Two weeks after Donald Trump was elected president, Nora decided to remove her headscarf – for good. Weighing on the mind of the 23-year-old were recent assaults against conspicuous Muslims like herself. State suspicion and private violence would only get worse under Trump, she feared. So she hid part of her identity from the world.
Many Muslim men and women, like Nora, choose to conceal their Muslim identity – or express it in a way that is less “threatening” to others. Some take things one step further: they undertake the extreme measure of erasing their Muslim identity altogether by passing as non-Muslim in public.
While this phenomenon predates Trump, he has certainly intensified it. Acting Muslim, today, is especially dangerous.
This is illustrated by the scores of Muslim women “afraid to wear the headscarf” after Trump claimed the presidency, men shaving their beards to diminish detection that they are in fact Muslims, job-seekers changing their Muslim names on résumés to increase the prospect of a job interview, and the known and unknown stories of Muslims passing as non-Muslims at school, work, or the public sphere at large.
This process is also prevalent in Europe, where Islamophobia is more pronounced than it is in the US and fully enshrined into law. The European Union recently broadened France’s 2004 “headscarf ban”, which prohibits Muslim women from wearing the hijab in public schools, to restrict it within the workplace in EU member states.
These policies, combined with the rise of Islamophobic populism throughout the continent, have had a collateral effect on Muslims men and women – pushing many to remove conspicuous markers of religious identity in the public sphere in order to dodge punitive action from the state or bigots on the street.
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN
Fresh arrivals to any country feel blind and weakened: they seek jobs, housing and familiarity. Newcomers yearn for memories of their old nation state – Italian olive oil, south Indian dosas or Turkish kanafeh. Laws that appear foreign, and values that were never particularly strong at home, are slowly adopted through experience and navigation. Faith provides a shelter from tumultuous change.
In recent years, in no regard has the narrative about immigration and values proved more volcanic than in addressing the role of Muslims. Three new books attempt to cast a light on modern Islam’s contract with the West. Letters to a Young Muslim is a collection of missives written by the United Arab Emirates ambassador to Russia to his elder son, Saif, now aged 16. The author, Omar Saif Ghobash, was six years old when his own father, the UAE’s first foreign minister, was shot and killed by a teenage Palestinian assassin at Abu Dhabi International Airport in 1977. The intended target was the Syrian president Hafez al-Assad’s foreign minister, who was visiting the UAE; the 19-year-old gunman was later executed.
Ghobash’s book is part memoir and part instructional guide to the liberal values he would like to see flourish in conservative Islamic societies. He gives special prominence to educated imams, higher education and a greater tolerance of antithetical views. In the 40th-anniversary year of his father’s death, Letters to a Young Muslim is also a synthesis of grief and purpose. As he writes, “For me . . . it has been impossible to leave my father behind. I have carried his memory with me through the years, always imagining what he might have said to me, or done in my place.”
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW STATESMAN
Despite heading a diocese in a region of northern Nigeria known as a Boko Haram stronghold, Bishop Matthew Kukah insists that there is no real Muslim/Christian divide in his country, and that clashes perceived as religious are generally a ‘cover’ for the government’s failure to foster a genuine democracy in the country.
ROME – One of the Catholic world’s most experienced prelates in terms of living cheek-by-jowl with Muslims insists that there is no real divide between Christians and Muslims in Africa, above all in his home country of Nigeria, and that clashes perceived as religious are generally an index of the failure to build a genuinely democratic state.
“There isn’t really a Christian-Muslim conflict in Nigeria, that’s a cover for something else,” said Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto, Nigeria, an overwhelmingly Muslim area in the country’s far north which has been a stronghold for the radical Boko Haram movement.
“What people call Christian-Muslim conflict, there’s nothing inevitable about it,” Kukah said. “I think the Western media has constructed it, and it’s very popular. And it’s also very popular in Nigeria, but I have said over a 30-year period, there’s no real conflict between Christians and Muslims.
“The same Muslims and Christians work together in the bureaucracy. They serve together in the army and in other arms of government. What we call violence between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria is really the failure of law and order,” he said.
Kukah spoke to Crux on March 24 during a summit on the African church sponsored by the Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame, and held at the university’s Global Gateway center in Rome.
Despite heading a tiny diocese and being fairly diminutive in stature himself, Kukah has an outsized presence in Nigerian public life. Holding a Ph.D. from the University of London, he’s one of the most trusted and admired religious leaders in the country, having served on a national commission for political reform, and having led negotiations to end a conflict between the Shell corporation and the Ogoni ethnic group over oil operations in the Niger Delta.
FULL ARTICLE FROM CRUX NOW
People from different faiths can extend kindness, show respect to one another, and forge friendships, and this is what the new film “Watu Wote,” which means “All of Us,” seeks to prove.
The film, which is set to premiere next month, will share the ordeals faced by a group of Muslims who went out of their way to protect Christians from the al-Shabaab militants, according to Christian Daily.
The Christian bus passengers were ambushed in Mandera, Kenya in December 2015. Kenya’s northeastern region chief administrator Mohamud Saleh told Al Jazeera
that the militants tried to flag the bus down. When the driver refused to stop, they fired shots at it, instantly killing two passengers and injuring several others.
When the militants got inside the bus, they asked the 62 Muslims on board to point out the Christian passengers. However, the Muslims refused to do so. Even though the militants threatened to kill or harm them should they refuse to cooperate, the Muslim passengers bravely protected the Christians and stood their ground.
“Watu Wote” director Katja Benrath, who studies at the Hamburg Media School in Germany, is simply astounded by the kindness and bravery shown by these Muslims to Christians on that fateful day. For her, their actions only prove that there is hope for humanity.
FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIAN TODAY
Colonial Baptists’ fight for religious freedom applies equally to Muslims in America today. As previously noted by Paul Crookston at National Review Online (in “Religious Freedom for Me but Not for Thee?”), it is a mistake for Baptists, such as megachurch pastors Dean Haun and Mike Buster, to abandon the cause of religious liberty being led by Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). This is not only because the amicus brief signed onto by the ERLC was both legally sound and ultimately successful, but because the history of Baptists in America demands it. It was not so long ago that Baptists were “the Muslims” fighting for the right to construct their own houses of worship.
Moore received mixed responses last summer when he agreed with the ERLC’s position and publicly defended the religious rights of Muslims to construct mosques in the United States. Some at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) called for the firing of any SBC official who supported the rights of Muslims to build mosques, and they recommended the removal of the ERLC’s name from the amicus brief. Some even went so far as to posit that Muslims do not deserve the same religious freedoms as Christians. Even though the U.S. district court of New Jersey has since ruled in favor of the mosque’s construction in Bernards Township, some corners of the SBC have continued to criticize Moore and the ERLC. Those Baptists continuing to oppose Moore should take
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL REVIEW
How did a Jewish preacher who became the Christian Messiah also become one of the most admired figures in the Quran? Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish journalist and contributing opinion writer for The International New York Times, sets out to explore this apparent conundrum.
The result will come as something of a revelation to many non-Muslim readers, since Jesus is revered in Islam’s sacred text as a great teacher and prophet, while his mother, Mary, gets more ink — and praise — than in all four New Testament Gospels put together.
If the Quran’s portrayal of Jesus is familiar in outline, however, its details are sometimes not, especially to Western Christians used to a single canonical version. The Quran is more ecumenical, dipping into the rich mélange of Middle Eastern traditions contained in the apocryphal and “gnostic” gospels and still very much alive in the popular lore of Eastern Christianity. It shows Jesus making clay birds and then breathing life into them, for instance, or Mary giving birth not in a Bethlehem stable with Joseph in attendance but alone under a palm tree, deep in the desert.
Akyol makes good use of both canonical and noncanonical sources, tracing where and why the Islamic approach agrees with Christian tradition (yes to Jesus as the messenger, prophet, word and spirit of God), and where it disagrees (no to the Resurrection, and no to divinity). Along the way, he ups the ante by finding what he calls “astonishing” parallels between the Quran and early Christian texts, though such astonishment seems unnecessary to this reader. Given the fertile interchange of ideas and lore in the multiethnic Byzantine Middle East, such parallels were not only likely, but even inevitable.
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES
GREENFIELD — Springfield lawyer Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, her head covered in a pink scarf, told a gathering of nearly 60 students and community members last week that as someone whose Lutheran and Baptist parents converted to Islam when she was a toddler, she has Christian grandparents and “was always in an interfaith setting,” including Jews in her extended family.
“We have the whole Abrahamic thing going on in our family. It was such a non-thing for me,” Amatul-Wadud told attendees of the hour-long program Thursday on “debunking common myths about Islam.”
Amatul-Wadud, who moved to Springfield from New York when she was 10 and graduated from Elms College and Western New England University, said that while she’s not a religious scholar, she’s been comfortable with interfaith dialogue for her entire life. It wasn’t until about 18 months ago that she began speaking at colleges and universities, as “an uptick” in rhetoric, as well as violence, was occurring against Muslims in this country.
“We live in this bubble and we don’t know each other,” said Amatul-Wadud, who recently helped defend a Muslim community against a planned 2015 attack by a Tennessee man convicted in February by a federal jury for threatening to burn down a mosque. “That’s not how we should exist.”
Explaining that Islam is a religion that incorporates early Jewish and Christian history, she said, “Sixty percent of Americans say they don’t know a Muslim, yet Muslims are probably the most vilified group in the past political election and definitely have been subject of some really interesting policy making post-election. Yet we don’t know what each other believes.”
Amatul-Wadud said Muslim, Christian and Jewish religions have ancient covenants with one another, promising “to always have each other’s back, to always protect each other during exercise of their religion.”
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE RECORDER
My mother used to say “History is rarely made without uppity women”, and I think Shafaq Ahmad of Texas would agree with her completely.
Shafaq Ahmad is IARS (Islamic Art Revival Series) Art Director and Exhibition Curator for this year’s Women’s Invitational. The Islamic Art Revival Series was started by Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation (“Muslim Women for All Women”), founded in 2005 to strengthen families of all faiths by fostering volunteerism, education, and cultural understanding through interfaith outreach.
Two considerations were vital to Director Shafaq as she selected the ten women to participate in this year’s invitational – each woman had to be a consummate art professional in her own right, and each woman was required to be a first generation immigrant to the United States.
From the Exhibition website:
This exhibition will focus on the art of these women artists who create work which not only reflects the strong bond to their own heritage but the experience of living in the USA, their new permanent home, and how this experience has influenced the work they are presenting now.
One of the truly remarkable women in Islamic history is the wife of the Prophet, Khadija bint Khuwaylid. A true self-made success, she was well-educated, resourceful, and astonishingly successful in a time and place where all the cards had been stacked against her; she was so trusted by God and the Prophet she even became the first scribe of the Qur’an and holds the title “Mother of the Believers”. A pillar of faithfulness, strength, courage, and all the very best aspects of feminism, her example remains applicable even to today.
FULL ARTICLE FROM ISMAILI MAIL
Apparently, Pew Research projects that Islam will overtake Christianity as the world’s largest religion by the year 2070. This projection is based mainly on birth rates – Muslim women have more children than other religious groups, at 3.1 per woman for Muslims versus 2.3 for others. In addition, the average age for Muslims is seven years younger – 23 – than other religious groups.
Naturally, many American Christians, especially conservative-evangelical types, are terrified. Many already hold persecution complexes, and this knowledge seems to vindicate their xenophobic fear that “they” are taking over (even though by the time Islam becomes the world’s largest religion, Muslims will still only make up about 2% of the US population).
Reactionary violence aside (and no matter what happens, reactionary Christians gonna react), this impending de-throning of Christianity as the world’s largest religion is the best thing to happen to Christianity since the Reformation. Finally, at long last, Christians will have to wake up.
No more can we rest on our laurels, assured that we’ve somehow “won” the game of religion. No longer can Christian spiritual arrogance and chauvinism stand when Christians are a minority.
It will no longer be enough that we have converted the most people, or hoarded the most wealth. Churches will no longer be able to fall back on the argumentum ad populum.
FULL ARITLCE FROM PATHEOS