Eboo Patel: A Muslim family celebrates Christmas

By Eboo Patel

The stockings are up. So is the tree. Gifts appear throughout December. Some are unwrapped on Christmas Eve, the rest on Christmas Day. It’s all pretty typical for an American family, with one little twist.

We’re Muslim. And we celebrate Christmas not in spite of being a Muslim family — but because we are a Muslim family.

One reason we do this is what scholars of Islam call adopting good custom. This is an Islamic principle in which Muslims are encouraged to absorb the healthy and positive elements of the culture in which we live. Bringing people together during the darkest time of the year. Giving gifts to family and friends and people in need. Increasing charitable contributions. Taking a break from work. If that’s not good custom, I don’t know what is.

(Sure, I could do without the commercialization and the incessant holiday music, but nothing’s perfect.)

Christmas is also an opportunity for religious education, both about our own Muslim faith and about a different religion.

“Jesus is the reason for the season” my wife likes to say — and she means it. We spend a lot of time talking about Jesus at this time of year. I also think of this as quite natural for an American Muslim family.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Diversity Initiatives Are Failing the U.S. Muslim Community

Over the past decade, the Muslim community has become included in diversity initiatives in the United States. Hollywood is finally producing shows that feature Muslim characters, such as Hulu’s Ramy, Netflix’s Mo, and Disney+’s Ms. Marvel. Universities are adjusting dining hall hours to accommodate Muslim students who fast during Ramadan, and they are increasing the number of reflection spaces on campus to facilitate Muslim ritual prayer. Nike launched its Pro Hijab, a headscarf for Muslim women athletes, and Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad became its model. Muhammad also served as the inspiration for the first Muslim Barbie doll.

These initiatives enhance our sense of belonging as Muslims in the U.S.—but they are not enough to actually challenge Islamophobia.

FULL ARTICLE FROM TIME ,MAGAZINE

The Midterm Results Show Muslim Americans Are No Longer on the Fringe of U.S. Politics

The Nov. 8 midterms almost saw Dr. Mehmet Oz become the first Muslim U.S. Senator. The Republican TV doctor-turned-politician—who wasn’t exactly popular among a wide swathe of Muslim Americans—would have been a controversial first for the community. But Oz’s loss to Democrat John Fetterman in Pennsylvania masks what was otherwise a record-breaking election for the community of at least 3.45 million people.

Muslim Americans won at least 83 seats across local, state, and federal midterm elections as of Thursday morning, according to an analysis by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a civil rights and advocacy group, and Jetpac, a nonprofit focused on increasing Muslim political representation in the U.S. Almost 150 Muslim Americans had run this year for office, including 51 state legislative candidates across 23 states.

This year’s wins surpass the prior record of 71 that CAIR and Jetpac counted in 2020; they have been tracking this data for the last six years.

Beyond these topline figures, several Muslims became the first representatives of their communities to enter statehouses. Illinois had its first Muslim Americans elected to the general assembly: 23-year-old Nabeela Syed and 33-year-old Abdelnasser Rashid both won seats in the state house. Salman Bhojani and Suleman Lalani became the first Muslims elected to the Texas legislature. In Georgia, Palestinian American Ruwa Romman became the first Muslim woman elected to the State House. In total, Georgia elected four Muslim Americans to office.

FULL ARTICLE FROM TIME MAGAZINE

A Marine who hated Muslims went to a mosque to plant a bomb. His intended victims ended up saving his life

Editor’s Note: This article is part of CNN’s Undivided series, which chronicles how Americans of very different backgrounds have found common ground. In this series, which runs through the midterm elections, we profile unlikely friendships between people of differing ages, races, religions and cultures.CNN — 

As soon as some members of the Islamic Center of Muncie saw the man coming toward them, they knew he was trouble.

He was a big guy with broad shoulders, marching toward their mosque with his head down and his face flushed red from what looked like anger. It was Friday at Muncie Islamic Center in Muncie, Indiana, and the mosque was filling with people who had come for afternoon prayers. As an outsider with a USMC tattoo on his right forearm and a skull tattoo on his left hand, he stood out.

His name was Richard “Mac” McKinney, and he was there not to worship but to destroy. He was a former US Marine who had developed a hatred toward Islam during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. His fury deepened when he returned home to Muncie to see how Muslims had settled into what he called his city, and even sent their children to sit next to his daughter at her elementary school.

Unable to contain his anger, he went to the Islamic center that day in 2009 on what he saw as his final mission. He was going to plant a bomb at the mosque in hopes of killing or wounding hundreds of Muslims. He was on a scouting mission to pick a location to hide his bomb and to gather intelligence that would validate his assumption that Islam was a murderous ideology.

“I told people that Islam was a cancer; and I was the surgeon to cure it,” he says.

