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I Cannot Cheer for you Sister Rima Fakih, Miss USA 2010: Too Much is at Stake

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The following guest post by Hena Zuberi caused great debate and discussion among the MM staffers as to whether to ignore the subject or let Sr. Hena’s voice be heard. There were concerns about being too reactive as well as piling on a “non-practicing sister”. However, some of us felt that what was at stake was above and beyond the Miss USA competition. Rather, it was about role-models and the type of role-models that Muslims have become so desperate to cheer on. It was about our own dignity and integrity. It was about being sandwiched between terror and bikinis. Here’s to highlight the diversity among us!

I Cannot Cheer You on Sister Rima Fakih, Miss USA 2010: Too Much at Stake

by Hena Zuberi

As a Muslim woman, who is passionate about the using the best of our abilities to make this world a better place alongside our men, I cannot cheer you on Rima Fakih, Miss USA 2010; too much is at stake. I detested beauty pageants when I didn’t wear hijab,  and detest them when I do now. I wish you had used your “passion, courage, and self-confidence” for a better cause.

People do stuff, it gets reported in the papers, the end. But when blogs, Muslim magazines here and all over the world have commentaries that celebrate this as a Muslim victory then it is too much. Even “Muslim feminists,” like Fatemah Fakhraie of Muslimah Media Watch, who normally think beauty pageants are “gross” because of their “history of sexism, exploitation and exclusion” are excited. So sister if one of our own does it, its ok? Talk about letting go of your values.

Fakhraie asks, “Why would any self-respecting feminist cheer at the fact that a Muslim woman has been objectified along with the rest of the Miss USA contestants?” She answers herself, “because she is excited about seeing another female face of Islam in the mainstream media. Rima Fakih is another representation: she doesn’t look like the headscarf-wearing Muslim women usually profiled in human-interest stories (the ones who open their own businesses or are fired from Abercrombie & Fitch stores). She doesn’t look like the war-torn women of Iraq or Afghanistan–representations in the media that Americans are used to seeing.”

Even if she has to agree that that “Rima’s crown represents sexist ideals and expectations…As a media activist and Muslim feminist, I am fully aware of these issues, and I know that her victory is not a real one for Muslim women or Arab American women.”

If you believe that the victory is not a real one then why applaud it? Have we lost all sense of identity that we have to rejoice at a Muslim woman stripping down to her undies as a breakthrough  in Arab/Muslim acceptance in this country? Are we so desperate for any “good” publicity that we will take the bottom of the barrel? My Arab ancestors must be turning over in their graves somewhere. This is not a triumph for any self-respecting Muslim/woman who upholds true feminist beliefs.

“Muslims are moving up,” says a Berkeley brother who identifies as a “liberal”. Trying to make sense of the celebration, Janan Delgado adds in a solid piece on altmuslimah, “Seeing that one of us gets to make it in spite of being Muslim and Arab is another welcome relief.”

I wonder too, how can people think this is making it? What does that mean? If making it means pandering to the ogling crowds of the lowest of low males- like cattle or cars are paraded, being judged on the size of their undergarments. This is wrong on so many levels as an American, as a Muslim, a parent, a teacher and as an immigrant.

Delgado further points out (Jazakillah khair sister): “We are integrated! We can be Muslim and get to do the things other Americans do! We also get to have our bodies paraded like horses at expensive Vegas casinos! Hurray! Except, of course, that when this happens, women like Rima who agree to appear in tiny bikinis are cast as the progressive ones [CNN actually used this word]. In the meantime, those of us who cover up head to toe are contrasted to these beacons of progress, in hopes that one day we see the light as well, and shed off our scarves, and while at it, perhaps all the rest as well.”

Rima, herself is quoted as saying, “I think it would prove that Arabs don’t always try to separate themselves, but instead are integrated into American culture,” she recently told the Global Arab Network.

“What are we doing? We are saying here we are and we are naked like you,” says Sarah Siddiqui, while celebrating her JD from the University of Arizona Law School where she was the Articles editor of their Law Review. ” This is going to change our image, I don’t think so. Most people will look at her and think this is one (anomaly), this is not a typical Muslim.”

“Perhaps a pretty girl like Rima Fakih in a shiny bikini will help dispel the ominous rumors and generate interest in, or at least Google searches on, Islam.” What?! Is this what we are going to do for dawah- strip and spread? An article in Elan the magazine for global Muslim culture says “You go, girl. One small step for a Muslimah, one giant leap for Muslim-kind, as we go from being stereotyped as hairy/angry/terrorists to hot/giggling/beauty queens. I love it”, read Elan’s article.

We need to celebrate another stereotype? Don’t we get a choice about who represents us- it has to be terrorists or winner of beauty pageants? This is an insult to all Muslimahs who are working hard in their respective fields, becoming scholars, lawyers, designers, chefs, professors, doctors, engineers, writers, business women, scientists, teachers and mothers. They struggle everyday to establish themselves, to build the Muslim image despite what Americans see on TV everyday.

“First Muslim Winner of Miss USA,” announces the Guardian’s headline. This is not an achievement of literary, athletic or scientific pursuit to be celebrated at Pita Pits around the country and the Arab world. It is a fact that she is an immigrant of Lebanese descent but do not make this about her Islam. Just as no mention is made of the Ms. Oklahoma, the runner-up’s religion, lets leave the Muslim out of it. When Ashwayria Rai won Ms. World- she was celebrated as an Indian, not a Hindu. Do you know which religion Vanessa Williams, the first African-American Ms. USA practices? Probably not. Read Ahmed rehab’s article in the Chicago Tribune

She wants to be a babe in a bikini then let it be just that, don’t make her the unwilling representative of Muslim women.

I am not saying Muslim women all around the way dress the same way or Muslim women have not dressed this way before. From singers in Arab countries to Pakistani models (some college buddies from Kinnaird are supermodels now) do dress like that but they don’t have headlines in respected papers like the Guardian calling them first MUSLIM anything- they are just singers or models from whatever country. Nor are they being asked in Newsweek to address Muslim women issues and “visit France as a good-will ambassador. She should bring her bikini.”

Making this about her religion, gives our girls the wrong role model to look up to. I am dreading the moment when one of my kids will get congratulated for a Muslim winning the pageant. That will stop my “Muslims don’t do that” line stone cold. When I tell my daughter that Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus) may do certain things because she is a non- Muslim, what do I tell her now? Maybe I will tell her the same thing I told her when suicide bombers blew my uncle and nephew up while praying Jumu’ah in Rawalpindi, “that they are not following Islam.” It felt lame then and it feels lame now.

I know sex and all that is sexy sells and that’s what people are into but Muslim teens need stronger Muslim women highlighted in other fields, whose behavior they can emulate. This is why for years I drove the extra 35 miles so my daughters could see their Muslimah pediatrician, she didn’t wear hijab but dressed modestly and would greet them with salaam. They look at her and say, “hey I could do that.”

When Tanya from the youth group asks me ‘Sister Hena, but she is the first MUSLIM isn’t that cool?’ Is it cool? I attend a very liberal masjid, I can see where the girls are going with that – ‘everyone is doing it now even Muslims,’ ‘This opens up door which hasn’t been opened before, and sometimes that is not good’, says Sarah Ahmed, a mother of four college kids.

I am going to call it the David Chappelle syndrome, he cussed, is famous and is Muslim and, so there is a stream of comedians of Muslim backgrounds, who started off innocently but now are on mainstream media cussing away. What is amazing about Brother Chapelle is that quit his 50 million dollar show because of his increasing spirituality, this fact our young brothers ignore. It doesn’t matter that Rima is smart or wants to become a lawyer- she is hot and famous that is the focus.

Living in Los Angeles, I have seen the Kim Karadashian effect. It was bad enough when cheering the acceptance of petite bodies, long dark hair, naturally tanned skin as beautiful and mainstream, many modest Muslimahs shed their clothes, hoping to make it BIG; they are hip, cool and very fashionable. Karadashian is not Muslim, she is of Armenian descent and practices Christianity. It doesn’t matter if you are talented, Kim isn’t. And now we have Rima. Both these women are very pretty no doubt about that, but it keeps coming back to their “sexiness.”

Spengler’s article “Rima Fakih and the fragility of Islam” hit me hard. The article’s premise is “a nation is never really beaten until it sells its women.” It is depressing to see them gloat over our “adoption the habits of the ambient culture.”

A conservative non-Muslim commented on it “As much as I’d like to celebrate this small victory [notice how this is a victory because some believe that Islam will fail, Ma’adhallah], I really can’t believe that Muslim parents reading about Ms. Fakih are terribly overjoyed at the prospect of their daughters becoming pole-dancers and strutting around in bikinis and lingerie… If Muslims in America are presented with a choice of whether to assimilate into larger American society as decadent secularists or remain segregated as pious Muslims, then my guess is they’ll choose the latter option more often than not.” He has more faith in us than I do. Maybe I have too many acquaintances who are rooting for Rima, who are viewing this as a victory, who are proud today to see a “new” image of Muslims.

I keep thinking I may not have a problem with any of this if Ms. USA’s religion wasn’t being made a center point. Well, maybe I would still have a problem as an American mom trying to raise kids with so much immodesty in our society- may be this can be something that Muslims, Christians, and Jews following their faith traditions can all agree on. Maybe we may not concur on how modesty should be practiced down to that last detail but we can agree to the upholding of decent, modest language and dress in the public arena, and speak out about the sexualization of women & girls. We could use this opportunity for interfaith dialogue and action.

Illume magazine’s article by Sister Carma calls it every American girl’s dream- I asked my daughter’s All-American Girl Scout troop what their dream is, what they want to become (my daughter is the only Muslim in the troop). They talked about becoming vets, candle store owners, authors, marine biologists, teachers, graphic designers and pediatric physical therapists, none of them said winning Miss USA.

Rima, I do not know you or what is in your heart and what action of yours Allah (SWT) loves. I can only make dua for you according to my beliefs; may Allah bless you with the love of modesty and haya so you cover the beautiful body that Allah gave you. I promise I will do my cheers for you when you graduate from law school.

P.S. Apparently Rima has declared she isn’t even really a Muslim. But that doesn’t really change the context of this post. The question is about role-models, and remains relevant whether Rima is a Muslim or not. (Removed. Information relating to this is quite vague, so we’ll not speculate)

For a real alternative to a “beauty pageant,” how about the Miss Beautiful Morals?  Now, that’s a celebration of women as humans, not a celebration of women as bodies!

Photo courtesy Peter Sanders

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86 Comments

86 Comments

  1. Avatar

    iMuslim

    May 22, 2010 at 8:09 AM

    I wonder if Rima publicly dissociated herself and her actions from Islam out of respect for it? There may still be embers of emaan burning somewhere in her inner core, insha’Allah. Before anyone scoffs, remember the behaviour of Umar, radiallahu anhu – named as one of the leaders of Paradise – before he accepted Islam.

    May Allah guide her and us, ameen.

    • Avatar

      commonsense

      May 25, 2010 at 1:30 AM

      Why does religion have to enter everything …????? She is a human being first and chose to participate in an event. Period. You don’t want to watch it, don’t !!! And she doesn’t have to be your role model or anybody else’s for that matter. The idea that a celebrity or any public figure should also be a role-model to you or your children is ridiculous – is there no-one in your families or close to you who can be a positive role-model …? Are you not capable of thinking for yourselves without having a role-model tell to you what to do & how to think …? Are we not capable of being decent human beings, doing good and being virtuous without religion dictating to us what/how to live at all times? And who decides what morality is btw – is a woman wearing a skirt ok? If so, how short should it be? Can she have a relationship before marriage – if so, how many …? How many women can a man have …? (no surprise, religion seems to be pretty easy on men, which is a dead give-away that all this is man-made i.e. man made god and not the other way around – i’m a guy btw).
      And as for people making statements to the effect that this is a positive thing for islam/muslims etc. – i don’t think those comments should be taken literally. I think what they’re actually trying to say is that, for a change, they are getting to see/hear news of a different kind with regards to a muslim. Usually what we hear/see in the news wrt your religion & its followers, is unfortunately, news of a very different kind. So, pointing a finger at her is, with all due respect, nonsense. There are much bigger fish to fry. You folks who take religion too seriously have a lot of soul-searching to do. We’ll all be better off and get along much better, if we kept religion where it belonged – within the confines of our homes; and go easy on rendering judgement on others and telling others how to live.

      • Avatar

        amad

        May 25, 2010 at 2:18 AM

        Why does religion have to enter everything …?????

        exactly. But the headlines of “first Muslim Miss USA” weren’t ours. If they left religion out of it, we’d be out of the topic too.

        and no one is pointing fingers at anyone.

        Finally, Islam is not a religion that we neatly stack up in our bookshelves. It is a way of life. You should learn about it, and why we are so passionate about it.

      • Avatar

        Hena

        May 25, 2010 at 10:59 AM

        Why does religion have to enter everything …????? She is a human being first and chose to participate in an event. Period. You don’t want to watch it, don’t !!!

        That was my point why bring her religion into this AT ALL. Leave her as Ms. USA.

        Making it ABOUT her religion is where all this hoopla is about. If I didn’t have to wake up to First Muslim blah blah I would not have cared enough to write this.

        This doesn’t affect your life, it does affect mine. To me this is about media responsibility- as a reader I can comment on magazines that are geared towards me as a Muslim, I am their target audience and when I do not find a reflection of my thoughts there, then I can ask for them can’t I?

        The idea that a celebrity or any public figure should also be a role-model to you or your children is ridiculous – is there no-one in your families or close to you who can be a positive role-model …? Are you not capable of thinking for yourselves without having a role-model tell to you what to do & how to think …?

        Common sense do you work with kids or have kids? We all were teens once – have we forgotten?
        Little girls want to be like Dora the Explorer, as they get older they imitate tween popstars walk into your local Walmart/Target it will be filled with Hannah Montana clothes, room decor, even shower gels and shoes. They start talking like her, singing her songs watching her show, for some its a phase and it passes, some start thinking that that how she lives is how life should be lived.
        When teen artists exploit their sexuality to make a more mature and “edgier” version of themselves as they cross the line from teenage icon to adult musician, our girls can not tell the difference hence we get 5th graders having conversations about how Miley Cyrus let some camera man take explicit pictures of her. “Girls have much less ability than adults to comprehend and cope with cultural messages”. APA

        As teens they start emulating celebrities, you start seeing reports 40% of teens want plastic surgery. because they feel the pressure that came from celebrities with perfect bodies. “They also feel tremendous pressure from boys who increasingly expect their girlfriends to resemble the perfect celebrity body model they’ve been fed by a looks-obsessed society.” We as Muslim are not insusceptible to this we suffer from this as well- especially as we try to coexist or ‘make it’.
        “And when teenage girls look to their mums for reassurance and guidance they see an older generation of women who are also haunted by their imperfect body shape and size.” These issues affect Muslims too we are not immune to our surroundings, we have pressures too. Do you see why this is a very complex issue and not just about judging someone. By the way that comment about how I want to be up on stage- made me smile. If my insecurities prompted me to write this -it would serve me better to get on a treadmill. :)

        If you want to learn more about the effects of media on youth go to the shaping youth forum.
        According to the APA Taskforce on the Sexualization of Girls (American Psychological Association)
        “With the plethora of media options available today, it is possible to access the latest news or the most popular song almost anywhere and anytime, yet it is also possible to be inundated by unwanted messages and material. Media content responds to demand and is a reflection of culture, but it also contributes to it.Throughout U.S. culture, and particularly in mainstream media, women and girls are depicted in a sexualizing manner.These representations can be seen in virtually every medium, including prime-time television programs (e.g., Grauerholz & King, 1997;L. M.Ward, 1995), television commercials (e.g., Lin, 1997), music videos (e.g., Gow, 1996; R. C.Vincent, 1989), and magazines (e.g., Krassas, Blauwkamp, & Wesselink, 2001, 2003; Plous & Neptune, 1997). THIS occurs increasing in Muslim countries too, before we get on our high horses.

        Girls are major consumers of media and receive and engage with these messages every day.According to Nielsen Media Research (1998), the average child or teen watches 3 hours of television per day, and the numbers are higher for Black and Latino youth.When various media are combined, children view 6 hours 32 minutes per day” That is more time than that spent with family.

        Girls develop their identities as teenagers and as women, and they learn the socially acceptable ways to engage in intimate relationships by modeling what they see older girls and young women doing (Bussey & Bandura, 1984, 1992; Lips, 1989) and by imitating the ways in which women are represented in the media (Huston & Wright, 1998).

        Now when a person is depicted as a MUSLIM and is celebrated in any way even if it is a relief and people are just trying to put a positive spin on a sad situation what happens? Up til now we have been lucky, since there are very few people of Muslim faith or rather who want to flaunt their faith are shown in media, we have been complacent. Its not our problem we think, our youth has been getting this influence from outside. So may be with this event our false sense of security is shattered. Now we have no excuses left. We have to get in this debate.

        It isnt all bleak though the APA report also found that “through media education and literacy, the creation of media subcultures, participation in athletics, comprehensive sex education programs, activism, and religious/spiritual practices, girls, their peers, adults in their lives, and institutions that support them help to challenge the narrow prescriptions for girls in this culture.”

        some resources I found were
        girls,women+ media project
        Parents TV Council

        Not to play victim but its a big country that we are scattered across, many of us are immigrants or first generation- “Immigrant girls and girls and women of color have historically suffered stereotypes that focus on their sexuality and their bodies (Hill Collins, 2004)” many times we do not have the support system to foster intimate relationships, where we form bonds with other Muslim women who can be role models.This forum is a place where we gather to exchange ideas, to seek help from our brothers and sisters in Islam. I come here to learnand have often left checking myself- hoping to become a better person. aH

        If readers would get over my non- cheering and look at the TOO MUCH AT STAKE- I would really appreciate it. My problem is not with Rima or with anyone else- they choose to live life according to whatever dictates their choices- to you it may be your logic, to us it is our God. Our religion is everything, it is our total way of life.
        – Show quoted text –

        • Avatar

          commonsense

          May 26, 2010 at 12:39 AM

          Live your life however you choose to. Be passionate about your faith or don’t. Nobody really cares. Just don’t forget that there are others living here who don’t subscribe to your views and beliefs. No concessions need to be made to you or anyone else on the basis of any religion. This country allows us freedom of speech/expression, separation of religion/state among other things that you would be hard-pressed to find in a lot of other countries. She chose to participate and present herself in whatever attire the pageant requires. She’s fine with it. She didn’t ask to be a role model and she doesn’t have to be concerned with how it will influence you and your image. Media reports it in a certain way – switch the channel. It’s called choice. Not everything has to be legislated. There are so many more seriously negative influences everywhere – on tv, on the internet, hate speech, fundamentalist ideology available at the click of a button. Are you going to block it all out …? Are you not aware of all the hate that is spewed in the name of your religion – and a lot of the time folks just dismiss it and don’t get too worked up about it. As soon as religion (yours or anyone else’s) leaves the home and gets injected into public, trouble isn’t far away. And we all know very well what mixing religious ideology with politics does. The moment everything is viewed only through the prism of religion, especially in a secular society such as ours, there is bound to be friction. Hence the importance of keeping religion private and using it constructively for personal growth. This society is comprised of many diverse groups and it will do just fine without religion dictating to it what needs to be done and how it needs to conduct itself. There are laws that govern this land and religion is private; not the other way round.

          • Avatar

            elham

            May 26, 2010 at 8:43 AM

            ”Media reports it in a certain way – switch the channel. It’s called choice.”

            Individualism. Its all about the individual,his rights,his needs. Wheres the responsibility of the individual towards others,the society around him/her?. The Media has responsibilty towards the society.

            Whereas in Islam you have to look at the community as a whole, how it affects people in a society,the pros and cons of every outcome. This is problem with Liberalism.Its all about the ”My” : ”My needs,my rights,my..my..my..” .

            All of those facts and stats mentioned in Hena’s comment is totally irrelevant to them,its so trivial.Up until it haunts them,and all those damages done cannot be undone.

          • Avatar

            commonsense

            May 27, 2010 at 12:25 AM

            Just 1 last thing … it’s an interesting point regarding an individual’s responsibility towards society & not just ‘my my my …’ as elham points out. The ‘N’ word (nig**r) is extremely derogatory to African Americans and it is very offensive. However, there is no law against using that word. Still, most people do not use that word anymore …
            … There is no law against shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded mall and causing a panic – yet most people will not do something stupid like that … Something to think about

        • Avatar

          shiney

          May 28, 2010 at 5:58 PM

          looks like you did a lot of research. thank you so much for addressing this issue. I didn’t even know there were such immoral things going on until i saw the post.. i’m like shocked.

  2. Avatar

    sheik fathima

    May 22, 2010 at 9:10 AM

    All some people wanna do is look, glare and stare at you. Muslim women never will give a chance. If a women shows herself open to this world and entertains people – I am sorry to say please do not use ISLAM and MUSLIM for all these.

    Sister Rima Fakih, Do not have pride that you are beautiful. Instead thank allah (Swt) for making you pleasant for your family. Regret for what you have done and ask ALLAH (swt) to forgive for your sin.
    Don’t wear clothes for the people, cuz they change like the weather, wear hijab for the sake of allah (swt) cuz good deeds last forever.

    Everything Allah (swt) has made valuable in the world is covered up and hard to get. Where do you find diamonds? Deep down in the ground, covered and protected. Where do you find pearls? Deep down at the bottom of the ocean, covered up and protected in a beautiful shell. ALLAH (swt) has made islamic women precious too; thats y they are covered too. If one exposes herself she is going astray and she is forcing herself to be under pressure.

    • Avatar

      paagle

      May 27, 2010 at 10:04 AM

      You choose your things “made valuable” by Allah rather selectively. Isn’t fruit growing on trees or bushes valuable? I’d say they’re more valuable than diamonds, but then I’ve never understood what makes diamonds so valuable, but I love me a juicy strawberry! What is more valuable than water? Mostly it just flows, sits and sloshes about right out in the open. Of course we need to be responsible with food and water even though it is right out in the open. But I’ve always found some of the greatest pleasure floating down a river, sitting by the beach, watching life teem right out in the open in a wetland. I don’t need to own any of it. I certainly don’t want to cause it harm. I’m just happy its there. Perhaps human beauty should be viewed the same way?

      (please no responses about how disruptive female beauty is – the disruption caused by female beauty is completely based on the dominant culture. Women can be openly beautiful in, say, the USA and still life goes on pretty well. But an openly beautiful woman in, say, Egypt – where Islamic religiosity is on the rise – can cause more uproar and get herself in trouble. Not to say we’re perfect, but this covering up is throwing the baby out with the bathwater)

      • Avatar

        faryal

        September 14, 2010 at 5:37 AM

        Indeed food is valuable but the only reason that its not considered more valuable than diamonds is cos its easily available. Anyone can have it whenever they feel like it. One will never leave food items out in the open had the food been scarce in this world.

        The problem with your analogy is that we do not consider women to be out there on the display for everyone to touch and enjoy, thus comparing food and women is really not correct.

        Peace and blessings on you paagle.

  3. Avatar

    Zeba Khan

    May 22, 2010 at 10:17 AM

    I have to say that when I read the news about ‘First Muslim Ms. USA,’ I was quite sad. Winning over the rest of the non-Muslim world is something Muslims need to do *with* their Islam, and not by abandoning it. I sincerely believe that the media highlighting her religion is politically motivated coverage- “Look, she’s Muslim, she’s sexy- you want to be a cool Muslim? You can be like her too! There’s no need for all this ‘fundamentalist’ stuff…” In this day and age, it’s hard enough trying to find your Muslim identity without it being remade by people whose agenda is assimilation instead of coexistence.

    And Allah knows best.

  4. Avatar

    Janan D

    May 22, 2010 at 10:41 AM

    “Seeing that one of us gets to make it in spite of being Muslim and Arab is another welcome relief,” comments Sister Janan Delgado on altmuslimah, although she redeems herself in her conclusion.”

    Salaam Sister,

    May Allah SW reward you for your intentions. A quick note; That “make it” should not be taken out of the context of the paragraph in which I used it. I also do not wait until the “conclusion” of my article to “redeem” myself. I invite you, and your readers, to read my article again (or for the first time), and think of the nuance I am trying to capture in my paragraphs (and note the tone in which I use that “make it”).

    I do not at all see Rima Fakih’s crowning as a victory, I simply see why it was a cause of joy for some people. I think this rejoicing in spite of our recognition that pageants are undesirable enterprises for a range of different reasons is the product of our situation as Muslims in this particular time and place. This situation is complicated (with constant media bashing, discrimination, racism, a natural need for recognition and fair treatment, etc, etc, the factors are countless). Complicated situations tend to produce complicated responses. Hence the title of my article.

    Miss USA 2010, It’s Complicated
    http://www.altmuslimah.com/a/b/r/3727/

    Janan D.

    • Avatar

      Hena

      May 22, 2010 at 6:52 PM

      Wa alaykumasalam wa rahmatulahiwabaraktahu Sister Janan,

      Please understand why I picked on your choice of words as many may pick at mine. I was amazed at the general reaction of so many people thinking that she ‘made it’. Maybe your sane voice and nuances got lost in the avalanche of back thumpers. What I meant by ‘her’ conclusion was what your readers garnered from the overall article-which I agreed with. You were the only one who had the courage to point out the effect on Muslimahs who cover.

      Why do we as a people blame the western media, we say they project stereotypes- look at what happened with us here. Our own Muslim media over and over suggested this as a victory, emphasising yet another stereotype, the age-old belly dancer type this time. Again I agree that we have set the ‘bar too low’.

      Muslim women have so many other accomplishments under our belt. Why remain silent then and celebrate now? This is my request to Muslim media everywhere- use your power, don’t remain silent when other Muslims achieve thing worthy of celebrating.

    • Amad

      Amad

      May 23, 2010 at 12:13 AM

      Janan, overall, that was a solid piece. jazakillahkhair.

    • Avatar

      Umm Zakariyya

      May 23, 2010 at 10:36 AM

      Asalaamu alaykum

      It is every writer’s nightmare that a paragraph, sentence or phrase will be taken out of her writing and misconstrued, and that has clearly happened with Sister Janan’s piece. I followed the links and after reading her article to the end, I could not possibly have come to the same conclusion as Sr Hena about Janan’s views. The whole is more than the sum of the components. Just as you cannot read the Qur’an and argue for the legality of alcohol based on the verse “there is a benefit and a harm for you therein,” you cannot come make an inference about Sr Janan’s opinions based on any particular sentence or paragraph. She explores her own thought processes and other arguments that made be made in favour of beauty pageants and Rima Fakir’s crowing, addresses this each in turn, and comes to a very water tight conclusion. Her “sane” voice did not get lost, it was there all the time – it just needed readers to work towards the end before making a conclusion about the writer’s views/

      An error like this detracts from what is other wise a very well written and courageous piece of writing. In my opinion both the writer and Muslim Matters (who should double check all links and facts) should edit the article as it appears here and apologise to the writer. There is great benefit in this piece, but it doesn’t need to misconstrue the work of another writer in order to make its case. I would love to applaud Sr Hena, but until that error is rectified, it stands a flawed piece of writing.

      • Avatar

        amad

        May 23, 2010 at 12:32 PM

        Pls note that in general, as MM, we cannot possibly check and verify all links and contexts. As a volunteer organization, we have limited resources and we do the best we can with them. Each author is responsible for his or her own work, and as such blogging is a forum where the author faces considerable scrutiny through comments, and they provide much more policing than a few staffers of MM could. So, careful readers like you are part of the fact-checking team like all of us, thanks for your attention.

        If Sr. Hena agrees with your assessment, we will make the necessary adjustments for her on request. That is our general protocol.

        • Avatar

          Hena

          May 23, 2010 at 11:15 PM

          I do- I am sorry I was not clear that Sister Janan’s article was a very responsible one in Muslim media- my issue was with people thinking that this was making it not that Sister Janan thought this was a victory.

          When I thanked her I meant it from the bottom of my heart-
          After reading pages and pages of people cheering maybe it was a moment of someone saying no no getting lost in a room full of people saying YEAH YEAH.

        • Avatar

          Umm Zakariyya

          May 24, 2010 at 12:34 AM

          I understand. There are two ways you can amend it:
          The first and easier way would be to omit the two paragraphs that make reference to Sr Janan. It still reads easily even without them.

          The second and longer way would be to cut both paragraphs where they currently appear in the text, and for Sr Hena to make a positive reference to her article and to insert it just before the last paragraph where she addresses Rima directly.

          The article will still flow easily.

          • Amad

            Amad

            May 24, 2010 at 3:57 AM

            The post has been updated as per Sr. Hena’s amendments.

            Thanks Umm Zakariyya for helping smooth out what may have appeared as unfair criticism, even though I know Hena didn’t mean it that way.

  5. Avatar

    s

    May 22, 2010 at 11:05 AM

    “When Tanya from the youth group asks me ‘Sister Hena, but she is the first MUSLIM isn’t that cool?’ Is it cool? I attend a very liberal masjid, I can see where the girls are going with that – ‘everyone is doing it now even Muslims,’ ‘This opens up door which hasn’t been opened before, and sometimes that is not good’, says Sarah Ahmed, a mother of four college kids.”

    Definitely the scary part…there’s nothing redeeming about it at all…

    • Avatar

      Full Metal

      May 22, 2010 at 12:52 PM

      off topic: Nice Edward Elric Avatar

  6. Avatar

    Kashif H

    May 22, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    salaam aleikum,

    I don’t see why all the fuss over the “Miss USA” Pageant, after all a Muslimah, Rana Raslan, did win a “Miss Israel” pageant in 1999:

    http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/11973/arab-beauty-rides-miss-israel-title-through-thorny-issues/

    I am sure it made such a HUGE difference and got Muslims such “acceptance” that the Israelis must have thought long and hard about this when they invaded Lebanon as well as when they subsequently bombed Gaza.

    Those pro-regressive modernist types should cheer on Rima to enter the “Miss Israel” pageant next if she isn’t chosen as “Miss Universe”, after all its the least that we owe the dead children in Gaza.

  7. Avatar

    Sayf

    May 22, 2010 at 1:12 PM

    In my opinion this serves to create a false dichotomy within the Muslim world, causing people to look at Muslims in black and white, those who practice and cause problems and those who don’t and win pageants. But then again there are those racists who still hate her very existence.

    Not to mention this is all fuel to the fire for the niqab bans going around.. “Look how awesome Muslims can be when they aren’t acting like such -err Muslims!” Seems like a slippery slope to me, I wonder where this will all lead in 10 years? May Allah protect us, ameen.

  8. Avatar

    Farhan

    May 22, 2010 at 2:37 PM

    My thoughts exactly…

  9. Avatar

    ummmanar

    May 22, 2010 at 2:59 PM

    salam aleikum
    Mashallah sister sheik fathima”s comment is very true.I really love that saying valuable things are hard to get like.diamonds add pearls and so does muslim woman.jazkallahukairn I will always use this word if I get into hijab discussion you said it so beautiful.The fact is muslim or not beauty is not taking your clothes off.beauty is deep in your heart,remember allah doesnot judge us by our looks he judges us with our deeds.This is the beauty of islam our beauty shows in our action.Leave the so called miss Usa for people with low selfesteem and confidence.

  10. Avatar

    Sagacious Muslim

    May 22, 2010 at 3:27 PM

    Personally, I don’t see what the large hype is concerning Miss USA.

    Although she is a Lebanese American, that doesn’t make her a Muslim. Yes- she could have been born to Muslim parents. However in my opinion, if someone doesn’t practice their faith, then that person should not be associated with their religion whatsoever.

    Just log onto any mainstream gossip website & look for the keyword “Rima”. You will find a typical Miss USA partying away either on a pole/boat/dance floor.

    The media most probably saw her as an opportunity to stir anger and hostility within our Muslim community, similarly to the Prophet cartoon saga.

    My sisters & brothers in Islam……………….. let’s NOT let these people get to us! Let us go on with our lives & react to what is most important- AKA the suffering of the Palestinians.

    There are countless other “Muslim” leaders in every community of the world who do not identify themselves as Muslims. So in essence if we must care about who’s a good Muslim and who’s a bad Muslim, we should scrutinize those in power, and NOT those who wear princess tiaras.

    (Btw, I’m not criticizing the article above, just offering my opinion :-)

    • Avatar

      Hena

      May 22, 2010 at 8:23 PM

      Her being practicing or non practicing is not the point- are we 100% practicing? This is Shaytan’s trick -making us get all judgmental on each other- I am the first to fall for that trap. May Allah forgive me.

      Now that all of this has happened and will keep happening- what now? what language do we talk to our girls in- how do we explain it to them? How do we brush away the nonsense and reach out to our teenage girls who face this pressure everyday? To look a certain way, to starve themselves to achieve that perfect figure, judged by only their bodies not for in their heads, covered or not. It happens when its time for marriage, our own judge them, for jobs, they are judged again. Nothing I am saying is new but we get very little Muslim dialogue about this.

      You can say turn off the TV, throw away the magazines, lock down the internet so ok two % of us will do that what about 98% left?

      • Avatar

        Sagacious

        May 22, 2010 at 10:53 PM

        Salaam Alaikum

        I also think it’s immensely important to guide our daughters (and sons) the right way to live their life through Islamic etiquette and not what they see in the media. Although I’m not married (with no kids) I still know this is crucial.

        Surely if any Muslim parent strives to raise their children to the best of their abilities with the assistance of Allah (SWT), they will not need to worry about such influences. InshAllah.

        I wasn’t being judgmental, in fact that is exactly what I was trying to communicate- to not be judgmental towards this certain person. But I also think instead of concentrating so much on her, we should also look at other things that affect our Muslim community. (In my opinion) Pointing out the mistakes of Muslim leaders who sit back and let their people die at the hands of Western occupational armies is not being judgmental, because as Muslims we should demand these changes. That’s what I attempted to communicate in my comment.

  11. Avatar

    Truth

    May 22, 2010 at 4:47 PM

    If you think you can represent Islam better then do it. Until then, leave other Muslims alone.

    • Avatar

      Sagacious Muslim

      May 22, 2010 at 5:30 PM

      Truth- you’re correct, but it’s important to identify the wrong doings of others in order to set a good example and become better Muslims ourselves.

  12. Avatar

    PakistaniMD

    May 22, 2010 at 7:37 PM

    Good analysis. This article articulates my viewpoint(s) exactly.

    Though, I do think we need to be less critical of the brothers + sisters who wrote CAUTIOUSLY optimistic anecdotes about Rima Fakih’s win. Both Elan and Illume Magazines’ are great (but slightly less conservative) publications.

    • Amad

      Amad

      May 23, 2010 at 12:15 AM

      I think Hena’s criticism was of the posts, not of the magazines.

      However, I disagree that they were “cautiously” optimistic on the issue, or that they are “slightly less” conservative :)

  13. Avatar

    HOV

    May 22, 2010 at 7:45 PM

    everybody could tell you how to do it, but they never did it

  14. Avatar

    Phil

    May 22, 2010 at 9:46 PM

    Salams,
    “P.S. Apparently Rima has declared she isn’t even really a Muslim.”

    What is this based on?

    • Avatar

      Sayf

      May 22, 2010 at 10:48 PM

      I’m wondering too.

      • Amad

        Amad

        May 23, 2010 at 12:06 AM

        Fakih subsequently told MSNBC on May 19 that she is “not Muslim,” but did not identify belonging to a certain religion.

        [Source]

        I haven’t been able to locate the MSNBC link yet, though thinkprogress is a major site that should be quite accurate.

        In any case, I think this will always be a byline… the identification as Muslim will stick whether she later claimed otherwise or not.

  15. Avatar

    SonicSoriyah

    May 22, 2010 at 11:18 PM

    Fakih did an interview on the Joy Behar Show, where she said something about how she preferred to be seen more as an Arab woman as opposed to a Muslim woman, and seemed uncomfortable answering questions about her or her family’s religion. For some reason the media has focused more on the illusive matter of her religious background as opposed to her ethnicity as an Arab woman (much more concrete), which is often conflated with stereotypes of Muslim women is general. So for some reason, her religion has trumped her ethnicity when both carry similar connotations.

    The issue of someone’s religion is usually seen as very a personal matter in the US, so it becomes very uncomfortable for someone to have their religion made very public as Fakih has. So I actually feel sorry for her that she has the title of the “First Muslim Miss USA” thrust upon her when I don’t think she desires all this attention in terms of her religion (especially as opposed to her ethnicity)

    On another note though, I think its important that we don’t create an ideal of what it means to be a Muslim woman. Many Muslims have an idea of how a Muslim woman *should* dress or carry herself (there was an article on here a couple of weeks ago on here that talked about how a Muslim woman *should* carry herself), even though many good Muslim women may not dress that way or carry themselves that way. Even if a Muslim woman does something like participate in a beauty pageant, we should not begin to malign her from the title of (real) Muslim as some Muslims seem to be doing with Fakih.

    • Avatar

      Phil

      May 23, 2010 at 12:41 AM

      The 4 perfect women give plenty of evidence for how woman should act.

      • Avatar

        Hena

        May 23, 2010 at 2:07 AM

        good use of jawami al kalim :)

        • Avatar

          test22

          May 24, 2010 at 10:36 AM

          mashallah sister

    • Avatar

      HOV

      May 23, 2010 at 7:10 AM

      great response sonic!

  16. Avatar

    Rita

    May 23, 2010 at 12:45 AM

    I was born in this country and raised in Lebanon. I speak the language, however I am not a strict Muslim. In my opinion she is a bimbo who did not impress me and nor will I identify with her actions, as I think her pole dancing is a disgrace.

    The next time Arab Americans, or Muslim Americans want to point fingers at the Western way of life, lets not forget we have acted in the same manner, except we hide behind our vail while Americans are out there.

    I must say when she won, all I could do was think of my daughter who is a graduate of ivy league college 26 years of age. I must have done a hell of a job, to have instilled values morals, and told her to use her brain and not her body and I am so proud of her as she is an example of what a true Middle Eastern Woman should be , well educated with class and morals and values and brains.

    Sorry MS USA you do not speak for me as woman , setting aside Muslim just as a woman.

    I hope to hear that you will go back to attend law school, as I do not see that happening. You have entered a life style that is going to either bring you up or bring you down.

    Young girls of all faith please go to school and make something of yourselves having brains is what you need to succeed in life.

  17. Avatar

    Jamila

    May 23, 2010 at 7:50 AM

    Good article.

    But honestly she is NOT pretty or good looking, I think they just made her win as a publicity stunt and show a ‘liberated’ Muslim woman. What a stupid contest anyway.

  18. Avatar

    Yousra

    May 23, 2010 at 7:53 AM

    I live in a so called Muslim country so my problems as a Muslim are “limited” to (among others ) the fact that they let hotels serve alcohol and casinos and night clubs are a norm or that new housing projects catering to thousands of people forget to factor in the need for a mosque within their community. I cannot even begin to comprehend the problems faced by our American sisters, especially the ones raising kids in the current scenario.

    Working in a multi cultural society in a “Muslim” country, I am often asked this question by my male and female colleagues who follow various different faiths, “so why do you wear a scarf”. The answer “because being modestly dressed is what our religion prescribes” usually leads to a stupid one like “don’t you feel hot” (which usually implies: poor you! You’re probably MADE to do this) or the other dreaded question “so why doesn’t XYZ (also a Muslim) wear it”.

    At times where we are constantly being stereo-typed, compared and compartmentalized as either extremist or liberal (where liberal usually stands for not following our faith at all) and our religion is the object of great speculation and negative publicity, this just serves to add fuel to the fire and confuse our youngsters of where they stand as Muslims even more! I agree, we need more Muslim role models who should no doubt be “Liberal” but within the boundaries set by our religion.

    • Avatar

      Hena

      May 24, 2010 at 1:12 AM

      In this beautiful story I found a everyday role model for our girls- this is someone I would want to represent me. It takes a special kind of woman to make this choice.

  19. Avatar

    imzaa

    May 23, 2010 at 9:13 AM

    SERIOUSLY………….
    stop judging her and worry about your own necks.

    ENOUGH………..
    she is of “muslim heritage” ie non-practicing, so don’t hold her to standards she isn’t trying to achieve!

    ENJOY…………………..
    this is good news. much better than if her parent’s disowned her for competing, if the mullah put out money for her head, or some stupid nonsense like that.

    CHANGE………………
    the world and let feminists rule every decision…….good luck with that. (i wish, don’t get me wrong)
    you could always try to get a more women in congress and a woman president. that would be a start.

    until then…. i hope you eventually come around and stop hating her, she’s doing great things for Muslims in the eyes of the AVERAGE AMERICAN.

    • Avatar

      amad

      May 23, 2010 at 12:36 PM

      I am sorry but are you reading the same post that everyone else is?

      Who is hating Rima? She is responsible for her own actions, just like we all are. But because she has been thrust out there as a role-model for Muslim women, one of those sisters, Hena, took umbrage to this characterization for the sake of her own daughter and other Muslim daughters.

      You may be right about the “Average American” comment, though I would severely disagree with you (average Americans are not that dumb to suddenly start loving Muslims because one of “our women” dresses down), but there is another audience at stake here. Muslim girls. And the harm there is more than the perceived benefit to the “average American”.

  20. Avatar

    Kashif H

    May 23, 2010 at 10:58 AM

    salaam aleikum,

    three more follow ups to this:

    1. Alhamdullillah she does NOT identify as a Muslim and neither for that matter do most of her family, most of whom have given interviews stating as much.

    2. That being said it is the media as well as Arab nationalist and secularist groups who are pushing her as some kind of “role model” for Arab and Muslim girls to follow.

    3. Her own statement here leaves NO ambiguity as to what she hopes to accomplish and promote:

    She (Fakih) hopes that fellow Arab Americans will be inspired by her experiences.

    “From what I see in their reactions, a lot of (Arab American) girls might be applying for Miss Michigan next year,” she said. “If not, I’m going to feel like a failure, that means I did not prove to these girls that they should feel proud of who they are.”

    source: http://www.arabamericannews.com/news/index.php?mod=article&cat=Community&article=3104

    • Avatar

      Zeba Khan

      May 23, 2010 at 12:19 PM

      “From what I see in their reactions, a lot of (Arab American) girls might be applying for Miss Michigan next year,” she said. “If not, I’m going to feel like a failure, that means I did not prove to these girls that they should feel proud of who they are.”

      Ethnic Pride = Pageant Competition?

      • Avatar

        Kashif H

        May 23, 2010 at 3:54 PM

        More like..

        inferiority complex + low self esteem = pageant competition.

  21. Avatar

    Omar

    May 23, 2010 at 3:54 PM

    – Stop worrying. She isn’t the first or the last “Muslim” to completely dissolve in the big melting pot. The only difference is she is high profile.

    – The Muslim community need to understand that much of this is aimed at “integrating” the Muslim culture and making it the same as everyone else.

    – The Islamic way of life will always flourish. It may be hit hard once in a while, but it jumps right back up.

    – To those who like this, our goal is not to win a popularity contest and improve our image at all stakes. Islam first, image second.

  22. Avatar

    Slave of the Most Loving One

    May 23, 2010 at 7:31 PM

    In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful!
    Peace and blessings be on Prophet, his family, his companions and all the righteous believers.

    Salam wrt wbrt..

    May Allah Swt reward u for writing this article sister Hena!

    Regarding kids…make one thing clear to them…there are good and bad Muslims, there are practising and non practising ones…i mean explain to them this concept clearly and giving examples from the Quran and maybe relate some parables…

    by the way…shaytan’s soldiers will keep on trying to extinguish the light of Allah’s deen….but guess what Allah AlMighty sends His soldiers to fight the devils and will definitely make truth get an upper hand over falsehood!
    So letz take the necessary action (like how sister Hena did by writing this article) but at the same time let’s not feel like we have to justify rima’s behaviour to everyone on the road…. if anyone is gona come and ask u “hey why cant u be like Rima?” tell them that “just like how there are practising and non practising christians and jews, there are practising and non prac Muslims…and i wish to obey my Lord as much as i can!!”

    May Allah, the All Powerful One destroy the evil shaytan’s plots and keep us steadfast in His deen.ameen!

  23. Yahya Ibrahim

    Yahya Ibrahim

    May 23, 2010 at 7:46 PM

    Bismillah,

    One never knows which route they take towards Allah. We all eventually return to Him and He will Judge us. We seem to forget that Allah will change the sins of a person to righteous deeds on account of their repentance and belief in Him. Some individuals Allah will Pardon. Fullstop.

    A lady of the night gave water to a thirsty dog and was forgiven the Prophet would say.

    Abu Dhaar would ask if a murderer, thief or fornicator could ever hope for Paradise and our Prophet (s) answers him repetively YES…and finally He (s) says, “They will enter Paradise whether abu Dharr agrees or not!

    Allah forgives and pardons. Like it who likes it, hates it who hates it.

    We ask Allah to make this person who a source of Dawah and make her deserving of His Divine Mercy.

    Her news is on 60 minutes in Australia and all over the papers:
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/beauty-queen-rima-fakih-branded-miss-hezbollah/story-e6frg6so-1225870264921

    The Prophet (s) said, as is in Bukhari:

    “Allah (may) give strength to this faith by using the tongue of a Faajir (Open sinner).”

    • Avatar

      Hena

      May 24, 2010 at 3:41 AM

      to Brother Yahya and iMuslimah’ comment Ameen – this is the reason why I refered to her in respect as Sister-

      Some get an easy journey on the straight path others take the loop di loop coaster route – some loops are longer than others- I know, mine was and every day we fall off and try to get back on again. I remember the people who pointed me back to the right direction so vividly even if I did not appreciate them at that time. Some don’t even know where their words took me.

      Once a young man was drinking at a college mixer- I asked him “err- isn’t drinking alchohol haram in Islam”, he replied- “you being here in this room is haram”. Brother set me straight.

  24. Avatar

    Brother

    May 23, 2010 at 10:11 PM

    In my opinion I think that American’s want Muslims to become like them so bad that they blow stories like this way out of proportion and then publicize it to no end. Rima Faikh may be a Muslim but her statement that she also celebrates Christian holidays should be a factor in this whole thing. All in all she seems to not be a devout Muslim. Like a commenter noted there may always be an ember of Imaan withing oneself so Khayr inshallah. I respect my Muslimah sisters who wear their Hijabs with pride. All young sisters who see their older Muslim sister wearing a Hijab should take them as a role model and not be ashamed to embrace it. If I have offended anybody please forgive me. This is my opinion and I have no intention of displaying bigotry, backbiting, anti-West rhetoric etc. Wa’asalamualaikum.

  25. Avatar

    madam

    May 24, 2010 at 8:57 AM

    First Michael Jackson then this… are we Muslims so shallow and silly?

  26. Pingback: A tall glass of haterade, anyone? « Fatemeh Fakhraie

    • Amad

      Amad

      May 24, 2010 at 12:42 PM

      To Fatemeh: just a technical correction in your pinged post. Sr. Hena is a guest writer on MM, not “from MM”.

  27. Avatar

    Reality

    May 24, 2010 at 1:18 PM

    There is a time for everyone, just as there was a time for us “proper” Muslims. There is even a time for sister Rima. She may be a better person than all of us put together. A beauty contest doesn’t necessarily reverse that possibility, and we shouldn’t assume it does.

    We should also not forget that all of us are imperfect Muslims. Some of us may also be projecting our own insecurities on the matter as we criticize sister Rima. There could be jealousy, envy, or other unIslamic feeling propelling some of us to take a ‘self-righteouss’ stand. This, of course, says more about the criticizer and little to nothing about sister Rima. This should not be lost on anyone, even when some of us choose to not face their own insecurities and faults as Muslims.

    I wouldn’t doubt for a second that some sisters out there would relish the spotlight in such a contest as Rima (who is no doubt beautiful) did, if they could. Because they can’t, they behave self-righteously. Allah Knows what is in your hearts — so beware.

    Reality

    • Amad

      Amad

      May 25, 2010 at 12:35 AM

      I wouldn’t doubt for a second that some sisters out there would relish the spotlight in such a contest as Rima (who is no doubt beautiful) did, if they could. Because they can’t, they behave self-righteously.

      Perhaps. And I would also say there are a lot, lot of sisters, I daresay a majority of practicing sisters who would die before appearing in immodest clothes in front of 1 non-mahram man, let alone millions. So, I agree we should never be self-righteous regardless of the situation, but sometimes we may also be guilty of seeing self-righteousness in sincere anger.

      I think some commentators may have ventured into hating on Rima, but from my reading of the article, it was all about role-models.

  28. Avatar

    Omar

    May 25, 2010 at 12:52 PM

    Salam

    Apparently she did not “declare herself free from Islam” as this article says. Please correct this egregious mistake – pertaining to someone’s deen. It just seems she was uncomfortable talking about her religion to the US media.

    On the Arab side to AlHurra TV, she said:
    “”العديد من الناس الذين يعيشون داخل الولايات المتحدة يخجلون من القول بأنهم يعتنقون الديانة المسلمة فأنا لا أريد أن اتبع هذه الطريق فأنا لم اخجل من الإعلان عن ديانتي كي لا تتزعزع صورتي أمام الجميع فأنا فخورة كوني مسلمة وأريد أن أتوجه للجميع وأقول لهم إن الإسلام ليس ما تشاهدونه من إرهاب فهناك نوعين من الإسلام المسلم الملتزم والمسلم الليبرالي Ùˆ أنا آتي من عائلة تجمع بين الاثنين Ùˆ نحن كمسلمين جميلين Ùˆ لدينا ايجابيات كثيرة.”

    Loosely translates:
    “Many people who live in the US shy away from saying they adhere to the Islamic faith, but I do not want to follow this way. I have not shyed away from declaring my religion so my image does not shake before everyone. I am proud of being a Muslim, and want to tell everyone that Islam is not the terrorism you see. There are two types of Islam, religious Islam (e.g. wear hijabi) and Liberal Islam, I come from a family that combines both, and respects religion. We as Muslims are beautiful and have many positive aspects

    Her Arabic is perfect, Lebanese accent, so she clearly did some of her growing up in Lebanon. The interview mentioned that she is from a similar area to Hezbollah’s hub.

    And the “pole dancing” contest apparently was a dancing class in a gym with women, and in the end she decided to dance on the stage

    I only heard the interview (didn’t see it), but she sounds like an average Arab girl, who isn’t particularly religious, but respects the deen, and speaks positively of her hijabi freinds. So don’t hate on her, but pray for her guidance inshAAllah

    • Amad

      Amad

      May 25, 2010 at 1:31 PM

      Since there is no clear statements on Rima saying she is not a Muslim, we’ll go by what is apparent, so the statements related to it have been struck.

      • Avatar

        Hena

        May 25, 2010 at 1:37 PM

        Thank you Brother Amad for striking that.

        and you too Brother Omar- they were not a part of my original post – I do not have any knowledge of this.

  29. Avatar

    shirtman

    May 25, 2010 at 10:52 PM

    She said about her family ” we are Muslim” on HLN.

  30. Avatar

    anonymous

    May 26, 2010 at 10:06 AM

    Alhamdulilah,
    SubhanAllah and Allahu Musta’an,
    Our Prophet (sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) said Part of a man’s good observance of Islam is that he leaves alone that which does not concern him. (Sunan Abi Dawood and others )

    As a student of some of the teachers on this site, I am shocked and amazed that this issue has been given this kind treatment. A part of our religion is using appropriate speech. I understand the dilemma of an arab (and inshaAllah muslimah) winning the pageant, but in this day and age where we make the most of dawah opportunities, this is an issue of the winner’s understanding of imaan and tawheed, do we really want to post comments on the woman’s looks “(eg. Good article.

    But honestly she is NOT pretty or good looking).” . The media is turning this into “Muslim role model mode” Not her necessarily. Comment on their treatment of the topic not her winning.

    Looking at some of the other articles, this site is famous for SEVERE comment moderation, but didn’t the Prophet(sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) scold his beloved wife(radiaAllahanha) for saying a word that would darken the ocean ? (in some narrations she said so and so (a co-wife) was SHORT). so let’s stop slandering/backbiting in the comment section inshaAllah. Moderate that.

    The winner’s problem is not how she looks in a bikini (brothers and sisters lower ur gaze, she’s showing awrah that girls can’t look at either) it is an issue of imaan. Her focus was to win the pageant like every Prom queen’s dream. Maybe she wants to set an example for other muslim women (May Allah enhance our honor and the honor of our sisters Ameen), but is that really the most damaging ideological attack against pure Islaam, or are we able to address a larger problem? May Allah bless the site moderators, the authors and the visitors, but don’t turn this situation into the winner turning into Dajjal (we have bigger issues attacking our younger and older brothers and sisters ) or a backbiting/slandering session. Her looks do not matter, her misunderstanding on Tawheed got this ball rolling, not her teeny bikini, or her hairstyle, Allahu alim. May Allah forgive me, her and you. Ameen. She needs dawah to fix her inner appearance before she can fix her outer appearance, May Allah guide her, Ameen.

    NOTE to moderators : If you are serious on moderating/censoring comments on articles dealing with Eric Cartman, Stan, Kyle and “YOU KILLED KENNY, you !!!” and election articles to push the opinions endorsed by this site, I suggest you also moderate the comments here, EVEN if they be mine inshaAllah. May Allah increase us all in taqwa Ameen.

    • Amad

      Amad

      May 26, 2010 at 10:51 AM

      We try our best to catch comments that are of personal nature, but we cannot obviously police the site 24 hours a day, as you can appreciate.

      The comment you highlighted has been removed. That’s all you and others need to do. When some comment seems out of place, highlight it or if its an older comment, you could even email us. Of course, we reserve the right to make the final judgment on the comment’s moderation, but with the help of all the readers, we can do only better.

      jazakallahkhair for the kind reminder.

      • Avatar

        Nasar

        June 2, 2010 at 11:58 AM

        I give people a lot of space on issues of sins and mistakes, as Allah knows I have done much wrong myself and He gave me time to repent and turn back.

        However, I am shocked at the liberal accepting views of many of the people on this post. So many commentary’s display no shame or fear of Allah in what they write. This faasiq sister stood in front of the world in a manner of dress which is Haraam for her to be in infront of anyone other then her spouse (if she has one) and then has the audacity to spread she is doing work for Islam.

