Saturday, April 24, 2010

Top ten problems of the muslim world we need to fix ASAP

Many Muslims in the world consistently blame the “West” for all their problems. No doubt, many of the problems in the Muslim world stem from decisions made in the West. i.e… the arbitrary creation of Israel, the blind unconditional support of Israel in its occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people, sanctions as political punishment regardless of innocent victims, aid as political reward regardless of ethics, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslims throughout the world, the absolute hypocrisy of foreign policy and at times domestic policy… I mean this list is just endless ;)

BUT sometimes we forget that the Muslim world is just as much to blame for the condition of Muslims all over the world as anyone else, if not more so. Unless we fix our own problems we will never be able to step forward and try to change our condition. Leaving these problems out there is also our weakness and they enable others to take advantage of and in the end, oppress us.

So, having lived in the Muslim world for a period of time and a lifetime in the West, these are some things that I see as the major problems or hurdles we need to change in the Muslim world first, before we blame others. I think we really need to look at ourselves objectively and realize the wrongs that go on among us, just as much as we like to analyze ‘the other’.


#1. Doing the world’s dirty work - Sending innocent people to Muslim countries TO GET TORTURED. Why should the world care that Muslims are being tortured in Guantanamo and Bagram when Muslim countries practice torture as a regular interrogation method? When America sends innocent Muslims TO Muslim countries to be tortured! It’s really quite disgusting. Torture is completely antithetical to the principles of Islam. There are just no words. (And still we like to blame the West for everything.)

#2. Racial inequalities - Let’s talk about the status of workers in Muslim countries, such as maids in Saudi or construction workers in the Emirates. These workers are abused freely, by individuals and by society. Underpaid, overworked, they live in hovels, are paid a pittance, have no rights or recourse if abused. They are never allowed to be citizens, they don’t have the same rights as their boss or the citizen down the street. They can’t even send their kids to the same school or go to the same hospital. I mean call America the devil all you want but at least they theoretically have some type of equality and rights for people who live and work in their country. We read stories after stories of abuse and first hand accounts, with very little reform or accountability. Yes, I know these people are poor and need to go to Muslim countries to work. But if the oppressed accept their oppression due to circumstance and we take advantage of it, what does that make us? (And ours is a Deen that always was the first to defend and help the oppressed and emphasized the equality of all peoples.)

#3. Corruption/Bribes - Corruption in Muslim countries is so rife. Why is a Muslim country always #1 or #2 on the list of most corrupt countries, I always have to ask? Corruption is so common that regular bribe amounts are listed in tourist guides. Want to get telephone services? Want to get out of an airport? Want to do anything? This isn’t like a tax or a tip, this is plain corruption. Want to cover up a crime? Want to commit a crime? It seems like Islam has become only form to people. Pray, fast, maybe go to Hajj and that’s it. But what about your character, your morals, your ethics. Cheating other people. Rampant nepotism. Covering up of inequalities and wrongful actions?

#4. Bureaucracy - This is tied to the one before. Have you ever tried to go to a Muslim country and get a visa? Before I left someone sent me a step by step list of how to establish an Iqama (residency visa) in a particular country. It was 6 handwritten pages and no joke, it listed how to go from this office to that office to that building and get this stamp from this person and so on and so on. It was all description because there are no addresses or official ways of doing anything! We are in such a hurry to modernize and be just like the West, why don’t we copy some good organization and efficiency skills eh. This probably goes back to another big problem in the Muslim world:  The rote learning and non-encouragement of any questioning, creativity or innovation in the Muslim world. Also related, where is the work ethic in Muslim countries? Besides “Inshaallah Bokra Mumkin”. Now I know for Muslims we have a different focus on life and it’s not to go to work everyday, make money and consume more Dunya. But somehow I just see this slowly being lost in Muslim countries. Where’s our pride and responsibility in working hard, building, inventing, improving, creating.

#5. Emotional Islam - We Muslims always get upset when we see something wrong or offensive to our religion. Such as… the Danish cartoons or the Salman Rushdie book (or a teddy bear named Muhammad?!) or whatever else. There’s a lot of evil in the world and there are a lot of people that hate Islam. But us becoming emotional or upset about such things does nothing. Nothing constructive or progressive comes from it. Imagine if every Muslim that was offended by the Danish cartoons went out and held one positive event about Islam in their town. Imagine if every Muslim that burned (or like me returned the book to the library thinking it was the dumbest book I ever read) a hateful book on Islam, instead talked to one person about the life of Prophet Muhammad (s). It’s so easy for us to hold protests, hold up signs and yell slogans, even easier to turn to violence. But why aren’t we doing the real work? Working on real Dawah, real programs, on our youth… in so many needed areas?

#6. Opression of women – No Islam does not oppress Muslim women, but Muslims sure do. Or should I say they let others do. How can honor killings be common in certain areas of the Muslim world? Killing innocent girls. Something so vile, that the Quran even asks why a person would do it. And tried and convicted they receive 2 years. Really? A 10 year old sold by her father and forced to marry an 80 year old. Really, that’s acceptable to us? Throwing acid on little girls going to school. Domestic violence against women. I mean there are no words.  We will never even take a step forward if we don’t eradicate these evils.

#7. Copying everything western – The Muslim world loves copying and imitating everything western. They love western clothes, western movies, western architecture, western music, western pop stars. What happened to our values? What happened to our own appreciation of our own beautiful things. Our beautiful clothes, music, people, architecture, rich cultural heritage. Chai, Rumi and Ghazals seem to be more appreciated in the West than anywhere else these days. Why can’t we have pride in and develop our own culture which is more in tune with our values? [And one thing that really bothers me...Why do rich Muslims frequent Parisian fashion houses when it is a crime to dress as a Muslim in France?] (Sigh, and again it’s the West that’s oppressing us.)

#8. Lack of superior media and propaganda – Yes please. We need some. The Muslim world really needs some good PR people. Not to mention journalists, authors, pundits, politically savvy leaders and so on. Why (,when we have right on our side you ask)? Because the Islam haters are much better at this than we are. They are able to turn an innocent victim into a terrorist in a heartbeat. They are able to justify things like racial profiling, torture and extraordinary rendition. They somehow make extreme Islam-haters into “experts on Islam and the Muslim world” on Fox News. Definitely a huge problem.

#9. No viable economic system - Islamic economics is beautiful. It’s fair. It’s sustainable. It has ethics and morals and has a built in system of checks and balances. It protects people from being exploited and it prevents people from doing the exploiting. And yet we aren’t using it. We are using a system of interest and usury that makes the poor poorer and the rich richer. A whole other subject is also how much money is being wasted on extreme luxuries instead of development in Muslim countries. The wealth of certain Muslims is phenomenal… how about spending a little to help other Muslims instead of that new car/clothes/billion dollar mansion. (Did you know that the only buyers of Parisian fashion houses are 1. the nouveau riche of Russia and 2. wealthy Arabs from the Gulf.)

#10. Nationalism and disunity – Can I just say… Algeria vs Egypt :p or let me say Egypt’s refusal to allow Gazans sanctuary. Everyone has pride in their country and background, but it is our faith that unites us all. Divided we are easily picked out by enemies. Divided we will always fall. History shows again and again that the way to attack Muslims is to cause division and disunity. We are then easily defeated.


Yes, it’s painful to look at ourselves this way. How far we have come from practicing our Deen. :(If we could just practice the noble principles of Islam in all aspects of our life, socially, politically, economically, in character, in relations with others, how different we would be! And how different our world would be.

Have we forgotten the words of the Quran that say “Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in their hearts.” What’s in our hearts these days? Is it “hatred of the West”? Is it “love of the Dunya” or is it “love of Islam and our fellow Muslims”? Do we want for them what we want for ourselves?

In conclusion, I contend that if Muslims were to fix these problems and go back to practicing Islam in all realms, inner and outer, form and character, there is no power on earth that could defeat them in any aspect.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cat Stevens

Cat Stevens, Former Pop star, UK

My Early Religious Upbringing

I was brought up in the modern world of all the luxury and the high life of show business.  I was born in a Christian home. I was given this religion (Christianity) and thought this way.  I was taught that God exists, but there was no direct contact with God, so we had to make contact with Him through Jesus. This was more or less accepted by me.

My Beginning as a Pop Star

Gradually I became escape away from this religious upbringing. I started making music.  I wanted to be a big star.  All those things I saw in the films and on the media took hold of me, and perhaps I thought this was my God, the goal of making money. The people around me influenced me to think that this was it; this world was their God. I decided then that this was the life for me; to make a lot of money, have a ‘great life.’ I started making songs, but deep down I had a feeling for humanity, a feeling that if I became rich I would help the needy. (It says in the Quran, we make a promise, but when we make something, we want to hold onto it and become greedy.)

I became very famous. I was still a teenager; my name and photo were splashed in all the media. They made me larger than life, so I wanted to live larger than life, and the only way to do that was to be intoxicated with liquor and drugs.

In Hospital

After a year of financial success and ‘high’ living, I became very ill, contracted TB and had to be hospitalized.  It was then that I started to think: What was to happen to me?  Was I just a body, and my goal in life was merely to satisfy this body?  I realized now that this calamity was a blessing given to me by God, a chance to open my eyes “Why am I here?  Why am I in bed?” and I started looking for some of the answers.

At that time, there was great interest in the Eastern mysticism.  I began reading, and the first thing I began to become aware of was death, and that the soul moves on; it does not stop.  I felt I was taking the road to bliss and high accomplishment. What I believed in particular was that I was not just a body.  This awareness came to me at the hospital.

One day when I was walking, and I was caught in the rain, I began running to the shelter and then I realized, ‘Wait a minute, my body is getting wet, my body is telling me I am getting wet.’ Then I realized I had a will, a God-given gift:follow the will of God.  I was fascinated by the new terminology I was learning in the Eastern religion.  By now, I was fed up with Christianity.  I started making music again, and this time I started reflecting my own thoughts.  I remember the lyric of one of my songs.  It goes like this: “I wish I knew, I wish I knew what makes the Heaven, what makes the Hell.  Do I get to know you in my bed or some dusty cell while others reach the big hotel?” and I knew I was on the Path.

I also wrote another song, “The Way to Find God Out.”  I became even more famous in the world of music.  I really had a difficult time because I was getting rich and famous, and at the same time, I was sincerely searching for the Truth. Then I came to a stage where I decided that Buddhism is all right and noble, but I was not ready to leave the world.  I was not prepared to isolate myself from society.

I tried Zen and Ching, numerology, tarot cards and astrology.  I tried to look back into the Bible and could not find anything.  At this time I did not know anything about Islam, and then, what I regarded as a miracle occurred.  My brother had visited the mosque in Jerusalem and was greatly impressed that while on the one hand it throbbed with life. On the other hand, an atmosphere of peace and tranquility prevailed.

My beginning with The Quran

When he came to London, he brought back a translation of the Quran, which he gave to me.  He did not become a Muslim, but he felt something in this religion, and thought I might find something in it also.

And when I received the book, A guidance that would explain everything to me, who I was; what was the purpose of life; what was the reality and what would be the reality; and where I came from, I realized that this was the true religion; religion not in the sense the West understands it, not the type for only your old age. I was at first confused between the body and the soul.  Then I realized that the body and soul are not apart and you don’t have to go to the mountain to be religious.  We must follow the will of God.  Then we can rise higher than the angels. The first thing I wanted to do now was to be a Muslim.

I realized that everything belongs to God. He created everything.  At this point I began to lose the pride in me, because hereto I had thought the reason I was here was because of my own greatness.  But I realized that I did not create myself, and the whole purpose of my being here was to submit to the teaching that has been perfected by the religion we know as Al-Islam.  At this point, I started discovering my faith.  I felt I was a Muslim.

On reading the Quran, I now realized that all the Prophets sent by God brought the same message.  Why then were the Jews and Christians different?  I know now how the Jews did not accept Jesus as the Messiah and that they had changed His Word.  Even the Christians misunderstand God’s Word and called Jesus the son of God.  Everything made so much sense.  This is the beauty of the Quran; it asks you to reflect and reason, and not to worship the sun or moon but the One Who has created everything. The Quran asks man to reflect upon the sun and moon and God’s creation in general.  Do you realize how different the sun is from the moon?  They are at varying distances from the earth, yet appear the same size to us; at times, one seems to overlap the other.

When I read the Quran further, it talked about prayer, kindness and charity.  I was not a Muslim yet, but I felt that the only answer for me was the Quran, and God had sent it to me, and I kept it a secret.  But the Quran also speaks on different levels.  I began to understand it on another level, where the Quran says, “Those who believe do not take disbelievers for friends and the believers are brothers.”  Thus at this point I wished to meet my Muslim brothers.

Convert to Islam

Then I decided to journey to Jerusalem (as my brother had done).  At Jerusalem, I went to the mosque and sat down.  A man asked me what I wanted..  I told him I was a Muslim.  He asked what my name was.  I told him, “Stevens.”  He was confused.  I then joined the prayer, though not so successfully.  Back in London, I met a sister called Nafisa. I told her I wanted to embrace Islam, and she directed me to the New Regent Mosque. This was in 1977, about one and a half years after I received the Quran.  Now I realized that I must get rid of my pride, get rid of Satan, and face one direction.  So on a Friday, after the Friday pray, I went to the Imam (Prayer Leader) and declared my faith (the Shahaadah: "I bear witness that there its no god but Allah; I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and His Prophet."

Now I realize that I get in direct contact with God, unlike Christianity or any other religion.  As one Hindu lady told me that in order to reach God, one has to create associates that are idols for the purpose.  But Islam removes all these barriers. The only thing that moves the believers from the disbelievers is the salat (prayer). This is the process of purification.

Finally, I would like to stress that I did not come into contact with any Muslim before I embraced Islam. I read the Quran first and realized that no person is perfect.  Islam is perfect, and if we imitate the conduct of the Prophet we will be successful..

"All I have to say is all what you know already, to confirm what you already know, the message of the Prophet [may God praise him] as given by God - the Religion of Truth.  As human beings we are given a consciousness and a duty that has placed us at the top of creation… It is important to realize the obligation to rid ourselves of all illusions and to make our lives a preparation for the next life.  Anybody who misses this chance is not likely to be given another, to be brought back again and again, because it says in the Glorious Quran that when man is brought to account, he will say,  “O Lord, send us back and give us another chance.  The Lord will say, ‘If I send you back you will do the same.”"

Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens)

BY Ahmed Yousef


Know More : New Muslims' Stories

From :

On learning…

“Whoever treads on a path in search of knowledge, Allah will ease the way to Paradise for him. The angels will lower their wings, pleased with this seeker of knowledge, and everyone in the heavens and on earth will ask forgiveness for the knowledgeable person, even the fish in the deepest of waters will ask for his forgiveness.”