Irish Muslim activist takes on FGM


Ifrah Ahmed. Photo: DigitalJournal.com

In past posts, we’ve attempted to clarify issues around Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Female Circumcision (FC), and their perceived relation to religion and culture. Here are the facts: Islam, Christianity, nor any other world religion mandates any type of FC or FGM. Some forms of FC are considered FGM, depending upon the type of procedure. The practices are either forced upon women, expected of women, or in the rare case, embraced by women. FC and FGM are performed primarily on African girls and women or those from African backgrounds living in the West. A few countries in Asia have also been documented as practicing FC or FGM.

FGM has become a topic of focus for local activists in Africa and Asia, as well as the broader international community. Activists fighting against FGM have found a champion in an unlikely place—Ireland, where a significant number of women (over 3,000) have been subjected to it. Although substantial, the number pales in comparison to the 140 million women and girls worldwide who have undergone the procedure.

Ifrah Ahmed, a 23-year-old, Somali-born, Muslim activist has only been in Ireland for 6 years, but she’s already played a key role in shaping Irish policy regarding the practice. Ahmed underwent double mutilation as a child and still suffers from serious problems as a result of the procedures. She says that sometimes the pain is so bad that “I fall down and I feel like I’m going to die.” Continue reading

Muslim women in India seek equal rights under personal law

Zakia Soman, founding member of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan. Photo: CivilSocietyOnline.com

Muslim women in India are organizing against what they see as unfair laws regarding marriage, divorce, and property rights. Although the Indian Constitution offers all citizens equal rights irrespective of gender and religion, these rights do not extend to personal law. India does not have a uniform civil code; in family matters, legal decisions are based on religious law.

Muslims in India are governed by the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act of 1937, which defines the scope of Muslim personal law as including all affairs regarding succession, marriage, dissolution of marriage, guardianship, and property rights. Muslim personal law is largely uncodified, and legal decisions are made by courts on the basis of the Qur’an and hadith. Organizations like the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind (JUH) see themselves as spokespersons for the Muslim community, and lobby the government in cases where they believe Muslim law is being impinged upon.

Women’s groups have criticized the AIMPLB and JUH for their retrograde views regarding women’s rights. Continue reading

Tennessee Islamic Center delayed on procedural technicality

The sign has been spray-painted with the words "Not Wanted." Photo: CNN

The proposed Islamic center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is no stranger to controversy. Since 2010, plans to set up the facility have been constantly thwarted by opponents. Some argued that Islam is not a legitimate religion and thus not protected under the U.S. Constitution. Others protested that the mosque would create traffic problems and lower housing values. Still others decided to take the law into their own hands, spray-painting “Not Welcome” on signs announcing the center, and even setting fire to construction equipment and vehicles.

The center prevailed through a string of lawsuits, so opponents adopted another tactic, this time attacking the planning commission who granted the building permit. Now it seems that construction may be held up on procedural grounds. On May 30, a county judge ruled that plans for the center, which had previously been approved by the planning commission, are now “void, and of no effect.” Continue reading

Life and Death

Verse 156 in Chapter 2 of the Qur'an is read whenever someone dies. It translates as "Surely we belong to God and to Him shall we return."

There are many stereotypes about Islam and Muslims which the Inside Islam project has focused on dismantling. One of the most persistent negative images of Muslims is that they do not value life. The terrorist attacks carried out by a minority of Muslims have led some people to perceive Islam as a violent religion that encourages death for the sake of God. As we have said before, however, this idea is not supported by the Qur’an. While death is a fact of life that is repeatedly addressed in the Qur’an, Muslims are taught that life is extremely valuable and that they should work to lead righteous lives. Continue reading

This Is Where I Need to Be

Amna Ahmad, New York City high school oral historian, This is Where I Need to Be project

The old saying “children should be seen, but not heard” still rings true today. Although the majority of the population in many countries is younger than 25, youth perspectives are rarely, if ever, taken seriously. This is especially true for those under the age of 18 and those who come from minority groups such as people of color or Muslims. This Is Where I Need to Be: Oral Histories of Muslim Youth in NYC attempts to break these barriers by providing a platform for diverse young Muslims of color living in New York City to voice their perspectives. You can watch a video clip of Palestinian-American Amna Ahmad’s reading of Bengali-American Taseen Ferdous’s contribution to the book.

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Will Muslim athletes be at a disadvantage during the Olympics?

Noor al-Malki, a Qatari sprinter. Photo: Associated Press

Muslim athletes attending the London Olympics this summer will face a unique set of challenges, as the dates of the world’s largest sporting event overlap Ramadan almost exactly. The Games run from July 27 through August 12, while Ramadan commences on July 20 and ends a lunar month later. So Muslims athletes will be affected both in the run up to the Games and during the entirety of the event.

In an environment as mentally and physically taxing as the Olympics, Muslim athletes will have a difficult choice to make—either compete at the top of their form or observe Ramadan and abstain from food and water from sunrise to sunset. Continue reading

Ramadan, Beyond the Fast

Sultan Ahmed (the Blue Mosque), Istanbul. Photo: Colin Christopher

In a few months, Eid al-Fitr will mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan. The most significant Islamic religious observance of the year, Ramadan is primarily known for its requirement that practicing Muslims in good health and of appropriate age abstain from food, drink, and sexual activity from dawn til sunset. Those that are able and interested recite Qur’anic verses during the evening hours, as it is recommended for Muslims to read all 114 verses, or suras, over the duration of the lunar month. But there’s much more to Ramadan than this.

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45 American Men on Being Muslim

Coverage of Muslim men in the American media is almost completely limited to three narrow situations: Middle Eastern politics, violent extremist movements, or oppression of women. All-American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim provides a glimpse into the lives of the other 99% of Muslim men in the U.S. Initiated largely by well-educated, young Muslim Americans, this book is the latest in an intentional strategy to reshape American attitudes about Muslims and Islam through personal stories.
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nine/twelve

Filming nine/twelve (Source: huffingtonpost.com)

The attacks of 9/11 changed the course of history and affected many communities. The Muslim American community was particularly impacted by the attacks and have had to face growing Islamophobia. Throughout the Inside Islam project, we have explored some of the central challenges to the Muslim American community, which include questioning their national identity and their place in American society. Some question this group’s loyalty to their country and the possibility of being both Muslim and American. The entire nation was affected by the attacks; yet, 10 years later there is not enough exploration of what Muslim Americans faced in the days after 9/11. In February, a new project was launched to make a film called nine/twelve,  a film that will explore the experience of Muslims right after the attacks. Continue reading

Inside Islam Coming to a Close

Regretfully, after nearly four years of operation, we will be publishing our final Inside Islam post next month. As part of its Academia in the Public Sphere initiative, the Social Science Research Council has provided us with funding for an unprecedented four consecutive cycles. Since August of 2008, we’ve published more than 500 blog posts, broadcast over 100 radio shows, and reached a following of 25,000 unique readers per month. And quite fittingly, just a few moments ago, we received our 10,000th follower on our @insideislam twitter feed.

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