Archive for the ‘Guest blog’ Category

“The People’s Lawyer and the Blind Sheikh”

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

[This is an abridged version of Hajj Mauri’s remembrance of Lynn Stewart.]

Remembering Lynne Stewart: “The People’s Lawyer”

By El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan

Unusual among America’s recent political prisoners, Lynn Stewart  was not young, male, or Muslim.

The establishment would have us believe that Lynne Stewart was a lawyer of little consequence before she encountered a certain foreign-born client; and that this particular client became the source of her downfall from anonymous respectability. Nothing could be further from the truth. Long before Lynne Stewart met ‘the blind Egyptian cleric,’ Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, she had already made a name for herself as a ‘people’s lawyer.’

‘The World Can’t Wait,’ a New York-based grassroots organization, had this to say about Lynne’s passing:

“Lynne Stewart, people’s lawyer who defended many political activists and prisoners over 40 years, died March 7 at home in Brooklyn.  After a long struggle, she was released from federal prison three years ago, suffering from cancer, and expected not to live long.  Yet she lived three more years, during which she continued to defend peoples’ rights, in prison, and out.  We will miss her so much.”

Another admirer of Lynne’s, Pakistani neurologist Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui (the sister of another female political prisoner Dr. Aafia Siddiqui), wrote to me that Lynn “was an inspiration and a pillar of courage for people like us.”  Lynne had been imprisoned at the same institution that still confines Aafia Siddiqui – FMC Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas. After Lynne was released she participated in two demonstrations we organized for Aafia despite her cancer.

With that said, let us now examine the case that caused the stature of Lynne Stewart to be elevated in some quarters and hatefully vilified in others, as demonstrated in an article published shortly after Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman died on February 18, 2017 – following 22 years of solitary confinement in U.S. custody – by Benjamin Weiser in The New York Times titled, “Lynne F. Stewart, Lawyer for ‘Blind Sheikh’ Omar Abdel Rahman, Has No Regrets.”

Mr. Weiser first marvels that (by the Grace of ALLAH) Lynne Stewart outlived her 18 month medical prognosis, then at the fact that she was unbowed and unbroken vis-à-vis the opinion she still held regarding her former client. Mr. Weiser then proceeds to paint Lynne Stewart as having been embroiled in her own terrorism conspiracy. Let me set the record straight! Lynne ended up being prosecuted, and having her license to practice law taken away, solely because of her courageous and zealous defense of a vilified client (and that client’s human rights). Her prosecution was also meant to send a chilling message to members of the New York Bar Association, that if you as practicing lawyers cross certain lines, this is what can happen to you!

Following his conviction for “seditious conspiracy” – not for the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center – Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman was imprisoned under a SAMs (special administrative measures) order – which entails highly restrictive, and closely monitored, confinement conditions. During a tumultuous period in Egypt (during the Mubarak era), when there was an opportunity to secure some measure of peace, Lynne publicly delivered a message from Sheikh Omar on the matter at hand (via press conference). This was the reason she ended up not just being administratively sanctioned, but criminally prosecuted!

With that said, there does indeed appear to have been a conspiracy to attack a number of targets in New York City in the early to mid-90s, and at the heart of that conspiracy was an Egyptian-born, FBI paid, informant-provocateur by the name of Emad Salem. This government agent had reportedly served in the Egyptian army, and later came to America in search of security and his slice of the American dream.

In his thought-provoking memoir, My Life As A Radical Lawyer, the late William M. Kunstler, wrote (on page 335): “I had evidence that Emad Salem, the government’s confidential informer, was himself involved in the WTC bombing. Not only had he confessed to the crime during a conversation with an FBI agent that he had secretly recorded … but he was hospitalized less than three hours after the blast with a middle ear attack. We had information that Salem was prone to these attacks when exposed to shots or explosions; he has suffered a similar attack when he fired a rifle on a practice range without wearing earplugs.” In the late 90’s, a producer at WBAI-FM presented this writer with an audio copy of that same telephone conversation that Emad Salem had with his FBI handler.

It should also be noted that after Sheikh Omar and his alleged co-defendants were safely put away, Emad Salem received a large sum of taxpayer dollars and a new identity (for services rendered) courtesy of Uncle Sam!

Sheikh Omar told Time magazine, “When I came here, I was fleeing oppression. Now I am facing the same oppression. I came here to avoid prison, and I was put in prison. I came here to smell freedom; I found it to be suffocating [in America].”

I sincerely believe that a significant number of innocent Muslims were wrongfully imprisoned as a result of the “terrorism conspiracy” trials, and the associated entrapments, of the 1990s – and that the post 9/11 era has seen a dramatic increase in the number of “bogus” (to use Lynne’s description) terrorism-related convictions.

With the passing of Lynne Stewart we have one less soldier on the field of battle to help us salvage the American ideal of liberty. May ALLAH be pleased with what she gave; and may we all learn from her example.

The struggle continues…

 

 

 

 

Don’t Blame the Victims: Colonialist Ecosavagery Is Behind the Fires in Palestine

Friday, November 25th, 2016

Over 200 forest fires are raging in Palestine (now renamed the Jewish State of Israel including its occupied Palestinian territories). Many countries are helping put out the fires including four teams of Palestinian firefighters (no body helped Gaza when it was being fire-bombed by white
phosphorous). But the fascist racist government of “Israel” blamed the Palestinians for the fires! Even some decent Israelis pointed out that fires are raging across Western Asia (aka the “Middle East”). Here is a map put out by one Israeli website of location of fires across the region including in Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey: http://bit.ly/2gGbqJU.

Perhaps coincidentally or otherwise, right after war criminal Netanyahu blamed Palestinians, new fires erupted near Palestinian communities. If you really want to know who is to blame for the damage, it is clearly Zionism as I wrote in many articles and books before. In 1901 at the World Zionist Congress and despite objections of conscientious Jews, a Jewish National Fund (Keren Keyemet Li’Israel, or KKL) was established to further “Jewish colonization” (the term they used) of Palestine. One of the tasks was to raise money and they used the gimmick of collecting money for trees. Indeed they did plant trees but it was unfortunately the highly flammable European pine tree. After 1948-1949 when some 500 Palestinian villages and towns were depopulated, their lands (cultivated with figs, almonds, olives and other trees) were razed to the ground and again resinous and inflammable pine trees were planted. The same happened after 1967 when here Palestinian villages were demolished and their village lands planted with the same European pines, one of those villages is the biblical Imwas (see photos before and after here: https://freepaly.wordpress.com/tag/environmental-racism/ ).

The choice of European pine trees was because a) they grow fast, b) they give a European look to the otherwise “Arab” landscape, c) their leaves on the ground make  acidic preventing growth or regrowth of endogenous trees. In total KKL boasts that it planted 240 million pine trees. Resinous pine is like petrol and burns with a ferocity. This was not the only environmentally catastrophic decision by the Zionist movement in Palestine (others include draining the Hula Wetlands and the diversion of the water of the river Jordan and now the Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal).  Environmentally, the current fires are deadly to all living creatures regardless of their
origins and they do spread to the remaining few indigenous forests and to human dwellings (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Atheist without distinction).

We environmentalists (Palestinian and Israeli) have longed warned of the catastrophic consequences of politically driven decisions guided by colonial ideology but devastating to native animals and plants.  So here we are the remaining native Palestinians watching our lands go up in flames and being blamed for it. This is not unusual and we are the victims of others from long ago. We even paid the price of what happened in WWII (by Europeans to fellow Europeans). I am thinking now if a meteor hits earth, we Palestinians will also pay a disproportionate price. 7 million of us are refugees or displaced people.

We in the Palestine Museum of Natural History and Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability (http://palestinenature.org) urge protection of our nature. Environmental conservation is a priority for all decent human beings including guarding biodiversity (and human diversity).

Mazin Qumsiyeh
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor and (volunteer) Director Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability Bethlehem University
Occupied Palestine
http://qumsiyeh.org
http://palestinenature.org

Dr. Taha Jabir Al-Alwani’s Last Article

Friday, April 29th, 2016

[The passing of Dr. Taha Jabir Al-Alwani was a great loss to scholarship in the ummah. I can think of no better epitaph than his last article, which was publicly read by his grandchildren at a program at Howard University on March 8. This is our transcription of his article.]

“I sanctify justice, celebrate freedom, and honor humanity. While demonstrating gentleness with the weak, I remind the strong that there is always someone who is stronger than they. I advise the rich to fulfill the rights of the poor, while I remind the poor that the rich among them have been entrusted with God’s wealth to fulfill the rights of the poor.  I love goodness and gentleness and reject evil. I invite to goodness and reject violence. I cling to the rope of guidance and uphold the truth. I fight lies and deceit and forbid corruption. I seek reconciliation to the extent possible. I yearn for peace and despise war. I love humanity and strive for a good life. Death beckons, yet I believe that this a bridge I must cross, to cross from a fleeting life to one that is eternal. I desire the best ending and seek refuge in God from the contrary. I love heaven and detest hell-fire. I seek security and hate instability. I hat authoritarianism. I am not profane, destructive, or corrupt. My lineage extends from Adam and Hawaa (Eve), for Adam is my father and Hawaa is my mother. All members of humanity are sisters and brothers. I do not disdain, betray or humiliate a single human being. Rather, I work to guide human beings, light their path, and walk with them along that path to paradise. I seek to be a roadblock between them and hellfire. I love the universe and belong to it. I love my neighbors in the universe, including its trees, plants, rocks, animals, mountains, and rivers. God, most Majestic, has created me from this earth. To this earth He will return me, and from this earth He will restore me once again. To this earth I belong, and for its cultivation I call. My desire is to raise the truth; my goal is to spread peace and security in it; my means is to struggle with my own soul in order for peace to be realized and security to  prevail. I invite to God, to Whom is my ultimate return.  Peace is my objective. Security is my desire. Terrorism is my enemy. Conflict is my adversary, Inner peace is my pursuit.

“Do you recognize me? Do you know on this earth anyone who parallels this description? I am a Muslim.”

