Keeping COVID in mind, area Muslims plan for a safe but more communal Ramadan

Many area Muslims are preparing for their second Ramadan of the pandemic, with hope that the month of dawn-to-dusk fasting will be filled with the communal prayers and family gatherings they went without last year, as COVID-19 began to sweep the state.

Last year, there was no prayer [in the mosque],” said Ali Suleiman Ali, the imam of the Muslim Community of the Western Suburbs of Detroit in Canton. “Everybody [came to] understand the importance of community, the importance [of] coming together.”Imam Ali Suleiman Ali of the Muslim Community of the Western Suburbs of Detroit said the mosque will discontinue its socially-distanced prayers if necessary during Ramadan.

This year, he said, the mosque will allow congregants to partake in the optional nighttime worship that is part of Ramadan tradition, but, instead of standing shoulder-to-shoulder, there will be a divide of six feet between each person. Ali said the mosque will not host the evening meal that marks the end of the fast or offer additional lectures and activities as it did before the pandemic.

“All we are going to do is to pray,” he said. “After the prayer, everybody goes home.”

Even with the limited offerings, Ali said that the community would remain vigilant about the current surge in COVID-19 infections in the region, and cancel in-person gatherings if necessary.


Sri Lanka to ban burqas and shut Islamic schools for ‘national security’

(a good subtitle for this article would be: “When Paranoia Becomes Public Policy.”)

Sri Lanka will ban the wearing of the burqa and shut more than 1,000 Islamic schools in the latest actions affecting the country’s minority Muslim population.A burqa is a garment worn by some Muslim women that covers the entire body, including the face, with mesh over the eyes.Sarath Weerasekera, the country’s minister for public security, signed a paper on Friday for cabinet approval to ban burqas on “national security” grounds.”In our early days Muslim women and girls never wore the burqa,” he said in a news conference on Saturday. “It is a sign of religious extremism that came about recently. We are definitely going to ban it.”The wearing of the burqa in the majority-Buddhist nation was temporarily banned in 2019, after a series of bombings on Easter Sunday that killed more than 270 people and injured 500 in churches and hotels.


Arabs, Muslims report hundreds of discrimination claims each year. Here’s one NJ story

Essma Bengabsia was proud to be one of the first hijab-wearing women on the New York trading floor for BlackRock Inc., the world’s biggest asset manager.

Hired in 2018 as an analyst, the North Bergen resident was ready to make her mark on the financial world, after graduating from the prestigious NYU Stern School of Business.

“When I came into the company, I was the only person who looked the way I looked on the trading floor,” Bengabsia, 23, said in a recent interview. “I recognized I was very much charting new territory and trailblazing for women who look like me.”

But Bengabsia said her workplace turned hostile, as she faced repeated instances of discrimination for being Muslim, Arab and female. She detailed allegations in a first-person essay, “#MeToo at BlackRock,” published on last month. 

BlackRock, a Wall Street behemoth that manages $8.7 trillion in assets, said in a statement that it investigated Bengabsia’s claims but did not find she had been the subject of discrimination or harassment.


The many ways Muslim prisoners are denied religious rights in prison

Rick, an African American and Muslim prisoner, was in a correctional facility in a Midwestern state when he tried to obtain a Quran for worship. His request to the officer in charge was denied. But when he was told the price for it, he was shocked — it was far more than he could afford, and, significantly, was two to three times more expensive than a Bible.

“I just couldn’t afford to buy the Quran, or anything else, for that matter,” he says, as he was denied a Quran multiple times.

Rick, whose last name is being withheld to protect his privacy, resorted to secretly borrowing a copy of the Quran from another inmate. When guards were passing by, he had to quickly make sure they did not see it.

“The discrimination is so real. All that matters is your background and the color of your skin,” he says.

The United States currently incarcerates more than 2 million people, who are predominantly Black and Latinx, with almost half a million of these people being held on pretrial bond known as bail. Unfortunately, Muslim prisoners, in particular, are largely left out of the conversation. Muslims are overrepresented in state prisons, making up 9 percent. The significant presence of Muslims in prison stands in stark contrast to Muslims’ share of the US population as a whole, which is just 1 percent.

Muslim prisoners face many of the same issues as other incarcerated people, including hindrances to basic necessities and hygiene such as toothpaste, deodorant, or female sanitary products. But they also face unique discriminatory practices, such as lack of fair access to religious material in prisons. This is despite federal laws that require equal access to religious materials. Unfortunately, discrimination in prisons has been a longstanding issue, with multiple lawsuits attempting to resolve this; nevertheless, Muslims continue to face difficulty.


Sudan’s interfaith event lauded amid opposition

A Sudanese businessman Sunday defended hosting an inter-faith event to promote religious tolerance in the Muslim-majority country that also included Jews, Christians and Hindus.

Critics from an Islamist group had argued such events would heighten tensaions a month after Sudan’s landmark decision to normalise ties with Israel in a US-brokered deal.

Businessman Abu al-Qassem Bortoum defended the event, held Saturday under tight security in a Khartoum hotel, as “a bid to break the psychological barrier” between Islam and other religions, in a country now undergoing a political transition.

Sudan, he said, was moving on a path to “freedom, peace and justice by renouncing hate speech, violent discourse and religious discrimination to achieve unity, tolerance and social coexistence”.

Bortoum had organised the event where ushers wore T-shirts with the logo “Humanity Bridge Builders” and the Islamic crescent, Christian cross and Jewish Star of David symbols.

Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee had told the meeting by video link from Jerusalem that “the pursuit of our understanding of one another is precisely what enhances peace in the world”.

Invited guests included diplomats, a member of Sudan’s ruling council, Raja Nicola, as well as members of the country’s Christian and Hindu communities and Sudanese descendants of Jewish families.

Ahead of the gathering, an Islamist group affiliated with the opposition National Umma Party, Al Ansar, had warned the meeting was being staged amid “tensions between advocates of normalisation with Israel and those who reject it”.


Forced marriages, conversions contrary to Islamic teachings: Ashrafi

ISLAMABAD: The forced marriages and conversions to Islam were against the teachings of Islam, Special aide to Prime Minister on Religious Harmony and Middle East, Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi said Thursday.

Addressing, ‘National Interfaith Women Conference’ held under the aegis of Church of Pakistan and Interfaith Harmony Councils, Ashrafi, who is also Pakistan Ulema Council chairman urged minorities living in Pakistan not be intimidated as the state will stop those who try to harm them.

The honor and status bestowed on women by the Holy Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W) is unmatched anywhere else.

Islam is the protector of the rights of minorities and state was responsible to ensure the protection of the rights of every Pakistani living in the country.

Responding to a question, he said killing of any non-Muslim or damaging their property has nothing to do with Islam. The killer of a non-Muslim doctor who was killed in Peshawar has been arrested.

Elements accomplice in terrorism and extremism activities in the name of Islam are not making any service to Islam and are not friends of Islam.


Christians, Muslims and Jews to share faith centre in Berlin

€47m building will feature a church, a mosque and a synagogue all linked to a central meeting space

On the site of a church torn down by East Germany’s communist rulers, a new place of worship is set to rise that will bring Christians, Jews and Muslims under one roof – and it has already been dubbed a “churmosquagogue”.

The foundation stone of the House of One in Berlin will be laid at a ceremony on 27 May, marking the end of 10 years of planning and the beginning of an estimated four years of construction, and symbolising a new venture in interfaith cooperation and dialogue. The €47m building, designed by Berlin architects Kuehn Malvezzi, will incorporate a church, a mosque and a synagogue linked to a central meeting space. People of other faiths and denominations, and those of no faith, will be invited to events and discussions in the large hall.Advertisement

“The idea is pretty simple,” said Roland Stolte,  a Christian theologian who helped start the project. “We wanted to build a house of prayer and learning, where these three religions could co-exist while each retaining their own identity.”


Muslims and migrants in Spain: How fake news is keeping minorities sidelined

The rise of immigration in Spain has brought an increase in Islamophobic fake news being spread online to demonise migrants and Muslim communities

As a group of young Arab men sail across the Mediterranean Sea in search of a new life in Spain, they bring with them a clear message to their new hosts. 

“We are going to cut the throats of all the unfaithful Spaniards who do not praise [Prophet] Muhammad,” they seemingly chant as they approach Spanish shores, one of them wielding a small knife. 

‘Fake news about Muslims in Spain is constant and is closely linked to migration fake news. The most common themes are those linking Muslims to benefits and terrorism’

– Natalia Diez, journalist

A video depicting the young Arab migrants at sea recently surfaced online and quickly spread among Spanish Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and WhatsApp users.

“He looks very threatening with that knife. This is scary and our politicians are just happy to let them in,” one user comments. 

“What a disgrace. Can you imagine that later the guy with the knife is one of those who slaughters Christians in a church? We put them up in hotels with full board and if you speak out you’re a fascist or a racist,” another says.

However, as it soon turned out, the representation of the video’s content was fake

In reality, the video was repurposed and accompanied by an erroneous Arabic translation in order to be peddled online as a tool of hate. 

A little research and deft use of a song-identifying app have shown that the young men in the video were in fact singing along to the Algerian hit song Bye Bye Salam.


Islam and Christianity: A history of harmony

One of the greatest Islamic philosophers graces libraries of the Western world

The scholar Abu Nasr Muhammad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Uzalag Ibn Tarkhan, born in 870AD in Turkestan region (now Kazakhstan), was known in the Arab world as Al-Farabi. Passionate about reading from a young age, he was fond of reading about logic and philosophy, and decided to travel to Baghdad — the capital of the Islamic caliphate — at that time.

Historians note that Al-Farabi read all the books of philosophy by Aristotle and Plato. He made several attempts to understand the science of philosophy until he recorded a phrase: “I have read it more than forty times, and I still need to read it.”

At a time when Muhammad Abu Nasr al-Farabi delved into philosophy and logic many Muslim, Christian and Jewish scholars were already settled in Baghdad.

Knowledge flourished based on dialogue between the three main religious beliefs. Among the most important Christian scholars (some of whom were Al-Farabi’s teachers) included Abu Bishr Matta bin Yunus in Baghdad, Yohana Ibn Haylan in Harran (Turkey), and Ibrahim Al-Marwazi from Merv in Turkmenistan.