Retired soldier educating South about Islam

1FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — When Jason Criss Howk’s Army career came to an end in 2015, he thought he’d spend his days teaching and fishing.

But a wake-up call at a Pinehurst library changed those plans. And while Howk does teach, he’s found a new mission, too: Explaining the Middle East, Islam and Muslim culture to a population that has little experience, but strong opinions on those topics.

At times, it has been a combative undertaking.

Howk has spoken at small rural churches across the Southeast and has, on occasion, had to be escorted to his car by church leaders at the end of the night.

But that hasn’t stopped his one-man mission to better educate America and, in the process, help promote tolerance.

His efforts have expanded since he retired. In 2017, he published “The Quran: A Chronological Modern English Interpretation” through Old Stone Press. The book is intended for audiences that have little familiarity with Islam, the Quran or Muslim culture.

And earlier this year, he launched a podcast called “We’re Just Talking About It.”

Howk’s interest in Islam is tied to his experiences as a soldier.

He served as an enlisted paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division in the 1990s and returned as an officer a decade later.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ARMY TIMES 

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Attacking Muslims is wrong path for Republicans. Be like Bush, celebrate religious liberty

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If you feel the need to attack Muslims to to win an election, you’re not worthy of a seat in office. Both Bush presidents modeled better values.

During this election cycle that felt never-ending, too many conservative candidates steered their campaigns in a dangerous anti-Muslim direction. They spewed nasty rhetoric on the campaign trail, damaging the image of the Republican Party and alienating voters.

Muslim Advocates released a report in October detailing the increased amount of anti-Muslim rhetoric in campaign messaging. It found at least 80 campaigns this cycle used shameless anti-Muslim rhetoric. Of 73 races where a candidate’s party affiliation could be positively identified, 71 of the campaign messaging supported Republican candidates. Half of the candidates were running for Congress, and 37 competed in the general election.

This isn’t a new development. There have been anti-Muslim conspiracies looming on the fringes for years. Some candidates across the country keep taking the bait. By doing so, they alienate faith-friendly voters who value diversity and cherish their neighbors who follow Islam.

Take GOP Reps. Duncan Hunter of California and Dave Brat of Virginia.

To distract voters from his indictments, Hunter used anti-Muslim messaging to portray his Democratic opponent as a threat. Ammar Campa-Najjar is a former Obama official of Mexican and Palestinian descent. Hunter accused Campa-Najjar of being receptive to sharia law and looking to “infiltrate” Congress. And Hunter won — even though Campa-Najjar is a devout Christian who denounces extremist beliefs.

FULL ARTICLE FROM USA TODAY

Muslims demand full legal protection from Islamophobia (UK)

4928Pressure builds on party leaders to recognise racism targeting ‘Muslimness’

Muslim organisations are urging Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and all other party leaders to adopt a newly proposed working definition of Islamophobia in an attempt to put pressure on a reluctant Home Office to follow suit.

The Muslim Council of Britain and other Islamic groups want the Conservatives and Labour to take the lead in the aftermath of a week marked by public outrage over the alleged racist bullying of a 15-year-old Syrian refugee in Huddersfield.

The definition was set out in a report published by a cross-party group of MPs last week and says: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”

However, a Home Office minister said earlier that the department had no intention of adopting a definition, in response to a question from one of the chairs of the cross-party group, the Conservative MP Anna Soubry. Victoria Atkins told the Commons in March that there were “many definitions of Islamophobia”, but added: “We do not accept the need for a definitive definition, but we know that Islamophobia is clearly recognised and that we have very effective monitoring systems of all race-hate crimes.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN (UK)

Conservative Christians: Think Twice Before Claiming ‘Islam Is Not a Religion’

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The assertion that “Islam isn’t a religion” should be a cause for concern among conservative Christians as it can so easily and destructively be turned on Christian minorities in other parts of the world.

In her recent New York Times opinion piece, Asma T. Uddin rightly criticizes the “disturbing trend … [of] state lawmakers, lawyers, and influential social commentators,” like Oklahoma Republican state Rep. John Bennett, who claim that Muslims in the United States don’t deserve religious freedoms granted to adherents of other religions because “Islam is not even a religion; it is a political system that uses a deity to advance its agenda of global conquest.”

The claim has been floating around for several years, but it’s nonsensical for a host of reasons. No reasonable observer would contend that Muslims are the only religious people who try to advance their interests through concerted and coordinated political action, as should be clear from the Moral Majority, the Christian pro-life movement, and the opposition of many conservative Christians to the Johnson Amendment. The fact that the most obvious examples in the United States derive from conservative Christianity is only because conservative Christians have been more intentional, vocal, strategic, and successful in their religious politicking. However, it’s clear enough that liberal forms of Christianity also espouse their own brands of politics.

The obvious national and international political aspirations of Western Christians make their criticisms of the entanglement of Islam and politics particularly bewildering. Such criticisms, therefore, could only emanate either from a stunning lack of self-consciousness or a quite conscious, knowing, and cynically self-serving denial of the nature of things.

FULL ARTICLE FROM REWIRE NEWS 

Young Evangelicals Are Rejecting the Islamophobia of Their Elders

Barna Research Group recently reported that evangelical Christians are less likely than most to have friends of other religious beliefs. A whopping 91 percent of evangelicals said that their current friends are “mostly similar” to them when it comes to religious beliefs. However, this statistic wasn’t broken down by age or generation, which is critical to understanding how American evangelicals are changing.

Pew Research found that the younger an evangelical is, the more progressive they will likely be on a number of issues. Public Religion Research Institute discovered that younger white evangelicals (ages 18-39) are far more likely to say that American Muslims are an important part of the religious community in the U.S., and that they are comfortable with public displays of Muslim culture and religious expression, than those ages 40 and up.

We launched our organization, Neighborly Faith, when we were graduate students at Wheaton College in 2015. We were there during the saga between Wheaton College administration and Dr. Larycia Hawkins, and when Wheaton students penned an open letter in the Washington Post, condemning Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr.’s inflammatory remarks about Muslims after the San Bernardino shootings. We saw a growing crop of evangelical college students who wanted to love their Muslim neighbors as themselves, but who were getting little guidance on how to do so from their elders.

We have also been inspired by the work of Fuller Theological Seminary professor Matthew Kaemingk, who has traveled to evangelical collegesacross the U.S. to encourage a posture of hospitality toward Muslim immigrants. There are also 2018 books like Islam in North America:Loving Our Muslim Neighbors by Micah Fries and Keith Whitfield and The Dignity Revolution by Daniel Darling, each authored by evangelical thought leaders who are active in the lives of college students.

FULL ARTICLE FROM SOJOURNERS MAGAZINE

How Muslims Became The Enemy

<> on June 26, 2018 in Washington, DC.The new Islamophobia looks like the old McCarthyism.

These days, our global political alliances seem to shift with remarkable rapidity, as if we were actually living in George Orwell’s 1984. Are we at war this month with Oceania? Or is it Eastasia? In that novel, the Party is able to erase history, sending old newspaper articles down the Ministry of Truth’s “memory hole” and so ensuring that, in the public mind, the enemy of the moment was always the enemy. Today, there is one constant, though. The Trump administration has made Muslims our enemy of the first order and, in its Islamophobia, is reinforced by an ugly resurgence of fascism in Germany, Italy, Hungary, and other European countries.

It’s hard today even to imagine that, in the late 1980s, the rightwing Christian Voice Magazine published a “candidate’s biblical scoreboard,” urging its readers (and potential voters) to rate their politicians by how “biblically” they cast their ballots in Congress. One key measure of this: Did that legislator support the anti-Communist Muslim jihadis in Afghanistan, a cause warmly supported by evangelist Pat Robertson in his 1988 presidential campaign? Now, attempting to appeal to twenty-first-century evangelicals, President Trump has announced that “Islam hates us.”

 

The kaleidoscope of geopolitics and Islamophobia is now spinning so fast that it should make our heads spin, too. At times, it seems as if Donald Trump is the anti-Ronald Reagan of the twenty-first century, idolizing former KGB operative Vladimir Putin, but seeing former U.S. allies in the Muslim world like Pakistan as purveyors of “nothing but lies and deceit” ― until, that is, with bewildering rapidity, he suddenly gives us the “good” (that is, oil-rich) Muslims again, willingly performing a sword dance with the Saudi royals, seemingly entirely comfortable with the scimitar of the Saracen.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

American Kids Are Learning Islamophobia From Their Textbooks

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Donald Trump’s travel ban, recently upheld by the Supreme Court, is wreaking havoc on Muslim families, forcing some Americans to leave the United States for countries in the midst of devastating wars in order to reunite with loved ones. The resilience ― and, among some Americans, popularity ― of the travel ban is emblematic of how enshrined Islamophobia has become in American culture. Even our highest court of justice has endorsed a discriminatory law rooted in misconceptions about the instability, oppression and violence of the Middle East and Islamic faith.

While many people blame these persistent misconceptions on mass-media depictions of Arabs and Muslims, that’s not where they begin. We need to examine the pervasiveness of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim information in the American education system ― and, in particular, in textbooks.

Most Americans’ exposure to the Middle East and Islam starts with what they learn in high school history class. World history textbooks in the United States only allocate around 3 percent of space to discussions of these topics. And the story those textbooks tell in that limited space is a disturbing one. My research on world history textbooks used across the country finds that sections about Islam and the Middle East advance a “rise and fall” narrative. That story goes like this: In the medieval period, the Middle East was a flourishing and advanced civilization, but due to an inability to modernize, the region has subsequently declined into chaos, oppression and violence. This sensationalized version of history reduces the region to a bygone society and fails to account for the vibrant and dynamic contemporary reality of the Middle East.