The Shoe Is On the Other Foot: Pluralism and the Qur’an

lead_960The raging fires of the immigration debates in the U.S. illuminate what Muslim immigrants have known for a long time — America is not and really never has been a melting pot. The ugly rhetoric surrounding the plan for a mosque and community center near Ground Zero, and recent assaults such as those on the Bridgeport, CT mosque in my neighborhood, illustrate well the difficulties Muslims face on a regular basis. Nonetheless, Muslims have actually managed to survive quite well in the West and have even succeeded in persuading many American citizens of the right of Islam to exist as a legitimate partner in the complex balance of religious life in this country.

For many Muslims the shoe is now slipping onto the other foot. The issue is becoming not only whether they and their religion are accepted by other Americans, but whether Islam itself can find a way to live out the pluralism that many are persuaded is at the heart of the Qur’an’s message. Studies now show that while early generations of Muslims tried to honor that pluralism in relation to other religious groups, more exclusivist views came to prevail and communities such as Christians and Jews found themselves increasingly discriminated against by Islam. Exegetes turned from verses of the Qur’an that insist that God willed different religious communities rather than a single one, and emphasized those verses that affirm that the only true religion in the eyes of God is Islam.

How Trump Spurred Muslims And Jews To Eat Together — And Build Bridges

picture1-1466692203On the February night that President Trump unveiled his travel ban on immigrants from Muslim countries, Samir Malik, a 31-year-old tech developer whose parents are from Pakistan, was on his way to dinner in Brooklyn.

Text messages buzzed on his phone. Activist friends of his were on the way to JFK airport to protest. He worried, would his friends and family be affected?

Malik found comfort in the Orthodox Jewish family of six that had invited him to dinner.

“How are you feeling? Do you feel cared for?” his Jewish host asked Malik and his wife, also Muslim, with roots in India.

The gesture was encouraging. The dinner was part of an initiative to bring together Muslims and Jews for small home-cooked meals through New York City. There have been two rounds of these interfaith dinners since February, each drawing around 100 participants.

“The idea is for people who don’t interact as much to have an opportunity to get to know each other,” said Lonnie Firestone, a Modern Orthodox Jew and freelance writer from Brooklyn who is spearheading the effort.

The genesis of this project for Firestone was the election of Donald Trump, which shocked many liberals. On the heels of a divisive and polarizing campaign season, Firestone wanted to organize something that would bring people together.

“Trump’s campaign had fostered an inhospitable environment toward Muslims and to a lesser but still notable degree toward Jews, I felt that Jewish and Muslim Americans should become better advocates for one other,” Firestone said.

Interfaith work like this, of course, is not new. But bringing Jews into Muslim home, and Muslims in Jewish homes for home-cooked meals, felt both urgent and untested to Firestone.

The dinners are organized alongside a string of New York organizations, both Jewish and Muslim. Participants have come from Brooklyn’s Congregation Beth Elohim; the progressive “GetOrganizedBK” group; the Altshul minyan, an egalitarian Brooklyn minyan also in Brooklyn; the Prospect Heights Shul ; the Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee; the Islamic Center at NYU and a group called Muslim Urban Professionals.

 

Opinion: ISIS doesn’t represent Muslims, is real enemy of Islam

514295701By targeting Islam and Muslims in the name of terrorism, we indeed provide the terrorists what they want – religious legitimacy.

Two months after Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) renamed itself as ‘Islamic State’ and declared Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as its caliph in June 2014, the terror outfit carried out a chain of gruesome murders with the beheading of US journalist James Foley. Later, American-Israeli journalist Steven Sotloff and English aid worker David Haines too were beheaded in similar fashion. These acts of modern-day savagery stunned the world. In the past two years, ISIS has killed over 1,200 people outside Iraq and Syria.

A series of heinous acts by the ISIS in the name of Islam has put the world’s second largest and fastest-growing religion under global spotlight. Despite the fact that most of Muslims dislike and detest the ideology of the terror outfit according to a study by Pew Research Center conducted in 2015, the negative perception of Islam has touched an alarming level in the post-9/11 world. Every terror attack by the ISIS further fuels the existing trend of Islamophobia

FULL ARTICLE FROM INDIA.COM

Peace will require leaders, Christian and Muslim, to address real grievances

Afghans perform prayers at the funeral for the victims killed by an air strike called in to protect Afghan and U.S. forces during a raid on suspected Taliban militants, in Kunduz(RNS) We are living through dangerous times. Christians and Muslims cannot afford more misunderstanding.

The challenges our world is facing are profound: The U.S. has forces engaged in armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, among other places. We have global poverty and starvation, threatening several places such as Yemen and East Africa.

The more wars the U.S. is fighting in Muslim lands, the more grievances Muslims will have. You would think that after decades of fighting these unwinnable wars we would have learned that negotiations will bring better results. But no, we are still expanding our engagement; it seems war is our default position.

In the meantime, organizations with warped ideas about Islam, like ISIS, keep finding new recruits as long as they can claim that Islam is under attack from the U.S. and its allies and that the future of Islam is in grave danger.

Intellectuals of goodwill, both Christian and Muslim, thought peace would begin if we could only identify convincing common ground for adherents of the two religions. They launched the Common Word Initiative. But this was not enough.

People on both sides have grievances and they need to feel their grievances are recognized and properly addressed.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS

U.S. Muslim reformer blasts Indonesia for jailing Christian governor on trumped-up blasphemy charges

buildings-203194_1280-696x464Indonesia earlier this week threw a Christian outgoing governor in the slammer for “blasphemy.”

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok,  was convicted earlier this week of the “crime” of saying the Koran allows non-Muslims to rule over Muslims.

The comment was followed by months of protests by radicals — some demonstrations saw hundreds of thousands of people — calling for Ahok to be punished.

Experts said Ahok committed no crime, and that his conviction amounted to the government caving to the demands of radical Islamist riff-raff.

Many Indonesians are wondering whether this is just the beginning, and whether radical Islamists will grow even more powerful, at a time when radical Islamist ideology is spreading throughout Southeast Asia. 

Across the ocean in the United States, moderate Muslims are concerned.

Zuhdi Jasser, an American Mulism reformist and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, told Borderless News Online that Indonesia is plagued by the worsening threat of radical Islam.

“Indonesia has long been one of the most hopeful Muslim majority nations and democracies for planting the seeds of liberal reforms against global Islamism…(But)like most Muslim populations it is besieged by the growing threat of popular Islamist movements,” said Jasser, who is also the co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement. He added that countries awash in oil money, like Saudi Arabia, have also played a role by financing such movements.

“We are beyond disappointed if not despondent at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) to see the ruling party and judiciary cave in to the Islamists on so many fronts in Indonesia,” he said, noting free speech and blasphemy laws are two main issues under which the courts buckled to Islamist pressure.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BORDERLESS NEWS ONLINE

Interfaith Friendship Will Save the World

friendship

My Friend Sheima

The first face of Islam I ever encountered belonged to a smiling 11-year-old girl who kindly gestured for me to sit next to her on the bus that would take us both to our first day of middle school. I was shy and introverted, but I had been nervously excited to begin a new chapter of my life with all the thrills middle school had to offer – changing classrooms, having my own locker, no longer being just a “little kid” in elementary school. All of my eager anticipation was nearly crushed before the day even began, as many kids on the bus greeted me by making fun of the new perm I had been so eager to show off. But this one girl reached out to me in kindness, and I felt a rush of relief in the midst of my embarrassment as I sat down next to her. We gradually became good friends. Over the years, Sheima would become a sister to me, one of the first people who helped me see the beauty in God and humanity… and the potential within myself.

When we first met, I did not know anything about her religion. But as time went on, I realized that her faith had compelled her thoughtfulness in our first encounter. It is not that she felt obligated by her religion to reach out to me. Rather, in knowing God to be gracious and merciful, in learning from her faith the values of empathy and compassion, her natural inclination toward me and everyone else was one of love. Her love mirrored the love of God to which she opened herself multiple times a day in her prayers and meditations, and love from and for God shaped her understanding of the world.

This is the Islam I first encountered, manifested in one of the best friends I have ever had. Her family welcomed me into their home and hearts as well, and through them I learned not only the doctrines of Islam, but the values of Islam embodied in Muslims who take their faith seriously – values of hospitality, compassion, tolerance, patience, generosity and love.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS 

Twenty-First Century Islam: A Lived, Dynamic, and Nurturing Religion

The future of Islam lies in the resolution of its fractious present. And the divisions stem from different approaches to the central issues of our day.

afsaruddinBy Asma Afsaruddin

The future of Islam lies in the resolution of its fractious present. There are multiple conversations underway among Muslims today, both in the heartlands (Middle East, South- and Southeast Asia) and in the West about deeply divisive issues — identity and cultural expression, political authority and representation, recourse to violence, globalization, gender, and inter-faith relations — to name the most important. How these issues are debated and resolved by Muslims themselves will determine the course of Islam through much of the 21st century.

I regard these intra-Muslim dialectics to be far more consequential and more predictable than Muslim-non-Muslim engagements. The latter is always susceptible to external political events and power differentials; the former is more of an ideational and cognitive tussle among the principal agents themselves, not unaffected by the outside world of course, but still more grounded in the collective psyche and conscience of Muslims, and, importantly, in their memory of the past. As one hears frequently and portentously, “the struggle for the soul of Islam” is now being waged — my prediction is that this struggle will continue unabated in the coming decades and will decisively shape the Muslim world.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS