Is Muslim Academic Reza Aslan More Biased Than a Christian Scholar?

Anyone looking for a case study in how not to interview an author can look no further than this painful encounter between Reza Aslan, the writer of a new book on Jesus, and Fox News host Lauren Green. Aslan, a scholar of religion, has written a new book called Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, and it has inspired some backlash, particularly on the right. Among many other condemnations and mockeries, BuzzFeed‘s Andrew Kaczynski suggested it might be the “most embarrassing interview Fox News has ever done.”

The video speaks for itself, but a few thoughts follow below.



Can Muslims write about Christianity?

reza-aslan-cropped-proto-custom_24 (1)American public discourse about Islam is filled with essentialist paranoia, fear, and the commentary of people who not only don’t know much about the topic but are often dismissive of people who do.

But the reception that scholar Reza Aslan received on Fox last Friday was a new twist: Muslim views of Christianity are inherently suspect, it seems. Mr Aslan, who has a PhD in the sociology of religion from UCSB and a masters in theological studies from Harvard, is promoting his new book “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” and was on with Fox religion correspondent Lauren Green to talk about it. He was born in Iran, his family fled the Islamic Revolution there in 1979, and he grew up in the US where he converted to Christianity as a teen and later converted back to the faith he was raised in.

Fox has been filled with Christian and Jewish commentators explaining Islam to their audience over the years. Daniel Pipes has been one of them. As has Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Muslim who became an atheist and who describes Islam as fundamentally violent and has written books attacking the faith. As have Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, who both describe Islam as ‘inherently violent’. In the past, it’s even had conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck gives long expositions of the essence of Islamic law as he sees it.

None of those people are Muslims, yet as far as I’m aware their comments have never been questioned on the network as suspect since they came from non-Muslims. Yet his faith was a major talking point for Ms Green in their interview. Her first question? “You’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?”


Have Qur’an, Will Travel: A young Meccan reciter makes his way in America

saudiAt a large and vivid party in a Muslim home in the Chicago suburbs a couple of months ago, several dozen couples sat talking after dinner at a long table.

Glancing around the room at 30 or more Muslims, I saw professors, doctors, business executives, teachers, housewives, therapists, factory owners, and computer engineers. Some had been born in Egypt, others in Lebanon, Palestine, Pakistan and India. Most emigrated in the 1950s. They were 40-year Americans, part of a global, centuries-old diaspora. The men wore business suits, the women dresses; their children sported baseball caps and Nikes, and everyone spoke English.

The longer I gazed, the more clearly it struck me that the guest list at my table was simply another expression of American Islam crossing into the new millennium.

Then the table talk fell off and I glanced up. Down a long hall, into the large room came a young, sandaled Arab wearing a prayer cap and white flowing robes. Our host introduced him as a Meccan, a young man from the heartland of Islam, whose livelihood lay in reciting the Qur’an. At his side stood a robed, bearded elder from a local mosque–its imam, in fact, a religious scholar, a man of respect, and a longtime Chicago resident by way of Cairo. The two men settled into the only vacant spots at the table–two chairs across from mine.


Turkish Center in Texas Invites People of All Faiths to Ramadan Events

51ea1c965af72.imageRamadan isn’t just a time for spiritual growth among Muslims. According to local spiritual leaders, it’s also a time for Islam to create an open dialogue with the community.

On Thursday night, volunteers at the Raindrop Turkish House in Bryan opened their doors to Muslims, Christians, Jews and any other members of the community. About 30 people attended this year’s first open house of Ramadan.

During the event, attendees learned about the Turkish art of paper marbling, what it means to celebrate the holy month and shared an authentic Turkish meal.

“We invite each person. We do not separate anyone,” said Namik Top, a volunteer imam for the center and graduate student at Texas A&M.

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and is celebrated at different times each year. Mehmet Oren, one of the organizer’s of Thursday’s event in Bryan, said he remembers being a child and celebrating the holy month during winter. With Ramadan being in the summer, the call to fast during the daylight hours becomes more difficult since the sun is up longer.


Islam and the Role of Women


‘by Jane Smith

Despite some popular images of Muslim women as repressed and oppressed, many women today are actively affirming the rights and responsibilities that they believe the Qur’an affords to them. The Holy Book affirms that men and women are created from one soul to be partners to each other, that males and females have the same religious responsibilities, and that both genders will receive like rewards on the day of judgment.

In only a few instances are circumstances for men and women notably different in the Qur’an, and these verses are being seriously studied and interpreted by both women and men today. Passages that seem to affirm male authority over women are based on the Islamic understanding that men are responsible for the financial support of women. Some Muslims argue that they should be reinterpreted in cases where women are now the financial providers. While the Qur’an allows a Muslim man to take up to four wives, it also insists on equal treatment for all. Some Muslim women are ensuring monogamousmarriage by making it part of the marriage contract, and polygamy is forbidden in states where it is against the law.

Traditions that have circumscribed the full participation of women in society are being scrutinized and challenged as antithetical to the practices of Prophet Muhammad. Wives of the Prophet, known as the “mothers of the faithful,” serve as models for those Muslim women who want to legitimize female activity in all ranges of society. Historians differ in their explanation of why the freedoms available to the earliest Muslim women were soon denied to most of their successors. In many areas of the world through which Islam spread, and for much of its history, a general patriarchy prevailed. Although it is still the norm in many Islamic countries, in recent years there has been a great deal of discussion about the necessity of reclaiming women’s participation in the public realm.


Egyptian Christians content Morsi is gone

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CAIRO – The evening Egypt’s army ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, Christian lawyer Peter Naggar celebrated on Tahrir Square with even greater joy than when autocrat Hosni Mubarak fell from power two years ago.

Naggar remains deeply relieved that a year of Islamist rule ended a fortnight ago and yet, as the initial excitement fades, many members of his ancient Christian minority fear Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood will not give up power so easily.

Neither is the Coptic Christian community under any illusion that the army’s installation of an interim government devoid of Islamists spells the end to its long-standing grievances, such as difficulties in getting state jobs, equality before the law and securing permits to build churches.

Still, Naggar is happy to see the back of the Brotherhood. “This is the real Egyptian revolution,” said Naggar, who had joined mass protests in Cairo on June 30 demanding that Morsi go. “The people stood up against Islamism. This is the end of political Islamism.”

Communal tensions and attacks on Christians and churches rose sharply under Morsi, Egypt’s first freely-elected president. Many Copts, who make up about a tenth of Egypt’s 84 million people, left the country where their ancestors settled in the earliest years of Christianity – several centuries before the arrival of Islam.

Islamists are staging a vigil at a Cairo mosque and regular protests to demand Mursi’s reinstatement, and it is dawning on Christians that they could yet return to power when elections are held under a military plan to restore democracy.

Some might even resort to force, they fear. Islamists have killed at least five Copts since Morsi’s overthrow, according to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a rights group.

“It’s an improvement that Morsi is gone but I am still not entirely relaxed,” said Roman Gouda, visiting with a friend the Egypt’s biggest Cathedral in the Cairo district of Abbasiya.


Christians and Muslims Come Together to Share Ramadan Meal in Egypt

By Vincent Funaro , Christian Post Reporter

Christian and Muslim Egyptians gathered together in Tahrir Square last week to celebrate the first Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

egypt-protestersThe location was used by opponents of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi for demonstrations against him. He was thrown out of office back on July 3 by the army after a series of mass protests and public outcry. This place was also vital during the removal of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

The square was flooded by people of both faiths on a day where Muslim supporters of Morsi had been holding large demonstrations in public squares located in several other cities.

