Christians and Muslims have co-existed peacefully before and must do so again

Mosque's minaret and cathedral's crossesToday I’ll be the first Muslim to address the General Synod of the Church of England. It is a blessing and an honour, and I am humbled by this historic opportunity. But the journey from Noor mosque in my native Mombasa, Kenya, to Church House has been a long and meandering one – full of trials and adventure, but ultimately worth it.

A couple of days ago, Humera, my wife of more than 25 years, asked what would make me consider my life a success. Recovering from a long bout of debilitating illness, I was trying to figure out what would be the best way to pursue the new lease of life that had been granted to me.

“If I can, somehow be involved in reconciling hearts and people. That would make me happy,” I replied.

Many moons spent in NHS wards, surrounded by diversity, suffering and death, not escaping to a zawiyah (monastery) retreat, made me spiritually mature and responsive. With plenty of time on my hands I embarked on a journey of rediscovering my faith and what it meant for our times.

Among the jewels I came across was a hadith (narration) of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, peace and blessings be upon him, which simply said: “Shall I not inform you of a better act than fasting, alms and prayers? Making peace between one another: enmity and malice tear up heavenly rewards by the roots.”

It is a message that all members of the synod would be familiar with, for it echoes Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN (LONDON)

Indonesian capital gets Christian leader

1e920a13-e1d5-4f27-9ef2-c46047741658A Christian was inaugurated yesterday as governor of the Indonesian capital for the first time in 50 years, despite weeks of protests from hardliners in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also the first person from the country’s tiny ethnic Chinese minority to become leader of Jakarta, was sworn in at a ceremony by President Joko Widodo.

He replaces Widodo, who took office as head of state last month, and like the president was a political outsider without deep roots in the era of dictator Suharto.

The emergence of leaders such as Widodo and Purnama has been praised as a sign that democratic reforms introduced after the end of authoritarian rule in 1998 have taken root.

Purnama, known by his nickname Ahok, was Widodo’s deputy and has been acting governor for several months.

However his appointment has not been smooth, with hardline groups staging regular protests against an “infidel” taking over as governor and political opponents in the city council attempting to block his inauguration.

But the hot-headed, straight-talking governor has shrugged off the challenges to his leadership.

“You can’t make everybody happy,” he said after his inauguration.

The tall, bespectacled politician promises a starkly different style to his predecessor. While Widodo, known by his nickname Jokowi, took a gentle, persuasive approach, Purnama is famed for his angry outbursts at bumbling officials.

Despite the opposition from groups, many Jakarta residents support the governor.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GULF TIMES 

Muslim and Christian Religious Leaders Unite to Denounce ISIS and Violence in Iraq and Syria

Muslim and Christian Religious Leaders Unite to Denounce ISIS and Violence in Iraq and SyriaIn an unprecedented demonstration of multi-religious solidarity, leaders of Christian, Muslim and other religious communities from Iraq, Syria and the larger Middle East region today have denounced with one voice all violence in the name of religion, and have called on the international community to protect religious and cultural diversity in Iraqand Syria.

Religious leaders from Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Mandean, and Yazidi communities across the Middle East today jointly issued the Vienna Declaration, “United against Violence in the Name of Religion”, at the international conference organized by the KAICIID Dialogue Centre.

This is the first time religious leaders representing so many different religions from a crisis region have come together as one to denounce oppression, marginalization, persecution and killing of people in the name of religion.

The religious leaders were united in acknowledging that the current conflict in Iraq and Syria targets followers of every religion. They jointly rejected all violence in the name of religion, and attempts by groups like ISIS to claim legitimacy for their actions within the teachings of Islam. They also condemned the serious violation of human rights in Iraq andSyria; especially against Christian, Yazidi and other religious and ethnic groups.

The religious leaders emphasized the right of all to be treated with dignity and humanity regardless of their religious tradition. Atrocities committed in the name of religion are crimes against humanity, and crimes against religion. The declaration also rejects and denounces the support or sponsorship of terrorism.

FULL ARTICLE FROM KAICIID Dialogue Centre

Washington Cathedral’s first Muslim prayer service interrupted by heckler

Muslim Prayer ServiceIn a corner of Washington National Cathedral, several hundred Muslim worshipers and other invited guests gathered Friday afternoon for a first-ever recitation of weekly Muslim prayers at the iconic Christian sanctuary and to hear leaders of both faiths call for religious unity in the face of extremist violence and hate.

The Arabic call to prayer echoed among the vaulted stone arches and faded away, followed by an impassioned sermon from Ebrahim Rasool, a Muslim scholar who is South Africa’s ambassador to the United States. Rasool called on Muslims, Christians and others to come together and make “common cause” in the fight against extremists who appropriate Islam.

“We come to this cathedral with sensitivity and humility but keenly aware that it is not a time for platitudes, because mischief is threatening the world,” Rasool said. “The challenge for us today is to reconstitute a middle ground of good people . . . whose very existence threatens extremism.”

The event was closed to the public, and there was heavy security, with police checking every name and bag. Organizers from several area Muslim institutions said there had been concerns about security and threats after the event was publicized and that they and cathedral officials wanted to limit it to a small and selected group.

Nevertheless, the carefully scripted ceremony was marred once when one well-dressed, middle-age woman in the audience suddenly rose and began shouting that “America was founded on Christian principles. . . . Leave our church alone!” She was swiftly ushered out by security aides, and the service continued.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

Islam, ISIS and the violence against Christianity — Syed Farid Alatas

24-Christians-AP (1)NOVEMBER 11 — Forces fighting under the self-proclaimed caliph of ISIS, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, after having captured large areas of Iraq and Syria earlier this year, not only fought against and killed Muslims who stood in their way, but also began barbaric acts of violence against Christians and other religious minorities. Many Christians were threatened with their lives for not converting to Islam. They had to endure harassment, arrests, and various forms of violence. As a result tens of thousands of Iraqi Christian men, women and children have fled what had become a genocide against an ancient Christian community. Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dawod of the Syriac Orthodox church said that ISIS had burned churches, old religious texts, damaged crosses and statues of the Virgin Mary, and converted churches into mosques.

How is it that a group that claims to rule in the name of Islam can be so brutal to fellow human beings? Many would claim that Islam is a religion of peace and that violence perpetrated in the name of Islam is actually due to distortions or misunderstandings of the religion. There are those, however, who would say that Islam is not innocent of its militant and murderous adherents. They often cite verses of the Qur’an such Al-Tawbah [9]:5 which says: “But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war)”.

To make matter worse, it is always possible to find historical cases of the brutal treatment of Christians by Muslims. A case in point is the 11the century Fatimid ruler, Abu Ali Mansur Tariq al-Hakim. Al-Hakim was known in the West as the “Mad Caliph” because of the brutal manner in which he treated religious minorities. The persecution of Christians and Jews began under his reign in 1004 AD when he decreed that Christians would no longer be allowed to celebrate Easter. Al-Hakim is also known to have forced Jews and Christians to become Muslims at the point of a sword, destroyed numerous churches and other Christian holy sites in Palestine and Egypt, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in 1009.

How do we reconcile the verses of the Qur’an that appear to support the violence perpetrated against Christians such as during Al-Hakim’s and Al-Baghdadi’s reigns?

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE MALAY MAIL 

Sister Sanaa Nadim, Muslim Student Association chaplain, works to dispel misconceptions about Islam

N_SisterSanaa_StockPhoto-250x375Twenty years ago, a former foreign-exchange trader on Park Avenue became the chaplain of Stony Brook University’s Muslim Student Association. When asked how such a transition could happen, Sister Sanaa Nadim, 56, paused for a moment and pointed up.

“Destiny,” she said. “Destiny prevails.”

Destiny put Nadim on the second floor of Stony Brook’s Student Union, among the offices of the Interfaith Center, as the first female Muslim chaplain for any Muslim Student Association in the country. It has been a departure from a “well-off” childhood spent in private school and her time in the private sector.

Nadim grew up in Cairo, Egypt, as the youngest of seven children of a father who was a poet and businessman and a mother who was “big on charity and family.” She spent summers at a home on the Mediterranean Sea, wearing shorts and mini-jupes, playing sports and never getting negative comments from men. Cairo was like any city around the world, except for traditional music, she said.

“It was the most amazing childhood, not simply because we were well-off, but just the time was beautiful, the world was beautiful,” she said. She called it a non-judgmental time when people did not think about appearance as a fundamental issue of faith.

Everything changed with start of the 1967 Six-Day War between Israel and Egypt, Syria and Jordan, Nadim said. She recalled one day at her French private school when she was told that Egypt was at war. Life was not as happy as it was, she continued, because her family lost a lot of its wealth, people were suffering and it was a time of war, but she did not understand why.

“We were never taught anything about differences between us and other people,” Nadim said. “It was one world and people lived in it and that was it. And I think I took that with me forever.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE STATESMAN

How strong is the link between faith and terrorism?

paramedicsjpg.jpg.size.xxlarge.promoEditor’s note: Reza Aslan is the author of “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” and a professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN) — The tragic murder of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau — “a recent convert to Islam” as every media outlet in the United States would like to remind you — has added fuel to the already fiery debate in this country over the inherently violent nature of religion in general, and Islam in particular.

It seems that, in the minds of many, the only possible reason a Muslim convert would go on a shooting spree in the Canadian Parliament is because his religious beliefs commanded him to do so.

Of course, it could very well be the case that Zehaf-Bibeau was motivated by his Islamic beliefs. It could be that he read a particular passage in the Quran, understood it to mean he should kill as many Canadian government officials as possible, and then went out and did just that.

Reza Aslan

Reza Aslan

After all, there’s no question that a person’s religious beliefs can and often do influence his or her behavior. The mistake lies in assuming there is a necessary and distinct causal connection between belief and behavior — that Bibeau’s actions were exclusively the result of his religious beliefs.

The notion that there is a one-to-one correlation between religious beliefs and behavior may seem obvious and self-evident to those unfamiliar with the study of religion. But it has been repeatedly debunked by social scientists who note that “beliefs do not causally explain behavior” and that behavior is in fact the result of complex interplay among a host of social, political, cultural, ethical, emotional, and yes, religious factors.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CNN