Reza Aslan Argues: There Is No Divide Between Islam and American Culture

US-POLITICS-TRUMP-PROTESTReligion comes in countless forms, depending either on the soil from which that religion arose or the soil in which it was planted. What we call Christianity in America is not what Guatemalans call Christianity. It’s not what Iraqis call Christianity. What we call Islam in the United States is vastly different from Islam in Iran or Saudi Arabia or Nigeria or Indonesia.

The notion that religion clashes with a culture is a misunderstanding of what religion is, but, more specifically, the idea that Islam clashes with American culture is just foolishness, naiveté, and lies. There is no clash between Islam and American culture. In fact, there is no clash between any religion and any culture because religions are inextricably linked to culture.

Think of it this way: Culture is like a vessel, and religion is like water — it simply takes the shape of whatever vessel you pour it into. And this is why the prosperity gospel — the notion that what Jesus really wants for you is to drive a Bentley — can exist in the United States, and why the liberation gospel — the notion that Jesus was a warrior who fought oppression and poverty — exists in El Salvador. Both versions of Christianity are equally valid. They’re just dependent on the culture of the community to which they belong.

When you look at Islam in the United States what you see is an overwhelmingly moderate version of Islam, but more interestingly what you see is a highly individualistic form of the religion. Islam is a religion that often advantages the community over the individual, but in the United States, where the culture is rooted in radical individualism, you see a radically individualistic Islam forming. An Islam that, in America, is not beholden to traditions or to the consensus of Muslim scholars and Islamic trains of thought that came before — it is an Islam that is innovative. You have a version of Islam that is vibrantly feminist. You have a version of Islam that promotes gay and lesbian spirituality. You have versions of Islam that are quite pluralistic and democratic. And in every one of these cases, what you see is a religion that has married itself fully into culture.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE

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One Photographer’s Series Will Capture The Diversity Of Muslims Across All 50 U.S. States

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Carlos Khalil Guzman is on a mission: the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based photographer has made it his goal to dispel the stereotypes of the Muslim community in America, one state at a time.

By photographing subjects from each state across the country who identify as Muslim, Guzman is showing firsthand how vastly diverse the community is through his photo series, Muslims of America.

“As a photographer, I know that art has been used throughout history as a tool to fight oppression in various social movements, such as the fight to end apartheid in South Africa, to the Palestinian struggle to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine, to Black Lives Matter,” he told A Plus.

“With the rise of Islamophobia in the States and abroad, with the latest terrorist attack committed against 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen, where she was abducted and beaten to death for being Muslim, I felt the need to be proactive and use my craft to reclaim our Muslim narrative,” Guzman continued, “one that continues to be distorted by the mainstream media.”

Each subject — which are primarily women due to the targeted prejudice against them, and includes Syrian refugees and a Native American Muslim, who protested the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock — chooses their favorite verse of the Quran, which helps them cope with the present-day hate against Muslims.

The diversity among the Muslims he’s photographed is not just in the way they look but in the cultural descent they represent, which includes Palestinian, Filipino, Ecuadorian, Somali, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Moroccan, Lebanese, and African-American Muslims.

FULL ARTICLE FROM A PLUS

Being a Muslim under Trump is risky. That’s why many are hiding their identity

3500Two weeks after Donald Trump was elected president, Nora decided to remove her headscarf – for good. Weighing on the mind of the 23-year-old were recent assaults against conspicuous Muslims like herself. State suspicion and private violence would only get worse under Trump, she feared. So she hid part of her identity from the world.

Many Muslim men and women, like Nora, choose to conceal their Muslim identity – or express it in a way that is less “threatening” to others. Some take things one step further: they undertake the extreme measure of erasing their Muslim identity altogether by passing as non-Muslim in public.

While this phenomenon predates Trump, he has certainly intensified it. Acting Muslim, today, is especially dangerous.

This is illustrated by the scores of Muslim women “afraid to wear the headscarf” after Trump claimed the presidency, men shaving their beards to diminish detection that they are in fact Muslims, job-seekers changing their Muslim names on résumés to increase the prospect of a job interview, and the known and unknown stories of Muslims passing as non-Muslims at school, work, or the public sphere at large.

This process is also prevalent in Europe, where Islamophobia is more pronounced than it is in the US and fully enshrined into law. The European Union recently broadened France’s 2004 “headscarf ban”, which prohibits Muslim women from wearing the hijab in public schools, to restrict it within the workplace in EU member states.

These policies, combined with the rise of Islamophobic populism throughout the continent, have had a collateral effect on Muslims men and women – pushing many to remove conspicuous markers of religious identity in the public sphere in order to dodge punitive action from the state or bigots on the street.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN 

Anti-Muslim, Anti-Refugee Rhetoric Poses a Big Threat to Our Communities

58cc424b2c00003b00fef053By Mohamed Abdulkadir Ali

Wednesday saw a significant blow to the Trump administration’s attempts to institute a Muslim ban. A Federal Judge in Hawaii struck down a revised travel ban, saying it was driven by “significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus” as evidenced by comments made by the administration and Trump himself. As a Somali-American living and working in a large refugee community, this animus has long been apparent and has deeply affected me and those in my community.

Since the launch of his presidential campaign two years ago, Donald Trump seemed to have a particularly virulent animus toward us Somalis. In stops in Minneapolis, and Lewiston, all home to large Somali refugee populations, he referred to Somalis as a “disaster” to the communities they moved to, as a dangerous threat to their neighbors, and as potential terrorists. This was underscored by repeated calls to prevent Muslims from entering the country, warnings of the dangers of Muslim refugees, and denunciations of Islam as an enemy of America.  Many in our community called it hate.

Why does he hate us” was an often repeated question.

When the executive order was announced in January, it was clear to many of us that its creation was driven by this hatred.  Statements of securing our nation and preventing a terrorist threat, many of them baseless, could not cloak that this order was an amalgamation of Trump’s unique brand of cheap jingoism, xenophobia, racism, and Islamophobia.  We were being targeted, because of our nationality, of the color of our skin, and of our religion. When the second version of the order was released, despite attempts to “water down” language targeting Muslims, it could not sterilize the intent. Two years of anti-Muslim speeches and rhetoric are well documented and videos of him railing against refugees and Muslims can be easily found on Youtube.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

 

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Muslim Americans Are United by Trump—and Divided by Race

lead_960Facing increasing hostility from the administration, the religious community also has to cope with its own internal tensions.

When weary Muslims gathered in Toronto in December for an annual retreat, marking the end of a tumultuous U.S. election year, they probably didn’t expect the event to turn into a referendum on racial tensions within the American Muslim community. But it did.

One session was led by Hamza Yusuf, a well respected white scholar who co-founded Zaytuna College, which claims to be America’s first Muslim liberal-arts college. At the end, he was asked whether Muslims should work with groups like Black Lives Matter. “The United States is probably, in terms of its laws, one of the least racist societies in the world,” he replied. “We have between 15,000 and 18,000 homicides per year. Fifty percent are black-on-black crime, literally. … There are twice as many whites that have been shot by police, but nobody ever shows those videos.”

He went on. “It’s the assumption that the police are racist. It’s not always the case,” he said. “Any police now that shoots a black is immediately considered a racist.”

The backlash on social media was swift and immense. “For black Muslims, hearing this from somebody we’ve all come to love and trust—it was a cold slap in the face,” said Ubaydullah Evans, the executive director of the American Learning Institute for Muslims, who is black. He said he saw Yusuf’s comments as a way of perpetuating myths about “black pathology” and blaming African Americans for violence. Yusuf’s statements were indeed somewhat misleading: While a greater number of white people have been shot by the police compared to black people, that statistic doesn’t account for population size. When that adjustment is made, historical data shows that black people are more likely to be shot by police than white people.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ATLANTIC 

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

Thanks, Trump, for Making Americans Heart Muslims

49576948-cachedDonald Trump has done something truly amazing: He has inspired thousands and thousands of Americans to stand up for Muslims in opposition to his “Muslim ban.” It’s such an astounding development that I’m almost happy Trump won!

I’ll be blunt: I never expected to see so many of my fellow Americans take to the streets in over 30 cities from New York to Los Angeles to even Omaha, Nebraska, to make it clear that they not only opposed Trump’s “Muslim ban” but were standing shoulder to shoulder with Muslims. As a Muslim American, I found it hard not to get emotional seeing this outpouring of support for our community.

It was especially awe-inspiring to see so many protesters expressing solidarity with our community by holding up signs that read, “We are all Muslims now.” In fact, The Daily Show’s “Muslim correspondent,” Hassan Minhaj, noted on the show recently the “beautiful irony” at play given Trump’s fear of the spread of Islam. Minhaj then joked, “Well congratulations, Mr. President, mission accomplished,” as a protest sign that read “We are all Muslims now” appeared on the screen.

And this Sunday in New York City we may very well see the biggest gathering of all of people coming out to stand with Muslims. That’s when the “I am a Muslim too” rally will be held in Times Square organized by Russell Simmons, Imam Shamsi Ali, and Rabbi Marc Schneier.

Simmons explained via email, “This rally is meant to focus on this attack on our Muslim brothers and sisters because an attack on them is an attack on all of us.” He added, “We can never truly be free until all of us are free.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE DAILY BEAST