Hungarian politician says “Islam is the last hope of humanity”

President of the Jobbik movement, Gábor Vona.

The leader of Hungary’s Jobbik movement has said that “Islam is the last hope for humanity in the darkness of globalism and liberalism.”

During the recent Hungarian parliamentary elections, the Jobbik movement earned 16.67% of the overall vote, securing 47 seats in the National Assembly. Subsequently, the President of Jobbika made a trip to Turkey where he visited various universities.

“We’re not coming to Turkey to build diplomatic and economic relations, but to meet our Turkish brothers and sisters,” Gábor Vona, Jobbika’s president said.

He also claimed that “the West does not tolerate seeing my party support Turkey and other Turanian peoples, such as Azerbaijanis, in international conflicts.”

Gábor Vona also affirmed that his party had no relationship with the Islamophobic, far-right European parties, as some commentators have claimed. Jobbik’s president also stated that Turkish society, grounded in love of the family, respect for tradition and a strong sense of patriotism, was a great example for Hungary.

According to Gábor Vona, the relationship between Hungary and Turkey is based on fraternity and not just friendship. The Jobbik party’s leader also emphasised, on many occasions, that “Islam is the last hope for humanity in the darkness of globalism and liberalism.”

Also on the universal significance of Islam, Gábor Vona has stated on the official website of his party:

“Africa has no power; Australia and South-America suffer from a perplexed identity due to their much-congested societies. Considering all this, there’s only one culture left which seeks to preserve its traditions: it is the Islamic world.”

Furthermore, Vona said that his personal life was influenced by Islam and Muslims that he has met as friends and colleagues throughout his life. More surprisingly, one of the witnesses at his wedding was a Palestinian, something that infuriated his opponents.

Hungarian politician says “Islam is the last hope of humanity”

Islamic prayer ritual reduces back pain and increases joint elasticity, study finds

Proper knee and back angles can be an effective clinical treatment, research finds

The repetitive physical movements of Muslim prayer rituals can reduce chances of lower back pain if performed properly, according to new research.

The study found that not only does quiet prayer eliminate physical anxiety, but that proper knee and back angles can be an effective clinical treatment.

Roughly 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide bow, kneel and place their foreheads to the ground in the direction of Mecca up to five times a day,

“One way to think about the movements is that they are similar to those of yoga or physical therapy intervention exercises used to treat lower back pain,” said study co-author Mohammad Khasawneh.

The paper, entitled An ergonomic study of body motions during Muslim prayer using digital human modelling, was published in the latest issue of the International Journal of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

The research used computer-generated human models of healthy Indian, Asian, and American men and women to look at the effect on lower back pain.

Palestinians in Gaza perform morning Eid prayers

The kneeling posture, known as sujud, apparently increases the elasticity of joints.

The team did not however look at how varying prayer rituals for physically disabled people will effect back pain.

“Physical health is influenced by socio-economic, lifestyle and religious factors,” added Mr Khasawneh, from Penn State Behrend university in Pennsylvania.

“Prayer can eliminate physical stress and anxiety, while there is also research that indicates prayer rituals can be considered an effective clinical treatment of neuro-musculoskeletal dysfunction.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/islamic-prayer-ritual-muslim-reduce-back-pain-joint-elasticity-health-body-study-a7618776.html

Between Faith, Fashion And Livelihoods – Six Women Speak Up

When we look at working muslim women who don the hijab and other forms of covering in various corners of the world, we see that they have the freedom to wear this attire to their workplace with ease. However, there are still those who do not enjoy the same privilege and security. Or they do have the option, but unfortunately receive discrimination in one form or another in the workplace. Some are asked to take it off, some are fired for implementing this decision, and some receive harassment in various degrees, whether verbally or sometimes even physically. But don’t such people know that they are just like everybody else in many ways? Wanting to build the future, some have families to feed, wanting to contribute back to society..

There is a well-known quote that when you educate girls and women, you educate a generation. Through education, you open doors for them to contribute through their own specialties and passions, including in the workplace for those who choose to work outside of their home. This right should be for all, including working muslim women who cover, leaving no one behind. Imagine the additional impact and/or opportunities they can help create.

With the ups and downs of Islamophobia throughout the year 2000s deriving from all the fear-spewing politically-rooted conflicts and with the efforts of peacebuilding and integration while maintaining to not lose one of their self identities, many muslim women still find it difficult to show to those who are wary that wearing the hijab in all its forms will not decrease work productivity, deteriorate the image of their workplace or show that it is a sign of disintegration. What needs to be done is to inform and share to the public that we are all better than prejudice and ignorance and better than social constructs that cause unjust disadvantages for certain groups of people. Get to know a person and you will understand the common grounds. Get to know a covered working muslim woman and you will see a whole new perspective. You will see beyond the veil.

