Articulus Moderandi


What color is terror by Mouhammed Sakkal

About two months ago in Chapel Hill, N.C., Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha were shot to death in the sanctity of their home by their neighbor Craig Stephen Hicks, police allege.

They were three young Muslim American students who were active participants in community service and philanthropy and Hicks is a 46-year-old self-proclaimed “anti-theist” who was taking night classes to become a paralegal.

Local authorities initially stated the murders were over a “parking dispute,” and the media quickly began echoing this allegation until family and friends of the three victims spoke out. Their loved ones gave reasons why this was most likely a hate crime committed due to the victims’ religious and ethnic identities. Most news outlets did the right thing and called for further investigations to take place before concluding the motive of the attack.

Only a few days later, Finn Nørgaard and Dan Uzan were shot and killed, by Omar El Hussein in Copenhagen, according to Danish police. Film director Nørgaard was shot trying to stop El Hussein after he encountered him at a Danish cultural center with an automatic weapon. Uzan was a Jewish community member on duty as security for a bat mitzvah, who was killed at a synagogue while defending those inside.

Prior to any formal investigation, authorities and media alike quickly condemned this attack as an act of terrorism. El Hussein was labeled a terrorist, with many saying he was motivated by cartoons drawn of the Prophet Muhammad. El Hussein’s history exhibited violence and crime, with links to a Danish gang called the Brothas, and according to CNN he pledged allegiance to ISIS on Facebook right before the attack. However, there’s currently no substantial evidence to suggest he was collaborating with the terrorist organization.

These two tragedies have some striking similarities. In both cases, the perpetrators allegedly killed their victims because they disagreed with certain beliefs they held. Just based on descriptions in the news, all the victims seemed to be the type of people who had huge hearts filled with love and compassion for humanity, regardless of opinions or beliefs.

West Virginia University Muslim Students Association president Mouaz Haffar said the North Carolina students were an inspiration.

“The three killed had some of the most inspirational lives in terms of community service, leadership, family ethics and academics. They were shining pillars of what living as a Muslim truly is. They were martyrs for peace.” Author Douglas Murray said Nørgaard, the first victim of the Copenhagen shooting, saved countless lives.

“People inside the cafe now credit Nørgaard with helping to save their lives. If he had not struggled with the gunman and bought precious extra seconds for the police and others, it is likely that the number of fatalities at the free-speech event would have been far higher […] Bravery is Finn Nørgaard.” Daniel Gonn, friend of the second Copenhagen victim, said he was selfless and loving toward all.

“Dan was a warm, loving and exuberant friend who was always there for others and would lend a helping hand without hesitating. He had a huge heart with room for everyone. He was a son, a brother, a friend and a teammate who was taken from us far too soon.”

People need to understand the following statement. Hate has no skin color, ethnicity, religion or race. But apparently terror does, and if you watch mainstream news networks you would know that it’s brown, Middle Eastern and Muslim.

Craig Stephen Hicks killed three innocent people senselessly and Omar El Hussein killed two. Although the scenarios are similar, many in the mainstream media handled the cases extremely differently.

As stated previously, in Hicks’ case, many in the media were quick to state the cause of the murders was a parking dispute. His wife’s lawyer stressed the “importance of access to mental health care services” when referring to the case, and the media didn’t change their tune until the victims’ family spoke out.

In El Hussein’s case, statements made by authorities and media alike assumed the motive to be religiously inspired and, again, labeled the crime as an act of terror.

Let me be clear. In both cases, the criminals’ actions are despicable, and they deserve the swift hand of justice after a proper investigation. As a human being who values ethics, I believe this, and as a Muslim, I believe this. The Quran says: “Oh you who believe, be strong in your support of justice, witnesses for the sake of God, even if it be against yourselves, or your parents, or those who are close to you, [regardless of] whether they be rich or poor, for God has priority over them.”

Having said that, I now sincerely ask, why is El Hussein’s crime considered terrorism while Hicks’ is not? Is the term “terrorist” really only reserved for dark-skinned, Muslim males?

It seems like the mainstream media’s reasoning on how to label criminals tends to follow the following logic. If you are an African American criminal, you must be a thug or a gangster, and if you are a Muslim or Middle-Eastern criminal, you must be a terrorist.

But if you are a white criminal, you are just an ordinary criminal who probably had mental health issues (or was angry about parking). Of course, not all media outlets are guilty of doing this, but enough are to make this a serious issue.

Don’t think for a second this is something specific to Arabs or Muslims. Many minorities observe this phenomenon and express the same sentiment as myself, thinking, why the double standard?

When this phenomenon occurs, it is not an injustice to the criminals but an injustice to the law-abiding people belonging to many ethnic and religious minorities. This is never about the actual criminal, but rather about being fair and equal when covering events like these.

The purpose of this article is to raise awareness about this issue, and to call on all media to cover news in an unequivocally fair and unbiased manner. Avoid unnecessary sensationalism for the sake of profits and when covering any event, be as cautious as possible to avoid breaking journalistic ethics and integrity.

Why have I never seen non-Muslims who commit horrific atrocities being called “terrorists” in the media? Is it really a term only reserved for Muslim criminals?

Why all minorities should be grateful to the African American community by Mouhammed Sakkal

With Black History Month now upon us, it is an appropriate time for all minorities living in America to honor those who sacrificed far more than blood, sweat and tears to transform the redundant America into a more open-minded and inclusive place.

Although it is obviously counterintuitive and illogical for a society comprised of primarily non-native people to hold a disturbing and racist world-view, unfortunately it is a truth that plagues our history, and one we should never forget.

For to forget the countless injustices done first to the enslaved Africans, then to the African American communities under Jim Crow and later to the African Americans striving and fighting during the Civil Rights Movement would be an additional injustice in itself. Those of us living in America, especially the minorities, have an obligation to educate ourselves about this rich history that eventually led to the America where if you worked hard enough, even if you were a couple of Middle Eastern, Muslim immigrants like my parents, you could live the American dream and have a happy, prosperous life.

We, myself included, must learn about the selfless abolitionist Harriet Tubman who, after escaping slavery, spent her life helping dozens more attain their freedom. We must learn the stories, not just the names, of the great Civil Rights Movement leaders such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., who although at one point in time had very different philosophies and approaches to achieving social and racial equality in America, both contributed tremendously to the cause. We must learn about Booker T. Washington, William Du Bois, Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall and the countless other prominent figures who all contributed tremendously to the ends.

Through the creation of institutions such as the Tuskegee Institute and the NAACP; through the sit-ins and boycotts; through the campaigns of civil resistance and non-violent civil disobedience – the African American community achieved the passing of some great legislation during the Civil Rights Movement. This legislation include the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act and one which was outstandingly significant to the status and diversity of future minority immigrants in America, the Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965. This act completely changed the way immigration was conducted in the U.S.

Prior to the passing of this act, the law in the U.S. excluded almost all Asian and African immigration and preferred northern and western European immigrants to southern and eastern ones. This was because immigration policy was under an ethnocentric system known as the National Origins Formula, which restricted immigration based on existing ethnic proportions in the population in order to maintain the ethnic composition of the U.S. With the passing of this act came a massive rise in immigration from the many untraditional, non-European countries and gave rise to the multicultural melting pot we see today.

Whether you are an avid supporter and enthusiast of Black History Month or like Morgan Freeman, a critic who views it as a relegation of a great people’s history to one month, I think we can all agree the sacrifices made by many prominent African American figures have not just led to prodigious progress for American society, but phenomenal progress for humanity as a whole, even if there is still so much more to be done in both America and across the world.

This history is especially important in allowing so many immigrants to come here and prosper. As immigrant minorities in this country, we must be thankful and supportive toward the African American community. We must support them in their campaigns today and in helping them demolish institutionalized racism.

According to Anas White’s article on the deeper meaning behind #BlackLivesMatter, institutionalized racism includes, “[the] high rates of police brutality, extra-judicial executions, media smearing and vitriol, and the failure of the justice system to actually hold anyone accountable for dead black men, except dead black men.”

This is a systemic, recurrent virus of injustice in our society that needs to be eradicated. The African American community has lived and died for our right to be equals in this society and continue to struggle to this day for that right. We must stand behind them every step of the way in these struggles to achieve a more fair, equal and just America for all.

Charlie Hebdo a Muslim perspective by Mouhammed Sakkal

When the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten printed the first controversial cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005, I barely gave it any thought. As an 11-year-old Muslim kid living in Charleston, W. Va., the only reason it even impacted my life was because Muslims around the world reacted extremely negatively to it, leading to a surge in Islamophobia already present post 9/11, and more bullying toward me at school.

Although the bullying sucked, I more or less wondered how some random offensive cartoons could make so many Muslims react in such a violent manner? I was taught ours was a religion of peace. Were they not taught the same?

Fast forward a decade and deja vu. Now in France instead of Denmark, we are met with the same issue and we don’t really know why. A lot of us, especially in the U.S., don’t want to offend our Muslim peers, but at the same time wholeheartedly support the human right that is freedom of speech. Are these two positions mutually exclusive? Absolutely not.

During his lifetime, Prophet Muhammad was threatened and mocked, called a liar, a forger, a madman and a sorcerer.

According to his legacy in the Islamic religion, he would not react to these denigrations but rather embody patience.

The Quran says, “Whenever you hear people deny the truth of God’s messages and mock them, you shall avoid their company until they begin to talk of other things.”

We are not a religion of vigilantes who need to “avenge the Prophet” for what others may draw or say. Yes, provocative caricatures of Muhammad are offensive to myself and other Muslims. However, the murder of innocent people in the name of Islam, contradictory to Islamic tenets, is far more offensive than any drawing could ever be. Islam doesn’t give permission to its followers to be judge, jury and executioner. There are no words that can emphasize how utterly disgusting it is to misconstrue any religion and use it as a tool of oppression.

All that being said, those of us who support freedom of speech and expression, along with other basic human rights, must do so for everyone. In 2004, France banned the hijab, the Islamic headscarf, in schools and other public service areas as well as pro-Palestinian protests last summer. These are clear signs of free speech and expression censorship. I personally support the right to free speech for everyone, but before I can even think to jump on board with the #JeSuisCharlie movement, I must know, is it big enough to fit the Muslim community?

Maybe it is. But so far, nothing has been done to omit these speech and expression censorships from French society. And what’s worse is that these aren’t the only double standards in this whole situation. In 2008, Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Maurice Sinet made a provocative, offensive cartoon about Jean Sarkozy, son of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, insinuating that Jean was converting to Judaism to solve his financial problems. Sinet’s editor, Phillipe Val, terminated him since he refused to apologize for what was deemed anti-Semitic remarks, and Sinet also faced charges for inciting racial hatred. What’s ironic is that three years earlier, as editorial director of Charlie Hebdo, Phillipe Val chose to republish the Danish newspaper’s cartoons of Prophet Muhammad with no remorse for how utterly distasteful and bigoted such cartoons may be toward Muslims. If mocking Judaism warrants job termination and lawsuits, why does mocking Islam warrant an exponential increase in the frequency of mocking Islam?

Of course, given the historical context of what the Jewish people went through in Europe, it is obvious there are certain sensitivities when it comes to ridiculing Judaism in the media. But shouldn’t an institution that chooses to exclude the mocking of one faith at least show hesitation in mocking another, and respect what they deem sacrosanct so that they don’t have very obvious double standards?

Furthermore, one must critically think and ask why #JeSuisCharlie represents the movement of freedom of speech? When someone says, “I am Charlie,” is not only a show of support for Charlie Hebdo’s right to say whatever they want and a stand of solidarity with their tremendous loss, but also an endorsement of their content. It would be far wiser to support freedom of speech and grieve for such tragic deaths without also endorsing what many would call offensive, bigoted material. We should strive to be like Ahmed Merabet – the police officer who lost his life trying to stop the attack on Charlie Hebdo. He is a defender of free speech in the strongest sense of the word. He fought to defend a newspaper’s right to ridicule his faith and he paid with his life. That is why I, along with some Muslims, am not Charlie, but rather, #JeSuisAhmed.

Rise by Ali Issa

Our theme this year is RISE. We must RISE as American Muslims, Citizens, fathers, mothers, friends, Sons, daughters and as a café team to set up a positive example. We will RISE with confidence, dignity and grace.

To assist us in leading the way, we will have a monthly leadership article to inspire us to stay the course. This particular article addresses the mistakes that successful people do not do.

Which of These Mistakes Do You Make — That Successful People Don’t?

Mistake 1: Avoid responsibility. We will RISE and admit our mistakes. After all, mistakes are lessons to be learned. We will hold ourselves and each other accountable.
Mistake 2: Procrastinate. We will RISE to be people of thoughtful actions.
Mistake 3: follow the trends. We will RISE as we remain grounded to our mission and principles. Mistake 4: Try to do it alone. We will RISE as a TEAM. Together Everyone Achieves More. Mistake 5: Lack of belief. We will RISE above doubt and skepticism.

Let’s remind each other of these principles. Keep in mind that these principles allow us to grow professionally and personally. Let’s capitalize on them.

Pro-Active by Ali Issa

As a reminder, our theme this year is RISE. We must RISE as American Muslims, Citizens, fathers, mothers, friends, Sons, daughters and as a café team to set up a positive example. We will RISE with confidence, dignity and grace.

To assist us in leading the way, we will have a monthly leadership article to inspire us to stay the course. This is our second article and this particular article addresses “Eight Guaranteed Ways to Become the Most Proactive Person You Know”.

8 Guaranteed Ways to Become the Most Proactive Person You Know

I would like to highlight two out of the eight ways.

Be Solution-Focused: The most effective way to handle a problem is to focus on finding a solution. Always be part of the solution and not the problem. Be prepared to present a solution when you are presenting the problem. Hold others accountable to do the same.

Find the Right People: Surrounding yourself with driven, effective people is a proven way to help you succeed. You cannot spend time with lazy people all day and also achieve your daily goals. None of us qualify as lazy because we are donating our time and money to leave a legacy.

Emotional Intelligence by Ali Issa

The mission of café is “To kindle self-awareness and inspire actions of virtue”.

Before we start a journey with others, this journey starts with oneself. Emotional Intelligence affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results.

Personal competence comprises your self-awareness and self-management skills, which focus more on you individually than on your interactions with other people. Personal competence is your ability to stay aware of your emotions and manage your behavior and tendencies.

  • Self-Awareness is your ability to accurately perceive your emotions and stay aware of them as they happen.

  • Self-Management is your ability to use awareness of your emotions to stay flexible and positively direct your behavior.

    Social competence is made up of your social awareness and relationship management skills; social competence is your ability to understand other people’s moods, behavior, and motives in order to respond effectively and improve the quality of your relationships.

  • Social Awareness is your ability to accurately pick up on emotions in other people and understand what is really going on.

  • Relationship Management is your ability to use awareness of your emotions and the others’ emotions to manage interactions successfully.

    Your emotional intelligence is the foundation for a host of critical skills—it impacts most everything you do and say each day.

To learn more please click on the link below.

Signs That You Lack Emotional Intelligence

We are all leaders by Ali Issa

We are all leaders; as fathers, mothers, business owners, physicians….

