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Egypt is Not Special

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Over the past two and a half years, Egyptians have become fairly desensitized to violence on the streets of their capital. Prior to 2011, virtually any crime beyond petty theft – let alone violent flare ups in public squares or massive processions against the authorities du jour – grabbed the attention of the Egyptian populace; it was simply outside the norm. Today, lawlessness is rampant, a day without a “million man” protest is unusual, and “molotov” and “birdshot” are as ever present in the Egyptian lexicon as “fuul” and “ta3miyya.”

Yet, even given this more jaded context, the events of the past few days were utterly shocking.

Rightful Indignation

The latest official figures, aggregated from Ministry of Health and newspaper sources, indicate nearly 1,300 people killed from August 14 – August 16 — the vast majority of whom were peaceful protesters in Cairo, Alexandria and other governorates.

1,300 people. Dead.

To put that in context, the death toll throughout the vaunted – and violent – eighteen days of the January 25 uprising didn’t pass 850. The numbers are, as one can imagine, historic. As The Atlantic notes, August 14, 2013 was “one of the deadliest single-day instances of police-on-protester violence since Tiananmen Square.”

There are, naturally, many who are rightly outraged by the crackdowns on anti-military protesters, particularly with regard to the Raba’a mosque sit-in. Governments around the globe condemned the excessive use of force, a sentiment echoed by human rights organizations and the United Nations.

This – let’s just call it what it is – massacre has also triggered a crisis of conscience among at least two high profile figures that have adamantly supported the army’s actions since the July 3 coup. On Wednesday, Mohamed ElBaradei resigned as interim vice president, saying that he “cannot bear responsibility for one drop of blood,” while word came on Friday that National Salvation Front spokesman, Khaled Dawoud, resigned in response to his organization’s failure to condemn the army’s violence. Dawoud later clarified that the turning point for him came when he saw the scores of dead bodies at the Al Iman mosque, where victims of the Raba’a crackdown were sent when fires engulfed the makeshift hospitals and morgues.

One wonders, however, what exactly ElBaradei and Dawoud expected when they backed the military overthrow of a democratically elected president.

Blind Jingoism

While there are many individuals, organizations and countries that have taken a principled stand against the security forces’ brazen disregard for innocent lives, these condemnations are largely – and sadly – falling on deaf ears in Egypt.

This is especially the case with the junta led government. Far from realizing the devastation their actions have wrought, officials have done away with any pretense of humanity and given security forces the green light to use live ammunition at will. This declaration has, of course, been roundly cheered throughout Egyptian media (which has served as a state mouthpiece since the coup) to the extent that each channel now displays banners (alternatively in English and Arabic) declaring variations of “Egypt Fights Terrorism.”

Needless to say, the constant drumbeat of this Orwellian message has permeated deep into Egyptian society. It’s likely that most Egyptians fully support the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, their supporters, and anyone else who is against the current military-led regime. In fact, a sizable percentage of the population seems to want security forces to take an even harsher stance against the “terrorists.” As disheartening as this circumstance is, the fact that generally respectable academics are whitewashing the military’s actions while regional powers outright support the brutal assault on protesters makes it likely that more egregious crimes against humanity are yet to come.

One Foot Over the Brink

A sort of “exceptionalism” has taken hold of Egyptians recently. It’s led them to believe that they can, for example, escape the laws of political science when it comes to the dismal repercussions of military coups. This “too big to fail” mentality has also led Egyptians to believe they are immune from the tumult that has engulfed other countries in the region.

Indeed, not long ago, if you mentioned “Egypt” and “civil war” in the same breath, you were assumed an alarmist with a penchant for sensationalism. Today, human rights experts proclaim that Egypt looks “depressingly like Iraq” while one of the premiere bloggers in Cairo compares the Egyptian army’s strategy towards the Brotherhood to Bashar Al-Assad’s approach to protesters early on in the Syria conflict.

So, to put it bluntly: Egypt is not special.

The sooner that all parties realize that the country doesn’t have some magical immunity from catastrophe, the sooner we can perhaps pull back from a descent that could cripple the state and the region for a generation or more.

Until then, expect nothing but sloganeering and higher body counts.

Youssef is from Brooklyn, New York by way of Alexandria, Egypt. Currently, he is a doctoral student at the University of Southern California studying Political Science and International Relations. A student of Islam, history, and politics, his recent extended stay in Cairo placed him squarely at the nexus of these disciplines. Follow him on Twitter (@TheAlexandrian) as he tries to make sense of all that's happening in Tahrir and beyond.

49 Comments

49 Comments

  1. Avatar

    yaseen

    August 17, 2013 at 10:03 PM

    this is truly sad to see. it hurts to see so many bodies lined up and casually reported on the news in a tone and manner that is as if to say “see, look at those crazy Moozlums, they’ll eat each other”. I intend to become more versed on the inner-workings of each and every country that claims to be a Muslim country, because I am tired of hearing about how “Muslim countries are crazy” and how “things like that always happen in that part of the world” I am waiting for the day that a predominantly Muslim country adopts, properly practices, and properly implements Islam without omitting some key aspects while maintaining the aspects that they find favorable. I do not feel that this will happen until that country is not in a more wealthy nation’s pocket.

    Being a Muslim in the military I hear the worst stories, comments, and discrimination about Muslims and Islam in general from the most ignorant of people. I know that on a micro level the best way to combat their ignorance is to not only be the best Muslim I could be but to do so unapologetically and not be sheepish about being a Muslim. On a macro level, I know it is as Allah states in the Quran that our condition will not change until we change that which is in ourselves.

    Lastly, as a revert, I must say that it makes you an idealist in that you learn about the deen and you believe that anyone who has this kind of belief system and way of life known as al-islam, it would be impossible to be morally bankrupt, depraved, and spiritually destitute. So when I see what goes on in the world I have a lot of question and I do not understand how people turn away from something that put life in me and saved me from myself. I am far from an ideal Muslim but I can say that, I was dead inside. The miracle that we as Muslims have to understand is that, prophets (peace be upon them all) have all been attributed miracles by the permission of Allah, but the distinct miracle that Allah allowed Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) to perform was to give life to the spiritually dead. To change the hearts by speaking God’s words are something that no one else did. If we as Muslims remember that, there would not be chaos in these countries.

    • Avatar

      Youssef Chouhoud

      August 17, 2013 at 11:06 PM

      Salam Yaseen,

      Thanks for the comment. You have quite a unique perspective, given your circumstance. Do consider putting your tale to print and allowing us to publish it. I’m sure you have a lot of insights our readers would be interested in hearing.

      • Avatar

        yaseen

        August 19, 2013 at 2:06 PM

        Salaam Youssef,
        May the peace and blessings of the Ruler of All the Worlds be upon you, your family, colleagues at this website, visitors of this website, and this entire ummah. I have to say that I am flattered you even took the time to respond to me and that you would want to hear more from me in regards to the path Allah placed me on that I pray will ultimately lead to Him and His favor. Unfortunately, I do not believe that I have anything too interesting to say that would garner much attention from your readers. Neither do I have any credentials outside of my sincerity that validate my thoughts, words, or opinion. Nevertheless, for the sake of sharing I can tell you a little about myself if you feel it would be of benefit.

        Salaams

    • Avatar

      Saeed Khan

      August 19, 2013 at 3:55 AM

      “I am waiting for the day that a predominantly Muslim country adopts, properly practices, and properly implements Islam without omitting some key aspects while maintaining the aspects that they find favorable. I do not feel that this will happen until that country is not in a more wealthy nation’s pocket.”

      I believe you have hit the proverbial nail on the head. It is natural for Muslims to want to live under the rule of Islam but over the decades in many minds this idea has become vague. What does it mean to live under Islam? How do we achieve this? Is it by adopting democracy and through the democratic process enabling gradual change? Does it mean fighting the rulers and demolishing their system and replacing it with the Islamic system? Or as Youssef Chouhoud says, “I support the rule of law and the enshrining of democratic institutions.” What does this mean? Which democratic institutions? But wait doesn’t democracy contradict Islam? Isn’t democracy the rule of man and Islam the rule of Allah? Where will sovereignty lie?

      There are so many questions and realities that need to be properly defined and understood before we can proceed in any given direction. However, in all this there is one matter which is absolutely clear and upon which there can be no compromise. The source of all solutions must be the Quran and Sunnah. Whoever proposes a solution must first be qualified to give one (ie, a scholar of Islam) and secondly must provide the detailed evidences for their ijtihad.

      This is not a simple problem that we face and to jump on to a bandwagon without fully understanding is a catastrophe just waiting to happen. May Allah (SWT) guide our Ullema so that they can guide the Ummah of Rasulallah (SAW) to victory in this life and success in the Hereafter.

      • Avatar

        yaseen

        August 19, 2013 at 3:06 PM

        Salaam Saeed,

        May Allah’s peace and blessings reach you, your family, and this entire ummah. You asked the interesting question of just how you create and implement an legitimate Islamic government. The first thing that must happen is that the individuals involved in this process must have the sincere intentions to form an Islamic government not for their own gain but because they feel it is the right thing to do.

        Because of the nature of strategic geo-politics, the country must be financially stable and dependent because if they are not they are to bend to even whim that the funding government suggest. So if you are asking which country can do this, it must be a wealthy Islamic country, if your are asking how it can be achieved, I would say that there must a congress that consist of knowledgeable scholars who will check and assess ever decision that is to be made by the ruler. Each assessment must be checked solely by the Quran and Sunnah with no deviations at all. Deviations lead to extremes. An example of this is the silly rule in Saudi which states that women cannot wear seatbelts because it reveals the contour of their anatomy–so women must be in danger while men don’t have to?? COuple this with the fact that Saudi has an extremely high rate of car accidents and you can tag this as a disregard for the safety of our women and an extreme. A good book on the disadvantages of women in Saudi that was written by a female doctor who is from the US but lived in Saudi is titled “In the land of the Invisible Women”

        In closing, this would be beautiful to see for many reasons but the one that stands out to me would be to see an Islamic government enact the paying of zakat which would not only result in ZERO POVERTY but a surplus as well. This surplus could be used to improve infrastructure, schools, and scientific advancements that focus on improving the healing capacity of medicine and not the destructive capacity of weapons. A side note of this is that the individual is who was ultimately responsible for creating the atomic bomb, Oppenheimer, repeated his regret for his involvement until his death because of man’s vioent tendencies.

