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Black Mass, Liberalism, and the Orthodox Paradox

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Daniel Haqiqatjou was born in Houston, TX. He attended Harvard University where he majored in Physics and minored in Philosophy. He completed a Masters degree in Philosophy at Tufts University. Haqiqatjou also studies traditional Islamic sciences part-time. He writes and lectures on contemporary issues surrounding Muslims and Modernity as well as the intersection of western philosophical thought and Islamic intellectual history.

This post was orginally featured on islamandevolution.com

To the outrage and dismay of Catholics across the US, atheists and Satanists at Harvard University planned to perform a “Black Mass” on campus. In an official statement, Harvard president Drew Faust remarked that, while the Black Mass is deeply offensive and “abhorrent,” the University’s commitment to free speech prevents it from intervening. For more info on the controversy, read here.

Interestingly, an analogous controversy took place at Harvard in 2006, when a campus student magazine published the infamous Danish cartoons. As an undergraduate there, actively involved with the campus Islamic Society, I remember vividly the impact the controversy had on the local Muslim community. In that case, the University administration took a similar stance to the one above, though, unlike in the case of the Black Mass, there was not an official statement from the University president nor did the then-president, Larry Summers, attend our campus Friday prayers in solidarity.

In any case,  how should we, as Muslims, feel about this recent situation and the response to it? On the one hand, it is Satanism. Anything done in the name of Satan or black magic, whether genuinely or for mere spectacle, is condemned according to the sharia, i.e., Islamic Law. On the other hand, the language and reasoning used by some commentators to condemn the event is quite similar to arguments used to curtail American Muslim rights, e.g., the right to build mosques, wear the hijab, etc. As Michael Muhammad Knight argues in his provocatively titled essay “Muslims for Satan”:

As a Muslim, I have to support the Satanists. Public revulsion of Muslims in this country is so popular that I have no choice but to stand with religions that are marked as ugly, offensive, and intolerant. Rather than join the anti-Satanist outrage and try to convince Christians that Muslims deserve to be included as “children of Abraham” or whatever, I would suggest that Muslims take a radical stand on behalf of the religious freedoms that we claim for ourselves.

Framed thusly, the tension is palpable. Should American Muslims (and Western Muslims at large) side with Satanism in the name of religious freedom or should they abide by established tenets of Islamic Law, in effect supporting Christian groups who, in other contexts, oppose Muslim rights and rail against the mere presence of Islam in the West ?

Rocks and Hard Places

This is the same tension Western Muslims feel on the question of gay rights. Many Western Muslims remain religiously opposed to homosexuality, let alone “gay marriage.” At the same time, Muslims are a beleaguered minority, struggling for a place at the societal table. Ostensibly, gays are also a rising minority, striving for public acceptance. So, in this sense, opposition to gay rights is, at least in some sense, also opposition to Muslim rights.

Of course, the analogy may not be perfect. Is discrimination on the basis of religious affiliation really the same as that for sexual orientation? One could argue that religious affiliation is fundamentally dissimilar to sexual orientation in just such a way that Muslims can remain opposed to gay rights and not undercut their own interests, all the while maintaining a commitment to liberal norms of freedom of conscience and so on. (And, of course, the converse argument can be made too: committed liberals calling for curtailment of Muslim rights while simultaneously championing gay rights.)

This is why the Black Mass event is such an interesting test case for Muslims. Unlike with sexual orientation, it is difficult to argue that Satanism does not fall in the same category as Islam. In other words, from the lens of secular liberalism, there is no functional difference between Islam and Satanism and Catholicism, or any other religion for that matter.

Orthodox Paradox

And so, here is yet another example of traditional norms butting heads with liberal values. What is the way out of this “Orthodox Paradox,” as Noah Feldman puts it? Feldman himself provided no decisive answer and seemed to have resigned himself to a “life of contradiction.” Other believers, like Michael Muhammad Knight, fall strongly on the side of liberalism. Prior to the Black Mass kerfuffle, it may have been hard to imagine a scenario where, implicitly, Muslims would be pressured to support Satanic ritual. Then again, liberalism does have this tendency to push the boundaries of traditional proprietary to blasphemous proportions. Which raises the question, what is the line? For those simultaneously committed to liberalism and religious faith, how far is too far? Is there anything left that is sacred, in the truest sense of that word?

Liberally Confused

In the US, we have already seen federal courts rule that businesses do not have the right to refuse service to gay patrons. And religious colleges are being pressured to accommodate LGBT employees, even if their official religious doctrine opposes homosexuality. It is not difficult to imagine the same kinds of arguments — perhaps in a different context but still under the umbrella of religious tolerance/freedom — being used to argue that denominational institutions must facilitate Satanist religious needs and preferences. Not to be outdone, Europe over the past decade has unleashed all manner of liberal secular argumentation to justify everything from the banning of mosque minarets, the banning of hijab in public, the banning of religious symbols generally, the banning of halal meat, the curtailing of religious assembly, and on and on. In the Muslim world, too, it is no secret, as the aftermath of the Arab Spring amply demonstrated, that liberal secular regimes can be more than a little harsh in disenfranchising Muslims in the political and legal domain, even when the latter profess their commitment to secular norms.

Predictably, most liberal-leaning Muslims (with some exceptions) will protest that what is happening in Europe or the Arab world is not consistent with liberalism. After all, liberalism stands for freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, a vibrant and open public domain dictated by democratic pluralism and mutual reasonableness. As it turns out, all these liberal concepts are radically subjective — as subjective, ironically, as secularists believe religion to be. So, maybe European hardline legislators banning the hijab, minarets, halal meat, facial hair, etc., are acting perfectly in accordance with liberalism, and it is just that liberalism is so indeterminate and content-less that literally any kind of legislation can be argued to conform to it. Even many hardcore Islamists actively claim that the principles of Islamic Law are inherently compatible with liberal values like freedom and democracy. For example, the Muslim Brotherhood officially calls its political wing “The Freedom and Justice Party.” Even Ayatollah Khomeini after the Iranian revolution used the language of liberalism to describe the revolution and his government as fundamentally pro-freedom (i.e., “azadi” in Farsi) and pro-democracy.

So, perhaps, that is the answer to the Orthodox Paradox. Perhaps the true paradox lies at the heart of liberalism. The claim that liberal secularism is inherently problematic and even self-contradictory is not new. Numerous prominent philosophersintellectual historiansanthropologistspolitical scientists, and legal theorists have remarked at length on the essential emptiness of liberalism. Reviewing all these works in detail is not the goal of this post, but, to whet the appetite, we can broadly introduce a few of the main ideas from the literature.

The Fickle Nature of Liberal Tolerance

Ought a democratic government ban political parties not committed to democracy? Ought a liberal legal system, otherwise committed to freedom of belief, proscribe illiberal beliefs? In a phrase, is a “discriminatory tolerance” truly tolerance?

Many of the religious bans against Muslims in Europe are done using this type of rationale. The historical banning of Islamist political parties in countries like Egypt and Turkey are also done on this basis. The argument is often made that Islamic practices and beliefs are uniquely antithetical to a free, democratic society, and, therefore, for the sake of the public good, must be prohibited. Yet, by secularism’s own lights, what is inherently good, evil, beneficial, or harmful is not definitively knowable and certainly is not for the state to set in stone. The implication is that liberalism and secularism’s appeals to the public good are fundamentally unprincipled and often serve to manipulate the populace so as to serve the interests of power.

As a straightforward example, consider the US security state and its virtually endless surveillance power. State officials justify their highly invasive surveillance methods by claiming they are necessary for maintaining public safety. This means that the “right to safety” requires citizens to simultaneously forego their “right to privacy.” This kind of impasse between mutually contradictory rights is ubiquitous in secular society, and the Orthodox Paradox is but one subclass of many such conflicts. We have already discussed the “right to religion” vs. the “right to sexual autonomy” or the “right to free expression.” How about the topic of wealth redistribution, i.e., increasing the taxes on the wealthy to support welfare programs? The Right argues that all citizens, including the wealthy, have a “right to property” in that the government cannot arbitrarily impose taxation to usurp people’s property/wealth, while the Left argues that all citizens have, say, a “right to healthcare.” Obviously, free healthcare for all is impossible without significant taxation, so there is a contentious conflict here. (The underlying issue is that all rights have concomitant duties and costs. Universal security costs everyone universal privacy. Universal health care requires universal taxation. Universal freedom of speech attenuates universal freedom of religion, and so on.)

The obvious question, then, is: Who is the state to decide which of those rights — and the underlying human interests entailed by those rights — ought to be protected at the expense of other competing rights? And on what principled basis could such decisions be made in the first place? Would not such a basis — call it a “theory of the public good” — have to make many assumptions about good, evil, benefit, harm, and human nature itself? And here is the kicker: At what point would this theory of the public good just be, essentially, another religion or, at least, share many of the normative features of religion? After all, if nothing else, religions theorize about what is ultimately good, bad, beneficial, or harmful for individuals and society and establish normative directives on, among other things, that basis. If establishing the public good is ineluctably normative in the same way religion is normative, is separation of church and state, as liberal secularism professedly requires, even possible?

Liberalism or Theocracy: A False Dilemma

No doubt, the preceding was a fast and furious introduction to a complicated and contentious topic. The takeaway is that liberal secularism as a philosophy about the regulation of a pluralistic society and the place of man within that collective has at least several important questions to contend with, questions increasingly many academics and laymen are beginning to ask, alhamdulillah.

But, for the sake of argument, if it is determined, either practically or theoretically, that liberal secularism is not a viable system, what is the alternative? Authoritarian theocracy?

The above comments were meant to show that the distinctions between theocracy and liberal secularism are not as stark and definitive as have been conventionally understood. In any case, the decision between liberal secular democracy and authoritarian theocracy is a false dilemma. There are numerous alternative ways to organize society other than what is currently on offer in the modern world. The nation-state, after all, in its current form is a product of hegemonic modernity — going back as little as 100 years, one finds a diversity of systems. The modern nation-state, of course, is nothing more than a geopolitical meta-institution that seeks to regulate and organize a large population by way of widely applied legal and executive power. In the modern nation-state, everything from the economy, education, healthcare, food production, housing, child care, religious practice, etc., are overtly controlled by or ultimately fall under the jurisdiction of state institutions and, hence, state power. If the recent financial disasters rocking the world have taught us anything it is that the interconnectedness and broad reach of state power is dangerously fragile and inevitably corruptible. Under what other system could the misdeeds of a handful of banking institutions cause a domino effect resulting in wide scale “austerity measures” and the plunging of millions into poverty all the way across the globe?

So what are the alternatives?

Millet

More on the state and its discontents can be read in “anarchist” literature. Wael Hallaq’s recent The Impossible State is a quick read that also provides valuable insights. As for specific alternatives, commentators have pondered historical precedents as well as imagined future models. The “Millet system” is a particularly noteworthy historical example. It is a vision of a pluralistic society, inclusive of people of multiple ethnic and religious backgrounds, that consists of large communities, i.e.,millets, that self-regulate and are otherwise loosely tied together through the shared use of limited “public” services as well as commitment to a very thin set of meta-regulations that apply to the millets. The self-regulation is what sets the Millet system apart from the modern nation-state. Each millet is defined by its commitment to a normative vision and a philosophy of life, in so many words, a religion, and its legislation, adjudication, and local governance is based on that religion. Obviously, individuals are able to be a part of the millet of their choice.

In contrast, nation-states are typically organized on the basis of incredibly broad ethnic and cultural lines and regulate the population using a unitary system of “universally”-applied laws (“universally” is in scare-quotes because, of course, some segments of the population are wealthy and powerful enough to entirely circumvent laws that are, nonetheless, brutally applied to lower socioeconomic classes). As we have seen, conflicts of conscience abound in this system, and, besides, normative theories of the good are smuggled into supposedly secular political institutions and secular law despite the outward commitment to separation of church and state. The burning question that the nation-state system and liberal secularism cannot answer or even address is, why should a diverse population committed to multifarious theories of the good be coerced into subscribing to one set of laws? When Western political philosophers like John Rawls ponder how a pluralistic society can negotiate their differences using a robust discourse of public reason to determine fair laws of governance, they are attempting to solve a contrived problem. If one throws out the requirement for a unitary, universally-applied legal and political system exercising power over hundreds of millions and, even, billions of people, the question of secularism, public reason, and separation of church and state unceremoniously dissolves.

But, of course, no state would ever relinquish its exercise of power and control over hundreds of millions and billions of people. In reality, that is true “freedom” — in the universal, not liberal sense — i.e., not being under the thumb of a muscular state that dictates one’s entire life through an expansive legal code and a strong police and military presence ensuring compliance with brutal force. In this way, liberalism serves state power against the interests of individuals and communities by taking attention away from the inherent authoritarianism of the nation-state and redirecting it to superficial non-issues like, is a government a “democracy” or not, is there adequate “free speech,” etc., issues that would not exist in the first place were the underlying nation-state paradigm eclipsed or fundamentally revised.

Orthodox Paradox Revisited

If nothing else, Islam’s apparent conflict with Western liberalism has caused no shortage of undue psychological stress to well-meaning Muslims. Beyond curtailing of Muslim rights, liberal secularism has caused a crisis of faith for many Muslims around the world who are surprised to discover that a 1400 year old religion does not perfectly mirror the idiosyncrasies of a particular modernist political and moral philosophy. The crisis becomes especially acute when this political philosophy is embedded into the modern ethos so deeply that it is taken by the masses as universally and exclusively good, leaving no room to imagine, let alone pursue, alternatives. In sum, this is the Orthodox Paradox, and it can be resolved by problematizing the liberal secular paradigm and the nation-state upon which it is premised.

To bring it full circle, Muslims and people of other faiths should not have to choose between staying committed to their deepest moral convictions, on the one hand, and the ability to live lives free of disenfranchisement, harassment, and the curtailing of rights, on the other. If the game requires us to choose between Satan and state oppression, there is something deeply wrong with the game.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ali

    May 20, 2014 at 1:41 AM

    The author mentioned Michael Muḥammad Knight. I couldnt tell if the author was for or against what Michael Muḥammad Knight wrote in the article that was linked. It was vague.

    Because if the author of this article agrees with Michael Muḥammad Knight, then we have a problem.

    Lets not forget that Michael Muḥammad Knight is a part of the “Five Percenter” sect of Islam, where they claim that the founder of that sect is god

    I am questioning MuslimMatters ideology. I am all for “discourses” and discussions, but you have to be careful what you promote as it can lead many astray.

    Who is selecting the articles here on MM? A few days ago there was an article that was removed after commenters (including myself) pointed out that the story was not authentic

    Who is selecting these articles.?

    Are they even reading the articles that are being posted?

    • Avatar

      Dawud Israel

      May 20, 2014 at 11:59 AM

      The article didn’t really have much to do with Michael Knight…but probably not the best person to quote either.

      di.

  2. Avatar

    hiba

    May 20, 2014 at 4:39 AM

    “If the game requires us to choose between Satan and state oppression, there is something deeply wrong with the game.” Strong.

  3. Avatar

    markibnmark

    May 20, 2014 at 7:06 AM

    Michael Muhammad Knight is not a Muslim. Just take one look at his page on Amazon if you don’t believe me. The guy is a professional provocateur and (supposedly) a Five-Percenter who believes the Black Man is God. Pretty much every public stance he takes goes against the grain of Islam and the Muslims in general.

  4. Avatar

    Dawud Israel

    May 20, 2014 at 12:17 PM

    We Muslims do not need a coherent answer to the “orthodox paradox.” When it comes to Islam, suddenly its about liberalism and right/wrong, and it all gets too abstract to be meaningful. But in the real world, where even the most learned academics don’t follow these principles to the letter, these things are not as important as money and power and respect. If there is no money or power in the picture, these liberal arguments are used as filler excuses.

    It was the same in the early days of Islam. Mushrikin argued why the Qur’an was not revealed to a great man of the two cities (Qur’an 43:31). Muslims were helpless until Hamzah and Umar embraced Islam and even afterwards there respect slowly increased.

    I don’t advocate pursuit of the dunya but we need to find a way to be respected without compromising our religion.

    di.

  5. Avatar

    Razan

    May 20, 2014 at 2:04 PM

    Assalamu alaykum,

    Don’t jump to conclusions, please – I didn’t see any support of Michael Knight, whoever he may be, in this article.

    Instead, I read an extremely interesting article pointing out the various paradoxes underlying modern liberalism and secularism, from an extremely well thought out and academic standpoint! I find that as Muslims we tend to be at a loss to confront issues such as liberalism because we don’t seem equipped to see the philosophical standpoints that it stands on. It’s extremely important for articles like these to be more widely read (as ‘ivory-tower’ as they may be at times) so that Muslims understand that the dichotomies being presented to us, such as ‘barbarism’ vs. ‘modern enlightenment’ are simply untrue, by deconstructing them.

    Thank you for the article! I shared it with some friends – I am a student of human geography, and so many issues that you mention are only beginning to be grasped by many people worldwide, particularly those who wish to develop their countries or peoples in methods that are not western.

  6. Avatar

    Edward Kefas

    May 21, 2014 at 6:07 AM

    Basically after all this learning and intelligence, we are urged to unite tactically with Satanists and the LGBT, because they ostensibly support minority rights, even though we could instead align with the kitabi on abortion, usury, peace, family, justice.– thus making Islamic moral teachings inferior to our need for ‘acceptance’? Alliance with the people of Black magic ?

    this is a disease of the heart, or disingenuous promotion of the enemy’s agenda.

    No, our natural allies are the Orthodox Christians and Jews against the pagans and Satanists.

    • Avatar

      Hyde

      June 26, 2014 at 9:39 AM

      Strange times have called for strange bedfellows. To think degenerates are protecting my rights…makes me feel wonderful. NOT.

  7. Avatar

    Hyde

    May 23, 2014 at 7:09 PM

    Beautiful…very well said well indeed.

  8. Avatar

    atqhdyn

    May 24, 2014 at 3:38 AM

    Sorry, can someone help?? How do I share articles from MM on Facebook? There’s only a like button available.

    Jazakallah khayr

  9. Pingback: The God of Liberalism - Obama News Report

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#Current Affairs

Confronting Internalized Islamophobia

internalized Islamophobia
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Last semester, I was teaching Roxane Gay’s essay “Peculiar Benefits” to a class of college freshmen. Following Gay’s lead, I asked my students to reflect critically on their own lives, on when they benefited from certain forms of privilege and when they didn’t. Unsurprisingly, my students pointed out many intelligent things, such as how English-language skills and physical ability are often unacknowledged as forms of privilege. What surprised me was what all the Muslim students listed not as a privilege but as a source of marginalization: being Muslim.

My students are on to something. Being  Muslim American today means dealing with a president who recently expanded his travel ban to six new countries, all of which have sizable Muslim populations. Being Muslim American today means worrying if your own house of worship will be attacked by a white supremacist, as happened in New Zealand, and in states across America. Being Muslim American means belonging to a faith community that, according to the research, endures the highest levels of religious discrimination in the country today.

In other words, being Muslim means confronting an Islamophobia that is real, that is part of American government policy, and that can even be deadly. With this sober reality, you might assume that American Muslims  would be unified in collective opposition to the dangerous bigotry that is Islamophobia.

New research, however, puts this notion into question. According to a study by the Institute for Social and Political Understanding (ISPU), a research organization that studies American Muslims in depth, Muslim Americans can themselves be Islamophobic.

The findings are as interesting as they are unexpected. Over the last two years, the ISPU and Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative have used a measure tracking anti-Muslim sentiment that they developed. Called the “Islamophobia Index,” the measure is based on answers to specific survey questions regarding Muslims and their assumed behaviors.

Over the last two annual polls conducted by ISPU, the findings reveal that white Evangelicals hold the most Islamophobic attitudes of any faith group while Jews are among the lowest. In the 2019 study, only Muslims were less Islamophobic than Jews, but some Muslims still endorsed Islamophobic sentiments.

Where does this internalized Islamophobia come from?

Some of it seems to be internalized shame. Muslims are the most likely faith community to “strongly agree” (44%) with the following statement: “When I hear that a member of my faith community committed an act of violence, I feel personally ashamed.” This compares to roughly a third of Jews (34%), Catholics (34%), Protestants (35%), and white Evangelicals (33%).

But that’s not all. Through crunching the numbers, the ISPU determined who’s more at risk in holding Islamophobic attitudes and what could protect someone from believing Islamophobic ideas. The least likely Muslims to hold Islamophobic views tend to be Democrats, thirty years-of-age or older, and self-identifying as Arab or Asian. Risk factors, meanwhile, include being between 18 and 29 years old, having experienced gender discrimination, either from within the Muslim community or from outside the Muslim community, and having experienced sectarian discrimination from within the Muslim community.

The least likely Muslims to hold Islamophobic views tend to be Democrats, thirty years-of-age or older, and self-identifying as Arab or Asian.Click To Tweet

What does all this mean? A fully formed picture may have to wait until a qualitative study puts some flesh onto these numbers, but it’s not difficult to see where the research is heading. It seems statistically likely that both gender discrimination and sectarian discrimination are pushing some young American Muslims into internalizing Islamophobia. According to ISPU’s 2019 Annual Poll, “as many as 41% of Muslim women experience gender discrimination at the hands of other Muslims at some frequency.” We should also note that sectarian discrimination with the American Muslim community has a racial dimension. The ISPU study identifies Black Muslims reporting much higher levels of sectarian discrimination (43% report it) than Arab Muslims (at 26%).

What does this mean for the community?

It’s time to state this plainly. We Muslim Americans simply must get our own house in order if we want to vanquish Islamophobia. Sexism and sectarianism have no place in the Muslim-American community. While outside factors such as negative media portrayals of Muslims certainly play a role in normalizing and promoting Islamophobic ideas, it’s also true—as this latest study makes clear—that Muslims who have personally experienced discrimination from other Muslims are the ones more likely to internalize Islamophobia.

And internalized Islamophobia, like all Islamophobia, is disastrous for everyone. People who score high on the Islamophobia index, Muslim or not, are also more likely to support discriminatory policies (such as the Muslim ban and the surveillance of mosques), curtailing civil liberties, and even the military targeting of civilians. On the other hand, those with the lowest levels of Islamophobia also exhibit high regard for African Americans, Jewish Americans, and LGBTQ Americans, proving that Islamophobia is but one part of how racism and discrimination work in this country.

Faith as a source of happiness

While internalized Islamophobia is real, it is also true that most Muslim women (87%) and Muslim men (84%) report seeing “their faith identity as a source of happiness in their life.” All the more reason why the onus of defeating internalized Islamophobia is on no one but us Muslims.

After all, as every Muslim reads in the Qur’an, “Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves” (13:11). Stopping internalized Islamophobia is also a necessary step to defeating all Islamophobia. And when that day comes, I suspect my Muslim students will consider their faith not as a stigma of difference but as a source of profound pride.

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Continue Reading

#Current Affairs

A Warrior Against Genocide, Abubacarr Tambadou | Imam Omar Suleiman

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Last night I had the pleasure of hosting His Excellency Attorney General Abubacarr Marie Tambadou, the Justice Minister of the Gambia and Imam Omar Suleiman at Honor Our Heroes in Washington DC. Imam Omar presented the Torch of Justice Award on behalf of Justice For All’s Burma Task Force and the American Muslim community to the Justice Minister for fighting genocide.

 I have been working on stopping this genocide in my role as the Director of Justice For All and the part Attorney General Tambadou has played in taking this evil regime to the world’s highest court on behalf of the Rohingya is the kind of leadership and courage we need to see on the global stage.

Here are Shaykh Omar’s remarks. – Hena Zuberi, EIC

I would like to begin this presentation to His Excellency Abou Bakr Tambadou by reminding all of us of the greatest man to walk the face of the earth after the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), Abu Bakr As Siddique.

It was narrated that Qais bin Abu Hazim said:

قَالَ قَامَ أَبُو بَكْرٍ فَحَمِدَ اللَّهَ وَأَثْنَى عَلَيْهِ ثُمَّ قَالَ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّكُمْ تَقْرَءُونَ هَذِهِ الآيَةَ ‏{يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ لاَ يَضُرُّكُمْ مَنْ ضَلَّ إِذَا اهْتَدَيْتُمْ}‏ وَإِنَّا سَمِعْنَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ يَقُولُ ‏”‏ إِنَّ النَّاسَ إِذَا رَأَوُا الْمُنْكَرَ لاَ يُغَيِّرُونَهُ أَوْشَكَ أَنْ يَعُمَّهُمُ اللَّهُ بِعِقَابِهِ ‏”‏ ‏

Abu Bakr stood up and praised and glorified Allah, then he said: ‘O people, you recite this Verse – “O you who believe! Take care of your own selves. If you follow the (right) guidance no hurt can come to you from those who are in error.”[5:105] – but I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say: ‘If people see some evil but do not change it, soon Allah will send His punishment upon them all.’” 

When Abubaccar Tambadou made his way from Gambia in West Africa, to the Rohingya refugee camps in Southeast Asia, he knew he couldn’t turn away from the evil he had witnessed.“

Listening to survivors’ stories he said the “stench of genocide” began drifting across the border into Bangladesh from Myanmar.

He said: “I realized how much more serious it was than the flashes we’d seen on television screens, Military and civilians would organize systematic attacks against Rohingya, burn down houses, snatch babies from their mothers’ arms and throw them alive into burning fires, round up and execute men; girls were gang-raped and put through all types of sexual violence.”

“It sounded very much like the kind of acts that were perpetrated against the Tutsi in Rwanda.”

In that genocide, up to a 1,000,000 Rwandans were killed with machetes and rifles, about 70% of the country’s Tutsi population. Sexual violence was rife, with up to 500,000 women being raped. 

At that time, His Excellency Abubaccar Tambadou worked as a trial attorney, where he was responsible for prosecuting violations of international human rights law in Rwanda. He secured the prosecution of four war criminals, including former Rwandan army general Augustin Bizimungu who called his victims cockroaches. 

Here Abubaccar was now, a decade later, witnessing the Rohingya genocide. More than 128,000 Muslims remain in detention camps in Burma today, where they have been confined since 2012, arbitrarily deprived of their liberty. More than 730,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since the military campaign of ethnic cleansing began in August 2017

Their villages have been burned down, their bodies discarded like waste, and the world has remained unwilling and unable to support them in their plight.

Simon Adams, head of the humans rights organization, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, said there was only one man with the courage, skills and humanity to try to hold Myanmar accountable for the alleged atrocities.

“Some were afraid of retaliation from the Chinese” (who tried to stop the prosecution of Myanmar knowing that it may set a precedent for them being taken to court for their Uyghur  concentration camps).

Simon Adams continued to say, “Others said it wasn’t a good time, was too politically risky. [But] I was impressed by his fearlessness. He realized what would be coming pressure-wise but he was developing a strategy to deal with it.”

Abubacarr Tambadou

What is a hero?

Is it “an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles? Is it “someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom? Is it someone who uses their power responsibly to support the powerless? Is it the man of resilience who is braver for 5 more minutes than his fellow man?

To us, a hero is one who recognizes the truth when others deny it, lives by it when others abandon it, pursues it when others obstruct it, and upholds it when others oppose it.

Abu Bakr As Siddiq raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) was a hero because he not only refused to let falsehood stand in the way of his recognition of the truth when it was manifest to him, but also refused to let fear stand in the way of his pursuit of that truth when it challenged him. 

Abu Bakr As Siddiq raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) ran to the defense of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) when he was being persecuted for his beliefs and shouted: 

أَتَقْتُلُونَ رَجُلًا أَن يَقُولَ رَبِّيَ اللَّهُ

Would you kill a man for saying his Lord is Allah?

Abubaccar Tambadou rushed to the support of the millions being persecuted for saying their Lord is Allah.

Abu Bakr As Siddique said: 

لا يحقرن أحد أحدا من المسلمين فان صغير المسلمين عند الله كبير

Do not belittle any of the Muslims, for even the lowest of the Muslims is great in the sight of Allah.

Abubaccar Tambadou refused to belittle those brothers and sisters who had been deemed too insignificant by even the wealthiest Muslim nations to uplift

Abu Bakr As Siddique raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said: 

الضعيف فيكم قوي عندي حتى أريح عليه حقه إن شاء الله والقوى فيكم عندي ضعيف حتى آخذ الحق منه إن شاء الله

The weak among you is strong in my sight, until I return to them that which is rightfully theirs God willing. And the strong among you is weak in my sight until I take from them what is rightfully someone else’s God willing.

Abubaccar Tambadou fought for the rights of the oppressed Rohingya to be returned to them, and refused to succumb to the intimidation of the government of Myanmar (Burma) and other strong governments that feared being held accountable for their own war crimes.Click To Tweet

When Abu Bakr As Siddiq raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) was with the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), it was only the 2 of them and the third was Allah. Imam Al Ghazali (ra) said the most blessed oppressed one to support is the one who has no one but Allah (man la naasira lahu ilAllah), and so when you choose to champion those who others find no political usefulness in supporting, you become a special agent of Allah sent to their aid in rare company.

Your Excellency Abubaccar, may Allah grant you a generous space under the shade of His Throne on the Day of Judgment, and a distinguished station next to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in the highest level of Paradise.

Justice For All’s Burma Task Force has filed a case on behalf of the victims of the Rohingya Genocide in the International Court of Justice- support the case by donating here. The Rohingya want justice.

 

Photo: Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, Chair of Burma Task Force, His Excellency Abubaccar Tambadou, Imam Omar Suleiman and Karim Yaqub, Rohingya activist at the presentation of the Torch of Justice.

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#Current Affairs

WATCH: Bloomberg Claims Mass Surveillance Of American Muslims Was “The Right Thing To Do”

Former mayor of NYC Michael Bloomberg’s claims his mass suspicionless surveillance programs against Muslims were legal and the right thing to do don’t stand up to basic scrutiny as courts actually ruled against them. He should apologize to the Muslim community for his behavior as he did for stop-and-frisk.

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Targeted Suspicionless Mass Surveillance of Muslims is Illegal

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg claimed in an interview with PBS New Hour that the mass suspicionless surveillance of Muslim Americans was “exactly within the law” and “the right thing to do”.  The program was conducted as a joint effort between the NYPD and the CIA aimed at Muslims not only in NYC, but as well in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey, and elsewhere.  It targeted mosques, university student associations, community leaders, cabbies, and more.  Informants and spies were sent to not only gather information on Muslims but to attempt to bait and entrap them as well. The program reportedly did not produce a single conviction.

Bloomberg’s assertion that “the courts ruled that it was exactly within the law” is false.  The NYPD was taken to court and forced to settle in Hasan v City of New York lawsuit after it was found that the First Amendment rights of the plaintiffs, among other rights, had been grossly violated.  The court stated:

What occurs here in one guise is not new. We have been down similar roads before. Jewish-Americans during the Red Scare, African-Americans during the Civil Rights Movement, and Japanese-Americans during World War II are examples that readily spring to mind. We are left to wonder why we cannot see with foresight what we see so clearly with hindsight—that “[l]oyalty is a matter of the heart and mind[,] not race, creed, or color.” Ex parte Mitsuye Endo, 323 U.S. 283, 302 (1944).

Hassan v New York Press Conference

The ACLU, the NYCLU, and the CLEAR project hold a press conference with plaintiffs Asad Dandia and Imam Hamid Hassan Raza in their lawsuit against the NYPD mass suspicionless surveillance

Under the terms of the settlement, the NYPD agreed to the following, in summary:

  • Not engage in suspicionless surveillance on the basis of religion or ethnicity;
  • Permit plaintiff input to a first-ever Policy Guide, which will govern the Intelligence Bureau’s activities, and to publish the Guide to the public;
  • Attend a public meeting with plaintiffs so they can express their concerns about the issues in the lawsuit directly to the NYPD Commissioner or senior ranking official;
  • Pay businesses and mosques damages for income lost as a result of being unfairly targeted by the NYPD and pay individuals damages for the stigma and humiliation harms they suffered for being targeted on the basis of their religion.

The Human Impact of this Program

Bloomberg also asserted the NYPD’s conduct was “the right thing to do”, but not only was it illegal, it caused stress and harm to all those impacted.  Take Asad Dandia, for example:

The consequences of this program were that it created a stigma on Muslims, it interfered with the ability of religious leaders to deliver proper sermons / khutbahs for fear of what could be taken out of context, it caused mosque congregants to be suspicious of newcomers and dissuaded attendance, it harmed political engagement in protests and public debates for fear of profiling, and it created major distrust of law enforcement and their ability to protect the community at large.

Make Bloomberg Take Responsibility

Mayor Bloomberg has apologized for stop-and-frisk claiming he reduced it by 95% after its problems came to light, though in reality, that’s simply not true – he was defending it as late as the month before his presidential bid, and it was reduced to due a court ruling he opposed.  It’s pretty obvious his apology is for his presidential run.  Likewise, his statement in the PBS interview “not all Muslims are terrorists, nor are all terrorists Muslim” as well as his support for the construction of the “Ground Zero” mosque are all commendable, but they are not enough to escape the charge of harming and discriminating against Muslims as a faith group.  Muslim Americans and Democrats, particularly those who think he’s a viable alternative to Sanders in the moderate/centrist lane should demand the former mayor also apologize for his actions against our community, and even if it is insincere, it should be understood that overt discrimination in policy or rhetoric against our community or any other should come with serious social and political repercussion.

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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