Saturday, April 12, 2014

Philippe Couillard is in a secular charter mess of his own: Siddiqui

Quebec’s premier-elect has promised to introduce his own version of the divisive charter of secular values

By: Haroon Siddiqui Columnist, Published on Wed Apr 09 2014

Amid the jubilation of the Liberal majority win in Quebec, let’s not forget that the divisive charter of secular values is not quite dead.

Philippe Couillard promised, and reconfirmed at his post-election news conference, that he would introduce his own charter. It, too, would ban religious clothing and symbols in the public sector, albeit for a limited number of people — those occupying “positions of authority,” yet to be defined by him.

The big relief is that he would, as promised, spare the health sector, schools and daycare centres. No one wearing a kippa or a hijab or a turban there would be fired.

He has also confirmed his emphatic no to the face-covering niqab. Those receiving a public service would have to uncover their face.

That’s the easy part.

His challenge is to untangle the knots that he has tied himself in by caving in to the prevailing orthodoxy that religious clothing compromises state neutrality and that it denotes fundamentalism/extremism/militancy.

The idea that senior civil servants eschew religious clothing came from the 2007-08 commission on reasonable accommodation. It suggested the speaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly as well as police officers, prosecutors, judges and jail guards for the ban.

Couillard agreed — except that he has refused to say whether he’d outlaw the hijab for police officers.

While he ponders that, the real issue is that this entire proposition is asfundamentally flawed and odious as the PQ’s.

Charles Taylor, co-chair of the accommodation commission, has distanced himself from it. He told me last fall that the idea was floated only as “a way out” of the then prevailing anti-minority hysteria (fanned mostly by the sensationalist media of Pierre Karl Peladeau, now an elected Parti Québécois member of the National Assembly, whose partner Julie Snyder has been a proud member of the pro-charter Janettes, named after Janette Bertrand, the 89-year-old TV personality whose xenophobia proved so embarrassing for the PQ).

Couillard campaigned for individual freedom — “it protects us all against oppression, including the oppression of the majority over the minority.” Yet he now wants to discriminate against minority members who exercise their religious freedom through clothing.

He had argued that “there’s not a single shred of data that justifies the charter project.” Equally, there’s no evidence that a kippa- or turban- or hijab-wearing judge is incapable of delivering fair justice.

Couillard would have been better off with his original stand — the PQ charter would pass “over my dead body.” But then he lost his nerve, and kept compromising.

He said Tuesday he now wants to define the concept of the neutrality of the state. But he has already defined it in the worst way, by conceding that it depends, in part, on barring some citizens from holding certain key positions. He is skating on PQ ice.

When he presents his charter, both the Parti Québécois and Coalition Avenir Québec are likely to find it wanting. The PQ leadership hopefuls, Peladeau, Jean-Francois Lisee and Bernard Drainville, in particular, would want to go to town on the only issue left for them to rally their troops on.

Irony is that the premier-elect stands compromised on the very issue that Quebecers have soundly rejected — defeating not only the PQ government but the charter’s chief architect, Marois, in her own riding, and the five militantly pro-charter women she had backed it (including four Muslim and one Jewish), each full of contradictions and wild conspiracy theories against Muslims and Jews.

Had Couillard taken a principled position, he would now have had the golden opportunity to put an end to all the anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic and anti-Sikh nonsense that has been peddled in the name of secularism.

Another of his mistakes was to accept that hijab equals militancy. He formed a Liberal panel to study “fundamentalism,” including the radicalization of young people. To mitigate the proposal’s Islamophobic undercurrent, he said the panel would also tackle Christian fundamentalists who won’t have their children vaccinated. That’s a matter for public health authorities, as jihadism is for police, to tackle, not politicians pondering basic rights and freedoms.

The premier-elect made it worse Tuesday by elevating his internal party proposal into the broad official quest for consensus on the charter — “to prevent certain manifestations of fundamentalism.”

He should deep-six that, and concentrate instead on ways to get out of the deeper quagmire he has got himself into — and do it before his honeymoon runs out and identity politics rears its ugly head again.

Haroon Siddiqui’s column appears on Thursday and Sunday.

Many Young Australians are now converting to Islam

Friday, April 11, 2014

Irresponsible Free Press coverage misleads readers and misrepresent community

A Detroit Free Press article titled "Muslim parents upset over flyer promoting church's Easter egg hunt" was published on Thursday, April 3. After reading the story, however, one discovers that the “worry” expressed comes from only one Muslim father, Dearborn resident Majed Moughni.

Niraj Warikoo, the article’s author, quoted only one parent, Moughni, but he attributed his opinion to "Muslim parents," creating drama and conflict to gain readers, because as we all know, religious feuds are always a hot topic. Dearborn Muslim social media users overwhelmingly denied being offended by the flyer, which promotes an event on April 12 at Cherry Hill Presbyterian Church.

Manufacturing a conflict like this in Dearborn interfaith community is irresponsible and dangerous. Harmful comments like, "Muslim plead for understanding and acceptance from Christians...but yet can't or won't offer the same in return," were published on the Free Press' Facebook page, encouraging negative feelings against the Muslim community, which is already suffering bigotry and discrimination.

Warikoo tried to hide his shortcomings, sensationalism and unprofessionalism by changing one word in the headline from “parents” to “parent” on Friday. However, by then, thousands of people had read the story and were under the impression that most, if not all, Muslims were offended by this flyer, the egg hunt, and, subsequently, other faiths. Many national media outlets picked up the story as well.

Dearborn Patch featured the article and added to its inaccuracy by stating that "[t]he parents said the incident is deepening their concerns churches are using the school district to convert their children to Christianity."

What parents?

Despite changing the headline, the Free Press published a cartoon on Saturday, claiming again that Muslim parents are angry over the flyers. 

Even on Moughni's own "Dearborn Area Community Members" Facebook page, the overwhelming majority of comments were about the absurdity of Moughni's “concern,” after he and Warikoo made it seem like it was an issue for all Muslim parents.

"You are a joke! A disgrace to our community and disgrace to Muslim religion. It's bad enough others already have this misconception about us and you choose an egg hunt to attempt to prove a point? 

You do not represent this community whatsoever," a user stated on the Facebook page. However, this comment and others criticizing Moughni were deleted by Moughni himself soon after they were posted.

Moughni can delete comments, and Warikoo can change his headline. But what was published is unerasable and affects us all.

The truth is that almost all Muslim parents in Dearborn are not offended at all by the flyer. They are concerned about funding for their children's schools, education standards and class size, just like all parents.

Moughni was seeking attention, and Warikoo rewarded his efforts, without ever reaching out to other parents, religious leaders, or civil rights groups.

Nobody is rioting. Nobody is angry. In a world where real civil rights issues exist for Arab and Muslim Americans, such actions by Moughni and Warikoo should be denounced clearly.

Warikoo's coverage of Moughni's complaints is the latest in a series of mistakes he has committed while covering the Arab American and Muslim communities. On Oct. 20, Warikoo commented on the appointment of Jacob Bender as the head of the Philadelphia chapter of the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) by stating on Twitter, "A Jewish-American is new head of Philadelphia chapter of a Muslim American group founded and led by Hamas supporters." 

CAIR's leaders and founders are not Hamas supporters.

In 2007, the New York Times reported that "more than one [government official] described the standards used by critics to link CAIR to terrorism as akin to McCarthyism."

Following Warikoo's unfounded tweet, leaders of civil rights organizations from different ethnic communities wrote a letter to the publisher of the Free Press Paul Anger informing him of their decision to boycott Worikoo.

"Our concerns about Warikoo’s coverage of our communities and our organizations’ events do not extend across the breadth of his career with the Freep. However, given his coverage pertaining to a number of issues in the past couple of years, we can no longer grant him interviews pertaining to our events and our organizations until further notice," read the letter, which was signed by Detroit Branch NAACP Executive Director Donnell White, ACRL Chairman Nabih Ayad and CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid, among others.

In August of last year, when Syria's ambassador to the United Nations Bashar Jaafari delivered a speech at a dinner in Dearborn, Warikoo made it a point to state in his article that the ambassador did not grant him an interview at the dinner. The truth is that Jaafari had told Warikoo to meet him at his hotel, which was less than five minutes away from the event. The reporter agreed to come but never showed up.

Moughni capitalized on Warikoo's sensationalism for publicity. And as if the media fiasco he stirred up were not enough, Moughni followed the story to the national stage. He was featured on Fox News' Sean Hannity show on Tuesday.

Moughni did not say that he represents himself only and viewers were under the impression that he speaks for a number of parents who are angry about the flyer.

Moughni was double-teamed by Hannity and fellow Fox presenter Bob Beckel, who embarked upon on a successful mission to ridicule him.

"...The Muslim community both in the United States and certainly overseas, the presidents of every Muslim nation, the radicals certainly, but the mainstream Muslims, supposedly moderate Muslims, have said nothing when children get bombed at Boston Marathon, when the Cole gets blown up, or the World Trade Center -- nothing is ever said," Becket railed at Moughni.

As ridiculous as it is, this comment was expected from Beckel, who has a history of making bigoted, racist and sexist remarks.

The bewildering part, however, was Moughni's disastrous response. The Dearborn attorney, who knows our community well, did not call out Beckel on his lies. He did not tell him that the Muslim community, with its imams, leaders and members, stands united against terrorism. He did not tell him that community leaders, religious scholars and elected officials gathered at the Islamic Institute of Knowledge in the wake of the Boston bombing to unequivocally condemn the perpetrators. It was one of countless events where the community has stood up against acts of terror committed by fundamentalists here and abroad.

Instead, Moughni tooted his own horn at the expense of the rest of us. He said he condemns terrorism, as if to portray himself as the “good” American Muslim among the bad bunch, while the truth is the exact opposite. 
Speaking nervously, Moughni added gasoline to Fox News' flames of hatred against Muslims by saying: "You know, when I stood up in front of the world media and I said, you want to kill Americans, come to us first? Well, guess what I got? I got a phone call the next day from a guy who said -- from another Muslim from Ireland-- who said he would put a bullet in my head for standing up."

What Moughi was trying to achieve is beyond us, but what has become clear is that our community stands strongly united against his irresponsibility and Warikoo’s unprofessionalism.

UN criticizes Brunei over tough new Islamic law

AFP | Apr 11, 2014

GENEVA: The UN human rights office on Friday criticized Brunei's planned introduction of the death penalty for a raft of new offences, as part of a shift to harsh Islamic punishments in the oil-rich sultanate. 

"We are deeply concerned about the revised penal code in Brunei Darussalam, due to come into force later this month, which stipulates the death penalty for numerous offences," said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights. 

He told reporters these offences include rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sexual relations for Muslims, but also crimes such as robbery and murder. 

The death sentence could also be imposed for defamation of the Prophet Mohammed, insulting any verses of the Koran and Hadith, blasphemy, and declaring oneself a prophet or non-Muslim, he said. 

"Application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offences contravenes international law," he added. 

Brunei has not carried out any executions since 1957, but Colville said that rather than adding new capital crimes to its books, the sultanate should be working to abolish the death penalty outright. 

Brunei's all-powerful Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced last October that the country would phase in Islamic sharia law punishments such as flogging and death by stoning. 

The new criminal code, expected to enter into force on April 22, also introduces stoning to death as the specific method of execution for rape, adultery, sodomy and extramarital sexual relations. 

Colville said that international law classified stoning as "torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment", meaning it is banned under global human rights treaties. 

UN studies have shown that women are more likely to be sentenced to death by stoning, due to entrenched discrimination and stereotyping in the justice system, he noted. 

Criminalizing consensual sex between adults, let alone applying the death penalty for it, breaches a series of rights, while the new code also violates freedom of religion, opinion and expression, Colville added. 

Brunei practices a more conservative form of Islam than neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia, banning the sale and public consumption of alcohol and closely restricting other religions. 

The sultan has advocated the strengthening of Islam in the country, against what he calls potentially harmful outside influences, recently calling his Islamic monarchy a "firewall" against globalization. 

Officials have previously said sharia cases would require an extremely high burden of proof and judges would have wide discretion applying it.

Religiously inspired hatred

"Religiously inspired hatred is in itself a form of jahiliyya (ignorance) because, fundamentally, it exploits the Divine -- the embodiment of mercy, compassion, and love ... Exploiting the authority of God to degrade and devalue others is most often a product of the twin problems of lack of critical insight into the self and lack of empathetic knowledge of the other ..."

Thursday, April 10, 2014

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS!!! Totally Radical Muslims Zine - Volume 3

Hubb: Queer Muslim Love Stories


For volume three of the Totally Radical Muslim Zine, we’re exploring love, lust, trust and vulnerability.

The Totally Radical Muslim Zine is about telling our stories and reclaiming our truths. This project is about resisting Islamophobia, homophobia, imperialism and so many more systems of oppression, and we’re tackling that racist bullshit, one love story at a time! By telling our stories, with all their edges, contradictions, beauties and gems – we are taking back the power to create our narratives and imagine another present, and another history.

For Volume 3, we are seeking submissions that share experiences on: falling in love, falling out of love, finding queer love, feeling loved by family, erotica, heartache, loneliness, critical thoughts on relationships, friendship, platonic love, and stories on self-love.

Tell us about the ways you’ve opened and closed your heart. Count the times you’ve heard it break. Describe the love you’ve asked for, prayed for, waited for, cherished, embraced, feared, denied, chased, flirted with or fled. Name the feelings that visit you by night. Send us your love letters. Talk dirty to us.

Submission invited from all self-identified Muslims – queer, trans, straight, questioning, and more… We especially welcome submissions from voices often left out of Muslim discourse: queer and trans, black, youth, disabled, Shia, Ahmadi, poor, working class, folks incarcerated and recently released. 

Formats: written, drawing, photography, video. 

Deadline: Thursday May 1, 2014 (goal is to print for the Hot Summer of 2014). Send submissions to: or mail to TRM, PO Box 29843 Oakland CA 94604

Expectations we have and values we want upheld in submissions: 

- intersectional and anti-oppression lens (this is not the time to play oppression olympics, folks) 
- speak your truths, take care of your safety, be creative (pseudo names are useful, if needed) 
- work towards community building and breaking isolation 
- our stories are penned within a context of islamophobia - air your laundry, and be mindful of how the piece will be read 
- islamophobia falls within a continuum of oppression, honor the histories of other oppressed peoples


We do not edit your work.  This is our commitment to honoring individual voice and storytelling.  We are however, discerning in maintaining a political frame and may decide that your piece does not fit within our projects vision and intent.  

* all submissions must be UNDER 800 words 
* blog posts can be audio/video files (talk to us about your idea before submitting)

The Problem with Shaming

By Laila Alawa -- April 10, 2014

A woman is surrounded by the members of her community, attacked on all sides by questions, accusations and snide comments. They demand answers to what they perceive to be an egregious action, and there is nobody around to speak up for her. Her voice is paralyzed in front of their accusations. They shame her, verbally assault her and degrade her position in society. Where she was previously regarded with the greatest of esteem and honor, there are now doubts being called to her every action.

This is familiar enough of a situation for our community these days — taking place online and in person — accusations and judgment spread both in the form of whispered rumors and direct attacks. Our community regularly witnesses acts of shaming, but the story of related above is no ordinary story: It is the story of Maryam (AS) and her son’s birth, Isa (AS).

Surprised? Is the story making you uncomfortable to realize the lesson hidden within? The story of Maryam (AS) is literally one of the oldest stories of shaming in the Islamic tradition, and the its lessons hold true century after century. So why is our community today still unschooled?

What is shaming really? It is, in the simplest of ways, an effort to make another person feel a strong sense of unworthiness, guilt and embarrassment. It’s achieved regardless of the backstory or intention or the person doing the shaming, by causing the victim to feel unwelcome in the environment, path or tradition they have chosen to pursue. It is the most basic form of bullying, denying the formation of a constructive solution and choosing instead to rob the attacked individuals of the right to have their own experiences, background and future.

It is an act practiced, with little thought to repercussions, quite regularly by the Muslim community.

Borne out of so-called well intentions, shaming attacks those in the community deemed to be wrong or misguided or simply veering too much off the greater communal path. You see it in the way people are pushed out of the mosque through undercurrents of social pressure or by face-to-face confrontation. It’s noticeable in the manner with which some women’s hijabs (or the lack thereof) are criticized constrained publicly within traditional beliefs of what the scarf is meant to be.

Shaming is rooted in historically-formed power dynamics, perpetuated by those in positions of privilege: Born-Muslims shaming converts for not immediately fitting to their ideal; older community uncles and aunts pushing “misguided” youth outside of the mosque; those speaking out against the weary status quo being labelled by the majority as “other” or “secular.” In each instance, those attacking feel utterly justified — their cause becomes a banner to be held by others in agreement, intent only on ensuring that the attacked conforms to what they deem to be the right way, the only way to be a “good” Muslim.

The act of shaming is a victory for no one: Not the shamer, not the community and never the one being shamed. Admonished throughout our religious history, we still continue to encourage those who shame to continue to break down the community – an encouragement manifested both verbally and through silence. Those being shamed never “learn” what was really being “taught” through the attack, instead, they experience feelings of inadequacy, other-ness and loneliness.

Years ago, a friend near to me was loudly shamed by a prominent auntie for wearing clothing the woman deemed inappropriate to the mosque. The clothing was the same that any teenage Muslim girl would wear, and was wearing, to the mosque. But for some reason, my friend was chosen as the scapegoat for the auntie’s wrath in a room full of halaqa-goers. The shaming served only to alienate my friend from the mosque: Where she had felt marginally accepted before, she now felt she had lost the permission to be a part of.

Her story is one repeated in communities across the globe over and over and over again.

What remains starkly missing throughout all these accusations is the empathy and understanding that even amidst our differences, we are all part of a community seeking betterment in the name of the Most Merciful. When will we begin to understand that our very humanity excludes us from those given permission to judge and shame?

The notion of community will continue to remain elusive and exclusive only to those aligning within a distorted binary of “what’s right” if we continue to allow shame to permeate our communal bond as Muslims. Instead of working to create a lack of trust and belonging, we must work instead to foster acceptance, empathy and, at the very least, tolerance of the differences our community members possess.

We have a responsibility as a community to ensure that we do not repeat the story of Maryam. Yet it remains to be seen whether we will change our present — or whether shaming in our communities will continue to be our future. The next step is in our hands.

Laila Alawa is a columnist for Altmuslim. She is a a Muslim feminist, writer and cultural critic who has been published at The Huffington Post, The Guardian, and ILLUMEMedia, and serves as the founder and editor of Coming of Faith. She conducted a study on Muslim American perceptions of belonging, and is based in Washington, DC. Follow her on Twitter at @Lulainlife.

A reminder to those who have been given wealth

By S N Smith -- April 10, 2014

What a beautiful gift to humanity the Quran is. Everytime I open its pages, along with my heart and mind, I find something new and fresh to give me guidance, comfort and hope. Allah has left nothing out, and no matter what I need for direction it is found there. Why would I not be thankful to be a Muslim? It was the Quran, the words of Almighty Allah , and nothing or no one else, which led me to Islam and, throughout the course of my life these past 21 years of being Muslim, has been my constant guide. 

Today, I want to offer my reflections on verses 34-39 of Surah Saba, the 34th chapter of the Quran. Allah says: 
Never did We send a warner to a population, but the wealthy ones among them said: "We believe not in the (Message) with which ye have been sent." They said: "We have more in wealth and in sons, and we cannot be punished." Say: "Verily my Lord enlarges and restricts the Provision to whom He pleases, but most men understand not."It is not your wealth nor your sons, that will bring you nearer to Us in degree: but only those who believe and work righteousness - these are the ones for whom there is a multiplied Reward for their deeds, while secure they (reside) in the dwellings on high! Those who strive against Our Signs, to frustrate them, will be given over into Punishment. Say: "Verily my Lord enlarges and restricts the Sustenance to such of his servants as He pleases: and nothing do ye spend in the least (in His cause) but He replaces it: for He is the Best of those who grant Sustenance.
There is so much here to reflect upon in these few verses that it could take me pages to write, but that is not my intention for few will read a long article. 

Why is it that those who possess wealth and privilege have opposed the message of Islam and felt secure that their position of privilege will protect them from calamities? 

What is it about wealth that leads many people to believe that they are somehow superior to those who are less fortunate in life? 

Why do people who possess wealth believe that they are more favored by Allah than those who don't? 

Why does wealth have such an intoxicating effect on people to the point they feel they are no longer in need of Allah? 

I cannot answer these questions, but it is a fact that many people, throughout the course of human history, have fallen into the same trap over and over again. It seems that humanity never learns from its mistakes. 

The above verses reminds us that it is Allah who enlarges and restricts provisions to whom He pleases, but most people don't comprehend this point. People consistently fail to understand that the source of their provisions is from Allah and it is Allah who enlarges and restricts these provisions despite what may appear to be otherwise. 

The above verses also reminds us that it is not a sign of Allah's favor on a person if they have more wealth. Possessing wealth and privilege is not what brings people closer to Allah. Rather, it is their belief and acts of righteousness which causes them to attain Allah's favor, and no amount of money can buy this. 

This point should remind those who have wealth to practice humility as well as cause those who are less fortunate to reflect upon the fact that wealth is not a cure for all of their problems, and can, in fact, be a source of great trial. 

There are people who work against the truth and use all their wealth and resources to do so, but they are never ultimately successful in their efforts. Yes, they use their position in society to lead many people astray, but in the end such people will be filled with regrets over what they have spent their wealth and energy on. All of their wealth, which they thought would give them immunity from Allah's disfavor and a sense of superiority will come back to haunt them, for they have used the favors of Allah to commit acts of evil and injustice instead promoting the good throughout society. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) advised people to: “Take benefit of five before five: Your youth before your old age, your health before your sickness, your wealth before your poverty, your free time before you are preoccupied, and your life before your death” (Narrated by Ibn Abbas and reported by Al Hakim)

Many people who have a lot of wealth, but not all, tend to be stingy because they have arrived at a point where wealth owns them and not the other way around. It pains them to even buy a poor person a cup of coffee or give a little bit of their money to charitable causes because they don't believe people, other than them, deserve to be helped. If they do give, they do so stroke their own personal ego or expect some kind of worldly gain for their giving, such as accolades or other opportunities to make even more wealth. They also use their wealth to cause harm to other people or lead them down a wrong path. They possess the means to do a lot of good, but instead they miss the many opportunities to do so. That is very sad and unfortunate.

But Allah reminds us in the above verses, as well as many other verses in the Quran, that anything a person spends in the way of Allah -- which includes any act of charity or promoting good causes -- Allah will replace that which they spend with something better. When those who have wealth embrace this belief then wealth no longer has the ability to possess them. Rather, they see their wealth as a means to do even more good in the world. 

We will never be disappointed for giving out of the wealth which Allah has given us, and it is always good to remind ourselves of this fact when we feel reluctant to give to good and noble causes. 

S N Smith writes from Ottawa, ON

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

10 tips for living happily with your non-Muslim neighbours

By: El-Sayed M. Amin

The neighbor holds a special status in Islam.

Islam encourages Muslims to treat their neighbors in a gentle way that reflects the true and genuine spirit of Islam as exemplified in its tolerant aspect especially with people of other faiths.

It makes no difference whether the neighbors are Muslim or non-Muslim. ‘Aisha, the Mother of the Believers, stated that she once asked the Prophet (peace be upon him):

“O Messenger of Allah! I have two neighbors. To whom shall I send my gifts?”

He said:

“To the one whose gate is nearer to you.” (Al-Bukhari, 6220)

It is clear from the above hadith that Muslims are encouraged to not only treat our neighbors kindly, but also to exchange gifts with them. The wording of the hadith does not indicate whether the one with whom we exchange gifts is a Muslim or not.

It was even reported that the Prophet had a neighbor who used to harm him and insult him at every encounter. Some days elapsed without the Prophet getting his share of this man’s abuse. Thinking that there must be some reason behind the man’s absence, he paid him a visit and found him sick.

The man wondered how the Prophet could meet his bad treatment with such great behavior. To him, such noble character as taught by Islam was completely new.

If your neighbors are relatives and Muslims, then they have three rights on you: the right of the neighbor, the right of kin, and the right of the co-religionist.

If they are non-Muslim and relatives, then two rights are due to them: that of neighbor and kin. And if they are non-Muslims outside of the family, you owe them the right of the neighbor only.

Referring to this, Allah Almighty says:

{And serve Allah. Ascribe no thing as partner unto Him. (Show) kindness unto parents, and unto near kindred, and orphans, and the needy, and into the neighbor who is of kin (unto you) and the neighbor who is not of kin and the fellow traveler…} (’4:36)

Enough to say that the Prophet stated in one hadith that Angel Gabriel kept exhorting him to treat neighbors kindly to the extent that the Prophet imagined that a neighbor could inherit from his neighbor.

Below are some tips on how to approach your non-Muslim neighbors in a kind way that exemplifies Islamic manners:

1- Being good to neighbors is not only restricted to those who share the same building with you.Your roommate at the dorm is your neighbor; the person sitting behind you or next to you in a bus or at a bus stop is your neighbor; the one sharing your office at work is your neighbor; the person enjoying fresh air next to you in a public garden is also a neighbor. You ought to treat all of those people kindly.

