IN HIS first presidential campaign, George W. Bush received 42% of the Muslim-American vote, compared with 31% for Al Gore. The 9/11 attacks, and the wars that followed, changed that affiliation. Eight years later, Muslim-Americans overwhelmingly backed Barack Obama. This was a big change for a religious minority that tended to have conservative views: traditionalist Muslims and LBGT advocates are strange bedfellows. Donald Trump’s election, though, has brought a clutch of progressive Muslims into politics. Some are now heading to Congress.
America has 3.5m Muslims, around 1% of the population. Some say the number is closer to 5m and rising; the Census Bureau has not asked questions about religion since the 1950s, so it is hard to know for sure. Only about 100 Muslims filed papers this year to run for office. These few attract a disproportionate amount of attention, largely because of America’s views of their faith. Polling by the Pew Research Centre in April 2017 found that 44% of eligible voters think there is a “natural conflict” between Islam and democracy.
Heraa Hashmi compiled a 712-page Google doc of times when Muslims have condemned terror attacks. A year on she reflects on that decision.
Heraa Hashmi was propelled into the public eye when she compiled a worldwide list of as many different instances as she could find of Muslims condemning terrorism.
A Muslim-American of Indian ancestry, Heraa was moved to action following a disappointing conversation with a classmate who wondered why Muslims are so silent about the violence of some of their co-religionists. The list was turned into a publicly available spreadsheet with 5720 examples of Muslim condemning terror which can be found on a website she created with some friends.
A year on, she visits Istanbul and ponders the efficacy of the decision due to her concern that the list played into the “moderate Muslim” narrative.
The idea of a ‘moderate Muslim’ she argues is “an invention of a global system of capital and political hegemony” which uses the ‘moderate’ Muslim category “to include those Muslims whose lifestyles and beliefs are approved”, and exclude, arrest, torture and kill those who aren’t.
A student of molecular biology at the University of Colorado Boulder, Heraa is also a prolific YouTuber, a writer of fiction and runs an online blog with friends called Traversing Tradition which explores Islam for counter-cultural perspectives.
Bernard Lewis in 1993. Photo by Denise Applewhite/Princeton University
(RNS) — When I was an undergraduate, still in awe of the wealth of knowledge suddenly available to me in the college bookstore, I stumbled on a volume called “The Assassins,” an early work by the Princeton University historian Bernard Lewis.
Lewis’ transformation from scholar to neo-imperialist was not sudden, but there is a hint to be found in “The Assassins.”Originally published in 1967, it is an erudite work that sought to correct the record on the Nizari Isma’ilis, a Shiite Muslim community that had long been maligned as consumers of hashish, known in Arabic as “hashashin,” which transformed into the word “assassin.” The book fascinated me because it was a scholarly book at a time when scholarship was rarely applied to such topics.
Yet despite Lewis’ knowledge, he still chose the pejorative name for the Nizari Isma’ilis for the title of his book, suggesting he did not see the humanity of the people he studied; they were still objects to him.
This blindness can be seen in his later academic work, which commonly conflated Muslims with Arabs, and religion with politics. The book that made Lewis’ popular reputation, “What Went Wrong?,” was originally subtitled “Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response.” This was later changed, significantly, to “The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East.” Suddenly a book about geopolitics became a book about a religion. Lewis treated the two interchangeably, as if the Middle East were synonymous with Islam, and vice versa.
Sameena Zahoor has been wearing a hijab since she was in college studying to be a doctor and she is aware that non-Muslims often have questions — and misconceptions — about the headscarf commonly worn by Muslim women.
Zahoor, a family physician from Canton, said it is not much different than coverings donned by nuns or members of religions outside of Islam.
“Yes, my experience being a Muslim woman has a lot to do with me wearing a headscarf,” Zahoor said. “No, I don’t think I’m a better Muslim because I cover — versus a person who does not cover. Yes, I do have hair underneath (my hijab). No, I don’t wear it when I go home, sleep in it or shower in it. Yes, it makes me feel hot and sweaty when I wear it in the summer. No, I was not forced to wear it and no I am not oppressed.”
It was that kind of open discussion — intended to break down barriers and spread understanding of Islam — that highlighted the Building Bridges: Getting To Know Our Muslim Neighbors event hosted Sunday by The Waterford Refugee Welcome Alliance and held at the Christ Lutheran Church in Waterford.
It turns out that (American) Islam is losing Muslims at a pretty high rate. About a quarter of adults raised Muslim deconvert.
The problem is, from a secularist’s point of view, is that just as many convert to the religion. It has a high conversion rate, especially when compared to Christianity. Islam is growing by about 100,000 per year.
Per Research recently released a report that said:
Like Americans in many other religious groups, a substantial share of adults who were raised Muslim no longer identify as members of the faith. But, unlike some other faiths, Islam gains about as many converts as it loses.
About a quarter of adults who were raised Muslim (23%) no longer identify as members of the faith, roughly on par with the share of Americans who were raised Christian and no longer identify with Christianity (22%), according to a new analysis of the 2014 Religious Landscape Study. But while the share of American Muslim adults who are converts to Islam also is about one-quarter (23%), a much smaller share of current Christians (6%) are converts. In other words, Christianity as a whole loses more people than it gains from religious switching (conversions in both directions) in the U.S., while the net effect on Islam in America is a wash.
When 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.”
The religions share a deep heritage based in love, which can’t be confused with the actions of misguided, fire-breathing followers on both sides.
For the Sufi mystic and poet Jalaluddin Rumi, spring was more than spring: it was a reflection of all that was divine, in our lives and history.
In his poem, “Spring is Christ,” he writes of how a flower is more than a flower, a tree more than a tree and the wind more than just wind. He writes of a love so strong it permeates everything it comes into contact with. And he writes about Jesus and his mother, Mary: Jesus as the spring that brings plants into bloom after a lifeless winter, and Mary as the tree that gives life, refuge and shade.
Surprisingly for many in the West today, Islamic mystical poetry is full of allusions to Jesus and Mary. The only religion besides Christianity that accepts Jesus as a prophet, Islam confirms his unique birth and the Qur’an refers to him as the “Messiah,” the “Messenger,” the “Prophet” and the “Word and Spirit of God.”
It is a commonality that is often overlooked by fundamentalists on both sides who choose to focus on the points of divergence. And yet, at this moment, when so many seem to be rooting for a collision between the Christian West and Islamic East, there has never been a greater need for both sides to acknowledge their shared heritage.