Newsletter #149 – What “Minority Practices” Should We Value?

A lawsuit was recently filed against Canadian government policy that anyone being sworn in as a Canadian citizen do so with their faces fully exposed. A Pakistani woman, who covers her face with a niqab where only her eyes show, is challenging this policy.

It has been noted by the government lawyers that the woman “had removed her veil to get a driver’s licence…[and that she also]… declined an offer to take the oath at the front or the back of the citizenship court,” so that no one could see her face.

With regard to women’s coverings, there is a spectrum of styles as well as interpretations about whether it is an Islamic religious mandate. In Tennessee, Islamists that claim the exclusive right to definitively answer questions like this also say there is no single mandate about how women cover themselves, if at all.


      Remziya Suleyman, Director of the (Muslim) American Center for Outreach (ACO),and self-proclaimed “Muslim voice of Tennessee,” loosened her hijab recently while traveling overseas.

Members of the Muslim Canadian Congress say that the “hijab has nothing to do with morality” but has become a tool for both political and religious operatives.

CAIR lawyer Zahra Billoo says:

billoo flag of islam

Mohammed Khan, a naturalized U.S. citizen trying to join ISIS, was arrested two weeks ago at Chicago O’Hare airport. What does his mother’s picture below communicate about the ideology that may have informed Mohammed’s decision?

Mohamed Khan's parents

Mohamed Khan’s parents

During a television interview, the lawyer suing over the citizenship ceremony open face policy said that the policy reflects the government not valuing a minority practice. So, which “minority practices” should we value and who and what determines that?

Cultural vs. religious

What some Muslims claim are religious mandates others in Islam say are simply cultural practices. Should cultural practices yield to public policy?

For example, there has been plenty of debate about whether female genital mutilation (FGM) is a cultural practice or Islamically sanctioned. The same question has been asked with regard to child marriage, polygamy and treatment of women under Islam.

If FGM is, as some Islamic scholars say, religiously permissible but not obligatory, should that determine whether it can be outlawed? What if religious scholars hold that FGM is obligatory? A Gatestone Institute report notes that:

“[among] the four recognized Sunni schools of Islamic jurisprudence, we find that FGM is now considered obligatory by adherents of the Shafi’i school of Islamic law, including many Arabs as well as Sunni Kurds…FGM is seen as virtuous but not required by the fundamentalist Hanbali school… as a custom acceptable according to the desire of the husband by the Hanafi school.. an implied but not a specified practice in Maliki religious law…”


Head scarf or fully veiled? Genitally mutilated or not? Cultural or religious? Either way, it represents only one ideology and everything that goes along with it.





Newsletter #103 – FGM Kurdish Style

“Dropping the Knife” is a 2013 BBC documentary aimed at exposing the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Kurdistan. The trailer starts:

“Kurdistan, the safest and most prosperous region of Iraq.  But for years, the country  harbored a secret.  Many of its women have been cut in the name of religion.  Few in the outside world knew that female genital mutilation existed here until a charity launched a campaign with the help of local filmmakers to tell women’s stories.”

The documentary addresses the social, cultural, and religious beliefs that support the practice of FGM.  The film pointedly asks whether “enough is being done to end the practice in Kurdistan” since only very recently have steps been taken to halt this savage, dehumanizing practice.

Studies by the Human Rights Ministry of Iraqi Kurdistan, WADI (a German-Iraqi human and women’s rights organization) put the numbers anywhere from 40.7% – 57% of girls that have been mutilated.  A  more recent and larger study conducted in the city of Erbil found a self-reported incidence of 70% but a lower 58.6% upon examination but nonetheless concluded that “[p]revalence of female genital mutilation among Muslim Kurdish women in Erbil city is very high.”

Women interviewed for a 2010 Human Rights report on FGM in Kurdistan gave the following reasons for FGM:

It is linked to Kurdish cultural identity [of tribal honor/shame]

It is a religious imperative [a practice permitted by Islam]

It is necessary to control women’s sexuality; and

It is carried out as a result of social pressure [of Islamic mores]

The report notes that while FGM is not addressed in the Quran [but is in Hadith or the traditions of Mohammed], some interpretations of Islamic law followed by the majority of Iraqi Kurds, makes FGM permissible for girls. The report includes reference to a hadith that “mentions the Prophet Muhammad telling a woman who had been circumcising girls ‘to cut only a little’ thus, according to these clerics, Mohammed did not ban the practice and FGM is permitted.

Although FGM was banned in 2011, Human Rights Watch reported one year later that the Kurdistan Regional Government had done nothing to enforce the law.  More recently though, there have been reports that awareness raising campaigns are having a positive impact.

FGM in Tennessee

The “Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 1996” was introduced by Democrats Sen. Thelma Harper and Rep. Lois DeBerry (deceased).  Their bill stated the following reasons about why Tennessee needed a bill to protect women from the FGM assault:

WHEREAS, female genital mutilation is defended by both men and women in the cultures where it is practiced as a rite of passage and a social prerequisite of marriage as well as a method to control a woman’s sexuality; and

            WHEREAS, while female genital mutilation is prevalent in many African and Middle Eastern countries, it also is found in some Asian countries and among immigrant populations in Western Europe and North America; and

            WHEREAS, due to the immigration of people from countries where female genital mutilation is practiced, the mutilation has continued to take place in the United States. Usually the immigrants will either send their daughters back to the native country to have female genital mutilation performed or a group of them will pay to bring a midwife to the United States  to perform the painful procedure on their young daughters…”

The “immigrants” referenced in the preamble to the legislation filed by the Democrats were most likely   correlated to the influx of refugees being brought to Tennessee by the refugee resettlement federal contractors.

Despite being a crime in Tennessee since 1996, 21 cases of FGM in Tennessee were reported last year. Legislation passed by the Tennessee General Assembly last year now requires that healthcare providers report cases of FGM to law enforcement.

We hope word has spread to Catholic Charities and the other refugee resettlement agencies as well as Nashville’s “Little Kurdistan” and that the local Muslims are aware and speaking out against this barbaric sexual mutilation, helping their community learn that some customs are better left behind in the old country.



Newsletter #79 – Slip of the Tongue…or Not?

When it serves their purpose, the AMAC and ACO’s outreach message is “Muslims are just like everybody else.” Sometimes the message is “Muslim women have more rights under Islam than American women.”

On June 4th at the American Muslim Advisory Council (AMAC) program in Manchester,TN, the outreach message was different still.  Zak Mohyuddin’s opening remarks warned that it is a “simple fact of life that nothing stays the same.  Change is always happening.  American Muslims are part of the changing demographics of this country.”

Some of the issues reported to be associated with this demographic change include the increase in female genital mutilation, honor killings, and  jihad motivated attacks.  Allahu akbar!  Were AMAC members honest enough to acknowledge the Medinan parts of the Quran, they would have to admit that Muhammad’s legacy as a political warrior and the atrocities that he and his followers committed, were considered sacred acts.  This history lesson could really shed some light on the Islam the world is experiencing today.

Mohyuddin also said that it “must be unacceptable and unfashionable to lump all American Muslims into a one dimensional, exaggerated stereotype.  One that is based on the distorted and self-reinforcing assumptions of who we are.”  Since the AMAC and ACO hold themselves out as the Muslim voice in Tennessee does that mean that they are speaking on behalf of all Tennessee’s Muslims?

The audience was then shown an excerpt from the “Welcome to Shelbyville” propaganda film where women found common ground by sharing a meal and music. The message? Given the chance, otherwise bigoted, hateful, mean-spirited and xenophobic small town Tennesseans would realize that “we really are all the same.”

But FBI agent Ken Moore told the audience something different albeit something the audience already understood and didn’t like.  Moore told the audience that he believes that a “sound and trusting relationship with the Muslim community and other communities of faith are very important in helping us to keep this nation safe.”  Everyone knew that Moore’s comments were biased and untrustworthy because he was one of the key FBI leaders who purged FBI training materials about the Muslim Brotherhood and sharia.

Agent Moore referenced the 2011 national hate crime statistics (2012 haven’t been published yet) and the fact that 20% were identified as motivated by religion-bias.  It seems ironic however, that he would use this reference at a Muslim outreach program but fail to mention that of the total 1,480 anti-religious hate crimes in 2011 63.2% were against Jews and only 12.5% were committed against Muslims.  Since he was speaking to a Tennessee audience he could also have shared that the 2011 TBI hate crime statistics show 5 anti-Jewish acts, 2 anti-Protestant and 3 anti-Islamic and even more dramatically, the TBI 2012 statistics show 5 anti-Jewish hate crimes and only 1 anti-Islamic.

He closed his segment with this sentiment: “what has always seen us through our difficult times is our unity as Americans, not our religion, not our race, not our gender but our citizenship as Americans.”  Would Agent Moore be able to make the same statement as confidently after reading the April 2013 Hudson Institute report “America’s Patriotic Assimilation System is Broken”?

Sabina Mohyuddin followed with a power point presentation titled “Understanding the American Muslim Community” and opened with a resounding “I want to see a show of hands, how many people are native Tennesseans?” And then she emphatically shouted,

“SO AM I!  I was born and raised in Nashville, my children were born here and raised here [see, we’re all Tennesseans, right?]

and that makes me a second generation Muslim and my children third generation Muslims and I’m proud to be an American and Tennessean above all.”



 AMAC member Sabina Mohyuddin promises to keep on talking.

We say, please do, because the more you talk, the more we understand who you really are and that “American Muslims” whether naturalized citizens or native born, are prevented by their own doctrine from considering themselves Americans first and foremost.  Indeed Mohyuddin told us that Muslims living in the U.S stay “true to their Muslim values while still staying uniquely American.”

Talk about a contradiction in terms.