Every Time I Hear a Mass Shooter Wasn’t Muslim, I Feel Relief

171004_POL_Relief-ShooterNotMuslim.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2The first thing I felt Monday morning was grief. The slow trickle of news about another mass shooting can feel like just the next chapter in a long national assault on helpless victims, but it’s important we focus our energy on the victims whose experience in Las Vegas on Sunday night is new. Right now, I’m thinking about them and everyone else who has experienced this horror. My heart is broken.

The second thing I felt Monday was relief. That’s what I always feel when I learn a mass shooter wasn’t Muslim.

I wish, like many other Muslims I know, that my mind didn’t immediately arrive at “Oh God, was it a Muslim terrorist?” That’s a terrible way to think. But I don’t just feel that way because I don’t want my community to be forced to confront false associations. I’ve learned Americans have more pointed, sobering conversations about the root causes of this violence when they’re forced to confront a perpetrator they can’t so easily separate from themselves.

I know what will happen as soon as I hear a Muslim-sounding name connected to a shooting on the news. There’s question of accountability: Why didn’t “moderate Muslims” do more to stop it? What could I have done in New York to stop the Muslim shooter in Florida? Or California? If the shooter was born in America, the question then turns to the parents: Should they ever have been allowed to come here?

That’s how it went down after Omar Mateen was identified as the shooter in the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando in June 2016, until Sunday the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Within hours, reports chased down his immigration status and his connections with foreign terror groups, and a New York Times writer declared it the worst act of terrorism on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001. By the following Monday, then-candidate Donald Trump had also seized on Mateen’s religion and national origin, bragging on Twitter “for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.” He added, in an angry, rambling speech, “The only reason the killer was in America in the first place was because we allowed his family to come here.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM SLATE

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From My Detention in Malaysia, Thoughts on Islam and Tolerance

29akyol-inytWEB-master768I am writing this column from an airplane, on my way from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to my new home, Wellesley, Mass. I’m in a comfortable seat, and I’m looking forward to getting back to my family. About 12 hours ago, though, I was miserable, locked in a holding cell by Malaysia’s “religious police.”

The story began a few months ago, when the Islamic Renaissance Front, a reformist, progressive Muslim organization in Malaysia, invited me to give a series of lectures on Islam, reason and freedom. The group had hosted me three times before in the past five years for similar events and also published the Malay version of my book “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty.” I was glad for the chance to visit Malaysia again.

I arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Sept. 22. The next day I gave my first lectureon the suppression of rational theology by dogmatists in early Islam, making the point that this “intellectual suicide” still haunts Muslim civilization.

The second talk was on a more controversial topic: apostasy from Islam. I argued that Muslims must uphold freedom of conscience, in line with the Quranic dictum “No compulsion in religion.” I said that apostasy should not be punished by death, as it is in Saudi Arabia, or with “rehabilitation,” as it is in Malaysia. The practice of Islam must be on the basis of freedom, not coercion, and governments shouldn’t police religion or morality.

It turns out all you have to do is speak of the police and they will appear.

At the end of my talk, a group of serious-looking men came into the lecture hall and showed me badges indicating that they were “religion enforcement officers.”

“We heard that you just gave an unauthorized talk on religion,” one of the men said. “And we got complaints about it.” They took me to another room, photographed me and asked questions about my speech.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

A Sinner in Mecca review – Islam, homosexuality and the hope of tolerance

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Parvez Sharma is a proud gay Muslim whose first film, A Jihad For Love, was the first ever made about Islam and homosexuality. It made him the subject of death threats throughout the Arab world.

“Immense faith had brought me here,” he writes. “I was obeying my highest calling as a Muslim.”

Somehow, the name on his Indian passport did not set off any alarm bells. The result is the first book about the Hajj from a gay perspective, written by a man with a deep knowledge of Islamic history. This pilgrimage is the centerpiece of his book, and he recounts it with courage and fierce emotion.

Part of Sharma’s compulsion to find his spiritual salvation at Mecca was a need to prove to himself that despite his sexual orientation, he was still holy enough to be worthy of this journey. It was far from a casual decision. As a child, a medical issue prevented him from having the required circumcision. To reduce one major risk during his pilgrimage, when he would be forced to wear an ihram, two seamless pieces of white cloth with no underwear, he had to have the operation as an adult.

He writes: “In my nightmares, my ihram would fall off in Mecca, subjecting unsuspecting pilgrims to my un-Muslim penis.” His grandfather had told him how after the partition of India and Pakistan, his two best friends were stripped and identified as Muslim by their genitals. They were then hacked to death.

Sharma’s struggle to reconcile his faith with his sexual orientation leads him on a search for the essential humanity of the prophet Muhammad. “Scholars learn to question faith,” he writes, “while believers just accept it. My adult self seemed to possess both abilities.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN (UK)

The five most feared buzzwords associated with Islam in the West, and what they really mean

We need to change the way we talk about extremism to strip the alt-right of its audience, which has been brainwashed into thinking my faith is synonymous with terrorism.

jakarta-istiqual-mosqueThe post-9/11 era has been rife with Islamophobia, populism and the growing support for the far-right across Europe and the US – most notably in recent years.

Hostility and discrimination against Muslims in the UK has peaked, resulting in 1,260 hate crimes in the year up to March 2017. A culture of fear, capitalised on by so-called terrorism experts and pundits, has created a vehicle for all types of extremists to target anything associated with Islam. Here are some of the most commonly misused buzzwords.

1. Islam

When most people hear the words “Islam” or “Muslim”, their mind conjures up images of brown bearded men, burqa-clad women, Isis, Al-Qaeda, and all manner of other stereotypes. A Google image search will confirm these preconceptions, but there are 1.3 million Muslims in the world: we don’t all look the same or hold the same views.

The word “Islam” originates from the Arabic root word salaam, which translates as “peace”. For Muslims, Islam is not a political ideology but a way of life which involves adhering to the five tenets of faith: belief in God, fasting during Ramadan, making pilgrimage, giving to charity and praying five times a day.

Muslims are not a homogenous entity; they come in many forms, including different Islamic philosophies and difference levels of observance. Many Muslims believe that prophet Muhammed is a direct descendant of Abraham through Ismail, and that Islam has many parallels with the Judeo-Christian tradition. Islam should not be viewed in isolation, it is as much a part of our society as any other faith.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE INDEPENDENT 

The Muslim Jesus provides common ground for Christianity, Islam

Iraqi man carrying cross and Quran attends Mass  in BaghdadAs the country sits transfixed with one of the strangest, divisive and most unpredictable presidencies in the history of the United States, lost in the madness has been the increase in Islamophobia since Donald Trump was elected president.

Islamophobia, defined as “unfounded hostility towards Muslims and therefore fear or dislike of all or most Muslims” has become frighteningly commonplace in the U.S. and this hatred and misinformation has found fertile soil in the past eight months of the Trump presidency.

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The Council on American-Islamic Relations has documented 451 incidents that stemmed from anti-Muslim bias between April 1 and June 30, 2017, 15 percent of which were acts of violence against Muslims. This represents a 91 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes during that time compared to the same time period in 2016.

These crimes occur in a conducive environment. A Pew Research Center survey in 2017 rated Muslims at 48 degrees, the lowest on a 0-100 “feeling thermometer” out of nine religious groups in the United States, two points lower than atheists. Particularly negative feelings towards Muslims were harbored by Republicans and those who were Republican-leaning.

The irony here is that most Americans really have no idea what is in the Quran, the Muslim equivalent of the Bible, beyond the mostly negative and out of context soundbites they hear on talk radio, cable TV or the internet. They have no idea that the three monotheistic religions that follow the same Abrahamic tradition, namely that Abraham was the first prophet of God, are Judaism, Christianity and yes, the third sibling, Islam.

All three religions were born in the Middle East and are inextricably linked to each another. While Christianity was born from within the Jewish tradition, Islam developed from both Christianity and Judaism. In fact, Islam sees itself as the culmination of the Abrahamic faiths, the final revelation by God in the monotheistic tradition.

The Quran specifically protects Jews and Christians as Peoples of the Book, the “Book” meaning revelations from God to Jews and Christians which gives them a spiritual connection to Islam.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER 

Mass celebration of diversity overwhelms anti-Islam rally at city hall (Vancouver)

png-0819n-vancouverrally-1488VANCOUVER — In the end, the organizers of a planned “anti-Islam” rally Saturday in Vancouver only spurred a celebration of diversity, anti-fascism and tolerance of Islam so massive it spilled onto the streets outside Vancouver City Hall and shut down a nearby street.

At the peak of the counter-protest at around 2 p.m., when organizers from the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam Canada and the Cultural Action Party of Canada had been expected to speak out against federal immigration policy, about 4,000 people surrounded city hall, according to a police estimate.

The anti-Islam rally organizers were nowhere to be found.

WCAI Canada president Joey De Luca, who told media this week he was flying to Vancouver from his hometown Calgary for the rally, did not return a request for comment before deadline.V

ANCOUVER — In the end, the organizers of a planned “anti-Islam” rally Saturday in Vancouver only spurred a celebration of diversity, anti-fascism and tolerance of Islam so massive it spilled onto the streets outside Vancouver City Hall and shut down a nearby street.

At the peak of the counter-protest at around 2 p.m., when organizers from the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam Canada and the Cultural Action Party of Canada had been expected to speak out against federal immigration policy, about 4,000 people surrounded city hall, according to a police estimate.

The anti-Islam rally organizers were nowhere to be found.

WCAI Canada president Joey De Luca, who told media this week he was flying to Vancouver from his hometown Calgary for the rally, did not return a request for comment before deadline.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE VANCOUVER SUN 

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