Islamophobia’s Bottomless Pit

bottomless-pit-monticello-dam-drain-holeNote: This article was first published ten years ago. Reading it again now gives you an idea about how we have been literally going around in circles dealing with the issue of islamophobia. I’m republishing the article now to show the fruitless irony of our relentless pursuit against what we call islamophobia  when to the day in 2016, we still have not identified the term is any cognitive way. This 10-year old article shows how we have been stuck. I haven’t changed a single word from the original. 


Recognition of Islamophobia as the irrational and unwarranted fear of Muslims and Islam lingers in lexical incubation. Some accept the term fully while others discount its validity. Whether this neologism will gain currency as a bona fide social pathology or be viewed simply as a marginally legitimate term, moonlighting as a public relations tool, remains to be seen. Phobias, according to the American Psychiatric Association, are mental disorders characterized by persistent and irrational fear of a particular thing, situation or animal. The word Islamophobia and the operative definition applied to it is far from clinical recognition. However, I must admit, it is a catchy term and certainly trendy-sounding enough to fuel circulation. Like: “What are you guys doing this weekend? “We’re going to fight Islamophobia!” Its etymology ensures seamless placement in the “for Islam”, “saving the deen”, “for Allah” category.

Islamophobia has a diabolical, sinister ring to it. You can almost picture a young Muslim mother sending her child off to public school: “Now son, remember to drink your milk, look both ways when you cross the street, don’t forget to say your prayers on time and be sure to watch out for any Islamophobia!” We’ve used the term with such frequency and with such self-serving overtones that it has started to lose it effectiveness if it even had any. Picture the scenario of a man who utters an anti-Muslim remark causing outrage in the Muslim community; he’s rushed to a licensed Islamophobist for diagnosis, after submitting to a few diagnostics the man turns to the doctor in anxious trepidation and says: “Well Doc, tell me! What is it? Racism? Psychomotor agitation? Bipolar disorder? Bird flu? The doctor, clipboard in hand, gazes solemnly into his eyes and says: “No Pat, what you have is a mild case of Islamophobia.” The man, wiping the sweat off his brow, says: “That’s all? Thank God, for a moment I thought it was something serious.”

As Muslims, accurate and responsible use of categorical verbiage is a moral obligation and, in this case, a vital tactical adjunct for Muslims in America. This is why it is critical that before we wage jihad against Islamophobia, we accurately define the terminology. Perhaps we can avoid misdirecting our energies in what may very well be another fruitless pursuit, frocked in Islamic trappings, that fails to address the root of our problems as Muslims. Sure there is discrimination against Muslims and yes, it should be addressed, but not manipulated. I don’t see crowds of rednecks chasing down Muslims in the streets.

Let’s set aside American foreign policy for a moment, that’s a separate issue. I’m talking about everyday life, living in America. Are there Americans who fear Muslims? Absolutely, and there are some that fear bald-headed bikers clad in leather, there are some that fear Latinos, Italians whose last name ends in a vowel and Christian fundamentalists. There are people in America who fear African Americans, especially those less than 25 years of age who, parenthetically, may be the most feared minority in the country. There are people in America who fear skinheads, the sound of fire trucks, the din of crowded subways, men with bushy moustaches, Caucasians, the police, Catholic priests, the homeless, and there are even people in America, believe it or not, who are mortified by toothless old ladies. I’m terrified of dentist visits and a contentious divorce could make a person afraid of the opposite sex. Welcome to the club. Fear is an industry in America and that’s not going to change any time soon.

Accepting that there are Americans who fear Muslims, is such fear completely irrational? Well, knowing that a surgically worded fatwa can turn an unsuspecting young Muslim into a societal menace overnight and the capricious way in which a Muslim can be suddenly labelled a non-Muslim, a deviant or infidel does cause concern. Is there fanaticism in the name of Islam? Yes. Is it widespread? Yes. Are we doing much to combat it? I don’t think so. I’d never expect that anyone could find any moral imperative to suicide bomb a Mawlid celebration. Regardless of the variant opinions of Muslims on celebrating the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, bombing a group of Muslims – many of whom were scholars of Islam – gathered in honour of Allah’s final messenger would make a person say Hmm… Talk about Americans fearing Muslims, there are Muslims that fear Muslims! Does this qualify them as Islamophobes? I think not.

We can blame the media until we are blue in the face for negative portrayals of Islam and Muslims. Even as of this writing, graphic imagery of Muslim on Muslim violence, Muslim rage, Muslim turmoil, dominate network and print media. However, these images fuel policy; they help pass massive budget appropriations and provide justification for the mega industry that is known as the war on terror. Preparing ourselves for the so-called Muslim threat has created completely new industries in America as well as bolstering others. Police departments are spending billions of dollars on preventive arsenal and technology to prepare for the Muslim threat. Kevlar-fitted canines, which 10 years ago might have been the butt of a Jay Leno opening monologue, are now a lucrative commercial venture.

There is such abundance and variety of Muslim media footage that politicians, policy makers, businessmen, non-profits and industrialists can literally pick out what suits their purpose. Want to do missionary work in Iraq? Grab some hungry children footage. Want to get funding to buy new jail doors from your brother in-law’s company? Get some terrorist cell simulation footage. Want to retrofit that county bridge to withstand a terrorist attack? Of course, no one could imagine what a so-called terrorist would want with a bridge in the middle of nowhere, but you simply pull out the appropriate news footage and motion passed. The press is only doing their job, selling news entertainment.

