Ihsan

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

mosque and state




Cartoon by Khalil Bendib, a syndicated Muslim cartoonist based in Berkeley, CA

StudioBendib, All rights reserved.

For more Bendib cartoons, click www.bendib.com


Monday, May 30, 2005

Democracy?!

Abu Dharr of this blog raises an interesting question in his post:

But despite all we hate about what the ANC is doing today, and despite even knowing at the time of the liberation struggle that the class issue, that “socialism”, was being “postponed” and would be considered only after the “first revolution,” all people of good conscious supported the anti-apartheid struggle led by the ANC. What was the alternative?


I think this is a bit of comparing apples and oranges, they are both (pro-democracy, anti-aparthied) round for sure, but the content is a bit different. The anti-aparthied struggle had something very specific, and concrete that it could identify: Aparthied. The resultant South Africa constitution is probably the best that is around at this time. Although, yes, the present day situation is South Africa is not all that great... But there are others on this blog that can talk more about that...

The "pro-democracy" movements, however, as Anna has pointed out:

The problem I see with Kefaya is that they basically are really good at articulating what they're against (Mubarak, the US imperialism, the state of emergency, the lack of electoral reform, government corruption, lots of stuff) but not real clear on what they are for.

The problem here is that there is nothing that the so-called "pro-democracy" movements are really calling for - what is it that "democracy" would bring liberation from? Mubarak? Musharraf? What difference would it make if graduation gowns, and Harvard dipolomas replaced turbans? The rethoric of the "pro-democracy" movements are all fine and well - after all, these days even people who invite Muslims For Bush ("Bush is bringing liberation...") on their boards, also call themselves "anti-imperialists."

Abu Dharr asked the question: What was the alternative? with regards to supporting the anti-aparthied struggle. With respect to the "pro-democracy" moves, this question does need to be asked, and I'd suggest that one alternative is to raise serious questions, the reason why we must do this is because we know that voting does not mean substantive change. We also know that the United States will intervene substantially in any elections, anywhere, to make sure that the results don't go too far from it's agenda.

What kind of vision, or ideas are being brought to the table?

Are these the same old ideas that have been tried and failed just about everywhere, or are they something more comprehensive?

Does a movement address poverty, health care, workers' rights, a comprehensive view of gender justice? What about the rapid spread of global corporatization?

If these movements fail to address these issues, and the only thing they are doing is calling for a "free vote" then it is all really quite meaningless, and an unfortunate waste of time and energy. Infact, I'd say it is a step backwards.

If social justice is to be postponed, then time and energy might be better spent in developing social services. These social work/service efforts may not have the allure of romantic notions of movements, nor the US media attention - but they do have real and concrete impact on people's lives.

And, I wholeheartedly agree with Abu Dharr when he says:

So, to put it simply, it would behoove genuine movements for social change to pay careful attention to all of these spheres of human life, all forming a part of our whole “tauhidi” selves, and our “tauhidi” society.
And of-course, it goes without saying, that all of what I say is through the jaundiced, and ignorant eyes of an American who lives under, for all practical purposes, a news "white out."

However, the borg has adapted and "we're" gonna have to do the same...

This memorial day, in the United States, check out Democracy Now's showing of the documentary: Preventive Warriors, A documentary about war and empire.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Egyptian pro-democracy activism

A lot of posts on pro-democracy movements in the Middle East while I was at home! Seems you all are speculating on this with a sort of American focus, though.

Well, I can tell you all a bit about the Egyptian pro-democracy movement. It's called "Kefaya" like I said. The problem I see with Kefaya is that they basically are really good at articulating what they're against (Mubarak, the US imperialism, the state of emergency, the lack of electoral reform, government corruption, lots of stuff) but not real clear on what they are for. This is typical of such a movement which has a lot of disparate elements. There are Nasserists, other sorts of leftists, fed-up youth, Muslim Brotherhood types, and lots of other groupings.

Everyone in Egypt who wants to be politically popular right now, given the situation in the Middle East, makes it crystal clear that they are anti-American, so this has nothing to do with Bush's policies or anything else except that it is in part a reaction AGAINST them. In fact whenever an American official says something in solidarity with anyone in Egypt, it is like the kiss of death. (That is in part what happened to Saad Eddine Ibrahim.)

There was a humorous description at Arabist.net a few weeks ago about a confrontation between pro-Mubarak paid demonstrators (or else people from the national party who also make pro-Mubarak demonstrations) and a small Kefaya contingent where they ended up yelling at each other "You are with the Americans! No, you are with the Americans!"

Another thing that EVERYONE is against is "international monitoring" of elections, something for which Bush has repeatedly called, which they see as being insulting. Mubarak's party and the status quo people are against it (for obvious reasons), but also the judges (who want to be the sole monitors and who are protesting as well right now for greater judicial independence) and also the pro-democracy people (who are VERY anti-imperialist).

So I don't think the Egyptian phenomenon is very well understood in the US. I cannot speak about the movements outside of Egypt although I have heard on pretty good authority that the Lebanese pro-democracy movement is fairly elitist in origin and aims. The Egyptian one definitely is not.

Friday, May 27, 2005

More on "Democracy Enhancement" and Movements for Change

This was going to be a comment to Altaf's post, but, like Altaf's comment to Anna's post, my comment ran a little long as well :-)

Altaf, the point you raise is an important one. The "pro-democracy" movement in Lebanon, with the right-wing "opposition" leading the way, represents all that's bad about some of these movements, although I don't want to make generalizations. In Egypt, there is of course an amalgam of various social forces wanting to end the dictatorship of Mubarak.

But while I sympathize with your distrust (disgust?) of the politics of some of these groups, there is the tendency for us to adopt the ultra-left approach which by default lumps all social and political forces together. For example, the mainstream anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, led by the ANC, was primarily a struggle addressing dynamics relating to the racial/ethnic and political spheres of social life, and somewhat neglected the economic sphere. We see the results of that today, where in fact inequality and poverty have grown in South Africa. South African blacks are the worst-hit victims of these diseases, as well as of the pandemic of AIDS which is killing so many.

But despite all we hate about what the ANC is doing today, and despite even knowing at the time of the liberation struggle that the class issue, that “socialism”, was being “postponed” and would be considered only after the “first revolution,” all people of good conscious supported the anti-apartheid struggle led by the ANC. What was the alternative?

There are very few movements out there that take a radical perspective on all of the social spheres of our lives (including the kinship/gender, political, economic, and community spheres), and that act on it. All of the spheres are important, and that’s why we support forces that struggle to bring about change in each of these spheres. Of course, at the risk of contradicting myself, we also know that each of these spheres are not mutually exclusive, and the dynamics of each of them tend to reinforce or co-define that of the others. So, to put it simply, it would behoove genuine movements for social change to pay careful attention to all of these spheres of human life, all forming a part of our whole “tauhidi” selves, and our “tauhidi” society.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Egypt referendum and "democracy"

Salaam Alaikum

This started out as a comment to Anna's post on The Egyptian Referendum , but got a bit long, so I made it a blog entry.

These days I am not only "cynical" about politics, but also the very nature of so-called "pro-democracy" movements that are supposedly sweeping the mid-east under tutelage of King George II (aka President of the USA).

But here are some questions regarding not only Egypt but other areas of the world: Even if you had "democracy" in Egypt - what difference would it make?

Who are the "pro-democracy" people?

What are their demands?

Given that "democracy" in this day and age usually means exanding the ability for the United States to exploit even further the labor and resources of other nations - I think it is important to define what "democracy" means... If it means just more of the same, just under a different name and garb - then you can expect "democracy" to go down the drain in the not too distant future...

"Democracy" has to mean a lot more than a ballot box stuffed with massive fundings by the United States to prop up whomever they want --- Haiti has the Brookings Institute collobarating with the kidnappers of Aristide, and elsewhere you have George Soros "open society" engaged in "private funding..." You also have even more notorious US "pro-democracy" groups operating not so behind the scenes in Iraq.

No doubt, this argument about US ballot box funding has been used by people like Mubarakh to prop up their own respective regimes. However, the "other side," the "pro-democracy" folks, have to also clarify what exactly are they aiming for? Does "democracy" mean a transformation that would mean serious anti-poverty work, would it mean having an independent and, in this day and age, anti-imperialist policy? Or, would it be just a case of one group replacing another:

The new boss same (or worse) than the old boss.


The Egyptian Referendum



Salam all

Well, yesterday was the "referendum" on changing the Egyptian constitution (adding to it a very complicated paragraph that gives people the right to run against Mubarak with a bunch of arcane qualifiers on that so that no one can really run against him in the near future - it's designed so that perhaps after he dies there can be an open election, I think). The pro-democracy activists (a movement called "kefaya" which means "enough" in Arabic) demonstrated near polling stations. The ruling party hired people to basically beat them up and grope the women. Including journalists. Security forces watched and did nothing to stop the thuggery. Sort of counter-productive if Mubarak wants to showcase his little referendum. It was all over the reports today - AP, Jazeera and Reuters.

I am trying not to be completely cynical about Egypt's political future at least in the near term, but it is difficult.

For those who want more information, try the Arabist Network and the Baheyya blog.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Moral highground: USA occupation style!

"If not America, where else? America has a history of bringing human rights to the world, of bringing social justice to the world." - Asra Nomani speaking on Nightline

News item: The Abuse and Torture of Muslim Prisoners

Cartoon by Khalil Bendib, a syndicated Muslim cartoonist based in Berkeley, CA

StudioBendib, All rights reserved.

For more Bendib cartoons, click http://www.bendib.com/

Monday, May 23, 2005

New Study On Australian Muslims

Congratulations to Abdullah Saeed and the team at the University of Melbourne for using taxpayer's money wisely by producing a superb booklet on Australian Muslims.

I urge my North American and UK-based friends to visit the booklet and download it by clicking here ...

http://www.amf.net.au/PDF/religionCulturalDiversity/Resource_Manual.pdf

Discover how fortunate we are to be in the land down under.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

A woman's right to live

Over six months ago, December 17th, 2004, Iman Muhanna, a six month pregnant Muslim woman was found murdered in her home in New Orleans, LA. She was stabbed 33 times, no one has been apprehended. Media coverage (including muslim media) has been scant at best.

Kelly Izdihar Crosby who first brought this killing to the attention of bloggers, has a new article on Islamicity that is well worth a read.

One of our beloved sisters, Iman Muhanna Mohamed, was brutally murdered. She was stabbed 33 times; fatal wounds that ended her life and the life of her unborn baby girl. I remember hearing the imam, shock and grief laden upon his voice, as he announced this tragedy to our congregation. I remember the sisters who were crying and the silence of those so appalled that they didn't know what to say or how to react. There are many things I remember about that day and such things continue to stay with me.
....

Amongst all the bickering, one of our rights as women that is undoubtedly confirmed by the Qur'an, took a backseat to the media spectacle of Dr. Amina Wadud's prayer service. The right that I am speaking of is a woman's right to live. It is the right of every woman to live a life of safety, protection and honor. Our holy book says, "He who kills a human being is like killing the whole world.

Click here to read article

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Book Review: The More Regimes Change, The More They Stay The Same

Revolution Day – The Human Story of the Battle for Iraq
By Rageh Omaar
Viking, 2004
250pp

This is not your average account of the Iraq War and its aftermath, a process often labelled “regime change”. Most reporting and writing on Iraq has focussed on the sayings and actions of world leaders, defence and foreign ministers, military commanders, weapons inspectors and UN officials.

As the main correspondent covering the war for BBC television, Omaar will have been tempted to stick to the same formula. Thankfully he resisted the temptation. The end result is a book genuinely attempting to see the war and its aftermath through the eyes of ordinary Iraqis.

Omaar’s own parents were refugees from the civil war in Somalia. Despite having spent most of his life in the UK, Omaar speaks fluent Arabic.

One of the main themes of the book is how the Coalition forces failed to save Iraqi infrastructure and institutions from looting and arson. Thousands of priceless ancient Mesopotamian relics were stolen from the National Museum, and key ministries were ransacked. The building blocks of any future government were largely destroyed. Even Iraq’s Reserve Bank was looted and millions of US dollars stolen.

None of this seemed to phase the Coalition troops, who watched Iraq’s culture and wealth being looted whilst guarding the Iraqi Oil Ministry.

Omaar also witnesses many Iraqis welcoming the invasion thinking it would bring them liberty, peace and security. They were soon disillusioned as their sons, husbands and other male relatives were carted off. Many have not resurfaced. Others are only seen in photographs taken in the Abu Ghraib Prison.

Saddam Hussein, the man who built Abu Ghraib, ruled Iraq using terror and torture. His regime humiliated ordinary Iraqis and forced them to face the brunt of sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of children. Many highly educated Iraqis were forced to sell their valuables to UN officials and foreign journalists at secret auctions. Meanwhile, Saddam and his cronies continued to live the good life in huge palaces.

With the fall of the Baathist government, the United States installed another Baathist, Iyad Allawi. And if the Americans refuse to accept the results of the Iraqi election, they might just have to have another round of “regime change” to install yet another Saddam to do their bidding.

Read Omaar’s book and share his disgust at how the resources and wealth and culture and health and human capital of ordinary Iraqis is being plundered yet again. To think more of our own troops are being sent into this sickening process.

el- Hajj Malik el-Shabazz - 80th birthday.

Salaam Alaikum,

Today would've been the 80th birthday of Malcolm X - while there are some excellent discussions in the larger justice and peace communities about his contributions... Muslims also need to "own" Malcolm X, and learn a few things from his life...

Click here to listen to excerpts from a documentary: Make It Plain

And below is a repost of an article written by Dr. Adnan Siddiqui, a leading London based Muslim activist with Stop Political Terror: For more information go to http://www.stoppoliticalterror.com/

Malcolm X: an inspiration to Muslims struggling for justice

George Bush’s ‘war on terror’ has made Malcolm X’s vision of universal liberation uniquely relevant to Muslims today, writes civil rights activist Dr Adnan Siddiqui

Malcolm X — el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz — is an instantly recognisable figure. As an internationalist revolutionary, his images are as iconic as those of Che Guevara.

Yet the people who seem to know the least about him are the most in need of him. On a superficial level, most Muslims know Malcolm X from T-shirts and slogans.

But in the current climate of the “war on terror”, and its consequent demonisation of Muslims, his struggle and vision could not be more relevant.

Malcolm X fought for the rights of 22 million African-Americans, but he articulated this struggle in a global framework by arguing for universal human rights and an end to imperialism. His statement that “the only way we will get freedom for ourselves is to identify ourselves with every oppressed people in the world” encapsulates this vision. It is a message that Muslims everywhere need to grasp urgently.

Currently the Muslim world consists of a motley array of autocrats, dictators and kings whose only commonality is that they are not representative of the people and are strongly tied to Western interests.

In addition Muslims in Europe number about 15 million and have all the worst social indicators in terms of housing, health and education. We are effectively “economic slaves” in Fortress Europe.






Malcolm was fighting a similar situation at his time and because of his irrepressible nature he was labelled an “extremist” and a “militant”. If he had been alive today he would have been called a “terrorist” and would probably have been incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay or at “her majesty’s pleasure” in Belmarsh or Woodhill.

The current incarceration of Muslims in these prisons is, in a sense, a source of hope for us, since another Malcolm may well be serving his time before his release.

Historically when Muslims strived for social justice and civil societies, their “reward” was imprisonment or death. Yet they persisted. Malcolm’s struggle personified this and is an inspiring example for us all.

His role as a preacher who practised what he preached and did not fear authority stands in stark contrast to the “scholars for dollars” that tend to populate our mosques, who read scripted sermons authorised and cleared by the government.

They focus on the ritualistic aspects of Islam and ignore, or are ignorant of, the real social malaise blighting Muslims in Europe and the open persecution of them elsewhere.

But the tide is turning, and true to Malcolm’s engagement with the grassroots, there are now Muslim organisations and campaigns trying to honour his legacy. Examples include Stop Political Terror and the Muslim Public Affairs Committee in Britain and the Arab European League in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Those of us in these nascent movements need to be aware of two important points in Malcolm’s life which will help us to stay faithful to his struggle.

First, he was a human with human failings — but he was objective enough to be able to see that the Nation of Islam, which he had preached so powerfully for, was not all it seemed.

Malcolm left the Nation of Islam after performing his pilgrimage to Mecca and realising its reality. He was humble enough to accept his error, but brave enough to face the consequences of such a public withdrawal from the Nation.

Second, Malcolm’s relationship with Martin Luther King was not one of animosity, but of sincere advice. Malcolm had said on a number of occasions that we must unite on objectives, though not necessarily on methods, to facilitate unity. This was his guiding principle with Dr King’s movement.

The classic imperialist strategy to control freedom movements has been to “divide and rule”. In this case, Malcolm was cast as the extremist, the militant, the “bad negro”, while Dr King was cast as the moderate, the pacifist, the “good negro”. This is mirrored today with Muslims classifying themselves as “moderate” or “extremist”. These are defensive positions. We must not allow ourselves to buy in to this train of thought and language, which is designed to weaken us.

After Malcolm’s withdrawal from the Nation, he became more inclusive of people and movements. This would have allowed a greater cooperation with Dr King—which would have posed a real danger to the establishment. Within months Malcolm had been assassinated. Analysis of Martin Luther King’s speeches after Malcolm’s death suggest he was becoming more “Malcolm-like”. He ultimately paid the same price as his comrade.

Both understood the struggle and both paid with their lives. This is a sobering lesson for all of us involved in the struggle for justice and freedom, and one we need to internalise and be prepared for.

Dr Adnan Siddiqui is a GP based in south London and a leading activist with Stop Political Terror. For more information go to http://www.stoppoliticalterror.com/


This article was originally published here

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

My Soul-Sister Kadamba (Part 1)

Sometimes Islam can touch the lives of the most famous people and in the most unusual ways. Islam may enter people’s lives via a poem, a book, a personal tragedy or even a love. Islam can turn the lives of some of the most desired, famous and wealthiest people and turn them into avowed slaves of God. Yet sadly, sometimes traces of the past cannot be completely erased. This is God’s will.

I was reading the Sydney tabloid, the Daily Telegraph, in a McDonalds store in northern Sydney on June 20 1998 when I came across an article about one such person.

At first I presumed it was just another article about tragedy for the famous and beautiful. I could have easily skipped the article. “Fame at 14, death at 24”, blared the headline. On the surface, a story worth ignoring.

For some reason, I continued and reading. By the time I reached the last sentence, I was ready to break down. This young lady may have been my sister-in-faith. My own sisters and anyone else brought up in a western community could have easily ended up like her.



Few details were given in the article. I won’t go through all these, as I know the intention of the article was probably to provide cheap gossip for other McNews consumers munching on McFood. For the purpose of this article, I have fleshed out some of the facts with educated guesses.

Kadamba started her adult life as a supermodel. She had numerous famous lovers, including Jon Bon Jovi and Mick Jagger. She was thrust into the cut-throat selfish world of modelling, a form of glorified prostitution with all the amphetamines and sexual exploitation of the world’s oldest profession. Kadamba became the body and face behind many a brand name, and was adopted by a major brand of hair care products for their commercials.

In 1995, something happened. Kadamba met yet another famous man. But unlike the other men who came and went, Naseem left a permanent mark on Kadamba’s life.

Naseem (also known as “Prince Naseem”) was not the most observant of Muslim men. But only God knows what is hidden in the hearts.

After some time, Naseem’s influence was beginning to show. Kadamba decided to adopt Naseem’s faith of the mild Yemeni variety of Islam. What was it about this playboy boxer’s lifestyle that led Kadamba to adopt his faith and turn the world she knew upside down?

Unlike her other boyfriends, Naseem wasn’t just there to use her up and spit her out. Naseem was Muslim. Clean-shaven, desirable, glamorous but none-the-less Muslim.

We are told that every Muslim has a light. For some, the light is bright like the son, for some it shines like the moon, and for spiritual weaklings like myself it is but the flame of a candle. Naseem’s light was bright enough to change Kadamba’s life forever.

Did Naseem do anything special? Did he cast a spell or use some kind of magic? Naseem’s magic was in his conduct. As Kadamba told one journalist: “Naseem has made me realise that I can trust and respect a man again. For the first time in a long time, I feel safe, happy and loved”. Kadamba adopted Islam to feel “closer spiritually” to her new man.

(to be continued …)

© Irfan Yusuf, 2005

Monday, May 16, 2005

Positive Thinking Outside The Pine Box



You know about embedded journalists, now read all about empire's embedded intellectuals.

And/or listen to the talk by Hatem Bazian: Part I and Part II

Cartoon by Khalil Bendib, a syndicated Muslim cartoonist based in Berkeley, CA

StudioBendib, All rights reserved.

For more Bendib cartoons, click www.bendib.com

Friday, May 13, 2005

Rumi Syndrome

She was at the pinnacle of her academic career. Before even finishing her Masters thesis, she had co-authored a paper on popular writer Deepak Chopra and had it published in a major academic journal. By her mid-20’s, she was already regarded as a force in her field. Her family were proud of her. She was proud of herself.

Then crisis struck. Her heart was broken. She just had to get away.

Within 3 months, she was serving beer, wine and spirits in various pubs and at various public gatherings in Sydney. From scholar to barmaid. It was at one of these gatherings that I first met her.

As our friendship grew, she revealed her confused love/hate relationship with a part of her life that was always there yet rarely understood by her or explained by her acquaintances. Her father was Muslim, but she never met him. And when she wanted to meet him and was able to visit his homeland, it was too late. All she could meet were her half-siblings. The only traces of her father were photographs and a gravestone. And her unusual yet beautiful name which had been the butt of many a joke by her anglo-friends at primary school.




I felt her pain as if it was my own. Because both of us had been to hell and never wanted to return there. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson tells of one of his friends who was addicted to drugs. After years of struggle and social withdrawal, that friend now assists other addicts. Shaykh Hamza mentioned a golden saying of his friend …

“A religious person is someone who is scared of going to hell. But a spiritual person has already been to hell and never wants to go back.”

The barmaid and I had both been to hell and back. And both of us developed a deep attachment to Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi.

She was already a deeply spiritual person, having a large collection of books by the Dalai Lama and Deepak Chopra. The latter, in particular, influenced her greatly. Then on one of my visits to her bar, I introduced her to Rumi. She closed the dishwasher she had just stacked with beer glasses, washed and dried her hands, and looked at this humble book.

The next time I saw her, she replaced her usual “Hello, nice to see you again” with “Rumi is just so amazing. And I read an introduction to one of Deepak’s books. Even he says his greatest inspiration was Rumi. All his book titles are words from a Rumi poem. Thank you so, so much for that book!”.

So what is it about Rumi that can touch a scholarly barmaid and a lawyer with a hopeless grade-point-average? I guess it is the Rumi syndrome.

Rumi was at the pinnacle of his career. He was a professor of law, a qadi (judge) and a respected jurist. He had official patronage of one of the wealthiest and most sophisticated rulers of the time. He had his own house, servants, lots of admirers and students and a scholarly pedigree second-to-none.

But the higher they fly, the harder they fall. Rumi fell hard after meeting one roaming dervish named Shums. This meeting led to Rumi withdrawing from all his pomp and position, avoiding his students and spending months with Shums trying to sort out much deeper issues. And Shums, being the master of Islamic psychology (known as tasawwuf in the sunni tradition and irfan in the shi’i tradition), was able to diagnose and cure Rumi’s spiritual and emotional ailments.

Rumi’s students thought he was mad. He was maligned and insulted and humiliated. Yet he persisted. This process was about him, not them.

And when the process was complete, Rumi emerged a man with much more to offer than dry legal dissertations or books of fatawa (legal judgments). Rumi emerged as the universal poet, a man whose verse has influenced people and dragged hearts and souls to the message of peace through surrender to God (i.e. Islam).

Had Rumi remained a respected professor, had he refused the yearnings of his heart and the company of his spiritual practitioner (“murshid”), he will have remained one of a galaxy of hanafi jurists. His books would have been quoted in the footnotes of other juristic works. Perhaps a biography of his would be written and published from time to time. But God had greater things in store for the Mevlana.

If we are fortunate, God sends us some kind of murshid. That source of light may be a person. It may be a life-experience, a trial, a psychiatric illness or even a broken heart. One of my greatest trials was to travel all the way to South America to visit someone I had my heart set on marrying. When it did not work, I was devastated. The traces of that devastation stayed with me for years. And how ironic it was that the person who unintentionally broke my heart also introduced me to Rumi.

Rumi syndrome is all about withdrawal. The mad rush of modern life does not provide enough opportunities for us to stop and smell the roses. And yet our staying in the company of the rose garden will enable us to emerge with a smell that will beautify the lives of people around us.

If we do not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by Rumi syndrome, we may go on for a while on the road to apparent success. But as we rise higher, we risk falling even harder. Rumi syndrome may seem like a crash landing, but its alternative is a crash.

Which explains why I can never bring myself to criticise those who spend days and weeks and months following the path of the Indian chishti master, Maulana Muhammad Illyas Kandhalwi (may God have mercy upon him). I might wonder about the families and jobs and businesses and commitments these soldiers of the soul leave behind. Yet what would I know of their real commitment to their soul and to the prophetic responsibility of tabligh which they feel so heavily?

It is only when we take ourselves out of our usual environment that we can really take stock. And so my dear sister-barmaid, if you are reading this, know that you too are experiencing Rumi syndrome. And just as I came out the other end of my retreat even more refreshed, so will you. And perhaps you might recover the heritage that you previously believed had died with your father, may Allah have mercy upon him.


© Irfan Yusuf 2005

Thursday, May 12, 2005

CAIR Conference on "Islamophobia and Anti-Americanism"

Salaams:

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is organizing an interesting conference this weekend. The theme is "Islamophobia and Anti-Americanism: Causes and Remedies." The topic no doubt is extremely relevant to a post-9/11 America. However, it is sad that we need these nice, fancy conferences and highly-trained academics to address an issue which really ought to be comprehensible to any second grader.

And what exactly is the issue. Well, all of us "anti-Americans" are accused of tricking folks into subscribing to the extraordinary theory that the US and its policies are NOT EXEMPT FROM THE LAW OF CAUSE AND EFFECT. My fellow Americans, ever heard about these things: our support for dictatorial Arab regimes who suppress the rights of their people, our backing of a brutal colonial regime in Israel that tortures, occupies, and ethnically cleanses the Palestinians, our nanchalant attitude toward the sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, followed by our bombing of that country into rubble, and then occupying it...

Yeah, these actions might make some folks in the Muslim world supposedly "anti-American" (anti-American here meaning not being too excited about US policies). But you know what makes the Muslim world even more "anti-American": Our focus on the Muslim world as being intrinsically and uniquely "anti-American", and the failure to mention the similar and sometimes more vehement sentiment in much of the Global South (especially in Latin America these days), and now even reaching the "civilized" shores of Europe as well!

Dr. Martin Lings

Inna lillahi wa inna alayhi rajionn

Dr. Martin Lings has passed. Dr. Lings was best known for his biography of our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) based on the earliest sources.

Click here to read Sunni Sister's blog entry on his life and works.

Anti-Muslim attacks on the rise in the United States

Salaam Alaikum!

No, Muslims are not imagining things, no, we're not being paranoid, no we're not just inventing things because we "hate the west," no we're not panicking... Attacks on Muslims really did rise by 52% in 2004 - yes, this really did happen. This was reported in a recently released study conducted by the Muslim civil rights organization CAIR.

Particularly disturbing, but not surprising, for anyone who knows anything about police abuse, and racial profiling in the United States:

Jim Lobe writes

the number of incidents reportedly involving some form of police or law-enforcement abuse, such as unreasonable arrests, detentions, and searches, rose sharply in 2004, constituting more than one-fourth of all cases of abuse or discrimination...


While CAIR does a good job of documenting abuses, and publicizing individual cases of anti-Muslim discrimination, and attacks - they can be a bit too apologetic. Nihad Awad (executive director of CAIR) calls on George Bush (you know, the guy who attacked and invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, that resulted in the killing of at least a hundred thousand Muslims) to "speak up."

From Jim Lobe's article again:

Still, CAIR's executive director, Nihad Awad, stressed that Islamophobia remained a critical problem and called on President George W. Bush, whose public statements against Islamophobia have been widely praised by civil-liberties and Muslim activists, "to once again speak up on behalf of the rights of Muslims," if for no other reason than to make U.S. public diplomacy toward the Muslim world more credible.

"American Muslims are a crucial resource in bridging the gap between Americans and Muslims worldwide," said Awad. "We can't promote democracy abroad if we have such problems at home. Our community is fearful."


Well, OK - I understand the need for "diplomatic language" - but seriously, appealing to Bush on the basis of "promoting democracy"? We have seen what "democracy promotion" looks like - do Muslim Americans really want to be a "bridge" for such a "project"?

Well, maybe certain "progressive/moderate" type Muslims do...


Monday, May 09, 2005

Honor Killings: Lie About Women in Order to Save Them

I am a member of several discussion lists, one of which is concerned with women and Islam. Recently someone there posted a review of a book about "honor" crimes committed against women in the West Bank. For those interested in the review, it skewers the book, marketed as a true story by a woman who underwent horrible torture and mistreatment, as being basically completely made up. The evidence the reviewer marshalled to prove her point was pretty damning. The book was riddled with inconsistencies and falsehoods that anyone who had lived in the West Bank or even had a very basic knowledge of Arab culture would recognize.

The review is at http://www.antiwar.com/orig/ttaylor.php?articleid=5801 ... (Cannot seem to get this to create a link, sorry)

Now, this discussion list is pretty progressive, and people on there are very feminist and all of them are horrified by "honor" crimes and loudly denounce them and try to fight them in various ways, such as doing Amnesty letter-writing campaigns and similar things to fight the medieval practice. I have been a member of the list for several years.

A new person to the list, however, seemed to think that a critical review of the book was a whitewash for the practice of honor killing, and stated the following amazing idea:

"I did say that it does not matter whether it is true or not and I
am not going to take that back. The point and the main aspect of
the story was the matter of "honor killing" and the treatment of
women. So, what if she glaring mistakes in reference to important
matters of area and the Palestinian people, for all you know the
story could have been written by someone here in the U.S. who has
never set foot in the Middle East, but to dwell solely on her
mistakes and ignore the plot and meaning of the story then "honor
killing" will remain an hidden secret."

I read this statement over and over again. She really is saying that a book full of lies is supposed to be read without noticing the lies and instead merely focusing on its polemics, or else "honor" killing has no solution.

Are there a lot of people out there that think lying is OK in order to get people involved in an issue? Why is the truth not just as OK, or more OK? I want to say more about this but it will take some thought. There is just so much wrong with the idea that I am unsure of where to start.

Crossposted at my own blog, Annalysis.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Laugh? I nearly did!


In order to keep my website and indeed my own knowledge up to date, I receive regular posts from Google News on a variety of Muslim topics, including 'progressive Muslims'. Naturally, the majority of online news stories searching these combined terms originate from Muslim Wake Up (MWU), which means I am forced to subject myself to visiting this site on a regular basis. Once upon a time, such visits were at least sometimes enjoyable and even informative, but alas no longer. Instead, features have become dominated by self-promoting polemic and vituperative attacks on opponents or critics of the media event which was Amina Wadud's mixed-gender salah.

Their most recent article - New Muslim Groups: the Ugly, the Bad and the Good - surely surpasses all previous posts in its glib self-admiration and self-contradiction. The 'Good' in the title is, naturally, the Progressive Muslim Union of North America (PMUNA), an honest Joe outfit committed "...not to condemn any other constituency or tell other people what to do or say." The author of this less than humble piece of pie, Hussein Ibish, Vice-Chair of the PMUNA, is the same non-judgemental darling who recently put the boot into Louay M. Safi for having the audacity to criticise PMUNA, comparing Safi's arguments to hucksters scamming tourists on many street corners in North America and Europe.

The article is a side-by-side comparison, putting PMUNA next to a couple of real fruit cake factories - Free Muslims Against Terrorism, and The Center for Islamic Pluralism, neither of which are likely to attract the support of anyone who has evolved beyond lower primate or wearing Fox News merchandising. Odd how Ibish chose to contrast his own organisation to these two Looney Toon outfits, rather than any mainstream US Muslim organisation. It's almost as if he is saying, 'We are not the joke - they are!' Frankly, I find it astonishing that an organisation which has such a strong backing in US academia so rarely produces anything for MWU that would ever get past peer review, with the recent exception of Omid Safi's What is Progressive Islam. But then that originally appeared in ISIM.

Whilst I admit to being a complete nutter who has never held a consistent opinion for longer than ten seconds, its seems PMU/MWU are sadly lacking in the kind of humour that might give it a sense of proportion and perspective. More telling than anything was the response to my satirical Mixed-Species Prayer, with one very learned ally of MWU requesting his name be removed from my impromptu mailing list, whilst another regular author accused me (in overwrought and patronising tones) of descending into bitterness, but then such is the fate of a white man desperate to play victim and obsessed with postcolonialism. No, I am not bitter; just a bit angry. And I believe I have good reason to feel that way because good reason is something which is sadly lacking in MWU's recent output.

Perhaps one day, insha Allah, the merry dudes at MWU/PMU will engage in a positive and constructive debate with their critics, including the contention that its over-hyped activities risk becoming a yet another facet of American cultural imperialism. But judging by the latest front page 'MWU poll', I think we could all be waiting a looooooooong time...

Saturday, May 07, 2005

PAY PEANUTS, GET IMAMS!

The young man lived a comfortable life with his wife and children in Islamabad. He taught Islamic sciences at the International Islamic University. The university provided him with a house, a car with driver and a comfortable salary.

Then one day, an expatriate Pakistani comes to visit him from Sydney, Australia. The young academic is told he can earn at least 10 times as much by moving to Australia and working as imam for a growing Urdu-speaking Muslim community in the outer suburbs of Sydney.

The young man is also offered free accommodation near the mosque. He is offered a salary expressed in Pakistani rupees. He is shown the contract and invited to sign. The young man signs. Within weeks, a plane ticket arrives. The man resigns from his comfortable job to take up what he thinks is an even more comfortable job in a more prosperous country.



What the young man did not factor in was the following:

*The salary was expressed in Pakistani rupees. When converted into Australian dollars, it was much less. It was hardly enough to buy groceries.

*The incoming imam would be employed by the Islamic Society, whose executive members often were do-it-yourself scholars who believed everything they read in Fatawah Rahimiya (a book of answers to questions made to Mufti Abdur Rahim Lajpuri, a prominent Deobandi scholar) or for whom Behishti Zewar (a popular book of hanafi law written specifically for Indian Muslim women) was more important than the Qur’an.

*The Islamic Society was the subject of an attempted takeover by a number of factions, and the imam was expected to favour one faction above others.

*The house was a run-down old shack with hardly enough room to swing a cat, let alone roll a turban around your head.

Over the next few months, the imam was expected to lead the prayers, teach kids Qur’an, settle domestic disputes, give fatwas on moonsighting, sight the moon, unsight everyone else’s moon and be a jack-of-all-deeni-trades. He worked 36 hours a day, and was paid less than $20,000 a year.

The imam made a genuine attempt to learn English. Instead of appreciating his efforts, the Punjabi doctors on the executive were upset that he spoke better English in his sermons than they spoke in their surgeries. He also spoke fluent Urdu, Punjabi and Arabic. And despite having ancestry from Thana Bhawan (a village in Saharanpur, India that has produced some of the Islamic world’s finest legal minds), the imam knew the limitations of texts executive members would quote to him when passing judgment on an aspect of his sermon they disagreed with.

After 10 years or so, there was a change in the executive. The imam was dismissed without 48 hours notice. He was accused of a range of crimes. He allegedly missed leading some prayer services as he had domestic duties to attend to. He also dared to enrol in some computing courses, and even committed the ultimate sin of arranging alternate sources of income to supplement the halal rations being thrown his way by the Islamic Society.

The imam was distraught when he came to see me. After telling me his story, I remember telling him that he would look back in 10 years time and see his dismissal as the best career change of his life.

2 years ago, I saw him again. By this time he was running a number of businesses and teaching at a Qur’anic school. He confirmed my prediction made a decade before was correct.

We keep complaining about how useless our imams are, how little they know and how much they stuff up when making public statements. Yet we expect so much from them. An imam serving a modern Muslim community in a western country is not just someone who leads the prayers and performs weddings and funerals. An imam is expected to be a teacher, marriage counsellor, psychologist, mufti and social worker. Typically, imams are more educated and articulate than the executive members that supervise their performance.

In Australia, it is common for imams to be employed on short-term contracts. Imams commonly are dismissed with little or no notice and for the flimsiest reasons. Job security and work-life balance are usually absent from an imam’s contract.

Practitioners of physical and mental health are well-paid and respected professionals. Practitioners of spiritual health are paid peanuts, yet their paymasters often behave more like monkeys than the employed maulana.

Practitioners of Australian law (like me, alhumdulillah!) are usually well-paid and also well-respected. Yet imams, the practitioners of Islamic law, are frequently faced with blank-cheque fatwas from executive members which they are expected to endorse and justify.

I know of qualified Islamic scholars in Sydney and Melbourne who manage kebab shops. I once asked one of them why he preferred making kebabs to teaching and leading prayers. He remarked: “May Allah save us all from the curse of being an imam at a mosque!”.

(I also asked him why there were no prices listed on his menu. He said: “Brother, here we do ijtihad for our customers”.)

It’s said that you get what you pay for. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. But in the average Sydney mosque, executive committee monkeys are paying peanuts to imams and expecting them to perform tricks like circus animals. Little wonder our communities operate like a circus.

ROCKING THE SCHOLARLY BOAT

the following article was written in the australian context of imams who are generally imported from overseas, speak little english and have little understanding of local conditions. many of these imams are poorly paid and are expected to perform merely traditional roles. they are often at the mercy of a mosque management committee, many of whom show little respect to the knowledge the imam carries.

perhaps the comments made here equally apply to imams serving other western muslim communities.

_______________

Some years back, I assisted an Australian Imam in his quest to retain his employment with a Sydney Islamic society. The Imam had held his post for around 10 years, and a new executive committee decided they no longer needed his services. After months of intrigue, mudslinging and distribution of dirt-sheets about “Maulana Sahib”, the Imam finally gave up. I doubt he has ever looked back.

One issue central to the dispute was the Imam’s qualifications. Questions were raised about whether he had the requisite “sanad”, who gave him the “ijaza” and whether his qualifications merely went as far as a masters degree at an Islamic or other university.

Following the recent Friday prayer service led by Amina Wudud, accomplished author and Professor of Islamic Studies at a mainstream university in the United States, all sorts of people have rushed to judge her as being unqualified and unable to speak on matters of sharia.

Recent forum discussions on the islamicsydney.com website have sparked the debate, with one prominent Sydney personality being challenged to produce his qualifications in sharia. The debate arose after he made the ambit claim that anyone stating Professor Wudud’s position had possible support within the sharia were deviants and possessors of a “flirting mind”.

Should Imams be asked to prove their scholarly credentials? Should we have a central system of accrediting Imams? Or should we maintain our ‘deregulated’ system that allows anyone with a few ‘ijazas’ or a masters degree in Islamic Studies to claim the mantle of Islamic scholarship?

And why do some claimants to scholarship become defensive (and in the case of the Sydney personality referred to above, downright offensive) and cagey when asked about their qualifications?

In our worldly affairs, we always are careful when obtaining independent professional advice. You don’t get help from a psychiatrist for a gynaecological issue (unless it is post-natal depression). You don’t approach a chartered accountant to commence court proceedings for workers compensation.

All professionals are accredited. They must pass certain exams, complete university degrees, attend continuing professional educational courses and maintain a license or practising certificate with numerous conditions including a nebulous one that they be a “fit a proper person”.

But who is fit and proper to teach and advise on the universe of Islamic sciences? We throw our legal, our financial and our health affairs to accredited professionals and experts. Are not our souls also deserving of expert care?

And just as anyone has the right to ask me about my right to practise law or my experience in particular areas of law before engaging my services, why shouldn’t I have the right to ask an Imam’s expertise before engaging his (one day we will get to the stage when we can say “her”) services?

Perhaps we should start thinking about an accreditation system for Imams. Perhaps a requirement that they speak, read and write English. That they attending courses on counselling. But given the reluctance of Islamic societies to pay their Imams proper wages and provide effective support services … well, that is the subject of the next column!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Raising funds for the 2 Muslim Sisters detained by FBI/INS + GOOD NEWS

As Salaam u Alaikum,

Shukr-Alhamdullillah! Just received news that the Guinean sister has been released (with some conditions). The father of the Guinean girl, and the Bangladeshi girl are still detained. Both families are still in desperate need of funds, so please contribute if you can.

And make dua (prayer) for the families.

-----------------------------------------------------------

if you could forward this to your lists.

As most people should be aware, two muslim sister (both aged 16) were picked up here in NYC, initially accused of being would-be suicide bombers, but now the FBI has retreated and is standing by an 'immigration violations' charge. The families are in a dire situation, and one of them is homeless (moving around from house to house). The families need to raise almost $10,000 for lawyers, housing, food, visit to the detention center, etc, and are in desperate need.


click here to donate through Pay Pal



MAIL -
Emergency Family Fund / CAIR NY
c/o 9-11 relief program / Adem Carroll, ICNA
166-26 89th Avenue
Jamaica, NY, 11432
Donations are tax exempt


FOR RUNNING UPDATES check: http://detainthis.blogspot.com/

Please contribute in anyway you can.

And make DUA for the families

rab rakh
fahd

British Elections: Muslim Vote..

News report from The Guardian:

Galloway victory blow for Labour

George Galloway (Respect Party) stunned the (Labor) party which expelled him for his anti-war stance by stealing the safe Labour seat of Bethnal Green and Bow from Oona King, who voted for the invasion of Iraq.

In a sensational result, the former Labour MP for Glasgow Kelvin triumphed in the east London constituency which has been held by Labour since 1945.

Operating on a shoestring budget, the newly-founded Respect party targeted the 40% Muslim vote in the constituency and hammered home its anti-war message by depicting Ms King as a patsy for Tony Blair.

Click here to read entire article

Also check out the website for the Respect: The Unity Coalition


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Operation Muslim Vote

By

Naima Bouteldja

“There is a spectre haunting the British General Election – the spectre of the ‘Muslim vote”. From election pundits and politicians to Mosque-regulars themselves, there is now widespread consensus that New Labour will face a huge backlash on May 5th from its traditionally most loyal constituency over Iraq, Guantanamo and the new anti-Terror laws.

The notion that a ‘Muslim vote’ exists is of course controversial – voting behaviour is based on an array of factors and Muslims will vote for many different parties and on many different issues on May 5th. But egged on by a media hungry for electoral ‘shock and awe’ and the very deliberate public posturing of Muslim interest groups, political parties are convinced the Muslim vote could make or break their electoral fortunes this time around.



Upon reflection, both history and geography tell us that they could be right. Throughout the post war era Britain’s Muslim voters have been unwaveringly Labour. In 1997 for example 86% of Muslim votes went to Labour. Despite numbering just over 1.1 million of Britain’s 44 million potential voters, the heavy concentration of Muslim communities in the South-East (mainly Greater London) and a handful of deprived areas in the North and the Midlands has also meant that in many constituencies, the Muslim vote has effectively delivered Labour MPs to Westminster. In approximately 40 seats, over 10 percent of the local population is Muslim, in nine constituencies this rises to over 20 percent and in three key seats, the figures are spectacular: Bradford West (38%), Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath (40%), and Bethnal Green and Bow (39%).

The Iraq War, however, has changed everything. For the first time large swathes of the Muslim communities have become politically active, radicalised even, through their leading involvement in the anti-war movement. Their sense of betrayal at the hands of Labour is expected to show in the election results.

Put simply, if enough Muslim voters break with Labour on Thursday, Labour safe seats will become marginals and marginals will almost certainly yield a cluster of ‘Portillo moments’ across the country. Sensing electoral blood, both the Lib Dems and Respect, a new anti-war political party led by George Galloway but largely staffed by newly-politicised young Muslims, are openly targeting the disaffected Muslim vote.

Despite the appearance of last-minute warm words being shoved through letter boxes, all three major parties have been pursuing near identical strategies for retaining or capturing Muslim votes for the last two years. The first part of ‘Operation Muslim Vote’ has been a classic co-optation manoeuvre with the creation of ‘Muslim Forums’ within each party. In July 2003, Stephen Timms, Labour MP for East Ham, inaugurated the ‘independent’ Muslims for Labour group (which since then has became Muslim Friends of Labour). It was of course only a coincidence that Timms had gone back on his word to support the Iraq war and 30 percent of East Ham’s residents are Muslim.

Not ones to miss a trick, towards the end of 2004 the Tories created a Muslim Forum at the heart of their ethnic minority sub-group. Wasn’t this just gesture politics? Not at all, according to Dominic Grieve, Prospective Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Beaconsfield and Shadow Attorney General, it was a way to “permit the Muslim community to voice its propositions to the Party.”

By January 2005, the Lib Dems had caught the bug and initiated a Muslim Forum within the Ethnic Minority for Liberal Democrats (EMLD) founded eleven years ago, although to his credit EMLD’s Chair, Fiyaz Mughal, does not seem too enamoured with the decision: “Muslims do not want to be isolated or separated... It is a mistake to start labelling and creating tokenistic little groups and it creates disharmony. Other communities would have to have one as well. The fundamental issue that all minority communities have in common before all others is that of equality’.

The second part of Operation Muslim Vote has been to create a strong but largely symbolic Muslim face for each party. This election will see a record number of Muslim candidates being paraded by the three main parties. The Lib Dems top the field with twenty-two candidates compared to ten in 2001. Labour has selected eight Muslim candidates alongside incumbent MPs Mohammed Sawar and Khalid Mahmood who will attempt to keep their seats in Glasgow Govan and Birmingham, Perry Barr respectively. The Conservatives are fielding fifteen candidates, three times the number at the last General Election.

Don’t expect to see many more Muslim faces in the House of Commons however. By their parties’ own admission, just a handful stand any chance of becoming MPs. Only Labour, moreover, has actually selected candidates for seats it already holds, a sign according to Hanif Adeel, joint national coordinator of Muslim Friends of Labour, of the Labour Party’s commitment to representing Muslims at “the heart of government and placing them within the political decision-making policy”.

Dominic Grieve, meanwhile, assures that the Tories are definitely not engaging in tokenism: “It is not in the tradition of our Party to be elected in a seat we hold without having proved one’s strength, and as most candidates present themselves for the first time it would have been surprising that they were chosen for seats that we were sure to win”.

But when you learn that all three political parties have approached the prominent anti-war activist and Respect’s co-founding member and candidate in Birmingham Sparkbrook, Salma Yaqoob, to stand for them despite her vocal and open hostility towards them, it is hard not to believe that the major parties commitment to Muslims only goes skin-deep. Yaqoob understandably is incensed: “the accusations of identity politics, and political opportunism thrown at Respect by our political opponents are hypocritical. We may be a new party but we are old enough to see through their own cynical games of targeting Muslim voters with phoney achievements and false promises.”

The third and most controversial aspect of Operation Muslim Vote, however, is the development of a very deliberate ‘community-oriented’ rhetoric designed to identify so-called Muslim values with each party’s programme for power. Barely a day goes by without the party machines placing targeted media stories associating the Lib Dems with opposition to war, Labour with ‘faith schools’ and the Tories with ‘traditional family values’. Then there’s the specially designed election literature for Muslim letter-boxes, laden with positive references to ‘Iraq’, ‘Palestine’, ‘Bangladesh’ and the like.

More disturbingly, this communal politics is now being used in reverse where the Muslim vote seriously threatens to unseat Labour MPs. Take Bethnal Green and Bow in East London, where the face-off between Blair loyalist Oona King and Respect’s anti-war champion, George Galloway, is on a knife-edge. The constituency, where 39 per cent are Muslim, has twice elected King with a 10 000 majority in 2001. Now, however, she feels compels to campaign with constant reference to her Jewish identity and recently spread allegations of anti-Semitism among Respect’s Muslim activists. The predictable fallout has inflamed community relations, but this is part and parcel of Labour’s own cynical ‘Operation Muslim Vote’ strategy – to scare enough Muslims away from abandoning Labour. In the current anti-Terror climate, the last thing Muslims want is to be seen as anti-semitic militants.

It is not just the party strategists, however, who portray Muslims as a homogenous bloc only concerned with the Middle East and religious issues. The Muslim establishment itself, led by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), has been a central actor in Operation Muslim Vote, all too willingly setting out a narrow, religious-based political platform to the detriment of a broader class and race empowerment agenda allied to other communities of the oppressed.

The danger for those Muslims politicised by Iraq and the attack on civil liberties and passionately organising to defeat Labour on May 5th, is that disappointment on the night will instantly turn them off political activism altogether. They will of course know that political liberation movements take many decades to mature, and they must learn from other experiences of minority empowerment, not only in Britain but also France and the United States to avoid the many traps and divisive manoeuvres which will inevitably come their way. The one thing that is certain, however, is that many Muslims are no longer a captive audience willing to put a cross next to Labour every five years.

Naima Bouteldja

Monday, May 02, 2005

Everyone is innocent around here!



"The Army Inspector General recently announced that they have completed their investigations, all the senior officers investigated were exonerated except for one Brigadier General who received an administrative reprimand."

Abu Gharib One Year Later by Kevin Zeese

Cartoon by Khalil Bendib, a syndicated Muslim cartoonist based in Berkeley, CA

StudioBendib, All rights reserved.

For more Bendib cartoons, click www.bendib.com

Al-Muntaha extradited over 'daffodil code'



British mobile phone salesman and cyber-activist Sidrat al-Muntaha has been successfully extradited to the United States, over allegations that he incited others to become part of the ‘Edam Jihad’, an al-Qaeda type conspiracy which is alleged to have surrounded the murder of Theo Van Gogh in November 2004. The charge is that al-Muntaha logged on to several holiday websites in October of last year and posted messages encouraging Muslims to go ‘Daffodil picking’ in the Netherlands. US prosecutors claim this was ‘code’ for a cell of Islamic terrorists to ‘awaken’ and murder Van Gogh, the Dutch film maker and cyclist who had been publicly critical of the Islamic faith.



Al-Muntaha was arrested at his home in Luton early last year, where police ransacking his personal belongings found a high-powered personal computer and gardening books linked to the ultra-extreme Wahhabi sect based in Saudi Arabia. “By his treasonous criminal acts and the length of his beard, he has proven himself to be a kingpin of hate around the world,” Snarled Judge Poodle, appointed to oversee all cases brought under the 2003 UK Extradition Act. Al-Muntaha's barrister was unable to comment, after falling ill with an attack of utter disbelief shortly after the adjournment.

Speaking via telephone from Bellmarsh Prison, al-Muntaha announced he would be standing for Parliament on May 5th.

“Let’s face it,” He reflected . “As things stand, I’ve probably got as good a chance of getting elected in Britain as I have of getting a fair hearing in an American court.”

"Paintball Jihad" Babar Ahmad Theo Van Gogh


Sunday, May 01, 2005

Growth through Isolation or Immersion??

by guest contributor

Sakina Dewji

I often meet parents who are afraid of the negative influence the west will have on their children and therefore try to protect them through isolation. Does growth come through isolation or immersion? Having lived both ways, I share my experiences and hope to hear your thoughts…

When we immigrated to Canada, my parents like many others feared the influence of society. They tried to protect us by limiting our contact with the mainstream. While I might have memorized the rituals and was comfortable among my community, I was at a loss when I was out of this comfort zone or when my views were challenged.

Ironically life changed when I met another Muslim who challenged much of the dogma that had become part of my life. It was through dialogue and self reflection that light flowed into my cocoon and pulled me out! As different people, Muslims and Non Muslims, walked into my life and we shared with one another, this growth increased further. Now I felt closer to the creator and more comfortable in who I was and in respecting others for who they were. This I believe is the Islam lived by the Prophet, his family and companions.




The desire to share and meet people of different backgrounds led me to apply to a project where I would have to work with other Canadian teachers in training teachers in developing countries. Excitement filled my world when I found out I was going to Sierra Leone with 3 other teachers. However I have to admit having not lived or traveled with Non Muslims, I was anxious. How would they react to my hijab? How would they feel when I had to stop and pray or eat only certain things? I could not let this get to me; this was an experience that was bound to help me and those around me. So I took on the challenge.


This indeed was one of the most powerful experience of my life. When my colleagues and I first met 3 days before our trip to Sierra Leone, they realized they were traveling with a Muslimah. As we got more comfortable during the trip they shared their thoughts of who they were expecting…one thought I was a Sikh from my last name! Another thought I was this tall African girl since I was born in Africa! They told me this was their first “up close and personal” meeting with a Muslim and I had managed to break all their stereotypes!

Unlike my parents’ fears, these colleagues respected and supported me for who I was. They would remind me it was prayer time and would look for halal places to try out shawarmas with me. Our team leader insisted that our evening outings be at restaurants and not in bars or clubs. We had many discussions of our practices and learned from each other. They wanted to learn all about hijabs and habibs!! I learned a lot as well. Sadly I had to travel to Africa to find about my neighbours’ culture.

This was the first time a Muslim was part of this project. Our Sierra Leonean team was initially shocked to see me. I didn’t fit their image of a Canadian being blonde and blue eyed! Upon arrival, the driver blurted out what probably was going through many minds, by asking, “you are not a real Canadian, where are you from??” I didn’t’ know what I was in for but at the time of departure we had bonded and they showed their appreciation at having a Muslim sister born in Africa in the team. They let me lead the Muslim prayer at the closing…the first woman who had done this! They felt empowered realizing that they too are important and did not have to give up their identity to be successful.

Now I face similar anxieties as I find out I am heading to China this summer. Again, I am the first mahjubah to apply and they had to check if this was going to be an issue. Alhamdullilah it isn’t and I begin yet another challenge.

Does growth come with immersion or isolation? Await your thoughts and experiences.