(RNS) Law enforcement officers in Virginia will no longer receive credit for a counter terrorism course taught by a former FBI agent and anti-Muslim activist after the academy where the course was taught canceled its accreditation the day it was scheduled to begin.
Nevertheless, the three-day course with John Guandolo, which Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins vigorously defended, proceeded at nearby Germanna Community College late last month.
Some 50 people, many from out of state, reportedly enrolled in the seminar, “Understanding and Investigating Jihadi Networks in America,” advertised as $225 per trainee.
The Culpeper controversy is the latest law-enforcement training course to draw harsh criticism from Muslim groups who say agencies hire purported experts in Islam or counterterrorism who in fact have other agendas.
While Muslim-American activists and media reports have raised awareness about anti-Muslim trainers, occasionally resulting in curriculum reviews and canceled classes, many say the problem persists because there are too few police administrators to properly vet courses and instructors.
The consequences, critics add, go beyond political incorrectness and include undermining public safety and obscuring real dangers as police officers chase bad leads based on profiling.
The news that Brandeis University cancelled the honorary degree it was planning to give Ayaan Hirsi Ali has raised a storm of controversy. On one side wereMuslims applauding the move as an apt recognition that Ali’s narrative was, if not Islamophobic in itself, fodder for the cannons of the rabid Islamophobic right. On the other were those protesting that the withdrawal represented a betrayal of freedom of speech and a cowardly retreat in face of the howling of religious zealots.
Personally, I think Brandeis should never have thought about awarding Ali with an honorary degree. Not because she is Islamophobic but because her “scholarship” is at best weak, and at worst fraudulent. Ali left Denmark amid huge controversy because she lied about her name, her birthdate, the circumstances in which she left her home country, and her family history, including the fact that she was fleeing an arranged marriage . That alone calls into question her personal testimony about her life and the nature of the Muslim society she grew up in.
More importantly, reading Ali’s description of life in Muslim countries and of Islamic theology, it becomes immediately clear that she paints circumstances with an overly broad, overly polemical brush. For instance, she says things like, “The veil is to show that women are responsible for the sexual self-control of men.” If you’ve read the Qur’an, you know that the Qur’an doesn’t ever directly tell women to cover their heads, and it certainly doesn’t tell men that they have free reign if a woman isn’t wearing a scarf. It does tell both men and women to be modest, and admonishes them against sexual relations outside of marriage, and to treat one another with respect, asallies in the quest to live a moral life.
“They broke down the door,” she recalled, her face etched in grief, “and they began searching for him.”
Her husband, who is a Muslim, escaped through a back window. Clutching knives, the fighters looted the couple’s possessions. Then they prepared to kill Oumpo, 60, and burn the house down. But some neighbors intervened and informed the fighters that she was a Christian by birth. So they spared her life — on one condition.
“Renounce Islam,” one of her attackers said as they left. “Or else we will return and kill you for marrying a Muslim.”
An interreligious delegation comprised of top Christian and Muslim leaders from Central African Republic travelled to the United States this March, determined to tell their country’s tale of conflict and compromise.
Reverend Nicolas Guerekoyame-Gbangou, president of the Evangelical Alliance of the Central African Republic, represents the Protestant community (52% of the population); Imam Oumar Kobine Layama, president of the Central African Republic Islamic Community, represents the Muslim community (15% of the population); and the Most Reverend Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui, represents the Catholic Church (29% of the population).
This week, these three leaders are hosting U.S. religious and political leaders for a mirror visit to CAR. The group includes representatives from the National Association of Evangelicals, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services, and the Islamic Society of North America, along with Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda Donald Koran and Stephen Rapp, Ambassador-at-large, Global Criminal Justice.
* * *
We came to the United States of America almost a year since our country was set on fire, and still the flames of violence and vengeance are threatening to burn down a history of peace and coexistence in the Central African Republic. Today, security remains the rarest of commodities in our country as men, women and children fear the neighbours they grew up with.
Yet, despite the horrific violence, hope endures. Hope that fires can be put out, wounds healed and a country rebuilt. As religious leaders whose congregations represent almost the entire country, we are clear as to both our moral responsibility and the steps needed to take us out of the darkness. Our voice is strong, our message is simple. We support newly elected President Catherine Samba-Panza and her urgent call for a UN peacekeeping operation as soon as possible to take over from the African and French troops currently on the ground. This UN Operation must be robust not only to help restore security, law and order in our country, but it must bring resources to help rebuild our country’s administration. Without strong institutions, we risk the repeat of cycles of violence.
However, the same might be said of many human institutions – governments, the police, the military, the press – and much depends on the time and place in question. The Catholic Church of the Inquisition is not the church of Pope Francis. The rigid Islam of contemporary Saudi Arabia is a far cry from the golden age of 10th- and 11th-century Cordoba and Seville, where Jews, Christians and Muslims lived and worked in relative harmony. The angry, radical Islam of much of Europe contrasts sharply with the Islam of the U.S. and Canada, which is largely moderate and prosperous.
One major problem with religion is the absolutism of many conservative believers. Secular or less observant Jews in the U.S. and Israel are considered no better than equally disparaged gentiles by ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jews. Some very conservative segments of Evangelical Protestantism do not consider Roman Catholics to be authentic Christians. Salafi Muslims in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere are dismissive of any deviation from their interpretation of Islam by more moderate Muslims, especially the small Sufi branch of the religion. Many Sunni Muslims in Arab states and their leaders view the Shi’a branch as heretical.
Faith in Oman Episode 1 of 2
- Duration: 29 minutes
- First broadcast: 5 April 2014
In the Islamically conservative Gulf region, Oman stands out for its religious tolerance. Members of other faiths – Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and others – enjoy freedom of worship. Interfaith dialogue is a government priority. All this puts the country in sharp contrast to its neighbour Saudi Arabia, where the public practise of any religion other than Islam is banned.
And, while the Arab Spring brought a deterioration of relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in countries like Egypt, Oman appears almost untouched by either political upheaval or inter-religious tension.
In the first of this two-part series Mounira Chaieb, a journalist from Tunisia, examines what is at the root of Oman’s unusual attitude to other faiths, and questions whether the country’s tolerant attitude to religious minorities a matter of true religious conviction, or merely a way of keeping powerful allies like the United States on side?
Over the years as I’ve engaged Muslims in varied conversations it has become increasingly clear that good relations falter more on matters of politics and power than on faith and practice. Because of this and based on recent readings I would like to venture a few thoughts that hopefully might open the way for an interfaith discussion inclusive of political and other forms of power, but not at the expense of faith and practice. On the contrary, the focus will be primarily on faith but in a way that makes it central to the larger task of ordering society toward a common good. I begin with a recent experience.
In January of 1998 three Muslim students from Mahidol University in Bangkok arrived in Chicago. They had come to study at LSTC as part of an exchange program. As a way to stretch an already meager budget the two men, both from Indonesia, stayed at my home. What had begun as an austerity measure turned out to be an experience with rich dividend. For one thing it allowed me to work on my hospitality skills as together we set down guidelines for living together amicably. It was Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims, so I decided to join in the experience of withholding food and other delights during the daylight hours. I had often thought of doing this while living in the Middle East, but had never taken it seriously. Now during these shortened winter days I made the plunge and it bonded us almost immediately.
Research shows that anti-Muslim sentiment and Islamophobia have increased over the last decade, making it even harder for Muslim Americans to create connections or to feel part of the larger fabric of American life.
Many Muslims, however, are seeking to create those connections. Some do so by organizing interfaith events. Others take to the media in an attempt to dispel stereotypes. Still others write books.
Among the book authors is Ranya Tabari Idliby. She first came to the public’s attention when she co-authored The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew: Three Women Search for Understanding. That book focused on how Idliby and her co-authors Suzanne Oliver and Priscilla Warner worked to educate their children about their three faiths.
Now, Idliby has a new book out.
Burqas, Baseball, and Apple Pie: Being Muslim in America is labeled a memoir, a reflection on Idliby’s life as an American Muslim.
But it’s also a letter to her children.
Idliby spoke with Muslim Voices Managing Editor Rosemary Pennington about what it was like to write such a personal story.
Rosemary Pennington: This is your second book dealing with faith and identity — why do you feel compelled to write about this issue?
.- The Holy Land’s bishops have said that Christians and Muslims need to unite against extremism, stressing that people of all beliefs are at risk.
“Christians and Muslims need to stand together against the new forces of extremism and destruction,” the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land said in an April 2 statement posted on the website of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
“All Christians and many Muslims are threatened by these forces that seek to create a society devoid of Christians and where only very few Muslims will be at home,” the assembly continued. “All those who seek dignity, democracy, freedom and prosperity are under attack. We must stand together and speak out in truth and freedom.”
The assembly’s bishops urged the pursuit of “a society in which Muslims and Christians and Jews are equal citizens, living side by side,” in which “new generations can live and prosper.”
They downplayed notions that Islamic extremism threatens only Christians.
“There is no doubt that the recent upheavals in the Middle East, initially called the Arab Spring, have opened the way for extremist groups and forces that, in the name of a political interpretation of Islam, are wreaking havoc in many countries, particularly in Iraq, Egypt and Syria.”