Monday, June 16, 2014

If American Muslims Can Change…

If American Muslims can change their selves, they could change the world.

American Muslims are often higher educated and earning more than the national average. The American Muslim community is spread in key swing states and can have a tremendous impact on local and national elections.

More than just about any other so called “Muslim country,” the U.S. offers American Muslims the legal freedom and protection to practice their faith.  Life in the United States also presents the opportunity to grow financially, intellectually and participate in civic affairs, law, politics and the pursuit of justice.  Unlike most countries in the Middle East, Muslims in America have both freedom to be who they want to be and practice their faith, and freedom to engage in meaningful work and civic engagement.

Many academics have explained in detail how the Islamophobia industry spends millions of dollars to demonize Islam and Muslims in America because they fear the impact American Muslims will have if they flourish.  The Islamophobia industry slanders Islam and Muslims in an effort to make Muslims ashamed of their identity and thus turn us away from the source of our strength: our faith, unity and community.

There is never an excuse for Muslims not to practice Islam in America. Allah swt is with us and so is the law. Very few other countries have laws that protect the right to practice our faith in the public, schools, and workplace like the US. This is a blessing we must acknowledge, appreciate and protect.
Granted, the system is not perfect. Mistakes have been made. America has a history of gross civil rights violations from the slave trade to Jim Crow Laws to the internment of Japanese Americans. Today the indefinite detention without trial of humans in Guantanamo Bay Prison, the unjustified spying on Muslims by the NYPD, attempts to outlaw the practice of Islam in several states, and the FBI entrapment program targeting the Muslim community are a few example of how America continues to struggle with forces of tyranny that try to make this nation stray from its great ideals of liberty, equality and justice.

Authors like Trevor Aaronson even detail government programs intended to provoke Muslims to engage society destructively, which can in effect hinder the Muslim community’s ability to effectively engage constructively.

Despite these wrongs, we have the freedom to challenge these injustices and will overcome them just as other minorities have overcome them in the past and continue to struggle to do so today.
Few other nations allow minorities the opportunity to challenge injustice and oppression as America, and while our nation is not perfect, through the dedication of those devoted to striving for justice, civil rights, and human dignity, it will, inshallah, improve.

However, American Muslims are not as effective or active as we should be.

We are the second largest religious minority in America, yet Islamophobic attacks against Islam and Muslims are tolerated in mainstream discourse which would never be tolerated against other minorities. Over 300 Muslims globally are killed in wars started or supported by western nations every day, and the American Muslim community has yet to be effective in lobbying for a more peaceful and just US foreign policy. Actually, we are still struggling to protect civil rights domestically.

The amount of civil rights violations committed and liberty lost in the name of fighting “Muslim extremists” has taken America back many years when it comes to civil rights and justice. Ironically, it has also made American Muslims stand out as leaders of the civil rights movement.

Experience has shown me however that most American Muslims are unaware of the civil rights and Islamophobia challenges our community is facing. As a result, few Muslims are taking action to fulfill our obligation as Americans and as Muslims to defend civil rights and promote understanding of our faith and community.

American Muslims have the immense potential and opportunity to be leaders for change. But we will not realize that potential unless we make the most of the blessings of freedom and wealth God has blessed us with.  We must invest our time, energy, and wealth more constructively than those who embrace hate and are investing their resources to undermine our faith and liberty.

We must first care about our faith, community, and civil rights. Then we must understand the nature of the challenges we are facing.  Only then can we constructively engage the system to create positive change.

By working together with interfaith allies to push back against efforts to promote fear and hatred that undermine liberty, we can ensure America remains a free nation where children of people of all faiths can grow up proud of their identity with the opportunity to learn about the diverse faiths that make up our society.

A free and just society is the best society for our faith and community to flourish.

94% Of All Terrorist Attacks Are Invented By The FBI – New Study Shows

“What they were trying to do is to convince the American public that there is this large army of potential terrorists that they should all be very-very scared about. They are very much engaged in world-wide surveillance and this surveillance is very valuable to them. They can learn a lot about all sorts of things and in a sense control issues to their advantage. And the entire legal justification for that depends on there being a war on terror. Without a war on terror they have no right to do this. So they have to keep this war on terror going, they have to keep finding people and arresting them and locking them up and scarring everybody,” states Steven Downs, attorney for Project SALAM. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

If the Las Vegas Killers Were Muslims, We'd Call Them Terrorists

Conor Friedersdorf | The Atlantic |  June 10th 2014 | [Original Article]

If a 22-year-old Muslim man stabbed his roommates to death in their sleep, embarked on a killing spree, and claimed in written and video manifestos that he acted to teach hated women a lesson, there's little doubt that many would label him a terrorist. That label was scarcely appended to the Santa Barbara killer after his murders.

And if a Muslim couple stormed into a fast-food restaurant armed with a duffel bag full of military gear, shouted, "This is the beginning of the revolution!" and pinned a flag associated with their political movement to the dead bodies of the police officers they executed at point-blank range—then killed another innocent person and carried out a suicide pact rather than being taken alive—there is no doubt that many media outlets would refer to the premeditated attack as an act of terrorism. With a few exceptions, that's not how this week's news from Las Vegas played out.

When mass killers are native-born whites, their motivations are treated like a mystery to unraveled rather than a foregone conclusion. And that is as it ought to be. Hesitating to dub the Santa Barbara and Las Vegas murder sprees "terrorist attacks" is likely the right call. The label casts more heat than light on breaking-news events. Americans typically respond more soberly and rationally to mass killings than to "terrorist attacks." And while both sprees obviously targeted civilians, the varying degrees to which they sought to influence politics is unclear.

That said, the pervasive double-standard that prevails is nevertheless objectionable. As Glenn Greenwald once observed, "terrorism" is "simultaneously the single most meaningless and most manipulated word in the American political lexicon. The term now has virtually nothing to do with the act itself and everything to do with the identity of the actor, especially his or her religious identity."... [Read Full Article]

Thursday, June 5, 2014

POLICY: NATIONAL SECURITY The FBI prospers by feeding public safety fears

BY: Steve Chapman| Washington Examiner| May 25th, 2014 | [Original Article]

...Comey is upholding the tradition that once the government identifies an evil, the evil never goes away — it only gets bigger and tougher, requiring ever-increasing efforts to combat it. The Department of Energy was created during the "energy crisis" of the 1970s. The crisis didn't last, but the department did.

The same pattern holds here. In the decade after Sept. 11, the number of terrorist episodes in this country averaged 17 a year, compared to 41 a year in the 1990s. Nor is al-Qaida gaining ground. Since 9/11, reports the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland, it has carried out no attacks in the U.S.

But progress is never taken as progress. It's always interpreted as the calm before the storm.
When Comey arrived, nerves were raw from the Boston Marathon bombing, which sparked fears of a wave of domestic attacks. Since then, there has not been a single death from homegrown terrorism in the U.S. In the following 12 months, the number of Muslim-Americans arrested on terrorism charges was 15, below the annual average of 20.

"Almost all of these arrests were for attempting to join a foreign terrorist organization abroad, not for planning attacks in the homeland, and were motivated by sympathies with rebels in Syria and elsewhere rather than by al-Qaida's call for Muslims to attack the West," wrote David Schanzer of Duke University and Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in The News and Observer of Raleigh.

None of this matters to Comey or his associates in the federal government, which has an unbreakable addiction to dire forecasts. When it comes to national security, they see every silver lining as attached not just to a cloud, but to a skyful of black thunderheads. Read Full Article

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Why You Should Never Speak to the FBI Without a Lawyer

BY: Harvey Silvergate| FORBES | June 3rd, 2014 | [Original Article]

DOJ's New Recording Policy: The Exceptions Swallow The Rule

...FBI agents routinely conduct their interviews in pairs, with one agent asking the questions and the other taking notes which are eventually typewritten into what is known as a form 302 report. It has previously been strictly against FBI policy to electronically record any of these interviews. Without an objectively accurate, verbatim record of the interview, the witness is compelled, forced even, to follow the script of the 302 report if it is presented in a court of law. If the witness’ testimony strays from the agent’s report, she opens herself up to a felony charge, for either making “false statements” to a federal agent (at the time of the interview) or for perjuring herself on the witness stand. This is how the FBI is able to coerce witnesses (or suspects) and shape their testimony.

Given the obvious dishonesty of this system, and the extent to which the truth can be corrupted by FBI agents and federal prosecutors who are able to teach their witnesses not only how to sing but also how to compose, it seemed only a matter of time before the interview procedure would change. While many think this memo will precipitate that shift, the devil is in the details of the document, which provides so many exceptions that the new rule, to be implemented on July 11th, will arrive stillborn. 

This policy thus is so riddled with exceptions that it is less a policy than a half-veiled attempt at improving the troubled public image of the DOJ and FBI.  Instead, such self-cancelling policies should only add to the dubious reputation that federal law enforcement has gained in recent years for its often over-zealous, selective and coercive prosecutions.
All citizens – both of the law-and-order variety as well as civil libertarians– should want to see federal law enforcement practices become more transparent and less accommodating to rogue agents and overzealous prosecutors. Such reform will not be accomplished by enacting compromised policies like this one.  [Read More]

Monday, May 12, 2014

An Open Letter to Bill Maher From a Muslim American

BY: Rabia Chaudry | | May 12, 2014 | [Original Article]

The problem isn't Islam. It's your movement to demonize Islam in the liberal left.

Hey there, Bill. You hate religion. You particularly hate Islam. We get it. Your liberal bigotry against Muslims and Islam is no secret. For a while now I’ve just avoided watching your show, which kind of stinks because for many years I was a great fan and really loved it. I wasn’t even bothered when you called out Muslims doing stupid, criminal or horrific things. You do that with a lot of groups, and it’s important to do. But I stopped watching when it became clear that you loathed a faith I was devoted to.

You recently discussed the kidnapping of hundreds of girls by Boko Haram, followed by the new sharia laws in Brunei, and rounded out the segment with a nod to your buddy Ayaan Hirsi Ali—quite the trifecta of examples to support your conclusion that Islam itself is, as you said, “the problem.” Your reasoning is essentially that Muslims are doing many horrible things around the world, and they all believe in Islam, so naturally Islam is the nonnegotiable culprit.

Let’s ignore for now the numerous logical fallacies in your premise and instead follow your exact line of reasoning. If we are to accept your rationale, we have to also accept that, if many Muslims are doing good things around the world, and they all believe in Islam, then Islam is responsible for the good that they do. We also accept, given that Ali’s criticism of Islam is based on her personal experience, that the positive personal experience of other Muslims, including converts, are just as valid reflections on the faith.

For the sake of argument, and being as generous as possible, let’s say Islam has been a force of destruction for 50% of Muslims and a source of empowerment, peace and comfort for the other 50%. Where exactly does that leave us? Whose experience of Islam is legitimate? If Boko Haram is, in your estimation, an authentic expression of Islam, what do you make of the hundreds of Nigerian Muslim families who were sending their daughters to school? Why isn’t their dedication, like Malala Yousafzai’s dedication, to girls’ education an authentic expression of Islam? What do you deduct from the fact most Muslim women in the world are not circumcised? Are they just doing Islam wrong? Are all the good, peaceful Muslims doing Islam wrong?

You noted that women are treated at best like second-class citizens, but most often like property in Islam. The first Muslim woman, Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, a successful businesswoman, boss-lady and wife to the Prophet Muhammad, and the other Muslim women of his time would have snickered at you. Women of the region were chattel before Islam, treated and traded as such, until the Quran freed them through revelations such as “O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will.”

I could tell you that Islam was the first system to establish women’s property rights, inheritance rights, the right to education, to marry and divorce of their free will, to be religious scholars, business owners, soldiers. I could tell you that while Christianity was debating the status of women’s souls and declaring them a source of sin, Islam had already established authoritatively the spiritual equality of men and women and absolved Eve, and womankind at large, of sin. I could tell you that the world and history is full of highly educated, successful Muslim women who are empowered by their faith, not debilitated by it. I could tell you terrorism is categorically forbidden in Islam, and that between 1970 and 2012, 97.5% of terror attacks in the U.S. were carried out by non-Muslims. I could tell you that female genital mutilation is never mentioned in the Quran; the only reference to it is found in a weak narration, and scholars find it objectionable to the point of being classified as impermissible... [Read More]

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Don't give divisive lecturer GOP forum

Don't give divisive lecturer Jonathan Matusitz, GOP forum

I am appalled at the Orlando Republican Women's Network's announced plans to host UCF's Jonathan Matusitz's lecture on "The Islamic Threat to America."

