Posts Tagged ‘ Muslims ’

Indian Chronicles and the Fifth Generation Warfare

As reported By Nayab Fareed for Safety & Security Today Pakistan. WWW.SSToday.com.pk originally on 1/27/21

#Narendra #Modi, Prime Minister of #India

Is Pakistan grappling with the fifth generation warfare? The question has long been scoffed at by the who’s who of Pakistani intelligentsia. For the longest time, these warnings have been dubbed as fear and paranoia promulgated by the Pakistani militablishment to squash dissent.

The state’s efforts against the threats of an unprecedented kind have time and again been discredited with little to no heed paid. However, the recent investigation carried out by the EU DinsfoLab, an independent Europe based organization, has made some startling revelations about the threat Pakistan faces; thus, vindicating our decade long fears. Let’s first attempt to understand the nature of fifth generation warfare before scrutinizing the report’s findings.

As the US Army Major Shannon Beebe once put it “fifth generation is a vortex of violence, a free-for-all of surprise destruction motivated more by frustration than by any coherent plans for the future.” The strategy of fifth generation does not revolve around direct armed confrontation, it rather employs social, economic and psychological tactics to impose mayhem. It employs non-uniformed atypical warriors who exploit fault lines of a state using terrorism, propaganda, religion, and public grievances to wage wars against the state’s institutions. Waged from within and abetted from outside, Audreas Turunen elucidates fifth generation as a cultural and moral war, which distorts the perception of the masses to give a manipulated view of the world and politics.

Non-state actors, more importantly, media which in recent past has emerged as the most powerful medium with widespread influence, has a crucial role to play in shaping perceptions. Unfortunately for Pakistan, the media has shown extreme irresponsibility in identifying and acting as the first line of defense against the propaganda. To an extent, segments of Pakistani media have also played into the hands of the enemy.

While Pakistani media failed to acknowledge the brazen disinformation plastered all over media and shrugged off the warnings mockingly, the Indian media, often dubbed as an important pillar of the world’s largest democracy, incessantly reposted and amplified the odious anti-Pakistan propaganda from fake media outlets, abetting the Indian state in its massive disinformation campaign.

The executive director of EU DisinfoLab claims that it was by far the “largest network the organization had exposed”. Indian Chronicles investigation uncovered more than 700 fake media outlets covering 116 countries, operating under dubious news agencies called “Big News Network” and “World News Network” both showing opaque ties to the Indian based conglomerate Srivastava Group. It was found that some of the most prominent Indian media agencies, such as ANI, ABP group, Zee, Republic News and Yahoo India reproduced and recirculated anti-Pakistan and, in few cases, anti-China rhetoric initially posted on the sham news websites.

More than 400 domain names were bought through Mr. Srivastava’s private email to register these websites. The articles and op-eds posted on them were often exaggerated, reworded and mainly used for the purpose of discrediting and reproducing negative iterations about Pakistan which were then repackaged by the Indian media for the consumption of millions of Indians at home and abroad, while also attempting to give legitimacy and credibility to the disinformation network.

Considering this sly process of layering, recycling and republishing of fake news from one source to another, the term ‘Fake News Laundering’ to put it mildly won’t be too far off.

If these findings are not staggering enough, this is where it begins to get increasingly malicious. The investigation also found that the campaign used not only fake media outlets to grow influence and taint India’s adversaries’ image, but also revived more than 10 defunct NGOs accredited by the UN for the same purpose.

One such example that has stood out the most for a variety of reasons is the Commission to Study the Organization of Peace (CSOP) that had been an inactive organization since the 1970s and was suddenly revived in 2005.

Not only did the organization come alive, it turns out the former chairman of CSOP, Professor Louis B Sohn, miraculously participated at the UNHRC session “Friends of Gilgit” in 2007 and attended another event in 2011, all while being deceased since 2006. CSOP, like the rest of these Zombie organizations, led a very different life from the first one. Once revived, the original purpose of their genesis completely changed from the environment, peace, education & even canned foods to furthering Indian interests.

These UN accredited NGOs also work in coordination with the non-accredited think tanks and NGOs based in Brussels, Geneva that were repeatedly given the floor at the UN on behalf of accredited NGOs. Amsterdam based think-tank called the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) for instance, was given the floor at the UNHRC’s 40th session in 2019 on behalf of the hijacked UN accredited organization United schools international (USI) which was then used to attack Pakistan.

The investigation noted that several of these think-tanks and NGOs including Baluchistan house, European organization for Pakistani minorities, South Asian democratic forum, World Baloch Women’s Forum, Gilgit Baltistan Studies, Baloch Human Rights Council (BHRC), Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) have been given the UN floor via the accredited NGOs that have shown direct links with the Srivastava group. These propaganda Think-tanks and NGOs also used Pakistani dissidents such as Mehran Marri and the SAATH forum led by Hussain Haqqani to undermine Pakistan at Geneva on several instances.

Not only were the accredited NGOs misappropriated, but many of the speakers at UN were also misrepresented by the Indian media, primarily ANI.

Identity theft is another modus operandi where several editors, journalists’ identities were made-up, non-existent addresses and fake phone numbers were used to register websites, media outlets were impersonated and former members of defunct NGOs appeared at events they had no knowledge about. Right-wing MEPs, including former diplomat Hussain Haqqani, were given space on fake media outlets such as the ‘EU Chronicles’ & ‘Time of Geneva’ for exclusive Op-eds against Pakistan.

This opportunity served as a honeypot for the MEPs as they were invited on free trips to Maldives, Bangladesh and more recently Kashmir which was falsely reported by the Indian media as the official EU delegation.

The purpose of this modus operandi was to fake or misappropriate the reputation and status enjoyed by the original source in order to avoid radar and gain credibility in the reader’s view.

The operation does seem to have been a success considering how easily it exploited and abused UN’s loopholes and hijacked its organizations for more than a decade going completely unnoticed.

This also raises many questions, most importantly; why has UN as an independent global entity overlooked the dubious activities of its own NGOs for so long? How was India capable of carrying out a pronounced campaign against its adversaries right under the UN’s nose for 15 years without raising any alarm? And why has India exhausted its resources and time to carry out a decade long disinformation campaign against its rivals rather than seeking dialogue through diplomatic channels? India’s Chanakyan schemes only reaffirm its position as a regional bully who can go to all lengths to bring devastation of colossal degrees in a nuclear zone.

Pakistan is evidently being targeted by its neighbor due to the decades old unresolved conflicts, mainly Kashmir, as well as the constantly evolving regional dynamics making it almost impossible for both nations to pursue common interests.

Indian quest for regional hegemony coupled with its conflict with China makes Pakistan all the more vulnerable to chaos, making its nuclear might the only deterrence for the enemy.

Despite these appalling findings, the EU DisinfoLab suggests there’s much more yet to be uncovered implying that the report is just the tip of the iceberg which makes one wonder how massive the scale of this network really is.

Today, the fifth generation warfare is a concrete threat that the states are finally beginning to acknowledge and understand.

It is in fact not a boogeyman created by the state to scare the dissidents into submission; on the contrary, it is a bitter reality capable of threatening our very existence.

Unfortunately, the genuine grievances of Pakistani minorities have been exploited for sinister purposes, enemy has utilized divisive politics and fault lines to plant and agitate subversive elements to cause discord. However, amid the unrest, an opportunity has presented itself for Pakistan to correct course.

The state must address the grievances of those aggrieved while also dealing with the miscreants who threaten the states sovereignty at the behest of enemy with an iron fist. It’s time to separate truth from falsehood and make matters more transparent in order to gain trust of the populace.

Additionally, Pakistan must focus on improving its soft power in order to dismantle bogus campaigns by its rivals; the present government seems to be making efforts in the right direction but a lot more needs to be done to counter propaganda with facts. The matter must be raised on international forums highlighting India’s nefarious designs which could lead to dangerous consequences if not addressed promptly.

Half-baked truths, manipulation and deception may serve a petty purpose temporarily but will result in devastating consequences in the long run.

In the words of Benjamin Franklin, tricks and treachery are practice of fools, that don’t have brains enough to be honest.

Pakistani girl Zara Naeem beats over 50,000 students, tops global accountancy exams

Reported by Jabeen Adil, Gulf Today 2/16/21

Pakistani student Zara Naeem Dar has earned an honour for Pakistan by scoring the highest marks in the world in the global professional accountancy exams conducted by ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants).

The ACCA qualification is considered the gold standard in accountancy; 527,000 students from 179 countries took part in the exam. With the achievement in this exam, conducted in December 2020, Zara won an important award for Pakistan. 

Zara Naeem, a resident of Lahore, thanked the nation for this encouragement and appreciation. She especially thanked her father for her success, the education, training, and encouragement she provided.

The ACCA Pakistan congratulated her on her achievement in an official tweet and said, “Pakistani students continue to make proud by impressing the world with their excellent exam performance in the global professional accountancy exams conducted by ACCA.”

The Government of Pakistan official also commended her in an official tweet and said, “A very proud moment for Pakistan as Zara Naeem has been declared the global prizewinner for scoring the highest marks in ACCA.”

Zara credits this success to her father who’s always encouraged all the girls in the family to pursue their dreams and smash all artificial barriers.

Zara has said that her father is a military officer and he is her real hero. Zara said on her Instagram account that she has seen her father rise to the heights of his career and that is why he is an important beacon for her.

Follow @pakistanisforpeace on #Facebook, #Twitter, #TikTok and #Instagram for more positive news from #Pakistan 🇵🇰🙏🏽

Home

By Tabzy.Wordpress.com

My heart has been aching for the last 7 days.

As I unpack my suitcases on day 1. As I put the laundry away on day 3. As I pack lunch for my kids on day 5.It’s always there, that hollow throbbing ache, in the exact spot where I think my heart is supposed to be.

My 7 yr old daughter has asked me at least two dozen times in the last seven days, as she often does at least once a month since she started talking, “Why don’t we live in Pakistan?” Today my three-year old son told me; “Your house is boring Mama, I want to go to Pakistan.”

The questions don’t help, they only make me realize their little hearts ache too, for the country they were not born in but I guess the love for which runs through their veins.

The silence in my house reminds me of the constant sounds that my home in Lahore is abuzz with. The silence only makes the ache grow stronger. I decide to go to the mall to get away from the silence after sending the kids off to school. I turn on the CD player as I settle behind the steering wheel in my car. The song that starts blaring reminds me of my sister’s wedding, the endless dance practices, the clothes, the colors….I turn it off and force myself to concentrate on my driving. The ache is still there. I look around and try to be grateful for the big clean roads, the stop signs, and the fact that no one is driving towards me on a one way road. But I miss the frenzied state of panic that all the drivers seem to be consumed by on all the roads in Lahore. I miss blaring horns. I miss the elated feeling of having defied death simply by changing a lane without being hit by a car.

At the mall I just walk around purposelessly.Nothing catches my eye. I miss the obsessive trips to the mall in the weeks before leaving for Pakistan, in the quest to hunt good deals on gifts. I walk into an expensive store, deciding I will treat myself to a statement necklace that I had my eyes on before my trip,it surely must be on sale by now. I inquire with the sales lady about the necklace and she brings it to me, I got lucky she informs me in a chirpy voice, it is 30 percent off bringing the price down to around $150. I look at it and suddenly I feel a tug at my heart, the ache is there again, only stronger. I tell the lady I changed my mind and walk out of the store feeling miserable. I miss the 20 minute haggling session with the “choorion wala” in Liberty over Rs 300 bangles. I miss the random aunties who would strike up a conversation in bazaars and doctor’s offices and beauty salons, making you reveal your entire family history in a matter of 4 minutes. I miss the beggars praying for my happy married life in return for a few coins. I miss the fact that most “bazaars” don’t open till noon and everything is closed on Fridays for prayer.

I miss I miss I miss…

I miss the all night chat sessions with my sisters, I miss the halwa poori breakfasts, I miss the tea time which occurred every two hours, I miss the constant chaos and craziness at home which would sometimes make me fantasize about checking into a hotel for a few days just so I could hear myself think. I miss the non-stop parenting advice from everyone who has ever had a child; I miss never EVER being alone. I miss the phone ringing after every three minutes and the door bell ringing at least 60 times a day. I miss the un-announced family visits and hugging my aunts and uncles tight, as if I had not seen them in years even though they had been over the night before and left well after midnight.

I miss squeezing into one car with all the siblings and their kids and making the long drive to Upper Mall just for a “cup” of Chaman ice cream. I miss acting unbelievably silly, the way you can only be around your family, totally and completely free. I miss constantly bickering with my siblings. I miss screaming at all our kids for making so much noise but only adding to the noise by screaming so loud.I miss the uncontrollable fits of laughter even at the most serious of moments. I miss lugging my camera around everywhere. I miss the stray cats at my husband’s home who would not even blink as my son pulled their tails. I miss having to clean my kids’ hands 15 times a day. I miss driving through half of Lahore when I had to get from my kids’ “dadu’s” house to “nano’s”house, joyfully inhaling the sights and sounds of Lahore with my eyes every single time. I miss the sound of Azaan. I miss the joy rain brought to everyone. I miss wearing my sisters’ clothes every day. I miss having so many opinionated people to ask how I look or what I should wear. I miss complaining about the load shedding. I miss being annoyed there is not enough hot water to take a shower. I miss speaking Urdu with everyone.

I miss the aura of hope in the air, sometimes so palpable I could taste it.

I miss the impossible amount of love and attention my kids receive until they are spoilt rotten by the time I come back, how everyone believes they care for them the “mostest”, even more than I do, how the whole household will gather around like a flock of hens, three people will volunteer to go to the hospital with you at 5 in the morning if you or your child is sick. I miss the utter lack of privacy and independence. I miss the cheekiness of family listening in to your phone calls and then discussing your entire conversation over tea afterwards as if they were invited to listen in to an important conference call! I miss everyone that I managed to meet and those I could not…

I miss the things that drive me up the wall and I miss the things that I have never stopped missing in 10 years. My heart keeps on aching…

The thing about leaving home is; you never get over it. You make a new life, you make new friends, you live happily ever after… until you go back home again. And every time you say your goodbyes and turn your back as you walk through those glass doors at the airport, the ache starts all over again. And then from time to time, you feel it, at the most unexpected of moments. It’s almost like how an amputee must feel; as if your hand was torn off your arm and even though it is no longer on your body and you have embraced life without it, you still feel your phantom fingers press into your phantom palm every once in a while and the reality of what’s been torn away hits you all over again. And the heart aches, all over again.

I don’t know why exactly we leave our homes. To find a better life I guess. A life where our kids are safer, our roads are cleaner, our bank balances; higher. I can’t quite remember just this second. Because right now, still in the throes of nostalgia seven days after walking away from my family through those glass doors, all I know is, there is no place like home. And in my heart of hearts, “home” will always mean Pakistan.

William Dalrymple on Sicily’s Islamic past

From his base in an ancient villa built for an emir, the historian seeks out the legacy of the island’s Arab rulers William Dalrymple JANUARY 9 2021 …

William Dalrymple on Sicily’s Islamic past

Islam truly is a religion of peace

By Manzer Munir for @pakistanisforpeace

Islam ☪️ is beautiful. At its root, it is at peace with everything in #nature and is a religion of #peace when practiced as preached by our #prophetMuhammad, #TheMessengerOfGod, peace be upon him, ameen.

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

This is also how our Lord above wants us to behave and #BeEquitable and #Respectful with not just each other but ALL LIVING THINGS!!!

It is basically the last of the #Abrahamicreligions with the same basic message of creation and our purpose and the rules that guide this #life.

It is essentially of #peace, #love and most importantly self #responsibility for all of our actions, whether someone is watching or not. I am #blessed to be born in a #Muslim household and I am most thankful for my #Sufi and #progressiveMuslim beliefs ♥️🙏🏽☪️☮️

Awakening With Rumi

By Kabir Helminski for Medium

I have always imagined the quatrain above as being part of an intimate conversation between Rumi and his legendary friend, Shams of Tabriz. We live at a time when those “sweet words” are needed to rain down more than ever upon the soil of our universe.

Those who have discovered the heart-penetrating words of Rumi sense their beauty and urgency. And yet we may struggle to express, let alone explain, their importance. Poetry can be the language of the soul, communicating through image and metaphor something beyond tangible realities. It can lead us to where our footprints disappear into the Sea.

We are starting a collaborative blog, Awakening with Rumi, to share the incomparable richness and universality of Rumi’s legacy. This is not meant to be a scholarly project, but a platform for a living tradition of spiritual exploration. Our approach will be to write about our everyday life experience, incorporating, when appropriate, selections from Rumi that guide and illuminate our experience. We are students on the way, humbly attempting to understand and embody the spiritual truths Mevlana, “Our Master,” lived by.

Rumi belongs to the honored category of wisdom teachers that would include: Plato, Ecclesiastes, Lao Tzu, the author of the Gospel of Thomas, Meister Eckhart, Shakespeare, Goethe, and in America, Whitman and Emerson. He can stand with any of them in terms of his intellectual contribution, and possibly beyond any of them in spiritual depth. Once, when the great German scholar Anne Marie Schimmel was asked to compare Goethe and Rumi, she responded: “The great Goethe is like an immense, majestic mountain; but Rumi, ah… Rumi is like the sky itself.” Her words capture the essence of what Rumi offers: an opening to a spiritual Reality even beyond the majesty and beauty of the physical world, a transparency that allows the spiritual Sun to shine upon us.

Rumi is not a self-help guru. He offers more than consolation to our neurotic anxieties. The ecstatic love he extols is not a form of mystical eroticism. He is not an iconoclast, a breaker of tradition, but an inheritor of the wisdom and revelations of the Prophets.

Using all the rich means of literature, and especially poetry, he awakens our imagination to the presence of the Divine. And as we gradually integrate the images, metaphors, and stories, our sense of reality is transformed, our place in the universe is clarified.

Underlying the vast and complex tangle of his vast work is a clear and coherent metaphysical understanding. The Omega point of nature and all existence is the complete human being. All the laws of the physical world are perfectly in balance, proportioned to manifest the heart-consciousness of the human being who has transcended ego limitations and distortions, and has been so humbled in love as to become an expression of the Divinity itself!

However, if we search on the Internet for Rumi quotes, much of what we find will be a mere caricature of the Master. By the time Rumi appears on Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms, his profound and nuanced wisdom has sometimes been reduced to one-liners, watered-down clichés, lame truisms, and misleading over-simplifications.

Everything in the universe
is within you. Ask all from yourself.

What this quote, for instance, seems to suggest is that the individual should be his or her own arbiter of truth and not depend on second-hand knowledge, theologies, and dogmas. This sentiment fits well with our postmodern era in which all certainties are dismissed, in which the sacred is just one option among many of equal or no value.

Rumi would never let an assertion like this stand alone without taking us a further step. He says, for instance:

Listen, open a window to God
and begin to delight yourself
by gazing upon Him through the opening.
The business of love is to make that window in the heart,
for the breast is illumined by the beauty of the Beloved.
Gaze incessantly on the face of the Beloved!
Listen, this is in your power, my friend!

[Mathnawi VI, 3095–97]

What must be sought is a portal that can be found within ourselves, but like a window redirects our vision to something beyond ourselves, the Beloved, the Divine Reality. When that window opens, our sense of ourselves is transformed; we see the artificial nature of what we thought was ourselves. This is a great discovery and a great mystery which cannot be contained, or adequately described.

Since the Internet rarely acknowledges who the translator is, I don’t know whose translations I’m commenting on, perhaps even one of my friends, but bear with me for a little bit longer.

Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. 
Unfold your own myth.

There is no doubt that Rumi was a master of authenticity, but personality development was not the aim of his teaching, and the word “myth” is not a word to be found in his work. And yet it may have appeal to those creating online identities through social media. Contrast this with the “bitter medicine” that Rumi sometimes hands out:

Unless the seeker is absolutely erased,
in truth, he will not come into union.
Union is not penetrable. It is your annihilation.
Otherwise anyone would become the Truth.

[Quatrains: 800]

Often these “internet quotes” are partial truths that can be misleading if one has little knowledge of the spiritual universe Rumi inhabited.

You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.

Rumi would never say this either, because he understands that the individual ego cannot undo itself; rather when the false self faces the consequences of its own ignorance and denial, it is the Divine Mercy that offers a solution, a remedy. And sometimes the true “Breaker of Hearts” is offering us a lesson, the bitter medicine that is needed:

The gate of union has been closed to me by the Friend.
My heart has been broken by the sorrow and pain of the Friend.
From now on I and my broken heart will wait at the gate,
for those with a broken heart have the favor of the Friend.

[Quatrains: 245]

But it seems that once a “quote” is elevated to Internet heaven, it gets repeated and repeated, confirming that many people only read him online. Furthermore, some of the most popular are not from Rumi at all, as far as I can tell, and I’ll be happy to be corrected if I’m wrong:

Yesterday I was clever and wanted to change the world
today I am wise so I am changing myself.

Who is this? Gandhi perhaps?

Your task is not to seek for love but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

Actually, this is from The Course in Miracles.

I point these things out, knowing that there are well-meaning people who have found meaning and beauty in Rumi, but have not encountered the true range and depth of his legacy, or have not had the opportunity to experience the living tradition which he represents. And all of us, after all, are students, seekers, incomplete in encompassing the vast universe of spiritual knowledge and human possibilities.

So, if you will allow me to conclude with some words from “our master,” Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, just one of many possible examples that expresses that more comprehensive meaning to be encountered in his work, a vision of the “possible human” from Discourses of Rumi (published as Signs of the Unseen): Discourse 16:

The “person of heart” is the All. When you have seen such a person, you have seen everything. “The whole hunt is in the belly of the wild ass,” as the saying goes. All the people in the world are parts of him, and he (or she) is the Whole.

All good and bad are part of the dervish.
Whoever is not so is not a dervish.¹

Now when you have seen a dervish you have certainly seen the whole world. Anyone you see after that is superfluous. A dervishes’ words are the most complete words of all. When you have heard their words, whatever you may hear afterwards is unneeded.

If you see him at any stage, it is as though
you have seen every person and every place.
O copy of the Divine Book which you are,
O mirror of awesome beauty that you are,
nothing that exists in the world is outside of you.
Seek within yourself whatever you want,
for that you are!²

This is an amazing view of what it means to be a complete human being, and this view is reflected in Rumi’s own work, especially the Mathnawi, encompassing so many aspects of earthly life — saints and sinners, dervishes and the kings, creatures of every sort, humor and metaphysical reflection, humble fables and sublime supplications — all of these revealing the Divine Love and Intelligence at work.

We hope that Awakening with Rumi will likewise reflect the Divine Love and Intelligence at work in our lives, in matter-of-fact and miraculous ways.

It is clear that Rumi did not take up a position outside the context of traditional Islam. His frequent references to the Qur’an and his love of the Prophet Muhammad are evidence of his alignment with the primary sources of Islam. In a future article, however, I hope to explore Rumi’s idea of the “Religion of Love,” to clarify that Rumi’s Islam is not a legalistic program ordained by a judgmental God, but a spiritual path leading to intimacy with the Divine Beloved.

Within the Ka`ba the rule of the qibla does not exist:
what matter if the diver has no snow-shoes?
Do not seek guidance from the drunken:
why do you order those whose garments are torn in pieces to mend them?
The religion of Love is apart from all religions:
for lovers, the religion and creed is — God.
If the ruby has not a seal, it is no harm:
Love in the sea of sorrow is not sorrowful.

[Mathnawi II, 1768–71]

1. The line is from Rumi, Divan, i, ghazal 425, line 4476.
2. A quatrain by Najmuddin Razi, Manarat al-sa’irin, manuscript at Tehran, Malek Library.

Why Don’t Men Cover Their Faces?

By Hind Aleryani for Your Middle East
Image
Yemeni blogger and journalist @HindAleryani tells her intimate story about what’s feminine and masculine in the Middle East.

 

We used to play at my aunt’s garden when we were younger…girls and boys, there was no difference… we grew up together… we used to race, play, laugh… sometimes we would fight playfully… we used to watch TV together… cry at the end of sad cartoons together… we grew a bit older… we began to study for our classes together… whenever we’d fight we used to threaten the other that we’d tell on them to the teacher… we used to play practical jokes on one another… we’d laugh with all our hearts…

And so the days went by…

My cousin and I are staring outside the window… we are looking at the garden where my male cousin and his friends are playing… this is the garden where we used to play together… they used to be our friends once upon a time… these are the boys we used to play with… what happened? Why are we prisoners at home, while they play ball outside with all freedom… what did we do? Did we grow older? Did our bodies change? Did we become an object of temptation that needs to be covered from people’s eyes? Aren’t those the boys we knew since we were children? What changed? Why are we strangers? Why do I run and hide whenever I hear one of their voices? Is it just because the pitch of his voice changed? Is that why we aren’t friends anymore? Are we supposed to act differently towards one another? Different to how we acted just yesterday? We started to act shy and anxious whenever we’d speak… we stopped playing with one another… My cousin and I began spending our spare time watching Mexican soap operas, as if we were in our 50s…

And so the days went by…

I am at school…we are learning about what a woman should cover… her hair is temptation… her eyebrows are temptation… I remembered my favorite male singer… his eyes were beautiful too… his hair is beautiful… why doesn’t he veil? I asked myself this question, however, I couldn’t find the answer… I remembered that I was banned from playing in the garden because I hit puberty… however, my male friends weren’t… didn’t they hit puberty too? Why weren’t they imprisoned at home? I also couldn’t find the answer…

And so the days went by…

I hear it all the time… “A woman is a jewel that needs to be protected (i.e. covered)”… and sometimes it is even said that a woman is like candy “if you remove the wrapper (i.e. the cover) the flies will swarm around her”… I turn on the TV and find that favorite male singer that I am so fond of brushing his soft silky hair and flaunting his handsomeness… his arms are bare… his chest is bare… why isn’t this object of temptation covered? Why isn’t he imprisoned at home? Why aren’t women tempted by him? Some might claim that a woman shouldn’t look at this… then shouldn’t men shield their gaze when looking at a tempting female “object”? I couldn’t find the answer…

And so the days went by…

I am at university… I see some people distributing a small religious book… “Temptations of a Woman”…Her hair… her feet… her eyes, and “thus, a woman must cover one of her eyes as both of them together are tempting”…I swear this is what I read in this book!… it’s as if there is nothing left in this world to talk about and scrutinize other than a woman and how she is a temptation…I decided to observe men’s looks…I wanted to know which women would attract men with her temptation… in front of me walks a woman wearing a tight Abaya (long black cover)… aha!.. I found her… she is an object of temptation… I continue watching… in front of me walks a woman with a baggy Abaya, however, with an uncovered face…the man stares at her… aha! So her face is also a temptation… a third woman walks in front of me… her face is covered and she is wearing a baggy Abaya from top to toe… the man is staring at her! Huh? I don’t understand… what is so tempting about a black Abaya? No eyes, no feet… What is this man staring at? At that moment I realized that clothing has nothing to do with it… men would stare on all occasions… however, he, with his broad shoulders and his hair, eyes and lips isn’t considered an object of temptation, even if all the women in the world started at him… he is a man…he shouldn’t hide in his home… no one calls him a jewel… at that moment I wished I wasn’t a jewel. I wished to be a free man…

And so the days went by…

I am in a Western country… women are walking around me…one is wearing pants… the other is wearing a short skirt…another wears shorts…men and women are walking side by side… it is strange… no one is staring… why don’t I see the looks of men I saw in my country? Those looks that made a woman feel naked… those looks that I hated… the ones that made me hate being on this earth, and hate being born a woman… those looks that deny me my humanity…why don’t I see those looks here? All the women are dressed up… why don’t I see those looks even though all the women are attractive here? I saw one women run and laugh… I remembered that I wasn’t allowed to run once I hit puberty… I remembered my aunt’s window… I remembered I was an object of temptation that must be covered… I remembered that a man in my country wears white, while I am covered in black… I asked myself, why don’t men wear black? Why don’t men cover their faces? And I couldn’t find the answer…

And so the days go by…

 

Christmas for Christians, Muslims and Jews

By Petula Dvorak for The Washington Post

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The tree has decorations made of olive wood from Palestine, Christmas balls of glass, snowflakes and Hanukkah ornaments.

Grandma looks on at the tree-trimming party, a hijab the color of snow covering her hair. Mom, a teacher at a private Islamic school in Reston, snaps photos. Carols play in the background. Christmas cookies are baking in the oven.

This tableau in a Virginia living room — a scene of family, love, acceptance, celebration and generosity — is what this season should be all about but often isn’t.

You’ve gotta admit: Christmas is pretty unavoidable in this country.

Gas stations sparkle with tinsel, tiny dogs wear Christmas sweaters on their walks, federal buildings are closed, Costco stops selling pies the size of truck tires in honor of the day.

And if it’s not in your religion to celebrate it, the options are limited. You can hunker down for a month or two and try to avoid it or take part in the new American tradition of Christmas warring. You can join lawsuits over mangers on government property; post cheeky, atheist billboards that haters will deface; and support only stores that require employees to say “Happy holidays.”

The other side of the wars — the “reason for the season” folks — aren’t much more palatable.

Or you can take a more universal approach to the season.

“I present Christmas not so much as a religious celebration,” said Nadiya El-Khatib, 33, of Fairfax County. The aforementioned Christmas tree trimming took place in her aunt’s house, where their multi-faith family of Christians, Muslims and Jews find a universal theme this time of year.

“In Islam, we are taught to maintain strong ties with your family, and this includes coming together on Christmas,” she said.

El-Khatib’s mother, a former Irish-Catholic woman named Mary Catherine, converted to Islam when El-Khatib was 5 years old. El-Khatib was raised Muslim, but she always celebrated Christmas with her maternal family and continues to do so with her children.

Many of the Muslim families Nadeem Ahmed grew up with just gave up and started celebrating the holiday, too.

“You get enveloped in the culture of Christmastime. Some Muslim families would put up the tree, exchange gifts,” Ahmed, 36, a Richmond psychologist, told me between caroling and gift giving this week. “We never did all that.”

But he sang carols as a boy in school, went to Christmas parties and took in the spirit of togetherness. It is unavoidable. And it didn’t really bother him as a kid, he said.

Then he married a woman who was raised Presbyterian.

Now he prays in church, goes there on Christmas Eve and worries about getting the right gifts for his in-laws.

“From my perspective, how I was raised as a Muslim, this very welcoming church shares some universal value,” he said of the church they attend in Richmond. “I can feel very spiritual there, look at my own moral character.”

In other words, though he stays true to the rituals of his Muslim faith, Ahmed can find the universal, humanitarian message in Christian Christmas and embrace it.

“The rituals aren’t as important as what they’re trying to symbolize and being able to explore those things at a church, or at a mosque, it’s all about trying to be a better person,” he said.

Doesn’t hurt on the marriage front, either.

Listening to Ahmed, I was inspired and a little saddened by the relentless war of words that continues to scar the season.

Last week, I got an angry letter from a reader who was miffed that we used the words “holiday song” to describe a Christmas carol being sung by children in a photo.

Turns out, “holiday song” took up fewer character spaces in the tight caption space, which is why a copy editor wrote that. But to this reader, it was a sign of political correctness and fear.

It was someone picking a fight.

And that’s exactly what the spirit of the season is not about.

Since Christians — and I grew up one of them — seem to demand that everyone in the country observe this day as sacred (try escaping Christmas madness at a museum or anyplace else — you can’t), the meaning of the day must extend to people of all faiths, creeds and persuasions.

The Muslim families I talked to did it beautifully.

Whether you say “Happy holidays,” “Merry Christmas” or “Season’s greetings,” the sentiment is what is important here, not the words. And that sentiment is what we humans need these days. This day.

Why I Plan to Vote for President Obama Again…as an American Muslim

By Irfan Rydhan for Patheos

There have been a lot of discussions going on lately online among Americans, including American Muslims on whether to vote in this year’s presidential elections. Many people, especially Muslims feel that President Obama has disappointed them, thus they will not vote to help re-elect him for a second term. Still others believe that it is no use for us to vote because either party will not help us American Muslims out and a few people also think that it is Haram (unlawful in Islam) to even vote in the first place.

To those Muslims who say that voting is Haram, I will just respond by saying that you are Stupid. Period.

As an American Muslim, I was happy to vote for Obama in 2008, because I wanted a change from the failed policies of G.W. Bush, like most everyone else. I was also happy to hear that Obama, who had a Pakistani roommate, grew up in Indonesia and had Muslims in his family, although he himself is a Christian, was much more aware and knowledgeable about different cultures around the world – which was (and still is) needed for the leadership of America in this very small world we live in today. I was also happy to hear that Obama would end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, close Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba and would try to work for a two state solution between Israel and Palestine.

Of course Obama won the election against John McCain with a safe margin (although some states were very tight and every vote was needed to win in those battleground states – just like this year) and was elected to President of United States of America in November of 2008. This was a historic election, since Obama is the first African-American to be elected as President. This was one of the moments I was most proud to be an American, since no other western country has elected a minority race or ethnic group to the highest position of government before this.

Now 4 years later, many people, especially American Muslims are disappointed that President Obama was not able to keep all his promises. To those people, I will give you some reasons why this happened and also why we should give President Obama a second term in order to continue a lot of the good work he has done to help our country get back on its feet and move in the right direction.

Before President Obama took office in 2009, the economy was already losing 800,000 jobs a month. Now we have seen steady job growth for 30 consecutive months. Obama also saved the US Auto Industry, while his Republican opponent Mitt Romney, wanted to let it die. Although this was a very unpopular move to give federal money help the Auto Industry, Obama stuck with it and in turn saved 1 million Auto jobs in the US and all the government loans made to US Auto Companies were paid back ahead of time.

President Obama decided to take on one of the major problems in the US: The American Healthcare System. The last time a US President was able to successfully pass major healthcare reform was in 1965 with President Johnson’s introduction of Medicare and Medicaid. Since then, most political experts consider major Healthcare reform as political suicide, but President Obama still decided to take it head on and was able to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”). It is not perfect by any means, but definitely a step in the right direction for America, where healthcare costs are some of the highest in the Western world. With “Obamacare,” health insurance companies cannot charge women more than men for the same coverage. Parents can keep their children on their family health plans until the age of 26. Seniors on Medicare will have free preventive services and also lower prescription costs. Romney said he will repeal the Affordable Care Act, and most likely allow Health Insurance companies to go back to running wild and abusing people who have pre-existing conditions (such as being a woman)!

President Obama and the Democrats, although far from perfect, are an inclusive party. Anyone who watched the conventions of the Democrats and Republicans could see with their own eyes, the GOP convention attendees were monolithic and not very diverse. The Democratic convention on the other hand, was the exact opposite. It featured people of all colors, backgrounds, and religions – including American Muslims. Unfortunately, the Republican party, over the past 12 years have moved to the extreme right and have now openly attacked American Muslims who serve in the US Military, Congress and other government positions. People such as Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachman and others who are deeply involved with the current direction of the GOP, are self proclaimed Islamophobes who flaunt their Anti-Muslim hysteria. President Obama on the other hand appointed several American Muslims to his administration including Farah Pandith, the first-ever Special Representative to Muslim Communities for the United States and Rashad Hussain, who serves as the U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a group representing 57 nations.

President Obama delivered on a campaign promise to address Muslims around the world from a Muslim capital within the first few months of him being elected by speaking at Cairo University in June 2009. Also during Obama’s first trip overseas as President, he also spoke to the Turkish parliament in April of 2009. I don’t remember the last time a US President travelled to and spoke publicly in two Muslim majority countries within their first
term, but it was a major change in US policy from the G.W. Bush era of shoot first and talk later.

President Obama ended the War in Iraq and also started to draw down troops in Afghanistan. By 2014 a majority of US troops will have left Afghanistan. He also ended the use of water boarding by US military prisons. President Obama has decimated Al-Qaida by taking out their leader Usama bin Laden – one of the worst terrorists of the 21st century. Some Muslims complain that Bin Laden should have been captured alive and tried in court. Let me respond this way: Usama bin Laden admitted to destroying the Twin Towers in NY on Sept 11th, 2001 and was the major cause of all the problems we Muslims now have here in the US (and other Western countries). We Muslims should be happy that Bin Laden is dead and that Al Qaida and other extremists are weakened around the world, especially in Pakistan, which has suffered a lot due to their extremism.

In terms of Pakistan, yes there are Drone strikes which no one, including myself likes, because they hurt and kill innocent people in the tribal areas of the North West Frontier Province, but do you think that you will have a better chance to end these drone attacks with Obama as President or Romney? This is a current US Military Tactic, which will not stop if Romney is elected as President. In fact, US foreign policy, under Romney will become much worse for Muslims, because he (Romney) has already called “Jerusalem” the capital of Israel (which is Not current US policy) and he will bring the same Anti-Muslim foreign policy team, which G.W. Bush had, back into the White House. They are already pushing for war with Iran, a trade war with China and causing problems with Russia! Now, do we as a country want to move backwards or forward?

President Obama successfully fought to prevent federal student loan interest rates from doubling for more than 7 million students, and capped federal student loan repayments at 10% of income. He also doubled funding for Pell Grants and established a college tax credit. As someone who started his college career at a local community college, I am happy to hear that President Obama is also investing in community colleges and career training programs. Plus, he doesn’t want to cut funding from PBS and fire “Big Bird” like Romney does!

President Obama renewed Unemployment Benefits twice. As someone who was unemployed for almost one full year, this definitely helped me and my family out. Not only that, a program called “Keep Your Home California” which was created because of the Obama Administration’s efforts to help people who lost their jobs to be able to keep their homes. This also directly helped me and my family out by helping us pay our mortgage bill while I was unemployed for 9 months.

To those who say that President Obama did not keep all his promises, such as not closing Gitmo. Let me remind them that Obama was blocked by the Republicans in Congress who did not allow the prison to be closed and the detainees to be tried in American courts (This is a reminder to everyone to vote for their local congressman as well, because the President cannot do anything if Congress is against him). See this article about the House blocking the closure of Gitmo from the Washington Post here: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/dec/8/congress-deals-death-blow-gitmo-closure/?page=all

If we as American Muslims really want change in the way that we are seen and perceived in our own country, then we need to step up and get involved in the US political system. We really have no right to complain, because we haven’t really been involved in the affairs of our country’s domestic policies (we have No influence at all in US foreign policy at this point) and only became “active” for the past 12 years. We always complain about how Israel can “get away with anything” and the US supports Israel no matter what. Let me explain briefly why this is. The American Jewish community has been involved in the affairs of the United States for well over 100 years (the ZOA was established in 1897). Not only that, but American Jews have gone into every major field of influence (Media, Politics, Law, Education, etc.) and became leaders in their respective fields. This is not something to condemn, but to applaud. They spread their influence and diversified their skills. We American Muslims on the other hand are disproportionally involved in Medicine, Computer Science and Engineering, and to top it off, we do not donate any money to political campaigns or lobbyists like other minority groups do. Then we complain because we voted once or twice, forwarded some emails and donated $20 for Obama’s campaign and then expect the whole world to change in our favor!

Sorry it doesn’t work like that my friends. US Foreign policy has been developed over decades and policies that were put in place over 70 years ago are still affecting decisions made today. To learn more about this, please read the book: “Obama and the Middle East” which I reviewed here: (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/almihrab/2012/09/before-you-blame-obama-for-the-problems-in-the-middle-east-read-this-book/)

In conclusion, if you want to give up on Obama because you feel that he disappointed you, then don’t vote for Obama. But keep in mind that by not voting or voting for a Third Party Candidate for President instead is basically giving your vote to Romney. Mitt will not only take your free vote, but he will not do anything at all to help American Muslims out. Romney’s foreign policy team is made up of Islamophobes, Pro-Military Extremists and War Hawks who are just waiting to attack Iran (by the way the government of Israel wants Romney to win as well because they felt Obama was too tough on them). But if you care about what is going to happen to this country that we have all either been born into or have come to for a better life, then we should not only vote, but also vote for the only candidate who can relate to us as a minority and has already listened to many of our concerns as American Muslims and has followed through on many of these items. He ended water-boarding torture which was initiated by G.W. Bush and Company. He ended the War in Iraq.

He is about to bring back the troops home from Afghanistan. He has helped to bring America back on its feet from an economic stimulus package which has helped save the US Auto Industry and bring continued job growth for the past 30 months. He has helped America take a step in the right direction by creating the Affordable Care Act which will help cover 30 million Americans, mostly children, who would not have had health insurance before. That candidate is President Barack Obama. Now go out and vote for him on November 6th.

Pakistan Minister Puts Bounty on Filmmaker

As Reported by Agence France-Presse

Pakistan’s railways minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour has offered a $100,000 reward for killing the maker of the US film mocking prophet Mohammed. His comments came a day after 21 people died in violent protests against the “Innocence of Muslims” film.

A Pakistani government minister Saturday offered a $100,000 reward for the death of the maker of the anti-Islam film produced in the US that sparked violent protests across the Muslim world.

Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour invited members of the Talban and Al-Qaeda to take part in the “noble deed”, and said given the chance he would kill the film-maker with his own hands.

Bilour was speaking to reporters in the northwestern city of Peshawar a day after violent nationwide protests against the “Innocence of Muslims” film left 21 people dead and more than 200 injured.

“I announce today that this blasphemer who has abused the holy prophet, if somebody will kill him, I will give that person a prize of $100,000,” Bilour said, urging others to shower the killer with cash and gold.

“I also invite Taliban and Al-Qaeda brothers to be partners in this noble deed,” he said.

“I also announce that if the government hands this person over to me, my heart says I will finish him with my own hands and then they can hang me.”

Protests against the film, which mocks Islam and was made by extremist Christians, have erupted across the Muslim world, leading to more than 50 deaths since the first demonstrations on September 11.

The publication this week of cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed in a French satirical magazine has further stoked anger.

The producer of the film, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, is reportedly a 55-year-old Egyptian Copt and convicted fraudster — out on parole — who lives in Los Angeles.

US media say Nakoula wrote and produced the film, using the pseudonym Sam Bacile before being identified. He was questioned overnight Friday by police before going into hiding with his family.

Thousands of Islamist activists in Pakistan staged demonstrations again Saturday but there was no repeat of the previous day’s widespread violence.

More than 5,000 protesters marched towards the parliament in Islamabad, including hundreds of women, chanting “We love our Holy Prophet” and “Punishment for those who humiliated our Prophet”.

Some 1,500 people from the hardline Islamist Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Sunni religious groups rallied in front of the US consulate in the eastern city of Lahore, chanting “The US deserves only one remedy — jihad, jihad”.

Hundreds gathered in the southwestern city of Quetta, calling for the makers of the film to be killed while scores in Peshawar, where six people died in Friday’s protests, chanted anti-US slogans.

Religious groups rallied in the southern port city of Karachi, where 15 people were killed Friday, after the funerals of the demonstrators took place.

Witnesses estimated that nationwide rallies on Friday mobilised more than 45,000, mainly members of right-wing religious parties and supporters of banned terror groups, although the numbers were still small in a country of 180 million.

Police fought back with gunshots and tear gas as arsonists and looters attacked cinemas, banks, shops and restaurants in Karachi, where outbreaks of political and ethnically linked violence have killed hundreds this year.

Four more people died overnight from wounds they received during the protests, taking the number killed across Pakistan on Friday to 21, health department officials said.

The combined total of wounded in Karachi, Peshawar and in the capital Islamabad was 229. Overall, 23 people have been killed in Pakistan during protests over the past week.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note– After a bone headed government declared a public holiday allowing the people to go and protest and then watched helplessly as private property got destroyed, with billions of rupees lost in revenue form business closure and or destruction, not to mention the loss of 23 Pakistani lives and countless others injured, along comes a Pakistani Minister of Railways who publicly puts a bounty on a person’s head! Oh Pakistan, you are the gift that keeps on giving! 😦

A Statue To Honor Hate and Terror

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

In Selma, Alabama, a new monument to the first leader of the Ku Klux Klan is under construction on public land. Selma, Alabama is the site of many struggles during the Civil Rights movement made famous by Rosa Parks and Martin Luthur King Jr III.

Thus far, the Selma city council is going ahead with allowing for renovations of the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a vigilante, a Confederate lieutenant general in the US Civil war, a war criminal, and widely acknowledged as the founder of the Ku Klux Klan.

The bust of his statue was stolen last year and now there are plans by a group known as the Friends of Forrest are replacing it, and according to local media, the United Daughters of the Confederacy are adding a pedestal and fencing to make it harder to steal the updated statue.
Not only has the Selma City Council, made up of five Black and four white city council members not done anything to prevent the building of this monument of hate and intimidation, they are also of the opinion that although the plot of land where the statue is to be built is in a public owned cemetery, the city council president, Dr. Cecil Williamson believes that the particular plot of land is owned by the Daughter of the Confederacy who are advocating for the renovation.

It is really disturbing that a monument to a man responsible for the terror that the Klan inflicted as well as caused the lynching of so many innocent blacks would be getting a monument built to him. It’s as if some Nazis in Germany decided to make a huge statue of Hitler on a public park across the street from a Synagogue. It would not stand and there would be immediate outcry against it. However no one has said anything and so far the plan is in place for this statue to be built.

I vividly recall when Muslims tried to build a mosque not so long ago in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, there was a huge outcry and in fact, members of the city filed a lawsuit that made it all the way to the state supreme court arguing, believe it or not, that Islam was not a religion and Muslims did not or should not have a right to build a house of worship on private property.
Forget that they weren’t building a statue to Osama Bin Laden, but rather a house of worship to worship the same God of Abraham, Noah and Moses as their Christian and Jewish brethern. Oh the hypocrisy! Yet there was a huge fight against that, and not a word against allowing for something to honor a vile a man as Bedford.

Here is an account from Harper’s Weekly of April 30, 1864, of what took place:
“On the 12th April, the rebel General Forrest appeared before Fort Pillow, near Columbus, Kentucky, attacking it with considerable vehemence. This was followed up by frequent demands for its surrender, which were refused by Major Booth, who commanded the fort. The fight was then continued up until 3 p.m., when Major Booth was killed, and the rebels, in large numbers, swarmed over the intrenchments. Up to that time comparatively few of our men had been killed; but immediately upon occupying the place the rebels commenced an indiscriminate butchery of the whites and blacks, including the wounded. Both white and black were bayoneted, shot, or sabred; even dead bodies were horribly mutilated, and children of seven and eight years, and several negro women killed in cold blood. Soldiers unable to speak from wounds were shot dead, and their bodies rolled down the banks into the river. The dead and wounded negroes were piled in heaps and burned, and several citizens, who had joined our forces for protection, were killed or wounded. Out of the garrison of six hundred only two hundred remained alive. Three hundred of those massacred were negroes; five were buried alive. Six guns were captured by the rebels, and carried off, including two 10-pound Parrotts, and two 12-pound howitzers. A large amount of stores was destroyed or carried away.”

Today on this anniversary of September 11, as we remember the largest terrorist attack on the US in history, we realize that we are only several weeks removed from the massacre at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin at the hands of the neo-nazi racist, Wade Michael Page. This should remind us that having crazy psychopaths is not the sole privilege of Muslims only and we should remember that terror and hate comes in all shades. Wade Michael Page was a terrorist as was Osama Bin Laden as is Nathan Bedord Forrest. Honoring any of these despicable individuals goes against what our nation stands for and against our constitution of all men created equal and liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.

To honor him and allow for this monument to be built in Selma would send the message to America’s minorities that white supremacy is not only on the rise but also is making dangerous headway again in the south and the Midwest. It’s as if in 100 years a group of skinheads get together in 2112, asking to build a monument and large statue of Wade Michael Page, across the street from the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. I would hope that there would be enough people left with some sense to stop that from happening also just as Bedford’s statue needs to be in Selma, Alabama. I hope that a hundred years from now, just as now, there would be people who would stand up for justice, truth and the American way, and Nathan Bedord Forrest was no American hero.

Why Do Republicans Dislike Muslims?

By Dr Hesham A. Hassaballa for Patheos

For many years of my adult life, I was a Republican and voted with the GOP in almost every election. For several of those years, in fact, I was in the Republican Party organization in my local township. I felt at home in the Republican Party, with its insistence on personal liberty and limited government. Moreover, I felt that it was more “faith-friendly,” with people of faith being more welcome among Republicans than Democrats.

In 2008, however, that all changed. With the repeated whispers among Republicans that Obama was a “Muslim,” as if that was some sort of plague or flaw, I was totally soured against the GOP, and I officially left the Party. Since then, I have periodically wondered whether I made the right decision. In 2011, in a column I wrote for Patheos, I came to the conclusion that I had done the right thing.

Since then, it seems that the Republican Party has decided that demonizing Islam and Muslims is good politics. Never mind that American Muslims are some of the most successful Americans around. Never mind that American Muslims are just the sort of people who would be good allies of the Republican Party. Never mind that American Muslims are an important part of the fabric of our country and marginalizing them—as with any other minority—can only hurt the country going forward.

No. It seems that the Republican Party does not want any Muslims in its ranks, and it is quite content with that.

Now, that last sentence that I wrote may have been out of emotion and without much basis in fact. But, in fact a recent poll by the Arab American Institute backs up that contention with actual fact. According to the survey, 57 percent of Republicans have an unfavorable view of Muslims. Only 26 percent have a favorable view of Muslims. Now, when asked about “Muslim Americans,” it got a little better: 47 percent have unfavorable views versus 35 percent with favorable views.

According to the survey, “Republicans and Romney voters only give strong negative ratings to Arabs, Muslims, Arab Americans, and American Muslims.”

As a whole, Republicans are just not that into Muslims. But, does that explain the seemingly endless demonization of Islam and Muslims from members of the Republican Party? Is it a personal bias and dislike of Muslims that leads Republican lawmakers from more than a dozen states to try an enact laws that ban “Sharia law”? It would be easy to draw this conclusion and move on.

But as I read on in the study, I was struck by something that really explained a lot behind this negative attitude toward Muslims. When asked, “Do you personally know anyone who is Arab or Muslim?” 49-63 percent of respondents answered in the negative, the most being among Romney voters. Among those who said they knew an Arab or Muslim, 56-65 percent had a favorable view.

That is the key, and it actually gave me a lot of hope. Simply put, we need to know one another better. I suspect that many of the negative feelings toward Muslims found in this study are due to the fact that most of the respondents do not know a Muslim. Once they know a Muslim, they realize that Muslims are Americans just like them who love their country deeply and wish for many of the same things that they do.

It’s going to take a lot of effort, for both the American Muslim community and their neighbors of other faiths. That work, however, is critical to our cohesion as a nation and a people. There are forces of hatred and division that are actively at work to make sure that this divide amongst us stays as wide as possible. We have to make sure that these efforts end up in miserable failure.

Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago-based physician and writer. He is author of, most recently, Noble Brother: The Story of the Prophet Muhammad in Poetry (Faithful Word Press). You can follow Hesham Hassaballa on Facebook. Hassaballa’s column, “An American Islam,” is published monthly on the Muslim portal. Subscribe via email or RSS.

Michele Bachmann and Muslim Witch Hunts

By Haris Tarin for The CNN

It is difficult being an American Muslim engaged in civic activities, let alone working in government or politics. We Muslims must always second-guess what we say, guard against people questioning our loyalty and make sure that nobody thinks we are trying to infiltrate the government to sabotage it from within and hand it over to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Most Americans would dismiss these accusations, especially the last one, as outrageous conspiracy theories written by loonies on their blogs. Yet American Muslim public servants are facing these charges from sitting members of Congress. The sad reality is that it has been happening for a decade, and has been met with complete indifference from the media and the public.

Recently, Rep. Michele Bachmann, briefly the front-runner for GOP presidential candidate, sent letters to the State Department, Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security asking them to investigate American Muslim organizations, individuals and government employees to determine if they are infiltrating the government and sabotaging it from within. This week, Newt Gringrich wrote an op-ed defending Bachmann’s request.

Bachmann and her friends — Republican representatives Trent Franks of Arizona, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Tom Rooney of Florida and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia — pulled out all the stops. They not only hurled these outrageous claims at our organization, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and others like ours, but also accuse Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief-of-staff of being part of the conspiracy.

Huma Abedin, married to former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, has served Clinton since she was the first lady. The slurs against her are beyond malicious. They accuse Abedin’s late father and her family of being a part of an international conspiracy seeking to sabotage the United States.
This latest witch hunt comes as no surprise to those of us in public life. This is a natural next step for hate mongers. First, people who do not have mainstream political backing start the rumors. Next, if we take a page from Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s 1950s playbook, the rumors become accusations leveled by the most politically privileged. It’s simple — the more accusations thrown at American Muslims trying to serve their country, the harder it is for them to be hired and the more politicians shy away from engaging them.

For years, we have watched presidential candidates talking about their discomfort with appointing Muslims to senior positions in government. We have seen them sparring over our ethics and principles. Legislation against Sharia law has been introduced in 20 states, frightening residents into thinking Sharia is an imminent threat. President Obama still faces vicious and pointed accusations of being a Muslim, as though it were a slur.
These attacks are real and hurt people’s lives. Public servants have been forced out of jobs, with suspicion shadowing them. Very few public officials have had the courage to publicly condemn the escalating witch hunt. Will this latest absurdity finally force our politicians and policy-makers to not only defend someone like Huma Abedin, whose public service needs no defense, but also all American Muslims who serve this country every day?

A few Republicans have rallied to Abedin’s side. This week, Ed Rollins, Bachmann’s former campaign chief, denounced her in an op-ed on Fox News. Speaker of the House John Boehner defended Abedin’s character.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain felt compelled to stand on the floor of the Senate and denounce the accusations. “Ultimately, what is at stake in this matter is larger even than the reputation of one person. This is about who we are as a nation, and who we aspire to be,” he said.
The question is whether this incident will serve as a tipping point. Will our political and religious leaders and the media push back against Islamophobes whose clear agenda is to marginalize American Muslims? Will this wave of McCarthyism be exposed, condemned and made politically unacceptable? Will American Muslim public servants be able to serve their country without suspicion?
Every year, my organization brings 25 young American Muslim leaders to Washington to help them better understand policy making. The majority are inspired to develop careers in government and public service.

Yet every year I ask myself: Are these individuals better off in banking, medicine and less high-profile careers? Am I exposing them to a career that will be tarnished by the likes of Michele Bachmann? In the end, I still believe that the sacrifice to serve this nation and make America a better place is worth the headache, and heartache, of dealing with bigots — including those in Congress.

Haris Tarin is the director of the Washington office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Religion Journal: For Ramadan, India Goes it Alone

By Joanna Sugden for The Wall Street Journal

Muslims start the month-long daytime fast of Ramadan Friday. But not in India.

While most of the world’s Muslims look to Saudi Arabia or follow astronomical calculations to determine when the new moon of the ninth lunar month has arrived – marking the start of Ramadan – India follows the declaration of its own Central Moon Sighting Committee.

“Geographical differences mean we are a day behind Saudi Arabia in terms of lunar months, so we are expecting to start on Saturday,” says Syed Tariq Bukhari, a member of the committee and general secretary of the advisory council at Old Delhi’s Jama Masjid, one of the country’s most important mosques.

At sunset Friday, the 29th day of the eighth lunar month, 21 senior leaders from Delhi’s mosques will meet to decide whether the new moon has been sighted. In the Muslim calendar, months are either 29 or 30 days long.

“It is very difficult to spot a new moon, particularly on the 29th day of the month because it appears for a very short time and is a very thin sliver,” Mr. Bukhari said, adding that the best time to spot a new moon is half an hour before sunset.

“If naturally we are not able to see it because it’s cloudy then we coordinate with the other committees of other cities who have similar geographic circumstances,” Mr. Bukhari said.

The committee then waits for a Shahadah or Islamic witness who has seen the new moon. “The appearance of the witness should be according to Sharia law, which means having a beard and his neighbors should know him as a dependable person as far as being a witness is concerned,” Mr. Bukhari added.

If no credible Islamic witness comes forward, the committee waits until between 80 and 90 other witness statements on sightings are collected by moon sighting committees across the country. Then it declares the start of Ramadan.

If the moon isn’t sighted at all in the last days of the lunar month, the committee waits until the first day of the ninth lunar month – which this year is on Sunday – to declare that Ramadan has begun. It announces the start of the fast via the media, to the government and over loud speakers from mosques.

Zasarul Islam Khan, president of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, an umbrella body for Muslim organizations, says the timing of Ramadan should always be based on local sightings of the moon.

“Outside the Subcontinent they are following Saudi Arabia, which is technically wrong. The scholars say that you should wait to see the new moon physically before starting Ramadan,” he told India Real Time.

Mosques in the southern Indian state of Kerala go by Saudi Arabian timings because they have close links with the Middle East, according to Mr. Bukhari. Those in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir go by Pakistan’s declaration as they are more geographically in line with the country, he adds.

The Fiqh Council of North America, which rules on matters of Islamic jurisprudence, says Muslims should follow precise astrological calculations to decide the start of the fast.

In sunlight hours during Ramadan, Muslims refrain from food, water, sex, smoking and oral medicine in order to bring desire under self-control and to focus on prayer and Allah.

This year, the fast coincides with the London Olympics, so Muslim athletes will have to decide whether to observe it and risk a dent in their performance or exempt themselves and carry out the fast once they finish the competition.

Maher Abu Rmeileh, a Palestinian Judo champion who is competing at the Games, told the BBC that he would not be observing Ramadan this year. “Scholars recommended me not to fast and said that I represented my nation not just myself, so once I return from the games I will have to make up for it,” he said.

Such a clash only happens once every 44 years and the International Olympic Committee has said it will look into the possibility of avoiding such a conflict in future, once London 2012 is over.

People exempt from fasting include pregnant women, children who haven’t reached puberty, menstruating women, breast-feeding women, the elderly, travelers and the chronically ill.

Mr. Khan said those who are sick or elderly are allowed to give to charity instead of fasting. If they are determined to observe Ramadan, they should consult their doctor, he added.

Joanna Sugden is freelance journalist living in Delhi. Before coming to India in 2011 she spent four-and-a-half years as a reporter at The Times of London, covering religion and education. You can follow her on Twitter @jhsugden.

Islam & the NYPD

By Dr Qanta A Ahmed for NY Post

The relentless campaign to paint the NYPD as Islamophobic is itself an offense to Islam. In fact, our faith compels American Muslims to stand with the NYPD — both to protect the faith, and by its direct dictates.

Let me be clear: By investigating Islamist sympathizers who seek to curtail the freedoms of all Americans, the NYPD is aggressively protecting the freedoms and privileges that Muslims enjoy in America (freedoms that aren’t available even in the birthplace of Islam).

Islamism is distinct from the beliefs the majority of Islam’s 1.6 billion followers hold dear. The cry of “Islamophobia” is often merely an effort to silence those of us who seek to communicate this distinction, or to express concerns about Islamism. Most Muslims are spiritually private, committed persons active in their societies without a subversive political agenda. Think of them as pluralistic Muslims.

Because America’s religious freedom is protected by constitutional ideals, Muslims can pursue this pluralistic life — an American life that makes private space for faith, in parallel to public roles. Indeed, Muslims in America are freer to do this than Muslims in Pakistan (where my family is from), Saudi Arabia (where I have lived) or even Indonesia, because each of these Muslim-majority countries imposes laws restricting the practice of religion.

In many ways, Muslims are best able to follow their Islam — to become Muslim in the fullest sense — here in America, because of this nation’s astonishing, constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.

Political Islamism — variously called radical Islam, jihadism or Islamic fundamentalism — is completely different. In contrast to our centuries-old faith, it’s a modern political project that seeks to return any society to a supposed “scriptural foundation” of the Muslim community, removing existing forms of government and laws.

Sound like a war? Well, in the wider world and here in America, there is indeed a war afoot — a war of ideas, a “Battle for the Soul of Islam,” as my colleague, American Islamic Forum for Democracy president Zudhi Jasser, has termed it.

In this battle, the Islamist thrives — citing freedom of speech, claiming disadvantaged civil rights, exploiting the privileges that a liberal democracy accords him. Often operating via advocacy groups or “Islamic societies” that purport to represent mainstream Muslims, he or she truly serves a political agenda centered on replacing liberal democracy with fundamentalist theocracy.

In fact, the Koran is explicit on the loyalties a Muslim must accord his host nation, mandating a Muslim’s duty to be an unwavering and loyal patriot:
O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey His Messenger and those who are in authority from among you. (Ch.4: V.60).

That verse demands the Muslim express loyalty to any ruling authority. This isn’t a suggestion, this is mandated Islamic duty.
The Koran does not state leadership specified as Muslim. Leadership is whomsoever is empowered in the society where the Muslim finds himself. For us here, that includes loyalty to the NYPD, the FBI and their work to safeguard our highest authority — the principles of our liberal democracy.
Can any one group speak for the entire American Muslim community? Islam is diverse — especially in America. Islamism isn’t. The sooner we understand this, the better — because at stake are America’s ideals.

America’s extraordinary freedoms afford us an ability to define our own expressions of Islam as Muslims in a way that no Muslim-majority nation secures for any Muslim anywhere today. We must preserve these values, and join the NYPD, in understanding the Islamist threat to these values.
This means we must support, not vilify, our policemen and -women, our federal agents and our police commissioner — especially when they gather and interpret information they need to preserve us and our values.

How many devout Muslims were among the thousands killed on 9/11? Let us never forget that Islamists — moving among the broader Muslim and secular communities — have wrought atrocities in this city and around the world, and seek to do so again.
If you choose to smear the NYPD for its work to protect us and our society, so too you choose to smear me, a pluralistic patriotic Muslim in America, for demanding an honest discourse.

Dr. Qanta Ahmed practices medicine in New York. She is the author of “In the Land of Invisible Women.”
Twitter: @MissDiagnosis