All posts tagged: Islam

How Sweden’s Blind Altruism Is Harming Migrants

The 15-year-old boy was standing outside the police station, late one night during the immigration wave of 2015. I was meeting youths like him almost every day, as they came to the station to apply for asylum. Sweden was the country in Europe that took in most immigrants per capita during the crisis, with numbers up to over 160,000 by the end of the year. 35,000 of them, mostly Afghans, claimed refugee status as unaccompanied minors. Linköping is a small town and I was the only police officer there who spoke their language, Dari. As we sat down to go through routine questioning, I started thinking about my own memories of coming to Sweden from Afghanistan with my parents and siblings. I was a few years younger than the boy sitting across the table from me. I wanted to tell him that he had come to an amazing country. I wanted to tell him that he had all the opportunity in the world to build a better future for himself. That he no longer had …

ISIS Bride Should Be Judged for What She Did, Not Who She Is

In 2015, Shamima Begum was one of three teenage girls from Bethnal Green, London, who flew to Turkey and then travelled across the border into Syria with the intention of joining ISIS. The girls had done their research, raised funds, and made travel arrangements all (apparently) without the knowledge of their parents, who heard nothing more from their daughters after they entered Syria. It seemed unlikely that they would ever return, even if they wanted to. But then last week The Times published a remarkable story: One of their journalists had found Begum in a refugee camp in Syria, who had fled the collapsing Caliphate and lost contact with her husband, a Dutch Jihadi. Begum was nine months pregnant (she’s now had the child) and, having already lost two children to disease and malnutrition, wants to return to the UK, if only for the sake of her new baby. She has expressed no remorse about her decision to join the terrorist group. In the audio recording of her interview, Begum sounds eerily calm, at one …

Malaysia’s Struggle to Preserve Religious Pluralism

For observers of contemporary Malaysia, much has been written about the tropical nation’s creeping Islamization. To define this more specifically, the observable interjection of Islamic morality into its institutions, its legal systems, and its political discourses and practices. The move towards a more puritanical and intolerant Islam has raised alarm bells for a country whose identity is rooted in its cosmopolitan and pluralistic character, raising the ugly specter of ethnic and religious conflict in one of Southeast Asia’s most developed economies. However, the shock victory of an opposition coalition in a historic general election in May 2018 raised hopes of a “New Malaysia.” The incumbent political coalition, Barisan Nasional (National Front), composed of race-based parties, with the dominant United Malay National Organization (UMNO) component explicitly espousing Malay-Muslim supremacy, was ousted after 61 years of uninterrupted rule since the country’s independence from the British in 1957. With a new administration under the Pakatan Harapan (Coalition of Hope) coalition, and with veteran leader Mahathir Mohammed back in power in his second stint as Prime Minister (at the …

A Night Out with a Muslim and an Atheist

On Dec. 10, “Islam and the Future of Tolerance” held its West Coast premiere in Los Angeles after an extended two-year production period. Starring Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz, the documentary is based on the conversation-turned-book between the two on the subjects of Islam, Islamism, and Muslims. The film premiered at the Pacific Theatres at the Grove, near the synagogue where a Somali man tried to ram worshipers with a car just two weeks before. Even though that attack came on the heels of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, it did not receive much media coverage. “There’s a fear of the subject,” said Jay Shapiro, the film’s co-director. “There’s even a fear of the title.” He tells me the documentary wasn’t picked up by film festivals despite the warm reception it has received where it’s been shown. This is Mr. Shapiro’s first foray into this subgenre of documentary. His previous films have been more traditional documentaries. For the most part, “Islam and the Future of Tolerance” is a near-celluloid version of the 2015 book of the …

What Makes a ‘Self-Hating’ Muslim?

I’ve recently returned from a study tour to Israel. As a Muslim visiting Israel I was put through considerable security, but was otherwise treated well. Since my return, I have been surprised by the level of negative reaction I received from other Muslims, including some close friends and relatives. It’s as if visiting Israel equates with ardent support for Zionism and the wholesale rejection of the Palestinian people, neither of which I adhere to. However, I have returned with a more complex understanding of the issues at stake. Wajahat Ali is an American attorney and writer, known for his contributions about the Muslim experience in The New York Times and The Atlantic. He writes eloquently about this strong faith. He also visited Israel recently. He interacted with Jewish settlers on the West Bank via a  program run by a group called the Shalom Hartman Institute and its Muslim Leadership Initiative. Based in Washington, the center has the laudable goal to help engage Muslim leaders and Jewish thinkers. Given Ali’s high profile, he made for an ideal …