Muslim Peace Fellowship

let there be no compulsion in religion

Hana Shalabi Refusing to Play by Occupiers’ Rules

By: 

Hana Shalabi has been on hunger strike for over a month. Her condition has been deteriorating so badly that prison officials had to transfer her to a Haifa hospital (though she wasn’t admitted to the hospital).

Shalabi is protesting being held in administrative detention. These detentions are quasi-legal action through which Israel incarcerates individuals without charge or proper trial. Israel inherited this undemocratic procedure from the British mandate, which enacted it as part of the 1945 emergency regulations.

International humanitarian law frowns on this procedure
and Israel was asked by the international community on numerous occasions to end this practice. Over 300 Palestinians are presently held without charge.

Administrative detention orders are usually six months long; they are made by an Israeli military commander and presented in front of a military committee for renewal or cancellation.

Typically, individuals are detained by such order when the military prosecutors do not have strong enough evidence to charge them, but have a strong feeling that they are guilty of some security crime and prefer to keep them behind bars. However, many times administrative detention are used as punishment, revenge or as part of a system that the Israeli intelligence service (Shin Bet) uses to control the Palestinian population.

This seems to be the case against Shalabi, who was released last year as part of an Israeli-Hamas prisoner exchange. Released Palestinians are given a pardon recommended by the minister of defense and signed by the Israeli president. The very meaning of a pardon is that all the previous charges and sentencing are erased from all legal books.

While some might attempt to try Shalabi in the court of public opinion, she is considered innocent in the eyes of the law. Basic juridical concepts prevent governments from punishing a person twice for the same crime or from using a pardoned crime as justification for further punishment.

Shalabi’s previous record, regardless of what she did, cannot be used against her.

The state of Israel has no new evidence of wrongdoing against Shalabi, otherwise they would have charged her. In fact, the Israeli commander who signed the order against her chose the unusual step of ordering her incarceration for four months, rather than the usual six months. This is a sign of lack of any “secret” evidence against her.

In an attempt to get out of the quagmire they find themselves in, and to prevent setting a precedent, the Israeli military prosecutors offered to free Shalabi on condition that she is transferred to Gaza.

A similar offer was made to her lawyers to have her sent to Jordan. It is unclear whether the offer is for the duration of the administrative detention and what guarantees, if any, were offered for her return. Both offers were rejected by Shalabi through her lawyer.

The idea of deportation, temporary or permanent, touches a nerve with the Palestinians. Since its establishment in 1948, the state of Israel has prevented Palestinians who left to avoid the violence from returning to their homes.

While any Jewish citizen, from anywhere in the world, is allowed to come to Israel and receive immediate citizenship, Palestinians continue to suffer from what is called “transfer” policy, which uses administrative means to deny individuals residency, sometimes when they are away for schooling or work.

Even inside areas that Israel controls there is a policy of internal displacement and exile. Twenty-six Palestinians who took refuge in the Church of the Nativity in May 2002 were expelled to Gaza, and 13 to various European locations. They have been denied the right to return to their homes since.

Israel, which always boasts of being the only democracy in the Middle East, uses various emergency laws and administrative orders to control the Palestinian population under its military rule. The rule of law is converted by the Israelis into a rule by law — military law, that is — by which the Israeli army decides how millions of Palestinians are controlled.

Most Palestinians have learned the hard way to acquiesce to this unjust rule and play the game by obeying the rules of the military dictators. Shalabi refuses to play by these unjust rules. She is using a centuries-old nonviolent technique to show her protest. She suffers to make the world see injustice. Will anyone see and react?

Hana Shalabi: Palestinian non-violence and global indifference

By: Richard Falk, Al Jazeera

No sooner had Khader Adnan ended his life-threatening 66-day hunger strike than new urgent concerns were voiced for Hana Shalabi, another West Bank hunger striker now without food for more than 33 days. Both strikes were directed against the abusive use of administrative detention by Israeli occupying military forces, protesting both the practice of internment without charges or trial and the degrading and physically harsh treatment administered during the arrest, interrogation, and detention process.

The case of Hana Shalabi should move even the hard-hearted. She seems a young, tender and normal woman who is a member of Islamic Jihad but is dedicated to her family, hopes for marriage, and simple pleasures of shopping.

 

 Palestinian prisoner ends hunger strike

She had previously been held in administrative detention at the HaSharon prison in Israel for a 30 month period between 2009 and 2011, being released in the prisoner exchange that freed 1,027 Palestinians and the lone Israeli soldier captive, Corporal Gilad Shalit. Since her release, she has been trying to recover from the deep sense of estrangement she experienced in prison, and has rarely left her home or the company of her family. As she was returning to normality, she was re-arrested in an abusive manner, which allegedly included a strip-search by a male soldier.

Beginnings of a strike

On February 16, 2012, the day her administrative detention was renewed, Hana indicated her resolve to start a hunger strike to protest her own treatment and to demand an end to the practice of administrative detention – under which people are arrested and imprisoned without charge. A practice now relied upon by Israel to hold at least 309 Palestinians in prison.

Hana’s parents have been denied visitation rights, she has been placed in solitary confinement, and her health has deteriorated to the point of concern for her life. According to her lawyer, Raed Mahameed, Hana Shalabi was examined by a doctor from Physicians for Human Rights and the doctor said that “she suffers from a low heartbeat rate, low blood sugar, loss of weight, weakness in muscles, yellowing of the eyes and high levels of salt in the blood which [has] affected her kidneys, causing her pain in her sides, especially the left side, as well as pain in chest bones.”

Physicians for Human Rights said that Shalabi cannot sleep because of pain; she also suffers dizziness and blurred and occasional loss of vision. Ms Shalabi told Mahameed that she took salt last week, but refused to take any more and is living on two litres of water a day.

Impressively, her parents have committed themselves to a hunger strike for as long as their daughter remains under administrative detention. Her mother, Badia Shalabi, has said that even to see food makes her cry – considering the suffering of her daughter. Her father has likewise made a global appeal to save the life of his child.

Despite frequent mentoring to Palestinians by liberals in the West to rely on nonviolent tactics of resistance, these extraordinary hunger strikes (Palestinian human rights group Adameer recently tweeted that it was aware of 24 such hunger strikers) have been met with silence or indifference in both Israel and the West.

Israeli authorities crudely declare that undertaking a hunger strike is a voluntary action for which they take no responsibility, and that the striker alone is responsible if any harm results. There is also not a hint that Palestinian grievances about administrative detention will even be considered, much less acted upon. Such hard-heartedness in the face of such sacrificial bravery is a sure sign that Israel is not ready for a sustainable and just peace with Palestinians.

The story of Hana Shalabi, like that of Khader Adnan before, is, in my opinion, a remarkable example of a struggle that’s completely nonviolent towards one’s surroundings. It is the last protest a prisoner can make, and I find it brave and inspiring.

- Yael Maron, Physicians for Human Rights

The UN also disappoints those who believe in its ideals. It has not raised its voice even to take notice of Hana Shalabi’s plight or of Israel’s accountability. I share the view of Khitam Saafin, Chairwoman of The Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees: “The UN must be responsible for the whole of violations that are going on against our people. These prisoners are war prisoners, not security prisoners, not criminals. They are freedom fighters for their rights.”

The sad yet noble situation of Hana Shalabi is also well expressed by Yael Maron, a spokesperson for the NGO, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel: “The story of Hana Shalabi, like that of Khader Adnan before, is, in my opinion, a remarkable example of a struggle that’s completely nonviolent towards one’s surroundings. It is the last protest a prisoner can make, and I find it brave and inspiring.”

Spiritual collapse

To engage in an open-ended hunger strike, especially for a person who is not in a leadership role, requires a deep and abiding dedication to right a perceived wrong of the greatest gravity. It is physically painful and dangerous to bodily health, as well as being psychologically demanding in the extreme. It presupposes the strongest of wills, and usually arises, as in these instances, from a sense that any lesser form of resistance has proved futile, exhibiting a long record of failure. In the end, this unconditional hunger strike is an appeal to the conscience and humanity of the other, and a desperate call to all of us, to understand better the cartography of abuse that abusive imprisonment entails – which can only be pervasively humiliating for a religiously oriented young Islamic woman. To risk life and health in this way without harming or even threatening the oppressor is to turn terrorism against the innocent on its head. It is potentially to sacrifice one’s life to make an appeal of last resort, an appeal that transcends normal law and politics, and demands our response.

We can only fervently hope and pray that Hana Shalabi’s heroic path of resistance will end with her release and the complete restoration of her health. For Israel’s own moral well-being, it is time – really, long past time – to renounce reliance on administrative detention and, to do more than this, to end forthwith its varied crimes of occupation. At this point the only possible way to do this is to withdraw unconditionally behind the 1967 borders, and to start peace negotiations from such an altered position of acknowledged wrongdoing without asking or expecting any reciprocal gesture from the Palestinian side. In the present atmosphere, it is politically unimaginable that Israeli leaders will heed such a call, but it is morally unimaginable that Israel will survive its impending spiritual collapse if it does not quickly learn to do so.

In the meantime, we who are beyond these zones of occupation, abuse, and imprisonment, must do more than stand and watch as this tragic drama plays itself out. We need to do all we can to strengthen the demands of Khader Adnan, Hana Shalabi – and all who act in solidarity with them – for the immediate release of all Palestinians currently held in administrative detention, for an end to detention without charge, and to abusive arrests in the middle of the night.

Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has authored and edited numerous publications spanning a period of five decades, most recently editing the volume International Law and the Third World: Reshaping Justice (Routledge, 2008).

He is currently serving his third year of a six year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.


Zimbabwe: Do All Muslims Represent Islam?

BY SHEIKH ABDULLAH MAKWINJA

ANALYSIS

Muslims, are very popular in the media nowadays. Worldwide debates rage about various topics that invariably involve Muslims. Almost continuous media exposure means that there is hardly a person left in the world that has not read or seen something about Islam or Muslims, or both.

In addition, most people have an opinion. Many base their opinions on misconceptions or misunderstandings about Islam. Many base their opinions on the actions or words of people who call themselves Muslims but actually have very little knowledge about their religion.

Thankfully, many base their opinions on sound knowledge and research. However, in a media saturated century it is only fair to ask the question, do all Muslims represent Islam?

I thought it to be the appropriate moment especially this time when Muslims are celebrating the birth anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad to show how the Holy Prophet lived and interacted with followers of other divine revealed religions such Christianity.

Prophet Muhammad was described as a “Mercy for all the Worlds”, as God said in the Quran: “We have sent you as a mercy for all the worlds.” (Quran 21:107)

The recipients of this quality were not limited to just the Muslim nation, but also extended to non-Muslims, some of who spent all their effort trying to harm the Prophet and his mission. This mercy and forgiveness is clearly demonstrated by the Prophet who never took revenge on anyone for personal reasons and always forgave even his staunch enemies.

The Arabian Peninsula during the time of the Prophet was a region in which various faiths were present. There were Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, polytheists, and others not affiliated with any religion.

Looking into the life of the Prophet, one may draw many examples that portray the high level of tolerance shown to people of other faiths. At times the Prophet would permit Christians to conduct their prayers in the Mosque. Islam is a religion revealed by God for the benefit of humankind and it wholeheartedly forbids harming innocent people in any way.

This includes their bodies, wealth, or honour.

Islam teaches Muslims to treat everybody, no matter their religion, ethnicity, colour or social status, with respect and kindness. Islam forbids oppression and safeguards rights and it commands the Muslims to live in peace and harmony and uphold justice even towards one’s enemies and even in times of war.

When Islam is called the religion of peace it is meant literally. Islam comes from the root word “sa-la-ma”, as do the words Muslim (one who follows the message of Islam) and which among many meanings also denotes peace, security, safety and implies submission and surrender to Almighty God.

Peace and security are inherent in the submission to the One God. The Quran was revealed for all of humankind and Prophet Muhammad was sent as a mercy to all humankind. Each person is entitled to sustenance, shelter, and security and if some are denied their God given rights, it is the responsibility of the rest of humankind, to restore those rights, not blatantly take them away.

Therefore when atrocities that defy belief and defy the teachings of Islam are committed, it is important to remember that not all Muslims represent Islam.

Groups such as the Boko Haram, Al-Qaida, Al-Shabab etc cannot possibly claim to speak or act on behalf of all Muslims. Not all Muslims represent Islam and not all Muslims understand and follow their religion. Culture often dictates action. Knowing this, it becomes essential to recognise that just because a person, a group or country is known as Islamic, does not mean that it is automatically a perfect follower of the laws sent down by God.

To understand and judge this tolerance, one must look into the period in which Islam was a formal state, with the specific laws laid down by the Prophet in accordance with the tenets of religion. Even though one can observe many examples of tolerance shown by the Prophet in the 13 years of his stay in Mecca, one may incorrectly think that it was only due to seeking to raise the profile of the Muslims and the social status of Islam and in general.

The discussion will be limited to the period which commenced with the migration of the Prophet to Medina, and specifically once the constitution was set.

When the Prophet migrated to Medina, he laid laws to ensure harmony and stability in a society which once had been distraught by decades of war, one which must ensure the peaceful coexistence of Muslims, Jews, Christians and polytheists. The Prophet laid down a “constitution” which detailed the responsibilities of all parties which resided in Medina, their obligations towards each other, and certain restrictions which were placed on each.

All parties were to obey what was mentioned therein, and any breach of its articles was regarded as an act of treachery. All were considered members and citizens of Medina society regardless of religion, race, or ancestry. Since the upper hand was with the Muslims, the Prophet strictly warned against any maltreatment of people of other faiths.

Individual tribes, who were not Muslims, were allowed to refer to their own religious scriptures and their learned men in regard to their own personal affairs. Each was allowed to practice their beliefs freely without any hindrances, and no acts of provocation would be tolerated.

The Islamic Solution to Stop Domestic Violence

By: Qasim Rashid in HuffPo

Critics incorrectly allege that Islam command’s husband’s to beat their wives, often citing the Quran verse 4:34. Unfortunately, like any Muslim man who harms his wife, critics miss the keen wisdom in verse 4:34 that actively pre-empts domestic violence.

In Virginia, I provide pro bono legal support to victims of domestic and sexual violence. Virtually all of our clients are female. Every nine seconds — nearly 10,000 victims daily — a woman in the United States is abused. In America, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women, more than car accidents, muggings and rape — combined. Would those who blame Islam for domestic violence also blame Christianity every nine seconds?

Before addressing this question, consider Dr. James Q. Wilson’s perspective — America’s pre-eminent social scientist. He cites the medical fact that the part of the brain that stimulates anger and aggression is larger in men than in women. Likewise, the part of the brain that restrains anger is smaller in men than in women. Simply put, men are far more prone to violence and far less capable of self-restraint than women.

But this is not a “cop out” argument. Part of the problem is that our laws only punish men after the violence has already occurred. We implement educational and rehabilitation programs to decrease and diminish other illnesses, allowing the individual to function in society without harm to him or herself or to others. Likewise, stopping domestic violence means acting to eliminate even initial infractions.

Pre-emptive deterrence is the key. And this precisely is the wisdom behind verse 4:34 to decrease and stop violence against women. The verse in its totality describes a process of restraint, anger management and reformation.

The verse begins by defining a family unit, holding the husband accountable as the household’s guardian and provider. This obligation gives him certain authority, privileges and a requirement of magnanimity — but never the right to employ domestic violence. The verse then urges women to also act virtuously, and protect the family unit by cooperating with their husband, listening to him in all good things and to not publicize private family matters.

Next, verse 4:34 employs the process of anger management, reformation and reconciliation. This process may only be employed after a wife has initially and deliberately undermined or attempted to destroy the family, as indicated by the words, “as for those on whose part you fear disobedience.” But “disobedience” does not mean any random disagreement a wife may have with her husband. Arabic lexicon provides the correct understanding as that of a wife who has deserted her husband altogether or has unjustly attempted to destroy the family. Once a wife deliberately engages in this form of behavior, then the Quran describes a process to peacefully reconcile the dispute.

The first step, anger management, obliges the husband to merely admonish his wife of his concern, essentially encouraging the parties to admit that a problem exists. This forces a man to strictly control himself in hopes that his wife will also incline to reconciliation. Should this fail, the second step is separating beds for up to four months. This act further diminishes the chances of domestic violence, as a man physically separates himself from the emotionally charged situation for an extended period of time. If the wife engaged in an action to which the husband over reacted, then his extended time apart will help him realize the foolishness of his own behavior. Likewise, if the wife indeed engaged in an improper act, then her husband’s separation will encourage her to realize the unreasonableness of her behavior. Either way, this step avoids violence altogether while actively promoting reconciliation.

Employed effectively, these two steps help reconcile the vast majority of domestic disputes. Should the first two steps fail, however, the Quran allows — never commands — men to consider the third step, translated as “to chastise them.” But to understand “chastise” as sanctioning violence ignores the lengthy process employed in the first two steps to eliminate violence, the proper meaning and scope of “chastise,” and the precedent of peaceful reconciliation Prophet Muhammad himself established.

First, it is unmerited to suggest that the Quran requires such extensive lengths to avoid violence, only to ultimately permit it.

Next, Arabic lexicon demonstrates that the word translated “chastise,” i.e. daraba, employs definitions like “to heal,” having nothing to do with violence. While daraba may also mean, “to strike,” the proper scope of “strike” is best understood through Prophet Muhammad’s example. Prophet Muhammad explained that for that man incapable of controlling his anger — the first two required restrictions notwithstanding — any act, such as a “strike,” must heal and “not so much as to leave a mark.”

Elaborating on this, Prophet Muhammad explicitly admonished Muslims, “Do not beat your wives.” He led by example and never struck his wives, therefore demonstrating in word and in deed that Muslim men cannot harm women for any reason.

As an alternative, Islam also encourages arbitration to actively foster reconciliation while reducing and eliminating the chances for domestic violence.

Thus, verse 4:34 describes a human nature-based process of reducing environmental triggers and curbing biological urges. This verse forces men to control their anger, remove themselves from emotionally charged situations that may lead to domestic violence, while admonishing women to also incline towards reconciliation.

As for women who fear harm from their husbands, Islam gives women an even easier path: demand their husbands stop their egregious behavior, or file for divorce. Islam was the first religion and Prophet Muhammad was the first statesman to ensure women had the right to unilaterally divorce. A Muslim man who violates his duties to protect, provide and care for his wife risks losing his wife altogether, while still being liable to provide for her financially. The Quran ensured these protections to women 1,400 years ago. Thus, Muslim men who abuse women do so in spite of the Quran, ignoring the Quran’s required and lengthy pre-emptive methods to peacefully reconcile.

Finally, remember that domestic violence occurs because men let their anger rule their behavior. If the nearly 10,000 American women who are abused daily received the pre-emptive protections that verse 4:34 offers, then how many women would actually be subject to domestic violence at all?

DIALOGUE IN NIGERIA Muslims & Christians Creating Their Future.

Tuesday evening, March 20, 2012

In the midst of brutal violence, 200 brave Muslims and Christians met and discovered communication excellence in their days and evenings together during the 2010 2nd Annual Youth Interfaith Dialogue Conference, in Jos.

This practical evening is to offer — through African film and experience — modern tools of communication for your home, school, business, neighborhood, and global community.

Host Spencer Kapoba Chiimbwe, from Zambia, champions face-to-face, multi-faith, cross-cultural communication excellence as expert resident facilitator and Interfaith Fellow for The Community of Living Traditions at Stony Point Center. He is Coordinator for the Centre For Conflict Dialogue in New York.

Facilitators Libby and Len Traubman co-founded the 19-year-old Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue of San Mateo, California. They have co-produced five films: (1) DIALOGUE AT WASHINGTON HIGH, (2) PEACEMAKERS: Palestinians & Jews Together at Camp, (3) CROSSING LINES IN FRESNO, and (4) ABRAHAM’S CHILDREN: Graduation Day! Since January, 2012, (5) DIALOGUE IN NIGERIA has been requested from 35 nations.

● Sponsors ●

6:30 pm • Educational Exhibits & Networking 7:00 SHARP – 9:00 pm • Film & Participation

Centre for Conflict Dialogue in New York

http://www.ccdny.org

Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue

http://traubman.igc.org/global.htm

Africa Square ~ Harlem

Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building Plaza (8th Floor) 163 West 125th Street ~ New York, NY USA

(Directions)

Please RSVP: 646-730-0500 ~ or ~ Spencer@ccdny.org

Islam doesn’t allow killing of mankind: Pakistani scholar

By Madhusree Chatterjee in Northern Voices Online

New Delhi, (IANS) The message of peace and moderation sets former Pakistan-based politician, activist and motivational speaker Shaykh-ul-Islam Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri apart from other Islamic scholars. He says Islam stands for love and not the killing of mankind.

“I have tried to bring up the true teachings of the Quran so that I may stop the means of distortion of the teachings…the extremists are using religion as a tool to achieve ulterior motives. All people belonging to all religions – their lives and places of worship – should be protected,” the author of the popular book “Fatwa on Terrorism”, told IANS in an interview.

“I have quoted from the main juristic schools of Islam or ‘Hadith’ taught by the great Imams like the hanafis, Shafi’i, Maliki, Hanbali and from the prophet’s Sunnah to prove that Islam stands for love, peace, forbearance, mercy and human dignity.”

“I have cited hundreds of references to show that not a single school of Islamic law in the history of faith has allowed the killing of mankind in the way it is carried out now,” Qadri said.

He condemns “terrorism” and campaigns against “armed jihad” on the ground that the Quran prohibits the killing of human beings – to the embarrassment of Islamic terrorists.

“I won’t comment on Salman Rushdie (the recent episode where he was not allowed to come to an Indian literary festival), but I believe in balance and moderation in anything,” Tahir-ul-Qadri, who has written nearly 600 books, told IANS here.

“Any act, may be intellectual or academic, or any act like drama, film or any other act…I am in favour of moderation and balance. I believe in freedom of expression, but there should be certain checks and balances in freedom of expression too.”

“I should not express my views in a way that may hurt other communities. We should respect religions. Freedom of expression should be responsible. If the whole of mankind is hurt, upset and frustrated with hatred, then who will build bridges and bring the people closer? I believe in tolerance, love and respect,” Qadri said.

The scholar said no purpose was served by criticising the sacred texts and the gods.

Founder of socio-political and education platform Minhaj-ul-Qur’an, he was in the country to launch the Indian edition of his book, “Fatwa on Terrorism”. He addressed gatherings in Mumbai and Gujarat. His organisation which was set up in Lahore in 1981 now works in more than 90 countries.

Qadri has been an “opposition leader” in Pakistan between 1989 to 1993, pointing out the government’s mistakes and suggesting ways to improve the situation in the political, educational and economical fields.

What is the Quranic commandment on the subject of extremism, terrorism and suicide bombing? The cleric asks. And he replies, “The killing of mankind irrespective of religion, race and colour – unless a court of law requires a proper legal punishment or in self-defence – taking up arms and killing people on their own are totally prohibited under the Quran.”

A translation of a Quranic verse says the “killing of a single man amounts to killing of a whole mankind”.

Qadri said he has brought the Islamic wisdom and the message of compassion from 1,400 years of texts that he has studied personally in his book to issue his “fatwa on terrorism”.

Qadri said “not a single scholar or extremist organisation” has refuted his claim of “Islam being a faith of peace, freedom and humanity”.

Terrorism is grounded in politics, the scholar said.

“International political issues are not being properly addressed or sorted out. There are some local socio-political problems in different countries which become the cause of irritation and frustration,” Qadri said.

An Open Letter to Violent Muslim Protestors

By Imam Abdullah Antelpi  HuffPo

We witnessed another violent and tragic set of events in reaction to the most recent Quran burning scandal by NATO soldiers in Afghanistan and the dust has yet to settle. Violent protests continue in different parts of the country and several civilians have lost their lives. In our recent history, we have seen several similar violent Muslim reactions when some Muslims feel Westerners have insulted and attacked their sacred images or values. The tragic reactions to Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses,” an infamous Danish cartoon and its bloody consequences, an insignificant Florida pastor’s foolish but costly Quran burning show and more. This column is an honest and sincere call to the Muslims who took and have been taking part in these kinds of violent protests.

Fellow brothers and sisters in Islam who, through whatever means, got involved or are planning to get involved in these kinds of violent protests: As an Imam and, more importantly, as a believing, practicing Muslim, I can’t help but think, “what’s wrong with the Muslims who are involved in violent reactions regardless of the nature or enormity of the offense and insult?” There may be some psychological, political or even cultural explanations (which I will not waste any space discussing in this column) for these primitive and violent responses, but I believe there can be no Islamic, religious, ethical or moral justifications for your excessive, lawless and destructive way of expressing disapproval and hurt. Therefore, I condemn and shun all past and recent Muslim reactions with the strongest possible disapproval and dismay. Shame on you!

These violent reactions of yours really do not make sense on many different fronts. For any Muslim who believes the sacredness of the Quran as God’s final revelation to humanity, that very same Quran condemns and rejects such anarchy in many of her verses and teachings. First of all, the Quran invites us to respect and engage with her divine message more so than the actual physical form of the book that is found between two covers. Respecting a physical copy of Quran could be understandable, but violating its central teachings and principles–for example by killing innocent people–just because someone disrespected or insulted a copy of the Quran is unacceptable, barbaric and reprehensible. No physical copy of a holy scripture, including the Quran, is more sacred than the life of a human being. This is what the Quran and our beloved prophet, whom the Quran came through, teaches us over and over.

Secondly, what do many Muslims throughout the Muslim world do when the copies of the Quran get really worn down and become unusable? We burn them! Yes, you didn’t read it wrong: It is a common Muslim practice to respectfully burn old Qurans when they are no longer reparable. It is proclaimed all over the world, including Afghanistan, in many different interpretations of Islamic law that this is an honorable farewell to these old copies of the Quran. So how do you justify your shameless reactions to Quran burning?

Moreover, these unacceptable and indefensible responses only serve to confirm the fabricated, monstrous and scary image of Islam as a religion and Muslims as a people to the fearful world. I really don’t understand how my fellow Muslims do not see that, with their reactions, they actually prove what has been said about them by their enemies. You call my religion evil or terrorism and, in order to “disprove” this insult, I will go kill people, burn embassies, act like a bloodthirsty crazy person…. Don’t you fellow Muslims see the ridiculousness of this logic and actions! The uncivilized images of these violent protests by these irresponsible and violent Muslims shape the image of 1.6 billion Muslims all around the world. These images are so powerful that even education and exposure to real Islam later on is unable to remove these images from the hearts and minds of many non-Muslims.

Maybe more importantly, Muslims themselves are not immune to the images of these ugly and violent scenes created by fellow Muslims. Seeing the actions of Muslim extremists over and over on a daily basis increasingly causes Muslim internalization of biased anti-Muslim propaganda. This creates an atmosphere of perception that all of the world’s extremists are Muslims. Do these angry Muslim protesters not realize how much harm and destruction they do to Islam and to their fellow Muslims all over the world?! Or how much pain and embarrassment they inflict on fellow believers?

Finally, my dear fellow Muslims, you may be thinking that you have been defending Islam and Muslims against their enemies through these violent protests. May God bless you with enough common sense and wisdom to realize that, by protesting in this manner, you are being the worst and most destructive enemies of Islam.

Proud and Prejudiced: The Jihadist and the Hooligan

By: Marc Hawker in HuffPo

I’ve just fallen in love with England again. I never thought it would happen, but after filming two dangerous and notorious men from Luton over the past year, I’m glad I live here. Tonight Channel 4 screens the film I shot and directed: Proud and Prejudiced.

The two men are Tommy Robinson – the founder and leader of the English Defence League – and Sayful Islam – leader of a group of fundamentalist Muslims. Both are Luton born and bred. Tommy is the manager of a local tanning shop; Sayful was a tax inspector before he gave it up to bring Islam to the streets of Britain.

These guys are dangerous because of their ideas. Tommy believes he is fighting the creeping Islamification of his community (though he started out as only condemning Islamic Extremism) and Sayful wants democracy in the UK overthrown and replaced by Sharia Law.

Both know how to create media events: Sayful’s troupe burnt poppies on remembrance day and Tommy closed down the City Of London as the EDL marched on Tower Hamlets with him dressed as a Rabbi (more of that later).

The reality of what they are doing has serious consequences. Communities feel deeply threatened and a wedge of separation is locking community against community. Imagine the police locking down your town centre and a thousand or so people turning up, most drunk, and shouting “scum, scum, scum”, while Sayful and his guys are whipping up outrage by deliberately provoking people. “We just want to wake people up from their slumber,” he says. Maybe. Both want England to be a mirror image of themselves.

We filmed the notorious leader of the EDL on a drunken night out in Luton Town centre before he disguised himself as a Rabbi to get through a cordon of thousands of police at the edge of Tower Hamlets. Tommy was on bail for head butting what he believed to be a National Front racist trying to usurp his leadership of the EDL. The bail conditions meant he couldn’t give speeches at EDL demos, write emails on behalf of the EDL. He says they were political bail conditions, he has a point there.

He couldn’t give his speech without being arrested, so he bought a £20 beard and hat and went in disguise, it was like something out if an Ealing comedy. When he jumped the stage and ripped off the Rabbi disguise, giving his speech, the police tried to rush in. He got away with us in tow, escaping finally on a double decker bus with a bus ticket costing £2:20. Only in England, only in England. Funny as this might have been, the population of Tower hamlets felt under threat that day and the anger and hatred meted out by the EDL was palpable.

A month later, Sayful’s group was banned by Theresa May. The group has been banned a number of times and they just re-appear under a different name.

But this time the authorities got serious. With May banning Muslims Against Crusades, a group called the United Umah (undoubtedly the same people) declared a static demonstration outside the American Embassy in London. About 30 people turned up. I was told that a policeman warned them not to mention America. One of them started talking about drone bombing. How civilians were being killed. How America thinks it can just take out anyone in the world at anytime. The police, heavily outnumbering the protestors moved in and arrested them all. Now they are on bail. If charged they could face prosecution with 10 years maximum sentence. Are these guys terrorists? I don’t think so. Their Jihad is a Jihad of words. Their anger at UK foreign policy is understandable, in my view.

What I’ve learnt from filming Tommy and Sayful is that we should not suppress them. That serves nothing; it just puts a pressure cooker on things that, as Tommy Robinson says, “one day will just blow up”. Democracy is messy. It’s expensive – policing these people is costing millions. Maybe we just have to put up with a whole bunch of stuff that is annoying, distasteful (maybe), offensive (definitely). That’s Democracy. That’s freedom.

I’m glad Britain is, in the end, tolerant and this needs to be protected. By all means confront words with words, ideas with ideas, but I don’t think we can solve anything by banning, restricting or arresting these people. There needs to be a debate going on properly in government about the feelings that are so acute in the film. It’s a debate that’s not happening.

Too hot? Maybe so. But if its not debated, and seen to be debated, it will just get hotter methinks.

Time for a Little Honesty: Sometimes Muslims Burn Qurans

Dr. David Liepert posted on HuffPo

Twenty years ago, back in the “good old days,” when Rambo still fought alongside the Mujahedeen in Hollywood and Osama bin Laden still worked in Afghanistan for the U.S. Department of State, I discovered I had a problem.
Back then, as a newly “reverted” Muslim, whenever I went to the mosque, people kept handing me leaflets, advertisements and calendars with snippets of the Arabic Quran on them. And although they meant well, pretty soon, those leaflets started to pile up at home: because although I realized I couldn’t just throw them out in the garbage like any other trash, I didn’t know what else to do!

However, when I brought my conundrum to the imam I learned the answer was actually an easy one with a long scholarly tradition to support it. He told me the most respectful way to deal with God’s message to Muslims — in it’s original Arabic format — was to burn the paper and ink it was delivered with, and give God’s message back to God.

So when Quran burning first hit the popular media a few years back, I have to admit I didn’t really understand what the problem was. Obviously, someone idiotic enough to want to burn God’s message to God’s servants without even reading it wasn’t going to respect it, no matter what else he did with it: I figured sending it back to our shared Creator was the probably the wisest thing he would ever do!

So despite the heat of current controversy surrounding the U.S. Army’s recent attempt to burn old Qurans in Afghanistan, if Muslims are being honest, we’ll admit that burning them is one of the ways Muslims discard old “well-used” Qurans, too.

Granted it’s not preferable: Qurans deserve better treatment than short snippets of phrase, and so an honorable burial, or being sunk to the bottom of a running stream, is better. Regardless, it’s not the paper or the ink that really matters, it’s the message those words deliver that Muslims love the most. And to honor that message, when the vessel that contains it no longer proves adequate to God’s purpose of high-fidelity transmission, we give it back to God.

However, a better way to honor it is to actually live by it, and frankly, that’s where we seem to be falling short these days. Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand why Muslims get upset with non-Muslims disrespecting our religion. But the thing is, our religion has very specific advice about what to do when that happens! And no-where does it say we’re supposed to kill or be killed!

Instead, even though honor mattered to pre-Muslim Arabs in Muhammad’s day as much as it seems to matter to Muslims today again, since it didn’t matter one whit to Muhammad back then, it still shouldn’t matter to Muslims now at all.

He told his followers very specifically that his honor wasn’t worth getting hurt for, and even with an army behind him he wasn’t willing to fight for it himself: In fact, while Muhammad was alive he brought the way Arabs worshiped honor over life to a crashing end. Don’t believe me? Check out what happened at Hudaybiyyah. Because what happened there brought peace to the Middle East for Muslim and non-Muslim alike, which was one of the main purposes of Muhammad’s Islam.

Now it seems we’re back to where we started: Our world is being torn apart by tribal, national and religious chauvinism, just like it was being torn apart back then. However, the good news is, Muslims generally figure that what worked back then should still work today, right?

So, when someone burns a Quran, what should Muslims do? I don’t think anyone’s said it any better than Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, who chairs the mosques and community affairs committee of the Muslim Council of Britain:

“What is captured on the pages can be printed again. If they burn 1,000, we can print 10,000. What’s the big deal? … A NATO soldier killing innocent people is far more painful than the burning of a Quran. I would rather they burn 100 Qurans than to hurt one woman or man or child.”

And that’s the message we should be focused on, because it’s not just the Muslims who aren’t following their book, it’s everyone else too. America today, despite invading Iraq and Afghanistan, an invasion that’s resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children for the sake of vengeance and American security still considers itself a “Christian” nation. And didn’t Jesus once say something about turning the other cheek?

And while we’re at it, God was pretty clear in the beginning, that He was putting the Jews in charge of the Holy Land because they’d bring God’s benevolent Justice, and God’s benevolent Peace to all people’s living there, something the Quran confirms.

Israel wants security, and Palestine wants justice. Judaism and Islam, on the other hand, both say you’re not following either religion until you want for your neighbor what you want for yourself.

Enough said?

So while like every other Muslim out there I honestly believe that Muhammad’s Islam holds the answer for everyone, it’s not like you might think, if you don’t know Muhammad like I know Muhammad.

Because if you go by the actual record of what he did, rather than the rhetoric that surrounds it, Muhammad didn’t bring God’s peace by making everyone live up to Muslim standards. No, he made everyone live up to their own standards instead: He made Christians be better Christians, he made Jews be better Jews, and he made Muslims be better Muslims.

So what he did? Well, I think that’s what we should do too.

And enough about Qur’an burning!

Food Justice Internship: APPLY TODAY!!!

Farm the Land, Grow the Spirit

June 4th – July 19th, 2012

Farm the Land, Grow the Spirit is our summer food justice internship program for Muslims, Jews, Christians, and those of other faith traditions ages 19-30. Interns will be part of the Community of Living Traditions, a multifaith, multicultural, and intergenerational residential community housed at Stony Point Center.

Farm the Land

  • Learn how to setup and maintain a seasonal garden
  • Gain experience in composting, planting, harvesting, tilling, and cooking produce
  • Develop skills in addressing large-scale food justice issues

Grow the Spirit

  • Learn how food justice and nonviolence are embraced by Judaism, Islam, and Christianity
  • Interact with people of different faiths and grow in your understanding of their traditions
  • Gather daily for study and reflection within your own tradition
  • Have fun kayaking, hiking, creating art, and enjoying local outings


All interns receive housing, meals, and a $500 stipend for the summer.

See the flyer for more information and apply online.
Deadline: April 1, 2012

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