How ‘Multiculturalism’ Became a Bad Word in South Korea

A mosque dispute in a conservative city has forced some South Koreans to confront what it means to live in an increasingly diverse society.

DAEGU, South Korea — Inside the dimly lit house, young Muslim men knelt and prayed in silence. Outside, their Korean neighbors gathered with angry signs to protest “a den of terrorists” moving into their neighborhood.

In a densely populated but otherwise quiet district in Daegu, a city in southeastern South Korea, a highly emotional standoff is underway.

Roughly 150 Muslims, mostly students ​at the nearby Kyungpook National University, started building a mosque in a lot next door to their temporary house of worship about a year ago. When their Korean neighbors found out, they were furious.

The mosque would turn the neighborhood of Daehyeon-dong into “​an enclave of Muslims and a ​crime-infested ​slum,” the Korean neighbors wrote on signs and protest banners. It would bring more “noise” and a “food smell​” from an unfamiliar culture, driving out the Korean residents.

The Muslim students and their Korean supporters fought back, arguing that they had the right to live and pray in peace in Daegu, one of the most politically conservative cities in South Korea. “There is a difference between protest and harassment,” said Muaz Razaq, 25, a Ph.D. student in computer science who is from Pakistan. “What they were doing was harassment.”

Park Jeong-suk, who lives next to the proposed mosque, surveying the site from her balcony. Construction is on hold as both sides take their cases to court. 

The fault line between the two communities here has exposed an uncomfortable truth in South Korea. At a time when the country enjoys more global influence than ever — with consumers around the world eager to dance to its music, drive its cars and buy its smartphones — it is also grappling with a fierce wave of anti-immigrant fervor and Islamophobia. While it has successfully exported its culture abroad, it has been slow to welcome other cultures at home.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

Common prayer: when churches become mosques

Presbyterian minister, a Pentecostalist pastor and a Sunni imam come to worship in the same place. It’s not the start of a joke: this is literally what happens at my local church in east London which, strangely, now encompasses a mosque. It was in danger of being closed, but instead the walled church complex has been partitioned, with a chunk of it sold off to Muslims while the main church building remains the home of two different Christian denominations. The site serves as a sanctuary for followers of rival creeds, a kind of suburban Temple Mount.

The shared use indicates an unlikely chapter in the life of a once-renowned institution, founded in 1642 when Protestant nonconformists met in Stepney amid civil war. The then Wycliffe Chapel ministered to generations of poor east Londoners. But since relocating to Ilford, the congregation has dwindled to about two dozen parishioners. The other churchgoers who meet there are followers of a black pastor, who struggles to fill the pews. There’s no trouble filling the mosque, with queues stretching to the end of the street on Fridays.

The conversion of churches into mosques, potentially a radical reconfiguring of our urban geography, has yet to receive any serious attention. The National Churches Trust reports more than 2,000 church closures over the past decade — a period in which weekly church attendance decreased by a fifth — but it’s unknown how many of these buildings are now mosques.

But even if there are just a few, the historical symbolism is immense. In conflicts between Christendom and Islam, usurping enemy places of worship marked the consummation of conquest. Byzantium was definitively lost when the largest church in the world, Hagia Sophia, became a mosque in 1453. The bitterness of that memory still endures, and flared up last year when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan controversially reclaimed Hagia Sophia for Muslim worship, drawing criticism from the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, Pope Francis and various Orthodox church leaders.

People take part in the Eid al-Fitr prayer outside the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque (Getty Images)

The use of former churches here in Britain for Muslim worship has not become a flashpoint between Christianity and Islam in the same way. An online petition against this trend, lodged to parliament in 2013, secured just three signatures (out of a target 10,000) and attempts to stir up outrage have failed. Most Christians would probably recognise that the problem is secularisation, not Islamisation. The British Social Attitudes Survey has charted the decline of Christians in the UK from a majority in 1983 to little more than a third today. Most Britons now identify with ‘no religion’ and view faith negatively, two-thirds regarding religion as a cause of conflict in society.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE SPECTATOR (UK)

Study finds the American mosque increasingly a melting pot of Islamic traditions

(RNS) — The American mosque is becoming more American. At least according to Ihsan Bagby, who has authored a report for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding based on a a new survey of American mosques. The report, conducted every 10 years, found American Sunni mosques are increasingly a melting pot of traditions, blending various schools of Islamic jurisprudence or madhabs.

In many ways this pluralistic approach indicates a return to tradition. Even, for example, in regard to the roles of men and women. Findings in the report suggest the American mosque is reviving certain leadership positions for women in the mosque that, while common in the earliest days of Islam, have fallen out of practice.

