What Happened When Christian Writers Watched an All-Muslim Movie?

timbuktuHave you seen Timbuktu?

All of this movie’s main characters are Muslims. In fact, the screenplay’s deepest wisdom is spoken in a mosque by a passionate imam. But when I showed it to a room full of Christian writers, what followed was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had at the movies.

Last January, at a conference center on Whidbey Island, The Chrysostom Societyretreat organizers asked me to share movies with the group of writers that had gathered together. This year, Timbuktu lifted us from our soggy Pacific Northwest surroundings and set us down at the edge of the Sahara. When the movie was over, we sat in a heavy hush, reflecting on what we had seen.

Consider this: A 99% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes. A Cannes Film Festival Ecumenical Jury prize. An Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. Top honors from the Africa Movie Academy Awards.

Yet, like so many world-class films, Timbuktu remains almost unknown to American moviegoers. It’s subtitled, after all. It’s foreign. It doesn’t star familiar names and faces.

In a recent promotional video, a Christian filmmaker declared with confidence that he would give Christians what they want to see:

  • A Christian worldview on the screen (not somebody else’s).
  • Two hours without any risk of being offended.
  • Entertainment!

Christians gave him a lot of money, and his film was widely distributed.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIANITY TODAY

For Muslims at the Pentagon, a Tough Election Year

pentatrumpLast winter, after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivered a landmark speech calling for a ban on all Muslims traveling to the United States, 9-year-old Jibran Ali came home from his Virginia school with an urgent question.

“Am I still going to be allowed to be friends with Axell?” he said, referring to his best friend.

For his mother, the Defense Department’s most senior Muslim American civilian, it was a disturbing moment.

As a special advisor to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Iram Ali oversees the hundreds of White House political appointments to the Pentagon. Her mandate, as tasked by the Obama administration, is to recruit and attract people of all ethnic, educational, and religious backgrounds — a policy the White House believes will foster a better-informed and more effective class of national security leaders.

That commitment to inclusiveness is something she tells her son is a bedrock principle of the United States. But for Ali and other Muslim Americans working in U.S. defense jobs, such ideas are increasingly under assault in an election year when a major party nominee is calling for special ID cards and a database to register all Muslims, insulting the Muslim parents of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, and castigating Islam as incompatible with Western society.

“My husband told our son there’s always been people who were viewed as the negative part of society,” Ali said during an interview at her office in the Pentagon. “It’s our turn now, and it’ll be OK.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM FOREIGN POLICY

Donald Trump and the Rise of Anti-Muslim Violence

Trump arrives aboard his plane for a campaign rally in Fort Myers, Florida, U.S.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump arrives aboard his plane for a campaign rally in Fort Myers, Florida, U.S. September 19, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst – RTSOHKM

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton tell very different stories about who belongs in America and who doesn’t. Trump describes a country under siege from refugees and immigrants, Mexicans, and Muslims. Clinton talks about a nation made stronger by diversity. The narrative each campaign creates matters. It may even influence the way Americans treat their fellow citizens.

“There’s very compelling evidence that political rhetoric may well play a role in directing behavior in the aftermath of a terrorist attack,” Brian Levin, the author of the report said in an interview. “I don’t think we can dismiss contentions that rhetoric is one of the significant variables that can contribute to hate crimes.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY 

Pope Leads Interfaith Peace Meeting in Assisi

65ce7f9a-a809-4605-aff9-a92d04f0f160_cx0_cy6_cw0_w987_r1_s_r1(Vatican Radio)  Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Buddhist religious leaders applauded the “Spirit of Assisi” in interreligious meetings launched by Pope St. John Paul II thirty years ago in the Italian hill town.  At the conclusion of a four day peace summit of interfaith leaders in Assisi, representatives who addressed the gathering thanked Pope Francis for, in the words of the Muslim representative from Indonesia, “his endless commitment for peace.” Pope Francis arrived in Assisi Tuesday morning to attend the final day of the meeting, organized by the Sant Egidio lay community.

Din Syamsuddin, Chairman of the Advisory Council of the Indonesian Council of Ulama, expressed “high appreciation” to the lay Community of Sant’Egidio for “having kept alive the spirit of Assisi” by organizing the event each year.  Noting that Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country, Chairman Syamsuddin said the cooperation “has brought concrete fruits of peace such as our common work in interfaith dialogue, peace education among youth, peace process and conflict resolution in Mindanao, South Philippines.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM RADIO VATICAN 

Demonizing American Muslims won’t solve the terrorism problem

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The bombs planted in New York and New Jersey on Sunday appear to have been the work of a radicalized Muslim man whose behavior and international travel followed familiar patterns.

Some prominent American political figures suggest that the way to deal with people like Ahmad Khan Rahami is to seal up our borders, isolate and profile members of domestic Muslim communities, and impose bans on all people traveling from nations where radicalized Muslims have operated previously.

Such responses appeal to the worst xenophobic tendencies among us, but they won’t solve the terrorism problem. In fact, they are certain to make it worse.

 U.S. law enforcers at all levels depend on the cooperation of Muslim communities for intelligence about individuals who pose security threats. Police and FBI investigators cannot be everywhere. The people most attuned to what’s happening in their neighborhoods are the ones who worship at mosques, attend school and interact daily with potentially radicalized individuals.

Many serve as informants, and they do so in secret specifically because their lives could be in jeopardy if their status became known to the individuals under surveillance. Because it’s happening in secret, non-Muslim Americans have little appreciation for the reality.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ST LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

The Bridge Initiative: Catholic Islamophobia and Interreligious Dialogue

The Bridge Initiative, a Georgetown University research project on Islamophobia, based in the university’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, this week released a report that sheds light on American Catholics’ views of Islam, and the way Islam is discussed in Catholic publications.

hands-holdingThis report, “Danger & Dialogue: American Catholic Public Opinion and Portrayals of Islam,” finds that nearly half of Catholics can’t name any similarities between Catholicism and Islam, or say explicitly that there are no commonalities.

The report, which includes survey data on Catholics’ views of Muslims and interreligious dialogue, also reveals that only 14% of Catholics say they have a favorable impression of Muslims. The poll also shows that respondents who consume content from Catholic media have more unfavorable views of Muslims than those who don’t.

The report, authored by Jordan Denari Duffner, also analyzed nearly 800 articles about Islam in Catholic media outlets, finding that half of the time the word “Islamic” was used in nine prominent Catholic outlets, it was in reference to the Islamic State terrorist group. The headlines of Catholic articles on Islam had a negative sentiment overall, but the outlet that mentioned Pope Francis the most in its headlines on Islam had positive sentiment.

The report also explores the 100-plus books, audio programs, and DVDs sold by Catholic publishers about Islam. Interfaith dialogue is a prominent topic in these for-sale materials on Islam, but differences between Christians and Muslims are often stressed in introductory materials or those that attempt to compare Christianity and Islam. The most prolific authors on Islam for Catholics take varied approaches, with some focusing on dialogue and others on sharing the Christian faith with Muslims.

FULL ARTICLE FROM IGNATIAN SOLIDARITY NETWORK 

Hate Crimes Against American Muslims Most Since Post-9/11 Era

18hatecrimes1-master768WASHINGTON — Hate crimes against American Muslims have soared to their highest levels since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, according to data compiled by researchers, an increase apparently fueled by terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad and by divisive language on the campaign trail.

The trend has alarmed hate crime scholars and law-enforcement officials, who have documented hundreds of attacks — including arsons at mosques, assaults, shootings and threats of violence — since the beginning of 2015.

While the most current hate crime statistics from the F.B.I. are not expected until November, new data from researchers at California State University, San Bernardino, found that hate crimes against American Muslims were up 78 percent over the course of 2015. Attacks on those perceived as Arab rose even more sharply.

Police and news media reports in recent months have indicated a continued flow of attacks, often against victims wearing traditional Muslim garb or seen as Middle Eastern.

Some scholars believe that the violent backlash against American Muslims is driven not only by the string of terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States that began early last year, but also by the political vitriol from candidates like Donald J. Trump, who has called for a ban on immigration by Muslims and a national registry of Muslims in the United States.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES