Muslims

Omar Sacirbey 9-05-2012
Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Democratic National ConventThe number of Muslion at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C.. Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

The number of Muslim delegates attending the Democratic National Convention has quadrupled since 2004, according to a Muslim advocacy group.  

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations counts more than 100 Muslim delegates representing some 20 states at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., this week. That's up from 25 delegates in 2004, according to CAIR.

CAIR government affairs coordinator Robert McCaw said the numbers were ”a sign of the American Muslim community’s growing civic engagement and acceptance in the Democratic Party.” He also said that Democrats had targeted outreach to American Muslims. 

Jon Huckins 8-30-2012
Interfaith prayer, photo courtesy Jon Huckins

Interfaith prayer, photo courtesy Jon Huckins

Hebron is known as one of the most volatile cities in the whole region of Israel/Palestine. Located in the heart of the West Bank, both Jews and Arabs have had roots here for thousands of years.  Having endured years of conflict, racism, violence and separation, Hebron’s inhabitants have been covered in a narrative lacking an acknowledgment of a shared humanity

It’s in the middle of such realities that our Learning Community (part of our organization, The Global Immersion Project) feels called to listen, learn, and be radically present. Through the art of friendship making, shared tables and storytelling, we desire to promote the just heart of God by being a people of reconciliation in the way of Jesus. 

It was this posture that landed us in the underground home of a local Muslim Palestinian family who is close friends with the Jewish Rabbi who was hosting us in the old city of Hebron (he is both a host and dear friend). Having prepared a beautiful and expansive Palestinian meal, they warmly invited each one of us into their home and said, “Today, this is your home.” 

Daniel Burke 8-30-2012
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, RNS photo by Enid Bloch

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, RNS photo by Enid Bloch

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has spent most of his adult life trying to build interfaith and international bridges. But to many Americans, he is the public face of the so-called "Ground Zero mosque," one of the most controversial religious projects in recent U.S. history.

Rauf reflects on that turmoil in his new book, Moving the Mountain: Beyond Ground Zero to a New Vision of Islam in America. But as the book's subtitle suggests, the longtime imam spends most of his time facing forward — toward the development of a distinctly American brand of Islam. He spoke recently with Religion News Service. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.    

Q: Why did you write this book?

A: I wrote this book because the American public saw me and heard me, but really didn’t get to know me very well, or to understand what my work was all about. This book is my calling card to the American public.

Omar Sacirbey 8-29-2012
RNS photo by Veridicu Photo

hadija Anderson, a Muslim convert in Los Angeles, performs a Butoh dance in 2008. RNS photo by Veridicu Photo

The Taliban in Afghanistan shocked the world this week when they beheaded 17 people, allegedly for the crime of dancing at a mixed-gender gathering.

Which prompts the question: Does Islam forbid dancing? While Islamic scholars are divided on the answer, it’s easy to find Muslims in America and abroad who love to boogie down.

“Even though there are scholars who forbid dancing, there is a long tradition of dancing in Muslim cultures,” said Vernon Schubel, a Muslim and professor of religious studies at Kenyon College in Ohio.

There is no mention of dancing in the Quran, which serves as Muslims’ primary source of guidance. There is a story about dancing in the hadith, or collected stories about Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, which are the second-most important source of guidance for Muslims.

Kathleen K. Duff 8-17-2012
A Quran photographed in a mosque (2012). RNS photo by Sally Morrow

A Quran photographed in a mosque (2012). RNS photo by Sally Morrow

This year during Ramadan — the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar when Muslims believe the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad —  I was in solidarity with my Muslim sisters and brothers throughout the world by reading the Quran. But here's the thing: I am a Roman Catholic.

My copy of the Quran, with more than 1,700 pages, has sat on the top shelf of my bedroom bookcase among other sacred texts for 14 years. Typically I would use it as a sporadic reference and resource to better understanding Islam, reading a few short passages at a time.

However, this Ramadan something at the core of my being was calling me to read the Quran in its entirety. And so my monthlong Ramadan journey began.

Each day and evening, the prayerful poetry in the Quran held me in a meditative mode of peace as I read without being aware of the passage of time.

When I finished reading a week before the end of the month, I felt as if the Quran was almost endless, reaching beyond the confines of my calendar days. I didn’t want to read the last page. I didn’t want to be finished.

The Quran inspired me, taught me and helped me to remember my essential holiness and how that holiness in the image of God should be reflected in the world.

Omar Sacirbey 8-16-2012

After four years of living in the U.S., Mohamed Jedeh is anxious to return to his native Libya.

It irks him that his local mosque in Union City, N.J., won’t broadcast the Muslim call to prayer for fear of angering neighbors, yet nobody complains about the noise from a local bar. Back home, there are no scantily clad women walking across his sight line, and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan is easier because almost everyone is doing it.

Jedeh would probably be home by now if he hadn't been asked by a mosque in Boston to help with special nightly Ramadan prayers. After graduating in May with a master's degree in clinical research from the New York University College of Dentistry, he's ready to get back to the small city of Zintan in northwest Libya, where he plans to teach dentistry and work at a local clinic.

“It’s different,” said Jedeh, who flies back on Aug. 20. “I miss the Islamic atmosphere.”

Despite his homesickness, Jedeh said he has had a positive experience in the U.S. He initially worried about his wife's safety because she wears a niqab, or face veil, but except for one insult shouted by a passerby, he and his family have been treated respectfully. 

“I believe you cannot judge any country and say, all people are good or all people are bad,” said Jedeh. 

Lisa Sharon Harper 8-16-2012
Book of Revelation photo, Stephen Orsillo / Shutterstock.com

Book of Revelation photo, Stephen Orsillo / Shutterstock.com

It was the summer of 1994 and about 10 friends and I sat huddled around Bibles in my friend’s living room. It was a “scripture party.” The lights were dim and the air was full of anticipation and mystery. We did not know what God might reveal as we opened the book of Revelation and read it out loud, in community, in one night. 

This bears resemblance to the way the early church would have read the scripture. They were an oral culture, not a written one. The Hebrew Bible was written on scrolls that were read aloud to congregations. Most of the New Testament was written as letters to the worshiping bodies of whole cities (i.e. the saints in Ephesus, the church in Philippi, the body in Corinth, etc.). When received, the letters would be read out loud to the whole church community and received as God’s instruction revealed through the apostles for the edification of their communities.

Imagine being one of the very first followers of the Jesus “Way” (Acts 9:2). 

Imagine being a persecuted religious group. You have to use code — the sign of the ichthys — to identify yourself to other believers for fear of religious persecution. Only when you are gathered together in secret can you speak openly about your faith. Only then can you be fully known and appreciated for the whole image of God that lives inside of you.

Imagine huddling in a secret meeting place and reading the Apostle John’s Revelation of Jesus Christ for your nascent faith community in Ephesus or Smyrna, or Pergamum, or Thyatira, or Sardis, or Philadelphia, or Laodicea (Revelation 2-3). Imagine living in Ephesus and reading Paul’s prayer for your church to understand its hope and inheritance (Ephesians 1:17-2:22). 

And imagine being rich in the early church and hearing James’ letter warning: “Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your field, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.”

Imagine hearing it all for the first time. It all feels so real. The call to holiness feels so urgent because God feels so present. 

Chris Lisee 8-14-2012
RNS photo by Faith Cathcart/The Oregonian

Portland's largest mosque, the Islamic Center of Portland, draws diverse Muslims. RNS photo by Faith Cathcart/The Oregonian

Nearly all Muslims can agree on the basic beliefs of Islam: There is one God, Muhammad is God’s prophet, Muslims should fast during the holy month of Ramadan, and give alms to the poor.

Yet beyond these central pillars of the faith, Muslims worldwide vastly differ as religious convictions are shaped by cultural and social contexts, according to a new report by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

The World’s Muslims: Unity and Diversity” draws on 38,000 face-to-face interviews in 39 countries, and finds that Muslims differ sharply over questions of faith like who counts as a Muslim and what spiritual practices are acceptable.

With 1.6 billion adherents, Islam is the world’s second-largest religion, behind Christianity, and accounts for one-quarter of the world’s population.

Neighbor illustration, Picsfive / Shutterstock.com

Neighbor illustration, Picsfive / Shutterstock.com

The first violence happened on May 22, 2011 when a tornado killed 158 people, injured 1,000 more, and wiped out more than 25 percent of  your  town. That was nature's violence.

A human form of violence began 14 months later, with two attempts in 2012 to burn down the mosque of the Islamic Society of Joplin. The first attempt, which  took place on America's 236th Birthday, July 4th, only burned part of the roof. The second attempt on Hiroshima Day, August 6th, was successful in totally destroying the mosque.  

