Muslims in America Love Thanksgiving. Here’s Why

Frasat Ahmad, USA

This week, your Muslim neighbor Ahmad will be enjoying Thanksgiving just like you.

You may not know, but Muslims love thanksgiving. Not only does the thought of juicy turkey and sweet pumpkin pie entice our stomachs, but the spirit of Thanksgiving entices our souls.

Although Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday or observance and is not commemorated as such, Muslims in America are naturally drawn to this holiday because of the spirit of gratitude and service that it embodies. This American spirit of giving thanks is actually enshrined in Islam. In fact, Islam can be boiled down to two ideals: giving thanks to God and giving thanks to our fellow human beings.

The Qur’an tells us,

‘Worship God and be thankful to Him,’– The Holy Qur’an 39:67

Some may say that ritual prayer and worship suffice to give thanks to God. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) could not disagree more.

In a famous tradition, he states,

‘If you are not thankful to people, then you are not thankful to God.’– Sunan Abu Dawud 4811

Gratitude to our fellow brethren by way of community service, paired with prayer, is the truly Muslim means to give thanks to God. And it fits perfectly with the American spirit of Thanksgiving.

As Americans excitedly prepare to organise food drop offs to homeless shelters, donate groceries to food pantries, volunteer at food banks, or raise money for local charities, they will see that their Muslim neighbors stand in unison with them in these selfless acts of service.

This spirit of selfless service connects us all, whatever our background or religion.


Oz Could Be the First Muslim U.S. Senator, but Some Muslim Americans Are Ambivalent

Unlike most Americans of his faith, Dr. Mehmet Oz is a Republican. His distance from their communities and some of his comments about Islam have unnerved fellow Muslims.

    In just a few days, Pennsylvania could elect Dr. Mehmet Oz to the Senate, which would make him the nation’s first Muslim senator.

    With an eye on that history, Muslims in the state have invited him to events at mosques. They have waited for him to talk about how his life has been influenced by his faith, which he once told an interviewer hewed to the mystical Sufi Islam of the whirling dervishes. They have wondered if he would note the significance of a Muslim’s being elected to such a high national office.

    But he has not done any of those things.

    As Dr. Oz clashes with Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic candidate, in a close race that could decide control of the Senate, he is approaching his Muslim background with what appears to be great ambivalence — and some Muslim Americans have similarly conflicted feelings.

    Dr. Oz’s personal and political identities make him an unlikely fit for the role of a history-making, barrier-breaking Muslim public figure.


    How ‘Screw Your Optics’ Became a Far-Right Rallying Cry

    White supremacist terrorists have taken a page from the Islamic State’s playbook—discarding concerns about image and embracing shocking displays of public violence.

    On Oct. 27, 2018, my husband and I went on a nature hike. We were on a weekend visit to the college where our daughter, the youngest of our four children, had just started as a freshman. I silenced my phone and tucked it away, hoping no urgent work-related matters would interrupt us.

    My phone began buzzing in my pocket, but I ignored it. After the fifth buzz, I realized that something was wrong. I looked at my phone. My staff was feverishly sending news reports: “Emergency situation at US synagogue,” “gunman opens fire at US synagogue,” “Pittsburgh police confirms active shooter at synagogue, multiple victims reported.”

    “We’ve got to go back right now,” I told my husband.

    I sat with my laptop in the passenger seat as he drove.

    As I dug through those early details of the event, my mind kept going back to the evening before, when our daughter sat across from us at a nearby restaurant with a grim expression. She told us how she and her friends from the college’s theater club were putting on a play with LGBTQ characters and how the local Ku Klux Klan caught wind and held a demonstration outside of the building. The professor running the production tried to calm the cast and crew before the opening night, but their fear couldn’t be dissolved. It was 2018, and right outside of the halls of the music theater was an organization notorious for lynching and bombings that was laser-focused on our daughter and her friends’ performance.

    “How is the Klan not illegal?” she asked me and my husband. “Aren’t they a terrorist organization?”

    I’ve spent many years digging through the details of terrorist attacks and gory executions, but I’ve never grown able to stomach the images. I sat in the passenger seat scrolling through information about the synagogue attack, and that same wave of disgust was creeping up as strong as ever.


