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Ghuroor, Muslim Women, and Shutting Down Grief

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

Now is a moment when people can respond like the Muslims of New Zealand, and allow everyone to grieve these losses together, as this was a terror attack against all our fellow human beings. Or else it’s a chance to treat all Muslims worldwide as guilty, and to hold us all responsible for these horrific killings.

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When most people talk about American Muslims and the chilling events that took place in New York City, Washington, D.C., and in planes above the US on September 11, 2001, they’re looking at it through one lens: Did American Muslims condemn those attacks? Or did they not condemn the attacks?

Most recently, public figures posed this question in a different way about Rep. Ilhan Omar: is she reverent enough about what happened on 9/11, or is she insufficiently reverent?

For anyone who has met Rep. Omar, the ways in which she is being portrayed in the US media—as an angry, attacking firebrand—must be surprising. I have met Rep. Ilhan Omar several times. She is a petite woman and a calm public speaker who is not at all intimidating. She is good-natured, always smiling, dignified, and approachable. She frequently talks about how she thanks God that she came to the US, and that she recognizes the opportunities it has opened up for herself and her children. She has worked diligently within the system in order to improve things for Americans.

And yet public discourse has repeatedly looked down on Rep. Omar, who because of her hijab is the most visibly Muslim woman in the US Congress. It has painted her as an angry, hateful outsider who is attacking America.

But staying silent isn’t an option either. Ghazala Khan—the mother of US Army Captain Humayan Khan, who was killed in 2004 in the Iraq War—is another visibly Muslim woman who took the public stage at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Ghazala, who was a mother, a community volunteer, and worked in a fabric store, was derided by Donald Trump as a silent Muslim woman, unable to speak, oppressed and in need of liberation.
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America’s Malala

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee. The people of the 5th elected me to serve their interest. I am sure we agree on that!
–Rep. Ilhan Omar, Fifth District, Minnesota

ilhan omarLeading Democrats in the US House of Representatives have said that, on Wednesday, they plan to put forward a resolution condemning Rep. Ilhan Omar. Although the text of the resolution is still unavailable, most assume it will call out Omar’s outspoken human-rights activism as anti-Semitic. In its secrecy and power, the resolution feels something like the fatwas some extremists issue against anyone who wants to challenge them to start a conversation.

Rep. Omar may have chosen her words poorly when questioning AIPAC. She apologized for that. However, her words did not warrant this overwhelming response. She did not—as she should not—use the stereotype about “Jewish money,” as some right-wing US politicians do when they bring up George Soros. She criticized AIPAC, which is a very powerful lobby group that boasts of its tremendous influence.

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The Resolute Prophets and Dealing with Rejection

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

“The wise man does not argue or seek to overcome with stratagem rather he propagates his wisdom. If it is accepted he praises Allah and if it is rejected he praises Allah.” –Al-Hasan al-Basree

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Rejection can take many forms. It can be directed at a person, a failure to recognize and accept an individual’s being or ideas. Or it can be collective: a rejection of a whole faith, ethnicity, culture, identity, or community.

All of us will experience some rejection in our lives, whether fair or not. How did the prophets deal with it?

The five resolute prophets—Jesus, Muhammad, Abraham, Moses, and Noah; peace upon them—all experienced tremendous rejection.

Noah, for instance, was asked to call people to God solely by talking with them. The Qur’an tells us that, after 950 years of telling people about God, Noah found only 80 people who listened. Yet he persevered in the face of constant rejection, calmly, with only minimal results to show for all his efforts.

Other resolute prophets persevered in the face of humiliation, disgrace, and physical attacks. Throughout this, they continued to believe and to endure with hope.

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What Makes a Good Judge?

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

And the Book (of Deeds) will be placed (before you); and thou wilt see the sinful in great terror because of what is (recorded) therein; they will say, “Ah! woe to us! what a Book is this! It leaves out nothing small or great, but takes account thereof!” They will find all that they did, placed before them: And not one will thy Lord treat with injustice. (Quran 18:49)

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There is a story attributed to Abu Hurairah, a seventh-century narrator of hadith. He told of a cleaner who lived during the time of the Prophet, peace and blessings upon him.

It happened that the Prophet noticed this cleaner was suddenly missing from the mosque. When he was told the cleaner had died, the Prophet asked: “Why didn’t you inform me?” It seemed that the Prophet’s companions had found the matter trivial, but the Prophet went to the cleaner’s grave to offer prayers.

In this story, we learn about the attentions of the truly just—the sort of person who would be a good judge. The Prophet didn’t say: Was this person a high-achiever? Did they go to Yale? This person’s worth, for the Prophet, didn’t rest on having reached a particular station in life, nor having put together a stunning CV.

Although ways of measuring human worth have changed, much has stayed the same. It is important for us to remember that innocence and guilt are not built on a person’s place in the social hierarchy.

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