BREAKING NEWS: Pastor Nadarkhani Acquitted of Apostasy Charges in Iran, Released from Prison

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani

According to a report late Friday from Christian Solidarity Worldwide, an international organization devoted to issues of religious freedom, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, a Muslim convert to Christianity who has been imprisoned by the Iranian government since 2009 on apostasy charges, has been acquitted and released from prison.

Nadarkhani, 35, previously had faced a possible death sentence for the charges against him, a result of his prostelytizing Muslims to convert to Christianity. He also refused to deny his Christian faith to save himself from execution.

Since his detainment three years ago, the U.S. State Department, the British government, the Vatican, Amnesty International, and a host of Christian organizations and leaders — including South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu — have called on the Iranian government to release the young pastor.

Muslim Woman Files Suit Against Disney Over Headscarf Dispute

Muslim woman with hijab. Image via 	Zurijeta / Shutterstock.

Muslim woman with hijab. Image via Zurijeta / Shutterstock.

LOS ANGELES—The ACLU is suing The Walt Disney Co. on behalf of a Muslim woman who claims the company discriminated against her by not allowing her to wear a headscarf while working in a Disney restaurant in Anaheim.

Former Disney employee Imane Boudlal worked at the Storytellers Cafe at the California Adventure park, directly across from Disneyland. In 2009 she requested to wear her hijab while working. The ACLU claims that two months later, Disney supervisors denied her request, allegedly due to Disney policies on employee uniforms.

Managers, however, say they worked with Boudlal on several uniform options including one involving a hat, in keeping with the restaurant’s style, to be worn over her hijab.

Ramadan Karim: Living Like Angels

Angel sculpture at Melbourne cemetery, Neale Cousland /

Angel sculpture at Melbourne cemetery, Neale Cousland /

I’m on day 14 of my Ramadan fast — almost the halfway point. My schedule has been so scattershot with travel that I haven’t been able to make it to a mosque yet. Nonetheless, lightheadedness brought on by lack of water and sleep has become my new normal. 

I asked Daisy Khan, Imam Feisal’s wife and the Executive Director of the American Society of Muslim Advancement: “What about sleep? How do people do it?” She explained, during Ramadan we live like angels. Angels don’t need sleep. They don’t need food or water.

“But how do they do it, physically?” I pressed.

“Spiritual energy,” Daisy said.

Jews, Sikhs, Hindus Root for Fellow Believers in Olympics

Aly Raisman of Needham, Mass., won a gold medal on Tuesday in the women’s all-around gymnastics.

Americans cheered when Aly Raisman of Needham, Mass., won a gold medal on Tuesday in the women’s all-around gymnastics competition, but at least some American Jews likely cheered a little louder.

“For people who are part of a minority, to see one of your own have this international recognition gives you enormous satisfaction and pride,” said Rabbi Keith Stern of Temple Beth Avodah in Newton Centre, Mass., where Raisman has worshipped since childhood. “It lets you say, ‘Look at what we’ve managed to do.’”

Members of minority faiths in the U.S. — Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs — are rooting for U.S. Olympians and also saving a few extra cheers for their co-religionists, both Americans and athletes from other teams. Before they go to bed or when they wake up, they scan lists of medal winners and competition results, looking for names that might sound Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or Sikh.

But why?

In a sense, religion isn't supposed to matter in who a fan roots for, said Harold U. Ribalow, author of three books about Jewish athletes, trying to answer that question. But, he added, the evidence was overwhelming that people like to see those from their own groups do well, especially in the root-for-the-underdog world of sports.

Ramadan Karim: Sojo Staffer Joins Imam for Islam's Monthlong Fast

EDITOR'S NOTE: Ramadan's first day of fasting began today at dawn. This year, Sojourners' Director of Mobilizing, Lisa Sharon Harper, has chosen to keep the fast during the Muslim holy month alongside our friend, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. Both Lisa and Imam Feisal will be blogging regularly during the coming days and weeks of Ramadan, sharing with our readers their personal reflections on what the holy month, the fast and journeying together as a Christian and a Muslim means to them. To learn more about Ramadan and its sunrise-to-sunset monthlong fast, click HERE.

In 2004 I led a group of Intervarsity students on a journey through Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia on a Pilgrimage for Reconciliation. For four weeks we traveled throughout all three countries investigating the roots of conflict and seeds of peace being planted between the Catholic Croatians, Muslim Bosniaks, and Orthodox Serbs. Along the way, we met with Miroslav Volf, who was vacationing in his home country of Croatia at the time. One of my students asked Volf the same question I asked my mentor years before: “How do you engage in interfaith activity without watering down your own faith?” Volf answered with one word: “Respect.”

He explained that Jesus says the greatest commandment is to love God and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Love requires respect. We may not agree with our neighbors, but we must respect their minds and their ability to choose the faith they will practice...

That is why I have chosen to embrace my Muslim neighbors by practicing the Fast of Ramadan this year with a spiritual leader who I admire and look forward to learning from, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.

Five Things You Should Know About Religious Violence in Nigeria

Smoke billows from Christ the King Catholic Cathedral in Zaria, Nigeria.

Smoke billows from Christ the King Catholic Cathedral in Zaria, Nigeria after a suicide bomb attack on June 17. By AFP/Getty.

Ongoing violence in Nigeria has exacerbated tensions between the country's Muslims and Christians. Nigeria has equal numbers of Christians and Muslims, and 92 percent of the country's population says they pray every day, according to a 2010 poll by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Hundreds of Christians and Muslims have died this year alone, including scores killed last weekend (July 7-8) when Muslim militants attacked Christian villages in the nation’s central plateau, where the mostly Muslim north and the mostly Christian south meet.

Read five things you should know about the violence in Nigeria inside the blog...

‘Radicalization’ Hearings on American Muslims Return to Capitol

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. Republican Representative Peter King at an earlier hearing in March. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

House lawmakers split along party lines at a hearing on June 20 meant to gauge Muslim responses to earlier hearings on the “radicalization” of American Muslims.

Testimony by four witnesses was overshadowed by Republicans who defended the four prior hearings and Democrats who questioned whether they were misguided or actually harmful to Muslim Americans.

Short on new data but long on rhetoric, lawmakers argued both sides of the same statistics and relied heavily on anecdotes.

“The overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans are outstanding Americans, yet the reality is that the Islamist terror threat comes from the community,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security.

Muslims Sue to Stop NYPD Spying Program

RNS photo courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly. RNS photo courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Muslim civil rights activists are headed to court to end a New York City Police Department program that they say violates their constitutional rights by spying on Muslims based only on their religion.

The lawsuit, Hassan et al. v. City of New York, is the first legal challenge against the NYPD's alleged spying and profiling of Muslim Americans in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut that was first reported by The Associated Press last year. The suit, to be filed June 6 in a federal court in New Jersey, seeks an “immediate end” to the NYPD surveillance program, and calls for the NYPD to destroy all records of information obtained through the program.

Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, a San Francisco-based civil rights group representing the plaintiffs, said civil rights groups, congressmen, and other officials have called on U.S., New York, and New Jersey officials to investigate the NYPD’s alleged spying, but to no avail.

“It’s come to the point that the community feels like politicians have failed them, so now they’re turning to the courts to seek justice,” Khera said.

A Faith-Based Aid Revolution in the Muslim World?

Every year, somewhere between US$200 billion and $1 trillion are spent in “mandatory” alms and voluntary charity across the Muslim world, Islamic financial analysts estimate.  At the low end of the estimate, this is 15 times more than global humanitarian aid contributions in 2011. 

With aid from traditional Western donors decreasing in the wake of a global recession, and with about a quarter of the Muslim world living on less than $1.25 a day, this represents a huge pool of potential in the world of aid funding.

Kansas Becomes 4th State to Ban Shariah Law

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.