Category Archives: Muslim in America

Moving Forward: Walk With Us

The last year has been a whirlwind of changes. We moved from New York – where me, my husband Shakiel and all our children were born – down to sunny Florida. It hasn’t been easy to leave behind our dsc_0512extended family; my parents, sisters and their husbands  –  all my precious nieces and nephews – 9 so far. My husband’s siblings and their 7 sweeties are all so far away now. We left behind a home where so many memories were made, amazing neighbors whom we will never forget, and long-time friends.

This September, the youngest of our five children went off to school, and with more time in the day for writing, Shakiel and I have teamed up and embarked on several exciting projects. We’ve found that collaborating has helped us hone our intention and direction, and that we are, naturally, stronger together.

With a clear path in sight, we’ve named ourselves “Compassionate Coexistence Ambassadors” because we intend for our work to make the American Muslim experience accessible, tangible and transparent. We believe that the more people get to know one another, the more empathy becomes possible. Empathy in turn, lays the way for Compassion.

We believe Compassionate coexistence is possible, and that during these trying times, where division and anger are on the rise, those of us who have chosen to resist hatred and conflict must work towards understanding one another.

 

Learning about those who are “different” often leads us to finding common ground – from which we can respect and even appreciate one another’s different-ness.

That being said, please visit our new website and subscribe and share with your friends and family. Stay up to date with our articles, conversations, publications and other projects that help bring people together.

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and Twitter. See you there!

Peace!

You can also email us at contact@ShakielandDanielle.com 😉

 

http://www.shakielanddanielle.com/

https://mobile.twitter.com/ShakielDanielle?lang=en

 

 

 

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Why the Question of Islamophobia Deserves a Real Answer

“On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Navy, and a grateful Nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved ones honorable and faithful service.”

These were the words spoken to us just over a week ago as our family sat, tears falling, amid the backdrop of endless white headstones at Long Island National Cemetery. In that moment of sadness, our thoughts turned to our children. In the midst of the loss of their great-grandfather who served in WWII, we’ve been compelled to think about their place in the future of this nation. Our nation.

As an American Muslim couple, both of us born and raised in New York, we’ve been watching this presidential election process unfold with rising concern. Although questions have been asked at the debates about the surge in hatred and violence towards innocent, law abiding American Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim, we find ourselves holding our breath in anticipation, eager for a moment in which the many victims of this anti-Islam hate will be recognized with more than just an off-hand, superficial condemnation.

The discussion of this topic – often labeled “Islamophobia” – the “othering” of Muslim citizens and the dangers posed to these American families – is often shifted – almost unnoticeably, to the topic of fighting terrorism.

All Americans are subject to the same terrorism threat – including Muslims. In addition to the terror threat, American Muslims are made to endure misplaced hatred, violence and suspicion ranging from micro aggressions and discrimination – to cold blooded murder.

The evil of terrorism is not a justification for the violence toward innocent Muslims – both are unacceptable. So why do the responses to this issue in the debates repeatedly shift attention away from recognizing the victims of anti-Islam hate?

By shifting the topic from Islamophobia to terrorism, the virulent anti-Islam hate directed at innocent Americans is implicitly justified – as if the existence of terrorism is the natural, obvious explanation for it. This allows for the conflation of Islam with terrorism. But terrorism is not actually the cause of Islamophobia.

We’ve heard that anti-Islam hate towards American Muslims is wrong because “we need them” to be part of our “eyes and ears” as if American Muslims are merely tools in defeating an enemy. But we are citizens with the same inalienable rights as anyone else – and conflating Islam with terrorism isn’t just a matter of insult.

In fact, the term “Islamic terrorism” isn’t wrong because it’s insulting. It’s not wrong because American Muslims are needed to be “on our front lines.” It’s wrong because the overwhelming majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims believe that terrorism can in no way, shape, or form be “Islamic” – terrorism is un-Islamic. This is evidenced by the open letter signed by 120 Muslim scholars and leaders from around the world, or the fatwa against terrorism which 70,000 Muslim scholars came together to pass in 2008. Or the Orlando statement that we signed along with hundreds of other American Muslim leaders in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting. It’s wrong to use the term “Islamic terrorism” because it does not conform with reality.

American Muslims are an integral part of the fabric of this country and have been a part of the US since the time of George Washington, as Hillary Clinton rightly pointed out.

American Muslims are entrepreneurs, doctors and nurses, police officers, firefighters, members of our military, neighbors and friends. Muslims are one of the most diverse faith groups in this country. Muslims are black, white and everything in between. Thousands of Americans choose to become Muslim every year.

Our children will grow up knowing their great-grandfather was a naval sergeant in WWII. They know their grandfather worked for the NY Fire Patrol and continued to drive into downtown Manhattan during the stressful aftermath of 9/11, he died in the following weeks, before they were born. Will they know that they have a future in this country, the only home any of us have ever known?

Their history is rooted in the United States – but we can’t help but wonder if their future here is safe. Will they be free to practice their faith in an environment devoid of anti-Islam hate? They deserve to know.

In these last weeks before the presidential election, our family, and the millions of American Muslims around the country will be waiting for a real answer.

Co-authored with Shakiel Humayun

Originally Published by AboutIslam.net

No Matter What They Say

 

Was the murderer – who brutally killed 84 people, injuring hundreds more in Nice, France, a practicing Muslim? Or, was he, as reports indicate, a depressed, lonely man with mental health problems, a propensity for using drugs and alcohol, and a criminal history – the very antithesis of a practicing Muslim? The answers to these questions don’t seem to matter to everyone. Several politicians, TV personalities and pundits, set out to form public sentiment surrounding the attack within the very first hours after it occurred. Before any details were available, the branding of this attack as a radical “Islamic” terror attack had already begun.

I heard the terms “Islamic terrorism” and “radical Islamic terrorism” repeated over and over again. I heard people insist that these attacks won’t stop until we “call it what it really is” and dutifully attach the word “Islam” to every single terror instigating crime we witness. High profile people such as Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich– and a slew of far right-wing politicians and networks framed this attack as a sign of a clash of civilizations – clear as day – a war between Islam and the west. Gingrich went so far as to say, “Western civilization is in a war. We should frankly test every person here who is of Muslim background and if they believe in sharia, they should be deported. Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization.”

I believe in Shariah, which is the same thing as believing in Islam.

Do they know that being kind to your family is part of the Shariah, along with prayer, charity, being honest, oh – and don’t forget – obeying the laws of the land in which we live? Do they care? For American Muslims, being good citizens is literally mandated by the Shariah. I don’t know where Mr Gingrich would like to send me. My great grandparents were born here in the USA. There are American Muslims whose ancestry dates way further back in America than mine – some can trace back centuries, some all the way to the Mayflower, and some American Muslims trace their heritage straight back to the Native Americans. If the Native Americans who are now Muslims could be deported back in time… that would be interesting, because there’d be no sign of Gingrich’s ancestors or Trump’s on American soil.

Imagine, all this vitriol, all this certainty, all this “educating” went on before any information whatsoever, aside from the rising death toll, had been uncovered. Clearly, this notion of testing and deporting Muslims isn’t tenable – but what all these hateful statements did, was perpetuate the notion that Muslims are foreign – period. This divisive view of our world – us vs. them; paints a black and white, and very frightening picture for vulnerable Americans. The more people see a polarized world, the more they feel obliged and compelled to take a side.

They are training us to instinctively see all horrific incidents as being tied to Islam. Whether they really are or not is beside the point. This helps to advance the positions and agendas of powerful politicians and corporations – but tears our society apart, and that does matter.

SMH and Complain?

I can get upset and shake my finger at this irresponsible use of fame and ability to reach millions of people’s brains. I can fight every troll on the Internet and argue about just how anti-Islam these crimes really are. Yes, the facts prove the islamophobes and everyone else trying to force a war down our throats, utterly wrong – but the truth alone cannot alter the toxic atmosphere being systematically created. So what’s a Muslim to do?

The Heat is On

One of the effects of being constantly suspect is that the one under suspicion begins to feel guilty – even if he or she is totally innocent. Dalia Mogahed explained how she felt after 9/11 saying,  “Not only had my country been attacked, but in a flash, somebody else’s actions had turned me from a citizen to a suspect… for the first time in my life, [I was] afraid for anyone to know I was a Muslim.”

This is reinforced by a few, very loud voices claiming that we are all suspect. After the Nice attacks, Kelvin Mackenzie, a columnist from the UK’s Sun newspaper wrote a controversial column questioning why a “young woman wearing a hijab” had been allowed to report on the attack in Nice. He was appalled that the reporter, Fatima Manji was visibly Muslim. He asked. “Was it appropriate for her to be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim?”

Avoiding the Herd Mentality

More than 1/3 of the dead, killed by the attacker in Nice, were Muslims. If it’s offensive for a Muslim to report the attack on television, is it also offensive for us to mourn our dead? We have to reject this idea and think critically: Is it wrong for white Christians to report news about attacks committed by white Christians? To suggest so is clearly, easily and immediately recognized as preposterous.

In the face of this monumental and growing problem, I refuse to allow others to determine how I feel about myself. We have to be the leaders of our own thoughts – to employ reasoning, and thoughtfully listen and consider the facts and points of view before settling on our position. The Quran differentiates between those who think rationally and those who are unthinking and sheep-like, following the rest without intelligent thought: “Or do you think that most of them hear or reason? They are not except like livestock. Rather, they are more astray in [their] way.” (Quran 25:44)

Fighting Doubts

The Prophet Muhammad said, “The people will see a time of patience in which someone adhering to his religion will be as if he were grasping a hot coal.” (Tirmidhi)

Yeah, Islam is kind of like a hot coal right now. This is certainly one of those times. In light of this terrorism epidemic and the mounting negative public opinion towards Islam and Muslims, some of us may feel like giving up. It’s exhausting constantly being under scrutiny, guilt-tripped, cursed at, ridiculed, and hated. Maybe this would all be easier if we just took our headscarves off, shaved our beards and changed our names to Moe.

The thing is, the solution is in the same statement – the crux of the issue, is that we Muslims adhere to our faith. By doing so, we will become better people, who manifest the best of character and manners, we will increase in patience and follow this guidance: “Repel [evil] by that which is better; and thereupon the one who between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend.” (Quran 41:34)

Why should I?

“Do you think that you will enter Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? … Yes! Certainly, the Help of God is near!” (Quran 2:214)

The truth is – according to Islam, all of this life is intended to be a test. If it weren’t this, it would be something else. So, as a Muslim, I remember the advice of Prophet Jacob to his sons, “Despair not of relief from God. Indeed, no one despairs of relief from God except the disbelieving people.” (Quran 12:87)

This is how we avoid despair and strive to become even better people. These difficulties can be good for us. They remind us to get back to the basics, to assess our lives, and reorient our priorities. We remember that we can’t achieve any success without the aid of the Owner of the heavens and the Earth. The answers lie in the Quran and in our prayers – in our Islam

So, I encourage my fellow Muslims to spend less time obsessing over the latest news and step away from the bickering and argumentation – To look into the eyes of our loved ones – To take a moment to step outdoors and observe the beauty of God’s signs in His creation – To help one another more, give back to our communities. And most of all, to spend more time with the Quran. Turn off the TV. Sign out of Facebook and Twitter. Open the Quran, read it and understand it.

“So be patient.  Indeed, the promise of God is truth. And ask forgiveness for your sin and exalt with praise of your Lord in the evening and the morning.

Indeed, those who dispute concerning God’s signs without authority having come to them – there is not within their hearts except pride, [the extent of] which they cannot reach. So seek refuge in God. Indeed, it is He who is the Hearing, the Seeing.” (Quran 40:55-56)

 

In this book, I find solace, I find hope, I find peace. No matter what they say.

If Islam is Hate, Why Are People Still Converting?

It’s an odd thing: Thousands, upon thousands of people around the world – around 20,000 every year in America alone, are choosing to become Muslims.

