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Drop the N-Word

Margari Hill



Margari Hill






And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name of disobedience after [one’s] faith. Qur’an 49:11


In late 2013, a group of activists, scholars, and concerned netizens coalesced around the issue of anti-Blackness perpetrated by Muslim youth on social media. Some of these actions included anti-Black slurs in Arabic, Urdu, Somali, and Yoruba, as well as the appropriation of the N-word by non-Black Muslims. Out that group,  Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative formed to organize social media campaigns to drop the A-Word and address #UmmahAntiBlackness,  as well to give voice to Black Muslims and celebrate their contributions in hashtag conversations that included #BeingBlackAndMuslim.  Responding to the call to educate Muslim communities about racism, MuslimARC- Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative,  was launched as a human rights education organization.  

Black American Muslim scholars, activists, leaders, parents, teachers, and conscious members are exhausted by having to explain why it is not okay for non-Black Muslims to use N-word.  The use of the N-word is controversial, even amongst African Americans. However, when a Black person uses the term, it does not spark the same outrage as non-Black people using it. This is because in many ways it is reclaiming the pejorative. Although the Black usage of the word may raise some hairs and spark vociferous debate within the Black community, it is not racist. Oppressed people cannot be racist, they may be prejudiced.

‘But They Use It’ Is Not an Excuse

When White people and NonBlack People of Color use the N-word, regardless of intent,  they are committing a racist act. When they use it as a pejorative, they are being actively racist asserting a hierarchy that dehumanizes Black people.  A non-Black person using the N-word to refer to themselves or others as a term of endearment is an act of cultural  appropriation, which is a form of passive racism. Cultural appropriation is copying elements of a culture in a colonizing manner and using them outside of their context. Cultural appropriators use those elements without having to suffer the same consequences that members of that culture. The N-word developed to highlight the othering, dehumanization, and exploitation of sub-Saharan Africans who were racialized as Black.  On occasion, upwardly mobile Black folks ascribing to respectability politics will distance themselves from other Black Americans and will use the term as a pejorative against poor Black people they don’t approve of. This may be internalized racism, but it still does not equate to the usage of non-Black folks.

It doesn’t matter if you are well meaning, and if your Black friends give you a pass– No individual Black person can give a non-Black person the weight of our historical experience and oppression. Cultural appropriation is harmful for the members of the oppressed group, especially when you are using a term that is so painful for many Black people.  When someone who is not Black uses the term it is often emotionally triggering.  When non-Black people argue with Black people who are offended by their appropriation  of the n-word, it further inflicts emotional violence. It does not matter if you hear the word a thousand times by Black comedians and hip-hop artists. The commodification of Black culture does not give anybody a right to appropriate the term. Period.

This is an Internal Community Discussion

Finally, White people and Non-Black People of Color who have no linkages with the brutal 400 years history of the kidnapping and enslavement of Africans in the Americas and Jim Crow, as well as the 18th century colonization of Africa which included forced slave labor, population movements, and mass deaths and depopulation, who continue  to face systemic racism and violence at the hands of the state and the police, your moral judgment on how Black people reclaim the term is not relevant to the discussion of why it is never okay for Non-Black People to use the term. This is an internal community discussion. The discourse around the N-word is sensitive topic for many Black Americans. The discourse is a source of many microaggressions that make workplaces, campuses, and friendships hostile environments for Black people. Non-Black people who police Black people on the moral repercussions of the term often misuse their non-Black privilege in forcing the issue.  Rather than policing Black people, they should focus on uprooting racism within themselves and their community.


The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t, and Why …

Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word …


Articles and Websites


Stop Saying N***a If You’re Not Black – Huffington Post

Straight Talk about the N-Word | Teaching Tolerance

4 Reasons White People Can’t Use the N-Word (No Matter …

Don’t Use The N-Word If You’re Not Black. The End. But If …

The n-word: An interactive project exploring a singular word …



Margari Aziza Hill is co-founder and Programming Director of Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC), assistant editor at AltM, co-founder of Muslims Make it Plain, and columnist at MuslimMatters. She is on the Advisory Council of Islam, Social Justice & Interreligious Engagement Program at the Union Theological Seminary and winner of the 2015 MPAC Change Maker Award. She has nearly a decade of teaching experiences at all levels from elementary, secondary, college level, to adult education. She earned her master’s in History of the Middle East and Islamic Africa from Stanford University in 2006. Her research includes colonial surveillance in Northern Nigeria, anti-colonial resistance among West Africans in Sudan during the early 20th century, and race in Muslim communities. She is also a freelance writer with articles published in Time, SISTERS, Islamic Monthly, Al Jazeera English, Virtual Mosque (formerly, and Spice Digest. She has given talks and lectures in various universities and Muslim communities.



  1. Avatar


    April 4, 2016 at 7:17 PM

    Don’t say it at all. Whether your white OR black.

    • Margari Hill

      Margari Hill

      April 5, 2016 at 2:56 AM


      • Avatar


        April 12, 2016 at 4:42 AM

        Agreed? That’s not what your article is saying. It’s implying that black people are exempt from the “rules” they want enforced on everyone else.

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    Jason Hammer

    April 4, 2016 at 8:08 PM

    Not only should non-black folks not use the word (even when rhyming lyrics) but we should refrain from giving our opinion on whether or not black people should use the term (unless asked for our input or when dealing with our own ethnic/cultural groups).

    I always loved hip-hop but never used the n-word even when we rhymed really profane lyrics from some rap artists but we understood this was off-limits. Young Muslims need to understand this.

    • Avatar


      April 12, 2016 at 4:43 AM

      So outright profanity is cool, but not the n-word?

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    Taqi al-Din

    April 5, 2016 at 1:10 AM

    There is one major contradiction in your article and which discredits it in its entirety. You begin by quoting verse 11 of Surah al- Hujarat where Allah warns against calling each other by offensive names. You acknowledge that it is a controversial term amongst black people some of whom oppose usage of the term by anyone including fellow black people. You end by preaching that white and non-black people of colour should not get involved in the issue of black people calling themselves by the N word because it is an “internal community discussion”.

    Allah prohibits the use of offensive terms to call each other with. The fact is that some black people consider the N word offensive irrespective of the colour of the person using it. I am a Muslim. Who are you to tell me that I should refrain from saying that people including black people should not use a word widely regarded as offensive? Speaking out against something that is clearly addressed in the Quran is not dependent on the colour of my skin or any other characteristics. There are many non-black Muslims who fully support the work engaged in by scholars, activists and organisations like yours. You cannot on the one hand require their solidarity but on the other hand want to dictate to them what they can and cannot say and especially when it comes to following Allah’s words. You cannot at the top of your article state a verse from the Quran but then tell me not to apply it because I should not become involved in an “internal community discussion”. That is the height of arrogance and we know what Allah and His Prophet, peace be upon him, say about arrogance.

    • Margari Hill

      Margari Hill

      April 5, 2016 at 2:55 AM

      Taqi al-Din, your comment is a case in point. Wow, “height of arrogance” is pretty strong words. You don’t understand how solidarity works with the oppressed or marginalized. If someone considers themselves my ally, they will respect the boundaries, no matter how powerful they are. Otherwise, the relationship is paternalistic. I acknowledge that it is wrong for everyone to use it. That is why I used the ayat. In my opinion my article wasn’t contradictory. Rather, I tried to tease out nuance and give context to the storied term. I argued that, while wrong from an Islamic sense, Black people using the term wasn’t passively or actively racist. I also argued that if you haven’t done the work to check your own people, then focusing on Black people who are still wrestling with the term is misplaced energy and microagressive. Telling non-Black Muslims to focus their energy on uprooting racism in their community is not about arrogance or thinking that I’m better. It is to ward off the tendency of non-Black Muslims to be hurtful in these conversations and derail important conversations about their own patterns of bigotry. Whenever I have tried to address the use of N-word or being called a racial slur, non-Black Muslims have pointed to how some other Black person who uses the term. Often they do this to justify the anti-blackness that plagues their community. They are not bringing this up to educate or uplift those who may degrade themselves or others by using the term. If I were to guess, I doubt that you have done much work in enlightening folks on racism or internalized racism, let alone checking the average brother on the street who may drop the N-word. But since you are so invested in this, please do make it your mission. Tell me how it goes. Allah knows best.

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        April 12, 2016 at 5:46 AM

        You claim “height of arrogance” is pretty strong, but then your response contains nothing but.
        From your response: ” If I were to guess,I doubt that you have done much work in enlightening folks on racism or internalized racism, let alone checking the average brother on the street who may drop the N-word. But since you are so invested in this, please do make it your mission. Tell me how it goes. Allah knows best.” That’s not arrogant or condescending at all.

        Further, you assume all sorts of things about people. Again, from your response: “Whenever I have tried to address the use of N-word or being called a racial slur, non-Black Muslims have pointed to how some other Black person who uses the term. Often they do this to justify the anti-blackness that plagues their community. They are not bringing this up to educate or uplift those who may degrade themselves or others by using the term. ”

        How do you know that they’re doing this to justify their anti-blackness? Perhaps they’re genuinely concerned about why some black people want to refer to themselves by a name given to them (or at least, used pejoratively) by their former oppressors? Perhaps they’re concerned about why so many black people have victim mentality, and worse, some seem to hold on to it as if it’s the only way to identify themselves in today’s society? You can have these concerns and not be a “passive” racist at the same time, just by the way.

        Your article, and all your comments is a typical example of wanting to force the narrative to wherever you want it to go. You make the rules about what’s racist, what’s “passively” racist, who’s racist and who’s not racist, and everyone who disagrees is basically a racist.

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        April 12, 2016 at 4:42 PM

        Assalamu Alaykum,
        I agree with you completely in regards to never using the N-word, but I think you need to apply it to all ppl. The N-Word is a word that was used by White Slave masters to degrade Black people in this country, Black people nor any people should ever use such terms because in doing so they are either racist, or self degrading. I know that you have said that you oppose it from anywhere in the comments section but that wasn’t clear from your article. I felt as many others did that somehow such a degrading term was okay for Black people to use and that’s not right at all when I read your article. I agree with you that I’m sick and tired of how people treat Black brothers and sisters in our community. I want to emphasize as well, that at the end of the day we are Muslim. Once when Imam Jamil Al Amin was asked to refer to ‘Black Muslims’, he refused and said NO, we are just Muslim. I want for all of us to remember that our bond is thru Islam, and to be careful to overuse labels like Black or Non black, even though they may be used but to remember that our relationship is based on Allah not race.

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    M. Mahmud

    April 5, 2016 at 6:50 PM

    Reading some of the Morroccan articles just shocked me. It is clear we are following the footsteps of those before us. I don’t think it is difficult for Allah to hand over the deeds of a racist group of Muslims to those they were arrogant to.

    I feel like we need to make sure our oppressed Muslim brethren overseas, whatever race(but usually black or dark skinned) get some sort of relief at our hands by Allah’s permission.

    The existence of this nonsense in north African countries and elsewhere is nothing short of shameful. How can we complain to Allah of injustice when we turn and are arrogant and look down upon our Muslim brethren for the color of their skin?

    Ina lillahi wa ina ilayhi raji ‘oon.

  5. Avatar


    April 7, 2016 at 11:34 AM

    I am living in Germany and I am sometimes simply shocked by the amount of racism
    within the Ummah here. There are Turkish people abandoning restaurants for hiring
    black waiters or Persians claiming that they hate Arabs – kind of wired if you are muslim,

    So great article, thank you.

