Suspension of Pakistan women’s death sentence ‘shows need’ for Christian-Muslim dialogue

pakistan-christians-protestThe suspension of the death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman charged with blasphemy, by the Pakistan Supreme court has showed the value of Muslim-Christian dialogue, says a priest in the Islamic nation.

“The Supreme Court of Pakistan has made a great move as her death sentence was put aside,” Father James Channan said in a July 23 interview with the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

“I firmly believe that justice will be done, that she will be proven innocent and that she will be released,” said the Roman Catholic Dominican priest.

He noted, “The blasphemy law was used (in Bibi’s case) to settle a personal score – the accusation was an act of revenge.”

The Pakistani woman has denied the accusation, saying her accusers were acting out of a personal vendetta.

Asia Bibi spent nearly five years on death following an accusation that she insulted the Islamic prophet Muhammad during an argument, Catholic News Agency reported.

Earlier in July the Supreme Court of Pakistan suspended Bibi’s execution, and will soon hear her appeal.

However, CNA reported that many Pakistanis have spoken out against the court’s decision and have said it would carry out the execution even if she is deemed innocent.


German Lutherans and Assimilation: Lessons in the Current Atmosphere of Islamophobia

(While most of the articles posted on this site are drawn from alternative and mainstream news sources in an attempt to give a more balanced picture of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations than is usually given in the mainstream press, here is a more scholarly paper that helps put the current poisonous atmosphere of Islamophobia in an historical perspective) 

DavidGraftonPortrait-42014by Dr. David Grafton

[1] One of our great American patriots and public servants has always been a staunch advocate of the need for immigrant communities to assimilate into traditional American culture, adopting the English language and the values of its national heritage. So, it is not a surprise that he has also been critical of immigrants coming to America who do not assimilate into our culture. In addition, this patriot has been fully invested in the American laissez faire capitalist system. He has been outspoken in his criticism of the fact that immigrants curtail the American economy by working the menial labor jobs for less than the average English speaker. Finally, he has argued that immigrants who come arrive in this country in a weakened physical state tax the health care system by providing services for them.

[2] In 1751, Benjamin Franklin wrote his Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, etc. In this essay, Franklin was responding to the increase in non-English immigrants to the North American colonies, primarily from Ireland and the German states. In fact, German immigrants outnumbered English-speaking immigrants by three to one during the 1750s.1 Philadelphia, Franklin’s hometown, was one of the prominent destinations for German immigrants. Germans from the Palatinate (of what is now south-west Germany) landed in Philadelphia, traveled up Germantown Ave. and if they did not settle in Germantown, continued past what is now the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, and out toward the further counties of the English colony of William Penn.

German Lutherans and Assimilation: Lessons in the Current Atmosphere of Islamophobia by David D. Grafton

Centuries of dialogue How two global monotheisms view the same prophet

20130810_BKP001_0Christians, Muslims and Jesus. By Mona Siddiqui. Yale University Press; 285 pages; $32.50 and £20. Buy from

RELIGION is a tricky subject for scholarship. Even the most professional academic is bound to have personal feelings about the faith under scrutiny. Some see this as cause for concern. Indeed Reza Aslan, one of America’s best-known writers on religion, recently came under fire for his new book about Jesus (“Zealot”, reviewed in the July 27th issue ofThe Economist). Because he is a Muslim who once embraced Christianity and then dropped it, Lauren Green of Fox News accused him of writing with a “clear bias”. No, Mr Aslan replied, he was writing as a scholar. His response was articulate and dignified, and the interview has helped sell quite a few books, but it will hardly sway those who believe Mr Aslan is writing with a Muslim agenda.

Mona Siddiqui, a professor at Edinburgh University’s school of divinity, makes no secret of the various strains of thought that inform her study of Christians, Muslims and Jesus. Parts of her book are rigorously academic and arcane, other parts are very personal. Unlike Mr Aslan, she does not confine her meditations on her own faith to an introduction. Rather, she ambitiously weaves her personal and scholarly views throughout.

She presents certain basic facts: Muslims revere Jesus as a uniquely inspired prophet who was born of the Virgin Mary, ascended to heaven and will come again. Yet Muslims cannot accept that Jesus was the son of God. This, they believe, reflects a flawed view of both Jesus and God. As Ms Siddiqui shows, Christians and Muslims sparred with one another intensely during the early centuries after Islam’s rise, with each side vying to be the ultimate revelation of God. But the two faiths did at least grudgingly acknowledge one another as monotheistic, despite Islam’s firm rejection of the Christian view of God as a trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


Jesus and Jihad: Reclaiming the Prophetic Heart of Christianity and Islam

CASCADE_TemplateWhat if all our stereotypical images of jihad are wrong?

Few words inspire more fear in Americans these days than jihad.

Its mere utterance conjures up images of car bombs exploding in crowded markets; Boeing 737s crashing into tall buildings; and flag burning, gun-toting bearded Arab men shouting, “allahu akbar” and “Death to America!” But what if all our stereotypical images of jihad are wrong, and when rightly understood, jihad turns out to be the perfect lens through which to understand the life and mission of Jesus?

Jesus and Jihad argues that in early Muslim sources jihad stood for the struggle to transform a violent and unjust pre-Islamic society into one characterized by greater levels of justice and peace. When rescued from his Christian pietistic misinterpretations, Jesus emerges as a highly prophetic figure of resistance to the injustices authorized by Roman imperial power


Differences among Muslims as great as among Christians

 We all remember the traumatic attacks of 9/11. I remember feeling vulnerable, expecting the worst. For Muslim-Americans, there probably was a different fear. It was the fear that, no matter how moderate they might be, their fellow Americans might blame them for what a few radicals had done.

We know religious extremism can produce terrorists. There have been Jews and Hindus who have committed acts of terror. The Ku Klux Klan, Jim Jones, Eric Rudolph, Anders Breivik and the murderers of abortion providers all claimed Christianity among their motives. And extremist Muslims have engaged in terrorism in the name of Islam.

We don’t judge Christianity by its extremists because we personally know a lot of good sensible Christians. But if you don’t know any Muslims — and polls say most Americans admit they don’t — then you might tend to judge all Muslims by the negative reports you see on the news or the fictional Muslims who are portrayed as the bad guys on TV and in the movies.

A 2010 Gallup report found 43 percent of Americans admitted to being prejudiced against Muslims, while 85 percent of those polled said they knew little or nothing at all about Islam.

There was a news story after 9/11 when the airplanes began to fly again about a Sikh man who was taken off an airplane because he wore a turban. Most Americans don’t know the difference between Muslims and Sikhs.

How many Americans know that Islam, Judaism and Christianity share roots in the story of the patriarch Abraham? That Islam has a very high regard for Jesus, teaching he was a great prophet? That, similar to Judaism and Christianity, Islam teaches the Golden Rule: Treat others as you wish to be treated? “No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother what he desires for himself,”the Hadith says.

Muslims and conservative Christians often express the very same values when it comes to issues such as alcohol, modesty, family and community.


Baptists show support by visiting local mosque for Friday prayers

mosqueAs a police escort led the funeral procession for Marine Staff Sgt. David Wyatt to the Chattanooga National Cemetery, people in the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga mosque bowed their heads in prayer.

And as thousands lined the streets of Chattanooga to wave American flags, hold signs and salute as the hearse passed them by, a small group of non-Muslims lined the back wall of the prayer room of the mosque to offer support for the local Islamic community. On July 16, Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24, from a local Muslim family, fatally shot four Marines at a Navy/Marine operations center and mortally wounded a Navy sailor.

The guests who joined local Muslims for prayers were mainly Baptists, with at least one Presbyterian. They came with their children in tow.

“We just want to show them that we love them,” said a Baptist man who asked not to be named.

Three mothers brought their children to show them not to fear what they didn’t understand. Their little girls wrapped their hair in bright plaid and flowered scarves as a sign of respect before entering the women’s prayer room. The men worship in a separate room, but all can see the imam at the front of the congregation.


Ancient Quran discovered in England will ‘rejoice Muslim hearts’

old-koran-found-university-birminghamIn what has been termed a ‘startling’ discovery, the UK’s Birmingham University has unveiled parts of what may be the world’s oldest known version of the Quran, Islam’s holy text.

Though the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Fitr just came to an end, many Muslims may find that they have yet another reason to rejoice.

In what has been considered a “startling” discovery, the UK’s Birmingham University unveiled what may be the world’s oldest remnants of the Quran, Islam’s holy text.

Researchers conclude that the Qur’an manuscript is among the earliest written textual evidence of the Islamic holy book known to survive,” the university wrote in an official statement. “This gives the Qur’an manuscript in Birmingham global significance to Muslim heritage and the study of Islam.”

The results suggest the manuscript was written less than 20 years after Prophet Muhammad’s death, as he is generally thought to have lived between AD 570 and 632.

“They could well take us back to within a few years of the actual founding of Islam,” wrote Professor of Islam and Christianity David Thomas and Professor of Interreligious Relations Nadir Dinshaw, both of Birmingham University.


Man Already Knows Everything He Needs To Know About Muslims

(Note:  this is a piece from the satirical magazine “the Onion.”  As such it should not be taken at face value, but rather as a sad commentary on the way too many Americans have chosen to approach Islam and their Muslim neighbors).  


SALINA, KS—Local man Scott Gentries told reporters Wednesday that his deliberately limited grasp of Islamic history and culture was still more than sufficient to shape his views of the entire Muslim world.

Gentries, 48, said he had absolutely no interest in exposing himself to further knowledge of Islamic civilization or putting his sweeping opinions into a broader context of any kind, and confirmed he was “perfectly happy” to make a handful of emotionally charged words the basis of his mistrust toward all members of the world’s second-largest religion.

“I learned all that really matters about the Muslim faith on 9/11,” Gentries said in reference to the terrorist attacks on the United States undertaken by 19 of Islam’s approximately 1.6 billion practitioners. “What more do I need to know to stigmatize Muslims everywhere as inherently violent radicals?”

“And now they want to build a mosque at Ground Zero,” continued Gentries, eliminating any distinction between the 9/11 hijackers and Muslims in general. “No, I won’t examine the accuracy of that statement, but yes, I will allow myself to be outraged by it and use it as evidence of these people’s universal callousness toward Americans who lost loved ones when the Twin Towers fell.”

“Even though I am not one of those people,” he added.

When told that the proposed “Ground Zero mosque” is actually a community center two blocks north of the site that would include, in addition to a public prayer space, a 500-seat auditorium, a restaurant, and athletic facilities, Gentries shook his head and said, “I know all I’m going to let myself know.”

Gentries explained that it “didn’t take long” to find out as much about the tenets of Islam as he needed to. He said he knew Muslims stoned their women for committing adultery, trained for terrorist attacks at fundamentalist madrassas, and believed in jihad, which Gentries described as the thing they used to justify killing infidels.


10 Misconceptions About Islam That Muslim Americans Are Tired of Hearing

“Can you grab that bottle of Sriracha on the top shelf?” my mother asked, as we made our way down the “ethnic” aisle at our local grocery store. It was around 5:30pm, my father was almost home from work, and my mother and I were out getting last minute ingredients for dinner. As we waited in the checkout line, waiting to pay for our goods, I hear a voice behind me, “You here to steal something?”

I turn around to find a tall man, broad shoulders, a baseball cap pulled low over his forehead, looking straight at my mother. I stand there bewildered, wondering if this was an acquaintance of hers trying to be funny or make some sort of weird joke.

“Are you here to blow something up? Why are you wearing that?” he barks again, referring to my mother’s hijab and abaya. At this point, everyone within earshot tenses up and I find myself flooding with both embarrassment and panic. What was this guy trying to get at? We were just at the grocery store trying to get home on time, and this man, who we had never seen before, was going out of his way to harass my mother.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t an isolated incident. My mother, petite as she may be, has no problem holding her own and isn’t new to being singled out and hassled for her choice of Islamic clothing. She clearly and eloquently explained her religious garb to the man, told him to not yell at her, and swiftly sent him on his way.

Growing up, I’ve had plenty of these experiences. Whether it was strange looks at my mother or jokes about my Arabic name, life as a Muslim in post 9/11 America isn’t the cutest feeling. The constant villainization of Muslims in mainstream media makes it difficult to do even simple things such as buy groceries or get through airport security without crude jokes or dangerous assumptions, and with the murder of three innocent Muslim kids in Chapel Hill this past year, it’s clear that stereotyping can lead to even fatal consequences.

Fortunately we live in the age of technology and open information—we don’t always have to be victims of ignorance and perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Misconceptions can be overcome with a simple but powerful thing, knowledge: here are ten common misconceptions about Islam and Muslims to help you break the cycle.

1. Muslim women have no rights
This is definitely a hot-topic and complicated issue but one of my favorite misconceptions to tackle.


An Open Letter to Franklin Graham

franklin-grahamYour father is my hero.  #1 on a long list of potential heroes. I’m sure it gets tiring being compared to him. But I think you’re stuck – you’re his son.

I don’t know you personally, Franklin.  I admire your work through Samaritan’s Purse. I admire your courage to at least attempt to take up your father’s mantle of preaching the good news of Jesus Christ.  I’m in your camp.  I believe the Bible is true and the only way to know God as Father is through a personal relationship with Jesus.  I believe in the power of the Cross and Resurrection and that life in Jesus is the only real life.

We’re on the same team – which is why your recent words on Facebook hurt me so much.

I’m pretty sure you know what you wrote, but let me quote it here – just for the others who might read our correspondence:

“Four innocent Marines killed and three others wounded in Chattanooga yesterday including a policeman and another Marine–all by a radical Muslim whose family was allowed to immigrate to this country from Kuwait. We are under attack by Muslims at home and abroad. We should stop all immigration of Muslims to the U.S. until this threat with Islam has been settled. Every Muslim that comes into this country has the potential to be radicalized–and they do their killing to honor their religion and Muhammad. During World War 2, we didn’t allow Japanese to immigrate to America, nor did we allow Germans. Why are we allowing Muslims now? Do you agree? Let your Congressman know that we’ve got to put a stop to this and close the flood gates. Pray for the men and women who serve this nation in uniform, that God would protect them.”

I am sorry to say it this stongly, but it’s a nearly unthinkably ignorant post.  We are “under attack by Muslims at home and abroad?”  Really?  So we’re at war with Muslims here in the U.S.?  If so, then when this Muslim man killed those Marines, it was simply an act of war.  Four Marines versus one Muslim.  Which of course, is a ridiculous way to view this.

And your comment that “they do their killing to honor their religion and Muhammad,” is about as dumb a thing as I’ve ever heard someone say. Who are “they” exactly Franklin?  Define “they.”  Maybe start with defining who “Muslims” are according to you. Which Muslims exactly are you referring to? Because you don’t say in your post. You just say that we are “under attack by Muslims.”