We live in a world where there is so much news that an important issue that took place only a few months ago is probably already forgotten. Remember Punish A Muslim Day? It was supposed to take place on the 3rd of April 2018. Weeks before an A4 letter was circulating in print and online, encouraging people to earn points by performing certain atrocities against Muslims. You scored 10 points for verbally abusing a Muslim, all the way up to a whopping 2,500 points for dropping a nuclear bomb on the holy Islamic site of Mecca. No one was really sure how you would then cash in these points, or what kind of prizes you could win from your hard earned points.
Police forces all over the UK took this threat seriously. Muslims were asked to be extra vigilant on that day. My wife was concerned for my welfare as I travel to work on public transport. There was even a counter-movement started called Love A Muslim Day. There were a few Islamophobic incidents recorded that day, but no more than usual. In large, thankfully, not much happened. I remember reading many articles about the build-up and aftermath to this non-event, and the best one I came across was from the always brilliant Dean Obeidallah. Selected quotes from his article are presented below. Dean is not just a writer, he is also a stand-up comedian. One of his fellow Muslim stand up colleagues, Hasan Minhaj, had his own take on the entire PAMD fiasco.
Around the same time I was reading the article from Dean I read two other articles, on different subjects, that were also very impressive. Sarah Khan is a travel writer whom I have mentioned before and I mention her again because she wrote a brilliant article about how she visits mosques wherever and whenever she travels.
The third article presented below is from another travel writer, Katherine Lagrave, who describes how one can easily argue that the beauty of the Islamic Hajj pilgrimage is being overtaken by the business of the Islamic Hajj pilgrimage.
As always presented below are selected quotes from these articles, which are worth reading in full. Enjoy!
Why I Visit A Mosque Wherever I Travel
When traveling, mosques around the world become more than just a place to pray.
Sarah Khan, 29 Mar 2018, cntraveler.com
On my first trip to Rome, I did as the tourists do: paid my respects at the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Vatican, and no fewer than a dozen gelato shops. But the memory that lingers strongest a decade later is of boarding a nondescript commuter train to Parioli with my friends to visit the Moschea di Roma, the largest mosque in Europe. Built in 1994 with the blessing of Pope John Paul II, it is a tranquil escape from the eternal frenzy of the Eternal City. We prayed, took pictures, and marveled at walls clad in traditional mosaics juxtaposed with striking contemporary pillars, the result of a collaboration between Iraqi and Italian architects. Then we took the train back to the city for a night out in Trastevere.
I religiously cross major monuments off my tourist checklists, but since my twenties, whether I’m in Buenos Aires or rural Mozambique, Paris or Cape Town, a recurring feature of my travels has become tracking down each destination’s major mosque. I may struggle to navigate through storms of rapid-fire French, Italian, Kimwani, or Malayalam, but when the echoes of a muezzin calling, “Hayya as-salah, Hayya al-Falah” (“Come to prayer, come to success”), descends over me, instantly recognizable despite varying accents and levels of melodiousness, there, too, is a sense of peace.
While I still consider myself an observant Muslim, visiting mosques is about something more than religious devotion; it’s a way for me to connect with Muslims throughout the world…I ask someone which direction the qibla is, to face the Kaaba in Mecca, or where to perform wudu, the ablution required before prayer: Islam 101 becomes an ice breaker.
I’ve lived in five countries on three continents and, as a travel journalist, so much of my life is spent in transit that my comfort zone is not any one city or country but somewhere at 30,000 feet. Even if I’m not quite sure where home is, I know I’ll find it in some form whenever I hear the adhaan, the call to prayer that rings out from mosques five times a day. In the unpredictable madness of travel, a mosque is my sanctuary. It’s the one place I know I’m guaranteed history, smiles, art, and a moment of peace. And then it’s back to the next hotel, the next train, the next airport—and the next mosque.
The Beauty—And Business—Of The Hajj
Piety, profit, and their intersection at one of the world’s biggest religious gatherings.
Katherine Lagrave, 29 Mar 2018, cntraveler.com
And while the rituals required know no gender, the difficulties with each step vary greatly by person…For Murtaza Sutarwalla, a Houston-based attorney who went on hajj with his wife in 2012, it was spending the night under the stars on the plains of Muzdalifah—no tents, no roof over your head, no bed beyond a straw mat or cardboard, wearing only ihram. It took Sutarwalla some eight hours to reach Muzdalifah, but in a journey lies a reward. “That night, as I fell asleep after the longest and most tiring day of my life, the thought hit that for all of the material things we chase, as long as one has that inherent connection to God, there is nothing more that one really needs. I had the most wonderful sleep that night in my entire life,” he says.
For many who have completed hajj, though, the thought of doing it all again is met with a mix of apprehension and excitement…Says Mohammed Khan, who also writes about religion and travel for the online publication Sacred Footsteps: “The experience I had after I finished it was that I never wanted to do it again. It’s so tiring. It’s so crowded. It’s busy. It’s hot. It’s not a very comfortable situation to be in. But at the same time, you think back, and despite all of those things you went through, it’s a really uplifting experience. It’s a completely different world. It’s something that you don’t know what it is, but you have that feeling [of wanting] to go back.”
To some pilgrims, that high volume of people all trying to accomplish the same things can feel dangerous at times. “It gets kind of violent, unintentionally,” says Ali. “People come to pilgrimage for thousands of reasons. Many come out of desperation—they’re looking for hope—and they will do anything. They’ll push each other, they’ll shove each other, they’ll step on each other. It’s so ironic, because they’re there for a religious purpose, to cleanse their soul, and out of their own desperation, they forget humanity. And that is one of the most interesting facets [of the experience] to observe.”
For Mahmood, Hajra’s husband, this me-first mentality is at odds with the true intent of the hajj. “In the context of how the prophet wanted hajj to be performed, there’s a clear contradiction in how people behave today,” he says. “Though we complete the hajj—all the requirements, all the rituals—there is a very clear understanding that that itself does not indicate that you have accomplished the goal of hajj. You may complete the rituals, but you have not completed hajj, because you have transgressed the duties in a way that you have ignored the most important things, which is humanity. Kindness. Showing respect to others, and taking their needs into account. And at the end of the day, God is the only entity that can say, ‘Yes, you were successful in your hajj.’”
It’s ‘Punish A Muslim Day.’ Or, As We Muslims Call It, Every Day.
A flier declares today, April 3, ‘Punish a Muslim’ Day in the U.S. and the U.K., offering 100 points for beating up a Muslim. But it’s not as if everything will be fine on April 4.
Dean Obeidallah, 03 Apr 2018, thedailybeast.com
Trump’s words and actions have truly helped make every day “punish a Muslim” day. We have witnessed a bone-chilling increase in hate crimes against Muslims since Trump began his campaign. In 2016 alone there was a documented spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes to levels that surpassed what we saw in the year after 9/11. Think about that for a moment: There were more hate crimes against Muslim Americans in terms of physical assaults during Trump’s run for president than after a terror attack involving Muslims that took nearly 3,000 lives.
Sure, there were anti-Muslim hate crimes before Trump. But Trump’s demonization of Muslims is like nothing we ever saw before by a major party-political candidate, and that is a big part of the reason for the spike.
And beyond these hate crimes, the sense of an almost daily “punish a Muslim” day in America comes from the growing trend we see from the media normalizing or ignoring anti-Muslim hate. For example, there’s a major federal terrorism trial going on right now in Kansas. Why haven’t you heard about it? Simple: The terrorists are not Muslims. Rather, they are Trump supporting white supremacists who plotted to kill American Muslims. But the mainstream media simply doesn’t cover these trials with the same intensity as when a Muslim is a defendant.
Even in entertainment media we are seeing a normalization of anti-Muslim hate. Roseanne Barr has a documented history of spewing anti-Muslim bigotry (as well attacks on other communities), from retweeting claims that Islam is the same as Nazism to her ginning up fear of Muslims by tweeting about “Islamic rape pedo culture.” Yet ABC rebooted her TV show and has refused to denounce or even comment on her history of anti-Muslim hate. (My inquiries to ABC’s publicist for the show have gone unanswered.)
So while April 3 might be designated by some right-wing bigots as “punish a Muslim” day, that’s been happening almost daily since Trump ran for president. The result, however, is that the Muslim American community is more resilient than ever, with our community thriving and growing through it all.