Muslim

Muslim civil rights groups are calling a new Kansas law that bans Shariah in state courtrooms an expression of Islamophobia that is vulnerable to a legal challenge.

The law, signed by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback on Monday (May 28), does not specifically mention Shariah, or Islamic law, but forbids state courts from basing decisions on foreign laws that contradict rights granted by the U.S. Constitution and state constitutions.

But the Council on American-Islamic Relations and other Muslim groups called the law little more than anti-Muslim propaganda.

Tim Townsend 05-25-2012
RNS photo by Andrea Useem

Deidre "Nusaybah" Ritchie demonstrates how to prepare Muslim bodies for burial at conference. RNS photo by Andrea Useem

Muslim communities in Kansas City, Columbia and Jefferson City maintain small funeral facilities, often inside mosques, for washing bodies of the deceased. But until now, many Muslims buried their loved ones in Muslim sections of Christian cemeteries, relying largely on non-Muslims to guide them through the process of death.

As the Muslim population of the U.S. has grown -- the number of mosques grew 74 percent in the last 10 years, according to a 2011 survey -- so has the need for Muslim-specific services like funeral homes and cemeteries.

Jay Hardy, the owner of Jay B. Smith Funeral Homes in Maplewood, Mo., and Fenton, Mo., said that in the 1970s, he handled one or two Muslim burials a year. Today that number is up to three or four each week, he said.

David Finnigan 05-22-2012
Los Angeles-area Muslims mark the beginning of Eid Ul-Fitr, August 2011. Photo b

Los Angeles-area Muslims mark the beginning of Eid Ul-Fitr, August 2011. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images.

After lobbying from Muslim and Sikh leaders, the Los Angeles Police Department has agreed to modify its information-gathering program on suspicious activities after the New York Police Department came under fire for spying on local Muslims.

Since 2008, the LAPD has used the federal Suspicious Activities Reporting (SAR) program to file reports on potential terrorist-related actions, such as someone photographing certain buildings. Sikh and Muslim leaders said the LAPD’s Counter-Terrorism and Criminal Intelligence Bureau should ensure that future suspicious activity reports are prompted by actual behavior with apparently genuine criminal or terrorist elements.

RNS file photo courtesy Pete Souza/The White House

President Obama and his family pray during Easter services. RNS file photo courtesy Pete Souza/The White House.

After nearly four years in the Oval Office, President Obama is incorrectly thought to be Muslim by one in six American voters, and only one quarter of voters can correctly identify him as a Protestant, according to a new poll.

Voters do better identifying Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith, according to a poll released Thursday (May 10) by the Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service. A slim majority of voters -- 51 percent -- knows the presumed Republican presidential nominee is Mormon.

“Wow. He said it 100 times that he’s not a Muslim,” said Zainab Al-Suwaij, executive director of the American Islamic Congress, expressing surprise over the persistent number of American voters (16 percent) who make the mistake.

Is there something insidious behind the belief, a concerted attack to link the president with a religion that's considered alien -- or worse -- by some Americans?

the Web Editors 04-30-2012
Terry Jones in a Michigan courtroom, 2011. Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images.

Terry Jones in a Michigan courtroom, 2011. Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images.

Over the weekend, the (seemingly) perennial fire-starter and certifiable wingnut Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., a 50-member self-proclaimed Christian congragation, made good on his threats to burn a copy of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, in what he said was a protest of the ongoing incarceration of a Christian pastor in Iraq.

You may recognize Jones from his infamous 2011 Quran burning, one that federal authorities and President Obama personally attempted (in vain, sadly)  to prevent the wrong-headed from what many critics feared would only serve to perpetuate further anti-American violence by so-called Islamic extremists and terrorists around the world.

This time, Jones claimed to be stoking his fires of unrest on behalf of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, a Muslim convert to Christianity who has been imprisoned by the Iranian government for nearly three years on charges of apostasy and reportedly is facing execution for his "crimes."

The Gainesville Sun newspaper reports that this weekend's Quran burning, which also included an effigy of Islam's Prophet Muhammad set aflame, took place in front of 20 spectators outside Jones' church, and the whole incident was broadcast live on the Internet.

Jason Grant 03-08-2012
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

NYU students attend town hall to discuss NYPD's surveillance of Muslim communities on Feb. 29.(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NEWARK, N.J. — As friction over the New York Police Department's spying on New Jersey Muslims continues to grow, the state's top FBI officer said the uproar is damaging his agency's ability to gather important counterterrorism intelligence.

"What we have now is (Muslim communities) ... that they're not sure they trust law enforcement in general, they're fearing being watched, they're starting to withdraw their activities," Michael Ward, director of the FBI's Newark division, said Tuesday (March 6).

"And the impact of that sinking tide of cooperation means that we don't have our finger on the pulse of what's going on in the community as well -- we're less knowledgeable, we have blind spots, and there's more risk."

In his first public comments on the deepening controversy, Ward said the FBI has spent the years after 9/11 opening lines of communication with New Jersey's Muslim communities.

Omar Sacirbey 03-06-2012
TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images

Australian-Egyptian soccer player Assmaah Helal wears a hijab, during a training session. TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images

Muslim female soccer players are celebrating a decision by the International Football Association Board to allow them to test specially designed head coverings for four months.

Soccer's international governing body, known as FIFA, has prohibited headscarves since 2007, citing safety concerns. The new headscarves will be fastened with Velcro rather than pins.

The headscarf prohibition has generated controversy among fans of the world's most popular team sport, especially in Muslim countries in Africa, the Middle East and central Asia.

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Muslim leaders address issues around police surveillance of Muslims in NJ last month. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

NEWARK, N.J. —  Amid concern over the New York Police Department's surveillance of Muslims beyond New York City, New Jersey and federal law enforcement officials plan to hold a summit Saturday (March 3) to assure Muslim leaders that they are addressing the NYPD probe.

Amin Nathari, a spokesman for Newark's Muslim Community Leadership Coalition, said Muslim leaders planned to meet in Trenton with representatives of the FBI, the New Jersey State Police and the state Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness to discuss the NYPD operations.

The U.S. Attorney's Office of New Jersey, the state police and the FBI's division in Newark confirmed they plan to attend, but offered no specifics. The state Attorney General's Office and Homeland Security declined to comment.

Franklin Graham by Anthony Correia / Shutterstock.com

Franklin Graham by Anthony Correia / Shutterstock.com

Evangelist Franklin Graham has apologized to President Obama for questioning his Christian faith and said religion has "nothing to do" with Graham's decision not to support Obama's re-election.
   
Graham's Tuesday apology came after a group of prominent black religious leaders criticized the evangelist for saying he did not know whether Obama is a Christian and suggesting that Islamic law considers him to be a Muslim.
   
Graham, president of the relief organization Samaritan's Purse and the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, said he now accepts Obama's declarations that he is a Christian.
   
"I regret any comments I have ever made which may have cast any doubt on the personal faith of our president, Mr. Obama," he said in a statement.

Omar Sacirbey 02-16-2012

FBI officials say they are willing to consider a proposal from a coalition of Muslim and interfaith groups to establish a committee of experts to review materials used in FBI anti-terrorism training.

The coalition raised the idea during a Feb 8 meeting with FBI Director Robert Mueller, who met with the groups to discuss pamphlets, videos and other anti-terrorism training materials that critics say are either Islamophobic or factually incorrect.

"We're open to the idea, but they need to submit a proposal first," said Christopher Allen, an FBI spokesman who was in the meeting.

Groups at the meeting included the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Interfaith Alliance, and the Shoulder-to-Shoulder campaign.

the Web Editors 02-10-2012
Photo by Getty Images.

Photo by Getty Images.

Nuns vs. strippers. Oprah and Hasidim. A Christian TMZ.com? Muslim tweeter is in trouble. Female backlash against the GOP. Catholic television network EWTN files a lawsuit against the contraception mandate. Santorum says the contraception fight has "nothing to do with women's rights." Did Cardinal Bevilacqua die of foul play? A plot to kill the pope. Drive-thru funerals and more...inside the blog.

Caryn Shinske 02-10-2012
Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Obama prays during a Medal of Honor ceremony, 9/15/11. Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The people behind a popular chain e-mail about President Obama and the National Day of Prayer might want to think about the sin of omission.

That's omission, as in omitting facts.

The widely circulated e-mail claims that Obama canceled a National Day of Prayer ceremony at the White House in 2009, but later that year, a National Day of Prayer for Muslims was permitted on Capitol Hill, beside the White House.

Debra Rubin 02-07-2012
Army Chaplain Capt. Joseph Odell mourns a fallen soldie. RNS photo via Odell.

Army Chaplain Capt. Joseph Odell mourns a fallen soldier in Afghanistan. RNS photo courtesy Joseph Odell.

Growing up in Kuwait, Asif Balbale thought he wanted to become a chemical engineer. He never imagined enlisting in the U.S. Navy, much less becoming an imam.

Balbale got his engineering degree after immigrating to the U.S. at age 21. With jobs hard to come by, he tried to enlist in the Army, but didn't weigh enough. Instead, he met the Navy's minimum requirements.

He was sworn in as a U.S. citizen in 2005 while deployed aboard the USS Boxer. Intending to apply for an officer program, Balbale, 31, mistakenly emailed a recruiter for the chaplain corps.

"God, I think, had better plans for me," Balbale said, looking back.

And so it is for a number of military chaplains who, by twists of fate or perhaps divine Providence, found their calling to become chaplains while on active duty.

the Web Editors 02-06-2012

TORONTO — Muslim clerics in Canada have issued a fatwa against so-called "honor killings" a week after three members of an Afghan family in Montreal were convicted of the murders of four relatives.
   
The religious decree -- only the third of its kind in Canada -- also prohibits domestic violence and hatred of women. It was issued on Saturday (Feb. 4) on the eve of Mawlid an-Nabi, the Prophet Muhammad's birthday.
   
"These crimes are major sins in Islam, punishable by the court of law and almighty Allah," said Imam Syed Soharwardy of Calgary, representing 34 clerics affiliated with the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada.
  

the Web Editors 02-04-2012

More than 30 Muslim and legal advocacy groups are urging New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman to investigate the New York City Police Department after the second scandal in as many weeks involving Muslim Americans.

On Thursday (Feb. 2), The Associated Press reported that it had obtained a secret 2006 NYPD report, "U.S.-Iran Conflict: The Threat to New York City," which recommended that officers "expand and focus intelligence" at Shiite mosques.

the Web Editors 02-01-2012
Front Page of Canada's National Post announcing the Shafia Murder Convictions.

Front Page of Canada's National Post announcing the Shafia Murder Convictions.

According to the Associated Press:

A jury on Sunday found three members of an Afghan family guilty of killing three teenage sisters and another woman in what the judge described as "cold-blooded, shameful murders" resulting from a "twisted concept of honor," ending a case that shocked and riveted Canadians.

Prosecutors said the defendants allegedly killed the three teenage sisters because they dishonored the family by defying its disciplinarian rules on dress, dating, socializing and using the Internet.

The jury took 15 hours to find Mohammad Shafia, 58; his wife Tooba Yahya, 42; and their son Hamed, 21, each guilty of four counts of first-degree murder. First-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.

After the verdict was read, the three defendants again declared their innocence in the killings of sisters Zainab, 19, Sahar 17, and Geeti, 13, as well as Rona Amir Mohammad, 52, Shafia's childless first wife in a polygamous marriage.

Read a roundup of the ongoing coverage of the Shafia trial and the religious, political and social issues related to the so-called "honor killings" inside the blog...

Jim Wallis 01-04-2012
Many of All-American Muslim's critics seem to be upset that the Muslim folks featured on the show are not spending their time making bombs, planning attacks on their neighbors, or just screaming their hatred of America. The show, they fear, could give Americans the wrong impression: Muslim families are much like other American families, not secret terrorist dens plotting to infiltrate America with Sharia Law or attack us from within.
 
The critics are actually angry because no jihads are discussed around these Muslim family dinner tables and demonstrates to the rest of us that our Muslim neighbors are a lot like us.

The families in the show don't conform to distorted Muslim stereotypes that its critics had apparently hoped to see on All-American Muslim.
 
Well, too bad for them.
 
Tom Getman 12-23-2011
Graffiti on the "security wall" that runs through Bethlehem. Via http://commons.

Graffiti on the "security wall" that runs through Bethlehem. Via http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wall_in_Bethlehem6.jpg

A hegemonic power that separates and excludes is not of Jesus. I came away from the deep darkness settling on the land of the Holy One to declare along with my fellow Kairos delegates that, to paraphrase Bishop Marianne, “the fate of the free world depends on a civil society committed to Christ and a persistent, all-encompassing faithful non-violent tenacity pursuing creative and compassionate resistance.“

We must respond to those faithful ones behind both sides of the walls who are saying to us, “Come and See and Be with the people.” We must feel what Jesus felt as he witnessed tyranny and empire – the principalities and powers that oppress and dispossess and kill the poor for whom He had a heart. Please listen to the cries of the oppressed and act today in doing at least one small thing to bring a just peace…make a personal and if possible corporate choice in this critical moment of God’s Kairos.  

If all who hear the “Bethlehem Call” respond then momentum will build for the liberation of all God’s children in the Holy Land.

Lisa Sharon Harper 12-15-2011

Lowes pulled its ad dollars from a show that aims to tighten the tapestry we call America because of a faux controversy drummed up by a hate group that said, through its claims of “propaganda," that it's not possible for Muslims to be American.

But the fabric of our nation exists because of the genius of our nation’s founder, who, in the very first amendment to our Constitution, protected the integrity of religion by forbidding the establishment of any one religion as the religion of the state.

In every single society before the founding of our Union, religion and state were married. History has taught us that religion co-opted by the state loses its integrity and its prophetic power. 

Ours was a grand experiment that built America into a grand tapestry of ethnic and religious groups that thrive side by side in relative peace—more so than in any other nation in the world.

Joshua Witchger 11-03-2011

Seventy-five years of Santa-school, celebrating National Sandwich Day, Muslims save Jewish bakery, remembering the inventor of the theremin, Cameron Crowe's new film, Lady Gaga's new anti-bullying project, and a new song from Mumford & Sons.

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