American Imam’s Powerful Answer To Islamophobia

Assistant Imam Ahsan ZahidWhen American Imam Ahsan Zahid was woken by a phone call early on Friday morning, he had a terrible feeling that the call was bringing bad news. Only he didn’t know just how bad it was. A fire was engulfing a building at the Quba Islamic Center. Zahid had seen someone lurking around the property with his face hidden, but he prayed that his fears were unfounded. However fire investigators confirmed the worst: The fire was an arson attack.

Whatever the attacker hoped to achieve, he failed. A building may have been destroyed, but buildings can be re-built. The tens of thousands of Muslims who live in the area may be concerned, but they are going nowhere. Most importantly, though, Zahid was able to make the tragedy into a blessing by turning for guidance to the one thing that can make such a transformation: Sunnah.

Zahid did not respond by offering a bounty for the attacker. He did not take out a protest march with the slogan “In the service of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), we are willing to die”. He did not respond with calls for jihad. He responded with love, and in turn he received an outpouring of love.

In a time when media headlines are filled with threats and counter threats and violence seems to be the only thing that anyone knows anymore, what is needed more than ever is for more people to be like Zahid and follow the example of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and answer enemies with love and forgiveness. A bullet can make a heart bleed, but kindness can make hearts blossom.

Full Text of Malala’s Speech at UN

In the name of God, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful.

Honourable UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-moon,

Respected President General Assembly Vuk Jeremic

Honourable UN envoy for Global education Mr Gordon Brown,

Respected elders and my dear brothers and sisters;

Today, it is an honour for me to be speaking again after a long time. Being here with such honourable people is a great moment in my life.

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We don’t need no education

Last night, I got a phone call from a friend who wanted to know if I was watching Capital Talk and told me to turn it on immediately. Why? I asked. What’s happening? I thought it was going to be something shocking. I guess it should have been, but unfortunately it wasn’t. Agha Waqar was back on the air peddling his science fiction water kit, this time facing Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy and Dr Shaukat Hameed Khan. Obviously, the water kit is old news, and why Hamid Mir gave this charlatan guy more publicity, I don’t understand. But it wasn’t just the water kit that sent my friend over the edge, it was the way Agha Waqar arrogantly dismissed the other guests as they questioned the scientific validity of his methods.

At one point in the programme, Waqar says:

“Inko mei aaj ye prove karkay dikhaonga ye nonsensy nahi hai, jo khood keh rahay hain ya tou unki aqal kaam nahi kar rahee, humary pooray muashray ko inhon nay aik circle hole mei band kiya hua hia ye ke hadood hain aur insay bahir apnay nahi jana.” (I will prove to them that this isn’t nonsense. What hes saying he doesnt have knowledge. He has put our entire society in a closed circle and said these are the boundaries you can not cross them.)

The ‘boundaries’ that he’s describing are the principles of science – something he claims is being imposed on our society by people like Dr Hoodbhoy.

The rise of the anti-science mindset such as Agha Waqar’s is often blamed on the poor state of education, particularly in science. That’s certainly part of it, but it’s not just uneducated people who have adopted this way of thinking. Consider Imran Khan, who accuses his critics of being ‘Westoxified Pakistanis’ and urges people to read his book to learn his true beliefs. Well, I did read his book, and what I found sounded a lot like Agha Waqar.

Page 51 of Imran Khan’s book says:

Our Western education also laid emphasis on science, which based everything on the premise that what could not be proved, did not exist.

This is, of course, utter nonsense. I was not privileged to attend Aitchison and Oxford, so I can’t speak to the quality of education provided by those institutions, but science does not hold that ‘what could not be proved, does not exist’. To the contrary, while there science includes laws, which have been proven, it also included theories and hypothoses which have not been definitively proven. For example, Darwin’s theory of evolution. It is worth noting that Imran Khan rejects Darwin’s theory of evolution, terming it a ‘half-baked’ philosophy. What evidence does the cricketer base his conclusion? Well, none, really. Apparently unable to reconcile both religion and science, Imran Khan rejects science. He explains this on page 111 of his book, where he says:

For someone who believes in reason and logic, it is difficult to blindly believe that the Quran is the word of God.

This is utter nonsense, but it has become more and more mainstream way of thinking. There are even people who claim to believe in both science and religion, but seem to believe that this means they have to twist science to make it fit their religious beliefs instead of looking for how the two actually compliment each other. Anyone who has ever listened to the nonsensical ramblings of Zakir Naik should watch the following clip in which a group of young Muslims who, unlike Imran Khan, do not have a problem believing in both science and religion.

All of this is particularly sad considering that the golden period of Islam is filled with major scientific discoveries – often while Europe was stuck in its own ‘dark ages’. Here is Dr Hoodbhoy explaining for the website Islamopedia Online:

Science, logic, and reason are not a Western conspiracy. They are not even Western. Historically, they are woven into the intricate fabric of our own culture and religion. Abandoning them has opened the door to all types of charlatans and con men. Treating science, logic, and reason as foreign concepts is not strengthening our society, it is tearing it apart.

Pakistan’s First Oscar Nomination

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy

It came as a surprise to me when I read this Dawn article yesterday talking about Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, journalist and documentarian, becoming the first ever Pakistani film maker to earn an Oscar nomination with her film ‘Saving Face’. Having gotten used to the clichéd and extremely average movies coming out of our very own beloved ‘Lollywood’, it got me curious.

Since I had heard of her name before but not followed her work closely, this news got me interested and I started to do my research. According to the Oscars’ website the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has nominated ‘Saving Face’, a documentary directed by Pakistani investigative filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and Daniel Junge, for an Oscar in the Best Documentary (Short Subject) category.

An in-depth interview with Sharmeen Obiad Chinoy shows that she is a conscientious member of the society who works with refugees, women’s and rights groups. Most of her work features on children and their struggles, especially in places of conflict. She received an Emmy Award for her film ‘Pakistan’s Taliban Generation’. It was the first of its kind movie that focused on how children were being recruited by Taliban back in 2008. She also addressed the issue of how those children had no idea what was going on in the world and had no access to radio, television, or newspapers. With an extensive background in journalism, Sharmeen Chinoy also studied on countering extremist ideologies and explained the link between religious parties and extremist groups in her movie.

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy has not limited her movie-making portfolio to just Pakistan but has made movies in the continents of Europe Africa and North America also. She has roughly 16 movies under her belt and has received numerous awards from all over the world for her work. She is renowned for producing deeply moving character focused content, and always addresses cultural and political inequality in the system. Paul Haggart in his article in The Guardian says:

“Five of Obaid-Chinoy’s films concern her native Pakistan, but she has also made documentaries about women in Saudi Arabia, Native American women in Canada, illegal abortions in the Philippines, Muslims in Sweden and the ill-treatment of Zimbabwean migrants in South Africa. Her portfolio is a global tour of gender oppression and social injustice”.

Shirmeen Chinoy also refuses to let the taboo image of Muslim women in a society stop her. She is very vocal about religious freedom and education for women in Islam. She says:

“Where in the Qur’an does it say a woman must cover her face? I’ve read it front to back and I can’t find it”.

Having interacted with and studied various religious organizations, she is also very vocal about radical Islamization that is slowly up in our society:

“I find the political manipulation of Islam to be very troubling. We can’t have a them-and-us attitude. We are part of this planet and we share it with the rest of humanity”.

According to Daily Times her movie ‘Saving Face’ is a story about women struggling for justice and the movie shows their ‘resilience and unwavering strength‘. Daily Times also reports that this observational documentary was filmed entirely in Pakistan, primarily in the Saraiki belt in addition to Rawalpindi, Karachi and Islamabad. The movie is set to air on America’s premier television cable network HBO, on March 8, 2012.