A Muslim and a Christian take a Muslim Roadshow to rural Washington

Story by Lilly A. Fowler | Photos by Matt M. McKnight

McKnight_MuslimRoadShow_31They’re not the sort of couple one is likely to encounter in many parts of the country: a hijab-wearing Muslim woman with a Harvard law degree and a white Lutheran pastor. Yet dozens of Washington state residents — in urban centers and in small rural towns — have witnessed Aneelah Afzali and Rev. Terry Kyllo preach together in churches. Turns out, Afzali and Kyllo have one profound thing in common: a passion to fight against Islamophobia.

Although the duo has held an event in Seattle, Afzali and Kyllo have generally reserved their sermons for smaller, more conservative towns filled with voters who support President Donald Trump and who may have never personally met a Muslim. Towns like Mt. Vernon, with a population of 35,000. Situated just 60 miles north of Seattle, Mt. Vernon is the largest city in Skagit County. In last year’s presidential election, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by fewer than 2,000 votes in the county.

On a recent Monday evening in Mt. Vernon, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Afzali addressed a small crowd. She was dressed in a purple suit and hijab, and she was flanked by American flags and a Christian cross. As wind and rain pounded the chapel’s windows, she shared what had inspired her and Kyllo to organize the talks, which they’ve dubbed the “Faith Over Fear Roadshow.”

“I am so extremely bothered by what I see happening around us today, the growing divisiveness, polarization, hate and even violence,” Afzali said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FEATURES CROSS CUT 

Why Islamophobia Matters to You: Support Your Muslim Neighbor

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Five years as a Christian missionary in Asian Kazakhstan was a game changer for Steve Slocum, altering forever his view of Muslims and his understanding of Islam. Today, with anti-Muslim sentiment at an all time high, Mr. Slocum is on a mission to dispel rumors and myths about Muslims and to shed light on Islam’s peaceful mainstream in his debut book “Why Do They Hate Us? Making Peace with the Muslim World,” and through his work with SalaamUSA, a nonprofit he founded in 2018.

With the release of his debut book, Slocum takes a stand against Islamophobia and encourages his readers to see through the rising anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. and beyond. By taking the spotlight off the extremists, Slocum instead exposes the heart of the everyday Muslim through Christian outreach and clears up common misconceptions about jihad, Sharia law and the role of women in Islam.

When Slocum returned from his missionary work in 1997, he resumed his engineering career, but became uncomfortable with the growing animosity towards Muslims. “When 9/11 happened, just like everyone else, I was traumatized,” said Slocum. “Having experienced the generosity and hospitality of the Muslim Kazak culture, I couldn’t fathom Muslim radicals flying packed airliners into skyscrapers filled with people.”

After 9/11, the world became more fearful of Muslims, and the current political climate has only exacerbated the issue, culminating in the rise of horrific hate crimes like the New Zealand Mosque shooting. “I believe many Americans have never healed from the trauma of 9/11. Others have misconceptions about Islam fed by media coverage of extremists,” Slocum added.

Most Americans don’t even know a Muslim, and 55% say they know “little or nothing” about Islam, according to SalaamUSA. “In this void, Americans’ opinions about Islam are shaped by the media, political rhetoric, and religious bias,” said Slocum.

“Islamophobia is a present and rising force in the West.” says D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer at Midwest Book Review. “(Slocum) takes a stand against this prejudice by advocating a different approach to not just tolerating Muslims, but getting to know them on a personal level. In this case, familiarity does not breed contempt. It leads to understanding.”

FULL ARTICLE (AND INVITATION!) FROM PATCH 

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 

Sikh Canadian politician goes viral for response to man’s anti-Muslim remarks

singhcanada_090219_twitterA Canadian politician has gone viral for his measured response to a heckler’s anti-Muslim remarks aimed at him over the weekend.

A video shared on Twitter and viewed more than 700,000 times shows a man approaching NDP Gurratan Singh, who is Sikh, with his phone in hand, appearing to record the confrontation.

Singh told The Toronto Star that he first noticed the man acting aggressively and shouting as he gave a speech during MuslimFest, a three-day event in Mississauga, a city just outside Toronto.

Singh responds to the man by saying he condemns racism and hateful rhetoric, adding that “this has no place in Canada.”

Security came between the two and eventually escorted the man out.

Singh later tweeted that he will never respond to Islamophobia with “I am not a Muslim.”

“Instead, I will always stand with my Muslim brothers and sisters and say hate is wrong,” he wrote, including video of the incident.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HILL

Romania, a beacon of coexistence for Muslims in Eastern Europe

c1537b95ac3740f4b0bd870e075a1fda_18Romanian Muslims, some with Ottoman roots, largely spared Islamophobic rhetoric seen in neighbouring countries.

Constanta, Romania – The Grand Mosque of Constanta in southeast Romania has a hulking minaret nearly 50 metres high overlooking the Black Sea. 

It was constructed as a symbol of gratitude to the city’s Muslim community on the orders of King Carol I in 1910.

Much has since changed in Romania, but that sentiment remains. 

Constanta lies in Dobruja, an ethnically diverse region split between Romania and Bulgaria, where the River Danube meets the sea.

Ottoman Turks invaded the region in the late 15th century and subsequently expanded further into Romania. 

Several centuries of Turkish rule followed, bringing settlers from across the empire.

Northern Dobruja came under Romanian control only in 1878, after the young kingdom defeated the ailing Ottoman Empire with assistance from Russia.

Some of the region’s Muslims left for Turkey, but others stayed on; their descendants now form the backbone of Romania’s Muslim community of about 64,000 people, roughly 0.34 percent of the country’s population.

Compared with other countries in Eastern Europe, Romanian Muslims say their experience has largely been one of peaceful coexistence.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA 

I was the first Muslim ever elected to US Congress — and what I see happening in the UK scares me

(Note:  this article was published prior to the El Paso and Dayton massacres.  The observations and proscriptions it contains are even more pertinent now.)

by Keith Ellison         

trump-farageI’ve seen personally what hate looks like. Back in the 1990s, as a young criminal defense attorney, I represented young men in two different cases who were eventually acquitted after being charged for defending themselves against white supremacists.

Ever since then, I’ve closely followed how the far right’s language and images have leached into society; how it tries to justify its existence while concealing its violence; and how it’s become a globally connected movement.

Recently, we’ve seen white supremacist violence escalate dramatically around the world, from the Pittsburgh and San Diego synagogue shootings to the murder at the anti-racist Charlottesville rally in the US; from the Christchurch mosque massacre in New Zealand to last month’s surgical assassination of liberal German politician Walter Lübcke. 

Not only did these killers share an ideology, but they drew inspiration from and celebrated each other. Despite this, under Donald Trump’s leadership, the FBI and Department of Justice have deprioritised investigating far-right violence.

These seemingly disconnected events are part and parcel of an emerging, global far-right movement whose core ideology is anathema to democracy. It uses nationalism as its cover, but make no mistake: its basic value is white supremacy. 

 

The Media Is Missing the Real Story of Trump’s Racism

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Hampton

In August 2017, three men from rural Illinois—members of one of our country’s numerous heavily armed and rather poorly regulated “militias”—drove to Bloomington, Minnesota, just south of Minneapolis, to plant an IED in the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center. Following their arrest, two of the men admitted their guilt. They had set out from Illinois, they said, determined to scare Muslims into leaving the United States.

“Why,” he asked, “don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came?”

As the fact-checkers noted in their analyses of Trump’s newest “New Low,” only Omar was born in another country. For once, the president took the Pinocchios to heart: He homed in on Omar in a diatribe at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina, a few days later, running through a litany of generically Islamophobic claims until the enthused crowd began chanting, for 13 uninterrupted seconds, “send her back.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM NEW REPUBLIC