Russia’s Muslim Spiritual Administration at odds over ban on interfaith marriages

Russia’s Muslim Spiritual Administration (DUM RF) is facing internal controversy after its Ulema council (advisory body of Muslim scholars) issued a decision banning believers from marrying followers of other religions. The decision — which has no legal implications — has provoked mixed reactions from other Muslim organizations, as well as within the leadership of the DUM itself at both the national and regional levels. While some Muslim jurists maintain that this prohibition has always been in effect, others describe it as a flexible appeal to individual believers.

On November 10, the DUM RF published a decision from its Ulema council on its website, stating that Muslim men should not marry non-Muslim women. As it turns out, this theological conclusion was reached during a meeting that took place a year ago, in November 2019. The decision states that inter-faith marriages “are possible only in certain isolated cases according to the decision of a local mufti, who considers and takes into account all of the circumstances of the particular case in question.” 

The reasoning behind the decision is attributed to the belief that spouses ought to have common life values, including “similarities on questions of religion and spirituality.” 

Commenting on the decision, the Ulema council’s Deputy Chairman, Mufti of Moscow Ildar Alyautdinov, said that the decision was adopted “to preserve national and religious identity, as well as to reduce the number of divorces.” “Often this [marriage to non-Muslims] leads to misunderstandings between family members, children do not receive a proper religious education, and the spiritual foundations of the family weaken,” the Mufti explained. At the same time, he stressed that if a woman is “close to Islam and she respects its cannons,” there are no obstacles to marriage and, moreover, she can even retain another faith. 


Non-Christian faiths welcome Christmas easing of Covid rules

Representatives of faiths that have been unable to gather for religious festivals this year because of the pandemic have welcomed the fact that Christians will not have to experience “the same disappointment and deflation” they did.

The Muslim festivals of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, the Jewish holy days of Passover, Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year) and Yom Kippur, and Diwali festival of lights celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains were among those hit by lockdown restrictions, with people forbidden to worship together or join family and friends to mark the occasions. Easter was also affected last spring.

On Tuesday, Boris Johnson outlined plans for Covid measures to be relaxed so that people could celebrate Christmas together, with as many as three different households allowed to mix for five days over the festive period.

Imam Qari Asim, chair of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, said he was pleased Christians would be able to enjoy “this special time of year, which provides an opportunity for people of all faiths and beliefs to reconnect with family and friends”.

He added: “It is a relief to know that those celebrating Christmas will not endure the same disappointment and deflation that Muslims experienced at the last minute cancellation of Eid celebrations earlier in the year.”


‘They’ve all come to look for America,’ sang Simon and Garfunkel. My extended family too.

Successive waves of immigrants have left their unique marks on what America and its families, look like today. Here’s one example.

Hard as we may try to celebrate today, there’s no getting around how strange and unsettling this Thanksgiving is. Too many seats are empty without the 257,000 we lost to COVID-19 in just months. Others remain jobless or homeless from its fallout.

But on this day designated to celebrate the Pilgrims’ passage to their new American homeland, something else feels broken that will take longer to fix. In this, a nation of immigrants, many are doing hard reckoning. They followed the American dream as the early settlers had done (without visas), expecting the natives to make room for them. They worked to become part of the fabric that binds us, only to now see the rips in it and feel the welcome mat pulled out. Even the ultimate prize of U.S. citizenship is being whittled down by a president who rules by dividing.

Donald Trump came into office touting a border wall, and leaves yelling specious claims of voter fraud, still pointing the finger at minorities. In between he separated children from their parents at the border and caged them, banned people from Muslim countries and froze permanent residence visas.


Can the Netherlands accept a confident Muslim woman running for parliament?

The witch-hunt of Kauthar Bouchallikh, a young Muslim woman, has demonstrated how emboldened racist critiques have become.

Recent weeks have felt particularly difficult for Muslims across the West. 

From Islamophobic policies introduced under the guise of fighting “separatism” by the Macron government in France, to the Austrian government using the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Vienna as an opportunity to attack Muslims, it has been yet another period of unrelenting onslaught.

This all comes when we are coming to the end of Islamophobia Awareness Month, four weeks that should have been spent taking on the bigotry meted out against Muslims and strengthening solidarity.

Similarly, the recent witch-hunt of Kauthar Bouchallikht, a young Parliamentary candidate for the GroenLinks party in the Netherlands, has only demonstrated how emboldened the right has become. 

The 26-year old activist, journalist and soon-to-be politician is being dragged through the Dutch press over unfounded allegations that she is associated with the Muslim brotherhood, and is therefore assumed to be sympathetic to extremism.

Bouchallikht is also being condemned for her role as vice president of the Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organisations (FEMYSO), a group that is being described as another front for the Muslim Brotherhood.

It matters little to the media, politicians and pundits that Kauthar Bouchallikht denies that she is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, that FEMYSO has done the same, or that Bouchallikht already has a long history of participation in and mobilisation of progressive social movements in the country.

What matters, in true islamophobic fashion, is to keep pedalling the false narrative that easily sticks to a hijab-wearing woman of colour.

Muslim women, as always, are the easiest target. And there is rarely, if ever, any accountability expected for those who spread the sexist, racist venom against women like Bouchallikht, so why should a complete lack of evidence impact those making the allegations? She is already guilty by virtue of her birth as a Muslim woman.


‘Muslim Women Are Everything’ Turns the Page on Stereotypes

Dr. Seema Yasmin’s book, born from her frustration with narrow, one-sided narratives about Muslim women, breaks apart tired old tropes.

Francesca Donner

By Francesca Donner

  • Published Nov. 23, 2020Updated Nov. 24, 2020, 11:51 a.m. ET

— Dr. Seema Yasmin, author of “Muslim Women Are Everything”

Tahani Amer, an engineer who grew up in the suburbs of Cairo, endured a string of rejections before she finally secured a job with NASA’s Aeronautical Research program.

Marah Zahalka, Noor Daoud and Mona Ennab — members of the Speed Sisters, an all-female car racing team based in the Palestinian territories — defy expectations with every race they win.

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Gisele Marie Rocha is the unexpected face, in a niqab and burqa, behind Eden Seed, a thrash metal band in Brazil.

Tahani Amer dreamed of becoming an engineer. She is now at NASA.
Tahani Amer dreamed of becoming an engineer. She is now at NASA.Credit…Fahmida Azim

These women are validation of the premise behind Dr. Seema Yasmin’s new book — that Muslim women can be anything. The book, “Muslim Women Are Everything,” was released earlier this year.


PHOTOS: North Side Muslims give back by feeding nearly 40 families affected by COVID-19

SAN ANTONIO – The COVID-19 pandemic has affected several of our friends and neighbors.

And with the recent surge in coronavirus cases in Bexar County, local Muslims on the North Side, Stone Oak area hoped to assure residents they were there to help by hosting a food giveaway on Saturday.

According to Abdul Hakim Hamid, the Imam and Resident Scholar at the Northside Islamic Center of San Antonio (NICSA) the purpose was to ensure families during the holidays were taken care of.

“The purpose was to give back to the community and help out families during these difficult times particularly as Thanksgiving approaches,” Hakim said. “Due to the Pandemic, not only have many people lost their jobs and are having difficulty providing for their families but also due to social distancing, we expect that many families may not be able to gather together this year and we felt that by doing this, it may provide some level comfort and ease.”

Hakim noted the added stress from the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the religious rites to support those in need encouraged this event.

“During this period of difficulty, we firmly believe that it is our responsibility to reach out and help out. Our faith teaches us to look out for one another and to always be of benefit,” he explained. “We have been taught through the teachings of our beloved Prophet Muhammad that ‘the best people are those who are the most beneficial to others’ and this is what prompts and drives us to host events like this.”


‘Islam’ is not in crisis, liberalism is

When the world is facing unprecedented poverty, violence and environmental collapse, it astonishes that one could suggest that Muslims or “Islam” are uniquely in crisis.

Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron declared in an address to the nation that “Islam is a religion that is in crisis today all over the world”. In the same speech, he unveiled a political programme for strengthening laïcité, France’s unique iteration of secularism that stringently restricts religion in the public sphere. Since then, a brutal decapitation of a schoolteacher, the vicious stabbing of two Muslim women and diplomatic spats have reignited global anxieties about the entanglement between Islam and laïcité.

Much has been written about France’s weaponisation of laïcité to discriminate against Muslims and on the history of French liberalism as a rationale for the brutal colonisation of millions of peoples across Asia and Africa – what it called its “mission civilisatrice” (civilising mission). This violence is as much part of French history as its revolutionary triad of liberté, égalité, and fraternité (liberty, equality and fraternity).KEEP

It is only the latter, however, that is ever mentioned as France’s contribution to modernity. There is seldom a reckoning with the dark underbelly of liberalism, and the unparalleled violence that was, and continues to be, meted out to its historic Others. But Muslims – having borne the brunt of French (and other) colonialism, imperialism and racist violence – know it all too well. Indeed, for many, Macron’s call for an “Islam of the Enlightenment” is viewed as the latest development in that history.


Muslims Join Evangelical Theology Conference

Annual gathering of Christian scholars seeks better engagement with Islam.

It is not often that a Muslim appears at an evangelical theological gathering.

The trimmed-down 72nd annual conference of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), held virtually this week, usually welcomes up to 2,000 top scholars to present on the most salient issues facing evangelical scholarship.

This year’s theme: Islam and Christianity.

“We are called to truth, and to understanding the world around us more accurately and thoughtfully,” said Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), who also served as ETS program chair.

“That certainly includes our understanding of Islam, which has from the beginning represented an enormous challenge to Christian evangelism, apologetics, theology, and cultural engagement.”

Roughly 15 percent of the 130-plus events addressed these challenges, including the three official plenary sessions—in typical academic parlance:

  • “The Authority and Function of the Quran in Islam,” by Ayman Ibrahim of SBTS
  • “Through the Prism: The Trinity and the Islamic Metanarrative,” by Timothy Tennet of Asbury Theological Seminary
  • “American Christians and Islam: From the Colonial Era to the Post-9/11 World,” by Thomas Kidd of Baylor University

But it was the challenge of “cultural engagement” that led ETS to reach out to the Muslim panelists. Each was invited to share their view of evangelicals, and address the issues that concern them. It could “scarcely be more relevant and urgent,” said Mohler.


‘We should be thankful to him’: why some Muslim voters stood by Trump

Despite the president’s anti-Muslim policies, the margin between Trump and Biden among Muslim voters was closer than experts predicted.

Dr Khalid Khan is an internal medicine physician in Houston, Texas. Even in the face of a pandemic that has cost almost a quarter of a million American lives, and an administration that often seemed to demonize Islam, the doctor and self-proclaimed devout Muslim cast his ballot for Donald Trump.

“When you eat a dish, you might not like every ingredient. But you like the whole dish. We should take the good and leave the bad,” Khan said, comparing the US president to a mediocre meal.

‘Corrosive to democracy’: what do Trump’s baseless claims really mean?

 Read more

Trump spent much of his presidency pushing anti-Muslim policies. Trump’s travel ban that targeted mainly Muslim countries in 2017 sparked outrage not just from American Muslims but from Senator Bernie Sanders; the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer; and the then US senator for California and now the vice-president-elect, Kamala Harris.

“Make no mistake – this is a Muslim ban. Broad-brush discrimination against refugees and immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, most of whom are women and children runs counter to our national security interests, and will likely be used as a terrorist recruitment tool,” Harris said at the time.

But despite Trump’s policies against the religious group, some Muslims like Khan, still voted for him. In fact, the margin between Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden among Muslims was closer than experts predicted, revealing Muslim voters are not a monolithic bloc and can be courted by Republicans, even when apparently targeted by their policies.


India: Interfaith couples suffer amid a growing religious divide

A jewelry advertisement in India showing a Hindu woman married into a Muslim family led to a fierce backlash from right-wing groups. But what is it like for a real interfaith couple amid rising intolerance?

Sadaf has not had a proper conversation with her father for about three years now. He just wouldn’t talk to her. That is the price she had to pay for choosing to marry a non-Muslim. The New Delhi-based lawyer still visits her parents’ home in the northern Indian city of Lucknow, in the hope that her father will eventually come around and accept her Hindu husband.  

Interfaith marriages are often contentious in Indian society, especially when it involves a Hindu and a Muslim. This was recently seen when a jewelry advertisement featuring an interfaith couple sparked an outrage so intense that the brand, owned by one of the largest conglomerates in India, withdrew the ad.

The jewelry brand said in a statement that its decision to take down the ad was made “keeping in mind the hurt sentiments and the well-being of our employees, partners, and store staff.”

The controversy — not the first of its kind — once again brought into question the tolerance and acceptability of interfaith marriages in a country where religious tensions have been on the rise in recent years.