I wish [fellow countrymen] good health for a thousand years, and may they be well every year,” said Christian Fareg Girgis Abdul-Masih in a Reuters report. “And we are brothers, and may God continue to give us peace, and may we be brothers, not like the Muslim Brotherhood, no, truly bothers- Muslims, Christians, all of us united.”

An Imam preached a sermon in the Square on Friday that encouraged unity among the citizens of Egypt.

“This iftar (fast-breaking meal) is a national unity meal, in order for us to say that Egyptians, Muslims and Christians, make up one square and one nation. And this is an iftar to honor the blood of the martyrs and we are demanding justice for them on this Friday,” said Mohammed Abdullah Nasser.


Muslim Fasting Explained

ramadan-prepareToday, Muslims mark the first week of fasting during the month of Ramadan, the holiest month on the Islamic calendar – a season of intensive worship, praying, and self-control and discipline, for spiritual purity.

Before Prophet Muhammad (SAW) received the command to fast as contained in the Qur’an chapter 2 verse 183, Islamic traditions indicate that Muslims used to fast the day of Ashura (the 10th day of the month of Muharram; the first month of the Islamic calendar).

The Islamic faith (Imaan) being built on six pillars, recognises prophets that came before Muhammad as prophets of Islam, and therefore, by the second year of Hijra (Prophet Muhammad’s migration from Mecca to Medinah), when he received the divine orders to fast, he was not receiving a new concept in the worship of Allah.

In the verse, Allah says that fasting has been prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, which implies that Allah had decreed fasting on many nations before Muhammad. In various chapters of the Qur’an, Allah talks about his prophets like Zakariyah who prayed to Allah to give him an offspring; he was commanded to fast for three days by abstaining from talking.

Mariam, the mother of Isah (Jesus) was also ordered by Allah to fast the same way when she became pregnant. Prophet Daudah (David) used to fast every other day, and prophet Isah (Jesus) is said to have fasted for 40 days. During Prophet Muhammad’s time, fasting during Ramadan became obligatory with the revelation in verse 183 of Surat Al-Baqarah of the Qur’an, thus forming one of the five pillars of Islam.

In fact, before his death, Prophet Muhammad had observed nine fasting seasons.


When spirituality meets biodiversity

40841WHILE science and religion seem to have opposing views when it comes to the origin of life, the two appear to stand on a common ground when talking about biodiversity.

Generally, religious scriptures focus on the importance of living in harmony with nature. Different religions—such as Islam, Christianity and Buddhism—all have teachings about nature, which serve as guidance for their respective adherents in dealing with the environment. Considering this connection, religion does not just affect the spiritual perspectives of people, but their views on environmental ethics, as well.

Islam’s teachings

TEACHINGS from Koran say that disrespecting Allah’s creation is tantamount to disrespecting Him. The Koran essentially identifies a set of principles that guide Muslims in defining the relationship of man to Allah and of Allah to the environment.

The relationship of Islam with biodiversity shows that each generation should efficiently use existing biological resources so future generations would not bear the brunt of biodiversity loss.

For instance, the Koran states: “With it we have produced diverse pairs of plants each separate from each other. Eat [for yourselves] and pasture your cattle; verily, in this are signs for men endowed with understanding.”


Vatican envoy to Malaysia All About Dialogue

KUALA LUMPUR: The Vatican’s first Apostolic Nuncio (ambassador) to Malaysia, Archbishop Joseph Marino (pic) is eager to get to know Malaysia while encouraging dialogue among people and groups of various faiths.

Marino, 60, who arrived here on April 15, has lost little time doing that, making visits to Johor and Sarawak to celebrate Gawai with locals there.

“It is the people who are the primary actors behind inter-religious dialogues and my role is merely to encourage it,” he said during his first meeting with the media here yesterday.

He said such dialogues would help foster better understanding and goodwill between the various communities and should not be viewed as a threat to any particular religion.

“Inter-religious dialogue has nothing to do with trying to convert each other but more of as children of God coming together to talk about their experience of God,” said Marino.