Social harassment of religious groups in the US among worst in the world: report

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People walk by a poster from the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP/UDC) depicting a woman wearing a burqa in front of a Swiss flag upon which are minarets which resemble missiles, at the central station in Geneva, Switzerland.

NEW YORK — Government restrictions on religion have increased markedly in many places around the world, not only in authoritarian countries but also in many democracies, according to a report surveying 198 countries that was released Monday.

The report released by the Pew Research Center, covering developments through 2017, also seeks to document the scope of religion-based harassment and violence. Regarding the world’s two largest religions, it said Christians were harassed in 143 countries and Muslims in 140.

This was Pew’s 10th annual Report on Global Restrictions on Religion. It said 52 governments, including those in Russia and China, impose high levels of restrictions on religion, up from 40 governments in 2007. It said 56 countries in 2017 were experiencing social hostilities involving religion, up from 39 in 2007.

Pew said the Middle East and North Africa, of the five major regions it studied, had the highest level of government restrictions on religion, followed by the Asia-Pacific region. However, it said the biggest increase during the 2007-2017 period was in Europe, where the number of countries placing restrictions on religious dress — including burqas and face veils worn by some Muslim women — rose from five to 20.

Among other measures in 2017, Austria enacted a ban on full-face veils in public spaces and Germany banned face veils for anyone driving a motor vehicle or working in the civil service. In Switzerland, voters in two regions have approved bans on face veils and voters nationwide backed a ban on the construction of new minarets.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK POST 

4th of July; the Founding Fathers and the Challenge of Islam

 

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Rabat – Upon the declaration of the US independence on July 4, 1776 two of the first three states to acknowledge the country’s sovereignty and freedom were Muslim, zealously supporting America’s notion that freedom lies in being fearless.

Morocco was the first state to recognize the independence of the United States of America, signing the first Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship, under Morocco’s Sultan Muhammad III in December 1777.

Friesland, one of the seven United Provinces of the Dutch Republic, was the next to recognize the American independence.

The Mysore State in India followed their example, being the third to praise liberty as a breath of life to all nations.

The actions of those states centuries ago are the proof that the 4th of July should not just come and go.

Americans must make it a remarkable day and a celebration; a great opportunity to further elevate the magnificence of national integration and appreciate the Muslim contribution to it— but, unfortunately, this is not the case today.

“I remember my supervisor at work made a comment about how Morocco was the first supporter of American independence; and that they had always been a really close ally to the US, but that is something not included in the things we are learning while we study the American history,” said Paige Duskie, a 20-year-old student from Huntsville, Alabama who is currently working for a Human Rights NGO in Rabat, told Morocco World News.

Muslims have been at the center of attention for years from a socio-political perspective.

A wide variety of events, including acts of terrorism and extreme violence, which severely concerned the global community, caused the United States to largely discriminate against Muslims.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MOROCCO WORLD NEWS

American Mosques; Third, Fourth and Fifth Spaces

meric-dagli-733474-unsplash-200x300State sponsored mosques are designed to serve a singular purpose; to provide a space for congregational religious services and prayers. In Muslim majority countries, mosques do not operate independently of political authority. The utility of the mosque is then limited, if not profoundly curtailed, within this context.

But in the United States, the mosque is not just a place to pray but also doubles as a community center. American mosques are the nerve center of the Muslim community with year round activities including cultural enrichment, social services, and Islamic education.

In secular societies, where religion is an active choice and not a passive reality, a community center style mosque with a program-driven agenda is not just an ambition but an absolute necessity.

Yet, according to the 2014 report by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), “There’s a growing narrative within the American Muslim community that paints a picture of alarming exclusion, especially for women, youth, and converts. Some mosque-goers feel increasingly disconnected from the mosque community and some have stopped going to the mosque altogether, because of it.”  In 2019, not much has changed.

Ideally, the spirit with which we approach our spaces of worship should be one that encapsulates the heart of Islam and offers its congregation the kind of inspirational energy that will help them to sustain a metaphysical rather than material view of reality.

But unfortunately, a significant number of young Muslims surveyed will tell you that their mosques are so lacking in spiritual ambiance that to keep the faith, they sometimes feel like they have to keep their distance. They are routinely disheartened and disenchanted and therefore disengaged.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS.COM

How To Fight Islamophobia In America, No Matter Your Faith

MuslimGrafittiThe U.S. is no stranger to discrimination against Muslims. Here’s how you can fight back.

“Hello, brother.” Those were the words that a Muslim man said to a gunman before he was shot to death at the Al Noor mosque in New Zealand on Friday.

The gunman, an avowed white supremacist, went on to kill at least 49 others in a horrific attack on two mosques in the city of Christchurch during Friday prayers, a weekly tradition for those who practice Islam.

While the attack on Muslims may have been an unprecedented show of hate for New Zealand, the gunman’s Islamophobia is hauntingly familiar in the U.S. 

