Sunday, June 19, 2011

Muslim Chaplains Work to Reform

Commentary: Muslim prison chaplains work to reform, not radicalize

The danger of Islamic radicalization inside U.S. prisons “remains real and present,” alleges Republican U.S. Rep. Peter King of New York in his second congressional hearing on the threat of Muslims within America radicalizing. 

It appears to me that Rep. King has never been inside a county jail or prison to meet incarcerated Muslims. If he had been, I suspect that Rep. King would not have made such an outlandish statement.
As a Muslim chaplain, I tend to prisoners of all faiths, not just Islam, and the common theme is that such people are seeking a new beginning through God. 

Clearly lost upon Rep. King is the story of Malcolm X, a fellow New Yorker, who through Islam gave up his criminal ways to become one of this nation’s most honored civil rights activists. 

Prisoners who convert to Islam in jail do so to find a new path, one that is far from the world of hate and violence that is often the cause of their incarceration. 

To suggest that Muslim chaplains are radicalizing prisoners is to betray one’s own ignorance of the institutions of corrections in the United States. Books are screened for content, and chaplains interviewed and monitored. 

But if Rep. King wishes to address incarceration, then let’s do that honestly. It is disgraceful that we, as Americans, place more emphasis on incarceration than on education.   

In the past 20 years, state spending on prisons has grown at six times the rate of spending on higher education. And one in 31 Americans is under some form of corrections control. 

Federal research shows states spend more than $50 billion annually on government-run correction programs. With more than 2 million people incarcerated in jails and prisons in the United States today, it would be more helpful for Rep. King, the House Homeland Security Committee chairman, to focus on issues of judicial and prison reform than on imaginary threats that are in reality thinly veiled attacks against Islam. 

You do your job, Rep. King, and I’ll keep doing mine.

Hasan Hakeem is a Muslim chaplain for Kenosha County Jail and president of the Zion, Ill., chapter of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community

Kicked to the Curb: A Return to Prison

Civil death
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Civil death (Latin: civiliter mortuus)[1] is a term that refers to the loss of all or almost all civil rights by a person due to a conviction for a felony or due to an act by the government of a country that results in the loss of civil rights. It is usually inflicted on persons convicted of crimes against the state or adults determined by a court to be legally incompetent because of mental disability.[2]
In medieval Europe, felons lost all civil rights upon their conviction. This civil death often led to actual death, since anyone could kill and injure an ex-felon with impunity.[3] In the old German Empire, a person declared civilly dead was called "vogelfrei" ("free as a bird") and could even be killed since they were completely outside the law.[4]
Historically outlawry, that is, declaring a person as an outlaw, was a common form of civil death.[4]
In the US, the disenfranchisement of felons or ex-felons has been called a form of civil death;[5] see also loss of rights due to felony conviction.
A recent study by the Pew Center on the States, a nonprofit public policy research organization, found that 43.3 percent of people released from the nation’s prisons in 2004 were reincarcerated within three years. But many state prison inmates  are released after serving their sentence without any requirement that they check in with authorities to make sure they’re not getting into trouble again. Theoretically, at least, inmates who leave prison under supervision ought to have a much lower recidivism rate than those who do not.

Ex-Convicts and Civil Death

Imagine a corporate executive who’s been convicted of embezzlement. He serves his sentence and some years later, having paid his debt to society, leaves prison a free man. Now he’s an ex-convict, in fact, an ex-felon. Should we allow him to vote? Or has he forfeited his right to participate in American democracy?

Depending on where he lives, he may never vote again. Thirteen states bar ex-felons—permanently—from voting. Thirty-two states disenfranchise them while on parole, twenty-nine while on probation.

Few of us realize that ex-felons so commonly lose their right to vote. Nor are we aware that any felony can trigger what some have called “civil death.” If, for example, a first-time offender pleads guilty to a single drug sale and is placed on probation, he or she can be permanently barred from voting. As Andrew Shapiro, an attorney, notes, “ An eighteen-year-old first-time offender who trades a guilty plea for a non-prison sentence may unwittingly sacrifice forever his right to vote.”

The people most affected by these laws, as you might suspect, are not corporate executives. They are disproportionately black men. Thirteen percent of African-American men—1.4 million people—are permanently disenfranchised because they are in prison, on parole or probation, or are ex-felons.

The impact of such widespread disenfranchisement on our elections is staggering. Florida, for example, denies the vote to ex-felons who have fully served their sentence. According to New York-based Human Rights Watch, Florida law prevented more than four hundred thousand ex-felons from voting in the November election. Among African-Americans, the impact was dramatic. Approximately one-third of Florida’s black men—some two hundred thousand residents—were legally prohibited from casting a vote. Human Rights Watch concludes: “Assuming the voting pattern of black ex-felons would have been similar to the vote by black residents in Florida generally, the inability of these ex-offenders to vote had a significant impact on the number voting for Vice President Gore.”

In other words, absent these disenfranchisement laws, Gore would now be president.

This nation began with a stingy view of who was virtuous enough to cast a vote in elections. In fact, the framers limited this right to free white men who owned property. But ever since, suffrage has been extended to those who were initially excluded: people without property, women, African-Americans, and people who are not literate.

The one group still excluded is convicted felons. In part, this is a legacy of the South’s successful post-Reconstruction effort to prevent freed slaves from voting. Between l890 and 1910, southern states crafted their criminal disenfranchisement laws, along with other voting qualifications, with the goal of preventing African-Americans from voting. In 1901, for example, Alabama lawmakers inserted a provision in the state constitution that disenfranchised any person guilty of the felonious crime of “moral turpitude.” (In the South, that could mean just staring at a white woman.) Nor did the legislators even bother to hide their goal, which they openly declared was to establish and preserve white supremacy.

We are the heirs of that racist legacy. In most democratic countries, ex-felons are expected to re-enter society as citizens newly endowed with the rights and responsibilities they lost as legal outcasts. “These people have paid their debt to society,” says Jamie Fellner, associate counsel at Human Rights Watch. “No other country in the world takes away the right to vote for life.”

But in America, our legacy of slavery and Reconstruction still affects so many aspects of our democratic process—from the electoral college to poorly working voting machines in black districts. The bright side of Election 2000, however, is that it has ignited a spirited reconsideration of many of the arcane practices that shape our electoral process. So far, though, the issue of how many people are disenfranchised because of their criminal pasts has not been highly publicized.

I believe that an individual who is imprisoned for a felony should give up many civil rights, including that of suffrage. But afterward? If the point of imprisonment is rehabilitation, how can we conclude that people should suffer civil death after they have been released from prison? When a person has done time, he or she should be able to vote again, not after finishing parole, but upon leaving the prison grounds.

Because the disenfranchisement of ex-felons disproportionately affects African-American men, many of whom are in prison for drug felonies, many blacks are rightfully angry that disenfranchisement laws rob them of their participation in the voting process. “Fifty years after the beginnings of the civil rights movement, it is tragic that every day more black citizens lose their voting rights,” says Marc Mauer, assistant director of the Washington D.C.-based Sentencing Project. “This is not just a criminal justice issue, but one of basic democracy.”

Joe Loya, a disenfranchised ex-felon, expresses this sentiment even more eloquently: “Without a vote, a voice, I am a ghost inhabiting a citizen’s space. I want to walk calmly into a polling place with other citizens, to carry my placid ballot into the booth, check off my choices, then drop my conscience in the common box.”

Listen to his words. They just may be the battle cry for the next struggle for suffrage.

Ruth Rosen, who teaches history at the University of California, Davis, and is an editorial writer at the San Francisco Chronicle.

I Don't Know How to Live Out There

Our challenge as Americans is what do we do about the thousands of men and women incarcerated in prisons? When they are relased how do we reintegrate them into society? Listen to what this inmate is saying to the listener.  It is a cry for help.  How do we help him to be a productive and better citizen in contemporary society, or should we just keep him locked up in an enviroment he has come to understand and survive in since he was a teenager?

His admission is a reality for men and women throughout our nation, who have no hope for a sustainable lifestyle in society, especially if they are on probation or parole conditions. They are subject to a brief freedom if they fail to adhere to the rules and regulations on "paper." 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Prison Reform is the real deal in USA

Michigan Rep. Clarke hits it right on the head. The problem is not Islam in prisons. It's the judicial system and the prison industrial complex that continues to suck the life out of our communities.  Why not focus on the hatred that's created by inequality and injustice in the judicial system.  What is needed is real justice -- Aboslute Justice For All Americans, regardless of creed, color, culture or race.

Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI) used his question period to deliver an impassioned address about the broader problem of prison reform, at times holding back tears as he discussed how the issue impacted his own life.
"We talk about political correctness, you know what pisses me off? I'm a damned member of Congress here and my friends have rotted in prison and those that have gotten out, they've never been the same again," he said. "Some of you who are Tea Party members, this is the waste we got to stop. We're spending too much money incarcerating young men, young black men, whose lives can be saved. It's not about Islam, it's abut the sentencing policy, it's about this prison system. We got to change that."

He added that based on his own discussions with prisoners who converted to Islam, inmates did so largely to gain protection from dangerous gangs and to make a clean break from their criminal past, not to engage in any kind of radical behavior.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Media Neglects Ahmadiyya Muslim Community

Posted by Mollie

I love all most of our reader submissions, but the other day we received one that sounded pretty surprising. It comes from Hasan Hakeem, a member of the Ahmadiyya Community and the Chaplain of the Kenosha County Jail in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I’ll go head and just quote it:
This week after spending almost 7 months at a refugee prison in central Bangkok, 96 Ahmadiyya refugees from Pakistan were released by Thai authorities, a landmark development in a country that does not formally recognize refugees despite the fact that it is currently coming to the end of its tenure as president of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The released Ahmadiyya are members of a minority Muslim group that is oppressed in Pakistan, where they are not recognized as Muslims and are often victims of sectarian violence. US Media completely ignored the story despite the fact that members of the American Ahmadiyya Community has actively fought for and provided resources for the release of the detainees.
I certainly hadn’t heard word one about this story. Had you? I did a quick Google search and not only do I not see any American media coverage of the time spent in detainment, the U.S. media isn’t even covering the release. If we can’t be bothered to cover stories such as this, which tell us not only about a dire religious situation but a political one as well, this is a problem.

Precisely the only story I found in the U.S. media came from A photo blog posting included several pictures of detainees being released, followed by this blurb:
Ninety-six people, most of whom were arrested in December, will be released from a Bangkok detention centre on Monday, an immigration officer said.
The detained group are from Pakistan’s Ahmadi Muslim community, who suffer violence and persecution in their home country, according to the Thai Committee for Refugees, which helped organise the release.
I’m glad that covered the release, but wow do we need much more information. We’ve seen other stories on the Ahmadiyya, but a dramatic incident such as this needs context and analysis and much more insight and background.

Just from the reader submission alone, we see several angles that could be pursued.

Murder in the Name of Allah

Comment: It's only the Ahmadies who strugle to improve the image of Islam where as the rest of the Muslims do nothing but disgrace Islam with their violence, foul language and disgracefull interpretation of Islam.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Advent of the Messiah

There are many different interpretations and understandings regarding the awaited Messiah. This documentary is a commentary and a thorough gathering of interviews from various religious leaders. The coming of the Messiah is the hope and prayer of all believers. What do you believe? How will you know if the Messiah has returned to the world?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

8th Annual Ahmadiyya Peace Conference

Peace Symposium 2011 - Address by Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community

Peace Symposium (8th Annual) held on 26th March 2011 at Baitul Futuh Mosque, London, England.

His Holiness concluded his address by speaking about the persecution faced by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat. He said that in May last year 86 Ahmadi Muslims were brutally martyred whilst offering their Friday prayers. Similarly in February this year 3 Ahmadi Muslims in Indonesia were martyred in the most barbaric manner. His Holiness said that despite such cruelties and injustices the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat never responded with anything other than with peace. He said:

"We have always implemented the teaching of Islam that you should never take the law into your own hands and always keep the best interests of your country in view and never create disorder, because this is a requirement of true love for your country. Wherever in the world Ahmadis reside, no matter which country they originate from, be they Asian, or African, or Arab or European or American, their behaviour is always the same. For the sake of attaining Allah's pleasure they always steer clear of all forms of disorder. And this is the conduct that one day will not only save the world from anarchy, in fact it will be its guarantor for world peace."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Islamophobia in America

On Sunday evening, March, 2011, CNN aired a one-hour special called “Unwelcome: Muslims Next Door.” Reporter Soledad O’Brien went inside the town of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to investigate the controversy surrounding the proposed construction of a 52,000 square-foot mosque.  This story highlights the national issue of religious freedom for the Muslim community that has been viewed as a suspect group across American since 9/11.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Hudhur recited the following verses of the Holy Qur’an at the start of his Friday Sermon today: ‘We have explained the truth in this Qur’an in the various ways that they may be admonished, but it only increases them in aversion.’ (17:42) and ‘And We are gradually revealing of the Qur’an that which is a healing and a mercy to the believers; but it only adds to the loss of the wrongdoers.’ (17:83)

Hudhur said time and again, the rancour and malice of the detractors of Islam against Islam, the Holy Qur’an and the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) surfaces. It was reported recently that in some Muslim countries extreme reaction is being demonstrated. This is regarding the ill-natured American priest, who was verbally abusive about the Holy Qur’an in September 2010 and had talked of burning it, but had desisted at the time due to some pressure. However, two days ago, he committed this foul act. He justified it by calling on a [so-called] ‘jury’ of 12 people in which a Muslim Imam represented Islam.

However, after 6 hours the jury decided that the Holy Qur’an, God forbid, promotes violence and this was cited as the reason why they burnt it. Hudhur said they act as both the perpetrator and the judge themselves. This particular priest does not have any standing in the USA. His congregation numbers in a few hundred. He has committed this terrible act for cheap publicity which the media is fanning simply to increase their own circulation. Analysts are saying that in spite of media reporting it, the news item has not attracted attention. Council on American-Islamic Relations was asked to comment on this but they declined, saying they did not wish to give the man seeking his fifteen minutes of fame any more publicity.

Hudhur said such dreadful acts have always been committed against Islam and even if they are perpetrated publically or privately, they are hurtful to a true believer. However, the reaction should not be to put a price on the person’s head, as some have done, or take out demonstrations and cause damage to one’s own country. The correct reaction to such matters should be to present such a picture of the Qur’an through one’s word and deed that the world itself condemns the perpetrator.

Giving example of acknowledgement of the excellence of the Holy Qur’an by non- Muslims, Hudhur said that in his book ‘History of the Intellectual Development of Europe’ John William Draper writes that it is an erroneous concept that the advancement of the Arabs was with the use of force. He wrote that force cannot alter one’s conscience. He wrote that the Qur’an articulates its objective in an excellent manner.

Explaining the Quranic verses recited at the start, Hudhur said the Holy Qur’an has drawn a clear picture of these people. They are similar to the pagans of Arabia. Such people have always been around and will continue to be around who, in spite of elucidation of every aspect of the Holy Qur’an, they will continue to raise objections. Rather than open their eyes, the elucidation drives them away from this beautiful teaching. As the verses expound: ‘…increases them in aversion…’ whereas for the believers it is: ‘… a healing and a mercy…’. Hudhur explained that one’s view is in accordance to one’s nature, some will always have a jaundiced view. The Qur’an states in its very beginning that it is a ‘…guidance for the righteous…’ (2:3). Its beautiful teaching, which is superior to all the earlier teachings will only be evident to those who have Taqwa (righteousness) and it will give guidance to those who have fear of God. We are not concerned that their disrespectful stance will, God forbid, harm the Qur’an. God has taken the responsibility of safeguarding it Himself. The above verse 17:83 calls the Qur’an ‘a mercy’ and indeed it will always facilitate mercy. If the verse 17:83 is linked with the one before it, the message is that of glad-tiding for believers: ‘Truth has come and falsehood has vanished away…’ (17:82)

The honor of the Qur’an cannot be maintained by putting price on heads and wrongful demonstrations. A true believer proves the superiority of the Qur’an by practicing its beautiful teaching. When this teaching will become evident to the world, God’s decree will manifest to be a mercy for believers and a balm for injured hearts. The triumph of the Qur’an will be a triumph of the believers. Hudhur said, we as the followers of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) are not particularly concerned with the vulgar antics of these people. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) was sent to once again spread the message of the Holy Qur’an. It states:  

‘Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth glorifies Allah, the Sovereign, the Holy, the Mighty, the Wise. He it is Who has raised among the Unlettered people a Messenger from among themselves who recites unto them His Signs, and purifies them, and teaches them the Book and wisdom, although they had been, before, in manifest misguidance; And among others from among them who have not yet joined them. He is the Mighty, the Wise.’ (62:2-4). 

Hudhur said in the first phase, God sent the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) who, with this teaching, brought a revolutionary change in the extremely deteriorated condition the world was in. He purified those who were ignorant and would get blood-thirsty like animals on trifle matters with this teaching. From the animal-like state these people became human, and then became knowledgeable humans and ultimately became godly people. In the current age, God’s mercy and grace sent the ardent devotee of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) to recite the Qur’an and guide and thus increase people in faith. He gave us awareness of this Divine Book and explained how it is a healing and a mercy for us. He told us about the hidden pearls of wisdom of the teaching of the final Shariah. Thus was God’s favour on believers, fulfilled in the person of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) as prophesised by the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). Hudhur read an extract from the writings of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) to further expound this.

He wrote:
‘The claim of the Christian missionaries that the Qur’an does not set forth anything new on the Unity of God and on Divine commandments which is not contained in the Torah, is altogether false. An ignorant person reading the Torah might fall into the error that it sets forth the Unity of God, and directions with regard to worship, and the rights of mankind, and that there is nothing new which has been set out in the Qur’an, but only a person who has not pondered the Word of God would fall into this error.

There is a great part of matters Divine that finds no mention in the Torah; for instance, it does not mention the finer stages of the Unity of God. The Qur’an discloses that the Unity of God does not mean merely that we should not worship idols, or human beings, or animals, or the elements, or heavenly bodies or satans, but that the Unity of God has three stages.

  • The first stage of the Unity of God is for the common people who desire to be delivered from the wrath of God Almighty.
  • The second stage is for those who desire to be closer to God than the common people.
  • The third stage is for those special ones who desire to achieve closeness to perfection.

The first stage is that no one should be worshipped except God, and that one should refrain from the worship of everything that is limited and created, whether it is on the earth or in heaven.

The second stage of the Unity of God is that in one's own affairs and in the affairs of others, God Almighty should be regarded as the true force and that means should not be so emphasised as to become associates of God. For instance, to say that had it not been for X one would have suffered a certain loss, or that if it had not been for Y, one would have been ruined, would amount to shirk, if by such pronouncements it is meant that X and Y truly possess some power.

The third stage of the Unity of God is to exclude the desires of one's ego from one's love of God Almighty and to devote oneself entirely to His Greatness. Such Unity of God is not to be found in the Torah. Also there is no mention of salvation or hell in the Torah, except some slight indications here and there. In the same way, there is no detailed mention in the Torah of the perfect attributes of God Almighty.

Had the Torah contained any Surah like the one in the Holy Qur’an: ‘Say, ‘He is Allah, the One; Allah, the Independent and Besought of all. He begets not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.’ (112:2-5) then perhaps the Christians might have refrained from the worship of a creature. Also the Torah has not set forth the degrees of rights but the Qur’an has set forth this teaching also in perfection. For instance, it says: Verily, Allah requires you to abide by justice, and to treat with grace, and give like the giving of kin to kin; (16:91) Allah enjoins equity, benevolence and graciousness between kindred. This means that our sympathy with mankind should be prompted by natural eagerness and not by any motive of seeking acknowledgement, as for instance, a mother has sympathy for her child.

The Torah also fails to establish the existence of God and His Unity and His perfect attributes on the basis of reason, but the Holy Qur’an has established all these doctrines and the need of revelation and Prophethood with arguments based on reason, and by stating everything in a philosophic way, has made it easy for seekers after truth to appreciate it. These arguments are put forth in such an excellent manner in the Holy Qur’an that it is not within anyone's power, for instance, to put forth any argument on the existence of God which is not contained in the Qur’an. A strong argument in support of the need of the Holy Qur’an is that all the previous Books beginning with the Torah and ending with the Gospel are addressed to a particular people, namely, the children of Israel and state in clear words that the directions contained in them are not for the general benefit, and are limited to the children of Israel. But the Holy Qur’an aims at the reform of the whole world and is not addressed to any particular people but states plainly that it has been revealed for the benefit of the whole of mankind and that the reform of everyone is its purpose.’ [‘Kitab ul Bariyyah’, Essence of Islam, Vol. I, pp.468 – 471]

Hudhur said this is but a glimpse of what the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) explained about the superiority of the Qur’an. Ahmadis are fortunate, indeed can be called fortunate only when they try and adopt this teaching and show the luminous teaching to the world about which they raise objections. Then alone will we be rightfully counted among the latter-ones.

Hudhur said in one of his sermons he had cited the German Jama’at as an example of holding exhibitions in various venues, including church halls, on the Holy Qur’an that had had positive results. Hudhur said his inference was that Jama’ats in other countries too should hold such exhibitions; however, this was not done. If an exhibition had been organised in USA, media, which is drawn to Islam these days would have referred to us along with referring to this bigoted man. Although the US Jama’at has extensively worked on the peace leaflets and has held seminars, and has worked well, which has been covered by the media, but exhibitions have not been organised as they should have been. A believer’s task is to keep an eye on every front. Media as well as the public will be drawn if exhibitions are organised in hired halls, in USA as well as other countries. Due to the negative impression people have formed about mosques they have reservations about coming to events there. So, if halls are hired and proper exhibitions are held with posters and banners depicting the teachings of the Qur’an and copies of the Holy Qur’an with translation beautifully displayed. Due to the attention to Islam, some people are writing in positive light as well, often they report accurately about our Jama’at. God knows what their intention is but we should take advantage of this. Although we set up stalls and participate in general exhibitions but those are not covered by the media. If we organise separate exhibitions they will nevertheless have impact.

Hudhur said our detractors talk a lot about Jihad and ‘Qitaal’ but do not mention what are the conditions under which fighting is allowed in Islam. These are ploys of Dajjal (antichrist) that are manoeuvred by certain people from time to time to harm Islam. A definitive antidote of this is required and for a definitive antidote continuous effort is required.

The Ahmadiyya Community alone can truly pay the dues of this.The extract from the writings of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) informs us of the significance of the teachings of the Qur’an and indeed no other book has given as much emphasis as the Qur’an does on justice. It states: ‘Allah forbids you not, respecting those who have not fought against you on account of your religion, and who have not driven you forth from your homes, that you be kind to them and act equitably towards them; surely Allah loves those who are equitable.’ (60:9). It also states: ‘O ye who believe! be steadfast in the cause of Allah, bearing witness in equity; and let not a people’s enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just, that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah. Surely, Allah is aware of what you do.’ (5:9). The Qur’an also states: ‘And worship Allah and associate naught with Him, and show kindness to parents, and to kindred, and orphans, and the needy, and to the neighbour that is a kinsman and the neighbour that is a stranger, and the companion by your side, and the wayfarer, and those whom your right hands possess. Surely, Allah loves not the proud and the boastful,’ (4:37).

Hudhur explained that the verse 60:9 commands to extend virtue to those who do not bear enmity. The verse 5:9 enjoins to be just and fair even to the enemy and not to respond to his foul act with a foul act. The verse 4:37 commands good treatment of everyone, from one’s parents to every human being, so that peace is established in the world. Such is the supremely excellent teaching of Islam which is the guarantee of peace in the world, as opposed to the step taken by the bigoted priest. Whenever we see wrong reaction as regards Islam, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) and the Holy Qur’an, our task is to first correct our own practices and then spread the teachings of Islam in the world.