Sri Lanka Decision To Permit Burials Relief To Muslim Community

The Sri Lankan reaction to the coronavirus pandemic was heavy-handed to say the least. The country’s government took no chances, mandating that all deceased victims of COVID-19 would be cremated, no matter the religious affiliation. In February, the government finally reversed its earlier decision and allowed deceased victims to be buried. This has resulted in a collective sigh of relief from those whose religious beliefs do not allow cremation — Muslims especially.

But Sri Lankan officials stand by their earlier decisions not to authorize burials. They clarified that the virus and disease were not well known at the time, and that scientists were not sure what would cause or relax its spread.

Former MP M.M Zuhair said, “Understandably, the medical experts were not very clear [earlier]. But, subsequent investigations and reports, including by the WHO, said very clearly that burials will not necessarily lead to the spread of COVID-19.”

Zuhair continued, “They were under tremendous psychological pressure of getting infected with COVID-19 as they were worried about the consequences. I am sure many would have avoided normal treatment if they were suspected cases due to the fear that they may be cremated in case they fall victim to COVID. Now the restoration of burials will facilitate the burial of Muslims and others who wish to be buried, and take away the people’s fear to seek treatment if they are suspected of having contracted the virus.”

Even so, officials acknowledge that the more likely reason that coronavirus burial restrictions were lifted was because of the Muslim reaction to cremation — and not because of new information, regardless of the fact that the new information does seem to give the “okay” to those seeking to bury friends and family who succumbed to COVID-19. 

Others believe that the Pakistani Prime Minister’s recent visit also influenced the decision to scrap the cremation mandate.

Should Coronavirus Debts Be Forgiven?

Although the coronavirus pandemic has certainly shifted our focus for the better part of a year, few of us will have forgotten the important conversations we were having before it started. Namely, the question of whether or not we should forgive student loans as the costs of room, board, and tuition all climb sky high. Others are asking whether or not we should forgive all debt in the face of coronavirus — and believe it or not, Muslim Americans are the first ones answering “yes.”

The reason isn’t just based on the semantics of morality or how to live ethically in today’s complex world. It’s based on religion. And it isn’t just a Muslim thing, either.

The Torah explains: “There shall be no needy among you — therefore I command you: open your hand to the poor and needy kin in your land.”

According to the Prophet Muhammad, debts were unacceptable — and those in debt should be forgiven as an important way to experience Allah’s forgiveness. 

A group of religious leaders from different faiths in America — Hatem Bazian, Joanna Lawrence Shenk, Laura Rumpf, and Zarina Kiziloglu — wrote a request for fellow Americans and their leaders to consider forgiving the debts brought about because of coronavirus: “As leaders from the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities in the Bay Area, we call upon state leaders to support all renters and small landlords devastated during the pandemic. Lawmakers took a good first step by extending the statewide eviction moratorium to June 30 and by providing some rental assistance with the passage of Senate Bill 91, but more is needed.”

They added, “Californians are currently more than $3.7 billion behind on rent because of work closures and job loss during the pandemic. The latest federal stimulus package gave California $2.6 billion for rental assistance, but that won’t cover every struggling renter or small landlord.”

The four leaders acknowledged that the debt will only grow between now and the time another stimulus is passed in the Senate — or if, rather — and that lawmakers need to work faster to help those in need.

California’s population was one of the earliest and hardest hit in the United States, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of businesses closing down due to bankruptcy. Maybe we should all fight a little harder to see our debts forgiven in these trying times — or maybe we should simply talk about the benefits of bankruptcy and visit an attorney, in which case we can visit website right now.

The issues experienced by both renters and landlords are compounded by debt collection agencies, who have pounced at opportunities provided by those in need.

Legislative director for the National Association of Consumer Advocates, Christine Hines, said, “The pandemic didn’t change how abusive debt collectors are, it just shows that they are capable of doing even more harm to vulnerable consumers than we thought.”

According to the United States Labor Department, unemployment was 13.3 percent nearly a year ago. The rate should continue falling as the crisis subsides — but that won’t make the debts people owe go away anytime soon.

What It Means To Be Muslim And Gay In Malaysia

Malaysia is known for its tough laws based on religious beliefs. There has been an Islamic ban on “gay sex” (described as “against the order of nature”) for a long time — but one anonymous Malaysian man in his 30s filed a lawsuit against Selangor after he was arrested there for copulating with a man. However, he denies the event transpired, which means we don’t have any reason to assume his sexuality one way or another. 

The important thing to consider is what the man’s victory in court means for other gay Muslims living in Malaysia.

Numan Afifi is the founder of the Palangi Campaign, an unaffiliated LGBT+ rights organization. Afifi said, “This is historic. This is monumental for LGBT+ rights in Malaysia…We want to live in dignity without fear of prosecution. Of course Section 377 is still there — it’s not the end but this is a beginning.”

The Malaysian top court ruled that the ban on sexual intercourse between consenting adults is unconstitutional and provided authorities with no real power to enforce. It was a unanimous decision.

Although the hope is that Selangor state would remove the clause banning sexual intercourse “against the order of nature,” the law remains in place throughout Malaysia, and gay men could still be incarcerated for up to twenty years if charged and convicted. The law is an old facet of British rule. 

The legal challenge was mounted after eleven men were arrested in one home, not for having sexual intercourse with the other men, but for being under suspicion of attempting such. It was a private residence in 2019.

Five of the eleven men pleaded guilty rather than fight the charges in court and face public scrutiny. They were incarcerated, caned, and fined. The brutal punishments for private activities led to an outpouring of support from the LGBT+ community and an outcry from human rights activities around the world.

The Most Important Muslim American Contributions

Sometimes it’s important to recognize the contributions of minority members of our society. That’s for two big reasons: first, they rarely get the credit they earn. And Second, we routinely treat them like they don’t belong in the first place. But without, say, Muslim Americans on our side — America would look very different. Here are only a few of their achievements!

Bampett Muhammad was a Muslim American who fought under General George Washington between 1775 and 1783. Another man was named Yusuf Ben Ali, a North African Arab. Muslim Americans literally helped us win our freedom from the tyrannical British monarchy. Do you know what the first country to recognize the United States as a sovereign nation was? … No? It was Morocco. We’re still great friends. And they’re a predominantly Muslim country.

Muslim Americans are just like everyone else: mostly, they are just looking to get by. For Shahid Khan, that means searching for the American dream — that idea that anyone can work their way up the ladder through hard work and dedication (something not quite true anymore). He came to the United States when he was just sixteen years old, and noted that “Within 24 hours, I had already experienced the American dream.” 

He had found a job washing dishes, for which he was paid only $1.20 an hour. But that was decades ago, and still much more than the vast majority of people who lived and worked back home in Pakistan. Now, Khan is 65 years old and heads an auto-parts company. He is a billionaire — the 360th richest person on Earth. He was once on the cover of Forbes. Who can say he hasn’t contributed to American ideals?

Another Muslim American, Rahman Khan, was named the “Einstein of structural engineering” and created the structural methodology that allowed us to build skyscrapers taller and sturdier. If you love our cities, then you should appreciate the people who made them possible — and they weren’t just blue-collared, red-blooded, white Americans. FYI, the 2009 Trump International Hotel was built on the same foundation of knowledge.

Muslim American and Pakistani-born Ayub Ommaya helped pioneer an intraventricular catheter to deliver drugs directly into your brain. This allowed patients with otherwise untreatable brain tumors to be treated back in the 60s. The man also helped provide a great deal of expertise on TBI when he created a coma score to classify victims of traumatic brain injury. He was also a big deal for the US National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 

Regardless of these contributions, Muslim Americans routinely slip and fall in the eyes of other Americans — for no legitimate reason. The consequences they feel are the result of someone else’s actions. Radical Christian terrorists exist, but we don’t discuss them. Environmental terrorists exist, but we don’t discuss them. That’s because they look too much like the rest of us — and racism and xenophobia guarantee that we only antagonize those who look different

What Muslim Americans Want You To Know

Living as a Muslim American is not easy — especially since 9/11. Muslim Americans are routinely discriminated against not only be individuals, but also by the very institutions and organizations designed to keep the rest of us safe. System racism and xenophobia affect everyone — not just African Americans or minorities. The painful consequences radiate outward toward the rest of society, too.

That’s why most Muslim Americans want you know a few things more than anything else.

At the top of that list is that they are just like you. They want to be able to worship freely, of course, but they also live in America because they believe in the pursuit of happiness — an inalienable right not afforded to them in other countries. They watch the same TV at night, often on the couch eating the very same meals that everyone else does. They grab McDonald’s every once in a while. They listen to American music. 

Do they remember their own culture? Sure. But when someone asks you what your ethnic makeup says, chances are you don’t say “I’m a mutt.” You probably say something only partially true, like “I’m one-quarter Cherokee, one-sixteenth French, and one-third Irish.” We all like to know about the places where we come from.

Another thing important to Muslim Americans? It’s that you don’t lump them all in the same category as radical Islamic terrorists, who they frown upon just as much as you do. They’re Americans. When someone attacks America, they probably get even more frustrated — because justified or not, they take part of the blame.

John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed co-authored the book What a Billion Muslims Really Think to explore the idea. Mogahed says of their findings: “Muslim Americans were the most ethnically diverse, as well as the youngest, faith community surveyed. They face similar social challenges as other American faith communities….Now, they are less politically engaged, but they are equally invested in the country’s welfare.”

This was after conducting a survey of a number of different faith communities living in the United States.

Biden Promise Upheld: Equality Act Passes House Of Representatives

Although primarily described as an LGBTQ bill to eliminate discrimation based on sexual orientation, identity, or gender identity, the Equality Act is a step in the right direction for other minorities as well — all of whom have experienced an increased rate of violent crime under the Trump Administration. The Equality Act passed in the House of Representatives 224-206 with unanimous Democrat support and three Republicans voting for the bill as well. 

Per usual, the majority of Republicans who voted against the bill based their opinions on so-called religious freedom. But Republicans have a difficult time making that story convincing, especially after Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) showed her disdain for Representative Marie Newman’s (D-Illinois) transgender daughter, or former Representative Denver Riggleman’s (R-Virginia) censure at the state level for officiating a same-sex marriage — something which cost him a primary race. 

That’s not to say that all Republicans are distorting or misarticulating their opinions, but religious freedom has never been a strong foundation for arguments condoning discrimination against LGBTQ community members. This is especially true when other minorities get “splashed” by the obvious hatred still pervasive among constituents of the Republican party. 

The bill still has a long way to go if it is to pass in the Senate, where most Republicans — including classy moderate Mitt Romney — and even some moderate Democrats have said they have issues with how the bill is written. That doesn’t mean the bill won’t pass, but if it does it could look very different.

Representative David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) said, “When you tell people that in a majority of states in this country, you can either be kicked out of your apartment, fired from your job, or denied service in a restaurant because you’re gay or in the LGBTQ community, people think that can’t be true.”

The Supreme Court once ruled that a baker did not have to bake a cake to be used in a same-sex marriage on the grounds of religious freedom — but can you even imagine the horrific outcry if businesses started to deny service to Christians based on the lame reasoning presented? 

President Sarah Kate Ellis of GLAAD said, “It is time to move together to ensure LGBTQ peopel have the chance to belong, to participate and to succeed in all areas of American life.”

Even if Democrats can whip together enough votes to achieve a narrow majority in the Senate, the likelihood of beating a ten-vote Republican filibuster would be tough — and there would likely be a filibuster. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy opposes the Equality Act because of how it would affect women’s sports. According to he and a handful of Senate Republicans, the language inside the bill does not differentiate between places of worship and places of accommodation, nor does it take into consideration what would happen to the country’s female sports if gender lines were blurred by equality. Great reasoning — but isn’t it always? Expect another brutal fight in the 2022 midterm elections, and then again in the 2024 presidential race.

What Is President Joe Biden Doing For The Muslim Community?

Former President Donald J. Trump’s reputation was a stain upon the world’s minority communities, a “triumph” he was particularly proud of, especially where it concerned his crackdown on laws protecting groups from discrimination or his executive order banning travel from predominantly Muslim countries (except those where he does business). President Joe Biden has already overturned many of these shame-worthy acts.

And it hasn’t even been a difficult task. Many of Trump’s mandates were made by executive order, which means they can just as easily be erased from the annals of history. One of the biggest reversals is that of the Muslim ban, which Biden already rescinded. This means that the State Department can once again accept visa applications for citizens of those countries. 

The new executive order goes one step further by stating that a proposal to “restore fairness and remedy the harms caused by the bans, especially for individuals stuck in the waiver process and those who had immigrant visas denied” must be crafted and put into law. While the wording is somewhat abstract, it could mean that those who were most affected by the ban will have some sort of legal remedy.

What else has Biden done? He scrapped continued plans to build a border wall, scrapped plans for the extremely controversial oil pipeline from Canada, and rejoined the Paris climate accord. All of these actions could help repair relations not just within our country, but outside of it as well. Our fractured international relationships are on the mend.

Trump targeted many organizations the United States helped build by suggesting we were being treated very unfairly. He said the Paris Climate accord was “unfair” and withdrew based on only that sentiment. But the Paris Climate accord is a nonbinding agreement — a pledge to do better and try to save the world’s ecosystems from seemingly certain doom — and each country sets its own targets. Calling it unfair makes little sense.

How Is Bankruptcy Determined In The Islamic Community?

Bankruptcy is determined differently around the world — and sometimes not recognized at all. This is especially true in predominantly Muslim communities where shari’a law is still used to determine the difference between right and wrong. Here’s the good news for Muslims: financial obligations are crystal clear, although banking is also determined by shari’a law. That means the rules that govern the aforementioned obligations can be strict. It also means that circumventing the obligations might invite serious consequences.

Muslims are supposed to pray, first and foremost, that their financial obligations remain reasonable. This is because Allah is there to help members of the Muslim community pay back any outstanding debts. This also means that requesting a bank loan is perfectly reasonable under shari’a law. Even the Prophet Muhammad was known to have borrowed money on occasion. 

Requesting a loan isn’t as easy as it sounds, though, because Muslims are also asked to avoid interest whenever possible — which, in most cases, means not following through with a loan agreement. Followers should also keep in mind that borrowing must be based on a direct need. That means that Muslims are not permitted by Islam to request a loan for an unnecessary extravagance like a car or home.

Many Muslims have access to a charitable fund — known as “Zakat” — in order to more easily avoid bankruptcy. This fund works through what most of us would define as tithing, although the money donated to the pool is less than the customary ten percent. 

According to Islamic texts, “Whoever takes the money of the people intending to destroy it, God will destroy him.” That means that a person might be judged based on his or her use of money during life on Earth.

When repaying a loan, it’s important to put the family’s well being above all else. This leads to a situation during which bankruptcy is most common for Muslim followers, because sometimes bankruptcy has fewer life-changing consequences for a single family than poverty and debt. There is a single important caveat: even when declaring bankruptcy, a Muslim follower is still expected to repay the debt that got him or her there in the first place. Agreements are an important part of Muslim faith, and they must be upheld no matter what.

When filing for bankruptcy, Muslim followers are also expected to try very hard to arrange for financial assistance or an installment plan as long as a mutually amenable agreement can be made with the original lender. In some rare instances, a debt might be waived under local laws. Ultimately, it comes down to the abilities of the person who must pay off a debt and why the debt was taken on in the first place.

Minority Communities Worried About Political Fragmentation

It’s probably not a huge surprise that the people most worried about recent comments made by divisive figures like Donald Trump or Alex Jones are those who belong to minority communities. Jones was recently accused of inciting violence against those who identify as Democrats — and especially the president — during a Pro-Trump march. At other events, violence between protesters and counter-protesters has led to dozens of arrests.

This is all in the wake of a Texas lawsuit that failed to take much notice after the Supreme Court nonchalantly decided not to hear arguments. The lawsuit in question would have overturned the election results in several swing states that Trump continues to say he won (he didn’t). 

Those who believe in the conspiracy theories suggest that liberals are acting outside of the law, and that their votes were illegally cast.

Conspiracy theorist and InfoWars owner Alex Jones referenced other conspiracy theories as well when he said, “We will never back down to the Satanic pedophile, globalist New World Order and their walking-dead reanimated corpse Joe Biden, and we will never recognize him.”

He continued to spin madness: “President Trump had zero connection to Russians. No proof. Four years of investigation. With the Bidens, it’s open and shut.”

Jones also said that Joe Biden “will be removed one way or another.”

He’s not the only person ranting and raving without the facts to back up the allegations, nor is he the only one condoning violence in the wake of the elections. Rush Limbaugh said that perhaps now is the time for “law-abiding” states to secede, stoking fears of another Civil War, which would have seemed unimaginable a decade ago. 

Should these words turn into action, it’s not difficult to see why members of the Muslim, Hispanic, or LGBTQ communities are worried. When Trump first ran for office, attacks against minority communities rose in parallel.

Rumors Target Muslim Community During Coronavirus

The Muslim community in America has always been treated with a certain amount of disdain, which has led to a great deal of misinformation — and even disinformation — to be circulated on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Many of the newest rumors argue that Muslims are being granted certain special rights not afforded to other groups like Christians or Jews. All of these rumors are completely fake, but some are widely accepted as true — something that has only helped Donald Trump’s crusade against anyone different.

Anti-Muslim sentiments are on the rise around the world, but some of those rooted here in the United States leave us with the most unease. 

One commonly shared Facebook post said that mosques are still open even as churches and synagogues have been shut down. Policies differ depending on state, but many religious gatherings have been closed for the duration of the pandemic — and they’re all treated exactly the same in accordance with the law.

The post in question goes so far as to provide examples of Christian pastors and priests who were arrested for violating the new coronavirus laws. But one of those examples is of a Louisiana pastor and a New York Mosque. Shockingly, the pastor was arrested repeatedly for violating coronavirus laws — but he was also arrested for reckless driving after nearly running over someone who was protesting regular church services. The mosque, however, was closed as soon as New York issued its emergency order limited crowds.

Orlando Family Magazine shared a piece relating Islamophobia to the current age in which everyone must stay indoors or risk spreading the deadly coronavirus infection to older loved ones. Imam Tariq Rasheed acknowledges that many religious ceremonies have changed or been limited to small gatherings, but none has been more difficult on loved ones than the funeral.

He said, “Traditionally the funeral prayers are held at the mosque and a big number of people attend, but in this pandemic funeral prayers are held with only close relatives and friends.”

But even with these restrictions and the rumors flooding the community, some still do their best to ignore the negative and continue to implement the practices that would even more severely limit the aforementioned gatherings. 

Janan Najeeb said of Ramadan: “This is the first time, probably in living memory, that they could not gather for the community prayers in the evening and the breaking of the fast. This is unprecedented. But again, it goes back to the whole concept that the sanctity of life supersedes even worship practices that could put people’s lives in danger.”

Najeeb is executive director for the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition and Islamic Resource Center, and in constant contact with her community — so she’s well aware of their thoughts and concerns.

Najeeb said, “This has also been a time for reflection. There are so many people that have said that actually, in spite of all of these restrictions, this was probably the first Ramadan that so many people felt it was incredibly spiritual to spend it all with family at home, praying together, sitting with your children.”