Monday, 23 May 2016

Humanrights & Islam: no inherint contradiction

When the subject of Human Rights is mentioned, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Magna Carta and American Constitution are soon to follow. Despite the importance of these codified set of rights they are usually considered unrelated to the Islamic World. Considering that 20% of the world’s population is Muslim and the diversity of those who practise the faith range vastly, a question rises about whether any ideology or practice can really be considered as unrelated to the Muslim World. If we are to consider these set of rights as not necessarily in contradiction with Islamic ideology but separate, then what rules should Muslims adhere to when the principle of Human Rights is mentioned? Who writes these rules? And who dictates the rights of a person.

These questions have become a contentious issue in recent years, particularly with the increase of democratic states in the Muslim world. Western counterparts have also questioned the ideologies and the idea of freedom in the Muslim – world since Islam has been under the limelight in the Media and Political exchange due to the rise of terror attacks, such as the bombings of the World Trade Centre and more recently the rise of ISIS.
It is a fact that some Muslims often shy away from gender equality and believe that strict adherence to Islamic principles requires a snubbing of gender equality. I have many times fallen into the trap of commenting on misogynistic Facebook statuses. After a few exchanges of heated comments I was alarmed at a response from one particular female who said that “Islam is about equity not equality”. But is there really equity without equality? Does Islam really advocate this ideology?
It is worrying that some Muslim Governments advocate and facilitate discrimination against those marginalised in our Ummah; but even more concerning that Islam is used as a justification for such behaviour.

Pakistan for example has routinely discriminated against the Hijra Community with some Imams quoting hadith, which are proven as weak, to justify discrimination against such individuals. Malaysia have routinely banned women from getting divorced, despite being in violent relationships, as it is considered ‘against Islam’ to unsettle family dynamics. The Holy City of Mecca, the birth place of an egalitarian and tolerant society of Muslims is now dubbed as the Las Vegas of the East with Sky Scrapers, Multi-Billion dollar hotels while the country has 1.5 million migrant domestic workers many of whom are denied salaries and work 15-20 hours a day. Does this mean that the Muslim world has an alternative understanding of human rights?  Or simply that the concept of Human Rights is simply ignored to further consumerist causes.

Despite the atrocities and denial of basic human rights in many parts of the Muslim world, it is important to state that the concept of human rights is not alien to Islamic tradition and has been implemented by scholars in the past. Al- Ghazali was a well-revered scholar from the Abbasid era around 12th Century. Al- Ghazali founded the five principles known as the Maqasid al Sharia. These were: right to life, right to religious freedom, right to express your opinion freely, right to property and right to reproduction. These five principles were meant to be the five foundations that the implementation of Sharia law should uphold. The distinct feature of these principles was that they did not uphold the rights of God. As simply God does not need rights and nor does God need his creation to do anything for him. In other words nothing we do affects God in any way. These principles, that uphold Sharia, were purely for the betterment of human life.

Another principle used in Islam as a foundation for Human Rights is the concept ofTawhid, which means unity. All Muslims in some shape or form agree Tawheed as a principle. The binding force of the faith that is uttered by the lips of all Muslims around the world La Illaha Illallah meaning there is no God other than God. The intention behind this prayer is to proclaim that there is no other authority and no other greater ruler that God. This in principle should eradicate all authority and hierarchies in Islam and provide all people absolute equality. A human cannot be God to another human and no human is expected to be submissive to another person other than God. Under this notion one would assume that a ruler has no authority over his people. This is not the case. A relationship between a ruler and his subjects is an exchange of communication and mediation. It should be a relationship of fairness. A person willingly gives up his sovereignty for protection and safety of ones livelihood and family. Islamic authority is not imposed by force. The undemocratic ruling Saudi Arabia is an example of a forced ruling of people. Human rights abuses occur and a person has there freedoms unwillingly taken. Islam at the time of the prophet was not ruled through hereditary tyrants, instead it was a ruling done through consensus (Ijmah).

Those Muslims who live in democratic states live in a contemporary understanding ofIjmah. The concept of tawhid is a significant tool to understanding equality. Some scholars argue that the belief that the first woman was created from man and is a subordinate to men are against the idea of Tawhid as this idea places men at a pinnacle higher than that of a woman. The story that Eve was made of Adams rib is a story that Muslims have borrowed from the bible. Every Muslim has the responsibility of Khalifah fil ardh- a moral agent. This means that it is the responsibility of each Muslim to replicate what the Prophet Muhammed intended. Would the Prophet Muhammed intend the subjection of women and those of other religions in Muslim countries?

This raises the question, how did the Muslim world separate authority from legislature? This issue was solved by the Ottoman Empire. The judge ruled with complete independence from Ottoman rulers. This meant that the ruler of a group never had absolute power – as the legal system was separate with each judge having his own methodology in reviewing cases. As western imperialism grew it was important to conform to the Western super powers. This meant that uncodified legal systems had to be made unified into a more centralised ruing system so that trading with the Europeans became easier. Therefore sharia law and the state marriage is a contemporary occurrence despite the impression that it was intrinsic to Islamic ruling.

We have discussed the concept of Al-Ghazalis Maqasid Al Sharia and we have also discussed how authority in Islam was not always centralised and dictated by those who ruled the state. This shows how Islam had embraced Human Rights and provided those who are marginalised by society with a safe haven with freedom and liberty to express ones opinions. Surley it is not the same as the Universal Human rights but this does not mean to say that Humans Rights were not considered. We have also discussed how some states have defaced the faith of Islam and attempted to turn the faith that once provided the marginalised liberty into a faith that strangulates those minorities with an alternative ideology, culture or lifestyle.

