How Mary can be a bridge between Christians and Muslims

lewis-westwood-flood-1436858-unsplash.jpgHe said, ‘I am but a messenger from your Lord, [come] to announce to you the gift of a pure son.’ She said, ‘How can I have a son when no man has touched me? I have not been unchaste.’

—Qur’an, Sura 19:19-20

It might surprise some Christians to learn that the excerpt from the Annunciation narrative above comes not from the Gospel of Luke but the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam. In fact, the Qur’an contains not one but two Annunciation stories. (The other is in Sura 3.) Mary, the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur’an, has an entire chapter named after her (Sura 19, “Maryam”) and is honored by Muslims as the Virgin Mother of Jesus.

In an era when Islamophobia is on the rise, it seems especially important for Catholic Christians to know that in addition to sharing our belief in the one God, Muslims also share a reverence for Mary. While contrasting ideas about Jesus have long been a dividing line between Christianity and Islam (Christians call him the Son of God, while Muslims call him a prophet), his mother Mary can more easily be seen as an interreligious bridge.

This is exactly how she is viewed in the Second Vatican Council’s document on the relationship between the Catholic Church and non-Christians, “Nostra Aetate,” which explicitly mentions Mary as a point of agreement between Catholics and Muslims: “[Muslims] also honor Mary, [Jesus’] Virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM AMERICAN MAGAZINE 

Anti-Muslim prejudice puts secular societies in a bind

http___com.ft.imagepublish.upp-prod-eu.s3.amazonawsThe Easter bombings in Sri Lanka were a stark reminder that we live in a world defined increasingly by ethnic and religious hatred. The terrorists who slaughtered at least 250 innocent people in churches and luxury hotels were deliberately targeting Christians. Whether or not the local jihadi group explicitly wished to replace the caliphate lost by Isis, there is no doubt that this was an attack on Judeo-Christian values. Secular governments are often irritated and bewildered by the resurfacing of old prejudices. But they must grapple with them. According to the charity Open Doors, 245m Christians worldwide face persecution. In India, the ultranationalist Hindu message of Narendra Modi’s government suggests that both Muslims and Christians are, at best, second-class citizens. In the UK, nine MPs resigned from the Labour party this year partly over concerns at the growing tide of anti-Semitism in its ranks. The Conservative party ran a London mayoral campaign in 2016 with unpleasant overtones against the Labour candidate Sadiq Khan, who is Muslim.

The first time a moderate, educated Muslim woman told me about the hatred she felt from fellow bus passengers, I was shocked. Since then, I’ve heard many similar stories. Ugly prejudice is on the rise. The UK is also struggling with growing sectarianism, illustrated by religiously motivated murders such as that of Asad Shah, an Ahmadi Muslim shopkeeper in Glasgow, by a Sunni Muslim taxi driver. Hand-wringing will not solve this. But I am troubled by the recent drive to persuade the British government to introduce a legally binding definition of “Islamophobia”.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE FINANCIAL TIMES 

After Christchurch, how to beat Islamophobia and hate

19694ac8dae7c878b957cfa3ec3f2ada9b41f314Racists and bigots believe that diverse societies don’t work. Frustrated that their howling at the moon wasn’t enough, they’re now picking up weapons in an attempt to prove themselves right. We can’t keep expressing shock and then moving on until the next outrage. We watched in astonished horror last year when a Nazi entered a US synagogue and shot dead 11 worshippers. And yet after the initial alarm, the world carried on like before.

These haters are destabilising our societies and concerted action needs to be taken before things get even worse.

To be clear, this isn’t just about western societies. Many Muslims see Christchurch as a small part of a global rising tide of Islamophobia perpetrated by insecure majorities. Let’s take a whistle-stop world tour from east to west.

To be clear, this isn’t just about western societies. Many Muslims see Christchurch as a small part of a global rising tide of Islamophobia perpetrated by insecure majorities.

In Myanmar, decades of hate speech and persecution culminated in 2017 with over 700,000 predominantly Muslim Rohingya having to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh after a vicious campaign of ethnic cleansing. The implicated military in Myanmar has been given plenty of diplomatic cover by China, whose authorities are currently holding up to 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups  in euphemistically titled “transformation-through-education” camps in Xinjiang. It’s one of the stories of our age, subjugation on an epic scale.

India’s historic multi-faith character has taken a hit under the leadership of Narendra Modi, a man who was chief minister during the 2002 Gujarat pogrom, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Muslims. His brand of Hindu nationalism has led to divisiveness rather than unity, leading to growing phenomena such as “cow-related violence”.

Many politicians across Europe have been gaining ground by peddling anti-Muslim messages. France’s Marine Le Pen compared Muslims spilling onto pavements from packed mosques after Friday prayers to Nazi occupiers. A key message of the Brexit campaign was the “threat” of Turkey joining the EU. Arch-Brexiteer Nigel Farage once accused British Muslims of having “split loyalties”.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL WEBSITE 

The baffling argument that has become mainstream under Trump: ‘Islam is not a religion’

EDTLP3CHJII6TFFL2LO2HQG7KIAnxiety and fear were palpable among American Muslims last week after the mass slaughter in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand: Would a violent attacker enter their mosque, too? But even in their moment of vulnerability, one lawmaker insisted Muslims were the “real cause of bloodshed.” Fraser Anning, a senator in Australia, said the core problem was Islam.

“The entire religion of Islam is simply the violent ideology of a 6th-century despot masquerading as a religious leader. … The truth is that Islam is not like any other faith. … It is the religious equivalent of fascism,” he said. “And just because the followers of this savage belief were not the killers in this instance does not make them blameless.”

For many Americans, Anning’s statement may seem like an outlier — an extreme right-wing sentiment that does not reflect mainstream politics. But it taps into something strategic and concerted, the idea that “Islam is not a religion.” Islam, this idea suggests, is instead a dangerous political ideology, and therefore Muslims have no right to respect, dignity or First Amendment protection for religious liberty.

The argument has been circulating for some time, but it has gained ground in recent years, at least partly because the voices making the argument have a prominent platform in the Trump administration. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn said “Islam is a political ideology” that “hides behind the notion of it being a religion.” Former White House aide Sebastian Gorka and former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon have also questioned Islam’s status as a religion. Fred Fleitz, who in 2018 was named chief of staff for President Trump’s National Security Council, has said in the past
that American Muslims are susceptible to a “radical worldview that wants to destroy modern society, create a global caliphate and impose sharia law on everyone on Earth.”

I wanted to kill Muslims, too. But then I saw the light.

cbb0caf2-1a98-46f1-8dab-02ce26762196-Richard_MacKinney_1When news broke about the attacks at mosques in New Zealand, it felt horribly familiar to me. That’s because several years ago, I aspired to bomb a mosque, and I came close to doing it.

I’m a white American. I grew up in the rust belt, attended church camp, joined the Marine Corp after high school, and ultimately retired from the Army. I fought around the globe, including in the Middle East and Somalia. I decided my enemy was Islam. I’m proud of my service, but I’m not proud of everything I did. There comes a time when you’ve seen and done too much to let it go. After my final deployment, it seemed like vodka and my hatred for Muslims were what was keeping me alive.

So I devised a plan: Build a homemade bomb and set it off outside the Islamic center in my hometown of Muncie. In my hate-fueled mind, this was the final thing I would do for my country. I knew I would face the death penalty, but I didn’t care.

FULL ARTICLE FROM INDY STAR

Group highlights civil rights abuses against Muslims

An elementary school student who received threatening notes in her classroom. A congressional candidate who dealt with anti-Islam political flyers during her campaign. And a mother who was subjected to an invasive airport search.

Those and many other cases from 2018 are highlighted in a new report released Wednesday by the Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the state’s largest Islamic advocacy organization.

The goal of the report is to educate the public about the abuses local Muslims are facing while also encouraging people to step forward if they’re dealing with similar issues, said Barbara Dougan, the group’s civil rights director.

“The perpetrators and haters are emboldened,” she said. “The level of aggression toward women is especially troubling. Muslim women who wear hijabs are shouldering the greatest burden of the physical violence and harassment.”

Among the prominent cases highlighted was one involving a fifth-grader at Hemenway Elementary School in Framingham who received two notes in her classroom storage bin — one calling her a terrorist and the other threatening her with death. The incident prompted an outpouring of support from across the country as some 500 people sent letters of encouragement to the young student as part of a campaign promoted by the council.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FOX NEWS

America’s Islamophobia Is Forged at the Pulpit

gettyimages-97549379-1The first time I remember hearing Islam equated with terrorism from the pulpit, I was a 17-year-old junior at Heritage Christian School in Indianapolis, where my mom was—still is, in fact—an elementary teacher. It was 1998, long before Islamophobia seized the Western mainstream. My family attended a small, nondenominational evangelical church in the suburb of Carmel, where my dad was the music pastor.

“A good Muslim,” our head pastor, Marcus Warner, intoned that Sunday morning, “should want to kill Christians and Jews.” He insisted that this was the only conclusion possible from a serious reading of the Quran. As a doubting young evangelical who would later become an agnostic, this extreme statement made me uncomfortable even then. Today, in the wake of the shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, it should be considered every bit as offensive as the worst anti-Semitic tropes .

But a harsh double standard has been in effect, as the brouhaha over the comments by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) proved. The United States recognizes anti-Semitism for the poison it is, and polices—at least on the left—even accidental falling into its tropes. But the religiously inspired Islamophobia I grew up with continues to shape Washington’s foreign policy—and Islamophobic statements too often pass without criticism in the public sphere.

To be sure, the statements about Israel by Omar, one of the first two Muslim women ever elected to U.S. Congress, did conjure up anti-Semitic tropes. In a recent op-ed in the Washington Post, she chose her words more carefully, avoiding the rhetoric of “allegiance” that rightly caused many to criticize her language. Some of that criticism, however, was not only made in bad faith—it was shaped by the very Islamophobia that darkly mirrors anti-Semitism.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FOREIGN POLICY