FEB 2005|DHUL-HIJJAH 1425|NO.360 UK£.2.50 | US$5.00 |RM10.00
THE ENDURING SPIRIT OF ACEH JOHN ESPOSITO & MUQTEDAR KHAN
THE THREAT OF INTERNAL EXTREMISM SONIA MALIK
GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN NADIA EVANS
AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF THE PALESTINIAN VOTE MEHREK GOLESTAN
URBAN MUSIC’S JIHADI FACE
PLUS TROUBADOURS OF ALLAH TAKING THE GUARDIAN TO TASK WHERE ARE YOU REALLY FROM?
LEGACY OF A MARTYR FORTY YEARS AFTER MALCOLM X
FROM THE PULPIT When I was a teenager, I once asked one of my shaykhs what a Muslim should do when an Islamic New Year approaches. I explained that my question was in the context of how society celebrated the beginning of the Gregorian New year - fanfare, parties, resolutions and so on. More than three decades later Nadir, my teenage son, has asked me the same question. The Islamic New year [10th February 2005] is a sombre event, I was told. It is not a time to let go of your senses. Rather, it is an opportunity to regroup them and re-focus them. Making resolutions isn’t a bad idea. But they need to be more serious than those relating to weight loss, holiday destinations or using your mobile phone more sparsely. A major resolution should be to set standards in a conscious effort to get closer to your Lord.A resolution aimed at instituting a few minutes of dhikr daily is recommended as is the promise to try and regulate one’s life around prayer times.As for New Year day itself, I was told there was nothing specific that a Muslim is supposed to do, although it is highly recommended that he prays the morning prayer in a mosque. It is even better if he can spend a few minutes in contemplative prayer the night before. Also, fasting on the tenth day of Muharram - the first month of the Islamic calendar - is highly recommended. The ‘Ashura, with similar roots as Jewish holy days, is a day of “beneficient character” for the Sunnis. Among the Shi’ites, it is the terrible anniversary of the murder of Husayn (the grandson of the blessed Prophet) by the troops of Yazid. Shi’ites fast on the ninth of Muharram; on the tenth certain Shi’ite groups wander the cities and publicly inflict wounds upon themselves. This mortification is an expression of guilt among the Shi’ites for having abandoned the imams in their moment of need. However, what has always stuck in my mind about the answer my teacher gave me was the counsel that the Islamic new year is a good time to learn more about Sayyidna ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second Caliph and one of the most notable figures in Islam. It was, of course, Sayyidna ‘Umar, who determined that the year of the Hijrah (the migration from Makkah to Madinah) should be the first year of the Islamic era. So to me, the Islamic year has always meant an opportunity to re-discover this inspirational person. Among my favourite anecdotes is one related by Zaid ibn Islam. “One night I saw ‘Umar patrolling with the night guard. I joined him and marched with him.When we left the city, we caught sight of a fire a short distance away.When we reached it, we saw a woman with two or three weeping small children.The woman had placed a pot on the fire and she was saying: ‘May Allah get me justice from ‘Umar, for he has eaten his fill and we are hungry.’ “Hearing this,‘Umar stepped forward, greeted her and asked:‘May I come closer?’ She said:‘If your intentions are good, you may.’ He questioned her and she replied: ‘We left our distant homes and arrived here hungry and tired. The hunger has made us miserable and we cannot sleep.’ The Commander of the Faithful asked her what was in the pot and she replied: ‘There is water in it. I hope to get the children quiet with this pretence, for they think I am cooking food.’ “Umar then went to the flour merchant’s shop and bought a sack of flour, which he slung over his shoulder. Then he went to the grocer’s shop and bought supplies and cooking fat. I said: ‘O Prince of the Believers, let me carry these things for you.’ ‘Umar said: ‘If you carry this load, who will carry my load of sin and ward off that woman’s prayer against me?’ “Umar began weeping and walked to them. ‘May Allah reward you with blessings,’ said the woman. ‘You are better suited to look after the Muslims than ‘Umar is.’ He then started to prepare a meal for this family.When it was completed, he gave it to the children and said to the woman: ‘Do not wish ill on ‘Umar. He had no knowledge of your troubles.’ Then he left - sobbing into the darkness.” Happy New Year everybody!
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C O N T E N T S REGULARS
8 Editor-in-Chief FUAD NAHDI Managing Editor FAREENA ALAM Contributing Editors ABDUL-REHMAN MALIK NABILA MUNAWAR FOZIA BORA Copy Editors USAMA KHAN KATRINA CHOUDHURY Art Director AIYSHA MALIK Administrative Assistant RIZWAN RAHMAN Events Coordinator WAHEED MALIK FEATURING Gohar Akhtar Abdullah Bradford Mas’ood Cajee Affan Chowdhry Sanjana Deen Howard Dodson Layla El-Wafi John Esposito Nadia Evans Rakin Fetuga Mehrek Golestan Atif Imtiaz Rumeana Jahangir Abdul Karim Benjamin Karim Adam Khan Muqtedar Khan Yuri Kochiyama Sonia Malik Anthony Mcroy Rizwan Mohammad Abdal-Hakim Murad Mustafa Obaidi Faraz Rabbani Fazeelat Saleem Hassan Scott Santi Soekanto Ismael South Muqtedar Khan Yuri Kochiyama Mohammad Sulaiyman Naushaad Suliman James Tyner Mutia Verayanti Yunardi Q-NEWS MEDIA LTD P.O. BOX 4295, London W1A 7YH United Kingdom www.q-news.com General: firstname.lastname@example.org Editorial: email@example.com Subscriptions: firstname.lastname@example.org
CLASSIC Q Shattering Absolutions. FARIDA JAMES loves smashing bottles at the recycling centre. It’s like virtuous vandalism and she can’t get enough.
UPFRONT Photographer HORST A. FRIEDRICHS explores Pakistan’s ecstatic sufi culture in Troubadours of Allah:The Spirit of Sufi Music at London’s Horniman Museum.
Q-NOTES on second wives, discovering Brick Lane, the joy of being Punjabi and another lonely Valentine’s Day.
SCRUTINY Top ten good news stories of 2004 MAS’OOD CAJEE. Where are you really from? LAYLA M. ELWAFI. Manchester’s Muslim inner-city RUMEANA JAHANGIR. BNP arrests: Another Labour ploy? ANTHONY MCROY. Islamophobia:The language and politics of dependence HASSAN SCOTT.
REVIEW argues that the vast majority of British Muslims are missing from The Guardian’s latest attempt to make Muslims acceptable. ATIF IMTIAZ takes on Kenan Malik. MEHREK GOLESTAN explores Islamic urban music’s jihadi face. ADAM KHAN
WRITE MIND Under the cover of darkness ABDULLAH BRADFORD tried to dispose of the evidence. Little did he know that London’s finest would be there to catch him. CONTRIBUTORS 6 VOX POPULI 56
The threat of internal extremism
Anti-western extremism within a small minority of Western Muslims, argue MUQTEDAR KHAN and JOHN ESPOSITO, is undermining efforts to allay fears that Islam in the West is a threat.
18 “Free and fair elections...” Navigating around the notorious wall and braving Israeli checkpoints, Palestinians went to the polls determined to elect their president. NADIA EVANS reports from the West Bank.
Girls just wanna have fun
Muslim women speak frankly about their lives on Britain’s university campuses. As SONIA MALIK finds out there is more to them than boys, booze and bhangra.
26 “And when the seas rise...” and RUMEANA JAHANGIR on Muslim aid efforts in tsunami affected areas. NINA MAULIDIA RIZKA on becoming orphaned. ABDAL-HAKIM MURAD on Aceh’s glorious past. SANJANA DEEN
32 Portfolio: Malcolm X Malcolm X - El Hajj Malik El Shabazz - still electrifies us forty years after his violent death.We remember and celebrate the life of one of Islam’s greatest contemporary heros.
“If I can die having brought any light, having exposed any meaningful truth that will help destroy the cancer of racism that is malignant in the body of America then, all the credit is due to Allah.”
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C O N T R I B U T O R S ABDULLAH BRADFORD
is a doctoral student at the University of London where he works on community-based organic waste recycling strategies in Ghana.
is Chief of the prestigious Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of The New York Public Library and a noted lecturer, educator and consultant.
LAYLA M. EL-WAFI
has worked in the human rights and charity sector in the US, the Middle East and the UK. She currently resides in London with her English husband.
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works for the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU). She was an international observer during the 2005 presidential elections in Palestine
is an educator and government policy analyst in Toronto. She is an the executive member of IHYA Foundation and a contributing editor to Q-News.
is Secretary of the Muslim Academic Trust (London) and Director of the Sunna Project at the Centre of Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge University.
is a renowned author, university professor and Founding Director of the Center for MuslimChristian Understanding at Georgetown Universit in Washington, DC.
is a London-based activist and writer involved in numerous social justice issues. He was formerly engaged in solidarity work with the Zapatista community in Mexico.
is an Associate Professor of Geography at Kent State University. His book on Malcolm X is forthcoming. He lives in Ohio with wife, Belinda, and daughter, Jessica.
SHATTERING ABSOLUTIONS t would be hard to exaggerate my enthusiasm for the bottle bank. I cannot claim that it is social responsibility alone that attracts me to it and that discovers me driving hundreds of miles with clinking glass in the back of my car. No, I enjoy my visits. I enjoy hurling bottle and jars into unseen depths and hearing them crunch and smash. It is a sort of licensed and virtuous vandalism. Recently, I encountered a happy man emptying his week’s hoard with some violence into the receptacles at the Jamestown Recycling Centre in Camden. He was smiling as the glass shattered. “In Scandinavia,” he said, “we have to pay for this pleasure. Here it’s free!” One does not have to look far to discover simple Freudian satisfaction in the bottle-voiding process. Away with guilt and indulgence! Back to Sainsbury’s drink shelves, clean and innocentready to stock up with a new supply, and with resolves to drink more moderately (of their Cola, of course!). Every trip to the bottle bank is a new beginning. The Recycling Centre now offers an ever-widening range of pleasures. It will take in cans, paper, cardboard, rags, oil and metal and will even accept plastic. People of my background are natural hoarders. We find it difficult to convey to our friends and relatives the pleasure with which we view the excessive packaging that is an inseparable part of today’s commercial spirit. We do not save paper bags and rubber bands any more, but we would if we could think of a good excuse to do so. The Jamestown Road Centre is full of encouraging slogans. From a metal bar dangles an abandoned globe, with the message: “We saved this from the Metal Bin - now we need to save the real one for ourselves!” Notices tell us that last month we good citizens rescued 199
tones of waste, which equals 1,572 trees, and glass the equivalent of 2,287 gallons of oil. Twenty-eight Jumbo jets could be made each year
with the metal thrown away in Camden alone. These are challenging, encouraging, horrifying statistics. For we all know that most of us do not bother. We just put things in black bags in the bin, all jumbled uselessly together. How do we encourage children to get the message? School parties visit the centre and are indoctrinated in Good Practice. To encourage them, the staff rescue various large and forlorn abandoned soft toys from the rag crusher, and sit them around “to make the place seem friendlier.” I am not sure if this is really such a good idea. There is something desolate and depressing about the soggy, dirty child-sized bunny or bear or kangaroo. I am more in
favour of the crunch and the smash. The disposal business is full of paradoxes. One of the most acute anxieties that haunts keen glass crushers is the fear that we may be using up more petrol on the trip to the bottle bank than we are saving in recyclable raw materials. How can we calculate the precise point at which our journey becomes, in global terms, worthwhile? On my own street in London, we have a community effort involving monthly pooling and collection of waste from designated front gardens, which cuts down on the petrol, but I keep forgetting which day is collection day. So I just tend to put all empty bottles in the car boot and drive around with them, stopping whenever my eye lights on a nice bottle bank. I have patronised bottle banks all over the country in remote regions. I am accompanied by an almost perpetual clink, a movable morning-after. But the only thing that defeats me are plastic nozzles. Can one or can one not put this in the bottle bank? Recycling glass is for some reason more satisfying than recycling paper. I do occasionally make the paper expedition but I do not feel strongly about it, perhaps because so much of the paper is really not my fault anyway. Why should I make special expeditions to dispose my own junk mail? And anyway, I do not quite understand the system. When does paper become cardboard? And in which skip should one throw away a whole book? The only books I have ever thrown away are by Penguin, and those in languages so abstruse that none could read them. And what if I’d put them in the wrong skip, where they would render useless 200 tonnes of waste and thus, ground several Jumbo jets? Middle-class angst knows no end, I fear. ! Farida James in Q-News, Vol: 3 No. 27, 30 Sept - 7 Oct 1994 Q - NEWS
TROUBADOURS OF ALLAH “Men holding large bags try their best to distribute small packets of sugar to pilgrims. It is the last day of Baba Farid’s urs, or death anniversary celebrations. I can feel my socks sticking to the shrine floor, where dropped sugar melts under the intense midday sun. One of the saint’s many miracles is that he turned a sack of salt into sugar. I walk to an enclosed area behind the saint’s tomb where women call for intercession. I see a group of men running and chanting, holding an embroidered sheet over their heads.They will place it on the saint’s tomb. I can see the line of men now, waiting to enter the tomb.The man in front of me tells me he saw the shrine of Baba Farid in a dream. He left his village and came on foot - the trip lasting almost two days.What do they hope to find here? “‘No one ever leaves Baba Farid empty handed,’ a pilgrim from Peshawar tells me. I am closer now to the entrance. I can see the famous doors - the behesti darvazah which are opened on one night every year.They say, for those who pass through, it will be as though they have passed through the doors of heaven. In recent years, people have been crushed to death. I hear shouting inside. A policeman gestures to me to enter.As I step inside, my eyes try to adjust to the darkness. But I can hardly see anything. Someone grabs a hold of my arm and whirls me around.The line must keep moving. No one is allowed to pause for long. The dark room is filled with the smell of sweat and rose petals. I can hear people praying, crying. And before I know it, I am thrown back outside - into the blinding light and unbelievable heat. Everywhere I turn, I see small qawwal parties. Harmoniums, choruses of male singers, and the sharp sound of wooden blocks. A man offers me water held in a silver cup etched with writing I cannot read. I accept his offer, but when I finish he explains that the water is blessed and I’ll have to pay for it. I have no money to give him. I make my way to the stairs leading down to the main town. I feel that I am leaving empty-handed - for now at least.” - Affan Chowdhry Photographs courtesy of Spirit of Sufi Music:Troubadours of Allah, a photographic exhibition by Horst A. Friedrichs at the Horniman Museum’s Balcony Gallery until 27 February 2005 (www.horniman.ac.uk, 0208 699 1872). Enjoy an evening with author Peter Pannke and photographer Horst A. Friedrichs to conclude the exhibition on Thursday 24 February 2005, 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm.The event is free, but book early to avoid disappointment.
DIARY AFFAN CHOWDHRY
or those who are estranged from romance or stuck in the mud of cynicism - and therefore have little to contribute to St. Valentine’s Day - there are the Oscars to look forward to at least. What else is there to do in February? I have to say that I never thought I’d actually like The Aviator. Young Leonardo is a pretty face no doubt. If I had that jaw line, I too could be king of the world. But let’s just say he’s a pretty albeit empty - vessel. The strength of the The Aviator doesn’t rest so much with the acting. It rests with the fundamental conceit at the heart of the movie - that modern man can tame nature, develop extraordinary technologies, and do whatever he pleases. And yet he cannot bring order to his confused mind. It is the juxtaposition of the age of the airplane - ‘The sky is the limit’ - next to man’s internal disorder. Two nights before seeing the film, I saw Pollack the biopic of the American artist Jackson Pollack. In one scene, when a reporter asks the artist what he’s trying to accomplish in his painting, Pollack explains that he’s trying to capture the inner world of the modern human being. The following morning, I took my sisters - who were visiting London to the Tate Modern. In one of the galleries I turned a corner and came upon a painting that I would never have paused at before. In a flash, I pointed at the painting and said: “That’s a Pollack.” And it was. Like Pollack’s paintings, The Aviator reminds us that we are the most educated and technologicallyadvanced society in human history - and yet we feel an awesome vulnerability.
hile exiting the Central London Mosque on Eid morning, I overheard the
following conversation. Two grown men are walking behind me. After some brief salams and Eid greetings, the first man, who is holding the hand of a little boy, says to the second man, “Are you thinking of having another?” “No,” the second man says, a note of surprise in his voice. “No, I don’t think so.” The first man asks him how his kids are doing. “Alhamdulilah,” he says. And then it hits him. The question was about having more children. He suddenly turns to the first man and says: “Oh, you mean another child?” Funny what the minds of men jump to, eh? loomsbury is making me claustrophobic. And I’m starting to take things for granted - like the Brunswick Center. Oh, how I loved to gaze at its beautiful concrete. But no more. So one afternoon I took the 205 bus from Euston to Whitechapel. There’s got to be a world outside Zone 1, I thought. Arriving in an unfamiliar part of the city can be challenging. Which street to start down? When I ended up at the Sainsbury’s, I began to question my nose for taking the right turn. I started down another small street and noticed that every other person was carrying a blue shopping bag - as though they were all returning from the same market. I was intrigued. I followed the trail of blue plastic bags, under the rail tracks, along old warehouses, until I could see the stalls where people had gathered to buy tools and spare parts. I entered a warehouse and flipped through someone’s collection of CDs. The streets were packed. I found an outdoor fruit market and delighted at the sight of oranges. I stopped at a truck where a crowd had gathered around the open back. A young man stood inside the truck’s
storage and sold electronic merchandise at cut-rate prices. I bought an Americano from a coffee cart, and a chocolate croissant. I stood at the corner and watched people pass by. It was a sunny day. The street sign said Brick Lane. And a piece of this city’s foreignness melted away. here would the world be without Punjabis? We are the life of the party. Lately, however, we’ve been looking and sounding awfully serious. Around the time a Sikh crowd forced the closure of a controversial play in Birmingham, I saw a television interview with a community spokesperson who talked about controlling the Sikh image following 9/11. It is true that some people turned on Sikhs in the wake of the attacks. No longer confused with Osama Bin Laden, they can now be known for trampling on free expression. Now that’s moving up. But seriously, we Punjabis have nothing to worry about. We are counted on for a bit of buffoonery now and then, for breaking into bhangra at a moment’s notice, for vulgar jokes and unnecessarily loud laughter. Who cares if we produced some of the finest poets of South Asia? Baba Farid, Sultan Bahu, Bulleh Shah, Shah Hussein. They’re so serious and sad, yaar. We are the party now. We get the most laughs when we appear in minor Bollywood roles. In fact, people want to be Punjabi. I have a Bengali friend who slaps me on the back and screams “Oy kiddan!” One of these days I’m going to slap him on the back and say, “Oy shut your trap. You’re not Punjabi!” The lesson in all of this is very clear. Embattled minority groups should develop an affable and Punjabi-like persona and a dance that is actually worth watching. !
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THE TOP TEN GOOD NEWS STORIES OF 2004 ike establishment bobblehead Fareed Zakaria, I too have been compiling an annual list of Good News stories from the Muslim World for the past few years. In a year bracketed by terrible disasters in Iran and the Indian Ocean in which The Generous did indeed strike with the name Avenger - punctuated with man-made disasters in Iraq and Sudan’s Darfur - events in 2004 forced us to reflect on our human condition. Fortunately, there were many who elevated our spirit and did the right thing: speaking truth to power, working for peace and justice, and more. Muslims struggled hand-in-hand with non-Muslims for common causes (witness cooperation between Muslims and Hindus in India), creativity and openness among Muslim communities grew (Muslim humor? Don’t make me laugh!), and made progress towards stability in many of today’s Muslim-dominated hot spots. Tired of hearing so much bad news from around the Muslim world during this past year? Here are my Top Ten Muslim Good News Stories of 2004:
1. SUNNIS & SHIA IRAQIS UNITE
Despite the best efforts of foreign fighters and anti-Iraqi forces, Iraqis showed solidarity that rose above ethnic and religious divides. During the failed April siege of mostly Sunni Fallujah, Shias from across Iraq held food and blood drives for the people of the besieged city. Sunnis earlier supported Shia with blood drives after car bombs devastated Karbala and Baghdad Ashura commemorations. The majority of Iraqis support a unified Iraq, without special privileges for any ethnic or religious group. Most polls, even an opinion survey conducted by the US occupation authorities, confirmed that an overwhelming majority of Iraqis - both Sunni and Shia - want an end to the occupation, are unified against attacks on emerging Iraqi civil institutions, yet are opposed to former CIA agent and interim Iraqi prime minister Iyad Allawi. 2. INDIA’S BJP PARTY GETS THE BOOT
In a stunning upset, Indian voters gave a pink slip to the BJP and Hindutva, the extreme fundamentalism behind the bloody Gujarat pogrom of 2002. India
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voted in a former Italian nanny connected to the once-formidable Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and Congress Party. The big question: will Congress push a soft Hindutva or will it promote pluralism? 3.YUSUF ISLAM IS CHOSEN “MAN FOR PEACE”
We have to give Yusuf Islam props this year. And we’re not the only ones: the Gorbachev Foundation feted the former rock star with its “Man for Peace” award at the annual World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev praised Yusuf Islam for his courage as “a distinguished personage of culture and entertainment for peace messages, fraternity and integration between nations.” In recent years, Yusuf Islam has spearheaded multiple efforts in education, media, and charity: he is the Renaissance Man of Muslim activism. He has started schools in England, Mountain of Light (a record label), Small Kindness (a global charity), and IBERR (an education think tank). Students at IBERR-inspired schools in Anglophone Muslim communities around the world have excelled. People not giving props to Yusuf Islam this year included the United States Government’s Department of Homeland Security. In September, the US denied entry to Yusuf Islam “on national security grounds.” Meanwhile, the officials who had detained him did ask the 70’s star for his autograph. 4. SUDANESE AGREE TO PEACE We reported in last year’s Top Ten that Sudan was working toward a peace agreement. This year, Khartoum and the SPLA led by John Garang reached a deal at Naivasha, Kenya. The Sudan war has resulted in the deaths of more than 2 million people and has displaced over 4 million people since its start in 1983. Unfortunately, the tragic conflict in Darfur continues with tremendous loss of life. We hope Kofi Annan is right when he says that the accord inked in Naivasha could serve as a blueprint for resolving the Darfur crisis. 5.TURKISH LEADER NAMED “EUROPEAN OF THE YEAR”
And the winner is - Recep Tayyip Erdogan!
Turkey’s prime minister took home the European of the Year title prize. Editors and readers of European Voice voted him the continent’s leading influence on the EU legislative and political agenda. Only five years ago, Erdogan was killing time in a prison cell, jailed for reciting Ziya Gokalp’s poem: “Minarets are our bayonets, domes are our helmets, mosques are our barracks, believers are our soldiers.” The courts had banned him from public office for life. Elections in 2003 swept his Justice and Development Party to power. Erdogan has since cleverly used the EU carrot to improve the human rights situation in Turkey and has, in effect, weakened the death-grip of the military. 6. DEAD SOLDIER’S DAD FINDS NO ENEMY
It’s not very often in the human experience that parents of dead soldiers raise money and aid for the “enemy.” But that’s just what one Mexican-American soldier’s dad has done. Fernando Suarez de Solar, of Escondido, California, lost his only son Jesus when a cluster bomb shredded his body in Iraq. As the father of a slain American soldier, Suarez de Solar decided he wanted to see the place where his son perished. On a December 2003 trip to Iraq, he met many ordinary Iraqis and also visited injured children in hospitals. For the past year, Suarez de Solar has busied himself in an effort to take medical supplies to aid war victims in Fallujah and elsewhere in Iraq. Supported by Global Exchange and Code Pink, the effort involves a team of American parents who have lost sons in Iraq or September 11th. “You know,” Suarez del Solar remarks, “there are people who say I give aid and comfort to the enemy. I never spoke with Bush, he never sent me anything, but the people of Iraq I met, they comforted me for my loss! I have yet to see the enemy.” 7. MUSLIM AND HINDU DUO LEAD BHOPAL’S STRUGGLE FOR JUSTICE
Can two Indian women factory-workers from Bhopal bring Dow Chemical, one of the world’s largest corporations, to account for the world’s worst industrial disaster? Ask Rashida Bee, 48, and Champa Devi
Shukla, 52. The two women - one Muslim and the other Hindu - are leading an international movement to seek justice for the victims of Bhopal. Bee was an illiterate stay-at-home mom when she was thrust into the role of breadwinner in the wake of the 1984 disaster, in which 20,000 people died when gas from the local Union Carbide plant wafted over the city. She lost six of her relatives to cancer and her family’s men fell ill. As a factory worker, she cofounded (with Shukla) a successful independent labor union. Now, the dynamic duo has taken up the cause of Bhopal’s victims through their Jhadoo Maaro Dow Ko (“Beat Dow With a Broomstick”) campaign. “A woman’s life involves discarding relationships that she has known from infancy and adopting strangers as her own,” says Bee. “If she can face the world outside at such a fundamental level, then why should any other struggle for empowerment scare her?”
8. ALLAH MADE US FUNNY AND GAVE US SHAKESPEARE
From the Department of Creative Jihad: Between the Allah Made Me Funny Tour to the Shakespeare & Islam festival, dawah and outreach efforts took the creative form of stand-up comedy acts and a high-profile festival looking at the links between the British playwright and Islam. While Azhar Usman, Preacher Moss, and Azeem made us laugh at ourselves, the organisers of the ground-breaking Shakespeare & Islam season held at London’s Globe Theatre transformed - with the Bard’s help - the discussion about Muslims living in the West. 9. SAMI YUSUF’S STAR RISES
Could a bashful 24 year-old Londoner of Azeri origin be the first global Muslim pop star sensation? Sami Yusuf’s album, Muallim, elevated and funked up traditional melodies with great production values that kept iPods from Kuala Lumpur to California
buzzing. Finishing the year with a live performance at Toronto’s SkyDome, Sami Yusuf also charmed audiences in the UK, USA, and Malaysia. Allah Hu, Allah Hu, anyone? 10. MUSLIMS CELEBRATE 200 YEARS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
Ten years after the end of apartheid and white minority rule in South Africa, the country’s Muslims also celebrated another milestone: two centuries since the unbanning of Islam under colonial rule. An 1804 British decree led to the establishment of the first official Muslim house of worship, Masjid Awwal, and the legalization of Islamic education. Events across South Africa reflected on this legacy and what it means for Muslims living amidst South Africa’s vibrant stew of racial and religious pluralism today. Mas’ood Cajee is a dentist and writer who lives in Northern California.
“WHERE ARE YOU REALLY FROM?” “I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THE FLAG OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA...” LAYLA EL-WAFI RECITED THE PATRIOTIC OATH EVERY MORNING SHE ATTENDED STATE SCHOOLS IN AMERICA. NOW, LIVING IN BRITAIN, SHE GIVES A TRANSATLANTIC PERSPECTIVE ON THE CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION DEBATE THAT IS INCREASINGLY LOOKING TO THE COUNTRY OF HER BIRTH FOR SOLUTIONS. and over heart, recited in unison, the pledge of allegiance is one of many ways American schoolchildren are given a sense of national identity and a common patriotic culture. This culture is now being further implemented in the UK as a way to tackle ineffective citizenship education in British schools, although consensus on definitions and targets has yet to be reached. In the wake of the September 11th attacks, measures such as citizenship classes in state schools and citizenship ceremonies have been introduced to promote community cohesion. More recently, Home Secretary Charles Clarke announced the introduction of citizenship ceremonies later this year incumbent upon British youth who reach the age of 18 to help affirm their British identity and promote “inclusive citizenship”, particularly for ethnic minorities. British Muslims have consistently felt that these measures are directed at them. Last month, their fears seemed well
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founded. David Bell, head of the government’s education watchdog Ofsted, brought the role of faith-based schools into the debate during a speech on citizenship education. Bell warned that private religious schools potentially undermine national cohesion - particularly Muslims schools, claiming that they were not teaching their students the “common heritage” of British culture, teaching illiberal and intolerant attitudes and potentially holding female students back. Considering Muslim students in private, faith-schools make up at most 5% of Muslim students in the UK, this announcement seemed misdirected, revealing a deeper contention that a “Muslim” identity is not compatible with a “British” one. Incidentally, just one week prior to Bell’s claims, the country’s first all girls’ Islamic state secondary school, Feversham College in Bradford, was top on the national league tables for “value-added” performance at GCSE level. Muslim education leaders were again on the defensive following Bell’s announcement. While questioning the basis of his claims and asserting the compatibility of Islam with British citizenship, they should have raised two key issues. First, is the quality of education in state schools (where about 95% of Muslim pupils receive their education) and whether these schools are creating cultures of inclusiveness and respect for diversity that give opportunities for all students to excel. The reason why some British Muslim parents decide to send their children to private faith schools is often because the quality of education often surpasses that of state schools. League tables confirm this. Bell does not address the way state schools (or non faith-based private schools) segregate students along categories of socio-economic status, faith, ethnicity and race. Are young white school children any more cohesive than young Muslims when it comes to attitudes about the “other” on the playground and in the classroom? Second is the wider, well documented, exclusion of minority groups due to institutional racism, negative profiling and neglect by the education and welfare systems. These systemic problems are driving youth from all backgrounds toward anti-social behaviour and has particularly marginalised British Muslims in light of anti-terrorism legislation and the rise of identifiable anti-Muslim prejudice. Perhaps this is another reason why British Muslim parents place their children in faith schools where their children can learn
without prejudice. This was my experience going from a state school to a private Muslim school - from being in the minority (often singled out and teased) to a place where my peers shared similar experiences even though the school was diverse. Societal prejudice can often do more harm to one’s sense of citizenship than schooling in private faith-based schools. My days spent in American civics classes learning about government and participating in young voter, recycling and anti-drug programs had a positive impact. I learned about the system I lived in and I felt, and still feel, a strong sense of duty and patriotism to the country that welcomed me. My immigrant parents sent mixed messages to me by idealising a “back home” where they were born and sometimes enforced old traditions, believing that this exposure enriched my life. I was raised to “appreciate the best of both worlds”. My cultural roots gave me a sense of global community but did not deter me from participating in my immediate one. I have no problem hyphenating my identity and I plan to ensure that my children will not have a dilemma in being British Muslims born to parents of Arab-American and English heritage. Growing up, I was strongly committed to getting involved with my community and dreamt of running for public office. Whilst attending an Islamic school, I won an essay competition sponsored by a local citizens group on the topic of American identity. However, in the past few years, many Western Muslims have been deterred from identifying with a “common heritage” because of implicit attitudes that “you do not belong” or “you cannot have split allegiances” - especially if one is to Islam. Citizenship ceremonies and classes alone will not inculcate citizenship if society discriminates, marginalises and limits the notion of national identity. The government should ensure all youth are provided with tools to find their place in society and shown equal treatment. In a globalised world with increasing migration and cultural fusion, defining British culture or common heritage will become more complex and contested. Finding common ground and measures of citizenship has its merits in maintaining social cohesiveness, but ultimately these measures should come from a democratic consensus and not imposed from above. Participation will follow when people feel that their voices count and, indeed, are heard. !
STRUGGLING TO FILL THE GAPS WITH MANCHESTER MOSQUES FAILING TO ADDRESS CRITICAL SOCIAL NEEDS, MUSLIM SOCIAL WORKERS ARE FINDING INNOVATIVE WAYS TO FILL THE GAPS. RUMEANA JAHANGIR GIVES US A SNAPSHOT OF MANCHESTER’S DIVERSE INNER CITY MUSLIM COMMUNITY. heir manners can be a bit raw, they might be lacking in adab, but they are good guys really. So says Dr Uthman Chowdhury, a social worker with the south Manchester Al-Islah Centre which provides a place for Muslim teenage boys to chill out when they might otherwise be getting into trouble. The youth club was established by a group of generous individuals in response to the inability of most Mancunian mosques to address the concerns of Muslims from economic and socially deprived backgrounds. The organisation, along with many other community associations, is working with local authorities to assist Muslims who live in inner city Manchester. Al-Islah provides social activities and educational support for youngsters and has proved so popular it has stopped publicising itself. Nabeel AlAzami, who is active in Al-Islah and other Muslim youth projects, can only think of a handful of mosques that are trying to meet the needs of Mancunian Muslims; all of which are located in the southern or central parts of the city. A few minutes drive north of the city centre’s Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, the multi-ethnic neighbourhood of Cheetham Hill hosts part of the inner city Pakistani community. At the Woodville
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Community Centre Shireen Azam, an Asian women’s group officer, speaks of male teenagers hanging around street corners and poking their fingers into all the wrong pies: alcohol, crime and drugs. Even extremism rears its ugly head into the scene with conspiracy theories on the internet inciting some boys to despise Jews. Thanks to a culturally blinkered interpretation of Islam held by members of the older generation and the mosques’ failure to connect with the younger age group, extremist understandings of the faith have prevailed among some teenagers. Azam fears that extremism may be on the rise as negative attitudes towards Islam spark isolationist reactions and she admits to being “frightened” by what will happen to future generations. Yet Jannath Ahmed, who has spent a year researching Muslim women in three Manchester localities, finds that they are reaffirming their Islamic faith while feeling more attached to the UK than to their parents’ homelands. Contrary to the popular assumption among some sectors of the media, she has observed that people are proud of their dual British and Muslim heritage. Another community worker (who wishes to remain anonymous) feels there is little reluctance among Muslims to get involved in British society. But he criticises government policies for failing to facilitate matters of integration, with the anti-terror legislation being the “tip of the iceberg”. Having worked in the subcontinental communities, he talks of high levels of unemployment among British Asian Muslim youth and institutional discrimination across the board. He believes this has discouraged young people from going into higher education as they think that they will not get a good job at the end of the degree course. He speaks of monetary pressures either causing some university students to drop out early or deterring them from applying as they or their parents find the idea of being in debt haram. Dr Shireen Sobhani, who helped set up a Bangladeshi women’s organisation, thinks that if the latter case is true, it involves only a minority. However both, along with Azam, agree that domestic violence against women is a persistant problem.
Alcoholic and financial pressures are the key factors behind verbal and physical abuse. But some women who leave for refuges with their children end up returning to their spouses as they it difficult integrating into their relocated communities, especially when people start asking about their families and husbands. Dr Sobhani describes domestic violence as “not easy to identify” and speaks of the potential of Islamic knowledge and practice in empowering women and preventing the problem from spreading. Mental and physical health concerns are a major issue amongst women in the Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Somali communities. The Neesa Asian Women’s Group in Cheetham Hill aims to combat feelings of loneliness and depression evident amongst some housewives by offering outdoor trips and socialising opportunities in a friendly atmosphere. The Bangladeshi Women’s Organisation has helped increase attendance of mothers at clinics by explaining the importance of health issues to members of one of the most deprived and least educated ethnic groups in the UK. However, the problems regarding health appear to be more severe among the Somali community, which sought refuge in Manchester in the 1990s after the brutal civil war forced them to leave their home. Many suffered emotional and physical trauma and are now trying to overcome cultural and language barriers. These obstacles have led to difficulties in getting the correct medical help, especially to women who refuse to discuss health problems with male GPs and even if they do, they require female interpreters. Many believe that the lack of culturally-appropriate support and effective understanding between medical professionals and Somali patients have led to medical neglect with fatal consequences. Despite their ethnic differences, many Muslim communities are facing common problems concerning education, health and lack of services relevant to their needs. However, many of the local mosques are providing less assistance to effective inner city community groups than some of the Manchester local authorities. To say that this is a poor showing would be a major understatement. !
ANOTHER LABOUR PLOY? THE ARREST OF BNP ACTIVISTS OVER THE CHRISTMAS PERIOD HAS DELIGHTED MANY. BUT, DON’T CELEBRATE TOO SOON. ANTHONY MCROY WARNS OF THE POLITICAL AGENDA FUELLING THE ARRESTS. he arrest of British National Party (BNP) activists, including party leader Nick Griffin, followed the undercover taping of BNP members for the BBC’s Secret Agent programme. The accused are now on bail until March. After his release without charge - Griffin said that he knew he was to be arrested because the BNP had a “mole” in the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). This mole apparently revealed that the arrests were designed to allow Labour to retrieve the “Muslim voting bloc”. Griffin said: “This has nothing to do with the police, it’s the CPS ... it’s Blunkett and Blair.” Could Griffin be right? Is there is a political agenda fuelling these arrests? Alarmingly, for once, the BNP might be correct and we should take heed. Muslims have every reason to be suspicious of the state’s moves. Consider the timing. The BBC programme was aired months before. Why the wait until near Christmas to issue the arrests, and why bail them until March? According to Griffin’s “mole”, it was to disrupt the BNP before the general election. Since the BNP have taken Labour votes in certain hotly contested areas, their participation in the next general elections might cause Labour to lose seats. Of course, the BNP have little chance of taking parliamentary seats, but disillusion with Labour is so great, and the rise of the Liberal Democrats ongoing, that every vote will count. Recent by-elections have
seen Labour lose out to the Liberal Democrats twice, and if only a few votes are lost to the BNP, this could lead to the Liberal Democrats taking Labour seats. Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties, who opposed Blair’s support for Bush’s Iraq crusade, could also take seats. Labour’s current thumping majority in the Commons could be severely diminished. Moreover, whilst Labour has lost votes across the communal divide, it is the defection of Muslim voters in particular that has worried the party. Labour has enacted draconian anti-terrorist legislation targeting the Muslim community. Blair’s reputed “special relationship” with Bush availed little in aid of British citizens being held without trial in Guantanamo Bay, but this didn’t prevent the government rushing to Bush’s aid so he could attack Fallujah. Above all, the disastrous decision to back Bush’s war of aggression against Iraq has led the community, once-solid Labour voters, to desert the party. Significantly, in many parliamentary and local seats which Labour has lost, Muslims constitute a substantial, majority turning population. There are signs that Labour is trying to redress this loss. Blair stood up to Tory calls to ban Sheikh Qaradawi last year, probably because he feared further alienating Muslim voters. The government has sought to introduce a law against sectarian incitement on the mainland, similar to that existing in Ulster. Furthermore, in what is perhaps a bizarre approach, we have even had a government minister appealing to Muslims to vote Labour since the largest group of MPs who opposed the Iraq came from the Labour Party! However, given the massive backlash against a religious incitement law and the hostility of the House of Lords, it is questionable if the legislation will actually come into force. Moreover, there is no chance of Blair following the example of Spain and withdrawing UK troops from Iraq - didn’t he send the Black Watch troops into the Sunni region to allow the US military to attack Fallujah? He has not demanded an independent inquiry into torture and rape allegations at Guantanamo. So what can he do to win back the Muslim voter? The BNP, as a pariah party that has turned Islamophobia into an electoral asset, is an easy target. What better way to
neutralise the seduction of White Labour voters, whilst appealing to Muslim voters? Consider though, the actual basis of the charges. No one disputes that BNP members make objectionable comments about Muslims, but let us now forget that worse comments are made in pubs in Bradford and Burnley. Griffin’s comments were made to an internal BNP meeting, not to the public. So, why the fuss, all of a sudden, from the government unless there were more partisan concerns behind the moves? Griffin said that Islam was a “vicious, wicked faith”. As the BNP themselves noted, this was religious, rather than racial, so it would be hard to secure a conviction. What is even more suspicious is if we compare this statement with that of Bush’s friend Rev Franklin Graham, who is widely reported as saying: “Islam is a very wicked and evil religion.” There is little difference with Griffin’s comment. Graham has also stated that, “terrorism is part of ‘mainstream’ Islam … the Quran, Islam’s revealed text, preaches violence.’ Graham, after repeatedly refusing to deny that Islam is “evil”, said, “It’s not just a handful of extremists. If you buy the Quran, read it for yourself, and it’s in there.” If the government did not censure Graham, who is a loyal Bush advisor and a regular visitor to the United Kingdom, on what basis can one prosecute Griffin? The BNP’s tactic is to reflect mainstream Islamophobia - and even to appear more moderate than some public figures. For example, after BBC presenter Robert Kilroy-Silk wrote an article in the Sunday Express titled We owe Arabs nothing, scorning Arab contributions to modern civilisation, the BNP stated: “The BNP does not use or approve of the kind of crude, one-sided racist jibes made by Kilroy.” Such earnest respectability is laughable, but indicative of a savvy political strategy to win over Middle England. Unless other Islamophobes are immediately prosecuted, it is difficult to see this as anything other than a Labour electoral ploy to win back Muslim voters whilst continuing its repressive anti-terrorist legislation and its involvement in Iraq. It is said that in a democracy, people get the government they deserve. If British Muslim voters fall for this ploy, they may well deserve everything the next government throws at them. ! Q - NEWS
ISLAMOPHOBIA:THE LANGUAGE AND POLITICS OF DEPENDENCE THAT MUSLIMS SUFFER PREJUDICE IS NOT IN QUESTION, BUT, AS HASSAN SCOTT ARGUES, IT IS A DEFECTIVE CONCEPT WHICH LIMITS OUR UNDERSTANDING AND, THUS, PREVENTS AN EFFECTIVE RESPONSE. slamophobia” is not a scientific concept. It has come into such widespread use that to challenge its use is to stand accused of indifference to, or complicity with, prejudice. To be sure, we must not belittle the very real distress of victims of bigotry and discrimination. However, we must be careful when making sweeping statements about the general situation of Muslims in Britain while our vision is blurred by feelings of victimhood. Many of those who employ the concept of “Islamophobia” have a bleak and pessimistic picture of the relationship between Muslims and wider British society, one in which prejudice and discrimination are the norm and in which society itself is phobic and to blame for most of the problems which beset Muslims. For them the glass is always half-empty and often the very real benefits Muslims enjoy go unacknowledged. In this picture, Muslims take little or no responsibility for problems such as educational disadvantage. It is society which must see the ‘error of its ways’ and change. This is an attitude of dependency and victimisation. Khalida Khan (Islamophobia, What Next?, Q-News, June 2004) argues that “decades of insensitive and inappropriate service provision due to institutionalised Islamophobia…has led directly to the plight [of poverty and discrimination] Muslims find themselves in.” Khan’s statements carry some truth, but the categorical tone is typical of much writing on Islamophobia, as
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well as most other Muslim social and political comment. Such rhetoric cannot provide the basis for a constructive dialogue with wider society. The concept itself is faulty. In psychopathology, a phobia is an irrational fear of something particular, for example open spaces, and may or may not be a symptom of a deeper malaise. However, the concept does not easily transfer to social and political analysis. A phobic person usually “suffers in silence” and is not hostile or aggressive to others whereas, in contrast, the term “Islamophobia” is used to explain a range of attitudes and behaviour from antipathy to aggression. If we suggest that a physical attack on a Muslim is “Islamophobic”, we imply that the assailant has a particular antipathy towards Muslims, whereas in reality he may just be a yob who would as easily rob a pensioner or smash a bus shelter. Even if the assailant was motivated by sensationalised media reports about terrorism, the singular problem is not the report but the type of individual who takes the law into his own hands. Allowing for some awful exceptions, what has impressed me, particularly post 9/11, is that the great majority of people have distinguished between ordinary Muslims and terrorists. To be sure, many who use this concept have a wider, radical agenda. They see Islamophobia as a manifestation of Orientalism - a condescending cultural attitude of Western superiority originating with the crusades and colonialism. Others borrow from Marxism and suggest that it is part of a capitalist scheme to justify imperialism and divide and rule the working class. Such theorising suffers from making historical tendencies into static social political “reality” and rarely draws on theology to bring the discourse into the realm of Islamic thought. What we can say is that a fear of the unknown and antipathy towards the “other” is human nature - as is the greed, bigotry and violence that can result. God warns us that those who profess faith will suffer ridicule, face persecution and hearblasphemy. It is for this reason we are advised us to “know one another”. It is more consistent with our faith to see prejudice and injustice as endemic in human
nature - its solution lying in taming the selfseeking ego, recognising the capacity of people to rise above cultural conditioning. We need to empirically examine the assertion that Muslims suffer disproportionately from social and economic disadvantage and discrimination as Muslims, rather than as members of the workingclass or residents of troubled areas. It has been suggested recently, by Kenan Malik, that Islamophobia is used, in part, as a ploy to push Muslim interests up the government’s agenda and thereby, to increase the profile of certain Muslim organisations. This is a little cynical - perhaps Muslim organisations overstate their case in order to get a hearing. The explanation also lies in the ambivalent attitude of some Muslim activists to democracy. They regard the political process with suspicion, while demanding legislative reform and state aid. Suggesting that society is “institutionally phobic” lets such critics off the hook. They no longer need to do the hard work of civic and political engagement. So, what can be done to address Muslim disadvantage? We have to be realistic - state agencies in the West will have a secular agenda, which, while not hostile to us, may not match our needs and interests. The introduction of legislation to counter religious discrimination may help, if only by affirming that such prejudice is wrong. It may also open Muslims to ridicule if it is seen as curtailing legitimate free speech or giving Muslims special favours. An alternative approach to relying on state aid is to follow the example of some African American Muslim communities who have adopted a policy of self-help, building and protecting their own communities from within and affirming their own dignity. State aid or self-help need not be an “either/or” choice but, as Muslims, we have a particular duty to care for our own community. Our approach should primarily be one of education and leading by example. The basic problem in respect of the “plight” of Muslims in the UK, is not “phobia” but that Muslims lack the organisation and perhaps, the ideas to “put their own house in order”, to be authors of their own destiny and an example to others. !
THE THREAT OF INTERNAL EXTREMISM AS TENSIONS BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES AND THE MUSLIM WORLD STEADILY ESCALATE, DESTRUCTIVE ELEMENTS ON BOTH SIDES UNDERMINE THE PROSPECTS FOR MORE PEACEFUL AND COOPERATIVE RELATIONS. WESTERN MUSLIMS, IN AMERICA AND EUROPE, SUFFER AS A RESULT. TARGETED AS A POTENTIAL FIFTH COLUMN, THEIR CIRCUMSTANCES CONTINUE TO DETERIORATE. THE PRESENCE OF A PERSISTENT ANTIWESTERN EXTREMISM WITHIN A SMALL MINORITY OF WESTERN MUSLIMS, ARGUE MUQTEDAR KHAN AND JOHN ESPOSITO, ARE UNDERMINING EFFORTS BY MANY MUSLIMS TO IMPROVE COMMUNITY RELATIONS AND ALLAY FEARS THAT ISLAM IN THE WEST IS A THREAT TO DEMOCRACY AND SECURITY.
he US led invasion of Iraq and the subsequent chaos, death and destruction in Iraq, compounded by the inability of 1700 US experts to find any trace of WMDs in two years of systematic searching [the stated reason for the invasion] has contributed to an unprecedented amount of anger, frustration, resentment and anti-American feelings among Muslims everywhere. According to several international polls conducted by the PEW forum and Zogby International, public opinion of the US across the Muslim World (and elsewhere in the world) has plummeted and is at its lowest ever. The Bush administration’s tactics of keeping the fear, anger and resentment triggered by the 9/11 catastrophe alive so as to advance the conservative agenda combined with frustration of American goals in Iraq and a sense of being at war with Muslim extremism has made many Americans increasingly hostile towards Islam and Muslims. Polls conducted in the US suggest that while 38% Americans hold very negative views about Islam and Muslims, only 2% have anything nice to say about them [survey conducted by CAIR Survey, November 2004] and over 44% of Americans are willing to deprive Muslims freedoms and rights available to other Americans [A survey by Cornell University, Dec 2004]. The war on terror and its attendant consequences has created extremely difficult circumstances for American Muslims in particular and Western Muslim in general. The changing political and legal environment in Western countries across the board has undermined the quality of life of Western Muslims. Many face discrimination in the work place, are victims of racial and religious profiling, businesses are failing, international travel has become difficult and risky and Islamic institutions, and particularly mosques and Islamic charities face harassment and unnecessary scrutiny.
The world has never been more interdependent and the plight of Western Muslims is illustrative of how global integration is now a palpable reality. The murder of a Dutch film producer, Theo Van Gogh, allegedly by a disenchanted Dutch Moroccan Muslim, the denial of a visa to the US for a Swiss Muslim scholar, Tariq Ramadan, or the humiliating deportation of a British Muslim, Yusuf Islam, from the US immediately on arrival are all front page news all over the world. Not only do these episodes draw widespread attention from the media, they feed upon and fuel the new crisis in Western Civilisation “Islam in the West”. When a Dutch animal rights activist, Volkert van der Graaf, murdered a Dutch politician, Pim Fortuyn in 2002, it did not raise questions about the compatibility of the philosophy of rights and the West. But when a Dutch Muslim murders a Dutch film producer, it raises profound questions not just about Islam’s compatibility with modernity and democracy but also about the ability of Western Muslims to live in a democratic society. Even though such outrageous episodes are extremely rare, the fear of Islam and the now embedded antipathy towards Muslims, frequently surfaces in the western media, in popular discourse, in casual conversation, in parliamentary discussions and in new legislations. As long as relations between Western societies and the Muslim World remain less than cordial, Western Muslims face the reality of Islamophobia and will remain second-class citizens, constantly watched, regularly demonised, systematically marginalised, feared, despised and portrayed as a potential fifth column. Defending the innocence of Western Muslims, and speaking about tolerance and Islamic teachings on peace and violence, has become the most important communal activity of western Muslims. Q - NEWS
AN EXISTENTIAL CHALLENGE
If things get worse what will happen to Western Muslims? Some fear the rhetoric and recommendations of Islamophobic political commentators who exaggerate and exacerbate the situation, questioning the patriotism of Muslim communities in the West and even raising the example of the internment of Americans of Japanese origin during World War II. Will the West create another “Israel” to solve the problem of the new Jews of the West? The fact that there are nearly 20-30 million Muslims in the West makes such drastic solutions impossible. Those who are bewildered that we are even considering this possibility must remember not only what happened to Japanese Americans but also what happened to Muslims in Spain who disappeared after ruling Spain for 700 years.
How can community members and leaders fight bigots in the mainstream community and the rising Islamophobia if some within their own ranks mirror the same fear, ignorance and prejudice?
events and actions that ultimately undermine the security and well being of Western Muslims. The third danger to Western Muslim future is homegrown extremism. While western Muslims at the moment can do little to reduce the first two dangers beyond engaging in dialogues - political and religious - at various levels, they can and must play an aggressive and decisive role in eliminating internal extremism that resonates with extremism in the Muslim World. Extremist discourse, actions and postures by a small minority of Western Muslims not only undermines the efforts of the vast majority to improve Western-Islamic relations, they also provide concrete evidence of the most egregious stereotypes of Islam and Muslims. Western Muslim community leaders, activists and scholars must condemn and reject any and all forms of extremist rhetoric coming from jummah sermons, public statements on television and other media and from Muslim publications themselves. Care must be taken to not only moderate Muslim public discourse but also Muslim-Muslim discourse in order to ensure that extremism and irrational anti-Westernism do not take root in the community. Islam and Muslims in the West can be critical of the West and Western ideals but cannot and must not be anti-West. The critical distinction between being opposed to American foreign policy in the Muslim World and being anti-American must be maintained. THE THREAT OF INTERNAL EXTREMISM
There are three routes available to Western nations with regards to their Muslim populations. They are marginalisation, assimilation and accommodation. The first implies disempowering the community, reducing its influence and its rights and making its presence insignificant. The Bush administration has adopted this policy since 9/11. The second strategy is to reform Islam and Muslims, secularise them to such an extent that the difference does not make a difference. The French have embarked on this strategy and face a lot of resistance. This strategy causes disharmony and divisions within society and undermines democracy. Accommodation, a strategy that was adopted by the US before 9/11, by the UK, Canada and Netherlands is the best option. But in order to push Western nations to adopt the strategy of accommodation and resist the political pressure from xenophobic right-wingers to do otherwise, Western Muslims will have to manage their politics with foresight, prudence, and patience. THREE POSSIBLE DANGERS FOR WESTERN MUSLIMS
There are three potential dangers that Western Muslims face. Increased anti-western terrorism in the Muslim world which fuels Islamophobia, enhances the political influence of Western anti-Muslim extremists and enables the institutionalisation of legislation designed to undermine the influence of Muslims. The Bush administration’s foreign policy that is geared towards the projection of American power and reassertion of American hegemony in the Middle East is another threat to Western Muslims. Aggressive American unilateralism triggers
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While a vast majority of Western Muslims have the same basic desires as others (material well being, cultural acceptance and the opportunity to practice their faith without social and political intimidation) - some wish to use their geographic location as an asset in their war against the perceived enemies of Islam. The argument that Western Muslim communities hide in their bosom many secret sleeper terrorist cells is patently false and such claims must be seen as racist and religiously bigoted. No community has been so closely scrutinised as Muslims in America and no widespread threat has been uncovered. The 9/11 Commission fully exonerated the community of any connection to terrorism. Nevertheless in every Muslim community there is a small group of individuals angry with the West and fearful that Islam is being destroyed. In their ignorance and anger they say and do counter-productive and dangerous things. The continuous barrage of images of Arab and Muslim humiliation and defeats from Iraq and Palestine make it difficult for even those most pacific to remain calm. Occasionally people lose control and say things that hurt them as well as the community. Most people in the West are sensible and recognise isolated episodes of violence or intemperate rants as isolated. However there are three issues on which a small minority of Western Muslims, continue to alienate Western populations from Islam and Muslims. JUSTIFYING SUICIDE BOMBING
The images of the attacks of September 11th and the many victims of suicide bombings in Iraq and Israel have become etched on the Western psyche. Suicide bombing
has become an epitome, a metaphor for all that is evil in this world and all that is terrible about Islam and Muslims. Even though most Muslims everywhere - with notable exceptions ofcourse - condemn suicide bombing as unIslamic and targeting civilians as an abhorrent form of terrorism, some Muslims continue to utilise the freedom of speech available in the West to claim that suicide bombing is a noble and Islamically justifiable defense strategy. These individuals who defend and support suicide bombing [sometimes even when targeting civilians] succeed only in branding Islam as a barbaric religion that inspires violence. They also belie the majority of Western Muslims who condemn it and make it look as if they are dissimulating and lying. This promotes the canard that western Muslims are all secretly supporters of terrorism and that Islam indeed teaches violence. Those who continue to hem and haw on the issue of condemning suicide bombings by invoking “complex realities” and resorting to moral relativism work, intentionally or unconsciously, with Muslim radicals in undermining the fundamental moderation of Islamic teachings. EQUATING THE WAR ON TERROR TO A WAR ON ISLAM
Some radical Muslim commentators have been insisting that the war on terror is actually a war on Islam. Unfortunately the history of American foreign policy and the US’ recent actions in the Muslim World have convinced many Muslims that it indeed is a war on Islam. Ironically these radical commentators are themselves equating Islam with terror when they translate the war on terror as war on Islam. For Western Muslims this is an unacceptable interpretation of what is happening. First of all it is not true. Islam continues to thrive in the West even today. The prominent role played by American Muslims in the Presidential elections of 2004 is clear proof that in spite of growing Islamophobia and the Patriot Act, American Muslims still remain a vibrant force and far from being snuffed out. Yes, they are targeted and profiled, but most of them will testify that the
war on terror is not a war on Islam. In Europe, the presence of Muslims has transformed Europe’s foreign policy, its relations with the US and its posture with regards to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Today Europe seeks to balance US’ support for Israel. Muslim commentators who continue to propagate these claims are trying to insert a wedge between Western Muslims and their homelands. They wish to use Western Muslims as a weapon to subvert the West from within, but in the process sacrificing the community. Those who insist that the West is at war with Islam do a grave disservice to Western Muslims and to undermine the prospects of future good relations between the West and the Islamic World. DEMONISATION OF THE WEST AND DEMOCRACY
The third theme in the radical Muslim discourse includes a rhetorical demonisation of the West as evil and democracy as hypocrisy. In a curious way, the very existence of this “free radical discourse” is indicative of how strong democracy is across the board in western countries. But this constant demonisation of the West (America and Europe), ridicule of their values, icons, their religious beliefs, their secular beliefs and cultural practices may very well lead to the elimination of free speech and the diminishing of democracy. As far as Western Muslims are concerned, the 19 Muslims who attacked the US on 9/11 have caused them untold misery; they cannot allow it to be amplified through irresponsible statements from within their own communities. WE MUST GET TOUGH ON RADICAL DISCOURSE
We recommend that Western Muslims become more organised and aggressive in marginalising and condemning voices that justify violence, incite hatred and practice demonisation of the other. How can community members and leaders fight bigots in the mainstream community and the rising Islamophobia if some within their own ranks mirror the same fear, ignorance and prejudice? When some one from the community makes a radical statement, community leaders must immediately condemn it and demand a retraction and an apology before anyone else does it. Once radicals realise that the community will not tolerate their extremism, and will take lead in condemning them, they will fade away. The struggle for acceptance of Islam and Muslims in the West cannot be divorced from the acceptance of the West within its Muslim communities. ! Dr. Muqtedar Khan [www.ijtihad.org] teaches at Adrian College and is a Non-resident Fellow at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of American Muslims: Bridging Faith and Freedom (2002) and Jihad for Jerusalem: Identity and Strategy in International Relations (2004). Dr. John L. Esposito is University Professor and Founding Director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. His most recent books include Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam (2002), What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam (2002) and Islam: The Straight Path, 3rd rev ed. (2004). Q - NEWS
‘FREE AND FAIR’ ELECTIONS... UNDER OCCUPATION BRAVING ISRAELI CHECKPOINTS AND THE NOTORIOUS WALL, PALESTINIANS WENT TO THE POLLS DETERMINED YET CYNICAL. NADIA EVANS REPORTS FROM THE WEST BANK AS ABU MAZEN IS ELECTED PRESIDENT OF A PEOPLE WITHOUT A STATE. ow can you have a President when you don’t have a country? This damning assessment of the elections by a Palestinian woman was completely at odds with what we were expecting. Primed by the British media, we had thought of the 2005 elections for a Palestinian President as a defining moment for the future of the Middle East. Instead of unbridled excitement about the first presidential elections for nine years, we found a deadpan consensus that nothing would change, whoever won. Our other concern was that people might resent our presence as international observers. I feel certain that the British would not appreciate the interference of foreigners in one of our general elections! Instead, a lot of people seemed vaguely amused by the importance that we, Westerners, placed on the outcome. Indeed, this seemed a very strange environment in which to be holding elections. What did people hope a future Palestinian leader could deliver, when every aspect of their life is conducted under the mantle of occupation? Coming into the West Bank, we were confronted by the notorious wall that snakes across Palestinian land. Israeli settlements scatter the hilltops. A beautiful mural of the sun setting over rolling hills, painted on stretches of wall by Palestinians, was a poignant reminder of the pre-occupation landscape. A gap allows for an Israeli checkpoint called Qalandia. This is an imposing structure akin to a cattle pen, complete with tall metal turnstiles to stem the flow of pedestrians. All of this had been developed since my last visit a couple of years ago, and we felt intimidated as we passed through. The atmosphere was devoid of the vitality of the Palestinian towns and markets. While young and old alike were held in line, they were muted. As foreigners, we were generally waved through with little more than a bemused look from the soldiers. While we were only relatively inconvenienced, we were uncomfortable witnesses to the daily humiliation of the Palestinians at these crossings. These Israeli checkpoints crisscross the countryside. Getting from one town to the next, Palestinians travel through at least one, manned by Israeli youth completing their mandatory military service. Journey times vary wildly. There is no telling whether
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the checkpoint will be manned on a particular day, or how thoroughly the soldiers will decide to search your bags. Israelis and foreign journalists travel on the socalled ‘by-pass’ roads that run parallel to those of the Palestinians. They wind their way unhindered through the hills of the West Bank, with the unsightly checkpoints hidden from view. The election observer badges issued by the Palestinian Authority were apparently worse than useless for getting through Israeli checkpoints. As we picked up these passes at the Central Election Commission (CEC), raised eyebrows greeted our lack of similar documentation from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. One observer smiled at our optimism and commented, “The CEC badges are all very well for getting into the polling stations, but how do you think that you are going to get there?” Experience had taught him to hide his CEC pass from soldiers to avoid further delays. We subsequently applied to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs for election observer passes. These pink cards seemed to possess magical powers, allowing us to pass through unchecked wherever we wanted to go. Faced with exhausting delays at checkpoints, we
Those who came to vote did so wearing suits to mark the significance of the occasion. It was remarkable that people who for years hadn’t been allowed to travel 20 km to see each other, were taking part in the same process on the same day. wondered if people would actually go out to vote. The Palestinian head of security expressed skepticism that Israel would pull back from Palestinian population cen-
tres for 72 hours prior to the polling day. Only that day, he had been prevented from passing through a major checkpoint, with no explanation given. He was, therefore, “relying on the determination of the Palestinian people to vote” to reach the polling stations. On the cold evening before the elections, we saw a group of about 200 men waiting in a ditch by the road. They had been pulled aside at a checkpoint outside the northern town of Nablus. They said that they had been there for more than four hours. Although the soldiers told us that they had been detained for security reasons, the men themselves had not been given any explanation, apart from being warned that they may be there all night. The impotence of these men was highlighted when they appealed to us - two foreign girls - to intervene. It was bizarre. They felt that, as British citizens, we would be able to help them in the face of armed soldiers. As the detainees warmed their hands over an improvised fire, they were debating the following day’s elections. One in particular dismissed the whole process as a sham, “This election is set up… because of what America wants… If Abu Mazen [the bookie’s favorite] wants to win, then he’s going to get in.” This wasn’t the first or last time that I heard such skepticism about America’s involvement in the elections. Indeed, it did seem inevitable that Abu Mazen was going to win. In the West Bank town of Ramallah, it was impossible to step out of our apartment without being seeing his picture plastered all over a shuttle bus, or on a seven-foot high billboard. Although there was a broad consensus that the results were a foregone conclusion, some still hoped that they would lead to better things. Many of the women said that they would vote for Abu Mazen because their sons and husbands were political prisoners, and Abu Mazen would get them released. There was little concrete evidence that their dreams would be realised. After all, the candidates are surely powerless to deliver on promises to ease the effects of the occupation, the one reality that governs everything in a Palestinian’s life. One more wary woman poignantly said, “We are not voting for a President - we are voting for a representative in negotiations”. At best, the Israeli government will deem the winning candidate a suitable partner for ‘negotiations’ in which the Palestinians have no bargaining tools. Despite this inevitability, amazingly the majority of people that I had spoken to were determined to exercise their right to vote anyway, albeit just to protest the absurdity of the elections by spoiling their ballot papers. A man at the polling station told us that, for him, “Voting is a way to demonstrate [the Palestinians’] willingness to resist the occupation”, and of affirming their identity as a national group. On reflection, it was remarkable that people who for years hadn’t been allowed to travel 20 km to see each other, were taking part in the same process on the same day. All of those who came to vote did so wearing suits to mark the significance of the occasion. People seemed very pleased to let us in, and proud to show us how smoothly things were going. I thought back to my university days, when my fellow students might consider rolling out of bed to walk ten minutes down the road to vote. Here Palestinians dressed smartly and spent hours going to the
polls even when the election seemed a done deal. For us it was a small chore, for them a sacred national duty. It is very hard to determine to what extent the travel restrictions were eased in the end. Some felt that their journeys were easier than usual, some worse, while others said that there had been no change. Our own 40 km journey down to Hebron was arduous. Although we had our magic cards, we were using local transport. The closure of Qalandia and subsequent diversion meant that what should be a one hour journey stretched to three. All agreed that, whether or not they stopped people, the soldiers were visible throughout. They were a reminder to the Palestinians of their precarious position, on a day when they were meant to be exerting their power to shape their future. One friend in Jerusalem was unsurprised that she had twice been turned away from the polling station at Jaffa Gate. As election monitors, we were powerless to prevent any of the real obstacles to voting that the Palestinians faced. There was no mechanism for international observers to raise the issue of Israeli forces blocking people’s movements. The absurdity of our position was that we were ostensibly there to observe whether the elections were ‘free and fair’. The entire process was conducted under the façade that Israel played no part in it. In fact it was entirely dependent on them whether people could get to the polling stations at all, in order to elect a President of nowhere. !
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GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN
FROM THEIR DESPOTIC PARENTS TO THE WILD DAYS THEY HOPE WILL NEVER END, MUSLIM WOMEN SPEAK FRANKLY ABOUT THEIR LIVES ON BRITAIN’S UNIVERSITY CAMPUSES AND HOW THEIR ELDERS ARE LETTING THEM DOWN.
SONIA MALIK EXPLORES THE COMPLICATED LIVES OF BRITISH ISLAM’S “BAD GIRLS” AND FINDS THERE IS MORE TO THEM THAN BOYS, BOOZE AND BHANGRA.
“… Some boys take a beautiful girl, And hide her away from the rest of the world. I wanna be the one to walk in the sun. Oh girls, they wanna have fu-un Oh girls, just wanna have fun…”
involved of what to do with your new-found independence. Girls are trying everything and anything because they never had the chance to decide for themselves what they like and don’t like.” Kinza, a 24 year-old London university student agrees: “My life at university involved clubbing, drinking and dating. Most of the things I got involved in were pursued purely out of curiosity. You don’t put your family reputation at risk if you are at university in a different city. You don’t for one second think about marriage. You just go wild for a bit without wondering who is judging you. The drinking is part of the experience, and these days, you have to dress just to fit in rather than to stand out. Fashion is important to all girls - even girls in hijab look for their own sense of style.” For a 22 year-old medical student from Leicester University, university wasn’t just a few years of her life, but her only opportunity to live out her “entire life”. “I only chose to study medicine,” she exclaims, “because the course is longer. I wanted to be away from home for longer. I know I have to live out my whole life in the span of my five year degree because once I get back home, it’s back to being constantly under my parents’ thumb. Some girls here have made major life changes and intend to stick by them once their degree ends but that’s impossible for me. My parents tried to make my older sister marry someone she didn’t want to and she eventually ran away. That meant that their grip over me tightened considerably. It is suffocating.” The issue of the phrase “despotic families”, as one person described them, came up constantly. The women I spoke to were scarred by their childhood experiences and felt like they needed to take control of their own lives. Are we breeding a generation of Muslim girls with deep-rooted behavioural problems and damaged psyches? Sarah Littlejohn, Deputy Director of the Counselling Service at Manchester University, is of the opinion that while many girls endure very normal feelings about leaving home and may experience difficulty in making the transition into adulthood, there is always a smaller percentage who suffer from problems related to mental
girls just wanna have fun girls just wanna have fun girls just wanna have fun yndi Lauper’s original girl power anthem woke me up. Instead of turning the radio alarm off, I managed to knock it to the other side of the room where it continued to play. Who came to mind when I thought of the girls in the song: Muslims girls who I’d met and seen on university campuses struggling to balance their faith, family expectations and peer pressure. All they ever wanted was to have a little fun, just like everyone else. In today’s society, away from the Islamic Society meetings and gender segregated Eid dinners, many Muslim girls are challenging the kind of life that their parents, imams and “more pious” peers want them to lead. These social rebels could easily be labelled British Islam’s “bad girls” - defiant, intractable, but most definitely in charge. It’s easy to mark them with a scarlet letter. After all, our parents always thought that clubs, alcohol and sex wouldn’t mix easily with our Muslim ways. But it’s too easy to condemn and treat this new generation of Muslim girls with derision. Rather than merely passing judgement on areas of misconduct, it is imperative that we understand why many Muslim girls do the things they do and find themselves in the situations they are in. I decided to take a closer look at the lifestyle of today’s campus Muslim rebels and understand why they take the risk of incurring the anger of their families and challenging the moral directives of their faith. “Let’s face it,” confides Nazia, a student from Bradford, “at home we’re constantly subjected to tyrannical parenting and hampered by endless rules which dictate our every move. University is the first and only chance a girl gets in life to lead her life exactly the way she wants it. Most Muslim girls don’t even know what they want out of life when they first come here. They’re just not used to thinking for themselves or setting their own boundaries. There’s a whole learning process
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girls just wanna have fun girls just wanna have fun girls just wanna have fun
health and eating disorders, which are commonly rooted in family relationships. “The ways in which girls respond vary. Generally there is a reluctance to acknowledge the disorder. Where girls come from restrictive and controlling families, they are often not used to setting their own boundaries with regard to things like sexual behaviour, food and drink, and may tend to oscillate between modes of behaviour which range from overly controlled to out of control. At times they may aim to mimic that strict and controlling atmosphere, and at others, be very unruly. Many girls find themselves yo-yoing between these extremes.” Yasmin, a 25 year-old teacher from Leeds, believes it depends on what the individual considers to be more important. “Having overly controlling parents can result in you becoming very bitter and rebellious if you don’t see it as anything more than needless restriction. Growing up, I could not see why they did it, but now I am grateful. As a teacher I recognise that kids need boundaries. I am a strong person. I would never have been who I am now if they had not raised me that way. “I had a curfew for everything. I had to be back from school by 3.30, back from college by 4pm and back from university by 6pm. My parents were strict because they were upholding their family honour, which inevitably falls on the girl’s shoulders. There was no way I would ever go near a guy. My parents always told me if I so much as look at a guy they would kill me. I was not even allowed to talk to boys in school. You’re so scared of breaking the little rules, you wouldn’t even consider breaking the big ones. This has definitely affected my ability to socialise with people. I hold back from making friendships with guys. To this day, I am a teacher, and I do not talk to men at work. They have to initiate the conversation and when they do, I feel uncomfortable. I prefer for them to stick to work-related topics. I don’t enjoy socialising with them. It takes time to break down the mental barriers.” Most of the girls I spoke to understood the importance of family honour and often use all kinds of subterfuge to keep it out of the limelight. Yasmin feels differently. “If upsetting you family or their honour means something to you,” she says, “then you will never go too far. Even if you put me on the other side of the world I would never go clubbing, go out with guys, wear miniskirts or drink. Parents shelter you so you don’t want to ever do that.” Guarding the family honour is lonely, but Yasmin also feels that it made her independent: “Everyone else does it and you get left out because you don’t participate. I have a strong personality and didn’t want to, but not everyone is. Off-the-rails girls keep going until somebody stops them.” However, it is arguable that even in this day and age many girls do not fully realise the consequences of a reckless lifestyle. Sexuality is rarely discussed openly in Muslim families and Muslim students rarely get any real guidance on sex. Many are withdrawn from school sex education classes by their parents, fearing the teaching will make them more permissive. This knowledge gap and the social pressure to explore their sexuality and their bodies leave some vulnerable, as a 26 year-old stu-
dent from Cardiff explains. “I come from a household where my comings and goings were pretty restricted. My family is made up mostly of girls. I had no brothers or male friends to grow up with, so you could say I was quite sheltered from the realities of life as a result. When I enrolled in university, I experienced personal freedom for the first time. I began socialising with students who appeared to be a lot more well-adjusted and sophisticated than me. By the end of my first year, I naively entered into a relationship and fell pregnant. “There was a part of me that felt very isolated and bewildered when I first arrived at university. My boyfriend was warm and compassionate, and I felt he was someone who would look after me. I didn’t even think about him having ulterior motives. I found it very difficult to speak to and befriend genuine people at university, and I think that is what made me such easy prey. He knew, no matter what happened, I wasn’t going to run around telling people.” Phillip Hodson, a Fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy specialises in family relations, the behaviour of adolescents and young adults, and has worked extensively with ethnic minorities and Muslims. He believes that people who have never learnt to say ‘no’ can face a multitude of dilemmas. “The western model of parenting allows for a rebellious adolescence and a rejection of family values, but the eastern model can generally be a case of ‘do as you are told’, and unfortunately such attempts are not always successful. You’re not allowed to challenge the culture or the rules, and while this may prove effective for children doing their A-levels, it’s normally quite a different story when it comes to university and relationships. Being exposed to a value-free secular culture can create enormous problems when you have hitherto led a comparatively protected existence. “Commonly, excessively dominating parents de-skill their children. Consequently they are left literally imma-
Where girls come from restrictive and controlling families, they are often not used to setting their own boundaries oscillating between overly controlled and out of control. ture in decision-making since their parents have usurped this. Many children have it drummed into them that they cannot make mistakes, but people need to learn from their mistakes. For Muslim girls especially, it can unfortunately be much more serious if they make a mistake at twenty-two rather than making one at twelve.” As for whether rebellious behaviour was a healthy exploration or a cause for concern, Hodson felt that was a question for the individual. “A girl has to decide for herself what her own values are. She is responsible for herself Q - NEWS
and she has to become an individual. As for parents, they need to empower both their sons and their daughters equally and accept that women as well as men may want to aspire to challenging careers and alternative choices. We need to get away from the idea where parents are disappointed when a baby girl is born. Daughters are undervalued from the very beginning, and these are attitudes that girls catch on to and carry with them for the rest of their lives, resulting in many of the problems they encounter.” Aisha, a Bangladeshi Muslim from Birmingham, who suffers from obesity and low self-esteem, believes this is due to neglect from her family. Her liberation at university only heightened her sense of helplessness. “When I was doing my A-levels, I wanted to do art subjects, but my parents did not see any prospects of a good career for an arts graduate. They wanted me to do medicine so I ended up taking science-related subjects
attending Islamic events. This has definitely helped me reprioritise my aspirations. Most girls I know ignore Islamic Societies and avoid the religious people because they have already made their mind up about them. Eventually you look around and see that there is a world beyond the pub or the club.” It is easy for imams and community leaders to patronisingly blame the lack of discipline at home and “western permissiveness” for the situation of Muslim girls on the campus. This is just another example of passing the buck. Young Muslim women experiences of growing up Muslim and British are complex. The life challenges they face are ones that their parents’ generation didn’t fathom. The popular culture they grow up in - whether the MTV or B4U variety - is powerful. The experiences of young women are difficult to generalise. When asked about a search for solutions and a way forward through this maze of conflicting influences and such manifestations of frustration and disillusionment, Humera Khan, a founder of An-Nisa Women Society and an established social worker of two decades, felt that it all depends on what people are looking for. “Whenever you seek to initiate change or explore a given situation you will inevitably uncover many ugly things. How these unpleasant aspects are dealt with varies from person to person. University life is a confrontation with yourself and self-awareness is a process that can take many years. The journey is essentially the same but we often take different paths. “Nevertheless, young people are being short-changed because they are not getting guidance appropriate to their lives, influences and choices from their elders. Families often impose restrictions and make unwise decisions in pursuit of a social or cultural ideal. Providing ‘cuckooland’ alternatives for people dealing with harsh realities results in solutions which are superficial and ineffective. Further to this, many girls are still not taking responsibility for their own actions and problems. I agree that girls can essentially be very vulnerable, but one of the first steps towards empowering yourself and taking control of your life is to stop seeing yourself as the victim. “Ultimately, we need to discover our God-given potential for humanity rather than getting caught up in these tribal, materialistic or western cultures.” The challenge for British Muslims, therefore, is to create spaces for engaging with young people without recourse to fatwa or condemnation. Many of us are teaching our young women to hate their faith. While growing alcoholism and sexual permissiveness are problems, they are symptomatic of a community that is ill equipped to engage with the messy lives of British youth. If faith is to be an important part of our lives, then it must speak to the cultural and social realities of today and give meaning to our needs and aspirations. The emergence of a British Muslim culture that gives us reasons to celebrate life and faith needs to be facilitated. Otherwise, the prevailing and powerful “wanna have fun” narrative has already won. !
girls just wanna have fun girls just wanna have fun girls just wanna have fun “I was angry about the lack of choice. I have been rebelling and screaming for help ever since. At university, I broke every rule in the book because I thought these were all the things my parents had been denying me.” instead, and consequently performing very poorly. I was very angry about the lack of choice I was given. I have been rebelling and screaming for help ever since then. At university I broke every rule in the book because I kept thinking these were all the other things my parents had been denying me. “However, I was not serious about any of my flings because I knew I was destined for an arranged marriage. So many opportunities have slipped by. I now feel bitter and bad-tempered, and find it difficult to perform well so many other areas of my life. I find it very hard to trust anybody, since I don’t even trust my own family. I have given up my job because of lack of self-confidence, and even whilst working I never had aspirations for promotions or higher paying positions. I just thought, what’s the point?” When family cultural traditions are tied so closely to Islam, experiences of growing up under lockdown and the subsequent liberation of campus life leaves bitter feelings about religion that are tough to shake. “I now disrespect parents who are religious,” explains Aisha, “because I think they just twist religion to suit their own ends or in order to please their social circle. My faith has definitely been tested. I have gone from being a hijabi to doubting my faith altogether. I feel in order for there to be any change, parents need to learn how to practise Islam in a positive way, rather than using it as a weapon to comdemn others. Also, we need to stop back-biting because it is the source of intense family anxiety. Girls will never be able to live out their dreams.” But Kinza feels the “wild days” are eventually tempered with age. “After three years at university, I started
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To respect the anonymity of the women who were interviewed for this article, all names have been changed.
“AND WHEN THE SEAS RISE…” SANJANA DEEN AND RUMEANA JANHANGIR REPORT ON HOW MUSLIM AID AGENCIES THE WORLD OVER ARE MEETING THE NEEDS OF THE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS LEFT HOMELESS IN THE WAKE OF THE TSUNAMI DISASTER. or all of our efforts to subjugate it, nature will not be easily tamed. The 26 December 2004 tsunami was a powerful testimony to human fragility. The ferocious waves demolished buildings, wiped away cities and mercilessly flung people, animals and vehicles kilometres inland as if they were no more than matchsticks. The current death toll stands at 280,000 and could rise further as those missing are declared dead. Technology, unable to inform affected nations of the coming waves, is now being used to track the dead and find the missing. Tsunami blogs post the latest information from the field. SMS and picture messaging brings us raw images of the disaster and satellite television takes us into the rubble in the search for survivors. There are reports now that the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii sent out a warning to 26 nations, particularly in Southeast Asia. Why were the reports not heeded? Difficult questions will be asked about how many lives might have been saved. Now, given the scale of the wreckage, such discussions are at best hypothetical. It comes as no surprise that some religious voices say the tragedy is diving punishment on “fallen Man”. Sri Lankan Mohamed Faizeen, manager of the Centre for Islamic Studies in Colombo, claims Allah sends these disasters in retribution for humanity “ignoring His laws.” Faizeen used a satellite picture allegedly showing the waves in the formation of the word “Allah” in Arabic. Some clerics have pointed to the nightclubs, alcohol and prostitution on the coasts of Thailand as the cause for this unleashing of “Allah’s wrath.” Surely the aftermath of such a calamity calls for mercy and compassion and not condemnations of iniquity. Thankfully, British Muslims have generally avoided the fire and brimstone approach and have chosen instead to offer their prayers and donations, which have been pouring in. Muslim charities are working in collaboration with local NGOs and organisations such as UNICEF, a reflection of the wider global solidarity in the wake of the disaster. At the time of going to press, Islamic Relief is in the process of becoming part of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which has raised over £100 million. Nottingham-based Muslim Hands sent teams to both Indonesia and Sri Lanka just days after the waves hit, and is organising special shelters for orphans and village-based water purification units that will serve 500 people at a time. Qurbani contributions have been directed to the worst afflicted regions, while Muslim charities prepare to help reconstruct schools and hospitals. The organisations have received hundreds of thousands of pounds through jummah collections, private donations and fundraising dinners throughout the country. The Federation of Students’ Islamic Societies (FOSIS) organised a national collection day on the first Friday of January just as students were returning to their universities after the Christmas break. The relief effort has focused on the worst hit areas of Indonesia and Sri Lanka, both of which have seen internal sepa-
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ratist conflicts. This has hampered the movement of emergency aid to the areas most affected. Regional human rights organisations have reported that Indonesian soldiers have denied assistance to survivors in Aceh where fighting previously occurred between the Free Aceh Movement - Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM) and the Indonesian military. The Indonesian army has declared that it will not attack suspected GAM bases and the Finnish government has announced the opening of high level talks between the GAM and the Indonesian government in Helsinki. The media spotlight has shone on the Asian countries with African victims (yet again) being ignored. Muslim Aid is one of the few charities working in Somalia where about 200 people have died and up to 30,000 have been left destitute. Money donated to the charity has been spent on providing medicine and blankets. Teams of British and American medical volunteers have been sent out to Indonesia and Sri Lanka by Stockport-based charity Muslim Doctors Worldwide (MDW). Cash is being used to buy medicines in the affected countries and the charity is calling for donations of money and supplies from medical companies. MDW (www.doctorsworldwide.org) are also appealing for medical professionals to volunteer and help heal sufferers. In Sri Lanka, where Muslims only comprise about 7.5% of the population, more than half the people who died in the disaster were Muslims. According to the latest figures released by the government, 38,195 people have been killed, some 4,000 missing and one million more made homeless. More than 40 Islamic organisations have come under an umbrella to serve the survivors. Many have taken a leading role in helping Tamil Hindu, Sinhalese Buddhist and Christian churches with funeral services. Arab News reports that in Beruwela, the town where Arab traders built the first mosque in Sri Lanka, among the dead were a couple who had gone to buy fish to feed their five unmarried girls. When the local mosque authorities took up the case of the orphan spinsters, five Muslim bachelors came forward as good Samaritans to marry them. The UK has so far donated £50,000,000. America’s initial offering of $15,000,000 created an international uproar - the commitment was quickly raised to $350,000,000 with promises of more. Naturally, all eyes soon turned to the Middle East where a Lebanese newspaper charged governments with “collective miserliness in this hour of human need.” The pundits rightfully questioned why these oil-rich nations were not aiding fellow Muslims. The Saudis have pledged only $30,000,000 and Qatar has donated $25,000,000. Private fundraising activities are taking place within Middle Eastern nations to increase the size of donations. Muslim organizations - despite the pronouncements of the likes of Mohamed Faizeen - have been taking a leading role in relief efforts. The Prophetic tradition of generosity has been invoked to encourage the spirit of giving. “If a Muslim plants a tree,” the Prophet said, “and then men, or animals eat from it, it becomes a sadaqah for him.” !
The first I heard of the tsunami was at six in the morning UK time on 26 December. My sister in Jakarta sent me a message saying that an earthquake had hit Indonesia and that all communications to Banda Aceh, where my family lives, were cut off. I frantically searched on the Internet and flicked through television channels, but found nothing. On 28 December, I received a call from my sister in Jakarta and I learnt that my sisters had survived. My father, who had been in another city, was spared and he was soon with my sister in Jakarta. Until today, we have no news of my mother and the children in our family. We all have to go back to Allah, in different circumstances and with no knowledge of when. I’ve heard it said that those who drown, die as martyrs. So with this faith, it makes it a bit easier for me to accept that my mother and nieces may not be with us anymore. My roots are in Banda Aceh. I was born and brought up in my parents’ house there. The last time I was there, two years ago during Eid al-Fitr, my childhood home still had that warm atmosphere. Now there is nothing. Survivors need food and clothing. They don’t have houses anymore and they need shelter. They need to find jobs and schools for their children. I hope the government of Indonesia uses all the money donated to them effectively to help those who it was sent for. !
The disaster is beyond my imagination. We’ve faced earthquakes before, but never a tsunami. My wife’s friend has the only phone in our village through which I contacted my brother. He told us that he had been searching for the bodies of my mother, sister and nephews for three days, but he still hadn’t been able to locate them. My wife says she was trying to collect some things from her parents’ house - she found ten bodies amongst the rubble. They had decomposed beyond recognition. You’ll find corpses everywhere in Banda Aceh, especially in houses. The relief workers are collecting the bodies in the street. My wife and her brother moved the bodies outside the house so they could be picked up. I consider this disaster as a warning from Allah. It’s a sign, not just to the people of Aceh but also to the entire world, that we must remember God in our daily lives. Growing up in Aceh, we were taught Islamic principles and the importance of prayer and other rituals. But lately the mosques have been less lively and people have been more despondent about Islam. Many mosques are still standing tall where everything else has gone. I think the message is, go back to the mosque. Maybe I’m wrong, but I strongly feel that we’re being told to turn back more thoughtfully to Islam. !
Mutia Verayanti studies and lives in London with her husband.
Mohammed Sajahaan Athambawa A shopkeeper who lost 35 members of his family in the tsunami tragedy is facing a legal battle to see surviving relatives in disaster-hit Sri Lanka. Mohammed Sajahaan Athambawa, 31 - popularly known as Saj - lost almost his whole family, including his youngest sister, five-year-old nephew and also his fiancée. Saj is hoping to fly out to the disaster zone to be with traumatised survivors, including both his parents who are being treated in hospital. But his dreams of going to Asia could be dashed by a web of Home Office red tape with officials warning that he may not be allowed to return to his London home if he leaves the UK. Saj, who works at Village Food and Wine Deli in Highgate High Street, and lives in a flat above the shop, said, “Both my parents are in hospital at the moment. I just want to go back for a couple of days so I can check on them and the rest of my family.” Saj fled Sri Lanka without a passport three years ago to escape flashpoints between separatists groups in his war-torn home village of Muthamanai, on the eastern coast of Sri Lanka. Granted temporary admission into the UK, Saj is allowed to live and work in this country but without permanent asylum, he cannot be guaranteed permission to return if he decides to leave. In a fraught breakout plan, Saj says he paid fixers £10,000 more than 1,800,000 rupees in his native country - to be flown
Interviews by Sanjana Deen
Yunardi is currently completing his PhD in Chemical Engineering at Leeds University where he lives with his wife and children.
to France and then smuggled into Britain by train. As Tamil Tigers clashed with government ranks, his fiancée was unable to escape. Muthamanai, like a number of villages in the area, has been devastated by the ferocious floods. Among the 19 family members dead are Saj’s two brothers-in-law, several cousins, nieces, nephews and one entire family - an aunt, uncle and their five children, ranging in age from one to twelve. His surviving family, homeless and missing all their possessions are currently taking shelter in the village school, one of the few buildings to remain standing after the floods. Saj’s employer at The Village has launched an appeal at the shop for the village of Muthamanai. Generous customers have already donated £6,000. “My family has lost everything so it more important than ever that I am able to stay here and work. I would like to go back for just a few days though.” !
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“I HEAR THE VOICES OF GHOSTS…” UNICEF ESTIMATES THAT 35,000 INDONESIAN CHILDREN HAVE BEEN ORPHANED IN THE WAKE OF THE TSUNAMI. TRAUMATISED AND THREATENED BY DISEASE, THEY ARE HOUSED IN DOZENS OF MAKESHIFT REFUGEE CAMPS. ELEVEN YEAR-OLD NINA MAULIDIA RIZKA TELLS HER STORY TO INDONESIAN CHILDREN’S RELIEF CORRESPONDENT SANTI SOEKANTO. was born in a beautiful village called Gleebruek, in the sub-district Lhoong, Aceh Besar District. There was no place as pretty as my village. Along with dozens of other villages, Gleebruek sat on a valley at the foot of a hill that overlooked the Indian Ocean. My parents, Sabri and Jamiah, gave me my beautiful name because I was born on the day that my villagers celebrated the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. We call the day maulid. My big brother Ilham, my younger brother Sidik and my baby sister Dinda Sulisna used to play by the sea where there were lots and lots of coconut trees and visitors from out of town spending their holidays. Very often, Dinda tagged along behind me. I did not like this but my mother made me mind her. On 26 December 2004, all this changed. I was minding Dinda and playing by the foot of the hill when we felt the earth shake. “It’s an earthquake!” I heard someone shout, shortly before I saw my neighbours rush out of their homes in panic. There was confusion but a short while later we had gathered in small groups outside of our homes. Then, suddenly, we heard the most horrible, horrible sound of the ocean crashing against the beach, a noise as loud as hundreds of helicopters. “The waves are rising... run, run!” I heard people shout. I had a second to look at the black tongues of the ocean, as high as the coconut trees, rushing toward us before fleeing in panic. I remembered to drag Dinda along but the water was so quick. Its tentacles kept lunging at us. Soon I saw people overtaken by the waves, drowning. I kept running, dragging Dinda with me. But the water was so fast it took Dinda from my hands. Then I saw somebody fish her out of the water and carry her while he ran. I followed until we reached the hill. We beat the waves. But the waves beat my parents. The ocean took my parents away. My brother Sidik disappeared too. I met Ilham among people who found safety at the military post and the sub-district head office. But the rest of my family was no more. I still have my grandmother, Alhamdulillah, and my blind aunt, 22-year-old Yusmanidar, and Ilham and Dinda. But we have no home now. What we have now is a beach that is completely ruined, no longer beautiful - so many bodies were found there. Pak Camat, the subdistrict head, and all the other grown men spent days burying the corpses. I don’t know if they found my parents; the ocean had really taken them away. Dinda, Ilham and I now live together with hundreds of people from the other villages by the sea, in a school building in a hilly vil-
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lage called Lamsujen. Funny name, Lamsujen. In Acehnese, it means “among the voices of ghosts.” Sometimes I think I hear the voices of ghosts. If I shout at the top of my lungs, the hills answer back with strange noises. I don’t do that very often because people stare at you. Sometimes I try to find the voices of Father and Mother among those ghostly voices. Several days after the earthquakes and the waves, some friends and I went down by the sea to look at what used to be our homes. The ocean had left nothing. Not a single house was found. Every building that was ever erected was now gone. Trees and concrete pillars uprooted and lying every which way. The soil became a sea of yellow sand. Seaweed was found on top of trees at the foot of the hill. My beautiful village is no more. It’s strange being among so many people without Mother and Father. Thankfully Pak Camat works really hard to make sure that we have food everyday, but frankly, the food is never enough. I go to bed hungry all the time. I wish I could be back home again with Mother and Father, going to school and doing my lessons. Even my school is no more. My books are all gone. I am thankful that unlike many other kids, Dinda and I are not sick. I do miss Mother and Father, but so do the other kids in this refugee camp. There is Amirullah from Cundin village. He is 14 years old, and he lost both his parents, too. Anwar, who is a year older, lost both parents and three siblings. Linawati, who is about my age, also lost her parents and is now in the refugee camp with her younger brother and two sisters. In this single corner of the school building alone, there are more than 50 children like me - children who have lost their parents and brothers and sisters and their homes. I know that there are hundreds and hundreds of other children in Lhoong who are now orphans. Today, we have guests - two doctors from Banda Aceh and a lady who said she was with an organisation in London. This lady, Ibu Santi, said there are Muslims in far away countries such as Britain who wish to help my friends and I. Alhamdulillah. I would really like to have more food, a change of clothing, and books. I would like to go back to school. I would like to have a home of my own; I do not wish to stay at a shelter any longer. My friends would like to stay on in Aceh, but I would not mind leaving for Java or other places with my sister Dinda - places where I would not to have to worry about the waves. ! Please support the work of ICR by donating at www.icruk.org
Source: Staff members at Islamic Relief, UK
RELIEF BY NUMBERS
Death toll following south-east Asian earthquake: over 280,000 Approximate death toll in Indonesia alone: 220,000 Number of countries affected by the tsunami: 12 Number of countries where Islamic Relief have offices: 24 Staff employed by Islamic Relief: 900 Media interviews with UK Islamic Relief following the Asian disaster: 28 Number of press releases sent out within three days of the disaster: 390 Number of people who attended the Islamic Relief fundraising event at Bradford Hilton Hotel on New Year’s Day: 500 Amount raised at that event: £55,000 Amount collected by Islamic Relief during the first two days of the appeal: £100,000 Amount collected by Islamic Relief within 10 days: £4,300,000 Initial outlay of emergency funds to bring aid to survivors of the disaster: £970,000 Value of clothes donated to Islamic Relief by EBI: £1,500,000 Value of tools provided by Islamic Relief to survivors of the disaster: £500,000 Cost of providing 1000 bedsheets to survivors: £10,000 Portion of Aceh (Indonesia) devastated by the disaster: two-thirds Length of coastline in Aceh where villages have been totally demolished: 500km Roads in Aceh that have disappeared: 5,800km Collapsed bridges in Aceh: 490 Number of offices established in Aceh by Islamic Relief assessment team: 3 Aid sent to Aceh by Islamic Relief’s American branch within one week: £1,075,000 Tonnes of aid flown to Aceh by Islamic Relief in partnership with the Mormon Church: 72 Medical supplies (including surgical tools, gloves, bandages, blood pressure cuffs, etc) flown to Aceh: 18 tonnes Weight of clothing and shoes flown to Aceh: 40,000 pounds Individual hygiene kits sent to Aceh: 28,000 Amount of first aid supplies sent to Aceh: 9 tonnes Number of boxes of instant noodles sent to Aceh: 300 Flashlights sent to Aceh (for volunteers and local beneficiaries): 72 units Candles sent to light houses after electricity supplies have failed: 72 boxes Boxes of mineral water sent to replace polluted water supplies: 900 Emergency family latrines purchased by Islamic Relief for installment in settlements in Banda Aceh: 500 First aid kits procured by Islamic Relief with the Indonesian Red Crescent: 1000 packs Surgery kits being procured: 5 Displaced people in Aceh given immediate emergency assistance: 50,000 people, or 12,500 families Supplementary and therapeutic feeding centres to be established to feed malnourished children and elderly and pregnant women: 2 Number of families in Aceh to be given health awareness training: 2,500 Period for which medical doctors, nurses and volunteers will be deployed by Islamic Relief in Aceh: 6 months Number of schools to be provided with equipment in the second wave of relief: 100 Families to be provided with rice seeds, vegetable seeds and fertiliser to assist reconstruction in Aceh: 2,500 Families affected by the disaster in Ampara district of Sri Lanka where Islamic Relief are now working: 38,624 Number of dead counted in Ampara by 1st January 2005: 10,400 Death toll in Sri Lanka so far: over 38,195 Number of homes in Ampara partly or completely damaged: 19,000 People living in makeshift camps in Ampara district, vulnerable to malaria and other diseases: about 200,000 Planeloads of aid sent to Sri Lanka from Islamic Relief’s France and US offices: 2 Families already supplied with clothes, cooking utensils, mosquito nets and hygiene kits by Islamic Relief: around 1000 Families being provided with water cans and water purifiers: 10,000 Islamic Relief’s disaster appeal target: £10,000,000 Guests at Islamic Relief’s Night for a Million fundraising dinner on 26 January 2005: 350 Target for Night for a Million: £1,000,000 Amount eventually raised: £3,880,000 Number to ring to make donations through Islamic Relief: 0870 444 3132
THE ENDURING SPIRIT OF ACEH WHEN MARCO POLO PASSED THROUGH, ISLAM WAS ALREADY WELL ESTABLISHED. IBN BATTUTA WAS DELIGHTED BY THE STRENGTH OF ITS PEOPLE’S FAITH. BUT UNTIL THE TSUNAMI STRUCK IN DECEMBER 2004, FEW MUSLIMS HAD HEARD OF ACEH. ABDAL-HAKIM MURAD TRACES THE GLORIOUS HISTORY OF SOUTHEAST ASIA’S ANCIENT ISLAMIC NATION.
cheh is an ancient Islamic nation. Its origins are buried in legends, but already in 1292 when Marco Polo passed through, Islam was solidly established in the region. Ibn Battuta, who visited in 1345 was delighted by the strength of Acehnese faith. Already, the growing Aceh sultanate was sending missionaries and traders throughout Southeast Asia, spreading the Qadiri and Naqshbandi orders and the Shafi’i school of law. To this day, Sufism, Ash’arism and the Shafi’i madhhab define Muslim life in this distant yet densely-populated tip of the great island of Sumatra. The growth of Aceh was first challenged in the sixteenth century by the appearance of the Portuguese. Lisbon’s empire at the time was built on a fiercely antiMuslim crusading ideology; so that the creation of Portuguese enclaves in the region were usually accompanied by vicious massacres. The sultans responded by sending an embassy to Constantinople to ask for help. Their arrival coincided with the death of Sulaiman the Magnificent, and it was two years before the envoys were granted an audience. But the Ottoman empire, grand as ever in its ambitions, sent a fleet to Aceh, providng ships and artillery which served as a deterrent against the Crusader threat. The seventeenth century witnessed Aceh’s greatest glory. Sultan Meukuta Alam ruled not only much of Sumatra, but enclaves in Malaya, Borneo, and the distant Celebes as well. Skilfully manipulating the rivalry between the Portuguese in Malacca and the growing Dutch presence, he maintained the absolute independence of the sultanate, despite its nominal possession by the Ottoman sultans. Long epic poems in the Acehnese language celebrate the brilliance of the sultan’s battles by land and by sea. Many of them also praise his successors, four Acehnese queens who ruled from 1641 to 1699 with considerable flair. So intimidated were the Dutch by Aceh’s martial reputation that they delayed their invasion until 1873. The huge profits they had reaped in Java from plantations and mines were diverted to create an invasion
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fleet. But expectations of a rapid victory soon faded. Not until 1910 did the Dutch declare Aceh officially ‘pacified’, after a brutal campaign that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, as many villagers were rounded up and executed by enraged Dutch soldiers. After the destruction of the sultanate, the jihad during this long period was led by the Qadiri and Naqshbandi ulema, many of them from the scholarly stronghold of Kampong Tiroh, which, although destroyed several times by the Dutch, remains to this day a centre of Islamic scholarship. The last mujahid scholar, Tungku Maat, died in 1911. Scattered resistance to Dutch garrisons and plantation owners continued, but it was only in the 1930s that the Acehnese organised themselves again on a mass scale. This was the time of PUSA, a society of Shafi’i scholars established to counter the reformist opinions of the Java-based Muhammadiya movement, which was attempting to spread the ideas of Muhammad Abduh and Rashid Rida in the archipelago. Like the similar traditionalist movement Nahdhatul Ulema elsewhere in Indonesia, PUSA was largely successful in defending the integrity and values of traditional Islam. Following the Second World War, however, and the brutal Japanese occupation, the Dutch reoccupied Aceh, amid scenes of extreme brutality, and many PUSA members were executed. Indonesian independence continued the pattern, as the province was occupied by mainly Javanese troops, many led by Christian officers. Benny Murdani, the Christian Indonesian general responsible for the invasion of East Timor, also created a reign of fear in Aceh. Many Acehnese responded by launching a guerrilla war, under the aegis of GAM, the Free Aceh Movement, triggering, in turn, a new wave of repression. According to Human Rights Watch, ‘thousands of civilians were extra-judicially killed, disappeared or tortured.’ The same organisation protested again in May 2003, when the Indonesian government closed off the province, and gave the military carte blanche to ‘crush’ GAM.
