Muslim

Jim Wallis: Poverty Should Be #1 Issue in 2012 Election

More than 15 percent of the U.S. population now lives in poverty -- the highest rate in 18 years, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released this morning.

Poverty has risen for the third consecutive year in a row, the new census figures show, with perhaps most distressing are the child poverty numbers, which rose from 20.7 percent in 2009 to 22 percent in 2010.

"The results aren't good," the Rev. Jim Wallis, president and CEO of Sojourners, the largest network of progressive Christians in the United States focused on the biblical call to social justice, said upon reviewing the census report today.

Remembering 9/11 Through Music and Literature

Ten years on, I'm remembering the literature I read and the music that kept me going in the days and months after 9/11. I had Rumi and Whitman on my bedside table, reading them back to back, alternating between selections of the Mathnawi and poems from Leaves of Grass, sometimes feeling like the two were one, the soul of America, and that the soul of Islam were intersecting at some point beyond where the eye could see:

Whoever you are!, motion and reflection are especially for you, The divine ship sails the divine sea for you. -- Walt Whitman

Come, come, whoever you are, Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving, Ours is not a caravan of despair. Even if you have broken your vows a thousand times It doesn't matter Come, come yet again, come. -- Rumi

Until then, the Quran for me was a book of personal spiritual guidance, a convening symbol for my religious community. But after 9/11, I viewed it as a balm for my country's pain, especially lines from Ayat al-Kursi: "His throne extends over the heavens and the earth, and He feels no fatigue in guarding and preserving them."

Commemorating 9/11 by Desegregating Theological Education

I just returned from a very moving convocation at the Claremont School of Theology where I am on the faculty. We were celebrating the historic founding of a new interreligious theological university that brings together institutions representing the three Abrahamic faiths, along with our newest partner, the Jains. The Jains are an eastern religion founded in India over 2,500 years ago who are perhaps best known for their deep commitment to the concept of no-harm or ahimsa.

While each partner institution will continue to train religious leaders in their own traditions, the Claremont Lincoln University will be a space where future religious leaders and scholars can learn from each other and collaboratively seek solutions to major global issues that no one single religion can solve alone. The CLU's founding vision of desegregating religion was reflected in the extraordinary religious diversity present at the convocation held in a standing room-only auditorium. I sat next to a Jewish cantor and a Muslim woman who had tears flowing down her face as we listened to the prayers offered in all four religions along with a reflection from a Humanist speaker.

Let's Hold Glenn Beck to His Pledge of Nonviolence

On his radio show last week, Glenn Beck read a vow of nonviolence, which he said he'd been working on for about a year, and pleaded his followers to take it as well. The pledge itself is actually quite good, and even Gandhian, at parts. Here is an excerpt:

Today, quarters of the Earth are endangered by tyranny, discrimination, barbarism, and subjugation by fellow man. With an understanding of basic rights and equal justice, we must remain loyal to God and deliver the rights which [God's] benevolence has bestowed upon us to those who have been denied the blessings of liberty, justice, and equality. More importantly, we must protect them from being robbed in the future, so that forever the world may be safe, and her people free from malevolence. Together, we must be prepared to do our duty no matter the cost and we must do so inexorably. We must march forth steadfast and unconquerable and defeat the forces of evil not by sword, but through our love for mankind and his creator.

A Tennessee Church Welcomes its Muslim Neighbors

Rev. Steve Stone was just trying to be a good neighbor.

Two years ago, the pastor of Heartsong Church in Cordova, Tennessee, on the outskirts of Memphis, learned that a local mosque had bought property right across the street from the church. So he decided some Southern hospitality was in order.

A few days later, a sign appeared in front of the church. "Heartsong Church welcomes Memphis Islamic Center to the neighborhood," it read.

That small act of kindness was the start of an unlikely friendship between the two congregations, one that made headlines around the world. Members of the mosque and church have shared meals together, worked at a homeless shelter, and become friends over the past two years. When Stone learned that his Muslim friends needed a place to pray for Ramadan because their building wasn't ready, he opened up the doors of the church and let them hold Ramadan prayers there.

Les Mis

I prefer my revolutions to be simple: A corrupt dictator/tyrant, an oppressed population, inspired reformers who risk their lives, calls for democracy, waves of marchers in the streets, background music from Les Misérables. The stories from Tunis and Cairo were epochal. The Arab spring was in full bloom as calls for participatory government could be heard from every corner of the Middle East.

Then there was Syria. The Assad government has been infamous in its intolerance to dissent. It is a military regime whose 30-year leadership under Hafez al-Assad (1930-2000) established it as one of the most severe in the region. In 2,000, after the death of Hafez, the world was intrigued to see his second son -- Bashar al-Assad -- ascend the throne. Bashar was an ophthalmologist who had studied in London, but because of his older brother's death in a car accident in 1994, he was called to follow his father. Bashar speaks English and French fluently and has been as critical of the U.S. as he has been of Israel.

Holy Competition

Every year, more than 100 children from about 70 countries across the Islamic world converge on Cairo to participate in the world’s oldest and most prestigious Quran reciting competition. In the film Koran By Heart, Greg Barker follows three 10-year-old children from Senegal, Tajikistan, and the Maldives, whose stories illuminate the tensions between fundamentalist and moderate visions of Islam. He was interviewed by Becky Garrison, author of Jesus Died for This?

Becky Garrison: What drew you to the story of the International Holy Quran Competition?

Greg Barker: I'm an American, but I've lived overseas for most of my adult life. As someone who has spent a lot of time in Islamic countries, I was looking for a way of telling a human story that people here in the States could connect with about the eternal struggles in Islam between fundamentalism and modernity. The Quran competition was a very accessible way into a story. I didn't want to make a political tome; I just wanted to tell a good story about ordinary people who are religious, but are going through the same kind of internal struggles and dynamics that anyone goes through regardless of their faith.

What were the particular challenges involved in filming this documentary?

 We encountered a fair amount of skepticism from both the organizers and the parents of these children as to why a non-Muslim would want to tell the story about a Quran competition. I think they feel Islam is often misrepresented in the West and they were concerned we would make a film that would somehow be against Islam. I had Muslim-Americans on my team and worked to convince [the organizers and parents] that we just wanted to tell a story that would help change people’s attitudes in the States.

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Friday Links Round Up: The Onion. Palin. Pick Our Cover.

The Onion. Palin. Pick Our Cover. Here's a little round up of links from around the Web you may have missed this week:

  • "Dear Children of Troy: Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. That's the advice of your good friend, Dr. Seuss."

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