RELATED: New initiative seeks to get Muslims to the golf course

“American mosque leaders lean toward an understanding of Islam that adheres to the foundational, textual sources of Islam (Qur’an and Sunnah) but are open to interpretations that look to the purposes of Islamic law (i.e., looking to the spirit and wisdom of the law) and modern circumstances,” the report said.ADVERTISING

The ISPU study builds on direct interviews and a standardized questionnaire. The authors of the report spoke directly with hundreds of mosque leaders in conducting the research for the report. 

In many countries in the Islamic world, a single madhab dominates and while American immigrants from those countries maintain those practices, their mosques often mix traditions in order to appeal to a wide potential pool of congregants. 

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST

Muslims and Christians come together to repair Denton (Texas) mosque

A GoFundMe started by a Denton church has raised close to $50,000 for the Denton Islamic Society damaged in the winter storm.

DENTON, Texas — Muslims and Christians are coming together in a big way, to help fund repairs at the Denton Islamic Society. The mosque suffered tens of thousands of dollars in damages by the winter storm.

“It makes you feel good about the community you live in,” said Faraz Qureshi, president of the board of the Denton Islamic Society.

The First United Methodist Church of Denton started a GoFundMe, which raised close to $50,000 in six days. 

“People really from all over the world are sending in donations,” Qureshi said. “Honestly it restores faith.”

The donations will pay for repairs to the building, but also so much more, as the outpouring of support comes from Christians and Muslims, but friends and neighbors.

FULL ARTICLE WITH VIDEO CLIPS FROM CHANNEL 8 WFAA

Friday service is meaningful to Muslims. This East Lansing (Michigan, USA) mosque brought it back with precautions.

mosqueThe Friday congregation prayer and sermon is the worship service every practicing Muslim looks forward to at The Islamic Center of East Lansing.

Many often took time off work and school just to attend the service. Then the coronavirus pandemic halted the Friday service and many other in-person activities at the mosque in March.

“People look forward to it each week. It’s equal to Sunday Mass,” explained Thasin Sardar, an Islamic Center board member. “We decided to suspend services before the governor enacted the statewide lockdown. Knowing how rampant infection was going to be, we erred on the side of caution.”

Last Friday, the Islamic Center resumed its most important service after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer amended coronavirus restrictions for indoor and outdoor gatherings. The mosque complied by holding two outdoor prayer services, each limited to 100 people.

The gatherings were scheduled an hour apart from each other.

Face-mask-wearing attendees, who were spaced 6 feet apart, gathered in the mosque’s parking lot while listening to the sermon of Imam Sohail Chaudhry.

“To see the people there — you could see a desire and hunger to get back to normal as much as we can, which we are still far away from,” Chaudhry said. “It was a great feeling, but there was sadness and grief we can’t do it inside the mosque due to restrictions. I had a mixed feelings, personally.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM LANSING STATE JOURNAL 

Muslim leaders: Vandals smashed out windows at new Warren (Michigan) mosque

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A new mosque in Warren on 10 Mile Road was vandalized, Muslim leaders said.

The Al Ihsaan Islamic Center, also known as Ideal Islamic Center, was opened a few months ago by immigrants from Bangladesh in what was previously a Lutheran church. On Friday afternoon, someone smashed several windows of the mosque with a hammer, according to the imam, Muhammad Islam.

A piece of the hammer broke off and fell inside the mosque, Islam told the Free Press on Monday. He speculated that if the hammer had not broken, more of the mosque might have been vandalized.

He said that a neighbor has video footage showing the person who attacked the structure driving in a car outside the mosque.

Warren police did not comment on the incident. A police lieutenant referred phone calls to Warren Police Commissioner William Dwyer; a message left with Dwyer’s office was not returned Monday.

“Because of increasing hate incidents targeting houses of worship and minority communities nationwide, we urge local, state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate this act of vandalism as a possible hate crime,” Dawud Walid, executive director of Michigan CAIR, said in a statement.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE DETROIT FREE PRESS 

Would the Prophet Muhammad Convert Hagia Sophia?

The recent decision by the Turkish government to reconvert the majestic Hagia Sophia, which was once the world’s greatest cathedral, from a museum back to a mosque has been bad news for Christians around the world. They include Pope Francis, who said he was “pained” by the move, and the spiritual leader of Eastern Christianity, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who said he was “saddened and shaken.” When contrasted with the joy of Turkey’s conservative Muslims, all this may seem like a new episode in an old story: Islam vs. Christianity.

But some Muslims, including myself, are not fully comfortable with this historic step, and for a good reason: forced conversion of shrines, which has occurred too many times in human history in all directions, can be questioned even from a purely Islamic point of view.

To see why, look closely into early Islam, which was born in seventh century Arabia as a monotheist campaign against polytheism. The Prophet Muhammad and his small group of believers saw the earlier monotheists — Jews and Christians — as allies. So when those first Muslims were persecuted in pagan Mecca, some found asylum in the Christian kingdom in Ethiopia. Years later, when the Prophet ruled Medina, he welcomed a group of Christians from the city of Najran to worship in his own mosque. He also signed a treaty with them, which read:

“There shall be no interference with the practice of their faith. … No bishop will be removed from his bishopric, no monk from his monastery, no priest from his parish.”

This religious pluralism was also reflected in the Quran, when it said God protects “monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of God is much mentioned.” (22:40) It is the only verse in the Quran that mentions churches — and only in a reverential tone.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

‘We are all the same’: West Springfield Mosque provides hundreds of meals to the community during coronavirus pandemic

The vibrant collection of people celebrating the day after Eid al-Fitr at the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts had to change because of the coronavirus.

This year, the mosque decided to provide food to hundreds of community members in need as the country remains in the midst of the unprecedented pandemic.

Eid al-Fitr begins on the evening of Saturday May 23 is an Islamic holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, a month-long period of fasting and deep reflection. Translated from Arabic as “the feast of the breaking of the fast”, Muslims observe the religious holiday by taking part in traditions such as holding prayer services and donating money to charity.

“We would have had a large congregational prayer at a park with probably two to three thousand people,” said Mohammed Dastigir, president of the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts.

Dastigir told MassLive that usually the mosque would rent space in Stanley Park in Westfield or use one of the football fields at the high school.

“We usually work with the mayor (West Springfield Mayor William Reichelt) and we rent out the high school, which we obviously couldn’t do that this year. In our parking lot there’s tents and a bunch of food, like a buffet,” Dastigir said.


FULL ARTICLE FROM MASSLIVE.COM

False claim: Minnesota’s government allowing mosques to remain open while churches must close amidst COVID-19 outbreak

minnesotaPosts on social media make the claim that the government of Minnesota is allowing mosques to remain open amidst the novel coronavirus outbreak, while Christian churches are closed. Examples of this post can be seen here , here and here .

This claim follows President Donald Trump’s recent suggestion that mosques might receive special treatment ( youtu.be/M3Ll18Cz4Yc?t=3000 ).

A sample post on Facebook reads: “Just want to inform you all that all Christian churches in Minnesota are closed!!! BUT the governor has allowed the mosque to remain open!! We should all be outraged at this! I spoke with a deputy with St. Cloud Police Department he said they are ALLOWED TO BE OPEN GOVERNORS ORDERS.”

This claim is false. The Minnesota state government confirmed to Reuters via email that there is “absolutely no distinction between churches and mosques in any order issued by the Governor.” It is true that in-person gatherings of congregants, without distinction of religion, are not allowed by the Governor’s Executive Order to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Minnesota’s Stay at Home Order visible here , states that all workers who can work from home must do so. However, it makes an exemption for faith leaders and workers in houses of worship, who are currently among those permitted to perform their duties “wherever their services may be needed.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM REUTERS

Ethiopian Muslims protest after several mosques burned

f54271911f0d4404849a7ac1fcb74ae2_18Several thousand Muslims across Ethiopia in recent days have protested against the burning of four mosques in the Amhara region.

The attacks last Friday in Motta town, more than 350km (217 miles) north of the capital Addis Ababa, also targeted Muslim-owned businesses. Muslims have called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

More:

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has called the attacks “attempts by extremists to break down our rich history of religious tolerance and coexistence”. Recent ethnic-based unrest in some parts of the country has at times taken religious form.

Prominent Muslim scholar Kamil Shemsu on Tuesday told The Associated Press news agency there are “political actors who want to pit one religious group against another” and blamed the negative role of activists and videos circulated online.

Amhara regional officials said they have arrested 15 suspects in connection with the attacks. Police commander Jemal Mekonnen told state media the attacks appeared to be triggered by news of a fire that broke out in an Orthodox church a few days earlier.

Regional officials were criticised for their slow response and their inability to stop similar attacks.

Many communities across Ethiopia, including Addis Ababa, have seen demonstrations.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA