Mosque open houses combat negative stereotypes of Muslims

920x920When the Bear Creek Islamic Center recently held an open house, more than 100 Christians and residents living near the mosque were able to pose questions about whether Islam considers Jesus a God, fosters terrorism and views women as a lesser gender.

“People live with opinions formed from sound bites,” said Kate Sunday, who is a Methodist and came with her husband. “We have dear Muslim friends who go to the mosque, and we wanted to experience what they experience. We differ when it comes to our prophet. But we are all children of God.”

GainPeace, a Chicago nonprofit established to promote better understanding of the Islamic faith, local mosques and other Islamic groups, has held more than 3,000 open houses during the past four years to combat negative stereotypes of Muslims and the Muslim faith.

Open houses have been held in nearly every major U.S. city, with a quarter of mosques holding at least one open house annually in recent years, said GainPeace executive director Sabeel Ahmed.

“We have felt that there are many barriers between Americans, and these barriers are giving rise to Islamophobia,” said Ahmed, a physician, who spoke at the Bear Creek Islamic Center open house. “This event helps us connect as humans. At the end of the day, we find that we have so many things in common.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE 

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Righteous Christians and Muslims saved Jews in the time of the Holocaust

holocaust-no-words-remembrance-shutterstock_340037450-1080x675John A. Elzufon is co-chair of the Jewish Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Delaware.

Each April, the Jewish people honor the victims of the Holocaust — the men, women and children who were brutally murdered by the Nazis and their allies.

For almost 2,000 years before the Holocaust, the Jewish people were subjected to discrimination, forced conversion (the Spanish Inquisition), wholesale slaughter (the Crusades), forced exodus (many European countries) and pogroms (Russia), but none of these calamities approached the Holocaust in its scope.

Before the Holocaust, Jews were able to avoid recrimination by renouncing their faith and converting. However, during the Holocaust, conversion did not save them. Any person with 1/16 “Jewish blood” was marked for extermination — regardless of faith.

So intense was the Nazi preoccupation with killing Jews that towards the end of World War II, when German rail capacity was limited and Hitler had to choose between using trains to transport troops to fight to save his Third Reich or using trains to transport Jews to the death camps, Hitler chose to kill Jews.

FULL ARTICLE FROM DELAWARE ONLINE 

Jordan’s Muslims and Christians unite to celebrate Virgin Mary

A13AMMAN – In a call for peace, love and harmony among religions, known as the Amman Message, Muslims and Christians came together to celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation in Jordan.

Organised by the Catholic Centre for Studies and Media (CCSM), under the patronage of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Prime Ministry Affairs Jamal Sarayreh, the March 25 event was hailed as a symbol of tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

“This is the first event that joins Muslims and Christians together in celebration of the Feast of the Annunciation. It aims at reasserting the deep values of the brotherly relations between Muslims and Christians in Jordan, a country of peace and understanding,” said CCSM Director Father Rif’at Bader.

“The event represents a continuation of the Amman Message, the Common Word Initiative and the World Interfaith Harmony Week. It sends a clear message to the world that religion, with its values of love, can really contribute to peacemaking and stability, as well as to the restoration of cohesion and harmony.”

The Amman Message was released by Jordanian King Abdullah II in 2004 focusing on what “Islam is and what it is not” and “what actions represent Islam and what actions do not.” King Abdullah said its goal was to “clarify to the modern world the true nature of Islam and the nature of true Islam.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ARAB WEEKLY

UK: ‘Hello, I am Muslim’

International event aims to encourage mutual understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.

muslimsAn international event aiming to break fears and prejudices against Muslims and promote empathy has been launched in King’s Cross station in central London, the capital of Britain.

The event this week will see young Muslims promoting mutual understanding in public places in various countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, France and Austria.

‘Hello, I am a Muslim’

The Islamic Community Milli Gorus (ICMG) group said in a statement on Thursday that thousands of young Muslims living in Europe, Australia and Canada will take to the streets to deliver “their ‘Hello, I am a Muslim’ message to introduce themselves”.

“Contacting people individually is the most natural and the best way of promoting understanding and empathy,” the ICMG said.

