Protesting in Islamic tradition

Given current events relating #BlackLivesMatter protests and some misinformation being promulgated by a few leaders of Muslim organizations, the following will give a few points on protesting from the Islamic tradition.

In surah 4, ayah 148, Allah (SWT) says Allah does not love the publicizing of evil except for whoever has been wronged, and Allah is the All-Hearing, All-Knowing.  Ibn Abbas (RA) stated that one meaning of this is that the oppressed can make du’a for assistance against the oppressor.  Al-Hasan Al-Basri (RH) stated the oppressed can seek assistance pertaining to the oppressor.

Musa (AS) is the most mentioned prophet in the Qur’an.  Musa (AS) was involved in protesting systematic abuse from Fir’awn.  It was more than a policy that Musa (AS) protested but an entire system that was designed to oppress the Children of Israel and those who disagreed with Fir’awn.

Thousands of years later, the People of Al-Madinah protested the governance of Yazid bin Mu’awiyah, who was a wine-drinker and did not uphold the five daily prayers.  Up to ten thousand Madani people, which included some Sahabah, were martyred over a three day period for their protesting Yazid. Of course, there was the protest of Al-Husayn bin Ali (SA) against Yazid’s government, which led to his and his followers being martyred at Karbala. Those noble souls preferred to protest and face death with dignity than to just have a “seat at the table” of corruption.

There are more stories from the history of prophets, Salaf and the imams of fiqh where public challenging of systemic injustices was voiced.

There are times when those who lack positional power whose grievances are continuously ignored have no option but to raise their voices in public dissent is the point.  Hence, this is why people including many Muslims have taken to the streets in #BlackLivesMatter protests.


Path forward needed for stronger Arab-Black solidarity

Path forward needed for stronger Arab-Black solidarity
By Rana Elmir & Dawud Walid | Friday, 12.12.2014, 04:01 AM


As protests erupt across the U.S. in reaction to the non-indictments of two White male police officers who killed two unarmed Black men, a discussion on the state of race relations in this country has also taken hold – particularly between the Arab American and African American communities. Parts of this conversation have been healthy, some ill-informed, but all of it has been necessary.  

Unfortunately, recent events reflect that there is still a significant portion of people of our communities who don’t understand that our lived experiences with discrimination, racism, prejudice are more similar than they are different. 

The U.S. has always been a land of dichotomy. On one hand, it’s been a land of hope for immigrants who seek the “American Dream” of economic prosperity, quality education and religious freedom. 

On the other, the American Dream has been imperfect and used as a sword to perpetuate atrocities against communities of color – 95 percent of Native Americans were murdered and their land stolen, more than three centuries of chattel slavery of Africans, a significant percentage of those enslaved being Muslims, Jim Crow Era segregation, Japanese internment camps, extrajudicial killing, deportation and targeting and the list goes on and on. 

As groups of people immigrate here, many fail to see past the promise of a better life to the structural racism in which the U.S. was established upon and that persists in every facet of government. This is a legacy that shamefully continues to marginalize communities of color through economic and educational disenfranchisement and a broken justice system that makes interactions with law enforcement and our judicial system a matter of life and death. 

Make no mistake, these are systems designed to marginalize certain groups, while providing unencumbered de facto privilege to all of those who are outside of those groups.  

Arabs and Muslims are no strangers to the consequences built on a broken system. They know all too well about the pernicious oppression which causes abject poverty and educational inequities. They know all too well about the unfairness of militarized police tactics and lopsided court proceedings. Arabs and Muslims have lived these realities in the U.S. and abroad and spoke out in mass protests that were heard across the globe. 

When the Arab Spring launched from Tunisia, then Egypt and beyond, there was much compassion shown for people in the streets who protested against economic turmoil, joblessness and heavy handed police tactics, even as protests turned violent.  However, many people in the Arab American community utterly fail to have similar empathy for African Americans who have resorted to similar protests due to centuries of these conditions – instead focusing on the small amount of violence, looting and arson to justify the police actions. 

When the Occupy Wall Street movement, which was predominately White, took place proclaiming inspiration from the Arab Spring, many in our communities felt pride and similarly praised the 99 percent, even when those protests turned violent and disruptive. The same individuals now criticize #HandsUpDontShoot and #ICantBreathe protests and shake their heads at the desperation being expressed in the communities under  siege.  

This is the very definition of cognitive dissonance– the discomfort we feel when we hold contradictory beliefs and therefore begin to distance ourselves from the very ideas and people that cause this discomfort. 

It could be argued that the discomfort being experienced and expressed in the Arab American community has been influenced by the notion of white supremacy, which also leads to implicit racism.  While it is common among us to view Arabs abroad as suppressed people struggling for dignity and White Americans exercising their right to protest, we do not extend those liberties in viewing the African American struggle.  

This is evident from social media posts that we both have read to Thanksgiving dinner conversations that have been relayed to us in which community leaders and members identify with the broken system as opposed to the victims of that system and place blame for the heavy handed policing of African American community squarely on the community itself.  

We’ve even seen some in the community shamefully regurgitate the bigotry and hatred of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim zealots calling Black people “thugs,” “lazy” and behaving like “animals.” By repeating these tired tropes, the Arab American community is not only saying that these protesters are powerless, but as a community, they are saying that they are not worthy of power, or even hope. 

This could be a watershed moment for the Arab American community – approach this moral crisis thoughtfully and directly or continue in the same manner tacitly approving the very system that is used to keep Arab Americans without power.  

On Thursday, Dec. 18, we will both be part of a #TakeOnHate discussion at the Arab American National Museum entitled “REAL TALK: Where’s the Solidarity? From Ferguson to Dearborn.” The purpose of this town hall will be to have a frank discussion about Arab and Black relations, which will hopefully grow into a formal solidarity movement. 

Before the two communities can work together in the face of systemic discrimination, there has to be time for honest conversations and healing. After all, neither community can make the progress that is needed to build political power without empathy and solidarity. Justice is about more than just us. γ

-Rana Elmir is the deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU-MI). Dawud Walid is the executive director of Council of American Islamic Relations in Michigan (CAIR-MI).

Foster care placement bill is another lame duck disaster

DEC 10, 2014, 6:00 AM

Foster care placement bill is another lame duck disaster


Lame duck lawmakers in Lansing are at it again, passing controversial legislation as they did two years ago.

One such bill, which just made it out of the House, is Bill No. 4991. On its face, 4991 will protect the sincerely held religious beliefs of non-government agencies that are involved in child placement. In reality, this bill, if it is passed by the State Senate then signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, will open up the door to religious-based discrimination that will be enabled by tax dollars.

I believe strongly that religious non-profit organizations and institutions have the right to discriminate based upon their bona religious beliefs and values in some circumstances. Churches, temples and mosques have the right not to hire clergy who disbelieve in their particular theologies. It would make no sense for an Evangelical Church to be compelled to hire — or even consider — a rabbi as its pastor, for instance. Likewise, private religious schools have the right to exclude teachers who believe and articulate issues that run counter to the institution’s doctrines. I wouldn’t want an atheist to be teaching religious studies at the Islamic school which my children attend. This is protected discrimination of non-profit religious organizations under the Free Exercise Clause.

The problem with this legislation is that it would allow discretion of placement agencies receiving tax dollars to deny placing children in suitable foster care homes based upon moral subjectivity.

It is simply inappropriate for agencies receiving state funding to have the ability to discriminate as to how children are placed in foster care homes based on their self-determined religious or moral convictions. We simply cannot trust the goodwill of organizations to place children in suitable homes for their overall well-being in, when those entities and their employees could have religious and political biases against certain segments of the population.

With all of the economic and educational challenges facing our state, it’s mind-boggling that such divisive legislation would be introduced by the House. If passed into law, this will undoubtedly be challenged in the courts and add to the perception that many hold across America that Michigan is a dysfunctional state.

If this passes the State Senate, I hope Gov. Snyder shows the good sense to veto the legislation,  which appears, on its face, to be unconstitutional. It’s better for the State Senate at this point to do nothing and clean out their offices instead of passing legislation that will waste hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money in defending it from litigation at the federal level.