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MEHR: RECONSIDERING THE ISLAMIC BASIS | MILWAUKEE – A PLACE FOR MUSLIMS IN THE HEART OF AMERICA
Reimagine and Rebuild with Renewed Resolve ISNA 58th Annual Convention Sept. 4-5, 2021
ISLAMIC HORIZONS | VOL. 50 NO. 5 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021 | VISIT ISNA ONLINE AT: WWW.ISNA.NET
8 Reimagine and Rebuild with Renewed Resolve 11 Working Together for Climate and Environmental Justice
46 Not all Representation is Good Representation
18 Justice and Charity: Zakat Work in Canada
48 Mehr: Reconsidering the Islamic Basis 50 Mehr: A Wife’s Indelible Right 51 M ehr: A Most Solemn Pledge
20 Demystifying Critical Race Theory 24 Milwaukee – a Place for Muslims 25 In the Shadow of 9/11 30 A Memphis Response to the Covid Challenge
The Virtual Reality
Our Children and Their Identities
53 Virtual Umma Reloaded
55 Muslim Avengers Tackle Maligned Muslim Media Portrayals
32 The American Mosque 2020: Growing and Evolving
57 The True Kyrie Irving Legacy
Muslims Living As Minorities
59 Husain Nagamia 60 Tarek Raskhan Alkadri 61 Shah Abdul Hannan
34 The Turks and the Chinese 36 Beijing’s Genocidal anti-Uyghur Campaign The Genocide of Uyghurs and 38 the Silence of Muslim-Majority Countries
Making A Difference
40 For Those in Need of Critical Health Support 42 How to Help Muslim Prisoners
44 Saving Indonesia’s Critically Endangered Orangutans
Islam in America
28 S howing the World Who Muslim Women Really Are
6 Editorial 13 Community Matters 62 New Releases
DESIGN & LAYOUT BY: Gamal Abdelaziz 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.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 5
Criminalize Islamophobia Now
he June 6 act of Islamophobic terrorism in the Canadian city of London hit the heart — and deeply. Madiha Salman, a social issues writer so very near her academic goal of obtaining a doctoral degree in geoenvironmental engineering (granted posthumously), was deliberately crushed to death with a truck. Dying alongside her were her husband, teenage daughter and mother-in-law. Her 9-year-old son, who was conscious and saw their lives snuffed out, was left with multiple injuries and never-fading emotional scars. Madiha was your editor’s (much younger) cousin. In keeping with their “all politics is local” attitude, politicians from Trudeau downwards issued the usual condemnations. But politics is not local and hate never confines itself to color-coded pills, for whether the powerful largely ignore or sometimes bless anti-Muslim campaigns, Muslims worldwide are affected. And then there are those politicians and others who deliberately fan it and then condemn it for appearances’ sake. Canada has long been on the list of racebased atrocities, Chapel Hill (N.C.), New Zealand, the U.K., France, the U.S., India, Myanmar and China. Will this list ever have an end? It’s time to demand that these people not only reject, but also honestly cleanse their souls of Islamophobia. Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan is leading a campaign to criminalize Islamophobia. In February, he stated, “The West conveniently associated Islam with terrorism, but in the last 20 years Muslim countries unfortunately did not respond to this narrative. Muslim leaders should have stood up to the West and made it clear that there is no link between Islam or any other religion with terrorism.” He continues efforts to mobilize a united Muslim front to convince the UN and the EU to criminalize Islamophobia. Reacting to this latest outrage, he said, “This condemnable act of terrorism reveals the growing Islamophobia in Western countries. Islamophobia needs to be countered holistically by the international community.” In September 2019, Khan, Turkish president Recep Erdogan and (now
former) Malaysian prime minister Mahatir Mohamad decided to jointly launch an English-language television channel dedicated to confronting Islamophobia and removing misperceptions about Islam and Muslims. With Mahathir’s departure, one waits in vain for any resource-rich Muslim ruler to stop his various antics long enough to sign on to it. It is also time for North America’s Muslims to reassess their priorities. Instead of being satisfied with the very low rate of return on interfaith efforts, maybe we should become proactive and share at least the basics of Islam with our neighbors and communities. God willing, an informed people will be less prone to falling victim to the vile machinations that enabled the horrific murder of Madiha and her family. This year, the ISNA annual convention is being held under the theme “Reimagine and Rebuild with Renewed Resolve”, Sept. 4-5. Once again, due to Covid-related issues, it will be conducted virtually. Continuing with its tradition, ISNA has prepared a rich fare to be presented by eminent speakers and leaders. Being virtual, participants will be joining a global community to share learning and inspiration. We have invited Prof. Sandra Whitehead (J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication, Marquette University, Wis.) to share the rich heritage being built by Milwaukee’s Muslims. This report is part of Islamic Horizon’s effort to document the journey of North America’s Muslim communities. As she was preparing it, another landmark occurred: Milwaukee won the NBA trophy! And after almost 50 years, the legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar returned to the city where he had spent his first six years in the faith and had led his team to their first-ever national championship in 1971. While we were preparing this issue, ISNA and Muslim Americans lost Husain Nagamia — a dedicated member of the ISNA Founders Club — a surgeon who cut deep into the hearts and souls with his magnanimity and caring, and Tarek Raskhan Alkadri, 51, who spread care and support that knew no boundaries. May God be pleased with them all. ih
6 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021
PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRESIDENT Safaa Zarzour EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Basharat Saleem EDITOR Omer Bin Abdullah EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Iqbal Unus, Chair: M. Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Saba Ali ISLAMIC HORIZONS is a bimonthly publication of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Copyright @2020 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, Questia.com 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 https://isna.net/SubscribeToIH.html https://isna.net/islamic-horizons/ For inquiries: email@example.com ADVERTISING For rates contact Islamic Horizons at (703) 742‑8108, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, www.isna.net 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
REIMAGINE AND REBUILD WITH RENEWED RESOLVE ISNA’s 58th Convention offers a complete roadmap for personal growth BY RASHEED RABBI
he rising vaccination figures, loosened restrictions and increasing in-person social activities are enabling us to return to our pre-coronavirus life. Sadly, so are such preexisting social viruses as mass shootings, irregular government attempts to maximize vaccination in terms of distribution or prioritization, and inequality among people of color and/ or social class. Visions of re-globalization were shattered by Israeli terror attacks on the sacred heart of Palestine, killing hundreds of innocent civilians, including 70+ children. Thus, our return is overtly labeled as “dubious back to normal” (https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/23/ us/back-to-normal-us-mass-shootingsanalysis/index.html). This leaves us with an inevitable moral choice: Do we want to return to that pre-pandemic complacency, or move forward with a post-pandemic competency to resolve those systemic social pitfalls? The 58th Annual ISNA Convention seeks to help us answer this question by presenting a realistic roadmap to attain this goal. The key strategy here includes deep reflection on the many lessons revealed by the tiny microbes’ ability to force our mighty society to its knees. By repurposing this pandemic as a period of reckoning, from individual to global affairs, this convention intends to stir up our adaptive awareness so that we can re-envision a new post-pandemic life, one that is free of all social evils. This reimagination intuitively stems from pondering our approach to conquering this global virus that cares nothing for man-made territorial boundaries, philosophical and traditional differences or globalized economies. The only medicine to defeat this microbial onslaught was global solidarity, despite our physical isolation from each other. Similarly, each social problem is equivalent to an infectious coronavirus, which
A virtual Convention planning meeting
continuously deepens its contagious impact and must be fought collectively even when we are not impacted directly. We cannot selfishly pursue individual convenience and happiness,
8 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021
but need to care for the community, society, country, outer world and even future generations, all of which are inseparable parts of legitimizing humanity’s living legacy.
Such pandemic reflections dismiss the despair of uncertainty, which sometimes enters our lives, to provide us with better opportunities. The Quran confirms this metaphorically, “and it is He Who sends down the rain after they have despaired, and spreads His Mercy. He is the Protector, the Praiseworthy” (42:28). Thus, the subtle insights provided by the pandemic correlate with core Islamic teachings to reclaim and rebuild our spiritual legacy, which God entrusted to us during our worldly journey.
also be provided. The CPC has designed an event that ranges from individual integrity to community involvement to global peace resolution. A few highlights are: ➤ A Disguised Lesson in Tribulation for Individual Development. Faith and personal piety are deeply intertwined when it comes to navigating human difficulties and, based on their severity, religious education and sociopolitical awareness need to be incorporated. The convention focuses on
BY REPURPOSING THIS PANDEMIC AS A PERIOD OF RECKONING, FROM INDIVIDUAL TO GLOBAL AFFAIRS, THIS CONVENTION INTENDS TO STIR UP OUR ADAPTIVE AWARENESS SO THAT WE CAN RE-ENVISION A NEW POST-PANDEMIC LIFE, ONE THAT IS FREE OF ALL SOCIAL EVILS. This year’s convention takes a fresh look at current issues through an Islamic lens to help participants imagine their social and spiritual, as well as external and social, lives in more meaningful terms. As we are leaving the pandemic behind, such a reorientation will renew individuals’ commitments to resume their roles as vicegerents appointed by God to oppose injustice, inequality, mass shootings, international conflicts and other realities that prevent global peace. Including all these issues in a twoday convention is intended to ignite our integrated vision, to reimagine our world and to outline a roadmap for rebuilding it with renewed commitment. Keeping these thoughts in mind, it aptly coins the term “4R”: Reimagine and Rebuild with Renewed Resolve.
ZOOMING INTO CONVENTION DETAILS
The dedicated seven-member Convention Program Committee (CPC) has been refining the theme’s ideas and scopes, as well as outlining the six plenary sessions, 18 parallel sessions and an introductory session. In between these sessions will be a few special events, among them the Community Service Recognition program with an award presentation, a children’s program, a chaplaincy program, an interfaith panel and a panel on global crises. Entertainment will
balancing the depth of faith and breadth of continuous education to overcome personal incompleteness and social challenges in a post-Covid world. ➤ Empowering Community and Society with Extended Solidarity. Individual faith attains maturity through community empowerment, which sustains a strong sense of solidarity. Proper reflection on the pandemic leverages the core Islamic wisdom of extracting the instrumental, intrinsic and transformative aspects of advancing the highest degree of solidarity for everyone’s benefit. ➤ Rene wed C ommitment to Promoting Global Harmony. Our allies aren’t eternal, and our enemies aren’t perpetual; rather, only our interests are eternal and perpetual. The pandemic taught us to promote our shared interests, and the convention plans to address some of them, such as climate change, nuclear weapons, growing geopolitical tensions, new forms and patterns of violence and divided interests with growing worldwide unrest. ➤ Islamophobia, Injustice and Human Rights. The frightening growth of Islamophobia both here and abroad is deeply connected to systemic injustice, which explicitly and implicitly violates human rights. A detailed and intellectual analysis of endemic social and structural
biases will be presented to remind us of our core morals. ➤ The Environment. Protecting the environment and God’s creation is an ethical, moral and spiritual commitment for all of us. Several sessions on climate change, environment-friendly mosques and raising environmental awareness are outlined, along with a presentation of the latest mosque survey report. ➤ A Comprehensive Vision for Holistic Transformation. As each individual action has larger consequences, our sociopolitical participation must be purified by profound spiritual and psychological self-awareness and rooted in divine truth, wisdom and compassion. As we plan to retain our post-Covid life, we must be able to infer the lasting impact of individual action for a comprehensive transformation. This year’s theme is the result of an ISNAconducted nationwide survey among its members and followers. Although it was short-lived and gathered limited responses, these topics resonate closely with the same concerns that the UN shortlisted for its 75th anniversary report (https://www.un.org/en/ un75/finalreport). Thus, the convention’s theme and main discussion sessions are very timely and appropriate. Although some hybrid online–offline conferences will be held this year, ISNA decided to host its annual convention on a virtual platform to rule out any health risks. Besides, a virtual convention eliminates all time and space constraints so that all participants can use their unfettered imaginations. No registered participants will have to compete to attend any sessions or regret any missed ones, because all of them will be available online. The CPC has selected top authors, orators, community leaders, Islamic scholars, nonprofit experts, representatives from medical professions and leading experts on the pandemic. All of the behind-the-scenes work that has gone into organizing and presenting this event had one goal in mind: to let each participant take home a personalized roadmap, renewed in his or her faith in order to rebuild the post-pandemic world. ih Rasheed Rabbi, an IT professional who earned an MA in religious studies (2016) from Hartford Seminary and is pursuing a Doctor of Ministry from Boston University, is also founder of e-Dawah (www. edawah.net) and secretary of the Association of Muslim Scientists, Engineers & Technology Professionals. He serves as a khateeb and Friday prayer leader at the ADAMS Center and a certified Muslim chaplain at iNova Fairfax, iNovaLoudoun and Virginia’s Alexandria and Loudoun Adult Detention Centers.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 9
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Working Together for Climate and Environmental Justice ISNA reaches out across communities to work toward positive change BY ISNA GREEN INITIATIVE TEAM
ur society has been tried and tested by not one, but many converging crises, among them perpetual racial inequality, public health care disparities, economic recession and the ongoing climate crisis. The cumulative impacts of environmental injustice remain troubling. Low-wealth communities and communities of color bear the brunt of these compounded crises. To create a fairer and more equitable future, we need to center environmental justice-based solutions and invest in those communities where legacy pollution has impacted the health of so many for far too long. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice) defines environmental justice (EJ) as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of
race, color, national origin or income, with respect to developing, implementing and enforcing environmental laws, regulations and policies. This goal will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process. Only then will humanity at large have a healthy environment in which to live, learn and work. However, this definition also needs to include the terms “faith/religion” as well as “pray/worship” to ensure that faith communities are included and have equal access to the above-mentioned processes. The EJ movement views “environment” as the places where we live, work, play, pray and go to school. Its motto — “We speak for ourselves” — challenges environmental and all forms of structural racism. As a minority
faith group, we experience Islamophobia, discrimination and structural racism. Given this reality, we also must ensure that our voices are heard. Thirty years ago, this movement was launched at the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, held on Oct. 24-27, 1991, in Washington D.C. Nearly 1,000 people, primarily people of color, attended. The outcomes included construing environmental justice as a national movement and articulating the 17 principles that have functioned as guidelines for organizing local communities and as a core document for this growing grassroots movement (www.ejnet.org/ej/principles.pdf). One of these principles states that “Environmental Justice demands the right to participate as equal partners at every level of decision-making, including needs assessment, planning, implementation, enforcement and evaluation.” We celebrate the establishment of the first-ever White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council earlier this year and the commitment to make EJ part of every federal agency’s mission. This historic moment is the culmination of decades of work and sacrifice by EJ activists and allies. The Biden administration’s Justice40 Initiative (www.whitehouse.gov/?s=Justice40+Initiative+) proposes that 40% of the
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 11
ISNA MATTERS overall benefits from federal investments — those related to clean energy and energy efficiency; clean transit; affordable and sustainable housing; training and workforce development; remediation and reduction of legacy pollution; and development of critical clean water infrastructure — will go to those communities that have traditionally been overburdened by pollution. A transformative and accountable process must be formulated for the fair and just
(25:63). In modern eco-understanding terminology, live a low impact lifestyle to reduce your carbon footprint. The life of Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), sent as “Rahmaten lil alameen” (a mercy to the universe’s inhabitants), was rooted in a life of compassionate simplicity that reflected the ethics of restraint and conservation. As the UN Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP26; Nov. 1-12, 2021) approaches, the reality of the climate crisis
ISLAM REQUIRES NOTHING LESS. THESE COMMITMENTS ARE WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS AND WHAT ISLAM’S TEACHING AND OUR FAITHS REQUIRE. WE WILL SEND A CLEAR MESSAGE TO GOVERNMENTS AND MAJOR FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS: DESTROYING THE PLANET IS AGAINST ISLAM. distribution of 40% or more of the benefits to be invested in frontline and EJ communities. Also, Justice40 must ensure that 100% of the investments do no harm to people of color, frontline overburdened, underserved, disadvantaged, and environmental justice communities. Their needs must be at the center of any infrastructure package. The EPA is tasked with protecting clean air, water, the environment and public health for the American public. Thus, it has the power to protect us from being taken advantage of by polluting industry CEOs and ensure that all communities have a livable environment. It must use this power to lead all federal efforts on climate and take the helm of the Biden administration’s historic climate agenda. The ISNA Green Initiative Team is partnering with the EPA’s ENERGY STAR in this ENERGY STAR Action Workbook for Muslim communities (isna.net/ isna-green-initiative/). In doing so, ISNA seeks to enable this nation’s 2,700+ mosques and 300+ Islamic schools to reduce their buildings’ energy, water and operating expenses, as well as emissions from transportation, and to pursue other sustainable initiatives. This joint program helps Muslim communities measure and track the energy performance of their facilities, operations and new construction projects using the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. “And the servants of (God) Most Merciful are those who walk upon the Earth gently….”
is clear. Unfortunately, banks have increased their financing for fossil fuel projects every year since the Paris Climate Agreement was signed in November 2016. Governments have not met their stated goals. Severe droughts, floods and wildfires continue to afflict the world›s most vulnerable countries and communities. At the recent G7 meeting, the assembled leaders failed to commit to the timing of support for countries facing the greatest risk from climate change — despite having pledged to do so years ago. This unacceptable lack of leadership, which violates humanity’s deepest moral values, is both wrong and unjust. It is long past time for governments, banks and investors to honor their promises. In 2016, ISNA became the first national Muslim organization to publicly declare its commitment to divest all of its assets from fossil fuel companies and allied industries. Three years later, the Fiqh Council of North America issued a fatwa that detailed the harm caused by fossil fuel extraction and burning, as well as their incompatibility with the goals of the Sharia (maqasid al-Shari‘ah), and called for the financing of renewable clean energy solutions (https:// financingthefuture.global/statement-offiqh-council-of-north-america-on-fossilfuel-divestment/). The urgency of this crisis and its negative impacts require bold and transformative actions. ISNA is therefore joining with other national and global faith partners and the
12 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021
GreenFaith International Network on Oct. 17-18, two weeks before governments are expected to increase their climate commitments, to encourage all people to rise together for global action. This event, known as “Faiths 4 Climate Justice” (greenfaith.org/ faiths4climatejustice/), will send a clear message: Destroying the planet is against all our religions, and we will not rest until decision makers — governments and major financial institutions — get it right. As a global multifaith community, ISNA and its partners are calling for an immediate end to new fossil fuel projects, deforestation and related financing; a massive commitment to green jobs to reduce climate pollution and end poverty for millions; and reparations from wealthy countries responsible for most past emissions to equip vulnerable nations for a better future. Islam requires nothing less. These commitments are what the world needs and what Islam’s teaching and our faiths require. We will send a clear message to governments and major financial institutions: destroying the planet is against Islam. Can we count on you? Let’s work together to make Faiths4ClimateJustice a big, beautiful, faith-rooted action. We are ready to act for a just and sustainable future. ih The ISNA Green Initiatives Team comprises Huda Alkaff, Saffet Catovic, Nana Firman, Uzma Mirza and S. Masroor Shah (chairperson).
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Faith Leaders Stand with Indigenous Nations
The Alhuda Foundation mosque and community center, whose construction began on a 13-acre lot in 2019, had a ceremonial opening May 30. Located in Fishers, Ind., the June 3rd formal events were attended by neighboring mosques’ representatives, elected officials and interfaith representatives, including Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.), Indiana State Senator Fady Qaddoura and City of Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness. Carson said, “The Alhuda Foundation’s new Islamic Center is not only stunning. It also creates a greater sense of place and pride for Central Indiana’s dynamic Muslim community.” Fadness said, “I can’t tell you how excited we are to have this facility here in our community. And, to be honest with you, until a resident gets to come in here and see this … they truly have built an iconic facility here in the city of Fishers and something the entire community can and should be proud of.”
The Fall River-based Islamic Center of South Coast Massachusetts officially opened its permanent home — a two-story office-style building — in mid-July. The community had purchased the property in 2018, but its opening was delayed for three years because they had to find the right contractors to make the required building improvements. President Dr. Abdul Majid Dudha, a
The Muslim contingent to the Multi-faith Delegation at Treaty People Gathering in Northern Minnesota and Line 3 Protests
ROM JUNE 5-8, OVER 350 FAITH LEADERS FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY, ORGANIZED by GreenFaith, Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light (MN IPL) and other national faith-based organizations, traveled to northern Minnesota for the Treaty Peoples Gathering. This was in response to the Indigenous leaders’ call to stand in solidarity with them against Line 3, the massive tar sands pipeline from Canada being built on their treaty lands. This pipeline will break the treaties that Washington had signed with them. Having a faith presence at the event was a powerful, important and multi-faith resistance to fossil fuel projects. Such efforts need to continue. The Muslim contingent included ISNA Green Initiative Nana Firman (GreenFaith) and Imam Saffet A. Catovic (Muslim Alliance in North America), Muhammad Tariq Rahman (ICNA) and Whitney Terrill (MN IPL [not pictured]). Over 2,000 activists and leaders from across the country, including members of Indigenous nations, organized and participated in prayers, trainings, marches, protests and direct actions to demand that President Biden revoke the permits for Enbridge, the Canadian-based oil company building the Line 3 pipeline in northern Minnesota, and all other fossil fuel projects. Such big projects don’t get stopped without multi-faith solidarity, grassroots support and activism. By exercising their moral power, people can pressure leaders to do what is right. Commenting at the gathering, Imam Catovic said “As Muslims, we are commanded to stand for justice and with those who are oppressed. As a matter of faith, we must engage in hisba (accountability) by enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong. This oil pipeline, which will pollute the climate, destroy habitat and threaten drinking water on Indigenous lands, is wrong. So together, we rise so we can pressure leaders around the globe to end all new fossil fuel projects and deforestation, to respect Indigenous rights, to create green jobs.” Working together, people of faith and spirit have a powerful moral voice that can influence decision makers to protect the people and their shared sacred Earth. People should join the groundswell of religious action by sharing this message on their social media: #StopLine3. #Faiths4Climate. ih
pulmonologist, said the 20-year-old association had then been seeking a permanent location since day one. Fall River is the state’s tenth-largest city. In 2010 they had purchased a former Catholic school. They sold it in 2015, finding that they could not afford to make the improvements.
Transition: After 16 years of service as Muslim Advocates’ first executive director and president, Farhana Khera stepped down on July 16. Founding board members Farah Brelvi and Asifa Quraishi-Landes will join the staff as interim
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 13
Illinois Adopts Eid Holidays
schools nationwide and is accepting its first batch of students in fall 2021. Accreditation implies that the organization’s online instructors, tools, services and staff meet or exceed the essential standards of educational quality. ih
ACHIEVERS The Illinois State House and Senate adopted two bills that recognize the two Eids as holidays for Muslim students and exempt them from physical activity classes during Ramadan. The Northern Illinois American Muslim Alliance played a leading role in achieving this landmark decision, which amends the school code’s Compulsory Attendance of Pupils Article and decrees that the list of recognized religious holidays must include Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. State Rep. Daniel Didech had moved the bill on Dec. 30, 2019 ih co-executive directors while a national search is conducted for the next executive director. They will both participate in the search but have asked not to be considered for the permanent position. Brelvi is chair of the ACLU of Northern California and a former vice-chair of Amnesty International USA. Quraishi-Landes is a law professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, where she specializes in comparative Islamic and U.S. constitutional law. Public high schools across the nation require a foreign language for graduation. However, few, if any, offer Classical (Quranic) Arabic. That’s where Arabic Daily (https://learnarabicdaily. com/high-school-accreditation-classes/) steps in. Its accreditation means that high schools recognize the credit earned. Their students participate in Arabic Daily courses, and the organization grades them, says founder Faraz Malik. This grade and credit are then transferred to the high school, effectively inserting Quranic Arabic into the public sphere. Arabic Daily, which has been accredited by Cognia, the world-leading accrediting body for high schools, is talking with high
Lena Khan’s June nomination and approval as the Federal Trade Commission chief has made news across the seas. Having won the Senate vote 69-28, she will hold the post until Sept. 25, 2024. A prominent critic of Big Tech firms, she had previously worked there as a legal advisor in the Office of the Commissioner and as legal director at the Open Markets Institute. Khan’s last job was associate professor of law at Columbia Law School, where she taught and wrote on antitrust law, infrastructure industries law and the antimonopoly tradition. Prior to joining Columbia, she was counsel to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law. In that position, she led the congressional investigation into digital markets. While still an unknown law student at Yale, she became a public figure in 2017 when her article in the Yale Law Journal, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” became a runaway best-seller in the world of legal treatises. It won several coveted prizes. The 32-year-old British-born Khan, who moved with her Pakistani family to the U.S. when she was 11 years old, is a graduate of Williams College (B.A. magna cum laude with highest honors, ‘10) and Yale Law School (J.D., ‘17). Yale awarded her the Reinhardt Fellowship for public interest law. Khan and Shah Rukh Ali, a cardiologist, married in 2018. Amaney Jamal (Edwards S. Sanford Professor of Politics; director, the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice) started as dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) on Sept. 1. She succeeded Cecilia Rouse, who is now White House Council of Economic Advisers chair.
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A daughter of Palestinian immigrants, Jamal spent her childhood in northern California and Ramallah. She earned her undergraduate degree from UCLA and her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Michigan. Jamal is a longtime Princeton faculty member whose research and teaching focuses on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), political development and democratization, inequality and economic segregation, Muslim immigration in the U.S. and Europe, along with issues related to gender, race, religion and class. She has held numerous leadership positions on campus, including chair of the Department of Politics’ ad-hoc committee on race and diversity and as a member of the dean’s Faculty Committee on Diversity. Jamal also directs the Workshop on Arab Political Development and the Bobst–American University of Beirut Collaborative Initiative. Among her many awards and fellowships, Jamal was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2020), the Kuwait Prize (economics and social science; 2019) and a Carnegie Scholar (2005). She was also a faculty adviser in Forbes College and is currently a faculty fellow for the women’s golf team. Outside of Princeton, she is the principal investigator of the Arab Barometer, a nonpartisan research network that measures public opinion through polling in MENA. This award-winning author, who was previously an assistant professor of political science at Columbia University, has published numerous journal articles and scholarly papers. Her books include “Of Empires and Citizens: Pro-American Democracy or No Democracy at All” (2012) and “Barriers to Democracy: The Other Side of Social Capital in Palestine and the Arab World” (2007). The Maryland State Board of Education unanimously voted Mohammed Choudhury State Superintendent of Schools. He took charge on July 1. Choudhury, as associate superintendent of strategy, talent and innovation at San Antonio Independent School District, created a school integration plan and is known for his innovative initiatives when it comes to poverty and race.
“With the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future as a guide for MSDE and every district in the state, the state’s leaders have shown a remarkable commitment to the hard work that’s necessary to bridge gaps and ensure every student has the tools and supports needed to be successful,” Choudhury said in a statement. Choudhury, who grew up in Los Angeles as a first-generation American with parents who emigrated from Bangladesh in the 1980s, started his career as a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District. After being awarded for his innovative work to provide additional support to middle school students, he became the director of transformation and innovation for the Dallas Independent School District. Board members welcomed Choudhury and his wife, Aniss Khani, virtually and extolled his appointment. Iram Shaikh-Jilani (principal, Brighter Horizons Academy, Garland, Texas) was named one of the National Association of Elementary School Principals’ (NAESP) 2020 Class of National Distinguished Principals. NAESP honors outstanding elementary and middle-level administrators for setting high standards for instruction, student achievement, character and climate for the students, families and staff in their learning communities. Its mission is to advocate for and support elementary and middle-level principals and other education leaders in their commitment to all children. Irfan M. Asif, M.D. (University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, ‘07), took charge on June 1 as associate dean for primary care and rural health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) School of Medicine. Asif, as a primary care physician who specializes in sports and exercise medicine and chaired the UAB Department of Family and Community Medicine, has developed an international reputation for teaching and scholarship. During his career, he has held several academic leadership positions, among them
Hidayah Martínez-Jaka was installed as president of the 17,000-member Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA) during the SAVMA Symposium. The Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine held this event virtually on March 12-15. Coming from a joint Latin American and South Asian heritage, she is the first woman of color to serve as SAVMA’s president in its 52-year history. The vast majority of American veterinarians are white, and it has been called the “whitest profession in the country.” After being elected in March 2020, Martínez-Jaka spent the following year as president-elect, “essentially training to become the president” before officially taking office. SAVMA, a branch of the American Veterinary Medical Association, has 74 delegates representing 37 student chapters. Hidayah Martinez-Jaka performing an ultrasound exam on a goat (Photo courtesy Martínez-Jaka (‘22), who knew that of Martinez-Jaka) she had a future in veterinary medicine at age 14, is currently a student at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg, a collaborative program between Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland. She began to pursue a veterinary career, enrolling at Northern Virginia Community College at age 16 and earned an associate’s degree in two years before obtaining a bachelor’s degree (biology, Shenandoah University) at age 20. Martínez-Jaka inherited her passion for representing and community advocacy from her parents, who frequently partake in civic engagement with elected officials on behalf of their interfaith community. ih sports medicine fellowship director at the University of South Carolina’s School of Medicine Greenville and the University of Tennessee’s sports medicine fellowship director at the School of Medicine Greenville, interim director of Greenville’s family medicine residency program and as interim chair for Greenville’s Department of Family Medicine. In addition to sitting on the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine board and chairing its Collaborative Research Network, he is an associate editor for the journals Sports Health and the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Hafedh Azaiez, Ed.D., started as the new superintendent of the Round Rock (Texas) Independent School District (ISD) on July 5. He was the superintendent search’s sole finalist out of a pool of 48 candidates from across Texas and 19 other states.
Azaiez had worked as the superintendent of Donna ISD in the Rio Grande Valley since 2018, where he is credited with spurring significant improvements. Born and raised in Tunisia, Azaiez, who is fluent in English, Spanish, Arabic and French, earned a bachelor’s degree (physics and chemistry, La Faculté des Sciences de Tunis), a M.Ed. (University of St. Thomas, Houston) and an Ed. D. (educational leadership, Sam Houston State University). Beginning his public education career in 2002 as a middle school science teacher with Houston ISD, he later moved on to administrative roles, including assistant principal, principal and lead principal in Houston ISD and assistant superintendent of middle schools in Spring ISD.
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COMMUNITY MATTERS Azaiez said. “One of the things I love about Round Rock ISD is the diverse opportunities for students to excel and find a sense of belonging. From stellar academics to nationally recognized fine arts programs, athletics, clubs and organizations. We will continue to focus on the whole child, broaden opportunities to pursue diverse programs of study and will maintain a relentless focus on equity, diversity and inclusion issues, ensuring that all truly means all.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has appointed Hassan Yussuff as an independent senator for Ontario. Yussuff, one of Canada’s most experienced labor leaders and the first person of color to lead the countr y’s union movement, had served two terms as president of the Canadian Labor Congress. In addition, he is also past president of the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas, an international organization that represents more than 55 million workers in 21 countries. He has received numerous leadership awards, as well as honorary doctorates from Brock and Ryerson universities. After emigrating from Guyana, Yussuff worked as a truck mechanic with General Motors for 10 years before getting involved in the labor movement. He joined the Canadian Auto Workers union as the National Staff Representative in 1988 and later became its first director of human rights. In 1999, he became the Canadian Labor Congress’s first person of color to be elected to an executive position — executive vice-president. He went on to be elected secretary-treasurer for three terms (2002 to 2014) before being elected president in 2014. He was re-elected to this role in 2017. Malak Shalabi, 23, became [possibly] the first hijab-wearing Muslima to graduate with a Juris Doctor from the University of Washington School of Law on May 28. At the University of Washington Bothell (‘18), she was a recipient of the academic year 2020-21 Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship, which helped pay for much of her law school.
The Islamic Society of Northern Wisconsin (Altoona Masjid) celebrated its 30th anniversary with a luncheon at the Lake Altoona County Park on July 25, alongside the Eid al-Adha celebration. The mosque was founded in 1991 when community leaders at the time, including Dr. Mahmoud Taman, AbdelRahman Ouda, Dr. Irfane Khatib, Dr. Abdel Ghani Khatib and Mostafa Ahmed, raised funds to purchase the church, which had used the building since 1960. Prior to that, it had been a Lutheran Church since the early 1900s. In 1992, the mosque was topped with a crescent on the spire to identify it as a mosque. The Altoona Masjid, among only 10 or so mosques in the state is perhaps the third oldest. In 2009 the mosque established a Muslim cemetery at Prairie View Cemetery in Lake Hallie. Throughout its history the mosque has been part of the greater Chippewa Valley community participating in interfaith dialogues and supporting social justice initiatives. Dr. Alboury Sow, president, said, “The Board hopes to continue its engagement in the community such as our upcoming sponsorship at the Community Table. We are also focusing on Islamic education for our children.” The July 25 event was attended by about 80 people from the Muslim community, many new to the community. Maryam Suhail, vice president of the mosque board said, “We are delighted that so many people came to the celebration. We hope to have more Muslims active in the mosque because there are approximately 70 Muslim families in the Chippewa Valley and we are reaching out to them.” ih She has worked as a legal and advocacy intern at the organization American Muslims for Palestine and a law clerk at the United States Attorney’s Office. Shalabi, who was born and raised in Houston, has also volunteered with the Syrian American Medical Society and as a community resource coordinator with the Syrian Heritage Club. Ahmed Muhammad became the first Black male student in Oakland Tech High School’s 107-year history to give the valedictorian address. A straight-A student, star athlete and young entrepreneur, Muhammad was invited to enroll into nearly a dozen of the country’s best schools, among them Stanford, Princeton and Harvard. He chose Stanford, where he is studying engineering.
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Muhammad played on the varsity basketball team and was a volunteer tutor with the Oakland Youth Advisory Commission. His nonprofit science program, Kits Cubed — kits for experiments, such as a potato battery, pop rocket, and sundial — provides products that families can purchase for a reasonable price. Addressing his fellow students, he stated, “While I may be the first young Black man to be our school’s valedictorian, I won’t be the last … I’m not the only ‘first’ in this crowd. Many of us here are the first in our family to live in America, the first to graduate high school and will be the first to attend college.”
Malika Bilal (left) hosts The Take, and Zahra Rasool (right) heads AJ Contrast (Photos © Al Jazeera)
Al Jazeera Media Network’s Digital Division won two Gracie Awards for excellence in work produced by, for and about women. This is the first time that Al Jazeera Digital content has picked up wins in the prestigious competition. Hosted by The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation, the organizers of the 46th edition of the awards cited a year marked by exemplary work by women who “spearheaded media progress and those who are setting the path for the future.” Malika Bilal won the award for Best
CORRIGENDUM In the Achievers section of July/August 2021, we erred in noting the details of qualification of Salma Hussain Bachelani. The correct news item is: S a l m a Hu ss ai n Bachelani, OTD, OTR/L joined faculty at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis in the departments of occupational therapy and pediatrics. She teaches pediatric case-based learning, professional identity and practice, and other courses to students in the masters and doctorate programs. Bachelani, who was previously affiliated with St. Louis Community College and St. Louis Public Schools, sits on the advisory board of Project Downtown St. Louis. A Kansas City native, Bachelani (OTD, WashU ‘16; BS, Missouri State University ‘13) is interested in examining best practices in therapy service provision in school settings and in developing community-based programs such as youth development workshops and parent education sessions. ih
Podcast Host award. Based in Washington, D.C., The Take is an award-winning, interview-driven news podcast that builds on Al Jazeera English journalists and correspondents’ global reportage. Bilal joined The Take in 2020, after eight years as co-host of Al Jazeera’s The Stream, the 2013 Gracie Award-winning TV news talk show centered on online community participation. Zahra Rasool (head, AJ Contrast), won the Best Online Producer for Still Here, the multiple award-winning immersive experience that uses virtual and augmented reality to explore the impact of imprisonment and gentrification on Black women in the U.S. Still Here, which premiered as an installation at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, chronicles the steep challenges facing jailed women as they struggle to rebuild their lives post-incarceration. The Gracie Awards Gala, to be held virtually on Sept. 27 in Los Angeles, honors women in TV, radio and digital media. Freshman Ahmad Masood (‘24), a 6’2” 241 lb. two-way linesman, will start for Syracuse University football. Masood, a native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., joined the team in February as a midyear enrollee, preferred walk-on. He had been waiting to get to campus, as he was originally a member of the 2020 class. But then Covid-19 happened. The David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics enrollee, who played at Cranbrook-Kingswood High in Bloomfield Hills, was originally part of the 2020 recruiting cycle.
Plainfield (Ind.) High School had a double starter of Muslims at its May 28 graduation ceremony: Rashad Basharat Saleem (valedictorian) and Salik Tipu Ahmad (salutatorian). They are sons of immigrants from Illegally Indian Occupied Kashmir. Rashad’s father is Basharat Saleem
(executive director, ISNA); Salik’s father is Tipu Ahmad, a former ISNA conventions director. Rashad, who was admitted to the National Honor Society and won several scholarships, has joined the Hutton Honors College, Indiana University’s honors program, as a pre-med student. Salik received a scholarship to the Rose–Hulman Institute of Technology, a private college specializing in engineering, mathematics and science located in Terre Haute, Ind. ih
IMAM NEEDED MUSLIM ASSOCIATION OF CLEVELAND EAST (MACE) 26901 Chardon Road, Richmond Heights, OH 44143 Applications are invited from U.S. citizens/Permanent Residents for the position of a part-time/full time Imam at the MACE Islamic Center. Successful candidate, in consultation with the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees, is expected to develop and sustain programs for community and youth involvement and development, Dawah, Counseling in the light of Quran and Sunna, leading prayers, Friday Khattab, Khatiras, Friday Family Programs, Ramadan and Eid Programs, Religious Counseling and other religious duties as needed. Salary is negotiable and relocation assistance will be available. Qualifications: Degree in Islamic Studies (Preferred) and Hafiz Quran; Excellent communication skills, Mastery of English Language, Strong knowledge of written and spoken Arabic, Experience of dealing with religious affairs, Ability to motivate young Muslims, etc. Applications will be accepted till the position is filled. If interested, please send your application and a resume with names and contact details of references to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Justice and Charity: Zakat Work in Canada How collecting and distributing zakat changes one’s perception of it BY KATHERINE BULLOCK & AREEB DAIMEE
nyone who studies the Quran, the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and the vast juristic and philosophical tradition of commentary and treatises cannot but notice the emphasis on social justice and looking after the poor, the needy and the vulnerable. On June 3, the Irving, Texas-based Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research (https://yaqeeninstitute.org) published a pioneering investigation into how Canada’s Muslims respond to this call for social justice and the Quranic demand for zakat as an essential element of belief. How do they view and operationalize it? Our research is based on interviews with two employees/ volunteers each from four Sunni Canadian organizations whose work includes zakat collection and distribution. We present the interviewees’ answers through the themes of how zakat relates to being Muslim, how working in the field of
zakat distribution has changed their understanding of it and what special touches they bring to their work. Very simply, zakat is one of Islam’s five pillars, an obligatory annual charity for those whose income is above a minimum level required to sustain basic needs. It is calculated at 2.5% of income and assets maintained over that one-year period above that level. Different percentages are applied to farming and businesses. If someone is below the minimum level, they do not pay zakat; rather, they are entitled to receive it. But zakat is more profound than this seemingly simple mathematical calculation. The Quran teaches that zakat is a means of purifying one’s wealth (9:103), which is defined as a trust that God has given to whomever He pleases (4:37, 34:39), as the right of the poor (70:24-5) and a way to circulate wealth within a community (59:7). Those who do not pay it are warned of their punishment in the hereafter. After all, they have ignored the true
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owner of their wealth (God) and disregarded the plight of the poor (9:34). All the interviewees felt that giving zakat/ charity is essential to being a Muslim. Many of them explained how it is the foundation of one’s connection with God. As one of the five pillars, paying zakat is a way of showing one’s obedience to and love for God and His commands. Many interviewees also noted the connection the Quran makes between prayer and charity (e.g., 2:43, 4:162, 5:55, 9:18, 21:73 and 22:41). One manager reasoned that prayer is a person’s “connection to God” and that zakat is a person’s “connection with the people.” Our interviewees connected charity to other virtues, such as promoting neighborliness, controlling greed, emphasizing empathy and promoting justice. Scholars also emphasize multiple normative roles of zakat: • Purification of the giver’s wealth (spiritual component)
FEATURE • Dignity for the receiver • Circulation of wealth • Social solidarity/bonds of brotherhood/ sisterhood • Removal of negative emotions in society such as envy, miserliness, narcissism and group exploitation • Economic productivity (it’s a tax on idle wealth and hoarding) • Tools of trade and lifting the receiver out of poverty, and • Reducing extremes of wealth, which leads to a more just and more peaceful society.
somewhere to sleep … me sharing my plate of food with you, it’s a form of sadaqa…” So the Islamic concept of charity expands the conventional Western understanding, which is usually defined as “donating resources to anonymous others.” A few interviewees pointed out the problems with translating “zakat” as “charity.” One manager said that zakat is the “the wealth of the poor,” noting that some “conventional translations” of this view as “charity” are “highly problematic.” Hence, zakat is not constrained just to money; rather, it comprises a wide range of
THE MAIN IDEA THEY POINTED TO WAS ZAKAT’S COMMUNAL ROLE, NAMELY, THE QURAN’S EMPHASIS ON ITS IMPORTANCE IN UPLIFTING THE POOR AND SUPPORTING THE FINANCIAL, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL WELL-BEING OF ONE’S COMMUNITY. In precolonial Muslim societies, other Islamic injunctions worked alongside zakat to alleviate poverty, among them the prohibition of usury, the laws of inheritance and the waqf (an endowment). During colonial rule, however, the state — the colonial overlords and their puppet rulers — dismantled or confiscated the awqaf and made zakat a voluntary practice. When asked the simple question “What is your understanding of zakat?” the interviewees segued almost instantly from what it is to what it is for, tapping into the various concepts enumerated above. As one interviewee said, “there’s the short and there’s a long version.” All of them had an understanding that went beyond knowing the basic rule of annually calculating one’s net cash and assets. The main idea they pointed to was zakat’s communal role, namely, the Quran’s emphasis on its importance in uplifting the poor and supporting the financial, economic and social well-being of one’s community. As one manager said, “…when we think about zakat, we think about the first and primary… responsibility of zakat is to the local community. That’s who it belongs to.” One interviewee noted that sadaqa can even be as simple as showing kindness to someone: “…it’s not just giving money. It could be kindness, it could be feeding a person, it could be providing a person
actions with which a person can be engaged. Interviewees made it clear that zakat is a means of instilling justice and doing right for oneself and one’s community. Immersion in the charitable sector has given the interviewees a more profound understanding of zakat as an institution. Six of the eight interviewees discussed how their idea of it had changed. They commented that prior to working at their organization, they had given their annual zakat in a routine way, such as writing a check to give to someone else to distribute. One interviewee stated that “my understanding of zakat was… very rudimentary… yeah, it’s a pillar, you know, 2½%, and you basically help poor and needy people… Now I feel that, you know, zakat is much more than just poverty alleviation, right?... it builds… Its sole purpose is actually to build a community and to get it to a place where it’s self-sustainable… and that it actually has that growth and expansion… I learned about the different categories of zakat and how they’ve been used in the past and how they were understood…” So they had learned from working in the zakat field a better understanding of the rules of collecting and distributing zakat, and had gained a deeper appreciation of its non-monetary benefits. Several interviewees commented that
they see their organizations filling the gaps in provincial social service delivery. One manager talked about two illuminating research studies into poverty in his province that had highlighted the gaps in serving Muslim clients. One study found that “70% of our food bank clients weren’t connected to other social services… [which] tells us about isolation awareness of our clients, but it also tells us about barriers, right?” A second study found that the “top three languages” of the province’s largest affordable housing providers are Arabic, Urdu and Somali: “[What] this indicates to us as a community is that Muslims are over-represented in poverty. Right? And this is something we’ll be accountable for, right, like why, you know, ‘cos like people in Malaysia aren’t accountable for the people in our backyard. We are.” Nearly all interviewees believed that zakat can help alleviate poverty, though there was a sense throughout many interviews that the resources coming in were not enough to meet the need. This pioneering study of zakat work in Canada has barely scratched the surface. Our research has shown that zakat in Canada is still in its infancy. One interviewee worried that he knows many people who are very generous with their sadaqa, but think “it’s okay not to give zakat” and that while our communities focus on teaching children Quran recitation, prayer, fasting and take them on hajj, we are not properly teaching them the importance of, nor how to calculate and give, zakat. Clearly this type of charity plays a significant role for those who work in the zakat field and in ensuring justice for those deprived of an adequate means of subsistence. For Muslims, utilizing zakat as a means of healing injustice represents a significant spiritual responsibility that transcends material attachments to wealth. This is what makes it such an effective institution. ih Katherine Bullock is a lecturer in the Department of Political Science, the University of Toronto, Mississauga. Areeb Daimee is a fourth-year political science student in the Department of Political Science, the University of Toronto, Mississauga. This article is a condensed version of a paper published by the Yaqeen Institute. The full version is online at https://yaqeeninstitute.ca/katherine-bullock/justice-and-charity-a-study-of-zakat-workin-canada.
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Demystifying Critical Race Theory Do objectors really know what they are angry about? BY NOOR ALI
around and through which a conversation (research) can be furthered. Here, it becomes pertinent to note that CRT, before the recent interest, would be a framework that individuals would first come across in a doctoral program or specific graduate/undergraduate level courses. Teaching Licensure programs would speak of culturally relevant teaching, but barely ever about Critical Race Theory. It is also important to note that CRT is one theoretical framework among many, and when scholars work on their thesis and dissertations and articles and books they use the theoretical framework that is best suited to their research purpose.
THE TENETS OF CRT
et’s start by saying that there is no debate raging around Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the country right now. That debate is not a debate at all. The sound-making you hear around CRT is in fact one side’s lack of acknowledgement of systemic oppression. The issue at hand is not whether one agrees with CRT, but whether one recognizes the endemic nature of racism that prevails in the country. The truth is, a few months back no one knew what CRT was, and the greater truth is that several months later only a few more people know what CRT is. It only took the careless misuse of the term by unaware politicians to unleash a rhetorical warfare on this academic framework, as people who had no expertise or basic knowledge of CRT took a vehement stance against it. For me personally it started with a social media post. A resident of my small, suburban, New England town posted an anti-CRT meme on the town’s unofficial Facebook page. The comments that followed disclosed that people in my small town felt very strongly against it. When I first came across the post, my instinct was to look up if CRT stood for something else. I am a Critical Race Theory scholar. And,
I had never come across a person outside academia who knew about it, and now there were CRT experts emerging from the woodwork in my town. As I worked in reverse from that point, I realized that they were in fact referring to Critical Race Theory, and while they didn’t know much about the theoretical framework their comments spoke of an uncomfortable fear of growth and lack of acknowledgment of the existence of white supremacy. What folks are against is not CRT, it is talking about racism on any platform, particularly in schools that doesn’t jive with their historical comfort with selective silence.
SO, WHAT IS CRT?
Critical Race Theory started out in the 1970s as a lens within Legal Studies, which emphasized on recognizing the role that race and racism played within the legal framework and justice system. Later, CRT was adopted by scholars and academicians in the field of education. Applying similar principles, CRT in education became a theoretical framework with five particular tenets. And, what is a theoretical framework? Quite simply put it offers us working parameters, assumptions, definitions, and defining principles
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Critical Race Theory has certain identifiable tenets which include: (a) the permanent and endemic nature of racism; (b) the importance of counter-narratives by marginalized people; (c) whiteness as norm and property; (d) interest-convergence as a means of initiating change; and (e) challenging concepts of neutrality. To delve a little deeper this means that CRT asserts that we must agree to the premise that racism does exist in a systematic manner within the mainstream, and is a permanent, institutionalized, and endemic feature of society. Therefore, acts of racism that take place across the nation such as the murder of George Floyd or racial health inequity or racial profiling, are not isolated incidents of racism but symptomatic of systemic inequities. Further, CRT recognizes the importance of creating space for minoritized, marginalized, and oppressed people to be able to share their lived experiences, thereby creating counter-narratives. Oftentimes, the stories of marginalized people are told by and through a white lens- this sabotaging, hijacking, and whitewashing of peoples’ narratives is a tool of “othering”, alienation, and disempowerment, where the mic remains in the hands of the domineering. CRT emphasizes the need for counter-narratives to emerge, where they begin voicing the experiences without fear of self-invalidation or irrelevance. CRT also posits that whiteness is seen as the norm and therefore it and its capital are coveted. When whiteness is the norm, all else becomes othered, marginalized, minoritized at the least, and vilified, demonized, and oppressed more often than not. All that is non-white is perceived as being culturally deficient. CRT also suggests that everyone benefits when racism is addressed, and work towards equity takes
place- it is therefore in everyone’s interest, and no one loses out when we work towards justice. When anti-racist work is done, it may appear as discriminatory to some on the surface, but the deep-rooted issues that it tackles are equitable for all of society. However, it remains pivotal to understand that interest-convergence according to Derrick A. Bell, Jr. (“Brown v. Board of Education and the Interest-Convergence Dilemma”, Harvard Law Review, Vol. 93, No.
As I worked with CRT in my academic career, I recognized the absence of the unique Muslim American lived experience having a voice within scholarship and academia. I maintain that racism is not limited to a color-binary and that racialization of religion throws Muslims within the realm of discriminatory experiences. To this end I coined the term MusCrit as a subset of CRT that focuses on the experiences of this demo-
EDUCATORS OF MUSLIM SCHOOLS SHOULD CONSIDER COMMITTING THEMSELVES TO THE WORK OF SOCIAL JUSTICE, AS THE ESTABLISHMENT OF EQUITY IS A FOUNDATIONAL PREMISE OF OUR FAITH IN PRACTICE. REEVALUATING OUR CURRICULUM, BEING MINDFUL IN OUR PEDAGOGY AND PRAXIS, ASSESSING OUR SCHOOLS’ VISIONS AND ACKNOWLEDGING THE RACISM THAT EXISTS WITHIN US ARE KEY STARTING POINTS TO THE CONVERSATION. 3 (1980) who coined the term suggests that “the interests of Blacks in achieving racial equality will be accommodated only when it converges with the interests of Whites,” and if the work towards equity is not seen as beneficial by and to the mainstream it fails to occur. The last tenant of CRT posits that neutrality is racist, that one cannot make claims of color-blindness and consider that a stance against racism. Stances such as these nullify and invalidate the institutionalized lived experience of racism, and in many ways showcase an avoidance of activism.
THE SUBSETS OF CRT
Beyond the original creation of this theoretical framework, CRT also evolved into various subsets. Critical Race theorists studied the distinctive marginalized experiences of particular populations through a CRT lens, but created subsets like AsianCrit, LatCrit, FemCrit, QueerCrit, TribalCrit, and DisCrit to address and capture the specific lived experiences of these demographics. One can recognize that all racism is not the same and that the experience of Asians, Latinx, LGBTQ+, Indigenous Peoples, and people with disabilities are not all the same. The creation of these subsets was a powerful way to set up frameworks with defining features within academia for the study of these different groups.
graphic. The lives of Muslim Americans are riddled with narratives of challenge and resilience, bravery and tiredness, and invalidation and strength. A key component of the Muslim American experience also sits gingerly on the crossroads of intersectionality that is to say that a Muslim who is identifiable, is a person of color will have a very different experience from a Muslim who is not. The Muslim American experience is not just one of hyphenation (Michelle Fine and Selçuk Şirin, “Muslim American Youth: Understanding Hyphenated Identities Through Multiple Methods,” 2008) but one where multiplicities converge making it even more complex in intersectionality. The niche of MusCrit posits that the experience of this population is not just one where they are discriminated against, but one where they are also demonized. The sabotaging of the Muslim narrative portrays them on extreme ends of the spectrum as the men being oppressors and the women being oppressed.
The exposition on CRT makes it clear that as a theoretical framework this is introduced to students at the graduate level in very specific fields of study. We can also establish that most non-academicians do not have a complete understanding of CRT.
K-12 schools do not teach CRT. So, what exactly is the issue. The issue is that after the murder of George Floyd, and the BLM movement picking momentum, towns, cities, districts, organizations, and institutions alike have had to take a vocal stance on racism. It has meant the issuance of statements, and in many other cases it has meant doing equity audits, hiring directors of diversity and equity, recognizing Juneteenth, questioning Columbus Day and the like. This move towards equity is based on the premise that we first recognize inequity. That is where the issue lies. There are many, many people who believe America is great because it has none of these issues, and speaking about these issues makes us question our “great” history, it makes us “rewrite” our history. “Rewriting” history to them means history is being changed, whereas the truth is that “rewriting” seems to mean being inclusive, telling the untold historical stories of all those that were silenced, considered irrelevant, invalidated and minoritized. It means not presenting a white-washed history, but in fact presenting a truthful history about all.
CRT IN PRACTICE
While CRT is not taught in K-12 schools, and states that have canceled it have been performative, ambiguous, and racist, one can say that there are sure to be teachers across the country who are invested in creating a safe and brave space for all students, who know that their job is not only to teach math, and reading, and writing, but critical thinking, who are invested in becoming change agents and facilitating students in the discovery of a collective truthful history. The mandate canceling CRT will impact the practice of those teachers and set us up for a society that prefers to not only have blinders on, but one that considers to other and reduce non-mainstream. Educators of Muslim schools should consider committing themselves to the work of social justice, as the establishment of equity is a foundational premise of our faith in practice. Reevaluating our curriculum, being mindful in our pedagogy and praxis, assessing our schools’ visions and acknowledging the racism that exists within us are key starting points to the conversation. ih Noor Ali, Ed.D., teaches at Northeastern University’s Graduate School of Education; is principal of Al-Hamra Academy, Shrewsbury, Mass.; and has taught for 15 years in elementary and middle school. A member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Taskforce for her town and district schools, she is also the author of “Critical Storytelling: Counter-narratives of Muslim American Youth” (2021).
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 21
Our Children and Their Identities Parents and students should insist that their entire names be pronounced correctly BY SEEMA IMAM
hen a teacher reads a class list on the first day of school, some students are immediately aware that the teacher has come to their name due to a long pause, an expression or their failed attempts to pronounce it correctly. In her book, “Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy” (Scholastic Teaching Resources, 2020) Gholdy (Gholnecsar) Muhammad notes that the teacher then may ask for the student’s nickname (p.74). To me, as a long-time teacher and teacher educator, it is obvious that we shouldn’t give up so soon. For example, news reporters and media outlets have taught us all the hard names like Arnold Schwarzenegger simply by repeating it correctly. If the media, the public and children can fluently pronounce names like Milwaukee Bucks’ Nigerian-Greek hero Giannis Sina Ugo Antetokounmpo — whose birth family name, Adetokunbo, was also not easy to say before being transliterated letter-for-letter into Greek — they can pronounce Muslim names too. All they need to do is make the effort. Teachers are well equipped to pronounce our children’s names with some support. Becoming team players with teachers is a great way to embark on that plan. Most importantly, since we, as parents, care about the names we selected for our children, we are the best candidates to provide support and expect teachers to pronounce them correctly. After nearly a half century in teaching, I know that most teachers will work with us on that. A name is very important, and that’s why many families spend time carefully selecting it, even going so far as to ask elders for advice. Thus, it’s part of our identity to be proud of our names. When children go to school and teachers or others ask if they can call them by a different name, a nickname or a shortened version of it, we should be prepared to say, “I’ll be happy to make the pronunciation easy for you, but I don’t want
my child to be known by a nickname. It’s important to my child’s Muslim identity.” Left unchecked, children may give the nickname some thought and will often agree to it. They may already believe, for whatever reason, that their name is different or hard. So, how do children navigate this when teachers in particular are seen as authority figures? I believe each family should prepare their children for such a situation so they won’t be surprised when it occurs. One suggestion is for a child to reply, “My name’s really easy. Let me tell you how to say it.” I believe that parents are in the best position to help our children understand their name’s meaning or significance and to be proud of it. We can give them confidence by teaching them how to maintain it. Another good suggestion is to say your child’s name several times when you initially meet the teacher and begin talking with him or her. In addition, if a name is pronounced incorrectly, both parents and students should not hesitate to help a teacher pronounce it correctly. Historically, names have been so important that across the world and over time there have been examples of systems that communities lived within. Long ago, European communities were named for their services, such as the Carpenters, the Tailors, the Bakers and the Smyths. Each last name indicated what work and service the whole family might be involved in. In Europe, families would go to the Bakers for bread, the Carpenters for cabinets and the Smyths for the iron used by one of them to create horseshoes. Now, I ask you, how’s that for an identity check? Corey Mitchell’s publication, “Why Getting a Student’s Name Right Is Important for All School Staff ” (2016), revealed that “a research arm of the federal Education Department says that getting a student’s name right is essential to ensure they’re getting the services they need.” An article published in 2012 by Social Science and Comparative Education at the University of California, entitled “Teachers, Please Learn Our Names,” stated that, “Names can connect children to their
22 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021
ancestors, country of origin or ethnic group, and often have deep meaning or symbolism for parents and families.” Indeed one’s name is a large part of one’s identity and therefore we can take a moment to be certain that the children we are responsible for are getting the advocacy they need. In fact, names are so important that we, as Muslims, believe that orphans and adopted children are to keep their father’s name and be told who their biological parents are so they can know their family and lineage. This is important for a variety of reasons. Additionally, many Muslims women maintain their family name when they marry. Muslims like to seek out names with good meanings as a blessing for their children. We seek out the names of historical figures
and those Muslims of strong character who went before us, like Mohammad, Khadijah, Maryam, Bilal and Fatima. As an example of support, we can write out the phonetic spelling such as Khadijah, Kha-dee-ja, showing the blended “Kh,” the short “a” and the long “e” in place of the “i” sound. Having been a classroom teacher in Chicago public schools for almost two decades, I was blessed to have taught students from Viet Nam, Cambodia, Greece, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Poland, South Korea, Japan and
many other countries. I used to use phonetic markings on the student roster. I will always remember that Nicholas Theodosopolous wanted to be called Neeko (with a long “e”). It might have been easier for me to “Americanize” his name to Nick. However, it was important to me, both then and now, as a professor of teacher education, to learn the names of every student in my class. Last semester alone, I learned to say Zilpacoret and Abimbola according to how my future teacher candidates pronounced their names.
IF THE MEDIA, THE PUBLIC AND CHILDREN CAN FLUENTLY PRONOUNCE NAMES LIKE MILWAUKEE BUCKS’ NIGERIAN-GREEK HERO GIANNIS SINA UGO ANTETOKOUNMPO — WHOSE BIRTH FAMILY NAME, ADETOKUNBO, WAS ALSO NOT EASY TO SAY BEFORE BEING TRANSLITERATED LETTER-FOR-LETTER INTO GREEK — THEY CAN PRONOUNCE MUSLIM NAMES TOO. ALL THEY NEED TO DO IS MAKE THE EFFORT.
Somehow, we teachers have been notoriously able to keep track of Cathy, Kathleen, Kaitlin, Kate, Kathy, Kati, Catherine, Katherine and Kat. I’m sure we won’t regret striving to set the tone to demonstrate that we value our Muslim children’s names. If you need a children’s book that emphasizes a Muslim teacher in hijab teaching her students how to spell and pronounce their classmates’ names, check out “I Am Listening,” written by myself and my co-author, my son Ibrahim, when he was 12 years and being homeschooled. We were striving to make the strange familiar. Don’t be surprised if you run across Neeko in that book for, as I said, I will always remember him and his family as I learned about cultural diversity in those years. To illustrate a few of the points to take away and implement in your family: ➤ Teach taking pride in all of your family members’ names — including your own. ➤ Know the significance and contributions of others with the names you have chosen. ➤ Help children by devising an easy pronunciation plan to share with teachers. ➤ Avoid nicknames or a shortened version (Yousuf is not Joe and Mohammad is not Mike or Mo). ➤ Guide children as they grow older on
how to share some other good tidbits about their name. In closing, be prepared to share strong examples of Muslim names by relating some special perspectives. We love our Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). It may not be easy for a young child to explain his name, Muhammad, so teach him about Jesus (our prophet Isa). Let students use this example, “Like Jesus is a most important figure for Christians, Muhammad is a most important figure for Muslims.” I realize there are lots of other ways to say or simplify this to demonstrate pride in a name can easily be accomplished in this way. Take every opportunity to let children enter the discourse to strengthen their Muslim identity and pride in Islam. Having pride, as well as the ability, to express that pride in our Prophet, will result in positive feelings. Students who share the importance of their names and speak for themselves build self-esteem. ih Dr. Seema A. Imam (professor, elementary education, National Louis University, Chicago) is a former Islamic school principal, a mother and grandmother who has researched Muslim students’ public-school experiences. Choosing to be Muslim at 18, she adopted a new name to strengthen her Muslim identity. Seema and her son Ibrahim wrote “I am Listening” (Lucent Publications, 2007), a children’s picture book that shows a hijab-wearing teacher learning to say her students’ names.
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ISLAM IN AMERICA
Milwaukee – a Place for Muslims in the Heart of America A Muslim community thrives in a midsize, Midwestern city BY SANDRA WHITEHEAD
Milwaukee group Umrah
VIP Girls program at the Islamic Resource Center
hen Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, work and strong leadership created multiple has brought it face-to-face with its greatest a new convert to Islam, joined mosques, schools, health and social services, challenge yet — how to be big. the Milwaukee Bucks in 1969, businesses and resources that provide a rich the MSA at the University of environment where Muslims can indeed GROWING UP DIVERSE AND COHESIVE Wisconsin-Milwaukee was the city’s only thrive. Arab Muslims arrived in Milwaukee in Islamic organization. It held Friday prayers Yet the community’s exceptional growth the 1940s, followed by Muslims from for a dozen people in students’ apartIndia, Kashmir and Pakistan in the ments or rooms on campus. 1950s and 1960s, according to the Almost 50 years later, the legEncyclopedia of Milwaukee, a UWM THE WISCONSIN MUSLIM CIVIC endary basketball star returned to digital humanities project. ALLIANCE, FOUNDED IN 2019, Meanwhile, the Nation of Islam the Midwestern city on the shores of Lake Michigan where he spent expanded beyond its first two ENCOURAGES MUSLIMS TO his first six years in the faith and cities, Detroit and Chicago, and ENGAGE IN CIVIC LIFE. IT WORKS led his team to their first national established Muhammad Temple #3 WITH ALLIES ACROSS THE STATE championship in 1971. (The team in Milwaukee. Combining tradiwon its second this July.) Hosted tional Islam with Black nationalist ON MUTUAL CONCERNS, HOSTS by UWM’s MSA in 2017, the NBA’s teachings, the Nation reintroduced MEET-AND-GREETS WITH LOCAL American Blacks to Islam, the faith all-time leading scorer looked out CANDIDATES, ORGANIZES GETat a largely Muslim audience and many had been forced to give up during slavery. In the 1960s and declared, “Muslims can come here OUT-THE-VOTE DRIVES, TAKES and thrive.” Then he marveled, “The 1970s, many members of the Nation POSITIONS ON POLICY ISSUES AND left the movement and adopted Muslim community in Milwaukee has grown and changed. It was noth- ENDORSES CANDIDATES. IT RALLIES mainstream Islam, following leading like this in the 1970s.” ers like Malcolm X and Warith Deen SUPPORT FOR CIVIC INITIATIVES Today it is a flourishing comMohammed who became Sunni LIKE FAIR HOUSING AND munity of tens of thousands — still Muslims. growing and maturing but also both With three generations of Arabs, FAIR VOTING LEGISLATION. self-sufficient and well integrated two generations of South Asians, a large contingent of African into the larger society. Years of hard 24 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021
Americans, a small number of white and Latino converts, and mostly Rohingya refugees, Milwaukee’s Muslims are diverse yet impressively cohesive, says Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah, executive director/secretary general of the Fiqh Council of North America and the religious director of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee, the metropolitan area’s largest Muslim organization, with three mosques. “There is a sense of mutual love and respect between different segments of the community.” Muslim physicians, engineers, academics and other professionals move to Milwaukee for opportunities to work in its renowned hospitals and global companies like GE Healthcare Systems, Harley-Davidson and Rockwell Automation, or to teach in one of Greater Milwaukee’s 25 institutions of higher education, including UWM, Marquette University and the Medical College of Wisconsin. “The intellectual orientation of our community makes it unique,” Shah says. “It is characterized by professionalism and the forward-thinking manner of its leadership.” Greater Milwaukee’s Muslims number 25,000 - 30,000 in a metropolitan area of about 1.6 million people, local imams say. (Some reports put it at 15,000-20,000; there is widespread consensus that is too low.) And it continues to grow. “It may have tripled since I came here in 2006,” Shah exclaims. But it shouldn’t be measured by headcount alone, he adds. “The level of collaboration within the community is unique and encouraging. People of different backgrounds are united and work together for the Ummah.” “Muslims in Milwaukee, despite being a religious minority, have an important presence in the city through active civic leadership and the establishment of many religious and cultural institutions,” states the Encyclopedia of Milwaukee. Although there are no Islamic seminaries or other big city amenities of a New York or Chicago, mighty Milwaukee punches above its weight. It has 10 mosques, two full-time schools and a variety of Islamic organizations, including health clinics, refugee and social services, a library and resource center, a civic alliance, a food pantry, a platform for Muslim artists, a re-entry facility for ex-offenders, a senior center, weekend and Sunday schools, a hifth school for memorizing the Quran, a culturally sensitive domestic violence program and a state-wide newspaper.
In the Shadow of 9/11 BY SANDRA WHITEHEAD
WENTY YEARS AGO, AIRLINERS WERE HIJACKED AND SLAMMED INTO NEW York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000 people on U.S. soil – the hijackers had Muslim names. Aisha Aleiou was a fifth-grader in a public school in suburban Milwaukee, its only Muslim student at the time. Her teacher asked, “Aisha, why did they do it?” Ever after an apologist for Islam, Aisha prepared to answer questions about her faith, Middle East politics and whatever else classmates and teachers might throw at her. For a generation of Muslim Americans, adolescence brought more than the usual teenage angst about how to fit in. The tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, brought a decade of surveillance and suspicion, followed by a rise in Islamophobia that culminated in the blatant bigotry of Donald Trump’s 2015 presidential campaign. Before 9/11, Muslims in Milwaukee were not particularly self-conscious about their faith. Their fellow Midwesterners knew little about Islam and didn’t seem very curious. Then suddenly all eyes were on them. “U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft repeatedly painted a dark picture of Arab and Muslim Americans,” recalls Marquette University Professor Louise Cainkar, who has conducted extensive research on Arab and Muslim Americans after 9/11. “He would say things like, ‘They are hiding in our own communities, waiting to strike.’” Some Muslims were angry at the terrorists for “hijacking our religion.” Many felt the need to be more vocal, to be liaisons between their fellow Americans and Islam. The Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition’s Speakers Bureau responded to their fellow citizens’ newfound interest in Islam and sent speakers to schools, churches and community organizations to dispel stereotypes. Likewise, the Islamic Society of Milwaukee hit the speaking circuit. As Trump’s presidential campaign called for a Muslim ban in 2015, ISM’s strategy was to let fellow Milwaukeeans see how Islam is practiced by someone they know. Muhammad Isa Sadlon, then ISM executive director and CEO, a convert to Islam, was known by many for his leadership as executive director of the Milwaukee Art Museum for 20 years. He guided its development to international prominence, culminating with the completion of the stunning Santiago Calatrava-designed facility, now an icon of Milwaukee. He was also a former director of Rotary Club and the 2001 Rotary Club “Person of the Year.” Sadlon spoke to the Rotarians about his “very traditional Catholic background” and the shock of his family, friends and colleagues at his conversion in 1989. He said the suspicions some have about Muslims is to be expected. “I remember seeing old newspapers about the arrival of the Irish in Boston at the beginning of the last century. “People said these people coming in are disruptive … it is just adjustments to new immigrant cultures. He told them how he finally won his family’s acceptance of his conversion. “I had been the typical young man who went off to (the University of Wisconsin) Madison and seldom came home. I had my own life. “As a Muslim, one of the key issues is respect and care for your parents and your family. I took this seriously, started visiting my mother and father once a week, and interacting with my brothers and sisters.” A decade later, his mother was dying. “She had us — my brothers and sisters and me — all together. She said she felt Islam was true because it had transformed our relationships by changing my behavior. For my family, that was a turning point.” This outreach by Muslim Americans maybe working. In a 2017 survey, Pew Research Center asked respondents to rate Muslims on a “feeling thermometer” ranging from 0 to 100. On average, Americans gave Muslims a rating of 48 degrees, which is 8 degrees warmer than in the first poll in 2014. (Never mind that feelings towards Muslims are cooler than they are for any other “religious” group, including atheists.) ih SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 25
PHTO © WISCONSIN MUSLIM JOURNAL
ISLAM IN AMERICA
Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (2nd right) visits the Eid al Adha festival
store they owned. The service “bore fruit in liaising with many segments of society: individuals, churches and synagogues as well as the media,” Dr. Waheeduddin Ahmed, the first ISM president, wrote in a history of Milwaukee’s Islamic community. “It became the frontline liaison agency in public relations as well as for dawah in Milwaukee.” For decades, only these two mosques, the ISM on Southside and the Dawah Center on the Northside, served Milwaukee’s Muslims. Consequently, Muslims of all ethnicities, Sunni and Shia, prayed Jumah together. Mosques across the city still host Ramadan iftars and all are welcomed. Eid prayers and festivals are massive celebrations for the entire Muslim community, one that’s still small enough that everybody knows almost everybody else by name. After prayers, many stick around, shaking hands and catching up on each other’s news.
INCLUSIVE AND INCLUDED
Milwaukee’s Muslims also enjoy close relationships in the larger community. Mosques frequently host interfaith dinners and discussions. The Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition’s busy Speaker’s Bureau provides talks to schools, universities and community organizations. The ISM, the Dawah Center and other masjids all collaborate with other faith organizations to address societal issues. The Islamic Resource Center hosts educational programs and a book club with the majority being non-Muslim participants, and offers a lending library to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The Wisconsin Muslim Civic Alliance, founded in 2019, encourages Muslims to engage in civic life. It works with allies across the state on mutual concerns, hosts meetand-greets with local candidates, organizes get-out-the-vote drives, takes positions on
PHOTO © MOUNA PHOTOGRAPHY
Muslim-owned businesses sell hijabs and modest apparel, halal meat and groceries, Islamic art and holiday items, and provide restaurants, catering services, youth sports programs, daycare for children and gender-specific salons with privacy for women who cover their hair. Throughout the 1970s, a few groups formed to provide Islamic instruction for their children and to practice their faith. In 1982, they joined together to create the Islamic Society of Milwaukee, purchased an old, closed elementary school on Milwaukee’s Southside where dozens prayed and families met for potluck dinners in the basement. Eventually, it was remodeled into a beautiful mosque. In the following decade, the ISM grew with the community— expanding, establishing a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade school and hiring a full time imam. Muslims living on Milwaukee’s Northside decided it was important to maintain a presence in the inner-city. Ayyub Al-Amin and his wife Waheedhah began holding small dawah meetings in their living room in the early 1980s. When they outgrew that space, they met in a Muslim-owned dental office. “Through faith and persistence, it turned into the Milwaukee Islamic Dawah Center (in 1993),” Al-Amin’s daughter explains. “Their struggle brought services for the underprivileged in the community, regardless of their religion—the food pantry, the Ibrahim House that helps ex-offenders and now a COVID vaccination site,” says Dawah Center board member Rafat Arain. Al-Amin, with Ali Lubbad, also initiated the Islamic Information Service, manning a dedicated telephone number in a grocery
Islamic Resource Center of the Muslim Women of Milwaukee. Photo by Mouna Photography
26 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021
PHOTO CREDIT TO THE WISCONSIN MUSLIM JOURNAL.
Groundbreaking for ISM Mosque. Included in the photo are Muhammad Aslam Cheema (far left), Iftekhar Khan (second from right), Mahmoud Atta (third from right), Mahmoud Abdelhafeez (with shovel)
Islamic Society of Milwaukee Mosque - the city’s largest mosque
policy issues and endorses candidates. It rallies support for civic initiatives like fair housing and fair voting legislation. “These past few years, we have become more politically active,” says Qari Noman Hussain, the imam at Masjid Al-Noor in Brookfield, one of Milwaukee’s western suburbs. Imam Hussain serves on the WMCA Leadership Council. “We have been able to create awareness in the community about the importance of voting and being civically engaged. Now we have Muslims serving on three suburban school boards, starting Wisconsin Muslims’ political history in Milwaukee.” Milwaukee’s Muslims are also “leading in national and international circles on humanitarian and social justice issues through organizations like the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) and American Muslims for Palestine,” Shah says. What’s more, Muslims in Milwaukee “are being asked to be at the table,” Imam Hussain notes. “When it comes to interfaith work, issues of racial disparities in our communities, to speak on panels at different universities, our Muslim leaders are asked to participate.” This does not mean Milwaukee is an oasis where Muslims can escape the hostile rhetoric of Islamophobia. The ISM’s prominent masjid with its towering minarets has often been the target of anti-Muslim protesters. But through their active engagement in the greater community, Milwaukee’s Muslims have found allies and been embraced by Milwaukee’s interfaith community.
Universities, businesses and Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport all provide interfaith and/or Muslim prayer spaces. The University of Wisconsin, Marquette University, Mount Mary University and other institutions of higher education in Milwaukee advise their instructors to accommodate Muslim students fasting during Ramadan. Progressive organizations like Rockwell Automation strive to create a faith-friendly environment. A prominent leader in interfaith activism, Imam Hussain represents the ISM on the cabinet of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee. Janan Najeeb, a longtime member of the ISM, the MMWC president and a passionate advocate of interfaith relations, led prayers on the floor of the Wisconsin State Assembly in 2016, the first Muslim to have that honor. Political officials including the mayor, the county executive, the lieutenant governor and governor, and representatives to the Wisconsin Assembly as well as to the U.S. Congress have all visited Milwaukee’s mosques and Islamic organizations. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers made a Ramadan visit to the ISM in 2019 with the message that “as a state, we reject Islamophobia, we reject anti-immigrant biases and we reject bigotry.” In 2020, Gov. Evers officially recognized the observance of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr. America’s third reporter to wear the hijab on the air, Ubah Ali, joined Milwaukee’s NBC affiliate TMJ4 in March. “Milwaukee has a sizeable Muslim population,” explains news director Tim Vetscher. “It’s important
TMJ4 is representative of all our viewers in southeast Wisconsin through both our journalism and our staff. I know we have viewers who wear a hijab in their everyday lives. It’s a good feeling to know they now see someone on TMJ4 who also wears a hijab.”
The relatively recent proliferation of masjids and Islamic organizations in Milwaukee, while worthy of celebration, is also raising some alarm. In his “State of the Society” address at the 2015 ISM annual meeting, then ISM president Ahmed Quereshi explained: “Once Milwaukee was a small community. Now, we are a community of thousands that has added two new masjids this past year. There are potential divisions between those who had been here for a long time vs. the refugees, the newcomers including our American-born youth; the wealthy vs. the needy, poor, unemployed, underemployed; wealthy vs. poor masjids; urban vs. suburban masjids; educated vs. those without the opportunity for education. Will our community hold fast altogether or will we descend into tribalism? Will we strive to maintain our sense of community or will we let it go or worse?” Within one of the most segregated cities in America, this “challenge of the heart” is what faces Milwaukee’s Muslims today. As Imam Hussain sees it, “The maturity we as a community must have is to understand these organizations are blessings for each other to do the work our prophet taught us to do for our community.” ih Sandra Whitehead is an author, journalist and a long-time adjunct faculty member of journalism and media studies in the journalism and media studies faculty, J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication, Marquette University.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 27
ISLAM IN AMERICA
Showing the World Who Muslim Women Really Are The Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition Carves a Remarkable Path BY SANDRA WHITEHEAD
he Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition (MMWC; https:// mmwconline.org) prepared an elaborate Eid Fest this year, during which thousands celebrated the holiday and created memories for their children. As valuable as this service is, don’t think that this women’s organization is relegated to entertaining children and hosting teas. It operates the Islamic Resource Center, a cultural center that houses the state’s first Islamic public lending library; Our Peaceful Home, a respected culturally specific domestic abuse program; and the MMWC Speakers Bureau. It publishes the Wisconsin Muslim Journal, a twice-weekly online newspaper and produces the Milwaukee Muslim Film Festival, one of the nation’s handful of Islamic film festivals. When MMWC held its 10th anniversary gala last December, praise poured in. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said, “The MMWC has been doing great work
promoting understanding, empowering women and advocating for justice and equity throughout Milwaukee and our state.” “They are truly an essential organization,” Wisconsin’s Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes agreed. “I have seen firsthand their efforts to fight for social justice and civil rights for all people through advocacy, dialogue, education and outreach.” “It is an organization committed to uplifting communities through education, honest and open conversations, and advocacy that aims to actualize justice and fairness,” noted Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.), as well as “a true community partner” (Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett), “a role model Muslim organization” (Imam Ziad Hamdan, the Islamic Society of Milwaukee), “a champion of Islamic values” (Will Perry, president, Wisconsin Muslim Civic Alliance) and “a local, regional and national model in countering stereotypes, educating and engaging
I think Muslims are treated as such by most of American society. That is why I include them,” he said. “Her talk has always helped. Except for some Muslim students, the students know very little about Islam and have been subjected to a steady stream of lies.” According to MMWC records, Najeeb alone has given more than 2,000 presentations since the speakers bureau began. “I think we were unusual to some people. They had never met Muslim women; it was something that interested them,” she remarked. In 2016, Najeeb was the first Muslim to open the Wisconsin State Assembly with a prayer. ➤ A decade of Catholic-Muslim women’s dialogues. Two years after the bureau launched, the director of the Milwaukee Archdiocese’s Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith
➤ The MMWC Speakers Bureau. “From the beginning, the core of our work has been our Speakers Bureau,”Najeeb said. “Through it, we have had an impact on the image of Muslims and Islam, not only in Greater Milwaukee, but across Wisconsin and, to some extent, across the world.” In the mid-1990s, they decided on a list of topics they felt comfortable discussing and sent letters to women’s clubs, interfaith organizations, high schools and other groups offering to speak about Islam, the Muslim community and the role of women. Soon they were speaking across the state, especially after 9/11. Russell Brooker, Ph.D. (professor of political science, Alverno College) invites Najeeb every time he teaches a class on race and ethnicity in America. “I realize Islam is not a race or an ethnicity, but
28 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021
the public, and nurturing attitude-changing relationships” (Tom Heinen, executive director emeritus, Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee).
From its beginning in 1994 as a women’s circle, MMWC has been educating the Greater Milwaukee community and
Concerns recruited the MMWC to create Catholic and Muslim women’s dialogues. “It was an amazing experience that went on for decades,” Najeeb said. “We probably visited every Catholic parish in Milwaukee. For many Catholics, we were the first Muslims they [had] ever met.” ➤ The Catholic-Muslim Healthcare Initiative. By the early 2000s, the MMWC and
beyond about who Muslims, especially Muslim women, really are. It started with a group of young women getting together for a Sunday circle. Some were newly
married, others had young children and most — including a doctor, a nurse, an accountant and a microbiologist — had professional degrees. They gathered at each
PHOTOS: © MOUNA RASHID, PRINTED WITH PERMISSION
WE ARE CONSTANTLY REINVENTING OURSELVES,” NOTED NAJEEB, WHO SAYS THE NEXT FOCUS WILL BE ON COMMUNITY YOUTH. “THERE IS DEFINITELY A DISCONNECT BETWEEN GENERATIONS, BETWEEN IMMIGRANT PARENTS AND CHILDREN WHO ARE BORN AND RAISED HERE AND CONSIDER THEMSELVES VERY AMERICAN.”
their Catholic partners decided to help the uninsured or underinsured address their healthcare needs. Parish nurses and Muslim doctors worked together to open a free, mobile healthcare clinic, one of the first of its kind. “We made little insurance cards with our name on it — The Catholic-Muslim Healthcare Initiative. They would take it to the doctors and would be seen for free.
other’s homes and discussed important issues of the day. “In every discussion, we came back to the same idea — that the image of Muslim women is very problematic, very negative and uninformed. Muslim women were viewed as oppressed,” stated Janan Najeeb (founder and president, MMWC). “We thought we really need to do something about this.” The early MMWC members sought ways to serve not only Muslims, but also the larger community. That approach helped It wasn’t embarrassing to them because they had an insurance card like everybody else,” Najeeb mentioned. ➤ Training immigrant women to be medical assistants. Another successful service project, the MMWC’s Medical Assistant Training Program, helped immigrant women “find a place to start from which they could move forward,” Najeeb stated. MMWC hired instructors from Bryant & Stratton College and, over the course of several years, “we had 40-50 individuals who were able to get into full-time jobs and were able to get insurance for their families. Many of them went on from there to go to other levels as physician assistants or X-ray technicians.” ➤ Opening the Islamic Resource Center. When MMWC incorporated in 2010, it
them become an integral part of Greater Milwaukee, Najeeb said. One early victory came from lobbying the state’s largest newspaper to change the name of its “Church Directory” to “Directory of Worship” and include mosques, synagogues and temples in its list.
“We are constantly reinventing ourselves,” noted Najeeb, who says the next focus will be on community youth. “There is definitely a disconnect between generations, between immigrant parents and children who are born and raised here and consider themselves very American.” It is also seeking new ways to help the many refugees in the Milwaukee area, for “the trauma many of them are carrying with them is untreated. This is affecting their family life, their children and their ability to succeed. What we are trying to do is help people reach the highest potential they can.” According to Kristin Hansen (executive director, the Wisconsin Muslim Civic Alliance), “The MMWC provides a wide array of services that can be found nowhere else. It has earned its place among the top organizations serving the Muslim community and beyond.” ih Sandra Whitehead is an author, journalist and a long-time adjunct faculty member of journalism and media studies in the journalism and media studies faculty, J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication, Marquette University.
was already a well-known organization. That same year, it built an office that also functions as an Islamic resource and cultural center for the Greater Milwaukee community. The IRC hosts university classes and community groups for educational programs, films, poetry slams and discussion groups. It also offers a lending library with books about Islam for all ages. Since then, the MMWC has accomplished numerous other projects, many of them ongoing, including the Wisconsin Muslim Journal, the Milwaukee Muslim Film Festival, the IRC Book Club (an interfaith discussion of books with Islamic topics) and a culturally specific domestic violence program known as Our Peaceful Home. It also launched the annual Eid celebration, a joint effort with the Islamic Society of Milwaukee. ih
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 29
ISLAM IN AMERICA
A Memphis Response to the Covid Challenge A coordinated effort leads to success in keeping the entire Muslim community safe BY HASSAN ALMOAZEN, GHALIB MANNAN AND IBRAHIM SULTAN-ALI
or the last 17 months we’ve experienced the most devastating pandemic the world has seen in over a century. Not only has it left close to 4 million people dead worldwide, including over 620,000 in the U.S. alone, but it has also had devastating effects on everyone’s lives and completely changed how we live our lives. The pandemic even forced some of the most unthinkable undertakings, such as cancelling the hajj, closing mosques worldwide and observing a Ramadan unlike any other. From the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Memphis Muslims went into action and formed their Covid taskforce to coordinate the response of the city’s mosques. The first meeting, held in March at Masjid ArRahman, was attended by representatives and imams from the Memphis Islamic Center, Masjid Almu’minun, the Midtown Mosque, Masjid Altaqwa, the Muslim Society of Memphis and Masjid Al-Noor, as well as several of the city’s
Muslim Covid-19 experts including infectious disease and pulmonary physicians. It was unanimously decided to close the mosques, although there were only a few cases in the county at the time, but the disease was out of control in other cities such as New York. The Covid infection positivity rate had reached 10% by April and May 2020, it had increased to 14% in Shelby County and Tennessee.
With the mosques closed, we spent Ramadan in isolation at home. Like most of the world’s Muslims — and for the first time in most people’s lives — we prayed Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha at home as well. This was one of the most emotionally and spiritually challenging times for the Muslims of Memphis and Shelby County. Never had we felt so isolated and detached from our own communities. It was particularly painful
THE PANDEMIC HAS BROUGHT THE COMMUNITY TOGETHER AND MADE EVERY MUSLIM IN THE COUNTY PROUD OF THEIR MOSQUES’ SUCCESSFUL AND COORDINATED EFFORT TO LEAD THIS GIGANTIC EFFORT THAT HAS KEPT OUR COMMUNITY SAFE. NO INFECTION OUTBREAKS HAVE OCCURRED IN ANY MOSQUE OR IN THE COMMUNITY SINCE THE PANDEMIC STARTED 17 MONTHS AGO.
30 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021
for those who are strongly connected to the mosques to stay away from them, especially for the Jumah prayers. For those who did not have a family or lived alone, this was a particularly lonely and trying time. Only when the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines arrived did we feel some relief and start a vaccination advocacy campaign. By the spring of 2021 the number of Covid cases in our area had been significantly reduced, and so the taskforce recommended a partial re-opening of the mosques. Following the CDC guidelines, we mandated that everyone wear a mask and observe social distancing (6 feet apart from each other) during prayers. Jumah prayers were also held. Attendees were required to bring their own prayer mats, put their shoes in plastic bags next to them, avoid social gatherings before and after prayers and keep the restrooms closed. Since this model was successful, we thought it would also work for the upcoming Ramadan. We therefore applied the same principles for the isha’ and taraweeh prayers for Ramadan 2021. As a result, we had an enjoyable Ramadan even though it was still limited compared to what we were used to. For the first time ever, the Eid al-Fitr prayer was held in the parking lot of a local baseball stadium. Social distancing was maintained by telling each family to pray next to its own car. That was an innovative and unique method to safely conduct the Eid prayer. In May 2021, another challenge arose: When the CDC eased the restrictions on mask wearing for those who were fully vaccinated but said that those in crowded areas should keep wearing it, taskforce members had to decide whether to lift the restrictions in mosques or not. To this end, we conducted a survey, both online as well at all mosques on a Friday, that asked people
anonymously who had tested positive, who was partially or fully vaccinated and who was not vaccinated. From the 649 responders, we learned that about 11.86% had tested positive and that 88.14% were not infected (see Figure 1). Figure 2 shows the percentage of the totally immune (77.74%, those who had tested positive or had received one or two doses of vaccine) and those who had no immunity (22.26%) of n=813. Figure 3 shows those who had received both of the doses (71.96%), just one dose (5.78%), no dose (20.79%) and those who had given incomplete answers (1.48%). This result was pleasantly surprising, as the Muslim community’s vaccinated percentage was much higher than the national average and certainly higher than those of Shelby County and Tennessee. Based on this data, the taskforce started reducing restrictions in a gradual and phased approach over the summer. We first recommended that all mosques reduce the social distance to 3 feet, require a mask for the unvaccinated and recommend (but not require) masks for the vaccinated. Although the 3 feet social distancing was a CDC recommendation only for schools, taskforce members felt that it could be applied here as well since many community members would most likely not feel comfortable going straight from 6 feet to zero feet after 15 months of social distancing. The plan was to completely – but gradually – phase out social distancing by the end of the summer, provided that the community’s case numbers remained low. As this article was being written, the infection positivity rate in Shelby County was currently only 2%. The pandemic has brought the community together and made every Muslim in the county proud of their
The authors would like to recognize the excellent cooperation they received from the Memphis Muslim community following the release of the CDC guidelines, as well as the community’s support and encouragement for people to get vaccinated. We would also like to recognize the excellent support the Covid-19 taskforce received from area Muslim physicians, experts and religious leaders who immediately responded to our calls. The following members served on the taskforce and contributed to its success: Drs. Adnan Nasser, Mohammed Assaf, Sami Sakaan, Nadeem Shafi, Imad Omer and M. Aijaz Khurshid; imams Hamzah Abdel Malik, Rashad Sherif and Hamza AbdulTawwaab; and Alpha Dialo, Malik Shaw, Fazle Chowdhury and Sameer Mansour.
mosques’ successful and coordinated effort to lead this gigantic effort that has kept our community safe. No infection outbreaks have occurred in any mosque or in the community since the pandemic started 17 months ago.
Figure 1. The percent of Muslims who responded in person after attending the Friday prayer at various Memphis mosques, in addition to those who responded online to the question: “Have you tested positive for Covid-19 in the past?”
Figure 2. The total percent of Memphis Muslims who had Covid-19 and received either one or two vaccine doses.
Figure 3. The percentage of Memphis Muslims who received two doses (complete), one dose (partial) or who were not vaccinated (none). Those who provide incomplete answers are not specified. ih Hassan Almoazen, PhD, is associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences, University of Tennessee. Ghalib Mannan, MD, is an infectious diseases specialist in Memphis, Tenn. Ibrahim Sultan-Ali, MD, is a pulmonologist in Memphis, Tenn.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 31
The American Mosque 2020: Growing and Evolving The decadal surveys provide a detailed portrait of the nation’s mosque BY ISLAMIC HORIZONS STAFF
h e U . S . Mo s qu e Survey 2020 (https:// www.ispu.org/report1-mosque-survey-2020/), a comprehensive statistical study conducted by The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in cooperation with ISNA and several other organizations, was released on June 1. This ongoing decadal survey, which was also conducted in 2000 and 2010, provides a detailed portrait of the nation’s mosques. Its point is to dispel misconceptions and help mosque leaders and participants better understand their mosques. This year, 2,769 mosques responded. This article is limited to the survey’s Report 1: “Basic Characteristics of the American Mosque.” Its primary sponsors also include the Center on Muslim Philanthropy and the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies. Other important supporters are Intuitive Solutions, IIIT, ICNA’s Council for Social Justice, CAIR and the Hartford Institute for Religion Research (Hartford Seminary). The major findings are as follows:
THE NUMBER OF MOSQUES CONTINUES TO GROW
➤ The 2020 survey counted 2,769 mosques, a 31% increase from the 2010 count of 2,106 mosques. Undoubtedly, the primary driving force for this increase is the expanding population of Muslim Americans due to immigration and births. ➤ Mosques are becoming more suburban. The number of mosques located in towns/small cities has declined from 20% in 2010 to 6% in 2020. The apparent reasons for this are disappearing jobs and the moving of
young adults, children of mosque founders and activists to large cities for education and jobs. In 2010, 17% of mosques were located in the downtown areas of large cities; in 2020, that figure was 6 percent. This decrease is most probably tied to the decrease of African American mosques and the general relocation of mosques to the suburbs.
THE NUMBER OF MOSQUE PARTICIPANTS CONTINUES TO GROW
➤ Jum’ah prayers averaged 410 attendees in 2020, as compared to 353 in 2010 — a 16% increase. Almost 72% of mosques recorded a 10% or higher increase in Jum’ah attendance. ➤ The total number of mosque participants, measured by the number of Muslims who attend the Eid al-Fitr prayer, increased to 1,445, a 16% increase from the 2010 count of 1,248. ➤ Using the Eid prayer count, the number of “mosqued” Muslims is approximately 4 million.
➤ The number of converts per mosque
32 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021
declined dramatically, from 15.3 in 2010 to the average number of 11.3 in 2020. The primary reason for this is the decline in African American converts, especially in African American mosques. Some observers of the study stated the need to determine if conversions are the result of active organizations like Imam WD Mohammed’s community and those MSA chapters that organize campus activities to share their faith with others. Also, the question of whether the major focus on “interfaith” activities has diverted resources and people who could have been better used to spread accurate information of what Islam is and who Muslims are.
A SHARP DECREASE IN AFRICAN AMERICAN MOSQUES AND THEIR ATTENDEES
➤ In 2020, African American mosques comprised 13% of all mosques. In 2010, this figure was 23% — a 43% decrease. Dominant ethnic groups within mosques are calculated as any group over 55% of all mosque participants; 50%-59% of one group and all others less than 40%; 40-49% of one group and all others less than 30%; 35-39% of one group and all others less than 20%. This is especially noteworthy, considering that, according to ISPU, they account for roughly 28% of all Muslims in this country. ➤ In 2020, they comprised 16% of all mosque attendees, a 33% decrease from 2010’s figure of 23%. ➤ More study is needed to understand this phenomenon. Right now, apparent causes are the decline of African American converts, which constitutes the lifeblood of their mosques’ growth; mosques’ inability
to attract and maintain young African American adults; and the overall aging of this population segment, many of whom converted in the 1960s and 1970s.
YOUNG ADULT MUSLIMS — GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS
➤ Good news. Twenty-four percent of mosque participants are aged 18-34, roughly the ages of Generation Z and young Millennials. This is a very respectable
NEIGHBORHOOD AND ZONING BOARD RESISTANCE TO MOSQUE DEVELOPMENT HAS INCREASED
➤ During 2010-19, 35% of mosques encountered significant resistance when seeking permission to move, expand or build. In comparison, from 1980-2009 the average percentage in this regard was 25%. Apparently, anti-Muslim sentiment grew in the last decade. Mosque opposition represents an institutional form of
SOME OBSERVERS OF THE STUDY STATED THE NEED TO DETERMINE IF CONVERSIONS ARE THE RESULT OF ACTIVE ORGANIZATIONS LIKE IMAM WD MOHAMMED’S COMMUNITY AND THOSE MSA CHAPTERS THAT ORGANIZE CAMPUS ACTIVITIES TO SHARE THEIR FAITH WITH OTHERS. ALSO, THE QUESTION OF WHETHER THE MAJOR FOCUS ON “INTERFAITH” ACTIVITIES HAS DIVERTED RESOURCES AND PEOPLE WHO COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER USED TO SPREAD ACCURATE INFORMATION OF WHAT ISLAM IS AND WHO MUSLIMS ARE.
percentage when compared to their peers who attend churches. About 11% of church attendees fall in this age group. ➤ Bad news. ISPU found that in 2020, 54% of adult Muslims were aged 18-34. Eliminating the children’s age group of 1-17, Survey 2020 estimates that 29% of adult mosque attendees are 18-34. This figure, which is far below ISPU’s data, indicates that this age group comprises 54% of the Muslim American population. Based on this large difference, mosques aren’t attracting very many of them.
THE NUMBER OF PURPOSE-BUILT MOSQUES CONTINUES TO GROW
➤ In 2020, 37% of all mosques were purpose-built structures. This is a substantial increase from 2010, when only 30% fit into this category. Taking into consideration the actual numbers instead of percentages, 37% translates into 1,025 mosques. In 2010, 30% translated into 632 mosques. In 2000, only 314 mosques were purpose-built. Clearly, Muslim Americans have maintained their building spree.
anti-Muslim discrimination. According to ISPU’s American Muslim Poll 2020 (https:// www.ispu.org/public-policy/american-muslim-poll/), Muslims experience more institutional and interpersonal religious discrimination than any other religious group.
MORE IMAMS ARE FULL-TIME, PAID AND AMERICAN-BORN
➤ Half of all mosques have a full-time paid imam as compared to 2010, when this figure was 43%. This percentage is well short of those churches and synagogues that have full-time paid religious leaders. Nevertheless, it shows steady progress. ➤ Of the full-time paid imams, 22% were American-born, an increase from 15% in 2010. The growing preference for American-born imams is gradually becoming clearer. ➤ Only 6% of all imams received their Islamic degree (BA, MA, PhD) from an American institution. No one seminary, university or institute is predominant in granting these degrees. The absence of a leading U.S.-based Islamic seminary negatively affects the number of these figures.
MOSQUE GOVERNANCE IS STILL VARIED AND EVOLVING
➤ No one governance model typifies mosques. ➤ 48% of mosques have one volunteer governing body, usually called a “board of directors” or an “executive committee,” to manage their day-to-day activities. In larger mosques with a Jum’ah attendance of over 500, the more common governing structure is to have a board of trustees that provides oversight and an executive committee that manages the mosque. ➤ As only a handful of very large mosques have paid staff to manage the mosque, 76% of mosques are managed entirely by volunteers. ➤ Lay leadership is predominant, for only 30% of all mosques view the imam as the leader. ➤ In 77% of mosques, imams have no managerial role. In addition, 54% of mosques have a shared lay leadership–imam governance arrangement, with the former tasked with management and the latter with religious affairs. In 23% of mosques, the lay leadership runs all aspects of the mosque, including religious affairs, and the imam just leads the prayers. Only in a few instances — almost all African American mosques — does the imam have both religious and management responsibilities. Typically, in the shared governance model mosque leadership and the final decision-making power lie with the lay leadership.
MOSQUE INCOME CONTINUES TO GROW
➤ The average mosque budget in 2020 was $276,500 and the median budget was $80,000. This is a substantial increase from 2010’s figures of $167,600 and $70,000, respectively. These figures don’t include capital campaigns to build or expand mosques. ➤ On average, mosques collect $40,640 for zakat. ➤ On average, when the budget and zakat are combined, mosques collect $317,140. ➤ Mosque and church incomes are roughly the same; however, churches achieve their income levels with far fewer people. Churches average $311,782 with 180 regular participants. Mosque income averages $317,140 with an average Jum’ah attendance of 410. Dividing income by participants, church participants give $1,732 per year and mosque participants give $674 per year. ih
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 33
MUSLIMS LIVING AS MINORITIES
The Turks and the Chinese: A History of Determination and Assimilation Since becoming the Communist Party Secretary of Xinjiang on August 29, 2016, Chen Quango has applied the same brutal policies he used to “stabilize” Tibet BY MUSTAFA GÖKÇEK
The Chinese people, who give in abundance gold, silver, millet, and silk, have always used sweet words and have at their disposal overwhelming riches, they have drawn the far away peoples nearer to themselves. But after drawing near them, these have come to see their deception” (Translation based on E. Denison Ross and Vilhelm Thomsen, “The Orkhon Inscriptions,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, University of London 5, no. 4 : 861-76). Bilge Kagan inscribed these words of wisdom on the Orkhon Inscriptions in 732. The Khan of the Gök Türk Empire in Central Asia strongly warned his Turkish subjects against the tricks of their Chinese neighbors. Indeed, these Inscriptions, discovered in late 19th-century excavations, testify to the Turkish people’s struggle against assimilation and provide insights into China’s tactics to accomplish that very goal. History is once again repeating itself, and the Uyghurs are the latest victims of this most brutal assimilationist effort. Kul tigin Monument of Orkhon Inscriptions — Orkhon Museum, Kharkhorin, Mongolia Leading a pastoral nomadic lifestyle and grazing their cattle and other livestock herds across the steppes of Central leadership of a Chinese girl, posing as a boy, Eurasia, Turkic and Mongolian tribes con- fighting against the barbaric attackers from stantly came into contact with the Chinese the north — the Mongolian and Turkish peoples, who led an agricultural lifestyle tribes. While “history may be written by the settled in cities. Historians have typically victors,” this misrepresentation reminds us relied on the Chinese annals for most of of the need to search for the truth in historthe information regarding these nomadic ical accounts and how history is reproduced tribes, as the nomadic lifestyle enables oral everyday. cultural elements — but not keeping and Today, Beijing is leading a total and global preserving written sources — to flourish. fight to annihilate the Uyghur ethnic idenThis dependence has allowed long-stand- tity together with other Muslim minorities ing Chinese stereotypes regarding these under its rule. These minorities’ distinct nomadic peoples as barbaric and violent cultural and national identities are denied, to survive. The most recent example of this and regular Islamic practices are characis Disney’s “Mulan,” which glorified the terized as evidence of “terroristic activity.” 34 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021
While historical examples of cultural assimilation are narrated as stories of the past, what we witness and hear today are clear glimpses of a genocidal campaign, even though many nations refrain from recognizing it as such. The Orkhon Inscriptions aren’t the only evidence of China’s attempts to assimilate historical Turkish nations. Incidentally, the Chinese sources themselves contain abundant evidence of the rulers’ various strategies developed over thousands of years and their many successes. Sending brides was a significant tool in this regard. While royal marriage between empires is a common theme throughout history, there are numerous accounts of Chinese leaders who considered giving a Chinese bride as a more practical alternative to war. In 814, a Chinese official explained how a marriage that accompanied substantial dowry would cost much less than a military campaign. Thus, Chinese rulers used dynastic marriages both to build royal connections with other empires and as a tool to expand against and subdue their enemies. Indeed, the same inscriptions in which the Turkish Kagan expresses his anger over the assimilation of Turks also testify to China’s influence. Bilge Kagan prides himself on building monuments, statues and mausoleums to honor his brother Kultegin, but it was the Chinese artists, sculptors and architects who helped build them all. The inscriptions were composed of four sections, one of which was written completely in Chinese. All of these indicate the level of Chinese cultural influence among the nomadic tribes. Economic riches were long viewed as instruments of territorial gain and the assimilation of ethnic communities. As
Bilge Kagan’s inscriptions noted, China often sent silk, silver and other material goods as indicators of its vast wealth to the northern nomadic ruling elites as gifts, tribute or dowry. The long-term purpose was to increase its economic and cultural influence over the Turkish enemies and to enable expansion and control over the nomadic kingdoms. Border markets were another economic tool. While they allowed for commercial
warning. The Chinese continue to attract the world’s public opinion by utilizing their economic influence to cover up their assimilationist policies. The Uyghur Khaganate had replaced Bilge Kagan’s Gök Türk Empire by 744. A fateful battle at Talas in 751 between the Muslim Arab armies and the Chinese would become a turning point on multiple levels. China’s expansion into Central Asia and suzerainty over local tribes by manipulating
TODAY, BEIJING IS LEADING A TOTAL AND GLOBAL FIGHT TO ANNIHILATE THE UYGHUR ETHNIC IDENTITY TOGETHER WITH OTHER MUSLIM MINORITIES UNDER ITS RULE. THESE MINORITIES’ DISTINCT CULTURAL AND NATIONAL IDENTITIES ARE DENIED, AND REGULAR ISLAMIC PRACTICES ARE CHARACTERIZED AS EVIDENCE OF “TERRORISTIC ACTIVITY.” exchange, they also enabled the Chinese authorities to bring the nomadic tribes under control. As early as around 160 BCE, it is recorded that an official advised the Chinese emperor to build more border markets, for once the nomadic peoples from the north begin craving China’s luxury items “this will have become their fatal weakness” (David Christian, “History of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia” [Blackwell Pubs., 2018], p. 193). In their relations with their neighbors, utilizing economic means to assimilate the other appears to be a long-term strategy for China to realize its imperial ambitions. Indeed today, a major factor that enables the ongoing Chinese genocide is Beijing’s economic influence, which has now reached a global scale. While almost two dozen Western countries have openly criticized China for its atrocities against the Uyghurs and a handful have recognized their ongoing oppression as genocide, the Turkic world and Muslim countries have remained mostly silent — some even openly support China’s policies. Among the numerous factors leading to this ethnic group’s loneliness, the leading one is the complex economic relations that Beijing has established with these countries, as well as the immense financial benefits they continue to reap. This is only the 21st-century version of Bilge Kagan’s
their inner conflicts had reached its height, especially following the decline of the Gök Türks. When the Chinese armies invaded a Turkish town in today’s Uzbekistan and executed the local khan, the Muslim armies, which had already reached Samarkand, allied with the Turkic forces and defeated them at Talas. This battle would have a significant impact on the rise of the Islamic civilization, as the Muslims quickly learned how to make paper from the captured Chinese soldiers and started using it on a large scale that would forever change the speed of learning and spread of knowledge. This also marked the farthest point that China’s control would ever reach, for this battle ended its expansion into Central Asia. In addition, the Battle of Talas marked a significant turning point in Islam’s spread among the region’s Turkish tribes (Svatopluk Soucek, “A Short History of Inner Asia” [Cambridge University Press, 2000], p. 68.) From this point onward, Turks would quickly embrace Islam and, by the 11th century, they had become the forebearers of Islam in the Middle East and stand against the Crusades. While these Turkic tribes continued to be more strongly connected with Islamic Middle East until the Russian invasions of
the 19th century, the Uyghurs struggled with the continuous Chinese efforts of assimilation. The Turkish Muslim peoples of Eastern Turkestan were subjected to waves of assimilation under the Qing Dynasty (16441912) and Republican China (1912-49) (See Justin M. Jacobs, “Xinjiang and the Modern Chinese State [University of Washington Press, 2016]). Even the harsh assimilationist pressures unleashed during Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1966-76) seem quite light compared to what the Uyghurs have been going through for the last four to five years (See Sean Roberts, “The War on the Uyghurs” [Princeton University Press, 2020]). Today, one of the most horrific episodes of assimilation, certainly meeting the definition of genocide, is ongoing in Eastern Turkestan. The leaked reports and the few survivors who are able to speak portray the 21st-century concentration camps in which millions of Turkic Muslim Uyghurs are being held against their will; forced to work to uphold China’s global economic enterprise; and subjected to indoctrination, torture, hunger, sterilization, unknown drugs, organ extraction, separation of children from parents and other as-yet-unknown crimes against humanity. In the words of Bilge Kagan, the sweet words and riches are long over for the Uyghurs, for they are facing Beijing’s deception in one of history’s worst cases of forced assimilation. ih Professor Mustafa Gökçek, who teaches courses on the history of the Ottoman Empire, the Middle East, Russia and Central Asia, helped establish the Middle Eastern and Islamic studies program at Niagara University, Lewiston, N.Y. His research focuses on the discourses of nationalism and Islamism at the turn of the 20th century in the Ottoman Empire. He is especially interested in the intellectual interaction between the Russian and Ottoman empires and looks into the role of Istanbul’s Kazan Tatar emigres in developing Turkish nationalism and secularization as regards Ottoman governance.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 35
MUSLIMS LIVING AS MINORITIES
Beijing’s Genocidal anti-Uyghur Campaign and Stalin’s Gulag Archipelago China’s latest attempt to disappear Xinjiang’s majority Uyghur Muslim population BY SARAH WINTER
eorge Santayana, the SpanishAmerican philosopher, once famously wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (“The Life of Reason: Reason in Common Sense” [Scribner’s, 1905], p. 284). History has seen this all before: identities stripped, freedoms revoked, families separated, the eradication of entire cultures, systemic rape, abuse, starvation and torture. China’s ongoing assault on Xinjiang’s majority-Uyghur Muslim population is so heinous that it seems unduplicatable, and yet it brings another relatively recent situation to mind — Stalin’s forced labor camps in the Soviet Union from the 1930s to the 1950s. Beijing’s current campaign features some eerily similar tactics: hiding the camps from the public, portraying them as opportunities for “learning” and “reform” and silencing and eliminating opposition by ensuring the masses are living in fear. Similarities through censorship, denial, strategy and eradicating
entire populations to gain more control over a state connect these two harrowing situations. Such a reality reminds us that understanding the past is necessary to comprehending the present and constructing a more egalitarian future. Chinese president Xi Jinping claims that the Xinjiang internment camps are necessary to fight “Islamic extremism” and contain what he recognizes as a “contagion” that is bound to spread beyond Xinjiang if let go. The New York Times has revisited Xi’s past regarding the management of Uyghur Muslims and how he has formerly “called on the party to unleash the tools of ‘dictatorship’ to eradicate radical Islam in Xinjiang” (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/11/16/world/asia/china-xinjiang-documents.html). The alarming report further stated, “There are also references to plans to extend restrictions on Islam to other parts of China” (ibid.), and continues to unintentionally draw striking comparisons
36 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021
of Xi to Stalin by detailing the elimination of party opponents and the numerous human rights lawyers who have disappeared (ibid.). All of this demonstrates Xi’s ability and willingness to establish extreme measures and destroy anyone standing in his way. Given the adamant denial of these accusations, along with the censorship and media manipulation that have become commonplace in China, it is not far-fetched to believe that horrible crimes are being committed behind these internment camps’ closed doors. The draconian policies Stalin employed to operate his Gulag parallel how Beijing is operating its internment camps, which are reportedly holding over 1 million Uyghur Muslims as prisoners. Throughout the history of Stalin’s ruthless camp system, he and his top officials, much like Beijing, claimed that its purpose was to protect society from dangerous criminals who threatened national security (Golfo Alexopoulos, “Illness and Inhumanity in Stalin’s Gulag” [Yale University Press, 2017], p.3). The reality is the vast majority of these “criminals” were poor, uneducated citizens who were wrongfully and maximally punished for minimal crimes. The most minimal of crimes could result in 25 years of imprisonment, a virtual death sentence. In her monograph, Alexopoulos explains, “Moreover, the illiterate, the semiliterate, and individuals with only an elementary school education made up that vast majority of gulag prisoners, as many as 80 percent before the war” (p.275). This supposed institution of reeducation and protection was, in reality, a grandiose and complex torture system that exploited civilians for economic purposes. An estimated 1 million people died in Stalin’s Gulag, and “In addition, there is the currently unknown number of those who died shortly after being released from the Gulag” (http://www.jstor. org/stable/826310). Survivor testimonies at this point are incredibly rare, yet vital to investigations. One survivor, Tursunay Ziawudun, courageously chose to speak out and recollect her experiences in a rare interview with BBC during February 2021. Her experience reveals a torturous existence in which rape and abuse are commonplace and many nights are filled with the sounds of screaming victims as camp guards ripped them from their cells after dark (https://www.bbc.com/news/ world-asia-china-55794071). The BBC article shares an additional report of another former
detainee who corroborated tales to report, and often attributes of sexual abuse, detailing her role separatist motives to seemingly to restrain women after removing unrelated violence” (http://www. their above-the-waist clothing for jstor.org/stable/41447781). This the camp guards (ibid.). genocide has been going on for Similarly, much of what we years, and yet it has only been seriously acknowledged within know about Stalin’s Gulag and its horrible conditions come from the last year or so. survivor recollections as well Yet another instance of history (Alexopoulos, p.274). The condirepeating itself is misinterpreting tions were inconceivable, and there Islamic culture — stereotypes and unfounded fears of violent was never enough medicine, clothing, hygiene products, food and uprisings and anarchy, scapegoatother items commonly used during ing Muslims and characterizing daily life to go around. Prisoners Islam as a problem to manage or were chosen to live or die based a culture to control — to justify THE DRACONIAN POLICIES STALIN its adherents’ merciless persecuon their ability to give back to the state through labor. The many tion and oppression. Ye Xiaowen EMPLOYED TO OPERATE HIS innocent people who suffered (director, State Administration GULAG PARALLEL HOW BEIJING for Religious Affairs in China) inside the walls were expendable pawns used to benefit the economy, explains that “Islam is a peace-lovIS OPERATING ITS INTERNMENT often working 12-16 hours per day ing religion. Chinese-Muslims CAMPS, WHICH ARE BELIEVED TO BE love peace, oppose turmoil and (ibid., p.209). In both situations we have HOLDING OVER 1 MILLION UYGHUR separatism, advocate tolerance needed to rely on survivor testiand harmony, and treasure unity MUSLIMS AS PRISONERS. monies to reveal these camps’ true and stability” (http://www.jstor. nature; however, most survivors org/stable/27821503). are understandably too terrified But despite his and many other or traumatized to share their experiences vast-surveillance-network-11574786846). logical interpretations of Islam, Islam conand thus live in silence. For instance, Mara Hvistendahl reported tinues to be presented as an enemy and a To reduce their numbers, Uyghur women that Oracle, in order to sell the CIA-backed threatening culture centered around vioare currently being subjected to forced Endeca software to Beijing, touted its use lence. Many past leaders have used this sterilization procedures. Reports of forced in Chicago for predictive policing (thein- stereotype to target and frame Muslims’ abortions have also circulated, with the BBC tercept.com/2021/05/25/oracle-social-me- cultures and turn the masses against them. The assault on Uyghur Muslims is the most explaining that “The birth rate in Xinjiang dia-surveillance-protests-endeca/). has plummeted in the past few years, accordAnother notable similarity between recent example of this. ing to independent research — and effect these two situations is media coverage. However, there is one incredibly importanalysts have described as “demographic Even decades after the Gulag’s closure, the ant difference between these two situations: genocide” (www.bbc.com/news/world- atrocities committed therein remained rel- the atrocities of Stalin’s labor camps were asia-china-55794071). One intimidation atively unknown outside the former Soviet not widely known or well understood while tactic, the threat of families being ripped Union. As historians have placed it under he was alive. Today, the increasing interapart and sent to camps as punishment for the shadow of Hitler’s concentration camps, national level of awareness regarding the reproducing, is also used to control those to some extent these horrors have been internment camps in Xinjiang can help us who are not incarcerated. In addition, high- forgotten over time. Similarly, the ongo- stop history from repeating itself. Living tech facial recognition software is also being ing genocide of Uyghur Muslims has only in the 21st century means that we have used to locate and isolate Uyghurs in public. recently been extensively broadcast — a very more power to make a difference than It has recently been discovered that more disconcerting reality, considering the power ever before. There’s no excuse for what is happening advanced, emotion-detecting technolo- that the media holds today. gies are being tested on Uyghurs who have The intense censorship and uncoop- to the Uyghurs. If history is truly repeating been rounded up by police for no appar- erative demeanor of Chinese officials has itself, looking the other way will only make ent reason (https://www.bbc.com/news/ made it incredibly difficult to investigate and their situation worse. As this is a humanitartechnology-57101248). broadcast these crimes to the world. China ian, as opposed to a political, issue, it’s time Ironically, while the U.S. often chides has continuously manipulated the media to make China understand that its current China over Xinjiang “excesses,” it looks the and blurred reality to fit its own narrative. campaign will engender actual consequences other way when its own high-tech companies As Hastings writes, “the Chinese govern- instead of just more empty rhetoric. ih benefit from supplying the Chinese with ment has incentives to represent the nature Sarah Winter, a junior majoring in history and minoring in public such technology (https://www.wsj.com/arti- of Uyghur unrest in the harshest possible history, is a Women’s Studies research assistant at Niagara University, cles/u-s-tech-companies-prop-up-chinas- light, picks and chooses which incidents Lewiston, N.Y. SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 37
MUSLIMS LIVING AS MINORITIES
The Genocide of Uyghurs and the Silence of Muslim-Majority Countries When social stability trumps individual rights BY ALI MÜCTEBA GÖKÇEK
yghur Muslims have faced oppression throughout their historical relations with China. The region that the Chinese call Xinjiang only really became a constituent part of the larger China when the Qing Dynasty conquered it in the 1750s. China’s relationship with the Uyghurs has been fundamentally colonial in nature. The Uyghur homeland served as a frontier colony, one that is held arms-length away from the mother country, and as a settler colony that has been overwhelmingly settled by the population of the colonizing country. The first modern rebellion against the Chinese was led by Yakup Beg, who unified the region as Kashgaria (1865-1877) and sought international recognition of its independent status. It further became involved in Chinese politics in the late 19th century when the Qing made the region a province of its mainland. Later, in 1944 the Ili Rebellion – considered the start of the East Turkestan National
Liberation Revolution (The Three Districts Revolution) -- against the Kuomintang rule, with Soviet support, liberated the region’s Turkic people and enabled the short-lived proclamation of the East Turkestan Republic in the region. Although the Republic made numerous efforts for diplomatic recognition, no country recognized its envoys as representatives of an independent country. The uprising concluded with a ceasefire in Oct. 1949 with the end of the Kuomintang rule. In 1955, communist-ruled China asserted its control and established the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), the country’s highest level of minority autonomous entity. Ever since then, this minority population has been under constant pressure. Starting in the late 1940s, China began sending large numbers of Han Chinese there — their portion of the population increased from approximately 7% to 40% by 2008 (https:// geog.ucla.edu/sites/default/files/ users/fan/403.pdf) — to change the region’s demographics. The sporadic anti-oppression protests since then have led to Beijing’s
38 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021
recent harsh response: concentration camps. Many Uyghurs would place the “beginning of the end” on July 5, 2009, the day the Ürümqi demonstrations began. Protesting Beijing’s lack of investigation into the murder of two Uyghur men in the hands of the Han Chinese, the protesters were standing up for their basic human rights and due process. However, Beijing responded by attacking the Uyghurs and detaining around 800,000 to 2,000,000 of them in concentration camps. With an abundance of evidence surfacing from released documents, satellite imagery and survivor testimonies (https://time. com/6048222/un-china-uyghurs/), many countries have pressured China to stop its campaigns of genocide and ethnic cleansing. On July 10, 2019, 22 Western countries — and zero Muslim-majority countries — sent a signed letter to the U.N. criticizing China’s policies and demanding their end. A few days later, 37 countries responded with a letter defending China. Almost half were Muslim-majority countries, among
them Pakistan, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, the UAE, Syria, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Five additional Muslim countries joined this list the following year: Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Palestine and Yemen. Later in October 2020, 39 countries, including the 22 previous signees, signed another letter condemning China’s oppressive behavior. Bosnia was the sole Muslimmajority country signatory. So far, only the U.S., the U.K., Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Canada have declared that these policies constitute a genocide. Even though the Western countries may have ulterior economic and political motives for doing so, they must still be applauded and commended for starting to place pressure upon China and for taking steps intended to end their terrible conditions. Why have 20 Muslim-majority countries openly supported this ongoing atrocity, while only one has publicly opposed it? These countries may also have their own economic and political reasons. For example, China currently has a piece of the pie of nearly all global commerce and trade, and thus almost every country has some level of economic interest in it. The U.S., the U.K. and France are interdependent with it, meaning that economic ties aren’t the determining factor in their relationships. On the other hand, Beijing has the upper hand in its diplomatic relations with such financially dependent and smaller countries as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan. In recent decades, extensive Chineseinitiated projects across the developing world have increased other countries’ economic dependence upon it. For example Iran, which continues to endure painful U.S. sanctions, has remained silent — perhaps unwilling to endanger the massive 25-year, $400 billion oil investment deal it signed with China during March 2021. Although Qatar has been more neutral, it may be reluctant to speak out due to its agreements in the Belt and Road Initiative, a vast expansion of infrastructure and investments that would greatly increase China’s economic and political hegemony (www.chinatoday.com.cn/ctenglish/2018/ii/201808/ t20180811_800138032.html). The People’s Bank of China has given Turkey two loans — $3.6 billion (2018) and $1 billion (2019). Moreover, China became its largest importer in 2020, an economic fact that has obliged President Erdogan to keep quiet and has silenced members of the
Yakub Beg was the ruler of Kashgaria (1865-77)
ON JULY 10, 2019, 22 WESTERN COUNTRIES — AND ZERO MUSLIMMAJORITY COUNTRIES — SENT A SIGNED LETTER TO THE U.N. CRITICIZING CHINA’S POLICIES AND DEMANDING THEIR END. A FEW DAYS LATER, 37 COUNTRIES RESPONDED WITH A LETTER DEFENDING CHINA. ALMOST HALF WERE MUSLIM-MAJORITY COUNTRIES …
Uyghur diaspora living in Turkey. Similarly, Pakistan, stressed by the American embrace of its enemy, India, has and continues to push Pakistan into closer Chinese ties. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt have outwardly supported China’s policies. Although they are economically dependent on China, these nations are also aligned with China in their disdain for certain political Islamic movements. China dislikes the “‘Muslimness’ of its Islamic
communities” overall, and these Muslimmajority countries dislike the type of political Islam that “challenges their legitimacy and regional standing.” This “shared” enemy mentality may have led the Saudi-UAEEgypt troika to support China’s genocide and human rights violations (https://www. washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/05/04/ why-do-some-muslim-majority-countries-support-chinas-crackdown-muslims/). Another reason for the Muslim world’s muteness is its own human rights violations and authoritarian practices toward their own minority groups. The Arab Spring, a powerful example of dissent in the Middle East and North Africa, manifested, among other things, the long-standing lack of basic human rights and poverty in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other regional countries. The ensuing wave of riots, protests and revolutions pushed these governments in a more authoritarian direction. Thus, one might say that their fear of domestic protests drove them to side with China against the Uyghurs. Additionally, Turkey’s challenges with its ethnic Kurdish minority constitute another dimension. Ankara is struggling to meet the Kurds’ demands, which encourages it to refrain from criticizing China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority. Pakistan’s oppression of its own religious minorities is yet another clear example of the lack of fundamental rights in Muslim-majority countries. As most, if not all, of them lack a strong record of treating their various minorities with respect, not to mention of adhering to democracy and protecting their citizens’ basic human rights. As a result of these failures, they clearly lack the moral ground to call out China for its human rights violations. All of these factors enable China to continue the inhumane status quo. There needs to be widespread opposition, especially from Muslim-majority countries, in order for this genocide to end. Although there are a number of reasons why these countries aren’t supporting the Uyghurs, they have yet to understand that human life is more valuable than money or politics. In this regard, the West plays a leading role — the EU recently placed economic sanctions on China, citing the Uyghur genocide. A similar reaction from the Muslim world would push Beijing into a corner, and that might be a sufficient level of additional pressure to ameliorate the Uyghurs’ situation. ih Ali Mücteba Gökçek is a senior at Williamsville East High School, New York.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 39
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
For Those in Need of Critical Health Support MedGlobal works to help displaced populations and those struggling to attain health care BY RABIYAH SYED
Dr. Zaher Sahloul (center)
n this era of social media and networking, global awareness of social and political injustice, war crimes and genocides have increased to a level never seen before in history. By the end of 2019, according to the UN, 79.5 million people had been forcibly displaced worldwide — the majority of them from Myanmar, Syria and Venezuela. Numerous refugees have been displaced as a result of man-made disasters. The Rohingya Muslims, who have fled their homeland during the last three years, constitute a significant refugee population. Refugees are a forgotten community that have long suffered from food shortages,
unhygienic conditions, human trafficking and exploitation, as well as the lack of access to healthcare. This nonprofit organization, which helps these marginalized populations and works to curtail inequality wherever it is found, was founded by the world-renowned humanitarian Dr. Zaher Sahloul. A critical care specialist at Advocate Christ Medical and the Center and Saint Anthony’s Hospital, Sahloul has received the Gandhi Award for Peace, as well as the “Heroes Among Us” and other awards. He is also an associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Illinois (Chicago).
40 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021
MedGlobal was founded in 2017 after hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled their country’s officially sanctioned violence and sought refuge in Bangladesh. As Sahloul explains, they began by “recruit[ing] doctors and nurses from different parts of the world, from places like the U.S., Canada, U.K, Australia. Every week, we sent 2 or 3 doctors or nurses.” Efforts are currently being focused on Gaza, Greece, Lebanon, Pakistan, Syria, Sudan, Venezuela, Colombia and Yemen. Sahloul states that the vision of MedGlobal, which is funded by donations only, is “to reduce healthcare inequality by building
resilience by partnering with local communities ... If there is an overwhelming humanitarian crisis and we have the capacity, we will help.” He and his colleagues made a difficult journey to Yemen to offer their help to those suffering through one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises. Medical personnel remain in the war-ravaged country to do what they can to alleviate the Yemeni’s man-made misery.
she was diagnosed with depression and somatization, defined as when people with depression and PTSD feel like they have physical pain. This is just one example of how people, traumatized by the horrors they have seen and experienced, struggle with mental health issues. MedGlobal is also dealing with the Covid19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected poor and vulnerable populations,
ALONG WITH HELPING DISPLACED POPULATIONS AND THOSE STRUGGLING TO ATTAIN HEALTHCARE, MEDGLOBAL’S AFFILIATED DOCTORS ALSO SEEK TO IMPROVE THEIR PATIENT’S PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH, AS WELL AS WELLBEING.
MedGlobal focuses on “sustainable medical programs, something which will outlast [their] stay.” As Sahloul remarked, just going to an area and providing supplies and then leaving is counterproductive. Their approach is not only to provide immediate aid to fragile states, but also to train local communities to deal with future disasters, give specialized equipment and focus on training, as well as set up medical clinics with battery-powered ultrasound machines to use as makeshift X-rays. These portable machines can be used in places without electricity. But they are also involved in other activities. For example, in northwestern Syria they help evacuate displaced populations and in Bangladesh they have partnered with OBAT Helpers (https://obathelpers.org) and Prantic to run a clinic in the Kutupalong refugee camp. Meanwhile, MedGlobal and Rahma Worldwide (https://rahmaww.org) fund the pediatrics ICU department in a Gazan hospital to save children’s lives. The organization also trains local doctors, nurses and midwives through its Helping Babies Breathe program. Along with helping displaced populations and those struggling to attain healthcare, MedGlobal’s affiliated doctors also seek to improve their patient’s physical and mental health, as well as wellbeing. Sahloul recalled a time when a patient at a refugee camp came to him with lung problems — she felt like she couldn’t breathe when entering her tent. Upon examination,
by bringing supplies and resources to such heavily impacted areas as Bangladesh, Gaza, Greece, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, Colombia, the U.S., India and Yemen. The organization has relied on local teams and their relationships in the countries. With the
help of their logistics team, MedGlobal was able to send masks and other supplies procured from China to the countries it supports. The organization also helps distribute such vaccine-related supplies as refrigerators to store the vaccine, needles, syringes and gloves for the doctors and nurses. And, in addition to this, they are also educating locals about the vaccine and reassuring them that it is safe to use. As Sahloul explains, “Vaccine education is very important because, as in the U.S., there are people who are hesitant to take the vaccine.” The difficulty of traveling because of Covid-19 have not stopped MedGlobal from providing aid. In fact, its medical personnel are taking online calls to talk to patients overseas. These essential aid and services are life-changing for those in need. Last year alone, MedGlobal helped 1.82 million people in 14 countries and supported 172 clinics. The impact of its exceptional work is immeasurable, for giving the vulnerable the much-needed health care services even during wars, natural disasters, a pandemic or humanitarian crises involving personal risks. ih Rabiyah Syed is a 14-year-old freshman who is attending Naperville Central. She loves photography and aspires to be a speech pathologist.
Imam Position Islamic Center of Brushy Creek (ICBC) located in Cedar Park, Texas (a suburb of Austin, TX) is looking for an Imam to lead our diverse community. The ideal candidate possesses the following qualifications. • • • • • •
Minimum of 4-year experience as an Imam. Education from a recognized Islamic institution. Ability to teach the Qur’an and Hadith. Excellent communications skills. Ability to relate to the youth. Familiarity with the situation of the Muslim community in the West.
Duties will include: • Leading the five daily prayers and Jumu’ah Khutbah. • Leading Tarawih prayers in Ramadan highly preferred. • Providing Islamic counseling and guidance to families and youth. • Participating in community activities, interfaith meetings, Islamic outreach, etc. • Conducting regular lectures on Islamic topics, Quran classes, etc. Salary and Benefits: Compensation will be determined based on qualifications. How to Apply: Interested candidates are encouraged to submit a resume along with a cover letter addressing the items listed in this job announcement to email@example.com
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 41
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
How to Help Muslim Prisoners All incarcerated Muslims are someone’s mother or father, son or daughter BY HABEEBA HUSAIN
mam Rasul Suluki, a Aside from access to resources former supervisor at New and services, Abid says a number Jersey Chaplaincy Services, of inmates also deal with civil has seen and heard his share rights issues, such as name-callof horrible and traumatic stories ing, discriminatory language, while visiting prison inmates. not getting meals on time during “I’ve seen men go from being Ramadan and denial of religious sane and functional to naked rights like keeping a beard or and growling like an animal,” appropriate burial procedures. says Suluki. “[They’re] like war Because ICNA for Social stories.” Justice presently doesn’t have the However, the imam says there capacity to staff a legal team, Abid isn’t much benefit in relaying says he forwards many civil rights Abdul Muhaymin Al-Salim (center), a former inmate, is a teacher at such stories because a listener complaints to organizations like the California-based Tayba Foundation only becomes distressed. What CAIR and lawyers who will investhe imam of the Willingboro Muslim prisons who have only 13 Muslim chaplains tigate pro bono. Education Circle prefers to share instead in the nation to serve them. Areas with a high Muslim population, are the transformative tales — something he Regardless of personal religious adher- like New Jersey, dealt with these issues witnesses among the incarcerated far more ence, however, Tricia Pethic of the Muslim more often in the 1980s according to Suluki. than the horror stories. Prisoner Project (https://www.muslimpris- Officers and institutions were suspicious of He remembers visiting a Muslim inmate onerproject.org/) in New York says a chap- Muslim chaplains at that time — would they serving a life sentence, who was recently lain’s job is to fulfill the constitutional free- side with inmates, help prisoners escape, denied his appeal for compassionate release doms of a prisoner’s right to practice religion. bring in contraband? to spend his final days at home. Suluki “Just because one breaks the law and “You also had to deal with the racism. describes the cell as empty; it had nothing goes to prison, the right to religious prac- Being Black and also being Muslim was two but a concrete slab with a mattress atop for a tice doesn’t cease,” says Pethic, who served strikes in some of the officers’ minds,” Suluki bed. He had to speak to the inmate through as a chaplain herself in Connecticut and says. “The inmates had to go through the a slit used to provide food. New York. same process.” “I said, ‘How are you?’” Suluki recalls. Still, religious freedoms are not always While things have since improved in New “[The inmate] said, ‘Imam, I’m so happy. I’m upheld. Rameez Abid, director of communi- Jersey and other states with many Muslims, at such peace with all of this. I know they cations and outreach at the Islamic Circle of areas with minimal numbers are still catchturned me down, and I can’t go home. But North America’s (ICNA) Council for Social ing up. everything is okay. I’m really very well.’ And Justice (https://icnacsj.org/), says Muslim In Jacksonville, Fla., for example, inmates the strange thing is that I left that prison, inmates want basic religious services like were denied timely iftar and suhoor meals come out here and I’m hearing people com- books, Ramadan programs and khateebs this past Ramadan. Attorney Hassan Shibly, a plain about the smallest things — what a for Jum’ah prayer. civil rights lawyer who led the CAIR Florida “The biggest hurdle we all face is the need chapter for a decade before stepping down juxtaposition.” Those outside the correctional facilities for good, solid religious education,” says earlier this year, visited the facility to politely often forget about the mass incarceration Abdul Muhaymin Al-Salim, former inmate but sternly make it clear he was ready to sue problem in the U.S., a country that boasts and current teacher at the California-based should Muslim inmates have their rights the world’s largest prison population. It has Tayba Foundation (https://www.taybafoun- trampled on while incarcerated. Within a the highest incarceration rate per-capita: 698 dation.org/), an organization that provides few days, the issue was fixed. per 100,000 people, according to the Prison inmates with traditional Islamic resources Lawyers have the ability to litigate and Policy Initiative. so they can pursue self-study. Similarly, the keep the prison staff accountable, says Shibly. At the federal prison level, Muslim Muslim Prisoner Project works to overhaul Their presence may be much more effective inmates make up the third largest faith prison libraries, which often house either when it comes to enacting change for Muslim group, according to a July 2021 Department outdated and poor-quality pamphlets about inmates in locations where chaplaincy may of Justice inspector general report. This Islam or very advanced volumes of Hadith. be lacking. accounts for over 11,000 Muslims in federal Pethic’s organization fills that gap. But the responsibility of caring for this 42 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021
forgotten part of the ummah does not — and should not — fall on only chaplains and lawyers. The rest of the Muslim community can surely check in on the wellbeing of their brothers and sisters serving time behind bars. “A lot of people look down on others who’ve made mistakes. But one of the central components to our religion is tawba,” says Al-Salim. “If a person becomes Muslim while they’re in prison … this is without a doubt a moment when all of the
everyone should -- become a volunteer to help their incarcerated Muslim brothers and sisters. Each state has a process for becoming a volunteer, Suluki explains. That may consist of filling out an application, getting a background check and receiving an orientation. The lack of Muslim volunteers means a lack of services for inmates. They miss out on Jum’ah and Eid prayers, religious classes and desperately needed righteous company.
BUT THE RESPONSIBILITY OF CARING FOR THIS FORGOTTEN PART OF THE UMMAH DOES NOT — AND SHOULD NOT — FALL ON ONLY CHAPLAINS AND LAWYERS. THE REST OF THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY CAN SURELY CHECK IN ON THE WELLBEING OF THEIR BROTHERS AND SISTERS SERVING TIME BEHIND BARS.
sins and wrong actions and wrong beliefs prior to that are forgiven — an absolute clean slate. We have to remember that, as opposed to looking at our brothers and sisters as if they’re some type of demon or some type of foul person that has to be removed from society.” Al-Salim points out that most inmates will eventually be released and need to reenter society. The greater Muslim community can certainly help them out by offering decent jobs so they can care for their families, welcoming them into their mosques and overlooking their past mistakes — for which they have already repented. “The vast majority of [inmates], will be coming back out. A tremendous help would be for volunteers, both inside and outside, to help [them] re-enter back into the community,” Suluki says. “The one thing I find that we lack — and which Christians are very adept at — is reaching out to people and making them feel welcomed. It’s a shame you can go into most mosques [and] nobody knows you. And you leave and nobody knows you.” As Suluki mentions, the community need not wait for inmates’ release to establish a relationship with them. Anyone can -- and
“You just have to be someone who comes in, smiles, gives them hope, helps them feel like they can do this thing — they can be a Muslim in America in or outside prison,” Pethic says. “You don’t have to be a chaplain to go in there and provide suhba, companionship, to these men and women.” The more Muslims on the outside help those on the inside, the stronger our community becomes collectively, and the stronger our faith becomes individually. “Too often, the kufi, the hijab [and] the Quran get packed up in a box and sometimes never come out,” Pethic says. “We don’t want their experience of joining this religion to be something that they put aside when they leave the confines of the prison.” Hearing a story about an inmate leaving Islam upon release is truly a horrible one. But if the greater Muslim community comes together to care for our overlooked brothers and sisters during and after their incarceration, we can hopefully share many more transformative stories instead. ih Habeeba Husain is a freelance journalist based in the New York tri-state area. She helps manage Muslim-run businesses WuduGear and Kamani. Her work has appeared in SLAM Magazine, WhyIslam. org, and Narrative.ly, among other online and print publications. Connect with her on Twitter @HabeebaHusain.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 43
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.
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Saving Indonesia’s Critically Endangered Orangutans Muslim conservationist at the country’s largest rescue center for the species rehabilitate orphaned apes for life in the wild BY AMAL OMER
eep in Indonesia’s central Kalimantan rainforests on the island of Borneo, a group of dedicated students go to school seven days a week. Medical reasons like running a fever or a visit to the doctor are the only excuse for missing class. Red wheelbarrows function as school buses for the babies, while the older students often cuddle-walk, embracing each other, or hold hands with their teachers. Some need extra nudging to keep up with their classmates as they stop to explore their scenic route. The students at this school, the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, run by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF), are orphaned orangutans. Native to Indonesia and Malaysia, orangutans are a critically endangered species. According to the BOSF, Borneo’s orangutan population has decreased by 80% in the
Handling multiple nursery-age students at a time, the foster mothers use wheelbarrows to take the babies to and from jungle school. (Credit: BOSF)
last three decades and less than 60,000 remain. The main threat is deforestation, which converts the forests into industry-scale palm oil plantations. Indonesia ranks as the world’s largest palm oil exporter. According to the World Wildlife Fund, more than half of all packaged products consumed by Americans, such as soap, chocolate, noodles, and even lipsticks, contain palm oil. Save the Orangutan, a nonprofit that supports efforts to protect Bornean orangutans,
the only primarily arboreal great ape, deforestation also creates human-wildlife conflict. They wander to nearby villages and farms in search of food. The farmers often shoot them if they are caught grazing their crops. This can result in the surviving babies being kept illegally as pets or left orphaned and alone. Companies burning the land to clear it for farming also causes wildfires during Borneo’s dry season. The 2015 forest fire is one of the worst on record, burning more than 6 million acres of
BECAUSE THE PALM OIL INDUSTRY EMPLOYS APPROXIMATELY FOUR MILLION INDONESIANS AND MALAYSIANS, BOS FOUNDATION UNDERSTANDS THAT SAVING THE ORANGUTANS REQUIRES WORKING WITH THE INDUSTRY. reports that studies from 2014 estimate that over 30% of the island’s rainforests were cleared in four decades (1970-2010). This invasion of the species’ habitat causes over 6,000 orangutan deaths each year. Agus Fahroni, Nyaru Menteng’s lead veterinarian, says, “Orangutans completely depend on the forest. It’s where they forage for food, breed and do daily activities. [Where else] can they find food, build nests and breed other than the forest? And without fulfillment of their needs … the population will perish.” For orangutans, the world’s largest tree-living mammal and
44 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021
Indonesian forest. According to the Wall Street Journal, researchers found the toxic haze resulted in about 100,000 premature deaths across Southeast Asia. Orangutans suffer from injuries, like burns and wounds, and also deal with trauma and psychological issues from the fires. BOSF rescued more than 75 displaced orangutans between 2015 and 2016. The BOSF manages 1,138,365 acres of Kalimantan’s rainforest. Between its Eastern Kalimantan location, the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Rehabilitation Center and Nyaru Menteng, they care for nearly 430 orangutans
and 71 sun bears. There are also three release sites, where they monitor and protect 470 reintroduced orangutans, and one peat swamp forest conservation project, where they safeguard around 2,550 wild orangutans across 763,555 acres. The center’s work is based on four core strategies: orangutan reintroduction, long-term sanctuary care for orangutans and sun bears, wild orangutan and habitat conservation, and sustainable community development and environmental education. Their sustainable community development programs are carried out in more than 20 local villages. “We … consider [our] sustainable community development program as a pillar that sustains all the conservation work, because we understand that community is the main actor and the most important stakeholder in conservation,” says Fahroni. He adds, “We created various collaborations with [the local community], like buying their fruits and vegetables to feed our orangutans…, rent their boats for staff transportation in forest areas, build nurseries with local farmers for replantation activities, [thus creating] a sustainable alternative livelihood for them.” About half of the surrounding population is Muslim, including the farmers who provide the center with produce. Nyaru Menteng staff like Fahroni attend Friday prayers at the nearby mosque with the local community. He says, “The most basic value that we all share is to love the Earth and nature.” This partnership has helped educate the locals about the value of the forest. They also aid Nyaru Menteng’s rescue efforts, alerting the center about orphans spotted alone or those held captive. Though Indonesian conservation laws prohibit killing, capturing or trading orangutans,
weak law enforcement means they are still targeted by poachers to be sold on the illegal wildlife market. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be a multi-billion-dollar business. Often ranked with crimes such as human, arms, and drug trafficking, this illicit trade threatens the national security of countries and finances criminal activities. Fahroni says some of the students cannot be reintroduced to the wild because of health conditions or disabilities, while others struggle to develop natural skills and behavior after prolonged captivity. Those that cannot be released remain in the care of BOSF in tailored rainforest areas, allowing them to live in freedom under the surveillance of technicians and veterinarians who can provide them with dedicated care.
F ahroni often carries the orphans to safety in his arms once they are found or rescued from captors. The veterinary team examines them and then places the students in quarantine to ensure they are free of transmissible diseases. (Credit: BOSF)
Nyaru Menteng currently cares for almost 300 orangutans, ranging from fully grown adults to newborn babies just a few weeks old. Though the doeeyed students display the same charm and antics of nursery and primary-age children — orangutans share 97% of the same DNA as humans — their daily class time is serious work. Their foster mothers, who double as their teachers, help them learn how to climb trees, weave leaves to make sleeping nests, and scavenge for mangoes, lychees, and figs to accommodate their
largely fruit-based diet. On average, it can take 10 years to rehabilitate the orangutans for life in the wild.
Sundari prepares ingredients like cassava, red pumpkin and sweet potato that are ground and then frozen inside the hollow center of bamboo to provide nourishment and teach students foraging solutions. (Credit: BOS Foundation)
Since 2012, the BOSF has released almost 500 orangutans and recorded 22 births among the group. The orangutans complete “jungle school” at a juvenile age. Their progress is tracked by their foster mothers, who clear them for the next step, where they are temporarily housed in large-cage complexes to practice their socialization skills. The veterinary team transfers the students that show aptitude to a pre-release island. They are sent to a release site after showing competent survival skills. A team of veterinarians go to the forest for one month to assist the post-release monitoring team undertake any needed interventions. “Whenever I go to the forest and see the orangutans living carefree, that is the best reward I can get from working here,” Fahroni says. “This has been my dream job ever since I was in high school. It has always been my dream to save orangutans, [to] help them find their way back to where they belong in the forest. As someone who was born in Kalimantan, it is my duty to participate in the conservation of the orangutan.” This dedication is clear to the orphans, who have a deep affection for the staff. The Smithsonian Channel program,
“Orangutan Jungle School”, documenting the center’s work, shows Fahroni’s struggle to do his daily rounds at the socialization complex, where the students gather to play at the end of the school day—their last jaunt before bedtime—as they wrap themselves around his legs, latch on to his back, and even sit in his lap as he checks one of the students. A small crowd also gathers closely observing their vet at work. Siti Sundari, a member of the enrichment team at Samboja Lestari, says being up close with the orangutans, she sees firsthand the extra dedication, commitment and unconditional love they need to progress in their training.
Wild orangutans can nurse for up to eight years. The foster mothers feed the students a soy-based formula that is better for their digestion than cow’s milk. (Credit: BOS Foundation)
“[It is] an honor for me to be a part of the orangutan rehabilitation process,” says Sundari. She considers the job noble work and one that supports her practice as a Muslim. “We have a prayer room to perform dhuhr and asr prayers, and at prayer times we take breaks to pray and get back to work afterwards. The staff take turns doing this.” Reflecting on his work, Fahroni says, “I chose to save endangered … orangutans. I realized that … this work can be considered to have a worship value, as well as other commandments by the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) to maintain cleanliness, not to cut trees or kill animals. God willing, what I do may be considered
n the grounds of the Nyaru O Menteng socialization complex, an orangutan practices his foraging skills, using a stick to extract honey placed in the holes of the wooden block. (Credit: BOS Foundation)
as a worthy worship upon Allah, as it may also strengthen my passion to do the best for orangutan conservation.” With the palm oil industry employing approximately four million Indonesians and Malaysians, BOSF understands that saving the orangutans requires working with the industry. As a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), BOSF provides its expertise on sustainable production. The RSPO certification requires palm oil producers to meet social and environmental standards to lower their impact on local communities and the environment. Despite this, BOSF says certification numbers are low and verifying compliance remains a challenge. BOSF says collaboration between nonprofits, the private sector, and the Indonesian government is also needed to create sustainable palm oil production. Protecting Indonesia’s environmental resources is not only of benefit to the creatures that call this place of natural wonders home, but also to its people and their livelihoods. ih Amal Omer is a writer based in the Washington, D.C. area.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 45
Not all Representation is Good Representation
Before thoughtlessly embracing a “Muslim” person’s success or an “Islamic” cause or organization, do your homework BY ABU MUJAHID SAIYYID
Judge Zahid Quraishi
n her June 2 article “Peacock’s All-Girl Muslim Punk Band Comedy We Are Lady Parts Is a Rockin’ Good Time,” Time Magazine’s Judy Berman excitedly highlighted the success of an all-girl British Muslim band — duly hijabed and all (time. com/6053335/we-are-lady-parts-review/). In June, Muslim Americans had another taste of a similar event when [now Honorable Judge] Zahid Quraishi was confirmed as a U.S. District Judge for the District of New Jersey, making him the nation’s first Muslim American Article III federal judge. The U.S. Senate voted 83:16 to hire him — Biden’s third judicial nominee to receive a floor vote. The 16 dissenters, from their 50-bench strength, were all Republicans. Sen. Smith (D-Minn.) refrained from voting. Some Muslims raced to celebrate the
Rutgers Law School alum’s elevation to the bench, with accolades such as that the nomination strengthens the judiciary and the Federal Bench reflects the nation’s diverse fabric. Another one noted Quraishi’s two tours of duty in Iraq (2004 and 2006), that this proud Muslim American is dedicated to the values of his faith and country — an outstanding addition to the federal judiciary who hopes that his tenure is positive, lasting and rooted in courage, wisdom and justice. Really! In March, when Biden announced his intention to nominate Quraishi, the White House said he “served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey from 2008 to 2013. Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s office, Judge Quraishi served as an assistant chief
46 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021
counsel at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security [DHS]. He also served as a military prosecutor and achieved the rank of Captain in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, deploying to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom [italics added] in 2004 and 2006,” [serving as a “detention advisor” while deployed – anyone remember Abu Ghraib] (www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/03/30/ president-biden-announces-intent-to-nominate-11-judicial-candidates/). Do those Muslims who celebrate this “landmark” understand what the DHS has been — and is still — doing to our community? Do they realize what “judging” the U.S. army’s judiciary has been doing in devastated Iraq? Yes, some Muslims have raised more than an eyebrow over his record. A Muslim, who preferred not to be named, stated, “Ask any African American how happy they are about Clarence Thomas. It’s a very similar perspective at a bunch of different levels” (https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/04/zahid-quraishi-muslim-federal-judge-criticism.html). How does one appreciate Muslim Advocates, a legal advocacy nonprofit and one that claims zakat eligibility, seeking to represent “Muslim interests,” when, while expressing its regret over certain aspects of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 17 verdict in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, bundles the rights of Muslim Americans and other religious minorities with those of gays (muslimadvocates.org/2021/06/muslim-advocates-breathes-sigh-of-relief-after-supreme-courts-disappointing-but-narrow-fulton-decision/) … whom the Quran says “are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds” (7:80-81)? And then there are instances when some of us start celebrating the success of Muslims in dubious, indeed Islamically prohibited
We Are Lady Parts
MUSLIMS MUST UNDERSTAND THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN MUSLIM AND MUSLIM-ISH. THE FORMER DO THEIR BEST TO UPHOLD ALL THAT GOD EXPECTS OF THEM, EVEN AT A PERSONAL AND/OR PROFESSIONAL COST, WHILE THE LATTER IS MERELY A DECEPTIVE MARKETING PLOY THAT EXPLOITS THAT WORD FOR PERSONAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL GAINS, AND OF BELIEFS BUILT ON PERSONAL WHIMS RATHER THAN THE DIVINE LAW. ventures, say, a Muslim name heading a conventional hedge fund or securities. Or when some of our community leaders applaud and even give their mosques’ podiums to soldiers and/or their families to celebrate their “valor” and “heroism,” oblivious of the reality that this display of “national service” and “sacrifice” involved killing and maiming many innocent Muslims, and of course aided the theft of their resources and freedoms — especially in wars built on lies. Of course, we can choose to love a sport of our choice and thus appreciate those who excel in it, like those basketball fans who follow games featuring LeBron James or Stephen Curry. But such idolization should start and end on the court, and Muslims should remind themselves that they can’t “Be Like Mike” (the slogan popularized by Nike
depicting their brand ambassador Michael Jordan), except while playing on the court. Yes, Muslim role models can be athletes like French midfielder Paul Pogba, who took issue with Euro 2020’s official beverages — he removed a bottle of Heineken beer placed in front of him during a news conference after being named “Man of the Match” in France’s 1-0 win over Germany, June 15. In fact, there are several other such examples like Hashim Amla, who was ready to forgo his opportunity to become first Muslim to play for South Africa’s cricket team than wear their beer sponsor’s logo kit. And England has cricketers Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid who have crafted a smart maneuver to unobtrusively slide away whenever their team uncorks celebratory champagne bottles. Neither doing out-of-this-world
touchdowns nor breath-stopping three-pointers should matter if the Ali, or Hasan or Ahmad is not striving to attain the standards ordained by God and practically demonstrated by his Messenger (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). The name should not matter; only the practice should count when selecting role models. In this regard, we need to recall Muhammad Ali’s 1967 declaration to Americans, many of whom already hated and despised him for converting and refusing to fight in Vietnam. Even though he was found guilty of rejecting the draft, he refused to compromise on his principles. In arguably his most memorable words, he pointed back at the establishment: ... “I ain’t draft dodging. I ain’t burning no flag. I ain’t running to Canada. I’m staying right here. You want to send me to jail? Fine, you go right ahead. I’ve been in jail for 400 years. I could be there for 4 or 5 more, but I ain’t going no 10,000 miles to help murder and kill other poor people. If I want to die, I’ll die right here, right now, fightin’ you, if I want to die. You my enemy, not no Chinese, no Vietcong, no Japanese. You my opposer when I want freedom. You my opposer when I want justice. You my opposer when I want equality. Want me to go somewhere and fight for you? You won’t even stand up for me right here in America, for my rights and my religious beliefs. You won’t even stand up for my right here at home” (www.quotes. net/mquote/1544). Shouldn’t Muslim Americans ask the questions that Muhammad Ali asked? Human beings have the ability to acquire an education and knowledge, with which comes responsibility, for, as the Quran proclaims: “And He taught Adam the names of all things; then He placed them before the angels, and said: Tell me the nature of these if you are right” (2:31). Adding “Muslim” to a punk band or an advocacy organization that violates Islam’s core principles doesn’t make them Muslim. Muslims must understand the distinction between Muslim and Muslim-ish. The former do their best to uphold all that God expects of them, even at a personal and/or professional cost, while the latter is merely a deceptive marketing ploy that exploits that word for personal and organizational gains, and of beliefs built on personal whims rather than the divine law. ih Abu Mujahid Saiyyid is a freelance writer and civil rights worker.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 47
Mehr: Reconsidering the Islamic Basis Muslims must strive and keep mehr to its original intent BY KHALID IQBAL
s I entered the hotel to attend the nikah and wedding celebration, I noticed a flashy sports car parked in front of the hall. Before the wedding, the host announced that the attendees should take a look at the mehr — loosely translated as dower — he was giving to the bride. About a year later, I saw her at a shopping mall with her baby in a stroller. Curious to hear about the car she had received, I asked, “How’s the car? Are you enjoying it?” She responded with a meaningful smile, “What car? I’m not even allowed to touch it.” How common is this practice? Mehr isn’t something to put on paper and then ignore; rather, it’s an obligation that should not be unnecessarily delayed. And, most importantly, the bride shouldn’t be pressured to forgive any aspect of it. During the marriage counseling and premarital courses that I conduct, many of my clients are unclear about mehr, why it is paid and/or when it is due. All they know is that it is an essential part of the nikah. The most sanguine misconception is that it lets the wife sustain herself in case of divorce and thus doesn’t have to be paid until the couple is getting divorced. In fact, it is the husband’s welcoming gift to his wife. Based on this mistaken view, several cases have been filed in the U.S. and courts in other Western courts contesting the assertion that it must be paid. Therefore, this and other misconceptions need to be clarified.
WHAT DO THE QURAN AND SUNNAH SAY?
Mehr is the cash, jewelry or any other agreed upon tangible items that the husband gifts to his new wife after the nikah. It is her right to receive it and an obligation (farida) upon him to give it, preferably before having consummated the marriage. If he can’t pay the entire amount at that time, the couple can mutually agree that part of it can be paid later. In short, giving it to her enables both parties to have halal marital relations: “O Prophet! We have made lawful to you [those of] your wives to whom you have paid their
dowers” (33:50); “(You can marry) chaste believing women, as well as chaste women among the People of the Book revealed before your time, when you give them their due dower” (5:5); and “Give women you wed their due dowries graciously” (4:4). In several instances, Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) emphasized mehr’s importance. It is related that he told a young man, “Go and look for something, even if it is a ring of iron” (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” 5121). The Quran says: “Let those who find not the wherewithal for marriage keep themselves chaste, until God gives them means out of His grace” (24:33). Abdullah ibun Mas’ud (radi Allahu ‘anh) reported the Prophet to have said, “O young people! Whoever can afford marriage should marry, for that will help him lower his gaze and guard his modesty. Whoever is not able to marry is recommended to fast, as fasting diminishes his urges” (Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim). Abu Dawud and al-Nasa’i narrated from Ibn ‘Abbas that ‘Ali (radi Allahu ‘anh) said, “I married Fatima (radi Allahu ‘anh) and said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, let me go ahead with the marriage.’ He said, ‘Give her something.’ I said, ‘I don’t have anything.’ He asked, ‘Where is your Hutami shield?’ I said, ‘I have it with me.’ The Prophet then responded, ‘Give it to her’” (“Sahih al-Nasa’i” 3160). This was the mehr of Fatima — the Messenger’s daughter and leader of the women of Paradise.
WHO SHOULD DECIDE THE AMOUNT?
The Hadith, the sira (life example) and the history of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs and Companions indicate that the bride and groom should mutually decide about the mehr. Parental involvement should be minimal, namely, restricted to encouraging the groom to offer something tangible and realistic. Nowadays, the trend seems to be letting culture dictate the amount and the bride and groom have little or no say in it. In another recent example, the dower
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wasn’t discussed until the wedding day. Just before the nikah, all the parents started haggling over it without involving the bride and groom, who had their own idea. It reached the point that the groom’s side threatened to cancel the wedding. The situation worsened once the news of the dispute began spreading among the families and friends.
IS THE AMOUNT SET BY SHARIA?
There are instances when South Asians insist on restricting the amount to the equivalent of Rs. 32, roughly 20 cents (Pakistani rupees) or 40 cents (Indian rupees) on the grounds that this amount is the “shariah-based mehr” according to the Prophet’s practice. In one case, for instance, the U.S. born-and-raised groom objected, saying that he could find no valid hadith and/or evidence from the sira that supported this amount. Abu Salma bin Abdul Rahman said he asked Ayesha (‘radi Allahu ‘anh), “How much mehr did the Prophet give to his wives?” She replied “twelve uqiyah and a nashsh” — approximately 500 dirhams in that era’s currency. Ibn Majah narrated that ‘Umar ibn
al-Khattab (‘radi Allahu ‘anh), said, “Don’t go to extremes regarding the dowries of women, for if that were a sign of honor and dignity in this world or a sign of piety before God, then Muhammad would have done that before you. But he didn’t give any of his wives, and none of his daughters were given more than twelve uqiyah. A man may increase the dowry until he feels resentment against her and says, ‘You cost me everything I own, and caused me a great deal of hardship’” (“Sahih Ibn Majah,” 1532).
“give them their dowers according to what is reasonable” (4:25). A few additional issues should be considered: • Mehr is not for show. After talking with me, Ali and Asma (not their real names) came to a decision as to the amount. However, Asma’s parents differed. They called for a meeting with Ali’s parents and asked for what everyone else considered an “outrageous” amount. When Asma confronted them, they told her, “This is what we want
ABU HURAYRA REPORTED THAT THE PROPHET SAID, “WHOEVER MARRIES A WOMAN ON THE CONDITION OF A DOWRY [THAT] HE DOES NOT INTEND TO PAY HER IS AN ADULTERER [EMPHASIS ADDED], (JUST AS) WHOEVER TAKES ON A DEBT THAT HE DOES NOT INTEND TO PAY PACK IS A THIEF” (“MUSNAD AL-BAZZAR,” 8721).
MEHR SHOULD BE PAID HAPPILY AND ON TIME
As mehr is the husband’s first gift to his wife, he should pay it readily and make it a happy occasion, thereby sending the message of love: “And give the wife (on marriage) their dower happily” (4:4) and
on the nikah document so we can show it to the community with pride. If you want a different amount, you can always forgive the rest. What you do is your own business.” Such short-term thinking fails to recognize the long-term effect this pressure may have on their daughter’s relations with her husband and in-laws. This insistence may lead the husband to conclude that his in-laws don’t care about his financial situation. In many cases, such negative family involvement plants the seeds of resentment and marital disputes. Such ignorance and, at times, selfishness should be condemned and avoided for the sake of the new couple’s future. • Parental manipulation for personal use. Parents need to realize that mehr is the bride’s right, and not theirs, and that she can use it as she pleases. No one has the right to force her to share it with anyone or to use it for something she doesn’t like. • Mehr reduction or forgiveness. Sometimes the groom or his family try to convince or pressure the bride to forgive all or part of her mehr. If the groom’s financial situation has changed for the worse, and despite his genuine intention to pay the full amount, he may ask her to consider forgiveness.
Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet said, “Whoever marries a woman on the condition of a dowry [that] he does not intend to pay her is an adulterer [emphasis added], (just as) whoever takes on a debt that he does not intend to pay pack is a thief ” (“Musnad al-Bazzar,” 8721). Simply put, he must intend to pay the full amount. In his article “Zikr Wa Fikr” (translated by Shariah Board, New York), Mufti Taqi Usmani, a Pakistani Islamic scholar and a former judge who is vice president and Hadith professor at Darul Uloom Karachi, reiterated that mehr is the husband’s honorarium (gift) to his new wife willingly and happily. It should not be seen as the cost of acquiring a piece of property or as forcing her to provide something in return. Rather, it is a token of his love and respect for her. Mehr is a very important part of any Islamic marriage. Its amount and fulfillment should be discussed carefully and then implemented to the full extent. Fulfilling this obligation should add to the couple’s love and happiness within their marriage. ih Khalid Iqbal, a retired mechanical engineer who has long been involved with ISNA and MSA, is founder of the Rahmaa Institute, which focuses on issues related to marriage, conflict resolution, divorce, domestic violence and anger prevention. The author of “Anger and Domestic Violence Prevention Guide for the Muslim Community”(2016), he has developed a comprehensive eight-hour premarital counseling course.
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SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 49
Mehr: A Wife’s Indelible Right All Muslims, especially converts, need to understand this legal obligation before getting married BY MUZAMMIL H. SIDDIQI
very Islamic marriage starts with an assertion of the bride’s right to mehr, either money or possessions, that the groom must present to her during their marriage ceremony. The Quran and Hadith use several words for it, such as sadaq, nihla and farida. Its content should be agreed upon and known by the bride, the groom, their families and witnesses. If it is neither fixed nor mentioned, the bride and her family can still stipulate it as mehr al-mithl (mehr by precedence, similar to what the bride’s family receives). There is no minimum or maximum amount, but it must be mutually agreed upon. It could be as little as an iron ring (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” 5150]), something symbolic like the husband teaching his wife part or all of the Qur’an or as large “as a heap of gold” (4:20). The wife has the right to receive all of it at the time of the marriage, or part of it then and the rest later on, according to the agreement. It is fully payable after the marriage is consummated; however, if divorce occurs before that, then half of it has to be paid unless the wife or her guardians waive it. As a wife cannot be compelled or coerced
MEHR IS NOT A BRIDE PRICE, BUT THE WIFE’S RIGHT. THE QURAN CALLS IT SADAQ (A TOKEN OF FRIENDSHIP) AND NIHLA (SOMETHING SWEET OR GIVEN WITH THE SWEETNESS OF THE HEART), FOR IT IS MEANT TO SIGNIFY HER HUSBAND’S LOVE FOR AND APPRECIATION OF HER. IT ALSO SIGNIFIES HIS COMMITMENT TO MEET HER FINANCIAL NEEDS AND THOSE OF THE HOUSEHOLD, AS MANDATED BY THE SHARIA.
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in this matter, she can freely waive it completely at any time. Moreover, she cannot be forced to give it up, for as the Quran proclaims: “And give women (on marriage) their dower with good will. But if they, of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it and enjoy it with right good cheer” (4:4), “Those among them (i.e., your wives) whom you enjoy, give them their dowers as an obligation. But there is no blame on you if, after a dower is determined, you mutually agree to vary it” (4:24) and “If you divorce them before consummation and have fixed a dower for them, then half of the dower is due to them, unless they forgive it or it is forgiven by him in whose hand is the marriage tie [the bride’s guardian/family elder]” (2:237). As the mehr belongs to the wife, neither her parents nor guardians can consider it their property. Only she can waive its payment; however, if the marriage ends before consummation, then her guardian can waive it on her behalf. If the wife initiates the proceedings (khula’), her husband has the right to ask her to return it. If he dies without paying the mehr, it becomes an outstanding debt that must be paid before his heirs receive anything from his estate. Mehr is not a bride price, but the wife’s right. The Quran calls it sadaq (a token of friendship) and nihla (something sweet or given with the sweetness of the heart), for it is meant to signify her husband’s love for and appreciation of her. It also signifies his commitment to meet her financial needs and those of the household, as mandated by the Sharia. Some Muslims mistakenly believe that mehr is paid at the time of divorce. This is true only if it wasn’t paid at the time of marriage, for it must be paid before the divorce is granted. People often divide mehr into advanced (mu’ajjal) and postponed (mu’akkhar or muwajjal). The mu’ajjal must be paid at the time of nikah, whereas the postponed part can be paid later. As the wife has the right to take it from her husband, he shouldn’t feel bad if she does so. Also, she shouldn’t feel threatened that he may leave her if he gives her the whole mehr. Such notions, held
by some Muslims, are based on ignorance or some un-Islamic cultural habits. There is no fixed amount. However, the Sharia advises that it be reasonable and established according to the husband’s financial circumstances and the location’s socioeconomic conditions. In other words, those norms that existed in seventhth-century Arabia or elsewhere in the Muslim world are irrelevant. As financial conditions change, the amount of mehr must be determined accordingly. The Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), who urged moderation in all matters, said, “The nikah that is greatest in blessings is the one that is least burdensome” (al-Haythami, “Kitab al-Nikah,” 4:255). And yet some Muslims declare a large mehr to boast how much their daughter is “worth,” only to seek a way out when it has to be paid. Sometimes the bride’s family pressures the groom and his family for a large amount (and even by mutual agreement) or the groom does so to impress the in-laws or attract the desired bride. Such deceit is based on the common assumption that this is just a “paper” commitment, for people are often overheard saying, “Write whatever you want, for no one asks and no one pays.” One wonders if they have forgotten that Muslims should only commit to what they can — and intend to — pay. It is unlawful to deny her the mehr, especially after having had intimacy with one’s wife: “How can you take it away after each one has enjoyed the other, and they have taken a firm covenant from you.” (4:21).) Mehr is not recognized in all American courts. For instance, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Louisiana, Kansas, Mississippi North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Washington prohibit the use of “foreign law” (read “Sharia”) in their state courts. Mehr is poorly understood in the U.S. For example, American courts routinely dismiss such agreements as non-binding, symbolic or superfluous. With the rise of Islamophobia and attempts to ban the Sharia, some state courts refuse to honor this “foreign law.” Some Muslim men also argue — wrongly — that an ex-wife only receives her mehr and nothing else. While many judges are fair and want to honor this particular contract, they don’t know the relevant legal details or become confused with claims and counterclaims. Like some other faith communities, Muslims should set up arbitration councils so that Muslim scholars can look at the issues associated with mehr and other family issues from the overall perspective of the Sharia. After all, Islam teaches fairness and justice in all matters. ih Muzammil H. Siddiqi, Ph.D., is a former ISNA president, imam and religious director of the Islamic Society of Orange County, Garden Grove. He chairs the Fiqh Council of North America, is a founding member of the World Economic Forum’s Community of West and Islam Dialogue (C-100) and signatory of A Common Word Between Us and You (2007).
Mehr: A Most Solemn Pledge Do Muslims know there is no waiver of mehr, the wife’s inalienable and legally-protected right? BY ABED AWAD
or the past 22 years, I have been representing Muslim Americans in contested family matters, including mehr disputes. With more than 6 million Muslim Americans, I estimate there are more than 1 million executed Muslim marriage contracts in the U.S. An introduction to the Islamic law governing these contracts, followed by a summary of how American courts have resolved such disputes, is provided below. The Quran describes marriage (zawaj or nikah) as “a most solemn pledge” (4:19). The woman and man were created from “one soul,” the Quran explains, in order for you to “find solace” together. The intimate marital relationship thus becomes a divine “wonder” in which “love and mercy” are instilled in the couple’s hearts to bring them tranquil “comfort” (30:21). Marriage, then, was the building block that sustained moral Muslim societies. Muslim jurists concluded that marriage is obligatory for most Muslims. In addition to its moral and social underpinnings, marriage is considered a civil contract. A valid marriage contract requires an offer of marriage and its acceptance in the presence of two Muslim witnesses. With some exceptions, a male guardian (wali), normally the bride’s father, must be present to render the contract valid. The bride has tremendous leeway to negotiate her marriage contract’s terms. Conditions in the contract are valid as long as they do not violate Islamic law. Popular stipulations cover finances, marital residence, domicile, living conditions, children, equal right to initiate divorce, rights to work and to education, equal division of domestic responsibilities and restrictions on polygamy. A mehr or sadaq is a standard provision in every Muslim marriage contract. The mehr is a specific amount of money or property that the groom pledges to pay to the bride. Generally, it has two portions: the immediate portion paid prior to consummation, and the remaining portion deferred until after their union has been consummated. This latter portion is to be paid: (1) upon demand, (2) as specified in the contract, (3) upon talaq (a form of divorce) or (4) death of the husband. In fact, this right is so established that in most Muslim countries the husband is subject to imprisonment if he fails to pay the mehr. If he predeceases SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021 ISLAMIC HORIZONS 51
FAMILY his wife, the mehr is a preferential debt to be paid from his gross estate; if the wife predeceases her husband, her mehr passes to her Islamically defined heirs. A Muslim marriage is dissolved, cancelled or terminated by several methods. A husband’s unilateral and exclusive right to dissolve the marriage is called talaq. But talaq, which literally means “repudiation of a marriage,” is only one method to dissolve a marital relationship under Islamic
In Altayar v. Muhyaddin 139 Wash.App. 1066 (Wash.App.Div. 2007), the court construed the mehr as a prenuptial agreement but held that it was invalid under state law because a “[p]renuptial agreement is valid only when it is plainly shown that the transaction was fair” and that “the exchange of 19 pieces of gold for equitable property rights under Washington law is not fair .... Even if it were a fair agreement, there is no evidence that he disclosed his assets or that [wife]
THE CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT ARE NOT APPLICABLE TO A MEHR AGREEMENT, BECAUSE IT IS NOT A WAIVER OF THE RIGHTS TO WHICH A WIFE IS ENTITLED UNDER STATE LAW OR ISLAMIC LAW. law, for there are numerous other options. The two other primary methods are tafreeq (judicial divorce based on fault) and khul’. In the latter case, the wife asks her husband to consent to her request for a divorce in exchange for some financial compensation, which may involve her waiving the payment of any deferred mehr. If she chooses to dissolve her marriage in this manner, she must prove the need for a divorce based on various grounds, such as causing harm, failure to support and/or separation. The due date for the deferred mehr depends on the contract’s terms. Shia law provides that the mehr is due upon demand if the contract does not specify a due date. Sunni law requires that it be paid upon divorce or the husband’s death if the contract is silent on the due date. A wife requesting khul’ may waive her deferred mehr to obtain her husband’s consent. A husband who wrongfully withholds the divorce or creates an abusive marital environment to force her to request khul’ in order to extract financial leverage is actually violating Islamic law. In such a case, the wife is not required to forfeit her deferred mehr.
HOW HAVE AMERICAN COURTS RESOLVED MEHR DISPUTES?
The First Amendment prohibits American courts from interpreting and/or applying religious law. For this reason, they have evaluated Muslim marriage contracts under two secular legal theories: They are either prenuptial agreements or simple contracts.
received any independent advice during the three days between their initial meeting and marriage.” Unlike Altayar, the court in Odatalla v. Odatalla (the author was the attorney for the wife), 355 N.J. Super. 305, 309-312, 810 A.2d 93 (Ch. Div., 2002) enforced the mehr agreement, finding that it satisfied the elements of a valid simple contract. “Clearly”, the Odatalla court explained, “the Mehr Agreement [here] ... is nothing more and nothing less than a simple contract between two consenting adults. It does not contravene any statute or interests of society. Rather, the Mehr Agreement continues a custom and tradition that is unique to a certain segment of our current society and is not at war with any public morals.” In re Marriage of Obaidi, 154 Wn. App. 609; 226 P.3d 787 (2010), the court adopted the simple contract theory in Odatalla but found that the mehr agreement was not enforceable. The husband was advised of the mehr ceremony 15 minutes before he signed the Farsi marriage contract. However, because he did not read, write or speak Farsi and the families had pressured him to sign the agreement, the court held there was no meeting of the minds. In the consolidated appeals of Nouri v. Dadgar (the author was the Islamic law expert for the wife) and Ghazirad v. Mojarrad, 245 Md. App. 324 (2020), the Maryland Court of Special Appeals adopted the stringent prenuptial standard. The same trial judge in both matters held that the mehr
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— valued at $492,750 in Nouri and $225,000 in Ghazirad — were enforceable contractual obligations. The trial court applied the simple contract theory. The Appeals Court agreed with the trial judge that a mehr agreement is enforceable under neutral principles of law, does not violate public policy or involve the resolution of religious issues. But that was not enough to affirm its validity. The Appeals Court therefore reversed the trial decision and returned it to the trial court to apply the new more stringent prenuptial agreement standard, which requires legal advice and financial disclosures before signing the mehr agreement.
NEVER A PRENUPTIAL AGREEMENT
Prenuptial agreements, unlike the Muslim marriage contract, were created in the 20th century. Until recently, many states considered them to be contrary to public policy. Prenuptial agreements attempt to alter the state-imposed statutory default formula for spousal rights. Courts considered a prospective wife to be in an unequal bargaining position, and therefore in need of certain protections before validating waivers of a statutory marital rights. Not surprisingly, the majority of states require premarital agreements to include advice of counsel and fair financial disclosure. This is a near impossible burden for a Muslim wife to meet, inasmuch as the bride and groom in a Muslim marriage ceremony never exchange financials nor consult an attorney to review their marriage contract. The circumstances surrounding a prenuptial agreement are not applicable to a mehr agreement, because it is not a waiver of the rights to which a wife is entitled under state law or Islamic law. The mehr does not waive the spouses’ state law rights, including community property, equitable distribution, alimony and inheritance. Since the seventh century, Muslim women have received their mehr as a matter of law, religion and traditions. Unfortunately, recent cases like Nouri are based on misunderstanding the nature of the mehr. The unjust consequences of this misunderstanding are far reaching. Millions of mehr in the U.S. would not satisfy the stringent prenuptial standard. ih Abed Awad is an attorney and international Islamic law expert who taught at Rutgers University Law School and Pace Law School. He is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell and is a fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers. Awad is the CEO and founder of Shariawiz.com, the most trusted and award-winning online portal for making Islamic wills and Islamic trusts.
THE VIRTUAL REALITY
Virtual Umma Reloaded The vitality of Muslim communities in cyberspace is being replenished and reclaimed BY RASHEED RABBI
he pandemic has plunged Islamic institutions and Muslim rituals into the binary streams of the digital universe. Centuries-old traditions are being relocated and redefined, and not just in a shift from physical places into cyberspace. Rather, the rapidity of virtual communities’ resurgence and their distinct changes in behavior represent a transformative and defining moment for the umma and demands our immediate attention so that it can bloom to its fullest. While hajj, the world’s biggest Islamic gathering, was restricted again this year due to Covid-19, Muslim3D (www.muslim3d. io) and LabbaikVR (www.labbaikvr.com) offered innovative opportunities for individuals to embark on a similar virtual journey to recreate and reimmerse themselves in the hajj experience. Such experiences aren’t equivalent to actually doing so in person, but these sensory-enabling technologies supersede the limitations of constrained actuality and introduce an augmented reality to continue one’s cosmic wayfaring. Pilgrimage candidates can send their avatars on a virtual journey while remaining at home, where
they can remember and cherish the maximum mysticism of Islam. Such technology-embracing initiatives transcend the pandemic’s isolation and dislocation and, during Ramadan, were used to nurture societal connection and build community. Numerous interactive communities, among them Virtual Ramadan (www. stanfordramadan.org) and Online Ramadan (www.ramadanonline.com), were formed to offer fellow Muslims unique program sets for making yet another socially-distanced Ramadan more inclusive and accessible. They aptly complemented mosques and Islamic organizations’ unrivaled race for cyberspace. Islamic centers like Quba (https:// quba-center.com/) organized communal du’as during suhur so that Muslims wouldn’t have to wake up alone to begin fasting. Such communal sacrosanctity was supplemented by morning reflections on Quranic verses describing Paradise and the promises of better days by the ADAMS Center (www. adamscenter.org) and many other institutions. When reminiscing about hosting hundreds of the faithful for suhur and fajr
prayer, virtual participants felt held together by a “rope of faith” (3:103) extended online to overcome the experience of being isolated with others so close. While suhur was occasional, almost every mosque across the country arranged iftars that enabled isolated people to be physically present to recite the Quran and supplicate together. They then broadcasted their services via their websites, Facebook or other streaming options to reach wider communities. A similar hybrid style was employed to reinstitute the taraweeh prayers and qiyam-al-layl (late night prayer) to revive the communal Ramadan spirit. Of course, these online participations cannot fulfill religious obligations, as performing hajj or prayers online is not permissible. Rather, mosque leaders and practicing Muslims collectively competed to recreate and restore their communion on virtual islands. Devising and then presenting alternative virtual modes for every single ritual is radically remarkable for Muslim Americans, who during the pre-pandemic days struggled just to broadcast and archive their Friday sermons or to allocate resources for digitization. This change is not just a fleeting cultural shift, but rather a psychological reformation that seeks to bridge the breach that the digital or virtual umma was lacking in the past. Previously, virtual communities were formed primarily to exchange information, find alternative platforms and adopt technology and modernity. They sought free expression and access to all religious resources. Some scholars contend that these non-religious incentives to migrate to the “cyber world have weakened the universality of the umma” (Mohammed el-Nawawy and Sahar Khamis, “Islam Dot Com: Contemporary Islamic Discourses in Cyberspace,” 2009, p. 35). Now, in contrast, a strong desire for spiritual connection is driving Muslims to hop online and set up their sacred havens, uninhibited by the limitations of embodiment and physical presence. A wistful longing
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THE VIRTUAL REALITY pervades their spirits to be in connection with one another. Their renewed resilience prevails against the aggravation of technical nuisances that incessantly desecrate virtual communities. Such a spontaneous and committed online presence evokes a fresh image of an umma that is tangible yet illusionary, serving as a substitute but including all three essential elements of a real community: territory, a social system and a sense of belonging (https:// journals.sagepub.com/ doi/10.1111/j.1467-954X.1974.tb00026.x).
not just meaning, but also the effect of that meaning and legitimizes these traditions as singular and undifferentiated Islam. ➤ From Passive to Interactive. Being an optional means of information exchange, previous virtual communities cared very little about facilitating interaction, which was limited to “clicking” and “scrolling” without generating adequate actions to engage and offer personalized experiences. However, current online communities are serving as primary modes to congregate and, there-
CYBERSPACE IS BECOMING THE LOCALE IN WHICH MUSLIMS PRACTICE THEIR FAITH TRADITION BEYOND VIRTUAL DISCUSSIONS AND PRESERVE THEIR RELIGIOUS IDENTITY. THESE VIRTUAL GATHERINGS INFUSE THE ORIGINAL SENSE OF ISLAM AND FORM AN IDEOLOGICAL SYSTEM THAT DEEPENS AND BECOMES MORE ACTUALIZED AS PARTICIPANTS EXCHANGE THEIR RELIGIOUS INPUTS AND REALIZE THEIR SPIRITUAL ASPIRATIONS.
Cyberspace is becoming the locale in which Muslims practice their faith tradition beyond virtual discussions and preserve their religious identity. These virtual gatherings infuse the original sense of Islam and form an ideological system that deepens and becomes more actualized as participants exchange their religious inputs and realize their spiritual aspirations. Their increasing religious ardor extends the public sphere’s discursive nature across time and space to facilitate ideological, ritualistic and social functions of Muslim communities to such an extent that it leads to a grassroots redefinition to virtual umma 2.0 – an umma reloaded. Some of the prominent changes in nature and behavior are: ➤ From Explanation to Demonstration of Lived Islam. The recent outpouring of virtual Muslim communities is mostly prompted by practicing Muslims who focus less on discussing their Islamic understanding or compatibility and more on performing rituals to demonstrate their lived experience of Islam in cyberspace. Despite diversity, their shared participation in rituals provides
fore, nurture members’ trust, confidence and empathy through innovative interactive engagements that also decrease bounce rates. ➤ From Cynicism to Realism. The perpetrator of the past unreliability of virtual communities was cynicism, which was further factored in by the optionality of online mediums. Currently, the digital platform’s indispensability and members’ proactive participation in the creation and imminent restoration of these communities exudes “hopeful realism,” even when that reality is steeped in the digital dilemmas. Any discontent, which would diffuse cynicism in the past, currently breeds deliberation. ➤ From Anonymous to Recognized. Anonymity, a key incentive for many, has now been overturned by the pandemic. While hiding in their “fox holes” and wearing masks, people became tired of being unseen and anonymous. They now want to be seen and recognized, even when they are distantly located and hidden by digital screens. ➤ From Hierarchical to Networked. Just as seating is relationally oriented, facing each other as if they are in a living room or
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coffee house, their ways of participation are also flattening and dismissing any hierarchy. ➤ Asynchronous to non-time bound. Virtual communities are unfettered by time or space. Two or more Muslims can gather in their virtual spaces to carry out any religious discourses at any time, across time zones and active round the clock. ➤ From Modern to Postmodern. Cyberspace is becoming an absolute world in and of itself by annulling ordinary reality and creating a hyper-real space of absolute simulation. Every aspect of time, space, pastiche, memory, simulacra and authenticity and the participation of current umma 2.0 can be grouped under the term “postmodernism.” The experience of lived Islam, resuscitated by virtual umma 2.0 in cyberspace, is singular and unique as well as independent of technology. It also fosters a strong sense of spiritual union online. While such religiosity restores the umma’s spiritual depth, the changes move that sacredness toward expansive stakeholders – the physically disabled, the dislocated living in remote areas or on low incomes, as well as those unable to travel – to widen the umma’s reach. Such an approach of reinforcing its moral unity resembles the hajj, when millions of Muslims belonging of all colors, races and ethnicities convene and meet for the first — and probably for the last — time in their lives. As they worship together, their shared sense of communion reaches its peak and turns the imagined umma into a living reality. Although virtual umma 2.0 is being revitalized, it remains in frequent conflict with traditional religious institution and practices, as they are “not quite” religious in the opinion of many individuals. Interestingly, the very nature of that persistent “not quite,” which continues to attract others to participate as outsiders or competitors, could act as a catalyst. So, instead of wasting too much time arguing about these platforms’ permissibility, let’s help reshape this new space. Our spontaneity to embrace virtual umma 2.0 wholeheartedly carries with it the promise of being able to overcome the age-old handicaps of prejudice, ignorance, and future calamities with the same old religion: Islam. ih Rasheed Rabbi, an IT professional who earned an MA in religious studies (2016) from Hartford Seminary and is pursuing a Doctor of Ministry from Boston University, is also founder of e-Dawah (www. edawah.net) and secretary of the Association of Muslim Scientists, Engineers & Technology Professionals. He serves as a khateeb and Friday prayer leader at the ADAMS Center and a certified Muslim chaplain at iNova Fairfax, iNovaLoudoun and Virginia’s Alexandria and Loudoun Adult Detention Centers.
Muslim Avengers Tackle Maligned Muslim Media Portrayals Do Americans realize that their Islamophobia has roots in the misrepresentation of Muslims in the media? BY SANDRA WHITEHEAD
any of us were devastated by the news that a Muslim family in Canada, out for an evening walk, were run down in June by a pickup truck driven by a young man motivated by anti-Muslim hate. As they waited to cross the street, a grandmother, father, mother and 15-yearold daughter were killed. The 9-year-old son suffered serious injuries but has survived. Ed Holder, mayor of London, Ontario, where the tragedy took place, called it “an act of mass murder perpetuated against Muslims … rooted in unspeakable hatred.” The tragic news spread fear in Muslim communities across the globe. There is a sense that it could have been any of us, one protester in Canada said to a reporter. Where does the hate come from? One answer is the misrepresentation of Muslims in media, says a group of highly accomplished Muslim media professionals who have joined together to address the issue.
Top left clockwise: Arij Mikati (Photo credit: Elias Rios), Kashif Shaikh (Photo credit: Olawale Sanni), Dr. Stacy Smith (Photo credit: Marcus Yam), Riz Ahmed (photo credit: Sharif Hamza).
“An all-star team of the Muslim Avengers lined up,” said Riz Ahmed in a June 10 online speech about a new project to address Muslim misrepresentation.
Ahmed is the first Muslim nominated as best actor at the Oscars and a leader in the effort to correct Muslim media portrayals. The British Pakistani actor was nominated this year for his lead role in The Sound of Metal for his portrayal of a drummer who loses his hearing. The artist and activist is also known for his performances in the television series The OA and The Night Of, and the 2016 film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Ahmed and his renowned colleagues, including Mahershala Ali, Sana Amanat, Karim Amer, Rosa Attab, Lena Khan, Nida Manzoor, Hasan Minhaj, Jehane Noujaim and Ramy Youssef, initiated a collaboration with the University of Southern California Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, the Pillars Fund and the Ford Foundation to study media portrayals, create a plan of action for the entertainment industries, and fund a fellowship for Muslim filmmakers.
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ISLAMOPHOBIA MEDIA PORTRAYALS HAVE REAL-WORLD IMPACTS
“People don’t just wake up hating Muslims. They believe a story,” Ahmed said. “The problem of Muslim misrepresentation can’t be ignored anymore,” Ahmed said. “The reason it matters is the real-world costs of this misrepresentation is measured in the
films compared to their percentage of the population. It also revealed the overwhelmingly demeaning, stereotypical portrayals of Muslim characters in those films, as well as a narrow view of their racial and ethnic backgrounds, even though Muslims are the most racially and ethnically diverse religious community in the world.
BY ANOTHER MEASURE, LESS THAN 10% OF THE 200 FILMS FEATURED AT LEAST ONE MUSLIM CHARACTER SPEAKING ON SCREEN. THAT MEANS 90.5% OF THE MOVIES DID NOT INCLUDE A SINGLE MUSLIM CHARACTER IN A SPEAKING ROLE, WHILE 24% OF PEOPLE IN THE WORLD ARE MUSLIM.
lost potential of untold stories and unfilled careers of storytellers; it’s measured in lost audiences, but it is also measured in lost lives. “We know that when people don’t know a minority group the onscreen representations are far more impactful and 62% of Americans don’t know Muslims. The massacre of three generations of one family this week in Canada … is the result of dehumanizing and demonizing portrayals of Muslims.” A 2015 peer-reviewed study in Communication Research (“Exposure to Muslims in Media and Support for Public Policies Harming Muslims”, Muniba Saleem, Sara Prot, Craig A. Anderson, and Anthony F. Lemieux) supports Ahmed’s point. It found that exposure to negative portrayals of Muslims increased support for harsh civil restrictions of Muslim Americans and for military action in Muslim countries.
NEW STUDY LAYS THE FOUNDATION FOR COUNTERING STEREOTYPES
To address the problems of Muslim representation in media, the group needed data, Ahmed said. It was not enough to “go on feeling.” To lay the foundation for change, a new study “Missing & Maligned: The Reality of Muslims in Popular Global Movies” was undertaken by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, funded by the Ford Foundation, the Pillars Fund and Ahmed. The study of 200 top films showed an absence of portrayals of Muslim characters in 200 top
The study examined films from the U.S., Britain, Australia and New Zealand released between 2017 and 2018. Less than 2% of more than 8,500 speaking characters across the films examined were Muslim. By another measure, less than 10% of the 200 films featured at least one Muslim character speaking on screen. That means 90.5% of the movies did not include a single Muslim character in a speaking role, while 24% of people in the world are Muslim. The total absence of Muslim characters in the animated films examined, paired with the finding that only 7% Muslim characters were children, sends “a strong message to children that Muslims do not belong and are not worthy of inclusion in storytelling,” according to study co-author Dr. Stacy Smith. When Muslim characters did appear, the majority were boys and men, and they were Middle Eastern or North African. In addition, they were stereotyped as threatening, particularly to white characters. And more than half of the characters were rendered as “foreign,” as immigrants, migrants or refugees. Women were portrayed primarily as romantic partners or family members and are stereotyped as submissive. By showing this narrow portrayal of who Muslims are, audiences do not identify with the Muslim characters as neighbors, friends or colleagues, or even members of modern society, the report concludes.
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A BLUEPRINT FOR CHANGE
The study reveals the scope of the problem facing Muslims in entertainment and the urgent need for solutions that increase the presence of Muslim voices in storytelling, Kashif Shaikh, Pillars Fund cofounder and president, states. From these findings, a Blueprint for Muslim Inclusion was developed. It supports the creation of more authentic Muslim portrayals by amplifying Muslim voices in the industry and eliminating terror tropes, among other recommendations. It is intended for every organization in the industry, from production companies to drama schools.
FELLOWSHIP FOR MUSLIM STORYTELLERS
To bring in more Muslim voices, the Pillars Artist Fellowship focuses on Muslim artists in the U.S. and U.K. at the early stage of their careers, offering multiple selected fellows an unrestricted award of $25,000 and career development support, including workshops and mentorships. As an unrestricted award, the recipient can use the funds for anything they choose, even paying the rent, Ahmed said in his video address. Whatever frees them to pursue their art, he said. The hope is that substantial financial and professional support can create the kind of talent pipeline that will help shift on-screen representation. The first year of the multiyear program will focus on directors and writers from film and television. In future years, it will expand to cover storytellers in other disciplines, including literature, music and visual arts. “It’s really scary to be a Muslim right now,” Ahmed said in 2019 speech to the Creative Artists Agency, a Los Angeles-based talent and sports agency, as reported in Variety. “Super scary. With all my privilege and profile, I often wonder if this is going to be the year they round us up. “I think lives are quite literally at stake here,” he continued. “The representations of Muslims on screen — that feeds the policies that get enacted, the people that get killed, the countries that get invaded.” [NOTE: This story originally appeared in the Wisconsin Muslim Journal. https://wisconsinmuslimjournal.org/ muslim-avengers-tackle-maligned-muslim-media-portrayals/) ih Sandra Whitehead is an author, journalist and a long-time adjunct faculty member of journalism and media studies in the journalism and media studies faculty, J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication, Marquette University.
The True Kyrie Irving Legacy The NBA star confirmed his commitment to Islam earlier this year and continues to make an even greater impact off the basketball court. BY HABEEBA HUSAIN
As this edition was going to press, the New York Times reported: Michigan-based Paani Project teamed up with Irving’s KAI Family Foundation to provide water and electric power to individuals in one of Pakistan’s most unprivileged locations called Rohal.
n his 10 years as a professional basketball player, Kyrie Irving has built up quite the resume. Both NBA Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist in 2014, seven-time NBA All-Star and Rookie of the Year in 2011 are just a few of the accolades that come to mind. At the end of this most recent regular season, the Brooklyn Net became only the ninth player in history to join the esteemed 50-40-90 club, a strong nod to his efficiency on the court. He shot 50.6% from the field, 40.2% from the three-point arc and 92.2% from the free-throw line. He’s just the fourth player to do so while averaging over 25 points per game, joining his teammate Kevin Durant, three-time NBA Champion Stephen Curry, and the legendary Larry Bird.
It’s safe to say that the man is an elite player. On the court, all eyes are on him. Off the court, he still demands attention — though he may not like it. Last year, Irving donated $1.5 million to those Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) players who opted out of their season due to the coronavirus and social justice issues. In January, news broke that he bought a house for George Floyd’s family. In May, he launched a consulting firm for minority-owned businesses. The list quietly grows as the media becomes privy to Irving’s impactful moves away from the basketball arena. In a post-game press conference that I shamelessly played on repeat when it first dropped in April, Irving confirmed his commitment to Islam. His tweets praising Allah had made their rounds weeks prior on Twitter, but the speculation remained. The tweets came from the mystery man himself, after all. But the speculation was put to rest when Irving began answering a question about fasting with, “All praise is due to God, Allah, for this.” He continued about “being a part of the Muslim community” and “being committed to Islam” before he confirmed, “I am taking part in Ramadan with a lot of my Muslim brothers and sisters. … It’s just being committed to my service to God, Allah, and then continuing on with whatever I’m guided with. I’m just happy to be part of my community and doing the right things … really blessed and grateful to be taking part in this.” For the remainder of Ramadan, Irving was quite mum when it came to his beliefs. He let his game do the talking, per usual. Soon after that presser, he dropped 35 points, 12 assists and 6 boards in 34 minutes in an afternoon game (read: while fasting the entire time). “Ramadan Kyrie,” as Muslim fans dubbed him, had arrived. When I pitched a story about NBA players fasting
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SPORTS during Ramadan for a basketball magazine, I really wanted to include a conversation with the Nets’ star. An editor told me Irving was infamous for refusing to talk to the media. A polite rejection of my request from the star’s agent followed by a $35,000 fine for violating media access rules given to both him and his team from the NBA confirmed this. Critics scolded Irving to do his job and talk to the media. Oh boy, did he. As the news broke from Palestine regarding the Israeli
entertainment over Palestinian lives. “Kyrie Irving Says He Doesn’t Care About Basketball as Nets Eye Championship” or “Is Kyrie Irving Losing Focus? Why Nets Fans Should be Concerned.” Irving continued, “We all say we’re human beings and we care, and we’re compassionate, but what are you doing to help? My goal out here, my purpose, is to help humanity, and I can’t sit here and not address that. If you’re a human being, you’ll support the antiwar effort that’s going on. There’s a lot of people losing their lives, children, a lot of babies, and that’s just what I focus on. So if you guys want to ask me questions about the game, I really don’t care about it except just everybody leaving out the game healthy and going home to their families.” ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith responded to Irving’s presser by posing a number of rhetorical questions to the Nets’ star, implying that of course everyone cares about the I’M NOT GONNA LIE TO YOU GUYS. A LOT OF STUFF IS suffering people around the world. But GOING ON IN THIS WORLD, AND BASKETBALL IS JUST NOT um, news flash? No, they certainly do not. Right-wing Israelis have said themselves THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO ME RIGHT NOW,” IRVING that Palestinian children dying is a necessity. SAID DURING A PRESS CONFERENCE PRIOR TO THE You don’t even have to look overseas to PLAYOFFS. “THERE’S JUST TOO MUCH GOING ON IN THE see this kind of sentiment. The U.S. funds Israel’s atrocities against Palestinians. In the WORLD FOR ME TO JUST BE TALKING ABOUT BASKETBALL. midst of all the violence, news broke that in IT’S SAD. IT’S NOT JUST IN PALESTINE, AND IT’S NOT JUST IN early May President Joe Biden approved a ISRAEL. IT’S ALL OVER THE WORLD.” $735-million weapons sale to Israel. While this specific sale’s approval came before the escalation of violence during Ramadan, military’s attacks on innocent worshippers at Masjid Palestinians have suffered for decades at the hands of Israel thanks to the U.S.’s al-Aqsa during Ramadan and then subsequent mur- nearly $4 billion of military aid coming in yearly. ders of civilians including women, children and babies, That makes it quite clear the Biden administration doesn’t care about the Palestinian Kyrie Irving did anything but remain quiet. babies under the rubble. He may have told Palestinian American Congresswoman His over 14 million followers on Instagram took Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., he hopes her family in Gaza is safe, but actions speak louder note of his stories that shared photos of the atroci- than words, Mr. President. Kyrie Irving could have taught you that. ties in the illegally occupied territory. But the New Needless to say, I applaud and deeply appreciate Irving’s appropriate use of Jersey native didn’t stop there. As The Nation’s Dave his mega platform to raise awareness on issues bigger than basketball. I hope Zirin writes, “Several players have posted messages more people follow his lead. His performance on the court hasn’t been negatively of solidarity with the Palestinian people, but none affected in the slightest, whether he was fasting for Ramadan or concerned about have taken the time, as Irving did, to put basketball his brothers and sisters around the world. Why does it bother everyone else so in its proper place.” much? You’d really rather hear the boring, cliché answers typical of post-game As the regular season came to an end, Irving’s interviews instead? I have no doubt that Irving’s head is in the game when his kicks are on the Nets were a favorite to go all the way in the Playoffs. Even with the postseason around the corner, Irving court. But after he hangs up his jersey, I’m sure he’d prefer people to think could not get himself to answer the media’s questions about the questions he posed to the media in that previous presser rather than his stat line. about basketball. “When you’re conscious of what’s going on in the world, and you feel it, what “I’m not gonna lie to you guys. A lot of stuff is going on in this world, and basketball is just not the most are you going to do about it?” Irving asked. “Are you going to write about it? Are important thing to me right now,” Irving said during a you going to tweet about it? Are you going to be out there with them? Are you press conference prior to the Playoffs. “There’s just too going to protest? Are you going to plan and strategize what we can do better as much going on in the world for me to just be talking a community that stands with unity and liberation?” Out of his long list of achievements as a professional basketball player, Kyrie about basketball. It’s sad. It’s not just in Palestine, and it’s not just in Israel. It’s all over the world.” Irving’s true legacy lies in his spectacular and jaw-dropping moves off the court. ih Upon hearing “basketball is just not the most Habeeba Husain is a freelance journalist based in the New York tri-state area. She helps manage Muslim-run businesses important thing,” I pictured the headlines I’d see WuduGear and Kamani. Her work has appeared in SLAM Magazine, WhyIslam.org and Narrative.ly, among other online next, those that would place importance on American and print publications. 58 ISLAMIC HORIZONS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021
Husain Nagamia Philanthropist, Scholar, Historian and Humanitarian 1939-2021
y history class in the U.S. consisted of reading about the Greeks, the Romans and then fast forwarding to the conquering of England and the European Renaissance. Although the main goal at that time was to stay awake, it wasn’t hard to notice the huge gap when it came to informing us of the vital contributions from the Middle East, North Africa and al-Andalus. I never really questioned this until I learned about the history of Islam and science, specifically medicine, from Dr. Husain Nagamia (Husainuddin Fakhruddin Nagamia, MD, FRCS). To the world he was the chairman/ founder of the International Institute of Islamic Medicine (IIIM; https://www. niims.org), a cardiothoracic surgeon, past president of the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA; https://imana.org), member of ISNA Founder’s Committee and editor-inchief of the Journal of the Islamic Medical Association of North America (JIMA; https://jima.imana.org) for five years. To me, he was Uncle. I was a resident when we first implemented an IIIM essay competition for undergraduate and medical students about the historical relationship between Islam and medicine. I didn’t know much about IIIM and only knew of Dr. Nagamia through a family friend. But I quickly learned of his genuine passion for educating young Muslim professionals about their predecessors’ history in their own field and, ultimately, their own identity. I didn’t realize at the time just how much that would shape me. We continued this competition for a few years, all the while learning about the surgical instruments developed by Muslim physicians during Islam’s Golden Age (traditionally dated from the 8th to the 14th century) and advances in understanding the circulatory system and optics. We learned about the papers Dr. Nagamia wrote and published about the history of Islamic medicine and surgical procedures and neo-Islamic medicine throughout the years.
➤ MBBS, Grant Medical School, University of Bombay (‘62). Trained in cardiac and thoracic surgery in Edinburgh (Scotland) and Boston University. ➤ Consulting vascular and thoracic surgeon at Brandon Regional Hospital since 1977. ➤ Chief emeritus, cardiovascular and thoracic surgery at Tampa General Hospital; passed away in Tampa, Fla. ➤ Produced 11 research works with 11 citations and 281 reads, including “Medicine in Islam.” ➤ Together with his friend Dr. Tajuddin Ahmed, another member of the ISNA Founders’ Committee, he established Chicago’s Museum of Science. ➤ In 1966 he helped found The Tampa Bay Muslim Alliance (TBMA), a local nonprofit dedicated to representing the Islamic principles of community, charity and compassion. It also promotes sharing and giving to the underserved and, to that end, sponsors the annual Islamic Charity Festival for people of all faiths, backgrounds and ages. TBMA also advocates for and promotes interfaith dialogue to achieve a just, peaceful and harmonious society ih
Despite his amazing achievements, wealth of knowledge and busy schedule, Uncle always reached out and included me in planning these competitions. He expressly wanted youth to be involved in these efforts because he was entirely focused on the mission and vision, whether he was there for it or not.
Out of IIIM’s continuous success and growth since 1992 came the Nagamia Institute of Islamic Medicine and Science (NIIMS; https://www.niims.org), which was born in 2019. He oversaw the creation of this country’s first-ever independent institution dedicated solely to the history of Islamic medicine and science. It
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IN MEMORIAM engages with and teaches local students, showcases a unique and rare Quran exhibit and provides monthly education webinars on current and historical medical advances. Uncle’s vision finally became a physical reality. This vision and passion were more than just singular events. This journey was 25 years in the making — a journey to which he dedicated his life. Understanding that Islamic history isn’t just for one culture or group, he collaborated with all interested leaders and motivated people around the world to spread this knowledge and passion for our history. As a result, among many other activities, he presented at international IMANA meetings, participated in collaborative research projects and in co-founding the International Society for the History of Islamic Medicine (ISHIM; ishim.net). Only the Covid-19 pandemic forced him to stop attending these annual meetings, which created lifelong friendships — friends who are now feeling the pain of his loss. His legacy inspired people to learn about their history and, ultimately, about themselves. He knew who he was. Born in 1939 in Baroda, India, Uncle remained connected to his roots where he had studied medicine. He was a founding member of the American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin (https://afmi.org) and dedicated to help India’s minorities achieve 100% literacy. With all of these accomplishments, he was still working in his busy clinic! But his main passion and dedication were his family. He was married to Zubeda Nagamia, an anesthesiologist, for 55 years and traveled with her worldwide as they spread this passion for Islamic history. His daughter Afshan Ahmed, DDS; son Sameer Husainuddin Nagamia, MD cardiologist; and grandsons Armaan and Amin Ahmed were his pride and focus. He attended every major event — the last being his youngest grandchild’s high school graduation. Uncle was one of those people blessed with the ability to positively change their community during their time on Earth and leave behind such a great legacy as a sadaqa jariya. He was one of a kind and will be dearly missed. Though we grieve, he would urge us to continue the work because it wasn’t just his; he made sure that it was ours. ih Contributed by Marium Husain, MD, MPH (board member, NIIMS; Vice President, IMANA).
Tarek Raskhan Alkadri A Heart that Touched Every Soul 1970-2021
arek Raskhan Alkadri, a Dallasarea community leader for many years, passed away from Covid-19 complications on June 5, 2021, in Dallas at the age of 51. Alkadri, who migrated from Yemen to the U.S. in 1990, genuinely cared for his community and strove to serve and uplift those around him. He helped newcomers to the U.S. find jobs, go to school and get situated in their new homes. In 2012, he helped found and served as president/board chair of Pure Hands Yemen Relief (https://purehands.org/), a humanitarian nonprofit dedicated to alleviating poverty, creating economic opportunities and providing emergency relief to those afflicted by his homeland’s ongoing war. His son Ahmed, remembering his father, wrote: “Growing up, my dad used to always tell me ‘When you’re born, you’re crying and everyone around you is smiling. Make sure you live a good and noble life so when you die everyone is crying and you’re the one smiling’… He left a legacy too big to carry. I think that’s why Baba has six kids, so my siblings and I can split the burden. We strive to be like you.” Eulogizing Alkadri, Imam Omar Suleiman said, “I feel like I could write a book about this beloved brother. Tarek Alkadri was one of the closest family friends we’ve ever had, and he’s unlike anyone I’ve ever met in this community. That is not an exaggeration. I’ve never known a person who naturally did so much good yet was so
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humble and desired anonymity with it all. The amount of people he helped without them even knowing. He would donate privately and generously all the time and meet people with a beautiful smile and character always. “This was the brother who would invite random people from the masjid to his house for lunch on a weekly basis, especially those he felt were being left out. This is the brother who worked tirelessly for the families of political prisoners with Muslim Legal Fund of America (https://mlfa.org) [where he had served as board member/ treasurer since 2006] and for his beloved home country of Yemen through Pure Hands charity, among others. “If people knew what he did, he would’ve received award after award for his service. And his children radiate with the beautiful character they learned from him and his wife. We are shocked and saddened by his death. But this time, he can’t tell me not to mention his name or put his picture up.” Nihad Awad (executive director, CAIR National) said, “Tarek Alkadri will be missed as a humble community leader, activist and humanitarian who sought throughout his life to alleviate the sufferings of others.” Dr. Osama AbuIrshaid (executive director and board member, American Muslims for Palestine) said Alkadri’s love for Muslims transcended geography and ethnicity. As one of his priorities was the struggle to liberate Palestine, he made himself available anytime we called on him for his wisdom and support. The Muslim Educational Trust (MET) in Portland, Ore., said that its members will always have a special place in their hearts for Alkadri, for his Dallas-based company, AllAmerican Flooring, furnished and installed all of its community center’s flooring. Alkadri was also a board member of the North Texas Islamic Council and the Islamic Association of North Texas, as well as a past board member of Islamic Services Foundation. His wife Najat, daughter Mryam, and sons Mustafa, Ahmad, Abdul Rahman and Hamza survive him, as do several of his sisters and brothers. ih
Shah Abdul Hannan
An Exemplary Human Being and Teacher 1939-2021
angladesh lost one of her illustrious sons, a guardian figure on June 2. I knew Shah Abdul Hannan for nearly 27 years. Deeply involved in the Dhaka-based Islamic Economics Research Bureau, which was at the forefront of Bangladesh’s Islamic banking movement, he was a key person behind establishing its first Islamic bank: Islami Bank Bangladesh Ltd. (http:// www.islamibankbd.com/; originally, the International Islamic Bank of Dhaka Ltd., est. March 30, 1983). After retiring as secretary to the government of Bangladesh, he served as the Islami Bank’s chairman. Among his many contributions are formulating the value-added tax (VAT) system and reforming the banking sector, both of which have contributed greatly to Bangladesh’s economic strength. Renowned for his personal integrity and as one of the country’s finest and most astute civil servants, he helped establish universities and was chairman/president of the Bangladesh Institute of Islamic Thought, the Islamic Economics Research Bureau, the Ibn Sina Trust, the Board of Trustees of Manarat International University and other research and philanthropic organizations. When I first met him in 1994, I was a second-year university student and he was a senior civil services officer and well known for his honesty, efficiency, sincerity and important government posts. Although I have always been a “regular” person, he always made me feel honored both as a human being and as his student. We had many meetings and traveled together in Bangladesh and the U.K. I had long stays with him to benefit from his intellectual guidance and learn from his immense knowledge and insight, as well as to attend his classes and lectures. He never imposed his views on me or stopped me from expressing mine. A man of strong personality and force of character who respected others, his integrity manifested itself in his principled conduct, honest dealing and steady avoidance and disapproval of corruption and venality. I was a regular at the weekly classes, which he conducted for young men and
women, separately, from November 1994 to September 2000, when I left to pursue my higher education in the U.K. In those classes, he introduced us to contemporary Islamic thought and various current questions about Islam and Muslims, with a special emphasis on gender issues. I am deeply indebted to him for being a role model, a passionate and dedicated teacher who remains a source of inspiration for me. Before meeting him, I had aspired to a public service career. Ironically, this public official who shunned the power, pomp, and outward glory that accompanies such a career motivated me to become an academic. What attracted me was the depth of his knowledge and intellectual rigor. For as long as I knew him, I remained awestruck by his honesty, simplicity and humility. In the U.K., the grounding I had received in his classes made it easy for me to understand the thoughts and ideas presented by renowned scholars of Islam. What I had learned from him as regards Islam and its worldview also helped me remain ahead of many of my contemporaries. His training has been extremely useful in my teaching activities at the International Islamic University Malaysia, for his scholarship has impacted both how I look at Western literature from Islamic perspectives and how I teach Islamic literature to both undergraduate and graduate students. Upon learning of Shah Abdul Hannan’s passing away, I remembered a poem by
Hassan ibn Thabit, Prophet Muhammad’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) poet laureate, in which he describes his and others’ sadness over the Prophet’s demise: “The lands grow narrower for the Helpers, now / their faces are thrashed with antimony’s hue.” Of course no one can ever be equated with the Prophet. Feeling an overpowering sense of loss, I approached the Quran for solace. Two verses put my heart at peace. Among the believers are men who have [always] been true to what they have vowed before God; and among them are such as have [already] redeemed their pledge by death, and such as yet await [its fulfilment] without having changed [their resolve] in the least. [Such trials are imposed upon man] so that God may reward the truthful for having been true to their word, and cause the hypocrites to suffer — if that be His will — or [if they repent,] accept their repentance: for, verily, God is indeed much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace! (33:23-24). Based on my interactions and learning experiences with Shah Abdul Hannan, I can testify with good conscience that he was true to his covenant with God and that he was not a hypocrite. May God accept him among the righteous ones! ih Contributed by Md. Mahmudul Hasan, Department of English Language and Literature, International Islamic University Malaysia.
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NEW RELEASES Minarets on the Horizon: Muslim Pioneers in Canada Murray Hogben 2021. Pp. 304. PB. Can.$34.95. Kindle. Can.$9.99 Mawenzi House Publishers Ltd., Toronto, Canada ournalist and professor Murray Hogben has been a Muslim since 1956. He served as secretary (of the then-new) Muslim Society of Toronto and later on as secretary of the Islamic Society of Kingston, a volunteer Muslim chaplain at several prisons and secretary of the Kingston Police’s Race Relations Advisory Committee. During his career, he spent decades as a canoeing instructor and arts and crafts director at Muslim girls and boys’ camps. This book gives a detailed look at Muslims in Canada, starting with the pioneer settlers from Syria/Lebanon and the Balkans in the early 20th century and moving on to the more modern midcentury arrivals from South Asia and Africa. Told in their own words, the stories in this collection give us a rare insight into their lives.
Medicine and Shariah: A Dialogue in Islamic Bioethics Aasim I. Padela (ed.) and Ebrahim Moosa (foreword) 2021, Pp. 266. HB. $75.00 University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Ind. Medicine and Shariah” brings together experts from various fields, including clinicians, Islamic studies experts and Muslim theologians, to analyze the interaction of those physicians and jurists who are forging the emerging field of Islamic bioethics. The volume begins by furnishing the concepts and terms needed to map out the discourse. Of course, there are opinions that may be questioned, such as a license for even porcine-based vaccines. It will be of interest to bioethicists and scholars of Islam; those interested in the dialectics of tradition, modernity, science and religion; and, more broadly, scholarly and professional communities working at the intersection of Islamic tradition and contemporary healthcare.
Islamophobia: What Christians Should Know (and Do) about Anti-Muslim Discrimination Jordan Denari Duffner 2021. Pp. 280. PB. $22.00 Orbis Books, Maryknoll, N.Y. his book argues that Christians should be at the forefront of efforts to end Islamophobia, which has risen astronomically, especially during the past two decades. While focusing largely on Islamophobia in the U.S., Duffner also discusses the issue’s international and historical roots and connection to Christianity, before positing a Christian response. Case studies and interviews are interwoven with multidisciplinary research to produce a compelling volume of interest to academics and lay audiences alike. A Catholic scholar of Muslim-Christian relations, she provides the historical context, shares compelling stories and argues that Christianity calls Christians to combat religious discrimination even when it isn’t directed toward their own faith community.
Curriculum Renewal for Islamic Education: Critical Perspectives on Teaching Islam in Primary and Secondary Schools Nadeem A. Memon, Mariam Alhashmi and Mohamad Abdalla (eds.) 2021. Pp. 278. HB. $160.00. PB. $48.95. eBook. $44.05 Routledge, Philadelphia, Pa. his compilation highlights the necessity for redesigning the Islamic education curriculum in the K-12 sector globally. From public schools that integrate Muslim perspectives to be culturally responsive, to public and private schools in Muslim-minority and -majority contexts that teach Islamic studies as a core subject or teach from an Islamic perspective, the contributors highlight the unique global and sociocultural contexts that support the disparate trajectories of Islamic education curricula. This book will be appreciated by researchers, doctoral students and academics in the fields of secondary education, Islamic education and curriculum studies.
The Ottomans: Khans, Caesars, and Caliphs Marc David Baer 2021. Pp. 560. HB. $35.00. Kindle. $18.99 Basic Books, New York, N.Y. he Ottoman Empire has long been depicted as the Islamic, Asian antithesis of the Christian, European West. But the reality was starkly different, says Baer, a professor of international history at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His book reveals that the empire’s multiethnic, multilingual and multireligious domain reached deep into Europe’s heart.
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Baer argues that the Ottoman rulers saw themselves as the new Romans. Recounting their remarkable rise from a frontier principality to a world empire, he traces their debts to their Turkish, Mongolian, Islamic and Byzantine heritages. The Ottomans pioneered religious toleration even as they used religious conversion to integrate conquered peoples. But in the 19th century they embraced exclusivity, which led to ethnic cleansing, genocide and the empire’s demise after the First World War. “The Ottomans” vividly reveals the dynasty’s full history and its enduring impact on Europe and the world. A Physician on the Nile: A Description of Egypt and Journal of the Famine Years ‘Abd al-Latíf al-Baghdãdí Tim Mackintosh-Smith (ed. and trans.) 2021. Pp. 300. HB. $30.00. Kindle. $27.00 NYU Press, New York, N.Y. olymath and physician al-Baghdadi offers a description of everyday life in Egypt at the turn of the 13th century, before presenting a harrowing account of the famine and pestilence years of 1200-02. The book, intended for the Abbasid caliph al-Nasir, offers detailed descriptions of Egypt’s geography, plants, animals and local cuisine, including a recipe for a giant picnic pie made with three roast lambs and dozens of chickens. This bilingual Arabic-English text is also a pioneering work of ancient Egyptology, with detailed observations of Pharaonic monuments, sculptures and mummies.
In My Mother’s Footsteps: A Palestinian Refugee Returns Home Mona Hajjar Halaby 2021. Pp. 290. PB. $10.99 Thread Books (http://thread-books.com/) moving and heart-rending journey of a daughter (Hallaby) discovering her roots and recovering her mother’s beloved past — a narration that should tear up all human hearts. It’s also an intimate and tender account of daily life for Palestinians, which, she says, helped her find her own self. She writes: “Refugees are like seeds that scatter in the wind, and land in different soils that become their reluctant homes, my mother once told me. As a small child, I looked up at my mother and clutched her hand. The puffiness of her palm reminded me of a loaf of warm pita bread, and when she laced her fingers into mine like a pretzel, I felt safe. I would have walked with her to the ends of the earth.”
Islamophobia in Higher Education: Combating Discrimination and Creating Understanding Shafiqa Ahmadi and Darnell Cole (eds.) 2020. Pp. 180. PB. $29.95 Stylus Publishing, Sterling, Va. here has been an alarming increase in reports of anti-Muslim bigotry and discrimination since the 2016 presidential elections. The fear of Islam in general, and of Muslims in particular, not only compels non-Muslims to treat Muslims differently, but also to trade some of their civil rights and liberties under the guise of national security. Contributors argue that to address these issues, institutions require a nuanced understanding of the laws and policies that institutionalize Islamophobia, as well as a greater understanding of the diverse college students that self-identify as Muslim. This volume would be a good addition to college and university libraries, higher education administrations, campus student life and education administration reading material.
First Scientist: Ibn Al-Haytham Bradley Steffens 2021. Pp. 130. PB. $24.95 Blue Dome Press, Clifton, N.J. ward-winning author Bradley Steffens introduces Ibn al-Haytham in this first full biography ever written about him. Though not a household name as far as the history of science goes, given that his major contributions have gone largely unnoticed and uncredited, Ibn al-Haytham (965-1040) is finally being recognized as the world’s first true scientist. Centuries before better-known researchers such as Roger Bacon (d.1292), da Vinci (d.1519) and Galileo (d.1642) were even born, Ibn al-Haytham investigated eyesight and the propagation of light in a profound manner, the likes of which had never before been fully utilized. Importantly, he documented his findings in his seven-volume magnum opus “Book of Optics,” written during 1011–1021. By systematically using experiments to test his hypotheses, Ibn al-Haytham changed the course of history by giving humanity a new and effective way of establishing facts about the natural world — an approach known today as the scientific method. ih
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