Christians and Muslims – brothers of Abraham

A major segment of the world’s population has just celebrated Christmas – the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus on 25th December. Meanwhile, Muslims have just celebrated Mawlid – the birth of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) – which this year fell on December 24th (Christmas Eve). These two figures are pinnacles of the two faiths but how many people know that Muslims also recognise Jesus (Issa) as part of their faithIslam is the only other religion to officially recognise Jesus’ coming and to include recognition of him as a requisite of faith. Muslims love Jesus!

Very little stands between these two faiths. Both Christianity and Islam teach about belief in God – following Him and doing good deeds but what else do the two faiths share? Let’s have a look using scripture from both faiths. Putting differences within faiths aside and using an overview of “standardised beliefs” and scriptural references, here’s a brief guide (in no particular order) to some of the major similarities and differences between the two faithstwo brothers within the same Abrahamic family.

Similarities

  1. God is the sole Creator of the Universe

“The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” (Isiah, 40: 28)

“Say: He is Allah, the One! Allah, the eternally Besought of all! He begetteth not nor was begotten. And there is none comparable unto Him.” (Qur’an, 112: 1-4)

2. The importance of charity

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” (Proverbs, 19: 17)

“Those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, and establish regular prayers and regular charity, will have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve.” (Qur’an, 2: 277)

3. Prostration during prayer

“And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto them.” (Numbers, 20: 6)

“O ye who believe! Bow down, prostrate yourselves, and adore your Lord; and do good; that ye may prosper.” (Qur’an, 22: 77)

4. Washing before prayer (ablution)

“So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the Lord and worshiped.” (Samuel II, 12: 20)

“O ye who believe! When ye prepare for prayer, wash your faces and your hands (and arms) to the elbows; rub your heads (with water); and (wash) your feet to the ankles.” (Qur’an, 5: 6)

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5. Modesty in behaviour and clothing

“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewellery, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” (Peter I, 3: 3-4)

“Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them […]. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms […] and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments.” (Qur’an, 24: 30-31)

“Every religion has its characteristic, and the characteristic of Islam is modesty.” (al-Muwatta)

6. Head coverings for women

“For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.” (Corinthians I, 11: 16)

“And tell the believing women to […] draw their veils over their bosoms.” (Qur’an, 24: 31)

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7.  The Torah/Bible and their teachings and prophets

Note: Muslims believe in Jesus’ teachings but not the book of the New Testament as such is known today. Muslims believe in the Torah (Old Testament) as a book from God but not as a primary text.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua, 1: 8-9)

“We have sent thee inspiration as We sent it to Noah and the Messengers after him; We sent inspiration to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes to Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon, and to David, We gave the Psalms. Of some messengers We have already told thee the story; of others We have not; ― and to Moses Allah spoke direct.” (Qur’an, 4: 163-4)

“[…] his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary. […] Allah will teach him the Book and Wisdom, the Torah and the Gospel.” (Qur’an, 3: 45-8)

8. The importance of marriage and sex within marriage

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, […] orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5: 19-21)

“But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” (Corinthians I, 7:2 )

“[…] (Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time― when ye give them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret intrigues. If anyone rejects faith, fruitless is his work, and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good).” (Qur’an, 5: 5)

9. Fasting/sacrifice

“That your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew, 6: 18)

“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that ye may (learn) self-restraint. (Fasting) for a fixed number of days; […] it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew.” (Qur’an, 2: 183-4)

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As you can see there’s lots of references in the Qur’an to past Christian teachings and prophets. So, what are the main differences and what exactly do they entail?

Differences

  1. Jesus

Christians believe Jesus is divine/the Son of God whereas according to Islam, God is One and has never appeared in human form. In Islam, Jesus is a prophet just like Moses, Abraham and Mohammed (pbut).

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John, 3: 16)

“[…] Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah and His Word, […]: so believe in Allah and His Messengers. Say not “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is One Allah: glory be to him: (for Exalted is He) above having a son. […] Christ disdaineth not to serve and worship Allah […].” (Qur’an, 4: 171-2)

2. The Holy Spirit – completing the concept of the Trinity

As outlined – Christians believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew, 28: 19)

Muslims however believe that  there is no Trinity. It is believed that according to the Bible: “spirit” refers to Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) – the last prophet of Islam who brought the Qur’an (last scripture):

“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you unto all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me.” (John, 16: 12-14)

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3. The Passion of the Christ

Christians believe in Christ’s death and  resurrection:

“And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.” (Luke, 23: 33)

“With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus […].” (Acts, 4: 33)

According to Islam, Jesus was not crucified on the cross and was not resurrected (however Jesus will return):

“And (then unbelievers) plotted and planned, and Allah too planned, and the best of planners is Allah. Behold! Allah said: “O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject Faith, to the Day of Resurrection; then shall ye all return unto Me, and I will judge between you of the matters wherein ye dispute.” (Qur’an, 3: 54-5)

4. Original sin

The concept of original sin in Christianity does not exist in Islam. In Christianity, Eve is the one who was tempted by the Devil and all human beings are all born sinful:

“To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.” (Genesis, 3: 17)

“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm, 51: 5)

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (Romans, 5: 12)

In Islam, Adam and Eve were both equally guilty of sinning but each human is born sinless and pure. You then become responsible for your own deeds – good and bad.

 “But as soon as the two had tasted [the fruit] of the tree, they became conscious of their nakedness […].” (Qur’an, 7: 22)

“Who receives guidance, receives it for his own benefit: who goes astray does so to his own loss: no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another…” (Qur’an, 17: 15)

5. The Devil

In Christianity the Devil (Satan) is a fallen angel whereas in Islam, the Devil (Shaytan) is not a fallen angel but a jinn (made of fire) who refused to bow down to Adam with the Angels according to God’s command. In Islam, angels have no free will so cannot disobey God.

“He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.’” (Luke, 10: 18)

“(Iblis) said: “I am better than he: Thou createdst me from fire, and him Thou createdst from clay.” (Qur’an, 38: 76)

So, as you can see, there are a few major differences but these stem on differences on the same topic/issue – not completely different concepts. There are far more similarities. Early Muslims  sought refuge from an Ethiopian Christian king and when asked about Jesus and Mary, the king was astonished. Check out the video clip from the film “The Message” (Akkad, 1976) detailing such event:

Today, there are many Muslim-Christian interfaith families through marriage between Muslim men and Christian women. The relation between the two faiths is a vast topic but I wanted to give a brief outline and highlight the important relation between the two faiths. When building bridges, you focus on similarities rather than differences. When “otherising” you focus on the “strange” and “different“. Christians and Muslims are all part of the same Abrahamic family and in times of hardship and discrimination we should stick together not divide amongst ourselves.

Salam!

For further information:

Qur’an online and further information

Bible online

Image credits:

Free Images.com (Creative Commons)

Prophet of Peace – #notoislamophobia

The IRA, the Klu Klux Klan, Zionists, Buddhist extremists…terrorism does not discriminate. Terrorism is not a religion, a culture nor a community… It’s simply a disease – a disease of the heart and mind which latches onto poverty, ignorance, the marginalised, arrogant, naive, extreme, intolerant, vengeful, close minded and hateful.

Islamophobia is on the increase and it’s a sad state of affairs. What’s also a sad state of affairs is ISIS and terrorism – terrorists who claim to speak for Islam. One does not excuse the other. People need to know the truth about Islam and Muslims need to be able to practice their faith in peace.

Increasing Islamophobia

To see the rise in Islamophobic speech and hate crimes we only need to look at the current state of socio-political affairs and keep up with current events to see:

  • Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric
  • Vandalism and pig remains at mosques
  • Muslims being physically and verbally abused in public

There has been a sharp rise in Islamophobia in the USA and Europe since the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the latest shootings in Paris and California. Ibrahim Hooper – spokesman for The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) – recently told Al Jazeera:

“….anti-Muslim bigotry has moved into the mainstream. In previous spikes, like after 9-11, Islamophobia was on the fringes of society.”

In the UK, The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) which is based in London and investigates hate crime, recently launched a new study entitled: “Environment of Hate: The New Normal for Muslims in the UK”. Some of their findings are shocking – you can find out more via their video. Since such unfortunate developments, hate crimes against Muslims in the UK are now being listed within their own category – just like anti-Semitics attacks. This is a  welcome development and will aid monitoring and campaigning.

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ISIS is not Islam

Whilst many people do not equate Islam with terrorism, there is still talk of: “Not all terrorists are Muslim but all terrorists are Muslim”. Many know this is utter rubbish to put it mildly but if the rise in Islamophobic attacks and the US presidential elections are anything to go by – there are still widespread misconceptions.

Islam is about spirituality, worship and good deeds. Islam in Arabic means submission/surrender (to Allah (God)). Contrary to what ISIS advertises – jihad is primarily about a Muslim’s inner spiritual struggle and striving to obey Allah and purify one’s soul: to do good, be honest, hold your tongue and anger, oppress your ego, selfishness and bad thoughts/desires (your nafs). This is jihad al nafs  “the greater jihad”:

“By the soul and (by) Him who made it perfect, and then inspired it to understand what is wrong and what is right for it. Truly is successful the one who purifies (his soul).” (Qur’an, 91: 7-9)

Muslims are taught to respect other humans, to strive for goodness and justice. Peace, hope, mercy, honesty, truthjustice – these are the values of Islam. When facing oppression Muslims are allowed to defend themselves but never more than necessary:

“Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.” (Qur’an, 2: 190)

“Allah will not be merciful to those who are not merciful to the people.” (Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) – Bukhari 6941, Muslim 2139)

“Verily, Allah is only merciful to His servants who are merciful with others.” (Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) – Bukhari 1224)

Islam does not condone terrorism or the killing of innocent civilians. In fact, there a strict set of rules which Muslims must obey – as the following graphic shows:

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In response to Muslims and Islamophobes regarding the killing of innocent civilians, Talk Islam have produced a wonderful video about the Prophet Muhammed and the teachings of Islam to reiterate these points: “Nothing to do with my Prophet“. It’s really worth a watch.

Solidarity and spreading the peace

Despite the rise in hate crime and Islamophobia, I’m also happy to say that there have been many wonderful gestures of solidarity, including:

  • The Twitter campaign #youaintnomuslimbruv following a stabbing incident in London
  • Michael Moor‘s – “we are all Muslims
  • Non-Muslim women wearing headscarves in support of Muslim hijabi women for World Hijab Day
  • One lady who has  been wearing a headscarf in protest of Donald Trump’s recent comments

So there you have it. It’s not all doom and gloom but it is crucial that things change. Muslims and non-Muslims:

  • Build bridges: talk to people, get involved
  • Educate: correct people’s misconceptions
  • Stand up to Islamophobia and hate crime

Show the Trumps, Daesh members/wannabes of the world and haters what peace and Islam is.

Salam!

For more information see:

The Islamic Human Rights Commission (information and reporting hate crime)

The Qur’an (Arabic with English translation)

The 99 Names of Allah

10 Islamic Rules of War

Torture and Transplants – China’s Bloody Secret

china-flag-1418969 (3).jpgWhen we hear about human rights, we often hear about China due to its poor human rights record. Whilst China is well known for a range of human rights abuses, its economy continues to grow and the State has been working on its international relations. President Xi Jinping visited the USA last September, followed by the UK in October and protesters drew attention to China’s human rights abuses. Indeed – it’s essential more than ever to bring China’s often bloody secrets (further) out of the closet.

One such ongoing issue that has been publicised but is not frequently in the media is that of China’s illegal organ harvesting. This tragic issue has many shocking elements: illegal imprisonment, torture, death, blood money, religious and ethnic oppression  in short… mass murder.

Organ transplants in China

China is the world’s second biggest organ transplant provider – with the USA at the top. However there are a variety of worrying factors regarding China’s:

  • High number of organ transplants: 10,000 per year
  • Incredibly low rate of voluntary organ donors due to cultural beliefs
  • Lack of a national organ donation or distribution system (supposedly until 2014)
  • Incredibly short waiting times: two to four weeks (according to 165 organ transplant centres)
  • Lack of laws allowing the use of organs from people who are brain dead or have undergone cardiac arrest
  • Lack of accountabilitytransparency and traceability according to the World Health Organisation‘s guidelines
  • Resistance to investigation
  • Duty to ethical organ donation which requires “voluntary and informed consent”

Sources: European Parliament (2013), Matas (2008)

In 1984, China introduced a law to allow transplants from executed prisoners. In 2005, Deputy Health Minister Huang Jiefu declared that 95% of organs used for transplants were sourced from executed prisoners (Sherif et al., 2014). However, following allegations of forced organ harvesting using imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners, Canadian human rights lawyer David Matas and former Canadian Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific David Kilgour were asked to investigate the issue by The Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of the Falun Gong in China (CIPFG) in 2006. Their report Bloody Harvest (2007) declared the allegations to be true: China is harvesting organs through the imprisonment of persecuted Falun Gong practitioners.

The anti-Falun Gong campaign

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Falun Gong (aka Falun Dafa) is a peaceful spiritual movement akin to Buddhism, founded in China by Li Hongzhi in 1984. It is now practised worldwide. In 1992, Falun Gong was officially recognised by the State and was given a permit to teach across the country. However, by 1996 problems began to arise with the Falun Gong movement and the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) political and economic demands. Censoring and harassment later started and by 1999 the CCP started its campaign to wipe out the practice and banned Falun Gong. Practitioners were beaten and taken to detention centres and an anti-Falun Gong media campaign began. The reason? Whilst the CCP has labelled Falun Gong as an “illegal cult” (see this Chinese non-governmental anti-cult website as an example), reasons cited are “fear” and “jealousy”.

As one of China’s persecuted religious minorities, the Falun Gong face discrimination in regards to work, finance and education, destitution and are forced into labour camps and “education centres” – facing imprisonment, various forms of torture and death – including: forced labourbeatings, burning, water torture, rape and sexual assault, brainwashing and worst of all since 2000: the unwilling removal of their organs and death.

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Harvesting high price human organs

The Matas-Kilgour report was first published in 2006 – in which roughly 20,000 organ transplants are reported to have taken place (2007, Sharif et al., 2014). Their research across China included:

  • Evidence from organ transplant/information centre websites (later closed down)
  • Donor recipient interviews
  • Information on corpses of imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners with missing organs
  • Telephone calls to hospitals/transplant centres

The following is taken from a phone call to Director Song at the Oriental Organ Transplant Centre in Tianjin City (2006):

N: Her doctor told her that the kidney is quite good because he [the supplier] practises …Falun Gong.

Song: Of course. We have all those who breathe and with heart beat…Up until now, for this year, we have more than ten kidneys, more than ten such kidneys.

N: More than ten of this kind of kidneys? You mean live bodies?

Song: Yes it is so.

Source: Matas and Kilgour (2007)

After being imprisoned, Falun Gong prisoners undergo specific medical tests (unlike other prisoners). When required they are “taken to surgery” – still conscious and under a low level of anesthetic Falun Gong prisoners’ organs are removed. Medics then place the bodies in a boiler/incinerator to remove all traces – the victim could be alive or dead at this stage. There have also been other cases of corpses being “collected” by so-called ” relatives”.

Confessions from medics and their families confirm claims involving Falun Gong practitioners and other persecuted minorities. Former Uyghur surgeon Enver Tohti declared he removed the organs of an executed Uyghur prisoner in 1995:

A moment later there were gun shots. Not one, but many. […] An armed police officer approached us and […] pointed to a corpse, saying ‘this is the one’.

[…] our chief surgeon [..] told me to remove the liver and two kidneys. […] we took the body into the van and removed his liver and kidneys. An operation to repair an organ is very difficult and takes a very long time to do, but this […] was an operation of extraction, so it was easy and quick.

Falun Gong and other persecuted minorities share the same fate. Not only have Falun Gong practitioners suffered but Uyghur (Muslim) and Tibetan prisoners have also been victims of forced organ transplants as well as House Christians (European Parliament, 2013).

Donor recipients were originally high ranking officials and their family members. Nowadays however, anybody from within and outside China with enough money can buy an organ. In 1996, The China International Transplantation Network Assistance Centre in Shenyang City advertised the following prices on its website (http://en.zoukiishoku.com/):

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Source: Matas and Kilgour (2007) – website archive

National and overseas donor recipients from countries such as Taiwan are paying for nothing more than state murder with huge revenues.

Although Matas and Kilgour (2007) acknowledged the potential difficulty in proving or disproving the allegations due to a lack of corpses, freedom of speech in China and information from the State, their conclusion from their research was that the allegations were true. Author Ethan Gutmann in his 2014 book “The Slaughter” declared that between 2000-2008, organs were harvested from: 65,000 Falun Gong practitioners and 2,000 – 4,000 Uyghurs, Tibetans or House Christians and Kilgour has confirmed that human organ trafficking in China is ongoing today.

In 2014 China claimed to have introduced a new computerized system including organs of both voluntary donations (following a Red Cross scheme introduced in 2010) and those of executed prisoners but this excludes prisoners of conscience and the fact that China had previously declared it would stop using organs belonging to executed prisoners (Sharif et al., 2014).

Human rights abuses

China is abusing a number of universal human rights, including: the right to lifereligious freedom and freedom from torture. Whilst the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – supported by China – is not legally binding, some of the very few international human rights conventions that China has ratified and consequential legal violations are:

These conventions establish a variety of rights including: freedom from torture and “the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health” (ICESCR, Art.12).

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The ongoing campaign

Despite investigations, reports and the ratification a number of human rights conventions, 15 years later this tragedy is ongoing. So what can we do to stop this brutality? Well for starters, how many of your friends, family members and acquaintances know about this shocking reality? The first time I heard about it myself was in London in China Town just a few years ago. There is a mountain of information online and various NGOs involved in research and campaigning such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and the organisation Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH) who launched a petition to the United Nations in 2013.

To take action, you can:

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  • Raise awareness – blog, Tweet, share, give a talk, street campaign
  • Sign the Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting petition to the UN
  • Sign the Friends of Falun Gong petition to the US Secretary of State (US and non-US residents)
  • Sign the Stop Organ Harvesting in China petition (US residents only)
  • Donate your time/money to relevant NGOs

It’s crucial that Falun Gong practitioners, Muslims, Christians and Tibetans be free from persecution. The Tibetan struggle is ongoing, religious discrimination and persecution is increasing towards Uyghur Muslims and House Christians and the issue of forced organ harvesting has not disappeared even if the media remains rather quiet.

Get signing and get shouting!

Salam!

Sources and further information:

*Images from FreeImages.com shares under a Creative Commons licence

12 Quotes Depicting Women’s Equality in Islam

There’s a lot of misconceptions about Islam – especially in relation to women and feminism. Alongside traditional “Western feminists”, there’s two common branches of Muslim feminists: “secular Muslim feminists” and “Islamic feminists“. As a Muslim woman and an Islamic feminist, I believe in feminism within Islam – both being not only compatible but mutual. In Islam men and women are different yet equal. Women are treasured in all forms – as humans beings, believers, daughters, sisters, mothers, wives…

To give a brief introduction, here are 12 quotations depicting women’s equality to men and status in Islam – belonging to the Qur’an and the ahadith (sayings/teachings) of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).

  1. “The most complete believer in faith is the best in morals, and the best among you is the best to their wives.” (Tirmidhi)
  2. “And among God’s signs is this: He created for you mates from amongst yourselves (males […] for females and vice versa) that you might find tranquility and peace in them. And he has put love and kindness among you. Herein surely are signs for those who reflect.” (Qur’an, 30: 21)
  3. “They (your wives) are your garment and you are a garment for them.” (Qur’an, 2: 187)
  4. “O Messenger of Allah! Who is most deserving of my fine treatment?” He said, “Your mother, then your mother, then your mother, then your father, then your nearest, then nearest.” (Narrated by Abu Hurairah – Bukhari and Muslim)
  5. “Observe your duty to Allah in respect to the women, and treat them well.” (Prophet Muhammed’s  Last Sermon)
  6. “I went to the Apostle of Allah (PBUH) and asked him: What do you say (command) about our wives? He replied: Give them food what you have for yourself, and clothe them by which you clothe yourself, and do not beat them, and do not revile them.” (Narrated by Mu’awiyah al-Qushayri – Abu Dawud)
  7. “Verily, women are the twin halves of men.” (Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi)
  8. “And for women are rights over men similar to those of men over women.” (Qur’an, 2: 228)weddind-rings-1419286 (2).jpg
  9. “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: and Allah is well acquainted with all that they do. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms.” (Qur’an, 24: 30-1)
  10. “When one of them gets a baby girl, his face becomes darkened with overwhelming grief. Ashamed, he hides from the people, because of the bad news given to him. He even ponders: should he keep the baby grudgingly, or bury her in the dust. Miserable indeed is their judgment.” (Qur’an, 16: 58-59)
  11. “Their Lord responded to them: “I never fail to reward any worker among you for any work you do, be you male or female – you are equal to one another.” (Qur’an, 3: 195)
  12. “The believers, men and women, are helpers, supporters, friends and protectors of one another, they enjoin all that is good, and forbid all that is evil, they offer their prayers perfectly, and give Zakah (obligatory charity) and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah will bestow Mercy on them. Surely Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.” (Qur’an, 9: 71)

So there you are – it’s a vast topic but I hope that’s given some insight into the beauty of being a Muslim woman. Abuses against women in the name of culture and through ignorance and a lack of understanding of Islam, do not represent Islam and are contrary to the rights that Allah had ordained and bestowed upon women.

Salam!

*Images are re-published under a Creative Commons licence

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10 Reasons Why We Need Human Rights

This 10th December is Human Right’s Day – marking the date when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted in 1948. It’s often been said that many of us take our rights and freedoms for granted. The term “human rights” has become a bit of a “buzz word” amongst the kind of people who love to add their comments to Daily Mail articles or on Facebook articles: “Oh not the EU and human rights!” What springs to their mind is: “terrorist extremists sponging of the state along with their families” or “we’re bending over backwards for minorities”.

Well that’s not what human rights are. Human rights offer us safety, freedom and protection. Here’s ten reasons why we NEED human rights legislation, courts, lawyers and campaigners. Of course, there are hundreds of thousands of reasons and cases but here’s a few to get us going (in no particular order).

1. Slavery, human trafficking and sexual exploitation

Forced labour, imprisonment, prostitution and human trafficking are grave issues. Slavery may have already been abolished but it’s still going on today – WORLDWIDE. According to the West Midland’s Police (UK):

Human trafficking is the most profitable crime in the world, second only to drugs. It is also a growing crime in the UK with victims exploited in four main ways – forced labour, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude and benefit fraud.

One recent new story is of Karla Jacinto – a victim of human trafficking who was lured away at the age of 12, having already been subjected to sexual abuse since the age of five by a family member. Karla was forced to work as a prostitute in Mexico and was eventually rescued by police in 2008 as part their anti-trafficking work. She confesses she was raped 43, 200 times. The horror is unimaginable.

2. Violations against freedom of speech, expression, assembly and association

lmagine living in a country where you’re unable to express your own personal and political beliefs, unable to go on peaceful demonstrations, unable to “hold an opinion”… No protesting the Syrian war, no protesting benefit cuts, no having your say… Worldwide, it’s happening – China, Venezuela, Crimea, the USA even… Take Venezuela as an example – 2014 was quoted as being “the worst year for freedom of expression” with 350 cases and 579 violations (the highest figure in 20 years) affecting journalists and those working in the media as well as members of NGOs, human rights activists and civilians:

As far as the attacks and threats against journalists and photo journalists went, the report indicated that the majority came while covering public protests. These acts of aggression included beatings, pellet shots, tear gas attacks, detainments, the confiscation of cameras and cellphones, the destruction of audiovisual and photographic material, and intimidation.

This is not an unfamiliar site if you switch on the TV news and do some research.

3. Torture, arbitrary arrest, detention or exile and restrictions against freedom of movement within and outside your own country  

Following online and offline activism – peaceful protests, blogging online, newspaper journalism, political activism – human rights defenders and regime opponents or those simply in the wrong place at the wrong time could end up being locked up and subject to torture (physical, emotional, sexual and spiritual abuse/neglect) including sexual assault and malnutrition. There’s also the case of those who are never brought to trial – whether guilty or innocent of their supposed crime(s).

Let’s take Guantanamo Bay as an example. May inmates have even never been taken to trial, are subject to torture and continue to protest their innocence. The latest news story was that of Shakeer Aamer. Shakeer was imprisoned in Guantanamo for 14 years without trial and subject to torture. Shakeer always protested his innocence – he was detained when working in Afghanistan for an Islamic charity. He was recently able to return home to the UK to be with his family. For the first time in his life he was able to meet his youngest son – aged 14.

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4. Asylum seekers

You’re fleeing religious or political persecution, torture and death, war, genocide – no safety, no peace, no security, no home… You’re a political opponent, a victim of war, a persecuted minority… British Red Cross figures from 2014 state that 52% of the worlds refugees come from four countries – with the numbers of people per country as following:

  • Syria:3 million
  • Afghanistan:7 million
  • Somalia:1 million
  • Sudan:670,000
  • South Sudan:508,000

The conflict in Syria has been and continues to be devastating, as in various other countries with ongoing conflict. Some asylum seekers however flee their countries for fear of their life due to political oppression. There are many stories – for example that of Berthe Patricia Nganga from Congo Brazzaville who fled her country in 2003 and was granted leave to remain in the UK in 2011. Berthe and her family were subject to political persecution.

“[…] being an asylum seeker is not an easy life.  I was a paediatric nurse in Congo Brazzaville, working in the local hospital and in my mother’s chemist. She was killed by the government because she didn’t support them. Then in 1998, my husband fled the country, because he was part of the opposition party too. […]People were after me […] so I had to get away.”

Once a refugee arrives in a host country, they can legally apply for asylum. Whilst seeking asylum, you cannot work but you are not “illegal” or undocumented (see further asylum seeker myths here). There are many more cases. Those at risk and in danger deserve a safe home. #refugeeswelcome

5. Discrimination and unequal protection before the law 

Restrictions of any humans rights based upon race, ethnicity, religion, etc. include:

  • The situation of the Roma and their (lack of) rights and provisions regarding housing and education in Romania.
  • The rights of the Rohingya in Myanmar and their lack of citizenship as just one example.

6. Violations to the right to privacy

There’s been a lot of concern concerning government “snooping” and anti-terrorist measures. Recently, an EU court declared that The National Security Agency is “violating the privacy rights of millions of Europeans”.

7. Divided families

At this very moment across the UK, Europe and worldwide, (potential) husbands, wives, mothers, fathers and children are separated – with their right to marriage and family life violated – due to visa restrictions. They are Divided families – Skype families. There’s an array of families who are divided due to financial restrictions. In the UK for example you need to earn minimum £18,600 (excluding added “fees” per each child) to be eligible to sponsor your spouse to come to the UK. Third party sponsors are not permitted and property and job status are not taken into consideration (there are exemptions however if you are a carer or disabled). For many, marriage is the odd holiday the couple can afford, text messages, phone calls and Facebook, Skype and What’s App time.  Many children are separated from their mommy or daddy.

8. Restrictions on religious freedom

Many religious communities worldwide are not free to practice their religion and follow their religious and spiritual beliefs. One example is China’s Muslim minority – the Uighur Muslims in the autonomous region of Xinjiang who have felt the increasing level of religious restrictions. Last Ramadan, government workers, teachers, professors and students were “banned” from fasting and “banquets” were held to “test” if Muslims were fasting or not. Women are also banned from wearing face veils, men are not permitted to have beards and shopkeepers are forced to sell alcohol.

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9. Inadequate social provision/recognition of disability

Due to the global economic crisis, government budgets have tightened – including the lowering of social security provisions. There has been a lot of concern concerning welfare provisions in the UK and a series of deaths (including suicide) of vulnerable adults. The UDHR underlines the right to an adequate standard of living and security including food, clothing, social and medical care – outlining cases of unemployment, disability and old age etc. (Article 25). Whilst many countries have no social security systems and/or a lack of care, it has been confirmed  by the UN that the UK has violated the rights of disabled citizens. In fact, figures from the UK Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) state that:

Nearly 90 people a month are dying after being declared fit for work.

The figures are truly shocking. The State is obliged to care for and protect its citizens.

10. Child soldiers and child labour

Children should be in school, enjoying their younger years. According to the UDHR, they are entitled in minimum terms to free (compulsory) elementary education (Article 26). Children do not belong in war. Children are being used as spies and suicide bombers in Afghanistan and soldiers in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic (to name just a few examples).  In addition, although the number has decreased, there are 168 million children worldwide working in child labour.

So there we have it – ten of just many reasons why human rights legislation, courts, protocols and campaigners are essential. So, what can you do to help you may ask?

  • Sign online petitions, blog, tweet and and right letters (see my article about Amnesty International’s Write to Rights Campaign this month)
  • Organise talks and events
  • Fundraise and donate to NGOs
  • Volunteer your time and skills within NGOs
  • Join local and university human rights groups to collaborate together
  • Start a career in human rights – become a human rights lawyer, campaigner, fundraiser etc. or you could lend your skills to bodies and organisations through other professional means – translation, interpreting and journalism to name just a few roles.

Research your cause, brainstorm, design your strategy and make a set of goals. Get out there or online and spread the word and raise awareness! Happy campaigning folks!

Salam!

For information on human rights law see:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The European Convention of Human Rights

The United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime

Convention on the Rights of the Child

The Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict

Image credits:

Images are shared under a Creative Commons licence

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Trump Supporters – #visitamosque

1914890_652143878515_4679132_nRight-wing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump last month, when asked in an interview, declared he would be in favour of special security measures for Muslims in the US: ID cards and a database in which they’ll be on record…Yellow stars spring to mind…

Hearing this reminded me of the not so distant ideas of Nazi Germany. While in no way whatsoever am I comparing the Jewish Holocaust and the tragedy that the Jewish community suffered to such current events, the situation is this:

Muslims have been identified as “troublemakers”, “a cause for concern” and Trump’s comments are singling out a community en masse.

Trump expressed his concerns for the need for surveillance and security in the fight against terrorism. Visually singling out the Jews by making them wear a yellow star in Nazi Germany wasn’t due to apparent “security concerns” – it was due to a deep seated prejudice and blatant scapegoating of religious-cultural community by a lunatic fascist. Whilst in the US and worldwide, there have been an unfortunate series of terrorist attacks committed through ISIS which all citizens (both Muslim and non-Muslim) need to be protected from, beneath the surface however, this suggestion was not innocent of discrimination and Islamophobia. The idea of Muslim ID or a database still “otherises” an entire community.

In relation to Islam, in an interview with Al Jazeera Trump said:

“We’ve heard it over and over again. The word  Islam means peace. As Muslims we have been commanded to live in peace and respect our neighbours. Islam teaches that the killing of one innocent person is the killing of all mankind.”

Trump claims to recognise the meaning and worth of Islam and how it doesn’t represent terrorism but it doesn’t sound like he’s very convinced to me or even ready to stand with Muslims: “We’ve heard it over and over again” sounds somewhat tiresome, disinterested and disengaged. As a Muslim I’ll repeat – such teachings of peace are true Islam. The facts don’t change and what’s also true is that as a functioning loyal member of European society, I – just like the majority of Muslims – pose no risk to society and the same goes for American Muslims. No community should be posed as a “risk” or “security concern” and singled out just for being who they are. It’s been stated this community’s fundamental beliefs are peace, kindness and respect and to do doubt otherwise is revealing of further ills in society.

Since receiving online criticism via a series of tweets by Muslims in the US, Trump has dropped the idea. Yet, the problem still remains: intolerance and Islamophobia. Just check out these figures on Trump supporters:

-58% of Trump voters think thousands of Arabs in New Jersey celebrated the attacks of 9/11

-53% of Trump supporters are in favor of a national database of Muslims

-49% of Trump supporters want to shut down the mosques in the United States

Trump supporters are apparently uncomfortable with American Muslims and aren’t familiar with the concept of religious freedom. They certainly aren’t well informed or engaged with the Muslim community.

Islamophobia (as well as anti-Jewish sentiment) is  on the rise – including sporadic Islamophobic attacks on members of the public such as women in headscarves as “visible victims” proudly fulfilling their commitment to God and exerting their rights to freedom of religion. Well, I’m proud to be a Muslim and I’m proud to be British. I’m proud of my faith and the freedom it offers me and the US as a democracy should not discriminate through religion. In the current climate, different communities need to work together – not become (further) divided.

So to Trump, I say:

#hijabismyID 

And to Trump supporters, I say:

#visitamosque – go see the peace in action: engage, discuss, talk to Muslims, ask for a guided tour around the mosque. There was an initiative not so long ago in the UK, plus other lovely news stories such as that of a lady at a rally in the US who was met with a hug by a Muslim lady and later visited a local mosque – taking home a copy of the Qur’an in English. Build bridges, not hatred. It’s not fair on Muslims and it’s not going to beat terrorism.

Salam!

*Images from FreeImages.com are re-published under a Creative Commons licence

Write For Rights – your words, their hope, our change

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Forced marriage, imprisonment, torture… This December there’s a global campaign to show solidarity, lobby governments and fight against human rights abuses worldwide – and the best bit is that anyone can get involved.

It’s international Human Right’s Day on December 10th and whilst many of us take our fundamental universal freedoms for granted – including freedom of expression, association and assembly – many human rights lawyers, writers, advocates and peaceful protesters will be lying in prison, at risk of torture, malnutrition, ill-health and emotional despair and many others will face oppression and abuse.

This December, longstanding international human rights NGO Amnesty International is running its “Write For Rights” campaign. By getting involved you can show solidarity, give hope to prisoners of conscience and put pressure on local authorities. It really does work. Taking action and spreading the word could be something as simple as writing a letter, tweeting a solidarity message, signing an online petition, writing a blog or whatever sparks your imagination.

The Write For Rights campaign has many successes. It has led to the release of prisoners of conscience and people who’ve been falsely accused and imprisoned worldwide. Amnesty has achieved major breakthroughs over the years and some of their recent developments and success stories from 2014 as a result of its wide range of campaigns have been:

– The scrapping of previous legislation in Morocco wherein rapists could avoid prosecution by forcing their victim into marriage.

For example, one young Moroccan lady named Amina Filali committed suicide in March 2012 after being forced to marry her rapist.

– The creation of a global arms trade treaty.

– The release of 84 children detained for six months in Cameroon.

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To date there’s a variety of cases, such as the current campaign in Burkina Faso to stop girls as young as 13 years old being forced into marriage.

Get your voice heard! As Frederich Nietzsche once said: “All I need is a sheet of paper and something to write with, and I can turn the world upside down.” Check out the website and case studies and write for rights!

You can view a full list of all Amnesty’s campaigns on their website.

Image credits:

http://FreeImages.com/Matteo Canessa

http://FreeImages.com/spydermurp

Article originally published on Cafe Babel, authored by Elizabeth Arif-Fear