News and Analysis (4/24/18)

April 24th, 2018

Inspectors will need weeks to analyze samples for evidence of gas or chemical release. “That means there is very little chance President Trump had ‘slam dunk’ evidence that Assad used gas in Douma earlier this month when he decided to launch a military attack on Syria” — Ron Paul:

“Plaintiff has failed to show that the right to movement is a liberty interest that is protected under the Constitution, particularly where, as here, Plaintiff has been able to travel, albeit inconveniently” — U.S. District Judge Dee Benson:

The Aurora Public Library has a right to decide what it will or will not display, but the decision to pull a philosophy professor’s poem mocking the ignorance of Islamophobes, clearly labelled “satire,” will surely fuel the claim that Muslims have no sense of humor:

An expert on “disinformation campaigns in the European Union” says Gatestone is “putting out content that was clearly anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and was echoing some of the Russian disinformation propaganda” being spread by internet trolls and on social media”:

“I’m not asking for your permission; I’m asking for your support” — Hassan Minhaj on how to deal with “the white gatekeepers of the entertainment industry”:

“[T]he mistreatment of those suffering from today’s atrocities is simply not in line with my Jewish values” — Natalie Portman clarifying why she refuses to accept a prize from a foundation that blames Hamas for the violence being inflicted upon Gazan civilians by the Israeli government:

If the Saudis and Iranians were to debate their differences honestly, the discussion might go something like this:

France’s refusal to grant citizenship to woman who elects not to be touched by a strange man is not only discrimination (against both women and Muslims), but a violation of the liberal Western conception of personal space and an echo of the colonization of Algeria:

“In 2015, some 27.8 percent of Egyptians lived under the poverty line of $60 per capita per month…. Due to recent inflation and austerity measures, economic experts believe the poverty rate now stands at 35 to 40 percent of the population – as many as 38 million people”:

News and Analysis (4/22/18)

April 22nd, 2018

Erdogan wants us the world to believe he can’t tell the difference between refusing to free a man held on dubious charges and refusing to extradite a man sought on dubious charges:

“If surveillance is going to be a regular part of American life, as it already is, then she is determined to name it. In the spirit of inverse surveillanceBoundaoui wants to ‘watch the watchers'”:

“There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack on a project of key importance to the credibility of President Ashraf Ghani’s Western-backed government, which has pledged to hold parliamentary elections this year” and the Taliban’s denies involvement”:

“The agreement … also called for strengthening religious and spiritual ties between Christians and Muslims, and establishing fruitful relationships based on respect and peace between them”:

Locals charge that “Islamist rebel fighters, who are allied to Turkey and have occupied Yazidi villages in the area, have destroyed the temples and places of worship the Kurdish-speaking non-Islamic sect”:

Rohingya have suffered “state-sanctioned arbitrary arrests, torture, murder …, sexual violence and rape, … property seizures, torching of  villages, … disappearances. forcible displacement and relocation and land grabbing … at the hands of the Myanmar security forces and authorities”:

“Even as hopes for negotiating a future Palestinian state seem more remote, perhaps, than ever before, there is an attempt here to build cultural institutions and a cultural life that inspire people to respond to their Palestinian history and identity through art and exhibitions”:

The professor of electrical engineering was a member of Hamas. As usual, the Israelis neither confirm nor deny involvement in the murder:

News and Analysis (4/20/18)

April 20th, 2018

“The government said her behaviour [not allowing men should to touch her body without her consent] showed she was ‘not assimiliated into the French community'”:

“Polling data shows us that most Muslims worldwide, and American Muslims in particular, reject the use of violence against civilians,” but it s not the job of government to determine “who qualifies as a ‘true’ Muslim”:

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the verdict “a significant victory against domestic terrorism and hate crimes”:

“The bill expands coverage of federal hate crimes laws to include religious institutions, such as schools and community centers”:

“The Southern Poverty Law Center has removed the “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists” from their website after attorneys for Maajid Nawaz, a practicing Muslim and prominent Islamic reformer, threatened legal action over his inclusion on the list”:

“Movies screened in Saudi cinemas will be subject to approval by government censors, as is the case in other Arab countries. Scenes of violence are not cut, but scenes involving nudity, sex, or even kissing often do get axed”:

“It said Zammar reportedly had taken credit for influencing Ramzi Binalshibh, who is accused of wiring money to September 11 hijackers and passing information to al Qaeda operatives, and Mohammed Atta, who led the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City”:

News and Analysis (4/18/18)

April 18th, 2018

Gorsuch objected that making judges determine whether there is “a substantial risk that physical force may be used” in a crime that applies to “everyone from armed home intruders to door-to-door salesmen peddling shady products” gives unconstitutional discretion to judges’ intuition:

The underground economy accounts for 45-50 of Tunisia’s GDP, while fear “of general strikes by government workers has left Tunisia unable to scale back what economists consider a bloated public sector, saddling the government with struggling state-owned companies”:

“[B]ecause archaic interpretations of Islam cannot persuade the new generation on [certain] issues … some [religious school] students have begun questioning the faith. Instead of adopting atheism, … these post-Islamic youths embrace … the belief in God but without religion”:

“It is crucial women understand their Islamic entitlement to seek and be granted divorce … — especially in cases of domestic violence, but also if a woman just doesn’t want to be married anymore”:

“Radical Love: Teachings from the Islamic Mystical Tradition … [is] a collection of more than 200 poems by medieval authors that he has translated from the original Arabic and Persian ‘for anyone who aspires to be in a loving relationship with humanity and with God'”:

“After returning home to visit the U.S., [the photographer] saw the religion portrayed in a generic, one-dimensional way that didn’t capture what she viewed elsewhere in the world”:

Amirah Sackett’s “current creative work … directly addresses Islamophobia by giving audiences new images of a Muslim woman. She often performs in full traditional dress under the umbrella of a creative group she created, called We’re Muslim, Don’t Panic”:

“[S]omeone at the door, a ‘White Helmet’, shouted ‘Gas!’, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning” — a doctor on the scene:

“France adheres to a strict and unique brand of secularism, the philosophy of laïcité, which is designed to keep religion out of public life,” yet Macron insists, “I just want to make sure that no woman is forced to wear a veil or headscarf. It’s a battle for emancipation”:

News and Analysis (4/16/18)

April 16th, 2018

Theresa May “has said she did not seek a green light from parliament for the attacks due to the need to act quickly” but Russia blame delays preventing “international inspectors from reaching the site of a suspected poison gas attack … on retaliatory U.S.-led missile strikes on Syria”:

A former CIA official asks  whether Americans are “to be manipulated as instruments for the achievement of local Israeli and Saudi strategic goals in the region?”

It hurt when people taunted her for her religious grab, “but through my play, I would shut them up. It’s like ‘OK, I’m dressed in this, but I’m killing your team”:

“God gave you a brain which you chose to fill with hate and a mouth you chose to spew filth from. … That … you feel emboldened to talk this crap publicly is this government’s legacy” the actress said when trolled for criticizing the rape and murder of an 8-year-old in occupied Kashmir:

“‘[S]ecular’ should mean not against religion or a simple-minded acceptance of all religions but ‘opposition to institutionalised religious domination’. … This is how a person can be deeply Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian and yet be staunchly secular”:

“CCTV footage shows mob looting shops as Buddhist monks look on, leading investigator say”:

The man who “opened fire at a religious sanctuary filled with 53 men and a handful of children” and killed six people “followed U.S. President Donald Trump on Twitter and had a photo of himself wearing a Make America Great Again cap, [and] read up on the Muslim travel ban”:

News and Analysis (4/13/18)

April 13th, 2018

It is unacceptable that for positions that require “credibility as a fair-minded person toward foreign nations and different peoples … President Trump has selected two individuals … tied to individuals and organizations that have exhibited hateful bias against Muslims around the world”:

Much as Anti-Semites see the Rothschilds behind every Jew, except for “Israel’s human rights community, left-wing Meretz party, and the Arab-Israeli political parties who have angrily protested the use of lethal force, most Israelis” see Hamas militants behind every Gazan:

In pardoning a traitor who “was convicted of lying in an investigation of the unmasking of a CIA agent, Trump has made “clear his contempt for the rule of law” and sent “a troubling signal to the president’s allies that obstructing justice will be rewarded” according to Nancy Pelosi:

“Moscow’s U.N. ambassador … ‘cannot exclude’ war between the United States and Russia,” but a Hezbollah official says, “The conditions do not point to a total war happening … unless Trump and (Israeli leader Benjamin) Netanyahu completely lose their minds”:

A “Catholic evangelical crusader[‘s] … accurate Latin translation of the Qur’an … did not have the effect he intended, as Alexander Bevilacqua shows in his tour de force study of the origins of modern Islamic scholarship in the West and its central role in the Enlightenment”:

“The killing of eight year-old Asifa Bano, details of which were released on Wednesday, and ongoing efforts by Hindu groups to disrupt the police investigation have sickened many Indians and deepened concerns about a growing sense of impunity among religious nationalists” …

… the demolition of the medieval-era Babri mosque in 1992 by Hindu nationalist mobs and the 2008 police encounter in a Muslim ghetto in India’s capital … changed the relations of Muslims with the Indian state” and coincided with the  BJP’s rise to power:

“In the ashes of his mosque, Ajrami clearly saw the task ahead. ‘I didn’t want that label, Muslim, to define me as a person. But because of the fire we really had to be on the front lines'”:

“In five years or 10 or 20, the women who are criticizing the event … are going to take part in similar races or will attend them and cheer on those racing. Just like they did with mobile phones, televisions, schools, nursing, medicine… They’ll … be embarrassed by the way they reacted”:

News and Analysis (4/11/18)

April 11th, 2018

“That the Red Crescent operates a hospital in a city supposedly inundated with wounded and didn’t get a single patient with confirmed exposure, however, is very noteworthy” …

… and in talks with the Trump administration both “France and Britain … stressed that the culprit still needed to be confirmed” …

… yet unlike 2013, when Russia blamed the US and UK for rushing to judgment, this time it is Russia that opposes an independent investigation into who is responsible for any chemical attack …

… but Trump too has changed his position from 2013 when he  ” tweeted about Obama’s Syria policy…: “‘Be prepared, there is a small chance that our horrendous leadership could unknowingly lead us into World War III’:

“[T]he Bar Association of Kathua, the district where Asifa was abducted in January, said they wanted a federal investigation because the state government had failed to ‘understand the sentiments of the people’ … instead of condemning the heinous crime”:

“Kazakhstan has a 75-per-cent female labour-force participation rate, … higher than either the United States or China. Egypt has a higher percentage of women going into the STEM fields than the United States. Seven Muslim-majority countries have had nine women as heads of states”:

“She doesn’t claim … that Islam already gives women all their rights. She argues that it could, if it was stripped of centuries of misogynist interpretation by male scholars”:

“Muslim Advocates and Democracy Forward filed the lawsuit on Monday after the departments failed to meet their demands to retract and correct information in the report, which was disseminated in January”:

The clinic “is open to everyone who needs it, but members of the all-volunteer staff make no apology about being Muslim, and their connection to an Islamic service organization”:

“The UN’s new Yemen envoy says all sides desire a political solution. But Resolution 2216, which demands Houthi rebels disarm and withdraw, is being invoked to create an ‘impossible precondition’ for talks”:

The Muslim Community & the Issue of Identity and Belonging

April 8th, 2018

[These are my notes from The Washington Forum Lecture Series* program on “The Muslim Community & the Issue of Identity and Belonging” held in Fairfax, VA on April 4, 2018. These notes summarize my impression of highlights of the presentations and are not an attempted transcription.]

Summary of the Introduction by Ustadh Anwar Haddam:

The first lecture in this series was on liberty and democracy. We need a clear vision. It should be society oriented to face the challenge and to benefit from the opportunity the challenge has provided.  Liberty and democracy must be the central focus for Muslims. Liberty means, first, to be free to be what you want to be and, then, to be free to do what you want to do. Unless you are free to be who you want to be you are susceptible to manipulation in deciding what you want to do.

Lecture by Dr. Esam Omeish:

Simply put the question of identity is “Who am I?” A person can have multiple identities that, collectively, make the individual.  According to psychology, belonging is near the top of the hierarchy of human needs: physical needs, security, and belonging. It is the need for love, welcome and acceptance. It is the stepping stone to esteem and actualization. Our identity determines where we belong. The act of belonging requires an ability to formulate a status that allows you to assess what belonging looks like.

We look at the Islamic faith as a set of tenets that allow us to embrace the components of our internal identity without conflict. Islam is not only about rituals but has a mission-driven component. The American experiment is a human experiment that we embrace naturally because we come from a background that embraces the same principles. We remain a community impacted by the same social factors that impact any community, but we have a mission to actually embrace the challenge.

We have recommended as a reading assignment A Nation of Nations by Tom Gjeltan (Simon & Schuster, New York, 2015) in which he looks at Fairfax County as typical of the challenges and transformations immigrants have experienced. For immigrants, questions of identity and belonging are manifest. He selected my family and me as one of the examples, including the issue of Islam. There is a bit of each of our stories in this story. America could not reach its potential until immigration was recognized as one of its organizing principles. I believe that we have the resources not only deal with the challenges, but to be strengthened in our identity and belonging in the process.

We are adopting a broad definition of Islam not to enable us to restrict ourselves to a religious identity but because the expansive definition is the true one: Islam is a universal religion compatible with the human condition. The Islamic Civilization definition of our din is the realm in which we find our Islamic identity. It is important that we not view our Islamic identity as opposed to all other identities. In refusing to do so, we shall be be confronted by resistance within our own Muslim communities using arguments such as al-walaa wa-l-baraa (loyalty and disavowal, that is embracing that which pleases God and opposing that which displeases God).

Al-walaa wa-l-baraa is irrelevant unless we distinguish that which opposes the Islamic religion from that which simply comes from outside the tradition. About half of our community are first generation immigrants and imams who address these issues without being aware of the cultural sensitivity involved will be unprepared for the backlash. Younger Muslims and the children of immigrants are better prepared to consider these issues, but they still want to know how Islam plays a role (what is its relevance?), like the young American who went to Algeria to learn how their understanding of Islam became a force in the resistance to colonialism.

Remarks by Ustadh Youssef Yaghmour:

We should not shy away from theses controversies. The Prophet (pbuh) addressed the disbelievers with “Ya kawmii,” (O my people). The compatibility of being an American with being a Muslim has become an issue, but questions of allegiance only arise in times of war. If we see ourselves at war with the rest of our American community, then we have a bigger problem than a debate over identity, one that will affect how people look at us. Is there a conflict between being a Muslim and an Egyptian? Between being a Muslim and an Indian? Then why between being a Muslim and an American.

The question am I a Muslim-American or an American-Muslim is the wrong question. The style of government in an empire-state is not the case in the world of nation-states in which we live, and it cannot be the model for our time. There is an identity conflict between being a Muslim and an atheist, but not between being a Muslim and an American. That is a contrived conflict. I want to use Islam to help solve America’s problems, and there is nothing in this nation to stop that.

Comments by Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.:

We can learn by critically observing the variety of experiences of the multipicity of religions in this country as case studies of identity and belonging. The Jews integrated more as an ethnic group than a religion; the Amish insulated themselves from the “English;” the Catholics set up their own schools, dominated police departments and political power centers and openly challenged social policies of the Protestant majority; the Mormons homesteaded an entire state; the Quakers exerted influence as peaceful activists.

The United States is unique among nation-states. It is the only one in which of the five factors that define a national identity (ethnicity, language, culture, language, and historical narrative) historical narrative thoroughly overshadows the other factors. That narrative is one of liberty and resistance to tyranny, and the immigrant experience is thoroughly intertwined with it.

Resistance to the state and even to prevailing public opinion is a major element of Americanism. White Supremacy was at one time part of the American ideology. While it as not been completely eliminated, the fight against it is hailed not as opposition to Americanism, but as a fulfillment of it. Thus Martin Luther King did not have to change the words of the Declaration of Independence, only to stress a single word, when he said, “All men are created equal.”

Even though Muslim immigrants understandably distinguish themselves from the African-American community on the grounds that the latter were forced to come here, we must recognize that their experience too is instructive and that they must not be excluded either as a model nor as participants in programs such as this one.

In addressing these issues we face resistance from both within and without the Muslim community. It is the resistance from within that is most difficult. Non-Muslim resistance is manageable if you know how to do it. I have lived in this country all my life. One of the most difficult challenges to belonging was my refusal to drink alcohol because it is considered a “social lubricant.” Declining to drink on the grounds that it is bad for you or because I don’t like it only alienated those who offered it to me. But I learned that if I just said, “It’s against my religion” they were satisfied, because Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, and Christian Scientists don’t drink either. (And even Baptists, supposedly, some would say, aren’t supposed to.) Not so easily managed are Muslims like the one who anonymously called my office and told my employee, “Dr. Ahmad shouldn’t play guitar.”

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute

*On January 30, 2018, some Muslims in the Washington, DC area initiated “The Washington Forum Lecture Series” to address the challenge and opportunity posed by recent events to Muslims in the USA and abroad by a new approach aiming at inspiring and leading change, instead of managing the status quo.

News and Analysis (4/8/18)

April 8th, 2018

“Jaish al-Islam accused the Syrian government of carrying out a chemical attack on Douma that a medical relief organization and rescue workers say killed dozens of people. The government has denied carrying out any such attack” …

… but as with last year’s “cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base last year in response to a sarin gas attack in northwestern Syria blamed on Assad” Trump is eager to act without determining who is responsible for this chemical attack:

“[W]hat can be done against this collective dumbing-down of an entire faith[?] Patiently repeating points and examples from history – in the manner of explaining something difficult but obvious to an eight-year old child – does not seem to go very far in combating a million views on Youtube”:

“‘Mr. Pompeo has left a trail of horrific, inaccurate, bigoted statements and associations vis-à-vis Muslims around the world,’ said … a former director of the State Department’s office of religion and global affairs…. Islamic and Jewish groups have raised similar concerns about John R. Bolton”:

A tattooed man attacked a nurse in Texas “returning home from her night shift at a hospital who “exited his red SUV … and went after the woman with racist slurs and a knife.” She was able to escape when the wound he inflicted into her arm spattered “blood into his eyes and mouth”:

Journalists investigating “the killing of 10 Rohingya … during an army crackdown that has sent nearly 700,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh” said “they were arrested almost immediately after being handed some rolled up papers … by two policemen they had not met before”:

“A local start-up company founded last year, OneGram, is issuing a gold-backed cryptocurrency – part of efforts to convince Muslims that investing in cryptocurrencies complies with their faith”:

“The government has said it plans to sell about 5 percent of Aramco, hoping to raise some $100 billion or more in what is likely to be the world’s biggest initial public offer”:

News and Analysis (4/5/18)

April 5th, 2018

Yemen’s conflict has resulted in so many men being killed, recruited for battle, or mentally “shattered, that it has forced many women into roles rarely seen in such a conservative society”:

A marathon runner known “as Dr. ’Ali, The Fitness Doc ― she holds a doctorate in anatomy and neuroscience ― the Baltimore-based author, science teacher and fitness coach is busy fighting misconceptions about Muslim women by inspiring them to compete”:

“The response by the Muslim leaders was that we want to move on and look forward to more constructive and healthy relationships (with other religions).” A year ago an imam apologized for an insensitive comment about Jews and the Christians:

Popular rejection of the planned day of bigotry was manifest …

… and the “designated day of hate passed off without major incident …, ‘Punish a Muslim Day’ did what it was designed to do – strike fear in the hearts of individual Muslims and those already … impacted by hate crime and racism … [who] just want to feel safe and secure in our country” …

… but “for millions of Muslims across this country and across the Western world, April 3 was not the first “punish a Muslim day” we lived through. There was also February 10. June 18. And too many others to list here”:

The Israeli violence against the mostly peaceful demonstrations for the “right of return for refugees and their descendants to land now colonized by Israel has now claimed nineteen lives” …

… and B’Tselem has “urged Israeli forces in a rare step Wednesday to disobey open-fire orders unless Gaza protesters pose an imminent threat to soldiers’ lives”:

“Men should be tried, yes. But these women were not armed. These kids are innocent,” says a woman who charges that her niece “was forced into going to Syria when her husband threatened to kidnap their children”:

The lawyer’s union accused the FCT High Court prohibition “any apparel underneath wigs by lawyers and by extension the hijab by female Muslim lawyers … as “unfortunate, draconian, illegal, unconstitutional and unlawful”:

Despite (or more likely because of) the popularity of Western cinema, Saudi Arabia shut down public movie theaters  the 1970s, and only last January the Grand Mufti Sheikh appointed by the king “warned of the ‘depravity’ of cinemas, saying they would corrupt morals if allowed”: