Features · Islam

Finding Inner Peace

Finding Inner Peace Blog.png

Iffat Mirza, Raynes Park

Inner peace is not a destination. It is not as if we can find it one day and remain in the its bliss forevermore. No – reality likes to throw curveballs at us and keep us on our toes. It is important that we view inner peace as a state of mind that we can work towards and continue to work on. As we grow and acquire more experiences and world knowledge our definition of ‘inner peace’ will also change. In today’s hectic lifestyle it’s quite easy to forget to take care of oneself. Certainly, the self-care industry has made millions but is it possible to find inner peace without buying into large corporations? I certainly believe that Islam has the answer to this question.

Inner peace comes as a result of a personal relationship with oneself. This demands taking a step back and understanding who you are and what your priorities are. It is so easy to get lost in the world and forget what our ultimate goal is. As a Muslim, I believe that my purpose is to worship the Almighty. It is in His remembrance that we find peace as we are filled with a hope and a promise that here is indeed a Higher Power above us Who loves us at such an intensity that is unknown to human kind.

The Holy Qur’an states:
‘Those who believe, and whose hearts find comfort in the remembrance of Allah. Aye! it is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts can find comfort;’ [13:29]
In just these words so much love is expressed as we see a personal relationship between each individual and Allah the Almighty.

Further, considering prayer as a form of meditation, there is undeniable scientific evidence of the benefits to one’s mental wellbeing which come as a result of prayer.

A study has stated:
‘Several reports on the application of prayers in psychotherapy illustrate the positive outcome in the individuals exhibiting pathological symptoms such as tension, anxiety, depression and anti-social tendencies.’ 1

Therefore, not only are the words of the aforementioned verse exceedingly comforting, they are also supported by scientific fact.

Along with building a strong relationship with yourself through building one with Allah, it is also essential to build a strong bond with your wider community. Through serving others we are able to come to terms with our own woes and worries. Through serving others and doing good works we spread a positive energy with those that surround us and indeed not only does this positive energy affect our exterior but also extends to the interior. Living a selfless life alienates anger and arrogance.

The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) has stated:
The last and critical stage for great devout and truthful people is to avoid anger… Anger is generated when a person gives preference to his own self over the other. [Malfoozat vol.1 p.36]’
The importance of healthy societal relations is also emphasised in the Holy Qur’an:
‘A kind word and forgiveness are better than charity followed by injury…’ [2:264]’

Such amiability in society inevitably is reflected within us and allows us to find comfort within ourselves, knowing that we are contributing members of society. Inner peace and outer peace are directly related. By creating a harmonious environment around us, we are creating one within.

This also extends to living a pious life in general. In remembering our Creator and serving others we are building inner and outer peace. These acts avoid the creation of disorder and mayhem in our own lives as well as the lives of those around us.

The Holy Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) taught us:
“Verily, God looks not to your figures, nor to your bodies, but He looks into your hearts and to your works of piety.” Then pointing to his breast, the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, ‘Herein lies piety.’ This he repeated thrice.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

Living a pious life, which as the Holy Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) reminds us is a matter of the heart, keeps us away from chasing material happiness. Material happiness is fleeting; we are trying to apply a tangibility to an intangible concept. Therefore, to find happiness or inner peace we must approach it with a concept similar in tangibility – that being piety.

Finding inner peace is imperative. Finding it is not an objective, rather a lifestyle. This lifestyle can be adopted with little acts that we perform every day and transform our lives. In trusting the Almighty our burdens are relieved. In serving others we create harmony. In living in piety we understand that inner peace is not material. In this process and a combination of these three interlinked practices, we can achieve inner peace.

 

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705686/

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Customs and Rituals

Teenage Years: Keeping Faith in a Faithless World

Teenage Years and Faith poster

Nooresahar Ahmad, Hartlepool

In many ways, being a teenager is much harder than being an adult. We’re in the years when we have to make decisions that will impact the rest of our lives, even though most of us don’t really know what we want from our lives. Pressure is piled on what with exam results and parental expectations; having to balance our faith with our studies, our studies with our hobbies, and our hobbies with our rest. At a time when we need more sleep than ever, late nights are more often spent frantically completing homework than actually sleeping!

And then- on top of all that- there’s the peer pressure. Pressure from classmates and friends is something that weighs heavy on all teenagers. But when you’re a Muslim girl, and you stick out just a little bit (okay, a lot) more than everyone else, and the list of things you refuse to partake in (like wearing revealing clothing, socialising with boys or drinking alcohol) is much longer than others’, the pressure can be even harder to deal with. It is this very distinction that can make some people feel as though their religion and beliefs are becoming cumbersome; especially when their peers have no faith of their own, no religion that they are connected to, and cannot relate to their situation at all.

Some Ahmadi girls may well find it uncomfortable to enter discussions regarding their religion, drawing extra attention to themselves in an environment where they already feel (like all teenagers) self conscious. When they are asked questions about their faith they may want to shrink away from responding. However, as Ahmadi Muslim girls, we know this isn’t what we should do.

Looking towards the examples of the very accomplished, inspiring women in our Community, it is vital we calmly and kindly answer the questions of our classmates regarding our religion, stand our ground even if we are pressured to do otherwise, and learn that our unique identities as Ahmadi Muslim girls are not something to be ashamed of. Rather, we should take pride in who we are and what we believe. Doing so can often gain us more respect than changing ourselves to fit in.

To do this, however, it is vital that we have knowledge of our own religion. Otherwise, if we do not understand the reasoning behind the teachings, we can become confused and, when faced with a difficult question regarding our religion, may find we don’t know the exact answer. We do not have to blindly follow what our parents are telling us; instead, we should constantly ask questions and read religious books, articles and blogs so that we develop a faith in God, and an understanding of Islam, that is personal.

In short, no matter how busy we become, or how awkward we may feel, our faith isn’t something that we can afford to ignore or neglect. Because before long school will finish- and we will never see the classmates who once pressured us or made us feel uncomfortable ever again. The way we decide to act now will determine whether we can look back at our conduct with pride, or with regret. Even as teenagers, it is our responsibility as Ahmadi Muslims to put our faith first and prioritise our religion before anything else.

And once we have done that, we find that we are free to enjoy our adolescent days as much as-if not more- than the next person.

Holy Quran · Islam

A Colour That Never Fades

Arfa Blog

 

Arfa Niswan Yassir, Swindon

It is stated in the Holy Qur’an:

 صِبْغَةَ اللَّهِ ۖ وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ مِنَ اللَّهِ صِبْغَةً ۖ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ عَابِدُونَ

Translation: “Say, ‘We will adopt the religion of Allah; and who is better than Allah in teaching religion, and Him alone do we worship.’ (2:139)

Quranic commentary tells us that this verse is about colouring ourselves in God’s colour because His colour is the best. This indeed gives a new meaning to the word ‘colour’ and this is a beautiful expression everyone can relate to. It showcases the beauty of expression of the Holy Qur’an. ‘Colour’ is used so often in our lives in various contexts like the term ‘black or white’, then there are colours of races, flags are represented by colours and patterns. So Allah unites all forms of colour under one best colour that is the colour of Allah!

According to commentary of the Holy Qur’an the Arabic word in the verse صبغہ means dye or colour, mode of a thing, religion, baptism and code of laws.

The commentary also tells us that adopting the colour of Allah is the true baptism, that is, an initiation through which one can try to acquire Divine attributes on a human level and try and be a living manifestation of the same.

Like every other instruction in Qur’an this verse also demands thought and action. By reflecting on it and then putting it in practice we can fulfil the purpose of our existence i.e.  We colour our lives in His Colour. If we make this our goal, our objective and reason to be ultimately becomes our strength. Of course it’s difficult to maintain His colour in the presence of so many tempting colours of the world! However, we can pray and earnestly try for it! Though the colours of the world are tempting but their reality is nothing. So we need to strive to think, ponder and move from the superficial worldly colours to the enduring divine colours i.e. the attributes of Allah which we need to adopt on a human level and try and demonstrate in our lives.

Allah’s colour, His religion, His code of law is what constitutes the Holy Qur’an and it was also Allah’s colour that was demonstrated in the blessed life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him).

The process of adopting Allah’s colour is a wonderful journey, journey worth spending all our efforts on! So now is the time to take steps towards Allah before it is too late! To attain His colour should be the greater focus of life towards which all other intentions should be directed. This also means knowing how to keep moving in the right direction during the toughest of times, trying one’s best to keep one’s direction towards Allah.

His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the fifth spiritual head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community mentioned and explained the aforementioned Quranic verse in one of his Friday Sermons a few years ago. He said:

“By adopting Divine attributes a person gains nearness to God. When a believer imbues God’s colour he or she attain his or her purpose of creation. He or she tries to practice that which God likes and tries and resists what God dislikes. The commandment ‘to adopt the religion/colour of God’ signifies that God has put the capacity in humans to adopt His attributes within their own sphere and to also demonstrate them. For example, man can adopt the Divine qualities of Malikiyyat (quality of being the Master), Rahmaniyyat (quality of being Gracious), Raheemiyyat (quality of being Merciful) and Rububiyyat (quality of being the Sustainer/Nurturer) on human level. Man can adopt the quality of being Sattar (One Who covers the faults of others) and of Wahab (the Bestower), in fact these qualities are sometimes demonstrated in the life of an ordinary person. A true believer imbues the colours/qualities of God to attract His love. It is essential to demonstrate these qualities to attract the love of God, to save humanity from sin and to attain the purpose of one’s creation. Ultimately, this demonstration becomes a source of merit in God’s sight.”[i]

Although this journey of adopting colour of Allah is a most fulfilling spiritual experience, it is not an easy way. It demands sacrifice of worldly wishes and desires, it demands a complete state of fanaa, a state where one is completely absorbed and devoted to Allah.

May Allah deepen HIS colour in our souls! AMEEN

 

[i] https://www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/2012-08-10.html#summary-tab

Islam · Politics

Response to Anti-Islam Sentiment

Graphic-Navida blog on Wilders

Navida Sayed, London

There was widespread disquiet following Dutch politician Geert Wilder coming back on the scene yesterday announcing to hold a cartoon competition of our beloved Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

The impact of Mr Wilders’ announcement has somewhat spiralled out of control among people from all walks of life on social media resulting in individuals instantaneously reacting without a pause for thought. Social media platforms were laden with hundreds of concoctions offensive, abusive, derogatory comments against Islam and our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Enraged individuals who clearly don’t know the basics about Islam were exchanging deluded and distorted comments. Existing negative media content about Islam already drives such individuals and Wilders’ announcement gives it a big boost.

Surely freedom of speech does not mean creating disorder and chaos in the world. The antagonism Mr Wilders is breeding and expanding will harm peace of society by creating further divisions and barriers. Wilders’ interpretation of freedom of speech will open a gateway for further bigotry.

Prevention remains better than cure we can only pray and hope the relevant authorities will rethink and take responsibility.

Producing and publishing cartoons may be the asserted right of individuals wishing to express freedom of speech, however is it necessary at the expense of hurting the sentiments of others and jeopardizing peace in society? Will posting cartoons of our beloved Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him) enable the world to become a better and peaceful place?  Surely this cannot be deemed as freedom of speech especially if it leads to strife.

As for our response, regardless of the surge of hatred against Islam, in these last ten days of the blessed and holy month of Ramadhan, we will continue to pray and won’t give up advocating peace, tolerance, love and understanding among followers of all faiths.

A humble message to all fellow Muslims in the world, let us all endeavour to put into practice the goodwill, piety and self-discipline acquired during Ramadhan, and  not be provoked by  Wilders of the world. Pray for unity among the Muslim Ummah and understand the Need for the Imam. I end with the words of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace):

‘Alas! Heaven is bearing witness and you do not hear; the earth is crying out: One is needed, one is needed, and you pay no attention! O unfortunate people! arise and see that in this time of distress, Islam has been trodden underfoot and has been maligned like criminals. It has been counted among liars and has been written down among unholy ones. Then would not God’s jealousy be aroused at such at time? Understand then that heaven is drawing close and the days are near when every ear shall hear the affirmation: ‘I am present’.

(Kitab-ul-Bariyyah, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 13, pp. 228 -330 – Essence of Islam, Vol. IV, pp. )

 

Freedom and Responsibility · Islam

Rights and Responsibilities of Free Speech

Iffat Mirza Blog-Free Speech

Iffat Mirza, London

In every walk of life, freedom and responsibility go hand in hand. The two are inseparable. However, when it comes to freedom of speech people can be quick to forget this. Perhaps it is that they feel protected by the law or bolstered by their own convictions that they forget that actions have consequences. Freedom of speech seems to have become an increasingly complex concept in modern society. When it comes to attacking religion, it is easy to do so in the name of freedom of speech and often go overboard in patronising, and even abusive, terms, all whilst having no regard for the sentiments of millions of people across the globe.

It seems that Geert Wilders is one of these people. Having recently declared a contest to draw the Holy Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) he has made a calculated decision to offend the Muslim world. In Islam it is forbidden to draw the Holy Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). To justify this under the guise of ‘freedom of speech’ is a complete misunderstanding of the concept. To play with the sentiments of nearly 2 billion Muslims across the globe is to make mischief, not to protect the sacred rights of speech or expression. In fact, if Mr Wilders is so concerned with the freedom of speech, surely it makes no sense to then try to ban the Holy Qur’an as he famously alluded to in the past. Surely, to ban literature is the greatest violation of freedom of speech. In this Orwellian society that Mr Wilders is devising , the words ‘freedom is slavery’ are certainly beginning to seem increasingly true, as the state will inevitably believe that government approved religions and literature are ‘correct’ and anything else deserves silencing and banning. The hypocrisy of his ‘defence of freedom of speech is astounding’.

As a student of language and literature I am very passionate about the concept of freedom of speech.  I am even more so passionate about it because as a Muslim I believe that God has gifted us with the power to reason and therefore analyse situations and articulate them. The power that words and other art forms have is inspiring and it is for this reason that whilst freedom of speech must be defended, so must the sentiments of the populace.

John Stewart Mill, known to be one of the best thinkers of the 19th century, was a great pioneer of freedom of speech. In his 1859 work On Liberty, he writes:

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion.

Mill explains the necessity to understand both sides of an argument in order to justify your beliefs. One must know the ins and outs of his opponents’ views to fully affirm why he is in opposition. It is not enough, in this right, to look towards the actions of a few so-called Muslims, nor is it enough to base his view on the stereotypes of Muslims.

Indeed, to criticise the teachings of Islam, as with any concept, one must first learn, and then understand the teachings of Islam. Perhaps then Mr Wilders would learn that he is not the first leader to defend freedom of speech, but in fact the Holy Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) stood for the populace, and not only encouraged the minorities to live and worship freely, but also instructed all Muslims to allow them to do so.

  1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5836469/Anti-Islam-political-party-plans-hold-competition-drawing-cartoons-Mohammed.html
  2. https://www.alislam.org/library/books/Islam-and-Freedom-of-Conscience.pdf page 31
  3. John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859.
Holy Quran · Islam

The Illuminating Verse

Illuminating Verse

Arfa Niswan Yassir, Swindon

Since the past one month this verse (or should I say part of a Quranic verse) remains somewhere at the back of my mind somehow, and every mention of light or Nur makes me think about it. The verse is as given below:

اَللہُ نُوْرُ السَّمٰوٰتِ وَ الْاَرْضِ

Surah Al-Nur verse 36: “Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth…”

The word Nur is found in Arabic, Persian and Urdu. It can be translated as light, transfiguration, manifestation, beauty, gorgeousness etc.
‘The Light’ or Al Nur is also one of the names/attributes of Allah the Almighty.

Light as described by English dictionaries is an entity that stimulates sight, makes things visible. Physics suggests it as energy or particles called photons. But the light being mentioned in this verse requires ‘vision’ rather than ‘sight’. Light as a natural agent also requires us to have sight, similarly Allah’s light Nur also requires something from us i.e. vision!

In the spiritual world ‘light’ is precisely referred to as guidance and ‘darkness’ as absence of guidance or ” This light is not just illumination or brightness but energy as well; positive energy. So this light has a broader meaning than just illumination, it means that in order to make sense of anything in our world we need to absorb this Nur according to our capability and willingness. Just like in order to see anything around us we need the light of the physical world similarly through Allah’s Nur we can make sense of the things going on around us. Light travels in a straight line and for the spiritual path to seek Allah’s light we also need to tread the straight path, which in Quranic idiom is the ‘right path’ Siratal Mustaqeem.
Light in the broader sense can be understood in three contexts:

1. The light around us.
2. The light that is absorbed, i.e. we contain.
3. The light that is reflected (As by the Prophets and spiritually exalted people and through God’s holy books).

The Light Around Us
A true believer must strive to absorb & retain this light through thick and thin that is why the colour of the flag of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) was black! Black absorbs all light, all shades of light. We require a lifetime to absorb and retain this light. Reminds me of a quote by the celebrated 13 century Persian mystic and poet Maulana Rumi:

‘The wound is where the light enters your soul’

Well, basically this depends upon the person, the wound can also be the place from where the entire light could exit as well! Tough and trying situations would have different impact on two different hearts. So a willing heart might find light from any source experience or happening while an unwilling heart might chose to dwell in darkness. But it’s always around!

The Light We Absorb
Shown in our thoughts and actions.

It is written in Mathnawi, series of six books of poetry by Maulana Rumi:

The light which shines in the eye
is really the light of the heart.
The light which fills the heart
is the light of God, which is pure
and separate from the light of intellect and sense.

 Mathnawi 1:1126-7

Light That Is Reflected
Allah’s light is manifested as divine guidance through Holy books revealed by Him, His Prophets, spiritually exalted people who tread His path and reflect His light from which others can seek beneficence.

Further Quranic References of The Light:
In Surah Al-Baqarah verse 257 it is stated: ‘There should be no compulsion in religion…’ The verse goes on to say Allah has sent His religious law (Shariah) to distinguish between right and wrong and in the very next verse Allah states:

“Allah is the friend of those who believe: He brings them out of every kind of darkness into light. And those who disbelieve, their friends are the transgressors who bring them out of the light into every kind of darkness…’

So the believers are promised Allah’s help to move out of darkness into light Nur.

In Surah Al Taubah, verse 32 Allah states:

‘They desire to extinguish the light of Allah with their mouths; but Allah will permit nothing expect that He will perfect His light, though the unbelievers may dislike it.’

Hence this light is always there around us, willing hearts can absorb it and reflect it as well. Allah explicitly states that no human activity can put this light out, this is an affirming statement for us.
This light, this Nur is the bigger purpose of life, this light is happiness, this light is the real beauty that we need to develop in ourselves and find in others, this light is the objective of life, this light is the destination. This light can be absorbed & retained with total surrender. Only then we can actually ‘reflect’ the light to others. Just disliking darkness is not enough to travel towards light we need to tread the straight path, which is the ‘right path’.

 

Holy Quran · Islam · Trust in Allah

Is Not Allah Sufficient For His Servant?

Is not Allah sufficient for His servant-BLOG

Arfa Yassir, Swindon

Allah, the Supreme Being, is fully aware of the weaknesses and short comings of His creation. Though we may, as humans, over-estimate or under-estimate our powers at times, Allah knows how helpless human beings are, how weak at heart or mind we may become. Also only He knows our true potential. We may become weak when we encounter tough times, we may become arrogant over our success but this glorious Quranic verse gives us the right attitude in life. Allah states:

“Is not Allah sufficient for His servant?…’[i]

This is the mind-set and attitude a believer must maintain in his or her thought and action at all times. In tough and trying times these affirming words from Allah save us from helplessness and depression and give us peace and confidence. They make us mindful that neither our skill, planning, worldly resources, people, power nor influence can save us but only Allah can! Hence no matter how tough the situation gets we will not lose hope knowing that Allah will help us find a way. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) is known to have said:

‘Were you to put your complete trust in Allah, He would provide for you as He provides for the birds. They issue forth hungry in the morning and return filled in the evening.’[ii]

Allah is sufficient for His servant not only for physical needs but also for spiritual needs. He has been sending His Prophets to all people. For the most perfect and complete spiritual nourishment He blessed the world with a Prophet for all the peoples of the world, and for all times, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) and revealed the Holy Qur’an to him.

In times of success and achievement the words of the Quranic verse help us keep our feet on the ground because we realise we owe our success to Allah. It is only because of Him that we have been able to do anything at all, as He is sufficient for His servant.

Of course in no way does this verse imply that we should stop using our skills and struggle for worldly resources, what it teaches is to bear in mind that after putting the best of our effort into something the results may only be achieved with Allah’s help. Many times we see in our personal lives that even though we use all resources at our disposal we still cannot achieve what we aim for because Allah does not will so. And many times we know that we cannot do something or something is not possible still we are able to achieve our goal only because of special help from Allah.

If we ponder a little we may see that this verse demands two things from us:

Firstly, to actually believe firmly and realise that Allah is enough for His servant.

Secondly, to become a true ‘abd’ or servant of Allah so that He shows His helping hand for us.

I read in a Quranic commentary that we must reflect on and think over Allah’s attributes. This helps us understand the Divine powers and in turn helps us to imbibe His attributes in our character on a human level and have the vision to see His attributes in action around us. For example Allah’s attribute Al Kafi, ‘The Sufficient’ is very helpful in this regard.

To become a true servant of Allah we are blessed with not only the complete code of conduct in the Holy Qur’an but also the fact that the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) was a personification of the Holy Qur’an and he was indeed the perfect example of a true servant of Allah for all times. Through these blessings we can try and colour our souls exactly how Allah wants us to.

The current worldwide spiritual head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad explained this subject in one of his Friday sermons and said that when help is needed it is only God Who has the real power to help, and He provides it. This is a most significant point which a true believer should always have in view, whether the help sought is on personal level or communal. But it is seen that in practice people do not pay as much attention to this as they should. Most of us say that our needs are met by the grace of God. However, if we ponder over our words in-depth we will note that we consider various means as the sources of accomplishing our tasks.  [iii]

In conclusion, let’s take further inspiration from the lives of some Prophets of Allah. History witnesses numerous examples of Allah being enough for His servant. Prophet Ibrahim (peace be on him) left his wife and son alone in desert as per Allah’s command knowing that Allah is sufficient for His servant. Prophet Yusuf (peace be on him) thanked Allah for his faith even though he was in prison knowing that Allah is sufficient for His servant. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) never gave up his cause in the face of the strongest opposition and lack of resources knowing that Allah indeed is sufficient for His servant.

 

[i] https://www.alislam.org/quran/tafseer/?page=543&region=E2&CR=

 

[ii] https://www.alislam.org/library/hadith/on-certainty-and-trust/

 

[iii] https://www.alislam.org/friday-sermon/2014-11-28.html

 

 

Facts · Islam

Discourse on Extremism and the Role of Media.

Extremism and role of Media

Nadia Shamas, Manchester

In this century we have seen and are more aware of acts of extremism than ever before. Extremism by definition, is the idea of ‘holding extreme political and religious values.’ In this year alone, the world has experienced 506 extremist attacks perpetrated by people who called themselves Muslim. However, my question is what about the extremist attacks that were brought on by those who were not Muslim? In no way is this supporting the self-proclaimed jihadists because they do not and are not portraying the morals and teachings of Islam. The religion of Islam teaches and promotes peace and states that there should be no compulsion in religion.

But it does raise the question that why is it that when people use the word ‘extremism’ the first words that crop up in the media are ‘Muslims’, ‘Jihadists’ or ‘Islam’? Why is it that we never hear discussions about non-Muslim terrorist groups such as the KKK (Ku Klux Klan), who have been responsible for burning not only churches and peoples’ property on American soil but also burning people? Why is it that a man such as Mark Conditt is not labelled a terrorist when he was related to an extreme Christian group and committed a suicide bomb attack in which he killed two innocent people and injured five? The answer is because of the role of media and what they do and don’t present to the public.

On Saturday 3rd June 2017, London was hit with a devastating terrorist attack that killed eight innocent people. Theresa May in her speech exclaimed, ‘enough is enough,’ further stating that it was social media platforms that had allowed extremists to ‘breed’ their wrong ideologies and plan so many attacks that had hit all around the world. Many agreed with the Prime Minister’s view. The media covered her speech as well as the terrorist attack. Although we are observing that many social media platforms such as, Facebook and Instagram are now much more rigorously tracking or removing content related to extremism, there is still a huge misunderstanding of extremism, its perpetrators and the role of the western media in how these two factors are portrayed.  For example, Kimberly Powell, a professor of Communication and Women and Gender Studies, concluded in her study of U.S. media coverage on terrorism after 9/11, that terrorism was most effective at spreading when given widespread media coverage. Additionally, a recent study that was published in the daily newspaper Independent has shown how misleading the media can become when the topic of extremism arises.

Research conducted by Erin M. Kearns, an American assistant professor of criminology, and her colleagues, included looking at 89 specific terrorist attacks that had occurred during the years 2011 to 2015 in the United States (these were according to the GTD’s – Global Terrorism Database – definition of terrorism) and they found that out of those attacks, Muslims were responsible for 12.4% of atrocities. What they further found out was, out of the 89 attacks, 24 hadn’t received any media coverage, but the small percentage of 12.4% of Muslim perpetrators had received 44% news coverage. They also discovered that there were 192.8 articles out of 2,413 that were related to either Muslim or foreign-born perpetrators, compared to the 18.1 articles that had been written about the rest of the 88% terrorist attacks that weren’t to do with Muslim extremists. All in all, showing that, on average, Muslim extremist attacks tend to receive four and a half times more coverage within the media. The researchers of this study concluded, “In other words, whether intentional or not, US media outlets disproportionality emphasise the smaller number of terrorist attacks by Muslims, leading America to have an exaggerated sense of threat.”

Thus, we come to see that the western media plays a crucial role in how extremist attacks are usually portrayed to the larger audience who witness such atrocities. This not only highlights the sphere of influence the media has, but also calls to attention the responsibility of those who work in this field in depicting the actual truth of extremism, in whatever form it may manifest itself.

Certainly we see that the so-called ‘cherry-picking’ of stories related to extremism that only fit a certain agenda, against extremists claiming to be Muslim, is a grave injustice. Such misrepresentation of information can lead to the disastrous consequences of hate, prejudice and stereotype arising against the many of a particular group of people, due to the deplorable actions of the very few. Such injustices in the media only emphasise the need to educate people on not initially believing everything they read or see as the final truth.

Finally, this also stresses to those in the media that they must give a fair and just account of any matters they report on, not just extremism, because as best said in the words of revolutionary civil rights leader, Malcolm X: “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”

Hijab · Integration · Islam · Women

Muslim Women and Their Identity

Identity Muslim Woman Blog

Screenshot 2018-03-20 09.59.51Screenshot 2018-03-20 10.00.36Screenshot 2018-03-20 10.00.59

Hijab · Integration · Islam · Women

Identity As A Muslim Woman

Identity Muslim Woman 2 Perspectives

                                                      Aneela Mahmood, London

Freedom is the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants. Then why today do I receive sympathetic stares or judgmental glares when I walk out with my head and body covered? Why must freedom be defined by how little one wears and oppression be judged against how much one wears? In the name of freedom, women are pressured into wearing little to no clothes- because how little you wear defines how free you are. These are nothing but sexist ideologies conformed by misogynists to benefit their own desires. I, as a Muslim woman can proudly say that I have not allowed myself to become victimised by these misogynistic views on what defines a free and liberal woman. To me a free woman, is one who doesn’t allow others to dictate her freedom; one who doesn’t allow herself to feel undermined by pejorative views of those around her; and one who strives to amplify her own peace rather than seeking to advance that of others. Hence, I can proudly define myself as a free Muslim woman.

My identity as a Muslim woman may be questioned and mocked. However, nothing can change what I as Muslim woman harbour within me. Protection of my chastity, dignity and honour through the perseverance of my hijab and humble demeanour is what defines me.

The devotion to seek and discover my happiness through prayer is what defines me. The desire to please Allah above all others, is what defines me.

Thus, whilst the so-called ‘progressive’ women of the developed world desperately endeavour for acceptance in the contemporary society, I as a Muslim woman, primarily strive for the acceptance of Allah Almighty; and that is what defines me.

 

                                                          Bareya Khan, Thornton Heath

A Muslim woman is not only a blessing for herself but for the entire world. The birth of a young Muslim girl allows her parents to open the doors of paradise unto themselves. The marriage of a Muslim woman allows her and her spouse to have completed half of their faith and the role of a Muslim mother allows her children to find paradise under her feet. Thus the identity of a Muslim woman is that of a blessing. Her identity is in what she is able to give to the world through her being; to her parents, to her life partner and to her future generation as well as herself. She grows in all aspects of life and every aspect of her speaks for her faith and her love of God. She uses her lips for truth rather than lies. She uses her voice to spread kindness rather than hate. She uses her ears to listen rather than to ignore. She uses her hands for charity rather than for spreading hurt. She uses her faith for prayers rather than to curse. That is the identity of a Muslim woman.

As a Muslim woman, I’ve been liberated from a silent form of subjection. My value is not determined by my looks and my natural beauty, but my worth is determined by what I aspire to offer to this world on a much higher scale; a scale of righteousness, a scale of piety. I don’t need society’s standards of what is beautiful to define my worth and my identity. My worth and my salvation lies not in this world, but the Creator of this world.

I am honoured, and I stand strong as ever, because I am a Muslim woman. I do not adorn myself with diamonds and pearls, but with the values of a Muslimah, a believing woman. Patience. Compassion. Strength. Righteousness. Tolerance. Modesty. Humility. Honesty. Love. These are my values, and this is my identity. I am proud to be a Muslim woman.