Pakistan: Christians and Muslims commemorate 800th anniversary of meeting between St Francis and Sultan

1547598434YEbClpnGgPjD1Vh9X3S6oFazi7wtHs.pngTo commemorate the historic encounter between St Francis of Assisi with the Sultan of Egypt, AL-Kamil in the year 1219, Christians and Muslims held a special ceremony launch a year of events to promote tolerance, dialogue and a common commitment to peace.

The National Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism, of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Pakistan, organised the meeting with eminent Muslim scholars to inaugurate the activities that, in 2019, will commemorate the event in Pakistan 800 years ago, in the name of Islamic-Christian dialogue.

Franciscan Sebastian Shaw, Archbishop of Lahore and President of the Commission, presided over the ceremony, held on January 12 in Lahore. Fr Francis Nadeem, Custodian of the Capuchin Friars in Pakistan, Executive Secretary of the Commission also lead the event. Franciscans, nuns, priests, lay people and eminent Muslim scholars from Sialkot, Gujranwala and Islamabad came Lahore for the occasion.

Fr Nadeem said, the two great leaders, Francis and Al-kamil, “spoke up for peace and tolerance amid the atmosphere of war and conflict during the crusades. They gave an example of interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding.”

At the beginning of the ceremony a painting was unveiled that depicts the encounter between St Francis of Assisi and Al-Kamil, while the doves were released, symbolizing the hope of spreading the message of peace in Pakistan and especially in the areas in which there are religious and political conflicts.

Capuchin Friar Shahzad Khokher OFM Cap then presented the background, the historical context and the significance of this historical meeting, and Archbishop Shaw encouraged everyone present to “be ambassadors of peace, inspired by the example shown by these great leaders”. “I admire the passion and courage of Francis of Assisi, who wanted to go to the Sultan during the war”, he said, reiterating that “this event drives us all to live in peace, harmony, tolerance and solidarity.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM INDCATHOLICNEWS

The Riz Test: how Muslims are misrepresented in film and TV

file-20190121-100261-1717ceg

In a speech to the UK’s House of Commons in March 2017, actor and rapper Riz Ahmed, a Muslim, delivered a message about the importance of diversity and representation in the media:

What people are looking for is a message that they belong. Every time you see yourself it’s a message that you matter, that you’re part of the national story.

But when it comes to the “national story”, the one about Muslims is pretty grim. The pressing issue of Islamophobia is both fuelled and defined by the misrepresentation and stereotyping of Muslims in the media. Instead of challenging the images of the “oppressed” Muslim woman, or the violent Middle Eastern man that propagate our media, mainstream films often reinforce them. But films are also platforms with the potential to create change through alternative narratives. Our visual culture can play a crucial role in the way we understand the world. So the question is, what do our visual platforms tell us about our cultural perceptions of Muslims? In other words, how are Muslims represented in our stories?


Read more: It’s not just about race and gender – religious stereotypes need tackling too


With backgrounds in education research and tech respectively, Sadia Habib and Shaf Choudry have kickstarted a project that not only asks this question, but also strives to offer evidence-based answers. In an attempt to quantify the representation of Muslims, the duo has coined what they call the Riz Test. Inspired by the Bechdel test, (which challenges viewers to consider the way women are represented in whatever they happen to be watching) and Riz Ahmed’s speech, Habib and Choudry use five points to measure the depiction of Muslims in films and TV shows.

In their own words, the Riz Test: “is a project to measure the portrayal of Muslims in film and TV. What’s new is that we’re creating a data set that measures how poorly Muslims are represented.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CONVERSATION

Muslims cast votes for self-rule in Mindanao

st_20190122_rdvote_4567781More than 2.8 million Muslims cast their votes yesterday in a referendum meant to carve out their own territory in the restive southern part of the Philippines and end nearly half a century of separatist violence in a region plagued by poverty and Islamist extremism.

A clear “yes” vote is widely expected despite opposition from a number of Muslim politicians who have refused to cede power to a new political entity that will control a third of Mindanao, the Philippines’ second-biggest island.

The vote caps years of turbulence as the government in Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the main rebel group, tried to hammer out a peace deal to end the violence that had left over 120,000 dead in its wake and displaced some two million people.

MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim told CNN Philippines: “If there is no manipulation, no intimidation, there will be overwhelming approval.”

The results are expected to be out by Friday.

Security officials said that the referendum was uneventful overall despite reports of “flying voters” and harassment of poll officials.

“There’s zero casualty. There’s no violence… It went well. There’s no problem. It’s orderly,” Major-General Cirilito Sobejana, the commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, told reporters.

The referendum seeks to rally support behind a law signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last July that will create a self-administered, parliamentary region known as the Bangsamoro, or “nation of Moros”, by 2022.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE STAITS TIMES (SINGAPORE)

Tolerance-plus: Pope in Abu Dhabi will build on relations with Muslims

imageWhen Pope Francis visits Abu Dhabi Feb. 3-5, he will visit a land where interreligious tolerance is mandated by law; while Catholics in the United Arab Emirates count their blessings for that, the pope is expected to nudge for something more.

Tolerance is praiseworthy, and Catholics in the Emirates do not take it for granted. But for Pope Francis, the next step — and often a big one — is mutual knowledge, respect and cooperation.

As the pope said in Bangladesh in late 2017, “respect and shaping a culture of encounter, dialogue and cooperation in the service of our human family” requires “more than mere tolerance. It challenges us to reach out to others in mutual trust and understanding, and so to build a unity that sees diversity not as a threat, but as a potential source of enrichment and growth.”

The Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia cares for the almost 1 million Catholics living in the Emirates, Oman and Yemen. The faithful belong to 16 parishes — with Mass offered in a dozen languages in churches, chapels and meeting rooms, sometimes simultaneously.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ANGELUS NEWS 

Virtual reality brings ‘invisible history’ of the outback Muslims who helped build Australia to life

10709490-3x2-700x467The long history of the Australian mosque Ammin Nullah Shamroze has the thick drawl of a person born and bred in the outback. The caretaker of the old mosque in Broken Hill, who goes by the name Bob, is one of the last remaining direct descendants of a Muslim cameleer history that is often forgotten.

“If it weren’t for the cameleers, the country wouldn’t be like it is today,” Mr Shamroze said.

Mr Shamroze, who has lived in Broken Hill most of his life, is part of a small network of those who descended from the cameleers who stayed and are scattered throughout the Australian outback.10709468-3x2-940x627

His father, Shamroze Khan, travelled from his home — most likely Pakistan — in the late 1800s to assist British settlers navigating the country’s hostile interior.

Now, an exhibition at the Islamic Museum of Australia in Melbourne aims to tell the next generation of Australians about the hand the Shamroze family and other Muslims had in building the nation.

The museum’s education director Sherene Hassan said it was part of setting the record straight for a new generation.

“As Australian Muslims, it’s very meaningful for people from the wider community to understand the contributions that Muslims have made to Australia for centuries,” she said.

The Mecca to Marree exhibition uses virtual reality technology to take visitors on a 3D journey from Islam’s ancient inception at Mecca to the site of Australia’s first mosque, built by cameleers in the South Australian outpost of Marree in 1885.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ABC (AUSTRALIA)

How an old, far-right meme about Muslim ‘prayer rugs’ at the border became a Trump tweet

U.S. President Donald Trump sits at his desk during an interview with ReutersOn Friday morning, the President of the United States tweeted about a two-day-old Washington Examiner article with an unsubstantiated claim from one anonymous rancher.

“There’s a lot of people coming in not just from Mexico,” the rancher had told the newspaper. Then, without offering further proof, the rancher said that “people, the general public, just don’t get the terrorist threats of that. That’s what’s really scary. You don’t know what’s coming across. We’ve found prayer rugs out here. It’s unreal. It’s not just Mexican nationals that are coming across.”

Trump quoted the line about prayer rugs, adding: “People coming across the Southern Border from many countries, some of which would be a big surprise.”

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Border rancher: “We’ve found prayer rugs out here. It’s unreal.” Washington Examiner People coming across the Southern Border from many countries, some of which would be a big surprise.

72.6K people are talking about this

The anonymous rancher’s comment about prayer rugs — one that has now been repeated by the president to support his proposed border wall during the partial government shutdown — is similar to the claims of a conspiracy theory that has long been popular with far-right and anti-Muslim figures and publications. And the rumor itself has been invoked to support a larger, debunked claim from a far-right group that Islamic State operatives have established a massive training camp at the border.

It is a claim that conflates an item used by some practicing Muslims with a sign of terrorists — the false implication being that any association with the Islamic faith is itself worthy of suspicion.

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said the meme was “Islamophobic.”

“It exploits the Islamophobia promoted by the president himself,” Hooper told The Washington Post, “and it dog whistles that anything associated with Islam is somehow connected to terrorism.”

“Even if there were prayer rugs at the border, so what? That isn’t any indication of anything expect that there may have been a Muslim trying to cross the border,” he added, noting that Trump is simply “trying to distract from his own legal and political problems.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

Christians worldwide urged to sign letter thanking family of Muslim man who died saving churchgoers

134417_w_700Christians around the world are being urged to sign a letter to the loved ones of a Muslim police officer who sacrificed his life to save hundreds of churchgoers in Egypt.

Persecution watchdog group International Christian Concern published the letter online Wednesday, addressed to the family of Major Mustafa Abid, who was killed on duty on Jan. 5.

Abid, along with other officers, was responding to a bomb discovered on the roof of the Virgin Mary and Father Seifin Church in Nasr City, near Cairo, when it detonated and killed him, injuring three others.

The incident took place a day before the Coptic Christian Christmas Eve, and as International Christian Concern noted, fears are that hundreds of Christians, including children, would have been killed if the expositions had gone off as planned.

“By signing onto this letter, I wish to express my highest praise, deepest gratitude, and heartfelt sympathy for your injuries and loss incurred while following your conscience and your duty on Jan. 5, 2019. Your actions ensured that hundreds of Egyptian men, women, and children were not unjustly murdered during a deadly attack on the Virgin Mary and Father Seifin Church,” begins the letter which is also addressed to members of the bomb squad.

“I wish to thank the members of the bomb squad and various police officers who put themselves in danger for the sake of others. I pray for complete healing for all who were injured. I also join in mourning with the family of Major Mustafa Abid and express my heartfelt sorrow for your tragic loss,” it continues.

“The Bible says, ‘Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ I believe that Major Abid’s actions demonstrated that kind of love, and I honor him for it.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIAN POST 

Black Muslims account for a fifth of all U.S. Muslims, and about half are converts to Islam

US-RELIGION-ISLAM-EID

This is one of an occasional series of posts on black Americans and religion.

Even in the early 20th century, when Islam had little presence in most parts of the United States, the religion had a foothold in many black urban communities. Today, black people (not including those of Hispanic descent or mixed race) make up 20% of the country’s overall Muslim population, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey.

Still, Muslims make up only a small portion of the overall black population in the United States. The vast majority of black Americans are either Christian (79%) or religiously unaffiliated (18%), while about 2% of black Americans are Muslim.ft_19.01.09_blackmuslims_converts

About half of black Muslims (49%) are converts to Islam, a relatively high level of conversion. By contrast, only 15% of nonblack Muslims are converts to Islam, and just 6% of black Christians are converts to Christianity.

Black Muslims are like black Americans overall in that they have high levels of religious commitment. For instance, large majorities of both black Muslims and black Christians say religion is very important to them (75% and 84% respectively). This is a higher level of commitment than for nonblack Muslims (62%). Black Muslims are also more likely than other Muslims in the U.S. to perform the five daily prayers (55% vs. 39%).

FULL ARTICLE FROM PEW RESEARCH 

What Would Jesus Do? 7 Things From A Muslim’s Perspective

post-121-wwjd-braceletWhen faced with certain situations, Christians often use the phrase ‘What Would Jesus Do’ as a reminder to them to behave in a manner that reflects their love for Jesus Christ. The phrase’ What Would Jesus Do’, or WWJD, can be traced as far back as the 19thcentury, when the evangelical Charles Spurgeon used it in his sermon, and in turn borrowed the concept from the early church’s Imitatio Christi (imitation of Christ). In its simplest form, it simply means following in the footsteps of Jesus, loving God and the neighbor, helping the poor and the needy. So it is not that hard to imagine what would Jesus do if he returned today.

There is a beautiful lecture by Robert Jeffrey at the Methodist Sacramental Fellowship Public Meeting during the Methodist Conference of 2006 in Edinburgh titled “Imitating Christ”, which goes in great depth as to what imitating Christ really means.

Muslims believe Jesus will return in the end of times to bring peace and justice to the world.

Only God knows what would Jesus do if he returned today. This list is purely my imagination. I am pulling a David Letterman and going in reverse order (except this is a list of 7, not 10).

#7: Tell TV Evangelicals and the mega churches to stop commercializing his name-just the same way he did to the money-making machines of his times.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS

What I learned teaching Islamic studies in Texas

d27oiqyirvfdvb72fmjlmjunda(RNS) — As far as I know, I was the first Sikh hired to teach Islamic studies at an American university. I loved every minute of it, especially because my employer, Trinity University, was located in my beloved hometown of San Antonio, Texas.

My first real job also shed new light for me on what it’s like to be an underrepresented minority in this country. Most Americans, in short, don’t know who Sikhs are. Typically they presume we are Muslims, mostly as a result of Islam being racialized in the past few decades: It’s not just a faith, it’s also a look, and the resulting stereotypes square with the appearance of many Sikh men — brown skin, turban, beard. That’s me.

Of course I had long since learned what “looking Muslim” meant in post-9/11 America. I knew firsthand the violence that came with misguided understandings of Islam, and as a Sikh especially, I felt compelled to do something about it. It’s precisely what sent me down the path of studying religious communities and addressing the racism they experience. I decided to make allyship with Muslims and those affected by anti-Muslim hate a centerpiece of my life.

Because my path seemed so obvious to me, I never considered my field of study to be odd. Only when I began interviewing for jobs did I realize that some might find it strange for a Sikh to teach Islam. “How can you teach a religion you don’t even practice?” people would ask, including the president of a university during a job interview.

I wanted to point out to the president that the scholars in his own religion department, like most of the religion scholars I knew, did not practice the faiths they taught. It’s considered normal for white scholars to be interested in traditions other than their own. I didn’t alert him to his bias — I wanted the job, after all. But ever since I’ve wished I could have asked why it was problematic for me to express the same interest — because I’m a person of color? Because I identify as a religious minority?

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE