Dearborn Mayor brings Muslims into the mainstream

  • Dearborn’s first Arab-Muslim mayor achieved the first paid holidays for Ramadan, Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha in the country
  • Dearborn’s first Arab-Muslim Mayor Abdullah Hammoud said he won’t compare himself to John F. Kennedy

CHICAGO: Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud won’t compare himself to US President John F. Kennedy who battled bigotry in the 1960s to gain acceptance of his Catholic religion. Hammoud said that the key to success for any leader was to ensure that government fairly reflected the diversity of its community.

Since his election as Dearborn’s first Arab and Muslim mayor, Hammoud has achieved public acceptance of Muslims by ensuring that everyone is treated equally and that their needs and interests are addressed equally and fairly.

Hammoud convinced the city’s powerful unions through negotiations to grant all city employees paid days off for the two Muslim Ramadan holidays, Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha, similar to the paid religious holidays granted to Christians and Jews.

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“We found out that was a first when we did it. When we were negotiating with our union sisters and brothers in the collective bargaining agreements, we offered Eid Al-Fitr, the Eid after Ramadan, as well as Eid Al-Adha, the Eid that commemorates the returning of the pilgrimage, the conclusion of the pilgrimage both as paid holidays. I think it is important because when you have a diverse workforce you want to ensure you are addressing the needs of this diverse workforce,” Hammoud said during an interview on The Ray Hanania Radio Show, broadcast on the US Arab Radio Network and sponsored by Arab News.


Why Habitat for Humanity’s Theology of the Hammer Offers Hope in Polarized Times

(RNS) — Habitat for Humanity was built on a pair of simple yet profound ideas.

Everyone deserves a decent place to live.

Anyone who wants to help make that happen is welcome to pick up a hammer and get to work.

For nearly five decades, those ideas — which Habitat’s founder referred to as the “theology of the hammer” — have helped Habitat grow from its humble beginnings at a Christian commune in Georgia into a worldwide housing nonprofit that’s helped more than 46 million people around the world find a place to call home.

Among those homes are 30 “Unity Build” houses in Nashville, Tennessee, built by an interfaith coalition of congregations over the past three decades. Those congregations believe very different things about God, said Kevin Roberts, a former pastor and director of faith relations and mission integration for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville. But they share a common conviction about helping their neighbors.

That makes a Habitat build site a rare place where people who disagree can work together in polarized times. All they need is a willing pair of hands.

“When you step onto the Habitat build site and someone puts a paintbrush or a hammer or a saw in your hand, no one asks, ‘Who did you vote for?’” said Roberts. “No one asks, ‘Where did you go to church or did you go at all?’”

That inclusive approach has helped Habitat thrive despite the many challenges facing faith-based charities in the United States — including aging supporters in shrinking congregations, a loss of faith in organized religion, and the nation’s growing polarization.

Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International, said the nonprofit’s mission is to put God’s love in action by providing housing. To do that, he said, requires bringing a wide range of people together.

Using volunteers to help build a Habitat house is a social change strategy, said Reckford, one that invites people to care about affordable housing and about working with their neighbors. That’s an important task in today’s isolated and polarized times.

“My observation is that when people serve together, they focus on what they have in common,” Reckford said in a phone interview. “They focus on shared values — as opposed to when we sit by ourselves online. Then it’s all about how we are different.”


Christians, Muslims jointly hold iftar to strengthen peaceful coexistence

Top Islamic and Christian Scholars, women organizations, youth groups and traditional titled holders and security personnel attended the occasion.

Over 50 Christians and Muslims have jointly organized an Interfaith iftar break to strengthen peaceful coexistence and religious tolerance in Kaduna State.

The event which took place at Unguwar Rimi, Kaduna, was organized by Conflict Mitigation and Management Regional Council (CMMRC) and Community Peace Observers (CPO), in conjunction with the network of Peace Journalists (NPJ).

They are working to promote ethical values on peaceful conducts among the diverse ethnic and religious groups on the need to embrace Peace and by serving as Ambassadors of Unity in our various localities on the Community Initiatives to Promote Peace (CIPP) Programme in the State.

Samson Auta, the coordinator of the Community Peace Action Network (CPAN), of the Interfaith Mediation Centre (IMC), Kaduna, stated that the aim of coming together is to join our Muslims brothers in Breaking Ramadan fast in Unguwar Rimi community in Kaduna North.

The gathering was also to emphasize the importance of strengthening peaceful coexistence and religious tolerance among the adherents of different faith groups and organizations in the State.

Top Islamic and Christian Scholars, women organizations, youth groups and traditional titled holders and security personnel attended the occasion.

Auta said the Ramadan – Iftar provides a golden opportunity for self reflection, devotion to the maker of all mankind and serves as a means for both Christians and Muslims to interact, dialogue and exchange goodwill messages of Peace and unity in the country.

He stressed that this year’s Ramadan season has come amidst the high cost of food stuffs in the markets, general scarcity of naira notes and climatic warm conditions due to climate change-related phenomenon.

He expressed happiness over the just-concluded 2023 general elections in the State, which showed that people promoted peaceful conducts before, during and after the elections.

Auta further appealed to the teaming youth groups in Kaduna State and across the country to shun all forms of violence and embrace Peace as a sustaining factor for development.

Similarly, Catherine John, the Secretary of the group working on early warning and early response on the CIPP programme, said they came to join their brothers and sisters in breaking the Ramadan fast with the aim of strengthening Christians-Muslims relationship in Kaduna State.

John said they came in large number as Christians from other parts of Kaduna to strengthen inter-religious and inter-cultural tolerance and harmony.

She noted that both Muslims and Christians at this season are both observing Fasting, “Lent and Ramadan”, hence the need to join hands together towards praying for peace and stability in the country.

During the get-together event, different varieties of delicacies and drinks were distributed to all during the Iftar.


Islam Explained for Christians

How well do you know your neighbour’s faith? Well enough to discuss both your and their beliefs, comparing similarities and differences? Well enough to know the way their beliefs shape how they see the world? Can you identify how those same beliefs shape their daily lives and habits? I imagine most of us are aware our beliefs are different, but we are content with small talk about the weather or our busy week. Added to this, religion is a volatile topic. This is especially true when it comes to Islam.

Why? There are many presumptions and fears surrounding Islam. It feels as if one is walking on eggshells when engaged in conversations about it. The search for understanding and truth often results in controversy. Therefore dialogue with Muslims is daunting and complex.

This book is a compassionate response to Muslims, based on reliable evidence about their beliefs.


Enter John Azumah’s book, My Neighbour’s Faith: Islam Explained for ChristiansThroughout this work, Azumah seeks to provide understanding about Islam, in the face of Western censorship and cancel culture society, particularly in the African context. He shows that Islam isn’t a detached religious institution, as many think or experience it. Rather, Islam is made up of people. Azumah gives Islam a human face: an aunt or uncle in the family; your neighbour across the street; a vendor selling bunny chows; friends at university; work colleagues; or the friendly mom at school.

Islam is Full of People Like You and Me

Though the book is scholarly, it is easy to follow, making it suitable for all types of readers. As a scholar himself, Azumah offers a faithful, detailed glimpse into Islam based on empirical, historical, and cultural evidence. Throughout his book he backs this up with reliable sources while providing commentary on the Muslim faith. Standing behind his careful and scholarly commentary is the primary intent of Azumah’s book: a compassionate response to Muslim communities, based on reliable evidence about their beliefs.


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.