diplomat humanitarian and philanthropist, his life appears to have exemplified the very difficult human struggle to live by the high principles reflected in Quran 4:135: “O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witness to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for God can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.” (A. Y. Ali trans) James Jones, a tenured associate professor of world religions with a concurrent appointment in African studies at Manhattanville College, Purchase, N.Y., is secretary of CAIR’s national board
PO SITION AVAIL AB LE Resident Islamic Scholar Islamic Society of Western Maryland Located in Hagerstown, MD
(about 70 miles from Baltimore and Washington D.C.)
We are seeking a Resident Scholar with the following qualifications: • Legal ability to work with in the U.S. • Fluency in the English language • Excellent communication skills for the media and greater community • Strong Quranic recitation and understanding • Extensive knowledge in Fiqh and Sharia • Must be able to relate to youth in the struggles of being raised in the U.S. • Salary will be based on qualifications. Please send your resume to: email@example.com
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
WHAT MUHAMMAD ALI MEANS TO ME Muslim Americans and others speak from their hearts about The Champ
THE DEFINITION OF “HERO” IS A PERSON WHO IS ADMIRED FOR COURAGE, OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENTS OR NOBLE QUALITIES. MUHAMMAD ALI (1942-2016) WAS A HERO IN EVERY SENSE OF THE WORD. FROM HIS STANCE ON CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUES TO HIS GRACE IN THE BOXING RING, ALI WON
Ali Bin Omer’s prized possession
THE ADMIRATION OF MILLIONS.
BY ISLAMIC HORIZONS STAFF
Islamic Horizons magazine offers a collection of spontaneous reactions to the Champ’s passing away.
yah Kutmah, 18, of Louisville (University of MichiganAnn Arbor, ‘20), who read the translation of the Quranic recitation at The Champ’s memoriam, told CNN, “As an American, as a AfricanAmerican, as a Muslim, he really inspired me to fight and to stand for what was right and what was strong.” Bashar Qasem, president and CEO of the northern Virginia-based Azzad Asset Management, wrote: “His fame stretched across borders. Having grown up in the Middle East, I can tell you firsthand that he was a superstar there. Everybody wanted to be friends with you if you had Muhammad Ali memorabilia — a photo, a magazine article, anything. You hoped that something of his greatness had found ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
its way into those things and could transform apologized profusely. Then he ordered tea for us you simply through proximity. We implicitly and the other visitors and left for practice with his sparring partner.” understood his magnificence as an athlete. But as Muslims, we were even more impressed with Writer Kathleen Miller Abed states, “I was not his behavior outside the ring. We found in him the grandchild of slaves, as was Muhammad Ali. the exemplar of the Islamic exhortation to speak Nor did I suffer from racism as did Muhammad truth to power and to uphold the principles of Ali, when he was refused service in an all-white human dignity. restaurant and was called ‘nigger’. But as a white “I felt compelled to pay my respects in woman in the United States, I have received less Louisville at Ali’s janaza (funeral prayer). I at pay for doing the same job as a man, and I have least owed him this ... for being a role model not felt the sting of sexism. I cannot compare myself only in my life, but for countless others who were to a great man, but I understand the bitterness of inequality. inspired to be better than their circumstances might have allowed.” “Muhammad Ali suffered from a terrible illAli Bin Omer of Herndon, Va., writes: “Many ness — Parkinson’s — but he bore his suffering with dignity. This disease impaired his speech famous greats have passed over my lifetime, but and made him a prisoner in his own body. But yesterday’s news felt different. It hurt, I couldn’t hold back the tears every time I read a tribute with the grace of God, he still communicated or thought about what he meant to us. with the world. He converted to Islam and was “There was no one like him, a pioneer, and we a champion for the religion. I am also a convert. can’t predict if we’ll ever see another human like “Muhammad Ali was a fighter and helped him. His impact reached far past the four corners people with his courage. He boycotted the Moscow Olympics in response to the Soviet of the ring. What he did for human rights, civil invasion of Afghanistan. He promoted the rights and the less fortunate is immeasurable and priceless. Palestinian cause, negotiated for the release of “As a young Pakistani-American Muslim American hostages in Iraq, and supported Native growing up in America, he was everything to American rights. Even though he was a champion boxer, he advocated peace and equality. me. His poster hung on my wall from childhood to college, he was a real hero I could look up to “I also suffered from a terrible disease, which and relate to on a certain level. impaired my vision and left me unable to see in “He made it cool to be different, to be ageless, a normal fashion. So this man taught me that to be black and proud, to be Muslim, to be outI should also be a fighter. He taught me not to spoken, to be you. He influenced certain aspects give up. So, even though I cannot see the way of my personality and my contrarian attitude, others do, I see what he was trying to say, and that I should continue speaking and writing as ‘I know where I’m going and I know the truth, I used to do.” I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want.’ Bonnie Greer, writing in The Independent “Muhammad Ali, thank you for everything on June 4, 2016, summed it up succinctly, “The U.S. always wanted Ali to be its hero, but it had and setting the example with your heart of gold, ‘service to others is the rent you pay for your to be on his terms. He never abandoned his faith; room here on earth.’ I will do my best to pay it he never became Cassius Clay again; he never (From top) Ayah Kutmah, Bashar Qasem walked back to what he had been in his youth. forward. “Rest In Power, King Ali.” Texas attorney Saira [Ali] Shah, reminisces, and Abidullah A. Ghazi “His honesty, self-belief, insight and courage “In high school I would enter the classroom and were, after all, American values. The Republic’s the kids would joke ‘Saira Ali floats like a butterfly stings like a bee.’ best. Like all great Americans, he reinvented the nation in his image I was smart, but super shy and quiet. That was my first memory of and gave it back refreshed and re-dedicated. He made us embrace Muhammad Ali. Secretly I loved being compared to him. He was change because he had. “If we have failed him, it’s because we are not champions. Rest truly great. Our collective hero and conscience. May he rest in peace.” Abidullah A. Ghazi, founder of the Chicago-based Iqra in power and in peace, The Greatest.” International, recalls, “When my wife Tasneema and I met Even an anonymous racist gave Ali respect. Gator61, who Muhammad Ali in London, just before his bout with Henry Cooper self-identifies as a “Friend of [the white supremacist organization] in 1963, he subscribed to that [Nation of Islam’s racist] ideology. Stormfront” and a “Sustaining Member ... living somewhere in He warmly welcomed us and offered a £20 (at that time a two-week North America,” harshly criticizes George W. Bush and Bill Clinton salary for a teacher or medical doctor) to come oversee his practices. for avoiding the draft and then proclaims, “His [Ali’s] stand on However, he rejected shaking hands with a very fair Lebanese man Vietnam was admirable. He disagreed with the war, refused to go there, saying: ‘I don’t shake hands with whites.’ The poor fellow and accepted responsibility for his actions,” after which he laments embarrassingly withdrew his hand saying, ‘But I’m a Lebanese that a Black “is a better role model than two White presidents” Arab Muslim.’ Muhammad Ali grabbed his hand, hugged him and (https://www.stormfront.org/forum/t1104526/). ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
PUNCHING TO INSPIRE The Champ was a teacher and guide whose presence was taken away by illness BY ISLAMIC HORIZONS STAFF
hen a seven-year-old once asked Muhammad Ali what he would do when he retired, he gave one of the best explanations ever. After pretending to fall asleep on stage, he replied, “Just sleep is all I want to do.” He then talked about the importance of the amount of time people actually spend living their lives. (The following account available on www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QE9XBovMk0 has been condensed.) “When I retire from boxing, I really don’t know. I want to say something right there. This might make you all think. “Life is not really long. Let’s say the average person is 30 years old. If you’re 30 years old, you’re not but about seven years old. Add up all the seven, eight, nine hours you slept for 30 years. Out of 30 years, add up all the nights when you went to bed and this morning doesn’t remember a thing. “You’ve been unconscious for about eight years if you’re 30 years old. You’ve slept for about eight years. “How much traveling have you done in 30 years — from the television station to home to another country to another city to school to church? You’ve probably spent two years of your life just going back and forth to where you’re going. “So there’s eight years of sleeping and two years of traveling. That’s 30 years out of your life before you accomplish anything. “How long do you sit in school in America? We stay in school from the first
grade to the 12th grade, six hours a day, six hours a day for 12 years. Break it down. You sit in the classroom for three years without leaving. “Okay, two years of travelling, eight years of sleeping, three years of school. How many movies have you went to, how many wrestling matches, how much entertainment, how many movie theatres, live plays, baseball games? Probably two years of entertainment. “So by the time you have children, by the time you’ve made way for your children, by the time you pay for your home, you’re pushing 60 years old. “So life is real short. So you add up all your traveling, add up all your sleeping, add up all your school, add up all your entertainment. You’ve probably spent half your life doing nothing. “So I’m 35 years old. Thirty more years I’ll be 65. We don’t have no more influence. We can’t do nothing much at 65. Your wife will tell you that. “So what I’m saying is when you’re 65, ain’t too much more to do. Did you know I’ll be 65 in 30 more years? In those 30 years, I have to sleep nine years. I don’t have 30 years of daylight. I have to travel back to America. All my traveling, probably four years of traveling, about nine years of sleeping, about three years of entertainment. “Out of 30 years, I might have 16 years to be productive. So that’s how we can break our individual lives down.” He then says the best thing he can do in the next 16 years is “get ready to meet God,”
LIKE OTHER CONTACT SPORTS, THE BOXING INDUSTRY SEEMS TO HAVE DONE A GREAT JOB OF COVERING UP AND GLAMORIZING THE EFFECTS OF REPEATED HEAD TRAUMA. 30
before going on to speak about his belief in divine judgment, heaven and hell. He adds: “He [God] wants to know how do we treat each other, how do we help each other. So I’m going to dedicate my life to using my name and popularity to helping charities, helping people, uniting people.”
WAS HE A PRISONER OF THE CHOICE HE MADE? Ali, who admitted to being hit over 29,000 times, was not naive about the hazards of his profession. “I think boxing is dangerous,” he said on an episode of “Face the Nation” in 1976. “Any man who’s been hit in the head… the brain’s a delicate thing.” An Islamic Horizons reader recalls that the first time he ran into the Champ in 1974, he was able to shake his hand and get his
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June 4, 2016
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on the Passing of Muhammad Ali
autograph before a horde of fans descended upon him. It seemed as if his hand has been engulfed by a rock. When he met Ali again in 1991, he once again shook his and requested an autograph. He recalls how his eyes moistened when he felt how weak The Champ’s grip had become. Only Ali and his doctors know if his Parkinson’s may have been posttraumatic encephalopathy. A man who had once said that he was so mean he’d make medicine sick, a man who made his promoters wealthy, had become a man who was now virtually unable to speak or to walk Like other contact sports, the boxing industry seems to have done a great job of covering up and glamorizing the effects of repeated head trauma. After all, the sport’s very objective is to cause a concussion in
uhammad Ali was The Greatest. Period. If you just asked him, he’d tell you. He’d tell you he was the double greatest; that he’d “handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder into jail.” But what made The Champ the greatest — what truly separated him from everyone else — is that everyone else would tell you pretty much the same thing. Like everyone else on the planet, Michelle and I mourn his passing. But we’re also grateful to God for how fortunate we are to have known him, if just for a while; for how fortunate we all are that The Greatest chose to grace our time. In my private study, just off the Oval Office, I keep a pair of his gloves on display, just under that iconic photograph of him — the young champ, just 22 years old, roaring like a lion over a fallen Sonny Liston. I was too young when it was taken to understand who he was — still Cassius Clay, already an Olympic Gold Medal winner, yet to set out on a spiritual journey that would lead him to his Muslim faith, exile him at the peak of his power, and set the stage for his return to greatness with a name as familiar to the downtrodden in the slums of Southeast Asia and the villages of Africa as it was to cheering crowds in Madison Square Garden. “I am America,” he once declared. “I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me — black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own. Get used to me.” That’s the Ali I came to know as I came of age — not just as skilled a poet on the mic as he was a fighter in the ring, but a man who fought for what was right. A man who fought for us. He stood with King and Mandela, stood up when it was hard, spoke out when others wouldn’t. His fight outside the ring would cost him his title and his public standing. It would earn him enemies on the left and the right, make him reviled, and nearly send him to jail. But Ali stood his ground. And his victory helped us get used to the America we recognize today. He wasn’t perfect, of course. For all his magic in the ring, he could be careless with his words, and full of contradictions as his faith evolved. But his wonderful, infectious, even innocent spirit ultimately won him more fans than foes — maybe because in him, we hoped to see something of ourselves. Later, as his physical powers ebbed, he became an even more powerful force for peace and reconciliation around the world. We saw a man who said he was so mean he’d make medicine sick reveal a soft spot visiting children with illness and disability around the world, telling them they, too, could become the greatest. We watched a hero light a torch, and fight his greatest fight of all on the world stage once again; a battle against the disease that ravaged his body, but couldn’t take the spark from his eyes. Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it. We are all better for it. Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family, and we pray that the greatest fighter of them all finally rests in peace.
one’s opponent or to render him/her incapable of self-defense. Repeated significant head impacts — concussions — take a terrible toll on the brain, as the National Football League (NFL) is finally beginning to admit. But in boxing and some of the other martial “arts,” it’s not even acknowledged. At least in football, the players get to wear highly engineered, but still imperfect, helmets. Most likely, those involved with the glamorized and protected role of boxing
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as a “sport” will acknowledge the effects of repeated head injuries only when the “industry” as a whole is confronted with a court ruling that it is forced to make monetary settlements, as happened to the NFL. As for what Ali suffered, his friend Tim Shanahan, author of “Running with the Champ: My Forty Year Friendship with Muhammad Ali” (Simon & Schuster: 2016) claims that over the years, The Champ’s acquaintances relieved him of some $80 million based on pity to investments. 31
ISLAM IN AMERICA
Writing Our Own Narrative Are Muslim Americans creating and promoting literature that echoes their real self tothe mainstream?
BY HENA KHAN
s both a Muslim American and a parent of two children, the negative narrative about Muslims dominating the media terrifies me. I worry about what my children are hearing and how it’s impacting them. Are they internalizing the hateful rhetoric? Do they live in fear of facing discrimination? Have they heard any disparaging comments or crude jokes? Do they feel alienated or even ashamed of who they are? As their mother, I can’t always be around to protect them from what others may say or do. But as a writer, I can work to counter Islamophobia in a small way by telling stories that reinforce the notion that Muslim Americans are an important part of society who share the core values of our fellow Americans. I first realized the need for children’s books about Muslims over a decade ago, when my older son was in pre-school and I was writing books about space, spies, and other topics. At the time, our family owned a decent collection of Islamic children’s books, most of them picked up at ISNA conventions or gifted to us. The books all shared a common quality and an important purpose — they were written by Muslims for Muslims, and taught the basic tenets of the faith, Islamic etiquette and stories from the Quran. But when the Pakistani teaching assistant at my son’s Montessori school decided to throw a Ramadan party at school, we couldn’t read any of those books to the children. And so she found a short explanation of Ramadan on the Internet. I watched as the children stared at her, their eyes glazed over, as she discussed the “revelations of the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)” and the “gates of heaven and hell.” Ramadan didn’t sound like anything they would want to celebrate. At that moment, I wished we had books that were appropriate for use in a public school or library setting, ones that introduced our traditions in an accessible, relatable and fun way. I was grateful that my editor at a mainstream publisher agreed with me about the need to produce more books reflecting Muslim American children before the current push for diversity in children’s literature. Night of the Moon, my first picture book, is about a little girl named Yasmeen and her family observing Ramadan and Eid. It focuses on the changing shape of the moon, the 32
night of the moon celebration and the festivities of the month. I was relieved when the book came out in 2008 and got the reviews I had hoped for, including one from Publisher’s Weekly that said it portrays “Muslims as another vibrant thread in the great American tapestry, emphasizing the bonds of family, community and spirituality rather than details of a particular belief system.” My next book, Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns, was a non-holiday book directed toward a younger audience. Suitable for yearround use, it introduces a prayer rug, hijab, the Quran, a mosque and other common objects through the use of color. The illustrator did an incredible job drawing in Muslims and non-Muslims alike through her gorgeous art. Being cited as a “notable book” by the American Library Association helped propel it into the hands of librarians and be added to Scholastic Book Fairs. This actually led one man in Georgia to protest it, after his daughter, with his wife’s approval, purchased it at her public school and brought it home. He drummed up some media attention for himself; however, the school fair organizers’ vow to fight his attempts to block it, along with librarians who rushed to buy it, reaffirmed my faith in our country. I regularly receive photographs and notes from people whose kids spot my books at schools nationwide. Each time, I’m so thankful that these children get to see something that reflects them on the shelves. I never had this experience while growing up in America, and it is even more important today. But I’m also grateful that kids of all faiths are looking through a window into Muslim American culture. When I share my books with children during school visits, I always notice how Muslim children in the audience react as I read. They sit up taller, smile, nod, and wave their hands at me, eager to report that “I celebrate Eid,” or “My mom wears hijab,” “My brother fasts” or “My name is Hamza!” At the same time, I’m glad that non-Muslim kids also relate to elements that we all share, like parties and presents, and hope that they come away thinking, “Maybe Muslims aren’t as different from us after all.” Teachers and media specialists do a wonderful job of facilitating the conversations, appreciating the work and building excitement around a guest speaker. Last year, I was ecstatic when the publisher of the Curious George books inquired if I’d be interested in writing a book about everyone’s favorite monkey celebrating Ramadan. It was to be the latest in a series of books where George celebrates different holidays. It’s Ramadan, Curious George follows George and his friend Kareem during the month, including a trip to the mosque, breaking the fast, spotting the moon and celebrating Eid. The response to It’s Ramadan, Curious George, which was published in May, has been overwhelming. People from all backgrounds are marveling at finally being included and represented by a major brand. They express their love for Curious George and their excitement at seeing him with us, doing the things that we do, like it’s the most normal thing ever — which it should be! In the midst of ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
The Conversion and THE ONLY WAY TO COUNTER THE NEGATIVE NARRATIVE OUT THERE IS TO TELL OUR OWN, IN OUR OWN WORDS AND THROUGH CHARACTERS OLD AND NEW. the ongoing condemnation of Muslims, the simple gesture of this beloved character sharing in the traditions of his Muslim friends is a refreshing change, one that helps counter the negative and destructive narrative with one of understanding and acceptance. As a community, we need to make sure that established and aspiring Muslim authors produce all varieties of books for our own community and mainstream American society. The only way to counter the negative narrative out there is to tell our own, in our own words, through characters old and new. And we need these books to be visible and to be read. The more successful books about Muslims are, the more publishers will be encouraged to produce, promote, and get them into children’s hands (and those of their parents and educators). I’ve been humbled by the creative ways in which people have used mine and shared them with others, including: 1. Donating the books to local school classrooms, libraries and community centers, as well as using them as giveaways in auctions, fundraisers, and other events. 2. Volunteering to read the books in their kids’ classrooms and bringing in items for show-and-tell or special snacks. 3. Organizing an author visit at their local school or community center. 4. Gifting the books to friends and neighbors, especially to non-Muslims. 5. Sending sample books to the media, influencers and policy makers, including those who design elementary-age curriculum, writing reviews, sharing the books on social media and blogging about them. Let’s continue to drown out hateful voices with our own and empower our children with the confidence and tools they need to wear their faith with pride. Hena Khan is a Pakistani-American author who lives in Maryland. You can learn more about her at www.henakhan. com. Follow her on twitter @henakhanbooks
Second Resurrection of the Nation of Islam Imam WD Mohammed shed the trappings of the past to embrace mainstream Islam
BY AMADOU SHAKUR
uring the 1930s, America’s Jim and Jane Crow racial landscape ruled the disempowered African American community. Segregation and discrimination were two elements in the black-white paradigm that distinguished America from European colonialism in Africa and Asia. Although race, religion and the colonial arm were unleashed in the East, America developed its own style of oppression and suppression. In response to this landscape, the Nation of Islam (NOI) developed a religious mythology that molded a neo-Islamic African American identity that caused a radical ripple through America’s northern inner cities. Elijah Muhammad (1897-1975) inherited the neo-Islamic movement begun by Noble Drew Ali (1886-1929), which operated in the fumes of the first cargos of African Muslims during the colonial era, the 1730s. His nationalistic, as opposed to religious, call attracted the attention of many underprivileged African Americans who desperately sought a resolution to their disenfranchisement in a racialized America. His movement was not a civil rights movement, as they were not seeking assimilation but a mental and physical departure through the resurrection of conscious
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black minds. Perhaps the most visible voice that contradicted the Christian strain, it circulated through the veins of lower America.
THE FIRST CHALLENGE Elijah Muhammad’s death marked another dramatic disembarking into the deep religious waters of America. His death created a second act, a rewriting of a script that required new actors. Elijah Mohammad would never have expected such. The NOI did not have to look too far for a new director, actors and script. His son Wallace Deen Mohammed (1933-2008), who later emerged as Warith D. Muhammad (later spelt as Mohammed; a.k.a. WD), was called upon to lead the charge up the hill and defeat the enemy on his own home ground. His appointment startled many, for he had been suspended several times for various statements and his unyielding position against neo-Islam. To accomplish this task, he enlisted the support of those familiar with Sunni Islam’s major orthodox tenets and history. At the following annual convention, which invited such high profile characters as Muhammad Ali, Abass Rassoul and Raymond Sharrieff, another page was turned in the first rewriting of the second script. Even though WD was the only son born under the star of Fard Muhammad, he could 33
ISLAM IN AMERICA no longer allow this man to be regarded as divinely inspired. This ongoing belief had to be critiqued, and the former compliance with to the old “nobility” fully criticized. Nevertheless, in their attempt to remain close to the “golden era,” they nominated Warith Muhammad as the “Honorable WD Muhammad.” Part of this departure from his father’s worldview necessitated the sale of NOI properties to private investors, the dismantling of the famed military arm (i.e., the Fruit of Islam) and the de-mythologizing of the traditional ideology — all of which were declarations that the previous forty years of theology had been spurious. These “hangings” of the past leadership were public sacrifices done in the name of Sunni Islam.
autonomy. In the Muslim Journal of 1995, WD emphatically reported, (from a speech entitled “The Priorities of an Advancing People”; Muslim Journal 17, March 1995) “Because I am not believing in the theology of the Nation of Islam that we were before, should not make anyone believe that I do not like seeing us do doing for self.”
UNDER NEW LEADERSHIP The foundation for the NOI’s “Second Resurrection” was laid. “We have been taught many things in the teachings of the great master W[allace] F[ard] Muhammad and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad that have prepared us for this time — the time of the Second Resurrection…” (Muhammad Speaks, April 1975).
EVEN THOUGH WD MOHAMMED WAS THE ONLY ELIJAH MUHAMMAD’S SON BORN UNDER THE STAR OF FARD MUHAMMAD, HE COULD NO LONGER ALLOW THIS MAN TO BE REGARDED AS DIVINELY INSPIRED. In short, they debased a program that had carried the community through the Second World War and the beginnings of the 1950s civil rights movement. Devastated members spoke of “treason,” cried “traitor” and “deviant” and “fallen member,” of WD no longer being a son of the prophetic head ordained by God. And the son, in turn, lambasted his father’s followers and declared that they still did not know the true Islam: “You don’t yet know the reality of God” (Muhammad Speaks, 1975). By this time, many Sunni Muslim groups were contesting the NOI’s history and leading the momentum toward working with the global Sunni community. The NOI’s leadership marched rather quickly and did not contextualize their new position in terms of mainstream Islam, but within the context of the African American struggle. With this 360 degree swing, the new praxis forged a new chapter in the African American text. But they never fully denounced the old nobility by portraying Noble Drew Ali or Elijah Muhammad as frauds, who remained deliverers from the hell-fires of discrimination, race and poverty as well as champions of black self-help and “do for self ” through 34
Upon the cusp of the civil rights and Black Power movements, and with over 60,000 paying adherents, WD renamed the NOI the World Community of al-Islam in the West (WCIW). The move was in accord with other ethnic groups, such as Syrians, Turks, and South Asian Americans, who also identified with Islam in the West. The WCIW stood tall as the African American representative of Islam in America, not a heretical group of cast-offs from a previous neo-Islam erroneous and deceitful organization. Later on in 1975 WD skillfully, and without destroying his father’s fallacious historical messages, placed Elijah’s remarks about black origins in a different context. Elijah was free to deliver his version of history to the African American NOI. The NOI had relied upon a historical mythology that few of its members contested. Former supporters were neither historians nor able to access the educational and intellectual resources of universities, scholars or local academics. Consequently, NOI dogma about the birth of the “Black Man” and the “Asiatic figure” were not challenged. As a result, what appeared to be scholarly and sounded historical prevailed for decades. “When we say the original man
is the Asiatic Black man… we are referring to the man who was born in darkness and out of darkness and whose mind developed so strongly that it was able to bring light to darkness…” (from a speech entitled “Who is the Original Man?” in Muhammad Speaks, Aug. 22 1975, pp. 16-17). During the 1970s, WD’s goal was to substitute racial language for religious modes in order to heave his father’s original message behind. However, he did not attempt to dissuade the old nobility or create or assume an Arab-American identity. Thus, he had to surgically remove the disease and at the same time offer a medicinal way to recover in post modernity. His rhetoric sought to lay the foundations for a new African American identity with a dignified umbilical cord to the global Dar al-Islam, one that legally permitted this group the luxury of its own identity, but not that of African American writer C. Eric Lincoln who, in his book The Black Muslims in America (Beacon Press, 1961), for the first time declared them to be “Black Muslims.” “When I was following my father’s teachings,” said W.D., “I felt it strongly. I felt that Allah had plans for us…it is not popular for an African American race to embrace the religion of the White race, when that religion is imaged in a White man, the ‘Word’ and ‘God’” (Al-Islam: Unity and Leadership, 1991).
NAMING THE SECOND RESURRECTION While trying to bring his followers into mainstream Sunni Islam, WD Mohammed’s greatest hope was that the world community would identify them as “American Muslims.” While engaged in the long arduous process of reinterpretation, he relabeled the new group four times: “Bilalians,” “the American Muslim Mission,” the “American Society of Muslims” and, finally, the “Mosque Cares.” The Second Resurrection held its weight in the Middle East. They initially demonstrated this by aggressively departing from Louis Farrakhan’s (b. 1933) resuscitation of the old Elijah Muhammad aristocracy. The movement became a major beneficiary of Saudi, UAE, and Qatari funds. Seeing WD Mohammed at the hajj repositioned his community and made it easy for these donor countries to provide financial backing to the NOI’s Second Resurrection. Amadou Shakur, executive director, Center for the African Diaspora, Charlotte, N.C.
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Will Harvard’s SHARIAsource online documentation help correct the misinformation surrounding Islamic law? BY NOOR ALI
n this era of Islamophobia and fear mongering about the Shariah, SHARIAsource, a new initiative of Harvard Law School’s Islamic Legal Studies Program, hopes to provide an online portal of primary resources and commentaries. Supported by Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and a grant recipient of the Henry R. Luce and MacArthur foundations, SHARIAsource is the brainchild of tenured Harvard professor Intisar A. Rabb, a prominent expert in Islamic law and legal history who directs the Islamic Legal Studies Program. Sharon Tai, fellow research editor with Rabb, has been involved with the SHARIAsource project for over a year. During her recent interview with Islamic Horizons, we discussed the magnitude of this endeavor. Tai manages the project’s content, which, they both hope, will become an indispensable tool for those scholars, policy and lawmakers who are interested in acquiring accurate information about the Shariah. SHARIAsource seeks to utilize the digital revolution and make sure that Islamic law is part of the integration of law and technology necessary in today’s age. Tai explained that this initiative hopes to grow into a go-to tool and reference source for academics, journalists, policymakers and scholars who want to delve deeper into Harvard University’s impressive collection of primary sources. SHARIAsource is to serve an online repository for this literature, which is often not easily accessible. While the portal is not tailored to meet the needs of everyone, it does hope to become an invaluable resource for academicians, media producers, and lawmakers. Rabb and Tai are supported by a few
research assistants as they collaborate with senior scholars around the world. Because the nature of this portal is specific to its target demographic, Tai informed us that a conference was held during September 2015 to introduce the project to media producers and scholars. About twenty people gathered to look at what was available at that time and provided critical feedback about the kind of information they would find useful while researching a sample case with legal implications. A Twitter and social media outreach campaign is planned to further introduce the target audience to this online repository. Tai explicates that the intention of SHARIAsource is not to be a purely academic ivory tower, but rather an endeavor that utilizes technology to improve accessibility to a deeper understanding of Islamic jurisprudence at a time when digitizing available information is a means for developing a more efficient and comprehensive resource with simultaneous potential for contemporaneous growth. The model for collaboration is to crowdsource scholars from across the world, thereby enlarging the project’s scope to inclusive participation. These on-board scholars assist and produce commentaries on each other’s work, hold symposiums to explore legal intricacies, engage in meaningful discourse, and then upload the information on to the website. The result is a global network of scholars in Islamic law and legal history who then manage the portal’s content. Part of this process includes creating new content while bringing diverse scholars together, as opposed to remaining just a portal of classical and primary resources. SHARIAsource keeps its eye on dynamic growth within the legal field while exploring the primary sources at hand. According to Tai, this effort’s team members have remained deeply cognizant of the complexities that arise in a project that exhibits such a wide-ranging diversity. They have tried to ensure that all Muslim voices are represented equally, regardless of where they come from, by gathering scholars from across the globe to ensure a balanced debate. This representational diversity is also
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being sought in terms of Islam’s various sects and schools of thought. For example, SHARIAsource has a tagged search system that enables one to access any particular school of thought. The history of sects and jurisprudence is also explored. Tai explained that the portal, which does not have a political or religious alliance, is purely an academic endeavor. Scholars on board share this vision and have joined the project because they agree with this approach. No personal or political agenda is being pushed; rather, a space is being created for legal discourse integral to the times. While the editors are aware of potential controversies in this regard, they want to ensure that multifaceted information is made available with a diverse commentary and analysis that allows us to become better learners. Conferences and debate sections on the website will disseminate and share the resulting knowledge with all interested parties. The mainstream media often discusses current affairs and legal issues about Islamic law in the mix with bias, misrepresentation and misinformation. Cases ruled by renegade and oppositional groups are often scrutinized with a skewed lens to provoke further fear, hostility and resentment. Whether it is news stories regarding stoning or “honor” killing, incorrect views about the Shariah continue to be disseminated to the public. SHARIAsource not only hopes to provide an alternate balanced vision, but also to explore how media outlets discuss cases and use language, as well as how discourse shapes and perpetuates stereotypes and prejudice. Tai shared that the team is aware of the magnitude of this endeavor and has goals in mind that will make the portal as useful as possible for its users and also manageable by keeping up with the project at a steady pace. She explained that the project is still in its early development stage, and that the editors are cognizant of potential controversy and hopeful that the project’s academic potential and significance will not be compromised. The soft launch date for access to SHARIAsource was the summer of 2016. Noor Ali is a teacher and doctoral candidate in the Ed.D. program at Northeastern University.
MUSLIMS IN ACTION
Planting the Seeds of Anti-Poverty Work What are Muslim Americans doing about our own community’s pockets of poverty? BY KHADIJA GURNAH
orty-seven million (about 14.5 percent) of all Americans currently live below the poverty line. In other words, a significant portion of fellow Americans face daily debilitating economic insecurity and ensuing fears for their future well-being. We have seen a troubling trend of politicians purporting to voice the concerns of those who sit precariously in the middle class, all the while supporting policies that favor those at the top of the economic stratosphere. As this election cycle progresses, it has also become more commonplace to leverage the fear of personal and
national economic decline at the expense and by blaming black and brown communities. Brexit is one such example. To garner support for exiting the European Union (EU), British politicians used the rallying cry of using limited immigration as an economic fortress. While some politicians made legitimate economic arguments for this proposal, the focus on immigration and immigrants as a source of various economic woes only escalated the people’s anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric. Unsurprisingly, the number of alarming incidents of xenophobia and violence increased.
While the majority population routinely scapegoats minority populations for its own increased rates of economic insecurity, in reality it is the minorities who actually experience the most precarious lives in terms of economic resources and political voice. In the U.S., poverty rates align closely with economic and political disenfranchisement: Native Americans, almost one-third of whom live below the poverty line, have the highest rates of poverty, followed by African Americans (27 percent) and Latinos (24 percent). In comparison, only 10 percent of non-Hispanic Whites fall below the poverty line. Poverty and political disenfranchisement are seldom discussed in relation to the Muslim community, even though it comprises a significant number of African Americans and Latinos. There is a stereotype of Muslim Americans being first- or second-generation immigrants, middle class and economically upwardly mobile — a picture that does not include the economic circumstances of many Muslim immigrants, particularly those of the growing refugee population. In his paper for the California Law
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Review, Between Indigence, Islamophobia, and Erasure: Poor and Muslim in ‘War on Terror’ America (2016), Khalid Beydoun — assistant professor of law at the Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law — reports that nearly half of all Muslim Americans are caught between indigence and anti-Muslim animus, with 45 percent of the population earning less than $30,000 per year. This troubling dynamic means that Muslim advocacy cannot be centered solely on confronting the ongoing anti-Muslim animus. If we are to truly serve the community, dealing with poverty and its related issues must become a focal point, one that will enable us to become part of the larger advocacy movement. We do not have to stand alone as others seek a more just and inclusive country. By extending our advocacy beyond the scope of our own needs, we will be able to see and respond to the needs of our fellow Americans. Project Ejaba’s (www.projectejaba.com) mission is to help young Muslim Americans develop the confidence to live authentically at a time when many feel pressured to respond to the pervasive misconceptions
POVERTY AND POLITICAL DISENFRANCHISEMENT ARE SELDOM DISCUSSED IN RELATION TO THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY, EVEN THOUGH IT COMPRISES A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF AFRICAN AMERICANS AND LATINOS. about Muslims and the practice of Islam in America. As the demographic groups with the highest poverty rates are children and young adults, one of our focal points has been to address poverty on a systemic level. Thus Project Ejaba supports the work of RESULTS (www.results.org), a nonpartisan organization that convenes meetings across the country so people can speak up in solidarity with all people who need basic health care, education, and the means to rise out of poverty. They provide tools to help advocates take action with those who represent them in Congress. RESULTS teaches that one of the most effective ways to get senators and representatives to pay attention to reducing hunger and poverty is to meet face-to-face with them while they are in the state. The
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organization’s website contains appropriate letter templates that people can use to formulate and then send their own letters to those bureaucrats who schedule their elected representatives’ daily activities. RESULTS is just one of many organizations working to ensure that our country moves toward creating a more inclusive economy. As the Muslim community continues to grow its organizing capacity, finding advocacy partners that transcend the bandwidth of faith is an important step to ensuring that our children transcend political and economic marginalization. Yes, our community is currently facing tremendous challenges, but it is often through such challenges that transformation occurs. Khadija Gurnah, MPH, is founder of Project Ejaba
MUSLIMS IN ACTION
The Case against Fossil Fuels Investments Muslims support the UN approach of capping the global temperature increase at 1.5 degree Celsius
The Interfaith Climate Change Statement to world leaders was officially handed over to Mogens Lykketoft, President of the United Nations General Assembly
BY SAFFET ABID CATOVIC
uslims involved in the environmental “green” movement often cite two of Prophet Muhammad’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) hadiths: “Indeed the world is green and sweet, and indeed God has left you to remain to see how you behave. So beware of the world, beware of the world” and “People have common share in three (things): Grass (herbage/vegetation for humanity and animals), water and fire (light, heat and power, which includes the electrical power derived from burning fossil fuels and other sources of energy).” Most conflicts throughout history, regardless of their size, can be tied, in one way or another, to one side’s access and/ or control over these finite life-sustaining resources. Currently, these resources are not being shared equitably, in terms of the present members of creation and those yet to come. Just as the global faith communities and their leaders have declared their intent to battle climate change by releasing statements and declarations (e.g., the Papal Encyclical on the Environment and Climate Change and Laudato Si), local faith leaders must continue to mobilize their congregations to pursue this cause.
Meeting in Istanbul on Aug. 17-18, 2015, over 60 Muslim scholars, academics, and environmental activists from around the world adopted an Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change ((http://islamicclimatedeclaration.org/islamic-declaration-on-global-climate-change/). This bold grassroots initiative was driven by various NGOs, including Greenfaith, Islamic Relief Worldwide, the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, the Climate Action Network International, the OurVoices campaign, and others. It was formally presented to the president of the UN General Assembly just prior to the signing by 175 parties (174 countries and the European Union) of the COP 21 Paris Agreement on April 22, 2016 (Earth Day) in New York. Specifically, this declaration affirms the UN position that seeks to limit global warming to 2, or preferably 1.5, degrees Celsius by reducing and limiting the pollution caused by burning fossil fuels and the resultant greenhouse gas emissions. It calls for the rapid phase-out of fossil fuels and a switch to 100% renewable energy, as well as increased support by the major greenhouse gas emitters, primarily the Global North and China, for vulnerable communities, located primarily in the Global South. Wealthy oil-producing nations, of which the U.S. is
now the leading one, are urged to phase out these emissions by 2050. All people, leaders and businesses are invited to commit to 100% renewable energy in order to tackle climate change, reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development. As renowned environmental leader Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org reminds us, “when environmentalists [traditionally] talked about climate policy, it was almost always in terms of reducing demand”: Change your light bulb (ISNA’s multifaceted Our Masjid is Greening Ramadan campaign with its theme of “Ramadan: When Less is More” is a community-level example of implementing ecological friendly practices) and put a price on carbon (on the governmental level). These excellent ideas are making slow but steady progress. Given enough time, these practices will lower carbon emissions gradually but powerfully. He continued, “Time, however, is precisely what we don’t have.” As Quran 10:3 states, time is running out for humanity to believe and do what is right. A growing number of respected environmental scientists and economists have stated that to stem a global warming disaster, we must stop burning fossil fuels and keep at least 75% of all carbon dioxide in the ground to prevent overwhelming the planet’s physical systems. This concept of not disturbing Earth is in keeping with the Quranic injunction “to walk softy on the earth” (25:63). Quranic exegetes explain that the Prophet exemplified this by placing his feet firmly as if he were always walking downhill, as opposed to penetrating or disrupting it. Hence a more “green” reading of this verse is to not harm Earth, which includes reducing our carbon footprint. It is also a general Shariah principal to cause no harm/injury to one another. The mechanism of harming or violating Earth is fasad (corruption), which contemporary Muslim scholars like Yusuf Qaradawi (b. 1926) have interpreted as “pollution.” Quran 30:41 defines this as the result of what “the hands of man have wrought.” The divestment “Keep it in the Ground” campaign asks both institutional and individual investors to consider replacing fossil fuel stocks with renewable stocks. But how can Muslims accomplish this goal? Arguments such as saving the planet for future generations, while correct and generally appealing, will not by themselves be effective in this regard. Religious language, however, can be
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very persuasive in inspiring Muslim investors who are concerned about ethical halal investments to join this movement. Another method could consist of calling attention to the following facts (abstracted from http://www.pewforum.org/2013/04/30/ the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-overview/). First, the Shariah influences the legal code of most Muslim countries. Second, the Pew Research Center’s 2013 survey findings indicate that most Muslims believe that it is God’s revealed word, rather than a body of law developed by men based upon His word. While many Muslims say it should be the law in any Muslim-majority country, there is no consensus on the precise methods of how to implement it. Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (d. 1350) states, in part: “The Shariah’s foundation is wisdom and the safeguarding of people’s interests in this world and the next. In its entirety it is justice, mercy and wisdom. Every rule that transcends justice to tyranny, mercy to its opposite, the good to the evil, and wisdom to triviality does not belong to it. The Shariah is God’s justice and mercy among His people. Life, nutrition, medicine, light, recuperation and virtue are made possible by it. Every good that exists is derived from it, and every deficiency in being results from its loss and dissipation, for the Shariah, which God entrusted His prophet to transmit, is the pillar of the world and the key to success and happiness in this world and the next.” Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 1111) lists its purposes and objectives, also referred to as the five categories or essentials: the preservation of faith, life, lineage (i.e., posterity and family), intellect and property (i.e. wealth and material resources). He states that “these were to be protected as absolute priorities, for whatever ensures the safeguard of these five principles serves public interest and is desirable, and whatever hurts them is against public interest and its removal is desirable.” Developing such investments initially requires a great deal of scholarly work by competent and qualified jurists, thinkers and environmental leaders. Individual scholars and scholarly institutions/associations, fiqh councils and national fatwa councils must come to understand the need to expand the language of the Shariah’s objectives so that it can be sensitive to and include current environmental realities and the damage being done to all of creation. In reference to these categories, Mohammed Hashim Kamili (b. 1944), founding chairman of the
International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies in Malaysia, and others have observed “that Al-Maqasid Al-Sharia is still open for further development and enhancement. The nature of this development and enhancement must reflect the priorities of our age and the
(to them), and that they should not become like those to whom was given Revelation aforetime, but long ages passed over them and their hearts grew hard? For many among them are rebellious transgressors. Know you (all) that God gives life to the earth after its
MOST CONFLICTS THROUGHOUT HISTORY, REGARDLESS OF THEIR SIZE, CAN BE TIED, IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, TO ONE SIDE’S ACCESS AND/OR CONTROL OVER THESE FINITE LIFE-SUSTAINING RESOURCES. change of circumstances that we encounter as a result.” In fact this “renewal of mind and understanding” is vital if we are to deal effectively with the negative side effects of modernity, industrialization, over-consumption and environmental degradation. Once the theological/ideological groundwork has been laid, new Shariah-compliant financial investment instruments that avoid all fossil fuel-based stocks should be formulated by Islamic finance/investment professionals for society as a whole. These will provide alternative halal investments in, for example, renewable energy and clean energy projects and stocks. As McKibben observes, money is a key part of the “Keep It in the Ground” strategy. From its humble beginnings, with small institutions like Unity College in Maine selling the fossil fuel stock in its $13 million portfolio, this global divestment movement now includes colleges from Stanford to Oxford, from Sydney to Edinburgh. The message is loud and clear: It makes no sense to educate young people and then destroy the planet that they will inherit from us. Allied medical and physician associations worldwide have committed themselves to this goal on the ground that one cannot pretend to be interested in public health if one is investing in companies that are destroying it. Various Christian denominations have made similar commitments, insisting that caring for creation is incompatible with causing such destruction. It is time for Muslim to wake up and assume their God-given responsibilities as caretakers of this planet. As Quran 57:1617 states: “Has not the Time arrived for the Believers that their hearts in all humility should engage in the remembrance of God and of the Truth which has been revealed
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death! Already have We shown the Signs plainly to you, that you may learn wisdom.” Further information on this vitally important topic can be found at www.greenfaith.org/programs/divest-and-reinvest. Saffet Abid Catovic, member of the Drafting Committee of the Islamic Declaration on Climate Change, is a board member of ISNA Green Masjid Task Force and a GreenFaith Fellow as well as chairman of Green Muslims of New Jersey.
Fatima’s Touch, by Tamam Kahn, told through narrative and poetry, is a bridge between our time and seventh century Islam. Fatima’s story, her words and her life, serve as a hedge against fundamentalism. Years of research support the stories of Fatima’s life and her loving connection with her father, Prophet Muhammad; Islam and the feminine are honored. — Daisy Khan, Founder, Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE)
On Amazon September 2016 39
Evil Gives Way
Muslim Americans are certainly threatened but there are Americans of other faiths standing by them BY UMBERINE ABDULLAH
hen D onald Trump repeated his anti-Muslim diatribe shortly after the massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, President Barack Obama reminded him that such rhetoric undermines American values: “And if we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims as a broad brush, and imply that we are at war with the entire religion, then we are doing the terrorists’ work for them . . .We now have proposals from the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States to bar all Muslims from immigrating into America. And you hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complacent in violence. “Where does this stop? The Orlando
killer, one of the San Bernardino killers, the Fort Hood killer — they were all U.S. citizens. Are we going to start treating all Muslim Americans differently? Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminating them because of their faith? ... That’s not the America we want.” Nathan Wellman, a Los Angeles-based journalist, author, and playwright, noted in the U.S. Uncut.com June 13 that “[S]ince yesterday’s horrific massacre in Orlando, conservatives have been dodging the gun control debate by blaming Islam (and utterly ignoring the LGBT aspect of this latest attack).” He added that this rhetoric will undoubtedly only encourage the recent spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes that has coincided with Trump’s presidential campaign. Saying that this trend is discouraging, he
shared a young New Yorker’s uplifting story on her Facebook page of a diverse group of Americans who came together to protect two Muslimahs from an enraged bigot. The post picked up over 2,000 “shares” in just five hours. The full text of Amaira Hasan’s post is as follows: “Just now, on my way to work, a man got on my F train yelling as he came onto an incredibly packed train for the ‘two terrorist foreigners to go back to where they came from.’ These two ‘terrorist foreigners’ were two (understandably terrified) hijabi Muslim women. Before I could say anything, the entire train erupted in anger. A black man, a Romanian, a gay man, a bunch of Asians and a score of others came to their defense demanding that he leave them alone and get off the train. The man insisted that the two women go back home and take their bombs with them. “After some back and forth, one man declared, ‘This is New York City. The most diverse place in the world. And in New York, we protect our own and we don’t give a **** what anyone looks like or who they love, or any of those things. It’s time for you to leave these women alone, Sir.’ “I couldn’t have said it better. Sure enough, our train was stopped, someone had called the conductor. This royal douche was escorted off the train to the sound of cheering. “I say all this to say that in light of all the bad happening around us, remember that there’s so much good and so much love. “I’m late to work, but it was for the best reason.”
Handan Shami (second from right) thanks Seattlearea Quakers and others at the Islamic Center of Federal Way. (Photo copyright Alex Garland)
A group of approximately 15 members of the Seattle Quaker community and peace activists recently took matters into their own hands to combat Islamophobia. They visited the Islamic Center of Federal Way, which 40
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AMID ALL OF THIS ONGOING ISLAMOPHOBIA, ONE NEEDS TO ASK, PARAPHRASING PRESIDENT OBAMA: “DO AMERICANS SINCERELY AGREE WITH THIS HATE?” serves the south Puget Sound area, to surround them with solidarity and support on the final Friday of Ramadan. The visitors split into two groups, for the men’s and the women’s entrances, holding signs wishing the congregation members a “Blessed Ramadan” as they lined up and removed their shoes. Other signs proclaimed that “I see dignity in ...” or “I see light in…” with an arrow pointing left or right. The Kent, Wash., mosque attendees, who come from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, clasped hands with some of the Quakers and thanked them profusely. “I feel so good, so good. I have friends who are younger girls and attend college. They cannot go to the college alone; they always go together because they’re scared. This support makes me feel so good, confident and safe,” said Handan Sharmi, originally from Turkey. Megan Fair of the Washington state chapter of Council on American Islamic Relations Washington (CAIR-WA) said that the event was organized after several area mosques were threatened during the past month. One case actually led to an arrest. “For the past year or so, with the elections, there has been a lot of negative rhetoric focused on the Muslim community. We’re working with the #lovethyneighbor campaign, which focuses on saying: ‘The things you see in the media are not necessarily who American Muslims are,’” she said. Polly Jirkovsky Gual, a Quaker and member of the South Seattle Friends Meeting, explained why she joined in Friday’s event: “It seems like there’s a real sense of fear and threats, even in Seattle, in this place that’s supposed to be really progressive. Personally, I wanted to show that not all American’s feel that way, not all white people feel that way, and not all people of Christian-derived faith feel that way. It was important for me to come out here and say that I think we are all neighbors.” One Christian group in Minnesota has set out to change the ongoing negative political rhetoric about Islam and Muslims. The Minnesota Council of Churches (MCC) , a group of more than 25 churches from various denominations, carried out a “Blessed Ramadan” campaign and asked community members to put signs in their front yards wishing Muslims a blessed holy month. Rev. Jerad Morey, MCC’s project organizer and program and communications director, said they have provided signs to 53 interfaith groups, as well as Catholic and Jewish houses of worship, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church, and Episcopalian, Universalist, and Community of Christ congregations. Amid all of this ongoing Islamophobia, one needs to ask, paraphrasing President Obama: “Do Americans sincerely agree with this hate?” Umberine Abdullah is a freelance writer
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
In the Wake of Exclusivist Political Rhetoric Do Muslim Americans know that a united front of religious denominations and faith-based organizations is standing together against anti-Muslim bigotry? BY CATHERINE ORSBORN
he stories we hear matter. When we hear stories of violence, exclusion, and hate, it’s hard not to see the world through that lens. And there are a lot of those stories, both around the world and in our own nation. And yet in the midst of all the hate we’ve been experiencing and witnessing, particularly over the last year, I’ve been encouraged by the stories of people from multiple backgrounds — in simple and elaborate ways — coming together to hear one another and working together to oppose hate by building more inclusive, respectful and justice-centered communities. The story of Shoulder to Shoulder (www.shouldertoshouldercampaign.org) is one of those stories that we need to keep telling during these critical times. This coalition, based in Washington, D.C., comprises 32 religious denominations and faith-based organizations that came together in 2010 to say that, despite our religious differences, we oppose anti-Muslim bigotry in this country. From the beginning, this campaign has asserted that such bigotry is an affront to its members’ religious and moral values of hospitality, love and the injunction to refrain from “bearing false witness,” as well as an insult to our American values of religious freedom and equality, as well as our diversity of background and belief. As religious communities, each of our own freedoms depends upon those same freedoms being extended equally to other religious communities, for curtailing them for some puts all of our freedoms at risk. As a coalition, we work at the national and local levels to help educate, equip, network, and mobilize faith communities to stand up against anti-Muslim bigotry in its many forms. At the national level, we keep our member denominations and organizations current on what the Muslim American communities are experiencing, how research
and activist organizations are understanding this particular form of bigotry, and help coordinate multi-religious responses to especially egregious acts of hate, bigotry or discrimination that flow from it. In addition, we work with our member organizations and denominations so that they can better equip their clergy members with the knowledge, relationships and tools they need to stand in solidarity with and to get to know their Muslim neighbors. At the local level, we have a community membership network made up of groups
that are active in their own communities. We help connect them to useful educational and action resources to improve their performance, and also bring them together for support and networking. For instance, during the fall and winter we helped a Muslim community in Irving, Texas, that had experienced high levels of bigotry during 2015 start a multi-religious community dialogue at the Islamic center. They are now putting together an interfaith council that will continue to address these ongoing realities. The long-term effort of any such undertaking must be national and local in scope to produce resilient and active inter-faith communities while also shifting the political and media rhetoric that so often affects individual perceptions and beliefs. As a coalition of religious leaders, we call upon our public officials to stand against anti-Muslim rhetoric because we need to hear from those in positions of power, whether religious or political, when people are being targeted. Last October, we gathered over 100 religious leaders from diverse
Shoulder to Shoulder Beyond Tolerance press conference ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
backgrounds at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., for a multi-faith service and to launch the Religious Freedom Pledge. This pledge asked our elected officials to uphold the country’s national commitment to religious freedom by speaking out against discrimination, bigotry, harassment and violence based on religion or belief. In July 2016, we hand-delivered copies of this pledge with a cover letter to each and every office of the House and Senate. We will continue to make this call to Congress, and are launching a grassroots campaign for local communities to call upon all of their elected officials to make this commitment. Disparaging rhetoric and the failure to call it out have real-life consequences and only bolsters those who promote hate against Muslims. Because much of the political conversation around Syrian refugees has been influenced by anti-Muslim sentiments, we are currently working with our members and a number of refugee resettlement organizations on a multi-faith initiative called Refugees Welcome. This effort pushes back against the anti-refugee rhetoric that has
been so strong over the past year in particular. Through statements to Congress and the Obama administration, combined with community-level work, we have added our voices to the chorus of faith leaders and communities that are calling for welcome, rather than exclusion, in this time of crisis. For the last couple of months we’ve been
the challenge of inter-religious understanding. As such, no single approach or organization has a hold on “solving” it; rather, all of these different groups have to join together to challenge it. We’re doing one part of this by helping to reframe the narrative, both within religious communities and in the broader discourse, in an attempt to show that this
AS A COALITION, SHOULDER TO SHOULDER WORKS AT THE NATIONAL AND LOCAL LEVELS TO HELP EDUCATE, EQUIP, NETWORK AND MOBILIZE FAITH COMMUNITIES TO STAND UP AGAINST ANTI-MUSLIM BIGOTRY IN ITS MANY FORMS. especially focused on helping religious congregations and other groups organize welcoming dinners to host refugees in their towns. This has been an opportunity for people to come into direct contact with other faith communities, especially in terms of encouraging them to work with Muslim and Syrian American communities to put on such events. Such personal contact makes this a human issue, rather than a political debate, and enables the involved faith communities to build mutually collaborative relationships. We’ve invited political officials and media to observe and participate in these dinners and continue to compile the stories of those communities that welcome refugees to show members of Congress that people across the U.S. want to welcome more of them. Additionally, we are still engaged with and preparing faith leaders for this undertaking. This September is our third year of bringing together emerging Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders at the ISNA Convention as part of our Emerging Religious Leaders Seminar. Participants will discuss anti-Muslim bigotry and how to deal with it as emerging members of the clergy or interfaith leaders. This experience will expose them to the Muslim American community’s diverse experiences and concerns so that they can acquire the relevant knowledge and skills, as well as to form the networks, necessary for building multi-faith relationships and oppose anti-Muslim bigotry in their own communities. Such bigotry is, of course, a complex and multi-layered reality connected to broader issues of racism and xenophobia, as well as
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
issue affects all religious communities and challenges the foundation of our country’s pluralistic democracy. We are grateful to be able to work collaboratively with many other organizations that are approaching these same concerns from other angles or in other community settings. This effort is not just about being good allies to those experiencing discrimination and bigotry; it is about joining forces to ensure that everyone has equal access to our national ideals of liberty and justice for all. We know that discrimination and bigotry, regardless of where we find them, affect the targeted group and society as a whole. The recent tragedy in Orlando was deeply painful for so many in this country, particularly for LGBTQ and Latino/a persons. And yet we’ve also seen politicians try to capitalize on this as still another opportunity to push anti-Muslim bigotry. While the responses have been less than perfect and there are many issues we could discuss, we’ve also seen outpourings and moments of love and solidarity. Many have sent a clear message that the marginalization and targeting of one identity group as a response to the marginalization and targeting of another identity group is not the way to make our country a safer and more welcoming place for everyone. Our country has not lived up to its own ideals at all times, and it requires all of us working together — looking out not only for our own rights, but also (and perhaps more importantly) for the rights of others — to help push us in the right direction. Catherine Orsborn is campaign director for the Shoulderto-Shoulder Campaign
Lessons Learned A non-Muslim’s first experience of fasting during Ramadan BY JENNA WIESENHAHN
checked my watch and glanced at the rose sky — Is it 8:47 yet? All I could think about was water. I’d fasted before for medical exams, but could usually schedule it for a weekend, when the majority of my fasting was done while I was asleep — not much of a trial. Fasting in June, at the end of the school year, during a workday and constricted by a celestial schedule, however, is an entirely different experience, one that I know tens of millions of people elect to do every year, but which I had never done myself. I have always made it a point to understand other peoples’ experiences, especially if they are different from my own. I am a 30-year old white woman who grew up in Northern Virginia, where it has been incredibly easy to find ways to realize such a goal. I was raised Christian, but didn’t identify with or practice a particular religion as an adult. I studied religion for a while in college and formed my own particular faith by drawing upon many belief systems. I enjoy talking to friends and coworkers about their faith systems, cultures, and ethnic backgrounds. I love experiencing them even more, for this is how I believe that we can truly come to understand one another as people. So when one of my favorite coworkers, a Muslim Senegalese man, teasingly suggested that I fast with him (after I fumbled through wishing him, “Mubarak Ramadan … or is it Ramadan Mubarak?”), I thought about it and replied “Ok!” Three years ago, despite my knowledge of different religions and having friends of all faiths, all I vaguely knew about Ramadan was that it is a Muslim holiday. However, I could never remember when it occurred. Two years ago, due to my friendship with a Muslim man, I knew that this month-long holiday involved fasting from pre-dawn to sundown and that the timing changed every year. I learned that he and his family woke up at 3:00 a.m. to eat, since that year it occurred during June. I learned that they often met with friends and family to break their fast, and that going to a mosque to pray is an
I CAME TO UNDERSTAND MORE DEEPLY WHAT MUSLIMS EXPERIENCE DURING RAMADAN, AND WITH THAT HAVE AN EVEN GREATER RESPECT FOR THOSE WHO PARTICIPATE IN FASTING. equally important part of the holiday. I also learned that just like in Christianity, there are varying levels of participation. This year, I learned that Eid is the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan — Ramadan itself is not a “holiday.” I learned that it is based on the crescent moon. I learned that there is both “dry” and “wet” fasting; I did both – but for Muslims it is abstaining from all nourishment. I learned that the purposes of fasting and Ramadan are similar to what I understand to be the purposes of the Christian season of Lent: to give up certain comforts as a way to deepen your faith, to understand what the prophets experienced during their faith journeys, to remember that these comforts are of the body, and to remind us that there are people everywhere who go without every day because they have neither the choice nor the comfort of a scheduled end. I came to understand more deeply what Muslims experience during Ramadan, and with that have an even greater respect for those who fast. I did a beginner’s version: I only fasted 2 days, didn’t incorporate the spiritual part (i.e., praying and going to the mosque), and chose when I was going to
fast. More than once, my coworker teasingly chastised me for not fasting certain days, like the last day of school when we have a staff luncheon, or on the weekend when there are no work-related distractions. This luxury of choice is not lost on me. Waking up earlier than usual was difficult. Eating and drinking enough to get me through an entire day of teaching 3- and 4-year-olds with autism, and then through after-school meetings and a second job was tricky; I hope I learn how to do this better next year. Missing my mid-day coffee and water was the worst part. But that’s kind of the point: Missing my mid-day coffee and water was the worst part. At the end of the day, when the sky darkened and the clock struck 8:47, I got to greedily gulp down my cold water, go home and eat my food. I got to go to sleep knowing that I wouldn’t have to go without food the next day. This year I learned that both my body and spirit are strong and capable of more than I had expected; they always are. I learned that it’s not so bad to go without food or drink for 15 hours for a couple of days, and that there are parts of the deprivation I even enjoy: I don’t over-indulge or stress eat, and my body had an opportunity to recover from any previous poor eating. This year I learned, as I learn over and over again, that I am so blessed, so privileged. That the things I struggle with for my survival — mostly a tight budget due to grad school loans, being a teacher, and living alone — are small struggles compared to what so many others endure. Spoiled struggles, even. I learned that I enjoy being reminded of this. Sometimes I need a reminder of this. I try to stay grateful and humble every day, but the concrete, visceral reminder that comes with fasting is powerful. It is a renewing reminder, a renewing call to remember others’ struggles, especially at the end of the long, exhausting school year, when all I can think about is surviving until summer break. Again: I have a scheduled end. Next year I will fast again. I hope to do more, participate longer and more deeply, and choose to experience more of what others can’t choose. Today I celebrate that I can chose, and I continue to try to use that privilege to work to give others their own ability of choice. Ramadan Mubarak! Jenna M. Wiesenhahn, M.Ed.H.D, a public school teacher, specializes in early childhood special education and acquired brain injuries.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
Facing Fear and Acting for a Better America Do Americans realize that rather than stir up fear and hatred of the “other,” their challenge is to help bring out the best in all people? BY RON YOUNG
ublic controversy sometimes erupts when a Muslim American community announces plans to build a mosque. Opposition is often fueled by well-funded national anti-Muslim organizations that shamelessly target the general public’s ignorance and fears about Islam. This is a story about one such incident in a community near Seattle and how Muslims and Christians came together to support this undertaking. It is also a story about challenging an anti-Muslim group and how love and truth can defeat fear and hate. I first learned of this by reading an op-ed article by Rick Larsen (D), our local member of Congress in support of the Muslim community’s right to build the Islamic Center of Mukilteo in the small, nearby city of Mukilteo, located in Snohomish County. The owner of a local engineering company that contracts with Boeing had sent postcards to all city residents, raising fears about the project, with a return address of “Mukilteostaysafe.” I attended a meeting called by Larsen with members of the Muslim community and the director of CAIR. After Muslims met with the head of the engineering company, he publicly announced that he had changed his mind and now supported the project. Not surprisingly, the situation was complicated by behind-the-scenes agitation of the activist anti-Muslim group Act for America. Christians and Muslims organized two community meetings, including an iftar at a local Lutheran church. Press coverage was positive, and Mukilteo’s Mayor Jennifer Gregerson (D) was quoted as supporting the Muslim community. Unfortunately active opposition, including posting hateful protest placards posted on the proposed site, continued. Clearly, some of this opposition was being organized by Act for America. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated Act for America, which claims to have 1,000 local chapters nationwide, a
right-wing “hate-group.” At one of the promosque public meetings held at the Lutheran church, a member of Act for America spoke up angrily during the question and answer period, waving and emotionally referencing a multi-tabbed copy of a thick book entitled The Reliance of the Traveller, an English translation of a 14th century guide to Islamic teachings. For Christians to reference a medieval guide to Islam is especially shocking and sad, for that was the era of the Crusades and the notorious Inquisition. Referencing such interpretations and then exclusively citing the most extreme teachings, which are held by only a small minority of contemporary Muslims, is also disingenuous and very misleading because such tactics completely ignore the vast literature on contemporary Muslim teachings
IF WE ARE HONEST AND EVEN SLIGHTLY SELFCRITICAL, WE HAVE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT JUDAISM, CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAM HAVE BEEN USED IN THE PAST AND EVEN TODAY BY SOME OF THEIR FOLLOWERS TO INSPIRE EXTREMISM AND VIOLENCE.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
and statements issued by mainstream Islamic scholars and organizations. While Act for America’s appeal effectively plays upon people’s ignorance and fears and helps raise a lot of money, this prejudiced practice provides a grossly distorted view of what the vast majority of Muslims believe. In fact, it is no different from judging what all Jews believe by quoting only the most extreme and violent Jewish settlers in the West Bank Palestinian territory or judging Christianity by the crude, extreme statements by some American Christian fundamentalist leaders who view Islam as “a religion of war” and enthusiastically supported the Bush administration’s disastrous invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq as a morally justified modern-day crusade. Let me cite just a few of the major contemporary documents that present an authentic and reliable view of Islam. The ongoing and growing international interfaith initiative “A Common Word,” launched by Muslim and Christian scholars in 2007, emphasizes the fundamental commonalities between Muslim and Christian teachings on two central religious imperatives: “to love God and to love our neighbors.” Two brand new books offer a great deal of insight and useful information to anyone seeking a responsible and serious understanding of Islam: The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary (2015) and The Quran with References to the Bible (2016). During September 2014, 120 prominent Muslim scholars from around the world issued a letter to the fighters and followers of ISIS on religious extremism. Citing classical teachings from the Quran, they denounced the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s extremist ideology and practices as fundamentally “un-Islamic.” If we are honest and even slightly self-critical, we have to acknowledge that Judaism, Christianity and Islam have been used in the past and even today by some of their followers to inspire extremism and violence. Rather than stir up fear and hatred of the “other,” our challenge is to help bring out the best in all people. In fact, it is actually very logical to act compassionately and constructively in order to bring about a better, safer America and a better world. Ron Young serves as consultant to the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI; http://www.nili-mideastpeace.org). This commentary represents his personal views, not the views of NILI. A regular speaker on interfaith cooperation and Middle East issues, he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HEALTH & WELL-BEING
The Addictions Epidemic Are Muslims doing enough to educate their children about the dangers of addictions and violent behavior? BY SHAIKH ABDUL RAHMAN
sually the deaths of popular figures like Prince bring a new focus on addictions. In the last three years there has been steady and excessive demand for heroin, cannabis and narcotic medications. Every fourth patient who calls at my southeast Indiana medical office, even those with actual medical problems, is actually looking for addictive narcotics, tranquilizers and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) medication. During the initial screening, I
ask about their physical problems and the medications they are taking. If I notice that they are looking for addictive medications, I tell them upfront that I do not prescribe such medications. However, a lot of patients are very clever when it comes to explaining their physical problems and how they are only taking overthe-counter medications. After I evaluate them and perform the appropriate tests, I give them non-habit-forming alternative medications. I also try to get help for their
THE CURRICULA OF ISLAMIC SCHOOLS AND SUNDAY SCHOOLS SHOULD INCLUDE THE DANGERS OF ALCOHOL AND DRUG ABUSE AND THEIR ASSOCIATED CONSEQUENCES.
ISLAMIC HORIZONSâ€ƒ SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
addiction problems from neurologists and community mental health practitioners. However, to my surprise such specialists say they cannot see a patient for at least 3 to 4 months. This shows the strain on psychiatrists, psychologists and the associated staff. If patients do not follow my instructions, I politely bow out from their care after giving them a 30-day notice. This is especially true when a patient’s friend or family member calls me anonymously to let me know that the addictive medications were not only being abused, but also being sold on the black market. Alcohol in the refrigerator and habit-forming prescription medications not kept out of the reach of family members, especially young children, do not help matters. Some middle and high school-aged children have become binge drinkers. Statistics are not exactly known for teenage binge drinkers and drug abusers, but the matter is made worse by unsupervised slumber parties and proms. Let me give you two examples. A high
school student had straight “A”s and was very ambitious in terms of becoming either a doctor or a certified nurse. Unfortunately she fell in with a bad crowd. Later, a physician prescribed ADD medications to improve her grades. I also tried to get help from the mental health practitioner and counseled her and her parents. However, she became pregnant and dropped out of school. During one of her visits I noticed finger marks on her neck. She told me that her boyfriend had tried to choke her after an argument. I sought urgent mental health care for her drug addiction and domestic violence. However, she did not follow my instructions and the parents decided to take her to a different physician. This was sad, but nevertheless a relief — at least for me. In the second case, I was treating was a grandmother who had diabetes, high blood pressure and other medical issues. Her 10-year old granddaughter would accompany her to my office. The grandmother remarked that the girl probably had ADD and that I should give her some medicine. I examined her and found her to be a really brilliant girl; however, she was not working hard enough to keep up her grades. I just gave the girl some vitamins and counseling. I then told the grandmother that ADD medication would actually hurt her granddaughter in the long run. This happened about 15 years ago. Last July, she brought the girl to my office after she had graduated from a reputable nursing school as a registered nurse. She showed me the photograph of her graduation. Both of them were in tears and grateful for my putting the girl on the right track. Now she is a chief registered nurse at a university hospital. This was a very gratifying experience. Some Muslim students and adults drink alcohol and abuse drugs. Indeed, divorces are taking place because of these horrible habits. Our university and college students are under a lot of peer pressure, and some of them eventually succumb. The MSA (Muslim Students Association), which has chapters in most colleges and universities, continues to monitor them and offer counseling and psychiatric help. However, some fall through the cracks if they do not associate themselves with the association. I continue to engage pastors, priests, social workers and imams to be persistent in informing our young people that these habits are both physically and spiritually harmful, for Satan always tries to get the
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
best of humans. We should always remain vigilant, closely monitor our young people and make sure they stay away from those people who are lost so that they and their own children will not succumb to this curse. The curricula of Islamic schools and Sunday schools should include the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse and their associated consequences. We should also educate them about domestic violence and bullying and provide an atmosphere in which they feel free to discuss their emotional problems. Our young people should be tested on these topics via written exams, just as we test them in math and science. There should be clear communication among teachers, students and parents and appropriate (yet compassionate) measures designed to guide them toward taqwa (God-consciousness) so they can make good choices as they become older. Once our children leave their Islamic or public high school and pursue their higher education, they can easily get lost in the liberal atmosphere, especially if we did not train them while they were under our watchful eyes. Shaikh Abdul Rahman is a Lawrenceburg, Ind., internist.
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THE MUSLIM WORLD
Kashmir for Kashmiris Is independence a legal option for Kashmir?
BY GHULAM NABI FAI
people’s right to self-determination, a basic principle of the United Nations Charter that is reaffirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has been used to settle many international disputes. The U.N. has explicitly recognized its applicability to the specific case of Jammu and Kashmir, as did both India and Pakistan when they placed the Kashmir dispute before the U.N. Security Council in 1948. With the establishment of India and Pakistan as sovereign nation, New Delhi and Islamabad agreed to allow the inhabitants of the Muslim-majority princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, which now stood alone, to exercise their right of self-determination under impartial auspices and in a coercion-free environment. Their official agreement to this undertaking is embodied in the two resolutions of the U.N. Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP). As it is binding on both of them, neither one can render it null and void by alleging that the other is not adhering any of its provisions. Part III of the resolution, dated Aug. 13, 1948, stipulates: “The Government of India and the Government of Pakistan reaffirm their wish that the future status of 48
NO SOLUTION TO THIS DECADES-LONG INJUSTICE WILL BE JUST OR VIABLE IF IT IGNORES THIS INTENSE, POPULAR SENTIMENT.
agree to enter into consultations with the Commission to determine fair and equitable conditions whereby such free expression will be assured.” Contrary to assumptions, this provision does not deny the Kashmiris complete and total independence. Although understandable, the impression is erroneous because by definition the right of self-determination is unrestricted. By entering into the agreement, India and Pakistan excluded and therefore rendered inadmissible each other’s claim to the state until its people had voted to endorse it under an impartial authority. As no agreement between two of the interested parties can lay down what options should be available to the third interested party, thereby restricting the latter’s right of free and uncoerced choice, all options have to be made available. This is an elementary principle of law and justice that no international agreement, if legitimate, can possibly flout. India and Pakistan were within their rights to pledge to each other that they would not fight over Kashmir. and would let its people decide its status. However, it would have been wholly illegitimate for them to say, “Let’s go through the motions of a plebiscite to decide which one will get this land,” for such an approach would be no more than a plot to provide the form while denying the substance of self-determination, a mockery of democratic norms: “You have the right to make an independent choice, just as long as you do not choose independence.”
NOT A NOVEL VIEW the state of Jammu and Kashmir shall be determined in accordance with the will of the people and to that end, upon acceptance of the truce agreement, both Governments
This is not a novel view. When India first brought the issue to the U.N., its representative set out three options: (a) accession to India, (b) accession to Pakistan and (c)
Betaab Valley, Anantnag, Jammu and Kashmir ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
independence. The wording of more than one Security Council resolution reflects the possibility of the third option. For example, the resolutions adopted on March 14, 1950, and March 30, 1951, refer to “the final disposition of the State of Jammu and Kashmir (to be) made in accordance with the will of the people expressed by the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.” The phrase “final disposition” is inclusive and has a wider meaning than “accession to either India or Pakistan.” The Security Council used this expression not for the convenience of drafting, but to explicitly prevent the foreclosing of any option for the Kashmiris. These resolutions, adopted after India and Pakistan concluded the agreement, do not detract from the latter’s binding nature, as far as their obligations are concerned. However, they do imply recognition of the Kashmiris’ inherent right to decide their future independent of India and Pakistan’s contending claims. The idea of independence for Kashmir, if not for all of its zones, has, in fact, never been beyond its people’s mental horizon. But the demand for it was either suppressed or somewhat muted because of (1) the Cold War, which generated the fear that an independent Kashmir would be a likely victim of foreign aggression, subversion or intrigue and (2) the supposition that small states would be unable to sustain their independence. Both of these inhibiting factors have now dissipated. The Cold War has ended, and scores of states, even smaller in size and population than Kashmir, have taken are now fully sovereign members of the U.N. This explains the widespread and resurgent desire for independence. No solution to this decades-long injustice will be just or viable if it ignores this intense, popular
Rising Kashmir one of the media banned by the Indian occupation administration
sentiment. Justice and pragmatism require that no option should be excluded. An independent Kashmir would be expected to have close links with both India and Pakistan, some of them established by trilateral treaty provisions. Indeed, a free and independent Kashmir would provide both of them with a meeting ground as well as make a serious contribution to an enduring peace in South Asia, something that no other entity can do.
THE ARGUMENT AGAINST INDEPENDENCE There only standing argument against independence is that the emergence of another sovereign entity in the Subcontinent would encourage existing secessionist tendencies and lead to the collapse of both India and Pakistan’s existing federal structures. This
may be based on a genuine fear or only a stratagem to avoid a just solution; in either case, however, this view proves to be untenable because it ignores two vital considerations. First, Kashmir is a sui generis case. All the former provinces, states or territories — except for Hyderabad, which India invaded and annexed in 1948 — that today constitute India and Pakistan legally became parts of one or the other through a process that harmonized with the expressed will of their people. Only Kashmir was never allowed to decide its own status or affiliation. What therefore applies to Kashmir does not apply to, for example, Assam, Punjab or Tamil Nadu in India or to Sind or Baluchistan in Pakistan. Also, both nations solemnly accepted an international obligation regarding Kashmir that they would reject in any other case: the obligation to withdraw their forces from the territory. This demilitarization, which is the Kashmiris’ first demand and to which both India and Pakistan are committed legally and morally, cannot be interpreted as secession or encouraging separation either, for the former princely state cannot be regarded as having seceded from what it had never acceded to in the first place. Second, Kashmir can emerge as an independent nation in the context of implementing an international agreement to which both India and Pakistan are parties. Removing this perennial cause of conflict and establishing their relations on the firm basis of good-neighborliness, cooperation in facing their common problems and a mutually recognized frontier would increase their mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and strengthen their internal cohesion. Only reliable conditions of peace can constitute an effective safeguard against disintegration. Jayaprakash Narayan (1902-79), who enjoyed great esteem in India for his intellect and integrity, once referred to the argument that “the verdict of the people of Kashmir” would “start the process of disintegration of India” in the following terms: “Few things have been said in the course of this controversy more silly than this one. The assumption behind the argument is that the states of India are held together by force and not by the sentiment of a common nationality. It is an assumption that makes a mockery of the Indian nation and a tyrant of the Indian state.” Ghulam Nabi Fai is secretary general of the World Kashmir Awareness.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
THE MUSLIM WORLD
Cooperation Serves Democracy Rivals adjust to work together to democratize and deradicalize Tunisia BY RUBY AMATULLA
t is encouraging to watch the ongoing transformation in Tunisia of Rachid al-Ghannouchi, the Arab Spring’s spiritual leader and revered by many as the founding father of post-revolutionary Tunisia, and Ennahda, the country’s largest and most popular Islamic political party that is now widely expected to be re-elected in the next election. Ghannouchi (b. 1941) recently took the biggest risk of his political career by declaring during May, at his party’s 10th congress, that political Islam no longer had any place in the country. The participants replaced fasl (separation) with takhassus (specialization) as regards the movement’s religious and political activities. While keeping its Islamic character, Ennahda is now set to become a purely political party and thus sever its connection with dawah and the mosque. Ghannouchi said: “Some religious preachers are members of our party. Once elected to Parliament, they will now have to choose either to be in Parliament and stop being an imam, or remain an imam and not go to Parliament.” Ennahda’s decision was a Tunisian one,
he stressed. Political Islam could still work as a revolutionary model for those states where Islam is still oppressed, he conceded, but no longer in Tunisia. Referring to ISIS (Daesh), he said, “I am a Muslim democrat and they are against democracy.” Coming from a once-diehard leader, a member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars and the European Fatwa Council, this change is notable. Ghannouchi’s visionary leadership of remaining flexible without compromising Islam’s fundamental values and principles has played a major role in helping Tunisia become a vibrant democracy, whereas other countries in the region have failed. Time and again he has demonstrated this vision. While Ennahda was in power, mass protests broke out in 2013 after two opposition leaders were assassinated. To restore the people’s trust and confidence, the party resigned and handed power over to a neutral caretaker government until the next election. The secularist party Nidaa Tounes received the majority of votes in the October 2014 election and decisively beat Ennahda, which readily conceded defeat
and pledged its cooperation. Interestingly, Ghannouchi was among the very first to congratulate Beji Caid Essebsi, the new president, who had been a minister under the hardline secularist Habib Bourguiba (19032000). This democratic spirit and dignified political tradition helped break the region’s usual violent succession battles. Interestingly, one of Bourguiba’s final acts as president before he was deposed 30 years ago was to order Ghannouchi’s retrial. Life imprisonment was not enough; he wanted to execute the man. And now this same man is helping Tunisia nourish a political culture of power-sharing and willingly stepping down for the sake of the nation. Though his actions he is setting the political standard, one that is becong entrenched and defies the pressures put on it by the region’s undemocratic powers. For example, David Hearst (Middle East Eye, June 13, 2016), reported that the Emiratis offered Tunisia between $5bn-$10bn if Essebsi would ditch his power-sharing agreement with Ennahda. To his everlasting credit, he refused to do so. The people’s trust was restored. Even the parties that had lost out in the last two national elections wholeheartedly confirmed that the elections had been free and fair and the system is working well. A vibrant civil society is now playing a critical role in bridging the nation’s political and religious divides. In 2015 the National Dialogue Quartet, a consortium of organizations of lawyers, human rights activists, labor unions and others, was awarded the Nobel peace prize. Even the old-time rigidly secularist groups have softened and started to accommodate religion. However, these transformations of both sides did not come about overnight. In June 2003, representatives of three major secularist political parties undertook a courageous move: They met representatives of Ennahda, then in exile, to negotiate and sign the “Call from Tunis” (issued from Paris). This joint declaration laid down the rules of future political engagements to ensure the upholding of democratic principles, respect for religious traditions and guaranteeing religious freedom. Over the next decade or so, constructive engagements and protracted negotiations produced a progressive constitution that included terms of gender parity, a proportional representation electoral system, extensive monitoring prerogatives given to international electoral observers, and so on. The end result is a conducive political
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culture and political system that the rest of the Muslim world should emulate. Ebrahim Moosa, professor of Islamic studies at the University of Notre Dame and who spent time with Ghannouchi during the latter’s exile, was not surprised that Ghannouchi had learned from what had happened in Turkey and Egypt before his return to Tunisia. Moosa said that “Islamic groups in Tunisia have shown that they can think differently … There has been a theological tradition in North Africa, maslaha, truly Islamic in spirit, to give priority to what is in the best interest of the community and the public” (Tom Heneghan and Celeste Kennel-Shank, The Christian Century, May 24, 2016). This is an enormous achievement for a previously divided society that had been ruled by autocrats ever since its independence from France in 1956 and torn between modernity and religious traditions. Since the Jasmine Revolution that ended President Ben Ali’s 23-year autocratic rule in January 2011, an event that also started the greater Arab Spring movement, the society has experienced various difficulties but has survived with amazing resiliency. The main contributing factor is the constructive engagement of the opposition and the consequent changes in the greater society, all of which has led to optimism and public trust in the political process. The key factor behind this new democracy is the power-sharing arrangement, which is based upon proportional representation. Right after the revolution, Ennahda was very popular and widely expected to win about 90 percent of all Assembly seats. As that would have been unacceptable by the secularist and liberal parties, it accepted the ensuing drastic reduction of its number of seats in order to avoid dissension and turmoil. In fact, in the October 2011 election Ennahda acquired only 41 percent of the seats. And despite being the largest party, it formed a coalition and shared power with the two secularist groups. Paradoxically, the constraints and compromises of power sharing have been the key to establishing Tunisia’s functional democracy. On the other hand, Egypt could not hang on to its own successful revolution after ending Husni Mubarak’s long repressive rule around the same time as Tunisia’s Jasmine revolution (January 2011), for the military overthrew President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) on July 3,
2013. Now former defense minister Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who led the last coup, sits on the throne claiming to have received over 90 percent of the votes in the last election. Egypt has come full circle, meaning that nothing has changed.
regimes find more excuses to continue their repression in the name of fighting “terrorism.” But in reality, they just imprison opposition leaders at will and violate the citizens’ civil rights, thereby blocking democracy. The western powers, in the name of “stability,”
THE KEY FACTOR BEHIND THIS NEW DEMOCRACY IN TUNISIA IS THE POWERSHARING ARRANGEMENT, WHICH IS BASED UPON PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION. The main reason why Egypt failed is because the secularist [although Muslim] and Islamic parties failed to reach out to each other. Their long adversarial and distrustful relationship, which benefits neither side, caused President Morsi to ignore the secular voices, adopt an uncompromising approach and quickly try to consolidate his power. Thus he sent a signal of yet another authoritarian ruler assuming power. Seizing upon the opportunity offered by the ensuing massive nationwide protests and increased level of turmoil, the military and some regional powers eagerly sought to sabotage the nascent democracy. And so Egypt lost a historic opportunity for self-rule — a lose-lose outcome for everyone. The Islamic party bears a lion’s share of the blame for this failure. However, in hindsight the secularist forces are also responsible. Ever since the presidency of Gamal Abel Nasser (1956-70), the country’s secularist autocratic rulers have persecuted Muslims. And secularist groups and civil society, while giving lip service to pluralism and democracy, remained silent, looking away as Muslims were being oppressed and having their rights violated. Many western and eastern scholars have repeatedly pointed out that whenever the constructive work in which Muslims involve themselves is ignored and they are persecuted, extreme radical forces spring up. Ghannouchi says that extremists emerged during the long years of rigid secularist rule in both countries for this very reason. We should not forget that Daesh sprang up in Iraq, where Sunni Muslims were marginalized and could not make any headway with the Nouri al-Maliki regime. Growing radicalism causes autocratic
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continue to support and do business with these ruthless undemocratic regimes, realities that only reinforce the negative status quo. Moreover, their obvious hypocrisy creates cynicism and distrust among the people and, in turn, only engenders more sympathy for radicalism. Radicals thus begin to find support for their vicious work, and the gap between the West and the Muslim world widens even more. This vicious cycle continues due to the reckless way in which “de-radicalization” is being pursued. Recent events in many countries testify to the fact that the “war on terror” has failed, despite the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars by the U.S. and other powerful western countries. There is no military solution to radicalism, especially in this global society that has an ever-higher intolerance for subjugation and humiliation, not to mention the ever greater availability of arms to anyone who wants them. It is long past time for the world powers to focus on devising a deep-rooted agenda to address radicalism, part of which might be to help establish power-sharing democratic rule. A prominent western leader succinctly points out that the counterproductive strategy of pursuing stability at the expense of democracy ends up achieving neither. That has been the unfortunate course of events in many Muslim-majority countries. Tunisia seems to have avoided this quagmire. Democracy is thriving, radicals are being transformed or marginalized, and both Muslims and secularists are finding common grounds. Ruby Amatulla, a human right and peace activist, political analyst and a writer, is executive director of Women for Good Governance and editor of www.consultquran.com, which focuses on indexing the Quran.
First Major U.S. Exhibition of
“The Art of the Quran” This cultural exhibit showcases exquisite manuscripts and folios from Istanbul and the Freer and Sackler galleries’ collections BY DEBORAH ZISKA
he Art of the Quran: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts” will be on display at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (asia.si.edu) Oct. 15, 2016 through Feb. 20, 2017, in Washington, D.C. This historic event, the first such major exhibition in the U.S., will feature more than 60 of the most important Quran manuscripts ever produced in the Arab world, Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan. Celebrated for their superb calligraphy and lavish illumination, they range from eighth-century Damascus to 17th-century Istanbul. Many of these works, which will be displayed outside of Turkey for the first time ever, are critical to the history and appreciation of the “arts of the book.” This exhibition tells the stories of some of these extraordinary manuscripts, their makers and their owners. Visitors will learn how the Quran was transformed from an orally transmitted message to a written, illuminated and bound text produced by highly accomplished Muslim artists. One of the main themes is the development of different scripts for transcribing the divine message, beginning with late-seventh to early eighth-century examples of the more informal and individualized hijazi script, named after the region in northwestern Arabia, which is believed to be its place of origin. Examples of subsequent scripts, such as angular kufic and the more cursive naskh, muhaqqaq, and thuluth, evolved with the spread of Islam and the efflorescence of regional styles. Another important aspect is that illumination that not only marked the holy scripture’s divisions and sections and aided worshipers in reading and recitation, but also embellished the text itself. Together, calligraphy and illumination transformed these human-produced volumes into exceptional works of art valued for their content and artistic refinement. These manuscripts were originally created for some of the Islamic world’s most powerful rulers. As the finest of their kind, long after their completion they were sought out and cherished by the Ottoman ruling elite as prized possessions, gifts given to cement political and military relationships or recognize special acts, and donated to public and religious institutions to express personal piety and secure political power and prestige. Female members of the royal family would send them to libraries and public institutions as expressions of their personal commitment to religious and social life. When Nurbnanu (d. 1583),
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THESE MANUSCRIPTS WERE ORIGINALLY CREATED FOR SOME OF THE ISLAMIC WORLD’S MOST POWERFUL RULERS. wife of Selim II (r. 1566-74) and Sultan Sülayman’s (r. 1520-66) daughter-in-law, built a mosque in Üsküdar, she donated many copies of the Quran and employed 148 Quranic reciters to recite specific chapters after the morning, noon and evening prayers. Shortly before 1914, when the Ottoman Empire was in political turmoil, its government decided to transfer to Istanbul all of the valuable art works that had been donated to mosques, schools, shrines and other religious institutions across the empire. These included thousands of Quran manuscripts and loose folios, which are housed today in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, located opposite the Blue Mosque. “This exhibition offers a unique opportunity to see Quran [manuscripts] of different origins, formats and styles and begin to appreciate the power and beauty of the calligraphy as well as intricacy of the illuminated decoration,” states Massumeh Farhad, the Freer and Sackler’s chief curator and curator of Islamic art. “Although each copy of the Quran contains an identical text, the mastery and skill of the artists have transformed it into a unique work of art.” The exhibition is being organized in collaboration with Istanbul’s Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, which Julian Raby (the Dame Jillian Sackler Director of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art), states “has one of the most extraordinary collections of Quran in the world, yet its holdings are little known even to many experts.” Raby, a scholar of Islamic art, believes that the exhibition provides “an unparalleled opportunity for audiences in the United States to appreciate the artistry of Muslim scribes and craftsmen over more than a millennium, in regions from North Africa to Afghanistan.” The Freer and Sackler galleries have one of this country’s most comprehensive collections of Islamic art. A number of important Qurans from their permanent collections will be on display. Their multiauthor full-color catalog will feature a series of essays on the Quran, its calligraphy, illumination and organization as a text; an introduction to the formation of the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts; and detailed discussions of each of the artworks displayed. A website will offer additional resources on the art of the Quran, among them videos, “closer looks” at several manuscripts, an interactive map and curriculum plans. In addition to extensive public programs, an international symposium on The A of the Quran” will be held from December 1-3, 2016. The exhibition’s principal sponsor is Koç Holding. Major support was provided by Turkish Airlines and the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute, and additional support came from the El-Hibri Foundation. Farhad and Simon Rettig, assistant curators at the Freer and Sackler, have curated it. The Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located on the National Mall and together comprise the nation’s museum of Asian art, contains one of the world’s most important collections of Asian art, featuring more than 40,000 objects. Deborah Ziska, who served as chief of press and public information at the National Gallery of Art for 20 years, currently works as a cultural communications consultant and teaches in the museum studies graduate program at Johns Hopkins University based in Washington, DC.
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Court and Cosmos: The Great Age of the Seljuqs The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York showcased enthralling art from the Muslim heritage. BY MISBAHUDDIN MIRZA
he name “Seljuq” (Seljuk) always inspires awe, respect and nostalgia among Muslims. In the 10th century, when these nomadic Oghuz Turks from the Central Asian steppes entered Islam, the world rolled out the red carpet for them: military victories beyond belief and political fortunes that kissed their feet at every step. They brought the mighty Byzantine Empire to heel by capturing Emperor Romanus IV Diogenes at the battle of Manzikert, which paved the way for the Turks to move into Anatolia. The Seljuq Empire extended from the Hindu Kush mountains to the Aegean Sea, and from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. When the First Crusade (1096-99) started crossing into the Anatolian Seljuq sultanate, incorrectly referred to in popular parlance as the “Sultanate of Rum,” Sultan Kilij Arsalan waited patiently for all of the warriors to cross over, he surrounded and eliminated them, and then departed for another battlefront — completely unaware that the real army was still waiting on the other side of Constantinople to cross over. He and several later Turkic sultans would have to correct this intelligence lapse at a substantial cost. However, their power did lay down the essential groundwork from which other Turkic generals would launch their own mighty empires: the Ottomans (1299-1922) in Turkey, the Mamluks (12501517) in Egypt and the Mughals (1526-1857) in Delhi. Each Turkic empire converted insurmountable military challenges into glorious victories that had serious consequences. For example, the battle of Ain Jalut tamed the Mongols, Sultan Baybars eradicated the Crusader menace, and the Khilji and Tughluq sultans fought and eventually pursued the invading Mongols right into the very Mongol lands, instilling dread in the hearts of those brutal killers. The list of
civilizations saved by the Seljuqs and their successor Turkic dynasties is seemingly endless. In addition to being highly disciplined and fearless fighters, the Seljuq Turks were extraordinary administrators and extremely cultured people who left their mark on the world through great art and architecture. They presided over a cosmopolitan culture that made great strides in sciences, technology, astronomy, poetry, art and architecture and also built huge mosques, seminaries, caravanserais and hospitals. The
mosques. Among the most typical Seljuq monuments there is the Alaeddin Mosque the Ulu Mosque in Konya. The Medrese-s (schools and universities), mosques, inns, bridges and roads and many other artefacts of the daily life of the Seljuqs can be observed in any part of Turkey until present time.” One of the exhibits was a cenotaph with finales. Ögel explained that the Central Asian tradition of mummifying and then storing corpses in tents for six months gave rise to the construction of tombs and turbes. Exhibits included statues of palace guards as well as metallic handicrafts depicting scenes with human and animals. Ögel remarked that “shamanism, on the other hand, the oldest and most widespread of the religions adopted by the Asian Turks, endowed natural forces with human or animal form, and various Shamanist symbols appear in Anatolian stone carving and handicrafts bearing the full weight of their inherent significance. It was as if, in the Anatolian Seljuq period, the universe was carved in stone.” Also on display was an astrolabe, an
THE MET IS RICH IN SELJUQ ARTIFACTS, SOME OF WHICH ITS OFFICIALS PERIODICALLY SELECT FOR DISPLAY. Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition: “Court and Cosmos: The Great Age of the Seljuqs,” which ran from April 27 to July 24, 2016, showcased almost 270 artifacts: ceramics, glass, stucco, works on paper, woodwork, textiles and metalwork from American, European and Middle Eastern public and private collections. Many of these institutions had never lent works from their collections before. Curated by Sheila Canby, Deniz Beyazit and Martina Rugiadi, this exhibition and its accompanying video projections recreated the splendor of this vanished empire. Semra Ögel, professor emeritus of architecture at Istanbul Technical University, stated, “The outstanding characteristics of the Seljuq architecture were tall gateways with ornamental stalactites, ogival archways and ceramic tiling. The exterior of the mosques of the Seljuq period are impressive, although not as decorative as Ottoman
important instrument that Muslims had perfected and used for such essential tasks as navigation and determining the prayer direction. Pages from the earliest extant manuscript of the controversial Persian “Shahnama” were also on display. Firdausi’s (b. 935) 60,000 couplet epic poem, the longest in the world and three times longer than Homer’s “Iliad,” presents a romanticized view of Zoroastrianism and laments the Muslim Arabs’ victory over the Sassanid Empire. This epic had — and according to some still does — a negative impact on Muslim society, for some members of the Seljuq royalty adopted the names of its heroes. Even worse, its villain is an Arab. This carried over to the Subcontinent, where a short-lived Delhi sultan bore the name of one of its heroes. The Met is rich in Seljuq artifacts, some of which its officials periodically select for display.
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IMAGE: ©THE TRUSTEES OF THE CHESTER BEATTY LIBRARY, DUBLIN, ‘COURT AND COSMOS: THE GREAT AGE OF THE SELJUQS’ METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, NY
Qur’an Copied by Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Jabali al- . . . Illuminated by ‘Abd al-Rahman b. Muhammad al-Sufi Iran or Iraq, ca. 1200 Ink, colors, and gold on paper 15-3/8 x 13 in. (39 x 33 cm) Trustees of the Chester Beatty Library (Is 1439).
Astrolabe Muhammad b. Abi-l-Qasim b. Bakran al-Najjar alIsfahani al-Salihani Iran, Isfahan, dated A.H.. 496/A.D. 1102–3 Brass 7-1/4 in. (18.3 cm); Diam. 4-3/4 in. (12.2 cm) Museo Galileo: Institute and Museum of the History of Science (1105) Image: Museo Galileo, Florence.
madrasas and mosques, and sponsoring the production of Qur’ans and other religious texts. A number of rare and beautifully ornamented examples of the book arts from the time of the Seljuqs are on view. Vaso Vescovali—a lidded bowl engraved and inlaid with silver and decorated with complex astrological imagery—features eight personifications of planets on the lid along with the 12 signs of the zodiac and their associated planets on the base, within a profusion of other ornamentation.
IMAGE: © THE TRUSTEES OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM, LONDON. ‘COURT AND COSMOS: THE GREAT AGE OF THE SELJUQS’ METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, NY
PHOTOGRAPH BY FRANCA PRINCIPE. ‘COURT AND COSMOS: THE GREAT AGE OF THE SELJUQS’ METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, NY
The Seljuqs played extremely critical roles on multiple fronts. They contained the Shi’i influence of Fatimid Egypt, repeatedly beat back the combined might of the Crusader kingdoms, defeated the seemingly undefeatable Mongols and tamed the haughty Byzantines. The world’s political map would look very different and bleaker today if these valiant people had not embraced Islam. The Seljuqs actively promoted Sunni Islam throughout their territory, building
The Vaso Vescovali Iran, Khurasan, ca. 1200 High-tin bronze; engraved, inlaid with silver H. 8-1/2 in. (21.5 cm); Diam. 7-1/4 in. (18.5 cm) Courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum (1950,0725.1)
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Folios from a Shahnama (Book of Kings) Anatolia, dated A.H. 30 Muharram 614/A.D. May 9, 1217 Ink on white glossy Persian paper 18-7/8 x 125/8 in. (48 x 32.1 cm) Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze (Ms Magl CI.III.24; fols. 125v-126r) Misbahuddin Mirza, M.S., P.E. and a licensed professional engineer, is the regional quality control engineer for the New York State Department of Transportation’s Structures Division, New York City area. He is an avid numismatist and passionate student of history.
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1928 – Forever
Abdul-Sattar Edhi’s first name was philanthropy and his religion was humanitarianism BY ISLAMIC HORIZONS STAFF
he third time that Pakistan conducted a state funeral for a civilian, one that included a guard of honor and a 19-gunsalute, it was for Abdul-Sattar Edhi. As he left this worldly abode on July 8, a man and a woman regained their sight through his corneas. He had donated all of his organs, but due to health issues only his corneas could be used. Ironically, this shunner of privilege was honored in way that would have shocked him: his close aides and workers were barred from his funeral when “important people” were given the two front rows, which were separated by a wide gap from the back rows. He once remarked, “People have become educated, but have yet to become human.” Even when seriously ill, Edhi refused help from illicit sources. When Pakistan’s corruptto-the-core former president Asif Zardari offered him treatment anywhere in the world in June, this man of integrity replied that he would rely on indigenous facilities. Diagnosed with kidney failure in 2013, he died in the same Karachi medical center that had been treating him for some weeks. This philanthropist, scion of a family of Gujarati traders who migrated to Pakistan in 1947, began his charitable work as a young man after a stint as a street vendor and oddjobber. After the state failed to help his family care for his paralyzed and sick mother, Edhi opened his first clinic in 1951. Now the country’s largest welfare organization, the Edhi Foundation runs schools, hospitals and ambulance services nationwide, in addition to making available a broad range of free social services and support for the elderly and disabled.
Some viewed Pakistan’s most respected figure as a near saint. Known for his humble lifestyle and being content with just two sets of clothes, he refused any sort of payment and slept in a windowless room adjoining the foundation’s office. Sparsely equipped, it contained only a bed, a sink and a hotplate. This welfare organization, the country’s largest, has over 330 free-of-charge rural and urban welfare centers operating as orphanages, food kitchens, rehabilitation centers for senior citizens and drug addicts, nursing homes, shelter homes for abandoned women, hospitals for mentally handicapped poor people and even clinics that treat injured animals. To date, it has rescued over 20,000 abandoned infants, mentored over 50,000 orphans and trained over 40,000 nurses. Its most prominent symbols are 1,500 ambulances — Pakistan’s largest ambulance service — that are deployed with unusual efficiency to any sort of emergency. Considering the socioeconomic
PEOPLE HAVE BECOME EDUCATED, BUT HAVE YET TO BECOME HUMAN.” —ABDUL-SATTAR EDHI 56
challenges that some women face, Eidhi set up a series of cribs in which unwanted babies could be left. This initiative has reportedly allowed over 20,000 children to escape being thrown out with the trash or killed because their parents couldn’t take care of them. The Foundation has run relief operations in Africa, Middle East, the Caucasus, eastern Europe and U.S., where it sent aid in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina. It also provides technical education for the disadvantaged, religious education for street children, family planning consultations and maternity services, as well as free legal aid and financial and medical support to prisoners and the handicapped. Revered by many as a national hero, Edhi created a charitable empire out of nothing, masterminding Pakistan’s largest welfare organization almost single-handedly and entirely with private donations. “He never established a home for his own children,” his wife Bilquis, who manages the foundation’s homes for women and children, told AFP in an interview this year. Thanks to him, something of a safety net exists for the poor and destitute, realities that have caused the nation to donate and help out, thereby filling a gap that has grown out of official indifference. Such was the trust in him that no donor ever asked him for a receipt. Acts that defined Eidhi: • The Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “The one who cares for an orphan will be with me in Paradise like this,” and he held his two fingers together (Bukhari 5659). Eidhi cared for and assisted hundreds of thousands of orphans. • The Prophet said, “The person who strives on behalf of the widow and poor is like one who strives in the way of God and like one who fasts in the day and prays at night” (Bukhari, Muslim). Eidhi cared for millions of widows and the poor. • The Prophet said, when informed about a widow who was taking care of her two daughters, “Whoever looks after these girls in any way and is good to them will have them as a veil from the Fire” (Bukhari, Muslim). Eidhi looked after millions of girls. • The Prophet said, “Whoever removes a worldly grief from a believer, God will remove from him one of the griefs of the Day of Judgment” (Muslim). Eidhi lifted the grief and worry of millions. Edhi taught the world how an ordinary
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Asad Husain Educator, Interfaith Leader and Rights Activist
1925 – 2016
person can change the world with only passion and dedication. He once mentioned that when he was young, his mother would give him two coins, one for himself and to spend on someone else. He remained involved in his Foundation, from raising funds to helping wash the corpses of the poor. He once recounted, “I drove no vehicle in my life but the ambulance.” His service to humanity earned him many awards and honorary degrees, including the Ramon Magsaysay Award (together with his wife Bilquis; 1986), the Lenin Peace Prize (1988), Nishan-e-Imtiaz (Order of Excellence; 1989), the Balzan Prize (2000), the Hamdan Award for Volunteers in Humanitarian Medical Services (2000), an honorary doctorate in social service management from the Institute of Business Administration Pakistan (2006), the Gandhi Peace Award (2007), the Seoul Peace Award (2008), the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh prize (2009), an honorary doctorate from the University of Bedfordshire (2010) and the London Leadership and Peace Award (2011). During the early 1980s, Israeli troops arrested him as he entered Lebanon. In 2006, he was detained in Toronto for 16 hours. In Jan. 2008, U.S. immigration officials interrogated him at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport for over eight hours and seized his passport and other documents. When asked by BBC News about his frequent detentions, Edhi replied, “The only explanation I can think of is my beard and my dress” (Jan. 29, 2008). He is survived by his wife Bilquis, a nurse working at the Edhi dispensary whom he married in 1965, two daughters and two sons.
sad Husain, who retired as a professor and head of Northeastern Illinois University’s Department of Political Science, died in Chicago on July 1 and was laid to rest the next day amidst a large number of family members, friends and community members and leaders. Born in Bihar, he came to the U.S. with an MA from Patna University on a Fulbright Scholarship from India in 1954. He earned two more master’s degree and a doctorate in international relations from the University of Minnesota. After Bangladesh became independent, he served as the founding vice-chairman of the Committee of Stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh. “Dr. Husain was our greatest advocate for the cause of [the Eastern Pakistanis’] repatriation and rehabilitation ... [he] visited camps of Bangladesh several times and met with the officials of government of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Today we lost the champion of our cause,” said Haroon ul Rashid, the organization’s current chairman. In 1996, the Parliament of World’s Religions conferred their Order of Merit upon him for his distinguished contributions to peace in the Holy Land. In 2005, he was recognized as the Times Now ICICI Bank Non-Resident Indian of the Year. In addition to writing several books, he taught at King Abdul-Aziz University in Jeddah and at several American universities. In 1975, King Abdul-Aziz University invited him to set up the Institute for Muslim Minority Affairs. In 1983, he established and then directed Northeastern Illinois University’s Summer Institute of Islamic Studies and for two decades. Four years later, Husain was elected president of the American Islamic College (AIC), the Muslim American community’s first liberal arts college, where he continued his extensive interfaith activities. “As president of AIC for more than 15 years, Dr. Husain worked tirelessly for accreditation and recognition of the College by Illinois Board of Higher Education. During his time the College gained national prominence,” said Dr. Ahmadullah Siddiqi, AIC vice president from 1988 to 2001.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
Among the founding organizers of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, he was a member of the Islamic Host Committee that designed interfaith programs for the 1993 Parliament. He also served as a member of the Parliament’s Board of Trustees and was appointed one of its presidents. Husain, who assisted the Chicago Archdiocese in its interfaith activities, was chosen to be one of the judges of the Interfaith Awards during the Sesquicentennial of the Archdiocese. He was also a founding participant in the Jewish/Muslim Dialogue of Chicago. M. Raja-ullah Quraishi, who retired as chief engineer of City of Chicago, recalls how they worked together since about mid1966 after their initial meeting at an MSA of U.S. and Canada consultation in Chicago. According to him, Husain “founded and motivated us to support the Consultative Committee of Indian Muslims in U.S. and Canada, the first U.S. organization to work for Indian Muslims. He was its first president. He was a senior member/leader of the Chicago Muslim community.” He was also active in founding the Muslim Community Center of Chicago (MCC), the Consultative Committee of Indian Muslims, and the American Federation of Muslims from India. Husain spearheaded many initiatives, including a fruitful relationship with the KAU, especially for projects such as the first “Communities Development Conference” for Muslim Americans, held Chicago during 1978, a joint MCC-MSA undertaking, during which he presented paper about Muslim community building in America. An involved worker for MSA and MCC, he is survived by his wife Asifa and sons Imran, a long-time Radio Islam host, and Haroon. 57
NEW RELEASES ACCESSORY TO BULLDOZING HUMANITY Extraordinary Rendition: American Writers on Palestine Ru Freeman (Ed.) 2016. Pp. 452. HB. $60.00 PB. $25.00 Olive Branch Press, Northampton, Mass. his anthology on Palestine brings together the work of sixty-five prominent writers to examine America’s culpability in denying the Palestinians’ human rights and dignity both in Israel/Palestine and beyond. They cover such issues as the erasure and reconstruction of histories; the examination of identity; the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of speaking out as artists; the conditions of occupation; and the potential for activism. This anthology, which also explores how U.S. foreign policy toward Palestinians regularly mirrors the harsh realities faced by many of America’s own minorities, counters the dominant and dehumanizing media-supported narrative about Palestine that has taken hold in the U.S.
THE RIGHT WAY My Halal Kitchen: Global Recipes, Cooking Tips, and Lifestyle Inspiration Yvonne Maffei 2016. Pp. 224. HB. $ 20.95 Agate Publishing, Evanston, Ill. n her new book My Halal Kitchen: Global Recipes, Cooking Tips, and Lifestyle Inspiration, Yvonne Maffei, founder of the cooking blog and Islamic lifestyle website My Halal Kitchen, presents more than 100 recipes from a variety of culinary traditions, proving that halal meals can be full of diverse flavors. The author breaks down the basics of halal cooking and outlines common non-halal ingredients, their replacements, and how to purchase (or make) them. Maffei states that halal cooking dovetails with holistic living and using locally sourced, organic ingredients, for every part of each tradition’s the farm-to-fork cycle has a particular importance. This book is a useful resource both for anyone who is looking for delicious and healthy recipes from around the globe.
time to move forward in Quranic translations. It is not in spite of so many translations already existing, but because so many translations already exist that we must build on those older attempts and take a leap forward to produce a Quran translation that is modern, clear, and better researched than any previous version.” The Origins of the Concepts of Shi’ism and Sunnism Spahic Omer 2016. Pp. 208. PB. $18.95 amana publications, Beltsville, Md. mer deals with the factors, personnel and circumstances that were most decisive in the creation and evolution of Shiaism and Sunnism, and discusses the nature and scope of some early institutionalized Sunni-Shia conflicts. The author offers an intellectual discourse aiming to promote and advance the prospect of constructive Sunni-Shia dialogue.
Women in the Qur’an: An Emancipatory Reading Asma Lamrabet (trans. Myriam Francois-Cerrah) 2016. Pp. 212. PB. $19.95. HB. $89.97 Kube Publishing Ltd., Leicestershire, UK amrabet, a Moroccan pathologist, argues that while equality and liberation are at the heart of the Quran, this message is often lost due to the almost total absence of female commentators on the sacred text’s meaning and the overreliance on commentaries written or compiled centuries ago. She demands a rereading of the Quran by women, one that focuses on its spiritual and humanistic messages in order to alter the current lived on-the-ground reality. She defines a new way forward in this regard: The refusal of women to remain silent is an act of devotion, and their demand for reform will lead to liberation.
Islam: A Brief Look at Faith & History Hafiz Ikhlas Ansari 2015. Pp. 152. PB. $13.95 Light Upon Light, Chicago, Ill. slam is the world’s most misunderstood and maligned major religion. However, such misunderstandings are hardly confined just to non-Muslims, the author states, for many self-professed Muslims are just as guilty of superficiality and ignorance when it comes to their own faith. Ansari directs his book toward those who have little or no familiarity with either Islam or its followers’ history. He succinctly presents this history’s general political flow in the hope of fostering a better understanding of the present-day conflicts.
The Clear Quran: A Thematic English Translation Mustafa Khattab 2016. Pp. 658. PB. Can. $8.00 Siraj Publications, St Catharines, Ont., Canada n presenting this new translation of the Quran, Mustafa Khattab, an al-Azhar post-graduate, adjunct Muslim chaplain at Brock University, member of the Canadian Council of Imams and a Fulbright interfaith scholar argues that “the development of linguistics, current events, and the gradual drift of the English language puts us in an important
Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman’s Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim Sabeeha Rehman 2016. Pp. 352. HB. $25.99 Arcade Publishing, New York, N.Y. n this well-crafted debut memoire, Sabeeha Rehman relates in her own lighthearted way her personal journey toward becoming a practicing American Muslim. Her explanations of various practices, which even some Muslims may consider “religious,” seek to clarify what is Islamic and what is cultural. Unfortunately, toward the end her book is marred by her acceptance of several ways that can only labeled “controversial” and rather questionable.
Shifting Sands: The Unravelling of the Old Order in the Middle East Raja Shehadeh and Penny Johnson (Eds.) 2015. Pp. 208. PB. $8.95 Olive Branch Press, Northampton, Mass. hifting Sands brings together fifteen informed voices to analyze various aspects of the Middle East, from the catastrophic long-term effects of how imperial Europe carved it up after World War One to the hopes and struggles of the Arab Spring in relation to Egypt, Iran and Syria.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
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FOOD FOR THE SPIRIT
Persevering Through Challenging Times How do you stay motivated to achieve when you’re faced with a turbulent path?
BY ALI ALTALIB
Man, I don’t wanna do dialysis today, it’s my birthday!” Ahmad begrudgingly told the nurse at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, which has unfortunately been like a second home to him for the past six years. He turns back to FaceTime and jokingly asks me, “Ali, can you please convince her to let me skip this one? I’ll consider it my birthday present!” Ahmad Alsardary was born with Nephrotic Syndrome, a condition that causes progressive kidney failure. Initially given only two years to live, his original kidneys functioned for five years. He spent the next three years on dialysis. A near heart attack and a few surgeries later, he received a kidney transplant. Despite taking immunosuppressants and having to deal with the side-effects of the transplant, he lived a relatively “normal” life for twelve years thereafter, until the transplanted kidney failed. Forced to resume dialysis for three four-hour sessions per week, he has nevertheless managed to earn a Bachelor’s degree in health sciences and a Master’s degree in occupational therapy (OT). He currently practices OT with the geriatric population in the home health setting. As I try to imagine myself in such a situation, one persistent question comes to mind: How does he do it? And so I asked him. He replied, “Sometimes I feel broken and alone. The sickness becomes too much to bear and I go to a very dark place. In those moments, I can only rely on God. I get reassured when I read His guarantee in the Quran 2:186 and
13:28: “And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me - indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided” and “Unquestionably, by the remembrance of God hearts are assured,” respectively. Ahmad continued, “Look at your phone. It probably has a manufacturer’s warranty on it. If it breaks, you can send it back to the manufacturer to be fixed. They know the product inside and out, and will likely diagnose and fix the problem quicker than anyone else. We are also created with lifetime warranties, and when we feel broken or alone, we can return to our manufacturer at any time to get fixed. All we have to do is ask.” “How do you stay motivated to achieve when you’re faced with such a turbulent path?” I asked. “The way I see it, God already has my book written for me, and I’m just living through the pages.” I already know that God does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity (Quran 2:286) and But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And God Knows, while you know not. (Quran 2:216). So what good is it for me to just sit around feeling sorry for myself? Every trial comes with an opportunity — it’s just harder to find when you’re in a state of despair. Given my condition, I’ve learned to look for the silver lining in everything, and it has opened my eyes to so many of God’s blessings.” Ahmad then explained how his condition
had led him to become an OT, a career path dedicated to helping others overcome debilitating challenges similar to his own. He discussed how his life’s journey afforded him the rare opportunity to speak at Al-Maghrib Institute’s IlmFest 2016, an event that inspired him to become a motivational speaker. He dreams of one day speaking at venues like The Pearls of the Quran, Reviving the Islamic Spirit and ISNA, for motivating even one person to improve upon their path in life means that “it wasn’t all in vain,” he said. Coincidentally, ISNA’s theme for 2016 is: Turning Points: Navigating Challenges, Seizing Opportunities. The current state of our ummah is in dire need of Ahmad’s motivation. If being a Muslim in 2016 were a Facebook profile, the relationship status would read: “It’s complicated.” Although it’s revitalizing and invigorating to be in a state of submission to the Creator, being Muslim comes with many difficulties: the Trumpsters, the “un-Islamic” Staters, the silent majority, the billion dollar Islamophobia industry and so on from one side, and a serious identity crisis, as evidenced by the disunity among our leaders and scholars, as well as the broad spectrum of extreme ideologies practiced on the other. Other than possessing the Quran, we’ve come up flat on many levels. Muslims have been coasting on their past contributions to astronomy, mathematics and medicine ever since the end of our “golden age” during the 13th century. Currently, a large portion of the ummah is living in uninhabitable, war-torn conditions and needs major infusions of humanitarian aid. The wealthy portion, however, is paralyzed by political affiliations and selfish agendas. We compete over erecting the tallest buildings, not realizing that we are only digging ourselves into a deeper hole, abandoning any compassion for human life and “otherizing” or “takafuring” those of our own brothers and sisters who don’t agree with us. Far too
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
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many of our religious scholars remain crippled by unhealthy disagreements over trivial fiqh and aqeedah-based issues, while such relevant topics as the hyper-sexualization and growing extremism among our youth are avoided. So how do we “navigate these challenges and seize the opportunities”? We can start by finally acknowledging that we’re broken and should have exercised our “manufacturer’s warranty” long ago by returning to our Creator through the Quran, prayer and repentance. Each one of us needs to make sincere dua for our ummah, curb our rampant “someone else’s problem” mentality and take personal accountability for our condition, for “surely God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is within themselves” (Quran 13:11). This accountability eventually affords us the independence to pave our own path, reduces interference from parties who have conflicting interests and unifies us as one entity. Next, we need to find the silver lining in our current state and capitalize on it. Now that Islam is in the spotlight, what better time to learn (or re-learn) our religion so that we can explain it to ourselves and others? Moreover, this is a great time to equip ourselves to be qualified interfaith participants and inform others of what Islam actually says, as opposed to the distorted version that boosts ratings and elects politicians, and to learn about other religions from the people who actually practice them. Ignorance of Islam and the Quran will not be accepted as a valid defense in the afterlife and should not be used as a reason to disengage from religious discussions in this world. This is especially true now, given that accurate knowledge is, for many people, so easily accessible. After all, does not God Himself repeatedly condemn those who blindly follow a faith? If we call ourselves Muslim, we should know why. This will help shrink the extreme polarization of ideologies and encourage tolerance and empathy. Finally, we need to practice tawakkul as described by Quran 14:12, “And why should we not put our trust in God when it is indeed He Who has guided us to the ways of our life? We shall surely continue to remain steadfast in face of your persecution. All those who have to put trust, should put their trust only in God.” Our trial as an ummah is truly great, but our Lord is greater. Let’s “navigate the challenges and seize the opportunities” to become the ummah of Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) through prayer, accountability and tawakkul. Ali Altalib is an active member of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center, Sterling, Va.
Why I Am Who I Am Revealed religion provides us with an absolute basis for our soul
BY SYED IMTIAZ AHMAD
he words “Why I am who I am” to the physiological “heart.” Two other Quranic came to my mind several years ago words, lubb and sadr, signify the innermost when I started reading the Quran workings of the heart, such as the desirable attriwith the intention of actually under- butes of the ability to discern or the arising of standing what it was saying. I focused on the various apprehensions that require our attention. oft-repeated words Rahman and Rahim, which The Old Testament and other Biblical literaare commonly translated as “beneficent” and ture also use “mind” and “heart” as synonyms. “forgiving,” respectively. However, each one Equating these two words draws our attention also has a fuller meaning. For the former, it is to the need to be alert when receiving sensory “entirely merciful” in the sense of providing signals that, if not processed correctly, can put guidance for actions; for the latter it is taking us on the wrong track. Shakespeare asks, “Tell care when things go wrong, as long as one me where fancie is bred; Or in the heart or in recognizes what has happened and intends to the brain.” We may call it “heart” or “mind,” correct it. These two words serve as sources of but it is the place where things are thought light for shaping our daily affairs. and imagined. Sensory signals should engage Our story as human beings begins with God thought processes, and imagination involves informing us that all other members of creation seeing or hearing things within the mind, a were afraid to accept the trust of free will, but phenomena known as the “heart’s eyes” or the that humanity had agreed “heart’s ears.” Interestingly, to assume this trust and “heartless” is defined as a ONE NEEDS TO therefore was endowed with complete lack of feeling and FIND THE TRUTH certain faculties. However, consideration. The Quran over the ages we have been talks about the qalb saleem, OF RELIGION BY acting against of our own who shows good judgDISCOVERING HOW one interests because the vast ment and reasoning. TO TRANSLATE majority of us have forgotOne needs to find the ten “who we are.” truth of religion by disRELIGIOUS BELIEFS The Quran defines itself covering how to translate INTO PRACTICAL as a book of guidance, one religious beliefs into practithat shows us how to discal action by engaging one’s ACTION BY tinguish between right and heart and mind. Socrates ENGAGING ONE’S wrong and makes its case said that it is not good HEART AND MIND within various easy-to-unenough for one to merely derstand perspectives and understand the surroundcontexts. Some of these words, however, may ing universe, but that one must also understand inhibit practical benefits if they are not under- and examine the universe that dwells within stood correctly. For example, taqwa is often one’s soul, as a way of reaching out to the events translated as “fear,” a word that is now generally around us. I mention Socrates in the Quranic associated with unpleasant emotions. One may spirit of looking at the surrounding world from argue that “fear of God” should not have that different perspectives and in various contexts. connotation, because God is free of all wants The Quran emphasizes ihsan, defining oneand worthy of all praise. However, a broader self in terms of goodly deeds to others. The meaning is to be “mindful” of God, Who guides Renaissance philosopher Hegel echoed this us entirely and especially for our benefit alone. when he said that the spirit can achieve self-conIn the Quran, God identifies hearing sciousness only through humanity. (sama’), seeing (basar), and intelligence (fouad), Revealed religion provides us with an absowhich receives and processes the sensory sig- lute basis for our soul. It is our responsibility to nals through the eyes and ears, as the key human bring forth from it an objective spirit that will faculties. Fouad, also commonly translated as enable us to live an ethical life. In his “On the “heart,” requires further reflection. In Arabic, it Freedom of the Will” (1839), Schopenhauer is taken as “intelligence,” that which processes advises us not to follow our free will blindly for the sensory signals received by one’s ears and “Man can do what he wills, but he cannot will eyes. This critical faculty requires a guiding what he wills.” God tells us that even though framework within our mind, one that can He created human beings with the greatest interpret whether the incoming information possible positive potential for goodness, they sits well with our choice of acceptable behavior, can nevertheless descend into the lowest abyss a play of free will. once they let their guard down. Another common Quranic word is qalb, again in the sense of one’s “mind” as opposed Syed Imtiaz Ahmad is president ISNA-Canada
ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016
ROAD MAP TO IMPROVE THE IMAGE OF MUSLIMS/ISLAM in USA Your mosque can do it, but you can do it by yourself Today, the image of Muslims is under attack. However, we should not forget, that it is our responsibility to correct it collectively and individually: it is every Muslim’s responsibility. YES, if we do it seriously we can see positive results emerging in a few years. Muslims, who are spread out across the United States, should place this ad. in their local newspapers and magazines. Below is a sample text for the ad. that you can use:
Islam is a religion of inclusion. Muslims believe in all the Prophets of Old & New Testaments. Read Quran — The Original, unchanged word of God as His Last and Final testament to humankind. More information is available on following sites: www.peacetv.tv • www.theDeenShow.com www.Gainpeace.com Or 877whyIslam • www.twf.org Such ads are already running in many newspapers in the United States but may not be in your area of residence yet. Placing these ads can be a continuous reward (sadqa-e-jaria) for yourself, your children, your loved deceased ones and with the prayer for a sick person that Allah make life easy here and in the Hereafter. Please Google the list of newspapers in your state and contact their advertising departments. Such ads are not expensive. They range for around $20 to $50 per slot and are cheaper if run for a longer time. Call your local newspaper and ask how many print copies they distribute, and run it for a longer period of time to get cheaper rates. Don’t forget that DAWAH works on the same principles as that of advertisement, BULK AND REPEATED EXPOSURE CREATES ACCEPTANCE. Printing continuously for a long period of time is better than printing one big advertisement for only once. Let your advertisement run for a longer time even if it is as small as a business card. NOTE: If you are living East of Chicago, choose in the ad 877-whyIslam, but also please call 877-WHYISLAM before putting the ad and check if someone is already running an advertisement in the same newspaper as yours. If that is the case choose another newspaper. And if you are living West of Chicago, choose www.GainPeace.com and also call GainPeace.com before putting your ad. Also, after the ad appears, please send a clipping to the respective organization. If you have any questions, or want copies of the ads that others have already placed in their area newspapers/ magazines, please contact me, Muhammad Khan at: email@example.com so that I can guide you better. You can also contact 1-877-why-Islam or Gainpeace.com
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