Turkey’s Hagia Sophia Museum Reconverted Into A Mosque

Erdogan has signed a presidential decree which hands over Hagia Sophia to Turkey's Presidency of Religious Affairs.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently announced that the world famous Hagia Sophia museum will be turned into a mosque, and open to Muslims for worship very soon.

This decision was made just an hour after a top administrative court annulled the site’s “museum status.” The court has pointed out that the cabinet’s decision to convert it from a mosque to a museum in 1934 “did not comply with laws” and have subsequently overturned this decision. They also reviewed a petition which was fighting for the right to be able to pray in the building, which up until now was prohibited.

Erdogan has signed a presidential decree which hands over Hagia Sophia to Turkey’s Presidency of Religious Affairs. 

The news of this transformation was met with overjoyed religious Muslim Turks outside the building and on the streets of Istanbul. It now means that people are no longer prohibited from praying inside the building, which has caused outrage over the years. The first prayer is set for July 24 2020.

Since it is one of Turkey’s most visited tourist attractions, with a staggering 3.8 million visitors last year in 2019, it will be open to visitors just like its neighbor the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed). 

This historic site, revered by both Christians and Muslims, marveled at by millions of tourists, and visited by world leaders has undergone many transformations throughout its lifetime. Where to begin?

The building was initially built as a church in Constantinople – modern day Istanbul – in the year 537 under the Byzantine emperor Constantius. 

It was then converted into a mosque in 1453 by the great conqueror of Constantinople and prominent leader of the Ottoman Empire: the young Mehmet II. 

Not too long ago it was converted into a museum in 1943 by the founder of Turkey: Ataturk, who adopted a more secular approach and believed the site would be better as a neutral monument without any religious affiliations. 

While the Muslims of Turkey rejoice over another beautiful mosque which will be used to worship Allah, Erdogan’s decision has also faced backlash from the international community. The Hagia Sophia is in fact a UNESCO World Heritage site, and hence the organization feels it should remain as a museum. 

Countries including the United States, Russia and Greece have publicly criticized Erdogan’s decision. However, in a recent public announcement, Erdogan said: “We of course welcome all ideas from the international community about this issue. However, the issue of deciding the purpose of the Hagia Sophia is about the sovereign rights of Turkey.”

READ MORE: 5 Verses On Justice In The Quran

Hasan Minhaj Breaks Down The Yemen Crisis On ‘Patriot Act’

The episode in which was banned across Saudi Arabia last year, makes rounds on social media for its relevancy on Yemen.

Hasan Minhaj Breaks Down The Yemen Crisis On ‘Patriot Act’

The episode in which was banned across Saudi Arabia last year, makes rounds on social media for its relevancy on Yemen.

By

Nawal Qadir
Art - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

The crisis in Yemen, while only recently trending, has been ongoing for years now, and comedian Hasan Minhaj has not shied away from it. As he does with most issues, Minhaj vocalized his concerns for the country on his show Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, as a sub point during his episode covering Saudi Arabia, as the episode’s named. 

Minhaj gave a comprehensive run-down on the situation in Yemen, highlighting how the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad Bin Salman, commonly known as MBS, escalated the tensions in the country to its current boiling point. 

READ MORE: Here Is Everything Happening In Yemen Right Now

 

 

Now, the entire episode can be found on Netflix (in volume 2 of the show), but let’s talk about why it’s so important. Minhaj’s look into Saudi Arabia, and the atrocities it so commonly commits, is an incredibly lacking take in Western media, when considering the fact that it’s coming from a Muslim man. It’s accepted in the West, and America especially, that Saudi Arabia isn’t a friendly state to human rights, but what is most often overlooked is how destructive Saudi is to its own community. 

As Minhaj points out in the episode, the relationship that most Muslims across the world have with Saudi is a confusing one. We accept it as the hub of our religion, yet most of us are vocal of our opposition towards the country. Minhaj detailing the latter fact is incredibly important on a platform like Netflix, whose main audience is Western countries, given that much of the Western world’s perception of Islam and it’s followers is borne out of Saudi’s actions. 

By creating a space where Muslims can openly converse about their feelings towards a country that’s meant to serve as the center for their religion, Minhaj offers a chance to flip an outdated and largely untrue script. The one that says that most Muslims stand with Saudi Arabia in its oppression. 

In truth, most Muslims claim to Saudi extends as far as it being the country that houses Mecca, and we tend to be as outraged at Saudi’s actions as the rest of the world. 

What’s more, Minhaj’s show offers a reliable source to center the conversation about Yemen around. He truthfully depicts the major roles of, not just Saudi Arabia, but Iran and America in the crisis. 

The attention that’s been surrounding Yemen on social media lately, while important, is largely incomplete. Yemen isn’t just starving, it’s being starved. The conditions are born out of three major conflicts, propagated by three major countries who are all comfortable destroying Yemen as long as it continues to promise benefit for them. Minhaj’s show addresses these faults head on, laying the groundwork for genuine advocacy for Yemen to take place. If you haven’t already seen it, take a look because, believe me, it’s worth your time. 

 

Starbucks Employee Writes “ISIS” On Cup Of Muslim Student In Minneapolis

The incident took place at the Starbucks store inside the Midway Target at 1300 University Ave in St. Paul, MN.

On Wednesday of last week, a 19-year-old Minneapolis college student named Aishah was making a routine stop at a local Starbucks on her way to work. When her order arrived, the word “ISIS” was written on her drink instead of her name. The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) is speaking out against this unacceptable behavior, which occurred on July 1.

The incident took place at the Starbucks store inside the Midway Target at 1300 University Ave in St. Paul, MN. Aishah, who declined to give her last name to the media out of concern for her safety, was on her way to her job as a home care worker. 

CAIR-MN is demanding that the Starbucks worker in question be fired, as well as the manager who said it was a “mistake.” When reached for comment by CBS Minnesota, a representative for Starbucks shifted the burden of responsibility, saying that it was actually a Target employee involved and that Target will be conducting an investigation. Technically, the employee is one of Target despite having been wearing a Starbucks uniform due to licensing rights at Target Starbucks locations.

Target provided CBS Minnesota with the following statement regarding the incident:

“At Target, we want everyone who shops with us to feel welcomed, valued and respected and we strictly prohibit discrimination and harassment in any form. We are very sorry for this guest’s experience at our store and immediately apologized to her when she made our store leaders aware of the situation. We have investigated the matter and believe that it was not a deliberate act but an unfortunate mistake that could have been avoided with more clarification. We’re taking appropriate actions with the team member, including additional training, to ensure this does not occur again.”

More information to come.

READ MORE: AOC Pens Letter Against Israel’s Annexation Of Palestinian Territory With Support Of Lawmakers

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.

AOC Pens Letter Against Israel’s Annexation Of Palestinian Territory With Support Of Lawmakers

Ocasio-Cortez’s office says the trigger for conditioning aid includes settlements and other policies that are “laying the groundwork” for annexation.

U.S. representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez penned a letter opposing Israel’s annexation proposals of Palestinian land with the backing of a dozen lawmakers and is gathering legislators’ signatures on a letter urging the Trump administration to take steps to block Israel’s planned annexation. A coalition of progressive Democratic politicians, rights groups and Jewish groups are also calling for withholding US military aid to Israel in response to planned annexation of Palestinian territories by Israel.

The letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that the annexation would “lay the groundwork for Israel becoming an apartheid state,” and pledges that the lawmakers would work to block future aid to Israel.

Ocasio-Cortez’s office said the trigger for conditioning aid includes settlements and other policies that are “laying the groundwork” for annexation.

 “The United States must remain committed to a future in which all Israelis and Palestinians live with full rights, dignity, and democracy,”  Ocasio-Cortez and a dozen other legislators said in the letter.

“We therefore urge you to make clear to the Israeli government that such a move is unacceptable,” they said in the letter. 

“We will include human rights conditions and the withholding of funds for the offshore procurement of Israeli weapons equal to or exceeding the amount the Israeli government spends annually to fund settlements, as well as the policies and practices that sustain and enable them,” the letter also stated.

“Members of Congress should not be expected to support an undemocratic system in which Israel would permanently rule over a Palestinian people denied self-determination or equal rights.”

The statement was endorsed by more than 20 advocacy groups, including the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Arab American Institute (AAI), CodePink, Jewish Voice for Peace Action and IfNotNow.

Senator Bernie Sanders and other progressives who signed the letter issued statements opposing annexation in strong terms.“I have long believed that the United States needs to engage in an even-handed approach toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Sanders said in a statement. 

Representative Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian American, said the Netanyahu government uses aid “to formalize an apartheid system.” 

“Unilateral annexation is a violation of international law, a violation of Palestinian human rights, and directly counter to American values of democracy and self-determination,” Rep. Ilhan Omar said.

 

Five other letters are circulating in the US Jewish community demanding accountability for the Israeli government and concrete actions by US Jewish institutions if a planned annexation goes forward. Those letters have drawn more than 3,200 signatures, according to IfNotNow, a US Jewish group that opposes the occupation. “It is time to stop holding America’s number one recipient of military funding – Israel – to a lower standard than we hold all other countries, exempting it from consequences when it violates our most basic values,” said Emily Mayer, political director of IfNotNow.

The letter was condemned by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee as harmful to America’s interests before the statement or its signers were finalized.

Netanyahu aims to start the process of annexation by Wednesday, saying he wants to begin annexing West Bank territory in line with President Trump’s plans. But with recent developments and stiff international criticism, it’s uncertain whether Israel will ultimately follow through on the explosive annexation initiative.

READ MORE:  Israel Expected To Move Forward With Annexation Plans, Leaving Palestinians Hopeless

Photo Of Three-Year-Old Kashmiri Child Sitting On Grandfather’s Corpse Creates Outrage

Viral picture of the three-year-old has caused an uproar with the family accusing armed forces of killing the victim.

Photo Of Three-Year-Old Kashmiri Child Sitting On Grandfather’s Corpse Creates Outrage

Viral picture of the three-year-old has caused an uproar with the family accusing armed forces of killing the victim.

By

Mirza Fardeen
Photo from viral video footage, courtesy of witnesses.

A photo showing a three-year old child sitting on his grandpa’s corpse in Sopore town of Indian-administered Kashmir has outraged residents of the region with the family of the deceased accusing the security forces of killing the 65-year old civilian Bashir Ahmed Khan during a clash with the rebels in the world’s most militarized region.

Soon after Ahmed’s death, the photos of his grandson from the encounter site flooded the internet, including a heart-rending shot showing the child sitting and crying on top of his grandfather’s corpse.

A series of pictures by an unidentified person were widely shared on social media shortly after the gun battle. Hundreds of angry people staged anti-India protests, accusing the government forces of using the child’s images as PR stunt. Social media users also slammed a viral video that purportedly showed a member of the security forces standing over Ahmed’s dead body. 

Suhail Ahmed, the victim’s son, said on Thursday that his father, Bashir Ahmed Khan (deceased), was “dragged out of his car and shot in cold blood” in front of his 3-year-old grandson during a gun battle on Wednesday between Indian troops and rebels in northwestern Sopore town. He said troops later placed the child on his father’s chest and reportedly took pictures.

Ahmed’s family has released a video message on social media, accusing Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel of dragging him out of his car and shooting him at point blank range, the Jammu & Kashmir Police denied the claims and said he died in the exchange of fire with rebels. The family said the man was a small-time petty employee who earned 6,000 rupees ($80) per month.

While this photo triggered an uproar on social media, with individuals online demanding justice for the family, accusing security forces for placing a 3-year old at the center of a propaganda war and doing theatrics and PR stunts with 3-year old life. The right-wing and the ruling party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were busy mocking the picture of dead civilians. A spokesman for India’s ruling Hindu nationalist BJP faced criticism for mocking the picture of the dead civilian.

 

 

The right-wing and BJP IT Cell were glorifying the Indian Army for saving the toddler, demeaning the opposition leaders, accusing Pakistan of sponsoring the rebels, accusing leftists of white-washing the terror acts of militants, calling out Islamic-Jihad and terrorism, with anti-Muslim bigots hawking hate against Muslims and spitting their regular communal hatred. But nowhere showing a grain of humanity for the dead civilian and his 3 year old grandson who witnessed such an incident. For them such incidents are all about political gains and demonizing the opposition. 

Hundreds of people in Kashmir staged protests on Wednesday in the wake of the killing. Later on Wednesday, hundreds assembled at the man’s funeral near Srinagar, shouting “We want freedom.”

READ MORE: UN Removes Saudi Arabia From ‘Blacklist Of Warring Parties’ For War Crimes In Yemen

Fourth Of July In A Time Not Worth Celebrating

How can I take part in showcasing patriotism for a country that does not guarantee safety for my Black brothers and sisters?

Fourth Of July In A Time Not Worth Celebrating

How can I take part in showcasing patriotism for a country that does not guarantee safety for my Black brothers and sisters?

By

Amirah Ahmed
Photo - Spencer Platt/Getty Images

 

The Fourth of July is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It’s what some may call an “American tradition” to jubilantly celebrate the day with firework shows, barbecues, and red, white, and blue printed everything. But for any American that doesn’t benefit from the privilege of a typical White identity, the day leaves a bitter after taste. 

 

As a Muslim woman, the claim of “independence” is incredulous to me. Independence in my definition does not include unrightful surveillance. It does not include the invasive procedures taken every time I enter an airport to ensure that my Muslim-ness doesn’t pose a threat to travelers. Independence is never in the sense of stolen autonomy that swells every time a Muslim woman’s hijab is torn from her head. There is no independence in the shame little Muslim boys feel when slurs are hurled at them in schools that are supposed to keep them safe. There was never independence in the bound hands of a Muslim man being deported to a land he’s never stepped foot in when he has every right to this “land of the free.” Does the independence garnered from Britain over 200 years ago still hold true for Americans today? I think not.

How can I take part in showcasing patriotism for this country when it does not guarantee safety for my Black brothers and sisters just trying to go for a run, reach for a wallet, or wear a black hoodie? Is it even morally acceptable to celebrate a country in a time when its leaders are okay with denying the sanctity of childrens’ lives simply because they were not born within the same borders? I don’t think so. There was no independence in the death of another Black man denied his right to live. There will never be independence in a mother’s cries for her baby as they are pulled away from each other. If there is independence in the ear splitting shriek of schoolchildren hiding behind textbooks with the barrel of a gun staring them down, then it’s not an independence I am willing to take pride in.

I yearn for the day that I can wear this country’s colors knowing that all its citizens are safe and valued. But that day is not today, nor can I see it in the near future. I want to raise my children in a country that goes out of its way to make sure they know that they are welcome too, in all their Muslim glory. I want to live in a country that will celebrate my veteran father regardless of his olive complexion and Muslim name. I want to celebrate a country that takes accountability for its past and strives to make up for it through more than just empty apologies and false promises for a better future.  

Take a look around you.: Is this the country your ancestors were dreaming of when they decided to take a chance at a better life? Does this country fight for all of your friends and family? This 4th of July weekend, don’t mindlessly scroll past the news stories of another preventable injustice without first finding out how you can use your own privilege to help out. If you are going to celebrate your patriotism this year, make sure you’re celebrating the ongoing fight for independence for the 40% of America that doesn’t happen to be White.

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

Human Rights Workers In Kabul Killed As Afghan Conflicts Continues

To some, this ramping cycle of death and destruction has led to an Orientalist view that death is somehow brushed off as commonplace in Afghanistan.

Human Rights Workers In Kabul Killed As Afghan Conflicts Continues

To some, this ramping cycle of death and destruction has led to an Orientalist view that death is somehow brushed off as commonplace in Afghanistan.

By

Ali M Latifi
Photo - Liu Heung Shing/AP

 

Kabul, Afghanistan – Fatima Khalil, 24, was on her way to work at Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) when the car she was traveling in exploded. Unknown to Khalil, a donor liaison officer at the AIHRC, and her driver, Jawid Folad, someone had attached a “sticky” bomb to their vehicle.

Both were killed in the blast. 

The attack is the latest in a month-long spur of violence in the capital that has cut through several generations. From mothers and children in a maternity clinic to worshippers and well-known mullahs in two mosques to the human rights workers, the last few weeks have shattered any remaining illusions of security in Kabul.

With each attack come harshly-worded government condemnations and promises of investigations, but the results (if any) seem to never be made public. In fact, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the NGO that ran the maternity that came under attack last month, cited that lack of information as the basis for their decision to close the maternity clinic.

“A month after the horrifying event, we know very little; the attack remains unclaimed,” MSF said of the decision to shutter the clinic after four years and more than 16,000 deliveries in 2019 alone.

Each of these attacks took place in well-known, crowded areas of Kabul, leading to further questions about how the nation’s capital can remain so insecure 20 years after the US-led invasion that brought billions of dollars in foreign aid with it.

Each attack has not only lowered the bar for how brazen and horrific the targets of violence in the country can get, but also begs the question of where exactly people can feel shielded from the conflict.

A clinic full of mothers and children in one of the city’s least-developed, overcrowded and under-served neighborhoods is no longer safe. Mosques where some of the nation’s most well-known mullahs preach are no longer safe. The car of a young human rights worker who had just returned from studying abroad is no longer safe. 

READ MORE: Attack At Mosque In Kabul During Friday Prayer Leaves Four Dead, Including Prayer Leader

There are more than 30,000 recorded cases of coronavirus (COVID-19), while thousands more go undocumented as they suffer silently at home. This also comes at a time when Public Health officials have been caught on video taking an $80,000 bribe and the Kabul government tries to fight off reports that 32 ventilators meant for Afghan patients were smuggled and sold across the Durand Line.

Taken as a whole, all of these elements show the devastating state of life in Afghanistan at a time when the Kabul government and the Taliban prepare for impending face-to-face talks as part of a February peace deal brokered between Washington and the armed group.

A day after the attack on Khalil and Folad, the human rights workers, clusters of young men and women sit and discuss what this all means.

 The talks go from how human rights workers, who were standing up against abuses of civilians by both the government and armed groups, could be targeted to the nature of martyrdom and what it means to die in an explosion.

“I just wonder how she felt, was she in pain,” a friend of Khalil’s who works for the government asks over and over again.

As they come and go, the 20 and 30-somethings, regardless of their religiosity, greet each other with a phrase often heard coming from the mouths of their elders in times of mourning: “We are all on this road,” they say.

Death is inevitable, but in Afghanistan that inevitability hangs overhead like an omnipresent phantasm.

“We could be killed walking down the street. We could be killed for going to the mosque. We could be killed at work, it’s something we accept by living here,” a photographer who grew up in neighboring Iran can be heard saying. 

To some, this ramping cycle of death and destruction has led to an Orientalist view that death, even violent death, is somehow brushed off as commonplace in Afghanistan. A modern interpolation of that bone chilling bon mot from the United States’ last failed war in Vietnam, “The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price on life as does the Westerner … Life is not important.”

But seeing the devastated families and friends crying in agony or holding on to any fleeting memory and memento and the hundreds of online tributes and statements of shock and disbelief, including from strangers, after each incident, that hawkish trope is easily dismantled.

The people of Afghanistan certainly value life and lament the loss of it, but now the question is what the belligerents in the conflict, from the government in Kabul — and their backers in the US and Europe — to the armed groups — commonly believed to be aided and abetted in Pakistan and Iran — will do to finally protect human life in a country that has seen far too much conflict.

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.