Thursday, November 15, 2012

Resist Like Hussain!!!

I  finally get how "Everyday is Ashura and every land is Kerbala" after reading Naomi Klein's international bestseller Shock Doctrine earlier this year.

In this meticulously documented book, Klein laid out how extreme acts of violence perpetrated against populations around the world are not so random after all. She says they're actually the modus operandi of an elite group of capitalists bent on destablizing nations and quashing all resistance in its path to plunder every corner of the globe, from Chile to Poland to Iraq.

And it's been a smashing success.

"Some of the most infamous human rights violations of this era, which have tended to be viewed as sadistic acts carried out by antidemocratic regimes, were in fact...committed with the deliberate intent of terrorizing the public,'" according to Klein.

But there's hope. One figure who provides an antidote to these oppressive policies is Hussain, son of Fatima (one of the four perfect women of all times), for not only did his uprising against injustice survive brute force 1400 years ago but it's now gone global through continued resistance and endurance.

God: "Be steadfast as you have been commanded, you and those who have turned with you (to God)." (Quran 11:12)

"Life is a relentless and intense struggle extending from the first phases of life to its last moments," says scholar Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari. "Patience and fortitude are the most effective weapon in this unceasing battle. Victory on this battlefield belongs to those who are courageous and unflinching and who do not succumb to obstacles under any condition."

Today's social justice movements energized by the 2011 Arab Spring face tanks, bullets and pepper spray and also risk subversion. They need to gain inspiration, insight and guidance from Hussain, whom Prophet Muhammad (S) likened to a ship of salvation: "Whoever embarked upon it was saved, and whoever turned away from it perished."

That's because Hussain, his family and his companions serve as role models for demonstrating how to maintain truth, dignity and resistance in the face of the most brutal forces of repression.

So when we see entire families in Gaza (see picture) or Afghanistan massacred through military operations, we must remember that Hussain and his family were also brutally slaughtered on the plains of Kerbala.

But their resistance continued.

When we see children, including 7-year-old Syed Wali Shah and 8-year-old Noor Syed, maimed and killed in drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, we must remember that Hussain's infant baby was also killed by a piercing arrow to his neck while cradled in his father's arms in Kerbala.

But their resistance continued.

When we see Zionists bulldoze Palestinian homes and riot police tear down Occupy shelters, we must remember that the tents of Hussain's women were also burned and looted in the aftermath of Kerbala.

But their resistance continued.

When we see human rights activists like Zainab Al-Khawaja arrested on the streets of Bahrain for opposing its illegitimate monarchy, we must remember that Hussain's sister Zainab was also shackled and paraded to the court of tyrant Yazid from Kerbala.

But their resistance continued.

When we see political prisoners of all ethnicities locked up and tortured in American jails, we must remember that Hussain's four-year-old daughter Sakina also died curled up on the cold, hard prison floor when captured in Kerbala.

But their resistance continued.

Upon returning home to Medina, the resistance carried on as Zainab spread news about the tragedy of Kerbala, gaining supporters who handed down the story generation after generation until millions now gather on Ashura Day to remember Hussain's supreme sacrifice, empathize with him until grief-stricken and moved to commit to his struggle anew.

"They call us a nation of tears, but with these tears we have overthrown an empire!" said Imam Khomeini of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

But like Hussain then, his followers today suffer violent opposition.

“Never in our history have there been such cruel attacks on religious observances,”  Afghan President Hamid Karzai said last year when three simultaneous explosions killed 63 people during Ashura Day rallies.

Indeed, the resistance continues and will do so as long as people everywhere--of all religions, races and classes--heed Hussain's final call before succumbing to wounds alone on the dusty fields of Kerbala: "Who is out there to help me?!"

As India's first President Rajendra Prasad once said: “The sacrifice of Imam Hussain is not limited to one country, or nation, but it is the hereditary state of the brotherhood of all mankind.”

Friday, November 9, 2012

Beyond the Polling Booth

Now that the elections are over, will Muslim political activism go back into hibernation?

Most mosques across America usually won't touch political issues with a ten-foot pole but many forayed onto the political scene this fall through sophisticated get-out-the-Muslim-vote campaigns that included mass emails, on-site registration drives and even specialized Friday sermons that urged people to "enjoin good and forbid evil" by casting a vote.

"We Muslims in America are blessed to be part of a vibrant and open democracy that actively seeks our participation," gushed one email I received from a local mosque on election day. "Voting is our duty both as Americans and Muslims. But more importantly, it's our right."

Indeed, our leaders have gone gangbusters this year urging us to make use of our Fifteenth Amendment constitutional right to vote (Huffington Post ran a piece called "Tennessee Muslims Instrumental in Getting the Vote Out" on 11/7/2012). 

But they shouldn't put away their political topees just yet. 

To truly contribute to creating a more just and harmonious society in America, our leaders need to focus their time, energies and money on methods of peaceful political participation that lifts oppression for all and not just changes the face of corrupted leadership.

For starters, our leaders need to wake up and start exercising the First Amendment rights they have long neglected in their stated struggle "to help solve the problems in the world around us."

Freedom of Speech: Muslim leaders have the opportunity to speak out against the injustices being committed by our corporate-controlled government at home (poverty, hunger and homelessness) and abroad (globalization, wars, drone attacks) during weekly sermons but mum's the word on these topics during most Friday afternoon congregational prayers. 

"The concept of separation of church and state meant that the state was to keep out of the affairs of the church, not that the church was supposed to be silent about things about the state," according to Rev. Rob Rotola of Witchita, Kansas, who took part last month in Pulpit Freedom Sunday, a movement to get religious leaders to talk about politics from the pulpit.

Freedom of Assembly: None of the mosques in our area supported the Occupy movement, demonstrated against the video ridiculing Prophet Muhammad (S) or participated in Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day rallies, when Muslims, Christians, Jews and others around the world gather on the last Friday of Ramadan in support of the oppressed in Palestine and other places. Our leaders need to get a clue from one local church that recently took up the Palestinian cause---it's considering organizing an Al-Quds Day demonstration next year.

Freedom of Press: With media outlets from all over the world swarming our town and paparazzing our leaders for interviews time and again ever since controversy about a new mosque erupted two years ago, our leaders have missed ample opportunities to discuss how local Islamophobia ties in with the War on Terror. They need to seize them now.

Truth is, the majority of Muslim leaders today are immigrants and newcomers to this country's political arena with little knowledge about the history of people's struggle for justice in America. To get on the fast track to political action that works, they need to join hands with the indigenous Muslims of African descent who are working in their oppressed communities and familiar with the system.

But that means willing to give up the American Dream of attaining comfort and riches for oneself and struggling instead to create a more just world for the masses as did Khadija, the wife of Prophet Muhammad (S) and one of the four perfect women of all times.

This "Princess of Arabia" came to the Prophet (S) with real estate, pasture lands, herds of camels and horses, flocks of goats and sheep, priceless heirlooms, precious metals and stones, and masses of gold and silver coins. But she spent it all on others, enduring intense hunger, thirst, cold and heat in her final years of struggle against corruption and oppression.

According to African-American Imam Abdul Alim Musa of Masjid Al-Islam, Muslim leaders in America are making the mistake of using Civil Rights era (1960s) tactics to combat the global problems of injustice in the twenty-first century.

"The struggle today is bigger than that," Musa says. "We have to rise to the occasion."

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Empire's New Suit

Guest Blog By Hajj Ali Jafri

As a child I read H. C. Andersen's tale “The Emperor’s New Suit,” in which two swindlers offer to stitch an Emperor a new outfit they claim will be invisible to those lacking intelligence. After the Emperor accepts, he and his advisors pretend to see the suit so as not to appear unintelligent and incompetent.

At an ensuing parade spectators share the same fear and maintain their silence until a young boy brazenly points out the obvious, “He has nothing on at all!” Thereafter, the crowd gradually gains courage to express what their eyes see: the Emperor is naked. The tale ends with the Emperor attempting to maintain his charade before a sneering crowd.

Eight years of neo-conservatives serving imperial and corporate interests led Americans to select a seemingly favorable alternative in 2008. Four years of Obama serving the same imperial and corporate interests leaves Americans at least considering the alternative in 2012. Thus, voters are seemingly vindicated by a series of logical choices. Even those who acknowledge the repulsive conduct of the involved actors assert the “lesser of two evils” affirmative defense.

Yet, the Obama presidency significantly undermines the lesser evil defense so proudly promulgated in 2008, and continues to be relied upon today. The destructive conduct of this administration mirrors, and perhaps exceeds, that of his predecessor.

As predicted by the Islamic Leadership in Iran, “change” gave way to deceitful politics, similar to what Muslims witnessed after the Ummayad Dynasty ascended power in early Islamic history.

Forty-six million of us live in poverty but we are told that our money is needed to bail-out banks and corporations. Obama accepted a Nobel Peace Prize but then authorized assassinations of Americans and the bombing of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic correctly opined that Obama made policies formally viewed as radical post-9/11 excesses staples of American life.

According to scholar Murtada Mutahhari, pious Islamic scholars advised their followers to avoid engaging the tyrannical systems of the Umayyads and Abbasids. When excuses to participate were brought forth, such as “If we don’t, someone else will,” the scholars had a powerful response: “When no one does it, the system will cripple.”

Conversely, Mutahhari says the scholars advised those followers who would use the system, and not be used by the system, to engage the system in a manner that would improve conditions for Muslims and all the oppressed. It is well accepted that from a jurisprudential perspective there are avenues by which Muslims may engage this system, such as voting in a presidential election. Notwithstanding, I pose the normative question: are we using the system, or is the system using us?

Just as the Emperor exposed himself before the crowd, the American Empire has exposed itself before its own citizenry as corrupt to its core. Americans cannot observe the Empire’s drones decapitating Pakistani children, phosphorus bombs incinerating Palestinian refugees, loans enslaving Africans or mercenaries gang-raping and murdering 14-year-old Abeer Hamza in Iraq. But it has been enough for Americans to observe U.S. Army whistleblower Bradley Manning, tent-cities they now call home, compounding interest payments and a culture of deceit.

Malcolm X once compared this system to a vulture, sucking the blood of the helpless. He hypothesized it would naturally collapse when there was no more blood to suck. Nations of the world and many citizens of the United States are running out of blood and have recognized that the Empire and its captains are unqualified to rule by any human standard. This recognition manifests itself and festers daily, in American universities, barber shops, cubicles, and wherever consciences are still alive. It manifested itself in the early days of the Occupy movement, when an ideologically diverse group took to the streets in major cities after reaching the same conclusion: systemic change is required.

Perhaps each ballot cast this week at the 2012 U.S. presidential elections provides the establishment a mandate to continue their rule. Thomas Jefferson once said, “When…a republic is corrupted, there is no possibility of remedying any of the growing evils but by removing the corruption…every other correction is either useless or a new evil.” If we are to accept that the Republic is corrupted, then in pure Jeffersonian terms, Obama, Romney, and the like must be characterized as either useless or evil. Thus, our ballots neither serve Muslims nor the oppressed. Rather, they serve as a crutch to support the rotting carcass of what was once a Republic.

In 2012, Americans are awakening from a deep, propaganda induced slumber. Today the Empire parades through the street naked. The young boy, a small but growing segment of the American people, has recognized this and is pointing out the exposed Empire. Much of the crowd remains silent. The Empire will continue its arrogant charade, as long as we allow it to use us. The boy will continue to speak.

On his journey to Kerbala, where he, his family and his companions were killed for standing up to the oppressive Ummayad regime, Hussain (son of Fatima, one of the four perfect women of all times) asked poet Al-Farazdaq how he found the people of Iraq. Al-Farazdaq replied, “The hearts of the people are with you, but their swords are against you.” That is, they recognized the leadership position of Hussain but their conduct displayed affection for his enemies. If you disagree with my characterization of this election, ask yourself the following: Will you rejoice if your preferred candidate achieves victory? Or, will you let out a sigh of relief that the marginally less evil tyrant assumed power? Perhaps that makes a difference. Perhaps it won’t.

In the words of rapper Lupe Fiasco: “That’s why I ain’t vote for him, next one either; I’m a part of the problem, my problem is I’m peaceful…And I believe in the people.”