French Muslims back Middle East Christians against ISIS

french-muslims-christians-isis.siThe Muslim Council of France (CFCM) in a joint statement with a Christian group denounced the persecution of Middle East Christians by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and said mosques across France would pray for them this week.

Although several French Muslim groups have already condemned the atrocities of the Islamic State (IS) jihadi militants who have declared a medieval-style caliphate in Iraq and Syria, this is the first time that French Muslims have teamed up with Christians to support the victims of IS.

In a joint statement, the CFCM said “barbarians are perpetrating crimes against humanity exploiting Islam as their banner.”

“The signatories reaffirm their support to their Middle Eastern Christian brothers, many of them Arabs, as well as for all other minorities in the region who are now victims of a destructive campaign by these terrorist groups that threaten their existence,” the statement read, as cited by Reuters.

Islamic State jihadists persecuted and drove Christians out of Iraq’s northern city of Mosul in July, which ended their presence in the town stretching back to the early years of Christianity.

They also drove out the neighboring Yazidi community, as well as executing many Yazidi men and forcing women and children into slavery. Other Muslims are not immune; Shiites have also been targeted in large numbers.

“The issue of Middle East Christians is not only one for Christians. French Muslims are with us to support them,” said Patrick Karam, head of the Endangered Middle East Christians Group, which helped to draw up the statement with the Muslim Council.


Dallas church’s sermon offers dangerous distortions of Islam

signA reader emailed me with a basic “Muslims bad” message. And I replied that a few certainly are, but more than a billion live in peace every day.

He countered: That’s not what my preacher says. And he sent a link to the Aug. 24 sermon in a large Bible church in Dallas.

To my dismay, a preacher I have known and admired spent about five minutes running down all of Islam. He began: “One of the biggest lies in the world today, that’s being told over and over again, to where you are almost uninvited to social events if you don’t parrot this lie, and the lie is that Islam is a peaceful religion.”

He went on: “It’s getting harder and harder to defend that statement as Islamist militants around the world are crucifying Christians, beheading their children, burying people alive.”

He talked about the beheading of journalist James Foley and relayed what he said was the message of the Islamic State: “We will not stop until we quench our thirst for your blood.”

“Let me ask you this,” he said. “If Islam is such a peaceful religion, why is there no outcry from any Muslim leaders over the beheading of this journalist?”

I took the sermon to another local pastor who is a respected authority on Islam. Robert Hunt is a professor at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology and author of numerous books on both Christianity and Islam.

I’m not naming the other pastor because Hunt wasn’t interested in a personal smackdown. But he was eager to take on the blatant distortion in equating the atrocities of the Islamic State with all of Islam.

He had two quick points to start: “One, this isn’t happening with Muslims all over the world,” he said. “And, two, what actually is happening with Muslims all over the world is universal condemnation of ISIS.”


Kerry appoints Shaarik Zafar Special Rep to Muslim Communities

ShaarakZafar2-400x232U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Wednesday announced the appointment of Shaarik H. Zafar as the State Department’s new “Special Representative to Muslim Communities” in the United States and the international community.

The appointment was made at a closed ceremony at the Dean Acheson Auditorium at the U.S. Department of State which included State Department staffers, Zafar’s parents, and Shaun Casey, the director of the State Department’s “Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives” since July 15, 2013. Casey, who is on leave of absence from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC, where he is Professor of Christian Ethics and Director of the National Capital Semester for Seminarians (NCSS), opened the program and introduced Kerry who then introduced Zafar.

Kerry began the program by offering a Muslim welcome, saying “Assalamu alaikum,” the Arabic phrase for “Peace be upon you” commonly used among religious Muslims in the Muslim World and the Arab World, and then acknowledging Zafar’s parents and family who were int he audience also, including his parents Humayon and Kausar, his wife Aiysha and their two children, daughters Sophia and Aliza.


Lebanon’s Muslim officials sign petition against Christian exodus

342543_img650x420_img650x420_cropBEIRUT: Muslim Lebanese officials signed a petition Friday to condemn the assault on Christians of the region, calling on religious figures, political heads, civil society and the international community to mobilize efforts to restore the rights and property of assaulted Christians.

The exodus of Christians from their cities and villages is an “unjust aggression” that violated the “sanctity of their Churches,” the petition said.

In further condemnation, the petition said the assault against Christians “constitutes a crime against humanity and a [crime] against religion and the nation.”

Mohammad al-Sammak, the secretary-general of the Islamic Spiritual Summit in Lebanon, organized the petition, which was signed by Speaker Nabih Berri, former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk and Sidon MP Bahia Hariri, alongside several other ministers and lawmakers.

The Islamic Spiritual Summit represents members from the Shiite, Sunni and Druze sects in Lebanon.

Through the petition, Sammak called on Islamic groups to denounce both the crimes as well as the actors committing them.

He also appealed to Islamic religious references in the Arab World in order to free Islam from “the grip of its captors.”

Sammak called on Arab governments to assume “ethical and constitutional responsibility toward its citizens” who have fallen prey to groups that don’t know the “sanctity of humanity and the holiness of religion.”

The statement urged civil society actors to offer necessary humanitarian aid to Christians, while pressing allied states to refrain from facilitating the emigration of the region’s Christians, arguing that such a move would serve the terrorist goal of tearing up the versatile social fabric in the Arab world.





This Is How People In The Middle East Are Making Fun Of ISIS

Muslims across the world and particularly in the Middle East have been making lampooning ISIS in numerous ways. One way is to take the group’s Arabic acronym of “Da’ish” and replace it with the rhyming word “Ja’hish” which literally translates to ass.

ISIS_Jahish-300x300“The state of donkeys in Iraq and Syria”

Huffington Post

As militants of the Islamic State group continue their brutal offensive in Syria and Iraq, some have taken to a whole different front line to attack the radicals: social media.

In recent weeks, dozens of humorous campaigns ridiculing the extremist militants have emerged on Twitter and Facebook. While some blast such humor as insensitive and inappropriate, others defend satire as a way to push back at the Islamic State’s intimidation tactics.

“Sometimes, you have to mock, to belittle. Because sometimes, belittlement is your enemy’s greatest fear,” Libyan-American writer Hend Amry wrote on Twitter.



The answer to Islamic State: by sword – or word?

muslims-against-isis_c0-53-640-426_s561x327As world leaders try to counter the killing spree of the militant group Islamic State, better known as ISIS, they should take note of this trend: More Muslim leaders are challenging the group’s core message that faith can be compelled by the threat of violence.

The basic error in the group’s message is more than simply that terror in the name of religion – in this case Islam – is permissible. Rather, the Islamic State is also mistaken in a more fundamental way: It demands an outward conformity in behavior, such women being veiled in public or men wearing beards, as a necessary first step for a person to achieve an understanding of doctrine.

In other words, doing religion will necessarily lead to believing in it. Action somehow begets spiritual thought. And if a person does not act with certain physical signs of faith, then killing is justified.

Many religions have fallen into this trap of trying to compel understanding through coerced deeds. But debunking it is crucial to countering IS. The more Muslims stand up for the idea that faith is first from the heart – a personal commitment to the peace and selflessness that all major religions teach – the more likely is it that young Muslims will decide not to join IS.

Empowering the Community to Deal with Extremism in Our Mosques

downloadThe accusation is often made that the Muslim community is not doing more to combat extremism in its midst.  Here’s evidence that they are doing more than many people realize. The press doesn’t cover this well . . . 

By Salam Al-Marayati

When Adam Yahiye Gadahn was kicked out of an Orange County mosque in 2004, it was for good reason. He was a troublemaker who only meant more trouble for that mosque. Gadahn was kicked out for creating firestorms of controversies for his actions and was remembered as being “angry, rigidly pious, and hypercritical of any Muslim who adopted Western clothes or manners,” according to the Washington Post.

Then there is Tamerlan Tsarnaev. He was kicked out of a Boston mosque after verbal altercations with Muslim leaders there. Tsarnaev didn’t believe talks about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his civil rights work belonged in mosques.

Sadly, both Gadahn and Tsarnaev later became involved in terrorism: Gadahn became al-Qaeda’s spokesman, and Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police after being implicated for the Boston Marathon bombing.

What Gadahn and Tsarnaev exemplified through their actions in their local mosques weren’t necessarily indicators of pre-operational terrorist planning. And, actions of mosque leaders were understandable, especially when federal authorities place extra scrutiny on Muslim institutions in America. However, the reflexive action to kick both young men out of the mosque wasn’t the answer either. The lessons learned in hindsight are a clarion call to all of us to adjust our approach toward young people who express themselves in a troubling manner. Rather than kicking them out, we need to intervene.

Hence last week, the Muslim Public Affairs Council launched the “Safe Spaces Initiative,” a community toolkit designed to empower the community to address these situations and concerns through the PIE model — Prevention, Intervention, Ejection.

We aim to prevent violent ideology with a dose of good theology and healthy, honest conversations in our mosques. We then try to intervene with anyone who exemplifies troubling behavior. Finally, we resort to ejection from our mosques when all other measures are exhausted. In all cases of violent activity, we remind our constituents to call law enforcement. The precise mechanisms for these steps can be found in the community toolkit.