The title of the talk alone serves to demonize and alienate an entire minority and is counterproductive to a free, diverse and tolerant community. Nothing good can come out of targeting an entire group based on faith.

Besides being unproductive, asserting that an entire faith is a threat is simply incorrect.
As U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder stated, American Muslims are "essential partners in the fight against terrorism."

Inviting such an offensive speaker, who, according to Pinellas Republican Executive Committee leader Chris Latvala, "bash[es] a religion practiced by many ... including fellow Republicans," can harm the long-term viability of the GOP, and effectively undermine the goals of the network. Similar concerns have been raised by GOP leader Grover Norquist: "When you hear snide comments about Jews in the '50s or Muslims today — we've been through this. The Republican Party chased away the Catholic vote for over a hundred years."

The network certainly has a right to hold events that demonize an entire faith.

But the fact that members choose to do so says more about them and their values, ethnocentrism, and double standards than the faith they are attacking.

Our country needs leaders who unite us, not leaders who use fear to divide us.

Hassan Shibly, Executive Director, CAIR-Florida in Tampa

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

NBC’s Richard Engel misleading take on Muslim violence

By: Zaid Jilani | | October 22, 2013          [Read Original Here]
For conservatives, the hype about “black on black violence” has become a campaign slogan — despite evidence to the contrary that violence is really about concentrated poverty and geography, leading disingenuous conservatives to complain about this phenomenon. “Nationally, nearly half of all murder victims are black. And the overwhelming majority of those black people are killed by other black people. Where is the march for them?” complained Juan Williams last year as protests for slain teenager Trayvon Martin were gearing up.
In a television news segment aired last week, NBC’s decorated foreign correspondent Richard Engel offered a similar take on “Muslim versus Muslim violence.” Like complaining about black on black violence, it seemed calculated to absolve the audience of blame.
Engel is one of America’s most prominent foreign correspondents. He has lived in the Middle East since 1996 and speaks and reads Arabic that he learned from many years living in Cairo. So it’s particularly disappointing to see him engage in a form of Orientalism.
Engel’s segment begins by setting the scene: “Anyone who follows the Middle East and Islamic world in general can’t deny it is often a very violent place, that a band of instability now stretches from Algeria to Pakistan. Every day it seems there are car bombings, suicide attacks, shootings, and refugees and crying children. From the outside it looks like a violent mess to be avoided. But the violence baffles many of the people who live in the region. Why? they ask. Why is the Islamic world these days so violent? And who’s responsible.”
Engel then reminds his viewers that Muslims aren’t predisposed to violence: “Islam, like all major religions, preaches tolerance and coexistence. Most sermons on most mosques on most days preach about living a good and moral life. Very normal stuff.”
Then he gets to his thesis, that Muslims can’t explain all that Muslim-on-Muslim violence and that they shroud themselves in conspiracy theories: “Which leads many in the Islamic world to conclude that there must be a conspiracy. Some war against Islam waged by non-Muslims. This is a very common philosophy in the Islamic world reinforced by television shows and taken as fact at many of the same mosques where people are told to live good and decent lives.”
Engel then concedes that there might be some truth to the idea that Muslims are being killed by non-Muslims: “In just a generation, starting roughly in 1980, about 4 million Muslims have died violently in wars, from Afghanistan to Iraq, Bosnia to Chechnya. Understand, numbers like these are hard to nail down. But the scale makes a point. More than 300 Muslims killed a day, every day, for 30 years. And about half of them, think Afghanistan attacked by the Soviet Union, Bosnia by Serbs, and America’s two wars in Iraq, it was Muslims who were killed by non-Muslims. The worst atrocity in Europe since World War II, the massacre at Srebrenica, and the worst air assault on a city, Grozny, were both directed at Muslims by armies of other faiths. So looking from the inside out, it’s not unreasonable to see a war against Islam.”
Then he pivots to his conclusion: It’s really the Muslims killing each other, and they don’t like to admit it: “But increasingly, the argument doesn’t hold up. Increasingly, it’s been Muslims killing Muslims. In civil wars in Syria, Algeria, Sunni versus Shiite violence seems to be the new terrible trend. And one that is likely to continue as the Arab world struggles to find a new status quo after the revolution of the Arab Spring. It could take a decade for a new system to lock in place. Until then, there’s likely to be a lot more Muslim versus Muslim violence. But this narrative isn’t very popular in the region. It isn’t talked about as much in the mosques and in the Arab media. Perhaps it’s easier to blame the outside than to explain the interfaith violence.”
There are a number of troubling flaws in Engel’s argument. First of all, he seems to posit that the Muslim world is uniquely violent, with 4 million Muslims  killed there over the past 33 years. While the region has indeed seen horrific violence, let’s not forget that it’s a group consisting of over 1.6 billion individuals.
By contrast, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 95 percent of the population is Christian, the International Rescue Committee estimated that 5.4 million people died in conflict in eastern Congo from 1998 to 2007 out of a current population of 65.7 million people.
There are also parts of the Muslim world that have relatively little violence. For example, much of the Middle East has lower homicide rates than the U.S.
Then Engel concedes that half of the violence he was referring to came from outside the Muslim world. He then quickly moves on. Think about that. In 2001, 2,750 Americans were killed by Muslim terrorists. The same year, 15,980 Americans were killed by … each other in homicides. If you polled most Americans that year about what they were most outraged about, it’s very likely that the terrorist attacks would rank higher than common murder, even though the murders accounted for almost six times as many deaths. Would Engel really take Americans to task for uniting against a foreign enemy – the al-Qaida organization – rather than the violence from within? Every society, not just Muslim ones, are quicker to rally against a foreign enemy.
That brings us to the last flaw in Engel’s argument. He claims that Muslims and Arabs are not focusing on violence by other Muslims, and that they’d rather blame foreigners, in the press and in their mosques. But is that even true?
I took a couple of snapshots of the current home page of, the Web presence of Pakistan’s most influential newspaper. The home page features items on a girls’ school receiving a threatening letter from an offshoot of the Pakistani Taliban, an article on a bomb attack on a train in Balochistan, a piece on Pakistan’s female police officers taking on criminals and terrorist militants, among others related to “Muslim versus Muslim violence.”
did the same for the Khaleej Times, a major news outlet based out of the United Arab Emirates. As I write this, there are three articles about Syria’s civil war and one article about Malala, the famed Pakistani teenage girl who stood up to the Taliban.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t certain individuals that peddle conspiracies and try to blame the West for all of the Muslim world’s problems. But they aren’t too different from our own Glenn Beck, Michele Bachmann and Rush Limbaugh – they’re providing red meat to a small but fervent audience that rejects rational discussion.
Engel’s portrayal of “Muslim versus Muslim violence” is simplistic. The issues and animosities that have created sectarian warfare in some parts of the Muslim world are nuanced, and many of them can at least partially be blamed on the West: See Syria where the civil war has turned into a proxy conflict between the American and Russian governments, which are both fueling the bloodshed with arms.
Yet a greater problem may be Engel’s role as a narrator himself. Like white conservatives who scold the black community for violence, Engel is playing the role of a white Western outsider, lecturing Muslims on their inability to govern themselves. Yes, there is bitter sectarian violence in some parts of the Muslim world, but addressing that is primarily a job for Muslim activists and the Muslim public sphere. A white non-Muslim lecturing Muslims on American television will hardly help soothe sectarian divisions, and it may even exacerbate them.
Perhaps a better use for Engel’s reporting talent would be to inform Americans about the nuances of conflicts in the Middle East and Muslim world, and to give them the information they need to change what’s most directly under their control: U.S. foreign policy. Engel could explain how the United States’ one-sided policies with respect to Israel and the Palestinians prevent a resolution, or how our extreme sanctions against Iran are hurting ordinary people there, not government officials – a former U.S. ambassador recently warned that it could “become a humanitarian disaster in five years.”
A reporter of Engel’s background and talent should consider these alternatives and others rather than championing a simplistic and condescending narrative toward 1.6 billion people.

American Muslims Condemn Terrorism

While the Muslim community does not need to collectively take responsibility for violence done by a few of its members, just as no community is responsible for the crimes of the few, it certainly would behoove American Muslim leadership to engage and educate the public that in fact Islam has no room for such atrocities that some may commit in its name.

Despite doing so however, many politicians, ill-informed activists, and self-appointed 'terrorism experts' still claim that they “have never heard a Muslim condemn terrorism.” That is probably most likely because they have never gotten to know a Muslim, or simply because they are not listening to those moderate Muslim voices.

