Are employers required to grant prayer breaks to Muslim employees?

983158_1_0525-Muslim-Somali-prayer_standardThe Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed a religious discrimination complaint on Tuesday, in an ongoing debate over prayer breaks between a Wisconsin manufacturing company and Muslim workers.

Ariens Co., which manufactures snow blowers and lawnmowers at a plant outside Green Bay, Wis., fired seven of its Muslim employees in January, and another 14 resigned, after the company told Muslim workers they should stop taking an extra break for prayer, Laura Putre reported for Industry Week.

The prayer break dispute has reached its fifth month without resolution and highlights the challenges of balancing religious accommodation with work schedules, especially in a multicultural setting.

The company had hired the workers, Somali immigrants from Green Bay, several months earlier and accommodated them with both prayer rooms and a bus service to help with the 40-minute commute. A dispute arose in January after the non-Muslim workers complained the Somali workers were taking extra breaks for prayer time, sometimes without communicating with supervisors. The company told workers to stick to two 10-minute breaks, and 53 workers walked off the job in protest.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

How Christians Can ‘Learn the Language’ of Islam

Catholic priest greeting Muslim leader after prayersOver the past 30 years or so, I’ve done a lot of travelling in Africa, the Middle East, and all around Europe. Needless to say, this necessitated navigating my way through language barriers.

One of my personal habits when I was travelling was to begin by learning how to say one phrase:

‘I don’t speak (insert language).’

Over the years I learned how to say it in French, Polish, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Arabic, Hebrew, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, German, Spanish, and Catalan.

Even in places where everyone assured me that no one would speak English with me (like France), I found that starting a conversation with, say, a shopkeeper or  taxi driver with that phrase in the their language was a lot better than simply powering ahead in English.

Beyond that simple beginning, it was then a matter of daily adding to your vocabulary through interaction with the locals. I took to keeping a small notebook with me and writing down new vocabulary and phrases as they came up.

‘How do you say, “How much is this”?’

‘How do you say “Thank you”?’

‘What’s your word for “towel”?’

‘Do I use the same word if I’m speaking to a man or a woman?’

At bottom, you can always safely assume that there is a corresponding word or concept in the local language for the word or concept in yours; with a little bit of effort and interaction, you’ll figure out what it is.

I think the same goes for the broader task of approaching another culture or religion. As a theologian with experience working in the field of post-conflict reconciliation, I’ve been particularly interested for some time in the relationship between Christianity and Islam.

FULL ARTICLE FROM SLUGGEROTOOLE (BLOG)

Pope Francis: The idea of conquest is inherent in both Islam and Christianity; do not treat Muslim refugees as threats

Pope Francis recently expressed his insight that Islam and Christianity both share the “idea of conquest.” The Pope was asked in a press conference about fears of Islam and terrorism, to which he contemplated on the shared roots of Islam and Christianity, and then finally saying that it is not productive to think of Islam as a threat.

“It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam,” the Pope said.

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“However, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest,” he explained.

The Pope has condemned the way in which migrants are isolated or “ghettoized” rather than integrated into society. He acknowledged the election of Sadiq Khan in London, saying that the personified idea of integration within Europe came about because of the Muslim mayor.

“In Brussels, the terrorists were Belgians, children of migrants, but they grew up in a ghetto. In London, the new mayor took his oath of office in a cathedral and will undoubtedly meet the Queen. This illustrates the need for Europe to rediscover its capacity to integrate,” the Pope notes.

When Pope Francis traveled to the Greek isle of Lesbos to visit a migrant detention center, he brought a dozen Syrian refugees home with him on his return.

“May all of our brothers and sisters on this continent, like the good Samaritan, come to your aid in the spirit of fraternity, solidarity and respect for human dignity,” the Pope stated.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIAN DAILY 

Germany to Build World’s First All-in-One Synagogue, Church and Mosque

343164854-1463690180A decade ago, the idea of building a unique religious structure that would combine prayer halls for the three main monotheistic religions was first proposed during archaeological excavations of a plot on the southern end of the Fischerinsel (Fisher Island) in the Mitte neighborhood of Berlin. In 2012, an international architectural competition was held to plan the building, combining a synagogue, church and mosque. The Berlin architectural firm of Kuehn Malvezzi was selected.

The building, named the “House of One,” will not be large, only 670 square meters, and construction is scheduled to start in 2017. This will be the first structure of its kind combining separate prayer halls for the three religions.

Even though the number of Jews in Berlin is tiny compared to the number of Muslims and Christians, each religion is being allocated a prayer hall of similar size – but different in design. The synagogue is in a hexagonal shape, for example.

The building’s central communal hall will be jointly shared, 32 meters high and designed to hold all the worshippers together. The building will be covered in brick and the exterior will feature no religious elements.

Inter-faith prayer halls already exist, in airports for example, but the House of One is unique in that it includes separate spaces for each religion, connected by a common space.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FORWARD (VIA HAARETZ) 

 

The World’s Biggest Muslim Organization Wants to Protect Christians

Jakarta_Car_Free_DayJakarta, Indonesia

Secretary of State John Kerry recently confirmed what most already knew: ISIS is committing genocide against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.

Many Islamic leaders knew it too. In January, 200 Muslim religious leaders, heads of state, and scholars gathered in Morocco. They released the Marrakesh Declaration, a 750-word document calling for majority-Muslim countries to protect the freedom of religious minorities, including Christians.

Last week, another 300 Muslim religious leaders from about 30 countries did much the same. Gathering in Jakarta, Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim populus and historically known for its religious peace, the leaders denounced extremism and addressed its causes.

Texas pastor Bob Roberts, who has been actively building relationships with Muslims, thinks this is a sign of things to come. Roberts was present at the Morocco conference but not Indonesia.

“Muslim majority nations are now making statements globally and nationally to push back on extremism, and you will see more of it,” the evangelical interfaith leader told CT. “This is sending signals to their citizens and the world that the tide is turning.”

The Indonesian conference was hosted by Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest Muslim organization in the world, and was opened by the vice president of the officially secular country.

NU’s membership estimates range from 30 million to 50 million; most are in Indonesia. About 87 percent of the country’s population of 250 million follow Islam; roughly 10 percent are Christian. Hinduism and Buddhism comprise the remainder.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIANITY TODAY 

Wars, extremism fray Christian-Muslim relations in Middle East

05202016p13phcBEIRUT

Fr. Youssef Yaacoub dates his troubles from June 9, 2014.

That was the day the Islamic State group reached southeast Mosul, Iraq, shooting guns in the air and announcing, from a loudspeaker at a mosque, “We are here.”

“We are creating a caliphate. We will rule by Sharia law,” said a booming voice. “Those who don’t abide by the law will be killed.” That included Christians who refuse to convert to Islam.

Yaacoub and other Christians — including three monks and two laypeople — stayed put at the Mar Behnam convent. An initial encounter with Islamic State commanders was slightly reassuring: “Nothing will happen to you,” the five men were told.

But the reassurances soon evaporated. The Islamic State group was seizing not only all buildings and property, but farms — tons of wheat and oats that could be used for food and for monetary leverage.

Eventually, Islamic State troops took everything from the convent and made a pointed threat to Yaacoub and the others: “You don’t have a right to be here.”

After a period of stalemate, and things “tightening more and more” — like a noose around the neck, Yaacoub said — gunmen arrived at the convent on July 20, 2014, again shooting in the air. Yaacoub opened the door. A gunman peered at him and said, “You have to leave now. This building is now in the possession of the Islamic State.”

Death threats ensued, followed by caveats. If the Christians paid money, or if they converted to Islam, they would not be harmed.

Over the next few hours, the threats eased a bit. No one knew exactly why. “We’re letting you live,” said the leader of the group. “We’re being nice to you.”

But the Christians would have to leave immediately. Now meant now. The men had barely any time to gather their things. They were dropped off along a highway and told, “Don’t ever come back.” They were stranded, Yaacoub said, with “nothing around us.” They walked several miles in the midday sun in 116-degree heat.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER 

True Islam: Muslim community works to introduce principles of faith

true islam

The violent narrative of groups such as ISIS and the Taliban thrives on ignorance of Islam, said Qasim Rashid, a lawyer and spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

Rashid pointed to the example of Salah Abdeslam, the suspect in the terrorist bombings of Paris. “The lawyer of the suspect called his client ‘an ashtray,'” Rashid said. Belgian attorney Sven Mary described the suspect as having “the intelligence of an empty ashtray — an abysmal emptiness,” according to an April 27 report by The Washington Post.

“Mary said Abdeslam’s radicalization probably happened online,” the newspaper report continues. “He said the young extremist had scant knowledge of Islam. ‘I asked him if he had read the Quran, which I have done, and he said he had read his interpretation on the Internet,’ the lawyer said.”

Two days later, Rashid spoke at the University of Arkansas on behalf of the school’s Al-Islam Students Association.

“Extremists like ISIS depend on people’s ignorance of Islam to grow,” Rashid said. “That’s why the more people know about Islam’s true teachings — and what Muslims truly believe — the less they’ll fall for ISIS’s propaganda.”

Rashid presented what he called a “counter-narrative” to the message of ISIS. True Islam is a campaign by the Ahmadiyya community to educate both Muslims and non-Muslims about the teachings of the Quran.

The True Islam website lists “The Eleven Points” of Islamic doctrine, backed up by references from the Quran, the holy book of the Muslim faith. Each participant is asked to endorse each point individually. Rashid asked his audience to support the True Islam campaign by endorsing the points from their cellphones while he spoke.

“Endorse the parts you agree with and join our campaign,” he said. “Ask about those you don’t agree with.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM NW ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT GAZETTE 

American Muslims Join Forces For National Muslim Soup Kitchen Day

Hundreds of American Muslims around the country joined forces on Saturday to put their faith into action.

At least 23 teams from mosques, Muslim student clubs, and faith-based non-profits signed up to serve in soup kitchens across the country for the first National Muslim Soup Kitchen Day. In total, the volunteers cooked and distributed more than 3,000 meals throughout the day in New York, Florida, Alabama, and seven other states, according to the Muslim Soup Kitchen Project (MSKP), the New York-based organization that coordinated the national event.

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Uzma Popal, director of MSKP, told The Huffington Post that this is the kind of charity that Muslim non-profits and other faith-based service organizations perform regularly. But she believed a national service day would challenge people who aren’t normally involved in this kind of work to start seeing the need in their communities.

“There were many people that did it for the first time,” Popal told The Huffington Post about the event. “We hope they see that this is really nice and they’re going to continue doing it every month.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Religious Extremism, Brexit and Donald Trump

30khan2302c“If Donald Trump becomes the President, I’ll be stopped from going there by virtue of my faith”

Sadiq Khan, 45, was declared the new mayor of London in the early hours of Saturday, becoming the most powerful Muslim politician in Europe. A Transport Minister in the Labour government of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Khan came under severe attack during the campaign from his Conservative opponent, Zac Goldsmith, for sharing platforms with extremists during his earlier career as a human-rights lawyer.

Fresh from his victory, Khan sat down with TIME on Sunday in his new office in City Hall, a bulbous glass building overlooking Tower Bridge. In these excerpts from the conversation, Khan claims he is the “antidote” to extremism, reveals that the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency might force him to meet U.S. mayors before the end of the year, and explains why he’s campaigning to keep the U.K. in the European Union ahead of June’s In/Out referendum.

You’re the first Muslim mayor of a major western city. Do you feel an extra responsibility to tackle religious extremism?
One of the things that’s important to me as a Londoner is making sure my family, people I care about, are safe. But clearly, being someone who is a Muslim brings with it experiences that I can use in relation to dealing with extremists and those who want to blow us up. And so it’s really important that I use my experiences to defeat radicalization and extremism. What I think the election showed was that actually there is no clash of civilization between Islam and the West. I am the West, I am a Londoner, I’m British, I’m of Islamic faith, Asian origin, Pakistan heritage, so whether it’s [ISIS] or these others who want to destroy our way of life and talk about the West, they’re talking about me. What better antidote to the hatred they spew than someone like me being in this position?

FULL ARTICLE FROM TIME MAGAZINE 

‘Good Muslims’ or ‘Good citizens’: how Muslim women feel about integration

UK muslimsA great many things have been said about Muslims as UK citizens, mainly by non-Muslims. The prime minister, David Cameron, believes that if more Muslim women became proficient in English, for example, it would help beat extremism and terrorism. Meanwhile, Trevor Phillips, the former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, says that UK Muslims “See the world differently from the rest of us”.

Phillips also presented a controversial Channel 4 programme called What British Muslims Really Think, which put across the message that Muslims are more conservative than the majority population and don’t want to integrate into wider society.

The debate is often highly intemperate – and both Muslim and non-Muslim voices alike have suggested it contributes to further stigmatisation of an already marginalised and disadvantaged Muslim population. In this highly politicised climate, the relationship between Islam and citizenship has also come under scrutiny by Citizens UK, a charitable voluntary organisation with churches, mosques and unions among its members.

In July 2015, Citizens UK launched its Commission on Islam, Participation and Public Life headed by conservative MP Dominic Greave. Greave somewhat unfortunately framed the Commission’s work as aiming to “help tackle extremism”.

The commission is holding a series of public hearings throughout the UK, asking Muslims to speak about barriers to their participation in society but also asking how “the Muslim community” can improve its participation. Although commendable for speaking with and soliciting views from Muslims around the country, there is also a problem with the approach chosen by Citizens UK, in that it only focuses on the Muslim population. In a febrile political atmosphere, it risks legitimising the isolation of Islamic faith and the prejudiced idea that Muslim citizens in Britain are uniquely problematic and a “one-voice” community.

FULL ARTICLE FROM UK ECONOTIMES