A new play, ‘Christmas Mubarak,’ mixes Christian and Muslim stories of Jesus’ birth

47119780_1969438653148464_6465564224604078080_o-1024x745CHICAGO (RNS) — The scene is familiar from many Nativity scenes arranged at this time of year: the Virgin Mary, cradling the newborn Jesus.

Then, the baby speaks, defending his mother’s innocence and declaring he has been appointed as a prophet.

That might come as a surprise to Christians in the audience of the new play “Christmas Mubarak.”

“Christmas Mubarak” premiered last weekend in Silk Road Rising’s basement theater at the Chicago Temple, home to First United Methodist Church. The theater company was formed after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, to shape conversation about Asian and Middle Eastern Americans and became the church’s company in residence several years later.

With an ensemble cast of four playing all the characters and adding scholarly asides where Muslim traditions interpret stories differently, the show is — in its own words — the story of “a love affair” between Islam and Jesus, who is viewed as a prophet by Muslims.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE 

Advertisements

Christian, Muslim young people spread pre-Christmas cheer in Beirut

beirutBEIRUT, Lebanon – On a gloomy, rainy Saturday morning in Beirut, 92-year-old Julia enthusiastically greeted her visitors, Christian and Muslim youth, who had come to set up a Christmas tree in her modest apartment.

“Welcome. I love you,” she said to her guests, who each greeted the beaming woman with kisses before breaking out in a chorus of “Jingle Bells.”

Julia, a Maronite Catholic, was one of 10 beneficiaries Dec. 8 of a Christmas tree decoration project for poor elderly that brought together Lebanese volunteers from the Knights of Malta, a Catholic organization, and “Who is Hussein,” a Muslim Shiite organization, as well as Girl Guides associated with the local St. Vincent de Paul.

Widowed for 40 years, Julia had spent her life as a homemaker. She lives with her 66-year-old unmarried son, Nicholas, who has difficulty finding work in his trade as a house painter.

There are no government-sponsored services for the needy in Lebanon. Julia is one of the beneficiaries of the Knights of Malta Lebanon’s Elderly Guardianship Program, in which the order’s youth volunteers visit the homes of elderly on a monthly basis.

And on this day, Julia was gleefully basking in the royal treatment, seated near her street-level balcony window, as her visitors enthusiastically demonstrated teamwork: assembling the tree, untangling and attaching lights and hanging brilliantly colored ornaments, singing “Gloria in Excelsis Deo.”

“Jesus Christ called us to bring joy to people, to help make their lives better,” 17-year-old Girl Guide Lea Chalhoub told Catholic News Service as she decorated Julia’s tree. “Lebanon is a country of Muslims and Christians living together, and so we need to work hand-in-hand to build a better society.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CRUX 

‘America has changed Islam’: A woman runs for the board of Houston’s largest Muslim organization

houstonIn a front room of the Masjid at Taqwa, a Sugar Land mosque, Sarah Alikhan watched M.J. Khan film a Facebook video endorsing her.

Khan, 68, isn’t super-fluent with Facebook, but as a former member of Houston City Council and the president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, he’s arguably the most powerful political figure in Houston’s Muslim community. It was Khan who recruited Alikhan, who’s in her early 40s, to become the first woman ever to run for the shura, or governing board, of ISGH, one of the largest Muslim organizations in the U.S.

If elected director of Southwest Zone on Sunday,Dec. 9 she’d be the first woman to have a vote on the 50-year-old organization’s board — and thus, a direct say in the big-picture strategic decisions that can involve millions of dollars. Amid the fierce campaign, Alikhan’s headscarfed presence is a very visible sign of change.

“Here,” she said, after Khan joined her at a table. She took his cell phone and, smiling — she always seems to be smiling — handled a Facebook friend request for him.

Faizan Atiq, the incumbent director of ISGH’s Southwest Zone: “We are still far from where we want to see our organization – BUT on the right track.”

Across the U.S., women have been moving into spots with actual power in Muslim organizations such as ISGH, not just working behind the scenes. In 2006, Ingrid Mattson became the first woman to serve as president — the very top leader — of the Islamic Society of North America, an umbrella group that includes ISGH.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE 

Retired soldier educating South about Islam

1FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — When Jason Criss Howk’s Army career came to an end in 2015, he thought he’d spend his days teaching and fishing.

But a wake-up call at a Pinehurst library changed those plans. And while Howk does teach, he’s found a new mission, too: Explaining the Middle East, Islam and Muslim culture to a population that has little experience, but strong opinions on those topics.

At times, it has been a combative undertaking.

Howk has spoken at small rural churches across the Southeast and has, on occasion, had to be escorted to his car by church leaders at the end of the night.

But that hasn’t stopped his one-man mission to better educate America and, in the process, help promote tolerance.

His efforts have expanded since he retired. In 2017, he published “The Quran: A Chronological Modern English Interpretation” through Old Stone Press. The book is intended for audiences that have little familiarity with Islam, the Quran or Muslim culture.

And earlier this year, he launched a podcast called “We’re Just Talking About It.”

Howk’s interest in Islam is tied to his experiences as a soldier.

He served as an enlisted paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division in the 1990s and returned as an officer a decade later.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ARMY TIMES 

Minnesota author, refugee, hopes to inspire kids

5c07f4a17aeae.image

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Habso Mohamud was born in a refugee camp in Kenya.

While living in the camp, Mohamud traveled with her grandmother to traditional villages and places where nomads lived. Her grandmother wanted her and her siblings to see “the other side of the world.”

Because to Mohamud’s grandmother, they were lucky — they had shelter and knew where their next meal would come from.

“My grandmother would take us and show us you could have it worse. Be appreciative — at a very young age that’s what I learned,” Mohamud told the St. Cloud Times.

Mohamud lived in the refugee camp until she was 10. Now 24, Mohamud lives in St. Cloud. She attended St. Cloud schools and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at St. Cloud State University. She also works for the UNESCO Center of Peace and recently published a children’s book.

In her book, “It Only Takes One Yes,” Mohamud hopes to inspire children — especially young girls — to see themselves as being able to make a difference in the world.

“I want to make sure kids have a voice,” she said. “But I want to do it in my community because this community needs me.”

Despite working for the United Nations, Mohamud chooses to live in St. Cloud.

“I love it here. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I came back,” she said. “I want to give back. Without this country and without the opportunities that were presented to me, I wouldn’t be who I wanted to be.

“And this is the country where you can be anything you want to be in this world.”

Mohamud’s parents lived in Somalia before fleeing the country for Kenyan refugee camps during the civil war in Somalia. Her mother never finished high school but her father went to college and was a medic in the military.

Mohamud received an education in the camp but said it was very basic and without a set curriculum because the population changed so frequently.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE SIOUX CITY JOURNAL 

Attacking Muslims is wrong path for Republicans. Be like Bush, celebrate religious liberty

love america

If you feel the need to attack Muslims to to win an election, you’re not worthy of a seat in office. Both Bush presidents modeled better values.

During this election cycle that felt never-ending, too many conservative candidates steered their campaigns in a dangerous anti-Muslim direction. They spewed nasty rhetoric on the campaign trail, damaging the image of the Republican Party and alienating voters.

Muslim Advocates released a report in October detailing the increased amount of anti-Muslim rhetoric in campaign messaging. It found at least 80 campaigns this cycle used shameless anti-Muslim rhetoric. Of 73 races where a candidate’s party affiliation could be positively identified, 71 of the campaign messaging supported Republican candidates. Half of the candidates were running for Congress, and 37 competed in the general election.

This isn’t a new development. There have been anti-Muslim conspiracies looming on the fringes for years. Some candidates across the country keep taking the bait. By doing so, they alienate faith-friendly voters who value diversity and cherish their neighbors who follow Islam.

Take GOP Reps. Duncan Hunter of California and Dave Brat of Virginia.

To distract voters from his indictments, Hunter used anti-Muslim messaging to portray his Democratic opponent as a threat. Ammar Campa-Najjar is a former Obama official of Mexican and Palestinian descent. Hunter accused Campa-Najjar of being receptive to sharia law and looking to “infiltrate” Congress. And Hunter won — even though Campa-Najjar is a devout Christian who denounces extremist beliefs.

FULL ARTICLE FROM USA TODAY

The Effects of the Muslim Ban One Year Later

By Manar Waheed, Legislative and Advocacy Counsel, ACLU
DECEMBER 4, 2018 | 1:45 PM

Exactly one year ago today, the Supreme Court allowed the full implementation of web18-cbpofficerimmigrationline-1160x768Trump’s Muslim ban. It would be months still before it heard oral arguments in Hawaii v. Trump and issued its ruling on June 26, allowing the ban to remain in place. But on Dec. 4, 2017, America began to ban millions of Muslims from the United States, even if they have family members, jobs, academic spots, or other compelling connections here, and even if they would otherwise be fully entitled to receive a visa to come here.

This day goes down in the history books, not only as an enormous failure to live up to our values of religious and racial equality, but for the real impact that the ban has on people’s lives. Take Anahita, who never got to say goodbye to her father in Iran before he passed away and did not even get to mourn with her family. Or Nisrin, who was detained during the chaotic implementation of the first Muslim ban simply because of her Sudanese citizenship, although she has lived in the United States for 25 years. Let’s also not forget the numerous students afraid to return home to visit their families because their visas may not be reissued. Or the families now traveling thousands of miles and spending thousands of dollars to simply be able to hug someone they love at a library on the border of Canada and the United States.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ACLU WEBSITE