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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. Avatar

    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. Avatar

    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. Avatar

    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.

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    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.

    • Avatar

      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

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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#Current Affairs

An Open Letter To All Islamic Organizations Regardless Of Their Mission

These conclusions are barriers to enjoining the good and forbidding the evil because the organizational missions become distractions, the conferences become bazaars, the speakers become celebrities, and the oppression becomes entertainment. The costs, the time, the subjects when not spent or aligned to act with a consciousness of the single Islamic mission is distraction. Furthermore, a time spent without redressing dehumanization, is money, hours, and agenda wasted. It is not to deny these separate issues need resolutions, and in the short term, Islamic organizations and nonprofits do fulfill that mission. However, Believers warrant a world view of Islam. The work is to recognize and remove the real cause of the oppression. This is the greater goal and the singular mission, since eradicating it will resolve all the crises that Islamic organizations address. The objective is to create a humane society where Islam is peace: violence, poverty, and oppression is relieved.

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Open Letter to Muslim Organizations

Assalaamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatahu,

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

We have a common enemy. It has been our enemy since the creation of Prophet Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). The perpetrator of all violence, and deceptions emanates from this evil force. It is the excuse Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has granted for struggle and success. It is an arena for human kind wherein Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) separates the monotheist from the rest; wherein He has offered the reward to those who believe and destruction to disbelief, polytheism, and hypocrisy. By description, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) gives context to the relationship of humans and Iblis with multiple ayah from Quran. He says:

O you who believe! Enter perfectly in Islam (by obeying all the rules and regulations of the Islamic religion) and follow not the footsteps of Shaitan (Satan). Verily! He is to you a plain enemy. (2:208).

Quran 17:64

“And Istafziz [literally means: befool them gradually] those whom you can among them with your voice (i.e. songs, music, and any other call for Allah’s disobedience), make assaults on them with your cavalry and your infantry, mutually share with them wealth and children (by tempting them to earn money by illegal ways usury, etc., or by committing illegal sexual intercourse, etc.), and make promises to them.” But Satan promises them nothing but deceit. (17: 64)

Quran 7:17

Then I will come to them from before them and behind them, from their right and from their left, and You will not find most of them as thankful ones (i.e. they will not be dutiful to You).” (7:17)

And he (Iblis, Satan) had no authority over them, except that We might test him, who believes in the Hereafter from him who is in doubt about it. And your Lord is a Hafiz over everything. (All­ Knower of everything i.e. He keeps record of each and every person as regards deeds, and then He will reward them accordingly).

The Quran is an eternal miracle, with its text as relevant today as it was 1440 years ago when it was revealed to our Beloved Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). It is a “guidance for certain”, which means it is the map to lead us toward success in this world and in the Hereafter. Then why do we separate it from our daily lives – moment to moment? Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) provides fail-safes against forgetfulness, neglect, and laziness as He prescribes daily spiritual actions: salah, fasting, dhikr, da’wa, charity, instruction, so that we can remember our responsibility and duty to Him, and so we won’t forget our purpose (“Enter perfectly into Islam—submission). And when we remember Him, He remembers us …

Quran 2:152

Therefore, remember Me (by praying, glorifying, etc.). I will remember you, and be grateful to Me (for My countless favors on you) and never be ungrateful to Me. (2:152)

He also says:

Quran 9:112

 

(The believers) who repent for their sins, worship God, praise Him, travel through the land (for pious purposes), kneel down and prostrate themselves in obedience to God, make others do good and prevent them from sins and abide by the laws of God, will receive a great reward. Let this be glad news for the believer. (9:112)

And

Quran 3:110

You [true believers in Islamic Monotheism, and real followers of Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and his Sunnah (legal ways, etc.)] are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin Al-Ma’ruf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam has ordained) and forbid Al-Munkar (polytheism, disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden), and you believe in Allah. And had the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) believed, it would have been better for them; among them are some who have faith, but most of them are Al-Fasiqun (disobedient to Allah – and rebellious against Allah’s Command). (3:110)

And reminds us to

Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good (Islam), enjoining Al-Ma’ruf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do) and forbidding Al-Munkar (polytheism and disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden). And it is they who are the successful.

