Khan: A quiet revolution: the female imams taking over an LA mosque

Of interest:

When Tasneem Noor got on the stage at the Women’s Mosque of America in Los Angeles, she felt butterflies in her stomach. Facing about fifty women on praying rugs, ready to deliver a sermon – khutba in Arabic – she took a deep breath.

During the prayers, the women would follow Noor’s lead, but several would pray four more times after it ended, to make up for any potentially invalid prayers. That is the result of a 14-century-old disputed hadith, that leads some to believe women are forbidden to lead prayers and deliver sermons.

“I don’t mind,” Noor told me later. “Some people function better with rules.”

Noor, 37, is part of a quiet revolution in America: at the all women’s mosque, she was celebrating its five year anniversary of practicing the female imamat, a rare and often controversial practice in Islam.

Women aren’t even allowed to pray in many mosques across the world. In some mosques in the US, women may enter, but are often forced pray in separate rooms – leading some to call it the “penalty box”. Spiritual leaders that have pushed boundaries – by running mixed congregation mosques or running an LGBTQ mosque – have received death threats.

But at the Women’s Mosque of America, women are using their sermons to cover previously untouched topics like sexual violence, pregnancy loss and domestic violence.

One of Noor’s most memorable sermons happened in 2017 – a surprise, considering it was largely an improvisation. After a scheduling hitch left Noor with less than half of the 45-minutes she should have had, she shortened her talk and changed tack: leading the congregation into a meditation.

Source: A quiet revolution: the female imams taking over an LA mosque

Singapore: Mandatory course for aspiring Islamic religious teachers returning from overseas graduate studies

While countries like Singapore can require such course, unlike Canada. However, for foreign trained imams, such courses on Canadian laws, human rights and the like would provide needed context for their work with their communities:

Graduates of Islamic studies programmes overseas will be allowed to teach Islam here while taking a mandatory course, which is a requirement for registration as an Islamic teacher in Singapore.

The Postgraduate Certificate in Islam in Contemporary Societies (PCICS)is a full-time one-year programme that aims to help returning Singaporean graduates readjust and contextualise to local social and political contexts what they have learnt overseas.

Registration for the programme is now open and classes will commence in April next year for the first cohort. The course is relevant for aspiring Islamic leaders in Singapore, also known as asatizah.

Graduates hoping to serve as an asatizah in Singapore will be required to hold the PCICS, as it is now part of the requirements for registration under Tier 1 of the Asatizah Recognition Scheme in Singapore.

Graduates who apply for the Asatizah Recognition Scheme will be given a provisional Asatizah Recognition Scheme recognition that is valid for three years, which will allow them to teach Islam while undergoing the course.

Returning graduates who do not intend to work in the religious sector will not have to go through the PCICS and will not need to apply for the Asatizah Recognition Scheme.

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), which set up the PCICS programme, said it will equip Singaporean students with the relevant knowledge and skills to serve in both the religious and secular sectors, while being grounded in Islamic teachings and values.

The programme will replace the current four-week Islam in Context course for all returning graduates.

Students on the PCICS programme will read a selection of modules offered by the Muis Academy and by local and foreign universities.

The programme came about after a panel of seasoned asatizah, led by Deputy Mufti of Singapore, Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, emphasised the importance of equipping future religious leaders with the relevant knowledge and skills to serve in the religious sector, and to deepen their understanding and apply their Islamic learning to the Singapore context.

During an engagement session with overseas graduates on Thursday (Dec 5), a panel of seasoned asatizah, led by Deputy Mufti of Singapore Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, emphasised the importance of equipping future religious leaders with the relevant knowledge and skills to serve in the religious sector.

The panel also said graduates need to deepen their understanding and apply their Islamic learning to the Singapore context.

In an effort to enhance the role of Islamic religious teachers beyond traditional teaching roles, Muis is also developing the Asatizah Workforce Development Plan.

Plans in the pipeline include skills upgrading as well as leadership programmes.

Mr Uwais Al-Qarni Mohamed Fawzi, a recent graduate of Islamic Theology from the University of Jordan, said he will be applying to enrol in the PCICS programme.

“In the (foreign) university, we were mainly exposed to the theoretical aspects of Islam.”

“But religious queries from people in Singapore are different as a result of the diverse community and unique challenges here. Courses like the PCICS programme can further professionalise asatizah to better guide our community,” added the 25-year-old.

Source: Mandatory course for aspiring Islamic religious teachers returning from overseas graduate studies

Sheema Khan: Misbehaving imams must be held to account

Another strong commentary by Khan. In addition, the Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW) issued the fallowing call: We ask Imams to speak out against gender-based violence (GBV):

The Arabic word “imam” literally means “leader,” or the one who precedes. In North America, the role of an imam is best summed up by Ottawa’s Imam Sikander Hashmi: “Imams, who are usually hired by mosque boards, are often overworked and underpaid. They are expected to preach, lead daily prayers, teach children, conduct outreach, do interfaith work, handle media requests, engage youth and offer religious guidance. In short, it’s a tough job.”

There are local, regional and national councils of imams – designed to bridge cultural, linguistic and juridical divides among imams of diverse Muslim communities. The vast majority of imams fulfill their roles with integrity, humility and a sincere commitment to serve their communities. They fully deserve the respect accorded to them.

However, there have been disturbing exceptions. Given the lack of accountability mechanisms in place and the reverential attitude toward religious authority by congregants, it is not surprising that abuses can occur.

Take, for example, the solemnization of marriage. An Islamic marriage, sanctioned by an imam, must also be registered with civil authorities, thereby providing both spouses with basic legal rights. Yet, a number of imams knowingly decline civil registration – to the detriment of women.

In May, 2018, a Quebec imam signed off on an Islamic marriage contract of a 15-year-old girl. His actions were sharply criticized by Justice Bruno Langelier, who granted the teen’s request to be removed from her home.

In January, 2019, The Fifth Estate investigated the prevalence of polygamy in Toronto’s Muslim community. Imam Aly Hindy, of Salaheddin Islamic Centre, was caught on a hidden camera, offering to solemnize a second marriage of an undercover reporter – without the knowledge of the first wife. When confronted, he brazenly declared: “sue me” – confident that his actions were legal. However, the performance of any type of second marriage clearly contravenes the Criminal Code. Why is he still registered, by the Ontario government, as a religious official authorized to perform marriages? In fact, common knowledge is that every major Canadian city has a “go-to” imam who will solemnize a second, third or fourth marriage – no questions asked.

The same Fifth Estate investigation unearthed court records that revealed a prominent Toronto imam who physically assaulted his wife, sending her to hospital, after she confronted him on his secret, second marriage.

Within the past five years, there have been three Canadian imams charged with sexual assault. In British Columbia, Imam Saadeldin Bahr was sentencedto 3½ years for sexually assaulting a female congregant who sought spiritual advice. He was also placed on the Sex Offender Registry for 20 years. In Ontario, Imam Mohammad Masroor was charged with multiple sexual offences that occurred between 2008 and 2011. He was acquitted on all counts after standing trial in 2013. A day after his acquittal, he was extradited to the United States where he was sentenced between 35 to 50 years for sexually abusing his nieces between 2000 and 2003. In June, Toronto Imam Syed Zaidi was charged with sexually assaulting two female congregants. He is awaiting trial.

Muslim communities face an unenviable challenge of holding their religious leadership to account, without having guidance on how to proceed. However, a number of efforts are under way to address spiritual abuse.

Two Muslim lawyers have devised a “Code Of Conduct For Islamic Leadership” for individuals and Muslim organizations, based on nine years of working with victims of spiritual abuse, consultation with lawyers, cult experts, religious scholars and mental-health professionals.

Facing Abuse in Community Environments (FACE) has created a framework to address the leadership accountability gap. They provide tools and resources to report abusive leaders and help protect the community from their continued abuse.

Finally, the Hurma Project – a Canadian initiative – seeks to examine the personal and communal effects of abusive practices, along with practical solutions.

Muslims are painfully realizing that among their leaders, clergy, teachers and religious scholars are individuals who abuse their positions of power and violate their ethical responsibilities.

Too often, justice for victims is sacrificed in the name of keeping the reputation of an institution or an individual intact. Too often, imams have been quietly dismissed, without any meaningful accountability or reporting to authorities. Why is the onus placed on victims? They are either blamed or told to be patient, to pray, to forgive. Let us accord them a modicum of dignity by standing up for justice on their behalf.

Source: Misbehaving imams must be held to account: Sheema Khan

ISIS Targets American Imams for Believing Muslims Can Thrive in U.S. – Also in Canada

Does undermine the American right’s characterization of American Muslims:

Three American imams got put on ISIS’s hit list for promoting the idea that Islam and the West can coexist.

The terrorist group’s latest issue of propaganda Dabiq attempts to theologically justify an attack on the religious leaders in an article titled “Kill the Imams of Kufr in the West.” The men are worse than hypocrites, ISIS says, because they say Muslims can thrive in America.

“The person who calls himself a ‘Muslim’ but unapologetically commits blatant kufr [disbelief] is not a munafiq [hypocrite], as some mistakenly claim. Rather, he is a murtadd [apostate],” Dabiq claims.

The Daily Beast will identify two of the Americans with pseudonyms because of the direct threats on their lives. A third, who gave The Daily Beast permission to use his name, responded with dark humor.

“Nothing like a death threat with a danish and a latte in the morning,” Suhaib Webb told The Daily Beast.

This is the first time ISIS has put out a direct hit on U.S. imams.

Webb is treated with contempt by jihadists who call him “the joke of al-Azhar,” a reference to his time at the esteemed Islamic university in Egypt.

“I mean, it’s certainly concerning,” he said, adding that he’s been contacted by the Department of Homeland Security about the threat. “They maybe want to brief me on things to look for, to be cautious of,” he said.

The irony of being on the most extremist group’s hit list isn’t lost on Webb, who for years has been accused of Islamic extremism by the far right in America.

“In a way, [Dabiq]’s attacking what many of us think makes our country awesome. And at the same time, it repudiates people on the right,” he said. “If people like myself are radical extremists, then why is ISIS putting a death threat on us?”

Meanwhile in Canada:

Just days after celebrating cultural bridges, a Toronto imam has been targeted in a Daesh hit list.

The self-declared Islamic State called out Shaykh Abdullah Hakim Quick along with other Muslims in the West, urging followers to kill them for speaking out against the group and betraying their interpretation of Islam.

Quick works with the Canadian Council of Imams, which hosted its first annual dinner on Monday night, honouring political leaders and community members.

“It was a really good vibration that came out of that meeting, a lot of unity between people of different faiths,” Quick told the Star.

“So here comes the devil, as we would say, screaming out against us the next day.”

Quick first learned of the threat on Wednesday from a fellow imam in the council, but though he says he has contacted law enforcement and is taking precautions, he will not be intimidated.

“I will continue to do what I have to do,” he said. “Putting my trust in God. This is what Muslims do when they find themselves in difficulty, and continue on to do what’s right.”

Michael Zekulin, a terrorism researcher at the University of Calgary, says the threat is typical of Daesh’s propaganda tactics, but not necessarily legitimate.

Daesh has implored its followers to go after others in the past, he says, like Calgary-based cleric Syed Soharwardy and UFC fighter Tim Kennedy.

“It never resonated,” Zekulin said. “It’s not something you dismiss and laugh off, but at the same time I’m not sure that simply because they mentioned this individual all of a sudden (he) is a serious immediate target.”

He says more than anything the threat demonstrates the sophisticated, extensive nature of Daesh’s communication network.

Denmark may strip radical imams of citizenship

Charging them with hate speech would be appropriate:
Denmark might soon be able to strip radicalized imams of citizenship. The proposal is expected to be supported by a majority in parliament.

The initiative comes from the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, and has received backing from the ruling Liberal Party, the opposition Social Democrats and the Conservative party.

“The Constitution says that one must practice his faith as long as it is not contrary to morals or disturbing to the public order,” Martin Henriksen, Danish People’s Party’s spokesman told the Berlingske newspaper on Monday.

“When imams endorse or recommend stoning or when an imam tells a woman subjected to violence by her husband, that that’s okay, then it [may be considered] subversive speech that disturbs the public order. Some of these imams are Danish citizens, and we think we should deprive them of their citizenship,” he said.

The proposal was made in particular to withdraw citizenship from Abu Bilal, a leading imam at the Grimhoj mosque in the city of Aarhus. A recent documentary, ‘Mosques behind the Veil,’ revealed that the imam advocated the stoning of adulterous women and the killing of apostates.

Danish Prime Minister Lokke Rasmussen urged MPs to come up with measures to counter the growth of radical Islam after the documentary exposed the activities of such radical mosques.

The Danish People’s Party is set to make two new proposals in the upcoming set of negotiations with the Danish PM. The party is to present a draft resolution on stripping Abu Bilal of his Danish citizenship and then to review the Constitution’s clause on religious freedom.

Rasmussen said that he will be willing to “push the limits” of the interpretation of the Danish Constitution when reviewing the proposals, the Local reported.

“We are open to all solutions that can stop the radicalized imams,” said Trine Bramsen, the Social Democrats’ spokesman, according to the Berlingske newspaper.

British jihadist warns of black flag of Islam over Downing Street

More on jihadists raised in the West and travelling to Syria and Iraq, along with efforts by imams to counter the jihadist message:

An open letter signed by more than 100 imams from across major theological backgrounds and cultural groups has urged British Muslim communities “to continue the generous and tireless effort to support all of those affected by the crisis in Syria and unfolding events in Iraq”, but to do so from the UK “in a safe and responsible way”.

The letter comes during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, but against a backdrop of tensions between the Middle East and the west.

…. Concerns have also been raised about homegrown involvement in terrorism after Britons appeared in a propaganda video for insurgent group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant Isis.

Among them was aspiring jihadist Aseel Muthana, who told the BBC he was fighting in Syria and had no intention of returning to the UK.

…. The man told interviewer Nicky Campbell: “I have no intention of coming back to Britain because I have come to revive the Islamic khilafah. I dont want to come back to what I have left behind. There is nothing in Britain – it is just pure evil.

“If and when I come back to Britain it will be when this khilafah – this Islamic state – comes to conquer Britain and I come to raise the black flag of Islam over Downing Street, over Buckingham Palace, over Tower Bridge and over Big Ben.”

…..”The imams open letter read: “As the crisis in Syria and Iraq deepens, we the under-signed have come together as a unified voice to urge the British Muslim communities not to fall prey to any form of sectarian divisions or social discord.

“Ramadan, the month of mercy, teaches us the value of unity and perseverance and we urge the British Muslim communities to continue the generous and tireless efforts to support all of those affected by the crisis in Syria and unfolding events in Iraq, but to do so from the UK in a safe and responsible way.”

British jihadist warns of black flag of Islam over Downing Street | UK news | theguardian.com.