When Muslims come to the Jewish-Christian table

study-862994_1280-771x514(RNS) — I spent the 16th anniversary of 9/11 at the 16th annual meeting of the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations, held under the joint auspices of the Union and Jewish theological seminaries in New York City. Appropriately, the central question before the group was how best to expand long-standing Jewish-Christian interfaith encounters in America to include Muslims.

My assignment was to discuss the use of “Judeo-Christian” language to reinforce the idea of a clash of civilizations. As in when Tony Perkins said on the Family Research Council’s “Washington Watch” in 2014, “We are a nation that was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, that’s the foundation of our nation, not Islam, but the Judeo-Christian God.”

Or when, last year, retired Air Force Col. Tom Snodgrass, a contributor to a website called Right Side News, referred to “the overt and covert war being conducted by the political forces of Islam in order to subjugate the Judeo-Christian religions and their societies.”

A fellow panelist was Columbia’s distinguished Middle East historian Richard Bulliet, who spoke about his “Islamo-Christian” conception, first published in 2004 as “The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization.” Bulliet’s idea is that theologically, doctrinally, and historically, Islam and Christianity have far more in common than most adherents of either faith tradition realize.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGIOUS NEWS SERVICE 

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A Muslim landowner in the Philippines took in Christians to protect them from Islamist extremists

la-1502932681-rdvb95bmr2-snap-imageWhen the first artillery fire rang out one afternoon in May, Norodin Lucman thought of the four workers repairing a cellphone tower on his sprawling property. He sent one of his daughters to tell the men to come in.

Plumes of smoke spiraled up from the city below. But Marawi, home to 200,000 people, had survived armed conflict before, and Lucman assumed this one would end in a few days and his guests would go home.

Soon, though, more people began arriving at his door. Militants were torching homes and schools, freeing prisoners, taking hostages and waving Islamic State flags.

The militants had stopped another group of cell tower workers and demanded that they recite the Shahada, a Muslim proclamation of faith. Marawi is predominantly Muslim. But the men were Christians from nearby cities. They failed the test.

When one tried to escape on his motorbike, the militants shot him dead. Amid the chaos, the nine others managed to flee to Lucman’s house.

The Philippine government sent helicopter gunships and tanks to root out the insurgents, who were being funded by Islamic State and soon saw their ranks swell as fighters arrived from Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Chechnya.

The fighting, which continues today, has reduced the city to its foundations, evoking Iraq’s Mosul or Syria’s Aleppo.

But Lucman didn’t know any of that was coming as his house became a refuge.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE LA TIMES 

 

I Am Not Your Muslim

muslimIf Islam were a skin color, there would be a sliding scale along which you could determine just how Muslim you are. On the extremely Muslim end, there would be classic identifiers — hijab or niqab for women, a beard and skullcap for men. On the light Muslim end, there would be those whose identity can only be determined because of a name or provenance, those who usually “pass” in public and are not immediately identifiable. Let’s call this the Identity Matrix.

In order to predict how likely it is that a Muslim will be discriminated against, another measurement needs to be overlaid over visibility — The Privilege Scale. Jobs, wealth, education and other markers of status interplay with the degree of perceived Muslimness that can confer or deny immunity. This is pretty much how identifiers are leavened with social status (or lack thereof) across minority groups in most parts of the world.

Certain attributes and accoutrements offer some Muslims a “pass.” Sara Yasin, a Palestinian American journalist, remarked on how comparatively easy her passage through life in the United States is due to her pale skin, hazel eyes and neutral first name. A pass almost always depends on the ease with which an individual can blend into the affluent dominant culture. It sounds dramatic, and it is.

The ways Muslims have been fingered, pathologized and persecuted mean that the Muslim identity is being calibrated and re-calibrated in order to settle upon one dominant narrative. During the presidential election, Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims,” immediately casting suspicion upon any Muslim as a potential threat. He also suggested that Ghazala Khan, the Gold Star parent who appeared alongside her husband to support Hillary Clinton, was “not allowed to speak,” because she was Muslim.

These broad strokes are not only the preserve of the political right. Liberals such as Bill Maher have been at it for years. On terrorism, Maher suggested that, “if Muslim men could get laid more, we wouldn’t have this problem.”

This drive to otherize and dehumanize Muslims is grotesque, and the speed and uncoordinated efficiency of it seems almost like a natural phenomenon. But it isn’t. It’s a confluence of unnatural, dynamic and calculated narrow interests that dictate who gets to be “mainstream.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM NPR 

Faith Perspectives: Dispelling myths about American Muslims

542ef5f73eefa.imageI have been in America for the last 37 years.

Initially when people learned I’m Muslim it would trigger curiosity about Islam and eastern cultures. Sometimes I would encounter misinformation in the mainstream media, but mostly Muslims in America were under the radar.

Since 9/11, I’ve found more interest in learning about Islam and at the same time seen spike in misinformation and hate groups. Myths are behind the misunderstanding. I’d like to tackle a few of those here:

Myth: Muslims are relatively newcomers in America. • Historians trace first Muslims in America towards the end of 15th century. African-American Muslims, who have been here for centuries, make about quarter of the total U.S. Muslim population. A recent estimate in 2016 placed the nation’s Muslim population at over 3.3 million.

Most of the American Muslims who immigrated in last century probably came from
South Asia, Middle East, and Africa in 1960s, when The Hart-Celler Act of 1965 was enacted. This law changed the immigration policies from being nation-based formula to one that lifted restrictions against immigrants from Asia and Africa. It gave priority for relatives of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.566b29e21fd78.image

It also gave preference to professionals and other skilled workers. Most of Muslims came here for the same reason that brought the majority of non-Muslim Americans: opportunity.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ST LOUIS POST DISPATCH 

National ‘Meet a Muslim Day’ aimed at building acceptance

sjm-meetmuslim-0312-01SAN JOSE — With signs that read “Ask me anything” and “Meet a Muslim,” dozens of young Muslim men and boys in the Bay Area and beyond stood in public places Saturday in hopes of combating Islamophobia simply by talking with people.

The first “Meet a Muslim Day” was held in at least 50 cities and 120 locations nationwide. In the Bay Area, Muslims participated in San Jose, Antioch, Mountain View, San Francisco, Pleasanton, Berkeley and  Pleasant Hill. The event was organized by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association USA, a Maryland-based group that works with an estimated 5,000 Muslim boys and men spread across 70 chapters nationwide.

It was something Iftikhar Khan had never done in his life. The 38-year-old San Jose resident brought his son, Rizwan, 10, and neighbor, Raees Qadir,14. The trio stood on Paseo de San Antonio near the Fairmont Hotel downtown.

“A large percentage of America has never met a Muslim before. And the perception of Muslims is that we’re violent and dangerous — and people are afraid of us,” Iftikhar Khan said. “It’s not surprising, to be honest, that people have that perception because there is a lot of violence in the world, and a lot of it is perpetuated by Muslims. But the vast, vast majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world are peaceful. Our religion means peace. Literally, the word Islam means peace.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM MERCURY NEWS

I’m So Tired

cropped-capa-blogNote:  This is from a blog  I just discovered challenging stereotypes about Muslims and other minorities.    Good place to visit often. 

“What do you think of ISIS?” Smile. Be calm. Be gentle. “Don’t Muslims believe you’re supposed to kill Christians and Jews?” They don’t mean any harm. They don’t know any better. “Do you shower with that on?” Laugh. Take it in stride. “Does your husband make you wear it?” It’s ok. It’s just a question. “I’m not islamophobic. After all, I’m friends with you!” Smile, laugh. Be quiet. You have to give a good impression. You’re the token Muslim, whether you like it or not. These are my thoughts when my dignity is taken away.

It’s so tiring to always be representing 1.6 billion people from all over the world. As soon as people find out I’m Muslim, which generally is pretty quickly because I wear the hijab, they think they have the right to ask me invasive questions. Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about friends who ask sincere, curious questions hoping to learn more about me and my faith. I’m talking about random strangers who interrupt my meal in a restaurant to demand information in an accusatory tone. There is a huge difference between the two.

A good example of this is my friend K. She and I often have conversations about faith and culture. She asks a million questions, and they’re all sincere and respectful. She often reminds me that if I don’t feel comfortable answering, that’s ok. THAT is actually wonderful. She wants to understand me. I love answering her questions.

On the flip side, there’s an incident that happened yesterday. I went to a local gyro joint for a nice Arab meal. The cashier, who I later found out was the owner, asked me why I was wearing a headscarf. I told him I was Muslim. He said he was an Egyptian Christian. I said “Assalaamu alaikum,” and he said “wa alaikum salaam.” We exchanged smiles. I took my food and found a seat. I dug in. A few moments later he pulled a chair up to mine and my husband’s table. He started by asking me why I converted, and I gave him the condensed version of the story. He proceeded to tell me I didn’t understand Christian theology, I didn’t know God and couldn’t know Him or love Him. He told me that ISIS were Muslims, the Quran teaches violence, and Islam is a cult. I patiently gave him simple but logical refutations to his horrible comments. He went on and, during our entire meal.  My husband, I should add, stood up for me and told him off. But I knew I couldn’t say anything.

FULL BLOG FROM GENUINEGEMSWRITING 

Jewish, Muslim volunteers using ‘Mitzvah Day’ to do good deeds, give Christians a Christmas break

mitzvah_day_in_metro_detroit_0_51742004_ver1-0_640_480DETROIT (WXYZ) – While many Christians will celebrate Christmas with church, presents and a family dinner there are thousands of people in the metro Detroit area that will get the day off, but have little to celebrate.

It’s why for several decades people of the Jewish faith have taken advantage of the day to step up volunteer efforts during what’s now called “Mitzvah Day.” They have also joined together with those of Muslim faith to give back.

“It’s a day we’re proud of,” said David Kurzmann, a member of the Jewish Community Relations Council and AJC. “It’s a day that, for decades now, has become a family tradition.”

Nearly 1,000 Jewish and Muslim volunteers spread themselves across Detroit on Christmas to take part in ‘mitzvahs’ — good deeds — helping Detroit area social service agencies in 51 different communities.

“We can enable the Christian employees here to take some time to be with their families and take the place of some regular volunteers from the Christian community that would regularly be here,” said Kurzmann.

FULL ARTICLE FROM WXYZ NEWS