The question is, what are we going to do? Continue complaining? Ignore our own ills? Only take on agendas that have fund-raising potential? The only thing stopping the Muslims from changing their condition is our own arrogance, religious sectarianism, injustices to our selves and refusal to address serious social Islamic issues. It is nonsense to assume that the media is the only culprit. Or to assume we can somehow eradicate unwarranted fear or distrust of Muslims through the rhetoric of public relations or references to the glorious history of Islam. America is a ‘what have you done for me lately’ kind of country. Which, by the way, is not an unIslamic viewpoint. The prophet said: “Verily deeds are tallied according to those that are last (innamaa al-a’maalu bil khawaa’teem).” Years of town halls, demonstrations, accountability sessions, sensitivity training and boycotts hasn’t removed graphic negative Muslim media imagery from top billing on headline news. Money can’t buy you love. Yeah, I know the Beatles said it in 1964 but Allah said it 1,400 years prior: “And if you spent everything in the world you could not have joined between their hearts, but it is Allah who joined between them”, 8:63.

Americans do not necessarily fear Islam and Muslims. What Americans do not want is to see suicide bombers in New York City. As an American Muslim who knows no other homeland, I have no problem in protecting our borders or legitimately defending my country. Does that make me a bad Muslim? I live here, why would I want to see America go down in flames? I have issues with the phrase “Death to America”. Our way of life here may not be all good but it definitely is not all bad. We need to stop making politics part of theology or if we insist on doing so we should accept that no one group or ethnicity can speak for all American Muslims. You have scholars who have never experienced the family bonding that takes place at Thanksgiving dinner or understood the true nature of the holiday making fatwas using triangulated logic, telling me that to sit down with my Muslim and non-Muslim family to eat roasted turkey, macaroni and cheese, hug my aunties whom I haven’t seen all year and watch a football game with my cousins is a faith deficiency! My response to that fatwa is posted elsewhere. However, the point I’m making is that there is a distinct, irrational, extremist tendency in our application of Islam that needs to be extricated.

Americans are more confused about Islam and Muslims than anything else. I don’t think the media is entirely to blame for that. Heck, even Muslims are confused about Islam. Every year there are millions of Muslims in America who are confused about the start of Ramadan. Should I fast or should I eat? Can I do both? Taraaweeh prayer: is it 20 rakáat or 8? Am I wrong if I do 8? Am I an innovator if I do 20? Do I give salaams to all Muslims or just some of them? Do I boycott American products even though I live in America? I still can’t figure that one out. There are so many conflicting fatwas flying around that a person spirals into bewilderment just trying to keep track of them, let alone making sense of some of them.

Domestically, the American people have accommodated and accepted the Muslim presence in too many ways for anyone to suggest that there is a pandemic of Islamophobia. It has been and still is a struggle. However, the doors have already been opened in large part by African American Muslims. American Muslims in the United States have very little difficulty buying homes, starting businesses, enrolling in universities or obtaining the so-called American dream. Redundant use of psycho-suggestive coinage would tend to make you feel that people are staring you down when they just happen to be looking at you like they do everybody else. It can also convince you that you were not hired because you were a Muslim and not simply because another candidate was more appealing or more qualified. Statistically speaking, incidents of anti-Muslim hate, violence, discrimination in America are relatively low. If we divide the 1,500 or so anti-Muslim and anti-Arab (what about anti-African or anti-Asian?) incidents reported by one of the largest and loudest civil rights groups in America into the six million Muslims who legally reside in America, that adds up to 2/10ths of a per cent. If we multiply the number by five to take into consideration unreported incidents, we arrive at the grand total of one per cent of the general Muslim population, hardly enough to qualify fighting Islamophobia as a top priority!

Using the term as a scare tactic has created another neologism: ‘Islamophobia-phobia’ (the fear of Islamophobia), which is a greater threat to Muslims than Islamophobia. It is true that many Muslims in America receive daily briefs detailing anti-Muslim incidents. However, these daily alarms appear more like self-serving, opinion shaping, headline grabbing and manipulative issue control than proof of an evil, unwarranted, mindless campaign against Muslims and Arabs by the American citizenry. Give me a break!

With respect to the religion of Islam, the only ones who can taint its image are its designated practitioners i.e. the Muslims. This is why the prophet opted not to dispose of some of the treasonous hypocrites in Medina. It also explains why he reprimanded Mu’aath ibn Jabal for leading the congregational prayer beyond reasonable length. Both actions are potential repellents. Extremism – although it may seem, depending upon the interpreter, to have a textual basis (Koran and Sunna) – usually results in other than the desired outcome. Our failure to realise this point will leave us in disappointment. We have many examples of such. Our recent overreaction to the cartoon portrayal of the prophet is just one. None of our protests altered the prophet’s status in any way. His place with Allah is still secure and in the same degree he is still the honoured last prophet of god. All the ranting did not endear the masses to Islam; it exposed our lack of rectitude, it cost us lives, money, time, moral capital and lacked definitive textual basis.

Human beings cannot invalidate the quality or value of Islam; on the contrary, Islam is a divinely pre-validated faith and way of life according to orthodox Islamic creed (aqeeeda). “Verily the religion of Allah is Islam”, 3:19. Adherence to Islam or lack of it determines humanistic value, balances societies and, by the way, supports stable, healthy civilisations. Anti-Islamic sentiment in the United States has particular causes such as providential disbelief or what is known in theological jargon as kufr. Nothing we can do about that. “And tis no different whether you warn them or do not warn them, they will not believe”, 36:10. Other causes are misunderstanding, misrepresentation of Islam by Muslims or non-Muslims, injustice, the absence of Islamic standards of civility (yes, there is such a thing) and the conspicuous scarcity of Muslim social service institutions in America. Furthermore, anti-Islamic sentiment is not always tantamount to anti-god, anti-righteousness or anti-justice. You can’t go around accusing anyone who criticises a Muslim of being immoral or Islamophobic. We are gullible but we’re not idiots, at least not all of us.

Placing responsibility for Islam’s image on other than ourselves is a flawed and unstable paradigm that siphons away valuable time, energy and spiritual as well as temporal benefit. It distracts us from individual and collective responsibility and sets in motion as’baab (causative factors) that could deprive us, at this critical juncture in our history, of what we need most: divine intervention and support. This can only come from Allah. “Allah is the Friend of those who believe; He takes them out of the darknesses into the (one) light”, 2:257. Faith, more than rhetoric action, is required. If we for a moment think that success or improvement in our condition can ever occur without it we are engaging in a fantasy, existing only in the quilt of our minds, woven together with the threads of wishful thinking. Want to prove people in the West wrong about Muslims? Be charitable, help others, feed the hungry, assist the orphan, teach people to read, build a hospital, pave a road or clean a park. Charitable work does wonders for the soul and it doesn’t hurt public image either if that’s what we care about. The prophet said: “Prayer is light and charity is proof.” When a people address their own ills and acknowledge their individual and collective faults and their need to change wrongful ways, and embrace fairness, righteousness, civility, adab, humility, brotherhood, honesty, patience and the qualities that ultimately define our character, change becomes imminent. Divine assistance is set in motion.

Labelling people Islamophobes still muzzles some criticism of Islam and Muslims. However, for many other Americans it just tees them off, especially when one can easily see the upward mobility, affluence, academic, commercial and political presence of immigrant Muslims in American society. No one likes a perpetual whiner, especially one perceived as having a silver spoon on his palate. This is regardless of whether he worked for it or not. Other than paying taxes, there is no significant Islamic social welfare component to offset suspicion, hostility, resentment or mistrust. This is another cause for anti-Muslim or anti-Arab sentiment in America.

We hardly see Islamic ideals and principles manifested institutionally in the United States. Oh, pardon me, that’s not entirely true. Islamic ideals and principles do exist in many American institutions. Let’s see: the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, free and reduced fee clinics, food stamps, homeless shelters, the SPCA, fire departments, traffic lights, free libraries, trash collection, the ability to disagree publicly, oh, and we have tawheed (monotheism) here too. Maybe we have forgotten what Islam is all about. It just may be possible that we have some closet Islamophobia within us! Let us all, myself included, get our act together and leave dog-and-pony shows to the circus.

Imam Luqman Ahmad – [Published in 2006]


The Trump Presidency; Good or Bad for American Muslims? By Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

trump.pngNow that Donald Trump has won the election. Some of us are of the opinion that it will not make a big difference either way for Muslims in the long run.  What Muslims themselves do, will have a greater impact on our lives than what president elect Trump says that he might do. Now that the election is over Mr. Trump has already started to back-pedal on some of his campaign rhetoric. Still, there are some people in the American Muslim community who are alarmed, and fearful, and who will try to project that fear onto other Muslims. Some National Islamic organizations are trying to convince the country that all Muslims in America are writhing in a state of fear as a result of the Trump victory. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. All American Muslims are not afraid of a Trump presidency, nor should they be.

I’m suspect that some national Muslim political and advocacy organizations will use such fear; fear that they helped to create and spread, to raise money, and I’m sure that there will be a phalanx of Muslim scholars from overseas, acting with the air of colonial authority, who will weigh in and tell us how we as Muslims in America should react to our new president. It is also likely that national Muslim American political and advocacy organizations  will seek to make alliances with the Trump administration characterizing themselves as representing the entire American Muslim community while at the same time, disavowing themselves from alignment with African Americans. I’m not saying that such overtures will happen, but it is likely to happen based upon our past history and the modern political trends within the American Muslim community.

These groups like most Muslim political organizations tend to follow the political winds and make decisions based upon their organizational self-interests, which I can understand. They are not likely to want to be on the bad side of a Trump administration. There may be another segment of the American Muslim community who, if Trump makes good on his promises regarding halting immigration from selected Muslim countries, [which I doubt will happen], immigrant Muslims will look to the African American Muslim community to become allies for their cause. Such scenarios are possible but we’ll have to wait and see.

African Americans as a group, are not afraid of a Trump presidency. Angry? Perhaps for some. Disappointed?  Maybe for many. Shocked? Slightly, but not all of us are in shock because we’ve seen and experienced a lot in this country. Afraid? I’d doubt it. African American Muslims and non-Muslims have been through much more than a Donald Trump. We’ve been through lynchings, Jim Crow, police brutality, and abject slavery, a Donald Trump presidency does not make us shiver in our boots.

Realistically, a Donald J. Trump presidency is not likely to affect whether or not we as Muslims will go to heaven or whether or not we can pray our five prayers, pay zakat, fast the month of Ramadan or make the Pilgrimage to Mecca. If an American Muslim wants to practice his or her faith and exercise their moral conscious, it doesn’t seem that a Trump administration will get in the way of that.  Being Muslim, being American if that’s your goal,  then realizing such opportunity can be achieved regardless of who’s sitting in the White House. So in this sense, a Trump presidency is not a threat to Muslims, and the hyperbolized sense of alarm and impending disaster or over-blown in my opinion. It’s really a smokescreen because worrying about Trump diverts attention away from State, regional and local politics, where every-day issues such as local ordinances, local crime and community well-being, school boards, property taxes and community issues are decided.

We’ve seen over the past 8 years that an Obama presidency did not change the condition overall of Black Americans for the better, and it is unlikely that a Trump presidency will change the condition of Black Americans for the worse in any appreciable way. The condition of a people does not change until they themselves change. As far as bread and butter issues, a Trump Presidency will not have much of an initial financial effect on the Muslim immigrant community because by and large better educated, have more stable families, more upwardly mobile and are much more financially secure than their African American Muslims counterparts. As far as the refugees from Syria and elsewhere, as long as they are refugees, they will continue to receive tremendous amounts of economic, subsistence, and institutional support. Refugees are automatic wards of the state and come with certain guaranteed provisions, and by the way, al-humdu lillaah for that.

As far as social programs, it is unlikely that Trump will make any drastic changes in that area because a large portion of the constituency that elected him, benefit from such programs. Many of the poor white voters, including veterans, that helped him get elected, get food stamps, welfare, and depend on social programs. also, I suspect that Donald J. Trump, at the end of the day, may prove to be more compassionate of a president than people think he will be.

For African American Muslims,a Trump presidency offers no threat of deportation and most of our families are already here in the United states; they’ve been here for 400 plus years. So that means that we are still faced with the same problems and conditions that we had before the election and there is no need jump to conclusions about a Trump presidency. However, we still need to, like other Muslim communities, move forward.  This is why we must at this very juncture, resist the colonial state of indigenous American Muslims under the larger immigrant community. It is not wise for indigenous American Muslims and converts to tie their futures and their well-being to the greater Muslim community because there are in fact; two Muslim Americas, their priorities, their condition, and their trajectories are not the same.

If we are to thrive as a faith community, especially indigenous American Muslims and converts who are in state of turmoil, we need to depend on Allah Only, and break the foreign, ideological control of our thinking, our politics, our way of developing our religious communities and even our relationship with our own country. We need to think as free and independent Muslim Americans who are people of faith first and not anyone else’s marginalized political pawn, part of anyone else’s, or any outside group’s agenda. This is why my just released book “Double Edged Slavery” is so relevant and a must read!

In the meantime, we don’t know for sure whether a Trump presidency in the long run will be better or worse for Muslims in America, but at least the man is up front about his views. Let’s not speculate too much in the negative. Much of his campaign rhetoric that worried Muslims will be difficult to implement in real time. We elected a president; not a king. Let’s wait first and see what he does. As of this writing, he hasn’t even formed a cabinet, so all of this frenzied talk about Muslims being afraid for their lives is pre-mature and does not reflect the sentiments of many, if not most Muslims. Time will tell, but I don’t believe that it will be as bad as many of us have imagined.  I urge you to read my book though because one thing for sure, indigenous American Muslims, need to free ourselves from colonial control by foreign based interests.

I clearly remember when the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. I was a fourth grader at Francis D. Pastorious Elementary School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We were all instructed to go outside, stand in full assembly and sing; ‘we shall overcome’. The second chorus was; ‘we are not afraid’. I wasn’t afraid then, and I sure as heck, aren’t going to start being afraid now. As far as the verdict on president elect Donald J. Trump, I say give the man a chance, but tie your camel. Tie your own camel and not someone else’s camel.

Imam luqman Ahmad


Note: Six’s months after Trump has been in office, I am disappointed (but not surprised)  and feel he has lowered the standard of the presidency. I also believe that he’s opened the door for more public bigotry against racial and religious minorities in the United States, including Muslims.

American born Luqman Ahmad is a Sunni Muslim, the son of converts to Islam. He is a writer, consultant, and until recently, has been the Imam of a Northern California mosque for twenty years. Currently he delivers the Friday sermon (khutba) at the Islamic Society of Folsom in Folsom California. He is a former executive committee member of the North America Imams Federation, a founding member of COSVIO, (the Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations), and the author of the new book “Double Edged Slavery“, a critical and authoritative look at the condition of African American and convert Muslims in the United States. He also authored, “The Devils Deception of the Modern day Salafiyyah Sect”, a detailed look at modern-day extremist salafiyyism, the ideology which in part formed the mindset of ISIS. He blogs at,, and can be reached at

New Groundbreaking Book! Double Edged Slavery, by Imam Luqman Ahmad

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-9-51-18-pmNEW BOOK RELEASE: DOUBLE EDGED SLAVERY! For the last forty years, the American Muslim convert community seen it’s share of ups and downs, and has been literally going around in circles. People have been converting to Islam in the United States for decades, but where have all the converts gone? Where are their children? Why don’t we don’t see more second, third, fourth and fifth generation Muslims descending from the convert community? Why is it that the American Muslim convert community seem like a second class colonized population under the greater American Muslim community? What’s happening to our ummah?

  • Why are we afraid to talk about racism within our faith practice when we know it exists?
  • Ever wonder why as Muslims argue so much amongst ourselves? 
  • Why are we reluctant to talk about the two Muslim Americas and the growing chasm between indigenous American Muslims who are mostly African American, and largely forgotten, and the larger Muslim American community? 
  • Do you ever wonder why so many indigenous American Muslim converts complain of feeling rejected by the greater Muslim community?
  • Ever wonder; what’s wrong? What’s the problem? Where is the disconnect? What is the source of our moral dysfunction? 

So many questions, with so few answers. UNTIL NOW!!

My new  book “Double Edged Slavery” answers these questions for you and more in clear, plain English without any sugar coating, without being politically correct, and without insulting your intelligence. It is a must read for anyone wanting to understand the why and the how of some of the underlying causes of moral dysfunction in Muslim America. 

This groundbreaking book is based on forty years of direct observation, hundreds of interviews, dozens upon dozens of testimonials, many found right here on my blog posts, and painstaking examination and analysis of our condition as Muslim Americans. Open any part of the book  and and you will be immediately enthralled and will find that many things you wanted to say, are said for you. Many of the questions people have been asking for years, are answered right here in this brazenly honest and detailed book about Muslim America!

Imam Luqman Ahmad 


Halal Halloween? Not Hardly, by Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

images.jpgI read a fatwa by a Mufti out of Great Britain which legalized trick-or-treating, Halloween costumes of witches, ghouls, goblins, and the celebration of Halloween for Muslim children and surprising enough, adults as well. Part of the text of the fatwa is as follows; “It is permissible for children (and grown-ups) to partake in Halloween customs in general which include practices such as ‘Trick or Treat’ or to dress as monsters, witches etc. Despite these practices being of pagan origin, they no longer carry such meanings in general and neither can lead to Paganism from a realistic perspective”. You can read the fatwa here

The Mufti seems to be making a sincere attempt to address a serious issue about the challenges of assimilation of Muslims into Western society and the pressure upon the children to blend in. For this we applaud him and may Allah strengthen and guide him. Ameen. As for the fatwa itself? Suffice it to say that the triangulated fatwa, although perhaps well-intended, is fundamentally flawed and misleading. The problem begins with his opening statement; Despite these practices being of pagan origin, they no longer carry such meanings in general and neither can lead to Paganism from a realistic perspective”.   What he misses is that paganism does not have to lead to paganism in order to be considered paganism. It is not a matter in the case of Halloween of something leading to paganism, the ritual practices of Halloween are itself paganism. It’s like saying; “having unmarried sex doesn’t lead to fornication”, not realizing that having unmarried sex, is itself, fornication.

The opinion of this fatwa’s author is that “these practices no longer have meaning”, whereas in reality, for millions upon millions of people, these practices have very great meaning. Additionally, it remains that the religion of Islam, it’s laws, it’s creed and its theology, still has meaning, and as long as our religion has meaning, issues that our religion addresses, such as paganism, have meaning. The dressing up in evil costumes goes back to the time when men used to dress up as ghouls [jinn] and ghosts in order to seek protection from the jinn. This pagan practice was mentioned in the Quran as having only resulted in increased wrongdoing and disbelief. “And verily, there were men among mankind who took shelter with the masculine among the jinns, but they (jinns) increased them in burden.” 72:6

The idea and practice behind Halloween is that you are seeking refuge in demons to protect you from them and other demons. This is why it is so prohibited, as mentioned in the Book; “They bowed down except Iblis. He was one of the Jinns, and he broke the Command of his Lord. Will ye then take him and his progeny as protectors rather than Me? And they are enemies to you! Evil would be the exchange for the wrong-doers!” 18:50. The costumed trick-or-treater is essentially seeking protection from the demons that he or she not be harmed by demons and this, as the verses clearly illustrates is prohibited in Islam.

Evil jinn still roam the earth. They still incite people to evil, and people are still under contract to take the shaitaan as an enemy. What the author of the fatwa seems to be saying is that Halloween is a pagan practice but since children of today do not realize that it was a pagan practice [of jaahiliyyah], it’s okay for them to do it. He further asserts in the fatwa that as adults, even though we know that this is a pagan practice summoning the jinn, we should still subject ourselves and our children to it. Unfortunately, he is mistaken on all counts.

What the fatwa seems to be saying also is; Halloween is okay because even though it started as a pagan rite, the people don’t believe in the pagan rites part anymore so therefore its harmless, and if its harmless, it must be permissible. Our response to that premise is that even if some people do not believe in the meanings and consequences of pagan rites anymore (although many people still do), pagan rites still have meaning, and still have consequence. Pagan rites especially those that venerate the devil and his minions are considered kufr [heresy], and kufr can never be considered harmless. Magic is kufr whether a person believes in magic or not. If some people stopped believing in magic, it does not mean magic does not exist, and it does not make it not kufr. Herein lies the problem of this fatwa. Paganism is not something that you can simply flip the switch, or interpret a couple of hadith and boom, it’s halal.

The Prophet’s entire mission ﷺ was dedicated to monotheism and the eradication of idolatry, and pagan beliefs and practices. To make paganism halal requires fine-tuned legalese and fiqh finesse at the very least. Which is what this fatwa attempts, albeit unsuccessfully, to do. Magic, witches, ghouls and monsters do not represent Islamic principles or morals and they never will. In fact, these things are antithetical to godliness and to submission to God.

Pagan rites are satanic acts of worship that honor the Devil. Satan does not lose his resolve or potency with the passage of time. He does not become an old man and retires to the hell-fire way station.  Even if people stopped believing in him, [the Devil], it doesn’t mean that he ceases to exist. So if a child no longer attaches meaning to the pagan rites of demon worship, it is still demon worship nevertheless. Magic and the practice of sorcery is devil’s work. There is no difference of opinion of Muslim scholars on this fact. Ghouls are satanic jinn[1], and ghosts are tormented earthbound souls in a state of punishment. Making these creatures into seeming harmless costumed caricatures does not change their status in Islam.

What the fatwa also seems to suggest is that good and evil are both, especially evil, archaic notions of the past. If we threw away the belief system in Islam, then of course there would be nothing wrong with this fatwa at all, and hence, nothing wrong with Halloween. Halloween simply would be an ideologically neutral, morally unaligned practice; however, that is not the case. Halloween is not ideologically neutral. Halloween is a celebration of Iblis and his allies and it is not permissible for a Muslim to celebrate Iblis because he is an enemy of Allah. Batman, Superman, and Captain America just come along for the ride but the holiday itself and all the associated characters, are all part of the Iblis crowd. It is their party. If we didn’t believe that there was a God and that there was a Devil, or believed that they both were baseless superstitions, then we could write off Halloween fanfare; ghosts, magic, witches, and ghouls as just a bunch of groundless superstitions of a bygone era.

For people who grew up with and understand the connotations of Halloween in the United States [ahlul-urf] and those who understand the culture of the bogeyman, the scary movie, Freddy Kruger, Jason, and haunted houses, the fatwa at first glance is absolutely absurd. More of a voice of treason rather than a voice of reason as the author states. This is a cultural fatwa more than it is an islamically legal fatwa. Cultural fatwas are what comes along when you suppose that the religion is no longer relevant. We are in a great flux of misguidance these days so expect more of these cultural fatwas, and don’t let anything shock you.

The fatwa seems to be written for a particular audience. The Muslim immigrants to the west who are grappling with assimilation, acceptance, finding their place and not standing out might find this fatwa as a relief. It gives them the license to celebrate Halloween, and by default, Christmas, Easter, St Valentine’s Day. They finally get to tell their children that there is a Santa Claus. This fatwa is for them. For Muslim American converts, or a second generation Muslims wo are not clamoring to assimilate, who are not concerned about not being accepted as Americans or true Brits, who are not waiting in terror fearing backlash, this fatwa is completely absurd.  The only thing legitimate about it is that it’s called a fatwa. In Western culture, at least in the United States, people do not associate witches, casting spells, and monsters that go about in the night, with God or godliness.  In Islam we obviously do not associate these things with Allah, with prophetic guidance, or with worshipping Allah.

Even without a ruling affirming the prohibition of Halloween practices and pagan rites, this is something that Muslims know and understand instinctively; that witches, ghosts, goblins, and little horned devils with pitch forks, are not heroes and icons of faith in Allah; but are things representing the culture and tradition of paganism and the occult.  We see a witch mixing a brew or conjuring a spell, we don’t say; ma sha Allah! Yum, yum. what cha cooking? On the contrary, we would seek refuge in Allah from the Shaitaan.

Another issue with the fatwa is that the brother does not only allow it for children; he takes the extra step of allowing it for adults which creates another issue; children under the age of puberty are ghariru mukallaf [Legally not liable for their actions} based upon the hadith; “the pen is lifted off of three people” and among them are the child until he reaches puberty. However, for the adult, he or she is responsible for their actions and it is not permissible for an adult Muslim to celebrate the devil, to emulate satanic jinn, Witches are real and so are ghouls, as well as evil spirits, and even ghosts. Witches are practitioners of magic and the black arts, ghosts are earthbound souls, and ghouls are satanic jinn. Dressing up as them is a celebration of their identities and it is not permissible for a Muslim to venerate Iblis, or to celebrate his army or his avowed allies.

If we threw away the belief system, and moral framework of Islam, then of course there would be nothing wrong with this fatwa at all, and hence, nothing wrong with Halloween. Halloween would be an ideologically neutral, morally nonaligned practice; however, that is not the case. If we didn’t believe that there was a God and that there was a Devil, or believed that they both were superstitions then we could write off Halloween fanfare; ghosts, magic, witches, and demons, as part of superstition. Halloween is not ideologically neutral, Halloween is literally a celebration of Iblis’s family and it is not permissible for a Muslim to celebrate Iblis, his family, or his army. Knowing what Halloween represents, and the pagan practices of the holiday, it is very unlikely that the Prophet ﷺ would have sanctioned his wives, his children going out dressed up as witches’ monsters and goblins at Maghreb time, literally begging people for candy. How can trick-or-treating be permissible when tricking people itself is haram?

Fatwa analysis: Assimilation on steroids

In the current political-cultural climate of hyper-assimilation, fighting islamophobia, wanting and needing to fit in, and shedding negative stereotypes of Islam and Muslims, there exists an air of near desperation. Desperately wanting to be accepted, of wanting to be a part of western society not only in name and citizenship, but in being part of the buddy crowd. There is nothing inherently wrong with western society, and there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to belong. Many of us, myself included were born in the West and have been here for generations. We are part of these societies and not seeking the way to become part of any other nation. There is a very strong push however, to gain acceptance, to lessen the real or perceived disparagement, unflattering stares, and innuendoes, that Muslim are subject to these days.  Many of us couldn’t care less how others perceive us but for many others, their sense of self-worth, personal sense of pride, and their well-being is connected to how westerners view them.

This fatwa, though categorically errant, speaks to this reality and this need by many Muslims for acceptance. It is not simply a matter of scholarly deduction; it is more a matter of relieving the stress off of a certain segment of the Muslim population in western countries and trying to find a way to do it to under Islam. The problem here is that we’re taking about Halloween when it comes to paganism. Scholarly deduction would reject paganism and the veneration of witches, ghouls and demons at the outset. You don’t have to be a mufti to know that these things are wrong.

Muslim children will survive if they don’t dress up for trick-or-treat, and Muslim adults won’t rack up any more brownie points if they go to work the next day and say; ‘hey guys! My kids and I went out trick-or-treating last night!  Nevertheless, the fear of backlash, the fear of being labelled an extremist, and the fear of not being accepted is real. Overblown sometimes, but real nevertheless. Subsequently this is not necessarily an islamic based fatwa; it is a culturally based and a culturally biased fatwa that uses vague islamic legal precedence for some of its foundation but ultimately fails to make a convincing argument for permissibility of Halloween practices because he approaches what is meant to be an islamic legal point, from a particular cultural perspective and reality. Let me explain.

Then there’s the double standards by which many fatwas are applied here in the West and certainly in the United States. You have scholars, who when it comes to validating full assimilation into western culture and lifestyle for immigrants coming from the Muslim world, are very liberal, and make wide allowances for them. Almost anything goes. However, when it comes to American and British converts who are born in these countries, many scholars tend to be much harsher, and will haram just about anything we do, even if it has nothing to do with religion. If an American Muslim convert or one of our Imams here in the United States, cited the same arguments as quoted in the fatwa, he would be verbally crucified. There is a double standard in play, one for indigenous Blacks, and converts; and another standard for everyone else. I don’t believe this brother had bias in mind when he wrote the fatwa.

So, here we are, trying to teach our children about Allah, about virtue, about morality and about Islam and here comes this fine gentleman, scholar if you will, telling our children that the wicked witch, the goblin, the ghost and the monsters that enter into their dreams are things that we should embrace, at least on Halloween, a day by the way, that people dedicate to these creatures. Now even a five-year-old will tell you that witches, goblins, bogeymen, monsters, Dracula, and the like, all consider Satan to be their master of masters. Whether spoken or unspoken, Shaitaan is the big boss of the magic and monster crowd.  Everybody, well almost everybody knows that these characters are decidedly on the side of Satan and not considered in our religious, cultural or urfi understanding to be the party of God. They are not the ones around which we should establish holidays when we are supposed to know better.

Yet here is this fatwa making Halloween and its trappings of pagan rites, permissible. And after all, it’s a fatwa, it’s a sheikh saying it, and to put icing on the cake, he’s a mufti. This deceptive fatwa certainly open’s a Pandora’s box and we can either try to put a lid on it, or open it further. If Halloween is okay, then celebrating Christmas is a must, and that goes for Easter too, the celebration of the Goddess of fertility.  This ideologically compromising fatwa and those like it affects our moral-cultural trajectory as Muslims from and who have immigrated to the West. If we don’t get handle on this type of recklessness in fatwa making, the next thing you know, Santa Claus will be giving the khutba on Friday and little elves will be running through the ranks collecting zakat. Ho, ho, ho, in al-humda lillaah….

Bizarre Fatwas and Political Fatwas

Bizarre fatwas are nothing new. There was once a fatwa out of Egypt which allowed Muslim liquor store owners to sell liquor in the United States as long as they didn’t sell to Muslims. To this very day, there are Muslim liquor owners who use that fatwa to liquor to people in the United States. There was another fatwa once that mandated that every Muslim in the United States take up arms and wage jihad against our country [there were several of these]. There was another fatwa that said you can’t say; “hey bro” to someone who is not your brother in Islam or your biological brother. We hear and read about bizarre fatwas all the time. The internet has no borders in the West so fickle fatwas slip through the cracks on a regular basis.

Can a fatwa compromise a principle of Islam? Yes, and in these last days, or end times, such does happen more often than we’d like. Is every fatwa binding? No, of course not! Are some fatwas ill conceived? Yes. Is the fatwa making celebrating traditional Halloween permissible, one of those ill-conceived fatwas? Absolutely Yes. When people celebrate witches, magic, ghosts ghouls, and evil spirits, they are celebrating creatures who all work for Iblis, are part of his army, or who have been foiled or defiled by him in some way.

Fatwa making can have a lot of politics to it. As American Muslims who have been through years and years of Halloweens, growing up on Freddie Kruger, Friday the 13th, the headless horseman, and Jason, we kinda know how to identify demonic creatures even if they have a smile on their face, or appear in a cartoon. The problem is that you have scholars, who when it comes to validating full assimilation into western culture and lifestyle for immigrants coming from the Muslim world, are very liberal, and make wide allowances for them. Hence, halal Halloween. However, when it comes to American and British converts who are born in these countries, many scholars tend to be much harsher, and will haram just about anything we do, even if it has nothing to do with religion or paganism at all. If an American Muslim convert or one of our Imams cited the same arguments as quoted in the Halloween fatwa, he would be verbally crucified.

I wouldn’t characterize this fatwa as completely irresponsible, nor would I call it flimsy altogether or unfounded. The brother uses daleel, and he follows scholarly procedure to some degree to come up with his conclusions. However, the errantry in the fatwa has to do with one, misinformation about the underlying ramifications of celebrating Halloween, and two, being under-informed about the ideological attachments that come part and parcel with the holiday.

Remember as I have mentioned, there are two distinctly different Muslim communities; one made up of immigrants, and the other made up of converts who in both the case of Great Britain and on the United States, are primarily African American for the latter, and African –Caribbean in the case of the former. This fatwa is a result of happens when people are so desperate to be accepted, that will do and so most anything to convince people that they are as western as anyone else, What the fatwa amounts to is assimilation on steroids.

The bigger picture that we don’t want to miss here is the dichotomous civilizational and cultural construct being created. On the one hand you have indigenous American Muslims who are much more familiar with the situational placement of holidays in America whereas there is more precise navigation and understanding of detail with regards to line between religion and culture. On the other hand, you have a people [immigrants] who are simply trying to create a new civilizational construct for themselves without the benefit of the former’s experiences in the same country in which they are exponentially more familiar.

American Muslim converts by and large are proud of their distinctions as Muslims, while immigrants are ashamed of their distinctions as Muslims. This shame is not just limited to immigrants. Converts are being taught this shame mentality as well these days. The more you beg to be accepted by the greater society and long for them to regard you like they regard themselves, the more shameful your own religion appears to you. We felt so ashamed of our religion that we changed its fourteen-hundred year meaning from submission to peace.

Further Analysis of the ruling

The ruling rendering Halloween practices permissible is an errant ruling. It sanctions paganism while paganism is antithetical to tawheed. Paganism is prohibited in Islam as are pagan acts. Knowing what Halloween represents, and the paganistic practices of the holiday, it is very unlikely that the Prophet ﷺ would have sanctioned his wives or his children going out dressed up as witches’ monsters and goblins at Maghreb time, begging people for candy. How can trick-or-treating be permissible when tricking people itself is haram?

American children do not find any problem dissing Halloween amongst their peers without having to worry about being called a terrorist, an outsider, or somehow strange.  Not everybody in the United States or Great Britain goes in for the Halloween thing anyway. Many Christians are staunchly against it as it goes against biblical principles. For those of us who grew up in the united states, we know that some of the coolest people in junior high school, and grade school were the people who didn’t go for Halloween. An indigenous American Muslim child Black, white or Latino can go to school and say “man, Halloween is whack!” without the fear of reprisal. An immigrant child may not have the same level of confidence and feel that any rebuff of American culture would open them to harassment, dislike or being called names. This happens simply because the way that their parents acculturate them to life in America.

Thus, a fatwa like this is made to appeal to that group, to the assimilation seeking group, in the hopes that it will lessen the alienation that some Muslim children feel as new immigrants and by sticking out as different from the others. In this way, I understand the fatwa although I disagree with it. As far as indigenous American Muslim converts are concerned, we know what Halloween represents; notwithstanding its pagan origins; we grew up with Friday the 13, Freddie Kruger, Jason, Inkabad Crane, the headless horseman, and the crazy clown so we automatically know what Halloween represents and what it summons.

The fatwa is well-intended, and makes a couple of good points but ultimately fails to make the argument of making the pagan practices of Halloween permissible. Halloween in the traditional trick-or –treat, witches and goblin promotion, and jack-o-lantern rendition, is haram. He makes a good point for example about the misuse and overuse of the hadith; “whoever imitates a people then he is from amongst them”. Because that is the singular hadith that you can use to haram almost any type of clothing, manner of speech, gourmet food, amusement parks, skiing, football, cotton candy and thousands of other things. I think that the fatwa was well intended. There’s no reason to believe that the brother is intentionally trying to deceive anyone, in this fatwa or that he did not apply appropriate fiqhi reasoning and methodology to the topic. It seems clear that he did. He just happens to be on the wrong track in this case. Just because Hollywood and pop culture can make Shaitaan appear to be a fair seeming, hip and handsome, humanitarian with a conscious, and who drives a BMW, doesn’t make him any less than the devil he is.

Sheikh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

[1] Dictionary of Islam, Thomas P. Hughes, p.139.

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