2- Introduce yourself and your family to your neighbors when you move into a new place or when new neighbors move in. This will also help to relieve any fears or tensions they may have about Muslims. Also, don’t forget to say good-bye when you or they move away.

3- Care for them continually, especially at times of need and distress, as “the neighbor in need is a neighbor indeed.” If a neighbor is elderly or chronically ill, offer to run errands or shop for him or her.

4- In dealing with neighbors, it is safer to deal with those of the same sex as yourself. This does not mean that you should stop socializing at work or school with your non-Muslim workmates or classmates of the opposite sex, but be aware of Satanic snares. After-hours socializing should be with your same sex.

5- While socializing with non-Muslims, be cautious of becoming too lenient at the expense of your creed and principles. For example, don’t go out drinking with them. They will respect you more for sticking to your principles than for breaking the rules.

6- In addition to sharing ideas, share meals with them by inviting them to dinner on the weekend or accepting their invitation to the same, provided that you let them know about your dietary restrictions as a Muslim.

7- Visit each other so that the families can interact in a constructive way. If the discussion does turn to religion, focus on areas of common ground. For example, if your neighbors are Christian, then you should not enter into a futile argument with them about whether Jesus is God incarnate or not. Rather, tell them to what extent Islam honors all God’s Prophets and Messengers as a whole, and that Jesus is granted a special status among God’s Prophets and Messengers.

8- While socializing with neighbors, present your deen (Islam) in the best way. If you are faced with a difficult question or a distortion about Islam, do not be ashamed to stop for a while and tell them that you will try to contact a more knowledgeable person to seek the guidance regarding the issue raised. Thus, common grounds should be enhanced, and areas of dissension should never be raised.

9- If your neighbors show an interest in Islam, invite them to attend Islamic events, and even to accompany you to the mosque to see what it is like. It may be that their hearts become softened to Islam, and if they remain non-Muslim, at least you have succeeded in breaking the barrier. You can also visit the church where your neighbors pray if they invite you to do that, but here you should be cautious not to perform any act that your religion prohibits. In brief, be only a watchful monitor.

10- Always remember Allah and keep in mind the mighty reward that is in store for you in the Hereafter when you show kindness to a neighbor.

Intellectual Maturity - Friday Sermon by Imam Mohamad Jebara (Ottawa April 5, 2014)

The Indian Muslims View of the Upcoming Elections – ACD Exclusive

By Farah Qureshi
Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Muslims in India are apprehensive as the country goes to polls to elect the next prime minister. They are wary and scared because Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is tipped to become the next prime minister following elections beginning April 7 and ending on May 12.

India has about 160 million Muslims. That amounts for around 13.4 percent of country’s total population. But Indian Muslims would not like to see Narendra Modi as the next prime minister. Muslims are in a position to decide the fate of candidates in more than 120 constituencies of India out of total 543 parliamentary seats. They fear that Modi could become the next prime minister of India.

With the latest poll surveys showing BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi all set to provide the biggest victory to his party, Muslims have the reason to be worried about their future. For them Modi, the three term chief minister of Gujarat, was allegedly involved in the riots in which some 2,000 Muslims were killed in February-March 2002 in different parts of the state. The riots started after 57 Hindu pilgrims were killed in a fire inside the train. [ Please note that the petition to prosecute Modi, was rejected by a Magistrate Court in December 2013]. Modi has emerged as a popular leader among the majority Hindu community for his image as someone who is going all out to teach the pampered Muslim community a lesson.

As the conventional wisdom goes, Muslims are a vote bank or the most sought after group, as they tend to vote in unison. But this time Muslims are anxious that if he (Modi) is voted into power then how will he treat minorities, especially Muslims, in the country. Indian Muslims are finding it difficult to support any particular party in this election. The majority of Indians, fed up with ever-growing corruption, are looking up to Narendra Modi to provide a clean and efficient administration and also to give a boost to nation’s sagging economy.

However, Muslims in India are pulling out all the stops to see that Modi is not elected for the top post. They fear that they will not be safe under him and there is every possibility that the community could be marginalized further.

Muslims, often dubbed as the most conservative community in India, are also among the most economically deprived of society. But during elections security becomes the prime concern for the majority of Muslims in India. As the proverb goes in Urdu in India ‘Jan Hai to Jahan Hai’ (If there is life, then there is the world).

However, during the Lok Sabha election campaign Modi for the first time made an attempt to win the support of Muslims. He is avoiding jibes against Muslims and instead talking about injustice meted out to the largest religious minority community in this country.

But Muslims haven’t yet forgotten his actions in Gujarat. They cannot trust him. They still feel that if Modi becomes prime minister, then he can go to any length against Muslims. They have seen him in Gujarat and are in no doubt that he could repeat it all over India.

However, there are some who feel that in coalition politics Narendra Modi will not have the absolute power to act against Muslims. In a country like India, the prime minister has to accommodate each and every section of the society and cannot take unilateral decisions as per his will.

They also feel that the issue of Modi and secularism confronts India’s majority community more than minorities, e.g., Muslims. Since its independence in 1947, India has remained a secular, multicultural, pluralistic society largely due to the Hindu community’s disdain for religious fundamentalism and communal polity. The 2014 general elections are a litmus test for the nation. The issue of taming or restricting a political party or hardliners is therefore a task before the majority community and the minority community can only play a supplementary role.

But it seems Muslims do not have much option in the ensuing elections. They are also not pleased with the ruling Congress party, which had promised everything to them but never delivered. They are miffed as the Union government, led by Congress, has failed to introduce reservations in jobs and educational institutions, a promise made before the elections. Muslims still remain backward in terms of education, employment and health.

In Uttar Pradesh, Muslims have been voting for a regional player like the Samajwadi Party (SP). But the party has failed the community as communal riots in the state resulted in loss of life and property for Muslims. Thousands of Muslims have been displaced following last year’s riots in Muzzafarnagar and they are still living in makeshift camps.

In India it is believed that to rule in Delhi, your way must go through Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh. Uttar Pradesh has the highest number (80) Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament) seats in the country. Muslims have a 18.5 percent share in total electorate in the state. The community is going to play an important role in the elections. With Narendra Modi and his party having an edge in the state, the Muslims may go for tactical voting by supporting a secular candidate.

However, the division of secular votes is expected to benefit the BJP in the state as Muslims are likely to vote for Samajwadi Party, led by Mulayam Singh Yadav, the Bahujan Samaj Party, led by Mayawati, and the Congress.

But for Indian Muslims, the general elections of 2014 are going to be very decisive. Muslims in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, West Bengal and Maharashtra are working to ensure that Muslim votes do not get divided and they know they will have to vote tactfully to ensure win for a secular party.

* Farah Qureshi is a contributor to Dainik Bhaskar, a leading Hindi daily.

CAIR Welcomes Brandeis University's Withdrawal of Honor for Islamophobe Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Muslim civil rights group says 'victory over hate' came through unified front against intolerance

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 4/9/14) –- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today welcomed a decision by Brandeis University to withdraw its invitation to notorious anti-Muslim extremist Ayaan Hirsi Ali to receive an honorary degree at commencement ceremonies on May 18 and attributed the "victory over hate" to a unified community response.

CAIR, the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, requested that move yesterday in a letter to Brandeis President Frederick M. Lawrence.

Ali has in the past seemed to express sympathy for mass murderer Anders Breivik, who included her writings in his manifesto. She has also stated "we are at war with Islam," called for the closing of "all Muslim schools" in America, urged that Islam be "defeated," claimed"there is no moderate Islam," and suggested that the U.S. Constitution be amended to allow for discrimination against Muslims. 

In its statement announcing the withdrawal of Ali's invitation, the university said: "We cannot overlook that certain of her past statements are inconsistent with Brandeis University's core values."

"We welcome the recognition by Brandeis University that honoring an anti-Muslim bigot like Ayaan Hirsi Ali would amount to an endorsement of her hate-filled and extremist views," said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. "We would like to thank all those who took part in the effort to expose Ali's extremism and to convince the university to take corrective action."

Awad added: "This victory over hate was achieved because the American Muslim community joined with interfaith partners in presenting a unified front to challenge Ali's intolerance."

He offered specific thanks to the Brandeis Muslim Students Association, the editors of The Justicestudent newspaper at Brandeis, Tikun Olam blog editor Richard Silverstein, Imam Suhaib Webb of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, the Islamic Council of New England, Brandeis Professor Joseph Lumbard, and the many Jewish activists and academics who joined in demanding that Brandeis University withdraw its invitation to Ali.

Awad said the issue was not one of First Amendment rights because "Ali remains free to spew her anti-Muslim venom in any other venue," but was instead about a prestigious university not honoring a purveyor of religious bigotry.

CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

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CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726,; CAIR Communications Manager Amina Rubin, 202-341-4171,

Some things remain certain

By S N Smith -- April 9, 2014

We live in an age of spin where truth appears as falsehood and falsehood appears as truth. Words are chosen very selectively and used to deceive, manipulate or persuade people to embrace a certain cause or belief system. It is little wonder that many people have become increasingly cynical, because they are being fed with a constant diet of spin from almost every sector of society, including politicians, the medical / pharmaceutical establishment and religious groups to name a few. Outright lies and distortions are propagated and solemn vows are made that what is being said is absolutely true, when in fact the opposite is where the truth is found. 

But despite all this, for me there are things which remain certain in my mind. It is not my goal to convince others regarding what I hold to be true. Rather, my desire here is to share the certainty that resides within my own heart and mind and which has remained unshakeable throughout the course of my life. 

Allah says in Surah al-Rum, chapter 30, verse 40 of the Quran, اللَّهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُمْ ثُمَّ رَزَقَكُمْ ثُمَّ يُمِيتُكُمْ ثُمَّ يُحْيِيكُمْ ۖ هَلْ مِن شُرَكَائِكُم مَّن يَفْعَلُ مِن ذَ‌ٰلِكُم مِّن شَيْءٍ ۚ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ -- "It is Allah Who has created you: further, He has provided for your sustenance; then He will cause you to die; and again He will give you life. Are there any of your (false) "Partners" who can do any single one of these things? Glory to Him! and high is He above the partners they attribute (to him)!" 

And in verse 60 of the same surah, Allah says, فَاصْبِرْ إِنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ ۖ وَلَا يَسْتَخِفَّنَّكَ الَّذِينَ لَا يُوقِنُونَ -- "So patiently persevere: for verily the promise of Allah is true: nor let those shake thy firmness, who have (themselves) no certainty of faith."

In these two verses I am reminded of the following:

1) Allah created me, which reminds me of my ultimate origin. 

2) Allah provides for me, which reminds me of the ultimate source of my sustenance. 

3) I will die, but not before Allah ordains it. Allah, and only Allah, knows when I will die. This reminds me of the ephemeral nature of my earthly existence. 

4) Allah will bring me back to life, which reminds me that when I die that is not the end of the story and that there is a life beyond this earthly existence. 

5) No one else possesses the ability to do this, which for me is an expression of tawheed and that Allah, and only Allah possess the power and ability to do all of the above. 

6) The promise of Allah is true, which reminds me that regardless of all of the spin I am subjected to on a daily basis, Allah will never deceive me and if I listen to what He has to say I will never be disappointed or disillusioned. 

Why would I want to trade that in for anything? 

S N Smith writes from Ottawa, ON

Canada should rethink tough-on-crime strategy

Crime prevention proven to be more effective

Posted in Comment by Tariq Sohail on April 7, 2014
Tariq Sohail, volunteer staff

You would think all Republican primary candidates would take a tough-on-crime approach as part of their policy platform. But you would be wrong.

Former congressman and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, once a believer in the tough-on-crime approach, now argues that increased spending on incarceration is unnecessary, and spending on crime prevention instead is the way to go.

Even Gingrich, a lame duck candidate, has some sense of rationality when it comes to tackling crime. But here is the really irksome part: in the face of evidence to the contrary, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his cabinet remain bent on passing legislation to build more prisons and increase sentencing time.

Harper’s policies go against nearly every study that has been done on this issue. The research has shown that an increase in jail time does not decrease crime. It can, however, potentially increase crime because people convicted for petty crimes that get longer sentences will eventually be released as much more hardened criminals.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t have prison sentences for hardened criminals, but there are better approaches to dealing with crime than the current federal government’s approach.

The thing about this rather unfortunate state of affairs is that, if a political party criticizes the tough-on-crime approach, it will seem to the general public that the party does not take crime seriously enough.

When it comes to dealing with crime, the idea of severe punishment is a bit too primitive, outdated, and simplistic. It would obviously take a lot more policy analysis and creative thinking to reduce the recidivism rate and ensure less people engage in criminal activities in the first place.

I don’t have the solution to the crime problem, but I know tougher sentences and more prisons aren’t the solution. The problems are poverty, unemployment, unchecked mental health problems, substance abuse, and systemic racism. Crime stems from all of these factors; it may seem obvious but it is apparently not obvious enough for politicians who advocate harsher penalties.

All that aside, crime in Canada has in fact been decreasing, contrary to what the mainstream media or politicians might say to a terrified electorate. According to research by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2008 saw the lowest overall crime rate in the past 25 years. Violent crime has fallen by 14 per cent since 1992, and was at its lowest rate in 2008 since 1989. Similarly, property crime, which is down by 50 per cent since 1991, was at its lowest rate in 2008. Sexual assaults, break-ins, robberies, and auto thefts are also down.

If any of these statistics were used as feedback to legislators, it would point them to the conclusion that Canada is doing something right in terms of crime policy. However, the policies we are now enacting will have a negative effect on our justice system in the future. We must improve the justice system by improving social and economic factors so that the initial conditions influencing individuals to commit crimes is negligible.

Take, for example, the 2012 federal omnibus Bill C-10, which imposed more mandatory and harsher sentences. Federal and provincial governments have not adequately shown how they intend to cover the increased cost of this new policy. According to the John Howard Society of Manitoba, the bill will cost the province $90 million in expenses related to the required increases in prison space and operations.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives broke down what that $90 million could be spent on if the government listened to anti-poverty advocates. Thirty million dollars could be spent on new child care spaces and new social housing. The other $60 million could be spent on prevention investments in the areas of housing, mental health, addictions treatment, employment, education, and family support.

How can governments have money for more prisons but no money to help out families struggling to meet basic needs?

Criminals are quite rational actors when they plan and execute criminal activities. The idea here is that when the marginal benefit of committing a crime is higher than the marginal cost, then criminals are rationally going to maximize their welfare by doing the crime, and do it again if the same conditions are present upon their prison release.

If the government policy toward crime prevention increased the marginal benefit of living a life without crime, only then would criminal actors think twice before committing crimes. Instead the Conservatives are ignoring the beneficial side of the equation and focusing on the demonstrably less effective method of increasing penalties, at the expense of taxpayers.

The idea here is to encourage a dialogue about what we can do to prevent crime before it happens. This would require us to let go of several of our fears around public safety. These fears seem to get the best of people on issues like this.

The extremist attitude usually wins when fear is rampant. It is about time we fundamentally rethink how we prevent crimes, rehabilitate prisoners, and reduce recidivism rates.

Crime in Canada is at its lowest rate in decades and it is important that it stays that way. But it won’t stay that way if legislators keep up their tough-on-crime approach in the face of all the evidence indicating its ineffectiveness.