In December, a woman in Dallas attacked a Muslim woman and told her to “go back to [her] country.” A month later, four people in upstate New York were charged with plotting to attack a Muslim community with explosives. Last April, three white militiamen in Kansas were charged with planning to bomb a Somali community’s apartment building

That’s why now is as important as ever for people of all faiths to speak out against hate and violence against Muslims, according to Catherine Osborne. Osborne is a Christian and the campaign director for Shoulder to Shoulder, an interfaith coalition against Islamophobia in the U.S.

“Silence is action, in and of itself,” Osborne said of the response to Friday’s massacre in New Zealand. “Choosing not to speak out is an action that somebody is choosing to take.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

Black Muslims account for a fifth of all U.S. Muslims, and about half are converts to Islam

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This is one of an occasional series of posts on black Americans and religion.

Even in the early 20th century, when Islam had little presence in most parts of the United States, the religion had a foothold in many black urban communities. Today, black people (not including those of Hispanic descent or mixed race) make up 20% of the country’s overall Muslim population, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey.

Still, Muslims make up only a small portion of the overall black population in the United States. The vast majority of black Americans are either Christian (79%) or religiously unaffiliated (18%), while about 2% of black Americans are Muslim.ft_19.01.09_blackmuslims_converts

About half of black Muslims (49%) are converts to Islam, a relatively high level of conversion. By contrast, only 15% of nonblack Muslims are converts to Islam, and just 6% of black Christians are converts to Christianity.

Black Muslims are like black Americans overall in that they have high levels of religious commitment. For instance, large majorities of both black Muslims and black Christians say religion is very important to them (75% and 84% respectively). This is a higher level of commitment than for nonblack Muslims (62%). Black Muslims are also more likely than other Muslims in the U.S. to perform the five daily prayers (55% vs. 39%).

FULL ARTICLE FROM PEW RESEARCH 

‘America has changed Islam’: A woman runs for the board of Houston’s largest Muslim organization

houstonIn a front room of the Masjid at Taqwa, a Sugar Land mosque, Sarah Alikhan watched M.J. Khan film a Facebook video endorsing her.

Khan, 68, isn’t super-fluent with Facebook, but as a former member of Houston City Council and the president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, he’s arguably the most powerful political figure in Houston’s Muslim community. It was Khan who recruited Alikhan, who’s in her early 40s, to become the first woman ever to run for the shura, or governing board, of ISGH, one of the largest Muslim organizations in the U.S.

If elected director of Southwest Zone on Sunday,Dec. 9 she’d be the first woman to have a vote on the 50-year-old organization’s board — and thus, a direct say in the big-picture strategic decisions that can involve millions of dollars. Amid the fierce campaign, Alikhan’s headscarfed presence is a very visible sign of change.

“Here,” she said, after Khan joined her at a table. She took his cell phone and, smiling — she always seems to be smiling — handled a Facebook friend request for him.

Faizan Atiq, the incumbent director of ISGH’s Southwest Zone: “We are still far from where we want to see our organization – BUT on the right track.”

Across the U.S., women have been moving into spots with actual power in Muslim organizations such as ISGH, not just working behind the scenes. In 2006, Ingrid Mattson became the first woman to serve as president — the very top leader — of the Islamic Society of North America, an umbrella group that includes ISGH.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE 

The Shoe Is On the Other Foot: Pluralism and the Qur’an

The-demographics-of-ImmigrationBy Jane Smith

The raging fires of the immigration debates in the U.S. illuminate what Muslim immigrants have known for a long time — America is not and really never has been a melting pot. The ugly rhetoric surrounding the plan for a mosque and community center near Ground Zero, and recent assaults such as those on the Bridgeport, CT mosque in my neighborhood, illustrate well the difficulties Muslims face on a regular basis. Nonetheless, Muslims have actually managed to survive quite well in the West and have even succeeded in persuading many American citizens of the right of Islam to exist as a legitimate partner in the complex balance of religious life in this country.

For many Muslims the shoe is now slipping onto the other foot. The issue is becoming not only whether they and their religion are accepted by other Americans, but whether Islam itself can find a way to live out the pluralism that many are persuaded is at the heart of the Qur’an’s message. Studies now show that while early generations of Muslims tried to honor that pluralism in relation to other religious groups, more exclusivist views came to prevail and communities such as Christians and Jews found themselves increasingly discriminated against by Islam. Exegetes turned from verses of the Qur’an that insist that God willed different religious communities rather than a single one, and emphasized those verses that affirm that the only true religion in the eyes of God is Islam.

It seems to me that the future of Islam, at least as I understand it in the American context, has much to do with the way that Muslims figure out how they are going to position themselves on the question of pluralism. That we all live in a religiously differentiated society is a given. But is that a good thing in the Muslim perspective? While Muslims struggle to be truly accepted by Christians, Jews, and other groups in America, can they promise the same in return? And if so, at what level?

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS