Thursday, 19 September 2019

The woman who dares to run a feminist radio station in Afghanistan

The northern Afghan city of Kunduz is not the kind of place you'd expect to find a radio station run by women, promoting women's rights. But this is precisely what Radio Roshani is, and it's broadcasting today despite several attempts by the Taliban to kill its founder and editor, Sediqa Sherzai.

Radio Roshani broadcasts to a man's world. In most of Afghanistan, tradition has long dictated that women and girls are rarely seen or heard outside the home.

Amazingly, many men actually consider them their property.

In 2008, Sediqa set up Radio Roshani to challenge such attitudes but quickly found herself at loggerheads with the Taliban. Although no longer in government, it has remained a force to be reckoned with in many parts of the country. At first it warned Sediqa to stop broadcasting. Then, in 2009, rockets were fired at the station.

Briefly Sediqa halted broadcasts. She asked the Afghan government for protection, but it became clear that none was forthcoming. So after a few days she went back on air, "because we just couldn't give in to threats".

There has continued to be much local resistance. Men have often told Sediqa that she is leading local women astray, and promoting conflict between men and women in the home.

"These actions are so bad that you deserve to be killed - even more than an American does," they told her.

So it was with particular horror that Sediqa watched Taliban sweep into Kunduz in September 2015, taking complete control of the city. Very soon her phone rang.

"Someone speaking in the Pashtu language asked me where I was, wanting me to give my exact location," says Sediqa, who mostly speaks Dari (an Afghan version of Persian). "I wasn't sure who this person was and was suspicious. After that I turned off my phone and did my best to get away."

This was a wise precaution. After finding the radio station's staff had fled, Taliban fighters destroyed the station's archives, stole its equipment and planted mines in the building.

Even though they were eventually driven out of the city, the station remained closed for two months while explosives experts defused the mines and staff replaced the missing equipment. But death threats against Sediqa and her team have continued ever since.

Radio Roshani promotes womens' rights largely via phone-in programmes. One of the commonest concerns among women in Kunduz, Sediqa Sherzai says, are disputes that sometimes arise between wives in polygamous marriages.

"A lot of men, as soon as they have some money, go for a second or third wife, and so on," Sediqa explains.

According to Islamic convention, this is acceptable in cases where the first wife cannot bear children, she says, but in practice it's mainly done "for sex life purposes".

The husband is supposed to promote justice and harmony among his wives at all times, but Sediqa says they often don't. Most disputes between wives arise because the husband shows favouritism to one over another, she says.

"When the second wife brings more children, she's being treated more favourably than the first. And if the first or second wife are illiterate and the man then gets an educated wife, again she is treated more favourably because she is more educated," Sediqa says.

Often the wives who have the hardest time are those who did not consent to the marriage, having either been sold to the man by their parents or given to him in lieu of a relative's debt.

She adds that it's very rare for the women to support one another, and to apply collective pressure on the husband to behave well.

"There is little understanding or sympathy between them, because of the tensions in the marriage. Some are jealous of other wives because they are closer to the husband, while they [themselves] are more distant. So there is often hardly any co-operation between them."

While Radio Roshani is now the only radio station in Kunduz run by a woman, there are three others that were launched by women, and which still broadcast some programmes for women even though they are now mainly run by men.

Zohal Noori, who works both for Radio Roshani and one of the other stations, says that some men tune in to women's programmes, and that this is helping to change attitudes.

More are now willing to allow their wives to go to work and become active in the local economy, she says.

A growing number are also permitting their wives and daughters to be examined in hospitals, Zohal says, thanks largely to an influx of women doctors. There are still men, though, who regard this as unacceptable.

"They take [their wives and daughters] to clerics, who just tell them to read specified parts of the Koran. These women have no option but to just put up with the situation. Some get very depressed and some have even taken their own lives," Zohal says.

But if in general the situation for women in Kunduz has been improving, there have also been setbacks, partly because of a shaky security situation - underlined by a new major Taliban incursion on 31 August, which led to battles across the city.

"There are lots of assassinations, kidnappings and crime," Zohal says. "Kidnappings are very common at night and things are just getting worse and worse."

As a result, some families that had begun to allow girls to go to school with their brothers are now changing their minds.

It's also feared that talks now being held between US and Taliban representatives, could end up unravelling the progress made on women's rights that Radio Roshani and the other women broadcasters have fought for for so long.

The worry is that in the haste to pull its forces out of Afghanistan, the US will let the Taliban bring back Sharia (Islamic law).

"We're hoping that the peace negotiations will become a real peace," Sediqa says. "And not at the cost of women sitting back at home all day, and that all our achievements are not reversed."


Saturday, 14 September 2019

Haaretz editor: ‘for the Palestinians murder is a type of sport, perhaps a substitute for erotica’

This is what the editor of Haaretz’s Culture and Literature supplement, Benny Ziffer, wrote on his Facebook page upon returning from paying a condolence call in the settlement of Ofra:

“En route I looked at the Palestinian villages alongside the Jewish communities, and I thought of how for the Palestinians murder is a type of sport or enjoyment, perhaps a substitute for erotica. From that perspective we will never have anything culturally in common with them.”

And if that weren’t enough, Ziffer also wrote, “Regarding this evil and undignified people living among us, we can only yearn for the land to vomit it out, because it isn’t worthy of this land, which is full of Jewish blood that it has spilled.”

Now, let’s leave alone for a moment the fact that much more Palestinian blood was spilled in this land than Jewish blood in any given year since Zionism came to power in Palestine about 100 years ago. Gideon Levy’s article in Haaretz elaborated on that fallacy in Ziffer’s post, stating that If There’s Such a Thing as a Murderous Culture, Then It Exists in Israel.

I would like to focus on the de-humanisation of an ethnic group sharing the land with the occupying settler group that Ziffer belongs to. As he described in his post, he looked at Palestinian villages and Jewish settlements as he drove through an apartheid road in the West Bank. The difference between the big villas with the red roofs of the settlements on one hand, and the simplicity of the Palestinian village homes on the other hand (I believe he didn’t manage to see the refugee camps, only West Bank villages) is indeed striking. Obviously, it’s a consequence of the Israeli apartheid regime that heavily supports the colonial settlements and heavily oppresses the indigenous people. And that made him think about “how the Palestinians murder is a type of sport or enjoyment, perhaps a substitute for erotica”. He’s got an erotic mind, that’s for sure, but that sickening thought reveals vicious propaganda. This statement of his is the kind of message you would encounter in earlier times colonialist campaigns in Africa and America that led to genocide of the indigenous people.

