Facing ISIS, Middle Eastern Evangelicals Exchange Strategies

48939Fawzi Khalil recalls what he saw on a recent visit to Dohuk, Iraq. Refugees slept on streets and under bridges, fleeing the wrath of ISIS.

“It is very hard to coordinate with Muslims,” said the Egyptian pastor back at his Cairo church. “Everyone here is against everyone else.”

Khalil is the director of relief ministries at Kasr el-Dobara, the largest Protestant church in the Middle East. Since the fall of Mosul and the eviction of its historic Christian community, the Egyptian megachurch has distributed over 2,500 mattresses to both Iraqi Muslims and Christians. More than $300,000 has been raised—primarily from Egyptian Christians—to provide 2,200 families with medicine, a portable stove, and an emergency food package. The church sends a delegation to Iraq every two weeks.

“God is allowing ISIS to expose Islam,” said Khalil’s fellow pastor, Atef Samy. “They are its true face, showing what Islam is like whenever it comes to power.”

But the savagery of ISIS, which has overwhelmed Kurdistan with more than850,000 refugees, has prompted other Middle Eastern Christians to embrace their Muslim neighbors. This theme was heard often from members of the Fellowship of Middle Eastern Evangelical Churches (FMEEC), who met in Cairo last month for a conference on the dwindling Christian presence in the region.

“We must be a voice for Islam,” said Munib Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. “We must not allow the West to see ISIS, the Muslim Brotherhood, or others like them as the face of Islam.”

Others were more reflective of the diversity among both Muslims and non-Muslims.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIANITY TODAY 

Minnesota Achieves a Unique Distinction in Christian Muslim Relations

zafarstrib_1414998139_ICM1Say, ‘O people of the book’ [a term which particularly refers to Jews and Christians] ‘come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with Him (in His powers and divine attributes); that we erect not from among ourselves lords and patrons other than God.‘” (Qur’an,3:64)

The history of dialogue between Muslims and Christians goes back 1400 years when a delegation of Christians visited the Prophet Muhammad in Medina for a dialogue. They stayed in the Prophet’s mosque for three days and even prayed in their own custom when it was time for their prayers.

In 1989, Minnesota saw the birth of the Muslim Christian Dialogue program jointly organized by the Islamic Center of Minnesota (ICM) and the Minnesota Council of Churches (MCC).  The largest Islamic center in Minnesota and a major Christian umbrella organization coming together for such an edifying project set the tone of Muslim Christian relations in our state.  The increasing Muslim population and an overriding need for Muslims and Christians to understand each other in a deeper way was a major motivator behind the initiation of this program.

There have been similar efforts in other parts of the country and even in Minnesota in the past, but what sets this program apart from others is the consistency and commitment that both the organizers and the audience have shown for the past 25 years. To meet month after month, all the while sustaining the intensity of the spirit for dialogue to understand each other’s religious traditions better, requires a genuine passion for coexistence, acknowledgement of pluralism around us, and a belief in taking ownership to bring about a positive change in Muslim-Christian relationship. The ICM and MCC deserve to be applauded for this tremendous effort.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE STAR TRIBUNE 

Is Islam the ‘green’ religion?

religion-dialogueScholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr makes the case for Islam’s environmental credentials

Recent headlines from the mainstream media around the world highlight how the words “Muslim” and “Islam” are often mentioned in the context of terrorism.

But according to a world-renowned scholar, there’s another word that should be associated with Islam — environmentalism.

Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University, believes Islam is more disposed toward environmental stewardship than other faiths, and should probably be regarded as the “green” religion.

At the same time, he allows that Islamic governments have often put economic progress ahead of the environment, and many Islamic societies expect the West to find some technological solution to the woes of the planet.

Still, as Nasr told CBC Radio One’s IDEAS, “Christianity in the West has had a tremendous problem: how to come to terms with the environment at a time when its most devout followers have not shown much interest in the environment.”

As he points out, “If you take all the verses of the New Testament, there is no reference to nature.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CBC

The adolescent phase of Islam.

273946142Just as Judaism and Christianity went through periods characterized by conquest, so, too, it can be argued that Islam is now in its violent ‘Crusader’ incarnation.

