A Look at Muslim-Christian Relations in Ethiopia

1515208296516 (1)The Muslim-Christian relationship in Ethiopia has a mixed historical background. Ethiopia is located on a religious fault line, although the relationship between the two religions has been reasonably cordial in recent decades. Christian rule has prevailed in the Ethiopian highlands since the early 4th century. Early in the 7th century a group of Arab followers of Islam in danger of persecution by local authorities in Arabia took refuge in the Axumite Kingdom of the Ethiopian highlands.

As a result of this generosity, the Prophet Mohammed concluded that Ethiopia should not be targeted for jihad. Not all Muslims took this message seriously and subsequent contact was less cordial. In the late 15th century, Islamic raids from the Somali port of Zeila plagued the Ethiopian highlands. In the first half of the 16th century, the Islamic threat became more serious when Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al Ghazi rallied a diverse group of Muslims in a jihad to end Christian power in the highlands. The Ethiopians finally defeated this threat by the middle of the 16th century.

Although Wahhabi missionaries from the Arabian Peninsula made efforts to penetrate Ethiopia beginning in the 19th century, they had little success until recent decades. During the first half of the 1800s, Egyptian/Ottoman power in neighboring Sudan made periodic incursions inside Ethiopia. In 1875, the khedive of Egypt tried unsuccessfully to conquer Ethiopia entering from the Red Sea.

FULL ARTICLE FROM INTERNATIONAL POLICY DIGEST 

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Why I’m a Muslim

MUSLIM BRITWhen Muslims make headlines, it’s invariably for the wrong reasons. The fuss over Boris Johnson’s burka joke is a case in point: he was making an argument in defence of Muslims, but was instead condemned for attacking us. Why the confusion? Because of how little our faith is understood.

Let’s start with the burka. Islam makes various demands of its followers, but — despite what you might think from the headlines — covering our faces isn’t one of them. Based on the media’s fascination with these strange and oppressive garments, you might wonder why any modern woman would ever choose Islam. So here’s my answer.

I’m a London-born doctor, raised in a Muslim family and now working in America. While Islam always played a role in my youth, it was never something which defined me: rather a list of ‘dos’, ‘don’ts’ and cultural traditions which governed various aspects of home life. It was during an assignment in Riyadh — where I was working as a doctor — that everything changed.

Of course when you’re living in Saudi Arabia, Islam is never far away — but at first its omnipresence only served to remind me of my failings as a Muslim. To the Saudis, I knew so little about my religion I was assumed to be a convert. Thanks to Saudi law (which mandates covering of the hair — something my parents never enforced), I might have looked more Muslim — but I certainly didn’t feel it. Take the Hajj, for example — the holy pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are expected to undertake once in their lifetime, if their health and their means allow. Although many of my colleagues had jumped at the opportunity to do it, it wasn’t something I had considered.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE SPECTATOR (UK)

Who gets to define American Muslim identity?

muslim_men_praying_jeansThe various groups that were drawn (or in some cases, dragged) to the United States have themselves been made up of a variety of smaller identity groups: Italian Catholics and Irish Catholics; Polish Jews and German Jews; Latinos from Guatemala and Latinos from Brazil. If, to paraphrase Walt Whitman, the poetical nature of the United States is determined by the dynamics of engagement between those identity communities, then there is also American poetry to be drawn from such dynamics within those communities.

No nation has a Muslim community that is more ethnically, racially, or theologically diverse than the United States. For many years, these various Muslim groups created separate spaces, such as mosques, schools, and community centers. Those who were less ritually observant often found no space at all. But the era of Islamophobia has forced them all together and raised fascinating questions about what it means to be American, what it means to be Muslim, and who gets to define the identity of American Muslims.

Ansari offered lessons in the science of prejudice through a set of humorous stories about Muslims. He reminded his audience that Muslims worship the same God as Christians and Jews. If you just changed the music on Homeland, he joked, we wouldn’t look so scary.

In a New York Times op-ed published a few months earlier, Ansari wrote on several of the same themes, but this time through the poignant story of instructing his parents not to go to the mosque for prayer lest they wind up the victims of an Islamophobic attack.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN CENTURY 

Egypt appoints first-ever Christian woman as governor

 — Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has sworn in several new provincial governors, including the first-ever Coptic Christian woman to hold the position.

Manal Awad Mikhail was appointed governor of Damietta province Thursday. She was previously a deputy for the Giza governor.

The reshuffle included new governors for Cairo, Giza, Luxor, Aswan and North Sinai.

Egypt had appointed the first-ever female governor to the province of Beheira in a reshuffle last year. The Beheira governor was changed in Thursday’s reshuffle.

Christians, who constitute about 10 percent of Egypt’s Muslim-majority population of 100 million, have long complained of discrimination and their under-representation in top government positions. Christians strongly supported general-turned-president el-Sissi who led the ouster of his Islamist predecessor.

Egypt’s current cabinet includes eight female ministers, the highest in the country’s modern history.

FULL ARTICLE FROM WRAL.COM

Jordanian military supports pilgrimage to Christian holy places

RTX219GE-870Dr. Feras Haddad is a physician in the Jordanian military. He and his family were chosen to participate in a three-day pilgrimage tour with other Jordanian Christian military officials to Christian holy places in Palestine and Israel. So far, this newly implemented idea seems to be a one-time initiative by the Jordanian army.

“It is a great move and it was an amazing experience to see the Christian sites in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth,” Haddad told Al-Monitor.

Haddad, who visited Palestine before as part of military missions to Gaza and Ramallah, said the experience of visiting the religious sites was very special. “I have been to the Vatican, Brussels, Iraq’s Najav, but these visits dwarf in comparison with seeing the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Church of Annunciation in Nazareth and the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem,” the doctor said.

The trip to Palestine coincided with the annual Muslim hajj, in which hundreds of Jordanian military personnel are chosen annually to partake in the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. “The importance of this move,” Haddad said of the Christian sites tour, was that it provides for “equal opportunity” to all members of the Jordanian army.

According to a report by the Amman-based Catholic website Aboun.org, the pilgrimage of the Christian Jordanian officers took place Aug. 13 and included 24 Jordanian military officers and their families. Maj. Areej Hadaddin, a female officer, told the website that the trip, paid for by the Jordanian army, reflects in full the path of the country’s leadership. “This is the kind of activity that helps create the community spirit within the army for people from different backgrounds.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL-MONITOR.COM

South Carolina interfaith group turns ignorance, hate into opportunities for connection

 

1068147_1_0827-Muslim-Americans-Praying_standardBy Isabelle Cueto The State of Columbia

 

Mayor Hardy King of Irmo, S.C., came under fire just a few months ago for anti-Islam Facebook posts. Back then, he stood by his posts but said he didn’t know much about Islam.

That was when Chaudhry Sadiq reached out to Mr. King, inviting him to an end-of-Ramadan celebration at a Columbia, S.C., mosque, Masjid Noor Ul Huda, where Mr. Sadiq is president. While there, Sadiq said he pitched the idea of hosting a “demystifying Islam” event, and King agreed.

“It was mutual. It was mutually benefiting, it was mutually rewarding,” Sadiq said in a phone interview.

The event, “Demystifying Islam: Understanding Your Muslim Neighbors,” will fill part of the Irmo Town Hall with a library of resources on Aug. 30 for locals to learn about Muslim traditions. Books such as the Quran and other literature on the contributions of Muslims to society will be on display, followed by a panel discussion and Q&A session.

“I hope that people that come will come with the open heart and open mind to understand,” King said. “I hope they’ll go, ‘Oh, OK, I didn’t know that,’ because I didn’t know that.”

Sadiq is president of the Peace and Integration Council of North America, which is a young national interfaith organization based in Columbia. He said what started as a sour situation that drew much attention and backlash was, in his eyes, a great opportunity.

“God has mysterious ways of bringing people together,” Sadiq said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR 

Intimate portraits show the diversity of America’s Muslims

portraitsWhen you look at my series,” said photographer Carlos Khalil Guzman, “the stereotype that Muslims can be identified based on appearance becomes null.”
Guzman’s statement is borne out by “Muslims of America,” a photo series portraying everyday subjects as diverse and modern US citizens. The images depict college students, mental health counselors and activists, in places from Illinois to Kentucky and Louisiana.
The photographer and activist hopes that his ambitious project can help tackle stereotypes of Muslims in the United States today. Featuring people of various different ethnicities, ages, backgrounds and branches of Islam, the series comprises 73 portraits from 26 US states. Guzman’s goal is to take 114 portraits across all 50 states, symbolizing the 114 chapters of the Quran.
“Muslim Americans come in all shapes and colors,” he said in an email interview. “We are diverse, not only ethnically but culturally, professionally (and) linguistically.”

Capturing diversity

The photo series comes amid growing anti-Muslim sentiment in the country. A study published by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in April reported 300 recorded cases of hate crimes against Muslims in 2017, a rise of 15 percent on the previous year.
The group also found a marked increase in “anti-Muslim bias,” directly attributing 18% of such incidents to the Trump administration’s travel ban, which restricted entry to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries.
“Islam continues to be associated with terrorism,” said Guzman, explaining why he embarked on the project. “It is the scapegoat used by politicians, white supremacists and some media outlets to falsely claim that Muslims support acts of violence and the erosion of democracy.portrait
“The series, as a whole, is a microcosm that reflects the macrocosm of diversity that exists all across the country,” he added. “I wanted to show that the US is not — and has never been — a white nation. Rather it is colonized indigenous land where a variety of cultures coexist.”
An activist for human and animal rights since his teens, 29-year-old Guzman said that his portraits often depict those who don’t conform to stereotypical notions of Muslim conservatism — such as people with tattoos and women without headscarves.