Muslims, Christians partner to bring refugees to Victoria (Canada)

Masjid-al-Iman-picMuslims and Christians are forming a partnership in an effort to bring refugee families to Victoria.

They will work to help two or three families that have fled violence in countries such as Syria or Iraq. Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau has pledged to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of the year.

The partnership brings together Masjid Al-Iman with Oak Bay United Church and St. Aidan’s United Church in Saanich.

The groups are a good match, said Ismail Mohamed Nur, the mosque’s imam.

Nur said the Muslim community is “very happy” to be able to work with the Christian groups.

“It’s something that’s been echoed on their side, as well,” he said.

“One of the things that we’ve been talking about when we’ve gotten together is the fact that these kinds of issues, it makes us put our differences aside.”

Nur said that while Christianity and Islam have differences, “at the same time, we have more things in common.”

“One of those things is helping people,” he said.

“This is a real-case scenario where our action or inaction will actually affect people’s lives.”

He said that getting refugees to a new home is just part of the process.

“The first part of helping those people is to bring them to a better place, to Canada, but that’s just half of the story,” he said.

“The second part is helping them integrate into society and taking care of their needs.”


Building Bridges: Islam Scholar John Esposito Talks to OnIslam

27-10-15_Building_Bridges_OnIslam_Talks_to_John_L._Esposito_1SALT LAKE – The Wall Street journal called Professor John L. Esposito “American’s foremost authority and interpreter of Islam.” With over 40 years devoted to the field of Islamic studies, Esposito is well known as one of the world’s most influential bridge builders of understanding between the East and the West.

In this interview, Professor Esposito talks to about his new center, appropriately titled Bridges, the media and public perceptions, as well as the latest controversies surrounding Bill Carson’s recent comments.

You are one of the world’s leading experts on Christian-Muslim Relations, so what do you think is the greatest theological misconception that Christians have about Muslims?

Well, it depends on which Christians. Your really hard liners, Franklin Graham, would wind up saying things like, Islam is evil or they might say the God of Christianity is not the God of Islam. But you also get people who do not go out of their way to bring it up, but who, with an almost matter of fact presumption, believe that Islam is a particularly violent religion relative to other religions. It’s ironic because it’s almost as if they never bothered to read the Old Testament or looked at Christian history post Constantine, when Christianity became imperial.


Why Christians should want Islam to be taught in schools

islam-in-schoolsA Californian mother’s rant about Islam being taught in schools has gone viral in yet another embarrassing display of the rampant ignorance that plagues so many of our friends across the pond, desperate to protect America’s non-existent Christian heritage.

Tara Cali of Bakersfield, California, posted a photo online of her son’s homework assignment which asked students to name the five pillars of Islam and summarise Islamic beliefs and practices.

“My son will not be a part of this in any sort of way. This is bad teaching material. He will NOT partake. If you have a problem with it, call our lawyer,” Cali wrote over the homework sheet, listing six Bible verses instead.

“How about Christian practices? That sheet has never came home, this year or last! [sic]” she added. Under a QR code that students were invited to scan to hear the call to prayer from a Mosque in Istanbul, Cali simply wrote, “Seriously?”

It’s the kind of response that you’d hope would be laughed at and ignored, but Cali’s Facebook post has been liked 38,000 times, and shared by more than 123,000 people. Some of the comments below accuse the government of brainwashing children and implying that Christianity is being pushed out of schools, while Islam is actively encouraged.


Cyprus monastery renovation unites Muslims, Christians

2015-297-b77a007c-d716-4fee-a4fc-4ed73607d934APOSTOLOS ANDREAS MONASTERY, Cyprus — Work to restore a monastery on the divided island of Cyprus has brought Turkish Cypriots together with Greek Cypriots, and Muslims with Christians.

Lore stretching back to the dawn of Christianity says this monastery sits directly over a freshwater spring created by one of Jesus’ first disciples, St. Andrew, while he was waiting for winds to pick up so he could continue his ship-borne travels.

The spring water, according to lore, even helped restore the sight of the captain’s blind son. In gratitude, the captain built a small church on this rocky outcrop near this tip of Cyprus’ northeastern Karpas Peninsula and dedicated to the saint.

That church became the foundation for the 19th century Apostolos Andreas monastery deeply revered not only by the island’s Greek Orthodox faithful, but also many Muslim Turks who would mount weekslong pilgrimages there.

But the monastery was left to ruin over the island’s ethnic division, brought on by a 1974 Turkish invasion after a coup aiming at union with Greece. Experts feared its crumbling trusses and sandstone walls were at risk of collapsing.

Now, the monastery is undergoing a much-needed restoration that is serving as a poignant symbol of how the island’s rival communities have joined to protect its religious and cultural heritage while fostering trust as United Nations-sponsored reunification talks gather pace.

“This sends the message to Europe and the Middle East that here in Cyprus, there are no disputes between religions,” said Takis Hadjidemetriou, a member of the Technical Committee on Heritage, a body of Greek and Turkish Cypriots tasked with preserving religious and cultural monuments on both sides of the divide.


Why Pope Francis Is Visiting a Hotbed of Christian-Muslim Violence

Vatican-Headline-News-Now-Pope-FrancisJust after his election in March 2013, Pope Francis told the world he wanted a “poor Church, for the poor,” and if his upcoming travel schedule is anything to go by, it would appear he has remained true to that promise.

On November 29, Francis will arrive in the Central African Republic (CAR) for a stay of just over 24 hours, the Vatican confirmed this week. In the United Nations (U.N.) Human Development Report 2014, CAR was ranked 185th out of 187 countries, ahead of only its neighbor the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Niger. The country has the lowest GDP per capita in the world and is riddled with sectarian tensions between the Seleka—a majority Muslim alliance of militias—and their Christian counterparts, the anti-Balaka. Since independence from France in 1960, the country has had no fewer than eight coups and mutinies.

In the capital of Bangui, a recent wave of violence has resulted in 77 deaths and more than 400 people being injured as Seleka and anti-Balaka militants hunted each other down in the capital. Civilians were caught up in the violence, with at least 31 civilians being shot point-blank, stabbed or having their throats slit in targeted killings, Human Rights Watch (HRW)said on Thursday. The latest clashes were sparked by the murder of a 17-year-old Muslim taxi driver, Amin Mahamat, whose corpse was found with his throat cut on September 26.


Anti-Muslim protests span US: How mosques are responding

940570_1_1010-anti-islam-protests_standardMuslim leaders of mosques in more than 30 cities nationwide are preparing for anti-Muslim marches planned for today.

A Facebook group called Global Rally for Humanity has put out a call for anti-Muslim demonstrations “in every country at every Mosque.” One spin-off group, organizing a rally in Dearborn, Mich., encouraged demonstrators to show up armed, noting that Michigan is “an open carry state.”

Earlier this week, the Council for Islamic-American Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights group, released a statement urging Muslim leaders around the country to take extra precautions ahead of the planned demonstrations.

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“Many of these planned rallies may not take place, or they may consist of only a handful of people shouting slurs at worshipers,” the statement read. “But given the recent endorsement of Islamophobia by national public figures, it would only be prudent for mosque and community leaders to prepare for any eventuality.”

Preparing for such events can present both emotional and logistical challenges, CAIR executive director Ibrahim Hooper told the International Business Times.

“We don’t know if it’s just bluster or something serious,” he said. “Our position is generally not to give attention to people seeking cheap publicity. But there’s been enough violent rhetoric around this event that we just felt it prudent to alert the community about what actions they can take to make sure everyone is safe and secure.”


‘No One Is a Stranger’ The Jordanian Model for Muslim-Christian Relations

Francis_Jordan_0 (1)A Catholic family from Jordan was one of six households to address Pope Francis at September’s World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. As an American Catholic who has lived among Christians in the Jordanian capital of Amman, I was eager for their presentation, hoping it might challenge the belief taking root among American Catholics and others that the Middle East is universally a place of Muslim intolerance toward Christianity. I thought that Francis and those in attendance might hear, in spite of the very real dangers currently faced by many Christians in the region, of the generally tolerant environment of Jordan, characterized by peaceful co-existence. Unfortunately, the statement—delivered by a man named Nidal Mussa Sweidan, who was accompanied by his wife and two daughters—played into the notion that Christians are invariably subject to persecution.

The horrors suffered by Christians in certain parts of the Middle East cannot be overlooked. Islamic State fighters have captured hundreds of Christians in Syria in a brutal campaign that includes execution (including crucifixions), torture, rape, and enslavement of female captives. Up to a million other Christians are said to have fled their country. Affiliates in Libya notoriously executed dozens of Christians earlier this year, murders that were recorded and then seen around the world. In Iraq, tens of thousands of Christians have been displaced from the northern city of Mosul since the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003. In 2013, dozens of churches in Egypt were destroyed in arson attacks.

Sweidan never explicitly said the words “Muslim” or “Islam,” but he didn’t have to. In speaking almost exclusively of “religious persecution” and a “hostile environment,” and in praising the Christian community as the singular source of light and goodness in the region, he appealed to negative assumptions about Muslims and cast Islam as the enemy. This was a lost opportunity. Sweidan could have offered a more hopeful message by noting that the historic coexistence of Islam and Christianity is, despite challenges, still evident in Jordan.


Latest Disputes over Lessons on Islam Show Need to Better Inform Parents

Learning the names of houses of worship

Learning the names of houses of worship

Some Tennessee lawmakers and parents are in a tizzy because they believe seventh-graders are spending too much time learning about Islam as part of social studies.

A Tennessee lawmaker leading the charge has spewed an all-too common refrain, saying the state’s schools were leaning toward indoctrination because they emphasized learning about Islam more than about Christianity. The lawmaker last week upped the ante and proposed a bill prohibiting Tennessee public school courses from including “religious doctrine” until students are at least in 10th grade. What the lawmaker means by religious doctrine is fuzzy. But she’s a part of a statewide movement of parents and groups taking aim at lessons on Islam. A Christian organization joined the fray by submitting a public records request to every school district in the state asking for curriculum that included Islam.

It would be easy for some people to brush this off as anti-Muslim rhetoric, given previous high-profile controversies in Tennessee like nasty opposition to the construction of a mosque in Murfreesboro. But this outcry over instruction about Islam is also brewing in Walton County, Georgia, in a suburban Atlanta school system where some parents objected to simply seeing Islam mentioned in seventh-graders’ homework. And it has happened with variations on the theme in Wellesley, Mass., in suburban Boston; Wichita, Kansas; Tampa, Florida; and Lumberton, Texas. I reported on conflicts in those towns and cities as part of research for a book on schools’ efforts to teach about the world’s religions.

Teaching about religion, and not only Islam, has become an increasingly thorny topic for public schools.

In Wichita, in August 2013, a set of parents and a state lawmaker objected to an elementary school’s bulletin board display because it said, “The Five Pillars of Islam.” Opponents to the bulletin board, set up for fourth-graders studying the spread of Islam, questioned how the school could teach about the five pillars and exclude the sixth, which they claimed was jihad and a Muslim obligation to kill all infidels. Traditionally, Muslims refer to five pillars or five basic obligations of their faith, including daily prayers and fasting on Ramadan. Jihad is not on that list.


Muslim advocacy group says lawmaker ‘Islamophobe’, blasts bill

635800118799943751-Sheila-Butt-2The nation’s largest Muslim advocacy organization is calling on Tennesseans to oppose a bill on “religious doctrine” from Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia.The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) believes Butt introduced the bill, one that would prevent teaching of “religious doctrine” in Tennessee schools until at least 10th grade, out of fear and bigotry.

“Islamophobes like Rep. Butt fail to recognize that there is a big difference between teaching students about religion as an important part of world history and promoting particular religious beliefs,” CAIR Government Affairs Manager Robert McCaw said in a prepared statement.

“The education of children in Tennessee should not be delayed because of anti-Muslim bigotry.”

“It is interesting that CAIR would comment on my bill since the legislation never even mentions a particular religion, but instead explicitly states that no religion shall be emphasized or focused on over any other. The bill calls for comparative religion to be taught in high school and simply addresses the balance and age-appropriateness of teaching religion in Tennessee public schools,” Butt said in a prepared statement Monday.


Niqab should not be election issue, say Christian, Muslim and Hindu leaders in Canada

mohammad-mazirLeaders from different religions gathered in St. John’s on Thursday and were united in their belief that wearing of the niqab should not be an election issue.

The niqab has become a divisive federal election topic in recent weeks, with the Conservative government vowing to fight a Federal Court of Appeal ruling saying women shouldn’t have to remove niqabs, which cover their faces during citizenship ceremonies.

Leaders from the Anglican, Catholic, Muslim and Hindu religions all took part in the meeting on Thursday, organized by the Religious Social Action Coalition.

While the focus was on poverty reduction, the niqab issue wasn’t far from their minds.

Mohammed Mazir, with the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, doesn’t think the niqab should be part of anyone’s campaign.

“It’s really an issue which I think certain politicians feel they can make some points and gain some ground,” he said after the meeting.

“That’s up to them, whether the public will support them or not. As far as we’re concerned, it’s totally a non-issue.”

Rami Wadhwa

Rami Wadhwa hopes that Canadians will get used to the niqab the same way they did with Sikh turbans in years past. (CBC)