Interfaith leaders, lawmakers, and community members respond to rise in anti-Asian violence


It was an evening of mourning, recognition and healing at Sacramento’s Parkview Presbyterian Church on Friday night.

Interfaith leaders and people of all backgrounds gathered for presentations, songs, and a candlelight vigil was held to recognize the ongoing prejudice against Asian Americans and other marginalized groups.

“The other day they were talking about that killer who had a ‘bad day,'” Francisco Dominguez, who is of Native American descent, said of the fatal shooting of six Asian women in Atlanta-area spas. “I said, since 1492, there’s been a lot of bad days.”

Other participants said they appreciated the show of solidarity at the vigil.

“I’m hoping events like this is giving us the courage to talk to our non-Asian-American friends and will help us to spread the word,” Sacramento resident Kris Sazaki said.

Christine Umeda’s family was taken to internment camps during World War II. She spoke to the value of allyship, and the historical trauma shared between different communities.

“The Muslim community and the Japanese community have been allies for some time now,” Umeda said. “After 9/11, we understood what they were experiencing, because after Pearl Harbor, all the same emotions and hatred were directed towards [Japanese Americans].”

“Any hatred that’s practiced against any minority or race is an aggression against all of us,” added Imam Amr Dabour of the Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims.


Pope visit favors Shia-Catholic connection; Iraqi Christians remain divided

Iraq (MNN) — Pope Francis made history earlier this month when he visited Iraq. Today, Catholic leaders praise the trip as a “milestone” for relations between the Catholic Church and Shia Islam.

Speaking to Crux last week, senior official Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso said:

For what concerns the relationship between Christianity and Shia Islam, the Najaf meeting is a further step forward for the dialogue of respect and friendship with the Shia community both in Iran and in Iraq, in which both the local Church and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, which I preside over, have been involved in for years.

“The main impetus of [the pope] coming is a political framework, not a religious or spiritual framework. The outcomes of that are about building relationships between Muslims and Christians,” Samuel* of Redemptive Stories says.

“It was very interesting and very telling that he visited Shia sites and met with Shia leaders as the primary impetus for his travels, which is something most heads of state would never do.”

The Vatican is the world’s smallest independent nation, and Pope Francis is its appointed leader. As described here, “the general politics and governance of the Vatican City are undertaken by the head of the Catholic Church, the Pope… The Pope exercises ex officio supreme legislative, executive and judicial power over the state of the Vatican City.”


Muslim lady and the tramp: Meet the unlikely dog whisperer

Some may find it peculiar that 40-year-old Suesti, who wears a niqab and is known as Hesti Sutrisno on her social media accounts, is a dog lover. 

The mother of three, who sells chips and crackers for a living, has adopted 70 stray dogs that live on her property in Tenjolaya, Bogor, West Java. Before that, she adopted 11 stray dogs in Pamulang, South Tangerang, Banten.

Traditionally, Muslims avoid canines because of religious teachings. In Islam, dogs are considered unclean, especially their saliva, and they are rarely kept as pets. Some Muslims are taught from a young age to have a strong distaste for dogs.

Initially, Suesti was afraid of dogs. She recalled two times she was chased by a dog, once as a young girl and once as she was giving her kids a ride to school.  

She started as more of a cat person.

“At one point, I had at least 100 cats,” Suesti said, thinking back to 2015. She had yet to purchase property in Bogor and lived only in Pamulang at the time.

During this time, she noticed an emaciated black dog that lived in an empty house in her neighborhood. The dog – called Jhon – was so malnourished that it would sometimes eat waste paper.


Myanmar protesters bridge religious divides to counter military coup

Peter, a young father, looked out at the sea of tens of thousands of peaceful protesters surrounding him in a sit-in at a market in his hometown of Mandalay, their bright red and yellow posters condemning the Feb. 1 military coup in Myanmar.

Moments later, security forces assaulted the crowd, firing tear gas and live rounds. “They arrived as early as possible and start brutally cracking down, shooting, beating, even firing on the street,” says Peter, using a pseudonym for his protection. “A few of our friends died, and a lot were arrested.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated with the toll from violence on Saturday.


Religion has long been a divider in Myanmar – most tragically, in the persecution of the Rohingya. But the urgency of opposing a military coup has brought activists from different faiths together, protesters say.

Peter is Muslim. The friends he lost in the protest earlier this month were Buddhist. Despite Myanmar’s long history of discrimination and violence against Muslims by the Buddhist majority – tensions and fears the military junta seeks to exploit – today on Myanmar’s streets people are showing a powerful solidarity, activists say.

After the coup, different religious groups “are more unified than ever,” Peter says, speaking by phone from Mandalay.

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In diverse and deeply pious Myanmar, protests by religious groups have deep resonance in challenging the legitimacy of those who hold power. Today’s cooperation among different faiths in backing a broader, youth-led protest movement against the junta reflects a decade of efforts at interfaith peace building since the country’s opening to semi-democratic, civilian rule, experts say.


Muslim World League Launches #RejectHate Campaign to End Islamophobia on Social Media

MAKKAH, Saudi Arabia, March 24, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — The Muslim World League launched Wednesday the #RejectHate campaign to end Islamophobic content and hate speech on social media. The campaign, which invites supporters to sign a petition, urges social media companies to adopt stronger anti-Islamophobic policies as part of their anti-hate regulations. In October of last year, both Facebook and Twitter announced that they would remove posts that deny the Holocaust, but have yet to adopt anti-hate policies that address other religious groups.

In recent months, Facebook and Twitter have introduced several rules purportedly designed to combat hate and bigotry on their platforms. Despite these new regulations, both companies continue to allow purveyors of Islamophobic content to spread hateful and false characterizations of the Islamic faith and the more than 1.8 billion Muslims around the world.

Currently on Facebook, 1 in every 1,000 posts shared violates the company’s rules on hate speech. More than three-quarters of content which violates their anti-hate rules is allowed to remain even after it is reported and investigated, giving a free pass for content targeting any group to be proliferated through Facebook. Twitter boasts similar statistics. The MWL is calling for a zero-tolerance policy towards hate speech targeting Muslims or adherents to any religion and more robust procedures to see hateful content quickly removed.

“There are prevailing voices that only represent the hateful outlook of extremism and isolation that are being amplified on social media,” MWL Secretary General His Excellency Sheikh Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa said. “Social media has the power to bring people together across physical boundaries, but in recent years we have seen it become a breeding ground for hatred and intolerance.”


Muslim groups are raising money for Colorado shooting victims

Hundreds of people visited the site of a mass shooting at a Boulder, Colo. King Soopers to leave flowers, cards and candles on March 23, 2021.

By Alejandra MolinaMarch 25, 2021 at 12:08 p.m. EDTAdd to list

Muslim organizations are mourning and raising money for the 10 people killed in the mass shooting on March 22 at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colo.

The Colorado Muslim Leadership Council on Tuesday released a statement in solidarity with the survivors and victims.

“Our hearts are heavy as we stand with the survivors of violence. We will continue to remember and grieve for the innocent victims of this horrific and senseless crime,” the statement read.

Boulder police officer Eric Talley, one of the victims, “was personally known to many of us, and we are devastated by his death,” the statement noted.

The council — which includes the Islamic Center of Aurora, Colo.; the Islamic Center of Boulder; the Colorado Muslim Connection, and other organizations — also encouraged people to donate to the Colorado State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police, the Colorado Healing Fund and the Community Foundation of Boulder County.ADADVERTISING

“We thank law enforcement for their bravery and commitment in apprehending the shooter. We call for the prosecution of the shooter to the fullest extent of the law,” the statement read.

Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, from the Denver suburb of Arvada, was booked into jail Tuesday on murder charges a day after the attack and is scheduled to make his first court appearance Thursday.


U.S. Joins EU In Sanctions Against China Over Treatment Of Uyghur Muslims

China and the European Union traded sanctions against each other’s officials Monday and the U.S. joined the U.K. and Canada “in parallel to measures by the European Union” to protest “human rights violations and abuses” in the western Xinjiang region.

The EU imposed travel and economic sanctions on four of China’s officials in response to the imprisonment of hundreds of Uyghur Muslims.

Among those the EU sanctioned was Chen Mingguo, the director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau, because of the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

The sanctions are the first the EU has imposed since 1989, in protest of China’s treatment of the Tiananmen Square demonstrators in Beijing.

In response, China has dealt its own sanctions against 10 European individuals and four entities.

“This move, based on nothing but lies and disinformation, disregards and distorts facts, grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs, flagrantly breaches international law and basic norms governing international relations, and severely undermines China-EU relations,” a foreign ministry spokesperson said of the EU’s move.


Much gained from interfaith dialogues

Brookings has been home to an interfaith dialogue group for more than a decade. Participants gather monthly during the school year to meet, greet, eat and discuss topics of mutual concern. The first few times the group gathered, people were on their best behavior, avoiding any hint of provocation and being unusually polite. But as people got to know each other better, as ignorance and misunderstandings disappeared, serious dialogue and deeper relationships developed. No question or topic was off the table.

Known now as the Brookings Interfaith Council, one can access their information and schedule on their web-site. Like many similar community groups, the pandemic has curtailed activities. But when they resume, the group will continue to be an asset to students of world religions at the university and in the larger community.

It’s always a delicious meal. Eating together is a time-tried way of bringing disparate peoples together in a welcoming atmosphere. And where else can one find in South Dakota a room where there may be Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha’i, Unitarians, Atheists; all interested in learning from the other?


Muslim, Indigenous women find common bonds in Canada

ATTENDING each other’s events, learning about each other’s experiences, standing up for each other — these are some of the things Muslim and Indigenous women in Manitoba can do to support each other.

That was the message from a webinar titled “Muslim and Indigenous Women Leaders: In Spirit of Reconciliation” on Thursday.

The webinar, sponsored by the Islamic Social Services Association, featured panellists from the Muslim and Indigenous communities, who talked about how they can work together to deal with common issues faced by both groups.

Panellist Rabia Khedr, who directs a non-profit that serves Muslims with disabilities in the Toronto area, noted how much women from the two communities have in common.

Both Muslim and Indigenous women “face marginalization,” she said, adding many Muslim women in Canada have come from countries where they experienced oppression and trauma, and were forced from their homes or lost their culture.

In Canada, women from both communities have also faced discrimination, she said.

“There are lots of conversations we can have to create a country where everyone feels they belong,” she said.


Is a Christian theological engagement with sharī‘a possible?

In February 2008, Rowan Williams, then Archbishop of Canterbury, gave the annual Foundation Lecture to the Royal Court of Justice in London. His lecture, titled “Civil and Religious Law in England: A Religious Perspective”, engaged with questions of legal theory, multiculturalism, and civil marriage — all fairly standard issues in the academic study and public debates on law and religion. The response to the lecture, however, was anything but standard.

Newspapers throughout the United Kingdom ran reports on the Archbishop’s comments and numerous opinion pieces offered searing critiques of the lecture’s proposals. But criticism did not just come from the tabloids; members of Parliament condemned his argument as disastrous and a return to pre-Enlightenment religious barbarism. A number of high-ranking church officials — including Williams’s predecessor in Lambeth, George Carey, and the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali — conveyed their negative assessments of the lecture, some implying that he should consider resigning his post. The reason for the uproar had to do with one thing: sharī‘a.

A key component of Williams’s argument was that the United Kingdom should consider legally allowing Muslims to have recourse to sharī‘a under the broader umbrella of English and Welsh law. Williams’s proposal that forms of Islamic legal practice around family law be legally recognised, in so far as they are fit within an over-arching commitment to the primacy of the state’s law, was portrayed by his detractors as tantamount to endorsing and encouraging a vision of state-enforced sharī‘a.

The public and ecclesiastical outcry over the evocation of sharī‘a was anticipated in the opening paragraphs of the lecture itself. Williams discussed how often non-Muslims view sharī‘a as if “what is involved in the practice” is essentially “a pre-modern system in which human rights have no role”, and in which women and non-Muslims are treated in problematic ways. Challenging this, Williams presented a more nuanced vision of Islamic law and various Muslim majority juridical and political arrangements. The internal diversity of Islamic jurisprudence was noted, criticisms were raised as to aspects of Islamic traditions, and a strong distinction was drawn between Williams’s own vision for Muslim family courts in Britain and the visions of sharī‘a states proposed by the likes of Sayyid Qutb or Ayatollah Khomeini.