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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.
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 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 , 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 , 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.
I have a few questions for Dr. Sherman Jackson, but if readers have their own, leave them in the comments:
- 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.
- 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”?
- Do you believe CVE is not fraudulent and actually works? If so, do you have any evidence of this?
- 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?
- Have there been any concrete benefits to oppressed Muslims anywhere because of your affiliation with the UAE-based MCE?
- What benefits have you personally enjoyed as a result of your affiliation with the CVE Commission and the UAE?
- Do you believe Tony Blair should be charged, and tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in Iraq?
- Do you believe the senior leadership of the United Arab Emirates should be charged for war crimes and crimes against humanity?
- What value do you believe you are offering the government of the UAE’s rulers by serving on the MCE?
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The Culture Debt of Islamic Institutions
The reality across America is that too many people have used the masjid to serve their own egos, fulfill their desires for power, and give themselves a big building as something to point at and say, “I built that.” Too few have created a vision for the spiritual upliftment of a community and then worked to serve it.
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Our community institutions are in debt – cultural debt. And the bill is due.
There are major consequences when the bill comes due on a debt you owe. Personal debt can lead to bankruptcy or foreclosure and the loss of your home.
If paid off before the bill comes due, debt can be a tool. Many communities in North America have utilized the qardh hasanah (goodly loan) as a way to expedite construction projects and then pay people back over time. When businesses fail to pay debt back, they are forced to liquidate and go out of business to satisfy their creditors. In extreme cases, like the economic crisis of a few years ago, major institutions repeatedly utilizing debt as a tool became over-leveraged, creating a rippling collapse.
Financial debt is not the only type of debt an organization carries. Every decision made by an organization adds to a balance sheet of sorts. Other types of debt can be technical, or even cultural.
Consider a new company that keeps making the decision to cut corners with their technology infrastructure – creating ‘technical’ debt. At a certain point, the infrastructure will need to be replaced. If not properly planned for, the cost to fix it could cripple the company.
Put another way, impatience and short-term decision making create (non-financial) debts that can destroy an organization.
The cultural debt for an organization, especially Islamic organizations, can be the most devastating.
These decisions may appear rational or well-intentioned compromises, but they come at a cost.
For example, if a community prioritizes money into a construction project instead of an imam or youth director, what is the cost of the compromise? A 5-year construction project means an entire segment of youth who will be aged anywhere between 13 and 18 risk being disconnected from the masjid.
What about the cost of marginalizing the one sister on the board multiple times such that other sisters become disenchanted and unengaged. Or what if the marginalized board member is a youth, or a convert, or a person of color? How is the collateral damage to those segments of the community assessed?
What about when the same 2 or 3 people (even without an official title) remain in charge of a masjid and aggressively push out people not in line with their agendas? Dedicated and hard-working volunteers will end up leaving and going to other communities.
What about when a few people are responsible for creating an environment so toxic and exhausting that volunteers don’t want to come to the masjid anymore? And they get so burned out that they refuse to get involved in a masjid again? Who is going to pay the bill for all the talent that’s been driven away?
What is the spiritual debt on a community that refuses to invest in an Imam or scholar for over 10 years? An entire generation will grow up in that masjid without a local resource to take guidance from. What is the impact on those kids when they grow up to get married and have their own children?
What is the cost of having overly-aggressive daily congregants who yell at people, make people feel uncomfortable, and ultimately make them want to stay away from the masjid?
Will the construction committee that decided to build a customized dome instead of a more adequate women’s prayer space ever make it up to them?
What is the cost on a community of building a massive albatross of a school that can’t cover its own overhead – and yet services less than 5% of a community’s children?
What is the cost on a congregation when the Friday khutbah becomes associated entirely with fundraising instead of spiritual development?
Did anyone plan to repay this cultural debt when they were making decisions on behalf of the community? Who is paying attention to it?
Some communities are able to shift, and make strides. Some communities are able to recognize a larger vision for growing and developing a community spiritually.
For other communities, they are now over-leveraged. The culture debt is due. To continue the financial analogy, they’re at the point of declaring bankruptcy.
These are the masjids that are empty. These are the ones where, pardon the crassness, after a few people die off, the masjid will most likely die out as well because there is no community left to take over.
These are the communities that people avoid, where they refuse to volunteer, and eventually where people stop donating.
The culture debt of the community is that people no longer feel a part of the community, and therefore the infrastructure they worked so hard to build will crumble.
Cultural bankruptcy is the loss of people.
Can the culture debt be repaid? Is there a way out? How do you undo the loss of people?
I was really hoping to have a nice and tidy 5-step action plan to fix this. The reality is, it’s not going to be easy. People don’t realize the collateral damage they’ve caused over the course of 10-20 years despite the good intentions they had.
How do you get them to accept responsibility, much less change?
It’s not going to happen. The change will be outside the masjid. This means there will be a continued rise in third spaces. Parents are using online tutors instead of Sunday schools, making their children even less attached to the masjid. There will be an increase in small groups of families getting together in their homes instead of the masjid to try and build a sense of community. There will be an entire generation of new adults who will not even desire an attachment to the masjid beyond the Friday and funeral prayers.
People will replace the local community with online communities (and sometimes the dubious online personalities leading them)
We all see the masjids in our community that have been hit hardest by this culture debt. They’re the ones that used to be full and are now empty – while the same 2 or 3 people remain in charge for literally decades. They’re the ones that we fear will eventually close down or be sold off due to a lack of any real community – because the community was never invested in to begin with.
Those in positions of influence should seriously take account of the consequences of their actions on the community. Recognize the wrongs that were done and do your best to rectify them. At the least, seek forgiveness for the ramifications of your actions.
We can no longer make the excuse of having to do what we had to do in order to get institutions up and running from scratch. As the saying goes – what got you here won’t get you there. The reality across America is that too many people have used the masjid to serve their own egos, fulfill their desires for power, and give themselves a big building as something to point at and say, “I built that.” Too few have created a vision for the spiritual upliftment of a community and then worked to serve it.
And now we see the consequences of those decisions. The culture debt is due, and we might not be able to pay it back.
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Editor’s Choice: Top 10 Articles Of 2019
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MuslimMatters is grateful to Allah for our readers and our writers for collaborating to build the Muslim Internet’s most widely read online magazine. It is an honor to publish every article that goes up on the site. Here are the editor’s choices from the top most read articles of 2019.
10. Reflections on Muslim Approaches to the Abortion Debate: The Problem of Narrow Conceptualization | Sh Salman Younas
This comprehensive scholarly essay, published in August, was nuanced and forces the reader to take a step back and holistically look at the issue of abortion. Shaykh Salman, a traditional trained scholar, is completing his PhD at Oxford University on early Hanafi fiqh.American Muslims must go beyond simplistic and emotionally-charged approaches to the abortion question. This issue, like many others, cannot be properly addressed through a narrowly defined law, politics, or clash of ideologies narrative, especially at the level of individual fatwā, communal irshād, or political activism, advocacy, and legislation.Click To Tweet
In this September piece, which predated many controversies, Dr Azami, a Departmental Lecturer in Contemporary Islamic Studies at the University of Oxford argues against Shaykh Hamza’s contention that the Islamic tradition has uniformly called for rendering obedience to tyrannical rule.
This article was a Ramadan treat, a translation of the work by the esteemed South Asian scholar.It is, however, important when there is the temptation, the heart desires it, and the environment encourages it, and then in submission to the command of Allah one says, “مَعَاذَ الله” “I seek refuge of Allah” (Surah Yūsuf, 12:24). This is the worship that Allah has created mankind.Click To Tweet
Ramaḍān is commonly viewed as only a month of fasting and tarāwīḥ, and that there is no other significance to it. Without a doubt, the fasting and the tarāwīḥ prayers are two major acts of worship in this month. However, the reality is that the blessed month of Ramaḍān demands more from us.
This piece by our Director of Development and regular writer, Zeba Khan, hit a nerve with many readers. It went deep into recognizing that faith is not a protection from pain, and pain is not the absence of faith.Our spiritual education is broken. In order to fix it, we have to be upfront with each other. We have to admit that we can be happy with Allah and still find ourselves devastated by the tests He puts before us, because faith is not a protection from struggle.Click To Tweet
The Prophet displayed perfection in both moral intelligence and interpersonal understanding and the author, Imam Mikaeel Smith encapsulates this in his book on Prophetic emotional intelligence.Moral Intelligence helps us maintain our ideals and live by them, while Emotional Intelligence ensures that the message is effectively communicated to othersClick To Tweet
Emotional Intelligence by itself is not sufficient for individual reform or societal reform; instead, it is only one part of the puzzle. The ʿaql or intellect that is referenced repeatedly in the Qurʾān is a more comprehensive tool that not only recognizes how to understand the psychological and emotional aspects of people but recognizes morally upright and sound behavior.
Mainstream Muslims have in fact been at the forefront not just locally, but also internationally in the fight against extremism within Muslim communities. Sri Lankan Muslims, a numerical minority, though a well-integrated native community in Sri Lanka’s colourful social fabric, seek to take lead in helping to alleviate the suffering currently plaguing our nation. This article is on this list not just because it was an excellent read but because of the positive effect it had on repairing divides causes by the attacks.
In this episode, the Loving Muslim Marriage team asks an obvious question with what seems like an obvious answer – do women need sex? Obviously, yes. If that’s the case though, then why is expressing a sexual need, or seeking help for sexual issues such a taboo in Muslim cultures? Obviously many people wanted to learn more.
The article is a curriculum for young Muslims with real life examples that parents, teachers and youth groups can use. Expert curriculum designer, Mona Islam, emphasizes on the need for this education in middle and high school.In retrospect, we learn that marriage is not simply a door that we walk through which changes our life, but something that each young Muslim and Muslima should be preparing for individually through observation, introspection, and reflection.Click To Tweet
Imam Omar’s column never fails to uplift readers. This was his most poignant post.A wise man once said to me, “Always put your funeral in front of you, and work backwards in constructing your life accordingly.” With the deaths of righteous people, that advice always advances to the front of my thoughts.Click To Tweet
With so many internal and external forces bent on crushing our souls. this article compels us to adopt the Quranic formula for returning the ummah to health; focus on developing the good, more than destroying the evil.The Quran also nurtured in its reader’s spirit the magnificence of God, far more than it illustrated the futility of idol-worship, all because deepening your understanding of who Allah is will always outperform identifying who Allah is not, and because the second will naturally happen once the first has been secured.Click To Tweet
InshaAllah, we will publish lesser read pieces that were gems that readers may have missed.
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I Encountered A Predator On Instagram
A predator on Instagram posing as a hijab modeling consultant, going by the name of @samahnation, tried to prey on me- an underage, 16-year-old. We don’t know if the photos on Instagram page have been stolen from a victim. These predators operate under various names.
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It was a Wednesday night in April and as I was getting ready to go to bed, a direct message popped up in my Instagram inbox. A little background; my personal account on Instagram is private and it is rare that I let anyone, whom I do not know, follow me. But seeing that this was a grown “woman” with a baby and I had at least seven mutual friends, I let her follow me.
I will say, I was definitely in the wrong to respond to someone I didn’t personally know. Somehow I thought her 105K followers gave her credibility.
I was gravely mistaken.
I opened the direct message.
She had sent me a message complimenting me. This wasn’t new to me because I often get messages with compliments about my appearance from friends — we are teenagers. However, the stark difference was that I didn’t know this person at all. (I came to learn that these types of messages can go under the category of grooming). After complimenting me, she asked whether I had ever considered modeling for a hijab and abaya company.Many young women are targeted by predators on Instagram. Here is my story. 'After complimenting me, 'she' asked whether I had ever considered modeling for a hijab and abaya company.'Click To Tweet
I replied, saying that if I had more details I’d consult with my parents and give her an answer the next morning; to which she responded demanding she must have an answer the same night as she had other offers to make.
I then went to ask my mother. Mama was sick with the flu, quite woozy, but despite her state she said,
“this sounds like a scam to me…”.
I decided to play along with it and test her.
I told @samahnation to tell me more and how I could verify her and her company. She then sent me numerous copied and pasted answers —hecka long— about how I could trust her; how the company would pay me and how they will still make money in the meantime.
Thankfully, I was apprehensive during the entire ordeal, but as you can see, this type of manipulation is so real and possible for young women and girls to fall prey. This experience was honestly quite scary and jarring for me. I was so easily distracted by what she was portraying herself as on her profile. She had a GoFundMe for a masjid in her bio and posts of photos depicting her love for her baby.
I began to do some research. I stumbled upon an article about a ‘Hijab House’ model scam. Using the title of ‘consultant director’ for a well-known hijab company, Hijab House, predators were allegedly preying on young girls in Australia. Hijab House has denied any link to this scam.
The predator went as far as to blackmail and pressure their victims into sending nude photos, or doing crazy things like smelling shoes! Eerily enough, @samahnation’s Instagram bio stated that she was based in Melbourne, Australia.
The more I engaged with this predator, the more ludicrous their responses and questions got. And this happened within the span of 24 hours.
She went as far as to ask me if I would answer questions for a survey, saying all that mattered was honesty and that the purpose of the survey was to make me uncomfortable to see if I “won’t fall under pressure.”
Clearly, this last statement about being a speech analysis specialist was a complete fabrication. Again, may I reiterate that even older people can fall prey. You don’t have to be young and impressionable, these manipulative perpetrators will do anything to get what they want.
This was the last thing I said to the predator before I blocked and reported them in an attempt to get them caught. Observe how as soon as I called this person out they immediately became defensive and tried to manipulate me into thinking that what they were doing and asking me was completely normal- that I was the crazy one for asking for proof.
Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. They had asked me questions I found too lewd to even answer or take screenshots of.
This bizarre encounter was honestly astonishing. I do not even know if I was talking to a man or a woman.
Alhamdullilah, I am so glad because even if I was a little bit gullible, I was aware enough about predatory behavior that I didn’t fall victim to this perpetrator. I am especially grateful for my mother, who has educated me about predators like this from a very young age; whom even in her drowsy state was able to tell me it was a preposterous scam.
I could have been blackmailed.
Talk to your parents or a trusted adult
I am grateful for having an open channel of communication, that my relationship with my mother is based on trust and I could go to her when this occurred. This is a reminder and a learning opportunity for all of us how these scary things can happen to anyone. We must learn how to take caution and protect ourselves and our (underage) loved ones against such situations.
Sis, please talk to your parents. They love you and will be your first line of defense.
Grooming is a very common tactic online predators use to gain the trust of their victim. According to InternetSafety101, young people put themselves at great risk by communicating online with individuals they do not know on a personal level. “Internet predators intentionally access sites that children commonly visit and can even search for potential victims by location or interest.
If a predator is already communicating with a child, he or she can piece together clues from what the child mentions while online, including parents’ names, where the child goes to school, and how far away the child lives from a certain landmark, store, or other location.
Online grooming is a process which can take place in a short time or over an extended period of time. Initial conversations online can appear innocent, but often involve some level of deception. As the predator (usually an adult) attempts to establish a relationship to gain a child’s trust, he may initially lie about his age or may never reveal his real age to the child, even after forming an established online relationship. Often, the groomer will know popular music artists, clothing trends, sports team information, or another activity or hobby the child may be interested in, and will try to relate it to the child.”
These tactics lead children and teens to believe that no one else can understand them or their situation like the groomer. After the child’s trust develops, the groomer may use sexually explicit conversations to test boundaries and exploit a child’s natural curiosity about sex. Predators often use pornography and child pornography to lower a child’s inhibitions and use their adult status to influence and control a child’s behavior.
They also flatter and compliment the child excessively and manipulate a child’s trust by relating to emotions and insecurities and affirming the child’s feelings and choices.
* Prey on teen’s desire for romance, adventure, and sexual information.
* Develop trust and secrecy: manipulate child by listening to and sympathizing with child’s problems and insecurities.
* Affirm feelings and choices of child.
* Exploit natural sexual curiosities of child.
* Ease inhibitions by gradually introducing sex into conversations or exposing them to pornography.
* Flatter and compliment the child excessively, send gifts, and invest time, money, and energy to groom the child.
* Develop an online relationship that is romantic, controlling, and upon which the child becomes dependent.
* Drive a wedge between the child and his/her parents and friends.
* Make promises of an exciting, stress-free life, tailored to the youth’s desire.
* Make threats, and often will use child pornography featuring their victims to blackmail them into silence.”
Another interesting observation I made is the clear gaslighting this pedophile was trying to perpetuate throughout my conversation with them. You may ask what is gas lighting?
According to Psychology Today, gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. “Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. For example, in the movie Gaslight (1944), a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind,” writes Dr Stephanie Sarkis.
Recognizing signs that you may be a victim of gaslighting:
Second guessing. Are you constantly second guessing yourself when talking to this person or questioning your own morals that you wouldn’t have thought twice about otherwise? For example, when this person popped up in my inbox I wouldn’t have thought twice about blocking or just deleting the message if it was a man but, since it seemed to be a woman I was duped into thinking that it was more acceptable or I could trust them more.
Feeling as if you are being too sensitive. Again I cannot emphasize this enough that you must trust your instincts, if you are feeling uncomfortable and your internal alarm bells are ringing- listen to them! Anyone can be a victim of gaslighting or manipulation.
Feeling constantly confused. Another sign that you may be falling victim to gas lighting is when you are constantly confused and second guessing your thoughts and opinions.
1. Trust your instincts (I’m going to reiterate this, always trust your gut feeling, if you feel like you are uncomfortable whether it’s a situation you are in or if you don’t have a good feeling while talking to a certain person I advise you exit the chat or don’t answer in the first place.)
2. Never answer to someone whom you don’t know. I will say this was my first and biggest mistake that I have made: allowing this person’s messages into my inbox, and replying to their ridiculous claims and questions. Now that I think about it I don’t even know if this was a woman or not.
3. Set your boundaries! This is probably the most important tip to take away from this article. Setting up your boundaries from the beginning is so important. Whether it is a friend, partner or colleague, if you do not set your boundaries from the beginning of your interaction or relationship with that person; people will not respect your limits and choices later on. Especially if your boundaries have to do with religion, moral compasses, or even specific pet peeves you have. I cannot emphasize how much boundaries matter when it comes to any daily interaction you may have in your daily life.