Friday, April 28, 2006

Sunni Sister speaks on Darfur

Salaam alaikum,

This weekend, on April 30th, millions around the US will march to bring attention to the modern day nightmare that is Darfur. I know that we as Muslims are overwhelmed by so much suffering in the world. It's so much that you might just feel like giving up.

Don't.

Your prayers and donations go a long way to putting pressure on this government to stop this senseless, immoral war. Whether the perpetator is Muslim or not, we have to fight to end the injustice and keep our fellow beings, especially our fellow Muslims, from being oppressors. One of the best acts of charity is to keep your brother/sister in from oppressing him/herself and others.

The media hasn't done a great job on giving the American people an accurate picture of the conflict. And there will always be people to exploit any conflict involving Muslims for their own greedy aims. (What else would they do with their free time?) But you can help and you stand up for justice.

Here's Umm Zaid's entry on what you can do to help the people of Darfur.

Also, here's a good article on the misconceptions of what's happening in the Sudan.

5 Truths About Darfur

1) Nearly Everyone is Muslim

Early in the conflict, I was traveling through the desert expanses of rebel-held Darfur when, amid decapitated huts and dead livestock, our SUV roared up to an abandoned green and white mosque, riddled with bullets, its windows shattered.

In my travels, I've seen destroyed mosques all over Darfur. The few men left in the villages shared the same story: As government Antonov jets dropped bombs, Janjaweed militia members rode in on horseback and attacked the town's mosque -- usually the largest structure in town. The strange thing, they said, was that the attackers were Muslim, too. Darfur is home to some of Sudan's most devout Muslims, in a country where 65 percent of the population practices Islam, the official state religion.

A long-running but recently pacified war between Sudan's north and south did have religious undertones, with the Islamic Arab-dominated government fighting southern Christian and animist African rebels over political power, oil and, in part, religion.

"But it's totally different in Darfur," said Mathina Mydin, a Malaysian nurse who worked in a clinic on the outskirts of Nyala, the capital of South Darfur. "As a Muslim myself, I wanted to bring the sides together under Islam. But I quickly realized this war had nothing to do with religion."

2) Everyone is black

Although the conflict has also been framed as a battle between Arabs and black Africans, everyone in Darfur appears dark-skinned, at least by the usual American standards. The true division in Darfur is between ethnic groups, split between herders and farmers. Each tribe gives itself the label of "African" or "Arab" based on what language its members speak and whether they work the soil or herd livestock. Also, if they attain a certain level of wealth, they call themselves Arab.

Sudan melds African and Arab identities. As Arabs began to dominate the government in the past century and gave jobs to members of Arab tribes, being Arab became a political advantage; some tribes adopted that label regardless of their ethnic affiliation. More recently, rebels have described themselves as Africans fighting an Arab government. Ethnic slurs used by both sides in recent atrocities have riven communities that once lived together and intermarried.

"Black Americans who come to Darfur always say, 'So where are the Arabs? Why do all these people look black?' " said Mahjoub Mohamed Saleh, editor of Sudan's independent Al-Ayam newspaper. "The bottom line is that tribes have intermarried forever in Darfur. Men even have one so-called Arab wife and one so-called African. Tribes started labeling themselves this way several decades ago for political reasons. Who knows what the real bloodlines are in Darfur?"

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