Muslim Leaders Vow To Protect Rights Of Religious Minorities

moroccoThe rise of ISIS and other Muslim extremist groups in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia has brought horrific persecution of non-Muslims — Christians, Jews and other religious minorities. Now, a group of Islamic scholars, Muslim leaders and government ministers from Muslim-majority countries has promised to work together to protect those minorities, saying Islam forbids religious persecution.

More than 100 countries were represented at the gathering of Muslim leaders in Marrakech this week, sponsored by the Moroccan government and the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, an organization led by Islamic scholar Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah.

One of the organizers, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf from the United States, says the meeting had one focus: the plight of religious minorities in Muslim lands.

“We have people being enslaved into sexual slavery,” he told NPR from Marrakech. “We have Christian churches that have been there for long before Islam was in these lands, that are being destroyed. And we have Jews in Yemen, one of the oldest Jewish communities, now the very existence of which is threatened.”

While some prominent Muslim leaders belittle the plight of non-Muslims in their countries, those who came to this meeting heard testimony from other faith leaders about the conditions in their countries.

Sheikh Sattar Jabbar Hilu, speaking on behalf of his Sabian sect in Iraq, said they and other minorities face killing and deportations, and the situation is getting worse.

The message from this meeting: Such persecution is un-Islamic. Nearly 1,400 years ago, the Prophet Muhammad directed the preparation of a governing outline for an Islamic state, the Charter of Medina. It was named for the city in Arabia where Muhammad had taken refuge.

At the time, Medina was inhabited by various tribes and religious groups, and the charter mandated peaceful coexistence and religious freedom for all.

“Today we need to re-publicize this document,” says Recep Senturk, an Islamic scholar from Istanbul’s Fatih University, who was among those in Morocco. “Especially when we see that the minority rights are violated. Those people who are involved in terror activities, they are misusing the name of Islam and misusing the name of the Prophet Muhammad to justify their evil actions.”


Another model of Christian-Muslim harmony?


In Iraq and Syria, minority Christians are still on the run from Islamic State. Yet in the rest of the region, the tragedy has triggered an unusual competition of ecumenical goodwill. Religious leaders in Jordan, Egypt, and Lebanon have recently proclaimed their societies are models of coexistence between Muslims and Christians. Outside the Middle East, Malaysia and Indonesia have also hailed their interfaith social harmony.

Now another place may soon be added to the chorus – Cyprus – and perhaps help in drowning out Islamic State’s assertion of a right to dominance in the holy land.

If negotiations aimed at reuniting Cyprus can conclude this spring, as seems more possible than ever, the divided Mediterranean island can also claim to be a model of Muslim-Christian reconciliation.

Since 1974, Cyprus has been split between ethnic Turks in the north and ethnic Greeks in the south, a result of Greece’s then-junta trying to take the entire island. Turkey still keeps thousands of troops on the Turkish side. Trust between the two communities has improved, a result of international efforts, but remains low. They have lived apart for decades. And both sides have claims to settle against each other.


Being Muslim in Kansas

It takes two hands, a safety pin and two straight pins to turn a scarf into a hijab. Three pins if the wind is blowing across the Great Plains. Maira Salim stands at her dresser mirror with a pin in her mouth and a bedroom full of scarves. Her long brown hair disappears and then her neck. Maira leans in for inspection, making sure not a wisp of hair is showing.
Different scarves go with different outfits. She likes a black scarf with her red Converse sneakers. Her emerald scarf is nice with the satin dress she wears on holidays, tottering on gold heels as she walks across the asphalt parking lot of her Wichita mosque. The camouflage scarf makes her mother cringe — “You look like a boy!” — but Maira thinks it’s perfect with her mirrored sunglasses.

button“I never wanted to be the weird religious girl,” she says.

Without a hijab, she would be a college senior who lives in a subdivision with her parents, two younger sisters and grandfather. She’d be the annoyed oldest daughter who has to pick up her little sister from swimming. She’d be the 21-year-old who works at her father’s used-car lot haggling over Dodge Chargers by a chain-link fence. She would be a business major who binge-watches “Quantico” instead of doing her take-home exam.
With the hijab, her country sees a Muslim in a headscarf. Grabbing her purse and keys, Maira — pronounced MY-ra — leaves her house already knowing the questions that are waiting.

“Do they make you sleep in it?”

“Is it allowed to touch the ground?”

“Can you hear me in that?”

“Does it come from overseas?”

Over and over she gives the same answers, trying to be polite and informative when sometimes she wants to say, “Really? Are you serious?” The lack of even the most basic knowledge about Muslims depresses Maira; it became terrifying in a year in which America’s television was stuck on the ISIS channel. One day she was at a traffic light when a woman rolled down her window and screamed, “Go back to your own country.” Nothing like that had ever happened before. The woman drove on while Maira sat there, scared and then angry, wishing she had yelled back that she was in her own country.


Muslim leaders plan summit on protecting non-Muslims in their midst

640x392_94734_74307.jpgHundreds of Muslim scholars will meet in Morocco next week to reassert the rights of non-Muslims living among them as Christians and other religious minorities flee extremism across the Middle East for safety and freedom elsewhere.

In these times, Muslims must affirm their tradition’s true teachings on tolerance, said Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, co-founder of Zaytuna College, the first Muslim liberal arts college in the U.S. The summit meeting, expected to attract more than 300 Muslim religious leaders, will hark back to the Charter of Medina, in which the Prophet Muhammad enumerated the rights of non-Muslims 1,400 years ago.

“The prophet was religiously persecuted, so he knew firsthand what it was to experience religious persecution,” said Yusuf, speaking on a pre-conference media call Thursday (Jan 21). “His religion ensured the rights of religious minorities,” and Islamic history reveals a generally strong record of tolerance.

Yusuf, who will attend the Jan. 25-27 conference in Marrakesh, is a student of the conference’s leading spiritual voice — Shaykh Bin Bayyah — a Mauritanian Islamic scholar and authority on the rights of religious minorities. Bin Bayyah heads the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, which will host the conference with the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs of the Kingdom of Morocco — a country lauded for its tolerance in a region often distinguished for its lack of it.


Can this US company ban Muslim prayer breaks? They just did.


A Wisconsin manufacturing plant is telling Muslim employees they can’t leave the assembly line to pray. While the company claims “undue hardship” from prayer breaks, Muslim employees and advocates say there was never a problem.

Muslim employees can only leave work to pray during meal breaks, according to a new policy imposed at Ariens Manufacturing in Brillion, Wisc.

“It is absolutely discrimination on its face,” employee Adan Hurr told WBAY News. “Allow me to pray so that I can go back to work and do what I love to do, which is working for Ariens. But we are not allowed to do that.”

Islamic faith requires Muslims to pray five times a day. Until the new policy was announced Thursday, Muslim employees at Ariens were permitted to leave their station at the production line to pray twice during their shifts. While practicing the five-minute prayer, the Muslim employees would allocate their duties amongst coworkers.

Evangelical Scholars Weigh in on Controversy at Wheaton


Just recently the Evangelical website invited evangelical scholars to weight in on the controversy swirling around the Wheaton professor who claimed that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Linked below is the “Occasional Bulletin” that has those articles.  Here you will see what lies behind the controversy in a way that you won’t find in the mainstream media.



Wheaton and the Controversy Over Whether Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God

I ’ve watched with interest recent events at Wheaton College play out in the national news—events involving the move to dismiss tenured professor Larycia Hawkins for her comments related to Islam, and especially for her reference to Muslims and Christians “worshipping the same God.” As an evangelical, I’ve long appreciated the presence and influence of Wheaton in the wider world. I’ve spoken in Wheaton’s chapel, have had Wheaton graduates in my classes, and have friends that are professors there. I love Wheaton and desire its best. Moreover, like many evangelicals, I view Wheaton as belonging not merely to the Wheaton board, faculty, administration, and alumni—but to the worldwide evangelical community. What Wheaton does affects us all.


Can Wheaton College survive its never-ending controversy over Muslim and Christian worship?

wheatonWhen Wheaton College professor Larycia Hawkins stands before a group of her peers next month for their judgment, at stake will be not only Hawkins but the future of evangelicalism.

Or that’s how it can feel these days on the campus of the Illinois college sometimes dubbed “the evangelical Harvard.” Evangelical debate has been intense about whether the hijab-wearing political science professor went too far in saying Christians and Muslims worship the same God. The debate has raised larger questions: How large is the evangelical tent, and who decides who is included?

There is no official hierarchy for one of the country’s largest faith communities, and the debate over whom can be labeled an evangelical is particularly relevant as presidential candidates clamor for the “evangelical vote.”

This week, Wheaton’s faculty council, which represents the college’s 211 faculty, unanimously voted to recommend the administration withdraw its efforts to fire Hawkins and to end her administrative leave, citing “grave concerns” about the process.

The dispute is splitting those affiliated with the college, the alma mater of evangelist Billy Graham and considered one of the standard-bearers of U.S. evangelicalism. Alumni have flooded the college with letters and the evangelical magazine Christianity Today — without picking a side — warned that the issue “threatens to undo” the college.


Reading the Quran with Muslims and Christians


by Doug Baker

The story being told us by a large segment of our political and religious leaders is that Islam is inherently violent and that the reason is because Muslims obey the Quran.

Representative Mo Brooks (Alabama) recently said, “You look at the Quran, and I encourage people to read it on their own so they can get a first-hand view of whether these terrorists who are killing non-Muslims are doing what the Quran instructs them to do.” These words are meant to strike fear and hatred into our hearts.

Brooks is right insofar as if we approach the Quran looking for reasons to be offended we will find them. There are passages that talk about killing and about warfare. Most of the Muslims I know are quick to point out that within their context these passages are not talking about being the aggressors in war or forcing people to convert to Islam. They are passages about defending the city in which they lived from people who attacked them.

And we know that there are passages in the Bible that also frighten us with their bloodthirstiness. The conquest of Canaan was, by all biblical accounts, a very bloody affair.

And just as bloodthirsty people use passages in the Quran to legitimize their own violence, so too have Christians appealed to the Bible as authorization to commit every violent and evil sort of action. We have found it easy to “justify conquest by appealing to the example of Israel’s conquest of Canaan,” as theologian Kevin Vanhoozer writes. In the case of the conquest of the American continents, that conquest amounted to genocide. And many Christian leaders at the time praised it as being just like Israel’s conquest of Canaan.


Martin Luther King was an Interfaith Visionary, as Well

By Eboo Patel


One hundred years ago, the great African-American scholar W.E.B. DuBois famously wrote, “The problem of the 20th century will be the problem of the color line.”

History proved DuBois correct. His century saw the struggles against, and ultimately the victory over, systems that separated and subjugated people based on race — from colonialism in India to Jim Crow in the U.S. to apartheid in South Africa.

No American did more than Martin Luther King Jr. — whom America pauses to honor today — to address the problem of the color line. He spearheaded the marches that revealed the brutality of segregation, made speeches that reminded Americans that the promise of their nation applied to all citizens and expertly pressured the nation’s leaders in Washington to pass landmark civil rights legislation.

But to confine King’s role in history only to the color line — as giant as that challenge is, and as dramatic as King’s contribution was — is to reduce his greatness. In one of his final books, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community, King showed that race was one part of his broader concern with human relations at large: “This is the great new problem of mankind. We have inherited … a great ‘world house’ in which we have to live together — black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Hindu … Because we can never again live apart, we must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.”

This ethos, as King’s examples make clear, applies not only to the question of race, but to faith as well. In the same way as the headlines of the 20th century read of conflict between races, headlines in our times are full of violence between people of different religions. Indeed, what the color line was to the 20th century, the faith line might be to the 21st.


Muslims and Christians are more similar than you think

History (1)Recently a professor at Wheaton College in the US was put on ‘administrative leave’ after she donned a hijab to show her solidarity with Muslims and expressed that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Wheaton College is an Evangelical Christian institution which holds firmly to fundamentals of the Evangelical church. The Statement of Faith of Wheaton College defines Evangelical belief in God as,

“WE BELIEVE in one sovereign God, eternally existing in three persons: the everlasting Father, His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, the giver of life; and we believe that God created the Heavens and the earth out of nothing by His spoken word, and for His own glory.”

While we all like to believe that we can distinguish God in Islam from God in Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism or any other religion for that matter – we tend to forget that we are talking about an entity beyond our human comprehension.

Essentially, the idea of God is a personalised perspective and every individual understands God through the relationship that he or she develops with Him. In other words, since we cannot comprehend God, what we think is God – is basically our relationship with God.

While the idea of Divine Unity in Christianity is similar to the idea of God in Islam, the concept of Trinity is rather unclear to many Muslims and does not concur with the Islamic understanding of God. However, if we refer to the Holy Quran, we are reassured that from the Islamic standpoint, Muslims and Christians do indeed get their theological message from the same Divine entity, who was Abraham’s God.

In the Holy Quran, God has stated not to argue with the People of Scriptures, except in the best manner excluding those who have committed injustice, and have unity and faith unto whatever has been sent down from His side. He tells believers to discard all bigotries and separations. Moreover, God clearly states that Muslims, Christians and Jews have the same God. (Al- ‘Ankabut: 46)