Meeting Islam in Interfaith Friendships

amazon-christmas-1024x768In 1993 my husband George Dardess began visiting our local Islamic Center: first to learn Arabic so that he could read the Qur’an, then cementing friendships with his teacher there and with the imam. So when the events of September 11, 2001 hit, George was in a position to join with members of the Center in presenting programs on Islam to the public.

Our Islamic Center’s brave response to 9/11 was to open itself to the larger community—to invite Christians and others to learn about Islam, to observe the communal prayers, to ask questions. At the programs George, as a Christian, would dialogue with a Muslim on a topic like Jesus in the Qur’an, or Mary in the Qur’an, or the real meaning of jihad.

I accompanied George to the programs, which were often preceded by a potluck dinner, and it’s there that I met my first Muslim friend, Yasmin.

Yasmin would sit with me to introduce her friends. In the mosque’s small dining area (exactly like a church basement where dinners are held), the men and women sat at different tables. Though I’m a feminist, I actually enjoyed this segregation. We women could talk about juggling jobs and kids, or about the best public schools, or where to buy shoes.

Yasmin, an immigrant from Bangladesh, was then teaching chemistry at our local university. Her husband, also Bangladeshi, was an engineer. I was struck by Yasmin’s beautiful flowing clothes, her hijab always matching them. Later I learned that she made all her clothes.

Soon Yasmin left teaching to open a dress shop selling clothes she had made—in both Western and Muslim styles. Of course I went there one day to shop. What a surprise when she opened the door—and there she was hijab-less, her long hair lovely on her shoulders! That’s how I learned that Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab don’t wear it at home with their own family or when they’re just with other women.

Yasmin told me that she’d only recently decided to wear a hijab in public. “It’s for modesty,” she said, “and also to celebrate my Muslim identity.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS.COM

If Islam Is a Religion of Violence, So Is Christianity

Angel with a gun

Angel with a gun

Speaking after “appreciating the congrats” on the Orlando shootings, Donald Trump again insisted that what mowed people down at Pulse was not an assault rifle but radical Islam, because in Trump Tower, it cannot be both. Trump’s world is binary. It is zero-sum: Either guns kill people or radical Islam kills people. In that world, only one religion can be bad, and so Christianity is good and Islam is bad. Christianity is peaceful and Islam violent. Christianity is tolerant and Islam intolerant. Both are inherently one thing or the other, immutable blueprints etched in stone for the behavior of their respective adherents.

This is a worldview that is shared by people who are Trump supporters and not Trump supporters. In the secular vernacular, we might call this view “Manichean,” that is, a binary between light and darkness, good and evil.

But it’s worth noting that “Manichean” was originally used to describe a religion that spread from Persia to the eastern and northern African parts of the Roman Empire in the third century, one that influenced many early Christians. If the word “Manichean” has negative connotations today, it might be because it was deemed a heresy by the early Catholic Church, one that needed to be ruthlessly rooted out of the Christian universe. And I mean ruthlessly: Adherents of a Manichean-tinged Christianity had their goods confiscated and were put to death, even if they converted to proper Christianity but still kept in touch with their Manichean contacts. Even St. Augustine called for their energetic persecution.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FOREIGN AFFAIRS 

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

Egypt: Muslim MP wants to build a church honouring Coptic pope

pope-shenouda-iiiA Muslim MP in Egypt has submitted the first request to build a new church under a controversial law passed last week by the country’s parliament.

The law aimed at liberalising church building and renovation was hotly debated and received Church support only at the last minute amid fears it conceded too much to local opposition forces.

However, the independent MP for the Assiut region in Upper Egypt, El-Badri Ahmed Deif, told reporters on Saturday: “I wanted it recorded in history that a Muslim was the first to submit a request for building a church in Egypt after the passing of the new landmark law.”

According to AhramOnline, he said: “This request aims to build new bridges of confidence between Muslims and Christians and foster national unity in Egypt.”

He said he wanted to build the church in the village of Salam, which translates as ‘Peace’, the birthplace of the late Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III.

“This great, moderate man was the pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church for 41 years, during which he lived in the tumultuous eras of late presidents Gamal Abdel-Nasser and Anwar El-Sadat, as well as former president Hosni Mubarak,” Deif said.

“In spite of his central religious status over these four decades, he never used his influence to build a church in his home village.”

There are more than 5,000 Christians living in the village of Salam and Deif said they need a church.

“I want to build a church in Salam to help these Copts perform their religious duties as well as to immortalise the name of Pope Shenouda, the son of this village,” he said.

The request will be submitted to the governor of the province. The new law says local governors must respond within four months and must provide clear explanations if they reject such requests.