While most Acehnese support the recovery of their country’s independence, seeing the Indonesia military as just as alien and brutal as the Japanese or the Dutch, the general view among Muslim scholars in Indonesia could be described as one of sympathetic disagreement. Western powers pressed Jakarta to free East Timor, they believe, because of that province’s largely Christian population. The older and more credible national claims of Aceh, however, are unlikely to be viewed with sympathy by the West because over 98% of Acehnese are Muslims. On this view, Aceh should throw in its lot with Indonesia’s other Muslims, to try to reform the country from within. Generals such as Murdani are now giving way to a new class of civilian administrators, many of them practicing Muslims, and Indonesia should stay together in order to fulfil its destiny as a Muslim superpower. Indonesian Islam, largely through the efforts of activist organisations such as PUSA and Nahdhatul Ulema, has been remarkably successful in insulating young Indonesian Muslims from modern Arab radicalism. The president of the main Islamic university in Jakarta, Shaykh Azyumardi Azra, is a Shafi’i scholar who has published widely on the phenomenon of extremism. He points out that Indonesian Muslim extremism is very unusual, despite the media attention generated by the 2002 Bali bombings. That event he characterises as a ‘blessing in disguise’, because it resulted in the closure of the few centres where what he calls ‘radical Salafiyya’ were being taught. As with the 9/11 bombings in the United States, the initial response of many Muslims had been to blame an American or Israeli conspiracy, but this view has now subsided, and the ulema have recognised the reality of extremism among the young and confused. In particular, he welcomes the disbanding of the Jama’a Islamiya (JI), which grew out of a group supported by a Saudi Arabian organisation, Rabita. Small Salafist cells claimed responsibility for a string of church bombings on Christmas Eve in 2000, and the Atrium shopping mall bombing in Jakarta in August 2001. Local Muslim journalist Djarnawi Ghufron claims that with the sudden appearance of terrorist Salafism, Saudi Arabia has now cut off its support for most Salafi groups, which, according to the Indonesian Muslim press, have lost no time in condemning their former Saudi backers. The number of JI supporters at no time rose above a few hundred, and none of the country’s popular ulema or pesantren colleges were involved. Overall, the picture of Indonesian Islam is one of growth and strength, with the creation of a new generation of colleges (Indonesia has more Islamic universities than the entire Arab Middle East, and 100,000 Qur’anic schools). A vibrant theological scene, along with a revival in traditional arts and other traditions, is at the centre of the current Muslim revival in the country. Largely moribund under the Dutch, Indonesian Islam is now asserting itself, with enormous rallies in the country’s main cities, and a lively dialogue with the country’s Christian minority, which, as in most Muslim countries, is disproportionately wealthy, and is currently trying to deal with the influx of American missionaries convinced
The Acehnese have lived with tragedy for over a hundred years. Large-scale loss of life and property are part of everyone’s personal experience. that Islam is the Antichrist. Ulema such as Abdur Rahman Wahid continue to be at the forefront of the pro-democracy and human rights movement, and Western Islamophobes are currently perplexed by the Islamic landscape in South-East Asia, where democratic Malaysia and Indonesia straddle tiny, non-Muslim, non-democratic Singapore. Middle Eastern visitors convinced that democracy and Islam cannot be reconciled are politely referred to the works of local scholars who, they are convinced, have resolved the issue definitively. Djarnawi Ghufron believes that Indonesian missionaries will soon be visiting the Middle East, opening centres to sell the Indonesian Islamic success story in what he calls the ‘failure zone of the Arab world’. It remains to be seen whether the tsunami will change this positive direction. Three-quarters of its victims were Muslims, and some evangelical churches in Indonesia have announced that it happened because of the local refusal “to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ”. The immense devastation on Aceh’s coastline, with the loss not only of lives, but of mosques, libraries, colleges, and manuscript collections, has left many feeling perplexed. Yet local commentators point out that the Acehnese have lived with tragedy for over a hundred years. Large-scale loss of life and property are part of everyone’s personal experience. And the Islamic theology which insists that all is the will of God, and the human response should be to accept in submission, is the best possible consolation in the face of such destruction. ! Q - NEWS
remembering MALCOLM X 1925 - 1965
n 21 February 1965 Malcolm X approached the lectern on the stage of the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem. It was a place he had stood many times before in a city that he had known for most his life - as a dangerous hustler and later, as a fiery preacher whose street corner sermons at first attracted thousands and then the attention of the entire world. It was where he greeted friends and told them of his remarkable experiences during the Hajj and the place where he launched the Organisation of Afro-American Unity, a mature, sophisticated response to the increasingly global movement for human and civil rights. On that February afternoon, a week after a firebomb almost killed him and his family, Malcolm X was planning to respond publicly to the threats on his life and to present his vision for the future of the civil rights movement. 1965 was going to be a desperate year for America - the prognosis for black liberation was bleak. Outside the hall, one man remarked, “Malcolm is our only hope.” As Benjamin Karim, his assistant, handed over the stage to him, the audience broke out into applause. One reporter described the moment: “Malcolm walked to the rostrum. He looked up and said, Assalamu alaikum.The audience replied, Walaikum Salam. Bespectacled and dapper in a dark suit, sandy hair glinting in the light, Malcolm looked up and said: ‘Brothers and sisters…’ “He was interrupted by two men in the centre of the ballroom, who rose and, arguing with each other, moved forward. Then there was a scuffle at the back of the room. I heard Malcolm X say his last words: ‘Now, brothers, break it up,’ he said softly. ‘Be cool, be calm.’ Then all hell broke loose. There was a muffled sound of shots and Malcolm, blood on his face and chest, fell limply back over the chairs behind him.” Yuri Kochiyama, a Japanese human rights activist and one of Malcolm X’s closest allies in that last, tumultuous year of his life, was one of the first to reach his side. She cradled his broken body in her arms as he bled to death. This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X. It is a time to remember and celebrate one of our greatest heroes. Malcolm’s life is not easy to understand. He was a brilliant student turned petty thief. He was a dangerous hustler who landed himself in jail. The Nation of Islam - a black nationalist movement that borrowed Islamic terminology and practice to fashion a decidedly heterodox understanding of God-given black supremacy and white devilry turned Malcolm in to a man of faith.As a minister with the Nation his preaching converted thousands to a progressive program of black selfdetermination. His reputation grew as a straight talking, fiercely intelligent orator who “made it plain”. His words gave hope to millions of
African American living under the yoke of Southern segregation and American racism. But he was to outgrow the Nation of Islam. Eijah Muhammad’s indiscretions disillusioned Malcolm. He left the Nation of Islam and began a spiritual transformation that led him to the lands of what he called “true Islam”. In the midst of the Hajj, the truth came to him.The dizzying diversity of Muslims - black, white, brown, yellow - praying together, sharing food and shelter in the holiest of lands set him on a course of profound change. He adopted the name El Hajj Malik El Shabazz. Islam changed Malcolm. He wrote in his autobiography,“True Islam has taught me that it takes all of the religious, political, economic, psychological and racial ingredients, or characteristics, to make the Human Family and the Human Society complete... Since I learned the truth in Mecca, my dearest friends have come to include all kinds some Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, agnostics, and even atheists! I have friends who are called capitalists, socialists and communists! Some of my friends are moderates, conservatives, extremists - some are even Uncle Toms! My friends today are black, brown, yellow, and white!” Islam did not narrow his vision; it expanded it far wider than he ever conceived possible. Malcolm understood the generous spirit of Islam. Something that today’s Muslim militant, who often claims connection to Malcolm’s radical agenda, do not understood. To be sure Malcolm never turned the other cheek. His approach was balanced and pragmatic. His vision of justice was global. Malcolm was willing to admit his mistakes and change - publicly and honestly. In the weeks before his death, he told his cousin that he wanted to travel across America to reach out to the members of the Nation of Islam that he felt he had misled.The burden of this responsibility weighed heavily on him. He wrote,“If I can die having brought any light, having exposed any meaningful truth that will help destroy the cancer of racism that is malignant in the body of America - then, all the credit is due to Allah. Only the mistakes have been mine.” These are not the words of a scholar, but of a saint. Our saint. Sadly, so much of our understanding of Malcolm endures in sound bites and slogans, popularised by commercial image-makers. Some still characterise him as a preacher of violence. Most people, particularly young Muslims, hardly know him at all. It’s time that they did. In these pages we pay tribute to a man whose legacy we are blessed to inherit and whose life is a sign of God’s abundant grace. He gave his life in the service of God seeking justice in the world. May God grant him peace and every blessing. Abdul-Rehman Malik
â€œI do not pretend to be a divine man but I do believe in divine guidance, divine power and in the fulfillment of divine prophecy. I am not educated nor am I an expert in any particular field. But I am sincere and my sincerity is my credentials.â€? This page, 1960. Cover page, last known portrait of Malcolm X, 1965.
REMEMBERING MALCOLM X “I’M
FOR TRUTH, NO MATTER WHO TELLS IT. I’M FOR JUSTICE, NO MATTER WHO IT IS FOR
OR AGAINST. I’M A HUMAN BEING, FIRST AND FOREMOST, AND AS SUCH I’M FOR WHOEVER AND WHATEVER BENEFITS HUMANITY AS A WHOLE.” l-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz - Malcolm X. His name still electrifies us forty years after his assassination in Harlem, New York on 21 February 1965. It conjures up images of a tall, handsome man with reddish brown hair, fiery eyes, and a tongue that was more piercing than a sword. With the ferocity of a warrior and the intelligence of a scholar he fought injustice as he saw it. He sacrificed his life in the hope that we might be free to know the truth, and see reality as it is. We cannot underestimate the worth of the legacy of Malcolm X, God rest his soul, for he did not merely fight a social condition in his society by struggling against racism; he also consciously fought against arrogance, envy, greed, fear and hypocrisy - the spiritual conditions from which injustice grows. Like many Muslim thinkers before him, Malcolm recognised that one of the key attributes of the racist is arrogance in the heart. This kind of arrogance leads to a feeling of superiority merely on the basis of an artificial construction we have come to call “race.” In the Muslim mind, injustice is not just a socio-economic problem, it grows from spiritual diseases, and opposition to it must include a spiritual response. Let us then reflect on how Malcolm struggled against racism. How did he challenge an entire system that was based on injustice? There are at least two Malcolms we ought to consider:
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the “pre-Hajj Malcolm” and the “post-Hajj Malcolm.” During the time he spent spreading the teachings of Elijah Muhammad as a minister of the Nation of Islam in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Malcolm was a voice within a movement that was solely concerned with the spiritual, economic and social liberation of 22 million African-Americans; people who had lost their sense of identity, dignity, and nearly everything else that was precious to them as, generation after generation, they were seduced by the notion that God, identified as Jesus Christ, was a white man and that the white man’s civilisation was blessed with divine authority. Through distorted methods of schooling, religious rhetoric, immoral legislation, and violent subjugation that was falsely justified based on an interpretation of this theological notion, “White America” developed a system of control over time by which it could prosper by means of the exploitation of all who were not part of its limited power structure. As an inheritor of Garveyite thought, committed to selfdetermination, and a voice in the movement for civil rights in America, Malcolm was accused of reacting to racism with hate and trying to justify counter-racism as a legitimate approach to resistance. This, however, was an oversimplification of what Malcolm was doing. The son of an itinerant preacher who used to observe his father teach during his formative years, and later, prowling the streets of New York
as a dangerous hustler, and then as a prisoner in jail, Malcolm understood the psychology of his people in a way other so-called leaders, often patronised by the establishment, did not. Malcolm knew that to get his people to see their own intelligence, beauty, and civilisational potential, he had to attack the unspoken prejudices, the false premises that had been rooted in their collective psychology by 400 years persecution. Malcolm had to identify the archetype of the white man with a devil; not because he believed that this was actually the case from one individual to another, but because the collective behaviour of the white man in America had historically been devilish. And so Malcolm found it necessary to attack the idiosyncratic things he saw his people irrationally idolising about the white man. It was his way of bringing out the truth of the black condition in America. This, however, was not the only approach Malcolm took in struggling against tyranny. Leading up to his harsh split with Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam in late 1963, Malcolm had begun to have difficulty with the contradictions he found within the movement he was not just part of, but had become the public face of. Malcolm was struggling to tell the difference between fact and fiction in the Nation of Islam. As if counselled by Rumi, Malcolm sought out his own path, to create his own story. He approached his faith with new wakefulness. His first two instincts after striking out on his own were to establish a spiritual foundation for his work, the formal structure of which became the Muslim Mosque Inc. and to embark on a journey, thanks to his older sister Ella Collins, a Sunni Muslim who financed a trip he otherwise could not have afforded: the pilgrimage to Makkah. Malcolm’s famous letter from Mecca indicated how his journey changed the way he saw the world - he was not just concerned with his people in America, but with the human family. His doors were now open to anyone who wanted to work with him to improve the human condition: woman or man, young or old, yellow, red, brown, black or white - all were invited to work in harmony with him. Writing from Mecca, Malcolm observed: “We were truly all the same (brothers) - because their belief in one God had removed the ‘white’ from their minds, the ‘white’ from their behaviour, and the ‘white’ from their attitude. I could see from this, that perhaps if white Americans could accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps, too, they could accept, in reality the Oneness of Man - and cease to measure, and hinder, and harm others in terms of their ‘differences’ in color. “With racism plaguing America like an incurable cancer, the so-called ‘Christian’ white American heart should be more receptive to a proven solution to such a destructive problem… But as racism leads America up the suicide path, I do believe, from the experiences I have had with them, that the whites of the younger generation, in the colleges and universities, will see the handwriting on the wall and many of them will turn to the spiritual path of truth - the only way left to America to ward off the disaster that racism inevitably must lead to.” What could Malcolm have meant by the spiritual path of truth? Consider just one connection between his observation quoted above, and one of the famous commands issued in the Quran, a book he was now carefully studying, concerning people of monotheistic faith in general, but especially Jews and Christians: Say, “People of scripture, come to terms common between us and you, that we will worship only God, and not associ-
ate anything with God, and that none of us will take others for lords instead of God.” Malcolm knew that the key crisis of the human condition is linked to patterns of behaviour that are characterised by some taking others as lords instead of, or alongside, God, attributing efficacious power to them, and in doing so, accepting the injustice of the systems set up by those that they have taken as lords. Malcolm understood that he had to call all people to common terms. He had to tell the truth about the human condition, that we are unjust when we take others for lords instead of God. He understood that throughout modern history, injustice became systematic, as in the case of racism, when people worshipped, or “idolised” other than God - race, nation, or ideology.
In our nihilistic age of superficiality, it has become tragically easy to reduce this remarkable human being, characterised by utter devotion to the truth, into a mere symbol on hats and t-shirts sold for popular consumption. Malcolm knew what was at stake for humanity when this happened in the understanding of Islam: our very salvation is compromised when we allow unjust systems to prevail. Bravely, he dedicated his life to fighting the forms that injustice took, not with firearms, but with his tongue and his pen, two of the most effective and humane of weapons. He fought against racism in America locally as well as the unjust infringement upon human rights internationally. In his eyes, people of faith in God and the brotherhood of humanity needed to work together. This challenge still stands today. In our nihilistic age of superficiality, it has become tragically easy to reduce this remarkable human being, characterised by utter devotion to the truth, into a symbol that is merely slapped on hats and t-shirts sold for popular consumption. It has become common to reduce his intellectual insights, those that appealed to our common sense and those that were more subtle into simplistic slogans to be chanted at political protests, or worse yet, to be used in commercials and movies as it suits the interests of profiteers who care not for Malcolm or the significance of his struggle. Let us not neglect the attempt to understand Malcolm as he was with all of his complexity, beauty, and greatness. Malcolm left us his autobiography, named by Time magazine as one of the top ten non-fiction works of the 20th century, to allow those who came after him a glimpse of who and what he was. Yet the nature of that text for anyone who reads it is that it is rich in meaning with ample room for interpretation. Let us not join clamouring mobs or special interest tribes competing for legitimacy by claiming Malcolm exclusively for themselves. Let us instead embrace him as he was - love everything good about him, and appreciate the truth for which he fearlessly died. Let us honour how he lived by taking the best of it and living it for ourselves with all our hearts. Though forty years have passed since his journey homeward, even so, we remember. ! Rizwan Mohammad is an honours student at the University of Toronto. Q - NEWS
OUR PRIDE WAS
IT WAS BENJAMIN KARIM WHO HANDED OVER THE PODIUM TO MALCOLM X MOMENTS BEFORE HE WAS ASSASSINATED. FEW KNEW MALCOLM AS WELL. AFTER ALL, KARIM WAS HIS ASSISTANT MINISTER DURING THE TURBULENT NATION OF ISLAM YEARS AND LATER AT THE MUSLIM MOSQUE INC . KARIM REMEMBERS, HERE, THE PRIVATE MOMENTS OF MINISTER MALCOLM X.
alcolm’s attic room told you this was a place where someone worked and thought. I think you’d have felt Malcolm’s presence in his study even when he wasn’t there, and when he was, the walls, it seemed, could barely contain his intellectual energy. The bookshelves told you some of what Malcolm was reading or had read, from the complete Shakespeare, which he loved for the language, to the histories of the Moors in Spain to astronomy to Mendel’s genetics. On the shelves you could find, too, some of what Malcolm had said. Malcolm often taped his lectures at meetings and rallies so that he could review them afterward. Up in the solitude of his attic study he would play them back and analyse them, and then maybe revise them, perfect them. Malcolm worked constantly to perfect both what he spoke and how he spoke it. Just before dawn, Malcolm would again be up so that he could say his first prayers before sunrise. Like Einstein and Edison, Malcolm did not need but four hours of sleep each night. Still, he never lacked energy for his work. Between his time studying at home and the long hours attending to his ministry at the mosque, Malcolm regularly worked sixteen or eighteen hours a day, and sometimes twenty. I don’t remember that he ever took a vacation, other than his visit to Cassius Clay’s (Muhammad Ali) training camp, or that he took a day off sick. As heavy as Malcolm’s schedule was, especially those years in the sixties before his suspension (from the Nation of Islam), it was bound on occasion to run him down, but it never knocked him out. Malcolm always met his commitment. I sometimes wondered how. I remember times before a speech or lecture when Malcolm would be so tired and hoarse that he could barely speak to me sitting next to him. When he’d get up to the podium, though, he would soon be preaching with such force you’d think he wouldn’t need a microphone to reach even a deaf person in the last row of the audience. Of course, after he’d finish, what voice he had left sounded more like a croak than a whisper. A night that I particularly remember during one of those periods that Malcolm was really being overtaxed by his schedule, he and I were driving up Bridgeport for a meeting at the mosque. Suddenly we veered. Malcolm quickly righted the car and then pulled over to the side of the road. We had been driving inside the speed limit but Malcolm had been driving himself into exhaustion. With a heavy sigh he leaned back behind the wheel. “Can you
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drive, Brother Benjamin?” he asked me. I told him I could, “Do you have a license, Brother Benjamin?” he asked. I answered no, and he replied, “Well, then, you can’t drive, can you, Brother Benjamin?” Dead tired as he was, he wouldn’t let me drive without a license. He pulled himself out of the car and shook himself awake in the cold Connecticut night. He gargled with some Listerine to freshen his mouth. He perked himself up further with a few deep breaths of the chilly air. Feeling a little better, he slid back in behind the wheel of his Oldsmobile and drove the remaining eighteen miles or so to Bridgeport, where he lectured with such vitality, that you would have thought the man had just risen from a restful bed. At the blackboard or at the lectern Malcolm never flagged. Teaching exhilarated him. However, tired or terrible he might feel, Malcolm would not fail to meet his commitment to them, his brothers and sisters. Malcolm dressed for his people. So did all the assistant ministers. Our suits and ties, our uniforms did more than identify our brotherhood. They also showed our respect for each other and our people. Malcolm wore any suit the way you would a uniform. The trousers would be perfectly creased, the jacket pressed, the white shirt fresh, his tie knotted neatly and right up to the neck - always. You might catch Malcolm with his shirt tails hanging over a pair of dungarees if he was pitching in to help a brother paint his house or you might discover him in overalls, and his face smudged with grease, when he pushed himself out from under a brother’s car, but you would never find him - or any of us - with his tie loosened around his neck (“What size shirt do you wear brother?” he would ask you the one only time you’d loosen your tie at the neck. “Fifteen and a half,” you might reply. Then he’d ask you what size shirt you were wearing that day. Maybe a little mystified, you’d again reply fifteen and a half. “Well,” Malcolm would return, “you’d better go out and buy yourself a sixteen, because it looks to me like you need more room around the neck.”) Time hounded Malcolm’s consciousness. One day Malcolm noticed that his gold, spring-wound wristwatch had begun to lose time. He had evidently but uncharacteristically neglected to wind it. So that he could reset it correctly, he asked one of the brothers the time. After checking his watch and reading Malcolm the time, the brother added that he kept his watch running five minutes fast so that he could be wherever he had to be five minutes before he had to be there. That way he’d not be late. Malcolm responded
Malcolm regularly worked sixteen or eighteen hours a day, and sometimes twenty. I don’t remember that he ever took a vacation, other than his visit to Muhammad Ali’s training camp, or that he took a day off sick. With Muhammad Ali, wife Betty and daughters Ataullah, Qubilah and Ilyasah, (1963-1964) by Robert L. Haggins
with surprising vehemence. He told the young brother never to set his watch ahead of the correct time. Being on time, said Malcolm, did not mean arriving five minutes early. That was merely wasting time, he said. He explained that our lives are measured by time, so we shouldn’t lose the time that we might spend any number of times every day waiting five minutes for a time that according to our watches has already been and gone. After that all the brothers set their watches on the correct time. Being on time did not mean arriving five minutes late, either. Malcolm did not tolerate unpunctuality. On one of the occasions that the mosque was sponsoring an excursion to a special Nation of Islam meeting in Philadelphia we chartered several buses so that the brothers and sisters from Number Seven could travel as a group with Brother Malcolm and the assistant ministers. One person arrived for the buses at the mosque a half hour after our scheduled departure time, and so made every other one of us thirty minutes late. We were all put out. I could tell Malcolm was rankled, but he hid his irritation until our next meeting at the mosque. That Sunday he informed us that Number Seven was not one of those so called Negro organisations that accommodated itself to one person’s behindhand habits or another’s lackadaisical pace. Punctuality, he said, demonstrated Muslim self discipline and attested to our respect for sisters and brothers who valued their time. Malcolm then announced that on all future excursions charted buses would depart no more than five minutes after the scheduled time, no matter who had not arrived. A half dozen brothers and sisters arrived six or seven minutes for our next excursion. They missed the bus. I don’t think Malcolm’s mind ever stopped. His eyes seemed always to be quick with concern or alive with thought, even when he was relaxing over a cup of coffee and a piece of bean pie. He could be easily matching someone’s wit or fully enjoying a lengthy anecdote at the same time that his mind was running on another, totally different track, and his hands were rarely quiet. All the while we’d be sitting at a table in the temple restaurant or in Malcolm’s booth at 22 West, Malcolm would be doodling. If he wasn’t doodling, Malcolm was doing everything else you’ve seen an earnest man do in a hospital waiting room while his first child is being born. He was pacing, he was tapping his fingers and feet. He was like a piece of jelly, and his fourth cup of pale coffee was turning as cold as the three before it. He was chattery. One minute he’d be talking about temple business and the next he would again be telling us that he had decided to name the child after the king of the Huns, who was also known as the Scourge of God, if the child was a boy, although you couldn’t really predict these things as the boy might in fact be a girl, but he somehow hadn’t been counting on that, or so he guessed, because he hadn’t come up with any other name that that. Eventually a doctor came down the corridor. Malcolm stopped pacing. He discovered that he was the father of a healthy baby girl. He glowed, and whatever he may have predicted or expected didn’t matter at all. He gave the baby the one name he had: Attila. Malcolm really didn’t speak that much about his family, but he’d sometimes mention how his mother’s mind had been broken by the hard times in America’s thirties and by his father’s death at the hand of white supremacists. Malcolm did not believe his father was accidentally killed on streetcar tracks; he claimed that a gag was in his father’s mouth when the body was first found. White supremacists and a white man’s economy, then, had finished what a generation earlier a white slave master had begun. Malcolm’s mother had been born of miscegenation; her mother had been raped by a white slave owner. Malcolm bore his moth-
Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali after Ali won the heavy-weight championship from Sonny Liston, 26 February 1964, by Bob Gomel.
er’s colour in his light skin and reddish hair and maybe, too, in the gray shadows of his eyes. He said sometimes he hated it. He hated the oppressor’s whiteness of it. Malcolm wanted his skin to be the same colour as his soul. Pure black. I’ve known no one more purely or more proudly black than Malcolm. He taught that pride to us all. Pride was what he was teaching us in his lectures on self-discipline and self-respect as well as in his personal example of continual self improvement. Pride lay in discovering our capabilities and extending them, even with a hoarse throat. It lay in obeying the law, in properly knotting a tie, in arriving on time. Pride brought real hope to the birth of a child. Our pride was black, and with Malcolm we learned to find it both in ourselves and in each other. ! Benjamin Karim now lives in Virginia. Q - NEWS
MALCOLM X & THE KOCHIYAMAS YURI KOCHIYAMA HELD MALCOLM X IN HER ARMS AS HE LAY DYING ON THE STAGE OF THE AUDUBON BALLROOM IN NEW YORK ON 21 FEBRUARY 1965. SHE WAS ONE OF HIS CLOSEST SUPPORTERS DURING THE LAST TUMULTUOUS YEAR OF HIS LIFE. HERE SHE WRITES OF HER FIRST MEETING WITH THE MAN SHE CAME TO CALL HER “NORTH STAR”. ne of the moments my family and I will never forget is when Malcolm X came to our apartment in the Harlem’s Manhattenville Projects on 6 June 1964, a year and a half before he was assassinated. The special occasion was a reception for the three writers of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki World Peace Study Mission, who were on a world tour speaking against the proliferation of nuclear arms building. These three Hibakusha (“atomic bomb survivors”, see image) wanted desperately to meet Malcolm X. We wrote a month in advance to Malcolm at his 125th Street office but we received no word. People said he would never come. After all, he did not know us, and the time was dangerous for Malcolm. He had left the Nation of Islam only three months earlier. There were also rumours that Malcolm might be killed, but who would kill him? Who would benefit by his death? The Black movement activists felt the American power structure would benefit, not the Nation of Islam. Meanwhile, we called the Harlem Parents Committee (HPC) to help organise a reception for Malcolm. HPC members were not Malcolm followers; they were a multinational civil rights group but they responded with great enthusiasm because they too wanted to meet Malcolm. Despite the uncertainty, we proceeded with plans for cultural performances, a few speakers, and light refreshments. News that Malcolm might be at our home circulated by word of mouth. That day, the Kochiyama family waited excitedly. The Hibakusha writers first visited a Black school and a Black church. Then they decided they wanted to walk around Harlem by themselves and not with their overly protective white hosts. They had lunch at a restaurant called 22 on 135th street, where Malcolm used to eat. They met some Black nursing students who recognised the Hibakusha who were on a television program the night before. Then the group walked all the way to 114th street. This was Jesse Gray’s area, where the World’s Worst Fair was taking place while the regular tourist attraction fair was held at Flushing Meadows in Queens. Harlem activists thought of the unique idea of opening up a “fair” in one of the most impoverished blocks in Harlem so that “tourists” could see how some people in Harlem had to live under the supervision of uncaring landlords and the sanitation department. The Hibakusha writers saw the realities of Harlem: living quarters with broken windows, broken staircases, toilets that didn’t flush and clogged up bathtubs, and garbage piled high on the streets. By the time the Hibakusha arrived at our home the house began to pack up. Everyone was curious to know if Malcolm was really going to come. Shortly after the program began, there was a knock on the door - and there was Malcolm. He had three security men with him, but they blended so well with the crowd that we were not
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aware Malcolm brought anyone with him. When we later checked the guest book, we saw that three MMI (Muslim Mosque Inc) men did sign. Upon entering the house, Malcolm first said that he was sorry he hadn’t answered any of my letters to him; he did not have my address. He further remarked that should he travel again, he would remember to write to me. He did as he promised, writing me eleven times from nine different countries. As he walked into the living room, people surged towards him, wanting to shake his hand. He was gracious with everyone. The living room, kitchen, and hallway were crowded. He shook hands with as many people he could reach out to. People were impressed with his warmth even before he began to talk. Malcolm first thanked the Hibakusha for taking the time to go to Harlem. He said something to the effect of “You have been scarred by the atom bomb. You just saw that we have also been scarred. The bomb that hit us was racism.” He went on to divulge that he spent some years in prison, where he educated himself. He read everything he could get his hands on, including Asian history, which wasn’t too different from the history of Africa. He said that almost all of Asia, like Africa, was colonised except for Japan. But he explained that because Japan did not have natural resources like other Asian countries, she was untouched by European powers. Thus, Japan was able to develop and remain until World War II when she was defeated. “But now”, he said, “There are American bases there.” He spoke of the People’s Republic of China and Mao Tse-tung. He admired Mao because he simultaneously took on feudalism, government corruption, and foreign incursion. He also thought Mao was correct in showing preferential treatment to the peasants rather than the workers because it was the peasants who were feeding such a large country. He also spoke of Vietnam: “If America sends troops to Vietnam, you progressives should protest. America is already sending American advisors.” He also strongly commented that “the struggle of Vietnam is the struggle of the whole Third World: the struggle against colonialism, neo-colonialism, and imperialism.” Unfortunately, Malcolm did not live long enough to see the growth of the anti-war movement in this country. Malcolm was so ahead of his time. He predicted much of what was to come in the last year that he lived. No wonder he became such a revered icon. However, we must understand that Malcolm was not lionized by the press. In fact, he was demonised by the press and those in power. Malcolm was considered a threat to those who oppressed and marginalised the poor. Despite how the newspapers deprecated him during the 1950s and 1960s, he was loved and admired by those “at the bottom” - the poor and powerless -
especially in the Black communities in Harlem. To them, Malcolm was a hero who was not afraid to speak the truth. Malcolm must be seen in his many dimensions: as a loving father, a devoted husband, a strong Muslim, and a man who had good rapport with the Black communities. He was also one who transformed from a Black Nationalist to a Pan-Africanist, and then a Revolutionary Internationalist. He also transformed from being a petty criminal when racism closed options in his life to a political leader who opened doors not only for himself but for all people. He taught his people to be proud of their African heritage, to recognise the hard road they had come, to seek new paths for liberation, and to fight against all the negativities in American society. He taught them to challenge racism, inequities, marginalisation, and police brutality. In the social and political battles that he led, he taught all kinds of people how to fight for a more just society. Malcolm travelled widely, not only to Black communities and university campuses around U.S, but also to the Middle East, Africa, and twice to England. His recognition and acceptance everywhere made the U.S. government feel more threatened. Malcolm began to be followed by the CIA. He was poisoned while he was in Egypt. Other problems with his own organisation brought a rift with his leader, Elijah Muhammad. On 21 February 1965 Malcolm was assassinated while speaking to his own Organisation of African-American Unity and Muslim Mosque followers at the Audubon Ballroom where he spoke weekly. I was in the audience when Malcolm was assassinated and immediately ran on stage as soon as he fell to the floor. Cradling his head in my hands, I was shocked. Only one of his killers was apprehended. Two others were arrested, but there was controversy over their arrest. His sudden death was devastating for Harlem, for other Black communities, and for the Black liberation movement. However, the movement could not be extinguished. The movement continued doggedly but also in spurts. New faces, younger and more militant, filled the gap of the struggle. The movement mushroomed and became more radical. To give some sense of what Malcolm’s death meant to me, I share here something I wrote two weeks after his assassination which appeared in the 11 March 1965 issue of the New York Nichibei: Denounced as a hater, it is enlightening to note that what Malcolm hated were: tyranny, oppression, disfranchisement, exploitation, enslavement- whether physical, mental or psychological, race humiliation and stigmatizing, stultifying conditions and limited job opportunities, inferior education and sub standard housing for his people, U.S. economic and political aggression internationally, and the degrading of human lives. What he loved was carefully omitted from the white press. He loved humanity; the quality of being a human being. He loved dignity; the attribute of being esteemed. He loved justice; the principle of dealing justly. He loved freedom, the state of being free, the absence of restraint of repression. He loved life in its wholeness and
One of the eleven postcards Malcolm X sent to the Kochiyamas from his travels.
beauty, unconfined with passionate compassion. He died young, an ebullient, energising package of vitality, strength, knowledge and perception. He articulated eloquently, he exuded fortitude. He was a scholar, but not dogmatic nor pedantic. He spoke the language of his people in the ghetto; he understood what they were subjected to; and aligned himself to the most rejected and degraded. He could electrify a room by his presence; magnetise an audience, but he was no mystic. His source of being profound was his sincerity, humility, forbearance, selflessness, and a keen sensitiveness to the needs of others. His most generous gift to his people were the hours, days, months, and years - the unlimited time that he spent speaking to them on the street, and in halls to liberate their indoctrinated minds and wills. Malcolm was more than a great man. He was a Curse to those who stole the rights of Black people. He was an Epic, who personified heroic action. He was an Epoch, the starting point of a new period of a striking event. He was a Phenomenon, a rare fact or an exceptional person. He was a Fountainhead, a source of a stream from which emanated strength and hope. To have lived in the same era as his remarkable man should be a personal gain of new perceptions in the affirmation of humanity. I wrote this at a very emotional moment when Malcolm’s passing was heavily felt. It was at a time when hundreds, if not thousands, of poets, writers, philosophers, and political activists, were expressing their feelings about Malcolm in different ways. Generations to come will also feel the impact of Malcolm, for such an icon rarely emerges. Perhaps the most succinct and genuine description of Malcolm was the reply that Jean Reynolds, a Harlemite and one of Malcolm’s most faithful followers, made: “Malcolm was the truth.” He certainly spoke the truth to me, and he was very much like the North Star: the most brilliant of all stars, which charts the course for all who follow. ! Yuri Kochiyama, 77, is a celebrated human rights activist and the author of Passing It On, a moving memoir of her life, from which this article was excerpted. Q - NEWS
ON THE EDGE OF LIFE HOWARD DODSON COULDN’T BELIEVE HIS EYES
PRIVATE LETTERS, DIARIES AND NEVER BEFORE
SEEN PHOTOGRAPHS OF MALCOLM X WERE BEING SOLD ON EBAY FOR PEANUTS. HE TELLS THE INCREDIBLE STORY OF HOW THE ITEMS WERE SAVED AND GIVES AN EXTRAORDINARY AND EXCLUSIVE INSIGHT INTO WHAT THEY REVEAL ABOUT A MAN WHO LIBERATED A GENERATION. friend, who is a Malcolm X aficionado and collector, directed me to a specific sale on eBay. I saw images of letters, diaries, and photographs and I immediately recognised Malcolm X’s handwriting, since I had previously worked on his letters. They seemed authentic. The photographs were certainly of him. Since I had a strong friendship with Betty Shabazz and her daughters, I called to ask what they knew. They didn’t know the items were for sale. However, I learnt that one of the daughters had packed her belongings and moved to Florida. She had put the documents in storage, but didn’t pay the storage fees. The storage company then decided to sell the contents of the lockers to recover the amount owed. The buyer did not know what was inside them - he was in the business of buying and selling repossessed bits and pieces in flea markets, where he tried to sell some the documents. It later dawned on him that his find was actually worth something. So he eventually took it to Butterfields, an auction house in California, who organised the eBay auction. The family managed to get a series of injunctions to stop the sale, and with their lawyers, they negotiated a deal to regain the items. The family then agreed on its preservation through the Schomburg Centre. It has now been in the deposit at the centre for the last year and will be here for the next 75 years, subject to renewal after that. These documents cover the period of Malcolm X’s life from the early 1960s onwards, although there is some correspondence from prison. The bulk of them deal with the Nation of Islam and the period of time when Malcolm was travelling abroad and setting up the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Thus far, no one but the staff of the Schomburg has access to the material. We expect research on the documents to be completed by May, when we open an eagerly anticipated exhibition featuring the recovered items. Whether the whole set of documents will be released is entirely dependent on the family but a significant amount will be put in the exhibition, including 300 rare photographs. There are three things that struck me as I went gone through this remarkable collection. We always thought Malcolm spoke extemporaneously, since he spoke directly to the audience with clarity and passion. What is clear from the documents is that Malcolm X rarely did anything extemporaneously; he always had a fully written text or very detailed, meticulous notes of his speeches. Also, people tend to forget that before he was an activist, Malcolm X was, first and foremost, a minister. The depth of his religious beliefs are clearly evident from these documents. In fact, it was a determinant factor in everything he did. In addition, we don’t often see pictures of him with his family. People are not aware of his family life, but we have a rich collection of photos and correspondence which show the strength his family life and the incredible love he had for Betty and his children. Perhaps it was because he was in prison, and prisoners generally write often, but Malcolm X would write letters and postcards
with almost every move he made. There are a lot of his own personal thoughts and ideas within these documents, which will be revelatory. I know many scholars who are constantly looking for new material. In these documents, they will find things to clarify and illuminate the extraordinary life that he lived. I did not know him, but I saw him speak. Whenever he spoke, you knew he was walking on the edge of life. In segregated America there were certain things that were risky to say and if they were said, it could mean death. Malcolm X was on that edge. He was incapable of not telling the truth as he saw it. His speaking had the power of arousing the questions that we most feared to ask, but that we had to confront. Listening to him produced a kind of rage in me (and others) that I felt I could not always control. At times when he spoke it became a source of fear and fright because he had the ability of unleashing thoughts and actions that I thought I needed to keep suppressed. It liberated me. When racial segregation crumbled due to the civil rights movement, the personal suppression of ideas and views began to diminish. And I personally, as an intellectual, felt that there were no questions I had to fear asking. Malcolm X, however, did this at a much more dangerous time than that which we are living in today. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were prepared to die for their cause. People today don’t believe strongly enough in anything. We need to find something that is sufficiently meaningful in our lives that we are prepared to risk everything for. I am talking about morals, ethics and issues related to justice and righteous living. That kind of commitment is not alive in the current generation. But that’s the principal legacy of Malcolm X.
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Cairo Mosque, 1964, taken by John Launois.
SEARCHING FOR MALCOLM FROM APRIL TO OCTOBER 1963, MALCOLM X SERVED AS INTERIM MINISTER FOR THE NATION OF ISLAM’S TEMPLE NO. 4 IN WASHINGTON, DC. IT WAS A PIVOTAL YEAR
HE WOULD LEAVE ELIJAH
MUHAMMAD AND BEGIN HIS JOURNEY TO ORTHODOX ISLAM. NABILA MUNAWAR VISITS THE MOSQUE WHERE MALCOLM PREACHED, HOPING TO FIND SOMETHING OF HIS SPIRIT STILL THERE. However we may have differed with him - or with each other about him and his value as a man - let his going from us serve only to bring us together, now. Consigning these mortal remains to earth, the common mother of all, secure in the knowledge that what we place in the ground is no more now a man - but a seed which after the winter of our discontent, will come for the again to meet us. - Ossie Davis. t was a beautiful, crisp autumn day - a day for walking. I wrapped myself up in a cosy sweater, threw a scarf over my shoulder and went out into the brilliant October sunshine. The cool air bit at my skin and the fallen leaves crunched underfoot. This walk, however, had a special purpose. Visiting my sister in Washington DC, I learned that Malcolm X had once ministered, for short period of time, at a Nation of Islam temple in the city, which was now a mosque. After years of studying Malcolm’s life, I wanted to finally touch something that would bring him back to life for me. I walked down the street, the address clutched in my hand. Trucks made their deliveries. Children played on the road. People went about their business. I found the small house nestled between other similar houses. I compared the house number to the address in my hand. It was the right place but it didn’t look like a mosque. It definitely didn’t feel like I was at Malcolm’s mosque. I asked the men sitting on the steps, “Was this Malcolm X’s temple?” They nodded and led me inside. As I climbed the steps I began to feel nervous. What was I looking for? “You don’t want to go there,” someone had told me earlier, “they are not real Muslims.” I opened the front door and looked around. It was a real mosque and before me were real Muslims, praying real prayers. What was unmistakable was the feeling that this was an incredibly spiritual place. My heart immediately felt at ease. At first glance, it was like any other mosque I had been to except that everyone who passed me smiled and said “Assalamu alaikum Sister!” or “Can I help you?” or “How are you doing?” How strange, I thought, and unusual to be in a mosque where people greeted each other with warmth. It was not something I was used to. I looked around curiously, hoping to find some clue that would help me get closer to understanding Malcolm X. It was his mosque after all and I felt like I was on the verge of a great discovery, that something or someone would jump out at me and say, “This is Malcolm X”. The hallway leading towards the prayer room was painted white and green. Here and there on the walls were plaques with verses from the Quran and flyers for upcoming events. There was a buzz in the place - it was almost time for Friday prayers. A young boy, no more than five years old, walked out of the wudu area. “Assalamu alaikum,” I said. He looked up at me, water trickling down his beautiful face, and gave me a toothy smile. It was contagious. “Walaikum salam, Sister”, he exclaimed as he ran
to keep up with his father. “I want to learn about Malcolm X,” I said to several people who asked if I needed help. They nodded their heads knowingly. The more time I spent there, the more I realised that I had it all wrong. Malcolm would not be found in the things I could touch and feel. Malcolm was in the intangible things. He was in the warmth of the congregation. He was in the humour and generosity of their conversation. He was in the beauty and sincerity in their welcome. He was in the strength and confidence of their convictions. Malcolm was in the smile of that little boy. Sitting down in the prayer room waiting for the sermon to begin, I thought of my first introduction to Malcolm. Studying the civil rights movement in my high school American History class, I recalled reading a brief overview of his life. It was so poorly written that it didn’t even mention that he was a Muslim - the one thing I already knew. The next day at the mosque I asked one of the community elders about Malcolm X. “Why do you want to know?” he said. “You don’t need to learn about him,” he responded, “Malcolm X did some bad things.” And that was that. Years later, it became obvious that this kind of response was part of the racism that prevented us from learning about our heroes. He was black. He went to jail. Enough said. I decided to read the Autobiography of Malcolm X. Then I studied his speeches, read his published letters, and read the memoirs of those who knew him. I looked at his pictures and began to feel close to him. Justice, equality, honour, truthfulness - these were things that I associated with the Blessed Prophet, peace be upon him, and his companions. Malcolm took these Prophetic ideals seriously - he lived and died by them. After a pleasant Jummah prayer and a delicious lunch it was time for me to leave. As I stepped outside, a feeling of sadness came over me. I sat on the steps. I didn’t want to go. I thought about what it must have been like to talk to Malcolm, to look up at him, to have been his friend. I felt a great sense of loss. I wondered if our children learnt about Malcolm X in their mosques and Sunday schools. I began weeping for what we had lost with his passing. The day was descending into dusk and the cold began to settle in. I wiped my eyes and started to leave. By now a large group of people had now gathered in the mosque’s front garden to plant seeds and bulbs. I promised myself I would come back. And come back I did. The following spring, I made another visit. Walking through the mosque, I felt like I was visiting an old friend. There was no reason to despair Malcolm’s absence. Our Prophet sacrificed for us and taught us to never be hopeless. Malcolm’s legacy was enough for us to take heart. As I left and got to the bottom of the stairs, I looked towards the garden and smiled. The seeds that were planted not too long ago had already begun to bloom. ! Q - NEWS
THE WORLD IS
MALCOLM X, ON THE EVE OF HIS DEATH, WAS FORMULATING A PROFOUNDLY GLOBAL APPROACH TO INJUSTICE. IF THE SITUATION IN THE CONGO WASN’T STRAIGHTENED OUT, HE DECLARED, THERE WAS NO HOPE FOR MISSISSIPPI. DRAWING ON MALCOLM’S PERSONAL EXPERIENCES, TRAVELS AND READING OF HISTORY, JAMES TYNER EXPLORES HIS GEOPOLITICAL THOUGHT.
alcolm X vividly displays a transformative element, a process of geopolitical maturation that is rooted in personal experience and ground level reality. In his speeches, we find critical elements of his own transformation, of his understanding not only what “race” and racism are, but how to confront these. Malcolm X emphasised the underlying structural factors that facilitate racialised violence. Rather than perpetuating an essentialist conception of race and crime, Malcolm X honed in on the existent social, political, and economic inequalities of society and, consequently challenged the dominant “public” explanations of these events. His speeches thus, articulate a nuanced understanding of the interconnections of race, place and representation and how the power to construct knowledge is critical for the lives of everyday people. Malcolm X grounded his political thought in casual observations, as well as his and his audience’s experiences. W.W. Sales for example, argues that Malcolm defined history not just as what was in the books but also as that which could be validated by the collective experiences of black people. Sales, again, declares, “Malcolm X rooted his knowledge in history. He did not approach history as an unconnected and unique sequence of facts.” In his Message to the Grassroots, Malcolm X explained, “When you see you’ve got problems all you have to do is examine the historic method around the world by others who have got problems similar to yours. Once you see how they got theirs straight then you know how you can get yours straight.” But I am equally interested in the geography behind Malcolm’s political thought. In the previous quote for example, Malcolm alludes to the importance of learning from geographic comparisons. I highlight two geographical components of Malcolm X: his articulation of geographically imaginations and the local/global connections of racism and geography. For Malcolm X, his experiences - his ground-level reality - did not conform with the rhetoric of the hegemonic society, nor with the rhetoric of the Civil Rights movement. In a December 1964 speech, Malcolm spoke of image making. Malcolm argued that, “Anytime black people in this country are not able to be controlled by the man, the press immediately begins to label those black people as irresponsible or as extremists”. In these statements, Malcolm X indicates an understanding of the complex interactions of power, knowledge, and the representation people, places, and events - themes that resonate in contemporary debates of social theory. These are seen most clearly in the writings of
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Frantz Fanon, Michel Foucault, and Edward Said. In Orientalism, as a case in point, Said is concerned with the production of “the Orient” as distinct from the western “Occident”. Said explains: “The Orient was almost a European invention and had been since antiquity a place of romance, exotic beings, haunting memories and landscapes, remarkable experiences… the Orient has helped to define Europe (or the West) as its contrasting image, idea, personality, experience. Yet none of the Orient is merely imaginative. The Orient is an integral part of European material civilization and culture” Just as Orientalism defined the West in a relational sense, so too has the discursive construction of African Americans defined whiteness. Malcolm understood the power of representations and the control of knowledge and how their use was critical in the construction of not only African Americans but also of non-white spaces. Speaking at the Corn Hill Methodist Church in Rochester, New York, Malcolm elaborated on the interconnection of power, knowledge, and representations: “They take the press, and through the press, they feed statistics… call them crime statistics to the white public. Because the white public is divided. Some mean good, and some don’t. The racists, that are usually very influential in the society, don’t make their move without trying first to get public opinion on their side. When they want to suppress and oppress the black community, they take these statistics, and through the press, they feed them to the public. They make it appear that the rate of crime in the black community is higher than it is everywhere else.” Malcolm X was articulating a form of Orientalism, a discursive construction of the black community. In this speech, he continued: “This message - a very skilful message used by racists to make the whites who aren’t racists think that since the rate of crime in the black community is so high, this paints the black community in the image of a criminal. It makes it appear that everyone in the black community is a criminal. And as soon as this impression is given, then it paves the way to set up a police-type state in the black community, getting the full approval of the white public when the police come in and use all kind of brutal methods to suppress black people.” The (negative) representations of African Americans, therefore, provided a critical building block to the development of his political thought - an idea that reappears in contemporary discussions of race and racism. Malcolm X understood that the construction of negative images of African Americans facilitated the perpetuation of racist and discriminatory practices. For him, these representa-
Cairo Mosque, 1964, taken by John Launois.
tions fostered an environment that facilitated an unconscious perpetuation of exploitation and oppression. Accordingly, it is this context of racial representations that allowed Susan Smith, in 1994, to claim she was the victim of a car jacking by an armed black male and that her children were abducted along with the car. The assailant never existed; indeed, Smith had drawn upon stock representations of “Black Criminals” to divert attention from the fact that she herself had murdered her children. Representations for Malcolm X served to obfuscate the connections between the discrimination toward African Americans with processes of imperialism abroad. Accordingly, a second geographically component of Malcolm X’s method was to connect, spatially, the violence that was occurring in the United States with the violence perpetuated in other parts of the world. A dominant theme in the speeches of Malcolm X was that civil rights and foreign relations were historically treated as two separate categories, and yet in reality were inseparable. In his speech on 13 December 1964, Malcolm X implored his audience to recognise that, “As long as we think… that we should get Mississippi straightened out before we worry about the Congo, you’ll never get Mississippi straightened out…we have to realise what part our struggle has in the overall world struggle.” In this way, Malcolm X drew upon a long and established practice of African Americans to globalise their oppression and exploitation. During World War I, for example, NAACP President Morefield Story argued that since African Americans were risking their lives to make America safe for democracy, the nation must “make America safe for Americans”. Thus, in his Message to the Grass Roots speech, Malcolm X, for example asserted, “If violence is wrong in America, violence is wrong abroad. If it is wrong to be violent defending black women, black children, black babies, and black men, then it is wrong for America to draft us and make us violent abroad in defence of her. And if it is right for America to draft us, and teach us how to be violent in defence of her, then it is right for you and me to do whatever is necessary to defend our own people right here in this country.” Through this linkage, Malcolm X argued that the United States
was a microcosm of global imperialism. His speeches reveal a geopolitical understanding that connected discriminatory practices in the United States with imperialistic foreign policy practices such as the war in Vietnam and the revolution and assassination of Patrice Lamumba in the Congo. Malcolm X re-scaled his understanding of the civil rights movement, claiming that, “It’s a case of realising that the Afro-American problem is not a Negro problem, or an American problem but a human problem, a problem of humanity.” The speeches of Malcolm X thus demonstrate seemingly distant politically events could have an impact on the everyday lives of his audience. In a speech given just days before his assassination, Malcolm X presented his views of the American government: “This society is controlled primarily by the racists and
“If violence is wrong in America, violence is wrong abroad. If it is wrong to be violent defending black women, black children, black babies, and black men, then it is wrong for America to draft us and make us violent abroad in defence of her...” segregationists who are in Washington DC, in positions of power. And from Washington DC, they exercise the same forms of brutal oppression against dark skinned people in South and North Vietnam, or in the Congo, or in Cuba or any other place on this earth where they are trying to exploit and oppress.” Malcolm X identified that this spatial association was a catalyst in transforming his political thought and it was this geographic lesson he attempted to convey to his audiences. On 20 December 1964, for example, Malcolm X explained that “You have to change your method according to time and conditions that prevail. And one of the conditions that prevails right now, that we know little about, is our relationship with the freedom struggle of people all over the world.” Subsequently, Malcolm X, more explicitly developed a geopolitical thought. This connection between the struggles of African Americans with other oppressed peoples of the world was central to Malcolm X’s political thought. This was a spatial connection and was fundamental to his move from civil rights to human rights. He explained that, “It is not a Negro problem, nor an American problem. It is not a problem of civil rights but a problem of human rights.” In an interview in France Malcolm was asked what the Afro American community in France and in Europe could do in the overall struggle. Malcolm responded “The Afro American Community in France and in other parts of Europe must unite with the African community… Unity will give our struggle the a type of strength in spirit that will enable us to make some real concrete progress whether we be in Europe, America, or on the African continent.” This interview indicates the centrality of a Pan-African sentiment in Malcolm’s geopolitical thought that was galvanised by his experiences of travel. On the eve of his death, Malcolm X was formulating an explicitly regional-based, geographically informed understanding of racism and imperialism, an understanding grounded in his personal experiences, travels and reading of history. Geographers and geography, I contend, would do well to listen to the voice of Malcolm X for his thoughts on power/knowledge, representations, and simply our own geographies. ! Q - NEWS
“WE HAVE BEEN DENIED HIS INSIGHT AND HIS PASSION” JAMES TYNER STUMBLED UPON MALCOLM X’S WRITINGS ALMOST BY ACCIDENT. NOW, HE IS ADVANCING AN INNOVATIVE APPROACH TO UNDERSTANDING HIS LEGACY. HE SPOKE TO ABDUL-REHMAN MALIK ABOUT HOW MALCOLM X WAS A MAN AHEAD OF HIS TIME. Your research on Malcolm X is unusual. How did you embark on this path? My wife majored in Pan African Studies and took a course on Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. I knew about Malcolm X, but I didn’t know him well. I found that Malcolm X referred to geographical concepts in a very sophisticated way but he was largely absent, like many black radical intellectuals, from literature on political geography. Geography is deeper than the study of place names and landforms. It looks at the construction and representation of place, identity and the interaction between the two. Malcolm X was forging a territorial understanding of the problems of his people. He spoke of separatism in terms of control of resources, communal protection and development. Your work explicitly sees Malcolm X as a theorist.What is his greatest contribution to our understanding of place and identity? Malcolm X was ahead of this time. He understood the crucial role of social and political construction when it came to particular types of knowledge. If we look at Edward Said and his theories of Orientalism, we realise Malcolm was a step ahead, forwarding a similar concept in terms of how black people were represented in media, in literature, by politicians, and how these representations influenced policy. Malcolm X was not the first black intellectual to theorise about the construction of identity in relation to place Carter Woodson did so at the turn of 20th century but the strength of Malcolm’s argument and the breadth of his intellectual creativity were unique. Black radical intellectuals, in general however, were marginalised as theorists and were only seen as activists and militants even though they were contributing to the knowledge base and criticising it. Many researchers continue to downplay the contribution of Malcolm X. How has the research been received by your academic peers? The reaction has been decidedly mixed, partly because of the popular and erroneous view that Malcolm X was a militant, misogynist and anti-Semitic. His broader messages have been ignored. The literature on Dr Martin Luther King’s life is vast but people are afraid to deal with Malcolm X, because he challenges our conventional assumptions about society. When students begin to explore further his life and works, they are surprised at how articulate and deep he was. Malcolm was very talented in communicating with audiences of different views and persuasions. He took concepts that we are
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learning about today - things like globalisation and the connections between North and South and made it meaningful on a personal level. Students understand this and respond to it. Reviewers persist on pigeon-holing Malcolm X as just an activist. They do not see why geographers should take an interest in him. After all, Malcolm wasn’t a geographer, nor was he an academic. But one reviewer said she was inspired to go back and re-read the autobiography and the collection of his speeches because she had previously failed to realise the immediacy of his ideas to the discipline of geography. What is the legacy of Malcolm X 40 years after his death? We need someone like Malcolm X, now more than ever, and there are few who fit that role. He was willing to criticise American domestic and foreign policy and bring it down to the level of the general public. Today, with our involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq and our potential involvement in Iran, those sorts of local-global connections are lost on the young. Events and places are seen as very disparate. Malcolm X was able to show a person living in Harlem that what was happening in Mississippi had a significant effect on his life. By the same token the US involvement in the Congo and the growing involvement in Vietnam had a direct connection with political events that were taking place in America. He was passionate; he was blunt.
Reviewers persist on pigeon-holing him as “just an activist”, whereas he was an incredibly sophisticated theorist, who challenged our conventional assumptions about society. Having studied Malcolm X so closely, have you developed a “personal relationship” with him? What kinds of emotions does he evoke? I did not meet him; he died before I was born. Sometime, I look intently at his photos and feel as if he is speaking from beyond. There is something in his eyes - a passion and a spirit that I cannot articulate, but that I feel. It is strange - I feel a sense of loss about someone who I was never able know personally. I am turning 39 this year and I have a two year-old daughter. Malcolm was 39 when he died and he was the father of five daughters. He loved them deeply - that is clear from his autobiography. But he also struggled for the kind of world that he wanted his daughters to grow up in. It is that sacrifice and vision that affects me. His insights are just as relevant today. It is a tragedy that we have been denied his insight and his passion over the last few decades because we really need him in our world. ! Dr. James A. Tyner is Associate Professor of Geography at Kent State University. His book The Geography of Malcolm X: Black Radicalism and the Remaking of American Space will soon be released by Routledge. He lives in northeast Ohio with his wife, Belinda, and their daughter, Jessica.
CELEBRATING OUR SHINING
BLACK PRINCE ritain’s urban music underground is hearing the call to faith. Led by the groundbreaking Islamic hip hop group, Mecca 2 Medina, a new generation of Muslim performers are beginning to shake up the scene. Inspired by Islam and moved by the social conditions, identity politics and economic disadvantage of young Muslims, these artists are challenging hip hop’s bling and booty culture with edgy, witty and spiritual lyrics. They are definitely making a connection. A major concert in East London late last year featuring over a dozen performing artists brought the packed house down. Now, they are preparing to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the passing of Malcolm X on 25th February with a concert that is set to bring together leading performers from the UK and North America. Rakin Fetuga, Abdul Karim, Ismael South, Mohammad Sulaiyman, Mustafa Obaidi and Gohar Akhtar spoke to Q-News about the upcoming concert and the impact that El Hajj Malik El Shabazz has had on their lives and music.
As you prepare to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of his assassination, what does Malcolm X mean to you? Rakin Fetuga: Malcolm X is a captivating role model. I can see my own life in his. When I was growing up, I had the ghetto lifestyle. Malcolm’s life story gave me direction. There are many similarities between my path to illumination and his. Malcolm influences me because he stood for truth and his ideas are so relevant today. Black people are still suffering from racism. He inspires me because he was not just a spiritual man but also a political man. He refused to accept the injustices forced not only on his people but all people. Malcolm X came from good parentage. His father was a preacher and he
imparted his knowledge to Malcolm X. Malcolm later became bitter after the death of his father and the institutionalisation of his mother. He temporarily went into a state of madness until he found himself. But once a jewel, always a jewel. Mohammad Sulaiyman: Malcolm X was a mujahid - he struggled in the way of Allah to uplift himself and his community educationally, morally, spiritually and physically. As a Black Muslim he was, as Ossie Davis said in his eulogy, our “shining black prince who wasn’t afraid to die because he loved us so”. I was a confused young person. My father told me to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. It changed my whole life. It felt like he was sitting in my room talking to me. Malcolm inspired me to acquire a Masters degree but I used my intellect for crime. Malcolm X also used his intellect for crime but when he embraced Islam, he changed. When I read the book, I realised there was a better life than this. Abdul Karim: Malcolm X is different. He encompasses every tribulation a black person goes through. He genuinely believed there was a good person in every black man and it was waiting to come out. “By any means necessary” - everyone says it. A traffic warden gives you a car ticket and you say, I’m going to beat him up by any
means necessary; the bills are on top of you and you say, I have got to get out of this, by any means necessary. But when Malcolm X said it, it reflected what everyone was thinking. He said the right things at the right time and he spoke about real issues. This is what is lacking today. Now, if you stand up and speak, people scrutinise you and question your sincerity. Malcolm was sincere. He was real; he came from us and it showed. Malcolm came from the rawness and took what he needed to stand up as an ambassador. I saw an interview with Malcolm X where the interviewer accused him of calling all white people devils. Malcolm’s answer was flawless. You couldn’t catch him, because he knew language and ideas better than the people challenging him. He could speak the language of the street and the language of the white intellectuals who tried to corner him. Ismael South: I first heard about Malcolm X through old reggae and hip hop. Groups like Public Enemy, Eric B and Rakim, and Intelligent Hoodlum used to rap about Malcolm X. It was not until my elder brother, who was interested in Islam at the time, gave me a book called Malcolm X and Afro-American History that I really started to learn about Malcolm. It changed my life. I was shocked to learn that Afro-Americans originally come from Muslim tribes in Africa and how they were enslaved and Christianity was forced upon them. I was enthralled; I began to listen to Malcolm’s speeches. When he speaks, you can hear his heart. I used to think that Malcolm X was the violent one, and Martin Luther King the peaceful one. Malcolm’s life made me realise that a person could be in the worst position but rise to the best of positions, thanks to Allah’s mercy. Mustafa Obaidi: Allah says in the Quran
that He won’t change the state of the people until they change themselves; Malcolm X was a modern example of this ayah. Today we complain about the situation of the Muslims, but nothing will happen unless we change. Malcolm made people see the bigger picture, beyond the black and white. During Hajj, he saw a Chinese man, next to an Arab man, next to a black man who was next to a white man. He taught people to broaden their minds and think big. Young people need to see this.
Malcolm Little, age 18, at the time of a 1944 Boston arrest.
Gohar Akhtar: I first got to know about Malcolm after the Spike Lee film. What I love is his struggle to find the truth. When you attain this truth, you have to stay on the path - something few do. It would have been easier for Malcolm to stay in the Nation of Islam than to have left it. But he needed to find the truth and was never at ease until he did. Malcolm’s life in that respect sums up my inner being. I’m on a spiritual journey, searching and coming closer to the truth with much hope in my heart. When I rap about “positivity” and consciousness, I have Malcolm X in my head. Mohammad: And his struggle was bound to lead to death. The Klan killed Malcolm X’s father, so he knew he was on dangerous ground. In the last few months of his life, he could not eat. He looked haggard because he knew that an assassin’s bullet could take him anytime. But he said he couldn’t give up the message. Even a week before his death, there were people who asked him to take asylum in Africa or the Middle East. Malcolm X said he wouldn’t go because in a way, he was the most American of Americans. Patrick Henry said, “liberty or death.” Malcolm X believed this. America was raised as an ideal nation where everyone, regardless of race, could live in harmony. Malcolm X was calling America back to its roots. Abdul Karim: Malcolm X wasn’t arrogant. He could change, adapt and reform himself if he had to. Today, Muslim leaders cannot even admit a mistake, or admit a change in their ideas. Malcolm X moved forward, never backwards. Malcolm X never spoke without knowledge. When he heard about Elijah Muhammad’s adultery, he went to different people to establish the facts and then confronted Elijah himself. Malcolm was no backbiter.
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Mohammad: Malcolm practised excellence in everything. He was a very handsome man, but he was never in a room alone with a woman - he wanted to remain above every suspicion. He was never late. He went by his watch. Always on time. When they asked his wife Betty Shabazz what made Malcolm X the man that he was, she said it was because he prayed five times a day like clockwork. Forget everything else. It was his spirituality that made him the man that he was. Malcolm X inspired love in people. His friends were from all races, backgrounds and ideologies. There is something spiritual and beautiful about people who can relate to everyone.
Malcolm had, can only be from Allah. Many people know the Quran but this knowledge doesn’t go past their throats. Muslims are straying off the straight path. Malcolm’s example can bring them back to the deen. I am continuously shocked at how many young people don’t know him. Malcolm X said that after he died, “they [would] try to wipe me out of history. But once the book is read the message is kept.” You can burn up the Qurans, but it’s in the hearts of men. Some people see the name “Malcolm X” and they read it as “Malcolm the Tenth” - this is the extent of their ignorance. We need to spread his message. We owe it to Islam. The concert we are organising is small but it’s a start. We hope to one-day start a library and a research centre. Abdul Karim: We don’t even talk about the Prophet anymore. If we read books like the Shifa (of Qadi Iyad), it would reduce us to tears because we would remember what we have lost. We don’t make time anymore. Just talking about Malcolm X right now is inspiring; you just want to get up and do something. What does this concert hope to accomplish?
Rakin: Malcolm X took good advice from women. Betty Shabazz gave him advice; Ella Collins, his sister, gave him advice. She left the Nation of Islam before him, and paid for his Hajj trip. Malcolm X had a deep respect for women, which is more than can be said about the scholars of today who do not listen to their women. Muslims are often quick to condemn the Nation of Islam.What has its impact been on Malcolm and African Americans in general? Abdul Karim: The Nation of Islam was instrumental in shaping Malcolm’s values. We need to learn not to disrespect the Nation of Islam. It was an important stepping-stone for thousands of people to learn about Islam. When I came to Islam, I was a Rasta man. Most Muslims I met used to be Rastafarians or part of the Nation of Islam. Muslims need to learn to be gentle, because everyone has their own path to the deen. Rakin: Knowledge comes from Allah. People can sit for years and read books but the kind of understanding that
Ismael: I want it to be a wake up call. Malcolm X is our 20th century Islamic hero - a Muslim brother who was courageous, brave, honest, spiritual, faithful, articulate and a man of action. Sadly many of our Muslim leaders lack these qualities, as they only seem to be giving good talks and nothing more. Recently, we were doing some work for Radio Ramadan in West London and the editor asked me for a particular speech Malcolm X made when he came back from Hajj. I was shocked to find that none of the Islamic bookshops in London had any of his videos, CD’s or cassette tapes. So I spoke to Rakin and I told him that after the Muslim-conscious hip hop and poetry evening last November, I would like to organise a tribute to our brother Malcolm X along with other Muslim rap acts. The aim of this special evening is to remind our youth about one of our great heroes and who followed in the path of our beloved Prophet. We want to unite with other Islamic artists and try work together to establish our so-called Islamic urban music scene.
Gohar: The event will be a positive milestone for Muslim-conscious hip hop. We want to publicly promote Malcolm X as a role model. We hope this will provide an alternative to the current negative values commercial hip hop expresses. But at the same time, we are not compromising on the skills aspect of it! Being positive is all well and good but this upcoming event is also going to show that musically, it’s going to be of the highest quality. Mohammed: We live in age of fear. This event needs to challenge that fear with hope. Today, Muslims are the new “niggers”. People are scared of Islam, just as they were scared of black people. Funny enough, a black man is more acceptable in society than a Muslim - especially after 9/11. Rakin: [Laughs] That’s right. Black people tell me that they feel more safe now because police go straight past them and head for Muslims. We know that in prison Malcolm X started to learn about himself. He realised that there is no shame in being black. This is a lesson for everyone, not only for black people. We want this concert to be a consciousness-raising event. To inspire young people to learn about themselves and find their faith. !
Rakin Fetuga, Abdul Karim and Ismael South are Mecca 2 Medina, Britain’s most innovative Muslim urban music outfit. They have performed nationwide and earned respect for their socially conscious lyrics and unique style. Mohammad Sulaiyman, a social worker, is head of the activist group Islamic Action. Mustafa Obaidi aka Mus is an 18 year-old student of Iraqi heritage from West London. Influenced by Arabic artists such as Abdel Halim-Hafez, Mustafa is emerging as one of the Islamic urban music’s most exciting and edgy young rappers. He uses Arabic maqams mixed with his own style of beats to deliver thought provoking lyrics aimed at young Muslims. Gohar Akhtar aka Minority now lives in North West London. He has also lived in Sheffield and spent a year in Pakistan, the country of his parents. An accountant by profession, Gohar expresses his creativity through hip hop and has a keen interest in theology. His lyrics are dropped with remarkable impact and his rhymes are intelligent, pointed and spiritually aware.
In the Name of the Lord of the Worlds,The Most Merciful and the Most Kind The Jammat presents
A Tribute to our Brother Malcolm X El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz thru’ Hip Hop, Rap and Spoken Word Poetry
Featuring: Ikwon, Blind Alphabets, Mecca2Medina, UK Apache,The Planets, Sonrise, Hanifa, The Pearls of Islam Sisters Spoken Word Crew, Minority, Mus aka Mustapha, Shahanara the Poet, Jonzi D., Hassen Rasool, Grizzley and special surprise guests (shh...sorry we can’t say!) Presented by Mr Entertainer himself, Brother Shah Saud of y2k FM Short Talks by Abdul Karim Hattin M. Sulaiyman, Islamic Action Rakin of m2m, Mecca2Medina Imruh Bakari on behalf of Q-News Imran, Muslim Youth Helpline 25 February 2005 £5.99 (only at the door) Doors open at 5:50 pm, Show starts at 6:00 pm Oxford House* Derbyshire Street London, E2 For stalls and more info, call Ismael on 07985 583 556. Find out more about our artists and sponsors at: mecca2medina.com | redseaentertainment.com | remarkablecurrent.com ilmwear.com | rebelmuzik.co.uk | muslimac.com | muslimhiphop.com Media Sponsor
www.q-news.com * Across the road from the Tesco entrance and five minute walk from Bethnal Green Station, www.oxfordhouse.org.uk
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WHAT WOULD MALCOLM DO? WHAT IF THERE WAS A QUESTION YOU COULD ASK IN ANY DILEMMA THAT WOULD GUIDE YOU TO DO THE RIGHT THING? WHAT WOULD IT BE? NAUSHAAD SULIMAN DRAWS ON THE LIFE OF MALCOLM X AND RECEIVES SOME COMPELLING ANSWERS.
op quiz! Your teacher adds your test incorrectly. She gives you five extra marks by mistake. Do you tell her? You are a parent. Your son beats up younger kids. Talking doesn’t seem to help. Do you spank your child? You have a disabled parking pass for your old aunt. You are in a rush and need to pick something up from a store. Your dear aunt is not in the car with you, but her parking pass is. Do you park in the handicapped parking spot even though you are fully “able”? People find themselves in daily predicaments that test their morals and scruples. How do they find resolution to these difficult situations? They say, just ask yourself: What Would Jesus Do? At least that’s what some Christians would do - use Jesus to calibrate their moral compass. It’s a simple approach that has caught on. “The weather outside is fiercely cold but I see a person struggling to change his tire. Should I drive on or help? What Would Jesus Do?” After all, according to Christians, Jesus is God - infallible, giving and kind. How could a person go wrong with him as guide? The problem is that we are human, not divine, and we often go wrong. In our quest for goodness we find ourselves falling short and we are filled with guilt. It is just too much to live up to a “divine” example. I started thinking about the What Would Jesus Do? movement. I liked the idea of asking a question that helps us find answers and gives us direction. Muslims naturally refer to the life of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, - it’s called the sunnah. The Messenger of Allah was a man of God. God protected him. He, too, would in all cases do what was good. He is the perfect example of what we aspire to be, even though we are less than perfect. Here we find ourselves in a similar problem to what Christians find themselves in. With our moral decay, we are far from upholding and sustaining the perfect example the Prophet has set for us. In therapy, counsellors tell people to take their problems step by step. What we need is an intermediary step that will get us on the right track to following and sustaining the Prophet’s perfect example. For our time, there is one man who Western Muslims can take as a moral guide: Malcolm X. Malcolm’s life resembled that of so many of the blessed ancients that embraced Islam in Mecca and Medina. A poor boy turned gangster and criminal, Malcolm found Allah and henceforth, never wavered in his belief. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said that the best of people in the time of ignorance would be the best of people in Islam. Malcolm became such a person. If we are going to use someone as a moral guide, shouldn’t that person reflect the best of our community, a person who followed in the footsteps of the companions of the Prophet, peace be upon him? Malcolm was a visionary. He dealt with issues that we are still dealing with today, issues such as Muslim engagement with broader society. Many Muslims feel alien to the culture and
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political processes around us. We look on everything that is not specifically Muslim as immoral and corrupt. We have made ourselves outsiders. We cannot act as functional members of our communities and disenfranchise ourselves. That was not Malcolm’s way. Initially, through the Nation of Islam and then more fully when he embraced Islam, Malcolm was able to be both Muslim and American. He understood the necessity of finding the best of a society and incorporating it into his understanding of the world. Malcolm overcame humble beginnings and learned to speak impeccable, beautiful English. Dressed handsomely in his well-pressed suits, Malcolm was attractive and accessible to people. Malcolm also found it important to participate in politics. The Nation discouraged participation in “the blue eyed devil’s” system. Malcolm disagreed with this point and felt that political participation was a way to assist “Black Muslims” in America. Even when it was difficult for him, Malcolm found ways to integrate himself into the fibre of American society. During his life he was ever present in the public debate. He was a man of character who would not compromise his beliefs but also saw the benefit of working with others to make change. Is that not what we should be doing? Malcolm acted in a way that used the best of his faith and his American experience to fight for his vision of a better society. Malcolm was a man of principle and conscience. He was reflective and could admit when he was wrong. When he realised that the teachings of the Nation of Islam were inconsistent with actions of its leader, he had the mental flexibility to change his views. Malcolm reflected on his life, learned from his mistakes, made reparations and grew as a person. Malcolm was a champion of truth and justice and without a doubt, the kind of example Muslins should strive to emulate in times of difficulty. Malcolm is a truly American, truly Western, Muslim hero. No contemporary Muslim has affected the lives of as many people the world over. Asking ourselves, “What Would Malcolm Do?” is a way for Muslims to embrace his moral model. Malcolm’s character and morality can help us find answers to the most difficult questions we face as Western Muslims. He is contemporary, he understood our problems, he lived as we did and tackled many of the issues that we deal with the day. He had the character of a sahabi transplanted into the 20th century. If we could take some of his strength, attitude, character, morality and intelligence and apply it to our daily lives, we would be better people and live in better communities. “What Would Malcolm Do?” is a question that we can ask and not feel blasphemous. His example reminds us of the great women and men of the past who lead us back to our beloved Prophet. Malcolm was a special man, but not one who was protected by God. He was like us. The question is, can we be like him? !
PLAIN SELECTED BOOKS !Malcolm X with Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Penguin Modern Classics, 2001. !Baldwin, James. One Day When I Was Lost: A Screenplay Based on the Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Dial, 1973. ! Breitman, George (ed). Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1998. !Carew, Jan. Ghosts in Our Blood: With Malcolm X in Africa, England, and the Caribbean. Chicago, IL: Lawrence Hill Books, 1994. !Clark, Steve (ed). Malcolm X Talks To Young People: Speeches in the U. S., Britain, & Africa. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1991. !Clark, Steve (ed). Malcolm X: The Final Speeches. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1992. !Gallen, David. Malcolm X: As They Knew Him. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1992. !Jamal, Hakim. From the Dead Level: Malcolm X and Me. New York: Random House, 1972. !Karim, Benjamin. Remembering Malcolm: The Story of Malcolm X from inside the Muslim Mosque. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1992. SELECTED VIDEOGRAPHY !Malcolm X, directed by Spike Lee and starring Denzel Washingtom and Angela Bassett (1992) !Seven Songs for Malcolm X, a short film directed by John Akomfrah (1993) !Malcolm X: Make It Plain, a PBS documentary directed by Orlando Bagwell (1992) !Malcolm X: Death of a Prophet, directed by Woodie King Jr. and starring Morgan Freeman and Mansoor Najeeullah (1981) !Malcolm X, an Academy Award nominated documentary by Arnold Perl featuring the voice of James Earl Jones (1972) SELECTED WEBSITES !Brother Malcolm www.malcolm-x.org !Malcolm X Museum www.themalcolmxmuseum.org !Malcolm X: A Research Site www.brothermalcolm.net !Malcolm X and Black African American Culture www.malcolm-x.it !The Official Web Site of Malcolm X www.cmgww.com/historic/malcolm !Malcolm X Speaks! www.webcorp.com/civilrights/malcolm.htm !Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture www.nypl.org/research/sc/sc.html
TO ALLAH WE BELONG AND
TO ALLAH IS OUR RETURN It is only being a Muslim which keeps me from seeing people by the color of their skin. This religion teaches brotherhood, but I have to be a realist - I live in America, a society which does not believe in brotherhood in any sense of the term. Anything I do today, I regard as urgent. No man is given but so much time to accomplish whatever is his life’s work. My life in particular never stayed fixed in one position for very long.You have seen how throughout my life, I have often known unexpected drastic changes. I am only facing the facts when I know that any moment of any day, or any night, could bring me death… To speculate about dying doesn’t disturb me as it might some people. I never have felt that I would live to become an old man. Even before I was a Muslim - when I was a hustler in the ghetto jungle, and then a criminal in prison, it always stayed on my mind that I would die
a violent death. In fact, it runs in my family. My father and most of his brothers died by violence - my father because of what he believed in. I believe that it would be almost impossible to find anywhere in America a black man who has lived further down in the mud of human society than I have; or a black man who has been any more ignorant than I have been; or a black man who has suffered more anguish during his life than I have. But it is only after the deepest darkness that the greatest light can come; it is only after extreme grief that the greatest joy can come; it is only after slavery and prison that the sweetest appreciation of freedom can come. For the freedom of my 22 million black brothers and sisters here in America, I do believe that I have fought the best that I knew how, and the best that I could, with the shortcomings that I have had. - Malcolm X
Think not of those who are slain in Allah’s way as dead. Nay, they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord. The Holy Quran, 3:169
REVIEW | TV
ARE MUSLIMS HATED? ATIF IMTIAZ TAKES ON KENAN MALIK’S NARROW VISION OF ISLAMOPHOBIA, MUSLIM LEADERSHIP AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH. enan Malik’s programme, Are Muslims hated?, shown on Channel Four (continuing its tradition of resistance to Muslim self-identification), argued that Islamophobia is not just an exaggeration, but a myth. Claims that Britain has returned to a time reminiscent of the “bad old days of the seventies”, during which racially motivated murder and violence was common are, according to Malik, exaggerated. In fact, the bogeyman of Islamophobia, he claims, is “being used to stifle the criticism of Islam”. Malik begins this half hour programme by contrasting the extreme racial violence of the late-1970s and early-1980s with the comparatively violence-free reaction post-September 11. This is true - there has not been widespread violence against British Muslims since September 11. But, this is to miss what academic studies on the changing nature of racial prejudice pointed out about two decades ago, that racial discrimination became subtle after it had been stigmatised and made illegal. Prejudice hasn’t disappeared, it’s just applied differently now. So, what of the charge that Islamophobia is stifling freedom of expression? Two recent cases where the charge was well founded were the well-publicised newspaper columns of Robert Kilroy-Silk and Harry (aka Will) Cummins. Both were desperately prejudiced in their writing, Cummins used the now notorious comparison: “Muslims, like all dogs…’ The rather worrying point is that both men managed to harbour extreme prejudice and simultaneously occupy important positions in British cultural life. And this is the main point. There still remains an almost unbelievably universal denial of the British Muslim presence within the national culture. This is an unbelievable state of affairs, because Islam and Muslims are the object of so much discussion and yet their voices are woefully under-represented in the national public debate. Which broadsheet has a Muslim commentator that reflects street level realities of Muslim life (please don’t point to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown)? Compare that absence with how much column space has been spent theorising and pontificating about Muslims in the last five years? This is, today, right now, in the language of liberal political theory, an inegalitarian outcome. Malik himself refers to some self-editing that he was obliged to perform for an article that he wrote during the Rushdie affair. Well,
at least The Independent printed it. So back to the programme, and its conclusion that Islamophobia is a myth. Well, how to explain the low educational attainment and high rates of employment within the Muslim community? Is there an antiMuslim aspect to this discrimination? Or can it all be reduced to race and class? Malik approached some newspapers and organisations to ask them about the lack of evidence in relation to violent crime against Muslims. Certainly, it is a very good thing that few have been murdered since September 11, but anecdotal evidence of other expressions of prejudice, as we all know, remains common. Unfortunately, the lobbyists were unable to mount a strong argument. So if it is the case that anti-Muslim prejudice is rife, then where is the authoritative collection of data? There are at least three bodies working in this area: the Islamic Human Rights Commission, the Forum against Islamophobia and Racism and the Muslim Council of Britain. There are also several magazines and newspapers. So where is the constant monitoring? Do Muslim spokespersons exaggerate the extent of the problem? Though this is characteristic of all identity politics movements, it would be better if these spokespersons adopted a more evidenced-based approach. However, Malik himself couldn’t resist a tendency to exaggerate towards the end of the programme when he linked the fatwa against Rushdie and the murder of Theo van Gogh to raise fears about a Muslim subversion of freedom of expression. Well at least the paranoia is evenly distributed. To answer Malik’s question: ‘Are Muslim hated?’ Well, of course not - he ought to know - we are misrepresented. Are Muslims hated? was shown on 8th January 2005 Q - NEWS
REVIEW | MEDIA
MAKING MUSLIMS ACCEPTABLE THE RECENT GUARDIAN REPORT, ENTITLED YOUNG, MUSLIM AND BRITISH, WAS AN ATTEMPT BY THE LIBERAL PRESS TO PORTRAY MUSLIMS IN A NEW LIGHT. IT FAILED. WHAT READERS GOT WAS THE ACCEPTABLE FACE OF BRITISH ISLAM. MISSING, ARGUES ADAM RIAZ KHAN, WERE THE VAST MAJORITY OF BRITISH MUSLIMS
UNEMPLOYED AND STILL WITHOUT A VOICE. he Guardian invited over 100 young Muslims, many from second and third generation backgrounds, to come together and debate the issues shaping their lives. Most of the Muslims involved were university graduates with professional qualifications - entrepreneurs, accountants, lawyers, doctors and civil servants. Simply put, it was the acceptable face of British Islam - at least from the point of view of the Guardian’s predominantly white middle class readership. These were not faces that could represent the vast majority of British Muslims. Guardian journalist Madeleine Bunting wrote that “for every person in the room, there are thousands of other young Muslims who are trapped in low skilled jobs or are unemployed” and that “36% of British Muslims are leaving school with no qualifications, while a fifth of 16-24 year old Muslims in Britain are unemployed” and “40% of British Muslims are in low skilled jobs and nearly 70% of Bangladeshi and Pakistani children live in poverty”. The report remained content with listing statistics, giving a mere nod to the serious social problems Muslims face. The Guardian missed an opportunity to have meaningful dialogue with a marginalised minority community. Perhaps the Guardian did not want to get its hands dirty with the kind of Muslim youth mentioned in the above statistics considering that many of the views and experiences of such Muslims would be unpalatable to readers and inconsistent with the kind of Muslim the Guardian, and its allies in the Muslim community, wants to promote. The over-representation of professionals to discuss these very issues was unashamedly elitist. In fact Musab Bora, a community activist from Birmingham who attended the meeting, expressed his concerns for the way various institutions “develop a gatekeeper mentality” which excludes the grassroots and fails to give them a voice. It is this approach that government and media favour, preferring to leave comment and representation on issues concerning Muslims community leaders from organisations like Muslim Council of Britain, thus, giving them a monopoly over the “Muslim voice”. This patronising approach gives little say to working class or unemployed Muslims, reducing them instead to statistics - easily quoted, easily manipulated.
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Home Affairs editor Alan Travis, commenting on the accompanying Guardian/ICM poll, said the results showed that British Muslims were “optimistic, integrated and devout”. The poll itself was presented as living proof that Muslims are as comfortable with Britishness as anyone else, stating that 60% of the Muslim participants claimed they had many nonMuslim friends whilst 40% agreed that Muslims need to do more to integrate into mainstream British culture. What is this obsession with being British? A good Muslim is apparently, the one who adopts Britishness wholeheartedly and pushes for integration. The latter is indeed a complicated subject; the liberal establishment has yet to tell Muslims the meaning of Britishness, integration or “mainstream British culture”. This post-September 11 politicised talk of “integration” and “being British” is accompanied by rising anti-Muslim sentiment, anti-terrorism laws that have been applied against British Muslims, and rising support for military interventions in the Muslim world leading to disastrous results. Under these circumstances, integration means accepting political and social inferiority. Muslims who choose to resist this kind of integration are presented as being awkward citizens and bad Muslims. The Muslims who responded to BNP violence in the summer of 2001, were immediately presented as yobs, drug-dealers and thugs (even by members of the Muslim establishment). The buzzwords once heaped on their Afro-Caribbean counterparts - integration, Britishness, social cohesion - resurfaced, but with the added assumption that Britain was under threat from the rise of a new Al Qaeda inspired, fundamentalist youth culture. Never mind the fascist racist thugs who attacked Muslims indiscriminately in Bradford, Burnley and Oldham; or Nick Griffin, whose speeches incited racial hatred. The state prefers to arrest and detain the likes of Abu Hamza who despite being advocates of very reactionary ideas, has never been directly connected to violence unlike many senior BNP activists. Moreover, the state detains hundreds of Muslims without charge or trial and keeps them in the legal limbo of Belmarsh. With this backdrop, the Guardian report seems meaningless and largely irrelevant. Nevertheless, the white liberal always enjoys hearing institutionalised people from our community advocate the views
REVIEW | MEDIA
Abi Maghribi I enjoyed listening to Ramadan and Winter. The other panelists were wishy washy, long-winded. I’m disappointed they were given so much time.
Panelists: Fiona McTaggert, Trevor Phillips,Tariq Ramadan, Humera Khan and Abdal-Hakim Murad. Chair: Gary Younge
Ehsan Masood The participants chosen weren’t representative. There were too many activist-types approaching the issues from set mentalities.
Saqeb Mueen We managed to publicly discuss issues, without moaning about our victim status too much. I felt educated by the end.
Amin Mostly a bunch of polite people having a nice inoffensive conversation. A lot of people who should have been here, weren’t.
Sharif Nashashibi McTaggert was a disgrace. She wasn’t here to listen but to tow the patronising government line. There was no real dialogue with her. Salma Yaqoob It’s ironic - it took a non-Muslim paper to bring us together. If a Muslim had called for this meeting, most people wouldn’t have participated. Ismail Patel I was shocked to learn that so many youngsters felt they couldn’t express themselves or discuss issues honestly. I thought this was a problem faced by older, first generations.
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Interviews by Fazeelat Saleem
I have always had an issue with these things because they never connect to the ordinary people on the street. This event wasn’t bad.
dance to Western modernity, but within the context of struggle, as seen with the massive antiwar demonstration on 15th February 2002. The anti-war movement and indeed the many campaigns against anti-terrorist legislation has brought Islam to the mainstream in a political way so as to counter injustice. What we can learn from the anti-war movement in Britain is that the unification of people towards a just cause, instead of some narrow minded nationalist notions of Britishness, can and has created community links which never existed before. This is an example of an alternative integration - a radical integration which applies to all of civil society and not just one section of it. !
EIGHT PARTICIPANTS TELL IT LIKE IT IS
they want to hear. The report presented Anber Raz, a social worker, as saying “The way Islam is linked with terrorism is partly the failure of the community”, but said little about the global politics of neo-imperialism, the war on Iraq, tabloid demonisation of the Muslim community and racist anti-terrorist legislation. Sarfraz Manzoor chastised Muslims for not wanting to be self-critical, but isn’t this the case with society in general? Manzoor mentioned racism and sexism within our community as an example, but isn’t this a wider social problem? Some elements of the press have successfully expounded the view that the oppression of women is somehow exclusive to Muslims. In fact Yasmin Qureshi, a participant, mentioned how if a Muslim male kills his unfaithful wife, it is perceived by society that it is “a religious issue”. The report succeeded in marginalising those who advocate alternatives to the current notions of what is good for Muslims. Members of the Hizb ut Tahrir were represented, expressing the familiar views of how Islam and democracy are incompatible, however there was never an attempt to understand why some Muslims ideologically reject the political system and advocate the need for an Islamic state or express sympathy for Osama Bin Laden. The journalists reporting on the event were not interested in such views and were quick to present the HT Muslims as alienated. It is assumed that the “good Muslims” are those that accept democracy and view integration in a positive light. The liberals media chooses to speak on behalf of Muslims, prescribing medicine like an authoritarian doctor; and like a patient, Muslims cannot question this reality because the doctor knows best, even if he be a Harold Shipman. Many of the Muslim participants also expressed their concerns for the issues which we have become so accustomed to: Islamophobia, racism, the war on terror, the war in Iraq, Palestine and anti-terrorist legislation. In that situation any form of integration into “the British way of life” amongst the Muslim community has occurred not on the terms of liberals who demand that we transform in accor-
REVIEW | MUSIC
URBAN MUSIC’S JIHADI FACE ISLAMIST RAPPERS TAKE ON THE ABUSE OF IRAQI PRISONERS IN THEIR OWN STYLE. MEHRAK GOLESTAN REPORTS ON RADICAL ISLAM’S NEW CULTURAL FRONTLINE. he words “Dirty Kuffar murder innocent Iraqi civilian” appear against a black backdrop. We then see CNN footage of US marines laughing and cheering as they gun down an unarmed Iraqi man, afterwards bragging: “Hell yeah, it was awesome. Let’s do it again.” The screen then fills with menacing images of Islamic militants wearing balaclavas and waving guns in front of banners. Then the baseline kicks in and the militants begin their rap. This is not the latest news footage from Iraq; this is Dirty Kuffar the latest rap music video on the Internet inciting us to “jihad against the Western crusaders”. The rappers chillingly inform us: “There’s a new name for disbelievers/ Now we have to call them Dirty Kuffar/ If they don’t respect the Almighty one/ Then we throw them in the fire where they’ll burn, burn, burn”. The images of the rappers are superimposed over scenes of Al-Qaeda training camps and factions such as the Hezbollah, inter-cut with news footage of US troops and vehicles being blown up and attacked. We are also shown the “dirty kuffar” in question: Bush, Blair (branded “Bush’s lapdog”), Powell, Sharon (whose face is digitally morphed into a pig bearing the Star of David on his temple), Saddam, the British National Party and the French Front National. US troops land on Iraqi soil while slogans such as “send them home in body bags” flash on the screen. The video ends with the 9/11 planes crashing into the Towers against a soundtrack of laughter and a list of countries that have been “Victims of US violence since 1945”. The latter totals 56. Dirty Kuffar is the debut release from Sheikh Terra and the Soul Salah Crew, a group of British-Asian Muslim rappers
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about whom very little is known. It is only their accents and the specific genre - an amalgamation of US-style Hip Hop and Jamaican-style Dancehall, that reveals their origins. They keep their true identity a closely guarded secret: at no point in the video do they expose their faces. No contact numbers, email nor website where the video can be downloaded; only the record label Digihad. News of the video’s existence has passed purely by word of mouth. All very mysterious! Originally, links to the video were posted up on some extremist sites. After a few days, the sites were shut down. However, a number of US teenagers had already managed to download copies of the video and had posted it on their web logs; but again, in a few day’s time, many of the sites were shut down. The author of one web log even reported receiving emails from official bodies instructing him to remove the offending material. It is unclear how these sites are barred, but it seems that “perpetrators” are being targeted individually as opposed to entire Internet Service Providers or networks: sites that provide links to the video tend to be left alone, it is only sites that actually “host” the video that appear to be a problem. Is all of this evidence of cyber-censorship by the powers that be? Maybe. Sheikh Terra and the Soul Salah Crew would certainly not be the first rappers to promote political ideology or to use radical religious ideas. US rap group Wu-Tang Clan are well known for their affiliations to Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam; and there are a number of Christian rap outfits such as Pryme Minister and Royal Priesthood.
The trend, therefore, isn’t new. During the late 1980s and 1990s, the New York activist rap group Public Enemy released a string of blistering attacks on corporate America - AmeriKKKa as they called it - in the form of songs such as Don’t Believe the Hype, Impeach the President, 911 is a Joke and Fight the Power which contained controversial lyrics such as: “Elvis was a hero to most/ But he never meant sh-t to me/ ‘Cos he was a racist simple and plain/ m--------k him and John Wayne” Fans of Hip Hop pride themselves on the fact that it is a universal genre that has many influences and is manifested in the diverse categories that exist within rap music - gangster rap, political rap, commercial rap, rock rap etc. For every walk of life there is an internal rap genre; there even exists a group of ‘gay rappers’ in a culture that is largely homophobic. The beauty of rap music lies in the fact that it is constantly expanding as rappers rap about anything and everything within their experience and internalise external influences. The difference with Sheikh Terra and Co is that they are not ‘rappers’ who use religion and politics to make their rap music ‘cool’. On the contrary, they are using rap music to make their politics and religion ‘cool’. Hip Hop is being Hip Hopped as the ‘insiders’ - fanatics - take over the ‘external influence’ of Hip Hop. By current rap standards, Sheikh Terra and Co are not even good - just barely average. But the rapping is not an issue; it is the message they are conveying. One sometimes wonders if the Soul Salah Crew are actually aware of the full implications of releasing Dirty Kuffar, especially at a time when allegations of abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US and British troops is sure to add to the already substantial anti-West sentiment that exists in the rest of the world, and is increasingly evident in the ethnic minorities living in Europe. Dirty Kuffar is aimed at Muslim youths who reside in the West and walk the difficult line between the two worlds: a sensationalist piece of propaganda designed to further confuse the confused. ! This article was first published in Index on Censorship, 3/04. To subscribe, contact Index on 020 7278 2313 or www.indexonline.org.
In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate. May His abundant blessing and most perfect of peace be on His Beloved Prophet, the best of creation, and his family, companions and followers. WORKING IN A CASINO FARAZ RABBANI
Is it permitted to work in a casino, in a way unrelated to its vices? It is not permitted to work in a casino, as its primary line of activity is prohibited by Allah Most High, even if one’s own work is itself not “vice-related,” because this would be assisting in sin. DIVORCE BY ENGLISH LAW FARAZ RABBANI
Do I remain married by Islamic law if I divorce by English law? It would normally count as a divorce. One should consult a reliable local Islamic scholar about the specifics of one’s case - given the gravity and implications of divorce, and also formalise the divorce in writing, Islamically. USING INHALERS WHILE FASTING SHAYKH MUHAMMAD IBN ADAM AL-KAWTHARI
If I have asthma and must use an inhaler, do I have to fast? Using an asthma pump and inhaling its gas will invalidate one’s fast. As such, if one used an asthma pump for a genuine medical need, one will have to make up the fasts missed (qadha), although expiation (kaffara) will not be necessary. You state that the drug particles in the asthma gas are very small and minute. However, the ruling of the fast being invalidated is not based on the drug particles being present or otherwise; rather, one’s fast is invalidated by inhaling something that has a perceptible body such as smoke or gas. (See: Maraqi alFalah with Hashiya al-Tahtawi, P: 660) Note that, in order for one’s fast to become invalid, one has to inhale the smoke or gas intentionally and deliberately. If the smoke entered one’s nose or throat unintentionally, then one’s fast will not break. (Maraqi alFalah, P: 660) Therefore, if an individual was to enter a room full of smoke and he was to intentionally inhale the smoke, whilst the smoke having a perceptible barrier, then his fast would become invalid. Hence, inhaling gas from an asthma pump will invalidate the fast, regardless of whether there is any nutritional value in the inhalers or otherwise, for the gas has a perceptible body which enters
one’s body through a normal channel. Those who need to use an asthma pump many times a day and find it difficult to fast, have the dispensation of not fasting and paying the fidya instead. Islam is a religion of mercy and does not order its followers to do something that is beyond their capability. Therefore, chronic asthmatics need not suffer by fasting; rather, if they are genuinely not able to keep a fast or make it up later, they may pay the expiatory payment instead. However, it should be remembered that if one becomes capable of fasting again, one will have to make up for the missed fasts despite paying the fidya. (al-Fatawa alHindiyya, 1/207 and others) IS GROUP DHIKR PERMISSIBLE? SUNNIPATH FIQH TEAM
Someone who thinks group dhikr is impermissible states a hadith that Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) apparently saw a group of people do dhikr together using beads and said to them they will be rewarded for the good of what they are doing but they must also be prepared for the punishment of what they are doing. Is there such a hadith? If so, what is the interpretation of the traditional scholars. For a full explanation of the issue, see the following titles on Sunnipath.com: Reciting tasbihs together after congregational prayers, The Permissibility of Loud Dhikr, Dhikr Performed in a Group, Gatherings of Dhikr , Audio: Shaykh Nuh: Reciting the Latifiyya, Is a weekly group dhikr an innovation?, An Analysis of the evidence supporting the permissibility of Majalis (gatherings) of Zikr in the Masajid, Do the Deceased Attend Dhikr Gatherings? and Reciting tasbihs together after congregational prayers. A brief excerpt: Acts of worship performed in a group - which include dhikru’llah - are more excellent than acts of worship done alone. The hearts meet in the group,
and in the group people find mutual help and harmony. The weak can take from the strong, those in darkness from those with light, the dense from the diaphanous, the ignorant from those with knowledge, and so forth. (p. 163, Haqa’iq at-Tasawwuf, Shaykh ‘Abdu’l-Qadir ‘Isa) Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Allah Almighty has angels who travel the highways and byways seeking out gatherings of dhikr in the earth. When they find a gathering of, they enfold them with their wings stretching up to the heaven. Allah asks them, ‘From where have you come?’ They reply, ‘We have come from Your slaves who are glorifying You, praising You, proclaiming Your oneness, asking of You and seeking refuge with You.’ He says - and He knows better than them, ‘What are they asking Me for?’ They reply, ‘They are asking You for the Garden.’ He says, ‘Have they seen it?’ They reply, ‘No, our Lord.’ He says, ‘How would it be if they were to see it?’ Then He asks and He knows better than them, ‘What are they seeking refuge from?’ ‘From the Fire,’ they reply. He asks, ‘Have they seen it?’ ‘No,’ they reply. Then He says, ‘How would it be if they were to see it?’ Then He says, ‘I testify to you that I have forgiven them, I have given them what they ask Me for, and I give them the refuge which they ask of Me.’ They say, ‘Our Lord, among them is a wrongdoer who is sitting with them, but is not one of them.’ He says, ‘I have forgiven him as well. The one sitting with these people will not be wretched.’” (Muslim, atTirmidhi, al-Hakim) ! BORROWING MONEY FARAZ RABBANI
What if the person who I borrowed money from says, “It’s alright. I don’t need or want it back.” Should I pay it back when she needs it or should I force her to take it? Just as one can demand one’s right, one can also forgo it. Thus, if the person whom you borrowed money from waives the debt, you are no longer liable to repay. However, one should be careful to ensure that the person truly intends to waive the debt, rather than saying this out of social courtesy or because they imagine you to be in difficulty or distress. It remains the way of religious resolve to insist on paying, unless they absolutely refuse.!
FARAZ RABBANI along with other scholars answer questions and teach through Sunni Path www.sunnipath.com Q - NEWS
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The Shakespeare and Islam season was a watershed moment in the history of British Islam. Standing in the cold waiting for a ticket to Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s talk on Othello, I was struck by the incredible buzz in the air - the feeling that we were all coming to witness something vitally important. By the time I got inside, I realised just how important this season of events was. It connected our Britishness to our Islam. It gave profound new insights into Shakespeare’s work. It made me proud to be a Muslim. It made me proud have been born in the land of Shakespeare. We will never read Othello or Macbeth or Hamlet the same way again. We will never see the Moor on stage without remembering the intrigues in Queen Elizabeth’s court and the pageantry which followed the coming of the Moroccan ambassador a year before the bard put pen to Othello. Frankly, the naysayers can continue to bark on about the purity of Shakespeare being lost and political correctness. I think the bard would have been at home walking through the souk. He would have gazed with fascination as his beloved Globe was wrapped in images from distant lands. He would have chuckled at how his plays and poetry were being read and interpreted by these bearded white men from the West. He would have been intrigued by the ease with which they shifted from English to Arabic and back again. Q-News - you have always pushed the boundaries of Muslim expression. Don’t listen to the naysayers either (barring the spelling and grammatical errors which must be fixed!); continue to develop your “cultural strategies” with the support of so many people like me, who thinks its about time we
broke the mould and did things that are truly original. And to Patrick Spottiswoode - you are a true gentleman. There could not be a better custodian of Shaykh Zubayr’s (I mean Shakespeare’s) legacy. I look forward to making a place for my family and myself at The Globe for many years to come. Kashif Ishtiaq London
BLOOD DONORS Intrigued by Fareena Alam’s excellent piece on the importance of donating blood, we here at the McMaster University Muslim Students’ Association are happy to inform you of a project we are currently pursuing with the Canadian Blood Services. Over 75 students have signed up for an upcoming blood donation drive. We hope to increase awareness and get Muslim students excited about donating blood to those that are in need. It is our duty to replenish the community we are a part of. What better way to do so than to donate our blood to the very land and people who have nourished us? Mudasser Ali, Muslim Students’ Association McMaster University Hamilton, Canada
BACHELORS I am writing in response to Ayisha Ali’s article in Q-News, December 2004, which I read while I was in London for two weeks. I feel a strange need to express how it was an amusing, poignant and uncontrived read. As an eligible Muslim bachelor (an Aussie-Brit revert one to boot!) to read that ‘to meet’ someone like me or other good, well educated, western Muslim bachelors ‘has become mission impossible’, made me rock with laughter. We men have been going on about the
same issue in gender reversal. I have been locked away in the Bedu highlands of Saudi Arabia, for the last year. I haven’t seen a single female of marriageable age here except in Makkah. I wrote about the experience at: enthogenesis.blogspot.com That was a year ago and the choice remains slim. I thank Him for it all. I am not complaining. However, eligible Muslim bachelorettes from my own culture are almost unknown to me. At least in my first four years as a Muslim, I’ve met only two or three ‘pious’ girls in person, with all of whom, it became immediately clear after a few minutes that we were not compatible. Of course, it’s not supposed to be this difficult but the reward for patience is of course, in Islam, without reckoning. So wait, I shall, until it is so.... Mahdi Bin Daoud (Matthew) Thistle, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
GILLES KEPEL French “thinkers” on Islam like to seduce their critics with their charm and “enlightened” common sense. They are faux intellectuals who are full of themselves and have an anti-religion, anti-Muslim agenda that is well documented - they don’t try very hard to hide it. Kepel is the head of a pack of neo-orientalists who think their fluent Arabic and gripping prose is enough to sell their brand of Islamic reform. It is disappointing that Abdul-Rehman Malik fell into Kepel’s trap. The interview was uncritical and unchallenging. It neither explored Kepel’s work nor did it challenge his faulty logic (about the hijab ban for instance). I expect more from Q-News. I hope you’ll be better prepared to ask the right questions next time. Mujahid Campbell Glasgow
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CAUGHT IN THE ACT! UNDER THE COVER OF DARKNESS ABDULLAH BRADFORD TRIED TO DISPOSE OF THE EVIDENCE. LITTLE DID HE KNOW THAT LONDON’S FINEST WOULD BE THERE TO CATCH HIM. NOW, WITH A FORM 5090 TO HIS NAME, HE’S ALMOST STARTING TO REGRET HIS DIRTY DEED.
s I cover the last remaining shred of evidence, a vehicle approaches. I am bewildered - it’s a dark blue armoured land rover from the Metropolitan Police. What are they doing here and why now? It crawls past, turns around at the end of the track and then slowly returns, stopping directly opposite to the very spot where I am now firmly rooted to the ground. Between the armoured vehicle and I are about three metres of scrub and a broken hedge. The hedge partially blocks the view but has gaps large enough to allow for a person to pass through. Darkness is falling and an evening mist is slowly unrolling along the ground. Two-policeman dismount from the armoured car and then, in the half-light, one of them makes his way though the hedge and then haphazardly into the scrub - probably to urinate. But now he sees me. Before I can depart from the scene the officer, a brawny figure, 6ft tall, clad in body armour and equipped with a handgun, makes his way purposely over to me, stopping me my tracks. Not that I really care. For me it’s intriguing. What’s an armoured patrol unit from the Metropolitan Police Force doing here anyway, on the edge of a leafy rural campus on the Runnymede Hill in Surrey? I’m soon to discover. I’m stopped under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2000, on the grounds that are entered briefly on the Stop and Account/Search Form 5090: “Subject was soon it appeared in the bushes/woods near the accommodation. He appeared to walk away on seeing police, carrying a rucksack + bags into a car park. There were no vehicles nearby. Subject stopped not searched. Dumping organic waste.” I have a beard and I’m wearing khaki cargo pants and a dark green Helly-Hansen fleece with a matching wooly skullcap; potential insurgent conducting a reconnaissance
58 | Q - NEWS
(Heathrow flight path is overhead), or clad for the allotment where I normally dump my organic waste. The two white officers look genuinely disappointed, as the leaf-covered shallow grave of domestic organic waste is uncovered. “No body parts or jewelry. Just eggshells and banana peels sarge,” jokes the smaller of the two heavily equipped constables as his burly colleague, still slightly irritated, resolutely fills out the 4-page 5090 form. He informs me the paperwork is now procedure, as they have to collect statistics on the people they stop as ‘certain members of the community’ are accusing them of harassment. Continuing in a smug and complacent tone the officer points to the ‘White (W)’ category under the Self Defined Ethnicity section and says, “I assume we can safely agree that you belong to one of these?”- leaving me with a choice of ‘British’, ‘Irish’ or ‘Any other white background’. I reply “W1” for white British, and again, he makes another muted reference to those complaining community members. It’s hard to ignore their ever-so-slightly racially loaded tone, despite its subtlety. We end our rendezvous with my suggestion that they should have a category for ‘environmentalists’, with that final sarcasm, received inattentively. My time with the Met is over. Form 5090 leaves a bitter taste in the back of my throat, a superfluous use of taxpayers’ money and thirty minutes of my time wasted. Meanwhile my Black African (B2) Muslim wife is waiting in our campus flat and no doubt wondering how long it takes to dispose of some kitchen waste! " The writer is a doctoral student at the University of London where he works on community-based organic waste recycling strategies in Ghana. He lives in Surrey with his wife and daughter. The incident above occurred in Englefield Green at 16:30hrs, on 22 January 2005.
Published on Dec 31, 2010