IDENTITY AND ISLAM

1568139680494University of Delaware professor seeks to reframe religious narrative

In the days, months and years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Muqtedar Khan found himself grappling with an unrelenting question of faith and identity: “If al-Qaeda, ISIS, and all the human rights violations committed in the name of Islam are not my faith,” he would ask himself, “then what is?”

The University of Delaware professor of international relations calls his most recent book, Islam and Good Governance, “my much-delayed response.”

“Islam and Good Governance: A Political Philosophy of Ihsan,” was published in April 2019
“Islam and Good Governance: A Political Philosophy of Ihsan,” was published in April 2019

Simultaneously an endorsement of religious and political freedom and an academic reinterpretation of the Quran, the book seeks to reclaim the beauty, mysticism and virtues of Islamic teaching through a concept Khan said he believes, “Muslims have not yet understood — or simply ignored.”

That concept is Ihsan, taken from the Quran passage that says, “God is with those who do beautiful deeds.” In Islamic tradition, it also lives in the words of the prophet Muhammad, who was asked by the angel Gabriel to define Ihsan: “To Worship Allah as if you see him; and if you can’t see Him, know that He sees you.”

Rethinking the Muslim religion through this lens will require a fundamental philosophy shift, Khan said. Ihsan goes against how many economies and institutions have evolved over centuries. It stands in opposition to how the Muslim world is perceived and understood.

“An Islamic State is currently one where Islamic Law is enforced — and these are laws that come from the medieval understanding of Islam. Until we change that, we will never have good governance,” he said. “It is unfair of Muslims to demand non-Muslims bypass realities like ISIS and al-Qaeda and discover true Islam. Muslims must manifest what it is. The Prophet has said three times that you’re not a Muslim if your neighbor is afraid of you.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE WEBSITE 

Why the de-faithing of Islam is a threat to all America’s religions

  • Asma T. Uddin explores religious freedom — or the lack thereof — in her new book, When Islam Is Not a Religion: Inside America’s Fight for Religious Freedom.
  • She identifies and dispels myths surrounding Islam that attempt to weaken the rights of Muslims, such as the idea that Islam is a monolith, or is not a religion at all.
  • It’s important to understand that religious freedom primarily involves a relationship between the government and religious individuals or organizations. This differentiates it from religious pluralism or tolerance.

Hanaa-Unus-18In the aughts, a number of Christian conservative figures, including Pat Buchanan and Austin Ruse, were aligning their political-religious worldview with Islam in an attempt to separate from liberal Democrats. Just over a decade later, the same men were branding Islam as a purely political system while claiming it’s actually not a religion at all—and thereby not protected by American religious liberty laws.

Such a pivot has important consequences. If Islam is, in the eyes of the courts, deemed to not be a religion, then Muslims are longer protected by the freedom of religion clause. While such a notion seems absurd given that Islam is the planet’s second largest faith, there is precedent for this argument, writes lawyer and scholar Asma T. Uddin in her new book, When Islam Is Not a Religion: Inside America’s Fight for Religious Freedom.

Myth 1: Islam is not a religion

Uddin knows this topic well. In 2010, she represented the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, which was building a new mosque roughly 30 miles outside of Nashville. Having outgrown its previous facility near Middle Tennessee State University, members raised $600,000 for a new complex. Then the vandalism began.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BIGTHINK.COM

Author Q&A: Charles Kimball on ‘Truth over Fear: Combating the Lies About Islam’

71sKXa55BuLWith memories of the 9/11 terrorist attacks still raw, Charles Kimball, a professor, Baptist minister and expert analyst on the Middle East, drew on three decades of experience to write a book released in 2002 about why people do bad things in the name of religion.

In When Religion Becomes Evil, Kimball, at the time a professor at Wake Forest University, identified five warning signs common to all religions – absolute truth claims, blind obedience, the impulse to establish an “ideal” time, belief that the end justifies the means and the declaration of holy war – and gave advice about how to recover what is best and healthy in all religions.

In his latest book, Truth over Fear: Combating the Lies about Islam, Kimball explores a new development in Christian-Muslim relations – the mainstreaming of Islamophobia as a pathway to political success.

Now presidential professor and chair of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma, Kimball discussed ways Christians and Muslims can work together in this Q&A about the recent release of the new 180-page paperback published by Westminster John Knox Press.

Why did you write this book?

The 21st century may well be defined by interfaith relationships. The most dangerous and widespread flashpoints center on relationships between adherents of the world’s two largest religious communities: Christians and Muslims.

This book grows out of more than 40 years of work focused on my vocation with a teaching ministry and constructive interfaith cooperation in the U.S. and the Middle East. Speaking in more than 500 colleges, universities, seminaries, divinity schools, churches, mosques, synagogues, civic organizations, etc., I have a clear sense of the kinds of questions and concerns about Islam that foster widespread fear in the West.

While there remains a lot of goodwill, a large majority – including a large majority of Christian clergy – still lack the resources to address growing Islamophobia or pursue constructive programs with Muslims (and others) in their local setting.

This book seeks to address this urgent need by providing a new paradigm for how Christians and others of goodwill can better understand Islam as most Muslims live out their faith. And, it offers an accessible guide for positive initiatives individuals and congregations can take to work toward a more healthy future between Christians and Muslims.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BAPTISM NEWS 

The political impotence of the Muslim American community

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Sheikh Hamza Yusuf speaks during a fund raising event at the Alliance Francis in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on July 2, 2015 [File: AP/Kamran Jebreili] [Daylife]

There was a time when Islam was a revolutionary force in America. Decades ago, “Muslim” was a political identity grounded in an ethos of dissent, exemplified by Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X. Being Muslim meant standing up against white supremacy and global empire, whether in Alabama or Vietnam; it meant standing in solidarity with the struggles of black and brown people everywhere.

Today, many American Muslims eagerly claim the legacy of brothers Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X as their own, but lack the political courage and moral integrity by which they lived.

We have become a community without a principled political vision, impotent in the face of state oppression: the continuous FBI surveillance and entrapment and ever-expanding anti-Muslim legislation. Not only are we unable to organise on these issues, but we have also lost the common ethical ground that could unite us around a common political vision and action.

Until recently, despite the divisions within the community, the Muslim American community seemed united at least in its opposition to the Trump administration; that appeared to be the lowest common denominator of a shared American Muslim political identity. But then on July 8, Secretary of State and top Islamophobe Mike Pompeo announced the creation of a Commission on Unalienable Rights to advise the Trump administration – a serial human rights violator – on human rights. One of our most prominent leaders, Hamza Yusuf, accepted to become part of the theatrics.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA

US: Two sentenced to prison for foiled terrorist plot on Muslims

The defendants showed remorse as the judge declared them a “threat to everyone in our democratic society.” The two men planned to use homemade explosives in a terrorist plot on a Muslim community in upstate New York.

50060299_303Two men were sentenced to between four and 12 years in prison on Friday after threatening to bomb a Muslim community in the United States.

Defendants Brian Colaneri, 20, and Andrew Crysel, 19, had both entered guilty pleas. Monroe County Court Judge Samuel Valleriani told the pair: “Your terrorist threat was not only an invidious threat to the way of life of your victims, but also a threat to everyone in our democratic society.”

Both defendants expressed remorse, including for conversations they conducted between themselves via an online chat room as part of the plot. The two men had previously pleaded guilty to terrorism conspiracy in June.

“I never wanted it to go that far,” Colaneri said, according to local media outlet WHEC.

They and two others from the Rochester area were accused of planning to attack Islamberg, a rural religious community in the area of Tompkins, 150 miles (240 kilometers) to the north of New York City. Authorities arrested the individuals in January and said they had access to 23 rifles and shotguns, as well as three homemade explosives.

FULL ARTICLE FROM DW.COM

Western civilisation’s immense debt to Islam

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The Alhambra Palace in Granada. ‘The Tory contender should surely acknowledge the outstanding examples of high Arabic society and culture,’ writes Paul Dolan. Photograph: Chris Warren/Alamy

Boris Johnson is painfully ignorant of the immense cultural, economic, and scientific contributions of Muslims (Islam kept Muslim world centuries behind the west, Johnson claimed, 16 July). Western civilisation owes an immense debt to Islam, whether in the form of algebra, the saving of ancient Greek heritage or the free-market economics of Ibn Khaldun.

Johnson is correct that many Muslim-majority nations are beset by social and political problems. Yet the same holds true for numerous Christian-majority nations such as Russia, Honduras, Haiti and South Africa. He also makes a “false equivalence” argument in comparing stable western democracies to war-ravaged countries like Bosnia, seemingly blaming Muslims there for being attacked. Curiously, Muslim extremists promote the same arguments as Johnson, albeit for different aims. Neither depiction is true nor helpful.

Another pathetic observation by the next British PM concerns the Ottoman empire. Johnson takes one oddity of the Turkish dawlah – the resistance to the printing press – and passes over achievements of the sultans such as religious tolerance and the architectural feats of Sinan. He claims this one act of backwardness negates the entire history of Islam, although resistance to technology is apparent even in British history, the luddites a classic case in point.

Johnson’s authority for his ignorance is Winston Churchill. If Churchill said it, it must be true. However, Churchill was neither a historian nor a sociologist. He was a myth-maker whose literary skills were devoted to “demonstrating” the superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race over all others. To achieve this sleight of hand, Churchill had to simultaneously denigrate other cultures, including Islam. It seems that Great Britain under Johnson will be beset by similar doses of myth, fantasy and supremacist doctrines.
Dr Colm Gillis
Hethersett, Norfolk

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN (UK)

Pop culture got Islam wrong for years. ‘Ramy’ made getting it right look easy.

V2VFDMDV7UI6TJ57ZCSDXBHOGEWhen “Ramy,” comedian Ramy Youssef’s Hulu show about a Muslim Egyptian American millennial debuted in April, it was facing down a lot of pop-culture history. Instead of being a terrorist or a nameless victim, Ramy is the show’s main character. Instead of presenting Islam as a brooding, world-historical force, “Ramy” made religion one of its major subjects, taking audiences inside one person’s spiritual journey. And “Ramy” took on these tasks as the first show on a mainstream, U.S. outlet that centers around Arab and Muslim experiences. That’s a lot of pressure to place on a freshman series, especially one that runs only 10 roughly 25-minute episodes.

But “Ramy” works because it embraces those challenges. Youssef has made it clear that this show is based on his experience as a first-generation American and that he does not expect every viewer to recognize themselves in the show. Instead of driving away viewers with different life stories, the specificity of “Ramy” is what makes it such a pleasure, whether you’re Muslim, Egyptian American, millennial or none of those things at all.

When I moved to the United States in 2010, I was struck by shows such as “Homeland” and “24,” in which the portrayals of Muslims and Arabs were based on negative stereotypes and tropes that are downright wrong and harmful to the Muslim community. We’re constantly portrayed as terrorists or barbaric villains, the women as exotic and oppressed, or caricatures with no depth or nuance. I was confused when I constantly saw a plethora of praise for these types of shows when I felt their representations of Arabs and Muslims were downright wrong. Why were they just ignoring what seemed obvious to me? And it wasn’t just the characters. It was the incorrect translations, the whitewashing of story lines, and the exaggeration of sets, accents and attire. The fact that such simple things were overlooked made me feel as though my culture didn’t matter. I was upset, but I quickly turned that anger into what I felt would be more useful: I wanted to be informative to others and to let people know that some of their favorite shows contain harmful errors.

Watching “Ramy,” by contrast, was refreshing. Instead of presenting Islam as nothing more than a spur to — or a check on — terrorism, “Ramy” explores a more familiar dilemma: Ramy fully embraces his religion but is torn by the temptations life has to offer“Master of None” tackled these tensions in a single second-season episode about the almost-magical allure of barbecued pork that struck me as simultaneously exaggerated and underdeveloped. “Ramy” has over-the-top elements, too, such as Ramy’s affair with a married woman, but the series treats temptation as a theme worth exploring at much greater length.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST