America’s Muslims come from many traditions and cultures

Kalpana Jain, The ConversationAug. 30, 2021 Comments

(The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.)

Kalpana Jain, The Conversation

Journalists and scholars have pointed out how Muslims in the U.S. are often cast simplistically either as good or bad: The good ones are raising their voices against terrorism and the bad ones are violent, or likely to be.

This view blocks out an “otherwise fascinating spectrum” of American Muslims, writes scholar Abbas Barzegar. “Outside of Mecca itself,” he says, “there exists no other Muslim population that displays the theological, ideological, class and ethnic diversity as that which resides here” in the U.S.

So, what are the different ways of being a Muslim?

Many American Muslims belong to one of the two main sects in Islam – Sunni and Shiite. Each draws its faith and practice from the Quran and the life of the Prophet Muhammad. The two agree on most of the fundamentals of Islam.

But the two groups split after the death of Prophet Muhammad in A.D. 632, when issues over leadership emerged, writes religion scholar Ken Chitwood. The majority of the Muslim community sided with Abu Bakr, one of the prophet’s closest companions. A minority, however, opted for the prophet’s cousin – Ali.

Muslims who rallied around Abu Bakr came to be called Sunni – meaning those who follow the Sunna, or sayings, deeds and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad.


Antisemitic and anti-Muslim content is flourishing on TikTok, report finds

Image by David Farfan/Pixabay/Creative Commons

(RNS) — Researchers analyzing TikTok for extremist content have discovered videos that portray Muslims as supporters of terrorism, clips supporting Holocaust denial and users glorifying the mass shooters behind the Christchurch mosque and Tree of Life Synagogue attacks.

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London-based nonprofit that tracks extremism online, released a report on Tuesday (Aug. 24) that found TikTok “operates as a new arena for violence-endorsing, hateful ideologies.”

Over three months, ISD analyzed a sample of 1,030 videos, equivalent to about eight hours of content, and found that 312 of the clips promoted white supremacy. More than 240 videos showed support for organizations or individuals tied to extremism or terrorism.

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The study, authored by ISD investigator Ciarán O’Connor, found that TikTok creators use coded language as well as the platform’s video effects, layout and music to promote hate. It also highlights tactics they use, such as restricting comments on their videos, to evade being reported to TikTok.


Where do Afghanistan’s refugees go?

Images of thousands of Afghans desperately trying to flee their country following a hasty U.S. withdrawal have provoked an international outcry.

As of Aug. 22, 2021, some 6,000 U.S. troops were working to evacuate U.S. military, American citizens and Afghans who are approved for Special Immigrant Visas. SIVs are a special program to protect Afghans who risked their lives working for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

GermanyFranceItaly and the U.K. are conducting smaller evacuation efforts for their nationals and some Afghans.

The pace of these poorly planned evacuations has been slow. They are taking place amid chaos in Kabul, where crowds are being confronted by violence from members of the now-ruling Taliban and U.S. forces and facing checkpoints that are near-impossible to pass.

Do experts have something to add to public debate?

We think so

Shaharzad Akbar, who leads the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, called the situation “failure upon failure.”

As a scholar specializing in forcible displacement and refugees, I see this harrowing scene unfolding within a broader context of Afghanistan’s long-standing displacement crisis. This includes an unequal sharing of refugees between the developed world and economically disadvantaged countries.

A muted US role

The U.S. Refugee Act of 1980 standardized the procedures for admitting refugees – people who have fled war, violence, conflict or persecution – and put in place a rigorous vetting process. But over the past 40 years, U.S. acceptance rates for refugees worldwide have fallen significantly – from 200,000 admitted in 1980 to less than 50,000 in 2019.


Afghanistan: Christians Call For Help As New Reports Of Persecution Surface

(ICC) — According to Mission Network News, Christians in Afghanistan are calling out for prayer and asking Christians around the world to advocate on their behalf. This call to action comes as new reports of persecution surface for Afghan Christians trying to escape the country.

Following the withdrawal of the United States and NATO allies, the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in a stunning collapse of the country last week. Fear and uncertainty surround the future of Afghanistan under Taliban rule and many minorities, including Christians, fear the imposition of the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Sharia law.

Since the U.S. announced its intention to withdraw from Afghanistan on April 13, the Taliban quickly took control of the country. Last week, Taliban forces entered Kabul, effectively asserting complete control of Afghanistan.

In a document prepared for the United Nations by the RHIPTO Norwegian Center for Global Analyses, the group warned the Taliban was targeting “collaborators” despite promising there would be “no revenge”.

“There are a high number of individuals currently being targeted by the Taliban and the threat is crystal clear,” Christian Nellemann, who heads the RHIPTO Norwegian Center for Global Analyses, told the BBC last week. “It is in writing that, unless they give themselves in, the Taliban will arrest and prosecute, interrogate and punish family members on behalf of those individuals.”


Muslims pray for Taliban forbearance

The withdrawal of our troops was the right thing to do, as Afghans must decide their own future. 

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban negotiator who was released by Pakistan at President Trump’s request, said in his first statement that the real test will begin now: meeting the expectations of the people and serving them by solving their problems. 

This is the key point that we hope and pray all parties, first and foremost the Taliban, take to heart and prove with actions. 

 The Quran enjoins believers to “stand out firmly against injustice, even as against yourselves” (4:135), and “let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from being just” (5:8) 

More:Who provided Afghanistan intel?

These are principles that, centuries prior, created a society where rich and poor, friend and foe, man and woman, Muslim and non-muslim, ruler and ruled, were treated justly and fairly. When the Prophet Mohammed returned to Mecca victorious after years of oppression and persecution by the Meccans, he said to them: “On this day, there is no blame on you. Go. You are free.” Among the individuals who he explicitly forgave was Hind, a woman who hired an assassin to kill the Prophet’s Uncle. Prophet Mohammed forgave her and let her go free with no revenge or punishment. This is how the Taliban can, and must start the process and maintain throughout. Serve the people, solve their problems and do not oppress them. 


Taliban vows to ensure women’s rights under Islamic law. What does that mean?

n his first news conference after the Taliban’s seizure of Kabul, the group’s chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said repeatedly that the group would respect women’s rights, “within the framework of Islamic law.”

What does that mean?

Islamic or Sharia law is based on the Muslim holy book, the Quran, and on rulings by Islamic scholars around the world. It acts as a code of conduct in all areas of life for Muslims, governing everything from business to daily routines and personal beliefs and practices.

But it is interpreted in a wide variety of ways — there is no single, agreed upon code of Sharia law.

The interpretations range from that used by ISIS to justify the horrors of their brutal Califate, to modern Islamic feminists, who see Sharia as a system that ensures equality for all.

Taliban leaders have suggested that they’ll impose a less harsh version of Sharia law on Afghanistan now than they did when they were last in power, from 1996-2001.

Afghan women hold a street protest in Kabul
A group of women hold a street protest calling on the Taliban to protect their rights, in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 17, 2021.SHAMSHAD NEWS/VIA REUTERS

During those five years of rule, the group was condemned internationally for enforcing a medieval version of Islamic law, which included punishments such as public hangings, whippings and stonings.


Caritas: ‘Wait and See’ How Taliban Affects Humanitarian Work in Afghanistan

Women in Kabul, Afghanistan, mourn inside a hospital compound after a suicide attack Dec. 28. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack that has claimed more than 40 lives and wounded dozens more. (CNS photo/Mohammad Ismail, Reuters)

By Inés San Martín

ROME (Crux) — As the Taliban reclaim power over Afghanistan, a question in the mind of many rank and file Catholics is how can they help. Yet the situation is still so convoluted, even Caritas Internationalis, the largest network of Catholic charities is grappling to answer the same question.

Crux spoke with the head of this papal charitable organization on Tuesday, two days after the Taliban took over Kabul and officially took over the government of this Middle Eastern country, to discuss what can this NGO do during the crisis.

[Related: Caritas Italy, Jesuits Suspend Activities in Afghanistan]

The short answer is “wait and see,” since one of the biggest issues to address is to guarantee that Caritas, through local NGOs, can, in fact, help.

“We’re heading to a worsening of the humanitarian crisis, where I don’t know if humanitarian workers will be allowed to work freely, particularly women,” Aloysius John told Crux.

“The work of charity can always be a means for dialogue, and this is the way we have to look at it,” he added. “We’re waiting to see what we can do, but we have some experience on this and we will continue to do our best in order to bring support to the people.”

John spoke with Crux over the phone on Aug. 17. What follows are excerpts of that conversation.

Crux: How would you describe the situation in Afghanistan right now?

John: The situation in Afghanistan today is something we were able to envisage a long time ago when the US decided to withdraw its troops. Today, the Afghan people have been left to their own, alone, and there is a huge, two-fold crisis: On the one hand, there is a political crisis, and on the other side, a humanitarian crisis.

We’re heading to a worsening humanitarian crisis, where I don’t know if humanitarian workers will be allowed to work freely, particularly women.

An internally displaced child from the northern provinces of Afghanistan, who fled with his family due the fighting between Taliban and Afghan security forces, sleeps at a public park in Kabul Aug. 10, 2021. (Photo: CNS/Reuters)

Our main concern today is to see what we can do for the people on the move, what we can do from a humanitarian point of view, as the humanitarian crisis continues to worsen in Afghanistan.

People today are leaving en masse, so there will be an important increase in displacements and it will be very difficult to control this, and we also have to see what can be done to guarantee that people have access to basic services.

An estimated 99% of the population is Muslim. Why is Caritas, a Catholic NGO, worried about the humanitarian crisis in this country?


In Pictures: Muslims worldwide mark Ashura

Worshippers mark the anniversary of the Battle of Karbala and mourn the death of Imam Hussein, the Prophet’s grandson.

death of Imam Hussein, the Prophet’s grandson.

Shia Muslims beat their chests during an Ashura procession in Quetta, Pakistan. [Banaras Khan/AFP]
Shia Muslims beat their chests during an Ashura procession in Quetta, Pakistan. [Banaras Khan/AFP]

19 Aug 2021

Tens of thousands of Muslims across the globe observed Ashura on Thursday, an annual commemoration mourning the seventh-century death of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Imam Hussein.

Ashura is marked on the 10th day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, by all Muslims.

It is a particularly important period of mourning for Shia Muslims, as it marks the anniversary of the seventh-century Battle of Karbala in present-day Iraq, when Hussein was killed.

The death of Hussein is considered by the Shia community as a symbol of humanity’s struggle against injustice, tyranny and oppression.

The primary rituals and observances on Ashura consist of public expressions of mourning. Sunni Muslims commemorate the day through voluntary fasting.

Some in the Shia community mark the day by flagellating themselves with chains and the blunt ends of swords. This is intended to exemplify the suffering Hussein experienced shortly before his beheading.

Shia Muslims attend the 'Tasua' (ninth day) mourning ritual to commemorate the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammad's grandson Imam Hussein during the Islamic month of Muharram ahead of Ashura, at the Sale shrine in the north of Iran's capital Tehran. [AFP]
Shia Muslims attend the ‘Tasua’ (ninth day) mourning ritual to commemorate the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Imam Hussein during the Islamic month of Muharram ahead of Ashura, at the Sale shrine in the north of Iran’s capital Tehran. [AFP]


Who are the Taliban and how will they govern Afghanistan this time?

After their lightning conquest, there is little to indicate the group will moderate their strict Islamic beliefs

Who are the Taliban?

The Taliban were born out of the mujahideen fighters who opposed the Russians during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which began in 1979. Founded by Mullah Mohammad Omar, a local imam in Kandahar, in 1994, they were initially formed of a small group of madrassa students who were angry at the depredations of the warlords in the civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. Their influence rapidly spread over the following two years.

What do they believe?

The Taliban are often portrayed as employing a narrow interpretation of Islamic sharia law inspired by the Deobandi fundamentalist school. However, by 1998 – during their first period in power, which ended with the US-led invasion following the 11 September 2001 attacks – the Taliban issued their own harsh and sometimes esoteric interpretation of Islamic life equally inspired by the Pashtun tribal code, the Pashtunwali.


Muslim leader in New Jersey doing good, building bridges

PHILADELPHIA — A word common to Arabic, Persian, and Urdu — three of the languages Muqqadas Ejaz uses in addition to English — aptly describes her mission. The word is muhsen, and it means “doing good.”

Muhsen also is the name of one of the half-dozen national American Muslim organizations to which Ejaz — an advocate, volunteer, and networker extraordinaire — devotes her time and her formidable people skills.

“In my head, I have a formula for life,” Ejaz, 37, said in an interview at GCLEA, which stands for Gracious Center for Learning and Enrichment, a mosque in Cherry Hill, N.J. She lives in the township with her husband, Umair Chaudhry, a software engineer, and their daughter, Anaya, 7.

“You create opportunities for others, and God creates opportunities for you,” said Ejaz.

From helping out with everything from vaccinations to voter registration, she said, “I grab any opportunity I can to benefit the community.”

Known as “Mookie” to friends and associates — 150 of whom attended a July 7 event to celebrate her election to the Camden County Democratic Committee — Ejaz “is a doer,” said Fozia Janjua, the first American Muslim to serve on the Mount Laurel township council.