Islamic Relief CEO Honored

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

CEO of Islamic Relief USA Appointed to U.S. State Department Working Group

Abed Ayoub, CEO of Islamic Relief USA, has been appointed to the U.S. State Department’s Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group to help inform U.S. policy.

Along with the other members, Ayoub will take part in dialogue and provide input on relevant topics including the challenges and opportunities for partnership. The group also will identify model action programs or projects for collaboration between the U.S. government and NGOs.

“We feel honored to be in this group, working with diverse leaders,” Ayoub said. “As a humanitarian organization, we can bring a lot to the table. Unfortunately, most of the disasters in the world are in the Muslim world, and we’re hoping that we can maximize the benefits going to the beneficiaries by being in this group.”

The Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group is divided into sub-groups. Ayoub will serve on the Sub-Group on Faith-Based Groups and Development and Humanitarian Assistance, which examines faith-based organizations’ challenges, opportunities and resources in addressing societal needs for such assistance. This forum also will work to ensure NGOs’ freedom to operate and deliver humanitarian aid.

Other members of the Development and Humanitarian Assistance sub-group include Richard Stearns, President/CEO of World Vision; Carolyn Woo, CEO of Catholic Relief Services; David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World; and Ruth Messinger, President of American Jewish World Service.

Muslims distribute meat to soup kitchens Muslims across North America reached out to the needy by organizing meat drives for the soup kitchens. These are part of the larger celebrations of Eid ul Adha.

On Wednesday, Nov. 16, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz joined Turkish Cultural Center Brooklyn and other supporting organizations at Brooklyn Borough Hall to distribute more than 700 pounds of packaged beef to food pantries and soup kitchens throughout the borough.

In New Brunswick, Canada, too the small Muslim community donated  more than 350 pounds of ground beef and stew beef to the  Fredericton Community Kitchen.

“We’re just overwhelmed by the generosity of this community to help us,” said Cheryl Mercer, who’s the bookkeeper for the kitchen.

“It means that we’re going to be able to put food on the table, good quality beef that arrived,” she said, estimating it will produce about 600 meals.

13-48

Youth Leadership Summit

November 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ahmed al-Hilali

hilaliDEARBORN— the second annual 2011 Youth Leadership Summit on Race was held at the U of M Dearborn on Saturday to discuss the recent racial tension.

The meeting was co-sponsored by the U of M Dearborn board of directors and the New Detroit Foundation. Many people of different races and backgrounds attended the event in hope of learning more about religion and different types of cultural backgrounds. Those in attendance engaged in constructive talks to get to know more about each other; many friendships were made. There were also a few interactive activities, where each person would describe himself in one word, and the people that had that word in common would engage in constructive dialogue. Next year, New Detroit will be aiming for better results.

13-45

Unity in Diversity

July 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Aqeela Naqvi

TMO Editor’s Note:  This is the first-place essay, by Aqeela Naqvi.

COLOR Aqeela NaqviThe date is December 5, 2000, my birthday. I walk through the hallways to my third grade classroom, trying not to notice the butterflies in my stomach. People turn to say “Hi” and do a double-take. I walk into my classroom; even my teacher gives me a funny look. “Aqeela?” I look up at her and try to control the nervousness in my voice as I say “Good morning.” Throughout the day, some of my classmates shoot indiscreet glances in my direction, while others stare shamelessly. Today is the first day I began wearing the Hijab, a head-covering that is required to be worn in my religion for all girls at the age of nine. Today, I walked into school with palms sweating, ears burning, and a heartbeat so loud it could be heard a mile away.

It has been nearly nine years since that day – nine years in which I have received stares for looking different, been called “towel-head” and “terrorist,” been judged based on first impressions, and was once, after September 11th, a ten-year old scared to walk out her front door simply because of a cloth on her head. Throughout my life, I had always assumed that prejudice against people of other backgrounds was something that existed in the past: something that had been buried long ago by the dreams of people such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who believed in a day where all people would be judged solely on the content of their character. It was not until I began to wear a hijab, however, and began to experience blatant discrimination, that I realized that the works of past human rights activists had not completely healed the defects in society–they had simply covered its wounds with bandages that were slowly beginning to peel away.

From the day I wrapped a scarf around my head, “diverse” became my middle name. The more I was told that I couldn’t participate in certain activities, the more involved in them I became. I strove to prove that no matter how different I looked, I was still the same as everyone else. I could still participate in athletic activities; I could still be involved in public speaking; I could still perform community service activities; I could still be me. I began to understand that Society was a machine that attempted to create perfect porcelain dolls: the chipped, the flawed, the ones that were the wrong shade or the wrong size, the ones that were different, were all regarded as useless and thrown aside. I understood that I was seen as one of those throwaway dolls, but I refused to let society’s definition of me as such rule my life.

When I first began wearing a hijab, that cold December day in third grade, I did not fully understand its symbolism. I took it simply as something I had to do for my religion. As the years passed, I slowly became involved in my local community, donating my time and energy to volunteer at places such as my local soup kitchen, and getting involved in interfaith dialogue and charitable opportunities, and I began to realize that the hijab I wore on my head was not just a cloth; it was a mark of my strength.

It forced the people I encountered to get to know and understand me on a mental level before they judged me on a physical level. To me, everything that the hijab entails, the long sleeves and pants, the piece of cloth I wrap around my head, the aura of modesty – is all a sign of inner beauty. I have come to believe that all of us, regardless of our race or religion, have our own “hijabs” that set us apart from the crowd. All of us come from different backgrounds and have different experiences that cause the canvas of our lives to hold colors unique from everyone else. We all have a hijab that allows each and every one of us, down to the most fragile and faded porcelain doll, to have something that makes us absolutely and irreplaceably beautiful.

13-30

Using our Adam to Control our Animal Nature

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, MMNS

When Adam was created a very special being was created.  ALLAH actually put more of Himself into human kind than any other part of creation.  He told the Jinn, Angels, Devil, and everything else to submit to humankind.  This puts us directly under ALLAH with nothing in between.

It also gives us a great amount of responsibility to live our lives as Muslim human beings.  When you consciously accept to become a Muslim, thoughts and activities you did prior to accepting the highest station of creation (Conscious Muslim human being) should be suppressed with as much vigor as possible.

All ethnic groups and cultures of Muslim groups have their own cultural baggage that denigrates the religion as well as the individual.  There are cultural practices that automatically place women in an inferior, sub-class from men.  This is not from scripture.  It is from misogynist, chauvinistic ideas of men.  Nevertheless they are seen by non-Muslims, and some Muslims, as part of the religion.  These types of negative portrayals create a mindset that stifles the positive forward progress of the community.

There are other groups, primarily reverts to the religion, that have cultural baggage they brought with them from another life.

I witnessed a terrible example of this when two brothers in a disagreement actually went to fisticuffs – at the masjid – instead of using their religious instruction to solve the problem.  The altercation actually started over unproven accusations that they didn’t take time to discuss.  They just let violent, uncivilized behavior take over their minds and a worst situation developed.   Settling differences with brawn rather than brain is the result of a barbaric mentality that has no place in the life of a conscious Muslim.

When most reverts accept the religion it’s because they see a superior way of life dictated by the directives of the Almighty ALLAH through His human example, Prophet Muhammad (s).  We look at where we came from and the negative effects backward lifestyles had on us and vow to live a new, fruitful, productive, moral and peaceful life.  Some of us even make the journey to Mecca to perform the hajj to increase our spirituality and thus the tools to achieve this new life.

Human beings are animals.  The same physiological characteristics that make up our bodies are present in most animals, especially mammals.  We even use cats, dogs, and fetal pigs in laboratories to study our own human physiology.  The only difference between our brain and the brain of a cat is our brain houses “mind,” which makes us human.

So even though we have this animal nature, our human mind is supposed to control it.  This is true for ordinary human beings and is supposed to be especially prominent for those of us who have become Conscious Muslim Human Beings.  So whatever your ethnic or cultural baggage, whether misogyny or brutal aggression, Islam is supposed to free you from that.  And this freedom is yours regardless of your cultural or ethnic background.  The Qur’an speaks to all people.

It is understandable that these things are difficult to overcome but every effort must be made to make the change.  ALLAH made us (Muslim human animals) to be the cream of creation and endowed us with a piece of Him to take care of the creation.

Let us try to remember ALLAH the next time challenges confront us.  Let us think before we do an action whether ALLAH would approve of what that action is and the manner we are doing that action.  Remember Ihsan, “behave as though you see ALLAH, aware you can’t see Him, but also aware that He sees you.”

As Salaam alaikum
Al Hajj Imam Abdullah El-Amin

12-12

Open Letter to Islamophobe Dutch MP Geert Wilders

February 11, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Dear Mr Wilders,

They say you can only take a horse to the water, you cant make it drink. But human beings are not horses. Unlike animals, they can be reasoned with. I offer these few remarks in the faint hope you are amenable to reason.

It is about your recent speech to the Alliance of Patriots in New York. In which you paint an apocalyptic picture of the Islamization of Europe. You describe some European cities with Muslim neighborhoods in lurid terms. It is a world where women walk around in figureless tents. Their husbands, or slave holders, if you prefer, walk three steps ahead. Mr Wilders, I live bang near one of those areas in West London. I often visit Whitechapel and Edgware Road parts of our colorful Londonistan I have never seen a Muslim woman walking behind her husband. Rather, the mothers stroll about in a proud, dignified manner, alongside the men. Nothing in their behavior suggests a subordinate role, let alone slavery. And there are tons of lively, even feisty Muslim girls wearing all sorts of gear. True, they may not, as a rule, behave like permissive, liberated females, baring the flesh, hugging and kissing partners in public, no. I would even guess most of them don’t sleep with boys before marriage. But since when are chastity, modesty and self-restraint so bad? The traditional, Christian mores of the Western civilization which you claim to uphold used to prize such things, no?

25 per cent of the population of Europe will be Muslim just 12 years from now. Lies, damned lies and statistics, someone said. But if you want native Europeans to stay numerically supreme, how about encouraging them to have more children? To urge them not to use contraceptives, the pills? To give up abortion? To bolster family values? Stop bashing Islam. Embrace the Christian religion in its conservative, sound traditions and all will be kosher.

Thousands of mosques across Europe. With larger congregations than churches, you notice. Well, whose fault is that? Do perhaps Muslims stand at church doors, stopping the eager faithful from worshipping the Lord? Methinks you should rather address yourself to Christians. Look at Muslims you should say. Look at how many regularly pray. How keen they are on the observances of their religion. You should do the same. Exactly. The flourishing of mosques across Europe should serve as a stimulus to Christians. A window of opportunity. As an urgent reminder to get back to their vital, life-giving roots the worship of the One True God. Why blame pious Muslims for the faults of lukewarm or nominal Christians, eh?

In Amsterdam gays are beaten up almost exclusively by Muslims. Awful, if true. Funnily enough, I recall the words of Pym Fortuyn, the gay right-wing politician murdered by a fanatic. I have nothing against Moroccans I have slept with so many of them. From Andre Gide to William Burroughs, the Arab world has been one of artistic gays favorite fun destinations. Tangiers nickname was Sodom on Sea. Homophobia cant be all that endemic amongst Arabs, I should imagine.

The history of the Holocaust can no longer be taught because of Muslim sensitivity. How bizarre. First, a godson of mine has been to Auschwitz, on a school trip. Part of a program to learn about wartime horrors. School curricula in Britain do in fact include projects about WWII and persecutions of Jews and other people. London’s Imperial War Museum has a holocaust section, which I viewed just the other day. What’s more, TV channels force-feed viewers with a daily, obsessive dose of films and programs about the war and Germanys crimes. If anybody should complain about this state of affairs, it should be Germans. It fuels Germanophobia, the lurking, masochistic English vice. Do todays Germans deserve such constant pilloring? After all, isn’t Germany amongst the strongest supporters of your beloved state of Israel?

Ok, you don’t like Muslims. Yet they are not going to go away. Your case is analogous to that of the man whose garden was infested by ladybirds. They were everywhere. He didn’’t like them. He tried several methods to get rid of them. Sprays, insecticides, this and that. Nothing worked. The ladybirds kept being around. Indeed, they multiplied. The guy was getting obsessed with them, growing paranoid, bitter, haunted. Eventually, he sent an e-mail to a wise old friend, an experienced gardener: What should I do about the damned ladybirds?

The reply came: I suggest you learn to love them.

Revd Frank Julian Gelli

12-7

Renew Yourself

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, MMNS

The tenets of the religion of Al-Islam emphasize constant renewal in our lives.  If we could just do something once and be done with it, our practice of the religion would cease to exist.  For instance, we are directed to fast every year in Ramadan.  This is because one time just won’t do it.  We will forget and/or lapse into other activities to divert our attention from the remembrance of ALLAH.

There are many other signs from ALLAH for us to reflect on.  We breathe, eat and drink everyday to replenish our bodies.  If we did not…well you know the answer to that.  There is constant renewal in education.  Our brains need activity to grow and be useful.

Similarly, our relationships must also be constantly renewed.  How many of us have heard the expression “What you did to get her, you must also do to keep her?”
But before we get to that; before reaching out to our spouses, we must reach out to ourselves.  In order to spread cheer to our families, spouses, and others, it must first come from a cheerful body and mind.  How is this accomplished?

Each day upon rising we must begin to renew ourselves by recognizing the great masterful work of art ALLAH formed when He created you.  You must look in the mirror and say to yourself how good you look.  You must talk to yourself and constantly convince yourself that because you are a flesh and blood human being, you are directly under ALLAH.  Always tell yourself that there is no one or nothing that is greater than you except ALLAH.  This will arm your mind with positive thoughts and keep the evil ones from convincing you that you are otherwise.

After recognition of your greatness, resolve to be grateful to ALLAH by taking care of this great creation – you.  Make sure you bathe and keep yourself clean.  Shampoo your hair and use conditioner to enhance its appearance and health.  Try to eat sensibly to reduce stress on your body.  Exercise at least moderately to keep your temple in the best shape.

This constant renewal will make you grateful and put you in the best possible shape to reach out to others.  We will be able to love and see the benefit of our spouse and help them see the benefit of themselves.  This is very important because then everybody wins and ALLAH is pleased because you are carrying out His desires for creating you in the first place.  And if ALLAH is pleased with you, you can ask for no better reward.

As Salaam alaikum
Al Hajj Imam Abdullah El-Amin

12-6

Martin Luther Kings’ Mountain Top

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, MMNS

Every year in the month of January I am reminded of the powerful persona and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  He was such a deep and prolific speaker that the gist of his speeches is still being felt today.  The “I Have a Dream” speech with its powerful message of hope, is so imbedded in our minds that for many of us, it the only speech we remember that he made.  Those of us who have faith and belief in ALLAH are constantly amazed at His revelations of His works.

On the eve of the assassination of Dr. King, he made a speech at a Baptist church in Memphis, Tennessee that many people believe foretold his eminent death.  He talked a lot about death that night.  He started with the story of the plane that bought him to Memphis and how the pilot delayed the flight because Dr. King was on it so it could be checked for bombs.

He also talked about a brush with death he had in New York when a crazed woman stabbed him with some sort of ice pick.  That assault brought the woman’s weapon dangerously close to Dr. King’s aorta (main blood vessel).  The doctor at the hospital told him the knife was so close that if Dr. King had sneezed he would have died because the pick would have pricked his aorta and he would have drowned in his own blood.  He used this incident to tell about a little white girl that wrote to him expressing her sorrow at his unfortunate incident.  She said she admired him so much and was so happy that he didn’t sneeze.   

Then he said he wasn’t afraid of death now because he had been to the mountain top.  He said God had allowed him to go up to the mountain top and he looked over, and saw the “Promised Land.”  He said he might not get there with us be he wanted us to know that we as a people would get to the Promised Land.  He said his eyes had seen the glory of the coming of the lord.

This became very personal to me in 1991 when I made the pilgrimage to Mecca.  I was on the plains of Mt. Arafat when I decided to climb the mountain.  When I reached the top, the only thing going through my mind was Dr. Martin Luther King and him telling us that he had been to the mountain top.

As I stood on my mountain top I look out over the plains of Arafat and saw the Promised Land. I say the Promised Land because Dr. King, in his most famous speech, said he dreamed of a land where his four little children would live in a land where they were judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.   That is the vision I saw on Arafat where people of every ethnicity, every culture, every color; men, women, and children, were gathered in unity to worship the One God of us all.

I believed then, and I believe now that the mountain top Martin Luther King saw was Mt Arafat.  Islam is the only religion that has more true brotherhood and sisterhood than any other group of people whether it is a religion, a fraternity, or whatever.

Sure, there is bigotry and racism among Muslims but there is less of it than any other religion.  If you travel to any part of the world and you see a Muslim, there is instant recognition and greeting.  No one else can make that claim.  This is something we must hold on to and nurture.  It is one of the things that make this religion the greatest religion in the world.

More of Dr. Kings philosophy needs to be adapted by Muslims the world over.  Muslims must take the bold step necessary to shift world sympathy to our side.  Currently, we are looked on as aggressive barbarians and we get no sympathy from anybody.  However, people will stand up with us and protect us if they don’t look like weak fools for doing so.

The legacy of Dr. King is so important to future generations, and especially important to future generations of Muslims.  We can, and must win the battle by mental and spiritual strength – not by physical means….because we can’t.

As Salaam alaikum
(Al Hajj) Imam Abdullah El-Amin

12-5

1st Annual IONA Islam Conference

January 9, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

Warren–January 2–IONA held its first annual Islam conference this past Saturday evening at IONA. 

Two speakers were invited to the event, Imam Dawud Walid, Executive Director of CAIR Michigan, and Amir Abdul Malik Ali, a Muslim activist from Oakland California.

They both spoke on secularism and American democracy, Dawud Walif focusing on how American democracy and history includes elements of Islam, and Ali focusing instead on distinctions and points of conflict between the Islamic and Western worlds and world views.

Both focused on Islam as a non-religion, which may be a thesis that most people would disagree with.  The underlying argument is that Muslims must be involved in political life, because Islam is a “deen” which both speakers translated ast “way of life,” rather than as “religion.”

As a first such event from IONA, it was interesting that the underlying message echoed the previous speech at the center by a non-Muslim proponent of the thesis that Islam is not a religion, rather a kind of political awakening movement, Prof. Robert Shedinger (who spoke there on October 24th of 2009, reported on in TMO V11-I45).  Shedinger argues that Jesus was Muslim, as a corollary to his argument that Islam is not a religion. 

Shedinger’s companion argument is that the effort to define Islam as a religion rather than a way of life was imposed by non-Muslims in an effort to stem the efforts of Muslims to be politically involved, for example in combating colonialism.

It is surprising that the radical idea of Islam’s being just another worldly movement is gaining among Muslims, but apparently the IONA conference documents the spread of this idea.

12-2

Christmas Infectious in Middle East

December 27, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent

-Christmas-Tree-Decorated Strands of colorful Christmas lights adorn the shop windows of too many stores to count, as employees decked out in red Santa hats greet customers with cheerful holiday grins. However, the setting is not in the suburbs of America but rather in the sand swept deserts of the Middle East. The majority of countries that make up the Middle East exercise religious freedom, which is in accordance with the religion of Islam. In many parts of the region Churches often reside on the same streets as Mosques and religious symbols, from Crucifixes to Buddhas, can be seen hanging from people’s necks and even rear view mirrors.

However, freedom of religion is primarily tolerated in the more liberal Gulf States while other Middle East countries, like Saudi Arabia, have a zero tolerance policy for any religion other than Islam. Churches and other religious buildings, other than Mosques, are strictly forbidden while displaying religious symbols in public are considered to be crimes punishable by imprisonment, lashings or deportation.

The large Christian population residing in the Middle East is the main reason why Christian holidays like Christmas are celebrated with such fanfare. The region is renowned for its’ hospitality towards guests. And encouraging a non-Muslim holiday to be celebrated in a Muslim country is just one of the many ways Gulf countries extend a hand of understanding to its non-Muslim inhabitants. Many Christians living in the Middle East put their own spin on Christmas and make it just as memorable as Christmases of the past back in their homelands.

In the city of Dubai, in the UAE, shoppers are greeted by a bedazzled 50-foot Christmas tree at Wafi City Mall which also boasts its very own ‘Santa’s Village’. In Kuwait, all of the 5-star hotels and restaurants offer a Christmas feast fit for a king as guests dine on roasted turkey with all the trimmings while Nat King Cole Christmas songs play in the background. The only thing missing from the menu is the Christmas ham, as pork is forbidden in most Middle East countries. However, it can still be found on the ‘Black Market’ most likely in an aluminum can or dried into meat jerky. In Bahrain, Christian members of the expatriate community often host their own Christmas parties and exchange gifts between one another. Christmas carols and singing programs are widespread in the western schools of most Gulf States.

And while Saudi Arabia forbids wanton public displays of religion, with the exception of Islam, the government does allow its expatriate community to celebrate Christmas within the privacy of their own homes. Granted, sticking a glittering Christmas tree in the front window could land any holidaymaker in the slammer, but an inconspicuous tree tucked safely away from being seen is acceptable. However, Christians in Saudi Arabia are hard pressed to find decorations for the aforementioned tree let alone the tree itself, although it is possible to find tinsel and baubles in the expatriate underground. Clever shopkeepers also do their part in offering a few Christmas items for their Christian customers. Tiny Christmas tree bulbs can often be found in the jewelry section of some stores and the odd plastic fir tree and even strands of lights can be found in the toy section, as many Asian expatriates use them year round to secularly decorate their homes. Many Christians in Saudi Arabia have also taken to making their own decorations, such as strings of popcorn and baked ornaments made of cinnamon paste.

The Prophet Muhammad (s) was an exemplar in religious freedom and never persecuted anyone based on his or her religious beliefs. So it is only natural for the holiday of Christmas to be welcome in the conservative Middle East, even though the degrees to which it is publicly celebrated varies as much as all those colorful bulbs strewn up on a tree.

11-53

Harun Yahya – Secrets of the Hypocrites

December 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Conclusion

Hypocrites are two-faced people who assume a mask of devotion and enter the community of the faithful, whom they seek to harm for as long as they remain alongside them. They tell tales to the deniers, and seek to damage the unity and solidarity among believers. Most of them do dwell among believers, but harbor secret intentions, and work for their own material interests for so long as they remain among them. When sooner or later, such people understand that they can secure no such gains from believers, they of course see this as sufficient reason for them to depart from them.

Some actually have faith initially, when they enter the community of the faithful. But their consciences gradually wither and they submit themselves to satan. Because of the sickness in their hearts, satan weakens their devotion and sensitivity to the verses of the Qur’an. They then naturally enter the Religion of the Ignorant, or in other words, the secret religion of satan.

These people view events not in the light of the contents of the Qur’an, but from the perspective that applies in any society that does not live by religious moral values. The clearest example of this occurs during moments of difficulty. While the Qur’an foresees trust in Allah and a refusal to despair in times of trouble, at such times, hypocrites display a similarity to the Society of the Ignorant. They either overreact or else panic, thus exhibiting their unbalanced attitude for all to see.

All the characteristics we have described reveal to us the position of hypocrites, both in this world and the next, and introduce us to their features and general spiritual condition. The views of hypocrites are set out in detail in verses of the Qur’an. These people, who fail to fear Allah as they ought, engage in constant activity against the faithful in this world. They adopt this literally as a duty and maintain that attitude with great stubbornness. This is their natural way of behaving. Satan suggests to them that what they do is good. And so as satan wraps himself around them, these hypocrites, heedless of Allah and His verses, turn away from faith towards denial.

As we have seen, these characteristics of theirs may take many forms. But at the end of the day, the aims and intentions behind all of them are identical. That is, to multiply their own interests as soon as possible and to depart from the faithful by inflicting as much harm on them as they can.

No matter how long these hypocrites remain alongside believers, they know that they will abandon them eventually. The time they determined for such departure is generally times of difficulty. As we know, every prophet has been sent to societies devoid of faith, to warn them. Deniers, who live by the religion of their forefathers which they’ve grown up with and to which they are accustomed, have always opposed these chosen individuals and insisted on rejecting what they had to say. They have sought to neutralize their influence by means of various verbal and physical assaults. Yet throughout the course of history, all the deniers who behaved in this manner have failed to achieve their aims, as a consequence of a hidden law—and have been disappointed in this world and in the Hereafter.

This hidden law is the fact that believers are under the protection of Allah and deniers can never harm them. In verses we are told that:

. . . Allah will not give the disbelievers any way against the believers.

An-Nisa’: 141

. . . The stratagems of the disbelievers are nothing but errors.

Ghafir: 25

Deniers are unaware of this law, however, and have always sought to oppress messengers and the believers and attempted to convert them to their own religion. Hypocrites, fearful of deniers’ assaults, have always sought believers’ permission to lag behind in the struggle, always imagining that they could save themselves from any likely harm by fleeing in this manner.

By such behavior, however, hypocrites earn themselves a terrible place in the Hereafter, no matter how much they imagine themselves to have profited. They never once thought of repenting during their time in this world. Completely hardening their hearts against the truth, these people were “like rocks or even harder still” (Surat al-Baqara: 74), in the words of the Qur’an. They lived heedless of Allah and waged a great war against His religion.

That is why they will be so humiliated in the Hereafter. Messengers have been sent to warn them, and they have been told the truth and forbidden to commit evil. They are well aware of the concepts of good and evil and of living for Allah, yet still turn their backs. Since they fail to understand the existence and might of Allah, the threat of punishment does not alarm them. By not believing in the existence of Hell, they imagine that they are far removed from it, and that it is a purely imaginary place.

When the subject of the Hereafter is raised, the disease of self-satisfaction that infects their souls manifests itself. They have no thoughts of retribution. The most important evidence of this is that they never even consider the possibility of suffering in the Hereafter. But even a moment’s reflection on the possibility of having to account for oneself in the Hereafter and that one might go to Hell because of the sins one has committed should be enough to spur a person into action or at the very least, to reconsider his position. The fact that they declare war on religious moral values is proof that they have never considered this eventuality.

Yet their self-satisfaction will bring them nothing but humiliation in this world. In the Hereafter, on the other hand, they will encounter the very things they despised and be cursed for their actions. That is what they deserve as a result of all their endeavors. Allah has revealed the fate of hypocrites thus:

Remaining in it timelessly, for ever, as long as the heavens and Earth endure, except as your Lord wills. Your Lord is the Doer of what He wills.

Hud: 107

11-52

Eboo Patel Earns Award

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

eboo patel Eboo Patel, the Chicago based founder and executive director of Interfaith Youth Core, has won the 2010 Louisville Grawemeyer award in religion for his autobiography. He was selected from among 67 nominations worldwide.

Patel’s encourages young people of different religions to perform community service, explore common values and build bridges among diverse faiths. The organization is now active on about 75 college campuses.

“Religious extremists all over the world are harnessing adolescent angst for their own ends,” said Susan Garrett, a religion professor who directs the award. “Patel urges us to take advantage of the short window of time in a young person’s life to teach the universal values of cooperation, compassion and mercy.”

The Indian born Patel immigrated to Chicago as a child. As a teenager, he struggled with what he saw as a lack of religious pluralism in America. His experiences prompted him to launch a movement to build interfaith cooperation by inspiring college students to champion the cause.

He formed Interfaith Youth Core in 1998.

A Rhodes Scholar, he is now a member of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the Religious Advisory Committee of the Council on Foreign Relations. In October, U.S. News & World Report named him one of America’s Best Leaders in 2009.

The Grawemeyer Awards are five annual $200,000 prizes given in the fields of music, political science, psychology, education, and religion. They were founded by H. Charles Grawemeyer to help make the world a better place. The University of Louisville and Louisville Presbyterian Seminary jointly award the religion prize.

11-51

Swiss Vote Betrays Enlightenment Ideals

December 3, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Juan Cole

swiss miss This campaign poster was banned for being racist, but apparently the goal of the poster, now that is all right.

Swissinfo surveys the headlines in Switzerland Monday morning and finds that the press there universally condemned and expressed dismay at Sunday’s vote. Editors expressed consternation at the inevitable tarnishing of Switzerland’s image and worried about the consequences. Will there be boycotts? Sanctions? Appeals to the European Court of Human Rights?

I can anticipate right now arguments to excuse this outbreak of bigotry in the Alps that will be advanced by our own fringe Right, of Neoconservatives and those who think, without daring saying it, that “white culture” is superior to all other world civilizations and deserves to dominate or wipe the others out.

The first is that it is only natural that white, Christian Europeans should be afraid of being swamped by people adhering to an alien, non-European religion.

Switzerland is said to be 5 percent Muslim, and of course this proportion is a recent phenomenon there and so unsettling to some. But Islam is not new to Europe. Parts of what is now Spain were Muslim for 700 years, and much of the eastern stretches of what is now the European Union were ruled by Muslims for centuries and had significant Muslim populations. Cordoba and Sarajevo are not in Asia or Latin America. They are in Europe. And they are cities formed in the bosom of Muslim civilization.

The European city of Cordoba in the medieval period has been described thusly:

‘ For centuries, Cordoba used to be the jewel of Europe, which dazzled visitors from the North. Visitors marveled at what seemed to them an extraordinary general prosperity; one could travel for ten miles by the light of street lamps, and along an uninterrupted series of buildings. The city is said to have had then 200,000 houses, 600 mosques, and 900 public baths. Over the quiet Guadalquivir Arab engineers threw a great stone bridge of seventeen arches, each fifty spans in width. One of the earliest undertakings of Abd al-Rahman I was an aqueduct that brought to Cordova an abundance of fresh water for homes, gardens, fountains, and baths.’

So if the Swiss think that Islam is alien to Europe, then they are thinking of a rather small Europe, not the Europe that now actually exists. Minarets dotted Cordoba. The Arnaudia mosque in Banja Luca dates back to the 1400s; it was destroyed along with dozens of others by fanatics in the civil war that accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

As for the likely comeback,that Muslims came to Europe from the 700s of the Common Era as conquerors, unlike Christianity, actually both were conquering state religions. It was the conversion of an emperor that gave a favored position to Christianity in Europe, which was a small minority on the continent at the time. And Charlemagne forcibly imposed Christianity on the German tribes up to the Elbe. In the cases both of European Christianity and European Islam, there were many willing converts among the ordinary folk, who thrilled to itinerant preachers or beautiful chanting.

Others will allege that Muslims do not grant freedom of religion to Christians in their midst. First of all, this allegation is not true if we look at the full range of the countries where the 1.5 billion Muslims live. Among the nearly 60 Muslim-majority states in the world, only one, Saudi Arabia, forbids the building of churches. Does Switzerland really want to be like Saudi Arabia?

Here is a Western Christian description of the situation of Christians in Syria:

‘In Syria, as in all other Arab countries of the Middle East except Saudi Arabia, freedom of religion is guaranteed in law . . . We should like to point out too that in Syria and in several other countries of the region, Christian churches benefit from free water and electricity supplies, are exempt from several types of tax and can seek building permission for new churches (in Syria, land for these buildings are granted by the State) or repair existing ones.

It should be noted too that there are Christian members of Parliament and of government in Syria and other countries, sometimes in a fixed number (as in Lebanon and Jordan.)

Finally, we note that a new personal statute was promulgated on 18 June 2006 for the various Christian Churches found in Syria, which purposely and verbatim repeats most of the rules of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches promulgated by Pope John Paul II.

That is, in Muslim-majority Syria, the government actually grants land to Christians for the building of churches, along with free water and electricity. Christians have their own personal status legal code, straight from the Vatican. (It is because Christians have their own law in the Middle East, backed by the state, that Muslims in the West are puzzled as to why they cannot practice their personal status code.) Christians have freedom of religion, though there are sensitivities about attempts to convert others (as there are everywhere in the Middle East, including Israel). And Christians are represented in the legislature. With Switzerland’s 5 percent Muslim population, how many Muslim members of parliament does it have?

It will also be alleged that in Egypt some clergymen gave fatwas or legal opinions that building churches is a sin, and it will be argued that Christians have been attacked by Muslims in Upper Egypt.

These arguments are fallacies. You cannot compare the behavior of some Muslim fanatics in rural Egypt to the laws and ideals of the Swiss Republic. We have to look at Egyptian law and policy.

The Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar Seminary, the foremost center of Sunni Muslim learning, ‘added in statements carried by Egyptian newspaper Youm al-Saba’a that Muslims can make voluntary contributions to build churches, pointing out that the church is a house for “worshipping and tolerance.” ‘ He condemned the fundamentalist Muslims for saying church-building is sinful. And Egypt has lots of churches, including new Presbyterian ones, following John Calvin who I believe lived in . . . Geneva. Aout 6 percent of the population is Christian.

The other problem with excusing Switzerland with reference to Muslims’ own imperfect adherence to human rights ideals is that two wrongs don’t make a right. The bigotted Right doesn’t even have the moral insight of kindergartners if that is the sort of argument they advance. The International Declaration of Human Rights was crafted with the participation of Pakistan, a Muslim country; the global contemporary rights regime is imperfectly adhered to by all countries– it is a claim on the world’s behavior, something we must all strive for. If the Swiss stepped back from it, they stepped back in absolute terms. It doesn’t help us get to global human rights to say that is o.k. because others are also failing to live up to the Declaration.

The other Wahhabi state besides Saudi Arabia, Qatar, has allowed churches. But they are not allowed to have steeples or bells. This policy is a mirror image to that of the Swiss.

So Switzerland, after centuries of striving for civilization and enlightenment, has just about reached the same level of tolerance as that exhibited by a small Gulf Wahhabi country, the people of which were mostly Bedouins only a hundred years ago.

11-50

Christian Scholar: Was Jesus a Muslim?

November 2, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

PA248508 Warren–October 24–Jesus’ being Muslim is a foundational belief of Islam, but not for Christians.  All of the prophets were teachers of the one true religion, although each taught different aspects of it.  But for Christians to think that Jesus (as) is Muslim is a very radical idea.

So true is this that the author and professor Robert F. Shedinger faced, predictably, some opposition when he published his book with the name Was Jesus a Muslim.

The author spoke about his book this past Saturday at the IONA mosque in Warren.

The essence of Mr. Shedinger’s argument is that Islam is not a religion but rather a system of pursuing social justice.  He argued that actually the reason non-Muslims call it a religion is in order to classify it in a way that has no relevance to social justice–in order to exclude religious people from involvement in controversies in the public square.

The underlying purpose of Western attempts to classify Islam as a religion, he argues, is to subvert the religious organizing principle and preempt a religious backlash against attempts to dominate or colonize a culture.

In fact, while it may sound offensive to think that Islam is not a religion, the professor couched this argument in very complimentary terms, arguing that in fact the idea of a religion being just a religion is a particularly Western concept that would have been foreign even to early Christians, let alone to the other peoples of the world and the other religions of the world.

Perhaps another way to state this argument would be to say that Islam is a complete system of life, not just a devotional practice restricted to certain days.
In accordance with his argument that Islam is not a religion, he argues that Christianity is also analogously not a religion, and he argues that Jesus (as) was in a sense a revolutionary and politically dynamic person, therefore not “just” a religious figure.

Shedinger argues that diverse Muslim scholars such as Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini and South Africa’s Fareed Ishaq have argued along similar lines that Islam should not be separated from social justice.  Shedinger quoted Tariq Ramadan also and his frequent calls to political justice of various sorts.

A different view might be that Islam is a religion the practice of which should be divorced from politics, except that it is a complete religion with implications in every avenue of life, including leadership.  Beyond this, Jesus (as) was actually Muslim in submission to God’s will, who will be Muslim when he returns.

11-45

Why Are They Afraid?

October 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO Editor-in-chief

It is now well known that four Republican Congressman did not hide their feelings against Islam and Muslims when they expressed their deep concern about Muslim interns and staffers in Congress.

They were obviously targeting CAIR, suggesting that anyone close to this mainstream Muslim organization is not worthy of trust. this is an irony that those who are elected to protect Americans are calling fellow Americans suspects based on their religion and race.

This is contrary to constitutional law. But who is going to challenge them openly when they know they are safe in their districts and they would win no matter how do they treat their others?

What is interesting to note is that all four congressmen happen to have reportedly strong support of Christian right and Pro-Israeli lobbyists. What else one can expect from such office bearers?

We believe that everyone who works in the federal government goes through a background check.

Their credentials are verified and their past history is minutely studied. They get to their position after close scrutiny. To say that people who have endured such scrutiny are still suspect because of their religious identity and closeness to CAIR is nothing but political bigotry.

Such people are still living in the Bush era that was famous for its anti-Islamic rhetoric.

But why are they afraid? The reason is very simple. they have yet to adjust to the changes that have taken place in America in the last two decades.

Young Muslims through their educational credentials and hard political work have proven that they are no different in their commitment to their country from blue-eyed, white protestant Americans.

They have proven their worth to the country. The four Republican Congressmen (and who knows how many more are hiding behind them), have refused to acknowledge their existence and see their worth, simply because they have a political agenda that relies on Islamophobia.

They try to view Islam as a religion at war against America, and Muslims as enemies. They view their presence in the country’s highest political institutions as dangerous to the interests of the country.

Interestingly, they have not been able to point a single example in defense of their argument. When did you hear last the name of a Muslim selling country’s secrets to a Muslim country, unlike the regular drumbeat of souls either caught spying or caught attempting to spy for China, Russia, or Israel.

We would like to suggest something positive to these four congressmen. Give placement to a few Muslims in your office and see how efficient and useful they to your work.

You will surely be able to change your perspectives about young Muslim interns.

As far as CAIR is concerned, they can certainly hold a one to one meeting with CAIR officials to clarify issues.

In civil societies, the only way to overcome one’s doubts and apprehensions about the other is to develop a dialogue with the opponent.

Seemingly, Republicans are so immersed in their partisan politics that they are not willing to acknowledge that they also need to critically examine their own policies and agenda.

But, if Republicans can say Nancy Pelosi is working for the nation’s enemies, and call President Obama an ineligible President, they are certainly capable of accusing Muslims of any number of crimes or sins.

It is unfortunate to see some of our politicians going so low in their eagerness to get re-elected that they are willing to sacrifice the constitution and the long standing American tradition of being fair and balanced.

11-44

Takfir

September 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

Berkeley–There was an impressive panel held here on Islamicist politics with Nathan Brown of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace and Mohammed Hafez of the (U.S.) Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey.  This was a rich late afternoon; thus, I am going to break the encounter into two separate articles.  I would like to investigate Hafez’ presentation on Islamic excommunication takfir, and the internal debates within Islamic culture itself on Muslim upon Muslim violence.

First, though a few comments from the moderator, Scott Field, who is an Australian.  Unknowing to the mainstream American public, Islamicism has a considerable history.  With the Global spread of the dominance of “democracies,” the “knee jerk” reaction by most Islamicists has been to reject it as a workable form of governance within the various chronological traditions within Islam.  Thus, here has been a tendency for these Muslims to engage much of the modern world with distrust.  Yet, Islamicist groups are not monolithic. A case in point is one which I have writing a lot on lately, Hamas, who chose to contest an election, and won, but they were totally rejected by those governments encouraging electoral politics in the Middle East because the people’s choice was not to their predilection.  What Mohammed Hafez spoke about were those groups who took up arms against other Muslim whom they deemed hostile to their values. 

Most of the victims of Jihadi and other violence have been fellow Muslims.  This has caused a backlash even amongst the radicals themselves.  Certain Muslims call other Muslims “kafirs”, and considered them as excommunicated from the body of believers.  Islamicists are grounded in Islamicist principles.  (Pretty self-evident.)  Many suicide bombers break the laws of their “classical” religion, but Jihadist work rather on the exceptions to traditional injunctions.

Customarily, the regulations that permit Muslims to struggle against other Muslims are 1.Tyrannical regimes; 2, Apostates 3. Heretics (unfortunately for the Sunni it too often means the Shia); 4. If any of situations rises to “legalize” resistance, True Believers should be spared, but, if it happens accidently it is unfortunate but forgivable.

We have to work on a case-by-case basis, but most of the War-like struggles in the contemporary Islamic World are being waged by Jihadist Movements.  “What convince them [to action] are the exceptions within [normative] Islam rather than the rule.”  That is exceptions to the Law argued over generations by Islamic jurisprudence scholars.

Currently, the violent Jihadis consider themselves to be in a defensive Jihad rather than in an offensive (i.e., conquest, etc.) mode.  This turns the tenets around for them.  There is the moral problem of (Muslim) human shields that the so-called Salafi (imitators of the pious patristic period of)Islam has employed.  Their reasoning is that it is alright to endanger innocent believers for the greater good; that is, to prevent the fall of dar al-Islam. 

Mohammed Hafez believes that Islam is neither a religion of hostilities or concord, but “…is a religion of [both] war and peace” (like every other creed on this globe)! 

Yet, in the Muslim world the United States and her allies are seen as a “Neo-Colonial force.”  

11-39

Convincing the Soul of the Muslim world: A New Drive for ‘Common Sense’

July 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ruby Amatulla

It has taken a long bloody history to convince many parts of humanity that it is only through constructive engagements and integrated efforts– and not through wars, conflicts and exploiting others – that a win-win situation is possible in human affairs.

After hundreds of years of incessant bloodshed and violence, Europe finally came to grips with this truth. Seeing the enormous effects of the integration and cooperation of the diverse community of the 50 states across the Atlantic – Europe, after World War II and its massive death and destruction — started to pursue constructive engagement and integration in its own affairs.

Today, another vital part of humanity – containing 1.5 billion Muslims — appears not to take heed of this truth. A mosaic of different tribes, sects, ethnicities and groups of Muslims remain deeply divided, unstable and conflict-prone.

Despite controlling 76% of the world’s oil reserves, this huge community has failed to assert itself as a legitimate power-broker or a significant partner in the affairs of the world. The state of affairs of many key areas of the Muslim world remains degrading and disturbing.

The cause of the grim reality in the Muslim world is its failure to unite, integrate and engage constructively, both among its own populace and with others. And this failure is largely, if not entirely, due to the absence or lack of an ‘impartial’ and balanced rule of law.

We often talk about equality and freedom as being essential factors of democratic rule, but we fail to recognize its paramount influence in stabilizing and integrating a nation. With the existence of an ‘impartial’ rule of law that prohibits destructive ways of resolving issues in society and that does not allow any group to take undue advantage over others by virtue of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, etc., the people ultimately accept and build a culture of coexistence and constructive engagement.

This is the key to integrating a nation on the fundamental ideas of equality and liberty.

I am convinced that America, by providing the most forceful and impartial system of due process, has become the superpower in our time. By providing the most progressive program of integration to the most diverse community in the world it has tapped a treasure that is unparalleled in its importance and impact in leading a nation towards prosperity.

This is the secret of America’s enormous success.

Good governance is the solution for a dysfunctional state. An accountable, transparent and representative government stabilizes a society. Serious grievances and the possibility of turmoil are less likely, as the citizens hold the ultimate power. The legitimacy of that governance increasingly builds up trust and confidence among its people and institutions to participate and help sustain a stable and consistent pattern of rule. The broad decision making process and the balance of power in a democratically managed society work as shields against tendencies of tyranny and/or domination of one group by another.  Self-rule offers important incentives for a society to become stable and progressive.

Importantly for the deeply-religious Muslim world, a democratic system does not need to be ‘secular,’ if secularism is defined as a system discouraging religion. A good governing system should not be averse to religion — as religions and religious institutions play a vital and profoundly important role in society — but it must be impartial as to a specific religion and/or a specific interpretation of a religion. ‘Impartial’ rule of law and avoiding endorsing a religion is how the conflict-prone Thirteen Colonies were saved from disintegration.

Democracy provides a secure environment for all its citizens to practice their respective faiths. If a government maintains neutrality in its rule of law and enforces the resolution of conflicts only through constructive engagements among its citizens, it builds a stable society with a mindset of coexistence, integration and collective welfare.

The Quran is unequivocal in commanding that: ‘There is no compulsion or imposition in religion.’ [2:256]. A faith or conviction must be the outcome of the exercise of free will, for which an individual is responsible only to God and to no one else in the society.  

Therefore a state that enforces a religious injunction, or an interpretation [denominations or sects] thereof, violates this fundamental tenet of Islam by enforcing on those who do not believe or accept that interpretation of faith.

A democratic spirit was exemplified in the very first Muslim community under the leadership of the Prophet Muhammad (s) in Medina fourteen centuries ago. The Charter of Medina has amazing similarities with the constitution drafted more than eleven hundred years later among the Thirteen Colonies who united to form the United States of America.

The similarities among these documents are to be found in their establishment of federalism, impartiality, consultative decision-making processes and the use of constructive engagement to resolve disputes. 

These structures allowed the society to maintain security and functionality, as well as to provide freedom of religion. They also allowed diverse groups of people – in the case of Medina then, the Muslims, Jews, and Pagans – to manage their own community affairs and maintain their own lifestyles within the greater legal framework of society . This paramount example of the Prophet (s) has largely gone unnoticed by the Muslim world.

More than two hundred years ago a small pamphlet called “Common Sense” made a huge impact among the people of the Thirteen Colonies and their leaders.  It allowed them to come together and fight against the British, the most formidable power then, to establish self-rule. How powerful and constructive this self-rule has been to integrate the most diverse community in the world and to create a superpower!

More than two hundred years later, a Muslim citizen of the nation that ‘Common Sense’ helped to establish is wondering what degree of human welfare could flow out of a new drive for common sense in one of the most vital parts of humanity: the Muslim world with which the interest and welfare of the world is intricately and profoundly connected! Facing the enormous challenges of our time, how badly needed is that drive!

11-31

Harun Yahya – Secrets of the Hypocrites

July 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

They Argue about Allah in the Absence of any Evidence

Among people there is one who argues about Allah without knowledge or guidance or any light-giving book.

Al-Hajj: 8

Their highest goal is to turn people from Allah and His religion and to hinder the spread of religious moral values on Earth. They therefore argue about Allah in such a way as to confuse people, and urge them to shape their own speculations about Him. Since they have a tendency to spread strife, they actively seek to eliminate people’s respect for and fear of Allah, but carry out these activities in a sly manner. Using a similar method to that employed by satan, they address people’s subconscious and speak in such a way as to confuse them.

All they manage to do, however, is deceive other hypocrites just like themselves. Allah reveals how the actions they take to turn people away from His path will rebound upon their own heads:

Turning away arrogantly, to misguide people from the way of Allah. He will be disgraced in this world and on the Day of Resurrection We will make him taste the punishment of the burning.

Al-Hajj: 9

They Admire an Ethical Model of which Allah Disapproves

As we have seen so far, hypocrites engage in all kinds of behavior displeasing to Allah. Unaware of the gravity of their situation, they also put forward negative, perverted ideas regarding Islam, the religion selected by and beloved of Allah. With their own defective logic, they regard their own ideas as good and the truth as ugly:

We brought you the truth but most of you hated the truth.

Az-Zukhruf: 78

As is revealed in the Qur’an, these two-faced people, “who have sold guidance for misguidance” (Surat al-Baqara: 16), refuse to recognize the revelation of Allah, and regard the truth as something ugly. The proper moral values that Allah revealed to believers through the Qur’an represent a model that they view as totally impractical. Since they themselves are full of hatred and uncleanliness, they imagine that others are too and could never abide by such a model.

No doubt, these ideas apply both to themselves and to other deniers of a similar nature. Good moral values can be implemented only through fear of Allah and absolute submission to His commandments. A person can maintain a good character only through faith in the Hereafter and the Day of Judgment and reckoning. For anyone who has forgotten that he will have to account for himself on the Day of Judgment, there is no motive to display patience or make sacrifices for others. He feels the need to engage in such behavior only if it squares with his own interests. Otherwise, for someone who lives far removed from religious moral values, it seems meaningless to display a good character in this world—which is in any case transitory—to people who are in any case mortal.

The hypocrite will receive no reward, either in this world or the Hereafter, for any good behavior he engages in for the sake of his own interests. If someone ignores all Allah’s commandments, everything that he does will be in vain, as is revealed by Allah in the Qur’an:

That is because they followed what angers Allah and hated what is pleasing to Him. So He made their actions come to nothing.

Muhammad: 28

Their Defiance of the Qur’an

First, in order to acquire a sufficient understanding of this matter, it should be useful to examine briefly the denier’s view of the Qur’an.

One of deniers’ most important characteristics is that they live by the religion of their ancestors instead of the religion of Allah. Under their religion, going along with baseless practices passed on by word of mouth is regarded as “religious observance.” By complying with these traditions, they imagine themselves to be virtuous and “obedient.” They never take the Qur’an as a criterion in any form whatsoever. The essence of this religion of the ignorant lies in traditions determined by the society, in which “goodness” lies in small matters performed with hardly any effort at all. They perform these in the name of “being good,” and thus think that this must make them “good” too.

For example, giving some spare change to a beggar they happen to meet on the street, or donating clothes that are too old for them to ever wear again is in their eyes a “good deed.” However, the true definition of goodness and righteousness is provided in the Qur’an:

It is not righteousness to turn your faces to the East or to the West. Rather, truly righteous are those who believe in Allah and the Last Day, the Angels, the Book and the prophets, and who, despite their love for it, give away their wealth to their relatives and to orphans and the very poor, and to travelers and beggars and to set slaves free, and who perform prayer and give the alms; those who honor their contracts when they make them, and are steadfast in poverty and illness and in battle. Those are the people who are true. They are the people who guard against evil.

Al-Baqara: 177

When these others are told about the criteria in the Qur’an, they refuse to abandon their distorted beliefs:

When they are told, “Come to what Allah has sent down and to the messenger,” they say, “What we found our fathers doing is enough for us.” What! Even if their fathers did not know anything and were not guided!

Al-Ma’ida: 104

Whenever they commit an indecent act, they say, “We found our fathers doing it and Allah commanded us to do it too.” Say: “Allah does not command indecency. Do you say things about Allah you do not know?”

Al-A‘raf: 28

They never want to abandon the “social religion” they’re accustomed to. For that reason, they seek out contradictions in the verses of Allah and strive to prevent people from His path. They are:

Those who bar access to the way of Allah and seek in it something crooked and reject the Hereafter.

Hud: 19

In short, these people are exceptionally insensitive with regard to the Qur’an and the verses of Allah; and their viewpoints never change in any significant way.

It is at this point comes a parting of the ways between hypocrites and deniers. Unlike the denier, the hypocrite does not completely reject the Qur’an. He will not emphasize that he does not truly believe in and submit to it, but on the contrary, seeks to hide that fact as much as possible. The denier does not implement the observances in the Qur’an unless he views them as a tradition left over from his ancestors; whereas the hypocrite does appear to fulfill a great many observances—on the surface.

Yet the hypocrite has not genuinely submitted to the verses. Whenever they impinge on his earthly desires, he remains completely insensitive to them. Furthermore, he performs only “formal” observances, even though a great many other observances need to be performed: such as complete submission to Allah and His messenger, and genuine acceptance of the messenger’s stipulations. In addition, the hypocrite ignores those commandments of Allah concerning proper moral values that happen to conflict with his worldly interests—which interests include defending those desires, belittling others and regarding oneself as superior.

Great wisdom underlies Allah’s revelation of the Qur’an, in which He warns against the Day of Judgment, and shows people the true path. However, only a few believe in the Qur’an and live by it in a fitting manner: Those are the faithful.

Believers are most respectful of the provisions of the Qur’an and submit to them. Their respect stems from their profound respect for Allah. Every time the Qur’an is recited, they fall silent to listen and fully reflect on the verses. The Qur’an increases their faith, and gives their hearts satisfaction and repose. In one verse Allah describes believers as:

. . . those whose hearts tremble when Allah is mentioned, whose faith is increased when His signs are recited to them, and who put their trust in their Lord.

Al-Anfal: 2

The attitude of hypocrites towards the Qur’an is highly two-faced. They abide by some of the verses of the Qur’an, but not by others. Their criteria are their earthly desires. They turn their backs without a qualm on provisions that feel difficult for them, such as spending in good causes or regarding their brother’s desires as superior to their own. They are very flexible when it comes to implementing many provisions that are actually obligatory, and do not implement others at all if no one is looking.

As the above verse reveals, believers who read the Qur’an grow in faith, while hypocrites grow in denial. This is actually one of Allah’s great miracles. That is because despite their reading exactly the same verses, two entirely different spiritual states emerge. Believers perceive the wisdom in the verses, while hypocrites are completely unable to fathom it. They may even be unaware of their inability to understand and imagine that they actually comprehend the Qur’an very well indeed.

The way this miracle comes about is set out in the Qur’an:

When you recite the Qur’an, We place an obscuring veil between you and those who do not believe in the Hereafter. We have placed covers on their hearts, preventing them from understanding it, and heaviness in their ears. When you mention your Lord alone in the Qur’an, they turn their backs and run away.

Al-Isra’: 45-46

11-30

Mumbai Terrorist Attacks Awaken Bollywood

December 31, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

The India film stars dictate fashion and customs, but they usually aren’t politically active. The recent killings seem to have changed that.

Courtesy Anupama Chopra, LA Times

Reporting from Mumbai — Amitabh Bachchan slept with a gun. On Nov. 26, as 10 terrorists orchestrated mayhem at Mumbai’s landmark hotels and train station, Bollywood’s most enduring superstar pulled out his revolver.

The following day, he wrote on his blog: “As an Indian, I need to live in my own land, on my own soil with dignity and without fear. And I need an assurance on that. I am ashamed to say this and not afraid to share this now with the rest of the cyber world, that last night as the events of the terror attack unfolded in front of me, I did something for the first time and one that I had hoped never ever to be in a situation to do. Before retiring for the night, I pulled out my licensed .32 revolver and put it under my pillow. For a very disturbed sleep.”

As the bloody face-off between the terrorists and Indian commandos continued for three days, Aamir Khan, another major star and avid blogger, wrote: “Terrorists are not Hindu or Muslim or Christian. They are not people of religion or God . . . an incident such as this really exposes how ill equipped we are as a society as far as proper leaders go. We desperately need young, dynamic, honest, intelligent and upright leaders who actually care for the country.”

A few days after the attack, Shah Rukh Khan, who is known to Hindi film viewers as King Khan and routinely described as more famous than Tom Cruise, told a leading television channel, “I have read the Holy Koran. It states that if you heal one man, you heal the whole of mankind and if you hurt one man, you hurt the whole of mankind. . . . There is an Islam from Allah and very unfortunately, there is an Islam from the mullahs.”

This impassioned, unflinching outburst is rare for Bollywood. Mumbai’s Hindi film industry produces 200-odd films each year for an estimated annual audience of 3.6 billion. Bollywood and its stars dictate fashions, language, rituals and aspirations for millions of Indians and non-Indians around the globe. In Britain and the U.S., Bollywood box office is largely driven by Indian immigrants, but in countries such as Malaysia, Poland and Germany, even locals are avid consumers. Hindi films vary from fantastical entertainers to realistic, low-budget urbane dramas that usually appeal to more educated audiences. Bollywood is one of the few film industries globally that has withstood the Hollywood goliath. In fact, Hollywood is pushing for a piece of the booming Bollywood pie; studios such as Sony and Warner are producing Hindi films.

But despite its cultural clout, Bollywood has largely been an insular, apolitical space — columnist and author Shobhaa De, more acerbically, described it as “apathetic.” Unlike their Hollywood counterparts, stars here have rarely aligned themselves with causes. Even those who join political parties usually serve an ornamental function.

Like much of India’s elite and middle class, the film industry has preferred to disengage from politics and the invariably messy functioning of the world’s largest democracy. “Most Bollywood actors claim their job is to entertain the masses — nothing more, nothing less,” De said. “It is the Republic of Bollywood movie stars owe any allegiance to.”

But the terrorist attacks, which claimed 164 lives (plus those of nine gunmen), have forced the film industry to abandon its customary neutral stance. In blogs, media, petitions and peace marches, Bollywood has come forward to denounce the attacks and demand better governance. Most significantly, many leading Muslim stars who until now rarely delved into the controversies of religion have condemned the attacks as “un-Islamic.” They have, as Gyan Prakash, professor of history at Princeton University put it, “reclaimed their religion.” In an interview, actor Anil Kapoor, now appearing in “ Slumdog Millionaire,” called the attacks “a tipping point,” adding: “I think things will be different now.”

The film industry can play a prominent role in India’s post 26/11 citizens’ movement, not only because of its cultural cachet but also because Bollywood is and always has been inherently secular. India is home to about 151 million Muslims, the third-largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia and Pakistan. The majority Hindus and minority Muslims share a long and tragic history, and politicians of every hue have exploited this divide. Hindu-Muslim relations are usually in a state of simmer, and the decades-old distrust routinely boils over in riots, murder and more recently terrorism.

Intriguingly, Bollywood has largely managed to resist this communal caldron. Through the decades, Hindus and Muslims have worked together without any palpable friction. In fact the biggest stars in contemporary Bollywood are Muslim (this includes the reigning superstar trinity of Shah Rukh, Aamir and Salman Khan). In “Maximum City,” his bestselling book on Mumbai, Suketu Mehta described the Hindi film industry as having “the secularism of a brothel.” “All are welcome,” he wrote, “as long as they carry or make money.”

Among Bollywood’s earliest stars were Australian-born Mary Ann Evans, known to her fans as Fearless Nadia — a whip-wielding, iconic action heroine in the 1930s; the Jewish Florence Ezekiel, known to her fans as Nadira, a legendary vamp who seduced with her smoldering looks in the 1950s; and the Anglo-Indian-Burmese Helen, who from the 1950s to the 1970s was Bollywood’s most famous dancer.
Box office is king

Writer-lyricist Javed Akhtar, president of an organization called Muslims for Secular Democracy, disapproves of Mehta’s brothel comparison but agreed that in the 40-odd years that he had been working in Bollywood, he had never encountered bias. “There is a method in the madness,” he said. “People in films — from the biggest stars to the smallest — know that their survival is in the success of the film. When you go to the racecourse, you cannot not bet on the winning horse because the jockey is of some other religion. You want to win the race so you cannot afford to be communal.”

Bollywood’s reigning deity is the box office. Consequently, Akhtar pointed out, even actors and technicians who are high-profile members of the right-wing Hindu Bhartiya Janta Party will behave “in a totally separate manner within the industry.”

Attempts to divide the industry on religious lines have found little support. In July, a little-known terror outfit called the Indian Mujahideen issued death threats via e-mail to leading Muslim actors, urging them to stop acting in movies or face the consequences. The industry collectively denounced the mail and Saif Ali, one of the actors threatened, responded in a newspaper saying that he would “rather be shot than not do a shot.”

Eight years ago, a Hindu actor named Hrithik Roshan became an overnight sensation with his debut film, “Kaho Na Pyar Hai” (Say You Love Me). As the film ran to packed houses, a right-wing Hindu magazine, Panchjanya, ran a cover story insisting that Roshan was the Hindu answer to the Muslim Khan supremacy in Bollywood. The claim was resoundingly ignored. These contrived divisions also have little meaning in Bollywood because many of the leading stars have had interfaith marriages.

Even at historic turning points such as the 1947 partition, when Hindu-Muslim relations were violently fraught, the film industry has remained impervious to religious bias. In the 1940s and 1950s, the industry was also less self-focused and inward-looking. Cultural groups such as the Progressive Writers’ Assn. and the India Peoples’ Theatre Assn. exerted a great influence on the leading writers, actors and directors of the time. The filmmakers and their films reflected an awareness and engagement with social causes.

But by the 1970s, a disconnect had set in. Prakash pinned it on “the Amitabh Bachchan phenomenon.” After the actor had a string of successive hits, the media labeled him “a one-man industry.” According to Prakash: “The Bollywood space changed then and became about celebrity.”

Star-driven culture

This celebrity has only amplified in recent years. The post-liberalization media explosion and consumerist culture have converted actors into brands and they are constantly “on,” whether in cinema halls, television shows or newspapers and magazines. Hindi cinema and especially its stars dominate India’s cultural landscape, enjoying a super-size visibility. Media doggedly report on the minutiae of their lives, from love affairs to diet to favored hair stylist. Political parties have often attempted to turn this visibility into votes by using stars to campaign for them, but Bollywood stars in politics have largely been, in De’s words, “a monumental joke.”

Prakash agreed. “Unlike Hollywood, Bollywood has became a space only for stardom,” he said. “Politics is problematic, and it’s not conducive to stardom. It only gets in the way.”
Aamir Khan discovered this the hard way in 2006, when he joined activists demanding the rehabilitation of farmers displaced by the construction of a dam in the western state of Gujarat. The government demanded an apology. When he refused, multiplex owners in Gujarat refused to screen the actor’s film “Fanaa” (Destroyed). Though the film eventually became a blockbuster, losses from the Gujarat ban — deemed unconstitutional by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — ran into the millions. Not surprisingly then, silence and insularity are the preferred mode here.
Actress Preity Zinta, one of the industry’s more outspoken stars, said the prevailing silence also had to do with the quality of leadership. “Where are our icons?” she asked. “Give me one inspiring leader and I will not even think twice before offering support. Look at the political class abroad. I jumped as high as anyone in America when Obama won.”
Terrorism has provided the impetus that politicians could not. Zinta was among the thousands of people who gathered Dec. 3 at the Gateway of India (opposite the Taj Mahal hotel) to protest the attacks and demand better security. The gathering, organized spontaneously through e-mail, text messages and Facebook, was described in leading newspapers as unprecedented.
Farhan Akhtar, Javed Akhtar’s son and a filmmaker-actor, was also at the Gateway. When the firing started Nov. 26, Farhan was shooting the first episode of a “Saturday Night Live”-style television show called “Oye It’s Friday.” Farhan, who hosts the show, and his producers stopped work because, he said, “we were too depressed to continue.” But a few days later, they regrouped to rewrite a part of the show. The first episode now included several biting comic lines about politicians and their legendary incompetence. “There has been no event of this magnitude, nothing this drastic to get people polarized,” Farhan said. “But now people have had enough. We’re not going to take it lying down anymore.”
The big question is: How long will the anger last? Skeptics like De don’t envision a more politically sensitized Bollywood, but many such as Zinta and Farhan believe and hope that a sustained involvement will follow. But even if the current activism dilutes with time, the Hindi film industry, an inclusive, successful global brand, will remain a symbol of unity in a deeply fractured country.
Chopra writes frequently about Indian cinema. Her books include “King of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan and the Seductive World of Indian Cinema.”

Turkish Schools Offer Pakistan a Gentler Islam

May 8, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Courtesy Sabrina Tavernise

Turkish educators are offering an alternative approach to religious schools that could reduce extremists’ influence.

KARACHI, Pakistan: Praying in Pakistan has not been easy for Mesut Kacmaz, a Muslim teacher from Turkey.

He tried the mosque near his house, but it had Israeli and Danish flags painted on the floor for people to step on. The mosque near where he works warned him never to return wearing a tie. Pakistanis everywhere assume he is not Muslim because he has no beard.

“Kill, fight, shoot,” Kacmaz said. “This is a misinterpretation of Islam.”

But that view is common in Pakistan, a frontier land for the future of Islam, where schools, nourished by Saudi and American money dating back to the 1980s, have spread Islamic radicalism through the poorest parts of society. With a literacy rate of just 50 percent and a public school system near collapse, the country is particularly vulnerable.

Kacmaz (pronounced KATCH-maz) is part of a group of Turkish educators who have come to this battleground with an entirely different vision of Islam. Theirs is moderate and flexible, comfortably coexisting with the West while remaining distinct from it. Like Muslim Peace Corps volunteers, they promote this approach in schools, which are now established in more than 80 countries, Muslim and Christian.

Their efforts are important in Pakistan, a nuclear power whose stability and whose vulnerability to fundamentalism have become main preoccupations of American foreign policy. Its tribal areas have become a refuge to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and the battle against fundamentalism rests squarely on young people and the education they get.

At present, that education is extremely weak. The poorest Pakistanis cannot afford to send their children to public schools, which are free but require fees for books and uniforms. Some choose to send their children to madrasas, or religious schools, which, like aid organizations, offer free food and clothing. Many simply teach, but some have radical agendas. At the same time, a growing middle class is rejecting public schools, which are chaotic and poorly financed, and choosing from a new array of private schools.

The Turkish schools, which have expanded to seven cities in Pakistan since the first one opened a decade ago, cannot transform the country on their own. But they offer an alternative approach that could help reduce the influence of Islamic extremists.

They prescribe a strong Western curriculum, with courses, taught in English, from math and science to English literature and Shakespeare. They do not teach religion beyond the one class in Islamic studies that is required by the state. Unlike British-style private schools, however, they encourage Islam in their dormitories, where teachers set examples in lifestyle and prayer.

“Whatever the West has of science, let our kids have it,” said Erkam Aytav, a Turk who works in the new schools. “But let our kids have their religion as well.”

That approach appeals to parents in Pakistan, who want their children to be capable of competing with the West without losing their identities to it. Allahdad Niazi, a retired Urdu professor in Quetta, a frontier town near the Afghan border, took his son out of an elite military school, because it was too authoritarian and did not sufficiently encourage Islam, and put him in the Turkish school, called PakTurk.

“Private schools can’t make our sons good Muslims,” Niazi said, sitting on the floor in a Quetta house. “Religious schools can’t give them modern education. PakTurk does both.”

The model is the brainchild of a Turkish Islamic scholar, Fethullah Gulen. A preacher with millions of followers in Turkey, Gulen, 69, comes from a tradition of Sufism, an introspective, mystical strain of Islam. He has lived in exile in the United States since 2000, after getting in trouble with secular Turkish officials.

Gulen’s idea, Aytav said, is that “without science, religion turns to radicalism, and without religion, science is blind and brings the world to danger.”

The schools are putting into practice a Turkish Sufi philosophy that took its most modern form during the last century, after Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey’s founder, crushed the Islamic caliphate in the 1920s. Islamic thinkers responded by trying to bring Western science into the faith they were trying to defend. In the 1950s, while Arab Islamic intellectuals like Sayyid Qutub were firmly rejecting the West, Turkish ones like Said Nursi were seeking ways to coexist with it.

In Karachi, a sprawling city that has had its own struggles with radicalism — the American reporter Daniel Pearl was killed here, and the famed Binori madrasa here is said to have sheltered Osama bin Laden — the two approaches compete daily.

The Turkish school is in a poor neighborhood in the south of the city where residents are mostly Pashtun, a strongly tribal ethnic group whose poorer fringes have been among the most susceptible to radicalism. Kacmaz, who became principal 10 months ago, ran into trouble almost as soon as he began. The locals were suspicious of the Turks, who, with their ties and clean-shaven faces, looked like math teachers from Middle America.

“They asked me several times, ‘Are they Muslim? Do they pray? Are they drinking at night?’ “ said Ali Showkat, a vice principal of the school, who is Pakistani.

Goats nap by piles of rubbish near the school’s entrance, and Kacmaz asked a local religious leader to help get people to stop throwing their trash near the school, to no avail. Exasperated, he hung an Islamic saying on the outer wall of the school: “Cleanliness is half of faith.” When he prayed at a mosque, two young men followed him out and told him not to return wearing a tie because it was un-Islamic.

“I said, ‘Show me a verse in the Koran where it was forbidden,’ “ Kacmaz said, steering his car through tangled rush-hour traffic. The two men were wearing glasses, and he told them that scripturally, there was no difference between a tie and glasses.

“Behind their words there was no Hadith,” he said, referring to a set of Islamic texts, “only misunderstanding.”

That misunderstanding, along with the radicalism that follows, stalks the poorest parts of Quetta. Abdul Bari, a 31-year-old teacher of Islam from a religious family, lives in a neighborhood without electricity or running water. Two brothers from his tribe were killed on a suicide mission, leaving their mother a beggar and angering Bari, who says a Muslim’s first duty is to his mother and his family.

“Our nation has no patience,” said Bari, who raised his seven younger siblings, after his father died suddenly a dozen years ago. He decided that one of his brothers should be educated, and enrolled him in the Turkish school.

The Turks put the focus on academics, which pleased Bari, who said his dream was for Saadudeen, his brother, to lift the family out of poverty and expand its horizons beyond religion. Bari’s title, hafiz, means he has memorized the entire Koran, though he has no formal education. Two other brothers have earned the same distinction. Their father was an imam.

His is a lonely mission in a neighborhood where nearly all the residents are illiterate and most disapprove of his choices, Bari said. He is constantly on guard against extremism. He once punished Saadudeen for flying kites with the wrong kind of boys. At the Turkish school, the teenager is supervised around the clock in a dormitory.

“They are totally against extremism,” Bari said of the Turks. “They are true Muslims. They will make my brother into a true Muslim. He’ll deal with people with justice and wisdom. Not with impatience.”

Illiteracy is one of the roots of problems dogging the Muslim world, said Matiullah Aail, a religious scholar in Quetta who graduated from Medina University in Saudi Arabia.

In Baluchistan, Quetta’s sparsely populated province, the literacy rate is less than 10 percent, said Tariq Baluch, a government official in the Pasheen district. He estimated that about half of the district’s children attended madrasas.

Aail said: “Doctors and lawyers have to show their degrees. But when it comes to mullahs, no one asks them for their qualifications. They don’t have knowledge, but they are influential.”

That leads to a skewed interpretation of Islam, even by those schooled in it, according to Gulen and his followers.

“They’ve memorized the entire holy book, but they don’t understand its meaning,” said Kamil Ture, a Turkish administrator.

Kacmaz chimed in: “How we interpret the Koran is totally dependent on our education.”

In an interview in 2004, published in a book of his writings, Gulen put it like this: “In the countries where Muslims live, some religious leaders and immature Muslims have no other weapon in hand than their fundamental interpretation of Islam. They use this to engage people in struggles that serve their own purposes.”

Moderate as that sounds, some Turks say Gulen uses the schools to advance his own political agenda. Murat Belge, a prominent Turkish intellectual who has experience with the movement, said that Gulen “sincerely believes that he has been chosen by God,” and described Gulen’s followers as “Muslim Jesuits” who are preparing elites to run the country.

Hakan Yavuz, a Turkish professor at the University of Utah who has had extensive experience with the Gulen movement, offered a darker assessment.

“The purpose here is very much power,” Yavuz said. “The model of power is the Ottoman Empire and the idea that Turks should shape the Muslim world.”

But while radical Islamists seek to re-establish a seventh-century Islamic caliphate, without nations or borders, and more moderate Islamists, like Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, use secular democracy to achieve the goal of an Islamic state, Gulen is a nationalist who says he wants no more than a secular democracy where citizens are free to worship, a claim secular Turks find highly suspect.

Still, his schools are richly supported by Turkish businessmen. M. Ihsan Kalkavan, a shipping magnate who has built hotels in Nigeria, helped finance Gulen schools there, which he said had attracted the children of the Nigerian elite.

“When we take our education experiment to other countries, we introduce ourselves. We say, ‘See, we’re not terrorists.’ When people get to know us, things change,” Kalkavan said in his office in Istanbul.

He estimated the number of Gulen’s followers in Turkey at three million to five million. The network itself does not provide estimates, and Gulen declined to be interviewed.

The schools, which also operate in Christian countries like Russia, are not for Muslims alone, and one of their stated aims is to promote interfaith understanding. Gulen met the previous pope, as well as Jewish and Orthodox Christian leaders, and teachers in the schools say they stress multiculturalism and universal values.

“We are all humans,” said Kacmaz, the principal. “In Islam, every human being is very important.”

Pakistani society is changing fast, and more Pakistanis are realizing the importance of education, in part because they have more to lose, parents said. Abrar Awan, whose son is attending the Turkish school in Quetta, said he had grown tired of the attitude of the Islamic political parties he belonged to as a student. Now a government employee with a steady job, he sees real life as more complicated than black-and-white ideology.

“America or the West was always behind every fault, every problem,” he said, at a gathering of fathers in April. “Now, in my practical life, I know the faults are within us.”

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Book Reviews

April 5, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Lebanon: A House Divided

By Sandra Mackey

W. W. Norton & Company

The author of The Saudis and The Iranians, Sandra Mackey, a veteran journalist and expert on Middle Eastern culture and politics, has republished her 1989 volume Lebanon: Death of a Nation with a new introduction with the latest occurrences in Lebanon; giving the reader a better comprehension of this sometimes misunderstood country.

Going over Lebanon’s history, including the civil war of 1975-89, Mackey also makes sense of the divisions between Lebanon’s religious and cultural groups; Lebanon’s toleration of Hezbollah; and Iran’s financial support for Lebanon.

Lebanon will be beneficial to those looking to gain knowledge beyond news media reports.
The book can be purchased at bookstores for $15.95.

Even Angels Ask: A Journey to Islam in America

By Jeffrey Lang

Amana Publications

A professor of mathematics, Jeffrey Lang, a Catholic turned agnostic, became a Muslim in the early 1980s.
In Even Angels Ask, Lang shares with the reader the experiences of American Muslim converts and young Muslims who find it difficult to follow the faith of their parents in American society.

In chapter one, Lang discusses how young American Muslims leave their religion as they get older. He finds that the children of Muslim parents, asked about their religion, say often that their parents are Muslim but that they do not belong to any particular religion.

Has the Western way of life changed their perspective of Islam?

In chapter two, Lang talks about God and the Qur’an; quoting verses; the Beautiful Names; life; prayer; worship; temptation; the Prophet (s) and so forth.

Chapter three discusses the struggles converts go through as they try to decipher what ritual portions of the religion they see are from “Islam” and which are not a part of Islam but non-religious cultural practices.
Chapter four takes the reader into the life of a Muslim and Muslim convert as they bear witness to Islam and follow the five pillars of their faith.

Chapter five, titled “The Best of Communities” goes over Lang’s experiences after he became a Muslim and the reactions of non-Muslims and other Muslims.

In Chapter six, he discusses “The Road Ahead” for newcomers, immigrants Muslims, the community and society.