Patience, sacrifice and zakat: An Islamic response to coronavirus

Muslim communities in the UK have been hard hit, but during Ramadan, the principle of zakat is a source of strength.

Behind the coronavirus death toll numbers are individual stories of trauma and tragedy for family members and friends. 

Among the deceased in the United Kingdom are staff members of the National Health Service (NHS) who have succumbed to the virus.

The fact that they died from the very disease from which they were trying to save others is particularly poignant. Many of the doctors who have been killed by the virus in the UK were experienced medics with decades of service behind them. And many of them were Muslims.

This is an example of the disproportionate effect that the pandemic has had on Muslims. Although Muslims are not synonymous with an ethnic minority, many Muslims are from backgrounds that have been shown to be more vulnerable than others to the virus.

For example, British Muslims are over-represented in the medical field.

But even beyond the NHS, coronavirus seems to have hit the Muslim community in the UK particularly hard. One of the country’s youngest victims, Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab, died at the age of 13 with no family members allowed to be present in his final moments.


Mahershala Ali and Ramy Youssef On Why Islam Is the Key to Acting

By Ramy Youssef

On the new season of Ramy, Mahershala Ali stars as the wise and charismatic Sheik Ali to a lost and confused Ramy Hassan, played by show creator Ramy Youssef. In an excerpt from A24’s quarterly zine, Youssef interviews his co-star about his relationship to Islam, refusing to do sex scenes, and how prayer factors into his acting.

Ramy Youssef: We’ve talked before about the spiritual struggles you had early on in your career over doing certain things you didn’t think you should do onscreen. How’d you come to terms with that?
Mahershala Ali: If you look at Judaism, Islam, maybe some versions of Buddhism, the Sikhs — any time anyone is hard-core practicing those faiths correctly, it feels like anything outside the faith is haram. But as you move further along, as you embrace the faith, get more comfortable in it and understand how you identify as a Muslim, you’re always examining your relationship to anything secular, anything outside of your actual faith. If you grow up Muslim, you probably have more of a natural barometer for what “slacking off” means for you — that middle ground where you’re okay not following something to the tee. Embracing the tenets of Islam that say you will be held accountable for all your actions, that you will be credited for all your positive actions, and you will essentially be called out on all the things you knowingly did wrong and all that, you begin to examine your work — entertainment, storytelling — and anything outside of your faith. And you have to strive to bring that into alignment with not just your religion, but with how your religion informs the way you see the world and what is okay and what is not okay, so that you can have peace.


When it comes to negative stereotypes, I feel your pain — twice! | Opinion

As an American Muslim and a law-enforcement officer, I’ve been drawing scary parallels between the Muslim and law-enforcement communities after the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard all Muslims being painted with a broad brush of criticism and condemnation when only one commits an act of terrorism. Some Americans say things such as: “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslim,” or “Muslims aren’t the problem, it’s the system of Islam,” or “Not enough Muslims speak out against terrorism.” The list goes on and on.

This type of rhetoric is the kind of inappropriate stereotyping that creates division and fear. Sometimes it’s based on pure bigotry. Muslim leaders often say, “There is a very small minority in the Muslim world that commits acts of terrorism,” or “Don’t blame all Muslims for the actions of a few,” or “Muslim leaders across the globe continuously condemn terrorism.”TOP

Besides verbal condemnation of the acts, there’s little or no systematic work done internally by the leadership of the Muslim community to deal with this deadly problem. This, of course, is a major grievance that continues to impact the entire globe which, in turn, fuels the negative stereotyping.

Muslims have reversed the negative stereotyping, and some leaders have started using the same rhetoric against law enforcement: “Police officers are racist.” “Police officers target the black community.” “You can’t say there are only a couple of bad cops. It’s the system that’s racist.”


Can Muslim college students heal divisions in the US?

Amid rising Islamophobia, Muslim students show greater tendencies towards interfaith goodwill, a recent survey suggests.

by Saba Aziz

Musbah Shaheen left war-torn Syria in 2013 to attend college in the United States.

As the then-19-year-old from Homs settled into student life at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, he was often asked about the conflict and life in Syria.


The conversations in hallways, classrooms and cafeteria with professors and fellow classmates also turned into more personal questions about his faith, he said.

“The biggest challenge for me in college was navigating the assumptions that people made about my religion,” Shaheen told Al Jazeera.

Some were surprised that he did not have a beard, others that his sister did not wear a veil or that he ate meat. He felt like an outsider – misunderstood and stereotyped.

US college pluralism story

Musbah Shaheen is currently doing a PhD at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio [Photo courtesy: Musbah Shaheen] 

“I don’t want anyone to feel this way, so I engaged in interfaith dialogue as a student leader, and that shaped my entire work life after college,” the now-26-year-old said.


Attitudes Toward Diversity in 11 Emerging Economies

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, borders around the world have been sealed, presenting challenges for international migrants and asylum seekers. And the virus appears to be fueling the flames of existing ethnic and religious cleavages. But results of a Pew Research Center survey conducted in late 2018 in 11 emerging economies highlights that, even prior to the novel coronavirus outbreak, many countries were grappling with the challenges that changing demographics and diversity bring to their countries – both via immigration and because of existing religious and ethnic cleavages.

Across the 11 countries surveyed, more said their countries are better off thanks to the increasing number of people of different races, ethnic groups and nationalities who live there (median of 42%) than said their country is worse off (22%), and a large minority said these changes make no difference (30%).


Thousands gather Sunday for prayer and protests in Washington

By Michelle BoorsteinSusan SvrlugaFredrick KunkleGregory S. Schneider and Michael Laris June 14, 2020 at 11:46 p.m. EDT

Black Lives Matter Plaza was transformed into a church Sunday morning, with thousands of mostly African American worshipers praying, protesting, kneeling and dancing near the White House after marching from the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

It was one of the largest faith-based events in the 17 days of protests that have consumed the nation’s capital since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis police custody in May, and it was the first big public event organized by black clergy. Organizers said that was because of extra caution in the African American community, which has been hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Mask Required! Safe Social Distancing Enforced,” instructed organizers from regional NAACP branches and Alexandria’s Alfred Street Baptist Church, which traces its roots back to the time of Thomas Jefferson’s presidency. Marchers were spaced out in rows, and marshals frequently paused the flow to keep buffers between them. People bunched up in places but for the most part wore masks, including many with African-style designs.

Alfred Street Pastor Howard-John Wesley said he and other clergy were also waiting for an event infused with prayer — and safety. The Trump administration forcibly removed protesters from the area near Lafayette Square on June 1, ahead of President Trump’s photo opportunity at the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church.


Towson’s Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies seeks to make Baltimore a model religious city

After listening to Dr. Benjamin Sax lecture during a mini-course entitled “Crossroads in Jewish-Christian Dialogue” earlier this month, it’s the turn of a group of mostly senior citizens to speak.

Seated around a dozen or so tables in the library of the Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies in Towson, they are asked to discuss weighty ideas in the context of Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza’s critique of historical religious dogma and doctrine.Ads by TeadsADVERTISING

“Spinoza opened the door to interpreting other religions individually,” Sax, the ICJS Jewish scholar, said of the 17th-century, Jewish-educated philosopher who eventually joined a Mennonite sect. “He talked about the universality of religions and about recognizing an opinion, rather than a fact.”

The attendees were urged to mull over that idea along with many others offered by Sax, with the burning question being what would happen to religious institutions if the masses, a la Spinoza’s philosophy, interpreted sacred tracts on their own.


Watch: Non-Muslims protect Muslims as they offer prayers amid protests in US

Amid growing unrest across the US over the death of George Floyd, a video has emerged on social media where non-Muslims are seen protecting Muslims from the police as they offered namaaz prayers amid protests.

Shared on Twitter by user StanceGrounded, the video – which emerged from one of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests in Brooklyn – shows a large group of people surrounding a group of Muslims to protect them from the New York Police Department (NYPD) as they offer namaaz prayers.

Watch the video hereStanceGrounded@_SJPeace_

My entire heart ❤

Non-Muslims surround Muslims so they can pray safely from the harm of the NYPD during a Black Lives Matter protest in Brooklyn, New York.


We’re in this together 😭

Embedded video

96.6KTwitter Ads info and privacy38.5K people are talking about this

The video instantly garnered lots of attention and love on the internet. Take a look at some of the reactions here:OurDebs@OurDebsDiaryReplying to @_SJPeace_

Beauty amid chaos. “My entire heart.”
❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️98Twitter Ads info and privacySee OurDebs’s other TweetsIrishmike62@irishmike520Replying to @AgnesAlston54 @_SJPeace_

It’s coming. I am hoping we look back at these 4 Trump years as racisms last stand. We got to keep working though, we have a lot that has to be down.250Twitter Ads info and privacy16 people are talking about this


After George Floyd’s death, a groundswell of religious activism

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – George Floyd’s death has triggered a groundswell of outrage and activism by religious leaders and faith-based groups across the United States, reminiscent of what occurred during the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

Conservative and mainstream religious leaders are joining with Black churches, progressive Catholics and Protestants, Jewish synagogues and other faith groups in calling for police reforms and efforts to dismantle racism.

Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes on May 25. The officer has been fired and charged with second-degree murder, but protesters and activists around the world are pushing for deeper change.


U.S. Religious Leaders Helping To Heal Active Trauma In Protests, COVID-19

NEW YORK (AP) — American religious leaders across faiths are grappling with the heavy burden of helping to heal two active traumas: rising civil unrest driven by the police killing of George Floyd and the coronavirus pandemic.

Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders have raised their voices to condemn racial bias in the justice system while discouraging violence in response to the killing of Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck. Those words of solidarity, for many clergy, came as their worship routines remained upended by a virus that has forced them to rely on digital or outdoor gathering.ADVERTISING

At Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, which has provided relief and medical help to demonstrators this week as protests roiled the city, associate pastor Angela T. Khabeb said the shared pain caused by Floyd’s death was exposing the brutal double toll being exacted on people of color.

“There were other pandemics we didn’t always talk about that faced black communities, indigenous, Latinx” before the virus outbreak, Khabeb said, citing “institutionalized racism” and poverty. “And then we layer on COVID-19, which disproportionately affects black, indigenous, Latinx communities.”

Khabeb acknowledged that she felt challenged by the task of tending to her congregation during the current crisis when the latest police killing of a black American had caused “a crisis of my own that’s very personal.”

Among the religious leaders in Minnesota organizing for spiritual care since Floyd’s death was Bernard Hebda, the Catholic archbishop of the Twin Cities. Hebda held a Friday online prayer service “for racial justice and peace” alongside Rev. Erich Rutten, the priest of a historic African American parish in St. Paul. The Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton also traveled to Minneapolis on Thursday, with Jackson speaking at a local Baptist church.

Imam Asad Zaman, the Muslim American Society of Minnesota’s executive director, outlined multiple law enforcement reform proposals in response to Floyd’s death. Zaman noted in an op-ed this week that “the Qur’an teaches us that to save a single life is to save all of humanity.”

But as the frustration sparked by Floyd’s killing scorched dozens of other cities, religious denominations nationwide began speaking out to sympathize with the pain that brought protesters into the streets. White Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with murder in connection with Floyd’s death, which follows the highly-publicized killings of two black Americans this year — Georgian Ahmaud Arbery, shot while running, and Breonna Taylor, shot by police in her Louisville, Kentucky home.

Seven senior members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement calling racism “not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue,” adding: “While it is expected that we will plead for peaceful non-violent protests, and we certainly do, we also stand in passionate support of communities that are understandably outraged.”