American Paki

Ayesha Kazmi

Ayesha Kazmi is a Muslim American specialist in UK anti-terrorism policy at London-based CageprisonersOriginally from Boston, Massachusetts, Kazmi lived in London, England from 2005-2011. She has written for The Guardian and Privacy Matters and blogs at AmericanPaki. You can follow her on Twitter @AyeshaKazmi.

They say the onset of authoritarianism happens through a process of incrementalism. If indeed that is the case, I have missed a lot in the 6 years I spent in the United Kingdom away from the United States.

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Important Figures: Asma bint Abi Bakr

A Street in Mecca named after Asma

A woman who is revered by Muslims is Asma, the daughter of Abu Bakr, the close friend of the Prophet Muhammad. Asma, who was also Ayesha‘s half sister, is remembered in Islamic history for her courage, integrity, generosity, and intelligence. Many choose her name for their daughters hoping that they will display some of the characteristics of this great woman, who is the focus of this post, the eighth in a series on important men and woman of Islam.

Asma was born around 593 C.E. and was the daughter of Abu Bakr and his first wife Qutaylah. Eventually her parents divorced because Abu Bakr became a Muslim. Asma later followed in her father’s footsteps and was the 18th person to accept Islam. Continue reading

The Future of Egypt

Egyptian Women display their inked fingers after voting at a Cairo polling station. Image: Bela Szandelszky/AP/Press Association Images

Our recent Inside Islam radio show with Oxford University Professor Tariq Ramadan was a good history lesson for me. Ramadan talked about how both the western media and many of Egypt’s politicians are missing the boat: the role of Islam in future structures of Egyptian government is a relevant and important question, but there are much more pressing issues that need to be discussed. The western media has been especially interested in highlighting the headscarf or other tangibles that are symbolic of religious life, when there should be more of an emphasis on what Ramadan identified as the six themes all governments should work towards in their own way: rule of law, equal citizenship, universal suffrage, accountability of elected leaders, separation of power (executive, judicial, and legislative branches), and separation between religious and political power. He argued that it’s dangerous to have our sights on the trees when Egypt should be focusing on its future vision of the forest.

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A Peace Maker in Syria

Aired January 26, 2012 | Visit the WPR Page | Download the Show

In her memoir, The Bread of Angels, Stephanie Saldana wrote about an Italian Jesuit who restored a tenth century monastery near Damascus, and then dedicated it to Muslim/Christian dialogue. Father Paulo was recently forced into exile by the Assad regime, but he’s back. Stephanie joins us with an update.

The Muslim Brotherhood

In the wake of the pro-democracy protests in Tahrir Square, many Western observers are dismayed by the electoral success of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Dr. Tariq Ramadan, grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, joins us to talk about what the Brotherhood’s leadership means for the future of Egyptian democracy.

Important Figures: Fatima Al-Zahra

Fatima Al-Zahra in Arabic

Many Muslims choose to name their daughters Fatima after the youngest daughter of the Prophet Muhammad. Fatima is revered by all Muslims because she was very close to the Prophet. Moreover, she is the only one of his children to give him descendants. Fatima is most often referred to as Fatima Al-Zahra (the Resplendent One) and is the focus of this post, the seventh in a series on important men and women in Islam’s history.

Fatima was the fourth daughter of Khadijah and the Prophet Muhammad. Most sources agree that she was born around 605 C.E. Fatima grew up at a difficult time in the Prophet’s life. He had just started to receive revelations and the Meccans were very hostile to the new faith. Fatima was known to be a very sensitive child and was deeply affected by the persecution that her father had to endure. There are several stories in which Fatima, even though a young child, would come to the defense of her father. One example occurred when the Prophet went to the Kaba to pray. While he was praying, some of the Meccans threw entrails of a slaughtered animal on him. Fatima ran to her father, wiped him off, and yelled at the Meccans. Continue reading

Inside Islam Radio Show: Tariq Ramadan on the Muslim Brotherhood

Saad al-Katatni, member of the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing, and newly elected head of the Egyptian Parliament Photo: AP

Today at 3 PM CST (GMT+4), Jean will speak with Tariq Ramadan about the Muslim Brotherhood, and what its near control of the Egyptian Parliament means for Egyptian society. Ramadan, a Swiss academic, poet, and writer, holds a unique position, as he is the grandson of the founder of the Brotherhood, and also a harsh critic of many Islamic interpretations and notionally Islamic governments.

As tens of thousands gather in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to commemorate the Egyptian revolution of 2011 and celebrate the fall of the Mubarak regime, listen in to hear Ramadan’s thoughts on  the influence of the Brotherhood, and the future of Egypt.

How to Listen and Participate

 

Can Someone “Convert” to Islam?

British professor, artist, and barber, Faisal Abdu'Allah is a revert to Islam. Photo: triennial.ee

In past posts, Reem and I have discussed men and women who have embraced Islam later on in their lives. As I mentioned in a recent piece, by some estimates, as many as one fourth of all Muslim Americans identify as Muslims not by birth. This awkward word arrangement, “Muslims not by birth” is usually shortened to “convert,” however not everyone agrees. Others prefer to use the word “revert.” Depending on whom you ask and what you’re looking to find out, one word may be more useful than the other. And especially since spirituality, religion, and identity are some of the most intimate of topics, you may even offend someone if you don’t ask which terminology they prefer.

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Important Figures: Sumayyah bint Khayyat

Women have played an important role in the history of Islam from its beginnings. One woman who is well known by Muslims but does not always receive that much attention is Sumayyah bint Khayyat. Sumayyah was the first martyr of Islam and will be the focus of this post, the sixth in a series on important figures.

There is little known about Sumayyah before she became Muslim other than that she was a slave. She then married Yasir ibn Amir and they had a son, Ammar. All three were among the earliest converts to Islam. Yasir, like Sumayyah, was also killed. Ammar went on to be one of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad and eventually died in the Battle of Siffin. Continue reading