The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) recently updated its “Safe Spaces” program, which is a “toolkit” for Mosques in the United States to help prevent terrorism coming from their centers. In our political environment, this is the kind of thing at least some Muslim leaders will want to explore. This is unfortunate.
A necessary disclaimer: It is admirable for leaders of Islamic institutions to educate both the Muslim community and the larger community and to have programs that encourage peace, justice as well as ethical and moral conduct. It is also necessary for our community and for us individually to strive for excellence in what we do. This review is not meant to take anything away from these objectives but hopefully, add to them.
Muslims self-police. Indeed it is fundamental to our tradition to enjoin the good and forbid the evil. There is a process of what might be called self-policing in theology, in religious practice and deeds. In mosques, responsible leaders will not let just anyone give a Khutbah. Sometimes, the reasons may have to do with majoritarian sensitivities in the United States or in the local community. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. Politically, in both Muslim-majority and minority countries, self-policing can either take the trait of supporting the oppressor or the oppressed. Both traditions have existed simultaneously.
Safe Spaces as a self-policing framework was not as well received in the Muslim community primarily because it was closely associated with the widely rejected “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE) program- indeed, MPAC called the program that. It was praised by the White House and was cited in the official Los Angeles framework for CVE. In MPAC’s home base of Southern California, the leadership of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California overwhelmingly rejected the program (as well as CVE itself).
At the core of “Safe Spaces” was the creation of a new bad ideology to replace the discredited “radicalization theory” from the New York Police Department that was popular in anti-terrorism circles. This new bad ideology can be called “Takfirism theory”- a concept that had almost nothing to do with Takfir (calling a Muslim a non-Muslim). It relied on factors such as a person’s desire for “coolness” or a desire to “act in the face of injustice” to assess a person’s likelihood of being a future terrorist. The original Safe Spaces also accused well-known Islamic Scholars such as Ibn Taymiyyah of being “Takfiris,” and the source of this bad ideology.
Margari Hill was the first to write critically about the original Safe Spaces and its security framework at the Islamic Monthly. I had written about MPAC’s approach to CVE in both in Patheos and here at Muslimmatters in a post about how MPAC was using false information to discourage civic literacy among Muslim communities.
The major criticism was MPAC’s approach to CVE was to accept the premise of dangerousness of Muslims based on vague factors that made no sense. The other criticism had to do with conflicts of interest and the realization the product was not, as MPAC had claimed, “grassroots” in its origins. Most people interviewed for Safe Spaces that we know about were either in the employment of or obtained funding through the government of the United States, Israel or both. Islamic Studies information, such as derogatory information on Islamic Scholars, was obtained from the U.S. Military, while a scholar from an AIPAC founded think tank was cited as a “primary source” on what was Islamic extremism. While a couple of Muslims knowledgeable about Islamic Studies were interviewed for other purposes, they were not the source for the defamation of Islamic scholars.
In response to justifiable widespread rejection, MPAC recently released a new version of the document. This is to fulfill the need of some Muslim leaders to show the government and media they are “doing something.” The basic idea is that if Muslims do this themselves, the government and media will stop applying pressure on our community and we can reduce anti-Muslim hate.
The premise that Mosque leaders have the ability to identify future criminality in their own community is troublesome. In 2014, MPAC provided the vague “risk factors” I noted above that would be utilized by leaders to do exactly this. MPAC removed the list form of their “risk factors.” MPAC did not provide new risk factors, at least not in list form. However, the same risk factors as before can be obtained from the report, including a desire to be cool, troubles at home and other, fairly normal things for youth. Even if it was true that community leaders had the capacity to divine future terrorism from a Muslim (they cannot), Safe Spaces fails to answer the question: how?
Alejandro Beutel, the original author of the failed original Safe Spaces, later Department of Homeland Security contractor and recent participant in a Muslim Leadership Initiative cohort to Israel, is no longer part of the project. However, the 2016 version, which is deliberately not credited to any author, represents largely a mass-deletion of the 2014 document with minimal additional content. One section on ejection of problem community members was removed, and there was clearly a concerted effort to remove the discredited “takfirism theory,” though traces of it remain.
The foundation of the Safe Spaces program as it stands in 2016 is the PI model, which is Prevention and Intervention. Prevention consists of programs for Mosques, and MPAC offers examples of it’s own contributions in this area. Religious literacy and building community are good things. This is not a new realization. Indeed, it is well known that many ISIS recruits are not especially religious or have much religious knowledge. However, leaders do not generally conduct programming at Mosques with a view towards terrorism prevention. Places of worship are not extensions of the national security state.
Intervention in the Safe Spaces model is elaborate in form but lacking in substance. Safe Spaces proposes a team consisting of Mosque leaders, a lawyer, a social worker and so forth. This team would conduct an “intervention” when someone is “at-risk.” Unfortunately, the term “at-risk” is not defined but it does not mean someone just about to commit a crime since this would be reported to law enforcement. Furthermore, success is attained when a person is “disengaged” from committing violence. However, an intervention does not require a person be engaged to commit violence in the first place. Safe Spaces appropriately advises people about to commit an act of violence should be reported to law enforcement. Disengagement is easy when you were never engaged in the first place. So the model is fundamentally incoherent.
The United States has long had “at-risk” youth in all faith communities. Being at-risk does not necessarily mean a young person will be a national security threat. Rather, it means the individual may not be successful in contributing to society unless we as a community help them. There are professions of people who help at-risk youth, such as social workers and teachers. They usually manage to do their work without seeing troubled young people as future terrorists. Ideally, they see promise and opportunity. They work to help develop that. Perhaps Muslims can do the same with each other.
The National Security frame that MPAC uses may garner praise from government agencies, the White House, anti-terrorism contractors and even provide future employment and funding for people associated with MPAC (this venture has already done that). It does nothing however for the Muslim community, nor does it make America safer.
MPAC would have been better served by eliminating Safe Spaces completely. They may have kept some version of it as some Muslim leaders believe the grim politics of our day requires the existence of such a product. Unfortunately, MPAC worked with the wrong people with the wrong frame of Muslims being a national security problem. Now they have an incoherent jumble that accomplishes nothing beyond an empty promise to an unreasonably frightened Middle America that “we are doing something.” They are not. I doubt many will be fooled.
Malaysians Ask China To Free Uyghurs, Close The Camps
By Gulnaz Uighur
Muslims are standing up for Uyghurs, protests held in Malaysia.
5th of July could be just like another day for people but for Uyghurs, it brings back dark memories of a bloody past. This day, in 2009, thousands of Uyghur students were massacred by Chinese police in Urumqi. These young students were demanding an investigation into the rising number of homicides in a toy factory. These people only wanted justice. They were also upset by the ongoing discrimination in the employment sector. Graduates were denied jobs because of their Uyghur ethnicity. After the protests, China started abducting the Uyghur youth and no one knows where the missing went. Its been 10 years since that horrifying incident and the condition of Muslims have devolved in a genocidal nightmare.
Communist Government in China Has over 2 Million Uyghurs in Concentration Camps
Beijing has now locked over 2 million Uyghurs in concentration camps. People in these places are forced to denounce Islam, forget the teachings of Quran, prohibited from praying, asked to learn Xi Jinping’s speech and tortured for not obeying these orders. Sadly, Islam is being treated as a disease in China and most of the Islamic nations are turning a blind eye to it.
So Malaysia came as a breath of fresh air when Muslim NGOs organized an anti-China protest against Uyghur persecution.
On 5th July 2019, a coalition of 34 Malaysian NGOs gathered outside the Chinese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to protest the persecution of Uyghurs. The organizations prepared a memo of protest to be submitted to Chinese officials. In the memo, they demanded Beijing to ‘Respect the human rights of the Uyghur people, in particular, their right to life and freedom of religion and belief.’ , ‘immediately stop the persecution and extreme repression of the Uyghur people.’ and close the camps. They also called upon the International community to increase the voices of protest and disfavour upon the Chinese government and to work together to improve the situation for the Uyghur people through concrete actions.
The protesters shouted slogans like ‘Me Too Uyghur’ and ‘Save Uyghur’. In a media interview, president of the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim), Mohamad Raimi Abdul Rahim asked immediate freedom for all those who have been detained in concentration camps.
Malaysians Stand With Uyghurs
Abim secretary Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz accused the Chinese government of concealing the plight of the Uyghurs by offering NGOs and government agencies free trips and painting a rosy picture of the camps. Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid, chairman of the Malaysian Consultative Council Of Islamic Organizations (Mapim), said the atrocities committed against the Uyghurs could not be denied or disguised. The Group of NGOs also included Ikram Association and the Malaysian Youth Council among others.
Though no Chinese official came out to accept the memo, the message was clear that now people won’t keep quiet about the Uyghur persecution. There is a dire need for Muslim countries to break their silence on this issue. There is enough evidence to prove that something unholy and inhumane is happening with Uyghurs. If these countries consider China their friend then ask it to stop being a Shaitan. The leaders must realize that their first duty is towards the Ummah and not towards China.
Now is the time to stand for Uyghurs before nothing is left to be saved.
This protest in Malaysia has proved that people in Muslim countries do support Uyghurs even if their governments are silent and are upset with Beijing’s policies. This event proved that governments may fail to fight but people won’t.
The Environmental Cost Of War With Iran
Report after report shows how planet Earth may reach a point of no return. An analysis written by Ian Dunlop claims the planet cannot be saved by the mid-century if we continue on this path. And yet here we are marching towards a war with Iran.
When we think of climate change, we rarely think of war. On June 12th, 2019, Brown University released a report declaring the Department of Defence to be “the world’s largest institution to use petroleum and correspondingly, the single largest producer of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the world.” Burning jet fuel for transportation of troops and weapons make up 70 percent of the Pentagon’s emissions. Ironically, earlier this year the Pentagon released a 22-page report to Congress stating the ⅔ of their mission-essential installation in the US are vulnerable to flooding, and ½ are susceptible to wildfires. To no surprise, Trump rejected those findings at the time. The Pentagon is now concerned with the impact climate change has on their “foreign missions.”
With tensions high with Iran, and several thousand troops are expected to be deployed, if war with Iran is to happen, it may lead us to a more damaged planet that may not recover. This makes the Pentagon guilty of killing people and the earth. The Department of Defense has consistently used between 77-80% of the entire US energy consumption. We see spikes during times of massive war (since America is in a constant state of war), like in 1991, 2001, and so on.
Here is a list of the seven significant sources of greenhouse emissions done by the Department of Defense:
- Overall military emissions for installations and non-war operations.
- War-related emissions by the US military in overseas contingency operations.
- Emissions caused by US military industry — for instance, for production of weapons and ammunition.
- Emissions caused by the direct targeting of petroleum, namely the deliberate burning of oil wells and refineries by all parties.
- Sources of emissions by other belligerents.
- Energy consumed by reconstruction of damaged and destroyed infrastructure.
- Emissions from other sources, such as fire suppression and extinguishing chemicals, including Halon, a greenhouse gas, and from explosions and fires due to the destruction of non-petroleum targets in warzones.
This impact on the climate is just the portion from America, in the Iraq war, 37 countries fought alongside America, and 60 are allied against ISIS. There is a way to calculate those emissions as well.
The Rules of War
Before engaging in battle, the Prophet Muhammad instructed his soldiers:
- Do not kill any child, any woman, or any elder or sick person. (Sunan Abu Dawud)
- Do not practice treachery or mutilation. (Al-Muwatta)
- Do not uproot or burn palms or cut down fruitful trees. (Al-Muwatta)
- Do not slaughter a sheep or a cow or a camel, except for food. (Al-Muwatta)
- If one fights his brother, [he must] avoid striking the face, for God created him in the image of Adam. (Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim)
- Do not kill the monks in monasteries, and do not kill those sitting in places of worship. (Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal)
- Do not destroy the villages and towns, do not spoil the cultivated fields and gardens, and do not slaughter the cattle. (Sahih Bukhari; Sunan Abu Dawud)
- Do not wish for an encounter with the enemy; pray to God to grant you security; but when you [are forced to] encounter them, exercise patience. (Sahih Muslim)
- No one may punish with fire except the Lord of Fire. (Sunan Abu Dawud).
- Accustom yourselves to do good if people do good, and not to do wrong even if they commit evil. (Al-Tirmidhi)
A verse in the Holy Qur’an
4:75 (Y. Ali) And why should ye not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)?- Men, women, and children, whose cry is: “Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from thee one who will protect; and raise for us from thee one who will help!”
How does this potential war against Iran play into all this?
Our first call to action is to organize an anti-war rally. This type of work is weak in America, and virtually non-existent within the Muslim community.
فَقَالَ أَبُو سَعِيدٍ أَمَّا هَذَا فَقَدْ قَضَى مَا عَلَيْهِ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَقُولُ “ مَنْ رَأَى مُنْكَرًا فَلْيُنْكِرْهُ بِيَدِهِ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِلِسَانِهِ وَمَنْ لَمْ يَسْتَطِعْ فَبِقَلْبِهِ وَذَلِكَ أَضْعَفُ الإِيمَانِ ” . قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ .
Abu Sa’eed said: ‘As for this, he has fulfilled what is upon him. I heard the Messenger of Allah saying: ‘Whoever among you sees an evil, then let him stop it with his hand. Whoever is not able, then with his tongue, and whoever is not able, then with his heart. That is the weakest of faith.”‘
War with Iran will be a Greater Mistake than War with Iraq
Historically, anti-war sentiment in America has grown over the years. When the Iraq war first started only 23% thought it was a mistake, today it is close to 60% that believe the war is a mistake. Yes, this is in hindsight, but that it is also growth. The reason the anti-war movement is feeble in America is that there is no platform for the campaign to grow. Both parties are guilty of starting wars or taking over the wars from the past administration. Whether we do it alone as an individual or as a group, we should do everything we can as privileged members of this planet to save and protect those that can’t defend themselves.
There is a famous quote of the famed boxer Muhammad Ali when explaining why he wasn’t fighting in the war. He said, “…I am not going ten thousand miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would put my prestige in jeopardy and could cause me to lose millions of dollars which should accrue to me as the champion.”
With that said, there is a significant interest in the region for more than just fuel and resources. It is truly a problem, our operations in the Gulf is to address our dependency on Persian oil, and the fuel that is used to address our dependence is to protect those resources and access to them. One estimate is that America spends $81 billion annually defending the global oil supply. They do this because the DOD feels its dependency will make it vulnerable on a larger scale.
In 1975 America decided to take away the fear of losing the resources and developed the “Strategic Petroleum Reserve,” and in 1978, they created the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF). Their only purpose was to defend US interest in the Middle East. This, in turn, leads to extractivism of resources and supplies. (Which will be explained in a future article).
This war can be the end of all wars as it can accelerate us to the point of no return in regards to climate change.
A war with Iran is a war with Earth and all who live on it.
5 Quick Things Americans Can Do For Uyghurs Today
“I may die, but let it be known that my nation will continue their struggle so long the world continues to exist.” Kazakh leader Uthman Batur. He said these words as Chinese authorities executed him for resisting the communist occupation. Currently, China has, one million Uyghurs (Uighurs), Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities held in concentration camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) (East Turkistan) in northwestern China.
Their struggle surpasses the 10 or so years since we have become aware of it. Just like the Rohingya genocide, we waited till the last minute. We are always late and say, “Never Again.” It happens again and again.
In my lifetime, there have been horrendous genocides that could have been prevented to stopped. As a child, I remember Rwanda in the headlines, then a year later Bosnian genocide. Then we hear these demonic stories after the fact. I remember stories from survivors from Bosnia, and thinking to myself, “How are you here and functioning?”
Let us not be fooled to why this is happening now. It is related to economic advantages. The Chinese government’s present signature foreign policy initiative is the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) that seeks to connect the PRC economically to the rest of the Eurasian continent through massive infrastructure projects that will stimulate international trade. The western and south-western components of the BRI require the XUAR to serve as a transportation and commercial hub to trade routes and pipelines that will join China with Central and South Asia, the Middle East, and the entirety of Europe. As a result, the XUAR has become an important strategic region for the Chinese, and the state views its indigenous populations as an obstacle to developing its vision for this future critical center of international commercial networks.1
The expansion of their trade route also ties in Iran hence the sanctions placed, but that’s a different report for a different time. China, of course, has defended their actions by claiming its an anti-terrorism plan. Getting reliable information is hard. China has made it a point to make things difficult for reporters. Yanan Wang, a China-based journalist from the Associated Press, has reported extensively on and from Xinjiang.
In a ceremony at Asia Society on Tuesday commemorating AP’s 2019 Osborn Elliott Award for Excellence in Journalism on Asia, Wang described the subtle ways government minders worked to thwart her reporting: “(Both of the times we went there we arrived at the airport, we had a welcoming committee from the local authorities. They’re always very polite and professional. They say that “you’ve arrived in Xinjiang and we’re here to assist you in your reporting. Tell us what you’re working on so we can help you.” They offer us drives in their car and plenty of hospitality.
Basically, from the moment we arrive, we’re followed by at least one car. There are a bunch of interesting scenarios that we came across. You can see that the local handlers are trying hard to be professional. They are members of the propaganda department, so they’re PR professionals. They don’t want to make it appear like it’s so stifling. At one point, we were taking photos, and someone suddenly appeared on the scene to say he was a “concerned citizen.” He said he’d seen us taking photos and that it was an infringement of his privacy rights. He had this long monologue about privacy rights and about how it wasn’t right for us to take photos of him without his knowledge. We asked him, “Well, where are you in these photos?” and he’d go through all of them. He said we had to delete all of them. He’d say, “This is my brother,” or “This is my place of work, you have to delete it.”
They had all of these interesting tactics to work around the idea that they were trying to obstruct our reporting and make it appear that someone who claims to be a concerned citizen.)”2
On top of that, locals that talk to journalist are punished, sometimes go missing.
I decided to do something this time around; I got in touch with an Uyghur community near my residence to see how an individual could help. It started at a Turkic restaurant, and from there, I have been involved in whatever capacity I am able. Through this effort, I got in touch with a Turkic professor in Turkey who has students stranded as they are cut off from contacting family back in Xinjiang. He helps them out financially; my family and friends help with what they can.
As Muslims in the West, there is no doubt we should act. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart, and that is the weakest of faith” (Muslim).
How Can You Help Uyghurs
Here are a few things you can do to help:
1. Ask Congress to pass To pass S.178 & H.R.649 Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019. Urge your senator and representative to support this cause. It has been introduced. This bill can help the Uyghur community to be treated like Tibetans (another region oppressed by China).
2. Stay informed. The mainstream media is not the place to get accurate information on the situation. Be skeptical of where the data is coming from, stick to reliable sources that are verified. As mentioned above, journalists find it difficult to report.
4. Boycott or reduce buying Made in China products
5. Follow these links for updated information: facebook.com/Uyghur-Human-Rights-Project-227634297289994/ and facebook.com/ChinaMuslims
This crisis is an ethnic cleansing for profit. These are dark days as we value profit over people.
1.Statement by Concerned Scholars on mass detentions | MCLC …. https://u.osu.edu/mclc/2018/11/27/statement-by-concerned-scholars-on-mass-detention s/
2.Why It’s So Difficult for Journalists To Report From …. https://asiasociety.org/blog/asia/why-its-so-difficult-journalists-report-xinjiang