To set the record straight however, I have written this blog post to cite a few of the many references of American Muslim leadership condemning terrorism.

It is important to note however that statistically speaking, only a minority of terrorist or violent attacks in the world are committed by those who claim affiliation with the Muslim faith and that people of other faiths are nonetheless not similarly expected to be accountable for the crimes committed by members of their faith.

Nonetheless, we have a whole section on condemning terrorism on our website where we include many blogs and media appearances where the community condemns violence:

Here is the link to an editorial I published in the Tampa Bay Times “Islam has no room for terrorism” 

Here is me in a Fox News video about the Muslim Community reporting an alleged terrorist to law enforcement and us condemning terrorism.

I am on Fox News here as well clearly condemning violence.

Another Fox News video where I am condemning violence on behalf of the community.

Below is a list of articles and resources debunking the myth that Muslims do not condemn terrorisim:
·               marathon
·                         denounce-the-woolwich-attack/

Here are a few excellent academic resources that put the threat of terrorism in perspective:

·         Duke/UNC study that American Muslim terrorism is on the decline:
·         “The Terrorism Delusion is another university study on fear being overblown:
·         Professor Jaun Cole’s recent article “Terrorism and Other Religions”
·         Professor Robert Pape’s study that terrorists are not motivated by religion:

It is interesting to note that there are greater chances of drowning in your bathtub than getting killed by a terrorist, and the amount of people killed by terrorism in the US is extremely small compared to those killed by other violent crime:

According to the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security:

• Fourteen Muslim-Americans were indicted for violent terrorist plots in 2012, down from 21 the year before, bringing the total since 9/11 to 209, or just under 20 per year.
• The number of plots also dropped from 18 in 2011 to 9 in 2012.
• Meanwhile, the United States suffered approximately 14,000 murders in 2012.
• Since 9/11, Muslim-American terrorism has claimed 33 lives in the United States, out of more than 180,000 murders committed in the United States during this period.
• Over the same period, more than 200 Americans have been killed in political violence by white supremacists and other groups on the far right, according to a recent study published by the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy.
• Sixty-six Americans were killed in mass shootings by non-Muslims in 2012 alone, twice as many fatalities as from Muslim-American terrorism in all 11 years since 9/11.

We must stand united as Americans for security and liberty and condemn all those who wish to promote hatred, division, or violence.

Clearly, the myth that American Muslims do not condemn terrorism is clearly false.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Shariah 101: What is it and why do states want to ban it?