Thus, the Quran exhorts individual responsibility, but Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) also enjoins collective responsibility. (Even within the individual actions of Muslims, there is a collective good. Consider the pillars of Islam.) Keeping the two points in mind: (1) the Quran is timeless; (2) Islam is an individual and a collective task. Now, join the two claims with a third: (3) the Prophet subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) was the final prophet – a universal messenger. The weight of these truths is on the Muslims (Believers), and to neglect this bounty, is to deny the covenant made between Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and Prophet Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) That covenant was sealed by the final Messenger, Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) when he was given and embodied the Quran by exemplifying his Sunnah – the pillars and principles Islam.

Furthermore, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) in the ayah from Sura Taubah, listed the tasks of Believers: repent (taubah), pray (salah), praise (dhikr), travel (seek knowledge), thank (shukr); enjoin the good and forbid the evil (establish justice and economy). However, these actions, which depend upon guidance from the Quran and sustenance by the character of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) require solidarity, unity, and support from the Ummah; meaning, those who Believe and adhere to the commands of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Without bonds followed by harmony, Muslims are unprotected and prey to the machinations and evils of Iblis (a oozu billahi minashaitan ir rajeem).

Islam is lived by jamaat, not by individualism. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) follows the ayah of Sura Taubah with the consequences of inaction:

Quran 11:116

 

If only there had been among the generations before you, persons having wisdom, prohibiting (others) from Al-Fasad (disbelief, polytheism, and all kinds of crimes and sins) in the earth, except a few of those whom We saved from among them. Those who did wrong pursued the enjoyment of good things of (this worldly) life, and were Mujrimun (criminals, disbelievers in Allah, polytheists, sinners, etc.). (11:116)

“Allah said he saved the people because they were reformers (by enjoining the good and forbidding the evil), and didn’t say He saved them just because they were righteous” (Hadith Commentary).

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) bears witness to these truths, when he is reported to have said:

  • The prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Allah does not punish the general masses for the sins of the few evil-doers, until they see the evil apparent and they are able to forbid it (but they don’t). If they do that (not forbid the evil) then Allah will punish the general masses along with the few evil-doers” (Reported by Ahmad)
  • The prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “By the one who my soul is in His hand, you shall enjoin the good and forbid the evil, or Allah will be about to send a punishment to you from Him, then you will call Him and He will not answer you” (Reported by Tirmidhi)

After this, there are some observations that disclose the scattered condition of this ummah and the resulting disunity that impairs our ability to fulfill this dire obligation of “enjoining Ma’ruf and forbidding Munkar.

  1. According to the Guide Star Directory of (Islamic) Charities and Nonprofit Organizations, there are over 1200 Charity and Nonprofit organizations in the U.S., with each vying for followers and support. Notwithstanding the legitimacy and mission of them all, the number itself infers secularism and separatism as each organization does indeed have a different goal even though each may be categorized under a specific function.
  2. The spread of Islamic organizations reflects a spread of diverse ideological principles, which, singularly, may or may not represent a common purpose – Islamically.
  3. The organizations are individualistic with each identifying and persuading their own program to enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil, but in fact their efforts may or may not align with the end goal, which is Islamic monotheism.
  4. The intention of these organizations may be simply to organize around a particular issue (a good thing), but does the organization recognize the one issue as a symptom of a larger “evil” that needs to be highlighted and eradicated? Do these organizations intend to bring that solution or merely repeat a process, which may not originate from an Islamic principle?
  5. While a few of these organizations have aligned as “councils” or “groups” to coalesce and advocate for the larger Muslim community, are these coalitions authentic or exemplary of the larger Muslim communities and the communities of the Prophet subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)
  6. Islamic organizations and nonprofits have become polarized and popularized; persuading the audience by rhetoric rather than real actions against oppression, which exists here and around the world.

These conclusions are barriers to enjoining the good and forbidding the evil because the organizational missions become distractions, the conferences become bazaars, the speakers become celebrities, and the oppression becomes entertainment. The costs, the time, the subjects when not spent or aligned to act with a consciousness of the single Islamic mission is distraction. Furthermore, a time spent without redressing dehumanization, is money, hours, and agenda wasted. It is not to deny these separate issues need resolutions, and in the short term, Islamic organizations and nonprofits do fulfill that mission. However, Believers warrant a world view of Islam. The work is to recognize and remove the real cause of the oppression. This is the greater goal and the singular mission, since eradicating it will resolve all the crises that Islamic organizations address. The objective is to create a humane society where Islam is peace: violence, poverty, and oppression is relieved.

The emergence of Islamic organizations and nonprofits in the U.S. was at first to provide a single jamaat wherein all Muslims could converge and unify. Muslims found Islam from the Civil Rights Movement. While Muslims arrived from foreign countries, these newly converted Believers preceded the communities of immigrants, and they became political movements, or legitimate practitioners of Quran and Sunna (according to their understanding, their readings, and sporadic teaching). Others converged on college campuses as students, still other Muslims from foreign lands were invited to America. Certainly, the intent of the MSA and ISNA was to become an umbrella organization for all Muslims. Indeed, most Muslims found commonality with them. At the same time, those Islamic governances within the American grassroots communities, founded by “ex-slave” generations of convert Muslim men and women failed to garner support even though the development of these communities represented the authentic evolution of Islam necessitated for dawah in this country.

Two characters generally distinguish these indigenous Muslim men and women:

(1) Love for Islam, and  (2) a desire for Muslim unity. Although these distinguishing characters are separate by explanation, they are joined for action.

They loved one another because they internalized what Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) said:

Quran 3:103

And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allah (i.e. this Quran), and be not divided among yourselves, and remember Allah’s Favour on you, for you were enemies one to another but He joined your hearts together, so that, by His Grace, you became brethren (in Islamic Faith), and you were on the brink of a pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus, Allah makes His Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.,) clear to you, that you may be guided. (3:103)

And,

Quran 9:71

The believers, men and women, are Auliya’ (helpers, supporters, friends, protectors) of one another, they enjoin (on the people) Al-Ma’ruf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do), and forbid (people) from Al-Munkar (i.e. polytheism and disbelief of all kinds, and all that Islam has forbidden); they perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat) and give the Zakat, and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will have His Mercy on them. Surely Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise. (9:71)

And,

Hadith of the Prophet conveyed:

An-Nu’man ibn Basheer reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

مَثَلُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ فِي تَوَادِّهِمْ وَتَرَاحُمِهِمْ وَتَعَاطُفِهِمْ مَثَلُ الْجَسَدِ إِذَا اشْتَكَى مِنْهُ عُضْوٌ تَدَاعَى لَهُ سَائِرُ الْجَسَدِ بِالسَّهَرِ وَالْحُمَّى

The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever. Source: Sahih al-Bukhari 5665, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi 

It portends a model of community.

In the U.S., the essence of Islam is rooted in unity. Indigenous brothers and sisters chose Islam as an answer to the fitna in America, especially in the urban areas. Collectively, we believe both the indigenous and the immigrant Muslims are situated in America to respond to the prayers of the oppressed around the globe. Efforts have been made, martyrs have been taken; organizations have been raised, yet neither have furthered a unified body to fulfill that mission.

Why?

Zaynab Abdullah is a slave of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). An educator with 40+ years experience, she is currently teaches at Al Huda School. This mother of 10 and a grandmother of even more, is the founder and Director of Islamic Home School and Network, Incorporated (IHSAN Inc.), a satellite and umbrella program, which facilitated instruction for home educated and adult clients in the Detroit, Michigan. A seasoned community activist and program coordinator for community based centers including Youth Against Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drugs summer grant program in Detroit, Highland Park Community Center. She is a Public speaker, a MIST Coach and AP College Board Table Leader. She follows a legacy of generational human and civil rights activists.

Ed. Note: Part 2 will be published soon.

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The Unfinished Business of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. | Imam Zaid Shakir

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During these days many in this country are commemorating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., born January 15, 1929. While most remember Dr. King for his soaring oration, symbolized by his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered before a sweltering throng at the Lincoln Memorial, August 28, 1963, Dr. King was far more than a moving orator. He was a formidable intellectual, an effective organizer and a passionate advocate for the freedom of his people. These qualities combined with Dr. King’s oratorical abilities to make him an individual oppressive political powers came to both despise and fear.

For all that he was able to accomplish in the context of the Civil Rights struggle and in advancing the rights and dignity of African Americans, Dr. King realized that his work was not complete; neither in the South nor in the North, as his painful experience in Chicago underscored. To a certain extent, his unfinished work is larger than the Civil Rights struggle. That larger work revolves around what he identified as the evil triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism. Decisively combating these evils is a daunting challenge, some might even describe it as nearly impossible. Dr. King realized, however, that with the help of God all things are possible and he thus never lost hope that we could overcome these forces. As people of faith, this should be our firm belief.