“We have prepared the ‘Hello, I am a Muslim’ events to encourage mutual communication and cooperation between Muslims and non-Muslims,” said Kemal Ergun, the group’s president.

More than 500 mosques across Europe will also take part in the initiative, according to the ICMG statement.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA 

Is there room for critical thinking in Islam?

d14150e136344df48b102a37b8d09699_18Nothing is more satisfying than the conviction that your enemy lacks the ability to think critically. What could be more gratifying than the idea that the person you are fighting is trapped in an airlock of unreflection? It blesses your struggle, redeems your cruelty, legitimises your violence. If a definition of humanity is the ability to think for oneself, then what could be wrong with fighting the unfree?

The modern pairing of Islam with the incapacity for critical thought is a fairly old gesture – the Enlightenment philosopher Leibniz said Muslims were so fatalistic they wouldn’t even jump out of the way of carts. Over the past fifteen years, however, the internet has enabled and amplified a panoply of voices with this view.

From the digital rooftops, a thousand voices are shouting down Islam as a space inimical to any form of rational reflection: millionaire right-wingers masquerading as free-thinkers such as Bill Maher, Eton-educated “voices of the people” such as Douglas Murray, sophisticated hate-distillers such as Ann Coulter and her not-so-bright British version, Katie Hopkins … even Greek classics professors-turned-Islam experts such as Tom Holland have joined the fray.

Some of the historical acrobatics involved in this gesture are awe-inspiring. Any academic would be laughed out of the room if they suggested St Augustine was somehow complicit in the bombing of abortion clinics, or that the medieval Hohenstaufen culminated in the Third Reich, or that the Renaissance never happened. Almost on a daily basis, however, confident, context-defying lines of continuity are drawn for Islam across centuries and continents, monocausally linking the Ottomans to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), or seventh century theology to attacks on shopping malls. In these re-writings of history, contrary or problematic episodes (such as the vast contribution of the Islamic world to geometry, astronomy and the vocabulary of science in general) are not just left out – anyone even trying to mention them is mocked as a naive, idiot liberal. It’s a wonderful age to be alive.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA

Strengthening the family and nation

An interview with an American imam

1024x1024Background: He was born and raised in Ghana’s capital city, Accra. He graduated from the Say Islamic University in Niger and came to the United States in 1998 to study at the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences in Leesburg, Va., where he received a master’s degree Islamic law with a concentration in marital affairs in a joint program with Howard University. He is the imam of the Islamic Center of the Capital District in Colonie and a chaplain at Washington County Correctional Facility in Comstock. He and his wife, Khadijah, live in Clifton Park and are the parents of daughters Ubaidat, a University at Albany graduate now studying for the MCAT medical school entrance exam; Hawwa, a junior at UAlbany; Rahimat, a Shenendehowa High School senior who will attend UAlbany in the fall; and Summayyat, 14; and son Rayyan, 12, who are middle school students in Clifton Park.

How did growing up in Ghana shape your world view?

My parents were practicing Muslims, and so was I, but in our part of the world, we lived side by side with Christian people and others. They were my friends and neighbors. I went to the Christian Mission Grammar School while, simultaneously, taking classes at a traditional Islamic School. I learned the importance of balancing Islamic theology and other sciences and disciplines. That foundation aided me in my transition from West Africa to the United States both on an intellectual/Islamic level and in understanding the new culture.

 

Muslims consider Queen Elizabeth’s ties to the Prophet Muhammad

20180407_MAP004_0“QUEEN ELIZABETH must claim her right to rule Muslims.” So ran a recent headline on the Arab Atheist Network, a web forum. It was only partly in jest. According to reports from Casablanca to Karachi, the British monarch is descended from the Prophet Muhammad, making her a cousin of the kings of Morocco and Jordan, not to mention of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader.

The claim, first made many years ago, is gathering renewed interest in the Middle East. Why is not clear, but in March a Moroccan newspaper called Al-Ousboue traced the queen’s lineage back 43 generations. Her bloodline runs through the Earl of Cambridge, in the 14th century, across medieval Muslim Spain, to Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter. Her link to Muhammad has previously been verified by Ali Gomaa, the former grand mufti of Egypt, and Burke’s Peerage, a British authority on royal pedigrees.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ECONOMIST