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Cognitive Dissonance: The Psychology of Double Standards around Jared Loughner Arizona Shootings

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The case of Jared Loughner and the subsequent treatment of his murderous spree by the media and indeed by the general public, raised familiar cries of “double standards”, ”media conspiracy”, “Islamophobia”, and familiar questions along the lines of “what if the shooter had been Muslim?”, from the Muslim community and its supporters.

I must admit that that was my own first reaction, too. I quickly tweeted, “Muslim reaction to AZ shooting summed up: relieved (killer not Muslim), sad (innocent lives lost) and angry (double standards in coverage)” and the Muslim twitterosphere echoed sentiments that fell along the same spectrum:

andishehnouraee: Let’s not generalize about large groups of people based on Jared Lee Loughner’s actions, unless it turns out he’s Muslim.

MMFlint Michael Moore: If a Detroit Muslim put a map on the web w/crosshairs on 20 pols, then 1 of them got shot, where would he b sitting right now? Just asking.

LailaLalami: Tough days ahead for young white men. They’ll have to personally denounce the AZ shooter, apologize to Americans, explain and… oh wait.

mujahideenryder: Apparently Muslim terrorists are sane and non-Muslim terrorists are insane (and not terrorists).

Surprise? No. In fact, this has become a familiar cycle, one that most of us are intimately familiar with. Crimes, terrorism, even bad decisions that involve Muslims become Muslim crimes, or Muslim terrorism, or Muslim bad decisions. Whether a father kills his daughter (=Muslim honor killing) or a husband beheads his wife (=Muslim domestic abuse), or random gangsters force young girls into prostitution (=Muslim abuse of women), Islam always seems to go on trial even while the criminal’s motivations may be as foreign to Islam as snow is to Hawaii. But when Muslims are not involved, when a father kills his daughter or a husband beheads his wife, or random gangsters force young girls into prostitution, then the only one on trial is (are) the criminal(s), as Sarah Palin so aptly and, might I add, hypocritically reminded us, “acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own”. If only Palin would be so consistent!

The more important question is why this happens and what can we do, if anything, to break this cycle? Because surely brooding over this steroetyping, and whining about the obvious double-standards is not helping us make any progress.

Let’s start with the “why”. The more I think about it, the more I am led to believe that while there is a structural bias against Muslims and Islam in Western media, much of the stereotyping is simply related to Muslims being the “other”– “foreign elements” who are easy to blame and to scapegoat, where the risk of saying something politically incorrect is largely minimized. In other words, you can say whatever you want about Muslims, as outrageous as you wish, and largely escape public scrutiny and wrath.

Why is the “Muslims=others” factor important? I believe that this is related to the well-known psychological concept of “cognitive dissonance“. Cognitive (thought process) dissonance (tension) relates to the dynamic of the sharp discomfort we experience when we carry two conflicting thoughts in our minds at the same time. This dissonance increases when the importance of the subject increases, or when the two thoughts conflict more sharply, or when we are unable to explain away the conflict. For instance, smokers have to find all kinds of reasons to explain away what they know to be an unhealthy habit. To release the dissonance, we have to either change our behavior, justify our behavior by changing one of the conflicting cognitions, or justify by adding additional cognitions.

Coming back to our white, Jewish? (interestingly great pains are being taken to distance himself from it as if it should matter!) all-American Jared Loughner, why does the public (and media) not want to see him through the lens of his ethnicity or religion? Because it’s hard to for most Americans to carry in their minds, at the same time, thoughts of Jared and their own family and friends (who don’t look much different from Jared). In other words, there is a strong cognitive dissonance to seeing Jared as a “normal”, white, Judeo-Christian, boy. That would be too close to home. So, how does the wider public release the dissonance? By referring to Jared as schizophrenic, crazy, lunatic, loner, and so on, attributes that distance him away from what they see as one of their own, making an “other” out of Jared.

What if Jared Loughner had been Javed Mohammed (thank God that he was not), who was still a schizophrenic, crazy, lunatic loner? Huge shift. It is now no longer necessary to cast Jared in any of these other negative terms. It is sufficient that he is Mohammed, a Moozlim, an immigrant, or a son of a immigrant, a naturalized citizen, or even a convert. Someone who is already the “other” and whose actions are easily explainable and understandable as being “Muslim”. No conflicting thoughts, no dissonance, and voila, we have a media feast on his religious background (the “other” aspect of his persona) because everything else is too close to home.

Now that we have identified cognitive dissonance as a possible significant factor in the difference between the perceptions from the media and the general public towards crimes committed by Muslims (“others”) versus an average Joe American, the next step is to understand how to tackle this problem. One aspect to observe is how Jared’s self-claimed Jewish background (if true) was not an “othering” factor, even though Jews form a small minority in America. The case provides an opportunity for Muslims to learn from other minorities. Being a minority is not sufficient in itself to be cast out as the “other”. We have seen how, for instance, the gay community in America has also changed perceptions from being a definite “other” to just one of us.

In his widely acclaimed books on Muslims in the West, Tariq Ramadan has written about being the “other”. He emphasizes a Muslim’s responsibility to his community, whether it be Islamic or not. He criticizes the “us vs. them” mentality that some Muslims advocate against the West. He argues that European Muslims’ reliance on an “external” Islam, fraught with cultural baggage, leaves them feeling inadequate in their own faith, leading to alienation from the larger society.

Ramadan also touches upon the crux of what I have mentioned here, about misplaced Western perceptions of Muslims, due to a community that has done a terrible job in representing itself. A community that has mixed cultural baggage with Islam, a community that has been overly defensive, and a community that has not sufficiently engaged with its majority hosts, the wider non-Muslim society.

Muslims should be allowed to commit themselves within society and to act in favour of human solidarity. This also means that Muslims can be engaged in social as well as political and economic activities. This is why, both at local and national levels, their commitment as Muslims and citizens is imperative for it is the sole way of completing and perfecting their Faith and the essential Message of their Religion. The social space, with its laws and customs, should permit them to attain this. [Ramadan, as quoted in Reading Tariq Ramadan: Political Liberalism, Islam, and “Overlapping Consensus”]

Of course Tariq Ramadan is just one voice among many, whose style is one style among many, but whatever format we adopt, it must be one that melts the “otherness” of Muslims into the society at large. And it is not religious otherness that I refer to, for that can never change for a Muslim. But just like gays are not shying away from their own homosexuality (their form of “otherness”), just like Jews are not shying away from their own traditions (their form of “otherness”), similarly Muslims can maintain their religious otherness, but still be fully American or fully European, shedding away cultural tags that prevent them from being fully integrated.

Let there be a “Muslim Charities” working hand in hand with “Catholic Charities”, let there be Muslim mayors, judges and leaders, let there be Muslim CEOs, let there be Muslim Larry Kings and Jon Stewarts, let Mohammed and Aisha be names of men and women who are part of the American fabric at every level and at every rung. Only then will we stop being the “other”, only then will our next Muslim criminal be put in his place as a criminal, just a criminal – no religious qualifiers needed. Only then will the “Muslim” tag no longer reduce dissonance, and “acts of monstrous criminality [will] stand on their own”.

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Abu Reem is one of the founders of MuslimMatters, Inc. His identity is shaped by his religion (Islam), place of birth (Pakistan), and nationality (American). By education, he is a ChemE, topped off with an MBA from Wharton. He has been involved with Texas Dawah, Clear Lake Islamic Center and MSA. His interests include politics, cricket, and media interactions. Career-wise, Abu Reem is in management in the oil & gas industry (but one who still appreciates the "green revolution").

82 Comments

82 Comments

  1. Amad

    Amad

    January 24, 2011 at 1:36 AM

    I worked for United Way as a Loaned Executive for several months and I saw first-hand how relatively easy to get funding if you have the right project with the right goals.

    I have always thought about a “Muslim Charities”… open to all… just the word Muslim in it. Imagine the impact of seeing it on your street corner every day?

    May Allah help us all.

    • Avatar

      abu abdullah

      January 24, 2011 at 10:05 AM

      Why not have a ‘Muslim charity’ setup. Take Mohammad Younus’s gramin bank as micro credit model. Make it interest free as done by Bangalore Muslim Professionals and support locals (mostly women) here to help them become entrepreneurs?

      Ameen. Allah will help those who help themselves inshallah.. wassalam

      • Avatar

        Starlight

        January 25, 2011 at 10:44 PM

        The Grameen Bank model may not be the perfect model. :-) The whole system is now near to collapsing in its own country of origin; although they have promoted to be the ‘banker to the poor’ – families have been destroyed to the core by the way they operate (the irony of it!).

        The best model would be something that is based on intense research, totally focused on social welfare, aiding with tools-to-development (rather than only charity money) and based on the true Islamic Financial Principles. Only then businesswomen like Khadija (RA) would flourish, inshaAllah.

        • Avatar

          abu Abdullah

          January 25, 2011 at 11:05 PM

          jazak Allah khayr for your comment. Did you hear when I said its modified to an Interest Free model working in Bangalore India? The lifeline bank there that adopted these works on the very principles you mentioned about social welfare where most of the lower income group families ( particularly women) get the loan. Unfortunately they find their men in the family as parasitic in a way that they do not earn anything for the family and waste money in drinking and other problems. They could find a revenue generating job, for as little as collecting plastic bottles. They manage to repay the loan and ask for more. Each family situation is investigated individually. Nothing is perfect in this world does it mean they don’t make efforts? Giving up is a problem, so until you find out that ‘effective solution’ lets let people do the khayr in peace, as much to please Allaah. Agreed models need to modify depending on social circumstances without touching core values. Didn’t Uthman RA preferred giving loans to people than giving money in charity as you can use same money again and again for loaning and in the same amount you get more ajr, each time half the reward of charity when you loan a money, to enjoin the khayr of this world and the akhirah. Lets not drift from the main topic of this article which I am still finding difficult to get most of it, after third read. wassalam.

          • Avatar

            Starlight

            January 25, 2011 at 11:35 PM

            Brother, I was in no way contradicting your idea. Sorry if I got the thing relayed in the wrong way. The point that I was trying to make is that Grameen Bank is losing its ground as a model to follow. It’s not only the haraam ‘interest’ factor that has gone wrong. It’s a combination of a lot of non-haram things as well, just done the wrong way.

            Yes, we need to make every effort that we can. And inshaAllah there will be more barakah in whatever effort we put in. But we need intense research & professional skills in developing effective models. Otherwise, the effort dies after a certain period of time. The long-term image of Islam that this article is talking about in contributing to the sociey and integrating with it – can be achieved better if we present it to the society in the most effective & beneficial way. :)

            May Allah Accept this intention of ours. Ameen.

            JazakAllahu Khair.

          • Avatar

            Starlight

            January 25, 2011 at 11:41 PM

            Same comment missed the first time ..and then posted twice. Asef!

  2. Avatar

    UrbanDeen

    January 24, 2011 at 5:58 AM

    Well said!

  3. Avatar

    Ameera Khan

    January 24, 2011 at 6:52 AM

    Well said, indeed! The tweets you pasted here were very apt!

    • Amad

      Amad

      January 24, 2011 at 9:44 AM

      Yeah, its nice to be able to release that sentiment and I was like, then what?

  4. Avatar

    Muhib

    January 24, 2011 at 6:53 AM

    Thank you Amad for a great article. Sadly, this message is absent from most Muslim podiums.

    • Amad

      Amad

      January 24, 2011 at 8:57 AM

      Thanks for the compliment. Pls help us spread the word then :)

  5. Avatar

    A Muslimah

    January 24, 2011 at 7:26 AM

    I am not so sure ….. If a Muslim had committed any of these crimes 30 years ago, the Americans would not have reacted like this even though back then Muslims were far lower in number in the US population. The people were more open and accepting, they were friendlier, not like they are now. The media and the government is deliberately creating this Islamophobia that exists in the average American’s mind. This is a much bigger issue we are dealing with …. It’s not so simple as cognitive dissonance in someone’s mind. It has to do with the Muslims being the enemy in Palestine, in Iraq,in Afghanistan, in Iran who the Americans are at war with. It’s a huge political movement not a peace-time social issue.

    • Amad

      Amad

      January 24, 2011 at 9:42 AM

      I think you have kind of proven my point in some respects. Just being a small minority doesn’t make you the “others”. For instance, Amish are even a smaller minority but would not get the double-standards. So, Muslims were not so much the “other” 30 years ago, and we have become the other by a combination of Islamophobes constant efforts and our own lackings. It’s not about who made this happen, but that is the case now and what must we do to change it. Read Ramadan’s point again:

      Ramadan also touches upon the crux of what I have mentioned here, about misplaced Western perceptions of Muslims, due to a community that has done a terrible job in representing itself. A community that has mixed cultural baggage with Islam, a community that has been overly defensive, and a community that has not sufficiently engaged with its majority hosts, the wider non-Muslim society.

    • Avatar

      Michael

      February 3, 2011 at 10:46 PM

      I think you’re missing the point for the reaction against Mulims by most Americans. Yes there are a few true haters because they hate anything different from them, be they black, yellow, purple, etc. Most Americans won’t tolerate their behavior today. The general American population bases their reaction to all Muslims upon the actions of the few. It’s not right, but every time an event occurs in the world in which radicals kill the infidels, it perpetuates the belief that all Muslims want to kill those who are not believers. I was in Budapest in September 2001 and watched over and over as the media played the reaction to the attacks on the WTC from the Arab/Muslim world. They were cheering and giving praise to Allah. To break that imprinted memory, I think we need to see the peaceful brothers and sisters standing up to those who claim it is their duty to kill the non-Believers. Every time a suicide bomber sets himself off or a car explodes, denounce it. Stand up to those who have taken your faith and turned it into nothing more than a tool to be used to justify the killing of innocents. I WILL STAND WITH YOU

  6. Yahya Ibrahim

    Yahya Ibrahim

    January 24, 2011 at 8:07 AM

    Great Job Amad. I couldn’t have said it better.

    yahya Ibrahim
    http://www.facebook.com/yahya.adel.ibrahim

    • Amad

      Amad

      January 24, 2011 at 8:54 AM

      jazakallah khair shaykh… must be you rubbing off on me if the article was worth anything :)

      • Avatar

        abu Abdullah

        January 26, 2011 at 4:08 AM

        do you work and administer these comments on MM? wassalam.

        • Amad

          Amad

          January 26, 2011 at 6:08 AM

          I dont understand your question?

          • Avatar

            abu Abdullah

            January 26, 2011 at 6:59 AM

            -comment deleted. Pls dont take it personally, but frankly your question is not your business, as you have no idea of my situation and how I manage my time. When I need a time-manager, I’ll be sure to consult u. This is a blog that I started and now belongs to many, and it is very dear and close to my heart. -Amad

  7. Avatar

    abu abdullah

    January 24, 2011 at 10:04 AM

    Jazak Allah khayr. Brilliant and laconic I would say mash Allah.

    I might have a chance to speak on a local panel discussion, on role of media , representing our faith. I hope if you could put suggest few possible action items.

  8. Avatar

    Nayma

    January 24, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    Wish you could have kept the picture out of the site! Sick of seeing it on CNN!

    • Amad

      Amad

      January 24, 2011 at 12:40 PM

      The picture is important, esp. the transformation that people perceive with cognitive dissonance…
      The two images are not of the same man (just in case it wasn’t obvious)… but making the man into a monster was an important part of healing the dissonance.

  9. Avatar

    Jeremiah

    January 24, 2011 at 12:36 PM

    JazakAllahu khairan, I enjoyed the article but disagree with a couple of points. While the suggestion for Muslim-type United Way is commendable, I do not think a minority group in America moves from being a villified minority to being accepted by their works alone. Rather, a new group takes its place. Respectfully, I think it takes a bit of cognitive dissonance to think, “Group A hates me because they do not know how great I am.” Rather, there is some intrinsic feature of the group that causes it to denigrate minority group after minority group regardless of their similarities and differences.

    I can not think of an immigrant or minority group that has ever grown to prominence in America that has not undergone the same gross generalization, broad stereotyping and guilt by association that afflicts Muslims today. The root of Jim Crow, anti-Jew, anti-Polish, anti-Italian, etc. periods has been racism. We may coin new terms (e.g. islamophobia) to distinguish the trials each group faces, but the root is the same because one of the founding principles of this country is the superiority of the White male.

    If one agrees, what can be done? People more learned than me have debated this for more than 100 years (see works of W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington), but I have a couple of suggestions. First, cultivate group unity (not uniformity) based on the fundamental principles of the group. For us, that would be based on and derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah of our Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wassalam). Second, when we see injustice speak out against it and work to change the situation whether it is against us, against someone else or perpetrated by us. Third (and this is where I think we agree) we have to translate the beneficial principles of our particular minority group to the greater population. InshaAllah, this third step may purify American culture to the point that subsequent minority groups will not have the same experiences as those that preceded them.

    In short, I am only saying that Muslims are going through it now in America because it is our time. The Muslim population was very tiny 40 years ago, but through conversion and immigration we are now a sizable minority. The system has taken notice. Before it was ok to denigrate African-Americans, Jews, Italians, Hispanics/Latinos, etc. with little repercussions. That is now frowned upon and Muslims have taken the place of these other groups.

    • Avatar

      Jeremiah

      January 24, 2011 at 12:57 PM

      I was trying to change the line, ” Group A hates me because they do not know how great I am” to Group A hates me because they do not know how much I benefit them.” The comment editor timed out.

      wassalam

    • Amad

      Amad

      January 24, 2011 at 1:01 PM

      Thanks for your comments Jeremiah.

      The crux of your comment appears to be that the reason for Islamophobia or any other hate is white racism and that there is nothing we can do until another minority takes our place. So, let me ask, which minority’s place did we take?

      It has been a long time since African Americans would be scapegoated openly without any repurcussions as Muslims are today. Certainly longer than 10-15 years, around the time when Islamophobia started taking roots.

      Even if we agree that there is a culture of creating villains for all time, that would still not be a dissimilar concept as to creating “others”– people foreign, different from us, people we should be suspicious of. And the concept of cognitive dissonance would still hold true.

      It’s also not about telling others how great we are, but simply to inform others (through our actions) that we are as committed to this country as anyone else. Group A does hate me because they think I am not one of them, the “other”. And I think there is no cognitive dissonance there; that, I believe is the factual situation of Muslims in the West.

      • Avatar

        A Muslimah

        January 24, 2011 at 1:16 PM

        I totally agree with Jeremiah. I think brother Amad you made some interesting points in your article and I enjoyed reading your article. But I think you have to admit that the matter is a lot more complex or multifaceted if you will than a simple issue explainable by one point viz cognitive dissonance. You have to agree that there are more points to be considered than the ones you mentioned in your article. This in no way means that what you are saying is wrong; rather, what you have talked about is one facet of the situation, yes, but not ALL of it. To deny that means that you are not open to examining the situation from every possible angle. It will only help us as Muslims when you do that.

        • Avatar

          Mantiki

          January 24, 2011 at 11:13 PM

          For several decades now Australia has had a policy of promoting multi-culturalism. At its best it promotes interacial and intercultural tolerance and respect for diversity. Showcase events like multi-cultural dance and food festivals were used to successfully promote tolerance and respect.

          There have been downsides however. At a minor level, there is a misperception that respect for other cultures means that you ought not comment on or criticise them. This is referred to disdainfully as being “politically correct” or “pc” for short. Its a shame really because Australians are pretty good at self criticism of our own habits, politicians and culture. It seems unfair not to be able to criticise and or laugh at others. In some respects therefore, the country is now divided into those who still embrace multi-culturalism and those who view it as pc nonsense.

          The other downside is rapid change. Time and again, Australia has accepted waves of migrants. Post World War 2 it was the Greeks and Italians, post Vietnam it was Vietnamese, then Lebanese, Iraqis and now Somalis. On each occasion the new migrant group faces hostility from the “original” Aussies and from the older migrant groups. Eventually they assimilate and the next generation is transformed into people who at least dress, act like and sound like Australians. They become accepted and intermarry. I am the product of such an intercultural union.

          People do tend to feel uneasy or even invaded when they discover their old shopping area or residential area now is filled with people who don’t speak our language and sometimes don’t seem to respect our culture and values. Without being critical of Islamic culture, I think, at least in Australia, there is a concern that the influx of Muslim migrants will never dress, act like and sound like Australians. This is simultaneously interpreted as an invasion and rejection of our culture. I am pretty tolerant but when I see negative comments by Muslims on the way non-Muslims act, dress, govern and socialise its pretty hard to imagine that there is real respect for their adopted country. If Muslims insist on always portraying Westerners as the “alien other” then they will always be that to us as well.

          • Avatar

            Mantiki

            January 25, 2011 at 2:16 AM

            For the record, despite my views, and in case my earlier post is misconstrued, I’d be happy to have Amad and his family as my neighbours

          • Amad

            Amad

            January 26, 2011 at 4:00 AM

            I’d be happy to have Amad and his family as my neighbours

            Esp because of my mowing my neighbor’s grass comment :) jk

            Actually, that’s a true story… my neighbor was an old, white (but not grumpy) man… no idea where his kids were… and he would treat my kids as family. Often when I mowed my lawn, I would just take care of his side too… that’s the least I could do as a neighbor. It’s amazing how much such small neighborly acts can have an effect on people’s psyche. It’s no wonder that the Prophet (S) said that even a smile is a charity.

        • Amad

          Amad

          January 26, 2011 at 3:56 AM

          ^A Muslimah… sure, there are many other factors at play. I just think this one has been underplayed.

          thanks.

      • Avatar

        Jeremiah

        January 24, 2011 at 1:35 PM

        Amad thanks for your reply.

        Yes, I am saying that ‘islamophobia’ in America is essentially White racism and I agree with the cognitive dissonance label.

        The ‘hand-off’ to a new minority does not have to be a linear, continuous event, but could be discrete. However, I personally think the open denigration of African-Americans persisted well longer than you seem to. Do you remember the racially charged atmosphere of the late ’80s (e.g. Willie Horton issue) and early ’90s (e.g. Charles Stuart murder)? What about Hispanics and Latinos? We shouldn’t dwell on this side issue, because I think as far as the meat of the discussion, we generally agree.

        I am not advocating waiting patiently until someone takes our place. In the first comment, I tried to suggest a course of unification of the American Muslim ummah coupled with activism. As I said in the first comment, we should be unifying our ranks, fighting injustice no matter the source or victim and translating benefits of the deen (and the deen itself) to the greater society.

        You said, “Group A does hate me because they think I am not one of them, the “other”. And I think there is no cognitive dissonance there, that I believe is the factual situation of Muslims in the West.”

        Your statement above suggests you are hated because of what and who you are and not what you do or do not do. So you can have Muslim United Way (mashaAllah nice project go ahead), but no matter what you do, you are still the other. I don’t see how following your approach changes that fact.

        I also appreciate Br. Tariq Ramadan, but I would suggest looking at people that have dealt with the American context because the West is not a monolith. The history and dynamics of Muslim/non-Muslim interactions are not the same in Europe and America.

        • Amad

          Amad

          January 24, 2011 at 1:46 PM

          What I do makes me what I am.

          If my neighbor saw me cut his grass, just because he is my neighbor, do you think my beard would scare him less? I think so. I have experienced how my wife’s hijab’s perception changed over time with neighbors, in an all white neighborhood. Those who quickly went indoors when we walked out, eventually became friends who would later go out and defend Muslims.

          In fact, all surveys point out that people who know one or more Muslim well, are less likely to have negative perceptions of Muslims and Islam. So, indeed what we do and how we act, whether on an individual level or a communal level, does make a difference on what people think “what and we we are”

          • Avatar

            Jeremiah

            January 24, 2011 at 2:08 PM

            Yes, I certainly agree with you. On the micro-level, person-to-person interaction changes perceptions. However, we are dealing with something systemic and pervasive.

            I guess the question for me is why does your neighbor hate you (without knowing anything about you) just because you are different from him? I don’t think it is your beard because he probably has family members with beards. And why do you have to cut his grass to be accepted as a neighbor? Another question, if your hypothetical neighbor was Black, Hispanic, Hindu or of Chinese descent would you still feel the need to ‘cut his grass’?

            I am not saying don’t do those things. Muslims should serve the people in whatever good ways possible. We obviously have different viewpoints on this issue. Let’s just do our best as we see fit and inshAllah khair.

          • Amad

            Amad

            January 24, 2011 at 11:39 PM

            the question for me is why does your neighbor hate you

            Because he sees Muslims as the other. Even if I was a white American with a hijab wearing wife, he would still have suspicions about me because of my “otherness”.

            I don’t have to cut his grass, that was a hypothetical example. Doing anything neighborly, not just for my white neighbors, but any neighbors. My point is that if we “act Muslim” by extending our hand out and they start knowing us better (we are talking about whites because they are the majority, even though there are non-whites that also are suspicious about Muslims and I just cannot place that under white racism), then they’ll stop seeing us at the other. And things always start at a micro-level. Expand from being a good neighbor to a good citizen, a Muslim charity serving all will bring about the same micro level change at a higher level. As word gets out about these mini initiatives, it doesn’t take very long in this day and age of instant technology, to change perceptions.

          • Amad

            Amad

            January 24, 2011 at 11:41 PM

            Bottomline, I think we agree that Muslims are viewed as the “other”. We have some disagreement on what has caused this “otherness”. We also agree that we should try to remove this to the extent possible. We disagree on its inevitability (your point), versus being a cause and effect event.

            So, we can focus on the common ground :)

          • Avatar

            Jeremiah

            January 25, 2011 at 10:27 AM

            Agreed, we can focus on commonality and minimize differences. Since you wrote the article from the aspect of psychology, I thought you would be interested in this article in Slate. There is seems to be a good amount of research in this area. There is another related article (Us vs. Them Good News from the Ancients) in today’s edition for Chronicle of Higher Ed, but you need a subscription to view the article. If you are interested just e-mail me and I can send it to you.

            http://www.slate.com/id/2282306/ (link to today’s Slate article) with excerpt below:
            New psychological research and insights from political science suggest parallels between partisanship and racism. Both seem to arise from aspects of social identity that are immutable or slow to change. Both are publicly decried and privately practiced. Both are increasingly employed in ways that allow practitioners to deny that they are doing what they are doing.

          • Amad

            Amad

            January 25, 2011 at 10:57 AM

            very interesting. I welcome you to write on this subject, aka parallel between racism and islamophobia… history, etc. I think it will be most interesting… even if we disagree on it, MM is all about diverse opinions!

          • Amad

            Amad

            January 25, 2011 at 12:18 PM

            What a shame and antithesis to everything that African Americans have fought for:

            http://thinkprogress.org/2010/08/18/allen-west-islam/

        • Avatar

          abu abdullah

          January 24, 2011 at 2:19 PM

          Salamualaikum,

          I quote you saying, Yes, I am saying that ‘islamophobia’ in America is essentially White racism

          I never knew the NPR person , an african american, making a comment that he gets nervous seeing muslim attire people on planes is an extension to the localite americans in general being more color conscious than many caucasians I know?

          @ Amad, They will never like you and assimilate you unless you try to be like one of them , as long as you try to practice Islaam. yes there are good people among them and please complete aal imran verse for me, that says this…. Minhumul mu’minina wa?…..

          Problem becomes more complicated for our cousins from Musa AS as they are closed society and don’t accept people from other faith to convert to their faith and BE LIKE THEM.

          So yes, the only people we can change is ourself. We should improve our Akhlaq and ask selves where are our manners everytime, educating selves and others. Its easier said than done.

          • Avatar

            Jeremiah

            January 24, 2011 at 2:39 PM

            Wa alaikum as salam wa rahmatullah,

            I am saying the root of what is called islamophobia is White racism (i.e. originated at America’s founding), not that it is only expressed by White people.

          • Amad

            Amad

            January 24, 2011 at 11:45 PM

            Abu Abdullah, “man proposes, God disposes”… we can only try our best. There are many among those who don’t believe in Islam, that are sincere and given a proper understanding, they might not accept us as one of them, but they can certainly learn to accept as one in the larger society, that we are not there to harm them. As I mentioned in the post, we can’t change our Islam, just like the gay society wants it to be accepted for it being gay (I hate to use this example but it is the closest, most recent one).

  10. Avatar

    Mantiki

    January 24, 2011 at 5:52 PM

    LOL Amad – is the second photo “Uncle Fester” from “The Addams Family”?

    Seriously though – good article. I’d just like to add that in my opinion, suicide bombers (and any suicide) can just as equally be described as “mentally ill”.

    The illness is caused by a combination of genuine injustice – possibly including the death or suffering of those dear to the bomber and fanned into an uncontrollable rage by fanatics who brainwash them using a twisted interpretation of religion.

    The generational violence that is inflicted on middle eastern nations (usually by each other and stoked by foreign interests) would be enough to drive ME insane! The notions of “an eye for an eye”, and “revenge and ‘honour'” are at fault here.

    Harder to understand are those bombers whose suffering is entirely empathetic and who are raised within the West. But I suspect that being an outsider and victim of rascism (as your article raises) are also a factor.

    Simple kindness and treating others as you’d like to be treated would solve just about all problems I think.

    • Amad

      Amad

      January 26, 2011 at 3:55 AM

      Thanks. For empathy, this video on TED is amazingly good:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUEGHdQO7WA

      • Avatar

        Mantiki

        January 26, 2011 at 4:29 PM

        Amad – What a great speaker and examples on that TED lecture! I already held this view but its so well done and persuasive that I’ve forwarded the link on to those of my friends who hold unsympathetic views on Iraq and Muslim Arabs.

        Your earlier comment about the importance of a simple smile is also so true. I read of a suicide where the “jumper” left a note saying he would change his mind if just one person smiled at him on his way to the bridge.

        We can make a better world!

    • Amad

      Amad

      January 26, 2011 at 3:56 AM

      The picture I don’t know.. but when I googled the guy’s name, the Fester picture (if so) came up and he did bear some resemblance :)

  11. Avatar

    Mehreen

    January 25, 2011 at 1:49 AM

    Brilliantly written and well-constructed. Jazak’Allah Khair for the interesting read. No questions are raised when it’s a white non-Muslim, and no affiliations are made with his secular ideology, apart from any religious one. They never criticize the secular values, which might be the cause. Such bigotry!

    • Amad

      Amad

      January 25, 2011 at 1:58 AM

      waiyakee
      There is no need to cast the secular affiliations since that doesn’t help relieve their dissonance.

  12. Avatar

    Asha

    January 25, 2011 at 3:18 AM

    MashaAllah loving this article!

    Especially Dr Ramadan’s points..
    ” Ramadan also touches upon the crux of what I have mentioned here, about misplaced Western perceptions of Muslims, due to a community that has done a terrible job in representing itself. A community that has mixed cultural baggage with Islam, a community that has been overly defensive, and a community that has not sufficiently engaged with its majority hosts, the wider non-Muslim society. “

    • Amad

      Amad

      January 26, 2011 at 4:01 AM

      I am glad that you liked it Asha.

  13. Avatar

    Sammy

    January 25, 2011 at 3:46 AM

    About time somebody addressed the need to become a part of the social infrastructure of society without feeling “less of a Muslim”. It’s a fine line, but it can be done.

    Good job with the article.

    • Amad

      Amad

      January 25, 2011 at 7:26 AM

      I believe you can be 100% Muslim, not only Muslim, but an orthodox Muslim and 100% American… this is a huge hurdle in practicing Muslims’ minds… and until we break out of this self-inflicted stigma, we will not go out there and be part of the society.

      • Avatar

        Sammy

        January 25, 2011 at 8:30 PM

        Exactly! Excellent stuff.

        • Avatar

          Mansoor Ansari

          January 26, 2011 at 9:42 AM

          It can be done but we have to careful… case in point Indian Muslims (those that live in India). They r completely integrated into the Indian society but sadly that meant indulging in practices that are not in line with Islam. Coming frm that world I see many American Muslim thread on the the same path in the name of integration. Let’s do it but be aware of the dangers it possesses for further generations as integration would have be stepped up to the next level as each new generation comes by.

  14. Avatar

    Hassan

    January 25, 2011 at 7:36 AM

    Good article, and no doubt we should do our best to be good influence in the community we are living in. There are so many good things we can do, not to please and be accepted by white americans, but to please and accepted by Allah, and the human acceptance will automatically happen.

    Having said that, I believe there is something distinct about our religion that makes us “other”. From our religious perspective, prophet Muhammad PBUH has said numerous times to be “different” from jews and christians, and pagans. So when it becomes religious duty to be “other”, we have to be “other” (while still being nice and good to others). Once we do that, we can not blame white non-muslim americans to think of us “others”.

    All the minorities that suffered besides jewish people, were still christians. So we can leave them aside. As far as jewish people are concerned, how many women of jews you see in hijaab? How many jews you see in hollywood vs muslims in hollywood? (and would you even encourage some muslim to go into movie business?). You mentioned that you want muslim Jon Stewart. Really? Would not you want your son to be rather scholar of islam? Do you think a muslim without speaking profanity and perhaps not much sense of popular culture can entertain American general audience?

    Similarly how many muslims celebrate or participate in christmas? Jews (general public) is lenient. While muslims (general even) are strict. In fact I work on christmas whole heartedly.

    Again I am not disagreeing on your article entirely. But also think about this, the majority of non-muslim world more or less have now so many common morals and values (in general public). American people and similarly europeans can relate to each other. In contrast the muslim world is much different. No doubt there are lots of things that are common but they get buried under lots of uncommon things.

    And unfortunately the effort you do to cut your neighbor glass would not become news and would become secondary to some idiot muslim trying to burn somebody’s grass.

    • Amad

      Amad

      January 25, 2011 at 7:40 AM

      Amish are even more visibly distinct from the rest of the Americans. Orthodox Jews are also distinct and are even more “different”. But the “otherness” that I am referring to, the negative otherness, doesn’t exist with them.

      As for the rest of the comment, I agree we cannot assimilate… we need to integrate. As I said in the article

      And it is not religious otherness that I refer to, for that can never change for a Muslim. But just like gays are not shying away from their own homosexuality (their form of “otherness”), just like Jews are not shying away from their own traditions (their form of “otherness”), similarly Muslims can maintain their religious otherness,

    • Amad

      Amad

      January 25, 2011 at 7:44 AM

      And unfortunately the effort you do to cut your neighbor glass would not become news and would become secondary to some idiot muslim trying to burn somebody’s grass.

      But you know what, this neighbor may end up being in some position of influence, maybe in a jury judging a Muslim “terrorist”, or in a politician’s office or may become a CEO, or may be interviewed randomly about Muslims. We cannot change the world. What we can do is to change a small bit of it. Let Allah take care of the rest.

  15. Avatar

    Bahjeh

    January 25, 2011 at 12:11 PM

    Well written MashaAllah!
    I can personally and I’m sure many other Muslims can testify that something has happened in their lives for which they were able to see first hand and that we get treated differently. I had given details months ago to another article but I’ll keep it short…
    I’m an American born Palestinian and simply wanted to get added to my husbands account with TD Bank (in Pennsylvania). The people mocked at me and thought I’m some sort of criminal because I wear the niqaab (and I was also willing to show the female employees my face to match my driving license)…told my husband it’s “not safe to add your wife to the account”….then we went to another branch with an attorney (non-muslim) and that branch even called the police seeing a niqaabi! It took them 4 months to believe that I’m an American citizen…showed them my birth certificate and passport…and I never knew you had to be a citizen to get added to an existing account! But anyways they said I was added…but early this month…after 10 months…I was still not issued a debit card!
    For the past 10months my husband and I have been trying to take action against TD Bank…our attorney was notified by PHRC that – the case is resolved, there’s nothing more here since she was eventually added to her husband’s account –
    And the funny part, TD Bank made an offer to us last week stating they will apologize for what happened, do a program at the 2 branches to be more tolerant towards Muslims, and pay for our attorney’s fees and in return we have to sign a statement saying they were never bad to us! Both I and my husband obviously refused to any such agreement.
    Then our own attorney (who’s a non-muslim) has the audacity to tell us – you have been given extra rights and that’s why you were able to take your complaint higher, regular americans would’ve just closed their account and taken their business elsewhere but you guys are part of a protected class and that’s why were given special attention –
    So anyways after being undermined from every corner, my husband just closed his account yesterday and we both decided that 10months of this nonsense was enough. Nothing we can really do about it. But yea I really am curious to know if they (attorney, bank and PHRC) would downplay the fact that a woman was prevented from her husband’s account simply because of the way she dressed…and even after 10months was never issued a debit card…if this had happened to some Gay/Lesbian, Chrisitan or Jew…

    • Amad

      Amad

      January 26, 2011 at 4:07 AM

      Sorry to hear that. You should contact your local newspaper to see if they can run a story on this.

    • Avatar

      mohammed guggen

      January 26, 2011 at 8:01 PM

      I am sorry to hear that, sister. My wife is muslimah, wears a niqab, and we didn’t have any problems opening a joint bank acount. She drives and does other normal things that we enjoy as citizens of this great land that we call USA!!!!!

      Mohammed Guggen
      Seattle, Washington

  16. Avatar

    HadithCheck

    January 25, 2011 at 7:27 PM

    I believe you can be 100% Muslim, not only Muslim, but an orthodox Muslim and 100% American…

    Before I agree or disagree with this statement brother Amad, I’d have to ask you to define the terms that you are using, especially what does it mean to be “100% American” to you because I am sure you know that if you ask two Muslims, each will give his own definition of the term! Even if you ask two non-muslims, each of them will also give you a different definition of what it means to be an “American” as they perceive it. So I think the place to start is for us to define exactly what does it mean to be an American?

    As for the rest of the comment, I agree we cannot assimilate… we need to integrate.

    Also the word “integrate” should be defined, because to different people it holds a different meaning, so how do you view “integration”?

    What we can do is to change a small bit of it. Let Allah take care of the rest.

    As a side note, and this is more of a general piece of advice that is not related to the issue at hand, but some scholars cautioned from using such a statement like “do your part and leave the rest to Allah”, because everything is in the hands of Allah and everything, even what we do is up to Allah. I know that you don’t intend anything wrong by this statement, nor do many of the other brothers and sisters who use it, but it would be better to avoid it and say instead something like “I have done my best and I ask Allah for help.” or “I did my best and everything is up to Allah.” because even in our own actions we completely rely on Allah.

    • Amad

      Amad

      January 26, 2011 at 12:32 AM

      As a side note, and this is more of a general piece of advice that is not related to the issue at hand, but some scholars cautioned from using such a statement like “do your part and leave the rest to Allah”,

      While I appreciate your message, I think this is a case of semantics. When we say “rest”, we mean what we cannot do anything about. Tie your camel and then leave it up to Allah. (Maybe you can paste the exact wording of that hadith here). It doesn’t mean that tying the camel is without Allah’s help or is part of Allah’s will. It just distinguishes from what man can control versus what he can’t, from what is apparent. Even while man’s control is within Allah’s control.

      As for what American and integration means, those are debates in itself… but I think the apparent meaning is clear. There are general areas that most can agree with– being a good, productive citizen.

      • Avatar

        East Coast Muslimah

        January 26, 2011 at 5:25 AM

        Tie your camel and then leave it up to Allah. (Maybe you can paste the exact wording of that hadith here).

        One day Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) noticed a Bedouin leaving his camel without tying it and he asked the Bedouin, “Why don’t you tie down your camel?” The Bedouin answered, “I put my trust in Allah.” The Prophet then said, “Tie your camel first, then put your trust in Allah” (At-Tirmidhi).

        A snippet from SunniPath with additional explanation:

        2. Tie your Camel: DO YOUR PART

        One day Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, noticed a Bedouin leaving his camel without tying it. He asked the Bedouin, “Why don’t you tie down your camel?” The Bedouin answered, “I put my trust in Allah.” The Prophet then said, “Tie your camel first, then put your trust in Allah” (Tirmidhi).

        Muslims must never become fatalistic. Although we know only Allah is in control and that He has decreed all things, we are each responsible for making the right choices and doing the right thing in all situations of our lives. We must take action (link to planning articles on SV). We must work to alleviate the hardships we, our families and our communities face.

        Ask yourself the following questions if you are worried about the state of the world: are you part of the peace movement? Is your Masjid part of the peace movement? Are you part of an interfaith group with an agenda of peace and justice? Are you working with a group fighting discrimination? If your answer is no, it is time that you sat down to plan your share of time and money in finding solutions to the problems you face.

        “Verily Allah does not change men’s condition unless they change their inner selves” (Quran 13: 11).

        Turn each worry into a Du`a and each Du`a into an action plan. That will show your commitment to your request and will focus your energy in the right direction.

      • Avatar

        HadithCheck

        January 26, 2011 at 7:33 PM

        While I appreciate your message, I think this is a case of semantics. When we say “rest”, we mean what we cannot do anything about. Tie your camel and then leave it up to Allah. (Maybe you can paste the exact wording of that hadith here). It doesn’t mean that tying the camel is without Allah’s help or is part of Allah’s will. It just distinguishes from what man can control versus what he can’t, from what is apparent. Even while man’s control is within Allah’s control.

        I agree that this seems like semantics, but semantics are important in some cases such as when a man told the Prophet peace be upon him “Whatever Allah wills and you will.” The Prophet peace be upon him objected to that statement and said: “Have you made me a rival to Allah?! Say (instead): ‘Whatever Allah Alone wills.’ ” and in another narration which is also authentic, the Prophet peace be upon him instructed the companions to say “Whatever Allah wills and then you will.”

        So in some cases, how we word our statement matters, even though what we might mean by it is the same but we should avoid using such a statement.

        As for the hadith about the camel, the Prophet peace be upon him told the man “Tie it and put your trust in Allah.”

        Meaning tying the camel does not negate having trust in Allah, but rather it is part of it.

        As for what American and integration means, those are debates in itself… but I think the apparent meaning is clear. There are general areas that most can agree with– being a good, productive citizen.

        If we use that definition of being a good and productive citizen, then I think that most Muslims in this country are already 100% American. But in reality we have to not only look at our own perception/definition of what it means to be an “American” but we also have to see what the majority of other Americans think that an American is. After all, integration won’t happen unless both sides involved participate, which means the integrated (Muslims) and the integrators (the rest of the Americans). So in reality we have to look at their definition of what is an “American” and what they perceive it to be, and then we have to decide whether a person can be 100% Muslim (as he sees it) and 100% American (as the rest of the Americans see it), not whether one can be 100% Muslim (as he sees it) and 100% American (as he sees it).

  17. Avatar

    Le Mystique

    January 26, 2011 at 12:29 AM

    Great article mashAllah! Is it ok if I share it on my blog?

  18. Avatar

    East Coast Muslimah

    January 26, 2011 at 5:01 AM

    Assalaamu Aleikum. Good article, so let me jump right in.

    IMO, there are quite a number of things things at play WRT the antipathy & mistrust many Americans feel towards Islam/Muslims.

    Someone said up-thread that throughout American history all minority groups have been vilified at one point or another, but were eventually accepted. This is a historical fact (see America’s True History of Religious Tolerance for more info) . There is also the “us vs. them” polarization that dates back to the days of the Crusades. Both of these things were related, at least in part, to the politics and/or economics of the time. Please keep that in mind as I proceed.

    Fast forward to the present. We know that the countries that have traditionally been regarded as part of the “Muslim world” are of critical strategic importance to the United States both politically and economically. There is a lot at stake in terms of power, influence, and money, which automatically makes Islam a political football.

    Acts of terrorism, and especially the horrific events of 9/11, have been the gift that keeps on giving for the right-wing. Add to this the fact that there is a growing resurgence of populist far-right movements happening all across Europe, with some of those groups making overtures to their counterparts in North America. These people are seeking a sort of trans-Atlantic alliance, with the purpose of ejecting Islam & Muslims from the West. The groups in question aren’t averse to cozying up with racist organizations to achieve their goals, so presumably other minorities would find themselves next on the list. The Jewish people I know are very much aware of and nervous about this. For a good overview see Islamophobia Rapidly Spreads Through Europe, then google some of the names you encounter.

    Anyway, back to the U.S. The political far-right has an agenda:

    1.) Return to power and reap the (financial) rewards it brings.

    2.) Maintain—or rather turn the U.S. back into—a “Christian nation” (something it never was, and which our founding fathers never intended it to be, as far as I can discern). Naturally, Christian = WASP.

    There are demagogues (Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, et al.) pandering to a fearful, angry, older, (primarily) white audience who feel they are being dispossessed, as well as Christian dominionists/reconstructionists who would like to see America become a Biblical theocracy. These political opportunists will cynically use & abuse anyone to attain their goals. It’stoo complex of a subject to get into here, but if you want more background info I would suggest reading up on Rousas J. Rushdoony and getting a copy of Republican Gomorrah.

    Oh, and just for the record, Mr. OMG-Creeping-Shariah Gingrich was singing quite a different tune about Islam back in 2007 when he praised “the greatest of the Caliphates” as having been modern & cosmopolitan and even said, “they were actually better for Christians and Jews than a number of Christian places. They had very enlightened policies.” Yet these days he teams up with the likes of anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller (link to SPLC article on Geller, not to her site), who has pals on the European far-right.

    In addition to the political demagogues, there are at least three other issues to consider:

    1.) Last year’s Citizens United v. FEC decision by the SCOTUS that allows unlimited corporate funding of political broadcasts. This means that large corporations will be able to spend huge amounts of money to hire messaging & communications specialists (marketers, analysts, psychologists, behaviorists, graphic design firms, etc.), which will make them a driving force in shaping public perception in the upcoming 2012 elections. Anyone who trusts them to have anything besides their own financial interests at heart is a fool; if demonizing Muslims becomes profitable, I have no doubt they will do it.

    2.) The slow demise of our Fourth Estate, which is slowly being replaced by corporate media. The news is less & less about about seeking truth or impartial investigative reporting, and more & more about sensationalism and the partisan opinions that drive up ratings and increase ad revenues. Balanced news has become a rare thing.

    3.) In addition to having influence in the mainstream media, the far-right has an enormous network of non-profit organizations that fund their think tanks, institutes, bloggers, etc. Their bloggers are especially good at poisoning Google results with disinformation and echoing each other’s talking points (when repeated often enough, lies tend to be perceived as truth). Even worse, unlike the more obvious anti-Islam sites, some sites have a veneer of professionalism or intellectualism that can lend them undeserved credibility if one doesn’t pay close attention to the details and/or doesn’t know enough about Islam to detect distortions.

    What is the solution? IMO, we Muslims need to be more organized & proactive.

    We have some Islamic activist organizations advocating for us, but not nearly enough to counteract the vast resources of the far-right. I have a project in the works, but that won’t be ready for some time and it’s only a drop in the bucket. We need more droplets. We need to make ourselves known in a good way and make our voices heard & accepted as genuinely American.

    Certainly, as has been mentioned, American Muslims can start interacting more with their non-Muslim compatriots, but it’s also very important to be politically informed and to stay informed. Look for reliable sources, both online and off, bearing in mind as you read that no human being is 100% objective.

    Participate in non-Islamic forums or blogs where people can get to know you and see that you’re not so different from them. When you participate be polite, be flexible, speak to people according to their understanding, don’t get preachy or be an apologist, don’t be overly sensitive as sometimes people offend due to ignorance not malice, etc. Interacting by being a good example is a kind of da’wah. We know this because that’s what our beloved Prophet (saws) did.

    Last but not least, get out there and participate in the political process: Vote. When you hear something you dislike in the media, write a letter or send an email. Submit letters to the editor in your local newspaper. Know who your local congressman and senators are and pick up the phone to let them know what you think, sign up for their newsletters. Start a blog (and stick with it). Open a Twitter account and tweet your opinions (and follow others for news). Set up daily Google alerts for important topics. Aside from the cost of a postage stamp & monthly internet fees (which you already pay for if you’re reading this), all these things are free and readily available—all they require is some time & effort on your part.

    Doing the above things will help you keep a finger on the pulse of the general public. Believe me when I say I personally know how easy (and more comfortable) it is to restrict oneself to dealing mostly with other Muslims, but that’s not going to improve our situation as it can put us dangerously out of touch with mainstream American culture, memes, and political moods. IOW, go outside your comfort zone, if you’re able to. Do it for yourself, for your Muslim brothers & sisters, but most of all do it with the intention that your children won’t have to face what you had to. This is striving for the good, is it not? if so, then you will also be pleasing Allah (swt) with your efforts, IMO.

    There is no more Soviet threat and the far-right needs a boogeyman. We are it.

    The right-wing machine is gearing up for 2012, and they’re going to kick off the new cycle with Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY) upcoming hearings (scheduled for next month) on the “radicalization” of young Muslims. Rep. King has made numerous negative assertions about Muslims, but I have yet to hear him back them up with specific names, places, or facts. Google his comments on Islam & Muslims as well as his past support for the IRA (one example here).

    I will leave now with a few links that may be of interest to those who want to know more. I’m including the political leanings of each author or organization simply because it’s good practice to take such things into account:

    The Psychology of Manipulation in Political Ads – Be sure to follow the link to the audio interview in section “D” of the bulleted list in the article—it’s about how political ads are designed to prevent people’s ability to think critically by triggering physiological reactions. There is a wealth of other fascinating & useful articles on the site, such as Why Are Conservatives Targeting Muslims? And Why Now? and Where Do Anti-Government Ideas Come From? so be sure look around. (Progressive)


    The Great Islamophobic Crusade
    – Lots of background info here. The article was written by Max Blumenthal, the same person who authored Republican Gomorrah, the book I mentioned towards the beginning of my comments. (Liberal)


    Racist reassurances play role in GOP strategy
    – Rachel Maddow of MSNBC shows example after example of bigoted, racist clips & ads, including demonization of Muslims. It is a painful eye-opener to see all the vitriol strung together like that, but it’s necessary to realize just how much of it there really is. (Liberal)

    How the Red Cross didn’t steal Christmas – A prime example of a manufactured controversy that reared its head again this past Christmas. Naturally, Muslims are to blame (Google “red cross ban on christmas” without the quotes to see for yourself). (Non-profit, apolitical)

    P.S. Please forgive any typos. It’s almost 6:00 am here and I’ve been up all night.

    • Avatar

      East Coast Muslimah

      January 26, 2011 at 5:45 AM

      Yikes, I didn’t realize my comment was as long as the original article!

      Sorry about that—I won’t blame you guys if I get some TL;DR responses.

      I’ll leave you alone now.

    • Amad

      Amad

      January 26, 2011 at 8:07 AM

      Very nice. Appreciate all the information.

      • Avatar

        East Coast Muslimah

        January 26, 2011 at 2:56 PM

        Thanks, I’m glad you liked it.

        My main reason for posting so much info was to make it clear that what we’re up against isn’t just simple bigotry, racism, or tribal fear of “the other”, but rather a well-oiled political machine.

        The internet is both a blessing and a curse in our case. Religious & ethnic minorities in the past didn’t have to contend with haters & demagogues having access to a platform from which they could so rapidly & effectively disseminate smears and promote fear & suspicion.

        I believe we can overcome this disadvantage, insha’allah, but we have to be smart about it and mind our words & manners wherever we go, even when posting anonymously on the web. It’s easy to forget that for every one person commenting, there may be 100 or 1000 lurkers reading and silently forming opinions.

    • Avatar

      Jeremiah

      January 26, 2011 at 11:02 AM

      Jazakillah khair. Very beneficial post. The Smithsonian article was a very good read. Newt Gingrich’s comments would be funny if the consequences of his hypocrisy were not so serious.

      • Avatar

        East Coast Muslimah

        January 26, 2011 at 3:05 PM

        The Smithsonian article was indeed a good one. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

        Gingrich is the worst sort of hypocrite and an ethically destitute opportunist. And he wants to run for president. Ugh.

    • Avatar

      abu Abdullah

      January 26, 2011 at 11:05 AM

      REPOST ing this comment.
      —–wow, mash Allah. That was some very generous dose on proactive ness, it was well written with laconic and well informed citations.

      Loonwatch/PulseMedia are some places I look upto and asked if I could help them out.. As far as local muslims goes their hearts first need to be won by good manners. I saw our board of masjid fighting in court like children do for some petty leadership issues. I wonder how many good deeds they ended up giving each other.

      I do have google alerts setup for words like Islam and Muslim already. If you have any more suggestions?

      I am here on a work visa, so I am not allowed to vote or may be call to senator/congressman but I try do my part thanking local news papers if they (albeit rarely) cover muslim

      For a panel discussion on role of media in today’s world, in midwest particularly, what resource would you suggest to represent a muslim’s perspective?

      may Allaah increase you in good. Ameen.

      • Avatar

        East Coast Muslimah

        January 26, 2011 at 4:19 PM

        Thanks for your response.

        My participation in other forums has helped sharpen my critical thinking skills, as well as taught me not to make any claims unless I can back them up with reliable sources.

        I know what you mean about local masjid boards getting very contentious as I’ve seen it happen numerous times myself. IMO, the community really needs to band together in those cases and insist (as strongly as necessary) that the board members behave like adults for the good of the entire community. If that means the community has to threaten to withhold donations until the board members can be civil & cooperate, then so be it. I’m not joking—how many Jum’ahs of missed donations do you think it would take to effect change? Not many, I’m sure. These days I simply refuse to waste time dealing with people who just want to nitpick & bicker. Life is too short for nonsense.

        As for Google alerts, I would try to make them a bit more specific so you don’t end up with results that are too numerous or too general. I would focus on a few key people or issues that you’re interested in keeping track of. For example, a couple of mine:

        marietta mosque fire
        “Jennifer Leigh Jennings”
        “newt gingrich” + islam | muslim
        rep. | representative | congressman + “pete king” | “peter king”
        rep. | representative | congressman + “pete king” | “peter king” + muslim | islam

        I would also try different combinations of search terms. It also helps to familiarize yourself with how Google interprets them. There are plenty of basic tips here and here. If you want to get really deep into it how you can find all kinds of things, then try search for “google-fu” and start reading.

        For a panel discussion on role of media in today’s world, in midwest particularly, what resource would you suggest to represent a muslim’s perspective?

        I’m not 100% sure I understand your question. I live on the East Coast, so I don’t have any idea what might be most relevant to Muslims in the mid-west. You can always use Google alerts to notify you of local things & people by searching specific news sites for your keywords. For example in NYC, I might use:

        site:www.nbcnewyork.com islam | muslim | mosque
        site:www.thirteen.org islam | muslim | mosque
        site:www.nytimes.com islam | muslim | mosque
        site:www.nydailynews.com islam | muslim | mosque

        And so on.

        I know it’s often difficult to find positive stories about Muslims in the news, but you can always write letters to your local stations & newspapers telling them you’d like to see more stories about Islam & Muslims. Better yet, notify them when something good is going to happen or invite them to a celebration and ask if they’ll cover it. Be creative.

        Kudos to you for actively participating even though you’re not able to vote. Keep up the good work!

        Barak Allah Fik

    • Avatar

      Tom B.

      July 10, 2011 at 6:16 PM

      Dawah.

  19. Avatar

    Abu Ayyoob

    February 2, 2011 at 10:24 AM

    As Salaamu Alaykum.
    Quite a well written article mashallah. I agree with many points though I also agree with the comment that stated that we still need to maintain a level of “otherness” to preserve our own religion.

    Essentially, we need to maintain our level of “otherness” and yet it make it socially unacceptable to speak out against Islam, much like the Jews have managed to do about Israel or the Homosexuals have managed for their sexual orientation.

    Now, I would like to talk about something that wasn’t really addressed in your post. Cognitive dissonance in muslim communities. We notice ourselves how people start to disown someone and question someone’s beliefs if they commit sins, even though the sins themselves do not take the people out of Islam. And surprisingly some of them do that even for those who actually engage in a lot of ibaadah(such as regularly going to the mosque, praying supererogatory prayers, fasting voluntary fasts, seeking Islamic knowledge) not by questioning their beliefs, but wondering whether he has been “recruited” by extremists etc.

    How do you suggest we combat this cognitive dissonance in our own communities?

  20. Avatar

    Amirzad

    February 4, 2011 at 6:58 AM

    Dear Micheal,
    Thank you for stopping by here and the comment. I am no MM representative but would like to share two cents about Arabs or Muslims enjoying the tragedy 9/11? Listen, no one in this world like injustice, towards anyone. its human nature. Its part of the propoganda they showed over and over again and again that Muslims did it and they celebrated it. It were clips when Saddam Hussain used to Missile Israel ( or said to have done that) and Palestinian celebrated those events. I am not asking you to agree with me, but you could try to understand where this sentiment is coming from. No wonder 9/11 is a great tragedy people of this country faced, we mourned with you. Do you know how many Muslims died on that day? Do you know how many christians died on 9/11 ? Do you know how many ‘those who for literally nothing cry antisemitism’ died on that day? It does not matter, after all it were human and innocents and they were killed. Govt report was quick to blame muslims but why on earth you and I standing today should make those alleged 19 perpetrators change our world today? why?
    Muslims have their own problems to deal with and it compounds when the united states mind their business, for no reason ( or for personal interest only). You and I learn here not to mind other people’s business, thats how people here work, unlike the government.

    I am a Muslim ( not in their term moderate or hardcore or anything) just Muslim, Alhamdulillah and I condemn 9/11. And I also condemn United State’s actions that followed and those countries IRQ and AFG faced hundreds of 9/11 and still counting. Now did you hear that? Peace

  21. Avatar

    Umm Noor

    March 20, 2012 at 8:28 AM

    1. Thanks for the article. It was a good read.
    2. Not sure why the connection is seldom made between Islamophobia and the fact that we’ve been at war in muslim majority countries for the last 10 years.
    3. To improve our image in the media, we need to hire the best PR teams.

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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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#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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