Kalis Mardiasih’s bold, moderate Islamic interpretation of ‘hijrah’

Born and raised as a Muslim in Indonesia, I can’t help but notice the increasing popularity of the hijrah (migration) movement, especially among the young generation of Muslims in Indonesia.

The transformation of young people from cultural Muslims into more devout ones has become more visible in recent years. From fashion to food, property to relationships, this hijrah trend has begun to dominate the mainstream narrative in Islamic society. One local brand even claims to offer the first halal certified hijab in Indonesia, which has made me question my own hijab collection. Is it not halal? 

Sharia residential complexes, built exclusively for Muslim families, have been in high demand, as more and more Muslims seek comfort in living in a more homogenous community. https://8cd30303f886345f7d94c54dc6c692ec.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Offering membership, seminars and guidebooks, the social movement called Indonesia Tanpa Pacaran (Indonesia Without Dating) encourages people to break up with their partners and choose to pursue marriage through taaruf (an Islamic process through which couples get to know each other). 

Choosing a more moderate approach, I sometimes question myself, am I not Muslim enough if I don’t follow this hijrah trend?

In 2018, the first-ever Hijrah Fest was held at the Jakarta Convention Center, drawing more than 15,000 visitors over three days. The event was so successful it became an annual program. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival continued to be held virtually as “Hijrah Fest from Home”. 


Muslim shop owner in New Zealand films Islamophobic conversation

A Muslim shop owner in Wellington has captured a customer’s racist conversation on camera when she visited his store.

Nureddin Abdurahman, owner of Near And Far Import Export Limited, was working on Tuesday afternoon when the woman walked into his shop to look at rugs.

But instead of browsing the goods, the woman swiftly questioned where Abdurahman was from and what religion he practised.

After saying he was an Ethiopian Muslim, the woman said “That’s a shame” before spending 15 minutes telling the shop owner that his religion was “evil”.Nureddin Abdurahman was at work when a woman entered his store and started abusing him for his...Nureddin Abdurahman was at work when a woman entered his store and started abusing him for his religious beliefs. Photo: Katie HarrisAbdurahman pulled out his phone and started recording the conversation.

“You know why I think it’s a shame [you’re a Muslim], because you believe in your Quran and jihad, and you can lie,” the woman told Abdurahman as he worked.

“I think it’s a shame if you’re an atheist, I think it’s a shame if you’re a Buddhist, I think it’s a shame if someone is a Hindu.

“The thing about Muslims, they come here and demanding this and demanding that. Like you’re already demanding more funds from our Government.”

When Abdurahman asked what funds she was referring to, the woman, who identified herself as a staunch Christian, said: “The attacks in Christchurch, you did get given so much but you’re demanding so much more … Muslims have the potential to bring jihad and kill us all.”

Abdurahman, who arrived in New Zealand in 2008 and earned a Masters of International Relations at Victoria University, asked the woman why she sees Kiwi Muslims as a threat and why she believes Kiwi Muslims are responsible for atrocities overseas.

She responded by claiming the Quran is an evil book and tried to blame all Muslims for killings happening overseas.

“The same week [as the Christchurch mosque attack] 300 Christians were massacred in Africa by Muslims… The Quran is an evil book. Kill the Jew, kill the Christians. It doesn’t have anything like that in the Bible.


How modernity and globalization influenced the message and expansion of Islam

In order to understand how cultural and societal changes influence any religion, we must first know the definition of religion. Religion is a relation with God which human beings regard as sacred, divine,  spiritual, holy and worthy of  respect. It consists of the ways to deal with different concerns of human life. Religious influences are rooted  in all aspects of human life. Religions evolve  and change with time. Religions consist of  ideas, values, practices and stories that are embedded in culture and are not separable. It is not possible to understand a religion without its cultural dimensions How Islam has adapted cultural and societal changes as it has spread throughout the globe is an interesting and complex phenomenon.

Islam traveled in many ways through different regions. The history of Islam is full  of events  that led to Islam’s spread across the globe. Sometimes it was transferred through military conquests, it was also carried through trade caravans that travelled over vast distances or through the missionaries. When  Islamic ideas came into contact with  new societies, they evolved in unique ways and took on diverse forms. That’s why these societies have multiple different interpretations of Islam. The spread of Islam across different regions involved some prominent factors such as inter-marriages, trade, influencers etc . Spreading of Islam is a complex phenomenon and to say that it travelled merely through sword is not justified. Muslim culture developed from the ninth century to the  twelfth century, and crystallized into what we currently know as Islam. The military expansion of the early centuries facilitated the spread of Islam in name only and it was later that Islam spread in true meaning, as a  number of citizens started converting to Islam. Expansion  of Islamic culture was carried out by missionaries and  political convoys, it also expanded through trade. Group of travelers (caravans) used camels to transport goods and themselves across different regions, they played the most important role in the spread of Islam. These caravans helped in expanding Islamic civilization and culture by connecting different provinces (with the Islamic empires) which were far apart. Merchants carried out trades across different regions. These trades were equally influential in expanding culture and created a sense of multiculturalism or internationalism. These new cultural relationships led to the transfer of technology, science and other forms of culture. This was the start of globalization. But at that time it was just known by multiple names like multiculturalism or internationalism. Cultural globalization is a multidimensional process which leads to different impacts and consequences and makes possible the coexistence of  different values with Islamic symbols , values and discourses. Islamic culture does not consist of  merely a group of  a combination of rituals rather it is a complete way of life prescribed by the Quran.

“The human history is the graveyard of great cultures that the disastrous end of them has been due to this matter that they couldn’t present a planned, rational and volitional reaction against the challenges.”  -Erich Fromm


Bassam Tibi’s 40-year fight against Islamic fundamentalism

When al-Qaeda destroyed the Twin Towers almost exactly 19 years ago, the aims of the terrorists were not fully understood by many in the western media. Osama bin Laden intended not just to wage war against the non-Muslim world but to present himself — and his jihadi narrative — as the new voice of Islam. He was fighting a war of ideas, as well as one of terror. One of the best ways to understand and combat the ideological side of the jihadi movement is to read the works of the philosopher Bassam Tibi, who has been fighting fundamentalist ideas for the past four decades.

His work — speeches, essays and more than 40 books — tracks the methods by which Islamists operate. With forensic precision, he details the ways in which they are inimical to most of Islam’s history. ‘To protect themselves against criticism,’ he once wrote, ‘Islamists invented the formula of “Islamophobia” to defame their critics.’ The word ‘serves as a weapon against all who do not embrace Islamist propaganda, including liberal Muslims’.

I’ve been an admirer of his work for years and flew to Frankfurt to meet him and to hear his story first-hand. He grew up in Damascus and became hafiz (someone who has memorised the Quran) at the age of six. There was a clash of civilisations in his head. ‘My family was against colonialism, against imperialism, against the hegemony of the West — but we were still admirers of the West,’ he says. ‘We would go to the Quranic school, then after Friday prayers go to a party with kids and dance rock ’n’ roll. The culture we looked up to was American.’ He had his eye on Harvard but his father — a property magnate whose company had built half of the new buildings in Beirut — was keen on Germany because it had sided with the Arabs in the first world war. So Tibi went to Hamburg in 1962 and never came back.


A changing landscape

‘Judeo-Christian’ terminology gained prominence after Second World War, but no longer reflects today’s spiritual diversity

It’s common for people to think of Canada and the U.S. as being “Judeo-Christian” nations. By that, we mean the two countries were founded on Christian and Jewish principles.

I’ve never actually wondered where that idea came from. I just assumed it was always true. So I was surprised to learn it actually originated in the middle of the last century in the U.S.

I made that discovery after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo used it in a conference call with conservative American pastors about a new human rights report.

During the call Pompeo talked about returning America “to the fundamental moorings of the Judeo-Christian tradition on which this country was founded.”

That remark prompted James Loeffler, who teaches Jewish history at the University of Virginia, to say that wasn’t true —America was not founded on that tradition.

Writing in The Atlantic, he said the idea of America as Judeo-Christian nation first appeared during the Second World War, when Americans tried to make sense of their country’s role in repelling the Nazi assault on Western civilization.


Michigan’s Muslims are thinking globally, but running and voting locally


The five young Muslim Americans huddled around a table inside the Yemeni coffee shop, pouring adeni chai into curved red and gold glasses. Voice by voice the discussion turned to why they must make their presence felt on Nov. 3, and the need to hold politicians’ feet to the fire on issues like immigration, racial justice and foreign policy.

“For a long time, Muslims have felt a lot of bigotry and racism, and just feeling like our contributions in society weren’t looked at or held like other communities’,” Adam Abusalah, 19, told the group from behind his mask.

That era is ending, Abusalah went on, because young Muslims like him are putting traditional career aspirations on hold in favor of getting politically active.

“Trump’s election, that was just the icing on the cake,” he told the gathering, whose members are of Lebanese, Palestinian, Iranian, Yemeni and Iraqi ancestry. “Muslims said, we’re not going to only be doctors and engineers, but journalists and policymakers.”


ABTS (Lebanon) peace-building initiatives promote understanding between Christians and Muslims

Lebanon (MNN) — The more tragedies and hardships that hit countries and cities, the more communities splinter, drawing dividing lines and focusing on themselves. But even during trying circumstances, the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) looks to build bridges and foster friendship between Christians and Muslims through its Institute of Middle East Studies’ (IMES) peace-building initiatives.

Chief academic office Martin Accad explains that these peace-building initiatives remain distinctive because they put faith at the center.

“The purpose is to allow your faith values [to] inspire living together across faith traditions and working together towards the common good,” he says.

Reconciling Communities

Included in these initiatives is the Friendship Network of Church and Mosque Goers. For the past two and a half years, IMES has worked to build a network of leaders across Lebanon that can bring people of both faiths together.

“With this group of 25 to 30 people, we explore themes around friendship,” Accad explains.

The pandemic meant these groups had to stop meeting, but the health crisis combined with a severe economic downturn means unity and cooperation are more important than ever. Accad says the friendship network is using relief funds to help both communities. The network has had Christian and Muslim leaders take food packs to families together.

“We want to demonstrate that in times of crisis, faith leaders, out of their values, are able to think beyond the wellbeing of their own community,” he says.

Accad also explains delivering these food packages serves two important purposes.

“We will have an impact in certain families that we are reaching out to, but most importantly, we will be demonstrating that people of faith can collaborate together toward the common good,” he says.

“It doesn’t mean that all religions are equal. It doesn’t mean that we are trying to say that there are no differences. On the contrary, true dialogue and peace building is based on the recognition that we are different, and we can collaborate together despite our differences.”


As Africa’s COVID-19 cases rise, faith is put to the test


KAMPALA, Uganda — The COVID-19 pandemic is testing the patience of some religious leaders across Africa who worry they will lose followers, and funding, as restrictions on gatherings continue. Some evangelical Christian leaders in Uganda have launched a campaign with the now-universal phrase of protest: “I can’t breathe.”

Their members vow to occasionally put on the burlap costumes they say resemble the sackcloth worn by biblical prophets.

“Uganda is a God-fearing nation but, unfortunately, due to the lockdown, the citizens of our great country cannot gather to seek God’s intervention,” Betty Ochan, leader of the opposition in Uganda’s national assembly, recently wrote in the local Daily Monitor newspaper. “The devil is taking dominance. If people do not worship God together, they are spiritually derailed.”

From Nigeria to Zimbabwe, people are speaking out — or sneaking out to worship — as they argue that limits on religion could lead to a crisis of faith.

“I am appalled that some people have the audacity to tell us how many hours we can spend in church,” said Chris Oyakhilome, president of the Lagos-based megachurch known as Christ Embassy. “How dare you. What in the world do you think you are?”

Church services in Nigeria resumed last month but are limited to an hour, a severe test for some in a country where worship can spill from a Sunday morning into the afternoon.


Amid surge in COVID-19, Iraq’s Shia mourn Imam Hussein

Baghdad, Iraq – Ahead of a solemn mourning period for Shia Muslims, the message from the old man came through loud and clear: Coronavirus will not stop us from observing our ceremonies.

“Listen to me!” the white-bearded man said in a video that went viral on social media as he addressed a crowd of worshippers inside a revered shrine.

“Whether coronavirus exists or not, we will maintain our rituals as usual,” he said, referring to the commemoration of the seventh-century death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad.

“Here we are at your service, oh Hussein,” the worshippers replied, pumping their fists in the air. Some expressed their emotion by crying.

While Iraqi health authorities are struggling to contain the rocketing number of COVID-19 cases, a new challenge is popped up: Mass gatherings of mourners determined to observe their weeks-long ceremonies.


The Macdonald Center at Hartford Seminary

20160627: Hartford Seminary photography (Shana Sureck Photography)

Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations

The Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations is the country’s oldest center for such study, opening in 1973.

The Macdonald Center challenges scholars, students, the media, and the general public to move beyond stereotypes and develop an accurate awareness and appreciation of Islamic religion, law and culture.

It is committed to the premise that through intensive study and academically guided dialogue, mutual respect and cooperation between Muslims and Christians can and must develop.

The Macdonald Center is an academic unit within Hartford Seminary dedicated to scholarly research, teaching, and publication. It is responsible for the focus area of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations in the Master of Arts in Religious Studies program, a Graduate Certificate in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations, the Islamic Chaplaincy Program, the Ph.D. in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations, and global study tours.

Under the Seminary’s aegis, the Center edits the scholarly journal, The Muslim World, which is published quarterly and reaches subscribers in 65 countries.