Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Hadith of the day: Do not overburden yourself

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

Assad’s rape victims break their silence

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

Black Muslim Women: Discrimination and Identity

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

Shaykh Abdallah Adhami - Gender & Sexuality in Islam

I have a lot of love for this Sheikh, need more of him :) 

'I was bought for 50,000 rupees': India's trafficked brides

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

Brides to Brothels: The Rohingya Trade

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

What can Andalusia teach us about living together?

“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.”

Monday, 12 March 2018

Meet The Teenagers Who Were Shot With Malala by the Taliban and Kept Going To School

If you’re like most of us, you’ve already heard the story of the Taliban’s attempted assassination of then 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai.
The account is known by millions around the world – so much so that Malala is a near-household first name at this point.
But very few know about the other two other girls who were wounded in the attack back on October 9, 2012, with Malala.
Malala’s friend Shazia Ramzan was shot twice in the arm and her friend Kainat Riaz was shot in the hand. Malala’s injuries obvious required much more intensive medical attention and expertise – so much so that she was airlifted to Britain for treatment – but these other two teens faced daunting challenge on their own, without Western help, and in spite of it all, they continued their education in a country where girls are shot just for fighting for an education.
Riaz says she was so afraid that she “didn’t go to hospital [right away] because I felt that the guy would come again and he will shoot me….[F]or one week I couldn’t sleep at all. Because whenever I just closed my eyes [I pictured] what happened to us on the bus: lots of blood and Malala and my hand.”
Both Ramzan and Riaz say that they were still determined to go to school after they recovered – and that’s exactly what they continued doing.
People around them were scared to help out though.
“We [asked] other people for bus travel,” Riaz recalls. “Openly they told us, ‘No, we are scared. We are sorry we can’t pick you up.’ After three months we had a bomb blast behind my house. So my town told me, ‘This happened because of you and you should leave the town.’”
But Malala never forgot them. In 2013 when UWC Atlantic College, boarding school in Wales, offered her a scholarship, she declined, and asked instead that her friends be given the opportunity to come study in safety there.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Paul Moore guilty of horrific car attack against Muslims in Leicester

Paul Moore has been found guilty of the attempted murder of mother of 9, #ZaynabHussein.
He hit her with his car and ran over her twice breaking her pelvis, four vertebrae, arms and a leg.

Mrs. Hussein said: “I was walking on the footpath, minding my own business…it [the car] impacted me from behind”.
She added: “As I lay on the ground I could see blood coming from my head”.
Being unable to get up, she lay on the ground “completely helpless” for a number of minutes, after which she was hit a second time.
Mrs. Hussein said: “all of a sudden, a car ran over me and hit me a second time…I remember the impact and hear cracking sounds as though bones were breaking in my legs”.
Mrs. Hussein also said: “It was when a car hit me for the second time, I knew it was someone trying to kill me”.

Moore said he was "proud of himself" that he did Britain "a favour."
He then tried to knock over a 12-year-old Muslim girl.
She spoke of how the car was travelling at significant speed and had mounted the pavement. She stated that the car “scraped” her, throwing her bag “flying into the air”.

Racially and religiously aggravated hate crimes have seen a significant increase in the last few years over England and Wales, and in particular Leicestershire.
The Leicestershire police force reported 1,010 racially or religiously aggravated hate crimes in 2016/17 which is an increase of nearly 45% from the previous year (697).

Monday, 5 March 2018

A gunman killed his brother. Now Farris Barakat is on an American journey.

On the house that Farris Barakat built, the words of Martin Luther King Jr. wrap around the porch overhang, as though they were protection from the outside world: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
It took his brother's death for Farris to fully embrace those words.

In February 2015, Deah Barakat was gunned down along with his wife of six weeks, Yusor Abu-Salha, and her sister Razan.

News of the triple slaying at a Chapel Hill apartment complex reverberated here and around the world as another instance of hatred toward Muslims. A neighbor was charged with three counts of murder but not a hate crime -- sparking further outrage.
The deaths yanked Farris from his life's trajectory and set him on one he had not anticipated.
At 24, he abandoned his courier business and everything else to speak out against hate. He devoted much of his time to renovating a 105-year-old rental house his brother had owned in a rundown neighborhood east of downtown Raleigh.
Farris named it for his brother. Deah means "light" in Arabic, and The Light House now serves as a center for youth, a gathering place Farris hopes will further Deah's dreams for a more tolerant America.

Here, at this house, Farris hopes to find the light that was so cruelly snuffed out.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Where is the "Muslim World?" | Professor Tony McEnery

What is the Muslim world? At TEDxLancasterU, linguist Tony McEnery argues that this phrase, which was used 11,000 times in articles discussing Islam written from 1998 to 2009 by the British press, highlights an unsettling trend in the media -- using language that characterizes Muslims as violent and unusual -- a trend that, as he shows, has a long history and he asks us to change.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

When Malcolm X visited Smethwick after racist election

"The politics of racism and anti-racism that was born out of American struggles strongly influenced the ways in which race was conceived of in Britain. The ripples of the civil rights movement were felt across the Atlantic in 1960s Britain, where images of the civil rights movement in the South and urban revolts in the North were circulated widely by the media.

"This was brought into sharp focus by Malcolm X's visit to the Black Country town of Smethwick. His presence was opposed by both liberals and conservatives within Britain, representing the dangerous possibility of black resistance spreading from America to the West Midlands. This anxiety was powerfully expressed by Enoch Powell in his Rivers of Blood speech three years later."
In an interview with a local BBC journalist, when asked why he decided to visit Smethwick, Malcolm X drew parallels with Nazi Germany.

"I have heard that the blacks ... are being treated in the same way as the Negroes were treated in Alabama- like Hitler treated the Jews."

For Jouhl, inviting Malcolm X to Smethwick was an expression of solidarity.
"We didn't hope to take anything from it other than strengthening the bonds between us. It was an act of proletarian internationalism," he said.

"We hoped to show solidarity with the struggle of the African Americans who, at that time, were involved in a bitter struggle with US imperialism."

Monday, 26 February 2018

She’s The Most Famous Sufi Woman In The World: Meet Rabia al-Adawiyya

According to the Sufi poet Fariduddin Attar, Rabia came from a poor family of four from Basra, Iraq. When her father died, she was auctioned as a slave for a few dirhams. Despite all, this she said:

O God, I am a stranger, without father or mother; I have been sold in bondage, and now my wrist is broken. But despite all this, I am not distressed about anything that has befallen me. I only wish you to be content, so that I might know if I have gained your satisfaction or not.

She remained completely devoted to God through prayer and complete remembrance through the difficult time of enslavement and poverty. It is said that when her master saw light around her during prayer, he could not confine her to slavery and set her free. Rabi’a withdrew herself from her previous life to go to the desert and become devoted to works of piety. Her complete affection for her religion and meditation, piety and patience is what she is remembered for today through sayings such as:

Oh God! If I worship You for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell, and if I worship You in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise. But if I worship You for Your Own Sake, grudge me not Your everlasting Beauty.

Through her way of life, traditional gender roles and the status of wealth in society were being questioned. Her life as an independent, influential and intellectual woman showed that wealth and status are not acquired through financial resources, but rather through richness in spiritual value and control of the ego. One needs not to be a man or rich to therefore have a higher status in the eyes of God. Rabi’a led a life in which she had completely detached herself from all other desires but the love for God. She showed in this way that having this personal bond was something that both men and women are capable of striving for and that any man and woman can live this free path of life. It was her high-spiritedness with which she put man around her in her place, among which by rejecting many marriage proposals she received:

God can give me all you offer and even double it. It does not please me to be distracted from Him for a single moment. So farewell.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

'Islam saved me from a life of crime'

I gave my Shahādah, the testament of faith, that night, and everything changed. I no longer had this desire to use drugs, and I’ve been clean now for five years. It changed my entire life. It gave me the means and the rules and the path to follow to achieve what I’d set out to achieve a year before I converted, which was to strive to become the best version of myself. When you’re doing that on your own with no rules to follow, it can be a tough process.

Part of the appeal of Islam was the strength of character of the Muslim people that I’d met. The fact that they didn’t use drugs and drink at all was something that really appealed to me. It was the polar opposite of how I’d been living my life and seemed to require such strength of character. As a young man, I was always drawn towards strength.

It was not just a good system [for me] to follow. I agree with all the theology – I do believe that the Koran is the last Book of Revelations. I now have a renewed interest in the Bible and the books that came before it because, from our point of view, I know that there is truth in these documents, whereas before, as a loose Christian, I don’t know that I had any belief in them at all.
I’ve been called a terrorist. It’s like water off a duck’s back for me, but if it’s directed at someone who I’d consider vulnerable, it makes me angry. It amuses me in a way – I’m a blue-eyed Aussie bloke with a Southern Cross tattoo, and to be discriminated against for the first time in my life is an interesting feeling. It’s a weird feeling to have someone hate you, not because of anything you’ve done to them, or anything about you, other than what you believe. They hate you without knowing you.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

I’m Ahed Tamimi’s cousin. Israel needs to stop imprisoning kids like her

Ahed and I are the second generation of Tamimis to spend our whole lives under Israel’s oppressive 50-year military rule. We grew up under the constant watch and control of Israeli soldiers. At a young age, we had to learn resilience, determination and persistence. In order to survive, we had to be acutely aware of our surroundings at all times. Even the most basic things, such as being able to move freely or take a day trip wasn’t a possibility because of military checkpoints and other impediments. We had no room to breathe — sometimes literally, as clouds of tear gas fired by soldiers engulfed us and filled our homes.
Sadly, we are used to soldiers forcing their way into our homes, their cameras clicking as they take photos of the males in the family, documenting how many windows and doors we have, and stealing and destroying our personal belongings. There is no privacy. In addition to my father, my mother and brother have also been imprisoned. Ahed’s uncle was shot and killed by soldiers during a demonstration in 2012, while her mother was shot in the leg during another march and developed asthma because of the tear gas.

I was released on bail after 16 days, but Ahed has now been languishing in prison for nearly two months, as has her mother. On Jan. 31, she spent her 17th birthday in a cell.  The start of her trial in a military court has been delayed several times. The latest postponement came on Tuesday, when it was rescheduled for March 11. In a blatant attempt to avoid the scrutiny of the international media, the judge also ruled that journalists will be barred from attending. The charges that Ahed faces carry a maximum sentence of 20 years. I still face charges as well.
In prison, we were treated very badly. After being arrested, Ahed was taken into a basement cell and interrogated without a parent or lawyer present. She and I were repeatedly moved from one prison to another, held with regular Israeli criminals, and subjected to sexist and degrading verbal harassment. The army knows how to place psychological pressure to break you. They deprived us of sleep and food, and I was forced to remain seated in a chair unable to move for long hours at a time.

When we were brought to military court for a hearing, it was very hard seeing our parents sitting in the back feeling worried and helpless. My uncle Bassem Tamimi, Ahed’s father, and my own father know firsthand what Israeli prison feels and smells like. Both have been imprisoned multiple times because of their nonviolent resistance to Israel’s occupation. Bassem was named a prisoner of conscience twice by Amnesty International, which has also called for Ahed’s release. They know that we were held in a freezing-cold cell as we waited for our hearing. They know the pain of the handcuffs as they are tightened on our wrists and ankles, and how dirty the cells are, and the smell of rotten food. They understand what it feels like to be isolated in a cell — completely alone, cold and frightened, unsure of what will happen to you. Like her parents and siblings, I fear for the well-being of Ahed and the more than 300 other Palestinian children currently imprisoned by the Israeli army.

We have had our childhood stolen from us, never knowing the feeling of safety, security, and quiet. The unfortunate truth is that this isn’t only the reality of Ahed and I, or of Nabi Saleh. It is the reality of most Palestinians, especially the young ones.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

The Female Quran Experts Fighting Radical Islam in Morocco

It’s one of many countries around the world experimenting with various “countering violent extremism” (CVE) or de-radicalization programs. As Maddy Crowell noted in The Atlantic, “Germany, Britain, and Belgium have developed programs that focus on further integrating radicals into their community. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, focuses on finding jobs and wives for recruited jihadists.” But programs that reach people once they’ve already been radicalized might come too late. “The most effective kind of rehabilitation and reintegration is the rehab and reintegration that doesn’t have to happen, because the person was afforded an off-ramp before they got to the point of no return,” Nathan Sales, the coordinator for counterterrorism at the U.S. State Department, told me. “What does that look like? It looks like early intervention and not necessarily and maybe not ideally by government officials.”

Early intervention spearheaded by local community leaders and groups, as opposed to government officials, was a focus of America’s CVE approach under the Obama administration. “Community leaders, neighborhood leaders have a comparative advantage in a number of different dimensions,” Sales said. “They will know more than government officials will about problems that might be cropping up and they also have a way to intervene in a way government people wouldn’t be able to … to steer somebody who is at risk of taking a wrong path and bringing them back into the fold.” President Trump recently stripped funding from several groups aiming to counter extremism through this kind of outreach. Meanwhile, Morocco has continued to invest in it. Through various experimental initiatives, the country is attempting to show how a certain kind of religious education can prevent extremism.

One particular initiative comes with a twist: It places a special emphasis on women. Eleven years ago, Rabat saw the opening of an elite new school called L’Institut Mohammed VI Pour La Formation Des Imams, Morchidines, et Morchidates. It turns young women into religious scholars and then sends them out into pockets of the country where radical Islamists are known to recruit disenfranchised youth—to provide spiritual guidance that contradicts the messages they might receive from violent extremists. Making school visits and home visits, each woman—called a morchidat, or spiritual guide—talks to young Muslims and contests interpretations of the Quran that terrorist groups use for recruitment. For women to be employed by the government to do this kind of work within Morocco’s Islamic communities, where spiritual leadership is generally the domain of men, is unusual. Men are also trained at the Rabat school, but it’s the hundreds of female graduates who are having the most impact, according to the program director, Abdeslam El-Azaar.

“I’ll tell you frankly, the women scholars here are even more important than men,” said El-Azaar, a thin grandfatherly man in a cream-colored Moroccan tunic and a burgundy fez. “Women, just by virtue of their role in society, have so much contact with the people—children, young people, other women, even men. ... They are the primary educators of their children. So it is natural for them to provide advice,” he said. “We give them an education so they can offer it in a scholarly way.”

Monday, 19 February 2018

Secret marriages are forbidden in Islam

In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful
It is a condition of a sound marriage that it be announced and attested to publicly. A secret marriage, which is only witnessed by a few people in private, is potentially harmful to those affected by it, as it almost always involves deception, and it is even more so if a man marries an additional wife in secret and without her consent.

Allah said:

فَانكِحُوهُنَّ بِإِذْنِ أَهْلِهِنَّ وَآتُوهُنَّ أُجُورَهُنَّ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ مُحْصَنَاتٍ غَيْرَ مُسَافِحَاتٍ وَلَا مُتَّخِذَاتِ أَخْدَانٍ
Marry them with the permission of their families and give them their due as is good, chaste women, neither fornicators nor secret mistresses.
Surat al-Nisa 4:25

Scholars have said that this verse prohibits secret marriages, by drawing an analogy between a ‘secret mistress’ and a secret marriage.

Ibn Taymiyyah writes:
وَمَالِكٌ يُوجِبُ إعْلَانَ النِّكَاحِ وَنِكَاحُ السِّرِّ هُوَ مِنْ جِنْسِ نِكَاحِ الْبَغَايَا وَقَدْ قَالَ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى مُحْصَنَاتٍ غَيْرَ مُسَافِحَاتٍ وَلَا مُتَّخِذَاتِ أَخْدَانٍ
فَنِكَاحُ السِّرِّ مِنْ جِنْسِ ذَوَاتِ الْأَخْدَانِ

Malik obligated announcing the marriage in public. A secret marriage is a type of prostitution. Allah Almighty said: Chaste women, neither fornicators nor secret mistresses. (4:25) Thus, a secret marriage is a type of secret mistress.
Source: Majmū’ al-Fatāwá 32/102

Thursday, 15 February 2018

'I still get cross with her when it's prayer time'

“I still get cross with her when it’s prayer time. I have to tell her to get up and pray. That hasn’t changed.”

Giving a picture of what the Nobel laureate’s like at home, Yousafzai says Malala does not have an air.
“She doesn’t act like someone who is famous”.
“In a way, she’s more likely to do what she’s told now than before,” she adds.
‘I miss my homeland’
When asked about restarting their lives in the UK, Yousafzai says though she misses her homeland, she’s doing it for her daughter.
“There is a big difference between our lives now than when we lived in Swat. We used to see my brothers and sisters, relatives and neighbours there,” she says.
“I miss my homeland. And we will go there one day. But it was there that Malala was attacked in broad daylight. She was preaching peace, spreading the message of peace and she was still attacked.
“So there’s a fear in my heart.”
Life in the UK
In the hustle-bustle of life in the UK, Yousafzai says she keeps herself pretty busy.
“I go to English classes because I am learning the language. I keep in touch with my relatives. I also get involved with their campaigning and activism,” she says.
“When my husband and Malala go somewhere, I accompany them so I’m pretty busy.”
‘Listen to your children’
Surely, raising a strong-willed child must not have been easy, especially in a patriarchal society such as that of Pakistan’s. So what did the Yousafzais do differently?
“I always tell people to listen to their children,” Yousafzai said. “In the past, when I was young there was more of a distance between us and our parents.
“But when we became parents, Malala’s dad is the one who taught me the importance of listening to children,” Yousafzai says as she speaks of the values of her husband Ziauddin Yousafzai.
“God has given rights to everyone. But there are people who take away women’s rights. My husband never did this. I have always been able to express my opinions.”
‘Education is your companion’
Yousafzai shared an interesting anecdote with the BBC about a girl who was visiting the Nobel laureate’s family in the UK.
“[The girl] had been through a lot. She was divorced and later she got a scholarship to study in Europe.
“She was born in a conservative family like mine. When she was leaving us, I looked at her. Something crossed my mind.
“I told her your education is your husband. It’s your father and your brother as well. Today, your education is your companion,” Yousafzai told her, so she need not feel alone.
Yousafzai is of the opinion that an uneducated woman a lot of times finds herself dependent on her husband or her brother or her father.
“I believe that education is everything for people today,” Yousafzai says.
Malala Yousafzai first came to public’s attention in 2009 as a schoolgirl who wrote a diary about her life under Taliban rule. Three years later, she was shot in the head by militants for daring to go to school. Malala then went on to become the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for her activism surrounding girls’ education.