Coptic MP Margaret Azer, deputy chairwoman of parliament’s human rights committee, said: “Deif’s request is a very good initiative from a Muslim MP who belongs to a governorate that includes a large number of Coptic Christians.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIAN TODAY

 

Muslim Woman Devotes Her Life to Helping Christians Displaced by ISIS

dr-sarah-ahmedMany are familiar with “The Vicar of Baghdad,” Canon Andrew White, the head of one of the most prominent relief charities helping thousands of Christians displaced by ISIS, but many don’t know that much of the work White gets credit for is actually carried out by a Muslim woman.

Meet Dr. Sarah Ahmed, an Iraqi dentist who for the past few years has devoted her time to traveling all over Iraq to bring clothes, medicine, food, hygiene supplies and just about any other need imaginable to the Christians, Yazidis, Muslims, Shebeks and others who have been thrown from their homes, tortured and raped at the hands of the Islamic State.

 

“She is there protecting all of the Iraqi Christians. You never hear anything about it in the news but you hear about the work I am doing. The work that I am doing is being done by a Muslim caring for the Christians,” White, the former chaplain of St. George’s Church in Baghdad, asserted last December during a lunch visit in Washington. “We think and hear about Islamic terrorism all the time. What about Islamic people working for the protection of Christians?”

Ahmed, who is now the director of operations for the White-founded Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, spoke with The Christian Post this week from Kurdistan and detailed her experiences running all over northern Iraq to make sure that the needs of those vulnerable internally displaced persons, even on the dangerous side of Sinjar Mountain, are not overlooked.

“I am a very faithful person,” Ahmed told CP. “I believe that with all the amount of [humanitarian work] that I have been doing and have been doing out of good faith in my heart and not for fame or money or anything, just out of my desire to help, I feel that God is always there for me and kind of protecting me and being around me to be able to reach all these areas and all these people.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN POST 

Christian woman gives £1000 to Muslim family after attack

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A Christian woman has donated £1000 to a Muslim family in the UK after learning that their shop was attacked.

Mohammed Riaz, 58, was attacked in Bradford in July 2016 by three people inside his butcher’s shop, Meat Hut. The three attackers – one of whom was later charged with robbery – damaged Riaz’s shop and left him with injuries on the eve of Eid celebrations.Following the attack however, one woman named ‘Jane’ posted a letter to the family enclosed with a cheque for £1,000.

In the letter the woman said: “Dear Mr Riaz, I was so sorry to read in The Telegraph & Argus of the attack on your shop. I am a Christian, and Jesus Christ taught that when we see someone in trouble we should not walk by without helping.

Kanees Riaz, Mohammed’s wife, says she was astonished by the letter, reports indy100:

“We were astonished – we were in tears because of this woman’s kindness – she doesn’t even live in the area. This shows that in the end race and religion doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter at all.”

Speaking of the trauma, Nafeesa Riaz, Mohammed’s daughter said, “We’re all still traumatised but the community and people from all over have shown huge support which has helped us immensely. We had people from all ages and ethnicities. We can never thank everyone enough for what they have done.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM PAKISTAN TODAY

Wars, extremism fray Christian-Muslim relations in Middle East

05202016p13phcBEIRUT

Fr. Youssef Yaacoub dates his troubles from June 9, 2014.

That was the day the Islamic State group reached southeast Mosul, Iraq, shooting guns in the air and announcing, from a loudspeaker at a mosque, “We are here.”

“We are creating a caliphate. We will rule by Sharia law,” said a booming voice. “Those who don’t abide by the law will be killed.” That included Christians who refuse to convert to Islam.

Yaacoub and other Christians — including three monks and two laypeople — stayed put at the Mar Behnam convent. An initial encounter with Islamic State commanders was slightly reassuring: “Nothing will happen to you,” the five men were told.

But the reassurances soon evaporated. The Islamic State group was seizing not only all buildings and property, but farms — tons of wheat and oats that could be used for food and for monetary leverage.

Eventually, Islamic State troops took everything from the convent and made a pointed threat to Yaacoub and the others: “You don’t have a right to be here.”

After a period of stalemate, and things “tightening more and more” — like a noose around the neck, Yaacoub said — gunmen arrived at the convent on July 20, 2014, again shooting in the air. Yaacoub opened the door. A gunman peered at him and said, “You have to leave now. This building is now in the possession of the Islamic State.”

Death threats ensued, followed by caveats. If the Christians paid money, or if they converted to Islam, they would not be harmed.

Over the next few hours, the threats eased a bit. No one knew exactly why. “We’re letting you live,” said the leader of the group. “We’re being nice to you.”

But the Christians would have to leave immediately. Now meant now. The men had barely any time to gather their things. They were dropped off along a highway and told, “Don’t ever come back.” They were stranded, Yaacoub said, with “nothing around us.” They walked several miles in the midday sun in 116-degree heat.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER