MAR 2005|MUHARRAM 1426|NO.361 UK£.2.50 | US$5.00 |RM10.00
SHAMI CHAKRABARTI & MEGAN ADDISN
HANDING VICTORY TO THE TERRORISTS YAKOUB ISLAM
TROUBLE AT THE NATIONAL BLOOD SERVICE SAMIRA AHMED
CONFRONTING THE GENDER DIVIDE
REMEMBERING HAFIZ BORA
WAKING UP TO PROGRESSIVE MUSLIMS
MUSLIM BLOGGER’S MANIFESTO
THE COMMON PURPOSE OF MUSLIMS AND LABOUR
SHARIAH FIRESTORM IN CANADA
THE ROCK STAR
AND THE MULLAH
JUNOON’S SALMAN AHMAD ON MUSIC, CULTURE AND THE UMMAH
This announcement is sponsored by Q-News, www.q-news.com
Muslim Hands U n i t e d
F o r
T h e
C h a r i t y R e g N o : 11 0 5 0 5 6
N e e d y
Muslim Hands is a well established and fast growing UK based International relief organisation involved in emergency response and long-term development for over 10 years. Muslim Hands employs a young, dynamic and dedicated team. Due to rapid expansion, we are looking for additional team members who are truly passionate about relief work for the following areas.
! Special Programmes Officer Servicing and corresponding with individual donors that are sponsoring larger programmes. The job involves writing and formatting proposals for donors, corresponding with relevant overseas staff to generate proposals, communication with Muslim Hands UK projects and fundraising departments where appropriate, following progress of projects, writing and formatting interim or final reports for donors. The post may also involve some travel to meet donors in their home cities and may even involve occasional overseas travel. The candidate should also be able to work in various other roles and responsibilities and may be required to work in depth with other departments to assist product realisation initiatives, aswell as training and development. British graduates from arts and sciences will be considered.
! Fundraising Media and PR Officer Feedback to donors via media including television, radio, print and web are the primary areas the applicant will deal with. With training, the applicant will be able to design and develop media campaigns primarily for the UK audience. Experience of journalism or other media related disciplines and ability to communicate in Urdu will be useful but not essential. Ability to adapt and effectively network will be essential. The role is very demanding and it may be necessary to work long hours, with the ability to keep a cool head within a high pressure environment. British graduates from arts and sciences will be considered.
! Projects Department Assistant Manager The role requires providing administrative support to the overseas projects department reporting directly to projects manager with a view to eventually sharing the workload. The job involves direct and frequent communication with overseas offices. From developing and initiating new projects to obtaining feedback from existing projects and maintain appropriate documentation. Suitable applicants would be energetic British graduates with ability to work as part of a growing team and manage others. Past experience in similar environments would be useful but full training will be given. Urdu and / or Arabic is an advantage.
! Experienced Bookeeper The role requires an enthusiastic computer literate person who is able to work as a part of a small team. Basic understanding of accounting practices including the use of SAGE are essential. The applicant will be a self-motivated and be required to adapt to our bespoke accounting procedures and I.T. system. ! All application must be made by post in writing with a full c.v. included. ! Salaries are negotiable depending on qualification and previous experience. ! Contact: Amjad Shah Muslim Hands 148 Gregory Boulevard Hyson Green Nottingham NG7 5JE
Certificate No. 441060
Muslim Hands is a signatory to the Code of Conduct for the Internation Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOâ€™s In Disaster Relief
FROM THE PULPIT couldn’t remember the last time I had seen so many young women dressed in black in one place - black hijabs, black jilbabs and matching shoes.Was this a university Islamic Society event or a funeral? The mood, which should have been positive and welcoming, was anything but. My fellow sisters were miserable and believe it or not, they looked proud to be so.The event was heavily segregated, with thick black cloth dividing men from women. I felt incredibly sad. Here I was in a male-free zone, which technically is supposed to be a space for the young women around me to relax. But their faces were like a sour prunes, as if it was their religious duty to remain unsmiling and serious.Why do people think misery is any indication of piety? A week later, I was invited to speak at an event sponsored by the Royal Holloway University Islamic Society. My affable host,Ameena Gamiet from the executive committee told me the topic for the evening was “Behind the Veil”, but that I was free to digress.And digress I did. I began the session by asking how many women (and men) in the audience had read a certain popular article from the mid-90s.The article was a robust and feisty defence of a Muslim woman’s right to wear the veil and was so popular that for years, we called it the Hijab Manifesto.As a young woman who took on the hijab in my third year of university, I felt the author eloquently represented my views so I must have e-mailed it to hundreds of people at the time! Unsurprisingly, at least half my audience at Royal Holloway were familiar with the article. Imagine their shock when I told them the author had recently removed her hijab. Sources close to her say she remains a devout Muslim who simply feels that the “hijab no longer serves the purpose we like to believe it does”. Whatever her motivations, my reason for challenging my audience was not because I support the removal of the hijab. I wanted to discuss whether Muslims all too often seek validation outside our own selves, just as I did in the author of the Hijab Manisfesto. Now that the “hijab guru’s” views have changed, where does it leave us? The modern Muslim mantra involves far too much lip-service to clichés like “the hijab liberates women” and “Islam means peace”.As the world continues to change around us, we are unable to keep up because our discourse proves to be shallow. There are a great number of serious and difficult issues affecting our communities: a rise in the number of teenage pregnancies, growing levels of drug abuse, and a quantifiable rise in the cases of depression and mental illness to name a few.To insist we all be stuck on the topic of whether the hijab frees women or not in the face of these new social realities is at best a diversion and at worst, a grave oversight. I feel I can say this - I wear the hijab. University students ought to know better. They should be pushing the boundaries of conventional wisdom and exploring these difficult issues in new and interesting ways. My presentation was followed by a lively discussion, lasting well beyond its scheduled time. I could see a few Muslims squirming in their seats, no doubt uncomfortable that the discussion had led to the public airing of the community’s “dirty laundry”. (Nevermind that our dirty laundry is already out there, flapping wildly in the wind...) One young woman tried to prompt me with,“Sister, could you tell the audience about how Muslim women who wear the hijab are seen for their minds, not their bodies?” A young man later added,“Why not tell the audience how Islam elevates the woman in every stage of her life, particularly as a mother and as a wife?” What? Are you and I not good enough living examples of those beliefs, that we have to go out of our way to spell them out? These were well-meaning, sincere people but I realised that evening that over the years,I have forgotten the idealistic language they were speaking in. Make no mistake, I told them, I believe in all of the above. I chose the hijab for myself. I come from a Muslim family and chose to marry into another and am very contented, alhamdulillah. However, I just couldn’t bring myself to speak the way these young people wanted me to speak. Islam “liberates” women, but for how long will we hide the very real inequalities in our communities, behind this cliché? I love my hijab, but how can I go along with the wishful-thinking that hijabis are automatically de-sexualised just because they cover their hair? How can I feign ignorance of the fact that the hijab has, sadly, not proven to be a barrier to teenage pregnancy or drug and alcohol abuse, so rife in Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities in Britain? I was once like these earnest activists but my vision has since shifted - laterally. I later had a fruitful private word with two Muslim women who strongly felt that this was not the forum for raising embarrassing issues.They felt that too many audience members were non-Muslims who “came to hear about the beauty of Islam” and that such internal discussions belong elsewhere. Really? And where is this elsewhere? A strong and credible community is a one that can constructively discuss difficult issues. We do no one any favours when we insist on harping on topics that make us feel good or like self-righteous victims.This head-in-thesand attitude is making Islam irrelevant to our own young people, let alone non-Muslims. Muslim communities have so much going for them but we also have our problems, like any other community. The only way forward is to have unashamedly vigorous and yet, well-meaning debates. Many of these debates are internal ones - something we hope wider society will respect, but we must not be afraid to begin somewhere. I think I convinced the two sisters sufficiently at the end of it. I genuinely believe their approach is just as right as mine.We are all sincere people, walking on parallel paths with the hope that Inshallah, we will one day arrive at a common destination, which is the betterment of humanity as a whole, and the attainment of God’s mercy on the Last Day. As for my dour sisters in black, let’s remember that the Prophet, peace be upon him, always smiled.There was never a person who entered his presence and did not feel joyful, welcomed and loved. If we cannot learn this important lesson, no number of special “dawah events” will do us any good.And Allah knows best.
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C O N T E N T S REGULARS 7 CLASSIC Q Mourning the unknown. Rock demigods and the girl next door, death touches us all eventually. ABU ANON contemplates.
8 UPFRONT 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 Megan Addis Samira Ahmed Raihan Alfaradhi Shahed Amanullah Nazim Baksh James Abdulaziz Brown Shami Chakrabarti Affan Chowdhry Yakoub Islam Sana Khatib Faisal Kutty Ian McCartney Haroon Moghul Isla Rosser-Owen Louay Safi Siraj Wahab Q-NEWS MEDIA LTD P.O. BOX 4295, London W1A 7YH United Kingdom www.q-news.com General: email@example.com Editorial: firstname.lastname@example.org Subscriptions: email@example.com
Multimedia installation Disappeared in America humanises the plight of the 3,000 American Muslim men detained in the post 9/11 security dragnet.
on Desert Island Discs, his lost voice, the dangers of yoga and the tragedy of London transport.
Women slipping through the cracks SAMIRA AHMED. Bleedin’ Islamophobia YAKOUB ISLAM. The politics of common purpose IAN MCCARTNEY. Democracy insideout: the case of Egypt LOUAY SAFI.
reviews new works by Ahdaf Soueif and Richard Bulliet. ISLA ROSSER-OWEN visits the Turks at the Royal Academy. RAIHAN ALFARADHI reports on the Muslim Student Awards. JAMES ABDULAZIZ BROWN
46 OBITUARY Hafiz Gulammohammed Bora touched the lives of all who met him. FUAD NAHDI remembers an unsung hero in the struggle to establish Islam in the West.
50 WRITE MIND Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies offer warm fuzzies to its readers. So when series fan SANA KHATIB saw books aimed at Christians and Jews, she wondered why there was no book for Muslims. Don’t we have souls too?
| Q-NOTES 10 48 | SUBSCRIPTIONS 48
CONTRIBUTORS 6 FIQH 45 | VOX POPULI
Handing Victory to the Terrorists The December 2004 decision by the Law Lords criticising the government’s anti-terror legislation should have resulted in a major change to the law. But as SHAMI CHAKRABARTI and MEGAN ADDIS explain, the Home Secretary’s new proposals fall short of real reform.
The Rock Star and the Mullah is no stranger to controversy. His band Junoon’s unique brand of spiritual rock draws on Sufi traditions. He is an outspoken critic of Pakistan’s mullahs, yet supports the presidency of General Musharraf. In a frank conversation, Salman speaks about his music, cultural revival and the future of the ummah. SALMAN AHMAD
The Shariah Firestorm in Canada The law in Canada’s largest province, Ontario, allows for faith-based independent dispute resolution. Orthodox Jews and Christian churches have been doing it for almost 15 years. So why are critics so upset by attempts by the members of the Muslim community to do the same. FAISAL KUTTY explores the thorny issue.
Waking up to Progressive Muslims Islam has a progressive tradition that is as old as the religion itself, but as NAZIM BAKSH argues, you are not likely to find it reflected at MuslimWakeup.com
Portfolio:The Muslim Blogosphere Muslim bloggers are revolutionising the way we express ourselves. SHAHED AMANULLAH reports from the frontiers of Blogistan featuring the winners of the inaugural Brass Crescent Awards. HAROON MOGHUL rambles, but he’s read. The thousands who visit his site weekly are in turns inspired and infuriated.What makes him tick?
“I have great respect for my faith and its traditions but Allah put me in the modern world. I have to harmonise both my spirit and my material life. We need to define who we are. Muslims need to stop and think - do we have any vision for the cultural identity of our young people?
22 Q - NEWS
C O N T R I B U T O R S YAKOUB ISLAM
has been a freelance journalist for over a decade. She currently promotes creative writing programmes and as a Saddler, is a Member of the Guild of Master Craftsmen.
is Director of Liberty. A barrister, she has spent years campaigning against the repressive anti-terrorist measures which followed the 9/11 attacks in the USA.
Photographed by Christopher Cox
is director of the Tasneem Project website. He has three children and lives in West Yorkshire.
works with several US Muslim organisations. He edits the web magazine altmuslim.com and is founder of zabihah.com, an international halal restaurant guide.
is a leading British Muslim journalist with Channel 4 News. Sheâ€™s been an anchor on BBC World, News 24 and a reporter on Newsnight, and the Today programme.
JAMES ABDULAZIZ BROWN
is a legal officer at Liberty. Previously, she has worked as an adviser to Liberty and as a solicitor in New Zealand.
6 | Q - NEWS
is a writer and post-graduate student of History at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.
has written The Order of Light, out this summer. He is currently contemplating a doctorate in modern Indo-Muslim language aesthetics, linguistics and literary cultures.
DR. LOUAY M. SAFI
is the executive director at the Islamic Society of North America, and is a founding board member of the Centre for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID).
MOURNING THE UNKNOWN hen I heard that Kurt Cobain, the lead singer of the rock band Nirvana, had committed suicide, like most other Muslims I was not that bothered. I did, however, think it would be interesting to observe how those who rated the likes of Cobain as demigods would come to terms with the fact that such ‘gods’ find it difficult to control their own personal lives, let alone be good role models for others - their ‘subjects’. After all, if someone cannot lead their own life to their own satisfaction, what right have they to expect others to follow what they say and do? And yet this is the very phenomenon which exists in the often complex relationships between so called ‘stars’ and fans It could be argued, of course, that singers and the like do not tell people to take them seriously, but we rarely hear of any ‘great’ personality telling people to ignore him/her completely. So their silence on the matter is a tacit encouragement for others to literally devote their lives to following this singer or that band or whatever. Who can say when it will be our turn to die? Nothing is as certain in life as death. In fact, it is one thing that we do not need to say insh’Allah about, because it is a certainty. The futility of seeing death, but not coming to terms with its reality, and changing our own lives accordingly before our own demise was brought closer to home less than 24 hours after hearing about Cobain’s death. Our local Imam asked us to make dua for a young sister who had died. She was just 17 years old and this set me thinking; how could someone of my age die? When I found out the next day that the sister in question was the daughter of a man I know, and the sister of a boy who attends my old sec-
ondary school who I also know I was shocked. How dumb I felt when I discovered that honest and sincere Mr Hamid actually had a
daughter. In the sixth-form centre a day or so later, I overheard someone asking if we had heard about Aisha Hamid. Someone replied, “Yeah, she died of an asthma attack; her dad looked… can’t say.” At this I butted in. “Did this Aisha’s dad own a store in Finsbury Park?” Confirmation that this was indeed the case made me kick myself. Not only did I know her father and brother, but she also attended my school. What a small world! Details about this sister came out throughout the day: how she was a good person; how she chose to wear hijab while others rejected it; how her family was distraught and how a particular aunt of hers was hysterical at the news. The whole Muslim community in the school, and some non-
Muslims, felt the loss with great sadness. The fact that most, like myself, never even knew the sister personally and had not heard about her until her death was irrelevant. What moved me especially was the fact that Aisha’s death was the catalyst that changed some people. One brother I met (who was a bit of a gangster) knew her and was going to attend the funeral. He was adamant that the age at which she had died had convinced him that he ‘ain’t gonna mess up no longer’, or words to that effect. Only time will tell. But maybe that is the reason why deaths like this occur. Instead of bemoaning the early loss of a loved one (although, of course, it is natural to feel that way) we should reflect on their life and take their death as a warning to us that death respects neither age, wealth nor sex. Why am I writing this? Am I babbling on to the whole world to please my ego? Hardly, hence my anonymity. The reason is that the shock of death, indeed death itself, is something which we human beings try to ignore; Muslims are unconsciously sanitizing death and taking it out of public discussion. In this we are no different to the wider community in Britain. I did not attend Aisha’s funeral, even though the noble Prophet (peace be upon him) encouraged us to attend funerals of those we know and those we don’t know as they are a reminder of our own fast-approaching death. I feel bad about the fact that I did not go to this particular funeral. If I get through the Day of Judgment on the right side (and I pray this is the case!) I hope that I get the opportunity to apologise to Aisha, the girl I did not know but who has affected my thinking so much. ! Abu Anon in Q-News, Vol: 3 No. 4, 22-29 April 1994 Q - NEWS
Daoud Chehazeh (Syria, b. 1951)
Shabnum Shahnaz (Pakistan, b. 1973)
Fawad Rahman (Afghanistan, b. 1975)
Visa expired in 2001; detained from 1 Oct 2001 to 26 Aug 2002; moved to five dfifferent detention centers over one year; no charges ever filed; released in 2002 and subsequently received political asylum.
Daughter of Rani Shahnaz (b. 1950). Rani indefinitely detained since 22 September 2003; currently fighting deportation proceedings.
Husband of Samira Rahman (b. 1975). Samira applied for political asylum as member of Tajik minority; asylum denied 28 April 2003; separated from two USborn children and detained facing deportation since 7 January 2005.
Mohammed Mohiuddin (Bangladesh, b. 1972)
Tariq AbdelMuhti (New York, b. 1978)
In US for medical treatment of rare blood disease, went through required Special Registration; Passport seized, facing deportation; currently fighting deportation in court.
Son of Palestinian activist and WBAI reporter Farouk Abdel-Muhti; Farouk detained between 2002-04; denied medicine in jail; released after international campaign; died of heart attack from complications created by jail term 21 July 2004.
Chaplain James Yee (b. 1969) Accused of spying at Guantanamo Bay; detained for 76 days in solitary confinement; government eventually dropped all charges.
DISAPPEARED IN AMERICA Since 9/11, approximately 3,000 American Muslim men have been detained in a security dragnet. To date, none have been prosecuted on terrorism charges.The majority of those detained were from the invisible underclass of cities like New York. They are the recent immigrants who drive our taxis, deliver our food, clean our restaurant tables, and sell fruit, coffee, and newspapers. The only time we see their faces are when we glance at the hack license in the taxi partition, or the ID card around the neck of a vendor. Already invisible in our cities, after detention, they have become “ghost prisoners.” In this, there are eerie parallels to past witchhunts, including the 1919 detention of 10,000 immigrants after anarchists bombed the Attorney General’s home; the 1941 internment of 110,000 Japanese-Americans; the trial and execution of the Rosenbergs; and the HUAC Black-listing under Senator Joseph McCarthy. VISIBLE, a collective of Muslim and other Artist-Activists, will premiere their exhibition Disappeared in America at the Queens Museum of Art. Disappeared in America is a walk-through instal-
lation that uses a film trilogy, soundscapes, photos, objects, and the audience’s interactions to humanize the faces of “disappeared” Muslims. The VISIBLE Collective has compiled from various sources a list of hundreds of names of the disappeared.The list of names (along with age, location of residence and country of origin, when these were available) formed the basis for the piece NaHnu Waahad (We Are One) in the Disappeared in America installation. Disappeared in America premieres at Queens Museum of Art, New York on 27 February 27 2005 and will be on view until 5 June 5 2005. The project will be presented as part of FATAL LOVE, a major exhibition of South Asian arts in the Diaspora. The DisappearedInAmerica.org website is the online companion to the exhibition. On this site you can hear audio, browse video, and view photographs from the exhibition, as well as read pertinent legal documents, and view and contribute to a community-maintained database of disappeared persons.
DIARY AFFAN CHOWDHRY
here’s a guy I know who meditates most mornings, performs yoga, works out and seems generally devoted to inner peace. The other day I was in the library reading up on Maududi, while on the other side of the library he read-up on his Buddhism. When a group of energetic and hormonal undergrads started giggling and teasing each other, I imagined walking in to their little group and politely asking them to keep quiet. If one of the guys objected, I would promptly throw him over the railing, into the quiet reading room three floors below. When yoga boy and I crossed paths later, I told him about my disturbing thought. “That’s all you wanted to do? Toss one of them? I felt like beating each one of them with a baseball bat!” You know, I think I’m doing just fine without the yoga and the meditation, thank you very much.
am already thinking about my musical selections for the BBC Radio Four program Desert Island Discs. Whenever they call, I’ll be ready with my choice of music that I’d like to take to a desert island. 1. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai - from the Bollywood film of the same name. Pure fun. I could spend my days doing that shoulder thing that Shahrukh Khan does. 2. I was impressed with Kim Cattrall of Sex and the City who was on the show recently. She chose My Favourite Things by saxophonist John Coltrane. To be different, I would choose They Say it’s Wonderful from an album Coltrane did with crooner Johnny Hartman. Vocal and instrumental gold. 3. I would never leave the ‘Queen of Soul’ behind. Aretha Franklin’s early gospel singing is a treasure. But I would have to go with the more popular song Spanish Harlem. 4. Anything by Sam Cooke would be brilliant - like Chain Gang - but I’ll take the rousing Harlem Square Club recording of Bring it on Home to Me. 5. Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On is one of the finest albums from beginning to end and the title track is timeless.
6. No snickering at this next selection. I would feel obliged to honor the Doo Wop era - which sustained me during my teen years in the eighties. Earth Angel by the Penguins. 7. The theme song for the TV sitcom Three’s Company. Stop laughing, please. 8. There are so many fabulous Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan songs. But I would choose a Paris recording from the 1980s: O Muhammad, call me to Madinah. If I had to pick one song from the above eight, it would be the Nusrat song. One book to take along: The Ikea Catalogue. Luxury to take along: North American crunchy peanut butter, because the Brits just can’t get it right. ne recent winter afternoon, while talking to a classmate, my voice suddenly cracked. She looked at me bewildered. “What’s up with your voice?” “I don’t know,” I said with some concern, “It’s like I’m going back in to pre-puberty.” But that is not where my voice settled eventually. The first week I sounded like the Godfather. By the second week, it was as though my voice was being dragged along rocks. By the third week, I began to imagine a life where my voice would be a continuous assault on peoples’ ears. “Well I don’t think you need antibiotics,” said the doctor. “Well, yes. I don’t like antibiotics at all. But it’s been so long and I’m not 100 per cent yet,” I said, with a note of desperation. “I could write you a prescription, and if you don’t get better you can use it.” I hate it when doctors give you choice. I did not take the prescription. Two weeks later, another unsuccessful visit to the clinic and I lost faith. I decided to take my health elsewhere. The new clinic was too busy for a same-day appointment. I returned to my room with literature on the new clinic. I popped an Echinacea pill - which I was beginning to suspect as fake - and started to read about my new doctor. She was an expert in women’s health, family planning and genito-urinary medicine. I wanted to scream except I can’t hit those high notes anymore.
fter dinner at a friend’s place, I arrived at the Charlton train station well ahead of the last scheduled city-bound train. I continued to wait on the platform 30 minutes after its scheduled arrival. The cold cut through to the bone and I was beating myself up for not wearing my winter jacket. My hosts had told me to come back in case the train didn’t show up. I thought: ‘Why wouldn’t it show up?’ It was almost midnight and I was cursing Southwest Trains. I walked to the main road, to the nearby bus stop. Unfamiliar with the area, I was unsure about which bus to take. I waited a long time, and when no bus showed up, I started walking to a different stop around the corner. Of course, just as I arrived, I looked back at the stop I had just left - a bus was pulling up. This happened several times, in fact. I found myself running between two bus stops, just missing one bus after another. I felt like a dumb rat. I did this for 30 minutes and then I stopped and thought: this is cruel, this is wrong, this is uncivilised. I cursed the city, the transit system, and myself. I thought about going back to my friend’s home, but it was too late by then. Eventually a bus arrived and it took me to North Greenwich tube station. However, the last train had already left. I boarded bus 188. Nietzsche once said: “Never trust a thought that didn’t come by way of walking.” I would add cars, trains, and buses to that. In travel, we are in between where we begin and where we hope to end up. Perhaps we see our personal trajectories more clearly. The daily disappointments suddenly seem so small and irrelevant. During that ride, I thought about the narratives that I was born into - they are like heavy doors that won’t budge. I find myself in between ‘being’ and ‘becoming’ - moving so slowly. Sometimes I wonder: “Lord, am I even on the right bus?” The bus sped along unfamiliar streets. People - drunk and sober - got on and off. But I was a passenger till the very end. All the way to Russell Square. !
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Q-NOTES THE HEIGHT OF OPULENCE
HISTORICAL AMNESIA n the 21st February 2005 edition of the New Statesman, Bonnie Greer declares that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is “the most powerful black women since the Queen of Sheba.” It’s funny how those with the most impeccable liberal credentials always forget to refer to their history books when writing such hyperbole. Let’s remind Ms Greer of a few powerful black women she forgot: ! Qasa, Queen of Mali, was the wife of famed king Mansa Suleiman in the 14th Century. Ibn Battuta reported that, “the queen is his partner in the kingship, after the custom of the blacks. Her name is mentioned with his from the pulpit.” She helped rule over a magnificent empire that was the richest in Africa, encouraging trade, scholarship, the arts and building mosques. ! Amina, Queen of Zazzua who in the 16th Century ruled over a Hausa state located in modern-day Nigeria. Amina was a skilled warrior and as a princess led her kingdom’s cavalry into battle and brought immense wealth and power to her people. During her thirty-four year reign, she expanded her state dominating trade and commerce in the region, made her lands safe for passage and is credited with building innovative earthen wall fortifications around nascent cities that helped the process of urbanisation. ! Nana Asmau was the daughter Shehu Uthman dan Fodio, the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate, and who until her death in 1864 advised on the running of the state. She was the author of 55 works (including a large multi-volume commentary of the Quran), a poet, an administrator and teacher who founded the Yan Taru movement, which educated women and is still in existence today.As her father’s diplomat, she was corresponding with the Shehu of Borno, the head of the first Islamic state in Nigeria on issues of Islamic jurisprudence and her views were well respected. She spoke and wrote in Arabic, Fulfulde and Hausa. It just so happens that all of these powerful black women were Muslims. Surprising? Well, at least it explains the historical amnesia.
FUN TIMES FOR OXBRIDGE ALUMNI Saturday, 5th March sees the launch of The Oxbridge Muslim Alumni with an inaugural networking event to connect the Muslim alumni of Oxford and Cambridge Universities. Old and new Oxbridge students, fellows and lecturers are expected to attend the occasion, the largest ever gathering of Oxbridge Muslims. HSBC Amanah Finance and Al Buraq Islamic Finance are the main sponsors of the event, featuring Cambridge University’s Tim Winter and the Muslim Parliament’s Ghayasuddin Siddiqui.The Oxbridge Muslim Alumni strives to narrow gaps amongst some of the most successful Muslims in the UK and subsequently unite different communities under the umbrella of two common denominators, Islam and Oxbridge. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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At a cost of £2 billion, the Emirates Palace Hotel is the most expensive ever built. Owned by the Government of Abu Dhabi and managed by the Kempinksi Group, the Emirates Palace is set on 1 million square metres of land on a 1.3 km tract of sandy beach. As The Sunday Times reported, the statistics are staggering: an entrance arch that is just smaller than the Arc de Triomphe; a lobby atrium with a dome larger than St Paul’s Cathedral topped by a two-metre finial made of 20kg of solid gold; 6,040 square metres of gold leaf used throughout; 110,000 cubic metres of marble; 1,002 Swarovski crystal chandeliers; 2,600 employees and a yearly flower bill that rings in at £1.2 million. And that’s just the beginning.The hotel will never make money and in the tourist desert that’s Abu Dhabi there isn’t really much to do, except enjoy the luxury of the Emirates Palace hotel if your credit card can bear the burden. If you can’t afford to stay there, then you can rest comfortably in the knowledge that those who can will be carried around in golf carts.The building itself takes one hour to walk around. Hang on, how much did Abu Dhabi and the UAE contribute to tsunami disaster relief? The Christian Science Monitor reports around $20million. Given the size of their contribution compared with the cost of their new hotel, maybe they will offer rooms to some of the hundreds of thousands of homeless who are looking to other donors to rebuild their communities.
DEENPORT MANIA DeenPort, www.deenport.com, created by Omar Tufail, a self-taught Glasgow-based web designer, now receives more than 20,000 hits a month and is fast becoming the place for the exchange of views for intelligent young British Muslims.Tired of static web pages, DeenPort is designed for dynamism - interactive, newsy and hugely addictive. Logon and you will access lessons by the shuyukh; new poetry by Abdal Hayy Moore; bookviews; interviews; and an MP3 section that has the best rocking beats this side of anywhere. Celebrating its first anniversary on 1 March, DeenPort also showcases contemporary visual art and publishes travelogues. But it the message forum, with over 400 registered members, that keeps the place hopping. Also, Masud Khan’s legendary website www.masud.co.uk has been invited to participate in a major British Library archive initiative.The Library said, “We have judged this web site to be an important part of our documentary heritage and would like it to remain available to researchers in the future.” Congratulations Masud!
Q IN THE NEWS t’s a lonely job being Britain’s only really independent Muslim publication. So - Alhamdulillah it’s nice to get noticed once in a while. The press industry’s leading weekly trade paper The Press Gazette last month carried a feature interview with our Managing Editor Fareena Alam who talked, among other things, about the time that, “One of the imams from up north called and said ‘the downfall of Q-News will be brought about by the women you have placed in leadership positions,’ Fuad Nahdi said to him: ‘If you can find me 200 bearded smelly men like you who can manage to do the job these two women do then I would accept your point!’” Sonia Malik’s brave piece on the secret lives of Muslim women on Britain’s university campuses (Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Q-News, Issue 360) has been syndicated to The Guardian, printed on 28 February, and created waves from the BBC Asian network to as far away as Italy.
IRAN’S MYSTERY DJ Behzad Bolour of Songlines Magazine, reports that a few months ago, a young Iranian girl was spotted on the Internet singing techno and pop songs.The trouble was nobody knew where it came from. Soon pictures, names and sounds claiming to be her appeared on Iranian websites. It was even rumoured that she was in prison, awaiting execution. She became an underground sensation, but nobody knew her true identity. Until, that is, she revealed herself to the BBC Persian service. “The 18 year-old goes by the name of DJ Mahshar and is from Tehran. She sings for mental health patients,” writes Bolour. “Apparently while singing her songs in a hospital gig, they were secretly recorded and put on the internet.” DJ Mahshar is shocked by her popularity, which has spread to the global Iranian community.The media in Iran has attacked her and demanded her capture for giving “illegal private concerts.” Her father counters: “She is the voice of Iran’s modern culture and that is no crime.”
YOUSSOU WINS WORLD MUSIC AWARD
WHERE THE WINE FLOWS LIKE LASSI
Senegalese singer/songwriter sensation Youssou N’Dour (who graced the cover of Q-News, Issue 358) has recently been garnering some serious accolades. His London show last Ramadan was called “dazzling” and reviewers have been raving about his “thoroughly inspired” new album. In December,The Times declared his album, Egypt, featuring Sufi Islamic music from Senegal and Egypt as one of the top ten albums of the year and now Youssou has garnered the prestigious BBC Radio 3 World Music Album of the Year Award. Youssou is one of Islam’s finest ambassadors - may he continue to bring joy to all who hear him!
The Daily Times of Pakistan reported in January that on the eve of Eid al-Adha, Lahore’s international class hotels were forced to close their bars, declare they were sold out of alcohol and wouldn’t be able to restock for weeks. Beer, liquor, spirits - all gone. In Pakistan, where the public sale of alcohol is banned, a few hotels are exempt as they cater to an international business clientele and the small Christian minority. The system has always been open to abuse, but Lahore’s affluent Muslim middle class has found a creative way around the prohibition. In the weeks leading up to Eid, rooms at the city’s finest hotels were booked solid while the in-room minibars were cleared of their contents. This is the second time that hotels have been forced to announce the closure of theirs bars due to lack of stock. I guess alcohol thirsty Lahoris will have to sip on mango lassis in the time being. Those who can’t get it at the hotels rely on illegal dealers and moonshine hustlers. Even Christians authorised to sell to their own communities are getting in on the act. “We charge more when we sell it illegally,” said a liquor agent asking not to be named. Such as the contradictions of living in an “Islamic Republic”. Q - NEWS
BLEEDIN’ ISLAMOPHOBIA “WHY WOULD ANYONE FOLLOW A DEAD PROPHET INSTEAD OF THE LIVING CHRIST?” YAKOUB ISLAM FROZE. THIS IS NOT WHAT HE EXPECTED WHEN HE RESPONDED TO A CALL FOR MORE DONORS TO THE NATIONAL BLOOD SERVICE. uring my teacher training, I was placed in a school so far from home, I wondered whether it would be possible to get there and back every day and still meet all my academic and family obligations. Fortunately, a colleague living nearby was kind enough to offer me a lift, but my payment was to stay silent while she and her fellow teacher friends sat in the car every afternoon on the way home, spilling poison on the Islamic faith. The source of their prejudice was the pupils themselves, 98% of whom were Muslim. That was over five years ago. Since then, and despite my sporting a beard and shalwar kameez, the only Islamophobia I have experienced is in the press. That was, until 3pm on Monday, 7th February, 2005, when I arrived at a centre run by the National Blood Service (NBS) in Huddersfield with the intention of giving blood for Allah. I had made an appointment several weeks before over the phone, specifying the preferred location. I arrived as arranged, with my glossy leaflets and appointment letter. I filled in the necessary forms, read the necessary booklet, answered the necessary embarrassing questions about my sexual behaviour, took the necessary blood test and then sat down to wait to donate. A few minutes later, I was called to a bench by a person I assumed was a phlebotomist. A short, middle aged, Irish woman, I surmised straight away from
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her demeanour that she was a Roman Catholic. Having spent most of my life around Catholics, my nerves quickly dissipated and we were soon talking. And so it wasn’t long before I announced that I had come to give blood as a result of a call for more Muslim donors in Q-News. Her response to my proclamation ‘You’re Muslim?’ - was ominous. Maybe I should have changed the topic of conversation there and then. The needle seemed to hurt more than it should when she stuck it in my arm - or did I imagine that? There was no offer of a local anaesthetic as promised in the booklet. Perhaps one needed to ask the nurse about that? Then the questions started - not curious questions, but stony-faced interrogation, with only taciturn responses to my polite, reciprocal enquiries. Why was I Muslim? Were my children Muslim? How long have you been…? Are your family…? Then she asked, “Is your wife going to become Muslim?” “No,” I answered, smiling. My wife, oddly enough, is Roman Catholic. “She’s happy as she is.” “She’s not going to become a Muslim, then.” “No.” I kept smiling, wanting to be friendly. I wanted her to see that Muslims are reasonable, peaceful people. I had no idea what was coming next. “I don’t blame her!” She sneered, and in the same malicious tone, added: “Why would anyone want to follow a dead
Prophet when they could follow the living Christ?” Her words were like a slap. I turned numb. Someone in a position of trust, who had put a needle in my arm and was now taking blood out of me, had just derided my religious faith to my face. I was shocked, too, because her comments were utterly at odds with the avowed aims of the NBS, who I gather are seeking to recruit more donors from minority communities. And indeed, it was not the flagrantly denigration of my faith that wounded me the most. It was her dereliction of duty. This person’s callous and deeply insulting comments spoke of a hostility that was liable to drive Muslims away from donating. I politely but firmly demanded an explanation as to how she could reconcile expressing such views with the NBS’s aims of recruiting ethnic minority donors, including Muslims. “Well, they don’t come! We even run clinics in Bradford for them. Still they don’t come.” Not an apology nor a denial. Simply a pathetic attempt to deceive herself that it was acceptable to insult Muslims, even though her employer wants more such donors, because Muslims don’t want to donate! Perhaps the NBS don’t really want donors from ethnic minorities. Sifting through their glossy PR, I soon found things didn’t add up. For example, their claim to have surpassed their 2004 goal for ethnic minority bone marrow donors was true in terms of numbers only. They actually fell short of their own 3.75% target. But then nearly 8% of Britons are non-white. Their PR doesn’t mention that. And this incident took place just off Huddersfield town centre, not a stone’s throw away from several substantial Muslim, Sikh and Afro-Caribbean communities. Indeed, one of the things that struck me as I walked out of Huddersfield’s multicultural shopping precincts and into the donation centre was how white the centre seemed. In contrast to the NBS’s claim to setting up ‘special clinics’ for Muslims, there seemed to be no attempt to create an inclusive environment - there were no non-white staff on duty, no acceptable food, private areas for women to donate or translators. That’s more than bad PR, surely? !
WOMEN SLIPPING THRU’ THE GAPS THE FAWCETT SOCIETY REPORTS EVIDENCE OF TRIPLE PREJUDICE WORKING AGAINST BANGLADESHI AND PAKISTANI WOMEN. SAMIRA AHMED LOOKS AT THE PATH AHEAD. ike many other women I don’t spend much time thinking of myself as a statistic; or an ethnic category. But starting out as a young reporter a decade ago, I realised that some people did. Out on assignments from the BSE scandal to the coal mine closures, I started to notice that some Tory MPs who caught sight of me in a crowd of reporters would give me a wink; regarding me, I think, instinctively, as a bit of dusky exotica. While Labour MPs and Trades Unionists would pick me out of the hack pack and look so pleased to see an Asian woman who was doing so terribly well, and wasn’t oppressed. It usually meant I’d get the first interview as well! The problem is that while many of us are getting on well, very many other women are not. A new report from the Fawcett Society has looked at the very issue of how racism and sexism has a double impact on the lives of black and minority ethnic (BME) women in the United Kingdom. Because of the way campaigners have tackled racism and sexism as separate evils, I think the enduring wrongs still suffered by BME women have slipped through that gap. And crucially, it enabled a generation of self-styled (usually male) “community leaders” to promote themselves and their own interests, often supressing discussion of cultural taboo subjects, such as forced marriage, female genital mutilationm and domestic violence. The study is one of the first attempts to tackle race and gender together. It has confirmed statistically what many BME women know from personal experience - that they are almost absent from the rank of decision makers and that this exclusion tells at every level of society. It highlights massive inequalities in education, health, employment and pay, financial security, levels of political
involvement and treatment by the criminal justice system. By looking at the different groups of women within the very wide category of black and minority ethnic, the report also shows that there are huge disparities between the experiences of women who fall into this rough grouping. For instance, while 65 per cent of black Caribbean women work full-time, just 14 per cent of Pakistani and 27 per cent of Bangladeshi women do. In fact, the report uncovered a particular striking picture in relation to Pakistani and Bangladeshi women, showing them to be disadvantaged on almost every measure. It is truly shocking that babies born to immigrant Pakistani mothers are more than twice as likely to die in their first week as the babies of British-born mothers. Women in this group are also the most likely to live in poverty or to suffer bad health. They are the least likely to do well in school and the worst paid - for every £1 earned by a white man, Pakistani and Bangladeshi women earn just 56 pence. In employment, the report tells of evidence of triple prejudice working against this group. Pakistani and Bangladeshi women find it harder than white women with the same qualifications to get a job. An initial survey indicates that these women are experiencing prejudice on grounds of their sex, race and ethnic identity, with employers assuming that Muslim women are not able to work evenings, or with men, or will not “fit in”, or will present the wrong image to customers if they wear the hijab.
The report concludes that low rates of employment, low pay and the responsibility for large families combine to put Pakistani and Bangladeshi women in their particularly disadvantaged position. The Fawcett Society has called for the government to urgently look at improving life for women from these backgrounds and provide health services, education and criminal justice that will allow them to fully reach their potential. While the research found that Pakistani and Bangladeshi women are the most excluded, it found that all BME women find themselves disadvantaged in some way. It also believes that the lack of BME women at the top means that their voices are unheard, making it even harder for the government to implement policies that will allow BME women to make the most of their talents. It is appalling that while BME women represent two per cent of the population, they make up only 0.3 per cent of MPs. There have only ever been two black female MPs (Diane Abbott and Oona King), there has never been an Asian female MP, there are no BME women police chief constables and there are no BME women judges in the House of Lords or Court of Appeal. The women who have managed to break through have done this in spite of the barriers in their way. Whether immigrants themselves, or the children or grandchildren of immigrants, such women are driven by that same spirit of self-betterment and entitlement: to fight cultural prejudice at home as much as external prejudices with the goal of achieve full equality and their full potential. !
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THE POLITICS OF
COMMON PURPOSE BRITISH MUSLIMS ARE MORE DIVERSE AND HAVE A BROADER RANGE OF INTERESTS AND CONCERNS THAN SOME LIKE TO GIVE THEM CREDIT FOR. LABOUR PARTY CHAIRMAN IAN MCCARTNEY ARGUES THAT, MORE THAN JUST A HISTORIC BOND, LABOUR AND THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY HAVE SHARED VALUES AND A COMMON POLITICAL PURPOSE. s I have travelled up and down the country in the role of Labour Party Chair, it has become clear to me that British Muslims are more diverse and have a much broader range of interests and concerns than some political parties and commentators give them credit for. I believe that Labour has always been and always will be the party which best represents these interests. However there is a bond between the Labour Party and Muslim communities which is much stronger than any coalition maintained on an issue by issue basis. The largest migration of Muslim communities began in the 1950s, coming mainly from rural areas of South Asia, in particular the Indian subcontinent. Muslim migrants arrived in the UK primarily to aid the shortfall in the workforce following the Second World War and settled in the inner city areas of London, the industrial towns of the Midlands, and the textile towns of Lancashire, Yorkshire and Scotland. It was in areas like these that the Muslim campaigns against poverty and for better access to education quickly developed a strong bond with the Labour party. Many Muslims became active trade unionists and local Labour councillors working closely with the Labour party nationally. There are many obvious economic and social reasons why largely working class, inner city communities would have best seen their interests protected and represented by the Labour party. Since 1997, it is under a Labour government that state funded Muslim schools have been established, the primary purpose rule which affected ethnic minorities, particularly Muslim communities, was abolished and assistance given has been given to pilgrims undertaking the
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Hajj to Mecca and a raft of race relations legislation benefiting Muslims and other communities has been introduced. It is also in the Labour party that Muslims have found their voice- with Labour having more Muslim Peers and councillors than the other two parties combined. We are also the only Party with Muslim MPs and, with the support of local communities, we are set to double the number of Muslim Labour MPs at the next election. For Muslim voters the policy appeal of Labour has always been based on a common struggle to ensure equality of opportunity and a level playing field. British Muslims have voted for Labour, because it is the only party that understands that Muslims want only fairness not favours. But the relationship between Labour and Muslims goes much deeper than just policy and legislative considerations. In truth it is based on shared values and shared principles. Like all the great faiths, the concepts of community, social justice and peace are integral to Islam. These are the values which inspired working men and women to come together from the fields and the factories to create the Labour Party. The chief duty prescribed by Islam for believers in the faith is the creation of a just community in which all members, even the weakest and most vulnerable, are treated with absolute respect. Muslims are rightly proud of key values in Islam that focus on traditions of community (ummah) and of decisionmaking through consultation (shura) and through consensus (ijma). These traditions underline the compatibility between Islamic values and the democratic values and practices found in the UK and elsewhere in the West.
The global Islamic community of believers is predicated upon a common understanding of equality, compassion and shared social responsibility. Indeed, social responsibility and justice has been one of the guiding objectives of Islam, providing the framework for this sense of community. Fundamental to Islamâ€™s teachings on social responsibility, is the notion of justice. The practice of annual charitable donations, zakah is a demonstrable example of social responsibility in practice. These charitable donations or taxes were used to form a sort of welfare state to care for the poor and as a form of redistribution of wealth, during the Prophet Muhammadâ€™s time and thereafter. Protection of the poor was also behind the Islamic ban on exploitative loans - an early example of a policy designed to protect the most vulnerable in a society. It is striking that Islam not only sympathises with the plight of the
poor and disadvantaged but that it stipulates such clear remedies to address the needs of the poor. There is another uniquely British aspect to the relationship. In many parts of Europe the Left was militantly anti-religious for long periods of its history. In the Spanish Civil War and the French revolution, attacks on churches and priests were commonplace. Franceâ€™s rigorously secular order stems from those historical roots. Later the influence of Marxism would strengthen an already existing anti-religious streak in many European left wing movements. By contrast the traditions of British social democracy that led to the founding of the Labour Party were different. The influence of Marxism was weaker in Britain than in any other European country while the influence of religion was strong. The Reformation and, much later, the growth of Non Conformism had already by the nine-
teenth century given rise to a richly diverse civil society. Whereas European social democracy was often constructed in opposition to religious faith, by sharp contrast faith played a strong role in the rise of the British Labour Party. Traditions of Christian Socialism were very strong in the late 19th/early 20th centuries and fed directly into the growth of the Labour Party. One of the first pamphlets of the Fabian Society, one of the groups which helped found the Labour Party, was a tract on Christian Socialism. These are, I believe, more than simply academic points for British Muslims. The Labour party has always embraced people of faith who believe that politics has a moral purpose. While we can claim no monopoly on turning faith into political action, ours is a movement which has always welcomed those whose faith moves them to take on the injustice and suffering faced by others.
Today in 21st Century Britain, Muslims are a key part of communities up and down the country. Muslims sit on health boards or as school governors, they are entrepreneurs and community leaders and crucially they are Labour MPs and Labour Councillors. But there are major challenges for the British Muslim community as well as the Labour Party. It is self-evident there have been strains in a close relationship which has traditionally bolstered the strength of the Labour Party. But one constant which remains unchanged are our shared values. I believe this makes the Labour Party the only choice for British Muslims, a choice based not only on policies, but a choice based on shared values and principles. ! Ian McCartney is Chairman of the Labour Party and a Minister Without Portfolio.
WHO IS SANIA MIRZA? IN INDIA, SHE’S EVERYWHERE. THERE ISN’T A PUBLICATION OR TELEVISION PROGRAM THAT HASN’T CAUGHT SANIA MANIA. “THIS LASS HAS GOT CLASS,” THEY GUSH. “SHE’S THE BELLE OF THE BALL,” THEY COO. SIRAJ WAHAB REPORTS ON THE TEENAGE TENNIS SENSATION THAT’S GOT EVERYBODY TALKING. ania Mirza is an 18-year-old Muslim girl from Hyderabad, India, who has caught the attention of the world of tennis. On 12 February 2005 she became the first Indian to win a Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) title - and the $140,000 prize that went with it. She was given a wild card for the Hyderabad Open event, which she won by beating ninth seed Alyona Bondarenko of the Ukraine. That victory came after her exploits in the Australian Open last month where she became the first Indian, not to mention the first Muslim, to reach the third round of a Grand Slam event. Sania lost to Serena Williams. She jumped from a 400 ranking last year into the Top 100 this year. She is on No. 99 in the latest world rankings. Those are cold statistics for the record books. What sort of Muslim girl goes around playing tennis on the international scene? “She is a deeply religious girl who prays five times a day and tries not to play during the holy month of Ramadan. She reads the Quran every day,” her father and coach, Imran Mirza, says in a telephone interview from Hyderabad.
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“She doesn’t want to miss out on college, so she recently enrolled herself for a bachelor’s degree in mass communications, having completed her higher secondary course last year. She went to Nasr School, an English-medium school which is a typical Muslim one.” So she wants to be a journalist? “Having answered hundreds of questions from hundreds of journalists after winning the hearts and minds of a multitude of Indians, she probably knows the right questions to ask,” said the doting father. Sania had already learned the nuances of journalism when someone asked her what’s it like for a Muslim girl to wear short skirts and slug it out on court. She quickly replied: “I don’t wear miniskirts on the streets.” Imran Mirza syas the whole family has contributed to Sania’s rise to stardom. “My younger daughter Anam, who is 11, probably missed a lot of time with us because we were so busy with Sania.” Sania’s grandfather was an avid sportsman. “My father, Muhammad Zafar Mirza, played university-level cricket. He also played club cricket for Middlesex in England. But his first love was hockey. Then he went into academics,” said Imran. Sania’s mother is also a sports lover. “She never played organised sports though,” said Imran. “It was natural for Sania to pick up some kind of sport. Cricket is not an option for women, and we discouraged her from getting into swimming so tennis became the best option,” said Imran. “We knew she had talent when she picked up the racket for the first time at the age of six. We knew then that she was
destined for big things, but we didn’t know she’d reach the Top 100. Now she wants to be in the Top 50 by the end of 2006 and the Top 25 by 2007.” Imran says finding corporate sponsors initially was tough. “GVK Industries did a lot to promote her. Now we are deluged with offers from sponsors.” Anirban Das, senior vice president of Globosport, which handles Sania’s commercial work, told Outlook news magazine that he spent the last few months “persuading people, trying to convince them there was something special about this girl.” Sania’s appeal extends beyond the demographic of tennis-watchers in that she has become an icon for young people - particularly women. After losing to World No. 7 Serena Williams in the Australian Open, Brad Gilbert, coach of to Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick, told her: “You have a bright future. I would like to see you in the Top 50 in the next 12 months.” Sania Mirza possesses simple, wholesome charm along with sheer earnestness. There is a down-to-earth quality to her which goes beyond the transitory appeal of models. And, unlike actresses, Sania is real. Sania’s rise to the top has also given a shot in the arm to the morale of the country’s Muslim minority. In a much-acclaimed article, Praful Bidwai hit the nail on the head when he said: “Sania has come to embody a number of aspects of modernity, freedom and rationality - the very opposite of the stereotypes that Indian Muslims are straitjacketed into. Many conservatives, especially Bharatiya Janata Party sympathisers, believe Indian Muslims are irredeemably backward, illiterate, overly religious, bigoted... In their view, Muslims are somewhat inferior, under-socialised human beings who deserve pity or sympathy, not equal treatment or respect. The Hindu nationalist, as well as the middle class pseudo-liberal, is deeply uncomfortable with the modern, liberal, educated, well-informed Indian Muslim who has an open mind and cosmopolitan outlook. The discomfort is all the greater if the person is a woman. Sania Mirza represents all of those modern attributes. And yet, she has become an irresistible, irrepressible icon by dint of her talent and her transparent charm. This is a major transformation of the Indian Muslim stereotype.” So who is Sania Mirza? If you’re one of the Top 100 in the world of tennis, the answer might be “trouble.” !
DEMOCRACY INSIDE OUT: THE CASE OF EGYPT THE US HAS MADE EDUCATION REFORM IN MUSLIM NATIONS A KEY FEATURE OF ITS FOREIGN POLICY AND EARMARKED CONSIDERABLE SUMS TO FUND DEMOCRATIC EDUCATION. WELL MEANING? PERHAPS. BUT REAL CHANGE, IN COUNTRIES LIKE EGYPT, WILL COME WHEN INTERNAL REFORM IS TAKEN SERIOUSLY. LOUAY SAFI REPORTS. he substantial funds allocated to democratic education in Muslim countries have attracted many organisations involved in democratic training in South American and East Europe. The trend signals a positive change in attitude, and the Bush administration should be applauded for undertaking this forward-looking initiative, and for increasing the pressure on the autocratic Middle Eastern regimes to undertake democratic reform. Democratic reform will not, however, come about by mere bankrolling and making demands from the outside. Reform will ultimately emerge as a result of popular demands and reformist steps by internal political players. External pressure should compliment, rather than displace, the ongoing internal social and political struggle in place long before the menace of global terrorism hit the US. The temptation to champion democracy in the Middle East by micro-managing
the reform process is counterproductive, and is likely to play into the hands of antidemocratic forces intent on stemming out the fledgling democratic forces under the rubric of safeguarding national independence and countering foreign interference. Rather than pressuring autocratic government to change school curricula and superimpose a set of abstract criteria through state apparatus, the US should use its influence to increase the margin of freedom for political expression and action by civil society organizations. The forces of reform and modernisation are already at work in Muslim society, and have, despite severe limitations imposed by the state on their actions, made considerable strides to affect educational, cultural, and political reforms. The struggle for democracy in Egypt provides us with a good insight into the dynamics of reform in this key Middle Eastern country, and underscores the need for a new approach by the US and Europe to facilitate the emergence of stable and sustainable democracy. The country is ruled by a political party that wears a liberal democratic garb, but protects the interests of a corrupt oligarchy, and rules with an iron fist. The party tightly controls the press, has continuously supported emergency laws, and enjoys full monopoly over the licensing of new political parties. The party has, for years, marginalised opposition, and refused to legitimise any political group that advocates Islam as the foundation of social and political reform. For years, the ruling elites of Egypt have refused to recognise the Muslim Brotherhood group as a legitimate political actor by invoking secularism. Excluding an Islamic party that has not clearly defined how it plans to protect the constitutional rights of religious minorities is justifiable, though the state has never set clear standards and qualifications to explain its position. However, using the religious adherence of party members and leaders as grounds to exclude parties that promote a non-religious national platform is a clear violation of democratic principles. In 1996, the committee in charge of licensing political parties, an arm of the Egyptian’s national congress, turned down
the application of a new political party, the Wasat Party, co-founded by a Muslim and a Copt. Egyptian security forces arrested the founders, accused them of being a front for the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Notwithstanding that the party leaders were acquitted by a military court, the Egyptian government persists in denying the Wasat Party’s application, and continues to curtail political freedom and prevent the emergence of popular political opposition. The Wasat Party has fairly moderated views, and is open to people regardless of their religion and gender. It has a good number of Christian Copts and women, both in the Party’s leadership and the rank-and-file. The Wasat Party, along with other popular groups, is castigated for insisting on grounding their reformist message in Islamic values and traditions. Yet it is this kind of work, in which the basic cultural and religious assumptions and traditions are challenged from within, and through reference to Islamic values and normative sources, that is essential for advancing the process of democratisation, and fostering a spirit of openness and tolerance. Islamic sources emphasise the values of equality, religious freedom, respect of diversity, and fair dealings, essential for any democratic reform. And reform movements must appeal to Islamic values that form the moral sub-terrain of contemporary Muslim cultures. For over half a century, Western democracies have relied on the power of Middle Eastern states to effect modernisation by imposing modernity on their populations. The result has been scandalous: political systems that silence opposition, and use an iron fist to transform religiously rooted traditions and introduce modern lifestyle, have created police states that foster corruption and breed extremism and violence. Nothing can stem the tide of extremism, except a political environment that promotes dialogue, freedom of press and association. In a society in which ideas are allowed to compete, extremism will be forced to move from the centre stage to the fringe of society, and moderate voices and practices will prevail. ! Q - NEWS
HANDING VICTORY TO THE
BRITAIN IS THE ONLY COUNTRY POST 9/11 TO HAVE OPTED OUT OF THE RIGHT TO LIBERTY ENSHRINED IN THE EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS. THE DECEMBER 2004 DECISION BY THE LAW LORDS CRITICISING THE GOVERNMENT’S ANTI-TERROR LEGISLATION SHOULD HAVE RESULTED IN A MAJOR CHANGE TO THE LAW. BUT AS SHAMI CHAKRABARTI AND MEGAN ADDIS EXPLAIN, THE HOME SECRETARY’S NEW PROPOSALS FALL SHORT OF REAL REFORM.
n December 2004 the House of Lords’ decision A & others v Secretary of State for the Home Department delivered what will hopefully be a fatal blow to the cornerstone of the government’s anti-terrorism strategy: the indefinite detention of foreign nationals without trial under the AntiTerrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. By a majority of eight to one, the Law Lords ruled that the indefinite detention of foreign nationals without trial was contrary to the detainees’ human rights because it discriminated against them as foreign nationals and was a response out of all proportion to the perceived terrorist threat. However, because the Law Lords cannot strike down laws made by Parliament, their ruling has not led to the immediate release of the detainees. Nonetheless, the government is still obliged to reform the offending law, but unsurprisingly, its proposals for reform have not indicated any newly found willingness to observe human rights standards and the rule of law.
THE OFFENDING LEGISLATION Passed hurriedly in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 authorises the indefinite detention of foreign nationals without criminal charge or trial, if the Home Secretary reasonably suspects that they are international terrorists, or more vaguely, have links with international terrorism. In order to do this, the
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Government had to opt out of the right to liberty, which is otherwise enshrined in Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, barely a year after it ‘brought rights home’ by way of its much heralded Human Rights Act 1998. The European Convention on Human Rights permits derogation from the right to liberty in certain limited circumstances, when there is an emergency threatening the life of the nation, provided that the government only derogates to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation. Accordingly, on 14 November 2001 David Blunkett declared a ‘technical’ state of emergency, a declaration which remains in force today. Up to 17 men, all Muslims who have sought asylum in the UK, have been certified as suspected international terrorists and detained in prison without charge or trial. Despite the threat from international terrorism after 9/11, no other party to the European Convention on Human Rights, including Spain who has suffered an Al-Qaeda attack, has thought it necessary to derogate from the Convention. At the time, Liberty lobbied against the proposed legislation. We argued that the government had failed to meet the test for lawfully opting out of its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. We also contended that the measures were bad policy, a view which has sadly been born out by evidence of an increasing mistrust by, and alienation, of many Muslims in the
UK. Sadly too, the legislation has created much suffering on the part of the detainees and their families. Many of them now suffer mental health problems, which have been well documented by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and some have been removed to Broadmoor Hospital. Children no longer know their fathers and wives also suffer stress and mental health difficulties whilst trying to care for their families. Although Liberty was a lone voice against indefinite detention in 2001, we have been joined by a groundswell of condemnation of the policy. In its report of November 2004 on UK’s compliance with its obligations under the United Nations Convention against Torture, the United Nations Committee against Torture condemned both the use of indefinite detention and the conditions in Belmarsh and Woodhill prisons. (Committee against Torture 33rd Session 15 - 26 November 2004 ‘Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties under Article 19 of the Convention: Conclusions and Recommendations of the Committee against Torture’). We have also received support from unlikely sources, with George Churchill-Coleman, head of Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist squad dealing with the IRA in the 80s and 90s, telling The Guardian that ‘I have a horrible feeling that we are sinking into a police state … I have serious worries and concerns about these ideas on both ethical and practical terms. You cannot lock people up just because someone
says they are terrorists. Internment didn’t work in Northern Ireland, it won’t work now. You need evidence’. (Alan Travis, Clare Dyer and Michael White ‘Britain “sliding into police state”’ The Guardian, Friday January 28, 2005). A GESTURE OF DUE PROCESS Throughout the history of this legislation, the government has been keen to assert that detention without charge or trial does not breach the detainees’ human rights. Detention in Belmarsh or Woodhill prison did not breach human rights standards, the government claimed, because the detainees were free to leave their ‘three walled’ prison for their ‘homelands’ at any time. Indeed, one detainee with dual French and Algerian nationality returned to France where he now lives freely. One wonders why the British government is content for ‘suspected international terrorists’ to wander freely in other nation-states. Somewhat ironically the government has confiscated the passports of the British men who were imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay: on the one hand, it wants suspected international terrorists to leave the UK, on the other hand, it wants them to stay. Whatever the confusion in the government’s approach, its assertion of a ‘three-walled prison’ has always ignored why the detainees were in Britain in the first place: all are foreign nationals who have sought refuge from persecution in their home country. The government simply cannot deport the detainees without breaching its strict obligation not to return people to countries where they face the risk of death or torture. Furthermore, the detainees’ rights were not being abused, said the government, because they could challenge the reasonableness of the Home Secretary’s view that they are international terrorists in the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (‘SIAC’). Yet an appeal to SIAC is not a substitute for a criminal trial. SIAC’s sole remit is to decide whether the Home Secretary acted reasonably in detaining the detainee on the grounds of ‘reasonable suspicion’. SIAC is not an open tribunal. It sits in secrecy, presided over by a judge alone, with no jury. Government appointed and security vetted lawyers entitled ‘special advocates’ have access to the intelligence material and can test its veracity in closed court. However, the special advocates cannot discuss the secret material
with the detainees, so the detainees have no opportunity to explain. There is absolutely no resemblance between proceedings before SIAC and a criminal trial where the defendant knows the case against him or her and has the opportunity to test that case in open court. Although the detainees do not have access to the evidence against them, it is well known that the Home Secretary relies on information extracted under torture from prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere when forming his reasonable suspicion that someone is an international terrorist. Alarmingly, the Court of Appeal has found it acceptable for the Home Secretary to use information obtained by torture, provided that it was not Britain who had done the torturing. The United Nations Committee against Torture was scathing of this decision, noting that although that UN Convention against Torture prohibits the use of evidence obtained by torture, the UK’s laws had been interpreted only to rule out the use of evidence extracted by torture in which UK officials had been complicit. The House of Lords is due to hear an appeal against this decision of the Court of Appeal. One only hopes that the Law Lords’ will again have the insight to condemn the Home Secretary’s distasteful reliance on evidence obtained by torture and the Court
of Appeal’s abhorrent approval of it. NEW PROPOSALS Despite its previous justifications for the regime, in light of the House of Lords’ ruling the government is now obliged to remedy the incompatibility between the detainees’ human rights and the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. Earlier this year the new Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, announced that he intended to introduce ‘executive control orders’ which can be issued against both British and overseas citizens who are suspected of international terrorism. The control orders mean that if, on the basis of an intelligence assessment provided by the Security Service, the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds for suspecting that an individual is, or has been, concerned with terrorism, he or she may be subject to a range of controls restricting movement and association, access to communications equipment, placed under curfew and/or tagged, and possibly required to remain in his or her premises; effectively internment at home. There will be independent judicial scrutiny involving the hearing of evidence or ‘intelligence’ in open and closed session much like the SIAC process, however like SIAC itself, independent judicial scrunity of the process will only serve the government’s claim Q - NEWS
‘G’ was released on bail due to the effect indefinite detention was having on his mental health. ‘G’, who does not represent ‘a high escape risk’ due to physical disabilities, is currently under house arrest, under CCTV and other surveillance, cannot use his garden, is tagged, must ‘check-in’ several times a day and can only be visited by vetted individuals; his family, doctor and lawyer.
that indefinite detention at home does not breach its human rights obligations. The government has responded to the House of Lords’ criticism that subjecting foreign terror suspects to detention without trial, while allowing British terror suspects to be charged with a criminal offence or released, was discriminatory by subjecting all of its citizens to executive control orders. Lord Hoffman refused to comment on the discriminatory nature of the legislation: ‘I would not like to give the impression that all that was necessary was to extend the power to United Kingdom citizens as well’. That ‘executive control orders’ are likely to require further derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights indicates that the government has failed to grasp the House of Lords’ broader critique of human rights and the rule of law. The restrictions that Mr Clarke is suggesting are currently in place in the case of ‘G’. In a move the Home Secretary at the time, David Blunkett, described as ‘bonkers’, ‘G’ was released on bail due to the effect indefinite detention was having on his mental health. ‘G’, who does not represent ‘a high escape risk’ due to physical disabilities, is currently under house arrest, under CCTV and other surveillance, cannot use his garden, is tagged, must ‘check-in’ several times a day and can only be visited by vetted individuals; his family, doctor and lawyer. In February this year the Home Secretary attempted to have ‘G’ returned to prison for a ‘serious breach of his bail conditions’; having un-vetted visitors last year. Neither ‘G’ nor his lawyer was informed of the details of the alleged breach. Despite
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constant surveillance, however, Charles Clarke could not prove ‘to the necessary standard’ that there had been a breach and ‘G’ remains under house arrest. Perhaps more troubling are Mr Clark’s efforts to deport the men still in Belmarsh and Woodhill prisons to their countries of origin. As noted above, the government cannot deport people to countries where they face the risk of torture or death without breaching its other human rights obligations. In order to circumvent this, the Home Secretary hopes to gain ‘memoranda of understanding’ from the men’s homelands that they will not be subject to torture, persecution or death when they return. All these nations have well documented histories of human rights abuses. Sweden relied on diplomatic assurances in returning Ahmed Agiza and Mohammed al-Zari to Egypt and there is now evidence that both men were tortured once back in Egypt despite the Governments’ understandings. Ahmed Agiza, convicted and sentenced to 15 years of hard labour by a military court, is having his case considered by the UN Committee against Torture later in the year. Again, in its report of November 2004, the UN Committee against Torture condemned the UK practice of seeking diplomatic assurances when returning people to countries where they face the risk of death or torture. SUGGESTIONS FOR REFORM Liberty believes that the government must set out a clear and prompt timetable for the charge or release of those detained under the AntiTerrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 and for the repeal of the legislation. Any
new anti-terrorism legislation must: ! Be based on a real and explained need, rather than on politics. ! Be implemented without the need to derogate from the European Convention on Human Rights, and other international human rights standards. ! Reflect the importance of the presumption of innocence and the equal treatment of all people who reside in the United Kingdom. The government must reconsider its refusal to allow the use of evidence obtained through the interception of communications in trials, a step which would make prosecutions more viable. Currently, intercept evidence is not allowed to be presented at criminal trials because the security services fear that their methods will be revealed. The new Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair has called for the use of intercept evidence in criminal trials because it would make it easier to prosecute suspected terrorists. CONCLUSIONS Liberty believes that the government is obliged to protect its citizens from the threat of terrorist attack, however, we do not believe that such protection should be achieved at the price of human rights and the rule of law. The government must understand that respect for human rights standards is not symptomatic of being ‘soft’ on terrorism or careless about national security; rather, compliance with human rights standards is imperative in any anti-terrorism strategy. Britain’s experience in Northern Ireland indicates that failure to comply with human rights standards, through detention without trial, only serves to recruit disaffected people to terrorist causes. Failure to comply with human rights standards domestically makes it very difficult for Britain to encourage other governments to embrace human rights standards and democratic values. As Lord Hoffman said: ‘[detention without trial] in any form is not compatible with our constitution. The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these. That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve. It is for parliament to decide whether to give the terrorists such a victory’. !
THE ROCK STAR AND THE MULLAH SALMAN AHMAD IS NO STRANGER TO CONTROVERSY. HIS ROCK BAND JUNOON, IS ONE OF PAKISTAN’S LEADING CULTURAL EXPORTS AND ITS UNIQUE BRAND OF SPIRITUAL ROCK DRAWS ON SOUTH ASIAN ISLAM’S RICH SUFI TRADITION. HE IS AN OUTSPOKEN CRITIC OF PAKISTAN’S POLITICALLY POWERFUL MULLAHS, YET SUPPORTS THE PRESIDENCY OF GENERAL MUSHARRAF. IN A FRANK CONVERSATION WITH Q-NEWS, SALMAN SPEAKS ABOUT HIS MUSIC, CULTURAL REVIVAL AND THE FUTURE OF THE UMMAH. What does Junoon represent in the musical scene in Pakistan? There is a Sufi aspect to our music, which I take responsibility for because I was deeply influenced by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. I learned from him for many years during the late 80s and early 90s. He opened my eyes to the fact that modernity and Islam aren’t at odds. Qawwali is a spiritual art form but was relegated into a genre of music sung at weddings. Nusrat, through his voice and personality, brought it to the world stage with collaborations with Western artists like Peter Gabriel. This inspired me to look at music differently. Junoon has an instrumental song called Heer, inspired by a song by Nusrat, which was a spiritual metaphor for Heer and Ranja. I have always been drawn to the spirit. I searched hard and long during the early part of my career. I wrote a song called Saeein in 1995, which was the first ever Pakistani spiritual rock song. People were amazed, because Junoon was pushing the boundaries of what is culturally acceptable in Islam. Music comes from the spirit and the spirit knows no boundaries. People from different cultural backgrounds can come together and share their cultures through music. I understood western culture when I listened to Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and Pink Floyd. What we have done in the Islamic world is hijacked our own culture. We do not share. We are insulated and isolated.
What kind of people show up at your concerts? In the early 90s we played to an urban Pakistani audience. After the success of
Sayonee, which was No 1 on MTV Asia and after winning the best international group in an Indian awards ceremony, we were thrust into the international limelight. In 1998 we did a tribute concert for Nusrat in New York’s Central Park and 20,000 people came. These people were not only from the Asian diaspora but also Hispanics, Jews, Christians and secular Americans.
What about your Pakistani audience? 50% of Pakistanis are under 25. That is a huge youth force which can be inspired either towards creative endeavours or towards militancy. It all depends on what cultural visions a nation has.
What were you trying to do with The Rock Star and the Mullah? I was initially just asking questions. I wanted to find out what Pakistan felt about music and Islam. You see, when I became a musician, I faced immense opposition. Being a musician isn’t generally accepted like a career in finance or medicine, although I am a qualified doctor and so is my wife. This social resistance intensified when Junoon gained nationally renown. A few years before The Rock Star and the Mullah, I received a message from Islamic scholar Farhat Hashmi. She sent me a parcel through a group of women associated with her. They told my wife that as a responsible Muslim wife she should play her part in ‘guiding me’. After a brief argument, my wife took the package, which contained some CDs and a letter from Farhat. In the letter, it said ‘Salman you have veered from the true path and you are
heading towards damnation. What is worse is that you have influence on young people and you are basically like the Pied Piper leading them astray’. I was disappointed by her narrow vision of what a musician stood for. She had no idea about my music and what I do. That provoked my quest for the truth about the relationship between music and Islam. In the CDs she sent, it stated that music in Islam is haraam. Now, I am a practicing Muslim and I have read the Quran and there is no mention of music being haraam. I had to find out why people believed this. I met scholars around the country. It appeares that there was never an edict against music being haraam. It has somehow just become common knowledge that one shouldn’t listen to music. What really annoyed me was that the lead singer of Vital Signs, the band with which I first launched my career, had a similar episode with Tablighi Jamaat and as a result, he stopped listening to music. Junaid Jamshed is one of my closest friends but I was shocked by his change. I told him he had gone out of his mind. It is illogical to allow a guilt-trip to get the better of you. Some people think his change is a sign from God.
Do you think Muslims will ever reach a consensus over music? This is not just a Muslim conflict but a universal one. Many Christians believe rap music is the devil’s music. In the 12th century, Amir Khosro spread spirituality through music and dance. He invented Qawali music and the sitar. He used music as a vehicle for spiritual connection. Baba Bullhe Shah, a 17th century Sufi, faced Q - NEWS
Many mullahs in Pakistan think that they are 7th century Arabs.Their whole idea of Islam is about women in hijab, pulling your trousers up and having long beards. Muslims are themselves responsible for giving them the mullahs so much control. We have tried and tested the mullahs’ vision. It’s a dead end and it has failed us. We want to do it our own way now. massive opposition from the clergy. He was a man of faith and his poetry and music was about God. By the way, one of our albums is dedicated to the Baba Bullhe Shah. He started questioning the lack of spirituality in people’s rituals from a very young age. Once he was in a madrasah studying with his spiritual mentor. When it was time to make wudu, Baba Bullhe Shah asked what the point in washing his hands was when the heart was not clean. His mentor insisted he never ask the question again. So Baba left the madrasah and became a poet. One of the most powerful poems he wrote is Who am I, inspired by a poem by Maulana Rumi. The poem questions the core of man. In it Baba writes, ‘Who am I? I am not pure. I am not royal neither am I believer in a mosque. I am no Moses and I am no Pharaoh, so who am I?’ Ultimately, what he is really saying is that we are all part of God. But society resisted his transcendent ideals. When he died they wouldn’t allow him a decent burial. But now, three centuries later, Baba’s influence is tremendous.
What does this mean to the ordinary person, this struggle for the identity in Islam which you are so passionate to convey? We belong to a global community which is one and half billion strong. Most people live their lives without a thought to their responsibility to the future of this ummah. We have abdicated this responsibility to a minority who do not have the understanding of how Islam should be in the 21st century. They think that they are 7th century Arabs. Their whole idea of Islam is about women in hijabs, pulling your trousers up and having long beards. Muslims are themselves responsible for giving them this control. I have great respect for my faith and its traditions but Allah put me in the modern world. I have to harmonise both my
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spirit and my material life. When you do nothing, you are nothing. We have to stop blaming everything on a third party. We have to stop wallowing in the idea that the entire world, including the Western media is engaged in a conspiracy against us. Every conspiracy starts at home. We need to define who we are. Muslims need to stop and think - do we have any vision for the cultural identity of our young people? I know being Muslim is certainly not just about having beards, wearing hijab and pulling the trousers up.
Far above: Salman Ahmad with former Pakistan cricket captain Wasim Akram. Above: Salman Ahmad with students at a Madrasah. Opposite page: Off camera, the students excitedly ask for Salman Ahmad’s autograph.
Does it really matter what the mullahs say if the public is on your side? Are you trying to assuage your guilt over your music by working on this documentary? Certainly not. There is this scene between a mullah in Peshawar and myself. The mullah says very clearly that there is no room for music in Islam and that all musicians are hell-bound. And yet at the end of his sermon, he starts singing. I can only conclude that the anti-music mullahs are merely human and are just playing these puritanical beliefs for the gallery. I don’t believe they have conviction. If they did, it would show at the grassroots level. They have nothing to offer. There are so many young people in the madrasahs. The mullahs offer nothing but militancy. It’s a dead end. I asked them, ‘What is your vision of Islam?’ Maulana
Bijli said, ‘Put the woman at home, cut the hand of the thief and stone the adulterer’. Now, that’s what I call a narrow vision.
Your documentary sets up an almost over-simplistic dichotomy between the stereotypical mullah and the stereotypical rock star. The voices in the middle are missing? I wasn’t in control of the editing. We went to Peshawar, Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. We went through a cross section of society during the three weeks of shooting. I learnt that 99% of Pakistani society do not have problems with music. They are simply getting on with their lives. But what becomes very clear to me is that the clergy want control of society. Music attracts a tremendous following in Pakistan. This intimidates the clergy as they feel they are losing control over the
common people. Therefore, they attack popular symbols, like me. They feel threatened that I can comfortably balance my faith with ‘modernity’.
You say people are getting on with their lives. What then are the three main concerns of a young, ordinary Pakistani? A good education is paramount, followed by a good job and getting married. [Laughs.] The media and pop culture in Pakistan has expanded at a blinding rate in the last decade or so. So many musical bands have established themselves. Video directors, sound engineers and record producers are becoming more prominent. Pakistan is going through a metamorphosis. We have tried and tested the mullahs’ vision. It has failed us. We want to do it our own way now.
You could be accused of being an upper middle-class person who is more comfortable in English than in your mother
tongue. Aren’t you just trying to shape Islam according to your bourgeois values and “liberal” interpretations of the faith?
Don’t you think that to Western eyes, your documentary reasserts the assumption that Pakistan is backward?
I come from a conservative family. My mother and sister wear the hijab and they have performed the hajj. But their value system is not based on symbols. By the way, the hijab is such a red herring now but women have been wearing hijab for centuries and it was never a symbol of oppression. My grandmother, my mother, my sister and my wife are working women. I genuinely believe the middle class are in a position where they have the means to navigate a modern vision of Islam. In the film there is a scene in the madrasah, where I argue, in Urdu, with the students. On camera they condemn my music, but when the cameras were turned off, they asked for my autograph. They knew most of my songs. There is no such thing as a distinctive elitist point of view anymore. Society has changed.
No. It was an honest depiction of what different segments of the society are thinking and doing. Even the madrasah students, in their own way, are thinking about social uplift, although their vision is radically different to mine. President Musharraf has said that every Muslim is passionate about their religion so let’s not make issues like listening to music, growing the beard and wearing hijab, points of conflict. Rise above them. Pakistan has a tremendous cultural diversity. Pakistanis are a diverse, headstrong group whether they are conservative or liberal.
How do you reconcile your support for Musharraf with the fact that he is an unelected dictator? He is a man, who by a twist of fate came into power. He is a good leader. He has Q - NEWS
I don’t think my views are elitist or bourjeois. My mother and my sister, who wear hijab, and my wife are working women.The middle class have the means to navigate a modern vision of Islam. On camera the madrasah students condemn my music, but off camera, they asked for my autograph and knew all my songs. There is no such thing as a distinctive elitist point of view anymore. Everyone wants social upliftment.
completely opened up the media. People are free to criticise the government. Journalists no longer get thrown into jail. In the top echelons of power there is little corruption. MPs I have spoken to say corruption still exists in the lower ranks but accountability in the cabinet has increased. There are more women in parliament than ever before. We can talk freely about sensitive issues such as the AIDS problem and Indo-Pak relations. Any public discussion on these issues were unheard of only few years ago. In the last five years, there has been 7.5% growth in the country. I am proud to call President Musharraf my leader. Pakistan is a work in progress. It took America 160 years to get women to vote and only in the 20th century did they give black people basic human rights. Musharraf is very conscious of the fact that proper democracy has to be established. I am not saying everything is perfect, but we are making progress.
You stated earlier that you are a practicing Muslim.There is a lot of debate over what a practicing Muslim is. How would you define one? Religion is a private matter. You cannot wear your religion on your sleeve and insist you are the greatest Muslim on earth just because you say your prayers five times a day, perform the hajj and pay zakat. If you do, good for you. But the fact is that no one is here to judge anyone. It says in the Quran that only God can judge a person’s faith. But I will say I am a believer and hence, a practicing Muslim. I believe in the five pillars. Beyond this, I don’t think it’s anyone’s responsibility to look into the heart of others and judge whether he is a good or bad Muslim. Forget trying to figure out
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who is going to heaven or hell and just get with your life.
The heart of Islam is the Prophet, peace be upon him - how does your work reflect your approach to the Prophet? The Prophet was a man way ahead of his time. He believed in women’s rights. He believed in democracy and the establishment of shura. He came from an argumentative tribe who could launch into violent discussions over the smallest of issues. The Prophet bought rational thought to all debates. In the Treaty of Hudabiyah, the Muslims were given awful terms by the Quraysh. He accepted them. When they asked him to write his name and leave out the title Prophet of God, he agreed. He was a flexible man. His faith had depth which was not entirely bound to outward rituals. There is the story of a woman who used to throw garbage at him. Rather than retaliate he allowed her to continue. One day when she didn’t show up to throw garbage at him because she was ill, he went to check how she was. I learn from the spirit of who he was.
What role have you taken in the reconciliation of India and Pakistan and what influenced you to get involved? My mother’s family come from India, so as a child I grew up listening to my grandparents speaking about their lives there and I grew curious. When Junoon toured there in 1998, I got the chance to see India. Indo-Pak hostility is borne from politics and it is a huge waste of human resources. Ever since 1998, I have tried to building small bridges through my music and United Nations work. We composed a video called Ghoom Taana. The team behind it consisted of
both Pakistanis and Indians and we demonstrated how India and Pakistan can and should interact with each other. I received an award for it in Norway from Mahatma Ghandi’s grandson. He told me that the only way peace will be established is if ordinary people express themselves. Governments are never going to decide. We have shifted responsibility to the mullahs and the government for the last 50 years. What have they given us?
What projects are you working on now? What’s next for Junoon? The next album is called Infinity and we should have it recorded by May. I have recently finished a documentary about the lives of Muslims in America after 9/11. It’s a really powerful film; it shows that Muslims can live with their religious traditions in the modern world. There is no clash of civilisations. Infinity will have a completely new sound. I am part of two different cultures - I spend half my time in New York and the other half in Pakistan. Also, my documentary work is affecting my song writing so I think it will be an interesting album. I’m excited.
What are you listening to and what are you reading now? The book that has inspired me to make this music is a book called The Power of Intention: Tap into the Universal Energy Field and Transform Your Life by Wayne W. Dyer. Dyer states that human beings have immense potential but we have to reach into ourselves to realise it. Iqbal, the great poet too said about Khudi (the self), that we are infinite beings and limit ourselves by imagination. ! Ahmad’s documentary on American Muslim will be aired on BBC2 on 15th March 2005.
Salman Ahmad with Maulana Bijli (Electricity), so known for his fiery sermons.
“A MODERN DAY HIPPIE IN SEARCH OF LOVE” THE ROCK STAR AND THE MULLAH HAS HAD A REMARKABLY LONG SHELF LIFE, BUT AS ABDUL-REHMAN MALIK ARGUES, IT IGNORES THE COMPLEXITY OF PAKISTANI SOCIETY IN FAVOUR OF SIMPLISTIC POLEMICS. lthough released in 2003, The Rock Star and the Mullah, starring guitarist Salman Ahmad of Pakistan’s premier rock band Junoon, has had a remarkable shelf life. After being shown on BBC’s Storyville and Public Television in the United States, the film produced by London-based October Films should have quietly passed into the realm of late-night reruns and the occasional repertoire cinema resurrection. Instead The Rock Star and the Mullah is still making its rounds on television networks (most recently in Australia) and at special screenings and film festivals the world over. In India’s cinema capital Mumbai, crowds have lined up to see Pakistan’s answer to U2’s Bono square off with his country’s politically powerful religious elite. Timeout Mumbai declared that the film simply “rocks.” Dashing, deeply spiritual and musically innovative, Salman Ahmad is the ideal poster boy for ‘liberal Islam’. The premise of the film is compelling: Pakistan’s leading rock star takes to the streets of mullah-ruled Peshawar - capital of the North West Frontier Province where a coalition of religious parties holds sway and where many believe Osama Bin Laden is still hiding - to go face to face with clerics who say that music is forbidden in Islam. Since they came to power, Peshawar’s once thriving folk music industry has all but vanished, with popular artists now either unemployed or working from neighbouring Punjab. Shops selling cassette tapes and CDs have been cleared of their stock. Radio stations no longer play pop music. Like a modern-day hippie in search of love, beauty and a break, guitar on his back, Ahmad visits a madrasah where he challenges a group of students to explain why they believe music to be haram. He tells them he was born with a God-given talent to play the guitar. They stare at him blankly. He sings a verse from the Quran while strumming away. They shift uncomfortably. Even if they are offended, they are exceedingly polite. After all, he’s one of Pakistan’s leading cultural exports. In fact, even after one of the older students condemns him, others run up as he exits to ask for his autograph - he’s there for a good half hour. It’s hard not to sympathise will Ahmad. He appears so eager and sincere. He obviously doesn’t know much about the theological arguments about the place of music in Islam, but if he can’t get a straight answer, then it’s not his fault, right? Well, maybe not. Ahmad has a habit of simplifying things. The powerful pull of traditional Islam through the vibrant Sufi tradition is an important feature of South Asia’s religious culture. Ahmad is right to celebrate this tradition. It is also deeply musical, so it’s unusual that he spends so little time exploring qawwali, ghazal or naat. It’s not a question of whether music is permissible or not, but what kind of music. I would venture that there are many purists who visit the shrines of the saints and enjoy the ecstatic songs of qawwali, but would find Junoon’s music at best trivial and at worst, unacceptable. To call this trend “modern”, as Ahmad does, is simply misrepresenting the reality of Sufi Islam, which he claims to adhere to.
Ahmad would have done more for his cause had he decided to tackle the textual debates about music. It would have given him credibility as opposed to relying on his “progressive” rock star image to carry his argument, a sometimes flimsy line of reasoning. In some ways, hearing Ahmad preach about his right to play the guitar and sing rock music makes him sound remarkably like a mullah - full of certainty, zealously partisan and passionate. There is something self-righteous and missionary in his approach to the subject. It is riddled with contradictions. On one hand he is fed up with the mullahs who were democratically elected to office in a particularly conservative (even by Pakistani standards) area of the country, and on the other hand his unabashed support for President Parvez Musharraf, who came to power in a military coup and has no plans of vacating his position. Ahmad’s conversation with Maulana Bijli - Mullah Electricity (so named for his fiery sermons that carry across Peshawar on powerful loudspeakers) - is most instructive. Bijli condemns Muslim societies who accept music saying, “They are all sons of pigs. The whole world is America’s stooge.” He advises to “keep women at home, cut off the hands of thieves and stone adulterers to death.” But then, he tenderly asks Ahmad to leave music behind and spend more time with him. He then breaks into song, a rather beautiful naat, sung in a rather fine voice. In one of the most authentic moments in the film, Ahmad is dumbfounded. We are entertained. The rise of literalist radicalism in Pakistan is deeply concerning and Ahmad is brave to face it head on. At the heart of it Ahmad is a musician and conveys a powerful belief in reconciliation and freedom. His formative years in the US and his global reach place him in the unique position of troubadour-activist. His cross-cultural work with United Nations and attempts to spur cultural exchange and dialogue with India ought to be celebrated. His leanings to traditional Islam as expressed in Sufism come through powerfully in his music, which is undoubtedly cutting edge and undeniably popular. Junoon’s unique music is a product of Pakistan’s rich cultural milieu. It is as much part of Pakistan as is Maulana Bijli. The Rock Star and the Mullah begins with images of children reciting the Quran, heads dipping forward and reeling back as they seek to commit the verses to memory, cut with scenes of Ahmad ecstatically playing his audiences into frenzy. The outdoor auditorium where he plays has men and women, but they sit in separate sections. Young women in hijab shriek alongside their friends whose long tressed hair falls over their fashionable kurtas. This is the complicated, modern reality of Pakistan - caught between geopolitical pressure and the struggle to define its identity in a globalised world, it is not east to understand. In this journey, it is unfortunate that Ahmad and his directors chose not to dwell on this complexity. They chose the path of least resistance, which results in a hollow, yet at times entertaining, film. ! Q - NEWS
SHARIAH IGNITES FIRESTORM IN CANADA THE LAW IN CANADA’S LARGEST PROVINCE, ONTARIO, ALLOWS FOR FAITH-BASED INDEPENDENT DISPUTE RESOLUTION. ORTHODOX JEWS AND CHRISTIAN CHURCHES HAVE BEEN DOING IT FOR ALMOST 15 YEARS. SO WHY ARE CRITICS SO UPSET BY ATTEMPTS BY THE MEMBERS OF THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY TO DO THE SAME? FAISAL KUTTY EXPLORES THE THORNY ISSUE. he plan to use formal panels of imams and Muslim scholars to resolve family-law disputes in Ontario Canada’s largest province and home to over 400,000 Muslims, is neither radical nor subversive. Since 1991, the Ontario Arbitration Act has allowed Orthodox Jews and Christians to submit to voluntary faith-based alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Bowing to pressure from critics, the Ontario government - who had at first given its blessing to Muslim use of the Arbitration Act, referred the matter to former provincial Attorney General Marion Boyd. Boyd was asked to assess whether a plan by members of the province’s Muslim community to use Islamic principles in settling marital and inheritance disputes should be halted. Boyd’s opinion has been categorical: “The Arbitration Act should,” she writes in her 150-page report released in December, “continue to allow disputes to be arbitrated using religious law.” Iranian women and the secular Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW) led the campaign against allowing Muslims to use the Arbitration Act. At times the opposition verged on Islamophobia. Soon after the initiative was announced, the International Campaign for the Defense of Women’s Rights in Iran, endorsed by about half a dozen women’s rights and humanist groups, declared that “this attempt [to set up this tribunal] will make it possible for political Islam to gain legal credibility to attack women’s rights.” The media amplified the hysterical reaction of opponents. “Canadian judges soon will be enforcing Islamic law…such as stoning women caught in adultery,” screamed one headline. “Canada Allowing Shariah Barbaric Laws?” read another. Even the usually sober Globe and Mail got in on the act with a front-page story entitled, “Tribunal will apply Islamic Law in Ontario.” Among the more than 650,000 Canadian Muslims, opinions range from wholehearted endorsement to fear that tribunal decisions will be biased against women. Some
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are clearly confused about the whole initiative. For instance, in a position paper on the issue CCMW president, Alia Hogben, writes: “We see no compelling reason to live under any other form of law in Canada, and we want the same laws to apply to us as to other Canadian women. We prefer to live under Canadian laws, governed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which safeguard and protect our equality rights. Although the judicial system is not perfect, we know that there are mechanisms for change.” This leaves the inaccurate impression that Muslims in Ontario would be forced to refer matters to the tribunal and would have no protection under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In fact, any ADR process would be voluntary, and both parties to any dispute must participate willingly. Moreover, any decision rendered by a tribunal or a panel of mediators would be subject to appeal to the civil courts and would have to be consistent with the supreme law of the land, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Lastly, ADR would only be available in private disputes and only in areas that can be resolved privately under Canadian law. Shariah is not coming to Canada and there will be no Shariah courts. Boyd’s considered verdict came after meeting with more than two hundred people and receiving almost forty submissions. Boyd makes forty-six well thought out recommendations, including: ! amendments to the Family Law Act and the Arbitration Act to ensure that the mediation and arbitration agreements are legally treated in the same manner as marriage contracts and separation agreements; ! calling for regulations to ensure proper record keeping, mandating written decisions, and training of arbitrators; ! imposing a duty on arbitrators to ensure that parties understand their rights and are participating voluntarily; ! providing for greater oversight and accountability, including empowering courts to set aside arbitral awards for various reasons including if a party did not understand
the nature or consequences of the arbitration agreement; ! public education and community development; and ! expanded appeal possibilities Critics have not been silenced. Guns blazing, they have called the report a “betrayal” of women and “racist.” Nonsense. Boyd, with impeccable feminist credentials, has balanced the rights of Muslims who wish to voluntarily resolve their private disputes using religious principles with the basic rights of vulnerable segments within the community. In other words, the recommendations ensure that there is substance to religious rights while simultaneously protecting a vulnerable minority group member’s basic rights as set out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The fact is many Muslims wish to use arbitration, which is part of Muslim tradition. Indeed, the Quran specifically refers to arbitration in the context of matrimonial disputes: “If you fear a breach between them (man and wife), then appoint an arbitrator from his people and an arbitrator from her people. If they desire reconciliation, God will make them of one mind. God is all knowing, all aware.” (Sura An Nisa, verse 35) Boyd’s report merely affirms the Constitutional right to religious freedom, equal treatment under the law, multiculturalism and ensures that Ontario is in compliance with Canada’s international obligations. Indeed, Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Canada acceded on 19 May 1976, imposes a positive duty on a state to assist its minorities to preserve its values by allowing them to enjoy their own culture and to profess and practice their own religion. The forty-six recommendations addressed the legitimate concerns raised and ignored the alarmist rants of some opponents who sought to exclude Muslims from using existing Ontario law. The Arbitration Act allows parties to settle their disputes using any principles they wish, whether they be Christian, Jewish, Muslim or otherwise. Other communities have successfully implemented Alternative Dispute Resolution initiatives with much less hue and cry. For instance, rabbinical courts or Beth Din’s dealing with business and matrimonial issues have been functioning for some time in Ontario. Christians and others have also made use of the Act. Some have criticized Boyd’s position that independent legal advice (ILA) can be waived by a party if they wish. As it stands now, nobody can be forced to obtain an ILA for any legal matter - though this may be moot as this leaves it open for courts to set aside any agreements or arbitral decisions. Forcing ILA would be great for the legal profession but - as pointed out by the Law Society and Bar Associations - would seriously restrict the ability of people to bargain freely or settle issues without a lawyer and would clearly represent unnecessary intrusion by governments into the private domain. I can appreciate that many are concerned about the exploitation of Muslim women. However, the discourse is now bordering on being racist. For instance, critics contend that there is no way to ascertain true consent, as Muslim women will be forced to cave in to social pressure and accept unfair decisions. The concern is valid but is not restricted to Muslims and can be partly addressed by imposing duties on arbitrators. Moreover, the situation may be no
different in the legal setting where the vast majority of cases are settled out of court and where parties compromise for less than their legal entitlements in many cases without legal advice. Indeed, a growing number are now resolving their disputes, including family matters, themselves or through paralegals who, in many cases, act for both parties without any consideration as to whether the parties appreciate what rights they are giving up. The Canadian legal system is based on the premise that in private settings, individuals with legal capacity can make their own decisions and agreements even if these may not be the “correct” choice according to the majority. Should Muslim women not be allowed to sign marriage contracts, separation agreements or settle any disputes without independent legal advice (ILA) while everyone else can exercise this choice? A paternalistic attitude toward the Muslim community will not solve the issue of social pressure and may in fact alienate many. Moreover, as Boyd quite accurately points, precluding arbitration would not only limit people’s options for resolving their disputes, it may also “push the practice of religious arbitration outside the legal system altogether, thus limiting the court’s ability to intervene to correct problems.” Alternative dispute resolution is already being practiced within the community and people are abiding by decisions. These decisions, in some cases unjust and crude, are treated as if they were the word of God and therefore binding. Formalising the process will allow for greater transparency and accountability. As long as there are proper procedures and rules of conduct in place there is nothing preventing the community from instituting a dynamic and less disruptive alternative to the adversarial court system. Boyd has kept intact the integrity of the alternative dispute resolution system while protecting the vulnerable and
Muslims will not be forced to refer matters to the tribunal and will be protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Both parties to any dispute must participate willingly. Shariah is not coming to Canada and there will be no Shariah courts. ensuring that “back alley arbitrations and mediations” are minimised as much as possible. The Ontario government should accept Boyd’s report and move on. Muslim communities elsewhere eager to establish alternative dispute resolution should watch this debate closely and learn from the Canadian experience. ! Faisal Kutty is a lawyer with the firm of Baksh & Kutty and general counsel for the Canadian-Muslim Civil Liberties Association. He is currently an LL.M. candidate in civil litigation and alternative dispute resolution at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University. Q - NEWS
WAKING UP TO PROGRESSIVE MUSLIMS ISLAM HAS A PROGRESSIVE TRADITION THAT IS AS OLD AS THE RELIGION ITSELF, BUT AS NAZIM BAKSH ARGUES, YOU ARE NOT LIKELY TO FIND IT REFLECTED AT MUSLIMWAKEUP.COM n the last few months Muslims living in the West have woken up to a rather daft assembly of Muslim men and women calling themselves the Progressive Muslim Union of North America (PMU). Their literati are Amina Wadud-Muhsin, author of Quran and Woman; Akbar S. Ahmed, the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies and professor of International Relations at American University in Washington; and Omid Safi, editor of PMU’s prescript Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism, an anthology of essays reflecting the core ideas of the Progressives. Farid Esack, crowned with the moniker Funky Maulana and Khaled Abou el Fadl, the grand mufti himself of beauty, love and tolerance (except when it comes to invading foreign countries) articulate the philosophy of the Progressives but choose to remain outside the PMU’s structure. The Progressives have a number of talented writers and activists in their congregation such as Tarek Fatah, Ahmad Nassef, Sarah Eltantawi, Hussein Ibish, Mohja Kahf, and Naeem Mohaiemen. In their ranks you will find devoted secularists, peace and justice advocates, feminists vocal on gender equality, those whose sole goal in life is to “hug a Jew,” and many whose mission is to bring about the acceptance and integration of gays and lesbians into the Muslim community. With this impressive line-up it is not surprising that Harvard University Pluralism Project has agreed to fund PMU’s first major conference scheduled for March 2005. PMU ideologues often promote each other’s work and do an excellent job shining the torch of attention on themselves. They are mostly young second and third generation Muslims schooled in the social sciences. This new cadre of reformers claim to know very little about Islamic law, theology or mysticism, but they are deeply familiar with the writings of Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Jurgen Habermas. It is not surprising that the Progressives now find themselves in a nasty confrontation with their parent’s generation, the entrenched vanguard whom for the last three decades built mosques and installed imported imams, established centers and fraternities such as the Islamic Society of North America, the Islamic Circle of North America, and the Muslim American Society. The Progressives gained new life after the attacks of September 11, 2001 advocating a grand project aimed at reconciling the Islamic tradition, and its rich and textured heritage, with the modern world. They say they aim to revive the “plural” and “tolerant” tradition of Islam which has been buried under the debris of literal and dogmatic approaches to the faith. Plural Islam for the Progressives is the freedom to borrow and adopt wholesale or
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modify practices from other faith cultures and label it Islamic. Tolerance means anyone who says he is a Muslim must be a Muslim, and everyone should embrace him even if he says he is gay and proud. The cabal of Progressive Muslims is a reactionary group. They are reacting to the tight leash of the law that the extremists have lassoed around the necks of Muslims for the better half of the last century. They argue, and rightfully so, that the law was not meant to be worshipped. And they are quick to reassure others that they are not calling for a reduction of the Islamic legal tradition, only its reinterpretation - prying open the tightly shut doors of ijtihad. Progressive Muslims argue that the Prophet Muhammad was no more than an interpreter of the Quran and therefore, nothing can be wrong with Muslims today, qualified or not, who act upon the same interpretive authority he had. The Progressives are determined to wrestle control of the interpretive process away from the ulema, the men and women most qualified to interpret the sacred texts. It is true that the ulema historically have made mistakes and in some cases their excesses in interpretation have caused juristic tension within the community of the learned. But not only were their mistakes caught and corrected by their peers, extremes in interpretation of sacred texts were tempered by conscientious objections from individual scholars and these opinions have been preserved and are still valid today. Unfortunately, the Progressives’ attempt to reinterpret sacred texts - much like an ice sculptor trying to do the job of a brain surgeon - will result in a religion with no legal boundaries. Progressives would have us believe that prayer, the mandatory giving of alms fasting and the pilgrimage - the pillars of Islam and mandatory forms of worship - are all matters of personal choice. Worship God as you please, they say. The uniformity of worship is one of Islam’s many strengths in a world when form, meant to hold the content of our worship of God intact, is quickly melting away among those who share the Abrahamic tradition. If you were to visit the one standing mosque left in Banda Aceh or a small wooden mosque in the hinterland of South America, you can almost guarantee that the adhan and the outward form of the prayer will be relatively the same. In Suriname you are not likely to find a rendition of the adhan done to the rhythm of steel band and Soca music. Aware that the zeal to bring about reform without sound knowledge is a slippery slope, Kecia Ali, a research associate in the Women’s Program in Religious Studies at Harvard Divinity School, and a founding member of PMU, cautions that by opening the Quran to alternative interpretations, Progressive Muslims are not challenging the authority of the Quran. However, in a recent lecture in Toronto, Amina Wadud-
Muhsin, member of PMU’s advisory board, did exactly that. She was quoted as saying she “did not agree with the Quran.” It didn’t matter to her audience what she disagreed with, half of them walked out, prayed Asr salah and left the hall. Chastising them in a rant he submitted to muslimwakeup.com, Tarek Fatah, spin doctor extraordinaire and a member of PMU’s Board of Directors, said that Amina “declared that she could not intellectually or spiritually accept some things in the Qur’an. For example, some of the hudud punishments like the cutting of hands or the permission to beat one’s wife. She made it clear that she was denying neither the religion nor the revelation. ‘It is the Qur’an,’ she said, ‘that gives me the means to say no to the Qur’an.’” What exactly does it mean to “say no to the Quran”? If Amina Wadud wished to say that she believes the punishment of chopping off the hands of the thief is pre-modern and that incarceration is preferable and that men should not use one word in a single verse of the Quran to justify hitting their wives, then by all means, please say so. You are apt to discover that a great number of Muslims will find no objections with your opinions. But to say you “don’t agree with the Quran” or you have the right to say “no to the Quran” is to expect Muslims to object, especially if you are claiming to speak from within the Islamic tradition. One of the major gripes of the Progressive is the way in which Muslim women are treated in predominantly Muslim societies and by men in our male dominated mosques and centres. There is no way around the table on this and for being passionate about the issue we must credit the Progressives. But their solution is strange. At the Noor Centre in Toronto where Amina Wadud was invited to speak, this problem is addressed by making women pray side by side with men divided only by an imaginary line down the middle. If Muslim women truly believe, as the Quran clearly states, that God deems them equal to men in His estimation, and if it matters so much where they stand when they worship Him, why not adopt the way of Muslims in China and establish women’s only mosques with women only imams? The Progressives are determined to bring about a process of cultural redefinition and they promise to do so by challenging what has so far passed for cultural authenticity. The majority among the first generation who migrated to North America, realised that a wholesale importation of back home cultural practices was not going to fly and in the last several years, they have been opening up to the possibility of a new Islamic cultural identity located in the matrix of old loyalties and new realities. While they were busy trying to figure it out along came the Progressives, largely the privileged sons and daughters of an Arab and South Asian elite at home in the totem towers of worldly power and material wealth. These young upstarts are making haste, not in an attempt to reconcile faith to a secular ethic, but rather to bend, twist and subject faith to the secular. This is a dangerous project and whenever it has popped up its ugly head historically, the result has been the dismantling of not only the outer form, but the inner yoke of the religion, leading to something this ummah has refused to accept as Islam. The first generation feared that a wrong turn on the two way passage of faith in a secular society could lead to the melting away of the religion. They didn’t want to be in a position where they would have to tell their relatives back home that they had migrated to the West for better jobs and income only to lose their deen. With the Progressives you get the distinct impression that their approach to Islam is a “no-Islam” Islam. It is the unravelling of the Islamic fabric. They would have you believe that the Prophet
The cabal of Progressive Muslims is a reactionary group.They are reacting to the tight leash of the law that the extremists have lassoed around the necks of Muslims for the better half of the last century. Muhammad was a Progressive. This, however, requires many important qualifications. The Quranic understanding is that human life is moving in the direction of its own inevitable collapse and the role of the Prophet was to interrupt the decline by inviting people to govern their lives in the shade of Divine guidance. Thus, his progress was a renewal of the Divine teachings and, because he was the final Prophet, their perfect completion. As time pushes us further away from his blessed era the light of divine bliss diminishes. He, peace and blessings be upon him, said that “the best of my people are my generation, then those that come after them; then those that come after.” The Quran says of the spiritual elites that there will be “many among the earlier generations, few in the later generations.” In other words, any era after his is a dystopia because his community came the closest to achieving a state of utopia. At least 17 times a day, a Muslim pleads for progress when he prays, “Lead us unto the straight path.” This is the path of barakah that springs from a renewal - tajdid - of the way of the Prophet, his companions and those that followed in their footsteps. Any movement, artistic or scholarly, whether an idea or a book, that lures people away from the principles of Divine guidance embodied in the Prophetic era, is degeneration - a regression, not progression. Anyone who wishes to “progress” must in principle reject the stranglehold of this world and embrace the light of Divine Majesty. Even Jesus, blessed be his soul, said, “be not conformed to the world.” Progress from within the Islamic tradition is not a green light to surf the waves of modernity on bloated egos, giving up the legacy of our intellectual and spiritual tradition, but a commitment to withstand the intellectual, political and spiritual tsunamis hurled at us with our faith in God and our identity as His servants intact. Dr Martin Lings reminded us of something similar forty years ago in a speech given in Arabic at Al-Azhar University in Cairo. In it he warned: “In the eyes of the champions of this ‘renaissance’ that we are now supposed to be enjoying, what is to be ‘strongly discouraged’ (makruh) is everything that is left of the Islamic civilisation in the way of customs (sunnah) such as wearing the turban and not shaving off the beard, whereas what is ‘strongly recommended’ (mandub) is everything that comes from the West… The result is that the rising generation is more ignorant of the practices of the Messenger of God, and more cut off from those practices, than any generation that has come into existence since the dawn of Islam. How then shall we augur well of the present situation? And how shall we not shrink from the word ‘renaissance’ as from an evil omen? All this was foreseen by the Prophet. He said, ‘You will follow the ways of those that were before you span for span and cubit for cubit until if they went down into the hole of a poisonous reptile you will follow them down.’ That descent is now taking place; and it is called development and progress.” ! Q - NEWS
NEW VOICES EMERGE: THE MUSLIM BLOGOSPHERE FOR THE LAST THREE YEARS, IT HAS BEEN “ALL ISLAM, ALL THE TIME.” OVERNIGHT
“EXPERTS” AND GREY-SUITED PUNDITS HAVE TRIED TO DECIPHER WHAT WE ARE THINKING, WHERE WE ARE HIDING, AND OUR ALLEGED PLANS FOR WORLD DOMINATION. OUR VOICES HAVEN’T COUNTED. ENTER THE MUSLIM BLOGS. AS SHAHED AMANULLAH REPORTS, BLOGGERS ARE CHALLENGING POPULAR PERCEPTIONS OF ISLAM FROM CYBERSPACE AND CREATING AN ONLINE COMMUNITY THAT IS TURNING CONVENTIONAL WISDOM ON ITS HEAD. lier, and that has given hundreds, if not thousands, of ince 9/11, Muslims have been examined, talked Muslims the opportunity to take the proactive route. With about, investigated, and puzzled over by politicians, the advent of the Web, Muslims around the world who the news media, and ordinary citizens. What is interlived mainly with people who shared their cultural and esting about this collective obsession is that despite severspiritual beliefs (and living al years of collecting data and analysing Islam and who in countries Muslims are, remarkably little insight has emerged. Today, where you hear the same old canards about the Muslim community in the West that you heard in the months after 9/11: our loyalties to our lands of citizenship are suspect at best, “And our collective intent is to force Islam down the throats is Iran so bad?” He finally of our neighbours, and that we secretly enjoy the asked.Well no, Abu Ammar, I wantnews of acts of terror committed in our name. ed to answer, it’s not bad for *you* - you’re While Muslims have made admirable attempts to a man… if anything your right to several temget our voices in the mainstream media to porary marriages, a few permanent ones and the counter these persistent thoughts, the result right to subdue females will increase. Why should it be has usually been to become Muslim dartso bad? Instead I was silent. It’s not a good thing to criticize boards upon which the usual suspects Iran these days. I numbly reached for the bags he handed me, would pin their hate. trying to rise out of that sinking feeling that overwhelmed me Now let’s back up a bit to that fateful when the results were first made public. It’s not about a Sunni government or a Shia government - it’s about the possibility of an day in 2001. While Muslims have never Iranian-modeled Iraq. Many Shia are also appalled with the results of really been good at expressing the diverthe elections.There’s talk of Sunnis being marginalized by the elections sity of their opinion to the public at but that isn’t the situation. It’s not just Sunnis - it’s moderate Shia and large, we faced collective choices that secular people in general who have been marginalized.The list is frightwould forever change the nature of our ening - Da’awa, SCIRI, Chalabi, Hussein Shahristani and a whole colleccommunity. Would we remain silent, tion of pro-Iran political figures and clerics. They are going to have a wishing that the wave of chaos would primary role in writing the new constitution.There’s talk of Shari’a, or wash over us, hopefully leaving us unafIslamic law, having a very primary role in the new constitution. The fected? Or would we stand problem is, whose Shari’a? Shari’a for many Shia differs up for ourselves, giving Best Iraqi Blogger from that of Sunni Shari’a.And what about all the other voice to a people who have religions? What about Christians and Mendiyeen? Is Groceries and Election Results been talked about often yet anyone surprised that the same people who came who rarely talk themselves? Riverbend (Baghdad Burning) along with the Americans - the same puppets who Would we circle the wagons all had a go at the presidency last year - are the riverbendblog.blogspot.com against criticism of our ones who came out on top in the elections? community, or would we Jaffari, Talbani, Barazani, Hakim, Allawi, own our own problems and begin to change Chalabi… exiles, convicted criminals Muslim attitudes and behavior through our expresand war lords. Welcome to sion? the new Iraq. Thankfully, the Internet had arrived several years ear-
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When parents go looking for a spouse for their child, they consider beauty, ethnicity, religion, education, social/financial status and even horoscopes. Which of these criteria are superficial? There are times when a guy’s mom would reject girls because of the smallest “defects” in physical appearance. Or because of the girl being a bit older than the guy (even by a few months). Ethnicity and religion are very important factors that most parents don’t overlook for arranged marriages. I know a number of guys whose families insisted that they had to marry another Pathan (an ethnic group in NWFP, Pakistan and in Afghanistan) even though these guys and their families had otherwise completely assimilated in Lahore or Karachi for hundreds of years. No one in their families spoke Pashto or Dari, the languages that Pathans/Pashtuns speak. Still their families would not think of marrying someone outside their definition of the tribes that comprise the Pathans. Imagine how many parents in the US are comfortable with their children marrying someone of another race. Now think what would happen if these parents could decide who could or could not marry their kid. The result would definitely be far less miscegenation. And that’s what happens in societies with arranged marriages. In the end, the discussion of arranged and love marriages comes down to which is better. Obviously, the one that leads to more successful marriages. Proponents of arranged marriage claim that it is more successful, but their definition of success focuses on divorce rates.
Best Group Blog Muslim apostates cast out and at risk from faith and family Thabet (Muslims Under Progress) underprogress.blogs.com
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Honourable Mention Best Non English Blog Arranged Marriage Zack Ajmal (Procrastination) zackvision.com/weblog/archives/urdu
(On apostasy) First, regardless of how and when (of even if) the ‘law of apostasy’ is applied, it isn’t applied by anyone other than the authorities charged to do so.  Muslim citizens of the United Kingdom are not such an authority and never have been. It is ironic that in their delusional flusters to ‘defend the honour of Islam’, some Muslims tend to disregard the basic structure of Islamic legal systems throughout history: that of acting within defined ethical boundaries. Acts of criminality are judged by an appropriate person (a qadi usually and not Uncle-ji or Mamoo-jan talking over a bowl of zarda) and then, depending on the verdict, punished by the authorities charged to do so (in our current time this would be the State). Personally, If I did come across someone being attacked on the street for ‘leaving Islam’, I know what I would do - take the individual into my house and protect him from the self-righteous cretins who believe themselves to be manifestations of God’s justice.And even after all those points are considered, there is no law against changing one’s religion in the UK, though there are laws against causing harm to, or threatening, another individual. Muslim citizens are required to abide by the laws of the state, as long as they are not required to act contrary to their beliefs. Secondly, many Muslims who live as minorities talk of acting to mitigate against the potential for ‘harm that can be caused to Islam (or Muslims)’. Better still, of acting to promote a good image of Muslims and Islam, for the purposes of da’wah. Now it might just be the salty sea air talking, but I do not see how throwing a brick through the window of a man’s house, who was once Muslim and is now a Christian, which leads to this story being daubed across the pages of a leading newspaper, that fuels the Spencerites and Pipesians and their crackpot missions of Jihad Watch and Dhimmi Watch, and allows celebrity naysayers like Ibn Warraq to repeat “I told you so”, will aid this reduction of potential for harm. If anything, it will have the opposite affect.
Minus a brief flirtation with all things German, Iran has long been fascinated by France. Their modernization came primarily Best Blog, Best Writing, through contacts from the French. Their modern Persian Best Post includes French terminology, and anyway, sounds like French far Explaining the Mideast to the Midwest too often. It must be an eerie coincidence. Like the French, too, the Iranians overthrow their governments with alarming regularity. The Haroon Moghul (avari-nameh) French, who love revolutions and occupations by foreign powers, are curavari.blogs.com rently enjoying their Fifth Republic. The Iranians, on the other hand, have enjoyed in the span of a century a Constitutional Revolution, two foreign occupations (!), a White Revolution and the infamous 1979 Islamic Revolution (like the French, the Iranians have a problematic relationship with their religion: Iran is the only Muslim country to ever be ruled by clerics, so far as I know, and in this regard, may produce the kind of virulent and ridiculous secularism that dominates France today. The countries should marry and produce children). There is another thing about the Iranians, too.They can’t get over the Arab invasion of over a millennium ago. Avari-Nameh has decided:There will from this post forwards be a strict 500-year pansie girlie man whining limit. After 500 years, one must cease pissing and moaning, because at that point, whatever it is, it really is your fault alone. Incredulous that the barbaric Russians - I mean Arabs (see how easy it is to get analogically confused?) could have conquered their brilliant, cultured civilization, the Iranians have long nursed a grudge itself the size of some middling Arab powers. Unfortunately, were it not for the Arab-Islamic invasion, Iranian culture probably would not have risen to the global level it did, for the centuries during which Persian was the lingua franca (get it?) of the Islamic world. For the Muslim world, Persian fast took the place of Arabic in many cultures and became a mark of achievement. For a long time, sophisticated Europeans had to use French, too. So why, pray tell, are the Iranians so mad, if the Arab invasion indirectly made their language all the more prominent and global? (Tellingly, Iran is once again on the rise, along with Turkey, while the Arab world plods along.Though France is not on the rise, and Russia may well be. Crescent Awards, an online “best f r e e Except for Chechnya.) expression was rare) were exposed to the breadth and depth of the ummah for the first time - from Salafi to Sufi, from practicing to secular, from conservative to Marxist, and all the colors in between. Some couldn’t deal with it, descending into endless flame wars on bulletin boards. Others gasped in horror and turned away from the screen. But, for those who embraced this brave new world, an enriching dialogue began. And the Muslim blogosphere - the interactive world of Muslim-themed weblogs - was born. Today, there exists a plethora of opinion, analysis, expression, and debate that puts an end to the myth that Muslims are mindless automatons, just waiting for the right fatwa that will put a mass killing machine into motion. Most are in English, although a growing number are in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, and other languages of the Muslim world. Some are educational - blogger Thabet of “Muslims Under Progress” (underprogress.blogs.com/weblog) never ceases to amaze with his deep knowledge of Islamic history and law. Some cover the news so that you don’t have to - the incredibly popular Laura Poyneer, otherwise known as AlMuhajabah (muhajabah.com), either has a lot of time on her hands or is a speed reader. Some just astound you with the quality of their writing - if Haroon Moghul (avari.blogs.com) doesn’t win a writing award at some point in his literary future, there is no justice in this world. And some are just plain funny - Abdusalaam al-Hindi’s (abdusalaam.blogspot.com) take on stereotypical khutbahs is already an Internet classic. This year, these and other Muslim bloggers were honored by their peers and readers with the first annual Brass
blog” competition held by City of Brass (cityofbrass.blogspot.com) and my weblog, alt.muslim (altmuslim.com) with the objective of highlighting the best of the Muslim blogosphere for those just getting to know the talent and diversity of the online Muslim ummah, as well as providing recognition to those who have toiled hard with their writings, wondering if anyone cared. Hundreds of votes were cast in this year’s awards, even though three was only one week notice given, and people were given an opportunity to discuss - in a weblog, of course - the nominees before voting. (This year’s winners are featured at altmuslim.com/brasscrescent.php and in the following pages.) Next year, we hope that the excitement generated by the first Brass Crescent awards, and the favorable reception given to the winners, will bring in more nominations and a more spirited preelection debate. Some of the categories are straightforward, focusing specifically on the writings, including “Best Blog”, “Best Post” and “Best Writing.” This year, Haroon Moghul, a newcomer to blogging who left law school to focus on his writings and pursue a PhD in Islamic Studies, made a clean sweep of all three categories with his unique writing style, rich with multicultural references, smart self-deprecation, and just a touch of irony. Haroon also has an excellent self-published memoir about his travels in Saudi Arabia, which is as side-splitting and simultaneously thoughtful as his blog posts. It was a close call in each of the three categories, with Abusalam al-Hindi, Laura “veiled4Allah” Poyneer, Zack Ajmal, and Muslims for Progress’ Thabet all Muslim blogosphere veterans who have been posting for several years - close behind. Other categories, such as “Best Thinker” and “Best Commenter”, are meant to highlight emerging Muslim
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Best Female Blog Appropriately Subversive Maryam (Dervish) www.maryams.net/dervish
While I am willing for myself to ‘deal with’ aspects of patriarchy in Muslim community life (negotiate space), I do not want that for my daughter. I do not want to raise her believing that Islam teaches she is a second class citizen. Let me get this straight off the bat. I strongly believe that at its core Islam is an egalitarian faith which views man and woman as complimentary partners and that each person has the same fundamental duty to respond to God’s will regardless of their gender. I believe that Islam teaches that all human beings are equal and can only be distinguished by piety. However, I also recognise that Islam has been culturally manifested in very patriarchal fashions and that these manifestations claim to be representing “true” Islam. Islamic law in particular has often codified patriarchal readings of Islam into a canon of orthodoxy that is difficult to question without challenging some fundamental ideas of who gets to speak authoritatively “for” Islam. I think that the Quran and the Prophet, God love him, recognised the limitations of the societal structures of the period into which the Muhammadan expression of Islam first dawned (including notions of masculinity and femininity) but as Farid Esack has written elsewhere. But I also believe there is an underlying ethic of equity which transcends - is more real - than the cultural clothing which Islam wears at any one time period.Therefore I remain a Muslim trying to seek out those egalitarian readings wherever I may find them. But now that I have had a baby - and a baby girl at that - I want more for my daughter than what is currently on offer in the Muslim community. I want her to be valued and cherished as a human being, not relegated to second class because she is female. I want her to play a vital and active role in her faith community, not stand on the side-lines as a marginalised spectator. I want her to have access to all the resources, facilities, opportunities that a brother might have. I want her to have a voice that is equal to any Muslim man who is her peer in knowledge, wisdom and piety.
web personalities and encourage those out there who are still wary of public expression to see how rewarding it can be for their readers. This year, the same blogger swept both categories - the anonymous author of Silent Spring (silentspring.diaryland.com). Unlike most Brass Crescent winners who blog from various Western countries, Silent Spring hails from Pakistan, and blogs in English for a mainly English-speaking audience. While women are well represented in all categories of awards, there is a sisterhood of sorts among Muslim women bloggers, and the “Best Female Blog” category was created to highlight the unique discourse among them. Australian blogger Umm Yasmin (maryams.net/dervish) took the prize in this category, with her well-written entries about motherhood, conversion, and global politics. Her latest entries include a series on “Becoming Muslim” and reflections on this year’s Muharram. Since one of the goals of the Brass Crescent Awards was to share the best of the Muslim web with the greater blogging community, we created a “Best Non-Muslim Blog” that would recognize non-Muslim bloggers that had a respectful attitude towards Islam and whose posts reflected a desire to bridge the gaps between Islam and the West. The prolific Juan Cole (juancole.com), a professor of history at the University of Michigan, took this prize for his pointed political commentary. Our intent in creating this category was to foster better interfaith relations, but Cole’s exclusively political site showed that Muslim surfers are looking for something else. Some categories are meant to be temporary, highlighting a particular cultural phenomenon or phase that the Muslim world is going through. The writings emanating from Iraq (before, during, and after the invasion) are a window to the world that few, Muslim or not, have seen
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firsthand. This year’s “Best Iraqi Blogger” went to Riverbend of Baghdad Burning (riverbendblog.blogspot.com), with Aunt Najma of A Star from Mosul (astarfrommosul.blogspot.com) close behind. Both write from the “Arab street” so-called “experts” like to talk about, but this street comes across as so much more human than the other one. These blogs are a finger on the pulse of Iraqi society that is ignored in the mainstream press. Many Muslim bloggers like to focus on one subject for several days or weeks, creating a series of articles that can stand alone as an authoritative work. The “Best Series” award recognizes these efforts, and this year’s winner was Leila M (sister-scorpion.blogspot.com) who wrote a series last year on Muharram that did more to educate Sunni Muslims about Shi’a beliefs than anything you could find at an Islamic bookstore. Honorable mention went to Zack Ajmal (zackvision.com), whose collected posts on marriage were nominated in this category. The first Brass Crescent Awards isn’t meant to be a completely authoritative take of the best of the Muslim web. In fact, those weblogs that won did so mainly because those who voted for them found out about the awards first, and spread the word quickly to other fans. By next year, however, we plan to get at least ten times the voters we did this year, and hopefully double the number of nominations. More Muslims start blogging every day, creating a tapestry of creativity, insight, and scholarship that stands in direct contrast to the images of Islam traditionally seen in the media. The Brass Crescent Awards recognises those Muslims who enter the online fray to enrich the lives of their readers, as well as creating a showcase for the wider Net to sample from. !
A BLOGGER’S MANIFESTO HAROON MOGHUL RAMBLES, BUT HE’S READ. THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE VISIT HIS AWARDWINNING BLOG EVERY WEEK AND ARE IN TURNS INSPIRED, INFURIATED AND PERPLEXED. BUT, WHAT MAKES HIM TICK? writer may not be able to make a living by writing, but nevertheless a writer cannot live without writing. This is how it is possible to simultaneously love and loathe the same activity. Most often, I hate not the writing but the need to write. At the most inappropriate times of day, I am consumed by taxing projects, say for a short story, an essay, a poem or even a novel. With respect to this affliction, I try at all times to carry pen and paper with me. So it is that many of my favorite posts were not born in cyberspace, but mingled into the margins of my notes on the past perfect in Punjabi or ergative postpositions in Urdu. What I mean to say is this: blogging might be lauded as the next revolution in communication, changing how we represent and experience information, but the revolution hasn’t been total. The power of the pen remains. For a good writer does not have to be a good blogger. But a good blogger must be a good writer. Friends casually remark, “It seems like so much work to maintain a blog.” Seems? A successful blog exists in the most precarious tension. Let’s say you want to start a blog. First, you have to identify an ideal audience - and then realise it. (What is, after all, the point of talking to yourself?) I suggest starting with the “lowest common denominator” and, from there, generating your proposed readership. Then sustain its interest. This requires going above and beyond repeating affirmed beliefs and presenting ideas, possibilities and patterns that stimulate the readership
Because I know how you feel. Every day - every single day - you are bombarded with news that denies, denigrates, dismisses or else diminishes you.The errors of idiots fill not only newspapers but books and speeches and policies as well.Take them and make a bonfire of them. without chasing it away. Finally, your newborn blog needs to expand its horizons. This demands sufficient superficial eye candy - catchy titles, whimsical turns of phrase, neat color schemes - to ensnare the passing web surfer. Unless, of course, it is your intention to restrict yourself to a certain population and remain bounded by that; perhaps it is the expansionist American in me, perhaps it is the expansionist Muslim in me, or even the two multiplying together, but I cannot stand a static blog. Though this does not explain what it is that possesses a person to devote so much time and so much energy to such a thankless task. If there were a calculus of writing, writers would be
measured and found wanting - as well as bankrupt. Last January, during the first month of a short study stay in Islamabad, Pakistan, I launched Avari-Nameh. (The name is Quenya and Persian, meaning “the Book of the Unwilling.”) The Avari were a subset of elves from J. R. R. Tolkien’s history, those who heard the advertisements of a utopia far to the west, across the great sea, but nonetheless turned the offer down. The Avari may not have had concrete arguments behind their obstinacy; rather, only emotions. But what makes an emotion any less real than an argument? For their sin - refusing to leave the water of awakening, the land from where they came - Tolkien deliberately removed them from the later narratives of Middle-Earth, declining to share with his readers the fate of this faction. Even their homeland is lost - it no longer exists, or else its location has been forgotten. Sometimes I wonder: will we too be dismissed from the narratives of history because we have refused to make the migration west? At best, Avari-Nameh is composed of sketches, knee-jerk reactions put up far too fast and with far too little reflection. Somehow, it sticks. It survives. Dare I say, it thrives. Several hundred hits a day and a few thousand a week. Who are these readers? I know where they are - they live in New Zealand, Australia, America, Canada, India, Pakistan, England and South Africa; I just don’t know why they come so often to read what I have to write. The more they read of me, the more they see into me. Just like you’ve started to wonder: who’s this Haroon person? I should mention that special skill I possess, which allows me to devote so much time and so much energy to this activity. It is my ability to set aside the work I have and must do and instead spend my time on what is primarily leisurely activity. (Question: Can that which starts in diversion do anything but divert?) One fellow blogger described one of my posts in the way I generally think of my entire blog. She commented, “Haroon mostly rambles…” Indeed he does. He rambles but he is read. Because I know how you feel. Every day - every single day you are bombarded with news that denies, denigrates, dismisses or else diminishes you. It is the fault of Middle Eastern and Islamic mindsets! You are the culture that forgot time and got forgotten! You have deservedly been left behind! You are God knows how many thousands of square miles submerged in darkness, and only the West can bring you light! The errors of idiots fill not only newspapers but books and speeches and policies as well. Take them and make a bonfire of them. See what you are being persuaded to forget. The sentiments that bind us are not made imaginary by their sentimentality. Nor do the characteristics of a century contain a millennium, though they may herald one coming. Those worlds that are in such visible and painful turmoil may be clawing at the threat of their submergence, and in so doing writhing free of their current tragedy. We recall and are rightly proud of our pasts. Do we not have cause then to see in those beginnings better ends? ! Q - NEWS
BOOK VIEWS WITH WINTER DRAGGING ITS FEET INTO MARCH, THERE’S NO BETTER TIME TO STAY WARM WITH A CUP OF CHAI AND ONE OF THESE RECENTLY RELEASED TITLES THAT WILL SATISFY YOUR APPETITE FOR HISTORY, CULTURE AND THE ARTS.
Sabra and Shatila: September 1982, by Bayan Nuwayhed al-Hout The book covers the history of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, which took place over three bloody days in the Lebanese capital Beirut. It was committed against Palestinian refugees by Lebanese militias, aided and supervised by the Israeli Army, which had encircled the district. Now available for the first time in English, this classic book is the most comprehensive, authoritative account of what happened and who was responsible. The author, Bayan Nuwayhed al-Hout, was a Professor at the Lebanese University at the time. Driven by the horror of what occured, she interviewed survivors and set up an oral history project immediately after the massacre to preserve testimonies. This book is the result. Following a general introduction, the first part contains interviews mainly with victims’ families. The second part analyses statistical data and attempts to determine the number of vic-
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mentalism is essentially hostile to democracy. £14.99, Pluto Press
tims. The conclusion, ‘Who Was Responsible?’, sheds light on the various parties responsible. Over five-hundred pages long, illustrated with photographs and maps, unrivalled in detail and scope, this book is a courageous attempt to make sense of what happened and an important political document in its own right. £21.37, Pluto Press
The Alhambra, by Robert Irwin The Alhambra, the ‘red fort’ on its rocky hill above Granada, with its fountained courts and gardens, and intricate decoration, has long been a byword for exotic and melancholy beauty. In this title in the Wonders of the World series, Robert Irwin, Arabist and novelist, examines its engrossing and often mysterious history. £8.99, Profile Books
Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, by Israel Shahak, Norton Mezvinsky This is a new edition of a classic and highly controversial book that examines the history and consequences of Jewish fundamentalism in Israel. Fully updated, with new chapters and a new introduction by Norton Mezvinsky, it is essential reading for anyone who wants a full understanding of the way religious extremism has affected the political development of the modern Israeli state. Acclaimed writer and human rights compaigner Israel Shahak was, up until his death in 2001, one of the most respected of Israel’s peace activists - he was, in the words of Gore Vidal, “the latest - if not the last of the great prophets.” Written by Shahak together with American scholar Mezvinsky, this book shows how Jewish fundamentalism in Israel, as shown in the activities of religious settlers, is of great importance. They conclude that Jewish funda-
The Creation of Iraq 19141921, by Reeva Spector Simon With the U.S.-led Operation Iraqi Freedom, we are reminded that almost one hundred years ago, a similar process of regime change and territorial reorganisation in the same region of the world was undertaken by Great Britain. Yet unlike the coalition forces that in 2003 proclaimed the territorial integrity of Iraq, the British had to begin from scratch: until 1921, the country of Iraq did not exist. How did this actually come about? And what were the reactions of the peoples living in that contested territory? This collection of essays by leading scholars provides a comprehensive yet accessible overview of Iraq’s history and its strategic importance from three points of view: local residents, Iraq’s neighbors (Iran, Turkey, and
Kurdistan), and the Great Powers. The book captures the complexity of forces that contributed to the making of Iraq as a modern state, integrating short and long term policy, individual and group interests, and the impact of World War I. The Creation of Iraq allows the reader to understand the dynamics and interplay of regional history and geo-strategic and imperial priorities in an area of the world that will continue to dominate interrnational politics for years to come. £13, Columbia University
Global Civilization: A Buddhist-Islamic Dialogue, by Majid Tehranian, Daisaku Ikeda This book emerged from a series of conversations between two peace advocates of Japanese and Iranian origin. It covers the encounters between Buddhist and Islamic civilisations from the 7th century to the present. For all their cultural differences, Buddhism and Islam share a surprising number of intrinsic similarities. The topics discussed include such diverse subjects as the nature of religious faith today, global ideological terrorism, religious fanatacism and universal human rights. Ikeda and Tehranian, two important representatives of their respective faiths, propose dialogue as the most effective method of conflict resolution
at interpersonal, intra-national and international levels. It is a call for tolerance, for dialogue and for peace. £14.95, British Academic
The Art of the Islamic Garden, by Emma Clark Islamic gardens are enchanting places. Just the names of some of the most beautiful gardens in the world - the Alhambra, the Generalife, the Shalimar - conjure up images of calm and even divine beauty. No visitor is left untouched by their magic. The Art of the Islamic Garden examines that magic, describes the component parts and explains the design and symbolism which to allow a deeper understanding of the beauty. £25, The Crowood Press
Women, Islam and Cinema, by Gonul Donmez-Colin Film critic and author Gonul Donmez-Colin explores the role of women as spectators, images and image constructors in the cinemas of the countries where Islam is the predominant religion, focusing on Iran and Turkey from
the Middle East, drawing parallels from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the two Central Asian Republics of the former Soviet Union, and Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia, the prominently Muslim Asian countries with a challenging film industry. Some of the relevant films made in India by and for Muslim Indians are also explored. The author discusses cinematic archetypes such as the naive country girl, or the devious seductress, as well as looking at controversial elements such as screen rape, which, feminist film critics claim, caters to male voyeurism. She also discusses recurring themes, such as the myths of femininity, the endorsement of polygamy and the obsession with male children, as well as the most common stereotypes, depicting women as mothers, wives and daughters. £10, Reaktion Books Ltd,
Iznik: The Artistry of Ottoman Ceramics, by Walter B. Denny Denny offers new perspectives on one of the most popular Islamic art forms. Covering both Iznik pieces de forme and the famous Iznik tiles that decorate ottoman imperial monuments, the book integrates the entire spectrum of Iznik production, both tiles and wares, and the broader artistic tradition in which it originated. Professor Denny begins with a discussion of the particular
nature of Islamic art under the Ottomans. He then examines the relationship between the court style of Istanbul and the ceramic ateliers in Iznik in nearby Bithynia, and the crucial role of two styles - dubbed by the author the ‘enchanted forest’ and ‘heavenly garden’ (the saz and aux quatre fleurs styles) - and their creators, Shah Kulu and Kara Memi. Finally, he covers Iznik works with human or animal imagery, the patronage of non-Muslim communities within the Ottoman Empire, and the chronicle of destruction and damage of tiled monuments due to war, earthquake and fire. The book reflects Professor Denny’s ambition, almost thirty-five years after completing his doctoral dissertation on Iznik tiles and after well over a dozen publications on the subject, to create a comprehensive overview of this beautiful art form. £45, Thames and Hudson
The Ottoman Empire and the World Around It, by Suraiya Faroqhi Faroqhi demonstrates that there was no iron curtain between the Ottoman and other worlds but rather a long-established network of diplomatic, financial, cultural and religious connections. £35, I.B. Tauris, Out in November 2004 !
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REVIEW | BOOKS
RENEWING OUR FAITH IN COMMON GROUND THE SEARCH FOR COMMON GROUND IS DIFFICULT IN THE FACE OF THE FATUOUS BUT DEADLY ASSUMPTION THAT THE WORLD IS EASILY DIVIDED: EAST AND WEST, MUSLIM AND CHRISTIAN, ARAB AND EUROPEAN, GOOD AND BAD. JAMES ABDULAZIZ BROWN REVIEWS TWO RECENT WORKS THAT BRAVELY CHALLENGE THE INTELLECTUAL STATUS QUO. ow often have you heard the term ‘Judeo-Christian civilisation’? Many times, no doubt, and with good reason. Common scriptural roots, long social interaction, mutual contribution to what has become the shared modernity of the West; there are many reasons to consider the term a useful one. But have you ever heard the phrase ‘Islamo-Christian civilisation’? Surely the fact that apparently no one has used it before historian Richard Bulliet in his new book, The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization, is not because of some inherent greater compatibility between Jewish and Christian societies. One has only to think of the Holocaust, repeated pogroms and medieval expulsions to realise the hostility that long combined with fruitful interaction before the apparent reconciliation neatly encapsulated today in the term ‘Judeo-Christian.’ In a thought-provoking and refreshing work, Bulliet has set out to reframe our understanding of history and modern society by arguing that Islamic and Western societies must be seen as twins, sharing similar roots and following parallel paths for many centuries. A professor at Columbia University in New York, his motivations spring directly from the failings United States policy post-September 11. The book is addressed to both the academic and the immediate political debate, challenging Samuel Huntington’s well-known ‘Clash of Civilisations’ thesis and demanding the recognition that “the Islamo-Christian world has much more binding it together than forcing it apart.” The book does not focus on the wider and more wellknown scriptural relationship of Islam and Christianity (with Judaism) simply as ‘Abrahamic faiths.’ Nor does Bulliet attempt to link all Christian and Muslim societies. Rather he wants to establish a set of historical features and structures common to both the Islamic and Christian cultures that developed west of Iran and north of the Sahara: he argues that “the two faith communities can best be thought of as two versions of a common socio-religious system.” Bulliet’s argument begins by noting the initial spread of both Christianity and Islam into the world first linked by Hellenic culture and then the Roman Empire. He describes the parallel challenges of the diffusion of these religions from small elites into the wider population; their gradual institutionalisation; the clash of religious and political authority; the growth of popular spirituality. Bulliet is too subtle, however, to overstate his case, and he admits variation while positing
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similarity. Where the medieval Catholic Church clashed head on with European rulers over the rights of state and religion, for example, the Muslim ulema were generally more flexible and more successful - in their similar efforts to resist secular control. The most salient variation today, of course, seems to be the contrasting attitudes in Islamic and Western societies to political authority and freedom. It was apparently for the sake of bringing freedom through Western-style democracy, remember, that the United States led the war into Iraq. In the second section of his book, Bulliet offers an important perspective here also. Instead of acquiescing to the view implicit in the title of Bernard Lewis’ recent book, What Went Wrong? Western Impact & Middle Eastern Response, Bulliet refuses to assume the West as the measure by which other societies must be judged. He asks instead, “What went on?” He argues that far from causing the lack of freedom sadly so evident today in many Muslim countries, Islam was in fact a bulwark against tyranny. In the ulama and the shariah, Muslim societies found their own means to resist arbitrary government. It was the relentless anticlericalism of the 19th and 20th century reformers inspired by Europe - Ataturk or the Pahlavis, for example - that eroded these. Whatever the merits of his arguments, Bulliet wants the reader to understand Muslim history on its own terms - not by the extent it has or has not measured up to the course charted by Europe and its descendants. The second half of the book changes tack as Bulliet offers an insider’s view on the weaknesses of American academia and its attempts to understand Muslims and Islam since World War II. From first assuming that Islam would rapidly become insignificant as the Arab world developed materially, he argues, American academics and policy advisers have veered to a near-hysterical view of it as a monolithic and dangerous force. Again he reminds us of the necessity of understanding others in their own terms as far as possible: “like latter day missionaries, we want the Muslims to love us, not just for what we can offer in the way of a technological society, but for who we are - for our values. But we refuse to countenance the thought of loving them for their values.” The final chapter offers some thoughts on the future by discussing what Bulliet calls the situation “on the edge” of Muslim societies - places and groups (such as diaspora communities) where what we call Islam is being renegotiated and renewed in ways we may not be able to anticipate. Some of his
REVIEW | BOOKS
“Like latter day missionaries, we want the Muslims to love us, not just for what we can offer in the way of a technological society, but for who we are - for our values. But we refuse to countenance the thought of loving them for their values.”
examples are surprising, even provocative, but with a historian’s perspective Bulliet can caution us against dismissing them too quickly; the development of madrasahs, Sufi brotherhoods, even the compilation of the major hadith collections - the impulses behind all of these resulted to some extent from the frontiers of, or the integration of increasing numbers of converts into, Muslim societies. In this brief and lively volume, Bulliet has made some important observations and raised some equally significant questions. Written with evident sincerity and without prescriptive answers, this work deserves wide reading. A second book comparable in motivation and perspective is Ahdaf Soueif’s Mezzaterra: Fragments from the Common Ground. “Awesome power,” writes Bulliet, “resides in the terms we employ.” In her new collection of essays and reviews, Soueif seeks to wield that very power against the persistent and damaging misrepresentation of the Arab world by the West. Although her perspective is more intimate than Bulliet’s historical sweep, she shares the same desire to undermine the fatuous but powerful and deadly assumption that the world is easily divided: East and West, Muslim and Christian, Arab and European, good and bad. This theme has been a preoccupation of Soueif’s previous writing. Her Booker Prize-nominated novel Map of Love, for example, traced the romance and marriage of an Englishwoman and a committed Egyptian nationalist during the British protectorate. In the semi-autobiographical In the Eye of the Sun, she wrestled with the rewards and the pains of living between two cultures. This new collection elaborates on the theme by bringing together writings that all ultimately contribute to her project to celebrate the ‘mezzaterra’, or common ground, of the title. In her introductory essay, Soueif makes explicit the link between this project and her own biography in a way that will resonate with anyone whose life combines diverse influences. Her mother was professor of English Literature at Cairo University. She grew up during the heady days of Nasser and Arab nationalism, when Egypt felt proud of its ancient heritage and new independence, secure enough at the same time to open itself to influences from Russia, France, Italy, South America and Britain. Work and life eventually brought her to
immigrate to Britain, to marry a Scotsman, to have children here: no wonder, then, that “the common ground, after all, is the only ground that I and those whom I love can inhabit.” But the intoxicating mixture of cultures and ideas that seemed so normal in 1960s Cairo has by no means been easy to sustain. Although many prominent public figures and commentators in Egypt, for example, regularly read the European press and have studied in the West, Soueif resents the lack of reciprocity. Like the hundreds of thousands of Arabs or Muslims living in Britain, she is tired of “doing daily doubletakes when faced with their reflection in a Western mirror.” After the steady drip-drip of misrepresentation she noticed in the 1980s and 1990s, now has come the rushing torrent of the American ‘war on terror.’ She embarks in this collection, therefore, less on a celebration of the common ground than a defence of it. The book begins with Soueif’s writings on Palestine, the ‘war on terror’ and the invasion of Iraq. Few writers combine passion with a literary sensibility like Soueif. This is especially compelling in her reports from Palestine. She evokes scenes in vivid snapshots, leaves the ears ringing with a snatch of dialogue, combining reflection and analysis skilfully borne along by the narrative. Human contact is her key to unlock the gates of misrepresentation and hostility cutting off one from another. The second half of the book collects mostly older writings, less obviously political but similarly concerned with the power of representation. The inclusion of some reviews of past books, perhaps now forgotten, might at a glance seem irrelevant or indulgent. In fact, each is an intriguing study in itself of how understanding can get lost amongst unquestioned assumptions and lazy language - something, as Soueif writes, that “was not a policy; it simply happened.” It is of course the unconscious opinion that is least open to doubt, so it is in her role as interrogator of the unquestioned that Soueif is most valuable. While presenting powerful arguments at many levels against the actions of Bush et al, her critique of the prejudices - in the full sense of the word - that determine those actions is even more important. Soueif’s writings are tinged with the pain and anger that sadly afflicts too many of our lives today. But their enduring passion and optimism is such that the book leaves you still believing in the common ground she holds so dear. Read both these books to renew your faith in human interaction rather than separation, to feel what can unite instead of divide. ! The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization, Richard Bulliet (Columbia University Press, 2004) £16.00. Mezzaterra: Fragments from the Common Ground, Ahdaf Soueif (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2004) £8.99 Q - NEWS
REVIEW | ARTS
TURKS: A JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND YEARS THE LATEST EXHIBITION AT THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF ARTS IS AN AMBITIOUS LOOK AT A MILLENNIUM OF TURKISH CIVILISATION. ISLA ROSSER-OWEN FINDS THE EXHIBITION SPECTACULAR, BUT DESIGNED TO IMPRESS RATHER THAN EDUCATE. he Royal The Royal Academy’s exhibition Turks: A Journey of a Thousand Years, 600 - 1600 has been marketed, and attended, as if it were a massive fete for the 21st Century. It is certainly timely, in view of Turkey’s bid to join the EU, and with the exhibition catalogue full of praise from not only Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself, but from British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the political potential has been milked for all it is worth. While most, if not all, of the artifacts on display are surely spectacular, many of which are being shown to the public for the first time (including those from the private collection of Topkapi Palace), there is a certain anti-climactic nature to the exhibition. Despite taking up a good ten rooms of London’s Royal Academy of Arts, it fails to present any real sense that these amazing objects span a thousand years. Also not adequately explained, but only hinted at in the objects themselves, is the immense geographical area that the history of the Turks covers, not to mention the mix of languages, cultures and peoples that were swallowed up under their banner. There are few visual aids to make any of the artifacts accessible to the layman, and terms which even experts in Islamic Art would have difficulty with are not clarified. Turks does inspire awe in the beholder. The intricacy and craftsmanship that many of the exhibits reveal is truly spell-bounding, and if only for this reason it is still worth the trip. The sheer affluence, cultural richness, skill and diversity of the various Turkic peoples, not to mention the Ottoman sultans, is possibly the main impression that punters will take away with them. However, this exhibition is intended to impress but not to educate, and unfortunately all too many of the thousands of visitors passing through will leave being none the wiser about such a vast and important piece of cultural history. If you are able to fork out money for the catalogue on top of the already hefty entrance fee, then further enlightenment might be found. Otherwise, this rush-job of something that should have been momentous will probably fail to leave any lasting mark. !
Turks: A Journey of a Thousand Years, 600 - 1600 is on at the Royal Academy of Arts, London until 12th April 2005.
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Q-News has five pairs of tickets and ten exhibition posters to give away! Simply e-mail the correct answer to the following question with your full details before 4 April 2005 to email@example.com: WHAT IS THE NAME OF THE OTTOMAN SULTAN WHO CONQUERED CONSTANTINOPLE IN 1453?
REVIEW | ARTS
FACTS AND FIGURES ! Turks will be the first ever exhibition to explore the cultural influences and geographic dominance of Turkic cultures across a millennium. ! The exhibition presents over 350 works from approximately 37 lenders and 11 countries. ! A large proportion of works will be shown for the first time outside of Turkey including the majority of surviving drawings by Siyah Qalem Mohamed of the Black Pen. ! Major works include the wooden doors designed by the great architect Sinan for the harem of Murad III, dating from c. 1578 and measuring over 2.5 metres tall. ! Sections of the complete Timurid architecture scroll, Timurlu (c. 1370-1500) which measures approximately 30 metres and shows the compass marks and blind lines used to produce it. ! A beautifully preserved carpet, with stylised border, over 6 metres long from the Seljuk period (13th century) from the mosque built for Sultan Alaaddin Keykûgad, Konya. ! A selection of rare Chinese porcelain from the Topkapi Saray Museum who hold one of the largest such collections of porcelain outside of China. ! Elaborately decorated swords and military helmets including those belonging to Sultan Mehmed ‘The Conqueror’ and the dagger of Sultan Selim I, 1514 crafted from steel, rock crystal and turquoise. ! Further Ottoman treasures include the childhood notebook of Mehmed ‘The Conqueror’ and an embroidered kaftan collar of Selim II. ! The exhibition brings together a unique collaboration between three internationally acclaimed specialists: Filiz Çagman, Director of the Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul; Nazan Ölçer, Director of the Sakip Sabanci Museum, Istanbul and David Roxburgh, Professor of Islamic Art at Harvard University. ! The exhibition will be introduced by a newly commissioned video presentation mapping out the geographic movement of the Uigurs, Seljuks, Timurids and the Ottomans, highlighting architectural complexes specific to each cultural group. ! www.turks.org.uk
Opposite page: Portrait of Mehmed II, c.1480, Attributed to Shiblizade Ahmed. Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul. Illuminated page from a book of rhetoric, 1467.Topkapi Saray Museum. This page, from top left: Divan of Sultan Husain Mirza, copied by Sultan Ali Mashhadi, dedicated to Sultan Husain, 17-26 June 1492, Herat, Afghanistan.Topkapi Saray Museum. Flask, 1550-1600, Istanbul. Leather, ivory, horn, silver and metal thread. Kunsthistorisches Museum,Vienna. Kaftan of Sultan Selim I, c. 1515, Istanbul.Topkapi Saray Museum. Ceremonial helmet, mid-sixteenth century, Istanbul. Iron, gold, ruby and turquoise.Topkapi Saray Museum.
Q - NEWS
REVIEW | EVENTS
RAISING ASPIRATIONS RAIHAN ALFARADHI REPORTS ON THE 2005 MUSLIM STUDENT AWARDS AND FINDS BRITISH MUSLIM UNIVERSITY STUDENTS MAKING THEIR MARK DESPITE THE ODDS. uslim students in UK higher education have had a rough ride in recent years. Rising Islamophobia on campuses, the denial of religious rights and the often subtle exclusion from Students’ Unions are obstacles to full participation in campus life. A small minority of Muslim students expressing extreme views don’t make it any easier. Moreover, low levels of educational achievement and high dropout rates are among the very real challenges facing young Muslims, but it doesn’t mean that Muslim student achievement is rare. In fact, there are a great number of Muslim students who are achieving excellence in their studies and making a positive contribution to campus life as Muslims. These silent success stories need to be celebrated - the Muslim Student Awards intend to do just that. The Awards were launched in 2002, with various award categories, covering all aspects of university academic and campus life, aiming to acknowledge, reward and encourage Muslim student achievement. This year, the packed auditorium at Queen Mary University watched intently at the proceedings with presenters of awards including Danny Williams, International Boxing Heavyweight Champion and Kat Fletcher, President of NUS. ISOCs cater for the needs of the Muslim students, as well as present the message of Islam to others on campus. To recognise this role of the ISOCs, the 2004 Muslim Student Awards saw the introduction of a new award: Islamic Society of the Year. This year’s winners represent some remarkable accomplishments.
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Imad Ahmed: Imad achieved 11 A* in his GCSEs. In English, he was amongst the top five in the country. In his first year of A-Levels, he took exams in 11 modules and achieved 4 As in Physics, Economics, English, and Maths. Imad has been offered a place at the prestigious Oxford University to study English Language & Literature. He has taken this year out to study Arabic Language at SOAS. Arzoo Ahmed: Arzoo juggles a wide range of extra-curricular activities, while achieving 9A*s and 3As for GCSEs the 4As at A-Level. She has won numerous awards and national competitions, while maintaining a steady presence at Islamic study circles. She has been offered a place in the Physics faculty at Oxford University. EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
Amran Hussain: Amran has obtained the New Years Day Parade Honours Award, The Windrush Achievement Award, Diana Memorial Award, and Civic Citizenship Award and has recently been nominated for the UK Honours Award. These awards were made to him for his service to others and for his academic achievements. Amran has been offered the Morehead Scholarship, usually awarded to potential nobel Peace prize nominees, to read Medicine at a private university in America. This year, he intends to travel to the University of Um Qurra in Mecca to study the shariah and Arabic for six weeks. Rumana Habeeb: In the arena of NUS and its 82 year history, only two Muslims have ever been elected onto the national committee. Rumana was elected onto the NUS Executive and put onto the NUS Steering Committee. Her election victory gained her more than 365 votes in a conference of 1,100 delegates. CONTRIBUTION TO COLLEGE LIFE
Emran Islam: The Oxford University Islamic Society faced virtual extinction 15 months ago. However, over the months it has grown to one of the most active societies in Oxford. This is largely down to the dedication, charisma and vision of its President, Emran. He has given the Oxford ISoc a much needed sense of community and brotherhood and has made the ISoc open to all. He has managed this while enjoying newly-married life and studying for a Masters in Arabic and Modern Middle Eastern studies.
Shaheen Haque: 22 year old Shaheen Haque is a medical student who has been pivotal in the formation of the Islamic Circles Supplementary School (ICSS), which works to improve the educational standards of Muslim children in Newham. Shaheen has been a founding member of the Association of Muslim Governors, where she is dedicated to helping to recruit more Muslims into a School Governor role. She was also a member of the recent Islamic Relief Fashion Show team which raised money for Sudan. SPORT AND RECREATION
Mohammed Rahim: Mohammed used to Play Football for Watford FC. He quit the club to pursue his passion for long distance running. He has represented Great Britain for the U21s and now runs for them in national and international tournaments. He was recently selected for the European Cross Country Championships. He has been instrumental at the Stanmore Muslim Youth Community and is the longest serving coach for Stanmore Football Club. Rimla Akhtar: Rimla represented the Hertfordshire lacrosse and cricket teams, the East of England lacrosse squad, and her university football team. In 2001, she represented her country at the 3rd Women’s Games in Tehran. She is currently preparing for the 2005 Muslim Women’s Games. She is currently the President at Imperial College Islamic Society’s women’s section, with special emphasis on sport and health. MUSLIM STUDENT OF THE YEAR
Iqbal Nasim: Iqbal gained 13 A*s at GCSE, and 5As in A levels. He received the Duke of Edinburgh Award, and was the highest ranking cadet in his school. He also set up a youth sports group with funding from the local council. Along with his family, he publishes the An-Noor newsletter, distributed to all local mosques. He is currently the president of Cambridge ISoc. ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF THE YEAR
Leicester University: Raised over £3000 for the National One Day Fast. Organised an Islam Awareness Week, which had record turnouts with more non-Muslims than Muslims. Lobbied for halal food and purpose built wudu facilities, provided by the university. Held many events in conjunction with FOSIS, MAB and Friends of Al Aqsa. Organised the Inter ISOC quiz 2004. !
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. WUDU: BLEEDING GUMS SOHAIL HANIF WITH FARAZ RABBANI
Brushing one’s teeth often causes bleeding from the gums. Would this invalidate one’s wudu? Should we assume there’s some bleeding even if we don’t see it? The general principle is that if blood flows from a part of the body then the ablution is nullified. If blood appears on the surface but does not flow beyond the point of exiting, it does not nullify ablution. The mouth is naturally wet. It is therefore not easy to tell whether blood actually flowed out from the gums or was just on the surface and was carried out by the saliva in which case the ablution would not be nullified. That is why the colour of the saliva is considered in such a case. Imam al-Haskafi says in al-Durr alMukhtar, “And it [the ablution] is nullified by blood…that predominates over the saliva or equals it. It is not nullified if the saliva predominates.” Ibn Abidin explains that, “The sign of the blood being predominate or equal is that the saliva is red and the sign of the saliva being predominate is that saliva is yellow.” [Radd al-Muhtar `ala al-Durr alMukhtar, ‘Bab al-Wudu’] Likewise, if one spits out clear saliva with a thin streak of blood it can be assumed that the blood did not flow and so the ablution is not nullified, though a larger quantity of blood could indicate the contrary. One should use one’s reasonable judgment. If unable to spit out, one should rely on past experience or common sense to determine whether such blood would have predominated over the saliva or not. The default is that it would not have, and that one’s wudu remains valid. Certainty is not lifted by mere doubt. If one has certainty that one has performed ritual ablutions and merely doubts whether one’s gums have bled excessively, as described above, then one will adhere to the certainty, namely that one is still in a state of ritual purity. [Note: gum bleeding normally is a result of poor dental hygiene, and one should brush properly twice a day and floss daily.] CLAIMING EXPENSES FARAZ RABBANI
Can I claim back the money I spent on flights for my Hajj from my local education authority? I am on a year-out as part of my
degree course and I have chosen Syria as my chosen destination - but I also took this opportunity to partake on the Hajj. My local education authority have offered to pay for two return tickets to wherever I need to go for my studies. As I am studying Arabic - I have claimed back my first return flight. Can I do the same for money spent on my Hajj flights? As it is not directly related to your Arabic studies, it would be religiously binding on you to ask the educational authority whether you can claim Hajj expenses. Otherwise, it would be considered cheating and deception. Imam Ahmad related that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The believer could be characterised by all traits except lying and deception.” [Ahmad, and Tabarani, Bayhaqi, and Abu Ya`la with similar wording] The Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The one who cheats is not of us.” [Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, and others] He also said (peace and blessings be upon him), “The one who does not fulfill trusts has no faith, and the one who does not fulfill commitments has no religion.” [Ahmad, with a sound chain of narrators] MOTHERS THREATENS MY IN-LAWS SHAYKH MUHAMMAD IBN ADAM AL-KAWTHARI
I am a newly-wed man. My wife is currently residing in her home country with the intention to settle here. We have faced problems from day one. In particular, arguments concerning jewellery have resulted in my mother threatening to have a member of the family of my wife murdered. My in-laws have confirmed receiving a death threat letter with photos from certain people that my mother has paid to carry out the act. This has been confirmed by my mother. I have extensively spoken to and argued (and even shouted) with my mother, insisting that this is forbidden. However, she is
adamant that the intended plan will proceed. My heart is telling me to leave my family and live elsewhere in opposition. I cannot continue to give money to my mother for the household affairs (such as bills, etc.) as I am worried that this will be used to finance this whole act. what should I do? First of all, I pray to Allah Almighty that He assists you and your family in solving the problems and that everything is resolved peacefully. With regards to the death threats from your mother and her intention of murdering someone from the family of your wife, it is your responsibility to prevent this using all possible ways and means. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Whoever sees something evil should change it with his hand. If this is not possible, then with his tongue, and if even this is not possible, then (dislike it) in his heart. That is the weakest degree of faith”. (Sahih Muslim) Firstly, try solving the core of the problem due to which your mother has become very upset. Explain to the parties involved to come to a peaceful settlement, and end the hatred and enmity that has come about. You must explain to your mother that this is an unacceptable course of action. Remind her of the severe punishments promised in the hereafter by Allah Almighty upon murder and also on giving death threats. A mention of some of the verses of punishment from the Qur’an may be useful. You may use the medium of someone whom your mother respects or may have an effect on her to advice her. Also, supplicate to Allah and ask His assistance in guiding your mother and solving the family dispute in general, for He is capable of everything and anything. Turn to Allah with full devotion and sincerity and His help will come, Insha Allah. At the same time, you must respect your mother and not do something that is harmful or disrespectful to her. All of the above should be done in a kind, gentle and polite manner. If you wish to live separately, then that is up to you. It is perfectly permissible for you to live separately, especially if you think that it may be a means of preventing the evil. You may even stop the financial support if you think that it may be paid towards financing any such grave wrongdoing. May Allah Almighty help and assist you, and bring everything to a peaceful end, Insha Allah. Ameen. ! FARAZ RABBANI along with other scholars answer questions and teach through Sunni Path www.sunnipath.com Q - NEWS
DEATH OF AN UNSUNG
HERO HAFIZ GULAMMOHAMMED BORA WAS AN AMAZING PERSON WHO TOUCHED THE LIVES OF ALL WHO MET HIM, WRITES FUAD NAHDI. LIKE ALL GREAT PEOPLE HE IS DIFFICULT TO DEFINE OR PIGEON-HOLE, AN UNSUNG HERO IN THE STRUGGLE TO ESTABLISH ISLAM IN THE WEST.
15 JULY 1945 can’t remember exactly when I first met Hafiz Bora but I always felt that I knew him all my life. Intelligent, well-educated and cultured, he was delightful company - provocative, inspirational and accommodating. He was that rare creature: an imam who listened and was prepared to learn and, more importantly, challenge convention. Born into a noble Bombay family he was the second youngest of fifteen children. His father, Hajji Ismail Manejwala, was a businessman with property and dairy interests. But from a very young age it was obvious that he was inclined more towards scholarship than the cutthroat world of business. By the age of fifteen he had completed the memorisation of the Holy Quran and therefore, earned the title “Hafiz”. In 1968, he graduated with a honours degree in Physics and Chemistry from the prestigious Bombay University. In the same year, aged 23, he married Zainab nee Tarapuri with whom he went on to have six children: Aasia (b.1970), Fozia (b.1972), Suleman (b. and d. 1975), Musab (b. 1972), Aatika (b. 1978) and Erfana (b. 1981). Hafiz Bora remained loyal to two passions in his life: his love of travelling and teaching. In the mid-seventies he moved with his young family to Zambia to teach Maths and Physics at the Mukandawire Secondary School in the capital city, Lusaka. After a year he moved to the Britain and landed in Sheffield where he was appointed Imam of the Jamiah Mosque at Industry Road.
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Sheffield residents at the time remember him fondly. The local community at the time consisted of Yemenis, Kashmiri Mirpuris and Pathans from the NWFP of Pakistan. Hafiz Bora, a Gujarati, was not only seen but also acted as a honest broker between the different groups. It was his fairness that led him to be loved by the community which he served for seven years. One of the major challenges he faced and which he dealt with much courage was in mixed marriages. He championed the right of young people to choose whom they can marry so long as it was within the shariah. At the time he used to solemnise the marriages of young Muslim couples (if they liked each other, they should marry but if possible get the parents on board to approve it) sometimes against the wishes of their parents who wanted their children to marry within the clan. Hafiz Bora was also among the first imams in Britain to engage with the wider institutions of government including the Commission for Racial Equality, the Citizens Advice Bureau and other local and central government bodies. Fazlun Khalid, a senior CRE official based in Sheffield at the time, remembers Hafiz Bora as “this amazing Imam who was never afraid of being engaged and involved and who held views far ahead of the times.” Between 1982-84 Hafiz Bora worked as an advice worker for the Sheffield Minority Advice Project (SEMAP) at Spital Hill, Sheffield. SEMAP was the first project of its kind in England and Wales. He worked as an advisor to the police and various local government
initiatives. His dual role as an imam and as a professional advisor gave him a unique insight into community issues and an ability to solve many personal problems and to communicate community issues to a wider society. His Imamate was at a time when Sheffield was passing through a traumatic period including having a council run by the hard left, the mass redundancies of steel workers (many of whom were Pakistani Muslims). It was also a time of increased racial tension. Hafiz Bora was a victim of a vicious racial attack. One day he was attacked outside the mosque by a man who threw a brick to the back of his head. An inch lower and it would have paralysed him. Youths from the community besieged the house of the attacker wanting to avenge their beloved mawlana. But at the request of the Police Inspector Hafiz Bora intervened and the mob was disbanded and a potential community disaster averted. Hafiz Bora is most probably the only British citizen to have become a US Army Chaplain. In 1990 and 1991 he was given the rank of Sergeant by the US Army and lead tarawih prayers at Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas. In 2000 he became among the first Muslim to be appointed as a Chaplain to a hospital - a post he held had the Leicester General Hospital until his death. But despite all his other achievements nothing made Hafiz Bora more proud or satisfied than his role as a teacher. Here he was both outstanding and innovative and those fortunate to come under his wings were always outstanding achievers. He took his students to play cricket, taught them to wrestle and took them on trips to theme parks and others places of interest to young people. Also, he made sure his students cleaned madrassa toilets with him weekly, to teach them lessons in humility. Later, when he became too unwell to teach boys even at home, they would often knock on the door, pleading for him to teach them. However, it is through leading by example that Hafiz Bora was head and shoulders above his contemporaries. For instance, he broke the mould in Leicester by sending his daughters to university - at a time when it was socially unacceptable for young women to live on their own away from home. Such a courageous act made him a victim of much attacks from members of the community but Hafiz Bora stood firm and simply turned a blind eye to the judgemental comments - some really vicious aimed at him and his family. When the first of his four daughters left for London University, his encouragement was mixed with trepidation. By the time his fourth daughter had finished school, he positively pushed her onto a degree course (telling her he would not let her get married till she had a degree!) Hafiz Bora was a man who lived and understood diversity. He adhered to protocol in matters of religion, but at the same time had a great sense of his own and others’ autonomy. This was helped by his experience at school. At his first secondary school, Barda High School, he was the only Muslim boy in a school of Hindu pupils - his mother had sent him there because she wanted him to learn to read and write in Gujarati, his mother
One of the major challenges Hafiz Bora faced and which he dealt with much courage was mixed marriages. He championed the right of young people to choose whom they can marry so long as it was within the shariah. At the time he used to solemnise the marriages of young Muslim couples (if they liked each other, they should marry but if possible get the parents on board to approve it) sometimes against the wishes of their parents who wanted their children to marry within the clan. tongue. He later went to Saifi High School in Bombay, where he was the only Sunni boy in a Shi’a school. Hafiz Bora was a man steeped in culture and loved the arts and particularly poetry. In his second marriage, he wooed his wife with urdu poetry, in the style of Cyrano. A polyglot he loved to listen to long wave radio in Urdu, Hindi, Marathi and Arabic broadcasts to get a variety of versions of the news - not just the official anodyne version from the BBC. He spent much of his life following the Tabligh Jamaat movement - engaged in his love of da’wah, often in the most remote corners of the world which included Malta, Turkey, Delhi, Palestine, Zanzibar, Pakistan, France, America, Canada and Belgium. In his final journey to India in January 2005, he launched a successful health awareness campaign in Gujarat on kidney disease which affects the Indian community to a disproportionately large degree. His real spirit was that he never allowed his illness to hold him back. He never gave up on his travelling or his teaching - both were the great loves of his life. “Though he lived most of his life with only one kidney, he performed over a 20 pilgrimages. The exact number was known only to himself, but three Hajj and umrahs were performed while he was on dialysis. Hafiz Bora is survived by five children, all of whom went to university (two to Oxford, two to London, one to Manchester) and two grandchildren (Sulayman b.2001 and Layla, b. 2003). Those who were fortunate to have met Hafiz Bora will miss the quality and intensity of his conversation, the warmth of his hospitality, the genuineness of his sincerity and, more important, his sense of humility and compassion. May the Almighty grant him the loftiest abode in Paradise and may He grant his family and friends patience and everlasting fond memories. Amen. ! Q - NEWS
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An ode to the Q, An enlightened, soulful set of scribes, Trying to connect forgotten tribes. A bow to the Q, The voice of young, driven Western lives, Through progressive, earnest Islamic eyes. A cheer for the Q, A quirky slice through Muslim hearts, From scholars’ paths to marriage cards. A plea to the Q, From the moderate faithful’s pew, Please keep up the good work you do. A prayer for the Q, How grateful I am and thousands more, That Allah Most High sends you through my door. Dear Q-News, A short poem for you guys to say thank you for your Shakespeare issue and for being such a wonderful magazine. Dr Saba Khan Philadelphia, USA
PREJUDICE While I would in no way describe myself as a Bush supporter, or even an American, I felt Raneem Azzam’s piece on George Bush, The President’s New Words in Q-News, January 2005 was misjudged and misleading. Perhaps the author had been watching too many Adam Sandler films, but is it justifiable to say “most of his subjects were illiterate too, so they were unaware of his [the President’s] problem”? On the contrary, America has an enviable educational record, and it is not a coincidence that 13 out the top 20 world universities are in the US.The vast majority of members of the Bush administration have postgrad degrees, while only half of Blair’s cabinet do. Bush’s lack of spoken eloquence
makes for funny emails - especially if (as is invariably the case) his quotes are taken completely out of context. But I challenge the author to think of one single policy where Bush is outside the mainstream of American political thought. In 2000, American Muslims mostly voted Republican, and if Bush had attacked North Korea instead of Iraq, I feel sure they would have done the same in 2004. American politics are different to French or Canadian politics: to laugh over this fact makes a writer either stupid or prejudiced. I agreed with much of Khalida Khan’s article on multiculturalism but, as someone who works for the government I can confirm, that she protests too much. Everyone in government recognises the limitations of the blunt classification into White/Black/Asian, etc.This is why we left these classifications behind a decade or so ago. If she looked at the 2001 census, she would have seen that on geographical/ethnic origin alone, people could categorise themselves into one of 16 categories. And then there was the religion question, which was deliberately intended to produce data that would allow disadvantages between religious groups to be quantified. Nor is it true that anti-racism work detracts from engagement with faith communities - on the contrary, one of the zeitgeist issues I intend to write about for my work is how the “choice agenda” proposed by Blair will give faith communities a greater executive role in delivery of welfare services (eg. church-run correctional facilities, mosquerun literacy programmes etc). All of these developments are of particular benefit to the Muslim community organisations, since government is finding it hard to use “traditional”
delivery mechanisms to address the underlying levels of poverty and social exclusion for people who live in small ethnically-segregated communities (for example, mosques and imams are increasing important intermediaries for communication with Sylheti or Mirpuri communities). Donald Stark, London
CONFIDENCE I enjoy the fact that Q-News concentrates not solely on religious issues but also social issues that are exclusive to minority Muslim communities. It has been my belief that it is imperative for Muslims to begin to explore, discuss, debate and make sense of subjects that were customarily considered taboo, or not up for discussion. This is because in this country young people in particular, are exposed to everything that their parents would never attempt to discuss or even acknowledge. Q-News seems to go some way into exploring these issues but we need to develop confidence to go even further. It seems to me that the “custom versus Islam debate is engaging young communities across the UK, as literate and liberated young people feel free to explore religious scriptures, publications and histories to define an identity for themselves.This is not a new phenomenon but it needs to be developed further through constructive dialogue and challenging existing precepts, to ensure that young people see the true value in religion and religious thought not just of their own but also that of others too.This can be, and is being achieved through magazines such as yours. Inti Habib West Yorkshire
“Q-News is a very readable and useful tool in my work as correspondent for the BBC. It provides an excellent insight into what is happening in the Muslim community” - Mike Woolridge
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CHICKEN SOUP FOR
THE MUSLIM SOUL THE CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL ANTHOLOGIES OFFER WARM FUZZIES OF ENCOURAGEMENT TO READERS. SO WHEN SERIES FAN SANA KHATIB SAW BOOKS AIMED AT CHRISTIANS AND JEWS, SHE WONDERED WHY THERE WAS NO BOOK FOR MUSLIMS. DON’T WE HAVE SOULS TOO? walked into Walden’s bookstore on a rainy Saturday morning and headed straight to the Chicken Soup for the Soul shelf to browse their latest books. Ever since my little sister Lina introduced me to the book series years ago, I have been a loyal fan. I spent half an hour perusing the new titles with excitement in my eyes. Typical of my indecisive nature, I had a hard time choosing which book I wanted to buy. After extensive debating in my head between Chicken Soup for the Bride’s Soul and Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul, I decided on the latter since I was already married and an education major. I also ended up buying five copies of Chicken Soup for the College Soul as gifts for the graduates of my local youth group. As I collected my books I could not help but notice a Chicken Soup for the Christian as well as Jewish soul. I wondered why there was no book for the Muslim soul and felt disappointed that Muslims were constantly lagging behind in everything. This moment was the initial spark of what later became a passionate desire to create my own Chicken Soup for the Muslim Soul book. I decided to e-mail the Muslim society at my university to tell them about this new project and asked them for story submissions. I received many replies of encouragement and became very excited about the book. I decided to get straight to work on my Chicken Soup book proposal. A few days later, I received an e-mail from a friend named Shabina Khatri telling me that she had sent in a proposal to the Chicken Soup Company a few years earlier and was rejected. I felt discouraged by this information but was hopeful that I would not suffer the same fate. I decided to call the Chicken Soup headquarters and ask them why Shabina’s book proposal was rejected before I pursued a new proposal. I spoke to a representative on the phone and told her about my interest in becoming a co-author for Chicken Soup. She was very kind and willing to help but requested that I fax her a release form that would legally permit her to talk more specifically to me about the title I had in mind. I immediately went to a local Kinkos and sent the fax and then called her up again to discuss my title. The moment I mentioned the words Chicken Soup for the Muslim Soul, I noticed an immediate change of tone in the lady’s voice. “We have received that title several times before and it is always rejected,” she said tersely. Several minutes of questioning the reasons for rejection yielded no satisfying answer. It could not have been due to low market potential because they had published
50 | Q - NEWS
a Jewish book and there are much fewer Jews than there are Muslims here. What could it be? I kept questioning her and trying to figure out why they would not accept my book title, but the only response I received was a “Sorry, but I’m just being honest with you. Writing this proposal would probably just be a waste of time because our publishers are just not interested in it…it doesn’t even matter what your marketing potential is.” This last statement was a complete slap in the face. Was she telling me that no matter who I was or how many books I have written, the company was not going to publish a Muslim Chicken Soup? I told her that I felt they were discriminating, especially in light of the fact that there was a Jewish and Christian book out there, but she just denied it and refused to give me her publisher’s number so that I could talk to him directly. I was not going to just accept this rejection. After doing my own research into the matter, I discovered that the Chicken Soup publishers had no say in what book titles were accepted or rejected. In fact, a representative from their publishing company was shocked that Chicken Soup had treated me in such a way and suggested that I try and write my own book without using their name. “What a great idea!” I thought to myself. I did not need Chicken Soup. I could put the book together on my own and get it published on my own. So that is exactly what I decided to do. I am determined to get my book out and with the help of Allah we will soon have a collection of short stories written by various Muslims that we can read, relate to, and be inspired by. I feel that such a book is much needed and would be a stepping stone for many others inshallah. So far, I have received many e-mails of support and encouragement as well as quite a few amazing stories after less than one month of working on this project. Stories include struggles to embrace Islam and submit to Allah, the challenges of wearing hijab, performing acts of kindness for the sake of Allah and many more. I hope to receive more submissions from all of you talented writers out there in the near future. I kindly request that everyone who reads this article make dua’ that the book becomes a success because I think that it would be extremely beneficial for all people, not just Muslims. ! To contribute, write to Sana Khatib at email@example.com