Somali Refugee Makes History In U.S. Election

She’s a former refugee, a Muslim, a mom of three, and now the first Somali-American lawmaker in the United States.

“This really was a victory for that 8-year-old in that refugee camp,” Ilhan Omar, 34, said. “This was a victory for the young woman being forced into child marriage. This was a victory for every person that’s been told they have limits on their dreams.”

“I think I bring the voice of young people,” Omar said. “I think I bring the voice of women in the East African community. I bring the voice of Muslims. I bring the voice of young mothers looking for opportunities.”

She won House District 60B in southeast Minneapolis with 80 percent of the vote.

She’s an imam in LA and doesn’t have patience for a strict interpretation of Islam

Ani Zonneveld is an imam, and yes, also a woman. She qualifies that she is “an imam with a small “i” — though her reluctance to go with a capital “I” says more about her democratic approach to worship than any deference to Islamic tradition, one that has been and still is very male-dominated. She has no patience for that Islam.

Instead she founded a Muslim community — Muslims for

Credit: Arzeen Photography/Muslims for Progressive Values
Credit: Arzeen Photography/Muslims for Progressive Values

Progressive Values — that embraces gender equality, gay rights and interfaith marriage. And although it is based in Los Angeles, it has spread — often quietly — across the world.

Dutch cabinet presents plan to combat forced marriage, honor killings, and homophobia

The Dutch cabinet recently presented an Action Plan for Self-determination. The cabinet will provide a yearly one million euros until 2017 to combat forced marriages, homophobia and violence related to honor. More than 150 specially trained volunteers will be supported to bring these taboo themes up for discussion among their own communities. Additionally a social media campaign will be initiated with stories related by people who support a change of mentality on these themes. This was written to the Dutch Lower House by Minister of Social Affairs and Employment Lodewijk Asscher.

Millions of Muslims join online dating

In the last decade online dating became a mainstream activity, in Europe and North America at least. It is therefore not surprising that Western Muslims adapted the idea to their needs. For many, online dating offers a low-stress solution to the daunting challenge of finding a partner for marriage in countries where few share their faith, and in communities where matchmaking is considered a family affair.

Adeem Younis, founder of the matchmaking site, which he created above a fast-food shop in Wakefield while still a lowly undergraduate, now boasts more than a million members. However, the young entrepreneur stresses that the term “Muslim online dating” would be inaccurate. The goal of such sites is often far more ambitious than the average hook-up website. Instead of hazy morning-after memories and hopes of receiving a follow-through text message, sites like aim to provide clients with a partner for life. It is a responsibility not to be taken lightly. “In Islam, marriage is equal to half of your religion,” he says, quoting a saying thought to have been uttered by the Prophet Mohammed, “so you can imagine how important it is… Islam teaches us that marriage is the cornerstone of society as a whole.” now claims a success rate of about four matches per day. But the site is just one example of a booming market serving Muslims of all ages and degrees of religiosity.

VIDEO: Single Muslim Celebrates 1,000,000 Members

Online dating services are increasingly popular with Muslims in Europe and North America. recently celebrated its 1,000,000th member.
Online dating services are increasingly popular with Muslims in Europe and North America. recently celebrated its 1,000,000th member.

Indiana law allows Satanists to perform marriages, but not Buddhists

July 16, 2014

An Indiana law is “irrational” and “absurd” for allowing Satanists to perform legal marriages while making it a crime for Buddhists and humanists to do the same, a federal appeals court said this week.

It’s been a rough few months for state marriage laws around the country, which judges have repeatedly struck down for not allowing same-sex couples to marry each other.

Indiana allows neither, limiting marriage powers to religious clergy and certain public officials like mayors, court clerks and judges. Indiana’s statute specifically includes the faiths of Islam, Baha’i and Mormonism — but omits many others, such as Buddhism, Rastafarianism and Jainism. Indiana law also makes it a crime for non-sanctioned celebrants to purport to carry out a legal ceremony.

The Center for Inquiry — a humanist group whose leader is barred from performing legal ceremonies because she is not considered “clergy” under law — sued Indiana to argue that the state’s law unfairly gives marriage powers to certain religions and not to secularists.

Despite its sweeping disdain, the court panel ruled narrowly, however, and instructed a federal judge who had previously denied to institute an injunction to issue an order allowing certified secular humanists to perform legal wedding ceremonies.

The panel, though, did gently hint that perhaps Indiana lawmakers might consider tweaking the law to allow notaries to perform weddings.

Sharia law for wills

March 23, 2014


The Law Society is to issue a practice note to solicitors who may be interested in drafting “Sharia-compliant” wills for their Muslim clients. Some have argued that by issuing the note the law society has opened the doors on the technical issues surrounding gender discrimination inherent in Sharia not only regarding the inheritance provisions, but more importantly endorsing a different set of laws for different groups of people. The idea of equality before the law is being threatened.

In Britain, unless you draw up a will, your estate on death will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy. However, although people can do whatever they want with their assets and a lawyer must follow the client’s instructions; it has been argued that this guidance legitimises discrimination towards women, “illegitimate” and adopted children, and non-Muslim partners or offspring who may be the result of inter-marriage.

The key paragraph states: “The male heirs in most cases receive double the amount inherited by a female heir of the same class. Non-Muslims may not inherit at all, and only Muslim marriages are recognised. Similarly, a divorced spouse is no longer a Sharia heir, as the entitlement depends on a valid Muslim marriage existing at the date of death.”

It adds: “This means you should amend or delete some standard will clauses. For example, you should consider excluding the provisions of s33 of the Wills Act 1837, because these operate to pass a gift to the children of a deceased ‘descendant’. Under Sharia rules, the children of a deceased heir have no entitlement, although they can benefit from the freely disposable third [the third of an estate that can be given to non-heirs or charities].

“Similarly, you should amend clauses which define the term ‘children’ or ‘issue’ to exclude those who are illegitimate or adopted.” It has been argued that the ruling advises solicitors on how to discriminate and avoid equality legislation. But a person has always been able to distribute their assets in any way they choose, and a Muslim may legally have done so according to Sharia principles without letting the lawyer know the basis of the instructions. But the question now is that a solicitor could offer this service and develop a product specifically designed for a Muslim client who wants to distribute their assets according to their religious requirement, which could be considered socially unacceptable. Suppose a client instructed that their assets should not go to a relative because they happened to be of a different race or religion. Would that be acceptable? If one were to accept that people have the right to act in a discriminatory fashion with their assets if they choose to, this guidance encourages solicitors to adopt a separate approach to clients who are deemed “different” – in this case, clients who are Muslim. The guidance also states that “there are specific differences between Sunni and Shia rules on succession.”

The code of conduct for solicitors which all solicitors must abide by says: “As a matter of general law, you must comply with requirements set out in legislation – including the Equality Act 2010 – as well as the conduct duties contained in this chapter.”


The Telegraph:

The Huffington Post:

“I’ll tell you why I chose Islam” by Anna Assumma

October 30, 2013


By Anna Assumma

An Italian girl like many others. But she converts to Islam and decides to veil herself from head to foot. Hers is a choice that disturbs everyone: except her.

She’s a girl like any other, or perhaps she was a little brighter than others. She studied humanistic scientific studies before this, getting good grades and dreaming of dedicating her life after graduation to biotechnology, looking for new drugs to eradicate deadly degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Until a few years ago she always wore jeans. Sure, the pants were always accompanied with a tunic just above the knee and a headscarf. And then what? “Then there was the devotion to a new science,” she says smiling, Because she, Fatima – Giulia, smiles a lot.

Here is where our story begins. My interview began with a sinking heart. Seeing her completely covered in layers of black fabric (the white was only for marriage), no mouth, nose, eyes, hands only – which were gloved – her voice like a bearer of sunlight. Her gaze was clear, and even more with the youthful liveliness that makes its way from under the blanket that obscures her person.



Single Muslim women on dating: ‘I don’t want to be a submissive wife’

Muslim dating has come of age with its own “a modern Muslim woman with an age-old dilemma”. She is seeking Mr Right but with no sex before marriage and no alcohol. In Britain, these women are part of a growing demographic: educated, independent career women, who struggle to find a partner, especially over 30. British Asians have long been early adopters of the technology to find marriage partners. Even the old aunty network of helpful family matriarchs has gone high tech, I’m told, with handwritten notes replaced, with Excel spread sheets of available “boys” and “girls” aged 20 to 55. Though originally Hindu-focused, the biggest marriage websites, such, have separate Muslim sections. has a quick checklist on religiosity: Do you conduct salah (the five-times-a-day prayer ritual)? How often? Eat halal?


It seems there are reformations and counter-reformations under way in modern Muslim dating: Some websites encourage modern women to embrace the concept of the “submissive” first (or second) wife. Other couples though are quietly using the nikah (Islamic wedding contract) to try out cohabitation before the finality of a civil marriage. Some forward-looking imams want doctrine updated to allow Muslim women to marry non-Muslims, just as Muslim men can. Struck by “the huge numbers of confident college girls wearing wild and elaborate hijabs, loads of makeup and kissing their boyfriends in public”. Many women develop an assertive Muslim identity at university. Some may seem conservative, from their dress and religious practice, but meet and choose their own husbands on demonstrations or political events. They have married men from different ethnicities, challenging their parents’ racism and obsession with family background. After all, in Islam, all are equal. It’s a fascinating new combination of values from faith and the secular society in which they grew up.


The women interviewed say the biggest challenge has been to find a man on the same Islamic wavelength; not looking for a “submissive” wife nor so “liberal” that they’re drinking and sleeping around.

The Five Craziest Reactions To The Marriage Equality Rulings

Though the strong majorities of Americans who support marriage equality and equal federal benefits for gay couples celebrated today’s historic Supreme Court rulings, several prominent conservatives reacted with fear and fury. Though the conservative establishment (by in large) had little to say about the marriage equality cases, the vitriol that came from these particular conservatives stood out:


Rand Paul and Glenn Beck worry about Muslims and animals: In a video captured by Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski, the purportedly libertarian Senator and popular talk show host worry about a host of bizarre “logical” consequences of the moves toward marriage equality, with Beck asking “who are you to say that, if I’m a devout Muslim, I come over here and I have three wives, who are you to say if I’m an American citizen that I can’t have multiple wives?” Paul nodded, saying “people take it to one extension further — does it have to be humans?…I’m kinda with you…we should not just say ‘oh, we’re punting on it, marriage can be anything.”


The list goes on and on while Another fiery reaction — outgoing Rep. Michele Bachmann’s declaration that “no man, not even a Supreme Court, can undo what a holy God has instituted” — didn’t have quite the intended impact. “Who cares?” responded House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), when asked for comment on Bachmann’s outburst.


France’s Peculiar Same-Sex Marriage Debate

May 28, 2013
On May 18, French president Francois Hollande signed the Marriage for All bill, legalizing same-sex marriage in France. Why should it be surprising? From the American point of view, French are known for their strong secular culture, their praise of sexual freedom, and their commitment to abortion. So no surprise there. But the conditions surrounding the vote were very surprising and unusual in the French secular context. It brought to the streets a strong opposition led by Catholics like Frigid Barjot, the self-proclaimed “press secretary for Jesus.” Opposition was both religious and secular, creating strange alliances of secular leftist and religious conservative figures. Most notably, the main argument against the law drew on natural and social sciences, not on religion.The same-sex marriage debate has divided French society in a way not seen for nearly three decades. The split was reflected in the vote for the law itself that passed by a slim margin (331 to 225). And the vote was the outcome of several months of heated and passionate debate, including demonstrations in major French cities that rallied more than three hundred thousand people at a time. Columnist and right-wing political activist Virginie Merle, better known as Frigide Barjot (a pun on Brigitte Bardot), has emerged as the spokesperson of the opposition. Outspoken and witty, she became a born-again Catholic in 2004 after making a pilgrimage to Lourdes. As early as last fall, she took the lead in coordinating protesters under the umbrella movement La Manif Pour Tous, (Demonstration for All). Since January the group has organized several demonstrations and continues to protest despite passage of the law. In the last stages of the parliamentary debate, the protests even took a radical turn with clashes between the demonstrators and the police. Barjot called “for blood” while Beatrice Bourges, co-leader of La Manif Pour Tous, threatened civil disobedience if the law passed, and called for a French Spring. Other protests continue as well. On May 21, seventy-eight-year-old historian and writer Dominique Venner, known for his extreme-right-wing positions, shot himself on the altar of Notre Dame in front of fifteen hundred visitors after professing his support for ongoing demonstrations on his blog.Even if the majority of protesters come from groups close to the conservative branch of the Catholic Church, what is striking from an American perspective is the ideological and religious diversity of the movement. It includes various political groups and personalities from the entire ideological spectrum, as well as representatives of religions other than Catholicism, and even gay groups in favor of the status quo. The contrast with the United States, where the opponents belong mostly to evangelical or Catholic groups in alliance with the Republican Party, is stark. Even if we limit the comparison between the two countries to religious groups, the difference is striking. The 2012 U.S. presidential elections showed a shift among young Republican voters toward support for same-sex marriage, while the protests against the same-sex marriage in France reveal the emergence of “les catholiques intransigeants” (uncompromising Catholics). They are urban, well educated and lean toward the extreme right. For example, 27 percent of 18-35 years olds who belong to this group voted for the National Front of Marine Le Pen (daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen) in the last presidential election. This is a significant change from the previous generation of Catholic activists who were enthusiast supporters of Vatican II and tended to vote for left-wing parties.

Most interestingly, the protests have mobilized a vast array of political and religious personalities. For this reason, the debate was rarely coined in religious terms (except by a few clerics like Cardinal Vingt-Trois). It was grounded instead on anthropological and sociological arguments about family, social stability and the survival of the human species. In stark opposition with the United States, where scientists and scholars have usually spoken in favor of same-sex marriage using scientific arguments, the same groups in France have used science against same-sex marriage. On March 16, 170 law professors sent an open letter to the French Senate stating their opinion that children adopted by same-sex couples will be deprived of knowing their biological origin. The letter also argued that same-sex marriage legitimizes the commodification of procreation by producing a “market where children can be fabricated and sold like goods”. Psychoanalysts Pierre Levy-Soussan, Jean Pierre Winter, and Christian Flavigny weighed in warning of the negative effects of same-sex families in the psychological development of children, calling such couples a biological experiment. Philosophers and sociologists also joined in, the most prominent being Sylviane Agacenski, the wife of former socialist prime minister, Lionel Jospin. She raised concerns about the survival of the marriage as a fundamental institution for the transmission of social identities based on gender and generations. Philosopher Pierre-Yves Zarka argued that same-sex marriage legitimizes extreme individualism that puts the social cohesion of democratic communities at risk by undermining social cohesion in favor of personal desires and lifestyles.

These biological and sociological arguments against the law reveal an anxiety about the meaning of social identities and the nature of social cohesion that is very specific to French society and goes far beyond the religious condemnation of homosexuality. At the same time, it highlights that French collective values remain unconsciously connected to a traditional vision of society, and that the religious conception of the family has not been completely eroded by centuries of French secularization.

Jocelyne Cesari is senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, and director of Harvard University’s program on Islam in the West.