Muslim leaders denounce terrorism, seek understanding at interfaith talk

Leaders from across the region came together March 22 for an interfaith discussion led by Wayne County Commissioner Raymond Basham (D-Taylor). The gathering was just one day after a terrorist attack in Belgium for which ISIS claimed responsibility.

The attacks in Brussels killed at least 31 people and injured more than 300, including Americans.

“We heard today about Brussels and we condemn what is happening,” said Habnab, adding that the Islamic extremists are a very small population of Muslims. “That does not represent Islam at all. We need that voice from every podium, every mosque to condemn and deny such aggression, such crime.”

The Rev. Paul Drutchas of St. Paul United Church in Taylor stressed that the key to religious tolerance is to have deeper conversations and understanding among Christians and Muslims, but also to hear from their neighbors in faith where they stand.

“The Muslim community is in a bad position,” Drutchas said. “It’s unfair that you have to assert this and that people don’t understand, but I think there is value in your word made known. It’s important for everyone to hear that this is condemned by the Muslim community in the U.S.”


Islamic Society of Wichita opens doors to Christian group


The Islamic Society of Wichita opened its doors to a group of Christians Tuesday night. The tour comes after the society canceled a fundraising event Friday because of a threat made by anti-Muslim protesters.

Dozens of people showed up for the tour of the Islamic Society of Wichita and a lot of them said they felt uncomfortable at first. But their pastor says it was a good way to bring understanding between the two religions.

Unity Church Pastor Tim Lytle said he saw the tour of the Islamic Society of Wichita as an opportunity to build more understanding and to open dialogue between members of the Muslim and Christian faiths.

On their tour, church members learned about the society’s history, their purpose in the Wichita community and specific details about the Muslim religion; all important to understand the people who practice Islam, Lytle said.

“I know what it’s like to be judged or criticized without people understanding where I’m coming from,” he said. “And this kind of opportunity is so important because we can actually talk to these wonderful people and see where they are coming from.”

For some church members, Tuesday’s tour of the Islamic Society of Wichita was an uncomfortable visit. Lytle said that’s because people don’t understand what the Muslim religion stands for.

“If we can get rid of fear–fear is based on ignorance–the more we understand, the better we can work together and eliminate that fear,” Lytle said.


The only difference between a Christian gunman and a Muslim terrorist is racism

rtsco5hYesterday, a man opened fire in the visitors center of the US Capitol. He drew his weapon and pointed it at officers, one of whom fired and struck the suspect before he could go any further. The media would later learn that the same man had shouted “I am a Prophet of God” from the balcony of the House of Representatives in 2015.

Terrorism, right?

Except the shooter’s name was Larry Dawson, and he’s not Muslim.
Now I know there’s always a difference between how you want to define a word and how society around you chooses to. A fair definition of terrorism might be one that describes violence against civilians by a non-state actor or actors, in the service of a political cause.

But most of our media has its own definition of terrorism: A Muslim did it.
Once we learned that Dawson wasn’t Muslim, reporters went out of their way to calm the American public. There was still almost no other information about the case, the suspect, or his motivations. “Don’t worry,” one outlet after another told us, “it’s not terrorism.”
But if a Muhammad Dawson had rushed in and opened fire, screaming “I am a Prophet of Allah,” what then? Today we’d be discussing a new and even more offensive policy proposed by Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz. Meanwhile Donald Trump would be making the rounds on TV, offering ever more outrageous, unconstitutional, and Geneva-noncompliant policy proposals.

I’m not arguing that Dawson was in fact a terrorist. I’m pointing, once again, to the double standard in how we treat Muslims. That we collectively breathed a sigh of relief when we found out there was no material connection to terrorism because the shooter was just a crazy guy screaming about God says a lot. More Americans die from this kind of violence than from terrorism. But so long as gun violence is not terrorism, the public is urged to go about business as usual.


BOLD: Female Arab journalist asks, ‘What if Christians were suicide bombers?’

nadine-al-budairDOHA, Qatar (Christian Examiner) – A female Arab journalist who lives in Qatar has penned a bold article that asks Muslims in the Middle East how they would respond if Christian suicide bombers struck their public markets, collapsed their tall buildings or tried to force Muslims to convert to Christianity.

Liberal Saudi journalist Nadine Al-Budair writes in Kuwait’s Al-Rai newspaper that Arab countries have refused to address the problem of terrorism and have yet to create a climate that matches the liberal, humanitarian climate of the West. She asked Muslims to consider what their world would be like if Christians the world over had responded to Muslims the way terrorists have spread radical Islam.

“Imagine a Western youth coming here and carrying out a suicide mission in one of our public squares in the name of the Cross. Imagine that two skyscrapers had collapsed in some Arab capital, and that an extremist Christian group, donning millennium-old garb, had emerged to take responsibility for the event, while stressing its determination to revive Christian teachings or some Christian rulings, according to its understanding, to live like in the time [of Jesus] and his disciples, and to implement certain edicts of Christian scholars,” Al-Budair writes in atranslation of the editorial provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

 Al-Budair asks her readers to imagine Christian priests calling Muslims infidels over loudspeakers and chanting that God has demanded their deaths. She also writes they should also consider what would happen if Arab countries had provided Westerners with entry visas, benefits, modern healthcare only to have them turn on their hosts to kill them in the name of religion – likely a reference to the San Bernardino attacks carried out in December 2015.

“These images are far from the mind of the Arab or Muslim terrorist because he is certain, or used to be certain, that the West is humanitarian and that the Western citizen would refuse to respond [in this manner] to the barbaric crimes [of the Muslim terrorists],” Al-Budair writes. “Despite the terrorist acts of Al-Qaeda and ISIS, we [Muslims] have been on [Western] soil for years without any fear or worry. Millions of Muslim tourists, immigrants, students, and job seekers [travel to the West] with the doors open [to them], and the streets safe [for them].”


Can Israelis And Palestinians Change Their Minds?

mind changeNote:  Although not directly addressing the thematic content of this page, this article speaks to an issue that also lies at the heart of interfaith dialogue – are we able to change our minds about “the other.”  Read it with that in mind. 

What makes people change their minds? About the really hard stuff.

Covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the past three years, I’ve often wondered if people here ever do.

This conflict is frequently described as “intractable,” with neither side willing to give up their historical perspective or their entrenched positions to end it. And it does not take many interviews to hear repetitions of the same sweeping narrative repeated on each side. Palestinians from different places cite the same historical events to back their views. Israelis who have never met each other use similar turns of phrase.

“People have a lot of [psychological] resources invested in what they believe about the conflict,” says Thomas Zeitzoff, a political scientist at American University in Washington, D.C., who has researched Israeli and Palestinian attitudes.

He says the high political stakes and emotional involvement make it hard for Israelis and Palestinians to change their minds.

But there have been certain shifts – in public opinion and in individual beliefs – during the 68 years of Israel’s existence and almost half-century of the Israeli military control over Palestinian territories.

Why? Experts list a range of influences that – to varying degrees – can move or even flip deeply held views.

“You can point to major events, either in the world or people’s lives, changes in their social context, as well as changes in the kind of messages they get from politicians and other elite sources,” says Brendan Nyhan, an assistant professor at Dartmouth College who researches politics and misperceptions.

Other factors include repeated exposure to a new idea, whatever the source, scientific research, and direct personal experience.

Four people – two Israeli and two Palestinian – told me their stories of personal, radical belief change related to the conflict. They not only changed their minds, but, a higher hurdle, their behavior.

Here are some triggers that led these people to see the world differently than they had before, even in the midst of a larger impasse.




Two Muslim families entrusted with care of holy Christian site for centuries

keyJerusalem (CNN)The key to one of Christianity’s holiest sites is held by a Muslim family, and it has been for centuries. This is more than just tradition. It is the very essence of Jerusalem, part of what makes the Old City’s cultural and religious history so special.

We meet Adeeb Joudeh at the Jaffa Gate to the Old City. It is 3:30 a.m. At this hour, the tension of the city has melted into the darkness. The narrow alleys are eerily quiet. As Joudeh makes his way through the city’s deserted streets, his footsteps are unnaturally loud, echoing off the walls of the empty stone streets.
He carries with him an ancient cast-iron key, some 500 years old. The key is 12 inches long, with a triangular metal handle and a square end.
It is the key to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where many believe Jesus Christ was crucified and entombed. The church is one of Christianity’s holiest sites, and many Christian denominations share this holy space for prayer. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world make a pilgrimage here for the Easter holidays. Few are aware of Joudeh’s significance, and how important a part his Muslim ancestors have played in the story of this holy place.
Joudeh’s family has held the key in their protection for generations. In his house, Joudeh keeps a binder full of pictures of his grandfather and great-grandfather who once held this sacred task, and his family has kept the historic contracts bestowing upon his family this job, written on parchment and signed in golden ink. The oldest dates back to 1517.
“This is the family heritage,” Joudeh says, smiling as he talks. “It’s all we own as a family, and this is an honor not only for our family. This is an honor for all Muslims in the world.”

In a divided nation, Muslims say they’re more Belgian than ever

BBqUjSGBRUSSELS — It was Muslims.

That was the first worry of Melek Dogan, a 21-year-old Belgian woman, when she heard of the blasts at the Brussels airport and subway.

In a country where wearing a headscarf or having an Arab-sounding name can often spell joblessness and suspicion, many Belgian Muslims are doubling down on national spirit even as they fear renewed discrimination from their fellow citizens. The pain is especially biting for the young, most of whom have never known a home other than Belgium and are facing down attackers with common backgrounds. The brothers in the attacks were 29 and 27. A suspected Islamic State bomb maker was just 24. All grew up in Belgium.

With Muslims among the dead and injured, many in Belgium’s Muslim communities say that they are fed up with being tarred by the actions of men whose attacks hit them as badly as the other residents of this nation. And in an only-in-Belgium inversion, many are reaffirming their patriotism even though some of the country’s most powerful leaders are ethnic nationalists who want to split the country into pieces.

“To me, origins don’t really matter,” said Dogan, who was born in Belgium of Turkish immigrant parents. “I’m Belgian.”

Jihadists Don’t Understand the Qur’an

QuranQasim Rashid is an attorney, author of Extremist, and national spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA.

An understanding of true Islam can help stop terrorist acts

This week’s Brussels attacks—like those in Ankara over the weekend, Paris in November and Kenya last April—are a scourge on humanity. They also represent the greatest possible misrepresentation of true Islam.

ISIS extremists and anti-Islam activists fundamentally ignore and misrepresent the Qur’an. It should come as no surprise that after suffering beatings for nearly a year as a ISIS hostage, freed French journalist Didier Francois reported:

There was never really discussion about texts or — it was not a religious discussion. It was a political discussion. It was more hammering what they were believing than teaching us about the Qur’an. Because it has nothing to do with the Qur’an. We didn’t even have the Qur’an; they didn’t want even to give us a Qur’an.

The Qur’an presents the most humanitarian and advanced rules of war that the world has ever known. Yet extremists and anti-Islam activists resort to cherry picking and censorship.

For example, extremists and anti-Islam activists often argue the “progression theory”—which suggests that because the Qur’an begins with peaceful verses and apparently ends with violent verses, Muslims, therefore “progressively” become violent to their neighbors. Unfortunately, this bizarre theory finds no merit either in the Qur’an or in Prophet Muhammad’s practical example.

During the first dozen years of Prophet Muhammad’s ministry in Mecca, Muslims faced brutal persecution, boycott and murder at the hands of Meccan society and government. Muhammad forbade any form of violence or retaliation—even in self-defense. Instead, he ordered Muslims to maintain patience and dialogue or to leave Mecca.


It’s a good day when Muslims and Christians join in prayer

enhanced-buzz-wide-9249-1423074627-15Christians have Sunday service, Jews have Shabbat. But for observant Muslims, it’s TGIF all the way.

Friday afternoons are blocked off for weekly congregational prayers — you know, just to truly maximize the inconvenience for working Muslims around the world. (Except in some Muslim countries. Their weekends are Friday-Saturday. So that’s cool.)

The rest of us observant, and occasionally observant, Muslims have to shlep to the nearest Friday prayer (called jumah — ‘joo-maah’) on our lunch hour. Not that I’m complaining — jumah can be prayed nearly anywhere, though ideally in a mosque and ideally among others. Like other religious services, the point of jumah is to worship in a group.

It doesn’t take too long, either. There is a short sermon that lasts about 30 minutes, followed by a five-minute formal prayer. When he’s really busy, my husband attends what he calls the “express jumah” at a nearby mosque — the whole thing is done in less than 15 minutes — shorter than a smoke break.

Like other faith groups, Muslims are accustomed to marrying their spiritual identity with the obligations of daily life. Choose to wear hijab? Pick a brightly coloured one and tie it in the most on-fleek way possible. Fasting in Ramadan? Adjust your working hours! Need to pray during the day? Find a corner and start meditating.

For most of the year, jumah is a weekly lunch-hour appointment. Head to the mosque (or conference room, or classroom, or gymnasium) for the prayer, pick up some shawarma on the way back. Quick and easy, if not entirely satisfying.

Except for one day each year — the one day that the Muslim tradition of jumah and one of Christianity’s most holy days coincide: Good Friday.


Moderates are losing the fight to save Islam from racists and extremists

EXTREMISTSThe alarming exploitation of the Brussels attacks for political purposes shows how urgent it is to take back the discourse around Islam and Muslims from racists and extremist populists like Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen.

Instead of leaving the field wide open for the big-mouthed bigots and xenophobes surfing the murderous wave of global Islamist terror to stigmatize refugees and all peoples of Muslim confession, let’s recognize and tackle the important religious dimension to jihadist violence—in order to better overcome it.

Muslim modernizers, reformers, and secularists, intellectuals, theologians, writers, artists, academics, political figures, and ordinary believers, have long been engaged in an intense ideological war with the Islamic fundamentalists—the same fanatics who helped create the breeding ground for today’s terrorists committing atrocities against civilian populations in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and the US.

They are currently losing the winner-takes-all battle to stop the “confiscation” of Islam, dating back to the 19th century when contemporary Islamism first emerged as a neo-reactionary force in response to modernization. And they need the West’s support, fast, if it is to make any inroads in winning the fight against terrorism.