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?"

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Mukhtar Mai termed a powerful voice for Pakistan

By Our Correspondent

WASHINGTON, April 25: “Mukhtar Mai is a very important and powerful voice for Pakistan,” said Karen Hughes, the Bush administration’s chief image strategist. Ms Hughes, State Department’s Under-Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, was one of dozens of US officials and citizens who came to the Pakistan Embassy on Monday night to pay homage to the rape victim who overcame her ordeal to fight for other underprivileged women.

“I agree with her message of ending oppression with education and believe strongly in her mission of educating women, particularly young girls,” said Ms Hughes. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian affairs Richard Boucher wished her “all success in the kind of work she is doing and the kind of changes she is trying to bring about for the Pakistani society.” But no praise could have been sweater for Ms. Mukhtar than her presence at the Pakistan Embassy which had not only closed its doors on her but also had tried to prevent her first visit in October last year. “But much has changed since then,” noted T. Kumar, Amnesty International’s advocacy director for Asia-Pacific region.

The Sri Lankan human rights campaigner was one of 100 protesters who demonstrated outside the embassy last summer against Pakistan’s decision to prevent Ms. Mukhtar from visiting the US. “We are happy that the embassy is now welcoming her,” he said. Ms Mukhtar is now in Washington to receive an award from Senator Hillary Clinton at the prestigious Kennedy Centre on Thursday for her struggle to raise the status of women in rural Pakistan. Instituted by a group called Vital Voices, this would be the second award Mukhtar will receive in the US.

In October, she received a Woman of the Year award from Glamour magazine. Impressed by Ms. Mukhtar’s determination, Ms Hughes called her a “symbol of courage around the world” who had shown that she had “a great deal of courage” to share her experience in the hope that she might help others. Chairman Senate Ahmad Mian Soomro, Prime Minister’s economic adviser Dr. Salman Shah and economic adviser to the Finance Ministry, Asfhaq Hasan Khan also attended the reception.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Award for Mukhtar Mai

MUKHTAR MAI TO BE HONORED BY
MPAC, KARAMAH, ADAMS CENTER ON APRIL 28

(Washington, DC - 4/23/06) -- The Muslim Public Affairs Council, KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, and the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) announced today that they will host "An Evening with Mukhtar Mai" at the ADAMS center in Falls Church, VA, on Friday, April 28, 2006 at 6:30 p.m.

Mai, who gained international recognition last year when she was profiled by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff, is a symbol of courage to Muslim women around the world. In 2002, Mukhtar Mai was gang-raped in public on the orders of a village tribunal in retribution for a crime her younger brother allegedly committed. Defying social stigma, Mai refused to be silent and took the rapists to court. The perpetrators were initially convicted, but then acquitted by a second court. In June 2005, the Pakistani Supreme Court agreed to rehear the case and eventually convicted her attackers.

Mai subsequently became a symbol for advocates for the health and security of women in her region, attracting both national and international attention to these issues. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf awarded Mai a financial settlement of about $8,000, which she used to build two local schools, one for girls and another for boys. There were no schools for girls in Mai's village before this and she never had the opportunity to get an education.

"I have a message to the women of the world and all the women who have been raped or any of the kind of violation: that, no matter what, they must talk about it and they must fight for justice," Mai told CNN in a recent interview. "I do feel that if I stop now or step back it will harm a lot of women. So, I have to keep going and keep helping others."

SEE: "The Pakistani Who Fought Back and Won" (CNN, 11/5/05)

With the international attention she has received has come further financial support for her campaign to provide education to impoverished populations. Mai continues to stand up for justice and emphasizes that her treatment sharply contradicted the principles of Islam.

WHAT: An Evening with Mukhtar Mai

WHEN: Friday, April 28, 2006 at 6:30 p.m.

WHERE: All Dulles Area Muslims Society (ADAMS)
46903 Sugarland Rd., Sterling, VA 20164

CO-SPONSORS:
Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS)

"It is our hope that this event can help raise awareness about the reality of sexual violence and encourage Muslim Americans to speak out against it," said MPAC Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati. "We applaud Mukhtar Mai for speaking out, insisting on justice, and providing opportunities for education that can improve the lives of future generations."

"Mukhtar Mai has identified the root problem of feudalism and tribal customs in Pakistan, which takes away the dignity of women, men and children. She has taken steps to return to a more Islamic system of conflict resolution, forgiveness and spreading education" said Irfana Anwer, Executive Director of KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights. "We are honored that Mukhtar Mai will meet the Muslim community at a mosque which is known to be inclusive and respectful of women, and meet with Imam Muhammad Magid who supports her like her local Imam in Meerwala does."

ADAMS is one of the largest Muslim communities/mosques in the DC Metro Area and in the United States, serving over 5,000 families in seven branches throughout Northern Virginia. ADAMS engages in regular interfaith, government relations, social services, and community service.

[CONTACT: Irfana Anwer, 202-234-7302; Zuleqa Husain, 202-547-7701; Edina Lekovic, 213-383-3443, http://us.f381.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=communications@mpac.org]

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Masjid Security: Another Issue Ignored

Last year Albert Brooks was looking comedy in the Muslim world. In similar vein, I’ve been looking for common sense and honesty in the pro-regressive movement for years now. So far, I’ve been unsuccessful, but an issue of neglect did rear its head. Last month, my local masjid received a threat, the culprit told an unsuspecting sister to “remember my face” after leaving a sealed letter on the minbar. It turned out to be a death threat, and the authorities were notified. The culprit was arrested last week. A couple of months prior, a masjid in northern California was vandalized. This, unfortunately is not “news” since attacks on masajid and Muslims have become common. The issue of neglect I’m referring to is masjid security.

For those people out there who think that absolute “freedom of speech” doesn’t come with consequences, please join us in the real world where rising Islamophobia is increasingly taking on a more virulent and physical form. Many masajid are low on funds, especially after 911 with declining donations but that doesn’t mean we cant take matters into our own hands. When I was in Chicago, our local masjid could not afford to have the parking lot cleared of snow. We decided to shovel it ourselves, and did so several times. Now if we had taken a page out of Asra Nomani’s handbook of self-promotion, there would be camera crews, controversy and calls for a “gender weather jihad” against the elements, not counting a failed run for some masjid committee.

Why hasn’t this issue ever been brought up by our self-appointed reformers? Could it be that this particular concern isn’t flashy enough to gain attention? Or is it simply that they don’t attend masajid to know or care? Some masajid can afford to hire private security services but many can not. I think its high time that we get involved directly and give whatever free time we can to our local masjids and their security.