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

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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.

 

False Assumptions About Muslims in the Age of ISIS

By Todd Green 3-28-2016

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In the aftermath of the Brussels and Pakistan attacks, we once again find ourselves in a heightened climate of panic and anxiety. The widespread fears emanating from these attacks, while understandable, nonetheless can get the best of us, tempting us to buy into deceitful propaganda that views all Muslims as enemies.

The Christian tradition calls its followers not to bear false witness. So how do we live out this calling? What does it mean not to bear false witness against Muslims in the age of ISIS? Here are three false assumptions, if not outright lies, often repeated about Muslims and terrorism, along with some facts that can help us have more honest conversations about our Muslim neighbors and about the violence we encounter in western nations.

1. Muslims do not condemn ISIS or terrorism.

The problem with these calls is that they ignore the many instances in which Muslims have condemned ISIS and terrorism. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Al-Azhar’s Grand Mufti, the Arab League, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America, and the Muslim Council of Britain have all condemned ISIS in no uncertain terms. More than 100 Muslims scholars signed an open letter to al-Baghdadi, ISIS’s self-proclaimed caliph, to condemn his interpretations of Islam.

Muslims ‘are very misunderstood today’ — this Florida college will try to change that

Florida International University is getting a spanking new center dedicated to all things Muslim.jaffer-400x280

Philanthropists Mohsin and Fauzia Jaffer, longtime supporters of Middle Eastern studies and other programs at FIU, donated $2 million to make this educational facility a reality.

The Center for Muslim World Studies, the first of its kind in South Florida, is being created to promote greater understanding of the global Muslim community. Its official name will be the Mohsin and Fauzia Jaffer Center for Muslim World Studies and it will be housed within the Steven J. Green School of International and Public AffairFU

“This center will advance the understanding of Muslim history and culture, promote interfaith dialogue and illuminate issues affecting Muslims worldwide,” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. “FIU is the perfect home for an international solution center dedicated to Muslim world studies.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE MIAMI HERALD 

 

Islam in America

Ten years ago, Rageh Omaar embarked on a unique journey across the United States to reveal the truly surprising, counter-intuitive, and little-known world of Islam in America.

From the major conurbations of New York City and Chicago, to the small town hinterlands of Texas and the west, Al Jazeera pulled together the history of Islam in the US and painted a vivid portrait of a vibrant, diverse and growing group of followers of Islam that is unlike any Muslim community in the world.

Since then, much has changed globally, with the rise of ISIL, and in the US, with the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of “the free world”. Among the numerous controversial decisions that have come to pass under the Trump administration is what has come to be known as the Muslim travel ban – a law temporarily barring entry to the US for travellers from six different Muslim-majority countries.

FULL ARTICLE  FROM AL JAZEERA  (VIDEO LINK ABOVE) 

British values do not conflict with teachings of Islam

imgID146352864.jpg.galleryTHE new Commission for Countering Extremism has been set up to fight opposition to fundamental British values including respect and tolerance for those with different beliefs.

As the founder of a charity that works to build a more peaceful and cohesive society, I have been bringing people together across religious divides since 1990. So why am I concerned about the creation of an organisation that is intended to play a key role in tackling those whose views threaten to tear society apart?

My parents taught me that Islam is a simple religion. It means ‘submission to God’ (‘Allah’ in Arabic), and those who accept this way of life wholeheartedly are called Muslims. We believe our religion is not a new one – it started with Adam, who was the first man. He was followed by 120,000 more prophets, including Moses, Jesus and finally Muhammad. All of them preached the same thing: submission to the will of Allah.

We believe in five things: that there is only one God and that Muhammad was the last prophet; praying five times a day; fasting for one month of the year; giving part of our wealth to the needy; and, if financially and physically able, going on pilgrimage once in a lifetime.

In addition, and this is critical, my parents taught me that I needed other essential qualities in order to be a Muslim – not necessarily a good one but simply qualifying for the name! These are trustworthiness, truthfulness, standing up for justice and equality between men and women, complying with the law of the land, respecting other people’s beliefs, loving children, honouring and looking after elderly parents and neighbours, and being loyal to any country you call home. These principles are central to the way of life of any true Muslim.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE YORKSHIRE POST 

So you’re scared of Islam? By that logic, you should be scared of Christianity as well

muslimSince the 45th President of the United States took office last January, the social, economic, and cultural landscape of the U.S. has shifted. For the average American, these changes are not terribly pronounced. Sure, their taxes may go up or down a little, and they may not be able to afford health care, but for the stereotypical white, red-blooded American, there is no worry of physical safety nor cultural belonging. This is not the case for many Muslims living in the United States under reign of President Trump.

Islam is the most feared and misunderstood religion in America. Despite notions of American diversity, Americans are grossly intolerant of Islam.

For many years after 9/11 the villain in action movies were Islamic terrorists. The film and television industry capitalizes on popular opinion when selecting the archetypal “bad guy” for the silver screen. These days the villains tend to be Russian or vaguely North Korean, again reflecting the zeitgeist of American mob mentality. Perhaps the term “American” here is disingenuous and I should be more specific. A Pew Research Center survey found, in 2017, that Republicans, white evangelicals, and those with less education are much more likely to express reservations about Muslims and Islam than any other group of Americans. On their “feeling thermometer” from zero to one-hundred where absolute zero indicates the most negative possible rating and one hundred the highest possible favor rating. The average Democrats rated Islam at 56 while Republicans and those leaning towards the Republican party came in at a cool 39. 63 percent of Republican respondents believe that Islam incites violence while only 26 percent of Democrats agreed with that statement. Additionally, Republicans also are more likely than Democrats to say that Islam is not part of mainstream American society (68 percent vs. 37 percent) and that there is a natural conflict between Islam and democracy (65 percent vs. 30 percent) according to Pew Research Center.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE SPECTATOR