Beliefnet
City of Brass

Houston has a large, diverse Muslim community, that is as much a part of the civic fabric of the city as any other group – and during Hurricane Harvey, Houston’s Muslims are doing their part.

My own community, the Dawoodi Bohra Jamaat of Houston, engaged in rescue operations and fed evacuees en masse:

The National Guard delivered meals prepared in the FMB kitchen to the George Brown Convention centre where over 5000 evacuees from the floods have taken refuge. Here distribution was taken up by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and American Red Cross volunteers.

40 members of Saifee Guards Houston along with madrasah and Mahad-al-Quran students gathered to fill sand bags which were delivered to homes and neighbours including the Lifepath Church.

Saifee guards are coordinating with city authorities and the George Brown Convention center (shelter) and have committed to provide over 8000 meals (so far) to anyone affected by the disaster.

Saifee guards, along with physicians from the community are preparing a team of around 100 volunteers to help at area shelters in the next few days, as more and more evacuees are brought into these centers.

Photos: Dawoodi Bohra Muslims in Houston prepare food for food for the evacuees at George Brown Convention Center

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Photos: Dawoodi Bohra Muslims engaged in community rescue operations

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The Ahmaddiyya Muslim community also engaged in rescue and supply operations:

More than 100 members of Muslim Youth USA, and 40 members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, passed out food, water, and other supplies in Houston, according to organisers. Both groups expect to gain more volunteers from surrounding cities when the roadways open up.

Madeel Abdullah, director of humanitarian affairs for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, said more than 700 members of his organisation have been affected by the storm. But the volunteers, he said, are “helping anybody else that’s in distress”.

“We’ve already provided basic supplies such as food items and water bottles,” Mr Abdullah told The Independent, “and we have a few members who have boats who are going around making sure everyone is safe.”

Both youth groups were assisted by Humanity First, an Ahmadiyya Muslim charity dedicated to disaster relief. First founded in England, the charity has expanded to more than 40 countries in the last 25 years.

Photos: Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth helping evacuees and distributing supplies

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Muslim organizations are also opening up their facilities as shelters to people trying to escape the flash floods and rising water. Examples include:

Islamic Center/Masjid Al-Mustafa: 17250 Coventry Park Dr, Houston, TX
Islamic Center/Masjid Al-Sabireen: 610 Brand Lane, Stafford TX
Islamic Center/Masjid Abu-Bakr: 8830 Old Galveston Rd, Houston TX

On Launchgood, there are several fundraising campaigns devoted to emergency relief, which have collectively raised (as of 8/29, 8am CST) about $40,000.

These are just examples – we will be surely hearing more stories of civic responsibility and everyday heroism in the wake of this history-defying storm, in the weeks to come. Muslims in Houston are answering the call just like their fellow citizens of all races and religions. This is what community looks like. And this is why we are all going to be ok.

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Today is the day of the Great American Eclipse, and I found it interesting to make not of two verses in the Qur’an that seem to be directly relevant. The first is:

It is not allowable for the sun to reach the moon, nor does the night overtake the day, but each, in an orbit, is swimming. (Ya-Sin 36:40)

Does an eclipse violate this? No, for the simple reason that one object blocking the view of another object but still physically located (millions of) miles away is not “reaching” or “overtaking”. The illusion of the Sun and the Moon aligning is entirely due to three factors: the physical size of the moon, the distance of the moon from the earth, and the position of the viewer on the earth. If any of those three things are not perfect, then there is no overtaking; therefore the eclipse is a purely relative phenomenon.

Also note that the verse says that the sun shall not reach the moon; technically in an eclipse it is the motion of the moon, not the sun, that causes it. So even if you are inclined to equate the event in a literal sense there’s no contradiction with Qur’an.

The second verse is:

And it is He who created the night and the day and the sun and the moon; all [heavenly bodies] in an orbit are swimming. (Al-Anbiya 21:33)

The message here is that the orbits of the sun and the moon are also created and dictated by God – or in the more scientific sense, the result of the physical laws of the universe that God created. Since an eclipse is due to these ordained laws and orbits, we can reasonably infer that an eclipse is also a reminder of God’s Creation. An eclipse is not an unnatural event that defies God; it is something that God wills.

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scary word means things

scary word means things

Here is what Linda Sarsour had to say at ISNA about Jihad:

In these United States of America, if you sit back idly in the face of injustice, if you maintain the current status quo that not only oppresses Muslims, but oppresses black people inside our community and outside our community, undocumented people, other minority groups and oppressed groups, you, my dear sisters and brothers, are then aligned with the oppressor.

If you, as a Muslim, are standing on the sidelines, if you are neutral in the face of oppression in this country, you are not a patriot. You are aiding and abetting the oppressors in these United States of America.

I will not be an aide or help any oppressor in this nation oppress any community by my silence.

You can count on me every single day to use my voice to stand up, not only to people outside our community who are oppressing our communities, but those inside our community who aid and abet the oppressors outside of our community.

There is a man who once asked our beloved prophet Mohammed SAW he said to him, “What is the best form of jihad or struggle?”

And our beloved prophet Mohammed SAW said to him, “A word of truth in front of a tyrant or leader, that is the best form of jihad.” and I hope, that when we stand up to theose who oppress our communities, that Allah accepts from us that as a form of jihad, that we are struggling against tyrants and rulers not only abroad in the Middle East or the other side of the world, but here in these United States of America, where you have fascists and white supremacists and Islamophobia reigning in the White House.

I do not know Linda personally, but I suspect she is a student of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. Here is what Obama had to say when asked by David Brooks what he took away from Niebuhr’s philosophy:

“I take away,” Obama answered in a rush of words, “the compelling idea that there’s serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away … the sense we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard, and not swinging from naïve idealism to bitter realism.”

Recognizing that there is evil and injustice in the world, and standing up to it in word and deed – that is the true essence of Jihad. All too often, we simply sit back in cynicism – but that inaction is, as Linda said, aiding and abetting. Her call for Jihad is in harmony with the noblest Christian and Jewish traditions of standing up in the face of Injustice.

Jihad is our word, not their word. Just because Al Qaeda and ISIS have decided to relabel hirabah as jihad, doesn’t make their political agenda normative for our religious practice. The hadith of the Prophet that Linda cited is:

عَنْ أَبِى سَعِيدٍ الْخُدْرِىِّ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم : أَفْضَلُ الْجِهَادِ كَلِمَةُ عَدْلٍ عِنْدَ سُلْطَانٍ جَائِرٍ

and in the Qur’an, the same root word is used to denote “struggle” or “great effort” – for example:

فَلَا تُطِعِ الْكَافِرِينَ وَجَاهِدْهُم بِهِ جِهَادًا كَبِيرًا – 25:52

“Do not obey the concealers, but strive against them with it (Quran), a mighty struggle.”

This word is part of our religion, this concept is part of who we are, and we must speak out in defense of our religion. Saying nothing is, as Linda said, aiding and abetting those who would oppress us and our faith. Especially now.

But even more importantly, we must speak out to defend the oppressed, to literally speak truth to power, when that power is used unjustly. There is nothing in what Linda Sarsour said with which any Christian or Jew of conscience should disagree.

As for those who willfully misrepresent the above as “Linda Sarsour calls for Jihad against Trump”, they reveal themselves to be either a garbage human or simply a puerile troll. The attendant Islamophobia and misogynism are just symptoms of that barbaric state of mind. Fake news, indeed.

Related – great articles at Time and at Washington Post about the fake news regarding Linda’s comments.

UPDATE: In the New York Times, Bari Weiss labels Linda Sarsour an anti-Semite who “embraces hate”. Here is a counterpoint from Mondoweiss about Weiss, who they characterize as a “smear artist”.

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An incident at the “Dyke’s March” in Chicago exposed a fundamental flaw in the doctrine of intersectionality that animates the political Left:

Three people carrying Jewish Pride flags were asked to leave the annual Chicago Dyke March on Saturday.

The Chicago-based LGBTQ newspaper Windy City Times quoted a Dyke March collective member as saying the rainbow flag with the Star of David in the middle “made people feel unsafe,” and that the march was “pro-Palestinian” and “anti-Zionist.”

The Chicago Dyke March is billed as an “anti-racist, anti-violent, volunteer-led, grassroots mobilization and celebration of dyke, queer, bisexual, and transgender resilience,” according to its Twitter account.

Laurel Grauer, a member of the Jewish LGBTQ organization A Wider Bridge, told the Windy City Times “it was a flag from my congregation which celebrates my queer, Jewish identity which I have done for over a decade marching in the Dyke March with the same flag.”

“They were telling me to leave because my flag was a trigger to people that they found offensive,” she added.

Another participant asked to leave because of a Jewish flag was Eleanor Shoshany-Anderson. “The Dyke March is supposed to be intersectional. I don’t know why my identity is excluded from that. I felt that, as a Jew, I am not welcome here,” she told the Windy City Times.

This is a nutshell is the central flaw in the doctrine of intersectionality; you can’t validate everyone’s victimhood simultaneously. At some point, there is an implicit hierarchy of victims. This is a natural outcome of trying to delineate victimhood using identity politics rather than universal values. A robust justice seeking movement would understand that Palestinians are oppressed, that Jewish LGBT people are oppressed, and that the inclusion of the Star of David on an LGBT rainbow flag is a challenge to the orthodoxy of the religious establishment in Israel which also serves to advance the cause of Palestinian political aspirations, by challenging that establishment’s assertions and creating a space for dissenting views to gain a foothold. But by only seeing the Star of David as a symbol of the Israeli Establishment, and refusing to acknowledge that here it is used by LGBT Israelis in a subversive sense, both causes are diminished. This is because identity trumps justice. A better framework than intersectionality is simply liberty, where identity is not important,but the fact that LGBT people and Palestinians both share a common goal of asserting their right to be who they are – ethnically, religiously, sexually. It doesn’t matter what the identity is, it just matters that there be no authoritarian dictating that said identity is thoughtcrime. But I don’t see how that enlightened perspective that is liberty-centric can flourish when identity itself, rather than the freedom of identity, is treated as the sacrosanct ideal.

Personal liberty is more than just identity – it is about thought, and action. What matters is not just who you are, but what you do. Oppression can never erase who you are, it can only constrain how you express yourself. Therefore, identity itself does not need to be defended so jealously – it is beyond the reach of the oppressor.