The dizzying pace of global developments in our time makes it difficult to analyze reality from a historic perspective, since events seem to pre-empt all predictions. Still, it’s important to try to see the big picture.

I want to focus on two aspects, the religious-cultural aspect and the demographic-economic one, and suggest a historic context for two phenomena that I believe continue to shape reality. One is the nature and roots of Islamic resistance to the West, embodied in a clear and extreme way by the Islamic State, and the second is the large waves of migration in our time, which are responsible for a process of irreversible and uncontrollable changes in the demography of Europe and the United States, and in how the world looks in general.

The explanation I am suggesting for the two phenomena rests on the natural process theory from the school of Oswald Spengler, Arnold Toynbee and Samuel Huntington, whose common hypothesis was that cultures and religions go through phases like those of a living organism. That is, you can discern stages in their historical development: A childhood phase, characterized by consolidation and self-determination; an adolescent phase, for the most part violent and characterized by conquest and expansion; and in the end, a stage of maturity, characterized by moderation and tolerance.

FULL ARTICLE FROM HA’ARETZ 

Muslim hijabi hipsters fusing fashion with faith

hipsterDUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Fashion-conscious Muslim women from Kuala Lampur to Los Angeles who wear the Islamic headscarf, known as the hijab, have had to get creative.

By fusing both their sense of fashion with their faith, this growing group, some of whom have dubbed themselves hipster hijabis, is reinterpreting traditional notions of what it means to dress conservatively. They’re spawning a new market for niche fashion brands and finding unexpected supporters among some mainstream brands, as well as from conservative Christian and Orthodox Jewish women who also dress modestly.

“We want to be current in fashion and adhere to the tenets of our faith,” said Ibtihaj Muhammad, who owns Louella, a fashion brand catering to women who combine modest dressing with fashion.

The Los Angeles-based brand has sold nearly 4,000 pieces since its launch three months ago. Muhammad, a professional athlete and member of the United States fencing team, said she struggled trying to find long-sleeved, floor-length dresses to wear when she traveled on speaking tours on behalf of Team USA and the State Department.

Her line, which include floor-length sheer cardigans and dresses, ranges from $45 for a colorful, Picasso-inspired print cardigan to $100 for a pink lace, empire-cut dress. Though there are countless Muslim-owned companies around the world making clothes that cater to women who wear the hijab, many are selling traditional black-flowing robes known as abayas.

“I just got tired of spending money and chasing this idea of this perfect modest dress,” she said.

Some mainstream designers also have started to cater to this growing demand for stylish modest wear. This summer, DKNY released a collection during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan that sold exclusively in the Arabian Gulf. Karl Lagerfeld also brought his Chanel Cruise Collection this year to Dubai, unveiling an array of designs inspired by the rich culture and patterns of the Middle East.

Still, the market is ripe for more investment said Albert Momdijan, founder and CEO of Dubai-based Sokotra Capital.

“The Muslim population is the second largest population in the world with roughly 1.8 billion people so it’s a large population that you definitely cannot ignore. And 50 percent are below the age of 25,” he said. “It’s a young population, it’s a growing population and it’s a large addressable market.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM AP

The hipster hijabi movement is the byproduct of a young generation of Muslim women coming of age. It grew organically, spurred in part by social media, and continues to take on new meaning by the women who embrace it.

The Diversity of Islam by Nicholas Kristof

Muslim-children-from-around-the-worldA few days ago, I was on a panel on Bill Maher’s television show on HBO that became a religious war.

Whether or not Islam itself inspires conflict, debates about it certainly do. Our conversation degenerated into something close to a shouting match and went viral on the web. Maher and a guest, Sam Harris, argued that Islam is dangerous yet gets a pass from politically correct liberals, while the actor Ben Affleck denounced their comments as “gross” and “racist.” I sided with Affleck.

After the show ended, we panelists continued to wrangle on the topic for another hour with the cameras off. Maher ignited a debate that is rippling onward, so let me offer three points of nuance.

Likewise, it is true that the Quran has passages hailing violence, but so does the Bible, which recounts God ordering genocides, such as the one against the Amalekites.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES