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 

Ben Affleck Slams Bill Maher’s Criticism of Islam, Calls It ‘Gross, Racist, Disgusting’

ben-affleck-third-from-right-and-host-bill-maher-second-from-right-in-a-debate-on-real-time-with-bill-maher-on-oct-3-2014Actor and director Ben Affleck slammed atheist HBO host Bill Maher’s continued criticism of Islam during an appearance on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” calling his views on the religion “gross, racist, disgusting.”

The heated debate occurred during a panel on the show that touched on topics including Islamic extremism, and also featured atheist author Sam Harris; Michael Steele, the former chair of the Republican National Committee; and Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof.

“Freedom of speech, freedom to practice any religion you want without fear of violence, freedom to leave a religion, equality for women, equality for minorities, including homosexuals, these are liberal principles that liberals applaud for, but then when you say in the Muslim world this is what’s lacking, then they get upset,” Maher pointed out.

Harris, who has been critical of attempts to distance terror group ISIS from the Islamic religion, added that “liberals have failed us.”

Affleck took offense at the notion of criticizing the entire religion based on the actions of ISIS and other terror groups.

“Because it’s gross, it’s racist, it’s disgusting,” Affleck said.

When Harris said that Islam is a “motherload of bad ideas,” Affleck said that that is “an ugly thing to say.”

“How about the more than a billion people, who aren’t fanatical, who don’t punish women, who just want to go to school, have some sandwiches, pray five times a day, and don’t do any of the things that you’re saying all Muslims do,” Affleck continued.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN POST

Jewish Groups Back Muslim Woman’s Headscarf Appeal to Supreme Court

girls-in-hijabTwo Jewish groups joined a friend of the court brief on behalf of a Muslim woman whose right to wear a headscarf in a retail job is under consideration by the Supreme Court.

The court on Thursday agreed to hear the case, Politico reported.

The American Jewish Committee and the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism joined an amicus with Christian, Muslim and Sikh groups. The Anti-Defamation League and the Orthodox Union also are considering amicus briefs.

The federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission brought the suit against Abercrombie & Fitch on behalf of Samantha Elauf, who had been recommended for hiring at an outlet in Tulsa, Okla. The outlet subsequently reversed its recommendation.

A lower court, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, ruled against Elauf, saying that she needed to give “explicit notice of the conflicting religious practice and the need for an accommodation for it, in order to have an actionable claim for denial of such an accommodation.”

That decision described Abercrombie & Fitch’s “Look Policy,” which, the court said, the retailer considers “critical to the health and vitality of its ‘preppy’ and ‘casual’ brand.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE JEWISH PRESS