Dear Non-Black Muslims, Your Silence Is Deadly

Once again, non-Black Muslims, both in the United States and abroad, have remained deafeningly silent on this crucial issue.

Dear Non-Black Muslims, Your Silence Is Deadly

Once again, non-Black Muslims, both in the United States and abroad, have remained deafeningly silent on this crucial issue.

By

Saj Bey

Photo - Believers Bail Out

Disclaimer: every article expressed in our opinions section is that of the writer.

We have once again witnessed the murder of a Black man at the hands of the police. Once again, we have been reminded of the sheer disregard for the lives of Black men, women, and children that characterizes this nation. And once again, non-Black Muslims, both in the United States and abroad, have remained deafeningly silent on this crucial issue. 

The silence that has reverberated in the wake of George Floyd’s murder is symptomatic of a larger issue that plagues Muslim communities: anti-Blackness. For those who are unaware, the term anti-Blackness refers to a specific brand of racism, opposition, and hostility toward Black people. Despite what you may think, anti-Blackness is not an ideology solely espoused by White people. Rather, anti-Blackness is inherent to virtually every racial, ethnic, and cultural group. Anti-Blackness is endorsed through the movies and shows you watch, the products you use to bleach your skin, and the use of pejoratives such as “abeed.” Anti-blackness is your willingness to step on the backs of your Black brothers and sisters in order to gain proximity to whiteness. Anti-Blackness is your deadly silence in the face of injustice. 

The myth of people of color solidarity has deluded non-Black Muslims into believing that our experiences with racism are the same. More dangerously, this myth has allowed non-Black people to ignore their role in upholding white supremacy. Tou Thao, the Hmong-American officer who stood by as Floyd was murdered, epitomizes the many ways in which non-Black people of color perpetuate and enable anti-Black violence. 

The few non-Black Muslims who have spoken about these issues often equate Black peoples’ experiences with racism in America to the plight of the Palestinians, the Uyghurs, and other subjugated groups to explain why we should support anti-racist efforts in the United States. 

While similarities do, in fact, exist between these various forms of oppression, it is shameful that the suffering of Black people can only be validated through its resemblance to the hardship of others. The need to draw parallels between oppressed groups in order to identify with the pain of Black people is an additional product of anti-Blackness. State-sanctioned violence against Black people deserves outrage, not because of its similitude to other forms of oppression, but because it is an injustice in itself. 

As Muslims, we have no excuse to remain silent on issues of oppression. Our belief in Islam demands that we fight against injustice wherever and whenever we see it. If, as you are reading this, you are wondering what steps you can take to stand in solidarity with your Black brothers and sisters, here are some ideas to get you started:

 

1. Donate to the Official George Floyd Memorial Fund

2. Donate to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, a nonprofit that pays bail for protestors who have been arrested 

3. Educate yourself and others on Black history and resistance movements

4. Support organizations such as the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative

5. Interrogate your own anti-Black biases

6. Hold your communities to a higher standard by calling out anti-Blackness in all of its forms

 

As you conclude this article and reflect upon what I have written, remember that your silence is not just indicative of your contentment with the status quo, it is your complicity with a system that thrives on reigning terror upon Black people. Remember that your silence is dangerous, that it is deprived of humanity, and above all, that it is un-Islamic. 

“And incline not towards those who do wrong, lest the Fire touches you, and you will not have any protectors, apart from Allah. And you will not be helped.”  (Hud, 11:113) 

 

READ MORE: We Shouldn’t Rely On Trigger Videos To Care About Black Lives

We Shouldn’t Rely On Trigger Videos To Care About Black Lives

Video after video we see Black individuals being thrown to the ground, shot at, choked, and beaten to death.

We Shouldn’t Rely On Trigger Videos To Care About Black Lives

Video after video we see Black individuals being thrown to the ground, shot at, choked, and beaten to death.

By

Lamia Rashid

Art - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

Disclaimer: every article expressed in our opinions section is that of the writer.

My thumbs are tired of tapping through graphic videos of Black Americans dying. Yours should be too. 

Most recently, the chilling video of George Floyd being mercilessly suffocated to death by officer Derek Chauvin set Instagram ablaze; in February, it was the haunting video of Ahmaud Arbery’s final moments before being shot to death by Gregory and Travis McMichael. 

Video after video we see Black individuals being thrown to the ground, shot at, choked, and beaten bloody. Post after post, we are reminded of the broken justice system which continues to fail Black Americans repeatedly.

Some believe that these videos serve as proof that the US has become “more racist.” But in a recent taping of the Late Show Stephen Colbert, actor Will Smith weighed in on this debate, disagreeing with those who claim racism is getting worse. “Racism is not getting worse,” stated Smith, “it’s getting filmed.”

In a study conducted by Pew Research Center, it was reported found that, on average, #BlackLivesMatter is used 17,002 times a day, and since 2017, has been reported to be one of the top ten most popular hashtags. 

But despite the ever-trending hashtags, the protests, and the pleads for justice, Black Americans are still being videotaped gasping for their lives and begging not to be killed. Despite the activism and passionate Instagram posts, Black Americans are being killed by the people who are supposed to protect them. 

This problem is seen in corrupt officers like Chauvin: a department veteran of 19 years, who, despite being the subject of numerous complaints throughout the years, had yet to face any disciplinary consequences until his knee pinned defenseless “gentle giant” George Floyd to the ground in cold blood.  

According to 2019 statistics from Mapping Police Violence, Black people accounted for 24% of the deaths as a result of police brutality despite only comprising 13% of the population; additionally, Black people are 3x more likely to be killed by the police than Caucasians. 

In an article published in the Los Angeles Times, it was reported that 1 in 1000 Black men and boys will die at the hands of the police, which is 2.5x more than their Caucasian counterparts. 

The problem is seen again in the dangerous rhetoric used by the President when discussing Black Americans. In a now flagged tweet posted to his account early Friday morning, Trump suggested that the National Guard may shoot looters and protestors enraged over the tragic death of Floyd, a stark contrast to Trump’s reaction to disgruntled Caucasian (and armed) COVID-19 protesters in Michigan earlier this month.

In his tweet he states:

Spot the grotesque injustice? While Trump encourages officers to “see” and “make deals” with Caucasians waving guns in protest for haircuts, Black men and women are disgraceful “thugs” for rioting in pain at the immoral murder of Floyd. 

Tomorrow, another Black person will be senselessly murdered at the hands of police and there will be no hashtags or an alarming video for the world to see. But this shouldn’t make their lives any less valuable. “Liberty and justice for all” never changed, and it shouldn’t take triggering videos circulating social media for us to remember to stand up against blatant injustice. 

Many celebrities and corporations have expressed solidarity with the Black community on social media; recently, Nike posted a video to their Instagram with the caption “let’s all be part of the change. #UntilWeAllWin,” reminding us that we all have the power to make an impact.

If you’re looking for ways to support the Black community, numerous organizations are in dire need of your donations. 

Official George Floyd Memorial Fund on gofundme.com

Organized by his brother Philonise Floyd, the fund was created to “cover funeral and burial expenses, mental and grief counseling, lodging and travel for all court proceedings and to assist the family in the days to come as they “continue to seek justice for George.”

Black Lives Matter

An organization with the mission statement of bringing justice, freedom, and healing to black people across the globe.

The Minnesota Freedom Fund

An organization that helps pay jail bonds for those who cannot afford to fight discriminatory and coercive jailing.

If you are unable to donate, you can support George Floyd’s cause by signing this petition calling for the arrest and charge of the officers involved in the heinous attack, calling County Attorney Mike Freeman at 612-348-5550 to demand a murder charge, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison at 651-296-3353, and Gov. Walz at 651-201-3400.

Hashtags will not combat years of embedded systematic racism in this country nor bring back Black Americans killed in vain; It only signifies an ongoing battle that must be fought. 

I am tired of tapping through graphic videos of Black Americans dying at the hands of police. You should be too. I am tired of flinching at the sight of my Black brothers and sisters being beaten, harassed, and suffocated flooding my timeline. You should be too.

READ MORE: George Floyd: Murder Of Unarmed Black Man Sparks Ongoing Protests In Minneapolis

OP-ED: Another ‘Honor Killing’ In A Family

A young girl died yesterday at the hands of – again – her own father for the perceived insult to his family’s honor. When will we learn?

OP-ED: Another ‘Honor Killing’ In A Family

A young girl died yesterday at the hands of – again – her own father for the perceived insult to his family’s honor. When will we learn?

By

Saleha Bakht
Art - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

Disclaimer: every article expressed in our opinions section is that of the writer, and doesn’t represent the view of our publication.

Again, a young girl died yesterday at the hands of – again – her own father for the perceived insult to his family’s honor. When will we learn?

Romina Ashrafi, a teenager from the small town of Talesh, Northern Iran, was allegedly murdered by her father Reza Ashrafi to “protect his family’s honor.” 

Beyond the rehashed topics of gender and honor-based violence, beyond talking about discrimination in culture or religion again, or what the definition of honor is, let’s talk for a minute about our children.

This 14-year-old girl in question eloped with a man at least twice her age, and after being caught by Iranian police officers, was sent home to her father who murdered her that same night.  

We’ve said it a million times: there is no world in which this is okay. We need to end child marriages, child abuse we need to end domestic violence, misogyny, sexism, pedophilia.

We need to check ourselves and the people around us to be sure that we are not the predator in some future situation. We need to check that we are not the family pushing our vulnerable members into the arms of strangers.  

There’s a quote from the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) that reads, “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart…”

And this is a reality check that is up to us, that only we can do for ourselves. It takes a village to raise a child. So let’s be better for the children in our lives.

With our hands, let’s show our neighborhood children that hands should only be used to build and do constructive things. Let’s help our own families and set an example for how families should treat each other. At least they’ll know the future can be good.

With our mouths, let’s communicate effectively. Let’s resolve conflict in front of our children. Show them that mouths aren’t just used to yell at other people and that yelling on its own is no good. Let’s show them what peaceful resolution looks like and what they should look for in respectful relationships and what they need to be looking for with their own partners.  

With our hearts, lets pray and hope and find the motivation within ourselves to set the example for a better future that isn’t generations away. This is a change we can make within our own lifetimes. This is an example that we can start making in small steps as soon as we finish reading this article.

To be sure, some people will ask why should I care about a girl that died across an ocean? Why should I start caring about kids that aren’t mine?

Romina Ashrafi isn’t just another girl. The same way Aqsa Pervez isn’t just another girl in Mississauga. Nesreen Irsan isn’t just another girl murdered in Texas. Banaz Mahmod isn’t just another dead girl in London. These are all girls murdered by family. Some of these girls even told the police that they worried they would be murdered by family and the police sent them home anyway.

These aren’t just other girls. They’re our girls. They needed our care and our attention. They reached out and didn’t get the help they needed and that’s on us as the living. We can say it until we’re blue in the face; “If you’re being bullied at home or at school, tell an adult.” But are we even adults that listen?

Do we say, “I hear you, dear, but it can’t be that bad, go home”? Do we shoo them away with our hands? In our hearts and in our minds, do we think, “Please don’t bother me with this. What can I say to get you to leave me alone right now?”

Only to turn around the next day over the news of a dead kid and say in a plaintive manner, “I would have never have let them go home if I had just known.”

If we can’t hear when the children of our world try to tell us something, we need to work on opening our ears. We need to actively remind our hearts every moment to think of the people around us; to think of the tiny eyes that may be watching; the impressionable brains that are learning before they can even crawl. We need to remind ourselves again and again to be responsible with our words and our gestures all the time, especially when we’re tired.

How soon until we are the ones that our neighborhood’s children turn to to say something is wrong? And, when that happens, what will we do? Or are we the adults who will – again – just say, “go home”?

READ MORE: ‘Honor Killing’ Of 14-Year-Old Romina Ashrafi Sparks Outrage Across Iran

Here’s Why Joe Biden’s Anti-BDS Stance Is Problematic

Biden went on to say that his administration will "firmly reject the BDS movement."

Here’s Why Joe Biden’s Anti-BDS Stance Is Problematic

Biden went on to say that his administration will “firmly reject the BDS movement.”

By

Samer Hassan
Art - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

Disclaimer: every article expressed in our opinions section is that of the writer, and doesn’t represent the view of our publication.

In an unsurprising turn of events, former Vice President Joe Biden declared his undying loyalty to the Zionist state of Israel. Dan Shapiro, the former ambassador to Israel, hosted an online fundraiser for the Biden Campaign. During the event, Biden affirmed his unconditional support to the Israeli state, a move that is increasingly at odds with many young progressive Americans. Biden went on to say that his administration will “firmly reject the BDS movement, which singles out Israel – home to millions of Jews – and too often veers into antisemitism, while letting Palestinians off the hook for their choices.” 

Inaccurate statements like these perpetuate a mentality that purports Israelis as the victims while Palestinians as obstacles to peace. Criticism of harmful Israeli policies should be encouraged but instead, are gaslit as antisemitic. 

Yet, when an unarmed Palestinian teenager was shot in the head by an Israeli occupation soldier and subsequent United Nations report detailing the 77% rise of illegal Israeli settler violence towards Palestinians, Biden was silent. Palestinian homes are being bulldozed in droves while their land is increasingly confiscated by illegal Israeli settler groups, Zionists point out that this land was promised to them and to them only. 

It is exactly this type of backdrop that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) campaign was created by Palestinian civil society in 2005. Their goal is to pressure Israel to treat the Palestinians as equal human beings with dignity and enter negotiations with a viable deal that gives Palestinians a state. This movement calls on the world to end economic deals with the Zionist government until Palestinians are free from occupation. Instead, the movement has been demonized by moderate and right-wing politicians around the world. Moderate candidates like Biden are not running for office to reform the American political system, but to maintain an unequal status quo. 

The Palestinian BDS National Committee opposed his statement saying, “By rejecting BDS, Joe Biden endorses US complicity in Israel’s decades-old regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid, and supports depriving Palestinians of our fundamental human rights,” the organization said.

In an insult to the American values of freedom and democracy for all, Biden stated, “They have to acknowledge flat out Israel’s right to exist, period, as an independent Jewish state, and guarantee the borders,” reiterating his lack of knowledge. The Palestinian Liberation Organization recognized Israel in 1988. It is the new caveat that demands Israel be recognized as a Jewish state that is a non-starter to Palestinian leaders because that would effectively sideline 24% of Israelis, who are Muslim and Christian, as second class citizens in a state that already practices dejure apartheid policies. Moreover, Israel doesn’t recognize an official border because that means it would have to legally abide by it. 

The double standards in the US presidential primaries towards the Palestinians shows exactly how out of touch the Biden campaign is with many of its constituents. There is a deafening silence when it comes to holding Israel accountable for its actions. Biden’s campaign has stated that he would not condition aid to Israel, even though there are many documented human rights violations towards the Palestinian people. 

What Americans need is a leader that holds all governments accountable to the ideals of peace, equality, and freedom for all, not Joe Biden and his “unshakable commitment to Israel.”

 
Samer Hassan is a Palestinian activist in New York city. He graduated with a degree in Political Science
from Columbia University. 

Let’s Talk About Body Dysmorphia In Muslim Communities

Getting ready and having to look at my body became an uncomfortably gross intimacy.

Let’s Talk About Body Dysmorphia In Muslim Communities

Getting ready and having to look at my body became an uncomfortably gross intimacy.

By

Rania Rizvi
Art - WikiPedia; Body Dysmorphia

Dear Aunties: Keep your comments about my weight to yourself 

Once, I was the chubby, “happy-go-lucky” kid with full cheeks and a rosy glow. I ate unapologetically and wholeheartedly. I drank two Capri-Suns and ate popsicles daily with my friends after school. 

But then reality hit. 

It was time for middle school and that cute Aero top that once fit like a glove was now a bit too tight in all the wrong places. My grandma would call worried from Pakistan, saying she didn’t want her eldest, “prettiest granddaughter” to be fat. 

Dinner parties turned into auntie-commentaries about how I would look “better” if I slimmed down. Familiar faces turned into inspecting eyes, judging me up and down before saying “Salaam!” 

Instagram became an agonizing reminder that my frame was societally subpar and that I was practically obese compared to the tan California girls with 10,000 likes and invisible waists. 

The weight of my weight never felt heavier. 

I became incredibly self-conscious and started researching diets. I learned how to only eat 1,200 calories a day, how to have a cup of coffee for breakfast and be full, how to channel my self-hatred into fuel for my no-pain-no-gain workouts. 

When I was 16, my grandma came to visit me from Pakistan and was stunned by how thin I had become: She soon started mixing butter into my rice so that I would gain weight. 

The commenting aunties suddenly came up to me asking to give them dieting tips. Some were even worried that I might “go anorexic.” 

But overall, they thought I was a success story. 

What they didn’t know was that I woke up each and every day with a torturous mental battle to fight. 

Getting ready and having to look at my body became an uncomfortably gross intimacy. The whispers of “you should lose more weight” inside my head were louder than the ten alarms I set for school. No amount of lighting, weight loss or filters could fix the million, microscopic errors my eyes could miraculously find. 

The weight of never feeling good enough feels the heaviest. 

I didn’t know the words for it then, but my ritualistic dieting, fixation on metrics, and obsession with mirrors was not just vanity or wanting to look good. 

They were symptoms of Body Dysmorphia. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a mental health disorder in which one obsesses over perceived or minor flaws that are oftentimes not noticeable to others. 

As a result, individuals may avoid or feel anxious in social situations and can spiral into depression. 

Symptoms include: obsession with appearance, believing that one is ugly or deformed because of the perceived flaw, and frequently seeking reassurance from others. 

Older generations accuse us of being “self-obsessed” and that we ought to just grit our teeth and “deal with it.” 

“Allah has given you so much and you dare to be ungrateful?” they say. “This is what happens when we miss salah.” 

This indifference towards mental health is especially prevalent in South Asian or Arab muslim communities that not only cater to traditional ideals of beauty but also weaponize religion to shame those who struggle mentally. 

This is only compounded by the fact that the muslim youth of today live in a society that subsists upon the Eurocentric body imagel, and rewards people based on their looks. It is virtually impossible to not feel bad about oneself. 

But how do we combat this issue? 

Let me offer you some pragmatic perspective. 

We live in a society that profits from insecurity – the cosmetic surgery industry alone accounts for around $20 billion globally. Therefore, it only makes sense that we are bombarded with content that makes us want to look like someone else. People are willing to spend anything to feel loved and accepted. 

We ought to step back from ourselves and take a critical look at the media and what it is selling us, why people fat-shame and make the comments that they do. If we can take back our power and understand that beauty is a subjective term that is based on what sells in that particular time, perhaps we might not feel as bad anymore. 

There was a point in time when your body was the ideal. Trends do not determine your worth. People will always be afraid of what is different. There will always be someone who is skinnier or has more likes, and even those people aren’t “happy.” 

Most of all, we ought to remember to look at the grand scheme of things, beyond the material world’s obsession with unattainable perfection. Even if we perceive our body as a flaw, these are based on human standards, but in the eyes of Allah (swt), we are all equal, regardless of how we might appear.

Remember that our Creator made no mistakes when making you. He has crafted us each with unique imperfections to not only remind us of our humanity, but to teach us where our worth really comes from in this life and the hereafter: the heart inside the body, not the body itself.

Being truly comfortable in one’s body cannot be achieved by joining the crowd, but by authentically embracing our diversity and working on our self-worth from the inside out. 

At the age of 19, I no longer use calorie counting apps and workout for the purpose of feeling good. I have gained weight since my unhealthy high school days, and I am grateful for it. 

While there are still days when I feel insecure about my body, I remind myself that only I get to decide how I feel about my body, not my family, not oppressive standards, and certainly not the aunties. 

To all the aunties who ever had a comment to make about mine or anyone else’s weight: stop. Stop making impressionable kids feel ashamed about their bodies. Keep the generational trauma to yourself because my generation is just trying to love themselves. 

 

READ MORE: The Double Standard Between Billie Eilish And Muslim Women

Aya Hachem Was Shia, So What?

Aya was Shia. Aya was Muslim. Aya was a human being.

Aya Hachem Was Shia, So What?

Aya was Shia. Aya was Muslim. Aya was a human being.

By

Danya Jafri

Photo - Aya Hachem, Art - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

“Are we certain that she died a Muslim?”

 

Aya Hachem, 19, was tragically shot in the chest and killed by a gunman on Sunday, May 17. Aya was Shia. Aya was Muslim. Aya was a human being. 

And the response to her life lost? Outrage. Outrage not just for the unnecessary and tragic death of a young girl who had her entire life ahead of her, but rather outrage against an undying flame of ignorance. 

Outrage has broken out on social media as some Muslims chose to withdraw their donations for a well to be built in honor of Hachem and divert their fundraising to support her grieving family, after learning her family were of a Shia Muslim background. The loss of a life and efforts to support the Hachem family were met with Twitter user @humbleakh1 tweeting, “I didn’t know she was a Shia… no way do I want to be in a situation where all this cause could go against me on the Day of Judgement.”

And while this may surprise some and raise eyebrows for others, this is an incident, a sentiment, a backlash that is not foreign to the Shia community. Shia Muslims, on a global scale, face a continued pattern of alienation and genocide.

 

 

Microaggressions, erasure, deadly attacks, dismissiveness, and glaringly anti–Shia utterances are a burden we have carried on our backs for as long as we can remember. 

And the reality is that with every death, with every attack, and with every act of hatred against the Hazara Shias, against the Zakaria Al-Jabers, and against the Aya Hachems of the world, we as Shia Muslims are reminded of one thing: beneath a layer of an ostensibly collective endurance of Islamophobia, our Shia identity lends us to a duality of internal empowerment and outward isolation –  we live in a world where it often feels like we have no one but ourselves to lean on.

 

Even in times of tragedy, Shiaphobia and Shia-alienation rear their ugly heads – this is a reality which we must recognize and reconcile. Anti-Shiism is constant and systematic. It bears a long history woven into the fabric of a global society that claims to embrace differences, that claims to uplift the marginalized, a society that claims to fight against oppression and of tenacity against tyranny. 

But, where has this society gone now? Where has it gone when justice calls its name? Where now are the chants of holding firmly to the rope of Allah (Quran 3:103) and being a brother in faith or equal in humanity? Why must these only be used to demand silence and unity from Shia Muslims when incidents of division happen? 

It was the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Imam Hussain ibn Ali (as), who once stated, “Those who are silent when others are oppressed are guilty of oppression themselves.” 

Recognize this collective and deafening silence as oppression. Recognize this collective and unwavering ignorance as a seed of planted hatred and discrimination. And if you cannot bring yourself to share an ounce of pain felt by the Shia community, recognize one thing: we are dealing with the loss of an innocent human life. We are dealing with a continued injustice that took the life of an individual, whose life was sacred, for the Holy Quran teaches us that every life is sacred (5:32). 

And yet, we are numb. We have become numb and we have become desensitized because we live in a world colored by anti-Shiism in which a life lost is not always remembered like a life lived. 

 

 

And at times like these, I remember an excerpt from the words of renowned Urdu poet, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, as he writes in his nazm, Lahu ka Suragh”: 

“Nowhere, nowhere at all, is any trace of blood 
This blood was not shed in the services of kings that it could receive recompense
Nor was it sacrificed at the altar of religion that it could be rewarded
Neither did it spill on the battlefield that it could be honored
Or memorialized on a battle standard
It cried out, this helpless, orphaned Blood
But none had the ability to listen, nor the time, nor the patience
No plaintiff stepped forward, no one bore witness and so the account was closed
While the blood of the dirt-dwellers seeped silently into the dirt.”

Aya was Shia. Aya was Muslim. Aya was a human being. These characteristics, these components of her identity – our identity – are not mutually exclusive. Yet, at the hands of xenophobia and ignorance, the schism of difference has widened. 

And I, as a Shia, as a Muslim, as a human being, as all of these things as a single entity – I am outraged. I am heartbroken. And I am tired. Have we become so numb that we stand silent, afraid of facing differences and diversity, that we are left indifferent to  human suffering? 

When will we, as a society, admit our complicity in the face of oppression?

#PrayForKabul, But Don’t Ignore The Greater Issues

What does it mean to be born in Kabul? What precisely is it you are being asked to pray for?

#PrayForKabul, But Don’t Ignore The Greater Issues

What does it mean to be born in Kabul? What precisely is it you are being asked to pray for?

By

Ali M Latifi
Art - Shayma Al-shiri

 

KABUL, Afghanistan – For decades now, the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan has been referred to as “the forgotten war,” but in truth, a more fitting moniker might be “the ignored war.” The war has been here all along — the suffering has continued unabated — it’s just been waiting for someone, somewhere to recognize it. To truly see it and all of its dark, ugly brutality.

There are, of course, brief moments of violence so unfathomable that they refuse to be ignored. Nightmares that gain the attention of the world, even if only for an instant. Wednesday’s hours-long attack on a maternity hospital, full of newborns and expectant mothers, has become one of those rare instances that opens the world’s eyes once again to a conflict that has been raging for more than 40 years now.

Suddenly, people took to their social media feeds, asking their followers to “Imagine you were born in Kabul” or “#PrayForKabul”. But do we, the wider public, truly understand what these calls to action really mean, what exactly they are referring to?

What does it mean to be born in Kabul? What precisely is it you are being asked to pray for?

 

To put it simply, being born in Kabul during the last four decades could mean life as a refugee, fleeing — as my family and I did – one brutally violent conflict or another.  Or, depending on when exactly you were born, it could mean growing up in a city that was divided and showered with daily rocket attacks by warlords, or where a group claiming they would deliver the people from civil war ended up ruling with brutality and repression. Or it means watching “democracy” and capitalism, and the opportunities that come with them, reach a select few.

The sad truth is that as heinous as Wednesday’s attack on a civilian hospital in the middle of Ramadan during a pandemic is, it’s not rare. 

Only a month ago, as Kabul was preparing for a COVID-19 lockdown, one of the city’s few Sikh temples came under attack. At least 25 people, including women and a child, were killed. Last summer, in the lead-up to the one-hundredth anniversary of independence, a suicide bomber walked into a wedding procession and blew himself up. He killed 63 people. Late into an August night in 2015, thousands of residents in the Shah Shahid neighborhood were awakened by a massive car bomb that shattered the idea that any hour of the day or night was safe from the threat of violence; 400 people were injured, 23 killed.

There have also been attacks on protesters demanding better access to electricity for a long-ignored province, on an education center preparing students for the college entrance exam, and on a gym.

Outside Kabul, there have been attacks during a volleyball tournament, a wrestling match, a wedding ceremony, funeral processions and even during Eid prayers.

What this handful of instances (out of dozens and dozens) shows is that nowhere in Afghanistan is safe, no matter what the governments in Europe and Turkey claim when deporting thousands of Afghan refugees. Ironically, both the European Union and Ankara issued their standard condemnations of Wednesday’s attack. 

In many ways, these rote denouncements perfectly embody what the Afghan war has become for so much of the world, a place for rhetoric and platitudes without real thought or action. 

Brussels and Ankara may issue condemnations, but there is little chance they will halt the deportation of Afghan asylum seekers, because by their estimation, Kabul is “safe.”

In 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was long-heralded for her acceptance of Syrian refugees, justified her government’s willingness to deport Afghans by proposing the establishment of protected zones where the EU could safely dump rejected Afghan asylum seekers. 

Germany’s interior minister at the time was much less diplomatic, saying simply, “We want the influx of refugees to be stopped,” when he too claimed that there were “many” safe provinces and that “inside areas that aren’t so stable, there are safe areas” (whatever that means).

Five years later, and despite the presence of more than 1,000 German soldiers in the country, there are still no such protected zones, and the rate of violence has increased at an exponential rate. April 2020 alone saw between 50 and 70 Taliban attacks per day.

Even more upsetting are the condemnations coming from the governments in Iran and Pakistan, two countries Afghans have long suspected of aiding and abetting armed opposition groups, including the Taliban. 

Afghanistan, it seems, has become a sort of a gathering ground for empty, fast-forgotten promises and tired pronouncements. Decision-makers might very occasionally discuss Afghanistan, but rarely do they take any decisive action to either help end the bloodshed or provide people with safe shelter from the suicide bombs, the landmines, the airstrikes, the drones, the night raids and the increasing criminal insurgence resulting from a flailing economy.

So, we thank you for your prayers and imagining what life is like here, but instead, it’s time to raise the alarm on the Afghan war. The deaths must no longer go ignored. People and politicians must know what is going on here – that a hospital full of newborn babies and a funeral procession full of mourners 100 miles away have been attacked on the same day. Try to imagine that. Definitely still #PrayForKabul, but more importantly, please #RememberAfghanistan every day.

Is Gun Violence A ‘Muslim Issue?’

The word “violence” does not even appear in the Quran. Not once. So why are Muslims always villainized?

Is Gun Violence A ‘Muslim Issue?’

The word “violence” does not even appear in the Quran. Not once. So why are Muslims always villainized?

By

Mohamed Alagteaa
Art - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

Disclaimer: every opinion expressed in written pieces is that of the writer, and doesn’t represent the view of our publication.

 

On average, almost 100 people die each day in the United States from gun violence, according to a report done by Jama Network. As one of the richest nations on the planet is losing the battle against this pandemic, it’s worth noting that this fight is a matter the entire world is grappling with. 

Guns are the means, but the violence perpetrated from the use of these agencies is committed by people from all backgrounds and all walks of life. This poses the question of whether gun violence is a specific problem of one component of society, the Muslim one for example, or is it a burden that everyone must tackle? 

So, is gun violence a “Muslim issue?”

The simple answer is: yes.

But, like every topic Muslims deal with, the answer is never easy or straightforward and this one is no different. This one-word answer lingers with complications. 

You’re at home, you switch on the news while you’re in the kitchen making a snack. Suddenly, you hear Wolf Blitzer’s voice blaring “CNN Breaking News.”  A shooting, somewhere, many dead, more injured and the suspect is still on the run.

A non-Muslim’s reaction is, oh God, another shooting.

A Muslim’s reaction is, oh God, hope he’s not Muslim.

It’s the worst-case scenario for so many of us, because what we observe at home, learn in Masjid and experience on a daily basis will be twisted and shown dishonestly.

The Quran does not reference gun violence specifically, because guns did not exist at the time of the revelations. Quran with the Hadith together transcended the means to direct its teaching toward the action itself. Both the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet categorically and unequivocally reject any act of transgression.

“And fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, but do not transgress. Truly God loves not the transgressors.” (2:190) al-Bagarah

“There should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm.” A ruling by the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) narrated ‘Ubadah bin Samit

Allah and his Messenger make it clear, with no dubiety, harm in any shape or form is unacceptable. 

But what about all those verses of killing non-Muslims?

The Quran’s description of violent actions are put in place as directions of protection, a manner of self-defense, which is the only justification for resorting to them, and even then, it’s better to dock at the port of peace. 

“God does not forbid you, with regard to those who did not fight you on account of religion and did not expel you from your homes, from treating them righteously and being just toward them. Truly God loves the just” (60:8) al-Mumtaḥanah

There is not a single verse in the Quran that calls for an unmitigated or unqualified cause of violence. Yet, extremist groups interpret verses to endorse their incoherent and unislamic violent actions. 

That is a fact, and while the perpetuated stereotypes of Muslims being synonyms to hate and destruction of human life are unjust, it is what makes violence committed using guns a Muslim issue. Simply, firearms are one of their weapons of choice. 

The Parkland shooting intensified the urgency around gun control and need for measures to be taken and implemented now. But, there were no Muslim casualties nor was the attacker Muslim. That was the case in many other shooting incidents and other sites of crimes where guns were used to slaughter innocent people.

Hence, it is easy to sit in the background and watch another community suffer from these events, yet we as Muslims are compelled to be the first to be on the front lines, not because it can happen to us in the future, and it did (Christchurch, New Zealand), nor because we were the victim of the same monstrosity before. It is because we are supposed to be categorically and unequivocally against violence.

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The most hated persons to Allah are three: (1) A person who deviates from the right conduct, i.e., an evil doer, in the Haram (sanctuaries of Mecca and Medina); (2) a person who seeks that the traditions of the Pre-Islamic Period of Ignorance, should remain in Islam (3) and a person who seeks to shed somebody’s blood without any right.” Narrated Ibn `Abbas

It should not be lost upon us as well, the word “violence” does not even appear in the Quran. Not once. 

Whether we are the victims, or collectively wrongfully accused or it is another community that might even be the one collectively wrongfully accusing us, our cornerstones of belief demand us to be the vigilant sounds of gun control.

So, when the next “Breaking News” comes along, we are profoundly moved to action, unapologetically and filled with conviction in support of our own people and of our fellow citizens. 

 

What A Joe Biden Presidency Means For Muslims

For the Muslim community, we should be particularly weary given his stances on a number of issues.

What A Joe Biden Presidency Means For Muslims

For the Muslim community, we should be particularly weary given his stances on a number of issues.

By

Haider Syed
Art - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

Disclaimer: every opinion expressed in written pieces is that of the writer, and doesn’t represent the view of our publication.

In an age of rising right-wing fascism – let alone the tide of hopelessness gripping much of our world through the ensuing COVID-19 pandemic and looming climate catastrophe – it’s easy to slip into despair. The past four years in particular have felt like shockwave after shockwave. 

The era of Donald Trump has come to define the absurdity of our world. An abhorrently brash and reckless presidency thus far, since taking the oval office in 2016 Trump has certainly stayed true to his time in the entertainment industry, running his administration like nothing more than a reality-tv show. He handles the presidency with a soap opera-esque feel with shocking gaffes, firings left-right and center, and a gripping anticipation of what will happen next. 

Over the past four years, the Trump administration has turned anti-Muslim campaign rhetoric –  which riled up support for him amongst hard-right factions – into legitimate policies. The Muslim ban perhaps most ardently shows the grim circumstances that Muslims are facing, with chances that a second Trump term would see further measures of increased policing, restriction and harassment targeting other minorities under the guise of protecting the country against terrorist threats. Not to mention the increased hostilities against Muslims: reports of attacks skyrocketing and the normalization of Islamophobic rhetoric and bigotry in the mainstream. 

This has been nothing but a testing time, and the community has become heavily invested in the 2020 election campaign.

So it’s understandable that many would take the first opportunity afforded to get rid of Trump. The Muslim community in America and much of the Muslim world are closely eyeing the upcoming November elections and wondering what outcome will ensue. 

The early promises of the Bernie Sanders campaign and his embrace of the Muslim community was met with a wave of overwhelming support from Muslims, especially from young Muslims. But as the attacks against him increased and further candidates began to drop out of the race, Sanders’ promise to quickly fizzled out. Losses in mid and late March led him to suspending his campaign by the first week of April.

Enter Joseph R. Biden Jr. 

Going into Super Tuesday, he was down in the pecking order, an afterthought, and someone who was expected to bow out of the race at any moment. But that night quickly shifted everything in his favor and now today he stands alone as the man millions will be looking towards to defeat Trump in a few months. 

Biden promises, both figuratively and literally, a return to the pre-Trump days. The former Vice-President symbolizes the stark contrast between the gloom and chaos of the current administration to that of the Obama White House – one of the most popular presidencies in recent American history. 

Biden has built a reputation as a charming fatherly figure, an old-timer whose experience and guile are unmatched; a career politician who has what it takes to dethrone Trump as commander-in-chief. He’s seen as the “Mr. Nice Guy” of American politics who even Lindsey Graham once described as “….as good of a man as God ever created.” 

The former vice-president has presented himself as an exemplar of honesty, a pillar of morality, and the candidate to bring stability back to a nation looking towards its leadership for sanity and direction. 

But who really is Joe Biden? Once you start scratching beneath the surface, a far more grim picture begins to take shape. Under the veneer, his track record is an atrocious plethora of issues that makes him out to be an extremely vulnerable candidate – especially since he’ll be up against someone like Trump who will not hold back in his attacks. 

Beyond the smile, we have seen a man struggle significantly on the campaign trail thus far as he routinely forgets things while speaking, displays moments of sheer cluelessness, incoherence and so forth. But what actually should be troubling potential supporters is his past. 

The “anyone but Trump” rhetoric starts to feel futile when we take a closer look at Biden’s record on a number of significant issues. For the Muslim community, we should be particularly weary given his stances on a number of issues that involved minority and civil rights. 


Joe Biden visiting Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in UAE.

 

Perhaps most notorious is Biden’s reputation on racial integration during the civil rights era and furthermore his role in legislation that decimated Black communities across the nation. Biden was a long-time close friend of ardent segregationist Strom Thurmmond, whom he publicly praised numerous times as a remarkable individual. 

Biden remarked once that Thurmmond – whose career was defined by his long-standing opposition to the implementation of Civil Rights in America which included him switching parties for the sake of it – told him that if there were ever to be a Democrat as President he’d like it to be Biden. 

Biden spent years not only vehemently opposing integrationist efforts such as busing (which came up in the debates in a heated exchange with Kamala Harris) to appease white constituents back home, but did not shy away from outrightly defending the segregationists he was collaborating with then. He advocated opposing desegregation under the banner that it was for the good of Black people and culture in America. 

These inconsistencies, or outright lies, come into the spotlight again when we look at his last campaign for the Democratic nomination in 1988. Then, he had to humiliatingly withdraw from the race after it came out that he plagiarized parts of speeches from Neil Kinnock and Robert Kennedy verbatim. 

When this came to light at the time, it was hugely embarrassing for him. He had also been accused of plagiarizing during law school, as well as lying about his academic achievements – all which he at first then denied but later on admitted to as well. 

In addition, he has a scathing history of simply making things up if not out-right lying about them. For one, he lied about apparently being arrested for protesting during apartheid in Soweto, South Africa when he had been attempting to go see Nelson Mandela who was imprisoned on Robben Island. 

Biden has time and time again referred to his work within the civil rights movement as a young man. Yet it isn’t helpful that in 1987 he clearly stated that in no capacity had he ever marched nor been an activist. From such antics it becomes apparent that Biden is the sort of politician who is willing to jump on bandwagons and say what he has to sway people’s opinion of him, even if that means being dishonest. This doesn’t do much to separate him from the pathological lying of one Donald Trump.

But even more pressingly when it comes to policies on social justice, Biden’s record is dicey, if not outright alarming. In 1994, Biden was one of the main proponents of the Federal Crime Bill. To say it was tough on crime would be an understatement. 

As the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden espoused the bill fiercely until it was passed, and it went on to decimate Black families and communities unrelentingly. The legislation was passed at the height of the crises evoked by the crack-cocaine epidemic. It was proposed by Bill Clinton, and having wide ranging bipartisan support from Democrats and Reaganites alike, it added dozens of new offenses, far harsher sentences for menial misdeeds, and contributed billions of dollars towards the construction of new prisons with obligatory minimum sentencing. 

While the legislation did lower crime momentarily, that was largely due to the increased deployment of officers out on the streets, which single handedly doubled the imprisonment rate over the next decade and a half.

At the time, Biden’s rhetoric and language on how drug related offences should be handled, and particularly in addressing the Black and Latino communities plagued by the worst of the violence, advocated for harsher punishments and the full brunt of a more aggressive policing system. 

His work in writing the 1995 Omnibus Counterterrorism Act to stifle the flow of drugs in America as part of the War on Drugs shouldn’t come as a surprise. And, the Patriot Act which was signed into law in 2001 following the September 11th Attacks and the beginning of the War on Terror was attributed to Biden – something he has bragged about in the past. 

Note: This was the same legislation that gave the US intelligence apparatus unparalleled authority, which they used to police, harass, spy on and dehumanize Muslims throughout America. The interconnectedness between the violences that minorities, immigrants and racialized folks in the US face at the hands of the state could not be more apparent than this. 

Minorities and marginalized folks are attacked through the same channels –and Joe Biden has been there conducting the traffic for a long time.

Then, there’s Biden on foreign policy. Most notably, he’s been criticized for his support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He now claims he was tricked into supporting it by the Bush administration and later opposed it right as it started, at a time when he was Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

But this turns out to be untrue, seeing that Biden had been regularly calling for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein since the late 1990s. And in 2003, after the invasion took place he repeatedly praised President Bush for doing so, admitting he was going against those in his own party but stating it would have been a greater mistake to allow Saddam’s reign to continue. 

It doesn’t further his cause of appealing to Muslim Americans that he was Vice-President during the Obama years which were seen as an ample opportunity for the U.S. to repair its relationship with the Muslim world, yet did little to go in that direction. 

Biden has a track record for being nothing more than a war hawk. The failure of closing Guantanamo Bay in the early years was overshadowed by the ways in which the national security state was expanded during their administration, which curtailed civil liberties and gave the President only more power. 

We’ve come to know of Biden’s time as vice-president as one which revealed the extent of the NSA’s espionage metrics, record deportations, the infamous Obama Kill-List and the lawlessness of the drone assassination program in countries like Yemen or the unauthorized bombing campaigns in Libya, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Building a devastating apparatus that Trump inherited.

When we talk about a “return” to normalcy and Trump, is that what we’re going to get more of under Biden? Free handouts to the tune of $30 billion more to fund Israeli expansionism deemed hostile and illegal under international law?  Further war and aggression in the Muslim world? A failure to live up to promises made to communities in distress?

And while we often berate Trump for his connection with fellow fascist sympathizers like Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, we cannot forget the fact that Biden’s own campaign’s Muslim outreach coordinator was one Amit Jani who has long standing connections with the BJP, who he has praised significantly and was even pictured with Modi recently. 

The same Narendhra Modi who has long incited religious violence in India against Muslims. That this was the individual who Biden saw as fit to make inroads with American Muslims says a lot.

Joe Biden's Modi supporting "Muslim Outreach" co-ordinator.

 

And then there are the scathing allegations on Biden for sexual misconduct and harassment. In April 2019, eight women came forward with allegations of some form of inappropriate gestures across a number of years against Biden. The behavior these women have reported are not out of line with the sort of stuff we’ve seen from Biden in recent times – pictured frequently to be overtly intimate, in touching, hugging and kissing women who are visibly in discomfort in professional settings, on the campaign trail and at events. 

In recent weeks we’ve seen one allegation in particular gain further credibility. His former Senate staffer, Tara Reade, accuses him of sexually harassing her in 1993 – with now various fragments of her story aligning to give her claims a source of integrity

Biden this week outrightly denied the allegations and fellow Democrats have come to his support, as he felt bewildered by the timing of Reade’s allegations. She has repeatedly spoken of the difficulty of coming forward personally and the challenges she’s faced when she went to her superiors about the misconduct. 

Yet it’s disheartening to see that just over a year ago when it was Brett Kavanaugh who was being grilled about his own sexual misconduct, Biden remarked, “For a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus, nationally, you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real, whether or not she forgets facts, whether or not it’s been made worse or better over time.”

The way in which those same Democrats, who have repeatedly drawn hammer blows at President Trump’s own history of sexual misconduct and misogyny are now defending Biden, underlines the fact that some only believe women when it’s for political gain.  

When it comes down to it, it’s more about choosing sides than gaining justice for the victims – indicators of moral bankruptcy, and an indicator of the perverseness of contemporary American politics. 

Taking all this into account, it becomes apparent that the Democratic establishment haven’t propped up all their support behind Biden because they think he’s the best man for the job – but because they want to tap into that same supporter base that won Donald Trump the 2016 election. That a racist apologist and a misogynist can actually get the vote.

The fact of the matter is that Joe Biden is a closet Republican who has been parading as a progressive democrat for far too long – the party’s top brass feel they can exploit this in their favor by winning over large swathes of the Right across the country. 

Rather than shifting the conversation towards the Left and guaranteeing everyday Americans with basic necessities such as universal healthcare, the party has gone for a centrist politician who is riddled with vulnerabilities that are already being laid bare, and by November will probably have cost him the election, leading to four more years of further turmoil under Trump. 

Hey Jeff Goldblum, What You Said On ‘Rupaul’s Drag Race’ Is Really Islamophobic

Goldblum’s statement comes from an inherently fundamental problem that is consistently purported to show that Islam has no place in the West.

Hey Jeff Goldblum, What You Said On ‘Rupaul’s Drag Race’ Is Really Islamophobic

Goldblum’s statement comes from an inherently fundamental problem that is consistently purported to show that Islam has no place in the West.

By

Samer Hassan
Art - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

 

Disclaimer: every opinion expressed in written pieces is that of the writer, and doesn’t represent the view of our publication.

Jeff Goldblum, TV personality and star of the movie Jurassic Park, was a recent guest star on season 12 of Rupaul’s Drag Race. Every judge on the quirky show comments about a contestant’s performance – but rarely do we see comments going as far as to attack a contestant’s religion. 

Jackie Cox is an Iranian drag queen whose family has been affected by President Trump’s Muslim ban. After lip syncing to Katy Perry’s song “Firework” while wearing a hijab and dress embellished with the American flag, Goldblum asked Cox, if “Islam is anti-homosexual and anti-woman,” going on to ask if “that complicates the issue” with Cox’s performance. 

Goldblum’s statement comes from an inherently fundamental problem that is consistently purported to show that Islam has no place in the West. 

In asking whether Islam “complicates” the issue, we can see something more sinister deeply ingrained within the American mindset: Islamophobia. Like all religions, there is a problem with the co-opting of Islam’s sacred texts to be used to justify the agendas of people in power. But, the texts aren’t the problem, it’s the use of out of context phrases and statements that continue to be weaponized in order to paint an inaccurate picture of our religion. 

From a fellow queer Muslim who has had to deal with constant ignorant attacks on my religion on campus and daily life, ignorant statements like these are usually the underlying thoughts hidden in comments like “how are you gay and Muslim?” 

To be clear, there are millions of queer Muslims around the world whose existences are threatened not by their community but by a Western society that believes they are walking contradictions yearning to be “liberated” from oppressive regimes. 

 

Cox made our people proud and shed light on the United State’s anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim agenda by stating that “I’m exploding out on that stage because I’m feeling the weight of everyone who’s ever been told they need to go back home where they come from.” By gaslighting her incredible performance, we can see what Goldblum and many others really mean by their comments – Which is to perpetuate an anti-Islam agenda that portrays a religion that 1.8 Billion people follow as a way of life, into thinking that they have no place in the West. 

I am here. I am queer. I am Muslim. We are many. 

Queer Muslims are committed to show the world that our identities exist, and have been present for centuries, but comments like Goldblum’s push us back to a place we are actively fighting to come out of. 

We don’t need to be liberated from our Muslim communities, we need to be liberated from ignorant statements like those of Goldbum and others. As a public figure, Goldblum’s comments can have implications and it’s imperative that he’s aware of that. 

 

Samer Hassan is a queer Muslim currently studying at Columbia University New York City