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Sherman Jackson, CVE, UAE and some questions

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For Muslims in the United States, it is easy to fall for the fallacy of “American Muslim exceptionalism.” Some Muslims view Muslim-majority countries as dark, corrupt, and authoritarian places while we in the United States are the light. As we have written about in various contexts, including Zakat abuse and Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), the Muslim community’s leaders are capable of corruption and other abuses. There is no reason to believe  Muslims in the United States are any better than Muslims anywhere else.

A few years ago, the federal government started to offer ways for Muslims to profit from the global war on terrorism. It started a race among the unscrupulous to show national security-focused agencies and even foreign governments, how they are best qualified to tame Muslims and Islam. In CVE, Muslims were singled out as a problem religion and a problem community, though they did not start out being explicit about this.  There was strong opposition to CVE from Muslim communities and others and those who organized and worked hard to oppose it found success.

One group of Muslims that for the most part, we did not see participate in CVE were our students of knowledge, our Islamic teachers. Many cared about the dignity of their community and their religion. We can be grateful for this. Unfortunately, there were exceptions.  As a community, it is vital we hold our leaders accountable and correct things when they are wrong. Ali Al-Arian recently called attention to the CVE work of Dr. Sherman Jackson which was uniquely troubling among various CVE ventures for reasons I will discuss below. Jackson’s response was inadequate, and he needs to do better.

Sherman Jackson in the CVE racket

Dr. Sherman Jackson has been a player in CVE (Countering Violent Extremism) for several years. Unlike other CVE proponents in the Muslim community, Jackson did not speak in American Muslim spaces on the subject as best as I am aware.  CVE is the now widely discredited, (yet somehow still very much alive in various forms) project to move the war on terrorism to Muslim spaces, in schools, and in mental health.  Jackson was a commissioner in the Council of Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) CVE Commission in November 2016.  You can read their CVE report online.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta co-chaired this CVE Commission.   The report represents a consensus view of all commissioners.  Jackson was only one of two known Islamic scholars who lent their name to this project. 

This “comprehensive new strategy” was meant to be for the benefit of the next President of the United States, assumed to be Clinton. The person who ended up as President seemed uninterested in the advice provided mainly by supporters of his opponent. 

Ali Al-Arian and Sherman Jackson 

Al-Arian’s description of Jackson’s CVE efforts and UAE collaboration is sparse.   Most of his article is not really about Jackson’s CVE work and UAE connections and outside my scope. Though it clearly made a big impact on Jackson.

Dr. Sherman Jackson corrects a few of Al-Arian’s minor mistakes and offers an emotional rebuttal.  He was not an “advisor” to the commission, but a commissioner himself. The product of the commission is Jackson’s product, however. Putting his name on it was his choice.  CSIS is not a “right-wing” organization. They are worse than that, something I will get to below.

Other claims by Jackson were speculative at best (Tony Blair would not have wanted him on the commission) or require clarification.  I hope Sherman Jackson will be able to clarify these from the questions below.

White Supremacy

I am not interested in engaging on Dr. Sherman Jackson’s racial politics and views on immigrants or Al-Arian’s preferred framing in the context of global empire and white supremacy as a system. Instead, it is more useful to look at white supremacy in the context of CVE.  In the national media, CVE has come back into vogue as a way to address mass-shootings by white-nationalists. It has come up recently after the El Paso shooting, for example. 

Those who want to look to CVE as a way to prevent ideological violence in the name of white supremacy will find no help from the CVE Commissioners. The only CVE Dr. Sherman Jackson co-signed is interested in is targeting Muslims. The CVE Commission Report helpfully tells us what a “violent extremist” is. On page 2 of the report, the commissioners (including Dr. Jackson) tell us:

Throughout this report, we use the general term “violent extremism” to refer to the subset of violent extremist organizations that claim the religion of Islam as their motivating source and to justify their nefarious goals, and the term “extremist” to describe the ideologies and narratives deployed by these groups. 

Quite simply, for purposes of US Government policy, the CVE Commission was advocating that Muslims and Muslims alone can be capable of violent extremism. Nobody from any other religion or anyone with a secular ideology could be a violent extremist. 

A stylistic departure for CVE

For the CVE Commission, this was a stylistic departure from the Obama Administration CVE policy, which claimed to address other forms of extremism. However, it was always clear that while there was no real intention to address white supremacy. The war on terror involved spying on Muslim students going rafting but the government did not even know who the armed white supremacist groups were. CVE was always meant to single out the Muslim community, like the rest of the war on terror. 

The CVE Commission would have done away with any Obama-era window dressing. Leaving CVE as the preferred term to not offend partners, who may not sign up for a program called “Countering Islamic Extremism” (a term Republicans would prefer). In a sense, it was more honest than the Obama Administration policy. Another bout of honesty from the CVE Commission is that CVE is not an alternative to the war on terror. It is part of the war. 

Dylann Roof was not a violent extremist because he was not Muslim

In 2015, the year the work of the CVE Commission started, Dylann Roof walked into a black church in Charleston, South Carolina and murdered nine worshipers.  Violence by white supremacists had a long history in the United States before 2015, a fact Dr. Jackson had known. White nationalist violence has continued since. 

Dr. Jackson, who has proclaimed himself to be the most “explicit” and “eloquent” on white supremacy, somehow managed to co-sign a report that failed to include the murder of black people in a church by a white supremacist in the definition of “violent extremism.” Indeed the document with his name on it failed to mention white supremacy even once while claiming to be a “comprehensive new strategy.”  It appears Dr. Jackson was unable to be either “explicit” or “eloquent” on white supremacy when it may have mattered. 

The co-chairs dismissed “extremism” by non-Muslims as something we should worry about by stating that “we must be clear-eyed about the nature of the enemy.” That makes sense, CVE is an extension of the war on terrorism. 

 The Value Proposition 

The CVE Commission report, other than to commit exclusively to the perceived Muslim problem, something Republicans already did in the CVE Grants Act in 2015, was not groundbreaking.  The document recycled tropes and jargon from prior CVE documents.  The commissioners failed to offer any solutions other than providing more funding to programs that are “proven.”   Objectively, there have never been any proven CVE programs. The report included “enlisting” technology, religious and other sector leaders, getting the White House to lead, and other meaningless gobbledygook. None of this was actionable as policy, except the funding part. 

How do governments fight ideologies they don’t like without getting into thought policing? Is there a way to know if someone is about to become a terrorist in the future? How do we prevent CVE from merely becoming code for political repression? You won’t find answers to any of this in the CVE Commission report. 

CVE was never able to live up to its promise of being a solution to anything. According to an FBI study, for example, there is no way to tell by looking at someone’s ideology that they are more likely to commit violence.  CVE was always a corrupt and fraudulent enterprise. It was junk science attempting to convince policymakers and the public that soothsaying can be actual public policy. 

It seemed clear that for CSIS, the CVE Commission was mainly a fundraising play. The donors were getting something though: a narrative that reflects their values, and loyalty. The UAE, for example, engages in thought policing and political repression. In the UAE, peaceful protest of government policies falls under the terrorism law and can lead to the death penalty. If the UAE or other seriously sick regimes fund you, it makes sense to sidestep difficult issues and discuss the things they want to hear. 

The CVE Commission report was emphatically not scholarship. It was political hackery for money. Dr. Jackson stated he consulted with “Washington insiders” before accepting. The end product seems to reflect the quality of the counsel he sought. It was garbage in, garbage out. 

Why Credibility with the UAE matters

It is impossible to separate Sherman Jackson’s work on the CVE Commission from his UAE affiliation. To CSIS’s credit, they disclose the United Arab Emirates is one of their largest government donors. Though CSIS credits funding for the report itself to Mark Penn, a Clinton pollster who has since become a pro-Trump pundit on TV, and Fred  Khosravi, a businessman who reportedly once told his cellmate he was a “freelance consultant for the FBI.” Both of these individuals were also commissioners alongside Jackson.  Defense contractors and oil companies are also prominent funders for CSIS. That guy from your local masjid who generously donates every Ramadan is likely not on CSIS’s fundraising mailers. 

If you are going to fundraise for a commission report, you want to name commissioners the donors like and trust. Tony Blair is best known for lying his country into a war that killed hundreds of thousands of people, nearly all of them Muslim. For the funders, he had the requisite credibility and moral authority to co-lead his fellow commissioners. This seems especially true when it comes to the UAE. 

Islamic Scholars “clean and…vetted”

In 2015, we learned the UAE donated $1,000,000 to the NYPD’s Intelligence Division through a foundation three years earlier. This agency had an aggressive anti-Muslim surveillance operation. In 2014, the UAE, through a cabinet-level decision, absurdly designated the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Muslim American Society (MAS), “terrorist” organizations. Both are entirely American organizations that have nothing to do with the UAE. 

In the years since, the UAE has prosecuted an aggressive and unflinchingly violent foreign policy in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen. In Yemen, the UAE reportedly operates a network of dozens of sites dedicated to engaging in systematic rape and torture. Moreover, it has been a champion of domestic political repression and oppression of the Uighurs and Kashmiris. Indeed, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the butcher of Gujarat and currently in the midst of shocking actions in Kashmir, was just given the UAE’s highest honor. India’s fascist government and the UAE’s rulers deserve each other. More troubling is that some prominent American Muslim scholars, including Sherman Jackson, appear to have no problem with the honor of being considered “clean and…vetted” by the UAE so that their actions are consistent with UAE’s overall foreign policy goals.

A Question of Values 

When Muslim scholars find reasons to affiliate with such a foreign government so dedicated to oppression, it deserves some communal self-evaluation.

US Muslim scholars, including Dr. Sherman Jackson, continue to attend a conference hosted by the UAE’s government on, and this is seriously the name, “Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies.” Getting American Muslim scholars in the UAE’s corner to grant themselves religious legitimacy is part of UAE foreign policy. That all of this seems cartoonishly absurd mockery of their religion does not stop Muslim scholars from collaborating with the UAE’s government. Worse though, Muslim scholars in the United States who have nothing to do with the UAE have not done anything to self-police this servile and propagandistic sham.

It is not at all surprising someone like Tony Blair aligns perfectly with CSIS donor UAE’s values. But do Islamic scholars in the United States have values similar to the UAE’s shaykhdom?  Do American Muslims? 

I don’t agree with everything the mafia does

Dr. Jackson notes he spoke twice about the problem of religious violence as well as “the problem of government repression, mass imprisonment, and torture.” Neither the CVE Commission or the MCE has any project to address these things. Reciting platitudes about human rights is not synonymous with moral courage. The UAE itself publicly and repeatedly proclaims itself as a champion of human rights. That does not make it one. 

In his post, Dr. Jackson notes that just because he works with a UAE sponsored entity, it does not mean he agrees with everything the UAE does. Dr. Jackson wants the Muslim community to hold him to a meaningless ethical standard. Nobody agrees with everything anyone does. 

If a scholar joined a Mafia-sponsored effort to give itself religious legitimacy, “I don’t agree with everything the mafia does” won’t work as a moral defense.  It should not work when collaborating with the UAE government either. Dr. Sherman Jackson gets to decide who he associates his name with. That is a moral choice. 

Benefit and Harm

What we need to do is evaluate the benefit to be gained by the community versus the harm Dr. Jackson may be causing. 

There is significant harm from scholars to providing religious legitimacy to regimes that have foreign policies dedicated to oppression and murder in multiple countries.    There is further harm because the UAE stages it’s religious scholars as props in a way that makes a mockery of religion and religious authority. It is undignified and far below the station of any scholar of Islam to play in such farces, yet,  there they are.

The CVE Commission in the United States was merely an extension of this game.  Use religious leaders to give cover to policies meant to harm people who follow that religion. Dr. Jackson’s participation in the CVE Commission shows there is virtually no bottom to what you can get a prominent Islamic scholar to co-sign. Islamic Scholars willing to collaborate with war criminals to make Muslims less violent are little more than dancing bears for the national security state. The dignity of the religion of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) deserves better. 

Benefits of this display to the Muslim community are not clear, at least not to me.  I hope Dr. Jackson can explain why the immense cost of his participation is worth it. 

If I act wrongly, correct me

An Islamic Scholar is someone who holds a position of a sacred public trust.  That requires public integrity. According to a hadith of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), ulema (not all religious leaders qualify here) are heirs of the Prophets.  However, that does not mean they are infallible and somehow incapable of making serious mistakes. 

Abu Bakr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), in his inaugural speech as Khalifah, reportedly said:

“O people, I have been appointed over you, though I am not the best among you. If I do well, then help me; and if I act wrongly, then correct me.”

Those who honor our tradition should not merely be deferential to scholars and leaders when they start doing things that make no sense or are objectively harmful.  They should correct them and not be afraid of asking difficult questions. 

Some Muslims, including some leaders and scholars, seem to think of Dr. Sherman Jackson as the Muslim ummah’s grandmaster chess player (something he alluded to in his post). We may not understand what he is doing, but that is only because he must be several moves ahead of what our brains can process. I do hope those Muslims can stop thinking this way. Sometimes, even people whose work you admire can make severe errors in judgment. 

Nobody likes to have their integrity questioned. Sherman Jackson would plainly prefer the Muslim community see him as above reproach. But if a scholar collaborates with human rights abusers and mass-murderers to make the world a more peaceful place, a few Muslims may start raising their hands to ask a few questions. 

Some Questions

I have a few questions for Dr. Sherman Jackson, but if readers have their own,  leave them in the comments:

  1. Do you agree with any portion of the CVE Commission Report?  If so, please share with the Muslim community what parts you agree with and why. If you repudiate this report in full, please tell us. 
  2. I understand you signed on to the CVE Commission to prevent a product with undue bias. However, why did you agree to include your name on the final product that excluded Dylann Roof from the definition of “violent extremist”? 
  3. Do you believe CVE is not fraudulent and actually works? If so, do you have any evidence of this? 
  4. You mentioned in your post you told scholars that people who disagree with CVE should protest outside. Did you ever inform them or anyone about where and when the largely secret meetings were so that they can organize protests?
  5. Have there been any concrete benefits to oppressed Muslims anywhere because of your affiliation with the UAE-based MCE? 
  6. What benefits have you personally enjoyed as a result of your affiliation with the CVE Commission and the UAE? 
  7. Do you believe Tony Blair should be charged, and tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in Iraq? 
  8. Do you believe the senior leadership of the United Arab Emirates should be charged for war crimes and crimes against humanity? 
  9. What value do you believe you are offering the government of the UAE’s rulers by serving on the MCE? 

Ahmed Shaikh is a Southern California Attorney. He writes about inheritance, nonprofits and other legal issues affecting Muslims in the United States. He is the co-author of "Estate Planning for the Muslim Client," published by the American Bar Association. His Islamic Inheritance website is www.islamicinheritance.com

47 Comments

47 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Paula

    August 29, 2019 at 5:35 PM

    Great job brother Ahmed! This is a detailed speech by Tony Blair at CSIS and their focus on the ‘Islam problem’ and how it is to be dealt with https://player.fm/series/human-rights-video-1580450/csis-commission-on-countering-violent-extremism

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      August 30, 2019 at 2:42 AM

      Thank you, Paula! So are you saying you don’t think Muslim leaders should find any solutions from the Ummah from Tony Blair?

  2. Avatar

    shakeel syed

    August 29, 2019 at 5:38 PM

    JZKK Br. Ahmed … joining you to hear from Dr. Jackson.

  3. Avatar

    Salim Choudhury

    August 29, 2019 at 9:41 PM

    This is quite an incomprehensible piece of crap. If the writer (and I use the term loosely) of this lengthy piece had any ability to think rationally, he would not have made the dozens of logical fallacies throughout this bilious rant masquerading as a piece of journalistic commentary. And the gall to ask a series of questions to Dr. Jackson! Do you think he owes you, or any of your lefty comrades, an explanation of his actions? Seriously, please crawl back into the slimy hole of self-glorification you came from. You neither possess the ability to think clearly, nor the ability to conduct research before you open your big mouth.

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      August 30, 2019 at 2:50 AM

      Thank you for your comment. I enjoyed reading it.

    • Avatar

      Mort

      August 31, 2019 at 1:34 AM

      @Salim Choudhury, would you care to explain what any of these logical fallacies are? Why should Dr. Jackson not be questioned? Using ad-hominems is usually indicative of the inability formulate a coherent rebuttal to an argument. Rather than using insulting and degrading speech, perhaps try to articulate any point you may have, if in fact you have.

    • Avatar

      GregAbdul

      September 12, 2019 at 1:03 PM

      Open name calling, in our faith, is slander. If you want this brother to soften or change his opinion about another Muslim, Is this the way Islam teaches us to fix one another? Do you think using big words in your name calling makes it okay?

  4. Avatar

    Mustafa

    August 30, 2019 at 1:23 AM

    What an unintelligible piece of drab. These arguments are so fickle that it was actually embarrassing to read. Can someone please find an actual intellectual to write these “articles?” Not because we believe in the half baked accusations, but because it’s just embarrassing that this is our current level of academic discourse.

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      August 30, 2019 at 2:48 AM

      Thank you for coming to Muslim Matters for Academic discourse.

      • Avatar

        Mustafa

        August 30, 2019 at 7:14 AM

        My pleasure. You sound fun.

        • Avatar

          Mort

          August 31, 2019 at 1:43 AM

          Mr. Mustafa, why are you angry brother? Sometimes the truth can be hard to digest. The first step of grief is denial, so your reaction is completely understandable. I would suggest re-reading the evidences provided a few times over, thus allowing to skip the additional 3 stages right into acceptance.

          • Avatar

            Mustafa

            September 1, 2019 at 2:27 AM

            Dear Mort,
            Ooh, you sound fun too. Thank you for the online diagnosis. Do you offer private counseling as well?

  5. Avatar

    Abdul Malik

    August 30, 2019 at 2:09 AM

    You’re either at the table or on the menu. Lots of Muslims it seems prefer to be on the menu.

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      August 30, 2019 at 2:38 AM

      Sounds like the cannibals’ code. Eat or be eaten. Sound advice somewhere I am sure.

  6. Avatar

    Filsan

    August 30, 2019 at 4:19 AM

    Is this supposed to be journalism?

  7. Avatar

    M.Rahman

    August 30, 2019 at 4:42 AM

    “What we need to do is evaluate the benefit to be gained by the community versus the harm Dr. Jackson may be causing “ Wow, stunned by your audacity. To even attempt to summarize a fraction of what Dr. Jackson has contributed to the Muslim Ummah would be impossible. God is just and he will defend His people.

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      August 30, 2019 at 11:43 AM

      Wow. A summary of a fraction, like any fraction (1/1000) of his contributions to the Muslim ummah is impossible? That is amazing! Thank you for pointing this out.

  8. Avatar

    Abdullah

    August 30, 2019 at 8:19 AM

    Wow, the Dr Jackson cultists are out in full force. As their cult leader has done, they have nothing to offer but emotional diatribes and personal insults. Great work as usual Ahmed.

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      August 30, 2019 at 12:05 PM

      Thanks, Abdullah. I am glad a few people find the contribution valuable.

  9. Avatar

    Sameer

    August 30, 2019 at 9:34 AM

    Groupies and masturbators to all things Sherman Jackson are spamming these comments rather than deal with substance of anything that has been written.

    This goes to the larger problem of the tasawwuf/nafs crowd. They elevate their celebrity sheikhs to a status of idol and worship them instead of demanding evidence from Quran & Sunnah, much less political accountability.

  10. Avatar

    Susan

    August 30, 2019 at 9:50 AM

    Jazakum Allahu khairan for one of the most relevant and informed articles ever posted on Muslim Matters. I am so heartened that these questions are being asked. I have two questions off the bat:

    1) Is UAE payment to Dr. Jackson funneled through a Swiss or offshore account?

    2) When and how are Muslims going to hold the government of Saudi Arabia, along with the UAE, responsible for heinous crimes against humanity?

  11. Avatar

    Irtiza

    August 30, 2019 at 11:30 AM

    Ahmed,
    This piece was very well done. As someone who respects Dr Jackson and has read his works and heard his lectures, I cringed through parts of it, but nevertheless it was important to get this information out there. I am optimistic about one thing – I think this dialogue from the last few weeks will force American Muslim leaders and organizations to consider/ reconsider/ be cautious of their alliances and partnerships.

