Veteran’s Day 2013

Presented hereunder is the abridged text of Linda Barto’s speech which she delivered on Veteran’s Day 2013. Linda – a revert Muslim – is a veteran of the United States Air Force and the North Carolina Air National Guard. She was a decorated soldier having been awarded the National Defense Service Medal (twice), the Air Force Commendation Medal (twice), the North Carolina National Guard Achievement Medal, the George Washington Medal of Honor, and the NC Adjutant General’s Commander’s Coin.

T

he theme of my presentation is, “We can’t afford to retire as veterans.” There are wars all around us, and each of us – veterans and other citizens – needs to be active in service to fight these wars.

There is a war against humanity.  All over the world, there are human rights violations. Thousands are in prison just for expressing their thoughts. Torture and imprisonment for political reasons are common. Indigenous peoples are forced from their lands for the sake of progress. Food and water are contaminated by corrupt corporations. Millions of people, including children, are tricked or kidnapped and forced into slavery, including sexual slavery. Although slavery is illegal in almost every nation, it exists everywhere. Globally, 29.8 million people are slaves today. 60,000 slaves are in the USA. Victims are as young as five years old. Slave owners reap over 32 billion dollars per year. At least 122 goods from 58 countries are produced by slave labor.  This includes diamonds from Africa, bricks from Brazil, shrimp from Southeast Asia, cocoa from the Ivory Coast, cotton from Uzbekistan, and tomatoes from Florida, just to name a few…

There is a war against women. In the US alone, almost 500 women per day are raped or otherwise sexually assaulted. One in four women has experienced violence by a spouse or boyfriend. The United Nations reports that over 250,000 cases of rape are recorded annually in the 65 countries reporting, but most rape cases are not reported. In some countries, rape of women is used as an act of war in order to break down families and weaken society. Rape is not considered a serious crime by much of the police force. In one study, it was found that 33% of police officers believe that “some women deserve rape.” On college campuses, rape is often covered up, the victims are blamed, and the rapists are glorified. The rape culture teaches that women are objects and a sport to be exploited. On the TV show “Two and a Half Men,” the father asked his son, “Do you think I’m a good role model for you?” The son answered, “Dad, you have a different woman in bed every night. How could a son ask for a better role model?”  This is an example of how the media perpetuates the war against women.

There is a war against children. Children are targeted by tobacco companies, drug dealers, and pedophiles. The destruction of families is perpetuated by war, poverty-producing greed, and domestic violence. In the US, over 15 million children live in homes with domestic violence. Every year 3.3 million reports of child abuse are made in the USA. Every day in the US, five children die from abuse and neglect. Over 40% of child abuse victims won’t live to see their first birthdays. It is estimated that one in five girls and one in twenty boys are victims of sexual abuse. Many of these children wind up in foster care, and today in the USA, there are 115,000 children waiting to be adopted. Muslims need to step up and provide homes for these homeless children. Prophet Muhammed (peace upon him) said, “Anyone who is a guardian to an orphan will be with me in Paradise like this” (holding two fingers together). Around the world, there are an estimated 153 million orphans. But I consider all children up for adoption to be orphans, because, even if their birth parents are alive, they have either given up their parental rights or had their parental rights taken away due to neglect and/or abuse. If you have space in your home and in your heart for an orphan, please consider adoption or foster care. Some Muslims think that adoption is not Islamic. I’ve discussed this in two of my books, The Bible and the Qur’an at the Edge of Renaissance and Memoirs of a Hillbilly Muslim. In those books, I explain that the Islamic view is that a child should know that he or she is adopted, and he or she should know his or her parents’ names and know of any siblings he or she has if that knowledge is available. (If it’s not available, then there is no blame on the adoptive parents for not sharing what they don’t know.) The purpose is to prevent accidental, incestuous marriages. Prophet Muhammed (peace upon him) was adopted, and he had an adopted son. When the son was old enough to make his own decisions, he was given the opportunity to live with his birth family, but he chose to stay with the Prophet… Here, I would like to read a translation of Surah 93, which is one of my favorite passages from the Qur’an:

“Consider the glorious morning light. Consider the still of the night. Your Lord has not forsaken you, and He is not displeased.  Truly, the hereafter will be better for you than the present. Soon your Lord will give that which will please you. Did He not find you as an orphan and give you shelter? He found you wandering, and He provided guidance. He found you destitute, and He made you independent. Therefore, do not treat the orphans harshly. Do not turn away from the petitioner. Proclaim the blessings of your Lord.”

There is a war against animals.  Tigers are being killed for their skins, elephants are being killed for their tusks, and sharks are being killed for their fins. The black rhino became extinct just this year. Poachers are putting more and more animals on the endangered species list. Extreme animal cruelty and abuse exists all over the world. There is a fad in China in which tiny animals – like baby lizards and turtles — are encased in plastic pouches and sold on key chains. They live only a few days. Animals are not toys! They are not novelties! They are not trinkets! They are living, feeling creatures given breath by Allah, and as Allah’s representatives on Earth, we need to do more to insure the safety and welfare of all animals. Prophet Muhammed (peace upon him) was an animal rights activist. Some of his teachings [in this regard are]:

  • “If you want to be loved by your Creator, love His creatures” (Al Tirmidhi).
  • “All creatures are the family of Allah, and He loves most those who are most beneficent to His family” (Bukhari).
  • “Whoever is kind to the creatures of Allah is kind to himself” (Bukhari).
  • “A good deed done to an animal is as good as doing good to a human being, while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as an act of cruelty to a human being.” (Mishkat al-Masabih)
  • In the hadiths, someone asked, “O Allah’s apostle, is there a reward for us in serving animals?” He replied, “Yes, there is a reward for serving any living being” (Abu Huraira).
  • In Tirmidhi, “The Holy Prophet prohibited the use of skins of wild animals.” Allah gave us permission to eat meat, but He did not give us permission to kill wild animals for a sport and to use their bodies for trophies. Ibn Umar said, “The Prophet cursed anyone who made a living thing into a target” (Abu Dawud).
  • In Bukhari, it is written, “Allah’s messenger forbade inciting animals to fight each other,” so dog fights, cock fights, bull fights, all other incited animal fighting are anti-Islamic.

It is said that chickens are the most exploited and abused creatures on earth. Poultry was not even included in the Humane Slaughtering Act. On an online social media, someone asked a scholar if eggs are halal. The scholar answered that ‘halal’ only refers to slaughtering, and there is no slaughtering in egg-production, so eggs are halal. That scholar was wrong. In the first place, halal is not just about slaughtering; animals must be raised in a humane and natural way to be considered halal, and factory farm-raised chickens do not experience a humane and natural lifestyle. Second, eggs from factory farms begin with haram slaughtering. Hatcheries specializing in egg-laying hens figure the sex of chicks within two or three days after hatching. Every male chick is thrown ALIVE into a meat grinder – if it’s lucky; otherwise, it is thrown into a trash bag that is stomped down to make room for more chicks that eventually suffocate or are crushed to death. Unless you specifically buy eggs from cage-free hens (which I do), factory farm hens are stuffed into tiny cages where they spend their entire lives with no joy of living. When egg-production is low, chickens are starved to promote forced molting, which generates increased egg-laying. When chickens are sick or old, they are either thrown alive into a meat grinder or buried alive in a mass grave. If an egg has this history of abuse and merciless killing behind it, can we really consider it halal?

We say that all animals are Muslims because they do what Allah created them to do. Factory-farmed chickens are hatched in hatcheries where the mother hens do not get to nurture and protect their offspring as Allah intended. They are housed in factories where they cannot scratch in the dirt, dust themselves, or socialize in a stress-free environment. They are fed foods laced with arsenic to keep down mites, and they are fed unhealthy amounts of grain instead of the grass and insects and other foods they would naturally eat. So, if a chicken or other animal is not allowed to live in the natural way that Allah intended, can we say that it is being denied religious freedom?

Other animals raised on factory farms are not allowed to live in the natural way that Allah intended. For example, the diets of factory-farmed animals may contain same-species meat (which is what caused mad-cow disease), diseased animals, feathers, hair, skin, hooves, blood, manure, plastic pellets (to provide roughage), drugs and chemicals (including hormones), and unhealthy amounts of grain. I know a chicken farmer who has won awards for having the biggest chickens the fastest. Through the use of hormones, he can have a chicken ready to eat in six weeks. Chickens are fattened so much so fast that they cannot walk and have to wallow on their bellies in their own wastes.

Under current law, pigs, chickens, and turkeys that have been fed rendered cattle can be rendered and fed back to cattle –a loophole that may infect healthy cattle with mad-cow disease. The chicken you get from KFC or the burger you get from Burger King may have come from animals that were fed pork products. According to one report, as much as 90% of products marked ‘halal’is not truly halal. For one thing, there are counterfeit halal stickers. You know something’s wrong when you can buy halal pork chops! Yeah, I’ve seen that. For another thing, the animals are not always raised in a humane and natural way and not comforted before slaughtering, and they are not prevented from being able to see other animals slaughtered.

I suggest that we all eat less meat. Prophet Muhammed (peace upon him) did not eat meat every day, so a mainly fruit-and-vegetable diet is Sunnah. American scholar Sheikh Hamza Yusuf said, “Traditionally, Muslims were semi-vegetarians. Umar [the second Muslim caliph] said, ‘Beware of meat, because it has an addiction like the addiction of wine.’” We see this addiction in the popularity of fast-food places. In the Shi’ite tradition, Ali is reported to have said, “Do not make your stomach the graveyard of animals.” I think it means not to always have meat in your digestive system. I suggest that each of us eat no more than one or two meats per week. With a little creativity, you can come up with many, tasty, meatless meals.

If you have pets, please spay/neuter. If you don’t have a pet, please consider rescuing one from the animal shelter. Many Muslims think it’s wrong to have a pet, and they point to several hadiths. The Prophet (peace upon him) allowed service animals, and, in our reality, we have found that dogs can be trained in remarkable ways to help people. I think all pets are service animals because they help protect us from depression. Anyone who has a pet can tell you how much happier his/her life is because of his/her pet. There are other hadiths about showing mercy to dogs and cats, like the one (in Abu Huraira) about the Jewish prostitute who gave water to a thirsty dog. The Prophet (peace upon him) said that her sins were forgiven because of her act of kindness to a dog. Also, in the Qur’an, the companions of the cave had a pet dog, and the Qur’an does not say anything negative about it.

There is a war against the environment. Rain forests are disappearing at the rate of 1½ acres per second. Plastic pollution in the oceans has been measured at 46,000 particles per square mile. Tar sands operations leak 3 million gallons per day of toxic water into the surrounding environments. Cruise ships annually dump more than one billion gallons of sewage into the ocean.  The extension of the Keystone Pipeline threatens to jeopardize the welfare of wild lands, including national forests. Sixty percent of the honey bee population has been destroyed by poisons.

The Qur’an says, “Commit no pandemonium on Earth now that it has been set in order” (Surah 7: 56). This commandment has been broken more times than we can count. Muslims should take the lead in waving this commandment as a banner as we advance forward in the struggle to return creation to its former glory. The Qur’an prophesies that Satan will “order them to change Allah’s creation” (Surah 4: 119). We see this prophecy coming true today with GMO – genetically modified organisms. If someone asks you, as people sometimes do, “If Muhammed was a prophet, what did he prophesy?” you can tell them that, for one thing, the Qur’an prophesies GMO, which wasn’t realized until 1995. We see it in the Frankenfly in which flies have been genetically engineered with a poison that kills their offspring in the larvae stage so that eventually flies will be extinct. What makes people think they have the right to do this? What will happen to the animals that depend on the flies for their food source? And what will happen to the animals that depend on those animals for food? When we disrupt the food chain, we are disrupting all of planet Earth.

GMO foods are a very real and urgent cause for concern. Although they are banned in more than 60 countries around the world, in the USA, they have been given unlimited freedom through laws such as the Monsanto Protection Act. How crazy is that? We are the ones who need protection from Monsanto!  The federal version of the Monsanto Protection Act was thrown out due to protests and petitions, but some states have their own versions that they are passing. We have to stay vigilant to crush bills that allow corrupt corporations to poison us.

GMO crops have been genetically altered so that they are resistant to insects by having pesticides built into their genetic structure. Monsanto claims that the pesticides break down before they reach the table, but we have already discovered that this is not true. Research has shown that eating GMO foods has caused such problems as infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system, and allergies. Animals feeding on GMO plants in the field have died within days. Butterflies have died within minutes just from coming into contact with pollen from GMO plants. Farm laborers have to wear HazMat suits just to work in GMO fields. GMO crops have also been engineered to be resistant to weed-killers so that fields can be thoroughly sprayed with Roundup without killing the food crops. Due to natural cross-pollination, the result has been what is being called superweeds – weeds that are themselves resistant to current weed killers. So now stronger and more dangerous weed-killers are being used, so we get a double dose of weed killers in our food – weed killer genetically engineered into the plant itself and more weed killer directly on the plants. And then we may get poisoned again as drinking water becomes contaminated, and then again as we eat meat from animals fed GMO foods.

According to one report, 75% of our food is GMO. Because of cross-pollination, even organic crops are being contaminated with GMO. Organic farmers and producers of wild seeds are endangered. We don’t even know when we are eating GMO foods because the food producers have bribed law-makers to make sure that GMO foods to not have to be labeled to warn us of GMO.

Already 90% of corn is GMO, and sugar beet farmers have all agreed to go 100% GMO. Even if you don’t eat beets, you may be using foods that contain beet sugar, so you cannot be safe. Soon, you will not even be able to buy GMO-free beet seeds. Oranges are being altered with a pig gene to make them unsusceptible to a certain bacteria. All crops are going in the GMO direction, and right now food producers are not required to label their products as being GMO. We need to unite to stop this trend.

We must also join the fight against fracking. In the search for shale oil, a chemical cocktail is forced into the shale rocks to crack them open and release natural gas. Fracking companies refuse to disclose what chemicals are combined in the fracking fluid, but they have been found to be dangerous as they contaminate streams and rivers. Entire towns have become ghost towns as a result of the havoc fracking has played on the environment. People around fracked areas have been able to strike a match to their running water and set it on fire.

We need to leave behind a legacy better than GMO, the fracking fiasco, and the destruction of wildlife and wild lands. Get informed. Get active. Share information. Sign petitions. Write letters to your elected officials. Finally, be a prayer warrior!  All these issues need to be addressed in our daily prayers. Allah’s help will come if all our prayers unite in one beautiful commitment to improve our world and fight the battles for our survival and survival of the planet.