        When an action is done in public is should be refuted in public. Part of Islam is enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, if we leave it we leave part of Islam. Such a disgusting and filthy act should never be taken lightly by Muslims. I am horrified to see that people on this post no only accept what she has done but think its a good thing.

        Also pulling out the “self righteousness” card every time some evil action takes place to squash voices that speak against this faahisha shows not only a lack of understanding but an acceptance of evil. The early Muslims would never accept such an action from a fellow member of the faith. What she did must be spoken AGAINST and its DISAPPROVAL made clear.

  31. Pingback: Indigo Jo Blogs — Miss USA, Muslim role models and the state of our blogging community

  32. Avatar

    shiney

    May 28, 2010 at 5:43 PM

    thank you so much for writing this article. it really clears a lot of misconceptions. it’s sad to know that the muslim youth of today have such immoral examples to see and that htey actually think it’s a good thing that a muslim woman is going and losing her morals and her modesty in fron tof the whole world.

  33. Avatar

    Susan

    May 31, 2010 at 1:13 PM

    http://www.linktv.org/programs/veiled-voices

    Assalaamu alaykum Sisters and Brothers, I wish Miss USA chose or will choose to represent herself and our faith in a better way. Inshaa Allah, swt, this will happen in the future. In the mean while I would like to say instead of “do not do that” to “do this”. The “this” I refer to is represented by the above link. In my opinion these are the sisters who represent Islam, at least to me. Wonderfully strong sisters with steadfast faith, well educated, and good intentions.

  34. Pingback: Hate the sin not the sinner « Then which of your Lord's favors will you deny

  35. Avatar

    Miguel

    June 5, 2010 at 8:59 AM

    I’m sorry for being so crass, but it has to be said: If you look the way Rima Fakih does, men’s penises ultimately don’t discriminate. This whole issue really shows how true the hadith of Rasul Allah is that Muslims will follow the disbelievers into lizard holes. I don’t see a better simile than this. This event should not be celebrated by anyone. It’s disgusting. I’ve been around enough Islamophobes to know that while they would hate living next to a Muslim, they wouldn’t mind having sex with one. Yes, there are people who are this disgusting in this world. In this era of media frenzy, it’s nothing to be proud of when the world, to put it mildly, wants to have sex with you.
    All during the pageant when America discovered this girl and for everyday from that point until now, the lurid minds of men everywhere have been mentally raping this girl and she let them do it. While we are all accountable to our own sins, sin typically has a doer and an instigator. All actions are up to intentions, so everyone will be judged accordingly. There is no argument for one who willingly parades in front of the world in a bikini, inviting this kind of reaction. For those who don’t think this is the kind of reaction that drives men to judge and watch beauty pageants, they are either totally naive or totally stupid. That’s too much to account for and is enough of a reason to mourn for this girl and not celebrate or congratulate her.

    In other words, this is a disgrace and does nothing but illustrates how low in the dregs the Muslims are in North America to even applaud it. It will do nothing to dispel racism and profiling. I won’t be any less suspected at an airport because Miss America is an Arab of Muslim descent.

    If anyone needs a better illustration of how truly “integrated” Muslims and Arabs are in North America, they could have done so long before Rima came on the scene by simply looking at the amount of Arabs and Muslim in jail in North America, on drugs, abusing alcohol and getting pregnant as teenagers and out of wedlock.

    Nuff said.

  36. Avatar

    Naddie Simpson

    June 6, 2010 at 11:23 AM

    Okay, what she is doing is not very islamic, but who are we to judge, she may be a better person inside than most of us. Just make du’a that she will be guided one day insha’Allah.

    • Avatar

      F. Ahmed

      July 29, 2012 at 7:47 PM

      She was caught and had her license for drunk driving as far as I heard.

  37. Avatar

    atheistdebater

    June 15, 2010 at 8:34 PM

    Don’t be so obsessed about the female human body. It is perfectly natural. Let women be themselves. Don’t hold them to a double standard, just because they were born women. Do not be so judgmental. Believe it or not, woman can show their hair, their arms and even (gasp) their lower legs, and still be respectable, moral, intelligent, hard-working, successful and good people.

    Do you really think Muslim women are better than non-Muslim women, just because most of them wear hijabs and swim fully dressed? How stupid and insulting. Get over yourselves.

    I think the new Miss USA is beautiful. I don’t know much more about her than that, but I am sure she will go on to do other impressive things in her life.

    • Avatar

      elham

      June 15, 2010 at 8:52 PM

      We believe in a God and follow His Laws,so there is no question about Modesty being a part of our Faith.Simple.

      And no I am not going to waste my time and argue with you on whether you can believe in HIs existence or not.

    • Avatar

      Sayf

      June 15, 2010 at 11:18 PM

      So many straw-man arguments from a “debater”.

      Do not be so judgmental. Believe it or not, woman can show their hair, their arms and even (gasp) their lower legs, and still be respectable, moral, intelligent, hard-working, successful and good people.

      Sure, why not? For Muslims this is bad territory to be in, we’re not here to judge people, so take your own advice.

      Do you really think Muslim women are better than non-Muslim women, just because most of them wear hijabs and swim fully dressed?

      This is not true.

      Do you understand the difference between believing x action is better than y vs. doer of action x is generally better than doer of y?

      You seem to have forgotten rule #1 of “debating” – understand the argument.

      Please stop trolling.

  38. Avatar

    nate

    August 20, 2010 at 8:42 PM

    so here’s what i believe, I too am a muslim. Rima I will not detest you because of your beauty, nor will I detest you because of your notriety, and I wont write about why this is wrong and that I have you figured out. But what I will comment on is, if your not educated about islam please dont mention it. Islam is suppose to be about modesty and being humble, every strong muslim man knows, you need a even stronger muslim woman by your side. Some people enjoy fame and notriety and the attention that comes along with it, if i was put in that situation, i dont think i would want my pics, especially compromising pics on the web for the world too see. Our lil muslima’s growing in this cold world, need positive role models, and must know that you dont have to be beauty queen to be noticed.

  39. Avatar

    busana muslim

    October 28, 2010 at 1:25 AM

    What I haven’t seen before is a Muslim woman winning a beauty contest. From my point of view, this is just going to be more interesting. My personal feelings about beauty contests are not positive, but I wrote my articles to bring positivity to the discussions around her win. Muslim communities do a fair amount of complaining (most of which, in fairness, I believe is warranted. Not to mention that the basic premise of MMW is to be critical), so this time I wanted to take a positive angle.

  40. Pingback: the charitybuzz blog » doGOODER of the week Rima Fakih: Miss USA, Muslim, Spy or Wrestler?

  41. Avatar

    Guest

    February 8, 2012 at 3:24 PM

    It doesn’t matter if she is talented or wants to become a
    lawyer.  Even when she drops all of this
    nonsense she will never be taken seriously in the corporate world and in the field
    of law. She can kiss her talents good bye. Not a really good brand image ( contrary
    to what  many people may believe!) I like this article but I wouldn’t drag this Rima stuff any further. There is nothing Islamic about what she is doing. This whole business is disgusting- as a muslim and as a woman.

  42. Avatar

    DesTinTee22

    April 4, 2012 at 3:05 AM

    Being the first Muslim to win Miss America is a very big deal!!!!  She has every right to feel proud and I will explain why.  After 911 there was so much hatred and hate crimes towards Muslims.  The reason was because of terrorist’s claiming they were following the Quran.  They gave a bad name to good Muslims and created so many negative stereotypes.  I for one was shocked she won because I thought they never would approve of a Muslim Miss America.   When she won it showed that she won because she was the most talented, most beautiful, and deserved the title as Miss America.  Like you said there are MANY MANY Muslim women who are models but they don’t say they are Muslim.  But what you don’t seem to understand is:
    1. They did not win Miss America (HUGE VICTORY FOR A MODEL) Give them that title and they will do the same!2. The reason she made it a big deal was because Stereotypes and negativity from 911 did not affect her in standing as Miss America this was a HUGE achievement for her.  She should feel honored that American’s did not care about her religion.  To be crowned as Miss America and be Muslim was a “HUGE SLAP IN THE FACE” to those American’s that hate Muslims for the wrong reason’s.  I was glad to see her win because it showed that they were not being prejudice.  Her race and religion did not affect her victory.  I am a Christian and have many Muslim friends.  We all respect one another because we are all trying to follow God. We all sin and God will judge her sin like he will judge ours.  If you must judge you should judge the hateful Muslims that give Good Muslims like my friends a bad name. I believe that there are good people in all races and all religions.  Islam and Christianity should make this world a better place where we judge less and make more Peace!  Because that is what both of our faiths teach us.  I understand why Muslims are angry but she was not flaunting it to give Islam a bad name. She was proud that being Muslim did not affect her in being crowned Miss America and I was too. SO IT IS A BIG DEAL THAT SHE BECAME THE FIRST MUSLIM MISS AMERICA FOR THAT REASON ONLY.

    • Avatar

      Kirana

      August 27, 2012 at 9:26 AM

      I don’t think the issue is if *she* is proud to be a Muslim Miss America. But I agree with the author that the *rest of us* in the Muslim larger community should *not* be proud that there exists the concept of a Muslim Miss America, given what we understand this pageant to involve. She identifies as Muslim, and she is Miss America. But this is not a great win for Muslims as it is a trade of our defining values (in this case physical modesty) for worldly acceptance. Just as we should not consider it a victory, to have similarly extremely incompatible concepts – Muslim bar owners, Muslim idol makers, Muslim shady car salesmen, Muslim fortune tellers, Muslim unethical bankers and so on, even if such things reflect local cultural assimilation. Such people may exist nonetheless, may be proud of themselves, but the Muslim community cannot be proud of them.

  43. Avatar

    Najla

    October 2, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    That’s why I like CNN Heroes. Now that’s a beauty pageant that I love to watch.

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#Current Affairs

Criticism, Accountability and the Exclusion of Quran and Sunnah – Critiquing Ahmed Sheikh’s Critique

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Let me begin by making two things clear. First, this article is not seeking to defend the positions of any person nor is it related to the issue of CVE and what it means to the Muslim American community. I am in no way claiming that CVE is not controversial or harmful to the community nor am I suggesting that affiliations with governments are without concern.

Second, this paper is meant to critique the arguments made by the author that encourage holding Islamic scholars accountable. I encourage the reader not to think of this article as an attempt to defend an individual(s) but rather as an attempt to present an important issue through the framework of Islamic discourse – Quran, hadith supported by scholarly opinion. In that spirit, I would love to see articles providing other scholarly views that are contrary to this articles. The goal is to reach the position that is most pleasure to Allah and not the one that best fits our agenda, whims, or world views.

In this article I argue that Islamic scholars in America cannot effectively be held accountable, not because they are above accountability but because (1) accountability in Islam is based on law derived from Quran and hadith and this is the responsibility of Islamic experts not those ignorant of the Islamic sciences. And to be frank, this type of discourse is absent in Muslim America. (2) Muslim Americans have no standard code of law, conduct, or ethics that can be used to judge behavior and decisions of Muslim Americans. I do believe, however, that criticism should be allowed under certain conditions, as I will elaborate in the proceeding paragraphs.

To begin, the evidence used to support the concept of holding leaders accountable is the statement of Abu Bakr upon his appointment to office:

O people, I have been appointed over you, though I am not the best among you. If I do well, then help me; and if I act wrongly, then correct me.

This is a well-known statement of his, and without a doubt part of Islamic discourse applied by the pious companions. However, one should take notice of the context in which Abu Bakr made his statement. Specifically, who he was speaking to. The companions were a generation that embodied and practiced a pristine understanding of Islam and therefore, if anyone were to hold him accountable they would do it in the proper manner. It would be done with pure intentions that they seek to empower Abu Bakr with Quranic and Prophetic principles rather than attack him personally or with ill intentions.

Furthermore, their knowledge of the faith was sufficient to where they understood where and when the boundaries of Allah are transgressed, and therefore understood when he was accountable. However, when these facets of accountability are lost then the validity of accountability is lost as well.

To give an example, during the life of Abu Bakr, prior to appointing Omar (ra) as his successor he took the opinion of several companions. The prospect of Omar’s appointment upset some of the companions because of Omar’s stern character. These companions approached Abu Bakr and asked him “what will you tell Allah when he asks why you appointed the stern and severe (ie Omar).” Abu Bakr replied “I will tell Him that I appointed the best person on earth,” after which Abu Bakr angrily commanded them to turn their backs and leave his presence.

Fast forwarding to the life of Uthman, large groups of Muslims accused Uthman of changing the Sunnah of the Prophet in several manners. Part of this group felt the need to hold Uthman accountable and ended up sieging his home leading to his death. Now, when one researches what this group was criticizing Uthman for, you find that Uthman (ra) did make mistakes in applying the sunnah that even companions such as Ibn Mas’ood expressed concern and disagreement with. However, due to the lack of fiqh and knowledge, these Muslims felt that the actions of Uthman made him guilty of “crimes” against the sunnah and therefore he must be held accountable.

With this I make my first point. A distinction between criticism and accountability must be made. Ibn Mas’ood and others criticized Uthman but, since they were scholars, understood that although Uthman was mistaken his mistakes did not cross the boundaries of Allah, and therefore he was not guilty of anything and thus was not accountable.

Holding Muslim scholars accountable cannot be justified unless evidence from the Quran and hadith indicate transgression against Allah’s law. Thus, before the Muslim American community can call for the accountability of Dr. Jackson, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, or others, an argument founded in Quran and Sunnah and supplicated by scholarly (classical scholars) research and books must be made.

It is simply against Islamic discourse to claim that a scholar is guilty of unethical decisions or affiliations simply because CVE is a plot against Muslims (as I will detail shortly). Rather, an argument must be made that shows how involvement with CVE is against Quran and sunnah. Again, I emphasize the difference between criticizing their decision because of the potential harms versus accusing them of transgressing Islamic principles.

To further elaborate this distinction I offer the following examples. First, Allah says in context of the battle of Badr and the decision to ransom the prisoners of war,

“It is not fit for a prophet that he should take captives until he has thoroughly subdued the land. You ˹believers˺ settled with the fleeting gains of this world, while Allah’s aim ˹for you˺ is the Hereafter. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. Had it not been for a prior decree from Allah, you would have certainly been disciplined with a tremendous punishment for whatever ˹ransom˺ you have taken. Now enjoy what you have taken, for it is lawful and good. And be mindful of Allah. Surely Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (8:67-69)

In these verses Allah criticizes the decision taken by the Muslims but then states that ransom money was made permissible by Allah, and therefore they are not guilty of a punishable offense. In other words, Allah criticized their decision because it was a less than ideal choice but did not hold them accountable for their actions since it was permissible.

Another example is the well-known incident of Osama bin Zaid and his killing of the individual who proclaimed shahadah during battle. Despite this, Osama proceeded to slay him. Upon hearing of this the Prophet (s) criticized Osama and said, “did you see what is in his heart?”

Although Osama’s actions resulted in the death of a person the Prophet (s), did not hold Osama accountable for his actions and no punishment was implemented. Similarly, Khalid bin Waleed killed a group of people who accepted Islam accidentally and similarly, the Prophet (s) criticized Khalid but did not hold him accountable.

Why was there no accountability? Because the decisions of Osama and Khalid were based on reasonable – although incorrect – perspectives which falls under the mistake category of Islamic law “And there is no blame upon you for that in which you have erred but [only for] what your hearts intended. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful” (33:5)

The previous examples, among others, are referred to in Islamic discourse as ta’weel (interpretation). There are many examples in the lives of the companions where decisions were made that lead to misapplications of Islam but were considered mistakes worthy of criticism but not crimes worthy of punishment or accountability.

Ta’weel, as Ibn Taymiyya states, is an aspect of Islam that requires deep understanding of the Islamic sciences. It is the grey area that becomes very difficult to navigate except by scholars as the Prophet (s) states in the hadith, “The halal is clear and the haram is clear and between them is a grey area which most people don’t know (ie the rulings for).”

Scholars have commented stating that the hadith does not negate knowledge of the grey entirely and that the scholars are the ones who know how to navigate that area. The problem arises when those ignorant of Islamic law attempt to navigate the grey area or criticize scholars attempting to navigate it.

Going back to Ibn Taymiyya -skip this part if you believe Ibn Taymiyya was a dancing bear- I would like to discuss his own views on associating oneself with oppressive rulers. In his book “Islamic Political Science” (As Siyaasa ash Shar’iah) he details the nuances of fiqh in regards to working with or for oppressive rulers.

It would be beneficial to quote the entire section, but for space sake I will be concise. Ibn Taymiyya argues that the issue of oppressive rulers should not be approached with a black and white mentality. Rather, one must inquire of the relationship between the person and the ruler.

One can legitimately adhere to the verse “And cooperate in righteousness and piety” (5:2) while working for an unjust ruler such as: “performing jihad, applying penal laws, protecting the rights of others, and giving those who deserve. This is in accordance to what Allah and His messenger have commanded and whoever refrains from those things out of fear of assisting the unjust then they have left an obligation under a false form of asceticism (wara’).”

Likewise, accepting a position under an unjust regime may prevent or reduce the harm of that regime, or prevent someone mischievous from taking the position and inflicting even more harm, then such an association is Islamically valid. Furthermore, someone working in a particular department is not responsible or accountable for the crimes being committed in another department nor are they guilty of “cooperat[ing] in sin and aggression” (5:2). He ascribes these fiqh rulings to the majority of scholars including Abu Hanifa, Malik and Ahmed.

The argument against those who are affiliated with the UAE is simply not grounded in fiqh or supported by clear evidences from the Quran and hadith. How does being part of a peace forum make the participants guilty of the crimes in Yemen? The claim that such participation enhances the influence of these regimes is not necessarily consistent with Quran and hadith.

Dr. Jackson, I argue, is in line with Islamic discourse when he says that being part of such initiatives does not mean he agrees with all they do. The same goes for CVE. As Ibn Taymiyya suggests above, participating in such programs is Islamically justifiable if the goal is to reduce the harm and this is what Dr. Jackson claims. Ibn Taymiyya gives the example of someone working as a tax collector for a ruler who unjustly takes taxes from his citizens. If the individual can reduce the amount being taken then his position is Islamically valid.

One might state that such a claim – reducing the harm – is naïve and an excuse to justify their affiliations. No doubt this is a possibility, however, I once again quote Ibn Taymiyya,

“The obligation is to bring about the benefit to the best of their ability and or prevent the harm or at least reduce it. If there are two possible benefits then the individual should pursue the greater of the two even if it leads to losing the lesser. If there are two possible harms to prevent then they should prevent the greater of the two even if it results in the occurrence of the lesser.”

There are ways of determining whether a persons is clearly excusing himself. At the same time, the debate as to whether the benefits outweigh the harm is almost always within the grey area mentioned above. Thus, it is irresponsible to attack Islamic scholars and call for their accountability for positions that are not clearly against Quran and hadith.

Another rebuttal might claim that the rulers during the time of Ibn Taymiyya were better than present day rulers and that his fiqh was addressing his realities which are inconsistent with ours. My response is that although that is true, Ibn Taymiyya’s teachings are not built on contextual realities that are only effective in those realities. Rather, his teachings are built on principles that are formulated in a way that renders it capable of measuring a particular context. In other words, it acts in a way that considers the realities and context as part of the equation and decision process.

A third rebuttal might claim that Ibn Taymiyya, like many others, warned of the harms of befriending rulers. Again, this is accurate, however, an important distinction must be made and that is between spiritual advice and fiqh rulings. An issue can be spiritually problematic but permissible fiqh-wise and this differentiation is seen in the lives of the companions and spiritualists in general.

For example, the companions rejected many worldly pleasures out of zuhd and wara’ (two forms of asceticism) and not because they are forbidden. To be more specific, a person may restrict themselves from drinking green tea not because it is forbidden by Quran or hadith but because of they view it as a desire that distracts them from the next life.

Similarly, the discouragement scholars expressed towards relationships with rulers was because of the spiritual harms and not because of an unequivocal prohibition against it. This is an important facet of Islamic discourse that should be recognized by the Muslim community. That is, a person can critique an issue from various angles (for example the psychological harms of political rhetoric and how it effects a person’s spirituality) while remaining neutral to Islamic law. What I am trying to say is that legitimate criticisms can be made about a particular issues without having to bring a person’s Islamic credibility into the discussion.

To conclude, I’d like to once again emphasize a distinction between criticism and accountability. Criticism is justified when the criticizer is qualified in the topic and when the one being criticized has made a mistake. Accountability is legitimate when a person has transgressed red lines established by Islam itself. But, in order for such accountability to be valid one must invoke the Quran and hadith and here lies the problem.

In the several articles posted against UAE and CVE, Quran and hadith are excluded and such has become Muslim American discourse – we are Muslims who invoke Allah and His messenger yet exclude their words from the conversation. I remind the Muslim American community and myself of the following verse “And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result” (4:59).

I would like to pose the following questions to the Muslim American community:

  • Under what code of law and ethics should scholars be held accountable? In other words, what standards do we use to deem a scholar accountable or guilty? Who determines these laws and principles? Is it other scholars who are well versed in fiqh? Is it American standards or perhaps Muslim American activists and whatever is in line with their agenda?
  • Who or what institution has the authority to hold scholars accountable?
  • To what extent do we consider Quran, hadith, fiqh and scholarly opinions in determining illegal actions, problematic decisions, and or immoral behavior?
  • Are these laws and principles only applicable to scholars or are other Muslim leader figures held to the same standards?
  • Are all scholars “dancing bears” who have no credibility? If not, who, in your opinion, is trustworthy and credible and why do you think so? Is it because they are following Quran and Sunnah, or because they fit activism?
  • Do you believe that certain celebrated Muslim American activists / politicians present theological and moral problems to American Muslims that are corrupting their faith and behavior? Should they be held accountable for their statements and actions? What about the various Muslim organizations that invite them as keynote speakers and continue to show unwavering support?
  • Do you believe it is fair to say that these celebrated activists are not responsible for clarifying to the community their controversial positions and statements because they are not scholars or seen as religious figures?
  • Do you believe that activism is dominating Muslim American discourse and do you believe that there is a serious exclusion of Quran and hadith in that discourse?

I hope the community will acknowledge the concerning reality of the exclusion of Quran and hadith from our affairs. Until we live up to the standards of Quran and sunnah our criticism will only lead to further division and harm.

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Continue Reading

#Society

Do You Know Why Uzma Was Killed?

#JusticeForUzma is a campaign that highlights the many terrible ways household help is treated in places around the world. Here, Fatima Asad writes about how she is raising her children to be the change they want to see in their society.

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Last week, Pakistani society was struggling with the story of the horrific murder of Uzma, a teenager, who worked as a house maid in the city of Lahore. The 16-year-old was allegedly tortured for months and then murdered by the woman she worked for…for taking a bite from the daughter’s plate. #JusticeForUzma is a campaign that highlights the many terrible ways household help is treated in places around the world. Here, Fatima Asad writes about how she is raising her children to be the change they want to see in their society. 

By Fatima Asad

Living in Pakistan, my children realize that within the gates of our neighborhood, they will see no littering, they will not experience water or electricity shortages and certainly, no one will be knocking on the door begging for food or money. The reason they have this realization is because I make it the day’s mission to let them know about their privilege, about the ways they have been blessed in comparison to the other, very real, living, breathing little girls and boys outside those gates. Alas, my children come face to face with those very real people as soon as the gates close behind us.

“Why are there so many poor people in Pakistan, Mommy?” they ask, quite regularly now, unsatisfied with the answers I’ve provided so far. The question perpetually makes me nervous, uncomfortable, and I hastily make a lesson plan in my mind to gradually expose this world’s truths to them… ahista, ahista…(slow and steady).

But on days like these, when we find out about the death of yet another underprivilged young girl (they’re becoming redundant, aren’t they?), on days like these, I want to hold them, shake them, scream at them to wake up!

Wake up, my child! Beta jaag jao.

Do you know why that little girl we see outside, always has dirt on her face and her hair is in visible knots?

It is because, there are too many people who can take a shower anytime they want, who have maids to oil, brush and style their hair.

Do you know why there are children with no clothes on their backs?

It is because, there are too many of us with too many on ours. There are too many of us with walk-in closets for mothers and matching wardrobes for their infant daughters. We obsess about tailors, brands, this collection, last season. How often do we hear or say “can’t repeat that one”, “this one is just not my thing anymore…”

Do you know why there are children with their cheeks sunk deep in their skulls, scraping for our leftovers in our trashcans?

Because there are too many of us, who are overstuffed with biryani, burgers, food deliveries, dinner parties, chai get-togethers, themed birthday cupcakes, and bursting appetites for more, more, more, and different, different, different.

There are too many of us craving the exotic and the western, hoping to impress the next guest that comes to lunch with our useless knowledge of foods that should not be our pride, like lasagna, nuggets, cinnamon rolls, banana bread, pizza, minestrone soup, etc.

There are too many of us who do not want to partake from our outdated, simple traditional cuisines… that is, unless we can put a “cool” twist on them.

Do you know why there are children begging on the streets with their parents? Because there are too many of us driving in luxury cars to our favorite staycation spots, rolling up the windows in the beggars’ faces.

We are rather spent our money of watching the latest movies for family nights, handing out cash allowances to our own kids so they won’t feel left out when going out.

Do you know why there are mothers working during the days and sacrificing their nights sewing clothes for meager coins? Why there are fathers, who sacrifice their sleep and energy to guard empty mansions at the cost of their self-respect? Because there are too many of us attending dance rehearsals for weddings of the friends we backstab and envy. Because there are too many of us binge-watching the latest hot shows on Netflix, hosting ghazal nights to pay tribute to dead musicians and our never-ending devotion for them, and many more of us viciously shaking our heads when the political analyst on TV delivers a breaking report on a millionaire’s private assets.

Do you know why there are people who will never hold a book in their hands or learn to write their own names? Do you know why there will never be proof that some people lived, breathed, smiled, or cried? Because there are too many of us who are given the best education money can buy, yet only end up using that education to improve our own selves – and only our own selves. There are too many of us who wear suits and ties, entrusted with building the country, yet too many of our leaders and politicians just use that opportunity to build their own legacies or secret, off shore accounts.

Do you know why children, yes children, are ripped apart from their parents, forced to provide their bodies and energies so that a stranger’s family can raise their kids? Because, there are too many of us who need a separate maid for each child we birth. Because, there are too many of us who have given the verdict that our children are worth more than others’.

Because, there are too many of us who need a maid to prove to frenemies our monetary worth and showcase a higher social class.

Because, there are too many of us who enslave humans, thinking we cannot possibly spoil our youth, energy and time on our own needs, our own tasks, our own lives.

Because, there are too many of us who need to be comfortable, indulged, privileged, spoiled, educated, satisfied, excited, entertained and happy at the expense of other living souls.

And we do all this, thinking—fooling ourselves into believing— that our comforts are actually a way of providing income for another human being. Too many of us think that by indulging in our self-centered lifestyles, we are providing an ongoing charity for society’s neediest.

Too many of us are sinking into a quicksand that is quite literally killing us. This needs to stop immediately. This accelerating trend of possessing and displaying more isn’t going to slow down on its own- in fact, it’s become deadly. Too many of our hearts have hardened, burnt to char.

More of us need to sacrifice our comforts, our desires, our nafs so others can have basic human rights fulfilled. More of us must say no to blind consumerism, envious materialistic competition and the need for instant gratification so others can live. We may have the potential to turn into monsters, but we have exceedingly greater potential to be empathetic, selfless revolutionaries. Too many of us have been living for the here and now, but more of us need to actively start thinking about the future.

Do we want to raise generations that will break bread with the less fortunate or do we want to end up with vicious monsters who starve and murder those they deem unworthy? The monsters who continue to believe that they have been blessed with more, so others can be given less than they are entitled to.

It is time for change andthe change has to start from within these gates.

#justiceforuzma #justiceformaids

 

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#Life

OpEd: Breaking Leases Into Pieces

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Ali ibn Talib raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)once said, “Know the truth and you’ll know who’s speaking the truth.” 

I am based in Canada and was recently having coffee with friends. In the course of the conversation, a friend (who I consider knowledgeable) said that it’s okay to pay interest on a leased car because interest doesn’t apply to lease contracts. This completely caught me off guard, because it made no logical sense that interest would become halal based solely on the nature of the contract.

I asked him how this can be true and his response was that the lease contract is signed with the dealer and the interest transaction is between the dealer and the financing company so it has nothing to do with the buyer. Again, this baffled me because I regularly lease cars and this is an incorrect statement: The lease agreement is signed with a third party financing company who is charging you directly for the interest they pay the car dealership. Therefore, any lease contract that has interest associated with it is haram. This is the same as saying your landlord can charge you interest for his mortgage on a rental contract and this would make it halal. I tried to argue this case and explain to my friend that what he was saying was found on false assumptions and one should seriously look into this matter before treating riba in such a light manner.

Upon going home that night, I pulled out all my lease contracts (negotiated to 0% mind you) and sent them over to my friend. They clearly showed that a bill of sale is signed with the dealer, which is an initial commitment to purchase but the actual lease agreement is signed with a third party financing company which is charging you interest directly. If this interest rate is anything above zero it is haram (anything which is haram in a large quantity is also haram in a small quantity).

To my dismay, instead of acknowledging his mistake, my friend played the “Fatwa Card” and sent me a fatwa from a very large fatwa body in North America, which was also basing their argument on this false assumption. Fortunately for me, my friend pointed out the hotline number and the day and time the mufti who gave the fatwa would be available to answer questions.

I got in touch with the scholar and over a series of text messages proceeded to explain to him that his fatwa was based on a wrong assumption and for this reason people would be misled into leasing cars on interest and signing agreements with financing companies which are haram.
He was nice enough to hear my arguments, but still insisted that “maybe things were different in Canada.” Again this disappointed me because giving fatwa is a big responsibility – by saying “maybe” he was implying that full research has not been done and a blanket fatwa has been given for all of North America.

It also meant that if my point was true (for both Canada and the United States) dozens of Muslims maybe engaging in riba due to this fatwa.

The next week I proceeded to call two large dealerships (Honda and Toyota) in the very city where the Fatwa body is registered in the US and asked them about paperwork related to leasing. They both confirmed that when leasing a new vehicle, the lease contract is signed with a third party financing company which has the lien on the vehicle and the dealer is acting on the financing company’s behalf.

It is only when a vehicle is purchased in cash that a contract is signed with the dealer. This proved my point that both in the US and Canada car lease contracts are signed with the financing company and the interest obligations are directly with the consumer, therefore if the interest rate is anything above 0% it is haram. I sent a final text to the mufti and my friend sharing what I had found and letting him know that it was now between them and Allah.

1. As we will stand in front of Allah alone on Yaum al Qiyamah, in many ways we also stand alone in dunya. You would think that world renowned scholars and an entire institution would be basing their fatwas on fact-checked assumptions but this is not the case. You would also think that friends who you deem knowledgable and you trust would also use logic and critical thinking, but many times judgment is clouded for reasons unbeknownst to us. We must not take things at face value. We must do our research and get to the bottom of the truth. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says to stand up for truth and justice even if it be against our ourselves; although it is difficult to do so in front of friends and scholars who you respect, it is the only way.

2. There are too many discussions, debates and arguments that never reach closure or get resolved. It is important to follow up with each other on proofs and facts to bring things to closure, otherwise our deen will slowly be reduced to a swath of grey areas. Alhamdulillah, I now know enough about this subject to provide a 360 degree view and can share this with others. It is critical to bring these discussions to a close whether the result is for you or against you.

3. Many times we have a very pessimistic and half hearted view towards access to information. When I was calling the dealerships from Canada in the US,  part of me said: Why would these guys give me the information? But if you say Bismillah and have your intentions in the right place Allah makes the path easy. One of the sales managers said “I can see you’re calling from Toronto, are you sure you have the right place?” I replied, “I need the information and if you can’t give it to me I don’t mind hanging up.” He was nice enough to provide me with the detailed process and paperwork that goes into leasing a car.

Finally, I haven’t mentioned any names in this opinion and I want to make clear that I am not doubting the intentions of those who I spoke to; I still respect and admire them greatly in their other works. We have to be able to separate individual cases and actions from the overall person.

May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) guide us to the truth and rid of us any weaknesses or arrogance during the process.

Aameen.

Ed’s Note: The writer is not a religious scholar and is offering his opinion based on his research on leasing contracts in North America.

Suggested reading:

Muslim’s Guide to Debt and Money Management Part 6

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