Can be found at

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Did the Prophets sin?

Did the Prophets sin?

If I stray, then I stray to my own loss. If I am guided, then it is because of what my Lord inspired to me. He is Hearer, Near. (34:50) [EDIP YUKSEL]

Today I received one of them forward messages which stated- 

“You Chase the Dunya and its pleasures when the Dunya was the punishment for Adam (AS)”

Hasan Al-Basri (may Allah have mercy on him)

The text at first glance seems pretty simple- do not chase worldly affairs as the world we reside in is a punishment for Adam eating from the forbidden tree.

What is bugging me is that I was under the impression that all Prophets were free of Sin [Isma] and therefore they cannot be punished. It seems, to me, acceptable that the Prophets made mistakes.

However, has been dispute over whether Prophets were prone to making errors [Zalla] despite being the messenger of God. The messengers of God are mere examples by which we should live our lives by, humans are prone to making mistakes, its Gods will. I think the under lying question seems to be that if the Prophets are human examples for others to follow then did God make them with flaws to reflect on the common human being? Or did God make them imperfect to set the ultimate example by which we should live by?

Another example that suggests that Prophets were examples for us to live by is that in the Quran it states

“Indeed, in the messenger of God a good example has been set for he who seeks God and the Last day and thinks constantly about God” (33:21) [EDIP YUKSEL]

From this Ayah and reading a number of other translations it can be seen that the word ‘example’ in the ayah can also be translated as ‘pattern’. Both the words still create the assumptions that the Prophets were living ‘examples’ on how a person should live. The fact that the Prophets were simply examples that we should live by imply to me that the Prophets could have been examples to us about how humans are also prone to error’s as so were the Prophets.

Going back to the original point it seems to me from the text message that the Prophet Adam was punished for eating an apple therefore its a necessity to believe he committed a sin. Where does this lead my point of view? If it is the case that the Prophet Adam did sin then does that mean that we also believe in the original sin?  So where does this lead us Muslims with regards to the infallibility of Prophets. Here is some information that helped me answer my question.

According to Sahih Bukari Volume 4:578. The Prophet Abraham lied on three occasions twice for the sake of God and one for the protection of his wife Sarah.

The hadith goes as follows –
Abraham did not tell a lie except on three occasion. Twice for the Sake of Allah when he said, "I am sick," and he said, "(I have not done this but) the big idol has done it." The (third was) that while Abraham and Sarah (his wife) were going (on a journey) they passed by (the territory of) a tyrant. Someone said to the tyrant, "This man (i.e. Abraham) is accompanied by a very charming lady." So, he sent for Abraham and asked him about Sarah saying, "Who is this lady?" Abraham said, "She is my sister." Abraham went to Sarah and said, "O Sarah! There are no believers on the surface of the earth except you and I. This man asked me about you and I have told him that you are my sister, so don't contradict my statement." The tyrant then called Sarah and when she went to him, he tried to take hold of her with his hand, but (his hand got stiff and) he was confounded. He asked Sarah. "Pray to Allah for me, and I shall not harm you." So Sarah asked Allah to cure him and he got cured. He tried to take hold of her for the second time, but (his hand got as stiff as or stiffer than before and) was more confounded. He again requested Sarah, "Pray to Allah for me, and I will not harm you." Sarah asked Allah again and he became alright. He then called one of his guards (who had brought her) and said, "You have not brought me a human being but have brought me a devil." The tyrant then gave Hajar as a girl-servant to Sarah. Sarah came back (to Abraham) while he was praying. Abraham, gesturing with his hand, asked, "What has happened?" She replied, "Allah has spoiled the evil plot of the infidel (or immoral person) and gave me Hajar for service." (Abu Huraira then addressed his listeners saying, "That (Hajar) was your mother, O Bani Ma-is-Sama (i.e. the Arabs, the descendants of Ishmael, Hajar's son)."

Simply reading this hadith implies the Prophet Abraham lied in order to be effective in fulfilling his task of propagating the word of God and also to protect his wife Sarah. Contrary to this, scholars suggest that when the Prophet Abraham said ‘I am sick’ it was a metaphorical way of saying that he was disgusted by his family worshipping idols.

The second time he lied, was when he destroyed some idols and left the largest most important idol standing. Then he declared “(I have not done this but) the big idol has done it”, in this scenario it is suggested that the Prophet Abraham was being sarcastic in declaring that the largest idol made him destroy the others, intending to send the message that the idols cannot speak nor can they make a human do anything as they were merely man-made objects.

On the third attempt that he lied he said “She is my sister” when referring to his wife Sarah when talking to the tyrant Abimelech. With regards to this potential lie the prophet had said it is suggested that the Prophet Abraham did not lie but instead he was ambiguous in his definition of sister. As in Islam all humans’ brothers and sisters descended from Adam and Hawa right?

It is also suggested that doubting the power of God is a sin by many people however we are humans. We do not see, hear, feel nor experience God as we do physical objects in the world.

“Abraham said, "My Lord, show me how you resurrect the dead." He said, "Do you not already acknowledge?" He said, "I do, but to assure my heart." He said, "Choose four birds, then cut them, then place parts of the birds on each mountain, then call them to you; they will come racing towards you. Know that God is Noble, Wise."(2:260) [EDIP YUKSEL].

In this ayah it is clear that even Abraham doubted the power of God until he was shown proof with his eyes that God is powerful beyond human understanding. An explanation of this Ayah shows that Abraham had the right to ask questions about the existence of God. This was because the Prophets had the ability to perceive the knowledge of God using reliable facts unlike the common human. Therefore, Abraham had the right to ask God to show Gods ability to bring the dead back to life. This is also a suggestion to humans that a person’s faith is not based on subjective knowledge and therefore doubting something that we have no physical evidence of is often difficult, especially when Abraham doubted Gods ability despite having the ability to talk to God.

The question of whether Prophets were prone to error or wrongdoing [Zalla] or if they were infallible [Isma] is also discussed by scholars to decide upon the definition and the concept of Sin. The argument in support for suggesting that the Prophets did not sin was that many Prophets did not decide upon an action without a revelation that guided the Prophets to carry out a ruling.

Yet in very rare cases the Prophets used logical reasoning to come to a decision (which can be the wrong decision). It is important to note that these actions done through logic which turned out to be wrong was done before a command was revealed by God advising them of an alternative. When the Prophet was younger he helped his uncles rebuild the Kaba. His uncle advised him to hoist the heavier stones using his garments and when he fell his thighs were revealed. At this point an Angel commanded him to cover himself as it was not fitting for a future messenger to act in this manner. This is an example of the Prophet performing an action (of revealing his private parts as skin above the knees should be hidden) that would be considered a sin in the later years yet at that moment it was not a command of God that it was a sin. Reference of this hadith however is unreliable as I could not find the footnote.

It is however against the word of God to imply that a decision of the Prophet is incorrect when the Prophet has confided in God as the following verse states-

Is there a disease in their hearts, or are they doubtful? Or do they fear that God and His messenger would wrong them in the judgment? In fact, they are the wrong doers. (24:51) [EDIP YUKSEL]

There is also emphasis on the distinction between sin and forgiveness. It is not a necessity for forgiveness to be an action as a result of sin. By this I mean that the word for forgiveness can also be used interchangeably with ‘pardon’ by God. By this I mean that God has made a ‘pardon’ for certain actions in extreme circumstances but does not necessarily mean that a sin was committed- if God has pardoned a potential sin then performing that action is not a sin. An example of this is

…So, whoever is forced by severe hunger and not seeking sin, then God is Forgiving, Compassionate. (5:3) [EDIP YUKSEL]

O you who acknowledge, do not come near the contact prayer while you are drunk, until you know what you are saying. Nor if you have had intercourse, unless traveling, until you bathe. If you are ill, or traveling, or one of you come from the bathroom, or you had sexual contact with the women, and could not find water: then you shall seek clean soil and wipe your faces and hands. God is Pardoning, Forgiving.
 (4.43) [EDIP YUKSEL]

Both these examples suggest that God ‘pardons’ the potential sin of eating forbidden and  not cleaning yourself with water before praying in extreme circumstances therefore it cannot be counted as a sin. In contrast if a person commits a sin then asks for ‘forgiveness’ this circumstance is different to that of God ‘pardoning’ a potential sin. Therefore, if the Prophet ever performed Wuzu without water or ate Haram food due to severe hunger then it is not a sin as it is pardoned before being called a sin. 

Another example of the infallibility of Jesus can be seen in Surah Maryam which states the following
To be dutiful to my mother, and He did not make me a rebellious tyrant. Peace be upon me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I am resurrected alive." (19:32-33) [EDIP YUKSEL]

This is another argument to show that all the actions of Jesus were sin free form the day of birth and this infallibility of Jesus will remain forever.

This brings me to the belief that Prophets were prone to making errors however they never committed a sin. This could have been for various reasons such as God had not yet commanded an action they performed a sin or the action that can be classed as a potential sin has been pardoned. 

This evidence to suggest the Prophets never sinned has, if anything, opened a can of worms as to why the Prophet Adam was banished to Earth. 

The actions of Prophet Adam was wrong as he disobeyed God’s command which was to not eat from the tree. However, according to some scholars it is important to not that there are two different types of commands of God in terms of context and in terms of consequences. 

Firstly, the command of God that was given to an immortal therefore the concept of sin is different to that of a mortal. Therefore it is important to note that the concept of disobeying God for a human like you and I is that we are committing a sin which will result in punishment unless we repent. However, disobeying an order given in heaven does not necessitate a sin.

Another reason why Adam did not sin was because there are two types of commands from God.

There is the Al-amr al-mawlawi also known as a legislative command, which is a command from God which, if disobeyed, means it is a sin and therefore the person should be punished. 

The second type of command from God is Al-amr al-irshadi otherwise known as advisory command. This is a command given by God which if not followed does not mean it is a sin but it means that there are still consequences of the action. 

For instance, if a person kills an animal without saying Bismillah it is not a sin. However, the consequence of this is that it is forbidden for that meat to be consumed. 

Going back to Adam AS it can be determined that the command given by God was in heaven and therefore Adams action was not a sin. Also, Adam did not disobey a Al-amr al mawlawi (legislative command) he disobeyed an Al-amr al-irshadi (advisory command) command which is not a sin but the consequences of disobeying this command was being sent to Earth to live as a mortal.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Who Represents me in the Media?

The idea of representation is pivotal for many foreign and political affairs for both the media and the Politian’s in the west. The western obsession with representation has created many overnight ‘voices’ for communities that did not have a voice before.

There are numerous examples include Joanna Lumley, who represented the Gurkha in there long struggle for justice. The Catholic Church is also a great example, an infamous succession of representatives, traceable to Jesus and St Peter himself. African American’s where represented by Martin Luther King in the fight for equal rights. We also had Ghandi for the Indian independence.  

It is almost as if its human instinct to think about particular people in history in order for us to make sense of key events that have taken place. It helps us distinguish between the good and the bad, the right and the wrong.  Furthermore, generally speaking when people usually think of fascist they immediately think of Hitler. If a person was to think about a terrorist then we would think about Osama Bin Laden.
Over the years that Islamic fundamentalism has taken hold of many of the trans-national and national discussions. It is almost natural for the media to want to look for representatives of ‘Islamists’ in order to talk on behalf of the many Islamists in the world. Hence GMTV giving a platform to Anjem Choudary, Tommy Robinson former leader of EDL was also given a platform by various documentaries and interviews to allow a conflicting prospective.

This seems to be a positive thing, as at first glance it can be argued that people have a point of view and they are represented. However, my concern is the fact that the media quite often sets out to argue extremist views with a representatives with conflicting yet equally as extreme ideas. For instance, I am a Muslim but I see myself as a progressive and liberal Muslim. Therefore, it is obvious that Anjem Choudary or Bin Laden would not be the face that will represents me in the media.

Funnily enough snippets of the EDL mission statement quite accurately represent my political views. Statements like “the denigration and oppression of women, the molestation of young children, the committing of so-called honour killings, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and continued support for those responsible for terrorist atrocities.” The mission statement further adds “It should ensure that they can openly criticise Islamic orthodoxy, challenge Islamic leaders without fear of retribution, receive full equality before the law (including equal rights for Muslim women), and leave Islam if they see fit, without fear of censure.” The EDL’s official mission statement does seem quite feasible and acceptable but in practise needless to say the EDL is a fascist, Islamophobic movement. The EDL has one Muslim member Abdul Rafiq which is clearly unrepresentative of the Muslim community who are also for the same values that the EDL have. The reason why there is only one Muslim in the organisation is self-explanatory.

This leads me to look for Muslims in Britain who are neither extremist nor islamophobic to represent my views in the media.

Here are some of the people that have had media appearances that should really represent my views yet they do quite the opposite and in fact cause a potential threat to the whole idea of a progressive Muslim.
The Quillam foundation is “the world’s first counter-extremism think tank set up to address the unique challenges of citizenship, identity, and belonging in a globalised world. Quilliam claims it is independent and stands for “religious freedom, equality, human rights and democracy.” Seems at first glance like an organisation that is a voice for many Muslims like myself that require representation. Then why is it so controversial? It is worth adding that the organisation itself was formed by ex-Extremists. However, this argument may be defeated by saying that it is not right to defame a person for previous actions. Yet further research shows that Quilliam received £700,000 from the government to achieve its objective. Therefore it would be quite reasonable to ask how taxpayers money is used to tackle terrorism.

The answer is a 65 page secret list of ‘Alleged extremist sympathisers’. This document was leaked to the media and being likened to the Stasi Manual. The list included organisations such as the Muslim Safety Forum, Islamic Human Rights Commission, Muslim Association of Britain, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies even Salma Yaqoob former candidate for the Respect Party. The list also goes as far as branding Palestinian freedom fighters as terrorists which is obviously highly sensitive especially for an organisation which should understand the reasons and motivations for Palestinian people to fight. The organisation has been quite rightly been accused of McCarthyistic behaviour.

When It comes to the taboo issue of the veil, my personal idea is that it is not something that people should wear. However, there are many people who do not like bright coloured hair or any other form of identification due to personal choice yet the mantra of this state is that ‘people should be free to wear what they want’. If a women is forced to wear the veil by her husband or family then that is a different issue.  Going back to the example of bright coloured hair  if a person is forced to colour there hair brightly it does not mean that Live XXL should be banned- the very idea seems outrageous. Then why is it even considered when it comes to the veil? Because it’s a cultural idea being forced on women? Many clubs do not allow women to go in without a dress on as it is deemed culturally unacceptable to go to a club with jeans on does that mean all night clubs should be shut?

Yes it leads to the question of whether it should be allowed in schools and hospitals. It is worth adding that the number of people who work in public services that wear a veil is very few and the people who refuse to remove it when required is virtually non-existent hence this discussion in the media and government is superfluous. But my two cents worth is it’s not a matter of human rights in the work place it is about outlining the conflict between the essential requirements at a work place and a person’s personal dress choice. Some wouldn’t trust a lawyer with tattoos all over their faces some wouldn’t trust a lawyer with their face covered therefore we all need to adhere to some cultural norms. But going back to the Media and who represents my views?

Yasmin Alibhai Brown is a well-known Ugandan born journalist who has spoken about many issues concerning religion and her liberal stance does make her points of views seem viable to some non-Muslims. It seems re-affirming too many of us in Britain that there is a women who is almost representative of the liberal Muslim women in the media and she is conforming to ideas that are digestible for many British people.  
However, she dismisses the veil as “For those forced into shrouds, there is only night. They could be victims of abuse and miserable but we would never know.” She also adds “That all-covering gown, that headscarf, that face mask – all affirm and reinforce the belief that women are a hazard to men and society.” “Muslims wilfully create problems and build barriers, anti-racists and egalitarians have an absolute duty to engage with them critically and in good faith.” She also states that “Niqabs make us appear more alien, more dangerous and suspicious. If it is a provocation for Ku Klux Klan to cover up so they can’t be recognised, it is for Muslims too.”

If people were not aware of the fact that she was a muslim she would be dismissed or branded an islamophobe. Yet the fact that shes a Muslim almost makes her ideas acceptable for many. She argues that
her liberal stance means she is under attack by many Muslims of Britain. The language and personal beliefs of Yasmin are flawed and skewered. Her argument that Muslims are being subject to backwards ideologies that need changing because its simply diabolical and an orientalist idea. It is this very language and mantra that ‘these alien Muslims need to be taught how to live’ is the very reason many issues arise for the Muslim world. She seems to have forgotten the milestones that Islam has leaped across and ignored the vast diverse Muslim faith. The idea that veils should be questioned is correct dismissing the reason, culture, concept and evolution of such idea and simply dismissing it and likening it to the Ku Klux Klan is diabolical.

Saira Khan once a runner up for The Apprentice and now a Daily Mail writer who sees herself as a representative of Muslim voice is another figure who has propped up frequently when I have wondered who represents the many Muslims who are progressive in the media. She uses personal stories of how her mum goes swimming in ‘a normal swimming costume’ to justify her reason for the veil being banned in streets. Once again a person who has fallen for the white-supremacy idea of what ‘normal’ is and believes we should all conform. Her arguments are full of flaws which are arguably added to justify her reasons for banning the veil.

“Girls as young as four are wearing the hijab to school: that is not a freely made choice. It stops them taking part in education and reaching their potential, and the idea that tiny children need to protect their modesty is abhorrent.”

I didn’t wear a Hijab, for the obvious reason that I am a male, but how far does the idea that is isn’t ‘a freely made choice’ be an acceptable argument? I wasn’t free to not wear a uniform I wasn’t free to choose what school I went in fact I wasn’t even free to choose which colours glasses I wore when I was four? Does a parent’s decision for a child to wear something really be that tarnishing to a child when he/she is older? If so then how can you prevent anything from institutionalising a child? It is impossible for a person to grow up being completely neutral of any influences.

 The actions and statements made by both Yasmin and Saira are the same ideas that were used by the white British colonisers. A Gun in one hand and a Bible in the other has been used in the past to ‘civilise the world’. Now people like Saira a Kashmiri and Yasmin a Ugandan who’s roots are both subjected to this unfortunate colonial mantra of civilising the world. Are using the same justification to speak out against Muslim women wearing the veil. The only difference is they seem to have a manual for how to be ‘Civil and normal’ in one hand and the power of the media in the other. Neither represent the views of progressive Muslims and are tarnishing the work of many liberal Muslims who work hard to educate, liberate and understand existing social trends and question them.

The issue here is that when looking to the media to find representations of the majority of Muslims it is very difficult. We have the extremists on one end of the prospective and on the other side we have the Islamophobic and fascist movements. In the Utopian media/political world we would have a government funded organisation which seeks to wipe out terrorism instead of making McCarthyist stances. We would also have those Daily Mail and Newspapers alike who have Progressive Muslim writers who accept and understand the cultural reasons for some actions and seek to identify problems with this and criticize it in an effective manner instead of taking the ‘the civil way is the western way’ hence ignoring the past examples of the consequences of this western superior complex has caused.  It is worth stating that the ideas that are projected by Quillam, Saira Khan and Yasmin Alibhai Brown are potentially causing a backlash of many progressive Muslims and there mission to please the superior-west and appealing to the ‘ideal British person’ stereotype is harmful to the rest of us Muslims.

The argument i am making is not that there is not enough representation of Liberal and Progressive Muslims. It is also not an anti-western stance. My argument is that i agree that Quilliam, Saira Khan and Yasmin Alibhai Brown are trying to achieve, which is to raise awareness of the problems that Muslim's face need to be tackled. However the techniques, language and ideologies that motivate there argument adheres to the western notion of what is civil and this idea can cause more harm than good for many Muslims like myself. 

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Pride London

Every year Pride London organises a parade for LGBT people and their affiliates in order to recognise and celebrate the diversity of sexuality. This year Pride London will be held on the 29th of June and will start in the morning. Pride is a time when all people regardless of sexuality, faith, gender or any other differences to come together and celebrate the diversity that brings us together. Not only is this a big street party it is also a large political stance to celebrate and embrace  the liberties that many LGBT people experience in the UK and to celebrate our sexuality openly.  It is a safe haven for people of many different cultures to be themselves in public and embrace there inner selves without the fear of prosecution. The sheer excitement that people in knowing there is a feeling of power and love shared between so many people marching together to be recognised once a year is unimaginable!

The pride will set off from Baker Street and travel down the famous Oxford Street which is deemed Europe’s business shopping streets. Later the parade will march down Regent street through to Piccadilly and then Trafalgar Square where a large scale celebration will be held.

Imaan is an organisation for LGBT Muslims and their families. LGBT Muslims have face major discrimination and prosecution for being LGBT and many of us who reside in some states still face the death penalty. This year Imaan will be running the theme of ‘Gender Bending Marriage’. This theme celebrates same sex marriage in the transgender community. Many people like myself are using this opportunity to show that Muslims can be fun and diverse and we would also like to show the Muslims community that we exist!. We hope that you may join us during our march and celebrate the diversity that God has gifted us with. For more information please email  

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Syed Faiz on Inter-sex (Hijra) in Islam; A response to Gay Star News

Gay Star News published an article which slated a progressive Muslim in his attempt to liberate the Hijra community in India after years of being shunned from society. Here is a response to Jean Paul Zapata's article which was written on the foundations of mis-interpretations and strong stereotypes of the Asian and Muslim culture. 

Firstly there are a few words I have changed in the translation yet these are not major errors of my sort it is just to make things clear on my behalf.

It is alleged that this video has gone “viral on youtube”.  This is an over sensationalised statement when one takes into account that the video has only received 436 views and the majority of these are since the article has been written. The paltry level of views received would hardly constitute viral. 

The term ‘Hijra’ which is used to describe ‘Intersex’ (हिजड़ा) and not ‘Trans’ people. The definition for intersex people according to the Oxford dictionary is “the abnormal condition of being intermediate between male and female; hermaphroditism.”

The official definition of ‘trans’ however is “a person who strongly identifies with the opposite sex and may seek to live as a member of this sex especially by undergoing surgery and hormone therapy to obtain the necessary physical appearance (as by changing the external sex organs)”.  The definitions however clearly show that the difference between a transsexual and an intersex individual is that an intersex person has an “abnormal” condition at birth unlike ‘trans’ who, as we know, may alter their physical self later on.

It is interesting that no objection has been raised against the Oxford English dictionary referring to intersex as ‘abnormal’.  One wonders if this is because there is little media interest in showing the official English dictionary to be bigoted in any way when there are much richer pickings to be had by misinterpreting and sensationalising what is in essence a very positive message for intersex people. It is also important to clarify that Mr Syed says that an intersex persons genes are a ‘defect’. There is a clear difference between calling a person a defect and calling a persons gene a defect. The video when translated clearly shows that Syed is not calling the intersex individual a defect at all. When this matter was raised with Syed Faiz he states” I have not called eunuch as defect but I said some hormonal / psychological change or in general term for urdu speaking person as "defect" and i called defect not of person.” In his statement he further adds “I have not called a eunuch as a person to be defect”.

The writer of the article is incorrect on countless things. Another reporter for Gay Star News  Omar Kuddus states “Hijra, a slang term in Hindu, is the only word to describe a trans individual.” The term Hijra cannot possibly be the “only word to describe a Trans individual” as this term describes Intersex people not Trans people.  It is shockingly worrying that a person who professes to have an official and expert opinion in this area does not know the difference between these two very different communities. The nature of this article has caused attention from italian sites too Musalmani Omosessuali in Italia also raised concerns about the issue. 

The description of the IRC is indeed correct as the IRC defines its self as an:
“Islamic Research Centre (IRC) is a Non-profit organization, established in 2001. IRC aims to convey the true message of Islam (Peace) to Muslims as well as Non-Muslims with wisdom & beautiful preaching and to remove misconceptions about Islam among the masses and to provide social and welfare assistance to poor and needy in the field of Education, Health & Charity.”

Websites such as the Harvard Business School state that “In March 2008, Harvard Business School appointed Anjali Raina as Executive Director of the India Research Centre.” . This therefore shows its credibility as an organisation. The question asked by a member of the audience is “how can Intersex/ Hijra who are neither male nor female fit into Islam in terms of Sharia Law? This question is answered quite thoroughly and progressively by the scholar without any misconceptions or any wrong hadiths etc. 

“Syed continued, emphasizing that 'They are Allah's creations, expect there are some physiological and hormonal difficulties. They have changes in their bodies, what we call "gene defects" in our language.'” 

The scholar did make this comment but the writer of the article appears to firstly give no credit to the fact that English is not the Faiz Syed’s first language.  The tone and use of the word defect in this video has no negative connotations attached to it.  In fact, the purpose of him saying this is in response to the question of how people become intersex.  This comment is not made due to the scholar’s trans-phobia as this article does not deal with Tran-sexuality it clearly deals with intersex a biological and physical condition a person is born with.
In the interview, Syed quoted the sayings of the prophet Muhammad, also called the Hadith, to support his position on the Hijra community.

Syed is misinterpreted by Jean Zapata again when he states that the scholar uses a hadith “to support his position against the hijra community” as Syed states “they are not bad, but the Hadith says that those who are "dirty", you must get rid of from your home, house and village.” Yes, Syed does in fact say this and I can also accept the fact that this in a Hadith.  Yet this Hadith is again not talking about Trans people, it is about intersex or to the nearest Arab to English translation talking about “effeminate men” (mukhannath).  Siraj Scott argues in his book ‘Islam and homosexuality’ that “this incident is not self-explanatory”.  He explains further about when this incident happened. One day the Prophet’s wife was with a Mukhannath (intersex). 
The intersex called Hit was talking graphically about the physical appearance of a particular women and the prophet overheard this. On hearing this, the prophet said “do not admit him into your female’s presence and therefore he was kept out”. As you can see this hadith is in fact true depending on how strict one wants to be with translation yet the prophet is referring to particular type of Intersex people who talk graphically about women and therefore they are “dirty” in there speech. It would be an over generalisation for Syed to state just because one Mukhannath was expelled from the prophets house then all Hijras are to be treated the same. Therefore Syed clearly states that “only the dirty ones are forbidden”.

“Because of their defect they are not like, or act like, men or women, and because of that they work day and night sexually.” This is a heinous misquote as what is actually said is that Hijras are capable of working very hard day and night and this may have some link to the fact that they may have excessive energy which they may not be able to release sexually.  There is no link made to Hijras and working in the sex trade.  In fact, the scholar states that they should be kept within society as an integral part as it is only when they are caste out that they are forced to turn to immoral and dirty acts.

In many predominantly Muslim countries, including Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, homosexuality is considered a crime punishable by death. Some countries such as Iran go so far as to encourage sex changes for homosexuals to force them to have a gender-normative sex life.

In regards to the comments about “predominantly Muslim countries” and there legal status on homosexuality. I feel that it is inappropriate and futile for me to respond to this as this is completely out of context as the article is firstly talking about India, secondly about trans (despite it misinterpretation of the term Hijra) and thirdly Syed is not discussing the issue of homosexuality he is discussing the topic of Intersexuality within Sharia law.
The BBC article reads: 'The government even provides up to half the cost for those needing financial assistance and a sex change is recognized on your birth certificate'. As an orientalist and sympathiser of Edward Said. I would like to point out that this country provides trans people with rights to sex change etc. Yet, as soon as countries such as Iran take the same stance it is seen as a trans-phobic action by the government.

The interpretation of the message in this video has been grossly misconstrued.  The term Hijra has been misinterpreted as referring to Trans and gay people when in fact it refers to Intersex people.  There seems to be a preconceived notion that all Muslim cultures are the same so the argument switches between the treatment of gay people in Iran, Nigeria and Yemen to the life of Hijras in India is dealt with in the same breath when in essence they have no link.  The broad brush generalisation of cultures is not only presumptuous it is also dangerous.  I would encourage the editor to have this video translated verbatim by a qualified interpreter and printed in full.  It will then become clear that this is an extremely positive and forward thinking stance on the subject of intersex people.  The scholars final words are that intersex people have the same status under Islam and before God as any other Muslim and for those that consider themselves to be like men should be given a place with the pious men and those that consider themselves more like women should be given a place with the pious women.  Finally, if the subject was researched, you would see that in India, Hijras have a sacred status and are thought to have God-like powers. 

When asked to clarify who this video was about and what was his personal belif about Hijras he Said clarifies “They are human being with equal rights in society and society should not be treated them badly as is done in general with these people and due to our bad treatment they form different community, and about the Hadith which I said is about those eunuch which are bad should not be kept for working in our home (but it does not means that they should be completely boycotted), and my video was for clarifying doubt about eunuch in society not to degrade them. The video has nothing to take with transgender, lesbian, gay or others. 

On confronting Gay Star News about the article the editor/director has since published another article clarifying the errors made by the reporters and published the this article on behalf of Imaan an LGBT  Muslim organisation and my self. 

Monday, 3 September 2012

Rughum And Najda By Samar Habib

Rughum and Najda is a tale of two women living different lives, living in a patriarchal world in which they fall in love and dream of living happily ever after, but does the cliché ever come to plan?

Before reading the novel I had an abstract notion that the Middle East was a fantasy world of riches, gold and powerful rulers. A world with large castles and bustling markets quite similar to the land of Telmar in the Narniaa books, or even the setting of Aladdin for those who have been deprived of the fantasy world of C.S Lewis . The story of Rughum and Najda somewhat revived my preconceived notion of that ancient Middle East yet also matured my understanding of the way the world actually is - rigged with oppressive power structures, discrimination, injustice and tainted with male domination.

The story is set in the scorching heat of the city of Baghdad, a couple of hundred years after the demise of the Prophet Muhammed and the spread of a new Abrahamic religion of Islam. In the opening scene young teenager Rughum is being treated by a sheikh to ‘produce a reduction in her male like-behaviour’. Already scarred by the treatment in her delicate youth she is hastily married off to an old man whom she fails to please sexually due to her hearts’ desire for something she can’t really explain - a desire she cannot seem to fulfil with her loving husband and kind master.

Parallel to the life of Rughum is the story of Najda, an adopted daughter and apprentice of Um Saad, who was a devout follower of the Prophet Mani. Um Saad’s ritualistic treatments and ointments for illnesses brings Muslims and non-Muslims alike from far and wide to meet her. It was Rughum’s failure to please her master sexually and Najda’s mother’s famous mystical treatments that collided both women’s worlds together birthing a sordid and forbidden love story. The couple have aspirations and plans of living happily ever after, quite similar to many tales set ‘in a land far far away’, however quite similar to reality, as we know it, Najda’s past quickly catches up with her.

The novel unravels different perspectives on homosexuality in the 9th century, but does not limit itself to discussion of homosexuality but also explores the various degrees of religious acceptance and tolerance. The author quite effectively grabs the reader’s heart strings in such a way that the reader starts to live and understand the world from the point of view of a person who lives amongst the injustice and corruption and feeds on its riches. Therefore, one becomes accepting of certain occurrences in the book without questioning the underlying inequality in the story.

Samar Habib is simply great story writer, it is quite rare that an author can successfully write on a taboo subject, such as homosexuality within Islam, unless it was writing on the punishments a person should face for being gay. The author shows a now little known world in which gender and sexual diversity thrived under an Islamic caliphate. Simply writing about being gay and having faith provides a platform for many writers yet to come in the future. It also clearly shows that it is not religion that is homophobic; it is the people who practice the religion. Samar Habib effectively portrays this by writing an excellent lesbian love story.

Friday, 10 August 2012

The Rohingya tribe of Burma

Ex-British Colony Burma is faced with major international scrutiny for its treatment of the Rohingya people. It has been just less than a year since Burma had its first general election after the military rule from1962-2011. In 1982 Burma passed a citizenship law which as a result meant that 135 ethnic minorities in Burma were left unrecognised by the state. As a result many people were left jobless and without any official recognition by the state.

The Rohingya are a minority tribe in the West of Burma in 2012 it was estimated that there are around 800,000 Rohingya living in the region and according the UN the Rohingya are amongst the most discriminated against race in the world. The official belief of the Burmese military government was that there Rohingya were refugees from neighbouring Bangladesh and therefore they should not be recognised as citizens of Burma.

However it is very much disputed where the Rohingya actually come from. Some historians state that the Rohingya were people from a ship wreck from a trading ship that came from Arabia were as some state that the Rohingya come from Afghanistan. According to Aye Chan professor at Kanda University of International studies the Rohingya term did not exist until the 1950’s yet this does not mean to say that Muslims did not exist in Burma before the Rohingaya as Muslims also known as the Mohammedians came to the country in the 8th century.

Japanese troops in Burma 1942
During Japanese occupation (1942) a major power vacuum was created when the British pulled out of the Arakan state. This meant that the local Buddhists and Muslims started fighting and so did the Burmese Nationalists against the British loyalists Rohingya resisted the invasion and as a result they were given weapons and aid by the British to try and resist the Japanese movement towards taking power in Burma. The Japanese retaliated by torturing, killing and raping the Rohingya Muslims as a result 22,000 Muslims fled to India. As a way of paying the Rohingya for their loyalty to the British they were rewarded administration in the state of Arakan which was short lived as the state was incorporated with Burma later in 1948. Quickly the Burmese replaces Muslim civil servants and Muslim police officers with Burmese police officers. The refugees who fled to India and Bangladesh ect were seen as illegal immigrants who were not allowed to return back to there home land.

Laws were passed that a Rohinya needs to ask for governments permission to get married and also sign a contract stating that they will not have more than two children according to a BBC report breaching of either of these laws can mean imprisonment for up to 7 years. It is also illegal for the Rohingya to travel without official permission and owning land is also against the law.

For many years the Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh were 28,000 people have been granted official UN refuge and the rest live in horrid and ‘grim’ conditions without jobs and official recognition as people. A large influx of people were also reported to have immigrated to Arabia to grant refuge and start life there but recent Islamic extremism has meant the Saudi Authorities have tightened their borders making it increasingly harder for the Rohingya to travel.

Alleged Murderers of Ma Thida Htwe 
The violence and long lasted tention was reignited on the 28th of May, It was reported that daughter of U Hla Tin, of Thabyechaung Village named Ma Thida Htwe aged 27 was brutally raped then killed by three Muslim men. These men were later arrested. However on June the 5th a bus of pilgrims were attacked by local around 300 Taunggup people after reading pamphlets and posters ordering the locals to take notice of the attacks of muslims upon local women the deadly clash left 10 Muslims dead. A separate report suggests that the local culprits of this atrocity allowed all the Burmese and Arakanese ‘looking’ passengers of the bus to disembark the bus and run away and killed the ‘Indian looking’ 10 people.

The killed were:
1.      Tay Zar Myint (30) from Taung Dwin Gyi Town of Magwe Division.
2.      Aung Myint (40) from Taung Dwin Gyi Town of Magwe Division.
3.      Maung Ni (47) from Taung Dwin Gyi Town of Magwe Division.
4.      Ni Pwe (56) from Taung Dwin Gyi Town of Magwe Division.
5.      Aye Lwin (50) from Taung Dwin Gyi Town of Magwe Division.
6.      Tin Maung Swe (53) from Taung Dwin Gyi Town of Magwe Division.
7.      Zaw Nyi Nyi Htut (36) from Myaung Mya Town of Irrawaddy Division.
8.      Aung Ko Ko Kyaw (27) from Myaung Mya Town of Irrawaddy Division.
9.      Driver Naung Naung (30) from Sandoway Town of Arrakan State.
10.  Conductor Nyi Nyi Htun (25) from Sandoway Town of Arrakan State.

Intikhab Alam Suri, President, Human Rights Network states that the Killing in the bus was fuelled by the fact that a 28 year old Buddhist woman embraced Islam after marrying a Muslim of the region and this sparked tensions resulting in the killing of the 10 passengers on the bus.The violence has escalated over the month it is unclear as to how many deaths have occurred however it is clear that there is a clash between sectarian violence and the oppressed Rohingya.

What other countries are doing?

Bangladesh- Bangladesh has increased there border security to ensure that the Rohingya do not cross the borders into Bangladesh this has meant that the country’s government has come under major scrutiny and criticism
Iran- According to press TV Iranian lawyers and professors has urged ‘strong protest against the Myanmar violence to the international community and the so-called “advocates of human rights.”
Pakistan - Moazzam Ali Khan the foreign ministry spokesman issued a press report stating the governments concern over the situation however no action is taken.
United states – Hilary Clinton state secretary has also raised concern about the conflict and asked both sides of the clashes to ‘exercise restraint’.
United Kingdom- Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne told the BBC that the coalition government is  ‘deeply concerned' by the situation and that the UK and other countries would continue to watch developments closely.

It is important to note that the occurrences in Burma that are recorded in this article may not be entirely a fact despite cross references and a wide range of source’s being used.