In new book, Muslim doctor encourages Christians to ‘love thy neighbor’

(RNS) — Ayaz Virji had a well-paying position at a Pennsylvania hospital when he decided to uproot his family in 2013 and move to Dawson, Minn., a town with about 1,500 residents and the distinction of being “Gnometown, USA.”

Virji’s Muslim faith and values inspired him to look for a job that was more than just lucrative. In Dawson, he said, he felt he could provide what he called “dignified medicine,” spending time getting to know his patients in an underserved rural community.

Then came the 2016 election.

Most Dawson residents had voted for President Trump. And many of Virji’s patients — stirred by Trump’s insistence that “Islam hates us,” his suggestion of a Muslim registry and his promise of a Muslim ban — began to question his family’s presence. As far as anybody knew, they were the first Muslim family to live in Dawson.

That’s when Virji discovered another vocation: speaking to Christian audiences about his faith in order to dispel myths about Islam.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS

Hostility to Islam has disguised a host of other prejudices

Erhard_Reuwich_Sarazenen_1486.pngIn 2011, when the editor of Charlie Hebdo put Muhammad on the cover, he did so as the heir to more than 200 years of a peculiarly French brand of anti-clericalism. Just as radicals in the Revolution had desecrated churches and smashed icons, so did cartoonists at France’s most scabrous magazine delight in satirising religion. Although Catholicism was their principal target, they were perfectly happy to ridicule Islam too. If Jesus could be caricatured, then why not Muhammad?

Sure enough, one year after the prophet’s first appearance on the cover of Charlie Hebdo, he was portrayed again, this time crouching on all fours and with his genitals bared. The mockery would not cease, so the magazine’s editor vowed, until ‘Islam has been rendered as banal as Catholicism’. This would be, in a secular society, for Muslims to be treated as equals.

Except that they were not being treated as equals. The scorning of Islam was a tradition in France that reached back far beyond the time of Voltaire and Diderot. The earliest European caricature of Muhammad served to illustrate a work by Peter the Venerable, a 12th-century abbot in Burgundy. Peter’s Summa totius haeresis Saracenorum — ‘A Summary of the Entire Heresy of the Saracens’ — did what it said on the tin. Islam was a monstrous perversion of Christian teachings. Not merely a heresy, it was the sump of all heresies. Muhammad, its founder, was ‘the chosen disciple of the Devil’. The caricature of him which accompanied Peter’s text duly showed him as a siren: a monstrous compound of the human and the bestial, luring the unwary to their doom.

This portrayal of Muhammad as a heresiarch, a charlatan who had thrived by twisting the truths of Christianity to his own pestilential ends, was in turn heir to an even older tradition. As John Tolan points out in his new book, condemnation of Islam as a heresy did at least derive from a recognition on the part of Latin Christians that it was not an entirely alien faith: that it honoured the biblical prophets; that it laid claim to a divine law; that it was monotheistic.

FULL REVIEW FROM THE SPECTATOR (UK)

Unique museum informs Australians about Islam

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The Islamic Museum of Australia in Melbourne provides information on the history, life and identity of Muslims in the country. Founded by Australian Muslim businessman Moustafa Fahour with the support of the Australian federal government, the museum is the first and only Islamic museum in the country.

Since opening in 2014, it has hosted more than 50,000 visitors. Open six days a week, the museum organizes various conferences and events in different fields such as calligraphy, historical art, miniature painting, handicrafts and current events. “We want them to experience and learn about the beauty of Islam,” said the museum director, Maryum Chaudhry.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE DAILY SABAH

How Islam shaped the West

2019_20_ottomanEarly modern Europe and the “shame-praising” of the Muslim world.

 by Rowan Williams 

St Augustine was probably the first major thinker to discuss at length how states use enemies for their own internal purposes. He traces with acid clarity the way in which the Roman Republic begins to collapse from its inner tensions and conflicts once Carthage, the great historic enemy, has been destroyed, and concludes that if you have no means of generating coherence and justice within your own polity, you will always be on the lookout for new enemies on to whom you can displace the threats arising from your own political failures.

It is an analysis that applies with uncanny accuracy to a range of modern political phenomena, from the insanity of the nuclear arms race in the Cold War to various more recent mythologies, including some popular characterisations of “the West” against “the Muslim world”. Noel Malcolm’s brilliant study looks at a period not wholly unlike the Cold War: the three centuries during which the Ottoman empire was the unsettling Other to the Western Europe of early modernity. It was a period of sporadic (sometimes very extreme) military collision and long stretches of uneasy stand-off, complicated by the fact that the empire could be and was drawn into the diplomatic and military conflicts between Western states. Malcolm has some wry and intriguing pages on the theological gymnastics required to justify the fairly consistent pro-Ottoman diplomatic policies and strategic alliances of the “Most Christian” kings of France.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW STATESMAN

Ramadan 2019: Why is it so important for Muslims?

wc-22.10.2018.Ramadan-Questions-1The Muslim holy month is upon us once again. Here is what happens.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Muslim lunar calendar. Healthy adult Muslims fast in Ramadan from dawn until dusk. This includes abstaining from drinking, eating, immoral acts and anger. Other acts of worship such as prayer, reading the Quran and charity are also encouraged during the holy month.

Muslims also believe the Quran was revealed in Ramadan.

During the holy month, Muslims wake up early to eat a pre-dawn meal called suhoor, and they break their fast with a meal referred to as iftar.

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When does Ramadan begin in 2019?

It is common for mosques to host large iftars, especially for the poor and needy. Nightly prayers called Tarawih are also held in mosques after iftar.

Different cultures have different traditions during Ramadan, whether it is a special food they must cook, or eating iftar with the extended family. Islamic tenets such as generosity inspired most of these traditions, including sharing food and inviting guests over for iftar.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA 

Islam And Environmentalism

shutterstock_686756524By Austin Bodetti

Across the Global South, community leaders, politicians, and scientists are wrestling with how to rally their compatriots to combat climate change and prepare their countries for the dangers of environmental degradation. In several corners of the Muslim world, academics and environmentalists have looked for inspiration from a source that has mobilized countless past social movements: Islam itself.

“Islam views humans as trustees and guardians of the natural environment,” says Odeh Rashid al-Jayyousi, chairman of the Innovation and Technology Management Department at Arabian Gulf University and author of Islam and Sustainable Development. “Caring for any living organism is rewarded. Every species is in a state of prayer, and hence disturbing or hurting any species is simply silencing a community of worshippers or disrupting the symphony of life.”

The Quran and the Hadith, a collection of religious texts that recount the actions and sayings of Mohammad, emphasize the importance of environmental protection. Many Muslim environmentalists like to cite the famous Quranic directive, “Do not commit abuse on the Earth, spreading corruption.”

“Islam instills a sense of hope and optimism about the role of humans in creating balance,” al-Jayyousi tells LobeLog. “Reflecting on the destiny of past civilizations is key, as it deepens the meaning of cycles of life and the impact of humans on the environment. Celebrating diversity and beauty is a form of worship. The signs in nature and the cosmos are sources for reflection and deep learning.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM LOBE LOG 

The implications of a Trump war on political Islam

7bba8861e5b146748f3a1f8c2a97e620_18One has to admire US President Donald Trump‘s tenacity. Despite the many fiascos of his Middle Eastpolicy, he keeps going down the same path, with the same partners, come what may.

Since his first foreign trip landed him in Saudi Arabia and Israel two years ago, the president has been on a roll, trampling all over traditional liberal US policies, defying the United Nations, violating international law and heightening tensions in the Middle East – all at the request, or in support, of these special partners.

This trend intensified over the past few weeks. The White House overrode Congress to continue assisting the Saudi war effort in Yemen and lent its support to the renegade general, Khalifa Hafter, during his assault on the Libyan capital, Tripoli. It also proclaimed the Syrian Golan Heights part of Israel and gave approval to the Israeli annexation of occupied Palestinian territories.

It tightened sanctions on Iran, designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp a “foreign terrorist organisation” and deployed carrier strike group battleships to the Gulf.

As a result of these policies, tensions throughout the region are escalating, yet the Trump administration won’t reconsider, let alone reverse any of them. It has only really done that once – when it stepped back from its hastily-taken position on the blockade of Qatarby Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt two years ago.

But that’s the exception that confirms the rule.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA