Egyptian Activists: Our Religion Is None Of Your Business

mideast_egypt_15877123Since Egypt’s revolution began, tensions among Egypt’s Muslims and Christians have only increased. Earlier this month, it once again turned deadly. Tit-for-tat killings left three Muslims and at least six Christians dead.

That and other religious violence is prompting a public debate about religious identity in Egypt. One group of young Egyptians wants to remove religious labels from national ID cards.

‘Where The Trouble Starts’

Aalam Wassef, one of those advocates, will gladly tell you he’s a video artist, a musician and a publisher. When it comes to his religion, though, he says it’s none of your business.

That’s the motto of his new campaign, too. Wassef, along with two other Egyptians, is calling on others to cover up their religion on their national ID card and start identifying as human first. They’re spreading the word on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

One of their videos plays images of a particularly bloody day for Christians last year, when the military — in power at the time — drove over Christian protesters, and state television called on “honorable” Muslims to come out and defend the troops from the Christians. Twenty-seven people were dead by the end of that day.

The lyrics sung to these images are just as chilling: “The racist republic of Egypt, the sectarian republic of Egypt. It’s ingrained on your ID, and this is where the trouble starts.”

“Egypt has a long history of sectarian violence and sectarian issues, which have always been covered up with this narrative of national unity,” Wassef says. “And so it’s a big lie, actually, because there’s a lot of embedded discrimination in the society.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM NPR 

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Why is Boston ‘terrorism’ but not Aurora, Sandy Hook, Tucson and Columbine?

sandy-hook-volunteer-fire-rescue-members-mourn-newtown-connTwo very disparate commentators, Ali Abunimah and Alan Dershowitz, both raised serious questions over the weekend about a claim that has been made over and over about the bombing of the Boston Marathon: namely, that this was an act of terrorism. Dershowitz was on BBC Radio on Saturday and, citing the lack of knowledge about motive, said (at the 3:15 mark): “It’s not even clear under the federal terrorist statutes that it qualifies as an act of terrorism.” Abunimah wrote a superb analysis of whether the bombing fits the US government’s definition of “terrorism”, noting that “absolutely no evidence has emerged that the Boston bombing suspects acted ‘in furtherance of political or social objectives'” or that their alleged act was ‘intended to influence or instigate a course of action that furthers a political or social goal.'” Even a former CIA Deputy Director, Phillip Mudd, said on Fox News on Sunday that at this point the bombing seems more like a common crime than an act of terrorism.

Over the last two years, the US has witnessed at least three other episodes of mass, indiscriminate violence that killed more people than the Boston bombings did: the Tucson shooting by Jared Loughner in which 19 people (including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords) were shot, six of whom died; the Aurora movie theater shooting by James Holmes in which 70 people were shot, 12 of whom died; and the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting by Adam Lanza in which 26 people (20 of whom were children) were shot and killed. The word “terrorism” was almost never used to describe that indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people, and none of the perpetrators of those attacks was charged with terrorism-related crimes. A decade earlier, two high school seniors in Colorado, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, used guns and bombs to murder 12 students and a teacher, and almost nobody called that “terrorism” either.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE BOSTON GLOBE 

Dead Bombing Suspect at Odds with Muslim Community

Boston Marathon SuspectsTamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the brothers accused of bombing the Boston Marathon, angrily disrupted a January talk at a Cambridge mosque when a speaker compared the Prophet Mohammed and the peace activist Martin Luther King Jr., the second time in recent months that Tsarnaev’s radical theology collided with mainstream Muslim faith at a public religious talk.

In the days since the suspects were identified last week, a picture has emerged of 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev — the elder of the two brothers, who was killed Friday in the battle with police — as an increasingly militant immigrant, whom family members described as unhappy and mean.

His brother Dzhokhar, 19, captured Friday night, is in serious condition and under heavy guard at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He has a gunshot wound to his throat, said US Senator Dan Coats, a Republican on the Select Intelligence Committee, on ABC’s “This Week.’’

New details on the brothers’ fight with police suggests Tamerlan was killed when his brother ran him over, dragging Tamerlan underneath his car in his bid to escape.

In disrupting the talk in January at the Islamic Society of Boston mosque in Cambridge, Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s shouted at a speaker: “You are a Kafir” – a nonbeliever, according to Yusufi Vali, a spokesman for the mosque. Tsarnaev went on to say the speaker was contaminating people’s minds, and accused him of being a hypocrite.

The congregation disagreed, according to Vali, and “shouted him out of the mosque” on Prospect Street.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE BOSTON GLOBE

Don’t scapegoat a faith for bombings

130420124125-khera-muslim-woman-with-flag-story-topEditor’s note: Farhana Khera is the president and executive director of Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy organization dedicated to promoting freedom, justice and equality for all, regardless of faith.

(CNN) — Like so many Americans across the country, I was shocked when I heard of the attacks at the Boston Marathon. A part of me immediately traveled back to when I was cheering runners myself as a student at Wellesley College, the midpoint for the marathon, a time when such dangers as bombings never crossed our minds.

Boston is an indelible part in the personal history and identity of those who have lived or attended school in the city. That someone had detonated bombs at an event that symbolized unity in a place known for its rich diversity and as a birthplace of our nation’s freedom was heartbreaking.

This last week has seen a whirlwind of fighting in a dramatic manhunt, leaving an entire city on lockdown and lives in danger. I am heartened to hear stories where the human spirit rose above the ugliness and absolute horror facing the community. Law enforcement officers and other first responders risked their lives to help others. Several marathoners ran straight to the hospital to give blood, and doctors rushed to hospitals. A restaurant opened its doors and offered free food to its neighbors while they were stuck in a lockdown.

It is these testaments of unity and heroism that make us stronger. Bostonians are coming together and helping each other because, as U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said, “When tragedy strikes, we are … one family. We hurt together, we help each other together.”

BOSTON ATTACKS: Islam condemns violence, Muslim leader reiterates

hussam-ayloushAs news emerges that the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings were from the predominantly Muslim Russian republic of Chechnya, an Inland Muslim leader emphasized something he’s had to repeat every time a suspect in a terrorist attack is Muslim: Violence against innocent people is a severe violation of the teachings of Islam.

“A person who claims an Islamic basis for such a heinous crime is no more faithful to the teachings of Islam than a KKK member who claims a biblical basis in committing bigoted crimes,” said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Southern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and a Corona resident.

“Islam’s teachings are very clear in protecting the sanctity of life,” he said. “Anyone who claims to be a Muslim cannot act in opposition to those teachings.”

One of the suspects, Dzhokhar Tsamaev, posted links to Muslim websites on a Russian-language social media site. He also posted links to websites advocating Chechen independence from Russia. Chechen rebels fought two unsuccessful wars for secession in the 1990s.

But the suspects’ uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, said he believed religionhad nothing to do with his nephews’ motivations.

“Being losers, hatred to those who were able to settle themselves, these are the only reasons I can imagine,” he said “Anything else, anything else to do with religion is a fraud. It’s a fake. We’re Muslims. We’re ethnic Chechens.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE PRESS ENTERPRISE

The Muslims who saved Jews from the Holocaust

_67047387_bosnia_hardaga04A new exhibition aims to celebrate the role Muslims played in saving Jewish lives during the Holocaust.

The Righteous Muslim Exhibition is being launched at the Board of Deputies of British Jews in Bloomsbury, central London.

Photographs of 70 Muslims who sheltered Jews during World War II will be displayed alongside stories detailing their acts of heroism.

The exhibition hopes to inspire new research into instances of collaboration between the Muslim and Jewish communities.

Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to victims of the Holocaust, honours nearly 25,000 so-called “righteous persons” who risked their lives to protect the Jewish community during Nazi Germany’s reign of terror.

Some 70 Muslims have recently been added to the list. The exhibition explores their stories.

‘Empathy and cohesion’

Among the “righteous” are the Hardaga family from Bosnia who provided shelter for the Jewish Kavilio family when German forces occupied Bosnia in 1943.

Half a century later, the Hardagas were themselves saved by the Kavilios during the Bosnian Civil War.

Threatened by the continuous shelling of Sarajevo, the Kavilio family appealed to the President of Bosnia to permit their erstwhile saviours to travel to Israel.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE BBC 

THE SAUDI MARATHON MAN

US-ATTACKS-NYC-SECURITYA twenty-year-old man who had been watching the Boston Marathon had his body torn into by the force of a bomb. He wasn’t alone; a hundred and seventy-six people were injured and three were killed. But he was the only one who, while in the hospital being treated for his wounds, had his apartment searched in “a startling show of force,” as his fellow-tenants described it to the Boston Herald, with a “phalanx” of officers and agents and two K9 units. He was the one whose belongings were carried out in paper bags as his neighbors watched; whose roommate, also a student, was questioned for five hours (“I was scared”) before coming out to say that he didn’t think his friend was someone who’d plant a bomb—that he was a nice guy who liked sports. “Let me go to school, dude,” the roommate said later in the day, covering his face with his hands and almost crying, as a Fox News producer followed him and asked him, again and again, if he was sure he hadn’t been living with a killer.

Why the search, the interrogation, the dogs, the bomb squad, and the injured man’s name tweeted out, attached to the word “suspect”? After the bombs went off, people were running in every direction—so was the young man. Many, like him, were hurt badly; many of them were saved by the unflinching kindness of strangers, who carried them or stopped the bleeding with their own hands and improvised tourniquets. “Exhausted runners who kept running to the nearest hospital to give blood,” President Obama said. “They helped one another, consoled one another,” Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, said. In the midst of that, according to a CBS News report, a bystander saw the young man running, badly hurt, rushed to him, and then “tackled” him, bringing him down. People thought he looked suspicious.

What made them suspect him? He was running—so was everyone. The police reportedly thought he smelled like explosives; his wounds might have suggested why. He said something about thinking there would be a second bomb—as there was, and often is, to target responders. If that was the reason he gave for running, it was a sensible one. He asked if anyone was dead—a question people were screaming. And he was from Saudi Arabia, which is around where the logic stops. Was it just the way he looked, or did he, in the chaos, maybe call for God with a name that someone found strange?

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORKER