Thursday, 22 March 2018
Wednesday, 21 March 2018
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "Religion is very easy, and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded." Sahih Al-Bukhari
Tuesday, 20 March 2018
The torture victim stood in front of her tormentor wondering what treatment would be meted out this time in the notorious Branch 215, also known as Raid Brigade run by military intelligence in Damascus. Would it be a merciless beating or would it be another sex assault on her already broken body?
The start of the investigation was interrupted suddenly by a ringing telephone and she watched and listened with incredulity as the voice laughing and giggling down the line prompted the torturer to break into a warm smile. Almost automatically, he softened the tone of his voice, for that is the effect most daughters have on their fathers.
In the seconds that he looked away from his torture victim he had morphed from brutal monster into a warm and caring father. This was one of the more chilling aspects that emerged from the stories I heard from Syrian women who have been swept up on an industrial scale and thrown into Bashar Al-Assad’s prisons since the start of the 2011 war. The cold reality is that the mass rapes, sexual assaults, punishment beatings and mental torture are being inflicted on women routinely by someone else’s fathers, husbands and even grandfathers.
At the end of the shift, these men must return to their family homes and normality, having completely destroyed the lives and souls of the women and young girls in their grip. The harsh reality is that if your husband works in Branch 215 then he is probably a serial rapist or is standing by as a spectator watching the most heinous, unimaginable crimes being carried out on women prisoners and girls.
I wonder how this particular monster responded when he got home and was asked, “What did you do today, Daddy?” Obviously he would not be telling his daughter about the teeth he smashed, the bones he had broken or the sex he had forced on his victims.
While trying to shine a light on this dark underbelly of the Assad regime, I met several women who ended up in Branch 215 or other equally terrifying prisons and ghost jails run by the Syrian regime. In every encounter, the image of Bashar Al-Assad loomed large, either in portraits hanging on walls or on the T-shirts worn by the men responsible for the brutal rapes.
Yes, you read that accurately. Incredible as it may seem, the face of the Syrian leader is emblazoned on T-shirts worn by the rapists in his employ, as if he defiles Syrian women by proxy. No wonder that many who manage to get out of the prisons cannot bear to look at the face of the Syrian leader. Those small, thin lips and piercing stare must send shivers down their spines every time they see his image.
Monday, 19 March 2018
I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, which is 82% Black American. In contrast, Dearborn, MI, which borders Detroit, has the highest concentration of Arab Muslims in the country and also is home to the largest masjid in the country. I attended Wayne State University (WSU), which is located in Detroit (the actual city, not the suburbs). Compared with other universities, the campus was not large and much of it included the city of Detroit itself. However, I knew WSU had a lot of Muslim students so I was excited to meet fellow Muslims.
Yeah well… with a few exceptions, many of the non-Black Muslims looked at me with disdain, as if I walked around with something on my face. The first Muslims that I met on campus were a Somali family from Canada who I loved dearly. After (semi)joining the Muslim Student Association (MSA), I met another sister who was kind to me, treated me like a normal person and actually asked me about my community and my teacher. I met a few Muslims after joining other school organizations who were cool also. Other than that, I stayed with my own friends who were primarily Black American Muslims as well.
It’s safe to say that my entrée into college was a cultural shock. The few times I went to an MSA event, I could feel eyes burning down my back. Every now and then, a sister would question me about my style of khimar (often times in a bun and accessories adorning my head, or African fabric wrapped up high in a gele or wrapped tightly around my head with multiple colors and patterns), as their friend with no khimar stood by and watched the interrogation. When I walked around campus and gave sisters the greetings of peace, they would either ignore me or just say a half-hearted “salaams” in return. One time, I volunteered at a dawah table during Islamic Awareness Week and none of the sisters at the sisters’ table spoke to me, even though I tried repeatedly to be social and involved in the conversation. I once had a sister who saw me with my KhaliqArt skirt on, saw the letter “Kha” and asked me if it was haram (prohibited in Islam). Mind you, it is a letter…of…the Arabic alphabet. That’s akin to asking if wearing the letter K on your shirt is un-American.
My expression of my Black Muslim identity (American clothes, khimar style and knowledge of Islam) was being challenged. I couldn’t understand why; and for a while, I felt conflicted. To be considered a “real” Muslim, you have to fight for Palestine, Iraq and Iran? I have no problem speaking out against injustices inflicted upon brothers and sisters in the Middle East, but I often wondered why the same importance wasn’t given to the brothers and sisters in Africa or their distant relatives in America? It’s safe to say that the realization of the racism in the Muslim community was eye-opening. I had expected to be welcomed into a global community like I had been part of it since birth, yet I was being ignored and dismissed as a Black Muslim.
The denial of Blackness in Islam is not a new phenomenon. Just as American textbooks would have us believe that our history started on plantations, some in the Muslim community would have you believe that Black Muslims don’t exist, or that we’re just relegated to being an abeed (slave). Mind you, the richest person ever in the history of man was Mansa Musa —an African Muslim king. One of the most influential men in American history was Malcolm X, a Black Muslim man. However, you rarely hear non-Black Muslims speak of Mansa Musa; and when Brother Malcolm is mentioned, often it is in a way that seeks to separate him from his activism. Brother Malcolm to be exact, was firm and grounded in his Blackness, even after he made Hajj. Yes, Hajj introduced him to a broader, global view of Islam, but that in no way prevented him from continuing to fight for the justice of his people. You have to be in tune with your Blackness to even fathom the plan Malcolm had for his people.
When I was younger, I sometimes tried to understand why some non-Black Muslims would look at me with such disdain. The answer is simple: while Islam does not condone or promote racism, cultures do. And because I am proud to be a Black Muslim woman, it scares some people. Why?
Friday, 16 March 2018
I have a lot of love for this Sheikh, need more of him :)
In a nearby village, Saeeda* holds her youngest daughter as she talks about how she was brought to Haryana 20 years ago with her sister.
“I only know that I arrived in Haryana when I was 11,” she says. “I was brought here with my sister but I haven’t seen her since we arrived.”
She was sold to Azim, a widower 20 years older who already had six children by his first wife. She says she was beaten by her husband and his family. “They wanted me to obey them, and if I objected they always had the same words for me: ‘We own you because we bought you.’”
Saeeda was visited by activists from Empower People who told her what rights she had as a wife and mother. Now, her husband has agreed to give her a property in her name, which means that she and her children are secure if Azim dies before she does.
Many paros, she says, are thrown out of the family home when they are widowed. Her home has become a meeting place and refuge for the other paro women living in her village, and she also helps others in her wider community who have been trafficked into marriage.
“Now I have enough courage to fight,” she says.
Thursday, 15 March 2018
They have survived rape and the slaughter of their families. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya girls and women fled Myanmar to escape a military crackdown.
In Bangladesh's refugee camps they thought they would be safe. But inside the tents that house almost a million Rohingya refugees, women and girls are being bought, sold and given away.
Girls are being forced into marriage because relatives can't afford to feed them, or are being lured to brothels with the promise of good jobs. We investigate the dangers still facing Rohingya women and meet the people seeking to exploit them.
Wednesday, 14 March 2018
“The loss of Andalusia is like losing part of my body,” H.R.H. Prince Turki al-Faisal told me.
I had asked him what the loss of Andalusia meant to him as an Arab. The son of King Faisal, widely celebrated in the Muslim world, Prince Turki heads The King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s preeminent think tank, and has been Saudi ambassador to the U.S. and the U.K. The question had excited the normally taciturn prince. The mask of cultural and royal impassivity developed over a lifetime of diplomatic dealings had dropped as his body and voice expressed high emotion. The image of Andalusia had struck a nerve: “The emptiness remains.”
“‘Andalusia was the exact opposite of Europe at that time — [then] a dark, savage land of bigotry and hatred.’”
When I asked him what Andalusia meant to him, he replied, “I have a passion for Andalusia because it contributed not only to Muslims but to humanity and human understanding. It contributed to the well-being of society, to its social harmony. This is missing nowadays.” For the prince, “Andalusia was the exact opposite of Europe at that time — [then] a dark, savage land of bigotry and hatred.”
At its height, Andalusia produced a magnificent Muslim civilization — religious tolerance, poetry, music, learned scientists and scholars like Averroës, great libraries (the main library at Cordoba alone had 400,000 books), public baths, and splendid architecture (like the palace complex at the Alhambra and the Grand Mosque of Cordoba). These great achievements were the result of collaboration between Muslims, Christians and Jews — indeed the work of the great Jewish Rabbi Maimonides was written in the Arabic language. It was a time when a Muslim ruler had a Jewish chief minister and a Catholic archbishop as his foreign minister. The Spanish had a phrase for that period of history — La Convivencia, or co-existence.
The civilization of Muslim Spain was the embodiment of the Islamic compulsion to seek ilm, or knowledge. Andalusia produced many firsts, the first person to fly, Ibn Firnas, after whom a moon crater was named, as well as a bridge in present-day Cordoba and the first philosophical novel, by Ibn Tufail. Through Spain, Europe received models for universities (Oxford and Cambridge are examples), philosophy and literature (for example the work of Thomas Aquinas), and the study of medicine originating from the work of Avicenna and Abulcasis.
There were two distinct Muslim responses which emerged from that time and would cast their shadows on the present. Both Jalaluddin Rumi and Ibn Taymiyyah lived at the time of the destruction of the Arab world. Rumi was alive when Baghdad was sacked. Ibn Taymiyyah was born five years after its destruction.
The impact of that time is clear in the way these two looked at the world. Rumi responded by consciously rejecting barriers and differences between people and reaching out to everyone with love. Ibn Taymiyyah responded in exactly the opposite way by underlining the threat to Islam and advocating for the drawing of rigid boundaries around the faith. He famously issued a fatwa against the Mongol rulers, even those who claimed to have converted to Islam because they did not adhere strictly to the sharia. He declared a jihad against them which was compulsory for all Muslims. The notion of Islam in danger may be traced to Ibn Taymiyyah. Both men continue to influence Muslim thinking in our time. Mystics throughout the world are inspired by Rumi, groups like the Wahhabis and the Salafis draw their inspiration from Ibn Taymiyyah.
Tuesday, 13 March 2018
“The Gaza Strip has just declared ‘a state of emergency’. Whilst the BDS movement bolsters its wins, Gaza’s humanitarian crisis grows worse as the money pours into the hands of Israelis from international organizations seeking to help.
The humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip right now – brung about as a result of Israel’s 12 year, illegal siege – has seen next to no coverage, being completely ignored by most popular News outlets.
Lately, the cause for ‘Palestinian human rights’ has been growing in support amongst people of the West, with many coming to terms with the reality of Israel’s brutality against the Palestinians. As a result of growing support for the cause, many people are now active in sharing information regarding human-rights abuses, carried out against the Palestinians, few however are sharing the following information.
Israel is making big bucks off of the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, in fact, the worse the situation gets the more Israel makes.
If there is to be real efforts in a Boycott of Israel, perhaps not paying into the Israeli economy – international aid – would be a start.
Israel are actually rewarded – with hard cash, the usage of their services and work for their people – whilst they purposefully strangle the Gazan population. That’s right, people giving money to International Organizations, sending aid to Gaza, are actually contributing to an Israeli incentive to make Gaza’s conditions even worse.
How are International Organizations giving Israel the incentive to make Gaza’s condition more unlivable?
The answer to this is very simple, International Organizations, seeking to send aid into Gaza look for the cheapest options available to them, in order to send as much aid into the Strip as necessary. According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), more than 80% of Gaza’s population are dependent upon International relief, this means there is a lot of items crossing the Erez (Israel/Gaza) border to help the people.
The International Aid Agencies then take their budgets and spend on the cheapest and most efficiently delivered items available, which come from… you guessed it, Israel. Normally products produced in Jordan or other neighboring countries would be cheaper, but due to international import taxes – into Israel, then through the border into Gaza – the price ends up being cheaper for Israeli made goods.
In 1994 Israel and the “Palestinian Liberation Organization” (PLO) signed an economic deal, known as the ‘Paris Agreement’, this agreement ultimately concluded that no import tax was to be charged on items entering the Gaza Strip from Israel. As a result of this Agreement, Israel has been able to make a monopoly out of International aid, coming in to supposedly help the deprived people of the Gaza Strip.
People now maybe asking why the border between Egypt and Gaza is not utilized, the answer to this, is that the Rafah crossing (Egyptian border) opens a few times per year and is also at he mercy of Israeli decision makers, who will not allow for aid to come through frequently this way.
More than just buying a few Israeli good, this is an industry for Israel.
Israel are not just having a few goods purchased from them, they are literally supplying the food to most Gazans. More than 80% of Gaza is completely impoverished and the worse it gets, the more aid is needed. Gaza has a population of over 2 million, thats a lot of goods everyday, for a lot of people.
Israel are never scrutinized for this and if International Aid Organizations, decided at this point to buy from elsewhere, there is every chance Israel could just close the Gaza border.
Think about this, Israel strangles the population of Gaza and for the tighter the death grip, the more revenue they receive, its the ultimate display of dominance and inhumanity. Not only are goods being purchased, this creates for jobs in Israel stimulating their economy. Even in order to bring the goods into Gaza, Israeli trucks are being used for this.
So what is the solution?
Well for a start, this is something that the BDS should at the very least be discussing!
If we simply leave this very important issue alone, we will allow for the humanitarian crisis to get worse and worse in Gaza. This is a key issue to act upon and will effect Israel greatly, if we are able to change the situation at hand.
This article is a condensed version of this case, written to try and get this point across, this is an urgent matter as people are dying as a result of inaction on this issue.
If we want the siege on Gaza to end, we need to take away the incentive of Israel to make money off of it, or at the very least, make people aware that they are.”