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 

‘Advancement of Islamic Agenda For America’ Sign Posted Outside Michigan Mosque Is A Digital Fake

A sign reading “Advancement of Islamic Agenda for America” being posted outside a Michigan mosque is a digital fabrication. The photograph of a sign bearing an ominous threat from the group is a fake. There is no truth behind the image displaying a sign which bore a serious and ominous threat from the group “Advancement of Islamic Agenda for America.” Where did this originate?

Snopes reported that the photograph has been identified in social media postings as belonging to a mosque or some other Islam-associated administrative building in Michigan. The sign reads “Advancement of Islamic Agenda for America.”

The fake sign then advertises to viewers that organization’s ominous threat “AMERICA WE WILL KILL YOU ALL AND NOTHING YOU CAN DO TO STOP IT,” bracketed by invocations of the exaltation “ALLAH BE PRAISED.” However, the sign nor the organization is real.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BUSINESS 2 COMMUNITY

Shariah’s Winding Path Into Modernity

14akyol-inyt-master768-v2In June, Americans in about two dozen cities joined a “March Against Sharia.” For these protesters, the Arabic term is a code word for the oppression of women and men in the name of God — horrors like stoning and beheading. Since such brutalities do indeed happen in the name of Shariah, they may have had a point. But there were also points that they missed.

In Arabic, “Shariah” literally means “the way.” More specifically, it refers to the body of Islamic rules that Muslims see as God’s will — based either on the Quran or on the Prophet Muhammad’s reported words and deeds. It is conceptually impossible, therefore, for a Muslim who is serious about his faith to condemn Shariah. But the implementation of Shariah, which is called “fiqh,” or jurisprudence, is open to interpretation and discussion.

Much of Shariah is about personal observance: A good Muslim should pray five times a day while turned toward Mecca, for example, or should fast daily throughout Ramadan. Of course, there is no problem with these acts of personal piety — unless they are coerced. They should be welcome in any society with religious liberty.

However, a part of Shariah is about public law, including the penal code. And there are clear conflicts here with modern standards of human rights. First, Shariah lays out corporal punishments, such as chopping off hands, stoning, flogging and beheading. The Islamic legal code also proscribes crimes like apostasy, blasphemy and extramarital sex — none of which can be a crime at all in any liberal society.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

The Clash of Ignorance

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Labels like “Islam” and “the West” serve only to confuse us about a disorderly reality.

By Edward W. Said

This article, referenced in the previous news item, appeared in the Nation in 2001.  Its insights remain valid as a much-needed critique to the kind of simplistic categorizations often employed in the media to describe a complex reality.   What was valid in 2001 continues to be valid today, perhaps even more so today given our contentious political environment. 

—————– Samuel Huntington’s article “The Clash of Civilizations?” appeared in the Summer 1993 issue of Foreign Affairs, where it immediately attracted a surprising amount of attention and reaction. Because the article was intended to supply Americans with an original thesis about “a new phase” in world politics after the end of the cold war, Huntington’s terms of argument seemed compellingly large, bold, even visionary. He very clearly had his eye on rivals in the policy-making ranks, theorists such as Francis Fukuyama and his “end of history” ideas, as well as the legions who had celebrated the onset of globalism, tribalism and the dissipation of the state. But they, he allowed, had understood only some aspects of this new period. He was about to announce the “crucial, indeed a central, aspect” of what “global politics is likely to be in the coming years.” Unhesitatingly he pressed on:

 “It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.”

Most of the argument in the pages that followed relied on a vague notion of something Huntington called “civilization identity” and “the interactions among seven or eight [sic] major civilizations,” of which the conflict between two of them, Islam and the West, gets the lion’s share of his attention. In this belligerent kind of thought, he relies heavily on a 1990 article by the veteran Orientalist Bernard Lewis, whose ideological colors are manifest in its title, “The Roots of Muslim Rage.” In both articles, the personification of enormous entities called “the West” and “Islam” is recklessly affirmed, as if hugely complicated matters like identity and culture existed in a cartoonlike world where Popeye and Bluto bash each other mercilessly, with one always more virtuous pugilist getting the upper hand over his adversary. Certainly neither Huntington nor Lewis has much time to spare for the internal dynamics and plurality of every civilization, or for the fact that the major contest in most modern cultures concerns the definition or interpretation of each culture, or for the unattractive possibility that a great deal of demagogy and downright ignorance is involved in presuming to speak for a whole religion or civilization. No, the West is the West, and Islam Islam.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATION 

Peace and Justice in Islam

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by Amal Merchant 

636216610591930866-IMG-20170125-WA0013When people inquire about the basics of Islam, they will probably be told about the five pillars of Islam. Yes, these are the basics and they relate to the practice and the faith, but there is a little more to say than that.

One can declare there are another two great pillars that are integral to the heart of Islam. They are peace and justice.

The word “Islam” comes from the root word Silm and Salaam, which means submission to the will of God and peace. Muslims believe that to attain real peace, one must submit to the divine guidance of God.

Although God or Allah, the infinite, is beyond comprehension or analysis by our finite minds, in the Quran we are given many attributes of God that help us understand him.

Among others, Allah has 99 names such as al-‘Adl, “the Just” and al Muqsit, “the Dispenser of justice” or “he who gives to each thing its due.” Allah is al Rahmaan, “the Merciful,” and al Raheem, “the Compassionate.” He is as-Salaam, “the Giver of peace and blessings” and al Barr, “the Righteous.”

In the Quran, it tells us, “Behold, God enjoins justice and good actions and generosity to our fellows and he forbids all shameful deeds and injustice and rebellion. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.”

We are also reminded that never to let hatred lead us into deviating from justice: “Be just! That is closest to being God-conscious.”

With constantly remembering God, his guidance toward goodness and his warnings against evil, one perfects his/her actions and developed a beautiful character. The Prophet Muhammad says, “God is beautiful, and he loves beauty.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM VENTURA COUNTY STAR 

Teen Makes Spreadsheet Of Muslim Groups Denouncing Terrorism

muslims-condeming-fbWhen 19-year-old Heraa Hashmi isn’t studying molecular biology at the University of Colorado Boulder, she’s working on her YouTube channel, writing novels or tweeting with her 54,000 followers about everything from social justice to the minutiae of campus life. Heraa is also a Muslim American and an Indian American. So when a fellow student challenged her by claiming that Muslims never denounce acts of terrorism carried out in the name of Islam, she decided to show him the receipts. The result was Worldwide Muslims Condemn List — a spreadsheet with 5,720 instances of Muslim groups and leaders denouncing various acts of terrorism.

“I felt that the conversation would go nowhere unless I presented his ‘proof’ on a platter,” Heraa told Teen Vogue in an email. “And to respond to not only him, but any news agencies, public figures, and even the common layman, I began to compile a list with every source I could find.”

Heraa worked on the list about two hours ever day for three weeks, she said, using Google to search for statements and adding them to the spread sheet by hand. She plans to continue adding to it, too, building it into a searchable database for researchers and activists.

FULL ARTICLE FROM TEEN VOGUE 

Muslims United For Manchester Is Raising Money For Victims Of The Terror Attack

FB-OG-Image-2LaunchGood, which raises money for both projects and cause work that empowers Muslims in need, and for the Muslim community to return the favor, is helping respond to the Manchester attack.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed at least 22 people, including children, and wounded nearly 50 others at an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena in England on Monday night. It’s the latest attack in a string of tragedies perpetrated by the Islamic extremist group, which has staged more than 140 attacks in 29 countries, killing at least 2,000 people, since it became active in 2014.

In less than 24 hours, however, Britain’s local Muslim community had issued its own response, one that among Muslims, in particular, has become an increasingly popular way to express their support of communities affected by a group that’s obviously not representative of the values and religion they hold dear. A campaign entitled “Muslims United for Manchester” appeared on LaunchGood, a crowdfunding site that works like a blend of both Kickstarter and GoFundMe. The service allows anyone to raise money for both projects and cause work that empowers Muslims in need, and for the Muslim community to return the favor, promoting their own fundraising efforts to improve or support some broader social good.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FASTCOMPANY