A Lebanese-American Journalist Reflects on the Arab Spring: Anthony Shadid

Veteran war correspondent Anthony Shadid spent much of the past decade in Baghdad covering the Iraq war, first for The Washington Post and then for The New York Times. Last December, Shadid left Baghdad for his home in Beirut, Lebanon, where he’s been based for more than a decade.

“It was amazing to me how many conversations I was having with people about how dejected they were, how disappointed, how pessimistic they were about where the Arab world was,” he tellsFresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “… And so remarkably, just a week or two later, the uprising began in Tunisia.”

Shadid reported from Tunisia and then from the uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Syria and Bahrain. He says 2011 has been one of the most unbelievable years he ever could have imagined experiencing in the Middle East region.

“I think back to this idea that a generation ago, the Iranian revolution was this event that changed the Middle East,” he says. “And we’re [talking about] six revolts or revolutions or uprisings all happening, in a lot of respects, at the very same time.”

Shadid says the euphoria felt in places like Tunisia and Egypt throughout the spring has now passed.

“I think there’s a lot of anxiety and uncertainty of where we’re headed,” he says. “I guess after being a pessimist in Baghdad for so long, I remain an optimist. I think that optimism comes from this idea that these societies — that have been moribund for so long — have been revived or rejuvenated. … And that very dynamism of those societies leaves hope for the future.”


2011: Islam redeemed, and by God, we came a long way

“You can crush the flowers, but that will not delay the Spring.” – Protest graffiti in a Cairo mosque

The year that is about to pass is historical for Islam for the reason that a much-derided faith has proved to be capable of being all that it was thought incapable of.

An awakening that swept the Arab world ended up re-inventing Islam in the eyes of the world. I consider myself lucky for being able to travel to some of the lands and meeting some of the people who were part of this.

The changes have been variously called “Arab Spring”, “Arab awakening” or “Arab Empowerment”. I prefer to call it Islam’s second renaissance.

For this to be the second renaissance, you may wonder, there ought to be a first one in the first place. Digression be excused, Ibn Rushd’s (Averroes for Europe) rescue of the Aristotelian texts (when Europe almost buried them) should be counted as one of the key features of the first Islamic renaissance.

The Arab spring was sparked in Tunisia in late 2010 by protests that followed the self-immolation of a young vendor harassed by police. His death in a hospital in January prompted thousands to take to the streets that forced the longtime president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, to flee to Saudi Arabia.


The Lowe’s Controversy and the Success of Religious Pluralists

by Daniel Tutt

As someone who works in the field of promoting interfaith dialogue on Islam in America, I can tell you it has been a hectic couple of weeks. When Lowe’s Home Improvement decided to pull its ads from TLC’s new reality show “All American Muslim,”they sparked a national crisis over Islamophobia in America. But crisis is the wrong word. I prefer opportunity. I say opportunity for two reasons.

One, the Lowe’s debacle has already proven that the Muslim community is well organized, ready to respond, and even able to lead a movement thatgarners support from acclaimed entertainers and public figures such as Sen. Ted Lieu and Russell Simmons. In fact, more than 32 congressional representatives have publicly called on Lowe’s to re-instate advertising on the TLC show.

Secondly, the controversy has shown that interfaith dialogue, relationship building between faith groups, and coalition building when there is no crisis, really does pay off. As Eboo Patel, author of “Acts of Faith,” has rightly pointed out, the future of religious pluralism will be decided by the success or failure of two groups: religious pluralists or religious totalitarians.


A Letter to Lowes from a Young American Muslim

Dear Mr. Niblock,

We have never met.

Yet, you seem to have bought into the idea that I am a threat.

One fringe group screamed “Muslim,” and lo and behold, you caved.

And, in turn, you’ve made the drastic error of pulling your company’s spots from essentially an All-American show from an all-American TV network.

Clearly, you do not seem to know much about American Muslims or their contributions to the American fabric, so let me take this opportunity to enlighten you.

I come from a proud immigrant family that moved here 20 years ago from Pakistan. My parents taught my siblings and me to work hard and accomplish our dreams. Today, we are contributing members of our communities, with two of my siblings working as physician’s assistants and one as a firefighter. As for me, I turned to writing and advocacy during my days in college and have continued to pursue those causes with fervor.


Conservative Christians Demonizing Muslims? It’s an Old Story

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 spawned a spate of conservative Christian reflections on the essential characteristics of Islam. Figures from Christian Broadcasting Network’s Pat Robertson to Colorado Springs pastor Ted Haggard pointed to the inherently violent nature of Islam. Liberty University’s Jerry Falwell said on 60 Minutes that “Muhammad was a terrorist,” a glib comment that set off riots among Asian Muslims, and earned him a fatwa from an Iranian cleric calling for Falwell’s assassination. As recently as 2006, even Pope Benedict XVI generated a major controversy by making disparaging comments about Islam’s violent history. One might think that these Christians’ views simply represent angry reactions to the horrific violence of 9/11 and ongoing jihadist terror. But a closer look reveals that American Christians have deep-rooted views of Islam as a violent, demonic religion.


In Tribute to Mary Ali, 1939-2011

ImageMary Ali was a faithful supporter of the work of CCME as a member of our advisory board,  as well as a supporter of the work of all who were promoting positive Christian-Muslim relations in Chicago.  Our prayers go out to her family in this time of mourning.  May God grant them peace.

This is an article that just appeared in the Chicago Tribune about her:

With roots in a small town in Iowa, Mary Ali seemed an unlikely prospect to become a follower of Islam and a leader in the Muslim community in Chicago.

But an investigation of Islam for a high school essay and a friendship with a Muslim man who would later become her husband led her to convert.

“The logic and simplicity of Islamic teachings really attracted her,” said her daughter Nilofer Ali-Rodgers. “She decided Islam was the right faith to follow.”

Mrs. Ali became an early member of the Muslim Community Center in Chicago, a co-founder, with her late husband, of the Institute of Islamic Information & Education, and a friend and mentor to young Muslims, particularly young women, many of whom called her “Mary Auntie.”

Mrs. Ali, 72, died of complications of leukemia Tuesday, Dec. 6, in the University of Chicago Medical Center in Chicago. She had lived in Chicago since 1967, except for four years spent in Saudi Arabia.

Mrs. Ali grew up as a Christian in northwest Iowa. Her first look at Islam came when she was assigned to choose a world religion for a high school essay subject.


Lowes Pulls Ads from Muslim Reality TV Show Under Pressure from Radical Christians

A decision by retail giant Lowe’s Home Improvement to pull ads from a reality show about American Muslims following protests from an evangelical Christian group has sparked criticism and calls for a boycott against the chain.

The retailer stopped advertising on TLC’s “All-American Muslim” after a conservative group known as the Florida Family Association complained, saying the program was “propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.”

The show premiered last month and chronicles the lives of five families from Dearborn, Mich., a Detroit suburb with a large Muslim and Arab-American population.

A state senator from Southern California said he was considering calling for a boycott.

Calling the Lowe’s decision “un-American” and “naked religious bigotry,” Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, told The Associated Press on Sunday that he would also consider legislative action if Lowe’s doesn’t apologize to Muslims and reinstate its ads. The senator sent a letter outlining his complaints to Lowe’s Chief Executive Officer Robert A. Niblock.

“The show is about what it’s like to be a Muslim in America, and it touches on the discrimination they sometimes face. And that kind of discrimination is exactly what’s happening here with Lowe’s,” Lieu said.


Ottawa imam condemns ‘honour killings’

OTTAWA — The imam of the Ottawa Mosque has condemned so-called honour killing, saying the practice speaks to a perverse sense of honour that is alien to Islam, and has no place in society.

Samy Metwally said Friday that it doesn’t make sense to think or believe that any religion will condone killing people to preserve family honour.

“What’s called honour killing is not part of Islamic teaching or tradition, and in fact there is no honour in this killing at all,” Metwally told The Citizen.

“It has nothing to do with religion and it has no backup either from the texts of the Qur’an or from the behaviour, sayings or deeds of the Prophet Muhammad, who is the model for Muslims.”

Metwally was speaking to The Citizen on the day of “a call to action” during which imams across the country delivered sermons against domestic violence, and to reiterate that Islam has no tolerance for violence against women.

“The purpose of this call to action is to raise awareness of Muslims that we are not allowed to do things like beating our wives or doing physical or emotional harm to them. The religion does not permit us to do these,” he said.


Muslim Brotherhood Downplays Takeover Fears

CAIRO – The leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood said Tuesday he is prepared to compromise with the ruling military on the formation of a new government, and that fears of the “Islamization” of the country are overblown.

Mohammed Badie, the Brotherhood’s general guide, spoke as Egyptians were voting in runoffs for the first round of parliamentary elections, which have been dominated by the fundamentalist group and the hard-line Al-Nour bloc.

“We must live in harmony not only with the military council, but with all of Egypt’s factions, or else the conclusion is zero,” Badie told the private Al-Mehwar TV station. “There will be reconciliation between the three powers: the parliament, the government and the military ruling council.”

His comments appeared to be an attempt to reassure Egyptians and foreign allies that the Brotherhood remains committed to democracy and does not want to take the country down an extremist path.



Rival Islamist blocs leading in Egyptian vote

It’s been a historic week for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the prime beneficiary in the first round of voting for the country’s new parliament. Fully 62 per cent of eligible Egyptians cast ballots this week, and more of them voted for the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party than for any other party or alliance.


For them, that’s the good news.

However, the last thing the Brotherhood wanted was to have its upstart Islamist rivals, the Salafists, running in second place in the voting, with as much as 25 per cent of the vote.