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The Bigots in Our Backyard

Some of the more memorable signs read, “Qur’an is hate speech,” “I’m the infidel your imam warned you about,” “Bible and Gun,” “Go home and take Obama with you,” and much more profane words were screamed out during the event.

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What do you call people protesting an anti-Terror conference? Yes, you read that right. An entire conference dedicated to condemning extremism, terror, and hate in the name of Islam, hosted by Muslims, was graced by protestors who claimed to be conducting a #freespeechrally. To break it down these people are against those who are against terrorism. Would that make them pro-Terror?

That would make sense considering some of the scary signage and chanting that were seen in various locations all over Texas this past weekend, in protest of SoundVision’s “Stand with the Prophet Against Terror and Hate” Seerah Conference that took place in Dallas and Houston. The conference featured Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Prof. John Esposito, and Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid.

In an official statement, Imam Mujahid, president of Sound Vision, expressed disappointment about planned protests of the conference.

“We are disappointed that a rally aimed at standing with Prophet Muhammad against hate and terror is being opposed. Some designated hatemongers, such as Pamela Geller, are terrorizing a family event through their protests. We have been threatened physically and verbally, and have beefed up security for our event because of this. Who, now, is doing the terrorizing?

We also ask who is the enemy of free speech? How ironic that those who accuse Muslims of opposing free speech have placed hundreds of calls and pressured Garland’s Curtis Culwell Center to cancel our event. How can you claim to be in favor of free speech and deny that very right to those you disagree with?

We invite all protesters to visit our website, www.SoundVision.com, to discover that we stand for Islam, we fight for America, and we preach freedom and democracy. This is why the U.S. State Department is supporting our work and our voice. Our aim has, and continues to be, sharing our faith through education, discussion, and debate.”

Bigots1

“Bible & Gun”

Local news channels gave a decent amount of coverage to the event, and multiple attendees told the same story. On the one side were the #freespeechrally protestors, headed by Pamela Geller, a professional anti-Muslim bigot, blaring threats and profanities into their bullhorns. On the other side were the #OneLove ralliers, protesting the other protest. Confused yet?

According to some accounts, several of the #freespeechrally protestors were armed, and they were intentionally making threats and throwing insults. Some of the more memorable signs read, “Quran is hate speech,” “I’m the infidel your imam warned you about,” “Bible and Gun,” “Go home and take Obama with you,” and much more profane words were screamed out during the event.

An organizer of the #OneLove counter rally, Huma Yasin, who is a lawyer in the Dallas area had these comments, “Never in my life have I experienced that level of hate in such close proximity, real, palpable vitriolic hatred. In life, things are rarely 100% pure, but if there was ever a pure contrast, Saturday was the moment – one side exemplified bitter hatred and the other love and compassion.”

She described one of the most moving scenes of the protest – when the Muslims amongst the counter-protestors congregated for Asr prayer, the #freespeechrally participants revved up their motorcycles and circled the worshipers, trying to drown out the sounds of the prayer. Unfortunately for them, there were many supporters of other faiths who had come to show solidarity with the Muslims, and they formed a physical barrier to protect the worshipers as they prayed.

bigots4

Muslims and non-Muslims forming a human barricade to protect those praying.

Yasin said, “When my brothers and sisters gathered for congregational prayers, they knew it would be too much of a security threat for them to pray together, so they had to break the congregation into two sessions. Each session formed a human chain protecting those prostrating themselves in love and humility to their Lord. All around motorcyclists came and revved their engines so that the people praying would be disturbed, using megaphones to heckle those who were affirming their love of God and, through God, their love for humanity. While this was happening, I had my heart in my throat… I kept thinking, my kids… my kids are watching this. Is this really the world they’re growing up in? But then, I thought you know what? Yeah, they are watching this. And we talk about stories of the Prophet all the time, including when he ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was being abused and verbally accosted and our focus is always on how he responded. This was their opportunity to LIVE the Seerah. They know the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) experientially now. They understand how difficult it is to fight hate with love.”

Children and adults alike, in various parts of Dallas and Houston, got to see the face of bigotry first hand (yes, it is 2015), ironically, on the weekend before this country celebrated the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. Despite or, perhaps, because of the extra media attention, the SoundVision conference was a success. However, these events make it painfully clear that anti-Muslim bigotry has hit a new and unprecedented high.

Even as millions of normal peace-loving Muslims the world over are exasperated at having to condemn and make excuses for all the crazies out there, the anti-Muslim bigots seem to be multiplying and demanding censures, apologies, and mass deportation of the millions of Muslim citizens of this country. As almost all of the Muslims at this event, and across the country, point out – we are home. We are as American as the rest of you, and when you ‘rally’ for free speech you do realize that very same amendment of the Bill of Rights also grants freedom of religion don’t you? According to our founding fathers, they go hand in hand. So don’t raise your voice in ‘free speech’ (even vile speech spewed in hate) if you can’t stand by the rest of that amendment.

bigots5This ultimately leads to the question – what do we as Muslims do about all the hate? Is it even our problem? (Yes) Is it now normal for Muslims to find protestors screaming obscenities at them outside their mosques and conferences? The answer is actually not complicated at all. In Dallas, lovers of peace and co-existence, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, handed out flowers, water, and red balloons to the protestors who were screaming obscenities and threatening physical violence. Why? Simple enough. That is what Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) would have done.

An old woman  and a neighbor of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) made a habit of throwing trash in his way whenever he passed by her house, trying her best to irritate him. One day, when he walked out of his home there was no garbage. This made the Prophet inquire about the old woman and he came to know that she was sick. The Prophet went to visit her and offer any assistance she might need. The old woman was extremely humbled and at the same time ashamed of her actions in light of the concern that the Prophet showed her. By seeing the example of compassion of Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), she became convinced that Islam must be a true religion.

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Farnaz Mawla was born in Chicago, IL but spent several of her formative years in Saudi Arabia. Her family returned to Houston, TX during the first Gulf War. She attended University of Houston where she completed a BA in Journalism and a BS in Biology. She then went on to complete a Masters in Hospital Administration/MBA combination. Throughout her educational career she was an avid writer and editor at various school/college newspapers and newsletters. She now lives in Dallas, TX with her husband and three kids.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Wael Abdelgawad

    January 21, 2015 at 9:26 PM

    Thank you sister Farnaz. The hadith cited at the end is appropos and enlightening. It’s so easy to be angry with these people and to respond to their meanness in kind. But that will get us nowhere in this society, and will do nothing for our imaan. As you said, this is an opportunity for us to have a small taste of what the sahabah experienced. May Allah allow us to succeed in this test.

  2. Avatar

    GregAbdul

    January 22, 2015 at 9:02 PM

    as salaam alaikum,

    I sat with a Nation of Islam used-to-be on New Year’s Day. He went on an on about how great the Nation was and how African American Muslims needed to reclaim leadership of Islam from the newly rising immigrant community. He was an old guy, so I spent a lot of time trying to respectfully disagree with him. But I conceded him one point and I hope that left us with some sort of truce: the immigrant community often thinks it is beyond the prejudice that black people are subject to in America, even as people like Geller, Spencer and Pipes make it crystal clear, that if anything, they hate immigrant American Muslims MORE than black American Christians. We are all struggling to find an Islamic identity and in our urge to get along, often we compromise our Islam, hoping show non Muslims that we are flexible and “moderate,” when it comes to our religion. Please don’t be offended with me, no statement can totally capture any entire group. But many of you don’t understand these old white people here. They are so wonderfully portrayed on TV, but the reality is, they are used to employees and associates who they get to control on the basis of them getting to say who you sleep with and what you pray to and they take it as a basic insult that you sit there taking money from them and they are not ten feet deep into your social life, approving of your wife and what kind of person you are. This is especially true in the Old South. I am not here demanding we all put on thobes and live in caves. I am asking that you understand the great value that the African American Muslims around you possess. We have been at this fight longer than you. We know the intractability of many of these people. Often, I run into huge denial and strange comments. One immigrant Muslim guy told me, “this is the white man’s country. You need to follow his rules or leave!” This is our country too. Being an American really is one long unending fight, because as Americans, we decide the nature of our government and there will always be those who disagree with us. The nutty Muslims resort to violence. As Malcolm said, you are then speaking the language of the most violent people on earth. Our Islamic fight, as we follow our Prophet, is most of all, a fight of ideas, and we must continually sharpen and present those ideas with the best words. And we never lose faith in those words that represent true Islam and putting those words into action. I close with a quick example. We just celebrated MLK, who said, judge people as individuals, by the content of their character, not on superficial labels. Yet what do you see these hateful white people do, 50 years after MLK? They are fighting to make our prayers a shorthand that unthinking people can use to judge every single one of us who prays this way. There are bad Muslims. We will never win if we insist that somehow we are responsible for every bad apple in a group that is almost two billion. They are fighting to use the exception and present it as the rule. They have done it with every group they hate. Jews were swindlers. Blacks are lazy crooks. They always come with the mindless collective argument. This is the first lie and idea of theirs we have to break. We are individuals. None of us is perfect. But to reduce me to an evil because you disapprove of my prayers shows they are not with America’s founders or MLK. WE Muslims stand with America’s founders and like MLK we have to make it clear who’s really engaged in un-American activities on this one.

    • Avatar

      Truth

      January 25, 2015 at 11:02 AM

      It is White people who love to murder and hate who are the nutty ones, the radicals, the extremists, THE terrorists! And the western hemisphere belongs to the Natives and not to the white thieving oppressors – the same goes for Africa, Australia and all of Asia!

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Civil Rights

Podcast: The Unfinished Business of Martin Luther King | Imam Zaid Shakir

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Our Muslim community is one whose existence, contrary to popular misconception, is predicated on the establishment of peace.

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.Click To Tweet

– Imam Zaid Shakir

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#Current Affairs

The New Scramble For Africa

Africa
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Africa is a blessed continent with resources and biodiversity that would impress anyone. Africa’s history in Islam (while neglected) played a major role, it was home to the first country to welcome the Muslims and allow them to practice freely. After the spread of Islam trough traders, regions across Africa became hubs for knowledge and trade. The richest man in history hailed from Africa and was Muslim, and his name was Mansa Musa. The riches of Africa have always sought after. People from all over the world have aimed to to do business or exploit the blessed continent. Unfortunately, the history of Africa is filled with strife, bloodshed, slavery, and holocausts. This rings true till today. The purpose of this article is not to dwell on the past, be it Arab influence or colonization. The events going on today needs out attention, we have ignored the struggles of our Muslim brothers and sisters in Africa long enough. 

The first major scramble for Africa was in the 19th century, when Europe carved it up like it was their property. The second was during the cold war, when East and West seek allegiances of newly independent African states. We are witnessing a third scramble that is less obvious, and more behind the scenes with “investments” and “wars”. It can be described as a cold war between China and America. 

African mines

Some see the resources they have like oil, chocolate, rare earth minerals, diamonds, etc. as a blessing (investors mostly), but to the people living through this every day it is a curse. Oil or mineral dependent countries in Africa suffer from enclave industrialization, limited diversity in their economy, and vulnerability to price shock. While this is happening, they see decay in their agriculture, manufacturing, and other trades. The continent is still traumatized by five centuries of exploitation. It is no easy obstacle to overcome. What we are seeing will only get worse as oil production is expected to peak in 2025, world scarcity will increase, and we will see more wars around oil. For the last decade, China has been using “soft power,” basically using money for leverage. This comes in the form of aid, trade, infrastructure projects, and loans. This is a plot to make them a superpower in the region. America, on the other hand, is doing what it has been doing since 1776, it is confronting Africa as a “battlefield,” basically running operations or anti-terrorism projects in dozens of countries that the American public is unaware of. 

One example is South Sudan, and the American campaign to split the Muslim country of Sudan to two. Before the split, China reportedly had invested $20 billion in Sudan. With American interventions occurring, China watched the events unfold. After the split the newly inaugurated president of South Sudan flew to China to secure an $8 billion investment. By 2013, China controlled 40% of their largest crude oil producers and was importing 77% of the country’s output. After unrest and bloodshed occurring in Libya, Mali, Sudan, etc, China has established a stronger effort with peacekeeping officers to protect their oil interest. As one superpower implements one tactic, another superpower follows its traditional method. Last year in Niger, American soldiers, including two commandos, were killed. This was surprising to me as I was unaware of American military operation in Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world with Muslims making 98% of its population.

We have seen a dangerous rise of commandos in Africa. In 2006, under Bush, 1% of deployed commandos were in Africa, by 2011 under Obama it had risen to 3%. It does not stop there, before stepping down from office, in 2016, 16.5% of American commandos deployed were deployed in Africa.

In 2006, only 70 special ops were deployed across the continent, in 2014 we have 700 deployed special ops in Africa. “None of these special operations forces are intended to be engaged in direct combat operations,” said Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Robert S. Karem. Despite this declaration, despite the deaths of soldiers in Niger, U.S. commandos keep finding themselves in situations that are indistinguishable from combat. 

In March of 2018, the New York Times released an article of 10 unreported attacks of American troops between 2015 and 2017. Despite these attacks and distrust towards the region, the Pentagon built a $100 million drone base in Agadez, Niger, regardless of the people’s concerns towards a base being built near their home. Our worldly desires is fueling this new scramble for Africa. Our need for resources, technology, and fuel comes at a cost. This cost manifests itself as the development of the rentier state (eventually developing into a kleptocracy across Africa, professional soldiers ruling the resource-rich lands or an expansion of the “war on terror”. 

Here are a few theoretical solutions, some are to be initiated by the government and some rely on people-power movements. The government needs to reduce corruption and that can be done through a menu of policies created to control and maintain corruption. Controlling corruption can be done through; changing the selections of national agents, modifying the rewards and punishments systems, and restructuring the relations between national agents and users to reduce monopolies. Another venue the government can explore is directly distributing resource revenues to the people. This is practiced in Alaska, and has been wildly successful. Finally, the government can invest the resource revenues in social development. Harnessing the revenues for human development to include education, healthcare, job training, and housing will lift up the urban and rural poor. 

The people can pressure the government to pursue any of those ideas mentioned. A power-people movement can look different depending on the need. One idea is that consumers in the West to boycott African minerals due to corruption and/or exploitation. This can develop into “smart boycotts” where we use internet hedge funds to attack corporations that exploit and feed into corruption. Developing campaigns like “blood diamonds” in the past have been proven effective to generate awareness and bring vital change. The same was done with the ivory, and now even China has laws making the product illegal.

People-power movements work and have helped locals rid of unwanted corporations in their region. Ken Saro-Wiwa, was a leader of the Ogoni people of the Niger Delta, he rallied against the abuses of the Nigerian military regime and the oil pollution created by multi-national companies, which resulted in a change of consciousness for the better. 

In his words: “Whether I live or die is immaterial. It is enough to know that there are people who commit time, money and energy to fight this one evil among so many others predominating worldwide. If they do not succeed today, they will succeed tomorrow.”

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CAA – NRC Row: Why There Is More To It Than An Attack On Secular Ethos

indian economy caa
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‘Indian Muslims have nothing to fear. No one knows what CAA/NRC is all about. They are simply protesting because they are misled’, thus proclaimed a former classmate of mine who himself left India for brighter prospects during PM Narendra Modi’s regime but continues to believe in his promise of ‘acche din’ (good days).

Today the whole of India is divided over the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which is to be followed by the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Thousands of students from India’s premier institutions like Jamia Milia Islamia, Jawahar Lal Nehru University, Aligarh Muslim University, Delhi University, IITs and IIMs are thronging the streets to protest against the bigoted law.

The ripple effect has even reached top educational institutions across the world including Harvard, Oxford, Yale and MIT. From lawyers to celebrities to academicians, people across the world, belonging to different religions are raising their dissent against the law which is deemed to be against the secular fabric of the Indian Constitution.

What is this law all about?

The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) provides an accelerated path to Indian citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhists, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities from three countries – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is an official record of all those who are legal Indian citizens. So far, such a database has only been created for the northeastern state of Assam which has been struggling with the issue of illegal immigration for a long time. In Assam 1.9 million people were effectively rendered stateless after NRC and were put into detention centers. Out of these 1.9 million, around 0.6 million are Muslim.

On November 20, Home Minister Amit Shah declared during a parliamentary session that the register would be extended to the entire country.

Why the uproar?

At first glance the CAA seems to be a harmless law, which the government claims was made to help those who are facing religious persecution. However, the question arises why only those suffering religious persecution? Millions of people are suffering persecution in the name of race, region or language in India’s neighboring countries.

Even if we talk about just religious persecution, why does the law only accommodate those from three neighboring countries? Rohingyas are suffering brutal persecution in Myanmar. Christians are suffering in Sri Lanka. Tibetans have been persecuted because of their beliefs.

Many people opine that the CAA is not problematic in itself. It becomes problematic when it’s seen in conjunction with NRC. When NRC is implemented, millions of people will be declared illegal due to lack of documents in a country where the masses live in villages and documentation is a complicated bureaucratic process with a high error rate. According Professor Shruti Rajagopalan, the State Of Aadhaar Report 2017-18 by IDinsight, covering 2,947 households, found that 8.8% of Aadhaar holders reported errors in their name, age, address or other information in their Aadhaar letter (Aadhaar is the identity number issued to Indian residents). In the NRC, a spelling mistake can deprive one of citizenship and 8.8% affects over 120 million people.

They will be rendered stateless and sent to detention centers with inhumane conditions. Out of these ‘illegals’, everyone but Muslims can seek accelerated citizenship under CAA.

The fact is that even if we view CAA alone, the very act of offering citizenship on the basis of religion goes against the fundamentals of secularism and equality as mentioned in the Indian constitution.

UN Human Rights chief, Michelle Bachelet has termed the CAA as “fundamentally discriminatory”.

In this context, it’s also relevant to understand the revolt that is happening in the north eastern state of Assam. While the rest of India is against CAA and NRC for exclusion of Muslims, the people of Assam are protesting against the inclusion of 1.3 million undocumented Non-Muslims, as identified in the NCR. According to them, if these foreigners are granted citizenship under CAA, they pose a threat to the language and culture of Assam.

Police brutality against protesters

Student fraternity across the world was shocked when students of Jamia Milia Islamia who were peacefully protesting against the CAA were brutally attacked by police forces. Police accused students of destroying public property and fired tear gas shells, beat them up mercilessly and even open fired at them. They barged into the library, mosque and even the women’s hostels without authorization.

Video footage shot by students and reviewed by Reuters show students, including women, hiding beneath desks in the library, cowering in restrooms, jumping over broken furniture in an attempt to flee. It was later verified that none of the students had anything to do with some of the buses that were set ablaze outside the campus.

Reports of even more horrific police brutality surfaced from Aligarh Muslim University. A student’s hand had to be amputated after a tear gas shell hit him and exploded. Hundreds of students were severely injured.

Section 144 of the Criminal Code which prohibits any gathering of 5 or more people has been imposed across the entire state of UP. Internet has been shut down in several parts.

Videos showing police destroying properties of innocent Muslims in UP have surfaced which the ‘Godi media’, a term coined for PM Modi’s lapdog media, refuses to acknowledge. Innocent youth are being dragged out of their homes and their properties are being seized on the accusation of destruction of public property. Death toll has crossed 22. Thousands are in custody.

It’s not surprising that Narendra Modi is being compared to Adolf Hitler.

India’s secular ethos

Religion based politics is nothing new in India, the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi issue and Gujarat riots being two of the most glaring examples.

However, in day to day life ‘Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isai, Aapas mein sab bhai bhai’ (Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians are all brothers) has not just been a slogan but a way of life.

Muslims in India have held prominent positions in every sphere of life, be it arts, literature, sports or leadership and have been admired by Hindus and Muslims alike.

The current BJP government aims to change all of that with its RSS-inspired fascist ideology of Hindutva – Hindu nationalism andHindu rashtra’ (nation).

India’s faltering economy and dejected youth

One of the heartening aspects of the CAA/NRC uprising is that it is not being seen as just a Muslim struggle. It is rightly being seen as a struggle to uphold the secular ethos of the Constitution of India. However, there is more to this struggle which is being led by the youth of the country.

Underlying the CAA-NRC struggles is the country’s deep disappointment with PM Modi’s lofty promises of ‘acche din’ (good days) which gave the country a new hope . Among other things he promised to make India an economic superpower. Today the nation’s economy is in doldrums which has led to frustration and dejection in the youth.

IMF’s last forecast for India was 6.1% growth in 2019. This has slumped to 4.9%. Unemployment is at a 45-year high and industrial growth rate is negative.

One of the major reasons for the economic slowdown has been the government’s radical decision of demonetization in 2016 which sent the entire country in a turmoil and failed to achieve any of its stated objectives. Small businesses took a further hit with the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

At a time when the government’s primary concern should have been the faltering economy, the government diverted the country’s attention to the Babri Masjid -Ram Janmabhoomi issue. As soon as that ended it announced the CAA and NRC, continuing its propaganda of Hindu nationalism as opposed to real issues faced by the nation.

At this critical junction the economy can be expected to take a further hit by the cost of the implementation of the CAA and NRC exercise.By conservative estimates, nationwide NRC will cost Indians a whopping 500 billion rupees in admin expenses alone. Add to it the massive cost of building and maintaining detention centers across the country and the nation looks set for an economic and logistical nightmare.

Today the educated youth of the country is voicing its frustration at the price the country has been paying due to the government’s fascist ideologies. They no longer want the world to know India for its age old mandir-masjid disputes, mob lynchings, communal riots, human rights violations, poverty or illiteracy.

The current uprising is not just against one particular law.The people, especially the youth of India are protesting for their rights to work together as one nation to take the country towards being an exemplary democracy and an economic superpower.

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