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An Open Letter to Muslims Regarding Islam, Homosexuality, and The American Way of Life

Since the United States Supreme Court decision to allow homosexual marriages in all 50 states in America, the American Muslim community has been forced to reanalyze what it means to be an American Muslim, and specifically what  American Muslims should think about such legislation.  American Muslims have been forced to question (once again) how one balances living in any country that sometimes legislates against one’s core principles. Social media has been flooded with articles, posts and long discussions, as Muslims both young and old struggle try to understand where they should stand during this epic moment.

Muslims and Civil Rights and True Hypocrisy

A recent open letter written by two Muslims (a writer, Reza Aslan and a comedian, Hasan Minhaj) stated that it is hypocritical to fight for the civil rights of one marginalized group and not the civil rights of another group. What the writers fail to address is that one first has to be true to his or herself before they can be true to the society that they live in. They also fail to realize that Muslim civic engagement is based on not the current relative definition of what is or isn’t morally right but rather the Muslim engages based on a revealed ultimate moral code, which is static. If a Muslim stands up for the propagation of what she considers immoral actions, she is untrue to herself and an adversity to her society and religion.

I find it extremely disturbing that being true to what one believes can be called hypocrisy, when in reality it is the exact opposite.

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This decision has effectively deemed homosexual relationships as morally right, in other words “good”. But what about the millions of Americans who the day before the decision was passed felt that this action was vile and detestable. What should they do if they wish to be good Americans? Well, if they truly believe homosexuality to be immoral, then their capitulation is tantamount to giving up a struggle for the well being of American society.

Is It Religiously Okay to Support and Celebrate the Announcement of This Decision?

The majority of the confusion regarding this legislation is about how a Muslim should interact with an individual or society that engages in such actions; and secondly, is it right for a Muslim to support such legislation.

Among Muslims there have been some who have expressed happiness over the legislation. In my understanding, this is completely wrong and unacceptable for someone who believes the action to be immoral.

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When the Quran and Prophetic tradition speak so adamantly and clearly regarding an evil and perversion of an action, on what basis can a Muslim express happiness over its propagation?

A cursory study of the Quran would show us that a Muslim is taught to struggle to become the means for the removal of evil. If this is not possible than he should at least dislike the evil.

The evil is understood to be like that of a tumor, which has infected a person or even a society. The objective of doctors’ efforts is the removal of cancer out of love and compassion for the patient. Unity is also a byproduct of morally based political engagement in that all the doctors will join hands regardless race, religion or social class to get rid of the tumor.

Read Dealing With Homosexual Urges

There are two tendencies which have added to the confusion. Some of the doctors have begun to hate the person due to the stubbornness of the tumor. This leads some to defend the evil in an attempt to stand by the person. While other doctors have begun to forget that the tumor should not be there in the first place.

Islam and Morality Relativism

The Islamic moral code is not relative. In fact true morality can never be relative rather it is absolute. As Peter Kreeft states in Ecumenical Jihad, “Otherwise, such a moral relativism is an infallible prescription for social chaos.” This exact idea is also found in the Quran, where Allah states, “Had there been any God other than He, the Heavens and Earth would be in chaos”. The “chaos” that we see today is called moral relativism which will be discussed later.

Read: Gay and Muslim?

Our Islamic moral code commands us to stand and fight for all human beings, but we are also commanded to stand against all dehumanizing deeds. Essential to understanding the Islamic moral system, I have outlined some facts or truths about morality:

  1. Morality is necessary for a society to survive. The alternative is chaos
  2. Morality is not Sectarian. It is both universally know and universally binding
  3. Morality is natural or based on human nature. Also know as These laws are intrinsic to human nature just as laws of physics are to nature of matter
  4. Morality liberates. It is a set of directions for the purpose of making our human nature flourish
  5. Morality takes effort. This is know a Jihad, or a fighting against forces of evil in all of us
  6. Morality gives meaning and purpose to life
  7. Morality is reasonable. It is not blind but intelligent. It perceives the difference between good and bad actions and lifestyles. It “discriminates” not between good or bad people but good or bad actions and lifestyles.[1]

Point number 7 above points out perhaps the most essential aspect of Islamic morality. That is does discriminate. But this “discrimination” is not between good and bad people but good and bad actions.

A Trendy Defense of Islam

When living in America, or any other non-Islamic country for that matter, a Muslim is allowed by the Shariah (the moral, ethical, social and political codes of conduct for Muslims at an individual and collective level) to fore-go or ignore some of the aspects of the Shariah. For example, the penal law and some aspects of civil law are not to be implemented. However, this does not mean that a Muslim should lose sight of what his or her belief deems to be ideal — as per the Quran and Prophetic teachings of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

It has become a rather trendy method for many Muslim activists to dismiss or even demonize some aspects of the Prophetic teachings in order to defend Islam. The question begs to be asked, “What Islam are you defending?” This method of defending Islam has led to widespread confusion among Muslims as to what is a part of religion and what is cultural. As Muslims, we are not obliged nor allowed to force people upon Shariah. However, we are also not allowed to forget what Islam holds to be ideal.

Muslims should thus understand that their moral engagement in the American political scene is essential to the well-being of America. Their engagement will only contribute to the betterment of the society when they engage with their universal code of morality and their list of unchanging rights and wrongs.

Without this moral law Muslims are no longer a part of the solution, but rather part of the chaos. From this, it should be clear that the Quranic delineation of rights and wrongs outlines the ultimate rights and wrongs; actions that always were and always will be right or wrong. It is this morality that gives meaning to life and society, and this morality that liberates man while unifying him with others.

In my understanding, both American values and Islamic values merge on the elevation and honoring of those who are true to what they believe —both in speech and action.

Allah knows best.

Imam Mikaeel Smith is the Resident Scholar of the Islamic Society of Annapolis and the Islamic Society of Baltimore.

[1] Ecumenical Jihad; Kreeft page 75

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MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

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

Imam Mikaeel Ahmed Smith (Michael V Smith) is an Islamic scholar, writer, and activist striving to meet the educational needs of communities at the Qalam Institute in Texas. He served as the Islamic & Quran Coordinator and Islamic Studies Teacher for the Tarbiyah Academy. Imam Mikaeel previously served as a resident scholar at the Islamic Society of Annapolis and the Islamic Society of Baltimore. At the age of 18, he embraced Islam after reading the Qur’an and the Autobiography of Malcolm X. Within a year after his shahadah, Imam Mikaeel enrolled at the Dar ul-Uloom al-Madania in Buffalo, NY, where he learned to read Arabic and memorized the Qur’an. In 2008, he traveled overseas to study Arabic at the Jami’a Abu Noor in Damascus, Syria. Imam Mikaeel is passionate about meeting the needs of students of knowledge, building Islamic literacy, working with youth, and striving for social justice.



  1. Avatar

    Peter Hall

    July 23, 2015 at 12:18 PM

    I find it amusing, with all the problems within the Muslim world, From lunatics chopping off heads in what they think Islam means, to slavery, female genital mutilation, honor killings, murders, rapes, child brides, terrorism and a multitude of other problems, that you devote your energies writing about what some non Muslims and Muslims do, in the privacy of their own homes, that affects nobody else but themselves?

    So many people who claim to be Muslims, are committing major atrocities and immorality in the name of Islam, or using Islam to justify evils, and you are worried about the immorality of other?

    You need to get your own house in order before you cast moral judgments upon others.

    • Avatar


      July 23, 2015 at 5:06 PM

      Come on Peter, the problem is not just with a miniscule percentage of Muslims that misinterpret Islam, but a lot to do with ignorant people such as yourself who are just as guilty of misinterpretation. Muslims have nothing to apologise to the world for, though I can think of governments, institutions and countries that do.

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        July 24, 2015 at 1:22 AM

        And that comment at least proves Zoroastrianism true.

        Congrats, Angra.

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          July 24, 2015 at 1:46 AM

          So you are calling me ignorant, but you do not define what I am ignorant of?

          However, your claims that Muslims have nothing to apologies for, reeks of self delusion and ignorance.

          Or are you PROUD of ISIS? Do you support what happened on 9/11? Do you celebrate the kidnapping of 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria? Do you congratulate the parents who have mutilated their daughters with female genital mutilation?

          Or that Slavery is most prevalent in Muslim societies. are you proud of that? Do you want to blow up the Pyramids?

          Seriously? I can readily admit the mistakes of my forefathers, and the western societies. However my system of values I applaud being challenged and questioned. I do not have to live in denial and lies as I feel challenging and questioning my values, is how things get better.

          Clearly denial and ignorance, is the domain that you choose to dwell in.

      • Avatar


        October 4, 2015 at 4:38 PM

        Peter, show me where, in Islamic scripture its allowed to kidnap, kill innocent people, hijack planes etc.?
        I think that’s why your being called an ignorant. SOME Muslims should be punished, rest shouldn’t. SOME western people should be punished, rest shouldn’t.

    • Avatar

      Ahmad B.

      July 24, 2015 at 3:24 PM

      [This is the first part of my response. The rest of it appears under the second, expanded posting from Peter Hall.]

      Dear Peter,

      Your post raises a couple of questions in my mind, if you don’t mind:

      (1) Do you believe the liberal state is under an obligation to permit incestuous marriages, particularly those between two siblings of the same sex (as in this case, all the “material” reasons given for the “traditional” prohibition of incest concerning genetic risk, etc. do not exist)? Why or why not?

      (2) Do you believe the American legal system is fundamentally unjust for forcing American women to cover their breasts on public beaches under pain of fine, arrest, or imprisonment, while in France this is a non-issue (and further north you can even go naked in public gardens)? Why or why not?

      (3) If everyone in a “liberal” society can do as they please, why does the state continue to ban and stigmatize willing polygamous marriages and family arrangements? Is the effect of the recent SCOTUS decision that, as we often hear, “all marriages are now equal” and “all families are celebrated,” or merely that “homosexuals can now marry each other” and “gay families are no longer to be stigmatized”? Does so-called “marriage equality” really apply to all, or is this just a convenient slogan to make ourselves feel righteous and good for specifically allowing GAY “marriages”?

      (4) Do you believe people in a liberal society have the right to publicly disagree with the morality of homosexual behavior or to publicly state their belief that true marriage can only consist in the union of a man and a woman, or should the expression of these opinions be banned as “discriminatory” to avoid offending self-identified homosexuals or contributing indirectly to a hostile environment that might prove dangerous to them? Why or why not? [Such rights, by the way, have been severely curtailed in oh-so-“liberal” Canada ever since gay “marriage” was imposed on that nation 10 years ago. See, for instance:

      (5) On a similar note, do you believe Pamela Geller has the right to slander Muslims and their faith through public bus ads equating Muslims with Hitler and alleging (erroneously and with no citation) that the Qur’an teaches “Jew-hatred,” or should this right be curtailed to avoid offending Muslims or contributing to a hostile environment which might prove dangerous to them? Why or why not?

      • Avatar

        Peter Hall

        July 25, 2015 at 9:03 AM

        Hi Ahmad,

        I hope you are well. I will try and answer your questions as best as I can. I am not an American, however I have lived there. I am from Australia. However you seem to be confusing matter of law and matters of morality. The laws you are talking about are in relation to the rules of the country, and how its society operates, not its morality.

        In response to your questions in order you asked,

        a) I do not view The USA as a liberal state, I view it is as one of the more conservative of the Western nations.

        b) I do not believe any state should allow marriages between siblings or first cousins. The reason is that the resulting progeny has a much greater rate of birth defects and low intellect, as a result of these Unions. Therefore the decision to inbreed, is creating a problem which the whole of society is burdened to look after, look at the Royal families of Europe. Up until 100 years ago it was rampant, now great care is taken to avoid it due to the health complications. An example is in the UK where the higher rates of birth defects in Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, and is directly linked to marriages between 1st cousins. Compared to non Muslim communities.

        c) The issues of marriage between same sex siblings is a non issue, please do not waste my time and embarrass yourself.

        The law in the USA previously did not recognize the relationship between homosexuals. Whether you like it or not, homosexuals exist, and the law was not recognizing what in reality already existed. Homosexuality is not illegal in the USA.

        The law cannot deal with what it denies exists. Changing the law does not start or stop relationships between homosexuals, but it does allow the distribution of the assets of Estates and formal structures pertaining to financial support, etc denied to homosexuals, and that makes our society fairer.

        2) The law does no such thing, your bias is showing. I am not a woman, so I cannot answer on behalf of women. However, grew up in a society where some women can CHOOSE go topless, or in some places naked on beaches designated as such. I do not view those women choosing to do so as immoral, and I do not want to rape them, or stone them, or judge them, to me they are females who want to get a better tan.

        Your term “baring her breasts”, indicates to me you are attempting to do some moral grandstanding. The sad thing is I now understand why Muslim women want to cover themselves when around Muslim men, you really do come across as a bit of a pervert.

        The laws in the USA are the same as anywhere else, in that local populations have agreed on places where you can wear clothes and others that you cannot. The law in some places also stops motorcyclists from wearing helmets into Banks. The regulation of what you can or cannot wear in the USA is not Federally regulated but is done so by local Government. These laws also permits women to go naked in designated public places or enclosed areas.

        In my opinion the USA presents more opportunities for a women to decide what she wears, than any Muslim majority society. You seem to be from a closeted viewpoint. Natives in New Guinea, who live naked happily, the majority of the the time, would consider you quite mad.

        So compared to Australia and France, the USA is conservative and restrictive, compared to any Muslim majority country, it is wildly decadent. Your point? You choose to live there, if you do not like Canada, leave. I chose to live in the USA for a number of years, I then CHOSE to move back home.

        3) Name a single society where anybody can do as they please? Like a lot of prejudiced people, you just do not understand the law in the USA does not forbid homosexual relationships. That is a moral issue. Homosexuality was struck from the criminal codes in the USA already.

        The laws that were enacted, recognize the relationships that do exist between some homosexuals. It is a legal contract that infers rights and obligations to both parties and recognized by the state, it allows the State to deal with the property and obligations resultant from these relationships.

        The law also controls the use and availability of alcohol, you cannot give alcohol to people of certain ages, you cannot drink and drive with too much alcohol in your blood stream, you cannot be drunk in certain places. So it is not illegal to drink. However there are laws that Govern the consumption of alcohol to protect people from themselves and others. it is not perfect, but better than nothing at all.

        The same with marriages. The states have rules that protect society, and the people who are in these relationships.

        The law says you cannot marry a 6 yo, why?
        (As a father, I would love it that my daughter can never date until she is 30 and marry a guy I pick. She is my daughter, however she had more realistic boundaries placed upon her by me, and the state. My security and pride comes from it does not matter what the state says or I, I trust her mother and I have raised her with the morals and decision making ability to do the right thing for her.)
        In our society, a person must be intellectually and physically mature enough to understand their obligations and rights on entering into the legal state of marriage. It is not a moral issue but a legal one, so if you marry your 6 yo sister, you should be in prison. Whether you burn in hell or not, is a moral issue, that is not the concern of the law, where there is separation of the church from the state.

        4) I believe in every society you should have the right to do anything you want, as long as it does not infringe upon the rights of others. You voicing your believe that a marriage is between a man and a woman only is your right.

        You said “Canada ever since gay “marriage” was imposed ” !!! So when were you forced by the Canadian homosexual to marry him? Really? LOL LOL LOL, I think your husband was lying to you, you did not need to marry him. It may be a bit late now, but I would of talked to someone before the wedding; as I think the law did not mean you HAD to marry a guy.

        Is that why you are so angry, and obsessed with bared breasts?

        You are getting a bit hysterical about this aren’t you? There is exactly the same number of homosexuals with this law as there was before. Well maybe one more if we count your “marriage”. There is very good evidence the incidence of homosexuality is actually higher in Muslim societies due to the strict separation of men from women, and men not being able to afford to pay dowries to get married.

        However Muslims deny what everybody else sees, like ISIS murderers are not Muslims. The sexual trafficking of young boys and girls, and the abuse of such children is a predominantly Muslim business. However Muslims do not view buggery of a young boy who is owned by them as homosexuality. They justify it the same way Muslims deny what other Muslims do, by denying that these Muslims are “real’ Muslims.

        5) Pamela Geller has the right to hold her beliefs. If she wants to expose her beliefs to society, she faces the judgement and scrutiny of those who do not hold her beliefs. I think that anybody who tried to murder her because of her beliefs, must be very insecure about their own system of values.

        So Pam can slander you as much as she likes, and you can slander her back. If she is telling lies, shame her with the truth, if she is wrong, correct her, if she is evil, show her by demonstrating what good is.

        The same as if someone insults the President of the USA, in the USA its almost a national sport, however planning to kill him is a no, no. I am happy for anybody to challenge my beliefs and my theories, that is one way I learn. However anybody who wants to kill me because of what I say, seriously needs help.

        The Qu’ran does say to kill the Jews and hate the Jews, haven’t you read it?

        I can provide some references on the many instances. However, not being a mindless chump, I do contextualize most of these calls to hate and kill, but you cannot deny that the Qu’ran is pretty blood thirty reading. The bible says lots of things that are pretty gruesome too, doesn’t mean you have to do it.

        Muslims keep on saying we non Muslims do not understand the Qu’ran, it is not that we do not understand the Qu’ran, it is Muslims do not understand it. The facts are, the Muslim world is among the MOST illiterate, even in their native tongue.

        Therefore the vast MAJORITY of Muslims have never read the Qu’ran, even if they could get translations in their native tongue, they still could not read it. Yet alone the few who can read Arabic, and even less can read the Ancient Arabic it is written in.

        Therefore compared to most Muslims, I have actually read the Qu’ran, and I have read a few translations.

        Muslims are terrified that anybody sees fault in their religion, and in doing so exposes all of the flaws of Muslims. The reason for their terror is they only know how to recite something, that could be an Arabic shopping list, for all they know, in a language they do not understand, and have to believe what they are told it really means. It is not the fault of Islam, it is the fault of Muslims.

    • Avatar


      July 28, 2015 at 2:04 PM

      You need to let go of this notion my friend. It is perceived that Muslims are the cause for most terrorist acts, but that’s because they are the ones most highlighted in the media. If anything, it is used as a scapegoat mechanism. ISIS is not Islam, and anyone who thinks they are, really needs to understand what kind of a religion Islam is… or just religion in general. They fail to acknowledge the rates of depression and suicide in North America, the occupation of Palestinians, the killings of Rohingya’s, and so many more deaths that aren’t even related to Muslims. There is bad everywhere, trust me! Also, have a look at this article: You’d be surprised to find the muslim:non-muslim ratio. However, I don’t think I fully agree with the content of this article. I stand by Nouman Ali Khan’s position of what he thinks Islam’s stance is on Homosexuality, which can be found on YouTube. He says that the act itself, is not permissible. However, to have homosexual or queer feelings is okay since the Quran says nothing about that. I think the most important aspect of his very short talk was that whatever a person decides to do is not our business insofar as we have conveyed to them or if it has been conveyed to them that these actions are forbidden in Islam. He goes on to further say that “we don’t have the license to judge” as this is not our position in life. So as long as one is aware of what they are doing, the rules they are breaking, and the consequences of that, then we have no choice but to let them be. This is speaking of homosexual Muslims, which has risen tremendously. In regards to non-muslims, they have every right to live the life they want and the they have every right to be treated fairly and justly. They deserve the Muslim’s acceptance, compassion, and and care. I truly believe this approach will benefit more people than harm them. And by benefit, I mean the ability for them to see the true Islam. If we continue to disregard homosexuals and condemn them, then consider more hate towards Islam and more ex-muslims. My thoughts only.

      • Avatar


        July 30, 2015 at 2:46 PM

        Well, it is not a perception, it is actually a fact. Please no more denial, or trying to muddy the waters. I feel sorry for the situation of the Palestinians, as well as the South Sudanese, as well as peoples everywhere who are oppressed, but there is as much Muslim oppression, as there is non Muslim oppression, I feel sorry for the Copts of Egypt, The Christians of Sudan, The Muslims of China, and the women of Nigeria who have been enslaved by Muslim groups, I feel sorry for the millions of girls who are sexually mutilated because some Muslims believe it is part of Islam.

        What I object to, is the denial of the obvious! Muslims are very quick to point the finger at others. Yet when it comes to critical self examination, denial is the only public response.

        I honestly believe that the average Muslim is no better or no worse than the average Christian or the Average Jew or the Average Hindu. There are evil minorities within EVERY culture and society.

        However the freedom of movement, the ability to commit evil, the ability to abuse or oppress others within a community is directly related to the level of denial that community holds onto.

        The Catholic Church, by its silence, allowed a few Priests to commit horrendous sexual abuse on children. No one said anything, those that did were either ignored or shamed into silence, so the abuse continued for a VERY long time. However, now it is out, anybody who tried to do the same, will not encounter the protection of silence, they face a far greater risk of exposure, and criminal prosecution. The majority of good Catholics will no longer stay silent. If you think such abuse is the sole domain of the Catholic Church you are very wrong, every religion, has the same dirty laundry. Including Islam, and denying it will not make it go away, it only makes it worse.

        Rapist Pedophile Priests are not the fault of the Catholic faith, but of the Catholic followers denying there was a problem. Muslim terrorists are not the fault of Islam, but is the fault of the majority of Muslims who live in denial, who make excuses and who are too scared to be critical.

        If Muslims considering joining ISIS or committing a terrorist act, in the name of Islam, were as scared of the reaction of their fellow Muslims, as if they were to spit on the Qu’ran, or eat pork, or Insult the Prophet Mohammed, there would be no ISIS, there would be no Muslim terrorists.

        However, the average Muslim sits on their hands, and says NOTHING except “they are not real Muslims”, or makes excuses. In doing so they are saying it is ok to rape children, it is ok to behead captives, it is ok to kidnap children and sell them as slaves. Because Muslims will never say anything.

        Yet Muslims stay silent, they deny terrorism is a Muslim problem more than other communities. I am yet to see any mass protests by Muslims about Muslim terrorists, I am yet to see mass rallies objecting to ISIS, I am yet to see mass protests at the treatment of Copts in Egypt, or the execution of journalists or welfare workers by those claiming to be Muslims.

        So everybody can see what is happening, and it festers and grows, because Muslims stay silent.

        Now you may say Islam is a the religion of Peace, and Muslims respect women, and Muslims that to kill just one innocent, is to kill all of mankind, and that Muslims believe there is no compulsion in religion.

        However, the widespread practices of Muslims murdering people in the name of their religion, of mutilation of millions of Muslim female’s genitals every year, of the capture and sexual slavery of children, the forced conversion of girls and captives in their thousands, and the abuse and vilification of minorities by Muslims, such as homosexuals, presents an Islam to the world that is the opposite of what you say.

        If the Catholic Priests raped children in front of cameras, saying it was Gods will, and posted it on U Tube, they would of been hunted down, sacked and if lucky arrested, if unlucky beaten to death by the mobs. No descent person would stand for a child to be abused in public, yet alone let someone do it in the name of their religion something so clearly evil and wrong.

        Yet Muslims are happy to allow other Muslims, to murder aid workers who went to help other Muslims, in the name of Islam, AND BOAST ABOUT IT. Yet what do Muslims do? NOTHING.

        Do you understand now why Muslims are the ones dishonoring Islam? Your denial is a far greater offense against Islam, than the Cartoonist from Charlie Hebro. It is not cartoonists that encourage terrorism and evil, it is the denial that Muslims like you hold onto, in the face of the greatest slandering of Islam ever. That slandering is done by Muslims in the name of Islam, and the bulk of Muslims say NOTHING. YOU let it happen.

        I am tired of hearing how we do not understand Islam, we do not need to, it is Muslims who do not seem to understand that what we see as Muslim Terrorist acts, is not our problem, it is your problem as you are suffering the most from it.

  2. Avatar

    Peter Hall

    July 23, 2015 at 12:27 PM

    I find it amusing, with all the problems within the Muslim world, From lunatics chopping off heads in what they think Islam means, to slavery, female genital mutilation, honor killings, murders, rapes, child brides, terrorism and a multitude of other problems, that you devote your energies writing about what some non Muslims and Muslims do, in the privacy of their own homes, that affects nobody else but themselves?

    So many people who claim to be Muslims, are committing major atrocities and immorality in the name of Islam, or using Islam to justify evils, and you are worried about the immorality of other?

    You need to get your own house in order before you cast moral judgments upon others.

    I am not gay, and I feel no threat to the morality of my society, or my own morality, by homosexuality.

    A free society grants everybody the right to do whatever they please, as long as it does not limit or infringe the rights of others.

    I respect your right not to eat pork, and I would fight against anybody who tries to force you to do so. However in a free society, you have to learn to respect the rights of others, and prioritize the needs of the greater.

    The rights you are exercising in publishing your article, are not available to all under the under the doctrine you are expounding as the higher moral code.

    The fault is not with Islam, but with those who interpret it.

    • Avatar

      Ahmad B.

      July 24, 2015 at 11:28 AM

      (continued from above)

      (6) Do you have a problem with the fact that adoption agencies run and funded by the Catholic Church in Massachusetts were forced by the state to close down for refusing to place children with gay couples, in direct violation of Catholic moral teaching? Or is it okay for the “liberal,” everyone-can-do-as-they-please state to constrict people’s religious rights and freedom of conscience in this manner if they happen to take strong and sincere exception, on the basis of very old and well established beliefs and practices, to the current state orthodoxy on highly complex and contentious moral, philosophical, and metaphysical issues such as these?

      (7) Do you accept that there is a difference between not wanting to serve a gay couple “just because they’re gay” (like refusing to serve them coffee if you own a restaurant) and not wanting to be forced to directly PARTICIPATE YOURSELF in an ACTIVITY that you consider wrong (like having to film a “gay wedding” if you’re a photographer or baking a cake with two “brides” or two “grooms” on top of it)?

      (8) More generally, does the “liberal” state allow me the freedom of conscience to refuse personal participation in activities I deem immoral and deeply offensive, or does it have the right to override my moral autonomy? If so, then in what cases and on what grounds? Whose rights are being privileged over whose, and how do you proceed to make this determination in anything like a fair and objective manner, one that doesn’t call a whole host of (heavily disputable) metaphysical and moral assumptions into play? And does the “liberal” state do this consistently, or just in the special case of homosexuality since that is now all the rage?

      (9) If a gay couple requests a wedding cake in the form of two interlocking male organs, do I now get to refuse on moral grounds, or am I still forced, like a soulless and unthinking machine, to simply “bake the cake” and not dare to judge the propriety of what I’ve been asked to do? If I am a photographer, am I allowed to refuse to take on a nudist wedding because I don’t feel comfortable filming and taking pictures of naked people? May I refuse either case only as long as my objections don’t stem from “religion”? On what basis are you deciding what moral intuitions and commitments the “liberal” state allows me the freedom to act on and what moral intuitions and commitments it is justified in coercing me to violate?

      (10) Finally, does it not strike you as ironic in the least that a notion upheld universally and intuitively by all of mankind throughout its history – namely, that a “marriage” can only consist of the union of a male and a female – is now castigated as the epitome of “bigotry,” “hatred,” and “intolerance”? How is it even remotely plausible that this freakish view of things is all of a sudden the right one and that the collective testimony of practically all human history should stand indicted of fundamental error?

      (continued below)

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        July 24, 2015 at 11:56 AM

        Ahmad, your points are overlooked by too many people. I support homosexuals’ rights to live their lives; but I also think it’s ironic when people are forced to “bake gay wedding cakes” etc. And I think it’s a little presumptuous to alter the definition of marriage so flippantly when it has been defined one way for so long. I don’t agree with a lot of this article by the Imam here, but lots of your points are well taken.

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        Peter Hall

        July 24, 2015 at 12:42 PM

        Again you are proudly displaying true ignorance.

        Your examples of how unjust liberal societies are had me laughing on the floor.

        You clearly have absolutely no concept of proportionality. If you are offended by a wedding cake, yet not offended by the actions of ISIS, the problem is sadly your problem. You make so many assumptions, with no basis in fact, and attempt to draw together so many unrelated threads to hide the facts I presented you have turned yourself into a joke, truly!

        I am not a liberal, quite the opposite, and I do hold strong religious views. However, the very basis of the society you are commenting on, is that everybody has the right to do whatever they want, as long as it does not infringe upon the rights of other.

        You seem so self obsessed, that you can only see what offends YOU, or YOUR notion of YOUR belief system. So YOU equate the offense a Muslim might feel, at seeing an image of a gay couple upon a wedding cake as an infringement upon YOUR rights, and therefore YOU think that is all that matters.

        I feel offended every time I see a woman dressed in a burka, however her choice of wearing a burka, does nothing more than offend me, so she can wear a burka, as long as no one expects me to wear one, or tries to tell my wife to wear one, we have no problems.

        However, Muslims need to stop worrying what they get offended over, which seems to be a lot, and start looking after the very real problems facing the Muslim world. Islam is not a victim of gay rights, nor have Muslims. Islam has not failed to create a nice place to live, MUSLIMS have failed to create a society that anybody really wants to live in.

        That is why Muslims flee Muslim lands, they do not want to flee Islam, just their fellow Muslims.

        Now a a western society is by no means perfect, it has many flaws and many petty injustices. That is because it is a man made system, designed by men. It tries to balance out all the things people are offended over, and tries to stop all the things that are evil and bad. However it is a work in progress.

        However Muslims might have the perfect way of life for mankind to live under, they might not, however Muslims have utterly failed at trying to implement a society that people want to live under. Muslims will continue to do so, until they stop being constantly offended over things that do not matter, and start being offended by the actions of their fellow Muslims.

        I am yet to here of a slaughter of Muslims by homosexuals, I am yet to see Homosexuals owning Muslims, I am yet to see Homosexuals blowing up Mosques and crashing into buildings. I am yet to hear of Muslims being forced into Homosexuality by non Muslim Homosexuals or threatened with death.

        So you may want to continue with the wedding cake argument, for fight for the Catholic Churches right on who to grant adoptions too.

        In my society you can do that. In your idea of a society you may not have offensive wedding cakes, or for that matter adoptions at all. However we all know that not many people really want to live in your society when faced with the reality of it, they beg to flee your norms to live under mine.

        Or are there boatloads of Americans, Canadians and Australians washing up on the shores of Saudi Arabia? Are Britons, Sweds and Dutch begging to live in Lebanon, Egypt or Libya?

        Why are Iraqi and Pakistanis fleeing on boats, risking their lives to get to a country like Australia, when Saudi Arabia, UAE and Oman are rich Muslim countries and right next door??

        It is not the failure of Islam, it is the overwhelming failure of Muslims to be able to create a society, that sane person would want to live in. The proof is the number of Muslims fleeing to non Muslim societies in their tens of millions.

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      Ahmad B.

      July 24, 2015 at 11:29 AM

      (continued from above)

      Of course we all know that it is bogus to speak of a “liberal state” that just lets everyone live however they want. No state has ever done this, nor can it. There is, in fact, a very particular set of moral standards and values, based on a very specific set of metaphysical assumptions (even if only implicit) regarding the human person, right and wrong, etc., lying at the basis of everything the “liberal” state does, and this particular — and heavily disputed — set of assumptions gets imposed on everybody through coercive legal means despite their own metaphysical commitments, as we see in the case of the de facto criminalization of various forms of non-endorsement of homosexual behavior.

      As I said, this is probably inevitable on some level if society is to have any chance of holding together at all. I just find it enormously disingenuous (or ignorant) when self-described “liberals” insist on masking this fact and pretending that they are just being perfectly neutral, imposing nothing on anyone, just letting everyone live as they please and follow the lights of their own conscience and worldview, and why can’t everyone else in the world be equally “enlightened” and “tolerant” as we? You should at least admit that you are, in a very real sense, imposing your own “religion” — that of a secular humanism grounded in an essentially materialistic metaphysics and a subjectivist view of human nature and the good — on Christians, Muslims, Jews, and everyone else, rather than pretend that you are just benignly running a neutral state that isn’t coercing adherence to a specific doctrine or morality. Then we could have a serious discussion about the merits and demerits of overall worldviews and ethical systems, rather than the facile assumption that atavistic Muslims seek to “impose” their religion on everyone else while enlightened Western liberals do not.

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      September 24, 2015 at 9:31 AM

      hey peter, love your comments. i agree with all the things you said.. would love to hear from you. you seem like a guy who knows some stuff. do you have a blog or anything where i can follow you? let me know..

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    July 23, 2015 at 12:47 PM

    American Muslims, if that’s what they want to call themselves, need to understand that Islam totally rejects and negates the ‘gay lifestyle’ for both genders, like all other major world religions. That’s the bottom line. Now if Muslims in America feel that they will be discriminated against because of this belief then the best thing would be to leave the country, rather than showing acceptance to this law. Americans can legislate as they will, but Muslims cannot.

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    July 23, 2015 at 1:45 PM

    //The majority of the confusion regarding this legislation is about how a Muslim should interact with an individual or society that engages in such actions;//
    How should a muslim interact with sinners who do worst than homosexuality? I’m talking about sins such as shirk?

    // and secondly, is it right for a Muslim to support such legislation.//
    Should we also un-support the currently legislated freedom to practice any religion of choice – such as idolator, satanism and gasp! Islam?! Or do we only withdraw support when it doesn’t harm us?

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    July 23, 2015 at 6:27 PM

    assalamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

    Imam Smith, jazakAllahu khair for the beautifully written Open Letter. You hit the nail on the coffin with your analysis on how some Muslims erroneously demonize our religion so that others could better ‘understand.’ Our religion is free from faults, alhamdulillah.

    Peter, 1.8 billion people. Do the math and you’ll understand while Faisal said ‘minuscule percentage.’ When a white man commits mass murder (serial killers profile is a white male), do I have a right to blame white people? Do I have a right to tell them that they are not allowed to have an opinion on anything until they ‘get your house in order?’ By the way, your statement is completely false as Muslims overseas and at home have been denouncing acts of terror and technically speaking ISIS are not even considered Muslim! We are fighting non-Muslim terrorists who use our name to kill us and others.

    Rohingya Muslims are facing a genocide right now and barely anyone knows this. The ‘peaceful’ Buddhist are slaughtering Muslims in Burma, but hey who cares. The people of Kashmir are burned alive, but whatever. The Chinese Muslims are told they cant even fast!

    But whatever…

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      Peter Hall

      July 25, 2015 at 5:59 AM

      1.8 billion Muslims? There are 2.2 Billion Christians, so what?

      Your religion might be perfect, however it is pretty clear that the followers of Islam seem to have missed the bit about religion of peace, and there being no compulsion in religion. So my criticism is not of Islam, but of Muslims. Clearly most Muslims do not have a clear idea of morality, or of the dictates of what is fair and what is unfair.

      Clearly Muslims have failed to establish livable societies that are fair to the people who live in them. Muslims have failed to establish societies that are self sufficient, that can feed their population and act in a human way. The only Muslim societies that have survived for any period of time have been where the bulk of the population is subjugated or exploited in some way. Or have relied on hand outs.

      This is not only true of Muslim Societies, as it has characterized many Western Societies as well. However as Western societies have progressed from oppressive structures, Muslim societies have not. You do not understand that with freedoms come responsibilities.

      You do not get why you offend others, you are only cognitive of how other offend you.

      You again grab for the victim card to justify victimizing others. You do not understand that saying you have rights that are being denied, means you can then deny the rights of Homosexuals. The victim card is not a get out of jail for free card.

      If you want your rights respected, you need to respect the rights of others, you need to develop some maturity and acknowledge that Muslims are not perfect, and they way you Practice your religion is not only offensive to many people, but how many Muslims practice their religion is downright dangerous to everybody else but mostly to other Muslims.

      Funny you mention the Chinese Muslims, the Burmese Muslims and even Kashmir, YET YOU FAIL TO MENTION or even admit the greatest number of Muslims being slaughtered are by Muslims slaughtering other Muslims in the name of Islam, they are busy slaughtering the wrong type of Muslim. Get real man, you are so deluded it is scary.

      The reason Muslims are so dangerous to other Muslims, and everybody else in general, is they only kill other Muslims they consider not true Muslims. So denying Muslims who murder other Muslims is just the typical Muslim thing to do!

      It would be like me saying catholic Priests who molest boys are not Catholic Priests. So therefore there are no Catholic Priests molesting little boys. Clearly you are using a line of reasoning only reserved for an idiot.

      However being in denial you will not comprehend the stupidity of your statement, like only :”white men are serial killers”. OMG you are not only ignorant but clearly a racist.

      The top serial killers are dominated by non whites, the top ten have only 1 white man who comes in at number 10

      Now looking at the rate Muslims seem to love slaughtering other Muslims, it amazes me you would bring up senseless murder. As Muslims seem to have cornered the market at killing each other. The only people Muslims of the last 50 years have been any good at killing, has been each other. For every Muslim murdered, by a non Christian, 7,900 Muslims are murdered by their fellow Muslims. That’s a 7,900 to 1 kill ratio

      So Muslims are far better at killing other Muslims than non Muslims are.

      Also the victims of Muslim extremists, are in the vast majority, other Muslims. Muslim terrorist mainly target other Muslims, they consider to be not the right type of Muslim. Just like you think you are the right type of Muslim, and ISIS would want to kill you.So Muslims are far better at killing other Muslims than non Muslims are at killing Muslims.

      So you may want to deny the facts, and make up facts. However the facts show, if Muslims want to stop the vast majority of innocent Muslims being killed, it is the actions of other Muslims that need to be addressed. If Muslims want to demand respect, they better learn to respect others first.

      The sad reality is, that Muslim countries are ineffectual in anything else except killing each other, and breeding, and living on hand outs. The Golden age of Islam is long gone, Muslims need a helping hand far more now than ever before, as you have outbred the capacity to feed yourselves, and with the exception of a few oil rich countries that are totally dependent of non Muslims to recover these resources, Muslim societies are total basket cases.

      Muslims make up 22% of the worlds population, and only 1.8% of the worlds GDP. Unless Muslims start asking for help more, and demanding less, the lot of the worlds Muslims will only deteriorate further.

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    July 23, 2015 at 11:15 PM

    I find it astonishing that you say the moral code set in Islam is static. Is Islam a religion for all times or not? Is Quran a Book for all times or not? If it is indeed a living religion and document then it must be reinterpreted for every era and not remain frozen in 6th century Arab desert tribalism, otherwise it becomes a stagnant code with little relevance in the 21st century.

    If the moral code is static then slavery should be condoned. But we see that humanity has outstripped that as a moral value. No human being should OWN another human being. Women as war booty, concubinage, other things considered ‘moral’ by religion are no longer considered that because humanity has moved beyond them. Which implies that if considered static and absolute, religion and its moral codes become redundant. It is only by constantly reinterpreting religion and its codes according to the current era that it stays a living, relevant ideology.

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      Rob Squared

      July 24, 2015 at 1:13 AM

      The Shari’ah is static. Our understanding of it and willingness to practice it are not. Moving beyond the Shari’ah is not something to be proud of.

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      July 24, 2015 at 11:52 AM

      Rabia, well put. It does no good to say that Shariah is 100% static. It is a false statement at the face, because nothing can be kept 100% static. We must decide what we should change and what should be kept the same. How we respond to homosexuality is simply another such thing that we have to decide on. America has perhaps forced this issue on us before we are ready for it… but perhaps that is good.

      Anyway, I agree with Imam Mikaeel that Muslims should not compromise their principles just for political convenience as Aslan and Minhaj are saying. But I disagree that the principles are static; I agree with you that they must change with the times.

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      July 25, 2015 at 1:45 PM

      Islam will stay relevant and alive despite the efforts of munafiqeen and kuffar to make it fit with standards other than those of the very first Muslims.

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    July 24, 2015 at 1:16 AM

    The author displays her hypocrisy by considering Muslims to be tools for removing evil (as if their personified God himself couldn’t) as an analogy for removing cancer, yet ‘fails to realize’ that Islam is a cancer to the US. Therefore, we would be justified on flipping the argument back onto them and would be labeled bigots for doing so. Also, the author ‘fails to realize’ that just because something is legalized, doesn’t make it automatically ‘good’. Everything is circumstantial, but in the US the marriage licensing is a business and there is a separation of church and state in that regard. I’m personally not a fan of gay marriage, but it also doesn’t affect me either. So if you’re bugged by it, move to a beautiful, peaceful Islamic country.

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    July 24, 2015 at 11:48 AM

    I find this article to be both highly principled, but also somewhat disturbing, at the same time. The Aslan/Minhaj article was found lacking by a lot of people, because it was not a defense of gay rights so much as it was a call to the Muslim community to enter into a “marriage of convenience” with their cause, because as another minority group here in America, we should be speaking up for their rights so they will speak up for ours. The Imam in the article above is, in effect, saying “Muslims should not compromise their principles for political convenience.” And there is a lot of integrity in that.

    But what is scary to me, and to many others I’m sure, is the part where he explains how Muslims do not force the issue of Shariah in America because it is a foreign land, but must maintain that it is the ideal nonetheless; and presumably, that Muslims would support Shariah if it ever COULD be implemented in America, and of course support its implementation abroad. Unfortunately, the picture that many people have in their minds about what “Shariah” would do to homosexuals is really disturbing to a lot of people. Even many Muslims who wish to follow their faith are disturbed by the idea that homosexuals should be oppressed (this is not to say we need to allow gay marriage, and to PROMOTE homosexuality, but certainly, there is a balance that might be sought between what happens in Muslim countries, and according to classical Shariah as most people understand it).

    If the Imam could respond and say what he thinks should happen with homosexuals under Shariah, that would be appreciated. I trust he does not believe that they should be killed for engaging in homosexuality… and if he does not, then I assume that he agrees with me that it is much better to be over-tolerant of homosexuality (as we perhaps are in the west) than to brutally oppress it (as seems to be done in most countries that claim to practice Shariah). To put it more succinctly, Imam Mikaeel- or anyone else who is defending this article- what would be your policy towards homosexuals if you were elected president of the US? And how would you reconcile your policy with your faith as a Muslim?

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    Hue Man

    July 24, 2015 at 4:34 PM

    Thank you for being straight forward about the issue in this article.

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    July 25, 2015 at 2:37 AM

    “I find it extremely disturbing that being true to what one believes can be called hypocrisy, when in reality it is the exact opposite.”

    Actually, this only became an issue when Muslims bought first class tickets to ride the Victimization Gravy Train. Once Muslims insisted everyone cater to their sensitivities and indulge their persecution fantasies, it began to look hypocritical for Muslims to oppose gays. You think gay sex is immoral? I think cousin marriage, child marriage, concubinage and polygamy are immoral. Why should I tolerate Muslims if they don’t tolerate gays?

    If I look at the big picture, one of the fascinating things about the new Muslim community of the United States is the calculated way in which they have pursued status as a victimized group. That’s why I am always checking in on my old friends at MuslimMatters. CAIR is modeled after the Jewish Anti-Defamation League. The Jews had the Holocaust. The Muslims have the Palestinians, the Bosnians and the Rohingya. Muslims have made great efforts to attach their struggles as “brown people” to the white guilt towards black Americans. I loved the Muslim fund drive to rebuild black churches after the Charleston shooting. Way to be obvious, Muslims!

    All of this has worked so far, but it cannot be maintained if Muslims act on their own religious prejudices too much. The rhetoric in the above article is going to remind a lot of people of the Moral Majority. In the meantime, Faisal wants everyone to make their hijrah to Muslim lands, which he knows very well they are not going to do. At this point, I sense a checkmate for Muslims, a pivotal point at which they may have to redefine the whole game they are playing in the US.

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      November 2, 2015 at 11:34 PM

      That’s true people can show human kindness no matter what race or religion because God created all humans

      God bless you

  11. Avatar

    Ahmad B.

    July 28, 2015 at 11:35 AM

    Assalamu ‘alaikum,

    For anyone still following this thread, here is an excellent analysis (from a well-known legal thinker and author) of the premises and implications of the Obergefell decision:

    The author, Stanley Fish, nicely sums up many very important points. Most salient is the fact that the SCOTUS decision represents not the impartial application of the obvious principles and provisions of the Constitution, but the substituting of one moral regime for another. The author rightly faults the majority decision (and I would add to that the whole rhetoric of the liberal left on this issue) for masking this reality under the rhetorical guise of a purely objective application of legal “impartiality.”

    I agree with Fish that they are at fault for this — and no one, certainly not Muslims, should be hoodwinked by such maneuvers! — but disagree with his implied stance that a proper handling of the case could even theoretically have taken place on “purely legal” terms without appealing to some type of moral framework or another. By the very nature of who we are as human beings, law and morality are too deeply intertwined for such a thing to be possible on any but the most mundane and mechanical level of procedure, traffic law, etc. — but certainly not when it comes to life-critical issues like sexuality morality and marriage norms (or, for that matter, reproductive technologies, abortion, end of life issues, etc.).

    At least Islamic Law admits this fact forthrightly, unapologetically recognizing that the provisions of the Shari’a rest on explicitly moral concerns and considerations — as legislated by the Lawgiver Himself for the benefit of all. A law that didn’t do this would hardly be worth the name, and certainly not worthy of man, whom Allah has created as “khalifat Allahi fi-l-ard” (God’s vicegerent on Earth). Liberalism, on the other hand, denies itself the resources to make explicit moral claims, though of course it cannot avoid doing so implicitly, so it is constantly involved in a disingenuous game of smoke and mirrors, pretending that it is just benignly ruling with perfect impartiality among competing rights and interests and not, as is the case, imposing through the arm of the state a very particular moral — and, by implication, metaphysical — outlook on the population. (These issues are dealt with nicely in Daniel Haqiqatjou’s article of July 20 on this website, “Debating Homosexuality,” which can be found here:

    This article linked to above by Fish and the concerns it raises makes it even clearer for me how problematic it is for any Muslim leader to declare public support for this decision, or to write it off as no concern of ours, or to concede that “as a matter of the Constitution, the issue is clear (i.e., we agree that the Constitution disallows “discrimination” and therefore concede that “gay marriage” is an obvious and indisputable right).” Since such a stance cannot but be a moral one, as this article makes clear, upholding and expressing this view hands the entire MORAL debate to the secular left on a silver platter, in a manner that directly contradicts our own moral commitments — and those of other religious communities, or even non-religious individuals who believe in natural marriage and family relationships — and undermines our ability to articulate and defend those commitments not just in the public sphere, but even, eventually, within the confines of our own mosques and communities.

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    Mike Bee

    October 8, 2015 at 4:27 AM

    i have heard a figure that 40-50% of run aways are on the street are there due family conflicts around youth LGBT issues. How does Islam address such issues? In what ways does Islam provide hope or alternatives?

  13. Pingback: » From a Same-Sex Attracted Muslim: Between Denial of Reality and Distortion of Religion

  14. Avatar


    February 11, 2019 at 7:23 AM

    The people of the twin cities transgressed against the bounds of God. According to the Quran, their sins included inhospitality and robbery [18] they hated strangers and robbed travellers, apart from other mistreatments and rape. It was their sin of sexual misconduct as well which was seen as particularly egregious, with Lot strongly chiding them for approaching men with sexual desire instead of women.[19][20] Lot exhorted them to abandon their sinful ways, but they ridiculed him[21] and threatened to evict him from the cities.[22] by saying that this man wants to be ‘Pure’ .Lot prayed to God and begged to be saved from the consequences of their sinful acts.[4][23]

    Then two angels, disguised as handsome males, came to Lot. He became distressed due to his powerlessness to protect the visitors from the people of the cities.[24] The cities’ residents demanded that Lot surrender his guests to them.[25] He offered them his daughters instead out of shame for his guests,[26][27] but they were unrelenting and replied “we have no need of your daughters: indeed you know quite well what we want!”[28] The Quran remarks “they moved blindly intoxicated in the frenzy of approaching death”.[4][29] The exegetes Ibn Kathir, Qurtubi and Tabari do not read ‘daughters’ to mean Lot’s literal daughters. They argue that since a prophet is like a father to his nation, Lot was directing the evildoers to turn away from their sins and engage in healthy relationships with the daughters of the nation, i.e. women in general.[30]

    The angels then revealed their true identities to Lot, and told him that they had been sent by God to “bring down upon the folk of this township a fury from the sky because they are evil-doers”.[4] They advised Lot to leave the place during the night and not look back, informing him that his wife would be left behind on account of her sinful nature.[31] Keeping his faith in God, Lot left the cities during the night with his believing family members and others who believed in him. When morning came, God turned the cities upside down, and rained down on them stones hard as baked clay,[32] putting an end to the lives of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.[4]

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Alternative Eid Celebrations In The Midst Of A Pandemic

“Eid-al-Quarantine” is what my sister has so fondly dubbed our upcoming Eid al Fitr this year. I find myself asking, “How are we going to make Eid a fun and special celebration this year in the midst of a dangerous pandemic?” With a little bit of creativity and resourcefulness, this Eid can be fun–no matter the current circumstances. This post will provide you with some inspiration to get your alternative Eid preparations underway! 

Special note: Shelter-in-place restrictions are lessening in many places in the United States, but this does not give us the green light to go back to life as normal and celebrate Eid in the ways we usually would have in the past. I am no health expert, but my sincerest wish for all Muslims throughout the world is that we all err on the side of caution and maintain rigorous precautions.

In-person gatherings are going to be much riskier in light of public health safety concerns. I do not recommend that people get together this Eid. Keep in mind, as well, that this is a big weekend for all Americans, as it is Memorial Day Weekend and crowds may be expected in places like parks and beaches. 

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Eid Day Must’s

Just because you are staying in, doesn’t mean that all of the Eid traditions have to go. Some may be exactly the same, some may be slightly adjusted this year. 

  • Get dressed up, even if it’s just for an hour or two. This might be a good chance to do hair and make up for sisters who normally don’t on Eid because of hijab or other modesty concerns. 
  • Take your family pictures, as usual. 
  • Decorate your house, even if it’s just with some fresh flowers in a vase or hanging up some string lights. (This time, I think sharing pictures of your setup may  have some more wiggle room.)
  • Find a way to pray Eid salah at home, if your local imam mentions a way to adapt for the current situation or check out this MM article
  • Eat some good food, and make sure to feast. 
  • Take that infamous Eid nap. 
  • Greet loved ones (phone calls, video calls, text messages, voice/video messages, make and send Eid cards).
  • Give and receive gifts. (Electronic ways to transfer money/checks in the mail, dropping off gifts to homes/sending gifts in the mail/having an online order pick-up in-store. You may also choose to do a gift exchange, if not this weekend, next). 

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Virtual Parties

Virtual celebrations are a great, safe, option. The best thing about virtual hangouts is that people from all over the world can “come together” to celebrate Eid. This can be as simple as talking and catching up, or can be as orchestrated as a full-out party including games. Keep in mind, the games and virtual parties aren’t only for the kids–everyone should have fun this Eid! We recently threw a virtual birthday party for our one-year-old and it was quite the experience. 

  • Split guests into different calls (kids’ call, adults’ call; men’s call, women’s call)
  • Party agenda for a rigorously planned party so everyone knows what to expect
  • Party games, either with certain items that everyone has (or can easily and quickly purchase) or games that do not require much else besides an internet connection 
    • Games requiring physical items (think of items that everyone is likely to have and think of carnival-type games):
      • Soccer ball juggling or basketball shooting competition
      • Water balloon toss
      • Timed races (three-legged, holding an egg in a spoon, etc.)
    • Games with little to no special equipment
      • Online Pictionary
      • Online Scrabble
      • Video games
      • Charades
      • Taboo (we do this for our cousin game nights with pictures of cards that one person sends to people from the opposite team)
      • Scattergories
      • Bingo
      • Mad libs
      • Speaking games that take turns going around a circle (going through the alphabet saying names of animals or colors or foods, rhyming words [we played the last two lines of “Down by the Bay” for our son’s birthday party])
      • Movement game (Simon says, dancing if you’re into that [“Cha Cha Slide,” dance-off, passing along dance moves as was a TikTok trend I heard of, simply dancing…])
      • Games like in Whose Line is it Anyway? or like the “Olympics” (specifically the “middle games”) that I wrote about way back
  • Performances
    • Skits prepared by one family or even across households
    • Reciting a poem or surah or singing
    • Other showcases of talent, by individuals or not
  • Gift Exchanges (I’ve been doing this virtually since 2013 with friends/distant family members.)

Alternative Virtual/Group Celebrations

Being “together” isn’t always gathering for a party, and that’s what I think most people miss during the forced isolation caused by the pandemic. There are many things you can do to get ready for or celebrate Eid with loved ones even if you’re not together. 

  • Share special recipes with each other or plan to serve the same meals.
  • Coordinate Eid outfits or attempt to do matching henna designs.
  • Send Eid pictures to family and friends.
  • Prepare and cook meals or clean or decorate while on a video call (you don’t have to be talking the entire time).
  • Watch the same movie or show (whether that’s something everyone does as separate households or you do concurrently/even with a video or phone call running. This might be a good time to watch Hasan Minhaj’s “Homecoming King” and do the 10 things it invites us to do.)
  • Go through family pictures or old videos together. Maybe even create a short slideshow/video of your favorites. 
  • Story time full of family legends and epic moments (the best Eid, a difficult time of sickness, immigration or moving story, new baby in the family, etc.). Someone build the fire and get the s’mores going.

Alternative “Outings”

In the same breath, it’s so refreshing to go out and do something fun, not just stay cooped up in your house, right? Seriously. 

  • Check out a virtual museum tour
  • Go on a nice drive to some place you love or miss going to, like drive by the masjid or school or a beautiful area (but stay in your car if there are other people around)
  • Watch an Eid Khutbah (or a regular one) on Eid day (make it special by listening outside in your yard or as a family where you pray).
  • Create a movie theater experience inside the home (that might just mean some popcorn and homemade slushies).
  • Get carry out from a favorite restaurant (if it’s open), and finally have the motivation to take a longer drive if needed
  • Make fruit or gift baskets for friends and family and drop them off at their homes
  • A “paint night,” or some other craft, that everyone in the family participates in
  • Decorate your car and drive around to show it off to friends (I’ve heard there’s an actual Eid car parade at various masaajid in Chicago

Interesting Alternative Community Celebrations I’ve Heard About

Some communities are getting super creative. As I mentioned above, a handful of masaajid in Chicago (Orland Park Prayer Center, Mosque Foundation, and Islamic Center of Wheaton as well as Dar Al Taqwa in Maryland) are putting together Eid drive-thru car parades. I’ve heard of different communities, whether officially sponsored by the masjid or just put together by groups of individuals, having a drive-in Eid salah, in which families pray in their cars in a rented drive-in theater or parking lot (Champaign, Illinois and a community in Maryland). I’m  definitely impressed with that last option, and I’m waiting to hear about more creative ways to get together and worship and celebrate.

So, what am I doing for Eid (weekend) this year? All the must’s, inshaAllah, including getting extra dolled up and making donuts from biscuit dough. A “game night” (virtual party) with alumni from my MSA. A gift exchange party with my cousins as well as another gift exchange party with classmates from my Arabic program (we’ll send unboxing videos out instead of meeting at the same time.) Check out a local college campus we’ve been dying to drive around. Binge a few episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender newly released on Netflix and do some online Memorial Day sale shopping. Le’s put a tentative on all of those, haha.

At the end of the day, Eid al Fitr is about acknowledging the month of worship we engaged in during Ramadan and spending quality time with loved ones. It doesn’t really matter what that quality time looks like–as long as it is intentional, this Eid will be special no matter what, inshaAllah. Who knows, this might be one of the best, most memorable holidays ever!

Eid Mubarak!

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#Current Affairs

A Response To Habib Ali Al-Jifri’s Comments On Uyghurs

Toqa Badran and Aydin Anwar respond to the statements made by Shaykh Habib Ali Al-Jifri


Protests preceding the Ghulja Massacre, 1997


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By Toqa Badran, Aydin Anwar 

We acknowledge that those individuals who have devoted their lives to the spiritual empowerment of others are to be admired and respected. The Ulema often serve as beacons of guidance and sources of emulation for the Ummah with their scholarly and moral leadership. Their critical role means that they are also expected to speak and act according to a higher standard of truthfulness and ethics. Bearing this in mind makes it especially dismaying and hurtful to witness inaccurate comments from a famous preacher and scholar who should be a part of this heritage of high intellectual rigour and superior moral conduct. It is even more problematic that these erroneous statements pertain to a group of fellow Muslims presently experiencing almost unprecedented duress to criminalize and eradicate their religion and cultural identity. 

It is unfortunate that Habib Ali al-Jifri, a popular scholar in the Arab world, in a recent lecture has misused his platform by propagating information that is all at once incorrect, biased, and otherwise detrimental to the lives of an entire Muslim nation colonized and oppressed by China. Although he tepidly acknowledges that China has done wrong to Uyghurs and is not fully innocent, a number of his claims remain inaccurate and deserve to be corrected. This article attempts to walk through some of these inaccuracies, and correct such claims that ultimately work to delegitimize and downplay the deplorable reality of Uyghurs and other Turkic-Muslim peoples, such as Kazakhs and Kyrgyz, of East Turkistan (renamed and referred to as Xinjiang, meaning new territory in Mandarin, by the Chinese occupation). 

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#1: Shaykh Ali al-Jifri claims that only around half of Uyghurs are Muslim

The first glaring error made by the shaykh is his statement that only around half of the Uyghur population is Muslim. His error may have been a result of confusing the presently reported demographic makeup of East Turkistan with the religious composition of the Uyghur people. While the Uyghur and indigenous inhabitants of the region are overwhelmingly Muslim, the Han Chinese population has climbed drastically from only 6% in 1949 to an estimated 40% – due largely to incentivized migration and other – settler colonial programs embarked upon by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). This statistic itself may be unreliable as many undocumented Uyghurs are unaccounted for and, in recent years, scores of Uyghur prisoners and forced laborers have been forcibly transferred to mainland China. 

If, however, al-Jifri meant to propogate the notion that only half of Uyghurs are Muslim, this is another matter altogether. To deny the self-professed Islamic faith of the utter majority of Uyghur people is to commit one of atrocities perpetrated by the CCP itself — the denial and erasure of this long persecuted population’s faith. As for the rootedness of Islam among this people, it has been the predominant religion among Uyghurs in East Turkistan– long before Egypt, or even the Levant, became majority Muslim societies during the Mamluk era. Much of the Islamicization of Central Asia and the Turkic world has been credited to the Karakhanids – a group of Turkic tribes who lived in the Uyghur homeland and converted to Islam in the 10th century (4th century Hijri), after their ruler Sultan Abdulkerim Bughra Khan entered the faith (Svat Soucek. A History of Inner Asia. Cambridge University Press. 2002, pp 84).

Uyghurs were also historically part of the Chagatay Turkic Khanate, whence the rulers of the Mughal Dynasty — who ruled much of India for over two centuries — hailed. Tasawwuf-inflected preaching was a key driver in conversions among these Turkic tribes in ways reminiscent of Islam’s spread at the hands of itinerant Hadhrami Sufi scholars and merchants — from whom Habib Ali hails  — across the Indian Ocean littoral and Nusantara (Malay world).

Map of East Turkistan in relation to the rest of Central Asia. East Turkistan is the same size as California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Nevada combined. 

Source: International Crisis Group

Starting with the aforementioned Karakhanids in the 10th century, Islamic institutions were founded and devoted to the study of theology, natural science, arts, music, and more. These institutions allowed for the emergence of hundreds of prominent Turkic scholars, who helped shape and record Islamic, Turkic, and specifically Uyghur history through their works: The likes of Mahmud Kashgari’s Dīwān Lughāt al-Turk, the first comprehensive dictionary of Turkic languages. Yusuf Khās Hājib’s Kutadgu Bilig, a mirror-for-princes in prose from the 11th century that shed light on Turkish-Islamic history and culture, and is perhaps one of the earliest surviving Turkic works in the genre of akhlāq (Islamic morality and ethics). The Turks of the region have also been greatly impacted by the Yasawī sufi order which helped make communal dhikr gatherings part and parcel of Uyghur culture. The influence of sufism is also evident in the prevalence of  Sufi shrines — most of which have since been systematically destroyed or left abandoned after being blocked off with barbed wire by the CCP.

The survival of old Quranic manuscripts from the area, as well as manuscripts from the 19th and 20th century, testify to the centrality of the Islamic intellectual tradition and its preservation within Uyghur culture. Thousands of beautiful mosques were constructed throughout the region, many of which have been demolished in recent years by the CCP regime. Had they not been places of great significance and visitation, it begs the question as to why the Chinese government would  bother razing them. Kashgar, the historic capital of the Karakhanid Empire and “jewel” of the Silk Road, became a prominent center of learning and hub showcasing the rich Uyghur past. Yarkend had also been a particular center of Islamic learning and culture for centuries, with dozens of madrasahs present in the last decades of the nineteenth century. It even holds Queen Amanisa Khan’s shrine, where the 12 Muqam (classical Sufi dance and song performance pieces that are a central Uyghur heritage form) were established. 

It is now clear that not only have the vast majority of Uyghurs been Muslim since the 11th century at least, but that the history of East Turkistan cannot be separated from that of the greater Muslim world. Like most Turkic Muslims, Uyghurs have traditionally belonged to Ahl as-Sunnah (the mainstream and overwhelming majority of Muslims), the legal school of Hanafism, and have immense love for the noble Ahl al-Bayt (family and descendants of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ). Uyghurs had even established a maqam (shrine) dedicated to the 8th century scholar and descendant of the Prophet ﷺ, Imam Jafar al-Sadiq – through whom Habib Ali traces his lineage back to the Prophet ﷺ – near the town of Khotan in East Turkistan, which was destroyed by the CCP. If segments of Uyghur society are not practicing Muslims today, it is mostly due to the Communist repression since WWII, just as Soviet anti-religious repression led to the radical decrease in religious literacy and practice in neighbouring Turkic republics. Nonetheless, it is noteworthy and heartening to see that some of the Central Asian republics are currently experiencing a gradual revival of Islamic observance thanks to the demise of oppressive policies, hinting at how the Uyghur religious life could flourish if and when repressive policies in East Turkistan cease.

Before and After of Imam Jafari al-Sadiq shrine. L-R Dec 10 2013, April 20, 2019. 

Photograph: Google Earth/Planet Labs 

The systematic aggression with which the Chinese government has sought to stamp out the works produced by Uyghur scholars and the many ancient Muslim cities scattered across East Turkistan is evidence of their historical importance. From banning the publication of texts in the Uyghur language, closing all religious spaces, and transforming historic sites into propaganda centers for the dissemination of a sanitized, non-religious, and state-sponsored Uyghur identity, it is clear that the CCP feels not only threatened by Uyghur culture, but is aware of its power in maintaining a social fabric worthy of any independent nation. 

And with all of the aforementioned said, we pose the question: Even if the majority of Uyghurs were not Muslim as the shaykh incorrectly claimed, does this excuse Muslims elsewhere of their duty to stand against oppression? Over the course of his commentary on the plight of the Uyghur people, the shaykh himself asked the audience why we [Muslims] are only angry when China oppresses Uyghurs and not the Buddhist Tibetans. Not only does this question contradict his initial premise that the Uyghur community cannot be referred to as overwhelmingly Muslim, but also deeply confuses the listener: “Are we to fight against oppression, regardless of the religion of the oppressed, or not?” We would argue that it is not only an obligation for Muslims, but for all people to resist their own oppression and the oppression of others — especially if this oppression manifests as the criminalization of the most fundamental practices of a people’s faith, Islam in this case. The East Turkistani independence movement itself has always allied itself with those of the Tibetan, Palestinian, and Kashmiri people. It has been incorrectly posited by the shaykh that Uyghurs have only been oppressed for the last 3-5 years. While this is demonstrably false, through the decades-long occupation Uyghurs have faced, what is worse is that he makes this claim in order to draw a false equivalence (between East Turkistan and the Tibetan people) in the hopes of delegitimizing the plight and cause of those in East Turkistan. Worse still, is that when the shaykh is confronted with the truth of the 70+ long years of Chinese colonization of Uyghur lands, he contests its factuality by responding that if China were really so bad then we would see the individual politicians responsible for the colonization personally affected by the Chinese Coronavirus. We question the legitimacy of this apparently necessary correlation and will do so again later in this paper. Furthermore, now that we know that the Uyghur identity is as much an Islamic one as his own Arab identity and that Chinese oppression has been occurring for almost a century, do the scholar’s recommendations change? 

#2: Shaykh Al-Jifri claims that the question of Uyghur oppression is a political, not religious, one 

We would like to preface this section by making it clear that Islam rejects the false dichotomy between the religious and the secular. What is “political” is not necessarily devoid of religious significance, and what is “religious” is not necessarily apolitical. While the Sharia’s precepts pertaining to siyasah (governance and ‘urfi/customary-public law) are mostly general, with few exact prescriptions established by the sources of Sharia (al-adillah al-sharʿiyyah), Muslims have always conceived of politics as a space bound by Islamic morality and ethics, akhlāq. As with any other dimension of human life, a person’s moral culpability before God extends into the domain of the “political” just as it extends into the domain of the economic, familial, ritual, etc. 

While it is true that colonization is often understood as a political phenomenon and not a religious one, religion has featured prominently both as a pretext and the locus of subjugation in China’s crimes against the Uyghur people. China brands its campaign against the Uyghurs as a fight  against “Islamic extremism” in an attempt to ride on the coattails of the global “War on Terror” thereby garnering  sympathy for its policies — including the imprisonment of millions of Turkic peoples into concentration camps and prisons — and insulate itself from backlash it would otherwise face as a result of its inhumanity in East Turkistan. Like Modi’s India and many Western nations, China exploits the world’s frenzied paranoia surrounding “Muslim terror” to justify its crackdown on innocent Muslims.

“Ubiquitous scene on the streets of  #Xinjiang these days. Men and women (inc. the elderly) trudging around with enormous clubs, part of the ‘People’s War’ on terrorism.” – David Brophy, Nov 15th 2017 

We acknowledge, however, that if this matter was purely religious, and not political, we would see Hui Muslims, who do not have a territorial claim at stake, rounded up into concentration camps and being subject to the same forms of oppression Uyghurs and other Turkic people are. However, this is not the case. Huis have historically been left largely undisturbed for the sake of maintaining the CCP’s facade of religious acceptance — or at most they are subject to the usual disruptions any religious group faces under the anti-religious CCP. Historically, the Hui have been staunch supporters of the Chinese state, and even played a critical role in the dismantling of the first East Turkistan Republic of 1933 and the second of 1944.. This did not spare them, however, from the current religious crackdown they and other faith groups like Christians face, once again highlighting the inextricably religious dimension of the CCP’s supposedly merely “political” project. As though rounding up innocents into concentration camps and subjecting an entire people to violations of fundamental human rights as part of a larger campaign of ethnic cleansing and cultural destruction would be anything less than heinous, even if religion played no role in the matter.

Much of Uyghur and, by extension, all Central Asian Turkic identity, has centered on religion; Uyghurs and other Turks are Muslim, just like Malays have been Muslim based on historical development in the past millennium. Historically, up until the 1930s, Uyghurs were not commonly referred to as “Uyghurs” — they and other Turkic Muslims of East Turkistan were simply referred to as “Musulman” (Muslim), “Turki” (Turk), or “yerlik” (local). This truth further explains why China has been so adamant in removing religion from the lives of East Turkistanis — Islam is so critical to the history and culture of the Turkic presence that the CCP knows that, without it, East Turkistanis will be left weak and purposeless– easily converted into malleable forced worshippers of the party, and indistinguishable from the rest of China’s largely atheist, but nominally Confucian, Buddhist or Taoist Han majority. Not to mention that they are then exploited in China’s massive hypocritically capitalistic labour scheme — which most of Chinese masses also suffer from. 

Claiming that the oppression is not a religious matter implies that Muslims need not care about the Uyghurs out of religious concern, while in reality our blood should be boiling knowing that the rights of God and His worshippers are being violated by the CCP. Muslims around the world rightly condemn and stand in solidarity against zionist oppression in Palestine, though, by the shaykh’s standards, this would be appear a purely political project undeserving of collective Muslim outrage. The Israeli state-apparatus oppresses Muslim and Christian Palestinians alike. The CCP has singled out Muslims, however, especially those in East Turkistan, as the targets of their brutal project. Again, we see that this is both a religious and political issue against which all Muslims and conscientious human beings should speak and fight. Just as we all wish for the freedom of Palestine sooner rather than later, we should pray, speak, and fight for the freedom of our brothers and sisters in East Turkistan.

Practicing Islam is categorically forbidden in East Turkistan, despite China’s constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion. Islamic texts and names are banned, practicing most of the five pillars of Islam is forbidden, and centuries old Islamic institutions have been destroyed and converted into communist propaganda centers. Religious scholars (ulema) have disappeared, sentenced to life in prison, or killed.

These tragedies are never publicized within China’s borders — and their occurrence is aggressively denied by the Chinese media apparatus. Instead, the media tokenizes and highlights a few religious acts, in reality no more than complex theatrics which the government has directed in order to showcase the power of “CCP Islam”. Journalists and political actors from other countries, especially Muslim ones, are invited to East Turkistan to witness a beautiful charade of “harmony” and happiness that, in reality, is no more than an open air prison for the Uyghurs. Albanian academic and journalist, Dr Olsi Jazexhi, was one of these visitors, who later reflected on his experiences and observations on such a CCP-sponsored trip. He and other journalists toured many mosques with the CCP’s aim being to show to the outside world that there are mosques, and indeed religious freedom, in East Turkistan. Jazexhi recalls venturing into one of the mosques near Urumqi’s Grand Bazaar and finding only a store. He also recalls his visit to a concentration camp or what China calls a “vocational training center”:

“The center was in the middle of the desert. It was a kind of Alcatraz, and by its appearance, we were expecting to find some criminals, terrorists, and killers, and people who were dangerous to society. When we went there, the criminals presented us with a concert. These poor boys and girls who were being held there since many years. They were told to dance to me; Uyghur dance, Chinese dance, and Western dance. The authorities wanted us to film them only dancing and smiling and singing. They were all speaking Chinese, even though they were Uyghurs [sic].” 

Jazexhi, a dual Albanian and Canadian citizen, was later fired from his university position in Albania — demonstrating the reach of Chinese economic blackmail diplomacy. The professor was blacklisted by China due to his truthful reports on East Turkistan, highlighting the CCP’s suppression of criticism abroad, even within the context of academia, with its diplomatic and economic pressure. 

Scene from a staged tour of a ‘vocational training center’. Uyghur detainees are playing music to show  ‘harmony’ and ‘happiness’ inside the camps. Source: BBC 

Of course, this harmony would not be complete without the millions of Han Chinese who have been settled, with the aid of the government, within the borders of East Turkistan. While Uyghurs are systematically transported outside of the borders of their homeland and into mainland China to work as forced laborers or to be imprisoned and “reeducated”, it is hard to ignore the demographic erasure of Uyghurs in East Turkistan. As more and more Han Chinese are brought into Uyghur land to replace the displaced natives, the CCP razes ancient mosques, homes, and sanctuaries to make room for the new settlers. 

Photo from Gilles Sabrie: “Sledgehammer: The Chinese say Kashgar must be destroyed because it is susceptible to earthquakes” (TIME

These settlers act both as continuous reminders of the disappearance of Uyghur autonomy as well as wardens over the remaining Uyghur population. There have been many accounts of Han Chinese living with Uyghur families in their homes as “big siblings”— feeding the government information on the family’s every move and assisting in Uyghur imprisonment for even the smallest of religious offences. Aside from simple demographic engineering and ethnic cleansing, the Chinese program of destroying Uyghur cities and patrimony is intended to deracinate East Turkistanis from their culture and make them self-internalize that they are a people with no heritage, and to imprison them in easy-to-surveil panopticons with Han colonialists wardens. Destroying ancient cities and heritage is an old authoritarian communist strategy, reflecting the idea brillianty summarized by Alexander Solzhenitsyn that “to destroy a people you must first sever their roots.” 

Muhammad Salih Hajim (82), widely known as the first scholar to translate the Quran to modern Uyghur, is amongst one of the martyred and was killed in detention in January 2018. Source: RFA

One former prisoner, Adil Abdulghufur, in an interview with our co-author, Aydin Anwar, recounted how he was beaten unconscious by Chinese prison authorities and forced to wear a 25 kg cement block for a month hung by a thin string around his neck after saying “Bismillah” (in the name of God) in his sleep. Countless Uyghur women and men, who have been sent to camps and prisons due to religious practice have been raped, forcibly sterilized, drugged, and their bodies used for organ harvesting. Uyghurs are punished with long prison sentences; one Uyghur woman was sentenced to 10 years in prison for promoting the wearing of headscarves, a Kazakh man was sentenced to 16 years in jail after Chinese authorities found audio recordings of the Quran on his computer, and several Uyghur refugees we have spoke with said that even saying the Muslim greeting Assalāmu Alaykum (Peace be upon you) can get them locked up for 10 years. Saying Insha’Allah (God-willing) is also prohibited. In one of the many documentaries published on the dystopian existence of the Uyghur people, VICE interviews a woman who states her charged crime was the learning of the Quran and the Arabic language. A man, later in the documentary, details how he was punished for refusing to eat pork even while imprisoned. By many accounts, the word God or Allah itself must be replaced with “Party” (Chinese Communist Party), or the name of the Chinese president, Xi Jinping.

Portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping shaking hands with Uyghur Imams placed in Kasghar’s historical Id Kah (Eidgah) mosque in East Turkistan. Note that the picture is facing the congregants in the direction of Muslim prayer – Qiblah. Source: David Brophy 

#3: Shaykh Al-Jifri claims the reason people are fighting for East Turkistan is because they do not want China to build the so-called ‘New Silk Road’ and become 2x as strong as America economically

This claim reduces the East Turkistani freedom movement to a China vs America binary– thereby completely erasing the decades of occupation East Turkistan has endured under China. In 1759, the Manchu Qing Empire invaded East Turkistan and made it its new colony. Uyghurs rebelled against Qing rule, and in 1863 were able to break free and establish Kashgaria under their leader Yaqub Khan, now known as East Turkistan. Two decades later, the Uyghurs were invaded by the Qing again, and, this time, the Uyghur homeland was formally incorporated under the Chinese empire as “Xinjiang”. Chinese nationalists overthrew the Manchu Qing Dynasty in 1911, putting East Turkistan under the rule of Nationalist China. The Uyghurs carried out numerous rebellions and were able to establish the East Turkistan Islamic Republic in 1933 and 1944, both of which briefly lasted before the Chinese government reoccupied the region through the military intervention and political interest of the Soviet Union. The most recent occupation started in 1949 when the Communist Party of China came to power, and since then, millions of East Turkistanis have been subject to various forms of brutal systematic genocide. 

The Declaration of Independence of the Islamic Republic of East Turkistan, November 12, 1933 Note: As is visible, the local ulema/scholars spearheaded the effort for independence.

It is deeply condescending to not only delegitimize the efforts of a Muslim people in standing against their oppressors, but to also deem them to be no more than American pawns. Indeed, Xi Jinping’s China seeks to continue solidifying Chinese hard power in East Turkistan while working towards the larger CCP strategic goal of establishing China as a global hegemonic power with a new Chinese-dominated global economic-political order, via the multi-trillion dollar One Belt One Road (OBOR) Initiative. This strategic-economic project — the largest the Eurasian Landmass ever seen — spanning over 70 countries via railroads, gas pipelines, and other infrastructure projects, is one of the greatest attempts of China to secure itself a superpower position in the 21st century. Without East Turkistan, deemed by the CCP the “Chinese gateway” to Eurasia and the West in general, the entire OBOR initiative’s immediate feasibility is truly brought into question. In addition to this strategic importance East Turkistan, the land of the Uyghurs is also extremely rich in oil, gas, and coal. According to a 2016 Congressional Research Service report, the region contains the second-highest natural gas reserves and highest oil reserves of any province-level jurisdiction of China, reportedly producing more than 30 BCM of natural gas in 2015. 

A statement that reduces the intention of the freedom movement to a simple modern economic enterprise further belittles the rich history of a people that once lived with centuries of independence, and its rightful effort to reclaim its full rights and freedom. The Uyghurs played a crucial role in establishing the Koktürk Khanate (552-744), the Uyghur Khanate (744-840), the Kara-Khanid Khanate (840-1212), Gansu Uyghur Kingdom (848-1036), and Idiqut State (856-1335). They lived co-independently in the Mongol Empire, even playing crucial roles in its administration through Gengiz Khan’s usage of the Uyghur yasa law system and the Uyghur script. After the Chagatai Khanate, East Turkistan was integrated into the Turkic-Muslim milieu of the larger Turkistan stretching from the Caspian to Mongolia including cities and polities like Bukhara, Samarkand, Kokand, etc. with scholars, traders and others moving east and west. Thus, it is truly ridiculous to understand the issue of Uyghur colonization solely through a lens of Sino-American politics. The colonization of East Turkistan began long before China was a real contender in the quest for international political-economic hegemony, and will continue –ceteris paribus– long after a change in the foreign policy of either the United States or China. The recent interest American politicians have taken in the plight of the Uyghurs has never even clearly crossed into the realm of East Turkistani independence– it is Uyghur, Turkic, Muslim, and anti-colonial activists who are at the forefront of the East Turkistani independence movement. Just as it was completely understandable that Afghans accepted American assistance in the fight against Soviet occupation, and that the Viet Cong accepted Chinese assistance to protect against American invasion on the other hand, the Uyghur crisis is so dire that the people are justly tempted to accept the assistance of any powerful nation against the century long Chinese oppression they have faced. Had China, under the yoke of CCP, not suffocated the Muslim peoples inhabiting East Turkistan, Uyghurs could maybe regard China differently…

The only way to secure Uyghurs and other East Turkistanis their essential rights — to practice their faith, operate economically, and take pride in their rich culture and history without fear of imprisonment, assault or death — is to secure the sovereignty of their occupied homeland. For many Uyghurs, the human rights/autonomy discourse is dead. The Chinese government has proven over the course of its long occupation that it can never guarantee Uyghurs the safety or the freedom they deserve. Although China claims Uyghurs to be one of its “proud 56 ethnic minorities”, it sees Uyghurs not only as foreigners, as made clear with their completely distinct language, history and culture, but also as existential threats to its despotic power. As internal but “foreign” threats, the Uyghur people have been imprisoned, enslaved, indoctrinated and murdered. There can be no going back after this horror. The only solution is for the Uyghur people, completely foreign to China, to formally exist outside of the jurisdiction of the Chinese government as their own nation.

#4: Al-Jifri asks how COVID-19 can be divine punishment if Communist Party authorities themselves remain untouched by the virus

While we agree with al-Jifri that we are in no position to state definitely whether any worldly occurrence is a direct act of Divine punishment, we question a few of the implications presented during the lecture. For example, the shaykh asks how the coronavirus pandemic can logically be considered Divine punishment if the individuals, who made the governmental decisions resulting directly in the oppression against Uyghurs, themselves remained unscathed by the virus. We respond: How can a virus which has debilitated the economy and social structure of a country, whose government is committing genocide against millions of colonized peoples, including millions of Muslims, not be? This article does not aim to delve into a metaphysical discussion on the nature of blame and culpability, but we can simply ask how the shaykh knows that none of those individuals he identifies did not fall ill. 

Additionally, we question why such a punishment could not target an entire corrupt regime — or even a complicit or apathetic populace — and not simply certain individuals, who he might deem actually culpable. 

The fact of the matter is this: We do not know how many of the Uyghurs who are trapped in concentration camps, prisons or forced labor factories, have been additionally subject to this seperate CCP oppression — a virus which only became as terrible of an international menace as it has due to the deception and inadequacy of the CCP. We hope their number is very low, but also understand that the illness of Uyghurs does not indicate that the CCP is any less problematic or morally horrific in its dealing with the virus and with the regime’s colonial holdings. The shaykh  also asks why other oppressors would not be more deserving of a plague such as this one. To this we repeat the shaykh’s  question to himself: Who are we to question God’s methods? The burning of the Amazon is not certainly a punishment for the South American nations whose borders it crosses, or it may be a punishment for humanity at large — we cannot know. 

It does not take an act of divine punishment for us to recognize the immorality of an action or event. We do not wait for lighting to strike us down before we realize we may have committed a misdeed. In the same way, we do not know if COVID -19 is divine punishment, but we do know that the oppression of Uyghurs is a moral outrage and requires immediate international action, especially from fellow Muslim brethren. 

 As previously noted, we do not seek to act as interpreters of God’s will. On the contrary, we only seek to act according to a well-established Islamic tradition of taking ʿibrah, a lesson derived from a moral experience, from what we observe in the world. Even while carefully performing this observation, we acknowledge that our derivations are zannī, or of uncertainty. This being said, we believe that our history and faith have so clearly called for justice and religious freedom that to ignore the direct suppression of Islam or Muslims, especially through means as violent and cruel as those practiced by the Chinese Communist Party, is to commit a definitive moral misdeed.

This kind of deduction by ulema and regular Muslims alike has been practiced for centuries. One pertinent example is of an individual named Mirza Ghulam of Qadiyan, who apostatized from Islam in the late 19th century as a claimant of prophethood, and experienced a rather gruesome death due to dysentery. His downfall has been commonly interpreted (taʾwīl) as punishment, for his attempting to act as a divinely ordained prophet of God. This kind of informed and qualified interpretation has been performed for centuries and is allowed for any individual so long as they ultimately believe in the finality of the Knowledge and the Will of God. W’Allāhu Aʿlam (God knows best).

Action Items & Closing Notes

We do not seek to find out the intention of Habib Ali al-Jifri’s speeches on the situation of our Uyghur brothers and sisters – he may have simply been misinformed. What we can do, however, is question the sources of his information and highlight the graveness of his actions and words. The fact of the matter is that millions of Muslims are detained by China for committing simple acts of faith that people elsewhere have the pleasure of doing each and every day– including saying “Bismillah” before they take a bite of food. As we observe Ramadan currently, it is devastating to think of the Uyghurs, who are forced to eat and drink, let alone drink alcohol and eat pork, during the holy month to prove their “innocence” from Islam to the Chinese government. While we sit with our families and break our fast, Uyghurs and other Turkic people suffer silently in thousands of prisons and labor camps far from their families. 

This scholar, or those who have misinformed him, have not only dismissed the CCP’s violations against our religion and the Ummah at large, but have also attempted to disincentivize hundreds of thousands of free Muslims from aiding the Uyghur people in their plight against the CCP.

We ask that you to pray that the oppression of the Uyghur people ceases as soon as possible; but also urge you to boycott Chinese or Chinese-made products likely to be reliant on Uyghur slave labor; to actively spread the word on the suffering of East Turkistan; and to build interest groups and networks to pressure governments to lower their dependency on China, while increasing economic and political collaboration between Muslim people. Change starts with and around each and every one of us; inquire about Uyghur-East Turkistani exiles in your area and country, and organize your communities to help stranded Uyghur orphans, students and other disadvantaged individuals survive as Muslim Uyghur people with their culture. Lobby for issuing Uyghurs passports and securing Uyghur emigres refugee-asylee status and protection. Stop “extradition-repatriation” of Uyghurs to China. Call for a united diplomatic effort of Muslim, Arab, and/or Turkic and others concerned for freedoms countries against China’s atrocities. They should act according to inter-state relations and not as slavish would-be vassal states, and hold a respectable diplomatic stand vis-à-vis China from our countries.

We ask that you get your universities involved by both raising awareness on campus as well as by assessing your university’s relationship with China. Check to see if your school has a Confucius or China Institute. These entities often serve as a public educational arm of the Chinese government abroad, and are controlled by the CCP — thereby enabling them to exercise soft power all over the world. Insist that these institutes make a statement and acknowledge the atrocities faced by those in East Turkistan, and call them out if they do not. Call for a double background check for Chinese researchers lest they actually be informants as often happens in the U.S. Countless events and panels discussing the horrors committed by the CCP have been canceled by universities around the world due directly to Chinese pressure. Call for university endowments to divest from China. Finally, call on your school to increase funding for Uyghur/Turkistani studies and to set up scholarships and grants to assist exiled Uyghur students and scholars — their lived experiences are essential to hear, accept, and make sure fewer people have to go through again. 

 It is important to ensure the political and economic independence of academia– without which generations of students will maintain worldviews colored by propaganda and complicit in the oppression of millions. Insist that your school cuts ties with Chinese bodies violating academic freedoms, similar to how Cornell cut ties with a Chinese university. Hold your universities accountable regardless if they are directly complicit in, or just silent on, the human rights abuses China commits. Demand that these important institutions divest from these China and the CCP. 

We have seen large-scale protests across the Muslim world, especially in countries, whose governments have remained silent against the oppression in East Turkistan for fear of Chinese retribution, and hope to see even more people push their governments to pressure the CCP. The shaykh encourages members of the audience to maintain an Islamic guiding moral principle and to act on it. We agree with this wholeheartedly — but we vigorously disagree with his calls to (in)action. Instead of focusing only on ourselves and our individual economic and academic developments, we also hope to fight for the Uyghur and other Turkic people’s ability to do the same — to practice their faith, live without fear of imprisonment, and in a homeland that is formally their own. This is not a hopeless cause– our voices can and must be heard, inshAllah. 

عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ رضي الله عنه قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ إِنْ قَامَتْ عَلَى أَحَدِكُمْ الْقِيَامَةُ وَفِي يَدِهِ فَسْلَةٌ فَلْيَغْرِسْهَا

From Anas Ibn Malik, Allah be pleased with him: The Prophet Muhammad, the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him, said: if the day of judgement is upon you, and in your hand is a seed, plant it. 

Action Items:

  1. Keep making Dua for the oppressed of East Turkistan and the world
  2. Boycott Chinese products– do not be complicit in slave-labour
  3. Raise awareness on the plight of Uyghurs and the East Turkistani cause, learn more at
  4. Work towards reducing your country’s economic dependence on China
  5. Build alliances with all people of conscience to demand a cessation of China’s oppression of all faith groups, be it Muslim Uyghur, Hui, Christian or Tibetan Buddhist
  6. Encourage and promote fairer trade and commerce with Muslims and others rather than China
  7. Inquire about Uyghur diaspora members in your area. Organize to help out orphans, widows, and students.
  8. Pressure governments to provide legal protection to Uyghur refugees-exiles by either citizenship or refugee-asylee status. Stop the “extradition-repatriation” of Uyghurs to China! 
  9. Get your universities-endowments to divest from China. Raise awareness about Chinese espionage and hired guns in academia. Demand academic and financial support for Uyghur scholars and students. Request more academic attention and funds for Central Asian, Uyghur, Turkistani studies.

Dislclaimer: The authors acknowledge Habib Ali’s willingness to retract his statements, and appreciate his dua for the oppressed Uyghur when faced with rightful criticism. However, the retraction came to our attention towards the very end (on May 12, article published May 14) of writing the piece (a month long process) and despite being a welcome move, does not remove the falsehood of most of his takes. He only corrects the first item from his otherwise totally-problematic takes. After an online correspondence with Uyghur activist Abdulghani Thabit, Habib Ali only corrected his statement number 1 from the longer talk. The three other misleading takes remain and were thus addressed in the piece. The authors tried their best to give all due respect to someone who dons the mantle of ‘scholar’. Our intention is not to attack Habib Ali or any other scholar, rather we seek to use his misleading commentary (corrected albeit in part by the Shaykh later) as a segue into educating the largely ignorant Muslim masses susceptible to Chinese propaganda on Uyghurs and the East Turkistani cause.

Here is a condensed Arabic version of this article translated by Imam Abdul Jabbar

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Podcast: Revisiting Women-Only Tarawih | Ustadha Umm Sara

I still remember the first time I heard of a women-only Tarawih congregation. I was about 10 years old and my father had told me that Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (1914–1999), a prominent Indian Hanafi scholar of the past century, had written a book about his mother (d. 1968) who was a hafidha (memorizer of the Quran) and had mentioned she would lead women in Tarawih. Shaykh Nadwi had written:

“What a beautiful era it was when they (his mother and aunts) all would recite one juz each in Tarawih. They would follow the fatwa of some scholars and have their own congregation in which there would be a woman Imam and women followers. Their Tarawih congregation would go on from after Isha till almost Suhoor time. All of them would recite Qur’an very beautifully with impeccable pronunciation. If it’s not disrespectful I would say that they recited better and more accurately than many of today’s scholars. Their heartfelt passion and natural melody would add even more beauty to this. I recall one time I stood for a long time watching my mother recite as she was leading Tarawih. It felt as if rain was descending from the heavens. I still have not forgotten the beauty of that moment.” (Nadwi, 1974).

The full original piece that this podcast is based on may be read here.

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MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

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

Podcast recorded and produced by Zeba Khan

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

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

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