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      August 30, 2019 at 2:04 PM

      Thank you for your comments. I know many Muslims have great respect for Dr. Jackson and would like for him to use his talents, knowledge, and platform for good and beneficial purposes. I do hope you are right in that there will be far more critical writing within the Muslim community about alliances and partnerships Muslim leaders have and that this will help us all become a better ummah.

  12. Avatar

    Ahmed

    August 30, 2019 at 8:05 PM

    As one who was privileged to study under Dr Jackson, I am disappointed to hear about his poor judgement. I hope this controversy does not undermine his great contribution to Islamic thought, which happens to be his least popular book, Islam & the Problem of Black Suffering. His most promoted book on the Third Resurrection is overrated, IMHO.

    Despite my admiration for that one specific work of his, I now can’t help but wonder … How much money did he make from CVE and similar endeavors?

    And … now my mind is unfortunately going to a place where I tried hard to not let it go in the past…

    … on multiple occasions, including the classroom, I noticed with surprise his regular taste for high end stuff, for example his Tod shoes, a nice big Merc, etc. Not judging, but I ask — is that not a violation of both Islamic guidance (do not wear silk, and by extension fancy clothes), and the restrained clothing choice of NOI (which he rightly admires as signifying a BASP ethic, and I am certainly not implying there is anything more to his NOI stance).

    Do CVE-like dollars fund his ostentation? Lets not rush to judgement, since the $ could have come from many halal sources, including gifts or ol’ fashioned hard work, since we know he does a lot of the latter. But when news shocks, the mind goes to places where it perhaps should not.

    • Avatar

      Ahmed

      August 31, 2019 at 1:57 PM

      Since the respected wife of Dr. Jackson, Dr. Heather Laird, has flagged my earlier comment as racist in a lengthy public post on her FB, it invites a response. An accusation of racism is serious, and must not be made lightly, and must not be evaded once made. Clearly, much of our world is still very racist, and every good human can contribute to alleviating that disgusting disease. But hurriedly hurling accusations of racism will not help. Does Dr. Laird know my race? If I am not black, would my original commentary be more valuable if I was? Might I have made the same comment if Dr. Jackson were white? If I were to observe that by painting my comment as racist, she has deftly deflected the key questions raised, is that being racist? Is it healthy for Islamic scholars with a big public profile to be ostentatious? Should public Islamic scholars (as opposed to secular Professors) be held to a higher standard than the laity on matters other than intellectual output? If ostentation is un-Islamic, which is what I have been taught, should we overlook the ostentation of Islamic scholars from oppressed communities, but not of majoritarian communities? Is any respectful critique of a scholar from a disadvantaged community racist? In addition, the main article poses nine excellent questions. As a student, I humbly seek answers.

  13. Avatar

    Muhammad

    August 30, 2019 at 9:05 PM

    Excellent work, and kudos to the author (as well as MuslimMatters) for publishing it. JazakuhAllahu khairan

    This assessment is sorely needed. Critique here is made not on speculation, but clear cut evidence of troubling CVE work. It can’t simply be shooed away on the basis of our respect for an individual’s past work.

  14. Avatar

    Gibran Mahmud

    August 31, 2019 at 8:08 PM

    I admire Mr. Jackson and think this article is good-he’s not somehow free from being questioned and I think nobody should get into any political business without first considering that they can and will be questioned in this life and the next. It’s senseless to refrain from questioning and criticism or tamp down on it because he’s contributed to the Ummah-and? This makes him infallible? Many men contribute good and bad, many mix right with evil, many take a dark turn after having been on the path.

    And some contribute a lot of good and make serious errors they will eventually repent for. We wish the best for every Muslim and it’s as much our responsibility to appreciate each other as it is to hold each other accountable. We are the only allies we have-the rest of the world is against us and we have munafiqoon from among us-if we do not strengthen each other and hold each other to account we are vulnerable to the enemy outside and the enemy within.

  15. Avatar

    Safiya O

    September 1, 2019 at 9:08 PM

    Salaam Alaikum,

    If Dr Sherman Jackson has been the only prominent Muslim to engage in CVE work, then the underlying point (if not the tone) of this article would be fair critique. Likewise if he were the only prominent Islamic figure/organisation without financial transparency.

    However, as brother Haqiqatjou has pointed out here many, many scholars and leaders have engaged in CVE work.

    https://muslimskeptic.com/2019/08/26/fighting-for-the-soul-of-american-islam-activists-vs-imams-vs-academics/

    So therefore, why solely criticise Dr Sherman Jackson? It is notable that in Al Arian’s article, the three figures singled out for critique were converts, two of whom are African American. Yet, as brother Haqiqatjou lists, many Arab and Asian Muslims have taken part in CVE, so why no pieces dedicated to them?

    Brother Shaikh, you brush away talk of being at the table vs being on the menu as “cannibal politics”, but the issue of political representation for Muslims is not one that will go away.

    For myself, I would rather have someone who bases their actions in the Qur’an and Sunnah representing me. The deep concern with the so-called activist Muslims is that not only do they not o this, but they have actually considered themselves to have transcended the need for revealed texts.

    This is extremely concerning, particularly when you consider that Sh Hamza Yusuf, Imam Zaid Shakir and Dr Jackson are all in their early 60s now. Who are the next generation of leaders who will replace them and how will they balance representing a community nationally and globally?

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      September 3, 2019 at 2:46 AM

      The article was about Sherman Jackson. I have written several articles on CVE. You should read them. Yes, Muslims should engage in politics. However, people in politics should be comfortable with their work being subject to scrutiny. While you may be committed to unconditional adoration and deference, and accuse those who do not subscribe to this philosophy as racist without bothering to read another article by the author you are addressing, not everyone is going to be like that.

  16. Avatar

    Ayatullah Muhammad

    September 3, 2019 at 3:33 AM

    Jazakallahu Khayran at your attempt at being balanced. I personally prefer your article on the “Lords of CVE” than this one despite a few questionable points I’d encourage you to work on to make your critique stronger. The few points of assault I was expecting to see had very poor reference standard which were almost on par with Ali’s. To be frank, besides the *direct* questions, everything else sounded like a history note even though I guess as someone alludes, its an attempt not to impugn on character. The article could have been shorter by demanding, Dr Sherman should simply clarify his CVE stances and the wisdom of the UAE framework which he is yet to serve his followers

    1. Article refers to the “Lord of Muslims” article, which has little to NO mention of how long Dr Jackson has been on board that. If he decides to bounce back that he was there for “2 hours”, you would have just made the same mistake Ali make, which should be besides the point of the whole inquiry. Yet it garners attention of the preying social media eyes which leads to impugning Character.

    2. “Vetted and…” section claims to have UAE describe him as such in the letter. Two references are not clear. Does such exist in those references(which points at Wedaddy)? otherwise the source you referred to irrespectively doesn’t define him as such but rather assigns him as a CSIS/Tony Blair scholar. There is a world of a difference to that. Already, Sherman has not problem with the blair one because he doesn’t feel its worth the assault. Am sure he’d have a problem with the “Clean and vetted” one even if light which ascribes him to be “anti-Ikhwan”, something he has apologized for in the face of Sisi handshake allegations.

    “More troubling is that some prominent American Muslim scholars, including Sherman Jackson, appear to have no problem with the honor of being considered “clean and…vetted” by the UAE so that their actions are consistent with UAE’s overall foreign policy goals. ”

    THe reference to the best of my reading needs better clarity than what you have provided. Otherwise it can be closer to impugning his character despite your attempt at sticking to the topic.

    Otherwise, may God reward you for shinning the torch and demanding for accountability as necessary. JAK

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      September 3, 2019 at 12:19 PM

      Thank you for your comment. A few comments:

      1. Ali can speak for himself. You seem to imagine what Dr.Jackson would say (like being there for two hours) and offer that as a potential mistake I may have made. You can read the report itself about the work that went into it. Dr. Jackson had many opportunities to denounce it, distance himself from it, minimize his participation. I have also had the opportunity to speak to various people involved with this process over the years so I know this was a significant investment in time for him. You should keep in mind, several items in this article are a few years old now.

      2. There is the term clean and vetted that I link to. Dr. Jackson is someone with a strong relationship with the UAE, he is, as I point to elsewhere in the article, a member of the Council of Muslim Elders. This is an auxiliary of the UAE government. The only two American Islamic Scholar commissioners on the CVE Commission are known to have strong ties to the UAE, which is a major donor of CSIS.

      Again, thank you for your comment and I appreciate you engaging with the article and considering the issues addressed.

  17. Avatar

    Aziz

    September 3, 2019 at 10:51 PM

    Dear Ahmad Shaikh

    it is a fair criticism, and I think in general all Muslim American scholars who interact formally with western or arab governments should recognize that these public relationships will be scrutinized and should be scrutinized. The main response I hear from scholars as to why they do engage is that if they didn’t, someone worse than them would end up advising these governments. But it belies the fact that governments could really care less what religious scholars tell them. I don’t think a lesson in Quranic exegesis would convince the UAE to stop bombing children in Yemen.

    At the same time, the core point of Jackson’s rebuttal is that politics and the demands of social justice are not the main concern facing Muslims in America. On this issue I would agree. Modern liberal culture is aggressive and relentless in its attack on the core tenets of belief or faith in religion in general. If we assume this to be true, then it is possible that Muslim scholars would end up with strange bedfellows when considering the trajectory of conservative views in America.

    The American left if a spiritual wasteland when you consider how it elevates and sanctifies the desires of the individual above all else. While it may defend the rights of Muslims to live in America, it acts as an aggressive cancer to the core beliefs of any Muslim who chooses to do so.

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      September 5, 2019 at 3:16 AM

      Thank you for your comment Aziz. I understand that there will be political differences among Muslims. Those political difference are subject to debate and discussion. Those differences should be subject to analysis based on who the actions benefit and who they harm. I don’t know that any flavor of politics in the United States or much of anywhere is a spiritual pursuit. It’s sausage-making I personally hope religious leaders stay out of. I would have no problem with religious leaders providing their perspective and opinion to anyone, but what I describe is several steps away from that as you know. I don’t know that I would say the “core point” of Jackson’s rebuttal (of Al-Arian’s article, he did not write one for my article yet) was as you describe. I don’t think anything Jackson was doing has anything to do with the American left. Al-Arian’s article was perhaps framed with language common in racial theories popular today. However, some of the issues it brought out, most notably the troubling work of Dr. Jackson with CVE and the UAE, was valid.

  18. Avatar

    Khurram Shah

    September 5, 2019 at 5:11 PM

    I do not get the vilification of the UAE. How many commenting here have actually lived there for a few years? It is a modern Muslim state with next to zero crime, the leadership is loved by citizens as well as expats. Go to any UAE newspaper, and you will find Indians, Pakistanis, westerners all praising the country. They are marking this year as a year of tolerance and all religions are respected. There is also a ministry of happiness looking at making people happy. As we speak, they are planning to send an astronaut to space in the coming days, a phenomenal achievement for such a new country.
    I would say a lot of the negative sentiments are inspired because of fake news from certain countries

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      September 5, 2019 at 7:14 PM

      Thank you for your contribution. Muslim Matters really should host an awards program for best commenters. I wonder if the Ministry of Happiness can help.

      Also, I did not realize they are sending someone to space. I suppose I need to rethink my entire world view now.

      • Avatar

        Khurram Shah

        September 7, 2019 at 3:24 AM

        I doubt sarcasm makes anyone’s point stronger. At the end of the day, the rulers of Dubai are loved by their people, citizens and expats alike. Even western expats are full of praise for the ruler’s vision and tolerance, as well as Muslim expats from all over the world.

        • Avatar

          Ahmed Shaikh

          September 9, 2019 at 4:02 PM

          Khurram, you seem to think public displays of fawning over their rulers is definitive proof of how wonderful rulers are. Also, space. You know, Stalin had an awesome space program and he had no shortage of people fawning over him publicly. Maybe he was not such a bad guy after all?

      • Avatar

        Khurram Shah

        September 7, 2019 at 6:52 AM

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsRs_guDxWc

        This is how humble the ruler of Dubai is, he sits with common people in a seminar. And you can judge by the reaction of the audience they love him, the smiles are all natural, and they look on with admiration. Of course if someone has never visited the UAE and they learn about UAE from “neutral” sources like Qatar they will get a negative view.

  19. Avatar

    GregAbdul

    September 12, 2019 at 12:52 AM

    as salaam alaikum, my interest is Muslim unity. Takfeer is a serious thing that we should avoid except when it serves a vital purpose. Louis Farrakhan is not a Muslim. That Ahmadiyyas are not Muslims. Farrakhan exploits black young people so saying this protects black children from an injustice that comes to them. Sorry…Dr. Jackson working with the federal government to counter the bad apples in the American Muslim community is vital work that needs to be done. We do have bad apples. I will not go down the list here, but I just finished trying to lower my blood pressure over some of us who are stuck on Imam Luqman Abdullah, who was killed 10 years ago in an FBI raid. Some of us are stuck on cult figures. A Muslim convict from 10 years ago engaged in criminal activity and some of us think it’s Islam to fight for a dead convict while in the meantime you live in a place where most people and especially black people do not even know what Islam is? Now if you can show me where innocent Muslims are being harmed as a result of Dr. Jackson’s actions, then I am totally with you,. Such actions would call his Islam into question. It all boils down to Obama. Some of us are so into making him the enemy. Now the day we have a Pakistani American Muslim president, do you think anyone will for one second question his Islam? Yet this black Christin guy, who did extensive Muslim outreach is supposed to be the enemy? Some of us, who go to mosque and know a lot of Arabic have some very bad ideas. If you hate America or think this is a kafir evil place, that kafir government will gladly give you a passport and you can go to where you can freely practice your religion…as the Quran commands.

  20. Avatar

    Jason Salahuddin Hammer

    September 13, 2019 at 9:50 PM

    I have no idea who you are or what contribution you’ve made to Islam in America. I know who Dr. Jackson is and what he’s about. His value to is cannot be overstated. Get your weight up before you even think about coming at him with your weak accusations. That fact that you will actually misguide weak and confused folks makes me angry. Dr. Jackson is a scholar and intellectual giant; you, my friend are a clown. May God protect people from your venom.

    • Avatar

      Ahmed Shaikh

      September 14, 2019 at 1:50 AM

      It may seem to you that my value is dependent on what random Sherman Jackson cultists on the internet think of me, and that’s fine just go with that if it makes you feel good. Yes, people whose iman was dependent on Sherman Jackson not being on the CVE Commission and not being on a UAE affiliated council may have an identity crisis or something. I suppose it’s a brave new world and you will just have to deal with it.

      Given so many of his acolytes to lash out in incoherent ramblings in defense of their hero, maybe being a barnacle to another “intellectual giant” will help you develop better critical thinking skills and more thoughtful prose. Or maybe you would just be a phrenetic disciple of someone else and nobody would be able to help that.

      Anyway, thank you for your comment.

  21. Avatar

    GregAbdul

    September 13, 2019 at 10:17 PM

    I ended a bit badly, so I want to clear up my “love it or leave it” ending.
    Starting crudely, As Muslims we are not allowed to buy haram things (like pig). The Muslims-should-not-vote crowd is wrong for this very reason. Voting is only a citizen stating the way he or she wants government funds spent. Everyone who lives in America pays taxes. If you don’t pay taxes, you live in America illegally and I don’t know of any scholar that says ducking taxes is halaal for Muslims living in the West. So, if you live in America and pay taxes, you are funding your local, state and the federal government. To live in America and file taxes every year means you fund the military and the FBI.
    So if you believe these people are evil kabals, intent in killing Muslims, you are paying for the unjust killing of Muslims through your voluntary act of paying federal taxes. I don’t mean to tell you to get out of America. I am asking about the sincerity of these claims of the evil US government. Pay them your money to fund their government and then spend all your time telling the world how the government, police and military you pay for is very evil and hates Muslims….
    Isn’t that way worse than buying pork?

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#Life

Convert Story: To Ask Or Not to Ask, That is the Question

covery islam story
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“How did you convert to Islam” is a question that is commonly asked to those who convert to Islam. While the short answer to this question is, “I said shahada”, the long (and more detailed) answer is one that is commonly expected.

It is important to acknowledge that the majority of “born Muslims” who ask this question do such out of good intentions. For this reason, I wrote this piece out of a place of love and not out of a place of judgment or hatred. While it is important for “born Muslims” to be mindful of how they ask this question, it is equally important for converts to not hold ill will towards born Muslims who ask this question. Due to the fact that Islamophobia is rampant in both the media and political discourse, many “born Muslims” are naturally shocked and emotional when they meet people who accept Islam. Some “born Muslims” have also had limited interactions with converts and therefore, to them, it is not only shocking for them to meet converts, but they are genuinely unaware of certain etiquettes when it comes to asking a convert for his or her story.

In this piece, I am going to write about a pet peeve that is shared among many Muslim converts. While I cannot speak for every single convert, I can say that based on innumerable conversations I have had with fellow converts, there is one thing most of us agree on and it is this; it is rude to ask a convert about his or her conversion story when you haven’t built a relationship with the convert. This piece will explain why many converts consider such a question to be intrusive. The purpose of this article is to better educate the “born Muslim” community on how they can do a better job in support of converts to Islam. In this piece, I will break down the reasons why this question can come off as intrusive if it isn’t asked in a proper manner. I will also include personal anecdotes to support my position.

I would like to conclude by saying that I do not discourage “born Muslims” from asking this question entirely, rather I am merely arguing that this question should be asked with the best of adab.

Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said:  “Part of a person’s being a good Muslim is leaving alone that which does not concern him.” (Tirmidhi) For this reason, such a question should be asked for purpose and it should be done with the best of manners. This is supported by the fact that Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said, “I have been sent to perfect good character.” (Al Muwatta)

Note: For the sake of avoiding confusion, the term “born Muslim” is defined as anyone who was brought up in a Muslim household.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask about the person’s personal relationship with God

Within the context of a friendship, it is generally understood that friends will share personal details with each other. However, it is also generally understood that it is rude to ask people you just met personal questions. To ask a new acquaintance a personal question in most cases comes off as intrusive. This is especially the case in which you ask a person about his or her relationship with God.

For example, there are women who do not wear hijab. Even if we do (for a moment) ignore the Islamic ruling concerning hijab, we should all agree that a woman’s reason for wearing (or not wearing) hijab is a personal matter that is between said woman and God. If one was to ask a woman who doesn’t wear hijab why she doesn’t wear it, that would be intrusive because such a question would involve interrogating said woman about her relationship with God.

Another example concerns a married couple. If one was to meet a married person for the first time, it can be considered rude to ask said person about his or her relationship with his or her spouse.

When one asks a convert about his or her choice to convert, one is literally asking said convert about his or her relationship with God.

I am not saying that it is wrong in all cases to ask such a question. However, one should be mindful of the fact that because this is a personal question, one should have at least have built some form of a friendship with said person before asking.

convert friendship hugs

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is another way of asking, “Why do you believe in Islam?”

Many people identify to a faith tradition because it was part of their upbringing. If you were to ask a person who was born Muslim, “why are you Muslim?” you might hear said Muslim respond with, “I am Muslim because I was raised Muslim” and you wouldn’t hear a detailed answer beyond this.

In most cases, a convert to Islam (or any other religion) did such after research and critical thinking. To convert to a new religion involves not only deep thinking but a willingness to step into the unknown.

I have on many occasions told my story to people. In most cases I will ask the person “why do you believe in Islam?” I am then disappointed when I find out that the only reason the person is Muslim is due to upbringing. While I am not saying that said person’s faith is invalid or less than mine, a person who only identifies with a religion due to upbringing is a person who didn’t engage in critical thinking.

Any relationship should be built upon equality and mutual benefit. If I as a convert am able to provide a well thought out answer as to why I believe in Islam, I expect a well thought out answer to the same question from the person who initially asked me.

Again, while I am not saying it is wrong in all cases to ask, a born Muslim should ask himself or herself “why do I believe in Islam?” In my opinion, there are many who are born into Muslim families who don’t truly believe until later in their lives. Those Muslims in my opinion (and mine alone) are similar to converts.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask the convert to perform labor.

In some cases, “born Muslims” expect converts to tell their stories. I can remember a few incidents in which I have been asked to tell my story and I politely declined. In response, the person became angry. This to me is a symptom of entitlement. Nobody is entitled to know anything about anyone else (aside from people with whom one has a natural relationship with).

In addition, one should be cognizant of the fact that converts typically get asked this question repeatedly. Thus after a significant amount of time, a convert is prone to get tired of repeating the same question over again repeatedly. Naturally, it can become exhausting eventually.

While I do not believe it is wrong to ask this question in all cases, one should not ask this question to a convert from a place of entitlement. I can think of cases where I have been asked this question by “born Muslims” and when I have refused to provide an answer, they have gotten angry at me. This is entitlement.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask the convert to explain his or her personal life.

Backbiting is one of the worst sins in Islam. Another major sin is to disrespect one’s parents. Thus we can conclude that backbiting about one’s parents is a huge sin.

This is evidenced by the fact that Allah has said (ﷻ) “We have enjoined on humankind kindness to parents.” (Quran 29:8)

A typical follow-up question to “Why did you convert?” is “How did your parents react?” This in many cases puts the convert in a position where one may feel pressured to mention some negative details about his or her parents. In Islam, parents are to be respected, even if they aren’t Muslim.

Before asking a convert this question, one should be mindful of not putting unnecessary pressure on the convert to commit this injustice.

convert friendship

Cases when it is appropriate to ask

However, I do maintain a firm belief that in any true friendship, things will be shared. I don’t think it is wrong in itself to ask a convert about his or her story provided that there already exists a relationship where personal information can be shared. It is highly suggested to hang out with the person first and then ask the convert for his or her story.

As a personal rule of mine, unless I have hung out with the person one on one at least once (or a few times in group gatherings) I don’t tell any born Muslims my conversion story. Naturally, I only share personal details with people I consider to be a friend. If I would hang out with the person, I consider that person to be a friend.

The reason I am also hesitant to share my story with just anyone who asks me is because I can think of countless cases of when I have shared my story to people I have never seen or heard from again. I choose to exert my agency to share personal details of my life to people who I consider to be part of my life. While many Muslims are happy when people convert, many Muslims also fail to provide any form of support for said convert after conversion. I have seen too many cases of when a person recites shahadah, people pull their phones out to record it, but very few will give the convert his or her number. I genuinely believe that many “born Muslims” fail to see the big picture in this regard.

Before asking a convert for his or her story, you should ask yourself if you are comfortable sharing personal details of your life to that person. If you are not comfortable sharing personal details of your life to that person, there is nothing wrong with that. However, you shouldn’t expect the convert to share personal details if you aren’t comfortable sharing personal details. Even if you have built a close friendship with someone, you still aren’t expected to share every detail of your life to someone. Even if you consider a convert to be a close friend, you should still respect a convert’s wishes to not share his or her story.

Conclusion

While I have addressed concerns about the tendency of “born Muslims” to ask converts about their journeys, I want to acknowledge that most people have good intentions. In Islam, the natural state of any person is one of righteousness.

I firmly believe that a friendship that isn’t built on trust and the sharing of personal information isn’t a genuine friendship. Therefore the key term in this context is “friend”. If you wish to ask a convert his or her story, please make sure the following conditions are met:

  1. You are already friends with the convert to a point where asking a convert about his or her relationship with God isn’t an intrusive question. Ask yourself, “Are we close enough where we can share other personal details of our lives with each other?”
  2. You have a well thought out reason as to why you believe in Islam.
  3. You don’t feel entitled to know about the convert’s journey and that you will allow the convert to choose not to share such information if the convert doesn’t wish to.
  4. You don’t probe into the convert’s relationships with other people.
  5. You aren’t just asking the question to somehow feel validated about your belief in Islam.
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#Current Affairs

SaveUighur Urges Muslim Community To Support Black Friday Boycott Of “Made in China” Clothing

Cotton made in China
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SaveUighur.org is urging Masjids and Islamic organizations to call for a Black Friday/Cyber Monday boycott of any clothing made in China this week.

Black Friday, the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, is the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States, with retailers offering deals and discounts in stores and online.

China is currently engaged in a campaign of cultural genocide and forced assimilation of its Uighur Muslim community in East Turkestan (Xinjiang) in northwest China.

SaveUighur.org is a campaign to raise awareness about this human rights tragedy.

Clothing is specifically being targeted for boycott because experts say 80% of cotton used in Chinese clothing comes from East Turkestan, where forced labor is routinely used. As well, 30% of all U.S. clothing comes from China.

“Americans must send a message to the Chinese government that its horrific abuse of Uighurs will not be tolerated,” said Aydin Anwar, an Uighur-American activist with SaveUighur.org. “We must avoid buying clothing made in China because it would mean tacit approval of the Chinese government’s genocide of Uighurs. Boycotting products made in the country will send a strong message.”

Since April 2017, the Chinese government has thrown about 800,000 to two million Uighurs and other Muslims into the largest concentration camps since those of Nazi Germany during World War II. Prisoners have been subjected to torture, gang rape, and medical experimentation. It has also forcibly separated families, sending children to state-run child welfare institutions and boarding schools without access to their parents, and without parental consent.

Outside of the camps, Uighurs are subjected to strict surveillance of all communication within and outside of China, and spies are sent to live in Uighur homes.

SaveUighur.org is calling for the Muslim community to support this campaign and to encourage family, friends, and followers on social media to do the same using hashtags like #SaveUighur #BoycottMadeInChina #boycottchina #china #uighurs #uighur #FastFromChina

(1) Take a picture of the Made In China item.

(2) Write a message saying you are NOT buying it since it comes from China.

(3) Mention you are supporting the people of East Turkestan. Tag the manufacturer and shop, if possible.

(4) Use the hashtags #SaveUighur #BoycottMadeInChina #boycottchina #china #uighurs #uighur #FreeEastTurkestan

For more information about the campaign, please visit SaveUighur.org

CONTACT: Aydin Anwar, C: 571-344-3885

“We must avoid buying clothing made in China because it would mean tacit approval of the Chinese government's genocide of Uighurs. Boycotting products made in the country will send a strong message.”Click To Tweet
SaveUighur.org is calling for the Muslim community to boycott Made in China clothing, using hashtags like #SaveUighur #BoycottMadeInChina #boycottchina #china #uyghur #uighur #FastFromChina Click To Tweet
(1) Take a picture of the Made In China item. (2) Write a message saying you are NOT buying it since it comes from China. (3) Mention you are supporting the people of East Turkestan. Tag the manufacturer and shop, if possible. (4) Use the hashtags #SaveUighur #BoycottMadeInChina #boycottchina #china #uighurs #uighur #FreeEastTurkestan For more information about the campaign, please visit SaveUighur.orgClick To Tweet

 

“The South China Morning Post reports that U.S.-based scholars and experts spoke before legislators about how Uighurs who have been forcibly held in detention centers have been put to work in factory jobs. Companies that used these factories staffed by Uighurs and other Turkic minorities would receive government subsidies for each individual trained and employed, along with shipping subsidies. This cheap labor along with the government subsidies would result in very low manufacturing costs, “undercutting global prices,” according to testimony presented at the hearing by the Center of Strategic and International Studies. This could turn Xinjiang into a hub for low-cost manufacturing.

According to reliable sources such as the agricultural research company Gro Intelligence, a vast cotton-producing industry has been developed in Xinjiang which supplies 80 percent of the country’s total cotton output. This would mean that any cotton clothing sourced from China would be suspect of containing cotton grown using slave labor.

Furthermore, the Chinese Communist Party is transferring Uighur and other Turkic people to other parts of China forcibly, so the task of tracking forced labor of Uighur is no longer limited to Xinjiang (East Turkestan) but to the rest of the country, making it virtually impossible to track the forced labor of prisoners. How can third-party auditors ensure that the workers in these factories are not Uighurs removed from Xinjiang (East Turkestan)?”

Open Letter to Costco On Chinese Products Made by Forced Labor

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#Life

Rebuilding Self-Love  in the Face of Trauma

touch trauma
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“…there is beauty in breaking” – Amir Sulaiman

Words fell softly from her lips as tears streamed down her face. A young woman, newly married, had reached out to me via social media to ask a question about how to reconnect with her body after trauma. Receiving intimacy and sex-related questions from Muslim women all over the world is a large part of my work.  But there was something about this particular questioner that struck me in a very deep place. I intimately knew her pain as a survivor. Not long after taking my shahada, I was the victim of sexual assault. The amount of trauma I suffered is indescribable. But rather than pulling me away from the faith, I relied heavily on the deen to pull me through one of the darkest periods of my life.

After trauma, rather than pulling away from the faith, I relied heavily on the deen to pull me through one of the darkest periods of my life. Click To Tweet

Healing after trauma took action, not only faith. For years, I struggled with the ability to connect with my body and to understand how to properly process emotions.  Intimacy, of all kinds, was a challenge for me. Reclaiming agency over my own body and establishing my right to pleasure led me down a life-changing path that has led to me now assisting other women in understanding and owning sexuality from a sacred perspective. My trauma broke me but it also showed me new ways to heal.

But getting back to pleasure really requires coming back to a sense of oneness and power within one’s self. It means owning your narrative and rebuilding the parts which have been broken. @TheVillageAuntieClick To Tweet

Re-engaging with sexual pleasure after trauma can be very difficult, especially for Muslim women who have been taught their whole lives to vigorously guard their bodies and not discuss sex. Talk of intimacy is still seen as taboo and, worse yet, the ability to report sexual assault and abuse remains a very difficult task for many women, regardless of faith.

But getting back to pleasure really requires coming back to a sense of oneness and power within one’s self. It means owning your narrative and rebuilding the parts which have been broken.

I have developed a five-step plan for helping women to navigate the heartbreaking process of reclaiming the body and opening one’s self to pleasure.

[*This plan is not to be used in place of mental health care (cognitive behavioral therapy, EMDR, trauma-informed somatic practice, etc.) but is meant to supplement intervention from a trusted licensed mental health provider.]

  1. Practice mindful forgiveness. This is not meant to be directed toward the abuser. Mindful forgiveness after trauma focuses on a need to forgive one’s self for the range of self-directed emotions that can be detrimental in the aftermath of sexual trauma. Sometimes women blame themselves when abuse takes place. This internalized oppression requires forgiveness because a victim should never assume blame for the heinous acts of others. Forgiving ourselves for any negative self-talk and asking Allah to grant His indelible mercy is a key foundation for the development of a healing path. It took years after my assault for me to understand the ways in which I had wounded myself with disparaging internal scripts. When I increased my level of istighfar and asked Allah to excuse all the instances where I doubted myself and harmed my spirit in the process, I was able to finally uncover long-hidden emotions and set about the work of true healing and reconciliation with my body.

    rights of women in Islam

  2. Seek knowledge about one’s own body and its rights. When I became a Muslim 21 years ago, I had no idea that Islam was such a sex-positive religion. The Seerah of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is full of instances where he demonstrated the beauty and importance of sex as a form of marital bonding as well as an act of worship. Scouring books of fiqh, I learned the rights of women in Islam which affirmed that we are not human possessions meant to be tilled; women have undeniable rights to pleasure and protection of our most sacred human parts. Understanding that Islam is a guide for all areas of life can give a sense of comfort and provide a pathway to explore the sacredness of sexuality. This is key, especially for women who have been abused by men of faith or who have been victims of spiritual manipulation for carnal gain. Also, learning about the female anatomy, how the brain is an integral part of harnessing pleasure, and ways to use the mind to develop an internal sense of pleasure can also be extremely helpful in re-igniting one’s love of self.

  3. Activate the sensuality of everyday life.  There is a misunderstanding of the role of sensuality in pleasure. Sex is the physical joining of bodies. Sensuality, however, is a conscious internal awareness of pleasurable stimuli. It does not involve engaging with another person. This is key because many trauma sufferers may find physical human touch triggering.  Recognizing the sensual aspects of daily life requires the mindful perception of things that titillate or arouse. It can be as simple as the feel of a particular fabric against the skin, the smell of the air after a heavy rain, a sound that evokes sensual memories, a scent that conjures an arousing mood. Why is this important? Sex is not the sole route to pleasure. For women, pleasure is largely dependent upon a spiritual or mental connection within the body. By engaging in self-motivated pleasurable sensations, this can assist women in realizing the power and control that we have over our physical vessels. Muslim couple healing reciting Quran

  4. Be easy with yourself. In the Qur’an, Allah reminds us “O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” (2:153)  During the process of reclaiming one’s power, there will undoubtedly be times of anger, grief, sorrow, and resentment. These are human emotions and are quite reasonable given the magnitude of trauma’s effect on the heart. Be patient with yourself. Channel love and support during times of difficulty. Do not neglect your healing journey because of a setback. It is important to practice patience with one’s self and utilize prayer as a stabilizing force. Allah is Al Wali, our greatest Protector, and Supporter. During times of emotional despair, rather than directing our energy inward, we can learn to release these emotions through dua and remembrance. Trauma is not a fundamental characteristic of who you have become. Reclaiming your narrative means understanding that you have the power to create a different story with a powerful ending. Give yourself the time and space to rewrite your script.

    Allah is Al Wali, our greatest Protector, and Supporter. During times of emotional despair, rather than directing our energy inward, we can learn to release these emotions through dua and remembrance.Click To Tweethealing from trauma

  5. Find your circle. Healing is not a solitary act. Sometimes it requires the love and support of others. Do you have a circle of support? Who are the people in your circle? And if you don’t have one, how can you create one? When I was at my lowest, my circle was there to remind me of who I was and how far I had come. They were the ones with whom I could be my most authentic self. One of the ways in which we can heal trauma is by seeking human connection. Select your circle carefully and lean on them during times of need. The healing power of your personally curated community can be transformative and life-changing.

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