Our Muslim community is one whose existence, contrary to popular misconception, is predicated on the establishment of peace. It is a community that came into existence as a multiracial force and lists anti-materialism as one of its foundational principles (renounce the world and Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will love you). I believe that we have been divinely prepared to take up the torch held aloft so courageously by Dr. King and dedicate ourselves to the completion of his work. This is absolutely critical for the wellbeing of our nation and the world for as long as those evils rip through the waters of our collective humanity, the dehumanizing violence they give birth to will follow in their wake.

In his powerful but oftentimes overlooked speech, “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam,” delivered at the Riverside Church in Manhattan on April 4, 1967, Dr. King showed how these three evils are connected and how they combine to make the United States, in his words, “…the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” The fact that such violence continues, unabated, should cause all of us to reflect deeply on why we as a society have not done more to address it. The gut-wrenching violence we visited upon Vietnam has directly afflicted Afghanistan and Iraq and indirectly defines the fate of nations like Yemen, Somalia, Syria, and Palestine.

I believe one of the reasons we have done so little to arrest that violence is because we as a nation are so effective in denying its existence. In the words of a popular song, “Memories may be beautiful and yet what’s too painful to remember we simply choose to forget…” As a society, we find it far too easy and convenient to simply forget the painful horrors of native genocide, chattel slavery, Jim Crow and its accompanying brutalities, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan or the next place whose name might be added to this list. Dr. King forces us to remember these horrors and the violence they birthed –through the brilliance of his oration, the seriousness of his struggle and the testimony of his death.

The following quote from Francis Fitzgerald’s vivid chronicling of the Vietnam War, “Fire in the Lake,” serves to both awaken us to the magnitude of American violence and also the tragedy of how easy it would be to replace Vietnam with Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria or Yemen and find that it would be an apt description of any of those places. She writes:

In the refugee camps and isolated villages people die of malnutrition and the children are deformed. In the cities, where there is no sanitation and rarely any running water, the adults die of cholera, typhoid, smallpox, leprosy, bubonic plague, and their children die of the common diseases of dirt, such as scabies and sores. South Vietnam knows nothing like the suffering of India or Bangladesh. Comparatively speaking it has always been a rich country and the American aid has provided many people with the means for survival. But its one source of wealth is agriculture and the American war has wreaked havoc on its forests and paddy lands. It has given great fortune to the few while endangering the country’s future and forcing the many to live in the kind of “poverty, ignorance and disease” that South Vietnam never knew before.

Still, the physical destruction, perhaps, is not the worst of it. The destruction of an entire society –“That is, above all, what the Vietnamese blame the Americans for,” said one Vietnamese scholar. “Willingfully or not, they have tended to destroy what is most precious to us: family, friendship, our manner of expressing ourselves.” … “Physical death is everywhere but it is the social death caused by the destruction of the family that is of overriding importance.”

One could realistically ask why mention these things at this time when we should be celebrating Dr. King’s life and work? Why should we even care when we can do little or nothing to change such monstrous realities? I would respond that his nonviolent opposition to the stultifying violence of our country is the very essence of Dr. King’s life and work and collectively, with the help of Allah, we can begin to change the regime perpetuating that violence. I would respond to the above queries with a different set of questions. Namely, how many more innocent societies have to be destroyed before we as a people say enough is enough? What type of world do we wish to leave our children? Is it one where the situation described in “Fire in the Lake” becomes so common that it does not even prick their consciences. Have we become so blinded by the American dream that we can no longer see the accompanying global nightmare that helps to make it possible?

Some would say that the mere mention of such issues is overwhelming for the average person and hence could well lead to a type of socio-psychiatric paralysis. One the beautiful features of Islam is that it allows us to recognize our limitations while still maintaining a principled opposition to wrong. By so doing we are able to escape becoming socio-political zombies. Our Prophet (peace and blessings of Almighty God upon him) wisely stated,

“If one of you sees something wrong let him change it with his hand. If unable to do so let him speak out against it. If still unable to do so let him hate it in his heart, and that is the weakest manifestation of faith.”

Thus, if one finds himself or herself unable to do something lawful and practical like joining with the work of the Quakers or other institutions with a long history of nonviolent anti-war activism in this country, or founding a similarly-oriented Muslim group, let him or her speak out against it at every forum and via every medium available. If even that is not possible then let them hate it in their hearts. Doing so is the least we can do to honor the life, legacy, and sacrifice of Dr. King and hopefully, it will serve as a first step in our moving to finish the work he so valiantly started.

Imam Zaid Shakir

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