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Archive for the ‘Islam’ Category

Muslim Women’s History Month: Spotlight on Afghani Women


by: on March 25th, 2013 | 4 Comments »

Perhaps no other country of the world has received so much censure about its treatment of women in recent years than Afghanistan. First the cold war, then the civil war, then the oppressive rule of the Taliban, and finally the American war on terror – Afghanistan’s female population has been continually left in poverty, danger, and tragedy as long as memory serves. In recent years, however, with the help of American troops in some cases, and as a result of more education and awareness in others, Afghani women have made great strides in their standard of living, from serving in the police force to hopefuls in politics, and it looks like their luck may finally be changing.


Muslim Women’s History Month: Spotlight on Benazir Bhutto


by: on March 18th, 2013 | 4 Comments »


Benazir Bhutto. Credit: Creative Commons/iFaqeer.

March being Women’s History Month, it gives rise to the inevitable discussions of women and their contributions to our collective past. For Muslims, March can also be a time to recognize the achievements of women from our own faith tradition, and in some cases it is a time to discover new female role models we never even realized existed. Stories of the past can serve as powerful motivators for all of us, but for Muslims in particular, the tales of intelligent, brave, creative and influential Muslim women can serve to lift us all collectively into a sense of pride. For the rest of the world, these stories serve to break down stereotypes of the “Muslim woman” – with her perceived limitations, oppression and handicaps.

Last week I highlighted the tale of Noor Inayat Khan, a little-known Muslim spy princess during the French Resistance. Since many in the western world consider Muslim women in the Middle East and Asia to be more oppressed and weak, this week’s Muslim Woman story is about the “other” side of the world. This week I journey in my mind back to my native Pakistan to highlight Benazir Bhutto, a female Muslim political leader who personified women’s empowerment and stood up for democracy in the face of dictatorship.


Muslim Women’s History Month: Spotlight on Noor Inayat Khan


by: on March 8th, 2013 | 12 Comments »

As a woman, I welcome the month of March – Women’s History Month – each year as an opportunity to pay tribute to women who have made significant contributions to our world. As a Muslim woman, I also look forward to this month as a time to recognize and celebrate the contributions Muslim women have made to the sciences, literature, honorable struggles such as the French Resistance, and so much more. During a time when women in Islam are viewed as dependent, covered up, and oppressed, I look forward to the narratives of strong, independent, and intelligent Muslim women of the past as a much-needed boost to the generally negative and (incorrectly) chauvinistic paintbrush that Islam has been painted with over the last few centuries. This month I will write a series of posts about several little-known Muslim women from whom I personally am honored to learn, and who can demonstrate what Islam really offers to women in terms of freedom, creativity, and authority.

My first historical profile is someone from the recent past. Noor Inayat Khan (1914 – 1944) was an Indian Muslim descended from Tipu Sultan, but more importantly the first female radio operator sent from Britain into occupied France to aid the French Resistance. Interested in music, poetry and writing from a young age, Noor decided to set aside her pacifist Sufi upbringing and participate in the war in order to help change Western perceptions about Indians and Muslims. According to Ayahs, Lascars and Princes: The Story of Indians in Britain 1700-1947, she once said: “I wish some Indians would win high military distinction in this war. If one or two could do something in the Allied service which was very brave and which everybody admired it would help to make a bridge between the English people and the Indians.”


Facing the Specter of Muslim American Terrorism


by: on February 25th, 2013 | 15 Comments »


Islamophobia continues to course through U.S. society, twelve years after 9/11. Credit: veteranstoday.com.

February this year seems to be the month of revelations – not just heartfelt wows of love on Valentine’s Day, but something much more sinister and worrying. Four news reports with sometimes conflicting messages have been released this month from various sources, all discussing the perceived threat (or the lack thereof) of homegrown terrorism by Muslim Americans.

What’s interesting about all four publications this month is that twelve years after 9/11 the stereotype of the Muslim terrorist is no weaker than it was right after the horrific attacks that rocked our nation. We may have become more politically correct than before, or even more educated and aware about “the other”, but underneath it all we still nurse the wounds of 9/11 and identify with a collective enemy: the Muslim American.

Very early in February came “Muslim American Terrorism: Declining Further”, a publication by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. Experts at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill have been tracking terrorist plots within the country for the last several years, and some noteworthy facts emerge this year in their fourth annual report. According to the report, 2012 saw the lowest number of terrorist plots by Muslim Americans, with only 14 Muslims indicted in plots last year, as opposed to 21 the year before and more than 200 since 9/11. Perhaps most thought-provoking is the fact that all the incidents in 2012 came to the attention of law enforcement at an early stage, rather than at the last possible moment of an actual attack as in previous years. Which begs the question, are the police and FBI doing a better job than ever before?


Landmark Court Decision about Hijab May Pave the Way to Tolerance


by: on February 15th, 2013 | 20 Comments »

Until today, American Muslim women have been fighting an uphill battle for their right to cover their heads in the traditional hijab. Whether at school, work, even government offices, we have stood unflinching as the debate about Islamophobia, creeping Shariah and all the other ugly words associated with being Muslim in America have swirled about us. Hearing negative comments, facing discrimination in hiring, being marginalized in social groups or treated with sympathy for assumed oppression, we have faced it all while defending our right to express our faith through our dress. Until today.

A little known six-year litigation between a Muslim woman and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department ended in a landmark case today in the Muslim’s favor, awarding damages to Souhair Khatib of Anaheim for the indignity she faced at the hands of law enforcement officials. The case revolved around police holding cell procedures, which demand that articles of clothing deemed dangerous be removed from those taken into custody. While admirable in theory, the procedure failed to take into account religious clothing that the person taken into custody may be wearing – such as the hijab. Those who know Muslim women who wear the hijab (be it in the form of a head scarf, coat, burka or anything else), will also be aware of the importance they award this article of clothing. Most of us are fiercely protective of it – and ourselves in it – and will resist ardently in case of removal in the company of men. For Souhair Khatib, who was not a criminal, having her hijab forcibly removed in front of men despite her pleadings, was a real nightmare, one that I cannot imagine undergoing myself.


Religious Clergy Represent All of Us: A Reponse to the Allegations against Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf


by: on February 7th, 2013 | 6 Comments »

A Westchester County couple has accused Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of using more than $3 million in donations to the Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement for personal purposes. Credit: Creative Commons/World Economic Forum.

What’s the difference between a Catholic priest and an Imam? Although it may sound like the opening line of a joke, both these individuals actually do have a lot in common. For both Catholics and Muslims, priests and imams are prayer leaders, spiritual guides, mentors, teachers and so much more. Even outside of their congregations, they command respect from all who meet them because they wear the badge of religious leadership.

So when someone like that does something unethical or even criminal, we are left with a bad taste in our mouth and a collective cringe. Catholicism has, unfortunately, been dogged with child abuse scandals for a long time; scandals that have plagued and wounded everyday Catholics who aren’t able to see the priesthood in the same light ever again. As a Muslim I often sympathized but hardly ever empathized. Yesterday’s report from the New York Daily News of former Ground Zero Mosque advocate Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf allegedly stealing funds has changed that perception forever, leaving me – and countless other Muslims – reeling with shock. A person viewed by many as the moderate face of Islam in America, so different from the radical Muslim clergy of the Middle East and South East Asia, the Imam was the last person I would have expected to be… like everyone else.


Sadaf Syed: Breaking Stereotypes One Photo at a Time


by: Hassina Obaidy on January 26th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

“Muslims and non-Muslims should realize that we all are just travelers in this temporary world,” photojournalist Sadaf Syed tells me. She adds that we all should act on this realization “by opening up and getting to learn about each others faith, cultures, tradition.”

Photographer Sadaf Syed pays respect to the victims of 9/11 at Ground Zero in New York City.

Since she was two months old, Syed has traveled throughout the United States with her family, exposed to different cultures, religions, and people, including Muslims of different ethnicities. After picking up on many different customs and traditions, Syed became inspired to tell stories about this diverse group of Muslims.

Syed began her photography career with wedding photography and portraiture. Years later, her career shifted to amplifying the voices of people whose stories are seldom heard, giving them the chance to share their journeys, emotions, hopes, fears, abilities, and disabilities. As a visual storyteller, Syed is always looking for ways to inspire and educate people through her photography.

“You’re not a storyteller in words and writing, but you’re a storyteller visually, so you’re always looking to stimulate people visually,” she says.

In 2010, Syed, a Pakistani-Muslim, self-published iCOVER: A Day in the Life of a Muslim-American COVERed Girl, a book about Muslim women breaking stereotypes across the globe. The book features page after page of everyday Muslim women of different ethnicities and backgrounds, presenting photographs of them alongside captivating captions, quotes, and stories.


Religion Failure


by: Rick Herrick on December 12th, 2012 | 8 Comments »

The Middle East is the cradle of monotheistic religion. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam were all born there. All three of these religions, at their best, speak about reconciliation and living with your neighbor in peace. And yet last month Israel and Gaza were at war again in what has become a repetitious pattern of military confrontation.

What has gone so terribly wrong? Why have these three religions failed so miserably in inspiring their adherents to act in terms of their highest values of peace and reconciliation? The answer is simple. For most of these adherents, religion is about belief. Take the city of Jerusalem as an example. Religious beliefs centering on Jerusalem have transformed the city into a sacred piece of real estate for Jews, Muslims, and Christians.

Jews believe that God gave them Jerusalem as a gift to be their eternal capital. A look at this gift from the perspective of history is interesting. Prior to David invading and conquering the city around 1,000 BCE, Jerusalem was settled by a wide array of peoples. David ruled a united Israel from Jerusalem until 970 BCE. His son Solomon succeeded him, and ruled to 930 BCE. Following Solomon’s death, Israel split into a Southern and a Northern kingdom. Jerusalem remained the capital of the Southern Kingdom while Shechem became the capital for the North.


Blaming the Jews: Old Wine in a New Bottle


by: Jay Sterling Silver on September 20th, 2012 | 9 Comments »

Admittedly, I’m a bit touchy about false reports that Jews are involved in sinister activities, like the Wall Street Journal and Associated Press reports that a Jewish real-estate developer in California, having raised five million dollars from “more than 100 Jewish donors,” created the anti-Islam video that touched off riots throughout the Arab world and became the pretense for killing American diplomats in Libya. A cursory knowledge of history, conspiracy theories, and stereotyping — from international banking conspiracies to the Holocaust and its denial to present-day hate groups — can make you feel that way. But normally responsible sources like the Journal and the AP needn’t play into the hands of reactionaries, as they did in the initial reports that Jews were at the bottom of the worldwide furor.

The error was not insignificant. In a day when hateful misinformation can produce instantaneous tragedy in any corner of an overwrought world, as it so clearly has in this case, laying responsibility at the feet of an “Israeli Jew” and his affluent Jewish friends can incite more violence against Jews and anyone else in the path of those moved to murder, in the name of God, over a perceived religious affront.

The error was entirely preventable, as well. As a cursory attempt to check the facts would have revealed, no Sam Bacile — the alleged creator of the video screed — ever walked the earth. It’s equally clear from viewing the 14-minute, YouTube post that it didn’t cost five million dollars, or even five thousand, to produce. And would it stand to reason that the imaginary Bacile, as an Israeli, would attempt to “help his native land” by provoking its neighbors with a vile depiction of Muhammad? Or that the individual at the other end of the phone — who’d be blamed for the deaths of innocent Americans and the spread of rioting across a continent, and who’d become the target of extremists himself — would provide his real name?


Leavening and The Oneness of God: Spiritual + Cultural Paradigm Shifts


by: on August 20th, 2012 | 2 Comments »


In my last article I discussed The Wild Goose Festival as a paradigm shift. Now I want to explore the shift in a greater, and lengthier context as I lead into describing (in coming articles) the way it is informing and being informed by a larger global culture, a larger spiritual and religious culture, and shifts within all which also lead to increased conversations within and outside of all current contexts of identity. We are restructuring the world, in tiny steps so small that it is often hard to see at the micro-level.

I think the greatest piece of this is the understanding that there is something bigger and better in God than we ever before conceptualized. We are beginning to see that within “my Christianity,” “my Judaism,” “my Islam,” “my Buddhism” there is a small sliver of God we are allowed to see, illuminated both through our own personal sacred texts and our visceral experiences of God in relationship to the faith we have learned (or as I sometimes call it, “faith of origin”). The second half to this is that we are realizing that my sliver of God-light and your sliver of God-light emanate from the same source and that saying that is no longer easily poo-pooed as heretical within my tradition but enhancing the basis of my traditional understanding with a God greater than we have ever been able to see or frame in our world-view before.

We are able to see that God can be many things to many people and to say that doesn’t make me a heretical Christian but makes me a Christian able to see God’s light from many different angles–like a prism refracting and dividing the sun’s light and sending it outward in millions of different directions.