Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Women Friendly Mosques: Risama's Review

Salaam alaikum,

After reading the 18 page document, I must say that Sister Shahina Siddiqui has done a wonderful job in capturing the best plans for masjid reform in North America. The suggestions offered in the paper are sensible, respectful of everyone's needs and adheres to the Qur'an and Sunnah. She received feedback and nasiha from many mainstream scholars such as Dr. Umar Abdullah, Dr. Jamal Badawi, Dr. Ingrid Mattson and Dr. Amina McCloud. The reason why I mention them is that the PMUNA has made the claim that they are the only ones pushing for masjid reform and only progressives such as Omid Safi and Asra Nomani have fully fought for it.

Let me state that if anyone had published any writings on the subject, long before the "Take Back the Masjid" controversy in Morgantown, Virginia, it was the editor of this blog. Her essay, "Make Way for the Women," was published in the Beliefnet book Taking Back Islam in 2001. Muslim Wake Up.com and the subsequent fitna that they have launched against other Muslims in America did not begin until late 2003.

How do I know? Well, before I took my shahada in February 2004, I had studied Islam on my own for about 3 to 4 years. I used to go to Beliefnet.com (oy, the mistakes I made on the Path) to research stuff on Islam and I found the book Taking Back Islam. This was before Asra Nomani started making frequent appearances on the website. Before her, Asma Gull Hasan and Michael Wolfe wrote most of the articles. Is the PMUNA patting itself on the back for pushing CAIR and other Muslim orgs. into finally answering their demands? Sure, but from this document, I doubt that Sister Shahina is advocating the type of change that they want.

On page 16, paragraph 3, she writes, "It is also important to note that we do not advocate that women lead a mixed gender congregration in prayer at a masjid." She suggests that by giving Muslimas their right to be involved in masjid activities, education, management and services, this is how women can become active, empowered individuals. These are some of the basic rights of women in the mosque outlined in the paper as follows...

1) access to main prayer hall where they can see and hear the imam or scholar

2) invitation for activist and scholarly Muslim women to give talks and lectures

3) at least 2 women serving on the masjid board

4) educational services geared towards women

5) opportunities for professional men and women to contribute to the growth and maintenance of the masjid

6) information and representatives available for non-Muslim women seeking more information on Islam

7) women entering and leaving the mosque through the main entrances

8) designated play areas for children

9) involvement of women who do not have Muslim men to represent them in the community (ex: single, divorced, widowed Muslim women)

10) standards of modesty upheld for both men and women

11) accessibility of masjid to the handicapped

And as an artist (hee) I liked her mentioning that the mosque should be aesthetically pleasing to its members (page 14, paragraph 9). We must take care of our houses of worship. All members should feel welcomed. RAND and many others would like nothing better than for us to continue down this path of regression until Islam has no influence in this country. These changes are extremely important for our youth, who are seeing these unfair practices which may push them away from Islam into the larger secular humanist society.

Will this report work? Allahu 'alim but it is good to see ISNA, CAIR, ISSA, and Women in Islam dealing with the issue at hand. And with the new website Salat-O-Matic, mosques that are unfriendly are now recognized for the masajid-going Muslims. A muslima now knows where and where not to go for Jumuah. Dr. Maxtor's concerns about our mainstream orgs. bowing to the PMUNA is justified and reasonable. But if CAIR and others can offer this reasonable approach as opposed to the nonsense of the Morgantown masjid and the dubious PMUNA, we will all better off with no hard feelings.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

CAIR promotes Women Friendly Mosques

In another post, I'll do a short review of the publication and how this could impact the American Muslim community.

A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group said today it plans to distribute a brochure supporting the religious rights of Muslim women to mosques throughout the United States. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said the 28-page publication, called "Women Friendly Mosques and Community Centers: Working Together to Reclaim Our Heritage," is designed to educate Muslim community leaders about the right of Muslim women to equal access to and participation in community activities.

It was published through a collaborative effort of the Islamic Social Services Associations (ISSA) and Women in Islam (WII). To download a PDF copy of the brochure's text, go to:
http://www.cair-net.org/pdf/intro.pdfhttp://www.cair-net.org/pdf/text.pdf

Using references in the Quran, Islam's revealed text, and the traditions (hadith) of the Prophet Muhammad, the publication's authors call for improvements in women's access to mosque facilities, greater participation of women in mosque program planning and development of a mosque governance structure that allows women and youth to have input in decision-making.

The Prophet Muhammad is also quoted as saying in his final sermon: "The rights of women are sacred, so see that they are maintained."Specific recommendations in the "Women Friendly Mosques" guide include:
* Make available designated space for women in the main prayer hall of mosques.
* Invite women to organize community programs, introduce speakers, offer dua (supplications) during educational programs, moderate panels, and direct question and answer sessions.
* Ensure that women are represented on governing boards of mosques and community centers.

"We hope Muslim religious and community leaders will study and adopt the recommendations in this guide as part of a nationwide effort to help restore the rights that Islam has granted to women for more than 1400 years," said CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper.

Muslim Actvism Towards Christians

Uh, I got this article kinda of late. :)

(COLUMBUS, OH, 6/17/05)

On Saturday, June 18, representatives of the Ohio office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-OH) and members of the interfaith community in central Ohio will help clean fire damage at Holy Trinity Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Columbus. The church was gutted by an accidental fire several weeks ago.

WHAT: Muslims Help Clean Fire Damage at Ohio ChurchWHEN: Saturday, June 18, 8 a.m. to Noon
WHERE: 1097 Camden Avenue, Columbus, Ohio

CONTACT: CAIR-OH, Dr. Ahmad Al-Akhras, 614-989-5916, E-Mail: ahmad@cair-ohio.com

CAIR-OH's participation in the clean-up effort is part of the group's national "Muslims Care" campaign designed to promote volunteerism in the American Muslim community.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Connecting Muslims together ?

Thats the tagline for the popular "Naseeb" website. This "Muslim social network" has nearly a quarter million members. The website is the brainchild of Silicon Valley entrepreneur Monis Rahman, a self-professed progressive Muslim, and friend of Ali Hasan of "Muslims for Bush" fame.
The content on Naseeb is what troubles me though. Positive softball interviews with charlatans like Irshad Manji, Amina Wadud and Stephen Schwartz are to be found amongst a plethora of poorly written articles. Oh there are some decent articles mind you, but these are clearly in the minority. Indeed Naseeb has a very strong pro-regressive bias. Its defenders may say that the views offered are merely a reflection of the diverse opinions of North American Muslims. Really ? Is Irshad Manji a Muslim ? How about that neocon Schartz character ? What about Ali Hasan, whose response to the desecration of the Holy Quran is "I support Bush"...Who do the editors of Naseeb think they're fooling ? Can anyone honestly say that these people reflect the opinions of Muslims in North America, let alone the Islamic world ? I didnt know that Muslims only existed online.
Now I'm not saying that the RAND corporation is behind any of this, but its rather obvious that a comfort zone has been created and promoted for those on the extreme left end. It goes to show that there are some Muslims who have retreated into their own world of online delusion while the rest of the us try to make it in the real world.

Monday, June 20, 2005

More Mukhtar Mai Activism

Small things that you can do for abused and suffering sisters (and brothers) in Islam

* Raise Awareness within your community--post articles of Mukhtar Mai's story at the masjid if you can. Place them on the bullentin board or hand them out after Jumah with your imam's permission. Ask your imam to give a talk or khutbah about her and how her rights as a Muslim woman are being violated. Tell Muslims within your community about her and others like her.

* Please e-mail the ambassador to Pakistan, the Honorable Mr. Jahangir Karamat. Or you can write them a letter (a polite but firm letter) to3517 International Court, NWWashington, DC 20008If you can afford it, you can call 1-202-243-6500And here's the e-mail addy info@embassyofpakistan.org

*On Muslima Rights, Sunni Sister and I will soon have a letter posted for writers to use to send off to "involved politicians" and other influential persons who can change Mukhtar Mai's situation. We'll post it as soon as it is completed. Please be on the lookout.

WAIT A MINUTE!!! I just did some research that I found from this article. NOW READ THIS. 'There was an international outcry. The actual request to keep Ms Mai in the country allegedly came from the Pakistani ambassador in Washington, Jahangir Karamat. In the end, Ms Mai never made it out of her village, much less to the airport."Okay, I am really mad now. You can read the rest of the article here.http://www.truthout.org/issues_05/061505WA.shtml

*Okay, ummm...let's see if we can get ISNA to invite Mukhtar Mai to speak at one of their conferences. Please follow the above directions if you want...Mailing Address:Islamic Society of North AmericaP.O. Box 38Plainfield, IN 46168, USAPhone & Fax:Phone: (317) 839-8157Fax: (317) 839-1840There's also there the contact link..http://www.isna.net/contact/

***Just to let you know, I got tired of waiting for the Embassy because I'm just impatient like that. I called them on my cell phone and saved the message with someone who offered salaams on the answering machine. Eww. "Islamic" Republic of Pakistan? Okay, if you say so.

***Continue to make dua for our umma and let's pull ourselves out of this Jahili state that we are in.

***Any other ideas are very welcomed. If the article that I wrote about Mukhtar Mai is not published with Islamicity then I'll just it here on my blog.

Some news on Iman Muhanna Muhammad

Insha'Allah, a prominent newspaper in New Orleans will allow me to write an article about her. There distrubition must be about 50,000 plus readers and they are the most popular freebie mag. Liberal-ish on certain things. Maybe they'll like my writing samples. Keep making dua for her family. As you can imagine, they are having a difficult time dealing with her death and the deaht of her unborn child. Let's show them that we have not forgotten about them.

Islamic Restoration

I will start a new series of article on various blogs as to how we can restore our communites and build a new Islamic society in America where Muslims are allowed to live with their Islamic and Western traditions without conflict or contradiction. Most, if not all of the articles, will be centered on the masjid as an institution. It is the focal point of our community and the strength of the masjid plays a key role in the growth and vitality (or collapse and destruction) of the American umma. Let's stop worrying about hijab, sex and kilafah for a while and get our communities in check first. But let's get ourselves in check, too. Let's change our condition so that Allah ta'ala can bring about change allover.

Friday, June 17, 2005

And Speaking of Hard Working Muslims

Peep this article. Emphasis mine.

MUSLIMS STRIKE AT SPOUSE ABUSE
Kristin E. Holmes, Inquirer, 6/17/05

The veil shrouding spouse abuse in Muslim families is being torn away by local mosque leaders - putting them at the forefront of efforts by American Muslims to stem domestic violence.The clergy council known as the Majlis Ash'Shura of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley has adopted a tough policy of public shunning of Muslims who abuse their spouses or abandon their families.Under the initiative, adopted last month, offenders will go on a list circulated among area Muslims. They will be banned from future marriages in communities that adhere to the policy.

Fellow Muslims will be discouraged from patronizing any businesses they own." We need to take a public stand," said Imam Isa Abdul-Mateen, secretary of the Majlis Ash'Shura, an association of 30 imams. "We want people to know that this will not be tolerated."In coming months, the council will address issues such as the criteria for putting names on the list and safeguards to protect spouses who step forward.

Domestic violence appears no more prevalent in Muslim communities than elsewhere, but Islamic advocacy groups and others have tried to push the problem into the open.With the new policy, Philadelphia leaps over other Muslim communities that are just starting to confront the issue, said Maha Alkhateeb, project manager of the Peaceful Families Project, a Virginia-based nonprofit that addresses domestic violence among Muslims.

Glamourous Causes

Salaam alaikum,

I was encouraged to write this entry in a response to another post written for another blog on the e-mail campaign for Mukhtar Mai.

"The problem in Pakistan is that NGOs have become so fashionable -and they've taken the place of those old style large scale "charity balls" where "high society" people gather for some feel good events. So, because of this there is a lot of resentment building against them from villagers, and working class folks in the cities. There are some good groups --- but their voices get drowned --- real community based groups don't have a lot of funds etc." (emphasis mine)

It seems that some causes are more glamorous than others.

For example, Sarah Eltantawi, board member of the PMUNA, demanded to know how CAIR, Women in Islam Inc., ISNA, INCA, Zaytuna, MPAC and MWLUSA felt about the issue of women leading prayer. None of them to my knowlegde have answered her demands and I think I know why. The reason might be that these groups are promoting causes that they feel are worth their time and money and that women-led prayer is not a high priority for them as it is for the PMUNA. Moreover, maybe women-led prayer and a hijab-free society ain't a major concern for most Muslims.

CAIR is busy doing dawah power by giving away free Qur'ans in hopes of pushing back the tide of anti-Americanism/anti-Islam since the Qur'an/Gitmo riots. On top of defending the civil liberties of Muslims, they have also launched a summer campaign of community activism focused on health care, youth activities and community outreach. In my community, many Muslims are really tackling the issue of health care for the uninsured so these are causes worthy of our attention.

Women in Islam, Inc. supported a trip to Eastern Europe to help and council the thousands of women who were raped by Serbian soldiers during the Yugoslavian war. Sexual abuse and exploitation is a worthy cause.

ISNA has a spousal abuse network to help Muslim families escape their situation. They have decicated years of work to interfaith dialogue. They've also developed a network for Muslims to come together on all social planes--spiritual, economical, and cultural. INCA has functioned in the same manner.

Zaytuna is dedicated to the promotion of traditional Islamic scholarship in America. Isn't spiritual and religious growth a major cause and concern for Muslims? Maybe if we were more educated in Islam, our communities would not suffer from the anti-Islamic problems of sexism and racism.

MPAC has put forth its efforts to get Muslims more involved in politics and MWLUSA has attented UN conferences to promote women rights in Muslim countries.

So aren't these goals worthy of attention by the media? Don't you think that MWU and PMUNA should give credit where credit is due? I am not saying that you should join these groups but you have to admit that they are working for Muslims. I've never heard Hamza Yusuf go on television and say that our masajid are filled with women-hating extremists. I've never heard Ingrid Mattson, promoting her book across the country, saying that America is the only country that can give the Muslim world freedom. Tell that to the Iraqis and Afghanis and to Amnesty International which has condemned the Bush Administration for its horrible abuses at Guantanamo Bay.

It's not that Muslim Americans aren't concerned for our communities. It's not that we don't care. We just have a bad habit of championing unpopular, boring causes like poverty, literacy, health care, and the safety of the our people within this country. It's hard to sell to the Americans the idea that Muslims are forward-thinking people unless they champion one thing--sexual freedom. It doesn't matter if you are running a center for battered Muslim women or a soup kitchen. That's not sexy. But writing and talking about sex, especially Muslims talking about sex, gets the media's juices flowin'.

That's the major reason why MWU and PMUNA have been chosen by America to be the mouthpiece of the American umma. Because in this sex saturated culture, where we are using it to sell something as boring as white rice, the PMUNA is speaking the language of this post-feminist, moral relativist society. Sister Aisha who is pushing for masjid reform within the boundaries of Shari'a gets no help at all. And Brother Ali who spends four hours patrolling his community in an effort to fight drug dealers is ignored. The Muslims who are doing the real work and who are tackling the real problems, are left with little attention and no funding. Insha'Allah, those noble Muslims will get their reward in Jennah.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

E-Mail Plea for Mukhtar Mai

I sent this out to some folks so we can raise awareness, please make dua for our sisters in Islam.

Some of you may be familiar with a Sister named Mukhtar Mai. She is a Pakistani woman from the rural village of Meerwala. In June 2002, because of a rumor stating that her 14-year-old brother had been seen with a girl from a rival tribe, the tribal council of Meerwala called him before the tribal court to stand for his "dishonor" to the girl's family. Mukhtar Mai plead the case for her brother and they excused him.

But under the un-Islamic tribal laws of her village, they ordered that she should be raped to restore the honor of the offended family. Four men took turns while raping her in front of a cheering village and she was left naked and thrown into the street with nothing but a shawl to cover her as she walked back to her village. Many times she had contemplated suicide but it was her family and friends that convinced her not to take her life. But instead of giving up, she decided to fight back.

Last year in 2004, over 150 women were raped under the order of the Panchiat court, a village system of law that goes against the secular laws of Pakistan and the divine laws of Islam. You see, Mukhtar Mai is a teacher of Islam. So she is well versed in her rights as a Pakistani woman but just as knowlegable about her rights given to her as a Muslim in the Qur'an. The local imam of her village used his standing in the community to speak out against the injustice. With his help, the reputation of her attackers was being maligned as men who had violated her Islamic rights. Her attackers assumed that she would be too ashamed to tell the police what had happened to her but with the encouragment of the imam, her friends and family, she filed a complait with the police and alerted the attention of the local and international media.

Because the Pakistani government had felt the international scrunity of 9/11, they wanted to prove that they were on the side of law and order. The tribal elders and the volunteer rapists were charged and subject to hang for their crimes and Mukhtar Mai was given a $8,000 in compensation. She has used the money to build a school in Meerwala to educate the young girls whose education is often denied. President Musharaf offered her a house in the city and all the trappings of luxury but she decided to stay in her village to help her people. But the charges were overturned against the rapists this year.

Brothers and sisters, the Qur'an and Sunnah is the rock that she is standing on and she has made it very clear to journalists that she fights from an Islamic standpoint, not against it. In March 2005, the Islamic Shari'a court stepped in and overturned the appeal and ordered that that her attackers be tried for their crime and had them arrested. Prime Minister Sauhkat Aziz offered her protection but she refuses to leave Pakistan and she is determined to stay with the people she loves.

But just yesterday, June 10th, the Lahore High Court went against the Shari'a court and released her rapists from prison. Her case has been appealed and is going to the Pakistani Supreme Court but she is in tremendous danger from people who want to restore the "honor" of the men who attacked her. They may kill her, rape her and find some other gruesome way to punish her for speaking out. Please make dua for our Sister Mukhtar Mai and others like her because prayer is the biggest and most powerful weapon of the Muslims.

Please write a letter to the Pakistani embassy here pleading her case.
Mr. Janangir Karamat
3517 International Court, NW
Washington, DC 20008
202-243-6500
info@embassyofpakistan.org

Her case has received so much attention that
her website has exceeded it's bandwith
but you can see the older one at http://www.mukhtarmai.com/Mai'sTragedy.htm.
You can also get frequent updates by checking out these websites...www.izzymo.blogspot.com
www.sunnisisters.com/sunnisister
by checking the Iman Muhanna/Mukhtar Mai section

Sunday, June 05, 2005

National Open Mosque Day in the UK!

Salaam alaikum,

Allah ta'ala knew that this idea was kinda floating around in my mind. Lo and behold, I get an e-mail from a friend telling me about National Open Mosque Day in the United Kingdom. It's a wonderful opportunity to get the community involved in dawah and education.

We Americans really need to steal this great idea from our British Muslimeen. I wonder if Canada has a similar event? But we can really promote this idea in the States. Many people are very curious about our masajid. They want to know what Islam is all about. The reason why people are so suspicious of us is because we haven't invited them into our places of worship to see that Islam is a living faith of normal people who want to please Allah ta'ala.

Any takers? Any Brits who read this entry, could you pop a small report into the comments area and tell us what it was like on Open Mosque Day?

Here's a little info...
http://ukim.org/MosqueOpenDay2005/participation.htm

Thursday, June 02, 2005

CAIR Summer Activism and Dawah Power

It's amazing. I don't know how these guys can take a horrible event like the Gitmo/Qur'an Desecretion riots and turn it into an opportunity for dialogue and dawah. When they offered to give away free Qur'ans for the asking, I had to admit that I was skeptical...even cynical. But there are just some people who know how to turn a tragedy into an opportunity. I received this e-mail today and some of you probably did, too.

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 6/2/05) - CAIR today said some 5,000 people have requested free copies of the Quran since the launch of the group's "Explore the Quran" campaign on May 17. Calls are coming into CAIR's Washington, D.C., headquarters at the rate of one-per-minute since the publication of an article on the campaign in today's USA Today newspaper.

"Getting the Holy Word Out"
http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2005-06-01-koran_x.htm
CAIR's campaign is designed as a positive response to the recent controversy over desecration of the Quran. Those who have requested free Qurans include a police officer who works with the Muslim community, Christian religious leaders who wish to explain Islam to their congregations and Americans of all faiths who just wish to learn more about Islam's revealed text.

Combining religious tolerance, education and peace initiaves into this wonderful effort can only garner one response...Masha'Allah.

Oh and uh, they also launched a summer initiative to promote community activism. You can read about here at Muslims Care and at Progressive Muslims. They already have great events in the works such as health fairs, blood drives, fitness days and free medical services for the uninsured.