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Uyghurs in China: We Buried the Quran in Our Backyards

Hena Zuberi

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With the news of China forcing imams to dance in public and to make oaths to keep children away from religion in what is known as Xinjiang, where government officials warned that Muslims “During Ramadan do not engage in fasting, vigils or other religious activities,” effectively banning Ramadan, I wanted to share an interview that I did for the Muslim Link newspaper, with the Prime Minister of the East Turkistan Government in Exile, Anwar Yusuf Turani.

“We are an occupied territory. We know the plights of our Muslim brothers and sisters in Palestine, Kashmir, but why doesn’t the Muslim world know about our struggle?” asks Uyghur diaspora leader from East Turkistan, Anwar Yusuf Turani. He is the founder and prime minister of the East Turkistan Government in Exile. Uyghurs are a Turkic people by race and language, Muslim by religion.

“There are 35 million of us,” he says, some in exile, others in the land of what is known to the world as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. This number is hotly contested and rejected by the Chinese government’s official census.

Turani says most indigenous people of the region do not accept the name Xinjiang, meaning “new territory”, and prefer the name Sharqi Turkistan, but even using this name is seen as a threat to the sovereignty of China. He believes that China ends with the boundary of the Great Wall.

In 1949, when Mao Zedong declared the establishment of Communist rule in China, the map of China looked different than the one seen today. Tibet was free and north of Tibet, East Turkistan, the size of Alaska, existed as an independent nation.

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In talking with Turani, I learned that the struggle for independence is not new as an East Turkistan Republic was set up in Kashgar in 1933 and again in Ghulja in the 1940s, brutally crushed both times. The republic was short-lived. Its entire leadership perished in a plane crash en route to Beijing for talks with Chinese officials. According to the Global Museum of Communism, devoid of leadership, the East Turkistan Republic was then “liberated” by Chinese Communist Party troops. In essence, the Communists, “marched in and have occupied the overwhelmingly Muslim country, renaming it Xinjiang.”

Living in Maoist Run Kashgar

Turani, born in 1962, remembers his neighborhood in Artush, 40 km from of the ancient city of Kashgar. Islam was systematically erased and every region was divided; the head of each jurisdiction was Chinese or pro Chinese, and Maoist ideology was implemented.

“I remember 3-4 years of living in a labor camp in the outskirts in Tijen, forced by the Chinese military, since my parents opposed the Chinese policies.” Turani’s parents were labeled counter revolutionaries—bourgeois—and his father was fired from his position as the head of the agricultural department.

22 years of persecution followed his family. “In our town [where we lived], there was a man named Qudrat, and his wife, Quresh Khan. They were very poor; the government lured them with rhetoric and land, gave them a confiscated house from a landowner, after executing him,” Turani relates a story of manipulation of the masses. Happy to receive land from the government, elderly Qudrat and his family were then forced to take care of ‘a hundred pigs’. Turani and his parents, and the Khans had never seen a pig before in their lives, he shudders while squeezing the memories out, of a whole population of the Muslim town being given ‘free’ piglets to raise.

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“Most masajid [in our area] turned into propaganda centers, cinemas and movie theaters,” he recalls the horrific memories. “Our county became a labor camp,” he says, and many wealthy landowners were executed.

From his middle school days, Turani recalls the destruction of a historic Muslim cemetery in the city; later a military base was built on sacred grounds.

“My father had a Quran buried in our backyard I saw that with my eyes. I saw my father dig that Quran out after the death of Chairman Mao—my father used to read that Quran,” His eyes watered at the memory.

Dark Cloud of Death

“The occupation has been beyond brutal: open-air above-ground nuclear tests that killed hundreds of thousands, executed political prisoners, razed mosques, mass forced immigration of ethnic Chinese, deliberate economic discrimination in favor of said ethnic Chinese, Sinicization, etc.,” writes D.J. McGuire, elected Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Virginia and a blogger who has been writing and lobbying against Communist China’s role in aiding terrorist states—a glaring omission from the prevailing discussions about the war against terror. The Lop Nor testing site, located in East Turkistan, was used for 46 individual nuclear detonations from 1964-1996.

 

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These were the largest ongoing series of tests ever to be carried out in a populated area.

A conference was held in Brussels in The European Parliament in 2012 to examine the high rates of cancer, birth defects, and radiation-related illnesses in East Turkestan. Dr Enver Tohti, a Uyghur Surgeon and Independent Researcher, presented at the conference. He writes in ’46 Detonations Later: The Human Costs of the CCP´s Nuclear Programme’, that a recent study conducted by Japanese professor and physicist Jun Takada concluded that Chinese nuclear weapon tests caused more deaths than those of any other nation. Takada who studied radiation effects from tests conducted by the U.S., the former Soviet Union and France, has reported that the Chinese government surface nuclear tests caused up to 190,000 deaths in the surrounding areas from the explosion and a further million were killed by the radiation from the three-megaton explosions. This is 200 times larger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, says Takada, who published his findings in a book, Chinese Nuclear Tests (Iryo­ka­gakusha, 2009). Since he was not allowed into the area, he visited neighbouring Kazakhstan using radiation levels measured there from 1995 to 2002. ‘He devised a computer model to estimate fallout patterns using Soviet rec­ords of detonation size and wind velocity,’ according to Scientific American, extrapolating the data for China.

Escape to America

Turani escaped from China and came to the United States as the first East Turkistani seeking asylum in the country. A Physics teacher, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, Gulzighra (who is a registered nurse) and their four children. He looks Afghan or Pakistani, could pass for Middle Eastern, anything but Asiatic. Most Uyghurs look like him but many photographs published by newspapers in the Muslim world show ‘Chinese Muslims in Beijing’ and call them Uyghur, he says.

In September 2004, Turani and his fellow countrymen declared an East Turkistan Government in Exile inside the U.S. Congress. They have a constitution, a flag and a written language, and a coat of arms based on the two previous states. East Turkistan exiles include Uyghurs, Kyrgyzs, Uzbeks, and Tajiks. The People’s Republic of China opposed the formation of the East Turkistan Government in Exile. The fallout was great and the US government was quick to distance themselves away from the nascent government, saying that they do not recognize them. “The government in exile stated that its goal is freedom and democracy for its people, and an end to Communist China’s occupation. It is explicitly non-violent, has repeatedly condemned al Qaeda-sponsored acts of terrorism,” writes McGuire.

Turani, whose home is graced by a huge photograph of him embracing the Dalai Lama, says that China has used the global war on terror as an excuse to continue brutal oppression of the Uyghur Muslims. As noted by Amnesty International, many innocent Uyghur men and women including children have been massacred as recently as last Ramadan in Yarkant by the communist Chinese authorities ‘in the pretext of terrorists, extremists, and separatists.’

Dr. Haiyun Ma, a Hui Chinese professor of history in Maryland agrees, “China’s “Anti-Three (Evil) Forces” campaign (extremism, separatism, terrorism), begun roughly in the 1990s, has since extended to preventing the Uyghurs from gaining their independence. China — which looks at the U.S. waging a war in Afghanistan (also against terrorism and extremism) not so far away — has used the perceived threat of terrorism to justify their actions in Xinjiang.”

There has been development in the region, Turani concurs, but just like the West Bank settlements by and for Israelis, the development is only reserved for ethnic Hans or those who toe the Chinese government’s line. Urumchi, the main city is filled by ethnic Chinese; in some areas there are only five percent Turkistani people left, especially in the downtown area.

Curating A Forgotten History

Turani asserts that the native Uyghur population is diminishing. There is no hard data to show that the population is decreasing, and in fact most census studies show that there has been a population growth. However, the percentage share of the Uyghur population is decreasing based on official and unofficial statistics. In 1964, it was 90 percent of the population, but through immigration from mainland China, the population is roughly 50-50. The Muslim population is controlled through birth control and forced abortion, which Muslims believe are divinely forbidden or haram. Turani says that if Muslim mothers are found pregnant with more than 2 children, they are taken to the hospital and even if they are 9 months pregnant their babies are systematically slaughtered in their bellies—physically, socially, psychologically and spiritually scarring the Muslim families. Many Uyghurs live in poverty, their children are not allowed to practice Islam. Those who work for the government are also not allowed to practice their faith. This Ramadan, Muslim students and civil servants were ordered to avoid taking part in fasting. Students who were found fasting were force fed during the day. Young boys and men are routinely taken away for ‘illegal’ Islamic classes.

Dr. Ma verifies the Tukistani leader’s claims; in an interview with Duke University’s public scholarship forum Islamic Commentary, he comments that “economically, the Uyghurs have little, if no access to the Chinese state economy, which includes state corporations and the quasi-military Xinjiang Development and Construction Corps (Its members are farmers during peacetime and soldiers during wartime). Unlike the Han-populated coastal regions of the southeast, the Uyghur economy in Xinjiang is almost dissociated from the Chinese economy. Adding to this, there was a large Han immigration [to the region], after the “liberation” of Xinjiang – following the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Large military and militia personnel, their relatives, intellectuals, and youth were sent by the government to Xinjiang during various periods. More recently, Han farmers and businessmen came to Xinjiang. Since they typically have friendly relations with Xinjiang officials and military (either they are friends or relatives), Han farmers and businessmen coming to Xinjiang have been able to quickly dominate Xinjiang’s economic sectors — from mining to farming.”

In his office, Turani has a studio set up where he broadcasts speeches on his Youtube channels—social media and the internet is extremely controlled in China—intent on making sure that his people don’t forget their legacy and their history.

There is a collection of photos of Uyghur scholars, leaders.

A wall is dedicated to Muhammad Ali Tawfiq (Bey), the reformist educator who built 24 schools in Turani’s city. He was murdered by the Chinese along with his followers in 1937, including Turani’s uncles.

A devout Muslim with a melodious qiraa (recitation), Turani shows photographs he has curated of young men arrested for wearing the Turkish flag on their t-shirts, Islamic scholars in jail for teaching Quran to children, Uyghur women jailed for wearing the hijab.

“Why doesn’t the Muslim world talk about us?” he questions. He also says that many times Chinese Muslims are shown in media when referencing Uyghur people, further diluting their existence.

The Case of Professor Tohti

Recently an economics professor and Uyghur rights advocate Ilham Tohti was arrested and put on trial for ‘promoting’ separatism (he is now in prison for life). Turani takes exception to this claim—separatism is not the right word in this situation, as the Uyghurs are occupied, he says.

An accusation of separatism carries the death sentence. When Western newspapers claim ‘violent separatism’ in the region, Turani struggles to contain his displeasure. “The place is like a pressure cooker; no one is allowed to talk, cameras watch every move. Hundreds and thousands are missing or dead. And we are violent separatists?” he says. Violence stems from the repressive policies, not from radical ideology.

Many Uyghur scholars such as Abdulkarim Abduwali, alims (religious scholars), businessmen, and educated people have died under the regime and Tohti is yet another name on the list of people who have sacrificed their lives. Before his arrest Ilham Tohti, 44, was attacked by three secret policemen who screamed, “We’ll kill your whole family!” shares his friend, in an article about his arrest in The Guardian. Tohti was also a blogger and focused on the need to implement, “Xinjiang’s long-promised autonomy; the need to observe the rule of law and human rights; that all ethnic groups should share fairly in the fruits of China’s development; and that discrimination based on region, ethnicity or gender must be eliminated.” “Criticism and dissent is good for any government. What was Professor [Tohti] doing that he deserves to [be] jailed?” Turani asks. “Anyone who stands up for their human rights is labeled a counter-revolutionary,” he adds.

Independence vs Autonomy

Turani wants independence, other Uyghurs wants autonomy. Either way, he believes that a fair referendum could never take place in a region where two or more people are not allowed to convene without suspicion and harassment from the secret police; where jobs, passports, travel, even Jumuah khutbahs are all closely monitored by the Chinese government. People lose their pensions if they go on Hajj—if they are lucky enough to acquire a passport. Turani’s relatives have all been blackmarked and cannot travel outside the region, unless they bribe officials.

There has been some debate about the Uyghur identity, especially by Kristian Petersen, an Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska Omaha who wrote a study in the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs on Uyghur presence of the internet— who they originally were and how and where the name was applied—but Turani wants freedom for all the East Turkistani people, not just those who identify as the Uyghurs.

Turani says he has the support of a handful of congressmen after years of activism. From time to time, Turkey will challenge China on its oppressive policies, but he says most other Muslim nations, including neighboring Pakistan, have turned their back. He understands why his people’s struggle is not a priority for people of other faiths but to his Muslim brothers, Turani has a message, “Do you not feel our pain?”

Keep our Uighur brothers and sisters in your special Ramadan Duas.

Hena Zuberi is the Editor in Chief of Muslimmatters.org. She is also a Staff Reporter at the Muslim Link newspaper which serves the DC Metro. She serves on the board of the Aafia Foundation and Words Heal, Inc. Hena has worked as a television news reporter and producer for CNBC Asia and World Television News. A mom of four and a Green Muslim, she lives and preaches a whole food, organic life which she believes is closest to Sunnah. Active in her SoCal community, Hena served as the Youth Director for the Unity Center. Using her experience with Youth, she conducts Growing Up With God workshops. hena.z@muslimmatters.org Follow her on Twitter @henazuberi.

43 Comments

43 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Faris Mee

    June 18, 2015 at 9:40 PM

    The solution is the Islamic State. There is no other way.

    • Avatar

      Muhammad

      June 19, 2015 at 6:42 AM

      Terse yet precise. But indeed not the IS that is currently rampaging in Syria. Ostensibly not that one. So the question arises, have we done our part in reviving the Khilafah?

      • Avatar

        Aam

        June 19, 2015 at 5:37 PM

        Brother , you need to watch your mouth before saying anything like that (hands in this case). I am sure that your words are not based on the research that you have been doing since a decade for the pursuit of TRUTH but rather it is based on the ideas of a Hollywood movie you just watched or a fake CNN report you just read or a Game of Thrones you just enjoyed with your daughters and son at a family event.

    • Avatar

      Omar

      June 19, 2015 at 11:36 AM

      No, actually that is not the solution. The solution is for you to care about their plight as much as you care about Syria, Palestine and do something about it.

      A magical “Islamic State” will not solve anything if people are not willing to change.

      Muslims have to become better Muslims and that is “The Solution”.

    • Avatar

      SamBO

      June 19, 2015 at 11:48 AM

      Islamic state? No thanks! Not on my road, not down my yard, and not in my manor. And I have one hundred thousand reasons why. I notice my last comment was deleted. I wonder how long freedom of speech will mean anything?

    • Avatar

      Aam

      June 19, 2015 at 5:33 PM

      You are right but the ignorant muslims of modern times; the so called moderate or modern muslims would never allow that to happen. They do not like it when they are stopped from doing anything sinful.

      • Avatar

        Wolday

        June 23, 2015 at 10:52 AM

        Lol, you can say that again

  2. Avatar

    Mohammad Sudaiz

    June 18, 2015 at 10:09 PM

    May ALLAH grant your freedom from the communist China..Ameen ya Rabbi

  3. Avatar

    Nida

    June 18, 2015 at 10:40 PM

    Thank you for this article. I had no idea about any of this. I feel like I have been living under a cave throughout my time. Ya Allah help the Muslims in East Turkistan, guide them to the right path and grant them success.

  4. Avatar

    THANVEERUL HAQ

    June 19, 2015 at 1:07 AM

    Insha Allah, May Allah give hidayah, and show all muslim brothers right path, once we get in right path no one in the world has power to touch. because allah help will be with us.

  5. Avatar

    Mohammed Yaseen

    June 19, 2015 at 1:20 AM

    I never knew uyghurs muslims are suffering this much.I really cried after reading this article.May Allah grant all Uyghur muslim brothers and sister jannat ul firdous….Aameen

  6. Avatar

    Ruby

    June 19, 2015 at 1:30 AM

    May Allah swt ease the difficulties and hardships these brothers and sisters of ours are facing at the hands of these oppressors, ameen.
    They will try to extinguish the Light of Allah and they will never succeed!

  7. Avatar

    Harun

    June 19, 2015 at 2:25 AM

    May Allah save the Muslim ummah where ever they are and may He protect Islam in what ever circumstance. Ya Allah you know what is happening to the Muslims in East Turkistan, listen to our prayers and look into our pains in this Holy month and beyond.

  8. Avatar

    Anonmous

    June 19, 2015 at 2:46 AM

    Why is muslim world OIC silent about this..why is US not putting sanctions on China ? Why is the world not boycotting them ?

  9. Avatar

    Gumel

    June 19, 2015 at 4:16 AM

    Oh Allah Help Uyghur Muslims; This shows there is no freedom under Chinese government. Why Amnesty cannot intervene?

  10. Avatar

    Lilli

    June 19, 2015 at 6:11 AM

    You (ignorantly) say all these things, yet you’re the one causing problems and hate- while the rest of the comments are sympathetic prayers for those who are hurting. This article doesn’t have to be about Islam for you. Look past that and read it again.

  11. Avatar

    Lilli

    June 19, 2015 at 6:15 AM

    (My previous comment was for a specific commenter)

  12. Avatar

    Umar Adamu

    June 19, 2015 at 10:20 AM

    Ya Allah help the Muslims in East Turkistan, guide them to the right path and grant them success. Ya Allah assist the muslims the opressed all over the world, ameen thuma ameen.

  13. Avatar

    Hasan

    June 19, 2015 at 4:03 PM

    Erdogan and Turkey please do more for our brothers and sisters in East Turkistan and in other oppressed nations. Allah sees all things and it’s aware of what they do.

  14. Avatar

    wasim

    June 19, 2015 at 4:32 PM

    Assalam . i never make china for unknown i do know you have musalman .ALLAH is only God the highest .if can’t live musalman there then we have pakistan next door

  15. Avatar

    ZAI

    June 19, 2015 at 5:11 PM

    “why doesn’t the Muslim world know about our struggle?”

    Because Muslim majority nations and Muslim ethno- nationalists look after their own interests just like any others while only giving lip service to “ummah”, and in this case China is Pakistan’s best buddy…so this will be suppressed so as not to upset China. “Ummah” or “Islam” is used by many Muslims and Muslim majority nations the same way America uses “freedom”… God be with you brothers, because the Muslim “ummah” won’t be in any meaningful way while Pakistan’s military has any influence…

    • Avatar

      Sunny Salman Jamil

      March 17, 2016 at 12:04 PM

      You hit the nail on the head. Pakistan borders what China calls its Xinjiang province. If Xinjiang was freed and East Turkistan was formed, then China would no longer have access to the ports in Karachi and China would not like that.

  16. Avatar

    PRINCESS NAF

    June 20, 2015 at 3:59 AM

    its so sad that i read with pain in my heart,when will people learn that islam is not the problem but the solution? i feel pin for my brethren,patient oh brothers and sisters ALLAH will never let the oppress go unpunish,my prayer shall be with you INSHAA ALLAH forever

  17. Avatar

    Dyyf

    June 20, 2015 at 12:32 PM

    Considering that Non-Muslims are brutally oppressed in Muslim nations (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, now Turkey, Egypt and Libya among others) maybe it’s karma that Muslims are somewhat oppressed in non-muslim countries. You would do well to criticize as forcefully, or more, your brethren for doing so completely what you find fault in others doing to you partially.

    • Avatar

      M. Mahmud

      June 22, 2015 at 7:12 PM

      Wait…so non-Muslim oppression of Muslims is “partial while Muslim oppression of non-Muslims is “complete”?

      Thank you for demonstrating yet again the typical non-Muslim double-standards.

  18. Avatar

    Ali

    June 24, 2015 at 8:23 AM

    Isn’t it true that Muslims will only be victorious over the kuffaar once Eesa ibn Maryam AS returns to earth? And if so, isn’t it futile to fight them until that time comes? Or am i being too pragmatic…

  19. Avatar

    Peter Hall

    June 27, 2015 at 6:16 PM

    I am saddened by the responses to this article.

    I note many calls for Allah, to fix a man made problem.

    I note that even calls for the evil that is IS, to be visited upon these people.

    However, as a non muslim, I feel for these people, and the injustice is not the injustice that is against Islam.

    The injustice is that these people are living in a country where they are not free to practice their religion, they are discriminated on the basis of race, and they have say in how they live.

    The 3 basic freedoms these people should have are being denied to them by the Chinese Government.

    Calling for Allah to fix these problems is not only completely useless, it is also using Allah to be used as an excuse to do nothing about it. That is shameful, if Muslims really do respect Allah, why do they constantly call to Allah, and use Allah as an excuse to do nothing? I see it all the time, that the Muslim world does nothing, expecting Allah to fix the problems that are the result of the evil of man, or the laziness of mankind.

    Virtually every comment on here, asks why SOMEONE ELSE isn’t doing something about this injustice. How pathetic!

    IS is just another form of evil formed by men, that allows the ruthless and the evil to what they want, and has no respect for the basic rights of humans to practice their religions, to not be discriminated against and to have a say in how the society they live in is run. That is exactly the same as what the Chinese Government is doing. Same man made evil visited upon people.

    Replacing the ruling body that suppresses one religion or any, with one that suppresses one religion in favour of others, is the same evil, visited in a different way.

    When will the bulk of Muslims understand that Islam is strong enough to stand on its own feet, Islam does not need to enforce its beliefs and doctrines by threat or fear.

    When will Muslims learn that when a problem is created solely by man, such as now being visited upon the Uyghurs, by the Communist Chinese, needs to be fixed by a Political solution. That these people are Muslim is irrelevant, if they were Hindus, or Christians, the same moral outrage should be felt by free thinking moral people.

    The Uyghur Muslims political problems should not be made a Muslim issue, it should be made a issue of basic human rights, the freedom of religion, the freedom of expression, the right to self determination and the right to not be discriminated against based on race.

    Now the Qu’ran contains the ethical elements of all these rights, there is no compulsion in religion, is an example, shows that Muslim ethics can influence a political solution to a man made problem. However, man made problems require men to act.

    Calling to Allah to solve a man made problem is insulting to Allah, and shows how lazy some Muslims are, that they invoke Allahs name, and expect Allah to do something about a situation, that they are too lazy to do anything about.

    What do these people think? Allah is a servant ? They invoke Allahs name and expect that will solve the problem?

    Take some personal responsibility, do not talk about it, do something about it. Lobby the UN, write a letter, boycott Chinese goods, wear a T-shirt, write a blog, do SOMETHING other than invoke Allah as an excuse to do nothing.

    • Avatar

      Aly Balagamwala

      June 28, 2015 at 5:48 AM

      Peter I do not agree on it that Muslims shouldn’t call upon Allah (SWT) for His help. But I totally agree that we have to put in our two cents worth of effort against this problem and pray alongside for Allah (SWT) to make it amount to a lot.

      Best Regards
      Aly

      *Comment above is posted in a personal capacity and may not reflect the official views of MuslimMatters or its staff*

      • Avatar

        Peter Hall

        June 28, 2015 at 5:55 AM

        Greetings Aly

        It is not calling upon Allah, it is how they call upon Allah.

        I feel sorry for the persecution these people are suffering, and it is the duty of all moral people to do something to help them. I do not see it as a religious issue, but a moral issue, the morality of man.

        Calling on Allah’s help is one thing, asking him to fix the mess of man, but do nothing yourself, is just lazy, ignorant and disrespectful.

        Evil only truly triumphs, when good men do nothing!

    • Avatar

      Abdul Rahim

      January 6, 2016 at 4:57 AM

      Well said. You obviously understood the issue. They need a political solution. Your suggestions are well meaning and indeed a good start. They must fight for media coverage, be heard and seen……as an oppressed and dispossessed community. Be politically savvy and don’t ever indulge in violent protest……lest the Chinese government will be quick to label them as terrorists. It’s a battle of the minds……to win a positive global opinion. That’s the only way.

  20. Avatar

    Aydin Anwar

    July 4, 2015 at 2:29 PM

    Assalamu Alaykum everyone,

    My name is Aydin Anwar Turani and I’m writing on behalf of East Turkistan Government-in-Exile. Thank you very much for your love and support for the cause of the oppressed people of East Turkistan. We are so glad that this article generated many comments and discussions.

    We are also very appreciative of the countless duas made toward the Uyghurs in East Turkistan. Unfortunately, like Peter Hall mentioned, prayer is not enough. Yes; it can have a profound impact, but it can also have a very minimal impact when no action is taken. What we need to do is give the same amount of attention we give to Palestine and Syria to East Turkistan. And rally together against the Chinese government.

    The first step to solving any problem is identifying the problem itself. The main problem lies within the lack of attention and awareness of what is going on back in East Turkistan. Unfortunately, a very small portion of the international community knows what is going on back in East Turkistan, while the rest have never heard of the Uyghurs. It is quite saddening actually when we realize how little we know about what is going on in other parts of the world—parts of the world that are yearning for help as they are trapped under thick layers of cruelty and injustice.

    Also, if you have any ambiguities that need to be cleared and happen to live in the D.C. area, East Turkistan Government-in-Exile will be hosting an event on July 25th: East Turkistan Awareness Day Conference. The purpose of this event is to raise awareness to the international community about the history, culture, and current political situation of East Turkistan. There will be various well-respected speakers and scholars from the D.C. area who will delve into the underlying issues of what, how, and why the atrocities are occurring back in East Turkistan and, most importantly, what we can do as a community to improve the plight of the Uyghurs back in their homeland.

    Program Details:
    When: Saturday, July 25th at 12:00PM-4:30PM
    Where: Chantilly Regional Library (4000 Stringfellow Rd Chantilly, VA 20151)

    Speakers:
    — Anwar Yusuf Turani (Prime Minister of East Turkistan Government-in-Exile)
    — Imam Taalib Abdul-Samad (Director of Islamic Research and Humanitarian Service- Center of America)
    — Altan Erg (Representative of Turkish American Cultural Center in Maryland)
    — Dr. Jeannette Hablullah (N.D. Wholistic Health Practitioner, Author of The Pearl Within)
    — Imam Ali Siddiqui
    — Sheikh Muhammad Raja
    — Dr. Souheil Ghannouchi

    Moderator: Turkel Anwar (Cornell University 2015)

    ** Refreshments will be served and event will be free of charge**

    • Avatar

      Abdul Rahim

      January 6, 2016 at 5:31 AM

      Dear Aydin,
      You are spot on. The rest of the world know very little about this, including myself. Obviously, lack of media coverage. Sad to know even the notorious Boko Haram received more international media coverage for their heinous crimes. On the other hand we are bombarded with official news of Chinese Muslims in China doing relatively well, appearing wealthy enough with well dressed young children running in the playground. Until your report highlighted that the many pictures that the world get to see are actually Chinese Muslims in Beijing and not the supposedly oppressed Uighurs……..My family and I had just returned from a 9-day winter holiday in Beijing and Xi’an, those Muslim tour stuff. Obviously all the Muslims that I encountered are Chinese looking and apparently were quite pleased with their lives. We thought they are Uighurs too. Now I know the difference. Many of us have been ignorant about the plight of our Uighurs brothers, surely we are not apathetic about your cause…..

  21. Avatar

    bob

    July 5, 2015 at 9:05 PM

    I wonder when a Muslim will write an article about the plight of Hindu’s in Pakistan, The slaughter of 2Million of them when East Pakistan became Bangladesh. Over the centuries Muslims eliminated 80+ million Hindu’s, why do you hate them so much is it because they invented Algebra? How about the burning of Churches and the persecution of Christians in Egypt. A good article on Nigerian Muslims killing Christians. Stories abound about Muslim intolerance of other peoples beliefs, history is awash with it. What about a treatise on the 250 million slaves taken from Africa to satiate the sexual appetite of muslims. mention of the fact 19 men or boys would die of shock or blood loss so that a eunuch could be created would not go astray.
    How about a bit of truth about your not so tolerant religion!

    • Avatar

      Peter Hall

      July 5, 2015 at 10:16 PM

      I Agree with you totally, but as a non Muslim, I see that 2 wrongs do not make a right. What Muslims suffer in China is wrong and should be condemned just as strongly as condemning what ISIS is doing.

      I see that you do not reduce the inhumanity of man, by turning a blind eye to some injustice, in favour of other injustices.

      The “you reap what you sow” principal applies here. 200 years ago Christians were doing horrible things to Black Africans as well, 70 jews ago, Christian cultures were doing horrible things to Jews. No ones hands are clean when it comes to the past, so bringing up things from the past is of no benefit, it only allows excuses to foment.

      However, if injustice and cruelty, no matter who commits it, is condemned by men and women of good conscience everywhere, then hopefully man’s inhumanity to their fellow man will reduce with time. we should learn from the past, not draw excuses from it. We should embrace a future where every man, and woman, has the chance to improve the overall morality and humanity of the societies we live in, not reduce it, by their actions.

      • Avatar

        Peter Hall

        July 5, 2015 at 10:18 PM

        Sorry about the typos, but posting from a smartphone.

      • Avatar

        Bob

        July 6, 2015 at 1:26 AM

        Peter wrote “We should embrace a future where every man, and woman, has the chance to improve the overall morality and humanity of the societies we live in, not reduce it, by their actions”.

        I totally agree Peter, however Islam does not allow this of its adherents.

        I have only mentioned a few of Islam’s appalling atrocities throughout its debauched history. Christianity ceased its world wide purge of others at least two centuries ago. Hindu’s won’t even eat an egg because they think its taking a life but are persecuted and killed by Muslims on a daily basis.

        Islam has proven itself to be totally incompatible with the western world and has to be eradicated, but not in the way it is doing it to others.

      • Avatar

        Abdul Rahim

        January 6, 2016 at 5:42 AM

        Mr. Peter Hill, you have my utmost respect. All your comments have been very illuminating as a fellow human being….as an intellectual. I only came across this website today, but your posts which were in July, stood out glaringly for clarity of thoughts. Bravo.

    • Avatar

      EM Zee

      March 7, 2016 at 5:39 PM

      LOL WHAT? ALGEBRA, WAS MADE BY INDIANS?
      That point was enough to show how ignorant and uninformed you are.
      And btw, Algebra is derived from the Arabic word Al Jabr الجبر. It was made by the Persian MUSLIM Mathematician Muhammad Ibn Musa Al-Khawarizmi.

  22. Avatar

    Tomy

    August 23, 2015 at 10:44 PM

    totally lying !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Avatar

      Abdul Rahim

      January 6, 2016 at 5:55 AM

      Sincere apologies. I meant Mr. Peter Hall.

  23. Pingback: “Things are getting worse day by day” – an interview with Uyghur Muslim “Mr X” | Voice of Salam

  24. Avatar

    Peter Tager

    October 11, 2016 at 3:50 PM

    And they support Pakistan?

  25. Avatar

    Manal

    January 6, 2018 at 12:54 PM

    I feel your pain. Im sorry my country Pakistans failed you. Ill spread awareness as much as I can. Im not sure what else I can do. If anyone has a plan im in.

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#Current Affairs

Kashmir: Gateway in Turmoil

Abu Ryan Dardir

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A dark day looms over Indian-Administered Kashmir, a Muslim majority region at the heart of a dispute between Pakistan and India. The two countries are at odds over its governance, with direct impact to the welfare and security of the Kashmiri people. On Tuesday 8-6-19, the Indian Parliament passed a bill that strips Kashmir of statehood and places them under indefinite lockdown.

“Kashmiri leaders are appealing to the world to stop the imminent genocide of Kashmiris. Genocide Watch in Washington, DC has already issued a Genocide Alert for India, the so-called “largest democracy in the world” because it has cancelled citizenship of four million Indian citizens, mostly Muslims. This reflects the early stages of a genocide in process.” –Soundvision.com

Kashmir is home to massive energy resources, such as oil and natural gas, non-ferrous metals, uranium, gold, and is abundant in hydropower resources. These too are factors considered in the political movements of India and China. Kashmir’s geopolitical advantages are no secret, and adding China to the political struggle makes three countries trying to benefit from Kashmir’s geographical position.

Kashmir neighbors the Xinjiang Uyghur borders, and China has played a role in both areas. China’s stronghold on Xinjiang revolves around access to Europe and Central Asia. China needs Kashmir to access the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. Kashmir is landlocked between China, Pakistan, and India. Pakistan hopes to use infrastructure built under the CPEC initiative to connect by land directly to both China and Central Asia. With that said, Pakistan wants to take advantage of its geographic positioning by serving as a gateway to Afghanistan, then Central Asia, using the CPEC corridor (the China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor), which has parts of that corridor that go through Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

This is upsetting India. India’s ambassador to China, Gautam Bambawale, made a comment in an interview about CPEC saying it “violates our territorial integrity. India believes the CPEC project undermines Indian sovereignty because it passes through a Pakistan-administered part of Kashmir that is still claimed by India.” India also fears the chances of a People’s Liberation Army presence or even a Chinese naval base in Pakistan’s Gwadar seaport, as part of the CPEC corridor.

India has been working on its own project, International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), it is intended to link trade routes between India and Central Asia, Russia, and Europe. Unlike its competition (Pakistan and China), India is unable to directly trade through the land to those regions using INSTC. To make this corridor successful, India will need to collaborate with Iran and use their ports.

India needs Kashmir, and Modi is using hateful nationalism to get the people to support his actions. The part of Kashmir that is needed is not under India’s control, and must be occupied in order for India to have direct access to Central Asia, Russia, and Europe. 

Birds of a feather flock together.

Israel’s Minister for Construction and Housing Yifat Shasha-Biton, while addressing a conference of Indian realtors’ body Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (CREDAI), called India an “economic power” with whom Israel shares common values.  India using colonization tactics has made allies with the Israeli government, a master on occupation and oppression. 

“Kashmir is under siege…do not let the enforced silence drown our voices.”:

Please keep the people of Kashmir in your prayers. We cannot sit idly while this occupation continues. SoundVision has shared 5 things anyone in America and Canada can do. 

A message from a Kashmiri

“Around 10 pm, a message flashed across our phones announcing that, as per the request of the central government, all domestic networks were to be shut down indefinitely. All mosques, any place equipped with a loudspeaker, began announcing total curfew from 5 am tomorrow……..

You have stripped us of our rights and incited unrest yet again into a peaceful and beautiful place. This time, I pray, you will not escape the international consequences your actions deserve. Rest assured Kashmiris will not break and Kashmir is not gone. Our stories, our language, our heart and our people are stronger than any country can dream. Even under these circumstances, I am sure inshaAllah one day we will be free. One day, Kashmir will be free.” Sanna Wani via Twitter

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#Islam

Muslims for Migrants | A Joint Letter By Imam Zaid Shakir & Imam Omar Suleiman

Imam Zaid Shakir

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Abu Huraira (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) said, “He who gives respite to someone who is in straitened circumstances, or grants him remission, Allah will shelter him in the shade of His Throne, on the Day of Resurrection, when there will be no shade except its shade.” (Tirmidhi, 1306)

He also said, “There is no leader who closes the door to someone in need, one suffering in poverty, except that Allah closes the gates of the heavens for him when he is suffering in poverty.” (Tirmidhi, 1332)

The message is clear, the way we treat the most vulnerable of Allah’s creation has consequences to us both individually and collectively, and both in this life and the next.

As the humanitarian crisis at the southern border deepens, there is a deafening silence from most corners of the American Muslim community. One might ask, “Why should that silence be concerning?” Shouldn’t the nation of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) who was himself an orphan and a migrant sent as a mercy to the worlds be the first to be moved with the images of children in cages? Migration and asylum are God-given rights that individuals and nations would do well to respect. These rights are affirmed in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah upon him).

Concerning migration, the Qur’an states unequivocally: 

As for those whose souls the angels take while they are oppressing themselves, the angels will say to them, “What was your former state?” They will respond, “We were oppressed in the land.” The angels will counter, “Was not Allah’s earth spacious enough for you to migrate therein.” (4:97)

 The oppression referred to in this verse specifically focuses on persecution because of faith, but the general meaning of the wording can accommodate any form of oppression which involves the denial of a person’s Divinely conferred rights.

Migration lies at the very heart of the prophetic tradition in the Abrahamic religions. Abraham himself was a migrant. His son Ismail was a migrant. The Children of Israel along with Moses were migrants, as was Jesus. Not only was our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) a migrant, he twice sent many of his Companions (May Allah be pleased with them) to Ethiopia to seek the protection of the Negus. The fact that the Muslim calendar is dated from the migration of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) from Makkah to Madinah indicates the lofty place migration has in the life of the Muslim community and in the consciousness of its members. 

Additionally, history records the massive migrations of those Muslims who fled from oppressive, tyrannical, violent rulers or invaders. One of the most famous examples we can relate in this regard is the massive westward migration of those escaping the advancing Mongol hordes. Among those refugees was the great poet, Rumi, who along with thousands of others fled his home in Balkh, located in present-day Afghanistan, eventually settling in Konya, in the heart of Anatolia. Others migrated for economic reasons. The historian, Richard Bulliet, theorizes that the economic collapse of Khurasan, a once-thriving Sunni intellectual hub in eastern Iran, led to the migration of large swaths of its population to Syrian and Egypt. In his view, the many scholars among those refugees led to an intellectual revival in the lands they settled in.

As for asylum, it can be granted by both the state and an individual Muslim to individuals or groups. The foundations of this principle in prophetic practice was established during events which occurred during the conquest of Makkah. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), as the de facto head of state, issued an oath of protection to the people of Mecca when he declared, “Whosever enters the house of Abu Sufyan is safe. Whosoever casts down his weapons is safe. Whosoever closes his door [and remains inside] is safe.” (Sahih Muslim, 1780) Ibn Ishaq’s version adds, “Whosoever enters the [Sacred] Mosque is safe.” (Narrated in Sirah Ibn Hisham, 4:35)

Those enjoying these protections from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) had not committed a crime and although they had not traveled to another land seeking refuge, the description of their land had changed from one under the authority of the Quraysh to one under the authority of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him). In this “new” land they were being guaranteed safety and subsequently freedom even though they had not yet embraced Islam.

 A related event is Imam Ali’s sister, Umm Hani, granting asylum to al-Harith bin Hisham and Zuhayr bin Ummayya that same day. When faced with the prospect of their execution by her brother, Imam Ali, she locked them in her house and went to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) to inform him that she had granted them asylum. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) responded, “We grant asylum to those Umm Hani has granted asylum to and we protect those Umm Hani has extended protection to.” (Sirah ibn Hisham, 4:42) In other words, the entire Muslim community, globally, is bound to respect the oath of protection or asylum granted by even an individual Muslim.

This idea of the entire Muslim community respecting a grant of asylum extended by even a single Muslim is strengthened by the Hadith:

 The protection of the Muslims is one and the least of them can grant it. Whosoever violates the asylum extended by a Muslim upon him falls the curse of Allah, His angels and all of humanity. Never will an obligatory or voluntary act be accepted from him. (Bukhari, 3172)

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) praised the Ansar of Madinah for how they loved those that migrated to them and preferred them even over themselves. (Quran: 59:9) They bore no resentment to those that migrated to them and sought reward only from Allah for sustaining them. They knew that supporting those in need was only a means of goodness in their lives rather than a burden. These powerful Islamic teachings have been codified by our scholars into a sophisticated system of amnesty, asylum, and respect for the status of refugees.

Hence, when we view the sickening conditions those migrating to our southern borders are exposed to, we should be touched and moved to action knowing that our religion grants those fleeing persecution, oppression, or ecological devastation, the right to migrate and to be duly considered for asylum. Our actions, however, must be based on principle and knowledge. We should further vigorously defend the dignity our Lord has afforded to all human beings, and our obligation to assist those who are suffering from recognized forms of oppression.

We must also understand that the rights to migration and asylum have been codified in the most widely accepted Muslim statement on human rights: The Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam, Article 12; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 14; the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (ADRDM), Article 27; and the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR), Article 22. The United States is a signatory party to the UDHR, and by way of membership in the Organization of American States (OAS), reluctantly accepts the authority of the ADRDM and the ACHR, although she has never ratified the latter two.

Our view on this issue should also be informed by the knowledge of our own country’s history as a nation of immigrants in the Native’s land. It should further be shaped by understanding the way nativist and white supremacist tendencies have fueled xenophobic and exclusivist policies and how in many instances our sometimes misguided policies have created many of our most vexing human rights challenges. It must also be informed by our obligation as American citizens.

For example, we need to understand that the overwhelming majority of families, children and individual adults arriving at our southern border from the “Northern Triangle” of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are fleeing intolerable levels of violence. That violence is not just that of ruthless street gangs, such as MS-13, it also emanates from government-sponsored death squads, many of which were organized and trained by the CIA or the US military at the former School of the Americas based at Fort Benning, Georgia. The infamous Battalion 316 of Honduras was an American-trained death squad responsible for hundreds of extrajudicial killings in that country during the 1980s and into the 1990s as well as the kidnapping and torture of thousands of Honduran citizens during the same period. These death squads are beginning to reappear in the wake of a wave of right-wing regimes assuming power throughout Latin America.

The combination of American political and economic pressure through the mechanisms of neocolonialism used to control and systematically under-develop former and present “banana republics,” the International Monetary Fund (IMF), plutocratic regimes increasingly beholden to Washington DC, integrating the violence of both death squads and drug cartels into their crushing of both popular dissent as well as any attempts at economic diversification and stratification help to create the conditions producing the waves of migrants moving towards our southern border. Long before they sought to cross our borders, our borders crossed them.

Long before they sought to cross our borders, our borders crossed them.

Despite the history, the way that the Trump administration has chosen to deal with the current crisis, largely for cheap race-baited political gain, has challenged the God-given rights to migration and asylum, exacerbated the humanitarian crisis at the border, and diminished the standing of the United States internationally. It is critical to understand, however, that just as the policies producing the floods of migrants from parts of Latin America are not uniquely a product of the Trump administration, Trump is not the first racist to occupy the White House. We could mention Richard Nixon, who famously embraced Kevin Philip’s “southern strategy,” to wrest the south from the control of the Democrats; we could mention the KKK-loving, segregationist, Woodrow Wilson; we could mention the slave-driving, genocidal ethnic cleanser Andrew Jackson, as well as others.

What makes Trump unique, as Greg Grandin emphasizes in his latest book, The End of the Myth, is that Trump is a racist who has appeared at a time America is no longer, via conquest or economic domination, expanding her frontiers. With the ensuing erasure of the myth of American exceptionalism, the “American people” can no longer point to our global economic or political domination as the difference between “them” and “us.” 

Unable to deflect our nagging national problems, one of the most vexing being the race issue, by looking outward, large numbers of white Americans are turning inward with xenophobic frenzy. That inward turn creates a focus on outsiders who threaten “our” rapidly disappearing “purity.” Hence, the border, symbolized by the wall, becomes not just an indicator of national sovereignty, it becomes a symbol of white identity. A symbol Trump invokes with seldom matched mastery. Vested with the passion emanating from the defense of an embattled race, innocent brown children taken from their mothers and imprisoned in overcrowded, feces-stained gulags become easily dismissed collateral damage.

Generally speaking, the same playbook that has been employed against the Muslim and other immigrant communities, specifically refugees from the Middle East, has been employed against the immigrant community as a whole. In far too many instances, America’s destructive foreign policy leaves helpless populations running to our shores, increasingly to be dehumanized and disregarded again in order to pander to the worst of our domestic propensities.

Launchgood.com/migrants, migrants, Muslims

So we call upon the Muslim community to not only assist in efforts to support our migrant brothers and sisters but lead the way. Get involved in advocacy work, support immigrant justice organizations, join the sanctuary efforts and lend yourself and your wealth in whatever way you can to be at their aid. By the Grace of Allah, we have launched a campaign to reunite as many families as we can. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) said, “Whoever separates a mother from her child, Allah will separate him from his loved ones on the Day of Resurrection.” (Tirmidhi, 1566) We hope that in reuniting families, Allah will reunite us with our beloved ones on the Day of Resurrection, and specifically with the beloved Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) in the highest gardens of Paradise.

Imam Zaid Shakir, Imam, Lighthouse Mosque

Imam Omar Suleiman, Founder & President, Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research

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#Current Affairs

Were Muslim Groups Duped Into Supporting an LGBTQ Rights Petition at the US Supreme Court?

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Recently several Muslim groups sent an amicus brief to the US Supreme Court to support LGBTQ rights in employment.  These groups argued“sex” as used in the Civil Rights Act should be defined broadly to include more types of discrimination than Congress wrote into the statue.

A little background. Clayton County, Georgia fired Gerald Lynn Bostock. The County alleged Bostock embezzled money, so he was fired. Bostock argues the real reason is that he is gay. Clayton County denied they would fire someone for that reason. Clayton County successfully had the case dismissed saying that even if Bostock is right about everything, the law Bostock filed the lawsuit under does not vindicate his claim. The case is now at the Supreme Court with other similar cases.

The “Muslim” brief argued the word “sex” should mean lots of things, and under the law (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act), LGBTQ discrimination is already illegal.  American law has developed to provide some support for this argument, but there have been divisions in the appellate courts. So this is the exact sort of thing the US Supreme Court exists to decide.

The Involvement Of Muslim Groups

In Supreme Court litigation, parties on both sides marshal amicus briefs (written arguments) and coordinate their efforts to improve the effectiveness of their advocacy, there are over 40 such briefs in the Bostock case. Groups represent constituencies with no direct stake in the immediate dispute but care about the precedent the case would set.

The Muslim groups came in purportedly because they know what it’s like to be victims of discrimination (more on that below). The brief answered an objection to the consequences that could come with an expansive definition of the term “sex” to include gay, lesbian, and transgender persons (in lieu of its conventional use as synonymous with gender, i.e., male/female). In particular, the brief responded to the concern that “sex” being defined as any subjective experience may open up more litigation than was intended by making the argument that religion is a personal experience that courts have no trouble sorting out and that, like faith, courts can define “sex” the same way.

While this may be interesting to some, boring to others, it begs the question:  why are Muslim groups involved with this stuff? Muslims are a faith community. If we speak *as Muslims* is it not pertinent to consult with the traditions of the faith tradition known as Islam, like Quran, Hadith and the deep well of scholarly tradition?  Is our mere presence in a pluralistic society enough reason to ignore all this and focus on building allies in our mutual desire to create a world free of discrimination?

Spreading Ignorance

In July of 2017, the main party to the “Muslim” brief, Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), was expelled from the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) Convention bazaar.  I was on the Executive Council of the organization at the time but had no role in the decision. The reason: MPV was dedicated to promoting ignorance of Islam among Muslims at the event. The booth had literature claiming haram was good and virtuous. Propaganda distributed at the table either implied haram was not haram or alternately celebrated haram.

For any Muslim organization dedicated to Islam, it is not a difficult decision to expel an organization explicitly dedicated to spreading haram. No Muslim organization, composed of Muslims who fear Allah and dedicate their time to Islam can give space to organizations opposed the faith community’s values and advocates against them in their conferences and events.  Allah, in the Quran, tells us:

immorality

Indeed, those who like that immorality should be spread [or publicized] among those who have believed will have a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter. And Allah knows, and you do not know.

It would be charitable to the point of fraud to characterize MPV as a Muslim organization. That MPV has dedicated itself to promoting ignorance of the religion within the Muslim community is not in serious dispute.  The organization’s leader has been all over the anti-Sharia movement.

Discrimination against Muslims is bad, except when it’s good 

The brief framed the various organizations’ participation by claiming as Muslims, we know what it is like to be on the receiving end of discrimination. This implies the parties that signed on to the Amicus petition believe discrimination against Muslims is a bad thing. For at least two of the organizations, this is not entirely true.

MPV is an ally of another co-signer of the Amicus petition, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).  Both have records that show an eagerness to discriminate against Muslims in the national security space. They both applied for CVE grants. Both have supported the claim that Muslims are a national security threat they are somehow equipped to deal with. I have written more extensively about MPAC in the past; mainly, it’s work in Countering Violent Extremism and questionable Zakat practices.

MPAC’s CVE  program, called “Safe Spaces,” singled out Muslims as terrorist threats. It purported to address this Muslim threat. In June of 2019, MPAC’s academic partner released an evaluation Safe Spaces and judged it as “not successful” citing the singling out of Muslims, as well as a lack of trust within the Muslim community because of a lack of transparency as reasons why the program was a failure. Despite its legacy of embarrassment and failure, MPAC continues to promote Safe Spaces on its website.

MPV was a vigorous defender of MPAC’s CVE program, Safe Spaces.  MPV’s leader has claimed the problem of “radicalism” is because of CAIR, ISNA, and ICNA’s “brand of Islam.”

Law Enforcement Approved Islam

In 2011, former LAPD head of Counter-Terrorism, Michael P. Downing testified during a congressional hearing on “Islamist Radicalization” Downing testified in favor of MPV, stating:

I would just offer that, on the other side of the coin, we should create opportunities for the pure, good part of this, to be in the religion, such as the NGOs. There is an NGO by the name of Ani Zonneveld who does the Muslims for Progressive Values. This is what they say, “Values are guided by 10 principles of Islam, rooted in Islam, including social equality, separation of religion and state, freedom of speech, women’s rights, gay rights, and critical analysis and interpretation.” She and her organization have been trying to get into the prison system to give this literature as written by Islamic academic scholars. So I think there can be more efforts on this front as well.

Downing was central to the LAPD’s “Muslim Mapping” program, defending the “undertaking as a way to help Muslim communities avoid the influence of those who would radicalize Islamic residents and advocate ‘violent, ideologically-based extremism.” MPAC was a supporter of the mapping program, which was later rejected by the city because it was an explicit ethnic profiling program mainstream Muslim and secular civil rights groups opposed.  MPAC later claimed it did not support the program, though somehow saw fit to give Downing an award. Downing, since retired, currently serves on MPAC’s Advisory Council.

Ani Zonnevold, the President and Founder of MPV, currently sits on the International Board of Directors for the Raif Badawi Foundation alongside Maajid Nawaz and Zuhdi Jasser.

MPV has also been open about both working for CVE and funding from a non-Muslim source, the Human Rights Campaign, and other groups with agendas to reform the religion of Islam. It’s hard not to see it as an astroturf organization.

Muslim Groups Were Taken for a Ride

Unfortunately, Muslim nonprofit organizations are often unsophisticated when it comes to signing documents other groups write. Some are not even capable of piecing together the fact that an astroturf organization opposed to Islam, the religious tradition, was recruiting them to sign something.

There are many Muslims sympathetic to the LGBTQ community while understanding the limits of halal and haram. Not everyone who signed the brief came to this with the same bad faith as an MPV, which is hostile to the religion of Islam itself. Muslims generally don’t organize out of hostility to Islam. This only appears to be happening because of astroturfing in the Muslim community. Unfortunately, it was way too easy to bamboozle well-meaning Muslim groups.

Muslims are a faith community. MPV told the groups Islam did not matter in their argument when the precise reason they were recruited to weigh in on the case was that they are Muslim. Sadly, it was a successful con. Issues like the definition of sex are not divorced from Islamic concerns. We have Islamic inheritance and rules for family relations where definitions of words are relevant. Indeed, our religious freedoms in ample part rest on our ability to define the meaning of words, like Muslim, fahisha, zakat, daughter, and Sharia. Separate, open-ended definitions with the force of law may have implications for religious freedom for Muslims and others because it goes to defining a word across different statutes, bey0nd the civil rights act. There would be fewer concerns if LGBT rights were simply added as a distinct category under the Civil Rights Act while respecting religious freedom under the constitution.

Do Your Homework

Muslim organizations should do an analysis of religious freedom implications for Muslims and people of other faiths before signing on to statements and briefs. A board member of MPV drafted the “Muslim” Brief, and his law firm recruited Muslim nonprofit organizations to sign on. CAIR Oklahoma, which signed up for this brief, made a mistake (hey, it happens). CAIR Oklahoma’s inclusion is notable. This chapter successfully challenged the anti-Sharia “Save our State” law that would have banned Muslims from drafting Islamic Wills. Ironically, CAIR Oklahoma’s unwitting advocacy at the Supreme Court could work against that critical result. For an anti-Sharia group like MPV, this is fine. It is not fine for a group like CAIR.

CAIR Oklahoma is beefing up their process for signing on to Amicus Briefs in the future. No other CAIR chapter signed on to the brief, which was prudent. CAIR chapters are mostly independent organizations seemingly free to do whatever they want. CAIR, as a national organization needs to make sure all its affiliates are sailing in the same direction. They have been unsuccessful with this in the past several years. CAIR should make sure their local chapters know about astroturf outfits and charlatans trying to get them to sign things. They should protect their “America’s largest Islamic Civil Liberties Group” brand.

Muslim Leaders Should Stand Strong 

American Muslims all have friends, business associates and coworkers, and family members who do things that violate Islamic norms all the time. We live in an inclusive society where we respect each other’s differences. Everyone is entitled to dignity and fair treatment. No national Muslim groups are calling for employment discrimination against anyone, nor should they.

However, part of being Muslim is understanding limits that Allah placed on us. That means we cannot promote haram or help anyone do something haram. Muslim groups do not need to support causes that may be detrimental to our interests.  Our spaces do not need to be areas where we have our religion mocked and derided. Other people have the freedom to do this in their own spaces in their own time.

Some Muslim leaders are afraid of being called names unless they recite certain words or invite particular speakers.  You will never please people who hate Islam unless you believe as they do.  Muslims only matter if Islam matters.

If you are a leader of Muslims, you must know the limits Allah has placed on you. Understand the trust people have placed in you. Don’t allow anyone to bully or con you into violating those limits.

Note: Special thanks to Mobeen Vaid.

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