As a Bostonian and Muslim, I wept Monday – and worried

Boston Marathon explosionIt seems that until proven otherwise, terrorists are Muslims, and for some, all Muslims are terrorists

“Shave your stubble before you come to bed, Haider,” I told my husband Monday night. He looked up at me from the computer chair without the slightest hint of protest and smiled, “of course”. A couple of hours into the night, with him sound asleep right next to me – asleep like nothing had happened – I shivered from post-traumatic stress. Cold sweat trickled down the side of my forehead meeting warm tears at the corner of my eye and disappearing into a big, wet circle on the pillow. It was my second Patriot’s Day Boston Marathon, my husband’s third. I recalled spending all evening answering calls from back home in Pakistan, saying often, “Allah nay bachaya,” (Allah saved us). But did he?

Earlier on Monday, I was sitting with Haider and three other friends around small tables at the Prudential Center food court when we heard, and felt, the loud thud. If we were around a table somewhere in Karachi, Pakistan, my hometown, we would have said a little prayer in our hearts and continued eating, hoping that by the time we were done, the roads would re-open and life would resume. Such is our threshold for bomb-like noises and actual life-consuming explosions.

But in the heart of Boston, on a day of celebration, it could only be Godzilla, or some other giant lizard, someone joked. Within 20 seconds, though, buried under a horde of people and after the ensuing stampede, we ended up on the terrace looking over Boylston Street – a stone’s throw away from where the second blast had just occurred. Soon, a distraught mob pushed us right back into the food court. Unfinished bites and sentences, deserted strollers and upturned chairs – the large mall appeared ghastly.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE LONDON GUARDIAN

 

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Christian faith is source of Catholic priest’s passion for Islam

cairo fatherBy James Martone
Catholic News Service

CAIRO (CNS) — On a recent afternoon in Cairo, Comboni Father Giuseppe Scattolin was delving into 13th-century Sufi poems at his desk in the single room he inhabits, on an upper floor of a building that also houses an Arabic language school and its related administrative offices.

The ancient odes he studied were written by Sufi Arab poet Umar Ibn al-Farid, who lived in Egypt eight centuries ago, leaving behind a trove of verse in Cairo when he died there in 1235.

They are little known in the Arab and Muslim world and even less so in the Christian West. Bringing such Muslim texts to a wider audience is not only Father Scattolin’s passion, but his duty as a Christian, he said from behind his open laptop and piles of books in Arabic, French, Italian and English.

“What does it mean to be Christian? To know the other! What is the identity of Christ … to put on those stupid garments of the cardinals? What does St. Paul say of Christ? ‘He emptied himself,'” Father Scattolin told Catholic News Service.

And so “emptying” himself is what the missionary has been doing for almost four decades now, in the form of numerous publications and studies, in multiple languages, on Islam’s different literatures and schools, and through dialogue and other interfaith activities with Muslims, aimed at furthering understanding among Muslim and Christian communities.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE 

Protests held in Bahrain ahead of Formula One

201341218343257734_20Thousands of Bahrainis have demonstrated near the capital, Manama, urging democratic reforms, part of a series of protests planned by the political opposition ahead of next week’s Formula One Grand Prix.

Under the banner “Democracy is our right,” the crowds marched in the Shia area of Aali south of the capital, waving Bahraini flags and chanting anti-monarchy slogans on Friday.

Police stayed away from Friday’s demonstration as protesters denounced king Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa and Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, his uncle.

“You have no legitimacy,” they chanted.

Bahrain’s mainly-Shia opposition bloc, Al-Wefaq, organised the protest as part of demonstrations due to take place from April 12-22 to coincide with the April 19-22 Grand Prix.

Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the Al-Wefaq who was at the protest, said the action was intended to support “demands for democratic transition”.

“We do not want to hold up the race, but we are trying to benefit from the increased media presence,” he said.

Salman called on his supporters to attend a demonstration planned for April 19, as the event kicks off on the Sakhir circuit south of the capital.

A second opposition group, the February 14 Movement, organised another protest on Thursday night in the village of Khamis that was broken up by police.

Thursday night’s demonstration came as a report by Human Rights Watch said that police have been rounding up pro-democracy activists in bid to head off protests.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA 

What Constitution? Anti-Muslim Rep. in North Carolina Pushes for Christian Prayer in Government Meetings

blog_religionbelief_2Should local officials be able to start their meetings with prayers that endorse a particular faith? North Carolina State Rep. Michele Presnell thinks so, with one tiny caveat: the faith endorsed must be her own. When asked by one of her constituents whether she would be comfortable with a prayer to Allah before a public meeting, Presnell responded, “No, I do not condone terrorism.”

Despite the disturbing anti-Islamic bigotry in her statement, this illustrates the problem with these religion-specific prayers: someone is always going to be excluded or offended by them, and they can’t possibly account for everyone’s beliefs.

No one should be made to feel like a second-class citizen by his or her own local government, but for the past six years the Rowan County Board of Commissioners have sidelined and excluded Americans of other faiths through the systematic use of prayers specific to only one religion – Christianity.

As if that weren’t enough of a reason to stop or change the prayers, the practice is blatantly unconstitutional. The government generally can’t sponsor prayer at all, but the Supreme Court has carved out a narrow exception to this rule that allows legislative bodies, like a county board, to open meetings with invocations, so long as they do not promote one faith over others.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ACLU BLOG 

If I can call a Muslim an ‘Islamist,’ can I call a Christian a ‘Christianist’?

christianislamistFor newspaper reporters, the short answer to that question is “no.”

On Thursday, the Associated Press revised the usage of the word “Islamist.” But instead of banning the word, like it did with “illegal immigrant,” it restricted the use of Islamist to certain situations.

For example: Here is the how the new Stylebook instructs reporters:

Islamist An advocate or supporter of a political movement that favors reordering government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam. Do not use as a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who may or may not be Islamists.

The decision is an acknowledgement that a wide swath of Muslims — ranging from mainstream politicians to violent jihadists — view the Quran as a legitimate political model, and the AP’s restriction is an effort to not conflate those two types of Muslims. But the move doesn’t fully satisfy demands by the nation’s largest Muslim civil liberties group, CAIR, to “drop the term” altogether. As CAIR’s Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper argued in January, using the term in any fashion represents something of a double-standard:

There are few, if any, positive references to “Islamist” in news articles. There are also no — nor should there be — references to “Christianists,” “Judaists” or “Hinduists” for those who would similarly seek governments “in accord with the laws” of their respective faiths.

No journalist would think of referring to the “Judaist government of Israel,” the “Christianist leader Rick Santorum” or “Hinduist Indian politician Narendra Modi,” while use of “Islamist” has become ubiquitous.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FOREIGN POLICY

Five Egyptians killed in clashes between Christians, Muslims

130406-khusus-hmed-10a.photoblog600By Ulf Laessing and Omar Fahmy, Reuters

Five Egyptians were killed and eight wounded in clashes between Christians and Muslims in a town near Cairo, security sources said on Saturday, in the latest sectarian violence in the most populous Arab state.

Christian-Muslim confrontations have increased in Muslim-majority Egypt since the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 gave freer rein to hardline Islamists repressed under his rule.
Four Christians and one Muslim were killed when members of both communities started shooting at each other in Khusus outside the Egyptian capital, the sources said.

State news agency MENA put the death toll at four.

The violence broke out late on Friday when a group of Christian children were drawing on a wall of a Muslim religious institute, the security sources said. No more details were immediately available.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NBC NEWS

Attack on Christians in Egypt Comes After a Pledge

EGYPT-1-articleLargeCAIRO — Police officers firing tear gas joined with a rock-throwing crowd fighting a group of Christian mourners Sunday in a battle that escalated into an attack on Egypt’s main Coptic Christian Cathedral that lasted for hours.

It was the third day of an outburst of sectarian violence that is testing the pledges of Egypt’s Islamist president to protect the country’s Christian minority. By nightfall, at least one person had died from the day’s clashes, bringing the weekend’s death toll to six.

Later Sunday, President Mohamed Morsi called the Coptic pope, Tawadros II, to reassure him. “I consider any aggression against the cathedral an aggression against me personally,” Mr. Morsi said, according to state media.

The president ordered an investigation of the violence and instructed security forces “to protect the citizens inside the Cathedral,” state media reported, and he pledged to protect both Muslims and Christians.

The violence began Friday when a sectarian dispute in the town of Khusus outside Cairo escalated into a gunfight that killed four Christians and a Muslim — the first major episode of deadly sectarian violence since Mr. Morsi’s election last year. Hundreds of Christians and sympathetic Muslims gathered at the cathedral Sunday for the four Christians’ funeral, chanting for the removal from power of Mr. Morsi and his Islamist allies.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES