Tariq Ramadan: My Absence Would Certainly Be The Most Powerful Speech I Have Ever Given At ISNA

August 14, 2014

On Sunday, August 10th, 2014, renowned and notable scholar and professor Dr. Tariq Ramadan posted on his webpage a piece titled Why I Will Not Attend The ISNA And RIS Conferences. The post stirred much heated debate over social media, with notable scholars also responding and urging him to reconsider his position in light of points they raised. The President of ISNA also issued a formal statement.

Dr. Ramadan agreed to be interviewed, stating for now this will be his one response to his post.

The following is an edited conversation between Dr. Tariq Ramadan and Amina Chaudary of The Islamic Monthly (TIM) on August 11, 2014.

TIM: In your essay, you argue that Muslims should speak out against certain U.S. policies by basing their arguments in American values, not Islamic ones. Why did you choose this frame of reference?

Ramadan: As Western Muslims and American Muslims, we need to understand that the values and principles we promote are not only Muslim values.  American Muslims live in a country where justice, dignity, freedom and equality are essential values. The Muslim contribution to the future of America is to not only speak out as Muslims, but to also speak out as citizens in the name of our common values. Our main contribution is to reconcile the American society with its own values, those that are not in contradiction to Islam.  We have a duty of consistency.

TIM: ISNA wears many hats for Muslims in America, and its annual convention provides a venue for everything from family reunions to panel sessions on halal certifications to addressing many of the political issues you identified in your essay. Is it fair to place the burden on this one institution to articulate a position on all American policies both foreign and domestic? Are you asking specific individuals within ISNA’s leadership to articulate their position vis-a-vis these issues? Does this boycott extend to other groups guilty of the same silence, or is it specific to ISNA as the largest of them all?

Ramadan: As I wrote in the beginning of my post, I have a great deal of respect for the people who have been working and serving the community in America and Canada, and, among them, the two institutions I mentioned. I am not attacking the institution. Some have misunderstood my point or not read my paper carefully and they are saying “Tariq Ramadan is calling for a boycott and is creating divisions.” What I was trying to do is exactly the opposite. The divisions are already there and it is not by hiding the tensions that we are solving the problems. My position is clearly about the leadership. I can understand and respect the fact that you want to keep the channel open with American authority. But at the same time, you need to know your goals to serve your fellow citizens and the Muslim community in the name of your principles. Some people are responding by saying, “You are not an American, you do not understand. The priorities in Europe are not the same as in the U.S. or in Canada. You are obsessed with international issues!” Is that even a response? So why do they invite me in the first place if I do not understand the respective situations in the U.S. and in Canada? Am I suitable only when I am not critical? I have been visiting and studying the North American continent for almost 30 years and I am sad to hear such arguments. I do not deal with “international affairs” only; half of my work has been on Western Muslims. My point is straightforward: anyone who tries to separate or divorce domestic politics from international politics does not get it, and that might be dangerous for the future of Western Muslims. Shouldn’t the American leadership be addressing what is happening in America, with its domestic policies on racism, discrimination, illegal monitoring, solitary confinement, torture, Guantanamo Bay and any other social and political issues related to the American society not directly connected to Islam?  American Muslims must speak out and be involved as well in international policies and, through their institutions, they should raise their voice. This is the way you serve the community.  I understand the need to serve the community by talking about marriage or halal food. But you should also lead with vision, wisdom and  courage. Islam is a religion of justice and dignity, and we are taught to never keep silent when facing injustice, discrimination and double standards. This is our contribution. I am expecting institutions to be able to open up and break the silence. They should write with assertiveness about some of the critical issues. But this is not what is done now. I have great respect for the way they serve, but question their silence on critical issues.

TIM: Some scholars have asked you to reconsider your attendance of ISNA, not necessarily because they disagree with your critique, but because they fear your absence could irrevocably diminish an institution they consider an important cornerstone of Muslim America. How do you respond to them? Assuming this analysis is true and your actions would diminish the organization in an irretrievable way, would you still not attend ISNA?

Ramadan: It is not a question of boycotting. I am not calling for a boycott. I am sending a message and asking a question in a respectful, critical and constructive way. I received many e-mails from people saying, “Professor, please come, don’t do that.” Just ten minutes ago, I received a very moving e-mail from somebody telling me, “Sheikh, in the name of your knowledge, your contribution and what you have been teaching us, don’t boycott.” Once again, I am not calling for a boycott. My absence would certainly be the most powerful speech I have ever given at ISNA. And for the attendees, it is important to note that my intention was not to create division, but exactly the opposite. They must ask their institutions, what are your priorities? How are you going to deal with this? I have given talks to many people for years, at ISNA or RIS. And now what I am trying to say is that although I am not going, the people who will attend should make their voices heard in a constructive way.

Tariq Ramadan: Why I will not attend the ISNA (August 2014) and RIS (December 2014) conferences

August 10, 2014

In recent years I have been a faithful participant in two major events of the North American Muslim calendar. As a regular attendee at these annual gatherings, I wish to express my warmest thanks to the institutions, and to the women and men who made them the success they undoubtedly were.

This year, however, I have decided not to attend or participate in the conferences organized by ISNA from August 29 to September 1 in Detroit, and by RIS, from December 26-28 2014, in Toronto. The reasons are different, but point to similar causes.

The leaders of ISNA can boast a proud record of service to American Muslims, for which they must be thanked and congratulated. The annual ISNA convention is an important gathering, featuring a multiplicity of participants and a broad cross-section of activities. In recent years, however, the political positions taken by the organization’s leadership have not always been clear-cut. Though it is essential, I believe, to remain open to dialogue with the authorities, it is likewise essential that positions of principle must be maintained, re-affirmed and defended. Not simply for the good of the Muslims, but in the name of the contribution of American Muslims to their society. Criticism of the domestic policy of the current administration, like those that preceded it, is a moral obligation. Summary arrests, arbitrary prison terms, inhuman psychological torture and solitary confinement, the shadowy role of informers and the deeply troubling and unacceptable methods used by the FBI, which has provoked young people to engage in extremist actions, must be unconditionally condemned. Not in the name of Islam, but in the name of the values proclaimed by the United States. However, the ISNA leadership is too often silent, as if paralyzed by fear. It fares no better with respect to American foreign policy. Its silence over American support for the outlaw and inhuman policies of Israel cannot be justified, even less so after attending an iftar organized by the White House during which President Obama defended Israel while the Israeli ambassador tweeted his delight! We cannot be forever silent: what kind of active and responsible citizenship does the ISNA leadership offer young American Muslims? What kind of example? That of silent, fearful sycophants–or of free, public-spirited citizens who, while defending the values of human dignity and justice, serve their country in the most sincere and critical way? That of the unconditional loyalty of the timorous, or the critical loyalty of free individuals? To attend the ISNA convention would be to endorse their silence.

Nor will I be attending RIS this year. The reasons are different, the causes similar. The organizers have long demonstrated their effectiveness; they wish to convey the impression of favoring a plurality of voices. But in fact, it is the so-called “Sufi” and “apolitical” trend that lies at the core of the RIS convention. I do not have the slightest problem with this trend (on the contrary), or its underlying structures and aims. The problem is that some of the participants, scholars or preachers, under the guise of Sufism or in the name of avoiding partisan politics, defend highly politicized positions of support for states and dictatorships. Their silence and their inferences in the heart of the West, in Toronto or elsewhere, constitute visible support for the Gulf petro-monarchies or for despots such as al-Sissi in Egypt. This while dictators from Syria to Iraq by way of Egypt are imprisoning, torturing and killing innocents by the thousands. They cast themselves as above the conflict, while the “Sufism” they offer is highly politicized and too well adjusted to the boots of the State. But I will have none of this. When some speakers boast in public of their openness but refuse to participate in panel discussions to avoid being exposed, openness goes by the board. When the same people support dictatorial governments, coherence flies out the window. I cannot, by my presence, lend implicit approval to such positions.

Spare me please any talk of my family background: I have sufficiently criticized the Islamist movements—all of them, without exception–and their choices that my approach cannot be reduced to anything resembling even implicit support. My position is that all dictators must be confronted, all injustices must be fought; we cannot be silent, or feign silence while supporting the worst regimes.

I have said it once and I will say it again: Western Muslims will in the future assume a critical role. Educated and living in free societies, they must acquire greater knowledge of their religion and become free, active and outspoken citizens, fully aware of their duties and dedicated to the defense of their rights. In the United States, just as in Canada and in Europe, they must defend everyone’s human dignity, and refuse to keep silent in the face of intimidation by the state. Drawing on their spirituality and their values, their commitment will be their finest contribution, the best possible example of the contribution of Muslim citizens to the future of the West. The leaders of the previous generation are too cautious, too fearful; they dare not speak freely.

I am also a member of a generation that is passing on. It is up to the new generation to produce leaders who have understood that in bending over backwards, in saying “Yes sir!” they sacrifice not only their dignity, but forget and betray their duty. I dream of a new feminine and masculine leadership, educated, free and bold, a leadership that does not confuse the concept of dialogue with the authorities with unacceptable compromise and intellectual surrender, a leadership that does not transform Sufism, the historical underpinning of so many liberation movements, into a school of silence and cowardly calculation. As I look around me, I see the first premises of a dream come true, alhamdulLilah.

I am well aware that the position I am taking will sound off sharp criticism; others may simply decide not to invite me. For years I have dealt with criticisms of my person, my training, my credibility. I have no time to waste with these low blows and refer readers to my résumé, which can be found on my website (http://tariqramadan.com/english/biography/). These are the same individuals who attack my character to avoid responding to the content of my critical thought. I know their methods all too well, but I refuse to waste my time by answering their attacks, which are nothing but a manoeuvre to sidestep the true subject. It is impossible for me to attend such events when my presence alone would imply support for positions that stand in total contradiction to my vision of the role of Western Muslims in their society, now and in the future. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. It is imperative that we educate ourselves, and that we display good judgement and fortitude. If those around us are silent in the face of the unacceptable, the conscience of Muslims must not remain silent, neither in the name of wisdom betrayed, nor of Sufism perverted.

ISNA President’s Letter to the American Muslim Community

August 12, 2014

Bismillah Ar Rahman Ar Raheem

“O you who believe! Fear Allah, and say a word directed to the Right: That He many make your conduct whole and sound and forgive you your sins: He that obeys Allah and His Messenger, has already attained the highest Achievement.” 33:70-71

Brothers and Sister of the American Muslim community,

I have become aware of the dialogue taking place in social media about the American Muslim community, and specifically about the Islamic Society of North America and its role in the United States. This includes ISNA’s philosophy and strategy of engagement with the government and public officials. I welcome this dialogue, as do all the leaders of ISNA. This may be a good beginning for a larger discourse among the American Muslim community and its leadership as the American Muslim knows best what is in the best interest of its communities. Imam Malik exemplified for us the importance of understanding the context before issuing the ruling or critique when he told a man from another land who came to see him that he could not give an answer to the man on the situation of his people. “You know better than I do about your situation,” he said.

No Muslim leader in America, particularly those who volunteer in their positions wish to find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. However, reality is that many of us are between two attacks, those that come from Islamaphobes from whom we must defend our faith, our rights, and our communities, and those that are coming from our fellow Muslims, from whom we must defend the integrity and intentions of our leadership. It is appropriate and encouraged for members of the Muslim community to hold leadership accountable and to ask tough questions and it is the responsibility of the leadership to respond. This is why I will try to participate in this dialogue, to answer some of the issues and concerns what were raised.

However, before I go further in addressing the current issues, I would like to establish general guidelines for constructive dialogue.

Imam Shaafi’ said, “My opinion is correct with the possibility of being wrong and the opinion of those that disagree with me is wrong with the possibility of being correct.” He also stated, “There is no time that I engage in debate with others without praying that Allah will show me the truth that comes from the person in order that I may increase in knowledge and benefit from him.” Secondly a person must learn from his or her own mistakes, from his friends, brothers, sisters, and even those who have animosity toward him. All of us must believe in these principles of engaging in dialogue, that dialogue and debate are for seeking truth, not proving oneself to be right. It is also very important that if we see something we think is wrong in one of our brothers or sisters that we know, then we should try our best, by whatever means we have, to talk to them privately before we critique them publicly. Otherwise, the well intended advice might be interpreted as creating friction and disunity among the Muslims. We must deal with people for what they do and what they say and try to understand their context. Their intentions are for Allah alone to judge.

Living in the American context it is also essential for us to understand how to address the diversity of opinions and approaches of individuals and communities. I would like to stress there is a distinction between unity and uniformity. We can and should work towards unity without requiring uniformity. Unity that is established on respecting the general principles and values that come from our faith, and in those tenets of the United States law and Constitution that compliment the principles and values of our faith. This can make us stronger in our iman and more effective in our civic responsibilities. Ensuring that we do not force uniformity allows us to combine the two in ways most feasible for each individual. Those that choose to exercise their religious and civic responsibilities may do so through public peaceful protests and even civil disobedience, while others use means of constructive and sincere engagement to dialogue with elected officials, holding those whose salaries come from our tax dollars accountable for how they serve our country. These two approaches should be respected and equally embraced in the Muslim American community. In my early years in the United States, I studied the history of the Civil Rights Movement and the various approaches people used to move the cause forward. All of these efforts became a part of American history. To understand the fruits of engaging our government, and to understand the interfaith effort of ISNA, please refer to the links included at the end of the article. They will help clarify how ISNA explains the concerns of the Muslim American community to elected officials. There are some Americans that have Islamaphobic mentalities – including some members of Congress and other powerful public figures; through them millions of dollars are spent isolating Muslims from the public discourse, painting them as disloyal citizens of the land that is their home.

The absence of American Muslims from the table of dialogue only creates a vacuum that would be filled by others, possibly by these very individuals. Its not only about whom you dialogue with but what you say when you are with them. An individual who understands the Seerah of Prophet (peace be upon him) will see that he (peace be upon him) dialogued with many people including those like Walid ibn Mughira, who attacked him personally and showed tremendous disrespect to him (peace be upon him). The Prophet (peace be upon him) let him finish his speech, despite the offensive content of it, and then responded to him with calmness and kindness. Dialogue does not mean that you compromise your principles in promoting justice and fairness, it does means that you try to understand where the other side is coming from and try to reach a common understanding based on shared values. Our example in dealing with others, as in all things, is the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). You will find more about this in a book written by Professor Tariq Ramadan, Footsteps of the Prophet.

In regards to ISNA’s position, ISNA is one of the founders of the organization of National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), an organization that calls for ending torture by law enforcement. Dr. Ingrid Mattson, former President of ISNA, was among the first Muslim leaders to bring this issue to the forefront of the minds of Muslim communities in the US. Raising this issue in the interfaith platform led to President Obama issuing an executive order to end torture by the government. NRCAT is one of the largest interfaith organizations in America dealing with ending torture. It is an alliance of good, fighting for justice similar to the alliance that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a part of even prior to his prophethood. ISNA is a member of National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI), an interfaith organization that deals with the Israel-Palestine conflict. Their objective is to convey to the United States leadership the strong concern of the faith communities regarding the ongoing conflict, to push for a more active role on the national level, and to establish a just and lasting peace arrangement. Leaders of NILI, have met many times with secretaries of state and other high officials to further this cause. ISNA is also a founding member of one of the largest interfaith civil rights organizations created to defend Muslim rights, Shoulder to Shoulder, created to protect rights of Muslim in America and standing firmly with partners of other faiths to speak against bigotry in all of its forms. In addition to these partnerships, ISNA has issued many press releases regarding the loss of civilian lives in various parts of the world. In recent months, much emphasis has been put on addressing the loss of life in Gaza, Syria, and Iraq. ISNA leaders have also taken many opportunities in recent months to speak directly with high level officials on behalf of the American Muslim community. Each time, whether at the White House iftar or at any other gathering, leaders take great care to consider the interest of the American Muslim community and the context in which they live. I participate in many dialogues with the President of the United States and many other officials regarding healthcare, combating gun violence and domestic violence in America, as well as bringing the perspective and concerns of Muslims regarding the many issues in the Middle East and around the globe.

My Brothers and Sisters, let me be open with you, I often find many Muslim communities are more concerned about international issues than American domestic issues. We have to connect the international issues of concern to the country in which we live so that our fellow Americans can see the impact of these international issues on America itself. If we desire for our point of view to truly be heard, nationally and internationally, we have to engage our fellow American citizens in general dialogue, and we have to engage elected officials from local representatives to the President of the United States. I have visited communities in Europe and was shocked to see that in some areas the Muslim community has isolated themselves from the larger community and disconnected themselves from the country which they are citizens of. We cannot choose to isolate ourselves; we cannot choose to be silent. Wherever we live in the world, those are the places we call home, the places where our children are raised and the places where they will raise their own families. Yet I have met many people, even in the US, who follow the political situations of their countries of origin, but are oblivious to the politics of the country in which they live and work. Individuals have great concerns for the situations “back home” but are not investing themselves in the greater community here at home where they are physically present and where their children are educated.

Similarly, I see many masajid that are deeply engaged with our public officials and work with partners in the interfaith community. However, there is still a gap between what the community feels and what the community does. Many Muslims will pick up the phone to call a friend and express their displeasure with policies they see, be that domestic or foreign, but they do not pick up the phone to call their local representatives to express that concern. They may email their imams and Masajid Board members preaching endlessly about the importance of speaking up against the injustices, but they do not email the officials who made the decisions. They may read articles that upset them about issues concerning the community but they will not write a letter to the editor. They may listen to a talk radio show that disgraces Muslims but they will not call in. My Brothers and Sisters, we should be grateful that we live in a world where we are able to engage in dialogue, vote, and lobby our government. To be silent, to disengage, would be to discard one of the most powerful tools God has given us with which we can do good. I would like to say that ISNA would like to be that platform where we can agree to disagree and to represent different points of view, unity but not uniformity. Many times I had heard speakers at ISNA conventions and conferences whose opinions I disagreed with but who I had encouraged to be invited back to address the community because we had to understand each others’ different points of view. At the same time, we must be wise in how we address these and how we prioritize the issues being addressed. We need to think about what will impact our children and the generations that follow.

Finally I would like to say, ISNA is your organization. ISNA’s doors are wide open. You can become a member today and earn the right to vote people in or out of the leadership. We hope that you will join us to hear various speakers, with a tremendous wealth of knowledge and experience, who have agreed to honor us with their presence this year and share with us the diversity of opinion and practice in so many aspects of our lives. I started this article with a verse of the Qur’an and I would like to end it with this one,

“O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah, as witness to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well acquainted with all that ye do.” 5:8

Largest U.S. Muslim Organization Supports LGBT Anti-Discrimination Bill

November 11, 2013

 

Last week, one of the clearest shifts in the decades-long debate over Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) came into light from the largest U.S.-based Muslim organization, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), joined a broad interfaith coalition, calling ENDA a “measured, common sense solution that will ensure workers are judged on their merits, not on their personal characteristics like sexual orientation or gender identity.”

In a historic advancement for the LGBT rights movement, the Senate on Thursday approved ENDA, a bill that protects against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Despite advances in anti-discrimination in the workplace, Muslims continue to face unfair job discrimination. Our shared experiences of discrimination can provide a common basis to work with one another to mold a more inclusive America.

Commenting on the shift of tone, Dr. Sharon Groves, Director of HRC’s Religion and Faith Program, regarded ISNA’s support of ENDA as a major step in right direction.

“LGBT Muslims both in the U.S. and abroad need to hear from organizations like ISNA that their experiences as Muslims are recognized in the spirit of Islam’s emphasis on compassion and respect for all humanity,” said Groves.

The movement for greater acceptance of LGBT people in Islam is growing. LGBT Muslims continue to be at the forefront of cutting edge scholarship at the intersection of Islam and issues affecting the lives of LGBT Muslims. Around the nation and the world, LGBT Muslims and their allies are working to build an inclusive faith — and having some notable success.

 

Human Rights Campaign: http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/largest-u.s.-muslim-organization-supports-lgbt-anti-discrimination-bill

Activists Simmer Over Alleged Terror Ties to Campbell’s Soup

From the people who helped bring you the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy come new allegations of Muslim “infiltration” linked to an organization hired to certify Campbell’s soup.

Conservative blogger Pamela Geller, who helped build opposition to a proposed Islamic center near the site of the 9/11 attacks, has begun a grassroots protest against the Campbell Soup Company over the group that it uses to label Halal certain varieties of soup for sale in Canada

Geller says she doesn’t oppose the company’s decision to label soups that conform to Islamic dietary rules, but says the company has employed a Muslim organization with terrorist ties to oversee the certification.

“I have no problem with labeling things Halal,” Geller, who founded “Stop Islamization of America”, told ABCNews.com. “The problem is that they went to [the Islamic Society of North America] for their designation, a named a co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation trial.”

ISNA was named an “unindicted co-conspirator” in a 2007 federal terror trial brought against the Holy Land Foundation, a Muslim charity located in Texas, which was convicted of funneling more than $12 million to Palestinian terror group Hamas.

In a statement, ISNA acknowledged being named a co-conspirator in the 2007 trial, but added, “the government admitted that its labeling of ISNA many years ago was nothing more than a legal tactic. Indeed, ISNA now has a very positive working relationship with the federal government.”

ISNA-Canada accused of money mismanagement

Devout Muslims donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to one of Canada’s largest Islamic organizations on the promise that the cash would be used to help the poor. But only one in four dollars donated to a special pool of money at the Islamic Society of North America Canada (ISNA Canada) actually reached the needy. ISNA Canada draws in close to $1 million in charity donations a year. The audit looked closely at one portion of those donations, an obligatory alms giving called Zakat and Fitrah meant to aid the needy. The audit found that of about $810,777 collected over four years, only $196,460 went to aid the poor.

ISNA Canada is embroiled in controversy, with the audit revealing the practice of giving free perks to family members of a top official; the improper issuing of charitable tax receipts; and the diversion of charity money to private businesses. At the centre of it all is long-time secretary general Mohammad Ashraf, who has recently announced he is stepping down.

The ISNA Canada headquarters houses the city of Mississauga’s most visible mosque and provides a variety of services, including a Muslim high school and a halal meat certification agency.

A Canadian Line of Campbell’s Soups Has Activists Stewing Over Islamic Connection

Campbell Soup Co., the Camden, N.J., food giant, has been fighting a grass-roots boycott of its products after its Canadian subsidiary rolled out a line of soups certified as halal, meaning they’re prepared according to Islamic dietary laws. Campbell Co. of Canada introduced the soups in a few Canadian markets in January, although American bloggers didn’t catch up to the news until earlier this month.

Blogger Pamela Geller began calling for a boycott earlier this month via her widely read site, Atlas Shrugs. Other bloggers soon joined in. “No one is suggesting they refrain from this line,” Geller said. “No one is suggesting they not have halal food. I’m not against halal food any more than I’m against kosher food. My issue is who’s doing the certifying.” Geller opposes Campbell’s decision to have its Canadian products certified by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), an organization that government prosecutors alleged had ties to the terrorist group Hamas in a 2007 conspiracy case.

ISNA, an organization based in Plainfield, Ind., was designated an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the prosecution of a charitable organization that funneled money to Hamas, the Islamist organization that rules the Gaza Strip. Hamas has been named a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.

Alleged “Honor Killing” of Four Afghan-Canadian Women from Montreal

Police identified 19-year-old Zainab Shafia, 17-year-old Sahar Shafia and 13-year-old Geeti Shafia as the sisters who were found in the vehicle submerged in the Rideau Canal near Kingston, Ontario. The body of their aunt, Rona Amir Mohammed, 50, was also retrieved from the vehicle. All four victims were from St-Leonard, a borough in Montreal.

Ms. Yahya, her 56-year-old husband Mohammad Shafia and their 18-year-old son, Hamed, are charged with four counts each of first-degree murder and four of conspiracy to commit murder in the June 30 deaths of their daughters and sisters and Mr. Shafia’s first wife, Rona Mohammad, whom he had been passing off for decades as his “cousin.”

One of the teenage girls allegedly killed by members of her Afghan-born family had been dating a Pakistani boy in Montreal against her parents’ wishes, according to a man and woman who say they are siblings of one of the victims. This allegation has spurred interpretations that the incident may be related to “honor” killings. The head of the Canadian branch of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) told news agencies that the story was unrelated to Islam. Other journalists have pointed to the dozen women who have died similarly in the last decade. Amin Muhammad, a psychiatrist who studies honour killings at Memorial University claims, “There are a number of organizations which don’t accept the idea of honor killing; they say it’s a Western-propagated myth by the media, but it’s not true,” he says. “Honor killing is there, and we should acknowledge it, and Canada should take it seriously.”

Candidates not courting the Muslim vote

At the 44th annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) last September, all of the Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls were invited to attend – not a single one accepted the invitation. Even though presidential candidates aren’t courting Muslim voters, the community will have a voice come November. Many groups, including ISNA and the American Muslim Council are mobilizing people to register and inform voters on positions and issues that affect Muslim Americans. Perhaps unsurprisingly, civil rights and the war in Iraq are two major issues of concern – but so are family topics of education and healthcare.

Bush Aide Meets With Muslims

By TARA BURGHART Associated Press writer ROSEMONT, Ill. – Karen Hughes, one of President Bush’s closest advisers, told a gathering of American Muslims on Friday that part of her new State Department job is to help amplify the voices of groups like theirs that are condemning terrorism and religious extremism. The Islamic Society of North America had invited Bush to attend its annual convention. He sent Hughes, who was recently confirmed as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. Her tasks include improving the U.S. image in Muslims countries. “We need to foster a sense of common interest and common values among Americans and people of different faiths and different cultures,” Hughes said at a news conference opening the three-day event. “Frankly, who better to do that than many of our American Muslims themselves, who have friends and families and roots in countries across our world,” she said. The Indiana-based ISNA serves as an umbrella association for Muslim groups and mosques in the United States and Canada. Its convention comes just over a month after U.S. Muslim scholars issued a fatwa, or religious edict, condemning terrorism following deadly terrorist attacks this summer in London and Egypt. “The fatwa says that there is no justification in Islam for terrorism. Those are words the entire world needs to hear,” Hughes said. “And in delivering that message, I know that the most credible voices are of Muslims themselves. My job is to help amplify and magnify these voices.” At the news conference, ISNA unveiled a brochure outlining the Islamic position against terrorism and religious extremism. The pamphlet states that terrorism “is the epitome of injustice because it targets innocent people.” Kareem Irfan chaired the committee that produced the brochure and will be launching other initiatives to promote what ISNA calls “balanced Islam.” Despite “crystal clear statements stating the position of Islam and Muslims” against terrorism, there remains “inklings of doubt from segments of society,” he said. He said convention attendees, expected to total more than 30,000, will be asked to sign a pledge stating that they agree with the pamphlet’s position, and it will be distributed to mosques and churches. The convention was also attended by a 19-member delegation from Britain, where four suicide bombers killed 52 commuters on London’s transit system in July. The British group held a private meeting with Hughes, and she also met separately with ISNA leaders, women and young people. ISNA’s vice president, Ingrid Mattson, said those attending the meetings with Hughes were frank about their disagreements with the Bush administration on everything from foreign policy to concerns over the erosion of civil liberties. Several told her about the problems they regularly have with air travel because their Muslim names or dress prompt suspicion. One man who was supposed to be in a Thursday night meeting with Hughes walked in at the end because he was held by airport security for three hours until his name was cleared, Mattson said.