Opinion: To save Muslim lives, let Muslims tell their own stories

A police officer stands guard in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, Sunday, March 17, 2019, where one of two mass shootings occurred. New Zealand’s stricken residents reached out to Muslims in their neighborhoods and around the country on Saturday, to show kindness to a community in pain as a 28-year-old white supremacist stood silently before a judge, accused in mass shootings at two mosques that left dozens of people dead. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa is an Islamic cleric and the secretary general of the Muslim World League.

This month, a Canadian Muslim family was nearly wiped out after four members were killed in an Islamophobic terror attack, while the fifth — a 9-year-old boy — was left with serious injuries. This came two years after a gunman murdered 51 Muslims on the other side of the world, at a pair of mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. In the face of such mindless hate, many are asking what more can be done to save Muslim lives.

One way forward begins simply: Let Muslims tell their own stories.

Muslims often do not have agency over even their most traumatic stories. Earlier this month, a film called “They Are Us” was announced, starring Rose Byrne as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The film focuses not on the murdered Muslims and their bereaved families, but on Ardern’s experience of the terror attacks. Even when portraying the worst instance of Western Islamophobia in years, Muslims are reduced (at best) supporting roles. The film was denounced by Ardern herself, who said her story is “not the one to be told.”

The chronic underrepresentation of Muslims in Hollywood and other Western media cannot be separated from the widespread bigotry faced by many members of our faith. This year, Islamophobia — which is not just the fear and hatred of Islam but also includes anti-Muslim discrimination and violence — reached “epidemic proportions.” The United Nations reported that nearly 1 in 3 Americans, and an even higher percentage of Europeans, view Muslims negatively.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST

Actor Riz Ahmed wants to stop Hollywood’s ‘toxic portrayals’ of Muslims

British actor and rapper Riz Ahmed has launched a fund to help combat “toxic portrayals” of Muslims in films.

The move comes after a study showed Muslims rarely appear on screen, or are shown in a negative light if they do.

Earlier this year, the Sound of Metal star became the first Muslim to be nominated for best actor at the Oscars.

Ahmed, who is also known for Rogue One and The Night Of, said: “The problem with Muslim misrepresentation is one that can’t be ignored any more.”

In an online video, he said his history-making Oscar nomination was a “bittersweet” moment.

‘Unwritten rule’

“I simultaneously wore that slightly dubious accolade with a sense of gratitude personally… I also felt tremendous sadness.

“How was it that out of 1.6 billion people – a quarter of the world’s population – none of us had ever been in this position until now?

“I asked myself, if I’m the exception to the rule, what must the rule be about people like me? What must the unwritten rule be about Muslims – a quarter of the world’s population – and their place in our stories, our culture and their place in our society, if any?”

FULL ARTICLE FROM BBC

France should mobilize rather than marginalize its Muslims

The egalitarian principles of the French republic would suggest that the state is blind to the creeds and private beliefs of its citizens. For the most part, this is correct. Its very particular brand of state-endorsed secularism projects a certain veneer of a republic to which all its citizens have an equal right. However, for France’s second-largest religious group, its Muslims, this blanket equality falls short. Decades of marginalization have characterized their experience, but since the government embarked on a struggle against what it calls “Islamist separatism,” many French Muslims feel that the xenophobia and discrimination they face has become mainstream.


The “laicite” (secularism) with which French policymakers are so obsessed mandates strict delineation between the state and the private sphere of personal beliefs. This wall between the two was originally meant to protect citizens from the intrusion of the state and the state from religious influence, which frequently raised its head throughout the country’s history. This arrangement has, however, come increasingly unstuck as the state seems to be involving itself more and more in the lives of its Muslim citizens.


For decades now, French presidents have stuck their noses into Islamic dress codes, dietary needs, and the plethora of religious institutions and places of worship modern France is home to. With an aging population struggling to cope with the societal transitions of post-imperial France, French leaders have sought to focus on the country’s Muslims as an electoral scapegoat in lieu of making the bold structural changes that are so desperately needed.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ARAB NEWS

Christians, Muslims again top list of faiths facing hostility worldwide

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Christians top the list for countries where they face either governmental or social hostility, according to a new report issued Nov. 10 by the Pew Research Center.

Christians have topped the list each year since Pew started collecting data in 2007.

The number of countries where Christians face some form of hostility rose from 143 in 2017 to 145 in 2018, the latest year for which statistics are available. Christians were followed in order by Muslims, Jews, “others,” folk religions, Hindus, Buddhists and the religiously unaffiliated.

Out of 198 nations studied, Christians faced government harassment in 124 countries, second to Muslims’ 126, and social harassment in 104 countries, one more than Muslims’ at 103. In some nations, both governments and private groups place restrictions on religious adherents.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CATHOLIC REVIEW

Islam for children: themed books and crafts are all the rage among modern Muslim parents

My toddler’s favourite toys include a mobile phone that plays the (frankly nauseating) track Baby Shark and an interactive Dora the Explorer book. She’s learning her ABCs, but eventually I’d like for her to learn the Arabic alphabet – the foundation of the Quran. And while she toddles around my prayer mat and babbles something that vaguely sounds like “Bismillah,” I’m eager for her to grasp the meaning of the word.

Islamic education should be on a par with everything else that children are learning. It should be joyful and engaging

So when I came across a colourful image on Instagram of The Bismillah Book for children – an under-the-sea-themed sing-a-long publication – I was intrigued. Evidently, I’m not the first parent to search for accessible tools that will help teach the values and pillars of my faith to my child. It turns out that a number of UAE entrepreneurs are at the forefront of a burgeoning books and activities market centred on making Islam relatable and enjoyable for young Muslims.

Islamic books and crafts for children

“The need of the hour definitely points towards value-based content based on a spiritual upbringing,” Mehnaz Anshah, co-founder of Bismillah Buddies, which produced The Bismillah Book, tells The National. “We’ve found a great community of like-minded parents who share our concerns regarding the future of our children and the world they are growing up in.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL.AE

He Loved Muslims Because He Loved Jesus. The Bible Showed Him How.

Remembering the pilgrimage and legacy of Rick Love, who founded Peace Catalyst after years as international director of Frontiers.

ck Love loved Jesus above all else. He loved the Bible as God’s Word.

Rick’s love for Jesus led him to love Muslims. But his love for Scripture eventually changed his mind about how to love Muslims.

Rick, who passed away on December 29, did not always love Jesus. In a candid confession in his book, Glocal: Following Jesus in the 21st Century, Rick describes how in his youth he “embraced the ‘sex, drugs, and rock and roll’ lifestyle of the sixties.” After partying through the night of his 18th birthday, he woke up in the morning thinking, “There has to be more to life than this, and I’m going to find it.” It was of the 1970s Jesus Movement he would later write, “I encountered Jesus, and my life radically changed.”

From the start, Rick’s faith was all about following Jesus, which he distinguished from the cultural trappings associated with “Christianity” and traditional ways of “doing church.” It was certainly not about a heretical fusion of Christianity with American nationalism, that he believed has tragically damaged the witness of American Christians.

The other element at the heart of Rick’s faith was the authority of Scripture. Not content with merely upholding inerrancy as an abstract doctrine, he would steep himself daily in the biblical text, allowing it to guide his life. His wife Fran describes how day after day she witnessed Rick holding up his hands in prayer and worship as he studied the Bible.

From Scripture, Rick understood early on that God cared about all nations and cultures. This moved him to care about Muslims. For decades, he assumed this meant he should become a missionary in the traditional sense. He and Fran went to Indonesia to serve Jesus. Later Rick was asked to lead Frontiers—one of the largest evangelical organizations worldwide dedicated to reaching out to Muslims.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIANITY TODAY

Scapegoating Muslims

A Religious Studies student brought a dish to her mother at work one day. She and a friend had been visiting a local mosque. The dish consisted of goat meat, rice, and cheese. Everyone working the shift that night sampled it. We all agreed it was delicious. She talked about how hospitable the Muslim community was. She and her friend had a good experience and intended to return.

When Was This?

This took place during the year 1997.  Up till then, most of us had negative views about Islam and Muslim countries. All of us were old enough to remember the hostage crisis involving the US embassy in Iran. We remembered the 1991 Gulf War. We forgot that most Muslim countries were allied with the US. The first attempt on the World Trade Center had been made in 1993. And some of our coworkers remembered the Black Muslim movement.

We knew the Oil Producing and Exporting Countries (OPEC) kept raising the price of oil causing gas prices to soar. Since we lived in the southeastern US, we heard about how Israel was always under threat from “Arabs.” We knew very little if anything about Arab Christians.

The 1995 bombing was first blamed on “Islamic terrorists” before it was learned that it was done by neo-Nazi terrorists. The primary suspect Timothy McVeigh was a Gulf War veteran. He murdered 168 people.

A Convenient Scapegoat

September 11, 2001 brought about more scapegoating of Muslims. President George W. Bush attempted to differentiate between “radical Muslims” such as Osama bin Laden’s Al Queda network and Muslims who wanted nothing to do with such groups. And then in 2003, President Bush initiated the War with Iraq as an extension of “The War on Terror.” All of his attempts to differentiate between Muslims evaporated in people’s minds.

Muslims are a minority in America. Islamic culture is definitely foreign. European history is rife with stories of conflicts with Muslims. The Song of Roland begins with a description of Muslim leaders in Spain as the real enemy. Muslims have played the role of “the other” in the minds of Americans due to this heritage from Europe.

Government officials try to make distinctions between Muslims that are neighbors and Muslims that are enemies. It is not working. The reason for that is very simple. The problem is fundamentalist Christianity.

Scapegoat Theology

The scapegoat is the person who takes the blame but doesn’t deserve it. In our usage it is synonymous with the “fall guy” in scandals. Leviticus 16 mandates a dual sacrifice for the Day of Atonement. Two goats are chosen. One is slaughtered as a “sin offering.” The next goat is the sins of the people and driven into the wilderness “for Azazel.” The latter is called “the scapegoat” in early English translations of the Bible.https://9f3de2b157f5773035d07814e8d39e24.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.htmlDriving the animal into the wilderness is supposed to be mean it has no place in the community. By being run off, the goat takes the sins away. What’s more is the goat doesn’t belong to the community either.

Fundamentalist Christianity looks for a clearly defined manifestation of the Enemy (Satan). It developed looking for enemies. There were no shortages of enemies. Evolution, Communism, Labor Unions, Feminism, Women Suffragists, and alcoholic beverages took their places in Hell’s kingdom. Why is Islam viewed as an enemy?

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS

Sri Lanka: Muslims face extra threat as coronavirus stirs hate

Sri Lanka makes cremations compulsory for COVID-19 victims, but Muslims and activists urge authorities to allow burials.

BURIALThe grief-stricken family of Zubair Fathima Rinosa in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo is demanding justice and explanation after tests, released two days after her body had been cremated, showed that the 44-year-old Muslim woman did not die from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Mohammed Sajid, one of Rinosa’s four sons, said his mother was cremated on May 5 as part of Sri Lanka’s controversial policy of mandatory cremation of all coronavirus victims in violation of traditional Islamic funeral practices.

More:

He says his brother signed a consent form for cremation under duress from authorities.

However, two days later, Rinosa’s test results showed she did not die of coronavirus. “On May 7, we learned through a media release that there had been an error in the initial testing of my mother for the virus. She did not die of COVID-19,” he said.

Sajid said his father cried “painfully” after it emerged that his mother was “wrongfully” cremated.

“My father was crying nonstop. He kept saying: ‘I can accept someday that she is gone, but not that she was cremated.'”

‘Against basic religious right’

Four of the nine who have died from the disease were Muslims. All of them were cremated, which goes against the Islamic tradition of burying the dead.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA

Muslims Around The World Face A Different Kind Of Ramadan

ramadan 2As the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims begin observing the holy month of Ramadan, traditionally a time of dawn-to-dusk fasting, festivities and communal prayer, an unprecedented global pandemic is changing the celebration this year in equally unprecedented ways.

Mosques usually brimming with the faithful during Ramadan are closed, including in Saudi Arabia, home to Mecca and Medina, the holiest cities in Islam. The kingdom has some 14,000 confirmed cases, with more than 120 deaths from COVID-19, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Ramadan, the month that Muslims believe God revealed the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad, officially begins at the first sighting of the waxing crescent after the new moon, leading to different countries declaring its start a day or two apart.

In Saudi Arabia, the start of the holy month began Friday. In Egypt, it began Thursday. And in Iran, Ramadan begins Saturday.

In a statement, Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud lamented the necessity to maintain social distancing to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus and the damper it would place on this year’s celebrations.

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FULL ARTICLE FROM NPR 

One year after Christchurch we seek solace in community and being unapologetically Muslim

2500In many ways, life has not changed for many of my Muslim friends and me because the world has not changed. However, hope exists

A body on the floor of a place of worship is still a body
The fall, and the thump, and the snap
There is nothing beautiful about the way the blood sprays the sacred walls
The way it hangs itself a tapestry of death and despair

And we dig deep
We try to find the beauty in tragedy

Iman Etri, Bankstown Poetry Slam, March 2019

The scars of the Christchurch massacre linger. Time has carpeted the pain. Slowly but surely, the shock recedes until all we feel is the echo of the tragedy. One year on after Haji Daoud Nabi walked out of the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch and uttered the words “Welcome, brother” only to be met with bullets in response.

“Al Noor” is an Arabic term which means “the light”. In the Qur’an, the term is used to describe the divine light of God. A light that a man filled with hatred tried to extinguish when he opened fire on dozens of innocent people in their place of worship on their holiest day of the week.

At the start of this month, I felt a sense of anxiety. I thought it was just me. In preparing to write this piece, I started reaching out to my Muslim friends to check in with them and ask how they were feeling with the one year anniversary of the tragedy fast approaching. The responses have been similar in many ways – united by a common thread of sadness, fear, frustration, and a deep sense that pain is still felt.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN (UK)