Islam encourages social justice

Islam is associated with terrorist activities but this is most unfair, for my faith teaches me to sp

Some believe praying five times a day and fasting in the month of Ramadan are all that you need to do to be a good Muslim. While these are fundamental features of the faith, in order of closeness to God, they are rated less.

Standing firm for justice is considered closest to Godliness. In other words my religious and social responsibility is to work for just causes. In my faith I am required to stand witness to justice, fairness and equality not just in words but in practice. In Qur’an God says "be just, that it closest to Godliness".

My faith demands that I do not lead a passive life. I am reminded in the Qur’an that I have to stand for justice at all cost, even if it means I have go against myself, my family or friends. I must serve justice even against my bitter enemies. For God does not favour the unjust.

In a trouble filled world my faith has become synonymous with violence and hate. It is often associated with terrorist activities and suicide bombing. Unfortunately this is most unfair, for my faith teaches me to spread peace on earth. In fact unless I submit to peace, i.e. peace inside myself and at peace with everything around me, I am not considered a good Muslim. No wonder the blessed Prophet used to make this prayer on a regular basis –

“Oh God,
You are peace.
From you comes peace
To you returns peace
Revive us with a salutation of peace
And lead us to your abode of peace”

For me social justice starts at home. I must care for my parents as my responsibility especially when they reach old age. Qur’an reminds me that after being loyal to God I must be good to my parents. Once a man came to the blessed Prophet and said “O prophet I have performed Hajj – pilgrimage, carrying my elderly mother on my shoulder, have I paid her back for everything?” The prophet replied, “Not even for one contraction”.

One of my regular prayers to God is “O God please be merciful to my parents just like they were merciful to me when I was little”.

To lock up my parents in a care home when they are old, frail and most vulnerable is simply cruel and unjust. Thus in Islam social justice starts from home. I must be just to my wife and my children as I will be asked about my duties and responsibilities on the Day of Judgement.

I must do everything possible to sustain a good relationship with my relatives. I am reminded by the prophet who said “one who cuts relations with relatives; God will cut relations with him or her”.

Social justice in Islam extends to even to those who are not related to me such as the neighbours, orphans and the needy. I am not considered a Muslim if I go to sleep with my stomach full while my neighbour sleeps hungry. I must help the orphans and the needy by sharing with them part of my wealth through paying Zakat (a proportion of my surplus wealth which must be given on a yearly basis to poor and the needy) and voluntary charity. The blessed Prophet once said “he is not a Muslim who sleeps with his stomach full while his neighbour stays hungry”.

Social justice is about my struggle against inequality. In today’s world I must fight against poverty. We have excessive amount of wealth that is often wasted in the developed world while millions of people in the developing world die of hunger. Islam stands firmly against such inequality and encourages me to be involved with initiatives that would eradicate poverty and challenge the root causes of inequality. Everyday many people from Africa and Asia risk their lives to cross to the West simply looking for a better life. Most do not make it this far and perish on the way. Islam teaches me to be prepared to share what I have with those who do not have it.

I am concerned about the abuse of our environment and exploitation of our natural resources. My faith says that I am a “custodian” of this earth and its surrounding. As a custodian I do not have the right to either abuse it or stand by watch it get destroyed. I have to take active steps to ensure its healthy longevity. This too is my struggle for justice.

Ajmal Masroor is regularly invited to speak on issues on integration and Islam in the modern world. He leads Friday prayers in several Mosques across London.
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Ariana and the Arianators: "We really are like a family"

The pop star provides her fans with a chance to express themselves joyfully - their targeting was grimly predictable.

Ariana Grande’s concert at Manchester Arena on 22 May began like any other. Children and teenagers streamed through the doors wearing pink T-shirts, rubber wristbands and animal ears (one of Grande’s signature looks). They screamed when she came on stage and they sang along with every song. It was only once the music had ended, and the 20,000-strong audience began to leave the venue, that the horror began – with a bomb detonated at the main entrance.

The show was just one date on Grande’s Dangerous Woman tour, which began in Phoenix, Arizona in February, moved across the United States and Europe, and had stops scheduled for South America, Japan, Australia and Hong Kong. (Since the Manchester attack, Grande has suspended the tour indefinitely.)

Since releasing her debut album in 2013, Grande has successfully transitioned from teen idol to fully fledged pop star (all three of her studio albums have sold over a million each) with a combination of baby-faced beauty and Mariah Carey-style, breathy vocals. Her most popular records are bubblegum pop with a Nineties R’n’B influence, a combination also expressed in her fashion choices: Nineties grunge meets pastel pinks.

She entered the limelight at 16 on the children’s TV programme Victorious, which ran on the Nickelodeon channel, pursuing her musical ambitions by performing the show’s soundtracks. Many of the young people who grew up watching her as the red-haired arts student Cat Valentine on Victorious would become fans of her pop career – or, as they call themselves, the Arianators.

As she outgrew her child-star status, Grande’s lyrics became more sexually suggestive. Recent songs such as “Side to Side” and “Everyday” are more explicit than any of her previous hits. She has repeatedly insisted that young women should be able to speak openly about sex and feel empowered, not objectified.

“Expressing sexuality in art is not an invitation for disrespect,” she tweeted in December. “We are not objects or prizes. We are QUEENS.”

Grande also has a reputation as something of a gay icon. She has advertised her records on the gay dating app Grindr, headlined shows at Pride Week in New York, and released a single and a lipstick to raise money for LGBTQ charities.

Cassy, a 19-year-old film student and fan, told me the fanbase is “made mostly of young women from 14-23, but I run into guys and non-binary fans all the time.”

“It’s pretty well known that Ariana has got a LGBTQ+ fan base. She’s so outspoken about it and that’s what draws us to her. Because she’s accepting of everyone, no matter who you are.”

Like many child actresses-turned-pop star, Grande has a fan base skewed towards the young and female: teenage and pre-teen girls are by far the majority of her most dedicated supporters. A writer on the Phoenix New Times described the typical Ariana Grande crowd as “pre-tween, tweens, teens, young gay (and fabulous) men, moms with cat ears, and multiple candidates for father of the year”. The Arianators form tight-knit groups on social media. I spoke to several over Twitter after the attack.

Arena concerts, which often have more relaxed age restrictions than nightlife venues, have long been a safe space for children, young people and teenage girls. They provide a secure place for concert-goers to dress up, experiment, play with burgeoning sexualities, dance, scream and cry: to flirt with an adult life still slightly out of reach. Glitter-streaked tears stream down the unapologetic faces of fans touched by an emotion bigger than themselves. It is appalling, if grimly predictable, to see children, teenage girls and young gay men targeted by agents of regressive ideologies for expressing themselves so joyfully. On 23 May, Isis claimed the attack.

Andréa, a 17-year-old fan from France, told me about her first experience of a Grande concert. “It was incredible,” she said. “Everyone was so kind, excited and happy. We really are like a family.”

The fans are devastated by Monday’s bombing. Thousands of messages appeared on social media to commemorate those who lost their lives. “As an Arianator,” Alexandre, aged 16, told me, “I’m really sad and I’m scared.”

“We’re all taking it really hard,” Cassy said. “We’re a family and we lost 22 members of that family last night.”

Ariana began her gig in Manchester with the song that has opened every night of her current tour: “Be Alright”. In it, she repeatedly reassures the crowd, “We’re gonna be all right.” It’s a phrase that her fans are clinging to after the attack. So, too, are the lyrics of “Better Days”, by Grande and her support act Victoria Monét, which was also performed the night of the explosion. “There’s a war right outside our window,” the words go. “I can hear the sirens . . ./I can hear the children crying . . ./I’m hoping for better days . . .”

“It’s hit us all very hard because we’ve lost some of our own,” said one Arianator who runs a popular Twitter account about the tour. “People we interacted with on a daily basis. People that just wanted to have a night of fun. These are dark times, but we are looking forward to better days.”

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 25 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Why Islamic State targets Britain

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