At Muslim Sunday school, learning about Islam — and correcting misconceptions

muslim_sunday_school-2-mansoorOff a highway in central Connecticut is the mosque with a 400-student Muslim Sunday school.

More guards are on patrol these days. And for the older students in the transition class, talking about Islamophobia is not only welcomed, but encouraged. The teenagers are in their final years of high school and will be heading off to college soon.

So before they head out into the “real world,” they aren’t just learning the tenets of Islam, said Dr. Reza Mansoor, their teacher on a recent Sunday. He’s coaching them on how to defend their faith from misconceptions.

“By the way, As-Salaam-Alaikum,” Mansoor greeted them. “If you use an Arabic term and you don’t translate, dinged one point, OK? So As-Salaam-Alaikum means God’s peace be with you all.”

Mansoor is president of the mosque, called Islamic Association of Greater Hartford, and he is big on translating Islamic phrases and words. Take jihad, for instance. It means a struggle — usually a personal, spiritual one — but if you hear jihad in the media, he said, it’s almost always associated with extremists who commit violence in the name of Islam, like the 9/11 terrorists.

“If you use jihadist for terrorist, you unfortunately give the terrorists… a position much higher than what they are,” Mansoor told his students.

People tend to fear what they don’t know. And when Islam is viewed as a threat, that makes Muslims a target.

“Just imagine someone calling you a terrorist and telling you to go home,” Aissa Bensalem, 17, said during the class. “I had one of my friends say that they were scared to come to the masjid because they were afraid that they were going to be shot on.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CTMIRROR.ORG

Minnesota Muslims shift toward eco-friendly practices during Ramadan

ows_155813580564811

As the clock approached midnight, volunteers in the kitchen of the Islamic Center of Minnesota’s female-only clubhouse washed cutlery and ceramic plates to be used for the next iftar dinner in the days to come.

It made more work, but that meant less trash after the traditional evening meal to break the fast during Ramadan.

“A few years ago, when we decided to organize iftars, we reached out to the community and asked for old plates, silverware, dishes and cutlery. We have been using them since,” said Sally Hassan, director of the clubhouse, called Club ICM, in Fridley. “People are used to the convenience of using plastic or paper plates. They want the easy way out.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE 

Muslims arrived in America 400 years ago as part of the slave trade and today are vastly diverse

file-20190409-2931-vj92z7Most Americans say they don’t know a Muslim and that much of what they understand about Islam is from the media.

It’s not surprising then to see the many misunderstandings that exist about Muslims. Some see them as outsiders and a threat to the American way of life and values. President Donald Trump’s controversial policy to impose a ban on Muslims from seven countries entering into the United States played into such fears.

What many don’t know, however, is that Muslims have been in America well before America became a nation. In fact, some of the earliest arrivals to this land were Muslim immigrants – forcibly transported as slaves in the transatlantic trade, whose 400th anniversary is being observed this year.

The first American Muslims

Scholars estimate that as many as 30% of the African slaves brought to the U.S., from West and Central African countries like Gambia and Cameroon, were Muslim. Among the difficulties they faced, were also those related to their faith.

As a scholar of Muslim communities in the West, I know African slaves were forced to abandon their Islamic faith and practices by their owners, both to separate them from their culture and religious roots and also to “civilize” them to Christianity.

Historian Sylviane Diouf explains how despite such efforts, many slaves retained aspects of their customs and traditions, and found new, creative ways to express them. Slave devotionals sung in the fields, for example, kept the tunes and memory of a bygone life alive well after the trauma of dislocation.

Diouf argues that blues music, one of the quintessential forms of American culture, can trace its origins to Muslim influences from the slave era. She also demonstrates how the famous blues song, “Levee Call Holler,” has a style and melody that comes from the Muslim call to prayer, the “adhan.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CONVERSATION 

How IHOP Became a Pre-Dawn Meal Staple for Some American Muslims Observing the Holy Month of Ramadan

igdy1kwufdhq0nvypgodAs most American Muslims prepare to start the holy month of Ramadan this coming Sunday, an interesting phenomenon has been noted in the Washington, D.C., area among those looking to fill up for their pre-dawn suhoor meal before they fast all during daylight hours — IHOP.

Yes. As the Washington Post explains, like Chinese restaurants have long been an unofficial go-to for Jews, Muslims and other non-Christians faced with closed businesses on Christmas, IHOP, at least in the D.C. area, has become an unofficial go-to for Muslims who don’t wish to prepare their own pre-dawn meal during Ramadan.

IHOP works because in most areas around the country the restaurants stay open 24 hours, allowing families wanting to eat about 3 or 4 in the morning before the sun comes up someplace to go.

“Personally, I have a hard time getting up to even go downstairs to my kitchen to eat a meal at 3 a.m.,” Rabiah Ahmed, a public relations professional, told the Post.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ROOT

At Boston Marathon bombing anniversary, local Muslims host blood drive

blood-drive_chloe_online-768x512BOSTON (RNS) – Six years after the deadly Boston Marathon bombing, a local mosque continues to host an annual blood drive in honor of those affected by the terror attack.

Monday’s 123rd running of the Boston Marathon marked the sixth anniversary of the attack, which left three people dead and more than 260 injured, as well as the first time the marathon was run on the exact anniversary of the bombing. At 2:49 p.m. — six years to the moment when the first bomb exploded at the finish line – the Boston Athletic Association held a moment of silence, and the bells at nearby Old South Church were rung.

Days after the race, as they have for six years, members of the Baitun Nasir Mosque in suburban Sharon, Massachusetts, collected more than 30 blood donations on Friday at Boston City Hall.

“(Our community) holds this special blood drive every year to honor those affected by the Boston Marathon tragedy, help humanity and to emphasize true Islam’s teaching regarding the sanctity of life,” organizer Nasir Rana said.

“We want to tell the people that the only blood Muslims shed is to help humanity,” he said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE 

Muslims arrived in America 400 years ago as part of the slave trade and today are vastly diverse

file-20190409-2931-vj92z7Most Americans say they don’t know a Muslim and that much of what they understand about Islam is from the media.

It’s not surprising then to see the many misunderstandings that exist about Muslims. Some see them as outsiders and a threat to the American way of life and values. President Donald Trump’s controversial policy to impose a ban on Muslims from seven countries entering into the United States played into such fears.

What many don’t know, however, is that Muslims have been in America well before America became a nation. In fact, some of the earliest arrivals to this land were Muslim immigrants – forcibly transported as slaves in the transatlantic trade, whose 400th anniversary is being observed this year.

The first American Muslims

Scholars estimate that as many as 30% of the African slaves brought to the U.S., from West and Central African countries like Gambia and Cameroon, were Muslim. Among the difficulties they faced, were also those related to their faith.

As a scholar of Muslim communities in the West, I know African slaves were forced to abandon their Islamic faith and practices by their owners, both to separate them from their culture and religious roots and also to “civilize” them to Christianity.

Historian Sylviane Diouf explains how despite such efforts, many slaves retained aspects of their customs and traditions, and found new, creative ways to express them. Slave devotionals sung in the fields, for example, kept the tunes and memory of a bygone life alive well after the trauma of dislocation.

Diouf argues that blues music, one of the quintessential forms of American culture, can trace its origins to Muslim influences from the slave era. She also demonstrates how the famous blues song, “Levee Call Holler,” has a style and melody that comes from the Muslim call to prayer, the “adhan.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CONVERSATION 

Group highlights civil rights abuses against Muslims

An elementary school student who received threatening notes in her classroom. A congressional candidate who dealt with anti-Islam political flyers during her campaign. And a mother who was subjected to an invasive airport search.

Those and many other cases from 2018 are highlighted in a new report released Wednesday by the Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the state’s largest Islamic advocacy organization.

The goal of the report is to educate the public about the abuses local Muslims are facing while also encouraging people to step forward if they’re dealing with similar issues, said Barbara Dougan, the group’s civil rights director.

“The perpetrators and haters are emboldened,” she said. “The level of aggression toward women is especially troubling. Muslim women who wear hijabs are shouldering the greatest burden of the physical violence and harassment.”

Among the prominent cases highlighted was one involving a fifth-grader at Hemenway Elementary School in Framingham who received two notes in her classroom storage bin — one calling her a terrorist and the other threatening her with death. The incident prompted an outpouring of support from across the country as some 500 people sent letters of encouragement to the young student as part of a campaign promoted by the council.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FOX NEWS