But when McKinney entered the mosque, he encountered a form of resistance that he had not planned for. Something happened that day that would change him in a way he never expected.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CNN

Muslim Killings in Albuquerque Stir Sectarian Ghosts

An Afghan family struggled for a foothold in a new home in the U.S. Now one of them is charged with killing fellow Muslims.

By Simon RomeroMiriam JordanAva Sasani and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

  • Aug. 15, 2022

ALBUQUERQUE — Five years ago, Muhammad Syed was eyeing a new life with his family in a new land. They had fled war-torn Afghanistan and resettled as refugees into a small duplex near the airport in Albuquerque. Mr. Syed found work as a truck driver. But then the troubles began.

Coming from a culture where women largely stayed at home, he grew enraged with his wife as she was learning how to drive, grabbing her hair and kicking her out of the car, according to one of several reports of domestic violence the police were called to investigate. A security camera showed him slashing the tires of another woman’s car outside Albuquerque’s largest mosque, and he was banned from coming back to their place of worship.

When his daughter enrolled in college, he tried to force her to bring her brother to class as a chaperone. And when she became romantically involved with an Afghan man from a different branch of Islam — a Shiite, while Mr. Syed and his family were Sunni — he attacked the young man and threatened to kill him, the man later told the police.

“Syed was explosive, violent, always seeking revenge,” said Sharif Ahmadi Hadi, an Afghan immigrant who, together with his brother, opened a halal market serving Albuquerque’s growing Muslim community and knew the Syed family. “We left Afghanistan to get away from people like him. But they followed us here.”

Altaf Hussain Samadi at the grave of Aftab Hussein, his brother, on Friday.
Altaf Hussain Samadi at the grave of Aftab Hussein, his brother, on Friday.Credit…Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal, via Associated Press

Now Mr. Syed has been identified as the leading suspect in the harrowing string of murders of four men, including Mr. Hadi’s younger brother, three of them Shiite Muslims, and the authorities said on Monday that Mr. Syed’s son, Shaheen Syed, purchased weapons with his father and may have helped him surveil one of the victims before his death.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

What if that coach praying on the football field is Muslim?

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an evangelical Christian football coach in Bremerton, Wash. had the right to pray on the field after games. So what if the coach had been Muslim or Jewish, instead? That’s what the social-media influencer and former pro basketball player Rex Chapman asked, in a tweet that went crazy-viral right after the decision was handed down. The blogosphere lit up with predictably polarized responses: liberals said a Muslim prayer would never be allowed, and conservatives insisted that it would. I’m not sure, myself. But here’s what I do know: We need a non-Christian to test these waters, as soon as possible, so we find out what each side of the prayer battle truly believes.

Start with conservatives, who said they were shocked — shocked! — that anyone would question their commitment to religious freedom for all worshipers, Muslims included. “So, wait — do these people actually think Sam Alito and Amy Coney Barrett would hate the idea of Muslim coaches praying on their own after a football game?” asked Washington Examiner columnist Timothy P. Carney.

He’s right, about the conservative judges. Indeed, Justice Neil Gorsuch’s majority opinion, which Alito and Barrett joined, worried that if the Bremerton football coach was barred from praying, “a school could fire a Muslim teacher for wearing a headscarf.” I’m confident that these judges would uphold the right of that same teacher to roll out a prayer rug on the 50-yard-line and bow to Mecca after the game.

But it’s reasonable to ask how many other Republicans would. Remember, this is the same party that sponsored 120 bills in 42 state legislatures aimed at preventing the entirely invented threat of Islamic Sharia law. It’s the same party that led efforts to block the construction or expansion of mosques in over 50 different instances.

Republicans have pressed school boards to alter history textbooks that supposedly whitewash jihad — that is, Islamic religious war — and make students “susceptible to becoming terrorists,” as activists in Florida charged in 2011.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER

Most American Muslims believe gun laws need to be stricter, says survey

Most American Muslims believe gun control laws should be stricter, a new report by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (Ispu) has found.

According to the poll, 65 percent of Muslim respondents believe existing gun control laws need to be stricter, slightly higher than the 64 percent of Jews and Catholics that were polled.

Muslims are more likely than Protestants (54 percent), white Evangelicals (30 percent), and the general public (57 percent) to hold this view.

According to the survey, white Muslims were more likely than white Americans in the general public to believe gun laws should be stricter. But Black Muslims were more likely than Black Americans to believe laws covering the sale of firearms should be less strict.

The report, which will be released in full in August, comes just two weeks after 21 people, mostly children, were killed in a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

According to data from the Washington Post, more than 311,000 children in America have experienced gun violence in school since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School. In that same period, 185 were killed and 369 were injured.

“All Americans are unfortunately impacted by gun violence, directly or indirectly. As our local, state and national leadership work to find effective solutions, public opinion is critical to understand,” Meira Neggaz, Ispu’s executive director, told Middle East Eye.

“Our work researching American Muslim opinions, in comparison to other groups in the country’s faith landscape, uncovers that most groups and the majority of Americans are aligned in their concern about the current state of gun laws.”

to gun safety laws that we have seen in decades.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM MIDDLE EAST EYE

OPINION: MUSLIM AMERICANS AND MENTAL HEALTH

We know that health disparities are a looming threat to minority groups’ quality of life and well-being. Yet, most popular attention on minority health disparities, both in the medical literature and in the public, focuses on racial and ethnic disparities. While these inequities are real and rightfully deserve attention, other demographic gaps, such as those among Muslim Americans, are also important. 

Part of what makes the Muslim population so beautiful is the immense diversity; no single racial or ethnic group constitutes more than 30% of the total Muslim American population. What’s more, millions of Muslims are also racial or ethnic minorities and (or) immigrants. This creates a risk of intersectional stigma — which can adversely affect individual mental health.

As authors, we care about this topic because our background as Muslim Americans means we cannot remain silent about the challenges that confront our community. Washington State is home to a steadily growing Muslim population, with a current population of over 100,000 Muslims, with the majority of them residing in King County. 

Growing up in the greater Seattle area, we have witnessed incidents of harassment and discrimination against Muslims. Muslims of all ages and backgrounds are subject to this discrimination. In school, Muslim kids often experience bullying and harassment; in public, there have been countless incidents including women’s hijab being pulled off and in which Muslims were called derogatory names and were subject to hate crimes. 

Having this happen to you or even seeing it happen to your fellow Muslims takes an immense toll on one’s sense of safety, belonging, confidence wearing Islamic dress (such as the hijab), and overall expressing one’s freedom of religion. 

FULL ARTICLE FROM SOUTH SEATTLE EMERALD

Yes, Muslims are portrayed negatively in American media

(The Conversation) — The warm welcome Americans and Europeans have given Ukrainians in 2022 contrasts sharply with the uneven — and frequently hostile — policies toward Syrian refugees in the mid-2010s.

Political scientist David Laitin has highlighted the role that religious identities play in this dynamic. As he pointed out in a recent interview, Syrian refugees were “mostly Muslim and faced higher degrees of discrimination than will the Ukrainians, who are largely of Christian heritage.”

The media provide information that shapes such attitudes toward Muslims. A 2007 Pew Research Center survey of Americans found that people’s negative opinions on Muslims were mostly influenced by what they heard and read in the media. Communications scholar Muniba Saleem and colleagues have demonstrated the link between media information and “stereotypic beliefs, negative emotions and support for harmful policies” toward Muslim Americans.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE

US Muslims See Rise in Islamophobia

After a six-year hiatus, U.S. President Joe Biden last week resumed the 22-year-old tradition of hosting an Eid celebration at the White House.

“Muslims make our nation stronger every single day, even as they still face real challenges and threats in our society, including targeted violence and Islamophobia that exists,” Biden told a group of prominent Muslims.

Biden’s comments marked a significant change of tone from his predecessor, Donald Trump, who said in 2016, “I think Islam hates us.”

Trump did not host a White House Eid celebration while president, though he did issue statements marking the annual Muslim festival and invited diplomats from Muslim-majority nations to the White House for iftar dinner during Ramadan in 2018 and 2019.

FILE - President Joe Biden, left, listens as Talib M. Shareef, President and Imam of Masjid Muhammad in Washington, speaks during a reception to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, May 2, 2022.
FILE – President Joe Biden, left, listens as Talib M. Shareef, President and Imam of Masjid Muhammad in Washington, speaks during a reception to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, May 2, 2022.

The shift in the White House’s tone comes at a time when U.S. Muslims fear Islamophobia is on the rise.

Last week, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reported a 9% increase in the number of civil rights complaints it received from Muslims in the United States since 2020.

“CAIR received a total of 6,720 complaints nationwide involving a range of issues including immigration and travel, discrimination, law enforcement and government overreach, hate and bias incidents, incarceree rights, school incidents, and anti-BDS/free speech,” the report said. BDS refers to the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement that seeks to advance social change through economic pressure.

Huzaifa Shahbaz, an author of the report, told VOA the rise in complaints about Islamophobia coincided with the lifting of COVID-related restrictions and the reopening of workplaces, worship centers and restaurants.

Others echo CAIR’s findings and point to other reasons as well.

“Over the last year, we’ve seen racism in the United States rise across the board as a consequence of the pandemic, the intensification of white supremacist groups, political polarization, and even though we have Trump out of the office, this rising climate of racism is still feeding the Islamophobia that exists really heavily in the United States,” said Khaled Beydoun, a law professor at Wayne State University.

FULL ARTICLE FROM VOA