In These Sacred Spaces, Judaism, Islam And Christianity Intersect

ShowImageChristians in Muslim countries face violence and harassment. The same goes for Muslims in Christian countries and Israel. And, as Tom Lehrer sang, “everybody hates the Jews.”

This isn’t new information, and many before me have pointed out the irony that the three main Abrahamic religions are so often at each other’s throats. Even if the confrontations are not, as some believe, constant and apocalyptic, it’s certainly reasonable to see Christianity, Islam and Judaism as a kind of Venn diagram of grievances.

It’s reasonable but not entirely correct. As the new “Shared Sacred Sites” exhibition at three New York venues demonstrates, there is no shortage of places where followers of these religions intersect in fellowship and peace.

As its title makes self-evident, “Shared Sacred Sites” is an exploration of places of worship. It’s also about overlapping themes and figures. The exhibition bills itself as “a contemporary pilgrimage,” as it is spread across three sites in midtown Manhattan: the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library (aka, the place with the lions); the James Gallery at the CUNY Graduate Center; and the Morgan Library & Museum.

Despite the enormity of the subject matter, “Shared Sacred Sites” is charmingly modest. In the Schwarzman Building, it occupies a smallish room on the ground floor. This part of the exhibition explores the past: the “shared” city of Jerusalem and the shared scriptural figures of Abraham, Moses and Elijah.

The objects are interesting if not mind-blowing: There are medieval maps and a few of the photographer Félix Bonfils’s wonderful albumen silver prints from the 1870s and 1880s — one of the Western Wall and another of Mary’s Tomb near the Mount of Olives. I particularly enjoyed the compare-and-contrast of the Annunciation. In a pristine 16th-century Book of Hours, Mary appears calm as Gabriel breaks the news. In the gorgeously lettered 16th-century Muslim commentary on the Quran, Mary’s incredulousness is endearingly human: “How can I have a son,” she asks, “when no man has ever touched me and I am not an adulteress?”

A few blocks south of the New York Public Library and the Morgan Library & Museum, at CUNY Graduate Center’s James Gallery, the focus is more contemporary. This part of the exhibition leans heavily on the work of Manoël Pénicaud, a talented French ethnologist who studies and documents interreligious relations across Europe and the Mediterranean.

You can watch Pénicaud’s short films on “Interfaith Bridge Builders,” such as “The Last Rabbi of Crete,” an interview with Nicholas Stavroulakis, the recently deceased Greek-American preservationist of Crete’s Etz Hayyim Synagogue.

Stavroulakis speaks of his well-earned pride in creating “the only synagogue in Europe that has its doors wide open” to people of all faiths, or even no faith at all. The only criterion is the shared values of “pity and compassion for the world.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM FORWARD 

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Scotland’s Evangelical Island Gets Its First Mosque

81854Despite its size and location, the Isle of Lewis off the northwest coast of Scotland occasionally makes national news in the United Kingdom because of its conservative religious practices—including the strict observance of the Sabbath by many on the island.

 Lewis was the site of the UK’s last great revival—beginning in 1949 and carrying on for three years—and remains one of the most devout parts of the country.

Over the years, there have been controversies relating to the operation of ferries to the mainland on Sundays. More recently, a movie theater has opened seven days a week, while a leisure center maintains its Sunday closure. All have drawn media coverage with quotes from Christian spokespeople reported as being “outraged” by the proposals.

The latest twist in religious affairs has occurred in Stornoway, with 8,000 people the largest town in the group of islands. However, it doesn’t involve Christians outraged about Sunday openings, but that a Free Church of Scotland minister was not outraged by plans to build the first mosque on the largely evangelical churchgoing island.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIANITY TODAY 

Mosque open houses combat negative stereotypes of Muslims

920x920When the Bear Creek Islamic Center recently held an open house, more than 100 Christians and residents living near the mosque were able to pose questions about whether Islam considers Jesus a God, fosters terrorism and views women as a lesser gender.

“People live with opinions formed from sound bites,” said Kate Sunday, who is a Methodist and came with her husband. “We have dear Muslim friends who go to the mosque, and we wanted to experience what they experience. We differ when it comes to our prophet. But we are all children of God.”

GainPeace, a Chicago nonprofit established to promote better understanding of the Islamic faith, local mosques and other Islamic groups, has held more than 3,000 open houses during the past four years to combat negative stereotypes of Muslims and the Muslim faith.

Open houses have been held in nearly every major U.S. city, with a quarter of mosques holding at least one open house annually in recent years, said GainPeace executive director Sabeel Ahmed.

“We have felt that there are many barriers between Americans, and these barriers are giving rise to Islamophobia,” said Ahmed, a physician, who spoke at the Bear Creek Islamic Center open house. “This event helps us connect as humans. At the end of the day, we find that we have so many things in common.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE 

IN RESPONSE TO THREATS AGAINST MUSLIMS, PASTORS PROTECT THE MOSQUE

maxresdefault (1)ROCHESTER, Minn.—
On Tuesday, community members stood outside of Masjid Abubakar Siddiq, the mosque in downtown Rochester, during prayer times. This is in response to the “Punish a Muslim Day” letters.

Muslims pray five times a day. At each prayer time, someone was outside of the Rochester mosque’s doors greeting people, holding the door open, and having conversations with prayer-goes. Around 1 PM, Pastor Carl-Eric Gentes and Pastor Charlie Leonard of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Rochester manned the doorway.

Pastor Gentes and Pastor Leonard were appalled by the threats made against Muslims in the U.K. “I was surprised that this sort of thing actually happens and that word of this got so close to home—so I wanted to be here,” explained Leonard.

They stayed outside of the front door for about an hour while people prayed inside. They hoped that their presence would help the Rochester Muslim community feel secure and comfortable during prayer, despite the threatening letters. “I’m sure that’s still in the back of the mind of many people worshipping today, and no one needs to worship with that concern in the back of their mind,” said Gentes.

FULL ARTICLE FROM KIMT NEWS

#MosqueMeToo Puts Muslim Women “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”

9d13b754-628d-47b1-b49c-e5fb4223d272For Muslims who grew up in the West, a mosque can be the only place where you get to be yourself. As a member of a highly politicized minority group, being with other Muslims can feel like the only way to not have your identity assigned to you. Like other places of worship, a mosque is more of a multipurpose building: karate classes, basketball in the parking lot, you grow with the community of regulars. We celebrate holidays and birthdays together there, mourn those who passed together there. The mosque is my home away from home, the congregation is my extended family, and Muslims from other mosques feel like family I just haven’t met yet.

So you can imagine my shock after reading through the seemingly endless stories attached to the #MosqueMeToo hashtag. I was overcome with shame for letting so many of my Muslim sisters down. It’s not that I haven’t been following #MeToo—from Harvey Weinstein to Matt Lauer to Roy Moore, the movement has been formidable. But like every grassroots movement, it’s contested with defensive deflections, particularly when it comes to your own doorstep. And I get it, it’s very easy to be defensive, especially when your experience of a place has always been one of warmth and home. But now is no time for defensiveness. Crimes were committed in the holiest of places for Muslims, and it’s time for accountability.

FULL ARTICLE FROM SLATE

Convicted Mosque Shooter Embraces Islam

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Ted Hakey Jr. now spends his days working to spread the word of the Muslim community in Meriden.

It’s a far cry from what he felt in his heart two years ago when he was arrested after shooting at an empty mosque.

“I was a Muslim hater,” Hakey told NBC Connecticut’s Keisha Grant in an exclusive interview.

The former U.S. Marine was arrested for a hate crime in November 2015 after firing 30 shots into the Ahmadiyya Baitul Aman Mosque on Main Street with a high-powered rifle a day after the Paris attacks.

Hakey said he found himself intoxicated and fed up with attacks halfway around the world.

“The night of the Paris attacks, you could see the mosque clearly from my house because there were no leaves on the trees,” Hakey said. “I went to get out of my car and looked over and kind of thought, ‘Well, let me do something about it.'”

Four of the 30 shots Hakey fired tore through the Baitul Aman Mosque in the middle of the night. It took federal and local authorities just hours to trace the bullets back to Hakey and the FBI arrested him on federal hate crime charges.

Zahir Mannan, one of the leaders of the mosque, said those bullets didn’t just pierce walls. They also shot fear through the heart of the Ahmadiyya community. This sect of Islam is made up by the only group of Muslims who believe in the Messiah.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NBC (CONNECTICUT)

Hurricane Irma: New Tampa mosque opens as shelter for first time

504372478_19960061_8colTAMPA — For now it’s their hurricane shelter, but Muslim rules about removing your shoes are still being observed at a makeshift shelter set up at the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay mosque.

More than 500 people are planning to hunker down at the makeshift shelter set up at the mosque’s multicultural center, which is now full. Most are Muslim, but the shelter was open to all people and is providing refuge for at least 50 non-Muslims, said Aida Mackic, a shelter organizer who is also the interfaith and youth program director with Council on American-Islamic Relations

Three large conference rooms are being used as the main sleeping quarters. One is for men, one for women, and there is a common area for families who want to remain together.

In each are dozens of cots, sun beds, quilts and other make-do beds.

“We’ve had to turn some people away,” said Mackic. “There was even one woman who turned up with a bird in a covered cage.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM TAMPABAY.COM