Are Muslims Allowed To Engage In Estate Planning?

Many people understand that Muslim Americans still live by a code, much of it having to do with the principles and values that are dictated by the Quran and Islamic community. Muslims living in other countries might be bound by more strict rules or even sharia law, but Muslims living in America do have a greater number of options when planning for the future. Even though Muslims are allowed to engage in estate planning practices, they can experience discrimination when trying.

This is because many American lawyers simply are not well versed in Islamic practices — and, in fact, they are hesitant to do the extra work or ask their clients out of fear for their own reputations. 

While it is true that family estate planning for a Muslim client will likely differ somewhat from a lawyer’s average client, these differences should not dissuade lawyers from taking on new clients from a subsection of our American society that is already left out. 

Estate planning lawyers who are interested in providing services to these underrepresented individuals need not worry — there is plenty of information out there, much of it provided by the American Bar Association. Estate Planning for the Muslim Client is an especially useful resource developed for exactly this reason. It provides valuable information about issues that might arise due to religious principles and legal policies, and how property will likely be distributed upon a client’s death.

Planning for the future is not always only a burden for the lawyers who must draft relevant documents, but also for Muslim Americans who might not know the extent of the synergy between Islamic values and American law. There are many attorneys who provide the majority of their services to Muslim clients. If you live in a larger area, you might have no trouble finding one.

Either way, there is no need for the process to be so stressful!

This is what you can expect: first, ask an estate planning lawyer about their experience drafting documents for Muslim clients. If they have no experience, ask if they are willing to learn the process with you. You can set an appointment once you find the right lawyer. The lawyer will likely email you relevant information about estate planning laws. You should take the time to review as much as you can in order to ask questions about anything that seems confusing.

Most estate planning meetings take anywhere from an hour to an hour-and-a-half, but you should be prepared to budget more time if your lawyer is unfamiliar with your needs. Be prepared to conduct this meeting online if in-person meetings are difficult due to COVID-19.

During the meeting, you will discuss the size of your estate, potential beneficiaries you would like to add to your plan, a living trust, last will and testament, power of attorney, etc. 

Once an agreement is solidified, you and a witness will sign the agreement in front of a notary. This will conclude your business!

Racist Incidents Rising Due To Coronavirus

Americans listening to Donald Trump know exactly who to blame for coronavirus: China (even though that’s not even definitively true). It shouldn’t be a surprise. He continually called it “Kung Flu” during his last campaign event in Tulsa (even though coronavirus isn’t a strain of flu. It seems there’s more than enough blatant racism to go around, though, because anti-Muslim sentiment is on the rise as well.

This is especially true in India.

And it’s nothing new. The Washington Post noted that “the desire to blame calamity on those who are different” is seemingly in our blood. There is a Muslim minority in India, where the blame for spreading the dangerous coronavirus has been laid squarely at their feet. The African minority in China has been blamed for helping to spread the virus as well. (How ironic that must be in the eyes of Americans!) The Hazara is a minority in Pakistan. It too has been blamed.

Charlie Campbell has studied prejudice for a long time. He said, “It’s just a lot easier if you can whip up hatred against someone else. It’s the idea of the bad apple rather than the forgotten barrel.”

One Indian soldier with an Islamic background was targeted and physically assaulted after being blamed. His son, Akib Hussain, said, “You spend 26 years serving the country, and then you get treated like this just for being a Muslim.”

In the United States, the irony of this prejudice is even more impactful. It seems that one person will place blame on an outsider, while another will deny the very existence of the virus in the first place, only to then invoke the name of God to avoid wearing a mask to save others. Jesus would probably be wearing a mask — but then again, he’d probably avoid casting out entire groups of people for their ethnic backgrounds. 

Coincidentally, most of those Americans responsible for these prejudices are firmly in the conservative Christian camp.

What Is Diya Compensation And When Is It Applied?

Most Americans have probably never heard of “Diya,” but the word is used primarily in Islamic law and translates to something like “blood money” or “ransom.” That might sound somewhat dire or unforgiving, but the truth is that the Western civilization has a better known counterpart that serves the same purpose (which is to financially compensate those injured by another party through gross negligence). 

That’s what happens when someone in the United States makes a personal injury claim, but requests punitive damages. The case is built because one party has injured another party either physically or mentally and wants fair compensation. But punitive damages are only awarded when the judge determines that the negligence was so very gross that further punishment is the fairest and most just path forward. In this way, punitive damages and Diya are somewhat similar.

But they are also different.

Diya, for instance, is derived from religion. The Qur’an states: “It is not for a believer to kill a believer unless by mistake. He who hath killed a believer by mistake must set free a believing slave, and pay the diya to the family of the slain unless they remit it as a charity.” Diya is also described in the Hadith.

Unlike Western law, Islamic believers think of homicide or manslaughter as “civil” in nature. It’s not for the government of a state or country to implement punishment. It’s for the two parties involved in the civil dispute to sort it out for themselves using the natural order, i.e. Islamic law based on religious texts. Therefore, prosecution of such a crime falls to the injured party.

You might already understand the most obvious of differences between punitive law and Diya: one is controversial, the other is not. Diya is often associated with sharia law, but they are not technically the same. Sharia law still takes place in the court, whereas “Diya” is more like an out-of-court settlement between the two parties. Generally, “damages” associated with the “Diya” aren’t up for interpretation and have a fixed value dependent on a number of factors (a value which changes if one party is not Muslim).

Diya is still practiced in countries like Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. Under this system, the family of a victim might request Diya (a settlement payment) instead of a state-sanctioned execution as punishment. In Saudi Arabia, however, the Diya can be collected after someone is murdered, but the judgment is made in sharia court.

Many human rights activists also take note that when Diya is calculated, discrimination becomes obvious. The price for a murdered man, for example, is much higher than the price for a murdered woman. Others have opposed the system based on the obvious flaw: it allows murderers to walk free after paying what amounts to little more than a fine.

Violence Across Delhi Fuels Anti-Muslim Sentiments In India

Sectarian tensions have been boiling throughout Indian cities for decades — and it seems like those sentiments are about to erupt in violence unlike anything the country has seen so far. One man couldn’t even make his way home from work without running into one Delhi battle royale. Kaushar Ali came across two groups of Hindu and Muslim followers who were blocking the street as they fought, throwing rocks and hurling curses.

Ali is Muslim, but he didn’t join the fray. Instead, he called on the police. Officers quickly arrived at the scene only to brutally assault him in the process of breaking up the mob. One of the men who they struck died after spending two nights in critical condition at a nearby hospital.

Ali described the confusion and barbarism he experienced at the scene. “The police were toying with us,” he said. 

Police said the opposite. According to officers on the scene, they “saved” Ali from the other protestors. And of course the violence shows no sign of abating even during the severity of the novel coronavirus outbreak that has put the whole of India on lockdown.

This is hardly the first time in modern history during which groups of people have turned to violence in order to have their voices heard, minority or otherwise. Surely, it isn’t the first time these groups have accused police of inciting even worse violence. The 1992 Los Angeles riots broke out shortly after the trial of four police officers accused of beating Rodney King — who was African American — to death. They were exonerated. For at least six days, there was widespread panic and violence in the city.

Even today, the group Black Lives Matter (BLM) has shown that police routinely get away with violence and murder perpetuated against minority groups.

Elsewhere, Muslims are also being victimized in China. Massive “re-education camps” have forced thousands — or even millions — of Muslims into a routine of psychological indoctrination that shows no sign of ending. Chinese government officials have downplayed reports regarding these camps or the torturous methods used during interrogations. 

Many human rights groups have accused Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of helping to perpetuate the cycle of violence in Delhi by doing little to prevent the police under his command from stopping. There are no real consequences. 

“There’s a method to [Modi’s] madness,” says one Muslim activist, Umar Khalid. “The government wants to bring the entire Muslim community to their knees, to beg for their lives and beg for their livelihoods. You can read it in their books. They believe India’s Muslims should live in perpetual fear.”

Modi, of course, has done little more than tweet his opposition to the violence. 

 

Chinese Muslims May Be Forced Into Slave Labor For Nike And Apple

We’ve already discussed some of the treatment of Muslims in China to compare and contrast what it’s like to live in countries other than the United States. But reports out of China have given us cause to fear for those who live there. Chinese officials have responded to reports of Muslim interment with callous indifference more than anything else — but how will they respond to reports of slavery?

As shocking as such a statement is regarding the civilized world, it appears to be the truth.

The Chinese factory Qingdao Taekwang Shoes Co. is an enormous supplier for popular United States brand Nike — and in fact the supplier of popular Shox, Air Max, and more. Reports suggest that many Muslims who are currently working in the factories had no choice but to attend.

The Communist Party of China has been accused of placing those who identify as Muslim Uighurs into interment camps to “re-educate” them how to be Chinese. According to party officials, the vast majority of these individuals have “graduated” and are now living freely. But not everyone is sure that’s the case. It seems that part of their graduation — which is really just forced assimilation into Chinese culture — might be directed labor, which is little different from slavery in a first-world country.

Part of the justification provided for placing Muslims in these camps was the reduction of poverty. But one of the more obvious reasons is to increase the party’s control of its citizens.

An Uighur woman described her plight: “We can walk around, but we can’t go back [to Xinjiang] on our own.”

The program seems designed to create a cult-like atmosphere among the Muslim participants. Common messages adorning the workplaces say things like “stay loyal to the party.” When you hear something again and again, it has a psychological effect — and indeed, you begin to believe that’s what you should do or that something you know to be a lie is actually the truth. 

One vendor said, “Everyone knows they did not come here of their own free will. They were brought here.”

Another said, “The Uighurs had to come because they did not have an option. The government sent them here.”

But the worst part is that the apparently forced labor has benefitted at least 80 well-known brands operating all over the world. This information was provided by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (or ASPI), which is set to release a report on working conditions.

ASPI author Vicky Xiuzhong said, “The Chinese government is now exporting the punitive culture and ethos of Xinjiang’s ‘re-education camps’ to factories across China.”

Trump To Extend Racist Travel Ban Targeting Muslim Countries

The Trump administration has certainly made its mark upon our society, fragmenting whatever was left of the illusion that we can all get along with those who believe differently. Now, the country is as divided as ever. One of Trump’s most controversial moves was implementing the initial ban on travel from several predominantly Muslim countries — except for the ones his organizations did business with, of course. 

It was a move that didn’t make much sense if the goal was keeping America safe. It’s not difficult for citizens of the targeted countries to bounce around until they make it to the states, if ever they were a danger at all. And while radicals — foreign-born and domestic — will always be a danger, they don’t belong to any one religion. America has more domestic terrorism than any other country in the world, and no one blames Christianity for it.

Trump now plans to take the ban to an entirely new group of people: African immigrants.

According to Politico, many of the countries on the list are in Africa. They suspect that Eritrea, Sudan, Tanzania, and even Nigeria may be on the list. Why is the ban necessary?

Acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, said, “We’re establishing criteria that all foreign governments must satisfy to assist DHS in vetting foreign nationals seeking to enter our country … For a small number of countries that lack either the will or the capability to adhere to these criteria, travel restrictions may become necessary to mitigate threats.”

The argument shows little in the way of sensibility, but it’s what they went with the last time they instituted a travel ban and had to fight to have it upheld in the Supreme Court, so they might as well try the same one again.

From 1975 to 2016, it seems no one who was born in any of the proposed countries has ever killed an American as an act of terror. That’s why the Wall Street Journal reported there might be a different reason. Many travelers from some of the targeted countries have a disproportionately high incidence of overstaying their visas. So chalk it up to the fight against immigration, maybe.

Center for America Progress expert Tom Jawetz argued that if the laws were targeting immigrants, it wasn’t fair to those who worked within the confines of the system. Why punish everyone just to prevent the few who might overstay from entering the country? The Atlantic suggests that there might be still another reason: the 2020 elections require someone new, because we’ve already taken care of Latinos and Muslims.

Muslim Whistleblower for China’s Humanitarian Crisis

Documents relating to the mass detention of Muslims in China were recently released by a whistleblower who revealed herself as Asiye Abdulaheb. The 46-year-old woman wants the world to know not only what is happening in those facilities, but also what she went through to get the word out: she reportedly received numerous death threats in the days before those documents were revealed by the journalists she had contacted.

She said, “I thought that this thing has to be made public. The Chinese police would definitely find us. The people in Dubai had told my ex-husband, ‘We know all about your matters. We have a lot of people in the Netherlands.’”

The documents describe in detail how Chinese authorities successfully constructed those camps. More than that, they show how the Chinese justified them.

In the U.S., whistleblowers actually stand to make quite a lot of money in certain cases. A qui tam whistleblower lawsuit occurs whenever a whistleblower is rewarded for monies lost by the United States government due to fraudulent activity. “Qui tam” is part of a popular latin saying: “qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur.” The entire phrase means: “he who brings an action for the king as well as for himself.” Whoever named this particular measure was a clever girl. 

This kind of whistleblowing is thanks to the False Claims Act (FCA), which allows a whistleblower (always protected under federal law) to report fraudulent misdeeds made against the government through simple civil action in court. If the qui tam whistleblower wins the lawsuit, they can be awarded up to 30 percent of the monies recovered. Those who commit fraud against the United States government usually go big or go home, so this is a potentially lucrative opportunity for a whistleblower.

But what about when the illegal activity is conducted by the government? In Abdulaheb’s case, there’s not much she can do to protect herself. Even in the U.S., where we have strict whistleblower laws (which are now coming into scrutiny alongside the investigation into President Trump), those laws are sometimes put aside in favor of “national security.” In China, she has no protection at all.

Abdulaheb did not reveal how she leaked 24 pages of sensitive Chinese documents, or who else was involved. She knows the Chinese are after that information. But she used to work for the Chinese government in Xinjiang, a province notorious for its role in the crackdown of certain Muslim populations.

She said that Chinese officials attempted to recruit her husband in an effort to uncover information on the links in the whistleblowing chain.

 

Persecution Of Muslims Skyrocketing All Over The World

Historically, various religious groups have had a difficult time — especially as they warred with one another in struggles for land or recognition. These days, Muslims have fared poorly after events like 9/11 or the election of Donald J. Trump. But sometimes it’s important to look outside of just the United States and ask ourselves how groups of people are faring elsewhere in the world. Turns out, Muslims are having a rough time right now.

For example, the Los Angeles Times recently reported a story “For Muslims in India, ‘entire neighborhoods have gone empty in fear.’”

The worst examples show Muslim students pretending to be Hindu in order to escape Indian police — a tactic that rarely works. One student, Banka, was present at Jamia Millia Islamia, a university in New Delhi where at least 100 others were injured when police resorted to extreme violence. The question is why.

Banka himself incurred a fractured nose and bruised eye. “I was broken,” he said. “I was telling them, ‘I may die. Please leave me here.’”

A new law regarding Indian citizenship has provoked the widespread unrest because opponents of the law believe it unfairly targets Muslims. Human rights groups have organized protests against the law — and against police, who have been specifically targeting libraries and universities like the aforementioned.

At the head of these allegations is none other than Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi, who has attempted to crack down on large public gatherings and protests, and even gone so far as to block internet access to impede the efforts of protesters. Worse than that, the reduced resources mean that it’s more difficult for protesters to report unlawful acts committed by the police.

Muslim citizens account for 14 percent of the population in India — or 182 million people, more than half that of America’s 330 million citizens. That’s a pretty big segment of the population to discriminate against.

Banka had only been present at the library for an interview, but was caught in the chaos of a nearby skirmish between protesters and police, who raided the library instead. 

“They broke everything and started beating us inhumanely,” Banka said. “It was unexpected. I have never seen people entering like this inside the campus — inside the library — and beating students.”

He saw a fellow student lying prostrate on the ground of the bathroom. “I thought he was dead,” Banka said. “It was a helpless situation. I couldn’t help him because I was also bleeding.”

These crackdowns are ongoing and show no signs of slowing down. Which means they could get much worse before they get any better.

TIME Reports On China’s Detention Camps

There’s a lot of debate over whether the United States should really be wading into another country’s political business — especially as our own anger boils because of Russian involvement in our own 2016 elections (and the unfounded conspiracy theories of Ukranian involvement). But China’s sometimes extremely violent protesters have become associated with democracy in China, and so it’s almost inevitable that the voice of the United States is heard.

This makes the here and now perhaps the best time to open up a discussion on Muslim internment camps currently operating in China’s western province of Xinjiang — and how they might compare to the “detention” camps along our own southern border, used to hold migrants flooding into the United States for longer than we legally have any right to hold them (by law).

TIME revealed that it gained access to China Cables, “a cache of classified government papers published by the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) on Sunday.”

According to those cables, the Muslim “camps must adhere to a strict regiment of total physical and mental control, a gruelling diet of political indoctrination, vice-like security protocols, strict secrecy and ‘labor skills training’ for longer-serving inmates.”

In a direct parallel to someone whose name you know so well, China’s government called the leaked cables “fake news.”

The same government had initially hid those camps from the international community. When the tide of evidence became so overwhelming that China’s government no longer found the coverup politically tenable, they admitted to their existence, describing them as training centers instead. China says the camps are aimed at the fight against terrorism.

But that’s not what those detained say. Orynbek Koksebek, a 39-year-old Chinese citizen, says he was arrested in November 2017, shortly before he was sent to one of the internment camps. His stories are harrowing at best and terrifying at worst. Koksebek says it was all about indoctrination through propaganda. The officers forced him to learn Chinese, interrogated, and tortured him.

During one such interrogation, “he was thrown into a hole in the ground, doused with cold water and severely beaten.” Eventually, he tried to commit suicide unsuccessfully.

Other inmates tell similar stories of torture, rape, and more.

Koksebek told TIME, “Whenever we saw a bird or a dog outside, we felt jealous of their freedom. Our fate felt endless.”

Postdoctoral research specialist for the Xinjiang crisis Darren Byler at the Center for Asian Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder said, “I’ve seen numerous police reports that indicate a person was detained because they were part of a Quran Study Group.”

This situation shouldn’t be ignored, because it provides valuable insight into the slippery slope that President Trump has our country tumbling down. First immigrants are detained. Who’s next?

The History of Anti Muslim in Texas

Texas is all over the map when it comes to the treatment of Muslims, whose faith in the practices of Islam has hardly been scratched by the constant onslaught of negativity — especially when devout Muslim and Pakistani immigrant Salman Bhojani was elected to the Euless City Council last year. Sometimes xenophobia doesn’t work out as planned. Sometimes it only makes our very mistakenly perceived enemies all the stronger.

So how did Texas get to this point? Here’s some recent history of anti-Muslim behavior in Texas (and examples of why there’s light at the end of the tunnel).

  • Ex-FBI agent John Guandolo wrote up and taught a program called “Understanding the Jihadi Threat to America.” The obviously anti-Muslim activist tried to make a sales pitch to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE), which subsequently shut down any chance for law enforcement to take part in the “training.”

    According to TCOLE director Kim Vickers: “I and my executive staff agree that not only was the material presented concerning in its overly broad characterization of an entire subset of the population, but it provided no training value for law enforcement attendees.”

    Separately, Vickers wrote that she nixed the course because it “paint[ed] an entire religion with an overly broad brush.”

  • Last year, a northern Texas council member, Tom Harrison, made a number of anti-Muslim posts on Facebook, asserting that President Trump should ban any Islamic education practices in the public school system.

    Subsequently, Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere and the rest of the council voted to publicly admonish Harrison for making the unwanted commentary. LaRosiliere said: “Mr. Harrison’s conduct is unbefitting a council member to serve our diverse community. I find this Facebook post abhorrent and believe this is a stain on our city and does not represent who we are.”

  • In 2017, a mosque in Victoria, Texas was burned to the ground by an arsonist who was later charged with a hate crime. Only two weeks earlier, Texas State Representative Kyle Bierdmann sent out a hate-charged poll to numerous Muslim organizations requesting information about their involvement with, or support for, the Muslim Brotherhood. Bierdmann said the survey would root out “radical Islamic terrorism in Texas.”

    Imam Yasir Fazaga of the Islamic Center of Brushy Creek said, “We feel betrayed and singled out and absolutely discriminated against — that’s not what we expect from our elected officials. The best way to overcome all this is to get to know one another. We will not be intimidated by this tactic.”

  • Earlier this year the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-DFW) requested that the Denton County Republican Party cancel one of John Guandolo’s extremist rallies and to ignore yet another of his “training” sessions, this one called “What is Islam & What Are Its Declared Objectives?”

This video highlights xenophobia, racism, and ethnic tensions present between home-grown militant groups and the Islamic faith. For mature viewers: