Extremists have not only hijacked Islam and its symbols, but also American sensibility

Activists Demonstrate Against Recent Rhetoric Against Muslims And Refugees Near Trump Tower

Six-year-old Mohammad says “Allah” and “boom”. The substitute teacher calls the police who question the child and then launch a terrorism investigation against the family. Child protection services also intervene for good measure.

This sounds like a sick joke on Saturday Night Live. Except it is not. This is exactly what happened in the Texan city of Pearland, about 20 miles south of Houston, last November.

Now anti-Islam attitudes are being normalised

The parents of Mohammad Suleiman told Fox 26 that he could not have uttered these words because “he doesn’t speak at all” and has “the mental capacity of a one-year-old”. He was born with Down’s Syndrome.

Fear of Islamic symbols

The rash phone call turned the family’s life upside down. We will never understand the full impact of the trauma on the child or family. Suleiman’s father said: “They claim that he’s a terrorist. This is so stupid, this is discrimination. It’s not implied discrimination, it’s 100 percent discrimination.”

Either the teacher was a bigot and acted on his bias or he was genuinely afraid and freaked out. Both scenarios don’t bode well.

Islamophobia and the fear of Islamic symbols and phrases has now become as American as apple pie. It is so insidious that the best defence Suleiman’s father could come up with was that his son does not even speak.

What if he did say those words? Would a six-year-old with a mental disability saying “Allah” and “boom” be enough to call the police? Taking it seriously and thoroughly vetting it would be understandable (and necessary), but escalating it to a full police response and investigation reveals how entrenched fear of Islam and Muslims is in American culture. It may be latent, but it’s there for sure.

Years ago, when a woman said she did not trust Obama because he was a Muslim, senator John McCain was praised when he responded, “No, ma’am, he’s a decent family man…” When the correct answer, as General Colin Powell pointed out, should have been, so what if he was? That was well before there was a US president re-tweeting hate videos about Muslims.

Now anti-Islam attitudes are being normalised.

Unfortunately, some of those opposed to Muslim extremists are driven by ignorance or in some cases even prejudice and bigotry which extends to all Muslims

Yes, “Allahu Akbar” is what New York terrorist Sayfullo Saipov reportedly uttered after ploughing down innocents on the streets of New York a couple of months ago. Many other killers have done the same.



Rabat’s ‘American Peace Caravan’ Builds Interfaith Bridges to Curb Extremism, Islamophobia

Interfaith-Religious-Leaders-Fight-Extremism-Through-Dialogue-in-Rabat-‘Peace-Caravan_-640x426Rabat – As anti-Muslim sentiment appeared to have increased across the world, the agenda of the second edition of the American Peace Caravan has focused on new initiatives intended to dampen Islamophopia and extremism.

The event, which took place from October 24 to 26 in Rabat, aimed to build a bridge of co-existence between religions. The conference participants wanted to find concrete ways to allow Jews, Christians, and Muslims to cooperate more as a collective of ethical communities rather than ideologically-drive self-interested lobbies, according to a statement issued by the organizers.

The conference reunited imams, rabbis, and pastors from 20 countries, with the view to build peace by advancing human dignity and the common good.

The religious leaders renewed their vows to the fight against extremism and religious violence through dialogue and respect among all religions.

The second edition of the conference also highlighted a set of recommendations to eradicate Islamophobia, which was the result of a “clear lack of leadership,” according to a statement by the organizers.

The event, which was held in cooperation with the Forum for Peace Organization (FFP), took place at the headquarters of Morocco’s Ministry of Religious Endowments and Islamic Affairs.

The agenda of the three-day symposium included several workshops and discussions on different topics, including mutual vision amongst co-religionists and their impact on peace, the role of religion in public life and challenges facing co-existence and opportunities to enhance it.

The FFP statement has also praised Morocco for hosting “graciously” the event under the patronage of King Mohammed VI.

Speaking the opening session of the event’s second, Moroccan Minister of Religious Endowments and Islamic Affairs, Ahmed Taoufiq, and President of the Forum for Peace Organization, Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, stressed the importance of religious leaders in espousing the values of peace and in the protection of minority rights.


‘We stand against terrorism’: Muslims beat their chests as they march to commemorate the battleground death of the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson – while condemning extremism

Thousands of Shia Muslims across Australia marched to commemorate the battleground death of the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson and take a stand against terrorism.

Processions of men, beating their chests, marched along the edge of Sydney‘s Hyde Park and down Melbourne‘s Swanston Street as part of the Day of Ashura.

Hijab-wearing women of the Shia faith also marched separately at the weekend to remember Hussain ibn Ali who was killed and beheaded at the Battle of Karbala, in what is now known as Iraq, in the year 680.


But they also had a political message, with women in Sydney holding a placard which read: ‘Like Hussain we stand against terrorism and injustice.’

While the Prophet’s grandson died on October 10 in 680, Muslims commemorated the death of the important Shia figure on September 29 and 30 this year.




All of Islam Isn’t the Enemy

09thu2web-master675.jpgIs President Trump trying to make enemies of the entire Muslim world? That could well happen if he follows up his primitive ban on refugees and visa holders from seven Muslim nations with an order designating the Muslim Brotherhood — perhaps the most influential Islamist group in the Middle East — as a terrorist organization.

Such an order, now under consideration, would be seen by many Muslims as another attempt to vilify adherents of Islam. It appears to be part of a mission by the president and his closest advisers to heighten fears by promoting a dangerously exaggerated vision of an America under siege by what they call radical Islam.

The struggle against extremism is complex, and solutions must be tailored both to the facts and to an understanding of the likely consequences. Since 1997, the secretary of state has had the power to designate groups as foreign terrorist organizations, thus subjecting them, as well as people and businesses who deal with them, to sanctions, like freezing their assets. President Barack Obama resisted adding the Brotherhood to that list.

There are good reasons that the Brotherhood, with millions of members, doesn’t merit the terrorist designation. Rather than a single organization, it is a collection of groups and movements that can vary widely from country to country. While the Brotherhood calls for a society governed by Islamic law, it renounced violence decades ago, has supported elections and has become a political and social organization. Its branches often have tenuous connections to the original movement founded in Egypt in 1928.

Under State Department guidelines, the “terrorist” designation is intended to punish groups that carry out terrorist attacks. There’s no question that some such groups have grown out of the Muslim Brotherhood, like Hamas, the adversary of Israel, which the United States named a terrorist organization in 1997. Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has worked to crush the Brotherhood in his country since he overthrew his predecessor, Mohamed Morsi, a former Brotherhood leader, in 2013. But there is no evidence that senior Brotherhood leaders ordered any violence or carried out any of the recent major terrorist attacks in Egypt, according to the analysts Michele Dunne and Nathan Brown of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.



A Medieval Antidote to ISIS

21akyol-master768ISTANBUL — THE recent massacres in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., demonstrated, once again, the so-called Islamic State’s ability to win over disaffected Muslims. Using a mixture of textual literalism and self-righteous certainty, the extremist group is able to persuade young men and women from Pakistan to Belgium to pledge allegiance to it and commit violence in its name.

This is why the Islamic State’s religious ideology needs to be taken seriously. While it’s wrong to claim that the group’s thinking represents mainstream Islam, as Islamophobes so often do, it’s also wrong to pretend that the Islamic State has “nothing to do with Islam,” as many Islamophobia-wary Muslims like to say. Indeed, jihadist leaders are steeped in Islamic thought and teachings, even if they use their knowledge to perverse and brutal ends.

A good place to start understanding the Islamic State’s doctrine is by reading Dabiq, the digital English-language magazine that the group puts out every month. One of the most striking pieces I have seen in it was an 18-page article in March titled “Irja’: The Most Dangerous Bid’ah,” or heresy.

Unless you have some knowledge of medieval Islamic theology you probably have no idea what irja means. The word translates literally as “postponing.” It was a theological principle put forward by some Muslim scholars during the very first century of Islam. At the time, the Muslim world was going through a major civil war, as proto-Sunnis and proto-Shiites fought for power, and a third group called Khawarij (dissenters) were excommunicating and slaughtering both sides. In the face of this bloody chaos, the proponents of irja said that the burning question of who is a true Muslim should be “postponed” until the afterlife. Even a Muslim who abandoned all religious practice and committed many sins, they reasoned, could not be denounced as an “apostate.” Faith was a matter of the heart, something only God — not other human beings — could evaluate.



Christian, Muslim leaders sign declaration agreeing to stand against religious extremism

ahmad-al-tayyeb-agnes-abuomReligious leadership, both Christian and Muslim, needs to be more courageous than it has been, says Dr. Agnes Abuom, moderator of the World Council of Churches main governing body.

“Without directly supporting attacks on the other religion, there have been some occasions when religious leaders have given a sort of silent approval to what their followers are saying and doing,” Abuom said .

She spoke during two-day discussions between the Muslim Council of Elders and the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1 after which they issues a joint declaration.

Two historic sessions of talks, hosted by the WCC, involved discussions on key aspects of peacebuilding and interreligious dialogue, paying special attention to combating religious extremism leading to violence in many parts of the world.

“The WCC is to be commended for inviting us to this important meeting,” said Ahmed al-Tayyeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in a speech Oct. 1 at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey near Geneva.


He said the meetings had taken place “with the presence of eminent scholars and religious leaders representing the monotheistic religions, meeting in the heart of Europe, in the beautiful and peaceful city of Geneva, so that we may assume our responsibilities both to our conscience and to the message of Allah the Almighty.



Whose extremism? Using the phrase ‘Islamic extremism’ — or not.


Donald Trump is very clear on the subject: If President Barack Obama doesn’t use the words “radical Islamic terrorism” to discuss the brutal killings in Orlando, “he should immediately resign in disgrace!”

Most Republicans seem to agree that it’s essential to link Islam to the tactics and goals of extremists and terrorists. Nebraska’s Republican Sen. Benjamin Sasse (no fan of Trump) to Obama: “You’re wrong. Telling the truth about violent Islam is a prerequisite to a strategy.” South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted that Obama “shows a total disconnect from the problems we face in confronting/defeating radical Islam.” GOP strategist Ed Rogers wrote that the president’s refusal to refer to “radical Islam” was “a remarkable display of arrogance and tone-deaf rhetoric.”

Hillary Clinton has decided to do an end run around the issue. “Radical jihadist, radical Islamism, I think they mean the same thing. I’m happy to say either, but that’s not the point.” For her, the challenge is to go after the perpetrators of hateful crimes without tarring an entire religion — or being distracted by a rhetorical sideshow.

Let’s say Trump and his allies are right — that it’s important to label the religious underpinnings of those who seek to kill innocents; that when a killer calls on religion to justify his actions, let’s identify that religion for all to see.

But can we really stop with Islam?

Take Robert Dear, the deranged man who in November took a semiautomatic rifle into a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo. He killed three and wounded nine. His motivation? To be “a warrior for the babies.”

Dear is not just an extremist: He is a “Christian extremist.” He called his anti-abortion activism “God’s work.” He dreamed that “(w)hen he died and went to heaven, he would be met by all the aborted fetuses at the gates of heaven and they would thank him …” He sprinkled his confession to the police with Bible phrases.

To understand Dear, don’t we have to understand the Christian teachings this Christian extremist believed he was upholding?