The next statement is not less striking, as it actually calls for genocide or ethnic cleansing: “Regarding this evil and undignified people living among us, we can only yearn for the land to vomit it out, because it isn’t worthy of this land”. As we know from the past 100 years of history in Palestine, Zionists are big believers in the execution and fulfillment of their aspirations, making things happen rather than yearning. Yearning is what the Jews did during 2,000 years of exile, in the Zionist era dreams are meant to come true, through proactive actions. Zionists know very well that the land won’t vomit the Palestinian people out alone, someone has to give a hand.

In fact, ethnic cleansing of Palestine is taking place on a daily basis, slowly but surely. Israel expropriates Palestinian lands, destroys their “illegal” homes, confiscates their water springs, set their fields on fire, cuts their olive trees and grape vines, humiliates them and makes their lives unbearable. These operations are executed in cooperation of the armed forces and the paramilitary settler gangs that attack Palestinian people and properties under the IDF’s protection. The Gaza strip is under fierce and cruel blockade since 2007, the living conditions there make staying alive a challenge by itself. The situation in the Gaza Strip is clearly a humanitarian disaster.

It should be noted that Ziffer is a journalist, he is intelligent and he is a talented writer, and he is being followed by many Israelis. His post received hundreds of supporting reactions and was shared by dozens of Facebook users. Haaretz newspaper and magazine – where Ziffer is the editor of the Culture and Literature supplement – is considered very liberal and is mostly identified with the Israeli political left.

Another known and popular Israeli media personality, Yaron London, has said on his mainstream TV show: “Arabs are savages … they don’t only hate Jews, they kill their own first and foremost.”  London is identified with the political left as well.

The view of Palestinians as primitives that possess “murderous culture”, that it is practically impossible for them to live “among us” without killing us, and the wishful thinking toward transferring them out of the land – is as old as the state of Israel, if not older. Israel started off with a brutal ethnic cleansing project it called “independence war”, and attempts to transfer Palestinians out of the land controlled by Israel were made numerous times, always with only limited success. As Hagai El-Ad, the director general of B’Tselem described in an article last week, Transfer of Palestinians has always been the Israeli consensus. The de-humanization of the Palestinian people plays an important role in preparing the public opinion for extreme operations of ethnic cleansing. In particular among the political leftwing.

Golda Meir, the Israeli prime minister in the early 1970’s, had made a statement that perfectly depicts the Israeli view of Arabs: “We are able to forgive the Arabs for the killing of our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will have peace with the Arabs only when they love their children more than they hate us.”


Thursday, 12 September 2019

Palestinian Woman Murdered in Honor Killing After Posting Instagram Video with Fiancé

A 21-year-old Palestinian woman died on Thursday in suspicious circumstances fueling speculation and causing massive outrage among activists and social media users across the Middle East and North Africa. Israa Gharib, a makeup artist from Bethlehem, died in a coma due to head trauma, in what activists and sources close to the victim are saying was a brutal honor killing. The culprits are believed to be her father and brothers.

It all began when Gharib went to meet a potential suitor in a public place and posted a video of the outing on her Instagram page. According to a friend of the victim’s, Gharib’s mother was fully aware of the meeting and the suitor’s sister was also in attendance.

According to sources online, Gharib’s cousin then showed the video to the victim’s father and brothers, allegedly urging them to act to prevent scandal and accusing Israa of dishonoring herself and bringing shame to the family by being seen in the company of a man outside the bonds of marriage.

Gharib’s friend claims that upon seeing the video, her brothers, Bahaa an Ihab, and brother-in-law, Sheikh Mohamed El Safy, began beating and torturing her, and proceeded to terminate the engagement. Other sources claim she fell from the 2nd floor while attempting to flee the brutal assault. She was later hospitalized due to a fractured spine.

Gharib’s father, brothers, and brother-in-law followed her to the hospital, her friend alleges, and resumed the beating, telling hospital staff they were performing an exorcism on the victim whom they believed was possessed by a demon. A harrowing audio recording of the assault was leaked by one of the nurses at the hospital that purportedly features Gharib’s repeated horrified screams.

She was then released from the hospital, after which she returned home, where she allegedly suffered a head injury at the hands of her brother, Ihab, a resident of Canada. Eye witnesses say he had threatened to kill her earlier that day, prompting some on social media to call on the Canadian government to take legal action against him. Gharib went into a coma, before her heart stopped.

In a Facebook statement, the victim’s family denied any wrongdoing, claiming she suffered mental and psychological disorders that led to her fall from the 2nd floor of their Bethlehem house.

Gharib’s story is now one of the top trending topics on social media, with thousands of users and activists calling for social, political, and legal reforms to protect women from violence in Palestine, including Palestinian human rights organization Adalah, which issued a statement calling the alleged murder “a heinous killing.”

Feminist blogger Fadumo Adan also weighed in, telling The New Arab, “as a survivor of an honor killing, Israa’s story triggered a deeply embedded fear of mine. …Honor killings will never be justifiable. We shouldn’t have to mitigate the risk of honor killings by limiting our own personal freedom, autonomy and self-determination.”

The Bethlehem prosecution office is currently investigating the murder and has ordered an autopsy, reports Youm7.

Despite a 2018 amendment to article 99 of the Palestinian penal code, which used to allow judges to reduce sentences for perpetrators of honor killings, reports show that the practice is on the rise in the West Bank, Gaza, and among Israel’s Palestinian community.


Tuesday, 10 September 2019

How White Nationalists Have Been Inspired by the Genocide of Muslims in Bosnia

Nearly two decades after the war ended, Bosnia is still struggling to emerge from the vortex of hatred that destroyed the country during the 1990s. Yet what may be even more alarming is that outside of Bosnia, the memory of the genocide committed against its Muslims has become a source of inspiration for the global far right. The shooter who killed 51 people at two mosques in New Zealand this March wrote the names of Serbian nationalist leaders on the rifle he used to carry out the massacres. During his livestream of the attacks, he played a jaunty song performed by Bosnian Serb soldiers during the war, nicknamed “Remove Kebab,” that has become popular among the online “alt-right.” The Norwegian extremist Anders Breivik, who murdered 77 people during a 2011 shooting rampage, reportedly also showed a “strange obsession” with the genocide in Bosnia, heaping praise on wartime Serb leaders in a manifesto he wrote before his attacks. A domestic terrorist in Pennsylvania who killed a state trooper in 2014 was similarly infatuated with the wartime Bosnian Serb military, posing images of himself on social media in a uniform from the notorious Drina Wolves unit. On websites like 4chan that are helping to breed a new culture of racial hatred and glorification of violence, it’s not hard to find the Bosnian genocide favorably discussed. These new online connections are also helping to foster real-world links between the Western far right and its Balkan counterparts.

In this photograph taken on December 9, 2017, a Serbian nationalist holds a flag with an image of Bosnian Serb convicted war criminal Ratko Mladic, as he prepares to enter St. Sava Church in Belgrade, to attend prayers for the former Bosnian Serbian commander.Ratko Mladic, the wartime Bosnian Serb military chief, was given a life sentence on November 22, by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, for genocide during the country's inter-ethnic war in the 1990s.

Rise of Europe’s Far Right Emboldens Serb Extremists and Threatens a Fragile Peace in Bosnia
In the ethnically cleansed areas of Bosnia, where the genocide occurred, today the perpetrators seem to have narrowed their responses to either ignoring what happened or celebrating it. In addition to the memorial on the hill above Višegrad, in the town center a bronze statue stands in honor of local military veterans, several of whom have been convicted of war crimes at The Hague. Aside from a few small plaques put up by victims’ groups in neighborhoods where mass killings happened, there is no recognition of the massacres — and those plaques have been placed on the upper floors of buildings to keep them out of reach after repeated vandalism. A few years ago, the local municipality even sandblasted the word “genocide” off a memorial stone erected by victims’ families in the town’s Muslim graveyard. When I visited that cemetery this summer, the word had still been obliterated from the monument — though someone had defiantly written it back in with black marker.

In order to understand the ideology of the emerging far right — obsessed with demographics and starry-eyed over the Bosnian genocide — it’s important to look at what actually happened in Bosnia. The grim success of the genocide in cleansing much of Bosnia should give a hint as to why it has become an inspiration. Around 100,000 people are believed to have been killed during the Bosnian war. The majority of them were Muslims. The cleansing of places like Višegrad, Fo?a, Srebrenica, Prijedor, and Zvornik was not a war between two equal and opposing forces. It was a campaign of murder and cruelty against a defenseless people, waged in the name of demographics and ethnic purity. It mixed equal parts racism and misogyny. The level of sexual violence against Bosnian Muslim women was so targeted and systematic — educated women were singled out for the worst treatment — that it led to rape being recognized for the first time as a weapon of war under international law.


Thursday, 5 September 2019

NEWS/INDIA Half of India police feel Muslims more likely to commit crimes

A new study says police in India display "significant bias against Muslims", with half of the police personnel interviewed saying they feel Muslims are "naturally prone towards committing crimes".

The report, which surveyed 12,000 police personnel in 21 Indian states, also found one in three police staff felt mob violence in cases of cow slaughter was "natural".

The findings, published on Tuesday, come amid concern from the United Nations and rights groups over an increase in harassment of and violence against India's Muslim minority after the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, assumed power in 2014.

Since then, dozens of people, mostly Muslims, have been killed by vigilante mobs on allegations of eating beef or slaughtering cows - an animal considered sacred in Hinduism. Modi has repeatedly said authorities should punish vigilantes who commit violence in the name of cow protection, but his critics allege the government has not done enough to prosecute those accused of killings.

Tuesday's study, titled The Status of Policing in India Report: Police Adequacy and Working Conditions, found 14 percent of police surveyed believed Muslims were "very much likely" to be prone to committing crimes, while 36 percent felt members of the faith were "some-what likely" to do so.

"Thirty-five percent personnel feel (to a large extent and somewhat combined) that it is natural for a mob to punish the culprit in case of cow slaughter," it added.

"Some of the findings were very surprising," said Manjesh Rana, one of the researchers on the year-long survey, because "we believe that this could be the perception of the people but not the perception of the police."

But he added: "We can't really establish that the prejudices they have, whether it's affecting their work or not but there are always these chances."

The study also found 60 percent of those surveyed believed migrants from other states were more likely to commit crimes. Separately, more than half felt complaints of gender-based violence were false.

The researchers described the survey as the first of its kind in India, covering police perceptions on a range of issues, including working conditions, resources and obstacles to investigating crimes.

Nearly a third of respondents said pressure from politicians was the main obstacle to investigating crimes, while an overwhelming majority of 72 percent said they encountered "political pressure" in probes involving influential people.

The study also found more than a third of police personnel surveyed favoured handing out "a small punishment" for minor offences than a legal trial, while one out of five felt "killing dangerous criminals is better than a legal trial".

It added: "Four out of five personnel believe that there is nothing wrong in the police beating up criminals to extract confessions."


Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Sri Lanka urged to tackle 'hate propaganda' against Muslims

A United Nations human rights expert has called on Sri Lanka to take urgent action on "hate propaganda targeting Muslim communities" following a spate of deadly attacks on churches and hotels on Easter Sunday.

Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, issued the call on Monday at the end of a 12-day mission to the Buddhist-majority country in the Indian Ocean.

He said there was a "serious deficit of trust among ethnoreligious communities" in the wake of the ISIL-claimed attacks in April.

More than 250 people were killed in the bombings, the deadliest since the end of a 26-year-civil war against Tamil separatist fighters in 2009.

"While the government promptly brought the situation more or less under control after the bomb blasts, many religious communities remain very concerned about their security because of incitement to hatred and violence by some religious extremists," Shaheed said in a statement.

The suicide assaults led to anti-Muslim riots in May, which were partly blamed on Buddhist groups.

There was also a spike in reports of hate speech, with a senior Buddhist monk saying in June Muslims should be stoned in one case. Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana made the comment after repeating unsubstantiated claims that a Muslim doctor had sterilised thousands of Buddhist women.

"The government must take action against the hate propaganda targeting Muslim communities that is being spread through unregulated media and is instigating ethnoreligious tension for political gain," said Shaheed.

Failure to do so "will allow extremism to escalate and pose serious challenges to peace-building," he added.

Sri Lanka's population of about 22 million is a patchwork of ethnicities and religions. Sinhalese speaking Buddhists make up more than 70 percent, while Tamils account for 15 percent.

Muslims are the second-largest minority, comprising about 10 percent of the population.

There has been an increase in attacks against the community since the civil war's end, including major bouts of violence in 2013 and 2018. Buddhist groups - some led by monks - were blamed for the unrest.

But many in the government saw the unrest as "sporadic small incidents", he said, warning they must not be treated as such.

"The underlying unease and hostility existed long before the Easter attacks and subsequent violence," he said.

He highlighted a range of factors for the "simmering" tensions. including the politicisation of religion, segregated education based on ethnoreligious identity, as well as impunity for previous religiously motivated attacks.

Failure to hold perpetrators to account for previous violence has "strengthened the anti-Muslim groups", he said, adding: "It is time for Sri Lanka to vigorously adopt measures to protect the rights of all people and to hold perpetrators accountable, regardless of their ethnoreligious background."

He urged the Sri Lankan authorities to "make efforts to dismantle the networks of hate" and "speak out against hateful narratives".

He also called for urgent reforms to the education system "to foster inclusive identities".

There was no immediate comment from the government on Shaheed's report.

The expert is expected to submit his detailed report to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2020. 


Thursday, 29 August 2019


Since moving to Ireland in late 2003, Dr Umar Al-Qadri has become a prominent figure in representing the Islamic voice in Ireland. Having received a traditional Islamic education in Pakistan, Al-Qadri went on to obtain a master’s degree in Islamic Sciences. Making frequent appearances in Irish publications like the Irish Times, he also lectures across the country in mosques, community centres and universities about Islam and the the challenges that Muslims face today.

For Al-Qadri, the integration of the Muslim community into wider Irish society is something of a priority. In Ireland, there are now an estimated 70,000 members of the Muslim community, and at home and abroad, Muslims are increasingly facing marginalisation, persecution and criticism. As the spotlight is placed on Muslims the world over, I sit down with Al-Qadri, the Head-Imam of Al-Mustafa Islamic Educational and Cultural Centre Ireland, in Trinity’s Science Gallery café to discuss our Muslim community here and the challenges they face.

Our Muslim community is not immune to the sensationalised and inaccurate representation the religion sometimes receives in the media across the world. Neither too do they avoid the fate of being too often rendered largely invisible within Irish society. Al-Qadri’s response to this is to stress the idea of people all living as one. He stands for equality and mutual respect between groups as something essential for modern nations, an ideology that informs many of his own actions.

Our interview begins with Al-Qadri tracing the origins of Ireland’s Islamic history to one man, Mir Aulad Ali Khan, one of Dublin’s first Muslims, as well as a scholar and professor of religious studies in Trinity in the 1860s. Al-Qadri describes him as very well integrated, and who at the same time maintained his own identity and wore his traditional Muslim clothing. It was only in the 1950s, however, that Muslim students began to come from South Africa to Ireland to study medicine. It was these students who formed the first Muslim community to establish themselves here. This tradition, continuing throughout the 1990s, allowed for a well-educated Muslim population to develop in Ireland. Since then, the numbers have grown from 33,000 in 2003 to upwards of 70,000 now, Al-Qadri tells me. The community has changed too. While it was previously based around the medical and scholarly professions, it now represents a diverse group of people from many walks of life, ranging from taxi drivers to IT professionals. Often, he adds, you cannot tell a Muslim apart from any other Irish person. They often do not have dark skin, while many choose not to wear traditional Muslim dress, he explains, gesturing down towards his sharply tailored suit. He humorously adds that perhaps only the beard would give it away.

Muslims, when they have friends that are consuming alcohol … they will interact together, but they won’t drink themselves and they will not treat the person that drinks alcohol differently. But they will treat someone who is gay differently, and that is something that is not understandable.

Al-Qadri’s early years were spent in the Netherlands, where the he remained until he’d completed secondary school. He highlights this time as a formative period in his own ideological development: “I wouldn’t be the same person I am if I didn’t grow up in the Netherlands … I think my ideas have been shaped by my experience growing up in the Netherlands as a second generation Muslim.” It was there he witnessed first-hand the challenges that many Muslims face across Europe. The years he spent here were during a period of Dutch history characterised by the dominance of right-wing conservatives, who were in finally in government after years of steadily increasing their vote in elections. The party, which he describes as “anti-Muslim and anti-Islam”, pushed Muslims to live in isolation and caused them to be segregated from the greater population. The reason that Al-Qadri believes that these problems arose is because the “Muslim communities that lived in the Netherlands somehow failed to reach out to the other and failed to integrate”. By this he means integration beyond purely language and dress, with the community perhaps not doing enough to counter those who sought to marginalise them.

Motivated by the desire to do something for his religion, Al-Qadri wanted to avoid making the same mistakes in the newly-diverse Ireland’s young Muslim community. In an earlier stage of development and with an educated and professional Muslim population, he perhaps thought he could help Irish Muslims and write a different narrative for the minority group. The way in which to achieve this, he believes, is by reaching out. This, after all, is the teaching of the Prophet Mohammed, he tells me, who “welcomed communities and opened the doors of the Mosque to others”. This is something that Al-Qadri firmly holds to be true.

He believes that Muslims often isolate themselves in an effort to protect their faith and identity, something that is, in fact, damaging for the community. “We are living in a society where people do accept and tolerate other views. We should reach out and not be afraid”, he urges his fellow Muslims. His recent invitation to members of the LGBT community to the mosque’s end of Ramadan meal in June reflected this sentiment of inclusion. “As Muslims we must reach out to others’’, he says, “we must not treat people differently because of their lifestyle or beliefs”. Although such an expression of kindness and support appears radical in relation to the more stereotypical image the religion being strongly doctrinal, Al-Qadri cites the teachings of Islam as the foundation for his argument, where you must treat people as human beings first – something which he says has been lost among many Muslims.

Nonetheless his actions were still somewhat radical, and he came under criticism from the group that he represents for reaching out in this way. Some felt that this gesture was akin to him condoning homosexuality, but in the face of the controversy, he stands by his actions. “Inviting them does not mean that we condone or that we agree with [homosexuality]”, he explains. “It means that despite our disagreement we can still share a meal together”. Although he does not condone the act, he believes that the LGBT community, like Muslims, share similarities. The two minority groups have both been marginalised and should join together against a common injustice. He gives a practical example to support his decision to invite LGBT members to the event, which he hopes that Muslims will be able to appreciate, drawing a comparison between the two Islamic sins of drinking alcohol and homosexuality: “Muslims, when they have friends that are consuming alcohol, they would be okay with it, they will sit down together, they will interact together, but they won’t drink themselves and they will not treat the person that drinks alcohol differently. But they will treat someone who is gay differently, and that is something that is not understandable”. Al-Qadri emphasises that the teachings of Islam are to treat people as humans first, and the success of the meal, which had over over 20 LGBT members alongside some Muslims all enjoying themselves together, stands as testament to that.

Full article:

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Romania, a beacon of coexistence for Muslims in Eastern Europe

The Grand Mosque of Constanta in southeast Romania has a hulking minaret nearly 50 metres high overlooking the Black Sea.

It was constructed as a symbol of gratitude to the city's Muslim community on the orders of King Carol I in 1910.

Much has since changed in Romania, but that sentiment remains.

Constanta lies in Dobruja, an ethnically diverse region split between Romania and Bulgaria, where the River Danube meets the sea.

Ottoman Turks invaded the region in the late 15th century and subsequently expanded further into Romania.

Several centuries of Turkish rule followed, bringing settlers from across the empire.

Northern Dobruja came under Romanian control only in 1878, after the young kingdom defeated the ailing Ottoman Empire with assistance from Russia.

Some of the region's Muslims left for Turkey, but others stayed on; their descendants now form the backbone of Romania's Muslim community of about 64,000 people, roughly 0.34 percent of the country's population.

Compared with other countries in Eastern Europe, Romanian Muslims say their experience has largely been one of peaceful coexistence.

"When Muslims here were still the majority in the 1870s, the Muslim mayor of the town of Medgidia appealed to the authorities in [Romania's capital] Bucharest for money to build a church for the local Christians," said Murat Iusuf, who has been Romania's Chief Mufti since 2005, speaking to Al Jazeera from his office in Constanta.

"Records of the meeting include transcripts of the mayor's broken Romanian. But a common language was found; it's a good example of Dobruja's history."

About 26,000 ethnic Turks, 20,000 ethnic Tatars, and an undetermined number of Muslim Roma - who generally declare as Turks in censuses - form the country's diverse Muslim community.

Turks and Tatars speak related Turkic languages and the two communities have a high rate of intermarriage.

However, some Tatars are trying, amicably, to assert their distinctiveness, highlighting their history as descendants of Tatars who fled the Crimean Peninsula after its annexation by Russia in 1783.

The Tatar Community Center in the suburbs of Constanta makes that point loud and clear; its walls are covered with Crimean Tatar flags and paintings of Khans who once ruled their ancestral homeland.

"In the last 10 years, people have become more curious about their history. Turks come from the southern shores of the Black Sea and Tatars from the North," said Dincer Geafer, chairman of the Ismail Gaspirali Tatar youth organisation and a local politician from the Tatar-Turkish Muslim Democratic Union.

This new awareness has surfaced politically; when Russia annexed Crimea again in 2014, local Tatars protested outside Russia's consulate.

Recent years have also seen the growth of a 10,000-strong Muslim community in Bucharest, comprising foreign citizens and converts.

They attend the Carol-Hunchiar Mosque on a leafy side-street in the capital, where 78-year-old Osman Aziz serves as the imam.

He remembers Romanian Islam under socialism.

From 1960 to 1962, Aziz was the imam at Ada Kaleh, an island fortress in the Danube populated by Turks, which remained Turkish territory well into the 20th century.

When the island was submerged after the construction of a dam in 1970, Aziz unsuccessfully campaigned to reconstruct the famous mosque.

For now, a more modest concrete one, under construction in the yard outside, will have to suffice.

"In any case, we managed to keep the faith alive," he said.

Although prayer was discouraged under communism, Romania's Muslims did not face the same level of repression as in other Eastern Bloc countries.

"Nicolae Ceausescu had good relations with several Muslim-majority states, from Iran to Lebanon and Libya; the mufti accompanied him when he visited them," said Iusuf, adding that students and workers from some of those "brotherly socialist states" eventually moved to Romania.

But Daniyar Cogahmet, an imam in the Dobromir area near the Bulgarian border, said many mosques were sparsely attended back then, especially by young people.

Muslims were free to practice their faith, he explained, but rural poverty saw many leave villages - a reality which affected Romanians of all backgrounds.

"Because of the common language, Turks and Tatars used to go to Turkey to do odd jobs," said Cogahmet.

By 2007, when Romania joined the European Union, that migration pattern had changed.

"Now everybody wants to go to Germany, and there are plenty of Turks there," said Cogahmet.

Constantin Voicu sits in his thriving vegetable garden in the village of Lespezi, Constanta, known in Turkish as Tekkekoy.

The 83-year-old told Al Jazeera how grateful his ancestors were to move here.

The poor Christian peasants from Transylvania had been given 10 hectares of fertile land after the annexation of the region.

It was a bid to resettle the land with loyal Christians, but any grudges are in the past.

"I'm no historian, just a simple man who knows things," said the pensioner, "but people know and like their [Muslim] neighbours and they don't believe everything they see on TV."

Romanian Muslims appear to have largely been spared the Islamophobic vitriol seen in neighbouring countries at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015.

But that year, while there were no rallies against refugees from Muslim-majority countries, protests did erupt over plans to construct a large Turkish-funded mosque in Bucharest, which was ultimately shelved in 2018.

"The presence of Muslims in Romania remains ... a marginal issue on the political and public agenda," concluded the authors of the 2017 European Islamophobia Report. "Much of society's anger in recent years has been directed towards corruption and the 'deep state' rather than poor migrants or Muslims," said Cristian Pirvulescu, a political scientist at the National School of Political Studies and Public Administration in Bucharest.

In 2017, Romania nearly got its first female Muslim prime minister when the Social Democratic Party nominated Sevil Shhaideh, a politician of Tatar descent who was serving as deputy prime minister at the time.

"You might find anti-Islamic discourse among some nationalist intellectuals, but if you stop ten ordinary people on the street here, you won't hear it," said journalist Vlad Stoiescu, who coordinates Sa Fie Lumina, an online magazine about religion in Romania.

"The Muslims in Dobruja are well integrated - Romanians are accustomed to their presence and so are they to the Romanians.

"When you visit those villages, take a look at the monuments to locals who in the First World War. Half the surnames on them are Turkish. They fought and died for this country."


Saturday, 17 August 2019

Khutbah by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan: Dua for the Ummah

Another very beautiful khutbah by Br. Nouman. The most important thing to highlight for the sermon is, “Posting a dua is not dua. A dua is a conversation with Allah, not with the internet. Not with people.”

You can check out our Dua (Supplications) page

In that, one of the most popular page are the Fortress of the Muslim section.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Hearts and Minds

 From FB of Shakh Yasir Qadhi:

Once, the Caliph `Umar saw a group of people around a campfire in the middle of the desert. Instead of calling out to them with the phrase, 'O people of the fire!', he chose, 'O people around a light,' to make sure that a potentially negative phrase didn't affect them.
At another time, the grandsons of the Prophet (salla Allah alayhi wa sallam) saw an old man performing wudhu, but making many mistakes. Instead of berating him, they went up to him and said, 'The two of us are arguing which one has the better wudhu, and we'd like you to be the judge between us.' When he saw how perfect their wudhu was, he said, 'It is my wudhu that needs to be corrected, not yours.'
A famous preacher of the last generation - during a time when there was a raging debate regarding the theological verdict of the one who abandons the prayer, is he a Muslim or not - was asked, "What is your opinion about the one who abandons the salat?" The person that asked him was not a scholar, but rather someone who listened to debates and liked to revel in his self-taught knowledge. The Shaykh smiled and said, "My opinion is that we should hold on to the hand of the one who abandons the salat and encourage him to come to the masjid with us!"
A lot of times, its not the message itself, but how you present it, that moves hearts and changes minds. And not every single controversy needs to be laid out in front of every single person: speaking to your audience correctly is half of knowledge.
May Allah grant us the wisdom to preach in the wisest and best of manners!

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Hadiith of the day

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "After my time, governors will arise whose falsehood will be believed and who will be assisted in their oppression by those who enter their presence. They have nothing to do with me and I have nothing to do with them. . .But those who do not enter their presence, believe their falsehood and help them in their oppression, they belong to me and I belong to them." Al-Tirmidhi

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "The people before you were destroyed because they inflicted legal punishments on the poor and forgave the rich." Sahih Al-Bukhari

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Dua for Arafah Day, Takbir & Tashreeq

If Laylat al Qadr is the most powerful night of the year, then the Day of Arafah is most certainly the best day. It was on this day that Islam was perfected (Qur’an 5:3) and when also Rasool’Allah (pbuh) gave his last sermon. Here are three things you should try to do on day of Arafah.

1. Ask for forgiveness

Millions will fast on this day to wipe out their sins of the previous and coming year, as recommended by the Prophet (pbuh). As Allah (swt) descends to the skies and showers His mercy on the millions of Hajj pilgrims gathered on Mount Arafah, there is no better time to make dua and ask for forgiveness. Here is the best dua you can make on the Day of Arafah.

2. Do a good deed

The Prophet (pbuh) said ‘There are no days during which good deeds are more beloved to Allah than these days (first ten days of Dhul Hijjah).’ [Bukhari]

So, in these last remaining days, give an Eid Gift for £20 and provide presents and clothes to deserving children over the coming days.

3. Feed the poor

Many of us will have finalised our preparations for Eid, including buying all the delicious food we plan to share and eat.

This Eid, help feed those with nothing, including the Yemeni Refugees now living in Somalia. Or, if you haven't done so already, you can still give your Qurani and provide the poor with something to eat on the blessed days of Eid.

You should also start reading Takbir from the day of Arafah all the way till the last day of the Eid

More about Dhul Hijjah here.

More about Hajj, Umrah and Eid-ul-Adha (Bakri Eid) here.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Ali ibn Abi Talib's Letter to Malik al-Ashtar, the Governor of Egypt

'Develop in your heart the feeling of love for your people and let it be the source of kindliness and blessing to them.'

'Should you be elated by power, ever feel in your mind the slightest symptoms of pride and arrogance, then look at the power and majesty of the Divine governance of the Universe over which you have absolutely no control. It will restore the sense of  balance to your wayward intelligence and give you the sense of calmness and affability.'

'Maintain justice in administration and impose it on your own self and seek the consent of the people, for, the discontent of the masses sterilises the contentment of the privileged few and the discontent of the few loses itself in the contentment of the many. Remember the privileged few will not rally round you in moments of difficulty: they will try to side-track justice, they will ask for more than what they deserve and will show no gratitude for favours done to them. (…) They will feel restive in the face of trials

and will offer no regret for their shortcomings. It is the common man who is the strength of the State and Religion. It is he who fights the enemy. So live in close contact with the masses and be mindful of their welfare.'

'Keep at a distance one who peers into the weaknesses of others. After all, the masses are not free from weaknesses. It is the duty of the ruler to shield them. Do not bring to light that which is hidden, but try to remove those weaknesses which have been brought to light. God is watchful of everything that is hidden from you, and He alone will deal with it. To the best of your ability cover the weaknesses of the public, and God will cover the weaknesses in you which you are anxious to keep away from their eye.'

'Do not make haste in seeking confirmation of tale-telling, for the tale-teller is a deceitful person appearing in the garb of a friend.'

'Do not disregard the noble traditions established by our forbears, which have promoted harmony and progress among the people; and do not initiate anything which might minimize their usefulness. The men who had established these noble traditions have had their reward; but responsibility will be yours if they are disturbed.'

​'Remember that the people are composed of different classes. The progress of one is dependent on the progress of every other, and none can afford to be independent of the other'
'He who does not realise his own responsibilities can hardly appraise the responsibilities of others.'

'Beware! Fear God when dealing with the problem of the poor who have none to patronise them, who are forlorn, indigent, helpless and are greatly torn in mind – victims of the vicissitudes of time. Among them are some who do not question their lot in life and who, notwithstanding their misery, do not go about seeing alms. For God’s sake, safeguard their rights, for on you rests the responsibility of protecting their interests.'

Do not treat their interests as of less importance than your own, and never keep them outside the purview of your important considerations, and mark the persons who look down upon them and of whose conditions they keep you in ignorance. Select from among your officers such men as are meek and God fearing who can keep you properly informed of the condition of the poor. Make such provision for these poor people as shall not oblige you to offer an excuse before God on the Day of Judgement for, it is this section of the people which, more than any other, deserves benevolent treatment.'

​'Seek your reward from God by giving to each of them (the poor) what is due to him and enjoin on yourself as a sacred duty the task of meeting the needs of such aged among them as have no independent means of livelihood and are averse to seek alms. The discharge of this duty is what usually proves very trying to rulers, but is very welcome to societies which are gifted with foresight. It is only such societies or nations who truly carry out with equanimity their covenant with God to discharge their duty to the poor.'

'For I have heard the prophet of God say that no nation or society, in which the strong do not discharge their duty to the weak, will occupy a high position.'

'I enjoin on you not to succumb to the prompting of your own heart or to turn away from the discharge of duties entrusted to you.’

‘I seek the refuge of the might of the Almighty and of His limitless sphere of blessings, and invite you to pray with me that He may give us together the grace willingly to surrender our will to His will, and to enable us to acquit ourselves before Him and His creation, so that mankind might cherish our memory and our work survive.'


Sunday, 4 August 2019

Home, After 24 Years in Jail: ‘My Memory Fails Me, I Lost Everything’

In a low ceilinged room inside his home in downtown Srinagar, Mirza Nisar Hussain, 40, struggles to recognise the man who just hugged him. As the two men embrace, Nisar’s weak eyes turn for answer towards his elder brother.

“He is our uncle, our mother’s maternal cousin,” Nisar is told by Zaffar Hussain, his brother who works as a private teacher.

Yet Nisar seems clueless. His empty, moist eyes gaze at the man with the curiosity of a newborn. Having spent the past 24 years in jail, he is visibly struggling to reconnect with his roots.

“What can I do? Memory fails me. I spent 24 years of my youth in jail. I lost everything,” he says.

Mirza Nisar is one of four men from Jammu and Kashmir acquitted Monday by the Rajasthan High Court after the prosecution’s failure to prove charges of their involvement in the 1996 Samleti bomb blast.

Nisar was 16 when sleuths from the Delhi Police’s Special Cell arrested him and another brother of his, Mirza Iftikhar, from Nepal’s capital Kathmandu for their role in the bombing of Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar market, also in 1996, which killed 13 civilians and injured 39.

The two brothers had a flourishing shawl business started by their father, now deceased. “Once in jail, whenever there was a blast in the country, we were questioned and tortured because we were Kashmiris and Muslims. We kept telling them we are innocent but they didn’t listen to us,” says Nisar.

The two brothers’ sudden arrest led to the closing of their business as their eldest brother, Zaffar, had to follow the case in court. “I was studying for medical entrance which I had to give up. I started a small coaching centre and also got three sisters married in the meantime. No one should go through what we have endured in all these years,” Zaffar tells The Citizen.

While Iftikhar was acquitted in 2010 of his involvement in the Lajpat Nagar bombing, Nisar was booked in the Samleti blast case, casting a shadow on prospects of his early release.

“In all these years, I read religious books which gave me comfort and solace in the darkness of the barracks in jail,” he says.

On Monday, a convict held at Jaipur Central Jail had gone to court for an appearance. “When he returned, he broke the news of our acquittal. I couldn’t believe it at first. When I told others they cried in joy,” says Nisar.

At their home in Srinagar’s Fateh Kadal locality, a Kashmiri chef (waza) has taken over the kitchen to deal with the deluge of visitors coming in to congratulate the family for the “miracle”.

The rush of visitors keeps Nisar on his toes. Men and women are sitting in separate rooms but everyone wants to witness the miracle. As his close relatives shake his hand and hug him, Nisar initially looks at them with empty eyes.

“He is Papa,” Zaffar says of the man, their mother’s cousin, who has just hugged Nisar. A spark lights up in Nisar’s eyes as he again stands up to hug ‘Papa’.

“We had given up hope. When I shared the news of Nisar’s acquittal with my mother and sisters, they were shocked. God is great. This is nothing less than a miracle,” Zaffar says.

Along with Nisar, Mohammad Ali Bhat and Lateef Ahmed, both residents of Srinagar, were released from jail on Tuesday after the court acquitted them of all charges in the Samleti blast case.

“Now the fight for justice begins. We will sit down, all of us who were released, and chalk out a legal strategy to seek compensation for what we have lost. The government can’t return the 24 years I spent in jail. At least they can provide us compensation so we can start our lives afresh,” says Nisar.


Thursday, 1 August 2019

Ten Blessed Days: First Ten Days of Dhu'l-Hijjah

By His wisdom, Allah عزّ وجلّ gave preference to some places and times over others. For Muslims, Friday is the best day of the week, Ramadan is the best month of the year, “Laylat al-Qadr” is the best night in Ramadan, the day of “Arafah” is the best day of the year. Likewise the first ten days of the month of “Dhul-Hijjah” are the blessed days for Muslims.

Allah عزّ وجلّ says in the Quran what means: {By the daybreak, by the ten nights, by the even and the odd, by the passing night – is this oath strong enough for a rational person?} (Al-Fajr 89:1-5)

Early Muslim scholars differed on what is meant by the “ten nights”. But most of them agreed that the ten nights refer to the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah.

In another verse Allah عزّ وجلّ says: {… to attain benefits and mention God’s name, on specified days.} (Al-Hajj 22:28)

Most of the Quran commentators view that the specific days are the ten days of Dhul-Hijjah.

What a great virtue attached to those days which pass unnoticed by many people nowadays.

On the merits of the first ten days, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported to have said: "There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these ten days." The people asked, "Not even Jihad for the sake of Allah?" He said: "Not even Jihad for the sake of Allah, except in the case of a man who went out to fight, giving himself and his wealth up for the cause, and came back with nothing." (Al-Bukhari)

In what follows are suggested ideas on how to make the best use of the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah:

Repent to Allah عزّ وجلّ

Make a sincere repentance to God and promise Him that you will not do bad deeds again. This may be your last chance. You are not sure if you will live till next year.

Pray at the Mosque

Try to perform the five daily prayers in the mosque. If you have time after Fajr prayer, try to sit in the mosque, read a juz' (part) of the Quran, make duaa, or recite some Adhkar (remembrance of Allah عزّ وجلّ). Then offer two rakahs before you go home. If you do so, you are reviving a tradition that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to do, a tradition which these days has been neglected by many Muslims.

Observe Fasting in the First Nine Days

Abu Sa`id al-Khudri said: I heard the Prophet saying, "Indeed, anyone who fasts for one day for Allah's Pleasure, Allah عزّ وجلّ will keep his face away from the (Hell) fire for (a distance covered by a journey of) seventy years." (Muslim)

Do not observe fasting on the tenth day because it is an `Eid day and it is prohibited to fast that day.

Good deeds are rewarded abundantly in these first ten days; and as fasting is a good deed, it is recommended to fast these nine days.

Do not Miss Fasting the Day of Arafah

On the day of Arafah, non-pilgrims are highly recommended to maintain fasting. It is reported that the Prophet was asked about fasting on the day of Arafah, whereupon he said: "It expiates the sins of the preceding year and the coming year." (Muslim)

He also said: "There is no day in which Allah frees a greater number of His slaves from the Hellfire than the Day of Arafah." (Muslim)

Make a Lot of Supplications (duaa) on the Day of Arafah

The Prophet said: "The best supplication is that of the Day of `Arafah, and the best thing that I and other Prophets before me said, is: La ilaha illa allahu wahdahu la sharika lah, lahu al-mulku wa lahu al-hamdu wa huwa `ala kulli shai'in qadeer (There is no god but Allah alone. He has no partners. To Him belong the sovereignty and all praise. He has power over all things.) (Al-Tirmidhi)

Try to Do Something New this Year

If you used to recite a part of the Quran last year, try to finish reading the whole Quran this year. Try to pick some verses everyday and check the books of Tafsir (exegesis of the Quran) to reflect on their meaning in order to derive lessons from them in your daily life.

If you do not read Arabic, I recommend Muhammad Asad's translation of the Quran. If you are well-versed in the Quran recitation, try to teach a group of new Muslims how to read the Quran correctly.

Maintain your Family Relations

Visit your relatives even for a few minutes. If they live far away, give them a call. Do not forget your parents. Be kind to them, visit them, and attend to their needs. Some new Muslims think that after their conversion, they should cut off their family members. God orders Muslims to be kind to their parents even if they are non-Muslims. This occasion might be a good opportunity to talk about Islam to your non-Muslim parents.

Give to Charity

Make it a daily habit to help the needy. Look for humanitarian organizations in your neighborhood and help them in any way you can.

Don't Miss Offering at Least Two Rakahs of “Tahajjud” at Night

Offer many extra prayers, as much as you can. God promised a great reward for offering extra acts of worship. The Prophet said: "Allah said, 'I will declare war against him who shows hostility to a pious worshipper of Mine. And the most beloved things with which My slave comes nearer to Me, is what I have enjoined upon him; and My slave keeps on coming closer to Me through performing Nawafil (praying or doing extra deeds besides what is obligatory) till I love him, so I become his sense of hearing with which he hears, and his sense of sight with which he sees, and his hand with which he grips, and his leg with which he walks; and if he asks Me, I will give him, and if he asks My protection (refuge), I will protect him; (i.e. give him My refuge) and I do not hesitate to do anything as I hesitate to take the soul of the believer, for he hates death, and I hate to disappoint him." (Al-Bukhari)

Reciting the Takbir

It is an act of Sunnah to say “Takbir” (Allah is the Greatest) in the first ten days.

The “Takbir” should be pronounced everywhere; in the mosque, at home, in the streets, etc. It is reported that: “Ibn `Umar and Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with them) used to go out in the marketplace during the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah, reciting Takbir, and the people would recite Takbir when they heard them.” (Al-Bukhari)

There are many forms of Takbir, but the most common one is: Allahu akbaru, Allahu akbaru, Allahu akbaru, la illaha illa Allah, Allahu akbaru, Allahu akbar, wa lillahi al-Hamd.

In another version of the Hadith mentioned above on the merits of the ten days, there is this addition: "… so increase saying Tahlil (saying la-illah illa Allah), Takbir (saying Allahu akbar), and Tahmid (saying Al-hamdullilah)" (Ahmad) Therefore, these kinds of “dhikr” should be recited day and night.

The Best Good Deed in These Days is to Offer Hajj

Go to Hajj, if you are physically and financially able to perform it. If not, try to offer a sacrifice if you have the means. By doing this you are commemorating the story of sacrifice of both prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail (peace be upon them). The poor and the needy have a share in the sacrifice and feeding them is one of best deeds that can be done on the day of `Eid.

I pray to Allah عزّ وجلّ to accept our good deeds in these days of Dhul-Hijjah and throughout the year. When our good deeds are accepted by God, we will be admitted to Paradise, by His Mercy.

Read More Here:

The Repentance of Abu Nawas

Monday, 29 July 2019

An Open Letter to Muslim Men: The Sunnah Trumps Toxic Masculinity

Excerpt from article by Prof. Jonathan A.C Brown

In light of ongoing debates about differences between sexes and expectations of gender roles, it’s worth looking at how the men and women of Islam’s ideal, founding generation conducted themselves. In the Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet ﷺ, men and women are distinct in their duties of prayer and fasting (women don’t do either when menstruating), in their dress (they must cover different areas of their body), and other legal issues. Men have the duty to guard and protect (qiwāma) their womenfolk because of some of the capacities that God generally grants one sex to a greater degree than the other.

But what surprised me when I reflected on it was how little difference there was otherwise between the conduct of men and women in this noble community. Both were deeply pious, decisive, courageous in word and deed, proud of themselves but humbled by the charge God put upon them, confident when they believed they were right but also utterly deferential to the instructions of God and His Messenger ﷺ. Both were dynamically involved in public life. And both men and women were extremely conscious of their code of sexual propriety. Aisha رضي الله عنها became a major political leader in the first decades of the Muslim community and one of its most respected sources of knowledge. When the Prophet’s ﷺ wife Umm Salama رضي الله عنها heard him addressing the people outside, she went out to join the crowd. When she was asked why she thought she was meant to attend, she replied, “Are we not among the people?”During the caliphate of ʿUmar رضي الله عنه, a female Companion interrupted his Friday sermon to correct him on a point, and he admitted she was right. A whole slew of female Companions fought in battle, the most notable among them Nuṣayba bint Kaʿb رضي الله عنها, who defended the Prophet ﷺ with her sword at the Battle of Uhud and later died on campaign. The great enemy of the Prophet ﷺ, Abū Lahab, was killed by Umm al-Faḍl رضي الله عنها, who smashed his head with a tent-pole. During the Battle of the Trench, Ṣafiyya bint ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib رضي الله عنها was among the people defending the small fort of Fāriʿ. When the senior man there would not go out and confront an enemy soldier who was about to find the fort’s secret entrance, Ṣafiyya took matters into her own hands. She leapt on him from the fort’s walls and clubbed him to death. But she demanded that one of her male comrades strip off his weapons and armor since he was an unrelated man she would never touch with her own hands.

The Prophet ﷺ and his community did not leave a legacy of ‘Traditional Man’s Men’ and subservient women. Their legacy is one of courageous, committed, humble, and engaged individuals, men and women alike. At their head was not an angry alpha male whose masculinity made him mock or subordinate others. He ﷺ was a man who saw that a man’s role is to serve his family and that letting others serve you is something a real man would prefer to avoid.


Tuesday, 16 July 2019

How Ifrah Ahmed, the girl from Mogadishu, took her FGM story to the world

Ifrah Ahmed refuses to let the horrific female genital mutilation she suffered at the age of eight define her. “I don’t want to be a victim. I want to be a voice,” says the 32-year-old campaigner.

She is one of the first women to publicly speak out about female genital mutilation (FGM) in Somalia – a country where it is estimated that 98% of women have undergone the ritual – and now her journey from powerless victim to powerful role model has been dramatised in a film. A Girl from Mogadishu has just had its UK premiere at the Edinburgh film festival and will be released across the UK in cinemas later this year.

In the first 10 minutes it shows Aja Naomi King, who plays Ahmed as a 15-year-old girl, being violently gang-raped by Somali militants. After that, she makes the dangerous journey from Somalia to Ireland to seek asylum, too scared to question anything her male smugglers want her to do. Upon her arrival, a male gynaecologist examines her and tries to find out what has happened to her, but she has no words to explain it to the male translator, just tears. But then, about halfway through, with the help of other women, she starts to find her voice. By the end of the film, she is shouting about FGM in front of Barack Obama, making speeches at the United Nations and being praised by the president of Somalia.

For Ahmed, who has devoted her life to campaigning against FGM and was instrumental in bringing about the 2012 legislation banning the practice in Ireland, the movie was an opportunity to challenge how survivors of FGM are perceived. “I don’t want people to see me as a victim. I want people to see me empowering other women. I want to show people that whatever Somali women have been through, we can be strong and overcome it.”

She hopes that others who have suffered FGM will watch the film and feel less alone. “It’s hard for women to speak out about FGM. So when two young Somali women came up to me after watching the movie in Edinburgh and hugged me, and said: ‘Ifra, you are speaking for all of us,’ I felt so happy. I felt so proud.”


Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Hadiths: what is Islam?

A man once asked the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): "What is Islam?" The Prophet replied: "Pleasant talk and serving food (to guests and to the needy)." The man then asked: "What is faith?" The Prophet said: "Endurance and benevolence." Next, the man asked: "Which (Muslim) is best?" The Prophet said: "One who safeguards (others) against (harm caused by) his tongue and hand." Al-Tirmidhi

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "There is an abode in paradise. . .prepared for those who are polite in their speech, provide food (to the needy), fast frequently, and (pray) when other people are asleep." Al-Tirmidhi

The Prophet also said: "A (tiny spot) in Paradise is better than the whole world and whatever is in it." Sahih Al-Bukhari