Commentary: Have questions about Islam? Let’s talk about them

newsEngin.19474449_rbb-True-Islam-2Courage is facing fear head on. One does not have to go through heroic situations to show courage; it can be found in the simple everyday actions. In this day and age, when the words “Islam” and “terrorism” have unfortunately become synonymous, I had a unique opportunity to talk to a group of women who wanted to learn about the truth of Islam directly from a Muslim.

Despite their understandable reservations and possible fear, they took the first step of starting a dialogue instead of being passive and believing in what they were told. I am thankful to them — not only for making me feel welcomed, but allowing me to feel as an equal part of the society.

I am an immigrant from Pakistan and a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a sect of Islam that has faced religious persecution for decades by its own countrymen. I grew up with fear of being judged and verbally abused because of my religious beliefs. In recent years, all those feelings have become all too familiar again as the media focuses only on the actions of some Muslim countries’ unjustifiable political agendas and label it as the Islamic way of life.

By receiving the invitation from St. John’s Presbyterian Church bible study group, I was not only honored, but my faith in the general American public was restored. I was treated with utmost respect and love and was asked genuine questions to help remove the misconceptions regarding Islam. I was given the chance to explain various aspects of our lives, which follow the true teachings of Islam.

We talked about jihad, which now is commonly perceived as the license to kill in the name of spreading the religion. The literal meaning of jihad is “struggle,” which is first applied in self-reformation. Only after that, when one becomes a portrayal of a true Muslim, he or she can spread the teachings of Islamic faith through his or her way of life and dialogue. I had the opportunity to discuss the rights of women, education, marriage and many other aspects of life as per Islamic teachings. It was no surprise that we found our religions to be quite similar. We follow the same guidelines to live a meaningful life in love and peace, which eventually lead us to finding God.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MY STATESMAN 

Arizona senator defends Muslim opponent from online attacks

american muslimDemocratic candidate Deedra Abboud, 45, came under attack after she posted a campaign message on Facebook with an image of the US Constitution.

The post prompted an onslaught of cyberbullying, including comments about Ms Abboud’s religion.

Mr Flake, 54, expressed his support for Ms Abboud on Twitter.

“Hang in there @deedra2018. Sorry you have to put up with this. Lots of wonderful people across AZ. You’ll find them,” he tweeted on Tuesday.

The senator also posted a link to an op-ed in The Arizona Republic calling out the online attack on Ms Abboud, which came after she posted a message about separation of church and state.

“Almost 250 years ago a group of dreamers came together and sketched out a revolutionary vision. No longer would they be shackled to the whims of a distant government, nor bound to the religion of an idiosyncratic king. They set out to forge their own futures, determine their own destinies, and follow their own faith,” she wrote.

“In their infinite wisdom, the Founding Fathers decreed that this nation would separate church and state, and in doing so protect both institutions. Government would be free from religious overreach, and religion would be free from government interference.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE BBC 

This American Muslim Is Actually Seeking Out People Who Fear Him

5956be412100003400fc4f1eAs an American Muslim journalist, Aymann Ismail is used to receiving hateful messages online and in person about his religion.

Ismail, a video producer and editor for Slate, says that people have told him to his face that Islam is evil. When an act of terror is carried out by a Muslim abroad, the 27-year-old from Newark, New Jersey, said he’s often called upon to defend his faith.

If there’s one thing he’s learned from all these interactions, it’s that many Americans seem to be reacting in fear.

In an article for Slate, he writes, “I’ve come to believe that many Americans are motivated by fear. Fear that I’ll force women to cover themselves. Fear that they’ll be subject to Sharia law. Fear that I’d kill if given the chance.”

On Thursday, Ismail and fellow Slate video producer Jeffrey Bloomer debuted a new video series exploring Islam in America. In “Who’s Afraid of Aymann Ismail?,” Ismail actually seeks out anti-Muslim activists who are convinced that Islam is a religion that should be feared.

At the same time, Ismail turns a critical lens on American Muslims’ cultural practices  ― such as how Muslim communities treat queer people.

FULL ARTICLE FROM HUFFINGTON POST 

On being Muslim in Trump’s America

ct-muslims-islam-trump-religion-culture-perspe-001I am a Muslim. I do not pray. I do not fast during Ramadan. I drink alcohol and eat pork. I do not believe in God. But I identify as a Muslim. Islam is a large part of the world I grew up in; it is inseparable from home.

The world in which I grew up in Lebanon included practicing and nonpracticing Muslims. It also included many Christians. But my family is Muslim; so is our culture. Extended family celebrations often revolved around the Eids, for which we would buy new clothes and meet for elaborate lunches, the children excitedly hoping for money, the Eidiyya, from the grown-ups. During Ramadan, we met our cousins, many of whom fasted the whole month, for iftar, breaking the fast with them as soon as the muezzin finished his prayer.

When I think back on my grandmothers, I often remember them praying in a calm, naturally lit room in the back of the house. I would catch a glimpse of them through an open door, white translucent veils running down their shoulders, kneeling down on the prayer mat, murmuring words that intrigued me and that I longed to learn.

I never learned the prayers, but I listened to many stories from Islamic history told by my father, often refracted through the great Muslim historian Ibn Khaldun, whom my father liked to read and quote: deeds of the prophet, his relationship to his companions, the passing of political authority to the caliphs, the struggles that ensued. But I also learned the stories of the caliphs, and especially of the Shiite Imams Hassan and Hussein, at funerals, in which professional readers would recount them in a tearful voice, slowly rising up in pitch, until it turned into cries, sending the mourners into uncontrollable sobs.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Muslim ‘Twoness’: Fearful Of Some, Feared By Others

npr-twoness_wide-2388905bcfc7763435cbd54c9a1cf7e15e00c33b-s800-c85He leaned against the subway doors in a faded denim jacket, camo cargo pants, combat boots and, to top it off, a black ski mask. I wondered if he had a gun. I wondered if he was a white supremacist. I wondered if he had seen my friend and me, with our brown skin and black hair. Our Islamic faith and immigrant parents — could he somehow see that, too?

Was it me, or were his eyes darting up and down the crowded subway car? I yanked on my friend’s sleeve and raised my mouth to his ear.

“We have to get out of here,” I said.

I told him to hop off the train with me at the next stop and get back on, three cars up the platform.

Many of us have grown used to the suspicion. Amid a wave of frightful attacks carried out by extremist Muslims across America and Europe, everyday Muslims fear we’ll suffer reprisals for a violent ideology that we, too, find abhorrent.

It feels as though we’re being tested daily — like anyone who sees us on the street or in the store is deciding our ideology for us. Some have made the painful decision to forgo aspects of their faith in an attempt to ward off assaults. Others are afraid to leave their homes.

I have lived a life praying it wouldn’t come to this. I never wanted to believe that I am threatened because of who I am. But recent events have made me think that I really don’t belong in the land of my birth.

No one has articulated this paradox for me quite as well as the late scholar W.E.B. Du Bois, who called it the “peculiar sensation” of “double-consciousness.” It is “this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others,” Du Bois wrote in The Souls of Black Folk, his seminal work on race in America. It’s a way “of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM NPR

Muslim in America: The Gray Area

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Every day from elementary school to high school, these words echo over the speaker systems of every school in America. These are words that define America and its principles, and words that every American can recite from memory. These words that we have been taught to believe in talk about freedom and justice for everyone, regardless of race, religion or gender.

Every American would like to believe that not only are these values we preach, but they are also values we incorporate into our actions. However, since Sept. 11, 2001 and perhaps even more since election proceedings began, the majority of Americans have ignored the belief which our country was founded on: All men and women are created equal. They have taken to social media and news media to give America the villain it has hated for 15 years: Muslims. Muslims have become a scapegoat for the country to turn to every time something goes wrong. Muslims live in fear that today is the day someone is going to come and ask them to wear badges of crescent moons and stars and walk them out the door and out of their lives. My name is Komal Surani, and I am an American Muslim woman.

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A group of people is often easily defined as one unanimous being, made of people who are alike in every way, who all think the same, act the same and believe exactly the same things. All feminists are man haters. Every Southerner is a racist. And of course, all Muslims are terrorists. All 1.5 billion of them, that is. The media reports on it every minute of every day, always painting Muslims as a group of terrorists simply waiting for the opportunity to blow America apart. Muslims have easily slid into the role of scapegoat. The media and even most of America can’t fathom the idea that Muslims do not think alike, nor are they all alike. Muslims are individuals from varied communities and homes. They are elderly and middle-aged and fresh out of college and high school graduates and kids in classrooms and babies born in a world where they are hated from the moment they open their mouths and begin to wail. They are all of these people, but America prefers to wear rose-colored glasses. It is easier for every Muslim to be a criminal than to fight the Islamophobia that has taken over our country.

FULL ARTICLE FROM DAILY NEXUS