Monday 31 December 2018

Sincerity in intentions

It is the correctness of intention and sincerity that elevates a person's worldly action and makes it into prayer. But if there is perversion in the intention and corruption in the heart, people are degraded, regardless of prayers they may have offered. Many times people build high and lofty palaces, broad and spacious buildings, lay out beautiful gardens full of fruit. If in these efforts and labor of construction the purpose is to benefit humanity, then for these acts the planners will become recipients of unending reward (sawab). Many such constructors of society have been kings. Of them Allah's Messenger commended:

"Anybody who, without subjecting another person to cruelty or aggression, builds a magnificent building or plants saplings without indulging in cruelty or rancor, will be getting reward for the fullness of the time in which Allah's creatures are benefited by these things." (Ahmed)

In another tradition it is stated that "If a Muslim lays a garden or does fanning, and if bird or man eats something grown by him, then he will gain virtue in its place." Even carnal pleasures can be counted as acts of virtue, if enjoyed with righteous intention and clean purpose. Ibn Abi Waqqas narrates the following recommendation of the Prophet: "If you spend even a little to seek the pleasure of Allah, you are rewarded, so much so, that even putting a morsel of food in the mouth of your wife is a virtuous act."

Another tradition has it that: "Whatever you feed your father is charity from you. Whatever you feed your child is a means of reward for you, and whatever you feed your servant, is also charity from you." (Ahmed)

The fact is that, as long as people remain obedient to Allah and their intentions are pure and sincere, all their acts and movements, their sleep and their waking, are considered to be for the pleasure of Allah. It sometimes happens that people want to perform a righteous act but are unable to do so because of their poverty. Then Allah, who
knows the secrets of hearts, gives the person desirous of reform the honor of reform or the person desirous of striving in the cause of Allah the honor of a Mujahid (striver in the cause of Allah). In the eyes of God high courage and righteous intention are thus noble while poverty is of no fault.

Once, during the early days of Islam, when the followers were in dire scarcity and poverty, a battle was to be fought. Some people came to the Prophet to join his forces and offered themselves to be sacrificed in the cause of Allah. But Allah's Messenger did not allow them to take part in the jihad because of their incapability. They returned with heavy and sorrowful hearts. They were deeply grieved for not being allowed to participate in jihad. The following verses about them were revealed:

"(About) those who came to you to be provided with mounts- (It is acceptable that) you said 'I can find no mounts for you,' causing them to turn back, their eyes streaming with tears of grief that they had no resources wherewith to provide the expenses." (Q 9:92)

Do you think that firm and strong faith is ever wasted? Did you think the burning desire of the volunteers for battle would be lost? No, never. The Prophet profoundly appreciated their faith and said to the soldiers going with him:

"There are some people whom we have left behind in Madinah. In whatever place or valley we may camp, they will be with us. For them their intention is enough." (Bukhari)

Since their plans were earnest, these excused mujahideen became nonetheless recipients of the reward (sawab) of the jihad, because they had stayed in Madinah against the wishes of their hearts. If this is the reward for honest intention, imagine the result of dishonest intention! Horrendous punishment is reserved for bad deeds; all the more so, if the act is made to appear righteous. Hypocrisy is mightily condemned. "Woe to the worshippers who are neglectful of their prayers, those who (want but) to be seen, but refuse neighborly needs." (Q 107:4-7)

Prayer based on hypocrisy is considered a sin because, after losing sincerity, it has become dead and is, therefore, useless. Similar is the case of zakat. If it is paid merely to seek Allah's pleasure, then it can be acceptable to Allah. Otherwise it is a waste:

"Waste not your charity by reminders of your generosity like him who spends his wealth to be seen by people and believes not in Allah and the last day. His likeness is the likeness of a rock on which there is dust of earth; on it heavy rainfalls, which leaves it a bare stone. They will be able to do nothing with anything they have earned." (Q 2:264)

The heart which is bereft of sincerity is infertile, as the rock with some dust on it cannot grow any grain when rain falls on it. If the kernel is rotten, beautiful outer skin will not be of any use. However, if we are full of sincerity, then its blessing helps to make an ordinary thing as weighty as a mountain. If devoid of sincerity, what reward can mounds of chaff and husks achieve from Allah? That is why Allah's Messenger said "Make your faith pure; a little (righteous) act will be sufficient to save you from hell." (Al-Hakim)

In the hadith the reward for virtuous acts has been said to be from ten to a hundred fold, depending on the performer's intention and the sincerity hidden in his/her heart, which is known only to that Being who knows about all manifest as well as hidden things. Rewards increase according to the sincerity and honesty of intentions. The external acts of people can neither achieve the pleasure of Allah nor the true grandeur in worldly life. Allah gives His attention to His faithful and accepts only those acts that bring them nearer to Him. As regards worldly show and human trappings, they have no importance and no value. The Prophet once recounted that "Allah does not look at your bodies nor does He look at your faces, but He looks at your hearts." The following is mentioned in the hadith:

"When doomsday occurs, the deeds done in the world will be presented to Allah. From them the acts performed for Allah will be separated. And the other acts performed for other purposes will be
thrown into the fire of hell." (Baihaqi)

Those who adopt these truths in life will experience relief and comfort in this world and will also achieve eternal bliss in the hereafter. They will not be harmed by the loss of anything. Nor will they grieve for any act. As the Prophet said:

"The man who leaves his world, having performed acts sincerely for the One and Only Allah, having established prayer and paid zakat, Allah is pleased with him." (Ibn Maja) This hadith is in conformity with these words of revelation: "And they have been commanded no more than this: to worship Allah, offering Him sincere devotion, being true (in faith), establishing regular prayer, and practicing regular charity; that is religion, right and straight" (Q 98:5)

In times of scarcity and adversity, the rays of sincerity throw their light with full force. At such times many people separate themselves from their carnal desires and yearnings. They sever relations with their defects and errors. They repent before Allah and weep, wail, and pray for His blessings. They shake for fear of Allah's wrath. The Quran has drawn a very fine picture of such a person, who is surrounded by adversities, who out of fear, has forgotten all his[her] mischief and is appealing to his/her Merciful Lord, so that He may lift him out of this mire: "Say - who is it that delivers you from the dark recesses of land and sea, when you call upon Him in meekness and silent terror; if He only delivers us from these (dangers), (we vow) we shall truly show our gratitude? Say - it is Allah that delivers you from these distresses; yet you run after false gods" (Q 6:63-64)

This sincerity is temporary. Those conditions that simply befall a man, how can they be called moral conduct? Allah wants to be truly and correctly known and recognized and should be respected and honored under all conditions, as deserving of Him. People should give their due with honest and sincere intention, supported by good conduct. Their attachment to noble attributes should be strong and should not break so easily. They should not make anything but selflessness and Allah's pleasure the ideals to follow in life.

Often the heat of sincerity gradually disappears as passion for greed, wealth, self-love, egotism, hunger for position and office, hypocrisy, and desire to be famous increase. But to Allah the only desirable act is one free of impure motives. "Surely, pure religion is for Allah only." (Q 39:3) The example of superior human nature is like that of a ripe fruit that requires to be protected from disease and mishaps in order to preserve its sweetness and cleanness. For this reason Islam considers hypocrisy in righteous acts most abominable and has declared it to be shirk, associating some one else with Allah.


Wednesday 19 December 2018

Prophet’s (PBUH) Unique Approach to Da’wah

And [thus, O Prophet,] We have sent thee as [an evidence of Our] grace towards all the worlds. [Asad]

The Prophet (PBUH) was sent to all the worlds with proof and evidence in support of the truth of his message and was told to present it in a beautiful and endearing way:

O Messenger! Do not entangle yourself with them. You continue your program of inviting people to the way of Allah with wisdom and kindly exhortation and discuss matters with them in the best possible manner. Allah knows best who is following the right path and who has gone astray.

Speak in a way that touches the heart:

And speak with them about themselves which enters straight into their heart.

This will help those – who still have in their hearts even a small desire to accept the truth – to avoid falling into hell, the pit of destruction.

Leave them alone but continue to convey to them the teachings of the Quran so that none is destroyed through not receiving Allah’s guidance.

As for others who are utterly arrogant and argumentative and in total denial of this message, there is no hope for them because their hearts are dead:

 [27:80-81] You can only talk to those whose hearts are alive and open. You can neither make those whose hearts are dead listen to you, nor can you make the deaf hear your call; particularly if their attitude is such that they turn their faces away when you call them. Neither can you show the straight path to the blind, i.e., those who do not even want to open their mind’s eye! 

Therefore, do not waste your time over them (36:10). Because of their intransigence Allah’s law has put chains around their necks, and built barriers behind and in front of them [36:7-9].

The only people who will listen to you are those who are willing to open their hearts for the divine truth; are willing to pay attention to what is being said to them; and are prepared to ponder and think. They will thus believe in the truthfulness of Our Laws and thereafter submit before them wholeheartedly.

And do not get disheartened because they do not listen to you although what you say is based on truth, knowledge and wisdom. Only those who use their minds and use logic will be able to comprehend this divine message. How can anyone who is blinded by his emotions and is devoid of his faculty of thinking, do so? Therefore do not be disheartened that they do not listen to you.

 [36:70]And O Messenger! This code of life has been given to you so that you may warn the people who still exhibits signs of spiritual life and want to survive. If they still refuse to adopt the right path, they will themselves see that whatever We had said was the truth.

In fact, warning those who are traveling on wrong path in their journey of life, that they are headed for destruction, is also a form of glad tiding. Warning people to take appropriate shelter because a severe tornado is approaching is actually good news for them for their own safety and well being. Ignoring this warning is actually inviting their own death and destruction. This is the purpose of the warning by the Quran:

It gives warning of a grievous chastisement to the non-believers and announces to the believers who do right things with glad tidings – that blessings from Allah await them; a home wherein they shall abide beyond the count of time. And:

This clear and explicit Code of Laws has been revealed to you so that firstly you can caution people living in and around Makkah about the destructive results of their erroneous way of life. Then warn them that, if they do not abandon this way of life then, for the final decision on this tussle, all groups will be gathered in an open field. One group will enter heavenly society (as victors) while the others will fall in the ditch of Hell (as losers). Tell them that this is undoubtedly bound to happen. And history bears testimony that this did happen.

The messenger himself has been called a warner:

O Prophet! As far as you are concerned We have sent you to establish a Divine System which will also supervise the performance of all nations (2:43). You will be the bearer of glad tidings to the people who follow this System; and warn them about the destructive results of disobeying it [33:45, 28:46, 38:65, 46:9, 48:8, 51:51, and 53:56].

As mentioned, the other facet of the warning is glad tiding. But when someone is told that his wrong path of life will lead to destruction and hell – then this is the negative aspect of the warning. Its positive aspect is that the correct path will lead him to success and to heavenly life. This is the glad tiding for those who do righteous deeds. So, warning and glad tiding are, in fact, two lines of the same couplet, two branches of the same root, two sides of the same coin:

As has been mentioned before, the book revealed earlier to Moses was a code of correct guidance and a source of mercy for human beings. However, it did not stay in its original form. Now this Book has been sent to practically prove the claims mentioned in that earlier book. This Book (the Quran) has been revealed in an explicit clear language (Arabic), so that you can warn those who have left the right course and have adopted aggressive and unjust ways. Also you can give glad tidings to those who lead balanced and righteous lives.

Therefore, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was both a warner and a source of glad tidings to all humankind:

It is in accordance with Our Plan that We have sent you, O Messenger, with truth so that you may give glad tidings to those who live in accordance with Allah’s Revelation; and a warning to those who do the opposite. If the latter do not pay heed to your warning then they would be destroyed and become companions of hell – and you will not be held responsible for their agonizing end.


Monday 17 December 2018

In the Dead of Night, By Brute Force IDF Raids in West Bank Show How Occupation Becomes Routine

It happens every night, with or without any apparent reason. It’s always brutal: a violent invasion of the home of a sleeping family, before the eyes of the women and the children, everyone abruptly awakening to a nightmare of dozens of soldiers, sometimes with dogs. An alien presence. The arrest missions of the Israel Defense Forces, perhaps the most salient sign of the routine of the occupation, are carried out both in times of unrest and periods of quiet. Hardly a night goes by without them.

The raids take place across the West Bank – including Area A, which is nominally under the Palestinian Authority’s control – and always at night. Every decent Israeli has the obligation to try to imagine the scene: to be woken up in the dead of night by armed, masked soldiers, their rifles aimed at you and at your terrified children. Often the troops resort to violence, tying up members of the household and beating them. Sometimes they use live ammunition.

At some point, they take someone, the wanted individual, into custody, with no explanation, no arrest warrant, no judicial oversight. In some cases, they don’t even let their captive get dressed. Days will pass before the family learns where he is, what his condition is, what the suspicions against him are. Or he might be released after a few days, again with no explanation. If he’s brought to trial, the charges against him will be revealed; some of them are real, others are invented or political in nature, as is usual in the military courts.

But generations of Palestinian children are growing up with fear, trauma and scars from the terror of those nights. The IDF doesn’t provide data about the scale of the phenomenon, but an unofficial estimate is that the number of people arrested during the past year reached some 2,700. The army does publish almost daily communiqués about the “booty”: how many were arrested the preceding night. Every person suspected of throwing a stone can expect a night visit of this kind, every Palestinian family can look forward to the unannounced arrival of these uninvited guests. In some cases no arrest is made; the raid was carried out to collect information, demonstrate control, maintain the troops’ vigilance, keep the local population in a state of constant fear.

A poultry shop in the nearby town of Beit Ummar. Khaider Abu Marya raises chickens in the yard of his house and also buys them in Jericho; he sells them whole for eight shekels ($2.15) a kilo in his store. On July 23, 2015, Khaider lost his father, Falah, 52, when soldiers invading his home to arrest one of his sons fired three live rounds into his upper body. From the poultry shop we drive to the home of the Abu Marya family, where the smells of a chicken coop and dead fowl hang in the air. Inside, the family tells us that Falah was killed after soldiers shot and wounded his son, Mohammed, and Falah had gone out to the balcony to shout for help. The soldiers made no arrests.

This past November 6, the day after the Halhul incident, IDF troops again arrived at the Abu Marya residence. It was 3 A.M. They were looking for another member of the family, Muhi, 21. They entered the house by force and, according to Khaider, hit his brother Yihyeh. Their mother, Faika, screamed, terrified that another disaster was about to strike the family. The dozen soldiers were accompanied by a frightening dog. They demanded the ID cards of the family members, but Faika, utterly distraught, had a hard time finding them. The house was in the midst of preparations for the wedding of another son, Nabil, the following week.

According to Faika, the soldiers attached an electric-shock device to Yihyeh’s chest and back, and beat him on the face until he bled. Hearing the shouting and screams from the floor below, Khaider’s three small children and Mohammed’s 18-month-old infant began to cry with fear.

Eventually the soldiers left, taking Muhi and Yihyeh with them, even though the latter was not on the wanted list. Yihyeh was freed a day later. On the day of our visit to the Abu Marya home, a hearing was held in Muhi’s case, but no one in the family traveled to the Ofer court and he is still in detention.

Asked for comment on the two incidents, the IDF Spokesman’s Unit provided this response: “On November 5, IDF troops entered the village of Halhul in order to arrest a terror suspect. When they arrived at their destination, violent disturbances began inside the suspect’s house. To carry out their mission, the fighters had to restrain three males who were behaving wildly.

“On their departure from the house, a disturbance broke out that threatened the lives of the soldiers, who responded by shooting at the lower part of the body of one of the individuals leading the disturbance.

“On November 6, while special forces of the Border Police were carrying out an action in the village of Beit Ummar, aimed at arresting a terror suspect, a member of the suspect’s family attacked the fighters. The soldiers responded by using a taser to hold him off, and, as he continued to present a danger to the force, he was arrested after attacking a policeman. Despite your claim to the contrary, no violence was used vis-à-vis other family members.”

Nabil’s wedding took place as planned, on November 17, without his incarcerated brother. The family says they have no idea what Muhi is suspected of. A photograph of the late father of the family looks down on us from the wall of the living room in his house.


Tuesday 11 December 2018

'I'm not his property': Abused Muslim women denied right to divorce

The first time Noor visited the Board of Imams Victoria, in Melbourne's Coburg North, to apply for an Islamic divorce, she took with her an audio recording she had secretly made during one of her husband's violent outbursts.

"It was of one night when he was screaming and yelling at me in front of the children," said Noor, a Muslim who wore a niqab during her decades-long marriage.

"He was verbally abusing me, smashing doors, ripping up sheets, putting down me and my family ... I taped it thinking no one would believe me."

Once inside the building, a glass-fronted office space wedged between an electrical store and a denture clinic on a sleepy stretch of Sydney Road, Noor sat down nervously before a panel of five male imams and carefully recounted the years of physical, emotional and financial abuse she had suffered at the hands of her husband, who had recently breached the intervention order she had taken out against him.

He often criticised and yelled at her in front of the kids, she told ABC News, for petty reasons — for example, if she didn't prepare food to his liking.

And he beat her, she said, when she confronted him about his escalating financial abuse.

This was Noor's experience. Having presented the Board of Imams with what she believed was sufficient evidence, she was hopeful they'd acknowledge her husband's violence and swiftly grant a divorce.

Instead they dismissed the tape, she said, and told her to give the relationship another chance. "I honestly thought they weren't listening to me," she said. "They wanted me to go back and try again for the sake of the kids."

When she insisted she had tried, that she had made up her mind, they told her they needed to hear her husband's "side of the story" and that they'd be in touch after that.

It took six months for the Board of Imams to get back to her, Noor said, at which point they claimed to have forgotten the details of her case and asked her to come back in to retell her story.

Eventually, after a year of waiting, calling, praying, Noor — who had moved in with her parents — withdrew her divorce application, defeated and depleted.

"It killed me," she said. At that stage she wasn't interested in starting a new relationship; she simply longed to be free of a man who for years had controlled every aspect of her life.

For a long time, she believed his violence was her fault. "I would think it was reasonable", she said, "because I thought I'd done something wrong, and I deserved it."

He also repeatedly threatened to take another wife, which hurt and distressed Noor, not only because they were already struggling financially.

"I'm allowed to marry four women," he told her. "You have to change your Western mentality."

Now he was refusing to grant her a religious divorce.

Muslims in Australia may have a civil divorce, but if they do not also obtain a religious divorce, they are considered still married in Islamic law — and in the eyes of their community.

Getting an Islamic divorce, however, can be a difficult and protracted process, especially for women, who face stricter requirements for initiating divorce than men, depending on the laws of their cultural community.

While a husband is allowed to divorce his wife at any time, without cause, often imams will not grant a woman divorce without her husband's consent, or proof she has legitimate grounds for an annulment (which, depending on the legal school, can include infidelity, physical, financial or emotional harm, and sexual dysfunction).

In theory, domestic violence is one such reason: if a woman can prove her husband has been abusive — for example, by producing an intervention order, or photographs of her physical injuries — imams in Australia say they'll dissolve the marriage and hand over the paperwork, no problem.

But in practice, advocates and survivors say many imams are denying women the right to divorce, in too many cases detaining them in abusive marriages for years.


Monday 10 December 2018

Modi’s India is a living nightmare for Muslims: #RanaAyyub

At the crack of dawn on Dec. 5, 1992 , my mother found a poster on the door of our apartment in Mumbai (then Bombay). The poster had an image of the Babri Mosque, painted in black with men holding swords standing in a circle around the monument. It read “Chalo Ayodhya 6 December” (let’s march to Ayodhya on Dec. 6). The Babri Masjid, a 16th-century mosque built by Mughal emperor Babur in Ayodhya, a town 960 miles from Mumbai, had been a disputed structure for years; some Hindu leaders alleged that it was built over the birthplace of Lord Ram. In the 1990s, right-wing Hindu leaders and members of the conservative Bharatiya Janata Party started a polarizing movement, and ultimately called on Hindus all over the country to converge in Ayodhya on Dec. 6 to demolish the mosque.

Hindu nationalists responded to that call and climbed on top of the mosque brandishing swords. The grand mosque, a symbol of faith for India’s largest minority, was razed to the ground. Overnight the patriarch of our family, who was feted as a progressive writer and a government school teacher, was reduced to being merely a “Muslim.” Provocative speeches by leaders of the BJP and other right-wing groups fueled a whirlwind of carnage: More than 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed around country; Mumbai alone witnessed 500 murders.
By Rana Ayyub December 6 at 9:45 AM
Rana Ayyub is an Indian journalist and author of “Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Coverup.”

At the crack of dawn on Dec. 5, 1992 , my mother found a poster on the door of our apartment in Mumbai (then Bombay). The poster had an image of the Babri Mosque, painted in black with men holding swords standing in a circle around the monument. It read “Chalo Ayodhya 6 December” (let’s march to Ayodhya on Dec. 6). The Babri Masjid, a 16th-century mosque built by Mughal emperor Babur in Ayodhya, a town 960 miles from Mumbai, had been a disputed structure for years; some Hindu leaders alleged that it was built over the birthplace of Lord Ram. In the 1990s, right-wing Hindu leaders and members of the conservative Bharatiya Janata Party started a polarizing movement, and ultimately called on Hindus all over the country to converge in Ayodhya on Dec. 6 to demolish the mosque.

Hindu nationalists responded to that call and climbed on top of the mosque brandishing swords. The grand mosque, a symbol of faith for India’s largest minority, was razed to the ground. Overnight the patriarch of our family, who was feted as a progressive writer and a government school teacher, was reduced to being merely a “Muslim.” Provocative speeches by leaders of the BJP and other right-wing groups fueled a whirlwind of carnage: More than 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed around country; Mumbai alone witnessed 500 murders.

It was then that we, the sole Muslim occupants of a Hindu residential colony, began to feel that we didn’t belong. We moved to a Muslim-dominated pocket of Mumbai -- India’s most cosmopolitan city.

BJP and its leaders who led the campaign for the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya were voted to power in the general election that followed.

Twenty-six years later, as India marks the anniversary of the demolition of the mosque, Indian Muslims continue to live their worst nightmare as they wake up each morning to humiliating and threatening discourse by legislators and members of the ruling party.

Anti-Muslim hate crimes are not just encouraged but also rewarded by those in power. According to a report on hate crimes released by Fact Checker, 76 percent of victims of hate crimes in India over the past 10 years have been Muslims. Ninety percent of these attacks have occurred since Prime Minister Narendra Modi was voted into power in 2014.

By labeling Muslims as “beef eaters” and expanding bans on the consumption of beef by putting in place new rules to curtail cow slaughter that disadvantage Muslim and lower-caste Hindus, the Hindu nationalist BJP is encouraging young Hindu men to become so-called cow vigilantes, who brandish their patriotism and faith by physically attacking Muslims. Even a rumor that a Muslim family ate beef for dinner, or a Muslim man ferried a cow to a slaughterhouse, can prove fatal in the hinterlands today.

When Muslims are not being lynched for bovine-related reasons, they are attacked for marrying Hindu girls, for sporting a beard, or for wearing a skullcap or other symbols of religious identity. They are berated on popular, state-favored news channels for being ungrateful betrayers and traitors who have no love for the national flag.

Attacks on Indian Muslims are also a part of a wider campaign to undermine the community and its rich history. The Taj Mahal is an iconic 17th-century mausoleum, built by another Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, but it is frequently disparaged in remarks by Modi’s deputies. Yogi Adityanath, Modi’s choice as chief minister of India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, has stated that the Taj Mahal isn’t sufficiently Indian — code for belonging to India’s Islamic past. “Foreign dignitaries visiting the country used to be gifted replicas of the Taj Mahal and other minarets, which did not reflect Indian culture,” he said at a rally in the state of Bihar last year. “Now, [Hindu] holy books such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Ramayana are offered as gifts.” In the past six months, names of iconic cities and railway stations such as Allahabad and Mughal Sarai named after Muslim figures have been changed to reflect Hindu culture.

The obliteration of India’s Islamic history and culture is also reflected in the rewriting of school textbooks in provinces ruled by the BJP. Mughal rulers such as Akbar and Shah Jahan who embellished India’s cultural legacy are being reintroduced in academia as debauched, villainous invaders who robbed India of its Hindu heritage.

Communal fault-lines are not new in the country. When India was partitioned in 1947 — leading to the creation of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan — tens of millions of Muslims chose a secular India as their homeland; they were betting on a more promising future in a country that enshrined religious equality into its constitution. But Hindu nationalists have long claimed a greater moral right over the nation and have questioned the patriotism of Indian Muslims. And the prejudice is no longer just rhetorical. It has turned into violent hatred that has spilled onto the streets of the country.

The shift in India’s attitude toward minorities is being met with resistance and response by writers, artists and activists. Even Bollywood, which usually keeps its distance from politics, is responding in small ways. A film released in August titled “Mulk” (Nation) tells the story of a Muslim family that is forced to prove its patriotism in the face of a prejudiced police force and society. The film is a work of fiction but reflects the agony of the 180 million Muslims in India.

Ever since 1947, Muslims have consciously chosen to place their destiny in the hands of a secular India, believing in the guiding principles of democracy. That faith is now being tested every day. In 2014, when Modi was elected prime minister, Muslims knew they now had a leader who carried the stigma of ruling the state of Gujarat in 2002, when nearly 800 Muslims were massacred in a planned attack by Hindu mobs. In its verdict on those riots, the Supreme Court of India described Modi’s government at the time as “modern-day Neros” who looked elsewhere when “innocent children and helpless women were burning.”

In Modi’s India today, as acts of communal violence increase, the worst fears of Indian Muslims are coming true.


Friday 7 December 2018

For China, Islam is a 'mental illness' that needs to be 'cured'

Today, in a world where nations as close as Myanmar and as distant as France are weaponising Islamophobia to drive racist, populist visions, China is not only joining in, but violently upping the ante, capitalising on this global moment to use Islamophobia to push forward its own populist vision: Wiping out an indigenous people seeking self-determination and standing against the state-sponsored mandate of Han supremacy.

With Islam serving as the spiritual lifeline connecting the Uighur people to their land, their history and to one another, the state has zeroed in on it. If it can destroy Islam, Beijing believes, it can destroy the Uighurs. And this is precisely what it has been doing behind a curtain of global ignorance for years and, even after the UN lifted that curtain for the whole world to see in August, it has carried forward without pause. 

For Abdulla, that feared knock on the door is yet to come. It may never come, or it may come tomorrow, or the day after. Yet, the fear of the unknown and the stark reality that every moment with his children, his wife, and his elderly parents, could be his last, follows his every step like a shadow. Beyond the walls of the concentration camps, Xinjiang has become an open-air prison for Uighur Muslims like Abdulla, whose every word is monitored and religious expression closely policed. 

He only finds solace in prayer. Prostrating himself before Allah, beginning in the early morning and one final time after sitting with his children at dinner, he prays that the state does not take him away and destroy his family.

Yet, the paradox of prayer symbolises the imminent perils of being Muslim in Xinjiang today, whereby the more people are unwilling to relinquish their spiritual identity and disavow Islam, the more likely they are to be taken way and kept far from everybody they love and everything they know, locked away in a living hell devised to purge them of their faith, disintegrate their families, and wash away their nation.