In western Minnesota town of Dawson, a Muslim doctor tries to understand his neighbors who backed Trump

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Dr. Ayaz Virji and his daughter Maya Virji, 9, walk back to their car after making a stop to buy popcorn from a stand after his lecture on Islam at the Granite Falls, Minn., City Hall.

DAWSON, MINN. — The doctor was getting ready. Must look respectable, he told himself. Must be calm. He changed into a dark suit, blue shirt and tie and came down the wooden staircase of the stately Victorian house at Seventh and Pine that had always been occupied by the town’s most prominent citizens.

That was him: prominent citizen, town doctor, 42-year-old father of three, and as far as anyone knew, the first Muslim to ever live in Dawson, a farming town of 1,400 people in the rural western part of the state.

 “Does this look OK?” Ayaz Virji asked his wife, Musarrat, 36.

In two hours, he was supposed to give his third lecture on Islam, and he was sure it would be his last. A local Lutheran pastor had talked him into giving the first one in Dawson three months before, when people had asked questions such as whether Muslims who kill in the name of the prophet Mohammed are rewarded in death with virgins, which had bothered him a bit. Two months later, he gave a second talk in a neighboring town, which had ended with several men calling him the Antichrist.

Now a librarian had asked him to speak in Granite Falls, a town half an hour away, and he wasn’t sure at all what might happen. So many of the comforting certainties of his life had fallen away since the presidential election, when the people who had welcomed his family to Dawson had voted for Donald Trump, who had proposed banning Muslims from entering the United States, toyed with the idea of a Muslim registry and said among other things, “Islam hates us.”

Trump had won Lac qui Parle County, where Dawson was the second-largest town, with nearly 60 percent of the vote. He had won neighboring Yellow Medicine County, where Granite Falls was the county seat, with 64 percent. Nearly all of Minnesota outside the Twin Cities had voted for Trump, a surprising turn in a state known for producing some of the Democratic Party’s most progressive leaders, including the nation’s first Muslim congressman.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE 

The Shoe Is On the Other Foot: Pluralism and the Qur’an

lead_960The raging fires of the immigration debates in the U.S. illuminate what Muslim immigrants have known for a long time — America is not and really never has been a melting pot. The ugly rhetoric surrounding the plan for a mosque and community center near Ground Zero, and recent assaults such as those on the Bridgeport, CT mosque in my neighborhood, illustrate well the difficulties Muslims face on a regular basis. Nonetheless, Muslims have actually managed to survive quite well in the West and have even succeeded in persuading many American citizens of the right of Islam to exist as a legitimate partner in the complex balance of religious life in this country.

For many Muslims the shoe is now slipping onto the other foot. The issue is becoming not only whether they and their religion are accepted by other Americans, but whether Islam itself can find a way to live out the pluralism that many are persuaded is at the heart of the Qur’an’s message. Studies now show that while early generations of Muslims tried to honor that pluralism in relation to other religious groups, more exclusivist views came to prevail and communities such as Christians and Jews found themselves increasingly discriminated against by Islam. Exegetes turned from verses of the Qur’an that insist that God willed different religious communities rather than a single one, and emphasized those verses that affirm that the only true religion in the eyes of God is Islam.

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

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Elizabeth is a Presbyterian-Quaker serving as Interfaith Engagement Fellow at Davidson College in North Carolina. 

 

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 SOJOURNER’S MAGAZINE 

 

 

Islam in America

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Lynsey Addario made a name for herself photographing conflict in the Muslim world: women living under Taliban rule in pre-9/11 Afghanistan; the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; the civil war in Libya; the genocide in Darfur; the ongoing refugee crisis. Some of those images earned her a MacArthur “genius grant” and a share in a Pulitzer Prize, and her experiences—she’s been kidnapped twice, in Iraq and in Libya—gave her plenty of fodder for a recent memoir (soon to be a movie directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Jennifer Lawrence).

Lately, though, the Norwalk, Connecticut–born, London-based photographer, who has lived abroad for years, has been more and more interested in training her lens on her own country. “It’s a very important time to be working in America,” she says. “We see this rise in hate. People seem to be governing by fear. In my time abroad, I’ve realized that so many people look to America for guidance, to be the country to fall back on. People are confused about what’s going on.”

When Vogue sent Addario to the Baltimore area to follow a handful of American Muslim women for a week, photographing their daily routines, it was early January: Donald Trump had been elected but not inaugurated; the Islamophobic rhetoric of his campaign was fresh in people’s minds, but his outrageous, ill-conceived “Muslim ban,” and the wave of protests that it sparked, were not yet a reality. There’s a sense, looking at these images, of the calm before the storm.

There’s also a sense of how individually each woman wears her faith. “We’re not a monolith,” says Zainab Chaudry, a Baltimore-born Muslim of Pakistani descent and a spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “There’s this idea that we’re all cookie-cutter versions of one another. The fact is, we come from very diverse backgrounds. We all have unique experiences that define who we are.”

If there’s one experience many share, it’s that of having their hijab misunderstood. In this country, Muslim women—many of whom choose to cover their heads—are often the most public, visible symbol of Islam. Their head scarves make them targets, not only for Islamophobes but also for misinformed non-Muslims, who see the practice as a marker of oppression. “I could probably write a book,” Chaudry says, laughing. “The condescending statements. The sympathetic looks. The Oh, you poor thing. It’s like: No, no, you’ve just never been inside a Muslim household. In many cases the woman is the one who calls the shots.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM VOGUE MAGAZINE

Vogue Celebrates Muslims In Special Feature On American Women

58b9c56e1900003300bd6a42Vogue is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year with a dazzling feature on the diverse lives and stories of American women around the country. Among the subjects featured is a community of Muslim women in Maryland, whose stories serve to remind viewers of the faith community’s crucial place in the American fabric.

The anniversary special, entitled “American Women,” encompasses 15 portfolios of video and portraiture shot by an array of photographers.  Photojournalist Lynsey Addarrio shot the feature on “Islam in America,” which zoomed in on four Muslim women living in Maryland.

Addarrio has been photographing Muslim men and women for over a decade, often shooting in regions of the world that have been ravaged by war and strife. But with Islamophobia on the rise, the photographer said it’s a critical time to be doing this work in the U.S.

“Since President Trump took office, he has issued executive orders directly and unjustly targeting Muslims,” Addario told The Huffington Post. “In my opinion, it’s important for mainstream media to show that Muslims are Americans-and many Americans are Muslims, and I hope stories like this can dispel misconceptions.”

Among the women Addario featured is Zainab Chaudhary, the Maryland outreach manager for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a major Muslim advocacy group. In her work and personal life, Chaudry also often finds herself fighting back against stereotypes about Islam and Muslim women.

All of Islam Isn’t the Enemy

09thu2web-master675.jpgIs President Trump trying to make enemies of the entire Muslim world? That could well happen if he follows up his primitive ban on refugees and visa holders from seven Muslim nations with an order designating the Muslim Brotherhood — perhaps the most influential Islamist group in the Middle East — as a terrorist organization.

Such an order, now under consideration, would be seen by many Muslims as another attempt to vilify adherents of Islam. It appears to be part of a mission by the president and his closest advisers to heighten fears by promoting a dangerously exaggerated vision of an America under siege by what they call radical Islam.

The struggle against extremism is complex, and solutions must be tailored both to the facts and to an understanding of the likely consequences. Since 1997, the secretary of state has had the power to designate groups as foreign terrorist organizations, thus subjecting them, as well as people and businesses who deal with them, to sanctions, like freezing their assets. President Barack Obama resisted adding the Brotherhood to that list.

There are good reasons that the Brotherhood, with millions of members, doesn’t merit the terrorist designation. Rather than a single organization, it is a collection of groups and movements that can vary widely from country to country. While the Brotherhood calls for a society governed by Islamic law, it renounced violence decades ago, has supported elections and has become a political and social organization. Its branches often have tenuous connections to the original movement founded in Egypt in 1928.

Under State Department guidelines, the “terrorist” designation is intended to punish groups that carry out terrorist attacks. There’s no question that some such groups have grown out of the Muslim Brotherhood, like Hamas, the adversary of Israel, which the United States named a terrorist organization in 1997. Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has worked to crush the Brotherhood in his country since he overthrew his predecessor, Mohamed Morsi, a former Brotherhood leader, in 2013. But there is no evidence that senior Brotherhood leaders ordered any violence or carried out any of the recent major terrorist attacks in Egypt, according to the analysts Michele Dunne and Nathan Brown of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

Trump Pushes Dark View of Islam to Center of U.S. Policy-Making

02worldview-3-master768WASHINGTON — It was at a campaign rally in August that President Trump most fully unveiled the dark vision of an America under siege by “radical Islam” that is now radically reshaping the policies of the United States.

On a stage lined with American flags in Youngstown, Ohio, Mr. Trump, who months before had called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslim immigration, argued that the United States faced a threat on par with the greatest evils of the 20th century. The Islamic State was brutalizing the Middle East, and Muslim immigrants in the West were killing innocents at nightclubs, offices and churches, he said. Extreme measures were needed.

“The hateful ideology of radical Islam,” he told supporters, must not be “allowed to reside or spread within our own communities.”

Mr. Trump was echoing a strain of anti-Islamic theorizing familiar to anyone who has been immersed in security and counterterrorism debates over the last 20 years. He has embraced a deeply suspicious view of Islam that several of his aides have promoted, notably retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, now his national security adviser, and Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s top strategist.

This worldview borrows from the “clash of civilizations” thesis of the political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, and combines straightforward warnings about extremist violence with broad-brush critiques of Islam. It sometimes conflates terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State with largely nonviolent groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots and, at times, with the 1.7 billion Muslims around the world. In its more extreme forms, this view promotes conspiracies about government infiltration and the danger that Shariah, the legal code of Islam, may take over in the United States.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES