Why Islamophobia Matters to You: Support Your Muslim Neighbor

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Five years as a Christian missionary in Asian Kazakhstan was a game changer for Steve Slocum, altering forever his view of Muslims and his understanding of Islam. Today, with anti-Muslim sentiment at an all time high, Mr. Slocum is on a mission to dispel rumors and myths about Muslims and to shed light on Islam’s peaceful mainstream in his debut book “Why Do They Hate Us? Making Peace with the Muslim World,” and through his work with SalaamUSA, a nonprofit he founded in 2018.

With the release of his debut book, Slocum takes a stand against Islamophobia and encourages his readers to see through the rising anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. and beyond. By taking the spotlight off the extremists, Slocum instead exposes the heart of the everyday Muslim through Christian outreach and clears up common misconceptions about jihad, Sharia law and the role of women in Islam.

When Slocum returned from his missionary work in 1997, he resumed his engineering career, but became uncomfortable with the growing animosity towards Muslims. “When 9/11 happened, just like everyone else, I was traumatized,” said Slocum. “Having experienced the generosity and hospitality of the Muslim Kazak culture, I couldn’t fathom Muslim radicals flying packed airliners into skyscrapers filled with people.”

After 9/11, the world became more fearful of Muslims, and the current political climate has only exacerbated the issue, culminating in the rise of horrific hate crimes like the New Zealand Mosque shooting. “I believe many Americans have never healed from the trauma of 9/11. Others have misconceptions about Islam fed by media coverage of extremists,” Slocum added.

Most Americans don’t even know a Muslim, and 55% say they know “little or nothing” about Islam, according to SalaamUSA. “In this void, Americans’ opinions about Islam are shaped by the media, political rhetoric, and religious bias,” said Slocum.

“Islamophobia is a present and rising force in the West.” says D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer at Midwest Book Review. “(Slocum) takes a stand against this prejudice by advocating a different approach to not just tolerating Muslims, but getting to know them on a personal level. In this case, familiarity does not breed contempt. It leads to understanding.”

FULL ARTICLE (AND INVITATION!) FROM PATCH 

When religious beliefs become evil: 4 signs

(from 2013))

by John Blake, CNN

religious-fanaticism_gg63178989(CNN) – An angry outburst at a mosque. The posting of a suspicious YouTube video. A friendship with a shadowy imam.

Those were just some of the signs that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, accused of masterminding the Boston Marathon bombings, had adopted a virulent strain of Islam that led to the deaths of four people and injury of more than 260.

But how else can you tell that someone’s religious beliefs have crossed the line? The answer may not be as simple you think, according to scholars who study all brands of religious extremism. The line between good and evil religion is thin, they say, and it’s easy to make self-righteous assumptions.

“When it’s something we like, we say it’s commitment to an idea; when it’s something we don’t like, we say it’s blind obedience,” said Douglas Jacobsen, a theology professor at Messiah College in Pennsylvania.

Yet there are ways to tell that a person’s faith has drifted into fanaticism if you know what to look and listen for, say scholars who have studied some of history’s most horrific cases of religious violence.

“There are a lot of warning signs all around us, but we usually learn about them after a Jim Jones or a David Koresh,” said Charles Kimball, author of “When Religion Becomes Evil.”

Here are four warning signs:

1. I know the truth, and you don’t.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CNN 

Muslim, Jewish Leaders Team up to Foster Religious Understanding

muslim-jew-1200x600Although the site is remote, it has plenty of symbolism: Beginning this Sunday, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders from some 15 countries will meet in the southern Italian city of Matera, one of Europe’s 2019 cultural capitals, to take part in the Jewish European Islamic Summit. The leaders are laying the groundwork that will allow them to speak out together more strongly on the issues affecting them.

“I think the project, in this particular arrangement, is rather unique. It is a tender blossom that must be nurtured and that deserves further support,” Tarafa Baghajati tells DW. Baghajati, a civil engineer from Vienna, is one of Austria’s more prominent imams. Together with others, the 58-year-old founded the Initiative of Austrian Muslims (IMÖ) in 1999. He was also involved in the creation of Platform Christians and Muslims, founded in 2006. He will be taking part in the summit in Matera.

Into the future, side by side

The project is indeed unique. In Europe, generally, Jewish and Muslim leaders often only appear together at public events hosted by politicians, at three-way dialogues between Christians, Jews and Muslims, or at interfaith conferences.

But three years ago, another group was founded: the Muslim Jewish Leadership Council (MJLC). It was established when a total of 14 European Jewish and Muslim leaders met in Vienna at the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, known as KAICIID.

At first, the MJLC was a small group. Notably, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), was a member from the start. Over the course of several meetings, mutual trust grew and a true exchange began. The MJLC organized the conference in Matera.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WIRE (IN)

In Ethiopia, religious extremism fans the flames of ethnic division

RTX1MR5AEthiopian Christians took to the streets after morning mass on Sunday to protest multiple attacks on Ethiopian Orthodox churches in the country.

The protests were mainly centered in the Amhara region and parts of Addis Ababa, and follow a year-long spate of attacks on both Orthodox and Protestant churches in the country. Protestors are demanding an end to what they view as “a planned and orchestrated attack on the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church”, according to a report on Borkena.com.

  • Thousands protested despite church organisations announcing on Friday that the action was postponed in favour of dialogue.
  • Diaspora communities are also planning a similar protest on 19 September in four North American cities.

Like many such issues in Ethiopia, the attacks on houses of worship have taken an increasingly ethno-nationalist form. The growing religious violence has raised fears of politically-instigated extremism pitting the largely Christian population (60%) and Muslim populations (35%) against each other.

  • Since July 2018, over 30 churches have been destroyed, most of them in Jijiga, the capital of the Somali region.
  • In August 2018, BBC Amharic reported that seven priests had been killed and seven churches burnt in Jijiga, according to a report by BBC Amharic.
  • Two attacks in March and April 2019 in Jijiga left 12 people dead, while five churches were attacked in Sidama in July, resulting in three deaths.

Political interests and fake news

On 9 February, 10 churches belonging to eight different Christian denominations were destroyed in Southern Ethiopia after fake reports that mosques had been attacked in Durame, a town in south-east Ethiopia.

  • The next day, two mosques were attacked in Amhara after unconfirmed reports indicated that scrap paper from a Muslim wedding’s decorations included desecrated images of St. Mary. A third mosque was burnt a few days later.
  • “The act is a deliberate move by those who want to use religion to wreak havoc in the country,” the Amhara Media Agency quoted Islamic Council secretary general Sheikh Mohammed Hassan after the attacks.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE AFRICA REPORT 

Who is a ‘Muslim American?’

49fcc0f92e234e50b33d2d4c96c3e719_18I am a Muslim. I am also a US citizen. Am I a ‘Muslim American?’

I recently read two very informed and informative pieces on Al Jazeera on the situation of “Muslim Americans.” One was very critical and the other, quite complimentary. Both authors of these two short essays were making important and cogent points. I did not think I had to take side with one or the other. They were both making valid points.

In one of those articles, I read about “the political impotence of the Muslim American community,” in which Ali Al-Arian argued: “Today prominent Muslim American figures and organisations stifle the spirit of political resistance in our community.” In the other, Abbas Barzegar countered: “Actually, American Muslims are at the centre of the resistance,” further telling us: “Despite challenges inside and outside the community, Muslim Americans have stood up to Islamophobia and the far right.”

I always read these pieces with obvious interest and a bit of curiosity for I wonder who gets to be this thing they keep calling “Muslim American?” In between their learned exchanges I kept asking myself a question they were both taking for granted.

Who is a “Muslim American?” I am a Muslim. I am also a US citizen. Am I a “Muslim American?” Yes, no, maybe – and if so in what particular sense? When they say “our community” who exactly is the member of this community? Are they all Americans who profess to be Muslims, or those who congregate at certain types of mosques? The question at some point becomes quite existential. 

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA

EVANGELICALS AND ISLAMOPHOBIA: Critical Voices and Constructive Proposals

The link below is to a pdf file of a magazine produced by Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California.  This evangelical institution has been at the forefront of a dialogue that is largely unknown and unheralded by the mainstream media – a lively and fruitful dialogue between Muslims and evangelicals.  It stands as a counterpoint to the assumption made by many that evangelicals as a whole are Islamophobic to the extreme.

Please read these articles then spread the word.  Not all evangelicals fit the stereotype.

Inter-religious meeting in a church

LINK TO MAGAZINE 

4 Ways Muslims’ Religious Freedom Fight Now Sounds Familiar to Evangelicals

92050Religious freedom for Muslims in America has become a significant issue in recent years, as Asma Uddin details in her book When Islam Is Not a ReligionWe have seen campaigns in various communities to block the construction of mosques, and spikes in vandalism and harassment against Muslims. (Read CT’s interview with Uddin here.)

The campaigns rest on claims that American Muslims incubate terrorism or plan to impose Sharia law, and that globally “Islam hates us,” as President Trump has said. Evangelical Christians help lead these campaigns. Anti-mosque rallies have featured sermons by pastors and hymn singing by demonstrators. Polls show white evangelicals “are more likely than any other Christian group to have low respect for Muslims,” reports Fuller Seminary professor Matthew Kaemingk.

I have written on religious liberty and advocated it in courts and legislatures for 25 years. The majority of my cases have involved Christian individuals or organizations. I want to explain why evangelical Christians have a stake in protecting the religious freedom of Muslims.

Above all, Christians should affirm everyone’s religious freedom as an aspect of human dignity: Every soul must be free to seek and respond to God. To affirm that, you do not have to say that all beliefs are true. You simply affirm that true faith can come only from God convicting the heart, not from government pressure. And the prerogative to judge souls belongs to God, not government.

Religious freedom for everyone rests also in the second great commandment, to love our neighbors as ourselves. We must treat others as we would wish to be treated. Jesus’s moral call is to identify with the neighbor.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIANITY TODAY