I slept, and dreamed that life was beauty;
I woke, and found that life was duty.
From the Yorker
The evening was organised by York University Islam Society as part of Islam Awareness week. According to the society, the aim of the week has been to “create brotherhood and unity” and raise understanding of the Islam faith.
The speech was preceded by children handing out flowers and a recital of a blessing and praise to Allah from the Koran.
Al-Kawthari, who gives lectures regularly and spoke only last week at Manchester Met UCLAN, revealed this, his first visit to York, is the first time ever he has been greeted by controversy.
The scholar, who has studied Arabic and Islam all over the world and has 25 years of expertise in Islam finance, ethics and jurisprudence, began by hoping to dispel media propaganda and portray real Islam, saying “a human is an enemy of that which he/she is ignorant of”.
He rejected extremism and terrorism in Islam, stating the two meanings of ‘Islam’ are submission to God and peace. He added that Islam “promotes and encourages peace” between Muslims and non-Muslims and the Koran teaches Muslims to treat other faiths justly and live amicably in society.
Al-Kawthari said Islam contains “no compulsion, no force, no exertion” in trying to make people follow Islam and Muslims can interact with non-Muslims as long as it doesn’t affect them following Islam. Practicing religion well assures a good relationship with Allah and a good next life, he added.
Islam is “a complete way of life” he said, with laws everything from drinking, walking, talking and driving. It is a life a non-Muslim can not be expected to understand.
Al-Kawthari spoke also of Islam attitudes to human rights, including kindness to animals and trees, pointing out various similarities between Judaism and Islam.
He defended penal laws, some of which are seen as controversial and out-dated in Western countries, such as stoning and amputation, and insisted they are not always followed and must be taken to court and are only enforceable in Islamic States, which Britain is not.
He then moved on to laws about sex and marriage, about which he has written a book, stressing the importance of equal rights within a marriage, respect and consideration.
The evening ended with a question and answer session, which raised some controversial and challenging questions about homophobia and honour killings. Al-Kawthari argued that honour killings are a result of culture, not religion, and ended by hoping Islamaphobia will reduce, not only here at York, but across the country.
From the Root
Nia Long has portrayed a variety of characters throughout the 20-plus years that she’s graced the big screen. Film audiences first noticed her as the supportive girlfriend in the Oscar-nominated Boyz n the Hood, and she remained on moviegoers’ radar as she lent her talent to Love Jones, The Best Man, Are We There Yet? and more. But it’s her recent riveting portrayal as the self-respecting Muslim wife and mother Safiyah Mahdi, in the independent film Mooz-lum, that’s garnering attention.
Set against the backdrop of the 9/11 events, Mooz-lum explores the challenges that a young African-American Muslim man, Tariq (Evan Ross), faces as he struggles to balance his strict Muslim upbringing with his new secular college environment. Long’s character asserts her independence as she tackles her estranged relationship with her son, Tariq, and husband, Hassan (Roger Guenveur Smith). The film, which also stars Danny Glover and Dorian Missick, is loosely based on the life of its writer and director, Qasim “Q” Basir.
Long recently took the time to discuss her role and encouraging tolerance for Muslims with The Root.
The Root: Safiyah is a dutiful Muslim woman who is the mother of two teenage children and married to a man who rigidly follows Islam. But she’s nobody’s pushover. What did you do to prepare for this role?
Nia Long: I had a lot of time and several conversations with the director’s mother, who gave me insight on the whole religion. … This story is a true story based on the director’s life, and she really kind of talked to me about what life was like raising Q and being a mother — and a Muslim mother who doesn’t always agree with her husband. [It’s] all of the things that you see in the film.
TR: What drew you to this role?
NL: The story is amazing, but also, I was looking for a dramatic piece. I’ve been doing a lot of comedy stuff, which I absolutely love doing. But I’m an artist, and who wants to paint the same picture every time on the same canvas?
TR: Muslim women are often perceived to be subservient and docile compared with their male counterparts. How has playing Safiyah influenced your perception of women’s roles in Islam and how they’re treated?
NL: I think it’s dangerous to look at every Muslim woman the same and to assume that every experience within the religion is the same, meaning that there are going to be strong and assertive women that are Muslim. There’s going to be a more passive woman who just so happens to be a Muslim. There may be a funny, big-personality woman and she’s Muslim.
I don’t think the religion makes the woman; I think the woman is who she is within the religion. Just like in Christianity or Buddhism, obviously there are certain practices that dictate one’s life, but I don’t think you can say all Muslim women are a certain way.
TR: How does playing Safiyah differ from your real-life role as mother to your 10-year-old son, Massai?
NL: I don’t really like to compare my life as an actress and being my son’s mother. My personal life and my professional life are very different, and I try to keep them separate, just because my personal life is so precious to me. But I will say, whether you’re playing a mom on-screen or you’re in a car pool lane driving your child to school in the morning, there are similarities that are undeniable. And once you’re a mother, there are certain things that are instinct. You just have a better understanding of what it means to be a mother.
TR: How do you think this film will impact people’s impressions — their tolerance and understanding — about Islam?
NL: Hopefully it will open up dialogue. I think that’s the most important thing: that we create dialogue. In talking and communicating, [it’s important that we] really share information with one another — because I think that leads to better understanding — and also just kind of [educate] one another in a way that’s really honest.
TR: What were some of your challenges in making the film?
NL: Because it’s an indie film with a very small budget and very small cast and crew, that’s always challenging. But that’s also the very thing that makes this project special. When you have all the bells and whistles — you’ve got the big, fancy catering, you’ve got the big, fancy car service and the big, fancy trailer — it makes it very comfortable and everybody’s making a lot of money.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to end up with a great film. You hope to. I think what’s special about this one is that we had none of the bells and whistles. We had to solely rely on our director, the script and the other actors to make a project I think we all feel very proud of.
TR: There has been a grassroots campaign to get more people to come out and see this movie and get it distributed to more theater locations. Why is this film one that people should see?
NL: I would say that [the subject matter is] relevant. Americans are in need of very objective information, and sometimes it’s easier to absorb the message through entertainment and through a great story than through the news outlets [where] everything is sensationalized. Not only are you getting information that sort of defies stereotypes, but you’re also getting a wonderful story with hopefully good performances. So it’s entertaining and informative.
TR: What did you learn from this movie? What did you take away?
NL: I learned a lot about Muslim people and Islam and the dynamics between men and women and their daily practices. I learned there’s a tremendous amount of sisterhood among Muslim women, which I thought was really beautiful. I was happy to be a part of the film.
Published: Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, February 16, 2011 17:02
As part of Islam Awareness Month, the Muslim Student Association hosted the event “Women in Islam” on Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. in Room 125 of the Harris Corporation Engineering Center.
“This event in particular has been a MSA tradition, but this year with the current events and the media blowing it out of proportion more than they have in the past, we thought it was necessary to have it,” junior psychology major and vice president of MSA, Shazeen Ahmad Ahmad, said. “For a while we were thinking of replacing it with something new due to fear of redundancy, but women in the Islamic faith is one of the biggest misunderstandings. We wanted to clarify the confusion.”
To start the event, students gathered together for the fourth prayer of the day, the sunset prayer, and were able to have a preface to the event and witness a subculture of the university and society as a whole.
“The MSA mission is two-fold. We want to help provide services to Muslims on campus as well as reaching out to non-Muslims to help them understand Islam and clear up any misconception,” senior film production major and MSA president Abdullah Sabawi said.
The event included a keynote speaker, Najia Kurdi, who spoke of her personal conflicts with the misconceptions of Islam as well as the context of the Quran.
“The media speaks about freeing the women from the hijab, but we do not hear about the other side, the one where women are fighting to wear the hijab. It is their badge of honor. People have died for the right to wear it,” Kurdi said.
Kurdi was raised according to the values of Islam, and explained that her parents had taught her to value herself as well as opinions, beliefs, and to respect other people as well as their beliefs.
“I think that there is a desire for any person to be understood whether you agree with their choices or you don’t, there is so much that is not understood about Islam,” Kurdi said. “Lately there is so much negative propaganda and a negative outlook that it hurts people. This is an opportunity to bridge the gaps. If I can put something out there to help someone understand me, whether or not they agree, I think it is something we should all do. We all live in the same world.”
Although there are people who believe that Muslims are sexist, the Quran speaks of woman and man being seen as equal. Muslim women have had the right to vote for 1,400 years, can have a divorce, have ownership of property, can be business women, scholars or legal authorities, and unlike some cultures, they must consent to be married as well as name their own dowry, which is theirs to keep.
In the age of sexual objectification of women, Kurdi believes that women are beginning to trade one form of oppression for another.
“Now, women have fought for their rights, but they are subjugated to being judged only for their appearance and not their true self-worth,” Kurdi said. “Islam says that women have to be respected for who they are, not for the way they look. Yes, you are valuable because you are intelligent, righteous and a good person. And yes we are beautiful too, but our beauty is preserved and protected. We will not use that beauty to have us subjugated to the whims of man.”
Kurdi ended the speech with an analogy relating Islam to a jigsaw puzzle.
“Islam is like a jigsaw puzzle, you may not make sense of it at first, but once you begin to make shapes and combine similar colors, you begin to piece it together. You are able to witness something beautiful. All of those jagged pieces begin to form a picture, and once you put all of the pieces together, then you can make an educated decision about Islam and its women,” she said.
Far from the world, O Lord, I flee,
From strife and tumult far;
From scenes where Satan wages still
His most successful war.
The calm retreat, the silent shade,
With prayer and praise agree;
And seem, by Thy sweet bounty made,
For those who follow Thee.
There if Thy Spirit touch the soul,
And grace her mean abode,
Oh, with what peace, and joy, and love,
She communes with her God!
There like the nightingale she pours
Her solitary lays;
Nor asks a witness of her song,
Nor thirsts for human praise.
Author and Guardian of my life,
Sweet source of light Divine,
And, — all harmonious names in one, —
My Saviour! Thou art mine.
What thanks I owe Thee, and what love,
A boundless, endless store,
Shall echo through the realms above,
When time shall be no more.
(For Mrs. Henry Mills Alden)
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
Count each affliction, whether light or grave,
God’s messenger sent down to thee; do thou
With courtesy receive him; rise and bow;
And, ere his shadow pass thy threshold, crave
Permission first his heavenly feet to lave;
Then lay before him all thou hast; allow
No cloud of passion to usurp thy brow,
Or mar thy hospitality; no wave
Of mortal tumult to obliterate
The soul’s marmoreal calmness: Grief should be,
Like joy, majestic, equable, sedate;
Confirming, cleansing, raising, making free;
Strong to consume small troubles; to commend
Great thoughts, grave thoughts, thoughts lasting to the end.
Fare thee well! and if for ever,
Still for ever, fare thee well:
Even though unforgiving, never
‘Gainst thee shall my heart rebel.
Would that breast were bared before thee
Where thy head so oft hath lain,
While that placid sleep came o’er thee
Which thou ne’er canst know again:
Would that breast, by thee glanced over,
Every inmost thought could show!
Then thou wouldst at last discover
‘Twas not well to spurn it so.
Though the world for this commend thee‚
Though it smile upon the blow,
Even its praise must offend thee,
Founded on another’s woe:
Though my many faults defaced me,
Could no other arm be found,
Than the one which once embraced me,
To inflict a cureless wound?
Yet, oh yet, thyself deceive not;
Love may sink by slow decay,
But by sudden wrench, believe not
Hearts can thus be torn away:
Still thine own its life retaineth,
Still must mine, though bleeding, beat;
And the undying thought which paineth
Is – that we no more may meet.
These are words of deeper sorrow
Than the wail above the dead;
Both shall live, but every morrow
Wake us from a widowed bed.
And when thou wouldst solace gather,
When our child’s first accents flow,
Wilt thou teach her to say ‘Father!’
Though his care she must forego?
When her little hands shall press thee,
When her lip to thine is pressed,
Think of him whose prayer shall bless thee,
Think of him thy love had blessed!
Should her lineaments resemble
Those thou never more may’st see,
Then thy heart will softly tremble
With a pulse yet true to me.
All my faults perchance thou knowest,
All my madness none can know;
All my hopes, where’er thou goest,
Wither, yet with thee they go.
Every feeling hath been shaken;
Pride, which not a world could bow,
Bows to thee – by thee forsaken,
Even my soul forsakes me now:
But ’tis done – all words are idle –
Words from me are vainer still;
But the thoughts we cannot bridle
Force their way without the will.
Fare thee well! thus disunited,
Torn from every nearer tie.
Seared in heart, and lone, and blighted,
More than this I scarce can die.
From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then- in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.