You are not alone. Around the country, other forms of violence have occurred this year — daily, weekly, monthly:

  • Chicago's daily shootings have led to more than 300 gunshot homicides so far this year.  (1/3  happened this summer.)
  • The July mass shooting in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colo., killed  or wounded 70 people.
  • The August shooting in a Sikh Temple by a neo-Nazi in Oak Creek, Wis., killed or wounded 10 people.  

What can I say to the good folks of Joplin?

Photo by Rose Marie Berger / Sojourners

Prayer vigil near the White House for the Sikh community. Photo by Rose Marie Berger / Sojourners

A group of faith leaders Thursday exhorted Americans to do more than pray for better times.

Representing seven different faith traditions, many advocated a period of public mourning after a week that saw a shooting rampage at a Sikh temple and a suspicious fire at a Missouri mosque.

"It is my hope that this is more than a time to express personal sorrows," said Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

"Our most concrete rejection of violence occurs when we engage the neighbor, the neighbor who is new in our community, the neighbor who worships differently than we," he said.

QR Blog Editor 8-08-2012

Conor Friedersdorf writes for The Atlantic:

Since 9/11, many Americans have conflated terrorism with Muslims; and having done so, they've tolerated or supported counterterrorism policies safe in the presumption that people unlike them would bear their brunt. (If Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD sent officers beyond the boundaries of New York City to secretly spy on evangelical Christian students or Israeli students or students who own handguns the national backlash would be swift, brutal, and decisive. The revelation of secret spying on Muslim American students was mostly defended or ignored.)     

In the name of counterterrorism, many Americans have given their assent to indefinite detention, the criminalization of gifts to certain charities, the extrajudicial assassination of American citizens, and a sprawling, opaque homeland security bureaucracy; many have also advocated policies like torture or racial profiling that are not presently part of official anti-terror policy.

What if white Americans were as likely as Muslims to be victimized by those policies? What if the sprawling national security bureaucracy we've created starts directing attention not just to Muslims and their schools and charities, but to right-wing militias and left-wing environmental groups (or folks falsely accused of being in those groups because they seem like the sort who would be)?

Read more here

Bob Smietana 7-31-2012
Photo by Mark Abraham

Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Photo by Mark Abraham

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national Muslim civil rights group that has frequently drawn fire from conservatives, has regained its tax-exempt status.

The Washington, D.C.-based CAIR and its related foundation were two of about 275,000 nonprofits that lost tax exempt status last year for not filing tax returns for three years in a row. Last month, the Internal Revenue Service sent a letter to the CAIR-Foundation Inc., saying the nonprofit had regained its tax-exempt status.

"We are obviously pleased that all the paperwork issues have been resolved and our tax-exempt status has been restored," said Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for CAIR. Hooper did not know the details of what paperwork, including tax returns, had been filed.

Omar Sacirbey 7-20-2012
Suleiman Nyambui (center), who ran at UTEP between 1978-1982 and won the silver

Suleiman Nyambui (center), who ran at UTEP between 1978-1982 and won the silver medal at the 1980 Olympics. Photo courtesy RNS.

This year, more than 3,000 Muslim athletes will compete in the Olympics, but many will not fast, a decision that has been sanctioned by religious authorities. While Muslims are increasingly common on Western teams -- for example British rower Mohamed Sbihi and French boxer Rachid Azzedine -- no Muslims made the U.S. team this year.

Nyambui said the hard part about track is training. Competing is easy. Had Ramadan occurred before the Olympics, when athletes prepare their bodies for competition, then his performance would have suffered, he said. He acknowledged that fasting can present difficulties for athletes, but usually only during the first or second weeks of Ramadan when the body is still adjusting to the rigors of fasting.

“After that people are used to it,” said Nyambui, speaking from his office in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's largest city. “People play soccer, they can go jogging, they can go swimming.”

The atheist community has embraced the cause of an Indonesian man, Alexander Aan, who was beaten and jailed after denying God’s existence on Facebook and posting cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

The Center for Inquiry, a Washington-based humanist organization, launched a petition Tuesday (July 17) on behalf of Alexander Aan, a 30-year-old Indonesian civil servant currently serving a 30-month jail sentence for “deliberately spreading information inciting religious hatred and animosity,” according to the judge who sentenced him.

The petition asks the Obama administration to pressure the Indonesian government for Aan’s release and for better protection of religious freedom in that country, the most populous Muslim nation in the world.

Beau Underwood 7-19-2012

Independence Day in Joplin, Mo. saw fireworks of a different kind. On July 4, the Islamic Society of Joplin’s mosque was set on fire. While the mosque has only been open since 2007, it has already been targeted twice by arsonists. These hateful attacks must stop.

The biblical call to love our neighbors as ourselves requires Christians to speak out against these attacks. By protecting the rights of American Muslims to worship in the United States, we provide a powerful witness to those countries where Christian minorities face attack and persecution, such as Nigeria, Egypt, Somalia, and Kenya. If we expect others to take our advocacy for global religious freedom seriously, then our efforts must begin in our own backyard.

While the FBI is investigating the incident, the fact that a religious community was targeted means the attack should be investigated as a potential hate crime. Christians around the country are speaking out to ensure the Department of Justice gives this the necessary attention it deserves. Add your voice to the petition calling for a hate crimes investigation and show a little love to your Muslim neighbors in Joplin, Mo.

Geoff Tunnicliffe 7-18-2012
Muslim and Christian women, Anna Jurkovska / Shutterstock.com

Muslim and Christian women, Anna Jurkovska / Shutterstock.com

The view from my office in New York City overlooks Ground Zero. Every day I’m in the office, I have the opportunity to observe the massive construction project as well as the thousands of visitors to the 9/11 Memorial pools. It is all a stark reminder of how a person’s faith can be radicalized and politicalized.  

Unfortunately, violence perpetrated by those who have hijacked their faith continues to occur on almost a daily basis. 

The Islamist terror group Boko Haram has killed hundreds of Christians in northern Nigeria since 2009. The killings have escalated in recent months, and security forces have clearly failed to protect lives, forcing hundreds to flee for safety.

Earlier this month, al-Shabaab from Somalia attacked two churches in Kenya leaving 17 people dead and scores of people injured, including women and children.

However, attacks are taking place against Muslims as well. Last week an Islamic Center in Missouri was torched. Earlier this year a mosque in Queens was firebombed.

Whether deaths occurred or not, all these acts of violence need to be condemned by all faith leaders. 

As a Christian leader, let me specifically address the Muslim-Christian conflict.

Connie Jakab 6-19-2012
Muslim woman praying, wong yu liang  / Shutterstock.com

Muslim woman praying, wong yu liang / Shutterstock.com

I have been discovering more each day how much I love Muslim people. They are beautiful, warm people, yet we are afraid of them because of misconceptions based on our stereotypes of their race.

I have friends who were living in the Middle East for four years and were sharing about how amazing they find Muslim people. Through my own encounters and my friend’s experiences, here’s what muslim people have taught me.

Photo by wong yu liang /shuttestock.

Photo by wong yu liang / shutterstock.

WASHINGTON A former staffer of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has filed suit against the watchdog agency, saying that it rescinded a job offer because she is Muslim and had worked for a Muslim advocacy group.

In the suit filed Thursday (June 7) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Safiya Ghori-Ahmad charges that USCIRF staffers recommended her to be a South Asia policy analyst in 2009, but some commissioners pushed to retract the job offer after learning she worked for the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

According to the suit, Ghori-Ahmad was told after her initial hire that she could “limit the negative impression her beliefs and her background would create with members of the Commission’’ by calling in sick on days commissioners were expected to be in the office and by downplaying her religious affiliation.

Kevin Eckstrom 5-01-2012
Photo by Jerilee Bennett.

Michael Patrick and Eduardo Martins observe Temple Square from observation deck in Salt Lake City, Photo by Jerilee Bennett.

Mitt Romney may or may not become the first Mormon to move into the White House next year, but a new study shows that Mormonism is moving into more parts of the country than any other religious group, making it the fastest-growing faith in more than half of U.S. states.

The 2012 Religious Congregations and Membership Study, released here Tuesday (May 1), shows that the mainline Protestants and Catholics who dominated the 20th century are literally losing ground to the rapid rise of Mormons and, increasingly, Muslims.

ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images

Anders Behring Breivik places a clenched fist on his heart as he arrives in central court in Oslo. ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images

I opened up the NY Times homepage yesterday to find this headline: On Witness Stand, Norwegian Says He Would Kill AgainRemember this guy?  The Times says authorities have described Anders Behring Breivik as a “fundamentalist Christian…obsessed with what he saw as the threat of multiculturalism and Muslim immigration to the cultural and patriotic values of his country.” 

He killed 77 people, including 68 teenagers, in Norway last summer. 

Although Breivik admits to the murders, he doesn’t believe he should be held criminally accountable—he believes his actions were preventive measures, or, “self-defense.”

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