An Idiot’s Guide to Islam in America

US-POLITICS-RELIGION-OBAMAIslam hates us.” That was a recurring theme of your campaign, Mr. President-elect.

And who can blame you? After all, your top advisors on Muslim affairs — Ann Coulter, Frank Gaffney, and Walid Phares — are card-carrying Islamophobes. Your incoming national security advisor, retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, wants Muslim leaders to “declare their Islamic ideology sick,” and your special advisor, Steve Bannon, has been accused of using his Breitbart News Daily radio show to instigate “fear and loathing of Muslims in America.”

But now that you’ve announced it’s time for America to “bind the wounds of division,” it might be useful for you to learn a little bit more about one of the most alienated segments of the nation you now lead: American citizens who also happen to be Muslims.

I get that you’re worried about what you call “radical Islamic terrorism.” I’ve been reporting on extremists who claim to represent Islam since I covered the first anti-American suicide bombings in Beirut in the early 1980s, so I share your concern. I’ve seen friends die and others waste away in captivity at their hands. And I’ve come awfully close to being a victim myself a few times. But I’ve also learned that Muslims come in many colors — literally and figuratively — and my doctorate in Islamic studies helped me understand that the religion itself is interpreted in many different ways. In fact, America’s 3.3 million Muslims, the other 1 percent, are developing their own take on what it means to follow Islam.

The jihadis are already rejoicing at your election because — their words here, not mine — it “reveals the true mentality of the Americans and their racism toward Muslims and Arabs and everything.” But what do they know?

When Bill O’Reilly asked you whether you thought American Muslims fear you, you replied, “I hope not. I want to straighten things out.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE 

Iraq’s Muslims celebrate Christmas in solidarity with Christians

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A tall, glittering tree erected outside a shopping centre in Baghdad could be considered an incongruous display of Christmas festivity in mainly-Muslim Iraq. But the 7-metre-high tree at Sama Mall in the south east of the capital, adorned with tinsel, stars and bells, is one of a number of decorations put up by residents and business owners in solidarity with the country’s Christian minority.

 Muslim businessman Yassir Saad has spent around £19,000 on a huge artificial tree to help Iraqis “forget their anguish” over the war against Isis.

The 85-foot decoration is on display in a Baghdad theme park. Visitor Saba Ismael said it “represents love and peace”. “I wish all Iraqi Christians could return to Iraq and live normal and peaceful lives,” she said.

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FULL ARTICLE FROM THE INDEPENDENT (UK)

In Bahrain, Arabs and Jews Gather (and Dance) at a Hanukkah Celebration

Orthodox Jews in black coats and skullcaps danced with Arabs in flowing robes and checkered kaffiyehs at a Hanukkah celebration over the weekend in Bahrain, a Muslim-majority monarchy whose king has sanctioned celebrations of the Jewish holiday.

Video of the celebration, which included a Jewish delegation giving a large silver menorah to Arab dignitaries and members of both groups dancing together, appeared on Monday on YouTube, where many commenters lauded the multicultural celebration.

The event drew the ire of Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, which called the celebration a “humiliating and disgraceful display” in a statement.

“The positive energy that there was tonight needs to be spread around,” an unidentified Jewish man tells the group in American-accented English before handing over the menorah, which he called symbolic. “The symbol is that hopefully through this night we can bring infinite light to the world.”

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that Bahraini officials hosted the Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony on Saturday, the first night of the eight-day holiday, and that it was attended by members of the country’s small Jewish population, foreign businessmen and “other local Bahrainis.”

The identities of the members of either delegation could not immediately be determined, but American Orthodox Jews suggested online that the Jewish group might have been backed by Eliezer Scheiner, a businessman and philanthropist from Brooklyn. Calls to Mr. Scheiner were not answered.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

Indy church brings Christian, Muslim faiths together

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After a long year of angst and uncertainty in the community, one Indianapolis church wanted to build interfaith bridges.

Christ Church Cathedral, an Episcopal church on Monument Circle, invited Hoosiers from the the Indianapolis Muslim Community Association to speak before two of its Christmas Eve sermons to come together in solidarity during the church’s time of celebration.

“The times are calling upon us to build these bridges,” said Eyas Raddad, the representative from the Indianapolis Muslim Community Association who spoke to the congregation. “Fear, especially of those who are different, and the uncertainty that comes with that has been a core cause of the angst in the community.”

This is the first time Christ Church Cathedral has done this, but it’s not the first time Muslims have been in churches participating in Christmas celebrations, Raddad said. Coming together in a time of celebration will start to build these bridges.

Jesus Christ is also important in Islam, Raddad said, which is not something many know. Jesus and the Virgin Mary are mentioned many times in the Quran, similar to how they’re mentioned in the gospel.

“I want to bring a message to people to understand that commonality is much more than they ever tend to appreciate,” Raddad said. “Muslims are friends of Christians, and our common values will translate to common actions.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE INDY STAR 

Jewish, Muslim volunteers using ‘Mitzvah Day’ to do good deeds, give Christians a Christmas break

mitzvah_day_in_metro_detroit_0_51742004_ver1-0_640_480DETROIT (WXYZ) – While many Christians will celebrate Christmas with church, presents and a family dinner there are thousands of people in the metro Detroit area that will get the day off, but have little to celebrate.

It’s why for several decades people of the Jewish faith have taken advantage of the day to step up volunteer efforts during what’s now called “Mitzvah Day.” They have also joined together with those of Muslim faith to give back.

“It’s a day we’re proud of,” said David Kurzmann, a member of the Jewish Community Relations Council and AJC. “It’s a day that, for decades now, has become a family tradition.”

Nearly 1,000 Jewish and Muslim volunteers spread themselves across Detroit on Christmas to take part in ‘mitzvahs’ — good deeds — helping Detroit area social service agencies in 51 different communities.

“We can enable the Christian employees here to take some time to be with their families and take the place of some regular volunteers from the Christian community that would regularly be here,” said Kurzmann.

FULL ARTICLE FROM WXYZ NEWS

Sign of hope: An interfaith dinner for the needy by Muslims, Jews

interfaithIt’s hard to find the good this holiday season. From domestic political strife to global conflict, it seems violence and division will prove the overarching themes of this dwindling year.

It can be all too easy to focus on the darkness instead of the light, especially in my profession. But a trip to the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS) in Redmond this week reminded me that for every cruel act that makes headlines, there’s a flood of compassion that often doesn’t.

You may have heard of MAPS because its sign has been vandalized twice in the past three weeks. But I didn’t visit the mosque to talk about acts under investigation as possible hate crimes. I was there to talk about Christmas Eve dinner for the needy.

 “We will be bringing rice and pita and curry chicken,” says Khizer Sheriff, co-founder of the Muslim Community Resource Center, the service arm of MAPS. “We try to turn the spice level down, but people really enjoy it. It’s something a little different.”

Sheriff is describing the Christmas Eve dinner he and other volunteers will be serving in Seattle to more than 100 people this evening (the space wasn’t available on Saturday).

This multicultural dinner was founded by a Jewish woman and staffed in part by MAPS and its service arm. It’s its fifth year and has become a favorite tradition.

“It really is about putting our faith in action,” says Sheriff. “Christmas Eve is just another occasion when we can share our blessings with others who are less fortunate.”

For his daughter, Nehath Sheriff, who has volunteered at every Christmas Eve dinner since the start, it’s a reminder of what really matters.

“I think that we all take dinner and family for granted,” she said. “It’s a very humbling experience.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE SEATTLE TIMES 

Why It’s Not Wrong to Wish Muslims Merry Christmas

jesus-prophet-of-islamISTANBUL — Billions of Christians around the world are excited to celebrate Christmas this weekend. Those in the world’s second-largest religious community, Muslims, don’t share quite the same excitement. In a few Muslim-majority countries, like Saudi Arabia, Brunei and Somalia, Christmas celebrations are banned. In Turkey, my country, they are not illegal, but some Islamist groups still organize annual protests against Christmas trees and Santa Claus costumes, which they consider Western impositions.

Meanwhile, many other Muslims around the world are rightly respectful to their Christian neighbors and even share in their holy day. They include the owners of a Turkish restaurant in London that decided to offer a free Christmas meal to the homeless and the elderly, and a Muslim businessman in Baghdad who erected a Christmas tree in solidarity with Christians persecuted by the self-declared Islamic State.

These Christmas-friendly Muslims are right, but not simply because respect for other religions is a virtue. They are also right because Christmas is the celebration of the miraculous birth of Jesus, which is a powerful theme not just in the New Testament, but also in the Quran.

Two chapters of the Muslim holy book give detailed accounts of the birth of Jesus, which partly resemble the account in the Gospel of Luke.

Both chapters — one is named Maryam, or Mary — feature this admirable Jewish woman whom God has “purified” and “chosen above all other women.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES