Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fighting for the Right to Wear Hijab: Sisters of the Delaware County Prison

Carmen Sharpe-Allen, despite a good performance record, was fired in December 2005, from the Delaware County Prison (Pennsylvania) after a meeting with Warden Ronald Nardolillo.


Because she would not remove her khimar while on duty as a nurse at the prison.

Prison officials are being accused of violating workplace discrimination laws by firing Sister Carmen. A Federal lawsuit has been brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Sister Carmen and other female Muslim employees at the prison.

The Geo Group Inc., is the Florida-based private company that operates the Delaware County Prison.

An Associated Press article states that "(The prison) has forced its Muslim female employees to compromise their religious beliefs by removing their khimars while on duty or risk termination," according to the federal suite. The prison instituted the ban on head scarves in early 2005, the suite said."

The photo I have chosen for this post is of my Muslim sister's daughter. She is three years old, Masha Allah.

She was so happy that I wanted to photograph her in her little hijab, Alhamdulillah.

Insha Allah she will be able to always know the joy of wearing hijab due to the courage of Muslim sisters like those who work at the Delaware County Prison.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Inserting Culture Into Islam

Alhamdulillah, the month of Ramadhan is here!

But one issue bothers me every year. It has to do with the community iftaars at the masjid.

I have been to a few different masjids where it is the practice to have the men go through the line and eat before the women.

Where does this come from?

Is there an Islamic basis for this?

If so, someone please show me the daleel because it really burns me up. I think it may have more to do with culture, than with Islam.

At my current masjid, there are at least 5 women/children to every man.

While the men are going through the line, the children are usually crying because they are anxious to eat. The sisters have resorted to sending their children through the line with a father, older brother, etc.

We have two floors at the masjid. As is the case at most masjids, the men are upstairs (in a large, roomy area), and the women are downstairs (in a small, cramped space). We used to have the food upstairs and downstairs. There was no problem then. But then I suppose that someone thought it was too much work to haul the food upstairs to the men.

The solution?

Have them come downstairs and go through the line first.

I remember sometime ago, watching a TV documentary about food aid to poor countries, some of them Muslim countries. They mentioned that one of the problems was that when the food aid got to the villages, towns, etc., the men ate first and not much at all was left for the women and children. They were still starving. I felt angry hearing that.

argggggggggggggggggg! I know I am complaining. But ...

I just don't think there is an Islamic basis for this. If there is, someone please tell me and I will ask Allah for forgiveness.

The adab of America is "ladies first" lol!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Human Costs of the Iraq War

On this, the 6th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the United States, the sobering human costs of the Iraq War to date are (minimum figures):

U. S. Military - 3,774
U. K. Military - 169
"Other" - 129
U. S. Wounded - 36,943
Self-Inflicted - 122
Iraqi Civilians - 71,720 - 78,296
Journalists - 155
Contractors - 414


No group of people has suffered more than the Iraqi people in the "War on Terror".

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


This image is from a poster for director Hina Khan's film, Jihad - Struggling With Islam. The film documents her personal jihad, her inner struggle, with her own faith and identity after the events of 9/11.

Many people do not understand that the term "jihad" has a meaning separate from that used by media and uninformed people. Jihad is mistakenly referred to as "holy war". Say the word jihad and images are conjured up of car bombs, expoding buildings, bearded men yelling "Allahu Akbar" and on and on. There is no such thing as a holy war in Islam.

Why am I writing about jihad?

Well, as my blog suggests, part of my name is Jihad. It is my husband's name. The Quran tells Muslims that we should keep the name of our fathers. My birth name is Sharon Elayne Levine. When I married my husband, I did not take his name as my last name. Rather, I inserted it before my father's name. Thus, I use the name of S. E. Jihad Levine. Among Muslims and close friends, I am known as "Safiyyah".

A friend of mine asked me to write a book review and back cover blurb for a Musim author who will soon be publishing her first book.

When I received the manuscript, it was badly in need of content and copy edit. It had numerous errors about Islam and the grammar was horrible. The author's first language is not English. So, I spent many hours and exchanged a number of emails in order to tighten up the manuscript. I then wrote a long review for the author to use for marketing purposes. Also did the blurb for the back cover. After many hours of work, I sent a good draft to the author and to my friend for their review. I didn't charge for this work. I did it as a favor for my friend. I also did it for the exposure. All I asked of the author was that she keep by byline intact when sending out the review. My byline included my name: S. E. Jihad Levine.

Well! The author sent an email to my friend stating that she was "alarmed" when she saw the word "jihad" in my name. She feels it may jeopordize what she is trying to achieve. And what is she trying to achieve?

She wants to market her book mainly to non Muslims. Muslims are not her target audience. The characters of her book are Muslims. She wants to present Islam in a positive light.

"Jihad" in someone's name may put off the non Muslims.

So, she asks, would I be willing to change my byline to "Safiyyah Levine" or "J. Levine".

No, I am not willing to sanitize my name for the non Muslims.

What is up with this internalized Islamophobia in some Muslims? Examples of it include:

1. Changing a Muslim name to an "American" one, i.e., Samir to Sammy, Mohammad to Moe, etc.
2. Not wearing a hijab.
3. Not wearing a beard.
4. Celebrating non-Islamic holidays, i.e., Christmas, Mother's Day, etc.

I'm sure you can think of more examples.

No non Muslim I know is put off by my name. As a matter of fact, my non Muslims friends think my name is comical ... a Muslim name and a Jewish name put together.

And I have never had a Muslim editor ask me to change/delete my Jewish name of "Levine".

Good thing my husband's name is not Sadaam or Osaama!