Facebook post takes Biden’s comments on teaching Islam in schools out of context

IF YOUR TIME IS SHORT

  • At a voter outreach event aimed at Muslims, Biden said, “I wish we taught more in our schools about the Islamic faith… about all the great confessional faiths.”
  • Conservative commentators said Biden was anti-Christian and against prayer in schools, leaving out the context of him talking about theology in general.
  • Biden is Roman Catholic and has talked about how faith led him to run for public office. He has said he supports the separation of church and state.

See the sources for this fact-check

As presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden spoke in support of increasing Muslim American voter turnout at a recent summit, he said he wished American schoolchildren were taught more about Islam.

Biden thanked advocacy group Emgage Action for endorsing his campaign and having him at their “Million Muslim Votes” event July 20. Then he said: “I wish we taught more in our schools about the Islamic faith.”

Biden said more than that, but the backlash on social media didn’t catch it. Conservative activists, including Charlie Kirk, tweeted out the comment and went on to say Biden didn’t support prayer or studying the Bible in schools. One former Republican candidate called him anti-Christian. Biden is a lifelong Roman Catholic.

On Facebook, a text post quoted Biden incorrectly as saying: “We need to teach our children the ISLAMIC FAITH in our schools!”

The misquote left out important context from the rest of Biden’s speech and his campaign as a whole.

Biden said he wished schools taught not only the Islamic faith but “all the great confessional faiths.” He also said that he is interested in theology and “we all come from the same root here in terms of our fundamental, basic beliefs,” referencing his own Catholic background.

His reference to “confessional religions” includes different denominations of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, which are religions that each have their own statements of faith, sometimes called a confession. 

FULL ARTICLE FROM POLITIFACT

What U.S. Religious Liberty Means — Especially When It Comes To Islam

RTX3Z4ML-e1572281662504NPR’s Audie Cornish speaks with Asma Uddin about the state of religious liberty in the United States. Uddin is author of When Islam Is Not a Religion: Inside America’s Fight for Religious Freedom.

 

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Trump administration has made religious liberty a central theme of this presidency. For example, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services now has a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division. The president has championed judges who have ruled in favor of people seeking religious exemptions to laws. And just last month, the White House strengthened protections for kids who want to pray at school. Asma Uddin is part – Asma Uddin is part of the Inclusive America Project at the Aspen Institute. She is also the author of a book on religious liberty called “When Islam Is Not A Religion.” She told me that President Trump’s focus marks a change from previous administrations.

ASMA UDDIN: There has been just a more pronounced public affirmation of the positive role of religion in American society, the need to protect it. Often, we hear from various government officials – whether it be Mike Pompeo or President Trump or U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr or even Jeff Sessions when he announced a religious liberty task force of the Department of Justice – is this constant refrain about religion is under threat by secularization, threatening forces on the left. So the protection of religion and the protection of our religious freedom – that has become a constant refrain.

CORNISH: What communities have benefited from the administration’s attention to the issue? Are there religious communities that have, essentially, been left out?

UDDIN: Yeah. So, you know, then-candidate Ted Cruz said that it was – he called it the religious liberty election, and he said that it was ultimately about, like, the person who would be able to defend religious liberty the best. And President Trump and Ben Carson and Rick Santorum all got on that bandwagon and said absolutely, this is about religious liberty, and we’re going to protect religious liberty if we’re elected president. But at the same time as they were making these statements, they were also competing with each other to determine who could be the most discriminatory against Muslims, whether it be President Trump’s suggestions about creating a Muslim registry or about banning Muslims from the U.S. – which, as we know, he has moved forward with that as well – or it be Ted Cruz’s suggestion that we surveil Muslim neighborhoods in the aftermath – he brought that up in the aftermath of a terrorist incident – or Rick Santorum saying that Islam absolutely was different from Christianity. He said that it’s not as protected under the First Amendment as Christianity is. And so there was, like, this obvious hypocrisy.

FULL ARTICLE (AND AUDIO CLIP) FROM NPR

US growth of Islam creates need for religious scholars

RTX3Z4ML-e1572281662504DEARBORN HEIGHTS, Mich. (AP) — “Brothers and sisters,” the seminary instructor tells his class, don’t believe in God because of your parents’ beliefs but because “you know why God exists.”

The challenge spurs a discussion about beliefs. But more than Imam Mohammad Qazwini’s interesting delivery, deep understanding of Islam and his formal training at a seminary in the holy city of Qom, Iran, have drawn them to this suburban Detroit classroom just off the large prayer room of a mosque.

He speaks their language — literally.

An increasing number of U.S. Muslims want guidance from religious instructors who they can understand linguistically and culturally. The Quran, Islam’s holy book, is written in classical Arabic, but many of the students aren’t well-versed in the language. Qazwini navigates the intricacies of Arabic effortlessly — in the everyday English they use, opening a door for many of the students and meeting an increasing need.

Traditional imams and scholars who once came from the Middle East or were educated in schools there are having more difficulty entering the United States. The Trump administration imposed a travel ban in January 2017 on people from several Muslim majority countries, and the government has made it harder to enter the U.S. entirely, with more rigorous interviews and background checks.

“In many other states there are mosques with no … functional imam, who can assume the responsibilities of the religious leader or even speak,” said Islamic Institute of America leader Imam Hassan Qazwini, who started the seminary with his son. “I thought maybe a long-term solution for facing this shortage is to have our own Shiite Islamic seminary in the U.S., instead of waiting for imams to come.”

Al-Hujjah is the newest of several seminaries focused on the Shiite branch of Islam in the United States and Canada working to address a shortage of leaders.

The seminary started in fall 2017 with about 35 registered students. Now it has nearly 400, with some attending in-person, others watching live and still more watching recorded videos online. In addition to the Qazwinis, there are four other instructors.

Although there are students in 25 countries the emphasis is on North America because of the desire to deepen the bench of U.S.-trained imams, scholars and speakers, according to the elder Qazwini, a native of Iraq.

In a class on a recent evening, the younger Qazwini led an intense session on faith, proposing case studies, playing devil’s advocate and prompting a philosophical back-and-forth with his students. His execution is informal but authoritative. The students understand him.

“I need to make sure he speaks the language, he’s knowledgeable, he’s respectful, he’s truly caring and he’s trying to adapt to the country we live in,” said Alia Bazzi, 32, a graphic designer and seminary student. “Why would my imam speak Arabic if we live in America and the main language we speak is English? … I want to know he’s up to date, he knows what’s going on.”

About an hour’s drive south, in Toledo, Ohio, the Ahlul Bayt Center mosque has been running for about four years without a full-time imam. Imam Mohammad Qazwini and other clerics travel there for services and special events.

Dr. Ali Nawras, a board member of the Toledo mosque, said the arrangement works for day-to-day needs because of its proximity to the Detroit area — a longtime hub for Islam in America. But the center seeks a permanent imam to meet its broader, long-term objectives: Having a strong understanding of challenges within their own community, particularly among youth, and forging stronger bonds between the Muslim and non-Muslim populations.

“On one hand, you can find an imam who is very knowledgeable, very strong background in theology, but that person might not speak English or might have lived most of his life outside the country,” Nawras said. “On the other hand, you might find someone who is born here and educated here, but they don’t have a good or strong theology background.”

“To have a combination of both, that is where the challenge comes,” he added.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS 

Why the de-faithing of Islam is a threat to all America’s religions

  • Asma T. Uddin explores religious freedom — or the lack thereof — in her new book, When Islam Is Not a Religion: Inside America’s Fight for Religious Freedom.
  • She identifies and dispels myths surrounding Islam that attempt to weaken the rights of Muslims, such as the idea that Islam is a monolith, or is not a religion at all.
  • It’s important to understand that religious freedom primarily involves a relationship between the government and religious individuals or organizations. This differentiates it from religious pluralism or tolerance.

Hanaa-Unus-18In the aughts, a number of Christian conservative figures, including Pat Buchanan and Austin Ruse, were aligning their political-religious worldview with Islam in an attempt to separate from liberal Democrats. Just over a decade later, the same men were branding Islam as a purely political system while claiming it’s actually not a religion at all—and thereby not protected by American religious liberty laws.

Such a pivot has important consequences. If Islam is, in the eyes of the courts, deemed to not be a religion, then Muslims are longer protected by the freedom of religion clause. While such a notion seems absurd given that Islam is the planet’s second largest faith, there is precedent for this argument, writes lawyer and scholar Asma T. Uddin in her new book, When Islam Is Not a Religion: Inside America’s Fight for Religious Freedom.

Myth 1: Islam is not a religion

Uddin knows this topic well. In 2010, she represented the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, which was building a new mosque roughly 30 miles outside of Nashville. Having outgrown its previous facility near Middle Tennessee State University, members raised $600,000 for a new complex. Then the vandalism began.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BIGTHINK.COM

When Islam Is Not a Religion in America

92048Is Islam a religion?

This question is regularly posed by populists seeking to restrict Muslims in America. If Islam is not a religion—if it is a militant ideological system, for example—then some argue it is not subject to First Amendment protection.

At stake is the protection of religious liberty, writes lawyer Asma T. Uddin in When Islam Is Not a Religion: Inside America’s Fight for Religious Freedom. Her new book details recent legal cases involving Muslims, arguing that restrictions on one faith community affect the freedom of all.

Formerly a legal counsel with Becket, a leading religious liberty law firm, Uddin has worked with the US State Department to advocate against the former United Nations resolution on the defamation of religion, which was seen by many as an attempt at international cover for blasphemy laws. And through the Legal Training Institute, she has worked to extend the American understanding of religious liberty to several Middle Eastern, North African, and Southeast Asian countries.

Uddin, a Muslim of Pakistani descent, has worked on religious liberty cases at the federal and Supreme Court levels—including the Hobby Lobby and Hosanna-Tabor victories praised by conservative Christians—defending evangelicals, Catholics, Jews, Native Americans, and Muslims. Christianity Today, which recently editorialized on why religious freedom isn’t just for Christians, spoke with her on the sidelines of the recent US State Department Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom.

CT: American evangelicals are often concerned that Christians have their religious liberty threatened around the world, often in Muslim-majority nations. The focus of your book is Muslim religious liberty, threatened in the United States. What sorts of challenges do Muslims face in America?

Uddin: I think it’s important to point out that the book doesn’t just look at attacks on Muslims. The book looks broadly at the attack on religious freedom, seen through the prism of attacks on Muslims. I discuss violence against churches, synagogues, and Sikh temples.

But in terms of threats to Muslim religious freedom specifically, I look at the nationwide anti-mosque controversy, which started in earnest after the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” fiasco. From there, it spread to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, which was the first community to be affected while attempting to build a mosque. That’s where the claim was made that Islam is not a religion.

To this day, there are ongoing struggles to build mosques. It’s not just litigation, but also arson and fire bombing. There is even a question about Muslim cemeteries, to the point where American Muslims are unable to bury their dead. That’s the challenge we’re facing to our human dignity.

I also look at the so-called anti-Sharia laws that now have been proposed in 43 states: 217 bills as of 2017. The movement continues in full force accompanied by “marches against Sharia” (religious laws based on Islam), where we see people taking to the streets. And not that long ago, there was a murderous attack in public transportation of two men who came to the defense of two women in headscarves.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIANITY TODAY 

Author Q&A: Charles Kimball on ‘Truth over Fear: Combating the Lies About Islam’

71sKXa55BuLWith memories of the 9/11 terrorist attacks still raw, Charles Kimball, a professor, Baptist minister and expert analyst on the Middle East, drew on three decades of experience to write a book released in 2002 about why people do bad things in the name of religion.

In When Religion Becomes Evil, Kimball, at the time a professor at Wake Forest University, identified five warning signs common to all religions – absolute truth claims, blind obedience, the impulse to establish an “ideal” time, belief that the end justifies the means and the declaration of holy war – and gave advice about how to recover what is best and healthy in all religions.

In his latest book, Truth over Fear: Combating the Lies about Islam, Kimball explores a new development in Christian-Muslim relations – the mainstreaming of Islamophobia as a pathway to political success.

Now presidential professor and chair of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma, Kimball discussed ways Christians and Muslims can work together in this Q&A about the recent release of the new 180-page paperback published by Westminster John Knox Press.

Why did you write this book?

The 21st century may well be defined by interfaith relationships. The most dangerous and widespread flashpoints center on relationships between adherents of the world’s two largest religious communities: Christians and Muslims.

This book grows out of more than 40 years of work focused on my vocation with a teaching ministry and constructive interfaith cooperation in the U.S. and the Middle East. Speaking in more than 500 colleges, universities, seminaries, divinity schools, churches, mosques, synagogues, civic organizations, etc., I have a clear sense of the kinds of questions and concerns about Islam that foster widespread fear in the West.

While there remains a lot of goodwill, a large majority – including a large majority of Christian clergy – still lack the resources to address growing Islamophobia or pursue constructive programs with Muslims (and others) in their local setting.

This book seeks to address this urgent need by providing a new paradigm for how Christians and others of goodwill can better understand Islam as most Muslims live out their faith. And, it offers an accessible guide for positive initiatives individuals and congregations can take to work toward a more healthy future between Christians and Muslims.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BAPTISM NEWS 

The political impotence of the Muslim American community

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Sheikh Hamza Yusuf speaks during a fund raising event at the Alliance Francis in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on July 2, 2015 [File: AP/Kamran Jebreili] [Daylife]

There was a time when Islam was a revolutionary force in America. Decades ago, “Muslim” was a political identity grounded in an ethos of dissent, exemplified by Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X. Being Muslim meant standing up against white supremacy and global empire, whether in Alabama or Vietnam; it meant standing in solidarity with the struggles of black and brown people everywhere.

Today, many American Muslims eagerly claim the legacy of brothers Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X as their own, but lack the political courage and moral integrity by which they lived.

We have become a community without a principled political vision, impotent in the face of state oppression: the continuous FBI surveillance and entrapment and ever-expanding anti-Muslim legislation. Not only are we unable to organise on these issues, but we have also lost the common ethical ground that could unite us around a common political vision and action.

Until recently, despite the divisions within the community, the Muslim American community seemed united at least in its opposition to the Trump administration; that appeared to be the lowest common denominator of a shared American Muslim political identity. But then on July 8, Secretary of State and top Islamophobe Mike Pompeo announced the creation of a Commission on Unalienable Rights to advise the Trump administration – a serial human rights violator – on human rights. One of our most prominent leaders, Hamza Yusuf, accepted to become part of the theatrics.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA

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