Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Dawoodi Bohras and FGM

Dawoodi Bohras unequivocally condemn mutilation.

Based on our Islamic ethos we are completely against any practice or act that physically or psychologically harms humans, fauna, flora, or the environment. 

Yet we have now found ourselves in a unique position with respect to female circumcision. Accusations of practicing acts of mutilation have been hurled at us without any evidence. In complete disdain of the principles of the American justice system, we are now guilty until proven innocent.

So for a moment, I am asking you to consider this:

A newborn baby is taken away from its mother kicking and screaming. A dispassionate practitioner disrobes the baby and with an unceremonious snip completely removes an inch or more of foreskin that covers the infant’s genitals. Thousands of delicate nerve endings being severed all at once, the baby screams out in pain. There is blood. Ointment and gauze are applied on the excision. The baby wails helplessly.  It will take another 7 to 10 days for the wound to heal.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 77% of all infant boys in the United States are made to undergo this procedure every year.  Male circumcision, according to one study, is prevalent because American fathers want their sons to look just like them.[1]  Judeo-Christian tradition thrives while issues of consent and potential sexual and psychological repercussions for the baby boy are, well, non-issues. 
Evangelizing the practice, the World Health Organization (WHO) has created detailed guides together with step-by-step photographs of male circumcision to ensure the practice flourishes.[2]  According to WHO there is scientific evidence to show there are benefits to be had.

Opponents, however, cite studies that show sexual and psychological harm.[3]  Adding issues of child consent (or lack thereof) to their criticism, they refer to male circumcision as male genital mutilation.

Unfortunately for the opponents, there are no laws in the United States or elsewhere that outlaw male circumcision.  In 2013 when the courts tried to criminalize the practice in Germany, Jews and political leaders cried foul across Germany, Israel, and the United States, and imageries of a second holocaust were quickly invoked.[4]

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in the United States called the German act of criminalization
a thinly disguised attack on one of the most fundamental rites of Judaism…the attacks on circumcision are obvious and insulting…[and] are leading Europe in a horrific direction toward the forced exclusion of Jewish citizens of Europe and violations of their religious freedom.[5]
The German circumcision ban was abolished within 3 months.

Now consider this:

A mother or grandmother takes a seven-year old child to a female practitioner.  The practitioner makes an extremely small excision the size of a grain of rice (1/16th of an inch) to minimally reduce the foreskin. The child feels the fleeting sting of an insect bite. The mother or grandmother gently soothes the child. The sting goes away in a few minutes, the child returns home with some candy or toys, and life continues as usual.

If you’ve ever had a child vaccinated, you will know how it goes.

This practice, a religious tradition among Dawoodi Bohras, is called khafz, or female circumcision.  The idea, in fact, is quite simple.  A ritual purification of the Abrahamic kind, khafz is the moral equivalent of male circumcision although certainly not its physical equivalent because khafz (which means to reduce the foreskin) is not even a tenth as invasive as male circumcision and is carried out after the child has turned seven.  

As with male circumcision, khafz has its opponents who seek an end to this practice.  Which is fine; we live in a country that prides itself on freedom of expression.

However, the opponents have conflated all different practices of female circumcision (there are many) to create a picture that is incorrect.  They have purposefully woven a false narrative on khafz that conjures up the extreme horrors of the public imagination shaped by descriptions of brutal tribal rituals forced upon adolescent girls.

But clipping your fingernails is not the same as dismembering your arm. 

And so trimming the foreskin is not the same as severing the sexual organ.  

In fact, physical examinations—including those sanctioned by government agencies across the world—have consistently shown no signs of genital modification or physical or psychological harm from khafz among Dawoodi Bohra women.

And there is no evidence of harm only because, as I said earlier, Dawoodi Bohras unequivocally condemn mutilation let alone practice it.

Unfortunately for the Dawoodi Bohras in the west, the mistrust of their practice arises from the fact that khafz is unfamiliar to the Judeo-Christian tradition.  What little information there is about it has been colored by WHO’s remarkably unscientific (and neo-colonialist) decision to sweep all forms of female circumcision under the genital mutilation umbrella while providing no evidence for harm associated with khafz.

The irony of our situation should not be lost on the likes of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Anti-Defamation League and other organizations that aim to protect civil rights and religious liberties across the board.  And while we may not have the size and influence of the Jewish community, could we, in fact, implore them to join us in declaring that the criminalization of khafz without any evidence of harm from the government is
leading the United States in a horrific direction toward the forced exclusion of American citizens of the Bohra faith and violations of their religious freedom.

Source: mzs2cents.blogspot.com

[1] Brown MS, Brown CA. Circumcision decision: prominence of social concerns. Pediatrics. 1987;60(2):215–9. PMID 3615091.
[4] Three months after circumcision ban, German government to legalize rite (Times of Israel) http://goo.gl/GEHgw1
German ruling against circumcising boys draws criticism (The New York Times) https://nyti.ms/2tZyHcD
German circumcision ban: Is it a parent's right to choose? (BBC)  http://goo.gl/NF96xb
[5] ADL: Circumcision Resolution “Targets Europe’s Jewish Citizens” (Anti-Defamation League) https://goo.gl/1EfjwR

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

WHO's passing the buck

With a $4 billion annual budget, the World Health Organization (WHO) concerns itself with providing “evidence-based policy options” on public health.

Except that WHO’s actions are not quite true to its goals. Consider the three examples below.

On the subject of alcohol consumption which it recommends in moderation, WHO reports that:

[H]igh-income countries have the highest alcohol per capita consumption [and] alcohol causes approximately 3.3 million deaths every year (or 5.9% of all deaths).

On infant male circumcision which it promotes, WHO says:

Neonatal circumcision is common in Israel, the United States of America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and in much of the Middle East, Central Asia and West Africa. [The procedure] has a very low rate of adverse events (0.2–0.4%).

And on khafz, a subcategory of what WHO calls Type 1a FGM and pushes to criminalize:

Odd, right? I know. Look up all the reports by WHO on FGM. I will stand corrected if you can find any statistics on the incidence of harm related specifically to khafz.

So what does one make of all of this?

Well it’s an exercise in self preservation.

