One of the greatest mistakes of the Bush Administration in its national policies to quell radicalization has been its failure to recognize and separate true militants (and hence actual potential terrorists) from normal, practicing Muslims. It is because of this ignorance that many hundreds, in fact thousands, of innocent people have been locked up, deported, or otherwise harassed in the last few years. Sometimes, the very people who would be the best defense against radicalization are the subject of such governmental scrutiny.
Perhaps the most painful of the voices that has been locked up and silenced is that of Dr. Ali al-Timimi, an intellectual theologian and political analyst, and one of the more sophisticated voices of reason representing orthodox Islam in the Western world. On April 26, 2005, after three years of a long witch-hunt led by the Justice Department, he was convicted in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia of soliciting others to levy war against the United States and inducing others to use firearms in violation of federal law.
I personally owe a lot to Sh. al-Timimi, and I can say (with pride) that fifteen years ago, back in the early 90’s, he played an instrumental role in shaping and directing me to take the path that has led me to where I am today. I had the opportunity to be of the first batches of his students – in fact he was the first teacher who taught me the realities and intricacies of tawhid and aqidah, which, to this day, remains my primary focus and speciality. After my return from Madinah, I had the opportunity to visit Dr al-Timimi in May of 2005, when he was under house arrest, awaiting sentencing. He had an electronic bracelet around his ankle which monitored his every movement and precluded him from even stepping outside his house. And even during that meeting, his inevitable sentencing weeks away, he took interest in my life plans, and expressed great happiness at the progress of my studies, even suggesting specific topics and avenues that I should explore as a doctoral student at Yale (I had yet to start back then). It was with great sadness that we all received the news, on the 13th of July, 2005, of his life sentence, along with seventy years, without the possibility of parole.
I believe it was an egregious mistake of the highest order to target Dr. al-Timimi and make him out to be some sort of terrorist mastermind. He has many times, publicly and privately, rebuked the jihadist militants and criticized their errant methodologies. In one lecture, he said “If you consider this [speaking in the context of the reality of jihad], then we can frankly say that certain acts of violence perpetrated by Muslims against non-combatant unbelievers over the last ten or fifteen years clearly contradict Islam. It is exceedingly important that Muslims are the first and foremost to condemn and reject such actions.” After the first World Trade Center bombings, many years before 9/11, he said in a lecture at Purdue, “What I would like to emphasize is that according to Islamic law, this act perpetrated by those Muslims is forbidden. It is exceedingly important that we Muslims have no hesitation in declaring that. Yes we should be strict with our religion. And yes we should hold firm to it. But at the same time, when a Muslim does something criminal we Muslims will all say that it is immoral without any uneasiness on our part to assert that.”
The irony of the matter is that, far from curbing radicalization, the overzealous actions of the Justice Department in targeting Dr. al-Timimi has in fact exacerbated the situation and made him a cause célèbre to the very groups that the government is seeking to target. It adds more fuel to their already raging fire that they build against the entire ‘United States’, as it demonstrates, in their eyes, that the whole country is ‘out to get Islam and all Muslims’.
But the message of Shaykh was always one of pragmatic realism grounded in the Quran and Sunnah. He was indeed critical of many aspects of American foreign policy (these days, which rational human being is not?), but he never espoused any radical message of terrorism, nor did he secretly live a double life as a University academic by day (he had just finished his PhD in computational biology from George Mason), militant extremist by night.
I have had the opportunity to speak to many political players in Washington; from presentations in the State Department to conferences attended by DHS officials and counter- terrorism experts. In every such gathering at which I have spoken, I have brought up the name and case of Dr. al-Timimi as a prime example of the total ineptitude shown by the D of J and the Attorney General’s office. I hope that this has some effect in directing future policy.
Dr al-Timimi’s case has been taken on by Jonathan Turley, a professor of law at George Washington Law School. Turley was ranked as 38th in the top 100 most cited “public intellectuals” in a recent study. He was found to be the second most cited law professor in the entire country. Turley alleges that the government acted inappropriately and broke the law in its method of targeting and spying on Dr. al-Timimi, hence he launched an appeal more than two years ago, which is finally coming to a verdict.
This is also a good opportunity for us to show our support of Prof. Turley, who has taken on this and other cases, such as the Sami al-Arian one, because he believes that they show a clear breach of fundamental constitutional rights in the actions of the current administration. It’s people like Jonathan Turley who show us, in actions and words, the other side of America; a side that, sadly, many Muslims fail to appreciate and be grateful for. His actions are truly commendable, and we should do our best to show that appreciation to him.
Dr. al-Timimi’s appeal will soon be heard in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A tentative date of October 23rd has been set. The following message is from Sr. Ziyana al-Rawahi, Dr. al-Timimi’s wife. Out of all of us, her loss is the most personal and the most difficult to bear.
As we remember Sh. al-Timimi in our duaas, let us also remember his wife and his parents, and ask that Allah grant him a speedy victory, and his family much patience and reward. Ameen Ya Rabb al-Alamin!
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Ziyana Al-Rawahi
Inshallah you had a nice Ramadan and Eid holiday with your families.
I would like to let you know that there is a hearing on Ali’s behalf on October 23 Inshaallah. As the lawyer stated there will be two classified motions to address and the Judge will have to will have to decide whether she is going to order serious relief in the case. The hearing will be closed to the public.
Please spread and make dua.
5 Quick Things Americans Can Do For Uyghurs Today
“I may die, but let it be known that my nation will continue their struggle so long the world continues to exist.” Kazakh leader Uthman Batur. He said these words as Chinese authorities executed him for resisting the communist occupation. Currently, China has, one million Uyghurs (Uighurs), Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities held in concentration camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) (East Turkistan) in northwestern China.
Their struggle surpasses the 10 or so years since we have become aware of it. Just like the Rohingya genocide, we waited till the last minute. We are always late and say, “Never Again.” It happens again and again.
In my lifetime, there have been horrendous genocides that could have been prevented to stopped. As a child, I remember Rwanda in the headlines, then a year later Bosnian genocide. Then we hear these demonic stories after the fact. I remember stories from survivors from Bosnia, and thinking to myself, “How are you here and functioning?”
Let us not be fooled to why this is happening now. It is related to economic advantages. The Chinese government’s present signature foreign policy initiative is the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) that seeks to connect the PRC economically to the rest of the Eurasian continent through massive infrastructure projects that will stimulate international trade. The western and south-western components of the BRI require the XUAR to serve as a transportation and commercial hub to trade routes and pipelines that will join China with Central and South Asia, the Middle East, and the entirety of Europe. As a result, the XUAR has become an important strategic region for the Chinese, and the state views its indigenous populations as an obstacle to developing its vision for this future critical center of international commercial networks.1
The expansion of their trade route also ties in Iran hence the sanctions placed, but that’s a different report for a different time. China, of course, has defended their actions by claiming its an anti-terrorism plan. Getting reliable information is hard. China has made it a point to make things difficult for reporters. Yanan Wang, a China-based journalist from the Associated Press, has reported extensively on and from Xinjiang.
In a ceremony at Asia Society on Tuesday commemorating AP’s 2019 Osborn Elliott Award for Excellence in Journalism on Asia, Wang described the subtle ways government minders worked to thwart her reporting: “(Both of the times we went there we arrived at the airport, we had a welcoming committee from the local authorities. They’re always very polite and professional. They say that “you’ve arrived in Xinjiang and we’re here to assist you in your reporting. Tell us what you’re working on so we can help you.” They offer us drives in their car and plenty of hospitality.
Basically, from the moment we arrive, we’re followed by at least one car. There are a bunch of interesting scenarios that we came across. You can see that the local handlers are trying hard to be professional. They are members of the propaganda department, so they’re PR professionals. They don’t want to make it appear like it’s so stifling. At one point, we were taking photos, and someone suddenly appeared on the scene to say he was a “concerned citizen.” He said he’d seen us taking photos and that it was an infringement of his privacy rights. He had this long monologue about privacy rights and about how it wasn’t right for us to take photos of him without his knowledge. We asked him, “Well, where are you in these photos?” and he’d go through all of them. He said we had to delete all of them. He’d say, “This is my brother,” or “This is my place of work, you have to delete it.”
They had all of these interesting tactics to work around the idea that they were trying to obstruct our reporting and make it appear that someone who claims to be a concerned citizen.)”2
On top of that, locals that talk to journalist are punished, sometimes go missing.
I decided to do something this time around; I got in touch with an Uyghur community near my residence to see how an individual could help. It started at a Turkic restaurant, and from there, I have been involved in whatever capacity I am able. Through this effort, I got in touch with a Turkic professor in Turkey who has students stranded as they are cut off from contacting family back in Xinjiang. He helps them out financially; my family and friends help with what they can.
As Muslims in the West, there is no doubt we should act. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart, and that is the weakest of faith” (Muslim).
How Can You Help Uyghurs
Here are a few things you can do to help:
1. Ask Congress to pass To pass S.178 & H.R.649 Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019. Urge your senator and representative to support this cause. It has been introduced. This bill can help the Uyghur community to be treated like Tibetans (another region oppressed by China).
2. Stay informed. The mainstream media is not the place to get accurate information on the situation. Be skeptical of where the data is coming from, stick to reliable sources that are verified. As mentioned above, journalists find it difficult to report.
4. Boycott or reduce buying Made in China products
5. Follow these links for updated information: facebook.com/Uyghur-Human-Rights-Project-227634297289994/ and facebook.com/ChinaMuslims
This crisis is an ethnic cleansing for profit. These are dark days as we value profit over people.
1.Statement by Concerned Scholars on mass detentions | MCLC …. https://u.osu.edu/mclc/2018/11/27/statement-by-concerned-scholars-on-mass-detention s/
2.Why It’s So Difficult for Journalists To Report From …. https://asiasociety.org/blog/asia/why-its-so-difficult-journalists-report-xinjiang
Retire Aladdin To The Ends Of The Earth
By Jinan Shbat
I grew up in an upper-middle-class suburb in Ohio, where I never felt different than the kids in my neighborhood. Sure, my siblings and I had odd-sounding names, and we spoke a second language. But to our neighbors and classmates, we were white, like them. However, that perception changed when I was 11-years-old, when a Disney cartoon movie named “Aladdin,” was released based off of a character created by a French orientalist at the height of Orientalism. At first, my siblings and I were excited because we thought Disney had made a movie that represented us. However, shortly after the movie came out, the questions began.
Are you from Agrabah?
Do you have a magic carpet? Are you going to be married off to someone your parents choose? Do you have outfits like Jasmine?” My head was swarming with all these questions, and I admit, I was intimidated. A little scared, too. I didn’t know how to answer them, and so I just shook my head and walked away.
My parents thought they were doing us a favor by buying the movie and have us watch it anytime other kids came over to play. This just created a larger divide between us, and soon my siblings and I were the “other.” It made me hyper-aware of my brown skin, my visiting foreign grandparents, and my weird-sounding name that no one could ever pronounce correctly. As I grew up, the movie and its racist, Orientalist tropes followed and haunted me. Anytime anyone found out I was Arab, they would ask, “oh, like Aladdin?” I didn’t know how to answer that. Was Aladdin Arab? South Asian, Persian? These were all different ethnicities, yet the movie seemed to be an amalgamation of them all, set in a fiction land I could not identify.
Why is Disney’s Aladdin Harmful?
It may not seem like a big deal to be misidentified in this way, but it is. And these stereotypes that have been present in Hollywood for decades are a huge disservice to our communities- all our communities- because when you misidentify a person’s culture, you are saying that all people of color are interchangeable— which is dehumanizing.
With the new release of the live action version, “Aladdin” is reinforcing the trauma and obstacles we have had to fight for the last 30+ years. The addition of a diversity consulting firm made Disney look good; it showed good faith on their part to receive feedback on the script to try and improve it.
However, issues remain with the original story itself, and no amount of consulting will change that.
Although the Aladdin remake was marked by controversy over Disney “brown-facing” its white cast, and despite original Aladdin’s racist history, last weekend Disney’s live-action version soared to $207.1 million globally. Money experts tell us that the remake success comes from the “power of nostalgia”- that is, the film’s ability to connect with feel-good memories.
The original production is the second highest grossing film project in Disney history. Last weekend, millions flocked to the remake in record numbers, despite critics’ negative and mixed reviews.
The accompanying Aladdin Jr. play is also a major concern, sales of which will skyrocket because of the film. Disney only recently removed the word ‘barbaric’ in its description of Arabs in the opening song. Many more problems abound, but Disney promises through its licensing company, Music Theatre International, to keep the concepts explored in the original production intact.
A Whole New World Needs Less Anti-Muslim Bigotry
From my perspective, as an organizer that fights a huge Islamophobia network in my daily work, it would be a disservice to my work and our community to sit by and allow racist, Islamophobic, orientalist tropes to make their way into our theaters, homes, and schools. What exactly is not a big deal in this movie? The depiction of Arabs and South Asians as one demographic, the storyline of forced marriage, power struggles, a black man playing a genie literally bound by chains to a lamp?
Hollywood’s history of Islamophobia needs to be rectified. There is a plethora of writers, actors and creative minds with alternative positive portrayals of Muslims, Arabs and South Asians. Our consumer appetite must shift to embrace authentic stories and images about people like me.
Aladdin is beyond repair; in its original form, it is problematic. No number of meetings with executives will fix the problems that are still prevalent. It should be retired, indefinitely, and put on the shelf with all the other racist caricatures from Hollywood history.
It’s our duty to speak out- and if you don’t believe we should, then you can choose to stay silent. I cannot.
Jinan Shbat is an organizer in Washington DC.
Faith Community Stands With Peace And Justice Leader Imam Omar Suleiman During Right Wing Attacks
In a follow up to the right-wing media platforms attack on Imam Omar Suleiman – calling him anti-semitic, a common tactic used to discredit both Muslim activists, as well as criticism of Israel policies, Faith Forward Dallas issued a statement.
Faith Forward Dallas at Thanksgiving Square – Faith Leaders United for Peace and Justice is a Texas-based interfaith organization that has worked on many initiatives with Imam Omar Suleiman.
The statement reads:
“Imam Omar Suleiman a spiritual and moral voice for peace with justice!!!!!
Time after time in our city, in the United States and around the world, Imam Omar Suleiman has been a spiritual and moral voice for peace with justice. When others seek to divide, he calls for unity. Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square works to unite faith leaders for justice and compassion. Imam Suleiman has been a trusted leader among us. In the wake of his beautiful prayer to open the House of Representatives on May 9, he has received threats of violence and words of vilification when instead he should have our praise and prayers. We call upon people of good will everywhere to tone down the rhetoric, to replace hate with love, and to build bridges toward the common good.
Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square”
Commenters on the Faith Forward Dallas statement have left comments of support.
The group has invited locals and other leaders to endorse and share the statement. “Endorsed! I love and fully you Imam Omar Suleiman!” wrote Karen Weldes Fry, Spiritual Director at Center of Spiritual Learning in Dallas (CSLDallas), commenting on the statement.
Some commentators do not understand the manufactured controversy. Heather Mustain writes, “What people are writing is so vile. They obviously didn’t even listen to his prayer!” Imam Omar Suleiman delivered the opening prayer in the US House of Representatives on May, 9th, 2019 at the invitation of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Dallas, TX.
“I’m grateful for the faith leaders with whom I’ve built relationships with and served with for years that have shown full support throughout this process. Together we’ve stood with one another in solidarity in the face of bigotry, and in the support of others in any form of pain. We will not let these dark forces divide us,” said Imam Omar Suleiman in response to the outpouring of love from the people he has worked with on the ground, building on peace, love, and justice.