By: | The State | July 25, 2013    [Original Article]
 North Carolina lawmakers July 24 approved a bill to prohibit judges from considering “foreign laws” in their decisions, but nearly everyone agrees that “foreign laws” really means Shariah, or Islamic law.
North Carolina now joins six other states — Oklahoma, Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Tennessee — to pass a “foreign laws” bill. A similar bill passed in Missouri, but Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed it, citing threats to international adoptions.
The bills all cite “foreign laws” because two federal courts have ruled that singling out Shariah — as Oklahoma voters originally did in 2010 — is unconstitutional.
So what’s the big deal with Shariah?
Many Americans think of Shariah as an Islamic legal system characterized by misogyny, intolerance, and harsh punishments. Some anti-Islamic activists warn that Muslims are trying to sneak Shariah into the American legal system in ways that do not reflect U.S. legal principles or beliefs.
Many Muslim Americans counter that Shariah is essential to belief, and that any harsh punishments or unconstitutional aspects associated with Islamic law have either been exaggerated, abrogated or are superseded by American law.
Muslims around the world have varying views about what Shariah entails, and its role in personal and public life. So what exactly is Shariah? Here are five facts that might help make sense of this complex and often misunderstood term.
1. What is Shariah?
Shariah is an Arabic word that literally means a path to be followed, and also commonly refers to a path to water. The term is broad, encompassing both a personal moral code and religious law.
There are two sources of Shariah: The Quran, which many Muslims consider to be the literal word of God; and the “Sunnah,” the divinely guided tradition of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
The interpretation of Shariah is called “fiqh,” or Islamic jurisprudence. Because fiqh is man-made, it can be changed; Shariah, for many Muslims, is divine and cannot be changed.
Some Muslims use the term Shariah to apply to both the injunctions in the Quran and Sunnah, and the interpretation of the Quran and Sunnah. Islamic law consists of Shariah and fiqh.
2. What does Shariah cover?
While often thought of as a legal system, Shariah covers personal and collective spheres of daily life, and has three components – belief, character, and actions. Only a small portion of the “action” component relates to law. In fact, only about 80 of the Quran’s 6,236 verses are about specific legal injunctions.
— The “belief” component of Shariah commands Muslims to believe in God, the angels, prophets, revelation, and other metaphysical and physical aspects of the faith.
— In terms of “character,” Shariah commands Muslims to strive for traits like humility and kindness, and to avoid traits such as lying and pride.
— “Actions” include those relating to God, such as prayer, fasting, and pilgrimage, as well as actions relating to other humans, such as marriage, crime, and business.
Some actions relating to other humans can be regulated by the state, while actions relating to God (as well as belief and character) are between an individual and God. Nevertheless, some Muslim-majority countries have criminalized violations of the belief, character, and action components of Shariah.
3. Who is qualified to issue rulings on Shariah?
Shariah was systematized between the eighth and 10th centuries, some 200 to 300 years after Muhammad received his first revelation. Many people believe that, by the end of the 10th century, the core components of Shariah had been exhaustively debated. That said, changes in Islamic society force scholars to look at Shariah anew, with new interpretations expressed in fatwas (religious edicts) and legal opinions.
Interpreting Shariah is done by jurists known as “fuqahaa” who look at the practicality of both time and place regarding how a ruling can be applied. In places where Shariah has official status, it is interpreted by judges known as “qadis.” Fiqh interpretations divide human behavior into five categories: obligatory, recommended, neutral, discouraged, and forbidden.
Over the centuries, Islamic legal analyses and opinions were compiled in books that judges used in deciding cases. Secular courts and Shariah courts coexisted in Islamic lands, with the Shariah courts often taking responsibility for family law matters. With the arrival of European colonization, many of these legal opinions were codified into civil law.
4. Where is Shariah the law of the land?
Professor Jan Michiel Otto of the Leiden University Law School in the Netherlands divides legal systems of Muslim countries into three categories: classical Shariah systems, secular systems, and mixed systems.
In countries with classical Shariah systems, Shariah has official status or a high degree of influence on the legal system, and covers family law, criminal law, and in some places, personal beliefs, including penalties for apostasy, blasphemy, and not praying. These countries include Egypt, Mauritania, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, the Maldives, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and certain regions in Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, and the United Arab Emirates.
Mixed systems are the most common in Muslim-majority countries. Generally speaking, Shariah covers family law, while secular courts will cover everything else. Countries include: Algeria, Comoros, Djibouti, Gambia, Libya, Morocco, Somalia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Oman, and Syria.
In several Muslim-majority countries, Shariah plays no role: Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Tunisia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Albania, Kosovo, and Turkey.
Some countries have Islamic family law courts available for their Muslim minorities: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, India, Israel, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.
In the United States, there are no Islamic courts, but judges sometimes have to consider Islamic law in their decisions. For example, a judge may have to recognize the validity of an Islamic marriage contract from a Muslim country in order to grant a divorce in America.
Some Islamic scholars argue that true Islamic belief cannot be coerced by the state, and therefore belief in Shariah should only come from the individual and not be codified by the state.
5. Does Shariah really prescribe harsh punishments like stoning adulterers?
Yes, but many of these punishments have been taken out of context, abrogated, or require a near-impossible level of evidence to be carried out. For someone to be convicted of adultery, for example, there must be four witnesses to the act, which is rare. The Quran also prescribes amputating the hands of thieves, but (and this is often forgotten or unmentioned) not if the thief has repented.
Other Shariah scholars say such a punishment system can only be instituted in a society of high moral standards and where everyone’s needs are met (thereby obviating the urge to steal or commit other crimes). In such a society, the thinking goes, corporal punishments would be rarely needed.
That said, corporal punishments have been used by Islamic militant groups in places like Afghanistan, Somalia, and Syria, and governments in Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Aceh state in Indonesia and elsewhere.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Ahmad Ali Could Be Trayvon Martin

By: Dawud Walid | | March 22, 2012   [Original Article]

There is a national discussion going on regarding the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old Black American honor roll student, by 28 year old triggerman George Zimmerman regarding the role of race and demonization and how much rights private citizens have or don’t have in using deadly force for public safety purposes.

Zimmerman, who has a track record of calling the police regarding “suspicious” (meaning Black) males traveling through his neighborhood, pursued Martin for looking “suspicious” (Black wearing a hoodie) and shot him due to him carrying the very dangerous weapon of Skittles.  Ironically, Zimmerman was arrested in 2005 for resisting arrest and committing battery against a law enforcement officer. Now, he has taken on the role of playing a keystone cop in following and questioning “suspicious” looking people.

To be frank, I was appalled when I heard about this murder, but I was not shocked at all.  As a Black male, who was raised in the South, my parents and grandparents warned me, as so many Black boys continued to be warned, that when traveling in certain areas on foot or driving through certain areas, to be extra cautious.  “Don’t walk with your hands in your coat pockets… Don’t be too loud… Don’t argue with White men that provoke confrontation… Don’t look at officers in their eyes too long… Don’t make sudden moves when pulled over by police and keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times…”  There is a long history in America of fatal shootings of Black males based upon racial animus.

At the heart of the discussion regarding the shooting of Martin is the question of how can we curtail the tendency of many to demonize or other-ize people due to bigotry, or as a mechanism, driven by insecurities, of uplifting one’s self over others. Black men have been subjected to such demonization since the days of slavery with overseers, then from officers and “concerned citizens” like the White Citizens Council in post-Reconstruction America.  Now, there are armed militias in the southern border states, who do the same with Latinos under the guise that they are watching for criminals crossing the border, as if the majority of Latinos in those states aren’t documented and don’t abide by the law when in fact this is not the case.

Zimmerman saying that Martin looked “suspicious,” which prompted him to start a confrontation, had me thinking about how young, brown Muslim males are currently seen by many in America as suspicious, just like young Black males, be they Christian or Muslim.  Would Zimmerman have acted the same way if he saw a young Arab-American honor roll student named Ahmad Ali walking down the street wearing a white robe, or if he saw a South Asian class president named Muhammad Hussein walking down the street wearing jeans and a hoodie?  I can’t say for certain that the outcome would have been the same, but the mentality of people like Zimmerman would prompt the same suspicion.

I hope that through Martin’s tragic death, we can have more conversations about getting to know each other, and decrease the tendency of other-izing each other as Americans.  The stakes are too high if we do not.  Just ask Trayvon Martin’s parents.

Link Between Islam And Violence Rejected By Many Americans After Boston Bombings: Pew Survey

 By: Jaweed Kaleem | The Huffington Post | July 5, 2013  [Original Article]

Islam Violence MuslimsAfter the Boston Marathon bombing suspects were revealed to be Muslims who investigators said were motivated in part by radical Islam, American Muslims were quick to condemn the bombings and plea for Americans to not retaliate against the peaceful majority.
Now, the results of a new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press show that despite heightened interest around radical Islam's connection to the Boston attacks, Americans' view of whether Islam is more likely than other religions to support violence remains close to what it has been for the past decade. The survey also found that Americans view Muslims as the group that's most discriminated against when compared to gays and lesbians, African Americans, Hispanics and women.

The survey, which was released Tuesday, found that 42 percent of Americans believe Islam is "more likely" than other religions to encourage violence among believers, while 46 percent say it's not any more likely to promote violence than other faiths. Those figures are within 7 percentage points of the results of surveys going back to 2003 that have asked the same question. Only in 2002 did Pew find widely different results to the question about Islam and violence, when 25 percent of those surveyed said Islam was more likely to encourage violence while 51 percent disagreed.

Tuesday's results found that about 45 percent of Americans say there is "a lot" of discrimination against Muslims, while 39 percent say there is the same amount of discrimination against gays and lesbians. A quarter of Americans believe there is "a lot" of discrimination against Hispanics, 22 percent believe there is a similar level of discrimination against African Americans and 15 percent believe there is "a lot" of discrimination against women.

Pew, which polled 1,504 people for the survey with a margin of error of 2.9 percent, also found differences between views of Islam when results were broken down by age, sex, political party and religion. The majority of young people don't believe Islam is more linked to violence than other religions, while half of people above 50 believe Islam is more likely to promote violence. Men were also more likely than women to say Islam is related to violence. Republicans were also more likely to believe in a link between Islam and violence than Democrats, as were white evangelical Protestants when compared to mainline Protestants.