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The Haramness Of The Way Asia Bibi Was Treated In The Name of Islam

Saba Syed (Umm Reem)

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Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

News of the dismissal of Asia Noreen Bibi’s case (a Christian woman accused of blasphemy and imprisoned for almost a decade) in Pakistan has erupted on TV screens and social media feeds. The more I read about the case and watch the hysteria unfolding in the name of preserving the sanctity of the Prophet, the more embarrassed I feel and frustrated with the misuse of Islamic doctrine. Obviously, this is not the first time nor the last when actions are being done in the name of Islam, but these actions have nothing to do with Islam.

Asia Noreen Bibi is a Christian woman, who lived in a small village in Pakistan; she was from one of the only three Christian families in the village. One day she accompanied her co-workers to a nearby farm for extra work.  As she fetched berries under the scorching sun, she wanted nothing more than a few sips of cold water. She walked up to the well in the farm, and as she drank some water in a metal-glass, another woman, Musarat, angrily told her that it was forbidden for a Christian to drink water from the same utensil from which Muslims drink and that some of the co-workers considered her to be unclean because she was a Christian.

Even though a lot of Asia Noreen’s story is “he said – she said”, I do believe this part of the story because I’ve heard this notion many times before. Muslims in Pakistan have asked me if they were allowed to share utensils with non-Muslims. This question often arises among the laborers, and most often amongst the affluent families who have Christian housemaids. 

I was once visiting my in-laws in Lahore when a lady who offered on-call beauty salon services came over. She was Christian. While she was doing my pedicure, I started talking to her about her life as a minority in Pakistan. I could relate to some of the emotions and incidents she shared, because I grew up as a minority in the U.S. At the same time, there were some incidents she recalled that were completely ridiculous and I thanked God that I never had to go through them, like some “well-educated” women refusing to eat or drink from utensils that this woman had touched, because she didn’t share the same faith.

There’s a misconstrued belief among some people in Muslim majority countries that people of other faiths are “impure”, so much so that their touch can impurify our food and drink. This belief is obviously wrong.1 Much of this is class related discrimination, as the same people would have no issue serving dignitaries and CEOs (who are Christian) in their prized gold-plated crockery, in fact, it would be a matter of pride. They would also have no issues visiting non-Muslim countries and eating at restaurants and hotels. 

Going back to Asia Noreen’s story, an argument broke out among the working women in the field. Again, the story has a lot “he said – she said” but one thing is clear that it was the Muslim woman who raised the issue of Asia contaminating the water by drinking from it simply because she was a “filthy Christian.”

The argument was prolonged when Asia also insulted her co-worker Musarat’s faith which happens to be my faith too. However, I find my sentiments more sympathetic and align with Asia than Musarat and her co. Is it strange that I applaud Asia for speaking up and defending herself?

Although I don’t agree with Asia’s statement at all, the more important question right now is, was her “reaction” wrong? Was she to be blamed for becoming angry and insulting Islam or the Prophet in response to the Muslim women insulting her faith and her Prophet?

I’ve tried to evaluate the situation by putting myself in her shoe. What if I was in the U.S surrounded by a group of Christians and I was criticized for taking a few sips of water in a scorching hot day and was called a “filthy Muslim”?

Had I have not known any better, I might have insulted Jesus too in “reaction”. But those Muslims who actually study the simple basics of Islam, know that we are not allowed to insult anyone else’s religion, no matter what.

What About Musarat’s Blasphemy: Isn’t Esa Our Prophet too?

In the case of Asia, it just happens so that her Prophet Jesus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), is my beloved Prophet too. So as I type this article, I’m wondering why isn’t Musarat on trial for insulting our Prophet Jesus (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him)?

This whole situation is wrong on so many levels. First of all, non-Muslims do not contaminate our water or food by touching it. Second, we are not allowed to put down other people’s religious beliefs. Third, a man was rewarded with Paradise for giving water to a thirsty dog– whose saliva can actually contaminate our utensils– and these women were more concerned about the religious beliefs of a thirsty woman– who was their coworker, and a neighbor– than her state of thirst on a hot summer day.

And most importantly, this Blasphemy Law of Pakistan is far from actual Islamic Law. Our Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), never punished anyone for insulting him neither did he ever instruct any of his companions to punish anyone who’d insulted our Prophet. This was not only the case when Muslims were the minority and were being persecuted, but it continued to be the case even after Muslims became stronger and gained political power.

In fact, in our religion, there is more emphasis on respect being earned than forcing it out of people. Non-Muslims, even the ones who opposed Prophet’s message, respected him for his good moral qualities. Islam emphasizes character building, earning respect through love and kindness rather than forcing it upon others through fear and authority. The woman who threw trash on Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to irritate him, later converted to Islam because of his kindness towards her when he went to visit her after she got sick.

If the love of Prophet truly resides in our hearts, then it would show more in following into his footsteps and carrying on his legacy by showing kindness to a thirsty woman rather than declaring the water “haram” because of her touching the utensils.

Truth be told, the Blasphemy Law is a misrepresentation of Islam because we are taught to leave those people alone who mock or insult our Creator or His Verses in Qur’an, hence insulting the Prophet would fall in the same lines.

“And when you (Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)) see those who engage in false conversation about Our Verses (of Qur’an) by mocking at them, stay away from them till they turn to another topic…” (6:68)

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is instructing the Prophet to walk away from people who are insulting Allah or the verses from Qur’an, not punish them by any means. In fact, he’s being told to join them back after they’ve changed the topic.

So where does the blasphemy law come into the picture?

According to the story, Asia supposedly insulted our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) after Musarat insulted Jesus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). Aren’t we told not to insult other people’s religion or religious deities for the exact same reason, i.e. so as not to provoke the reaction from them!

“And do not insult those they invoke other than Allah, lest they insult Allah in enmity without knowledge…” (6:108)

I am not an apologist but today I apologize from the bottom of my heart to Asia, her husband, her daughters and her family, and all the religious minorities living in “Muslim” countries on behalf of all the Muslims who are Muslims because they were born in Muslim families and have yet to learn their religion in its proper format. What Islam truly is and what it has become in the hands of Muslims can be two very opposing things at times.

Do I find it surprising that in some news outlets it has been reported that Musarat had some property disputes with Asia’s family in the past!

My religion has been long used and abused by people for their self-interest, be it political gain, power gain or personal gain. When nothing else works, then they use Islam to mobilize people’s sentiments to advocate their agenda and win the situation in their favor, whether its extremists using Islam for their political gain, or MBS calling Jamal Khashoggi an Islamic extremist to justify his brutal killing, or Musarat claiming to defend our Prophet by accusing Asia of insulting our Prophet.

It is also said that Musarat and other Muslim women asked Asia to convert to Islam to redeem herself. My sincere advice to Musarat and all those Pakistanis who are protesting against Asia being acquitted that they should be more worried about redeeming their own souls, and they should learn the basics of Islam and build Islamic character for their own salvation first.

 

1 Report from Abu Dawood (3839): “We live next to some of the People of the Book who cook pork in their vessels and drink wine in their vessels.” The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “If you can find anything else, eat from them and drink from them, but if you cannot find anything else, then wash them with water and eat and drink.” Saheeh Abi Dawood.

The Prophet subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) was invited to eat some barley bread and other food by a Jewish boy.  Narrated by Ahmad, in Irwa’ al-Ghaleel, 1/71.

The Prophet subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and his companions did wudoo’ from the leather water skin of a mushrik woman. Narrated by al-Bukhari, 337; Muslim, 682.

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.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Umm

    November 10, 2018 at 5:21 AM

    I totally share the same sentiments on this issue. Racial discrimination in our communities is so common, we need to educate ourselves the basics of our faith, before reviling other faiths.

  2. Avatar

    A.Ahmed

    November 10, 2018 at 3:43 PM

    Do not state that Blasphemy laws are wrong all together, Islamic scholars have based them on strong sources of hadith. It is a part of Islamic law.

    Narrated Jabir bin `Abdullah:

    The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Who is ready to kill Ka`b bin Al-Ashraf who has really hurt Allah and His Apostle?” Muhammad bin Maslama said, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! Do you like me to kill him?” He replied in the affirmative. So, Muhammad bin Maslama went to him (i.e. Ka`b) and said, “This person (i.e. the Prophet) has put us to task and asked us for charity.” Ka`b replied, “By Allah, you will get tired of him.” Muhammad said to him, “We have followed him, so we dislike to leave him till we see the end of his affair.” Muhammad bin Maslama went on talking to him in this way till he got the chance to kill him.

    Reference : Sahih al-Bukhari 3031
    In-book reference : Book 56, Hadith 238
    USC-MSA web (English) reference : Vol. 4, Book 52, Hadith 270
    (deprecated numbering scheme)

  3. Avatar

    AFJ

    November 10, 2018 at 9:38 PM

    I was speaking to a group of Muslim children here in the United States one day, and in the course of our conversation, I told them about a group of Christians being persecuted and driven from their majority Muslim homeland. I told the children that a number of these Christians had been killed.

    One of the Muslim children began cheering when I said that Christians were being killed.

    I was shocked, but he was oblivious.

    Please do not pretend that animosity towards Christians is not part of the Islamic faith and is not taught in your mosques. I know differently.

    Asia Bibi is simply the most famous case of persecution against Christians in Pakistan. From everything I’ve heard, it is absolutely an endemic attitude of that entire society and is based on Muslim teaching. Ditto Egypt. Ditto Iraq. Ditto Saudi Arabia.

  4. Avatar

    Shahla

    November 10, 2018 at 9:49 PM

    Indian/Pakistani Muslims have still not gotten over their Hindu heritage. Christians in that region are converts from ‘untouchable’ classes of Hindus or Dalits. Ironically, they chose Christianity over Islam because Christian missionaries treated them as humans. If our Muslim ancestors did not practice untouchability, they would have been Muslims.
    Blasphemy laws of Pakistan are the gift of military dictator Zia ul Haq. These laws were imposed on Pakistanis without their consent and are now used by all kinds of mafia to consolidate power and wealth unlawfully.

  5. Avatar

    Ahmad

    November 10, 2018 at 10:33 PM

    So you are sympathetic to a woman who insulted our prophet (pbuh), there is no case where a muslim can feel sympathy to a person who insults our prophet even a little I don’t know if this kafira is innocent or guilty but there is no excuse for the insult to our prophet pbuh I suggest you study islam and make your views based on islam, not liberalism disguised as islam.

    • Avatar

      Hamayoun

      November 11, 2018 at 10:25 PM

      To the user calling himself Ahmad: what Abdullah Bin Ubay did was much worse than what this woman did, but the Prophet did not have him killed. I guess that was based on liberalism too?

  6. Avatar

    Spirituality

    November 12, 2018 at 1:45 PM

    As Salamu Alaikum,

    We should always, always, feel upset when the Prophet (s) is insulted. If not, there is something is wrong with our hearts. We need to examine our hearts and check ourselves.

    On the other hand, we should remember that some of the Sahabah insulted the Prophet (s), or worse – they fought against him, threw him out of his house and city, killed Muslims and mutilated them- before they became Muslim! And as Sahabah, their station with Allah is much, much higher than ours.

    “And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend.” Surah Fussilat: 34.

  7. Avatar

    hussein

    November 14, 2018 at 5:02 AM

    Ahmad, did you even read the article? did you even read the Ayats she quoted in the article? One letter writer says even some Shahaba that hold exalted status in in Islam insulted the Prophet (pbuh). And you use the word Kafira? Are you even a Muslim? its people like you thta give Islam a bad name!

  8. Avatar

    Ahmad

    November 15, 2018 at 4:44 AM

    Hussein did you even read my comment, of course I would call her a kafir she is a christian or are we not to call christians kafirs no more no friend it’s people like you who give islam a bad name people who are scared of the west that you change the religion to better fit in , learn the religion first from scholars don’t read the quran and interpret in your liberal western views, people who insult must be punished

    • Avatar

      David

      November 15, 2018 at 9:12 PM

      “that you change the religion to better fit in”; you DO know that places you contrary to the civil law of many western countries, what do you think will result from that?

    • Avatar

      hussein

      November 16, 2018 at 12:51 PM

      you have no right whatever to call anyone kafir….if you are going to take such liberties than point your finger at saudi royal family and isis….you ask if if i read your comment i ask you did you read this column at all..? its wahabis liek you with the wrong interpretation of Islam who give our religion a bad name….

  9. Avatar

    Kristy

    November 18, 2018 at 12:46 AM

    How sad is it that in 2018, 1408 years after the revelation of the Quran, the discussion between muslims is not what muslims can do to help poor, uneducated minorities in their theocratic countries become productive members of Islamic-majority societies, but whether or not one-sided blasphemy laws should exist and are adequate.

    To create one-sided blasphemy laws, to copyright and limit the use of “Allah” to be the exclusive right of muslims-only, and to intentionally make the lives of any minority hell-on-earth is to commit the following sins:
    – hatred
    – anger
    – bigotry
    – controlling others belief and faith in “Allah” through man-made schemes replaces this exclusive role of Allah
    – lying about others committing blasphemy is enticing if you desire to have what is theirs which you do not have
    – attempting to thwart the Will of Allah as to who belongs where they have been put by his Will.
    – looking down on others as being inferior and lesser than yourself is practicing arrogance, deceit of yourself, and pride which puts you on the pedestal of your own self-worship.

    I’m sure there are other sins which could be included on this list.
    But suffice it to say that if these are not sins against your deity as well as against your minorities, then what exactly is the deity you are worshipping?

  10. Avatar

    hussein

    November 26, 2018 at 2:20 AM

    So MM deleted my comments!

    • Avatar

      Aly Balagamwala

      April 10, 2019 at 3:42 AM

      Dear Hussein

      WHile MM reserves the right to remove of edit any comments to make them conform to our Comment Policy, I see several comments by you on this article. If any have been deleted it is possibly there was some reason identified by a member of our team. In any case feel free to resubmit the comment.

      Best Regards
      Aly
      Comments Team Lead

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#Current Affairs

Muslims Leaders Who Are Also Foreign Agents

When American Muslim leaders are also foreign agents, you need to consider FARA, the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Ahmed Shaikh explores how this law may apply to American Muslim leaders who fall into “Team UAE” and “Team Turkey”

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Foreign Agents in the Muslim Community
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Foreign Agents in the US have a meaningful effect on Americans in the United States.  Should Muslims in the United States adopt the foreign policy narrative of the United Arab Emirates?  Should we be against calling the mass killing of Armenians during World War I “genocide?” Can American Muslim leaders and nonprofits be the voice of governments, give them public relations advice and do their bidding?

These questions are largely irrelevant as the American Muslim community already has some activists and Islamic Scholars who are foreign agents.

I am not claiming being a foreign agent is inherently wrong, unethical or somehow prohibited in Islam. In many instances, being a foreign agent is fine, or at least you can find examples where the activity is harmless and maybe even beneficial. Non-Muslims serve as foreign agents, peddling influence and giving advice. Why can’t ordinary Muslims, even Muslim leaders, activists, and Islamic scholars do the same? What we need though is transparency about these relationships, similar to how we keep tabs on people who carry hazardous waste. It’s often a useful and beneficial service, but also, well, hazardous. 

As we have seen from recent cases Imaad Zuberi, Mike Flynn, and Paul Manafort , it is reasonable to expect more prosecutions of unregistered foreign agents in the coming months and years.

American Team Turkey vs. American Team UAE

My purpose here is not to re-litigate events during the first world war or the UAE’s murderous worldwide batil-slinging foreign policy. It is also not to offer a further critique of American Muslim leaders and scholars who blow smoke for one foreign interest or another. For that, you can read my recent article. Instead, it is to help American Muslims involved with foreign entities to be aware of the law so they can prepare accordingly. 

The “Team Turkey” vs. “Team UAE” saga playing out among the Muslim community’s leadership, including nonprofits and religious leaders, is dangerous, and there is potential legal jeopardy to members of both “teams.” The law in an individual case is often complex, and I am not claiming anyone referenced in this article is a criminal. However, anyone who thinks aspects of this article applies to them should seek legal counsel post haste.

Pariah status may rub off

In the eyes of the US government, the UAE may be up one day, and Turkey may be down. Pakistan is pretty much always “down” no matter who is in power in the United States, so Muslims working with that government and various political parties and institutions in that country should be especially sensitive about being a law enforcement target, even if they believe they are working for a worthy cause. Keep in mind how the Muslim community has been treated historically by the Justice Department. For this or any future US Administration, American Muslim leadership may be low hanging fruit for prosecutors. 

Right now, the UAE, in particular, aggressively buys loyalty, buys people in positions to peddle influence on its behalf. It uses straw donors and funnels its money around the United States through various entities to get what it wants. These tactics work for them now, but it may not work forever. Any Muslim majority country can get “pariah” status and the social and political environment in the United States may turn against that country and its agents.

If the political winds in the United States change against the UAE, their leadership will probably not be affected. Things may be different for their agents in the United States, however. The same may well be true for agents of Turkey. We can learn from their best known non-Muslim foreign agent, former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn

The United States has a long history, going back to its founding, of being suspicious of foreign influence in government and public opinion. Various clauses of the constitution and several laws exist to address this historic concern, though many are quite weak.  The one that Muslim leaders with ties to foreign governments should be most concerned with is the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) 

Anyone who closely followed the Mueller investigation into the 2016 Presidential election is likely somewhat familiar with FARA.  However, of more interest should be the prosecution and guilty plea last year of Dr. Nisar Ahmed Chaudhry, who was prosecuted for activities that are remarkably common for Muslim leaders, especially immigrants.

It’s not a crime to be an agent of a foreign government. The crime, as those paying close attention to current events, will understand,  is in not registering with the Justice Department. In short, it’s a federal crime for agents of foreign entities or people engaged in political or other activities in the statute, with some exceptions, to not register under this law. US Law defines the term ” foreign agent”- it is not necessarily pejorative. It does not mean being a spy.

Indeed, foreign influence-peddling is an entire industry. Often, people who engage in “influence peddling” are not especially sophisticated and may not be paid at all. They may simply be immigrant activists who love their homeland.

In the case of Chaudhry, he pleaded guilty to not registering an unincorporated group he created in his home, the “Pakistan American League,” and his work as a “foreign agent.” His crime? He spoke to officials in the Pakistani government, and worked in Pakistan’s interests in D.C. area government and “think tank” circles by organizing “roundtable discussions.” He was not paid for his work as an “agent” by Pakistan.  All of this is legal, except that he failed to register.

A Law About Transparency

Foreign Agents need to report on their activities or risk fine and imprisonment. Every six months, the US Attorney General issues a report on foreign agents who register under this law to Congress. You can find the most recent report here. These reports offer a helpful description of registered foreign agents operating in the United States, but anyone can take a deeper dive into the reporting if they want to. FARA is about transparency.

FARA does not prohibit speech or activities by anyone. The purpose is to inform the public and government about the source of information used to attempt to influence them. FARA is an old law that US Muslims need in our communities right about now. 

Enforcement of this law had been mostly dormant for years, and the Mueller investigation is said to have given it new life. Registrations under the law are up.

FARA is broader than you might think

FARA is not just for agents of foreign governments. Being an agent of a foundation, royal family, oligarch, or any other entity or person can trigger the same requirements and cause criminal liability for those who fail to register. Many registrations under FARA involve agents of entities and people that are not governments. 

As we have seen from Chaudhry’s case, Muslim leaders, activists, and scholars don’t need to be paid to be “foreign agents” under the law. Congress understood foreign agents could work for nonmonetary benefits. A foreign agent does not need to agree with everything the foreign principal does and says. A Muslim leader who gives certain kinds of advice to a foreign entity may need to register to avoid criminal liability. It does not matter if the foreign principal ignores the advice. FARA is not just a law about foreign lobbying, indeed lobbyists have a separate registration system and law.  Virtually any work to influence public opinion or give advice will fall under the law. There are many opportunities for Muslim leaders to get themselves into serious trouble

Religion or university affiliation may not save foreign agents 

There are exceptions to FARA reporting requirements. For example, diplomats, many journalists, and bona fide trade and commercial enterprises do not need to report.  Say Muhammad is the agent of a Turkish exporter of Turkish delight, selling delicious packaged desserts to grocery stores around the Midwest. Muhammad does not need to register under FARA. 

Similarly, those involved in bona fide religious, academic, or fine arts pursuits are exempt. So if Saad, a US Citizen, is hired by the Saudi government to teach Quran recitation to children of employees of the local Saudi consulate, Saad would not need to register. 

 If, however, the Turkish Delight company asked Muhammad to write op-eds and hold meetings to prevent tariffs on Turkey, well, that’s different. If Saad starts to give public relations advice to his Saudi employers, he should call a lawyer. It’s worth noting that FARA is not the only registration and disclosure statute. A lawyer with expertise in this area can help them sort it out. 

Learn from others

Carrying water for a foreign entity’s political agenda, a regular occurrence by some American Muslim leaders is not bona fide religious or academic activity. Such conduct falls squarely into a danger zone under the law. The US Justice Department has confirmed the religious and academic exception’s narrow scope. The Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation, for example, wanted an opinion they are exempt from registration.   They were working on developing a museum, which is an academic institution. However, the Justice Department advised the foundation must register under FARA. The reasons, among other non-nefarious sounding things, were exhibits on bilateral relations between South Korea and the United States.

In 2017, TV station RT America and news outlet, Sputnik, “both Russian-funded but with production companies in the US, registered as ‘foreign agents’ under pressure from the Justice Department.”

Muslim leaders with ties to foreign entities should also look to the example of the American section of the World Zionist Organization. The WZO has appropriately registered itself as a foreign agent. Its work seems reasonably standard for a Zionist organization, though. WZO “participated in workshops, seminars, and conferences and distributed materials to increase support for the foreign principal’s educational, cultural, and religious goals.” The foreign principal was the World Zionist Organization in Israel, not the government of Israel itself. Still, it needed to register. 

Even if someone falls into an exception to FARA, another related statute may well cause liability. So anyone who has to look around for exceptions should check with an attorney. 

Sunshine in the Muslim community

Much of the work against CVE involved learning what Muslim leaders working with governments were up to. Because of the federal “Freedom of Information Act” and state Public Records Acts, we have a better idea of what Muslim leaders have been collaborating with the war on terrorism against our community. The availability of public records has also kept some Muslims away from unsavory funding opportunities. There is always a risk they will be found out. Who needs that drama? As the late US Supreme Court Justice Luis Brandies famously said, “sunshine is the best disinfectant.” 

Some in the Countering Violent Extremism space have looked to foreign governments and organizations, particularly in the UAE. Working against the US Muslim community, which includes naming groups such as CAIR and MAS “terrorist organizations,” and investing in anti-Muslim surveillance is fundamental to UAE foreign policy. Foreign entities are not subject to the Federal Freedom of Information Act or state Public Records Acts.

Covertness can be beneficial when prosecuting the war on terrorism in our communities on behalf of a foreign master. However, security-state contractors working with foreign entities are engaged in an inherently political enterprise and should register. Unfortunately, nobody from the Muslim community in the CVE sector has. They should either start or quit foreign-sponsored CVE altogether. 

FARA is your friend

We have a strong need for transparency among Muslim leaders and organizations. Foreign interests have been looking to influence the US Muslim civil society for several years. It may well be that agents of foreign nation-states or entities in them have valuable things to say. The purpose of FARA is not to deny your ability to hear them and learn from them. However, knowing someone is a foreign agent will help us place the information provided by a Muslim leader, activist or scholar in a better context. 

Muslim leaders and organizations should strongly encourage each other to look at FARA when any foreign entity is involved. If for no other reason, to avoid potential criminal liability.

If you are a Muslim leader, activist or scholar working with a foreign principal, retain legal counsel. You need to know if registration is required. If it is necessary, and it often will be, provide a fulsome disclosure and keep updating it. You can be sure there will be at least a few Muslims reading it. 

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#Current Affairs

A Closer Look At The Congressional Hearing on Human Rights in South Asia

Hena Zuberi

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Kashmir hearing in Congress
Which deeds are most beloved to Allah?

Alhamdulillah, by the blessings of Allah (swt) and readers like yourself, MuslimMatters has been an independent platform for our best thought leaders to educate us in our faith and catalyze change through powerful, necessary conversations. Since our humble beginnings as a basic wordpress blog in 2007, our content has remained free.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support us with a monthly donation of $10 per month, or even as little as $1. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Expectations on Capitol Hill were pretty low going into the House Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation’s historic hearing on “Human Rights in South Asia”. Previously, hearings on India have not been critical and the Kashmiri Muslim point of view has not been discussed.

Chairman of the sub-committee Brad Sherman (D-CA) wasted no time setting the stage for where he wanted to go with this hearing, stating, ”the entire world is focused today on what is happening in Kashmir.” He also pointed to the state of the 2 million-minority population in Assam. Missing from his opening statements were remarks on the state of the rest of the minorities in India, esp. Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and Muslims. Ranking member Ted Yoho (R-FL) was soft on the gross realities of the occupation, highlighting one case of a Kashmiri constituent, and referred to the abrogation of Article 370 as an internal matter of India. He also brought up the Indian talking point of economic progress in the region but this concept was thoroughly dismissed by later testimony and Q&A.

The State department veteran Alice Wells, Acting Secretary on South and Central Asian Affairs seemed woefully ill-prepared for the critical nature of the hearing. Both Wells and Assistant Secretary for Human Rights Destro could not or did not present solid facts and figures about detention and tried to explain away the oppression as “inconveniences”. They were unable to comment or provide clarity on the situation on the ground in Kashmir, with Destro saying, “we are in the same information blackout as you are.” Some of Sec. Wells’s comments were of direct Indian government persuasion.

Several of Justice For All’s talking points were raised during the hearing.

There was commentary on the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar asked about the anti-Muslim program. She questioned the panel on the public statements by Indian officials that only Muslims have to prove their birth records. Rejecting the notion that a democratic ally cannot be policed, she said that the United States does that in many situations and “this should not be an exception.”The human rights abuse doesn’t cease to exist even if it is the law. Is it consistent with international human rights?” asked Chairman Sherman, along the same lines.

Destro observed that the appeals process “may disadvantage poor and illiterate populations who lack documentation”. “We are closely following this situation and urge the Government of India to take these issues into consideration,” he added.

”The human rights abuse doesn’t cease to exist even if it is the law. Is it consistent with international human rights?” asked Chairman ShermanClick To Tweet

Wells testified that “violence and discrimination against minorities in India, including cow vigilante attacks against members of the Dalit and Muslim communities, and the existence of anti-conversion laws in nine states” are not in keeping with India’s legal protections for minorities.

Congresswoman Alice Spanberger, (D-VA) a former CIA intelligence officer, asked whether India has shared examples of terror attacks and incidents that have been thwarted due to the communications blockade. When Wells stated that she could not comment, Spanberger asked for a classified hearing so that US officials could give their assessment on the validity of the national security argument of the Indian government. Chair Sherman associated himself with her questioning and vowed to take her suggestion seriously.

Chairman Brad Sherman, as well as several other Congresspeople both on and off the House Foreign Relations Committee, asked several pertinent and critical questions.

Questioning the Indian Government narrative Chairman Sherman asked if the United is “supposed to trust these government of India officials when the government of India doesn’t allow our diplomats to visit?” Representative Sheila Jackson asked if reputable Indian diplomats or journalists had ever been denied entry into any state in the United States?

Indian American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) referred to a report about the detention of dozens of children in Kashmir and said detention without charges is unacceptable. She expressed her concerns about religious freedom in India and said that she proposes to bring a bipartisan resolution in Congress.

Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and David Cicilline of Rhode Island both had a heavy human rights approach to the questioning. Congresswoman Lee asked Assistant Secretary Destro if he would describe the situation as a “humanitarian crisis,” Mr Destro said, “Yes, it is.” She then went on to call the United States government to stop a potential genocide.

Washington has not changed its stance on the designation of the Line of Control. Chairman Sherman brought up the issue of disputed territory to the State Department.“We consider the Line of Control (LoC) a de facto line separating two parts of Kashmir,” answered Wells. “We recognize de facto administrations on both sides of LoC.”

The subcommittee focused on personal testimonies as well as human rights organization Amnesty’s testimony during the second half of the hearing.

Though no Kashmiri Muslims testified, the panel presented electrifying testimonies from Dr. Nitasha Kaul, a Kashmiri and Dr. Angana Chatterji, an anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley. Bearing witness to the rising fascism and Hindu nationalism’s grip on India, both witnesses brought up beef lynchings, with Chatterji raising the concern of the genocidal inclinations of the Modi government. 

“Hindu majoritarianism – the cultural nationalism and political assertion of the Hindu majority – sanctifies India as intrinsically Hindu and marks the non-Hindu as its adversary. Race and nation are made synonymous, and Hindus –the formerly colonized, now governing, elite – are depicted as the national race,” said Dr. Chatterji.

Kashmiri witness Dr. Nitisha Kaul stated in her testimony that “human rights defenders, who were already under severe pressure, since August 5 are unable to function in Kashmir. For instance, every year on 30 August, the UN Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance, Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons led by Ms Parveena Ahangar, organises a vigil protest involving hundreds of elderly women and men whose sons had become victims of for instance, in the most recent parliamentary elections, the voters’ turnout was very low and in many booths, not a single vote was cast.”

Kaul emphasized the extension of the oppression, by highlighting that this year the peaceful gathering of elderly parents mourning and waiting for their disappeared sons was not allowed. She shared Ahanga’s quote: “This year we have been strangled, and there was no coming there was no coming together because, through its siege, India has denied us even the right to mourn.”

Ilhan Omar challenged Indian journalist Aarti Tikoo Singh’s take that the siege was in place to save Muslim women from “terrorists.” This is a trope that is often used to wage war and is especially used in the so-called “war on terror.” “It is a very colonial move on the part of the nation-states around it as if they are “liberating Kashmiri women,” said Dr. Kaul.

Chatterji bore witness to the woes of Kashmiri women who bear the brunt of the Indian occupational forces’ sexual brutality. “The woman’s body becomes the battlefield,” she said replying to a question by Congresswoman Houlahan from Pennsylvania. Dr. Kaul stated that the 1944 new Kashmir manifesto contained an entire section on gender rights. She spoke on the equity and equality in Kashmir: “They go to protests. Women become heads of households because of dead husbands.”

She also reminded the committee that BJP’s Amit Shah, also part of the government in 2002 and responsible for the program on Muslim community stated that Western human rights cannot be blindly applied here in India.

Representative Wild from Pennsylvania asked why the Indian government would not allow transparency. When human rights organizations and journalists can work in active war zones, she rejected the anti-terrorism narrative pushed by Ravi Batra, a last-minute BJP addition to the panel. “When there isn’t transparency something is being hidden and this is what really concerns me terribly,” said Wild.

A Sindhi-American witness spoke on minority rights in Pakistan, especially the forced conversion of Hindus. This is a concern that needs to be tackled by Muslims as there is no compulsion in Islam and is antithetical to the religion.

During the hearing, Amnesty International reported thousands in detention under the Public Safety Act while the State Department numbered it at hundreds. Dr. Asif Mahmoud, a key organizer, presented the health situation in Kashmir.

The overall situation of the Rohingya was covered and links were made to the start of the genocide in Burma and the parallels in India. The members of the House referred to it as genocide with the State Department still calling it ethnic cleansing.

Although the hearing focused on the current state of Jammu and Kashmir and not much was brought up about self-determination or the plebiscite, Kashmiri-Americans and their supporters left the hearing room satisfied that their voices were heard for the first time in the halls of the US Congress.

What was most concerning point of the entire hearing was that Kashmir was not brought up categorically as disputed territory and the issue was referred to as an integral matter of India. This needs deep, consistent and long-term work by advocates of Kashmir. With the continuous rise of RSS, Indian minority issues need a much sharper focus, and a regular pounding of the pavements of Congress to educate the Foreign Relations committees.

Some action items for American Muslims post-hearing.

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What We Should Know About The Slaying Of An Imam 10 Years Ago In Dearborn

Dawud Walid, Guest Contributor

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informant jibril imam Luqman
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October 28, 2019 marks 10 years since the tragic homicide of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah who was shot 20 times in Dearborn, Michigan by a special FBI tactical squad. The homicide of Imam Abdullah was the culmination of the FBI spending over a million dollars in a so-called counterterrorism investigation which included rental of a commercial warehouse and freight trucks, the purchase of expensive electronic items and payment to at least 3 confidential informants. The raid on that fateful day in which Abdullah was killed and some of his congregants were arrested had nothing to do with terrorism-related charges, yet the imam and by extension the Detroit Muslim community was smeared in the process.

The FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) claimed that agents were compelled to kill Abdullah because he purportedly shot a law enforcement canine during the arrest raid. CAIR-Michigan filed a lawsuit against the FBI for wrongful death and fraud in this matter because there was no forensic evidence that corroborated that Abdullah had a firearm much less shot an FBI dog, which the bureau considered a law enforcement officer. There were no proofs provided that any gunpowder was on Abdullah’s hand or fingertips which would have existed if he had fired a gun, and none of his DNA nor fingerprints were found on the alleged gun. In fact, there was not even a picture of a gun at the scene nor did the Dearborn Police see any gun. The FBI blocked the Dearborn Police from entering the scene of the homicide for over an hour after the shooting which allowed the FBI special tactical team to leave with the purported firearm. In other words, the shooters of Abdullah, who headed back to DC without even being questioned by the Dearborn Police, are the only source that he had a gun. We believe that the FBI used what is known as a throwaway gun in a coverup when they killed the imam.

To add insult to injury that tragic day when Abdullah was shot 20 times including in the back and groin, law enforcement used their helicopter to fly the injured FBI dog, which was most likely shot by friendly fire, to a veterinarian hospital instead of using it to fly the imam to a close-by hospital. When the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan and the Acting US Attorney held a press conference about the incident, it was followed up later with special recognition for “Freddy” the FBI dog while the imam was painted as a type of extremist who wanted to establish sharia in the Westside of Detroit.

To add insult to injury that tragic day when Abdullah was shot 20 times including in the back and groin, law enforcement used their helicopter to fly the injured FBI dog, which was most likely shot by friendly fire, to a veterinarian hospital instead of using it to fly the imam to a close-by hospital.Click To Tweet

The lawsuit which we filed against the FBI was dismissed not because of the merits of our arguments but due to the federal government during the Obama administration suppressing information. The FBI would not release the names of their shooting squad which forced us to name them as John Does. The DOJ countered that we did not have standing on behalf of the family because we did not name actual persons. When we refiled using the names of the Special Agent in Charge and the head of the tactical team, neither who were actual shooters, the DOJ argued that the statute of limitations ran out in our complaint. We submitted an appeal to the US Supreme Court regarding the coordinated suppression of evidence; however, our appeal was denied. We still hold to this day that the FBI wrongfully killed the imam which was followed up by a systematic coverup.

Since the homicide of Abdullah, we now know that government surveillance against the Muslim community and the suspected terrorist watchlists grew tremendously during the Obama years in comparison to the Bush era. Also, the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) which further targeted the community began under the Obama administration. Government spying and the broad usage of confidential informants, some who act as agent provocateurs, in our community are still concerns of ours. Where Americans pray or who we associate with that may have unpopular political views should not be predicates for FBI surveillance. In many cases, this has led to young American Muslims being criminalized. For Imam Abdullah, it led to his demise.

During the 10th anniversary of this tragedy, I ask us all to recommit ourselves to standing for the civil liberties of all Americans to not be mass surveilled and for none of us to aid and abet any governmental programs that facilitate of the violation of our 1st Amendment rights falsely in the name of public safety and national security. Click To Tweet

As my mentor, the late Ron Scott with the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality said when he stood with us in this case, “We are not anti-police; we are anti-law enforcement misconduct.” It is not our position that law enforcement be completely abolished. We are, however, against the unethical usage of informants which is part and parcel of the prolific history of the FBI in targeting prominent Americans such as Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, whose religious and political views were viewed as threatening by the status quo. During the 10th anniversary of this tragedy, I ask us all to recommit ourselves to standing for the civil liberties of all Americans to not be mass surveilled and for none of us to aid and abet any governmental programs that facilitate of the violation of our 1st Amendment rights falsely in the name of public safety and national security. We never want to see another homicide such as what took place to Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah due to overzealous actions predicated upon misguided FBI policy.

Photo: Luqman Abdullah, second from left. FBI informant “Jibril,” third from left. Credit: Intercept

21 Shots and the Pursuit of Justice: An Imam (Luqman Ameen Abdullah) Dies in Michigan

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