Actually, Mansa Musa Was The Richest Man Alive – Not Jeff Bezos

After Forbes had announced that Jeff Bezos was the richest man to ever live, Black Muslims on Twitter were offended that Mansa Musa was overlooked.

Actually, Mansa Musa Was The Richest Man Alive – Not Jeff Bezos

After Forbes had announced that Jeff Bezos was the richest man to ever live, Black Muslims on Twitter were offended that Mansa Musa was overlooked.

By

Hafsa Chughtai
Illustration of Mansa Musa

The recent news-breaking net worth of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos places him top of the list for the wealthiest people alive today – with many even calling him the wealthiest person ever. However, the media oftentimes forgets to mention a certain black individual in history whose wealth easily eclipses Bezos’s  Mansa Musa, the 10th ruler of the Malian Empire.

After the Amazon CEO overtook Bill Gates in first position  in 2018, his worth seemed to skyrocket at a baffling pace. But he is still way behind the African Muslim king who – according to many historians – is considered to be the richest man of all time. 

“Even adjusting for inflation, Forbes believes Bezos’ fortune is the largest ever tracked,” writes Jonathan Ponciano on Forbes, declaring the 56-year-old to be the ‘first person ever worth $200 Billion.’

 

On the contrary, taking into account inflation over the centuries, Musa is recorded to have amassed at least $400-$415 billion, more than twice that of Bezos. Nonetheless, Musa’s contemporaries and some modern commentators, including Time’s Jacob Davidson, believe his wealth was simply incomprehensible. “Contemporary accounts of Musa’s wealth are so breathless that it’s almost impossible to get a sense of just how wealthy and powerful he truly was,” Rudolph Butch Ware, West African historian at the University of California, told BBC.

 

 

Under Musa’s rule, the Mali empire stretched over several neighboring areas and became one of the most prosperous and largest African empires. The lands were laden with abundant natural resources – mostly gold and salt, which were also major contributors to the emperor’s wealth. In contrast to what it stands for today, he turned Mali into an advanced center of Islamic learning in the world. 

Relatively unknown in the world outside Mali before his pilgrimage to Mecca, Musa made sure his journey went down in history like none other before. He brought a caravan stretching as far as the eye could see,”  says TED-Ed writer Jessica Smith. This 4,000 miles journey was eyewitnessed by numerous absolutely in admiration of his wealth as he distributed insane amounts of gold all along his route.

 

 

As a result of Musa’s immense generosity on the city of Cairo, where he made a pause to meet the Sultan, the value of gold greatly deteriorated. In an attempt to even out the disruption, he bought it back from the people of the city – with the added inflation, becoming the only person to ever control the price of gold. A little hard to believe yet completely true. 

Mansa Musa left more than just his money for the people to come, it was merely a small fraction of his rich legacy. He is a significant figure in black history, which is why the declaration of Jeff Bezos as the richest man ever came as a shock for several. People are still tweeting their disapproval of the situation, labeling it as an attempt to whitewash history.

 

 

Bezos is the only billionaire amassing $200 billion in the present day, that’s true. But he is in no way closer to the top billionaires of even the 20th century. Generations following Musa did not exactly maintain their status, however, this legendary king and his undeniable assets make him deserving of defending his crown of the wealthiest man ever. These figures and events from history should not be replaced with such ease.

READ MORE: 7 Of The Most Phenomenal Women In Islamic History

Disney’s ‘Mulan’ Live Action Was Filmed Amidst The Genocide Of Uyghur Muslims

Calls to #BoycottMulan sweep across social media once again as new information comes to light about where the movie was filmed.

Disney’s ‘Mulan’ Live Action Was Filmed Amidst The Genocide Of Uyghur Muslims

Calls to #BoycottMulan sweep across social media once again as new information comes to light about where the movie was filmed.

By

Zainab Damji
Graphic - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

The much awaited live action remake of Mulan has now become a sour topic of discussion as Disney fans across the world are angered since finding out the movie was partially filmed in the Xinjiang province—where it is reported that over 2,000,000 Uyghur Muslims have been detained in internment camps.

This comes after Disney’s CEO claimed filming in Georgia would be difficult due to its pro-life laws. “I think many people who work for us will not want to work there, and we will have to heed their wishes in that regard. Right now we are watching it very carefully,” he said.

 

This is not the first time the movie has stirred up chaos and received calls  for  boycott. Last year, the film’s lead actress Liu Yife, who plays Mulan, sparked controversy over her comments supporting the Hong Kong police’s treatment towards pro-democracy protestors and activists.  

It appears that Disney did not just turn a blind eye to the atrocities that are taking place in Xinjiang – but rather actively cooperated with the authorities that are widely accused of crimes against humanity, with social media  users highlighting the official thanks  to eight Xinjiang government entities including The Xinjiang Public Security Bureau in the film credits –  the bureau that is directly responsible for enforcing the harsh treatment and ethnic cleansing of Uyghur Muslims, such as inhumane torture, slave labor and forced sterilization of women.

 

 

Isaac Stone-Fish of the Washington Post said “Why did Disney need to work in Xinjiang? It didn’t. There are plenty of other regions in China, and countries around the world, that offer the starkly beautiful mountain scenery present in the film. But in doing so, Disney helps normalize a crime against humanity.”

Visit our Carrd to learn more about what’s happening to Uyghur Muslims, donate to the cause and sign petitions to create change. 

READ MORE: Dunkin’ Donuts Employee Puts Bacon In Muslim TikTok Star’s Order

One Year Later: The Effects Of Quebec’s Ban On Religious Symbols

Quebec Lawyer Nour Farhat tells Muslim.co how the Bill has restricted her way of life over the past year.

One Year Later: The Effects Of Quebec’s Ban On Religious Symbols

Quebec Lawyer Nour Farhat tells Muslim.co how the Bill has restricted her way of life over the past year.

By

Wali Ahmad
Art - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

 

A year ago on June 16, 2019, Quebec’s government passed Bill 21, a law which banned public sector workers from wearing religious symbols in the workplace. The law was passed despite Canada’s protection of the right to religious freedom, guaranteed by its Constitution’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The government invoked the “notwithstanding clause”, which allows the province to override a Charter right for any reason it chooses.

While the government argued that the measure was necessary to ensure secularism (no religious influence) within the province’s public services, many were forced to choose between their faith and their livelihood. One such person was Nour Farhat, who is all too familiar with the adverse, discriminatory effects the Bill has had on her personal and professional life over the past year.

Plans and Dreams Derailed

Farhat, who wears a hijab, has been a lawyer in Quebec since 2017. Born and raised in Montreal, she has lived her life under the protection of the right to freedom of religion, never imagining that this right would come into conflict with her career goals.

“Since I finished my Bachelor of Law in 2016, I knew I wanted to work in the public service,” she told Muslim. “I completed my Master of Laws in Criminal Law with the purpose and intention of becoming a Crown Prosecutor.” Crown Prosecutors are hired by the province of Quebec, and are therefore subject to the religious symbol restrictions put in place by Bill 21. 

“Two months before completing my Master’s degree in June 2019, Bill 21 became a law,” she said. “I still had two months to finish my degree. I remember thinking at this moment, ‘Why am I doing my Masters? What is the point if I won’t be able to work for the Crown?’ And it became very discouraging and difficult to finish those last two months of my degree.”

In Quebec, the lawyer licensing process is expensive, can take anywhere between 4 – 7 years and requires years of hard work and mental endurance. For individuals like Farhat, all that money and effort spent on working towards a legal position in the public service was immediately put at risk as she was forced to choose between her dreams and her faith. “I spent money and moved to another city to do my Master’s,” Farhat said. “All year I would complain about how difficult it was. I’d always tell myself it would be worth it once I’m a Crown Prosecutor. Then in June 2019, I got told that this dream would remain only a dream.”

Increasingly Discriminatory and Racist Attitudes

Speaking of Quebec’s history of discrimination prior to the enactment of Bill 21, Farhat emphasizes that the Bill only legitimized existing racist mentalities.

“The government has given a legitimacy to these kinds of racist, Islamophobic attitudes. People feel justified to act a certain way because they know the government is on their side. They know that people like me – people who wear religious symbols – are in a weak position and should not be allowed to work for the province,” she said. “They know that their dreams and their future is affected. It is a very vulnerable position to be in.”

Since the enactment of Bill 21 just over a year ago, Farhat has definitely noticed a shift in the province’s socio-political environment. “The environment has been very heavy. You receive comments from people online and in the streets about your hijab. You receive comments on your hijab from strangers and even people you know. Each time the government makes a law or a bill against religious people, you see it in the streets, you see it in the people, you see that they’re affected. They become more prone to being openly racist.” 

The phenomenon draws many similarities to the racial tensions fueled by the divisive policies of the latest United States government. Led by a President that has openly promoted discriminatory laws and policies, his supporters have become more open in expressing their racist, Islamophobic and otherwise discriminatory sentiments. “There’s a definite duality in being categorized as either a white person or an ‘other’ when it comes to going in front of the police or others in positions of power. They don’t view freedom of religion of religious minorities as something that is as important as the freedoms of the majority. It’s the majority deciding the destiny of the minority,” says Farhat in light of the current global civil rights movement led by Black Lives Matter.

“We have laws that protect us as minorities, like the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. You see that the police are not applying it equally. They do arrest more black, indigenous and Arab people in Canada. And this type of disproportionate treatment is further strengthened against religious minorities through the existence of discriminatory laws like Bill 21.”

“What does the government expect when they violate your rights like that? When they violate the freedom of religion? When you violate someone’s freedom to make a living? All the intended and unintended consequences of Bill 21 were all very predictable – it resulted in open racism and discrimination being made acceptable. Even though Francois Legault [Premier of Quebec] said there isn’t racism in here, I can personally say that I am experiencing systemic racism.” 

Farhat is referring to Legault’s refusal to acknowledge systemic racism within the province in light of the Black Lives Matter and civil rights movements which have rapidly grown across the globe. “For me, we have Quebecers of different colors, different origins, but we are all human beings and we’re all equals, no exceptions. But we must face the reality and the problems lived by some of our fellow citizens, and we must act,” said Legault, despite spearheading the law which effectively renders religious minorities unequal to the majority population.

“There’s racism in the law. This is something I’m living every day. It’s not just the law, it’s affecting all aspects of my life,” said Farhat, referring to the countless amount of hate messages she receives online on a daily basis.

Quebec also makes the argument that Christians are equally affected and therefore, the law doesn’t explicitly target the Muslim, Sikh and Jewish population. However, the Christian religion does not commonly require any sort of visible garment to be worn. “Observant Christians can easily hide a cross they might be wearing on a necklace; I cannot just hide my hijab under my shirt or take it off,” said Farhat, pointing out how the law disproportionately affects certain religions over others. “When it comes to Muslim’s hijab or a Jew’s kippa, you’re asked to go home, or you’re told that you will lose your job if you don’t conform.” 

“The only reason why I’m going through this is because I’m a Muslim woman. I’m a minority, I’m different. If I were white and atheist, I would never have this issue; I would never have to be concerned that a law like this will take away rights that existed since I was born.”

Photo - Nour Farhat

Blessings in Disguise 

Though the attack on her faith is aggressive and apparent, Farhat reflects on the positive that has come from this experience. 

“I’ve actually been receiving a lot of support outside of the Muslim community. I’ve received messages from the Christian Legal Fellowship, which is active in Ontario, and they’re really active on anything that has to do with freedom of religion,” said Farhat. “It’s crazy how something like a discriminatory law has strengthened interfaith relationships. It made religious people of all faiths much closer to one another.”

Nour Farhat now works at a private law firm in Montreal, practicing in the areas of Civil and Constitutional Law. “I’m one of the lawyers who are working against the Bill. It’s a privilege to be in this position, to represent my client in this case, and to be able to fight against the violation of human rights, especially as a Muslim woman,” Farhat said. “Bill 21 is a sad story, it’s a deceitful move of the government, but I’m in such a privileged position to be able to go to court and to fight the Bill using the abilities and knowledge I’ve gained to become a lawyer.”

Farhat’s trial involving the discriminatory law is expected to start at the end of October 2020. “There are four plaintiffs, my client is one of them,” she told Muslim. “There’s maybe 25 lawyers involved. It’s really amazing to be able to work in such a big constitutional law case, which would not have happened if Bill 21 didn’t pass.”

Farhat speaks of the motivation she gained after the Quebec government had betrayed her despite her work in the public service wearing a hijab. Having earned multiple law degrees, gone through the necessary legal training, learned the inner workings of the provincial government and is fluent in both French and English, she believes that she has acquired all the necessary skills to combat the oppressive law.

“You don’t want me to work with you, so I’ll work against you. It’s the best way to respond to this violation of many people’s human rights.”

A Message of Hope

Given all of her experience in dealing with the negative consequences of a law that openly attacks her way of living, Farhat has a message for those who wish to build a future within the province.

“I’ll tell you what I was thinking for myself at the time the law was created,” she said. “Never change who you are. We should never change our principles for someone else, even less the government, who shouldn’t be controlling what you believe in or how you practice it. It is not the place of the government to tell us how to live and who to be.”

“Be open about fighting violations of human rights. They took away my dream but they will not take away my faith and beliefs.”

Major Clothing Brand SHEIN Appropriates Muslim Prayer Rugs And Clothing

“It is not acceptable to cherry pick a culture or religion and rename their items to your liking.”

Major Clothing Brand SHEIN Appropriates Muslim Prayer Rugs And Clothing

“It is not acceptable to cherry pick a culture or religion and rename their items to your liking.”

By

Mareena Emran
Art - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

If you pay close attention to big market fast fashion brands, it’s quite apparent that cultural appropriation has existed for far too long. Just this week, fashion retailer brand SHEIN was exposed on Instagram for not only mislabeling South Asian clothing as sleepwear, but also misrepresenting Islamic prayer rugs, an important item used by Muslims to worship and complete the daily five prayers.

The prayer rugs were marketed as everyday household items, calling them fringe carpets and labelling them as Greek. They even had images of the Kaaba, the holiest site for Muslims. Because of the importance of prayer rugs, it’s absolutely necessary for them to be handled with care, but SHEIN’s false advertising of the product angered Muslims all across the platform (and rightfully so).

The reviews under the prayer rugs were appalling, with many customers saying that they’ve used the “carpets” for their pets and coffee tables. 

“For a customer to unknowingly buy this, step over it, and use it for decoration is not only a form of disrespect, but it’s also a form of cultural appropriation and they basically exploited their naive customers, who aren’t informed of what an Islamic prayer mat looks like, into making a quick buck,” said 19-year-old college student Nilo Gardezy from Arizona. “It’s not a coincidence that they stole this exact design that’s on almost 90%, if not all prayer mats.”

These items off of the SHEIN website were initially found by Khadija Rizvi, a student journalist based out of the United Kingdom.

Rizvi has been keeping a close eye on the website for a while, saying that she “was baffled” when seeing that the website advertised South Asian clothing as a normal pantsuit without any explicit indication that the marketed outfits have Desi origins. She initially posted this information on her story and many took notice of the issue.

As for the prayer mats, one of Rizvi’s followers brought it to her attention, and after looking on the website once again, took the product to her Instagram to make a detailed post. 

“As a journalist, and activist, I believe that it’s my duty to use my platform to raise awareness of the corners that people sometimes overlook in society,” said Rizvi.

Rizvi’s post ultimately garnered the attention of nearly 43,000 users, with beauty influencer Nabeela Noor even taking notice. 

“I did not expect my post to blow up the way that it did, I shared my own outrage and it turned out that tens of thousands feel the same way,” said Rizvi. “This led to the items being removed, we did it together.”

SHEIN has made a comment on the situation, but has yet to make a formal apology. I mean, after religiously appropriating Muslims, AND misleading customers into buying Desi clothes as sleepwear, it’s the least they can do.

“I definitely believe that brands need to be held accountable, big or small,” said Rizvi. “It’s not acceptable to cherry pick a culture or religion and rename their items to your liking. I think SHEIN taking down the prayer mats is a step in the right direction, but nowhere near what we want to achieve.”

Rizvi, along with many of her followers feel the same way, with some even going as far as to making petitions. One petition made by 16-year-old Ummay Rabbab has already gotten around 4,000 signatures in less than 24 hours. 

“I found out about the SHEIN situation through social media, as I saw everyone posting about how it’s very disrespectful and harmful to the Muslim community,” said Rabbab. “After seeing it, I immediately started to look for ways that I could stop SHEIN from profiting off of the prayer mats. This led me to create a petition, and before I knew it, people were signing and sharing it around.”

Rabbab’s efforts have extended even further, reaching out to SHEIN via email and persistently messaging the brand over socials.

“They apologized over Twitter, but their account doesn’t even have a fraction of the amount of followers they have on Instagram,” said Rabbab. “I’m trying my best to get SHEIN to publicly apologize on Instagram, and until then, we will not stop.

READ MORE: Dear Non-Black Muslims, Your Silence Is Deadly

But even after making two, *very generic* apologies, and taking down the prayer mats from their website, the Desi clothing continues to live on their website, being purchased by hundreds of unknowing customers everyday. It doesn’t just stop at Desi clothing, but even pieces like Kaftan dresses that are traditionally from Arab origins. 

Now tell me, is a Kaftan being called a “tribal print split back draped longline dress” appropriate? If you dig even deeper, listed on the SHEIN website are outfit pieces with Islamic calligraphy written on them that are ALSO being marketed as tribal. It’s outright disrespectful and it needs to go. 

SHEIN is only one example of how large companies can exploit the clothing of certain cultures, and can even go as far to appropriate religions too. SHEIN, if you’re going to sell South Asian and Middle Eastern clothing, perhaps think about getting some South Asian or Middle Eastern models. Just a thought.

So, after all of this, my biggest takeaway is that I personally need to be more mindful of the clothing I buy. I am absolutely guilty of buying shirts that have Chinese characters on them without the full meaning, especially when I was younger. The characters on my outfit were probably appropriating the Chinese culture and I had no idea, and now that it’s happening to the clothing I personally wear, I now understand that this is a real issue. 

In the future, I absolutely want to do more research behind the companies that I purchase my clothing from, and SHEIN is a company that I believe needs to make changes to the clothing options they offer on their website. 

UPDATE: 7/5/2020

SHEIN has released a formal apology on their Instagram page following the outrage of the Muslim community on social media. 

As many continue voicing their frustration with the company, Rizvi and Noor have responded to SHEIN with messages of optimism.

“Thank you for your statement and I am sure others will be pleased to see it too,” Rizvi commented. “I hope this leads on to careful reviews of all your products and a safe open dialogue with your customers. We can all move forward together in a positive way.”

Noor commented similarly, revealing that she had spoken with the company directly in hopes to catalyze change.

“Thank you for your statement and commitment to change – and a thank you to George, Head of the Brand for having an open dialogue with me about this,” Noor commented. “I will continue the conversation and hope that this will serve as an opportunity for growth and a deeper sensitivity and appreciation for all communities.” 

SHEIN stepping up to apologize is definitely putting them in the right direction in terms of acknowledging that there are faults with the merchandise they sell on their website, but there is still so much more to be done. Here’s hoping that they keep their promise in taking further action in making SHEIN a more culturally and religiously aware company.

China Forces Birth Control On Uyghur Women To Suppress Muslim Population, Says New Report

China had initially denied the existence of the detention camps before justifying them as a “necessary measure against terrorism.”

Written by Wali Ahmed & Nawal Qadir

China has allegedly been forcefully subjecting Uyghur women to various birth control methods in an attempt to reduce and eliminate the minority population, according to a report by China specialist Adrian Zenz.  The news comes as Uyghurs continue to be detained in concentration camps in Xinjiang. It is believed that approximately one million Uyghur people, as well as other minority groups, are being held in what China refers to as “re-education” camps.  

China has responded by calling it “fake news,” stating that the allegations are “baseless.” However, China had initially denied the existence of the detention camps before justifying them as a “necessary measure against terrorism.”

Zenz’s report states that since 2016, reproductive autonomy and its associated human rights have continuously been interfered with in Xinjiang. Uyghur women who refuse to abort pregnancies that exceed the quota of two children are threatened to be forced into internment camps. It additionally states that women with fewer than two children were forced to have sterilization surgeries or take intra-uterine devices (IUDs). Formerly detained individuals also say that they were given injections to halt their periods.

However, the Han Chinese population are reportedly spared the various birth control measures forced on Xinjiang’s ethnic minorities.

 

READ MORE: Trump Signs Bill Rebuking China’s Treatment Of Uyghur Muslims

 

An investigation by AP News has found that the humanitarian violations are far more widespread and systemic than previously thought.  The investigation shows that the current treatment of Uyghur Muslims in these camps could amount to “demographic genocide,” meaning that China could successfully and covertly eradicate the Uyghur population in just a few generations.  “This is part of a wider control campaign to subjugate the Uyghurs,” Zenz said. “Overall, it is likely that Xinjiang authorities are engaging in the mass sterilization of women with three or more children.”

Joanne Smith Finley, Senior Lecturer in Chinese Studies at Newcastle University goes further, saying ““It’s genocide, full stop.” “It’s not immediate, shocking, mass-killing on the spot type genocide – but it’s slow, painful, creeping genocide.”

Adrian Zenz’s data suggests that the natural population growth in predominantly Uyghur regions  has fallen by more than 60% between 2015 and 2018, a drop which he describes as “unprecedented” and “ruthless.”

“These findings provide the strongest evidence yet that Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang meet one of the genocide criteria cited in the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” says Zenz in his report.

One former Uyghur detainee, Zumret Dawut, was forcibly sterilized along with 200 others. Dawut was put into an internment camp for two months for holding an American visa. She had later returned home but was placed under house arrest, was forced to have gynaecological exams on a monthly basis, and was threatened to be placed in a camp again should she not comply.

“They want to eliminate us, but they can’t kill all of us,” she said. “They’re doing it step by step with policies such as sterilization, imprisonment, separating men and women and making them work as forced laborers.” 

Forced sterilization isn’t a new trend for China, which for a long time had a one-child-per-household policy. However, in recent years, and especially under President Xi Jinping, the sterilization programs have been concentrated in the Uyghur minority areas, turning the countryside region of Xinjiang from one of the fastest growing populations in China to the slowest in just a few years. 

 

The news of forced birth control methods come as an addition to the internment and forced labour in Uyghur detention camps, as well as the separation of Uyghur children from their parents in order to indoctrinate them, practices that have been widely criticized by human rights organizations around the world, and which China continues to deny or defend.

 

Trump Signs Bill Rebuking China’s Treatment Of Uyghur Muslims

Donald Trump signs a bill that calls for sanctions on China in response to their brutal mistreatment of Uyghur Muslims.

President Trump signed a bill that calls for sanctions on China in response to their brutal mistreatment of Uyghur Muslims on Wednesday afternoon. This bill, which would require Trump to revoke officials’ entry visas if they’re found to be connected to the internment of the Uyghur population, was signed after John R. Bolton, Trump’s former national security advisor, released his explosive book. 

While Trump has previously been relatively quiet on the humanitarian crisis occurring within China’s borders, Bolton’s new novel alleged that, behind closed doors, Trump approved of the reasons Chinese President Xi Jinping “was basically building concentration camps,” for the minority Uyghur population, saying he thought [building the camps] was exactly the right thing to do.”

Though there was no official ceremony held for the signing, Trump has now said that the bill “holds accountable perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses such as the systematic use of indoctrination camps, forced labor, and intrusive surveillance to eradicate the ethnic identity and religious beliefs of Uyghurs and other minorities and other minorities in China,” in a statement released after the bill was signed. 

The legislation also requires Trump to submit a report to Congress detailing any foreign official responsible for the crisis, increasing the already high tensions between the US and China.  

“We urge the US side to immediately correct its mistakes, and stop using the bill to damage China’s interests and interfere in China’s internal affairs otherwise China will resolutely take countermeasures,” said the Chinese foreign ministry in a statement. 

Although Trump has been publicly berating China since the coronavirus outbreak, Bolton also alleges that Trump personally reached out to Xi Jinping to ask for help in winning the 2020 election.

READ MORE:  U.S. House Passes Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act