Muslims. You know, those people who’ve murdered scores of civilians – brutally and mercilessly?

Not only are alleged Muslims behind atrocities like 9/11 and the massacre in Paris, they claim their violence is inspired and sanctioned by Islam itself – don’t they?

The word Terrorism has come to be directly – instinctively – associated with Islam. Think about that word: Terror. What kind of people would desire to terrorize others? What kind of monsters slaughter indiscriminately men, women, and children-Children – the epitome of innocence?

Well, if you believe what you hear and see, in far too many media and “news” outlets, the answer would appear to be: the Muslim kind.

This begs the question: “What kind of people would convert to a religion that promotes carnage and chaos like this?” Naturally, one might imagine these converts must be people with sociopathic tendencies – self-hating psychopaths perhaps.

But that’s just not the case.

Who Converts to Islam?

From youthful, pre-pubescent teens, to sage elderly grandfathers and grandmothers such as Georgette Lepaulle of Belgium who converted at the age of 91 – Islam seems to be attracting all kinds of people – the vast, overwhelming majority of whom definitely don’t fit the description of terrorist.

Johannah Segarich, now a retired college Music professor, asked herself this question in the midst of the confusion after the 9/11 attacks: “What kind of religion is this that could inspire people to do this?”

Johannah had studied other religions, but hadn’t thought to learn about Islam. She decided to buy a copy of the Quran, wondering if her notions of Islam as a male-controlled and now apparently violent religion, would be confirmed.

She read the first chapter, “In the name of God, The Most Compassionate, Most Merciful…. All Praise is due to God, The Most Compassionate, Most Merciful. … You alone We worship, You alone we ask for help, Show us the straight way, the way of those who have earned your favor…” She finished the Quran a few weeks later, and then started reading it again. About half way through, barely 10 weeks after 9/11, “I came to the realization,” she said, “that I had a decision to make.”

She decided to convert to Islam.

A travel bug took Angela Collins Telles, a quintessential California girl, to Egypt and Syria. She made friends abroad, and found most people to be generous and kind. When anti-Muslim rhetoric flared after 9/11, She felt a need to do something.

“I saw my country demonizing these people as terrorists and oppressors of women, and I couldn’t think of anything further from the truth,” she said, “and I felt a need to stand-up and defend them. But then I realized that I couldn’t argue without knowledge.”

Realizing she had no basis upon which to defend the people she felt were being wrongly demonized, she began studying Islam. Regarding her findings she said: “The concept of God was the most beautiful thing, and that concept fit with what I believe,” She converted only a few months after 9/11. (Source)

For Caleb Carter, becoming a Muslim took years. Sept. 11, 2001, was a turning point — specifically his teacher’s hostile response to Islam that day.

“I was a junior in high school at the time, taking a class called Nonwestern World Studies,” said Carter, “For him, it was purely, ‘This is what Islam teaches. We shouldn’t be surprised.’ He played the whole ‘Islam equals terrorism card.’”

But Carter wasn’t buying his teacher’s opinions, nor was he “educated enough to judge it either way.” Studying Islam and other world religions became his mission, and he converted to Islam in 2006. (Source)

Davi Barker, a writer and artist from California, also converted in 2006. Barker lived in Saudi Arabia and the Maldives for a few years as a child and knew “Muslims in Muslim countries,” so he didn’t believe that the religion was to blame for the terrorist attacks. He said he “saw the propaganda campaign going on” against Islam, something that continues to this day.

Canadian Micheal Atwood, was raised to be a practicing Christian. He first heard about Islam on the anniversary of 9/11. He was not intrigued to learn about it right away, but he later found out that Muslims believe in Jesus while on a class trip to a museum.

In 7th grade he overheard his Muslim friends talking about the Quran, and decided he wanted a better understanding of the Bible. What he found when he began researching its authenticity and history, left him un-impressed.

Atwood became curious about the Quran and began reading its translation online. He said, “I couldn’t stop reading the Quran. It was beautiful.” He learned about the practices of Islam and felt Muslims follow Jesus even more than he had learned to as a Christian. Half way through 7th grade, he converted to Islam at only 12 years old. (Source)

The internet is chock full of the stories of people, young and old, from every corner of the Earth, and how they decided to convert to Islam. From high-power, successful business men and women, to bartenders; from the highly confident and blissfully happy, to the ones who felt lost, lonely or depressed; from the party guys and girls who just wanted to have fun, to studious intellectuals – Islam appears to attract people from every walk of life.

Indeed the Quran confirms that it is in fact a message for all mankind: {This (Quran) is direction and guidance for the whole world.} (Quran 38:87)

Why are conversions increasing with terrorist activity?

I encourage every reader to read and listen to the stories of the people who made this choice. 9/11 and other terrorist atrocities did not influence people to learn about Islam, because they like violence. Rather, they fall into several categories:

  1. Some of those whose conversion began with knowledge of a terrorist crime wanted to better understand how areligion could possibly be that evil. It’s an outrageous claim that isn’t easily swallowed by everyone. These people needed to find out for themselves. What they found not only defied their original suspicion; it spoke to them in the most beautiful way.
  2. Others, like me, wanted to expose Islam for the hoax we thought it really was – until we realized it wasn’t. Conversion for my kind is often difficult, because it requires the admission of having been utterly incorrect, and often becoming the person who would have previously been the butt of your own jokes.
  3. Then you have the ones who knew Muslims already. They knew they weren’t the bloodthirsty, deranged caricatures they appeared to be on TV. These people felt a strong sense of injustice and wrongful portrayal, slander of the innocent. In order to make their point though, they realized they needed to have knowledge for their stance to be credible.
  4. For other people, the apparent chaos and strife in our world makes them begin thinking about life, God and inevitably, religion. Their searching eventually leads them to Islam. Had it not been for the unfortunate and misguided crimes committed in the name of Islam, many people would have never thought at all about Islam.

I’ve noticed in my extensive research of Muslim converts, that just about every single one of them did extensive research which included reading the Quran, most often the entire Quran, sometimes several times over before coming to a decision. The people who convert to Islam, rather than exhibiting and increase in anger or bloodthirstiness, express that they have become kinder, gentler, more patient and caring people.

Being a Muslim in these times where Islam is so grossly misunderstood is not necessarily easy. We are wrongfully stereotyped and feared. But, the benefits each and every one of us has gained – God – an understanding of the true purpose of life and death, guidance – dwarf any of the challenges we face.

Originally Published at AboutIslam.net: http://aboutislam.net/reading-islam/understanding-islam/islam-hate-people-still-converting/

 

Let’s Make a Better World for Our Children – Together

Here we go.

It’s the time of year so many pause to assess the past and plan for the future.

So, from my heart to yours, I have a request.

Let’s make a resolution.

My husband and I are Muslims and we’re raising 5 adorable, sweet and unique little children.

Like you, we hope to leave our children a better world.

We struggle, work and worry just like you do, endeavoring to contribute to that optimistic vision.

We know that there are people in the world with less than honorable agendas. We know there are hateful people and those who thrive on the suffering of others. We know there are people who laugh at our misfortunes.

But none of those people matter.

 

You matter.

 

The choices you make, matter.

So this coming year, I ask you to set yourself above the rest.

To be a person of integrity, who affords all human beings respect – by virtue of their humanity.

Be the one who seeks out answers.

When something doesn’t seem right, trust your gut rather than follow the crowd.

You and me – your kids and mine; we have way more in common than some people would have us believe.

And my religion, it helps me every day, to be a better, kinder person. It teaches me to continue to value, much of what you value. Like integrity, honesty, humility, family, and loving for others what we’d love for ourselves.

It gives me hope and fills me with gratitude. It makes my heart quiver and my eyes overflow with tears of love.

Islam is not the enemy. I am not your enemy. My husband and my children are not your enemies.

So, let’s be the ones who stand firm on those most wholesome values we hold dear.

And let’s turn a deaf ear to bigots and xenophobes who try to scare us -Who try to scare you into hating people like me. And try to scare me into hating you.

Who try to scare us into reducing our standards.

I know I am more than what they think of me, and I know you are more than what they think of you. You are stronger and smarter – more compassionate.

When you see me or my brothers and sisters in Islam, don’t be afraid to say hello. Maybe you will make a new friend.

Choose goodness. Choose love.

Let’s deny the hateful ones the satisfaction of our attention.

Let’s send them a message by caring for one another and make this year, our best yet.

 

Let’s lay the groundwork for a better world.

 

Together.

Walking With Diamonds

My family and I, we don’t have to be subjected to the reactive anti Muslim hatred boiling up.

I could easily take off my scarf and blend right in. My husband could easily shave his beard and go unnoticed.

But we don’t. And, by God’s Mercy, we never will.

We stand tall and walk with confidence. The way you would if you knew you had the earth’s largest diamond, or the next world changing invention, or a bank account with a few billion dollars.

Because, the Islam we’ve been given is better than every last bit of good the world has to offer all together.

It’s why we are here… And this struggle?

People before us went through worse.

When you see us I want you to wonder… Wonder and ask yourself what is so good about Islam that we stand up tall with confidence and a smile, even when the whole world seems to be against us.

Allahu Akbar. Even in the Grocery Store.

My children are in the habit of saying “Allahu Akbar”.

Yeah, you’ve heard that before right?

“Allahu Akbar!”

Now, imagine being a Muslim woman walking through the busy aisles of a big box store, while your children repeatedly exclaim  “Allahu Akbar!!!”
It makes me mad.

I’m mad that I feel embarrassed and nervous when they gleefully bust out “Allahu Akbar!” In public.

I am upset, because I am aware that this beautiful statement has come to be reminiscent of the brutish, heartless murderers killing with impunity, who stole it.

Who yell these prescious words while committing crimes against the creation and law of the One they are supposed to be venerating with those very words.

Allahu Akbar.

It means “God is the Greatest”.

It means He is Supreme. His power, praiseworthiness are beyond compare.

He is the epitome of Greatness.
We say it throughout our prayers, reminding ourselves that nothing supersedes Him, there is nothing more important, more deserving of our gratitude and praise, and that He is the one to whom everything will ultimately return. The One who we will stand before one day, humbled and powerless.

It helps remove arrogance.

It is a reminder of the fact that we haven’t accomplished anything without His will. Our bodies and sustenance were all His before they were ever ours.

It helps remove despair.

It is a reminder that no matter how difficult a difficulty in life might seem, it is minute in comparison to His Mercy and the comfort of knowing Him. A reminder that obstacles are easy for Him to remove, for He has complete power over all things.

When my children say this, It makes me happy and hopeful.

Happy that the recognition of their Maker has begun to take seat in their little hearts. Hopeful that this thikr – this remembrance will persist throughout their lives. That they will absorb and embody the meaning of this simple, yet powerful statement.

That it will help to guide them to the high road of life’s journey.

I dream of a day where these words will cease to be misused. Where they will no longer arouse suspicion and discomfort in the people around us.

Why My Halloween is Different.

My goal is to present the familiarity of Islam to my fellow Americans, but some instances require highlighting differences.

In Islam, we are taught to think and to research. We are told to make our decisions based on careful consideration, and to always seek the best path in all matters.

The people we should aspire to be are the ones mentioned in the Quran:

“Those who remember God, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth…..” (Quran 3:191)

And when we act it should be with knowledge:

“And do not follow that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart – about all those [one] will be questioned.” (Quran 17:36)

So, when we are presented with a recurring celebration,  such as Halloween, it is a good idea to take a deeper look at it before jumping on the bandwagon.

What I find when I research the origins and history of Halloween*, is that its foundations are not in line with what I am striving for in this life. I don’t see how it will help me get any closer to my Maker, or fulfill the purpose for which we were created.

While one may argue, “it’s just for fun”, “it’s not really based on any meaning anymore, “there’s no harm in it” – For me, those are not strong enough arguments. I could argue back, saying that I am not doing any harm by not celebrating it or partaking in it, either.

Although it may not be practiced with the intentions and meanings it once held, there are still practices which do not fit well with my way of life, such as begging (trick or treat) and making fun of the dead and death (think mummies and ghouls – lawns “adorned” with bloody heads and skeletons).

My children are free to play dress up and eat candy now and then, but they don’t need to on a day that is based on a conglomeration of pagan rituals and superstitions.

In my very sincere opinion, I am deeply saddened for the Muslims in our day, who have departed from the path of thinking and learning and who have embarked upon the path of blindly following others by celebrating Halloween and in many other matters. We have been urged to be careful of whose footsteps we walk in:

“…do not exceed limits in your religion beyond the truth and do not follow the inclinations of a people who had gone astray before; who misled many and have strayed from the sound path.” (Quran 5:77)

Islam provides me a sweetness sweeter than a million nights of candy: The sweetness of faith, the sweetness of knowing where we come from, where we are going – The sweetness of following the generous guidance of the Owner of all things and His help. I’m so  grateful for that and I seek God’s protection from ever passing it up for a momentary thrill or to “fit in”.

*You can learn more here: http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween

What the Hate Rallies Against Islam Mean To Me

“Mom!” My kids were bursting at the seams, impatient to tell me the news when I picked them up yesterday. “School’s closed tomorrow because people might be coming with guns! The teachers said they only want to scare us, but it’s because they don’t like Islam or something!” Their faces incredulous, eyes bulging. I had to stop the flurry of curious questions and worries flying through the car, with the assurance that I would explain everything.

I felt a tinge of sadness at the idea that my children have to experience this – their fellow Americans coming to our beloved sanctuaries,  in order to display a livid, venomous kind of hatred for us. I knew at the same time, that opportunities for much good often lie in ominous looking situations.

The concept of people opposing, hating and actively working to destroy Islam, is not new, nor is it shocking. Throughout the Quran we are told of people who opposed Islam, from the people of Noah, to the People of Abraham and Lot, the people of Pharaoh in the time of Moses, and also Jesus was hated such that his people wanted to Murder him and torture him in the most humiliating method of the times. At the time of Muhammad, he and his followers were persecuted in nearly every way possible for many years.

What really doesn’t sit right with me now though, is that these people, this so called “Global Rally for Humanity” doesn’t even seem to know what they are protesting against. Their shirts say F*#@K Islam, yet when they speak, they don’t even seem to know what Islam is…

Their contradictions are too plentiful to list but to highlight the most apparent:

  1. The rallies are said to be a response to a march by Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam which is not related to mainstream Islam and defies too many of the texts of Islam to be taken seriously as an Islamic movement (why associate the rest of the American Muslims with Farrakhan, when most don’t even consider the nation of Islam to be within the parameters of Islam?)
  2. The fact that they claim patriotism and the exercising of “constitutional rights” while freedom of religion is part and parcel of our constitutional rights.
  3. The name of their group, claims they are rallying for “humanity” while more than 1.5 billion humans are Muslim and that number is only growing. How can rallying for humanity involve hating nearly a quarter of that humanity?
  4. They cite acts of violence as reasons to oppose Islam and Muslims, yet openly advocate that their supporters bring their weapons as a display of hostility and hopeful provocation. ‘We oppose violence by appearing violent..’ Someone didn’t think that one over too well.

These contradictions are apparent enough to anyone with a will to see objectively. Their ignorance so plentiful, that even my little children feel pity for them. So how are we to deal with these people and the potential harm they present?

My husband wrote an excellent piece directing all Muslims to refer to Islam, as we should in all matters, to learn how to react internally and externally to these rallies of hate. Please check out his advice to the Muslims for some insight on what the shariah says, here: http://www.shakielhumayun.com/rallies-of-hate-at-your-mosque/

So, knowing that we are facing no more than ignorance and bigotry, more than sorrow for myself, or my children, or the rest of the American Muslims, I feel pity for all the hateful people, who hate before knowing. And yet, I feel hopeful for them, because these rallies may bring the protesters closer than they ever have been to actual Muslims, and some of their hearts may be softened at being faced with the humanity and kindness of living, breathing Muslims.

One of Islam’s greatest historical leaders and highly regarded companions of the prophet Muhammad, Umar ibn al-Khattab was similarly intent to rid his land of the “Muslim problem”, yet upon actually interacting intimately with Muslims (his sister had become one) and hearing the Quran, he himself became one of the most devout followers of Muhammad. So, as Muslims we know that potential lies within every human being for change and goodness. As humans we cannot judge what is within anyone’s heart. We can only hope and pray to God to open their eyes and ears and hearts,  even if via events and actions that are apparently malicious.

There are indeed many problems and confusions in our world, but hate is  never the right answer. It’s no solution. These incidents show us the importance of education, both for ourselves and our neighbors.

As American Muslims I know we must do more to express the reality of what Islam is to those around us. This can be an awakening that  strengthens and solidifies our faith and commitment to our communities, and also an awakening for the millions of Americans who truly do not know what Islam is, to find out from the people who study, practice and teach it.

My Baby and the Wolves

My 8 year old daughter was explaining to me, while she read an article for homework, about the astonishing variety of species of catfish, and just how unbelievable it is, that a bullfrog tadpole can take three years to mature…

I watched her radiant face and listened to her voice, elevated with excitement,

but I could hardly pay attention.

It started when I began thinking about how much she loves science and I thought about how she may choose to study some type of biology after high school.

But then, the current events began pushing their way into my thoughts.

What will the world be like for her?

I wonder if it will be her generation that the prophet Muhammad talked about, when he said,

“There will come upon the people a time when holding onto the religion will be like holding onto hot embers.” (Tirmidhi)

Ouch.

Today there are so many people, from so many directions, out to destroy Islam.

We have these crazy terrorists who, by their horrific acts of violence, defile Islam. They add fuel to the fire and help grow and multiply the very things they claim to want to ‘avenge’.

We’ve got Christian missionaries, with their very creepy version of Islam that they tote around, event to event, teaching leaders and pastors about ‘Islam’; only – they are lying through their teeth – Effectively convincing congregation after congregation, that Islam is something totally unlike it really is.

Then you’ve got the political pundits – demonizing Islam and Muslims is merely a means to their end. I and my children’s lives, ‘collateral damage’ in the race to gain (or rather maintain) control of a region.

But the people staring blankly, while the blue light of the TV dances over their frozen faces, don’t know any better; all they know is:

they just hate Islam.

They just hate me; my baby with her innocent face and mind alive with curiosity about so many wonderful things…

I wonder, will she be like me?

Sometimes I feel like a ninja, thwarting attack after attack. For every post on Facebook I make, with texts from the Quran, or the sayings of the prophet Muhammad, to show how good, beautiful, and tolerant Islam encourages people to be,

I am attacked as if by wolves.

Called names –

and regularly invited to worship Jesus instead of my Creator.

But I have surety in my heart and in my mind. I ask God to give me strength, patience and kindness – To act in the way He instructed me:

 “Many of the followers of previous books wish that they could turn you back into disbelievers after you have believed” – “but pardon and forgive.” (Quran 2:109)

and

Bear patiently what they say.” (20:130 and 50:39)

I know all my husband and I can do is try to raise our babies the best we can, to pray for them, and to inculcate in them, this forgiveness and patience.

No matter what the climate, there will always be trials and tribulations of one sort or another. My concern for my children, is that they hold on to those burning embers; that they cling to Islam and never let go, even for a second.

Even if it costs them everything else.

No amount of suffering could ever make letting go, worth it.

I’d rather my child succumb to the wolves while huddled over her Islam – protecting it with her life – than to let it go and walk away with the pack. Because that would truly be losing everything.

So, while I fantasize about my intelligent daughter, filled with energy, a marine biologist, out on a mission in a blue sea with a smile on her face, the sun reflecting off the water and lighting her eyes, so filled with life – While I dream about her living without a care in the world beside her passion; I know – well, at least I fear – that her life will be far from easy.

Our feet must be planted firmly to withstand the currents.

To withstand the wolves.