        • Avatar

          Tanveer Khan

          August 20, 2013 at 3:51 PM

          “An example of this is the silly rule in Saudi which states that women cannot wear seatbelts because it reveals the contour of their anatomy”

          I’ve lost my eyes…..

  2. Avatar

    Jon Solis

    August 17, 2013 at 10:34 PM

    Dear Youssef,
    A balanced article would comment on the over 49 Coptic churches that have been burned down and desecrated by these peaceful Islamists over the last 4 days. They also brought out some nuns for public humiliation. Is this consistent with the teachings of the Prophet? I know the Muslim Brotherhood has “condemned” this behavior, but frankly, I do not believe a word of it.

    • Avatar

      Hassen

      August 18, 2013 at 4:33 AM

      of course there’s no justification for damaging the churches and it’s something to be condemned, but we have to realize that Egypt has entered into an unprecedented level of chaos (even greater than the Jan 25th revolution) and there are going to be crazy people who just take things into their own hands and aim their anger at anyone who is supporting the other side.

      *And I’m honestly not 100% convinced by the official story of who’s behind these attacks considering that it was revealed that Mubarak’s government was behind the church explosion in Alexandria right before the Jan 25th revolution started… and Allah knows best.

    • Avatar

      Umm Naadirah

      August 18, 2013 at 5:09 AM

      It’s rather strange that over 49 churches (both Coptic and Catholic) have been burned down and yet only 7 Christians have been killed over the past few months in Egypt (bbc.com), which is extremely small given that over 1000 Egyptians (mostly Muslim) have been killed since the coup.

      It’s also strange that the mosques which have been burned down and vandalised have received very little attention in the MainStream Media.

      I’m convinced that it’s not the MB who are burning down these churches but rather it is either the military or foreign Islamists, or a combination of the two. The reason I am convinced is because the military has done VERY VERY LITTLE to try to stop, arrest, or shoot the people burning churches (and mosques).

    • Avatar

      Abu Asiyah

      August 18, 2013 at 1:35 PM

      I know a few people in the brotherhood in Egypt with whom I interacted during their studies in the US and who are very trustworthy. They have said (and posted pictures) of these things being perpetrated by thugs, not the brotherhood.

      The media in Egypt is going crazy with accusations of the brotherhood, most of them completely unfounded and some of them absolutely crazy (I mean people were saying Morsi was planning to rent out the pyramids to another country…), so taking their word for who did these things is problematic.

      Furthermore, are you really saying that these 1300 people (and the numbers are almost surely higher, there have been many reports of government officials putting down ‘suicide’ or ‘accident’ as cause of death for those shot) deserve to die because a few churches were burnt down? Do you want to say that to my wife’s friend who just lost her husband who was shot by a sniper while PEACEFULLY protesting the government crackdown?

      If the brotherhood really did burn down churches, I condemn it. But until you show proof for it, let’s not justify the massacre by “oh, they’re a bunch of extremists anyway”.

  3. Avatar

    Shurufa

    August 17, 2013 at 11:14 PM

    Islam is perfect, teachings of our prophet (May peace be upon him) is flawless. But all Muslims are not. Please don’t base your views of Islam on the behavior of some of our deviated brothers and sisters..

  4. Avatar

    Youssef Chouhoud

    August 17, 2013 at 11:18 PM

    Dear Jon,

    Unfortunately time and space restrictions forced my hand, so I couldn’t touch on all the travesties of the past few days – given they were so many.

    But, for the record, the burning of houses of worship across Egypt was utterly disgraceful. Any individuals involved should be apprehended and subject to punishment under the law.

    Here’s the thing, Jon – and I say this speaking only for myself. I don’t “support” the Muslim Brotherhood. I support the rule of law and the enshrining of democratic institutions. The army, as they have shown time and again, have no interest in furthering those ends and so I am avowedly against their rule and against those who brought them into power.

    This doesn’t mean I brush aside any of the (numerous) mistakes the MB have made – from idiotic to grievous. Although, that being said, I’m not convinced that there is anywhere near enough evidence to place responsibility for all the church burnings on the MB and their supporters.

  5. Avatar

    Jon Solis

    August 17, 2013 at 11:35 PM

    Youssef – If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then most likely it’s a duck! Who do you think is burning all these churches? Santa Claus? Bradley Cooper of the Philadelphia Eagles issues a racist diatribe and blames it on alcohol. Unfortunately, I believe that all alcohol does is unmask what was really in his heart. Similarly, the actions of those upset at the army’s overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood controlled government has unmasked what is in the “heart” of “some” Muslims. Unfortunately I believe that this widespread occurrence within Egypt should lead to a profound public reexamination of tolerance of Islam towards minorities living within an Islamic country (I don’t think it will, but it should.).

    • Avatar

      Youssef Chouhoud

      August 17, 2013 at 11:51 PM

      Jon, if you think anything is conclusive in Egypt these days, or that there aren’t elements willing to go to ANY length to bring about the ends that would suit them, then you haven’t been paying attention. Again, that’s not absolving anyone who actually did commit these crimes, but let’s just hold off judgement on a series of events that fits oh so neatly into the ruling junta’s narrative until all the evidence is in.

      On the issue of religious minorities, Egypt has done a piss poor job of safeguarding them and granting them their due rights in the past and little has change. We have to do better.

      • Avatar

        halwah

        August 18, 2013 at 4:54 AM

        OMG Jon for god’s sake.. Please explain to me…what is the point of your comment? it’s a Muslim majority country.. and they can’t even protect their own mosques from being burnt to the grown or even protect their own Muslim people… what makes you think they care about churches or synagogues. If that’s how they treat people who are supposedly of their own religion.. what makes you think these very same people would treat others better? Egypt is in utter chaos. It is very much like a riot going on and it’s clear all hell will break lose, buildings will be burnt, public property destroyed, private property stolen, defaced.. and your like one of the victims.. pointlessly blaming me or yousef just because we happened to be talking about it why did we break and destroy your things. Have some sense of perspective. I know your upset but look you’re not the only one.. there are people who actually lost their loved ones to this madness.. and still trying to make sense out of it.. and you are asking as if we know what happened? Hello if we knew what is happening, what is the solution, we would have fixed it.. pronto.. but do you think we got a grip of the problem? NO. So have some sense..We’re upset too and at a lost. No one cares for any single one matter right now. Your talking about a country that is under a military coup right now, that has no sense of rule of law, that overthrew their first democratically elected government, that before Tahrir Square, has previously spent years after years trying to deIslamize Egypt. Did you forget all of that conveniently when your accusing Islam is at fault for this? Good try. Anyway, I think it is quite safe to say collectively people who have sense just want this madness and senseless killing to end. Those who want to try to force their agenda and have some political gains out of this chaos will surely make the way out of this difficult. But for sure, the death toll cannot rise, the destruction has to cease. And this anger has to stop. If you really care that much, don’t add fuel to the fire and be part of the solution.

  6. Avatar

    Moe

    August 18, 2013 at 12:31 AM

    Jon what about the fact that no Churches were blatantly left unprotected by the state which clearly anticipated such violence. Or the fact that army snipers were placed on Churches? There are sectarian elements in Egyptian society and have been since Nasser and this type of Tiennamen crackdown in which all are complicit breeds radicalization and fear. This is the idiocy of the situation, the MB for all its flaws was heralding a new era of thought in Islamist circles. Al Qaeda’s narrative the whole world hate Islam and would never let Islamists ever rule in any government was beginning to lose currency as the MB and other Islamist parties were slowly but surely abiding by the rules of the game and learning democratic politics which had been denied to them and others for decades. In the Muslim world ‘Democracy’ used to mean the veneer to dictatorship. It will be once again if this junta succeeds. The MB has despite the bloodshed sought the path of nonviolence. One cannot help but feel this junta is going out of its way to breed a insurgency as all fascists do to justify its clinging to power. The situation is out of the MB’s leadership’s hands as the days go by. They will not be able to do anything and all those Egyptians that tried democracy for the first time and saw votes of 5 elections thrown in the garbage will no longer believe democracy exists for them. With Libya a safe haven in the east and a military that only knows how to lose wars and kill protesters Al Qaida and other extremist groups will shove “I told you so” down everyone’s throats and quietly begin. And we will see a war in Egypt that will easily become like what we are seeing in Syria. Regardless the end result will be that democracy is a distant dream.

    • Avatar

      Moe

      August 18, 2013 at 12:33 AM

      I meant that the churches were left unprotected by the state. The state did not guard them in anyway.

  7. Amad

    Amad

    August 18, 2013 at 4:10 AM

    I have been glued to the news on Egypt since Morsi was deposed. Every time I thought it couldn’t get worse, it did. And now with the news that most MB supporters were expecting and saying from day one, that the state wants to disband MB. Of course, that will not be the end. The more you oppress a force, the more it becomes resilient. It would be much easier to defeat MB politically by winning hearts and minds based on economic and social policies (even resorting to propaganda as was the case for most of Morsi’s presidency) than to defeat it by force.

  8. Amad

    Amad

    August 18, 2013 at 4:21 AM

    More thoughts:
    While all of the violence thus far has been despicable to say the least, the images that I found most disturbing were from yesterday, with civilians (you can call them thugs but that’s a lot of thugs) kissing up to the military and being more Sissi than Sissi himself. Reminds me of Uncle Tom, where some slaves would get more angry at insults upon their masters than the masters themselves!

    How do average people get so numb and heartless to the killing of people with whom they share common ancestry, religion and race? I cannot think of any other factor bigger than the media. Once Sissi shut down outlets ranging from neutral to pro-MB, the only ones left were those that embodied the Uncle Tom spirit, those run and owned by Egypt’s elites who prospered under Mubarak and didn’t want anything but Mubarak back. There was an important article in Christian Science Monitor I believe that I can’t locate, which talks about this media affect on average Egyptians. Egyptian media has done what FOX couldn’t imagine doing in a hundred years. If we thought FOX was islamophobic, Egyptian media has taken this to another extreme.

    What is happening with the dehumanization of brothers specifically but more dangerously with anyone who looks Muslim++ (beard, niqab) will have wide and long-term consequences. We know what happened with Jews in Europe (the technique there was not just about Judaism as a religion but that Jews were “money-grubbers”, etc.). Now I am not saying that pro-coup folks are like Nazis. But rather there are themes that are common in terms of how to dehumanize the other.

    If Egyptians don’t start sealing this fracture, their society with a large percent of Muslims++ will rip apart before too long.

  9. Amad

    Amad

    August 18, 2013 at 4:32 AM

    Final thought for now:

    Many, like Jon, harp on the churches issue. Let me say it loud and clear– no building, whether a church or a mosque or a synagogue is worth more than one innocent civilian’s life. Even in Islamic tradition you find that a life is worth more than the Kaba, the holiest sanctuary for Muslims in the world.

    What is really so disgusting and despicable is Sissi’s governments’ attempt to use the churches issue to divert attention from its crimes against humanity. Can’t we use the simple logic that with the amount of state security resources that government has, it couldn’t provide protection to the churches? Rather the interim govt wanted this sort of reaction. Just like they wanted a reaction by the MB in response to their massacres. The latter is not a conspiracy theory but is now being channeled by many influential political commentators.

    Thus Egyptian Christians have become unwitting pawns in the military plan to destroy MB. And unfortunately the Copts made the strategic mistake of siding with any side. This is because they could not, should not have ignored the underlying current of “Christian vs. Muslims” and not allow that to be exploited. One could imagine the same if roles were reversed and it was Christian brotherhood which was removed from power and if the Muslims cheered and supported the removal. We cannot ignore underlying perceptions, even if Copts have as much right to support the military as non-copts. It is about staying above the fray to protect your own.

    Of course, this doesn’t excuse the act itself. Each person who had a hand in destroying one church, one Christian’s life or private property, be it MB supporters, government insiders, is a despicable low-life who should face the highest punishment allowed by law.

  10. Avatar

    RCHOUDH

    August 18, 2013 at 4:39 AM

    What I see going on in Egypt is similar to what I saw going on in Bangladesh earlier in the year and in Turkey to a lesser extent also, and that is a power struggle between the so-called Islamist and secularist elements of Muslim societies. And unfortunately I have to wonder whether any sort of dialogue existed between these two factions prior to all these struggles, or if the two groups (secularists and Islamists) just actively avoided each other for the most part during peacetime. As practicing Muslims, I believe it has to be our duty to reach out to those secularist elements so as to discuss with them completely what Islam is and what it entails and to give Da’wah to them towards better understanding what Islam is (a complete way of life that offers solutions to all issues affecting society). Before we go out to give dawah of course, we have to ourselves be knowledgeable about Islam first. And we should give da’wah using compassion and beautiful forms of persuasion. It’s all too easy to avoid, look down upon, and even curse out those who, despite being Muslim, don’t follow or know about the tenets of Islam properly. But we as practicing Muslims must never take the easy way out, otherwise it leads to chaos like what we see going on today in many Muslim countries (everyone fighting to gain power and not knowing how to wield that power effectively once they have it).

    • Avatar

      convert of 24 years

      August 18, 2013 at 10:49 PM

      The best form of Daw’ah is being a good person.It starts at home then at the Masjid. At our masjid events everyone sits with their own race, we do not even know each other
      Outside the Masjid most of us do not even interact with people of different faiths
      Do we know our neighbors?? Is all this chaos really surprising??

      • Avatar

        RCHOUDH

        August 19, 2013 at 11:21 AM

        You’re right it does start with each and every one of us first. Hopefully this has started to be done now.

  11. Avatar

    halwah

    August 18, 2013 at 4:57 AM

    I’d like to have a pro coup write an article here and justify this Islamically. It will also be interesting to read a Erdogan vs protestors and Sisi vs protestors comparison, because I’m sure some opportunists will do so.

  12. Avatar

    Jon Solis

    August 18, 2013 at 4:24 PM

    I would like to thank everyone for reading my posts and responding. It was certainly not my intent to hijack the thread of this article with my comment on the Coptic churches, but since I have the opportunity, let me clarify and respond to some of the comments made.
    1) I am NOT a supporter of the Egyptian military coup, and their actions are difficult to even remotely begin to justify. I have NEVER stated that the destruction of the Coptic churches was a justification of the actions of the military.
    2) Mr. Chouhoud: Your writing is clear and well thought out. My criticism is not on what you write but rather on what you choose not to write. Your responses to me acknowledging that some of the mistakes made by the MB are “idiotic to grievous” reveal you to be open-minded and show that you clearly understand the major issues involved. Why then would you not include these thoughts in your articles rather than only acknowledging them when questioned? A true journalist examines the entire truth no matter where it leads him. A commentator is clearly allowed to interject his opinions, but if he selectively only sees (or reports) one side he compromises his ability to influence those who do not originally share his opinions. Your article is like preaching to the choir. If you wish to truly influence people who do not share your opinion you must be able to report on all sides of an issue in order to get to the “truth.” (whatever that is!)
    3) There are many here who assume that since Egypt is completely falling apart, the destruction of the many Coptic churches is a minor issue that is being given too much attention. I respectively disagree. The perception in the West is this is “proof” of Muslim intolerance and that any sympathy that was being generated for the Egyptian populace is not deserved. Several people responded that the action of these people are just “crazies” or a small amount of people and should not be reflective of Islam in general. First, it really does seem that this is being perpetrated by a lot of people, not just a few. Second, since the Coptics apparently supported the coup, it is really quite Machiavellian/ Oliver Stone conspirist to attempt to convince me that the military is behind this. I will grant you that these incidents may have occurred without the approval or support of the MB, but I (and almost everyone else not on this website) will believe these acts of violence were committed by those who support the MB. If you wish to bury your head in the sand like an ostrich and pretend this isn’t so, well so be it.
    4) If Egyptians wish to show that the right of a non-Muslim to live and worship safely in a Muslim country is a fundamental tenant of Islam, then the actions of the last few days must be countered by more than simply meaningless words of regret and condemnation. There must be action. One writer asked me to be suggest an action so here it is: Muslims in Egypt should offer to rebuild these churches and sincerely offer to protect them. Just a thought.

    • Avatar

      Youssef Chouhoud

      August 18, 2013 at 7:26 PM

      Jon, though I may not always share your views, I do always welcome them. I will be more mindful to interject more balance in my pieces, although I do ask that you grant a little more benefit of the doubt as writers are always forced to tackle one angle or two at most to allow their work to be of an optimal length for online reading.

      On the issue of minorities, we’re largely in agreement that relations need to improve, although I would caution not to think that animosity is the norm. You mentioned protected Christian houses of worship. Well, as it turns out, that’s just what happened in the town of Sohag this past week: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/danpeterson/2013/08/muslims-protecting-christians-in-egypt-during-mass.html Now, I wish there were more scenes like this, but rest assured that there is a large contingent in Egypt that wishes there to be peace and equal right of worship for all.

      -YC

      • Avatar

        Jon Solis

        August 18, 2013 at 7:34 PM

        Thank you for your comment. I appreciate your sentiments. I also checked out the link for the website you mentioned. It is a wonderful story. Unfortunately they were not there four days ago when the church in Sohag was burned down to the ground.

  13. Avatar

    ZAI

    August 18, 2013 at 5:14 PM

    I think Shaykh Hamza has turned out to have the most prescient and validated comments
    on these political upheavals. Simply getting rid of rulers is not enough. As he has said, the
    most basic, elemental and foundational problem in the Muslim world today is the lack of
    akhlaq. There is simply a lack of basic civility, decorum and a spirit of accommodation and compromise. There is utter dishonesty, cheating and lack of tolerance. All of these things
    make it impossible to have a civil democracy and basically ensure that only dictators can rule
    these countries with anything resembling a semblance of civility…which ofcourse comes
    with corruption, lack of basic freedoms, and this recent exposition of barbarity when they feel
    their rule is threatened.

    This whole situation was problematic from the start. We will never have peace in our
    homelands until we learn that we MUST compromise and reach accommodation to have it.
    This zero-sum mentality that affects everyone from Islamists to secularists is a bane
    on civil society. Until we give up this “winner takes all” force what we want down people’s throats
    all or nothing nonsense, forget peace. Everyone is at fault here…the Brotherhood, the secularists, the liberals, the media. Everyone. This is the natural result of not caring about the rule of law, but instead investing in the idea of winner takes all and might is right. It is sad to see Egypt go down the same road as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, et. al.

    Lastly, I’d want to ask opposition figures like Baradai, what the h*ck did you except to happen
    through a coup supported by the likes of Saudi Arabia? In what alternate universe did you
    think that would lead to a liberal democracy? Wasn’t it enough to warrant suspicion that the Saudis
    were calling the original 2012 revolution “un-Islamic”, but they gave this one
    full backing and 12 billion in aid suddenly materialized?

    • Avatar

      Gibran Mahmud

      August 20, 2013 at 7:24 PM

      Do you care more about a liberal democracy or the law of Allah aza wa jal?

  14. Avatar

    shahgul

    August 18, 2013 at 6:21 PM

    There is no justification for killing 1300 people whatsoever. No matter where you are coming from. This is more heinous a crime than burning all the mosques and churches in the world. So don’t compare.

  15. Avatar

    Zaheer

    August 19, 2013 at 3:41 AM

    Some good points here (referring specifically to ZAI but others too). Basic rules of disagreement are being disregarded with the same lack of care that Muslims show towards each other’s lives.

    I would argue, however, that the problem here, and the underlying problem of the entire Arab spring and related conflict, is the massive, major, fundamental split that has occurred in the Arab/Muslim world. You could almost say there is a 50-50 split between those who want a secular state, and those who want an Islamic state. Whether the secularists/liberals are being influenced by the West (probably), and the Islamists are being backed by terrorist/extremist forces (likely), the fact is that Egyptians (and Tunisians, and and and…) want their country to head in radically different directions, and this conflict is the inevitable result of this AND the ‘winner takes all’ mentality, as well as the basic disregard for the lives of fellow Muslims/countrymen/Arabs/etc.

    In the Levant region, there is the added molotov of sectarian Sunni-Shia conflict on top of this already combustible situation, so the violence has a longer history, is even more bloody, if possible, and one could argue there is even less hope of a resolution in the near-future due to the radical differences between Sunni and Shia (real or imagined).

    The thing is, with due respect to those of us who support this kind of idea, Western-style democracy is Islamically impracticable. To enact democracy as the West conceives of it is to say: “We will only practice the Islam the majority of people want”. Since doing “what the majority want” means essentially doing what everyone can agree on – a.k.a. the Lowest Common Denominator (it ain’t just a math term) – Islam essentially becomes a surface religion like the Christianity currently practiced in the West, an extension of people’s personality, like their clothes and cellphones, and not a way of life. Argue however you like, this is what Western-style democracy leads to, given the nature of people to only agree on the lowest types of behaviour when in crowds. The current moral, ethical, and cultural bankruptcy of the West is testament to this. And let’s not forget, we can all agree – we need to make money, so rampant industrialism and consumerism is another “side-effect” of this type of political system (actually it’s the entire reason the West follows it, but that’s another topic for another day).

    Instead, as we have known for 1400+ years, the Islamic mode of governance/leadership is As-Shura – mutual consultation. Of course, secularists have somehow used this as a justification for rampant no-limits democracy, and argue that the Qur’an itself orders us to imitate the West with their bankrupt political systems, na’uthibillah. There is a hadith which indicates that something bad is still bad even though the majority of people engage in it, and good is still good even though only one person (or no one!) follows it. And our measure for this is Qur’an wal Sunnah. However, the basic assumption of democracy is that what is right is what the majority thinks is right, regardless of reality – “1 million people can’t all be wrong, right?”.

    Until the Muslim world re-realizes that our solutions are not in imitating the West in their failed and destructive quest for worldwide liberal democracy, and instead re-evaluate the meaning of their religion, and why Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) was sent to us, we will forever be either in remorseless conflict or an apathetic state where Islam is an adornment for our unique, modern, utilitarian personalities.

  16. Avatar

    Hisham

    August 19, 2013 at 5:20 AM

    Unfortunately I can see a lot of uninformed comments probably formed by watching biased media. The western media is cheer-leading for chaos in Egypt and it pains me to see fellow Muslims do the same. The only ones who are supporting Egypt and its prosperity, to be frank, are Saudi Arabia and some other fellow Arab brothers.

    To those supporting the Brotherhood, I will say:

    1) They burn churches, is this what Islam preaches?
    2) They kill innocent people and claim they were shot by police. Their have been images of MB members posing “dead” for the camera
    3) Morsi destroyed Egypt’s economy
    4) Morsi and the Brotherhood were friends with the greatest enemy of Islam, Iran

    And if you talk about Islam, dont forget that the Saudi King is supporting Gen Sisi, and he is advised by eminent scholars and they know what is right in the light of Islam far more than any of us.
    And if that is not enough, even Al Azhar has spoken out against the Brotherhood.

    I can understand some western Muslims are unaware of how evil the Brotherhood are because they have not experienced them. I lived in the Gulf and people there are very wary of the Brotherhood and prominent personalities/Shuyookh have spoken out against the Fitna and chaos that they spread.

    • Avatar

      Hassen

      August 19, 2013 at 6:15 AM

      SubhanAllah, you think the Saudi king is doing this because it is “‘right in the light of Islam?!” The only motivation for this support is political. All the Arab dictators were perfectly happy with the solid control they had over their countries before the Arab Spring and they want to make sure they crush any possible threat to their control- simple as that. This has absolutely nothing to do with them wanting to further the cause of Islam.

    • Amad

      Amad

      August 19, 2013 at 6:17 AM

      wow, what a comment. So Saudi Arabia, known for its descipable human rights record and racism, is now a beacon of enlightenment? Can you repeat that please?

      To your four points:
      1) No evidence. If and when MB take responsiblity for it and say they destroy churches, you will see me being the first one to write against them.
      2) No evidence. The MB rallies had as much arms as Saddam had WMDs. Just like Bush sold WMDs to the American sheep population, Sissi has sold arms to the Egyptian sheep population. We ALL SAW IT. With our OWN eyes. Even if someone in the crowd used a gun or two, there was absolutely no evidence on record, that the crowd was armed. So please stop being a sheep.
      3) He didn’t destroy it. But doesn’t appear he helped it. And no one can forget how he was blocked from doing anything at every step by what is the now the post-coup alliance
      4) Iran is not the “greatest enemy of Islam”. Neither is Saudi or any country. The greatest enemies of Islam are those who justify the spilling of innocent blood and I hope you don’t get included in that. And who says that “guilt by association” is approrpriate?

      As for scholars of Saudi… please! Are you deliberately telling half the story or are you just in the dark of the full story? Shaykh Salman Ouda and Shaykh Arifee— two of the biggest names condemned the massacre in Egypt. And most other scholars will probably be put in jail if they say a word. As for Azhar, I think you missed the rally by Azhar scholars against the coup. The official figurehead of Azhar is a political appointee and as such is doing his job as well as the Saudi mufti– and that is to kiss up to whoever is in power.

      Finally, I am not a great lover of ikhwan… had lots of issues working with them in USA, but does that mean I will support a coup that has among its friends Assad, Israel, that benefits Israel the most, that wants to decimate influence of Islam in Egypt, that has made bearded men into targets, that kills at will (even its prisoners)? Look, there is a reason that pretty much all Western media has come out against it. And please the last thing Western media would be biased towards is Islam. There is no logic in it. The brutality and oppression is so obvious that even sheep will get it. And I hope you are more than a sheep.

      • Avatar

        Hassan

        August 19, 2013 at 8:07 PM

        Hmm, Saudi mufti…are you sure?

  17. Avatar

    Hisham

    August 19, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    Saudi Arabia’s human rights record? Whose version are we talking about? If its the western one, where criminals get rights, then yes its “bad”. But in eyes of Islam , they have done nothing wrong as they apply Shariah, which means a murderer wont be given 5 star accommodation.

    And overall, Saudis and citizens of other Gulf nations love their leaders who have given them a standard of living which is an envy of the average westerner; they drive better cars, have cleaner roads and safer societies.

    Anyways , coming to Egypt, have you noticed most of MB’s support seems to be foreign, from Turkey, western Muslims and other Brotherhood members? Most Arabs, and particularly Egyptians detest them. All Arab channels,with the exception of Jazeera are supporting Sisi. How do you explain that?
    When the siege at a mosque ended, common Egyptians wanted to lynch those inside, but the police stopped them doing that. Surely the Brotherhood must have done something to make the average Egyptian hate them so much?

  18. Avatar

    Pakistanisister

    August 19, 2013 at 4:55 PM

    wow… the articles and the comments are something I don’t know if I can completely distant myself from…. I feel for the people of Egypt the innocent men, women, and children who were doing peaceful protests for 2 months and the resultant deaths of 1000s of people in Egypt. The spilling of muslim blood and indeed many of those protestors were laymen not high figures in any movement political or otherwise. This spilling of blood is tragic, their voices have not been heared. What is even more tragic is the desensitization of this and other occurances.

    If you have an ideological difference from the brotherhood, fine but to be so niave and support the gulf countries in their sending money to the Egyptian army to stem the rebellion and by stem meaning actual field face time killing of muslims…bravo…on your understanding…. bravo…..

    Don’t mention the Saudi kings or their statements as an example of islaam following, they are the lesser of the two evils that muslims deal with. The Saudi scholars, esteemed scholars always speak out against rebellion because of the aftermath it causes…I wonder where they were when Morsi was elected president and enjoining salah(afterall that is the thin line between accepting a ruler over you no matter how much of a sinner and not). These same Saudi scholars, senior esteemd scholars were foremost in support Syrian people’s rebellion against the Bathist Assad but when the signal ws given by their king otherwise, they stopped.

    so may Allaah forgive them and guide the senior scholars for they really don’t have much in their hands.
    and yes Saudi to this day does hve human rights violations, whatever shariah they use to practice in the past is now diminishing, no more executions for murder and no public executions in Saudi. And yes the Gcc countires despite givng their citizens immense support are afraid of ikhwani influence, hence sendng money to the Egyptian army to kill more terrorists or ikhwanis or actually just muslim protestors.

    *This comment was edited by the MM Comments Team in order to comply with our Comments Policy*

  19. Avatar

    Mahmud

    August 20, 2013 at 7:28 PM

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    At the core of this conflict is this-Islam versus kufr. Should Muslims stay Muslim and prefer Allah’s judgement or should they prefer another law and leave this deen?

    • Avatar

      Zaheer

      August 21, 2013 at 7:25 AM

      Sounds simple, but basically that’s what’s going on here. I wouldn’t go as far as saying ‘kufr’, but certainly the fundamental issue is a violent, bloody, and inhumane difference of opinion between which direction Egyptians (and most of the rest of the Arab/Levant world) want their society to head in.

      The Ikhwan want something, the leftist secularists want another, and the only “resolution” they can see is the violent revolutionary winner-takes-all mentality we see going on here. Remember that the Ikhwan and secularists put aside their differences to overthrow Mubarak, and both fought with and killed those who were supporting Mubarak at the time. Alliances quickly change when different circumstances present themselves.

      This is not to say the MB ‘got what was coming to them’; however, when they assumed power, they were naive to think that Egypt’s large secular contingent, which had always had control over the country’s media and commerce, etc., would sit idly by and support the re-Islamification of Egypt. That is against their interests – they do not want Islam as a state religion, nor do they even want an increase in Islamic awareness and practice in the country. Of course, this naturally allies them with the Copts and other religious minorities in the country.

      At the risk of repeating myself – this is the fruit of the kind of revolutions which have been all too common since the big French Revolution of the late 1700s. Complete societal meltdown and overthrow of the existing order, without a clear plan as to what the revolutionaries want to replace the current system. So, while Mubarak was tyrannical, and secularist in his own way, those who opposed him didn’t ensure they agreed what they wanted beforehand. Instead, they relied on the emotion of adrenaline-filled revolution, overthrew the government, and then hoped that elections would solve their problem, restore “freedom” and “peace”, a la The West. When the inevitable power-grabs occurred, due to the utter lack of consensus of what they wanted for the new Egypt, suddenly the Brotherhood were ‘doing things we did not elect them for’ – liberal democracy in action.

      As I have said before – the solution is simple, we just don’t want it because it involves more hard work than violence and constant conflict.

      It may be that Egypt needs to split, like Sudan did, into a part of the country which wants Shari’a, and the rest who don’t. That, would mean leaving homelands, giving up work, wealth, etc. Is this not exactly what the Muhajirun and our Nabiy (s.a.w.s.) did? Is this not a founding factor in our deen, so important that we start our calendar according to that great event? Yet it doesn’t even occur to us to do such a thing because we need big nation-states in order to compete with global economies. Who cares if we’re forcing people with severely different belief systems to live together? They’re replaceable in the great scheme of globalization – this is the fruit of following that which is not in our best interests. Hint – this is not ‘from the West; because this idea has spread everywhere, hence its ability to change societies around the globe.

      • Avatar

        Imran

        August 21, 2013 at 11:52 AM

        Salaam,
        I hate to say it but you are right. Religious Muslims cannot live with secular Muslims. They want different things.

        At some point we’re going to need to discuss the issues of hypocrisy and sectarianism.

  20. Avatar

    awaiskhan

    August 22, 2013 at 8:35 PM

    If all Muslim countries and Muslim are not united and whenever we will hold the rope of Allah then these Barbarity wil be vanished.

  21. Avatar

    Hisham

    August 23, 2013 at 5:01 PM

    After Shaikh Sudais has given his opinion on the Brotherhood and how they are responsible for spreading violence and Fitna, no Muslim should have any illusions about this organization

    • Avatar

      Mahmud

      August 23, 2013 at 7:37 PM

      Yes, no Muslims should have any illusion. It’s now crystal clear that they are heroic Muslims, struggling in the way of Allah to establish his law in Egypt.

    • Avatar

      Laila

      August 24, 2013 at 12:26 AM

      Interesting Hisham,
      I don’t know what your background is(ethnicity or views) but you just totally disregarded what I just wrote. I have a lot of respect for shaykh sudais but does he justify killing of the 1000s of people many of them families. I’ll go ahead and break it down for you. I do not agree with the ikhwanul muslimeen. I do not asribe to them nor am I part of them but I will defend their right to participate in a fair government with their votes which they had given and had a president who was democratically elected. their sit ins were peaceful initially without any “violence” the violence came afterwards this military coup.

      Despite being a proponent of neoconservative salafism with a few added out of the box views(which I am now quite comfortable with because rather than being a drone I’d rather think for myself and realize nobody works in a vacuum be it even the ma shaa ikh), I still think what dhulm happened to the people in Egypt is wrong.

      You did not have a jawaab for my post? do you even have an answer. May Allaah swt guide muslims like you and also myself.

      what is happening in Egypt I do not see it as “ikhwani problem.” I see it as a muslim problem. learn to think for yourself brother, do not be brainwashed(unless you are an xyz government official from an xyz nation then I apologize and please do not kill me for my views).

  22. Avatar

    Ummsalih

    August 24, 2013 at 7:35 AM

    @ Hisham. I’d say the opposite! After Shaikh Sudais has given his opinion on the Brotherhood and how they are responsible for ‘spreading violence and Fitna’, no Muslim should have any illusions about THIS MAN.’

    In contrary much respect for Sheikh Shuraim…look at his tweets on the situation.

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#Current Affairs

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

Hena Zuberi

Published

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In a follow up to the right-wing media platforms attack on Imam Omar Suleiman – calling him anti-semitic, a common tactic used to discredit both Muslim activists, as well as criticism of Israel policies, Faith Forward Dallas issued a statement.

Faith Forward Dallas at Thanksgiving Square – Faith Leaders United for Peace and Justice is a Texas-based interfaith organization that has worked on many initiatives with Imam Omar Suleiman.

The statement reads:

“Imam Omar Suleiman a spiritual and moral voice for peace with justice!!!!!

Time after time in our city, in the United States and around the world, Imam Omar Suleiman has been a spiritual and moral voice for peace with justice. When others seek to divide, he calls for unity. Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square works to unite faith leaders for justice and compassion. Imam Suleiman has been a trusted leader among us. In the wake of his beautiful prayer to open the House of Representatives on May 9, he has received threats of violence and words of vilification when instead he should have our praise and prayers. We call upon people of good will everywhere to tone down the rhetoric, to replace hate with love, and to build bridges toward the common good.

Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square”

Commenters on the Faith Forward Dallas statement have left comments of support.

The group has invited locals and other leaders to endorse and share the statement. “Endorsed! I love and fully you Imam Omar Suleiman!” wrote Karen Weldes Fry, Spiritual Director at Center of Spiritual Learning in Dallas (CSLDallas), commenting on the statement.

Some commentators do not understand the manufactured controversy.  Heather Mustain writes, “What people are writing is so vile. They obviously didn’t even listen to his prayer!” Imam  Omar Suleiman delivered the opening prayer in the US House of Representatives on May, 9th, 2019  at the invitation of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Dallas, TX.

“I’m grateful for the faith leaders with whom I’ve built relationships with and served with for years that have shown full support throughout this process. Together we’ve stood with one another in solidarity in the face of bigotry, and in the support of others in any form of pain. We will not let these dark forces divide us,” said Imam Omar Suleiman in response to the outpouring of love from the people he has worked with on the ground, building on peace, love, and justice.

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#Current Affairs

Potential Retrial In Sight For Imam Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown)

The struggle and trials of the honorable Imam Jamil Al-Amin

Hamzah Raza

Published

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It was the night of March 16th, 2000. That day had been Eid, the holiest day of the year for West End’s Muslim community. Prayers were held by Imam Jamil Al-Amin, the soft-spoken, bookish Imam, who was famously known in the civil rights movement as H. Rap Brown prior to his conversion to Islam. That night, police officers pulled up to the Imam’s convenience store with a warrant for his arrest. The police saw a man and asked him to put his hands up: 5’8”, gray eyes, and 170 pounds, as eyewitnesses would later tell.

Asked to put his hands up, that man would instead pull out a handgun. A shootout between the man and two police officers would ensue. The man would then go to his trunk and pull out a lightweight, semi-automatic carbine Ruger Mini-14 with an extended clip housing 40 .223 caliber rounds of ammunition. Using military grade weapons, this man would murder one police officer and injure another. This man, Otis Jackson, would eventually confess to committing the crime.

Eventually, Imam Jamil Al-Amin would be charged for this crime. Neither Jackson’s confession of the crime nor his matching the description of the shooter would be included in Al-Amin’s trial. For the jury, this evidence was nonexistent.

Eyewitness testimony claims that the man who killed the police officer was not only 5’8” and 170 pounds with gray eyes but also that he suffered gunshot wounds. While Jackson fits this description, Imam Jamil Al-Amin is 6’5”, lanky, has brown eyes, and did not suffer a single wound. A 911 call also claimed that the shooter was bleeding out and walking around West End looking for a ride.

Otis Jackson was on parole at the time of the shooting for a previous crime he had permitted. He told his parole officer he had a shift working at a local diner at the time. When the officers told him to put his hands up, he felt the handgun in his pocket. Violating his parole and possessing an illegal weapon, Jackson knew that he would be sent back to jail. Aware of this, he decided to shoot at the police officers instead of putting his hands up.

That night, Jackson went home and received a call from Sentinel Company, which provided the monitoring for his ankle bracelet. The Sentinel representative asked where Jackson was, to which he replied that he was at work. The representative then told Jackson that this would be marked down as a violation, to which Jackson agreed and quickly ended the conversation.

He then had female friends who were nurses come and treat him for his wounds. He told them that he was robbed. Jackson called a friend named Mustapha Tanner, and ask him to get rid of Jackson’s vast arsenal of weapons: three Ruger Mini‐14 rifles, an M16 assault rifle, a .45 handgun, three 9mm handguns and a couple of shotguns. He also informed his parole officer that he was involved in a “situation” but left out any details. Police later searched Jackson’s house and found rounds of Mini‐14, .223, 9mm, and M16 ammunition. His bloody clothes and boots from the shootout were left untouched in a closet.

His parole was revoked and he was sent to jail in Nevada. There he would confess to the crime and even be visited by an FBI agent by the name of Agent Devon Mahony. Jackson’s confession was documented by Mahoney on June 29th, 2000. But nothing was done after that. Jackson’s confession was also not included in Jamil Al-Amin’s trial in March of 2002. In the midst of government surveillance on civil rights leaders and post 9/11 Islamophobia, Imam Jamil Al-Amin would be sentenced to life without parole for the crime of murdering a police officer.

Al-Amin has an appeal on May 3rd in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that could potentially allow for a retrial. Through this retrial, it is possible that evidence that was previously left out of the court, such as Otis Jackson’s testimony, could allow for Al-Amin to establish his innocence.

Arrest and Trial

Following this shooting, Imam Jamil Al-Amin would be put on the FBI’s most wanted list, and 100 FBI agents would be deployed on a manhunt to find him. Al-Amin would be arrested in White Hall, Alabama four days later. As he was arrested, FBI agent, Ronald Campbell kicked him and spit on him. It is important to note here that Imam Jamil Al-Amin was a 55-year-old religious leader. One would wonder what sort of hatred led an FBI agent to engage in such behavior towards a middle-aged clergyman.

Eventually, an officer would also find guns in the woods adjacent to where Al-Amin was found. Despite decades of FBI surveillance, there was absolutely no evidence linking Al-Amin to the guns. There was not a single fingerprint or Al-Amin’s DNA on the guns or ammunition found. The guns were also not hidden or concealed in any way. So under the state’s argument, Al-Amin meticulously cleared the weapons of his DNA and fingerprints but did not do anything to hide the weapons.

Many have suggested that it was actually Agent Campbell, the FBI agent who physically assaulted and spit on Imam Jamil Al-Amin, who planted the guns. In 1995, Campbell had been accused of shooting Glenn Thomas, an African American man, in the back of the head in Philadelphia. In that case, too, a fingerprint-less gun was found next to the man’s dead body.

In addition, Agent Campbell first claimed that he was with other police officers when he crossed the fence into the woods and found the guns. But he later, in cross-examination, claimed that he was alone. Such contradictory information and the fact that the weapons could never be proved to belong to Al-Amin makes one wonder how this could function as any sort of evidence.

It is also important to note that Al-Amin went to trial in March of 2002, less than six months after 9/11. At a time when hatred against Muslims in the United States was at an all-time high, Al-Amin showed up to court wearing a kufi. He even said to the judge and jury: “I invite you to Islam. Be Muslim and receive two rewards [i.e. That of this life and the next].”

But even in this time when hatred of Muslims was at an all-time high, the idea of this soft-spoken Imam committing a crime was still strange to so many. The New York Times wrote that “Some could not believe that the man who spent the last 25 years as a nonviolent Muslim cleric in the West End of Atlanta would explode in a seemingly unprovoked blaze of violence.”

Imam Jamil Al-Amin’s Muslim faith was also attacked by the prosecution. They told the jury “Don’t stand up for him,” in reference to Al-Amin’s religiously-based decision to not stand for the court, for which the court granted him permission to do.  

The court ruled Al-Amin guilty and he was sentenced to life without parole. Following this, the prosecuting attorney for the state said, “After 24 years, we finally got him.” In order to understand the context of this remark, one must understand the Cointelpro program that Al-Amin was targeted by before his conversion to Islam when he was H. Rap Brown.

  1. Rap Brown and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

In his late teens, H. Rap Brown joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committing (SNCC). SNCC (Pronounced “Snick”) used the tactics of nonviolent direct action in order to bring about civil rights for Black Americans. Prominent in the American South, SNCC members studied Gandhian tactics of nonviolence from James Lawson, who was then a graduate student in theology at Vanderbilt University. Future Congressman and then-SNCC Chairman, John Lewis would mentor H. Rap Brown.

In 1965, the young H. Rap Brown rose up in the organization and eventually became chairman of the Nonviolent Action Group, the Washington DC affiliate of SNCC. As head of this organization, Brown entered into an infamous White House meeting with President Lyndon B Johnson. President Johnson told Brown that SNCC’s all-night demonstration had prevented his two daughters from sleeping that night. Brown replied that he was sad for the one night his daughters were disturbed, but that “Black people in the South had been unable to sleep in peace and security for a hundred years.” He asked what the President planned to do about that, and anticipated that this issue was what this meeting was about.

Following John Lewis’ tenure as chair of SNCC, Stokely Carmichael then became chair in 1966. Inspired by the works of Malcolm X and Frantz Fanon, Carmichael understood nonviolence not as a principle, but as a tactic. He introduced the phrase “Black Power’ to the organization, and began to speak out on international issues, introducing SNCC’s opposition to the American war in Vietnam.

FBI Surveillance on H. Rap Brown

In 1967, H. Rap Brown, at the age of 23, was elected Carmichael’s successor as chairman of SNCC. Brown would take the nonviolent out of the name of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, renaming it the Student National Coordinating Committee. He lamented that “Violence is as American as cherry pie…We will use that violence to rid ourselves of oppression, if necessary. We will be free by any means necessary.” It was also under his leadership that SNCC entered into a working alliance with the Black Panther Party, giving Brown the honorary title of Minister of Justice of the Black Panther Party alongside being Chairman of SNCC.

That year, the FBI contacted Brown’s wife, Karima Al-Amin, in an attempt to get her to spy on her husband for the FBI and provide reports on him to them. At this point, SNCC was being targeted by the FBI’s COINTELPRO program, which aimed at surveilling, discrediting, and disrupting political organizations that fought for the rights of Black Americans. The FBI’s COINTELPRO program called for H. Rap Brown and other prominent black leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr and Stokely Carmichael to be “neutralized.”

It was through this program that J Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, discovered that Martin Luther King Jr was having extramarital affairs. Attempting to use the tactic of public humiliation, Hoover wrote a letter to Martin Luther King Jr attempting to coerce him into suicide, lest he wants the world to know of his infidelity.

In December of 1969, two Black Panthers in Chicago fell victim to this neutralization after a 14-man police raiding force collaborated with the FBI. The police murdered 21-year-old, Fred Hampton and 22-year-old, Mark Clark, two members of the Black Panther Party in a pre-dawn raid in their Chicago homes.

In a meeting with President Lyndon B Johnson, FBI Director Hoover said, in reference to Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr, “We wouldn’t have any problem if we could get those two guys fighting; if we could get them to kill one another off.”

This FBI campaign of neutralization caught up to H. Rap Brown. After giving a speech in Cambridge, Maryland in July of 1970, he was grazed with bullets from police while walking a young woman home. That night, fires occurred in the city. Brown would be accused of arson and inciting riots in the city. Later evidence would show that Brown had no relation to such fires, and they actually came from the inaction of the Cambridge Fire Department, which had a hostile relationship with its Black community. But the head of the Cambridge Police Department pinned the charge on Brown, accusing him of “a well-planned Communist attempt to overthrow the government.”

Congress would then pass the “H. Rap Brown” law in his name that would make it illegal to cross state lines in order to incite a riot. Then Governor of Maryland and soon-to-be Vice President of the United States, Spiro Agnew stated that “I hope they pick him up soon, put him away, and throw away the key.”  

Like many leaders in the movement such as Angela Davis, Brown would be placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List and run away from the authorities spending time in Africa, before eventually being brought back to Maryland in 1970 for trial. It was there that he would be sentenced to 5 years at Attica Prison in New York City.

In his time in prison, H. Rap Brown accepted Islam and took the name, “Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin.”

Conversion to Islam and Reinvention as Jamil Al-Amin

Following his release from prison in 1976, Al-Amin traveled to India, Pakistan, and West Africa to study Islam. He then embarked travel to Makkah for the Hajj pilgrimage before moving to Atlanta to establish a Muslim community in the impoverished and crime-ridden West End neighborhood.

In West End, the former radical firebrand reemerged as a pious, soft-spoken, and bookish Muslim scholar concerned about the spiritual and social resurrection of the neighborhood. He preached Islam to drug dealers and prostitutes in the neighborhood and sought an intense anti-drug campaign.

In the West End Mosque, they called the adhan, the Muslim call to prayer, out loud five times a day, so that the whole neighborhood could hear it. Al-Amin was of the belief that change of society could only come after people had changed themselves through the act of prayer.

Imam Khalil Abdur-Rashid, the current Muslim Chaplain at Harvard University who grew up in Imam Jamil’s West End community, mentioned in his Ph.D. dissertation:

“He would retain his devotion to changing the prevailing system and worked to teach his community to cultivate an alternative way of living that is not indicative of token social justice programs. He taught the importance of the five pillars of Islam and revolutionary ‘technologies of the self’ that, when actualized at the communal level, transform the society into a better one. He still remained non-violent but still dedicated himself to teaching social revolution through a revolutionary approach to Islamic practice.

“The mission of a believer in Islam is totally different from coexisting or being a part of the system. The prevailing morals are wrong. Western philosophy…has reduced man to food, clothing, shelter, and the sex drive, which means he doesn’t have a spirit. In Islam, we’re not talking about getting the poor to vote. We’re not talking about empowering poor people with money. We’re talking about overturning that whole thing.”

He preached and wrote about the understanding of the centrality of prayer, charity, diet, pilgrimage, family, and struggle as the core elements of person and by extension social change. His book entitled, Revolution By The Book, published in 1994, is the first American Muslim liberation theology manifesto. Whereas much Christian liberation theology centralizes its attention on social concern for the poor and liberation of the oppressed, Imam Jamil’s Revolution By The Book begins with the individual turning inward to correct decadent ways and through reform of the self, one may then begin to look outward at institutions that are also in need of reform. He explains that,

“When you understand your obligations to God then you can understand your obligations to society. Revolution comes when human beings set out to correct decadent institutions. We must understand how this society has fallen away from righteousness and begin to develop, Islamically, the alternative institutions to those that are in a state of decline around us. But, we must first enjoin right and forbid wrong to ourselves. That is the first step in turning this thing around: turn yourself around!”

Many who had known him pre-conversion to Islam spoke of how much Al Amin had changed from the H. Rap Brown that once was.

A former SNCC colleague, Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, commented on Al Amin’s speech at the funeral of former SNCC Chairman, Stokely Carmichael. The talk included numerous other pillars of the civil rights movement such as John Lewis and Diane Nash. Thelwell stated:

The only real departure and my only surprise came when Imam Al-Amin spoke. What he delivered in tribute to his old friend was a thoughtful, Islam-inflected reflection on the nature of oppression and the moral duty, the religious imperative, of the faithful to resist. Liberally adorned with Koranic quotations, it was, as I recall, an erudite, elegantly constructed, finely reasoned explication of the categories and nature of oppression, and the moral dimensions and complexities of struggle as expressed in the prophetic poetry of the Arabian desert some 1,400 years earlier. In any terms–culturally speaking–it was scholarly. I found it startling in a curious way: It did not quite fit either stylistically or culturally with what had gone before, yet was completely appropriate.

As he spoke, I remember thinking: Ah, so this is what a serious Islamic sermon sounds like, huh? Rap really takes this calling seriously. The brother is indeed an Islamic scholar, an imam. (I took in the hang-jawed look of astonishment and dawning professional respect that crossed Minister [Louis] Farrakhan’s face as he listened to be confirmation of my impression..”

In an article titled “Growing Up West End,” Masood Abdul Haqq wrote about being a member of Imam Jamil Al Amin’s West End community.

When my family and I first moved to Atlanta in the fall of 1992, the West End Muslim scene unfolded like some sort of Black Muslim Utopia. A soulful adhan was the soundtrack to Black children of all ages in kufis and khimars playing with each other on either side of the street. The intersecting streets near the masjid gave way to a large covered basketball court, on which the game in progress had come to a halt due to the number of players who chose to answer the melodic call to prayer. Overlooking this scene from the bench in front of his convenience store, like a shepherd admiring his flock, was a denim overall and crocheted kufi-clad Imam Jamil.

Before I heard him utter a single word, it was obvious to me that I was in the presence of a transcendent leader.

The early 1990’s was an exciting time to be in Atlanta. However, one of the unfortunate undercurrents of our booming urban economy was the inevitable rise of the drug trade. Reagan had been out of office for a full term, but his crack epidemic and trickle down economics were still very prevalent in inner city neighborhoods across the country. The West End was no exception. At the intersection of Holderness Street and Lucille Avenue, just 100 yards from my childhood home and four city blocks from the West End Masjid, stood a notorious motorcycle club and corner store. Both businesses were knee deep in the interests of prominent local drug dealers and it wasn’t long before that corner earned the reputation as a “million dollar block.”

One might think living so close to such a dangerous corner would make for a tale of hard knocks, peer pressure, and intimidation. For the Muslim kids, that was the furthest thing from our reality. Instead, we ran around that neighborhood with impunity. When the dope boys saw us coming, they would step out of our way, offer to buy us snacks from the store, or just whisper to each other about us being “Big Slim’s folks.” Sometimes they called him Rap. Or the Imam. The bottom line was, they may have pulled the usual dope boy tricks of recruiting and terrorizing kids within the neighborhood, but us Muslim kids were off limits.

There was an honor associated with being a member of Imam Jamil’s community, a VIP hood pass that made us immune to the usual ills of this sort of environment. This street credibility from outside the Muslim community stemmed from Imam Jamil’s days as H. Rap Brown, a revolutionary fighting for Black rights. It evolved when he demonstrated the ability to bridge gaps between young and old, Muslim and non-Muslim. People respected that his entire life revolved around salat at the Masjid. This made him accessible and dependable. Five times a day, the adhan was called and Imam Jamil would either lead or appoint someone to lead the prayer. Afterwards, no one would leave unless he raised his hand for permission and got the nod from the Imam. After finishing his dhikr and du‘a, the Imam would ask, “Is there anything anyone would like to bring out?” Brothers would bring forth questions, concerns, and news from around the neighborhood, and the Imam would address it or tell the person to meet him after salat. The drug issue was at the forefront. Slowly but surely, prayer by prayer, the million dollar block was abandoned. Miraculously, after efforts to clean up the neighborhood around the million dollar block, now stands the West End Islamic Center, a beacon of hope for sustaining the community.

FBI Perception of Al Amin Post-Conversion to Islam

Despite such transformation of self that led to the transformation of the West End community, Al-Amin still remained the object of government spying that went back to the Cointelpro days. The FBI compiled a 44,000-word file on Al-Amin and his Muslim community, attempting to pin a crime upon him. Because his entire life was dedicated to praying five times a day at the mosque, developing his community, and stopping drugs and crime, the FBI could not find a single crime that Al Amin had committed.

After the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, Al Amin was interrogated by the FBI as to whether he played a role.

Al Amin’s brother, Ed Brown stated that:

Y’know…something happens. Say the first attempt to bomb the Trade Center, right? They feed their infallible profile into their computer. Muslim…radical…violent…anti-American, whatever, who knows. Anyway, boom, out spits the names, H. Rap Brown prominent among them. Next thing the Feds come storming into the community and haul Jamil in. This actually happened. Of course, it’s stupid. And every time they have to let him go. But how do you stop it? A goddamn nightmare, they never quit.”

Two years following that, Al-Amin would be arrested by a joint force of the FBI, local police, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives after a 22-year-old, William Miles, was shot in the leg. One must wonder why the FBI was concerned about a non-fatal shooting that hit a young man’s right leg. But even in this case, Imam Jamil Al-Amin was found not guilty and cleared of any wrongdoing.

It was found that between 1992 and 1997, authorities investigated Al-Amin “in connection with everything from domestic terrorism to gunrunning to 14 homicides in Atlanta’s West End.”

While driving in Marietta, Georgia in May of 1999, Al-Amin would be pulled over in his vehicle for driving with a drive-out tag, which allows a vehicle to drive without a license plate for 30 days. Eventually, Al-Amin would be searched, and an honorary police badge, given to him by the mayor of White Hall, Alabama, would be found in his wallet. Al-Amin was charged with impersonating a police officer, driving a stolen car, and driving with expired insurance. In 2002, a Georgia judge would rule that this warrantless search violated Imam Jamil Al-Amin’s fourth amendment rights. The mayor of White Hall also wrote to how he had gifted Al-Amin this badge. Due to a snowstorm, Al-Amin’s court date for this case was canceled— and never rescheduled.

It was this traffic stop that would lead to the arrest warrant. It was from that warrant that police officers would eventually be shot and killed by Otis Jackson, who would confess to the crime and match the description of the shooter. Despite this, it would be Imam Jamil Al-Amin who would go to jail.

Al-Amin’s Time in Prison

In addition to being there for a crime that he claims he did not commit, Al-Amin has faced many violations of his rights in jail. He has been unable to attend Friday prayers and has spent the bulk of his time in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. Between June and August of 2003, the federal government was also caught reading his mail, in violation of Al-Amin’s fourth amendment rights.

Despite his solitary confinement, word got around that Imam Jamil was imprisoned. Prisoners in Georgia also asked for Al-Amin to be their unified Imam “because of his credibility as a leader prior to incarceration,” in an act that was not initiated by him. This led to an FBI investigation and report titled “The Attempt to Radicalize the Georgia Department of Corrections’ Inmate Population” which established Al-Amin as the leader of this radical Muslim kingpin operating in prisons. The report failed to link Al-Amin to any extremist Muslim organization and also failed to establish how Al-Amin could lead such an extremist cell while being in solitary confinement.

Without notifying his family or legal counsel, Al-Amin was forcibly transferred by federal authorities in July of 2007. He was chained inside a vehicle for 6 hours in the 92-degree heat, while being deprived of his blood pressure medicine. Because he was unable to stand, Al-Amin was hospitalized for a night, before being transferred to the ADX prison facility in Florence, Colorado. He was then transferred to the United States Penitentiary in Arizona, a high-security federal prison for male inmates. In August of 2007, the Georgia Department of Corrections said Al-Amin was sent to federal prison because “Al-Amin’s high profile presents unique issues beyond the state prison system’s normal inmate.” It was never explained what these “unique issues” are.

Appeal on May 3rd and Potential for Retrial

Allen Garrett is a lawyer who has been working pro-bono on Al-Amin’s case since 2007. He has “discovered retaliatory actions on the part of prison officials against Al-Amin.” Moreover, he has been granted the possibility for an appeal on May 3rd, in which the court will decide whether Al-Amin can be granted a retrial for the crime he was found guilty of in 2002.

With new evidence not included in the trial such as the confession of Otis Jackson, and Agent Campbell’s lying about being alone and previous planting of fingerprint-less guns, Al-Amin has the potential to clear himself of such charges and establish his innocence. America too has changed drastically since Al-Amin was put on trial in 2002. Organizations such as Black Lives Matter have brought to light the injustice of programs such as COINTELPRO which targeted Al-Amin and other civil rights activists. The Trump era has also highlighted the irrationality of the brazen Islamophobia that aided Al-Amin’s guilty verdict.

Al-Amin’s membership in the Black Panther Party was symbolic and resulted as a result of an alliance between the Black Panther Party and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which he was chair of. But despite his limited affiliation, in today’s context, the Black Panthers do not have the same stigma attached to them. The movie, Black Panther, ends in Oakland, California, in an allusion to where the Black Panther Party was founded. Beyonce wore Black Panther outfits at the Super Bowl. And even Democratic Presidential candidate, Kamala Harris, hardly a symbol of radicalism or even progressivism, has stated that she was inspired by the values of the party.

I spoke to Kairi Al-Amin, Imam Jamil Al-Amin’s son. He was 14-years-old when his dad was imprisoned. Since then, Kairi, now 31, has become an attorney, with the goal of freeing his dad of this crime that he did not commit. He spoke of the importance that there is in getting public opinion on the side of his father as this appeal approaches. Should the court rule in favor of this appeal, a retrial could allow for evidence previously left out to be introduced. He has created a website called https://whathappened2rap.com/, which has a fact sheet on the trial, with information on how people can be better involved.

With the public watching, it is possible that on May 3rd, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals will rule in favor of Imam Jamil Al-Amin’s retrial, and that he can finally be given the opportunity to present the full case and be exonerated of this crime.

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White Activism Is Crucial In The Wake of Right-Wing Terrorism

Laura El Alam

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The vicious terrorist attacks at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15 were a punch to the gut for peace-loving people all over the world.  Only the most heartless of individuals could feel nonchalant about 70 innocent children, women, and men being killed or maimed mercilessly as they prayed. However, even a brief glimpse at comments on social media confirms that among the outpouring of sadness and shock, there are, indeed, numerous sick individuals who glory in Brenton Tarrant’s deliberately evil actions. White supremacy, in all its horrific manifestations, is clearly alive and well.  

In an enlightening article in The Washington Post, R. Joseph Parrott explains,  “Recently, global white supremacy has been making a comeback, attracting adherents by stoking a new unease with changing demographics, using an expanded rhetoric of deluge and cultivating nostalgia for a time when various white governments ruled the world (and local cities). At the fringes, longing for lost white regimes forged a new global iconography of supremacy.”

“Modern white supremacy is an international threat that knows no borders, being exported and globalized like never before,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said. “The hatred that led to violence in Pittsburgh and Charlottesville is finding new adherents around the world. Indeed, it appears that this attack was not just focused on New Zealand; it was intended to have a global impact.” (link)

Many people want to sweep this terrifying reality under the rug, among them the U.S. President.  Asked by a reporter if he saw an increase globally in the threat of white nationalism, Trump replied, “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.”

However, experts in his own country disagree.  A March 17 article in NBC News claims that, “The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security warned in a 2017 intelligence bulletin that white supremacist groups had carried out more attacks in the U.S. than any other domestic extremist group over the past 16 years. And officials believe they are likely to carry out more.”

Although they may be unaware of — or in denial about –the growing influence of white supremacist ideology, the vast majority of white people do not support violent acts of terrorism.  However, many of them are surprisingly, hurtfully silent when acts of terrorism are committed by non-Muslims, with Muslims as the victims.

When a shooter yells “Allahu akbar” before killing innocent people, public furor is obvious and palpable.  “Terror attacks by Muslims receive 375% more press attention,” states a headline in The Guardian, citing a study by the University of Alabama. The perpetrator is often portrayed as a “maniac” and a representative of an inherently violent faith. In the wake of an attack committed by a Muslim, everyone from politicians to religious leaders to news anchors calls on Muslim individuals and organizations to disavow terrorism.  However, when white men kill Muslims en masse, there is significantly less outrage.  People try to make sense of the shooters’ vile actions, looking into their past for trauma, mental illness, or addiction that will somehow explain why they did what they did.  Various news outlets humanized Brenton Tarrant with bold headlines that labeled him an “angelic boy who grew into an evil far-right mass killer,” an “ordinary white man,” “obsessed with video games,” and even “badly picked on as a child because he was chubby.”  Those descriptions, which evoke sympathy rather than revulsion, are reserved for white mass murderers.

The media’s spin on terrorist acts shapes public reaction.  Six days after the Christchurch attacks, millions were not currently taking to the streets to protest right-wing extremism.  World leaders are not linking arms in a dramatic march against white supremacist terrorism.  And no one is demanding that white men, in general, disavow terrorism.

But that would be unreasonable, right? To expect all white men to condemn the vile actions of an individual they don’t even know?  Unreasonable though it may be, such expectations are placed on Muslims all the time.

As a white woman, I am here to argue that white people — and most of all white-led institutions — are exactly the ones who need to speak up now, loudly and clearly condemning right-wing terrorism, disavowing white supremacy, and showing support of Muslims generally.  We need to do this even if we firmly believe we’re not part of the problem. We need to do this even if our first reaction is to feel defensive (“But I’m not a bigot!”), or if discussing race is uncomfortable to us. We need to do it even if we are Muslims who fully comprehend that our beloved Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said,  “There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a non-Arab over an Arab. Neither is the white superior over the black, nor is the black superior over the white — except by piety.”

While we might not hold hatred in our hearts individually, we do hold the power, institutionally.  If we truly care about people of color, peace, and justice, we must put our fragile egos aside and avoid “not me-ism.”  The fact is, if we have white skin, we have grown up in a world that favors us in innumerable ways, both big and small. Those of us with privilege, position, and authority are the very ones who have the greatest responsibility to make major changes to society. Sadly, sometimes it takes a white person to make other white people listen and change.

White religious leaders, politicians, and other people with influence and power need to speak up and condemn the New Zealand attacks publically and unequivocally, even if we do not consider ourselves remotely affiliated with right-wing extremists or murderous bigots.  Living our comfortable lives, refusing to discuss or challenge institutionalized racism, xenophobia, and rampant Islamophobia, and accepting the status quo are all a tacit approval of the toxic reality that we live in.  

Institutional power is the backbone of racism.  Throughout history, governments and religious institutions have enforced racist legislation, segregation, xenophobic policies, and the notion that white people are inherently superior to people of color.  These institutions continue to be controlled by white people, and if white leaders and white individuals truly believe in justice for all, we must do much more than “be a nice person.” We must use our influence to change the system and to challenge injustice.  

White ministers need to decry racial violence and anti-immigrant sentiment from their pulpits, making it abundantly clear that their religion does not advocate racism, xenophobia, or Islamophobia. They must condemn Brenton Tarrant’s abhorrent actions in clear terms, in case any member of their flock sees him as some sort of hero.  Politicians and other leaders need to humanize and defend Muslims while expressing zero tolerance for extremists who threaten the lives or peace of their fellow citizens — all citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs, immigration status, or ethnicity.  New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is an excellent role model for world leaders; she has handled her nation’s tragedy with beautiful compassion, wisdom, and crystal clear condemnation of the attacker and his motives.  Similarly, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demonstrated superb leadership and a humane, loving response to the victims in Christchurch (and Muslims in general) in his recent address to the House of Commons.  

Indeed, when they put their mind to it, people can make quite an impactful statement against extremist violence.  In January 2015 when Muslim gunmen killed 17 people in Paris, there was an immediate global reaction. The phrase “Je suis Charlie” trended on social media and in fact became one of the most popular hashtags in the history of Twitter.  Approximately 3.4 million people marched in anti-terrorism rallies throughout France, and 40 world leaders — most of whom were white — marched alongside a crowd of over 1 million in Paris.  

While several political and religious leaders have made public statements condemning the terrorist attacks in Christchurch, there is much less activism on the streets and even on social media following this particular atrocity.  Many Muslims who expected words of solidarity, unity, or comfort from non-Muslim family or friends were disappointed by the general lack of interest, even after a mosque was burned in California with a note left in homage to New Zealand.

In a public Facebook post, Shibli Zaman of Texas echoed many Muslims’ feelings when he wrote, “One of the most astonishing things to me that I did not expect — but, in hindsight, realize that I probably should have — is how few of my non-Muslim friends have reached out to me to express condolences and sorrow.” His post concluded, “But I have learned that practically none of my non-Muslim friends care.”

Ladan Rashidi of California posted, simply, “The Silence.  Your silence is deafening. And hurtful.” Although her words were brief and potentially enigmatic, her Muslim Facebook friends instantly understood what she was talking about and commiserated with her.   

Why do words and actions matter so much in the wake of a tragedy?  

Because they have the power to heal and to unite. Muslims feel shattered right now, and the lack of widespread compassion or global activism only heightens the feeling that we are unwanted and “other.”  If 50 innocent Muslims die from terrorism, and the incident does not spark universal outrage, but one Muslim pulls the trigger and the whole world erupts in indignation, then what is that saying about society’s perception of the value of Muslim lives?

To the compassionate non-Muslims who have delivered flowers, supportive messages, and condolences to the Muslim community in New Zealand and elsewhere, I thank you sincerely. You renew our hope in humanity.

To the white people who care enough to acknowledge their privilege and use it to the best of their ability to bring about justice and peace, I salute you.  Please persevere in your noble goals. Please continue to learn about institutionalized racism and attempt to make positive changes. Do not shy away from discussions about race and do not doubt or silence people of color when they explain their feelings.  Our discomfort, our defensiveness, and our professed “colorblindness” should not dominate the conversation every time we hear the word “racism.” We should listen more than speak and put our egos to the side. I am still learning to do this, and while it is not easy, it is crucial to true understanding and transformation.

To the rest of you who have remained silent, for whatever reason:  I ask you to look inside yourself and think about whether you are really satisfied with a system that values some human lives so highly over others.  If you are not a white supremacist, nor a bigot, nor a racist — if you truly oppose these ideologies — then you must do more than remain in your comfortable bubble.  Speak up. Spread love. Fix problems on whatever level you can, to the best of your ability. If you are in a leadership position, the weight on your shoulders is heavy; do not shirk your duty.  To be passive, selfish, apathetic, or lazy is to enable hatred to thrive, and then, whether you intended to or not, you are on the side of the extremists. Which side are you on? Decide and act.

“A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case, he is justly accountable to them for their injury.”  — John Stuart Mill, On Liberty.  

For the past decade, writer Laura El Alam has been a regular contributor to SISTERS Magazine, Al Jumuah, and About Islam.  Her articles frequently tackle issues like Muslim American identity, women’s rights in Islam, support of converts/reverts, and racism.  A graduate of Grinnell College, she currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband and five children. Laura recently started a Facebook page, The Common Sense Convert, to support Muslim women, particularly those who are new to the deen.

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