Those Muslims in Bridgeview Did Nothing Wrong, Either


In the Name of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

Today, Muslims in the Chicago area are on high alert after alleged online threats were made against a mosque in South-suburban Chicago:

“F – – – – – – Muslims burn down christian churches in France! We got to start breaking some rules putting these n – – – – – in check

[…]

I’d like to start with that mosque down the street . . . Eye for an eye tooth for a tooth

And then someone else chimed in:

Haha . . . yep . . . maybe we should walk down the middle of the street without a worry in the world like they do shootin every one of them!!!!

Authorities, who have taken this threat very seriously and are actively investigating, have determined that the poster lives in the same community as the mosque.

What have these Muslims in Bridgeview to do with what has happened in France? What do these Muslims have to do with the terror of KIL (aka, “ISIS”)? Why should these Muslims be attacked in “revenge”?

Is this right? Is this proper? Absolutely not. This is as wrong as a crazy Muslim fanatic attacking an American for the crimes – real or imagined – of America around the world.

And for the record, Muslims are not burning down churches in France. But, a whole host of mosques have been attacked in France in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack. Any violence against anyone – in the name of anything – is wrong and must be condemned.

May the Precious Beloved protect all of us from the violence of the hateful and intolerant, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

Reflecting On The Charlie Hebdo Attack: For Muslim Eyes Only


In the Name of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

Hundreds of thousands of people rallied all across France today in solidarity after two gunmen – apparently seeking to “defend the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)” – stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 people. The magazine has remained defiant, vowing to continue publication of its, many times, caustic headlines and editorials. And the whole of France is behind it, vigorously defending freedom of speech and expression.

Now, indeed, I did tweet out – in the wake of the attack – with the hashtag “JeSuisCharle,” or “I am Charlie.” I stand by those tweets. I do not – and will never – support the maligning of the Prophet Muhammad in any publication. I never liked the particulary ugly portrayals of the Prophet Muhammad in that magazine. Moreover, I followed up with tweets supporting the Muslim police officer who was also killed during the attack, Ahmed Merabet, with the hashtag “JeSuisAhmed,” or “I am Ahmed.”

But I do not – and will never – support violence and murder in response to the denigration of the Prophet (pbuh). Violence and murder is no way to “defend the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).” The murders of the journalists in Paris did not “avenge” the Prophet (pbuh). The murderers did not “honor” him but, rather, they spat in his face.

The Qur’an says in clear language:

And, indeed, He has enjoined upon you in this divine write that, whenever you hear people deny the truth of God’s messages and mock at them, you shall avoid their company until they begin to talk of other things – or else, you will become like them. Behold, God will gather together those who deny the truth and the hypocrites in Hell. (4:140)

Now, whenever you meet such as indulge in [blasphemous] talk about Our messages, turn your back upon them until they begin to talk of other things, and if Satan should ever cause you to forget [yourself], remain not, after recollection, in the company of such evildoing folk. (6:68)

There is no mention of lashing out in violence; No mention of having to violently attack in “revenge.” The Prophet was constantly ridiculed, even by his own family, and he did not have the elite of the Quraysh who were his followers respond violently. In fact, the Qur’an is full of verses that respond to the attacks against his character, such as these:

For this fellow-man of your is not a madman (81:22)

Behold, this [Qur’an] is indeed the [inspired] word of a noble apostle. And is not – however little you may [be prepared to] believe it – the word of a poet. And neither is it – however little you may [be prepared to] take it to heart – the word of a soothsayer. [It is] a revelation from the Sustainer of all the worlds. (69:40-43)

Again, no mention that violence needed to be meted to those who attacked the Prophet’s character.

Now, some may say that verses 6:68 and 4:140 were revealed at at time when the Prophet was weak and could not react violently. Indeed, chapter 6 was revlealed in Mecca, when he was indeed weak. Chapter 4, however, was revealed in Medina, where the Prophet was both politically and militarily stronger. Yet, the message of the two verses, revealed months – if not years – apart is the same: turn away from those who mock God and His Prophet. It does not say “kill them.”

In addition, the Qur’an also says:

Repel evil with that which is best: We are well acquainted with the things they say. (23:96)

Nor can goodness and Evil be equal. Repel (Evil) with what is better: Then will he between whom and thee was hatred become as it were thy friend and intimate! (41:34)

Is murder “that which is best”? Is attacking unarmed journalists – in any way, shape, or form – repelling “evil with that which is best”? Absolutely not! As the Qur’an says, God knows exactly what people are saying about the Prophet (pbuh). Still, it says to repel evil with that which is best. And the Prophet (pbuh) did so during his whole life.

Also, read this verse in the Qur’an:

But do not revile those [beings] whom they invoke instead of God, lest they revile God out of spite, and in ignorance: for, goodly indeed have We made their own doings appear unto every community In time, [however,] unto their Sustainer they must return: and then He will make them [truly] understand all that they were doing. (6:108)

In his commentary on this verse, Muhammad Asad wrote:

It is in the nature of [humanity] to regard the beliefs which have been implanted in him from childhood, and which he now shares with his social environment, as the only true and possible ones – with the result that a polemic against those beliefs often tends to provoke a hostile psychological reaction.

Please think about it. What was the result of this heinous attack? Did other newspapers refrain from printing cartoons denigrating the Prophet (pbuh)? No. They reprinted them all over the world. If it bothers people – as it should – that the Prophet is denigrated in a cartoon, then why respond in a way that will ensure more denigration?

In fact, future cartoons – in response to this ugly attack – may be even worse and more vulgar, just as Asad had written decades ago. Again, no one should be murdered for any reason. Period. But to murder someone in order to “avenge the Prophet (pbuh)” – apart from being horribly wrong and terribly sinful – will only guarantee that more people will follow in Charlie Hebdo’s footsteps and malign the Prophet (pbuh) even further.

In addition, during the lifetime of the Prophet (pbuh), countless poets wrote denigrating poetry against him and Islam. At that time, poetry was like the Internet: it spread like wildfire. What was his response? He had his poet, Hassan ibn Thabit, respond. And the Prophet (pbuh) told Hassan (r): “Respond. God and the Angels are with you.”

Why not follow in the Prophet’s footsteps in this way? Why not write a letter to the newspaper? Meet with the editorial board? Respond with a cartoon decrying the denigration of – not only the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – but any Prophet or sacred symbol. Anything but violence and terror! Anything!

Yes, many of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons were overtly vulgar, racist, and xenophobic. Yes, they seemed to purposefully attack the Prophet (pbuh). In fact, Charlie Hebdo seemed to have a double standard when it comes to Islam and Muslims: in 2009, the magazine fired cartoonist Maurice Sinet for making anti-Semitic remarks.

Still, we have to be better than they. That is the example of our Prophet which is the most important to follow: he was better than his enemies. His character was beyond reproach. He was better than those who constantly attacked and denigrated him. That is why – among many other things – God revealed chaper 12 (Joseph): to show the Prophet that he – just like Joseph forgave his brothers, despite all they did to him – should also forgive his enemies, despite all they did to him.

That is the challenge of Islam to those who embrace its teachings: to respond to ugliness with beauty. It may not be easy. In fact, it may be a struggle or, in other words, a jihad. But that is the jihad to which Islam – true Islam – refers, not the barbaric, twisted version that these gunmen – and all their ilk all across the world – believe is the truth.

I say today and every day: Non. Pas en mon nom. Ni maintenant, Ni jamais. This is to say: “No. Not in my name. Not now, not ever.” The barbaric attack against Charlie Hebdo, and all others like it, is not the right way to respond to attacks on our faith. Not now, not ever.

Post-Script:

To those non-Muslims who also read this piece: Did you think that, when I said “For Muslim Eyes Only,” it would be a screed praising what happened in Paris? Did you think that this could have been “proof” of how Muslims practice “taqiyya”? If the answer is “yes,” then – as can be seen above – you are wholly mistaken.

“JeSuisAhmed”: Do Not Tie Islam And Muslims To The Paris Barbarians


In The Name Of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

In the aftermath of the terrible shooting of police officers in New York City, writer Mychal Denzel Smith wrote in The Nation:

The entire chain of events is tragic. Brinsley’s heinous actions have been condemned from all corners. But that hasn’t stopped some people from placing the blame for Liu and Ramos’s death on the current nationwide anti-police brutality movement, flying under the banner “Black Lives Matter.”

He also quoted a statement by a group called Ferguson Action:

Unfortunately, there have been attempts to draw misleading connections between this movement and today’s tragic events. Millions have stood together in acts of non-violent civil disobedience, one of the cornerstones of our democracy. It is irresponsible to draw connections between this movement and the actions of a troubled man who took the lives of these officers and attempted to take the life of his ex-partner, before ultimately taking his own. Today’s events are a tragedy in their own right. To conflate them with the brave activism of millions of people across the country is nothing short of cheap political punditry.

This, of course, is correct and should apply to all such situations. When it comes to Muslims, however, there is this persistent desire to tie all Muslims and Islam to the actions of a small minority of criminals.

Thus, CNN’s Don Lemon asks Muslim human rights lawyer Arsalan Iftikhar, “Do you support ISIS?” Many Right-wing anti-Muslim activists are saying, “I told you so!” And, of course, people are asking – once again – “Where are the Muslim voices of condemnation?” (Here they are, but some can’t – or do not want to – listen).

And as Katie Halper of Raw Story correctly said:

Interestingly, as a Jew, I don’t usually get asked to condemn extremism when it is perpetuated by Jewish fundamentalists like Baruch Goldstein, who shot 29 praying Muslims do death, and injured 125, at the Cave of the Patriarchs, or Yigal Amir, who killed Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Yet, Muslims constantly do get asked because, for some reason, many people cannot understand that the terrorism committed by Muslims should not tar Islam, even if the terrorists shout “Allahu Akbar” and say “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad.”

Yet, the truth is that the overwhelming majority of Muslims have nothing to do with the actions of the criminal few that have caused so much damage across the world. In fact, Muslims all over the world work every single day to bring good and help make it a better place.

Case in point: Ahmed Merabat, the French police officer who was killed at point blank range by one of the gunmen in Paris. He was guarding the offices of Charlie Hebdo on the day of the attack, and he was killed in the process. A Muslim died defending the very newspaper that maligned his faith.

This should come as no surprise. Muslims the world over are not only revulsed by the actions of the barbarians (“extremist” is too kind a word), but they are frequently the victims of said barbarians. Officer Merabat was one of those victims. I am proud to be his brother in faith, and may God keep his soul and grace him with His Mercy.

And there were other Muslims like Office Merabat: Muslims such as Waleed Shaalan, a graduate student at Virginia Tech who died while distracting the gunman to save a fellow student; and Mohammad Salman Hamdani, a firefighter who died as a first responder on 9/11. Stories of Muslims like these far outnumber the stories of the barbarians who kill in the name of Islam.

Indeed, there are more voices making this call – not to tie all Muslims with the actions of the few criminals acting in their name – such as Nicholas Kristof, who recently wrote:

So let’s avoid religious profiling. The average Christian had nothing to apologize for when Christian fanatics in the former Yugoslavia engaged in genocide against Muslims. Critics of Islam are not to blame because an anti-Muslim fanatic murdered 77 people in Norway in 2011.

Let’s also acknowledge that the most courageous, peace-loving people in the Middle East who are standing up to Muslim fanatics are themselves often devout Muslims. Some read the Quran and blow up girls’ schools, but more read the Quran and build girls’ schools. The Taliban represents one brand of Islam; the Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai the polar opposite.

And there were those wonderful citizens in Australia who stood by their fellow Muslim citizens with the hashtag #Illridewithyou following the attack on the cafe in Sydney. I pray more follow in their footsteps.

In the aftermath of the Paris attack, I proudly tweeted with the hashtag “JeSuisCharlie,” or “I am Charlie,” even though I wholly disagree with their maligning my beloved Prophet Muhammad. That is because, no matter what they said about the Prophet, nothing justifies the murder of their journalists. That is no way to show love for the Prophet Muhammad and his teachings.

But, I am also very proud and blessed to say “JeSuisAhmed,” or “I am Ahmed,” in honor of the courageous French Muslim officer who died in the attack in Paris. His story shows the whole world that, for every one barbarian killing in the name of Islam, there are tens of millions of peaceful Muslims standing up and yelling loud and clear, in French and every other language of the world: Non! Pas en mon nom! Pas maintenant, ni jamais!, which is to say: “No! Not in my name! Not now, not ever!”

Addas: A Poem For The Prophet’s Birthday


In The Name Of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

I saw you there, feet bloodied and raw
Aghast at the display of man’s deep flaw
As you sat there in rest and shade from sun
My master gave me task to see it done

“Take these to him, our distant cousin true.
Do not avoid this task. So see it through.”
And so I brought you grapes, so fresh and sweet
A welcome gift as you – from hate – retreat

As blood and sweat do flow from foot and shin
You take my my gift, still reeling from great sin
Mine eyes do widen when I hear from thee
“In Name of God.” An act with which I agree

“How say this phrase? Your kith this word eschew.”
“From where does brother hail? Please tell me true.”
“From Nineveh do fathers flow in line.”
“Ah! Land of Jonah grand, O friend of mine!”

“How do you know of Jonah? Your kith does not.”
“He is my kin; we both are in God’s lot.”
At once I saw a thing not seen before
A light that shone, so bright, like those of yore

And then I fell to kiss your holy hand
I knew that I beheld a Prophet grand
My masters did then come, with anger bold
“What was this? Your foul move we did behold!”

“The man that sits beneath that tree with shade
His countenance has light that God has made!”
“Leave not your ways!” They say with scorn
“‘Tis best,” they say, “to keep on path that’s worn.”

“But nay! This is the path of light, you see
The path of love, of grace, felicity!”
Though sad, was I, when you did wince in pain
When paths did cross, ’twas my eternal gain!

Fighting Racism Has To Be A Priority For People Of Faith


In The Name Of God: The Infinitely Merciful And Compassionate Beloved Lord

The recent events surrounding Ferguson and New York City are painful reminders that all is not well with regards to race in our country. Yes, we have a biracial President, and that is something to be celebrated (his policies on various issues notwithstanding). Nevertheless, there is still much we need to do as a society.

And the fight against racism has to be a priority for people of faith for, in its essence, racism is a spiritual disease. In the Islamic tradition, in fact, the sin of racism goes back to Satan himself. In the Qur’an, it says that God had shaped Adam out of clay and then breathed into him from God’s Spirit. Afterwards, He ordered both the Angels and Satan to prostrate themselves before Adam. Satan refused, saying:

I am better than he: You created me out of fire, whereas him you created out of clay. (7:12)

Because of this arrogant refusal, Satan was expelled from the Garden.

Satan refused a direct commandment of God because of racism: he felt he was better than Adam – not because of what Satan had done – but because of what he was:  a being created out of fire. Yet, his being created out of fire was not his choice, but God’s. Thus, he had no right to feel any sort of superiority over Adam.

So should it be with humanity. Our skin color, our ethnicity, our racial background was chosen for us by God Himself. Thus, we have no right to feel better than anyone because of who we are as people. We have no right to feel better than anyone because our skin is this color or that; or our language is this or that; or our physical looks are this or that.

Indeed, the Qur’an states:

O humanity! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware. (49:13)

The Prophet Muhammad said in his famous farewell Hajj address:

All humanity is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.

These same principles are also taught in Judaism and Christianity. Thus, people of faith must be at the forefront – and many are – of the fight against racism and bigotry. We are all children of God, and if we truly love and believe in Him, we must do all that we can to help relieve the suffering of His children from whatever afflicts them. And that includes those children who suffer from the fires of racial hatred and bigotry.

And if we ourselves have whispers of racial bias in our hearts; if we ever look at someone else with scorn because of their ethnic background, or skin color, or language that they speak, we must check our own selves. We must pause and seek refuge in God, for these whispers come from Satan himself. And as we all know, it was Satan himself who invented the sin of racism.

Why ISIS and Their IlK Fill Us With Outrage


In The Name of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

Let us leave aside the fact that the barbarians – “extremists” is too kind a word – of ISIS, the Taliban, Boko Haram, and others are murderous psychopaths. Let us leave aside the fact that these monsters are sick, depraved animals – “human beings” is too inaccurate a word. Let us leave aside the fact that these criminals are the very antithesis of civilization.

The actions of these so-called “holy warriors” are truly heinous: killing innocent people without any regard; enslaving women and girls – in complete contravention to basic human decency – to fulfill deviant sexual desires; destroying religious shrines and houses of worship. These actions are enough to fill any decent human being with outrage, and they do fill me with outrage.

Yet, what makes these despicable acts even more horrific in my eyes is the fact that they try to justify their actions using Islam. They claim that Islam gives them sanction for all the ugly crimes they commit. They claim that they are following the “true teachings” of Islam, and all those who oppose their sick and twisted views are “infidels” and “apostates.”

I swear by the Holy Face of God that their claims are false…utterly false to the core.

What these people are doing is resurrecting the barbarism of old – the barbarism that Islam came to eliminate – and cloaking it with the sacred garb of Islam. All that they do: their murder, their rape, their destruction, has nothing to do with Islam, even if they claim the opposite. No. It is the Ignorance of Old, Jahiliyah in Arabic, and no matter how hard they try, the effort to cover this ugliness with beauty of Islam falls flat on its face.

Our religion is too precious to be used by these barbarian criminals as cover for their crimes. Our religion is too pure to be hijacked by this tiny fringe of the global Muslim community. Our religion is too sacred to be even touched by the blood-soaked hands of these satanic deviants.

The fact that they even dare extend their hands and try to touch our religion fills me with outrage. And it has also filled the overwhelming majority of Muslims the world over with outrage. That’s why the barbarians and their filth has been roundly condemned and rejected.

Now, let me say this: I can almost hear detractors yelling out to me: “Where is your outrage at the crimes committed by America? Where is your outrage at the innocents killed by your drones; or the torture by your CIA?

Of course, these things are wrong, and they must stop. And I perpetually condemn all violence against the innocent: I always have, and I always will.

Yet, I also cannot stay silent with there are people who use the Holy Name of our God in vain with their violence; I cannot stay silent when they defile the fabric of our beautiful faith with the stains of their filth; I cannot stay silent when they spit in the face of our Prophet by attributing their crimes to his shining Tradition.

Our religion is too precious for that.

“God, Faith, and a Pen” Is Back!


In the Name of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

After a long hiatus, I am proud to announce that God, Faith, and a Pen is back! I had moved my main area of writing to ChicagoNow, which was a great run. But, I realized that I needed another outlet for my writing, particularly for a Muslim audience. Thus, I decided to bring back God, Faith, and a Pen. Many of my “Muslim-focused” posts did not fit that well in ChicagoNow. They should fit very well on this site.

I am still actively writing on my Beliefnet column, and I encourage you to check that site out regularly. Yet, God, Faith, and a Pen will once again be the home of a good deal of my writing, especially with topics that cater to a Muslim audience. Looking forward to seeing all of you on all of my columns and blogs.

Peace!