Nakasha Ahmad, New Jersey, USA
Ahmad Nooruddeen Jahangeer Khan, London, UK
What is Khilafat? Any regular reader of these pages will be familiar with the Ahmadiyya Khilafat. This divine system has been put into place to help Muslims stay united, behind a leader who is chosen expressly by God.
Those who have met the Khalifah [Caliph], or have worked closely with him, or asked him for prayers, can tell dozens of stories of God’s special favour on him, the unique acceptance of his prayers, the extraordinary insight he has into people’s problems and their solutions. And indeed, in these pages and during last year’s God Summit , many people have told their stories.
But there are, of course, those who haven’t met His Holiness (aba), those who wonder in what way this extraordinary insight might manifest – those who wonder what evidence there might be to show that His Holiness [aba] is an extraordinary leader and that Khilafat is, in fact, a divine institution.
Throughout the last 114 years of Khilafat, there have been hundreds of instances where the Caliphs of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community showed extraordinary insight, not just in spiritual matters, but also worldly matters. While it can be expected that a spiritual leader would have expertise in religious and spiritual matters, it is an additional sign of his truth if that leader possesses incredible insight into matters pertaining to science, economy, politics, history, psychology and contemporary issues.
Over the last 19 years, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), like all his predecessors, has not only provided spiritual guidance and counselling to members both inside and outside the community, but also useful guidance and insight on worldly matters – oftentimes well before other expert observers have noticed these matters.
Below, we detail some of His Holiness’ (aba) most prescient advice and guidance, and what that implies for the wisdom and truth of Khilafat.
When Mark Zuckerberg launched thefacebook.com in early 2004, nobody could have predicted just how big the social media juggernaut would become. But as we all know now, Facebook became a huge success, with not millions, but billions of users.
In 2010, Time Magazine chose Zuckerberg as its ‘Person of the Year’. Journalist Lev Grossman commented at the time, ‘In less than seven years, Zuckerberg wired together a twelfth of humanity into a single network, thereby creating a social entity almost twice as large as the US.’  The year before, it chose Facebook as one of its 50 best websites, downplaying privacy concerns. 
And millions and millions of people joined Facebook and continued to join it. After all, it seemed like a harmless ways to connect with new acquaintances and catch up with old high school friends.
Yet throughout Facebook’s history, it has violated its users’ privacy. In 2007, it introduced ‘Beacon,’ which informed a user’s Facebook friends every time they purchased something. After user outcry, it was discontinued. But the privacy missteps kept coming. Facebook connect allowed people to log in with their Facebook usernames on other sites, and grabbed more of user information. In 2011, the FTC investigated Facebook’s privacy practices.
Privacy breaches were not surprising, in light of Zuckerberg’s own statements. In 2008, in what came to be known as ‘Zuckerberg’s Law’, he stated, ‘I would expect that next year, people will share twice as much information as they share this year, and next year, they will be sharing twice as much as they did the year before.’ The next year, in an interview with Wired magazine, he announced that people could make their profiles ‘open to everyone. And what I would just expect is that as time goes on, we’re just going to keep on moving more and more in that direction.’ In 2010, he expanded on the theme of openness: ‘And people have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information – and different kinds –but more openly with more people. And that social norm is just something that’s evolved over time…We decided that these would be the social norms now and we just went for it.’  In a 2010 profile of Zuckerberg published in the New Yorker, journalist Jose Antonio Vargas writes, ‘Zuckerberg may seem like an over-sharer in the age of over-sharing. But that’s kind of the point. Zuckerberg’s business model depends on our shifting notions of privacy, revelation, and sheer self-display. The more that people are willing to put online, the more money his site can make from advertisers. Happily for him, and the prospects of his eventual fortune, his business interests align perfectly with his personal philosophy. In the bio section of his page, Zuckerberg writes simply, “I’m trying to make the world a more open place.”’ Danah Boyd, a scholar who works at Microsoft Research, said at the time, ‘This is a philosophical battle. Zuckerberg thinks the world would be a better place – and more honest, you’ll hear that word over and over again – if people were more open and transparent. My feeling is, it’s not worth the cost for a lot of individuals.’ 
In June of 2011, His Holiness (aba) reiterated that Facebook, in particular, was designed to violate privacy. He even cited Zuckerberg’s desire and belief that people would become more and more open. At the time, His Holiness pointed out that the use of Facebook was harmful to people and led them away from their relationship with God, and cited Zuckerberg’s desire to have more people share more and more. He stated:
‘Nowadays, there is a new means of social interaction called Facebook. It isn’t really new, as it was created a few years ago. I once forbade [the misuse of] this and mentioned in a sermon that it encourages immorality. It destroys the veils and coverings between people, discloses secrets, and invites towards immodesty. The creator of this has himself said, “I have created this to show openly to the world exactly how humans are.” Being shown openly according to him means that it is acceptable for one to post a picture of themselves naked, and it even invites others to comment on it… Similarly, one is able to post whatever they wish regarding others. Is this anything other than the depths of immorality?’ 
In December 2011, he pointed out that while he had not forbidden the use of Facebook, he had warned that it had more harms than benefits.  At the time, many Ahmadi Muslims stopped using Facebook.
In the decade that has followed, Facebook’s scandals have only worsened. Until 2014, Facebook’s Graph API gave developers access to users’ friends’ information. In other words, let’s say Person A played a game on Facebook. While Person A may have consented to sharing their information with the game developer who created the game, this loophole allowed the game developer to collect information on Person A’s Facebook friends, who had not consented and would not know that their information was being shared in this way. 
By 2016, fewer and fewer positive stories about Facebook were being published, as more and more media outlets took a harder look at its algorithms and the role it played in spreading misinformation in the US elections for President. 
In March 2018, the world found out about the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The firm, which consulted on the Trump campaign, collected data on millions of users.  Using a personality quiz, the company collected data on quiz takers and their friends. The company was able to see what users had liked, but also what the users’ friends had liked. This information allowed them to build a ‘psychographic’ profile that could then be used to predict certain attributes, including ‘sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious and political views, personality traits, intelligence, happiness, use of addictive substances, parental separation, age, and gender’. This information was later used to target users with political ads that varied according to their profiles and potentially made them more likely to vote for Trump. 
And in 2021, Facebook whistle-blower Frances Haugen released the Facebook Papers. Those documents showed that while Zuckerberg had testified in front of Congress that 94% of the hate speech on its platform is removed before it’s reported by a user, the actual figure was under 5%. And research conducted by Facebook itself showed that changes made in the platform to ‘increase meaningful social interaction’ actually led to more polarising and divisive content, to more extreme posts, and to disinformation.  Internal research also blamed the company for not doing enough to stop the groups that participated in the January 6 Capitol attacks.  Moreover, its own researchers also found that 1 in 8 users believed that they used Facebook so much that it significantly affected their offline lives, including sleep, work, and relationships. 
In a 2016 memo, Facebook executive Andrew Bosworth wrote this in response to complaints that Facebook was promoting fake news: ‘So we connect more people. That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools. And still we connect people. The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is de facto good…That’s why all the work we do in growth is justified.’ 
Thus, the use of Facebook, far from being innocuous, had significant negative effects on all sorts of users. Either by harvesting users’ data, allowing users to be targeted for political ads and misinformation, or through engaging users’ time and attention at the expense of their offline lives, Facebook has negatively impacted not only individuals, but society as a whole, by fomenting misinformation, distrust, and the breakdown of civil society. And there is a direct link between encouraging people to share more and more of their personal information online and the ability of Facebook (among other companies) to influence behavior. Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows, who has long written about the effect of the internet on our brains, writes, ‘But it was Facebook, with its incredibly detailed data on people’s social lives, that grasped digital media’s full potential for behavior modification. By using what it called its “social graph” to map the intentions, desires, and interactions of literally billions of individuals, it saw that it could turn its network into a worldwide Skinner box, employing psychological triggers and rewards to program not only what people see but how they react. The company rolled out its now ubiquitous “Like” button, for example, after early experiments showed it to be a perfect operant-conditioning device, reliably pushing users to spend more time on the site, and share more information.’  In other words, the danger of sharing ever more and more – particularly on Facebook – also means that one is more susceptible to being shaped by Facebook as well. In the end, the Khalifah of the time saw
the dangers of Facebook well before most people – dangers that have had real consequences at every level.
In the end, the Khalifah of the time saw the dangers of Facebook well before most people – dangers that have had real consequences at every level.
Civil War in the United States
In 2015 and 2016, Donald Trump, an outsider candidate with little chance of winning the presidency (or so people thought) made a number of derogatory statements about women and minority groups. Yet he ended up becoming the candidate for the Republican Party, and eventually, the President of the United States.
In 2016, in an interview with the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge, His Holiness (aba) was asked about Trump’s candidacy, specifically about his proposal of a ‘Muslim ban’. His Holiness (aba) responded by saying that extreme measures would lead to ‘civil war.’ Mansfield, startled, repeated his words, ‘Civil war?’ His Holiness (aba) went on to explain that if Trump divided the country in this way, there would be conflict.
In the last six years, the United States has seen polarisation on both sides. A milder version of the Muslim ban – limiting immigration from seven mostly Muslim countries – was passed and saw massive protests at American airports. Racial justice protests rocked the nation in the summer of 2020. And on January 6, 2021, rioters stormed the Capitol in a bid to overturn the election results. Armed with guns, they overran Congress for several hours before leaving.
Now, talk of civil war is everywhere. In January of 2022, journalist Stephen March published The Next Civil War: Dispatches from the American Future, in which he imagines how a second civil war might start. An recent article on the website of National Public Radio begins like this, ‘Not long ago, the idea of another American Civil War seemed outlandish. These days, the notion has not only gone mainstream, it seems to suddenly be everywhere.’  In fact, in the aftermath of the January 6 attacks, the worries about civil war have not gone away. In the first half of 2022 alone, the New Yorker , the New York Times , the Guardian  and Business Insider  have published articles debating the possibility of civil war. In short, while Mansbridge was incredulous at the idea of an American civil war in 2016, in 2022 it’s all anyone can talk about.
Barbara Walter, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, has also just published her book How Civil Wars Start. In an interview after the Capitol attacks, she explained, ‘We have seen America’s democracy decline in 2016… the US used to be considered a full democracy, like places like Norway and Switzerland and Iceland. And it’s now considered a partial democracy in the same category as countries like Ecuador, Somalia and Haiti.’ Walter goes on to explain about the two factors that put countries at risk for civil war: ‘Countries that are partial democracies…They’re neither fully democratic nor fully autocratic. Those are the countries that are most likely to experience a civil war. And the second big risk factor is whether a country’s population, whether its citizens have broken down politically along racial, ethnic or religious lines. And of course the United States has both of those conditions currently.’ 
Again, His Holiness (aba) pointed this out in 2016, before this decline started. At that time, to suggest that there could be a civil war if Trump continued to divide people seemed an outlandish idea. Many people have called the previous administration divisive, especially along racial and religious lines.  Along with the passage of the weaker Muslim ban, the proliferation of white supremacist groups also increased during this time.  And those involved in the January 6 Capitol riots also largely defined themselves in terms of being white and Christian. In other words, these kinds of actions led to the kind of rift that could lead to civil war. That is, if it hasn’t already: one point mentioned by Walter and others is that a modern-day civil war wouldn’t look like the first civil war, with large battalions on either side. Rather, it would look more like the troubles in Northern Ireland: a small number of people terrorising the larger population with bomb blasts and gun attacks, ambushing the public when they wanted. In that sense, what with the storming of state capitals in Oregon, Idaho and Michigan, and the failed plot to kidnap Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, a civil war may have already begun. 
Shoring up Supplies
While some of us may have seen images long ago of bread lines in the Soviet Union, most people living in the western world have rarely had to grapple with scarcity. Supply chains have mostly hummed along smoothly, ensuring that anyone who wants and can afford bread, flour, toilet paper, or anything else they might want is able to purchase them.
Yet in 2011, His Holiness (aba) advised Ahmadi Muslims to stock up on household supplies and food items. In his Friday sermon on November 4, 2011, His Holiness (aba) mentioned in an aside that the financial crisis could be unpredictable and that everyone should keep several days’ worth of dry goods on hand, in case there is some sort of crisis. Several years later, His Holiness elaborated, saying that Ahmadi Muslims should keep several months of food, supplies, and water on hand in case of emergency.
In the years that followed, extreme weather events – a hurricane here, a freak snowstorm there – have grown exponentially. And Ahmadi Muslims who had stocked up would tell stories of how His Holiness’ (aba) advice had saved them during these emergency situations.
But the real test was yet to come. In 2020, of course, the coronavirus pandemic struck. Panicked and unsure of what was to come, shoppers emptied the shelves of toilet paper from Australia to Hong Kong to the US.  In the United States, large stores such as Walmart and Target had to limit sales of hand sanitiser, water, and disinfectant wipes. Similarly, a run on yeast led to shortages in the UK, the US, France, and Germany, among other countries. A rise in ‘pandemic baking’ led to a blossoming of homemade focaccia and sourdough, but also to flour shortages. One woman who had grown up with breadlines in Belarus was reminded again of that scarcity while standing in line at grocery store Trader Joe’s. 
And it wasn’t just food and cleaning supplies. The pandemic has permanently altered the supply chain. 2020 saw shortages of sewing machines; within 24 hours, Walmart’s 100-day supply of sewing machines dwindled down to just a five-day supply.  In fact, supply chain woes from the pandemic haven’t ended: there is a global computer chip shortage, affecting everything from cars to consumer electronics.
While the pandemic upended supply chains and caused some inconvenience, 2022 ushered in more serious issues. With the current war between Ukraine and and Russia, both significant exporters of wheat, countries that used to import wheat from them now are running short on flour.  Known as the world’s breadbasket, the Ukraine and Russia together export 30% of the world’s wheat.  This has caused serious bread and flour shortages across Africa and the Middle East, leading to an increased food insecurity. And worried about shortages, Greek supermarkets began to ration flour, Spanish markets rationed sunflower oil (Ukraine is a significant producer), and Germany looked at rationing natural gas. In short, supply chain issues during the pandemic may have been inconvenient,  but these new supply chain issues may be much more serious.
Again, in 2011 there were no obvious issues with the supply chains in the developed world. At the time, it would have been unimaginable that basics such as flour and yeast could be in short supply. It might have seemed overkill to have several months’ worth of anything on hand when it is so easy to just buy what you need when you need it.
But anyone who heeded His Holiness’ (aba) warnings would have been well-prepared to weather those 2020 shortages (and current shortages too). By following his advice, Ahmadi Muslims were well-prepared for local crises and global supply chain woes. Again, this is yet one more instance where His Holiness’ (aba) insight was years ahead of its time.
World War III
In the wake of the recent Russia-Ukraine crisis, World War III has been on everyone’s mind. The use of nuclear weapons is not off the table. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, in an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt, stated that World War III ‘may have already started’. 
Yet His Holiness (aba) has warning of the dire consequences of nuclear war for over a decade. At the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s annual Peace Symposium in 2012, His Holiness (aba) explained the danger the world was in:
‘In today’s world, one terrifying manifestation of God’s decree could be in the shape of another world war. There is no doubt that the effects of such a war and its destruction will not be limited to the war itself or even to this generation. In fact, its horrific consequences will be exhibited for many generations to come. Just one tragic consequence of such a war will be the effect it will have on new born children, both now and in the future. The weapons available today are so destructive that they could lead to generation after generation of children being born with severe genetic or physical defects.
Japan is the one country to have experienced the abhorrent consequences of atomic warfare, when it was attacked by nuclear bombs during the Second World War. Even today when you visit Japan and meet its people, you see an absolute fear and hatred of war visible in their eyes and from what they say. Yet the nuclear bombs that were used at that time and which caused widespread devastation, were much less powerful than the atomic weapons that are possessed by even very small nations today.
It is said that in Japan, even though seven decades have passed, yet the effects of the atom bombs are still continuing to be manifest on new-born children. If a person is shot by a bullet, then it is sometimes possible for him to survive through medical treatment, but if a nuclear war breaks out, then those who are in the firing line will have no such luck. Instead, we will find that people will instantly die and freeze like statues, and their skin will simply melt away. Drinking water, food and vegetation will all be contaminated and affected by radiation. We can only imagine what type of diseases such contamination will lead to. In those places that are not directly hit and where the effects of the radiation are somewhat less, even there the risk of diseases and illness will become much higher and the future generations will also bear much greater risks.’
His Holiness (aba) continued:
‘Therefore, as I have said, the devastating and destructive effects of such warfare will not be limited to the war and its aftermath, but will pass from generation to generation. These are the real consequences of such warfare, and yet today there are selfish and foolish people who are extremely proud of their invention and describe what they have developed as a gift to the world.
The truth is that the so-called beneficial aspects of nuclear energy and technology can be extremely dangerous and lead to widespread destruction, due to either negligence or due to accidents. We have already witnessed such catastrophes, such as the nuclear accident that occurred in 1986 in Chernobyl, in what is now Ukraine, and just last year after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, it too had to contend with great danger and the country was placed in fear. When such events happen, then it is also very difficult to repopulate the affected regions. Due to their unique and tragic experiences, the Japanese have become extremely cautious and indeed, their sense of fear and terror is fully justified.
It is an obvious statement that people die in wars, and so when Japan entered the Second World War, its government and its people were well-aware that some people would be killed. It is said that approximately 3 million people died in Japan, and this came to about 4% of the country’s population. Even though a number of other countries may have suffered higher proportions of deaths in terms of total numbers, yet the hatred and aversion to war that we find in the Japanese people remains much higher in comparison to others. The simple reason for this is certainly the two nuclear bombs that were dropped on Japan during World War II, and the consequences of which they are still witnessing and having to bear even today. Japan has proved its greatness and resilience by being able to repopulate and rehabilitate its towns relatively quickly. But let it be clear that if nuclear weapons are used again today, then it is quite possible that parts of certain countries could be completely wiped off the map. They could cease to exist.’
In that same speech, His Holiness (aba) alludes to the possibility of war in Europe: ‘Recently, a very senior Russian military commander issued a serious warning about the potential risk of a nuclear war. It was his view that such a war would not be fought in Asia or elsewhere, but would be fought on Europe’s borders, and that the threat might originate and ignite from Eastern European countries. Though some people will say that this was simply his personal opinion, I myself do not believe his views to be improbable, but in addition, I also believe that if such a war breaks out, then it is highly likely that Asian countries will also become involved.’ 
In the intervening years, His Holiness (aba) has taken every opportunity to address the dangers of nuclear war.
At a reception to mark the 100-year anniversary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s establishment in the UK, His Holiness (aba) said: ‘Due to the acts of certain countries the signs are that another world war is on the horizon. If a world war breaks out then the Western world will also be deeply affected by its far-reaching and devastating consequences. Let us save ourselves from such destruction. Let us save our future generations from the miserable and devastating consequences of war. There is a real risk of a nuclear war breaking out. To prevent such a horrific outcome, we should adopt justice, integrity and honesty and join together to suppress and stop those groups who wish to spread hatred and who wish to destroy the peace of the world.’
On a visit to Tokyo in 2015, he again touched on this theme, saying, ‘For many years I have been warning that the world should realise that the effects of a war in one region can and will affect the peace and harmony of other parts of the world… Whilst perhaps the major powers keep nuclear weapons as a deterrent, there is no guarantee that the smaller countries will show such restraint. We cannot take it for granted that they will never use nuclear weapons. Thus, it is clear that the world stands on the brink of disaster.’ 
These are just a few examples. His Holiness (aba) has warned about the dangers of forthcoming world war fought with nuclear weapons many times in the last decade. He has written letters to world leaders, urging them to promote peace and avoid war (see the January 2021 edition of The Review of Religions). In short, he has urged peace at every turn, and saw the potential dangers long before many.
A Man of God
These are merely a few instances that illustrate the Khalifah’s extraordinary insight.
One question that may occur to a reader is that others may also have some of the same insights. After all, some tech watchers were wary of Facebook from the beginning. Political scientist Barbara Walter has been studying civil wars for years. And the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have long warned the public about nuclear war through their metaphor of the Doomsday Clock.
But these are people who are experts in their respective domains. While a political scientist can be expected to have more insight into a country’s state than a regular citizen, it would be remarkable if that same political scientist was also able to articulate the dangers of Facebook or the fragility of the supply chain.
Yet the Khalifah of the time is a spiritual leader who helps people stay on the straight path. He does not claim special expertise in the fields of political science or technology. Yet time and again, his insight has been years – sometimes decades – ahead of its time.
Some people believe that a Khalifah is a mere spiritual guide, one whose realm is prayer and morals, and who has no special insight into worldly affairs.
But that understanding – as clearly shown above – is incorrect. There is a hadith, a narration by the Holy Prophet (sa), which warns, ‘Beware of the believer’s intuition, for indeed he sees with Allah’s light.’ There can be no greater believer in this time than a rightly guided khalifah, and thus, by extension, his acumen must be the sharpest, his insight the deepest, his wisdom the greatest.
About the Authors: Nakasha Ahmad was previously an Adjunct Lecturer in philosophy at Eastern Michigan University and a Graduate Assistant at Bowling Green State University. She currently serves as the Assistant Editor of The Review of Religions. Ahmad Nooruddeen Jahangeer Khan is an Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and serves as deputy of the Comparative Religions section of The Review of Religions.
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- Will Daniel, “Gas in Germany, flour in Greece, sunflower oil in Spain: European countries take steps towards rationing as the war in Ukraine adds to the global supply crunch,” https://fortune.com/2022/03/30/rationing-europe-globalsupply-crunch-natural-gas-russia-foodstuffs-war-ukraine/. Accessed April 25, 2022.
- https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/world-war-iii-may-already-startedrussian-invasion-zelenskyy-says-rcna19967. Accessed April 19, 2022.
- https://www.alislam.org/articles/devastating-consequences-nuclear-war-critical-need-absolute-justice/. Accessed April 19, 2022.
- https://www.pressahmadiyya.com/press-releases/2015/11/head-of-ahmadiyya-muslim-community-delivers-historic-address-in-tokyo-japan/. Accessed April 19, 2022.