CAIR: Column promotes crass stereotypes of Muslims

islamophobia-1WASHINGTON, Oct. 17 (UPI) — American ideals embrace the notion of freedom of religion. Our realities can be somewhat different. A recent article distributed by UPI (“Mosques — Smiling dens of iniquity?” by James Zumwalt) shows that the willingness to promote crass religious stereotypes remains a serious issue.

Anti-Semitism has long been a stain on our national dignity. A U.S. Army manual written for World War I recruits alleged that Jews were more likely to “malinger” than others. Signs could be found around the nation proudly announcing “No dogs. No Jews.” Henry Ford, of automotive fame, authored “The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem.”

Anti-Catholic sentiment also has a lengthy history. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era”, James McPherson reports on suspicion of Catholic immigrants in the 1800s saying: “Most of these new Americans worshipped in Roman Catholic churches. Their growing presence filled some Protestant Americans with alarm. Numerous nativist organizations sprang up as the first line of resistance in what became a long and painful retreat toward acceptance of cultural pluralism.”

Thus it comes as no surprise that 37 groups dedicated to spreading anti-Islam prejudice in the United States enjoyed access to at least $119,662,719 in total revenue between 2008 and 2011, according to “Legislating Fear,” a new report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

CAIR’s report says that Islamophobia in the United States has resulted in a certain willingness to undermine the U.S. Constitution.

Malaysia court rules non-Muslims can’t use ‘Allah’

m_penangc2812KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A Malaysian appeals court on Monday upheld a government ban against the use of the word “Allah” to refer to God in non-Muslim faiths, overruling claims by Christians in this Muslim-majority nation that the restriction violates their religious rights.

“Allah” is the Arabic word for God and is commonly used in the Malay language to refer to God. But the Malaysian government insists that “Allah” should be exclusively reserved for Muslims because of concerns its use by others would confuse Muslims and could be used to convert them.

Malaysia’s Christian, Buddhist and Hindu minorities have often complained that the government infringes in their constitutional right to practice religion freely, accusations the government denies.

Monday’s judgment in the Court of Appeals overturns a decision by a lower court nearly four years ago that ruled against the government ban. Anger over that ruling sparked a string of arson attacks and vandalism at Malaysian churches and other places of worship.

The legal dispute stems from efforts by the newspaper of the Roman Catholic Church in Malaysia to use “Allah” in its Malay-language weekly publication.

Roman Catholic representatives deny there are attempts to convert Muslims and say the government ban is unreasonable because Christians who speak the Malay language had long used “Allah” in their Bibles, literature and songs before authorities sought to enforce the curb in recent years.


AP PHOTOS: Pilgrims start hajj in Saudi Arabi

622x350MOUNT ARAFAT, Saudi Arabia (AP) — More than 2 million Muslims from nearly 200 countries gathered around a hill in Saudi Arabia on Monday, marked by a small white pillar, joined in their faith and desire to purify their souls at the start of the annual hajj pilgrimage.

It is here, in Mount Arafat where the pillar stands to mark the location of the Mountain of Mercy, known in Arabic as Jabal al-Rahma. The Prophet Muhammad is believed to have delivered his last sermon atop the hill to tens of thousands of followers, calling on Muslims to unite.

Some 1,400 years later, countless Muslims have made the journey to Mount Arafat as part of elaborate and physically demanding purification rites of hajj. Muslims believe the rituals, which start in Mecca and culminate at Mount Arafat, also trace the footsteps of the prophets Abraham and Ishmael.

The culminating moment of hajj is spent on Mount Arafat. It is an emotional experience for pilgrims because it is here, on this rocky desert hill, where they believe the gates of heaven are open for prayers to be answered and all past sins to be forgiven. Men and women alike openly weep, their hands stretched out in prayer and supplication as they reaffirm their faith.


Pakistani Muslims Form Human Chain To Protect Christians During Mass (PHOTOS)

o-MEN-HOLDING-UP-HANDS-570Hand in hand as many as 200-300 people formed a human chain outside the St Anthony’s Church adjacent to the District Police Lines at the Empress Road, in a show of solidarity with the victims of the Peshawar church attack two weeks back, which resulted in over a 100 deaths. The twin suicide attack on All Saints church occurred after Sunday mass ended and is believed to be the country’s deadliest attack on Christians.

Standing in the small courtyard of St Anthony’s Church, as Mufti Mohammad Farooq delivered a sermon quoting a few verses of the Holy Quran that preached tolerance and respect for other beliefs, Father Nasir Gulfam stepped right next to him after having conducted a two hour long Sunday service inside the church. The two men stood should to shoulder, hand in hand as part of the human chain that was formed outside the church not just as a show of solidarity but also to send out a message, ‘One Nation, One Blood’.

n-MUSLIMS-AND-CHRISTIANS-HUMAN-CHAIN-large570As part of an attempt to sensitize the public at large, the human chain was the second such event after a similar had been organized in Karachi last week outside the St Patrick’s Cathedral by an organization called Pakistan For All – a collective of citizens concerned about the growing attacks on minorities.

“Well the terrorists showed us what they do on Sundays. Here we are showing them what we do on Sundays. We unite,” said Mohammad Jibran Nasir, the organizer who made the calls for the event on social media.


Egyptian Nationalism Unites Christians And Muslims As Political Turmoil Continues

EGYPT-POLITICS-UNRESTCAIRO (RNS) After decades of polarization along religious lines, Christians and Muslims in Egypt are coming together to rally behind their flag.

The country is in the midst of a swell of nationalism that began during the revolution in 2011 and intensified when citizens took to the streets in June of this year to call for the removal of President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egyptian flags adorn houses and buildings throughout the capital, and everything — from sandbags buttressing military blockades to pillars along the Nile Corniche — has been painted in the national colors of black, white and red.

These sentiments have served to unite Christians and Muslims. In recent decades, Christians had become increasingly cloistered — a trend of “closed communalism” that Gamal Soltan, professor of political science at the American University in Cairo, said has been building since the 1970s. That began to change during the revolution in 2011.

The 18 days of demonstrations during the first Tahrir Square uprising ushered in poignant displays of interreligious unity, with protesters sharing prayers and holding aloft Bibles and Qurans. Political writer and commentator Bassem Sabry called this the “grass-roots manifestation” of nationalistic coexistence.


‘They aren’t real Muslims’: Radical mercenaries kidnap, kill both Syria Christians and Muslims

muslims-christians-syria-violence.siChristians of the East view the war in Syria neither as civil nor as sectarian, Orthodox Bishop Elias Kfoury told RT. He also spoke of those who unleashed a conflict in Syrian society which hadn’t seen any religious hostilities in the past.

Metropolitan Elias Kfoury of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, Southern Lebanon and Western Beqaa spoke with RT’s observer Nadezhda Kevorkova in the biblical city of Sidon, located on the Mediterranean coast of Lebanon, in a church constructed in the building where the final meeting of the Apostles Peter and Paul took place in 58AD.

The Metropolitan’s residence is located in the very heart of the old city. It’s not easy to find, however any passing Muslim would show you the way to Metropolitan Elias’s place. Some of his parishes are located in the area populated by Shiites and controlled by Hezbollah. Others are on the territory of Sunni homes and Palestinian refugee camps. Presently the largest Syrian refugee camp is also located there. The cave where Mary was waiting for Jesus, and the cave where the evangelical wedding in Cana took place are a part of his eparchy. For 22 years some of his congregation lived under Israeli occupation. Twice, in 2000 and in 2006, their churches were bombed and destroyed by Israelis. During open hostilities campaigns anyone could find a shelter in Orthodox churches in spite of their religion, whether they were Sunni, Shiites, Druse or Catholics. So the Metropolitan has quite a profound understanding of the current situation that has been developing in Syria and is about to overtake Lebanon. He’s been walking this ground and talking to these people for a long time.


A Christian’s journey through Islam

downloadBrussels – All over the globe, the Muslim community finds itself caught in the middle of strenuous societal debates. With Islamophobia on the rise in the West and extremism in the name of Islam growing in the East –evidenced by sectarian violence in countries like Egypt, Syria and Pakistan – the debate is often presented as a clash between Western values and Islamic fundamentalism. Few people are aware however, how much internal debate is going on within the Muslim community itself. Old ideas are challenged, new groups are forming and all sorts of evolutions take place that do not fit the crude dichotomies of “secular versus religious” or “democracy versus Islam” that politics and the media so often adhere to when discussing current events.

For someone with a background in anthropology and theology, this intrigues. I therefore decided to look up some of the most influential spiritual leaders and artists from the Muslim world and dialogue with them about these momentous changes on the crossroads of religion, culture and society. I wanted to learn more about new ideas which are bubbling up in Muslim societies and I hoped to find some novel insights that could show a way out of the present day discourse of dichotomy.

I gathered all these talks on a website and called the project Halal Monk. It seemed like the proper name for these interreligious conversations and my journey through Islam as a Christian.