Tag Archives: Islam

Number 1 Hero of the Year 2012: Malala Yousafzai

31 Dec
Number 1 Hero of 2012

Number 1 Hero of 2012

Even with all the wonderful nominations TSM received for Hero of the Year, the winner was clear from early on. No one received more nominations than Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai. The final decisions were based on more than just votes, however. Yousafzai — a young woman of 15! — is a shining example of social justice. Having virtually no inherent power or privilege, she found her voice at the age of 11 and has used it to great effect.

All of the heroes and honorable mentions have made the world a better place. What sets Yousafzai apart is the very real risks she takes every day. She has less to start with and has put it all on the line, even suffering a potentially fatal gunshot wound from Taliban assassins.

Her mission is simple but powerful — every child in the world should have access to a reasonable education by 2015. Coming from a place that believes women should never be educated, she understands the power of learning and reading. Nurtured by her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, also an education activist, she began blogging about conditions in her province for the BBC at age 11. She also attended a Peshawar press club event, getting rousing applause for her powerful question:

How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?

For her powerful voice, tireless activism, willingness to risk all, and youthful promise, TSM is proud to honor Malala Youfsazai as Hero of the Year.

Honorable mention for the top spot goes to another Muslim activist seeking change. Ludovic Mohammed Zahed started the Unity mosque in Paris, the first fully LGBT embracing house of Islamic worship. Zahed’s mission includes full inclusion for women and transgender worshippers. He’s another brilliant example of change from the grass roots and a great example of using personal power to change the world for everyone’s benefit.

Hero of the Week Award: December 7, Ludovic Mohamed Zahed

7 Dec
Hero of the Week

Hero of the Week

Last week an impressive new mosque opened in Paris. Set up in the home of a Buddhist monk, the mosque is the first to be explicitly LGBT welcoming. It was founded by Ludovic Mohamed Zahed, a gay man born in Algeria who now lives in Paris with his husband. Named Unity, the mosque is explicitly established to address traditional taboos in Islam that serve to marginalize people. Zahed describes it as “radically inclusive.”

We need to have a safe space for people who do not feel comfortable and at ease in normal mosques. There are transgender people who fear aggression, women who do not want to wear head scarf or sit in the back of the mosque. This project gives hope back to many believers in my community. It is a safe place to worship.

Unity will invite women to lead prayers and will not segregate seating by gender, encouraging equality in participation and celebration. Zahed and his partners in the mosque — where he will be one of three imams — believe that their progressive approach is a true reflection of the founding pillars of Islam.

We have an embarrassment of riches in the HWA arena this week, with two honorable mentions. First, courtesy of TSM regular and my dear friend Nancy, is Rev. Bill Brennan, a Jesuit priest from Wisconsin. Father Brennan is a longtime peace and equality activist. This week he celebrated mass with a woman priest, violating Catholic doctrine. As a result, he has been sanctioned by the church and forbidden to celebrate the Eucharist. Congratulations to Father Brennan for standing up for human rights over outdated and bigoted codes of behavior.

We’re also happy to celebrate Marilyn McKenna from Washington. Her husband is Rob McKenna, the outgoing Republican state Attorney General who narrowly lost his bid for the Governor’s office last month. Rob has been a vocal opponent of the Boy Scouts’ discrimination, but came out against marriage equality during his campaign. As a delightful breath of fresh air, his wife stood up for equal rights in an editorial as Washington’s same-sex couples began to receive marriage licenses this week. We’ll let her words speak for themselves.

Marriage is a blessing, not a political issue. We do well to remember that everyone benefits when couples commit. … The Republican Party needs to get the hell out of people’s bedrooms and get a life!

Women’s History Month 2012: Irshad Manji

20 Mar

Today we honor and celebrate an author, journalist and advocate of a “reform and progressive” interpretation of Islam. Born in 1968 in Uganda to a Gujarati Indian father, and an Egyptian mother, she moved to Canada with her family when she was four as a result of Idi Amin’s expulsion of Asians. They settled near Vancouver in 1972, and she grew up attending both a secular and an Islamic religious school. Manji excelled in the secular environment but, by her own account, was expelled from her religious school for asking too many questions.

Manji worked as a legislative aide in the Canadian parliament, press secretary in the Ontario government, and speechwriter for the leader of the New Democratic Party. At age 24, she became the national affairs editorialist for the Ottawa Citizen and thus the youngest member of an editorial board for any Canadian daily. She was also a columnist for Ottawa’s new LGBT newspaper Capital Xtra!. Manji has since hosted or produced several public affairs programs on television, one of which won the Gemini, Canada’s top broadcasting prize. She also produced and hosted QT: QueerTelevision for the Toronto based Citytv in the late 1990s. Among the program’s coverage of local and national LGBT issues, she also produced stories on the lives of gay people in the Muslim world.

Considering herself a “Muslim refusenik”, Manji declares herself as someone who refuses to “join an army of robots in the name of God.” She is a well-known critic of traditional mainstream Islam and was described by The New York Times as “Osama bin Laden’s worst nightmare.” She has written a number of books on Islam, most famously The Trouble with Islam Today (initially published as Trouble with Islam).  She was troubled by how Islam is practised today and by the Arab influence on Islam that took away women’s individuality and introduced the concept of women’s honour. Manji has produced a PBS documentary, “Faith Without Fear”, chronicling her attempt to “reconcile her faith in Allah with her love of freedom.” Proving an activist can have a sense of humor, she has also participated in the web project Pictures of Muslims Wearing Things that arose in response to Juan Williams’ ludicrous Islamophobic comments.

Manji currently serves as the director of the Moral Courage Project at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University, which aims to teach young leaders to “challenge political correctness, intellectual conformity and self-censorship.”She is also founder and president of Project Ijtihad, a charitable organization promoting a “tradition of critical thinking, debate and dissent” in Islam, among a “network of reform-minded Muslims and non-Muslim allies.”

Millennial Generation: Interview with Maria Khan

14 Feb

Welcome to the third interview in the Millennial Generation Series.

As someone who has been in education most of my life, and as I hope to inspire a group of activists through my behavior and my blog, I am curious to see what Millennials think of their own generation and of our world currently. Today I had the chance to speak with a former student of mine, Maria Khan. She inspired me and I guarantee her interview will inspire you.

Maria is an Asian-American, born and raised in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. She is 21 years old and was born at the beginning of the Bush Sr. administration. Her tone, while exceedingly self-deprecating, is beautifully passionate as she talks about her dreams and anxieties. At times, her self-effacing manner has the potential to undermine her strong and brilliant voice. Maria was raised Sunni Islam and is devout.


When I moved to Pakistan and seeing how corrupt the government is, I realized how important it is to be aware of politics. Here in America I would say I am a Democrat. Every person regardless of age, sex, everyone has to be engaged in politics, it is our responsibility to use our rights and to fight for honesty, and equality. We have to raise our voice. We have to fight for the right path!  As she speaks with great passion.

LGBT Issues

People are so afraid of the concept of being gay, and people need to realize we are equal.  My generation is realizing the important thing is how honest you are– how kind you are. I have hope that people will get past the issue of sexual orientation.   We should worry: is this person honest, what kind of human being is this? It is inhumane to mistreat people for their sexual orientation.  It is our job to educate people and pull them out of the dark.  You should not judge a person by their color, or if they wrap their head or not, or who they date.  People’s personal lives are their business. My generation holds the thread of hope to stop pushing beliefs and hurtful words.

Frame of Reference

9/11 is my point of history.  The peaceful world my parents had built for me was not real, they wanted that for me, but it wasn’t real. I remember my school being attacked. I remember being attacked at the grocery store, a woman was yelling at me saying I had ruined the world. I also realized it was my duty, my responsibility, to help people not hate others, to educate people to give them peace and to give them harmony.  I am an American.  I was born here.

Biggest Anxiety

Where do I start? My biggest anxiety is the human race losing the ability to see right from wrong,–the ability to pick up a rock and hurt someone.  I look at all the injustice and the crime rates. We are citizens of this world whether we like it or not.  We have a responsibility to take care of the earth and take care of the people on the earth.  Why and how did humans get it in their heads that it is okay to kill people? These people that are being killed have mothers and family members. The thing that makes us human is kindness.  I worry about all the kids in high school committing suicide because of bullying. Did their parents not teach them to be kind?

Biggest Dream

The Fatwa issued by Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri will be used effectively to combat terrorism. I hope from the bottom of my heart that the Fatwa proves that Islam is a religion of peace! He has given his life for Islam, for peace. He has given up his life for peace and democracy.

What do you want to be known for—your indelible mark?

I am going to work to educate people that Islam is a religion of peace. We have to help people and help terrorist not to be trapped into false ideologies.  It is not a religion of violence. These terrorists are not Islam. Killing people in markets in train stations is NOT Islam. If you smile that alone is a good deed. I want all the chaos in the world to end. Maybe we need to work on preserving the planet and make a world that is better for our children. The next step is to build understanding—I know this Fatwa will work and spread as far as it can spread.  My religion teaches to save people, not to kill people– that is all of our responsibility.

What do you want your generation to be known for?

I want my generation to be known for change, to stand up to the truth, to be united, to root out evil and injustice—to make justice happen, much like what they are doing in Egypt.  We have to fight for it. I am hoping and praying that the youth of Pakistan will realize how corrupt the government is.

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