COVID-19 and Indian Muslims

It’s a matter of common decency. That’s an idea which may make some people smile, but the only means of fighting a plague is common decency.” — Albert Camus

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s seminal work, Death and Dying, describes the five distinct stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. While the Swiss-American psychiatrist was speaking about the series of emotions terminally ill patients go through, the first of the five stages that she postulated possibly holds true for a section of India’s people when the country was trying to come to terms with COVID-19 in the initial days of the pandemic.

The spread of the virus in the early months had then exposed the country’s second-largest religious group to a vulnerability born out of denial. Indiscretion and reckless behaviour by members of the Tablighi Jamaat had purportedly led to a spurt in coronavirus-positive cases, not only in Delhi but also in many other parts of the country.

The spread of the virus in the early months had then exposed the country’s second-largest religious group to a vulnerability born out of denial.

An international gathering of Tablighis — preachers or a society to spread the faith —had taken place in New Delhi’s Nizamuddin area in March 2020, drawing hundreds of foreign nationals from Thailand, Nepal, Myanmar, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Kyrgyzstan. Despite a government order prohibiting large gatherings, more than 4,500 people had assembled at the Tablighi Jamaat Markaz (headquarters).

Media reports had quoted government sources as saying that since 1 January 2020, over 2,000 foreigners from 70 countries had arrived in India to participate in Jamaat activities. As the COVID-19 lockdown came into force on 25 March 2020, over 1,000 were left stranded in Nizamuddin.


Sudan scraps apostasy law and alcohol ban for non-Muslims

After more than 30 years of Islamist rule, Sudan has outlined wide-reaching reforms including allowing non-Muslims to drink alcohol, and scrapping the apostasy law and public flogging.

“We [will] drop all the laws violating the human rights in Sudan,” Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari said.

A raft of new laws were passed last week but this is the first public explanation of their contents.

Sudan has also banned female genital mutilation (FGM).

Under the new laws, women no longer need permission from a male relative to travel with their children.

The reforms come after long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir was ousted last year following massive street protests.

The current government is an uneasy mixture of those groups which ousted Mr Bashir and his former allies in the military, who ultimately staged a coup against him.


As a Sufi singer, I believe the sounds of world religions can cultivate compassion during COVID-19

The global COVID-19 pandemic has taken us into an era of social distancing. By relying on online digital media, we may be isolating ourselves from more local and diverse communities.

As an ethnomusicologist at the University of Alberta, my research and musical practices lead me to reflect on how what I think of as a “socially isolated ear” is more prone to resist and be intimidated by cultural and religious diversity. As a Sufi vocalist, through my music I share the message of love and interfaith harmony taught by Sufi mystics — and I explore the crevices of Muslim belief and expression from a feminist standpoint.

Sufism is the mystical branch of Islam that is based on introspection and spiritual practices for cleansing the heart to receive closeness with Allah. Sufis have used the power of art, music, poetry and dance to show human soul’s relationship with the Divine.

How intercultural listening transforms us as humans became ever clearer to me this past spring as I watched students grow in understanding in courses I taught.

I contrasted this with the racism and intolerance demonstrated by some to the public sounding of the Muslim call to prayer (azanin Mississauga, Ont. and in Edmonton.

Communities of sound’

Ritual is a powerful gift that brings a sense of a collective and been a source for social cohesion within societies, instilling support and resiliency or creating new social bonds, as the French sociologist Emile Durkheim points out. For those in religious communities, ritual is about human interaction with the Divine.


WATCH: ‘The Racial Divide: Time For Change’ Town Hall – faith and mental health focus

WASHINGTON (ABC7) — On Tuesday night, WJLA broadcasted a live virtual town hall addressing affairs of race relations with a focus on faith and mental health issues.

ABC7 News anchors Jonathan Elias and Michelle Marsh moderated the one-hour virtual panel discussion with religious leaders and mental health experts from the Washington, D.C. region.

The discussion centered around the COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide protests and calls for justice, and how those have impacted our mental health in terms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Our panelists discussed how to move forward in a better direction together and provided resources for help.ADVERTISING

RELATED: The Racial Divide: ABC7 hosts second town hall, tackles mental health concerns

Panelists and special guests who appeared:

You can watch our first Racial Divide: Time For Change Town Hall, which aired on June 9, HERE.

Take a look below at the topics that were discussed:


Faith leaders discuss what they’re hearing from their congregation in terms of stress, anxiety, and depression related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the toll is taking on people and affecting their ability to return to church.


Islam’s anti-racist message from the 7th century still resonates today

One day, in Mecca, the Prophet Muhammad dropped a bombshell on his followers: He told them that all people are created equal.

“All humans are descended from Adam and Eve,” said Muhammad in his last known public speech. “There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, or of a non-Arab over an Arab, and no superiority of a white person over a black person or of a black person over a white person, except on the basis of personal piety and righteousness.”

In this sermon, known as the Farewell Address, Muhammad outlined the basic religious and ethical ideals of Islam, the religion he began preaching in the early seventh century. Racial equality was one of them. Muhammad’s words jolted a society divided by notions of tribal and ethnic superiority.

Today, with racial tension and violence roiling contemporary America, his message is seen to create a special moral and ethical mandate for American Muslims to support the country’s anti-racism protest movement.

Challenging kinship

Apart from monotheism – worshipping just one God – belief in the equality of all human beings in the eyes of God set early Muslims apart from many of their fellow Arabs in Mecca.

Chapter 49, verse 13 of Islam’s sacred scripture, the Quran, declares: “O humankind! We have made you…into nations and tribes, so that you may get to know one another. The noblest of you in God’s sight is the one who is most righteous.”

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This verse challenged many of the values of pre-Islamic Arab society, where inequalities based on tribal membership, kinship and wealth were a fact of life. Kinship or lineal descent – “nasab” in Arabic – was the primary determinant of an individual’s social status. Members of larger, more prominent tribes like the aristocratic Quraysh were powerful. Those from less wealthy tribes like the Khazraj had lower standing.



A chance find in a Damascus bookshop is a reminder that to study Arabic is to be drawn into a wider and vibrant multicultural world

By Tarek Makhlouf, University of Melbourne

Sometime in early 2010 I was visiting my favourite bookshops in the al-Halbouni suburb of Damascus. This was before the civil war.

Al-Halbouni is an Arabic book lover’s paradise: it has dozens of bookshops door-to-door packed with books of all genres and types.

The central souk (marketplace) in Damascus in 2019. Picture: Noe Falk Nielsen/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Closely scanning the shelf before me, I reached for a volume with a blank spine – a good sign that it was a facsimile of a rare text printed in the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries. I had stumbled on a commentary of a classical Arabic philosophical text that was new to me.

My excitement was soon replaced by astonishment as my eyes scanned down the page. I stopped and stared at the two lines of Cyrillic text. The accompanying Arabic told me that this book was printed in 1901 in Kazan, in what was then the Russian Empire.

I had seen Arabic texts printed in many places before; from Leipzig to Lucknow and many others in between. But now holding this book printed in Russian Tartarstan made me realise that the way Arabic studies is taught in Australia is too narrow. It isn’t just about Arabs.

Today, Arabic is mostly thought of as the language of the Arab world and the liturgical language of Islam. But Arabic, and its literary heritage, is much more than a national or religious language – it is a classical and global cosmopolitan language with a vibrant culture that spans a millennium.

The spread of Arabic and its complex interactions with different cultures in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas challenges us to think of Arabic studies differently.

Arabic began as the language of the inhabitants of the northern part of the Arabian Peninsula and the Syrian desert no less than two thousand years ago. The Arabs were politically insignificant on the world stage and therefore there wasn’t much interest in their language. But the Arabs loved their language and composed copious amounts of poetry, their main artistic output.


July 4th Needs To Include Muslim Identities

With July 4th, Americans all around the country can feel a sense of celebration; however, when you are Muslim and American, there are fewer options to couch both the religious and cultural identity together. For Reem Sayes, her solution has been to create Days of Eid.  She wanted to create a company where the products represent a celebration of who Muslims are regardless of the occasion. Fortunately, Days of Eid has the primary goal “to help embolden the Muslim identity of our children and help them embrace their uniqueness,” Reem explains.  

Using a business model that is direct-to-consumer through their website, Reem designs and creates home and holiday decor products in-house that celebrate and reflect Islamic traditions. 

“We believe that your home should tell your story, who you are, what you love, what your beliefs and values consist of. When people walk in your home they should get a sense of those things. And for me and many other American Muslims that was hard to do and that compelled us to start Days of Eid,” Reem adds. 

When thinking about her childhood, Reem recalls how it was often a struggle to find herself in a sea of negativity and misconceptions about Islam and Muslims. She wanted to fill the void of mothers and their children questioning their religious identities and wanted to find a solution as she understood the issues of feeling pride in one’s identity. For quite some time, Reem thought about her own children’s struggle with who they are; consequently, she made it her mission to highlight Muslim Americans through Days of Eid.  


After George Floyd, raw talk and racial reckoning among U.S. Muslims

American Muslims, Black and non-Black, are having raw conversations as they grapple with questions of racial equity, tensions and representation in their own faith communities.

Hind Makki, poses for a portrait at the The Prayer Center of Orland Park in Orland Park, Ill., on June 22, 2020.Charles Rex Arbogast / AP

By Associated Press

As a young student, Hind Makki recalls, she would call out others at the Islamic school she attended when some casually used an Arabic word meaning “slaves” to refer to Black people.

“Maybe 85% of the time, the response that I would get from people … is, ‘Oh, we don’t mean you, we mean the Americans,’” Makki said during a virtual panel discussion on race, one of many organized in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

“That’s a whole other situation about anti-Blackness, particularly against African Americans,” said Makki, who identifies as a Black Arab Muslim.

In recent weeks, many Muslims in the U.S. have joined racial justice rallies across the country and denounced racism in sermons, statements and webinars. American Muslims, Black and non-Black, are also having raw conversations like Makki’s as they grapple with questions of racial equity, tensions and representation in their own faith communities.

“Everyone is talking about this, like from the uncle who’s been here since the early ’70s, was a retired doctor somewhere, a retired board member of a mosque to … a high school student in the suburbs,” Makki, an anti-racism and interfaith educator, said in an interview. “The question needs to be pushed further than what words, what slurs you’re using, which you shouldn’t be using. How can we reach equity … in the spaces that we actually can change?”


Muslim World League secretary-general honored for interfaith work

  • US officials, American Jewish leaders award Dr. Mohammed Al-Issa for combatting anti-Semitism
  • He vowed that the MWL would “keep on until there is no more antisemitism and racism”

NEW YORK: Former Saudi Minister of Justice Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa was awarded the first ever Combat Anti-Semitism Award for his work in the interfaith community and his fight against anti-Semitism and religious intolerance.

The virtual ceremony on June 9 was co-hosted by the Combat Anti-Semitism movement and the American Sephardi Federation. Senior US diplomats, UN officials and leaders of the American Jewish community all hailed the interfaith work of Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL).

Al-Issa has been the MWL secretary-general since 2016 and has forged several alliances with Jewish, Christian and other religious committees across the world.

He recently led a high-level delegation to Auschwitz in January of this year and announced several historic initiatives to counter extremism, guarantee religious freedom and improve human welfare, spreading the virtues of inter-religious understanding. He has been described by the US Department of State and other major international agencies as one of the foremost proponents of moderate Islam in the world today.



By Arnab Mondal
Medill Reports

As Dilara Sayeed, a 51-year old Muslim in Chicago, entered an office building for a meeting, she had an experience which she had thought almost unthinkable a few years ago.

Besides her office attire, Sayeed was also wearing a colorful hijab, a symbol of her faith. Sayeed is a social activist, an educator and a Harvard alumna. She also ran for election in the Illinois House of Representatives to represent District 5 in 2018. As such, her work and achievements, rather than her religion, had been at the forefront of most interactions.

As Sayeed got into the elevator, however she was confronted by an elderly white woman, a complete stranger, who said she would go to hell for wearing the hijab.

Sayeed said she hadn’t experienced this kind of negativity since she was growing up. “People used to yell things like ‘Go back to your country’,” she said. “I even got bullied constantly at school because of my religion.”

The situation had improved over the years as the Muslim community in Chicago grew, and people became more understanding towards Muslims. However, everything changed again when Donald Trump became president three years ago.