When the West wanted Islam to curb Christian extremism

safe_imageThe tiresome debate over whether Islam is somehow more violent than other religions unfortunately won’t go away. Recent spats between outspoken commentator Reza Aslan, TV host Bill Maher and neuroscientist Sam Harris — who said on Maher’s show that Islam was “the mother lode of bad ideas” — have launched a thousand blog posts and vitriolic tweets.

Writing last week in The Washington Post’s opinion pages, Fareed Zakaria acknowledged the existence of an unpleasant level of intolerance in some Muslim-majority countries, but stressed such societal ills can’t be laid at the feet of a whole religion. “So, the strategy to reform Islam,” Zakaria asks Maher, Harris and their supporters, “is to tell 1.6 billion Muslims, most of whom are pious and devout, that their religion is evil and they should stop taking it seriously?”

The backdrop to this conversation is the U.S.-led war effort against the extremist militants of the Islamic State, as well as the continued threat of terrorist groups elsewhere that subscribe to certain puritanical forms of Islam. Their streak of fundamentalism is, for the West, the bogeyman of the moment. But many argue it has little to do with Islam, writ large.

In any case, Islam and those who practice it were not always perceived to be such a cultural threat. Just a few decades ago, the U.S. and its allies in the West had no qualms about abetting Islamist militants in their battles with the Soviets in Afghanistan. Look even further, and there was a time when a vocal constituency in the West saw the community of Islam as a direct, ideological counter to a mutual enemy.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST

Attacks on Al Aqsa compound proof Israel not interested in peace

382333_Al-Aqsa-Mosque(CHICAGO 10/13/2014) – The American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) is outraged that Israeli forces today fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinians inside Al Aqsa mosque, disrupting the holy site’s sanctity and safety. The Palestinians were taking refuge from aggressive Israeli settlers, who, with increasing frequency, have been harassing Palestinian worshipers at Islam’s holiest site in Palestine and third holiest place overall.

After dawn prayer today, extreme right settler groups, protected by Israeli soldiers and police, entered the Al Aqsa mosque compound for the second time in less than one week. At the same time, most Palestinian men under 50 and nearly all women were banned from offering prayers in the mosque, in contravention of international law.

Israeli attacks against Al Aqsa are not new. For instance, in 1967, immediately after the end of the Six Day War, “the Israeli army chief rabbi, General Shlomo Goren, tried to convince a commander of the conquering forces, Uzi Narkis, to blow up the mosque ‘once and for all,’” according to published historical accounts.

What’s changed is the frequency of settler incursions into the Muslim holy site, coupled with discussions in the Israeli Knesset about dividing Al Aqsa in the manner of the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron, which apportioned two-thirds of the mosque for Jews, prohibiting the area to Palestinians. The Jerusalem Municipality also is discussing plans to turn the courtyard area between the Dome of the Rock mosque and Al Aqsa into a public park. Israeli authorities already have given the extremist settler group Elad the right to create an oversized ‘visitor center’ that will abut the mosque compound, further cutting off Palestinians from their historical religious site. UNESCO is so concerned about recent ‘Judaization’ developments in Jerusalem it dispatched a fact-finding committee to study the issue in April.

All these actions come at a time when Israeli settlers have forcibly moved into Palestinian homes and the creation of new settlements in East Jerusalem are planned.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AMERICAN MUSLIMS FOR PALESTINE 

Eid Al-Adha 2014: Photos Of The Muslim ‘Feast Of Sacrifice’ Around The World

slide_373346_4343068_freeEid al-Adha is the Festival of Sacrifice, one of two feast festivals celebrated in Islam. In 2014, the holiday fell on October 4, 2014 with observances lasting for several days.

The feast fell within the time of hajj, the annual pilgrimage Muslims are expected to go on at least once in their lifetime. Eid commemoratesthe willingness of Ibrahim, or Abraham, to sacrifice his son in the Biblical story. Some Muslims observe the day by slaughtering a sheep, cow or other livestock animal.

Take a look at the ways Muslims around the world observed Eid al-Adha:

CLICK HERE FOR PICS

The moment when, I, a moderate Christian, was a misunderstood Muslim

This article was written by  Kristin Reed Klade, a senior Master of Divinity student at our seminary. She is a candidate for ordained ministry in the ELCA and is originally from Fort Worth, Texas.

blueFrom the outside, it looked like any old interfaith dinner. Religiously moderate people of various faith traditions smiling and getting to know each other, a picturesque panel of four faith leaders smiling on a stage, ready with speeches about unity and love—the works.

That night turned out to be a bit different for me, though. This time I was experiencing it as part of the minority.

As a Lutheran seminary student from Chicago, I was attending a conference of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), learning about how emerging Jewish and Christian leaders could work to become allies with American Muslims in their fight for equality, and against hate and Islamophobia.

I got a little nervous when I read in the program that a pastor from a large evangelical church in Fort Worth (my beloved hometown) was going to address the crowd. Being from North Texas, I am well aware of typical megachurch theology, with its emphasis on evangelism and conversion. So I was unsure about how the pastor was going to come across to a room of mostly Muslims. I was certainly willing to give him a chance, though. Maybe he’s different, I thought.

