Islam

Aysha Khan 6-28-2016

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When Laila Alawa woke up on a recent morning, her phone wouldn’t stop pinging with Twitter notifications.

“You’re not American, you’re a terrorist sympathizer immigrant that nobody in America wants and for good reason,” one user tweeted.

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A Muslim civil rights organization says that a record number of groups are spreading hatred of Muslims and have raised more than $200 million in funding since 2008.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group, issued its findings in a report conducted with the Center for Race and Gender at the University of California, Berkeley, released June 20.

Image via REUTERS / Adrees Latif / RNS

Tragedies like the June 12 Orlando shooting seem to happen like clockwork, with the U.S. now averaging one mass shooting every day. And in cases where the shooter has a Muslim-sounding name, terms like “terrorist,” “extremist,” “radical,” joined with “Islam” quickly appear.

President Obama took a swipe at the use of such terms earlier this week. In response to Donald Trump’s accusation that he has an ulterior motive in avoiding the term “radical Islam,” the president said the term was “a political distraction.”

Image via REUTERS/Mark Blinch/RNS

As one of a tiny number of openly gay imams in the world, Daayiee Abdullah has felt the sting of rebuke from fellow Muslims. No good Muslim can be gay, they say. And traditional schools of Islamic law consider homosexuality a grave sin.

But Abdullah, a Washington, D.C. lawyer who studied Islam in the Middle East, says that mainstream Islamic teaching on gays must change.

Image via Adam Covington / Baptist Press / RNS

Southern Baptists are usually the first to defend religious freedom. But when it comes to Muslims, some want to draw a line.

At their annual meeting in St. Louis, an Arkansas pastor said Baptists shouldn’t support the right of Muslims to build mosques, especially “when these people threaten our very way of existence as Christians and Americans.”

Prizren, Kosovo. Image via Berat Hoxha [CC BY-SA 3.0] / Wikimedia Commons

Three years ago, Joshua Stanton was walking around Peja, a Balkan city where the skyline is punctured with the dainty minarets of three historic mosques, when he decided to put on his yarmulke.

“I am Jewish,” he thought. “I want to put it on.”

Image via REUTERS/Murad Sezer/RNS

Turkish authorities have allowed Hagia Sophia, a World Heritage site, to be used for Ramadan prayers, an act that has enraged Orthodox Christians who say the famed former church and mosque is supposed to be off-limits for any religious ritual.

Prayers for the holy Muslim month were first read at the start of Ramadan on June 8, prompting a swift and pointed response.

Akhtar Ali 6-13-2016

Image via REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/RNS

The killings of two Hindus, one Christian, and the wife of an anti-terror official in Muslim-majority Bangladesh last week have left members of minority religious communities afraid for their lives and skeptical of the government’s ability to provide security.

Separate targeted attacks on Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, and atheists have left the country reeling. On top of the violence, some churches have received death threats from Islamist militants.

Image via REUTERS / Steve Nesius / RNS

One year after the Supreme Court ruled that gays can legally marry across the country, and at a time when most polls show a majority of Americans support LGBT equality, the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., shocked many Americans who had begun to take gay rights for granted.

Not only did the shootings at the Pulse nightclub occur during Pride month, when LGBT people and supporters across the U.S. celebrate the gains they have made toward equality, they also took place at a gay club — historically a safe gathering place for LGBT people, especially back when no other establishments would welcome them.

Ulrich Rosenhagen 6-03-2016

Image via REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch - RTX2533D / RNS

While many countries in Europe have sealed their borders to refugees, Germany has done the opposite. Last year, the country registered over 1 million asylum seekers, including 425,000 from ravaged Syria.

No other country in the European Union has accepted as many. For Syrians and others who risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea in rubber dinghies, Germany has become a beacon of hope.

Laleh Bakhtiar 5-24-2016

Palestinian Salafists protesting Charlie Hebdo in Gaza City. Image via REUTERS/Suhaib Salem/RNS

American journalists routinely report on Islamist extremists such as the group that calls itself the Islamic State, or ISIS, without mentioning one of the key doctrines that inspires them.

Whether translated loosely as “us vs. them” or more precisely as “allegiance-disassociation,” “wala wal-bara” is a foundational doctrine of Salafism, the Sunni purist movement that has become a major force in Middle Eastern politics.

Zaituna Mosque, Tunis. Image via Tom Heneghan / RNS

Tunisia’s Ennahda movement, the most successful Islamist party to emerge from the Arab Spring revolts early in this decade, has renounced political Islam and declared it will operate in the country’s politics as “Muslim democrats.”

A party congress over the weekend in the beach resort of Hammamet voted almost unanimously to drop Ennahda’s traditional religious work and participate in Tunisian politics as a regular political party.

Julienne Gage 5-03-2016
the Amala Foundation

The Amala Foundation

IN DECEMBER 2007, Naomi Mwangi, a Christian, fled her home in Kisumu, Kenya, as men with machetes attacked towns across the region. For five weeks violence raged nationwide. When the bloodshed ended, more than 1,300 Kenyans were dead and another 650,000 had been displaced. Mwangi and her family ended up living in the Maai Mahiu refugee camp, south of Nairobi. She was 12 years old.

Mwangi is coming of age in a society with ethnic violence in the background, extremist violence in the foreground, and massive economic inequality. Africa has the highest concentration of young people in the world and more than half of them are unemployed. Mwangi wanted something different—she wanted to work for peace.

Now 21, Mwangi is a leader in grassroots peacemaking campaigns that seek to end conflicts between the 42 ethnic groups in this majority-Christian country. The 2007 election violence pitted Christian against Christian, as ethnic ties trumped religious affiliation. Even now, during elections, Mwangi told Sojourners, “Leaders motivate youth to join in the political crisis ... to fight against another tribe.”

A major obstacle to social and economic stability among youth in Kenya is unequal distribution of government-issued identification cards. Kenyans need ID cards for everything from voting and university enrollment to obtaining grants for entrepreneurship programs. But historically, the ruling government doled them out as political favors, and they’ve often been denied to members of minority groups.

“There are plenty of applications at election time,” Mwangi said, explaining that the ID process is slowed down or delayed when it seems one ethnic group could tip the chances of a politician who represents a different group.

Erin Wilson 4-08-2016

Yarrow Mamout. Charles Willson Peale [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. 

"Islam Hates Us!"

The recurring headline screams across every kind of media. Fear-based stories about Muslims have become standard fare this election cycle, rooted in the notion that Muslims are recent arrivals in America and somehow don’t belong. Some go so far as to suggest Muslims need to be plucked out from American society and “sent back home.”

Image via REUTERS/Tim Wimborne/RNS

Burkinis aren’t showing up at the beaches on either side of the English Channel yet, but the thought that the full head-to-ankle swimsuit might catch on among Muslim women in Europe has already sparked lively debates in Britain and France.

Image via Pew Research Center / RNS

Fewer men than women show up in U.S. churches, and women are markedly more likely to pray and to hold up religion as important. But in Muslim nations, it’s the women who are missing in action at the mosque — and yet they’re on par with men in upholding almost all the Muslim pillars of faith.

Caroline Barnett 3-21-2016

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In 2005, Amina Wadud stepped in front of a crowd of one hundred Muslims, women and men, to offer a sermon and lead them in prayer — something previously unheard of for a woman to do. Wadud has been vocal about gender equality in Islam for decades. She is a prominent speaker, writer, and scholar of Islamic studies. But I didn’t know of her until my senior year of college. In my last class as an undergraduate student, I decided to take a class on Islam. I was intrigued by our reading list at the beginning of the semester, but Amina Wadud and her book, Inside the Gender Jihad: Women’s Reform in Islam, were just words on my syllabus.

Martha DeVries. Screenshot via religionnews1 / Youtube

To protest the anti-Muslim rhetoric of this presidential campaign, high school counselor Martha DeVries decided to wear a hijab in public every Monday. DeVries, 47, attends a Baptist church and identifies as “a follower of Jesus,” but said she felt a responsibility to outwardly display her acceptance of Muslims and refugees.

Jenan Mohajir 3-16-2016

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It all began for me as a young girl, spending many childhood summers with my aunt — my father’s eldest sister. Her name was Hilal, which means “crescent moon” in Arabic. No name could have been more appropriate for her — just as the spiritual lives of Muslims center on the crescent moons of the lunar calendar, my family’s spiritual center stood upon this strong minded, faithful, and dedicated matriarch.

Image via REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/RNS

Sudanese Christians and human rights groups are urging the government to produce two clerics, whose location has been unknown since their arrest in December. Hassan Kodi, 49, secretary general of the Sudanese Church of Christ, and another pastor, Telal Ngosi, 44, were detained after attending a Christian conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in October. The two represented the Sudanese Church of Christ at a meeting to discuss the plight of Christians in Sudan and South Sudan.

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