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Podcast: The Unfinished Business of Martin Luther King | Imam Zaid Shakir

Our Muslim community is one whose existence, contrary to popular misconception, is predicated on the establishment of peace.

I believe that we have been divinely prepared to take up the torch held aloft so courageously by Dr. King and dedicate ourselves to the completion of his work.Click To Tweet

– Imam Zaid Shakir

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Imam Zaid Shakir is a scholar and co-founder of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California. In 2001, he was the first American male graduate from Syria's Abu Nour University.

#Current Affairs

Confronting Internalized Islamophobia

internalized Islamophobia

Last semester, I was teaching Roxane Gay’s essay “Peculiar Benefits” to a class of college freshmen. Following Gay’s lead, I asked my students to reflect critically on their own lives, on when they benefited from certain forms of privilege and when they didn’t. Unsurprisingly, my students pointed out many intelligent things, such as how English-language skills and physical ability are often unacknowledged as forms of privilege. What surprised me was what all the Muslim students listed not as a privilege but as a source of marginalization: being Muslim.

My students are on to something. Being  Muslim American today means dealing with a president who recently expanded his travel ban to six new countries, all of which have sizable Muslim populations. Being Muslim American today means worrying if your own house of worship will be attacked by a white supremacist, as happened in New Zealand, and in states across America. Being Muslim American means belonging to a faith community that, according to the research, endures the highest levels of religious discrimination in the country today.

In other words, being Muslim means confronting an Islamophobia that is real, that is part of American government policy, and that can even be deadly. With this sober reality, you might assume that American Muslims  would be unified in collective opposition to the dangerous bigotry that is Islamophobia.

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New research, however, puts this notion into question. According to a study by the Institute for Social and Political Understanding (ISPU), a research organization that studies American Muslims in depth, Muslim Americans can themselves be Islamophobic.

The findings are as interesting as they are unexpected. Over the last two years, the ISPU and Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative have used a measure tracking anti-Muslim sentiment that they developed. Called the “Islamophobia Index,” the measure is based on answers to specific survey questions regarding Muslims and their assumed behaviors.

Over the last two annual polls conducted by ISPU, the findings reveal that white Evangelicals hold the most Islamophobic attitudes of any faith group while Jews are among the lowest. In the 2019 study, only Muslims were less Islamophobic than Jews, but some Muslims still endorsed Islamophobic sentiments.

Where does this internalized Islamophobia come from?

Some of it seems to be internalized shame. Muslims are the most likely faith community to “strongly agree” (44%) with the following statement: “When I hear that a member of my faith community committed an act of violence, I feel personally ashamed.” This compares to roughly a third of Jews (34%), Catholics (34%), Protestants (35%), and white Evangelicals (33%).

But that’s not all. Through crunching the numbers, the ISPU determined who’s more at risk in holding Islamophobic attitudes and what could protect someone from believing Islamophobic ideas. The least likely Muslims to hold Islamophobic views tend to be Democrats, thirty years-of-age or older, and self-identifying as Arab or Asian. Risk factors, meanwhile, include being between 18 and 29 years old, having experienced gender discrimination, either from within the Muslim community or from outside the Muslim community, and having experienced sectarian discrimination from within the Muslim community.

The least likely Muslims to hold Islamophobic views tend to be Democrats, thirty years-of-age or older, and self-identifying as Arab or Asian.Click To Tweet

What does all this mean? A fully formed picture may have to wait until a qualitative study puts some flesh onto these numbers, but it’s not difficult to see where the research is heading. It seems statistically likely that both gender discrimination and sectarian discrimination are pushing some young American Muslims into internalizing Islamophobia. According to ISPU’s 2019 Annual Poll, “as many as 41% of Muslim women experience gender discrimination at the hands of other Muslims at some frequency.” We should also note that sectarian discrimination with the American Muslim community has a racial dimension. The ISPU study identifies Black Muslims reporting much higher levels of sectarian discrimination (43% report it) than Arab Muslims (at 26%).

What does this mean for the community?

It’s time to state this plainly. We Muslim Americans simply must get our own house in order if we want to vanquish Islamophobia. Sexism and sectarianism have no place in the Muslim-American community. While outside factors such as negative media portrayals of Muslims certainly play a role in normalizing and promoting Islamophobic ideas, it’s also true—as this latest study makes clear—that Muslims who have personally experienced discrimination from other Muslims are the ones more likely to internalize Islamophobia.

And internalized Islamophobia, like all Islamophobia, is disastrous for everyone. People who score high on the Islamophobia index, Muslim or not, are also more likely to support discriminatory policies (such as the Muslim ban and the surveillance of mosques), curtailing civil liberties, and even the military targeting of civilians. On the other hand, those with the lowest levels of Islamophobia also exhibit high regard for African Americans, Jewish Americans, and LGBTQ Americans, proving that Islamophobia is but one part of how racism and discrimination work in this country.

Faith as a source of happiness

While internalized Islamophobia is real, it is also true that most Muslim women (87%) and Muslim men (84%) report seeing “their faith identity as a source of happiness in their life.” All the more reason why the onus of defeating internalized Islamophobia is on no one but us Muslims.

After all, as every Muslim reads in the Qur’an, “Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves” (13:11). Stopping internalized Islamophobia is also a necessary step to defeating all Islamophobia. And when that day comes, I suspect my Muslim students will consider their faith not as a stigma of difference but as a source of profound pride.

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#Current Affairs

A Warrior Against Genocide, Abubacarr Tambadou | Imam Omar Suleiman

Last night I had the pleasure of hosting His Excellency Attorney General Abubacarr Marie Tambadou, the Justice Minister of the Gambia and Imam Omar Suleiman at Honor Our Heroes in Washington DC. Imam Omar presented the Torch of Justice Award on behalf of Justice For All’s Burma Task Force and the American Muslim community to the Justice Minister for fighting genocide.

 I have been working on stopping this genocide in my role as the Director of Justice For All and the part Attorney General Tambadou has played in taking this evil regime to the world’s highest court on behalf of the Rohingya is the kind of leadership and courage we need to see on the global stage.

Here are Shaykh Omar’s remarks. – Hena Zuberi, EIC

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I would like to begin this presentation to His Excellency Abou Bakr Tambadou by reminding all of us of the greatest man to walk the face of the earth after the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), Abu Bakr As Siddique.

It was narrated that Qais bin Abu Hazim said:

قَالَ قَامَ أَبُو بَكْرٍ فَحَمِدَ اللَّهَ وَأَثْنَى عَلَيْهِ ثُمَّ قَالَ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّكُمْ تَقْرَءُونَ هَذِهِ الآيَةَ ‏{يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا عَلَيْكُمْ أَنْفُسَكُمْ لاَ يَضُرُّكُمْ مَنْ ضَلَّ إِذَا اهْتَدَيْتُمْ}‏ وَإِنَّا سَمِعْنَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ يَقُولُ ‏”‏ إِنَّ النَّاسَ إِذَا رَأَوُا الْمُنْكَرَ لاَ يُغَيِّرُونَهُ أَوْشَكَ أَنْ يَعُمَّهُمُ اللَّهُ بِعِقَابِهِ ‏”‏ ‏

Abu Bakr stood up and praised and glorified Allah, then he said: ‘O people, you recite this Verse – “O you who believe! Take care of your own selves. If you follow the (right) guidance no hurt can come to you from those who are in error.”[5:105] – but I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say: ‘If people see some evil but do not change it, soon Allah will send His punishment upon them all.’” 

When Abubaccar Tambadou made his way from Gambia in West Africa, to the Rohingya refugee camps in Southeast Asia, he knew he couldn’t turn away from the evil he had witnessed.“

Listening to survivors’ stories he said the “stench of genocide” began drifting across the border into Bangladesh from Myanmar.

He said: “I realized how much more serious it was than the flashes we’d seen on television screens, Military and civilians would organize systematic attacks against Rohingya, burn down houses, snatch babies from their mothers’ arms and throw them alive into burning fires, round up and execute men; girls were gang-raped and put through all types of sexual violence.”

“It sounded very much like the kind of acts that were perpetrated against the Tutsi in Rwanda.”

In that genocide, up to a 1,000,000 Rwandans were killed with machetes and rifles, about 70% of the country’s Tutsi population. Sexual violence was rife, with up to 500,000 women being raped. 

At that time, His Excellency Abubaccar Tambadou worked as a trial attorney, where he was responsible for prosecuting violations of international human rights law in Rwanda. He secured the prosecution of four war criminals, including former Rwandan army general Augustin Bizimungu who called his victims cockroaches. 

Here Abubaccar was now, a decade later, witnessing the Rohingya genocide. More than 128,000 Muslims remain in detention camps in Burma today, where they have been confined since 2012, arbitrarily deprived of their liberty. More than 730,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since the military campaign of ethnic cleansing began in August 2017

Their villages have been burned down, their bodies discarded like waste, and the world has remained unwilling and unable to support them in their plight.

Simon Adams, head of the humans rights organization, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, said there was only one man with the courage, skills and humanity to try to hold Myanmar accountable for the alleged atrocities.

“Some were afraid of retaliation from the Chinese” (who tried to stop the prosecution of Myanmar knowing that it may set a precedent for them being taken to court for their Uyghur  concentration camps).

Simon Adams continued to say, “Others said it wasn’t a good time, was too politically risky. [But] I was impressed by his fearlessness. He realized what would be coming pressure-wise but he was developing a strategy to deal with it.”

Abubacarr Tambadou

What is a hero?

Is it “an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles? Is it “someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom? Is it someone who uses their power responsibly to support the powerless? Is it the man of resilience who is braver for 5 more minutes than his fellow man?

To us, a hero is one who recognizes the truth when others deny it, lives by it when others abandon it, pursues it when others obstruct it, and upholds it when others oppose it.

Abu Bakr As Siddiq raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) was a hero because he not only refused to let falsehood stand in the way of his recognition of the truth when it was manifest to him, but also refused to let fear stand in the way of his pursuit of that truth when it challenged him. 

Abu Bakr As Siddiq raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) ran to the defense of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) when he was being persecuted for his beliefs and shouted: 

أَتَقْتُلُونَ رَجُلًا أَن يَقُولَ رَبِّيَ اللَّهُ

Would you kill a man for saying his Lord is Allah?

Abubaccar Tambadou rushed to the support of the millions being persecuted for saying their Lord is Allah.

Abu Bakr As Siddique said: 

لا يحقرن أحد أحدا من المسلمين فان صغير المسلمين عند الله كبير

Do not belittle any of the Muslims, for even the lowest of the Muslims is great in the sight of Allah.

Abubaccar Tambadou refused to belittle those brothers and sisters who had been deemed too insignificant by even the wealthiest Muslim nations to uplift

Abu Bakr As Siddique raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said: 

الضعيف فيكم قوي عندي حتى أريح عليه حقه إن شاء الله والقوى فيكم عندي ضعيف حتى آخذ الحق منه إن شاء الله

The weak among you is strong in my sight, until I return to them that which is rightfully theirs God willing. And the strong among you is weak in my sight until I take from them what is rightfully someone else’s God willing.

Abubaccar Tambadou fought for the rights of the oppressed Rohingya to be returned to them, and refused to succumb to the intimidation of the government of Myanmar (Burma) and other strong governments that feared being held accountable for their own war crimes.Click To Tweet

When Abu Bakr As Siddiq raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) was with the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), it was only the 2 of them and the third was Allah. Imam Al Ghazali (ra) said the most blessed oppressed one to support is the one who has no one but Allah (man la naasira lahu ilAllah), and so when you choose to champion those who others find no political usefulness in supporting, you become a special agent of Allah sent to their aid in rare company.

Your Excellency Abubaccar, may Allah grant you a generous space under the shade of His Throne on the Day of Judgment, and a distinguished station next to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in the highest level of Paradise.

Justice For All’s Burma Task Force has filed a case on behalf of the victims of the Rohingya Genocide in the International Court of Justice- support the case by donating here. The Rohingya want justice.

 

Photo: Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, Chair of Burma Task Force, His Excellency Abubaccar Tambadou, Imam Omar Suleiman and Karim Yaqub, Rohingya activist at the presentation of the Torch of Justice.

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#Current Affairs

WATCH: Bloomberg Claims Mass Surveillance Of American Muslims Was “The Right Thing To Do”

Former mayor of NYC Michael Bloomberg’s claims his mass suspicionless surveillance programs against Muslims were legal and the right thing to do don’t stand up to basic scrutiny as courts actually ruled against them. He should apologize to the Muslim community for his behavior as he did for stop-and-frisk.

Targeted Suspicionless Mass Surveillance of Muslims is Illegal

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg claimed in an interview with PBS New Hour that the mass suspicionless surveillance of Muslim Americans was “exactly within the law” and “the right thing to do”.  The program was conducted as a joint effort between the NYPD and the CIA aimed at Muslims not only in NYC, but as well in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey, and elsewhere.  It targeted mosques, university student associations, community leaders, cabbies, and more.  Informants and spies were sent to not only gather information on Muslims but to attempt to bait and entrap them as well. The program reportedly did not produce a single conviction.

Bloomberg’s assertion that “the courts ruled that it was exactly within the law” is false.  The NYPD was taken to court and forced to settle in Hasan v City of New York lawsuit after it was found that the First Amendment rights of the plaintiffs, among other rights, had been grossly violated.  The court stated:

What occurs here in one guise is not new. We have been down similar roads before. Jewish-Americans during the Red Scare, African-Americans during the Civil Rights Movement, and Japanese-Americans during World War II are examples that readily spring to mind. We are left to wonder why we cannot see with foresight what we see so clearly with hindsight—that “[l]oyalty is a matter of the heart and mind[,] not race, creed, or color.” Ex parte Mitsuye Endo, 323 U.S. 283, 302 (1944).

Hassan v New York Press Conference
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The ACLU, the NYCLU, and the CLEAR project hold a press conference with plaintiffs Asad Dandia and Imam Hamid Hassan Raza in their lawsuit against the NYPD mass suspicionless surveillance

Under the terms of the settlement, the NYPD agreed to the following, in summary:

  • Not engage in suspicionless surveillance on the basis of religion or ethnicity;
  • Permit plaintiff input to a first-ever Policy Guide, which will govern the Intelligence Bureau’s activities, and to publish the Guide to the public;
  • Attend a public meeting with plaintiffs so they can express their concerns about the issues in the lawsuit directly to the NYPD Commissioner or senior ranking official;
  • Pay businesses and mosques damages for income lost as a result of being unfairly targeted by the NYPD and pay individuals damages for the stigma and humiliation harms they suffered for being targeted on the basis of their religion.

The Human Impact of this Program

Bloomberg also asserted the NYPD’s conduct was “the right thing to do”, but not only was it illegal, it caused stress and harm to all those impacted.  Take Asad Dandia, for example:

The consequences of this program were that it created a stigma on Muslims, it interfered with the ability of religious leaders to deliver proper sermons / khutbahs for fear of what could be taken out of context, it caused mosque congregants to be suspicious of newcomers and dissuaded attendance, it harmed political engagement in protests and public debates for fear of profiling, and it created major distrust of law enforcement and their ability to protect the community at large.

Make Bloomberg Take Responsibility

Mayor Bloomberg has apologized for stop-and-frisk claiming he reduced it by 95% after its problems came to light, though in reality, that’s simply not true – he was defending it as late as the month before his presidential bid, and it was reduced to due a court ruling he opposed.  It’s pretty obvious his apology is for his presidential run.  Likewise, his statement in the PBS interview “not all Muslims are terrorists, nor are all terrorists Muslim” as well as his support for the construction of the “Ground Zero” mosque are all commendable, but they are not enough to escape the charge of harming and discriminating against Muslims as a faith group.  Muslim Americans and Democrats, particularly those who think he’s a viable alternative to Sanders in the moderate/centrist lane should demand the former mayor also apologize for his actions against our community, and even if it is insincere, it should be understood that overt discrimination in policy or rhetoric against our community or any other should come with serious social and political repercussion.

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