Is Islam the only way to talk about Christian fundamentalism?

bd38a7028fd14e53885bb60358e8c64a_18We really need to talk about Mehdi Hasan’s latest video for the Intercept.

In the clip titled, Caliph Donald Trump and the Rise of the Christian Taliban, broadcaster and journalist Hasan spends nearly four minutes warning his viewers about the “Christian Taliban”, or the “Bible-thumping fundamentalists who are bent on theocratising the US government.”

Using Islamic terminology, Hasan raises the alarm about the policies of the Christian right. For instance, he argues that they want “sharia law”, of the “Biblical variety”, and then goes on to speak of the multiple “mullahs” in the Trump administration, ending with “Caliph Trump” himself. In the video, Hasan also compares the use of “To God be the Glory” by the Christian right to intervene in the secular legal system to the quintessential angry Muslim screaming “Allahu Akbar”.

Hasan is not the first person to invoke Islam when speaking of extremism within other religions. He is just part of a growing group of liberals and leftists who think it’s trendy to use Islam and Muslims as a prop against religious extremism around the world, and especially in the United States.

The use of comparisons is a quick and easy way to make a point and to appeal to moderates and liberals, who are often convinced that it is religious fundamentalism alone that is the source of all evils.

And certainly, religious fundamentalists of all stripes seek to use scripture to justify their actions. But whereas the intention of Hasan’s video, for instance, might have been to give a speedy (and clearly viral) lesson about the pervasive nature of religious extremism, his use of “the Muslim extremist” tropes and attempt to rely on Islamic terms is actually quite destructive.

Hasan’s video relegates Islamic terminologies, which Muslim leaders and scholars have been working hard to reclaim, to the inaccurate definitions advanced by Islamophobes. In turn, “mullah” – which simply refers to someone who is learned in Islamic law and theology – becomes synonymous with “religious bigot”.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA 

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Look at art for the deep connection between Europe and Islam

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While politicians present it as alien, a new exhibition in Florence reveals historic exchange and dialogue with the east

The Adoration of the Magi is an early 15th-century altarpiece painting by the Italian painter Gentile da Fabriano. Housed in the Uffizi gallery in Florence, it is considered by many art historians as Fabriano’s finest work and as the culmination of the International Gothic style of the late 14th and early 15th centuries.

Look closely at figures of the Virgin Mary and Joseph, and you will notice something odd. Their halos feature Arabic script. That might seem sacrilege in a Christian religious painting. Yet as a new exhibition in Florence, at the Uffizi and the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, sets out to show, such cultural and religious cross-dressing was common at the time. Entitled “Islamic Art and Florence from the Medici to the 20th Century”, the show explores “the knowledge, exchange, dialogue and mutual influence that existed between the arts of east and west”.

Embodied in the Renaissance view is certainly a sense of Islam as the other. But it is intertwined with curiosity, respect, even awe. There is a willingness, too, to reach beyond the otherness of Islam and to see the Muslim world not as demonic or exotic but as a variant of the European experience.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN 

Religion isn’t going anywhere, but the demographics are shifting dramatically

Religious_demographicsReligion is still an integral part of many modern societies, influencing laws and people’s behavior, as well as the way adherents relate to others in the world. Are religions going away any time soon? Despite what some decry, there is little evidence of that. What is changing is the composition of the world’s believers.

Christianity has been the world’s largest religion for millennia but its reign might come to an end sometime during the current century, overtaken by Islam. Muslims are the world’s largest growing religious group, according to Pew Research,increasing twice as fast as the world population. While the world’s population will likely increase by 32% in the ensuing decades, the number of Muslims will possibly grow by 70%, rising from 1.8 billion in 2015 to around 3 billion in 2060. That would make this group 31.1% of the world’s population rather than the 24.1% that it is currently.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BIGTHINK.COM

So you’re scared of Islam? By that logic, you should be scared of Christianity as well

muslimSince the 45th President of the United States took office last January, the social, economic, and cultural landscape of the U.S. has shifted. For the average American, these changes are not terribly pronounced. Sure, their taxes may go up or down a little, and they may not be able to afford health care, but for the stereotypical white, red-blooded American, there is no worry of physical safety nor cultural belonging. This is not the case for many Muslims living in the United States under reign of President Trump.

Islam is the most feared and misunderstood religion in America. Despite notions of American diversity, Americans are grossly intolerant of Islam.

For many years after 9/11 the villain in action movies were Islamic terrorists. The film and television industry capitalizes on popular opinion when selecting the archetypal “bad guy” for the silver screen. These days the villains tend to be Russian or vaguely North Korean, again reflecting the zeitgeist of American mob mentality. Perhaps the term “American” here is disingenuous and I should be more specific. A Pew Research Center survey found, in 2017, that Republicans, white evangelicals, and those with less education are much more likely to express reservations about Muslims and Islam than any other group of Americans. On their “feeling thermometer” from zero to one-hundred where absolute zero indicates the most negative possible rating and one hundred the highest possible favor rating. The average Democrats rated Islam at 56 while Republicans and those leaning towards the Republican party came in at a cool 39. 63 percent of Republican respondents believe that Islam incites violence while only 26 percent of Democrats agreed with that statement. Additionally, Republicans also are more likely than Democrats to say that Islam is not part of mainstream American society (68 percent vs. 37 percent) and that there is a natural conflict between Islam and democracy (65 percent vs. 30 percent) according to Pew Research Center.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE SPECTATOR

Islam confronts us Christians with long-overdue debates”

patertobiaszimmermannFather Tobias Zimmermann, long grey hair, an earring in his left ear, is head teacher of the Canisius Kolleg in Berlin, one of three Jesuit schools in Germany. The school describes itself as a secondary school “with Christian-Humanist character”. Young people should not only receive a good education here, but also mature to become responsible people. Zimmermann’s decision to hire a headscarf-wearing Muslim woman as a teacher caused something of a furore in Berlin. Newspapers such as Die Welt, the Tagesspiegel and the Berliner Zeitung reported on the story, as well as the regional public broadcaster RBB. As Zimmermann is keen to stress at the outset, he was rather surprised at the media storm.  After all, he’d only appointed a teacher, hadn’t he?

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Father Zimmermann, at a time when the AfD is represented in the Bundestag, you appointed a Muslim teacher at a Catholic school. Did you intend to make some kind of statement?

Pater Tobias Zimmermann: No. The key factor was that this woman was very well qualified for the post. And it wasn’t because we had too few applicants either. But how to deal with such an eventuality was something we had already discussed in advance. We’ve had a very diverse staff for a long time now: many of the teachers are Catholic of course, while a few grew up in East Germany and never had the chance to get to know Christianity from the inside. Others are Protestant. As far as the Muslims are concerned, today’s situation reminds of the 1970s. Back then, we made the decision to begin accepting Protestant students. And then at some point, we appointed Protestant teachers too.

kopftuchOver the past two years, you’ve started up two classes at the school for refugee children. Did the decision have something to do with that?

Zimmermann: Of course. We’ve got around 30 Muslim students at the school today, which gives Islam a different visibility. And it also gives rise to new questions: do we now need different spaces for prayer? Not necessarily Islamic, but at least ones where followers of different religions can pray together. We’re also thinking about whether we should be offering Islamic religious studies.

So do children need to be taught by teachers who share their cultural background?

Zimmermann: Not exclusively, of course. But for me, school also offers the possibility for experimentation. Here we have the opportunity to enter into a dialogue with one another. And if society, such as it is here in Berlin, is characterised by a variety of world views, then this should be reflected in our teaching staff. As a Christian school we’re experimenting here with something I believe constitutes a good school.

FULL ARTICLE FROM QANTARA.DE

I’m a Christian and an Interfaith Educator. America Needs Islam.

I am a Christian who was raised, and now choose, to profess Christ as Lord and Savior. I was born into a white middle-class family in suburban Maryland. I was part of the majority of Americans who received little education on Islam. I didn’t know that, in addition to sharing a common humanity, we also shared core teachings of our faith. It was not until I left home, at age 17 that I even met anyone who identified as Muslim.

Now I work at Davidson College in the Chaplain’s Office, as an interfaith educator. My job includes supporting students who live faithfully according to the practice and teachings of Islam. Every day, I find that students who identify as Muslim teach me to be a better Christian and a better citizen.

Islam deeply values humility. The Arabic word Muslim means “one who submits [to God].” Submission takes many forms, including daily time for prayer and bowing oneself before God, offering hospitality to one’s family and neighbors, and cherishing peace. I learn from practitioners of Islam the teaching of Jesus that “those who humble themselves will be exalted,” for they place God before all else (Matthew 23:12). Without humility, we destroy our own social fabric.

FULL ARTICLE FROM SOJOURNERS 

The Muslim Jesus provides common ground for Christianity, Islam

Iraqi man carrying cross and Quran attends Mass  in BaghdadAs the country sits transfixed with one of the strangest, divisive and most unpredictable presidencies in the history of the United States, lost in the madness has been the increase in Islamophobia since Donald Trump was elected president.

Islamophobia, defined as “unfounded hostility towards Muslims and therefore fear or dislike of all or most Muslims” has become frighteningly commonplace in the U.S. and this hatred and misinformation has found fertile soil in the past eight months of the Trump presidency.

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The Council on American-Islamic Relations has documented 451 incidents that stemmed from anti-Muslim bias between April 1 and June 30, 2017, 15 percent of which were acts of violence against Muslims. This represents a 91 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes during that time compared to the same time period in 2016.

These crimes occur in a conducive environment. A Pew Research Center survey in 2017 rated Muslims at 48 degrees, the lowest on a 0-100 “feeling thermometer” out of nine religious groups in the United States, two points lower than atheists. Particularly negative feelings towards Muslims were harbored by Republicans and those who were Republican-leaning.

The irony here is that most Americans really have no idea what is in the Quran, the Muslim equivalent of the Bible, beyond the mostly negative and out of context soundbites they hear on talk radio, cable TV or the internet. They have no idea that the three monotheistic religions that follow the same Abrahamic tradition, namely that Abraham was the first prophet of God, are Judaism, Christianity and yes, the third sibling, Islam.

All three religions were born in the Middle East and are inextricably linked to each another. While Christianity was born from within the Jewish tradition, Islam developed from both Christianity and Judaism. In fact, Islam sees itself as the culmination of the Abrahamic faiths, the final revelation by God in the monotheistic tradition.

The Quran specifically protects Jews and Christians as Peoples of the Book, the “Book” meaning revelations from God to Jews and Christians which gives them a spiritual connection to Islam.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER