I Stand With The Victims of Sexual Abuse


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

I am very proud to add my name as a signatory to the letter below. My heart cries out in anguish and terrible anger at the alleged abuse by a Chicago-area Imam.

Dear Muslim Sisters and Brothers:

In light of recent sexual assault allegations in Chicago, we submit the following.

As scholars and religious leaders, we write to address the very grave matter of sexual abuse and criminal, predatory behavior perpetrated by religious leaders within our community.  We must bear witness to the spiritual and legal teachings of our faith. We must denounce this heinous form of oppression and violation. In our traditions, we have higher objectives that require us to protect lives and children.  We must turn our hands against the perpetrators. We must hold the criminals to account before God and the American judicial system. We must work for the healing of the survivors, their families, and loved ones. And, we must put in place new checks and balances to protect current and future generations from such appalling, and soul-tearing violation.

It is important to note at the outset that this is not merely a legal issue.  It is about the rescue and rehabilitation of souls that have been violated in the worst imaginable way.  Their trust has been betrayed. Their bodies and souls have been violated. And, because these crimes have been perpetrated by religious leaders, their relationship with their faith and with God has been poisoned.  The scars of sexual violence are life-long. The survivors must bear them for the rest of their lives.

This letter, then, first and foremost, is written in a spirit of loving support and prayerful solidarity with the survivors. Second, it calls for a community-wide revolution in the way we respond to this evil within our communities.

In this spirit, then, we humbly offer a few points.

1. As Muslims and people of faith, we must stand for justice.

O you believers! Hold up justice, as witnesses to God, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, regardless of whether he be rich or poor. God is a better Protector to both (than you). [Surah al-Nisa 4:135]

Thus, regardless of what our families or the community might say, regardless of the position or status of the perpetrator, we must stand together as witnesses before God.  To do otherwise is to ignore God’s clear teaching as well as betray the victims.

2.  Seek immediate help.

If you know or are a victim of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, or sexual assault, seek immediate help. We often think that sexual violence is only rape. For further examples, please check here.

If you do not know how or where to seek help, begin with a trusted family member or friend or teacher, who can help you access the professional resources that exist for victims within and beyond the community.  Qualified and compassionate people are waiting to help, and so we have both a personal and collective obligation to ensure that the victims get help, immediately.

Even if the incident(s) you experienced were from long ago, seek help. The effects of such trauma are long lasting.

3. Inform law enforcement.

We must never hesitate to inform law enforcement when a crime has been committed, especially one of such a heinous and serious nature.  Officers are given special training for the care, interviewing, and protection of victims of sexual violence. They have strict rules for confidentiality.  The police have the power to intervene so that the victim will be protected from further abuse.  Law enforcement must be part of our community’s collective strategy for combatting this criminal behavior within our mosques, schools, and families.

Even if the abuse and violation occurred a long time ago, law enforcement should be informed immediately, as there may still be time for investigation, prosecution, and protection for both the survivor(s). We must also protect others who are in danger of being violated by the sexual predator. For the importance of consulting local law on such matters, please check here.

4. Support the victim.

As believing women and men, we must stand together for the sanctity and beauty and innocence of the victims. The prominence, fame, or power of the perpetrator should not affect our support for the victim.  God says very clearly that His covenant does not include oppressors [Surah al-Baqarah 2:124]. Our compassionate focus must be on the victims of oppression.

If you have been affected or have a family member who was affected by sexual violence, we urge you to stand with and for the survivor. We urge you to seek help by way of professional counseling and legal intervention. We urge you to cling to hope; for all things, including healing, are possible with God.  The perpetrators should seek their own repentance with Allah, but we must support the victim.

5. Do not blame or shame the victim.

Allah does not like the public mention of evil except by one who has been wronged. And ever is Allah Hearing and Knowing. [Surah al-Nisa 4:148]

We must support and protect the victims.  It is unacceptable to blame, shame, or silence the victims. As mentioned in the above ayah, Allah does allow victims to make public mention of evil.

We must protect the victim and pursue justice. It is never the victim’s fault for getting abused. There is nothing s/he could have done to invite such behavior, as sexual violence is a matter of the perpetrator abusing his/her power against another.

Victim blaming is one of the main reasons survivors do not come forward and seek justice. Community silence allows abusers to continue their crimes in their homes and communities.  Let us not be responsible for silencing those who have been oppressed.

Sending sincere prayers of God’s peace, mercy and blessings to one and all.

Nuance For Everything Else Except Islam


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

In the wake of the horrific murders of the three young American Muslim college students in North Carolina, there was much said about the fact that the killer – Craig Stephen Hicks – was an atheist who railed against religion on his social media sites.

Thus, many people sought out the response of famed “New Atheist” Sam Harris, who has been a frequent critic of Islam and its doctrines. He published his response in the Washington Post, and I reproduce it here in its entirety:

There is a huge difference between legitimate criticism of bad ideas and bigotry against specific groups of people (which, in the worst case, can result in hate crimes). It is one thing to believe that specific doctrines within Islam (or any system of thought) are unfounded, harmful, and in need of public criticism; it is another thing entirely to hate Muslims (or Arabs, immigrants, etc.) as people.

For instance, I am currently writing a book wit Muslim friend, Maajid Nawaz, who I consider a true hero (Islam and the Future of Tolerance). In this book, I tell Maajid why I think many of the doctrines of Islam are dangerous and irredeemable, while he argues that the tradition has found ways to circumvent the very issues I raise. The result isn’t bigotry; it isn’t even socially awkward. We are simply two friends having a civil conversation on a very important topic.

If a person considers his atheism (a lack of belief in God) or secularism (a commitment to keeping religion out of public policy) a basis for hating whole groups of people, he is either deeply confused about what it means to think critically or suffering from some psychological disorder.

 

Of course, he condemned – and rightly so – bigotry against Muslims. Yet, when it came to Islam, there was a heretofore unseen nuance (emphasis added by me): “It is one thing to believe that specific doctrines within Islam (or any system of thought) are unfounded, harmful, and in need of public criticism…

I found that quite interesting because, here is what he said about Islam on that now famous Bill Maher episode: “Islam at the moment is the mother lode of bad ideas.” Other quotes, taken from Dr. Muqtedar Khan’s excellent piece in The Islamic Monthly, include:

Islam is all fringe and no center.

The idea that Islam is a ‘peaceful religion hijacked by extremists’ is a dangerous fantasy.

 

Here, he is not talking about “specific doctrines within Islam,” but all of Islam. Again, in his forthcoming book Islam and the Future of Tolerance, he will discuss with Maajid Nawaz his problems with “many of the doctrines of Islam.” Again, more nuanced. But this nuance is lost when he says, “Islam is…the mother lode of bad ideas.”

This is leaving aside entirely the point of whether what he says about Islam is actually true. He bases many of his claims on a superficial reading of Islamic sources and opinion polls taken in the Muslim world. This is exactly akin to pointing to the beliefs of the Westboro Baptist Church and then saying, “Christianity is terribly intolerant.” Or, pointing to the actions of Craig Stephen Hicks and saying, “Atheism is a murderous ideology.”

Sadly, however, this is par for the course when it comes to attacking Islam and Muslims. As Dr. Khan wrote:

New Atheists construct their arguments about Islam and Muslims based on horrible things happening in some parts of the Arab World and Pakistan, and generalize it to all Muslims and attribute it to Islam. Female genital mutilation is rampant in Egypt; it must be because of Islam, they argue, since most Egyptians are Muslims. But they ignore the fact that more than a billion Muslims elsewhere — Turkey, Iran, South Asia, East Asia — do not practice it.

 

Such actions are not befitting a scholar and intellectual with the stature of Sam Harris.

Chicago Imam Charged With Sexual Abuse: Shock, Disillusionment, But Mostly Rage


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

I had heard rumblings and whispers about the alleged abuse by prominent Chicago Imam Abdullah Saleem. Well, it is all out in the open:

On Tuesday, two days after turning himself into Elgin police, Saleem was charged with one count of criminal sexual abuse of a woman. She and three other women also filed a lawsuit accusing him of sexual assault and battery. The other women say they were minors when the abuse took place. Saleem was also charged with aggravated battery.

The criminal complaint is infuriating. Apparently, there have been multiple instances of abuse dating back decades. Eman Aly, a Counselor, has been assisting the victims with their coming forward. She said, “Based on the victims we spoke to, this has been happening since the early 80s.”

I must confess I was shocked. I know this Imam; I have prayed behind him; I have listened to his Friday sermons; I have heard him recite the Qur’an. That such allegations could be credible completely blew my mind.

What if they are false? That is not likely, as this tweet from Abdul Malik Mujahid states:

Here are more details:

Almost ten years ago we are told that he admitted to sexual misbehavior in a mediation requested by a victim’s family and accepted a volunteer withdrawal from being Imam in his own masjid. In this recent case he accepted the mediation of Imam Omar Muzaffar when an employee complained of sexual assault. He signed the mediation document of admission and apology before backing off which caused the accuser to go public.

Here is where my disillusionment comes in. Almost ten years ago? And nothing was done? No one went to the authorities? How can this be?

Moreover, how can this man do such a thing? He teaches the Qur’an; he leads people in prayer; he knows the Word of God by heart. How can he do such a thing? How can he be a monster in Maulana’s clothing, to paraphrase Abdul Malik Mujahid’s words?

Disillusionment, however, is quickly replaced by rage. Rage at what has happened. Rage at the fact that a man to whom the entire community looked up could betray it so horrifically by abusing children. Children!

There is also rage at the fact that, according to the complaint, a teacher at the school in Elgin allegedly told one of the victims, “old people do things like that, so just forget it.” This attitude – to keep such things “hush-hush” – is completely unacceptable; completely unconscionable; completely un-Islamic. Never mind the fact that it is illegal…

I completely understand that there is a lot of discomfort in the community for having these allegations out in the open. There is already tremendous pressure on American Muslims these days due to happenings overseas and the actions of a tiny fringe of criminals who act in Islam’s name. The last thing we need is news about our own Imams being pedophiles.

I asked Ms. Aly the question of, “Why now?” She answered:

I wonder why now myself. When I was gathering information before, when I was working on this alone, many times people would say we heard things or we knew. And I was baffled, because my first thought was, why didn’t you do anything?
Someone told me that maybe now is just the right time, and we couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. Things fell into place in [a] way that couldn’t have been written…it’s just so validating, because even though we were moving against the current with the community, knots were undone.
And this was the Gordian knot. And with God’s help we cut right through it, and hopefully no one will suffer at the hands of this man.

But, the Qur’an demands that we stand up for justice, even if it is against our own selves:

O You who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in upholding justice, bearing witness to the truth for the sake of God, even though it be against your own selves or your parents and kinfolk. Whether the person concerned be rich or poor, God’s claim takes precedence over [the claims of] either of them. Do not, then, follow your own desires, lest you swerve from justice: for it you distort [the truth], behold, God is indeed aware of all that you do. (4:135)

The Prophet (pbuh) said that we must support our brother or sister, whether he or she is the oppressor or the oppressed. When asked how we can help an oppressor, it is by stopping him or her from committing oppression. Thus, by coming forward, these brave sisters and brother are working to stop future Imam Saleems from hurting other people.

May God Almighty – The Beautiful, Precious, Beloved Lord – protect our children from any and all sexual predators, whatever garb they may wear. May God Almighty – The Beautiful, Precious, Beloved Lord – protect our community from this ever happening again. May God Almighty – The Beautiful, Precious, Beloved Lord – bring comfort to all victims of sexual abuse and violence and justice to those who prey on them.

In Your Most Holy Name do I ask this, O Lord. Amen.

Russell Brand Excellently Highlights The Double Standard Over Chapel Hill Shootings


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

Russell Brand excellently outlines the double standard with respect to the media coverage of the shootings in Chapel Hill and Copenhagen. It’s a great video and worth your time.

We Must Call Out The Double Standard With Respect To Islam And Muslims Every Single Time


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

Sam Harris, one of the famous “New Atheists,” has spoken a lot about Islam and Muslims, using sweeping generalizations unbecoming of an intellectual of his stature. He recently responded to the Chapel Hill shootings of three young American Muslims in the Washington Post. He concluded his comments by saying:

If a person considers his atheism (a lack of belief in God) or secularism (a commitment to keeping religion out of public policy) a basis for hating whole groups of people, he is either deeply confused about what it means to think critically or suffering from some psychological disorder.

Yet, what if I were to use this very same standard and apply it to Muslims? What if I replace “atheism” and “secularism” with “Islam” in his quote:

If a person considers his belief in Islam a basis for hating whole groups of people, he is either deeply confused about what it means to think critically or suffering from some psychological disorder.

Would even Dr. Harris agree with this? I dare say not. In fact, no one would agree with this. No one would call a Muslim using Islam as a basis for hating all others – as the savages of ISIS and Al Qaeda do – as someone “deeply confused about what it means to think critically or suffering from some psychological disorder.” No. They would call him a “terrorist” and link all of Islam and Muslims with his crimes.

In fact, this is just what intellectuals like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins do: conflate the terrible things done in some parts of the Muslim world with all of Islam. Hence Dr. Harris saying on Bill Maher’s show: “Islam at the moment is the mother lode of bad ideas.” Hence Mr. Dawkins saying, “Islam is one of the great evils in the World.”

This is a terrible double standard, and we must call it out every time until it stops.

Speaking of the terrible Chapel Hill murders: we had to practically scream at the mainstream media on Facebook and Twitter for it to cover this truly newsworthy event. Contrast this with the also terrible shootings in Denmark: it was all over the media within hours of its occurrence. The difference? The gunman in Chapel Hill is not a Muslim; the gunman in Denmark was Muslim.

This is a terrible double standard, and we must call it out every time until it stops.

This gunman in Denmark, 22-year-old Omar El Hussein, “had reportedly been released from prison two weeks ago after serving a two-year sentence for grievous bodily harm.” He had a criminal past and connections with gangs. He clearly was a criminal, known to authorities.

Yes, he attacked a cafe at which a cartoonist known to have defamed the Prophet (pbuh) was present; yes, he attacked a synagogue. He killed innocent people for who they were, and I am outraged at his act of savagery.

I am also outraged at the execution-style murder of three beautiful American Muslim kids by Craig Stephen Hicks. It also seems that Hicks killed innocent people for who they were. Hicks, however, is not a terrorist. Hussein is.

This is a terrible double standard, and we must call it out every time until it stops.

On February 14, authorities in Canada disrupted a horrific plot by a Canadian man and a woman from the Chicago-area to massacre as many people in a mall in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Authorities called them, “murderous misfits.” What if this exact same plot, with the exact same story line, had been planned by Muslims? Would they have been called “murderous misfits”? Absolutely not. They would have been called “terrorists,” and Islam would have been smeared in the process.

This is a terrible double standard, and we must call it out every time until it stops.

Within hours of the Denmark shootings, the White House issued a statement of condemnation, which was absolutely the right thing to do. I have no issue with this. Yet, it took three days for the same White House to issue a statement of condemnation for the Chapel Hill shootings, even though this was a heinous crime committed on American soil.

This is a terrible double standard, and we must call it out every time until it stops.

I get that there are savages who commit egregious crimes in the name of Islam; they cite Islamic scripture and Prophetic tradition; they claim that they are the true followers of the faith. They are terrorists, without a doubt. They are a cancer that must be removed.

But, there are Christian terrorists as well, who commit terrible atrocities against Muslims in the name of Christianity. And there are Buddhist terrorists who are waging a campaign of murder and violence against minority Muslims in Myanmar. This is the terrible truth of our world today.

Yet, I would never conflate the actions of these terrorists with the whole of Christianity or Buddhism. That would not be right, honorable, or proper. So should it be for Islam and Muslims. And until it stops, we must call out this double standard each and every time.

Muslims have no good reason to join ISIS: Dr. Hassaballa In The Muslim Observer


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

All praise due to the Lord, I am now a regular columnist for The Muslim Observer, a newly launched American Muslim new site. God willing, I will be publishing a bi-weekly column, “In His Love.” My first column is below:

http://muslimobserver.com/18398/

As the savages – “barbarian” is too kind of a word – of ISIS continue their vicious rampage across Iraq and Syria, one thing about them continues to boggle my mind: why so many young Muslims from the West have joined their ranks. The exact numbers are hard to come by, but there is no doubt that a good number of young Muslims from the West have joined the ranks of ISIS (or as I like to call them, “KIL,” The Kharijites of Iraq and the Levant).

Why? Why would young Muslims – living relatively comfortable lives in the West – flock to join this horrifically barbaric group, which shows absolutely no regard for human life? While no studies have been conducted on this phenomenon, as far as I know, one thing that I posit is that these young, misguided men and women have lost hope. They have lost hope for a life of meaning, and thus they think that this can be regained by joining the “Khilafah.”

Nothing, however, can be farther from the truth. First, this group cannot be considered “Islamic,” even though they use symbols, phrases, and cloaks of Islam to cover their barbarity. Everything they stand for – everything they do – is wholly antithetical to both the letter and spirit of Islam.

They are nothing more than a criminal gang, calling themselves the “Islamic State” to dupe unsuspecting Muslims. Most fortunately, the overwhelming majority of Muslims see through their ruse and have rejected them.

Moreover, the door of God’s mercy is wide open, and murder and barbarity is not the way to gain this mercy. The Qur’an is full of positive messages of hope for the mercy of God:

Say: “[Thus speaks God:] ‘O you servants of Mine who have transgressed against their own selves! Do not despair of God’s mercy: behold, God forgives all sins – for, verily, He alone is much-forgiving and a dispenser of grace!’” (39:53)

“… With My chastisement, I do afflict whom I will – but My grace overspreads everything …” (7:156)

There is no need to burn people alive to gain the Mercy of God. There is no need to enslave women for sexual gratification in order to seek the pleasure of our Lord. God has no need for pillage, and murder, and mayhem on this earth. In fact, He expressly forbids the spreading of corruption. He said it himself, multiple times:

“Call unto your Lord humbly, and in the secrecy of your hearts. Verily, He loves not those who transgress the bounds of what is right: hence, do not spread corruption on earth after it has been so well ordered. And call unto Him with fear and longing: verily, God’s grace is ever near unto those who do good.” (7:56)

“Seek instead, by means of what God has granted you, [the good of] the life to come, without forgetting, withal, your own [rightful] share in this world; and do good [unto others] as God has done good unto thee; and see not to spread corruption on earth: for, verily, God does not love those who spread corruption!” (28:77)

“And do not deprive people of what is rightfully theirs; and do not act wickedly on earth by spreading corruption.” (26:183)

These misguided men and women are playing with fire, literally. They think that, by joining ISIS and committing horrific atrocities, they can attain pleasure in the Hereafter. They must think again.

I pray they see the error of their ways. I pray that those who have joined their ranks can come back to the mainstream, all the while facing justice for whatever crimes they have committed. I could care less about the Satanic forces behind ISIS. They will face the Lord for their crimes.

But I pray the ranks of the savages of ISIS is starved of further young Muslim recruits. Those that join them are toying with their very salvation.

Dr. Hassaballa in The Islamic Monthly: The Parodies of ISIS


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

Thanks be to the Precious Beloved, my article about the many parodies of ISIS in the Muslim media was published in the Islamic Monthly. An excerpt is reprinted below:

It is a persistent perception – which, unfortunately, has become reality – that the larger Muslim community around the globe has not sufficiently condemned or distanced itself from the terror and violence committed in its name. This is despite the fact that no other community has faced such a demand to condemn its criminals. This is also despite the fact that such a perception is simply not true. The same goes with groups such as ISIS (or, as I like to call them, “KIL: The Kharijites of Iraq and the Levant“).

Yet, apart from the numerous condemnations and declarations of Islamic scholars of the un-Islamic nature of ISIS, there is another – perhaps less well-known in the West – proof of the widespread rejection of the ideology of ISIS and other groups similar to it: the numerous parodies of ISIS on satellite television in the Middle East.

Read the rest here