We are a few young muslim women from various corners of the globe, who work not only to earn a living and for self-development, but we also work for causes we care about ,while keeping in style wearing our faith-based symbol with pride! We will continue to participate building a better future for all wherever we go using our own ways. We may be privileged in one way or another, but we want to show what any woman, including covered women, are capable of when you give them the chance to develop. We call for all muslim women who are also learning/have decided to wear the hijab in all its forms to not be afraid to reach their dreams and implement the education that they have received for the good of the many. We also call for everyone in general to push aside stereotypes and prejudice when they see a colleague, neighbour or even a stranger, who may look a little different from them. A person is more complex and interesting than what you read about or see on the internet.

Astrid Damayanti, Graphic Designer at the Digital Media Sector

“I was actually on an academic path to become a scientist. However, life has led me to become a self-taught graphic designer, my new-found passion. I love to recreate people’s insights including mass communication and then turning it into visual graphics that empower people through visual messaging. I’ve been taught to keep struggling for my better future through creative and positive ways as stated in the Qur’an that, “Allah SWT will not change the condition of people until they change what is in themselves”. To dress modestly even at the workplace, gives me more strength and confidence that is a reflection of my life as a whole,”

Medi Kamia Ismanto, Dentist

“Becoming a dentist is a delight in my life. A dentist, and literally a dental-engineer-slash-dental-artist, I tackle many exciting roles and experiences! Being able to interact with various kinds of people while helping to increase society’s dental health is a blessing and honor in my life. Becoming a Muslim and deciding to wear the hijab has certainly made me more confident in carrying out my activities. Being active, in-style, whilst with my hijab on is the perfect way for me.”

Zara Wagner, Pharmacy Assistant at the Healthcare Industry

“For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to become a doctor. I am on my way to reaching this goal. I have always been passionate about helping those in need, and do my best to advocate for those whose voices are not heard. Islam has been a strong motivator for me throughout my healthcare journey thus far, and wearing the hijab is a constant reminder to me to always act compassionately, to see people in a non-judgemental light and to always have faith that things will turn out as they should.”
Zeva Aulia Sudana, Special Assistant to the Executive Secretary at Tropical Landscapes Finance Facility, Co-Chair of Indonesian Youth Diplomacy and Consultant

“I’ve always wanted to become a part of making societies better. An avid generalist, my work experiences involve the nexus of human rights and sustainable development. Having worked for various stakeholders from the grassroots until the UN has opened my conscience more. Wearing the hijab/veil while at it has never been a drawback. I currently work within the Executive Office handling a variety of tasks. Among the issues we cover are green finance, sustainable agriculture, and renewable energy. Environmental awareness and the protection of natural resources and animals is an integral part of Islamic beliefs as we are the viceroys on Earth with the responsibility to utilize resources sustainably. I am also involved in pro-bono and consultant work.”

Laksmi Larastiti, Fisheries Program Manager for The Nature Conservancy Indonesia

“To me, protecting oceans is not only securing resources but also ensuring sustainable livelihoods for the coastal community. Many fishermen are uneducated, their wives are unemployed, and they can’t afford to send their kids to school. I need to start making changes as the happiness of fishermen and their family has always been the biggest motivation in my career. Wearing the hijab certainly does not limit me to play a vital role in empowering numerous fishermen communities. Sometimes I can be the only Muslim in the community and wearing the hijab allows me to spread the message that we can still be ourselves and achieve so many things without having to curtail our right as a human and lose our freedom of choice.”

Marwa Abduljawad, Managing Director of Sajmania “Quick Service Restaurant” and Consultant

“Entrepreneurship and social responsibility have always been a passion for me. Today from where I live, I manage my own startup in the field of food & beverage, beside co-managing the family business in the field of marine services and industrial catering. Moreover, with the knowledge and experience I have built, today I am able to work with other women in encouraging and guiding them to have their own startups by providing mentoring and consulting. Being a conservative Muslim and committing to our Islamic traditional attire in Saudi Arabia; have never stopped me from achieving my goals or success, instead it became part of my business look and personality.  The limits are never in what we wear; the limits are only in our minds; this is what I believe in”.

What about you? How does your hijab inspire your daily life? We’d love to hear your story!

http://mvslim.com/between-faith-fashion-and-livelihoods-six-women-speak-up/

This Photographer Is Capturing The Way Muslims Pray In Public

“People would approach us and ask questions about what we were doing. They were… curious to know more because they did not know much about Muslims or Islam except from what they saw on television.”

Places You’ll Pray is a photo series which captures the different places Americans Muslims perform their five daily prayers outside the mosque and home.

The photographer, Sana Ullah, told BuzzFeed in an email that she got the idea for the series when her family was at the mall during prayer time and prayed in a dressing room.

The photographer, Sana Ullah, told BuzzFeed in an email that she got the idea for the series when her family was at the mall during prayer time and prayed in a dressing room.

Sana Ullah Photography

She said her goal is not to “flaunt the idea of piety or prayer,” but to demonstrate the ease with which Muslims pray and to portray a side of Muslim life rarely covered in media.

“(The) majority of Muslims are not the evil that hurts this world and its people on it, but rather Muslims (are) constantly taught to love it sincerely and find peace with themselves five times a day,” she said.

Ullah usually asks her subjects to take them to a place they remember praying in the past, and then photographs them there.

Ullah usually asks her subjects to take them to a place they remember praying in the past, and then photographs them there.

Sana Ullah Photography

Ullah said that she often accompanies her subjects in group prayer and then photographs them during their individual “sunnah” prayer.

She interviews them about their memories of how they came to pray in that location.

She interviews them about their memories of how they came to pray in that location.

Sana Ullah Photography

Above, on a Florida basketball court, the subject told Ullah: “The first time I prayed here was in 7th grade with about 15 other brothers. At first, it was awkward praying in the courts, but after some time, it felt like every other salah at the masjid.”

Although in many cases, she takes photos of the impromptu places her subjects find to pray, like this one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Although in many cases, she takes photos of the impromptu places her subjects find to pray, like this one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Sana Ullah Photography

Or this one of a woman praying in the van on her way to a wedding ceremony.

Or this one of a woman praying in the van on her way to a wedding ceremony.

Sana Ullah Photography

While her photo series is based in the U.S., she also crowdsources photos from others on her Instagram.

Ullah says her she hoped to “build a bridge of communication about Islam” while embracing her Muslim identity.

Ullah says her she hoped to "build a bridge of communication about Islam" while embracing her Muslim identity.

Sana Ullah Photography

“You are your own best narrator,” she said. “You know yourself more than anyone else and you can tell your story the best.”

"You are your own best narrator," she said. "You know yourself more than anyone else and you can tell your story the best."
Sana Ullah Photography
https://www.buzzfeed.com/ahmedaliakbar/this-powerful-photo-series-captures-the-public-places-muslim?utm_term=.rv952eDjq#.ecmQ79xBk

Imams to be told to preach in English at mosques 

Maryam centre at the East London Mosque
There are concerns that preaching in foreign languages enforces divisions CREDIT: PIERO CRUCIATTI/ALAMY 

Imams are to be encouraged to deliver their sermons in English under measures being prepared to rid Britain of hate preaching.

The Telegraph has been told that the counter-extremism taskforce is working on the plans amid concern that preaching in foreign languages enforces divisions between Islam and mainstream British society and can foster radicalisation.

Ministers have been inspired by some Middle Eastern countries that have begun urging that sermons be published in English online. A senior Government source said: “If imams are speaking in another language it makes it far harder to know if radicalisation is taking place.”

Speaking English is important for all, imams includedDavid Cameron, speaking last year

Measures are being prepared for the long-awaited counter-extremism proposals after an initial strategy was published in October 2015. Exact measures are yet to be finalised but one source said tougher licensing rules for foreign preachers was being considered.

Currently, imams from outside the European Union who visit Britain have to prove they can speak English before a visa is granted. However, sources have ruled out the introduction of any new licensing scheme for imams already in the UK because it could be seen as a curb on religious freedom.

Tackling radicalisation in Britain was one of Prime Minister Theresa May’s priorities during her six years as Home Secretary. A speech she gave before the 2015 general election set out a 
series of “bold” measures that could be adopted in order to counter home-grown extremism.

Theresa May
Theresa May has made tackling extremism a priority CREDIT: CARL COURT/GETTY

“Everybody in our country is equal and everybody is free to lead their lives as they wish. But our society does not just confer rights; it demands responsibilities,” Mrs May said back then.

“You have the freedom to live how you choose to live – but you must also respect the freedom of others to live how they choose to live.”

She also promised a “step change” in helping people to learn in English and she hinted at tighter language rules on “foreign religious workers in pastoral roles”.

Debate about whether imams, who lead prayers at mosques, should use English has been making headlines for more than a decade. A survey of 300 mosques in 2007 found that just 8 per cent of imams were born in the UK and only 6 per cent of them spoke English as a first language.

The Tory 2015 election manifesto promised to “confront and ultimately defeat” extremism and make protecting Britons their “overriding priority”.

Show more

The document pledged to “tackle all forms of extremism, including non-violent extremism, so our values and our way of life are properly promoted and defended”.

The Conservatives’ 2015 counter-extremism strategy has yet to undergo formal consultation amid reports that wrangling over how to define extremism has held up the process.

In 2016, David Cameron called for more imams to speak English to help guide young Britons away from the “poisonous rhetoric” of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

He said: “When I was sat in a mosque in Leeds this week one of the young people there said how important it is that imams speak English because if you have got young people, sometimes who speak English themselves but not Urdu and not Arabic, they need someone to guide them away from Isil and their poisonous rhetoric.”

He said: “That’s why we’re going to be targeting money at people, very often women, who’ve been stuck at home, sometimes by the men of the house. Speaking English is important for all, imams included.”

A Government spokesman said: “There are no plans to license imams or require imams to have a minimum level of English language proficiency beyond visa requirements already in place.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/11/imams-told-preach-english-mosques/

What the hijab means to me

From Nigeria to Uruguay, women share their thoughts and feelings about the hijab.


‘Hijab makes me feel free’

Ifat Gazia says the hijab is part of her personality [Al Jazeera]

Ifat Gazia is from Kashmir and recently graduated from the University of London.

After the Paris attacks of November 2015, I faced an assault-like situation on Oxford Street in London when a group of boys and girls pushed me to the ground and started abusing me. I didn’t understand what they were saying because I was startled and they didn’t speak English.

I was new to the city and the only obvious way of identifying that I was Muslim was by my hijab. There was a strong wave of Islamophobia in European countries in those days, and I was one of many who faced the brunt, but it cannot change a place entirely and there is no doubt that the UK is a very tolerant country; London even has a Muslim mayor now.

One year down the line, and I have never felt uncomfortable wearing my hijab in any part of the UK. In fact, I have never felt this happy and confident in a hijab anywhere else except for Kashmir, my homeland.

I wear hijab not because it represents my morality, intellect, backwardness or modernity, but because it makes me feel complete. I choose to wear a hijab and it represents my pride in being a Muslim and somehow makes me fulfil my duties to my religion, but it doesn’t give me the liberty to judge those who don’t wear it.

Wearing a hijab in no way makes me a better Muslim than those who don’t wear it. It is a part of my personality and my existence, and it is definitely challenging in these times, when looks matter as much as qualifications when searching for a job.

But I have chosen this piece of cloth, not as an obligation or as a sign of oppression, but as my own choice of freedom, for the hijab makes me feel free.

As told to Showkat Shafi.


‘It took a while before I realised I can be both Muslim and queer’

At different stages in her life, Azeenarh Mohammed has worn the hijab and the niqab. Now, she mainly keeps her hair uncovered [Chika Oduah/Al Jazeera]

Azeenarh Mohammed is from Abuja in Nigeria.

I started wearing hijab when I was around three years old. It was both cultural and religious, so I never questioned it and wore it on and off until I was in my 20s.

I attended Hajj with my siblings around that time – about 10 years ago. During Hajj, I became fascinated with the niqab – that is the full veil that covers everything except your eyes. I started wearing the niqab in Saudi Arabia and continued after I returned to Nigeria.

I really liked the sense of freedom I felt from wearing the niqab – freedom from people’s gaze, comments and judgment. And wearing it also came with respect. In northern Nigeria, when people see a woman in niqab, they assume you’re a very pious person.

But after a while, people’s reactions made wearing the niqab more of a political statement than I intended for it to be, and my parents wondered if I was becoming ‘radicalised’ or a fundamentalist.

I just became exhausted, and after about seven months, I stopped wearing the niqab and went back to just the hijab. But then I phased out the hijab entirely and went to just wearing scarves. Then, I stopped wearing scarves.

Now, I’m well into my 30s and I pretty much have my head uncovered.

My evolution from niqab to uncovered happened in around 2008 when I was dealing with my sexuality and was exploring my feelings about Islam. I felt I couldn’t be both Muslim and queer at the same time, so I prioritised being queer and rebelled against everything else.

First, I chopped off my hair and went for a stereotypical lesbian haircut. I stopped going to religious spaces and even stopped participating in cultural activities that had religious leanings, stuff like weddings. I didn’t go to any place that required me to wear a scarf, a veil or any covering.

I had a hard time with my family during this period. They didn’t take it well. Neither did my friends or my community. It was a great shock to everyone.

It took a while before I realised I can be both Muslim and queer.

These days, I miss wearing the hijab for various reasons – familiarity, fitting in and a veil from aggressive eyes and attention. In Nigeria, there’s a certain harassment that comes to people who do not wear stereotypical female clothes. Because I sometimes wear masculine clothes, people will say really mean things.

They ask me if I have a man’s private parts. They ask why am I trying to be a man. So to avoid this, every now and then I throw on a hijab and just get on with my day. And as weird as it sounds, in the right moment, the hijab can be a source of protection for me.

As told to Chika Oduah.


‘My hijab gives me an identity as a Muslim woman’

Aziza Paula Di Bello, a Uruguayan psychologist, converted to Islam five years ago.

Paula Di Bello recalls the first time she saw a woman wearing a hijab [ Giulia Iacolutti/Al Jazeera]

I was 23 years old when I first saw a woman wearing hijab. My heart felt paralysed. I immediately understood the essence of it. This woman was a queen, who was able to defy it all. She was free from the influences of fashion, not caring to follow the masses. That image stayed with me for years.

Ten years later, I embraced Islam.

I started wearing the hijab, and from the first moment started to feel the benefits of it. Wearing the hijab is not just about covering the hair … It also includes an attitude of modesty.

Only after experiencing it did I realise that my hijab gives me an identity as a Muslim woman, devout and respectable. It protects me – not only from the eyes of men, but from anyone who can value me and evaluate me based on anything other than my ability, my intellect, my heart.

It elevates me in status by choosing to submit to my creator and not to his creation. And I’m not submissive, on the contrary. My hijab is for me a rebellion against the consumerism of the flesh; it frees me from submission to others to satisfy their needs.

It is an act of mercy between men and women because it forces the other not to distract themselves in superficialities, and things that can affect a marriage, a family, and therefore society. Therefore, its benefits reach the social sphere. My hijab makes me feel that my interlocutor is focused on who I really am.

As told to Giulia Iacolutti.


‘I show my blackness proudly to the world’

Jacinda Townsend is an African-American author.  

Jacinda Townsend explains why she chose to stop wearing the hijab [Photo courtesy of Jacinda Townsend]

I converted to Islam as a 20-year-old law student searching for peace, and I went about finding it not only in the religion itself but in Islamic custom: the five prayers a day that solidified my faith, the wudu [ablution] that so cleansed me of anxiety, the hijab, which became a public proclamation of my modesty.

Initially, when I zipped up my abaya and wrapped my hair in a scarf, I felt disconnected from my sexuality, freed of the male gaze that had so plagued me as a young woman.

There came a day, however, that a fellow Muslim – a complete stranger – approached me in the supermarket and asked for my telephone number.

Everyone can tell what’s really under that hijab, joked a friend, and it occurred to me for the first time that I’d actually traded one form of male gaze for another, one form of presumed subjugation for a different, yet altogether similar one.

But what finally drove me to uncover? My hair. My gorgeous, nappy, African-American hair, which I’d just stopped straightening before I converted.

So much of African-American culture was being drowned out of me by the voices of older women at the mosque, from those who said it was haram to celebrate Kwanzaa (although Kwanzaa isn’t a religious holiday) to those who told me I needed to pray in a language I didn’t even understand.

Every time I wrapped the hijab around my burgeoning curls, I felt that I was covering the gorgeous black self I had just discovered, and letting the ethnocentrism I had run up against so many times in the mosque win the upper hand.

Eventually, I stopped wearing the hijab. I put my hair in dreadlocks and have never taken them out, and I show my blackness proudly to the world. Ultimately, uncovering led me to a deeper love of blackness than I’d previously known.


‘My hair is an essential part of me’

Riham Alkousaa is a  Syrian-Palestinian journalist covering Syria and refugees in Europe.

Riham Alkousaa recalls the moment she decided to remove her hijab [Photo courtesy of Riham Alkousaa]

It’s been more than two years since I made the decision to take off my hijab. I was on the plane to Berlin, leaving Syria for the first time. I was sitting next to an old Asian couple. They were falling asleep. I took it off as we arrived at Frankfurt International Airport. They didn’t even notice.

Why did I wait until I was in Europe? I didn’t have the courage to upset my father and take it off in Syria. When I told him that I wanted to, he said do that when you can distance yourself from the gossip of others, when you leave the country.

My father is not as religious as my mother, but people’s opinions matter a lot to him.

What I recall the most from this experience was the massive fear I felt about taking such a big step. I thought that this would be one of the most challenging decisions of my life – but it wasn’t.

I wanted to take it off because I wanted to look more natural. I didn’t like the idea that the “me” who wakes up and looks in the mirror while brushing my teeth, is totally different from the “me” who leaves for college covering my head and trying to substitute my hair with extra make-up on my face. I wanted to be as close as possible to the Riham I know.

The first few days were a bit tricky. I was so worried about the way I looked. I didn’t really know how to take care of my hair after 10 years of covering it. It suddenly looked huge and untamed. It took me some months until I had finally figured it out.

Now, my hair is an essential part of me. It reflects my character, how messy and strong I can be. I don’t regret it at all. Will I wear hijab again one day? Maybe, but I don’t see that now.


‘Islam isn’t the headscarf’

Anna Stamou says she feels troubled when people talk about what a woman chooses to wear – whether it’s a pair of shorts or a headscarf [Nick Paleologos/Al Jazeera]

Anna Stamou, a Greek PR consultant, converted to Islam 15 years ago.

To tell you the truth, before I wore the headscarf, I felt a certain sadness for women wearing it. I thought: “Oh, poor women, they’re obliged to wear it.”

Today, many people ask me why I wear it since I live in Greece where I’m not obliged to. I get tired of the questions, but it’s my duty to answer. People haven’t understood that everyone should have the right to express themselves the way they want.

Comments on what women wear disturb me in general. A woman is wearing a pair of shorts and people draw conclusions. But we’re not meat.

There are many non-Muslim feminists who say that if they were in our position, they’d do everything in their power to get rid of the headscarf. They say that because they don’t know what it symbolises. Why don’t they talk about women’s education instead or the fight against authoritarian regimes? Why is everything about the way we dress?

I personally support those women who choose not to wear a headscarf. I tell Iranian women that don’t want to wear it to take it off. Islam isn’t the headscarf. Can you imagine a big religion like Islam depending on a piece of cloth?

When I was studying Islam, I decided to adopt it in its wholeness, so I decided to wear a veil. Of course, I was lucky enough to be self-employed and to be a dynamic person. But there are many Greek Muslims who don’t wear the headscarf because they know they won’t find a job. At the end of the day, though, it’s not the headscarf that defines how religious we are.

This is a discussion the so-called Western world talks about. The Muslim world’s problems are much more important. People are dying, and we’re talking about headscarves.

As told to Nikolia Apostolou.


‘As a western woman, for me, the hijab is a war I’ve won’

Maria Martinez* is a Mexican who converted to Islam two years ago.

At first Maria Martinez felt worried about showing her hijab to her family [Giulia Iacolutti/Al Jazeera]

I learned about Islam because I was interested in learning about different religions. I began to read the Quran and chose the theme of the role of women in Islam for my undergraduate thesis.

My curiosity was so great that I decided to fast during Ramadan and to start praying. It was at that moment that I decided to make my shahada [profession of faith]. I wore the hijab only when I’d go to the mosque. I would remove it because I felt embarrassed of showing it to my family, believing they would not understand.

The biggest challenge was my mother; she refused to see her only daughter covering her hair. My husband, who is Saudi, never pushed me to wear it. On the contrary, he believes the hijab’s function is to protect women, so if wearing it would cause me problems, that was contrary to its purpose.

But, one day, I decided to wear it. I knew that I would face the rejection of society and my family – and that maybe I would even lose professional opportunities. But I didn’t care because, just as we westerners have the right to dress or undress as we please, wearing the hijab for me is the claim of the right we have as Muslims. At first, I was afraid that people would offend me, but overall, the response was positive.

People respect me, and the hijab gives me the opportunity to show them that I am a happy woman, to show that one can be Muslim and professional – a student, a mother, and comply with the codes and the way of life in Islam. It is a great responsibility – all eyes are on you, and you should not give a bad image of Islam.

As a western woman, to me the hijab is a war I’ve won, and what I had seen as a disadvantage has become my fortress. I am currently doing my social service in the Ministry of Economy, finishing my major in communication sciences at the university and starting a business.

As told to Giulia Iacolutti.

*Name has been changed


The Veil: Three Egyptian women share their thoughts and feelings about the hijab

Source: Al Jazeera

In break from strict secular past, defence ministry allows female officers to cover their heads with plain headscarves.

Female officers allowed to wear headscarves

In break from strict secular past, defence ministry allows female officers to cover their heads with plain headscarves.

The lift on the headscarf ban is going to come into effect once the regulation is announced in the Official Gazette [Fatih Saribas/Reuters]

Turkey has for the first time allowed female members of the armed forces to wear headscarves while on duty as part of their uniform.

Women serving in the armed forces “will be able to cover their heads” under their caps or berets so long as the headscarf is “the same colour as the uniform and without pattern”, said a new defence ministry regulation announced on Wednesday.

The lift on the ban is going to come into effect once the regulation is announced in the Official Gazette, according to Turkish media.

READ MORE: Turkey allows policewomen to wear headscarves

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has long pressed for the removal of restrictions on women wearing the headscarf in the officially secular state.

Turkey lifted a ban on the wearing of headscarves on university campuses in 2010.

It allowed female students to wear the garment in state institutions from 2013 and in high school in 2014.

In August 2016, the AKP government lifted the ban on headscarves in the police force.

Turkish military has long been known as the “protector of secularism” in the country and worked against efforts to lift the headscarf ban in the public sector for decades.

Turkish authorities have launched an unprecedented shake-up of the country’s security forces after a section of the army attempted to overthrow the government on July 15, and have sacked thousands of officers, footsoldiers and even generals who allegedly took part in the violent plot.

Source: Al Jazeera News

Muslim Americans Are United by Trump—and Divided by Race

Facing increasing hostility from the administration, the religious community also has to cope with its own internal tensions.

Stephanie Keith / Andrew Burton / Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc / Tony Savino / Jason Redmond / Dan Kitwood / Getty / Zak Bickel / The Atlantic
One session was led by Hamza Yusuf, a well respected white scholar who co-founded Zaytuna College, which claims to be America’s first Muslim liberal-arts college. At the end, he was asked whether Muslims should work with groups like Black Lives Matter. “The United States is probably, in terms of its laws, one of the least racist societies in the world,” he replied. “We have between 15,000 and 18,000 homicides per year. Fifty percent are black-on-black crime, literally. … There are twice as many whites that have been shot by police, but nobody ever shows those videos.”

He went on. “It’s the assumption that the police are racist. It’s not always the case,” he said. “Any police now that shoots a black is immediately considered a racist.”

Even though slightly less than one-third of American Muslims are black,according to Pew Research Center, American Muslims are most often represented in the media as Arab or South Asian immigrants. The distinction between the African-American Muslim experience and that of their immigrant co-religionists has long been a source of racial tension in the Muslim community, but since the election, things have gotten both better and worse. While some Muslims seem to be paying more attention to racism because of Donald Trump, others fear that any sign of internal division is dangerous for Muslims in a time of increased hostility.

While the Toronto conference was upsetting, Evans said, he doesn’t think it’s representative of the biggest racial problems in the American Muslim community. White racism toward black people is “not the kind of racism that circumscribes my life as an American Muslim,” he told me. “It’s the social racism I experience from people of Arab descent, of Southeast Asian descent. This is the racism no one is talking about.”

The wave of immigration that shaped today’s American Muslim population began in the 1960s, after Congress lifted previous race-based restrictions on immigration. In many ways, this surge was directly connected to the work of black Muslims and others involved in the civil-rights movement: The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 allowed far greater numbers of people from Asia and Africa to emigrate to the U.S. As of 2014, an estimated 61 percent of Muslims were immigrants, according to Pew, and another 17 percent were the children of immigrants. Many of the perceived racial tensions among Muslims come from conflicts between these immigrant communities and non-immigrants, who are often black.

Some Muslims say “we shouldn’t talk about anti-blackness within the community, because we’re under siege by Islamophobes.”

“Immigrant Muslims had a convenient comfort zone,” said Omar Suleiman, an imam based in Dallas with a large online following. As each new immigrant community established its own mosques and community centers, portions of the Muslim American population became segregated by ethnicity and income. For non-black Muslims who grew up in the suburbs, attended private schools, and rarely encountered black Muslims in their mosques, it’s easy “to internalize many of the poisonous notions about the black community that … diminish the pain of those communities,” he said.

“I think a lot of African American Muslims see a hypocrisy sometimes with immigrant Muslims,” said Saba Maroof, a Muslim psychiatrist with a South Asian background who lives in Michigan. “We say that Muslims are all equal in the eyes of God, that racism doesn’t exist in Islam.” And yet, cases of overt racism aren’t uncommon, like when South Asian or Arab immigrant parents don’t want their kids to marry black Muslims. “That happened in my family,” she said.

These stereotypes are sometimes perpetuated by leaders like Yusuf. Toward the end of the Toronto conference, he apologized for the ambiguity of his previous comments, but clarified that he believes “the biggest crisis facing the African American community in the United States is not racism. It is the breakdown of the black family.” The line won huge applause in the presentation hall where Yusuf was speaking. But online, there was yet more backlash: Kameelah Rashad, a black Muslim chaplain at the University of Pennsylvania, started tweeting out pictures under the hashtag #blackMuslimfamily, for example, to protest Yusuf’s remarks. (Yusuf declined a request for an interview.)

Some Muslims believe “we shouldn’t talk about anti-blackness within the community, because we’re under siege by Islamophobes. This is not the right time to air internal laundry,” Rashad said. But “if I have to contend with anti-Muslim bigotry outside of the Muslim community, and within my own community, I’m having to push back on anti-black racism, I’m kind of fighting a war on two fronts.”

Racial dynamics have long shaped Muslims’ political identities. There’s a “tendency to regard issues that impact black people—and by extension, black Muslims—as not thoroughly Islamic,” said Evans. “If we’re talking about a social issue in Palestine or Chechnya or Kashmir or Saudi Arabia or anywhere else, those things can properly be engaged as ‘Islamic issues.’ [If] we’re talk about economic injustice, or gentrification, or ex-offender re-entry, or recidivism, those things aren’t really regarded as ‘legitimately Islamic.’ It’s like, ‘Why would a Muslim of conscience be talking about that stuff?’”

Media outlets typically go for “people who are ethnic, but not too much.”

As Muslim leaders have taken up visible roles in anti-Trump activism, these dynamics have intensified. Progressive leaders have condemned the so-called Muslim ban—the executive order that originally affected people from seven Muslim-majority countries—putting the focus in the Muslim community on immigration. But when protesters swarmed airports in large American cities following the order’s release, some black Muslims stayed home, said Margari Hill, the co-founder of the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, who is also a black Muslim. “They have this long-term struggle. Not much has changed—it’s always been kind of terrible,” she said. And “when it comes to the spectacle of black death, we don’t necessarily see a lot of Middle Eastern or South Asian Muslims showing up for Black Lives Matter.”

In activist spaces, black Muslim leaders are sometimes discounted as well. “We’re often questioned, undermined, and asked to bring other experts as the voice of authority,” said Asha Noor, the former leader of an anti-Islamophobia campaign called Take on Hate, who is a Somali-American Muslim. “I’ve seen a lot of black Muslims retreat into our own spaces because they are safe spaces for us.”

As American Muslims have dealt with everything from arson to assault because of their religious identity over the past several months, leaders have increasingly called for unity. But attempts to unify can also stifle diversity, said Hill. Even though three of the seven countries originally included in Trump’s immigration order are in Africa—Libya, Sudan, and Somalia—Hill said she rarely sees people from those countries featured in the news. Instead, media outlets typically go for “people who are ethnic, but not too much,” she said. “You have to be a little attractive.”

There’s also debate within the community on the right way for Muslims to show their patriotism. The red, white, and blue hijabi was a visible symbol in the Women’s March on Washington in January, but not all Muslims think that image sends the right kind of message about the religion. “It feels like a performance,” said Rashad. “As a black American, I am fully cognizant of the fact that that kind of performance does not lead to equality.” While Muslim immigrants have often viewed America as a meritocracy, she said, “For black Muslims, our history is complicated. This hasn’t been a place of opportunity or meritocracy.”

“Nobody wants to be known as a racist.”

Despite these tensions, Trump’s election has inadvertently prompted some new conversations about race among Muslims. Maroof compared Muslims’ new interest in race to a recent skit on Saturday Night Live: A room full of white people watching the 2016 election results start to realize America has issues with racism, while their black friends just nod along. After the election, Maroof started a book club to learn more about political activism, and asked Rashad, who also works in mental health, for recommendations. She suggested The New Jim Crow, a book about racism and mass incarceration. “The awakening I see some non-black Muslims experiencing is very similar to some of the awakening I’ve seen my white friends going through,” Rashad said.

Maroof said she has been aware of racial tensions among Muslims for a long time, but feels like it’s particularly important to pay attention to these issues now. “Even after 9/11, it wasn’t this bad. There was not this travel ban or things like that,” she said. But she recognizes that for a lot of Muslims—herself included—starting conversations about intra-Muslim racism will inevitably come with uncomfortable moments. “Maybe people are sometimes afraid they’re going to say the wrong thing,” she said. “Nobody wants to be known as a racist.”

Meanwhile, some black Muslims are having a political awakening of their own on issues like immigration. “There wasn’t as much outrage with the Obama administration,” said Hill. Obama used less inflammatory rhetoric to talk about immigration, but his administration still removed a record-number of undocumented immigrants from the United States. “Things that were invisible to many of us who have privilege as non-immigrants—now we see it,” she said.

The irony of Islamophobia is that it may eventually produce the exact cultural effect Islamophobes fear: Muslim Americans may find a newly consolidated sense of identity and unity because of their religious affiliation. If some Muslims once hoped to be fully assimilated into elite American culture—to live in nice neighborhoods, attend fancy schools, and fully blend in with white America—that’s likely impossible now, Evans said. “The first blow to that aspiration was 9/11. Then ISIS happened. The prospect began to look even farther off,” he said. “With the Trump election, I really think it was finished off. It’s over now.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/03/muslim-americans-race/519282/