First, it takes some chutzpah to antagonize the $1.5 trillion global alcohol beverage industry with favors in many capitals that fund WHO.

Then it certainly pays off to ensure the happiness of millions of white men who want their sons to look like them. Let's just ignore the few “adverse events” (that include several cases of neonatal herpes and the deaths of two infants and brain damage to another two from Jewish circumcision in New York City).

And khafz? Well clearly people who believe in khafz are neither power brokers nor number enough to make a difference to WHO. So time for WHO to show some teeth. Never mind the lack of evidence or data, lump khafz under FGM, and call on law enforcement agencies to make khafz a crime punishable by imprisonment.

So now the onus of proving harm that allegedly results from khafz shifts squarely from WHO to the state that outlaws the practice.

Without that evidence is it too much to suggest that only teetotalers and the uncircumcised walk free?


Thursday, April 27, 2017

The last laugh

Have you ever watched with anguish the scene in a National Geographic video in which a sweet little antelope is followed by a cackle of bloodthirsty hyenas?

Seems to be the story of our lives these days.

The hyenas have, unfortunately, arrived on our doorstep.  And their only goal is to hurt and insult Mufaddal Moula and mumineen.

Take Mariya Taher, Shaheeda Tavawalla-Kirtane, Insiya Dariwalla, and Aarefa Johari under the Sahiyo umbrella.

Bring in characters such as Masooma Ranalvi, Shabnum Poonawala, Nafisa Pardawala, Farida Ali, Tasneema Ranalvi, Ummul Ranalvi, Zainub Poonawala, Zehra Patwa, Farzana Doctor, Fiza Jha, and Zarine Hashim.

Add to it the likes of Tasneem Raja, Munira Hamza, Maryum Saifee, and Ammar Karimjee and his sister Mariya Karimjee.

Sensing blood, an Isufali Kundawala (a super fan of Taher Fakhruddin bin KQ might I add) has slithered out of the woods with fangs bared to join the feast.

The hypocrisy and ignorance of the World Health Organization on khafz has provided this cast of characters with an excellent way to vent their hatred for Mufaddal Moula.

No, they don’t really care about child welfare or human rights violations. If they did, they would also be decrying child pornography, child abuse, and child abandonment not to mention abortion which results in 700,000 unborn babies legally being put to death in the US every year.

Instead, their goal is to capitalize on the cheap intrigue of sex and the tawdry fascination with female genitalia to gain quick publicity and recognition for themselves.

None of any of this is very surprising.  Didn’t Moulana Taher Saifuddin say that darya ma mauj aaway to su ajab?

But what is ajab is the deafening silence from us, the followers of Mufaddal Moula.  It is easy to chant Labbaika ya Dai Allah in the safety of a waaz majlis where our faith is not being put to the test.  The rubber really hits the road when we must go out into the world and scream it out loud and clear.

And at this very moment we seem to be failing spectacularly.

Our women and young girls are being falsely portrayed as victims of some Islam-sanctioned cruelty.  Anyone can choose to slander Moula where, when, and how they please.  And yet here we are, a coy, muted lot, when the most private of our matters has already become dinner table talk around the world.

It is beside the point that there are countless social media and WhatsApp groups with endless chatter on this subject.  All of our infinite internal discussions are utterly useless if not a single one of us is able to muster the courage to stand up for Moula and for our rights and to call out right from wrong.

The need of the hour is to shout out from the rooftop to the media, to our families, to our friends, to our foes, and to anyone who so much as raises their eyebrows at Moula that

We the Dawoodi Bohras are proud followers of Mufaddal Moula not out of coercion as our enemies dishonestly allege but out of our pure, unrestricted love and devotion for Moula and everything he stands for

All the characters named above are not Dawoodi Bohra, do not represent us, and are deliberately defaming us

Islam is against harm of any kind to all of Allah’s creation

Khafz is an Islamic practice, it is not mutilation, and it is not harmful.

We should also strongly and unequivocally assert the truth that

Mufaddal Moula and we the Dawoodi Bohras are against mutilation in all its forms in accordance with our Islamic faith

The World Health Organization (or any government for that matter) has produced absolutely no data or evidence to show khafz is harmful

Our conformity with the law (that erroneously categorizes khafz as mutilation) is an act of our Islamic duty to be patriotic and to obey the law of the land as taught to us by Mufaddal Moula

Our acceptance of the law does not change our view that the law is unjust, grossly misplaced, infringes on our religious liberties, violates our fundamental human rights, and should be reevaluated.

For the doubters and naysayers, yes I know the current worldview is stacked squarely against us.  But man-made laws and diktats are often prejudiced.  It was not too long ago that Jews in Europe were being killed for their beliefs and in America blacks were asking for the right to drink from the same water fountains as whites.

But truth and justice prevailed in the end.

As Rasulullah(saw) said, haqq is with Ali(as), and that shiato Ali-yin humul faizun.

So to the hyenas out there, snigger away all you want.  The antelope will walk off scot free.  The last laugh will not be yours, Inshallah.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Another bogus survey

Sahiyo has recently released a report based on a survey that purports to capture Dawoodi Bohra sentiment on khafz. Outfits in the Indian media have been publishing the questionable conclusions from Sahiyo’s survey without their own independent investigation or the ability to recognize a cleverly concealed hate group’s witch hunt.

To fill the gap in due diligence the following is a critique of the Sahiyo survey.

A. Sahiyo’s faulty premise

The World Health Organization’s stance on khafz has been a source of much contention. The fact that WHO has chosen to forego any semblance of neutrality by employing the word “mutilation” to describe a vast range of circumcision practices renders its narrative in doubt at its very conception. It is interesting that Sahiyo begins by conceding that such extreme language advocated by WHO is not useful and replaces the word “mutilation” with what it deems a more appropriate description: “cutting”.[1]

But Sahiyo’s criticism of WHO stops short at a crucial point; instead of exploring WHO’s studies and discussion on the subject to understand the merits of its arguments, Sahiyo has chosen to take WHO’s position as a given.

We make the following observations that seriously call into question WHO’s standing on khafz:

(1) Lack of hard evidence and research: In its many reports and countless discussions, WHO has not produced any research or data to support its claim that Type 1a is harmful. All evidence that WHO provides on the subject focuses on the more advanced types of circumcision (i.e., Types 3 and 4). On the other hand, data from vaginal cosmetic surgery procedures show there is some evidence to show that Type 1a is actually beneficial in that it leads to heightened sensation and sexual pleasure.

(2) Inconsistency in applying the principles of human rights violation: The tenets of human rights as employed by WHO include “the right to non-discrimination on the grounds of sex”, “the right to life when the procedure results in death”, “the right to freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”, and “the rights of the child”. Type 1a, which is directly analogous to male khatna, does not violate the rights of young girls any more than khatna violates the rights of young boys. Given the similarities in procedure, potential benefits, risks associated with health, reproduction, and psychological wellbeing, these principles of human rights violations should apply equally to circumcision in both genders yet WHO has chosen to apply them selectively to females only.

(3) A complete ignorance of counter-evidence and criticism: There is an increasing body of academic work (see, for example, the 2012 Hastings Center Report) that shows that WHO’s claims on khafz are questionable and should be reviewed. Unfortunately WHO has, year after year, completely ignored the counter-evidence to its claims and has chosen to remain completely silent on the criticism never mind responding to it with positive evidence and data.

(4) An imperialist, anti-Islamic stance: It is surprising that in its narrative on khafz WHO has chosen to overlook the growing prevalence of hoodectomy in the western world, a perfectly legal elective procedure that surgically reduces the size of the clitoral hood. In other words, khafz. The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reports that there has been an 80% year-on-year increase between 2015 and 2016 of such surgeries among girls younger than 18 years of age. The conclusion one draws is that to the extent that it is carried out under the label of hoodectomy and performed by licensed surgeons in the western world, the practice is fine. Put it under the banner of Islam and call it khafz and immediately WHO andgroups such as Sahiyo cry foul.

In our own comprehensive study titled “WHO’s stance and the criminalization of female circumcision: The protection of or violation of human rights?” we have demonstrated that on the subject of khafz WHO has been completely untruthful, unscientific, irresponsible, and dangerously jingoistic in broad brushing the subject and rallying up blind support by groups such as Sahiyo.

B. Sahiyo’s flawed survey method and unreliable results

The Sahiyo survey departs from what statisticians and researchers refer to as “robustness”. A robust survey is one whose results (a) can be applied to a population as a whole and, (b) do not change if any aspect of the survey (i.e., the sample size, the questions, the rating scales, etc., are tweaked).

In this section we demonstrate that the Sahiyo survey fails all tests of robustness and is therefore a non-measure of Dawoodi Bohra sentiment on khafz.

(1) Research bias: A robust and valid research study begins with asking a question or a series of questions without presupposing the conclusion. Genuine research must therefore be always open minded. Researchers who are passionate about proving a particular outcome or point inevitably lose their neutrality and trustworthiness.

The Sahiyo study, unfortunately, begins on an extremely biased note. According to the report, “[t]he study was done with the intention to establish strategies that can bring [khafz] to an end.”[2]   Further, the report states “The mission of Sahiyo is to empower Dawoodi Bohra and other Asian communities”[3]  in seeking to abolish the practice.

Instead of asking to what extent the following statements are true:
  • Dawoodi Bohras are empowered in their decision making;
  • Dawoodi Bohras want khafz to continue as their fundamental right;
  • Khafz, like khatna in males, is not a “cultural” tradition but a religiously-ordained practice,
  • Sahiyo wrongly presupposes all the answers and then seeks to “to have a clearer insight into ending this [practice]”.[4]

    This objective is also manifested in the lack of clarity with which the survey has been executed. The questions posed to the participants in Parts 2 and 3 of the survey do not in any way provide support to help with the study’s stated goal to establish strategies to end khafz. Rather these questions are aimed at eliciting predetermined conclusions.

    (2) Survey sample: The Sahiyo researchers use a participant group collected by the snowball sampling method. This method of collecting a sample uses social networks: the first participant refers the researchers to other participants who in turn refer the researchers to more participants. The sample thus snowballs into a large-enough number.

    There are several documented disadvantages to using the snowball sampling method that are especially applicable to the Sahiyo survey:

    Non-random:  According to the Encyclopedia of Social Science Research Methods[5], snowball sampling violates the assumptions of random selection and representativeness that are necessary for robustness. In other words, a snowball sample is non-representative and leads to incorrect results.

    We also know from the survey that the majority of the participants belong to the middle- and upper-middle class, were recruited using email and WhatsApp, all spoke English, and that the survey was conducted online in English.

    Interestingly, of the 385 participants 46% reside in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand whereas only 34% reside in India. Put another way, the Sahiyo survey sample in no way bears any relation to the experience, cultural background, or the socio-economic status of Dawoodi Bohras the overwhelming majority of whom live in India. In fact, according to Sahiyo 31% of the participants do not even consider themselves to be Dawoodi Bohra.

    Community bias: In snowball samples, the first survey participant or participants have a strong impact on the entire pool of survey participants which lead to manipulated and pre-meditated conclusions. In the Sahiyo survey, the first participant would be a person who would inevitably share the same worldview as Sahiyo. This participant would then invite like-minded friends or colleagues who would invite other like-minded friends and colleagues.

    Indeed there is nothing to prevent a selective choosing of participants and perhaps insidiously to even prepare them to respond to the questions in a way as to ensure the desired outcomes. Thus, such a survey would quickly become an echo-chamber of like-minded participants and clearly fail to capture reality.

    Sampling error: Because of the non-random nature of sampling, it is impossible to (a) determine the sampling error and (b) make any statistical inferences from the sample that would apply to the entire population. Thus it is irrelevant whether or not the survey results are based on Sahiyo’s “sample size of 385 women from which to extrapolate data” since such extrapolation is, by definition, impossible.

    At the end of the report Sahiyo does make an admission albeit as an after-thought, i.e., after the group’s faulty observations and conclusions have been asserted and policy implications put forth:
    Yet, biases do exist in this survey. It is possible that due to the secretive nature of the topic, women who may be in favor of continuing FGC may have chosen not to participate in the survey, increasing the likelihood that survey participants would only include those women who have chosen to discontinue the practice. Future research should include looking at methods of collecting quantitative data in a systematic manner in which participants are randomly chosen from a sampling frame.[6]
    (3) Survey questions: It is well known among researchers that the phrasing of survey questions is among the most challenging and crucial aspects of creating a survey since improperly phrased questions can very easily control and manipulate the outcome.

    Consider the question: “Should dangerous, man-eating tigers be killed?” By using the words “dangerous” and “man-eating” the participant is forced to go on the defensive having to choose between human safety and animal welfare. Instead, the same question phrased differently as “How should we deal with tigers that wander into human territory because of loss of habitat?” is likely to receive an unbiased response.

    The Sahiyo’s perfunctory declaration that “to test for reliability and validity of the [survey], Sahiyo asked fellow FGC experts and NGOs to read through the set of questions to assess for bias”[7] also does not offer sufficient assurance.

    First, all of the experts and NGOs listed in the acknowledgement section of the report have made the abolishment of khafz their raison d’être so that any hope of their impartiality is instantly put into doubt.

    Second, the introduction to the survey calls into serious question the neutrality of the language used. The underlying bias of Sahiyo is highlighted when the participant is told at the very beginning:
    The sole intention of this research is to shed light on misunderstandings and lack of information surrounding this age-old practice.[8] 
    In keeping with this bias, some questions in the survey have been deliberately phrased to lead the participant in a particular direction. For example, the probe related to Question 23 focuses on only negative outcomes:
    [E]xcess bleeding requiring a visit to the doctor, discomfort/burning sensation while urinating, wound infection, etc.[9]
    Similarly, of the nine possible responses to Question 29[10], six list negative responses, two are somewhat neutral (i.e., “don’t know”, and “other”), and only one lists a positive response.

    (4) Data incongruence:  Robust surveys invariably use “triangulation” to identify and remove any inconsistencies in participant responses. This technique entails asking the same question in a variety of ways to ensure responses are credible and valid.

    There is no indication from the survey report that Sahiyo has taken the necessary care in the phrasing of its questions or has employed triangulation to verify participant responses. Participant responses to Question 22 as shown in Tables 3, and 4 clearly show a bias in that all the responses are worded in extremely strong language with no single response being neutral or positive. Without any triangulation to verify these responses, it is difficult to take them as being valid.

    Further, as we begin to dig deeper into the survey results, it is clear that some observations are in contradiction with each other. To illustrate this point, let’s consider the following two examples:

    Example 1- Participant demographics: We know that all 385 participants are both computer- and English-literate. However, Question 2 in the survey shows that 37% of the participants received only primary and middle school education. Simultaneously, the Sahiyo report somehow manages to claim that 80% of “survey respondents had earned at least a Bachelor’s degree.”[11]

    We also know that 80% of the participants were residents of Western countries (46%) and India (34%). A basic knowledge of the demographic realities of India and those of the Indian diaspora in the West pose a challenge to the 37% primary-to-middle school statistic. Even if we were to assume that all of those with primary and middle school education resided outside India and the West, we would still be left with 17% or 65 participants who live in India and/or the West, speak and read English fluently, are internet-friendly, and yet may not have been educated beyond Kindergarten.

    Example 2 - Impact on sexual life: Questions 26 to 28 focus on the effect of khafz on the participants’ sex lives. Again, we find several contradictions among the reported statistics. In Question 26, only 108 (or 35%) of the 309 respondents report an impact on their sexual lives. In Question 27, of these 108 respondents, 94 report an adverse impact on their sexual lives. This would imply that 94 of the 385 total participants report, i.e., less than 25% of the participants report an adverse impact on their sexual lives.

    Yet the report’s discussion on Question 28 seems to negate the observation from Questions 26 and 27 by stating that 83% of the respondents report “heightened physical stimulation” (which we read to be the opposite of an “adverse impact”). Furthermore, the responses for Question 28 (which allows for more than one response) do not add up or appear to be in conflict with each other: 83% report “heightened physical stimulation” yet 19% report “Lack of physical stimulation” and 29% report “difficulty/inability to reach an orgasm.”

    Clearly, the participants in the study do not show consistency of opinion which is why a need for triangulation in the survey is even more highlighted.

    (5) Deliberate misquoting and sensational reporting of results:  Sahiyo’s approach to the survey appears to be less an exercise in original research and more in creating a sensational piece of marketing.

    In Section B(4) above, we demonstrated in Example 2 that less than 25% of the respondents reported adverse effects on their sexual lives. Yet based on those same statistics, the Sahiyo report makes the following fallacious conclusion:
    Of the 309 respondents, 35% of the women stated that the FGC had impacted their sex life as adults, the majority implying that their sex life had been affected negatively.[12] 
    To blur the line between reality and falsehoods, the report also concludes that with respect to their sexual lives,
    the overall negative reactions of the women points to the need for support services for survivors who have faced emotional trauma/psychological trauma…[13] 
    while simultaneously admitting that the
    Sahiyo’s study was unable to conclude if FGC had caused [the survey participants’] sex life to be unfulfilling.[14] 
    In today’s era of fake news where fiction replaces fact and is lapped up quickly by audiences looking for corroboration of their own worldviews, Sahiyo has chosen to publish its results using the following attention-grabbing statement on its website:
    81% want Khatna to end: results of Sahiyo’s online survey of Bohra women.[15] 
    Without explaining how the participants were recruited using the snowball method and that 31% of the participants claim to not be Dawoodi Bohra, the website continues to display a slew of manipulated numbers that serve the Sahiyo’s agenda.

    It is noteworthy that in all the engineered and cherry-picked statistics, Sahiyo has chosen to not publish its finding that 83% of the participants indicated heightened sexual pleasure because of khafz! Sahiyo makes no effort to relate this very interesting statistic with its conclusion that “81% want Khatna to end”.

    (6) Data non-disclosure:  The survey report underscores the confidentiality of participants by making the following claim in its survey introduction script:
    This is a COMPLETELY ANONYMOUS survey. No identifying information will be asked of the respondents. In other words, NO names, e-mail addresses etc. are required for the purposes of completing this survey.[16]
    As part of the due-diligence effort in writing this critique, I emailed Sahiyo and requested them to share their raw data. Given the declared anonymous nature of the survey I believed that sharing the data would break no confidentiality clauses.

    Sahiyo chose to contradict its position once again. Their email response is documented below.
    From: Khatna Researchers
    Sent: Fri, 10 Feb 2017
    Subject: Re: Survey data request
    You are welcome. Hope you find it informative.
    As for the raw data set, unfortunately, we can not send it as it would violate the confidentiality of our survey participants and the confidentiality of our study. 

    C. In conclusion

    Apart from towing the WHO line and supporting their cause with a faulty survey, the fatal flaw in the Sahiyo argument is that khafz as practiced by Dawoodi Bohras is not Islamic.

    To push their claim that khafz is unIslamic, Sahiyo relies on a singular source:
    Islamic Relief Canada (2013-2016) also states that religion is falsely used to encourage the practice within Islam, and that FGC has no religious or cultural justification.[17]  
    But Islamic Relief Canada is neither a Dawoodi Bohra organization nor a group of Islamic theologians and certainly not an authority on Islam.

    For a religion such as Islam, one that is non-monolithic and has a vast array of interpretations (some will insist there are as many Islams as there are Muslims), it must be underscored that while some interpretations of the religion have chosen to do away with the practice, others such as those of Dawoodi Bohras (as well as those of hundreds of millions of Muslims in Malaysia, Indonesia, etc.) do in fact continue to consider it to be a religious obligation.

    Among Sunni Muslims the most widely accepted collections of hadith (i.e., the sayings and traditions of Prophet Mohammed) are Sahih Muslim and Sahih Bukhari and both sources list multiple hadith on the topic of khafz.

    Dawoodi Bohra beliefs and practices (including khafz) have their origins in Da’aimul Islam (“The Pillars of Islam”), a collection of works on the Fatimid interpretation of Islam compiled in the tenth century during the reign of the Fatimid Imams. Da’aimul Islam is the principal source of Islamic jurisprudence for Dawoodi Bohras.

    For Sahiyo to casually characterize a formal religious practice as a “cultural development” shows not only an ignorance of Islam and its rich history and theology but to come in from the outside (since Sahiyo are decidedly non-Dawoodi Bohra) and to insist on fundamental changes to a religion is hegemonic, reeks of moral colonialism, and more importantly, is an incredibly dangerous trip down slippery slope.

    Today Sahiyo's point of contention is khafz. Tomorrow it will be the clothes we wear. Or who we marry. And so on. In a world charged with hate espoused in the name of religion where people are declared heretics and persecuted and killed for not conforming to certain worldviews, where, one must ask, will the buck stop?


    [1] Sahiyo Report, p.13. [2] Sahiyo Report, p.6. [3] Ibid. [4] Sahiyo Report, p.4. [5] Atkinson, Rowland; Flint, John (2004). Encyclopedia of Social Science Research Methods. SAGE Publications, Inc. pp. 1044–1045. ISBN 9780761923633. [6] Sahiyo Report, p.72. [7] Sahiyo Report, p.24. [8] Sahiyo Report, p.84. Emphasis added. [9] Q.23: Did you face any physical or health issues immediately after khatna? [10] Q.29: What would your Dawoodi Bohra relatives and friends think if they knew a Dawoodi Bohra woman had not undergone khatna? [11] Sahiyo Report, p.68. [12] Sahiyo Report, p.65. Emphasis added. [13] Ibid. [14] Ibid. [15] https://sahiyo.com as of February 16, 2017. [16] Sahiyo Report, p.84. [17] Sahiyo Report, p.14

    Saturday, July 2, 2016

    Birds of a feather

    Some women calling themselves Sahiyo and pretending to be Dawoodi Bohra have taken to lobbying these days, calling for change to Rasulullah’s shariat which they find to not appeal to their modern senses.

    Out of pure objectivity one may want to hear them out.  But there is not a shred of authenticity among this dubious cast of characters.

    For starters let’s be clear that Dawoodi Bohras are not an ethnic group or a social club.  They are defined to be the followers of the Dai al-Mutlaq who is presently Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin. Interestingly, in their “About Us” section, not a single founder of sahiyo claims to be a follower of Mufaddal Moula. 

    In an interview Aarefa Johari, one of the founders of Sahiyo, declared:  “I am not a religious person and have disconnected myself from the community in many ways.”  She went on to say that, “Religions serve to disempower women, even if they claim otherwise, because pretty much all religions are rooted in patriarchy.”

    Mariya Taher, another co-founder, claims she “represents the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim diaspora community.” However, in an interview she implies she is not a part of the community, saying she was initially concerned about going public, “not because of concerns for myself but more so for my family [and] about any potential backlash they might face from the community that they belong to.” 

    Like Johari and Taher, Insia Dariwala and Shaheeda Tavawalla-Kirtane, the other founders of Sahiyo, are not registered as members of the community.  

    As for Priya Goswami, it need hardly be mentioned she is not Muslim.

    On a side note, TF, KQ's son and successor, with his 10 followers became a beacon of hope for sahiyo when he went on record in May 2016 in a sensationalist Indian tabloid and declared blatantly: “I unequivocally condemn [Khafz because it is] an un-Islamic and horrific practice.”  Seems like TF believes he has surpassed Rasulullah in ilm and hikmat so that he knows how to improve the shariat.  One must hope and pray that the Pied Piper of Thane will lead all the rats away.

    Anyway, coming back to Sahiyo...

    The group’s claim that it has a tide of support from Dawoodi Bohras is hogwash.  A quick analysis of their supporter names shows the overwhelming majority is non-Muslim, a fact the group has conveniently forgotten to mention.

    Simply put, these women are untruthful, ill-intentioned, and disingenuous.  Their object of contention is not religious practices but religion, and in their goal to discredit Islam the vultures have banded together.  

    But as someone said, don’t play dead with vultures because that is exactly what they want.

    Game on Sahiyo.

    Monday, September 21, 2015

    Houston Ashara 1437

    Moula's fasal is here and Houston is excited beyond belief!  It is of course Shehzada Malikul Ashtar Bhaisaheb Shujauddin's karam that Houston has the sharaf of Moula's Ashara majalis in the upcoming new year.  This means that mumineen from all continents are now in pursuit of more information about the energy capital of the world. 

    Houston jamat has set up a comprehensive website at HoustonAshara.com to help all prospective visitors but I thought I’d use this platform to share some more information.  The topics covered below are as follows (and will be frequently updated):

    1.    Houston the city
    2.    Houston masjid and mumineen
    3.    Accommodation
    4.    Airports
    5.    Arriving in Houston via Dallas
    6.    Transportation
    7.    Weather
    8.    Mobile SIMs
    9.    What not to bring with you
    10.  Laundry
    11.  Medicines
    12.  Food & groceries
    13.  Travel and tourism in Houston 
    14.  Travel and tourism around the US

    1. Houston the city

    The city of Houston is the fourth largest metropolitan area in the United States with a population of 6.5 million. 

    With 1 of every 4 Houston residents born outside of the United States, Houston is the most cosmopolitan city in the country.  Besides English Houstonians speak 90 languages (of which Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Urdu are most popular).

    Houston is also a geographically vast city and covers some 8,800 square miles or 22,500 square kilometers (an area larger than the state of New Jersey).  

    Economically too Houston is a giant and is consistently rated to have among the most business-friendly environments in all of the United States.  The city’s annual economic output was $520 billion in 2013.  To put this in perspective, India’s was around $1,500 billion. 

    2. Houston masjid and mumineen

    The distinctive and glorious $30-million Mohammedi Masjid, located at 17730 Coventry Park Drive, Houston, TX 77084, is a jewel of a complex that sits on 40 acres of land about 30 miles west of downtown Houston. 

    Surrounded immediately by suburban residential communities, the complex enjoys an extremely peaceful and quiet environment.

    Of the 450 mumineen families, about half live within a 20-minute drive of the masjid.  The remaining half are scattered throughout the city.   

    3. Accommodation

    Houston jamat has arranged for negotiated rates with a number of hotels in the area.  You can find out more about these hotels at HoustonAshara.com.

    By the time you read this though, most of those hotels are going to be fully booked.  Try out:
    Many hotels will provide two reservation options, a cheaper non-refundable rate, and a higher rate for reservations that can be canceled for no penalties as late as one day before the check-in date. 

    I also recommend checking out Hotwire.com (this website provides cheaper but only non-refundable reservations).

    Also, make sure your hotel is as close to the masjid as possible.  Distances may not look like much on the map (since everything is big in Texas) but anything outside a 10-mile radius (click on the image below) will take you as much as 1 hour to get to the masjid (one-way) especially during the morning rush hour. 
    Houston Map
    4. Airports

    International visitors arriving on direct flights to Houston will land at Bush Intercontinental Airport (code IAH).  Because almost all international flights land in rapid succession between 1 pm and 5 pm there can often be long lines and waits at immigration and customs.

    The other airport that serves the city is Hobby Airport (code HOU).  International flights that land here originate from Central and South America and the Caribbean. 

    Bush Intercontinental lies 45–60 minutes northeast of the masjid.  Hobby is 4560 minutes southeast of the masjid.  Rush hour traffic will effectively double these travel times.

    Houston jamat will have registration desks at both airports and will run buses from the airport to designated hotels.

    5. Arriving in Houston via Dallas

    If you are unable to find flights to Houston you may want to consider flying to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (code DFW) and then connecting to Houston.  Dallas is about 250 miles (400 kilometers) north of Houston.

    To get to Houston from DFW, consider the following options (descending order of convenience):
    Flights to Houston:  There are short flights (40-minute flying time) to Houston pretty much by the hour (by American Airlines and United).  Make sure these connections are on your international itinerary.  In other words, if you purchase the Dallas to Houston flights separately you will need to pay $25 per luggage piece (one-way) when you check in.
    Uber:  A regular Uber with 4 passengers will be about $320 – $450 (although it may not have enough space for all your luggage).  An Uber SUV will set you back $1,100 – $1,500.
    Rental car:  If you are planning to rent a car in Houston you may as well rent one in Dallas and drive to Houston.  The drive takes about 4–5 hours. There is a car rental center at DFW; you will need to take the rental car shuttle from the terminal (runs every 5 mins) to the rental center where you can pick up your vehicle.  To rent cars, check out carrentals.com, priceline.com, or hotwire.com.
    Bus:  You can also take a bus service called Megabus (https://us.megabus.com) from Dallas to Houston. For this you will need to take the DART train ($2.50 per person) from Dallas Airport's Terminal A to the Megabus Terminal in downtown Dallas. You will then take the Megabus (they have frequent buses) to Houston downtown (costs $20 – $35 per person depending on time of day).  From downtown Houston you can take Uber to your hotel (will cost about $65 – $90 to the masjid) or have a friend come pick you up.  
    Depending on the number of mumineen arriving in Dallas, there is a possibility that Houston jamat will arrange for paid shuttles straight from Dallas Airport to Houston masjid.  Please inform the Ashara Transportation Committee at Ashara53Transport@gmail.com if you are planning to arrive in Dallas along with your flight confirmation if you'd be interested in this option.

    6. Transportation 

    Houston, like many American megacities, is infamous for its urban sprawl and limited public transportation options.  The masjid is in a suburb that is not served by trains or buses.  Visitors will therefore have to rely on:
    Jamat buses: These will run between the masjid and designated hotels.
    Uber:  There are no running taxis in the masjid area (most roads near the masjid are not meant for pedestrian use).  This means that you must either call for a taxi or use you Uber app (a more popular and better option).  There will be designated areas in the masjid complex for taxi and Uber drop-off and pick-up. Do keep in mind that Uber (or taxi services) may not pass muster if hundreds of people decide to call for rides simultaneously from the masjid. As with any big city mumineen should exercise caution when taking these rides.
    Driving:  If you feel you will benefit from the mobility that comes with a car, I recommend looking for rental cars at carrentals.com especially if you are looking for rental centers located across the city and not just at the airport.  Other websites to search are priceline.com and hotwire.com.
    Texas law allows visitors to drive up to 90 days with a foreign drivers’ license (i.e., you do not need an international driver’s license to be eligible to drive).  However, do confirm with your car rental company about their policies on this front.
    Additionally, when you arrive at the car rental company, they will try to sell you all kinds of options.  Focus on the necessities.  By law, you will need to carry insurance (cost of $10 per day per driver). 
    Before you decide to rent a car, consider that Houston is notorious for its horrible traffic gridlock especially during rush hours.  If possible, avoid arteries such as Interstate 10, Highway 6, Highway 290, Highway 59, Interstate 610, and Interstate 45, from 6–9 am and 4–7 pm.   
    Traffic flow (with masjid as the reference point) during morning rush hours (glacial as it may be) is West to East and North to South (i.e., all towards downtown Houston) and vice-versa in the evenings.  At this time even local roads can be painfully slow so an abundance of patience and caffeine are recommended.
    Another consideration in your decision making should be the fact that there will be no visitor parking in the masjid complex or its immediate vicinity.  Instead, visitors will park at a parking lot at a distance from the complex connected to the complex via continual shuttles.  (You will not be able to walk from these parking lots to the masjid complex.)
    7. Weather

    A bevy of movies of the Western genre has wrongly left the impression that Texas is a vast, dry desert studded by cacti.  Texas is indeed vast but not all of it is desert. 

    Houston, located in the greenest and wettest part of Texas, is drenched by 60 inches of rain every year.  So do be prepared for downpours and thunderstorms.  Early to mid-October daytime temperatures will run in the 80°–86°F range (i.e., around 27°–30° Celsius) and nights will see temperatures in the 60°–66°F range (i.e., 16°–19° Celsius).  

    8. Mobile SIMs

    Houston jamat will provide T-Mobile SIMs for free.  You will be able to choose from plans that may cost $10 per week for unlimited calls and texting.  Data would be extra ($5 per week for 0.5 GB and $10 for 1 GB).  

    I should warn you though that T-Mobile may have cheap plans but their call quality and coverage can be horrible (and thousands of people at the masjid using their cellphone will definitely not help).  If you are willing to spend a little more it may make sense to get SIMs and plans from AT&T.  You will be able to find out more once you arrive.

    9. What not to bring with you

    Please remember that the US uses 110 volts and the plugs are different from those used in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the UK.  You will likely not need to bring irons and hair dryers since most hotels provide them in every room.  If your hotel does not provide irons (or if the iron is shared among several hotel guests) you can purchase one for as little as $12 at a Walmart or Target store.

    Additionally, if you are carrying food with you please do not carry meat products or fruits into the US.  Those who do so will be invited to the special customs inspections area where your bags will be checked thoroughly and all offending items will be confiscated.  This will be a time-consuming process and will only serve to worsen your already mounting jet-lag fatigue.

    10. Laundry

    Many hotels will have laundry services or washer and dryer machines that may be coin-operated (meaning you will need stacks of 25-cent coins or “quarters” to do your laundry). You will also find self-serve laundromats in open-air or “strip” malls all around town.  

    11. Medicines

    The masjid complex will have a medical camp but if you use prescription medications, please carry enough to last your journey since prescription medicines may not be readily available in the medical camp and may be incredibly expensive to purchase.

    12. Food & groceries

    Houston has an excellent food scene and halal restaurants have followed suit (although most of them are functional eateries without much or any ambiance).  

    If you are looking for groceries, stores such as HEB and Kroger will be easy to find everywhere.  When buying packaged food, do look at ingredient lists since non-halal foods may show up in unexpected places (e.g., flavored yogurt may have gelatin).

    13. Travel and tourism in Houston and nearby

    Houston has plenty to do if you are looking to spend some time here:  there is of course the world-famous NASA Space Center.  Then there is the museum district in the city (with 20 museums and galleries including the Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Children’s Museum) with some incredible collections.  There is also the Houston Zoo and for those interested in the performing arts, Houston has an incredibly active Theatre District in downtown Houston.  

    For sports fans, there is the NRG Stadium for American Football (home to the Houston Texans), Minute Maid Park for baseball (home to the Houston Astros), and Toyota Center for basketball (home to the Houston Rockets)

    Houston also has some great parks.  At 7,800 acres, the George Bush Park is the largest urban park in the United States.  Other notable parks including Bear Creek Park (again a huge patch of forest and wilderness in the city), Memorial Park, and Herman Park, and the Houston Arboretum are great places to retreat.  All parks contain picnic areas, sports facilities, and miles of hiking and biking paths, as well as an abundance of wildlife (deer, rabbits, tortoises, and all kinds of birds can often be sighted among other fauna and flora).

    There are few other attractions at a reasonable driving distance from Houston.  The island of Galveston on the Gulf of Mexico, about 1.5 hour drive from the city, has beaches and a port where several cruise ships depart for Florida, Mexico, and the Caribbean on a daily basis.  Austin, the capital of Texas, is a 2-hour drive from Houston. New Orleans in the state of Louisiana sits about 5.5 hours east of Houston (although many people do not find its attractions to be family-friendly).

    14. Travel and tourism in the US

    There is no shortage of sightseeing in the US but most places will involve a flight from Houston (often as long as 2 to 4 hours).  For those looking to explore the sights and sounds of the US in less than a week there are several options that may work out. 

    (1)  Northeast US: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC
    (2)  California Coast:  Los Angeles, Monterrey, San Francisco
    (3)  Disney and other theme parks:  Orlando, Florida or Orange County, California

    For nature buffs, there are tens of national parks (nps.govto choose from. Yosemite (California), Grand Canyon (Arizona), Yellowstone (Wyoming) are among the internationally famous ones.

    You may build your itineraries online using travel websites such as TripAdvisor.com, Expedia.com, Travelocity.comKayak.com.  Most will give you options for vacation packages that will include flights and hotel stays as well as options to purchase tours and sightseeing options.  

    Tour operators such as Gate1.com, AffordableTours.com, Trafalgar.com, TrekAmerica.com, and MayflowerTours.com will provide complete escorted tours with flights, tour guides, hotel stays, meals, bus transportation. Make sure you read online reviews for your chosen itinerary or tour company before making your reservations.

    Finally, I plan to add additional information as it becomes available.  If you have specific questions, please do email (mzak110@gmail.com) them to me.  I will try my best to post answers on this blog.

    Here’s praying for Moula's tulul umr and inshallah we will see you all here before too long!

    Wednesday, November 26, 2014

    Of measurement and measures

    You have to love the fact that we are obsessed with numbers and calculations.  Just about everything revolves around them and rare is a zikr that doesn’t mention a number and its significance. 

    Since measurement is the business of attributing numbers to objects and events, it was no surprise that Moula advised us all to measure and be measured in everything we do in his waaz mubarak on Syedi Hasan Feer Shaheed’s urs, on Moharram 23, 1436:

    Moula’s kalemat are meant for all walks of life but for now let us apply them to the world of business especially since we are witnessing a scramble to be data driven across enterprises of all sizes and kinds.  

    The importance of measurement

    First let us be clear that Moula is not talking about measuring because it is fashionable to do so these days.  Decades before the current data revolution our Moulas were advising and preparing us to profit from science and technology and to learn to be measurement-oriented to advance ourselves.  In an address to MSB on Saffar 8, 1427 Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin elucidated:

    As Burhanuddin Moula states, the use of modern tools and technologies––provided they are beneficial and in sync with our ethos––provides a solid and fitting foundation for an education system.  And that foundation, as Taher Saifuddin Moula underscored, includes the learning and use of exact sciences which, according to the dictionary, are defined as “field[s] in which accurate quantitative techniques are used and there are accurate means of testing hypotheses and repeating results.” 

    It is hard to dispute that a foundation built using scientific principles and calculations is more robust than one that is built using approximations, anecdotal evidence, and untested beliefs.  Burhanuddin Moula illustrated this concept with an example addressing architects and engineers although the universality of the message will not be lost on anyone:

    Similarly, a business in which fundamental decisions are made in a scientific fashion, i.e., using accurate assessments and knowledge derived from facts and data analytics, always perform better than businesses in which management relies on intuition, opinion, and unverified theories about customers, competitors, suppliers, products, emerging technologies, and so forth.  This idea is captured in the following infographic:


    The business of measurement

    For an entrepreneurial people, looking to start and expand our enterprises to capitalize on the relationship between risk and return, it is especially important for us to be data-driven as we assess the competitive landscape, evaluate new business ideas, introduce new business lines, launch new products, target new customer segments, and enter new markets.  In another bayan Burhanuddin Moula, talks about this:

    Moula’s advice is timely.  We live in a world where the business landscape continues to get more competitive, businesses models are continually challenged, and businesses are adapting owing to globalization, disruptive innovation, and creative destruction. 

    It is therefore more important than ever to realize that business does not have to be a zero-sum game.  A constructive and pragmatic approach is to productively differentiate oneself from the competition instead of in a cut-throat manner (for example through self-destructive means such as price wars or unethical activities such as spreading misinformation about competitors, etc.), and to take on calculated risks. 

    Interestingly, being data driven achieves both goals simultaneously.  Businesses that employ data analytics to run themselves not only use that approach to differentiate themselves from their competitors, they also outperform their competitors as shown below:

    On this topic world-renowned entrepreneur and philanthropist Bill Gates says:

    A business has increasing profit as its primary goal. Management decides the actions—such as improving customer satisfaction or adding new product capabilities—that will drive profit and then develops a system to measure those on a regular basis. If the managers pick the wrong measures or don’t do better than their competition, profit goes down. Business magazines and business schools analyze which measures companies use and which companies have done particularly well or poorly. Other companies benefit from these analyses, learning from the performance of their competitors which tactics and strategies work and which don’t.

    A natural corollary to the above arguments is that a measurement-oriented approach in business is forward-looking in two crucial ways. It (1) allows you to capture emerging opportunities and prepare for upcoming challenges, and (2) helps you learn from past experiences and mistakes to avoid them in the future.  As Moulana Ali said: 

    Simply put, the role of measurement in business is to quantify and track progress, business opportunities, and potential challenges, and use those measurements to profitably grow revenues and customers and manage operations, costs, procurement, compliance, and in the process distinguish yourself from your competitors.

    The measurement of business

    It has been argued that not all businesses can be measurement-oriented because not all have either the data or the tools or the capabilities to analyze them. Unilever can spend millions collecting and analyzing its sales data to understand consumer purchasing trends. But how is Shabbir bhai Sabuwala selling soap at a corner store in Sidhpur to effectively collect data and measure his performance to forge ahead?

    A few simple questions can help Shabbir bhai capture the power of measurement and data:
    • What are Shabbir bhai's monthly sales by soap brand?
    • What are his profits by brand?
    • What brands are most in demand? 
    • What brands does he not carry and why?
    • What brands are not carried by other stores in the area and why?
    • Are there months in a year when sales are chronically lower?  What can be done to boost sales during that time?
    • Describe customers who buy the brands that are (i) most (ii) least profitable?
    • What do customers consider when buying soap? Brand name, smell, color, size, ingredients, celebrity endorsements on packaging, shape of bar or bottle?
    • Customers purchase soap for personal nazafat. What other products can Shabbir bhai carry that complement and enhance this experience and allow the customers to more effectively achieve their objective of staying clean?

    Answering the above questions will give Shabbir bhai a scientific and measurement-oriented view of his business.  The information gleaned will help him decide what soap brands he may want to focus on, what customer segments are most profitable, how he can differentiate his product offerings, and how he can expand his product portfolio, and use his knowledge to sell more product and more profitable products to his customers.

    In conclusion

    Moula’s timeless words in Denmal about measurement were a reminder that he aims to keep us in sync with the best that the modern world has to offer and to keep us on top of the game be it deen or dunya.    

    Organizations across the world are investing time and money in using data to measure their success and counter their challenges.  The return on investment is that they always outperform their competitors.  Peter Drucker, one of the great management thought leaders of the twentieth century, couldn’t agree more.  As he famously said:

    What gets measured gets managed.