Image via REUTERS/Gary Cameron/RNS

In a message marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, President Obama lamented the spate of vicious terror attacks around the world in recent weeks and warned against anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S.

“No one should ever feel afraid or unsafe in their place of worship,” Obama said in a message for the feast of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan’s monthlong observance of daytime fasting and abstinence.

Image via REUTERS/Murad Sezer/RNS

Turkish authorities have allowed Hagia Sophia, a World Heritage site, to be used for Ramadan prayers, an act that has enraged Orthodox Christians who say the famed former church and mosque is supposed to be off-limits for any religious ritual.

Prayers for the holy Muslim month were first read at the start of Ramadan on June 8, prompting a swift and pointed response.

Image via Wendy Gustofson / RNS

The sign in front of the building reads “Blessed Ramadan.”

But the building isn’t a mosque or Islamic Center — it’s Pilgrim Congregational Church, a United Church of Christ congregation in Duluth, Minn.

Saadia Faruqi 06-06-2016

Image via /Shutterstock.com

I like to call Ramadan a personal spiritual boot camp. One not only fasts but also prays more, is more careful of one’s interactions with others, tries to exhibit more patience and love. The hunger and thirst — even the overall sense of exhaustion one feels by the end of each day — is a fuel that pushes a Muslim to do better, to fight the internal impulses towards negativity and sin, and to become a better person. Is that possible without fasting? Maybe. But with fasting it is definitely probable. By the end of the 30 days of Ramadan, one feels invigorated, nearer to God, and somehow optimistic.

Image via  / Shutterstock.com

President Obama supports the right of Muslim Americans to celebrate religious holidays, the White House said Dec. 11. He just can’t give them the day off.

Responding to a petition on the White House’s “We the People” site, the White House declined to declare federal holidays for the Muslim holy days of Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr.

That’s because Congress has only designated 10 federal holidays each year: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

“Proposals for new permanent federal holidays are typically the province of Congress,” the White House said.

A man waves a flag in May 1989 at China’s Tiananmen Square. Creative Commons image by Robert Croma

While last month marked the 25th anniversary of China’s silencing freedom in Tiananmen Square, this month China has been cementing this grim legacy — particularly regarding religious freedom.

From repressing Muslims to bulldozing churches and tearing down crosses, Chinese officials have been denying the internationally guaranteed right to believe or not believe. The simple proposition that individuals have the right to live out their beliefs openly and peacefully, without fear or intimidation, clearly frightens Chinese authorities, as evidenced by their repressive persecution of numerous faith communities.

During the just-concluded month of Ramadan, China denied Uighur Muslim students, teachers, professors, and government employees the freedom to fast and fulfill related duties. With Ramadan coinciding this year with the commemoration of the Communist Party’s founding, Chinese authorities used the occasion to identify fasting Muslims, particularly in Xinjiang province. Those defying the ban have been subject to threats, detention, and arrests.

In recent years, officials have shut down religious sites; conducted raids on independent schools, leading to multiple injuries and even deaths; confiscated religious literature; restricted private study of the Quran; monitored the sermons of imams and forced them to undergo political training; restricted Muslim dress and religious expression; banned children from being brought to mosques; and arbitrarily deemed religious gatherings and activities “illegal.”

Omar Sacirbey 12-24-2013
Photo courtesy Zeyna Ahmed

Zeyna Ahmed, with daughters Nadyah Abdul-Majid, 13, Hadyah Abdul-Majid, 11, during Christmas. Photo courtesy Zeyna Ahmed

A generation or two ago, when America’s Muslims were new immigrants who made up an even smaller minority of Americans than they do today, they viewed the lights, trees, carols, gifts, and festive spirit of Christmas as a threat to their children’s Islamic faith.

But these days, a growing number of Muslims celebrate Christmas, or at least partake in some ways, even if they don’t decorate their homes with trees and a light show. Indeed, many Muslim families have created their own Christmas traditions.

“I teach my three children, who attend public school and happen to be born into an interfaith Christian-Muslim family, that we absolutely do celebrate Christmas because we are Muslim,” Hannah Hawk of Houston wrote in an email. Rather than putting up a tree or lights, “we celebrate the reason for the season, Jesus, by studying all that is written about him in the Quran and by examining historical theories.”

Craig Bowron 12-11-2013
Hasloo Group Production Studio

Hasloo Group Production Studio

On behalf of Christians everywhere, this holiday season I’d like to extend an olive branch (some assembly required; batteries not included) to the non-Christian faith community.

More than 2,000 Christmases have come and gone, and it’s time. It just is. It’s time for one of you to step up and adopt-a-Santa, the Santa. Did I say “please”? Write him into the Ramadan tradition, or fold the jolly old elf into Hanukkah. Put some Kringle in your Karma. Let Rudolph’s nose illuminate the path, the way. How hard can it be?

I’m serious — we’re tired of him, because spiritually speaking, Santa Claus is a colossal pain in the wassail. 

Richard S. Ehrlich 08-06-2013
A show in Pakistan is giving away babies. Screenshot of news story from The Guar

A show in Pakistan is giving away babies. Screenshot of news story from The Guardian, via RNS.

A controversial Muslim scholar-turned-television-host has given away at least two abandoned babies during his live TV show in Pakistan, saying “it is real Islam” and not exploitation because the infants find homes with couples who want to adopt.


Alessandro Speciale 08-02-2013
Pope Francis in March. RNS photo by Andrea Sabbadini

Pope Francis in March. RNS photo by Andrea Sabbadini

In message published on Friday, Pope Francis took the rare step of personally expressing his “esteem and friendship” to the world’s Muslims as they prepare to celebrate the end of the Ramadan fast.

While it is a long-established Vatican practice to send messages to the world’s religious leaders on their major holy days, those greetings are usually signed by the Vatican’s department for interfaith dialogue.

In his message, Francis explains that in the first year of his papacy he wanted to personally greet Muslims, “especially those who are religious leaders.”

Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, had fraught relations with Muslims. In a 2006 speech he quoted a Byzantine emperor who said Muhammad had only brought “evil and inhuman” things to the world, sparking a worldwide crisis in Christian-Muslim relations.

Jon Huckins 07-29-2013
Breaking bread, Shaiith / Shutterstock.com

Breaking bread, Shaiith / Shutterstock.com

 Last night, my wife Janny and I had the honor of sharing a table with a gathering of local Muslims for an Iftar meal. It is currently Ramadan, which means the Muslim community around the globe fasts everyday day from sunrise to sunset. No food. No water. No tobacco. No sex. Each night they have a celebration feast to break their daily fast called the Iftar meal. It is sacred, joyous, and a time to sit with those they love to worship the One they love, Allah (which is simply the Arabic translation of God).  

It was into that sacred gathering that they expanded the table and pulled up a seat for us and a few other Christian and political leaders throughout San Diego. Their hope was simply to create space in their daily practice for their neighbors to experience life with them. They were both acknowledging city leaders who have been proactive in creating an environment of dignity and mutual relationship, and creating a space for new/renewed understanding of one another. Acknowledging our core faith differences, they made clear that it should in no way detract from our ability to share a common vision for the good of our city. We are neighbors who live, work, and play on the same streets with a common desire to see deep, charitable relationships, sustainable economy, and mutual understanding and a celebration of diversity.

As I often say, as followers of Jesus, we have no choice but to move toward relationships with those who are marginalized, dehumanized, and in need of love. We don’t compromise our faith by hanging out with people we may or may not agree with. No, in fact, we reflect the very best of our faith.

Photo courtesy RNS/Shutterstock.com.

Donating to charity. Photo courtesy RNS/Shutterstock.com.

When it comes to donating to charity, Britain’s small but fast-growing Muslim community comes out ahead of other religious groups, a recent survey shows.

Conducted by ICM, a London-based polling agency, the survey shows the U.K.’s estimated 280,000 Muslims report giving more money annually to charity than Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, and Jews.

The survey, conducted on behalf of JustGiving, an online giving platform, also found a 70 percent rise in giving over the past two years from among Muslims to the charity-giving site.

Photo courtesy RNS/guardian.co.uk.

Hassen Rasool, Muezzin of Channel 4′s Broadcast. Screenshot of Video. Photo courtesy RNS/guardian.co.uk.

With a stated aim to “provoke,” Britain’s best-known TV company, Channel 4, is justifying its live daily broadcast of the “adhan” — the early hour Muslim call to prayer — and sparking applause as well as anger.

The broadcasts, airing each morning at 3 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time, will continue throughout the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“We are focusing on the positive aspects of Islam and hoping to explain to a broader public what Ramadan is, and what it means for the 2.8 million Muslims who take part in the UK and provide a platform for different views and different voices,” said Ralph Lee, the network’s head of programming.

Photo courtesy RNS.

Rabbi Marc Fitzerman views the destroyed temple as a call for introspection, not a call to rebuild. Photo courtesy RNS.

Most people have heard of Hanukkah and Passover and maybe Yom Kippur — the Jewish Day of Atonement. But Tisha B’Av?

Translated as the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, it counts as one of the most important days on the Jewish calendar. But even many Jews have not heard of this period of mourning, which requires a 25-hour fast to commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.

Tisha B’Av, many rabbis say, can be a tough sell, in part because a radical group of far-right Jews wants to rebuild the temple on the site of what is now the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s most revered sites.

Photo by Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune

Sharifa Al-Qaaydeh and her kids walk around their home Wednesday May 4, 2011. Photo by Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune

SALT LAKE CITY — Every day. For a month. From sunup to sundown. No food. No water.

No sweat?

No, plenty of sweat, especially this year.

With Utahns baking under energy-sapping, forehead-dripping, water-chugging temperatures, the state’s Muslims are swearing off that liquid life force during the heat of the day — and the morning, and the evening.

The annual 30-day fast known as Ramadan, one of Islam’s five pillars, began Tuesday and requires that believers forgo food and drink. At this time of year, that means 15 hours of parched throats and unquenched thirst.

Omar Sacirbey 07-09-2013
Photo courtesy RNS/ Paul K. DeMelto.

Paul K. DeMelto of Cleveland converted to Islam more than five years ago. Photo courtesy RNS/ Paul K. DeMelto.

Since converting to Islam more than five years ago, Paul K. DeMelto of Cleveland has done all he could to become a more knowledgeable Muslim, attending a new converts class and hiring Arabic tutors to help him learn to read the Quran.

But despite his efforts, DeMelto found himself alone last Ramadan, the holiest month of the Muslim year, when adherents fast from sunrise to sunset and eat a communal meal at night.

As he looks to another Ramadan beginning today, DeMelto wonders if this might be the year when he finally lands an invitation to a fellow Muslim’s home for the iftar, the fast-breaking meal.

Activestills 08-27-2012
(photo: RRB/Activestills.org)

The hands of Palestinian men grip the steel bars at the Bethlehem checkpoint. (photo: RRB/Activestills.org)

Due to a temporary relaxation in Israeli policy, many Palestinians traveled to Jerusalem through checkpoints during Ramadan this year. But now that Ramadan is over, it’s back to business as usual.

Every day, thousands of Palestinians circumvent the Israeli separation wall by crossing into Jerusalem without permission from Israeli authorities. Israeli journalist Haggai Matar recently described this major flaw in the wall’s security rationale, even quoting a pro-barrier activist who admits:

“'There’s no problem crossing the gaps in the fence and tens of thousands of illegal workers cross it back and forth every day, and there should be no problem getting suicide bombers through with them,” stresses Ilan Tsi’on, co-founder of 'A Fence for Life.' 'So why don’t they? Because that’s the Palestinians’ choice.'”

The same logic applies to the checkpoints controlling movement within territory under Israeli occupation since 1967 — including East Jerusalem, which contains the Old City, the Haram Al-Sharif (or Temple Mount), and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Though Israel unilaterally annexed East Jerusalem, no other nation recognizes the legitimacy of the action and international consensus still regards it as occupied Palestinian territory. That so many Palestinians routinely risk arrest and prison by circumventing these checkpoints — without incident — shows that their security rationale is absurd. While at the same time, the vast majority of Palestinians who try to play by the rules of occupation remain restricted under Israel’s matrix of control.

Rose Marie Berger 08-21-2012

Interethnic violence has flashed through India during the conclusion of the Muslim holy season of Ramadan during which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Catholic leaders in northern India, where Muslim migrants have been particularly targeted, has called for common ground dialogue and hosted meetings with leaders of the conflicted communities based on the Catholic churches long-standing relationships with both communities.

Anto Akkara for ENI NEWS reports:

"Churches are initiating steps to broker peace and restore harmony in the northeast Indian state of Assam, which has been rocked by bloody clashes between local ethnic Bodo people and Muslim migrants.

'We have hosted leaders of both communities twice already. We are now preparing a larger meeting of both communities after Ramadan,"'Roman Catholic bishop Thomas Pulloppillil of Bongaigaon diocese that comprises the troubled region, told ENInews on 15 August 2012.

The clashses have left 78 dead and over 400,000 refugees."

Read the rest of the article here.

Kathleen K. Duff 08-17-2012
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 08-17-2012
Praying illustration,  Zurijeta / Shutterstock.com

Praying illustration, Zurijeta / Shutterstock.com

Following attacks on seven U.S. mosques in the last two weeks, including three attacks last weekend, many Muslim Americans are approaching the end of Ramadan on Aug. 19 under a cloud of fear as Muslim groups try to increase security without spurring panic.

According to reports, vandals shot paintballs at the Grand Mosque of Oklahoma City on Aug. 12, and in Lombard, Ill., someone threw a bottle filled with acid at an Islamic school while 500 people prayed inside. The night before, a neighbor fired an air rifle at the Muslim Education Center in Morton Grove, Ill., while on Aug. 7, two women were videotaped throwing pig legs on a proposed mosque site in Ontario, Calif.