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.
Catholic Charities is giving out water and food. The Flint Jewish Federation is collecting water and water filters. And the Michigan Muslim Community Council has distributed more than 120,000 bottles of clean water for Flint, Mich. But these faith organizations are also focused on a longer-term goal: to make sure the impoverished city, where President Obama last weekend declared a state of emergency over its poisoned water, is never so neglected again.
Rummana Hussain was one of those children whose Muslim parents envisioned her in a white coat with a stethoscope around her neck. Instead, she became a metro editor and reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times, where she covers criminal courts and remains the only Muslim member of the editorial staff. She knows “a couple” more Muslims at the Chicago Tribune, the state’s largest paper.
A government plan to regulate religious groups is shaping into a bitter fight, with Christian and Muslim leaders protesting that it tramples over religious freedom. The government published a set of rules this month that require religious leaders to have theological degrees and religious groups to submit a statement of faith.
What do we lose when we trade our humanity for social stereotypes rationalized by religious dogma?
That question is at the heart of an ongoing discussion my son, a junior at Kenyon College, and I are having around the recent suspension of a tenured Wheaton College professor, Larycia Hawkins, for wearing a hijab during Advent and stating publicly (via her personal Facebook page) that Muslims and Christians worship the same god.
According to a recent poll by The Associated Press and the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center, 82 percent said religious liberty protections were important for Christians, compared with around 60 percent who said the same for Muslims and the religiously unaffiliated.
Yet, religious freedom is not merely an important issue — it is our “first freedom.” What Americans, especially Christian Americans, must understand is this: Religious freedom for some is not religious freedom for long.
Francis marked the start of the jubilee on Dec. 8, when he opened the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The yearlong celebration calls on Catholics to reflect on the theme of mercy and forgiveness and showcase a more inviting faith. That theme resonates in Africa, home to about 200 million Catholics. A sizable part of this population is tormented by war, violence from Muslim extremists, HIV/AIDS, and poverty.
I often find that the general public really has no idea that teachers are allowed to teach about the world’s religions in public schools. There’s a clear disconnect between what educators are doing and what the public thinks they can do. Then you add to this that people really don’t know that much about religions in general. The idea that a kid’s going to get converted by trying to write calligraphy, even if it’s a statement of faith — I mean, that seems like, really?
Following a surge of attacks on mosques and Muslims — a backlash against recent extremist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino — Islamic leaders have been installing more security cameras and hiring more security guards. But as they worry about the physical safety of their flocks, they are also paying attention to the spiritual damage Islamophobia can inflict.
Hate crimes penetrate Muslims deeply and widely, said Kameelah Rashad, Muslim chaplain at the University of Pennsylvania.
“It erodes their sense of identity and their sense of their spiritual selves,” she said.
After 9/11, Kathy Masaoka heard a Muslim woman on the radio describe her hesitancy to go to the market for fear of being attacked.
“It crystalized for me at that moment, that this must be how my parents felt and how my family felt after Pearl Harbor,” she said.
Masaoka’s family is Japanese American. As a young man during World War II, her father was drafted into the Military Intelligence Service while his parents and siblings were sent to California’s Manzanar internment camp in the desert east of the Sierra Nevada. They lost their family business in Los Angeles.
After the San Bernardino massacre, I, like other Muslims, worried about my safety.
I wondered what would happen if I went outside, given that I’m easily identifiable in my hijab. I wondered what that day, or the next or the day after that, would be like for me.
And that, I have decided, is ridiculous. I was not a victim that day.
Our country is in growing danger, and not just from the real threat of terrorist attacks. We are in jeopardy now from the internal fear that capitalizes on America’s worst instincts. Caution can be a positive thing in response to serious dangers, but panic and fear can be very dangerous impulses, especially when they are used to incite the hatred of others by false leaders who proclaim their own “strength” — people like Donald Trump.
Hate crimes in America dipped across the board in 2014, except in the category of anti-Muslim crimes, which rose about 14 percent over the prior year. Given the barbaric Islamic State attacks in Paris last week and elsewhere recently, that latter trend seems destined to accelerate.
The presence of hate crimes against Muslims is no new phenomenon. Prior to the 9/11 attacks, there typically recorded between 20-30 hate crime against Muslims per year and after 2001 that number rose to nearly 500.
This summer, we saw the murder of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, N.C. On Nov. 15 in London, a man pushed a Muslim woman into an oncoming underground train. And on Thanksgiving Day, a man in a taxicab in Pittsburgh, Pa., shot his driver in the back for being Muslim.
These incidents do not need to be listed as statistics to validate reality but they do need to be heard.
Hamtramck, Mich. residents have elected a Muslim majority to its city council, symbolizing the demographic changes that have transformed the city once known for being a Polish-Catholic enclave.
In Tuesday’s election — with six candidates running for three seats — the top three vote-getters were Muslim, while the bottom three were non-Muslim. Two of the Muslim candidates, Anam Miah and Abu Musa, are incumbent city councilmen, while newcomer Saad Almasmari, the top vote-getter, was also elected. Incumbent City Councilman Robert Zwolak came in fifth place.
Some believe the city is the first in the U.S. with a Muslim majority on its city council.
How far does the U.S. military have to go to provide religious accommodations for locked-up al-Qaida terrorism suspects?
That’s the question before a military judge who is weighing whether female guards should be banned from touching detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Five of the military’s “high-value” detainees asked the judge Oct. 30 to permanently forbid women guards from touching the prisoners. Their Muslim traditions, they say, prohibit women other than their wives or relatives from touching them.
But the two female guards who sometimes shackle or escort the detainees say a ban on touching violates their equal employment rights. They have won support from members of Congress and the Obama administration who called the ban “outrageous.”
One of Germany’s largest Protestant regional churches has come under fire from other Christians for speaking out against efforts to convert Muslims just as tens of thousands of refugees from the Islamic world are streaming into the country.
In a new position paper, the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland says the passage in the Gospel of Matthew known as the Great Commission — “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” — does not mean Christians must try to convert others to their faith.
“A strategic mission to Islam or meeting Muslims to convert them threatens social peace and contradicts the spirit and mandate of Jesus Christ and is therefore to be firmly rejected,” the paper entitled “Pilgrim Fellowship and Witness in Dialogue with Muslims” argues.
A majority of evangelical pastors consider Islam to be “spiritually evil,” according to one just-released poll, but on Oct. 23 an evangelical pastor and an imam took turns talking about their friendship and mutual respect.
Texas Pastor Bob Roberts and Virginia Imam Mohamed Magid joined dozens of other religious leaders in prayer at the Washington National Cathedral before signing a pledge to denounce religious bigotry and asking elected officials and presidential candidates to join them.
“I love Muslims as much as I love Christians,” said Pastor Bob Roberts, of Northwood Church in Keller, Texas, before leading a prayer at the “Beyond Tolerance” event.
“Jesus, when you get hold of us, there’s nobody we don’t love.”
The ban on niqabs, which were seen as a symbol of a spread of radical Islamism, has not stopped some Muslim women from wearing them as a badge of defiance toward a society they say does not accept them.
“This is my way of saying ‘no’ to a government that has robbed me of my freedom,” a veiled woman named Leila, who admitted to not being a regularly practicing Muslim before the law was passed, told the Paris daily Le Monde.
The ban was widely criticized in the Muslim world and there is anecdotal evidence that militant Muslims — both from abroad and French recruits to groups such as the Islamic State — see it as one reason to put France high on their hit list.
This weekend, demonstrators assembled outside several mosques across the country, some decrying “No Sharia law” and “Stop Islamic immigration” and others openly carrying weapons. Dubbed the “Global Rally for Humanity,” dozens of these anti-Muslim rallies were originally planned on social media, but fortunately, only a few materialized.
Hopefully, America won’t have to see another round of protests like the ones that were anticipated this weekend. But if anti-Muslim activities do pop up again, here’s what Christian communities should do.
The story of Malala Yousafzai is well beloved by Western media, with news outlets having followed her life closely for the past three years. And rightly so. The Pakistani teen is an activist for girls’ education and a well-respected world leader in promoting the voices of women and girls around the globe.
It was her belief that all girls have a right to an education that made her a target of the Taliban, resulting in Malala losing hearing in her left ear and being forced out of her beloved home in the Swat Valley, Pakistan. Malala celebrated her sixteenth birthday by addressing the United Nations in 2013, the same year she released her memoir, I Am Malala. And most recently, she was named the Nobel Peace Prize recipient of 2014. Her non-profit, The Malala Fund, invests and advocates for girls’ secondary education, in order to amplify the voices of girls around the world who have been ignored.
It would be hard to create a stronger superhero for girls and boys in anyone’s imagination.