_100417641_mediaitem100417638

‘Love a Muslim Day’ list in response to hate letter

The man who created a ‘Love a Muslim Day’ list in response to letters promoting hateful acts hopes his idea will “bring people together”.

It was sparked by reports that ‘Punish a Muslim Day’ letters had been sent out in several cities, calling on people to verbally and physically attack Muslims.

Four MPs from South Asian backgrounds have also received packages containing anti-Muslim letters in recent days.

The response, listing acts of kindness, has been widely shared on social media.

More on this story and others in West Yorkshire

Shahab Adris, from Leeds, said he was disgusted at the content of the widely-reported letter and had a “brainwave” on Saturday.

“I thought, let’s turn this letter on its head, keep the points system and turn it into something lovely,” he said.

“Some of the responses I’ve seen from the Muslim community have been really positive, but the most remarkable thing has been getting responses from people who are not Muslim, saying they will do something with a Muslim colleague.”

Shahab Adris and Liz Green
Image captionShahab Adris, pictured with BBC Radio Leeds presenter Liz Green, said the idea could be adapted for people of all beliefs
Points system in Shahab Adris' letterImage copyrightSHAHAB ADRIS
Image caption points system went from ‘smile at a Muslim’ to ‘Buy a Hajj package for a Muslim family’

Mr. Adris works for Muslim Engagement & Development, a national charity promoting political and social engagement and countering Islamophobia.

His letter rewards an increasing number of points for actions including ‘smile at a Muslim’, ‘buy a Muslim coffee with cake’ and ‘do a fundraiser for the needy’.

  • The fourth MP gets Islamophobic letter
  • MPs condemn ‘Punish a Muslim’ letter
  • ‘Punish a Muslim’ letters probed

Mr. Andris told BBC Radio Leeds: “As a Muslim, we’re always wanting to bring people together and love everyone regardless of their background – it could be love a Jew day, love a Christian day, love an atheist day, love a human day.”

The move was backed by Labour MP for Colne Valley Thelma Walker, with others calling it a “perfect response to hate and bigotry”.

An urgent question was raised in the House of Commons on Monday by Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi, giving details of the letters that were said to have been received in Bradford, Leicester, London, Cardiff, and Sheffield.

Counter-Terrorism Policing North East previously said it had received reports of “potentially malicious communications sent to individuals across the UK” and told anyone who had received one to contact their local police force.

 

rosiembcoverimagepakistan

Rosie Gabrielle, A Canadian Biker Visiting Pakistan, Is Falling In Love With The Country, One City At A Time

That’s right, she’s riding through Pakistan, and for the most part, solo. Bike enthusiasts curious to know what she’s riding – it’s a red BMW F700 GS.

Women aren’t commonly seen riding motorcycles in Pakistan, let alone foreigners, but Gabrielle has been met with mostly positive reactions. That isn’t, of course, to take away from why women here aren’t seen using bikes as a means of transport. The problems that exist here are very much real and pressing.

However, Gabrielle’s experience is definitely refreshing to hear about. Speaking to MangoBaaz regarding the same, here’s what she said:

“I get a lot of shocked faces, a lot of smiles. People in Pakistan seem to be very excited to see me on a motorcycle. The funniest reaction was that of a 6-year-old, who asked if I was a boy or a girl when he saw me riding the bike.”

The love for riding motorcycles is in her blood.

“My father rode,” she tells us. “He passed away when I was 2, but I know he was very adventurous, and it’s something that’s been passed down to me.” She insists that riding on a motorcycle is the best way to experience all of the sights and sounds of a place.

“I bought my first bike in Thailand. I had never even ridden before, but right away, I knew that this was the only way forward for me. I rode 12,000 km alone after that.” Since then, Rosie has ridden over 30 different types of motorcycles, from dirt bikes to big adventure bikes.

Gabrielle started traveling solo 17 years ago, and while that may seem odd to some, she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I enjoy my time alone, it’s not scary,” she tells us.

According to Gabrielle, traveling alone as a female actually gives her an advantage. “People don’t see you as a threat and they want to help you and take care of you,” she says.

Traveling alone has given her the opportunity to meet new people. “People are always curious, they want to know more about me and I’ve had many amazing encounters this way,” she tells us.

When asked if the idea of visiting Pakistan ever scared her, she answered with a resounding no.

“As a seasoned traveler, I know not to listen when people tell me a place isn’t safe. I heard the same when I was planning to go to South Africa a few years ago, but I went anyway,” she says.

“There was an inquisitive charm luring me to experience the real side of the country and find out first-hand just what it was like there. Unlike what the media has to say about Pakistan, the travelers I’ve spoken to have only ever had amazing things to say about it,” she writes on Instagram.

 

Rosie was invited to visit Pakistan by none other than Huzaifa Ubaid Khan, a Pakistani expat based in Oman. Despite living abroad, Huzaifa’s love for Pakistan runs deep, and it was this love that fueled the fire in him to start his Pakistan Awaits initiative. Huzaifa organizes group trips to Pakistan, keen to show the world a different side to the country often portrayed negatively in mainstream media.

Rosie began her three month journey through Pakistan on a week-long project with the folks from Pakistan Awaits. Now, she continues to ride solo through the country, sharing stories of the kindness, compassion and love she has received from people she’s met along the way.

So far, she’s seen Lahore, Swat and Malam Jabba. She’s currently in Multan and plans to ride all the way to Gwadar. She’ll be stopping along the way of course, and plans to visit a multitude of cities including Sukkur, Hyderabad and Karachi.

While she hasn’t seen enough of Pakistan to decide which city she’s liked most, Lahore has a special place in her heart.

According to Gabrielle, it isn’t the physical aspects that make a city what it is, it’s the experiences and the people.

“I’ve had so many incredible moments here in Pakistan,” she says, “and its really just meeting people and getting to experience kindness on a whole another level that’s so humbling.”

She’s shared a number of stories on Instagram documenting the kindness she was met with in the city. While riding through the streets of Lahore, Rosie came across a food stall, and of course the delicious smells drew her in. She was invited by the stall owner – Aunty – to try the food and join her and her granddaughter for dinner.

“The food was a gift. She said that I was a guest in her country and it was her honor and duty to show me grace and love. She explained to me that, in Islam, it is taught by Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) to love and care for one another, and to offer food to others. That it’s through her religion and faith that she is kind and hospitable to others. That being a Muslim means peace and love,” Gabrielle writes on Instagram.

Pakistan is known for its spicy food and Rosie has been thoroughly enjoying it!

“It’s actually too good (the food), because I’ve gained 3 kilos here. Spice definitely isn’t an issue, I’ve actually got better spice tolerance than some of my Pakistani friends,” she tells us.

Rosie has also had street side chai in Lahore, and tea seller Ali also refused compensation, insisting that Rosie was a guest in his Pakistan. She returned the gesture by giving him a printed photograph she took of him.

We all know how important round rotis are, and Rosie made sure to learn how to make some while in Lahore. It’s safe to say her attempt didn’t go to well, but has anyone made the perfect roti their first time around? (Please note the pun).

Rosie’s pretty much seen every inch of Lahore during the past few weeks, and of course that includes a visit to none other than Liberty Market, where she met her very own Pakistani namesake, Gulab! The two had a blast trying on traditional clothing and jewelry, and Gulab was sure to treat Rosie to some Kashmiri chai!

Rosie’s heartfelt messages and stories from Pakistan have garnered quite a bit of foreign interest.

“That’s the power of social media, I’ve received so many messages from people telling me they want to visit Pakistan,” she says. Unfortunately, other than in Malam Jabba, Rosie has yet to see a single foreigner in Pakistan.

“The security is very excessive here for foreigners, which is understandable, but it makes it very difficult for foreigners to travel here,” she tells us. Her contacts have allowed her to travel without a personal guard, but others may not find themselves to be as lucky.

We asked Rosie what she wants the world to know about Pakistan, and here’s what she had to say:

“It’s hard to sum it up because I’ve taken a different approach and have gone deeper than most people do when they visit. The kindness that has been displayed, it comes from such a beautiful, deep place in the heart. I think people could really learn something from those in Pakistan and it breaks my heart to hear the negative things people have to say.”

“I actually burst into tears this one time because as a female, non-Muslim foreigner I feel so accepted and welcomed here – not only in public places but also into homes and places of worship. People wouldn’t do that in Canada or the US, and it’s very humbling.”

Rosie still has the South of Pakistan left to explore on this trip, but that isn’t enough for the Canadian adventurer. “I plan on coming back this August to visit the Northern areas, I just have to go back to Canada first so I can bring my dog!” she tells us.

We can’t wait to see the rest of her journey through social media. Let us know what you think of her adventures in Pakistan in the comments below!

Walk-a-Mile

Vernon Hills Students Participate in “Walk a Mile in Her Hijab”

 

On Dec. 9, students at Vernon Hills High School participated in “Walk a Mile in Her Hijab,” sponsored by the Muslim Student Association (MSA). The event allowed for non-Muslim students to wear a hijab for the day to create a better sense of understanding at the school.

The event was inspired by Loyola University who held a similar event earlier this year. The purpose, according to member sophomore Hiba Ahmed, “is to establish a safe and welcoming environment in which both Muslim and non-Muslim students can come together to learn more about the religion of Islam, and engage in activities that will allow them to understand the religion better.”

The event was created to allow girls at the school, who were interested, to wear the hijab for the day and see how it felt. “Girls were to see what different reactions they would get through the day,” stated sophomore Vernon Hills student and MSA member Zahra Nadeem in an email interview. “It was a simple gesture that allowed the students at VHHS to understand how their Muslim peers represent their faith daily.”

The hijab is a headscarf or veil worn by Muslim women typically as a way of showing modesty stemming from the belief it is commanded by God in the Quran, which is Islam’s holy text.

On the day of the event, 21 non-Muslim students who elected to participate had their heads wrapped in hijabs by members of the association and completed the rest of the school day in the hijabs. Teachers and students were encouraged to ask questions about the hijabs.

According to various members of the group, the outcome of the event was mostly positive and gained an amplitude of attention. “We were blown away with how widespread our story became,” revealed senior Yasmeen Abdallah, the president of the MSA at Vernon Hills High School. “It was international news; we were featured in newspapers in India, Dubai, and Jordan.”

Although there was some negative feedback on sites like Facebook, Abdallah also expressed a large amount of support the event received from teachers, friends, family, and the community as a whole and hopes this becomes an annual event.

Girls-Wear-Hijab

Chicago’s non-Muslim school girls wear hijab to promote acceptance of Islamic beliefs

Chicago: Vernon Hills High School is objecting to Islamophobia and racism with an initiative called “Walk a Mile in Her Hijab.”

Over a dozen non-Muslim girls agreed to wear a traditional Islamic headscarf to better understand the Muslim faith and life as a Muslim woman.

School senior Yasmeen Abdallah, the president of the MSA, who coordinated the event said, “This event is to hopefully denounce negative stereotypes.”

“You can’t really understand or judge a person and their beliefs until you understand why they do it and what it’s like for them to do what they’re doing,” she said.

“I think it is a difficult time to be a Muslim student in our high school, in our community, and in America,” School principal Jon Guillaume told the Daily Herald by praising the Muslim student’s initiative.

“I think this is an opportunity for our kids to embrace the Muslim community within the school. For other kids outside of this organization, to understand what it’s like for these girls to walk through our halls in this garment in a way that stands out from other kids. So, I’m proud of them.”

Charlie Mosley, who participated in the event told the Herald that she wanted to wear the Hijab because her uncle is a Muslim and she hoped to “bring more acceptance” to Islamic beliefs.

Charli Mosley Hijab Charil Mosley Hijab

 

Illinois has the highest population of Muslims in the United States, but hate crimes and violence directed at Muslims is on the rise.

Popular In the Community

 

Sidrah-Ahmad

Islamophobia in Canada: Muslim students share their personal experiences

When Sidrah Ahmad describes the climate in Canada for Muslims, she uses the boiling frog analogy. If you put a frog in boiling water suddenly, it jumps out. But if the temperature increases gradually, it doesn’t notice the change and will be boiled alive.

Some people don’t realize Islamophobia exists and is getting worse, she says, especially since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, with his anti-immigration rhetoric and policies like the Muslim travel ban.

Islamophobia “is slowly and gradually getting more accepted, more intense, more rampant,” says Ahmad, a master’s student in adult education and community development. “I feel like Muslims are like, ‘It’s really hot in here,’ but many other people are like, ‘Well, what do you mean?’”

A painful reminder of the hostility toward Muslims in Canada will occur next week: the one-year anniversary of the shooting at Quebec City’s Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec. Six Muslim men were killed and many others were injured after a gunman opened fire in the mosque on Jan. 29. Alexandre Bissonnette, charged with six counts of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder, is expected to go on trial this spring.

Remembering the Quebec City mosque shooting: An events calendar

U of T’s Muslim Students’ Association, which describes itself as the largest student club at the university, helped organize a vigil the night after the shooting. The group also hosted a healing circle in U of T’s Multi-Faith Centre. About 70 people shared their grief at the event, says Ammara Wasim, vice-president of communications at the MSA.

Crowd at U of T Vigil

Ahmad, the master’s student, learned about the shooting in “in the worst way possible: alone and on Twitter.”  She was in the process of writing her ethics proposal when she got the news. Although still reeling from the tragedy, she felt a greater sense of urgency to produce her planned master’s thesis – research on Islamophobic violence faced by Muslim women in the GTA.

That summer, she made a social media call-out for volunteers to participate in the study and found 21 women within a month. Their ages ranged from 18 to 58. Nine were Black, 18 wore a hijab, niqab and/or abaya, and each had a story to share about being attacked because of their beliefs.

One woman said a stranger in a car called her a “terrorist” and tried to run her over. Another said someone tried to pull off her hijab on the subway. And one participant reported being groped at a party by a man who said, “If I do this to you, will your dad blow up my house?”

Read more about Ahmad’s research in the Toronto Star

U of T News spoke with other Muslim students at U of T about their experiences with Islamophobia.

Sanah Matador, a fourth-year student in psychology and health studies, recalls an incident in her last years of high school. While she was waiting at a bus stop, a stranger drove up to the curb and rolled down his window. She expected him to ask for directions, but instead, he said, “Are you going to kill anyone today?” Matador was so taken aback that she could only muster the words, “Excuse me?” before he said something else and drove away.

Read about how U of T combats Islamophobia

She remembers questioning herself and thinking that if she hadn’t worn a hijab, the man wouldn’t have insulted her. “But no, this is my choice,” she told herself. “I could take it off, but I love wearing it.”

Another student, Ayah Said, in life sciences and humanities, says she is often asked about her hijab and religion when she is in public. She doesn’t mind discussing her beliefs – depending on the tone of the question. On one occasion at work, she was talking to a customer about an Xbox when he suddenly tugged her hjiab saying, “Aren’t you hot in that?”

“I’m not usually sensitive about this, but I’m in the middle of talking about the product – why is this bothering you so much? Would you touch somebody’s shirt like that?” she recalls.

Ayah Said

Ahmad, the master’s student at OISE, now works for the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants. Her qualitative research, she hopes, will give greater visibility to the violence and other negative experiences lived by Muslim women. The interviews also shed light on how Islamophobia overlaps with other forms of hatred and discrimination, she says, from anti-Black racism to gender-based violence.

Some of the women, especially those with darker skin or those who wore the robe-like abaya or a black hijab, reported being harassed more often.

Instead of seeing the participants in her study as victims, she says she was impressed with their resilience. Many of the women told her they recited passages from the Qur’an to themselves or prayed for their attackers.

Ahmad collected the women’s experiences in an online “toolkit on Islamophobic violence by and for Muslim women,” which includes poetry by the participants and a list of supports like counseling hotlines and the National Council of Canadian Muslims hate crime reporting tool.

Researchers at the university have an important part to play if Canada is to address rising hate activity in the country and make sure that life is safe for everyone who lives here, Ahmad says.

“A vacuum of research and knowledge is dangerous,” she says, “because that’s where you get hate groups and anti-Muslim groups controlling the narrative.”

A year after Quebec City mosque shooting, U of T experts reflect on Islamophobia in Canada

Print

Empowering Communities: Building Lives in Pakistan Two American Bhais (Brothers) For Pakistan

Join Bhai Jeremy McLellan and Bhai Omar Regan on their 17-city USA tour for developmental projects in Pakistan! Click here to see if they are coming to a city near you!

The devastating earthquake of 2005 was HHRD’s first humanitarian assistance project; and with the support of our donors in the US not only did HHRD help those directly affected by the earthquake but it has continued to work on several programs and projects throughout Pakistan as a registered International Non-Governmental Organization (INGO).

 

Areas of Service:

Over the years HHRD has formulated a cluster based integrated approach to develop Pakistan by operating in:

– Sindh, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), Baluchistan
– Gilgit Baltistan
– Azad Jammu and Kashmir

HHRD Programs:

Since the floods of 2010, HHRD has invested over $6 million annually in key developmental sectors of education and training, healthcare and nutrition, water and sanitation hygiene, disaster relief, and much more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Presently, HHRD is operating in 35 districts of Pakistan, supporting the education of around 9,000 children and youth (including many orphans); imparting income earning skills to 2,200 widows and youth; conducting over 125 water projects; annually assisting over 200,000 patients through the health and nutrition program, and much more.

     

How You Can Help:

To create further awareness about these endeavors, and offering opportunities to you, your family, and friends to play vital role in the growth of Pakistan, HHRD is organizing 17 events in major cities across the US beginning March 15th, 2019 in San Diego, California, and ending on April 28th, 2019 in the Bay Area, California.

March 23rd is Pakistan’s Republic Day, when the vision of Pakistan was given in 1940, and 16 years later the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was ratified in 1956. The 17 cities events from March to April 2019 will be organized by local city teams of HHRD in commemoration of the Republic Day of Pakistan.

Be part of the humbling and fulfilling experience of making a positive difference in lives of people of Pakistan, and enjoy your time with the famous American Stand-Up Comedians Jeremy McLellan and Omar Regan by attending this event. Jeremy McLellan has been to Pakistan in August 2018, and recently when the PM of Pakistan sent greeting of Christmas to all the Christians, Jeremy replied “Shukriya Abbu” (in Urdu, meaning Thanks Dad).

Comedy Tour Schedule:

Congress-reinforce

Muslim women in Congress reinforce what is possible

It would be easy for many of us to shrug nonchalantly at the historic images of two American Muslim women taking their place in the U.S. Congress.

After all, Canadian Muslims have been elected to Parliament over the years, and are currently represented in cabinet and in the Senate. In 2015, Maryam Monsef became the first Muslim woman ever to be appointed to the post of minister. She would be followed by current Immigration Minister, Ahmed Hussen.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), centre, joins her fellow House Democratic women for a portrait in front of the U.S. Capitol on Friday in Washington, D.C.

Many people in Canada have nonetheless taken notice of Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib’s wins. Their victories are significant for a variety of reasons that resonate well beyond American politics.

Consider that Muslim women, in particular, have often been silenced, stereotyped, pigeonholed and underestimated since the first Orientalist images of Muslim women began to appear in the salons of Europe centuries ago. Artistic themes often centred around the notion of “white men saving brown women from brown men,” as described by Indian intellectual Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.

While Muslim scholars have chronicled a rich feminist history within early Islamic civilization, patriarchal notions of the role of men and women have greatly distorted the faith and have indeed resulted in unjustifiable oppression in some parts of the world, even here. This has led to the popular and long-held Western view that Muslim women are generally oppressed and in need of liberation.

“A moral crusade to rescue oppressed Muslim women from their cultures and their religion has swept the public sphere, dissolving distinctions between conservatives and liberals, sexists and feminists,” wrote Lila Abu-Lughod, professor at Columbia University and the author of Do Muslim Women Need Saving?

Muslim women themselves have been challenging these notions, taking control of narratives that attempt to frame their experiences within a limited Western understanding. Yet analysis of Western media frequently demonstrates limited representations. One British study in 2016 analyzed 200 articles in the most widely read British newspapers and found that most stories featured Muslim women as passive or submissive and lacking positive representation.

This type of limited coverage has a long pedigree in Canada; academics Katherine Bullock and Gul Joya Jafri concluding as far back as 2000 that “Muslim women are presented as outsiders: as foreign, distant ‘others’, and as members of a religion (Islam) that does not promote ‘Canadian’ values, but anti-Canadian values such as indiscriminate violence and gender oppression.”

While social media has gone a long way in helping to counter mainstream representations, negative perceptions remain. “This one-dimensional image is being stamped on every Muslim woman, all 850 million of us,” wrote photographer Alia Youssef in an introduction last year to her photo collection, the Sisters Project.

The wearing of the hijab in Congress is also a critical milestone. Here in Canada, MP Salma Zahid became the first MP to wear a hijab this past summer, receiving some backlash from far-right commentators. She was forced to explain why she had decided to don it midway through her term in office (she cited her cancer treatment as being the prime reason, though she was clearly taken aback at having to explain herself at all). As Harvard professor Leila Ahmed has pointed out, the veil continues to represent “a sign of irresolvable tension and confrontation between Islam and the West.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

syria-bombing

Are Muslims or Muslim Societies Prone to Violence

I want to highlight three points in this article. First, I want to underscore the obvious fact that killing of innocents or terrorism is a universal problem and not a “Muslim problem”. Second, I want to present data from official sources to show that things are not always what they appear to be and that perception may not always reflect reality.  Despite appearances, non-Muslims have been committing the majority of terror acts (at least in US and Europe) and that homicide rates in Muslim societies are significantly less than in non-Muslim societies. In the third part, I want to discuss who or what is responsible for creating and perpetuating this biased portrayal of Muslims as violent and homicidal.

Violence as universal affliction of humanity

George Santayana once lamented that “only the dead have seen the end of war”.  The same can be said about killing, murder, terror, and violence. There is no simple way of explaining violence or terrorism – indeed any collective human behavior – but from what we know of humanity and human nature, the conclusion seems inescapable: violence and terrorism are endemic to all human societies.   From the beginning of humanity in the dim twilight of man’s early sojourn on earth through all of history and in all places and periods, the killing of innocents (terrorism) has been, is, and perhaps will forever remain a constant feature of humanity.

There is no period in history where innocents were kept safe. No continent on earth and no human society or civilization can claim to have never suffered from homicide, destruction, or the killing of innocents. Hypocrisy aside, murder, conquest, and destruction still occur everywhere in our contemporary world. Surrounded as we are with slogans of human rights, equality, and freedom, we tend to overlook the fact that even in the modern world and despite the myriads of institutionalized international bodies to oversee and prevent conflicts, human beings are still killing innocents; still occupying each other’s countries; and still oppressing one another.

Attempts to eradicate this perennial problem through the League of Nations, the United Nations, and other similar institutions all ended up in failure. The war to end all wars gave birth to a bigger and more horrible war within a couple of decades.  21st century is not different. The world is still mired in wars, conflicts, conquests, oppression, and a host of other cruelties which all goes to show that deep down our human nature has seen no significant change despite our great advances in civilization. We are just as capable of savagery as our hunter-gatherer ancestors; as prone to rivalry and xenophobia today as we were then.

What triggers violence?  No one really knows for sure except that in general different passions and thoughts drive people to commit atrocities.  People have killed innocents in the name of every conceivable belief, slogan, or ideal.  If you find yourself unable to fathom people who kill in the name of religion, reflect back to the colonial era and ask yourself if it is any less strange or shocking to ravage much of Africa, Asia, and Latin American chanting “liberty, democracy, equality, and fraternity.”  This is what drove an appalled Gandhi to cry:

The horrible crimes of colonialism (which are in essence terrorism on a grand scale) were committed, as we all know, by Europeans.  Are we then to conclude that Caucasians are more prone to violence than other races?  No.  Of course not.

If murderous tendencies are to be blamed on any group at all, therefore, it will have to be on humanity as a whole because at one time or another, every societal group has produced villains that besmirch the name of the group. The Nazis did it to Germans; Fascism and Mafia to the Italians; the KKK to American whites and Christians; colonialism and imperialism to the western people; drug dealers and violent gangs to blacks and Hispanics; the papal and Spanish inquisitions to Christians; Stalinism to Russians …and we can go on and on indefinitely doing the same for every major social group. The question is: If it is wrong to associate any of those crimes or failings to their respective societies (and it is), what right do we have to do it to Muslims?

To generalize about any group is bad enough but to stigmatize 1.6 billion Muslims who crisscross the globe from east to west, north and south and comprising of all races, cultures, and nationalities solely on the actions of a tiny minority among them is simply moronic.  That is why to even pose the question in the title of this article smacks of prejudice and stereotyping but I understand why Saleh in his article, New Wave of Muslim preachers, considered the topic worth exploring. Justifiably or not, Islam and Muslims have become synonymous with violence and terrorism. So the topic can no longer be ignored particularly since some Eritreans are joining the chorus of bigots but before I delve into the topic, I want to express my slight disagreement with Saleh on two minor points.

First, I do not consider disputes over prophetic traditions (Ahadith) to be the primary drivers of violence, terrorism, or chaos in the region. In fact, I believe the opposite to be the case.  It is mostly the irreligious leaders like Sadaam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, his father before him, the Mubarak of Egypt (and now Sisi) and other brutal dictators who were mostly “secular” that are responsible for much of the havoc in the region. These leaders have never given a hoot about the Quran or Hadith except to use them as tools to bamboozle the masses.  It is such dictators, foreign interference, and also terrorists like Bin Laden (who are not scholars and who intentionally misinterpret religious scriptures to justify their murderous escapades) that have caused and continue to cause much of the chaos in those countries. Traditional Ulemas (Islamic religious scholars), whatever their views, were/are as helpless under a dictatorship as the rest of the population in the region.  They fared well when they did the dictators’ bidding and suffered or died when they resisted.

My second disagreement with Saleh is about the new crop of preachers. Saleh seems to believe that these new preachers that have sprung up in the Muslim world to challenge the status quo are a boon for Muslims. Are they? I don’t know but if disputes over prophetic sayings/traditions are the cause of many problems that plague Muslims (as Saleh contends), how are these new preachers with their “rebel” views going to help ? Wouldn’t their maverick opinions add fuel to the already raging fire by generating a fierce reaction from the vast body of traditionalists? Or are we assuming that they are so persuasive that the vast majority of the masses in the Muslim world will flock to them?

I fully agree with Saleh that vigorous intellectual engagement and debate is good for the Muslim world and that traditional interpretations of scriptures should not be taken for granted but this is a provision that already finds full expression within Islamic theology.  From its very inception, Islam has encouraged differences of opinions. The prophet (pbuh) said that “the disagreement of my people is a mercy.”  The Imams of the four Sunni schools of thought and their followers have coexisted for generations with mutual respect despite their differences.  They understood that interpretation differences were inevitable and never belittled or condemned each other over differences.

Revivalism, restoration, and Ijtihad (independent reasoning to find a solution to a legal question) have always been part of Islam.  The new preachers are hardly a novelty in this regard. The medium they use to spread their teachings is certainly new but they should not be viewed as a new phenomenon in Islamic societies. Furthermore, our assessment of the merit or value of these new preachers should not be based on how “rebellious” or how popular they are at a given point of time but on how sincerely they approach the task of interpretation. Thinkers of the caliber of Dr. Adnan Ibrahim should be welcome and encouraged provided they remain true to the central (core) precepts of the religion they profess to follow and as long as their preaching is not an attempt to make Islam palatable to modern sensibilities or conceptions of reality. I am just cautioning here and this is meant as a general observation and not meant to refer to any particular preacher. I must also note here that it is entirely possible that I may have misunderstood Saleh. If so, my apologies to him.

Going back to the issue at hand, are Muslims or Muslim societies more prone to violence than others? We have seen how ubiquitous violence has been throughout history (and still is) among all people. If this is a common legacy of humanity how did Muslims become associated with violence in the public mind?   How much of this perception is deserved and how much of it can be blamed on external factors? In my view, three different entities are to blame for this widely held association.

First of course are the culprits themselves (the terrorists) who commit terror and mayhem in the name of Islam.  They are so tiny a minority that by themselves and without the aid of mass media, they have no power to mold our perception which brings us to the 2nd source of this perception: the media.

The complicity of Media and the Islamophobia industry in perpetuating the myth of Muslim Violence

An essential tool for both democracies and dictatorships alike, media’s staggering ability to shape our opinions and thoughts is truly phenomenal. As Chomsky famously put it “propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state””. The pivotal role played by media in today’s world and its ability to sway our thoughts is now an incontrovertible fact. With so much power in its hands, the impact of global media can be devastating when it fails to discharge its duties responsibly and evenhandedly.  Nowhere is this neglect as starkly manifest as in its coverage of Muslim violence.  The media employs a clear double standard when it comes to Muslims.  It spends a disproportionate amount of time covering terror acts committed by Muslims while it glosses over terror acts committed by all others thereby creating the impression that only Muslims are committing terror acts. As we shall see later, this impression is not supported by facts.  Examples of media double standard are many but here are a few examples to show how terror acts committed by non-Muslims are never dwelled upon.

Robert Dear, for example, who told the police “he dreamed he’ll be met in Heaven by aborted fetuses wanting to thank him” was never called a terrorist.  Timothy McVeigh, a racist Christian identity sect who killed 168 people was never described as a Christian terrorist.  Similar were the cases of Dylan Roof, the white supremacist who killed several blacks in church; Craig Hicks, a Muslim hater who killed 3 young Muslims in Chapel Hill; Joseph Stack who flew an airplane into IRS building; Robert Duggart who plotted to kill Muslims in New York; and Baruch Goldstein, the Jew who killed 29 and wounded 125 Muslim worshippers.  The perpetrators in all of these cases (and many more) were variously described as lone gunmen, unhinged, mentally disturbed etc… but they were never associated with any religion nor were they called terrorists.

When a “Muslim” commits a violent act, the reaction is completely different.  The media goes into apocalyptic frenzy and the perpetrator is immediately branded as an “Islamic terrorist” or a “Muslim terrorist” even if he never set foot in a mosque or never seriously took his religion.  Far from representing the faith, many of the so-called “Islamic terrorists” were in fact petty criminals who didn’t care much about their religion except as a cover. According to FBI, the 9-11 hijackers went to strip clubs and drank alcohol before committing their horrible act.  Similarly, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, the perpetrator of Bastille Day massacre in Paris was a wife beater who drank alcohol and ate pork and according to his close family members including his ex-wife, he was an atheist who never attended a mosque.  The same is true of Khalid Masood who recently killed four people in London.  We are told that “he had a 20-year history of offending that saw him jailed at least twice.”  These are thus individuals who were already predisposed to commit crime.

Media double standard is partly due to the profit imperative.  Media is primarily driven by a desire for earnings and nothing increases ratings (profits) than the sensationalism produced by ‘odd looking and strange sounding foreigners’ that shout the name of their God as they butcher innocents. It is a perfect Hollywood material that is guaranteed to mesmerize audiences into staying glued to their TV for hours. All this should not come as a surprise however.  After all, this is the same media that has been doing it to blacks for years portraying them as inferior, violent, and incorrigible trouble makers.  It has simply added Muslims to the mix.

Third and by far the greatest source of deliberate misinformation about Islam and Muslims comes from the multi-million dollar industry of Islamophobia. This huge network of haters include elected representatives, Neo-Nazis, evangelical Christians, Zionists, radio/TV talk shows, pundits, bloggers, and many others.  For years, they have been hard at work producing voluminous anti-Muslim literature and films, conducting conferences, and spewing their hatred wherever and whenever they can – all for the single purpose of denigrating Islam and Muslims.  Besides possessing their own media prowess, they have also been manipulating mainstream media into adapting their sordid agenda. Please refer to american progress.org for an exposé on this group.

The above three major sources of misinformation are responsible for the myth that Muslims are more violent than others.  Imagine how different things would be if the roles were reversed and Muslims controlled the global media.  Here is a sample of how they may have gone about covering events assuming that they will also suffer from a bias similar to the one that is now directed at them.

  1. A) The crimes and terror acts of non-Muslims would receive prominent coverage in all major news networks and will be repeated for days, weeks, and even months.  Every act committed by a non-Muslim would be associated with his/her religion. The actions of “Muslim” terrorists would either receive no coverage at all or would be explained away as the acts of a lone wolf or of a person suffering from some mental ailment.   If the perpetrator happened to be a Christian, a panel of experts would quickly assemble to expound energetically on how this behavior is a hallmark of age-old Christian militancy and how this in turn can be traced back to biblical passages. Media pundits would remind viewers of the many wars of religion Europe went through and would cherry pick from history every atrocity committed by Christians to infer that there is something fundamentally wrong with Christianity. They would then loudly wonder whether Christianity should go through a yet another reformation to redeem itself.

Muslim media would feign utter shock at the rape and homicide rates in countries like US and dwell at length at what cultural weaknesses are to account for this. In Africa, the killings and kidnapping of thousands of innocents by the Christian extremists LRA (Lord’s resistance army) would receive ample coverage.  Comparable atrocities committed by Boko Haram would be glossed over.  Muslim experts on Christianity would also discuss the horrors of Rwandan massacre of Tutsis and will speculate learnedly if it can be attributed to innate Christian propensity to violence.  If they decide to cover the plight of Eritrean youth, it will be to present it as a flight of innocent Muslim youth from a brutal Christian dictator.

Brutal dictators will be propped up and installed in several Christian lands and in some cases a budding democracy toppled in favor of a dictatorship. The next day, this connivance will be totally forgotten and experts will begin to ponder whether democracy can ever thrive in Christian nations. Advisors will be sent to further explore options for democracy if at all feasible.   At other times, they will tacitly encourage a dictator they have been supporting for years to invade a neighboring country and when he does, they will pounce upon him with a vengeance.  New corrupt leaders will be hand-picked to replace him and to lead the country towards democracy.  Any signs of failure of the new regime will not be blamed on the corrupt system.  Instead, it will count as further evidence of the impossibility of democratizing Christian nations.

As you can see, it is a game of selective counting. That is how Muslims are being played by the media and the so-called experts on Islam and the charade has been going on for years. In today’s information intensive world, it is the owners of mass media and those with rhetoric muscle that define perception not evidence The seat of global media and dissemination as we all know resides in the west where Muslims are a small minority with little influence to correct the exaggerations or lies that are spread about them. Unlike the Jews, who are also a minority but with vast resources and expertise in the media, Muslims are still a neophyte when it comes to navigating the media outlets. So we have to go beyond headline and look at some relevant data if we are to arrive at a balanced picture. Here is a small sample:

Perception vs Reality: how headlines can obscure the truth

  1. It may come as a shock to many of us but the majority of terrorist acts in US were committed by non-Muslims.  Citing New America Foundation, a Washington think tank, Newsweek states that since 9/11, “the right-wing militants …have killed more people in the United States than jihadis have.” How many terror acts by non-Muslims can you recall? Interestingly, the study also found that the criminal justice system is biased against “Muslim” offenders treating them more harshly and indicting them more frequently than their non-Muslim counterparts. [i]
  2. According to FBI’s chronological list of terror acts from 1980-2005, only 6% were “Islamic”.[ii]
  3. The majority of terror acts in Europe were committed by non-Muslims.  According to Europol (European Police Office), “the vast majority of terrorist attacks in the EU between 2006 and 2013 are affiliated” not with Muslims but “with ethno-national or separatist motives, followed by left-wing attacks”.[iii]
  4. According to ADL, “from 2007 to 2016, a range of domestic extremists of all kinds were responsible for the deaths of at least 372 people in the United States. Seventy-four percent of these murders came at the hands of right-wing extremists such as white supremacists, sovereign citizens and militia adherents.”  It further asserts that  “of the 45 police officers killed by domestic extremists since 2001, 10 were killed by left wing extremists, 34 by right wing extremists and one by domestic Islamic extremists.“ [iv]
  5. Murder kills far more innocents than terrorism or even wars.  That is why some experts believe it is a better metric for measuring the rate of violence in societies.  Judged by such criteria, Muslim majority countries have significantly lower rates of homicide than non-Muslim countries according to a study by Steven Fish, a political scientist.  “If there really is an inherent—Islam-driven—propensity for deadly violence in Muslim societies,” writes Andrew Mack of Slate magazine, “we should expect to find that the greater the percentage of Muslims in society, the greater would be the numbers of homicides. In fact, the reverse is the case: The higher the percentage of Muslims in a society, the lower the homicide rate.”[v]

Conclusion

I hope you can see from the discussion above that the stereotype about Muslim proneness to violence is an exaggerated media induced sensationalism that has no factual basis.  Violence, terrorism or the killing of innocents is a sad aspect of human nature that has bedeviled humanity since time immemorial and will likely continue to thwart our best efforts to totally eradicate it. It has nothing to do with Islam, religion, race, or nationality and everything to do with human nature or its aberration. Only those with shallow grasp of history or current affairs and are also ignorant of the universality of human nature would typecast any group or people.   The fact that the vast majority of those that believe in a certain religion or philosophy never engage in terrorism or homicide is a standing refutation to all attempts to stereotype religion particularly Islam.

True, we witness a lot of problems in Muslim lands but this is no different from the phenomenon we see elsewhere in many developing nations of Africa, Asia, and the Americas that are caused by dictatorships, semi-dictatorships, and the collective neurosis of post-colonial cultural confusion. If you add to this the volatile elements of ongoing foreign interference, occupation, and the lure of oil, the product you get is what you see in the Middle East.


[i] Eichenwald, K. (2016, February 4). Right-Wing Extremists Are A Bigger Threat To America Than Isis. Newsweek. Retrieved from http://www.newsweek.com/2016/02/12/right-wing-extremists-militants-bigger-threat-america-isis-jihadists-422743.html

[ii] U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation (2002-2005). Terrorism 2002-2005. Retrieved from https://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/terrorism-2002-2005#terror_05sum

[iii] EU Terrorism Situation & Trend Report (TE-SAT 2014), Reviewing the Terrorism Phenomenon. Retrieved from https://www.europol.europa.eu/activities-services/main-reports/eu-terrorism-situation-and-trend-report

[iv] ADL, Anti-Defamation League ((2017, February 16)). Report Says U.S. Deaths Linked to Domestic Extremists Second Only to Year of Oklahoma City Bombing. Retrieved from  https://www.adl.org/news/press-releases/adl-report-says-us-deaths-linked-to-domestic-extremists-second-only-to-year-of

[v] Mack, A. (2016, January 21). Of course it isn’t a religion of violence. If it were, why would so many Muslim societies be so peaceful? Slate. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/01/islam_isn_t_inherently_violent_or_peaceful.html

Mali Muslim-Leaders

Mali Muslim leaders call for PM’s resignation at mass rally

BAMAKO: Mali’s chief Muslim leaders on Sunday called for the resignation of Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga at a mass rally, accusing his government of failing to halt militant attacks and allowing “moral depravity.”
Huge crowds packed out a 60,000-seat stadium in the capital Bamako, with many veiled women sitting in stands separated from the male attendees, according to an AFP reporter.
“Muslims can’t let things go to waste. From now on, they will be vigilant and mobilize for their country, their religion and their dignity,” influential imam Mahmoud Dicko, who presides over the Islamic High Council (IHC), told his supporters.
“Mali needs a complete overhaul,” said the ultraconservative leader who organized Sunday’s event with Bouye Haidara, another leading Muslim.
Over the past decade, Dicko has emerged as one of Mali’s most prominent public figures, playing a key role in negotiations between the government and Islamist extremists.
“We must fight corruption…. We must fight moral depravity. We are the guardians of morality,” added Issa Coulibaly, Dicko’s spokesman, speaking on the sidelines of the gathering.
In 2015, Dicko stirred controversy when he called jihadist attacks “divine punishment” for Mali adopting more liberal Western traditions.
“Our guide, our leader, is Mahmoud Dicko,” said minibus driver Moussa Dicko (no relation), adding that he had taken the day off to join the gathering at the stadium.
Last year, Prime Minister Maiga sparked outrage for supporting a plan to introduce sex education school books promoting a more tolerant view of homosexuality.
Homosexuality is not illegal but remains taboo in the Muslim-majority country. Members of the LGBT community often face discrimination and even physical punishment, according to civil society groups.
Dicko and his followers had slammed the Dutch-financed proposal for “wanting to teach homosexuality to school children.”
The government eventually bowed to the pressure and dropped the project in December.
“Our country is faced with a governance problem. This rally wants to draw attention to that. People need to talk to each other,” Dicko told AFP ahead of the event.
The imam’s political profile was boosted when he became a key mediator between the government and militants who took control of large swathes of the country’s north in 2012.
Despite French military intervention and a 2015 peace deal, jihadist attacks have continued and vast stretches of the landlocked Sahel nation remain out of state control, with violence also spilling into neighboring Burkina Faso and Nigeria.
Dicko, 64, has repeatedly pushed for dialogue to help solve the security crisis plaguing Mali, one of the world’s poorest countries.
In Sunday’s speech, he denounced the “terrorist attacks,” saying jihadism “has no place in Mali.”

 

D

Turkey calls on China to close Muslim ‘concentration camps’ where one million Uighurs have been detained

A man arriving in front of the Id Kah Mosque for the morning prayer on Eid al-Fitr in the old town of Kashgar in China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomus Region

Turkey has called on China to close the “concentration camps” where the country has detained more than a million Uighurs Muslims.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said China’s treatment of the Turkic Muslim population was “a great cause of shame for humanity”.

He said the Turkic Muslim population faced pressure and “systematic assimilation” in western China and added that Turkey had shared its opposition on “all levels” urging authorities to close the detention facilities and respect human rights.

Beijing has intensified a clampdown on Uighurs in the northwestern region of Xinjiang that was put in place after a bloody 2009 riot.

Droves of Uighurs have fled, many travelling to Turkey, where the language and culture are similar to that in Xinjiang.

More than one million people are believed to have been detained so far by Chinese authorities.

Turkey’s foreign ministry spokesman, Mr Aksoy, said he had learned of the death in prison of famed Uighur musician and poet Abdurehim Heyit, who had been sentenced to eight years over one of his songs.

“This tragedy has further reinforced the reaction of the Turkish public opinion towards serious human rights violations committed in the Xinjiang region,” Mr Aksoy said.

“We expect this legitimate response to be taken into account by the Chinese authorities. We respectfully commemorate Abdurehim Heyit and all our kinsmen who lost their lives defending their Turkish and Muslim identity.”

Heyit’s detention is indicative of China’s determination to crack down on Uighur intellectuals and cultural figures in an effort, some say, to eradicate a separate Uighur language and identity.

His death has not been independently confirmed and China had no immediate response to the minister’s remarks.

After months of denying their existence, Chinese authorities under increasing outside pressure acknowledged the system of camps, terming them vocational training centres.

They have provided little or no information on how many are interned within them and how long they are being held.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had once accused China of “genocide” but has since established closer diplomatic and economic relations with Beijing.