Unstable Plateau (2): How Muslims, Christians work for peace in troubled Nigerian state

Years of ethnic and religious crises in Plateau State have taught residents to live among their own people.

When the conflict among heterogeneous groups in Plateau State began to worsen, the groups devised a means to protect themselves: partition their settlements.

Because the houses of minority groups are almost always prime targets, it was a way of forging a common front when hostilities broke out, residents said.

A partitioned Muslim settlement in Dutse Uku area of Jos North LGA overseeing a Christian settlement. [Yusuf Akinpelu/Premium Times]

Moving in unfamiliar zones is not what many residents do, much less living among opposite parties.

But Juliana Alao, a Christian from Oyo State who had stayed with her younger sister for over 25 years in Gangare, a Muslim-dominated ward in Jos North Local Government Area (LGA) of the state, is defying that safety measure.

Aunty Mai Allura (nurse), as she is called in the area, had resisted persuasion by her friends and family to leave the area, some offering to house her to rescue her from the risks of living in a Muslim-populated area.

When her relatives or friends visit, they would rather wait to be collected by the roadside, she said.

Gangare, one of the 14 wards in Jos North LGA has been a haven for a Christian family for decades. [Yusuf Akinpelu/Premium Times]

“Everybody would say ‘leave Gangare.’ Why I didn’t leave is that they didn’t touch me. They didn’t do anything to me. Even when I am in the church and there is a crisis, they will call me to wait for them to come and pick me up,” she said.

“’You, a Christian, alone will pass through Gangare?’ she recalled being told after service one Christmas.

“Because of the way they honour me when I am with them, I have peace. Just leave me,” she would tell them.


U.S. Charities Funneled More Than $105 Million to Anti-Muslim Groups, New Report Finds

A new report revealed that organizations deemed Islamophobic by the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights group received more than $105 million in donations from U.S. charities between 2017 and 2019.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said in a Jan. 11 report titled “Islamophobia in the Mainstream” that it studied the tax records of 50 organizations it had previously identified as the largest funders of anti-Muslim causes, and found that 35 of them were the source of a total of $105 million directed at such groups. CAIR has researched Islamophobia in the U.S. for decades and has been at the forefront of high-profile legal battles involving violations of Muslims’ religious liberties. For the purposes of its research, CAIR identifies organizations as Islamophobic if they support policies that lead to discrimination against Muslims, demean Muslims because of their religion or allege that Islam represents an existential threat to the U.S (or partner with other organizations that do).


Arctic Islam: the Midnight Sun, the ‘Isha Prayer, and Islamic Law and Practice

The Nord Kamal Mosque in Norilsk, Russia is the northernmost mosque in the world

“No major religion’s daily ritual observances are tied more closely to the movement of the Sun than Islam’s, so what do they do when the Sun never rises or sets?”1) This question provides an entry point for an analysis of the impact of the Arctic on Islamic law and practice. Universal religions, such as Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism, frequently reach geographic areas far removed from their region of origin in their search for new converts.2) Islam, for example, is prominent throughout Asia and North Africa, having spread far beyond its beginnings on the Arabian Peninsula. An important consequence of this aspect of universal religions is the necessity of adapting to widely divergent cultures and climates. One of the most complicated such adaptations is that of Islam to the Arctic.

This article will use the term “the latitudinal problem” to describe the difficulty of reconciling Islamic practice with Arctic conditions. I will explore the latitudinal problem through three different time periods: medieval, the nineteenth century, and the modern day. In the medieval period, Muslim travelers to the northern regions remarked on the starkness of Arctic solar conditions, but rarely considered the practical implications for Islamic practice. In the nineteenth century, Islamic reformists clashed with religious authorities on the possibility for ijtihad (independent legal reasoning) concerning the ‘isha prayer. In the contemporary world, Muslims in the Arctic must navigate global problems including skepticism of migrants, ethnic division, religious extremism, and securitization. Still, Arctic Islam retains an important distinctiveness due to the unique challenges posed by the climate and solar conditions. This article will show that far from being a remote region with little importance for Islamic thought and practice, the Arctic instead raises profound questions of religious evolution and legal authority that resonate through the entirety of the Islamic world and beyond.

Introduction to Islamic practices affected by the Arctic

All Muslims are required to fulfill the five pillars of Islam. Two of these pillars are affected by the latitudinal location of the practitioner. The first is fasting during the month of Ramadan. According to the Qur’an, Muslims must fast from dawn to sunset during Ramadan. The second relevant pillar of Islam are the five daily prayers: FajrDhuhr‘AsrMaghrib, and ‘IshaMaghrib and ‘Isha are undertaken at sunset and twilight respectively.3) Both Ramadan fasting and the daily prayers were developed in the Islamic homeland of the Arabian Peninsula. As such, the timing of such activities is based on the solar behavior of that region. In the Arctic, however, the conditions are quite different. In exceptionally high latitudes, 24-hour day or nights occur, removing any solar context for fasting or daily prayers. In lower latitudes, the timing of prayers will be affected and the length of Ramadan fasting will be either far more or far less demanding than was originally intended.4) Muslims, both religious scholars and lay practitioners, have grappled with the effects of latitude on Islamic practice for several centuries. The first to do so were travelers to then remote and largely unknown regions.


Muslims in interfaith bonds are proliferating. Imams willing to marry them are not.

(RNS) — When Faiqa Cheema and Jeff Beale were planning their September 2021 wedding, it was important to Cheema that it include elements of the traditional ceremony of her Muslim faith, while also being meaningful for her husband, who was raised Baptist.

The couple’s path to their dream interfaith wedding turned out to be more complicated than they expected. While such unions are increasingly common, Muslim clergy have long frowned on marrying outside Islam, and Cheema and Beale struggled to find an imam who would officiate, much less adapt the Islamic ceremony, known as a nikah, to recognize Beale.

Many imams refused to marry them, Cheema said, because their bond is “against Islamic teaching and was a sin.” Beale was told to consider converting to Islam. “It’s not something that I wanted for him,” Cheema said.

Their search only came to an end when Cheema ran into the Instagram profile of Imam Imaad Sayeed. The founder of The London Nikah, a 10-year-old marriage agency that is now based in New Jersey, Sayeed has officiated some 250 Muslim interfaith weddings in the past five years, marrying couples from around the world.

RELATED: Why should there be a surcharge for having a Hindu wedding?

Sayeed’s busy schedule, he said, is the result of being one of the few imams willing to conform the nikah to demographic reality.

According to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, 79% of U.S. Muslims who are married or living with a partner are with someone of the same religion. That leaves 21%, presumably, in interfaith relationships.

The rules about intermarriage favor men, according to Imam Abdullah bin Hamid Ali, head of the Islamic Law program at Zaytuna College, a Muslim liberal arts school in Berkeley, California. Ali said the Quran is clear that men are allowed to marry non-Muslim women as long as their brides are “People of the Book” — Christians or Jews, both of whom recognize Abraham as their spiritual forefather, as Muslims do.


Since Jan. 6 attacks, spiritual leaders unify to combat Christian nationalism

The Jan. 6 insurrection of the U.S. Capitol drew recent attention to the phenomenon of Christian nationalism, but religious and spiritual leaders acknowledge its existence long before that.

his article is the fourth in a series on Christian nationalism supported by the Pulitzer Center.

(RNS) — Shannon Rivers believes that Indigenous people are the moral compass of the United States.

A member of the Native American Akimel O’otham, or River People of the Southwestern U.S., Rivers points to historical accounts of the northeastern Wampanoag, who in the 1600s taught the Pilgrims how to grow crops and weather harsh winters. “W

We were the ones who had that initial moral understanding of how you take care of one another and we still maintain that today, despite every wrong that has been done,” said Rivers, who is a spiritual counselor for incarcerated Native Americans. “Indigenous peoples still gather. They still pray for those who are settler societies.”

The Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol introduced many Americans to the phenomenon of Christian nationalism, as some of the rioters carried crosses or invoked the name of Jesus. But for many non-Christian Americans, Christian nationalism is an unavoidable fact of life.

RELATED: Post-Trump, Christian nationalists preach a theology of vaccine resistance

Rivers said the history of Christian nationalism began when the European settlers answered the Native Americans’ welcome with a belief that divine providence had ordained their domination of Indigenous land.


Muslim woman sues Missouri gun shop over hijab removal rule

A federal lawsuit alleges that a Missouri firearms store and gun range refused to let a Muslim woman use a shooting range unless she removed her hijab

By MARGARET STAFFORD Associated PressJanuary 4, 2022, 1:25 PM• 4 min read

A firearms store and gun range in suburban Kansas City refused to let a Muslim woman use the range unless she removed her hijab, a Muslim civil rights organization alleged in a federal lawsuit.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the law firm of Baldwin & Vernon in Independence alleges that the gun range at Frontier Justice in Lee’s Summit enforces its dress code in a discriminatory way that disproportionately affects Muslim women.

Rania Barakat and her husband went to Frontier Justice on Jan. 1, 2020, to shoot at its gun range. According to the lawsuit, Barakat was told she would not be allowed to use the range unless she removed her hijab, a religious head covering worn by some Muslim women.

Frontier Justice officials said in a statement posted on Facebook that the dress code rules, which have been in place since the store opened in 2015, are designed to protect people from being burned by expended brass and are not discriminatory.

The gun range requires shooters to remove all head coverings except baseball caps facing forward. A store manager explained that shrapnel could cause the hijab and skin to burn.

The couple told the manager they had used several other shooting ranges with no problems caused by the hijab, and that people wear long sleeves and shirts that cover their necks to protect them from shrapnel, according to the lawsuit.


Three books offer hope-filled views on Christian-Muslim relations

By Eugene J. Fisher • Catholic News Service • Posted September 24, 2021

“Pillars: How Muslim Friends Led Me Closer to Jesus” by Rachel Pieh Jones. Plough Publishing (Walden, New York, 2021). 264 pp., $ 17.99.

“Islamophobia: What Christians Should Know (and Do) about Anti-Muslim Discrimination” by Jordan Denari Duffner. Orbis Books (Maryknoll, New York, 2021). 243 pp., $22.

“A World of Inequalities: Christian and Muslim Perspectives,” edited by Lucinda Mosher. Georgetown University Press (Washington, 2021). 253 pp., $34.95.

I recommend all three of these timely books for anyone who wishes to understand the history and present reality of Christian-Muslim relations both within this country and around the world.

The title of Rachel Jones’ “Pillars” echoes the five basic pillars of Muslim faith: There is no god but God, prayer, almsgiving, fasting and pilgrimage.

The book is a personal journal, organized in five sections reflecting the pillars, of the author’s life in the heart of Africa, Somalia, where she and her husband moved to take part in a humanitarian effort to help the local Muslim inhabitants to learn more and achieve a better lifestyle.

She and her family endured many difficulties, from being looked down upon and excluded to fears of the violence that killed three of her Christian friends. But Muslim women come to her aid, teaching her how to interact with Muslim women and men, and bringing her family into their homes so she could better understand.

Jones and her Muslim friends journey together through the Muslim year, learning about each other through dialogue, listening to each other and, hesitatingly, praying together to the one God whom Christians and Muslims both worship.

This very personal story will introduce readers to Muslim religious traditions and, more importantly, to people with whom readers can relate and learn from.

“Islamophobia” details the present-day reality of a negative and largely false set of ideas about Muslims and Islam that has been part of Christian culture since at least the Crusades.

Ignoring what the holy book, the Quran, which is largely based upon the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, actually states, Islam is portrayed as a religion that sees itself as having replaced Christianity and Judaism and is aimed at their destruction and creating a totalitarian structure to take over and rule the world.

Muslims are depicted as anti-women’s rights, as racists and evil slaveholders, as if Christians never “owned” slaves. While some Muslims might hold such views, and some Muslim societies have reflected them, this is not what the Quran teaches.

We Catholics, and Christians in general, have equally been guilty of such departures from the teachings of Jesus. So we must learn not to scapegoat Muslims by blaming them for the faults of our own history, and to a sad extent, the present.

The final third of the book, “Crafting a Christian Response,” provides the reader with a number of things Catholics and all Christians can do today to break the cycle of fear/hate of Muslims, both individually and communally.

Author Jordan Denari Duffner notes the good things that the Holy See has done but argues, correctly in my view, that more can and should be done.


Muslims face a suicide crisis in America. The taboo of talking about it must end.

Muslim communities seem finally to be waking up to the reality of mental illness and the acute need to address it

If you or someone you know is having serious thoughts of suicide, please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Sana was gripped with fear. Her mind raced as she debated whether Allah would forgive her for being so ungrateful. She became certain that her newborn and toddler would be better off without her, a mother who couldn’t bond with her children.

The thoughts surprised her. Sana considered herself religious and was aware that suicide is forbidden in Islam. But it seemed like the only solution.

Her characteristically joyful personality had given way to uncontrollable feelings of guilt, despair and hypocrisy. Here she was, a lawyer and teacher of the Islamic sciences, considering suicide.
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Seeking help from friends was futile, as they told her what she already felt – she was suffering from weak iman (faith). They encouraged her to read more of the Quran and pray to restore her faith and gratitude.
On the day Sana had planned to die by suicide, a concerned friend called to check in. She had just completed a suicide response training developed by the Stanford Muslim Mental Health & Islamic Psychology (MMHIP) Lab and offered by Maristan, a community partner with the lab.
Several recent tragedies were the catalyst for Maristan to launch its 500 Imam Campaign with a goal to train at least 500 Muslim leaders across the country in 2022 in suicide prevention, intervention and post intervention. Maristan’s five-year goal is to train leaders in all 3,000 mosques across the U.S.
Sana’s friend recognized red flags that she had learned about, explained to Sana that her symptoms were the result of postpartum depression, and insisted that she take her to an emergency room for a psychiatric evaluation.

Learning about her symptoms and that they were unrelated to her level of education or religiosity helped to comfort Sana and ultimately saved her life.


Women Seek Diverse Paths to Leadership in Islamic Spaces


Shortly after Kholoud al-Faqeeh was appointed judge in an Islamic religious court in the Palestinian territories, a woman walked in, laid eyes on her and turned around and walked out, murmuring that she didn’t want a woman to rule in her case.

Al-Faqeeh was saddened, but not surprised — people have long been accustomed to seeing turbaned men in her place. It was only in 2009 that she became one of the first two women appointed in the West Bank as Islamic religious court judges. But she sees her presence on the court as all the more important since it rules on personal status matters ranging from divorce and alimony to custody and inheritance.

“What was even more provoking is that these religious courts are in charge of women’s cases,” al-Faqeeh said. “A woman’s whole life cycle is before these courts.”

FILE - Islamic court judge Kholoud al-Faqeeh poses for a portrait during a break at the court in Ramallah, West Bank, March 29, 2016.
FILE – Islamic court judge Kholoud al-Faqeeh poses for a portrait during a break at the court in Ramallah, West Bank, March 29, 2016.

Women like al-Faqeeh are increasingly carving out space for themselves in the Islamic sphere, and in doing so, paving the way for others to follow in their footsteps. Around the world, women are teaching in Islamic schools and universities, leading Quran study circles, preaching and otherwise providing religious guidance to the faithful.

This story is part of a series by The Associated Press and Religion News Service on women’s roles in male-led religions.

The formal ranks of Islamic leadership remain largely filled with men, but while women don’t lead mixed-gender congregational prayers in traditional Muslim settings, many say they see plenty of other paths to leadership.