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This Muslim Woman Asks You Not to Undermine Hijab

Saba Syed (Umm Reem)

Published

Last week, the Washington Post published an article by Asra Nomani and Hala Arafa, in which they asked women not to wear headscarves in the name of interfaith solidarity. Their reason being that because the term hijab, commonly used to refer to the headscarf, does not appear in the Qur’an. Therefore, the argument goes, wearing of headscarves by Muslim women is in fact not part of Islam, but rather a cultural accretion and byproduct of ultra conservative innovation pioneered by the likes of the Saudi government and the Islamic State.

Before highlighting the major academic flaws in the article, I must express my disappointment that such a piece was published by two women who claim to champion women’s choice. The majority of Muslim women choose to wear a head-covering as a spiritual act, and it is high time that they receive the support to freely wear what they want without judgment or reprisal.

The Linguistic Red Herring

Muslim women who wear hijab out of devotion to God do so based on the following sources in the Qur’an:

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“And tell the believing women to lower [some/part of] their gaze and guard their private parts and to not expose their beauty except that which [necessarily] appears thereof and to wrap [a portion of] their khumur over their juyūb and not expose their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, […]” Q 24.31

The above verse from the Qur’an obliges women to cover themselves by wearing what is commonly known in our times as ‘hijab.’ [1]

However, as many have pointed out, this verse doesn’t actually mention the word ‘hijab’, nor does it refer to covering one’s hair per se. This is where those who rely on their readers’ ignorance toss out red herrings such as “‘hijab’ doesn’t mean head covering,” “the Qur’an doesn’t mandate hijab,” “hijab means a barrier, not a head covering,” and so on.

Truth be told, there is no explicit reference for head-covering in the Qur’an via the word ‘hijab,’ and yet “mainstream Muslims” believe hijab to be a part of the Islamic faith. That is because the verse above clearly and thoroughly commands Muslim women to cover their bodies, including their head/hair, neck and chest. They do not, however, hold hijab to be a “sixth pillar of Islam,” as the authors claimed in the Washington Post piece, but an obligation on Muslim women as an act of obedience to God.

This verse addresses the “believing women” and not just the wives of the Prophet [pbuh]. Hence, whatever command follows is an obligation on any woman who claims to believe in God and adheres to Islam as her faith.

Believing women are then commanded to lower their gaze and guard their private parts, just as the believing men are commanded in a previous verse of the same chapter. Next, the believing women are asked to conceal their beauty. The Arabic word used for beauty is “zīnah.”

“wa-la yubdīna zīnata-hunna”

yubdīna—let them not show

zīnata-hunna—their beauty/adornment

This is a general command is specified by the next phrase, “illa ma ẓahara min-hā,” meaning except that which is a necessity to uncover, or obviously apparent.

The next part of the verse outlines the specifics of what needs to be covered by believing women:

“wal yudribna bi khumuri-hinna ‘alā juyūbi-hinna”

Draw/strike their khumur over their juyūb.

The Qur’anic term for head-covering (what is referred to as hijab in contemporary times) is khimār. Khumur is the plural of khimār. Khimār derives from the triliteral root Kha-Ma-Ra, which literally means something that covers.

On an interesting linguistic side note, alcohol is called “khamr” in Arabic because it ‘covers’ a person’s mind, concealing their ability to think.

Linguistically, khimār was – and still is – a cloth that drapes over the top of the head and hangs downwards. Juyūb, the next term used in the same line, is the plural of jayb, which is the opening/slit in a dress that allows the head to fit through.

It is essential to note here that the women in pre-Islamic times were accustomed to covering their hair based on their religions and cultures[2]. However, their neck and chest, and in some cultures their ears[3], used to be exposed.[4]

That is why qualified male and female interpreters of the Qur’an—those well educated in the Arabic language and the other necessary texts required to understand the Qur’an —have unanimously agreed for centuries that this verse of the Qur’an commanded Muslim women to drape their head coverings over the front openings of their shirts, modernly known as hijab.

Yadribna—strike

Bi—with

Khumuri-hinna—their head-coverings

‘Alā—over

Juyūbi-hinna—the front opening of their shirts (i.e. their chest)

With such clear step by step commands, it is impossible to claim that the head-covering is a nothing more than a cultural practice imposed by men to control women.

Twisting History

Later in the article Ms. Nomani and Ms. Arafa acknowledge the use of the term “khimar” in the Qur’an, however, they twist the historical facts. Referring to the verse (24:31) they state:

“In old Arabic poetry, the khemar was a fancy silk scarf worn by affluent women. It was fixed on the middle of the head and thrown over their back, as a means of seducing men and flaunting their wealth. This verse was revealed at a time, too, when women faced harassment when they used open-air toilets. The verse also instructs how to wear an existing traditional garment. It doesn’t impose a new one.”

Their claim that affluent women wore khimar to seduce men is not only historically baseless, it is also a serious accusation to respectable women of that time. Moreover, they themselves mention that, “The verse also instructs how to wear an existing traditional garment. It doesn’t impose a new one.”

As explained previously, women of the time were already in the practice of wearing a headscarf but it didn’t cover their neck, ears, back or chest. With the revelation of this verse, Muslim women were told to cover what was exposed before. Intrinsically, Ms. Nomani and Ms. Arafa proved that in this verse Muslim women were instructed how to wear an existing garment properly, without imposing a new one.

The head-covering of Muslim women has always been a norm. A simple history check will show that from the time of Prophet Muhammad’s fifth year of migration till our day, Muslim women have covered their head/hair.

From that time onwards, all four surviving schools of jurisprudence, the fifth school of Dhahiri thought, and both Shi’ee and Sunni scholars have unanimously agreed that hijab (referred to as khimar in the Qur’an) is a requirement for Muslim women. This consensus existed from the time of the Prophet and was challenged only in the 19th century, when an Egyptian revisionist, Saad Zaghloul, disputed hijab for the first time in the history of Islam.

Numerous narrations from the time of Prophet Muhammad, ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) show Muslim women, and not just his wives, started covering themselves in response to the revelation of this verse. Aisha raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her), the first and greatest female scholar of Islam, praised the women of Madinah for their obedience saying, “…They took the curtains, tore them and made headcovers of them.”

The women of Ansaar, upon hearing the verses of covering, took their headscarves and pulled them down to their chests, and if they didn’t have scarves, they used the curtains from their homes instead. Those Ansaar women, without being instructed by the men, understood the verse and implemented the instructions immediately. They used their agency of interpretation of divine orders, something that the authors- who claim to value women’s autonomy and self-determination, really ought to recognize. To argue that hijab even during ritual prayer is baseless erases Muslim women’s agency in interpreting texts, as many see hijab and modesty as one of many important aspects of devotion.

A Play on Words

In their effort to disqualify “hijab” as a head-covering, the authors write:

“Hijab” literally means “curtain” in Arabic. It also means “hiding,” ”obstructing” and “isolating” someone or something. It is never used in the Koran to mean headscarf.”

Let’s not be confused with the semantics of the word hijab. It is obvious that the term hijab has become the common term within the Muslims community for a headcovering even if headcovering in classical Arabic is referred to by khimar instead. Times and languages change. Muslim women these days cover their heads with things they call scarves, dupattas, mindeel, sheilas, and even one-pieces ninjas. Whether any of these words appear in the Qur’an is irrelevant. What matters is that Muslim women are commanded to cover, not what words are used to describe the covering.

The authors make yet another effort to misinform their audience by referring to a, “…notion that “woman is awrah,” or forbidden, an idea that leads to the confinement, subordination, silencing and subjugation of women’s voices and presence in public society.”

Awrah doesn’t mean forbidden. Awrah refers to the parts of the body that need to be covered by women and men in front of other women and men who are not mahram, with mahram referring to those people who we are not allowed to marry- ie- blood relations, children, spouse, other women, etc.

In essence, both men and women have awrah in Islam- and Muslims are required to cover their awrah. However, covering the awarh has never led women –in the past or present– to confinement or subjugation. The covering of the awrah and the observing of hijab don’t mean isolation and alienation from society.

Muslim women around the world in their hijab live normal lives, valiantly and vibrantly participating in all public spheres. They have currently, as well as historically, lived and served in their communities, even teaching in the Prophet’s mosque, tutoring and mentoring men.

Call It a Spade, But It’s a Universal One

It cannot be denied that there are predominantly Muslim societies where women are silenced and hindered from public participation, but the cultural beliefs and socially maintained subjugation do not exist because of Islamic rulings.

In the world’s second-most populous country literacy rates of girls are 20% lower than those of boys, and honor killings and dowry deaths cumulatively account for nearly 10,000 deaths per year. Between 2000 and 2010, an estimated 15 million girls were not born, having been deliberately aborted in favor of male children, and yet there is no state sanctioned hijab in historically Hindu and secular India. In Muslim countries, oppressive cultural practices arguably exist alongside hijab, but not because of it.

Manufacturing Grievances

“Today, in the 21st century, most mosques around the world, including in the United States, deny us, as Muslim women, our Islamic right to pray without a headscarf, discriminating against us by refusing us entry if we don’t cover our hair.”

Islam is a doctrine of faith, rituals with rules and a way of life. Five daily prayers are obligatory in Islam, with rules and conditions. Both men and women are required to cover their awrah to observe the five daily prayers. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) stated:

“The prayer of a woman, who has reached the age of menstruation, is not accepted without a khimar.” (Once again, the term khimar is used for what we now call ‘hijab’)

For a prayer to be legitimate, certain conditions have to be met; these conditions have been detailed out by the scholars of jurisprudence. For instance, a prayer has to be prayed at its prescribed time, and must be offered in a pure place. Similarly, women cannot pray without covering their hair, just like men can’t pray in shorts that stop above their knees. It is not, nor has it ever been, and a woman’s “Islamic right” to pray without a headscarf. It is an Islamic requirement to pray with head covered.

Even with this clear ruling of covering during prayer, the majority of the mosques in the U.S. do not deny women entry if they are not covered. How many times have we, Muslims who attend mosques, seen women in mosques without a headscarf/hijab. Further, how many mosques actually keep a pile of permanent pile of flowery, communal scarves- and even skirts – for Muslim women to wear during prayer because they have not come wearing their own.

Of course there are mosques that are not welcoming to women with or without hijab, but like other cultural practices, these exist despite Islam and not because of it.

Crime, Chastity, and Punishment

“In the name of “interfaith,” these well-intentioned Americans are getting duped by the agenda of Muslims who argue that a woman’s honor lies in her “chastity” and unwittingly pushing a platform to put a hijab on every woman.”

Ms. Nomani and Ms. Arafa imply that hijab is a form of punishment imposed on women for the crime of sexual harassment by men. This is an unjust depiction of hijab by two women who not only chose to remain uncovered, but insist that the head-covering is cultural practice imposed by Arabs of recent times.

Being chaste is honorable, but in Islam chastity is honorable for both men and women. Even in women, neither honor nor identity lie in a woman’s chastity alone. A Muslim woman’s honor, just like a Muslim man’s honor, lies in her submission to her Creator, and in her obedience to God and God Alone.

The truth is that women who wear hijab as an act of obedience find this headscarf a spiritual link to God and an expression of their Muslim identity, not a form of “punishment” for a crime that they are not responsible for to begin with. The only valid point of criticism they make is in the association of a woman’s character to her clothing.

The only legitimate point these authors make is in the context is about hijab-shaming. It is not from the essence of Islam, nor from the character of a Muslim to ridicule or exclude a woman based on the type of hijab she chooses to wear, or even not wear. If and when people do this, whether in their social circles or places of worship, they are not acting in accordance with Islam.

Hijab is Muslim and Muslims are Scary, Boo!

In addition to the historical inaccuracies, misquotes, and intellectual dishonesty, the authors also played with scare mongering words like “political agenda,” “Taliban,” “Saudi government,” and “Islamic State.” By connecting headscarves to patriarchy, terrorism, and international politics, hijab becomes guilty by association.

To be honest, there is a lot more misinformation in the original piece than can be summarized in one reply alone. It is disappointing to see The Washington Post publishing what amounts to a call to destroy attempts of appreciated solidarity by sincere and freedom-loving Americans of various faiths.

There is too much fear, too little understanding, and too many people trying to build walls between communities for their own advantage.

Who Speaks for Muslim Women?

The full title of the Washington Post article ran as “As Muslim women, we actually ask you not to wear the hijab in the name of interfaith solidarity ”  The authors then go on to offer their opinion as “as mainstream Muslim women” without taking into account that mainstream Muslim women never ask the authors to speak on their behalf, or to present their personal opinions about Islam as mainstream.

Islam’s mainstream opinion on hijab is, as mentioned, unanimous agreement across schools of thought with dispute emerging only recently. The Muslim woman’s opinion on hijab as an act of solidarity is something else entirely, and the authors aren’t in any position to make a blanket statement on what the Muslim world thinks about non-Muslim women wearing hijab in support of those who do.

So if Nomani and Arafa don’t speak for Muslim women, who does? Is it Iran, Saudi Arabia, Taliban Afghanistan, or the Islamic State – all of whom are blamed for introducing hijab to Muslim women in a single sentence of the article. When Muslim women wish to formulate thoughts on the role of modesty, hijab, and obedience to Allah in their lives on a daily basis, who are they looking to?

The answer is themselves.  Muslim women represent themselves, and if you want to know what one of them thinks, try finding one and asking her, because she speaks for herself. I speak only for myself in this article, from a position shared by women who observe hijab out of devotion, based on the Qur’an. If you would like a different opinion, find a second Muslim woman and ask her too, because Muslim women share the same capacity for unique thought as other humans.

  1. A religious headscarf that covers a woman’s hair, neck, ears, back  and draws down to her chest covering her bosom.
  2. What People Wore When: A Complete Illustrated History of Costume, St. Martin’s Griffin, New York, 2008.  Also, see  www.Catholicplanet.com/veil/index.htm
  3. History of Costume, by Braun and Schneider
  4. See “The Bible on Women and Their Hair” http://www.therefiner’sfire.org/women’s_hair.htm

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Saba Syed (aka Umm Reem) is the author of International award winning novel, "An Acquaintance." Saba has a BA degree in Islamic Studies. She studied Arabic Language & Literature at Qatar University and at Cairo Institute in Egypt. She also received her Ijaazah in Quranic Hafs recitation in Egypt from Shaikh Muhammad al-Hamazawi. She had been actively involved with Islamic community since 1995 through her MSA, and then as a founding member of TDC, and other community organizations. in 2002, she organized and hosted the very first "Musim Women's Conference" in Houston, TX. Since then, she's been passionately working towards empowering Muslim women through the correct and untainted teachings of Islam. She is a pastoral counselor for marriage & family, women and youth issues. She has hosted several Islamic lectures and weekly halaqas in different communities all over U.S and overseas, also hosted special workshops regarding parenting, Islamic sex-ed, female sexuality, and marital intimacy.

58 Comments

58 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Taimur

    December 27, 2015 at 1:42 AM

    MashAllah .. very well writter.. May Allah (SWT) guide these two women who are more concerned about appeasing their masters rather than Allah (SWT)

  2. Avatar

    Imran

    December 27, 2015 at 2:32 AM

    JazakAllah Sister, a beautiful piece of writing..

  3. Avatar

    Wiaam

    December 27, 2015 at 2:44 AM

    Loved this! Very intelligent, very well-written response that should be shared more widely. I think it should be published in the Washington post since it is a reply to an article they published, or at least in Huffington Post Religion.

  4. Avatar

    Aisha

    December 27, 2015 at 3:10 AM

    Detailed explanation and information to counter the “misguided” article by Asra n Hala.

  5. Avatar

    Amel

    December 27, 2015 at 3:57 AM

    As-salamu Alaykum,
    Thank you for taking the time to write this article. I agree with Wiaam that it should be published in the Washington Post as a rebuttal to the other article.

  6. Avatar

    Haji Abdul Kareem Nandasena

    December 27, 2015 at 5:03 AM

    Excellent article my Dear Sister.
    May ALLAAH Shower More Wisdom, More Health,
    More Courage, and More Patience upon You.
    Haji Abdul Kareem Nandasena.
    Sri Lanka.

  7. Avatar

    Faadiel

    December 27, 2015 at 5:22 AM

    Asalamu Alaykum

    This is a excellent to the point article by our beloved sister in Islam. I just wish these things become more common knowledge and widespread. It’s also unlikely that western media who believe themselves to be objective, will not let true muslims write articles for there platforms.

    It’s also a double standard of non muslims and these progressive muslims as they called, cause even the bible mentions that christian women is suppose to cover there heads, but that is ignored out of selective convenience like all of the other church teachings. Why else is Mary Magdalene always depicted with a headscarf then?

    It’s fine for nuns to cover up, but oh no, muslim women should not they say. What more can we muslims do to lower the high level of ignorance swarming across the world about Islam and muslims?
    Platforms like muslimsmatters.com is good and others like it, but non muslims is not exactly looking up islamic media, newspapers and the like on an ongoing basis as we know. So it becomes more easier for them to be mislead by these so called modern muslims and secular muslims.

    Why is people ignoring the benefits of hijab, khimar etc? A man by his nature can’t help but be caught up by external beauty if thats what a woman put in his face; her inner beauty becomes hard to notice. With the hijab, as a man, its easier on me to look pass physical beauty and in a women’s eyes and speak to her as a person with a personality, feelings and see her inner beauty more easily, instead of being distracted by her outer figure and curves and what not.

    All in all, a well written articles once again dear sister. Keep up the excellent work. You truly are a light that cast away the shadows. May Allah guide you and us always insha-allah. Amen.

    • Avatar

      Jane

      December 29, 2015 at 1:33 PM

      If a Muslim woman wants to wear a hijab then she should do so. Similarly, if a woman wants to wear clothes which reveal her hair, arms, legs and whatever else then that’s her right as well. If a woman’s “curves” distract you then you should turn your eyes away – that’s your problem, not hers. It would be a lot easier for women of all cultures and faiths if men stopped taking it upon themselves to police women’s clothing and acknowledged that women are free to make their own choices.

      • Avatar

        Faadiel

        December 29, 2015 at 2:25 PM

        Hi Jane

        Yes, by all means, women can wear whatever they want to where. I do think you misreading my point I was trying to make. I did say that ” A man by his nature can’t help but be caught up by external beauty”. I was not talking about policing women. I was born and raised in the west, so I’m not some extreme person with some hard views on women you know. I’m trying to point out the benefits of the dress code of muslim women and how its less about her external beauty. In western society, so much emphasis is place on women having to dolly up etc.

        And all men knows, lowering the eyes is not enough, cause women flaunting there stuff is pretty much everywhere, malls, streets, at work, you name it. My case was for the sake of the muslim women’s dress code of modesty and the benefits of it. I was also using myself as an example to make that point.

        Sure, any women can wear whatever she wants to wear according to her lifestyle. I do respect all women and I do not look down on any women. The issue is by no means about policing women’s clothing, no, no. How many women haven’t made it known that they want a man to see there personality, and not check out there assets the whole time. What women do not always get, is that men are visual by nature. You fighting against our nature. It’s instinctive, we can control it for a short while, but men are surrounded by female bodies everywhere and it’s overwhelming. See it from our perspective. But if you just like showing some skin, you most likely would not care to bother seeing men’s perspective and the effect women have on us. We not robots who can switch our sexuality, arousal, instinct ect, on and off like it’s nothing. But there are women who unrealistically expects us to do just that.

        Eitherway, the western world just fail to see the benefits of it, and look at muslim womens dress code as oppressive etc. They do not always see the point. It’s not easy making people like yourself get it, when you looking from the outside inwards.

        But, I do hope I’m not misunderstood in this matter. And let me be clear, I do respect all women, and I do not look down on any women however she may dress. She’s a human being just like me. So I hope once again that I’m not misunderstood in what I’m saying. Take care

        Regards.

      • Avatar

        Jane

        December 29, 2015 at 6:02 PM

        To Faadiel

        Somehow I wasn’t able to reply to your comment. So you grew up in the west – have you ever lived in a Muslim country? I have, for a quarter of my life. So don’t assume I’m looking at this from an “outside” perspective. I’ve been lucky enough to work, teach and socialise with many Muslim friends and live in a neighbourhood of the kindest people I’ve ever met and whom I was truly sorry to leave.

        I’ve had this conversation many times before with men in that country, who are thoroughly brainwashed to believe that they alone have “uncontrollable urges” which must be controlled through the policing of women’s clothes. We are all human beings – I wonder how women manage to control themselves when a man cycles past in a pair of shorts, or worse still, unfortunate tracksuit bottoms which leave little to the imagination in certain areas. Show me a country where women dictate to men what to wear, and justify lecherous behaviour through biological existentialism. Recent research into the brain has shown that there is no “male” and “female” brain. These “urges”, acceptable in men and yet not in women, are the result of conditioning and culture, nothing more. Perhaps women expect you to “switch off” your “urges” because women are raised to do so, whereas men’s weaknesses are excused and even encouraged by most societies in the world.

  8. Avatar

    sadegh

    December 27, 2015 at 7:08 AM

    Hello. I’m sadegh. a PHD student from Iran. I read your article and fond it good but I think you have a mistake about Iran. I think you do not know Iran. Iran is difference with what show BBC and FOX as Islam is different with what this writers said. I think is a big mistake to equate Iran with Taliban and Isis. Iran is a biggest enemy of them and is in fighting with them. thanks for your great defense of Islam.

    • Umm Reem (Saba Syed)

      Umm Reem (Saba Syed)

      December 28, 2015 at 5:23 AM

      I was not equating Iran to ISIS or Taliban. I just quoted what the author of the article that I refuted said in her piece.

  9. Avatar

    George

    December 27, 2015 at 8:46 AM

    What about educating women and girls in Islam
    Where is the verse that says education is empowerment for women so educate them they can think for themselves and as mothers raise kids that don’t grow up to be crazy jihadis???

    • Aly Balagamwala

      Aly Balagamwala

      December 31, 2015 at 5:22 AM

      There is no restraint in Islam regarding women getting educated. There have been many women in Islamic history who were scholars. The Prophet (SAW)’s wife Ayeshah is among the top narrators of his sayings and she was a teacher to the companions and the generation that followed.

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

  10. Avatar

    Sarah

    December 27, 2015 at 11:25 AM

    Lovely in pointing out the issue of integrity, but also inaccurate in that it misses two sharp historical points (which don’t take away from what was said, but since we’re talking about academic integrity, might as well mention it). Hijab was not, by consensus, for all Muslim women. Slave women, according to the “popular consensus” of Muslim scholars, had the same awra as a man and their prayer was accepted in only that. If we’re to trust the “traditional” sources you refer to, then slave women were actually forbidden from covering. And the idea that “all of a woman is awra” isn’t something just made up by Nomani – it was a common statement in some scholarly circles that I remember, referring to the idea that a woman was meant to stay at home, not speak to men, and cover up.

    • Avatar

      Faadiel

      December 28, 2015 at 1:48 AM

      Base on what facts? Not for slave women. You refering to slave women who embrace Islam I suppose. Well, you just generalizing about some scholarly consensus and yet provide no evidence from authentic sources to back it up. Islam is not about the wimps of some scholars, but base on sound evidence from quran and ahadith.

    • Umm Reem (Saba Syed)

      Umm Reem (Saba Syed)

      December 28, 2015 at 5:44 AM

      Sarah, slaves had different rulings in many areas. However, I don’t see how that is relevant to the discussion at hand because none of us are slaves. In fact, slavery doesn’t even exist anymore and unless miraculously slavery is reestablished, we don’ need to worry about what and what wasn’t for slaves to wear.

      Second, I never said that “all of a woman is awrah” is made up by Nomani. She equated awrah to “forbidden”, and that is made up by her. Awrah doesn’t mean forbidden. It means area of a body that needs to be covered.

  11. Avatar

    Ilhaam

    December 27, 2015 at 12:43 PM

    This article is very well written jazak Allah khair Umm Reem . May Allah reward you in your sincerest intention to speak the truth. Remove the hijab to show ‘religious solidarity ‘? While Allah has already said : ” they will never be pleased with you until you come to their way ?” What a silly idea ! But some sisters may consider that advice a way out of the difficulty in these trying times. So I wouldnt blame anyone who removed hijab for fear of being harmed. Any way it goes, hijab will always be an issue of debate with the West simply because their goal is to take the woman’s clothes off and our goal is to put her clothes on! The condition of the woman determines the condition of the society. When the woman has respect and honor, you have a moral society.

    • Avatar

      Jacob

      January 8, 2016 at 9:48 PM

      “But some sisters may consider that advice a way out of the difficulty in these trying times. So I wouldnt blame anyone who removed hijab for fear of being harmed.”

      Perhaps this is true for Muslim women in the West. But what about when you see “Muslim” (if they can even considered so) women in Saudi Arabia not wearing the hijab? I can’t imagine they are under “pressure by non-Muslims there”?

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3koigluYOH0
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reem_Abdullah

  12. Avatar

    Catherine Jefferson

    December 27, 2015 at 2:55 PM

    I’m not Muslim; I’m Orthodox Christian. I’m tolerably familiar with Islam and Muslims after 20+ years moderating a forum about Islam, though. This is a *very* well written, mainstream response to a non-orthodox (small “o”) Islamic view on the obligation of Muslim women to wear a head covering. I’d urge my fellow Christians and other American women to pay attention, especially if you have considered wearing a headscarf in solidarity with American Muslim women.

    In my opinion, the value of a non-Muslim American wearing a headscarf goes beyond signaling solidarity with Muslim women who believe they are obligated to do so. It signals our agreement as Americans with the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which guarantees religious liberty and provides a foundation for separating the roles of religion and government. It signals that we do not confuse Islam with terrorism, or approve of blaming all members of a religion because a few members of that religion are murderous bigots. For Christians, it signals our own awareness that we too have murderous bigots among us and don’t want to be judged with them simply because we are Christian.

    The degree of hatred that political figures and many ordinary Americans have expressed recently against normal, garden-variety Muslims is terrible, and terrifying to those who recognize it for what it is. It’s the ugly counterexample that shows up any time normal Americans feel threatened by outsiders. In the past, this fear has led to segregation and hatred of indigenous Americans (“American Indians”), the descendants of African slaves, and immigrants ranging from the Irish during the potato famine, Italians and eastern Europeans (many of them Jews) in the early 20th century, and Japanese Americans during the second World War.

    This ignorance- and fear-generated bigotry a threat not just to Muslim women, and not just to all Muslims, but to the American experiment. Through it we have alienated and driven from this country people who would otherwise have made significant, valuable contributions to our society and culture. One of those was W. E. B. DuBois, the first African American graduate of Harvard University and one of America’s great authors and philosophers. DuBois ended his life an exile in Africa, having left the country of his birth and greatest achievements in despair because so many Americans could not find it in their minds or hearts to accept him as an equal — a fellow citizen and human being.

    You’d think we would learn from our mistakes. You’d think people would see the same pattern when dealing with fellow Americans and immigrants whose ancestors came from China, Japan, south Asia and the Middle East. Some of us seem to lack that ability. :/

    I don’t urge all of my fellow non-Muslim American women to wear headscarfs in public. That might not be your role or how you express your support for people under siege. But I do urge you to realize the importance of speaking up and being counted.

    • Avatar

      Jennifer

      December 28, 2015 at 1:35 PM

      I just want to say thank you for your comment. I am sure you are aware how the comment section on articles associated with Islam and Muslim can be filled with hateful words. Thank you for taking the time to compose and post such a well thought out response to this article.

  13. Avatar

    oka

    December 27, 2015 at 3:38 PM

    “they asked women not to wear headscarves in the name of interfaith solidarity. ”

    They’re not judging or forcing you, they’re just asking you to give up temporarily your Hijab for interfaith solidarity. Can’t you stop thinking “me me me” and see the broader picture? That you are not in a muslim country but in a country with a mosaic of faith. They’re trying to strengthen the bonds between different religious/social groups. Help, support instead of complaining and ranting “me me me no no no”. Open up yourself to others, make compromise, welcome other ideas, connect with all women in America..

    • Avatar

      M.Mahmud

      December 27, 2015 at 9:34 PM

      We will not slacken in our deen for you.

    • Avatar

      masood

      December 28, 2015 at 1:03 AM

      your comments show that you do not understand the issue. it is not “me me me”. its not may or may not, its a command to be followed.

    • Avatar

      Faadiel

      December 28, 2015 at 1:44 AM

      NO! The western folks like you, is thinking “me, me, me”.., stop expecting muslims to keep compromising our religion to make
      people like you happy. Call to solidarity? to what end? It’s a mere ploy to get muslims to take it easy, and disobey God.
      No muslim who knows his or her faith and choose God above all else, will comply to the wimps of western demands and trickery, especially not by muslims who already prefer the worldly western superficial life over the guidance of God, the all-wise, all seeing and master of the day of judgement. A muslim says: sami’a na wa atana (we hear and we obey). God and the prophet that is.

      They should call to proper understanding of muslims and Islam, before they ever call for solidarity with a compromise
      string attach.

      • Avatar

        Andaleeb Zuberi

        December 30, 2015 at 12:28 AM

        Very well said! Allah comes before anything else and Muslims cannot abandon the orders of Quran and instructions of Hadith just to show solidarity with the West!

        • Avatar

          Faadiel

          December 30, 2015 at 2:01 AM

          Shukran. It just always feel like no matter how we try to explain things, someone comes along and find a way to either take us muslims out of context or simply put us in one big mould. I’m proud of my muslim sisters. I’ve learn with some people in this world, it’s simply not worth our time to explain things, cause some just have a bone to pick in general or use fancy terms to argue there view. Well, they entitle to there opinions. Even when they not 100% correct, it feels like they ready to argue with you. I simply let such people be.

          And yes, good idea to let your daughter read this and gain a deeper understanding behind Allahs infinite wisdom.

          Everything of the best Insha Allah.

          • Avatar

            Andaleeb Zuberi

            December 30, 2015 at 4:43 AM

            JazakAllah Khair brother! The thing is that you can try to explain but those who do not understand or believe then we need to leave those matters to Allah. May He give them hidayat . There are matters that Allah says that He will resolve himself. I feel it’s us Muslims who need to know our religion, Quran and Hadith well, it is lack of understanding of our own religion which is so dangerous. It is our own ignorance of our religion that prompts us to say such things. Peace on all my brothers and sisters in Islam.

          • Avatar

            Faadiel

            December 30, 2015 at 4:58 AM

            Very true dear sister. It would help both less knowledgable muslims and non muslims to be able to better understand that certain issues is cultural, and not Islamic as media and Islamophobes would like people to believe. We all know that some men in muslim countries is culturally indoctrinated and mistaken there practices with Islam. That’s why Allah and our beloved Nabi (saws) tells us to seek knowledge. Allah reminds us of those before us who exaggerate in there religion, while the nabi (saws) warns us not to be extreme.

            If we keep these in mind, I’m sure it would be alot easier to practice al -wasatiyya ( the middle way/ path) etc.

            May Allah (swt) give all our brothers and sisters strenght in emaan, taqwa, ilm and guide us aright amidst the chaos and unrest gripping the world in these times. Insha Allah amen.

          • Avatar

            Andaleeb Zuberi

            December 30, 2015 at 9:12 AM

            Ameen summa Ameen

  14. Avatar

    Essma Bengabsia

    December 28, 2015 at 2:24 AM

    THANK YOUUUU
    Jazaki Allah Khair
    I 1,000,000% AGREEEE! That article in Washington Post tried so hard to be liberal and accepting and innovative that it ended up being the exact opposite – closed-minded, shallow, and blinded.

  15. Avatar

    david

    December 28, 2015 at 11:50 AM

    Great job, you should submit this here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/opinions/op-ed/submit/

    • Umm Reem (Saba Syed)

      Umm Reem (Saba Syed)

      January 2, 2016 at 2:23 PM

      Thanks David.
      I can’t turn it in as op-ed. They don’t accept any article that has been published elsewhere :(

  16. Avatar

    Fathema Tahera

    December 28, 2015 at 12:20 PM

    Assalamualaikum WRWB,

    I just wanted to say thank you and JazakAllahu Khairaa for writing this article.
    It’s so important that we have intelligent muslim women who are able to articulate themselves in such an excellent manner (as you have mashAllah tabarakAllah) and defend basic tenets of Islam such as the Hijab. It really helps challenge those in the Media limelight who like to distort the truth and convey their own misguided opinions as fact.
    I hope you carry on writing and I urge you to submit in mainstream news blogs such as the Washington post, the Independent etc.

    May Allah love you,

    Your Sister in Islam

    Fathema

  17. Avatar

    Sabah Chaudhry

    December 28, 2015 at 2:22 PM

    Thank you Umm Reem. Beautifully written. May the world see how Islam elevates and liberates women through the rights given to them and through the mandate of hijab. Aameen!

  18. Avatar

    Lauren

    December 28, 2015 at 6:21 PM

    Thank you so much for your clarifications and for teaching me. I read the first article with distinct misgivings, but as a woman who is not Muslim, I did not have enough information to understand what bothered me. I asked for help to understand from a friend who is Muslim and she kindly shared your response. Please submit your piece to the Washington Post. I stand with any person of any faith to defend their right to do so.

  19. Avatar

    Niloo

    December 28, 2015 at 8:39 PM

    Thank you very much.

  20. Avatar

    Hassan Mahfooz

    December 29, 2015 at 2:35 AM

    Assalamualikum

    I am not sure if you have come across this hadith and its interpretation:

    The Prophet SAW said: “The woman is awrah.” (Reported by At-Tirmidhi and said it is an authentic Hadith).

  21. Avatar

    Fitzgerald

    December 29, 2015 at 9:30 AM

    Good explanation. Every time a moronic argument is made in an effort to misrepresent, we should utilize it as a golden opportunity to steal their thunder and hack their propaganda attempts to their detriment.

  22. Avatar

    Lateefat Junaid

    December 29, 2015 at 6:28 PM

    Jazakhillah qulu khair fiduniya wal Akhira amin my dear sister for this well-written and intelligent piece. May Allah swt continue to increase you in wisdom and taqwa amin.

  23. Avatar

    Andaleeb Zuberi

    December 30, 2015 at 12:25 AM

    A very well written article. I’m tired of defending my practise of wearing hijab to Muslims who always want to know “where is hair mentioned” . I’ll show them this article, I’ll make my daughter read this so that she doesn’t have to defend her hijab.

  24. Avatar

    RZ

    December 30, 2015 at 9:44 AM

  25. Avatar

    Shameem

    December 30, 2015 at 12:37 PM

    Beautifully written. I just don’t get why these women who don’t wear Hijab twist and turn the meanings of arabic word to justify their claim. I mean if they are so much honest then why don’t they quote us Hadees and testimonies of first generation Muslim women. I think they were more observant and God fearing than these modernists.There are many hadees which says to cover faces.

    It was narrated from Safiyyah bint Shaybah that ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) used to say: When these words were revealed – “and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms)” – they took their izaars (a kind of garment) and tore them from the edges and covered their faces with them.
    [Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 4481.]
    May Allaah have mercy on the Muhaajir women. When Allaah revealed the words “and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms)”, they tore the thickest of their aprons (a kind of garment) and covered their faces with them. [narrated by Abu Dawood (4102)]
    Another hadees is teher which says:
    It was narrated that ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: “The riders used to pass by us when we were with the Messenger of Allaah (S) in ihraam, and when they drew near to us we would lower our jilbabs from our heads over our faces, then when they had passed we would uncover them again.
    [Narrated by Abu Dawood, 1833; Ibn Maajah, 2935; classed as saheeh by Ibn Khuzaymah (4,203) and by al-Albaani in Kitaab Jilbaab al-Mar’ah al-Muslimah.]

    More hadees reference are [Bukhaari, 146; Muslim, 2170,Al-Bukhaari, 5149; Muslim, 1428,Bukhaari, 365; Muslim, 645.

    I can give more but I hope this will suffice for the subject discussed in this post.

  26. Avatar

    fatima mansaray

    December 30, 2015 at 12:59 PM

    this is not a matter of choice for me,Allah’s command must be fulfilled and in fact i feel so naked and cold without my hijab that i cant imagine taking it off even if the whole world put a ban on it

  27. Avatar

    Farooq

    January 1, 2016 at 11:42 PM

    Masha’Allah Excellent piece of writing. Firm and logical arguments.

    Will share with my mailing list. May Allah bless you for this writeup

  28. Avatar

    Mohammed

    January 6, 2016 at 10:27 PM

    Quran doesn’t talk bout Hijab but it does talk about covering, if a person wants to wear hijab or not its upto them but when its comes to Quran we have to point out the right thing. everything is explained in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AALgGKSnU2g

  29. Avatar

    Shireen

    January 14, 2016 at 10:36 AM

    Jazakallahu Khair for articulating what most of us feel. A woman in hijab is being obedient to her Creator , not being subservient to the whims and fancies of the menfolk in her life. I know a number of women, whose husbands would be happy to see them in public without covering up , but they continue to wear the hijab/khimar as a sign of love and obedience to their Lord. May Allah accept their efforts. Ameen

  30. Avatar

    Shireen

    January 14, 2016 at 10:37 AM

    Jazakallahu Khair katheera for articulating what most of us feel. A woman in hijab is being obedient to her Creator , not being subservient to the whims and fancies of the menfolk in her life. I know a number of women, whose husbands would be happy to see them in public without covering up , but they continue to wear the hijab/khimar as a sign of love and obedience to their Lord. May Allah accept their efforts. Ameen

  31. Avatar

    Patricia

    January 31, 2016 at 11:15 PM

    As-salamu Alaykum,

    Thank you for the article. I was raised a Christian, but at the age of eight, I found the whole Trinity story a bit hard to believe. For over 30 years, I searched for answers. After 9/11, I watched a documentary about the Qur’an which changed my life. On my quest for knowledge, the Almighty led me to Muslim Matters. Thank you for helping me to understand, and may Allah bless you.

    I’m writing because now I find myself wanting to wear the hijab to please our Creator, but I’m not sure how I should go about it. Suggestions? Comments?

    P.S. I also found Faadiel’s comments enlightening and agree with Jane that men should also be taught some self-control. Thank you both for your comments.

    • Avatar

      Faadiel

      February 1, 2016 at 2:12 AM

      Asalamu Alaykum sister Patricia.

      Im grateful you found some benefit in what was mention. As for suggestions to wearing the hijab. I will firstly say that the more stronger your imaan(faith) is in your creator the easier the choice becomes. But guarding yourself with baseerah (sure knowledge, clear insight or clear evidences etc.) is a good way to defeat bigoted and misguided arguments by those who have nothing good to say. Remember you do it for Allah, not people. But practically, you can start small with just the headscarf and work it up to full hijab as your confidence and taqwa grows. Making salaah and duas sincerely helps alot in this regard.

      Look as hijab as a way or opportunity to make dawah and inform people about Islam in a polite manner and ask them questions to get them reflecting. Such as, why is Mary(mother of jesus) always dipicted with a headscarf etc? Should not christians be wearing it also if they love jesus and mary?

      The quran give a honoured reason for covering up, but the new testament give a derogarory reason for doing so.

      Remember, the most precious things on eart is hidden and hard to come by, such as pearls, diamonds, gold, oil etc. Your body is precious and priceless,why should it not be covered to keep away the greedy who will rob you of whats precious,the way they rob the earth of everything thats easily accessable.
      So knowledge gives you a certainty,understanding and removes the fear. Be a brave soul and dua before leaving the house and upon returning.

      May Allah always guide you and keep you well. Ameen

  32. Pingback: Ada Apa di Balik Jubah dan Jenggot Itu – Dipa Nugraha

  33. Avatar

    Aaron

    February 4, 2016 at 8:19 PM

    Poorly written article.

    Muslim women should dress however they want. No hijab, hijab, —-whatever works for them. While this sentiment was briefly touched upon in the end of this article, it repeatedly fails to acknowledge that the authors of the Washington’s points.

    And the idea being tossed around that men are incapable of controlling their biological functions—–no matter how immodest women are dressed——is absolutely idiotic. Men who fail to have such a basic level of self control should at the very least not blame others for their state.

    In the West, many Muslim women already change up their attire to balance their commitment to the Western lifestyle(s), including not wearing their hijab. That makes them no less faithful than a Muslim in Malaysia that wears the hijab regularly. Different strokes for different folks.

    While I can understand a desire to champion what one perceives to be traditional values in modern times, I reject the shaming of the authors of the Washington Post whole heartedly.

  34. Avatar

    francis Ayala

    March 20, 2016 at 3:32 PM

    Banish the thought that it’s a matter of racism. Many people in saris showed up in Western countries in the 1980’s and no one seemed to have thought anything negative of the dress, or the religion associated with it. The head covering of Muslims is more complicated, and choosing to continue with the religious custom is deserving of more than a knee jerk reaction to remain attached to it’s historical significance. Understand that for many in the West, their first introduction to Islam was 911, followed by images of a woman being beheaded, followed by many other beheadings, stories of honor killings, of child marriage, of sex slaves, rape, images of suicide bombers (the non-Muslim mothers of the world gasped at the thought of their sons in those vests, and found it impossible that the bomber’s mothers celebrated them as heroes for killing innocent civilians). Westerners lived in a relatively peaceful bubble until they were increasingly splashed in the face with these images associated with Islamic countries, and views in Islamic politics. Remember, this turmoil was their first really conscious introduction to things Islamic, not since bedtime stories of Aladdin and Ali Baba. So now, what many westerners see when they see the “hijab”–is cruel, violent images. Even if they don’t see them consciously, they may feel uncomfortable because of unconscious association with those images. They may also feel women in hijabs are trying to be noticed, trying to make a statement of separation, or trying to appear special in a western environment. While simultaneously, the hijab wearer thinks it modest and holy, others are feeling extremely uncomfortable with it. It’s not fair, but be aware that the hijab reminds outsiders of unpleasant images of human butchery and oppression, and therefore inspires dark images in the minds of most people from the West, often unconsciously. And since most other cultures agreed to “blend” in with the West, it appears that Muslims don’t belong because they want to announce their separateness with their clothing. That is the other side of the question. It’s sad, but it is the way it is right now in history. You may choose to keep wearing it for reasons of attachment, but just be aware that others are unable to see it as pretty and sweet–no amount of political correctness or legislation can erase bloody images imprinted on the memory. If you live in the West, you can also make a decision to promote peace and unity between factions by removing it, which is a significant spiritual act in itself, because you have the understanding that it may feel bad or insulting to the people of your host country during this era.

  35. Avatar

    francis Ayala

    March 20, 2016 at 3:50 PM

    PS I could have used the word “middle eastern” instead of “Islamic” in some places above, but the point is most are
    Muslim due to location.

  36. Avatar

    Kerudung Syari

    August 6, 2016 at 12:50 AM

    Im grateful you found some benefit in what was mention. As for suggestions to wearing the hijab. I will firstly say that the more stronger your imaan(faith) is in your creator the easier the choice becomes. But guarding yourself with baseerah (sure knowledge, clear insight or clear evidences etc.) is a good way to defeat bigoted and misguided arguments by those who have nothing good to say. Remember you do it for Allah, not people. But practically, you can start small with just the headscarf and work it up to full hijab as your confidence and taqwa grows. Making salaah and duas sincerely helps alot in this regard.

  37. Avatar

    topscarf

    October 18, 2016 at 3:05 PM

    well said… good article… agreed not undermine hijab

  38. Avatar

    ❤❤❤Muslim Girl!❤❤❤

    November 24, 2018 at 9:59 AM

    WOW!!! You are blessed with your knowledge. May Allah (SWT) grant your wishes.
    I am very HAPPY that I have found this article. I am in my younger teenage and I am still deciding whether I should wear a HIJAB now or not. Please may you help me decide. It will be most appreciated! ❤❤❤❤❤
    I hate how people judge Muslim women this way. And I am scared by this. I want to tell the world how badly they are treating us. ?????

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#Society

Beyond 2020: Grounding Our Politics in Community

Kyle Ismail, Guest Contributor

Published

As tense and agonizing as these unending election days have been, it pales in comparison to the last four years.  I plainly remember how it all began on the night of November 07, 2016. I watched as the political map of the US became increasingly red late into the night. All the social media banter, conspiracy theories and left-wing critiques of candidate Hillary Clinton, formed an amorphous blob of white noise as I heard Trump announced as the next president. Now that Trump has run for re-election, half the country was hoping for a repudiation but will have to settle for the fact that despite a small margin, Donald J. Trump will not have a second chance to erode our democratic institutions and divide us. But we can’t move forward until each of us acknowledges our own pathological role in what we’ve become as a deeply divided country. 

We need to grapple with how we can gradually improve the circus-like reality that has become our ordinary, daily politics. We’ll relive more and perhaps improved “Trumps” if we don’t accept our own responsibility in creating a divided America. This starts with being better members of local communities. Here are a few of Trump-induced realizations that I’ve come to accept:

  1. Caring about our immediate neighbors and listening to their challenges and concerns is the part of political engagement that we all have to embrace above and beyond actually voting if we hope to be more than a 50/50 nation.
  2. Social media and its profit-driven algorithms are actually eroding how we see each other but could also be altered to help better educate us about our local social/political landscape.
  3. Local Politics has direct impact on our lives and is also at the heart our religious obligations to our neighbors. It also sets the tone for where the federal level derives policies that prove to be best practices (some examples are included below).
  4. Agitation and protest are not the same as being politically organized on a local level. Protest is sometimes needed, but it will never replace consistent and patient work. We learned this lesson with the Arab Spring as that movement failed to transform into a movement that was able to govern effectively. And the same appears to be true about the Black Lives Matter movement.

The voting is over for now. But voting is really the smallest part of being committed to bettering our communities. It was Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) who gave the most specific definition of community/neighbor and encouraged his followers to guard the rights of the neighbor:

“Your neighbor is 40 houses ahead of you and 40 houses at your back, 40 houses to your left and 40 houses to your right” Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)

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Why does this relate to being politically organized?? The need for political organizing comes when any group of people want to create change in accordance with their values. We’ve all watched protest after protest that change little to nothing at the neighborhood level. This will continue to happen without organization, which span school boards, block clubs, nonprofits, and religious community outreach.  How can Muslims enjoin right and discourage wrong in any meaningful way? It comes through having authentic relationships with neighbors and turning that into organized and engaged communities.

Rosa Parks

Nothing illuminates the value of such relationships better than the story of Rosa Parks in her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. People often think that she was the first brave soul to defy the custom of allowing whites to sit before African-Americans could be seated on her city’s buses. Nothing could be further from the truth. The difference was that her sets of relationships were so interwoven into her local community that it forced a massive response. Park’s connections spanned socioeconomic circles as she had close friendships from professors to field hands. She held memberships in a dozen local organizations including her church and the local NAACP. She was a volunteer seamstress in poor communities and provided the same for profit in wealthy white circles. When someone with her relational positioning was able to leverage the political organizing ability of MLK and Dr. Ralph Abernathy, the Montgomery Bus Boycott was sparked.

When something happens to Muslims, who can we mobilize to respond? Who becomes angry? Who do we work with in our communities to create policies that reflect our values And what are our internal barriers to such cooperation?

“Whosoever of you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart—and that is the weakest of faith.” Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)

Our Predecessors Organized Locally

At some point in time voting became the sum total of political engagement in the minds of many and is now deemed by some as worthless. We quickly forget that the organizations that battled for voting rights were first locally organized to improve communities. SNCC, SNCC, CORE, NAACP, and the Urban League all formed to create change in various ways and the fight for voting rights was a component of these local agendas. So when we’re tempted to believe that voting doesn’t matter, it’s likely due to our lack of engagement in local issues that form the contours of our community life. If you’ve ever heard of Ella Baker or Fannie Lou Hamer (worth researching!), you probably never bought into this type of logic.

One of the many lessons we can pull from this rich history is that we cannot pursue policies, seek alliances, or negotiate a position with political parties (see Ice Cube’s debacle in negotiating with Trump) without first being organized from within. No set of friendships or outside philanthropic support can supplant the need for internal organization. This lack of organized political engagement has weakened Muslims in general but has fatally weakened African-American Muslims as voices within the larger Black community – a voice that gave Islam its first fully accepted and influential place in American society.

Immigrant-based Muslim communities could also benefit from a local approach because despite being several generations in America, their American bonafides are still not set in stone. Concerns about Islamophobia will not change outside of developing authentic relationships with non-Muslims.

This also pushes back against a culture shaped disproportionately by social media algorithms that promote isolation and division for the sake of profit. Our attention to the national news cycle also takes our attention away from local communities where our power is formed. In this type of political malaise, re-engagement in local politics and community relationships can bring us back to important principles that resonate with the values of Islam.

Local politics help shape federal policy

The final word on any law or policy rests with the federal government, but much of what becomes orthodoxy begins with a few concerned citizens in local communities. As with community policing, criminal justice reform, climate sustainability, or any issues that has not caught on, the federal government will often step back to see how a new law plays out at state and local levels. Illinois didn’t wait for Obamacare but has a well-established program to ensure that anyone 18 and younger in Illinois has health insurance through a program called All Kids . Colorado has, in the midst of protests against police brutality, altered their law of Qualified Immunity to make police more accountable. And California has advanced the conversation on reparations  by sanctioning a study to understand how the state could benefit by redressing the descendants of American slavery.

By advancing issues and electing representatives who support the causes we believe in, we insert ourselves into a narrative that would’ve otherwise been forged without us. There’s no shortcut in this process short of rolling up our sleeves to understand our local systems and existing organizations. Moneyed interests are prepare to control the narrative regardless of who the president is and we have to remake this system from the ground up. Our history provides us with a roadmap to do this and it goes far beyond being citizens who only argue over national issues while standing on the sidelines. Remembering our 40 neighbors as advised by the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is the best place to start.

Some helpful links:

Local Elections

State Legislatures

School Boards

County Prosecutors

Mayors

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#Current Affairs

Why Boycotting France is the Wrong Response

Avatar

Published

“I don’t think it’s safe to come visit you in France with your Aunt…she wears a hijab, and she will have trouble getting around”, my mother nervously quipped as we discussed travel arrangements for their trip. 

“Of course it’s safe! How could you say that? There are women wearing hijab all over this country!”  I protested, as I tried to assuage her concerns.

I was living as an expat in France when my family was planning their visit to the country last year. I was surprised to hear the reservations from my own folk; it went on to highlight the pre-conceived notions Muslims often have about the French. “They hate Muslims!” “They are racists” “They insult our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)!”. The list goes on.  

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Having spent a considerable amount of time in France, Quebec and Suisse-Romande, I’ve developed an affinity towards the French culture, language and people. I’ve never felt marginalized in these lands because of my dark skin, my Muslim faith, or my never-ending struggle with French conjugation. Yes, I am privileged in many ways, but that doesn’t negate the validity of my experiences. 

I was thus naturally taken aback by the recent calls to boycott France in light of the opportunistic and contemptable actions of Emmanuel Macron. If these boycotts made me uncomfortable, I can imagine how much more offended the average French person would have been. Macron’s decision to first politicize an unspeakable crime, and then to insult our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was a deplorable move. It exposed his true colors and showed us that he is just another disdainful politician who seeks to divide, rather than build bridges. 

As pitiful as Macron’s actions are, is the Muslim response calling for boycotts of France justified? Is it fair to hold all of France guilty for the comments made by its President? Are we not only advancing the ‘Us vs Them’ narrative that extremists on both sides want? No one holds all of America responsible for the ridiculous comments that Trump makes – why a different standard for France? 

Collective guilt is a serious disease that we must overcome. We need to stop holding a people accountable for the actions of a few. We need to stop blaming a people for the actions of their ancestors. French corporations, that employ thousands of Muslims across the world, did not insult the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) – so why take them to task? French Muslims have not called for these boycotts, so why are we advocating for them?  If we collectivize and boycott all of France, how are we any different from those who hold all Muslims responsible for the violence perpetrated by a few? 

We need to abandon the ‘Us vs Them’ mindset; this parochial idea of ‘Islam vs the West’ or ‘Islam vs France’. We need to adopt a post-nationalist worldview where we look at all people as one, as our own. There is no ‘Them’ – it is all ‘Us’. It is ‘Us’ against hatred, bigotry, divisiveness, and racism. It is ‘Us’ against those in power, on both sides, who seek to exploit ‘Us’ for political and personal gain. 

As one people, we should never advocate for boycotts which seek to create divisions and animosity between ‘Us’. Blanket consumer boycotts are short lived and have a minimal impact regardless. What lives long past the boycott are the feelings of resentment, hatred and enmity directed towards an entire nation. Our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is a prophet to all people, to the French people – our people. We must not partake in actions which alienate our kin from being receptive to his message.  

Know that paltry cartoons will not take away from the rank of the Chosen One. One of his miracles in these modern times, is that those wishing to disparage him have been unable to succeed. His enemies have caricaturized him over and over again, but none of their images have stuck around or gained acceptance. Despite all of these attempts, the only descriptor with which he continues to be universally recognized is that of prophethood. You read a headline: ‘Artist makes images of the Prophet’, and you know instantly who ‘the Prophet’ refers to regardless of who you are. Unqualified, the word always brings to mind the thought of one man!   

Even those that don’t believe in him call him ‘the Prophet Muhammad’ – lips refuse to utter his name with anything other than his noble epithet. So, fear not about the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) rank – for the one being praised by angels in the Heavens cannot be belittled by lowly men here on Earth. 

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#Current Affairs

OpED: Sri Preston Kulkarni’s War on Facts

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“Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies.” — Dorothy Allison (American Writer)

By Ghazala Salam, Founder & President, Muslim Caucus

Elections are a time when stretching the truth is the norm rather than the exception, and “fact checking” an imperative for anyone who wants to make an informed decision about their vote. However, nowhere has the narrative collided as head on with the truth as in the campaign of Sri Preston Kulkarni, Democratic candidate for the Texas Congressional District #22. Such is the brazenness of Kulkarni’s lies that multiple groups that have vowed to vote President Trump out of office believe it is in the best interest of the district and the country if Kulkarni loses his second bid for a place in the US House of Representatives, his purported commitment to the Democratic platform notwithstanding.

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Many are understandably curious about the reason for so many Democrats turning against a candidate from the party they normally support. To be clear, it is not so much Kulkarni’s campaign narrative, as the conflict between that narrative and the truth. To many voters of District 22, Kulkarni’s campaign ostensibly stands for human rights and religious freedom, and against fascism and nationalism. Unfortunately, and as multiple exposes that are now going viral have demonstrated, Kulkarni’s association with fascist and nationalist elements both in India and the US run deep, and indeed are the key drivers of his candidacy.

Kulkarni is no ordinary immigrant success story, having come from a family with deep connections to India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS is one of the world’s largest militia, and the ideological fountainhead of Hindutva, a fascist and supremacist ideology that seeks to turn India into a Hindu state, where Christians, Muslims and other religious minorities are relegated to the status of second-class citizens with few rights. In the last two decades, front organizations of the RSS in America have fielded multiple candidates for political office, some of whom have gone on to make significant contributions to advancing Hindutva’s agenda in Washington, DC. It is no surprise therefore, that the RSS’s American affiliate, the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), are among the primary backers of Kulkarni’s candidacy. The irony of a man who claims to stand against racism, fascism and nationalism, being backed by the same forces that assassinated Mahatma Gandhi is something Kulkarni would prefer voters don’t pay attention to.

However, the connection with RSS is based on more than just mutual benefit. Kulkarni is the nephew of the late Pramod Mahajan, a highly influential Indian politician and minister, who was an RSS veteran and the BJP’s chief strategist. He held several important cabinet positions including Defense, and until his murder in 2006 by another uncle of Sri Kulkarni, Mahajan was considered the “heir apparent” to the Hindu nationalist Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee. Mahajan was among the key organizers of L. K. Advani’s Rath Yatra, a campaign that finally led to the criminal demolition of the Babri Mosque and the subsequent killing of over 3,000 people in sectarian violence across India.

What is striking about Kulkarni’s candidacy is not just these RSS connections that are now falling out of the proverbial closet, but Kulkarni’s silly attempt at feigning ignorance about the RSS, claiming he did not know it was an organization until two years ago. This is rich, coming from a man who claims to have been a career diplomat, and whose next posting before he quit the Foreign Service was going to be in New Delhi. Kulkarni has gone on record to say that Ramesh Bhutada, the Vice-President of HSS, was “like a father,” to him, and his son Rishi Bhutada was among those without whose support the campaign itself might not have been possible.

Another relative of Sri Kulkarni is the well-known Indian politician Gopinath Munde, who married Mahajan’s sister. Munde was a member of Modi’s cabinet before his death in a road accident, and was once in charge of the RSS branches in the city of Pune. Kulkarni’s cousin Poonam Mahajan, currently a member of the Indian Parliament, was once the national President of the BJP “Youth Wing” and the Secretary of the BJP in 2013.

Much to Kulkarni’s discomfiture, his fascist friends are actually flaunting their connection to him, starting with BJP ideologue Subramanian Swamy, hailing Kulkarni’s candidacy as “Hindutva’s hope in Houston.” Yet, Kulkarni wants voters to believe him when he claims ignorance about the RSS.

The struggle with facts continues, with Kulkarni claiming without proof, a lineage from the famed General Sam Houston. Short on facts are also Kulkarni’s claims of expertise on issues of national security, as he has provided almost no details of his tenure in the Foreign Service. Kulkarni’s complete refusal to acknowledge his campaign’s connections to RSS should also be seen in light of the fact that the RSS’s nationalist and Islamophobic agenda finds a natural ally in the Republican Party, particularly in Donald Trump. It is no surprise therefore, that Prime Minister Modi was welcomed in Houston by President Trump and prominent Republicans at a massive “Howdy Modi” rally in September 2019. The same Rishi Bhutada who helped Kulkarni launch his campaign was one of the main organizers and spokesperson for the event. Not to be outdone, Prime Minister Modi broke protocol in giving President Trump a rousing endorsement for reelection during the latter’s visit to India.

None of these would have been uncomfortable truths for Kulkarni, had he been running as a Republican. However, Kulkarni’s candidacy as a Democrat flies in the face of facts, and the support he is getting from many of the district’s Democrat voters is more the result of revulsion against President Trump than a proper vetting of Kulkarni’s politics.

If Kulkarni makes it to Capitol Hill, expect stonewalling on issues of human rights and religious freedom by right wing forces around the world. With Kulkarni as their representative, South Asian voters can forget about any accountability for India, for its egregious violations of human rights and religious freedom. In a “letter to the Muslim community,” apparently conscious of the growing disquiet about his candidacy among Muslims, liberals and progressives, Kulkarni brags about having taken a stand on the “violence in Delhi” and the “situation in Kashmir,” as evidence of his commitment to human rights and religious freedom. In truth, both statements by Kulkarni are ritualistic expressions of standing for peace and human rights, while failing to call out the role of ideologically driven violence against religious minorities. The perpetrators of such violence are widely known to be proponents of the same ideology whose affiliates in the US are among his donors. Such statements are actually a disservice to the victims of sectarian violence for they seek to obfuscate the role of Hindu nationalism in driving such persecution.

Kulkarni’s has apparently promised to take a public position against the use of India’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to strip citizenship away from India’s Muslim citizens. Absent from Kulkarni’s narrative is any mention of how the CAA and NRC are discriminatory in their essence against people of the Muslim faith, and a clear violation of India’s secular Constitution. Clearly Kulkarni is not on the same page as respected human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. How Kulkarni is expected to be vocal about civil rights in the US, while actively shielding those who are eroding these very rights abroad defies explanation.

Similarly, Kulkarni has issued a statement on the “situation” in Kashmir that does nothing to shine the light on the historic betrayal of the Kashmiri people represented by the revocation of Article 370, and the enormous human suffering caused by the Government of India’s tyrannical curfew and lockdown, imposed long before Covid-19. In this regard, Kulkarni apparently does not want to displease his RSS supporters by condemning the unprecedented human rights catastrophe in Kashmir, something many prominent Democrats have done, in the form of statements and House resolutions. For Kulkarni to call out the role of the India’s Hindu nationalist government in causing such suffering on Kashmir’s civilian population is unthinkable. In fact, Kulkarni is loath to even call out the Indian military’s tyranny in Kashmir, and instead prefers to advise the Indian government “behind closed doors,” through the “ladder of diplomacy.”

The truth about Sri Kulkarni’s campaign is closely tied to the money trail. Kulkarni has accepted in excess of $80,000 from just 10 families linked to RSS affiliates in the United States. Despite repeated demands by voters in his district to return such tainted donations, Kulkarni has instead doubled down, attacking those raising concerns as “nefarious actors,” while claiming he was unaware of the RSS as an organization.

It is possible that Kulkarni is genuine in his advocacy for the environment and his concern about gun violence. However, his janus-faced campaign is being weighed down by its own internal contradictions and his refusal to come clean on important facts that affect his prospective constituents. Among all the lies of the 2020 elections, Kulkarni’s claim that he is against fascism and nationalism must rank among the most brazen.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own.

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