Tag Archives: Islam

Making America racist again (even though it never really wasn’t)

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Trump’s Muslim ban is having consequences for more than visa and green card-holders from the seven listed countries. My best friend and cousin, Faiza, was returning from her honeymoon in Belize Saturday evening, when she was held for hours at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. I caught sight of her husband’s Facebook post while at a birthday party (her brother’s 40th, incidentally):

I saw the post not long after he put it up, so my jaw dropped when I saw how widely it had spread the next day. What amazed me even further was how many people in the comments were accusing Javad of lying. I know the people involved personally… Indeed, very closely. I can assure you that they are both U.S. citizens; Javad was born here and Faiza lived here her entire life (the only reason she wasn’t born in the US is because her mother was visiting family at the time of her birth). Both of their families are from Pakistan, a country that is not even part of the executive order.

I’m not sure what part of this does not “add up,” as I saw multiple people on the post claim. Muslims and people of Arab and/or South Asian descent have been harassed and intimidated at airports consistently for the past 15 years (yours truly included). What happened to Javad and Faiza isn’t surprising to me in the least, but it’s alarming all the same. While speaking with Javad, he pointed out how the customs personnel did the maximum they possibly could to harass these two and get away with it. The CBP kept Javad and Faiza long enough to cause them distress, but not long enough for them to miss their flight. Had they missed it, the airline or airport would have been forced to accommodate them for a new flight as well as lodging, which would have required a report as to why they had been held so long (the reason being none).

While my cousin did make her flight in the end, this isn’t something to be brushed off. Children were detained at these airports, and I can’t tell you how many petitions I’ve seen for international students being kept from returning to complete their studies (many of them on scholarships). Even if your country of origin (or your family’s) is not on the list, what’s to stop Trump from adding them overnight? What’s to stop him from adding all Muslims, regardless of nationality overnight? Honestly, what’s to stop them from escalating it to camps? A Trump crony did mention the Japanese-American internment camps as precedent back in November.

Just as an executive order like this emboldened those customs personnel to harass my cousin, the executive order— indeed, Trump’s election itself— has emboldened bigots all over to harass, intimidate, and even attack Muslims. Take the shooting at a Quebec City mosque last night. Richard Spencer, despite being punched in the face twice already, had this to say in response to that tragedy:

Don’t kid yourself by thinking that Spencer or those who shot up the mosque are outliers. The fact is that they’re not not, and that there’s a reason the alt-right movement is taking so much power. You need to take that power back (yes, you). Figure out how to contact your representatives and tell them about your concerns. Demand they take action. Here are a couple different scripts you can try if you’re stuck on what to say (along with some good ideas from Laura Silverman’s Twitter feed):

It’ll only take a few minutes of your time, but it could affect us all for far longer.

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America needs to catch up with Muslim women’s empowerment

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America needs to catch up with Muslim women’s empowerment

So there was a bit of a snafu with some posts I was waiting to have published on MissMuslim, but all is forgiven because I’ve got one up (and because I have a bit of a crush on Editor-in-Chief Jenan Matari). One of my favorite past-times is spectacularly shutting down Western misconceptions about Muslim countries and Islamic law and history. As an American, I am really disappointed that my fellow countrymen are such misogynists that they picked Cheeto Voldemort over just-as-qualified-as-she-is-corrupt Hillary Clinton. But I can’t help but be a bit… smug about the fact that White America has yet again failed to do what Muslims have been doing for years. (And yes, it was White America. Check the polls. More on that later.) There, I said it. I’m not proud of it. I don’t revel in the fact that the U.S. still hasn’t had a female head of state. I’m not really about that moral superiority life. But it’s nice to take ignoramuses down a notch.

My list comprises of eight heads of state who happen to have an extra X chromosome. (Click it. Click the pretty, red words.) Seven of these countries are Islamic states; one of the countries is not, yet the head of state in question was herself Muslim with a lot of Muslim support). One of these Muslim countries even has a female atheist head of state. Food for thought for those who enjoy putting 1.6 billion Muslims in a box without a semblance of nuance or historical context.

#MuslimGirlArmy: #BlackInMSA

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My latest for MuslimGirl was published yesterday, and it takes on the experience of black Muslims in the Muslim Student Association with a Twitter roundup of the hashtag #BlackInMSA.

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The thoughts and ideas shared are very insightful and, often, heartbreaking. Black Muslims constitute over a quarter of American Muslims. Before 9/11, the image of a Muslim in America was black. Still, we’ve managed to marginalize them in an already marginalized community. As stated in my article: 

Muslim students come to Muslim Student Associations (MSA) seeking safe haven and belonging, but black Muslims find further alienation instead.

So please, take a look and share/retweet! I’ve heard accusations of those taking part in the hashtag “airing out dirty laundry” (why does this always come up when someone’s calling their community out?), but I think the response I’ve seen so far to the hashtag and this roundup is heartening. Too many people were unaware, and hopefully, this awareness that’s been brought about can bring a new change, which will lead to unity that will help us alleviate our current struggles in the ummah.

My mother’s first dance with bigotry as a doctor

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While indoctrinating my 10-year-old brother last night by reading him Goblet of Fire, I received a phone call from my shaken up mom, telling me something had just happened to her that she had never experienced in her 25 years of practice as a doctor.

A patient refused to see her because she’s Muslim.

Now, I’ve told plenty of people not to see my mother due to this reason. But this was often because they are also Muslim, and as a result, I know they won’t be as open with her about their habits regarding the fun stuff: drugs, sex, and alcohol. The patient in question, however, was not a Muslim nor afraid of my mother judging them for their love of getting shitfaced or stoned out of their mind. This person was simply a bigot.

Apparently, after my mother already spent time going over their charts and preparing to see them (which isn’t a minimal effort, mind you), the patient, upon meeting her, asked her about her ethnicity. After my mother replied that she is Pakistani, the patient asked her if she was Muslim. When my mother told her that she was, they told her “very respectfully” that she did not wish to be seen by a Muslim doctor.

First of all, it breaks my heart that my mother for some reason needed to tell me how respectful this person was being. Nothing about this was respectful. My mind worked quick as my mother talked. If a doctor refused to see a patient because of their religious or ethnic background, they would face severe consequences. But there isn’t any type of repercussion for a patient doing the same, other than potentially losing out on good treatment.

You can say that there will always be some awful people who act like this, but the fact that our politicians speak like this doesn’t help. Herman Cain was very vocal about not wanting to see a Muslim doctor or appointing a Muslim to his thankfully never-formed cabinet. Ben Carson has repeatedly expressed that Muslims are unfit for the presidency. I could go on. My point is that Islamophobia, Islamobigotry, anti-Muslim sentiment, whatever you want to call it (because I’ve actually heard people try to derail the conversation by saying they aren’t scared of Muslims, they just don’t like them) is on the rise. The fact that this happened to my mother just days after the attacks in Paris is not a coincidence.

It’s a sign. It’s a sign of frightening times for my Muslim brothers and sisters. So I ask you to be please be careful. The days ahead will be rough for all of us, and we need to stick together. Please reach out to each other, reach out to me, and don’t ever think you have to apologize for those who are not of us. The only thing you need to do is to keep spreading awareness of our own struggles, our own faith. May God be with us.

The Problem with #MuslimLivesMatter

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Maybe not enough people realized this during the uproar over Ferguson. Nearly everyone who uses the hashtag means well. But #AllLivesMatter is a problematic hashtag, full stop. And in the same line, so is #MuslimLivesMatter.

Hashtags matter. They’re not only a way to bring attention to a specific issue or current event, but they are now also used as political statements.

Saying #AllLivesMatter is inappropriate in that it ignores the message that #BlackLivesMatter is conveying. It’s a hashtag that is a reminder— a reminder that black lives matter, because the lives of white people are never in question. Saying “All lives matter!” assumes that everyone is equally targeted, everyone in as much need of protection.

Now, of course, Muslim lives are also very much under threat in this country. Those of us who have been hollering about Fox News, the Republican Party, Bill Maher, Zionists and co. inciting violence against Muslims have been proved horribly right. But by using the #MuslimLivesMatter hashtag, we are appropriating the black struggle, the movement against police brutality towards black men and women. That is not to say that Muslim lives don’t matter, of course. We simply need to recognize that while our struggle is similar, we do have our own and we cannot co-opts others’.

The family and friends of Yusor, Deah, and Razan have adopted the hashtag, #OurThreeWinners, taken from their Facebook page of the same name. We should show our love and support for them, and our respect for the Black Lives Matter movement, by doing the same.

I apologize if my argument isn’t making sense. I’ve been in a daze since the night it happened, a daze that has only overwhelmed me more and more since. This hits home. It hit home when I saw that it occurred in a town not far from my father’s, in a university that some of my relatives attended. It hit home when I saw a couple relatives post about knowing the victims or their families. It hit home when I spent the day with friends wearing hijabs, worry for them spinning in the back of my mind where it should never have to be. It hit home because it could have been any of us, it could become any of us. Unless we refuse to stay silent.

Our Three WinnersAlways,

Syjil

P.S. Here are a couple links to explain the problem with co-opting the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag:

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/01/12/whats-wrong-with-all-lives-matter/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julia-craven/please-stop-telling-me-th_b_6223072.html

Eid Interning

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September 21st was my first day as a reporter assistant intern at News 12 New Jersey.  News 12 New Jersey is the local 24-hour cable television news channel, reaching more than 1.8 million homes in northern and central New Jersey and is part of News 12 Networks, the first, largest and most watched regional news channel in the U.S.

I work weekends. I’m a sucker who’s got classes Monday thru Friday, and my nights tend to be busy anyway, so it works out. Last Sunday, I suggested a story which I wanted to come in on Tuesday (yesterday) for. And the assignment editors took it.

A few years ago, my friends and I got ourselves into the fight for AlFalah Islamic Center’s mosque in Bridgewater. It was yet another case of people going, “Not in our town!,” although they cleverly backpedaled and presented the building of the mosque at the former Redwood Inn as a “traffic concern”. Mind you, we’d been having holiday prayers and I think some Friday prayers there for years.

On September 30th, U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp ruled that Bridgewater Township can’t enforce a zoning ordinance that effectively meant the mosque could not be built at the site, as the ordinance was not passed until after AlFalah had submitted their application to build there. So after three years… victory! And guess who’s sitting in a newsroom when this happens?

I suggested to an assignment editor a story on Eid al-Adha for Tuesday, because Muslims are such a significant community in New Jersey, the state with the 2nd largest percentage of Muslims in the nation, population-wise. I wrote up the proposal and gave them the background– how Eid al-Adha is a major Muslim holiday in which we celebrate Prophet Ibrahim (aka Abraham)’s willingness to sacrifice his son (either Ismail [Ishmael] or Ishaq [Isaac], as it is not specified in the Qur’an) in submission to God’s command as well as his son’s willingness himself to be sacrificed. (For those of you who don’t know, don’t worry, God intervened and replaced the boy with a lamb, hence another Eid al-Adha tradition of sacrificing goats/lambs/cows/etc and distributing the meat to family, friends, and the poor.)

Now, stories aren’t decided on at News 12 until the morning of, so I had to call in around 7 o’clock in the morning yesterday and was connected to the reporter on the story, Sally Ann Mosey. She gave me the green light, and I met her at The Days Inn in Bridgewater, NJ where she covered the story quite spectacularly. It was only a vosot (short for “voiceover/sound on tape”) rather than a fully packaged story. I have yet to see any of it, but from what I heard, they showed the actual Eid prayers, people hanging out afterwards, and also an interview with a woman explaining the significance of the holiday that happens to be my mother. (I actually wasn’t there yet for that, but needless to say, she is now more okay with my career choice than ever.)

News 12 New Jersey speaking with AlFalah Center board member Omar Mohammedi. Photo courtesy of Arif Khan.

News 12 New Jersey speaking with AlFalah Center board member Omar Mohammedi.
Photo courtesy of Arif Khan.

Sally Ann Mosey speaking with Arshad Jalil, a member of AlFalah Center. Photo courtesy of Nelson Tun.

Sally Ann Mosey speaking with Arshad Jalil, a member of AlFalah Center. (You can see part of yours truly on the right edge of the photo.)
Photo courtesy of Nelson Tun.

Photo courtesy of Nelson Tun.

Photo courtesy of THE Nelson Tun.

I’m only an intern, but this is basically me setting into motion one of my career goals as a journalist. Not only did I bring more media attention to AlFalah’s fight for freedom of religion, but seeing Muslims pray and celebrate a holiday that commemorates an event familiar to Jews and the Christian mainstream points out what should be apparent to the average American, but isn’t: we are a faith just like any other, people like any other. We are nothing like those extremists who have hijacked our religion and brought terror to our world through their attacks on innocent people.

I took this one.

I took this one. Sally Ann speaking with Jalil.

One of the questions that I’ve heard or been asked the most by skeptics of Islam being a non-violent religion is Why don’t Muslims come out and condemn these terrorist attacks? Because, as you can see, we are busy living our lives.

I have heard many other Muslims say that it is not our job to speak up and say what should be obvious, that we shouldn’t have to answer for those who are distorting our religion beyond recognition. But I disagree. I think we should, as an ummah, come together and take offense to those who take the name of God and Islam in vain. If people can riot over an idiotic cartoon, then we can speak out against a suicide bombing or a plane crashing into a national landmark. I personally feel sick to my stomach every time I hear of a Muslim being connected to an attack– Mohamed Atta, Hani Hanjour, Richard Reid, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, Faisal Shazad, Nidal Malik Hasan,  Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev. These people are nowhere near being the majority, and yet we are letting them be our representation in the media. The rest of us are going on and living our lives, and I personally think we should stop and try to find ways to contribute to the name of Islam. We are the legacy of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his companions, and we are not taking it seriously.

So this was my contribution. Eid Mubarak, everyone.

Ab imo pectore,

Syjil

Pakistan’s peace issues: the Shia genocide

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I once had a friend who told me they felt disrespected and looked down upon by their Sunni friends for being a Shia Muslim.

Now, I am no longer friends with said individual for a few very legitimate reasons. But not one of them has anything to do with religion, race, sex, orientation, or class. Nor do I believe that any of our friends cared what this friend believed in either. However, the fact that they even said this is very indicative of a huge problem the Islamic world has had since the death of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh).

We have absolutely failed as a collective Ummah when it comes to solidarity and acceptance of each other.

Nearly 50 people were killed in a bombing in Abbas Town, a predominantly Shia area in Karachi, Pakistan earlier this month. The attack is just the latest in a series of recent attacks by Sunni militant groups.

According to an article by the BBC:

“Some activists called 2012 the worst year in living memory for attacks on Pakistan’s Shia community, with rights groups estimating that about 400 perished in militant attacks.

But this year is also shaping up to be among the deadliest: nearly 200 people were killed in two separate bombings targeting Shias in the south-western city of Quetta in January and February.”

I was interning at The Express Tribune (Pakistan’s first internationally affiliated newspaper in partnership with The International Herald Tribune, the global edition of The New York Times) when several bombings took place in Quetta and the northern Swat Valley on January 10. 130 people were killed and at least 270 were injured. For days, the headlines covered the effects of the blasts as well as the ensuing protests, particularly one in which members of the Shia community and local Shia officials refused to bury their dead for four days until the army took control of security in the city.

The very next month, at least 84 people were killed and 190 injured in yet another attack in Hazara Town, right outside Quetta. Most victims were of the ethnic Hazara community, a predominantly Shia demographic.

Pakistan has a history of Shias being persecuted, as do quite a few other predominantly Sunni Muslim countries. For as long as I can remember, every Muharram (one of the four sacred months of the Islamic calendar, and an especially important one for Shias) I hear about riots and attacks on Shia religious gatherings in my birthplace of Karachi. This past Muharram (November 14- December 14) seemed to have catalyzed something even worse than in years past. Thousands of men, women, and children have become victim to the violence, often caused by militant groups Lakshar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, a Sunni militant organization with ties to Al-Qaeda and the Tabliban.

The violence is the work of militant groups with whom the large majority of Pakistanis strongly disagree.  But the fact of the matter is that not enough of the Muslim majority are speaking out against this.  And that stems from the fact that there is bias, there is misunderstanding, there is even hate coming from both Sunnis as well as Shias.

Both sects have a disturbing amount of ill will towards the other. Most of the time it is mild, but it is there. I do not personally know a single Muslim who condones violence in any form against others regardless of who or what they are, yet the subtle prejudices do exist. The aforementioned individual once went on a rant about the differences between Shiaism and Sunnism and literally deemed some of our beliefs “stupid”. This is a person whom always struck me as an intelligent one, yet here they were not only disrespecting their fellow Muslims but actually saying it straight to someone who adheres to Sunni Islam. I know quite a few Sunnis who have said things about Shias such as “They’re not true Muslims,” and “If you’re going to marry a Shia, you might as well marry a Christian.” Both Sunnis and Shias have inflicted violence upon each other, both groups have been discriminated against by the other but in many countries, Shias, as the 10% minority, lose.

I myself do very much disagree with some of the doctrines of Shia Islam. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be Sunni. But that does not mean that I feel I have the right to disrespect someone else for their beliefs. Us Muslims tend to be very intolerant of those who differ in beliefs from us, whether it is on the subject of the oneness of God or how high of a skirt a woman should be allowed to wear. We fight over these petty things and set a horrible example for rising generations when what we should be teaching them is tolerance, respect, and a love of peace and harmony. Without those basics, Islam is not Islam. Period.

And in Pakistan, where a little mentally challenged girl received death threats in a village for burning copies of the Qur’an, where a Christian federal minister was killed by the Taliban for pushing for reform of blasphemy laws, where the Hazara community has lost 800 of its own to terrorist attacks, its people tend to forget the words of a one particular Shia Muslim whom they claim to respect and adore:

You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed. That has nothing to do with the business of the State.”

Mohammad Ali Jinnah, also known as Quaid-e-Azam (Great Leader), founder of Pakistan and a Shia Muslim.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah, also known as Quaid-e-Azam (Great Leader), founder of Pakistan and a Shia Muslim.

Ab imo pectore,

Syjil