In this article you will notice that the foundation consists of:
Active Listening. We learned about active listening; listen to understand and not listen to respond.
TEAM Playing. TEAM: Together We Accomplish More.
Responsiveness: Whether the communication is email, voice mail, a note or a tweet, responding shows you care.

In the spirit of Rise, we can continue to listen to better understand our differences, work together towards a common goal and respond positively to any negativity.

11 Simple Concepts to Become a Better Leader

May 2013:

Major Themes of the Quran by (the late) Professor Fazlur Rahman  (

This is an excellent though academic review of the core ideas and concepts within the Quranic narrative. It is a must read for any serious student of Islam. It has been authored by a formidable recent scholar of Islam and is a testament to a rich intellectual heritage that Muslims have and towards one that they need to turn to. The book will require attentiveness. It is not a casual reading but one that will be well worth the time spent.

December 2012:

Gabriel’s Wing by (the late) Dr. Annemarie Schimmel (

This is a wonderful work on (Allama) Dr. Muhammad Iqbal. It covers his historical context, ideas, and poetic writings in a cohesively presented thesis.  Dr. Iqbal’s thinking was aimed at rekindling the pathologically colonized Muslim mind and spirit. His primary method for conveying those reconstructive ideas was through poetry. Dr. Iqbal, however, did present his thoughts in other formal writings and through lectures. The most famous of his theoretical works was “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam”.

Dr. Schimmel was one of the foremost authorities on Iqbal. She has comprehensively presented his vision and philosophy through this book, Gabriel’s Wing, which takes its name from Iqbal’s poetic writing, Bal-i-Jibril.

Haroon Moghul of the ISPU will be speaking on “Iqbal and the Crises of the Muslim World” at the December 15th, 2012 Cafe a la Fikr Forum for Intellectual Islamic Discourse.


November 2012:

The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

“This is a very instructive and easy to read book highlighting key elements to building a more cohesive and functional organization. The five point/levels of the evolving pyramid of group dynamics is insightful and applicable. This is a must read and ought to be a required assignment for any committee seeking improvement and success.” – comment submitted by Dr. Syed Saud Ashraf

Of Note: the Cafe a la Fikr Steering Committee has undergone workshop training based on this book.



The Qur’anic Paradigm by Dr. Syed Saud Ashraf

The Qur’an is the “fatihah” of the human intellect and consciousness towards the sublime and the metaphysical – derived from an absolute genuineness and revelatory truth – with, necessarily, a consequential awakening and transformation of one’s being and essence. This assumes, but only, one’s inner honesty, sincerity and a justified effort (jihad) in attaining to this “fatihah” with due deliberation, discretion and thought.

For a believer (here, a Muslim), it naturally follows that the learning of the Qur’an must necessarily be of primal importance and of fundamental significance to the journey (or raja’ – return) to God. All the sciences and tools necessary for true appreciation of the Qur’an must be acquired if one is truly committed to seeking the way to God (here, as the revealed way of Muhammad (s) and of Islam). The Qur’an is the only proven and authentic (Divinely Chosen) way of proximity to God for developing our cosmic understanding of the Creator, ourselves and the universe at large – in essence, our way to understanding life. Empirical science, though necessary for grasping insight into the material world and a portal to such, is incapable of revealing and unraveling the higher dimensions of psychic (but, real) existence. Moreover, nor is material science qualified to inform the human intellect adequately on its own of the purposes of existence and the forward-heading life destiny. Clearly, to understand life one is dependant upon our sensory faculties to some degree, but how to process and understand those impressions is the role of revelation. Hence, the meaning and purpose of life (existence) is the domain of revelation (authentic). The importance of devoting oneself to the Qur’an is as important as to being a Muslim. The “shahadah” is but only the beginning – an oath of commitment to pursue and to follow – it is not the completion of the journey upon its initial declaration. Here the “shahadah” is being referred to from its simple and exact proclamation necessary for joining the community of those yearning to turn towards God and bearing witness to His revealed truths, in its literal and legal sense (an equally valid reality). “Shahadah” carries with it, however, a higher dimension of understanding and perception, an existential cognizance and realization, in which one is living – a state or condition of being (an awareness of “wahdat-ush-shuhood” as elucidated by Sheikh Ahmad Sirhind). Ultimately, the Muslim’s purpose of life is akin to Imam al-Ghazali’s assertion: “that the purpose of man is the acquisition of the knowledge of God; man’s love of God is the final end in this life and the vision of God, the summum bonum or complete end, in the hereafter.” (The Ethical Philosophy of al-Ghazzali by Professor M. Umaruddin)

It is also noteworthy to recognize the methodology of the immediate companions of the Prophet (s) in regards to their approach and understanding of the Qur’an. Indeed, they never separated themselves from its learning until death. Slow, but, continued and persistent study of the Qur’an is the intellectual “mi’raj” and the right way. At minimum, one should work to know how to read and recite it correctly (according to the correct Arabic sounds and tajweed) and continuously memorize the Qur’an. No Muslim questions nor denies the merit of the bearer of the Qur’an. Concomitantly (and of equal, and perhaps arguably, greater importance) is to learn as much concerning the Qur’anic sciences – historiography, linguistics, asbab-un-nuzul (circumstances of revelation), related fiqh (jurisprudence), and tafaseer (commentaries). It is critically important that one does not get distracted by a single tafsir; for they are all but human efforts at trying to unfold and understand the Qur’anic message, and hence, as all human products, bound to be limited and finite and potentially prone to error and misgivings. Thus, it is important to read and consult as many of them as reasonable – though a single verified commentary (and/or translation) can be chosen as an initial reference point. The source of the Qur’an emanates from the realm of Infinity – that can not be captured in its absoluteness and completeness or richness. The Qur’an escapes finality of definition and exactitude (by finite dependent beings) with regards to its inner wisdom and metaphysical insights. Hence, it remains a perennial revelation that “reveals” its hidden treasures in the mystery of time and history – thus being forever valid and relevant. This fact is even more substantial for a Muslim since the Qur’an represents the final chapter in Divine communiqué with humankind in this present Earthly domain. The learning of the Qur’an but requires a yearning soul and mind; a people in continued search and need of the Divine!

Also, it is absolutely critical that one abstains from deriving ahkaam (juristic and legal mandates or commands) without having been properly trained in the sciences pertaining to Islamic law and jurisprudence – for this, either one takes up the field of jurisprudence or consults one qualified in dealing with such matters. This tendency by the lay to think that she/he is capable of deriving law on her/his own without needing appropriate education and training in the field is not only absurd but dangerous – for it can become a source of individual and communal fitn (trials). However, having stated the obvious precaution, from the personal and psycho-spiritual standpoint, one is necessarily encouraged and required to pursue as much of the learning of the Qur’an as feasible.

In all humility, the Qur’an offers the believer intimate moments with the Creator in a way that is indescribable for it appeals to the psyche and not to the sensory; this can be most appreciated when one abides by what is advised in the initial verses of Surah Muzammil (73). The Qur’an is man’s only communiqué with and portal towards The Merciful One (along with the subsequent personal experience which thereafter follows (individually) by God’s Grace – the feeling of proximity to the Divine and the unveilings of the truth – whether, mystical or intellectual). The Qur’an is the strength of the mu’min (true believer) and her/his only guide through this temporal and transient valley of the present life. Naturally and logically, the learning of the Qur’an needs to be equally matched by ardent ‘ibaadah (worship) and husn-al-khuluq (the most beautiful and best ethical character) along with the mujahadah (effort) of living up to being a truthful and a genuine Muslim – one who struggles continuously to transform her/his nature according to the dictates of the Divine and practices ‘aml salih (reformed acts of virtue and righteousness).