Muslims for the Pope

Pope Francis has shown understanding many moderate Muslims lack a voice and are in fact the first victims of extremists

Despite much of the popular alarmist talk, Islam is arguably in a deeper crisis than the Christian world, and this is the problem.

Islam has little or no structured unified organization independent from a single state, unlike the Christian world, where the Catholic church is the largest unitary religion, and there are vastly organized Orthodox and Episcopalian churches.

There is no longer a caliph and a publicly recognized caliphate able to muster the faithful of the world.

There is no Islamic superpower. There are many countries where Islam is important – Indonesia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco – but they cannot band together. They have very different agendas that have little to do with their religious beliefs.

None can rise to the rank of superpower, challenging the United States, China, Russia, the European Union or even Japan or India.

Unlike in the first Cold War, there is no superpower supporting the Islamic world per se, fighting Israel, portrayed as a puppet of the United States.

There is no longer a strategic asset like oil, which since the 1970s gave the Islamic world clout and influence through blackmail on prices and inflation. Oil is no longer a rare commodity. Gas and oil are plentiful, and new shale technology is revolutionizing the market, taking away the hedge these Islamic countries had in the past.

They do not even have blackmail through the export of terrorism. In the past three decades, some rich Islamic countries paid off radical extremists to wage war on infidels in foreign countries. This policy exported abroad an internal threat and at the same time lent legitimacy to the existing authoritarian regimes.


Biden’s envoy for religious freedom

As a Muslim growing up in Dallas, Rashad Hussain learned how the freedom to worship can be a force for world peace.

October 28, 2021

  • By the Monitor’s Editorial Board

Growing up in Dallas as a devout Muslim decades ago, Rashad Hussain noticed only a few mosques in his Texas city. Now there are dozens, an affirmation, he says, of the American freedom to worship. On Tuesday, a Senate panel welcomed him as the president’s nominee to be ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. If approved by the full Senate as expected, he would be the first Muslim to hold the position, marking a strong break from past bigotry against Islam in the United States.

Major Christian and Jewish leaders endorsed the nomination, noting Mr. Hussain’s work under two previous presidents in seeking religious harmony in troubled countries and finding ways to prevent young Muslims from joining terrorist groups. As he said in his testimony, “In an era of vigorous partisan debates, Americans continue to be largely of one mind regarding the importance of defending international religious freedom.”

His appointment would affirm a recent finding by the Institute for Economics and Peace. In a global survey, the think tank found that religious plurality in countries can have a pacifying effect, countering the notion that religion is a driver of violence and the main cause of conflicts.About these ads

The post of envoy for religious freedom, created by Congress in 1998, reflects both a basic right in the U.S. and the country’s long and hard struggle to protect it. “Our own experience, our own example, is what compels us to advocate for the rights of the marginalized, vulnerable, and underrepresented peoples the world over,” said Mr. Hussain.

His past work includes working with Middle East religious leaders on a 2016 document, known as the Marrakesh Declaration, that laid out Islamic principles for protecting the rights of minority religious groups. As someone who memorized the Quran and earned a Yale law degree, he relies on positive ways to end religious discrimination.


New poll reveals how much we presume about Muslim Americans’ politics

October 15, 2021By Simran Jeet SinghShareTweetShare

(RNS) — Twenty years ago, Americans hardly gave their Muslim neighbors a thought. Then came 9/11, and our opinions suddenly blossomed. Two decades later we may be past assuming that Muslims want to topple the American government, but other supposed givens — that Muslims tend to be conservative, for instance — have been challenged in a new poll that shows how rudimentary our understanding of American Muslims can be. 

Start with the finding in a new poll, commissioned by Emgage and Muslim Public Affairs Council, that Muslim Americans voted overwhelmingly for Joe Biden in 2020, with 86% support. Only 6% voted for Donald Trump.

These numbers should not surprise those who have followed Trump’s multiple negative comments about Muslims, his hotly debated travel bans that disproportionately targeted Muslim countries and the spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes under his leadership.

But the survey of more than 500 Muslim Americans also gives us a picture beyond the vote into how Muslim Americans view the Biden administration and key domestic and foreign policies.

RELATED: America and US Muslims have come a long way since 9/11. We have a long way to go.

It’s not surprising that a majority of Muslim Americans want the administration to combat white supremacy, Islamophobia and hate-violence, which have direct, negative consequences for Muslim Americans. Their interest in addressing inequalities and enhancing access to health care, however, is more counterintuitive for a group we think of as first-generation immigrants. More than three in four American Muslims support Medicare for All, and 78% of Muslim voters believe the tax system is too generous to the rich."Hate Crimes, White Supremacy, Other Issues" Graphic courtesy of Change Research

“Hate Crimes, White Supremacy, Other Issues” Graphic courtesy of Change Research

These progressive stances are easier to understand if one is familiar with the justice orientation of Islam, as well as the demographic makeup of the American Muslim community. One-third of Muslim households in America are at or below the poverty line, making Muslims the most likely faith community to report low income levels.


Christian, Muslims unite against climate injustice

As part of the global outcry against climate injustice in Nigeria, Christians Association of Nigeria and Islamic Society of Nigeria have called on government and other institutions to act immediately in addressing the climate emergency in Nigeria.

This was stated at a walk and a forum put together under the banner of Faith for Climate Justice by Green Faith. The event which was a follow up to prayers and meditation vigils was peaceful as the group noisily made their demands known outside the office of the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

Participants sounded the alarm by beating drums, waving hand signs and holding prayers.

The participants displayed placards with different inscriptions including: ‘God created the earth, do not let your greed destroy it’, ‘Pollution is the enemy to a healthy life, embrace recycling for a better society’, ‘Faith for Climate justice.’

Speaking at the event, the founder LUFASI Park, Mr. Desmond Majekodunmi lamented that Nigeria as a nation blindly follow other developed nations, by using energy that came from burning fossil fuel, and as a result, contributed to galvanising the atmosphere which has made climate change a looming disaster.

He said: “For the love of God, our neighbor, all vulnerable communities around us, we call on the government to solidarity with the global demands for climate finance from wealthy countries to countries from Africa. Exert pressure on the federal government of Nigeria to intensify the cleanup of Ogoniland and stop the gas flaring as stated in the NDC.”

On his part, The Pastor in Charge of River of Life Parish, Redeemed Christian Church of Church, Pastor Iyiola Olayori, said that no religion or tradition says we should destroy the planet. “Yes, this is exactly what governments, financial institutions and major corporations are either doing or allowing. It’s morally inexcusable.”


Cartier’s Hidden Debt to Islamic Art Unearthed in New Exhibition

A new show in Paris finds a hidden connection between the storied brand and non-Western design.

The Louvre’s acquisition of two exquisite, ivory pen boxes in 2018 has sparked an entire exhibition on the hidden connections between the house of Cartier and the world of Islamic art.

Cartier and Islamic Art: In Search of Modernity will run through Feb. 20 at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (MAD) in Paris, and then will travel to the Dallas Museum of Art, where it will be on view from May 14 to Sept. 18, 2022.

The two boxes, originally made for the court of Shah Abbas (1587-1629), the ruler of present-day Iran, had made their way into the collection of Louis Cartier by 1912.

Cartier, part of the third generation of brothers who turned the family company into an international brand, was something of an aesthete. Wealthy himself by virtue of two advantageous marriages, he assembled a vast collection of manuscripts, artworks, and objets that were eventually sold by his heirs.

In researching the provenance of the pen cases, “I realized that no one knew about his personal collection of Islamic art,” says Judith Henon-Raynaud, deputy director of the Louvre’s Department of Islamic Art, who co-curated the show at the MAD.

relates to Cartier’s Hidden Debt to Islamic Art Unearthed in New Exhibition
A Cartier tiara from 1936, made of platinum, diamonds, and turquoise.Photographer: Vincent Wulveryck@Cartier

Henon-Raynaud realized she could use the cases as a jumping-off point—not simply to illustrate Cartier’s nascent Orientalism, she says, but to demonstrate the “importance—and impact—of the discovery of Islamic art on Western artists at the beginning of the 20th century.”


20 years without complexity: The legacy of 9/11 for American Muslims

by Anjabeen Ashraf | 13 Oct 2021

What is it like to hold a crossroads within your body? For many American Muslims, our identities have become a crossroads between familiar and foreign. Between safety and danger. Between belonging and othering.

In the years prior to 9/11, people were ignorant of Islam. There were opportunities to inform and people would listen. There were discriminatory policies like secret evidence that was rampantly used by former President Bill Clinton’s administration but at least we were on the verge of change. That is, until 9/11.

As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 approached, as an American Muslim, I noticed anxiety creep up within me. As the date got closer, the anxiety was replaced with dread because I knew that the narratives we have constructed about 9/11 and what followed lack the complexity required of such a deeply impactful event. Narratives that erase the impact for American Muslims.

Safety and security

Americans were willing to accept the subjugation of an entire group of people under the guise of safety, but the resulting impact of the policies and practices of the post-9/11 environment led to an unleashed security apparatus that has never been held accountable. It has also led to the strengthening of local policing norms that are just as destructive as the federal ones.

As former FBI agent Mike German writes in “Disrupt, Discredit, and Divide: How the New FBI Damages Democracy:” “With the encouragement of Congress both the Bush and Obama administrations, the FBI transformed itself into a domestic intelligence agency of unprecedented power that operates primarily in the dark, all but immune from traditional methods of oversight. This unconstrained and highly secretive FBI predictably turned its sight on those it has always viewed as most dangerous to the established order: minority communities, immigrants, and those agitating for political, economic, and social change.”

What this meant locally for Oregon’s Muslims can be understood through two stories.

Oregon Attorney Brandon Mayfield understands the destructive power of the FBI and local law enforcement very well because he was a victim of it. Back in 2004, in the wake of the Madrid commuter train bombings, several fingerprints were discovered. The Spanish National Police shared the fingerprints with the FBI and it returned 20 possible matches. Brandon’s prints were flagged, because of his prior military service. Even though the Spanish National Police found that his prints were not an identical match and communicated this to the FBI, the FBI still went after him. They began sifting through personal life to find out that he had converted to Islam, he represented defendants in national security cases and he worshipped at a mosque frequently surveilled by the FBI.


Egypt’s President Promotes Religious Choice During Human Rights Rollout





Committing Egypt to a five-year program of human rights reform, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi did not mince words about religion.

“If someone tells me they are neither Muslim nor Christian nor a Jew or that he or she does not believe in religion, I will tell them, ‘You are free to choose,’” he said. “But will a society that has been conditioned to think in a certain way for the last 90 years accept this?”

The comment sent shockwaves through Egyptian society.

“Listening to him, I thought he was so brave,” said Samira Luka, senior director for dialogue at the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services. “Sisi is fighting not only a culture but a dogma.”

Last month, the government released its first-ever National Human Rights Strategy after studying the path of improvement in 30 other nations, including New Zealand, South Korea, and Finland. The head of the UN Human Rights Council praised the 100-page [in English] document as a “key tool” with “concrete steps.”

Egypt’s constitution guarantees freedom of belief and worship and gives international treaties such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the force of law. But Article 98 of the Middle Eastern nation’s penal code stipulates up to five years in prison for blasphemy and has been used against atheists and Christians alike.

Will Sisi’s words signal a change?

Since his election in 2014, Egypt’s head of state has consistently spoken about the need to “renew religious discourse,” issuing a challenge to Muslim clerics. And prior to the launch of the new strategy, his comments even hinted at a broader application than atheism.

“We are all born Muslims and non-Muslims by [ID] card and inheritance,” Sisi stated. “Have you thought of … searching for the path until you reach the truth?”


Lebanon Violence Explained: Sectarianism, a Wrecked Economy & 2020 Beirut Blast

In what turned out to be Beirut’s most violent clashes in over a decade, at least six people were killed on Thursday, 14 October, amidst firing between Shiite groups – Hezbollah and Amal Movement – and the Lebanese Armed Forces, Reuters reported.

Additionally, the clashes allegedly involved the Christian Lebanese Forces, a Christian political party whose militia fought in the Lebanese Civil War.

A protest had been organised by Hezbollah, a militant group which is also one of the most powerful political entities in Lebanon.

Protesters were demanding the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar as the adjudicator leading the investigation of the August 2020 port explosion that killed more than 200 people in Beirut.

Bitar been accused by Hezbollah of running a biased and politicised trial against prominent Muslim figures in Lebanon.

The demonstrations on Thursday took a violent turn when protesters were targeted by sniper fire, and they then shot back with AK47s and grenades.

Lebanese troops were deployed but the violence escalated.

Hezbollah claims that their members were fired at by right-wing Christians, reported The Guardian.

Samir Geagea, the leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces party, denied the charges and condemned the violence.

Regardless of who started the firing, Thursday’s violence exemplifies the situation of Lebanese politics and society – sectarian divisions, a weak state, corruption, and militia violence.

In this explainer, we untangle Lebanon’s recent past and elucidate how it is linked to the present.

What are the sectarian divides? What has been the state of Lebanon’s politics after the civil war and why is the economy in shambles? Why has there been so much controversy around the Beirut blast? Read on.


Key findings about the religious composition of India

TOPSHOT – Indian Hindu devotees offer prayers during the ‘Chhat Puja’ on the banks of the Brahmaputra River in Guwahati on November 13, 2018. – The Chhath Festival, also known as Surya Pooja, or worship of the sun, is observed in parts of India and Nepal and sees devotees pay homage to the sun and water gods. (Photo by Biju BORO / AFP) (Photo credit should read BIJU BORO/AFP via Getty Images)

Religious pluralism has long been a core value in India, which has a large majority of Hindus and smaller shares of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and other groups. In recent years, the size of these communities and their future growth have been topics of great interest to the Indian public.

A new Pew Research Center report shows that India’s religious composition has been fairly stable since the 1947 partition that divided the Indian subcontinent into Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. This study – the second in the Center’s series about religion in India – covers the six decades between 1951, when the first post-Partition census was conducted, and 2011, the date of the nation’s most recent census. Here are some of the report’s key findings:How we did this

India’s overall population more than tripled between 1951 and 2011, though growth rates have slowed since the 1990s. The total number of Indians grew to 1.2 billion in the 2011 census from 361 million in the 1951 census. The number of Hindus grew to 966 million (from 304 million in 1951), Muslims to 172 million (from 35 million), Christians to 28 million (from 8 million), Sikhs to 20.8 million (from 6.8 million), Buddhists to 8.4 million (from 2.7 million) and Jains to 4.5 million (from 1.7 million). India’s Parsis, a small minority, are unusual as their population shrank by almost half, to 60,000 in 2011. Deaths among Parsis have outnumbered births, due to the group’s relatively high median age and low fertility rate.

India’s overall population growth has slowed considerably, especially since the 1990s. After adding the equivalent of nearly a quarter of its population every decade in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, the country’s growth rate dropped to 22% in the 1990s and to 18% in the most recent census decade. Growth among Hindus slowed from a high of around 24% to about 17% in the 2000s, while Muslim growth slowed to around 25% and the rate among Christians dropped to 16%.


Opinion: A Muslim cemetery was finally approved in Virginia. Now bigotry needs a proper burial.

A suburban Virginia county south of D.C. recently put a quiet end to a five-year saga in which the odor of Islamophobia grew into a stench as time dragged on. That the events surrounding a proposed Islamic cemetery in Stafford County unfolded under color of local law, and were allowed by county officials to fester for year after year, was more than poor judgment. It has become a sterling example for local governments of how not to deal with minority communities.

Stafford is a diverse place of more than 150,000 people, and the Islamic cemetery in question would not be the county’s first. In fact, the nonprofit All Muslim Association of America (AMAA) had run a small cemetery there for about 20 years when, nearly out of capacity, it bought a new parcel of land in 2016 with plans for a larger cemetery where Muslims of modest means could be laid to rest.

What ensued was an embarrassment to Stafford and a Kafkaesque odyssey for the county’s Muslim community. That it ended, mercifully, with the county’s capitulation — authorities there ceased their attempts to block the proposed cemetery last year, and recently agreed to a $500,000 settlement, without admitting guilt — does not mitigate the gratuitousness of the entire episode, which was a waste of taxpayers’ time and money.

The details of the county’s preposterous rationale in drafting a bespoke new land-use scheme, whose only discernible intent was to impede the new cemetery, are byzantine. Urged on by two landowners — one of them a county Planning Commission member — whose property abutted the tract for the proposed 45-acre cemetery, the county adopted new rules banning cemeteries located within 900 feet, almost the length of three football fields, of any private homeowner’s well used for drinking water. The state standard required a separation of only 100 feet, and there was no science justifying a broader buffer for cemeteries and drinking water sources generally or this parcel in particular.

When AMAA officials found out about the zoning maneuver months after the fact — no one had mentioned the new rule to them, nor solicited their input — they were shocked. Not only had the group not been informed of the change, but county officials had affirmed at the time of the parcel’s purchase that a cemetery could be built there “by right,” with no special zoning approval needed. After the controversy erupted, a state official affirmed that a 100-foot setback was adequate for public health.