Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Toxic Love - Khutbah by Nouman Ali Khan

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Coronavirus: What The Prophet Might Have Done?

Indeed, in the messenger of God (Prophet Muhammad), there is a striking pattern in conduct for anyone who has trust in the divine guidance, who believes in life after death and who continuously focuses on the path God has shown to humanity. (Quran 33:21).

The Quran also describes the Prophet as a mercy to humanity. (Quran 21:107).

How the Prophet of mercy whose life is a beautiful pattern in conduct for all of humanity might have handled this pandemic, we call coronavirus? The Prophet was not a physician. Nor was he a pharmacist. He was a Messenger whose primary responsibility was to relay the divine guidance in all aspects of life through words and actions to the community he lived in and to the people who would come after him.

One must find out the patterns in his life to understand his leadership in crisis, like the one we are facing in our times.

The Prophet always followed the divine guidance of consulting his companions on issues on issues of public concerns. "And take counsel with them in all matters of public concern; then, when thou hast decided upon a course of action, place thy trust in God: for, verily, God loves those who place their trust in Him." (Quran 3:159).

He would have formed a committee of experts and researchers to look into the pandemic and advise him and the people on precautions needed to deal with the situation. Some actions require common sense and other experts' opinions.

He took some of the actions based on common sense.  Even though he did not face a pandemic situation, yet he was quick to act in inconvenient conditions.

On a rainy day, he advised the people to offer Friday prayers at home.
During a plague, he asked people to quarantine them.
He told them to maintain social distancing by not visiting or leaving the area.
He ensured that during a time of social distancing, the community pool its resources to take care of the basic needs of people.
He opened the state treasury for that purpose and appealed to the people to donate generously to help those who were in need.
He also started a soup kitchen to feed those who were unable to take care of them.
He appointed a team of volunteers to ensure that the necessities of life reach the people in time.
He admonished traders and merchants not to hoard and not to price gouge during any crisis.
He urged people to consult medical experts to treat the disease.
He also advised people to follow hygienic rules in their everyday life. He did not limit them to wash their hands five times a day during the ablution but suggested total physical cleanliness.
He also advised people not to throw the garbage in public places and dispose it in safe places.

The Quran demands from believer dignity for human beings. "No, indeed, We have conferred dignity on the children of Adam,  and borne them over land and sea, and provided for them sustenance out of the good things of life, and favored them far above most of Our creation. (Quran 17:70).

It means that the sanctity and preservation of life is the primary concern of those who are in a position of leadership. During emergencies, their responsibilities increase manifolds.  The Prophet relied on the opinions of his companions. He was aware that there is a cure for every disease, and he knew that those who are knowledgeable about human anatomy, herbology, and climatic conditions were the best to find the cure. He encouraged such people to continue researching in this area. There were no labs or hospitals in his time. But there were physicians, nurses and pharmacists and he advised people to visit them. He told them to "make use of medical treatment, for Allah has not made a disease without appointing a remedy for it, except for one condition, namely old age."  (Sunan Abu Dawood)

Based on experts' advice, he encouraged people to do regular exercise and focus on taking preventive measures to boost their immune system. He also asked people to follow dietary rules in their everyday life and more in times of medical emergencies.

He also acted on the expert's advice to isolate patients with serious illness to stop the spread of disease, if contagious.  In case of the death of the patient, he commanded immediate burial. If the deceased had an infectious disease, he asked the family not to expose the body in places like a mosque or public squares.

During emergencies such as war, he buried many of the deceased without a proper shroud and washing.

The Quran reminds the people that remembering the Creator and His Majesty strengthens the resolve to face every situation. "Those who believe, and whose hearts find their rest in the remembrance of God - for, surely, in the listening to God [human] hearts do find their rest." (Quran 13:28)

He reminded people that life is a blessing of God for a certain period as everyone would return to the creator one day. "All that lives on earth or in the heavens is bound to pass away" (Quran 55:26). He assured them human beings would rise once again on a day when a new world would come into being. Everyone would learn about his or her ultimate destination, and the ones who lived a life based on divine guidance would enter paradise.  "We record that (deeds) which they have put forward and their traces (that which they have left behind)." (Quran 36:12)

He urged people to focus on three main things while alive. a) raising a responsible family that is a source of continuous good for all; b) contributing to the existing knowledge to benefit humanity; c) leaving a charity behind to help the needy and the poor.

Confidence in Divine laws

Through his words and actions, the Prophet strengthened the belief of people in God during trying times. True piety does not consist in turning your faces towards the east or the west. Truly pious is he who believes in God and the Last Day, and the angels, and revelation, and the prophets.  He spends his valuable resources upon his relatives, the orphans, the needy, the wayfarer, the beggars, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage.  And he is constant in prayer.  And he renders the purifying dues.  Truly pious are they who keep their promises whenever they make it and are patient in misfortune and hardship and in time of peril: it is they that have proved themselves pure, and it is they, who are conscious of God. (Quran 2:177)

People need physical, social, and spiritual comfort during times of crisis. They want to know the reality, and they want to have the assurance that they can overcome it. The promise of their success depends on the accuracy and relevance of the guidance and leadership style. The Prophet offered through his life an example in physical, social and spiritual leadership based on the divine guidance, common sense and expert's opinion.

The coronavirus is not the first or last pandemic that humans have faced in their history. There were many earlier pandemics. Humanity responded to the challenges based on their trust in divine laws and guidance and their resolve to follow facts and not their whims and superstitions.


Monday, 6 April 2020

It Was Already Dangerous to Be Muslim in India. Then Came the Coronavirus

The Islamophobic hashtags began circulating shortly after the news broke in late March.

Indian authorities had linked dozens of cases of COVID-19 to a Muslim missionary group that held its annual conference in Delhi in early March, and health officials were racing to track down anyone who had contact with the participants. Coronavirus fears and religious tension were already at a fever pitch in India, and it didn’t take long for the two forces to intermingle. Videos falsely claiming to show members of the missionary group spitting on police and others quickly went viral on social media, exacerbating an already dangerous atmosphere for Muslims. “Islamophobia has been transposed onto the coronavirus issue,” says Amir Ali, an assistant professor of political science at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

Since March 28, tweets with the hashtag #CoronaJihad have appeared nearly 300,000 times and potentially seen by 165 million people on Twitter, according to data shared with TIME by Equality Labs, a digital human rights group. Equality Labs activists say that many of the posts are in clear violation of Twitter’s rules on hate speech and coronavirus, but have yet to be taken down. “We are committed to protect and serve the public conversation as we navigate this unprecedented global public healthcare crisis,” reads a statement Twitter provided to TIME. “We continue to remain vigilant.”

Coming just weeks after religious pogroms conducted by Hindu nationalists left 36 Muslims dead in Delhi, the surge in hateful tweets demonstrates how anxieties over the coronavirus have merged with longstanding Islamophobia in India, at a time when the Muslim minority — 200 million people in a nation of 1.3 billion — feels increasingly targeted by the ruling Hindu nationalists. “One of the key features of anti-Muslim sentiment in India for quite a long time has been the idea that Muslims themselves are a kind of infection in the body politic,” says Arjun Appadurai, a professor of media, culture and communication at New York University who studies Indian politics. “So there’s a kind of affinity between this long-standing image and the new anxieties surrounding coronavirus.”

One of the most popular false #CoronaJihad tweets claims to show a Muslim man from the Delhi congregation intentionally coughing on somebody. The tweet referred to Muslims as “such vile minded people” and listed hashtags including #CoronaJihad and #TablighiJamatVirus, a reference to the religious group that met in Delhi. But the video featured in the viral tweet was actually filmed in Thailand, not India, and there is no proof that the man was a member of the Delhi congregation. Nevertheless, the tweet was still online as of April 3, with more than 4,200 retweets and 503 replies. Another video shared on both Facebook and Twitter purporting to show Muslims intentionally sneezing on each other was debunked by the fact-checking organization AltNews.

Another tweet, which had around 2,000 retweets before it was removed for violating Twitter’s rules, featured a cartoon of a caricatured Muslim man labeled “Corona Jihad” trying to push a Hindu off a cliff. “Corona jihad is this new idea that Muslims are weaponizing the coronavirus to target Hindus,” says Thenmozhi Soundarajan, executive director of Equality Labs. The tweet has since been removed for violating Twitter’s rules, but several other cartoons linking Muslims to the coronavirus, shared by the same account with more than 15,000 followers, were still online as of April 3.

In India, where the politically dominant Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has increasingly launched dogwhistle attacks on Muslims since being reelected with a massive majority in April last year, the coronavirus is just “one more opportunity to cast the Muslim as the other, as dangerous,” says Ali, the professor.

“People are talking about ‘bio jihad’ and ‘corona jihad,’” Ali says. “These are just the latest in a series of different forms of ‘jihad’ that the media has talked about, that have been spread on social media, and that people are gleefully accepting.” Population jihad, for example, is a common trope in Hindu nationalist messaging, claiming that Muslims are trying to turn India into a Muslim nation by reproducing at a faster rate than Hindus. Love jihad is the idea that Muslim men are tricking Hindu women into romantic relationships in order to convert them to Islam. “Corona jihad is the most outrageous one so far, because people are really being infected and dying,” Ali says.

Social media companies have struggled with hate speech for years, embroiling the platforms in a difficult tangle in which freedom of speech runs up against the companies’ responsibility to protect minorities. In the world’s first social media pandemic, hate speech related to the virus is spreading online almost as fast as the virus itself. But recent history demonstrates that inaction on the platforms’ part can allow hate speech to turn into violence. Myanmar’s 2017 genocide perpetrated by Buddhist nationalists against Rohingya Muslims was preceded by a campaign of dehumanizing hate speech on Facebook. Equality Labs’ Soundarajan says social media companies cannot feign ignorance on the issue because her group and others are flagging troublesome content. “They’re aware of it,” says Soundarajan. “Whether they allow it to go viral is now their own responsibility.” (Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TIME.)

Although this pandemic is uncharted territory when it comes to predicting the impact of virus-related hate speech, public health officials have warned against stigmatizing minority groups. Because COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China, some — including the U.S. President — have called it the “China virus” or the “Wuhan virus,” a name that appears to be linked to an uptick in global violence against Asians. In February, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the then-unnamed coronavirus would henceforth be known officially as COVID-19 — a name which purposely did not include a reference to China. “Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the time.

Some are working to prevent fears over the virus from becoming entangled with religious divisions. Sam Brownback, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, is calling on governments to push back “aggressively” against the rising incidents of “blaming of religious minorities for the COVID virus,” including the rise in usage of #CoronaJihad and other hashtags trending in India. “The governments really should put this down, and say very clearly that this is not the source of the Coronavirus,” he said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday. “We know where this virus originated. We know it’s a pandemic the whole world is being subjected to. It’s not something from religious minorities. But unfortunately we are seeing that sort of blame game getting started up in different places around the world.”

In India, activists fear the stigmatization of Muslims could exacerbate the coronavirus crisis. “Launching a witch hunt against the attendees of the Nizamuddin congregation will be counterproductive from the public health point of view,” said several Indian intellectuals in an open letter published Thursday, referring to the area of Delhi where the conference was held. “The attendees should be identified without criminalizing them and put into quarantine as per norms.” The virus, they said, does not care about religious or national differences. “The solution will not come through the pursuit of divisive agendas but through scientific endeavors and human solidarity.”

A final irony of the Tablighi Jamaat controversy — which escalated on April 3 when the Indian government announced some members of the group would be charged under India’s National Security Act for violating quarantine — is that it was just one of myriad religious groups that continued to meet after India unexpectedly announced its coronavirus lockdown, yet it has drawn the vast majority of attention.

“They are no different from any other people in India and around the world who have pushed the envelope in terms of good sense,” Appadurai says of the Tablighi Jamaat congregation. “But of course, India is a very dangerous place for Muslims even apart from the coronavirus. It was asking for just the kind of thing that has now happened.”


Monday, 30 March 2020

Solidarity for Sikhs after Afghanistan massacre

Sutaka described the chain of events on Wednesday for Al Jazeera.

"I was here at the Karte Parwan Gurudrawa when we heard about the attack at Shor Bazaar around 7:30am. The morning prayers had just gotten over and prasad was being distributed. There were also snacks for the gathering and many were waiting to be served when two gunmen stormed inside," he said, sharing a story pieced together from those who survived.

"They first threw bombs and then started firing bullets at the people. The massacre went on for six hours," he said.

While the armed group ISIL (ISIS) claimed responsibility of the attack, government sources said it was conducted by the Haqqani Network, and could have been in retaliation for recent violence against Muslims in India.

"The Taliban and other terrorist groups sponsored by the governments in our region have in the past also attacked our society and tried create divisions among people," alleged Javid Faisal, spokesperson at the Afghan National Security Council.

"Such past events instill fear and insecurity within the community and can affect the unity of the nation, too," he said.

On Wednesday evening, Hamdullah Mohib, the national security advisor, visited survivors and their families to offer his condolences and promised to investigate the attacks, Sutaka said.

Despite the grim situation, the community is not alone in their grief, and messages of solidarity have poured in from every corner of Afghanistan.

"They are more Afghan than a lot of other Afghans," said Sahira Sharif, a member of parliament from Khost Province, which was once home to hundreds of Sikh families.

While only a handful of Sikhs remain, Sharif said she has fond memories of growing up in a multicultural society.

"There was a lot of bonhomie and cordiality between the Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus in Khost. We socialised with each other and, growing up, they would come to our houses and we would go to theirs," she recalled to Al Jazeera, adding that the Sikh community was so trusted that other Afghans would save their money with them, in the absence of a bank.

Later, when Sharif was campaigning for a parliamentary seat, many Sikhs backed her. "When I was running for the 15th round of elections, I went to their neighbourhood and met with the women of the community. They campaigned for me, they hosted me for lunch and I could see their cultures and practices remained very close to that of other Khostis," she said.

Samira Hamidi, an Afghan activist and regional campaigner at Amnesty International, said: "The Sikh community of Afghanistan are among the most resilient, peaceful and country-loving citizens. There are so many of them who have preferred living in Afghanistan despite all the threats against them."

This deep social connection has elevated a collective grief among Afghans, irrespective of their faith and beliefs.

"Yesterday's attack on our Sikh brothers and sisters is inhumane and cowardice. It is painful to hear the father whose three-year-old daughter was shot in front of him," she added, visibly disturbed at the tragedy of Harinder Singh Khalsa, who lost seven members of his family, including his wife, mother and daughter.

Hamidi, like many Afghan Muslims, extended her solidarity to the Sikhs.

"At this painful time, all I can say is we need to stand with them, share their grievances and comfort them. I have huge respect for each of them for the love and compassion they have for Afghanistan, and I wish no one, including them, to have to face the tragedies like yesterday anymore," she said.