    Conservative Muslims join forces with Christian right on Michigan book bans

    ‘This has nothing to do with Trump,’ a parent says, as people pressure officials to censor books with LGBTQ+ themes

    Demonstrators who support banning books gather during a protest outside of the Henry Ford Centennial library in Dearborn, Michigan, on 25 September. Photograph: Jeff Kowalsky/AFP/Getty Images

    A recent school board meeting at which about 1,000 people gathered in Dearborn, Michigan, to pressure district officials to censor books with LGBTQ+ themes was in most ways similar to hundreds of other recent book ban hearings across the US.

    Speakers alleged the books “promote mental health issues” and “self harm”, while the school district and liberals were seeking to “indoctrinate children”. Gay people, they said, were “creeps and pedohiles”, and gay lifestyles were equated with zoophilia.

    “American values and the American way is not child pornography,” one angry parent told the Dearborn public school board.

    But the speakers were not the white, rightwing conservative Christians usually behind efforts to censor literature in public schools. Instead, the heated audience was almost all Muslim Arab Americans.

    In Dearborn, a city that’s 47% Arab American and reliably Democratic at the polls, some conservative Muslim residents have joined forces with the Christian right to censor literature in the city’s public schools.

    Although the right wing in America has frequently vilified Muslims and Islam, the alliance highlights how some deeply socially conservative Arab Americans are willing to put that aside and join in the culture wars. Several parents who spoke with the Guardian insisted the effort had nothing to do with politics and did not answer questions about why they would campaign alongside Donald Trump supporters.

    “This has nothing to do with Trump,” Hassan Anoun, a Dearborn schools parent, said, adding that he is a Republican. “We don’t want our kids to be exposed to this. These books should be banned.”

    Book ban campaigns have proliferated across the US in part because they reliably stoke conservatives anger toward liberals. A recent American Library Association (ALA) report documented about 1,650 challenges to books made this year through September. The nine-month tally already exceeded the 2021 total.


    At new Minnesota facility, Amazon takes small steps to welcome Muslim workers

    Despite the progress, the demands of some Muslim employees remain unanswered, a representative of the local Muslim community said.

    (RNS) — A new Amazon sorting facility in Woodbury, Minnesota, is taking its employees’ religious needs seriously, adding new “ablution stations” for ritual hand and foot washing and three rooms that people of any faith may use for prayer or meditation.

    The 550,000-square-foot facility, which opened this month, employs about 300 Somalis and Somali Americans, many of them refugees from the generation-long civil war in the east African nation. Minnesota is home to as many as 80,000 Somali immigrants, more than half of those living in the United States. More than 99% of Somalians are Muslim.

    A stop for packages moving between Amazon warehouses and their shipping destinations, the Woodbury center includes signs in Somali as well as translation services. Other accommodations for all employees include lactation rooms for nursing mothers and soundproof booths for phone calls.


    In Indonesia, a Rising Tide of Religious Intolerance

    Despite its official motto of “unity in diversity,” the country is becoming increasingly inhospitable for members of religious minorities.

    In June, Indonesian authorities charged six employees of the nightlife chain Holywings for blasphemy after the chain announced an online promotion offering free alcoholic drinks for men named Muhammad and women named Maria. The promotion’s use of the name of the Prophet Muhammad – Islam’s last prophet – sparked outrage in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

    The pressure forced one of the chain’s shareholders, Hotman Paris, to visit the house of the Cholil Nafis, the chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council, Indonesia’s top Muslim clerical body, to apologize for “offending the Muslim community.” The six staff members now await trial for blasphemy and for breaching Indonesia’s internet law; if found guilty, they face up to 15 years in prison.

    This is not the first time that Indonesia has used blasphemy laws to put people behind bars. Although the country promotes itself as a bastion of tolerance in the Muslim world, religious minorities remain on edge and vigilant in an attempt to avoid the sorts of conflicts that befell the employees of Holywings.

    In the current climate, any wrongdoings – intentional or otherwise, by Muslims or non-Muslims – can be interpreted as acts aimed at disturbing religious harmony. At times, these actions have also been used as a pretext for political Islamists to promote divisive regulations.



    Meet Rashad Hussain, the first Muslim to serve as America’s religious freedom ambassador

    Rashad Hussain, the U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom, was in Utah last week to speak at the International Law and Religion Symposium at BYU. He spoke about the government’s efforts to help persecuted people of faith around the world and the importance of interfaith and bipartisan cooperation.

    While out West, Hussain was kind enough to meet with me and discuss how the world of religious freedom work has changed since I last spoke with his predecessor, Sam Brownback. He shared what keeps him up at night, what gives him hope and what has surprised him about the ambassador role.

    Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

    Kelsey DallasWhat led you to be interested in religious freedom work? Can you point to specific experiences in your life?

    Rashad Hussain: I’ve always felt strongly about standing up for the rights of everyone, particularly those facing any form of discrimination. My parents emphasized the importance of fairness and justice and treating every single person with dignity and respect. Even when I was a young student in school, I remember trying to speak up and support kids who I thought were being mistreated.

    During my professional career, I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to take on roles to protect the rights of people here in the United States and around the world, including religious minorities.

    When I came into the Obama administration, I started as an attorney. And shortly after I began working in the White House counsel’s office, the president, as you may recall, gave a major address to the Muslim world in Cairo, Egypt. I was fortunate enough to be on the team that was working on the speech and some of the initiatives coming out of the speech.

    Shortly after we returned, I began serving as Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. And as part of that work, we were focused on the protection of religious minorities, particularly in Muslim-majority countries.


    Pope Francis to meet Muslim leaders, small Christian community in Bahrain

    By Hannah Brockhaus

    Rome Newsroom, Oct 6, 2022 / 05:40 am

    On the first-ever papal visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain, Pope Francis will close a forum on dialogue, meet with the grand imam of al-Azhar, and pray at a new Catholic cathedral.

    The Vatican released the full itinerary for the pope’s Nov. 3–6 trip to the Muslim island nation in the Persian Gulf.

    The theme of the visit is “Peace on earth to people of goodwill,” inspired by Luke 2:14. The logo is a stylized image of two hands open toward God: one in the colors of the Vatican flag and one with the flag of Bahrain. An olive branch represents peace, while the text “Pope Francis” is in the color blue to represent the visit’s entrustment to the Virgin Mary.

    The logo and motto of the papal trip to Bahrain. Screenshot via Vatican Media
    The logo and motto of the papal trip to Bahrain. Screenshot via Vatican Media

    Pope Francis will land in Awali, a small municipality about 12 miles south of Manama, Bahrain’s capital city, on Thursday, Nov. 3. After a private meeting with the king of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Francis will address members of the government and civil society.

    On the second day of the visit, the pope will give the closing speech at the Bahrain Forum for Dialogue: East and West for Human Coexistence. 


    Interfaith Relationships Are Becoming Common. Do They Work?

    Research reveals the challenges of partnering with someone of a different faith.


    • The number of interfaith couples is increasing: 20 percent of Gen Xers have interfaith parents, compared to 27 percent of Millennials.
    • Interfaith couples report poorer psychological health and experience pressure from their parents to marry someone of a similar faith.
    • Involvement in, and importance of, religion markedly declines amongst children raised by interfaith parents.

    Interfaith relationships are increasingly common. According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, 27 percent of Millennials were raised by parents with two different religious backgrounds. This is a marked increase from 20 percent of Gen Xers, 19 percent of Baby Boomers, and 13 percent of the Silent Generation who were raised by parents with two different religious backgrounds.

    Today, 25 percent of U.S. marriages involve couples of different religions. Such that, 15 percent of marriages involve one partner who is religious and one who is unaffiliated, such as atheist or agnostic. And approximately 9 percent of marriages involve partners of differing religions, such as one Protestant partner and one Catholic partner.

    Because more people are choosing interfaith relationships than ever before, couples may be asking if and how they can work. Every couple’s relationship is unique and the variables which affect their long-term success are complex. Luckily, research in psychology reveals some of the unique challenges that interfaith couples might face.

    Challenges for Interfaith Relationships

    Both relationships and religion tend to be good for your health. Several studies, for instance, reveal people who are married, rather than single, tend to live longer and experience greater physical and psychological health. In fact, patients who had undergone a coronary artery bypass graft were 2.5 times more likely to still be alive 15 years after their surgery if they were married, rather than single.