  6. Avatar

    Michael Scott

    April 8, 2016 at 4:03 PM

    I totally disagree with anyone using the N-word because it’s an outright evil word, and it’s even worse for Black people to use that word because they’re carrying on a legacy of hatred and prejudice that the N-word has as in its origin and original use since it came into being. I don’t believe that every time a Black person uses the N-word that they’re using it for derogatory purposes against other Blacks or other people who aren’t Black, but some are using it in a derogatory way to put down other Blacks or other people in general who aren’t Black. I don’t agree with this statement: When White people and NonBlack People of Color use the N-word, regardless of intent, they are committing a racist act. When they use it as a pejorative, they are being actively racist asserting a hierarchy that dehumanizes Black people. It’s wrong to use the N-word as a term of endearment for anyone who does that, but that doesn’t make their doing so an act of racism in my opinion. I know white people who use the N-word when they talk to one another, and also when they talk to their Black friends, and not every Black person has a problem with that. I don’t agree with that, but it’s wrong for all people (not just non-Blacks) to use that word in that way. It also not right for someone to think that it’s ok for a Black person to call their non-Black friends N-word as a term of endearment, and then get offended when their non-Black friend calls them by them N-word in the same way. I wish everyone would just stop using the N-word period, but in a world of sin that’s never going to happen. I pray as many people as possible will wake up and stop using the N-word, and will give their live to GOD before it’s too late.

  7. Avatar

    Milk Shake

    April 9, 2016 at 1:38 PM

    Bad words should not be said. The Prophet pbuh told us to guard what is between our jaws and our legs to gain salvation.

    That being said, there is a problem with identifying specific bad words and applying effort to censor them. This is because censorship of specific words does not do anything to address whatever caused them to become popular in the first place. No amount of explanations of the harsh history of that word, or who it insults, or what kind of impact it has, does anything to address the root causes of the animosity that led to those bad words.

    And so we see today, as race relations have gotten worse, all the effort dedicated to censoring specific slurs has lead to the advent of new slurs to take their place on twitter and youtube.

  8. Margari


    April 12, 2016 at 11:37 AM

    I’m looking at Zaheer’s comments to my response. I can’t respond directly to it for some reason. How is forcing my narrative even such a thing from a marginalized person? I wrote an article and made a case for why using the N-word by nonBlack Muslims is wrong and why they should focus on uprooting anti-blackness in their community, starting with their children who use the N-word on social media, at MIST, at Islamic schools, and summer camps. You’re tone policing and gas lighting with hypotheticals. Just to clarify, I don’t allow any Black students or children to use the N-word. When I have tried to discipline Arab students for using the phrase, they have pointed to Black students using it to say that it was okay.

    One thing that I was taught in challenging Arab and South Asians on twitter who used anti-Black racial slurs was that it was better when someone from their own community did it. I dealt with hours of counter arguments and saw a similar pattern of gas lighting. My challenge was not out of arrogance, but rather if you feel so strongly about it, do it. Then let me know. I’m curious as to the outcome. It is a challenge to be about this work, don’t just talk about it. I’m going to work getting all Muslims to drop the N-word. I’m not going to apologize because you agree with the case I made. This is my stance. But I really do hope the energy spent arguing about this article is put in addressing racism in our ummah.

    • Avatar


      April 19, 2016 at 7:20 AM

      Hello Margari,

      I’m not sure where exactly in my earlier comment I ‘gas-lighted’ or policed the tone of the conversation. I quoted directly from your article and comments, and explained that it came across as presumptive and condescending. I never asked you to apologize for anything, either. I simply disagreed with what I believed was the assumptions and implications your article was making. That’s all.

      I, as well as Muslim4life in response to my comment, also pointed out that while in the comments of the article you clarified, your article itself seemed to imply that the N-word was essentially the property of blacks, for their exclusive use. You’ve since clarified that you consider it a word that shouldn’t be used at all, by anybody, so that point of debate is done with.

      Lastly, I agree with your point on active work in the community being of greater importance than debate on the internet about the issues. It is important, though. It’s pointless disagreeing over an issue and then people going off to change behavior/attitudes, and ending up working against each other because they couldn’t agree over the basics. Anyway, I don’t think that’s the case here, so I say good luck in your endeavours, and may Allah bring success to it, Insha-Allah.

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Mindful or Mind-full? Going From AutoPilot to Aware





Modeling Mindfulness


“Remember that God knows what is in your souls, so be mindful of Him.”

[Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:235]

Mindful or Mind-full?

Ever felt frustrated when you were trying to talk to your spouse, your children, your students, or your youth group and they would just not pay attention? This is a prime example of being on autopilot and getting carried away without actually being aware of what is most important in the present moment.

A recent Harvard study shows that our minds are not present in the moment and wander about 47% of the time1. In a world of technology and continuous sensory overload, the lines between work and home, friends and family, necessity vs. purpose, world-centric vs. Allah-centric have become blurred. We are either living in the past or ruminating about the future, and in the process, we are forgetting to live, enjoy, cherish, and make the most of our present moments.

For parents, teachers, youth leaders, and anyone in the beautiful role of guiding, teaching, coaching, or mentoring others, we can make a huge difference by modeling Mindfulness ourselves. But where do we start? The answer is to go from autopilot to becoming aware.

Autopilot to Aware

Being on autopilot is when you are distracted in the present moment, where your mind is wandering into the past or the future, and you are less aware of yourself, surroundings, or others. Autopilot can actually be pretty helpful for your regular habits. Waking up, brushing your teeth, getting ready for your day, going to school or work – many of the things we do habitually every day can be done more seamlessly without having to think, and that is a good thing. But there are times when you have to learn to turn off your autopilot to become aware. But how?

Here is a Mindfulness tool that can be done in just a minute or two for you to become more aware.

Step 1: Breath as a Tool. Say Bismillah. Focus on your breath. See where you experience the breath – the breathing in and breathing out of your body. Is your breath stemming from your nostrils, your chest, or your stomach? Just bring your attention to your breath and relax and stay with it there for a few moments.

Step 2: Body as a Tool. Relax your body. We carry so many emotions in our bodies2. Our stress from the past or anticipation for the future sometimes finds its way into our necks, other times in our chest muscles or our backs. Pay attention to what emotions and sensations do you feel, and try to relax all parts of your body.

Step 3: Intention as a Tool. As you have centered your thoughts to the present moment through your breath and your body, ask yourself: “What is most important now? In this present moment?”

Just simply being aware makes us more mindful parents, teachers, youth and professionals – being aware makes us more Mindful of Allah SWT. Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of your mind and body and bring your attention to the present moment.


Real Life in the Present Moment

You are an on-the-go parent: It has been a long day and you have to pick up the kids from school, but work is still pending. You’re picking up the kids from school, feeding them, and then shuffling everyone to their afterschool activities, be it Qur’an, softball, soccer, swimming, or the million other things that kids seem to have these days. You squeeze pending work in between drop-offs and pick-ups, and you function by living from one task to the next.

The Autopilot Impact: You’re getting a lot done, but are so engrossed in quickly moving your children along from one thing to another that you are unable to really cherish your time together.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: You can try to go from autopilot to awareness by focusing on your breath, paying attention to your emotions, and relaxing your body. As you do so, ask yourself: “What is most important now?” Make the intention to slow down, listen to the children more mindfully, and cherish and enjoy your time together.

You are a busy teacher: Last night you had to take all the grading home and spent two hours poring over students’ work. This morning, you woke up early to pick up some classroom supplies after dropping off your own kids to school. You’ve already had two cups of coffee and are trying to think through everything you have to do today. You like the idea of Mindfulness, living life in the present moment, and enjoying every day to its fullest, but your mind is not free to even enjoy the beautiful morning sunrise as you drive to school.

The Autopilot Impact: You want to listen and pay attention to every child’s needs, and enjoy the rewards of their growth, but you can’t. What’s more, you judge yourself for just trying to get through your activities for the day. You wish you could connect with your students better.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: Whenever you are stressed with an unpleasant parent or student interaction, think about breathing, relaxing your body, and asking what you need to focus on now. Try to do one thing at a time, and relax into what you’re doing.

You are an overstretched youth director: You are a role model. You have this major weekend event you are planning with the youth. Your budget is still pending from the board, you have to call all these people, have to get the graphics and remind everyone about the event, you have to visit all these masjids and MSAs to announce and remind people about the weekend.

This weekend’s theme is Living a Life of Purpose and you are super passionate about it. However, the whole week you have had a hard time remembering to even pray one Salah with focus. Instead, your mind has been preoccupied with all the endless planning for this weekend. You love what you do but you wonder how to also be mindful in your everyday worship while you are always prepping and planning engaging activities for the youth.

The Autopilot Impact: You enjoy shaping the youth but you are losing steam. You are always planning the next program and unable to focus on your own personal and spiritual development. It is difficult for you to pray even one salah without thinking about all the events and activities planned for that week.

The Mindfulness Suggestion: Get serious about taking some time for yourself. Know that becoming more mindful about your own prayers and self-development will also make you a better role model. Take a minute or two before every Salah to practice the simple, 3-Step Mindfulness Tool. You say Bismillah and breathe, focus your mind, and then relax your body. Empty your mind from everything else – what has past and what’s to come – and ask “What’s most important now?” to develop better focus in your Salah.

In Conclusion: Practice Simple but Solid Steps towards becoming more Mindful Muslims

Mindfulness is to open a window to let the Divine light in.

[Imam Al Ghazali]

Mindfulness gives us the ability to be aware. We can use Mindfulness tools to remember Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), refocus, renew our intentions, and engage with the present moment in a more effective and enjoyable way. Mindfulness also invites awareness of our potential negligence in being our best selves with both Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and His creation. To put it simply, being more aware of our selves can help us be better versions of our selves.

Mindfulness is both an art and a science, with brain and behavioral science research validating the importance of Mindfulness in improving our health, managing our stress, navigating our emotions, and positively impacting our lives3. In today’s modern and distracted world, let us treasure every tool that helps us center our attention on what matters the most.

  1. Bradt, Steve (2010). Wandering mind not a happy mind. Harvard Gazette.
  2. Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, Jari K. Hietanen (2013). Bodily maps of emotions. National Academy of Sciences.
  3. “What are the benefits of mindfulness,” American Psychological Association:

To learn more about how to become mindful take the Define Course on Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence.

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A Code of Conduct To Protect Against Spiritual Abuse

Danish Qasim



Code of Conduct for Islamic Leadership, Institutions

When there is a claim of spiritual abuse, the initial reaction of concerned Muslims is often to go to another Muslim leader and expect that leader to take care of it.  Most of the time, however, religious leaders in the community have no authority over other religious leaders who are found abusing their position. Many of these leaders feel a foreboding sense of powerlessness to exert change, leaving those who abuse, to do so freely and with impunity. 

There have been attempts by some leaders to take action against abusive religious figures. However, when this happens, it is usually followed by a public or ‘in-group’ campaign against the abusive figure, and the abusive figure and his supporters return in kind. This becomes messy, quickly. There is name-calling, mud-slinging, and threats, but in the end, it amounts to nothing, in the end, leaving everyone involved to make their own decision as to whether or not to continue support for the alleged perpetrator. Other religious leaders may know the accused is guilty, but due to friendships or programs they wish to continue doing with the accused, they will cover for them, especially when there is only a perceived low level of evidence that the public could ever discover it. 

There are several methods and excuses through which abuse is covered up.

The Wall of Silence

In cases of tightly knit groups, whether Sufi tariqas, super Salafi cliques, activist groups, or preachers who have formed a team, the abuser will be protected by a wall of silence, while the victim is targeted, maligned, and ostracized for speaking out against the leader. They, not the abuser, are held accountable, liable, and blamed. While the abuser is expected to be ‘forgiven,’ the victim is socially shamed for a crime committed against him or her. More often than not, the victim is intimidated into silence, while the perpetrator is left free to continue abusing. 

The Kafir Court Rationale

There have been countless situations when there have been legal claims made against a transgressing spiritual leader, but through coercion and pressure, the shaykh (or those close to him) will be able to convince his victim that they are not allowed to go to kafir court systems to solve issues between Muslims. Ironically, these same shaykhs see no difficulty signing legally binding contracts with other Muslims they do business with, or when they give classes, which stands to reason, they are perfectly fine accepting the same ‘kafir court’ as a source of protection when it is for themselves. 

Stop Hurting the Dawah Plea

In other cases, when the disputes are between fellow students, or representatives of the shaykh and those lower ranking students, the shaykh himself is able to get on the phone with the disgruntled victim, give him or her special attention, and convince the person to drop it and not pursue justice, as that may ‘hurt the dawah.’ Sometimes, the shaykhs will ostensibly push for Islamic mechanisms of justice and call for arbitration by other religious figures who they know will decide in his favor. It is critical not to fall victim to these arguments. 

Your Vile Nafs Culpe

Far too often in these groups, particularly the more spiritually inclined ones, everyone will acknowledge the abuse, whether illicit sexual behavior, groping, financial fraud, secret temporary marriages, or bullying by a Shaykh, but steadfastly invoke the ‘only prophets are perfect, and our Shaykh is a wali–– but he can make mistakes’ refrain. Then, when those seeking recourse dare disclose these issues, even when there is no dispute about the factuality of their claims, they are browbeaten into compliance; told their focus on the negative is a sign that they are ‘veiled from the more important, positive efforts of the group, and it is they who should overcome their vile nafs.’ With such groups, leaving may be the only solution. 

Pray it Away Pretext

Sometimes, a target of abuse may go to other teachers or other people in the community to seek help, guidance, or direction. The victims hold these teachers in high regard and believe that they can trust them. However, instead of these teachers acting to protect the victims, the victims are often placated, told to pray it away. They are left with empty platitudes, but nothing concrete is ever done to protect them, nor is there any follow-up. 

The Forgive and Forget Pardon

They are told to forgive…

Forgiveness has its place and time, but at that critical moment, when a victim is in crisis and requires guidance and help, their wellbeing should remain paramount. To counsel victims that their primary job and focus at that pivotal juncture is to forgive their abuser is highly objectionable. Forgiveness is not the obligation of the victim and for any teacher or religious leader to invalidate the wrong that took place is not only counterproductive but dangerous––even if the intention behind the advice came from a wholesome place.

The Dire Need For A Code of Conduct

It is very easy to feel let down when nothing is done about teachers who abuse, but we have to understand that without a Code of Conduct, there really isn’t much that can be done when the spiritual abuse is not considered illegal. It is the duty of Islamic institutions to protect employees, attendees, and religious leaders. We also must demand that. 

Justice is a process. It is not a net result. This means that sometimes we will follow the process of justice and still come up short. The best thing we can do to hold abusers accountable for our institutions is to set up a process of accountability. A code of conduct will not eliminate spiritual abuse. Institutions that adopt this code may still cover up abuse, in which case victims will need to take action against the institution for violating the code. This code of conduct will also protect teachers who can be targetted and falsely accused.

As members of the community, we should expect more.  Here is how:

  •  Demand your Islamic institutions to have and instill a code of conduct. 
  •  If you are in a group outside of an institution, get clarity on the limits of the Shaykh.
  •  Understand that anyone, no matter their social status, is capable of doing horrible things, even the religious figures who talk about the importance of justice, accountability, and transparency. 
  • When it comes to money, expect more from your leadership than emotional appeals. Fundraising causes follow trends, and while supporting good causes is a positive thing, doing so without a proper audit or accountability is not. It lends itself to financial abuse, mistrust, and misappropriation.  

Establish a Protocol

A lot of hurt can be saved and distrust salvaged if victims are provided with honest non-judgment. Even in the event that there is a lack of concrete evidence, a protocol to handle these kinds of sensitive situations can provide a victim with a safe space to go to where they know they won’t be ignored or treated callously. We may not be able to guarantee an outcome, but we can ensure that we’ll try.

Using Contract Law to Hold Abusers Accountable – Danya Shakfeh

In cases of spiritual abuse, legal recourse (or any recourse for that matter) has been rare due to there being no standard of conduct and no legal means to hold abusers accountable.  In order to solve this problem, our Code of Conduct creates a legal mechanism of enforcement through contract law.

The reason why contract law is important and applicable is that the law does not always address unethical behavior.  You have heard the refrain “Just because it is legal, it does not mean it is ethical.” The law, for varying reasons, has its limits. Although we associate the law with justice and morality, the law and justice and morality are not always interchangeable and can even be at odds with each other.  

Ultimately, specifically in a secular society, the law is a set man-made rules and sometimes those rules are arbitrary and actually unfair. For example, there is a class of laws called ‘strict liability’ laws. These laws make a defendant liable even if the person committed the offense by accident.  One example of strict liability law is selling alcohol to a minor. In some states, even if the person tried to confirm the minor’s legal age, the seller could still be held liable for the offense. On the flip-side, there are is a lack of anti-bullying laws on the books in the United States. This allows employers to cause serious emotional damage to employees, yet the employer can get away with such offensive behavior.  Accordingly, the law does not always protect nor is it always ‘just.’

On Power, Boundaries, And The Accountability Of Imams

This is one of the reasons that victims of spiritual abuse have had little success in having their claims addressed at a legal level.  Because abuses are not legally recognized as such, there is often no associated remedy. For example, when a woman enters into a secret second marriage only to find that the husband is not giving her all her Islamic legal rights, that woman’s recourse is very limited because the law does not recognize this as abuse and does not even recognize the marriage.

Further, if a victim of spiritual abuse is abused due to religious manipulation unless the abuser engaged in a stand-alone crime or civil claim, the victim also has no legal recourse. For example, if a religious scholar exploits a congregant’s vulnerabilities in order to convince the congregant to turn over large amounts of money and the congregant later learns that the Islamic scholar did not really need the money, he or she may have no legal recourse.  This is because manipulation (as long as there is no fraud) is not illegal and depending on how clever the religious scholar was, the congregant would have no legal recourse. Our way of solving this problem is by using contract law to set and enforce the standard for ethical behavior.

Use of Institutional Handbooks

Whether people realize it or not, institutional handbooks are a type of contract. Though an attorney should be consulted in order to ensure that they these documents are binding, policies do not necessarily need to be signed by every party nor do they need to be called a “contract” in order to be legally binding.  By creating institutional handbooks and employment policies that relate to common issues of spiritual abuse, we can finally provide guidelines and remedies.

When an employee at an institution violates the institution’s policies, this is a “breach of contract” that can result in firing or even monetary damages. In other words, the policy is that document which victims and institutions can use to back their cases when there are allegations involving abuse.  Policies can also hold institutions themselves liable for not enforcing the policy and remedies as to victims’ abuse. Policies also serve the purpose of putting the community and their beneficiaries and patrons on notice as to what is expected of them.

Our Code of Conduct is the most comprehensive of created ethical guidelines for Muslims leaders and institutions for making spiritual abuse remedies actionable. We believe it will provide remedies to victims that would otherwise not be available through other legal means.  By binding the parties to a contract, victims and institutions can take these contracts, along with the abusers, to court and use the contract to fill in the gap for appropriate behavior that the law otherwise does not fill.

Download the Code of Conduct For Islamic Leadership By In Shaykh’s Clothing

Blurred Lines: Women, “Celebrity” Shaykhs, and Spiritual Abuse

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#Current Affairs

The Environmental Cost Of War With Iran

Abu Ryan Dardir



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.”

war, iran, America, Climate change, pentagonWith 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:

  1. Overall military emissions for installations and non-war operations.
  2. War-related emissions by the US military in overseas contingency operations.
  3. Emissions caused by US military industry   — for instance, for production of weapons and ammunition.
  4. Emissions caused by the direct targeting of petroleum,   namely the deliberate burning of oil wells and refineries by all parties.
  5. Sources of emissions by other belligerents.
  6. Energy consumed by reconstruction of damaged and destroyed infrastructure.
  7. 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 ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) instructed his soldiers:

  1. Do not kill any child, any woman, or any elder or sick person. (Sunan Abu Dawud)
  2. Do not practice treachery or mutilation. (Al-Muwatta)
  3. Do not uproot or burn palms or cut down fruitful trees. (Al-Muwatta)
  4. Do not slaughter a sheep or a cow or a camel, except for food. (Al-Muwatta)
  5. If one fights his brother, [he must] avoid striking the face, for God created him in the image of Adam. (Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim)
  6. Do not kill the monks in monasteries, and do not kill those sitting in places of worship. (Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal)
  7. 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)
  8. 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)
  9. No one may punish with fire except the Lord of Fire. (Sunan Abu Dawud).
  10. 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 ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) 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.”

Fighting Earth

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.

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