— Shaykh Taha Jabir Al-Alwani

Muslims and Bell-Tower Controversy

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

Muslims and Bell-Tower Controversy

Duke University’s decision to rescind its earlier approval to allow the use of campus bell-tower for a weekly Islamic prayer call has drawn widespread attention. Among the chief opponents of this accommodation to campus Muslims is Reverend Franklin Graham. He says, “It is wrong because it’s a different god. Using the bell tower, that signifies worship of Jesus Christ. Using (it) as a minaret is wrong” (quoted in Atlanta Journal Constitution, 1/16/15).

It is ironic, however, that Franklin Graham’s father, Reverend Billy Graham, was more polite and tolerant about Islam and Muslims. In the wake of the 9/11 tragedy, the elder Evangelical preached, in true Christian spirit, that we “should regard Muslims not as the enemy but as fellow-believers who worshiped the same God” (Washington Post, 9/2/02). Of course, over the centuries, numerous non-Muslim authorities (religious and others) have acknowledged that.

As to the bell-tower, it is a replica of the Islamic prayer-call minaret, brought to Latin-Europe by St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) from his missionary travels to the Islamic lands. While in Egypt , Francis “was deeply impressed by the religious devotion of Muslims, especially by their daily calls for prayer.” And, “the thrice-daily recitation of the Angelus that became current in Europe after this visit was precipitated by the impression made on Francis by the call of the muezzin (just as the quintessential Catholic devotion of the rosary derives from the Muslim prayer beads)” (see Thomas Cahill, “The Peaceful Crusade: Francis of Assisi,” New York Times, 12/25/06).

Incidentally, part of St. Francis’ mission was to convert Egypt’s Sultan al-Malik Kamil (reign: 1218-1238). He didn’t succeed, but he “came away from the peaceful encounter with revolutionary ideas
that called for Christians to live harmoniously with Muslims.” Amen. (See Paul Moses, The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam, and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace, Image Publishers; 2009).

S.M. Ghazanfar
(Emeritus-Prof., University of Idaho)

Reflections on “The Muslim Response to Charlie Hebdo: Understanding the Root Causes of Radicalization”

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

Reflections on the CSID Conference “The Muslim Response to Charlie Hebdo: Understanding the Root Causes of Radicalization”

On Wednesday, January 22, I attended a two hour conference organized by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) at the National Press Club in downtown Washington, DC. The topic was “The Muslim Response to Charlie Hebdo: Understanding the Root Causes of Radicalization,” and it featured an impressive panel of speakers.

What follows is a brief summary of the main points discussed by four presenters, and my thoughts on the issues raised.

Nihad Awad, National Executive Director and Co-founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), was at the podium defended the Muslim response to the terrorism in France (and elsewhere). He cited the repeated condemnations coming from Muslim organizations that go largely unacknowledged by most of mainstream media. He also touched upon some of the internal and external factors that open the door to acts of terrorism; and, to his credit, briefly outlined some of the legitimate grievances felt by Muslims around the world vis-à-vis U.S. foreign policy.

It was a commendable presentation.

Dalia Mogahed, Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), began her remarks by citing some of the free speech contradictions emanating from the Charlie Hebdo controversy, and made mention of the attacks on innocent Muslims in the wake of the terrorist attacks in France. She noted that one of the central goals of the terrorists was the pursuit of religious and societal polarization, and that this objective was partially realized. She also made note of the marked difference in media, government and societal response to the far greater carnage committed by [European non-Muslim terrorist] Anders Behring Breivik, who took the lives of 77 people in Norway a few years ago, most of them children. Mogahed also noted the inspiration that Breivik reportedly drew from non-Muslim sources in the West! “The difference [in response] was like night and day,” she correctly opined.

Using the fictional character in the movie “Borak” as an example – a character whose blameworthy stereotypes of Jews was indicative of his social and intellectual backwardness – she noted that the cartoons at the heart of the Charlie Hebdo controversy, and French society’s defense of those cartoons, could be indicative of how backward France still is (despite what it thinks and says of itself).

It too was a commendable presentation.

Imam Talib Shareef introduced himself as a former career soldier in the US Military, and as the President and fourth imam of “The Nation’s Mosque,” – i.e. Masjid Muhammad, the Washington DC branch of “the oldest Muslim community in America” (I disagree with this characterization) – while noting the transition that took the community [formerly known as the Nation of Islam / World Community of Al-Islam in the West / American Muslim Mission] from where it began in the 1930s, to where it is today. He also referenced the Muslim Journal as the “oldest Muslim newspaper in America” – as he drew attention to the front page of the January 16, 2015, edition which features the caption: “Without Free Press There Would Be No Muslim Journal.”

Imam Shareef proceeded to read the statement that he and “The Nation’s Mosque” released in response to the terrorist attacks in France. He noted that a lot of the extremism within Muslim ranks has to do with “the fall of the Muslim world,” as exemplified by high illiteracy rates, poverty, political oppression, etc. He also noted that both “desperation and provocation” are rampant within the Muslim world, and that “proper attention is not being given to those who are suffering.” He advised the media that the perpetrators of terrorism should be designated as criminals (not Muslim terrorists, jihadists, etc.).

While this writer agreed with almost everything Imam Sharif said, it was the things left unsaid that left me more than a bit troubled. (Insha’Allah, I will come back to this later.)

Dr. James D. Le Suer, professor of history at the University of Nebraska (with familial roots in France), was the final speaker on the panel. He cited some of the socio-economic factors that feed the radicalization process in parts of France – specifically in the “projects” which, by his description are dismal and dangerous places, producing alienation, criminality and violence in large swaths of the French-Muslim population. He noted that while second and third generation Muslims are more integrated than widely perceived, they are not integrated enough.

During Q&A this writer was one of the last tier of folk in the room to raise a question (or comment). I referenced the legitimate grievances that Muslims around the world have with U.S. policy, citing the cases of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and Mohamedou Ould Slahi – a Guantanamo Bay prisoner held for the past 12 years without charge (and under release orders!) – as examples. I then raised the question, shouldn’t more organizations and individuals of good will (both Muslim and non-Muslim) be drawing more attention to these types of issues that factor heavily into the “radicalization process?”

I really appreciated Dalia Mogahed’s response. She correctly opined that, “The terrorists haven’t hijacked Islam, they’ve hijacked Muslim grievances. We need to own them and give people peaceful and legitimate means to address them.” She also noted that Muslims (especially our young) need better “Islamic literacy.” She referenced the “moral rage of the Civil Rights Movement” as being something good; as being something that we [Muslims] must utilize and channel effectively.

I couldn’t agree more. As the sister was concluding her remarks I thought about the just released movie “Selma,” and how beneficial it would be for Muslim leaders in America (especially immigrant leaders, and young, clueless, indigenous leaders) to study the movie carefully and extract valuable lessons from it.

As the only African American on the panel, and as someone representing a community that in its original construct (NOI) was known for its biting criticism of America’s domestic and foreign policy, I hoped for a more balanced and forthright presentation from Imam Shareef (not one way condemnation). Given our people’s unique sociological experience, I believe that African American leaders (of all stripes) bear a special responsibility to speak truth to power whenever the opportunity arises, as effectively as they possibly can. We are uniquely positioned to open up doors of dialogue on some of the most difficult and contentious issues of the day…and we must.

Despite the fact that I began my journey to Islam through the community that Imam Shareef represents [i.e. Nation of Islam / World Community of Al-Islam in the West / American Muslim Mission], and still maintain ties with members of that community throughout the U.S., I have been politely but repeatedly rebuffed in my attempts to deliver a human rights presentation on the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, and the equally important peripheral issues that surround her case.

This writer has consistently maintained (and I’m not alone) that Aafia’s case is one of the saddest, most unjust and precedent-setting “war on terrorism” cases in America today – and that it represents a litmus test for committed Muslims throughout the world! The refusal of the leaders of “The Nation’s Mosque” (Masjid Muhammad) to open the door for dialogue on this Muslim woman’s case, and on how the campaign for her release can be assisted by members of this predominantly African American community, can only be described as callous and negligent.

I believe Imam Talib Shareef is fundamentally a good man, who’s better angels are being held in check by his US Military-related life experiences and the prism through which he views the world; and that other leaders within his community may be blindly following his lead. (ALLAH knows best.) What I know is that “The Nation’s Mosque” is in a strategically important city, and it should not be viewed as The Government’s Mosque. This community has a rich history of struggle and service, and this legacy of struggle should not be sacrificed on the altar of expediency. To whom much is given, much is required.

On a final note, also present at yesterday’s media conference was one of the veteran soldiers on the front line of Islamic struggle in America – Imam Latif Abdul Lateef of New York. Citing the huge demonstration that recently took place in France, he opined that we need to have a Million Muslim March on Washington, and that indigenous Muslims should lead the charge. (I couldn’t agree more!)

In the struggle for peace thru justice,
El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan
THE PEACE THRU JUSTICE FOUNDATION

Leonard Liggio (1933-2014): A Scholar For The Free World

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Leonard Liggio (1933-2014): A Scholar For The Free World

by Alejandro Chafuen, President of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation

[Originally published in Forbes, reprinted with permission of the  author]

The free society lost a great champion on Tuesday, October 14, 2014 when Leonard P. Liggio passed away. I first met Leonard P. Liggio in 1980 at a Mont Pelerin Society (MPS) meeting held at the Hoover Institution. He was standing on the left side of the packed auditorium next to Murray Rothbard, another intellectual giant, much smaller in size, but similar in their passion to understand and promote liberty. At the time Liggio was president of the Institute for Humane Studies (I.H.S.). At the time of his passing, he was vice president of the Atlas Network, which as I.H.S. relocated to Northern Virginia and, for some years, shared offices near George Mason University. John Blundell (1952-2014), who succeeded Liggio as president of I.H.S., also became president of Atlas Network (1988-1991), and had an outstanding relationship with him.

From the moment of our arrival in Virginia I worked daily with Leonard on different projects. With his deep and encyclopedic historical knowledge he complemented and enlightened Atlas Network’s work to create and nurture public policy think tanks. His understanding of the evolution of legal institutions helped me and many others put our economic and policy arguments into a better perspective.

In 1990, Manuel Ayau (1925-2010), the founder and late president of the Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala, asked Leonard and I to help him build the program of a regional MPS meeting. Although the topic always led to major disagreements among classical liberals, we organized a panel on religion and liberty. We invited Father Robert Sirico to speak. That meeting led to conversations among us and eventually to the founding of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. The co-founders, Sirico and Kris Mauren asked us to become founding trustees. Our next joint effort was in 1993 with Tony Sullivan, then at the Earhart Foundation developing a program to promote classical liberal ideas among the Muslim world. We provided advice and some support to the Minaret of Freedom Institute founded later that year.

After a restructuring of I.H.S. in 1988, Atlas had a chance to bring Liggio onto its team. I.H.S. focused on scholars, and Atlas on think tanks, but the latter needed the input and academic guidance of figures like Leonard. Plus, a new crop of intellectual entrepreneurs working at universities, would profit from having such a talented and generous scholar helping them multiply their impact. Seeing its enhanced academic capital, the John Templeton Foundation asked Atlas to administer the Templeton Freedom Project, which focused on teaching the principles of the free society at universities in the U.S. and across the globe. [One of the most successful courses to emerge from that effort was the course on “Religion, Science, and Freedom”  taught by Minaret of Freedom Institute President Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad in the University of Maryland Honors Program for six years.] Those investments continue to bear fruit.

Describing Liggio’s affiliations and saying a few words about their relevance would fill an academic paper. Think tanks and academic societies in Austria, Italy, Liechtenstein, France, Portugal, Turkey and the United Kingdom benefitted from his advice and knowledge. He had a stellar career in the United States. In addition to I.H.S., he was president of the MPS, the Philadelphia Society, vice president of the Cato Institute and the Atlas Network, and a trustee of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Also, Leonard and I were involved in the early discussions of the Christian, conservative think tank at Grove City College: The Center for Vision & Values.

As a member of the board of Liberty Fund, his knowledge of the international academic scene helped the Liberty Fund invest wisely across the globe helping connect the best liberty scholars in the world. Leonard won several awards and recognitions including an honorary doctorate from the Universidad Francisco Marroquín and the 2007 Adam Smith Award conveyed by the Association for Private Enterprise and Education. Numerous academic journals have profited from his editorial advice, hundreds, if not thousands of young academics benefitted from his insights and generous recommendation letters. He helped many with their book projects. Perhaps due to that generosity, he never completed a book of his own, but his dozens of learned academic papers and lectures will illuminate generations to come.

Liggio was much more than a man of ideas, he was also a man of the spirit. Whenever he saw a friend or colleague with some pain in their soul, he shared with them, with respect, love and above all, understanding, the treasure that he found in his Catholic faith. He always reminded think tank leaders to avoid scheduling events during the religious holidays of other faiths. Leonard Liggio was a scholar, intellectual entrepreneur, and generous human being who serves as an example of how to devote a life to promote the free society.

Alejandro Chafuen
President of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation
https://atlasnetwork.org/

Ali Al’Amin Mazrui (1933 – 2014)

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

Ali Al’Amin Mazrui (1933 – 2014)

[Obituary by Prof. Sulayman Nyang]

Professor Ali A. Mazrui is dead. We hereby call upon the Almighty Allah to grant him mercy and the best of his rewards to his servants. His death is a shock to many of us and to the countless numbers who knew him personally and benefited from his writings and other forms of sharing knowledge and memories. In writing this brief obituary it is imperative for us to educate the readers about the man and his works. Born to an Afro-Arab family with strong roots going back to the Middle East, he fulfilled in his life what is now called “the triple heritages.” This is to say, Ali was a Muslim child who learned to negotiate between Arabic, Swahili and the English language. This linguistic troika framed his opinions on and attitudes towards colonial rule in Kenya, Not only did he face colonialism but he also shared with other Kenyans the pangs of settler colonialism.

Being a contemporary of the late Tom Mboya, he carried with him all the agonies and frustrations known to the Kenyans of his days. The fact that a colonial governor intervened early in his life, in the sense that his education at the University of Manchester, where he received his Bachelor’s degree, was an act of goodwill, was never forgotten. Many a time Ali spoke about these developments in his life and how this act affected his encounter with Britain and the impact of the English language in Africa.

In talking about Ali Mazrui and his education in Kenya and abroad, seven things can be highlighted for the uninformed and perplexed. First of all, Ali came out of Kenya with a firm background in Swahili culture and this fact remained with him throughout his life. Secondly, Ali was a Muslim and in both his speeches and lectures, echoes of Islam and Africa reverberated in the firmaments of his public debates. 

Thirdly, one could list the fact that Ali was an engaged intellectual. Not only did he look at the learning systems of the West, but he also carried with him the critical tools for careful and formidable inspections of words and deeds from the West. His books and videos on Africa are now a part and parcel of his ever-growing legacies for all of us.

Fourthly, Ali Mazrui was a public intellectual who had the required training and audacity to stand up and speak for Africa and Islam. Certainly, he had the nerve and the verve to make a big difference. The fifth point to note is the fact that Ali Mazrui went to Columbia for his Master’s degree and to Oxford for his doctorate. These two instances provided him with the environments and personalities that changed and affected his life.

Tom Mboya, a rising star in Kenyan politics when Mazrui was a budding university professor, is a memorable partner in the telling of Kenyan history. Both of them owed a lot to Jomo Kenyatta. Not only were they impressed by the Mzee (Elder), they also helped in their own different ways to contribute to Kenyan struggles for independence. Tom’s book on Kenya and Ali’s book on Uhuru formed a part of the narratives with countless contributions from other Kenyans, Africans and others beyond East Africa.

The sixth point about Ali Mazrui and the Kenyan experience is related to his encounters with the political leaders in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. His scholarship led him to inquiries about political life and times in this region of the continent. Witness is relationship with Idi Amin, which led to his flight from his beloved campus in Uganda; what about his verbal combat with Obote; how can we miss his political dance with Julius Nyerere, whose followers despised his creation of the term, Tanzaphilia, to define those local and foreign scholars singing praises to the old man from Arusha. 

How can we forget the relationship between Ali and Yacubu Gowon on Nigeria; how can we ever forget his relationship with Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Muammar Qaddafi of Libya? Both were seen during the Cold War as political lepers quarantined by the West. Ali belonged to those scholars who demonstrated courage and determination to speak for Africa and Islam. His profile in courage led one Western scholar to describe him this way, as reported in my book, Ali Mazrui: The Man and His Works (1980).

According to this observation: “He was the Muhammad Ali of African intellectuals. Fly like a butterfly, and sting like a bee.”  The seventh and last point to identify hereunder is the fact that Ali Mazrui was later in his life and scholarship deeply invested in Islam and the Muslim experience in the West. A careful Google search will point to numerous pieces from which many essays and commentaries could be constructed by future students of Ali Mazrui and his contributions. Those who knew Ali and his works cannot forget his relationship with fellow Muslims who are public intellectuals in their own right. The leaders of the Minaret of Freedom, which has championed the work of Muslims and others clamoring for freedom and justice in America and abroad, particularly in Palestine, will forever add Ali to their narratives, either as a part of their main texts on Muslims and the American experience or, minimally, as a footnotes in their pages. Ali Mazrui was the first keynote speaker at a Minaret of Freedom Institute annual dinner, addressing the still urgent issue “Muslim Dilemmas from Human Rights to the Right to Nuclear Weapons.”

In writing about the man and his works, it is imperative for us to see the impact of Mazrui in the field of African Studies and Islamic Studies in the United States of America. With respect to the former, we can state here that many reflections on Islam and the American experience came from the pen of Ali A. Mazrui. Future researchers, who will try to understand and document the American Muslim narratives, are going to come across his name. This is evident through the Muslim journals on Islam Studies and in the pages of American and other Western journals on Islam.

When Mumtaz Ahmad and I started the American Journal of Islamic Studies in the early part of the 1980s, the efforts of many of our towering scholars were deployed. Ali A. Mazrui not only contributed through the journal when its name was changed to the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, but he also served as another editor-in-chief for the publication. He was able to relate his achievements in the field of African Studies to the field of Islamic Studies. That is why Ali worked well with John Esposito and a number of other scholars serving in their capacities as members of the academic council of the Center for Muslim-Christian understanding.

From that vantage point, Mazrui met and knew many people. As a result, Mazrui secured another place among scholars writing on Islam and the American experience.

In concluding this obituary on Ali A. Mazrui, it is fitting to revisit the impact of his father and the impact he had on the man and his future residence in the United States of America. His father was a learned jurist who served as a mufti in the Islamic high courts of Colonial Kenya. From him he inherited the deep interest in learning and sharing knowledge with family, friends and strangers. Being colonized by the English, he studied the language of the conqueror and became a celebrity among Third World scholars who deployed the language of the colonial master to defend and strengthen his people in their wars for freedom and independence.

 Not only did he learn and master the English language, but closer to home, he also engaged the Swahili language of his people and in time shared his command with the listeners of the BBC and other outlets where this African language became the vehicle of self-articulation and knowledge-transfer for those who were hungry for knowledge.

Professor Sulayman S. Nyang, Howard University
Minaret of Freedom Institute Board of Directors
www.minaret.org

Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and Malala Yousafzai: Bone-chilling Contrasts in the West

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and Malala YousafzaiBone-chilling Contrasts in the West

by El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan

Let me begin by stating loud and clear, this writer is proud to know that a Muslim woman, Malala Yousafzai, has become the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. While her young age (17) might raise the eyebrows of some, in my humble opinion she is far more deserving than a number of much older Nobel laureates who immediately come to mind (I won’t mention any names).

This commentary is about something else, however. With the attention and celebration that greeted the selection of Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai and India’s Kailash Satyarthi for the world’s most coveted peace prize, one would think that the American establishment has a special regard for young, accomplished (and committed) Muslim women. An honest review of the record would show that quite the opposite is true.

After news of the selection hit the air waves, this writer heard a regrettable BBC interview of a Pakistani editor who not only didn’t agree with Malala’s selection, but publicly “condemned” the Noble Committee’s decision. (In pockets of the Pakistani community, both here and abroad, there is a visceral hatred felt toward this amazing young sister.)

The remarks of this Pakistani editor against one of his own (during the course of that interview) underscored how blind, unforgiving and irrational hatred can be. That same blind, illogic thinking can also be found in America toward Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, as evidenced by the position that some within the US political and media establishments (and a minority of voices within America’s Pakistani community) have taken on her plight. Their thinking and response is just as dumb-founding and shameful as the Pakistani editor who doesn’t believe Malala was even shot – it’s all a “conspiracy,” he argues.

With that said, the parallels between Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and Malala Yousafzai are striking!

  1. Like Malala, Aafia was already a well-educated young sister when she came to the West at the age of 18. (Aafia entered the US as a promising young immigrant, while Malala was transported to the UK in critical condition following a gunshot injury to the head, at the tender age of 15.)
  2. Aafia received her university training in America, graduating with honors from MIT and Brandeis. Malala has resumed her educational pursuits in the UK, and this writer predicts that she too will complete her educational pursuits with honors, insha’Allah.
  3. Both demonstrated a passion for Muslim women’s rights. In the case of Aafia, she campaigned for a full recognition of women’s rights across the board – see the youtube video of a 19 year old Aafia Siddiqui speaking at the University of Houston: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Skmj16h40wE ; for Malala, the right of Muslim girls (specifically in Pakistan) to be educated was, and is, her passion.
  4. Both grabbed the attention of special interests in the West, but with very different results. While Malala Yousafzai is being celebrated for her accomplishments and yet unfulfilled future potential, Aafia Siddiqui is wasting away in a maximum security prison cell on a military base in the land of “liberty and justice for all!”

While I could on, I think the point has already been made. And my advice to Malala, given the vagaries of American political conscience, don’t think about taking up residence in the United States any time soon!

El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan, Peace Thru Justice Foundation

Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui, Aafia’s sister had this response to the recent court order:

“This is not Aafia’s decision. I know because my last conversation with her was that she was visited [in her dreams] by our prophet Muhammad, saw, and he was pleased with my efforts and the appeal. She said it is for this reason I consent, and if we don’t connect again DO NOT believe any statement to the contrary on my behalf.”

Since then we have had absolutely no contact with her. I know she did not withdraw of her own free will. She has been coerced. God knows how much torture [she’s been forced to endure], complete solitary and manipulations…. It horrifies me to even think about what she has been forced to go through.”

 

An Open Letter to the “Islamic State”

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Assalaamu Alaikum (Greetings of Peace):

On March 16, 2003, a committed young (only 23) American activist by the name of Rachel Corrie was murdered in cold blood by an Israeli soldier, while she attempted to non-violently prevent the destruction of a Palestinian family’s home in Rafah (Palestine). It has come to my attention that another young (26 years old) American woman was allegedly kidnapped on August 4, 2013, by members of ISIS while engaged in humanitarian relief work in Turkey and Syria. From what I’ve learned of this dedicated young woman, she is cut from the same human cloth as Rachel Corrie.

It is my understanding that she is a human rights activist who has protested against rendition, torture, America’s use of drones, and she begged family and friends to do what they could to urge the US government to intervene in a way that would help the suffering people of Syria (especially the millions of vulnerable refugees).

At the time of her abduction; she had gone into Aleppo to assist a project at an area hospital. She was abducted outside the hospital, along with her Syrian friend who has since been released. It is my understanding that she was initially given a life sentence in retaliation for the 86 year sentence imposed by the US Government on Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. Then, on July 12th, 2014, ISIS informed her family that she would be executed in 30 days if: (a) Aafia was not released, or (b) the family did not come up with a ransom of five million euros.

If I had the chance to address her captors I would ask them to consider the following:

  1. The Noble Qur’an and Prophetic Sunnah disallow the deliberate killing of civilian non-combatants, especially women and children.
  2. Deliberately engaging in actions on the battlefield that violate “the limits” established by The Noble Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah (i.e. Islamic Shariah) removes ALLAH’s barakah (blessings) from the actions taken. As Sheikh ibn Taymeeyah correctly stated: “Civilization is based on justice, and the consequences of oppression are devastating. Therefore it is said ALLAH aids the just State, even if it is non-Muslim; and withholds His help from the oppressive State, even if it is Muslim.”
  3. To murder an innocent young woman, who willingly put herself in harm’s way to non-violently assist other human beings (who happen to be Muslim), would make her killers no better than the murderous regime (Zionist Israel) who took the life of Rachel Corrie in 2003 (and countless others since)! Do you really want to be part of that fraternity?

I end with a message from the family of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, who were shocked and saddened when this tragedy was brought to their attention.

El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan
Director Operations
The Peace Thru Justice Foundation

The Family of Aafia calls for Mercy and Compassion

The Family of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui is very distraught at the disturbing report [of the abduction of name omitted]. If the issue is true, we would like to state that our family does not have any connections to such groups or actions. We believe in a struggle that is peaceful and dignified. Associating Aafia’s name with acts of violence is against everything we are struggling for.

Cases like Aafia’s generate great support and emotional involvements because the suffering she has been put through and continues to endure can’t be ignored. A growing and tragic result of Aafia’s continued detention is that our appeals to reason and avoidance of violence are being ignored as people lose faith in the efficacy of those means, and we see them expressing their anger in a manner that neither us nor Aafia would endorse.

So, to those who have influence in the fate of Ms. [name omitted] we ask that they opt for a path of mercy and demonstrate by their actions to those who hold Aafia that mercy yields greater success, like the Sunna of our holy prophet. While we deeply appreciate the sincere feelings of those who, like us, wish to see the freedom of our beloved Aafia, we cannot agree with a “by any means necessary” approach to Aafia’s freedom. Nor can we accept that someone else’s daughter or sister suffer like Aafia is suffering.

Those of us who know and love Aafia can tell you that she would be distraught if she knew that there are people bragging about murder and mayhem and using her name to justify it. She would also be praying for the victims and their families. Aafia is one of too many people around the world who understands the toll that injustice imposes upon all of us.

Let us do our part to put an end to these cycles of pain and bloodshed. Let us show those who have military might that mercy and forgiveness is even more powerful. We pray that both establishments will do their part, and that both innocent women will be set free; not in exchange, not as ransom, but simply because it is the right and honourable thing to do.

The blessed are those who avoid the greater crimes and shameful deeds, and when they are angry even then forgive (Holy Koran, 42:37)

But indeed if any show patience and forgive, that would truly be an exercise of courageous will and resolution in the conduct of affairs. (Holy Koran, 42:43)

The Family of Aafia Siddiqui

Emad Shahin’s Statement to Students, Family and Friends

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

[Dr. Emad Shahin is a highly respected scholar of Islam and politics in the modern Muslim world and  a friend to the Minaret of Freedom Institute. His indictment under the Egyptian military junta is actually  shameful self-indictment of the regime itself and we are pleased to be able to print his statement as a guest blog. ]

Statement to my Students, Family and Friends

January 23, 2014

It was with severe shock that I received news that I have been named in a case known as the “Grand Espionage,” which also included former President Mohamed Morsi and senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. These claims are baseless and politically motivated.

The indictment listed far-fetched charges that my friends and associates would regard not merely as improbable but as beyond preposterous. The charges include: espionage, leading an illegal organization, providing a banned organization with information and financial support, calling for the suspension of the constitution, preventing state institutions and authorities from performing their functions, harming national unity and social harmony, and causing to change the government by force.

I categorically and emphatically deny all the charges, and I challenge the State Security Prosecutor to present real evidence to substantiate these fabricated charges. I am an academic and have been independent throughout my life. I am an advocate for democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and a fervent supporter of the main objectives of the January 25 Revolution in Egypt, namely freedom, dignity, and social justice.

For the record, I definitively state that I have never been a member of the Society of the Muslim Brothers at any point in my life, and I have never provided it with any financial or material support as alleged in the so-called indictment.

Furthermore, the indictment stated that I was “at large”. This could not have been farther from the truth, as I have never been subpoenaed by any prosecutor even though I have been living in Egypt since 2011. I have openly traveled abroad many times during this period to participate in conferences and attend academic events without ever being stopped or prohibited from leaving or entering the country, especially over the past few months. My workplace, the American University in Cairo, is well known to the authorities. I have never left or changed my place of residence, which is also well known to the government, and I have never been banned from travel or placed on a watch list as I left and entered the country several times during the past month. I appeared on television interviews as an analyst and a commentator to discuss the delicate political situation in Egypt and have always maintained a public presence. I am neither at large nor was I unwilling to appear before any interrogator had I received a formal subpoena and guarantees for fair proceedings, due-process of law, and a fair trial.

Though I have always been a fervent critic of authoritarian rule in Egypt, I have always expressed strong support for peaceful protests to restore democracy and express popular opposition against government repression.

Needless to say I am a well-known academic and intellectual with a long record of teaching and scholarly achievements. I received my PhD from the Johns Hopkins University (SAIS) and have been a faculty member at prominent universities in the US, Egypt, and the Middle East, including the American University in Cairo, Harvard, Georgetown, Notre Dame, George Washington, and Boston Universities. I have produced major scholarly works including being the editor in chief of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Politics.

I have been critical of the course of political events in Egypt since last summer and can only conclude that such criticism—entirely restricted to word and utterly unconnected to any organized group, faction, or party—is my true offense.  Like many fellow Egyptians, I am supportive of peaceful mobilization in defense of democracy, freedom, equal rights, and inclusion.  I will continue to advocate such values, exercising a right to protest that is enshrined in Egyptian law and, in recent years, deeply engrained in Egyptian practice.

Emad Shahin, Ph.D.
Professor of Public Policy, The American University in Cairo
Henry R. Luce Associate Professor, University of Notre Dame (2009-2012)
Visiting Associate Professor, Harvard University (2006-2009)
Faculty Affiliate, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Belfer Center (2007-2008)
Editor in Chief, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Politics
Member of the Academic Advisory Board, Center for Christian-Muslim Understanding, Georgetown University
Member of the Editorial Advisory Board, Oxford Research Directions (Since 2011)
Advisory editor, The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World (Oxford University Press, 2009)
Member of the Academic Board, Al-Hadara Center, Cairo, Egypt
Member of Alexandria Library Scientific Board for the Production of “Selections of Modern Islamic Heritage” (Since 2012)
Foreign Reference Member, University of Oslo (since 2007)
Member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council (2008)