Today it’s taken for granted that people of all ethnic groups should be treated equally in the armed forces and elsewhere. But as Leslie Gordon Goffe writes, during World War One black officers in the British armed forces faced a system with prejudice at its core.
When war was declared in 1914, a Jamaican, David Louis Clemetson, was among the first to volunteer.
A 20-year-old law student at Cambridge University when war broke out, Clemetson was eager to show that he and others from British colonies like Jamaica — where the conflict in Europe had been dismissed by some as a “white man’s war” — were willing to fight and die for King and Country. […]
Two years before, in 1915, he became one of the first black British officers of WW1. This was despite the provisions in the 1914 Manual of Military Law which barred, what it called, “negroes and or persons of colour” from holding rank above sergeant. […]
History has long recorded another black soldier, British-born Walter Tull, as the first to become an officer. But by the time Tull became a 2nd lieutenant in the Middlesex Regiment on 30 May 1917, Clemetson had been an officer for going on two years. There is a distinction — Clemetson was in the Yeomanry, part of what was then the Territorial Force, rather than the regular Army. […]
Another candidate for the first black officer is Jamaican-born George Bemand. But he had to lie about his black ancestry in order to become an officer. Bemand, whose story was unearthed by historian Simon Jervis, became a 2nd lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery on 23 May 1915, four months before Clemetson became an officer and two years before Walter Tull. […]
The Islamic Center of Nashville posted a colorful “Imam Wanted” ad on its Facebook page on Jan. 30 to spread the news of its imam search across the country. The mosque, founded in 1979 with a donation from musician Yusuf Islam, hopes the ad will attract the right kind of leader — someone who can meet the needs of its young population. […]
Afnan Adam, a member of the search committee, knows it’s a tall order.
“Going in, we did realize it was going to be a pretty daunting task,” the 26-year-old Nashville resident told HuffPost. “The supply isn’t large and the demand is high. Every community needs a good person who can relate with the youth, but there are not many people out there.” […]
Azhar Azeez is president of the Islamic Society of North America, a national organization that represents the interests of American Muslims. Over the past decade, he said, he’s seen a “paradigm shift” in the qualities mosques are seeking from imams.
“Prior to 9/11, all people would look for is a good reciter of the Quran, someone who can do the basic jobs,” he told HuffPost. “But now, as the community is growing, the needs are also growing.”
The Islamic society’s official magazine, Islamic Horizons, provides listings of mosques looking for spiritual leaders. These days they want individuals who are good communicators and who can be the face of the Muslim community in their respective neighborhoods, Azeez said. They want inclusive imams who will empower women and won’t focus on just one ethnicity or school of thought. And they want imams who are dedicated to interfaith work and social justice. […]
An American woman—presumably not Muslim, though she doesn’t say one way or the other—married to a Libyan man is taken aback when her 9-year-old daughter suddenly wants to start wearing hijab.
This is the story of how conflicted she felt about it, her concerns for her daughter, and how she finally came to terms with all of it.
Nine years ago, I danced my newborn daughter around my North Carolina living room to the music of Free to Be … You and Me, the 70s children’s classic whose every lyric about tolerance and gender equality I had memorised as a girl growing up in California.
My Libyan-born husband, Ismail, sat with her for hours on our screened porch, swaying back and forth on a creaky metal rocker and singing old Arabic folk songs, and took her to a Muslim sheikh who chanted a prayer for long life into her tiny, velvety ear.
She had espresso eyes and lush black lashes like her father’s, and her milky-brown skin darkened quickly in the summer sun. We named her Aliya, which means ‘exalted’ in Arabic, and agreed that we would raise her to choose what she identified with most from our dramatically-different backgrounds.
I secretly felt smug about this agreement — confident that she would favour my comfortable American lifestyle over his modest Muslim upbringing. Ismail’s parents live in a squat stone house down a winding dirt alley outside Tripoli, Libya. Its walls are bare except for passages from the Qur’an engraved on to wood, its floors empty but for thin cushions that double as bedding. […]
As usual, the extremists on both sides agree: Heaven forfend there should be any inter-faith peace and tolerance or positive role models for Muslim kids. Naturally, Daesh also hates it and has called for the murder of its creator.
Added emphasis is mine:
Launched in 2006 - first in Kuwait after the approval of the state’s Ministry of Information, then in America and the rest of the world - The 99 was hailed as an exemplary model of inter-faith peace and tolerance by Barack Obama, and Dr Mutawa was invited to give two TED talks. He has since been featured in Forbes magazine, won prizes in the Gulf region and gained the approval of the Saudi state.
However, for some he is a defender not of peace but of profanity: ironically, he has hardline detractors in both America and the Arab world, though they hate him for opposing reasons. To US conservatives, he is a terrorist and a pawn of hardline Islam; to Islamist Arabs, he is a heretic and a pawn of the liberal West.
Both camps have, in the past decade, warned of the dangers of his creation and called for it to be banned. America’s God-squad even created enough moral panic about “radicalising children” to halt a Hollywood adaptation of The 99 - produced by Endemol and scripted by the teams behind Star Wars, X-Men and Spider-Man - from being shown in US cinemas or on its network television. (This leads Al-Mutawa to joke: “I have a fatwa from Fox News!”)
But now there is a more serious threat from within his home country. While the Kuwaiti government has endorsed his work, not everyone agrees with its message. In the past year, a Twitter campaign has accused him of being a blasphemer who should be brought to trial; and a legal case has been launched against him - not by the state, but by a fellow Kuwaiti suing him for heresy. (If he loses - and he firmly believes he won’t - he could face a prison sentence.) […]
Here’s a clip from several years ago that explains how The 99 got their powers. You can judge for yourselves how horrible it is. //
The all-Islamic super-heroes: Muslim children love 'The 99' comics http://t.co/piCPqTE41L
Rep. John Lewis is living, breathing history. I’m so thankful he’s still with us to witness this day, to remember, and to see the very real difference made by him and all the others who have struggled to improve things for everyone. The only way our debt to them can ever be repaid is to be vigilant, tireless, and unafraid to confront bigotry & injustice wherever we encounter it.
How much things have changed since he and hundreds of others bravely marched across that bridge in Selma, knowing full well that they could be killed for it—by the police whose job is supposed to be to protect citizens. And they did it when there were no smart phones or Twitter or YouTube to share info and record abuse.
While things have changed a great deal, there’s still much work to be done. Events in Ferguson and other places clearly attest to that, and there are people working this very minute to roll back advances that have been made. That can’t be allowed to continue. It’s absolutely intolerable that any American—regardless of race, creed, gender, or sexual preference—should be denied equal protection under the law or have to live in constant fear of those who have been entrusted with the task of protecting & serving all citizens. #MarchOn!
Below is a series of Tweets by Rep. Lewis recalling the events of 50 years ago:
Visit the White House’s Selma to Montgomery: 50 Years Later page to listen to more stories from those who were there.
Below is the C-SPAN video of Rep. Lewis’ and President Obama’s speeches at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. The transcript of President Obama’s remarks is also available now at whitehouse.gov.
Inayat Omarji vividly remembers the worried reaction when he first looked into renovating the abandoned church in his neighborhood: “There’s a bearded young Muslim chap involved in a church! Whoops! He’s gonna turn it into a mosque!”
At the time, Omarji was head of the local council of mosques, but there already were three or four in his neighborhood in Bolton, England.
“What it needed is a place where people could meet, people can come to, people can socialize,” he says.
Omarji and other local Muslims decided to turn the church into a community center for everyone. That was ten years ago. Now, amid stories about religious friction and ethnic tensions, the transformation of All Souls Church provides a story of harmony and integration in one culturally diverse community. […]
Dr, Mehnaz M. Afridi, a scholar and observant Muslim, describes how a visit to Dachau in 2007 as a doctoral student became a defining moment in her professional (and I assume also in her personal) life:
Early in the summer of 2007, a doctoral student named Mehnaz M. Afridi traveled from her California home to a conference in southern Germany. Her official role was to deliver a paper on anti-Semitism in Egyptian literature, a rather loaded subject for a Muslim scholar. Seventy miles away, she had another appointment, and an even riskier agenda.
After the conference concluded, Ms. Afridi drove to the former concentration camp in Dachau, Germany. As she stood before the dun bricks of a crematorium, she prayed. “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un,” she said in Arabic, meaning, “Surely we belong to God and to him shall we return.”
“I didn’t know that moment would be defining my role,” Dr. Afridi, 44, said a few weeks ago. “I didn’t even realize then that I was at a crossroads. People see the Holocaust and Islam as two separate things, but these stories of faith and catastrophe are not opposites. They are companions.”
Dr. Afridi has made these seeming irreconcilables into companions in her life’s work. An assistant professor of religion at Manhattan College, she teaches courses about both Islam and the Holocaust, and she is director of the college’s Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education Center. Her book “Shoah Through Muslim Eyes,” referring to an alternative term for the Holocaust, will be published in July, and she is a member of the ethics and religion committee of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. […]
As you can probably imagine, her stance has also made her a target in some circles, both Muslim and Jewish. Read the rest of her story to find out more:
Muslim Scholar, Looking to ‘Speak the Truth,’ Teaches the Holocaust and Islam
As I attempted to describe in several comments here and here, context makes a world of difference and is something that was sorely missing from Wood’s original article on ISIS, despite it’s detailed long-windedness.
The article below addresses that omission. It’s a bit long, but nowhere near the 10,000+ words of Wood’s original article which, to be quite honest, struck me as yet another example of intellectual Islamophobia—something not very different from “scientific” racism, IMO.
Since Monday, much has been said in print, radio, and television about Graeme Wood’s recent front-page feature piece for The Atlantic entitled “What ISIS Really Wants.” The article, which is lengthy and highly descriptive, and is essentially an exhaustive examination of the ideology that shores up the cruel vision, messages, and tactics of ISIS, the radical militant group currently terrorizing entire sections of the Middle East. But while the article was initially met with widespread praise, it has since become the subject of criticism and even condemnation from several groups, including Muslim academics, scholars of Islamic law, Muslim leaders and high-profile political pundits.
Critics have elucidated a slew of issues with the piece, but many are rooted in quotes by Bernard Haykel, a professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University who Wood quotes extensively to justify his claims. When ThinkProgress spoke with other scholars in Haykel’s field, however, at least one expressed surprise at his involvement with the piece, and indicated curiosity about the scholar’s thoughts on the final product.
With this in mind, ThinkProgress reached out to Haykel, who agreed to an interview to help dispel any misconception that he is trying to score “political” points, explaining, “my approach is a scholarly one and not motivated by an agenda.” He admitted that he had initially read Wood’s article quickly — “it’s a long piece,” he joked — and declined to directly address most of Wood’s claims other than to insist the piece was ultimately “[Wood’s] argument … not my argument.” Still, he didn’t shy away from expanding on some things the author left out or possibly misrepresented, and offered a revealing examination of what’s at stake when fighting ISIS. […]
From the author of the article:
Interesting reactions to my Atlantic/ISIS posts. Many Muslims and Islam scholars? Fans The author, conservatives, random dudes? Not so much
You can put this in the folder right next to the one labeled “Why don’t Muslims speak up—why aren’t they doing anything?” They are doing something, but they’re up against a wily, dedicated enemy with apparently abundant time & resources. They’re trying to figure out what works, as you’ll see if you read the entire article. Added emphasis is mine:
STERLING, Va. — Imam Mohamed Magid tries to stay in regular contact with the teenager who came to him a few months ago, at his family’s urging, to discuss how he was being wooed by online recruiters working for the Islamic State, the extremist group in Syria and Iraq.
But the imam, a scholar bursting with charm and authority, has struggled to compete. Though he has successfully intervened in the cases of five other young men, persuading them to abandon plans to fight overseas, the Islamic State’s recruiting efforts have become even more disturbing, he said, and nonstop.
“The recruiters wouldn’t leave him alone,” Imam Magid said of the young man he met with recently. “They were on social media with him at all hours, they tweet him at night, first thing in the morning. If I talk to him for an hour, they undo him in two hours.”
President Obama on Wednesday described the fight against violent extremism as a “generational challenge” that would require the cooperation of governments, religious leaders, educators and law enforcement. But even before he called on more than 60 nations to join the effort, the rise of the Islamic State and the attacks by homegrown terrorists in Paris, Ottawa, Copenhagen and Sydney, Australia, had jolted American Muslims into action. […]