Christian and Muslim in Philadelphia work together for lives of women

20150317_jriordan_1024The Rev. Emanuel Nasir is a Christian living in Washington Township, Gloucester County. Shakila Rani, who is Muslim, lives in Gujranwala, Pakistan.

Together, they are trying to improve the lives of Pakistani women who are being abused inside the home, are being denied educational and other opportunities, or have become the victims of violent attacks.

Rani directs the Rehab Project, a provider of counseling and educational services, as well as legal and medical information, to about 50 women – most of whom are Muslim – annually.

The 10-year-old project, which also provides micro-loans for women to start sewing businesses and similar home enterprises, is supported by Presbyterian churches in South Jersey and elsewhere.

 “If the life of women is better, the life of the entire nation is better,” says the Pakistan-born Nasir, 69, a Presbyterian clergyman who emigrated to the United States from Gujranwala in 1969.

He founded Asian Christian Ministries, the Rehab Project’s parent organization, in 1988. The project is one of ACM’s “peacemaking” missions.

“Why would a Christian pastor help Muslim women?” Nasir says. “Because I see them as human beings.”


Christian, Muslim students perform folk concert this month to ‘create harmony’ between faiths

17222171-mmmainChristian and Muslim students will come together next Wednesday for a public concert designed to promote peace and understanding between the faith groups.

The “Creating Harmony” performance starts at 6:30 p.m. March 18 at St. Mary’s Academy, which is located at 1615 SW 5th Ave.

“The arts transcend our doctrines. Music elevates us, and we can meet there,” said Jan Elfers, public policy director for Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.

High school and fourth grade students fromOregon Episcopal School and Oregon Islamic Academy will perform a variety of folk songs, Elfers said, including Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “One Voice” by The Wailin’ Jennys.

Bringing adults together for the performance is important, Elfers said, but giving children of different faiths an opportunity to work together is what’s critical.


Can Islam Be Compatible with Feminism?

apr28-03_2It’s safe to say that the first two things Americans think of when they think of Muslims are violent terrorist attacks and the oppression of women.

In the minds of many—ranging from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to Bill Maher—Islam is uniquely violent and sexist.

Images of women shrouded from head to foot, and stories of women arrested for driving cars, beaten for showing their hair or wearing nail polish, and prevented from going to school or aspiring to be anything other than chattel are the backdrop to intensifying rhetoric  about a “culture war” between the West and Islam.

Oppressive fundamentalist regimes, from the Taliban to the Islamic State, do, in fact, target women.

Resistance to these regimes by brave Muslim women, like Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, inspire people in the United States.

But it is a peculiarity of U.S. foreign policy that our country drums up support for wars and bombing raids that kill mass numbers of civilians by denouncing the oppression of the same people we are bombing. Enormous damage has been done to civilian populations around the globe in recent decades in the name of democracy and freedom.

The image of the oppressed Muslim woman is part of this destructive propaganda campaign.

After September 11, 2001, the U.S. public supported the war in Afghanistan, primarily in response to the attacks on the World Trade Center. But the real heartstrings appeal was the oppression of women there. Contributions flowed to school-building and development projects that aimed to free Afghan women from opression.

But the U.S. military has not succeeded in liberating women in Afghanistan. Instead it has inflicted massive suffering and death—and the situation of women, though better than during the Taliban era, remains dire.

“There are slight improvements in women’s lives in urban areas, but if we look at statistics, Afghanistan remains the most dangerous place for women,” Reena of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan told Democracy Now! on the tenth anniversary of the invasion. “Self-immolation [and] suicide rates are extremely high. It has never been this high before. Domestic violence is widespread. Women are poor. They don’t have health care. It has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world.”


Under fire, vicar who said ‘we love Allah': Liberal clergyman attacked by traditional Anglicans for allowing full Muslim prayer service in his Church

26966D4F00000578-2992645-image-a-1_1426210910059A leading liberal clergyman has come under fire from traditionalist Anglicans after allowing a full Muslim prayer service in his church.

Reverend Giles Goddard, vicar of St John’s in Waterloo, central London, joined in the event by reading a passage from the Bible at the ‘Inclusive Mosque’ event.

He then asked the congregation to praise ‘the god that we love, Allah’, it was reported last night.

It is thought to be the first time an entire Islamic service has been held by the Church of England and has sparked criticism from evangelical clerics.

Orthodox clergyman said the event was against canon law, which prohibits any divergence from the official liturgy.

They argued that it could be ‘offensive’ to Christians who are persecuted for their faith.

Rev Goddard defended his decision to hold the event, describing it as a ‘very moving’ service. He said his intention was simply to offer people a ‘place to pray’.

He told the Christian Today website that everything his church did was legal and within bishops’ guidelines.

Mr Goddard said he was simply offering the Muslims a place to pray, adding that the religions share 'the same God' (pictured, St John's)

He added: ‘It is very much about St John’s being a place of welcome. We understand God as a generous God, a God who celebrates love and celebrates life.

‘We try and make sure we live that out. In that sense we feel very properly Anglican.’

The ‘Inclusive Jummah’ was held in partnership with the Inclusive Mosque Initiative.

It was organised to coincide with the run-up to International Women’s Day last weekend.

The service was arranged by Dr Amina Wadud, a campaigner for gender justice in Islam.

Rev Goddard said the service had not put off Christian churchgoers and his congregation is growing.

He told the Daily Telegraph: ‘We are offering a place for people to pray so it made absolutely perfect sense. We should be offering [a place] to party, we are the Church of England.


Obama, America, Christianity, and Islam

Barack ObamaDoes Obama love America?“ and “Is Obama a Christian?“ are both reflections of the same analytically absurd but politically potent winger theme song: “Obama doesn’t hate Muslims enough; he won’t say ‘Islamic terrorism.’ ”

Really, this gets much easier to understand if you recall that a President’s words are strategic choices rather than contributions to a seminar series. Strategically, it’s obvious that if you want some Muslims to help you fight other Muslims, then of course the last thing you want to do is define the common enemy as “Islamic.”

Even as a matter of pure analysis, there’s simply no true or false answer to the question: “Is ISIS an Islamic movement?” That question could mean either “Is ISIS an aspect of Islam?” – to which the answer is obviously “Yes” – or “Is the version of Islam adopted by ISIS the best or authentic version?” in which case the answer is equally obviously a matter of opinion or controversy rather than of ascertainable fact.

Consider the same analysis as applied to Christianity. Was burning heretics at the stake “Christian”? Well, of course it was, if by “Christian” you mean “Done by many Christians out of what they thought was loyalty to Christianity, and approved by many other Christians.” And of course it wasn’t, if you mean “Consistent with the views attributed to Jesus of Nazareth in the Gospels.” (See the Grand Inquisitor scene from the Brothers Karamazov.)

So the answer I ought to give to that question would depend on the context, the audience, and my purpose.


Cardinal Timothy Dolan: Islamic State is Muslim like Irish Republican Army was Catholic

RNS-DOLAN-MASSNEW YORK (RNS) Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said Islamic State militants terrorizing the Middle East are a distortion of “genuine” Islam much as the Irish Republican Army was a “perversion” of Catholicism.

“The IRA claimed to be Catholic,” Dolan told CNN anchor Chris Cuomo. “They were baptized. They had a Catholic identity.” But, he continued, “what they were doing was a perversion of everything the church stood for.”Dolan’s comments to CNN on Tuesday (March 3) reflect similar statements about the Islamic State group from Pope Francis, but they also echo some of President Obama’s controversial remarks on Islam, Christianity and the history of violence carried out in the name of religion.

The spiritual leader of New York’s 2.8 million Catholics, Dolan said that likewise, the Islamic State extremists “do not represent genuine Islamic thought” but are “a particularly perverted form of Islam.”

“The analogy (to the IRA) is somewhat accurate,” said Dolan, an Irish-American who on March 17 will serve as grand marshal of the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

“These are not pure, these are not real Muslims. Now what we need and what Pope Francis has led the world in saying, is we need the temperate, moderate, genuine forces of Islam to rise up and say this — they do not represent us. Now, that’s beginning to happen. God can bring good out of evil.”

Francis has frequently said the Islamic State does not represent genuine Islam and that “all religions have these little groups.” And he has pointed to instances when Catholics used religion to justify terrible violence.

But Obama sparked a fierce backlash at last month’s National Prayer Breakfast when he said ISIS does not represent genuine Islam. He also said Christians should not “get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place,” because in the past believers also “committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

Obama has also been criticized for not highlighting the fact that many Islamic State victims are targeted because they belong to the relatively small but ancient Christian communities in the Middle East.

Dolan showed no such hesitation this week, saying he believed the group was conducting a “systematic, well-choreographed, very well-focused attempt to eradicate the ancient Christian population in the Mideast.”


New York City Officially Adds Two Muslim Holidays To School Calendar

New York Mayor De Blasio Delivers State Of The City AddressNew York City is now the largest school district in the country to recognize two Muslim holidays on its official calendar.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday the addition of Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr to the calendar, calling it a “change that respects the diversity of our city.”

“Hundreds of thousands of Muslim families will no longer have to choose between honoring the most sacred days on their calendar or attending school,” de Blasio said in a statement. “This is a common sense change, and one that recognizes our growing Muslim community and honors its contributions to our City.”

The two holidays will be added to the calendar for the 2015-16 school year, which includes several Jewish and Christian holidays, such as Christmas, Easter, Passover and Rosh Hashanah.