Islamic Society of North America gathering seeks to help Muslims discover their passions

gallery_xlargeWhat’s your superpower?

Participants at ISNACON’19 are invited to take a deep dive — to discover their passions and strengths, as well as the paths they can take to make a positive impact.

ISNA, the Islamic Society of North America, seeks to unify the Muslim population and create a better understanding of the religion, while also building interfaith relations and increasing civic engagement.

Each year ISNA hosts a conference in a different city in the U.S. This 56th annual event will mark the second time the conference is held in Houston.

Slated for Labor Day weekend, from Friday to Sept. 2, ISNACON’19 will be held at George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston.

Each conference has a theme — this year’s is about how superpowers are not just überspecial abilities found in science fiction and comic books. Instead, each individual has unique characteristics and gifts.

The conference was designed to pull out these special traits and inspire and empower attendees. Special guests include presidential candidates and a popular late-night talk-show host.

FULL ARTICLE FROM HOUSTON CHRONICLE 

Washington State Muslims Fight Islamophobia with Personal Stories

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July 30, 2019

TACOMA, Wash. — Muslims in Washington state are building bridges with their neighbors in a new series launching today in Tacoma. Muslim organizations, alongside the Associated Ministries of Tacoma-Pierce County, hold the first “Sharing Our Stories – Meet Your Muslim Neighbors” event at Skyline Presbyterian Church.

Head of the American Muslim Empowerment Network at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound Aneelah Afzali said the goal is to find common ground with people through personal stories. She’s seen this kind of relationship building work as an antidote to Islamophobia in the past. Last year, Afzali spoke with two women at a Longview event who never had met a Muslim.

“They actually cried to me. They admitted that they had hatred in their heart, that they had fear in their heart and that that two hours really removed that and they gave me a hug,” Afzali said. “I mean, they brought me to tears. It was a profound and powerful moment and it just reminds me of the power that personal stories and those personal relationships have.”

Afzali said the goal is to bring this series to more rural and conservative parts of the state. A Seattle-based public relations firm created videos of three Muslim individuals for the event. Afterwards, there will be a panel discussion and then a chance for people to speak with folks of different faiths directly.

The event begins at 6:30 p.m.

Afzali said she finds this type of event necessary as political divisiveness and Islamophobia ramp up around the country. Along with an increase in attacks, an investigation by the Council on American-Islamic Relations found anti-Muslim organizations are making big money. The report “Hijacked by Hate” said mainstream philanthropic institutions funneled at least $1.5 billion to a network of 39 anti-Muslim groups between 2014 and 2016.

Afzali said that amount of money, combined with a misunderstanding of the religion, is a recipe for disaster.

“So when this is happening and people don’t have the personal connections with people who they know, it allows for fear and hatred and even violence to grow,” she said. “And we’re seeing the consequences of that all around us.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM PUBLIC RADIO INTERNATIONAL

For religious American Muslims, hostility from the right and disdain from the left

Contributor, PostEverything

July 25

Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, is the author of “Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam Is Reshaping the World” and the co-editor of “Rethinking Political Islam.”

End Of Ramadan Is Celebrated In Brooklyn With The Eid Al-Fitr FestivalIt is an odd time to be a Muslim in America, in part because it depends on which America you happen to live in. Here, too, there are two Americas.

On the one hand, this is a sort of golden age for American Muslims and their place in public life. Sometimes it seems like Muslims are everywhere, even though they’re not. They star in their own television shows; they headline the White House correspondents’ dinner ; they win Academy Awards; they become Snapchat sensations. Some of it is more subtle but striking nonetheless: If you live in a semi-hip urban setting, it’s not unusual to see a headscarf-wearing woman in an ad flanked by a rainbow coalition of other diverse Americans.

This can make it easy to forget the other reality that exists alongside the liberal pop-culture embrace of Muslims. The increase in anti-Muslim bigotry and other forms of discrimination against Muslims is well documented. But even if you don’t experience it or see it, you know Islamophobia exists, because it is there on social media. It is also in our president’s rhetoric. It is inescapable.

Social harassment of religious groups in the US among worst in the world: report

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People walk by a poster from the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP/UDC) depicting a woman wearing a burqa in front of a Swiss flag upon which are minarets which resemble missiles, at the central station in Geneva, Switzerland.

NEW YORK — Government restrictions on religion have increased markedly in many places around the world, not only in authoritarian countries but also in many democracies, according to a report surveying 198 countries that was released Monday.

The report released by the Pew Research Center, covering developments through 2017, also seeks to document the scope of religion-based harassment and violence. Regarding the world’s two largest religions, it said Christians were harassed in 143 countries and Muslims in 140.

This was Pew’s 10th annual Report on Global Restrictions on Religion. It said 52 governments, including those in Russia and China, impose high levels of restrictions on religion, up from 40 governments in 2007. It said 56 countries in 2017 were experiencing social hostilities involving religion, up from 39 in 2007.

Pew said the Middle East and North Africa, of the five major regions it studied, had the highest level of government restrictions on religion, followed by the Asia-Pacific region. However, it said the biggest increase during the 2007-2017 period was in Europe, where the number of countries placing restrictions on religious dress — including burqas and face veils worn by some Muslim women — rose from five to 20.

Among other measures in 2017, Austria enacted a ban on full-face veils in public spaces and Germany banned face veils for anyone driving a motor vehicle or working in the civil service. In Switzerland, voters in two regions have approved bans on face veils and voters nationwide backed a ban on the construction of new minarets.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK POST 

4th of July; the Founding Fathers and the Challenge of Islam

 

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Rabat – Upon the declaration of the US independence on July 4, 1776 two of the first three states to acknowledge the country’s sovereignty and freedom were Muslim, zealously supporting America’s notion that freedom lies in being fearless.

Morocco was the first state to recognize the independence of the United States of America, signing the first Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship, under Morocco’s Sultan Muhammad III in December 1777.

Friesland, one of the seven United Provinces of the Dutch Republic, was the next to recognize the American independence.

The Mysore State in India followed their example, being the third to praise liberty as a breath of life to all nations.

The actions of those states centuries ago are the proof that the 4th of July should not just come and go.

Americans must make it a remarkable day and a celebration; a great opportunity to further elevate the magnificence of national integration and appreciate the Muslim contribution to it— but, unfortunately, this is not the case today.

“I remember my supervisor at work made a comment about how Morocco was the first supporter of American independence; and that they had always been a really close ally to the US, but that is something not included in the things we are learning while we study the American history,” said Paige Duskie, a 20-year-old student from Huntsville, Alabama who is currently working for a Human Rights NGO in Rabat, told Morocco World News.

Muslims have been at the center of attention for years from a socio-political perspective.

A wide variety of events, including acts of terrorism and extreme violence, which severely concerned the global community, caused the United States to largely discriminate against Muslims.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MOROCCO WORLD NEWS

Pop culture got Islam wrong for years. ‘Ramy’ made getting it right look easy.

V2VFDMDV7UI6TJ57ZCSDXBHOGEWhen “Ramy,” comedian Ramy Youssef’s Hulu show about a Muslim Egyptian American millennial debuted in April, it was facing down a lot of pop-culture history. Instead of being a terrorist or a nameless victim, Ramy is the show’s main character. Instead of presenting Islam as a brooding, world-historical force, “Ramy” made religion one of its major subjects, taking audiences inside one person’s spiritual journey. And “Ramy” took on these tasks as the first show on a mainstream, U.S. outlet that centers around Arab and Muslim experiences. That’s a lot of pressure to place on a freshman series, especially one that runs only 10 roughly 25-minute episodes.

But “Ramy” works because it embraces those challenges. Youssef has made it clear that this show is based on his experience as a first-generation American and that he does not expect every viewer to recognize themselves in the show. Instead of driving away viewers with different life stories, the specificity of “Ramy” is what makes it such a pleasure, whether you’re Muslim, Egyptian American, millennial or none of those things at all.

When I moved to the United States in 2010, I was struck by shows such as “Homeland” and “24,” in which the portrayals of Muslims and Arabs were based on negative stereotypes and tropes that are downright wrong and harmful to the Muslim community. We’re constantly portrayed as terrorists or barbaric villains, the women as exotic and oppressed, or caricatures with no depth or nuance. I was confused when I constantly saw a plethora of praise for these types of shows when I felt their representations of Arabs and Muslims were downright wrong. Why were they just ignoring what seemed obvious to me? And it wasn’t just the characters. It was the incorrect translations, the whitewashing of story lines, and the exaggeration of sets, accents and attire. The fact that such simple things were overlooked made me feel as though my culture didn’t matter. I was upset, but I quickly turned that anger into what I felt would be more useful: I wanted to be informative to others and to let people know that some of their favorite shows contain harmful errors.

Watching “Ramy,” by contrast, was refreshing. Instead of presenting Islam as nothing more than a spur to — or a check on — terrorism, “Ramy” explores a more familiar dilemma: Ramy fully embraces his religion but is torn by the temptations life has to offer“Master of None” tackled these tensions in a single second-season episode about the almost-magical allure of barbecued pork that struck me as simultaneously exaggerated and underdeveloped. “Ramy” has over-the-top elements, too, such as Ramy’s affair with a married woman, but the series treats temptation as a theme worth exploring at much greater length.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

American Mosques; Third, Fourth and Fifth Spaces

meric-dagli-733474-unsplash-200x300State sponsored mosques are designed to serve a singular purpose; to provide a space for congregational religious services and prayers. In Muslim majority countries, mosques do not operate independently of political authority. The utility of the mosque is then limited, if not profoundly curtailed, within this context.

But in the United States, the mosque is not just a place to pray but also doubles as a community center. American mosques are the nerve center of the Muslim community with year round activities including cultural enrichment, social services, and Islamic education.

In secular societies, where religion is an active choice and not a passive reality, a community center style mosque with a program-driven agenda is not just an ambition but an absolute necessity.

Yet, according to the 2014 report by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), “There’s a growing narrative within the American Muslim community that paints a picture of alarming exclusion, especially for women, youth, and converts. Some mosque-goers feel increasingly disconnected from the mosque community and some have stopped going to the mosque altogether, because of it.”  In 2019, not much has changed.

Ideally, the spirit with which we approach our spaces of worship should be one that encapsulates the heart of Islam and offers its congregation the kind of inspirational energy that will help them to sustain a metaphysical rather than material view of reality.

But unfortunately, a significant number of young Muslims surveyed will tell you that their mosques are so lacking in spiritual ambiance that to keep the faith, they sometimes feel like they have to keep their distance. They are routinely disheartened and disenchanted and therefore disengaged.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS.COM