SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018/1439 | $4.00 | WWW.ISNA.NET
WHO CREATED THE REFUGEES? | SIGNING WITH FAITH
55TH ANNUAL ISNA CONVENTION
IN GOD WE TRUST
VOL. 47 NO. 5 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 visit isna online at: WWW.ISNA.NET
COVER STORY 18 In God We Trust
H ouston welcomes its first ISNA Convention
22 unger at Home: H Muslim Americans and Food Insecurity
45 Who Created the Refugees? The Tired, The Poor
ISLAM IN AMERICA 24 26 28 30 32
MUSLIMS IN ACTION 33
Philadelphians Empower Newest Refugees
MUSLIMS ABROAD 34 India Violates Human Rights with Impunity 36 Hyderabadis Seek to Preserve their Heritage 38 Muslim Ethiopians Prevail in their Quest for Civil Liberties
54 Why Suicide Happens
Signing with Faith Looking back at the Ramadan Spirit Raising Little Muslims Shared Moments of Joy Her Change in Florida
FEATURE 40 42 43
Glory Encased What is Basic Income? Recycling: A Goal or a Means?
INTERFAITH UNDERSTANDING DEPARTMENTS 6 8 12 58 60
Editorial ISNA Matters Community Matters New Releases Food for the Spirit
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.
48 Creating an Ecosystem of Faiths for Earth’s Future
MSA HISTORY 50
Pegging the Tent
HEALTH 52 Islamic Perspectives on End-of-Life Organ Donations
IN MEMORIAM 57 57
Dr. Adel Mahmoud Abdalhamid Evans
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 5
Mere Lip Service or an Actual Commitment
n God We Trust” first appeared on the two-cent piece in 1864 and has appeared on paper currency ever since 1957, when a law passed in a Joint Resolution by the 84th Congress (P.L. 84-140) and approved by President Dwight Eisenhower on July 30, 1956, declared that “In God We Trust” must appear on all American currency. Although most of us carry this inscription in our pockets, do we really ponder what it implies? For those people to whom trusting in a higher authority seems totally incomprehensible, this green instrument of exchange is nothing more than a means acquiring objects that give the appearance of something in which they can trust — power, weapons and, of course, the unending acquisition of status symbols and other vanities. The failure to comprehend the real meaning of trusting God has often led to a vicious cycle of greed for attaining things/ people in which/whom we can place our trust. In common parlance, such a quest is built upon looking inward and focusing on our own ability to acquire trustable assets, such as health, life and real estate, as well as various types of businesses and insurances. But during our pursuit of these items, we hardly every spare a thought for the fact that they are being collected at the cost of people who are not us. For instance, we presently have two anointed boys — yes, boys — of a royalty crafted by a former colonial power who are not only acquiring weaponry at will, but who are also using it without restraint. Do they even think about the death, destruction and suffering they are inflicting upon others in order to cushion themselves in a bubble they can trust? Ironically, the mainstay of their frenzies is the greenback inscribed with “In God We Trust.”
When Muslims think, read and hear “In God We Trust,” they are drawn to the fundamental source of their faith: No one is worthy of obedience but God, and Muhammad (salla Allahu‘alayhi wa sallam) is His Messenger. This is where the source of their trust rests. In today’s challenging times, some Muslims have given up the struggle and some have decided to go with the flow and get what they can. Perhaps they have forgotten: “Indeed, we offered the Trust to the heavens and Earth and the mountains, and they declined to bear it and feared it. But humanity [undertook to] bear it. Indeed, humanity was unjust and ignorant” (33:72). Being endowed with free will, humanity was to show its trust in God by voluntarily complying with His instructions. And so God sent down guidance as to what is beneficial and harmful. However, due to our finite nature, some of these instructions baffle many. Some opt to reject what they cannot fully grasp; some refuse to trust — or believe — in God’s instructions if they cannot be proven valid in a laboratory; and others even ridicule His instructions, asserting that they know better. However, those who put their trust in God follow His revelation. This Charter of Trust, the amanah that comes from the verb “to trust” — includes a commandment fully built on trust: to give and to share with others. Now is the time to support those Muslim organizations and institutions that are confronting detractors, especially those sitting with or close to the powers that be, who are hurling accusations to stifle individual Muslims, if not the existence of entire Muslim minority communities, both here and abroad. The time is now to decide whether our declaration of “In God We Trust” is mere lip service or an actual commitment. ih
6 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRESIDENT Azhar Azeez INTERIM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Habibe Ali EDITOR Omer Bin Abdullah EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Faryal M. Khatri EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Iqbal Unus, Chair: M. Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Milia Islam-Majeed, Habibe Ali, Faryal M. Khatri ISLAMIC HORIZONS is a bimonthly publication of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Copyright @2018 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: email@example.com ADVERTISING For rates contact Islamic Horizons at (703) 742‑8108, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.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: email@example.com
ISNA PRESIDENT RECOGNIZED
GOOD DEEDS DONE REGULARLY
THE RIGHT TO HEALTH AND A HEALTHY PLANET
All nonprofit religious and service organizations, as well as the number and scope of activities and services that they can provide, depend upon the continued financial commitment of their members and supporters, as well as their financial strength, existing human resources and operational expenses. “ISNA is no exception [to this reality],” stated Saiyid Masroor Shah, a member of ISNA Founder’s Committee. “ISNA depends only upon the financial support of donors, who are its only financial resource. In order to carry out much needed programs that benefit Muslim communities and Muslims in North America, grassroots financial support is a necessity and critical for maintaining and expanding [existing] services.” Programs like youth camps, youth leadership training, education forums, interfaith activities, the annual convention, regional conferences, outreach to mosques and intergovernmental activities are just some of the many ways in which ISNA serves the community. ISNA has two programs to enable easy and convenient grassroots participation: the “Sustainer Program” and the “1000 Donor’s Club.” Clicking on its EFT (Electronic Fund Transfer) link will allow you to visit www.isna.net, select your program and make a hassle-free monthly pledge either via credit card or a bank account. Pledging $10 or more per month qualifies you to become a member of the “Sustainer Program.” Pledging $85 or more per month enables you to join the “1000 Donor’s Club” and receive a free ticket ($200 value) to attend the annual convention’s Community Service Recognition Luncheon. The pledge, which depends upon the contributors’ comfort level, has no upper limit and, as a good deed done regularly, helps ISNA to plan its projects. Please join either program and do your part to strengthen our community. ih
President Dr. Amer Shakil and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) presented ISNA president Azhar Azeez with an award at the Dallas Muslim Medical Alliance’s annual banquet in recognition of his outstanding national leadership. The event gathered 350 medical doctors under one roof. Dr. Sherif Zaafran, president of the Texas Medical Board, delivered the keynote address. The alliance serves as a platform for the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s Muslim health care professionals to network and participate in the region’s civic, educational and charitable initiatives. ih
ISNA SUPPORTS CLIMATE AND COMMUNITY REINVESTMENT ACT Colin Christopher (center)
IOICA director Colin Christopher and about 40 faith leaders staged a nonviolent civil disobedience action at the U.S. Capitol building on June 4 as part of the Poor People’s Campaign. He, along with others, was arrested while calling upon Congress to address the interrelation between ecological devastation and the health care disparities faced by tens of millions of Americans every day. Rev. Grayland Hagler led the chanting group to the Capitol Rotunda to
deliver a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Capitol police declared the protest unlawful, emptied the Rotunda of tour groups and media and arrested the group, all of whom were released without harm later that day to cheers from the crowd waiting outside. As an official endorser of the PPC, ISNA leadership encourages Muslims to become involved in their own communities. ih
8 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
ISNA Health Policy Fellow Kamil Jamil — who has since returned to Pakistan — joined Christian, Jewish, and Sikh faith partners in Washington, D.C., to advocate for a just and equitable climate policy on May 18. The Climate and Community Reinvestment Act would charge major polluters for their carbon emissions and rebate the majority of the revenue back to the district’s residents. Faith leaders in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia were given a draft of a letter they could to send to members of the Washington, D.C. Council, urging them to ensure that the rebate portions would be distributed equitably and reach those who need them most. ISNA’s partnership with Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light on this issue is an example of IOICA’s emphasis on intersectional work that encompasses racial, economic and climate justice. We will continue to follow this legislation as it passes through the D.C. Council. ih
IOICA AT THE COMMUNITY LIFE FORWARD CONFERENCE
IOICA director Colin Christopher joined hundreds of Muslims on July 6 at the third Community Life Forward (CLF) conference in Atlanta. Highlighting the successes of Black Muslim-Americans in business, politics and the arts, this event showcased how aspiring entrepreneurs can draw upon the experience of accomplished professionals to build their own careers. Panel sessions included a $hukr Tank — where new business owners pitched their expansion ideas to like-minded entrepreneurs to earn up to $25,000 in investment
— a fashion show and discussions on family life and civic engagement under the current administration. Civic engagement panelists included Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN; https://www.imancentral.org) central executive director Rami Nashashibi, Judge Fatima El-Amin and Cleveland City Councilman Basheer Jones. Judge El-Amin reminded the crowd about the importance of identifying the purpose for which Allah created you and pursuing it with passion, for “[n]othing great in life comes from playing it safe.”
ISNA ANNOUNCES 2018 SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS The Dr. Abdulmunim A. Shakir Scholarship: Given his strong belief in the value of education, Dr. Shakir arranged for a scholarship fund to be established to support students in their first year of higher education. The recipients are: Hanin Elhagehassan, Marwan Bazzi, Deena Fayyad and Sungetha Ali (the University of Michigan); Hashmat Nawaz and Ahmad Kassir (Wayne State University), Salma Alduais (University of Michigan-Ann Arbor), Raghad Ahmed (Lansing Community College), Alia Naji (Kellogg Community College), Kaniz Chowdhury, Ali Abdel Al-Husseini (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Mariam Benazouz (University of Washington), Maiss Mohamed (University of Virginia), Sama Kareem (University of Colorado), Lenah Syed (University of California Irvine), Maliha Mir (University of Houston), Hamzeh Alturk (University of Florida), Jihad Khan (University of Cincinnati), Salaar Khan (Georgia State University) and Mehreen Ali (Undecided). The Aziz Jamaluddin Scholarship: Due to his strong belief in 10 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
Councilman Jones offered his own advice and a wake-up call on civic engagement and racial justice issues, stating that “we don’t mind fighting for Palestine because that’s what we’ve done. We don’t mind fighting for Bosnia and Kashmir and the Rohingya Muslims, but you know what? You better help fight for us for Tamir Rice and Sandra Bland and all the African-American Muslims, black and brown Muslims in America that are being persecuted; you better stand for us. And if you don’t stand for us, ohhhh, you can’t survive here in America.” ih
preparing a generation of educated Muslims to convey the true meaning of Islam via all media outlets, the Jamaluddin family established a scholarship fund in his honor. Recipients are Sarah Omer, Aliza Siddiqui, Rayan Alsemeiry, Roqaiah Odeh (Wayne State University); Shakila Khan (Hunter College); Shun Ahmed (Vanderbilt University); Sanaa Ghanim (The Southern Methodist University) and Sabrin Mohammednur. The Hajja Razia Sharif Sheikh Scholarship: Supported by a generous gift from the Dakri family, this endowment was set up to fund Islamic studies and/or journalism in her name. This year’s recipients are Ameer Safadi (University of Oregon) and Hasan Al-Shaar (Louisiana State University). The Amana Mutual Funds Scholarship: Provided through ISNA, this scholarship allows Amana Mutual Funds to continue building upon its principles and provide further support for the community. This year’s recipient is Yelinna Veerkeen (George Mason University). ih
Joshua Salaam Becomes Duke Chaplain
Imam Joshua Salaam started as Duke University’s new Muslim chaplain on July 1, replacing Imam Abdul Waheed, the interim chaplain for the last two years. Aydin Anwar (’19), MSA president at Duke, told Duke Today on May 14, “He [Imam Joshua] not only has many years of experience working with Muslim youth, but also understands and demonstrates his ability to tackle the challenges that Muslims
in America face… Upon his visit to Duke, many students in MSA were able to connect with him deeply, and that type of connection is exactly what we need in order for us to unite and grow spiritually and socially as a community.” Salaam, who earned his master’s in Islamic studies (2016) and a chaplaincy certificate (2016) from Hartford Seminary, is currently working on his doctorate in ministry. His long history of civic and community engagement comprises working as a counselor for MYNA and helping establish the Friday prayer while serving in the U.S. Air Force. Prior to becoming an imam at the Sterling, Va.-based ADAMS Center, he had been its youth director, project manager for Development Group Construction in Baltimore and civil rights manager for CAIR in Washington, D.C. A hip-hop and rhythm and blues artist, Salaam is a founding member of the singing group Native Deen, which performs songs grounded in Islam worldwide. ih
Ikram Foundation Celebrates Service The Ikram Foundation for the Empowerment of Muslim Women, located in Herndon, Va., hosted 150 esteemed guests and students on July 8 to celebrate its “A Year of Achievements” and honor several students. Ikram (www.ikramus.org) provides scholarships for divorced or widowed Muslim women nationwide. Recipients shared how they had empowered
themselves through education. “This organization gave me the support that I needed, and today I am so proud of myself,” said one student. Dalia Mogahed, director of research at ISPU, stated that “I think Ikram Foundation is filling a huge gap... I don’t think there’s any other organization that is targeting divorced or widowed Muslim women and empowering them with education.” ih
Islam and Biomedicine
University of Chicago
University of Chicago’s Initiative on Islam and Medicine is hosting a seminar on “Islam and Biomedicine” on Sept. 8-10. This event will also include a networking dinner, “Multidisciplinary Symposium on Islam & Biomedicine” and “Dissecting the Ethics of Organ Donation: One-Day Intensive Workshop.” This activity is worth up to 7 AMA PRA Category 1 credits for a total of up to 14 credits. Sponsored by the Templeton Foundation and co-organized in collaboration with the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, the symposium will focus on the relationships between Islamic theology and metaphysics on the one hand and biomedicine on the other, as well as how theological and metaphysical constructs within Islam interfere with the science and practice of medicine. The workshop will provide a conceptual introduction to Islamic perspectives on organ donation, examine its practical and theological ethics, and cover key theological, legal and ethical concepts as they relate to bioethics. This activity has been planned and implemented in accordance with the accreditation requirements and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint providership of the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA) and the University of Chicago. IMANA is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians. ih For information, call 773-834-2723.
12 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
(C) CNS PHOTO/DAN RUSSO, THE WITNESS
Dubuque Catholics Gift to Mosque
Father Alan Dietzenbach listens as Imam Dr. Adib Kassas explains the Quranic verse.
Dubuque, Iowa, Catholic parishes gifted a calligraphic minbar decoration to the Tri-State Islamic Center, reported The Witness newspaper of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, on April 26. Artist Donna Slade, a member of Dubuque’s Church of the Nativity who had never entered a mosque before, collaborated with mosque member Fayez Alasmary and imam and board member Adib Kassas, M.D. The selected verse reads: “Oh, people. We have created you from a male and a female and made you into branches of humanity and different gatherings into nations so that you may come to know each other. Behold the most honored among you in the eye of God is the most deeply conscious of him. Truly, God is all-knowing, allaware” (49:13). Father Alan Dietzenbach, parochial vicar at St. Raphael Cathedral and St. Patrick Parish and project initiator, hopes the art will serve as a lasting symbol of cooperation between the two groups. Kassas called the gift “an example and an application of this verse.” The mosque was inaugurated in December 2016. ih
N.J. Governor Revives State House Iftar Ending a six-year hiatus, on May 22 Gov. Phil Murphy (D) revived the state tradition of hosting an iftar at Drumthwacket, the governor’s residence in Princeton, reported NorthJersey.com May 25. Muslim leaders note that this event goes back at least to the administration of Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R; 1994-2001). The last formal iftar at the governor’s mansion was held in 2012. Murphy’s relationship with the state’s Muslims resembles that of the early years under his predecessor, Gov. Chris Christie (R; 2010-18), who was widely seen at the time as a friend, held iftars at his official residence, defended Muslims against prejudice, appointed a Muslim lawyer as a judge and spoke out against the New York Police Department’s surveillance of mosques and Muslim student groups in New Jersey. But Muslim leaders say the relationship gradually became more distant, even sour, during the 2016 presidential campaign. Murphy appointed Dr. Shereef Elnahal as health commissioner, the first Muslim to serve in a state cabinet position. ih
School Districts Add Eid Holiday New Rochelle’s (N.Y.) board of education voted unanimously on May 8 to make Eid al-Fitr an official school holiday, reported www.lohud.com, a USA Today network associate. The district will observe the holiday beginning next year. Imam Mohamed Shaffieq Chace of the Islamic Center of New Rochelle said, “Not only to recognize this day as a holiday for the Muslims, but it opens dialogues more so for the children, because they will ask questions now. ’What is this?’ And it’s an opportunity to talk about ‘What is Islam?’” Superintendent Brian Osborne agrees and said a “critical and important mission of the school district says that we will embrace our rich diversity.” New Rochelle’s district is the first in Westchester and Rockland counties to make Eid al-Fitr a school holiday. New York City and Syosset school districts also observe the date, according to a statement by Westchester County. Teaneck became the second Bergen County (N.J.) school district and one of a handful in the state that will recognize Eid al-Fitr as an official holiday next year. This reflects the township’s growing number of Muslim students, reported NorthJersey.com, on June 10. Township Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin, whose children are in the district, remarked that while he is happy with the school board’s acknowledgement, putting it into practice could be complicated due to Islam’s lunar calendar. Cliffside Park, N.J., began closing for Eid al-Fitr in 2007. Newark, Clifton, Paterson, Prospect Park, Trenton and Jersey City also close for this celebration. Some North Jersey school districts have rejected incorporating Muslim holidays as days off. Two years ago, Paramus school officials voted not to give off days for Eid al-Adha and Diwali, a Hindu holiday, explaining that the number of observant students was not large enough to necessitate shutting down schools. King County’s (Wash.) growing Muslim student population has led to increased accommodations for Ramadan and other religious activities. In Tukwila, where about one-third of students identify as Muslim, Foster High School principal Meg McGroarty said this year they packed all graduation-related events into a single day to allow Muslim students to celebrate Eid al-Fitr with their families. Seattle’s Franklin High School rescheduled its prom and senior breakfast to avoid disrupting Ramadan. Lake Washington School District’s Redmond High officials granted students’ request for time to pray or for a break from physical education. Rose Hill Middle School, for example, always schedules its “mile run” fitness exam before Ramadan. At Renton High School, the oldest high school in the Renton School District, administrators rescheduled finals so teachers could excuse students who needed to pray. ih SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 13
CAIR-MA Wins Grant CAIR-MA was one of 100 local nonprofits to receive grants of $100,000 each through the Cummings Foundation’s “$100K for 100” program on June 6. The Boston-based organization was chosen from a total of 597 applicants during a competitive review process. The foundation (www. CummingsFoundation.org) has announced a total of $20 million in grants to Greater Boston charities in the past two months alone. CAIR-MA executive director Dr. John Robbins joined some 300 other guests at a reception at TradeCenter to celebrate the $10 million infusion into Greater Boston’s nonprofit sector. He remarked that “[d]uring a time of unprecedented discrimination against the Massachusetts Muslim community, a Cummings Foundation grant will help sustain our critical defense of civil rights.” This year’s recipients represent a wide variety of causes, including homelessness
prevention and affordable housing, education, violence prevention and food insecurity. Most of the grants will be paid out over two to five years. The Woburn, Mass.-based foundation,
made it their mission to share their wealth of knowledge, indomitable courage, boundless compassion, unique talents, and selfless generosity with those less fortunate.” “It is an honor for me to receive this esteemed award,” said Kathwari. “I am a proud American by choice, a citizen of a country that offers equality and freedom of expression. I consider myself very fortunate to have the opportunity to use what I have learned for the benefit of others.” Kathwari, who serves on several business and nonprofit organizations, is also co-chairman of the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council. His company is named after Revolutionary War patriot and politician Ethan Allen.
Ahmed Burhan Mohamed of Minnesota became the first American to win the annual Dubai International Holy Quran Award, the world’s most prestigious Quran recitation competition, after besting 103 other contestants on June 5. The award included a $68,000 cash prize. Burhan, 16, a junior at Ubah Medical Academy in Hopkins, Minn., began memorizing the Quran at a young age. Minnesota CAIR chapter executive director Jaylani Hussein said Minnesotans should be proud of Burhan’s accomplishment and further noted that many other Minnesota Muslim teens have excelled in both national and international Quran competitions. The Minnesota delegation has taken 90 percent or more awards in each of the past few competitions. Community members arranged a welcoming party for Burhan upon his return from Dubai on June 6.
established in 1986 by Joyce and Bill Cummings, seeks to give back in the area where the business owns commercial buildings, which are managed, at no cost to the foundation, by its affiliate Cummings Properties. ih
Farooq Kathwari, chairman, president and CEO of Ethan Allen Interiors Inc., received the Ellis Island Foundation’s 2018 Ellis Island Medal of Honor on May 12 at a gala celebration at Ellis Island, N.Y. The award recognizes individuals “whose accomplishments in their field and inspired service to our nation are cause for celebration. The medals embody the spirit of America in their salute to tolerance, brotherhood, diversity and patriotism. Honorees may be native-born or naturalized, but most importantly, they are individuals who have
14 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
Dr. Umair A. Shah, executive director, Harris County (Texas) Public Health Department, delivered the commencement
address at the College of Healthcare Professionals on May 31. In it, he urged the graduates to make a difference in this world by both doing good and doing well. An internist in Houston, he is also president of the National Association of City and County Health Officials.
Chaplain Asma Inge-Hanif, RN, CNM, ANP, executive director and founder of Baltimore’s Muslimat Al Nisaa Shelter (http:// mnisaashelter.org), is the first Muslim to receive the National Homeless Council’s Founding Mother “Karen Rotondo Award for Outstanding Service” on May 17, which honors the founder’s memory and legacy. For more than 30 years, Inge-Hanif has worked tirelessly, caring and advocating for the homeless, refugees and victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence.
Gregory A. Pulskamp, 49, became Kern County (Calif.) Superior Court’s first appointed Muslim judge on June 1. He has served as a supervising deputy district attor-
On May 8, Alexandria (Va.) Police Chief Michael L. Brown recognized Abdul Rauf Khan, a former restaurateur who saved Police Officer Suzanne Watts from a knife attack on a roadside. The chief ’s commendation read, “On behalf of the men and women of the Alexandria Police Department, I would like to personally recognize you for the bravery and courage you displayed while coming to the aid of one of our officers in need of assistance. Officer Suzanne Watts was under attack by an assailant who struck her in the head with a blunt object and continued to assault her repeatedly. You recognized that the officer was in trouble and without concern for your own safety, rushed to her aid and thwarted any further attack. Because of your quick actions and courage, you prevented the assailant from causing her any further bodily injury or death. We are truly thankful that there are brave and caring people such as you who are willing to go above and beyond to help an officer in need. Your valiant actions are appreciated.” Khan said that despite his age and seeing the assailant’s build, he asked himself “What if it was your daughter?” instead of calling emergency for help. ney at the Kern County District Attorney’s Office since 2014 and at the DA’s office as a deputy district attorney since 1996. Pulskamp, who earned a Juris Doctor from the University of San Diego School of Law and a BS degree from Boston College, told Bakersfield.com that while he will uphold his oath “just like any other judge, my experience as a Muslim does allow me to see a perspective as a member of a minority community ... and I do think that perspective will help me to be a better judge.”
Valedictorian Roann Abdeladl, a first-generation Muslim American, has a 5.26 GPA, earned an associate’s degree of science from Greenville (S.C.) Technical College, received the SC Academic Honors Award and is a National Merit Scholar, Palmetto Fellow, and graduate of MedEx Academy Tier 1. Abdeladl, who earned nearly $1 million in scholarships, is attending Clemson
University on a full ride through the National Scholars Program. She had many other offers from which to choose: As a Furman Hollingsworth Scholar, she was offered direct admission to The University of South Carolina Medical School through Furman’s Early Admission to Medical School program, as well as full rides to the UNC Chapel Hill Honors College, Emory University and The University of South Carolina Honors College. In addition, she was the only student in South Carolina to be named a 2018 Coca-Cola Scholar. In 2016 Abdeladl, the founder and executive director of Youth Interfaith Greenville, was named Ann Power Vital Voices Fellow and went on to be a Global Delegate at their San Francisco Leadership Conference. She is the co-captain of her school’s Speech and Debate Team and attended the national competition this summer, competing in the “Extemporaneous Speech” category, which she has won at the state level for four consecutive years. The founder and leader of her mosque’s Young Muslims Greenville, she teaches Sunday School at the Islamic Society of Greenville, volunteers through her school’s Students in Action Team and serves as the secretary of Greenville Health System’s Health Careers Club. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D), presented CAIR-New Jersey chapter staff attorney Jay Rehman, 33, with the 2018 Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month award on May 8 for his leadership and bravery in representing the Muslim community.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 15
PHOTO: STEVE HIBBARD, THE CONNECTION NEWSPAPERS
Welcoming the recognition, chapter executive director James Sues said, “As some elected officials inflame anti-Muslim sentiment to score political points, it is refreshing to see that New Jersey celebrates its Muslim community.” Moved by the events following the implementation of the Muslim Ban, Rehman, who joined CAIR-NJ in 2017, vowed that he would use his law degree to fight the administration’s Islamophobic policies.
Del. Kathleen Murphy (D-Va. State Assembly) presents the Award to Dr. Maqsood Chaudhry (center) with IFC president William Aiken (left).
Dr. Maqsood Chaudhry, a trustee and president of McLean Islamic Center, was recognized on June 24 at the 13th annual 2018 InterFaith Bridge Builders Award. The center is part of the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington (IFC), which has helped promote interfaith dialogue, understanding and a sense of community and has worked cooperatively for socioeconomic justice since 1978. Chaudhry, a dental surgeon, has been a certified member of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists and the American College of Oral Implantology since 2001. In addition to volunteering with the Give Kids A Smile program, which provides free dental care to underprivileged children, the Northern Virginia Dental Society’s free clinics and at ADAMS Compassionate Healthcare Network, he is a community activist who supports many local and national charities and serves on the board of a nonprofit free health clinic in Virginia. He supports the community service projects of Temple Rodef Shalom, Muslims Against Hunger, the McLean Islamic Center, Stop-Hunger Now and many other Rotary Club community service projects. International Union (2006). She earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Hastings College of Law.
Suhaib Shah, Mikael Rafiqi, Qasim Rahman and Irtaza Ikram, the four Eagle Scouts of Boy Scout Troop 2054, were recognized at the Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremony held on April 5. They received commendation letters from Richardson, Texas, Mayor Paul Voelker. Richardson-based Troop 2054, chartered by the Muslim American Society, DallasForth Worth chapter, serves the entire Dallas region and has more than 60 registered scouts. The mayor lauded the scouts’ contributions, expressed how proud the City of Richardson is of its Eagle Scouts and expects them to give back to their communities and serve as role models to others.
Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. (D-Calif.) appointed Zahra Billoo to the California Civil Liberties Public Education Grant Program Advisory Panel on June 26, an uncompensated position that doesn’t require Senate confirmation. Billoo is registered without party preference. She has been the director of the CAIR-San Francisco Bay Area Chapter since 2009. Past positions include an employee rights advocacy extern at the National Employment Lawyers Association (2008-09), where she was a Peggy Browning Fund fellow in 2008, a law clerk at Bay Area Legal Aid (2007) and a field organizer for the Service Employees
16 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
Dr. Anis Ansari, a board-certified internist and nephrologist, was honored by the Mercy Hospital of Clinton, Iowa, for his “outstanding efforts in educating our
community on important healthcare and spiritual issues. Your knowledge and compassion are a great benefit to Clinton and the surrounding areas.” Amy Berentes, interim CEO of Mercy Medical Center, presented the award on May 1. A Clinton medical practitioner for over 19 years, Ansari has published more than 45 medical-based articles and 35 varied topic publications and served as chairman of the Department of Medicine medical staff secretary/treasurer several times during his tenure with the organization. Some 24 years ago, Dr. Ansari established a college in his father’s memory in India. He facilitates and conducts numerous health care camps with free medicine distribution during most of his visits.
Ammar Hanif, Ph.D., who received the Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship for 2018, joined NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Monitoring and Assessment Branch as a senior scientist studying the presence and environmental impacts of microplastics in the Great Lakes using bioindicators in mussels. He will be using molecular techniques and bioinformatics as tools to study the marine environment and answer ecological questions to better manage marine resources. Ammar’s doctoral work at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science focused on the diet and microbiome of menhaden using DNA barcoding and bioinformatics. His master’s work involved developing a molecular tool to study the ecology of a parasitic dinoflagellate that infects blue crabs. His expertise includes extracting DNA from difficult samples, marine and estuarine ecology, handling large datasets, bioinformatics and analyzing high-throughput sequencing results of microbial communities using statistical methods.
Pakistan on the Mend
Imran Khan being presented with a copy of Islamic Horizons (Jan. 2008)
Syeda Zainab Aqdas Rizvi, a member of the Class of 2018 who graduated with a BS in computer science, delivered the student [valedictorian] speech at Smith College’s Ivy Day celebration on Saturday, May 19. A citizen of Pakistan, she also served as software engineer intern at Google and was a Smith scholarship student.
Volunteer Usjid Hameed (‘17) received the Andrew Goodman Foundation’s 2018 Hidden Heroes Award on July 13 in recognition of his commitment to expanding civic engagement while a student at Towson University and in the surrounding community. His heavy involvement with the Office of Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility caused the foundation to recruit him as Vote Everywhere Ambassador and Team Leader. The ceremony was part of the foundation’s fourth annual summer National Civic Leadership Training Summit, which trains Vote Everywhere Ambassadors for the coming academic year and on registering college students to vote. Hameed helped register over 700 new voters at Towson University. After graduating in spring 2017, he joined CAIR’s Columbus chapter as public affairs coordinator.
N JULY 25, PAKISTANIS DELIVERED THEIR verdict: They preferred the sports star turned social worker and leader, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Pakistan Movement for Justice) instead of a “democracy” foisted upon them by virtue of someone’s birth. In his July 26 pre-inaugural speech, he laid out his government’s foundations: “We will run Pakistan on the same principles as the state of Medina [led by Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)]” and focus on the poor and orphans as well as human development, for “a country is recognized by how the poor of that nation live.” He said that most Pakistanis don’t pay taxes because “the ruling elite had been spending the exchequer’s money.” In line with this, he won’t live in the official prime minister’s residence, but might use it for public purposes, perhaps convert it into a commercial hotel. Considering the country’s economic and administrative challenges, he declared, “Accountability will start from me and my cabinet before anyone else,” and promised to strengthen institutions, attain peace within Afghanistan and talk with India on Kashmir. After all, “No country needs peace more than Pakistan.”
He continues to work with the foundation as a Puffin Democracy Fellow and focusing on voter access for non-native English speakers. His Expanding the Ballot project provides election-day language assistance. While at Towson, this former College of Liberal Arts commencement speaker worked with Greek Life, various campus clubs and organizations, and the Office of Housing and Residence Life. He’s also behind the innovative Wheel of Wokeness project and was awarded the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship for his summer 2016 study abroad in Jordan. ih
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 17
In God We Trust Houston welcomes its first ISNA Convention
18 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
BY WENDY BARNARD, ATIFA CHIRAGH AND ALTAF HUSAIN
omehow the great city of Houston, with its large Muslim population, had never hosted ISNA’s annual convention — a situation that has now been rectified. ISNA and the Houston Muslim community are actually old friends, for many of the latter’s pioneers were instrumental in laying the national groundwork for the Muslim Students Association of the United States and Canada (MSA National) and locally for the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH). ISGH was also among ISNA’s (est. 1981) earliest affiliates. It is so fitting, therefore, that the its leadership and volunteers are working hand in hand with ISNA’s leadership and staff to co-organize the 55th Annual Convention. WHAT’S IN A THEME? Each year the ISNA board appoints a Convention Program Committee (CPC) to review past programs and share emerging best practices to develop the program and select an overarching theme. In addition to ISNA leadership, staff and volunteers, the CPC includes representation from MSA National and the Muslim Youth of North America (MYNA). This year there was a tremendous emphasis right from the first meeting on how the Muslim community and minorities in general have been under attack and are still managing well because of God’s grace and mercy. Several members expressed their appreciation for allies and partners from other racial, ethnic and faith communities. After two meetings, consensus was reached on a theme that would capture these sentiments and express a core Islamic belief: Do your best when confronted with a challenge and then put your trust in God for the outcome. This year’s theme is “In God We Trust.” CPC members were quite aware of being in the South and that its wording would resonate with our interfaith partners in great state of Texas. Some members voiced reservations because this phrase has been associated with the U.S. currency and thought that the theme could be giving tacit support to some of capitalism’s most distressing aspects. After becoming comfortable with the proposed theme, Quran 33:3 was selected to most closely reflect its substance: “Put your trust in God, and God is enough as a disposer of affairs.”
DISPLAYING OUR TRUST IN GOD Over several conference calls and email discussions, CPC members shared ideas about how the theme could be used to demonstrate how Muslims trust in God. These ideas were ultimately transformed into ideas for sessions as well as special events. Starting with Friday’s first plenary session, “God as Our Protector and Guardian,” attendees will be
uplifted by speakers discussing how we are expected to maintain belief in God despite the challenges of daily life, historical examples of how God delivers people from difficulty and lessons from our tradition on how God is sufficient as our guardian and protector. But what happens when people’s faith is shaken due to a personal tragedy or the demonization of it by others? Is it enough to keep uttering such platitudes as “Just have trust in God and everything will be alright?” We are often reminded that trusting God without exerting any effort of our own to resolve our situation isn’t enough, as in the hadith about tying our camels first and then trusting God. The “Newsmakers” session, in which Muslims and non-Muslims will share how their own traditions inspired them to excel, is now being organized for the third year. The “Unapologetically Muslim” session features some of the most prominent faith-inspired scholars and activists who are literally on the frontlines confronting social injustices that affect all people. These individuals are role models for current and future generations because they hold their heads high in the face of bigoted attacks against both them and their families. Beyond putting our trust in God, Muslims have access to the teachings and role modeling of the prophets and key historical figures. CPC members felt strongly that the stories of Hajar and Musa (‘alayhum as-salam) had to be told, given these long-ago awe-inspiring incidents that continue to resonate with people even today because of their timeless lessons. And of all the prophets, the life of Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is documented in detail. A three-part “Stories from the Seerah” series featuring two speakers each provides an in-depth look at such topics as developing trust in God, managing worldly power, dealing with rejection, confronting racism and learning to be forgiving and grateful. CPC members also examined the theme’s
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 19
TRUSTING IN GOD ALSO REQUIRES US TO ADHERE TO ISLAMIC TEACHINGS WHEN DEALING WITH PEOPLE WHO DISAGREE WITH US. connection to money and how Muslims sometimes may focus too much on acquiring wealth, which can lead to trusting it instead of God, the Sustainer, who expands and constricts the sustenance of whomever He wills. Given that our tradition contains a vast amount of literature on the “diseases of the heart,” a three-part series on this topic featuring two speakers each has been arranged. Its speakers will present an eye-opening and heart-healing examination of greed, anger, pride, envy, lust, gluttony and similar topics and shed light on how to address them in one’s daily life. Another prominent element comprises sessions on mental health topics. Attendees will benefit from heartfelt discussions on how the #MeToo movement has affected the Muslim community, the psychological effects of today’s hook-up culture and suicide. We chose to tackle tough topics head-on via conversations on internalized bigotry, why conservatives matter and how to incorporate special needs individuals within our community. To complement these examinations of our spiritual and mental states, attendees should make sure to visit the health fair’s
examination of one’s physical state via a free health checkup and screenings of their blood sugar, blood pressure and body fat levels. Trusting in God also requires us to adhere to Islamic teachings when dealing with people who disagree with us. Three sessions are offered to explain best practices while engaging in civil discourse: The traumatic separation of immigrant children and parents at the southern border, how and why interacting with “persuadable conservatives” is important and, lastly, the tensions that have erupted between the scholarly and activist communities.
HIGHLIGHTING ISNA DEPARTMENTS AND INITIATIVES Throughout the convention, one can easily learn about the great work that ISNA is doing through its Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances (IOICA), the ISNA Development Foundation (IDF), the Masjid Development Task Force and the Youth Programs and Services Department (YPSD). Building upon ISNA’s track record of interfaith work, IOICA is hosting several events. “The Sultan and the Saint” film
20 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
screening and interfaith panel discussion will highlight growing partnerships between the Muslim and Evangelical communities. IOICA’s civic engagement training session will provide practical tools for participating in faith-based advocacy. IOICA will also release its findings from the first-ever national survey of Muslim American views on climate change and premiere “The Earth is Our Mosque,” a short documentary film that investigates climate change’s contributions to Hurricane Harvey. In addition, the Islamically inspired green actions being taken by two Muslim Houstonian families to tackle environmental devastation will be presented. And lastly, IOICA will host a private Government Breakfast event with elected officials, a networking opportunity for Muslim elected officials and candidates and an interfaith reception with organizational partners from around the country. Often working behind the scenes, the IDF’s staff members strive to ensure ISNA’s financial health. Throughout the weekend, attendees will have a unique opportunity to witness first-hand the time, energy and creativity exerted by these individuals and the ISNA Founders Committee to organize the Community Service Recognition Luncheon (CSRL), the main Saturday evening fundraising session, as well as various creative giving opportunities. The Masjid Development Task Force has made tremendous progress over the last few years, especially in terms of promoting the meaningful inclusion and participation of women in all facets of mosque leadership and operations, as well as the Green Masjid initiative. Members will both present and lead roundtables during which they hope to hold intimate conversations with a smaller group of people interested in learning best practices and perhaps even joining and amplifying the work of the task force. The YPSD will be featured mostly through its logistical and staff support of a full parallel MYNA-organized conference. MYNA reflects the commitment that the ISNA leadership has placed in developing high quality programs and services for our youth. We really hope that you will enjoy the convention and look forward to receiving your feedback on areas that can be improved and enhanced! Again, welcome! ih Wendy Barnard, coordinator, Education and Programs Development Coordinator, Atifa Chiragh, member, Convention Program Committee, and Altaf Husain, Ph.D., vice president ISNA-USA
ISLAM IN AMERICA
HUNGER AT HOME: Muslim Americans and Food Insecurity We often give zakat to feed Muslims abroad — but statistics show that many Muslim families here in the U.S. struggle to put food on the table ISNA OFFICE FOR INTERFAITH & COMMUNITY ALLIANCES
t’s easy to assume that daily hunger is a reality only for Muslims living outside the U.S. We associate food scarcity with drought in the Horn of Africa or conflict in the Middle East. We give zakat to organizations like Islamic Relief (https://www.islamic-relief.org) to support their charitable programs overseas, without even realizing that they also feed needy Muslims right here in the nation’s capital. Meanwhile, the dominant self-image promoted by Muslim American professionals is one of success paired with generosity: During Ramadan we fast by choice, while giving to those in need. In a 2015 Al Jazeera op-ed entitled “Ramadan in the shadows: Fasting while poor,” law professor Khaled Beydoun acknowledged the impetus to counter negative stereotypes by pushing a shiny image of Muslims as the “socioeconomic model minority.” And the image is not completely wrong. A July 26, 2017, Pew Research Center Religion & Public Life report shows that Muslims in the U.S. are just as likely as non-Muslim white Americans to be college graduates and to achieve a household income over $100,000 (http://www.pew forum.org). However, those who don’t reach these economic benchmarks are actually more likely than non-Muslim Americans to be poor. According to the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding’s 2017 American Muslim Poll (https://www.ispu.org), Muslim Americans are “significantly more likely than any other faith group to report low (less than $30,000) household income”: 35 percent of the community faces poverty, compared to an average of 18 percent for other faith groups (see p.3, Executive Summary).The reality is that the Muslim American population has the largest wealth gap of any religious community in the country. 22 ISLAMIC HORIZONS
“We can’t foodbank our way out of systemic poverty and hunger,” IOICA director Colin Christopher stated. “The most effective way ... is to bolster our federal food assistance programs that have a big enough budget and enrollment system to reach millions of families ... Finally, although federal food assistance programs are essential, they are stopgap measures. ... Federal food assistance enacted by Congress is coming out of the
Even with more than 45 million people on SNAP, millions more who are eligible don’t receive benefits. To tackle this discrepancy, Dr. Marium Husain, MD, is spearheading a new collaboration between ISNA and the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA) that will help physicians connect food-insecure patients with public resources such as SNAP, WIC and private sources like food banks/shelters. IMANA, which has already published extensively on food insecurity, is now promoting the Hunger Vital Sign (HVS; https://hungerandhealth. feedingamerica.org), a recent initiative developed by the Children’s Health Watch that physicians give to their patients to gauge food insecurity (E. R. Hager et al., Development and Validity of a 2-Item Screen to Identify Families at Risk for Food Insecurity. doi:10.1542/peds.20093146). So far, it has a 97 percent success rate in identifying food-insecure households and specifying their level of need. As IMANA and ISNA team up to promote this easy tool among physicians, social workers and other health advocates, we hope to connect more Muslims with the resources they need to thrive. We also hope that bringing the topic of hunger into the open will destigmatize poverty and foster honest conversations about wealth inequality and public policy among Muslim Americans.
same political institutions through which sweeping measures must eventually be made to tackle the root causes: wealth inequality, low wages, and a widespread lack of affordable housing and healthcare.” According to the frequently-asked-questions section of Snap to Health!, 45.4 million people currently benefit from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as “food stamps”). We hear about high rates of obesity and food waste, even though so many people are struggling to afford food, because poor people turn to inexpensive fast food and soda to secure cheap calories at the expense of nutrition. SNAP gives each recipient an average of $126 a month for fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and meat. SNAP is funded by the Farm Bill, a historically bipartisan piece of legislation that Congress has to renew every four years. This year, however, House Republicans targeted SNAP for billions of dollars’ worth of cuts; critics point out that they need the money to cover the deficit created by last year’s massive tax cut. As part of the Domestic Human Needs working group of the Washington Interreligious Staff Community, IOICA joined the fight to demand #HandsOffSNAP and lobby for a #FaithfulFarmBill. During Ramadan, we teamed up with Poligon Education Fund (www. poligonnational.org) to launch the #MuslimsAgainstHunger Campaign. We sat down with both House and Senate lawmakers,
No single federal program can completely solve this country’s hunger problem, and no amount of charity work can shore up the wealth gap that continues to grow even during this supposed period of economic recovery. Sustained mass civic engagement with federal and state-level policymakers is the only way to turn the tide nationwide in the long run. This is why our office’s support for SNAP is just one project in a broad economic justice policy portfolio, and why we are striving to bring more Muslim Americans into larger social movements for systemic change.
including staffers from the highest ranking members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, to voice our support for SNAP. Although the House bill ultimately passed, the Senate heeded our call to protect federal food assistance programs and passed a favorable Farm Bill. Anti-poverty advocates hope that the history of bipartisanship championed by the Senate version of the bill will prevail while finalizing the legislation. Poligon’s co-founder and acting executive director Afif Rahman contextualized the struggle: “In the case of fighting food insecurity, SNAP, a federal program, can provide food assistance to 10-15 times more people than all the nation’s food banks combined. During these times, the cost of being disengaged is too high and not one we and our brothers and sisters in need can afford to pay.” The scale of federal assistance required illustrates just how deep the roots of food insecurity reach. Some recent reports, such as Columbia University’s 2016 “Basic Facts About Low-Income Children” study (http:// www.nccp.org/publications/pub_1145. html), argue that more than half of American children live in households near the poverty line. Furthermore, as families across the country’s colder regions are faced with the choice of “heat or eat” each winter, we realize that housing, gas, wages and healthcare are all part of the same equation when it comes to food access.
spoke out against the interrelated violence of ecological devastation, climate change and the lack of affordable healthcare. Protestors occupied the Rotunda of the Capitol Building while attempting to deliver a message from the people to Speaker Paul Ryan; they were released an hour later. On Saturday, June 23, the campaign concluded with a rally on the Mall. The campaign’s local and state-level organizing committees are now planning their next steps. In connection with his participation, Christopher stated: “I am inspired by our beloved Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa
NO SINGLE FEDERAL PROGRAM CAN COMPLETELY SOLVE THIS COUNTRY’S HUNGER PROBLEM, AND NO AMOUNT OF CHARITY WORK CAN SHORE UP THE WEALTH GAP THAT CONTINUES TO GROW EVEN DURING THIS SUPPOSED PERIOD OF ECONOMIC RECOVERY. SUSTAINED MASS CIVIC ENGAGEMENT WITH FEDERAL AND STATE-LEVEL POLICYMAKERS IS THE ONLY WAY TO TURN THE TIDE NATIONWIDE. We are currently witnessing a powerful political awakening across the country. Along with the fight to protect SNAP, this past Ramadan coincided with the Poor People’s Campaign, a “National Call for Moral Revival” that describes itself as a direct continuation of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 movement of the same name. ISNA endorsed the campaign and its tactics of nonviolent civil disobedience, which likewise trace back to MLK’s legacy. For six weeks, the campaign organized actions in state capitals nationwide. Its intersectional understanding of policy meant that they targeted hunger as just one symptom of a system that sustains itself on “racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and distorted morality” (https://www.poorpeoplescampaign. org/demands). ISNA communications director Faryal Khatri offered the opening prayer at one of the many rallies in Indianapolis, while Christopher and dozens of other protestors were arrested on the day that the campaign
sallam) hadith: ‘Whoever goes to bed while his neighbor is hungry is not a true believer’ (“al-Sunan al-Kubra,” hadith no. 19049). In 2018 in the U.S., we must advocate for national food programs and continue to work toward the comprehensive political and economic transformation that is ultimately required.” IOICA is planning for the long haul. As our staff members become increasingly effective on the Hill, we encourage all ISNA members to act on our position statements, contact your Senators and Representatives and represent our community in state-level politics. Muslim Americans living near or below the federal poverty line will continue to experience food insecurity until we change laws and policies. As a faith community, it’s time to step up our civic engagement. ih ISNA’s Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances is located at 110 Maryland Avenue NW, Washington, DC, right next to the Supreme Court and across the street from the Capitol. Our current staff includes three part-time policy fellows. Follow our work in weekly ISNA newsletter updates (www. isna.net/2018-weekly-newsletter) and social media posts.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 23
ISLAM IN AMERICA
Signing with Faith Are Muslims addressing the spiritual needs of their deaf co-religionists? BY SHAHINDA HAMDY
org/home/toronto), a nonprofit Islamic seminary that provides free Islamic classes and programs taught by qualified scholars. SeekersHub has provided exemplary inclusion by having ASL interpreters in their Step One Essentials Certificate Curriculum. As such, GDMC continues its efforts and partnerships to make the Islamic community an all-inclusive one. ■ Build an Islamic ASL library. GDMC is in the planning stage of establishing an online ASL Islamic resource library that would serve current and future knowledge seekers. Video projects include translating educational videos regarding Islamic practices and related signs, as well as promoting the Sunnah and educational Ramadan videos. The team hopes to expand this library by collaborating with other Islamic online educational organizations. These projects have served as a social enterprise model by providing temporary employment for deaf Muslims to help translate these videos.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
fter attending a Deaf Awareness event in April 2013, a group of Muslims realized that the deaf were unable to equally participate in religious settings. And so they hastened to provide full access and equity in the form of American Sign Language (ASL). Forward five years — there is still a lot of work to be done. Global Deaf Muslim Canada (GDMC; www.globaldeafmuslimcanada.com), a registered nonprofit charity seeking to advance Islamic knowledge within the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities, works to raise awareness regarding its members’ challenges, advocate for their inclusion in community events and set up a barrier-free foundation of religious resources.
CURRENT PROJECTS GDMC relies on volunteers to implement its goals, which are listed below. ■ Raise awareness. Many Muslims are unaware of how difficult it is for the deaf to acquire Islamic knowledge. We are dutybound to make Islam fully accessible to them. ■ Train interpreters. Sign language interpreters abide by a strict code of ethics that inhibits them from accepting assignments with unfamiliar content, such as
religious content. As such, there is an extreme shortage of interpreters upon whom we can call. The GDMC team trains and familiarizes them with Islamic context, terminology and cultural setting. GDMC has also partnered with major interpreter organizations to remedy this issue further. ■ Host Islamic classes. Monthly halaqas take place with an ASL interpreter who can cover highly requested topics that feature Q&A sessions and are open to all interested individuals. ■ Establish inclusive events. Many Islamic organizations collaborate with GDMC to make their major conferences, workshops, fundraisers, and holiday and other events accessible to the deaf. For example, its most recent collaboration was with SeekersHub Toronto (http://seekershub.
■ Assume ownership. Look for ways to include the deaf in the events that you host or attend. For example, hire an ASL interpreter, provide CART services (speech-totext transcription) and/or ensure that the videos used have proper closed captioning. (Note: Automatic closed captioning produces horrific scripts for Islamic videos with Arabic terminology.) ■ Become advocates. Share what you have learned with members of your personal network. Talk with your mosque or organization about how they can advertise their accessibility. This amplifies outreach and helps reach more deaf Muslims. ■ Be friendly. The next time you meet a deaf person, interact with him or her via pen and paper, using your phone to type back and forth, gesturing or learning basic ASL. Many free online resources are dedicated to teaching ASL. A great first step would be to learn the ASL alphabet.
THERE IS NO ACCESSIBILITY IN MOSQUES. CURRENTLY, I SEE NO POINT OF BEING THERE. IN MY INTERACTIONS WITH THE HEARING COMMUNITY, I FIND THAT PEOPLE PITY US AND DON’T REALIZE THAT THE DEAF ARE CAPABLE. IT’S IMPORTANT NOT TO JUDGE.
24 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
Just so you know: → The majority of deaf children are born to hearing parents. → Deaf people prefer “deaf” or “hard-of-hearing” as opposed to “hearing-impaired.” → Eighty percent of the grammar of ASL, a beautiful language that is rich in visual eloquence, involves the use of facial features. → ASL and English have different grammars, so a non-English speaker who utilizes ASL cannot understand English literature. → Canada has no Islamic schools to teach young deaf children about their faith. → The Quran has not been translated into ASL, and not every deaf person can understand the English translation. → Due to the lack of accessibility, many deaf Muslims either don’t practice or leave Islam altogether. ih ■ Volunteer. Type a transcript for a religious video or take notes in a religious class or sermon. ■ Bridge the gap. Interpreters who are qualified to serve in an Islamic setting are in high demand. In Canada, you could consider attaining an Honors Bachelor of Interpretation from George Brown College (currently the only school in Ontario offering this program) and dedicate your life to spreading Islam among the deaf. If you are currently an educator, consider offering your services, for many deaf children need tutors to them maintain their pursuit of knowledge. On account of universal health coverage, Canadian citizens have a great deal of help available to them. For instance, coverage in Ontario is found on: https://www.ontario. ca/page/hearing-devices
A WORD TO FAMILIES AND FRIENDS OF THE DEAF The team interviewed deaf Muslims to learn about their perspectives and life experiences. Some of those stories are shared below. (Note: Some names have been altered to protect the contributor’s privacy.) Suhail. When I was young, my mom would teach me about Islam and I would go with my dad to the mosque. I was always around my family and got used to communicating with them through Urdu, customized home signs and sign language. It’s important not to push a child aside because they’re deaf. If you educate your hearing children, you should educate your deaf child as well. Accessibility is critical. I go to the Friday prayers like my parents taught me, but I look around and see that all of the hearing people are inspired and connecting with the sermon, while I am not. The deaf don’t know their religion, which makes their lives lack meaning. I ask Allah to help me progress,
even though there are no interpreters there. When hearing people try to speak to me and realize I’m deaf, they apologize and run away. They don’t try to communicate with me. I feel isolated and sad. It breaks my heart. Razan. Growing up I didn’t understand my religion. I was like a robot, repeating what I learned from my parents. I didn’t know sign language and was forced to lip read for many years. Only when I learned ASL was I able to learn English and then learn Islam from reading books. Some families shield their deaf children from the world. They isolate them out of protection; but in reality, it is best for the child to be taught how to be independent. If kids learn to sign and read lips, they are prepared for their life journey in the hearing world. It is very important for mosques to have interpreters or even bring a laptop and volunteer to assist the deaf. If I go to the mosque, I feel like it’s my responsibility to approach people and ask if they can help me out and just summarize the topic for me. During Ramadan I go wherever there is an interpreter, even if it is far. So many videos online have terrible closed captioning. There are very few Muslim videos with proper closed captioning. Zohaib. Growing up I would copy my parents but couldn’t understand the reasoning behind religious rituals. Teaching deaf children sign language and English is important. Faith has the same path of learning: through communication. If parents don’t know how to communicate with their children, how will they teach them the religion? I started learning about Islam only after I learned ASL. I was able to have great discussions with other deaf Muslims who shared their knowledge with me. There is no accessibility in mosques. Currently, I see no point of being there. In my interactions with the hearing community, I find
that people pity us and don’t realize that the deaf are capable. It’s important not to judge. It doesn’t matter what a person’s disability is, [for] Allah will test us on how we treat each other in this world. The deaf have faced hardship for many years. Hopefully in the future we’ll able to work together and there will be more hearing involvement within the deaf community, insha Allah. Fatima. My mom taught me how to pray and the basics of the religion. She sent my sister and me to Islamic classes, and my cousin would take notes for me. My mom spoke to my teachers, explained my situation and gave them advice on how to teach me. It is critical for parents to be involved and help raise awareness. Currently, I don’t see any support from Islamic schools for the deaf community. I go to Friday prayer and keep myself busy in Islamic events and classes. Since I’m hard of hearing, I sit in front so I can hear. If the presenter speaks fast or there is background noise, I don’t understand and just quit the class. Nowadays we have the technology and can use it to provide access. It’s important to have an interpreter and notetakers to expand our knowledge and strengthen our faith. Those who struggle are rewarded more for trying to learn their faith. It is important to remember that our ummah’s beauty lies within its diversity and that our acceptance of everyone make us unique. So please join GDMC in its quest to unify the ummah and establish a right that has been long overdue. Contact information: www.facebook.com/GDMCanada, www. globaldeafmuslimcanada.com and Canada@ globadeafmuslimcanada.org. ih Shahinda Hamdy is GDMC project manager.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 25
ISLAM IN AMERICA
Looking back at the Ramadan Spirit It’s time that our children know that no holiday or season compares to Ramadan BY HABEEBA HUSAIN
he Islamophobes’ relentless attacks seem to lead some Muslims to assume that they need to tamper with their celebrations or give them a “mainstream” iteration so they can look like “them” instead of the “other.” Some feel that they have to follow suit for the sake of their children’s sanity. Growing up in the U.S., I attended a K-6 public school system. We had class parties and activities for all of the holidays: costume parades for Halloween, crafting turkeys out of construction paper for Thanksgiving, decorating bulletin boards with Christmas images, exchanging notes for Valentine’s Day, coloring leprechauns for St. Patrick’s Day and searching the playground for Easter eggs. These activities were quite enjoyable, for they were breaks from the regular lesson and meant that we could eat candy and chips during class. However, there was a problem — my family never celebrated these holidays at home.
“As Americans, we live in a society where Christmas, Easter, Hanukkah and other religious holidays are freely taught in public schools,” says Sarwath Hussain, an elementary school teacher and mother of two boys. “As this propaganda goes unnoticed by unsuspecting bystanders, we unwillingly find ourselves surrounded by an inferiority complex, where our children think that Islam isn’t as fun.” While these school activities made for a memorable day, as a Muslim child I couldn’t help but feel a little isolated. I never donned a costume for Halloween and had to explain why. I didn’t share what I received for Christmas because my family didn’t exchange gifts on December 25th. During my childhood, Ramadan fell right around Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. I used to hand out a coloring packet about this holy month of fasting. Sometimes my older sisters would visit the class with cupcakes and explain it further. This was always
26 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
a special moment for me, as I was usually the only Muslim in my class. My friends, classmates and teachers learned about what was important to me and my family and, as a result, understood why I didn’t eat lunch at the cafeteria table. In seventh grade I transferred to an Islamic school, and boy, was Ramadan a whole different ballgame! Lunchtime was replaced with extra recess and Ramadanrelated crafts. Everyone was fasting together and our classrooms were decorated for
WHILE RAMADAN’S SPIRITUAL ASPECT IS GREATLY EMPHASIZED WITH IFTAR GATHERINGS, NIGHTLY TRIPS TO THE MOSQUE AND MODIFIED SCHEDULES TO ACCOMMODATE SUHOOR, WHY CAN’T WE CREATE A LITTLE VISUAL SPARKLE FOR OUR CHILDREN?
Ramadan — something Hussain still makes sure to do for her students. We had special vacation time to spend Eid with our families without worrying about skipping a school day. Upon our return, we had a gift exchange and a field trip either to the bowling alley or the ice-skating rink. Ramadan and Eid were fun for all of us, both at home and in school. “Our Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) always invited people to Islam — never forced. We must apply this method with our kids as well,” Hussain says. “Inviting them to the truth, in a kid-friendly manner. And what does kid-friendly mean? Bright colors, exciting activities, something to constantly keep them engaged in the idea of how great it is to be a Muslim.” Creative parents have long fell back on do-it-yourself crafts for their own celebratory activities. In recent years, however, Muslim Americans have seen more options in this regard. In 2018 Party City, Crate and Barrel, and other retailers carried Ramadan and Eid items — they sold like hotcakes. We are finally seeing companies reach out to our community. Although they sometimes make a mistake (e.g., M.A.C Cosmetics — an Estée Lauder company — implying Muslim women dress up for suhoor at 3 a.m.), it is still pleasing to at last have some representation. “When things are accessible for families
and they’re at a good price point, it helps [our children] feel the spirit of Ramadan,” says Amna Baig, a mother of four and owner of Two Craftistas, a specialty shop that sells handmade personalized items for Muslims. “Nowadays our kids are losing their identity and wanting to do what everyone else is doing. It’s important for them to have their own thing.” Baig and her daughter produce Muslimthemed clothing, mugs, and other items. With cute sayings like “My Iftaar Buddy” and “How Many Sleeps Till Eid?” their small business is churning out products for kids and adults alike to feel proud of their Muslim identity and bring more festivity to important Islamic dates. Many Muslim-owned small businesses have marketed their brands far and wide through sites like Instagram and Etsy, where you can find everything from Eid and Ramadan goody bags to banners, tableware, lights and calendars. Some decorations even encourage Muslims to do good deeds so that children can visually see the impact of their actions during this month. “When a child sees the excitement and the big fuss, they will become more willing to identify as a Muslim American, rather than a minority American,” Hussain says. After all, parents want their kids to be comfortable in both their Muslim and
American skins and know that the two don’t collide, despite the media’s overwhelmingly negative messages. Simple things like clothing and decorations can bring fun and meaning to kids and give them something tangible they can relate to regarding their faith. “It’s important for children to know this is their identity, and they don’t need to acclimate to other cultures just so that they feel they belong,” says Baig. While Ramadan’s spiritual aspect is greatly emphasized with iftar gatherings, nightly trips to the mosque and modified schedules to accommodate suhoor, why can’t we create a little visual sparkle for our children? “Students who have teachers who celebrate Ramadan and children who have parents who celebrate Ramadan are more likely to attend taraweeh prayers, start fasting at an early age and learn other branches of Islam more willingly,” Hussain says. Of course there is a fine line between keeping our traditions Islamic and not copying other faiths. Hanging lights and banners that read “Ramadan Mubarak” is one thing, whereas erecting a tree inside our house and placing gifts under it would seem rather borrowed. We must be careful to have our own unique flair when celebrating Ramadan and ensure that we teach our kids why it is so special. We need to keep our eyes wide open to quell any attempts to commercialize (and mainstream) our observances and festivities. All we need to see is how Easter has been reduced to eggs of so many flavors and colors, and Christmas to gifts and festooned trees. Ramadan’s importance doesn’t come from the presents, food or decorations, but from God, His endless mercy and blessings, and the beautiful opportunity He presents us with to turn back to Him. This fact alone should be enough to make every adult recognize the weight of this month (and of Islam at large). However, we need to make sure our children also feel that Ramadan spirit in the kid-friendly manner described above. We want our kids to be comfortable with their Muslim American identity and not feel less American for not participating in mainstream celebrations. After all, they have Ramadan — and we know that’s the best there is. It’s time that our kids know this as well. ih Habeeba Husain, a freelance journalist based in New York/ New Jersey, contributes to SLAM Magazine, blogs for WhyIslam and is a social media manager for WuduGear. Her work has also appeared on Narrative.ly and MuslimGirl.com, among other online and print publications.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 27
ISLAM IN AMERICA
Raising Little Muslims The joys and challenges of raising single gender flocks — girls and boys BY SUMAYYAH MEEHAN
n u r s e ry r h y m e u s ua l ly attributed to the 19th century British poet Robert Southe (The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (2nd ed.), 1997) says: What are little boys made of What are little boys made of Snips [eels] & snails & puppy dogs tails And such are little boys made of. What are young women made of Sugar & spice & all things nice.
Islamic Horizons magazine talked to parents of single-gender progeny to share their joys and challenges.
SUGAR, SPICE AND EVERYTHING NICE In reality, little girls are made from much more than that, for our little Muslimahs are multifaceted and inspiring other youth with their commitment to Islam and desire to let it shine. Jabir ibn Abdullah (‘alayhi rahmat) reported that Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Whoever accommodates them [daughters], shows
Niya in an Islamic pre-K to give them more room to grow. Putting Islam first in any child’s life will help build faith, integrity and noble traits such as kindness. The Prophet said, “When God wills good for the members of a household, He instills kindness in them” (“Musnad Imam Ahmad,” 40/488, hadith no. 24427).
FUTURE LEADERS mercy toward them and supports them, Paradise is definitely guaranteed for him” (Bukhari, “al-Adab al-Mufrad”; Ibn Majah; Abu Dawud, “Adab,” 121; Ibn Hanbal, III, 97). Laurie Hammond Aly of Beavercreek, Ohio, the mother of Sarrah, 19, Aisha, 17, Salma, 14, Asmaa, 12, and Sumaya, 10, notes that “[l]ife in America is much harder than when we lived in Egypt. There, everything was available in abundance. Here, that is not the case ...” She and her husband have worked hard to help their daughters’ Islam flourish. Thus, “I remind them to pray and listen to the Quran. They are involved in the youth activities at the mosque and are available for youth activities within the non-Muslim community. Learning Islam at home mainly comes down to [our] setting an example.” Ismahan Ali from Raleigh, N.C., has Amirah, 8, Laila, 5, Niya, 4, and Zariya, 2. She spends hours teaching them the basics. “We watch [Islam-based] videos, pray together, read books and I teach them small surahs at home.” This year, she enrolled Amirah in a Muslim Girl Scout troop and Laila and
28 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
Young Muslimahs especially can benefit by assuming leadership roles in their homes, schools and communities. Becoming active in the mosque and coaching girls’ basketball helped Sarrah succeed in other areas of her life and caused her younger sisters to look up to her and seek her advice. “And those who say: ‘Our Lord, bestow on us from our wives and our offspring who will be the comfort of our eyes, and make us leaders for the pious’” (25:74). The Prophet said, “A virtuous child is a flower from the flowers of Paradise” (Tirmidhi). Similarly, Ismahan believes that giving children responsibilities at home is a great way to build a solid foundation for leadership. “Teach your daughters [and sons] to cook and to work outside. They may be on their own one day and need to depend on themselves.” Perhaps one of the biggest fears of any mother is watching her daughters step into the world on their own. Laurie wants her girls to be independent and out in the world, and yet worries about all the usual things. Ismahan works hard to reinforce each
daughter’s self-worth by never comparing one to the other, letting them express themselves and always listening to them.
THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER BOND There is just something so sweet and merciful when it comes to the mother-daughter bond. “I can relate to them easier. I’m a girl after all. I’ve walked through life and dealt with much of what they deal with. However, today children deal with more than I ever did growing up,” Laurie says. One such struggle is the hijab, for “[i]f you want your daughter to wear hijab, make a plan for doing this.” An active member of her community, she expects her daughters to follow her lead by also becoming active. Setting a good example and nurturing this bond is what matters most to Ismahan as well, for she believes that being a strong Muslimah is the key to creating a foundation for a strong bond with her girls. “It has inspired me to be stronger than I might have been otherwise. I am their example. They look to me to see what is right, what is wrong, and what to expect ... When I see them succeed in their own life journeys, it strengthens me because I feel their success is in part because of me.” Both Laurie and Ismahan agree that having daughters only is a blessing that neither would change for anything. A son is a great strength to a family, but so is a daughter. She is a mercy to her parents, beloved by her Creator and walks through this life as a shining example of the beauty found in Islam.
A FAMILY OF SONS Samira Belhamiti of Raleigh, N.C., has two boys, Ilyes, 7, and Waseem, 2, as does Nawal El Yousfi from Knightdale, N.C., Omar, 8, and Yousef, 4. As children learn by example, Samira finds that including her boys in the prayers has increased their faith. “We encourage them to pray with us whenever there is a chance. We remind them that praying makes you closer to Allah and by praying you can ask Allah for anything you wish,” she notes. Nawal and her husband teach them the importance of Islam and vital acts of worship by teaching “them how to be respectful, mindful of others, responsible, clean, helpful and trying to please Allah by doing good things.” Building a solid foundation of Islamic ethics while your son is still young will give
him a strong base from which to construct his faith so that he is a mercy to his parents and humanity. As the Prophet said, “Among the good fortunes of a man is the virtuous child.”
LET HIM BE A BOY As boys are boundless stores of energy, it’s always a good idea to sign them up for team
looks. It’s much easier to get out of the house with boys. And the love and affection boys have for their mama is incredible.” For Nawal, being the only woman in the house is a silver-lining, “The way they play with me is different than when they play with their dad. For example, they’re gentler with me, giving me massages and extra care.”
KIDS NEED TO KNOW WHEN THEY DO SOMETHING WRONG. THEY’RE STILL LEARNING AND IT’S OKAY TO MAKE MISTAKES. BUT THEY NEED TO SHOW THEY’RE SORRY AND TO FIX IT, THE SAME CONCEPT AS REPENTANCE.” sports and other team-based activities. “The best thing that my oldest son has ever done is to play soccer,” Samira shares. “He’s been playing since he was two and, masha Allah, he’s gotten so good at it.” On a team, a boy can learn about the importance of community and how to compromise and cooperate for the team’s sake. Nawal believes that mothers “have to be more active as a mom. Boys, in my opinion, have more activities outside of the house than the girls, and mostly activities I myself don’t enjoy, like taekwondo and soccer!” Even if she may not share her son’s enthusiasm, a mother can still support him and cheer him on from the sidelines. Most little boys are experts in making messes. Samiya, whose sons can do so in “no time flat,” shares that “[b]y nature, boys are independent, tough, noisy and messy. ... I focus on teaching them to be good, kind, respectful, helpful and have manners because that’s what matters and that’s what our religion is about.” Nawal chooses to focus on lessons learned. “Kids need to know when they do something wrong. They’re still learning and it’s okay to make mistakes. But they need to show they’re sorry and to fix it, the same concept as repentance.” Nawal and her husband tell their sons stories from the Quran and Sunnah to enforce Islamic etiquette.
LOW MAINTENANCE MAMA’S BOY Both agreed that their sons’ “low maintenance” charms are a big perk. Samira remarks, “My boys don’t worry about their
What boys lack in the maintenance department, they more than make up for in the affection department. Most boys are closer to their mother, and this relationship grows as they become men. In many cases, the son takes over the protection of his mother just as she did when he was too young to care for himself. God tells us: “And We have enjoined upon man [care] for his parents. His mother carried him, [increasing her] in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years. Be grateful to Me and to your parents. To Me is the [final] destination” (31:14).
A MOTHER’S “TREE” Nawal treasures the moments with her sons. “I feel that I’m more patient and more open to trying and exploring different things. ... it feels like fishing because it requires a lot of patience and you might end up with an empty bucket.” Looking forward, Samira imagines the time when her boys become independent. “I feel proud of the little men I’m raising. And I know they’ll never be unapproachable to me; they will tower over and protect their mama.” It is a father’s duty to be a shepherd to his flock, for the Prophet said: “A man is the guardian of his family and he is responsible for them” (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” hadith no. 6719; “Sahih Muslim,” hadith no 1829). Yet, a son can care for and protect his parents as they grow older, just as a sturdy tree provides shade for delicate flowers. ih Sumayyah Meehan is a Waynesburg College graduate, journalist and marketer.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 29
ISLAM IN AMERICA
Enjoying a game of carrom at PADC
Shared Moments of Joy A day care center for older people makes life more enjoyable for everyone BY NADIA MALIK
ven though her son wanted her to live with him as she progressed into her 70s and 80s, Suraiya Fayyaz Hussain found herself lonely and in a depressive funk during the transition. She had gone from an eventful life as a physician and mother in Lahore, Pakistan, to a retiree navigating a foreign environment. She knew that her son wanted to keep her close out of love and felt guilty that he, as a physician himself, couldn’t devote more time to her. “I kept myself very busy,” she said, spending time knitting, watching TV and reading the Quran. “But in spite of that, I was missing my home and relatives and all that back home.” When a family friend told
her about a new day care center she had opened that catered to older Muslim adults, Hussain jumped at the chance to sign up. She started attending from the very first day and has loved it ever since. “I’m very lucky to have this center, because I’ve seen people in such bad shape coming here. But within weeks or within months they improve a lot,” she said. Tehmina Jovindah started Princeton Adult Day Care (PADC; https://www.princetonadultdaycare.com) a year ago because she saw a distinct gap in services for older people, especially Muslim immigrants living with their children. While children want their parents to stay with them, the reality is
30 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
that families are busy and can’t always devote enough time to older relatives. Moreover, the realities of American culture also mean that many of the aging parents can no longer get around on their own due to the language barrier or their inability to drive. “Some have gone through very difficult circumstances; they have been recently widowed or have gone through treatments for cancer,” Jovindah said. “Here, they’re around their friends and have bonded well.” Jovindah, who has no medical experience, wanted to make a foray into the world of adult day care. She decided to take a risk and open a facility in Dayton, a South Brunswick township in Middlesex County, N.J., due to its fairly dense Muslim population. It’s not the state’s first such
program; however, it’s only one of a handful nationwide, and the need for such facilities continues to grow. Those who attend the fivehour daily program — 9 a.m to 2 p.m — are mostly funded through Medicaid, although some pay $75 out-of-pocket per day. Because the insurance and social services systems can be difficult to navigate, Jovindah hired a social worker to stay onsite and help out whenever needed. They have access to information about food stamps, buying a cell phone and preparing for citizenship exams. The facility offers pickup and drop-off services so that the clients will be onsite by 9 a.m. They are served breakfast and lunch, curated by a nutritionist who monitors their health needs. As the center seeks to provide a therapeutic environment, there’s a nurse on staff to monitor medication and vitals on a daily basis. Right before Eid, a podiatrist was
onsite as well. The staff is also set up to work with clients who have higher needs, such as those with dementia. The day is filled with activities, such as physical and occupational therapy, shopping trips and chair yoga. Hussain credits the physical therapy with keeping her limber and active. “At my age, you either lie down on the bed or sit on the sofa,” she said. Participants play carrom — a South Asian “strike-and-pocket” tabletop game — take a shot at the Ping-Pong table or work on puzzles and crosswords. Others desire to learn new skills that will help them function better in their new environment, such as English or computer classes. Besides exercising their bodies, everyone is naturally eager to keep his or her mind alert as well. Saeed Khan, who attends every day with his wife, has shown off his Scrabble skills and taught the game to others. “It’s useful to increase your memory and vocabulary,” he said. “Otherwise, you keep sleeping, watching TV, that’s all.” He’s also a fan of an Urdu poetry game Bait Bazi, during which two groups go back and forth reciting lines that build on one another. In order to integrate art therapy into the program, PADC works with Segal Arts, a specialized company that has created an occupational therapy program that allows people to explore their creative side. As one of Jovindah’s goals was to create an environment that felt comfortable for Muslims, her facility offers a private space for communal prayer as well as halal food. Those who wish to attend the Friday prayer at the local mosque are helped to do so. Local Islamic lecturers come in weekly, and some of the attendees share their own religious reflections with their friends. In the days leading up to Eid al-Fitr, PADC’s walls were full
SHE BELIEVES THERE’S STILL SOME STIGMA FROM CHILDREN AROUND THE IDEA OF LEAVING THEIR PARENTS IN SOMEONE ELSE’S CARE, EVEN IF IT’S ONLY FOR PART OF THE DAY. “WE LOOK AT THIS AS A HOME AWAY FROM HOME,” JOVINDAH SAID. “THERE IS LIFE AFTER RETIREMENT, AND WE WHOLEHEARTEDLY EMBRACE THAT.” of decorations and artwork created by the clients to celebrate Ramadan. They were also preparing to hold a potluck dinner when they returned after the holiday. Not all of those who attend, however, are Muslim. In fact, 15 languages are spoken by the center’s clients, among them Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Arabic and Urdu. Jovindah also offers a variety of cuisines, such as South Asian, Hispanic and Middle Eastern, to appeal to the array of clients. Balbadev Kaur, a Punjabi Sikh from Delhi, found out about the center through a newspaper advertisement. Her son looked into it, and she was ready to join in the activities the
next day. “Sitting at home, I got bored,” she said in Urdu. “This just became like my family.” The residents agree that the multicultural setting gives them an opportunity to learn about each other. When the Muslim attendees are praying, the others have different activities to fill up their time. While the 130-person facility is half full most of the year, Jovindah is working to attract more clients. Once the morning session reaches full capacity, she hopes to start up an evening session. She believes there’s still some stigma from children around the idea of leaving their parents in someone else’s care, even if it’s only for part of the
day. “We look at this as a home away from home,” Jovindah said. “There is life after retirement, and we wholeheartedly embrace that.” Besides benefitting the older population, the day care center also helps relieve some of the burden of caring for those who are ill. After all, a few hours’ respite can revitalize someone who is nursing parents. “The people who come, they’ve been coming and attending regularly,” she said. “They’ve found the benefit, and they’ve stuck with us.” ih Nadia Malik, who has worked as a reporter, is currently attending a graduate program in social work and nonprofit leadership at the University of Pennsylvania.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 31
ISLAM IN AMERICA
Her Change in Florida Helping others to live the good life BY SHAZIA CHOWDHURY
proud American who likes to remain anonymous, she was born in the American heartland. Just like any other girl, she grew up being fixated with the glamor of life. She moved to Miami’s South Beach — a hotspot for those seeking the glamorous life. She ended up doing what the majority of its residents did: focusing on her appearance and appeal, wondering how much attention she would get from people and working out rigorously to have the perfect body. Eventually, she became a personal trainer. Over time she acquired an upscale waterfront residence, became a regular scantily clad beachgoer and attained “a living-in-style kind of life.” Years went by, and one day she realized that the more she progressed in her feminine appeal, the more her sense of self-fulfillment and happiness was decreasing. Aware that she had become a slave to fashion and a hostage to her looks, she sought to escape the widening gap between her self-fulfillment and her lifestyle in so many ways — alcohol and parties, meditation, activism and alternative religions — only to have that initially small gap widen so much that it gradually seemed to have turned into a wide valley. She understood that all of her “escapes” were just painkillers, that she had not found the actual remedy. As a feminist libertarian and activist who was working for a better world, her path crossed with that of another activist who was already in the lead of furthering and working for reform and justice. She joined one of her new mentor’s ongoing campaigns, which at that time included election reform and civil rights. The most important thing that she learned was that “it only took faith to see the world as one and to see the unity in creation.” One fine day, she came across a book that is negatively stereotyped in the West: the Quran. Until that point, she had associated Islam with “women covered in tents, wife beaters and a world of terrorism.” But after beginning to read it, she was attracted by its style and the approach and then intrigued by its outlook on existence — life
ALTHOUGH THE PEOPLE, THE FACES AND SHOPS WERE ALL THE SAME, ONE THING WAS REMARKABLY DIFFERENT: THE PEACE OF BEING A WOMAN, WHICH SHE WAS EXPERIENCING FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME. and creation and the relationship between Creator and creations. She found it insightful, addressed to one’s heart and soul without the need for an interpreter or intermediary. Eventually there was a moment of truth — she finally admitted her new self-fulfillment of activism was nothing more than merely embracing a faith called Islam, which would allow her to live in peace as a “functional Muslimah.” Days later she bought and put on a beautiful long gown and a scarf, an ensemble that resembled the Muslimah dress code, and walked down the same neighborhood streets where only days earlier she had worn what
32 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
was considered “elegant” western attire: her shorts and a bikini top. Although the people, the faces and shops were all the same, one thing was remarkably different: the peace of being a woman, which she was experiencing for the very first time. Delighted with the looks of wonder on the people’s faces, she suddenly felt that a weight had been lifted off her shoulders, that she no longer had to be consumed with shopping, makeup, getting her hair done and working out. She felt as if the chains had been broken, that she was finally free. As Quran 2:213 says, “God guides whoever He will to a straight path.” Of all places, she found Islam at the heart of what some call the “most scandalous place on Earth,” which made it more dear and special to her. Still a feminist, she now calls upon her fellow Muslimahs to fulfill their responsibilities as women, support their husbands to be good Muslims, raise their children as upright Muslims so that they may become beacons of light for humanity, enjoin good and forbid evil, speak out for righteousness and against all social ills, fight for the right to wear hijab, please the Creator in whichever way one may choose, and explain to women what wearing it actually means. “Yesterday the bikini was the symbol of my liberty, when in actuality it only liberated me from my spirituality and true value as a respectable human being. I couldn’t be happier to shed my bikini in South Beach and the glamorous western lifestyle, to live in peace with my Creator and enjoy living among fellow humans as a worthy person. Today hijab is the new symbol of women’s liberation — to find who she is, what her purpose is and the type of relation she chooses to have with her Creator. To women who surrender to the ugly stereotype of the Islamic modesty of hijab, I say you don’t know what you’re missing.” Willingly or unwillingly, women are bombarded with all styles of dressing, from little to nothing, in practically every means of communication regardless of where they live in the world. As a former non-Muslim, she insists on women’s right to know about the hijab, its virtues and the peace and happiness that it will bring to her life — all of which it has brought to her own life. ih Shazia Chowdhury founded Get to Know Them (www.gettoknowthem.org/content.php?f=Our-Story), an NGO that has been working in Bangladesh since 2014 to help poor people live a healthier and happier life. She produced her first Ramadan booklet in 2018.
MUSLIMS IN ACTION
Philadelphians Empower Newest Refugees
already fled to neighboring countries, had been displaced multiple times inside Syria before fleeing abroad or had faced many difficulties in those countries upon being recognized as Syrian refugees. Many of the refugees didn’t want to relate their personal stories. In fact, it was rather challenging to introduce to them the idea of processing grief and trauma, for they considered such things as fate (maktoob). Besides, they were confronting more immeBY RABAB ALMA diate problems: children finding it very hard to adjust to the American school system, form new (and non-Syrian) friendships and even reach out for help. Some resorted to their digital devices to stay connected with family members back home and watch Arabic TV shows. A lot of teens were struggling with loneliness, various traumas and feelings of desperation and confusion; many regressed to a child’s role. Those who were used to working as kids in Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt couldn’t accept sitting in classrooms with “kids.” They were grownups and wanted to be treated as such. Some parents were having great trouble parenting, as they were being encouraged to use dialogue and discussions — approaches that were totally new to them. Their families back home were constantly asking for financial support, which often led to conflicts between their duty to their The author (center) talking to her clients. own family and their obligations to family n 2016 I started receiving phone meet-and-greet events. Executive Director members back home. Everyone knew it was calls from refugee-settling organizations Hazami Sayed, who is dedicated to present- necessary to learn English to get a better job in Philadelphia searching for Arabic- ing Arabic culture, language and arts to the and talk with Americans, but it was a very speaking therapists. Syrian refugees public through a new lens, invited me to lead slow process. A lot of women were asking were arriving, and support was desperately several group discussions at these events. I for in-home English tutors, whereas most needed. As a long-standing suburban prac- also collaborated with similar organizations of the free English classes were held in local titioner, these calls sparked a huge interest in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to lead ref- libraries and churches. and feeling of responsibility. After all, I was ugee group meetings, through which I got to Families were also experiencing shifts born in Syria and raised in Saudi Arabia. I know about their language barriers, financial in their dynamics — husbands who had to know the culture, speak the language and difficulties and health care access struggles, take care of the kids while their wives workas well their existing PTSD symptoms and ing outside the home and saw the benefit of know the particular dialect. And so I began looking for a place to war-related traumas. Some of them had their wives learning to drive. The need for at open a satellite office in northeast least some flexibility and adaptability Philadelphia. The Prince of Peace in terms of gender roles within the THE NEED FOR AT LEAST Lutheran Church was very welcomfamily just to function in American SOME FLEXIBILITY AND ing. In two weeks the Saturday-only society gradually became rather clear. clinic was set up to serve the Syrian Different life stressors, transitions ADAPTABILITY IN TERMS OF and Iraqi refugees, all of whom and the pressure of adjusting to a GENDER ROLES WITHIN THE new environment also exacerbated were undergoing various transitions, among them yet another marital issues. In other cases, couFAMILY JUST TO FUNCTION displacement. ples grow closer through adversity IN AMERICAN SOCIETY Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture (www. and displacement. I was continually amazed, while working with refugee albustanseeds.org/displaced) got GRADUALLY BECAME involved the minute these people families in collaboration with the setRATHER CLEAR. started arriving by holding many tling organizations, by their resilience
PHOTO © AL-BUSTAN SEEDS OF CULTURE
Syrian refugees helped to find their bearings through Arabic-speaking counselors
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 33
MUSLIMS IN ACTION and determination. These incredible people had endured great adversity and yet continued to push forward. Many came here to provide a better life, education and health care for their children. Several Muslim and non-Muslim organizations helped out and provided sanctuary. People collected donations and helped refugees find jobs and other opportunities. Some Philadelphia-area physicians donated health and basic dental services, and various Muslim organizations organized health fairs for the refugees in Northeast Philadelphia A local Syrian couple founded The Narenj Tree Foundation (http://narenjtree.org) to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to displaced Syrians. They established a non-constantly asked refugee families nonprofit organization and started shipping containers of clothes, food, medical supplies and equipment, personal hygiene products and school supplies to refugee camps along the Turkish, Lebanese and Jordanian borders to support several projects within Syria centered around baking, sewing, helping orphans and other activities. They are currently focusing on sending school supplies. Starting as a small group of friends and family that collected clothing and blankets during November 2013, in June of this year they prepared and sent container number 65 to Syria. A year after I was introduced to these refugee families, I met with them again. Some of them had found better jobs, but the majority of them were still having trouble speaking English and several had not really adjusted to their new life yet. Soon children, who adapt much faster to a new environment, were acting as interpreters for their parents. These families still need a lot of help so that one day they can thrive and make real progress toward a bright future for themselves and their children. In an era of ongoing hostility toward refugees and immigrants, Syrian and Iraqi refugees continue to face difficulties. Others consider themselves lucky to have ended up in Philadelphia, a sanctuary city, where they are enjoying safety and Middle Eastern art and music activities. ih Rabab Alma, MBA, MA, a licensed marriage and family therapist, is also an international life coach and consultant who specializes in life transitions and trauma. In addition, she is a Screamfree Parenting Certified Leader who provides in-office and online services; a clinical fellow of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists; a worker with SHAMS Clinic Team/ICNA Relief USA, IQRA Institute, CAIR Philadelphia and the Muslim Youth Center of Philadelphia for therapy and counseling; and a public speaker.
34 ISLAMIC HORIZONS
India Violates Human Rights with Impunity Ever since India occupied part of Kashmir in 1947, the region’s restive Muslim-majority inhabitants have been brutalized and repressed BY GHULAM NABI FAI
h e U n i t e d Nat i o n s H i g h Commissioner on Human Rights issued its first-ever “Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir” on June 14. The 49-page document contains graphic documentation of the violations of human rights and democratic norms being perpetrated upon the civilian inhabitants of Indian-occupied Kashmir by the Indian military and paramilitary forces. This is a significant step toward greater international recognition of the military’s serious ongoing abuse of these people. Available at https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/ resources/DevelopmentsInKashmirJune 2016ToApril2018.pdf, this latest report may perhaps sensitize the global community to the ongoing outrage felt by ordinary Kashmiris. Among the specific incidents cited in this regard are the following: “In responding to demonstrations that started in July 2016, Indian security forces used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries. … One of the most dangerous weapons used against protesters during the unrest in 2016 was the pellet-firing shotgun” (p. 17). The use of draconian laws has given the army a sense of total impunity, for the government of India has passed legislation under the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act of 1990 that gives extraordinary power to all ranks of the Indian military and paramilitary forces. These laws, it is emphasized, “have created structures that obstruct the normal course of law, impede accountability and jeopardize the right to remedy for victims of human rights violations” (p. 5). Moreover, the report noted that “Impunity for human rights violations and lack of access to justice are key human rights challenges in the state of Jammu and Kashmir” (p. 4) and that “Impunity for enforced or involuntary disappearances in Kashmir continues, as there has been little movement towards credibly investigating complaints including into alleged sites of
mass graves in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region” (p. 5). The report agrees with the observations made by many international NGOs that “Civil society and media often cite the figure of 500,000 to 700,000 troops which would make Kashmir one of the most militarized zones in the world” (p. 10). During the ongoing freedom struggle’s latest phase, virtually the entire population of Indian-occupied Kashmir took to the streets to demand the right of self-determination, to which India originally agreed but refuses to implement (particularly UN Security Council resolutions S/RES/47 , and S/RES/51 8), in which India itself offered and agreed to a plebiscite in Occupied Kashmir. The report underlines this fact by stating: “While Indian-Administered Kashmir has experienced waves of protests in the past — in the late 1980s to early 1990s, 2008 and 2010 — this current round of protests appears to involve more people than [in] the past, and the profile of protesters has also shifted to include more young, middle-class Kashmiris, including females who do not appear to have been participating in the past” (p. 4). Bilateral talks have failed because they sought to bypass Kashmir’s representatives, the primary party to the dispute: There remains an urgent need to address past and ongoing human rights violations and to deliver justice for all people in Kashmir who have been suffering seven decades of conflict. Any resolution to the political situation in Kashmir should entail a commitment to ending the cycles of violence and accountability for past and current human rights violations and abuses committed by all parties and redress for victims. Such a resolution can only be brought about by meaningful dialogue that includes the people of Kashmir. (p. 6) Indian human rights organizations and NGOs, including the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (www.pucl.org), sent teams to Kashmir to study specific allegations of torture and other human rights abuses. Their
published findings, which are often highly critical of Indian government authorities, are validated by the UN report: As a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits torture under any circumstances (Article 7), India is obliged to ensure that no person is “subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” There have long been persistent claims of torture by security forces in Kashmir. (p. 26) Among the examples of torture cited in the report are: “On 18 August 2016, a 30-year-old college lecturer, Shabir Ahmad Mangoo, died after being severely beaten in the custody of the Indian Army” (p. 26) and “Another case of torture involving the Indian Army is that of manual labourer Nasrullah Khan who was allegedly detained and tortured at the Indian Army’s 27 Rashtriya Rifles camp on 31 August 2017” (p. 27). Mangoo, a resident of the saffron-rich Khrew area of South Kashmir’s Pulwama district, was dragged from his home by Indian Army and lynched. Medical services and ambulances are clearly being targeted because they are carrying young men who show evidence of having already been in the line of fire somewhere. There is clearly an intent to physically disable these young men and the civilian population, for “Doctors in Srinagar accused the security forces of firing tear gas near hospitals and, in some cases, inside the hospital, which affected their ability to work and further affected the health of the patients” (p. 30). Meanwhile, getting the international community to pay attention remains as difficult as ever. The world powers have taken a hands-off stance by having asked India for permission to send in a team to investigate, and India does not allow Kashmiri human rights activists to attend international forums to raise the subject of human rights. Among the examples cited are the following. • “Human rights defenders who have tried to bring international attention to the
THE REPORT AGREES WITH THE OBSERVATIONS MADE BY MANY INTERNATIONAL NGOS THAT “CIVIL SOCIETY AND MEDIA OFTEN CITE THE FIGURE OF 500,000 TO 700,000 TROOPS WHICH WOULD MAKE KASHMIR ONE OF THE MOST MILITARIZED ZONES IN THE WORLD” (P. 10). human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir have faced reprisals, while access has been obstructed for some journalists” (p. 32). • “… prominent human rights defender Khurram Parvez was arrested and detained under PSA [Public Safety Act] on 15 September 2016, a day after being prevented from travelling to the Human Rights Council in Geneva” (p. 32). • Human rights lawyer Kartik Murukutla, who works with Khurram Parvez at JKCCS [Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society], was detained at the New Delhi airport immigration desk on 24 September 2016 on his return from Geneva after attending the same Council session...” (pp. 32-33). • “French journalist and documentary film-maker Paul Comiti was arrested on 9 December 2017 in Srinagar for allegedly violating Indian visa conditions” (p. 33). That the decades-long oppressive occupation has resulted in massive human rights violations, particularly targeting women and children, is well documented. The sanctity of women has been violated in a gruesome and unforgiving fashion. The report proclaims: In the 2013 report on her mission to India, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, said,
“[W]omen living in militarized regions, such as Jammu and Kashmir and the north-eastern states, live in a constant state of siege and surveillance, whether in their homes or in public. Information received through both written and oral testimonies highlighted the use of mass rape, allegedly by members of the State security forces, as well as acts of enforced disappearance, killings and acts of torture and ill-treatment, which were used to intimidate and to counteract political opposition and insurgency.” (p. 35) The report recommends to the UN Human Rights Council that it “consider the findings of this report, including the possible establishment of a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir” (p. 48). The report also makes 17 recommendations to the Government of India so as to bring these atrocities to an end, including: • “Urgently repeal the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990.” • “Establish independent, impartial and credible investigations to probe all civilian killings which have occurred since July 2016.” • “In line with its standing invitation to the Special Procedures, accept the invitation requests of the almost 20 mandates that have made such requests; in particular, accept the request of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and facilitate its visit to India, including to Jammu and Kashmir.” • “Fully respect the right of self-determination of the people of Kashmir as protected under international law” (pp. 48-49). It is our hope that this UN report will mobilize the policymakers of the UN Human Rights Council’s member states to do everything in their constitutional power to stop what is happening in Kashmir. It is our further hope that they will look at solving the problem’s root cause — the unfulfilled promise of self-determination, as guaranteed by successive UN Security Council resolutions. We believe that history is not predestined, and thus it is up to us to do all that we can to bring about peace in severely traumatized Indian-occupied Kashmir, notwithstanding the lure offered to arms merchants by India’s $63.7 billion defense budget for the year 201819 – among the world’s top five spenders. ih Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai is secretary general, World Kashmir Awareness Forum.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 35
Hyderabadis Seek to Preserve their Heritage
Ever since India invaded, occupied and annexed the princely state of Hyderabad in 1948, it has methodically destroyed and mutilated the state’s architectural gems BY MISBAHUDDIN MIRZA [Editor’s note: September marks the 70th anniversary of independent Hyderabad’s demise.]
hose people who were born and raised in Hyderabad find it impossible to imagine the beautiful Hyderabad city skyline without the copious, marvelous domes that crown the iconic Osmania General Hospital. Built in the unique IndoSaracenic style that is the signature of the Qutub Shahi dynasty’s (1791-1948) structures, this building is a source of pride and gracefulness to this “City of Minarets.” So in 2014, when the Telangana state chief minister Chandrasekhar Rao announced that a modern steel and concrete structure would replace it, Hyderabadis finally seemed to stir from their deep slumber. Some countered the government’s narrative regarding the viability of addressing the aging building’s structural issues with their own assessment. The reaction was strong enough to force New Delhi to halt its plans — at least for now. During the American War of Indepen dence, George Washington was constantly on the move, sleeping in a different house each night to avoid the colonial British armies. Today, even during road construction projects, every such house encountered has surely been listed as a historic landmark and cannot be torn down. Even a tree to which he had tied his horse would be considered a national treasure. New York museums employ state-of-the-art temperature and humidity controls to assure that artifacts and paintings are preserved in pristine condition. But in Hindu-ruled India, the situation is different — the centuries of hard work that went into building a Hyderabad with such glorious architecture, high-grade infrastructure and a pristine environment dotted with hundreds of artificial lakes was destroyed during a single generation’s lifetime. A. G. Noorani’s “The Destruction of Hyderabad” (2013) describes the visceral hatred and resentment of Hyderabadi culture felt by India’s first deputy prime minister, Vallabhai
Patel (1875-1950), which might be partly to blame for this reality. The Archeological Survey of India (ASI; http://asi.nic.in) is guilty of not protecting nationally registered Islamic historic monuments from illegal encroachment. In his article “ASI is the handmaiden of Hindutva” (Oct. 1, 2010, Rediff.com), published shortly before his death, the eminent scholar Dr. Omar Khalidi (1952-2010) discusses its dubious activities in promoting the Hindu extremist agenda. Under the ASI’s watch, a Bhagyalaxmi temple has encroached upon the world famous Charminar, a structure synonymous with Hyderabad. In its June 5, 2013, edition, The Hindu newspaper published historic photos showing that the temple did not exist there and thus is a recent encroachment. In addition to causing sectarian strife, this encroachment is preventing it from being listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list (https://whc.unesco.org/en/list). Similar encroachment on the historic Golconda Fort has had the same result. Of the at least 926 houses that have been built in the fort’s prohibited region, 13 of them are within 30 feet of its walls. Dr. Khalidi also pointed out that “[a]t the turn of the 21st century, almost all the grand gates in historic Golconda fort and Hyderabad are riddled with Hindu temples, signs and icons flying in the face of the ASI’s preservation mission.” Add to this the uncontrolled replacement of charming old buildings (Nawabi-style havelis/mansions) with haphazard new buildings, which has caused severe, irreparable aesthetic damage to the Old City’s quaint, delightful alleyways. The newspaper also reported that the condition of another 150 historic structures declared by the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority to be “City Heritage Buildings” is very precarious.
36 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
Hyderabad, built along the Musa Nadi River by the Qutb Shahi dynasty, used to contain countless artificial lakes to provide potable water as well as to adorn the city with scenic lakes. The Hussain Sagar Lake, built in 1562, was the first source of water for the city until the Osman Sagar lake/reservoir and the Himayath Sagar lake/reservoir were built. Hussain Sagar is also the city dwellers’ prime picnic location; however, shortly after Hyderabad’s annexation it was converted into a receptacle for the city’s main sewers, a dumping ground for solid and industrial waste and the disposal of religious items. In 2006, the Japan International Cooperation Agency provided financial assistance to clean it up. But after spending 75 percent of the earmarked $56 million, the government The iconic Osmania General Hospital in Hyderabad.
aborted the project and is now reportedly in the process of acquiring another consultant. The residents around the lake keep their windows sealed to prevent the unbearable sewage-induced stench from entering their houses. Ironically, while the belated cleanup plans were still on the drawing board, the previous government, without regard to the lake’s ecology, proceeded to build a massive manmade island in its middle to install the world’s tallest monolithic Buddha statue. Over time, Hussain Sagar Lake’s scenic shores have been turned into a political platform by erecting tens of statues of various personalities. One of the past nizams tamed the once mighty Musa Nadi River, which used to overflow its banks and cause severe damage, by building flood protection structures. He also put its water to excellent use by damming the river, thereby creating the massive Osman Sagar lake/reservoir, and building the Himayat Sagar lake/reservoir on the tributary Esa River. These two reservoirs provided the city with abundant potable water via newly laid underground pipes. But due to the unplanned explosive population growth, even the supplementary sources of potable water from the Manjira River and elsewhere are grossly insufficient. Moreover, it is polluted with sewage, pesticides and so many other things. As the government cannot deal with the crumbing
infrastructure in a timely way, most areas are still served by the pipes laid by the nizam’s government. The severe water shortage has forced the residents to drill wells, an undertaking that has severely depleted the groundwater table. After the nizam built the flood protection embankments, the Musa Nadi never over-
up gradually. Several residential and commercial establishments sprouted on these lands and sewage from these found its way into what remained of the water bodies. Intermittent regularization drives legalized these buildings.” The princely state of Hyderabad’s land area was larger than the combined
THE ARCHEOLOGICAL SURVEY OF INDIA IS GUILTY OF NOT PROTECTING NATIONALLY REGISTERED ISLAMIC HISTORIC MONUMENTS FROM ILLEGAL ENCROACHMENT. flowed its banks. But now, the down gradient Musa Nadi has been reduced to a mere open sewer into which the city’s other sewers and industrial effluents are discharged. The down gradient villages use this polluted river water for irrigation, which creates the threat of introducing industrial pollutants into the food chain. On Sept. 30, 2014, the Deccan Chronicle reported that 500 city lakes were struggling to survive and that 200 bodies of water were no longer mentioned in the lakes enumeration. The 160-acre Durgam Cheruvu Lake, which provided potable water to the Golconda Fort during the Qutb Shahi dynasty, has been reduced to about 80 acres. Open areas have become virtually nonexistent, for the city’s unplanned development has resulted in serious overcrowding, unbearable air pollution and nightmarish traffic problems. The government has also turned a blind eye to those developers who have illegally built structures on most of Hyderabad’s lakes and water resources. Writing in the April 2015 of Frontline magazine, Kunal Shankar reported: “Encroachment on Hyderabad’s water resources has been rampant in the past 15 years. Until about the 1980s, most of the lakes in and around the city were sources of drinking water, and a buffer zone around them used to be seasonal farmland. Rapid and unplanned urbanization blocked the feeder channels to the lakes, which dried
areas of England and Scotland. The 1941 census reported that the state’s population was 16.34 million. The present city of Hyderabad, which constitutes 0.3 percent of the state’s land area, is reported to be inhabited by somewhere between 8.7 million to 10 million people — the equivalence of cramming the state’s entire population into an area 0.6 percent of its original size. This unbearable population density, combined with routine electrical power cuts, exasperating traffic jams, routinely overflowing sewers, a paucity of water supply, perennially rancid air quality and lack of open spaces and water bodies has converted the legendary breathtaking Hyderabad city into a cacophony of horrifying and dreadful urban mazes. ih Misbahuddin Mirza, M.S., P.E., a licensed professional engineer registered in New York and New Jersey, served as the regional quality control engineer for the New York State Department of Transportation’s New York City area. He has written for major U.S. and Indian publications.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 37
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed
Muslim Ethiopians Prevail in their Quest for Civil Liberties A pivotal meeting between the new prime minister and leaders of the Muslim civil rights movement promises to uplift Muslim Ethiopians’ religious freedoms and revive civil society at large BY SARA SWETZOFF
n July 4, as most Muslim Americans were celebrating Independence Day, the Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Ethiopia (CAHDE; http://cahde.org) published an incredible set of photos: After years of persecution, torture and incarceration, leaders of that country’s Muslim civil rights movement could be seen embracing and exchanging warm smiles with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Called Dimtsachin Yisema in Amharic (“Let Our Voice Be Heard”), this eight-year-old movement rallied Muslim Ethiopians to oppose repressive government policies that sought to enforce a single theological sect and handpick religious authorities. As civil society withered under the repressive ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Forces (EPRDF), Muslims persevered in their demands for constitutional rights and political reform. In the spring of 2013, scholar Alemu Tafesse summarized the Muslim resistance as follows: “In a country where NGOs have been severely crippled, press freedom is dying out, religious institutions are tightly controlled, and professional associations effectively
co-opted — in short, where civil society is in grave danger of extinction — there has been one arena of visible democracy, that of the protesting Muslims” (“The Ethiopian Muslim civil rights movement: implications for democracy,” OpenDemocracy.net). The recent meeting between Dimtsachin Yisema and the prime minister therefore has widespread significance for all Ethiopians who want a peaceful and free direct democracy. As CAHDE declared in a Facebook post: “This one will go in the annals of history as a victory for Ethiopia — not just for the Prime Minister or its Muslim population.” Two prominent legal scholars from the Ethiopian diaspora played an important role in achieving this victory: Dr. Awol Kassim Allo, a lecturer in law at Keele University in the U.K., and Dr. Abadir Ibrahim, an independent scholar who practices international human rights law from Chicago. Both of them worked with CAHDE to represent Dimtsachin Yisema at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Union’s human rights body) and the UN Human Rights Commission. They also disseminated English-language analyses and updates to a global community of scholars
38 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
and policymakers via Open Democracy’s online journal as well as social media. Allo has nearly 39,000 followers on Facebook. In a celebration following the meeting, Allo referred to the image of Abiy Ahmed hugging movement leaders as “the photo that uprooted the terror narrative.” Like many other political authorities around the world, the Ethiopian government has deployed anti-terrorism rhetoric to justify excessive censorship and control over the Muslim community. And like elsewhere, including here in the U.S., this rhetoric distracts the general population from critical socioeconomic problems and ultimately results in fewer civil liberties for society at large. In the same post, Allo summarized the movement’s achievements: “Dimtsachin Yisema is one of the most consequential and groundbreaking social movements in Ethiopia’s recent history. They mobilized a marginalized constituency, crafted a new infrastructure of resistance, and opened up the landscape that made other movements possible.” However, these victories did not come easily: “But as you look at these photos,” Allo wrote, “remember the insurmountable odds they overcame through sheer resilience and determination. Nearly six years on, this photo proves practically what happened to the discourse then.” Indeed, the movement’s efforts to shift the definition of Muslim protest started in 2012, when the government accused agitating Muslim Ethiopians of wanting to impose their own religious law, bringing extremism to Ethiopia and being sympathetic to international terror networks. In fact, Muslim Ethiopians were calling for their religious freedoms within the framework of a secular state — a concept that Ibrahim likes to call “revolutionary secularism.” The two lawyers published an influential article on the topic in the early days of Dimtsachin Yisema. Entitled “Redefining protest in Ethiopia: what happens to the ‘terror’ narrative when Muslims call for a secular state?”, the Open Democracy article provided scholars such as myself with a critical overview of the grievances that had sparked the movement and the political analysis upon which its leaders had built their definition of secularism. Since the mid-70s, following the fall of the Emperor Haile Selassie (r. 1930-74) and the Ethiopian Orthodox monarchy, Muslim Ethiopians had been overseen by the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council,
ALTHOUGH DIMTSACHIN YISEMA MOVEMENT LEADERS MAY BELIEVE THAT POLITICAL ACTORS CAN OR EVEN SHOULD BE INSPIRED BY THEOLOGICAL ETHICS, THEY ARE ALSO CONVINCED THAT MIXING RELIGION AND STATE POWER CREATES ABUSES AND INEQUITIES THAT ARE DETRIMENTAL TO HUMAN LIBERTY AND ESPECIALLY THE FREEDOM OF RELIGION, AND THEREFORE BY DEFINITION UNETHICAL.” commonly known as the Majlis. However, this organization was not created within any legal framework. During Ethiopia’s communist era (1974-91), it functioned as a representative body within the government and was led by members of the Muslim elite aligned with the regime. In the early 1990s, when the federalist system was initiated, the Majlis was converted into a non-profit that, according to Allo and Ibrahim, “now functions more like an administrative-executive arm of the state that not only professes to represent but also [to] regulate the Muslim community and its faith.” This regulation aspect ultimately prompted Muslim Ethiopians to protest the Majlis’ undemocratic system. The delicate status quo in which people tolerated the Majlis was disrupted when the government decided to import and enforce the “Ahbash,” an obscure Lebanese sect of Islam named after the now-deceased Ethiopian shaykh who founded the community while exiled in Beirut. When this policy was introduced, the sect had less than a few dozen followers in the country and sometimes made — and continues to make — unrestrained use of takfir. Nevertheless, in July 2011 the Ministry of Federal Affairs held a nationwide training for imams and Quranic scholars — the teachers were all Lebanese Ahbash scholars. Shortly afterwards, clips of state leaders explaining their vision for “Ahbashizing” the general Muslim population were leaked to the public. As Ibrahim and Allo explained in their 2012 article, “It looks like the eventual plan was to marginalize or get rid of other sects seen as politically or ideologically hostile to the regime from positions of influence by assigning these scholars as Imams to mosques all over the country.” Ethiopian Muslims immediately protested this new policy. While the government’s concerns about the increasing Wahhabi and Salafi influence across the region, plus their alarm over localized upticks in ethnic and religious strife, were valid, the Ahbashization policy was clearly more about state power than religious tolerance. Allo and Ibrahim summarized
the fallout: “Soon enough, an overwhelming majority of the Muslim population opposed the intervention and rejected the new sect’s doctrines before the latter even reached the market place of ideas. In the end, the fight was not one of theology but of constitutional principle; it was to turn into a genuine struggle by a religious community for a secular state.”
In an email interview, Ibrahim elaborated on the vision of secularism promoted by Dimtsachin Yisema: “They were calling for greater separation of religion and state, rather than the infusion of religion into law and politics, as it was clear to them that the separation of religion and state is critical for a multi-religious society such as Ethiopia, where no one group should use state power to oppress or discriminate against others.” Ethiopia’s citizenry is composed of over 80 ethnic groups, with religious affiliations
reported as “43.5% Orthodox Christian, 18.6% Protestant, 0.7% Catholic, 33.9% Muslim, 2.6% traditional and 0.6% other” (The World Factbook, 2017). Ibrahim elaborated, “Although Dimtsachin Yisema movement leaders may believe that political actors can or even should be inspired by theological ethics, they are also convinced that mixing religion and state power creates abuses and inequities that are detrimental to human liberty and especially the freedom of religion, and therefore by definition unethical.” To clarify, this definition of secularism does not discourage public religiosity or religious institutions, but rather seeks to preserve their autonomy and influence in the context of a robust civil society landscape. Current political trajectories in Ethiopia should be of interest to people of conscience in every country where Islamophobia is evoked to curb dissent, or where the state co-opts religious institutions to serve an undemocratic agenda. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has rapidly become celebrated as a promising reformist and champion of the people. In a recent speech at a global Ethiopian diaspora convention, Ibrahim summarized the connection between Ahmed’s achievements and Dimtsachin Yisema: “During the last couple of years Muslim leaders have realized that the religious freedoms of their community were violated because of the repressive nature of the government. The movement they started to promote respect for the constitution was joined by other sectors of society to create a wave that eventually brought down a 27-year dictatorship. The task that faces all Ethiopians, including or especially Muslims, is how to contribute to building a resilient and inclusive political order.” May the Muslim American community continue to stand in solidarity with Muslim Ethiopians and learn from their achievements. ih Sara Swetzoff, a third-year PhD student in Howard University’s African Studies department, is a recipient of ISNA’s Office for Interfaith and Community Alliance economic justice fellowship.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 39
Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum houses an astounding collection of Fatimid art
© THE AGA KHAN MUSEUM
BY KENNETH WAHRENBERGER
here do I go to see Fatimid art in the United States?” I asked myself after sleepless nights obsessing over a term paper I had to write on Islamic art in the pre-modern Mediterranean region. My initial research revealed that New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has a handsome collection of Fatimid objects, but the thought of navigating the city’s crowds and searching through the museum’s convoluted galleries seemed too daunting. Several other smaller collections popped onto my radar in Dallas, Los Angeles and Detroit — but they all required long journeys for a minor reward. It was not until I thought outside of the U.S. that I found my answer: The Aga Khan Museum located in Toronto. Unparalleled in the Western Hemisphere, the Aga Khan Museum is devoted solely to showcasing the arts of Islamic civilizations across the centuries. The museum building itself is a remarkable work of art that
The Blue Quran
combines contemporary architectural elements with Islamic geometric designs. In addition to housing an exceptional permanent collection of Fatimid objects, the museum recently organized a landmark “The World of the Fatimids” exhibition that ran from March 10-July 2. This event, the first one devoted entirely to Fatimid art since the Museum and Ismaili Centre’s opening in September 2014, celebrated Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini’s (Aga Khan IV; b. 1936) 60th jubilee as the 49th Nizari Ismaili imam. As history’s only Ismaili Shi’a state, the Fatimid dynasty embodies a cornerstone in the heritage of the modern Nizari community. Although the majority of Fatimid art is now lost, the museum holds several pieces that capture a glimpse of the dynasty’s bygone splendor. The Nizaris are a branch of the Ismaili Shia, a Shia sub-sect. The museum possesses a fine collection of early Qur’anic manuscripts, some of which came from Fatimid lands between
40 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
© THE AGA KHAN MUSEUM
909-1171. Two of the most impressive ones were produced during the dynasty’s early years, when the caliphate was centered in Tunisia. The first one, a 10th-century Quranic folio (55:52-54) showcases the swooping tails and vertical letters of early Kufic script. With each side of the parchment containing only three lines, the entire manuscript must have been enormous and costly to produce. The second one, a folio from the famous 9th-10th century Blue Quran (2:148-150), contains horizontal gold leaf and silver Kufic text on an indigo-dyed parchment. Once comprising over 600 pages, the museum owns one of the 50 leaves currently displayed publicly worldwide. Although the Blue Quran’s provenance and inspiration is highly debated among art historians, many scholars have drawn connections between its gold-on-blue motifs and the mosaic panels of Umayyad monuments like the Dome of the Rock. However, the historical hostility between the Shi’a and the Umayyads makes this rather unlikely. Others have claimed that its producers intentionally sought to emulate the royal purple-dyed Byzantine manuscripts that were known throughout the region due to cross-cultural contacts. While these hypotheses may be true, it is just as likely that similar gold-on-blue background motifs may reflect ideas profoundly rooted within the Qur’an itself. After all, gold text on a dark blue background resonates strongly with the Qur’anic imagery of light over darkness. In addition to manuscripts, the museum also has a strong collection of ceramics. An 11th-century painted earthenware bowl
© THE AGA KHAN MUSEUM
12th-century ivory horn from southern Italy
provides an example of an artistic item produced in large quantities in Fatimid Egypt and exported throughout the region. This bowl, which depicts a long-eared hare, displays a lighthearted animal common among
became a hub of creativity, bringing together ideas from around the world known at that time. Consequentially, Cairo became a place of exceptional craftsmen and wealthy patrons who could afford luxurious works
THE AGA KHAN MUSEUM IS CERTAINLY WORTH A VISIT FOR ANYONE INTERESTED IN EXPERIENCING THE GLORY OF FATIMID ART WITHOUT TRAVELING OVERSEAS. textiles, wood and ivory objects and ceramics from the period. For the exhibition, the museum borrowed earthenware from institutions like the Met (New York) and the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo to show the evolutions in ceramic design and image style over the course of the Ismaili caliphate. As a central junction of trade routes in the pre-modern world, Fatimid Cairo An 11th-century bioconical bead
of art. The Ismaili rulers and state officials were avid collectors of art, and several items from their treasuries are preserved in the Aga Khan’s collection. A spectacular 12th-century ivory horn from southern Italy (most likely Sicily) is a must-see for any visitor. The horn, one of the exhibition’s centerpieces, was used to show an exchange of visual culture across the Mediterranean region. Art historians still debate whether it was a drinking utensil, like the traditional Arab custom, or a hunting horn, as used in medieval Europe. Once controlled by the Fatimids, Sicily functioned as an important contact point between the Islamic world and Christian Europe. The 17th-century English silver mounts added to the horn show the movement and legacy of Fatimid objects long after the dynasty’s fall. Likewise, a luxurious 11th-century bioconical bead — no larger than one’s thumb — displays the beautiful openwork gold filigree that was a characteristic technique of Fatimid goldsmiths. The granulated wires form two adjoined cones, and gold strips twist in flowing designs down the sides. Only one segment of an extravagant necklace, the
bead undoubtedly belonged to a patron of tremendous wealth. Finally, the Aga Khan Museum’s permanent collection displays several examples of architectural decorations from the Fatimid dynasty. In their interior and exterior architectural designs, calligraphy played an important aesthetic role. For instance, a marble cenotaph dated to 1101 bears the name of a wealthy woman, “al-Qamar, daughter of al-A‘la,” written in decorative Kufic script. Within the remaining space, the stonemason carved the shahada to signify her faithfulness. Originating from either Egypt or Tunisia, the 63-inch-long cenotaph illustrates that Fatimid visual culture focused on the beauty of the Arabic script. Although “The World of the Fatimids” exhibition is now over, the ideas it conveyed can still be understood by taking a close look at the museum’s permanent collection. Through objects like the ivory horn, the exhibition argued that instead of being confined to Cairo and the empire’s borders, Fatimid artwork actually permeated all of the dynasty’s external contact networks with Africa, Europe and Asia. With ceramics and metalwork made by Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike, the exhibit also made the claim that the dynasty’s remarkable success was due to the rulers’ willingness to employ people of all faiths as craftsmen, commercial agents, high governmental officials and in other positions. The exhibition successfully presented a view of history that fits the contemporary Nizari Ismaili community’s values and the Aga Khan’s image. Just like their Fatimid Ismaili ancestors, the modern Nizari Ismaili community seeks to foster inter- and intrafaith dialogue and advocate for peace within the global Muslim community. The Aga Khan Museum is certainly worth a visit for anyone interested in experiencing the glory of Fatimid art without traveling overseas. Furthermore, the collection features masterpieces of Muslim artists’ endeavors from the first days of Islam and its subsequent spread throughout Spain, North Africa, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, India and even China. And it is this trove of cultural heritage that makes the museum a place of inspiration and learning for everyone. ih Kenneth Wahrenberger (University of Pittsburgh ’19) is pursuing a degree in religion and loves studying Islamic art in North American museums. Last summer he interned at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 41
What is Basic Income? Does Islam favor the concept of basic income? BY KATHERINE BULLOCK based on this model (Hugh D. Segal, A Basic Income Pilot Project for Ontario: A Discussion Paper [Toronto, 2016]; https://www.ontario. ca/page/ontario-basic-income-pilot). When a person’s income falls below a set amount (under Can$34,000 per year for a single adult or under Can$48,000 per year for a couple), they begin receiving money from the government. Despite certain similarities with the welfare model, there are two very significant differences: the lack of any attached work requirements and the eligibility of employed people. BI advocates argue that a NIT is better than welfare precisely because the welfare system both punishes employment advancement and is patronizing, policing, dehumanizing, embarrassing and degrading to recipients, for it represents a loss in their autonomy as human beings (Segal, pp. 15, 21).
WEALTH AND CHARITY Muslims pay zakat because they understand the Quranic directives about wealth and what to do with it. Wealth is not considered evil in and of itself, for people are encouraged to seek it through lawful asic Income (BI), also known as Guaranteed Annual means. In fact, honest work is considered a form of worship. Wealth Income, Unconditional Basic Income, Universal Basic Income, belongs to God and is entrusted to human beings as a blessing and Citizen’s Income, Social Dividend, Universal Grant, and a trial — in terms of how it is earned and spent. Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “No Demogrant, seeks to ensure people an income that meets their basic needs and their right to live a dignified life regardless doubt this wealth is sweet and green. Blessed is the wealth of a of their work status. Muslim, from which he gives to the poor, the orphans and needy In the face of the growing wealth gap, the shortcomings of the travelers” (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” vol. 2, book 24, hadith no. 544). welfare state, technological challenges to the labor force, the rise In other words, while wealth can be “sweet,” God rewards those of the precariat (i.e., an emerging class of people facing insecurity, who spend it in charity. So the problem for humanity is not wealth moving in and out of precarious work that gives little meaning to itself, but how to acquire and then use it properly. their lives) and the changing nature of work, this concept is gaining A central Quranic goal is to prohibit the circulation of wealth only traction. In 2016 the governments of Brazil, Finland, Kenya, the among the wealthy, for “And what Allah restored to His Messenger Netherlands, and Ontario (Canada) announced pilot projects to from the people of the towns — it is for Allah, the Messenger, study its implementation. [his] near relatives, orphans and the Muslims, who have been largely [stranded] traveler — so that it will not absent from these public policy be a perpetual distribution among the SUPPORTERS HAVE debates, should find a way to conrich from among you” (59:7). EXAMINED THIS OBJECTION tribute since they will be affected as This is why God repeatedly stresses much as anyone else. Indeed, because charitable giving. Muslims are taught VERY CAREFULLY AND, the Islamic view of life is “essentially that because wealth is a gift, a “loan” HAVING COSTED OUT THE spiritual and ethical,” Muslims have from God, the poor have a right to something special to offer, especially “some of God’s wealth, which He EXPENSES INVOLVED IN when it comes to issues of socioecohas given you” (24:33) and “Those IMPLEMENTING IT, ASSERT nomic justice. in whose wealth there is a recognized right for the beggar who asks and for THAT IT’S CHEAPER THAN the unlucky who has lost his wealth” THE NEGATIVE INCOME WHAT SOCIETY NOW PAYS (70:24). Moreover, charity benefits TAX MODEL The Negative Income Tax (NIT) giver as well as the recipient, for FOR THE CONSEQUENCES OF the model of BI is very similar to zakat, it both purifies one’s wealth (9:103) except that the government, as and enables one to avoid arrogance by POVERTY. opposed to the individual, makes the always remembering the true source of his/her wealth. payments. Ontario’s pilot project is
42 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
As current income inequalities continue to rise, it is obvious why this verse is such an important guide to follow. Income inequality leads to an economic imbalance — some people have far more than they need, which leads to luxurious and wasteful living, whereas others don’t have enough even to feed themselves. BI is a very good way of ensuring that wealth is more fairly and evenly distributed than any welfare system devised to date.
THE MAQASID AL-SHARIAH AND THE BASIC INCOME DEBATE Muslims can contribute positively to these BI and social justice public policy debates based on their belief in and experience of zakat, as well as the Quranic injunctions against socioeconomic injustice. The scholarly consensus is that the whole point of Islamic law is to attain justice in society, for justice is nearest to piety (5:8). Moreover, this has been a primary mission of God’s messengers, for “We sent our Messengers and revealed through them the Book and the balance so that justice may be established among humanity” (57:25). So, the law is to promote what is good and remove what is harmful to such a degree that Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (d. 1350), a jurist who lived in Damascus, observed that “any ruling that replaces justice with injustice, mercy with its opposite, common good with mischief, or wisdom with nonsense, doesn’t belong to the Sharia, even if it is claimed to be so according to some interpretations.” Abu Ishaq al-Shatibi (d. 1388), a Sunni scholar who resided in Granada, addressed these concepts through the idea of the maqasid al-shariah (the aims and purposes of Islamic law). He argued that law should address society at three levels: • Daruriyyat (necessary/necessities), things without which life cannot exist (i.e., state protection of religion, self, family, property and intellect). These include, among many others, food, shelter, clothes, education and health care. • Hajiyyat (needed/needs), those less essential items that remove various hardships and difficulties (e.g., marriage, trade and means of transport). • Tahsiniyyat (commendable), luxuries and items that beautify (e.g., perfume, stylish clothing and elegant homes). The idea that the state should ensure that all of its citizens’ needs are met at the most basic level of daruriyyat is in symmetry with the ideas behind Basic Income. Both Umar and Ali (radi Allahu ‘anhuma) provide some early examples in this regard: Umar would distribute what was left in the public treasury once a year; Ali would do so every Friday. Some people worry that BI isn’t affordable. Supporters have examined this objection very carefully and, having costed out the expenses involved in implementing it, assert that it’s cheaper than what society now pays for the consequences of poverty. Interested readers can look at the resources provided on the Basic Income Earth Network (founded 1968; http:// basicincome.org). The Prophet said, “Muslims share three things: water, pasture and fire” (“Sunan Ibn Majah,” vol. 3, book 16, hadith no. 2472). This suggests that all taxes levied on the businesses that harness these resources are to be fairly distributed to all of us through a Basic Income. A contemporary example of this is The Alaska Permanent Fund (https://apfc.org), which pays a small percentage of dividends from the state’s oil revenues to qualified Alaskan residents each year. ih Katherine Bullock, president of ISNA Canada, is director of research at the Tessellate Institute (http://tessellateinstitute.com), under which this research began with an International Institute of Islamic Thought grant to Dr. Abdulla Al Shami, a Tessellate Institute research fellow. She gratefully acknowledges Dr. Al Shami for his initial work on this topic (Working Paper: Islamic Perspectives on Basic Income, Aug. 2017) and Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq for his incisive comments on an early draft.
Recycling: A Goal or a Means? Is recycling the be-all and end-all to our current environmental challenges? BY SALEH MUBARAK
lthough recycling may seem like a modern concept introduced by the environmental movement of the 1970s, it’s actually been around for thousands of years. In the 1940s, goods such as nylon, rubber and many metals were rationed and recycled to help support the war effort. Recycling has two objectives: to reduce the amount of garbage piling up and to reuse those materials that would have added to it. According to environmental scientists, this activity comes within the context of the famous 3Rs motto: reduce (our level of consumption), reuse (whatever can be reused) and the recycle (whatever can’t be reused). Many people, however, have traditionally focused only on recycling, even though it is the third best option as well as the second worst option behind doing nothing. This particular option, however, is an expensive one. Most municipalities provide recycling bins, but have to hire people to sort out those items that can be recycled and then group them into smaller piles of plastic, paper, glass, metal and other items. Each item then has to be cleaned, cut or shredded, packaged in large pallets and shipped to manufacturers who may be located thousands of miles away. These manufacturers then turn these materials into useful products and ship them to the consumers’ locations. In those localities that have MERFs (material energy recovery ISLAMIC HORIZONS 43
FEATURE facilities) to separate the material, it is fine to mix the bins’ contents. Clearly, recycling isn’t as simple and cheap as it may seem at first glance. In many cases, it is actually cheaper to make these products from raw materials. Recycling has the advantage of reducing garbage and saving raw materials, but one needs to put it into the right context: reduce → reuse → recycle.
shirt, unless one really needs it, and then donate $10 and save the remaining $50. Or even better — just donate the entire $60. One should also realize that donated/ recycled clothes create challenges for many developing countries. For instance, the U.S. exports millions of dollars’ worth of essentially imported duty-free used clothing to East African countries. They, in return,
INDEED, ALTERING THE 3 RS MOTTO TO REDUCE, SIMPLIFY AND PRESERVE CREATES MORE RESOURCES SO THAT OTHER MEMBERS OF CREATION, AS WELL AS OUR OWN PROGENY, CAN SURVIVE AND ENJOY WHAT WE LEAVE THEM. ISLAM AND THE 3RS Recycling’s main negative side effect is when it becomes symbolic — one overuses and wastes various resources but has a clear conscience because engaging to at least some degree in this activity lets one believe that he or she is protecting the environment. But this is no more than tokenism, for it turns recycling into something like a painkiller by helping one forget the main issues: rationing resource use to what one really needs and avoiding excess. Some people think this is hard to do; however, gradually making it part of one’s lifestyle causes such an outlook to become normal, helps simplify and de-stress life in general, as well as make better use of one’s money. One begins to analyze one’s purchases — various food and household items, clothing and shoes, accessories and cars and everything else — and ask: “Do I actually need all of this?” and “Why did I buy this?” Donations may also become a “painkiller.” Those who buy and accumulate more than they need or can use may get rid of certain items by donating them. Take, for example, a Polo shirt that originally cost $60 and was worn a few times. The needy person who receives it would rather get $10 cash because he/she has different need priorities. Donating such a shirt limits the uses for the recipient, whereas donating money enables the recipient to meet a higher priority need. So it would make more sense to not buy the
export duty-free products to the U.S. But this availability of cheap clothing kills the local textile industry, affects farmers and even hurts small tailoring shops. In spring 2017, six East African countries jointly agreed to increase tariffs on imported used clothing from the U.S. with the eventual goal of placing an outright ban on such items by 2019. One argument may be that second-hand clothing is simply a proxy for a larger issue of economic dominance and influence. Of course the American exporters’ lobby is using its power to stop the barriers through sanctions. One example is Rwanda’s refusal to back down from this position, which is causing it to face U.S. trade sanctions (Andrew Figueiredo, McGill International Review, Nov. 2, 2017). Every citizen is ethically obliged to help create a sustainable environment so that we can leave the world in a state equal to or better than what we inherited from our parents. As a matter of fact, we actually need to leave things better because the world’s population is growing rapidly and fossil fuels, raw materials and other resources have already become limited. Some are even expected to run out at some time in the future. Renewable energy resources, which happen to be cleaner, need to be utilized more. The more research we do, the more the relevant technology advances and the more these resources become available to the consumer via more convenience and lower
44 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
prices. Some people reduce their garbage output by doing their own “recycling” by turning certain organic waste into compost, achieving two great objectives: reducing garbage and making organic soil conditioner. Muslims consider this duty important because we look at everything, even ourselves, as being “owned” by God, who entrusted all of creation to us. Thus Islam forbids hurting one’s self or others, killing animals and cutting down trees or vegetation without a legitimate reason(s) for doing so: “O children of Adam, take your adornment at every mosque and eat and drink, but do not be excessive. Indeed, He does not like those who commit excess” (7:31). Abdullah ibn Amr reported: “The Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), passed by a Companion [named] Sa‘d (radi Allahu ‘anh) while he was performing ablution. The Prophet asked, “What is this extravagance?” Sa‘d said, “Is there extravagance with water in ablution?” The Prophet replied, “Yes, even if you were on the banks of a flowing river” (“Sunan Ibn Majah,” hadith no. 425). Islam advocates actions that increase those resources that benefit creation. One hadith states: “There is no believer who plants a tree or sows a seed, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats thereof, but it is regarded as having given a charitable gift [for which there is great recompense]” (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” vol. 3, book 3, hadith no. 513). Another hadith prioritizes those actions that benefit other members of creation: “All members of creation are the dependents of God, and the most beloved one of them to God is the one who is most beneficial to other [members of] creation” (al-Bayhaqi, in “al-Shiab” as quoted from Ibn Mas‘ud [radi Allahu ‘anhu]). Islam strikes a positive balance between pacifists who abstain from killing any animal regardless or the situation or justification and those who kill for fun or for no good reason, as well as between those who deprive themselves of materialistic pleasures and those who indulge in such pleasures to the level of excess, waste and harm. Indeed, altering the 3Rs motto to reduce, simplify and preserve creates more resources so that other members of creation, as well as our own progeny, can survive and enjoy what we leave them. ih Saleh Mubarak, a former professor of civil and architectural engineering at Qatar University, has authored many technical and articles and is an active participant in interfaith and multicultural activities.
Who Created the Refugees? Market power and the Middle Eastern refugee crisis BY LUKE MATHEW PETERSON
he present international order of states and societies, along with their classifications (e.g., First, Second, and Third World; Global North and Global South), economies and polities is the result of a hierarchy deliberately imposed upon ever more subsets of humanity to the benefit of ever fewer economic elites. Known as the neoliberal economic order, this system replaced the internationalism established by the Bretton Woods Conference of 1944, a series of agreements between the managers of global capital and the polities they represented that established the international open market (Daniel Stedman Jones, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics, 2012). This process effectively killed what Henry Morgenthau (d.1967), the then-U.S. treasury secretary, called “economic nationalism” (i.e., trade) and labor (i.e., protectionism, the defining feature of the pre-Bretton Woods era). At the foundation of the new system was the International Monetary Fund (IMF), ostensibly the first official body designed to protect and regulate global flows of capital
and trade via economic and political cooperation between and among disparate states in the post-WWII world. However, it soon became the arbiter of a global economic hierarchy by distributing a crippling system of development loans and exorbitant interest repayments among the formerly colonized nation-states. When the countries couldn’t make the payments, the IMF, the World Bank and similar institutions imposed harsh economic austerity programs that turned them into perpetual debtor states. Nor did Bretton Woods even marginally curb warfare between states, civil unrest or political violence. Rather, the post-WWII era’s widespread poverty and economic disparity enflamed political tensions, leading to global conflicts that cost more than 100 million lives (Chris Hedges, “What Every Person Should Know About War”, New York Times, July 6, 2003). So ineffective was the promised peace of the international market system designed by Bretton Woods, so stratified and affected were the global populations that it purported to serve, that by the 1980s it had totally collapsed, leaving behind
a political and economic vacuum into which neoliberalism surged. The end of the Bretton Woods international monetary system [saw] two oil price shocks in 1973 and 1979, the Vietnam War, the Watergate break-in at the Democratic Party headquarters in Washington, D.C., at the behest of the senior figures of the Nixon administration and with the president’s complicity in its cover-up, Britain’s International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan of 1976, the virtual collapse of British industrial relations, and the failure of the prices and incomes policies that were supposed to fight inflation in both countries all created policy vacuum into which neoliberal ideas flowed. (Jones, Masters of the Universe, p. 215) Instead of correcting the former system’s elitism and international exploitation, however, neoliberalism and its attendant promises to protect market forces, indeed, to create price-based market systems in all areas of society, was actually a doubling-down of capitalist elitism and the total embrace of unrepentant marketism. This new reality became increasingly clear as neoliberalism began stripping away Bretton Woods’s halfhearted promises and widening the gulf of economic hierarchy the world over. Given that at its core neoliberalism tolerates only those social organizations that place profit margins above all other considerations, what else could it do? And the result is clear: the
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 45
FEATURE SO INEFFECTIVE WAS THE PROMISED PEACE OF THE INTERNATIONAL MARKET SYSTEM DESIGNED BY BRETTON WOODS, SO STRATIFIED AND AFFECTED WERE THE GLOBAL POPULATIONS THAT IT PURPORTED TO SERVE, THAT BY THE 1980S IT HAD TOTALLY COLLAPSED, LEAVING BEHIND A POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC VACUUM INTO WHICH NEOLIBERALISM SURGED. critical deepening of poverty, austerity and violence, as well as an equally critical shortfall of lasting solutions to any of these humanitarian calamities. One calamity that shows no signs of abating anytime soon is the Syrian Civil War, a tragedy that has turned into a seven-year-long proxy war thoroughly rending state and society. On one side is a brutal and recalcitrant despot, one of a long line from Reza Shah of Iran to Saddam Hussein of Iraq who has, at various times, reaped the benefits of western largesse despite designing and implementing horrific abuses against his own citizens. In this case, the despot in question, Bashar al-Assad is armed with chemical and biological vectors and various international allies of dubious repute. On the other side of this violent conflict is an impossibly complex collection of innumerable factional secular and religious resistance movements — many with records on and off the battlefield that are far from laudable — and various allies. Syria’s bloodletting has shattered the country, devastated the region and caused some 50 percent (11 million) of its inhabitants to flee mainly to regional neighbors and others as far afield as Europe, North America and the Pacific Rim. They flee the regime’s conventional military, which has no qualms about leveling civilian areas that it claims are sheltering its opponents. They also flee to escape the at least four widely documented occasions (though possibly as many as 50) on which the regime has turned its chemical arsenal against its own people (see “Could Britain have sold sarin chemicals to Assad’s regime?”, James Doward, The Guardian, April 8, 2017), thereby choking out militants, political opponents and civilians alike in a no-holds barred brawl designed to return to the pre-Arab Spring iron-fisted sociopolitical order (“U.S. Says Syria Has Used Chemical Weapons at Least 50 Times 46 ISLAMIC HORIZONS
During War”, New York Times, April 13, 2018). Disgusting as this tactic is, however, it should be noted that, as with previous Middle Eastern dictators, western powers played an important role in the Syrian regime’s ability to acquire those chemical weapons and has even sanctioned (or at least ignored) their use on civilian populations
in the past (e.g., the Anfal Massacre in Iraq from [1986-1989] that killed, at a minimum, 50,000 Iraqi Kurds) (James Doward, The Guardian, April 8, 2017). What becomes of those who flee for their lives is a veritable mixed bag. Some end up in temporary housing, the “tent cities” that now characterize the accommodations for many Syrian refugees and are emblematic of governments that are either unable or unwilling to provide anything more stable, healthy or welcoming. Some — on the whole, a much smaller number it must be said — are received with much fanfare in the Global North. These former colonial powers and exploiters of the pre-Bretton Woods era have benefitted the most from securitizing the flow of international capital, labor, resources and goods from the Global South to the Global North. In fact, they are far from shy about their ever-present willingness to ensure this
The Tired, The Poor Asylum-seekers endure many hardships while seeking acceptance BY TARA ZAAFRAN
NPRECEDENTED NUMBERS OF CENTRAL
American refugees began migrating to the U.S. when Congress passed, and President Jimmy Carter signed, the United States Refugee Act in 1980, a humanitarian law designed to increase eligibility for political asylum. And yet even then it met with extreme controversy. Ironically, the U.S. was militarily and financially supporting the governments that caused the need for such asylum. Honduras, Belize and El Salvador currently have the world’s highest homicide rates due to unstable governments and seemingly
all-powerful drug cartels. The widows of murdered husbands are fleeing abroad to save their children at great personal risk. In my capacity as an ISNA representative, I visited McAllen, Texas, as part of a delegation comprised of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, Maryam Islamic Center and the American Muslim Women’s Circle. The latter one included Amina Ishaq, benefits coordinator at An-Nisa Hope Center, Richmond, Texas, and Aisha Jalali, a Houston broadcast media professional. Sr. Norma Pimentel runs the Catholic
(L-R) Aisha Jalali (Houston, rep. Muslim Women's circle), Sr. Norma Pimentel (Catholic Humanitarian Respite Center, McAllen), Tara Zaafran (Houston rep. ISNA), and Amina Ishaq (Houston, rep. Maryam Islamic Center).
financial traffic at the point of a gun — many guns, if they deem that to be necessary. Above all, they can be characterized today as the “guardians of the neoliberal ideal” — those who help organize the international political system to ensure market operations, and those who intervene to extend the market’s presence even further afield. And, yes, there is a market in refugees. Throughout Europe, corporations have found it hugely profitable to prey upon these vulnerable and disoriented people by selling temporary shelters, providing surveillance equipment and constructing border barricades and turnstiles. For example, “ORS Service, a Swiss company running migrant reception centers, is doing well. Run by London-based private equity firm Equistone Partners Europe Ltd, it now operates in Germany and Austria and recorded $99 million in revenue last year. ORS Service has thrived on Europe’s inability
to cope with the refugee crisis” (“How private companies are exploiting the refugee crisis for profit, Antony Loewenstein”, The Independent, Oct. 23, 2015). European vulture capitalists, however, may pale in comparison to their American counterparts, who have long operated forprofit private prisons and detention centers, typically signing contracts with local constituencies that guarantee a minimum occupancy once the facility opens its doors (https://capitalandmain.com/americas-saying-no-to-prison-inc-1030). Even the manufacturing of crisis is sufficient to induce large-scale investment with American private prison firms and attendant agencies posting huge profits since the current policy of separating refugee children from their parents fleeing political violence in Central America was implemented (“Defense Contractors Cashing In On Immigrant Kids’
THIS RESPITE CENTER IS TRULY A REFUGE, AND THOSE WHO PASS THROUGH IT RECEIVE CLOTHING, SHOES, A SHOWER AND A WARM MEAL. Charities Humanitarian Respite Center, which receives as many as 200 refugees every day. We saw two busloads of refugees arrive from the Ursula Detention Center. Wearing ankle bracelets, carrying brown folders and not knowing what would happen next, they walked through the doors wearing torn clothing, shoes without laces, wild hair, unwashed bodies and hungry. They were greeted with smiles and hugs by volunteers. When Natahlye, a volunteer, was asked, “How can you smile like this after seeing what you see every day?” holding back her tears she replied, “These people haven’t seen a smiling face in months, so it’s the least I can do.” This reminded me of “Your smile for your brother is charity” (al-Tirmidhi, hadith no. 1879). That day, I truly understood what the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) meant and how to smile from the heart. The children were restless and crying. We couldn’t help but notice that the center has only one restroom each for men and women. Sr. Norma said that the ones here are the “lucky ones.” Those claiming asylum are processed through the overcrowded detention center and then wait for a judge to decide their fate. Their shoelaces are removed for fear that they might commit suicide. After their release, they are on their own. Sr. Norma helps them contact their relatives and
arranges bus fares. Those without relatives are sent to facilities on the East Coast. This respite center is truly a refuge, and those who pass through it receive clothing, shoes, a shower and a warm meal. Ash Tayler, a volunteer and a medical student from Dallas, mentioned that fevers, colds, bronchitis and head lice are common among the arrivals, for they receive no proper medical care and medication during their weeks of detention. She fears that more serious illnesses and viruses can spread rapidly for that very reason. The respite center’s one-room clinic has only a limited supply of over-the-counter medications to treat the symptoms. Getting the prescription drugs needed for more severe infections is difficult. One of the center’s biggest challenges is finding steady rotational physicians. Our team exchanged information to help the clinic obtain the needed supplies. After seeing and hearing all of this, Amina Ishaq and her family spent the July 4th weekend there and helped raise money via GoFundMe Campaign. Aisha Jalali started a drive to collect essential items through the American Muslim Woman’s Circle. She, her family and other volunteers delivered them to the McAllen center during the first weekend in August. ih Tara Zaafran, M. Ed., is co-chair ISNA Founder’s Committee.
Detention,” Betsy Woodruff and Spencer Ackerman, Daily Beast, 6.14.18), because while the political strife they are fleeing is very real, the crisis of their impact upon American society is pure political bluster, and nothing more (“The Economic Case for Immigration,” Antony Davies and James R. Harrigan, U.S. News, Feb.. 6, 2018). Refugees fleeing political catastrophe and/ or civil tragedy are well aware that the international hierarchical system has failed them in virtually every respect. That they flee to those areas where its manipulation of capital has benefitted political elites and sustained even a fragile social order is utterly predictable. Likewise, that they now require services and sustenance is not in question. What may well be questioned, however, is how those services are delivered and the extent to which market motives, in lockstep with the international neoliberal order, are applied to make a profit on even basic humanitarian services. Like the U.S., the Right has also risen — and is rising — in European countries and putting up strong barriers against migrants. However, in keeping with the long-ingrained colonial mindset, instead of looking inwards to examine their role in creating the refugee crisis, the blame is placed on the victims. For instance, the French president Emmanuel Macron told the BBC on July 4 during a visit to Nigeria, that the EU plans to create migrant processing centers in North Africa will not work unless the process is led by those countries. He said that Europe would be dealing with migration from Africa for decades due to “the fundamental problem of unplanned population growth in Africa.” So only if there were fewer people in the poor countries, the western countries would have been free of migrants. Undoubtedly, not-for-profit and purely humanitarian missions should be given pride of place in providing life-saving relief in the affected areas. And if, upon reading the above you are perplexed as to how this type of basic humanitarian relief might be rendered outside the ever-expanding neoliberal system, then my point as to the ubiquity of neoliberal ideology has effectively already been made. ih Luke Mathew Peterson (Ph.D., Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge) is a professor of Arabic, history and politics in Pittsburgh. His book “Palestine-Israel in the Print News Media: Contending Discourses” (London and New York: Routledge, 2015) is available on Amazon, and his piece “Palestine-Israel and the Neoliberal Ideal” was released in the Fall 2017 volume of The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS 47
Creating an Ecosystem of Faiths for Earth’s Future Shared work on the land brings people together BY ROBERT KARP
or three days in April, Greenhorns and the Agrarian Trust convened FaithLands (https://agrariantrust.org/ faithlands/), a gathering of faith leaders and sustainable agriculture leaders, at the beautiful and holistically managed Paicines Ranch in Paicines, Calif., to explore placing the faith communities’ land holdings at the service of the sustainable agriculture movement and rookie farmers in particular. For many attendees, however, something far deeper and more far-reaching occurred. To understand what they felt, one should examine how the biodynamic farming movement understands the farm ecosystem or organism. In short, a farm’s diverse elements — woodlands, wetlands, cropland, pastures, orchards, farm animals and wildlife, etc. — can be woven together biologically into a higher synthesis via wise management. Each element must be managed as a whole unto itself, but each one can also contribute to a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, namely, the farm ecosystem. At that stage, remarkable expressions of health and vitality emerge there and in its
produce, for the farm becomes a vessel for something working at a higher level than biology. In biodynamic terms, the farm’s biological organism can become a vessel for a spiritual being to work in a new way, a being who can bless the entire surrounding landscape. Imagine this concept applied to interfaith and ecumenical dialogue. Imagine people belonging to various faith communities gathering to share how they love and care for the land, farmers and their own communities. Imagine a Muslim farmer sharing how his love for the land called him away from an academic career to partner with the New Jersey Muslim community to create an organic farm and educational center inspired by Islam’s socio-environmental values. Imagine a Dominican sister relating how her traditional religious vows were transformed into a new healing chrism for Earth, inspiring her community and many others to open their lands to small farmers and local land trusts on behalf of a bioregional vision of the future. Imagine a Jewish farming movement leader speaking about how his work on a community-supported agriculture farm
48 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
helps reconnect young Jews to Judaism’s roots and to lived Judaism’s deeper socio-environmental dimension. Imagine a Milwaukee Lutheran church leader discussing how her community garden, located on land connected to the Underground Railroad, has become a sanctuary for the African American community, where the arts of growing, preparing and sharing food have been restored to their cultural and sacred dignity. Imagine a United Church of Christ pastor explaining his calling to create a new church rooted in the land and culture of rural communities as well in the Bible’s radical agrarian values — a church founded on the wonder and reverence for God’s working in creation. Imagine all that went on during this three-day period of creating a social vessel filled with devout open-mindedness, reverent curiosity and sacramental solidarity with one another and with Earth. Imagine an ecosystem of faiths beginning to form, one woven from our good will and inspiring us to use our diverse talents, gifts and lands to serve Earth’s future. Doing so will perhaps help you feel the same wonderful sense of community that we experienced. Many of us feel that a new ecological and agrarian spirituality is emerging, one that embraces and transcends faith communities’ beliefs and practices, can serve as a new source of unity among those who love Earth and shines toward us from all of creation as well as from work, food and fellowship. All of
Shared Work on the Land Brings People Together
ISHAM MOHARRAM, A CHARISMATIC ▶ Promoting healthy eating and better and multifaceted person, is a man of deep nutritional habits, making organic food affordfaith. The Egypt-born plant biologist, who able to low income individuals and communities; has a a long list of academic accomplishments, is ▶ Providing healthier alternative personal also an organic farmer, activist and entrepreneur care products, natural cleaning products and who wants to help people better understand functional foods; and care for the land, the poor and the ▶ Uplifting the homeless and/or unemployable by providing free food and income disenfranchised. “Faith groups have had a tendency to keep opportunities in the value-added food economy the spiritual and the material life separate. But through a business incubator program; and when you look at all the prophets and their sto▶ Bringing all kinds of people together to ries in the Quran, you can see that God wants care for the poor and needy, help the disadhumanity to live their spiritual ideals here on vantaged and empower the downtrodden and disenfranchised. Earth, to carry out their faith with their hands,” says Hisham. Thus, in 2007 he left his academic Currently, Hisham is inviting his region’s career to found Good Tree Farm of New Egypt faith communities to become co-owners of (www.goodtreefarm.com) in central New Jersey the farm (http://thegoodtreeinc.squarespace. Dr. Hisham Moharram com), particularly those located in inner cities to practically embody Islam’s deep socio-ecological values, which he feels often escape the popular media’s attention. who have historically been dispossessed of land ownership. For a “From an Islamic standpoint, human beings have a responsibility, very modest contribution, these new co-owners can get access to like no other species, to ensure the balance of life, whether in our land and greenhouse space to grow food, a safe and beautiful setdealings with other races and ethnicities or in our relationship with ting for worship and recreational activities, along with opportunities the poor or with other species and with the soil itself. Good Tree Farm to build bridges with people who share their socio-environmental thus has a mission to demonstrate to people of faith, and especially values and concerns. Muslims, how to live the values that their faith enjoins them to live.” “It’s so gratifying to see how shared work on the land brings people Good Tree Farm’s goals extend far beyond the production of good of different faiths together and opens them to new perspectives and food. At present, they include: experiences. This is what Good Tree Farm is all about,” says Hisham. ih
IMAGINE AN ECOSYSTEM OF FAITHS BEGINNING TO FORM, ONE WOVEN FROM OUR GOOD WILL AND INSPIRING US TO USE OUR DIVERSE TALENTS, GIFTS AND LANDS TO SERVE EARTH’S FUTURE. this inspires us to unite spirit with matter in practical work on the land, work that blesses and is blessed by the holy, unifying embrace of the web of life. In its womb, we sometimes felt our seeming differences dissolve like so many materials in a compost pile. But the image of the farm organism is ultimately the better analogy, for our differences were not so much dissolved as they were connected with a higher source of unity that gave each participant a new sense of purpose and responsibility within a larger and previously non-experienced ecosystem. This gathering’s essential ingredient was that people attended as representatives of Earth herself — farmers and conservation biologists, agroforesters and environmental lawyers, staff of land trusts and farm organizations — and not of faith communities. Their presence enabled us to stay grounded in the urgent needs of young farmers, the loss of species and the plight of the glyphosate-poisoned soil. This gathering likely happened only
because of the leaders’ sense of urgency. And thanks to them, we departed with our souls full of the new wine of an emerging ecosystem of faiths and with a host of new tasks and commitments, such as: ■ Identifying faith community-held lands that could be suitable for sustainable agriculture and beginning to talk with those in charge about their land’s future; ■ Exploring the feasibility of a national land trust for holding and managing these lands, managed by faith leaders and sustainable agriculture leaders; ■ Creating coaches to support farmers negotiating leases with faith communities; ■ Organizing FaithLands gatherings across the country; ■ Articulating the shared values, theological principles and insights that inform and inspire this work; ■ Identifying the many other needed voices; and ■ Forming a group to steward this ecosystem and the work flowing from it.
We arrived as representatives of diverse communities and interests, but left as members of one community, a new ecosystem of people, faiths and organizations devoted to Earth’s future. While Greenhorns, Agrarian Trust, Plainsong Farm and Ministry, Land for Good, and Presbyterian Hunger Program were on the planning team, other organizations were represented: ISNA, Honoré Farm and Mill, The Jesus Center, Religious Lands Conservation Project, Biodynamic Association, The Abundant Table, Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, Black Church Food Security Network, Quivira Coalition, Savanna Institute, Sustainable Economies Law Center, The Conservation Fund, Hazon, Green the Church, Vandersall Collective, Life Around the Table, Saint James Episcopal Church, Alice’s Garden Urban Farm, Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative, F.A.R.M.SAgricultural Law, Urban Vegetable Project, Santa Cruz Farm, Dubuque Catholic Worker House, The Good Tree Inc., The Keep & Till, and Stony Point Center. ih Robert Karp (www.robertkarp.net), former executive director and current strategic advisor to the Biodynamic Association, is the former executive director of Practical Farmers of Iowa and founder of New Spirit Farmland Partnerships and the Monarch Farms Project, which helps farmers gain long-term access to land via partnerships with social impact investors.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 49
Pegging the Tent Putting the first MSA headquarters in its stride BY DR. OSMAN AHMED Students from International Muslim House in Ann Arbor, Mich. visiting Dr. Osman Ahmed (second from left) in the MSA Headquarters in Gary, Ind.
n 1956, Egypt launched its Egyptian Atomic Energy Commission (EAEC) and thus became the first Muslim country to initiate a nuclear program. In March 1958, five engineers including myself, as well as three scientists, were sent to the Soviet Union to learn how to build research nuclear reactors. On our return, we built the first reactor in Cairo. At the end of 1959, I was selected to participate in the Atoms for Peace Program at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (UM) — a program initiated by President Eisenhower.
MY ISLAMIC JOURNEY IN THE USA FROM 1960 TO 1973 Although I was raised like an average Muslim, at UM I learned how to serve as an Islamic worker. Of UM’s more than 2,000 Muslim students, only 30 to 40 attended the Friday prayer. The khutbah was delivered by a few MSA members, among whom were four al-Azhar graduates. When my fourth brother Sheikh Hussein Saleh Ahmed, an al-Azhar graduate, died in Saudi Arabia while working as a teacher a few weeks before my scheduled departure,
I followed the Egyptian tradition of beginning to grow my beard to mourn a dear family member’s death. My MSA colleagues, assuming that I was following the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) sunnah, asked me to deliver the khutbah and lead the prayer a few weeks later. Dr. Mohammed Ghali advised me to consult the library’s extensive collection of Islamic and Arabic books. My studies of that collection and Ghali’s mentoring transformed me into one of the regular Friday imams. In the fall of 1960 I was elected UM MSA president. After receiving my MS and spending three months training at Argonne National Lab, I returned to Egypt to serve as the head of the new research reactor’s electrical department. In 1963 I was again selected to participate in the Atoms for Peace Program to work on my doctorate in nuclear power reactor fuel cycles at UM. I reached Ann Arbor in June 12, 1963, and in the fall I was elected campus MSA president. To become a doctoral candidate, I had to pass a qualifying exam. I promised God that if I passed the exam the first time, I would devote a good portion of my time to Islamic
50 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
work. Thanks to God, I passed and became a PhD candidate in October 1964. During the spring break of 1966, I met Dr. Ahmad Sakr (d. 2015), co-founder of the MSA of the USA and Canada (now National MSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana, where I was attending an American Nuclear Society meeting. Impressed with my enthusiasm and commitment, he asked me to lead the Friday prayer. Later, he asked me to organize the 4th annual National MSA convention at Ann Arbor. The UM main campus was not available during the Labor Day weekend; however, the UM housing department offered the School of Education’s training camp at Hell, Mich. The site had very good accommodations in terms of cabins, a central meeting hall and a dining hall with a commercial kitchen. The university helped me obtain whatever supplies we needed (e.g., linens, woolen blankets, pillows, pillowcases and towels) from its outside suppliers at a very reasonable price. Supplying food, especially halal meat, was no problem because Ann Arbor is only about 40 miles from Dearborn, which contains one of the country’s largest Muslim communities. As a result of this success, I was elected National MSA external secretary and charged with working with Muslim communities nationally. I concentrated on serving Muslim communities, especially MSA affiliates in the Midwest and on the East Coast, and began organizing youth summer camps in several states (e.g., Illinois, Ohio and New York) in cooperation with several dedicated and active MSA members there. Sakr, as well as several executive committee members, lived in the Chicago area. A couple of times, its meetings were held there and its members either drove or came by Greyhound bus. In 1967-68, I was responsible for all of MSA’s printing and mailing operations, negotiating the use of UM services to produce the MSA Newsletter (predecessor to Islamic Horizons) and the Al-Ittihad journal, as well as the mailing service and managing the printing and distribution of Eid cards with Dr. Omer Alfarooq Afandi. This made Ann Arbor the temporary HQ of National MSA. Hassan Mustafa, who was sent from Columbus to help me, used to say, “the National MSA HQ was in the trunk of Br. Osman Ahmed’s car.” In 1968 I volunteered as MSA vice-president to replace Dr. Ilyas By-Younus (d. 2007), who replaced Younes Mokhtarzada, the 5th president, who resigned after sustaining severe
person I considered a real Islamic champion — Imam Warith-ud-deen Mohammed (d. 2008), who succeeded his father Elijah Muhammad and brought many Nation of Islam members into the fold of Sunni Islam. He joined the National MSA, attended its regional conferences and sent his children to the regional MSA summer camps. He often visited the HQ to get Islamic books and supplies on a consignment basis to sell them to his followers.
FOUNDING A TRUST
TO BECOME A DOCTORAL CANDIDATE, I HAD TO PASS A QUALIFYING EXAM. I PROMISED GOD THAT IF I PASSED THE EXAM THE FIRST TIME, I WOULD DEVOTE A GOOD PORTION OF MY TIME TO ISLAMIC WORK. THANKS TO GOD, I PASSED AND BECAME A PHD CANDIDATE IN OCTOBER 1964. injuries in a car accident. Before the convention, I had volunteered to start the first permanent National MSA HQ in Masjid Al-Amin in Gary, Ind., since for more than six months no one had shown any interest due to the area’s bad publicity. First, the city’s Muslim community, due to its critical financial problems, donated the mosque to MSA for $1. Second, some business rivals assassinated the community’s leader at the mosque’s entrance. Despite these negative factors, I made the long 220-mile-one-way trek between Ann Arbor and Gary every weekend to start establishing the permanent HQ. Additionally, the Gary mosque had defaulted on a $20,000 mortgage, which the MSA budget could not afford. An appeal for funds solved this problem in a few weeks. Once again, UM’s central stores helped us furnish it with surplus office furniture and equipment at the same price offered to UM’s academic departments, for the local MSA was considered a university department. I hooked a trailer to my car, and then later I used the car owned by the National MSA HQ to transport these items to Gary. Finding workers was a serious problem, for not even temporary helpers wanted to be there. This problem became more manageable when we convinced Samir Hassan to move from Toronto, Abdul Quddus was sent from Columbus as a permanent employee
and Ahmad Totonji, upon becoming secretary general, the International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations, opened an office in Masjid Al-Amin and my banker brother Ali Saleh came from Egypt after I assured him that I would complete my doctoral studies. On weekends, several volunteers from Chicago would come to help for a few hours. Shafie Balbale (d. 1992) and his wife Nishat (d. 2005) would sometimes accompany me from Detroit. Among the many other helpers were Khalid Zaman and his future wife Gilan, Hamdy Badar and his wife Camelia, Abdul Samad Patel, Asmatullah Qadri and Mir Hamid-ud-din. They all rendered invaluable assistance, especially during the executive committee meetings. One of the proposed activities was to introduce zabiha halal hot dogs. We managed to get them produced, but the venture was ultimately unsuccessful and I ended up buying most of the supply on a weekly basis. A screened-off section was created at the far end of mosque hall for the use of anyone staying overnight, since the budget couldn’t afford hotel accommodations even for the executive members. We used the blankets and pillows inherited from the 4th annual convention until 1975, when the HQ moved to Indianapolis. One of the regular customers of the Islamic Book Service (IBS) in Gary was a
In 1969 I organized the 7th annual MSA convention at Alma, Mich., on the campus of Alma College. The college provided everything except the halal meat, which was ordered from Dearborn. I was subsequently elected the 7th National MSA president. During my term, after MSA’s printer refused to print the Newsletter because it contained a photo of al-Quds (Jerusalem), MSA acquired a small printing press in Maryland under the supervision of an engineer named Mohammad Fazil Khan. It printed both the MSA Newsletter and the Al-Ittihad journal, in addition to other commercial jobs. The press became a financial asset to MSA and then to the original North American Islamic Trust (NAIT). Abdul Mateen Chida (d. 2013) — also an engineer — took over and expanded and upgraded the press by moving to a larger building. Fakhri Al-Barzinji assisted him. Actually, Chida and M. Abdur Rasheed, who had started IBS in Minneapolis, moved it to Gary, where it became another asset to the National MSA. It was later moved to a Cincinnati mosque, the International Muslim House (IMH) in Ann Arbor and finally to Indianapolis. These initial assets encouraged Sakr to establish NAIT, a sister organization under the National MSA set up to protect such assets. It was run by five trustees: Sakr, Dr. Moin Siddiqui, Ahmad Totonji, Chida and myself. In 1972, the IMH was added after it became an additional asset, and then the Muslim House in Madison, which was a byproduct of the IMH. ih (NOTE: Excerpted and condensed by the author from his “My Islamic Journey in the USA from 1960 to 1973.” To receive an electronic copy, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.) Dr. Osman Ahmed, ex-officio president of the Islamic Society of Essex County and professor emeritus of engineering, is among the pioneers of the Muslim Students Association of the U.S. and Canada (now MSA National).
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 51
Islamic Perspectives on End-of-Life Organ Donations Becoming an organ donor requires heart and thought
BY ROMY SHARIEFF
ndrew Luna, 34, a hard-working, respected scientist honored by the Virginia General Assembly, was a devoted son and friend who lived his values. On Dec. 16, 2017, he became an organ, eye and tissue donor. His generosity and compassion raised my curiosity about Islam’s perspective on organ donation. Given that it’s a contemporary issue, the question of permissibility remains controversial. According to Donate Life organizations, approximately 20 people die each day while waiting for a transplant. One donor can save up to 8 lives and enrich the lives of 75 more through organ, tissue, eye and bone transplantation. However, for Muslims there are some limitations.
THE PERMISSIBILITY OF DONATING LIFE End-of-life donations involve a donor who is kept alive by artificial means after suffering a severe brain injury or an irreversible heart/ respiratory system dysfunction. According to the Islamic Fiqh Council (1988), four of the eight criteria that make organ donation permissible are: • The donation may not severely diminish the donor’s quality of life. For example, it may be permissible to donate one kidney since the person could continue to live a normal life. Donating both corneas, on the other hand, may be considered impermissible because it would deprive the donor of
Andrew Thomas Luna
a basic function if he/she continued to live. Verse 2:195 is used to support this criteria. • The donation must not end the donor’s life. For example, donating one’s heart would be impermissible. Verse 4:29 is used to support this criteria. • The donation is voluntary. The individual must consent either by registering as a donor or having an advanced medical directive. Alternatively, heirs may also provide consent. • The donor or heirs can’t be compensated. This seeks to minimize the incentive for an organ market and exploiting people in vulnerable situations. However, critics point out that hospitals and transplant surgeons do receive financial benefits.
GATHERING INFORMATION Opposing viewpoints can be confusing, especially when both cite similar verses or hadith. However, both sides have the intention of protecting and preserving the sanctity of the donor’s life.
52 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
Q. What verses support organ donation? A. Verse 5:32, which equates the saving of one life with the saving all of humanity, is frequently referenced to encourage the practice. The many verses on charity, one of Islam’s five pillars, also bolster the argument for organ donation. Q. Which principles support the decision to become an organ donor? A. Three principles sometimes cited include maslaha (the public interest), istihsan (seeking that which is good or better) and sadaqa jariyya (ongoing charity). By saving or increasing the recipient’s quality of life, it benefits society. If the recipient can contribute more effectively to society, then the transplant serves the public interest. Istihsan is an Islamic jurisprudence concept that may be applied at a personal level. There are many hadiths to support this, including “Whosoever removes a worldly grief from a believer, God will remove from him one of the griefs of the Day of Judgment” (al-Nawawi, hadith no. 36). The following hadith is also sometimes quoted: “And whoever fulfilled the needs of his brother, God will fulfill his needs” (al-Bukhari, vo. 9, book 85, hadith no. 83). Finally, as long as the organ continues to function in the recipient’s body, it may be considered sadaqa jariyya.
ARGUMENTS AGAINST ORGAN DONATION Both sides share common ground by agreeing that regenerative donations such as blood
WE OFTEN GROW THE MOST SPIRITUALLY IN THOSE PLACES THAT ARE THE MOST UNCOMFORTABLE. OUR TRUE PURPOSE IN LIFE IS TO PLEASE GOD, AND FIGURING OUT HOW TO MANIFEST THIS IN A MEANINGFUL WAY IS THE JOURNEY.
or bone marrow are acceptable and unlimited donation is not acceptable. Arguments against organ donation include: • Fatwas on contemporary issues such as this one are based on interpreting the Quran and Sunnah and therefore are subject to human fallibility. However, we look to scholars to make reasonable and knowledgeable assessments. • The medical ambiguity of determining when death occurs. The Council of Islamic Jurisprudence accepts both brain or cardiac death to determine end-of-life. If Islamic guidelines state that the donation may neither end nor severely diminish the donor’s quality of life, then this argument may be irrelevant. • The procedures used to harvest organs are invasive and can potentially violate the dignity of the human body. Presumably, following Islamic guidelines may preserve the body's sanctity. • Incomplete disclosure. For example, websites that support organ donation state that all major religions support organ donation. Although true, Islam places some restrictions to protect the donor. Therefore, one must fully understand these limitations to comply with Islamic requirements. • A recipient may continue to live using other medical treatments or may experience complications (e.g., rejection or the side effects of immunosuppression medications). However, do the many benefits outweigh possible complication(s)? For example, Andrew’s mother lived for 11 years after her transplant, passing away a few months before him, and the woman who received one of his kidneys shared that she now has enough energy for her grandchildren, something that other treatments didn’t give her. • Verse 5:32 is also used to argue against unlimited organ donation.
HEALTH If the Fiqh Council’s guidelines are adhered to, then it may address this argument since a donation wouldn’t end the donor’s life.
PERSONAL QUESTIONS Q. If I become an organ donor, will I be able to have a ghusl for burial? A. Ghusl should be possible if Islamic principles are followed. Q. If I register as an organ donor, how can I be sure that Islamic principles will be followed? A. If you decide to become an organ donor, select the option to specify your wishes rather than the unlimited consent. Alternatively, you may choose to place instructions in an advanced medical directive or discuss your wishes with your family.
THE LUNA CHALLENGE I was raised with various beliefs about organ donation, which I revisited after Andrew’s death. To paraphrase 2:256, there is no compulsion in religion. Therefore, becoming an organ donor guided by fiqh is a personal choice and must resonate with your heart. The hadith narrated in Bukhari and Muslim that “actions are by intentions” (al-Nawawi, hadith no. 1) is a common principle across many spiritual practices. However, reflecting upon this particular intention can bring us face to face with our own mortality. We often grow the most spiritually in those places that are the most uncomfortable. Our true purpose in life is to please God, and figuring out how to manifest this in a meaningful way is the journey. The decision may be the same, but perhaps the process of seeking knowledge will lead to a deeper connection with faith. My friend died. His name was Andrew Luna and he was an organ, eye and tissue donor. I’m taking the Luna Challenge (http://www.facebook.com/AndrewLunaChallenge) to reach 35 people in 35 days to show how he inspired me to rethink organ donation in the context of Islamic principles. I hope you will too. ih Romy Sharieff, who served as an ambassador for Midwives for Haiti, is the founding contributor of the Bryan J. Westfield Scholarship, holds a MS in engineering and worked for the UNHCR.
54 ISLAMIC HORIZONS
Why Suicide Happens “Having it all,” a phrase often applied to others, may have nothing to do with their actual reality BY AFSHANA HAQUE
he recent suicides of the popular fashion designer Kate Spade and CNN presenter Anthony Bourdain have raised numerous questions in the minds and hearts of many. When reflecting upon the lives of the extremely rich and famous, it would seem that they have it all … at least much of what we desire in this world. So why would any of them feel so hopeless that they would kill themselves? As an outsider, one might wonder why the rich and famous would be so unhappy at least in this world? Depression, mental illness and hopelessness, however, do not discriminate by demographics. A wealthy or an impoverished person, a person known by all or by none, a religious person or an atheist — all are susceptible to these conditions. Also, people who live in such levels of despair are not necessarily struggling with mental illness. In the same vein, having a mental illness does not necessarily imply that one is more susceptible to suicide. There are identifiable risk factors that increase the chances of person taking this path, and there is no guarantee that any of us are immune to them.
Although the suicide of high-powered celebrities typically makes headlines, far more suicides go unnoticed. In January 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that every year nearly 800,000 people commit suicide and even more attempt it. The WHO Mental Health Gap Action Program, launched in 2008, provides evidence-based technical guidance to scale up service provision and care for mental, neurological and substance use disorders. This program, along with the WHO Mental Health Action Plan 2013–2020, has prioritized overcoming suicide by working toward reducing the global suicide rate by 10 percent within the next two years. Suicide rates in the U.S. have skyrocketed. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “suicide rates in the United States have risen nearly 30% since 1999, and mental health conditions are [only] one of several factors contributing to suicide” (Vital Signs: Trends in State Suicide Rates — United States, 1999-2016 and Circumstances Contributing to Suicide — 27 States, 2015, 67(22);617-624, 2018). Moreover, the CDC classifies suicide as
a major public health issue that accounted for nearly 45,000 deaths in 2016 alone. It is difficult for people to understand suicide unless they have been on the brink or have attempted to commit suicide themselves. What is suicide? Helpguide.org defines suicide as “a desperate attempt to escape suffering that has become unbearable. Blinded by feelings of self-loathing, hopelessness, and isolation, a suicidal person can’t see any way of finding relief except through death. But despite their desire for the pain to stop, most suicidal people are deeply conflicted about ending their own lives. They wish there was an alternative to suicide, but they just can’t see one.” According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Help Guide, several factors increase the risk of suicide, as shown below.
who is willing to listen. When people are drowning in their own pain and on the verge of ending their life, the last thing they need is to be shamed, questioned or judged. Because only God knows the contents of people’s minds and hearts, only He has the capacity to judge, and thus there is little benefit in trying to determine their fate in the afterlife. Rather, we should discuss what we can do as a community to promote suicide prevention and protect others from a similar demise. The Muslim American community is composed of highly educated professionals from various fields; however, we need to do more work in terms of understanding emotional, psychological or relational health. Saving face and avoiding the appearance of weakness are often prioritized over seeking help. But just as we learn to care for our physical bodies, we
Table 1: Suicide Risk Factors (https://afsp.org/about-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs) Health Factors
Mental Health Conditions: Depression; Substance use problems; Bipolar disorder; Schizophrenia; Personality traits of aggression, mood changes, and poor relationships; Conduct disorder; Anxiety disorders
Access to lethal means, including firearms and drugs
Previous suicide attempts
Serious physical health conditions, including chronic pain, terminal illness, physical disability (for the elderly)
Prolonged stress, such as harassment, hostile school or social environment, bullying, relationship problems, unemployment
Family history of suicide
Traumatic brain injury
Stressful life events like rejection, divorce, financial crisis, other life transitions, loss, retirement, loss of independence, loss of sense of purpose
Childhood abuse, neglect or trauma
ISNA Monthly Sustainer – A Good Deed Done Regularly!
Exposure to another person’s suicide or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide
You can make an impact with as little as
Increased isolation or loneliness
All of us have been touched by one or more of these risk factors. But we also know that Allah and His Messenger (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) have proclaimed: “And do not kill yourselves. Surely, God is Most Merciful to you” (4:29) and “And do not throw yourselves in destruction” (2:195). The Prophet is quoted as saying: “Whoever kills himself [herself] with something in this world will be punished with it on the Day of Resurrection” (al-Bukhari, hadith no. 5442; Muslim, hadith no. 109). Nevertheless, experts have noted that the difference between a person following through on a suicide plan versus giving life one more chance can be another person
are a suffering person’s worst enemies, so as a community we need to learn how to “be there” for each other. Many Islamic tenets help us remain connected to each other. Islam builds community by starting from shoulder-to-shoulder and foot-to-foot to mandating us to greet even those we don’t know. Praying in congregation five times a day has benefits beyond amplifying our reward for prayer. The simple act of touching releases a bonding hormone, which is protective not only against mental health disorders but against even cardiovascular diseases (G. B. Stefano et al., “Anticipatory Stress Response.” Med Sci Monit. 2008;14(2):RA17-21). Research on Roseto, Penn., whose inhabitants maintained a cohesive community, illustrates how social interconnection and supportiveness not only decreases stress but increases mortality rates and reduces myocardial infarction (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/ articles/PMC1695733). Imagine if, as a community, we revive the sunnah of connection not only by praying in congregation, but also by competing with each other to visit the sick, feed the poor and take care of each other in ways practiced by the Prophet and his Companions. If we do, there certainly would be no room for toxic loneliness or isolation. In fact, Harvard Health Letter’s July 2017 “Can relationships boost longevity and well-being?” indicates
must also learn to care for our mental health. Acquiring and implementing coping skills, working through trauma and discovering our inner strengths are essential to dealing with life’s inevitable pains. The more equipped we are in these arenas, the better we can reduce the need for extreme measures. Often times attempted suicide can be a cry for help, because at that moment a person sees no other alternative. Nevertheless, a person contemplating suicide doesn’t necessarily want to be “fixed” (dissuaded or talked out of it) or given answers. A listening and empathic ear can be far more healing; moreover, the sheer act of caring and just being there can save a life. Loneliness and isolation
$10 per month!
www.isna.net • (317) 839-8157
Convenient. Secure. Affordable.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 55
HEALTH that such activities drastically reduce depression, brain function decline, heart disease and many other diseases. The best place to start implementing our religious tenets and establishing connections is in our own home. How connected are we to our spouse, children, siblings or parents? If we can fortify these relationships, how much better will we be prepared to connect with our neighbors and our larger community? As a practicing mental health professional, I have learned that improving our primary relationships can also prevent
WHEN SOMEONE IS DROWNING IN THEIR OWN PAIN AND ON THE VERGE OF ENDING THEIR LIFE, THE LAST THING THEY NEED IS TO BE SHAMED, QUESTIONED OR JUDGED.
and/or improve mental and physical disorders — not to mention the importance of taking care of our relationship with God, the Most Loving, the Protector. We aren’t just physical, psychological or spiritual beings. We are all of these: mind, body and soul. Thus, taking care of only one or two aspects will not protect us from physical or psychological/mental diseases. We must address all aspects of our selves simultaneously, for only then can we start to heal from pain and distress, and only then can we be fully protected from thoughts of taking our lives. A great deal of literature exists on the topics I have addressed above. To get started, please consult https://www.health.harvard.edu/mental-health, https://psychcentral.com/news, http:// www.ox.ac.uk/news and https://www.ncbi.nlm. nih.gov. If you or someone needs help right now, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741. ih Afshana Haque, PhD, LMFT-S, is an assistant professor of marriage and family therapy at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, Texas. Along with her teaching and research, she provides therapy in her private practice, Muslim Family Support (http://muslimfamilysupport.webs.com), and is a contributing author for Stones to Bridges’ “Dear Fatima” column and Muslim Matters’ “What’s the matter?” forum. She also conducts parenting and other relational and mental health workshops for various groups and organizations.
56 ISLAMIC HORIZONS
The world we live in is constantly evolving and ISNA is committed to being a positive driver of change. ISNA has long recognized the importance of engaging with other faith communities as a fundamental part of its mission, and therefore, we continuously host and participate in interfaith events, meetings and webinars to educate our friends, partners, officials and activists about Islam. These interreligious initiatives have helped break down barriers of misunderstanding, formed genuine partnerships of faith and ethics, and established a platform to advocate for social justice issues for the common good. We aim to work together to fight Islamophobia and share knowledge about the true teachings and understanding of our religion in all sectors. The gift of education has a ripple effect—it creates change locally, nationally and globally. Ignorance is our enemy, and with your support we can make a difference. Please donate to ISNA today.
P.O. Box 808 • Plainfield, IN 46168 • (317) 839-8157 www.isna.net •
Creator of HPV and Rotavirus Vaccines
Thought Leader in Islamic Economy
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY, WOODROW WILSON SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
Dr. Adel Mahmoud
Dr. Adel Mahmoud, who joined the Princeton faculty after leaving Merck, taught a class at the university’s Lewis Thomas Lab in 2008.
(Source: The New York Times)
(Source: SalaamGateway.com 2018)
r. Adel Mahmoud, an infectious-disease expert who played a vital role in the development of lifesaving vaccines, died on June 11. A former president of Merck Vaccines (1998-2006), Mahmoud oversaw the creation and marketing of several vaccines that brought about major advances in public health. One of them prevents rotavirus infection, a potentially fatal cause of diarrhea in babies, and another one protects against human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cancers of the cervix, anus, genitals and the middle of the throat. He also helped usher in a combination vaccine against measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox, and one to prevent shingles. Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, an executive vice president at Merck & Co. and former head of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the New York Times that these vaccines were contentious subjects and might never have reached the market without his persistence for, despite opposition, he recognized their potential to save lives. On May 19, 2018, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general, World Health Organization, called HPV vaccines “truly wonderful inventions.” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stated: “He [Mahmoud] clearly had a knack for understanding the big picture. He was a 40,000-foot kind of guy, who could understand areas of science, research, policy and clinical medicine well beyond his own specific designated area of expertise.” Mahmoud, who studied medicine at the University of Cairo (’63), moved to Britain in 1968 and earned a doctorate from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 1971. Two years later he was a postdoctoral fellow at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He later led the university’s Division of Geographic Medicine and was chairman of its Department of Medicine (1987-98). Merck recruited Mahmoud in 1998. After he retired from the company in 2006, he became a professor at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and Princeton University’s Department of Molecular Biology. After the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, he began advocating the creation of a global vaccine-development fund. In addition to his wife Dr. Sally Hodder, also an infectious-disease specialist, he is survived by his stepson Jay Thornton, his sister Dr. Olfat Abdelfattah and his brother Dr. Mahmoud Abdelfattah. ih
bdalhamid Evans, a guiding light and thought leader in Islamic economy, died in London on June 3. Born David Evans in New York to British parents and primarily raised in the U.K., he embraced Islam in 1978 and was given the name Abdalhamid. In 2003, he and his wife Salma’s strong desire to work in the halal sector caused them to spend seven years in Malaysia, the center of Southeast Asia’s growing halal movement. From there, they traveled globally to publicize what was going on in the halal sector. After attending a large Islamic finance conference in Dubai during 2004, Abdalhamid adopted the long-term goal of bringing the two industries together. At the following year’s International Islamic Finance Forum, also held in Dubai, he presented his “Halal food and Islamic Finance: Natural Allies” — a very new concept at that time, and then helped launch the pioneer halal conference, World Halal Forum 2006, in Kuala Lumpur. After leaving Malaysia, the couple traveled the globe representing their company, Imarat Consultants (http://imaratconsultants.com), as halal consultants and maintaining their http://halalfocus.net to keep the community up-to-date with the progress being made in formulating regulations for the halal sector. They cultivated relationships with governments, manufacturers, primary level producers, media experts and industry giants and also offered guidance for halal business development based on their market intelligence. In addition, Abdalhamid promoted the vision of pastoral purity and tied it to the essence of the modern Islamic lifestyle and tech-advanced halal ecosphere through his writings and presentations at numerous international venues and newly launched Muslim lifestyle shows in the UK; co-founded the American Halal Association and suggested a standards and accreditation model analogous to what was implemented in Australia and New Zealand; and was the halal consultant for the first Global Islamic Economy Summit (Dubai, 2013), where his recommendation for third-party auditing of halal become a reality in terms of developing accreditation bodies in both the UAE and Malaysia. Today, they are making significant strides in regulating halal certification to help bring transparency to the halal ecosystem. Hailed as “a creative [person], a scholar, and a visionary who shared his outlook for a healthier, more ethical and dignified life for all through his writings and eloquent speech,” he is survived by his wife, four children and 11 grandchildren. ih
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 57
NEW RELEASES Islam, Securitization, and US Foreign Policy Erdoan A. Shipoli 2018. Pp. xv, 327. HB. $89.99 Palgrave Macmillan, New York, N.Y. hipoli argues that Islam has been securitized in U.S. foreign policy, especially during the George W. Bush administration, and is being increasingly portrayed as the ultimate “other.” This new approach is the result of associating Islam with unique security threats in both foreign policy and national security speeches. By analyzing the discourses of four recent American presidents’ [Clinton, GW Bush, Obama, and Trump] discourses on Islam, Shipoli shows how they viewed it and discusses how we talk about Islam, its place and relationship within the context of US security, how the language we use to describe it influences the way we imagine it as well as how Islam is constructed as a security issue.
Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream Ibtihaj Muhammad 2018. Pp. 288. HB. $27.00 Hachette Books, New York, N.Y. his is the inspiring story of how Ibtihaj Muhammad, the only African American hijabi in town, at school and on the playing fields rose above it all with grace and compassion to Olympic greatness — the first American hijabi to medal. She provides an unflinching and honest portrayal of how she managed to stay true to herself and still play by the rules. This coming-of-age story, a hero’s journey, is a moving memoir from one of the nation’s most influential athletes. The book also comes in a young readers’ (ages 8-12) edition.
FEAST: Food of the Islamic World Anissa Helou 2018. Pp. 544. HB. $45.00 Ecco, New York, N.Y. n her ninth cookbook, art consultant and prolific cookbook author Helou traces a line from Islam’s advent to the glories of the Mughal dynasty (1526-1857). In her latest book, this award-winning chef and cooking teacher includes more than 300 recipes that span the Islamic world from Xinjiang to Zanzibar, especially from the great culinary traditions of the Abbasids, the Ottomans and the Mughals. Her first cookbook, “Lebanese Cuisine,” grew out of her realization that an entire generation of Lebanese uprooted by civil war had lost access to their homeland’s food. “Feast: Food of the Islamic World” was named a most anticipated cookbook of Spring 2018 by Bon Appetit, Epicurious, Tasting Table, Esquire, Globe & Mail and Publishers Weekly.
58 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
Muslim Educators in American Communities Charles L. Glenn, ed. 2018. Pp. 266. PB. $45.99, HB $85.99 Information Age Publishing, Inc., Charlotte, N.C. iven the ongoing denigration of Islam and Muslims as the flavor of the times, Islamic schools have faced more than their share of unfounded ostracism. This compilation offers readers an objective view into how these faith-based secondary schools are run and nurture citizens capable of and committed to being positive influences within mainstream American society. In an age of Islamophobia inspired by detractors who sow the seeds of unfounded apprehension and fear about Islamic schools — a growing genre in the U.S. — this book will be welcomed by those who want to learn the facts and cast-off unfounded assumptions.
The Power of Education Jeremy Henzell-Thomas 2018. Pp. 36. PB. $5.95 International Institute of Islamic Thought, Washington, DC nowledge is Power,” a statement commonly attributed to the eminent English philosopher and scientist Francis Bacon (d. 1626), still highlights the importance of knowledge today. Education forms the basis of our knowledge and its development from our earliest experiences at school all the way through higher education. The author goes back to first principles and asks what education is and what do individuals and society need from it? Reconnecting education with humanity’s “heart and soul” and finding the latter’s great purpose is paramount.
Chess and Other Games Pieces from Islamic Lands Deborah Freeman Fahid 2018. Pp. 240 (300+ illus.). HB. $75.00 Thames & Hudson, New York, N.Y. ahid shares the treasures of the al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait — game pieces dating from the seventh to the 19th century. These tiny objects not only mark the evolution of familiar games into their modern forms, but also evoke the imperial palaces, military camps and herders’ tents in which they were played. Among the items shown are such invaluable pieces as the group of rock-crystal chess pieces kept in a monastery church in northern Spain for more than 800 years.
My Story as a Muslim Immigrant in America: Psychiatry, Social Activism, and Service Basheer Ahmed 2017. Pp. 226. PB. $15.99 Lioncrest Publishing, Austin, Texas he author has enjoyed a long career as a psychiatrist, professor, medical director, public speaker and author on mental health issues and Islamic culture. His story, which spans decades, continents, cultures, and languages, testifies to the interconnectedness of all people. Ahmed shares his biography in the hope that future generations may find fertile soil, value education as well as spirituality and grow up in a world characterized by love and acceptance. ih
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 59
FOOD FOR THE SPIRIT
Connections and Schemas of the Human Mind Ritualizing the Quran seriously hinders our ability to understand its message BY SYED IMTIAZ AHMAD
ultures throughout history have speculated about the nature of the brain, mind, heart and soul. The question is how does the brain become a mind through mental processes? In the realm of psychology, the term psyche appeared in Greek philosophy as early as the sixth century bce. Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions characterize the human mind as possessing a temperament with opposing spirits that either accept or reject the truth of what God has revealed. Al-Razi (d. 925) and Ibn Sina (d. 1037) developed a philosophy of the body-mind relationship: If the nafs (psyche, spirit) becomes ill, the body may also find no joy in life and eventually become ill itself. Contemporary psychology holds that the brain consists of microscopic cells (neurons) and that the countless connections among them form a network. The accompanying sub-networks (schemas) provide a framework for mental processes. But how does this framework, which gives each human being his or her distinct behavioral characteristics, develop and evolve? The story begins when a child is in a mother’s womb. This is the start of an innate temperament (ruh) unique to each child, one that can be viewed as the child’s initial identity (soul). Within this context is the concept of tabula rasa (blank state) — that
the human mind comes without innate ideas because ideas, which emerge from the combination of experiences and sensations, are formed only after the mental processes have taken place. A child’s temperament develops while in its mother’s womb and, after birth, initially through hearing and then moving on to seeing, smelling, tasting, and touching; it develops within the context of the innate temperament and evolving mental framework. Michael Gazzaniga, author of “Who is In Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain” (Ecco, 2011), points out how our behavior develops based on how we use our free will, given our innate temperament. Free will allows us to make facultative intentional or unintentional choices in response to the situations we encounter. It all depends on what we see as the purpose or the meaning of life. “Do not just take what life gives you; think about the life you want to live” (Gazzaniga, “Who is In Charge? 2011). Sensations and experience combine to form ideas, a mental framework. The favored ideas stay in the consciousness, whereas the dissimilar ideas resist one another and become conflicted. Psychologist B. F. Skinner (d. 1990) said, “Behavior is shaped by positive and negative reinforcements.” The secular world offers no hopeful message as regards the human mind. Religions
60 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018
contain a varying amount of guidance on personal accountability. We must behave responsibly by asking how our actions may affect ourselves and others. Our behavior depends on how we nurture ourselves — or allow ourselves to be nurtured — by our environment. Islam classifies the human spirit (nafs) as commanding or impulsive (nafs ammara), self-reproaching (nafs lawwama) and reassured (nafs mutma’inna). The first one urges us to satisfy whatever desire may come to mind, the second one tells us to recognize and correct wrongful behavior, and the third one potentiates the right choices and inhibits the wrong choices based on our mind’s schema of belief as to what pleases ourselves and others. Given this, how can we develop a positive mental framework and positive emotions, avoid low self-esteem and achieve stressfree satisfaction? Psychology offers rehearsal, which it defines as engaging in mental repetition and practice to produce the desired behavior. This procedure, which requires presenting moral values through stories to facilitate understanding and practicing values, is also the Quranic approach. Its readers cannot help but notice its emphasis on continuous remembrance of those concepts and practices for mental development that best potentiate our innate temperament, reflecting again and again on what our surrounding environment presents to us and developing behavior that is consistent with our innate faculties. According to studies in human psychology, all of these are achievable goals. As noted above, our brain is comprised of billions of neurons and connections that form a network with sub-networks of schemas based on the mental processes that occur as a result of sensory inputs and experiences. Each cell can receive input from
external senses and stored experiences, recall and process stored information, produce outputs that affect external senses and send signals to other cells that form a cooperating mechanism. Neurons enable memory, emotion and abstract thought, as well as basic reflexes. A neuron’s ability to process and propagate depends upon its structure and ability to generate electrical and chemical signals. While different neurons may have different shapes, all neurons have the same signaling abilities. These neural networks’ amazing malleability allows the mind to adapt to changes in the environment (i.e., neural plasticity). A neuron is a dynamic entity that can acquire new or modified behavior via appropriate training (i.e., rehearsal). Neurons and existing connections enable us to adapt, which naturally has important implications. Individual experiences rearrange and reorganize connections, thereby leading to the formation of a unique self. As one grows, sensations give way to a cognitive take where objects, people and events acquire a personalized meaning. The brain reorganizes itself by forming new neural connections and schemas throughout one’s life in response to changes in the environment, environmental stimuli, thoughts and feelings.
faculties, particularly as regards the need for us to pay attention to what we hear and see so that our mental processes can reinforce that which agrees with our mental framework and inhibit that which does not. This is called learning. The value of knowledge comes from learning that which leads to the desired practices. The Quran presents the same message again and again in varying contexts for this very purpose. It is also a source of healing, for we often end up hurting ourselves by doing something wrong and only realizing it later on. Thus,
THE QURAN: GUIDANCE IN TOTALITY
we should constantly ask ourselves whether we would have said or done certain things if we had had the time to think them through before doing them. This is how one’s mind matures, and such reflection is an integral feature of neuroplasticity. The act of being contrite leads to a mental process of healing, develops one’s ability to engage in such an action and relieves stresses that could lead to mental or physical ailments. Moreover, it strengthens our ability to recover and resist undesired prompts. The Quran cultivates us so that we can gradually learn how to distinguish right from wrong by affirming the truthfulness of what we hear and see. As we may fail to figure these things out correctly, we must find a way to authenticate them so that our mental processes don’t produce flawed learning. It also emphasizes engaging in good deeds so that our mental processes will lead to goodness within. Our value does not come from what we think of ourselves, but from how others value us. So why aren’t contemporary Muslims benefiting from this guidance? A simple answer is that for the last few centuries we
The guidance for developing behavior that accords with our faculties, as well as benefits our self and society, is available in many scriptures, expositions on religion and writings on human psychology. In his groundbreaking “Ethico-Religious Concepts in the Qur’án” (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002), Toshihiko Izutsu highlighted the Quran’s ethico-religious concepts. We present some of them here. In addition to urging us to acquire knowledge, the Quran points out that ignorance of one’s faculties and their associated capabilities is the main reason for wrongful behavior and stresses rehearsing relevant knowledge via the mental processes that shape our behavior. Composed of verses whose words flow into each other in a way designed to form meaningful patterns, a form of rhymed prose that facilitates learning, the Quran calls upon its readers to recite them neither too loudly (impairs mental processes) nor too quietly (may fail to trigger the relevant mental processes). These verses provide guidance on the proper use of human
have ritualized Islam to such an extent that we believe in, but no longer understand, rituals in terms of human development. We say that God is sovereign above all else, but our words and actions may not be in accord. We often neglect the mental processes needed to understand and learn what the Quran is actually telling us. We are in ‘aajilah, as the Quran says, moving with what the environment brings toward us without taking the time to pause and reflect on what it all means. A ritual consists of saying words or per-
IN ADDITION TO URGING US TO ACQUIRE KNOWLEDGE, THE QURAN POINTS OUT THAT IGNORANCE OF ONE’S FACULTIES AND THEIR ATTACHED CAPABILITIES IS THE MAIN REASON FOR WRONGFUL BEHAVIOR AND STRESSES REHEARSING RELEVANT KNOWLEDGE VIA THE MENTAL PROCESSES THAT SHAPE OUR BEHAVIOR. forming actions according to a prescribed order; however, its substance lies in engaging the mind with their meaning(s). An extreme form of ritualization loses that substance. Consider the five daily prayers. The key words used therein recognize that God is entirely merciful in sending guidance to shape our life, seeking God’s help in the time of our need, committing to act on His guidance and seeking His assurance that our actions will always be rightly guided. If we ignore the meaning of these words — an intentional mental rehearsal for shaping our behavior — and fail to appreciate the accompanying actions’ value, how can these rituals help the mental processes shape the desired behavior? ih Dr. Syed Imtiaz Ahmad, emeritus professor at Eastern Michigan University, is Chair of Operations Management (Governing) Board at the Jahangirabad Institute Technology, India. He has served as ISNA vice president and president of ISNA; ISNA Canada vice president and president; president, Computer Science Association of Canada; president, Association of Pakistani Scientists and Engineers, USA; president, Pakistan Canada Association, as well as president, Windsor Islamic Association, and chair of ISNA Canada School Board.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2018 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 61
The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 â€¢ Plainfield, IN 46168-0038
NON PROFIT ORG. US POSTAGE PAID PERMIT #15 KENT, OH