In Arizona, Bikers Plan Armed Protest Outside of Mosque


On Friday, May 29, 2015, a group of bikers in Arizona plan to host an anti-Muslim demonstration outside of the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix. Dubbed as “Freedom of Speech Rally Round 2,” a reference to American blogger Pamela Geller’s deadly “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest in Garland, Texas earlier this month, the event, organized on Facebook, is described as a “response to the recent attack in Texas where 2 armed terrorist, [sic] with ties to ISIS, attempted Jihad.”

Prior to gathering outside of the mosque, the motorcyclists say they’ll meet in a nearby Denny’s parking lot, where they’ll have a “Muhammad cartoon contest.” They plan to take the images of Islam’s prophet to the Islamic Community Center at 6:15 that evening — a time when the Muslim community is expected to gather inside.

Jon Ritzheimer, the event's organizer, wearing a t-shirt that will be sold ahead of the planned protest.

The rally’s organizer, Jon Ritzheimer, has called on the group to “to utilize there [sic] second amendment right at this event just incase our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack.” He warns on the event’s Facebookpage that the mosque is “a known place that the 2 terrorist [sic] frequented.” The would-be ambushers of Pamela Geller’s event in Garland are said to have worshiped there.

As of Wednesday morning, 128 people had signed up to attend the Phoenix rally.


Are there more taboos about pop culture or Islam?

Star-Wars-Original-Trilogy-Artwork(CNN)It seems that every other week, a new incident takes place to remind us that there are many who will respond to critiques of Islam in a violently disagreeable manner.

Rightly, our response is always to reject vigilante, criminal violence of all kinds — regardless of how affronted they feel. There are, at the same time, other taboos with regards to Islam in our societies in the West – with dramatically fewer consequences, but still concerning.

On Saturday May 16, some of those fault lines showed themselves again: at a “National Security Action Summit,” Republican presidential hopefuls and others raised the fears of “civilizational jihad,” complaining about how “Christians can’t come into this country but Muslims can.” That wasn’t about radical Islamists like ISIS or al Qaeda-style ideology: but about Muslims en masse, and Islam as a religion.

I recently ran afoul of that same sentiment, in a highly unexpected way. CNN recently published a satirical piece I wrote about the relationship between Star Wars and Islam, and whether there was more of a relationship between the two than Islam and ISIS. It was clearly a sardonic offering, just from the bio that preceded the piece (unless the description of me as a Jedi knight is to be taken seriously), let alone the rest of the piece. Tens of thousands of hits, and a translation for the Spanish version of CNN later, there was a plethora of reactions at this ironic piece looking at how easy — and incorrect — it was to ascribe to Islam and Muslims the extremism of a few.

Much of that reaction was positive, with many sending messages privately and publicly about the humorous, while not mocking, engagement with a serious and delicate subject. But it was the negative responses that were particularly instructive. Unsurprisingly, some of those were ISIS supporters, who are not exactly known for appreciation of humor.

But contrary to what one might expect, the most vitriolic opposition wasn’t from radical Islamists who couldn’t take a joke. Islam is discussed in media, academia, and public life in a variety of ways, usually in relation to the “How Islamic is extremism” question.


First Imam to Earn Catholic University Degree

Imam_Earns_Masters_at_Catholic_UnivCAIRO – A Portland Muslim imam has made history by becoming the first Muslim to graduate from a Catholic university.

“I was looking for a place to be accepted as myself and to be the true face of Islam, though I am not the best follower,” Abdullah Polovina, who leads a congregation of Bosnian Muslims in Portland, told The Oregonian on Monday.

The imam, 41, has recently completed a master’s degree at Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, where he was the first Muslim to ever enroll.

Taking the position of the leader of Bosniaks Educational and Cultural Organization, he first connected with leaders at Seattle University through interfaith-dialogue events.For more than a decade, Polovina lived in Seattle as an imam before moving to Portland in 2013.

Holding education at a high position, Polovina said he wanted to pursue a graduate degree that would improve his leadership, finding Seattle’s transformation leadership program appealing.

For him, studying the Bible was not comfortable at the beginning. Later, he quickly settled into sharing his own perspective and appreciating the overlaps.

During the class, he proved many similarities between Islam and Christianity from moral values to key historical figures.

“I felt at home,” Polovina, an immigrant from the former Yugoslavia, said.

“I strengthened my faith and strengthened myself as a leader.”


‘Double standards between Christians and Muslims’

mosque-attack-us-robert-doggart.siFollowing the news that a non-Muslim American who threatened to burn down a mosque was released on bail, double standards seem to be at play in the US, Paul Salahuddin Armstrong, Co-Director of the Association of British Muslims told RT’s In the Now.

Last week, Robert Doggart, 63, a former candidate for a Tennessee congressional seat pleaded guilty to charges that included threats to burn down a mosque and a school in a Muslim community in New York State. Doggart was released after posting $30,000 bail. Salahuddin said that the incident proves there is a “prejudice in our culture against Muslims.”

RT: Why the silence, because the man is Christian? Is it that simple?

Paul Salahuddin Armstrong: It certainly looks that way, doesn’t it? What is the other explanation? You’ve also got Timothy McVeigh, who was the Oklahoma bomber. Yet, there wasn’t so much emphasis placed on him. Then of course you’ve got (Anders Behring) Breivik in Norway and look at what he did. The press was very slow to call him a terrorist. Then you’ve got the Lufthansa pilot who took a plane into a mountain and killed everybody on board. And it was just put down to him being suicidal and having psychological issues. But those wouldn’t be taken into account if he was a Muslim. Yes, it does certainly seem like there is a prejudice in our culture against Muslims when it comes to the law and how the law deals with them, and it doesn’t help with community relations.


In America: Christian terrorist arrested while plotting horrific attack on Muslims

muslims-america-robert-doggartA former right-wing Congressional candidate from Tennessee has admitted to plotting a horrific massacre to destroy the Muslim enclave of Islamberg in Upstate New York.

According to Daily Mail, 63-yr-old Robert Doggart, from a town outside Chattanooga, believed that the residents of the 100-strong Islamic community were training to carry out a massive terrorist attack on US soil.

The FBI says Doggart was planning to firebomb and burn down the mosque, school and other buildings in the town and to use an assault rifle, pistol and even a machete to kill anyone who resisted him, according to an investigation that began early this year.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Doggart ran for Tennessee’s Fourth Congressional district seat in 2014 as a conservative independent. He preached ‘the protection of the American people, land, and our form of government by the professional military establishment’ and received about six percent of the vote.

He faces five years in prison and was released on $30,000 bail after pleading guilty to a single count of interstate communication of threats.


Why Islam doesn’t need a reformation

Martersteig's depiction of Martin Luther burning the papal bull with 41 theses issued against him.


In recent months, cliched calls for reform of Islam, a 1,400-year-old faith, have intensified. “We need a Muslim reformation,” announced Newsweek. “Islam needs reformation from within,” said the Huffington Post. Following January’s massacre in Paris, the Financial Times nodded to those in the west who believe the secular Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, “could emerge as the Martin Luther of the Muslim world”. (That might be difficult, given Sisi, in the words of Human Rights Watch, approved “premeditated lethal attacks” on largely unarmed protesters which could amount to “crimes against humanity”.)

Then there is Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The Somali-born author, atheist and ex-Muslim has a new book called Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now. She’s been popping up in TV studios and on op-ed pages to urge Muslims, both liberal and conservative, to abandon some of their core religious beliefs while uniting behind a Muslim Luther. Whether or not mainstream Muslims will respond positively to a call for reform from a woman who has described their faith as a “destructive, nihilistic cult of death” that should be “crushed”, and suggested Benjamin Netanyahu be given the Nobel peace prize, is another matter.

This narrative isn’t new. The New York Times’s celebrity columnist Thomas Friedman called for an Islamic reformation back in 2002; US academics Charles Kurzer and Michaelle Browers traced the origins of this “Reformation analogy” to the early 20th century, noting that “conservative journalists have been as eager as liberal academics to search for Muslim Luthers”.

Here Are the (Many) Muslim Condemnations of ISIS You’ve Been Looking For

Not-in-my-nameWe’ve all heard it before. In the wake of violence carried out by Muslims, a proverbial echo:

“Why aren’t Muslims speaking out? Why aren’t they condemning these acts, done in the name of their religion?”

It’s a common exhortation, one that is ever the more amplified in the age of ISIS. Begged in earnest by some and demanded in anger by others, the question reveals as much about the person asking it as it does about the assumed absence of Muslim denunciations. Here’s Fox News host Greta Van Susteren posing the question, and offering Muslims a spot on her television show to publicly reject violence:

This incessant query supposes that Muslims the world over haven’t publicly rejected the violence of groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. More importantly, though, it highlights the inability or refusal on the part of those who ask the question to find out if, in fact, Muslims really haven’t spoken out.

But Muslims have spoken out. Loudly. A simple Google search reveals tens of dozens of condemnations. There are lists. There are listicles. There are hashtags. There are even comical Tumblrs. These are great resources that gather together statements from Muslim clergy, organizations, and political leaders.

Yet, lists chronicling denunciations of al-Qaeda are hard to navigate, or only provide a smattering of statements from Muslim leaders. Condemnations in other languages are not included. Hashtag campaigns live and die with headlines.

Even these resources, which are desperately needed, present a skewed portrait of what’s actually happening, of who is actually speaking out.


Why I, a Christian mother of a Muslim daughter, fear our nation’s Islamophobia

1101100830_400People stare as we tell our daughter Alana goodbye at the John Wayne Airport in California. Alana is a Muslim, and her head scarf turns heads every time.

Alana laughs to lighten the moment. “Oh, I hate airports,” she whispers to me. “As soon as I get on a plane, I know what people are saying, “Oh, God. A Muslim!”

The day before in the Nashville Airport, she got a full patdown by a TSA agent who asked to check her makeup bag, then said it tested positive for explosives.

“Explosives?” she asked.

Her old tote bag, an Eddie Bauer standby, was filled with a haul of new MAC cosmetics she’d recently purchased. Lipstick alert?

“He even swabbed my hands,” Alana says, still trying to laugh.

But her eyes look wounded, so I hurt for her and for the 1 billion-plus Muslims in the world who do not carry explosives in their makeup bags and never will.

I ache for the rest of us as our nation has become infatuated by fear of Muslims.


Bringing Christianity, Islam closer together in Korea

20150504001456_0Kim Ah-young, director of the Center for Islamic Studies, often finds herself in the middle of a tug-of-war between Christianity and Islam.

As a devout and open-minded Christian who seeks deeper understanding of Islam, her action is sometimes branded as “dovish” by hawkish Christians.

Muslims don’t always find her stance convincing and trustworthy either, given centuries of hostility between the two religious groups.

But her mission is clear ― to bring the two religions closer together through mutual understanding and respect in this borderless and globalized world.

“We can’t approach religion with an old mindset in this globalized world, and try to resolve religious issues,” Kim, 49, said in an interview.

“We should strive to learn about each other’s history and religion for peaceful coexistence.”

Days are gone when the world divided its territories according to religious faith.

And modern Christians should stop holding signs on the streets opposing issues concerning Islam, such as “sukuk” Islamic financing, which allows capital raising without interest.

Let the civic groups, economists or policymakers approach and examine those issues and policies, Kim said. Let religious leaders follow the advice of Swiss Catholic priest and theologian Hans Kung, who said: “No peace among the nations without peace among the religions. No peace among the religions without dialogue between the religions.”

Kim began her study of Islam when she was at Ewha Womans University’s Graduate School of Christian Studies.

Her professor then was Chun Chae-ok, who was Korea’s first female Christian missionary dispatched to an Islamic country in 1961. Chun also founded the Center for Islamic Studies with Kim in 1992. The center has become part of Torch Trinity Graduate University, a theological seminary in Seoul.

During her master’s in Korea and Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at the Fuller Theological Seminary in the U.S., Kim developed her understanding of Islam, and learnt that the two religions, albeit different, shared a lot of similarities.