By: Noor Salahuddin Chicago, IL
Wednesday, August 8th, Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh spewed vitriol against the American Muslim community at a town hall meeting in the Chicago suburb of Elk Grove Village. A member of the all-white audience recorded a video of Mr. Walsh claiming that there’s a strain of “radical extremists” originating from Al-Qaeda, who have infiltrated the Muslim community in America and are “trying to kill Americans every week.” The cherry on top, of course, is his claim that: “Islam is not the peaceful, loving religion we hear about.”
This week, instead of apologizing for his divisive and hateful remarks, Walsh has doubled down, arguing that even U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is extremely concerned about the “radical Islamist threat” to America. Further, Walsh stated this, without providing any semblance of proof, about the so-called threat: “It’s here. It’s in Elk Grove. It’s in Addison. It’s in Elgin. It’s here.” “It” being the supposed threat that Muslims pose to the American way of life.
What is most alarming about this situation is that after this incident, on August 10th, a man from Morton Grove, Illinois, named David Conrad, shot a pellet rifle at the Muslim Education Center located in the suburb, while hundreds of people were praying inside. Fortunately, there were no injuries, but this senseless act instigated by paranoia spread fear across the Muslim community in Illinois.
This is not the only recent incident of Islamophobic and racist behavior directed at Muslims. In Oklahoma City, local residents vandalized a mosque with paintballs. In Hayward, California, teenagers shot bb guns and threw eggs at worshipers and in a mosque in Rhode Island, a man vandalized a local mosque by damaging the signage at the mosque. Also, a few days after the shooting in Oak Creek, where Sikhs were mistaken for Muslims, a mosque in Joplin, Missouri was burned to the ground in what is being termed a hate crime. Probably the worst instance of a hate crime was less than 25 miles from Morton Grove, where last Sunday an Islamic school in Lombard was attacked by a suspect who threw a homemade bomb at the building while people were praying inside. Lastly, this morning of August 16th, there was a Molotov cocktail bomb thrown at a residence in Panama City, Florida, while a Muslim family who was preparing for Suhoor was inside, which caused a fire and charred the driveway of the house. Keep in mind that all of these crimes have been committed in the month of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month when Muslims attend mosques in larger numbers.
All of these attacks and hate crimes are not a coincidence. People such as Joe Walsh, who buy and sell fear and use it as a way to get publicity, are responsible for the misconceptions and stereotypes against American Muslims. They should also be held accountable for spreading lies and giving rise to Islamophobia, which breeds anger and distrust in the minds of Americans and causes hate crimes. Such irresponsible and downright spiteful dialogue is a slap in the face of civil rights, ethics, and moral responsibility. Accusing an entire religious minority of criminal behavior based on misinformation and lies is probably the worst thing that Walsh could do in his political career. As Americans and as Muslims, we should condemn Walsh’s statements and stand against hate and intolerance.
Contact Joe Walsh's office directly by calling (202) 225-3711, or e-mailing him via his website: https://walshforms.house.gov/contact-form
. Tell him about the damage his fear-mongering is causing to both the Muslim and non-Muslim communities. In this time of fear and insecurity, let’s stand together against hate.
By: Nabila Ikram Detroit, MI
Over 3,000 Muslim athletes and officials are said to be present at the Olympics taking place in London this year. As in every Olympic game, there are a couple of significant aspects of this year’s events.
The first and foremost, is the mere fact that the games are taking place during Ramadan. All the athletes are managing their time in different ways. For example, some athletes are continuing to fast, such as those on the Moroccan team. Others, such as the Egyptian team, have been advised by religious counselors that they are exempt due to the fact that they are traveling and in a foreign land. Yet, others plan on giving to charity enough for 60 needy people to make up for their voluntary missing of their fasts. The organizers of the Olympics have also been accommodating athletes by providing snack packs to the athletes that include items such as dates.
Another significant attribute of this year’s games is the continued involvement of Muslim women. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Brunei have sent female athletes to the Olympics for the first time ever. The women faced incredible political and social difficulties as they fought for the honor to represent themselves and their nations. For example, Wojdan Shaherkani, 16, who competed in Judo was labeled the “Prostitute of the Olympics” by ultra-conservatives in her home country of Saudi Arabia.
Many of the athletes wore hijab, or the headscarf, and modest clothing, which in itself was a challenge for some women as their home countries required them to wear traditional attire, while the Olympics Committee required them not to. Therefore, after much discussion, a compromise had been made between the two to allow athletes to continue wearing the scarf or modest attire, but with some modifications to meet sport safety and other rules. Regardless of the obstacles, the women made it to the games and although most did not last long, their efforts and appearances were noted by the international community and have begun to pave the way for future female athletes.
The diversity of the games in which Muslims, males and females, are competing range from track, swimming, rifle competition, weightlifting, and many other areas.
The BBC has been covering the Olympics in much detail. The website has a comprehensive list of all the participating countries with profiles of their athletes and Olympic-related stories. Visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/olympics/2012/countries/
By: Noor Salahuddin
"The people don't want war, but they can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and for exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country." - Hermann Goring
We're taught to fear and doubt constantly. This is done primarily through the media. Turn on the 5 o'clock news and you'll see and hear about murders, robberies, rapists, war, the newest vaccine which you must get otherwise you're in danger, etc. We are taught to distrust each other and be afraid of each other's values, traditions, ideologies, backgrounds, and religions. America's foreign policy is heavily invested in sustaining military conflicts and our defense budget this year is between $1.030 and $1.415 trillion.
This blatant fear-mongering spurs on insecure individuals who take the law into their own hands and murder innocent people. Instead of focusing on the real issue at hand, we try to rationalize their actions by either declaring them mentally ill or depressed. We say they were neglected as children, bullied in school, rejected by love interests as adults, but we don't attack the major problem which is the psychological trauma we are in as a nation. On average, 12 Americans out of a hundred thousand commit suicide every year.
Think of how many times are we shown on television that if our teeth aren't white, if our skin is not perfect, if our car, phone, and home don't look a certain way, and most incessantly, if we are not thin, we are unsuccessful. And in order to have all of the qualities mentioned, we are bombarded with advertising urging us to buy more and more products which we don't really need.
Without making one feel inadequate, the marketing and advertising industry wouldn't work. We are taught to fear and doubt ourselves, to hate our bodies, to distrust our instincts and to depend on corporations. We are taught that we must fit in, at any cost. No wonder many Americans become outcasts, loners, living on the fringes of society and plotting terrible crimes.
In such an atmosphere of negativity and intolerance, it has not been difficult for the conservative right-wing to hate or judge an entire population based on stereotypes and lies. Because of the media's generally negative portrayals of Muslims and Islam, today, more Americans mistrust Muslims than any other religious minority. Islamophobia is on the rise, with two hate crimes that took place last week itself and more mosques being targeted with acid bombs and air rifles.
One, widely reported, is the shooting at a Sikh temple on August 5th in Oak Creek, Wisconsin during which Wade Michael Page killed 7 Sikhs and wounded 3 others because he mistook them for Muslims. The other, which was largely ignored by many news networks, is the mosque in Joplin, Missouri which was burned to the ground by Islamophobes, causing $600,000 worth of damage. Hundreds of Muslims were left without a place to congregate and were heartbroken and confused, just like their Sikh brothers and sisters.
I believe it is a result of this fear and doubt that we have now undergone countless examples of a deranged person committing terrorism by shooting random civilians in a school, university, or movie theatre. If the American society focused and invested as heavily in its education, child, and social services as it does on its defense budget to fight wars in foreign countries, we probably would not have to see another Columbine, another Virginia Tech, or even another Oak Creek. And hate crimes against Muslims would probably be a thing of the past.
By: Noor Salahuddin Chicago, IL
Surah Furqaan in Quran – e – Majeed is the 25th surah (chapter) with 77 ayaat (verses). Furqaan means the “criterion” or the “standard”, and the meaning of this word is to distinguish between good and bad. In this surah, Allah taala (the Greatest) helps us distinguish between the two so we may become better at judging our own actions.
And the servants of the Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth Hawna, and when the foolish address them they say; "Salama (peace).'' And those who spend the night in worship of their Lord, prostrate and standing. And those who say: "Our Lord! Avert from us the torment of Hell. Verily, its torment is ever an inseparable, permanent punishment. Hell is described as an evil abode and as a place to rest in. And those who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor stingy, but are in a just balance between them [Surah alFurqaan 25:63-67]. Allah taala dislikes extremes in anything and that is evident in this ayah. What is meant here by Hawn is serenity and dignity, as the Messenger of Allah said: When you come to the prayer, do not come rushing in haste. Come calmly and with tranquility, and whatever you catch up with, pray, and whatever you miss, make it up.
These are the attributes of the believing servants of Allah, those who walk on the earth Hawna, meaning that they walk with dignity and humility, not with arrogance and pride; similar to the Ayah: And walk not on the earth with conceit and arrogance... [17:37]. One should always be humble and fear Allah, as we are reminded in this ayah.
As mentioned, these people do not walk with conceit or arrogance or pride. This does not mean that they should walk like sick people, making a show of their humility, but rather that they should not be overbearing. It is said that the Prophet Adam used to walk as if he was coming downhill, and as if the earth were folded up beneath him.
Moving on to the next part, and when the foolish address them they say: “Salama”). If the ignorant people insult them with bad words, they should not respond in kind, but they forgive and overlook, and say nothing but good words. This is what the Messenger of Allah did: the more ignorant the people, the more patient he would be. This is as Allah says: And when they hear Al-Laghw (evil or vain talk), they withdraw from it [28:55]. Allah rewards patience and perseverance and this ayah reminds us that we must not lose patience or hope in times of adversity.
Then Allah says that their nights are the best of nights, as He says: And those who spend the night in worship of their Lord, prostrate and standing. This means worshipping and obeying Him. This is like the Ayat: They used to sleep but little by night. And in the hours before dawn, they were asking for forgiveness [51:17-18]. Their sides forsake their beds... [32:16]. Is one who is obedient to Allah, prostrating himself or standing during the hours of the night, fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord... [39:9].
Allah says: And those who say: "Our Lord! Avert from us the torment of Hell. Verily, its torment is ever an inseparable punishment” meaning, ever-present and never ending. Al-Hasan said concerning the Ayah, Verily, its torment is ever an inseparable, permanent punishment. Everything that strikes the son of Adam, and then disappears, does not constitute an inseparable, permanent punishment. The inseparable, permanent punishment is that which lasts as long as heaven and earth.
This was also the view of Sulayman At-Taymi: Evil indeed it is as an abode and as a place to rest in, meaning how evil it looks as a place to dwell and how evil it is as a place to rest.
And those who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor stingy... The best Muslims are not extravagant, spending more than they need, nor are they miserly towards their families, not spending enough on their needs. But they follow the best and fairest way.
The best of matters are those which are moderate, neither one extreme nor the other, but are in a just balance between them. This is like the Ayah, And let not your hand be tied to your neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach. [17:29]
Source: Tafseer Ibn Kathir
By: Anas Alkatib - Davenport University
Photography by Daniyal Ahmad – Macomb Community College
On May 17, Michigan Muslims from all walks of life, with different backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures and races came and participated in the Michigan Muslim Capitol Day. They got to witness the opening invocation by a Muslim woman and meet with State Legislators, State Representatives and State Senators in Lansing.
As a Michigander, this wasn’t my first time in Lansing city, Michigan State Capitol, but it was my first time ever in the Capitol building, and my first time attending the Michigan Muslim Democratic Caucus (MMDC) function. I can say the whole experience was very positive and it was encouraging to see so many Muslims from all over Michigan coming together to talk and discuss common concerns/ issues that we, as the residents of Michigan, need to address.
The main purpose of the MMDC is to talk about general and specific community concerns/issues. Some of these points are:
- Educating elected officials about Michigan Muslims.
That can be done by educating the elected officials about the Muslim community, discuss the number of families in the community, ongoing activities that are happening, and emphasizing on the diversity of Muslims in Michigan.
- Oppose HB 4769 and SB 701.
“The restriction of Application of Foreign Law Act” which is also known as the “Anti-Sharia Bill” which in essence limits the religious freedoms of all Americans by banning religiously based arbitration and contracts between private individuals. Muslim Americans want to be afforded the same protections to practice their religion as all other faith communities.
Courts have regularly upheld rulings on private individuals establishing contracts based on their religious beliefs and these bills would infringe on such liberties, including contracts related to wills, marriage, divorce, and religious organizational by-laws and constituents.
For these reasons, the Michigan Catholic Conference and Jewish Voices along with other diverse groups oppose these bills. Such bills would only enhance a climate of intolerance and fear against the Muslim community and also waste the time and tax dollars of our local government.
- Muslims are a key voting block.
The Institute of Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) has published a study saying that the Muslim American community will play a growing role in elections, especially in key states such as Michigan.
- Specific community concerns/issues.
Anyone who has a specific concern or issue from a certain district should be able to discuss the matter with their respective elected official in a positive non-confrontational manner, focusing on building a relationship with the elected official in order to address the concern.
The MMDC Initiative was sponsored by State Representatives Rashida Talib, Lisa Brown, George T. Darany, Senator Morris Hood, CAIR-MI, and CIOM. CAIR-MI did a great job in organizing and coordinating this event.
Michigan Muslims are committed to enhancing the quality of life in Michigan and therefore enhance Michigan’s well-being and shape its future. Many Muslims chose and continue to choose Michigan as their home and look forward to helping Michigan become a better place for them, their children and everyone else.
By: Nabila Ikram Detroit, MI
In a time when fear and ignorance prevails all else throughout the world, it may be comforting to see some statistics and facts. Last week, the 2011 U.S. Mosque Study was
released which describes the “American mosque” and the attitudes of mosque leaders.
The U.S. Mosque Study and a similar study were also conducted in 1994 and 2000 and the results from all three studies have been compared in the report. The study was conducted by Professor Ihsan Bagby from the University of Kentuckyand is part of a larger national
study called Faith Community Today (FACT) which covers a range of religious
congregations in America.
The U.S. Mosque Study was sponsored by various organizations, including the Hartford Seminary, Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, International Institute of Islamic Thought, the Islamic Circle of North
America, the Islamic Society of North America, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The study consisted of two parts, a mosque count and phone interviews with a large sample of mosque leaders throughout the country. This is the first report to be released from the study. Future reports include ones on Muslim women, mosque administration and imams, and mosque programs. History of Mosques in the U.S.
The U.S. has seen a number of patterns when it comes to the Muslim population. The main growth in the overall Muslim population began in the 1960s and 1970s. The main reasons are that during this period there was an influx of immigrants from Arab and South Asian nations, and it was also the period when many African Americans were converting to Islam. Around the 1980s there was also an increase in immigration from Iran, and now there is an increase of refugees and immigrants from Somalia, West Africa, Iraq, and Bosnia.
The Muslim community is most likely the most diverse out of all American religious communities and therefore, with so many different ethnicities it is common to see various cultural groups establishing their own mosques.
Fifty-six percent of mosques were purchased. This means commercial and residential properties were purchased and then the spaces were converted to be used as mosques. However, since 2000, there has been a “boom in the construction of mosques” which is indicative of the fact that Muslims who had settled in earlier decades are now
financially sound to actually start constructing their own mosques, rather than purchasing other buildings.
Mosques that are now being built in suburban areas are following the old trend by continuing to be established from purchased properties due to the fact that they do not take loans with interest, because of religious restrictions. Therefore, they have to increase their memberships and raise the money before constructing new mosques.A Brief Profile
The number of mosques in the U.S.has grown rapidly since the year 2000 to a current total of 2,106 mosques. The highest number is in New York, second in California, followed by Texas.
Several factors were discussed in the study that may be contributing to the growth. One factor is the rise of refugees and immigrants, as mentioned earlier, who are establishing their own culturally and linguistically focused mosques. Another factor is more Muslims are moving into areas of cities or suburbs that previously did not have
mosques, so they are establishing their own, rather than taking a long commute. A third factor is that the Muslim community is also highly diverse in ideology. Therefore, some groups or leaders are establishing mosques that reflect their specific thinking.
In addition to the number of mosques increasing, the number of Muslims attending/participating in mosques has also increased to a current count of 2.6 million. As implied, at Jum’ah, the Friday congregational prayer, and on the Eids, Islamic holidays, attendance has also increased. Attitudes of Mosque Leaders
In phone interviews with the mosque leaders, they were asked various questions. One of the questions was which approach the leader uses when making an Islamic decision. The four approaches given ranged from a flexible, moderate interpretation of Islam to a more traditional, conservative interpretation. The majority of the leaders were gauged to follow a more flexible, moderate approach.
The leaders were also asked if they agreed with the statements that Muslims should be involved in American institutions and the political process. The majority of leaders agreed. Interestingly, African American leaders were
more reluctant and this was attributed to the fact that many of the leaders had converted to Islam in the 60s and 70s when mainstream political tension was very high and the process was seen as “corrupting and ineffective”. Thus, that sentiment may still be present.
Another question that garnered an interesting response is whether leaders agreed with the statement that American society is hostile towards Islam. In 2000, the majority of leaders agreed; however, in the new study, the majority of leaders actually disagreed.
In the interview, leaders explained that they felt the majority of the American people were not hostile, but rather Islamophobic groups were inciting hatred and keeping people ignorant of Islam. They added they are “treated well
by the people in their own area…Surprisingly, even mosque leaders who were embroiled in contentious neighborhood battles at the time of the interview recognized the many good people in the area, and therefore chose to disagree with the statement…”
Although some topics were covered in this article, the U.S. Mosque Study is a comprehensive study that covers a variety of topics including more interviews with mosque leaders, rates of people converting to Islam, and more
precise details of the topics mentioned here. Online copies of the full report can be found on www.isna.net
, and www.cair.com
. Hard copies are available from ISNA and CAIR.
It is important that such studies continue to be conducted as a source of knowledge for all people. From studies like these, not only are people of other faiths learning about their Muslim neighbors, colleagues, community members, and fellow Americans, but Muslims are also learning about themselves and their role and place in American society. As the leaders in the study stated, hostility is not an issue, but rather ignorance. It can be said that this is true for both sides and the only solution is through education.
By: Nabila Ikram
Photo Credits: Mr. Masood Farooqi
“If you ever want change, you have to participate in it” or you might leave it to the most corrupt people. These were the words congressman Keith Ellison shared at a private fundraiser in Canton this past weekend. They summarize the prominent theme of the discussions that took place at the event. Ellison emphasized repeatedly the importance of Muslims to become active and engaged in their communities- at the local, state, and national levels. He discussed how due to Islamophobia and other forms of intolerance, many people are “trying to tear the fabric of America by dividing Americans” on the
basis of religion, race, and other differentiating factors. Thus he emphasized President Lincoln's quote, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” He called for Muslims, as Americans and as their religious obligation is to act as “stewards of the land,” to organize and strive for issues that impact them and their fellow Americans. Ellison encouraged Michigan Muslims to attend “Day on the Hill”, which is an annual event held in
Lansing in which people can directly hear from, as well as have the opportunity to possibly meet, legislators and advocates for causes. When voting or pushing for legislation, Ellison advised Muslims to advocate for their own causes and also for the common good. For example, Muslims can advocate for interest-free loans, as this may be of particular interest to
them. However, Muslims should also advocate for causes such as free or affordable healthcare or early childhood education for all. Several other ways were suggested for Muslims to become active, such as becoming involved in interfaith and other civic committees, and even planting flowers in a high-risk area to show that the area is cared for – which is a concept that can be a significant deterrent to crime. Ellison also gave steps to
organizing for a cause. One should argue an idea, write the idea out, convene with others to gain support, and Ellison assured, most likely the cause will lift off the ground within a year.
He also advised youth to become active in their high school and college years through organizations, internships, of which several are available in D.C., and public service. He attributed his own success of where he is today to his involvement at Wayne State University as an undergraduate advocating for anti-apartheid causes. It is through active civic engagement, Ellison argued, that Islamophobia will be tackled. He emphasized that due to the lack of understanding of Islam and Muslims, people are afraid which leads to drastic legislation such as anti-Sharia laws. It is the job of Muslims to educate fellow Americans about Muslims and Islam.“I'm not aware of anyone trying to push Sharia on people who are not Muslim,”said Ellison, stating further that as Muslims become more active and educate others, then tolerance and inclusiveness from the broader community will also increase. In regards to some other topics, Ellison discussed his involvement in committees, such as the Financial Committee and the House Democracy Partnership. He also described his role as co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, in which the rights of average workers are advocated for, along with other issues, such as standing against torture in government procedures. Ellison also voiced his support for the Occupy movement, stating that often the media portrays the worst angles; however, when he personally visited various locations he found the movement to be orderly and civilized. As to the purpose of the movement, Ellison stated that fairness in wealth, taxes, etc. is a right to demand and that the rich do not drive the economy, rather the middle and poor classes do. He presented the Occupy movement as a situation to make people feel uncomfortable to raise awareness, as “bad people can get used to bad situations.” In addition to the wealth gap, the Occupy movement is also raising awareness about other social issues such as gender inequality, and more specific to Muslims, blanket surveillance. Therefore, it is a movement that is relevant to everyone in more than one way. Several notable figures and community leaders attended the fundraiser, including Michigan State Representative Dian Slavens and Circuit Court Judge Mark Slavens. Both gave a few words of their own in which Dian Slavens supported Ellison in encouraging the Muslim community to become more engaged. Judge Mark Slavens, who largely deals with juvenile justice, emphasized the importance of mentoring the youth, especially disadvantaged youth, in the community. He
specifically called for male mentors, as not many men volunteer and they are much needed. The event ended with closing remarks from Ellison and community leaders with information about local causes.
One can learn more about Congressman Keith Ellison and his initiatives at www.ellison.house.gov
Sahar Aziz Legal Fellow – ISPU
Late last year, a Staten Island woman and her toddler were attacked
by a pedestrian who punched her in the face, pulled on her scarf, asked her why she was in America, and called all Muslims and Arabs terrorists. One week later in Seattle, Wash., two American citizens of Somali descent were physically attacked
at a gas station. The female assailant called them suicide bombers, terrorists and told them to go back to their country. She then slammed the door on the leg of one of the women, kicked her and pulled off her headscarf. After the attack, one victim was afraid to leave her house because her Muslim headscarf could invite further violence. Immediately after 9/11, anti-Muslim prejudice was manifested most prominently as racial profiling, with Muslim men being the primary targets. The failure to effectively combat it has emboldened bigots into more open expressions of hatred directed at those regarded as most vulnerable: women.
Since the Ground Zero mosque controversy in 2010, Muslim women have increasingly reported being attacked in public or threats of such.
A month after the Staten Island attack, a Muslim woman wearing the headscarf in Columbus, Ohio was stalked, verbally harassed and then pepper-sprayed by a man shouting religious and ethnic slurs
such as, "Tell all of your Muslims that this is not your country," "Go back to wherever you came from" and threatening, "I will kill you." That same week, on Dec. 23, 2010, a man in Twin Falls, Idaho, physically harassed
a head scarved Muslim woman and her two children.A few weeks later, a woman convert to Islam received threats and intimidation by a neighbor. The reported verbal threats
included, "I'm going to kill you" and "I'm going to shoot your dog and [rape you] while you pray with your head on the ground." The neighbor physically intimidated the Muslim woman by shoving her against a wall, monitoring her with binoculars and attempting to unlawfully enter her apartment -- common acts of intimidation against women living alone. Unfortunately, these cases are just a few of
many where Muslim women, especially those wearing a headscarf, are victims of violence by some Americans determined to violently expel Muslims from the country. Growing anti-Muslim bias in America is no secret. Over the past few years, numerous reports
have exposed concerted anti-Muslim campaigns that mobilize people to hate their Muslim compatriots. For example, the Center for American Progress meticulously documents seven foundations spending over $40 million to fund anti-Muslim propaganda that has been widely repeated by political leaders, grassroots groups and the media. The Southern Poverty Law Center, an expert on hate groups in America, also reports the apparent surge in anti-Muslim sentiment in America is driven by a small, closely knit cadre of activists. The hate generated by these professional anti-Muslim bigots often leads to violence. Against this backdrop, Muslim women in America wearing a headscarf have become both visible and vulnerable targets. But their voices and experiences are glaringly unrepresented in the discourse and policies addressing anti-Muslim bigotry. Contrary to popular belief, the biggest threat to Muslin women is no longer limited to domestic violence in the home but rather unprovoked attacks in public places by bigoted strangers. To many, the Muslim woman's headscarf marks her as a terrorist or co-conspirator to terrorism. Meanwhile, her gender marks her as easy prey to cowardly acts by those who seek to violate her body and personal dignity. Only when a Muslim woman is victimized by her male family member, thereby fitting the stereotype of Muslim men as violent savages, do her gender rights receive attention. But in a post-9/11 world, her physical safety is threatened right here in America by segments of the public increasingly distrustful of Muslims. Yet the silence of American women's rights groups is deafening. No longer can defending Muslim women's rights be defined by clichés of the oppressed Muslim woman in Muslim majority countries victimized by her barbaric Muslim husband. Public acts of violence, and threats of more, warrant the attention of government officials, women's rights advocates and all Americans concerned with violence against women.
American women's rights advocates should be working alongside American Muslim women to secure all women's rights to be free from physical attack, both at home and in public. Similarly, programs aimed at preventing hate crimes, violence against women, and
discrimination against Muslims should address the unique forms of discrimination faced by Muslim women in America -- both as Muslims and as women. Only when we all, men and women alike, can express our viewpoints and practice our faiths without fear of physical violence can we honestly declare this a nation of tolerance and freedom. Sahar Aziz is an associate professor of law at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law and a legal fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. She is the author of a forthcoming law review article From the Oppressed to the Terrorist: American Muslim Women Caught in the Crosshairs of Inter-sectionality that addresses Muslim women's rights. This article was first published in the Huffington Post on November 2, 2011
By Hiba Haque, Detroit
With his plans to protest in Dearborn against an imaginary Shariah-law-takeover in America down the drain, the Terry Jones episode is far from over as the notorious pastor is making plans to revisit the city on Friday April 29th. This time however, he says that he will protest against the denial of his First Amendment Rights.
Last month, thousands protested in Afghanistan after the pastor burned a copy of the Quran in his Florida church. The demonstrations in Afghanistan left 21 people dead, including 7 U.N. workers.
Cautious about the fact that the pastor’s planned rally in front of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn may create unrest, Wayne County prosecutors filed a complaint to keep Jones away from the mosque. Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly and Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad also expressed concerned about public safety.
Pastor Jones and his supporter Mark Sapp were summoned by Judge Mark Somers last Thursday, and faced a trial on Friday, with the jury reaching the decision that Jones’ planned protest would likely ‘breach the peace’. He was ordered to pay a nominal $1 peace bond, and to stay away from the mosque for three years.
Stirring up the drama, Jones and Sapp refused to pay the $1 bond at first, and opted to be jailed instead. To add to that, if they were serious about voicing the message of their protest, they could have done it at other places in the city where they had been permitted to, but willingly refused.
Jones paid his bond almost immediately after being arrested, but now has a photograph of himself in jail posted on the ‘Stand up America’ website along with a press release claiming that ‘Sharia is much closer than we thought’ and that the city of Dearborn is ‘favoring the religion of Islam’.
CAIR-MI Executive Director Imam Dawud Walid was assured that the Dearborn Muslim community was peaceful and would not have ‘caused a riot’ at Jones’ planned protest, as the prosecutor cautioned. Although he is firmly against Jones’ hateful tactics against Muslims, and believes that the court may have had good intentions, he feels that much of the resulting commotion could have been avoided if Jones would have been allowed to protest in front of the Islamic center.
"Terry Jones has gone from being painted as a racist and bigot to a First Amendment martyr and someone who's standing up for American principles, and this is the problem of the whole issue now,” Imam Dawud said.
Jones plans to protest outside Dearborn City Hall at 5:00 pm this Friday. Dearborn Mayor Jack O'Reilly who stated that the city had always encouraged Jones to protest in the city's permit-free zones, said, "That's where we were hoping they did it the first time. We are not trying to silence anybody. We want to make sure no one gets hurt and everyone's rights are respected.”
By Allen Colombo, Oakland University
It has been almost a year since Europe has posed sanctions against Muslim women, in the form of limiting their ability to wear burka, or niqab, and other similar concealing clothing. It was in September of 2010 that France first took measures to ban such clothing in public. While some have questioned this due to the fact that only a small percentage of Muslim women wear full veils, most of their voices go unnoticed. This ban surprisingly had a large amount of public support, and was strongly backed by the French president Nicolas Sarkozy. The argument used in support of the ban was that, to wear such clothing is not a part of the French culture. This ban in 2010 was also considered by both Spain and Belgium, due to the high percentage of immigration within the last 20 to 30 years.
In France, in 2010 there was only an estimated number of 2,000 women who chose to wear the full veil, either niqab or burka. So the question remained, why target such a small group of women? Not only that, but truly, if they wanted to use the argument of French identity, than how could they forget such important French ideals such as women’s rights? While this law still needed to be ratified before coming into effect, it is an issue that received publicity, but however remained a very specific topic.
Taking a look at more recent times, in April 2011, again in France the law was ratified and put into place, now making it illegal to wear a burka or niqab in public. Some have claimed this to be another case of the classic “Islamophobia” of the Western world; however, I think that before this law can be written off as “Islamophobia” of the West, the reasons that the French government say this law is constitutional should be examined.
There have been many different arguments to support the banning of headscarves of different kinds. France, in banning Islamic headdress for women, would like to promote the idea of equality among French citizens. This is because of France's strong republican ideology. This enables France, and French society as a whole, to confer benefits as well as responsibilities on citizens regardless of ethnicity or heritage. French republicanism demands something of the citizen, and asserts certain fundamental values over individual rights of its citizens.
In addition to the responsibilities that the French society places onto its citizens; it can also be said, that the French go to great lengths to distinguish secular from religious spaces. They have gone to such great lengths to make this law non-discriminatory, although to many it seems as if it is specifically targeting them. It should be noted however, that at state schools, Christians cannot wear large crosses, Jews cannot wear yarmulkes, and Sikhs cannot wear turbans. It is because of this that many French, feel that there should be nothing to stop the banning of Islamic dress in public spaces either.
Another very important aspect of the French law, is that it makes explicit to the Muslim minority, the demand that to be a French citizen you must pledge to, and live up to, certain French civic values, of which equality for women is one. The proposed limited ban on the burka is an extension of this it has been argued. However, it could be just a difference in culture that is not understood by French society rather than a fear. It has been said that, Western culture is obsessed with a very narrow idea of what feminine beauty is. In addition to this, often times women are derogated if they do not match this ideal. Going so far as to say that many women spend hours each day picking just the right outfit and styling their makeup and hair before they will even step out of the house just to live up to this Western idea of what beauty is, might not be an exaggeration. It could be argued that modest dress is a good way for women to break this commonly held notion, and tell people that they will have to judge her by her intelligence, personality, and character, rather than by her appearance alone. In this way the French might be the ones who don’t live up to their own principle of equality, due to the fact that by forcing a woman to change her clothing to match an idea of what society is, telling her already lowers her to a level from where she was. To put this idea in a comparative way, when men dress to be respected, they wear a business suit that covers them to throat, wrist, and ankle, and they keep their hair simple and plain. When women dress to be respected, shouldn't they also cover to throat, wrist, and ankle, and make sure that their hair is not a decoration? This idea of equality does not force men to live up to strict ideals of what beauty is.
Because of this, the argument for women’s rights does not show enough room for the respect and integrity for an individual’s personal beliefs - it seems very rigid. Some women choose to wear hijab, burka, or niqab on their own because of their personal beliefs. In this way it could be considered a fear of the French society that these women value their religion over their citizenship. Something, however, that the French law makers have failed to consider is the fact that anyone can be a citizen while following a religion of their choosing. For Muslim women, this law is an affront to their personal integrity as a human being.
The French government has issued a statement about wearing a burka or niqab as "a new form of enslavement that the republic cannot accept on its soil." In this statement they are saying the forced wearing of a veil of this type is enslavement. The law, which was enacted in October, set down a six-month period to inform people of the penalty before it went into effect. Penalties for forcing a person to wear a burqa are part of the law, and they became effective immediately in October, and are starting to be enforced now (April) as part of the six month notification period set down by the French courts. Forcing a woman to wear a niqab or a burqa is punishable by a year in prison and a 30,000 euro fine. Forcing a minor to wear one is punishable by two years in prison and 60,000 euro, and a woman breaking the new law faces a fine of 150 euros or $190. In addition to this, the person breaking the law can be asked to carry out public service duty as part of the punishment or sometimes as an alternative to the fine.
Lawmakers have also cited security reasons for forbidding people from covering their faces in public. This is the fear associated with Islamophobia in the Western world, due to the fact that it uses the rational that if an individual cannot be seen clearly, they are more likely to be hiding something, or are more likely to commit an act of crime. However, the reality is that if an individual takes enough precautions even the best security and screening in the world can do little to stop this person from carrying out their deed, and to put restrictions upon law-abiding citizens out of the fear of a few individuals only goes to show how only the worst parts of history are remembered. In addition to that, it allows fear to build and cultivate, allowing for stereotypes to be built and reinforced. This does little to resolve the true fear of society.
French people backed the ban by a margin of more than four to one, the Pew Global Attitudes Project found in a survey from 2010. Some 82 percent of people polled approved of a ban, while 17 percent disapproved. That was the widest support the Washington-based think tank found in any of the five countries it surveyed. In addition to this, large majorities also backed burqa and niqab bans in Germany, Britain and Spain. Looking at the situation within the U.S., two out of three Americans opposed the ban, according to the survey. Many different opinions have come about because of this new law going into effect, and one of the strongest opponents of the ban is Amnesty International, who has repeatedly urged the French government not to impose the ban, telling that to do so violates European human rights law.
Overall, it could be said that some aspects of the enforcement of France’s new law on the banning of women’s Islamic headwear is out of an irrational fear, while other aspects are out of what the French as a society believe is the correct thing to do without thinking of the implications of the enforcement of this law on the individual. While still another part of it is based on a misunderstanding of Islamic beliefs and customs. Something that can be gained out of looking at this law and the reasons behind it is, a better overall understanding of how to better integrate our communities and to better promote a tolerance among each other. Not only this but, it allows for us to see how the situation for American Muslims differs from the situation of Muslims outside of the United States trying to integrate into a different society. Furthermore, it allows American Muslims the chance to stand for what they believe in, and make sure that the religious expression within the United States does not become something that fear can override.
Images courtesy of: aljunnah.com & kashifiat.wordpress.com