Thursday 29 December 2011

A Few Good Muslim Men

Human Rights Attorney Engy Abdelkader writes for the Huffington Post (27th December 2011) aboue the Muslim men who challenge the stereotype about misogynistic Muslims by giving numerous examples of men who have taken steps to improve the situation of women:

"A Few Good Muslim Men - Honoring Those Who Honor Women

If the stereotypical Muslim woman is an oppressed one, then the archetypal Muslim male is responsible for her condition. In news stories, popular entertainment media and even video games, the image of the violent, misogynistic or abusive Muslim man is present time and again.
To be sure, bad apples exist in every religious, ethnic and racial group. But there is a dearth of positive Muslim portrayals to counteract such negative images on TV or the big screen. As a result, your everyday regular Omars and Mohammeds are sometimes viewed with suspicion and fear.

As 2011 draws to a close, we take a moment to recognize the following Muslim men -- fathers, brothers, husbands, academics, advocates and religious leaders -- selected by others for their individual contributions to the lives of women and, thus, humanity at large:

Asim Rehman (36, New York): Asim is in-house counsel who volunteers his time representing domestic violence victims. Asim's wife describes him as a "fabulous" partner who encourages her intellectual pursuits. Asim has turned down professional opportunities requiring relocation so that his wife can remain in her NYC post, which she loves. The couple is expecting their first child and Asim "cooks, cleans and grocery shops without complaining." His wife says she "can't imagine a better partner than Asim."

Shyam K. Sriram (32, Georgia): A college professor, Shyam is known for his stance against violence against women and girls. In less than one year, he helped a fledgling initiative -- Muslim Men Against Domestic Violence -- become a viable one. Muslim Men Against Domestic Violence trains Muslim men how to teach others that violence against women and girls is Islamically impermissible.

Abed Awad (42, New Jersey): Abed was recognized by his colleagues for the work he has done on behalf of Muslim women both as a past Board Member of KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, and on the legal front. An accomplished attorney with his own practice, he has earned a reputation for defending women's rights in religious divorces and other family law disputes.

Davi Barker (30, California): An artist and writer, Davi's wife -- an activist, attorney and community leader -- described him in this way: "He is exactly what I dreamed of when I thought I wanted to marry a man who lived his life and marriage through his faith. Religion, and more specifically 'love and mercy' dictate everything he does in our relationship. His support is what makes my work as [head of a civil rights organization] possible. From being understanding when I have a difficult case or am coming home late regularly to helping with the graphic design for [my organization] and carrying more than a fair share of chores around the house ... I couldn't do this without him."

Imam Mohamed Magid (40ish, Virginia): Imam Magid is the Imam of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS Center) located in Sterling, Va. He is also President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Imam Magid was referenced by a congregant who characterized him as, "One of the biggest advocates out there for women's rights." He conducts domestic violence prevention training seminars for other Imams around the country and serves on the Board of Directors of Peaceful Families, a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to ending domestic violence in Muslim families.

Omar Sharif (29, California): Omar was a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Uganda who spearheaded numerous small business projects which placed women at the forefront.
Mohamed Tantawi (38, New Jersey): Mohamed's wife says of him: "He's a great pediatrician, he does most of the cooking (and well too), he sings at Carnegie Hall. Most importantly, he does all that is in his power to preserve our family dynamic, one in which he is an active partner."

Ahmad Hussain (28, California): Currently in Nashville, Tenn., completing his surgical residency, Ahmad was also suggested for inclusion on this list by his wife, a filmmaker in California. She remarked about the breadth of sacrifices Ahmed has made for her. For instance, when she indicated her willingness to sacrifice her filmmaking career which requires her to spend half her time in Los Angeles in order to stay with him in Tennessee, he was adamantly opposed to her doing so: "He said he wouldn't be happy with himself if he kept me from becoming a filmmaker. He said it makes him happy to see me doing these things. ... I know it kills him -- he's tired, he's lonely, he's hungry -- but he can't be convinced."

Abdul H. Abdullah (67, Georgia): Abdul is the Chief Financial Officer of Baitul Salaam Residence for Abused and Neglected Women and Children. In addition to contributing his time and money to the organization, he also allows battered women to seek refuge at his private family business when they are in trouble.

Taraq Chand (late 60s, New Jersey): A father of four daughters and one son, he has taught his children that Islam supports women's rights. As a result his daughters are all professionals: a doctor, chemical engineer, pharmacist and soon-to-be-lawyer.

Sheikh Abdala Adhami (Washington, D.C.): Sheikh Adhami is an Islamic scholar who has been serving the Muslim community in the U.S. for more than 20 years. A Washington, D.C. native, he was praised by several women including a New Jersey Muslim mom who described him in the following manner: "Simply a magnificent person, he spoke endlessly on women's rights in Islam, with the notion that women should know their rights and men should know in order to protect these rights, and any infringements on those rights are seen as a crime in God's eyes. He spoke of the many prominent women throughout Islamic history... and how men would travel far and wide to study at their feet. He lectured on how women, even at the time of the Prophet [Muhammed], owned their own businesses and how this money was solely theirs -- to be shared with her family at her discretion, and any money she gave to her family was a charity... [His message] was in stark contrast to what we hear from the Taliban. It brought a peace and comfort and nourished a true connection with one's Lord -- and that is what religion is supposed to do."

Nabile Safdar (35, Maryland): An accomplished doctor who recently returned from a volunteer mission to Haiti where he provided much needed medical care, Nabile is a father to three young daughters. He delivers religious sermons to his local community preaching against spousal abuse while urging men to treat women with dignity and respect.

Ezat Yosafi (Connecticut): Born in Afghanistan, Ezat was recognized by his daughter, posthumously. She attributes her professional accomplishments as an attorney to her father's guidance and advice. He passed away in Connecticut in 2008.

Furqan Ahmed (27, New Jersey): Furqan's wife says that he is "someone who has made law school a more tolerable experience. ... It is not easy to be married to a law student as law school ... involves such a dedication of time and effort. But he really pushes me to do more and presses me to follow up with law firms. ... I think it is really helpful to have someone who is a partner in all aspects."

Ali Hussain (63, Massachusetts): Ali's daughter notes, "He's coached me in multiple ways with my career, helping me overcome hurdles, to be confident in new situations, maintain integrity, be bold yet gracious in asserting my needs. He also encourages [my sisters and me] to dream big and sometimes dreams for us even bigger than we do."

Prophet Muhammad (posthumously): He is considered by Muslims to be the seal to a long line of God's prophets and messengers beginning with Adam. The Prophet Muhammad's private relationships were based on open communication and mutual respect. He never asked anyone to wait on him and participated in household chores and childcare; he used to mend his own clothes, play with children and perform chores around the home. He promoted and nurtured the education of women (e.g. Aisha bint Abu Bakr). He never raised his hand against anyone in his household. He chastised the Muslim men who dared to strike their wives. In the words of the woman who praised him, "He was kind and respected women and asked men to do the same."
While the Muslim men included above are deserving of our collective support, recognition and accolades, this list is by no means an exhaustive one. Rather, these men are representative of many more Muslims whose names are not included here but whose lives and contributions are similarly noteworthy.

If I may humbly suggest, perhaps this year Hollywood can make the following addition to its collective list of new year resolution: more positive portrayals of the American Muslim community. After all, an image of the Muslim advocate effectively representing the rights of his (or her) female Muslim client in a religious divorce or the imam educating his congregation of Muslim women's equal social status is a truer realization of art imitating life.
On the subject of accolades, a note about Muslim culture. "Mashallah" is a word frequently heard used between Muslims. It literally means "whatever God wills." And it is often said in response to hearing about a person's good deed or impressive accomplishment.


The original article is here.

Wednesday 28 December 2011

America's Dark Age of Islamophobia - "Un-American"

The Philadelphia Enquirer carries an article by Tony Norman called "America's dark age of Islamophobia" which discusses Islamaphobi in America (and the fact that it is un-American):

"Muslims really thought they were doing the world a favor by pulling Europe and its mostly illiterate Christians out of the Dark Ages. But just because they foisted algebra, trigonometry, optics, astronomical charts, the classics, Arabic numerals, advanced surgical techniques, perspective in art, the lute, and artichokes on the world - while the Christian kings of Europe were smothering free inquiry - we're not about to give them any credit a thousand years later.
Particularly in America, we remain ignorant of Islamic contributions to Western life. We suffer from a profound cultural amnesia when it comes to remembering our millennia-long debt to our Muslim brethren. But as the song goes, what has Averroes done for us lately?

Americans are so used to thinking of Muslims as an exotic "other" that many fail to realize they're an inextricable part of who we are and have been since the nation's earliest days. Unfortunately, too many non-Muslims see them as Manchurian candidates crouching in the shadows with explosive vests, waiting for the signal to wage terror on America's malls. If you ask the average American citizen about Islam's role as an incubator of Western ideas, expect stares of incomprehension.

If this ignorance were restricted to the margins of society, it wouldn't be half as embarrassing. But Islamophobia, like its twin brother, anti-Semitism, has a way of injecting itself into the cultural discourse. Contempt for Muslims remains an acceptable prejudice for millions who continue to equate the religion with terrorism."

You can read the full article here.

American Politics and Islam-Baiting

Guernica magazine has an interesting article by Stephan Salisbury called "Islam-Baiting Doesn’t Work: It Failed in Campaign 2010 and Will Do Worse in 2012"

During the 2010 midterm election campaign, virtually every hard-charging candidate on the far right took a moment to trash a Muslim, a mosque, or Islamic pieties. In the wake of those elections, with 85 new Republican House members and a surging Tea Party movement, the political virtues of anti-Muslim rhetoric as a means of rousing voters and alarming the general electorate have gone largely unchallenged. It has become an article of faith that a successful 2010 candidate on the right should treat Islam with revulsion, drawing a line between America the Beautiful and the destructive impurities of Islamic cultists and radicals.

But as the 2012 campaign ramps up along with the anti-Muslim rhetoric machine, a look back at 2010 turns out to offer quite an unexpected story about the American electorate. In fact, with rare exceptions, “Islam-bashing” proved a strikingly poor campaign tactic. In state after state, candidates who focused on illusory Muslim “threats,” tied ordinary American Muslims to terrorists and radicals, or characterized mosques as halls of triumph (and prayer in them as indoctrination) went down to defeat.

Far from winning votes, it could be argued that “Muslim-bashing” alienated large swaths of the electorate—even as it hardened an already hard core on the right.

The fact is that many of the loudest anti-Muslim candidates lost, and for a number of those who won, victory came by the smallest of margins, often driven by forces that went well beyond anti-Muslim rhetoric. A careful look at 2010 election results indicates that Islamophobic talking points can gain attention for a candidate, but the constituency that can be swayed by them remains limited, although not insignificant."

The article goes on to analyse how Islamaphobia as a campaign tactic has been largely inneffective. You can read the full article here.

Call to Action to Eradicate Domestic Violence

The Canadian group Young Muslims has made a "Call to Action to Eradicate Domestic Violence" in which they list six ways that Muslims can help to end this problems:

"Prominent Canadian Muslim organizations, community leaders and activists have joined together to issue a Call to Action to Eradicate Domestic Violence. This Call highlights six ways Canadian Muslims can intensify their efforts to abolish all forms of domestic violence.

As Muslims, we base our ethics and behaviour on the teachings of the Quran and the authenticated example of the Prophet Muhammad, who never hit a woman and taught the men that “the best amongst you is he who treats women the best”. The Quran unequivocally emphasizes the sanctity of all life, forbids all forms of coercion in matters of religion, and reminds us all that each of us is accountable for our actions directly to God, the only Judge.

There is no room within these teachings for any person, by virtue of gender or position within the family, to seize control over the life and bodily security of another. Domestic violence and, in the extreme, practices such as killing to “restore family honour” violate clear and non-negotiable Islamic principles, and so we categorically condemn all forms of domestic violence."

The webiste also lists all of the Muslim organisations and Imams and community leaders that have signed up to the pledge. You can see the details of the campiagn here.

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Monday 12 December 2011

Nobel Peace Prize Winner Tawakul Karman: Islam No Threat to Democracy

Reuters (9 December 2011) carries a quotation from the Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakul Karman of Yemen:

"Islam and other religions do not threaten democracy, Yemeni activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakul Karman said on Friday.

"All the religions, they respect democracy. They respect human rights, they respect all the values that all of us carry," said Karman, 32, who will jointly receive the Nobel award on Saturday with two Liberians, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee.

The problem was not with religions themselves, said the Islamist journalist, but with the intolerant interpretation made by some of their followers.

"The only problem is the misunderstanding from the people who act -- Islam, Christian, Jewish or any other religion -- (as if to say) 'this is the religion."

You can read the full article here.

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64th International Islamic Congregation in India

Indian newspaper The Pioneer reports on the 64th Alami Tablighi Ijtema or International Islamic congregation:

"Around 10 lakh people across the world participated in the three-day congregation considered to be the third biggest annual Islamic congregation after Haj pilgrimage and a meeting in Bangladesh.

During the Ijtema, world famous Islamic scholars like Moulana Saad-ul-Hasan, Moulana Ahmad Laat, and others delivered sermons on the life and practice of Prophet Mohammad and Islamic Shariat (law). They urged devotees to improve their lifestyle adopting the path shown by Prophet Mohammad and Islamic Shariat, which provides total life style.

Atique-ul-Islam, member of the organising committee said that around 10 lakh people, including about 20,000 Jamaats (groups) from all over the country and 300 delegates from more than 20 countries, including Thailand, Cambodia, Afghanistan, England, Australia, Russia, Poland, Indonesia, Malaysia, UAE, Iran, Canada, America, Sri Lanka and China participated in the Ijtema."

You can read the full article here.

Friday 9 December 2011

Tufaan: Muslims and the Hurricane Katrina Experience

Tufaan is a documentary about the Hurricane Katrina experience. It talks about Muslims who experienced it and who were involved in the relief work after the disaster.

The website for the documentary states:

"Muslims are portrayed in the media as people who cause disasters. What they don’t portray are the Muslims who are always in the forefront of relief efforts whenever disasters strike. Tufaan wants to shed light on stories that were never covered in mainstream media.

Tufaan, which is Arabic for “Great Storm” is documentary relating personal stories from some of the survivors and relief workers of Hurricane Katrina. This documentary tells their stories of loss, despair, confusion, happiness and hope starting from the events leading up to the hit of the hurricane, to the destructive aftermath.

Tufaan will be the first of its kind– highlighting the different Islamic values that can be learned through these difficult situations.

Meet the heroes who helped the people and the stories they had to tell. And most of all, prepare for tomorrow."

You can find out more information from

Thursday 8 December 2011

Ameena Matthews and The Interruptors Documentary

In its "Top 10 of Everything 2011", at No.5 The Times magazine has the amazing Sister Ameena Matthews from The Interrupters documentary:

"Do-gooder groups, no less than Hollywood movies, benefit from star quality; and CeaseFire, the group of reformed criminals that intervenes in Chicago street disputes to prevent violence, has Ameena Matthews, a petite charisma machine in a Muslim headscarf. To Steve James' horrifying, inspiring documentary, she lends her magnetic watchability. Her job is to stanch the impulse in some kids to go, as she says, from "zero to rage in 30 seconds." When one young man tells her he fights every day, she smiles and says, "You're too handsome to do that." The daughter of the notorious gang leader Jeff Fort, now serving a 155-year prison sentence on a domestic-terrorism conviction, Matthews channels her father's seductive eloquence into crisis management. The Interrupters, which, like James' Hoop Dreams, was preposterously denied an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary, has a full posse of heroic figures trying to stop crime on the spot. But Matthews is the prime galvanizer. Addressing mourners at the funeral of a teenager who died in gang violence, she says, "We got a responsibility to bring up our community to be vibrant. Whatever it is that's going on, cease the fire, call the truce."

See the original article here.

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