Learning to Love Your Muslim Neighbors

downloadIn America and Europe, learning to love your (Muslim) neighbor.

Often when I’m reading I come across a passage that makes me want to fling the book across the room. I almost never do this—I handle books with an almost superstitious reverence—but at least I can groan or shake my head.

I did a lot of head-shaking and some groaning while reading Matthew Kaemingk’s Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration in an Age of Fear. Sometimes that was prompted by an excruciatingly pedantic sentence, like this one on page 224: “Music is a powerful sonic medium for liturgical formation.” Sometimes it was in response to the author’s failure to live up to the very principles he eloquently puts forward, as in his caricature of Ayaan Hirsi Ali (no measured critical engagement here; we’ll return to this point later). More often, though, I was scribbling appreciative comments on Post-It Notes and wishing that a friend or two would drop by so we could talk about this book immediately and at length.

Kaemingk’s book should move to the top of the reading list for participants in four distinct but often overlapping conversations: (1) on Christian-Muslim interaction generally, post-9/11, and the “framing” of this subject in the West; (2) on Muslim immigrants to the United States; (3) on the “hegemony” of liberalism in modernity; and (4) on Abraham Kuyper’s theological case for genuine pluralism, with particular reference to the stance that evangelical Christians in the United States should take (admirers of John Inazu’s Confident Pluralism will be particularly interested in this thread). Throughout, Kaemingk’s narrative focuses on the Netherlands, asking what can be learned from the experience of Muslim immigrants there and from the failure of Kuyper’s pluralist project; in addition to Kuyper, he draws on the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck and the pastor-theologian Klaas Schilder.



Muslims run for office in record numbers but the path is uphill

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — A liberal woman of color with zero name recognition and little funding takes down a powerful, long-serving congressman from her own political party.

When Tahirah Amatul-Wadud heard about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning upset over U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley in New York’s Democratic primary last month, the first-time candidate saw parallels with her own longshot campaign for Congress in western Massachusetts.

The 44-year-old Muslim, African-American civil-rights lawyer, who is taking on a 30-year congressman and ranking Democrat on the influential House Ways and Means Committee, said she wasn’t alone, as encouragement, volunteers and donations started pouring in.

“We could barely stay on top of the residual love,” said Amatul-Wadud, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal’s lone challenger in the state’s Sept. 4 Democratic primary. “It sent a message to all of our volunteers, voters and supporters that winning is very possible.”

From Congress to state legislatures and school boards, Muslim Americans spurred to action by the anti-Muslim policies and rhetoric of President Donald Trump and his supporters are running for elected offices in numbers not seen since before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, say Muslim groups and political observers.


Muslims are not welcome in America, and that is exactly who we are

anti-mosque-racism-protest_usa_300515-2America is now openly hostile to Muslim immigrants. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Our country’s stance has been rendered clear: If you’re Muslim, you’re not welcome here. Period.

 I don’t want that to be the case. I condemn that stance as fundamentally un-American.

But I’m no longer going to parrot the oft-tweeted line that has become ubiquitous in the Trump era: “This is not who we are!”

Twitter exploded with “This is not who we are” tweets, well-intentioned pleas that people around the world maintain a belief in the basic decency of Americans.

READ: Muslims grapple with ruling that they believe redefines their place in America »

But let’s be honest. That line isn’t meant to reassure a wary world. It’s meant to make the people who type or utter it feel better. It’s as much a cop-out as it is false.

The travel ban may not be who you are. It’s not who I am. But it is who we — as a country — are right now.

We are a country that doesn’t want Muslims to come here. We are a country that doesn’t want people from Mexico or South America or Central America or Africa to come here. We are a country that wants people who weren’t born in America but have lived here and put down roots to leave, even if it means they’ll return to countries plagued with violence and poverty. We are a country that will intentionally separate mothers from their children as a means to deter non-white people from coming here, even if they’re facing certain death and seeking asylum.

That’s who we are. It gets dressed up in “we’re a nation of laws” rhetoric, but it is what it is, and the world can see it more clearly every day. No amount of denial will make that change.


America’s real Muslim problem is Islamophobia

There’s a common perception that Muslims pose a threat to the security of the U.S., but the real threat is to them

anti-mosque-racism-protest_usa_300515-2June 2018 was an especially bad month for the status of Muslims in America. First, we learned that a new study showed that many Americans view Muslims in the United States as insufficiently “American,” and almost 20 percent would deny Muslim citizens the right to vote. Then, the Supreme Court upheld President Donald Trump’s decision to institute a ban on immigrants, refugees and visa holders from five majority-Muslim countries in a 5-4 decision.

The synergy of these two pieces of information is critical because it reveals a common attitude that Muslims pose a threat to U.S. security whether they are U.S. citizens or not. And while these attitudes do break down heavily across party lines, it is noteworthy that the study of U.S. perceptions of Muslim Americans conducted by Dalia Mogahed and John Sides for the Voter Study Group indicated that even 12 percent of Democrats would consider denying Muslim citizens the right to vote. Their study also showed that 32 percent of Democrats favor targeting Muslims at U.S. airport screenings to ensure the safety of flights. That figure compares with 75 percent of Republicans.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority SCOTUS opinion upholding the travel ban. He emphasized that, despite ample evidence of President Donald Trump’s animus towards the Muslim community, the ban was a security issue and not an example of discrimination, “Because there is persuasive evidence that the entry suspension has a legitimate grounding in national security concerns, quite apart from any religious hostility, we must accept that independent justification.”


Rabbis Justin David and Riqi Kosovske: Jewish communities stand with Muslims

jews-1To the Hampshire Mosque Community, Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts, and Pioneer Valley Progressive Muslims, from Rabbis of the Pioneer Valley: Dear Friends, Salaam Aleikum!

As a Jewish community, we wanted to convey our deep dismay over the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the travel ban affecting people from predominantly Muslim countries, while at the same time we want to affirm the solidarity and deeply meaningful relationships we have built between our communities.

As Jews, many of our ancestors came to this country as refugees, and even several generations later, we carry this historical memory that informs our sense of justice in this current moment. And beyond our particular set of experiences, we deplore the discrimination now given legal legitimacy as people who believe in fundamental dignity and the assurances of the US Constitution.

Ultimately, though, we believe in the power of relationships to create change in our society and to add untold richness to people’s lives. In this vein, we are grateful for and proud of the opportunities for connection we have sought out in recent years.

The opportunities for dialogue through presentations and classes, shared celebrations, solidarity rallies, and the ongoing Shalom-Salaam sisterhood have created an enduring bond between our communities. The recent interfaith Iftar at the Islamic Society, and the celebration in the fall hosted by the Hampshire Mosque, felt like family gatherings, and we were immensely honored to be invited and participate.


Muslim candidates rise above Trump hostility to focus on issues


Deedra Abboud, an attorney, is competing for the Democratic nomination for the US Senate in Arizona. She has never sought public office before. But she has become a fixture in national headlines – in part because of online vitriol generated by the fact she is a Muslim.

Abboud wears a headscarf. Slurs against her have included calling her a “towel head” and suggestions that Muslims should not serve in the US government.

Abboud told the Guardian she saw a “silver lining” in finally being noticed. But she also felt a familiar frustration. She is from Little Rock, Arkansas, as evidenced by her southern twang. Nonetheless, she has had to settle for being known as “the Muslim candidate”.

“I wear a scarf, I don’t want to hide it,” she said. “It’s something I want to take head-on. It’s just sometimes I think it’s relegated to only that.”

“We’re trying to change what leadership and power look like in this country,” said Fayrouz Saad, a 34-year-old from Michigan who if elected would become the first Muslim woman in the House of Representatives.

Nearly 100 Muslims are running for office at state and federal levels. Almost all are Democrats, few have held office before. Several who were interviewed by the Guardian said they did not want a disproportionate focus to be placed on their faith. Much like their opponents, they said, they wished to talk about the issues.


Coverage Of American Muslims Is Bigoted And Inaccurate. This Group Is Using Hard Facts To Fix It.

maxresdefaultAn organization looking to use data to combat the overwhelming amount of misinformation about Muslims in the media has released an in-depth report to highlight their contributions to society.

The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding published the New York City edition of its report, Muslims for American Progress, on Tuesday, finding that as of 2016, there were approximately 768,767 Muslims living in New York City. They make up approximately 9 percent of the city’s total population and over 20 percent of Muslims nationwide, according to ISPU.

The report also noted that over 11 percent of New York City’s engineers are Muslim, that Muslim health care workers in the city provided over 6 million appointments to patients, and that Muslim educators taught nearly 250,000 New York City students per year. The report also breaks down Muslims’ contributions in other fields, such as civic engagement, the arts, philanthropy and finance.

“Our hope is that some of the data points can be used to push back against unfounded stereotypes that most Muslims are dangerous,” Elisabeth Becker, the principal investigator for the MAP NYC project, told HuffPost.