Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Make Peace and Move On | Daily Reminders

Monday, 30 March 2020

Solidarity for Sikhs after Afghanistan massacre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, 23 March 2020

When acid became a weapon: Delhi violence

“It was as if someone threw boiling hot water on me,” said the 23-year-old. He removed his shirt to reveal flesh-coloured scabs that stretched from the right side of his upper back to his right ear and down his right arm. He could not stop himself from scratching the wounds, which itched madly as they healed.

Nearly 20 days after rioting mobs in North East Delhi’s Khajuri Khas area flung acid on him, the pain is still fresh in his mind. “I cried so much,” he said “I do not know what they would have done to me if they caught me.” He is still so fearful he does not want to reveal his name.

From February 23 to 26, violence engulfed neighbourhoods in North East Delhi. What started as a clash between groups protesting against the new Citizenship Amendment Act and those supporting it turned into communal violence, much of it directed against Muslims. At least 53 were killed in the violence and hundreds injured.

For days, hospitals in Delhi were flooded with the dead and the injured. Their injuries told the story of the violence: gunshot wounds, stabs and burns. Some also bore wounds that spoke of acid attacks. At Al Hind Hospital in North East Delhi’s Mustafabad, at least three cases are marked as “acid attack”. Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital in Dilshad Garden recorded four such cases, Newslaundry reported.

MA Anwar, founder of Al Hind Hospital, told that the chemical substance used was “strong acid”. He classified some of the injuries sustained by victims as second degree burns. “The body mass melted away and the injuries were very deep,” he said. “Most of these patients still come to change their dressing.”

‘Ammi, my eyes are burning’
At the relief camp set up in the Mustafabad Eidgah, 20-year-old Anam is recovering from her injuries. “It itches more than it hurts,” she said. The lower part of her face and her neck bear scars, acquired when marauding mobs allegedly attacked their house in Shiv Vihar on February 25.

They lived in Gali Number 13 in Shiv Vihar’s Phase 6, down the road from Medina Masjid, which was also desecrated in the violence. The family ran a grocery store from the ground floor of the two-storeyed house. Anam’s mother, 40-year-old Mumtaz Begum, recalls hearing gas cylinders bursting on the main road running through the neighbourhood on February 25. Around 8 pm, Mumtaz recounted, her husband, 52-year-old Mohammad Waqil, went up to the terrace to see if the violence had stopped.

“I told him we should leave but he said, ‘Are you mad? This is our house, we have our family and our goats here – where will we go?’” Mumtaz said. “He said we would leave only after we saw what was happening from the terrace.”

There was no electricity that night, Mumtaz said, so her daughter, her husband and she climbed to the terrace in darkness. As Waqil and Anam looked out from the terrace, she waited inside in the staircase.

Anam said she heard the mobs chanting “Jai Shri Ram!” and Mumtaz said she could see smoke billowing out from houses in the neighbourhood – “there was fire everywhere”. Within minutes, a glass bottle landed on Waqil’s face, spilling acid on his eyes and on Anam’s mouth, chin and neck, Mumtaz said.

“I could not see if the acid came from below or from the front but it was so quick,” Mumtaz said. “We had not even been up there for 10 minutes. It was very sudden.”

Once the acid touched her face, Anam ran towards her mother. “I thought dirt had got into my eye but it was acid,” she said. Her mother wiped the substance off Anam’s face with her scarf. “She kept saying ‘Ammi, my face is burning’,” recalled Mumtaz.

Waqil, however, was rooted to the spot. As Mumtaz went closer, she said, she saw blood oozing from his face. “I could not understand where the blood on his face came from,” she said.

That was when the family, including Anam’s brothers, 18-year-old Mohammad Wasim, 14-year-old Mohammad Naseem and their uncle, Shakeel, decided it was time to leave their home. The six of them and another neighbour began to walk towards Medina Masjid.

The mosque was deserted, save for another neighbour who said he was trapped there, Mumtaz recalled. The family hid in the mosque even as mobs bore down on it, setting gas cylinders alight. Till 2am that night, Mumtaz kept calling the police on 100 but no one answered her calls. Meanwhile, Waqil had fallen silent. In despair, Mumtaz said, she started to pray: “I was praying to Allah to get us out of there safely or bury us along with the debris of the mosque.”

Around 3am, the family decided to venture out of the mosque. A neighbour had called and asked them to reach the main road running through the neighbourhood and walk towards Chaman Park, a Muslim-majority locality nearby. “When we got out, we saw everything was vandalised and burning,” Mumtaz said.

At 5am on February 26, Mumtaz called an ambulance from Chaman Park. It was to take Waqil and Anam to the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital at Delhi Gate. Anam was discharged on February 29. Waqil continues to receive treatment at the hospital.


Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Israeli filmmaker uncovers horrific new evidence of the Deir Yassin Massacre

It has been almost 70 years since the Deir Yassin Massacre. On April 9, 1948, Zionist militias, Irgun and Lehi (a.k.a Stern Gang), attacked the village of Deir Yassin, killing over 100 people including women and children. Reports stated that the residents of the small village were mutilated, decapitated, disemboweled and raped.

In an article published recently by Israeli newspaper Haaretz, hidden evidence and shocking new testimonies regarding the massacre have been released.

Neta Shoshani, an Israeli filmmaker who has been researching the history of the massacre, entitled her most recent film “Born in Deir Yassin”. Shoshani interviewed and gathered testimonies from people who were present during the massacre, and evidence from Israeli archives that are hidden from the public.

She showed the evidence to the Israeli Newspaper Haaretz. The film shows “A young fellow tied to a tree and set on fire. A woman and an old man shot in the back. Girls lined up against a wall and shot with a submachine gun.”

Among those who testified was Yehuda Feder, former member of Lehi. “In the village I killed an armed Arab man and two Arab girls of 16 or 17. I stood them against a wall and blasted them with two rounds from the Tommy gun.” He told Shoshani, adding “We confiscated a lot of money and silver and gold jewelry fell into our hands.”

Former Jerusalem commander of Lehi, Yehoshua Zettler, said “They took dead people, piled them up and burned them.”, and described the residents of the village saying “they ran like cats.” The attackers cut through the village using explosives, blowing up houses, and “within a few hours, half the village wasn’t there any more” said Zettler.

Mordechai Gichon, before he died last year was a lieutenant colonel in the Israeli army; a Haganah intelligence officer at the time. He was sent to Deir Yassin after the massacre. “When the Cossacks burst into Jewish neighborhoods, then that should have looked something like this,” he said - comparing Deir Yassin to Jewish pogroms. “My impression was more of a massacre than anything else. If it is a matter of killing innocent civilians, then it can be called a massacre.” He told Shoshani.

Yair Tsaban, a member of the Youth Brigades at the time, was sent to bury the corpses in fear of the Red Cross showing up “at any moment, and it was necessary to blur the traces [of the killings] because publication of pictures and testimonies about what had happened in the village would be very damaging to the image of our War of Independence.”

Tsaban stated that during that process, he did not at all encounter a corpse of an armed man but “mostly women and old men.” He also testified to seeing civilians shot in the back, “An old man and a woman, sitting in the corner of a room with their faces to the wall, and they are shot in the back.”

A member of the Information Service of the Haganah at the time, Shraga Peled, told his story Personally to Shoshani. “When I got to Deir Yassin, the first thing I saw was a big tree to which a young Arab fellow was tied. And this tree was burnt in a fire. They had tied him to it and burned him. I photographed that.” Peled was sent to document the events, and later gave the film to his superiors. He hasn’t seen it since then.

Also hidden in Israeli archives, and featured in Shoshani’s film, is a scene of orphaned children whose parents had been killed at Deir Yassin. This, along with a mammoth amount of looted and hidden history, remains in the Israeli military’s archives. Shoshani’s petition against hiding the archives, which was supported by Haaretz, was rejected by Israel’s High Court and finally by the Supreme Court in 2010. “The state explained that publication of the pictures was liable to damage the state’s foreign relations and the ‘respect for the dead,” stated Haaretz.

The Massacre of Deir Yassin is only a single incident. Seventy years of history remain censored by the state of Israel.


Saturday, 14 March 2020

Shaykh Dr. Yasir Qadhi on the Wisdoms behind Corona Virus (COVID-19)

A beautiful Khutbah by Shaykh Dr. Yasir Qadhi on what this coronavirus teaches us according to Islam. The summary is as follows but you can also watch the complete video at the end:

1. To make us humble, no person has all the power, only Allah is all powerful as we see that the entire race is in terror because of microscopic virus, despite of all technology.

2. Appreciate life and death are real - Allah is the one who created life and death and only Allah knows when we will all die.

3. It shows the foolishness of people who somehow think they are better than others as virus attacks everyone equally. Remove racism, gender inequality, nationality, rich or poor, white or black, etc. from your heart.

4. This also shows us that this Duniya, the wealth and success, is not the end and does not indicate the position in the eyes of Allah - there is hereafter. Beware of the fitnah.

5. It makes selfish people realise that they need family and friends. This also indicates the need for law, civil society and humanity in general.

6. Iman in Qadr. There must be a higher power that determines everything - the randomness that it affects some and doesn't others. Taking precautions will not help against Qadr (pre-destination). Dua is your weapon. But you still need to take reasonable precautions. Say, nothing will happen to us unless Allah has decreed it upon us.

7. People rediscover their faith in these times. People who are not religious become one and this is one of the most important lesson. In Qur'an, there are multiple instances of Allah talking about the servants who only remember Allah in trouble. Allah never criticizes these people but the criticism comes after these people are saved and they go back to old ways, neglecting Allah.

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

'We are not safe': India's Muslims tell of wave of police brutality

“The maulana told the policemen gently that none from the seminary took part in any protest rally and pleaded for them not to vandalise the Qur’an centre in the madrasa,” said a neighbour who witnessed the police attack but did not want to be identified for fear of reprisal. “It was then that the policemen and Rapid Action Force personnel [a branch of the police that deals with crowd control] pounced on him.”

The police then rounded up Hussaini and 35 of his students, 15 of whom were under 18 and mostly orphans, and took them to a nearby police barracks. Here the cleric was, witnesses allege, stripped of his clothes, beaten and a rod shoved up his anus, causing rectal bleeding, while the students were allegedly tortured with bamboo rods and made to shout Hindu nationalist slogans Jai Shri Ram” [Hail Lord Ram] and “Har Har Mahadev” [Save us Lord Shiva].

“The maulana had been beaten up very badly and was left without a single cloth on his body and when he was released we found him in very bad shape,” said Salman Saeed, a local Congress leader who came to pick up Hussaini and several students from Civil Lines Barracks. “He was badly wounded and bloodied, with many bruises across his body. He could not stand up on his legs and was bare-bodied. We were shocked to see the maulana in that condition. He is bed-ridden now.”

While Hussaini and all his underage students were released at 2am that night, 12 adults students and the madrasa cook remain behind bars and have been charged with taking part in violence, despite never partaking in a protest.

The young students were not the only underage Muslim prisoners in Muzaffarnagar police barracks that night. Upon seeing the commotion in the streets, 14-year-old Mohammad Sadiq, who worked as a mason’s assistant, set out to find his 11-year-old brother. Cars and motorcycles had been set alight and as protesters were fleeing around him, he too began to run. It was then that a dozen police pounced on him, hitting his legs with batons to make him fall to the ground and then unleashing a torrent of blows, he said.

“The police said to me, ‘if you tell us the names of 100 Muslims involved in the riots we will stop beating you’,” recounted Sadiq, as he lay bed-bound and weak from his injuries in his one-room family shack. “I kept telling them I had nothing to do with the riots, that I did not know anything but they kept beating me. The policemen told me to shout ‘Jai Sri Ram’ and I told them I would not so they put an iron rod into the flames of the car that was on fire and then held it against my hands to burn me.”

“Then some of the police officers tried to pick me up and put me in the flames of the car on fire,” Sadiq said, “but two of them said ‘no, let’s just take him to the police station’.”

Sadiq was kept in police detention for the next four days. Stripped to his underwear, he said he was tortured. For two days he was given no food or water and no medical treatment for his badly bleeding wounds. When he was finally released his condition was so bad his mother, Rehana Begum, fainted when she came to collect him.

“His father is dead so he was the only earning member of this house but he has been beaten so badly across the knees he can not walk and can not work now so what will happen to us?” she said, her head in her hands.


Monday, 9 March 2020

Why India’s Muslims Are in Grave Danger

India has been jolted by the deadliest communal violence in New Delhi in decades. The fighting began on Sunday, Feb. 23—just before U.S. President Donald Trump arrived in the country for meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi—and quickly escalated into mass riots, with Hindu mobs targeting Muslim homes in the city’s northeast. At least 45 people were killed—mostly Muslims.

Ashutosh Varshney, a Brown University professor and author of the prize-winning Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India, believes last week’s riots in Delhi bear some of the hallmarks of an organized pogrom. India has been there before: In 2002, in Gujarat, when Modi was the state’s chief minister, more than 1,000 people were killed in religious riots. Most were Muslims. While Modi was later cleared of wrongdoing by the country’s judiciary, critics say that he could have done much more to prevent the attacks. And in 1984, again in Delhi, an estimated 3,000 Sikhs were targeted and killed after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. In both cases, experts say, riots could not have been conducted without some complicity on the part of the police.

Varshney believes last week’s deadly clashes could be repeated in other parts of the country—and that Muslims are particularly vulnerable. Here is a transcript of Foreign Policy’s interview with Varshney, lightly edited for clarity.

Ravi Agrawal: There’s been a bit of debate about whether the violence in Delhi last week should be defined as a riot or as something more serious—a pogrom. Can you explain the difference?

Ashutosh Varshney: Pogroms are a special class of riots when it’s no longer simply a clash between two mobs or groups. Instead, the police are siding with one group either by looking away or by abetting and sometimes even directly participating in the violence. The key difference between riots and pogroms lies in the behavior of the state—through its police. The term was born in tsarist Russia when pogroms were launched against Jews.

RA: Given what we know now, how would you classify the violence in Delhi?

AV: On the first day and night—Sunday, Feb. 23—we saw two mobs going at each other. There were deaths on both sides. But on the second and third day, the partisanship of the police became clear. A mosque, a Muslim shrine, and Muslim homes and shops were attacked. The police did not respond to calls for help. Logs suggest a high volume of those calls came from predominantly Muslim parts of northeast Delhi. But the police failed to show up. Hindu mobs then attacked with abandon.

The second part is more direct participation. There are videos, in particular one which shows young Muslim men being hit by a Hindu mob. And the cops are asking the fallen and beaten Muslim men to sing the national anthem—as they’re being hit. That is quite egregious.

But the more significant evidence thus far is of the police simply looking away and not responding to Muslim pleas for help as homes, places of worship, and commercial enterprises were attacked with impunity.

RA: The fact that all of this happened in New Delhi, the capital city of India, is significant.

AV: Delhi has a unique structure for police operations. In every other part of India, the police report to the state government, and not to the central government, because law and order is defined as a state subject by India’s constitution. But Delhi’s police reports to the central government, not to the state government—technically, Delhi is not a full-fledged state. The fact that the central government is led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would therefore make Modi’s government responsible for law and order in Delhi. And the minister of home affairs, Amit Shah, would be the final authority to which Delhi’s police force would report. So the responsibility for the failure to maintain law and order also lies at his door.

RA: Some of the perpetrators of the attacks were heard shouting “Jai Shri Ram,” or “Victory to Lord Ram.” Can you explain the significance of that chant?

AV: “Jai Shri Ram,” theologically speaking, is a celebration of Lord Ram, the Hindu deity known for compassion and considered to be the embodiment of the highest morality and ethics. But in recent Hindu nationalist ideological campaigns, Jai Shri Ram has been weaponized to express muscularity, masculinity, and coercion—as opposed to kindness and compassion. So, the meaning of Jai Shri Ram has been transformed into a battle cry for the establishment of a Hindu nationalist polity, presided over by a Hindu nationalist state.

RA: Given that you describe last week’s events in Delhi as bearing the hallmarks of the beginning of a pogrom, how severe is the danger of other, similar outbreaks of violence across the country?

AV: The most vulnerable Muslim populations are in BJP-ruled states, because the role of the police is critical—and the police comes under the state government. If BJP governments in various states of India push the police against the Muslims, then only the bravest police officers would resist, because the authority structure is very clear. The danger to Muslim minorities in BJP-ruled states is grave. Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state with a population of 200 million, seems particularly vulnerable. Muslims comprise about 18 percent of the population there, and they are spread out all over the state. There was a big riot in Muzaffarnagar in 2013, for example, and the police were nowhere to be seen. UP is also ruled by a politician, Yogi Adityanath, whose anti-Muslim prejudice and fervor is well-known and has been openly displayed.

RA: What can civil society and the media do to prevent outbreaks of violence?

AV: Civil society can be quite important in creating bulwarks of resistance and peace, but that is not something it can do instantly. The creation of inter-religious networks between Hindus and Muslims takes a few years, if not more. The probability of integrated communities coming apart is much lower than the probability of segregated communities coming apart.

A more immediate issue always is how to minimize the extent or the intensity of violence. And that’s where the media plays a key role. By reporting courageously; by condemning what it finds unacceptable and sees as clear violations of norms, rules, and laws; and by creating a narrative of critique, the media can slow down or reduce the intensity of violence.

Sometimes the police intervene, too—even without political approval. Legally and constitutionally, the police can step in during moments of crisis. However, those police officers, administrators, and bureaucrats seem fewer in number today than was the case earlier. They are not entirely absent: I repeatedly came across in my research examples of police officers and administrators who would simply apply the law and not follow a political script. But a large number of police officers and bureaucrats do not have the courage to stand up to political authorities.

RA: Journalists in India are under threat, meanwhile. One photographer told the Washington Post a mob threatened to remove his pants to check whether he was circumcised—essentially to determine if he was Muslim. How much of this has to do with messaging from the government?

AV: The ideology of the government has created a ground-level situation where instructions do not have to come from the top. So-called agents devise their own strategies and think that by acting in a bigoted manner, by attacking Muslims, they could rise in the political hierarchy. So the incentive structure that gets created from the top begins to acquire a logic of its own and activates storm troopers and lower-level functionaries on the ground who try to interpret what the party bosses might appreciate or be pleased by.

RA: Prime Minister Modi’s second term began last May, after he won a landslide national election. While signs of the current muscular, chauvinistic brand of Hinduism were there in his first term as well—as we saw in several incidents of lynchings of Muslims, for example—there’s been a marked acceleration in the ruling BJP’s push for its social agenda. Why is that the case?

AV: Ahead of Modi’s first term in 2014, the political campaign had very few Hindu nationalist themes. I couldn’t count more than two speeches. You can say there were dog whistles and some displays of bigotry in the functioning of the midlevel politicians, but it wasn’t a dominant narrative.

In the campaign ahead of Modi’s second term, in 2019, the platform was more directly about the Hindu nationalist reconstruction of India. It can be claimed that given that the BJP’s vote share increased by 7 percentage points, India’s elections have authorized a more ideological and cultural push of the Hindu nationalist variety. But it’s also clear from the election data that the mandate was a complicated one. The vote in favor of Modi was not necessarily one of simply pushing a social and cultural agenda. National security was also an issue. Welfare programs had gained popularity: The BJP’s programs for sanitation and cooking gas were popular. To see the May 2019 election as a vote for an ideological restructuring of India would be to place an excessive interpretation on the wishes of the electorate. But that’s what happens in politics. The BJP seems sufficiently emboldened to use the legislative route to start restructuring the polity. And the Citizenship Amendment Act that passed on Dec. 11—leading to the current spate of protests—was the culmination of that.


Monday, 2 March 2020

Supreme Court rules against exposing Israel’s role in Bosnian genocide

Israel’s Supreme Court last month rejected a petition to reveal details of Israeli defense exports to the former Yugoslavia during the genocide in Bosnia in the 1990s. The court ruled that exposing Israeli involvement in genocide would damage the country’s foreign relations to such an extent that it would outweigh the public interest in knowing that information, and the possible prosecution of those involved.

The petitioners, Attorney Itay Mack and Professor Yair Oron, presented the court with concrete evidence of Israeli defense exports to Serbian forces at the time, including training as well as ammunition and rifles. Among other things, they presented the personal journal of General Ratko Mladić, currently on trial at the International Court of Justice for committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Mladić’s journal explicitly mentions Serbia’s ample arms ties with Israel at the time.

The exports took place long after the UN Security Council placed an arms embargo on various parts of the former Yugoslavia, and after the publication of a series of testimonies exposing genocide and the creation of concentration camps.

The Israeli State Attorney’s reply and the court’s rejection of the petition are a de facto admission by Israel that it cooperated with the Bosnian genocide: if the government had nothing to hide, the documents under discussion would not pose any threat to foreign relations.

Between 1991 and 1995 the former Yugoslavia shattered, going from a multi-national republic to an assemblage of nations fighting each other in a bloody civil war that included massacres and ultimately genocide.

The Serbs waged war against Croatia from 1991-1992, and against Bosnia from 1992-1995. In both wars the Serbs committed genocide and ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the areas they occupied, leading to the deaths of 250,000 people. Tens of thousands of others were wounded and starved, a multitude of women were raped, and many people were incarcerated in concentration camps. Other parties to the conflict also committed war crimes, but the petition focuses on Israel’s collaboration with the Serbian forces. The horrendously cruel acts in Yugoslavia were the worst Europe had seen since the Holocaust.

One of the most notorious massacres was perpetrated by soldiers serving under Serbian General Ratko Mladić around the city of Srebrenica in July 1995. Serbian forces commanded by the general murdered about 8,000 Bosnians and buried them in mass graves in the course of a campaign of ethnic cleansing they were waging against Muslims in the area. Although the city was supposed to be under UN protection, when the massacre began UN troops did not intervene. Mladić was extradited to the International Court of Justice at The Hague in 2012, and is still on trial.

At the time, prominent Jewish organizations were calling for an immediate end to the genocide and shutting down the death camps. Not so the State of Israel. Outwardly it condemned the massacre, but behind the scenes was supplying weapons to the perpetrators and training their troops.

Attorney Mack and Professor Oron have gathered numerous testimonies about the Israeli arms supply to Serbia, which they presented in their petition. They provided evidence of such exports taking place long after the UN Security Council embargo went into effect in September 1991. The testimonies have been crossed-checked and are brought here as they were presented in the petition, with necessary abbreviations.

In 1992 a former senior official of the Serb Ministry of Defense published a book, The Serbian Army, in which she wrote about the arms deal between Israel and Serbia, signed about a month after the embargo: “One of the largest deals was made in October 1991. For obvious reasons, the deal with the Jews was not made public at the time.”

An Israeli who volunteered in a humanitarian organization in Bosnia at the time testified that in 1994 a UN officer asked him to look at the remains of 120 mm shell — with Hebrew writing on it — that exploded on the landing strip of the Sarajevo airfield. He also testified that he saw Serbs moving around in Bosnia carrying Uzi guns made in Israel.

In 1995 it was reported that Israeli arms dealers in collaboration with the French closed a deal to supply Serbia with LAW missiles. According to reports from 1992, a delegation of the Israeli Ministry of Defense came to Belgrade and signed an agreement to supply shells.

The same General Mladić who is now being prosecuted for war crimes and genocide, wrote in his journal that “from Israel — they proposed joint struggle against Islamist extremists. They offered to train our men in Greece and a free supply of sniper rifles.” A report prepared at the request of the Dutch government on the investigation of the Srebrenica events contains the following: “Belgrade considered Israel, Russia and Greece its best friends. In autumn 1991 Serbia closed a secret arms deal with Israel.”

In 1995 it was reported that Israeli arms dealers supplied weapons to VRS — the army of Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb Army. This supply must have been made with the knowledge of the Israeli government.

The Serbs were not the only party in this war to which the Israeli arms dealers tried to sell weapons. According to reports, there was also an attempt to make a deal with the anti-Semitic Croatian regime, which eventually fell through. The petition also presented reports by human rights activists about Israelis training the Serb army, and that the arms deal with the Serbs enabled Jews to leave Sarajevo, which was under siege.

While all of this was taking place in relative secrecy, at the public level the government of Israel lamely expressed its misgivings about the situation, as if this were some force majeure and not a manmade slaughter. In July 1994, then-Chairman of the Israeli Knesset’s Foreign Relations and Defense Committee MK Ori Or visited Belgrade and said: “Our memory is alive. We know what it means to live with boycotts. Every UN resolution against us has been taken with a two-thirds majority.” That year, Vice President of the US at the time, Al Gore, summoned the Israeli ambassador and warned Israel to desist from this cooperation.

Incidentally, in 2013 Israel had no problem extraditing to Bosnia-Herzegovina a citizen who immigrated to Israel seven years earlier and was wanted for suspicion of involvement in a massacre in Bosnia in 1995. In other words, at some point the state itself recognized the severity of the issue.


Thursday, 27 February 2020

Malcolm X is still misunderstood - and misused

Every semester in which I teach a course on Muslims in the Civil Rights Movement at Southern Methodist University, I give my students a selection of quotes from both Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X and ask them to guess who said what. So for example, I will posit the following two quotes and ask for their proper ascription:

"Ignorance of each other is what has made unity impossible in the past. Therefore, we need enlightenment. We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity. Once we have more knowledge (light) about each other, we will stop condemning each other and a United front will be brought about."

"The majority of white Americans consider themselves sincerely committed to justice for the Negro. They believe that American society is essentially hospitable to fair play and to steady growth toward a middle-class Utopia embodying racial harmony. But unfortunately this is a fantasy of self-deception and comfortable vanity."

And every single time, they have been unable to identify the first quote as belonging to Malcolm, and the second to Martin. But it is not just a few students that have gotten it wrong. The American education system and most mainstream portrayals of Martin and Malcolm have been simplistic and sanitising.

Martin is the perfect hero who preached non-violence and love, and Malcolm the perfect villain who served as his violent counterpart, preaching hate and militancy. The result is not just a dishonest reading of history, but a dichotomy that allows for Dr King to be curated to make us more comfortable, and Malcolm X to be demonised as a demagogue from whom we must all flee. Reducing these men to such simplistic symbols allows us to filter political programmes according to how "King-like" they are. Hence, illegitimate forms of reconciliation are legitimised through King and legitimate forms of resistance are delegitimised through Malcolm X.

Malcolm was never violent, not as a member of the Nation of Islam, nor as a Sunni Muslim. But Malcolm did find it hypocritical to demand that black people in the United States commit to non-violence when they were perpetually on the receiving end of state violence. He believed that black people in the US had a right to defend themselves, and charged that the US was inconsistent in referencing its founding fathers’ defence of liberty for everyone but them.

Malcolm knew that his insistence on this principle would cause him to be demonised even further and ultimately benefit the movement of Dr King, which is exactly what he had intended. Just weeks before his assassination, he went to Selma to support Dr King and willingly embraced his role as the scary alternative. In every interview, in his meeting with Dr Coretta Scott King, and elsewhere, he vocalised that the US would do well to give the good reverend what he was asking for, or else.

But he never actually said what the "or else" was, placing a greater urgency on America to cede to King’s demands. Malcolm had no problem playing the villain, so long as it led to his people no longer being treated like animals. And while King may have been steadfast in his commitment to non-violence, the thrust of Malcolm fully served its purpose.

As Colin Morris, the author of Unyoung, Uncolored, Unpoor wrote, "I am not denying passive resistance its due place in the freedom struggle, or belittling the contribution to it of men like Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Both have a secure place in history. I merely want to show that however much the disciples of passive resistance detest violence, they are politically impotent without it. American Negroes needed both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X …"

But it was not just that Malcolm and Martin had complementary strategies to achieve black freedom, they also spoke to different realities. Malcolm spoke more to the Northern reality of black Americans who were only superficially integrated, whereas Martin spoke to the Southern reality where even that was not possible.

Malcolm also spoke to the internalised racism of black people that was essential to overcome for true liberation. As the late James Cone states, "King was a political revolutionary. Malcolm was a cultural revolutionary. Malcolm changed how black people thought about themselves. Before Malcolm came along, we were all Negroes. After Malcolm, he helped us become black."

That is why, despite the diminishing of Malcolm in textbooks and holidays, he has been consistently revived through protest movements and the arts. He has lived through the activism of the likes of Muhammad Ali and Colin Kaepernick, inspired the black power movement, and been an icon for American Muslims on how to exist with dignity and faith in a hostile environment.

And even in those claims to Malcolm as a symbol, Malcolm himself in the fullness of his identity is erased. In championing his movement's philosophy, some seek to secularise him, intentionally erasing his Muslim identity. And in championing his religious identity, others seek to depoliticise him. This was a tension that Malcolm noted in his own life, saying: "For the Muslims, I’m too worldly. For other groups, I’m too religious. For militants, I’m too moderate, for moderates I’m too militant. I feel like I’m on a tightrope."

Muslims too should be cautious not to sanitise Malcolm, as the US has sanitised Dr King. To restrict Malcolm solely to his Hajj experience is similar to restricting King solely to his "I have a dream" speech. Malcolm was a proud Muslim who never stopped being black. And while he no longer subscribed to a condemnation of the entire white race, he was unrelenting in his critique of global white supremacy.

Malcolm was consistently growing in a way that allowed him to not only champion his own people’s plight more effectively but to tackle a broader set of interconnected issues. And while history seems to posit Malcolm as his polar opposite, Dr King had begun to articulate many of the same positions that made Malcolm so unpopular.

In the words of the great James Baldwin, "As concerns Malcolm and Martin, I watched two men, coming from unimaginably different backgrounds, whose positions, originally, were poles apart, driven closer and closer together. By the time each died, their positions had become virtually the same position. It can be said, indeed, that Martin picked up Malcolm’s burden, articulated the vision which Malcolm had begun to see, and for which he paid with his life. And that Malcolm was one of the people Martin saw on the mountaintop."

Perhaps it is time we ask why we only seem to celebrate one of them.


Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Germany shooting: chants of 'Nazis out' at vigils after gunman kills nine

Thousands of people have taken part in vigils across Germany after a gunman with apparent far-right beliefs killed nine people at a shisha bar and a cafe in the city of Hanau.

The suspect, a 43-year-old German identified as Tobias Rathjen, was found dead at his home after the rampage along with his 72-year-old mother in what appeared to be a murder-suicide.

Hundreds of people, many carrying candles or a white rose, gathered in silence in Hanau in the evening to show solidarity with the victims.

Large crowds also gathered in Frankfurt and at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, some carrying signs that read “Take racism personally” or “Never again!”, in scenes replicated across dozens of German cities.

The nine people killed at the two bars late Wednesday evening were aged between 21 and 44 and all had a “migrant background,” although some were German citizens, chief federal prosecutor Peter Frank said.

He added that evidence, including video footage and a “manifesto” found on the suspect’s website, showed Rathjen had “a very deeply racist attitude”.

Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the “poison” of racism, as anger mixed with grief over the deadliest attack linked to Germany’s extreme right in recent months.

Relatives and friends of the victims gathered at the Arena bar on Thursday, an AFP reporter said, tearfully embracing one another.

“I couldn’t be any more upset,” said Inge Bank, 82, who lives near the bar. “We have to nip it in the bud if the Nazi party is coming back.

Steinmeier, who serves as a moral compass for the nation, condemned the shooter’s “brutal act of terror”. But he said he was heartened to see “thousands, maybe even tens of thousands” turning out across the country to honour the victims.

“We stand together, we want to live together and we show that over and over again. That is the strongest way to fight hatred,” he said, to the occasional shout of “Nazis out!” from the crowd.

Elsewhere, Frankfurt’s Eintracht football team held a minute’s silence ahead of its Europa League match against RB Salzburg.

As condemnation of the Hanau attack poured in, the co-leader of the far-right AfD party Joerg Meuthen stood out by saying the shootings were “neither right- nor left-wing terrorism” but the actions of “a madman”.

Politicians from across the political spectrum however accused the anti-Islam, anti-immigrant AfD of normalising hate speech and fomenting anti-foreigner sentiment in recent years.

German police have identified around 60 far-right adherents as “dangerous” individuals capable of carrying out a violent attack.

On Friday last week, they arrested 12 members of a German extreme right group believed to have been plotting “shocking” large-scale attacks on mosques, similar to the ones carried out in Christchurch in New Zealand last year.


Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Mosques With Closed Doors

A couple of months ago I decided to take my toddler to attend Friday prayers at an Islamic centre. Unfortunately, we received looks of annoyance and comments as we entered the prayer room and sat down. Furthermore, my toddler’s crying as I attempted to pray was not well received. To add salt to the wound when another child was crying, a man on the brother’s side thought he had the authority to address the mother in the microphone and say ‘Take the baby out of the centre’. Simply put, mothers and children were not welcome and I left the centre without finishing my prayer.

So, a couple of weeks ago I decided to try out a different centre’s Friday prayers, perhaps this community was different. This time as I sat down my toddler who was fascinated by the scene of prayer mats and chadors started repeatedly saying ‘Allah, Allah’ but a number of ladies gave us stern looks because of the noise she was making so as this room was bigger I moved to the end of the room where I wouldn’t be part of the congregation but at least I could listen to the lecture. One lady came to pray next to us and after several stern looks in my direction she had a full fledged argument with a child who was quietly playing nearby telling him he was distracting her from her prayers and he was encouraging my daughter to move around. Again we did not feel welcome. Both these centres are in the UK and unfortunately these experiences of mine are not unique. Many mothers speak of how members of the congregation make them feel unwelcome in centres here, in a community that calls itself progressive.

In contrast, when I went to Iraq a few months ago I was amazed at how my daughter and I were welcomed in the holy shrines of the Ahlulbayt, which are in fact sacred mosques and not mere centres. Everyone I met there, Iraqi, Iranian, Khoja, Pakistani welcomed my daughter with open arms. During the congregational prayer the whole row I was in would look out for my daughter and pull her back so she wouldn’t go far while we were all praying. We could sit in the shrine for hours and not hear a single complaint. I would take my daughter with me to the actual shrine inside where the grave is found and pray and read, the only things I would receive from others were abundant smiles and sweets. I felt welcome. I had the opportunity to worship without human prejudice.

Our Prophet (pbuh) loved children and he welcomed them into his mosque and showed love and mercy towards them whilst he was praying. The story of Imam Hassan and Hussain (as) climbing on the Prophets back while he was praying is one we must put in to practice. He prolonged his prostration in his prayer just so they could enjoy playing on his back. Children are full of love, joy and they give one immense pleasure. If you look closely, children will show you signs of the Creator, their innocence, their marvel at life and the way they act. They should not be treated as an annoyance or a problem. They and their parents should not be shunned from the centres but must be welcomed.

The Prophet’s mosque in Medina was built to welcome the community of Muslims in to it. People used to go there to pray, to learn, to meet and to build a community. Men, women and children were welcome. What is more powerful than the words of Allah (swt):

[2:114] And who is more unjust than he who prevents (people) from the mosques of Allah, that His name should be remembered in them, and strives to ruin them? (As for) these, it was not proper for them that they should have entered them except in fear; they shall meet with disgrace in this world, and they shall have great chastisement in the hereafter.

Our duty as Muslims is to share our religion, to invite everyone to our faith, to welcome everyone in our centres so that Allah’s message may be heard by all. We cannot bring our children when they are teenagers and tell them that they must attend Islamic programmes now if they have not been nurtured in that environment, they may well protest attending. We must nurture our children in the mosque environment. If mothers continue to be alienated this way then an entire generation will be alienated, the most important generation – our children – the next generation.


Thursday, 20 February 2020

Laia Abril: the photographer bearing witness to rape

In a devastating exhibition, the Spanish artist depicts the clothes women, girls – and some men – were raped in. She talks about how her work reveals an epidemic of sexual violence – and how she copes.

What shocks me is how none of this shocks me. It is a familiar story. Weinstein’s team attempt to destroy her in court. Why didn’t she go to the police? Why did she take so long to speak out? Why didn’t she ask a co-star such as Sylvester Stallone to protect her? Yes, she was really asked this. Weinstein denies the charges. The jury started their deliberations on Tuesday.

I am taking in Sciorra’s recent testimony on the way to Paris to meet Laia Abril, a young Spanish artist with a new exhibition – A History of Misogyny, Chapter Two: On Rape. Abril uses photographs, testimonies, framed facts and quotes, archive material and various relevant objects in a way that makes her journalistic training apparent. The boundary between art and activism dissolves as Abril digests stories and then delivers them in ways “that people would be able to relate to” – even if they’d rather not go where they lead.

Given the subject matter, I expect Abril to be sombre. She is the opposite: charming and full of energy and easy to talk to, and I begin to see how so many people have trusted her with their stories and pain. The exhibition is still being installed when I arrive. Downstairs are huge black and white photographs of clothes people were raped in. Above the pictures are their testimonies.

This is not what I was expecting. I have seen shows featuring such clothing before, but there is something about how they are presented here, as objects in their own right, that dislocates you, makes you look anew. Their owners’ testimonies then provide the gut punch. Take the beautiful wedding dress from Kyrgyzstan. It was worn by Alina, who was a victim of ala kachuu, a form of bride kidnapping that is still practised in the country. She was captured and then made to marry the man who “ravished” her.

“I was a 21-year-old student in my fourth year at Arabaev University,” her testimony relates. “I wanted to be a fashion designer.” After the attack, she feared being a cause of shame: “My grandmother asked me not to disgrace the family.” So Alina put on the dress and married the man who raped her.

A photo of a US military uniform brings me up short. Meredith says being in the army means everything is “mission first”. In such a world, a woman does not want to be seen as “weak and emotional”. Meredith knew she had to downplay any injuries – and spent a year being raped by her commander, not wanting to think of it as rape, nor of herself as a victim. I walk past a nun’s habit belonging to a mother superior who abused novices, then a burqa belonging to a woman who was raped continually in a forced marriage in Afghanistan. “It was not sex,” she says, “it was marital rape.”

It took two years for Abril to develop enough trust with these women for them to send her their clothing. “It’s a collaborative process,” she says. Sometimes she talks to them through such intermediaries as psychiatrists. She does not want to subject anyone to yet more trauma.

As we chat, she tells me about the things that motivate her, in particular the infamous “wolf pack” case in her native Spain. In 2016, an 18-year-old woman was gang-raped by five men who were later tried and found guilty only on lesser charges of sexual abuse, as the prosecution could not prove they used violence. One judge said they should all have been acquitted and their only crime was the theft of the teenager’s phone. Last year, after a public outcry, the Spanish supreme court found the men guilty of rape.

In 2018, Amnesty International looked at rape legislation in 31 countries across Europe. Only eight have consent-based definitions. In the remainng 23 countries, if the offence does not include physical violence, it is not classified as rape. What Abril pushes us to confront, then, is rape as an institution, one that is both historicised and normalised. She gives the individual stories context, detailing all the methods that are deployed to blame rape on the woman, from lawyers pointing out that a victim may have been wearing a thong (one is photographed) to “the two-finger test” still used in India, Pakistan and Morocco. This procedure is to determine if a raped woman’s vagina is “habituated to intercourse”. If two fingers can be inserted, the argument goes, it indicates that the sex was consensual.

Then there is the thriving new industry of repairing hymens – or “rebuilding honour” as it’s called in some of the images, adverts, texts and pictures collated by Abril. Not to mention the chastity belts and the strange machines invented to cure frigidity. A vagina can be brought to erotic life by, you guessed it, rape.

There are signs of resistance, though. Abril pays tribute to the wonderful Gulabi vigilante women of India, with their pink saris and huge sticks to beat rapists. There, encased in glass, is one of their wooden weapons. There are also projections from various revenge movies, including I Spit on Your Grave and Ms 45, about a mute woman who goes on a killing spree after she is raped twice.

A triptych of hundreds of blurred faces stops me dead. All of these men, found guilty of abuse, were priests in the Catholic church – not all of the victims in this show are female. How does Abril cope with these stories? “Don’t worry,” she says. “I have two therapists now. When I was working on abortion, for Chapter One, the issue seemed fixable by law, by decriminalisation. But this – rape – is global.” She gestures around the room at all the evidence of horrific acts. “This is an epidemic.”

It is also a war crime, something Abril is well aware of, having visited Bosnia and heard how rape was used as a weapon of war during the 1992-95 conflict. Under the title Rape Camps, she has placed the words: “Serb troops violated between 12,000 to 30,000 Bosnian women.” She also heard stories about Serbs forcing brothers to rape their sisters in front of their parents. “The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia,” she records, “declared that ‘systemic rape’ during wartime was a crime against humanity.”

What Abril sees – and makes us see so clearly – is the institutionalisation of rape through such things as marriage, the military and the church. I am not sure I like the phrase “rape culture” but she does. Rape is the culture, it seems. There are quotes on the wall from Donald Trump (“Grab ’em by the pussy”) and US congressman Steve King, who last year asked if there would be any population of the world left if it wasn’t for rape and incest.

All of this arouses emotion – and it’s meant to. I return to a picture I had avoided earlier. It’s a tiny dress belonging to a five-year-old who was sexually abused by a teacher at her school in Colombia. The other parents turned against the girl’s mother when she complained. Abril describes opening the parcel when it arrived. “The dress was so small,” she says. “I went into meltdown.” It was a while before she could photograph it. Yet, she says, something happens as the work goes up on the walls. All of these stories, all of this information changes her. “ I begin to feel lighter,” she says, and I can sense that.

Education is part of the answer, we agree, but the focus on individuals is not enough: rape happens because it is embedded in the culture. The #MeToo movement may have alerted us to this, but Abril’s work carries a terrifying message: that rape is normal, that it is a system, a way of controlling women across time and culture. You can look away, and I wouldn’t blame you, but Abril refuses to. “I want to understand,” she says. “I want people to understand.”

Some letters have fallen off a wall and she goes over to pick them up. I can’t help noticing that it’s almost all the letters from the word “rapist”. “Isn’t it strange that those are the letters that are falling?” says Abril. We both laugh uneasily.


The Muslim on the airplane | Amal Kassir | TEDxMileHighWomen

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Is Coronavirus in China a punishment from Allah?

We do hear people mention that coronovirus in China is a punishment from Allah for the things the communist party has been doing to Uyghurs Muslims. We do not agree with that. Here is a statement from Shaykh Dr. Yasir Qadhi that we came across regarding this issue.

A lot of people are forwarding messages from scholars (or others) who are claiming that the coronavirus spreading in the city of Wuhan is a Divine Punishment upon the Chinese people for what is happening to the Uighurs.

This type of categorical declaration is not only unbefitting from a theological perspective, it is also unbecoming from a humanitarian perspective.

No one amongst us is qualified to speak on behalf of Allah. We are not in a position to declare why something is happening, or to link a general tragedy to a specific evil. And we are not demonstrating mercy when we claim all the people being subjugated to this are being punished for a crime most of them have nothing to do with. Imagine if (may Allah protect all of us!) something happened in your city and to your family, and others said this was because of something your government did!

Rather, we say as the Prophet (salla Allah alayhi wa sallam) said, when our mother Aisha (ra) asked him about plagues: "This is a punishment that Allah sends upon whoever He wishes, but Allah has also made it a mercy for the believer. So whoever is afflicted with a plague in his town, and he remains in it, patient, expecting Allah to reward him, knowing that nothing shall happen to him except what Allah has decreed, shall be rewarded the rewards of a martyr!" [al-Bukhari].

So we learn that yes, every single disaster, personal or communal, can be a result of sins, and has the potential to be a punishment, but we don't link it to any one sin or crime. And we also give hope to those who are in such places: turn to Allah, seek His help, be patient, and know that nothing happens except with the Decree of Allah. We do not cause them to feel bad or claim they are all being punished or - God forbid - gloat over their tragedy as some seem to be doing.

Every single disaster, personal or national, has the potential to be a punishment, or a means of mercy. It is how we respond that dictates which of the two it falls into.

And Allah knows best.

Note: It's actually sad that I need to make this disclaimer but some people always read in the worst: my support for the Uighurs has been loud and vocal, and I have given khutbahs, raised awareness, and made qunut for them. Of course we are enraged by what the government is doing, but we do not gloat over any communal disaster as a response to our anger.

Friday, 14 February 2020

The actual date of birth of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

I intentionally did not want to write about this in Rabi-ul-Awwal because I did not want to hurt anyones feeling. The fact is that it has to be said. A lot of Muslims celebrate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). First, there is no Islamic basis for this celebration. The second is that the data it's celebrated on is the 12th Rabi-ul-Awwal. There is a lot of controversy around this date.

The only mention of this date is in the book of Ibn Ishaq but it is mentioned without any chain of narrators. There are other dates like 2nd, 8th, 10th, 17th & 22nd that have a lot more backing.

So why is this date so popular. Below is a talk by Saikh Yasir Qadhi on this topic. Here is an article on this topic.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Be charitable in your actions

The Messenger of Allah (SAW) has said: “Every single Muslim must give charity every single day.” When asked who would be capable of doing such a thing, he replied, “your removal of an obstacle in the road is a charitable act; your guiding someone is a charitable act; your visit to the sick is a charitable act; your enjoinment of good to others is a charitable act; your forbidding of others from wrongdoing is a charitable act, and your returning the greeting of peace is a charitable act.” (Biharul Anwar: Volume 75, Page 50)

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Muslim Languages and Kuffar Languages

I heard a story recently of a small boy whose first language wasn't Arabic but he picked up Arabic and now insists on speaking it. He mentions that Arabic is the language of Islam while other languages are Kafir languages. This reminded me of Surah Rahman (55). A tafseer by brother Nouman Ali Khan here explains the Ayah 4 I was thinking about nicely.

Ayah 1:
The Abundantly Merciful

Ayah 2:
عَلَّمَ الْقُرْآنَ
'Al-lama al Qur'an -
He taught the Qur'an.

Ayah 3:
خَلَقَ الْإِنسَانَ
Khalaq al Insaan -
Created the Human being.

Ayah 4:
عَلَّمَهُ الْبَيَانَ
'Al-lama hu al Bayaan -
Taught him the Beautiful Conveyance of Speech.

To make the human capable of understanding the Qur'an, Allah gave us the ability to speak in eloquence and to understand such speech.

For teaching the Qur'an, Allah said; 'Al-lama (Taught).

For teaching Bayaan/Eloquent speech - Allah also said; 'Al-lama (Taught).

This shows us that Allah taught us both the Qur'an, and also all Languages.

Allah taught Adam the name of all things:
وَعَلَّمَ آدَمَ الْأَسْمَاءَ كُلَّهَا
And taught Adam the names of all [things].. [alBaqarah 2:31]

Which shows that the honour of humans speaking -while knowing what they are saying- is an honour which belongs to Allah. So humans should be thankful to ar-Rahman (the Abundantly Merciful) because He has given us humans what no other animal has the ability to achieve [- to speak/communicate eloquently with understanding of what we are saying].

This shows that this honour of speech should be used for good and beautiful speech, and for reciting the Qur'an. Not for insults, swears and dirty language - since that is a sign of being ungrateful of Allah's favours.

Of all of the languages Allah taught; Allah honored the language in which He sent His final message; the Qur'an in Arabic speech.

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا لَّعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ
We have surely revealed it in an Arabic Qur'an that perhaps you might understand. [surah Yusuf 12:2]

We see a Recurring Theme in these aayaat of Extreme and Magnificent Blessings of Allah;

Ayah 1: the Abundantly Merciful.
Ayah 2: the greatest manifestation of that Mercy = the Qur'an.
Ayah 3: the Greatest creation of Allah = Insaan (humankind).
Ayah 4: The Ability for us to Speak and Communicate with each other in Language.

Even Modern Philosophers are saying; the Root of all knowledge is language - that is the key. Just as Allah already told us.

One of the signs of being the best is to have speech, then to reach the best of the best is to become a student of the best speech - the Qur'an.

All languages are taught by Allah عزّ وجلّ and we should respect them whether it is English, French, Swahili, Afrikaans, Cantonese, Mandarin, Spanish, Punjabi, Bengali, Hindi, Tamil, etc. There are no Kuffar languages.

In Surah 49 Verse 13, Allah عزّ وجلّ says:

يا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْناكُمْ مِنْ ذَكَرٍ وَ أُنْثى‏ وَ جَعَلْناكُمْ شُعُوباً وَ قَبائِلَ لِتَعارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَتْقاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَليمٌ خَبير

"O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted."

Here again, Allah عزّ وجلّ says that he not only gave us different languages but also made us different races, different tribes, etc. In the end, we are all children of Adam (peace be upon him)

A very old video from Ustadh explaining Ayah 4 from Surah Ar-Rahman.


Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Supplication of the Oppressed

Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Beware of the supplication of the oppressed, even if he is an unbeliever, for there is no barrier between it and Allah.”
Source: Musnad Aḥmad 12140

Thursday, 30 January 2020

“I collapsed outside the jail…I could not believe that my son was taken thousands of miles away”

Srinagar, Indian-occupied Kashmir: Ateeqa Begum’s 22-year-old son, Faisal, is among the thousands who were arrested as part of a massive crackdown by the Indian government to prevent dissent after it revoked Article 370. Faisal was sent to a jail in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh without even informing the family.

This is Ateeqa’s story, in her own words:
“On the afternoon of August 6th, when a complete curfew and communication blockade was in place in Kashmir, my son Faisal Aslam Mir, 22, went out to buy medicines for me. I had insisted that the situation is not good and he should not go, but he told me that he will be back in 30 minutes. That was his last time at home.
Friends informed me they saw him being arrested by police and bundled into a police jeep. I was shaken and collapsed upon hearing this.

But I somehow knew that that he has not done anything so he will be released. I went to the police station and they told me he will be released. I went to the police station for three days continuously and they assured me that he will be released.
When they shifted him from the police station to Srinagar’s Central Jail, I went to meet him there. He cried when he saw me wearing old clothes and told me, “do not be like that.” The next time I met him I wore new clothes. I was very happy to go and meet him. I also cooked his favorite mutton and onion gravy. I went very early in the morning to the Central Jail with food and his clothes.
When I was waiting for my turn with a slip in my hand I saw a woman crying and enquired about what had happened. I learned that 20 people who were lodged in the jail have been shifted to Uttar Pradesh during dawn. I collapsed outside the jail and a friend had to pick me up. I could not believe that my son was taken thousands of miles away and booked under the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA). It meant two years for him in jail.
I live alone at home now. I visit the court everyday where I have filed a petition against my son’s detention.

My son was my only support. My daughter is married and has two children. It is very difficult to fight all the battles and the worst of all is the battle against loneliness. Sometimes I lose my sanity, I go to shrines every Thursday and pray for my son’s release. That’s my only hope.
Every time I look at his photo in my kitchen I start talking to it and then I think, am I losing my mind? I know it is not only my son who is in jail, there are so many families suffering.
I am alone and it is very hard for me to manage everything. I am broken. I have cried only in these months.
This was not the first time that my son has been arrested. He was arrested before for taking active part in protests. He was booked under the PSA and tortured in jail. When he was released his health deteriorated and he suffered from psychiatric issues. Since then he had stopped taking part in protests.
He was now working as a salesman at a shop and was trying to start his own business of readymade clothes.

I would always tell him to call me several times a day as I don’t know how to operate a mobile phone. He would inform me even if he would go for a shave or haircut. I was happy that he will not be arrested again because he was not doing anything. He was not pelting stones or taking part in any demonstrations.

My son was not doing anything wrong and he was not given this chance. Isn’t this government forcing children to extremes by arresting them even when they did nothing? They did not give my son a chance to live. Isn’t it the right of our children to give them a chance to live?
They told me every day that they will release him in the evening till he was shifted to a jail in Uttar Pradesh. That is what they do to everyone. They are pushing people to the edge.
Only me and my God knows what is happening within me. I have left everything to God and pray to him only day and night.
My husband died fifteen years ago. He was a driver. He died suddenly. After my husband’s death, life has been really hard.

I forgot my husband’s tragedy now and I am only thinking about my son.
I have no purpose in life but to wait for my son’s return from jail. I will fight for him everywhere to bring him back till I am alive.”


Tuesday, 28 January 2020

India: The Child Sex Highway | 101 East

A notorious highway in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh is the site of a shocking trade.

Girls as young as 10 are being forced to work as prostitutes - and it is their own families selling them to passing truckers.

The girls are from the Bachara tribe, an unprivileged-caste community known as Dalits.

Most of the Bachara men say discrimination stops them from getting jobs, so generations of girls have supported their families through prostitution.

Meneka's mother forced her into prostitution at the age of 15. She now has a two-year-old daughter of her own and says she feels trapped.

"I feel like I am born in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing. But what can I do? I can't say much because this is our tradition."

Filming undercover, 101 East discovers that girls as young as 10 are being offered to men.

While India introduced tougher child rape laws in 2018, advocates say the laws are not properly enforced.

"The people who are exploiting the child - they are not customers, they are rapists," says Asheif Shaikh, the founder of a local NGO that frees local girls from what he describes as sexual slavery.

"This practice is like the serial rape of the children ... They are raped about 10 to 12 times in a day."

Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of reported child rape cases of any state in the nation.

In this exclusive investigation, 101 East exposes the Indian villages where parents sell their daughters for sex.

Monday, 27 January 2020

A Tale of Two Countries: While Germany still criminalizes the hijab, Sweden embraces it

Before telling the story of how differently Germany, my home country, and Sweden, a country I adore, treat Muslim women wearing the hijab, especially in the workplace, it is pertinent to provide the reader with some general background information regarding the demographic make up of these two EU members, along with some broad understanding of their very different takes on identity politics and lived multiculturalism.

1 in 4 people living in Germany today have what the country calls a “migrant background”, which in the UK is often known as BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethnic), or in Canada as belonging to a “visible minority.”

This relatively high number would technically classify Germany, a country of 82 million people, as a multicultural one. But unlike the UK or Canada, these immigrant Germans, whichever generation they belong to and no matter how long they have been in the country, have little political or social representation in the country of their residence which – despite its diverse demographic reality – is still exclusively run by whites, thus rendering the former virtually voiceless. All of this is in spite of the fact that Germany’s largest minority population, the Turks, having been in the country since the 1960s.

Even at the lowest levels of positions of power, be they in politics or education, the emergency services or local councils, law firms or insurance companies, the media or real estate firms, the lack of ethnic diversity and representation in Germany is shockingly outrageous. In 2018, Andrea Dernbach, one of the few progressive voices at Der Tagesspiegel, one of Germany’s leading centrist daily newspapers, wrote a piece titled “Diversity and Inclusion: Where Germany Is Still Too White”, revealing just how monochromatic German workplaces from classrooms to newsrooms really are. The skin color of choice? White, of course.

Germans are known and ridiculed for clapping applause when their passenger plane makes its landing on an airport tarmac, but I myself feel the need to clap whenever I see a black bus driver, a Turkish customs official, an Asian police officer or an Arab fireman in Germany because these sightings are so rare in my country it’s embarrassing. Can you believe that something so ludicrously boring as a black bus driver remains an exciting oddity in Germany, even in the supposedly oh so multicultural capital of Berlin?

Sverige: From emigrant nation to a nation of immigrants

Now take a look at Scandinavian Sweden on the other hand: today, the once overwhelmingly white country of currently 10 million people boasts large numbers of first, second and even third generation immigrant populations, such as Turks and Kurds, Somalis and – in recent years due to ongoing conflict – Syrians.

According to the government agency Statistics Sweden (SCB), at the turn of the 20th century Sweden’s foreign born population comprised a measly 0.7%. In 2010, this number was at 14.3%.

And a mere seven years later in 2017, the percentage of of inhabitants with a foreign background had risen to 24.1%, almost as high as in Germany. So what after the First World War had been a nation of net emigration is today a nation of net immigration, something that is clearly visible upon visiting any urban center in Sweden.

And while the number of Muslims in Sweden was estimated at 200,000 – 250,000 in 2000, according to Pew Research Center, that number had risen to over 810,000 in 2016. That is 8.1% of the population, an already higher percentage than in Germany which – as mentioned – has a much longer tradition of Muslim immigration, the majority from Turkey.

Unlike Germany, Sweden is known for it’s inclusive and holistic policies in everything from education to the environment, gender to health care; its globalist world view part and parcel of Sverige’s positive image within the international community of nations as a peace-loving and progressive country, thanks to avowed internationalists like former Prime Minister Olof Palme or former UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld (who both coincidentally met a violent death: the former murdered, allegedly by right-wing elements in the Swedish intelligence services as one theory goes, the latter having died in a mysterious plane crash, both cases remaining unsolved to this day).

Despite not being immune to the firebrand of right-wing populism and Islamophobia currently sweeping through the European “Union”, Sweden as part of the Nordic model of progressive economic and social policies remains a society still sufficiently steeped in social democratic values, whereas the former bastions of social democracy like France and Germany have ultimately fallen like dominoes to the relentless onslaught of the corporatocratic armies of neo-liberalism.

“Macronomics” are currently continuing to do in an already socially unequal France what Merkelism has already accomplished in Germany: exacerbate already dire social inequities even further, and thereby lay the groundwork for right-wing extremism to foot-soldier through to elected office, ultimately making immigrants – especially the most otherized of them all: Muslims – the scapegoat of choice.

I believe it is this combination of traditions (progressive domestic policies embedded in a postwar cosmopolitan mindset) that is responsible for Swedish children being fluent in English and the rapid and – unlike in Germany – utterly unagitated transition from an ethnically homogenous society to a nation of immigrants that consistently ranks in the top ten of the United Nations’ World Happiness Report.

Even their Muslims look way happier than our ones back home in Germany. Like veteran German politician Wolfgang Schäuble once said: “A society’s level of progress is measured by how at home its immigrants feel.”

And if there’s one issue where the fundamental divergence between progress-oriented, diversity- embracing, happy Sweden and reactionary, historically and cerebrally xenophobic Germans with their perpetual nagging and petty resentment towards life is at it’s most visible: it is that piece of cloth Muslim women from West to East wear, better known as the hijab, as the following anecdote will show.

As-salamu ‘aleikum in Arlanda
One winter evening about a year ago I arrived in the Swedish capital Stockholm on a flight from Doha, Qatar and was walking towards a deserted immigration hall at Arlanda airport when I looked at the cubicles for EU-citizens and couldn’t believe my eyes: one of the two the Swedish border police agents was black, a woman, and wearing a hijab — the female Muslim headwear — in the same dark blue as her uniform.

Being a born and bred German, thus hailing from a nation-state that until this day and despite the enshrined freedom of conscience in Article 4 of our Constitution bans people who wear religious headwear from becoming police officers or teachers, be they Sikh men or Muslim women, I was naturally caught by positive surprise. Had this been liberal, multicultural Canada, big whoop. But small and sheltered lily-white Sweden?

Still awestruck at this unparalleled level of inter-sectionality and representation, I stepped up to the agent (who looked Somali), handed her my passport, while she greeted me with a Swedish “Hej”, that traditional one-syllable greeting that in my unaccustomed ears always sounds so refreshingly upbeat and intimate whilst still maintaining professional cordiality, so unlike the merely colloquial and colorless English “Hey.” I replied with a friendly “Hi” and “As-salamu ‘aleikum” whereupon she in turn answered “Wa-’aleikumu s-salam.”

Unlike in Germany, where this scene might have raised eyebrows at the least and enmity at worst, her colleague in the adjacent booth, a blonde and blue-eyed cliché Swede who had definitely heard our exchange of salutations – as the arrival hall was totally deserted except for us approaching Business Class passengers, thus allowing sound to travel – couldn’t have cared less.

She just went about her job and smiled (something white German border patrol agents who make up the numeric majority of this federal police force rarely do, especially to non-whites, their subconscious Übermensch-mentality emanating from their stone-cold eyes and their menacing frown always reminding me of what Hannah Arendt meant by the “banality of evil”) amiably at the first approaching passenger.

After swiping my passport through the computer and it deciding that I was neither a threat to national security nor wanted by Interpol, I was handed back my travel document with a pleasant “thank you”, again something I have never had the honor to hear escape from a German federal agent’s mouth (they might say “Ok” or “Alles klar”, but never “Danke schön”), as if the passenger is the one providing the service and the officer the customer who is always right and therefore also has the legal right to be rude.

While walking to the exit I was so positively impressed by this short peek through the window of lived societal progressiveness, and at the same time so incensed at my own home country which is obstinately obstructive in all forward-looking matters, be it digitalization, e-mobility solutions, or religious inclusion, that I instantly logged into the airport-WiFi and took to social media and vented:

“Just landed in Stockholm from Doha. The Swedish border patrol agent was Somali, wore a hijab, and we greeted each other with a salam as if it were the most normal thing on earth. In the racist developing nation of Germany something like this would not be possible!”

That I was taken by surprise in the first place is a shocking testament to the current state of diversity politics in a culturally backward-looking Germany which still loves to debate circles around questions already made redundant by reality. White Germans love to ask things like “Is Germany an immigrant nation?” while 1/4 of the population – as I have mentioned above – has a migrant family history. Or “Does Islam belong to Germany” while out of a population of 82 million, Islam is practiced by roughly 5 million people in some form or another.

Other Western nation-states like the UK, Canada, and even idyllic Sweden, a country famous for many things, from Ikea to Ingmar Bergmann, Spotify to Zlatan Ibrahimović, but not exactly for it’s multiculturalism, ask similar questions. But the difference to Germany is that – despite rising Islamophobia and anti-immigrant bigotry in all these countries – they have answered them more or less in the affirmative (Britain admittedly rather begrudgingly as due to its colonial past, legal immigration from the outreaches of the former Empire has always had the feel of de-facto reparations for all the nefarious crimes committed).

And the driving force behind such affirmations has simply been a political will to acknowledge shifting demographic realities on the one hand and the corresponding realization on the other that cultural diversity in a nation-state context is a sustainable strength, not a weakness.

Germany’s cloth fetish
The relationship of white-majority Germany towards the hijab is best described as obsessive- compulsive disorder (OCD): No single issue will get my neo-atheist white compatriots – be they liberal or conservative, left-wing or far right – so riled up and their blood boiling with the same religious zeal that they fanatically oppose in Islamic-framed radicalism like that piece of the female Muslim headwear.

Not only does the hijab help white men (and self-loathing white women) to outsource their own misogynism when finger-pointing to it as demeaning to all women, thereby taking all agency away from the overwhelming majority who wear it out of their own free will, it also blatantly exposes the selectively Islamophobic nature of their anti-religious agitation: a male Jew wearing a kippah will not only not generate the same amount of outrage dispensed towards the hijab, but is furthermore perceived as someone that deserves special protection, unflinchingly granting him puppy license due to Germany’s genocide against the Jews.

This gives rise to an uncomfortable but legitimate question: will Muslims in Germany have to get holocausted first before getting to enjoy the minority protection they deserve? Like popular German recording artist Xavier Naidoo put it in a song of his: “Muslims are the new Jews.”

“Berlin trägt Kippa” (Berlin wears kippah) was the slogan of an organized protest last year against rising “anti-Semitism” in Germany’s capital city (in Germany, like in the U.S., anti-Semitism is routinely conflated with legitimate criticism of Israel, the former systematically employed to discredit the latter), but no one would dream of showing solidarity with Muslim women who face racist microaggressions on a daily basis by organizing a public demonstration under the banner “Berlin trägt Hijab.”

Interestingly enough, this asymmetry in solidarity comes despite the fact that the number of women in Germany who wear the hijab exceeds the tiny demographic of Jewish men sporting a kippah by far.

Furthermore, Germany’s hegemonic hijab discourse is so hypocritical that the anti-hijabistas are not even sure if they oppose the cloth for its alleged misogynism or because it violates the core tenet of a secular society, the division of state and church. Depending on what is convenient, they jump back and forth between both arguments like kids playing hopscotch.

Returning to Sweden: as already mentioned, even this Nordic nation (nordic still commonly being associated with whiteness) has seen a steadfast and utterly nonchalant progression from an overwhelmingly white to an ethnically diverse society, especially in the urban conglomerations of Stockholm, Göteborg and Malmö.

Even the 2018 electoral win of the misleadingly and ineptly named “Sweden Democrats” and their populist anti-immigrant, right-wing agenda has not put a stop to Sweden’s living up to its reputation as one of the most tolerant societies in the world: in the same general election which saw the Sverigedemokraterna secure a whopping and historic third place, Somali-born Leila Ali Elmi of the Green Party became Sweden’s first member of parliament to wear a hijab.

In Germany, many prominent members of its Green Party still view the hijab as a symbol of blanket oppression of women and on occasion will engage in liberal racist statements against Muslims that are not very far from the smack-in-your-face racist ones of the right-wing AfD party.

Sverige today is home to the third largest Somali diaspora in the Western world (after the U.S. and the UK, even before Canada with its comparatively hyperliberal immigration policies). And despite rising Islamophobic antipathy in Swedish society and racial profiling of non-white and Muslim male youths by an overwhelmingly white police force, these new Swedes don’t have to hide their religiosity.

Since 2011, when 26-year-old Donna Eljammal became Sweden’s first hijab wearing police recruit, Swedish Muslim women wishing to wear this sartorial article of their faith don’t have to choose between their religion and their career anymore. They can go on to serve their country as police officers and border patrol agents, without any infringements on the expression of their religious beliefs, as I myself witnessed first-hand upon meeting the hijab-wearing uniformed black woman who checked my passport at Arlanda airport’s immigration.

To my knowledge, following the inclusive policies of the Swedish police force, female Muslim firefighters and military personnel will also be allowed to wear the hijab as part of their uniform in the near future.

Iman Aldebe, the Swedish designer responsible for the police hijab I saw at Arlanda, and whose modern interpretations of traditional religious headwear are already part of the workwear of Swedish- Muslim nurses and paramedics, commented on the motivation of Muslim women wanting to wear the hijab at the workplace by saying the following:

“For these women, it’s only a garment. You put it on for religious reasons, but it’s not like you’re walking around and preaching. You just want to be like any other woman.”

In 2015, Swedish retailer H&M featured Aldebe’s styles in its fall catalogue. It doesn’t get any more inclusive than this, does it?

…but is still not allowed to be quintessentially German
Amid all these progressive developments in Sweden, one question begs to be answered: what is wrong with Germany? Why is it proudly regressing when it comes to the politics of ethnic and religious inclusion rather than progressing like Sweden?

Germany, the largest economy in Europe, political heavyweight within the EU next to France (another country that likes to play down the xenophobic fabric of its white-majority society while passionately subscribing to the identity politics of ethnic exclusion where the value of black, Arab and Muslim life – as in Germany – is determined by your success at FIFA football World Cups), seems to enjoy going around in circles on the carousel of political and public discourse when it comes to the two Is of immigration and Islam.

Tautological nonsense like “Islam is not a part of Germany, but Muslims are”, coming from various senior conservative politicians over the last decade, or tilting at the windmills of Islam by criminalizing the hijab or repeatedly committing the folly of trying to integrate immigrants without including them, thus reinforcing the stereotype of the arrogant, narcissistic and megalomanic German with his historically destructive delusions of grandeur and “my way or the highway”- approach to everything of import, are all irrefutable evidence of Germany’s Peter Pan-like unwillingness to grow up and shed its infantile and pathological white supremacist ways.

With regards to the hijab: in 2015 the Bundesverfassungsgericht in Karlsruhe, Germany’s highest court tasked with protecting the German constitution, ruled the general hijab-ban in place for teachers in public schools to be unconstitutional. In 2018, Berlin’s highest labor court declared Berlin’s misleading “Neutrality Law”, which prohibits religious clothing in civil service jobs like teaching, police, etc. but is de-facto a hijab ban, to be diametrically opposed to the ruling of the federal judges, implying the need for it to be scrapped.

It is 2020 now, and the situation on the ground hasn’t changed: despite landmark legal rulings from the highest courts in the land who have ultimate appellate jurisdiction, Germany in general and it’s largest and most cosmopolitan city Berlin in particular keep failing to implement these rulings and continue to bar Muslim women who wear the hijab from becoming teachers and judges, police officers and paramedics, border patrol agents and firefighters.

It will be interesting to see how long and far Germany (and countries like France with its burkini ban at French beaches and French retailer Decathlon’s banning of its sports hijab due to public white outrage or Austria with it’s hijab-ban in elementary schools), will be able to tread this path of societal regression, futilely trying to hold on to a provincialist past that – thank God – is no more.

Luckily, the majority of Swedes have understood how human development ideally works: like a perpetuum mobile of constant re-examination and self-improvement, rather than an eternal state of civilizational catharsis in which one is not only immobilized by one’s own backwardness, but also astonishingly proud of it.