Young Muslims Challenge Traditional Stereotypes

Young Muslims like Humaira Akram are using social media to show the Islamic culture’s younger side.   

“Gen Z Muslims have changed or progressed Muslim culture in today’s society by being more vocal, using their social media platforms to advocate for justice and being open-minded,” said Akram, a student at Brooklyn College in New York. 

Akram and others say they think many non-Muslims see violence and sexism as stereotypes. But younger Muslims are eager to move beyond that, she said.  

Sabina Hanan answers comments and questions about Islam and the Muslim culture on social media.
Sabina Hanan answers comments and questions about Islam and the Muslim culture on social media. This photo is from her Instagram account.

“They are eager to learn and succeed, while speaking up against misconceptions and raising awareness for future generations, speaking up against injustice, and using their voice to make a change,” Akram said.  

The conservative religious regimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia compel women to wear head coverings and keep them subservient to men. In other Islamic countries such as Afghanistan, head covering is a cultural practice rather than mandated by law.

Other Muslim-majority countries such as Indonesia, Turkey and Syria, have made greater strides in women’s rights, with more women attending university and holding senior government positions. Afghanistan’s parliament, according to Human Rights Watch, “has a higher percentage of women than does the U.S. Congress.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM VOICE OF AMERICA

Graduate Studies Director – Egypt

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Job Description:

Location:

  • Cairo, Egypt

Assignment Includes:

  • Overseeing the administration of the graduate studies program of the seminary in collaboration with the Graduate Studies Committee, the academic dean, and the registrar
  • Recruiting, promoting, and overseeing the annual admission of new students into the program. Developing the graduate studies course curriculum and monitoring student progress towards its fulfillment.
  • Contributing to the continuing theological and biblical education of leadership in the Presbyterian Synod of the Nile and other church-related organizations, as requested
  • Teaching five courses during the academic year.
  • Updating program student manuals annually.
  • Helping the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC) to envision and pursue graduate programs that appeal to students throughout the Arabic-speaking world as well as the students throughout the world who are interested in understanding Middle Eastern theology, biblical interpretation, history, and culture.
  • Fully participating in the spiritual, academic and community life of the seminary.

Site Information:

The Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC), Egypt, an institution of the Presbyterian Synod of the Nile, is the oldest and the largest Protestant Arabic-speaking seminary in the world. Its graduate studies program, founded in 1999, serves several dozen students, primarily pastors and lay leaders from the Middle East, by offering master’s degrees in Biblical Studies, Christianity in the Middle East, Systematic Theology, and Organizational Leadership and Management. The program currently includes a ThM degree and the institution is developing partnerships with other institutions to offer DMin and PhD degrees.

Egypt is home to a rich Christian history and heritage. Due to its enormous population of over 102 million (in 2020), it remains one of the largest Islamic countries of the world and is the seat of the influential and respected Al-Azhar University, a leading international Islamic institution.

The Christian community, while comprises roughly 10% of the overall population, still represents the largest Christian presence among all Middle Eastern Countries. The Coptic Orthodox Church claims as many as ten million members. The other Christian churches, although small, are vital and active. Indeed, Evangelical churches in Egypt made significant contributions to the Arab Spring, a contribution recognized by Christians and Muslims alike.

The Evangelical Synod of the Nile was founded in the nineteenth century by American Presbyterian missionaries. As has been the case here, as elsewhere in the Middle East, the original impulse of the western missionary movement was to the world of Islam. Nonetheless, the converts were almost entirely from the Orthodox Christian family, a source of irritation and distrust that exists to the present day.

The Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC) is the largest Protestant Arabic-speaking Christian seminary in the world, with a student body of over 450. Four years of training in the traditional disciplines leads to a Master of Divinity (MDiv). Other degrees offered include the Master of Theology (MAT) and Masters in Leadership and Management (MLM). DMin and PhD programs are in development in cooperation with other major seminaries. Students from other Arabic speaking countries attend, due to the excellent quality of education and the relative security of Egypt.

Experience and Skills:

  • Ph.D. required; fields preferred: Biblical Studies, Church History, Historical Theology or Islamic Studies
  • Administrative and classroom skills and experience preferred
  • Knowledge of Middle East context and ability to support positive Muslim-Christian relations preferred
  • Knowledge of Arabic helpful

Terms and Conditions

This position is supported under the terms of ELCA Global Mission Expectations and Support for Long Term Global Personnel. Those provisions include: international transportation, transportation related to work assignment, pensions and major medical coverage, assistance with schooling for children through high school, housing and cash salary which is adjusted according to the goods and services differential for Egypt.

If Candidate is Married

Both must complete an application for this position, even if the spouse will not be fulfilling a specific role in the ministry. In the context of global mission service, a spouse is seen as a representative of the ELCA and of the receiving church regardless of their actual role. It is important for the ELCA that both members of a couple understand the role of missionary and are comfortable with that reality. In addition, an accompanying spouse receives an appointment to service by the ELCA and the support package for mission personnel includes compensation for an accompanying spouse.

General Qualifications for ELCA Global Personnel

  • Christian faith and a commitment to the mission of the church
  • Openness to various expressions of Christian faith and respect for people of other faiths
  • Respect for beliefs, values and customs of church and culture where assigned
  • Well-developed inter-personal skills demonstrating understanding and compassion
  • Demonstrated ability to carry out the responsibilities and the ability to adapt to different standards and practices
  • Ability to work within the framework of a local administration
  • Adaptable and flexible – sense of humor – good physical and emotional health
  • Live and serve in a way which reflects the vision and expectations of the ELCA

Notice: Rostered ministers and lay leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who apply for a position in the churchwide organization must have completed Rostered Minister Profile papers on file. Please add recruiting@atsondemand.com as a safe site to your email account.
If you are having difficulties with the application process, please click hereNeed Help Applying?

For Muslim Women in Niqabs, the Pandemic Has Brought a New Level of Acceptance

“People now see that covering your face is a symbol of safety and protection.”

Things feel different for one Baltimore-area Muslim woman lately when she shops at her local Trader Joe’s. A Muslim woman who observes niqab—aace veil that masks her nose and mouth—she has noticed fewer people giving her looks, probably because they’re covering their own faces too. “There’s less staring and hateful comments,” she said. “Before, as a niqabi, I would stick out. With the mandatory face masks, niqabis are being more accepted.”

For Muslim women accustomed to being the only people in their communities covering their faces in public, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought an unexpected, and welcome, change. A niqab is different from a CDC-endorsed face mask, and worn for a different purpose, but it now stands out far less—and the women who embrace niqab may have reason to hope it will continue to be more accepted even when the pandemic is over.

For those who observe niqab, it is considered to be an act of devotion to God, and a form of modesty and protection. They are a more common sight in Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and have been a cultural flash point in France, where they remain banned in public even as COVID mask laws have gone into effect. Even as American Muslims become more visible in Congress and in pop culture, Islamic attire like the niqab or a burqa can carry a stigma.

“The attitude of most people is of repulsion toward this piece of cloth,” the Baltimore-area woman said. “They view it as unnecessary, scary-looking, ultra-orthodox, and oppressive. I’ve always felt isolated, judged, and uncomfortable wearing it. Just like with everything, this current pandemic has changed things for niqabis, veiled-face women.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM VANITY FAIR

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 

In the latest sign of Covid-19-related racism, Muslims are being blamed for England’s coronavirus outbreaks

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London (CNN)Coronavirus conspiracy theorists have spread baseless rumors online — frequently targeting minorities — since the beginning of the pandemic. In England the latest wave of vitriol criticizes Muslims, blaming them for spreading Covid-19.

Muslims were caught off guard last week, when the UK government suddenly announced local lockdowns in a slew of areas in northern England where cases have spiked. The announcement came just hours before Eid al-Adha, one of the holiest festivals in Islam.

The affected areas included Greater Manchester, Burnley, Blackburn with Darwen, Bradford and Leicester — all places with a significant Islamic population according to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).

The restrictions — published late last Thursday evening — banned people in the named areas from mixing with other households.

“The timing … it focused people’s minds [on Muslims],” Rabnawaz Akbar, a Labour Party councilor in Manchester, told CNN.

The government “have done it on the eve of Eid,” leading people to think “it must be the Muslim community’s fault,” Akbar said. “You see how people would have come to the assumption. [The government] have done it without thinking but of course, they’re highlighting a particular demographic. And people are angry and now that anger is focused on a particular community.”

A Downing Street spokesperson said in a statement to CNN: “Decisions on lockdowns are based solely on scientific advice and the latest data. Where there are local outbreaks, our priority will remain taking whatever steps are necessary to protect people.”

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 

Joint Christian-Muslim study of sacred texts offers new insights to interfaith dialogue

lwi-dok-62-cover(LWI) – Joint theological study resources on the sacred texts of both Christians and Muslims open up possibilities to gain “new perspectives” and “fresh insights into the meaning and transformative dynamics” of each other’s Holy Scriptures.

Lutheran theologians Rev. Dr Simone Sinn and Rev. Dr Sivin Kit made these remarks while reflecting on The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) publication Heilige Schriften heute verstehen: Christen und Muslime im Dialog. The German edition of the publication Transformative Readings of Sacred Scriptures: Christians and Muslims in Dialogue is now available online and in hard copy.

Sinn, the publication co-editor is currently professor of Ecumenical Theology at the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, Switzerland. While the new edition targets all German-speaking regions, she noted a particular interest in Germany due to its historical “contributions to the dialogue between philosophical and theological hermeneutics.” In recent years, universities there “have provided opportunities for new interreligious collaboration on scriptural interpretation and hermeneutics,” she said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM LUTHERNWORLD.ORG 

Medieval robots? They were just one of this Muslim inventor’s creations

peacock-fountainFrom water pumps to musical automatons, Ismail al-Jazari’s extraordinary machines ranged from practical to playful, delighting farmers and kings alike.

Fountains that could be programmed to switch on and off. A model of an Indian mahout (driver) who struck the half hour on his elephant’s head. Automatons in the form of servants that could offer guests a towel.

These are just some of the marvellous creations of the 12th-century Muslim inventor Ismail al-Jazari, who laid the groundwork for modern engineering, hydraulics, and even robotics. While some of his lavish and colourful creations were made as novelty playthings for the very wealthy, al-Jazari also made practical machines that helped normal people, including water-drawing devices that were used by farmers for centuries.

Passion for invention

Badi al-Zaman Abu al-Izz Ismail ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari was born in 1136 in Diyarbakır in what is today central-southern Turkey. The son of a humble craftsman, he was born in a time of political turmoil, a result of local power struggles as well as the effects of the Crusades.

Al-Jazari served as an engineer in the service of the regional rulers, the Artuqids. This dynasty had once expanded its empire into Syria. In the course of al-Jazari’s lifetime, however, Artuqid power came under the sway of the more powerful neighboring Zangid dynasty, and later still by the successors of the Muslim hero, Saladin. (Here’s why the “Assassins” were sent to kill Saladin.)

Despite the upheaval of the Crusades, and the turbulent relations between different Muslim powers, life for the brilliant engineer was peacefully spent serving several Artuqid kings, for whom he designed more than a hundred ingenious devices. Unlike other practical inventors of the period, who left little record of their work, al-Jazari had a passion for documenting his work and explaining how he built his incredible machines.

In 1206, drawing on a quarter of a century of prodigious output, he gave the world a catalogue of his “matchless machines,” which is known today as The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices. Al-Jazari included meticulous diagrams and colourful illustrations to show how all the pieces fit together. Several incomplete copies of his work have survived, including one held by the Topkapi Sarayi Museum in Istanbul, Turkey, prized for its artistic detail and beauty.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC (UK)

Ireland’s Muslims flock to sporting grounds to celebrate Eid

Croke Park, a historic venue in Dublin, opened its doors to hundreds of Muslims this Eid al-Adha.

40086714e945437fac16cb749dbb29e7_18Dublin, Ireland – On a crisp, bright morning in Dublin, worshippers sit on prayer mats spaced across a sport pitch, listening to a woman dressed head-to-toe in white recite the Quran.

From over the looming, concrete walls of the stadium, Catholic prayers barked into a microphone can be heard from the “rosary rally” protest outside.

Ireland’s hallowed sporting grounds, Croke Park, opened its doors to Muslims this Eid al-Adha so that they could gather in large numbers for the first time since the country’s coronavirus lockdown put strict limits on all indoor religious services.

Initially, the organisers had hoped 500 worshippers could attend Friday’s event, but a surge in new COVID-19 cases delayed an expected easing of restrictions.

Instead, only 200 people were allowed on the field, suitably spaced apart, aside from some children who stayed close to their parents, running around the prayer mats in circles or waving miniature Irish flags.

For many of the worshippers, Friday’s event was also a cherished opportunity to celebrate their dual identities – they are Muslim and Irish, and proud to be both.

The Problem With the ‘Judeo-Christian Tradition’

The concept was always an unstable foundation on which to build a common American identity.

originalLast week, the State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights issued its draft report on the global status of human rights. The report, which resulted from a year of cerebral discussions with a carefully curated set of scholars and activists, brought the conversation back to where it started: an impassioned celebration of religious freedom as the most important human right. Anticipating criticisms of advancing a highly selective, conservative-Christian reading of human rights, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has defended the focus on religious freedom as a distinctively American birthright now applicable to all manner of “faith traditions.” In fact, he argues, the original American human-rights vision was inspired equally by another non-Christian religion, Judaism. The report, he has said, will “return America’s understanding of human rights … back to the fundamental moorings of the Judeo-Christian tradition on which this country was founded.” Except that tradition never existed.

The “Judeo-Christian tradition” was one of 20th-century America’s greatest political inventions. An ecumenical marketing meme for combatting godless communism, the catchphrase long did the work of animating American conservatives in the Cold War battle. For a brief time, canny liberals also embraced the phrase as a rhetorical pathway of inclusion into postwar American democracy for Jews, Catholics, and Black Americans. In a world divided by totalitarianism abroad and racial segregation at home, the notion of a shared American religious heritage promised racial healing and national unity.