Month: August 2017

Wednesday, August 30, 2017 – 01:00

What is Hajj and what takes place during the annual pilgrimage? Let us turn to an English scholar who inscribed the following epitaph in late 19th Century, when British rule dominated over much of the world:

“But above all – and herein is its supreme importance in the missionary history of Islam – it ordains a yearly gathering of believers, of all nations and languages, brought together from all parts of the world, to pray in that sacred place towards which their faces are set in every hour of private worship in their distant homes. No stretch of religious genius could have conceived a better expedient for impressing on the minds of the faithful a sense of their common life and of brotherhood in the bonds of faith. Here, in a supreme act of common worship, the Negro of the West coast of Africa meets the Chinaman from the distant East; the courtly and polished Ottoman recognises his brother Muslim in the wild islander from the farthest end of the Malayan Sea. At the same time throughout the whole Muhammedan world the hearts of believers are lifted up in sympathy with their more fortunate brethren gathered together in the sacred city, as in their own homes they celebrate the festival of ‘Eed al-Ad-haa…’”

– T. W. Arnold, The Preaching of Islam, London, 1956, p. 415

I am yet to find a more eloquent expression on Hajj even from a Muslim source than this by Sir Thomas Walker Arnold, who penned his observations in his book The Preaching of Islam, in 1896 CE. Arnold, a prominent civil servant in India was awestruck by the rituals of Hajj. Any impartial observer would have felt the same at any given Hajj season be it in 1896, 1996 or even 796.

Universal brotherhood

The format and rituals of Hajj have remained virtually unchanged since its inception 15 Centuries ago, the rituals that signify the universal brotherhood that are enjoined in Islam. The technology may have changed, modes of transport have never been more comfortable but a time traveller from the Seventh Century would have found himself or herself at home in the Plains of Arafat in 2016 and in Makkah despite all that modernisation that has taken place in recent times.

Schams Elwazer, a producer covering the event of Hajj for CNN in 2012 found herself in an identical situation to that of T.W. Arnold. Under the caption ‘A Non-Pilgrim at the Hajj: A Memoir,’ in her Blog she had this to say:

“Sitting there on the white marble floor of the Grand Mosque, it was difficult not be blown away by the diversity of the people passing by. Groups of Indonesians in crisp white wearing coloured headbands for identification and moving in tight phalanx formations quietly chanting the mantra of the Hajj (which translates approximately to “Oh God, I have obeyed your call”). Groups of West Africans in colourful garb almost singing verses of Islam’s Holy Book the Quran. Old Chinese couples, groups of blonde Europeans and Americans; it felt as if we were literally watching the entire world walk past. The effect was nothing short of hypnotic.” (28.10.2012)

It all began, or should I say the tradition established by our great Patriarch Abraham (A) was revived 15 centuries ago after a single commandment of God, “and proclaim to the people the Hajj, they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, they will come from every distant pass.” (Quran 22:27)

The practical aspect of it was taught by Prophet Mohamed (S) in his lifetime when he undertook the pilgrimage. He emphasised on equality of Humans in the presence of God, regardless of man-made social and economic barriers. This scenario is repeated year in and year out at Hajj, where in addition to promoting universal brotherhood of mankind, the spirit of sacrifice to achieve it also emboldened in the hearts and minds of Pilgrims.

The modern world is plagued with racism and intolerance which Islam prohibits in no uncertain terms. The Hajj is an ideal occasion to re-build lost grounds and revive the brotherhood and tolerance which is sanctified in Islam. In his final pilgrimage Prophet Mohamed (S) addressing a crowd of 100,000 people declared:

“An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety (taqwa) and good action.”

These words dispelled the myth that some races and classes of people are superior to others and established the fact that all humans are equal, for which Prophet Abraham (A) struggled in his life. We are all equal human beings in the eyes of God. It is for this same noble cause Prophet Mohamed (S) worked tirelessly during his lifetime. When he left this world at the age of 63 he had no worldly belongings. Instead of living a luxury life he sacrificed all for the sake of humanity. His parting shot was to follow the Quran and his Traditions and vowed if we abide by them we will never go astray. In his own words “you will neither inflict nor suffer any inequity.”

Today’s Muslims are tested in various ways, latest being the fear mongering by certain groups that they will be ruled under Shariah or Islamic law in Sri Lanka and they stand to lose their freedom. This is a baseless allegation, thus it is imperative for Muslims of Sri Lanka to clear this misunderstanding among non-Muslims. It is forbidden to force anything on others.

Let it be known that under an ideal Islamic government, ‘non-Muslims will have the same political and cultural rights as Muslims. They will have autonomy and freedom of religion.’ This clause was enshrined in the Constitution of Medina, also known as the Charter of Medina under the instructions of Prophet Mohammed (S) when it was drafted in the year 622 CE.

Dr. John Andrew Morrow, author of The Covenants of Prophet Muhammad (Angelico Press 2013), commends this exemplary conduct of Prophet Mohammed (S) and opined that under the Constitution of Medina:

“identity and loyalty were no longer to be based on family, tribe, kinship, or even religion: the overriding identity was membership in the ummah (nation) of Muhammad. The Constitution of Medina decreed that the citizens of the Islamic state were one and indivisible regardless of religion. Be they heathen, People of the Book, or Muslims, all those who were subject to the Constitution belonged to the same ummah (nation). In doing so, he created a tolerant, pluralistic government which protected religious freedom. The importance of this is so extraordinary that it is often misunderstood.”

Justice, equal to all

This may come as a surprise to some, but it is the fact. Tolerance is important in Islam, and justice is equal to all as Andrew Murray stressed ‘even Muhammad the Messenger of Allah was not above the law.’

Had Muslims taken a little effort to spread this message, we would not have seen the misunderstandings on Islam that are prevalent in our society today. On this blessed day I urge my fellow Muslims take this as a religious duty and make a sincere effort to clear the doubts that exist among non-Muslims, not only on this issue but on countless other issues.

The events that T.W. Arnold observed will continue by the Grace of God but what takes place in Makkah should trickle down in to our daily lives and the same should be reflected in the Muslim world at large. Then only one could proclaim it has been a success. This is the true spirit of Hajj.

While celebrating the Hajj festivities, Eid ul Adha, let us pray for forgiveness, peace and prosperity of Mother Lanka and peace and prosperity of the world.

 BY: JOHN ANDREW MORROW   SOURCE: ISLAMICITY  AUG 22, 2017

When I received an abusive message from Elmer Argomedo, in which my faith and person were directly insulted, my first instinct was to insult him back according to the law of retaliation, namely, an eye for an eye. As the Quran states, “The retribution for an evil act is an evil one like it” (42:20). Fortunately, however, I remembered the words of the Prophet Muhammad who stated that “The strong are not the best wrestlers. Verily, those who are truly strong are those who control themselves when they are angry” (Bukhari and Muslim). Consequently, I calmed myself down, seeking the pleasure of the Creator who promised forgiveness and Paradise to “those who restrain their anger” (3:134).

Seeking to avoid an explosive expletive exchange that would prove unproductive, and determined to “Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better” (41:34), I opted to follow the procedures and polices put in place by the US Armed Forces. In short, I filed a complaint for harassment hoping that the individual in question could be reasoned with by his superior officer. Feeling that there was a lesson to be learned from the incident in question, I shared my story with sister Hanan al-Harbi, a supporter of the Covenants Initiative, who has come to my defense in times of need.

The article, titled “Muslim Leader Was Harassed by a US Marine” was published in Mvslim on Sunday, July 23rd, 2017. No sooner had it been shared by thousands of readers, I was contacted by my friend and colleague, Qasim Rashid, who notified me that his brother, Tayyib Rashid, wanted to speak with me. Although I had never met him in person, I was well-aware of his identity. Known as “The Muslim Marine,” Tayyib Rashid rose to prominence for offering to guard Jewish cemeteries in the United States from hate-filled anti-Semites who sought to desecrate them.

Assalamo Alaikum Dr Morrow,

I’m writing as a mediator for Corporal Elmer Argomeda. After reading the article regarding the disturbing comment he left on your video I found him on Facebook and reached out to him to explain himself. Coincidentally, he is stationed at Cherry Point NC, same as my permanent duty station almost 20 years ago.

It turns out that he realizes that he is guilty of exercising poor judgment and asked me to make sure that you receive his apology below.

Message from Corporal Argomedo:

Good afternoon. First of all, I want to sincerely apologize regarding the comment I already deleted. I have nothing against Muslims people nor people in general who follow the Islamic religion. With that being said, I was talking about the radicals but I guess I should’ve be specific in that part. I hope you can understand and forget this. Have a wonderful day.

In any case I just wanted to try and make peace between a fellow Marine and a fellow Muslim. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive him. Is so, please do let him know.

Jazakallah,
Wasalam,
Tayyib Rashid
TheMuslimMarine.com

Although the law of retribution provides for justice, the law of love calls of mercy: “pardon and overlook” (24:22). As we read in the Quran, “whoever pardons and makes reconciliation, his reward is [due] from Allah” (42:40). “If they incline to peace,” states Muslim Scripture, “then incline to it [also] and rely upon Allah.” And as the Prophet Muhammad counseled in the Covenants that he granted to Christian communities: “If a Christian were to commit an offense, Muslims must stand by his side, help him and support him… They should encourage reconciliation between him and the victim to either help or save him.” As one who submits and surrenders to the Creator, my only conceivable course of action is the statement: “We hear and we obey” (2:285)

As a Muslim and as an Aboriginal Person, I hold no grudges. There is no place for hatred in my heart. I have love for all. Consequently, I forgive Corporal Elmer Argomedo and have formally withdrawn my complaint of harassment that was submitted to the United States Marine Core. It takes courage for a man to say sorry to another man. Corporal Argomedo, however, did not hesitate to man up. For that I respect him. I also respect his desire to serve this great country which is based on profound principles. As for myself, I have only endeavored to adhere to the teachings of the Quran, which command: “Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend” (41:34).

«A pesar de que Mahoma se valió de la guerra santa para imponerse política y religiosamente, en un documento conservado en Persia llamado Achiname y Carta de la Paz, que la mayoría de los musulmanes desconocen, garantizó protección a los monjes del monte Sinaí y a los seguidores de la fe cristiana; además proclamó la paz y la fraternidad entre los seres humanos»

El islam de Mahoma y el de hoy

MARÍA DEL CARMEN MARTÍN RUBIO – @abc_es 22/08/2017 07:32h – Actualizado: 22/08/2017 10:44h.Guardado en: Opinión

Ante la oleda de atentados terroristas islamistas que Europa viene sufriendo desde mediados del siglo pasado, especialmente en las presentes décadas, parece conveniente recordar cómo y por qué surgió el Islam o Yihad.

Para ello es preciso retroceder al siglo VII después de Cristo, cuando la mayoría de los árabes eran nómadas, vivían en la península de Arabia agrupados en tribus y tenían sus viviendas en los oasis del desierto, aunque, contrastando con estas primitivas formas de vida, existían las ciudades de La Medina y La Meca en las que habitaban poderosos comerciantes que llevaban una vida lujosa. Ésta última, rodeada del desierto y situada a pocos kilómetros del Mar Rojo, en lo que hoy es Arabia Saudí, era muy rica porque, al estar situada en un cruce de las rutas de caravanas que traficaban con mercancías, desarrollaba un gran comercio. En ella se encontraba la Kaaba o Casa de Dios que, según las creencias musulmanas, había sido construida por Abrahán y su hijo Ismael, de quienes los árabes suponían que descendían pero, aunque desde el siglo VI conocían a un Dios al que llamaban Ilah, del que procede el nombre de Allah, en el templo también había otros ídolos a los que rendían culto desde tiempos ancestrales.

El 26 de abril del año 570 nació en La Meca, en el seno de una de aquellas poderosas familias de comerciantes perteneciente al clan Hasin, de la tribu de los Qurais, un niño que se llamó Muhammad o Mahoma. El niño, huérfano desde los seis años, fue criado por un tío que se dedicaba al comercio por lo que consecuentemente se convirtió en un guía de caravanas. Ese trabajo, además de viajar, le permitió conocer las religiones judía y cristiana; además, en su primer viaje a Damasco contactó con los cristianos nestorianos condenados en el concilio de Éfeso por negar el dogma de la Santísima Trinidad y el carácter divino de la Virgen María; y a los 40 años, cuando gozaba de una buena economía, pues a los venticinco se había casado con Jadicha, una viuda rica de su edad, y siendo ya reservado y meditativo, se retiró a orar y a meditar a una cueva del Monte Ira, cerca de la ciudad donde, según comunicó a sus allegados, recibió revelaciones del Dios Allah a través del arcángel San Gabriel, con quien realizó un viaje nocturno a la Jerusalén judaica, en el cual le impulsaba a seguir la religión de Abrahán. Estas revelaciones se repitieron tres años más tarde por lo que, considerándose profeta y bajo el legado de Abrahán, Moisés y Jesucristo, frente al tradicional politeísmo de La Meca, su ciudad natal, comenzó a predicar la existencia de un Dios único y la vuelta a la religión de Abrahán. Rápidamente consiguió adeptos entre las gentes más pobres campesinas, de las que incorporó gran parte de sus tradicionales normas nómadas.

Como sus adeptos aumentaban constantemente, las autoridades se encontraron incómodas y comenzaron a perseguirle, de ahí que en el año 622 tuviera que huir al norte, a La Medina. Allí tomó contacto con los judíos y éstos le rechazaron por los errores de interpretación que a su entender Mahoma hacía de las Escrituras Sagradas; entonces esbozó una nueva religión: el Islam, en la que combinaba la persuasión con la fuerza que, para poder subsistir junto a sus seguidores, permitía que éstos atacaran a las caravanas y a las ciudades cercanas. Así comenzó la guerra santa: en ella había que convertir por la fuerza a los infieles árabes.

En La Medina, Mahoma se transformó en un político, religioso y militar:acaudillando a sus seguidores se apoderó primero de La Meca y en el 630 limpió la Kaaba de los ídolos paganos; seguidamente, en el 632, poco antes de morir, sometió a toda la Arabia, consiguiendo que las belicosas y dispersas tribus árabes pasaran a ser un pueblo unido.

Las creencias de Mahoma, inspiradas en el Dios Allah, fueron recogidas con variaciones por sus seguidores en diversos manuscritos, por lo que el califa Uthman Ibn Affan ordenó en el año 650 que fueran recopiladas y redactadas, bajo la versión oficial del califato, en un libro al que se llamó Corán. Dividido en ciento catorce capítulos que contienen oraciones y mandatos del Dios Allah mediante un número variable de versículos, pasó a ser desde entonces el libro sagrado de los musulmanes: es decir su Biblia. Al crearse los califatos, en siglo VIII, fue la guía que les llevó a alcanzar una gran prosperidad dentro y fuera de sus fronteras.

Mas, a pesar de que Mahoma se valió de la guerra santa para imponerse política y religiosamente, en un documento conservado en Persia llamado Achiname y Carta de la Paz, que la mayoría de los musulmanes desconocen, garantizó protección a los monjes del monte Sinaí y a los seguidores de la fe cristiana; además proclamó la paz y la fraternidad entre los seres humanos. Y ya dominada Arabia, nunca obligó a convertirse a la religión islámica o Yihad a ningún cristiano.

Llegados a este punto hay que preguntarse por qué algunos islamitas radicales actuales, en nombre de Allah, combaten en cualquier parte del mundo a cuantos no comparten sus creencias, prácticas religiosas y formas de vida, incluso a sus mismos compatriotas: la explicación que dan algunos de ellos, transformados en terroristas, es que pretenden volver a la época de esplendor del Islam; ante esa óptica yo pregunto: ¿en vez de matar a personas inocentes y niños, no sería más coherente y beneficioso para todos que estos radicales mediante el estudio, el esfuerzo y el trabajo consiguieran ese objetivo que, por fortuna, practican millones de musulmanes…? Ya que, como indica la referida Carta, y pese a la guerra santa, Mahoma al igual que Jesucristo potenciaba la paz y la fraternidad entre todos los seres humanos que habitamos el mundo en que vivimos.

MARÍA DEL CARMEN MARTÍN RUBIO ES HISTORIADORA

This is the second in a two-part series (you can find part one here) on the experiences of Dr. John Andrew Morrow (Imam Ilyas Islam) on his journey towards finding himself, his roots and becoming both Métis and Muslim. The Métis are people of mixed European and Indigenous ancestry, and one of the three recognized Aboriginal peoples in Canada; the use of the term Métis is complex and contentious and has different historical and contemporary meanings. For more, click here


One of the most moving moments in my life and one that drove me with greater determination to document my native ancestry was the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that I attended in 2009. As the dancers entered the ring, as part of the Grand Entry, and the chanting, drumming, and circling commenced, I entered a trance, the most profound of spiritual states. Overwhelmed, in ecstasy, with tears uncontrolled flowing down my cheeks, I became at one with my people, and at one with the One, the Creator, the Provider, and the Great Spirit. I may have embraced Islam at the age of 16, finding spiritual similarity between Sufism (Tasawwuf/’Irfan), and the Right Path of Life found in Native American spiritual teachings; however, for me, the Grand Entry at the Gathering of Nations was comparable to making the pilgrimage to Mecca and circling the Holy Kaaba.

Although I have visited my spiritual forefathers, Idris I and Idris II, in Zerhoun and Fez, in Morocco, along with other saintly figures in South Africa, and have derived great benefit from performing pilgrimages to their holy sanctuaries, and while I would eagerly visit other sacred personalities in North Africa, the Middle East, and beyond, the Earth itself is a masjid, a mosque, a place of prayer, and a site of prostration.

“Some Muslims may travel to Arabia, Iraq, and Iran in search of spiritual satisfaction: I find mine here, on my land, the land of my ancestors.”

Although I have been offered employment in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Iran, I refuse to leave Turtle Island. I would rather perform tawaf or circumambulation with the Miami Nation, the Chippewa Nation, and the Métis Nation than performing it in Wahhabi-occupied Arabia where Islam merely exists in name. 

Although the essence of Islam remains pure, some of its teachings have been corrupted by Muslims. And while some North American Indians may have become corrupted, their teachings remain pure. There is more Islam in the Seven Grandfather Teachings than there is in the entire body of Salafi-Wahhabi-Takfiri literature. The Eastern Woodland Indians believe that that there is One God, the Great Spirit. They believe that the Great Spirit created the world in harmony and that we, human beings, are but a part of the whole. The Eastern Woodland Indians believe that the Great Spirit is Omnipresent in Creation. Consequently, all of creation must be respected. This is the religion of Muhammad. This is the religion of Jesus. This is the religion of Moses. This is the religion of Abraham. This is the religion of Adam. And this is the real religion of Allah, Islam, peace and submission. It is true tawhid or Divine Unity: The Creator is One and Creation is One. All at one with the One.

It was the will of God that I was brought from North Dakota, traditional Métis territory, to Indiana, traditional Métis territory. I spent two years conducting research at the Genealogy Center, at the Allen County Public Library, in Fort Wayne, the second largest institution of its kind in the United States. As an experienced academic and university professor, with decades of research experience, I painstakingly prepared the ancestral tree of my family, in all directions, going back over 500 years and, in some cases, even further back in history, with each link supported by birth, death, and marriage certificates, and supplemented by other historical documents, photographs, and paintings. Although many modern-day Métis and Indians trace their ancestry back to a single indigenous ancestor, I confirmed my descent from hundreds of aboriginal forefathers and foremothers.   

I vividly remember the moment in which I discovered a document confirming my descent from Roch Manitouabeouich, a scout and interpreter for the French, and his wife, Oueou Outchibahabanoukoueau. If these identifiably indigenous names were not enough, historical documents described them as “savages,” the French term that was used to contrast them from the “civilized” Europeans. Roch appears to have been Huron whereas Oueou appears to have been Abenaki. Their daughter, Marie Olivier Sylvestre Manitouabeouich is listed as being an Algonquin who lived with her father who was the Chief of the Hurons.

Not only was I a direct descendant of Manitouabeouich and Outchibahabanoukoueau through various family lines, I also confirmed that I was a direct descendant of Chief Membertou, the leader of the Mi’kmaq Nation, as well as Gisis “Jeanne” Bahmahmaadjimiwin, the wife of Jean-Nicolet de Belleborne, who belonged to the Nipissing Nation. These are only a few of the most prominent of my indigenous ancestors. There were hundreds more in an unbroken chain from the past to the present. Some of my French ancestors married Native women. Some of my French ancestors adopted Amerindian girls. Their mixed-blood descendants virtually always married other mixed-bloods. The fact that Métis typically married other Métis for centuries indicates that they shared a common Aboriginal culture. Although there are Métis with roots in a single region, my indigenous ancestry is varied and comes from Acadia, Québec, Ontario, and beyond. They were Huron-Wyandot, Mi’kmak, Abenaki, Penobscot, Algonquin, Innu, Abekani, and Nipissing. The ethnogenesis of the Métis or and Michif Otipemisiwak, did not take place in the prairies in the 19th century. It dates to the 17th century and took place throughout New France.

Like many Métis, my parents and grandparents did not speak openly about our indigenous ancestry. We were proud Francophone Canadians. We would canoe and kayak. We would harvest, trap, fish, and hunt. We passed down knowledge of medicinal herbs. We transmitted the songs and music of our ancestors. We were intimately connected with our environment. Our language was Métis. Our food was Métis. Our traditions were Métis. And our culture was Métis. We did not, however, openly identify as Métis. When I told my lifelong Jamaican-Canadian friend that I was indigenous, he could not comprehend why my family failed to tell me: “Your commitment to social justice and your solidarity with the oppressed has always been remarkable.”

Dr. John Andrew Morrow runs an educational YouTube channel on Islam. You can find a link at the end of the article.

Since the Métis have no specific phenotype and range from blue-eyed people with blond hair to tanned people with black hair, they can be racially ambiguous. Although some Métis moved onto reservations with their First Nation cousins, others continued to live with their French-Canadian cousins. Since it was bad enough being Francophone under English domination in Canada, professing to be Aboriginal was an added burden. Louis Riel, the revolutionary leader and martyr, who holds the same position to the Métis as Imam Husayn holds to Shiite Muslims, warned his people against being placed in reservations. Louis Riel wanted the Métis to maintain citizenship and the right to vote. As reservation Indians, the Métis would become wards of the State: their way of life would also suffer.

If my parents and grandparents did not openly speak about their Indigeneity, it was because the State literally came after our children. Inuit, First Nation, and Métis children were rounded up by the Canadian government and placed in residential schools to supposedly civilize, Anglicize and Christianize them. They were humiliated, degraded, physically abused, and sexually assaulted. The Aboriginal people of Canada still suffer from the scars that were inflicted upon them in residential schools. Our parents and grandparents did not assimilate to seek privilege. They were already second-hand citizens, subject to racism and discrimination as Francophones. They did what any sensible parent would do: they stressed their French-Canadian side as opposed to their Native Canadian side for the sake of survival. Call it strategic dissimulation. They lived as Métis people. They just did not use that dangerous word.

Since the documentary confirmation of my indigenous ancestry was an overwhelming experience, I was concerned as to how my father would react when I revealed to him the result of two years of genealogical research. My mother reassured me that I had nothing to be concerned about. After I presented the fact to my father, he smiled and said: “Son, you are right.”

The secret was just below the surface. All I had to do was scratch.

He had suspected it all along and, as my mother suggested, my paternal grandfather of Irish ancestry, was certainly aware of it. My grandmother, after all, was a Beaulieu, a family of noble French ancestry. In New France, the men from the Beaulieu line married indigenous women. Many of them lived in Québec but travelled throughout New France. Some had spouses in Eastern Canada and spouses in the Mid-West and prairies. Some settled in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and North Dakota, among other places. Others reached the West coast of North America. 

When I presented my 5000-member circular genealogical chart to my mother, with all the Métis and First Nation ancestors highlighted in yellow, she was amazed at my work and accepting of my findings. Although they never described themselves as Métis, due to the dangers of racism and discrimination, she recognized that the Drouin and Bisson families were of mixed ancestry. When I presented my findings to my aunt, who looks stereotypically Indian, she acknowledged that we were indeed aboriginal people. Like a well that had been held back, and that suddenly burst, she started sharing information about her kokum or great grandmother, who was a big Indian woman and the head of her family clan. I reached out to another branch of the Drouin family in the Beauce and found that they openly identified as Métis. In fact, a relative of mine, François Beaulieu recently assumed the leadership of the Métis Nation of Québec. One cannot fake being Métis. All Métis descend from a small number of common ancestors. They are all interrelated and interconnected. Métis families are famous for keeping meticulously detailed genealogical trees. We have all found each other and in so doing we have all found ourselves. My family, which lives in Québec, Ontario, and Indiana, all fly the Métis flag with pride. In fact, my father, who is nearly eighty, insists upon it: “Son,” he said, repeating words he told me when I was but a boy, “Be proud of who you are.” I say the same to my sons who are being raised openly and proudly as indigenous inhabitants of Turtle Island. We are proud to be Métis and we are proud to be Muslim.

by Dr John Andrew Morrow

Click here to read Part 1 in this series.


Dr John Andrew Morrow (Imam Ilyas Islam) is an Amerindian with Canadian and American citizenship. He received his PhD from the University of Toronto in the year 2000. He worked as an Assistant, Associate, and Full Professor of Foreign Languages for over a decade and a half at Park University, Northern State University, Eastern New Mexico University, the University of Virginia, and Ivy Tech Community College. He is the author of over thirty academic books in the fields of Hispanic, Islamic, and Indigenous Studies, including the critically-acclaimed Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. A public figure and activist, he lectures all around the globe and acts as an advisor to world leaders. In recognition of his accomplishments, Dr Morrow received an ISNA Interfaith Achievement Award in 2016.

Iraqi American Receives Humanitarian Award

Meet Haneen Alsafi, recipient of a humanitarian award from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA and quite an inspiration.

Raised in al-Hillah, in Babil, Iraq, she is the daughter of an Arab Shia father who grew up in Baghdad and a Turkmen Sunni mother who grew up in Erbil. As Alsafi explains in an interview, although they belonged to different ethnic and religious groups, “My parents never disagreed with each other’s sects or beliefs, just like the others, we all shared one country and lived in peace.”

She grew up in a small, very conservative city, but Alsafi also spent enough time in Erbil, a city of over 1.5 million people, to develop a connection. There, she was exposed to an ethnically diverse population consisting of Kurds, Assyrians, Arabs, Armenians, Turcomans, Yezidis, Shabakis and Mandeans, and a religiously rich community with believers in Sunni, Sufi and Shia Islam, as well as Christianity, Yezidism, Yarsan, Shabakism and Mandeanism. Her experience in Erbil was eye-opening.

My family would take us every year to visit my mother’s family in Erbil. I was exposed to a diverse population. Although the culture was very similar, the traditions and the languages were different. I think this exposure definitely prepared me to become the person I am today and played a major role in my path and passion in life. We have Kurdish, Turkmen and Christian friends in the north of Iraq. We still maintain friendship with them. It never was an issue for people from different religions and/or ethnicities to become friends.

Like most Iraqis, the people of Hillah were not spared the ravages of war, death and destruction. The city was the scene of heavy fighting during the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Although the city was relatively peaceful after the initial invasion, it soon became the scene of numerous terrorist attacks.

Hillah was targeted by terrorist groups through a series of car bombs and suicide bombers. I lost one of my dearest friends in a car bomb in 2006 at the graduation party for the engineering college graduates. Many other bombings followed: in the local market, at the police academy graduation ceremony and at the retirement center. Hundreds of people were killed each time since, as you can imagine, those attacks targeted huge groups of people. We have been close to bombings but luckily not too close to get injured.

Seeking greater safety, Alsafi’s family relocated to Erbil, where she would find peace, for a time. The product of a multilingual environment, Alsafi grew up speaking Arabic as her dominant language, Turkic as a second language, and acquired some knowledge of Kurdish, which she learned through her mother. English, however, was her calling.

I started my English Literature major at Babylon University. Then I transferred to Salah Aldeen University during my last year of college and graduated from Erbil. The reason I chose English Literature is because I wanted to learn to speak English fluently. After the first year in college, I discovered that formal instruction was not the way to learn to speak the language, so I started watching American TV shows without the translation in subtitles. One of my favorite shows was ScrubsFriends and Grey’s Anatomy. I also listened to a lot of Backstreet Boys, Blue and other music which also helped me understand the slang language. In 2004, I decided to major in English and wanted to learn it because I wanted to work with the Americans in Iraq to help rebuild the country.

Iraq had been invaded or liberated by the Americans, depending on one’s personal political opinion. The only options available to Alsafi, however, were to contribute to a civil war in action or try to pick up the pieces. Consequently, she decided to help rebuild her country.

My first job in 2008 was with the U.S. State Department’s Regional Embassy Office in Babil (REO), where I worked as a consultant and interpreter, assisted both the local government and the private sector to rebuild Iraq into a better place. The U.S. government had invested massive amounts of dollars in projects to assist Iraqis in upgrading their lifestyle; they helped build hospitals, schools, roads and assisted many small business entrepreneurs in starting their businesses and contributing to the economy. We also worked on many educational projects such as opening a TOEFL center and providing books and supplies to schools.

An intelligent, socially committed and patriotic young woman, Alsafi was not naïve when it came to the risks involved in helping to rebuild her country and the dangers posed by religious demagogues and political opportunists.

It was not an easy decision to make when it came to “working with the Americans,” as they say. It was socially difficult to reveal as most people would either consider me a traitor or just a corrupt woman who “wanted to be with Americans.” Although I didn’t care too much about what such people thought, I realized that working at the REO placed myself and my family in danger. In fact, many locals who worked for the [U.S. Department of State] or [U.S. Department of Defense] were kidnapped and eventually killed by militias in Iraq, mostly claiming to be religious groups. I started getting threatening text messages saying: “You betrayed the country; we will cut off your head.” I did not know who was texting me but I felt like it could be the beginning of something nasty. I applied for the Special Immigrant Visa … in the hope of leaving the country. My application was approved and I was ready to leave. It was very sad to leave my family and friends behind, but I had to do this at the time.

Like most refugees and immigrants, Alsafi was overwhelmed when she arrived in America. As an educated working woman in Iraq, she seemed set for success. After all, she was the public diplomacy coordinator for the U.S. State Department/U.S. Regional Embassy in Iraq for nearly three years. However, in the U.S., she faced all sorts of challenges and obstacles.

I arrived in Dallas/Fort Worth in June 2010 and lived in North Richland Hills for nine months. There I suffered from cultural shock and learned first-hand how difficult it was to find a job when you are fresh in the country. I worked many jobs, including Pizza Hut, Apple Refurbishment and a local insurance agency. I also volunteered at North Richland Hills Hospital and Catholic Charities. I decided to move to North Carolina to be close to my sister who lived in Raleigh at the time. I started volunteering with Lutheran Services Carolinas to help refugees and applied for a job as a case manager. 

In the years that followed, Alsafi would rise in the ranks from case manager to education coordinator, and eventually to resettlement director/area manager for Lutheran Services Carolinas. It was due to her commitment to serving refugees that she received the Ahmadiyya Humanitarian Award at the 69th Annual Conference of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA that was held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on July 15.

Established in 2011, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Humanitarian Award recognizes the contributions and services of individuals who selflessly strive to serve oppressed and disadvantaged communities around the world. By giving a voice to the voiceless, these individuals honor fundamental and universal human rights guaranteed by the Quran and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Alsafi joins the illustrious ranks of previous recipients, including: Bill Ayres, co-founder of Why Hunger?; Katrina Lantos Swett and Robert George, former chairs of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; Veerawit Tianchainan, executive director of the Thai Committee for Refugees Foundation; and Dr. Milton Boniuk of the Boniuk Institute for Religious Tolerance at Rice University.

Alsafi is universal in her world view

I respect all religions and faiths. I believe that religions are one way to set rules and teach discipline in people.

Who is Haneen?

I like to help people.

Although Alsafi does not fit the stereotypical image of a religious person and does not actively practice any faith, she is an inspiring woman with a heart of gold. Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq — the 8th-century religious scholar respected by Sunnis, Shias and Sufis — once said, “Do not judge a person on how much they pray and how much they fast, judge them on how they treat other human beings.”

If this is the criteria for goodness, holiness and real religiosity, then Alsafi is a person to be held in high esteem. The Quran states that humans were created to serve, to be the custodians and caretakers of creation. It is incomprehensible why someone who serves the oppressed and disadvantaged would be threatened with beheading. Her wisdom, care and compassion is inspired by solidarity, service and a desire to care for others.

The situation in Erbil has changed since the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, particularly with the rise of ISIS.

Erbil has been protected by the Kurdish Peshmerga, the Kurdish military, since the 1980s when Kurdistan claimed independence from the rest of Iraq that was ruled by Saddam. So, Kurdistan did not see much violence compared to the other parts of Iraq. 

ISIS has actually made the Iraqis stronger and more united. The Peshmerga were fighting ISIS from the north and have done [a] great job in protecting [the] Kurdistan region from the ISIS invasion. From the south and mid of Iraq, the people of Iraq got together and formed what they call al-Hashd al-Sha‘abi, the People’s Mobilization Force. They also well liberated many parts of Iraq from ISIS.

Erbil has seen great development in the past 10 years on many levels, especially economically and socially. Many people who left between the 1980s and the year 2000 came back and invested in small businesses. Many Arabs from all over the country found peace and made a living in Erbil. Americans, Europeans and many other nationalities found employment in Erbil and they do live peacefully there.

Erbil also hosts thousands of refugees from Syria, as well as Yazidis and other victims of ISIS from Iraq. Those refugees live in a refugee camp in tents. They receive support and donations from the local government, UNHCR, and the many good people that want to help. Small local nonprofits are now assisting those refugees to resettle back in their cities, towns and villages that were occupied by ISIS and were recently liberated.

In short, rather than contribute to divisions and distrust in the community, ISIS has actually drawn people closer together, Alsafi says. She provides an honest analysis for the greatest challenges facing Iraq and some possible solutions.

One of the many challenges facing Iraq right now is the lack of leadership and the high level of government corruption. The majority of government officials, who are supposed to be the leaders of the country, are all in power for one reason and one reason only: to make as much money as possible. They have no skills and no knowledge. It is so unfortunate that the country is being led by unfit and unqualified individuals. It is also very contradictory and ironic that Iraq was once the bastion of civilization.

There was a time when Iraq produced the best scientists, doctors and scholars in the world. Throughout history, the people of Iraq were among the most educated and well-read. Iraqis have suffered through a series of wars, violence, dictatorship and separation from the rest of the world during Saddam’s regime. When we consider its recent history, it is not strange or surprising that Iraq has yet to find stability. I am really not sure what the solutions are to this mess but perhaps it could start by getting rid of the corrupt individuals who do not add value to the country.

As a service provider, Alsafi shares experiential knowledge on the impact the Trump administration’s policies have on refugees.

The executive orders that put a ban on refugees traveling from certain countries has definitely impacted the population we serve. We usually receive a high number of arrivals each summer. This summer, we received less than a handful of refugees. The ban has been extended until October with few exceptions made. During the ban, LSC as well as many other agencies had to lay off staff in programs due to funding cuts. We hope that things will be better after the ban is over. The resettlement agencies across the U.S. will continue to advocate for refugees and raise awareness within the communities.

Alsafi refutes ill-founded assertions — that refugees are a threat to Western civilization and values, for example — with facts and success stories.

Refugees are definitely not a threat to the Western civilization; they are carefully vetted for a minimum of two years prior to being allowed to travel to the U.S. Refugees add great value to the U.S. economy because they are extremely hard workers who are dedicated to learning about their new country and adapting to its culture.

Through the assistance of refugee resettlement agencies across the nation, refugees reach self-sufficiency within six to eight months after arrival to the U.S. through employment opportunities, at which point they get off government assistance. Employers value refugees due to the skills and the hard work they bring to their business. Almost every family and individual refugee resettled is a success story. I want to offer myself as an example of a success story. We also have many [Special Immigrant Visa] clients from Afghanistan and Iraq who arrived and immediately added value to the economy by finding early employment.

 As for those who want to block the entry of refugees and immigrants, I encourage them to learn about the history of the USA, learn about how and why their ancestors made it to this country, and learn about their struggles and the reasons for leaving their home counties back then. America was built, and is built, by refugees and immigrants. There is strong evidence that this population can succeed and make it through challenges.

Far from being disloyal, Alsafi, a refugee herself, has truly embraced America and all that it offers.

The thing that I appreciate the most about the U.S. is that it has a system for everything. Although it might not be effective all the time, it helps to have a system in place. I also appreciate the Bill of Rights that gives us the right to justice.

Despite her love for the U.S., and the fact that she was recently granted citizenship, part of Alsafi’s heart will always remain in her homeland. When asked if she sees herself ever returning to Iraq, a certain nostalgia comes to the surface. “I will one day go back and live in Iraq,” she explains. “If I do so, it will be in Erbil.”

If she does, I think, it will be a gain for Iraq and a loss for America.

*Image: Haneen Alsafi at the annual Muslim Television Ahmadiyya event. >Photo via MTA 

By Hanan al-Harbi

On July 7, 2017, John Rossomondo published an article titled “Paranoid Terrorist Apologism Dominates ISNA Convention in Chicago.” As if the title did not speak for itself, this propaganda piece was printed in IPT News, the mouthpiece of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, a so-called “research group” founded by Steven Emerson, a man widely denounced as being a dishonest bigot. The Southern Poverty Law Center has this to say about him:

Steve Emerson is a self-described “expert on terrorism” who has claimed that the Obama administration “extensively collaborates” with the Muslim Brotherhood; asserted that Europe is riddled with “no-go zones” and is “finished” because of Muslim immigration; and stated that 480 million to 640 million Muslims “support the notion that it’s okay to bomb the World Trade Center,” among other things. A reviewer for The New York Times Book Review said a 1991 book he co-authored on terrorism was marred by “a pervasive anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian bias.” Despite this sorry record, Emerson, a former journalist who started the Investigative Project on Terrorism in 1995, has been repeatedly interviewed on Fox News, testified on several occasions to Congress, and been cited by government officials as an authority. But Emerson’s reputation took a huge hit in January 2015, when he claimed that Birmingham, England, was a “no-go zone” for non-Muslims and that in parts of London “Muslim religious police … actually beat and actually wound seriously anyone” not wearing “religious Muslim attire.” British Prime Minister David Cameron responded by calling Emerson “clearly a complete idiot,” and Ofcom, which regulates the British media, said the comments were “materially misleading.” In 1997, Emerson was accused of giving The Associated Press documents he claimed were from the FBI but were really written by him. The Tennessean reported in October 2010 that in 2008, Emerson’s nonprofit Investigative Project on Terrorism “paid $3,390,000 to [Emerson’s for-profit firm] SAE Productions for ‘management services.’ Emerson is SAE’s sole officer.” The paper quoted Ken Berger, president of Charity Navigator, saying, “Basically, you have a nonprofit acting as a front organization, and all that money going to a for-profit,” he said. “It’s wrong. This is off the charts.”

As for John Rossomando, who holds the title of “Senior Analyst” at the Investigative Project on Terrorism, his publications have all the hallmarks of hate speech. After bashing the 54th Annual ISNA Conference and some of its other speakers, Rossomando, makes the following groundless assertion:

Another ISNA speaker, John Morrow, who teaches at Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana and directs the Covenants of the Prophet Foundation, launched into conspiratorial rhetoric accusing the U.S. of using the CIA to support jihadi groups with the intent of spreading anti-Muslim hatred.

“How do you ensure that the public continues to support the War on Terror, which is really a war on Islam and Muslims?” Morrow asked. “By means of terrorist attacks, by means of false flag operations, that way the eternal endless war of the globalist totalitarian fascists continues unabated to the pleasure of big brother, or as we know him in Islam, the one-eyed liar. The philosophy is clear. Keep the focus on fear.”

To start with, Dr. Morrow retired from his position as a Full Professor at Ivy Tech over one year ago. If Rossomando were a real journalist who adhered to professional standards, he would verify his sources prior to publishing information that is both false and misleading.

Dr. Morrow did not engage in “conspiratorial rhetoric.” On the contrary, he engaged in fact-based rhetoric. It is a confirmed fact that the CIA has supported terrorists and authoritarian regimes all around the world to advance its geo-political agenda. Has Rossomando heard of the Contras in Nicaragua, the Cuban exiles, the Salvadorean death squads, the Mujahidin and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and the various terrorist outfits operating in Iraq and Syria?

According to Rossomando, “This is the same narrative that ISIS jihadist recruiters use to lure disaffected Muslims into becoming terrorists.” No, it is not. Anyone who makes such allegations does not even have a Wikipedia-level knowledge of the subject at hand. So, good look to him when it comes to “Seeking a position as an open-source intelligence analyst,” as he advertised on his LinkedIn page. He is clearly unqualified to even comment on the Comics.

Unlike Rossomando, Dr. Morrow has been consulted by dozens upon dozens of governments around the world, including, the Obama administration, and, believe or not, the Trump administration. Regardless of their ideological inclination, and although Morrow does not mince his words, they value the depth of his knowledge, his non-partisan position, and his brutal honesty.

If Rossomando were a bona fide reporter, he would research his subject. As even a cursory investigation confirms, Morrow has been at the forefront of the war on Takfirism, described incorrectly by Islamophobes as “Radical Islam.” As the leader of the Covenants Initiative, a Muslim movement devoted to protecting the People of the Book, Morrow is a virulent critic of extremism and terrorism. His seminal study, The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World, was one of the factors that contributed to the Marrakech Declaration which reaffirms the rights of non-Muslim minorities in Muslim-majority nations.

Along with numerous other interfaith partners, Morrow helped get the Fortenberry Resolution passed in the House of Congress, thanks to which the actions of ISIS have been officially described as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. He has also worked incessantly to unite people of all stripes in a common struggle against all forms of intolerance and fanaticism.

Morrow is as far removed from terrorism as John Rossomondo, Steven Emerson, Joseph Farah, and Meira Svirsky are from intellectual honesty. Who, then, are the real “paranoid terrorist apologists?” I would venture to say that the title perfectly applies to Islamophobes who espouse grandiose and delusional anti-Muslim conspiracy theories for the same reasons that Hitler demonized Jews and the Serbs dehumanized Bosnians. As Bob Marley said, “If the hat fits, let them wear it.”

Considering that Morrow issued a religious statement excommunicating ISIS from the Muslim faith, it cannot be logically claimed that his rhetoric helps to recruit them. The same, however, cannot be said of Islamophobic fascists. The racist, paranoid, and hate-filled rhetoric of the extreme right is the fuel that fires violence against innocent and defenseless men, women, and children whose sole sin is that they are Muslim or happen to look Muslim. And since Muslims come from every race, ethnicity, and nationality all human beings can fall victim to the blind rage of intellectually-impaired racists.

Appealing to the humanity of 21st century hatemongers, the illegitimate offspring of the German SS, the Spanish Falange, the Italian Fascists, the Serbian Chetniks, the Zionist Stern Gang, and the American KKK, is in vain. For the modern-day Goebbels who work for the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, producing fake news and promoting conspiracy theories, the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim. As proud and patriotic people of faith, we have no choice but to fight the enemies of religious freedom in defense of our democratic values.

For those who really want a sense of what Dr. Morrow said at ISNA, the complete transcript of his speech, and the video of the entire session, is available on the Muslim Post: http://www.themuslimpost.com/the-role-of-faith-in-a-culture-of-fear-in-america/

Hanan al-Harbi is a Dutch-Syrian journalist. She is a graduate of the University of Iceland, in Reykjavík, where she studied Political Science She writes for Veterans Today, the Muslim Post, and many other publications. 

The Muslim Vibe (August 9, 2017)

This is the first in a two-part series on the experiences of Dr. John Andrew Morrow (Imam Ilyas Islam) on his journey towards finding himself, his roots and becoming both Métis and Muslim. The Métis are people of mixed European and Indigenous ancestry, and one of the three recognized Aboriginal peoples in Canada; the use of the term Métis is complex and contentious and has different historical and contemporary meanings. For more, click here


I was born John Andrew Morrow in Montréal, Québec, Canada. Although both of my parents were Francophone Quebeckers, and French was my maternal language, my English (or rather Irish) name was the cause of some confusion to both myself and others. My mother was Francophone from both sides and my father was Francophone from one side and Anglophone/Francophone from the other. I was clearly French Canadian as opposed to English Canadian. So while much was clear, much, however, remained veiled.

During the time of my grandparents, we were simply Canadians, a term used to distinguish us from the English invaders and colonizers. During the time of my parents, we moved from being Canadians to hyphenated French-Canadians. During my time, we moved from being French Canadians to being Québécois. Our identity was becoming increasingly narrow as we became increasingly minoritized and marginalized in the new multicultural Canadian mosaic.

Although my maternal family was clear that they were French, French Canadian, and Québécois, my paternal family was more ambiguous. My paternal grandfather was a Quebecker of Irish ancestry. His family had been in la Belle Province for generations. He spoke fluent French and became renowned as an expert woodsman and fisherman. My paternal grandmother spoke English as a second language – she only learned it after marrying my grandfather. I never heard her describe herself as French, French Canadian or Québécois. Her origins were obscure. She never spoke about her parents, her family, and her past. We assumed she was hiding some painful family secrets. As my father said when I asked him about our origins:

“Whatever we are, be proud of it.”

As much as my name was Irish, I knew that I was only Irish by direct paternal ancestry; not by language, culture, or identity. At the same time, I knew, deep-down, that we were not entirely French Canadian either.

My maternal grandfather, who spoke nothing but joual, a 16th-century French dialect, peppered his colorful language with indigenous words: “Grand Manitou”, something he would cry out when he was shocked, surprised, or excited. My maternal grandfather used to invoke the Great Spirit. When I asked my maternal grandmother about our ancestry, she mentioned that we descended from the coureurs des bois, the runners of the woods; they were the trappers, traders, and voyageurs who traveled North America from North to South and East to West and were mostly Métis. They were of mixed ancestry: part French and part First Nations. They typically spoke Métis French along with half a dozen indigenous languages. Among themselves, they spoke a language of their own, a mixed language, known as Michif.

“Do we have any Chinese in our family?” I once asked my mother when I was a child. “Not that I know of,” responded my mother. “Why do you ask?” “Well, we have many family members with Oriental eyes,” I pointed out referring to the epicanthic eye-folds that I noted on my cousins and maternal grandmother. I also noted that, with the exceptions of my paternal and maternal grandfathers, who were blue-eyed blonds, the rest of my relatives had thick, jet-black hair, and while their complexions varied, many of them had olive colored skin and high cheekbones. In fact, some of my uncles were so dark that some of my mulatto friends had lighter skin than my family members. Although we were proud of our Francophone culture, it was clear that we were not entirely European. If some of us appeared white, it was only on the outside.

After my family relocated from Québec to Ontario, my sense of Otherness intensified due to discrimination. My circle of friends consisted of people like me, who were different, and was made up mostly of immigrants, African Canadians, and Asian Canadians. As a French Canadian, and as a Quebecker, I was an outsider to Anglo Canadians. Consequently, I always insisted upon being Québécois. In short, I had roots dating back to the 16th century. As was eventually to be revealed, those roots traced back tens if not hundreds of thousands of years.

*

As a teenager in Toronto, I was fond of collecting, listening, and singing traditional French-Canadian folk-songs. Some of these songs were clearly from France, some dating back to medieval times. Others dated from the Encounter between the Old World and the New World. They were songs of voyageurs, loggers and raft-men. I literally learned the entire repertoire of traditional French-Canadian songs by heart. Apart from a few songs, which were clearly composed by Métis runners of the woods, my relatives in Québec were completely unfamiliar with the songs that I would sing. “But these are traditional French-Canadian songs that are accompanied by a guitar,” I asserted. “What kind of music did you hear at home?” I asked my mother. “There were dances every weekend,” she responded, “They played the fiddle; not the guitar. Your grandmother played the spoons. And they used to dance to jigs.” When I played French-Canadian songs to my mother, she could not identify them. However, when I played her Métis music from the prairies, it was like taking her back in time: that was the music they played in her childhood home.

From the time I was a small child, I sensed that we had indigenous roots. My grandmother had said so subtly herself: we descend from the runners of the woods. I was always at home in the forests of the eastern woodlands of North America. I would wander for days on end in the traditional territory of the Algonquins in the company of my cousin. As I child I danced in pow-wows in northern Ontario. As a teenager and a young man, I attended indigenous events in and around Toronto. As a university student, I was a regular at the Native Canadian Center in Toronto and at events organized by Mayan, Quechua-Aymara, and Mapuche Indians. I stood in solidarity with the First Nations of the Americas. Rather than lose my time and my soul dancing in discos of Western decadence, I would spend my time celebrating Inti Raymi with the Incas and other events of cultural and spiritual significance. I remember a friend of mine looking at an old family portrait of my father, his parents, and his sisters. He said: “They look Latino. Your grandmother looks Indian.” In the words of my Salvadorean friend, “If you told me this was a Mestizo family, I would believe you.”

My Latin American friend was only partly correct. The people in the photograph were indeed Mestizo, the Spanish word for Métis, people of mixed blood, particularly used to describe the miscegenation of Europeans and Native people. The Mestizo people of the Americas, however, are not indigenous people. Although they have Indian blood, they are not Indian by language, culture or identity. In short, they do not embrace the indigenous worldview. Having indigenous blood does not make one indigenous. To be an indigenous person, one must have indigenous genes, one must identify as an indigenous person, one must belong to an indigenous community, and one must be recognized as indigenous by an indigenous community. The Mestizos of Latin America may have some Indian blood; however, they are Hispanic by language, culture, history, and identity. They are Western European in their worldview. What is more, they are not considered indigenous by the indigenous people of Spanish America. In fact, the Mestizos of Mexico, Central, and South America have a long history of slaughtering, persecuting, and oppressing indigenous people. In fact, in Latin American Spanish, the term Indio or Indian signifies “idiot” or “imbecile,” a person who is hopelessly backwards.

A representation of a Mestizo, in a Pintura de Castas from New Spain during the late colonial period. The painting’s caption states “Spanish and Indian produce Mestizo”, 1780.

I was of indigenous ancestry. I embraced the indigenous worldview. I celebrated indigenous culture. I devoted myself to the indigenous studies at the undergraduate and graduate levels. I completed both an M.A. thesis and a doctoral dissertation on indigenous themes: The Indigenous Worldview in César Vallejo and The Indigenous Presence and Influence in Rubén Darío and Ernesto Cardenal. I would eventually publish the former in a peer-reviewed journal while the latter was published as two separate academic monographs, Amerindian Elements in the Poetry of Rubén DaríoThe Alter Ego as the Indigenous Other and Amerindian Elements in the Poetry of Ernesto Cardenal: Mythic Foundations of the Colloquial Narrative.

As much as I was indigenous by blood, by mind, and by soul, I was reluctant to assert my identity openly due to lack of documentation. (How silly is that? Did our ancestors have Indian or Métis status cards? Why do we continue to allow others to define who we are as a people?) Still, I was drawn to participate in wasipis with the Dakotas, Lakotas, and Nakotas in South Dakota, and to visit the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. My life journey brought me from Québec to Acadia, from Acadia to Québec, from Québec to Ontario, from Ontario to Missouri, from Missouri to South Dakota, from South Dakota to New Mexico, from New Mexico to North Dakota, from North Dakota to Indiana, and from Indiana to Michigan. I realize now that I was retracing the paths of my ancestors, my predecessors, the Métis traders of centuries past. As my research would find, I have indigenous relatives in all these regions.

by Dr John Andrew Marrow


Dr John Andrew Morrow (Imam Ilyas Islam) is an Amerindian with Canadian and American citizenship. He received his PhD from the University of Toronto in the year 2000. He worked as an Assistant, Associate, and Full Professor of Foreign Languages for over a decade and a half at Park University, Northern State University, Eastern New Mexico University, the University of Virginia, and Ivy Tech Community College. He is the author of over thirty academic books in the fields of Hispanic, Islamic, and Indigenous Studies, including the critically-acclaimed Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. A public figure and activist, he lectures all around the globe and acts as an advisor to world leaders. In recognition of his accomplishments, Dr Morrow received an ISNA Interfaith Achievement Award in 2016.

Muslim Writers Guild (August 3, 2017).

By Dr. John Andrew Morrow

Bismillah wa alhamdulillah wa salawat ‘ala Rasulillah.

I, Dr. John Andrew Morrow, known as Ilyas ‘Abd al-‘Alim Islam, am honored to address the 69th Annual Convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

I am one of the few Muslim leaders who leads Friday prayers for Sunnis, who performs majlis for Shiis, who participates in dhikr with Sufis, and who speaks on the same platform as Ahmadis.

I am one of the few Muslim leaders who addresses Christian audiences, Jewish audiences, and secular audiences.

I am a person who values diversity but who seeks unity within diversity.

I believe in building bridges and common ground. I believe in focusing on similarity instead of difference. I believe in addressing agreement as opposed to disagreement.

I am not a minimalist. I refuse to be a minority of a minority of a minority.

I am Métis. Our ethnogenesis was the product of a genetic and cultural mixture between French Canadian fur-trappers and First Nation women. I am Quebecois. I am French Canadian. I am Canadian. I am American. I am a citizen of planet earth.

I am universalist.

Let us not reduce ourselves to nothing. We may be Shii. We may be Sunni. We may be Sufi. We may be Ahmadi. But we are not only that.

We may be Malikis, Shafis, Hanbalis, Hanafis, Ja‘faris, Zaydis or Isma‘ilis. But we are not only that. We may belong to dozens of different theological, legal or spiritual paths. But we are not only that.

We may be Jews, Samaritans, Christians, and Muslims but most importantly we are monotheists. We are believers in the One and Only God, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe.

You can take a cow and chop it into thousands of different cuts: but it is still beef. That’s an allegory for anyone who might be hungry right now.

We have differences. That is a given. That is a blessing. That is what enriches us as human beings. But we are not the sum of our differences.

Let us set aside our differences and focus on fundamentals, the belief in One God, the belief in the Prophets of God, and the belief in Life after Death.

Let us unite on the basis of primordial ethical and moral principles.

God is One and God is Just so let us stand for social justice. As Almighty Allah says in the Glorious Qur’an:

O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do. (4:135)

Let us be kind and considerate for as the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, preached: “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself.”

Let us build bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood for as Almighty Allah commands the Prophet in al-Qur’an al-Karim: “Say: ‘No reward do I ask of you for this except the love of those near of kin.’” (42:23)

Finally, as the Messenger of Allah said: “He who does not thank people does not thank Allah” (Tirmidhi and Ahmad)

So let me thank the Ahmadi Community for inviting me here today and let me give credit where credit is due.

The Ahmadi Community was the first to systematically spread Islam in the Western world in general and here in the United States in particular. For this, I thank you.

The Ahmadi Community has always rejected violent jihad and terrorism. For this, I thank you.

The Covenants of the Prophet may be new to some Sunnis, Shiites, and Sufis; however, they are time-honored traditions to the Ahmadi Community. For this, I thank you.

The Covenants of the Prophet were recognized as authentic by the Islamic Review, an Ahmadi academic journal, in 1940.

The Covenants of the Prophet were recognized as authentic by Abdullah Alladin, the Ahmadi scholar, in 1971.

The Covenants of the Prophet were recognized as authentic by Qasim Rashid, my friend and colleague, in 2014.

Finally, in 2016, His Holiness, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the current Khalifa of the Ahmadi Muslim Community, quoted a study on the Covenants of the Prophet that was completed by my friend and colleague, Dr. Craig Considine.

Shukran lakum wa shukralillah. Thank you and thank Allah.

Al-salaamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.

(This speech was delivered to the 69th annual convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. It can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znOMN2sY8cI.)

The International Museum of Muslim Cultures has thrived for 16 years in Jackson, growing from a little-known exhibit to an internationally known archive. But its impact in education, advocacy, religious co-existence — even its very existence — is not widely known in its home city.

The institution was the first museum in the United States dedicated to international Muslim cultures and histories, and its creators aspired to unite people through education. It’s currently one of four U.S. museums celebrating some aspect of Islam and its followers: America’s Islamic Heritage Museum in Washington, D.C., which conserves the history of Muslim Americans; the New African Center in Philadelphia, which preserves African American Muslim history, and the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Mich., which is dedicated to showcasing Arab American history and culture.

People from approximately 40 states and 35 other countries, such as Senegal, Mali, Indonesia and Turkey, have visited the Jackson museum.

https://mississippitoday.org/2017/08/01/the-making-of-a-muslim-museum-in-mississippi/embed/#?secret=ijoRPNwIJU

The prestigious W.K. Kellogg Foundation has provided significant financial support. In May 2017, the foundation awarded a $600,000 grant to fund the museum’s “Bridging Cultures: Working for Equity Across Race, Class, Religion and Ethnicity” project. The goal of this project is to “utilize the power of the museum to mobilize cross-racial healing, justice and human dignity.”

That was the museum’s third Kellogg grant since 2006. The first two were for $31,000 (2006-2007) and for $150,00 (2013-2015). Like the museum, the foundation says it is committed to racial equity and the mission to “support children, families and communities as they strengthen to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to society.”

A key component of that accomplishing the mission is the “Timbuktu Human Dignity” curriculum that focuses on helping re-establish a sense of human dignity and unleashing the potential of youth of the African diaspora.

To Okolo Rashid, a co-founder of the museum and its president, the concept of human dignity is about having a sense of “inherent nobility, worth, honor and a born-sense of leadership and self-governance, which is the endowment of every human being.” She says this is the same concept that’s in the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

“A big part of the problem with academic achievement, for African Americans in particular, is tied to our historic experience here in this country and what slavery took away,” Rashid said. “Slavery wiped out the cultural memory of African Americans and a big part of that is this idea of what it means to be human.”

Emad Al-Turk, the museum’s other co-founder and its board chairman, says African American visitors will learn they came from educated, rich, civilized and cultured societies, which “is not what they learn in school.” Rashid also notes how many school lessons begin with slavery when it comes to African American history, but there’s so much more.

“Many African Americans are searching for who they are, where they came from and what their roots and traditions are,” Al-Turk said. “This is an excellent way of connecting.”

So far, Rashid says she has seen success with this curriculum in two pilot programs. These pilots were tested in the at Brinkley Middle School and Lanier High School in Jackson as a year-long elective and in the Holmes County school district with a select group of middle and high school African American male students as a year-long after-school program. Holmes County is has the poorest demographic in the U.S. while Jackson public school system is the second largest school district in Mississippi.

The curriculum is extensive, incorporating these topics: human dignity, service learning, West African and African American history, empowerment theory, geography, global worldview, civil rights, leadership, civic engagement, conflict resolution and more. The program was deemed successful based on the participants’ and instructors’ evaluations, says the museum’s education coordinator Maryam Rashid. Students improved an average of 19 percent on pre- and post-assessments of the Timbuktu curriculum.

This curriculum is a branch of the museum’s current exhibit called “The Legacy of Timbuktu: Wonders of the Written Word,” which was revealed in November 2006. This exhibit emphasizes West Africa’s Islamic culture and history via the historic city of Timbuktu in Mali, which was the center of education in West Africa between the 13th and 17th centuries.

Al-Turk and Rashid hope this exhibit will positively influence visitors and especially uplift the African American community locally and around the nation. The Timbuktu exhibit is scheduled to tour the nation in select cities in the 2020.

Forty ancient Timbuktu manuscripts on display showcase the high level of scholarship, achievements and forward thinking of West Africa’s civilization. These manuscripts cover an array of topics, including music, politics, conflict resolution, astronomy, history and proper meat preparation.

The manuscripts and many of the artifacts belong to the exhibit’s partner, Abdel Kader Haidara, who is founder of the Mamma Haidara Library in Timbuktu. Haidara’s family has lived in Timbuktu since the 15th century and has been passing down artifacts through its generations.

Also displayed are a blacksmith’s tools and products, a Malian bride’s traditional headdress and a model of the Great Mosque of Djenné. Visitors learn how women were held in high esteem in society and were independent, how the famous 14th-century traveler Ibn Battuta considered Timbuktu one of the safest places to travel, and how Malians made their own striped paper.

Take a look at this slideshow to see more photos from the Timbuktu exhibit. 

Roysean Tuyrez Philson, a 6th grade teacher for Teach for America in Ferriday, La., says while touring the museum he was fascinated by the trends West Africans set, the education they created and by how intelligent African Muslims were.

“I didn’t know these things because the history that I grew up learning in my school systems told it from a very biased perspective,” said Philson, who was raised in South Carolina. “We have to be open to hearing perspectives that are different than what we grew up hearing. It shed beauty on a beautiful culture.”

PUSHING FORWARD THE PRESENT THROUGH ITS PAST

Al-Turk says the museum isn’t not only an educational facility but also an activist organization, “arming people with information to allow them to do better for the entire community.”

The goal of the museum is to share the contributions of Muslims and Islam throughout history and no longer allow the media to define who Muslims are or what Islam is, according to Al-Turk. He says this is especially important in this current time of Islamophobia shown by the public and even elected officials.

“The first question we get is, ‘Wow, how do you have a Muslim museum in Jackson, Miss., and why do you have it here?’” Al-Turk said. “Why not? This is the center of the Civil Rights movement and what’s happening to the Muslim community is an extension of that movement.”

Al-Turk hopes the museum is contributing to the improvement of relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in the U.S. and around the world.

Another step toward this goal is the exhibit set to open in November called “Muslim with Christians and Jews: An Exhibition of Covenants and Co-Existence.” It’s based on John Andrew Morrow’s book “The Covenant of Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World.”

The exhibit will feature five covenants that were written to extend protection to Jews, Christians and others by the Prophet Muhammad and his people, one of the earliest constitutions in history (the Constitution of Medina) and a two-dimensional trade caravan, among other things.

The goal of this exhibit is to showcase Islam’s principle of religious coexistence, to introduce the leadership duality of Prophet Muhammad as a civic and religious leader, and to address Islamophobia with a message of understanding and tolerance.

Islam has historically promoted peace, Al-Turk said, and many things some Muslims claim to do in the name of Islam are not Islamic in nature, including groups such as ISIS, Hamas and Al-Qaeda.

“Our role in the museum is to educate the general public, Muslims and non-Muslims, about what Islam is and about the role of Islam,” Al-Turk said.

This exhibit is set to tour in Chicago, Atlanta, the Dallas-Forth Worth area, Detroit and major cities in New York and California in 2018. It will be open to the public and stationary in Jackson Nov. 30, 2017-April 2018.

“We want to take our exhibit and the work we’re doing to advocate our message outside of the museum walls,” Al-Turk said. “We want, over time, for millions of people to embrace the message of what we’re talking about.”

Who is ‘We’?

Humera Khan’s dismissal of divine decrees
Héctor Manzolillo

Dhu al-Qa’dah 08, 1438

Considering the collective amnesia of most of the Muslim community over the course of the past century, the resurrection and revival of the Covenants of the Prophet (pbuh) is a phenomenon of considerable importance. Consequently, when a self-proclaimed counter-terrorist expert like Humera Khan publishes a statement saying that “We don’t need these documents,” we are obliged to ask an essential question: Who is We? In other words, who is it that does not need these documents?

Humera Khan is the Executive Director of Muflehun which her bio describes as “a think tank specializing in preventing radicalization and countering violent extremism (CVE).” Her areas of expertise include “Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), Social Media in CVE, Security Strategies, Islamic Studies, Ideology of Violent Extremism, Women in Security, Youth CVE Programs, Online Radicalization, Women CVE Programs.” She also “contributes in an advisory capacity to the US government (including FBI, DHS, DOJ, DNI, DOS, NCTC, NSC and TSA) and law enforcement agencies in several European countries.” In recognition for her services, she was awarded the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award in 2012.

“We,” of course, could be “We Muslims,” namely, “We Muslims do not need these documents.” Why any Muslim leader would dismiss documents with such profound socio-political prospects is incomprehensible. The Covenants of the Prophet (pbuh) are powerful proponents of tolerance, inclusivity, and peaceful co-existence between members of all faiths. To claim that Muslims do not need the Covenants of the Prophet (pbuh) is like saying Americans do not need the Constitution or human beings do not need the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“We” could also have a broader meaning as in “We, human beings, do not need these documents.” The prophetic pledges might be of interest to Muslims; however, they are of no consequence to non-Muslims. This is a perilous proposition for there are no documents in Islam that address the rights of non-Muslims more completely and comprehensively than the Prophet’s Covenants. What is more, the documents in question have been cherished by Jews, Samaritans, Christians, and Magians as veritable insurance policies responsible for protecting their lives, religious rights, property, and liberties. To state that “We, human beings, do not need these documents” is to deprive non-Muslims of identity and existence in the Islamic world.

Muflehun Executive Director Humera Khan joining the technology panel at the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) Special Meeting on Preventing terrorists from exploiting the internet and social media to recruit terrorists and incite terrorist acts, while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms. Apparently, the executive director, perhaps blinded by photo-ops with the “movers and shakers,” still does not get it that the real terrorists are the ones who routinely veto UNSC resolutions that the majority of the world supports, leading to the terrorism she wants to curtail.

The mysterious “We,” however, could have more sinister connotations and convey the sense of “We, the FBI or the State Department, do not need these documents.” Rather than represent a benefit, they are a liability. They interfere directly with the imposed dichotomy between “good Muslims” who support Western plans and lifestyles and “bad Muslims” who support sovereignty and defend Islamic values. What is more, most Western governments, including that of the United States, have embraced the principles of CVE or Combating Violent Extremism.

While nobody sane of mind and soul opposes the struggle against violent extremism, Peter Romaniuk concludes in “Does CVE work? Lessons Learned from the Global Effort to Counter Violent Extremism” that “…the achievements of CVE in practice are not yet proportional to its prominence in the public discourse.” The fact that CVE focuses on the rehabilitation and reintegration of violent extremist offenders is the very manifestation of liberal nonsense. We are not dealing with wayward youth who smoke pot, sleep around too much, and consume excessive amounts of alcohol. We are dealing with mass rapists, mass torturers, and mass murderers. We should not baby them. We should behead them.

Herein lies the fundamental difference between the proponents of CVE and the supporters of the Covenants Initiative. The Covenants of the Prophet (pbuh) are clear: they demand justice. Serious crimes such as sexual assault, human trafficking, war crimes, and genocide should not go unpunished. Otherwise, the Throne of Majesty trembles with anger.

Who is “we”? and “We” is who? If one thing is clear, the “we” is not “who” we think. The “we” could not conceivably consist of the Muslim collective. The argument that the Qur’an is all that Muslims need is Qur’anically inadmissible. As Almighty Allah (swt) says Himself, “Obey Allah and obey the Messenger” (3:31, 4:59, 5:92, 24:54, 64:12). As the Qur’an states explicitly, “He who obeys the Messenger has obeyed Allah” (4:80). It is also definitively established that “Anyone who disobeys Allah and His Messenger is clearly misguided” (33:36).

If the Qur’an is all that Muslims need, why not burn all the books of traditions? Why not place books of jurisprudence, exegesis, theology, history, and philosophy on the funeral pyre? The Ahl al-Qur’an, who accept only the revealed text, are certainly not Sunnis, Shi‘is or Sufis. Mainstream, orthodox Muslims, all accept the authenticated Sunnah. Muslims are divided into myriad sects, schools, and movements yet all of them claim to follow the same Qur’an.

Factually speaking, the Qur’an has not been used as a source of unity and uniformity in the Muslim community for as the saying goes “God unites but human beings divide.” We have had the Qur’an for approximately 1,500 years but Muslims have continued to slaughter both Muslims and non-Muslims. Why? Because they disobeyed a key, transcendental, command of the Prophet (pbuh) directed to all Muslims. They disobeyed the universally recognized mutawatir hadith of Ghadir Khumm. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) foretold that Muslims would become misguided as a result of deviant and malevolent interpretations of the Qur’an,

There will soon come upon the people a time in which nothing of the Qur’an remains save its trace and nothing of Islam remains save its name; their masjids will be full, though they are devoid of guidance. Their scholars are the worst people under the sky, from them strife emerges and spreads.

Muslims, however, could return to the straight path and set aside strife by simply applying the Covenants of the Prophet (pbuh).

Regardless of whether one believes that the Covenants of the Prophet (pbuh) that were passed down by Jews, Samaritans, Christians, and Magians are authentic, they contain the same core components as the Covenants of the Prophet (pbuh) that have survived, piecemeal, in censored Muslim sources. Even if one asserted that all the letters, treaties, and covenants of the Prophet (pbuh) in all sources are forgeries, one could not, in good faith, be a Muslim, and be a believer, if one rejects the principles that they espouse: the right to life, the right to human dignity, the right to believe, the right to worship, the right to property, and the right to protection.

“We don’t need these documents?” Really? Almighty Allah (swt) believes that we need them; otherwise, He would not have revealed them to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The Messenger of Allah believes that we need them; otherwise, he would not have entered into them in the first place, would not have committed them to writing in numerous copies, would not have had them witnessed by dozens upon dozens of his companions; and would not have provided them to religious communities throughout the Muslim East.

Let’s be honest. Muslims need the Covenants of the Prophet (pbuh). The People of the Book need the Covenants of the Prophet. Human beings need the Covenants of the Prophet. We all need them now more than ever.

Editor’s note: for more on the subject, readers are referred to Power Manifestations of the Sirah: Examining the Letters and Treaties of the Messenger of Allah (2011) by Zafar Bangash, The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World (2013) by John Andrew Morrow, and Islam and the People of the Book: Critical Studies on the Covenants of the Prophet (2017), authored by Dr. Morrow and a dozen leading Muslim scholars.

Héctor Horacio Manzolillo is a leading political activist who was imprisoned several times as a result of his social commitment with the oppressed and exploited. An active participant in the socio-political work spearheaded by the “Movement of Priests for the Third World,” he was expelled from Argentina by the military dictatorship in 1976 after over a year of imprisonment. Manzolillo is a political analyst who, for many years, published articles in two newspapers in the province of Corrientes in Argentina. The author of hundreds of articles, he is also the translator of over 60 Islamic books from English into Spanish, including The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. He continues, to this day, in the same line of work.