Tag Archives: Democracy

Dying to Learn: Why Malala Yousafzai’s Cause is a Fard Kifaya for the Worldwide Ummah – Part 1

“We created man from sounding clay, from mud molded into shape.”
(The Noble Qur’an, Sura Al-Hijr, Ayat 26)

“The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim…Whoever has a daughter, tutors her on good morals, educates her well and feeds her properly; she will be a protection for him from hell fire.”
–Prophet Muhammed (s)

“I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.”
–Malala Yousafzai on confronting the Taliban

Includes adaption from Genesis of New American Leadership – The Book

It’s a sad state of affairs indeed when a fourteen-year old has to take the lead in cultivating a national climate for educational excellence. Her story hearkens back to a time in our own country when people were literally dying to read. Malala’s story is one of courageous leadership and an important reminder of why in Al-Islam, freedom of speech is fundamental to the protection and progress of the group intellect and by extension, the society.

Fortunately Malala is not all alone in Pakistan as people express their outrage and she herself follows in the footsteps of other heroines like Malalai Joya of Afghanista or the martyr Meena Keshwar Kamal (ra).

There are many social justice elements present in Malalas’s story, but since Malala’s most recent saga comes in the wake of the freedom of speech outrage that stoked protests across the Muslim world and gripped the global news (see the September 19, 2012 blogpost, Freedom of Speech in the Context of Human Relations and the Body Politic), we’re going to focus on freedom of speech because the attempted assassination of a fourteen-year old by cowards was an attempt to silence her.

The assassination attempt is also an assault on the right to freedom of speech we have all been endowed with by our Creator. Malala’s story must be a galvanizing force for leaders at every level of responsibility to improve access to education and institute safeguards to protect freedom of speech.

Leadership’s responsibility for education is inherent in its responsibility to cultivate a climate for organizational  excellence. All leaders (right down to parents), must work to remove obstacles that undermine the value of education. Steps must be taken to reinforce the Divine right and obligation of the individual to educate him and herself.

In studying the Qur’an, the life of Prophet Muhammed (s), and the early Sahaba (ra), we find that Al-Islam bridges the critical link between education and organizational excellence through four functions that cultivate a climate for educational excellence. They are:

1. Attainment, Acquisition, or search (of knowledge).
2. Use of a standard Qualitative Comparison.
3. Dissemination or Exchange of Information.
4. Protection and Valuation.

For this discussion, we will focus on 1 and 4.…To be continued.

Left open for further thought and research…Peace until next time.

Sincerely & respectfully,

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Freedom of Speech in the Context of Human Relations and the Body Politic

“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah as witnesses to fair dealings and let not the hatred of others toward you, make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just, that is next to piety. Fear Allah, indeed Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do.”
(The Noble Qur’an 5:8)

“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (The Holy Bible, Proverbs 12:18)

“Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they cannot communicate; they cannot communicate because they are separated.”
―Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story

What has happened in our country and around the world over the last few days has to affect the sensibilities of all right-minded and right-hearted people the world over. Our prayers go out to the families and co-workers of our citizens who lost their lives and for people in other countries who lost their lives caught in the middle of protests. Civil sensibilities have also been offended by the reckless so-called free speech of the persons who produced a hateful video.

The protests by some adherents of Islam in certain places around the globe show just how much work needs to be done to usher in a true reformation of civil society in many places where governments and the body politic are in great transition…a transition to gain their proper footing as believers in Islam in a world of new technology, communication, and intellectual rights and discourse.

Intellectual discipline tempered by an ability to withstand polar opposite views that one may even find reprehensible is directly related to one’s apparent perception of a personal locus of control. That is, how much control do I have over my life and therefore control over what affects my life. If I have a real or perceived inability to affect my own life through the ballot box, education, government and societal institutions, employment and other basic human rights (including rights for women, the poor, disabled, and elderly)…if I feel leadership and institutions have failed me, then I am more likely to respond at a base level of anger and violence when a trigger is applied that irritates that underlying feeling of helplessness.

The late American Muslim leader, Imam W. Deen Mohammed (ra) while addressing a group of leaders in his community and commenting on their responsibility to the people expressed, ‘You know you can say something to someone and if that someone perceives themselves to be of a lower socio-economic status or importance than you, then you can damage them for life….you can say something to them that will hurt them terribly deep in their soul, whereas if they said the same thing to you, you might not give it a second thought [because of self confidence or your perceived personal locus of control].’ I paraphrased his comments.

I was deeply affected by the Imam’s comments. What I got from him that day was we have to be very, very careful what we say and how we say it, and to whom we say it, especially if the person or group or community we are addressing has historical circumstances or sensitivities that have traditionally put them at a disadvantage on the world stage.

The world is getting smaller and smaller and the “developed” world is now in the backyard of the “undeveloped” world and vice versa. This new and increasingly closer proximity not fathomed in the early 20th century, but now ushered in by the emergence of new technology, communication, and trade presents a new dynamic in human relations and that dynamic must be met with a corresponding sensitivity to the psychological and sociological needs of populations affected by generations of a loss of locus of control.

The true profound reformation that is needed and that I referred to earlier is a gradual process and has historically taken at least a generation. Yet if we expect to live in the here and now as a global society in peace, we have to continually find ways to understand the problems and perceptions that are foreign to us as Americans and then develop strategies that will enable others beyond our borders to arrive to where we are as a citizenry in terms of civil discourse and the ability to listen, read or view an image without becoming enraged to the point of taking a life or destroying property.

But that is not to say that as an American citizenry, we too don’t have some homework to do or room to improve with respect to enhancing our democracy and its capacity to integrate and balance free speech with responsible speech. If one person by a single video is able to strike a match and intentionally or unintentionally light a keg of civil unrest and mayhem, a keg already made flammable by pent up frustrations that are unrelated to the video, then I believe it’s time to use the same media to encourage artists, writers, producers, journalists, and everyone to use our rights responsibly.

Think about this: We have legal restrictions on our free speech rights that prevent someone from yelling fire in a crowded theater because of the consequences. But look at the consequences of this video incident in terms of the human toll and costs to governments around the world. Now I know some will say, well it’s easy to predict the proximate consequences of yelling a false fire in a crowded theater, not to mention, there is no redeeming free speech value in doing so, and there may be other legal issues involved such as a deliberate intent to endanger a person. Fire in the theater is easier to litigate and legislate.

I understand too the slippery slope concept that if we apply similar reasoning to the video in question, the problem arises wherein “no one” is qualified, legally equipped, or has a right to question, much less determine, if the video has any redeeming free speech value and more important, no one has the right to restrict its production or circulation that is predicated upon some possible proximate negative consequence. And therein lies the dilemma. I am not sure if the producer, director, and financiers of the video could be liable under a legal theory of deliberate intent to incite violence…that’s for the legal minds to figure out.

So this is what I am proposing on our side for the American citizenry and society…Let’s try something different with respect to encouraging responsible free speech that does not affect the Constitution. Maybe it’s time to have public service announcements (PSAs) just like we have for illegal and OTC drugs, alcohol, voting, seatbelts, etc.  PSA are often directed at behaviors we want to discourage or encourage. Perhaps we could have journalists, writers, producers, actors, athletes, religious leaders, public servants and other opinion shapers come across the TV, ipad, and laptop screen with the following (for example):

“I’m an American and I have the freedom to say just about whatever I want…I have a right and I’m proud of that right. But let me ask you, just because I have the right…does it mean it’s right to say it? Citizenship has its responsibilities. Be a responsible citizen…use your free speech wisely. Our expression can help or hurt.”

Just like I’m not a lawyer, you can tell I’m not a TV ad executive either. But I hope I made the point that PSAs could benefit us as a citizenry and even as a body politic. Such PSAs might even help temper back the daily and extreme political rhetoric coupled with personal attacks that bombard our airwaves. PSAs could benefit us at home in other ways too including helping to combat irresponsible free speech that reveals itself in child exploitation and derision of women.

I do not believe that a PSA will 100% eliminate irresponsible free speech, anymore than PSAs eliminate drunk driving, illegal drug use, high school dropouts, or voter apathy. What I do believe is that we have a responsibility as a society to not only encourage and protect free speech, but to encourage responsible free speech from inside our homes with our children, spouses, and relatives to outside in our local and global communities. I believe such PSAs can also help demonstrate to others beyond our borders what free speech means in our society and what limits we have placed upon ourselves to curtail it, and just as important, the encouragement we have for being responsible and thoughtful in exercising the right.

I believe a PSA approach sidesteps the traditional constitutional or legal barriers that have proven intractable in even protecting our own society from predatory and ethically challenged marketing and profiteering disguised as free speech advocacy. Our democracy doesn’t just improve based on changing laws or adding amendments to the Constitution. We can improve our democracy too by the way we think and the way we see one another and the world, and in the way we encourage one another to the highest level of conduct and expression.

No one credible believes anymore that sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

Left open for further thought and research…Peace until next time.

Sincerely & respectfully,

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Faith in the Family of Man

“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah as witnesses to fair dealings and let not the hatred of others toward you, make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just, that is next to piety. Fear Allah, indeed Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do.” (The Noble Qur’an 5:8)

“O you who believe!  Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even if it be against yourselves, your parents, and your relatives, or whether it is against the rich or the poor…” (The Noble Quran 4:135)

‘‘We must work on our personal behavior…I am speaking of intelligent profitable behavior. It is to behave in a certain way, to favor a good future and prosperous outlook. I am emphasizing intelligent and profitable behavior. The more serious area of behavior is caused by the way we think. Go and stand by the strength of somebody. Everyone has a good side, a good sensitivity or some good quality…Look for the good and don’t give up…The Muslim is supposed to look for something to build on before looking for something to tear down…We should remember and practice that wisdom. When having to confront each other as family, or as brothers and sisters, or as friends or strangers, remember this: Look for something to build upon before looking for something to tear down. That will help tremendously.’’—Imam W. D. Mohammed (ra)

Just like for all people, “the Islamic family is the first Muslim government for the individual. Within the family we learn that there is authority, responsibility, and accountability; we learn that there are mutual ties that bind the family and that there are duties parents owe to children and vice versa.

We learn discipline, communication, understanding, and compassion. And hopefully, within the micro government of family, we develop the social and intellectual skills to function in the macro governments of our schools, masajid, and communities. For Muslims, these systems of government are interdependent and the dome topping each is the Holy Qur’an and the life of Muhammad (S). Genesis of New American Leadership, p. 41.

Islamic government begins with the individual and the rights of the individual to realize his or her highest potential while respecting the rights of others and the society in general. Government is an essential element in the organized management of rights and resources. When there is more than one individual, the need for government becomes apparent.

There have been and still exists many forms of government from feudalism, monarchies, and theocracies, to serfdoms, parliaments, and republics. As Muslims, we believe that the Prophet established the model government during the early development of Islam in Medina and Mecca. In a political context, true Islamic government is a democratic republic.

Many years ago, Imam Mohammed stated that democracy in the Islamic context does not simply mean freedom (blind passions and ambitions to do as we please no matter the outcome or effect on others) as we have been given in American contemporary culture. Instead he commented that freedom is the ability to think, to reason and to develop the intellect responsibly.

Free-[dome] means a free mind and it implies some structure and authority for our thinking and decision-making. Dome means head, the top portion of a structure; the crown. As Muslims, we are free to move within established boundaries—to be ‘‘free thinkers’’ as long as we have something guiding our thinking (something to serve as a dome over the intellect).

Our freedom is the ability to develop the individual and society within the established boundaries of Qur’an and Hadith without stifling the creative processes of reasoning, rational discourse, and the presenting of opposing view points. Free thinking does not mean irrational thinking, poor reasoning, or spiritual extremism that serves neither the individual nor society well. Genesis of New American Leadership, p.40.

Once we understand the natural order that God wants, we can make real progress as an individual or a group. Many developments during the last part of the twentieth century are manifestations of the natural development toward interdependence.

The specialized sharing of information in cyberspace via the world-wide web, the interlinking of macro-economics among the nations, and the emergence of free-market economies and democratic reforms are not accidental. These interdependent characteristics are an outgrowth of the natural development toward mutual cooperation, shared outcomes and the gradual elimination of virtual domination by the few. Allah (SWT) denies domination to all who seek it.

Interdependence is not served by racism, extreme nationalism, ethnicism, religious intolerance and other xenophobic tendencies. Despite occasional bumps along the global path of human relations, humanity is moving further away from racism and destructive nationalism. The world is becoming the neighborhood that the great reformer, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others envisioned”…(Genesis of New American Leadership, p. 42.) The question is what are you and I doing to help the ‘neighborhood’ along? What is our masjid doing? Is the American Muslim Community sufficiently interdependent to help usher in the next level of reformation and progression for the global community?

Left open for further thought and research…Peace until next time.

Sincerely & respectfully,

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