Saturday, 18 November 2017

Your Average Muslim | Full Documentary

Thursday, 16 November 2017

The grandfather of the European Enlightenment was Muslim

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What is the Muslim philosopher Averroes doing in the famous fresco “The School of Athens” of the Italian Renaissance painter Raphael? The painter brought together all thinkers and scientists that influenced the West. So, it’s no surprise that Plato and Aristotle are in the centre of this 16th century painting. More surprising is that two ‘Eastern’ persons are made part of the school: Zoroaster and Averroes. A similar surprise might occur to the readers of the Divina Commedia of Dante Alighieri. In this 14th century Renaissance masterpiece Dante gave his description of Heaven, Purgatory and Hell, with a special chapter on Limbo where good non-Christians were allowed to have a decent afterlife. In Limbo we not only find ancient Greeks and Romans, but also three Muslims: Averroes, Avicenna and Saladin.

The fact that two Renaissance masterpieces dealing with the fundaments of Western civilization are putting a Muslim in the centre of it, is odd to say the least. We learn that the Renaissance, Humanism and the Enlightenment were a purely European accomplishment. In this view, humanists like Petrarchwould have found lost Greek and Roman manuscripts in old abbey libraries. This would have triggered the end of the Dark Middle Ages, the revaluation of men over the Church and critical thinking over dogmas.

This historical narrative is simply wrong. Even though Roman books were indeed rediscovered, this is not true for the Greek texts. The most important Greek philosophers and scientists came to Europe because they were translated from Arabic, a translation movement that was initiated by the Caliphs of Baghdad in the 8th century. At the epicentre were Ptolemy’s astronomy, Euclid’s geometrics, and Galen’s medicine. At the same time, Indian and Persian scientific texts were translated. In turn, Muslim scientists wove these ideas together, both elevating them and creating new fields of science, such as chemistry and algebra. Their calculations were the basis of the discoveries of Copernic and Newton.

No less important at the court of Baghdad was philosophy. Plato and Aristotle were very popular and were the subjects of much study, discussion, and debate. However, Islamic philosophers ran into the same problem that both preceding Christians and those that would follow faced: how to reconcile philosophy with theology and sacred texts. In Europe, Saint Augustine (died 430 AD) had halted this debate in favour of theology, with critical thinking being banned ever since. Those that attempted to reopen this debate were quickly silenced or even excommunicated by the Church. Not so in the Arab World, at least not until the end of the 12th century.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Sperm Smugglers

But the idea gradually took hold and grew into a form of political dissent.

"The prisoners realised it wasn't a matter of social values and traditions," says Tawfiq Abu Naim, another former prisoner. "It's become a war between them and their jailers. The prisoners understand the confrontation and challenge between them and the jailer. So they try to come up with every possible way to break the barrier, get their sperm samples out, to defeat the jailer and reproduce... even when they're in prison."
But by the time the birth of babies conceived with smuggled sperm peaked in 2015, the Israeli authorities clamped down, tightening visitation rights and making it more difficult for prisoners to smuggle their sperm.
To make matters more difficult, Israel has denied identification documents or legal status of any kind to babies born from smuggled sperm. Babies born this way are also denied visitation rights to their imprisoned fathers.
"We applied for baby Asaad to visit his father in prison," explains Asaad Abu Salah, the toddler's grandfather, himself a former prisoner. "We talked with the Red Cross. They said this child is illegitimate and unrecognised by the Israeli occupation and prisons authority... these children are illegitimate and will not have ID cards. If the occupation continues, these children will not be registered in Gaza's civil records and will be banned from travelling. They will remain without any documents to prove their identities. They're unrecognised by the authorities, as if they don't exist."
But despite the hurdles, Asaad remains a source of hope for his mother, May.
"Just as he managed to get his sperm sample smuggled out of prison, he will also be released," she says. "My dream has come true. Hopefully, it will become even better when my husband is released."

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Response to Tommy Robinson’s “Mohammed’s Koran – Why Muslims Kill For Islam” by Khola Hasan

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Even the shortest of perusals of history books will reveal that adherents of all the world’s great faiths and empires have seen the ebb and flow of civilisation: sometimes rising to the heights of enlightenment, and at other times plummeting to the depths of barbarity. Faith teaches both physical and spiritual ascension, yet human beings can be frail and forgetful. To focus on the lowest times of a civilisation while forgetting the heights it soared in centuries past, as Robinson insists on doing, is simply irrational and ahistorical. The Muslim world is clearly passing through a time of immense intellectual, social, cultural, political and religious pandemonium. This has not always been so, and God willing, it will not be so in the future. The current malaise neither defines Islam nor is intrinsic to the faith. There are a variety of reasons for the malaise, many of them political and outside the control of Muslim countries themselves. Some commentators will explain that Muslim countries are mere pawns in a chess game for political and material control being played by much bigger and richer world powers. Others will explain that the Muslim world reached immense heights in the past, but then allowed itself to stagnate and stupefy. Its record on human rights, women’s emancipation and political transparency was one of the best in history, but it now wins prizes for the worst. Whatever the criticism, it is still fair to say that the Islamic world has given the world some of its most glittering, tolerant and scientific civilisations. To deny this and claim that Islam has contributed nothing positive to the world is sheer ignorance.
Robinson’s book divides history and our present existence into binary opposites. The premise, chapter, verse and conclusion of the book is that Islam is depraved, Christianity is noble. Muslims are uncouth, Christians are cultured. Islam destroys, Christianity builds. Muslims subjugate women, Christians elevate women. Islam ordains slavery, Christianity condemns slavery. Muslims are paedophiles, Christians are saints. And so on and on, ad nauseam. It is thus important to set the record straight. TR and his ilk need to realise that murderous genocide, racism, sexism and curtailment of basic human rights will certainly be found in the histories of all world civilisations. Christian rule has seen its fair share of psychopaths and tyrants, as has Islam. The torture of heretics, public lynchings of non-conformists, burning books and persecution of minorities can be found in the histories of all great empires. But there are also numerous examples of justice, emancipation, invention and tolerance. Just as it would be nonsensical to define Christianity by the Spanish Inquisition or the KKK, so it would be nonsensical to define Islam by Isis. Catholic priests who raped young boys and Muslim men who groomed and raped young white girls made a mockery of their religions and abused their positions of power. Such people have no faith, morality, decency or Godliness. Their respective religions cannot be defined or condemned because of their vileness.
There is a danger today from extremists among Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, the Far Right and others. Faith remains a powerful force in politics and popular culture; it can be utilised to offer peace, love and harmony, or it can be used to inflame, degrade and hate. Robinson’s book is an affront to all faiths, to history and to truth itself.
Read the rest of the blog.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

The forgotten Muslim heroes who fought for Britain in World War 1

Algerian soldiers on the way to the western front arrive in Paris in 1914. Photograph: Photo 12/UIG via Getty Images

Good piece in The Guardian today about the Muslim Soldiers in WW1 that fought for the British Empire.
A biting wind whips across the rolling countryside, cutting through the crowd gathered on a hillside overlooking Notre Dame de Lorette, France’s national war cemetery. Huddled amid what remains of the 440 miles of trenches that made up the western front, they shudder out of shock and surprise rather than cold while listening about life for the men who endured the horrors of the first world war.
More than 1.5 billion artillery shells fell in this part of northern France, close to the town of Arras, prompting soldiers to nickname the farmland in which they fought “the hell of the north”, or poignantly, “the cemetery”. It is the experiences of some of their Muslim comrades, however, that particularly capture the crowd’s imagination, drawing looks of disbelief at a history that has never been fully told.
Having travelled thousands of miles from hotter climes, these soldiers went into the trenches with imams whose duties included leading group prayers and reciting the call to prayer into the ears of the dying. Special orders had been issued on when and how to pray. “If the war is intense and the Muslim does not have a moment of peace to fulfil his prayer he can just move his head and torso,” said a declaration from French high command. “In the case where there are moments of calm, one can complete the prayer together.”
Hot halal food was routinely served, prepared by cooks who had accompanied the men. When medical supplies ran out, some of these soldiers used traditional herbal medicines from their homelands to help treat injured comrades, whatever their faith. Others taught their folk songs to those serving alongside them, whatever their language, in between the brutal onslaughts of trench warfare.
The evidence of their sacrifice is on display in a corner of Notre Dame de Lorette, which contains the graves of 40,000 French soldiers who fell on the western front. The Muslim headstones are distinguishable not just by their Islamic inscriptions but because they also tilt eastwards towards Mecca. They were designed by the French painter Etienne Dinet, who converted to Islam in 1908.
The crowd of mainly British Muslims, who were at Notre Dame de Lorette before this weekend’s Armistice Day commemorations, ended their visit by praying over the graves of the north African soldiers who shared their faith. Their visit formed part of a groundbreaking project by an organisation called the Forgotten Heroes 14-19 Foundation, which has, for the first time, documented the contribution of all the Muslims who fought and worked for the allied forces during the first world war. The 19 in its name refers to the conflict that was caused by the French military presence in Syria in 1919 after the first world war ended.
They were drawn from across Africa, India, the far and middle east, Russia and even America, but it is their heart-touching stories of living and dying alongside European Christian or Jewish counterparts that have resonated the most with Ferrier and his team. Knowing this history, they say, could help overcome some problems in the Europe of today.
Documents uncovered have shown instances of imams, priests and rabbis learning each other’s burial ceremonies and prayers to lay the dead to rest on the battlefront. There are reports of Muslim soldiers sharing food with hungry civilians, while French, Belgian and Canadian officers expressed surprise at their humane treatment of German prisoners of war. When asked to explain their conduct, the soldiers quoted the Quran and the teachings of Muhammad on how enemy combatants should be dealt with.
Ferrier, who is not a Muslim, said: “The far-right and Islamophobia is on the rise throughout Europe. Our project is about making all people across the continent understand that we have a shared history. This is not about politics or colonialism. We are simply presenting the facts because this is a story that the whole of Europe needs to know.
“Muslims are portrayed as the enemy within, that they are recent arrivals who have never made a valuable contribution to Europe. But we can show that they have sacrificed their lives for a free Europe, have helped to make it what it is and that they have a right to be here.”
Central to the foundation’s ethos is spreading knowledge of its findings to young Britons and Europeans in particular, with the aim that this will help future generations better understand the Muslim communities living among them. The battlefield tours, entitled The Muslim Experience in World War One, are organised in partnership with Anglia Tours, a company that specialises in battlefield visits for British schoolchildren.
In addition to visiting the trenches, memorials and graves, and hearing the human stories behind them, the tour also includes a visit to the El Badr mosque in Amiens for a presentation on the foundation’s research, followed by a traditional north-African meal. Non-Muslim visitors are also encouraged to witness evening prayers.
The foundation’s work has already caught the eye of first world war experts. Last month, Ferrier addressed historians at Harvard University and he has also presented a paper to the UN. Plans are under way for a book next year that will contain extracts of the documents and images that have been uncovered, and an exhibition is to tour Europe. As the research continues, he estimates that the current figure of 2.5 million Muslims helping the allies during the first world war could increase.


400,000 Indians (British Indian army)
200,000 Algerians , 100,000 Tunisians, 40,000 Moroccans, 100,000 West Africans, 5,000 Somalis and Libyans (French army)
5,000 American Muslims
1.3 million Russian Muslims
100,000 Egyptians
35,000 Chinese Muslims
130,000 North Africans
200,000 Sub Saharan Africans
40,000 Indians

Saturday, 11 November 2017

The Muslim Heritage of Bangladesh

Bangladesh has one of the world’s largest Muslim-populations in the world. Despite this, apart from the painful memories of the independence war in 1971, many in the community are unaware of the Islamic origins of the country. We explore the early seeds of Islam in Bengal, Muslim rule and the lessons we can learn from the past in the modern-day.

More about Islam and Muslims in Bangladesh here.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Can we stop pretending there’s just one kind of Muslim?

In your heart, it’s fine if you are praying they find guidance to a more pious path if that’s what you believe, but do not impose your practice on them. Let them meet and be among other Muslims. Invite them to your homes. Sometimes these people are strangers, but sometimes they will be your children, your cousins, your best friends. But it doesn’t matter because they are your sisters and brothers in Islam and they deserve to feel like a part of the Muslim family.
We should not be perpetuating a culture of such intolerance that children feel like they need to live double lives. When they are comfortable asking questions and talking to their parents and community about faith and when they know that despite mistakes and rebellion they are still loved, they are more likely not to resent this faith and culture. They will be more likely to find spirituality. 
I also want to take a moment to point out that this spectrum of faith is not a circumstance of being Muslim in the West. It happens everywhere. It is not a consequence of being young. Muslims of all ages have different perspectives. Muslims at any age in any country engage in all types of activity and I know this for a fact. Maybe people are sneakier or less public about their personal lives in stricter cultures, but I promise that it doesn’t matter where you are, Muslims are not uniform in any society.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Muslim New Yorkers are bracing themselves for hate crimes after Tuesday’s terror attack
“I was thinking, ‘Please, God, don’t let it be a Muslim,’” Sarsour said in an interview Wednesday morning.

Her fears were realized around 1:45 p.m. when she saw reports indicating the attacker allegedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” after fleeing his truck.
Around 2:45 p.m. authorities identified 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov, who is originally from Uzbekistan, as the suspected driver.
Sarsour, who routinely wears a hijab, said no one at the airport gave her dirty looks or comments Tuesday. After tweeting her condolences on Twitter, however, the responses she received were predictably vicious.