The antigovernment protests that erupted in Iran in the last days of 2017 showed that millions of Iranians are now disillusioned with the Islamic Republic. Moreover, there are signs that quite a few Iranians are now also disenchanted with Islam itself. Often silently and secretly, they are abandoning their faith. Some opt for other faiths, often Christianity.
This trend is being observed and reported, with understandable excitement, by Christian news sites. “Despite Regular Targeting and Imprisonment, Christianity in Iran Is Spreading,” the Iranian Christian news agency Mohabat News reported recently. The Christian Broadcasting Network, which transmits globally from Virginia, even declared, “Christianity is growing faster in the Islamic Republic of Iran than in any other country in the world.”
While a 2015 study by two researchers, Duane Alexander Miller of St. Mary’s University in San Antonio and Patrick Johnstone of WEC International in Singapore, estimated Iranian converts to Christianity from Islam from 1960 to 2010 at 100,000, it is hard to know the exact number. But the trend seems strong enough to worry Iran’s religious establishment — and make it turn to a solution it knows well: oppression.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has reported that since 2010 more than 600 Christians in Iran have been arbitrarily detained. Iranian authorities have also raided services, threatened church members and imprisoned Christians, particularly evangelical Christian converts.
Well, in reality Muslims have been in America and contributing to it even before the nation was formed, since approximately 15 percent of the slaves from Africa were Muslim.
But now Muslim Americans are “here” in a whole new way as a record number won their elections last Tuesday. And ironically many of these candidates were inspired to run in response to the most openly anti-Muslim president our nation has ever seen, Donald Trump.
This “Muslim wave” was led by the first Muslim American women ever elected to Congress in our nation’s history: Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar and Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib.
She Might Become the First Muslim-American Woman in Congress
Omar’s story is especially inspiring given that Trump would have banned her from the country if he was in office when she was trying to immigrate here because she’s from Somalia, one of the nations listed in Trump’s Muslim ban. Now Trump will have to deal with her as a new Democratic member of Congress.
Other big winners among Muslim candidates included Keith Ellison, who became the first Muslim ever to win statewide office with his victory as Minnesota’s attorney general. In North Carolina, we saw the first Muslim American ever elected to the state Senate with the victory of 32-year-old lawyer, Mujtaba Mohammed, who is Indian-American. And there were also numerous other Muslim Americans winning elections in local races, including five Muslim American women who were elected in California’s Bay Area, from City Council to Board of Education. As the Council on American Islamic Relations noted, all told a record 55 Muslims won election last week from federal to local offices.
Muslims who lost relatives in attacks, stress the difference between their faith and the fighters.
Spaniards like Mohamed Azahaf remember the day, on March 11, 2004, that armed attacks came to Europe. That morning, during Madrid’s rush hour, 10 bombs ripped through four commuter trains. The simultaneous, coordinated blasts killed more than 190 people and wounded some 2,000 more.
Azahaf was employed as a social worker for the Madrid City Hall and had been called to counsel and provide assistance to families who were gathering to learn the fate of their loved ones.
Since then, attackers have killed civilians in London, Paris, Brussels, Manchester, Toulouse, Nice, Barcelona and Berlin. People have been assassinated in offices, shot in restaurants, bombed in nightclubs and run over on pedestrian thoroughfares. All of the attacks were committed in the name of Islam and have led to heightened racial and religious discrimination against European Muslims.
Films and television programmes are powerful mediums that are often taken for granted. They are major sources of entertainment and escapism, as well as often offering educational commentary on society, informing us about ideas and cultures we aren’t familiar with. We are often excited to watch the latest blockbuster summer releases, but if you are Muslim, that excitement also comes with a dose of apprehension.
Muslims see time and time again how carelessly or intentionally film and television makers bandy around stereotypes about Muslim communities. The ways in which Muslims are represented in films and in television are shocking. And this is why we need the Riz Test.
The Riz Test is defined by five criteria: If the film stars at least one character who is identifiably Muslim (by ethnicity, language or clothing) – is the character…
1. Talking about, the victim of, or the perpetrator of Islamist terrorism?
2. Presented as irrationally angry?
3. Presented as superstitious, culturally backwards or anti-modern?
4. Presented as a threat to a Western way of life?
5. If the character is male, is he presented as misogynistic? Or if female, is she presented as oppressed by her male counterparts? If the answer for any of the above is yes, then the film/show fails the test. Simple.
It should be easy for most films to pass, right? Wrong.
When people ask Todd Green why Muslims don’t condemn terrorism — and they do ask, often — he has a quick response: “Have you ever Googled ‘Muslims condemning terrorism’?”
One of the top search results is MuslimsCondemn.com, an online database created almost two years ago by a 19-year-old college student. “You could spend all day on that site reading Muslims’ condemnations,” Green said.
The site lists statements from organizations like the Muslim Public Affairs Council and Islamic Society of North America; religious leaders like Imam Omar Suleiman and Imam Suhaib Webb; and political leaders and civil activists like London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Linda Sarour, former executive director of the Arab American Association of New York.
Fatwas have been declared, campaigns have been launched, memorials and prayer vigils have been held — all in the name of standing up against extremism.
But somehow, Green says, some people seem to have missed out on how vocally most Muslims stand against terrorism, extremism and violence. In his new book “Presumed Guilty: Why We Shouldn’t Ask Muslims to Condemn Terrorism,” the associate professor of religion at Iowa’s Luther College cautions fellow non-Muslim Americans against what he calls not only a “troubling and unethical” double standard, but also “a form of racist scapegoating.”
A disclaimer is in place before I proceed to predict the future of millions of Muslims from various cultures and nationalities who adhere to Islamic tradition. I cannot claim to be comprehensive in my assessment, since I am dealing with different manifestations of religiosity among Muslims. My field work in various Muslim cultures warns me against overgeneralizations that can take away the peculiarities of different peoples that make up the Umma — community.
I am both an “insider” and an “outsider” to the tradition and to the community. As an insider, I face specific challenges in my assessment because of an inclination to look at my inherited perspectives and allegiances uncritically. The major challenge to me is to step outside my own community in ways that allow me to explore normative Islamic tradition and evaluate its ability to expand its hermeneutical horizons. How supple is the retrieval and interpretations that are sometimes implicit and at other times explicit in the scriptural sources for application in the modern age? How much of the tradition is relevant to the contexts in which the community finds itself? As an “outsider” academician, I am able to transcend my ties with the Muslim religious establishment and offer honest assessment of the future of the tradition and the community.