UPDATE (May 19, 2020) – Three men were arrested in connection to the killing of Aya Hachem. Police believe that Aya was not the intended target of the attack, and is continuing the investigation further.
A 19-year-old Muslim woman was gunned down in a suspected drive-by shooting in Blackburn, UK as she was walking home from grocery shopping. The Lebanese-British victim was later identified as Aya Hachem on social media.
The suspect shot Hachem from a green Toyota Avensis and fled the scene. The vehicle was later found by law enforcement a mile away from the shooting.
Detective Chief Inspector Jonathan Holmes, of the Force Major Investigation Team, said: “An investigation has been launched and we are determined to find those responsible – and we are asking for the public’s help identifying the offender or offenders.”
Incidents as such is not unfamiliar for Muslim women, especially those who wear the hijab headscarf. On June 18, 2017, 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen was followed, killed and raped by a man during the month of Ramadan in the United States.
“This is a truly shocking and senseless killing, which has robbed a young woman of her life.”
As the search continues, Twitter users make #RIPAYA trends online in hopes to bring attention to this situation, as mainstream media has not reported on this incident.
Inna illahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon. May the victim and her family find justice.
The news of Aya being murdered has really unsettled me... a sister left her house for groceries, only to never return. May Allah grant her the highest of heavens and may Allah alleviate the pain and suffering of all her loved ones, ameen. #RIPAYA
Being a hijabi in this day and age is so dangerous. That shooting wasn’t ‘senseless.’ That shooter is a terrorist and he should be made accountable. Praying for the safety of my sisters. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon, May Allah grant her the highest rank in Jannah🕊 #RipAya
I cannot believe this murder is not being covered more. It’s bad enough that the BBC have neglected to mention the victim wore a hijab. But there’s no sight of this story anywhere. This is tragic, a 20 year old girl lost her life #ripayahttps://t.co/QwBwedTkE3
The Lebanese parliament voted to legalize the cultivation of cannabis for medical and industrial use making Lebanon the first Arab country to do so.
The law regarding the infamous plant, which has a great variety of uses such as pharmaceutical, wellness and textile products, passed last April. The conversation toward legitimizing the farming of cannabis was growing for years in the Mediterranean country, but was pushed in the forefront recently, because of the current economic crisis.
Lebanon suffers from the worst financial and economic disaster in its history, which some officials believe cannabis can help relieve. Alain Aoun, a senior MP in the Free Patriotic Movement told Reuters “we have moral and social reservations but today there is the need to help the economy by any means”.
According to a report by Ameri Research Inc., the global legal cannabis market was valued at $14.3 billion in 2016 and is forecast to grow to $63.5 billion by 2024. The market is witnessing an expansional growth mainly due to the legalization and decriminalization of cannabis products worldwide.
Lebanon is the third-largest supplier of cannabis resin, also known as “hashish”, after Morocco and Afghanistan, according to the UN. The plant, which is known to be farmed illegally in the country’s Bekaa Valley, represents a clear opportunity for profit by exporting the crop internationally in an attempt to revitalize the country’s already crippled economy.
Yet, despite all the benefits of economic potential the pro-cannabis law officials have boasted, many expressed their concerns, linked mainly to the lack of confidence in the state’s ability to impose the necessary measures to restrict the legislation to medical ends. There is also the issue of rampant corruption in Lebanon. Many of the reluctant to give full endorsement to the law fear that any benefit from the legislation will be limited to a small number of people, instead of seeing a trickle down effect from the hashish revenues to the entire population.
In addition, the new law did not decriminalize consumption of the plant or reduce sentences, with all recreational production and use remaining illegal.
Sudan is set to criminalize female genital mutilation (FGM) in a historic amendment to the country’s current legislations. The move comes after years of persistent pressure from women campaigners against the brutal practice, which targets girls as young as five years old.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines FGM as all measures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
Women activists at all levels are being hailed for this momentous step toward ending all forms of FGM after years at the forefront of campaigns to criminalize it.
The news coming from Muslim majority country had an outpouring positive reaction, yet the Law criminalizing FGM “still needs to be approved by the joint meeting between the Sovereign Council and the Council of Ministers,” said Osman Abufatima, Secretary General of the Government of Sudan’s National Council on Child Welfare.
FGM is a deeply seeded tradition in Sudan, which is the major challenge facing efforts to end it beyond written law.
“We realise that legislation is not enough in changing beliefs and attitudes towards cultural practices” said Naana Otoo-Oyortey, executive director of FORWARD in an email to Muslim.
FORWARD is the leading African women-led organization working to end violence against women and girls.
“It is through the empowerment of men and women in communities and awareness raising activities that we can normalize the conversation which is often taboo,” she added.
Another facet Otoo- Oyortey raised is the need to address FGM from a systematic point of view through education. FORWARD wants to see supplemental steps to ensure the implementation of local policies to adapt to this legislation in addition to educating “young people about the practice in their curriculum”, said Otoo- Oyortey to Muslim.
FGM: A Religious Mandate?
The controversy as to whether FGM is a religious or cultural practice is still ongoing. However, it is widely common in some Muslim majority countries, where it is promoted as a religious procedure.
In Sudan, numerous religious leaders are strong proponents of FGM, and the overall practice is accepted and seen as sanctioned by Islam.
There have been recurrent calls by women campaigners for the government to build meaningful relationships with the local community and to work intensively with the religious leaders who still oppose the elimination of FGM.
These religious leaders need to recognize “the importance of protecting women and girls in their communities in future” said a spokesperson of 28 Too Many in a statement to Muslim.
28 Too Many is a charity established to aid the elimination of FGM in the countries in Africa and across the diaspora worldwide.
The law gives a governmental backing and support to the advocacy work that has been going on for decades. In addition, it highlights the necessity to have “more men and boys into the advocacy work through education and community driven projects,” the spokesperson told Muslim.
According to WHO, more than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated. The long and continuous efforts by Sudanese women crowned by this historic legislation sends a clear message that FGM is a crime and is no longer an accepted practice in modern Sudan.
We often hear this when we’re confronted by things we can’t explain. Our societies are structured and engineered in a way where we expect to see people behave in a certain way. We bank on it. Because when they don’t, it shatters our realities.
If you happened to watch a particularly shocking video as it went viral over the past few days, you’d have seen two armed white men chased down (hunted) Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, in broad daylight out on a scenic Brunswick, Georgia street. One man struggles with Ahmaud while the other brandishes his shotgun – and shoots him dead. The surrounding atmosphere could not be more subtle as such a shocking incident unfolds.
“They can’t just do that, right?”
Yet, they did.
This happened on February 23rd, over two months ago, yet the video only went viral this past week. The outrage which has ensued has only taken place now, which adds to the efforts of family in the few weeks since the incident.
According to the police report, Greg McMichael, a former Brunswick District Attorney Investigator and his son Travis McMichael followed Arbery as he was jogging, blocked his path with their truck, and shot him dead.
The video is a wake-up call. In this single instance we see so much of the systemic and actual racial violence that extends from the carceral state to imperial wars waged overseas to housing, education, food security and so many other aspects of American public life – so diligently interwoven into the fabric of this society, ingrained into the nation’s historical and collective psyche – realized.
In a single instance.
This wasn’t just a murder, it was a lynching. And the circumstances around the death of Ahmaud Arbery personify America and what it stands for. What it has always stood for.
America is a place where a Black man cannot simply just go out on a jog in the streets of his own town, cannot merely wander through any neighbourhood without being questioned for it. A place where a white man can and will pull a gun on you, and murder you if he wants. And he can and will get away with it. It has happened before and will probably happen again.
A place where it took two months for this incidence of lynching to even come to the wider public’s attention. And why?
Because this is a place where whiteness is sanctified and deemed untouchable; where the violence it produces can always be justified somehow. Where the color of your skin entitles you to the privilege of sanctioning life and death itself, where you can play God with another being’s life. Where people will want to see a video before they decide if they can or cannot believe something like this could have actually happened. Where an apparatus of legal, militaristic and capitalist power combines to establish and administer a monopoly on Black and Brown bodies every single day. Where the majority are locked up in prisons or impoverished.
Where it allows for such horrifying white supremacist terrorism to occur in the first place, where it gives that sort of a mindset permission to express itself freely without the fear of backlash and then enables it every step of the way. A place where a man doesn’t fear the retribution of the law when he allows for his hatred to overcome him. Knowing full well the law will stand by him. A nation where Blackness is perceived a threat by default. Where whiteness can never be seen or associated with the violence it produces, but racialized people are never afforded that same privilege. Never dignified, just enough.
Dr. Frances Cress Welsing once reminded us that “the system” in America is not broken but working exactly how it was designed to be. Notions of democracy, equality and justice are thrown around yet such instances of intense disregard for life and the most despicable violence takes place again and again.
We’re told these instances are exceptions and imperfections. Yet when they happen again and again it’s clearly a pattern, and it would not be wrong to deduce that this cyclical repetition of violence is not an attribute of a flaw – but the system working exactly as it was meant to be.
Welsing attributed this to the fact that America persists under a system of white supremacism which functions on intentionally murdering and vilifying Black life.
And so we watch as the mainstream media and society is now up in arms and in shock that this could have happened in America. But, come on. This is the very same media that drags the bodies of dead Black children through the dirt in order to deflect the blame from those who murdered them. This is the same America where the very slave patrols that chased after and policed Black lives have morphed into the same institutional force that now claims to serve and protect its citizenry. This is the same country that guns down a child like Mike Brown or chokes the life out of an Eric Garner.
Only in America. A nation endowed by aristocrats on the land their forefathers seized through genocide and pillaging – yet we can’t imagine them doing so to protect their own interests. A nation whose very foundation is embedded with the necessity of maintaining, protecting and upholding white supremacy. So how can we really be shocked that Ahmaud Arbery’s life was taken? Because in America, they can just do that.
It should be noted that these arrests come only after a two-month old video was released, went viral and public outcry.
COVID-19 has invited a rollercoaster of emotions into each and every home, somehow everyone has become affected by this – whether it be in little ways or big ways. Someone we know, whether they be in our homes, our friends, our acquaintances – are affected by this. Knowing this, where do Muslims fall amongst the many affected?
Firstly, fighting COVID-19 is tough, but one way to have prevention to this would be our own cleanliness. Personal hygiene matters, now more than ever! Health experts have been repeatedly saying washing our hands for at least 20 seconds will help prevent the virus. However, Islamically we have been taught personal hygiene for centuries. Keep washing your hands!
Being affected however, has become daunting on Muslims, alongside everyone else. One of our biggest blessings of performing Umrah, has been taken away from us and our biggest blessing Allah (SWT) has graced us with, the performance of Hajj has been taken away from us because of the closure of the Kaabah. Saudi Arabia suspended entry of any pilgrims coming to perform Hajj and Umrah, as early as February 27th.
With the closure of every local mosque, the blessing of going to the masjid for daily prayer has been taken away from us. The blessings of Jummah (Friday Prayers) in congregation, have been taken away from us. Yes, we can still get the blessings of congregation by praying at home, but it isn’t the same as hearing the Imam’s beautiful voice and praying amongst those you know and don’t know.
With the arrival of Ramadan, the blessings of praying Taraweeh every night has been taken away from us, abruptly. Ramadan is a time for us to take full advantage of the spiritual benefits, but it has a sense of excitement every year. The community iftars are taken away and if this continues, Laylatul Qadr, which is known as the most powerful night, may not feel the same to us. Spending all night at our local masjid, praying to Allah (SWT) will continue to be stripped away. If this continues, our most joyous occasion of Eid, will be taken away from us because we cannot partake in the performance of Eid namaz in congregation, alongside everyone who participated in the month of Ramadan.
With COVID-19, comes opportunity – opportunity for Muslims to bring the teachings of Islam into their homes because of the closure of masjids. With the blessings of going to the mosques being taken away, we need to find ways – small or big to bring Islam into our lives, now more than ever. Yes COVID-19 has impacted and affected Muslims and the rest of the world in various ways, we have to look at the blessings and opportunities it has brought us also.
According to Yonhap, a South Korean news agency, the construction operations will cost over half a million dollars and will include road maintenance, paving, expansion of the pedestrian pavement and more.
Itaewon neighborhood is Seoul’s most cosmopolitan neighborhood and is home to Seoul’s Muslim community, in addition to the headquarters of the US military forces stationed in the Asian country.
The region’s governor, Song Jang-hyun, said the halal food street will provide relief for Muslim and local tourists who want to indulge in new experiences, according to Yonhap.
Two copies of a map detailing halal restaurants in Korean – English, and English – Arabic, was made available in 2018 by conducting a full survey in the region.
Tourists numbers, however, fell dramatically earlier this year due to the global health emergency posed by the Coronavirus. A blow to the country which expected over one million Muslim visitors in 2019 on the back of rising interest in Korean culture and tourist attractions, the state-run tourism agency stated last year.
South Korea was one of the first nation’s hit by the novel COVID-19 virus, which caused a state of stall around the world. Nevertheless, it is praised for its response strategy based on nation wide testing registering over ten thousands cases, with only 247 deaths (30th of April), according to Worldometer.
New York City announced, on Thursday, plans to serve half a million free halal meals during the month of Ramadan as a part of a meal distribution program.
The news coming from the city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio laid out plans to reach vulnerable people struggling to secure food during the Coronavirus pandemic. “There will be 400,000 Halal meals available at 32 specific Department of Education sites” said the mayor during a press briefing.
The 32 specific sites, which are part of 435 locations made available to tackle this issue, will be focused where there are large Muslim communities.
De Blasio emphasized as well the significance the holy month has, especially during the current health crisis saying, “one of Ramadan’s most noble callings is to feed the hungry. It’s a crucial part of how the holiday is celebrated to remember to be there for those in need and that is now harder than ever”.
In addition to the 32 sites, another hundred thousand free halal meals will be distributed through partnerships with community-based organizations, food pantry, and soup kitchens.
The mayor also acknowledged the role mosques play in feeding the hungry throughout the year and especially in Ramadan. Mosques have often been a place that those who were hungry, those who were poor would know for certain they could have a meal to break their fast. This is no longer possible as all worship places of all faiths have been closed to limit large gatherings in response to COVID-19, therefore, there will be no community-wide meals (Iftar) or Taraweeh prayers .
The novel virus ravaged the state of New York which is now considered the epicenter of the disease in the United States. According to the NYC department of health, over 140 thousand people have tested positive for Coronavirus and more than 11 thousand people have lost their lives, as of the 23rd of April.
#Ramadan is a month to reflect, to build discipline and to become closer to God. As our city continues to confront the COVID-19 crisis, every New Yorker can learn from such a profound act of faith. Ramadan Mubarak to all of our neighbors beginning their fast. pic.twitter.com/9zwayRJOFK
Ramadan Kareem to you all! The Muslim Team wishes you well during this time, and we hope that this Holy Month provides clarity and ease on to you and your loved ones. We understand that the current circumstances do not allow us to have the most eventful Ramadan, but may Allah (swt) reward us for our patience, and allow us to grow and learn throughout this time.
Knowing that Ramadan will be going digital this year, we hope to become a central online safe space for our community, and ensure that we make the most out of this Holy Month.
Muslim is proud to announce that with Muslim Girl, we are partnering up with Instagram for the entirety of Ramadan for our #MonthOfGood campaign. The initiative with our campaign is to have the Instagram community share their acts of good — big or small — over the course of the month and to encourage others to do the same, while using the hashtag #MonthOfGood.
We will be posting a Q&A on our Instagram story every Monday where your responses will be shared over on our “Ramadan Radio” livestream with Muslim Girl on Tuesdays @ 3PM EST. We have many very special guests that will be featured, so stay tuned for the line up announcement that will be coming out soon! In the meantime, be sure to head over on to Instagram and share a good deed while using the hashtag #MonthOfGood, and be sure to tag @Muslim for the chance to be reposted on our social media. We created a fun-interactive Ramadan good-deed bingo that can be found on our Instagram highlights here.
The U.S. Youth Climate Strike (USYCS) is a grassroots organization that leads demonstrations and climate justice action by youth activists nation-wide. They have anti-capitalist roots and a mission to bring justice – not only for the environment, but for the marginalized communities affected by climate injustice as well. We spoke with members of the Muslim Caucus about the intersections between their faith and climate justice along with how the youth is still managing to take a stand during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The biggest difference for USYCS given the COVID-19 says Sabreen Tuku, a USYCS organizer from Washington state, is the inability to have a physical strike while everyone is in quarantine.
“Moving everything online has been kind of a struggle because you’re not really striking and kind of lose momentum in a way, but it’s also kind of cool because I think we get to reach more people,” Tuku said. She explained the barricade that social distancing has set on physical organizing efforts.
Her fellow Muslim Caucus member and organizer, Salma Abdi, elaborated on the communication hurdles that come with an online strike compared to physical strikes. She said, “Strikes are intimate things, you get to meet different people, you get to have different conversations and see their perspective when it comes to the crisis or why they’re fighting for climate justice. Whereas now it’s online, it’s not as personal and you won’t get to meet new people and it’s so much harder to expect numbers and what your impact is going to be compared to in-person strikes.”
Tuku optimistically highlighted the opportunity that online organizing can offer. It enables organizers to reach even farther than just those in attendance at strikes, and becomes far more accessible to anyone that wants to get involved.
Faridah Azeez, an organizer for USYCS in Massachusetts, emphasized that any youth can get involved even at the local level. Although state chapters are holding events for Earth Day 2020 all of this week, many are abstaining from events on Friday to respect the first fasting day of Ramadan.
Azeez said that people “can go online, search up your chapter, and try to get involved that way too.” She was referring to the several state chapters of the Youth Climate Strike scattered across the United States that welcome all support and involvement in their climate justice efforts, which you can find more information on here.
The intersections between the urgency for climate justice and the teachings of Islam are evident in the Quran, “And do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption” (Qur’an, 2:60). There are plenty of hadith from Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) concerning the treatment of the environment. Nedwa Abdi, a member of the Muslim Caucus and USYCS Minnesota’s outreach director, finds that her Muslim identity indeed has an influence on her activism, saying “Islam teaches us, if we see an injustice, try and fix it and not just be a bystander. And so I try to channel that into my activism.”
Sabirah Mahmud, also an organizer for USYCS in Pennsylvania, spoke to us about her motivation to fight for climate justice, and how the effects of climate injustice impact all of us in some way.
Mahmud expressed, “The thing that got me involved is the fact that my family in Bangladesh experiences so many of these climate disasters, and that forced me to get involved.”
Mahmud pointed out the importance of representation in the climate justice movement. People that have the closest ties to communities that are being affected, and people within those communities themselves, have the strongest capability at making a real impact; which is why groups such as the Muslim Caucus are imperative in amplifying their stories. Speaking to anyone passionate about turning the climate situation around and making change that may be deciding whether or not to get involved, she said, “If they need something to push them, just look at their own story, look at their family heritage, look at where they come from, and that’s where they’ll find it.”
Even in the middle of a pandemic, these Muslim youth are putting in the work to ensure their message is being heard across the country. The USYCS is holding virtual presentations and events throughout quarantine, and just in time for Earth Day 2020! You can learn how to get involved in the cause and participate in these events through the national website and on their social media.
Drones were deployed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the fight against the Coronavirus outbreak. The virus, named COVID-19 has been spreading like wildfire across the globe and measures to safely and successfully combat this global health hazard called for creative solutions.
Drones guarantee limited contact, by which the virus is transmitted, and yield fast and efficient results. The avail of drones was first adopted in Wuhan, China the world’s epicentre of the virus. It gave Chinese officials the ability to send and retrieve medical equipment and samples, monitor citizens to ensure no one broke quarantine guidelines and sanitize the streets. They went as far as attaching the flying motors with thermal cameras to scan crowds and identify those who might need medical treatment.
Like the UAE, Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country used drones to spray crowded urban areas with disinfectant.
French police also tested the prospect of surveillance drones to locate anyone breaking the country’s confinement laws, whilepolice in Madrid, one the most impacted cities in Europe, used drones with speakers to disperse gatherings and order people to return home.
This sudden rise of drones raised questions on how the impact of these kinds of solutions will have on the world after the situation comes to an end.
The turbo-speed technology is moving toward was already a matter of apprehension among those concerned with surveillance, human rights and privacy issues.
While the application of surveillance drones in Wuhan, and possible adoption in Europe, was a response to a health crisis, it showcases that these tools can be used for purposes not in the best interest of the public.
Social distance or new norm?
COVID-19 forcedan estimated 1.7 billion people of the planet’s population to isolation. Health professional’s advice to maintain a safe distance with others and avoid leaving homes unless for absolute necessity allowed the manifestation of a futuristic fantasy, we only saw in movies to become a reality.
Online schools, Zoom meetings, facetime birthday parties, drones delivering everything you need right to your doorsteps.
The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) drones market is expected to grow to USD 48.88 Billion by 2023, according toMarkets and Markets, with commercial drones expected to hold the largest market share.
Even finding love was made possible with these gadgets.
A New York photographer went viral after he asked his neighbour on a date during quarantine. How?
With a drone.
His video documenting the whole shenanigan was viewed more than eight million times so far, and while the endeavour is heart-warming, it gives an insight on how these devices will shape our social interactions and lives in general. It poses questions about human welfare and rights.
But mainly, when we are free to roam the earth again, will we?