He started off by recognizing the Christian obligation to love and protect our Muslim neighbors, and furthermore to be in relationship with them, to know them on a deeper level. But as he went on I began to grow uncomfortable. He spoke about the importance of being “real” with each other in interfaith dialogue. He praised his Muslim friend for being honest in sharing his belief that Christians will not go to heaven. The implication was that this was a mutual belief of damnation to hell of “the other,” a belief which I do not share. He also made some questionable comparisons between the New Testament and the Qur’an, implying that the New Testament alone teaches peace.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS 

Fareed Zakaria: How to think, and talk, about Islam

Fareed Zakaria CNNWASHINGTON — When television host Bill Maher declares on his weekly show that “the Muslim world … has too much in common with ISIS,” and author Sam Harris, a guest on the show, concurs, arguing that Islam is “the mother lode of bad ideas,” I understand why people are upset. Maher and Harris made crude simplifications and exaggerations. And yet, they were also talking about something real.

I know all the arguments against speaking of Islam as violent and reactionary. It has a vast following of 1.6 billion people. Places such as Indonesia and India have hundreds of millions of Muslims who don’t fit these caricatures. That’s why Maher and Harris are guilty of gross generalizations. But let’s be honest. Islam has a problem today. The places that have trouble accommodating themselves to the modern world are disproportionately Muslim.

In 2013, of the top 10 groups that perpetrated terrorist attacks, seven were Muslim. Of the top 10 countries where terror attacks took place, seven were Muslim-majority. Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center rates countries on the level of restrictions governments impose on the free exercise of religion. Of the 24 most restrictive countries, 19 are Muslim-majority. Of the 21 countries that have laws against apostasy, all have Muslim majorities.

There is a cancer of extremism within Islam today. A small minority of Muslims celebrate violence and intolerance and harbor deeply reactionary attitudes toward women and minorities. While some confront these extremists, not enough do so and the protests are not loud enough. How many mass rallies have been held against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) in the Arab world today?

FULL ARTICLE FROM COMMERCIAL APPEAL 

Scholars’ Open Letter Adds to Chorus of Muslim Leaders Condemning ISIS

rtr3x9aw.jpg.CROP.promo-mediumlargeMore than 120 Muslim leaders and scholars have co-signed an open letter to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of ISIS, arguing the Islamic State caliphate’s establishment and practices are not legitimate in Islam. The letter includes a technical point-by-point criticism of ISIS’ actions and ideology based on the Quran and classical religious texts. From Religion News Service:

Even translated into English, the letter will still sound alien to most Americans, said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, who released it in Washington with 10 other American Muslim religious and civil rights leaders.

“The letter is written in Arabic. It is using heavy classical religious texts and classical religious scholars that ISIS has used to mobilize young people to join its forces,” said Awad, using one of the acronyms for the group. “This letter is not meant for a liberal audience.”

The 18-page letter’s thorough catalogue of the transgressions of ISIS “relies completely upon the statements and actions of followers of the ‘Islamic State’ as they themselves have promulgated in social media—or upon Muslim eyewitness accounts—and not upon other media,” it says, a move meant to forestall criticism that ISIS has been misrepresented by Westerners. From the English translation of the letter:

The word ‘jihad’ is an Islamic term that cannot be applied to armed conflict against any other Muslim; this much is a firmly established principle…Moreover, there are two kinds of jihad in Islam: the greater jihad, which is the jihad (struggle) against one’s ego; and the lesser jihad, the jihad (struggle) against the enemy.  

In truth, it is clear that you and your fighters are fearless and are ready to sacrifice in your intent for jihad. No truthful person following events—friend or foe—can deny this. However, jihad without legitimate cause, legitimate goals, legitimate purpose, legitimate methodology and legitimate intention is not jihad at all, but rather, warmongering and criminality.

FULL ARTICLE FROM SLATE 

Here’s Why These Muslims Are Refusing To Criticize ISIS

Daily prayer to Richmond House Chamber given by Falls Church Imam Johari Abdul-MalikAmerican Muslim leaders gathered at Washington’s National Press Club late last month to release a scathing 17-page letter to the Islamic State that distanced mainstream Muslims from the militant group’s actions. But one prominent imam from Northern Virginia refused to give his endorsement.

“It sounded like they were apologizing for something they haven’t done, like they were running for cover,” Imam Johari Abdul-Malik said in an interview with The Huffington Post.

President Barack Obama has called on the world’s Muslims to “explicitly, forcefully and consistently reject” the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, while Secretary of State John Kerry recently said that Muslims need to “reclaim Islam.” In response, some of the largest Muslim organizations have issued sweeping condemnations of the militant group’s extremism. The letter unveiled at the National Press Club had the signatures of 126 prominent Islamic scholars, including the grand muftis of Egypt, Jerusalem, Bulgaria and Kosovo.

But not all Muslims have engaged in these condemnations. Many have written blog posts and created social media campaigns to criticize what they see as Muslim institutions’ knee-jerk instinct to decry faraway atrocities that are unconnected to their communities.

“Dr. King said we are all caught up in a network of mutuality — whatever affects one directly will indirectly affect the other,” Abdul-Malik said. “If I speak up against ISIS, it’s because I’m a human being, not because I’m a Muslim.”

Abdul-Malik has spoken frequently of the Islamic State in his Friday sermons at Dar Al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia. His mosque is one of the largest Islamic prayer centers in the Washington, D.C. area, serving 3,000 worshippers each Friday.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST