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GPU ’08 with Yasir Qadhi: When Islamophobia Meets Perceived Anti-Semitism

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Please also see:
Quilliam Foundation’s Fear-Mongering “Alert” on Islam Channel (GPU, Yasir Qadhi, Bunglawala & Azad Ali)

In retrospect, it was inevitable.As a person’s speaking engagements increase, and his audience becomes increasingly larger and more diverse, its only a matter of time before he begins to attract media publicity, positive and negative. And these days, being a national Muslim speaker is just asking for trouble. So I guess it was just my turn to be smeared and publically embarrassed. But I go ahead of myself…

Earlier this year, I had accepted an offer to speak at the Global Peace and Unity (GPU) event in London, England. This is the largest gathering of Muslims in the Western world. It attracts a large number of international speakers, politicians, and (for better or for worse) nasheed artists and comedians. I had been participating in the GPU since its inception four years ago (except for last year when it clashed with the Peace Conference sponsored by Dr. Zakir Naik in India). My ticket had been booked and my lecture prepared, when, just three days before my flight to London, I received a call from a rather frantic representative of Islam Channel, the sponsors of GPU. Apparently, certain elements in the media and the internet world were trying to prevent British politicians from participating by claiming that the entire conference was a cover-up for ‘extremists’. Matters were getting tense, I was told, and a number of senior politicians had threatened to pull out, fearful of appearing on the same stage with ‘radical’ Muslims or associating with dubious  figures. As she continued explaining the situation, I honestly wondered what this had to do with me. I have a very clear and public track record of preaching peaceful coexistence in our societies. I have always warned against extremist interpretations of the Quran or Sunnah that lead to and justify acts of terrorism. I have on numerous occasions spoken out against those who kill innocents in the name of Islam. My stance is so well known that certain websites and internet blogs deem me to be an American sell-out because I do not agree with their overzealous and under-informed interpretation of our religion.

So what did all of this charge of ‘radicalization’ possibly have to do with me?

Well, it turns out that while certain other speakers who had been invited to the GPU were indeed accused of promoting or sympathizing with people or groups who allegedly had radical agendas (the new McCarthyism, if you ask me), and yet other speakers were accused of ‘promoting wife-beating (!!), my charge appeared to be far more heinous and dastardly than that. Nothing to do with terrorism, mind you, and I honestly thank God for that (although I can’t help but fear that its only a matter of time before one plus one is made to equal five for me as well). Nope, it wasn’t terrorism that I was being accused of.  “You’ve been accused of denying the Holocaust and being an anti-Semite,” I was told. Hence, in my case, apparently politicians felt that their appearance with me on stage might jeopardize their relations with their Jewish constituents.

I honestly could not help smile at this outlandish accusation. My specialty is Islamic theology, which I frequently teach. I also speak about Quranic exegesis, the life of the Prophet salla Allau alayhi wa sallam, the sciences of the Quran, the explanation of the hadith traditions, and other such topics. I rarely get involved with Christian or Jewish polemics because I do not view it as being my area of expertise. In fact, out of the thousands of lectures and sermons that I have delivered, I do not recall ever delivering an entire talk about Christianity or Judaism. When I hardly mention these other faiths, how could I be accused of being an anti-Semite?

Apparently, this was a charge that was being spread by an obscure internet site, and which had then been taken up by other sites (including David Horowitz’s Frontepage magazine), growing and magnifying along the way, until finally it reached the offices of British politicians, as an undeniable fact: ‘Sheikh Yasir Qadhi was a Holocaust-denying anti-Semitic Hitler-sympathizing extremist fundamentalist radical Muslim preacher’.

Well, to make a long story short, I was asked by Islam Channel to write up a brief statement that could be passed along to these politicians in order to explain my stance on the matter. The other speakers who were smeared with different charges were asked to do likewise. Since the matter was so simple, I wrote up a few paragraphs, sent it in, and thought the matter was over.

But I am still new to the public limelight, and have to yet learn that a smear shall remain a smear regardless of how untrue it is, or how long you deny it, or how many times you attempt to clear your name. On the very day of GPU, Dominic Grieve, the Shadow Home Secretary of the British Parliament, gave a lecture in which he criticized the GPU, while speaking from their platform, for a number of reasons. Of them, of course, was that they had invited none other than yours truly, a ‘Holcaust-denying anti-Semite’. (For those who are not from England, the ‘Home Secretary’ is one of most important positions in the British parliament; the Secretary is responsible for national security and other critical matters, similar to the ‘Attorney General’ in America. The ‘Shadow Home Secretary’, currently Dominic Grieve,  is the second-in-charge and typically the one who takes over after the current Home Secretary leaves).

Perhaps I should have been honored that such a high-member of government actually verbalized my name (albeit pronounced incorrectly). Or then again, perhaps I should have been fuming that he had the audacity to accuse me of anything when, earlier on in the day, he had actually been sitting in the same room as me (the speaker’s lounge), and thus could have easily chosen to  ask me directly to confirm or deny the rumor, but instead chose to believe a radical website (Frontepage magazine) that itself had no direct knowledge and was hardly an honest or neutral source of information.

Instead,  I was neither honored nor angry. Once again, I really couldn’t help be bemused. Is he serious? Does he not realize how foolish this will make him look? How utterly desperate must he and his ilk be to try to create problems when there are none? Isn’t his job as a true politician to try to solve problems rather than create them?

Well, it turned out that his tirade against me gave me material for another paragraph for my lecture later on in the day. His frenzied rant fitted in perfectly with the theme of my talk at the GPU, which centered around the rise of Islamophobia in Europe and the proper way to respond to it. Islamophobia is defined to be the illogical and irrational fear of Islam, and Dominic Grieve seemed to be a perfect example of it. Its as if he wanted the GPU speakers to all be extremist fanatics, to make a point that no matter how ‘moderate’ Muslims try to make themselves, they’ll never be moderate enough for him and his party. (My talk was of course recorded and broadcast live on Islam Channel; hopefully it should be out on the internet soon). Well, of course he shot himself in the foot by showing the real problem is ignorance and bias on the side of politicians and the media; the real problem is the willingness, nay, the eagerness, to promote the stereotyping of ‘the other’ rather than engage in true and meaningful dialogue.

But what exactly was the basis of this nefarious charge against me? Quite simply, it was the result of a remark that was made in a lecture, in passing, almost a decade ago. The first time that I had ever been invited to England, I gave a series of lectures on the tafsir of Surah Yusuf. The Surah, of course, deals with the story of the Prophet Joseph, and its main theme is about patience and sincerity to Allah. After delivering a series of lectures over a period of five or six days, in the last lecture, while trying to explain when and how the Jews finally returned to the ‘Promised Land’, I made some unfortunate comments that led to this charge. The comments were made in the context of the creation of the modern state of Israel. I claimed that Jews used the guilt of the Holocaust to extract from the UN the promise of a Jewish state, even though the Arabs from whom land was being taken had not been complicit in the crimes of the Nazis. I also said that Hitler never actually intended to massacre the Jews, he actually wanted to expel them to neighboring lands. I claimed that most European Jews (known as ‘Ashkenazi’) were in fact descendants of a non-Jewish race known as the Khazars. And, lastly, I claimed that Muslims need to study such topics, just like others study us – as an example, I said that a large percentage of ‘Orientalists’ were Jews, whereas no Judaic Studies professors were Muslims. All of this was done (believe it or not!) in the span of a few minutes.

Where did I get all of this information from? In the summer of 1999, someone had forwarded me a website of a group that called itself the ‘Institute for Historical Review’. At the time, I found the articles on it quite fascinating; the pseudo-scientific style in which they wrote gave the impression that they were a serious academic research body. It was only later, after more research, that I realized that they were a front for a group of actual anti-Semites, and were the leading Holocaust-denial organization in the world. Remember that this was a pre-Google and Wikipedia era, and I was sitting on the internet in my apartment in Saudi Arabia, far away from academic institutes where I could have verified the real agenda of this group. So, unfortunately, my mind abuzz with articles from this site, and believing there was legitimate scholarly difference of opinion over such issues, I digressed to a topic that I had not actually intended to talk about and made some serious historical blunders.

I was a young, budding, twenty-something undergraduate at Madinah when I gave that talk, during my very first cross-Atlantic dawah trip (I must have done over thirty by now). Its been almost a decade since that one-time mistake; I admit it was an error and an incorrect ‘fact’ was propagated. But even in that talk, I did not deny the actual occurrence of the Holocaust, or express any support or admiration for Hitler, or claim that all Jews were worthy of being despised or hated.

Just to clarify: I firmly believe that the Holocaust was one of the worst crimes against humanity that the 20th century has witnessed. Such a crime did not happen overnight, either. Rather, the systematic dehumanization of the Jews in the public eye of the Germans was a necessary precursor to this event. (As a side, all of this is food for thought, especially in the times that we live in, where some elements are trying to dehumanize all Muslims as well.) And while I as a Muslim believe that, on a theological level, the Jews are mistaken for having rejected the prophethood of Jesus and Muhammad (as are Christians for rejecting the latter), I most certainly do not call others to despise them, support massacring them, or otherwise discriminate against them! In fact – and my students can attest to this – I have stated many times, and firmly believe, that Muslims in the West have a lot to learn from the experiences of Judaism. Jews, especially Orthodox Jews, are the closest religious group to Muslims in terms of practice and legal code. There’s a lot to be gained from how they coped and survived in the Western environment.

To further clarify how my own views have changed since that talk, in that very talk I criticized the Western academic study of Islam (which I referred to by its antiquated name of ‘Orientalism’). Yet here I am, many years later, proudly obtaining my PhD from Yale in Islamic Studies and seeing with my own eyes how incorrect I was. I honestly thank God for my time in Madinah as I thank Him now for my time at Yale: both places have much to learn from, and I truly believe that a combination of East and West will help me be a stronger academic.

People change over time. Views develop, are modified, or discarded outright. Simplistic notions, especially those held in younger years, are typically shown to be stereotypical and false. And this is exactly what happened in this case as well, and I have no qualms admitting my mistakes, even as I criticize the exaggerated response it generated.

One final point of advice to speakers out there: realize that you never know when and how something you say may be used against you. When I gave that lecture, so many years ago, I was a completely unknown nobody. I honestly had no idea that one day I would be as recognized as I am today, so much so that the Shadow Home Secretary of the UK feels compelled to dissociate himself from the likes of me! I gave that lecture in a local masjid, to a small audience, and it was only recorded on audio cassette. To hear such material – a passing comment made so many years ago –  exaggerated to the level that it has been, causing such a large scandal, is really quite amazing. I wonder how such people discovered my blunder. Did someone actually compile all of the thousands of hours of my recorded material, including these audio cassettes, and sift through it with a fine-toothed comb, or was it an accidental ‘discovery’? And why did no one – and I mean no one – attempt to contact me to clarify my current stance?  But all of these questions don’t change the fact that the damage has been done, to my reputation before anyone else’s. Bottom line: do your research before you speak, and be careful of what you say.

In conclusion, while deep down inside of me I would still like to hope that this charge will somehow miraculously be corrected, I realize that this is most likely just the beginning of many more false charges to come. If one chooses a life of public speaking and activism (as I have), then along with that comes public scrutiny and unwanted attention. And there will be those bigots who wish to provoke, who desire to stereotype, who need to accuse others, because it serves their own self-interests, promotes their own agendas, and inflates their own egos. Indeed, if the prophets of God themselves were charged with crimes, if their noble reputations were smeared, if their impeccable honor was attacked, then surely those who wish to follow in their footsteps and are far lesser than them must also face a portion of what they faced. So we must do what we physically can do, and then leave the rest to Allah.

May Allah bless us with the courage to speak the truth and correct our mistakes, regardless of the consequences. May He grant us the fortitude to overcome challenges, the patience to persevere in the face of problems, and the faith to nourish us through our difficult times. And, most important, may He be pleased with us even if all of mankind is displeased with us. Ameen.

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Sh. Dr. Yasir Qadhi is someone that believes that one's life should be judged by more than just academic degrees and scholastic accomplishments. Friends and foe alike acknowledge that one of his main weaknesses is ice-cream, which he seems to enjoy with a rather sinister passion. The highlight of his day is twirling his little girl (a.k.a. "my little princess") round and round in the air and watching her squeal with joy. A few tid-bits from his mundane life: Sh. Yasir has a Bachelors in Hadith and a Masters in Theology from Islamic University of Madinah, and a PhD in Islamic Studies from Yale University. He is an instructor and Dean of Academic Affairs at AlMaghrib, and the Resident Scholar of the Memphis Islamic Center.

48 Comments

48 Comments

  1. Avatar

    OsmanK

    November 10, 2008 at 2:43 AM

    Jazakallah Shaykh for this post. With the media focused on sensationalism and today’s major witchhunt being islamic speakers, one does have to be very careful. Face it, danger and fear sell, whereas positive stories dont.

    This increases my respect for the speakers, who not only leave family and home behind, but tread the dangerous waters for the benefit of Islam. May Allah accept their work.

    Though I am quite surprised at your endorsement of Western academic Islam, as I have heard many students mentioning negative things of the sources used in universities compared to those of classical Islam. Would you encourage one to study Islamic studies in the West without having first studied it from the “East”, or would you only suggest it for those after they have studied with classical scholars?

  2. Avatar

    Sadaf Farooqi

    November 10, 2008 at 4:52 AM

    Bismillah
    Assalamu Alaikum.

    Whoever treads on the path of the Prophets – calling others towards Allah – will face the same propaganda, baseless accusations and flagrant opposition that they faced. I commend that you handled the onslaught well, and that you have publicly accepted this “mistake” you made in your youth. Allah will defend you and all others who are in His way, if you continue your stance of honesty and patience in the face of opposition, insha Allah.
    What about the speech you made on Islamophobia, can we all have a brief synopsis of it? The tips to counter it? I wrote an article about it and I’d like to know what points you highlighted in your talk at the GPU, for Muslims to overcome this growing fitnah?

    • Avatar

      fathima

      July 8, 2010 at 1:16 AM

      assalamu alaikum
      sister ,
      I READ YOUR ARTICLE,it was very interesting.I am also a student of AL-HUDA.
      am following the online TALEEM-AL-QURAN MORNING COURSE.
      may be you know our ustaza alia adil from Pakistan.
      I WOULD like to bring to your notice that photograph of sadaf farooqi’s (face covered).
      sister I would like to know from where did you get this photograph? because it belongs to me.
      I was amazed to see my picture here but,excited too.
      am so happy to get to know about a AL-HUDA student by this.pls reply me as soon as possible.
      am eagerly waiting.
      please keep in touch.
      alhamdulillah.
      wassalam

  3. Avatar

    Heather

    November 10, 2008 at 6:14 AM

    Asalamu alaikum. I really appreciate this long post, Sheikh, because I missed your rebuttal at the GPU. Mr Grieve’s performance at the GPU was shameful. I was deeply embarrassed that Sheikh Yasir and another of the guest speakers were smeared in such an underhand manner. Even more embarrassing was the fact that Mr Grieve was back on stage a couple of minutes later to receive an award for being “a friend of the Muslims” or some such title! Does anyone know if the Islam Channel has issued any kind of public statement about this incident? Perhaps some of the British Muslim MPs could take this matter up with the Conservative Party, with a view to getting them to engage in more meaningful debate. Jazak Allahu khair Sheikh for being a means of exposing the true character of this man.

  4. Avatar

    Nabeel

    November 10, 2008 at 6:31 AM

    Correction: The Shadow home secretary is a member of the opposition party who is appointed by the party to sctrutinise the activities of the home secretary. He is not a deputy to the current home secretary. If the opposition party wins a general election it is quite likely that he or she becomes the home secretary, though this is not always the case.

  5. Avatar

    MR

    November 10, 2008 at 9:35 AM

    You can deny the existence of God and but when you deny the Holocaust it’s wrong.

    Jews need to chill out. Don’t they believe in Freedom of expression and thought?

  6. Avatar

    Hassan

    November 10, 2008 at 10:03 AM

    MR said:

    You can deny the existence of God and but when you deny the Holocaust it’s wrong.

    Jews need to chill out. Don’t they believe in Freedom of expression and thought?

    Newsflash, a radical islamic person MR has accused of jews not chilling out and lack of freedom of expression and thought. MR has now no future in politics or any islamic events.

  7. Avatar

    Amna

    November 10, 2008 at 10:26 AM

    Ameen!

  8. Avatar

    abu abdAllah, the Houstonian

    November 10, 2008 at 11:29 AM

    bismillah. may Allah reward you shaykh Yasir, may He Forgive you your sins and excesses, may He strengthen you in your knowledge and in your resolve to do and teach good, and may He give you success in defending Islam, Muslims, and yourself from insidious and uncouth attacks.

    i read your article after reading and commenting in the open thread. and, alhamdolillah, that comment touched on how people who seek self-promotion in the dunya are often the most silent in public before their fame — fearing that any comment on a potentially controversial topic may derail their potential-careers.

    Allah Knows best. i testify that you are of those Muslims who answer the call to transmit the deen, and that you are of those who strive to do so in the best and kindest fashion. may He never keep still your tongue from uttering what pleases Him, nor deter you from pursuing righteous deeds, nor reduce you in encouraging your students to what is better for them.

  9. Avatar

    Ali

    November 10, 2008 at 11:31 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum wr wb,

    Its is quite amazing to learn that how vigilant and active they are… while we are still ignorand and and careless about our ummah…

    I have stated many times, and firmly believe, that Muslims in the West have a lot to learn from the experiences of Judaism.

    Indeed, we need to learn from them a lot…

    Jazakallahu Khairan Sh. Yasir, may Allah bless you with prosperity.

  10. Avatar

    Gohar

    November 10, 2008 at 12:31 PM

    Sh. Yasir should do an interview with islam channel news giving his side of the story. Then islam channel news could ask MR greive to comment on that. In other words, making him (D.G.) accountable for what he(D.G.) said in the same way that he (D.G) was trying to hold Sh. Yasir accountable for what he (YQ) had said.

  11. Avatar

    usman

    November 10, 2008 at 1:02 PM

    Salaam, shaykh yasiris right about the fact that when one chooses public life than public scrutny is also involved…may allah give u patience shaykh to deal with such horrible accusations. amen

  12. Avatar

    concerned muslimah

    November 10, 2008 at 1:30 PM

    What a time we live in where saying anything against jews (probably even thinking against them) has become a crime. What happened to the freedom of speech? Why, WHY do we HAVE to sympathise with them or with their past? Why is everyone obliged to believe in holocaust, what if someone doesn’t want to believe in it? it has become a crime, an evil action…even if it is merely a matter of one’s beliefs??

    we sure have a lot to learn from them…how manupilative they have become…even trying to contol how one wants to think or what one wants to believe in or not..even if it is a historical event that happened years ago (but they want us to close our eyes if the same is being repeated on Muslims in the present…)

  13. Avatar

    AsimG

    November 10, 2008 at 1:52 PM

    Not you too shaykh…

    How many more of our leaders will become pigeon-holed and be labeled as ‘extremists’ terrorists’ and ‘anti-semitic’?

    But it’s all part of a process I guess.
    I have a much better understanding why you said in chicago you always assume your answers will go on the internet.
    I apologize for not knowing better!

    May Allah preserve you, our scholars, our leaders, our ulema, our imams and the Muslims worldwide.
    Verily with every hardship comes ease.
    Indeed with every hardship comes ease.

  14. Avatar

    DrM

    November 10, 2008 at 2:43 PM

    The vast majority of the Semites in the world are Arabs, not Jews from East Europe. Its time they get it right, and quit their whining. The true meaning of “anti-semite” in the west is not someone who hates Jews, it is someone the Zionists hate.

  15. Avatar

    sys

    November 10, 2008 at 3:14 PM

    Its funny how everyone can bash Islam left and right, night and day, 24-7, all over the world and no one says anything, but when theres a small comment about the current Jewish occupation its the most talked about thing and the most disrespectful thing to say. Just look at all the stuff said about Obama being Muslim like it was a disease. People will always hate what they lack in themselves. They sense some of our devoutness and our piousness and can’t but help to hate because their lives our miserable. They are slaves to their temporary pleasures and highs with no real purpose, no real value. They see Muslims and cannot help but to hate on us….let the haters hate.

  16. AnonyMouse

    AnonyMouse

    November 10, 2008 at 4:58 PM

    Ah, so you had your brush with infamy, eh? :)

    I find it both sad and amusing that there are people out there who hate Islam and Muslims so much that they invest so much of their own time and effort in maligning our Deen and our Ummah… rather than letting their research open their hearts to Islam, they increase in their hatred and arrogance.

    Here’s a tip (from someone experienced in this kinda thing – not me – ;) ): Issue a one-time clarification statement, and then ignore the rabid media and political dogs. Whatever they say and do, their attacks will not be able to harm the Da’wah in any way, insha’Allah.

  17. Avatar

    al Baakistaanee

    November 10, 2008 at 5:44 PM

    Assalamu Alaikum, Shaykh Yasir

    May Allah protect you from the propagandists, Ameen. Your brothers and sisters have benefitted greatly from you and hope to continue doing so, insha Allah.

    al Baakistaanee

  18. Avatar

    J

    November 10, 2008 at 6:35 PM

    May Allah [swt] reward you, Ustadh Yasir.

    I don’t think you should worry too much about this, because the fact is that the dogs will bark no matter what.

  19. Avatar

    SaqibSaab

    November 10, 2008 at 6:38 PM

    One final point of advice to speakers out there: realize that you never know when and how something you say may be used against you.

    Shaykh Yasir, thank you for a post that humanized the speaker/activist’s life. This kinda advice is solid, JAK. And what’s nice to notice is that in no way is Shaykh Yasir letting the negativity stop him. In fact, he used it to his advantage and kept on truckin’, mashaAllah. That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

  20. Avatar

    eternal peace

    November 10, 2008 at 6:51 PM

    assalamu alaikum shaykh yasir,

    i was there at the a GPU, heard your speech but at the time i didn;t know who you were talking about now i see. we love having you over here in UK.Your courses at Alkauther have benefitted us alhamdulillah. I’m really proud of you that you have admitted mistakes you have made and clarified it. However isn’t that the same for us all, as we grow and develop we question and our views change, many great leaders have had views that they later have claimed they do not suscribe to, take muhammaed ali and the nation of islam for instance.

    I hope you continue to call people towards tawheed inshaAllah, may Allah bless you and your family, love you in this dunya and akhira ameen

  21. Avatar

    IbnAbbas

    November 10, 2008 at 7:18 PM

    Assalaamu alaikum Shaykh Yasir,
    Jazakallah Khair for such a great insight of the issue. A good reminder for all da’es and future da’es inshaAllah.
    As a big fan of your lectures/speeches, I have always noticed that your talks are eloquent and well-prepared mashallah and its amazing that even still they could ‘find’ something to criticise you.

    Indeed, if the prophets of God themselves were charged with crimes, if their noble reputations were smeared, if their impeccable honor was attacked, then surely those who wish to follow in their footsteps and are far lesser than them must also face a portion of what they faced. So we must do what we physically can do, and then leave the rest to Allah.

    Indeed….

    can’t wait for your next double-weekend course in london inshaAllah. :)

  22. Avatar

    Hidaya

    November 10, 2008 at 8:13 PM

    Asslamu Alikum Warehmatullah,

    Sheikh Yasir, I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know how much I have benefitted from you CDs.

    I was upper junior in College aiming for a career in Corporate world when I made a very sudden decision of wearing Hijab. SubhanAllah, only after I started wearing Hijab , I realized how difficult would it be for me to get a fancy job in Corp. America. So many people suggested (including my own nafs) to take off Hijab for job interviews… I was in a huge dilemma and had no clue where to turn to. Then one day, a friend of mine gave me your Cd’s ”Two Shahadas”..SubhanAllah, I remember crying after listening to those CDs and thinking to myself, how perfect and how majestic is my creator and here I am worried about Rizq. After that there was no stopping, I filled my Ipod with all your lectures (ok that time I was newly in to practicing world so didn’t know that there is such a thing as copyright for Islamic lectures) including ”Dua, weapon of the believers”..”Tafseer of Surah Yusuf” (yup the same lecture where you made these remarks) and Kitab-at-Tawheed, etc. ..Alhamdulillah, these lectures gave me Istiqamah, Sabr and Tawakkul at a time when everything just seemed to be going against me. These Cd’s motivated me to strive in the path that is most pleasing to Allah swt.

    Yours lectures are not only motivational but I also learned alot from them and it increased me in my quest to gain more Islamic knowledge. As of now, I am just waiting for Precious Provision (NJ) & Uloom ul Quran in NY..Insha’Allah!

  23. Avatar

    Kaltham

    November 10, 2008 at 9:41 PM

    Its funny how everyone can bash Islam left and right, night and day, 24-7, all over the world and no one says anything, but when theres a small comment about the current Jewish occupation its the most talked about thing and the most disrespectful thing to say. Just look at all the stuff said about Obama being Muslim like it was a disease. People will always hate what they lack in themselves. They sense some of our devoutness and our piousness and can’t but help to hate because their lives our miserable. They are slaves to their temporary pleasures and highs with no real purpose, no real value. They see Muslims and cannot help but to hate on us….let the haters hate.

    Sh. Yasir actually spoke about this at the ISNA convention this year… He mentioned how the Jews and the African Americans have worked so hard to make anti-Semiticism and racism a social taboo. This is exactly why freedom of speech is not applied to certain things said about the Jews and African Americans. If someone ever questioned just the figures of the holocaust he is deemed anti-Semitic… And we have all seen the fruits of the fight when it comes to racism; we now have an African American president! Talk about racism being khalaas publicly! My lesson out of this lecture was that we can not wait for ‘them’ to consider it a social taboo; we need to take unemotional and productive steps!

    May Allah always make your affairs easy yaa shaykh Yasir… Regardless of what they say about you, if Allah wants success for your dawah it will be heard and it will bring much benefit… the story of sister Hidaya repeats itself with many, me being one of them. May Allah put Baraka in your efforts and make it sadaqah jariyah for you. Afragha Allahu alayka sabra…

    Fi Amaani’Laah

  24. Avatar

    Farooq

    November 10, 2008 at 9:43 PM

    Assalaam’alaikum all

    OsmanK, from my personal experiences (and these are mine alone), there is a great deal of benefit to studying Islam in Western academic circles. For one, by studying Islam in the West, you can learn the methods, arguments, sources etc that many of the Orientalists used in trying to show the weakness of Islam. Although much of the Orientalist literature and their arguments are falling out of favour in the academic world, the influence of decades, if not centuries, of such thought still affects modern academic work in the field of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies. By studying their arguments/sources, we can better respond, providing the correct counterarguments, and deconstructing their conclusions in an efficient and effective manner. If one studies Islam in the traditional manner, you then have the required knowledge to construct a true representation of Islam and its history. This is why the work of scholars such as Sheikh Yasir is so important – they have studied classical/traditional Islam, and are now studying in the Western academic world, which gives them the legitimacy to speak in academic circles (with the names of universities such as Yale, Harvard, Oxford etc backing them up), and they have the knowledge to speak truthfully about Islam. So, a true picture of Islam is painted in the academic circles (which is where many ppl get their info from these days) and also a real understanding of Islam is passed on to the masses of university students now studying Islam/the Mid East. As for where to study first, Sheikh Yasir clearly has more knowledge and wisdom 

    Sheikh Yasir, jazak’Allah’khair for making those comments about the need to study the Jews, their history and Judaic studies in general! We do indeed have much to learn from them, especially how many groups reacted to the rise of modernity, secularism and rationalism in the 18th and 19th centuries! Those comments you made about the need for Muslim Judaic scholars were inspiring! I am pursuing my degree in Jewish Studies and I get a lot of negative comments for choosing that field, but it’s good to know that there are shuyukh who understand the need to study the Jews (and indeed, Islamic/Middle Eastern studies in the West) for many reasons! Of course, we gotta remember where our loyalties lie at all times :p

  25. Avatar

    Abu Umar

    November 10, 2008 at 10:03 PM

    Of related interest, here is an article that Hamza Yusuf wrote concerning so-called Holocaust denial:

    Epistemology is a branch of philosophy that studies the nature and basis of knowledge. How do we know things? It also studies the veracity of “truth.” How do we know the difference between belief, knowledge, opinion, fact, reality and fantasy? The Greek philosopher, Carneades, believed that knowledge of reality, of what is true or false, is impossible, that nothing can be known with certainty; his philosophy is known as skepticism. It does not reject belief altogether; Carneades felt that our belief about any given matter should be subjected to intense scrutiny and then, using a scale of probability, we should accept or reject the likelihood of its truth or falsehood. But we must make no absolute claims to it. Another Greek skeptic, Cratylus, however, was more radical in his approach and believed that nothing could be known at all, and thus no statements could convey anything true or meaningful. He finally gave up talking altogether.

    Most of us are neither moderate nor extreme skeptics; we believe what our teachers told us. Although some of us learned later that perhaps a little skepticism was indeed warranted, we survived with our grasp of reality reasonably intact. We live in a world where facts are meaningful and opinions can be assessed, at least to the degree that we deem them sound or unsound. When it comes to religion, those of us who are raised in traditions often reject such assessments and simply believe what we were taught. For many religious people, skepticism is anathema, the work of the devil. However, our Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have always been concerned with and seriously interested in epistemology, because each of these faiths have profound truth claims that need substantiation or “believability.”

  26. Avatar

    sincethestorm

    November 10, 2008 at 10:07 PM

    I don’t know if it was appropriate to discuss this on an “unofficial” forum. If I were putting myself forward as a representative of the Muslim voice, then I would certainly have my own official webpage. If there is a lesson to be learned from the Obama campaign, then one of the biggest one’s is guilt by association ie William Ayers and Jerimiah Wright. It would be easier to separate your “own” thoughts and give personal statements esp. in circumstances such as these. It is difficult and almost impossible to know what all the MM writer’s opinions are and what they stand for on every issue. This is not to take away from Amad’s efforts and vision in creating a fanatastic forum for Muslims to discuss ideas and current affairs. This is just a suggestion that all the speakers should consider.

    Of course, we can do our part but the trials that come our way will come regardless of what we do. We already know how sick minds work though so why not take advantage of the smear making tricks.

  27. Avatar

    Abu Umar

    November 10, 2008 at 10:30 PM

    Concerning Islamophobia, neocon Joe Lieberman is staring in the upcoming sequel to the Protocols of the Elders of Saudi Arabia, err, I mean Obsession:

    Joe Lieberman, who is locked in a fight to hold onto his Senate Homeland Security Committee chairmanship, is lending his name to a lurid sequel of the documentary Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against The West. That film, which was distributed through newspaper inserts and mass mailings to 28 million swing-state households during the campaign, was denounced by religious leaders for painting all Muslims with the same broad brush and for its cartoonish portrayal of Islamic terrorism.

    I really hope that the next time Lieberman is up for re-election that the good people of Connecticut throw this bum out onto the curb.

  28. Avatar

    Naqqaad

    November 11, 2008 at 1:41 AM

    “I most certainly do not call others to despise them.”
    Really? So Muslims shoudl love them? Where is your Walaa and Baraa gone? Into the the blcak hole of “co-existence”? May Allah guide you back to the correct path…

    “To further clarify how my own views have changed since that talk, in that very talk I criticized the Western academic study of Islam (which I referred to by its antiquated name of ‘Orientalism’). Yet here I am, many years later, proudly obtaining my PhD from Yale in Islamic Studies and seeing with my own eyes how incorrect I was.”
    So now the years of Orientalism and their uninformed and incorrect methodology in approaching Islamic Studies, not to mention the many attacks they have hurled against Islam and its Prophet until this very day, due to their unobjectivity and ulterior motives.. has now become correct since you studied at their feet? Or have you judges a whole school and movement due to some people you have met?

    I wont comment on the other issues i felt were incorrect, as they will be more dealing with ones chacacter than knowledge.

  29. ibnabeeomar

    ibnabeeomar

    November 11, 2008 at 3:34 AM

  30. Amad

    Amad

    November 11, 2008 at 9:32 AM

    “sincethestorm”, I understand your viewpoint, but this not an “unofficial” forum. Shaykh Yasir is one of the founders of MM, and this is where he “officially” expresses his views. And btw, I am only one of the several people who started this effort. And now the vision is formed by many more.

    Inshallah, in the near future, we will be cobranding Shaykh Yasir even more with MM :)

    I would like to repeat something that has been mentioned many times, that the opinions of the post reflect the opinions of the AUTHOR only. Unless there is explicit consent by others. For instance, the post on the post-Obama victory included opinions of several authors in order to show the diversity and also show that to each belongs his/her own views. There should be no confusion about that.

  31. Avatar

    Miako

    November 11, 2008 at 3:56 PM

    concerned muslimah,
    Never Again does not just mean for the Jews. It means for Muslims too — and it was at the Army War College (I was a workstudy) that I learned of the oppression of the muslims in China. Never Again means Elie Wiesel on a hunger strike for Rwanda. And, yes, it means your Jewish Brothers and Sisters standing with you, when someone decides it is the Muslim’s turn to be massacred.

    Yeah, it’s a good idea to push back practically against Islamophobia — which, yes, could be called Anti-Semitism ;-)

    to OP, I am glad that your intellectual curiosity has led you to the truth. I will continue to understand that the best indicator of ‘anti-semitism’ and other such things is associations.

    People who are confused as to why Holocaust Denial is a bad thing. Those who are so deranged as to not understand what is real and what is not, deserve to be put into a loony bin. I’d say the same thing about people who do not understand the practical reasons for supporting evolution, as a predictive theory — or someone who wanted to say that Jesus still walks the earth and has been since 1AD! At some point, people become nonsensical — and the elixir of “we’re better than you” is a powerful one.

  32. Avatar

    Abu Umar

    November 11, 2008 at 4:22 PM

    “Never Again,” has proven to be empty rhetoric. Take a look at the Congo, where, since 1999, over 5 million people have died as a result of mass violence and the disease and starvation that follow in its wake. Just recent we have seen an upsurge of violence in the Congo, yet we here nothing from those voices always preaching about the need to spread democracy and freedom. We have heard about what is happening in the vicious civil wars in Darfur and Iraq, yet those same voice say nothing about a worse human tragedy in Congo. The Western media doesn’t care (only al-Jazeera English has serious coverage of Congo), nor do the political elites in America and Europe. The West roared in their righteous over Georgia, but has taken no serious steps to find a solution to the cycle of violence and disease in Congo. As Muslims we are commanded to stand up for the truth and for justice, as such I think the people of Congo are more than worthy of our compassion and moral support. Please, I would encourage everyone here to educate themselves about the situation in Congo and then to educate others. The fact that over 5 million people have died in less than a decade is not something we should pass by lightly. Brother Amad, maybe you could use this website to draw some wider attention to what is going on in the Congo?

    (I’m sorry to get to off-topic, but I really felt compelled to say something.)

  33. Amad

    Amad

    November 11, 2008 at 6:58 PM

    Abu Umar, let me punt it back to you… can you write something up that we can post on MM (of course standard acceptance procedure applies)?? I definitely agree that by going beyond the Muslim injustices, we gain more moral ground on talking about injustice in any format, in any place.

    jazakallahkhair for bringing this important issue up.

  34. Avatar

    Abu Umar

    November 11, 2008 at 8:03 PM

    I would be honored. Give me a day or two and I’ll have something for you, insha’Allah.

  35. Avatar

    UmA

    November 12, 2008 at 12:04 AM

    I have that tafsir set and I remember being fascinated by the history of the bani israel, perhaps it would be nice to clarify exactly what the mistakes were in that part for the benefit of the public: I’d probably print it out and add it as an errata to the set.
    This accusation that Israel was founded based on holocaust guilt could not be true considering that the Balfour declaration was signed, I believe, in 1929, way before the nazi regime?

  36. Avatar

    Idris

    November 12, 2008 at 4:28 PM

    May Allah grant us the strenght to say that which is true,and the wisdom to know what is correct. As we grow older and get more exposed our views change,. Who can claim to still hold on to every idea/opinion he had 5 years ago?
    However in this era of soundbites and blogs, only Allah can save one from the mischievious.

  37. Avatar

    AsimG

    November 12, 2008 at 11:06 PM

    Ok I just researched the hate blogs and I’m suprised.

    This first surfaced in early 2006 and then had another smattering of logs in the end of 2007.
    (I am impressed that they actually have your talk in mp3 format)
    So I’m confused why you are bringing this up now Shaykh Yasir?

    Man the hit job they do against Al maghrib is amazing. They really did their research.
    As long as you say Saudi Arabia and wahabi in your description, everyone is a terrorist.

    But subhanAllah, I’m finding there are more Muslims that have bad to say about than non-Muslims.
    From the extreme salafis, to the sufis, to just about everyone.

    Ah well, Qabeelat Wasat has only love and du’as for you.
    You should just move here :p

  38. Avatar

    Miako

    November 13, 2008 at 5:29 PM

    Abu Umar,
    And just today I was reading about Sudan on Field Negro’s blog!

    Yes, we can all do better. It warms my heart to see so many, Muslim Christian and Jew, taking up arms for the poor people of Darfur. But there are always injustices, and I hope that our new President will be able to broker a peace treaty for the Congo.

    If you do not have an account at the blogs I generally post on (myDD, dkos, streetprophets), I would be honored to repost your missive, with your permission of course ;-)

  39. Avatar

    Ahsan

    November 14, 2008 at 9:44 PM

    Sh. Yasir, you’re surprised how they caught your error of a decade ago. I guess you’re not aware of projects like http://www.memri.org, a multi-million dollar ‘Institute’ (just as nefarious in its aims as the Institute for Historical Review – in that each have an evil agenda of spreading lies), whose only purpose is to scour the net, watch every major private and public news channel, read every single periodical, magazine or newspaper that comes from the Arab or Muslim-Asian world, and find selective quotes to show ‘hate speech’. All of this is done in order to paint the entire Muslim world, 20 % of humanity, with the same strokes that this politician tried to paint you.

    They have an agenda to try to make every Muslim seem radical. I would strongly suggest all of the readers here log on to their site just to get a taste of what they are doing. When you have as much money as they do, and are so full of anger and hatred, you will hire an entire team to get you such quotes, regardless of how obscure the material is.

    Don’t be surprised if they have more of your lectures on file than you yourself do. And if that’s all they could find on you, honestly I’m actually impressed.

  40. Avatar

    Faiez

    November 15, 2008 at 3:20 AM

    So does this mean GPU won’t be inviting you back next year?

  41. Avatar

    Ibn Fellah

    November 15, 2008 at 9:17 AM

    So, I’m confused…even by your standards Qur’an would sound “anti-semitic”! How Allah ‘azza wa jall described Bani isreal and their transgression- since you’ve changed your “opinions” and you’re an open-minded famous man now- how do you put that into perspective? Of course this is not to suggest that Muslims should incite hatred against Jews! No one is suggesting that, rather I’m talking about the “realities” of iman and kufr and how Bani Isreal constantly transgressed despite being the Chosen People until Allah took that honor away from them.

    Also, I’m confused how does this fit into the whole “wala wal baraa’ ” picture?

    -edited. Pls avoid sarcasm.

  42. Avatar

    Sadia

    November 19, 2008 at 12:47 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullah Sheikh Yasir,
    It’s quite an inspiration to read a struggle like this being overcome and used for positive instead of negative. The work of a da’eeh, especially in the public eye, is never easy and will always be met with strong opposition. It makes me wonder why the GPU organizers invited Grieve who seems like he had no qualms about voicing his opinions. In any case, may Allah grant you strength to overcome any struggles and may you continue to benefit us with your knowledge inshaAllah.

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    Salman Zain

    November 20, 2008 at 12:04 AM

    Br. Yasser,

    So ma sha Allah you have clarified statements you made about Jews, are Shia worse that Jews in your eyes? Are they all kaafirs?
    Please comment on this clip of yours
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZiXRRMblJzY

  46. Avatar

    Yasir Qadhi

    November 20, 2008 at 1:04 AM

    @ Ibn Fellah

    I retracted from a number of statements *I* made, based on a racist source. I am not embarrassed or ashamed to admit I was mistaken, and I do this out of no pressure from any external source, but rather because I feel I didn’t do my research properly and said things that should not have been said. I agree with Hamza Yusuf and others who point out that Muslims only harm themselves when they start believing in conspiracy theories or making outrageous claims.
    I did not quote Quran or Hadith, rather I quoted from an anti-Semitic website and I am now admitting that I was incorrect in what I said. Do not bring it Divine Texts and conflate them with incorrect statements that I made.

    @ Salman Zain

    This article is about a comment regarding Jews, I really don’t want a Shia-Sunni tangent to start here, so please understand the brevity of my comment. The link that you allude to is from my Kitab al-Tawhid series, which is even earlier than the Surah Yusuf one. It is definitely the ‘old’ me, much more fiery and zealous in my tone.
    But there is a major difference between the statements on Jews above, and the statement regarding Shiites that you link to. While I truly understand now that there is very little to be gained, and much potential harm realized, when one talks in such a fiery tone and harsh manner, and while I would not speak about Shiites in such a manner anymore, I cannot ‘retract’ from certain theological doctrines that I said in that clip. These doctrines were not taken from racist websites (as in the case of the Jewish comments), but from reliable sourcebooks (both Sunni and Shiite).
    Hence, as a Sunni theologian, I cannot retract from my claim that the belief that the Quran is corrupted is kufr. And I cannot retract from the claim that accusing Aishah radi Allahu anha of adultery expels one from Islam. I firmly believe these issues to be true, and anyone who believes in such doctrines, regardless of what label he or she attaches to him/herself, is simply not a Muslim according to the understanding of Sunni Islam. You, of course, probably have another opinion, and that is your prerogative, and in the end God will judge the both of us in the next life.
    As for the issue of cooperating with other groups, I advise you to listen to a lecture delivered last year,
    http://muslimmatters.org/2007/05/12/muslims-in-the-west-event-with-yasir-qadhi-2-part/
    In this lecture, I clearly outline that ‘cooperation’ can occur with groups on different levels (an idea that had not yet developed in my mind when I gave the lecture you reference). Hence, cooperation can and should occur with Shiites, on different levels, as it should occur with all groups claiming to be Muslim. As I said very explicitly in the link above, even if I would not pray behind someone who curses the Companions, in the world that we live in, there are many other projects that I could and would cooperate with the very same person on if and when the need arises.
    Lastly, please note that I have never said that all Shiites are non-Muslims. I have never believed that and still do not. But I stand by what I said that anyone – regardless of what label they attach to themselves – anyone who believes that the Quran has not been preserved cannot in true faith claim to follow the very Book that says that it has been preserved.
    Note that this is a theological and moral claim; it carries no legal implications whatsoever in the current context of our lives. If anyone believes this, that is their choice, and we will all return to God who shall judge between us. Also, in light of the physical violence taking place between Sunnis and Shiites all over the world, I must state that I do not in any way, shape, fashion or form condone, much less encourage, this violence, and never have. Sunnis and Shias should dialogue and debate, but nothing is gained by resorting to violence against one another. While I find certain theological beliefs repugnant, my criticism remains on a purely moral and theological level.

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#Current Affairs

5 Quick Things Americans Can Do For Uyghurs Today

Abu Ryan Dardir

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“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.

3. Donate to Uyghur Human Rights Organizations to end concentration camps: UHRP, Uyghur American Association  Donate to Awareness Campaigns: Save Uigur Campaign 

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

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#Culture

Retire Aladdin To The Ends Of The Earth

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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.

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#Current Affairs

Faith Community Stands With Peace And Justice Leader Imam Omar Suleiman During Right Wing Attacks

Hena Zuberi

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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.

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