European Muslims on identity, bereavement and loss

5baa338acb7b4fca80c11052219364e3_18Muslims who lost relatives in attacks, stress the difference between their faith and the fighters.

Spaniards like Mohamed Azahaf remember the day, on March 11, 2004, that armed attacks came to Europe. That morning, during Madrid’s rush hour, 10 bombs ripped through four commuter trains. The simultaneous, coordinated blasts killed more than 190 people and wounded some 2,000 more.

Azahaf was employed as a social worker for the Madrid City Hall and had been called to counsel and provide assistance to families who were gathering to learn the fate of their loved ones.

Since then, attackers have killed civilians in London, Paris, Brussels, Manchester, Toulouse, Nice, Barcelona and Berlin. People have been assassinated in offices, shot in restaurants, bombed in nightclubs and run over on pedestrian thoroughfares. All of the attacks were committed in the name of Islam and have led to heightened racial and religious discrimination against European Muslims.




Rev. Patrick J. Ryan, S.J. considers this question in his wonderful new book, Amen: Jews, Fr_Patrick_Ryan_SMChristians, and Muslims Keep Faith with God (The Catholic University of America Press, October 2018).  Ryan takes a close theological look at Jews, Christians, and Muslims through their eyes, texts, and experiences.  He also shares his reflections on his own experience as a Christian in the company of Jewish and Muslim friends. Ryan writes that “we Muslims and Christians and Jews may live together more fruitfully and more peacefully if we recognize the polyvalence of Abraham, the polyvalence of great concepts like faith and revelation, community, and the path of righteousness.” Considering Interfaith Relations Between Jews, Christians, and Muslims: A

Ordained a Jesuit priest in 1968, Ryan is a graduate of Fordham University and Harvard University, where he studied with noted scholars Wilfred Cantwell Smith and Annemarie Schimmel. For nearly three decades, Ryan worked as an educator in West Africa, mostly in Nigeria and Ghana.  He is the author of Imale: Yoruba Participation in the Muslim Tradition: A Study of Clerical Piety (Scholars Press, 1978); The Coming of Our God: Scriptural Reflections for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany (Paulist, 1999), and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross: Scriptural Reflections for Lent (Paulist, 2004).

Joseph Richard Preville: How meaningful is the word “Amen” for Jews, Christians, and Muslims?

Rev. Patrick J. Ryan: Jews, Christians, and Muslims all end prayers with the word “Amen,” even if there are small differences in pronunciation. To say “Amen” is to pledge one’s fidelity to God who keeps faith with us. Each of the first four sections of the Book of Psalms ends with an “Amen,” a pledge to God by the faithful children of Israel. Jesus prayed that way, but he also used “Amen” at the beginning of many of his most important sayings; in John’s Gospel that opening “Amen” is doubled. Paul notes that Jesus is our “Amen” to God: “It is through him that we say the ‘Amen,’ to the glory of God” (2 Cor 1:20). The most common prayer in the Islamic tradition, the first sura of the Qur’an, ends with an “Amin” in prayer that is not part of the Quranic text.  In saying “Amen” we Jews, Christians, and Muslims entrust ourselves to God, put our faith in God’s word spoken to us, keep faith with the God who first keeps faith with us.



Muslim-friendly Hong Kong

Muslim family photor2With a Muslim community of 300,000 people, the former British colony has the amenities for Muslim travellers in place, writes Hanna Hussein

KNOWN as one of the world’s most densely populated city, Hong Kong is a melting pot of culture even though 93 per cent of its 7.4 million population are ethnic Chinese.

Little did I know that there’s a strong Mus-lim community of 300,000 people. And one third of them are locals.

There are more than five mosques in Hong Kong and a huge number of halal restaurants, which undoubtedly make Hong Kong a Muslim-friendly destination.


Islam was introduced in Hong Kong during the British colony in the early 19th century. The earliest Muslim settlers were soldiers from India brought in by the British.

Later after Hong Kong developed into an important harbour, more and more Muslim immigrants came in. The British government respected the rights of Muslim communities and allocated land for mosques.

This was when the autonomous territory got its first mosque —­ Jamia Mosque in 1849. The small mosque, built at the Mid-Level of the famous Shelley Street in Central Hong Kong, also known as the ladder street where you can go on the world’s longest escalators, was expanded in 1915. The rectangular light green mosque features many elements of Islamic architecture including arched main entrance and Arabic-style arched windows on all sides.


Adventists Strengthen Ties with Muslims in Southern Philippines

adventists-strengthen-ties-with-muslims-in-southern-philippinesLocal church region and Muslim leaders meet for fellowship, respectful exchanges.

Leaders from both the Zamboanga Peninsula Mission (ZPM), the Adventist Church’s administrative region in southwestern Mindanao, Philippines, and the Muslim-dominated islands in the area met for the first-ever Adventist-Muslim Relations fellowship meal at ZPM’s headquarters in Ipil on September 20, 2018. Church leaders sought through the event to increase understanding between the two faiths in the region and provide opportunities for fellowship and respectful exchanges.

The fellowship meal was attended by 32 prominent figures of the Muslim community in the islands of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. Fourteen of the leaders were ustadz (teachers in Arabic), 11 were imams (worship leaders), and 7 were panglimas (tribal leaders), regional Adventist leaders reported.

The delegation was headed by Sarabi Camsain, president of the Ulama Council of Ipil, and Farida Dangpalan, a member of the municipal council of Ipil. Church leaders explained that central to the fellowship meal’s agenda was an effort to promote camaraderie and foster cooperation in areas of interest.


“Integration is the least of our problems”

ahmadiyya_1Recently some 45,000 Muslims of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat met for their annual peace conference, the so-called “Jalsa Salana”. Nermin Ismail attended the meeting of the Islamic reform movement in Karlsruhe

Bookstore, luggage storage, bazaar, restaurant, sleeping place, exhibition. The Jalsa Salana, the annual meeting of the Muslim Ahmadiyya community, offers something of everything. Mangoes from Pakistan are being sold at the bazaar. Two men, who have just bumped into each other, hug each other next to the stand. Everyone seems to know everyone, whether from Africa, Canada or Pakistan. You can see the excitement in the eyes of a young mother in traditional Indian clothes, the shalwar kameez.

Networking, exchange, spirituality. These form the primary focus of the meeting. But matchmaking among the younger generation is also a feature. Many spouses and their families meet for the first time in the corridor between the menʹs and womenʹs areas. Thatʹs the way he got to know his wife, says Ferhad Ghaffar. The imam from Wiesbaden is annoyed by the one-sided image conveyed by the media: “The emphasis in the media is always on how conservative we are, how we follow strict gender separation.” Yet there are many other aspects one could choose to highlight.

Islamic reform movement with gender segregation

The Ahmadiyya regards itself as an Islamic reform movement. It was founded in 1889 in British India by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who called himself the Messiah. The largest Ahmadiyya communities continue to exist in Pakistan and India. In 1974, however, tens of thousands of Ahmadis were forced to leave Pakistan after the state declared them non-Muslims. They are still not recognised as Islamic by any Muslim authority and are mostly seen as a sect.

Ahmadiyya communities exist in most countries. Many of them maintain good relations with the world of politics and the media. In Germany, the Ahmadiyya is the only Muslim organisation to enjoy the same legal status as that of the established Christian churches – even if only in Hesse and Hamburg.

But the much vaunted openness of the Ahmadiyya obviously has its limits. German Ahmadiyya Muslims charged with registering conference delegates sit in front of their laptops. Some of them lower their eyes when faced with a female visitor, refusing to look at them directly, even when conversing – an attitude that confuses some guests.


Amnesty International calls on China to end campaign forcing mostly Muslims into ‘re-education camps’

china muslimsWASHINGTON – Amnesty International is demanding China end its campaign of “systematic repression” and reveal the whereabouts of nearly 1 million predominantly Muslim people who have been “arbitrarily detained” in the country’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

The organization released a report Sunday night that includes interviews with more than 100 people outside of China whose relatives reportedly have been tortured, detained, or forced into “re-education camps” from a rural region of northwest China, known as the XUAR.

The human rights group called on world leaders to stop the Chinese government’s “vicious campaign against ethnic minorities.”

“Governments across the world must hold the Chinese authorities to account for the nightmare unfolding in the XUAR,” Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s East Asia Director, said in a statement released Sunday with the report.

Even before Amnesty’s report, the plight of the Uighur had captured the attention of some Republicans in Congress.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., have urged the Trump administration to sanction the Chinese government, as well as any private companies engaged in or complicit with the human rights violations in the XUAR region. They said the Chinese government has created a “high-tech police state” in XUAR that allows for widespread, intrusive spying on citizens there.

China’s forgotten legacy of Islam

Uyghur Life Endures in Kashgar's Old CityACCORDING to traditional Chinese Muslim narratives, the earliest Chinese contact with Islam was reported to be some years after Prophet Muhammad’s passing, when His companion, Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas (674), and three others travelled to China.

This was documented by accomplished Chinese Muslim scholar Liu Sanjie and his son, the famed expounder of Sufi metaphysics, Liu Zhi (1739).

Other major Muslim personalities who made an impact on the cultural legacy of Islam in Chinese history include Syed Umar Shams al-Din (Sayyid al-Ajall) (1279). He was said to be the 27th generation of Prophet Muhammad’s descendent and a highly regarded Muslim official during the Yuan Dynasty.

He was appointed imperial minister of finance, as recorded by Marco Polo in the 13th century. Sayyid al-Ajall was subsequently tasked with governing Yunnan and was described by one contemporary historian to have brought “civilisation” to Yunnan.

Sayyid al-Ajall not only propagated Islam through his words and deeds, but also promoted the praiseworthy elements of the indigenous tradition that were compatible with Islam’s teachings. He strengthened the solidarity of the community through the establishment of Confucius schools.

During the Ming Dynasty, Muslims gained unprecedented acceptance at the highest level.

Islam’s prominence in this period is perhaps best encapsulated in the One Hundred Words of Praise by Emperor Hongwu (1398), founder of Ming Dynasty in 1368.

It was during the Qing period, however, that saw the emergence of Chinese Muslim theologians, metaphysicians and thinkers who created a distinctive philosophical school, later named the “Han Kitab” tradition.

Han Kitab sought to Islamise Confucian thought without rejecting the praiseworthy elements of the Confucian tradition, which had begun with Wang Daiyu (1660) who was regarded as a saint during the Qing period.


Why Christians Need to Support Women’s Rights and Religious Freedom in the Muslim World

MUSLIM BRITAlthough women’s rights and religious freedom are not commonly associated with one another in the world of the 1.6 billion Muslims, there is a correlation that must be uncovered.

According to Women and Religious Freedom by Nazila Ghanea, inherent in religious freedom is the right to believe or not believe as one’s conscience leads, and live out one’s beliefs openly, peacefully, and without fear.

Freedom of religion or belief is an expansive right that includes the freedoms of thought, conscience, expression, association, and assembly. For the Muslim world, the Quran reads in Sura 2:256, “Let there be no compulsion in religion.”

Individuals must not be forced to follow a literal interpretation of religious teachings and traditions. Faith under force is invalid and ingenuine. Therefore, it is never in the public’s interest to force belief on individuals, regardless of gender, and restrict their right to question, explore and fulfill their purpose.

In fact, the research shows that women can contribute to greater peace and prosperity of a society when they are free to choose to exercise their own free will and belief (see here).


Can Islamist moderates remake the politics of the Muslim world?

0917-musl-mod-women-tunisiaThe era of political Islam appears to be waning in some regions. But as some Islamists broaden their appeal, there’s an opportunity to increase our understanding of the nuances of Islam in politics.

Alaa Faroukh insists he is the future. After nearly a decade in the Muslim Brotherhood, he says that he has finally found harmony between his faith and politics, not as a hardcore Islamist, but as a “Muslim democrat.”

“We respect and include minorities, we fight for women’s rights, we respect different points of view, we are democratic both in our homes and in our politics – that is how we honor our faith,” Mr. Faroukh says.

The jovial psychologist with a toothy smile, who can quote Freud as easily as he can recite the Quran, is speaking from his airy Amman clinic, located one floor below the headquarters of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, the very movement he left.

“The time of divisive politics of older Islamists is over, and everyone in my generation agrees,” says the 30-something Faroukh. “The era of political Islam is dead.”

Faroukh is symbolic of a shift sweeping through parts of the Arab world. From Tunisia to Egypt to Jordan, many Islamist activists and some established Islamic organizations are adopting a more progressive and moderate tone in their approach to politics and governing. They are reaching out to minorities and secular Muslims while doing away with decades-old political goals to impose their interpretation of Islam on society.


A shift in Islam – and beyond

0924 upfront dupfront demoracyWhat is the right balance between a living faith that embraces the changing times and the religious traditions and doctrines that are often millenniums old?

Taylor Luck’s cover story this week appears to be about a shift within Islam. From Jordan to Tunisia, Taylor sees seeds of political moderation taking root. The cataclysmic failure of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, together with broader trends in globalization, is prompting a rethink among many Islamic political activists. They are seeing that women’s rights, religious tolerance, and other democratic ideals can be a winning combination.

Yet the story also hints at a deeper and more universal question that faces not only Islam, but also Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and the core views of many other faiths. What is the right balance between a living faith that embraces the changing times and the religious traditions and doctrines that are often millenniums old?

Most readers of Taylor’s story will surely cheer the changes now affecting Islam. Women’s rights and the expansion of civil liberties are essential elements of human progress. But change the focal distance, and the comfortable acceptance of cultural change in some distant place can become more unsettling closer to home. If modern cultural forces are bringing a welcome breeze of enlightenment to Islam, then why are such forces sometimes seen as threatening religious traditions in other places?