The Female Quran Experts Fighting Radical Islam in Morocco

lead_960“The women scholars here are even more important than men.”

Morocco is in a region vulnerable to terrorist recruitment, but it hasn’t had a significant attack on its own soil since 2011, when terrorists bombed a Marrakesh café. Yet ethnic Moroccans have been at the center of ISIS attacks in Europe. The only alleged survivor of the 2015 Paris rampage is a Frenchman of Moroccan origin; his trial began last week. The men behind the Brussels airport and tram bombings that happened months later were also ethnic Moroccans. The suspected driver of the van that mowed down shoppers in Barcelona was Moroccan-born.

Some 1,600 Moroccans are thought to have joined extremist groups, mainly ISIS, since 2012, with some 300 still fighting with ISIS, according to Moroccan Interior Ministry figures. Although these figures are low compared to, say, Tunisia’s—some 7,000 Tunisians joined the group over the same period—the death toll in Europe has brought into focus the need for prevention and Morocco has come to play an outsized role in the debate over how, exactly, young people can be stopped from embracing radical Islam.

It’s one of many countries around the world experimenting with various “countering violent extremism” (CVE) or de-radicalization programs. As Maddy Crowell noted in The Atlantic, “Germany, Britain, and Belgium have developed programs that focus on further integrating radicals into their community. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, focuses on finding jobs and wives for recruited jihadists.” But programs that reach people once they’ve already been radicalized might come too late. “The most effective kind of rehabilitation and reintegration is the rehab and reintegration that doesn’t have to happen, because the person was afforded an off-ramp before they got to the point of no return,” Nathan Sales, the coordinator for counterterrorism at the U.S. State Department, told me. “What does that look like? It looks like early intervention and not necessarily and maybe not ideally by government officials.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ATLANTIC 

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WHAT MUSLIMS AND THE QURAN SAY ABOUT JESUS, CHRISTMAS AND THE VIRGIN BIRTH

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When people think about Christmas, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t the Quran, the central religious text of Islam.

Many people assume that the world’s major monotheistic religions differ greatly. But Islam and Christianity share some very basic ideas about who Jesus was and how he lived. The name Jesus is mentioned at least 25 times in the Quran, and many other references are made to the son of Mary or Christ the messenger of Allah.

Meanwhile, many details about the birth of Jesus match those found in the New Testament. Muslims, for example, believe in the Virgin Birth, and the Quran also calls Jesus the Messiah.

The earliest texts of the New Testament are believed to have been written between 50 and 62 A.D. by Saint Paul. Muslims believe the Quran was revealed by God to Muhammad verbally through the angel Gabriel beginning in 609 A.D.

Similar to the Gospel of Luke, the Quran describes the conversation between the Angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary, in which Gabriel tells Mary that she will have a child.

“O Mary! Allah gives thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: His name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and of those nearest to Allah,” reads the Quran 3:45.

“Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, was an apostle of Allah,” adds the Quran 4:171.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE 

Here’s what Christmas means to a Hull (UK) Muslim family

When Tesco launched its Christmas advert featuring 14 different families, it caused a furore as it included a Muslim household. Some ‘devout Christians’ vowed to boycott Tesco such was their outrage.

But how do Muslim families in Hull spend Christmas?

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Walk into their home and you immediately notice the lack of decorations and tinsel. But you quickly realise this warm and friendly family have no desire to snub Christmas.

“The kids around here call me Father Christmas and ask me to get them a present because of my white beard,” taxi driver Waseem Khan, 63, said. “I joke with them and tell them to make me a list and I’ll see what I can do.

“Christmas celebrations have moved away from religion to some degree now.

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FULL ARTICLE FROM HULL DAILY MAIL 

 

The Muslim Jesus provides common ground for Christianity, Islam

Iraqi man carrying cross and Quran attends Mass  in BaghdadAs the country sits transfixed with one of the strangest, divisive and most unpredictable presidencies in the history of the United States, lost in the madness has been the increase in Islamophobia since Donald Trump was elected president.

Islamophobia, defined as “unfounded hostility towards Muslims and therefore fear or dislike of all or most Muslims” has become frighteningly commonplace in the U.S. and this hatred and misinformation has found fertile soil in the past eight months of the Trump presidency.

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The Council on American-Islamic Relations has documented 451 incidents that stemmed from anti-Muslim bias between April 1 and June 30, 2017, 15 percent of which were acts of violence against Muslims. This represents a 91 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes during that time compared to the same time period in 2016.

These crimes occur in a conducive environment. A Pew Research Center survey in 2017 rated Muslims at 48 degrees, the lowest on a 0-100 “feeling thermometer” out of nine religious groups in the United States, two points lower than atheists. Particularly negative feelings towards Muslims were harbored by Republicans and those who were Republican-leaning.

The irony here is that most Americans really have no idea what is in the Quran, the Muslim equivalent of the Bible, beyond the mostly negative and out of context soundbites they hear on talk radio, cable TV or the internet. They have no idea that the three monotheistic religions that follow the same Abrahamic tradition, namely that Abraham was the first prophet of God, are Judaism, Christianity and yes, the third sibling, Islam.

All three religions were born in the Middle East and are inextricably linked to each another. While Christianity was born from within the Jewish tradition, Islam developed from both Christianity and Judaism. In fact, Islam sees itself as the culmination of the Abrahamic faiths, the final revelation by God in the monotheistic tradition.

The Quran specifically protects Jews and Christians as Peoples of the Book, the “Book” meaning revelations from God to Jews and Christians which gives them a spiritual connection to Islam.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER 

Muslims revere Jesus too, but this Turkish author sees the Islamic Jesus in a new light

RTX35KZENewcomers to the Quran might be surprised to find that the Prophet Muhammad is only mentioned a handful of times in the Muslim holy book.

The prophet whose name is mentioned most? That would be Moses — indeed, the very same Moses from the Book of Exodus.

Jesus, the son of Mary, is mentioned numerous times in the Quran. And the Islamic version of the Jesus story, it turns out, tracks quite closely to the one that Christians know.

The Quran has a whole chapter about Mary, who is the only woman mentioned by name in the holy book.

In one scene after the birth of her child, Mary is confronted by holy men accusing her of being impure. That is when baby Jesus speaks up in his mother’s defense, performing one of a couple of miracles that never show up in the New Testament version of the Jesus story.

About 15 years ago, the Turkish writer Mustafa Akyol was handed a copy of the New Testament for the first time by a missionary on the street in Istanbul. Akyol says he went home and started reading it, and what struck him most was how much of the story of Jesus was already so familiar to him as a Muslim.

Such as the angel visiting the Virgin Mary to tell her that she would give birth to a son, and the description of Jesus as a messenger of God.

“It was so similar,” Akyol says.

The author took out a pen and started underlining the passages about Jesus in the Bible that he agreed with as a Muslim. Those sections turned out to be extensive. And they prompted Akyol to start working on his new book, “The Islamic Jesus: How the King of the Jews Became a Prophet of the Muslims.”

While both the Quran and mainstream Muslim teachings emphasize the importance of Jesus as a prophet, Akyol is going a bit further.

 

FULL ARTICLE (AND AUDIO CLIP) FROM PRI INTERNATIONAL 

Shariah’s Winding Path Into Modernity

14akyol-inyt-master768-v2In June, Americans in about two dozen cities joined a “March Against Sharia.” For these protesters, the Arabic term is a code word for the oppression of women and men in the name of God — horrors like stoning and beheading. Since such brutalities do indeed happen in the name of Shariah, they may have had a point. But there were also points that they missed.

In Arabic, “Shariah” literally means “the way.” More specifically, it refers to the body of Islamic rules that Muslims see as God’s will — based either on the Quran or on the Prophet Muhammad’s reported words and deeds. It is conceptually impossible, therefore, for a Muslim who is serious about his faith to condemn Shariah. But the implementation of Shariah, which is called “fiqh,” or jurisprudence, is open to interpretation and discussion.

Much of Shariah is about personal observance: A good Muslim should pray five times a day while turned toward Mecca, for example, or should fast daily throughout Ramadan. Of course, there is no problem with these acts of personal piety — unless they are coerced. They should be welcome in any society with religious liberty.

However, a part of Shariah is about public law, including the penal code. And there are clear conflicts here with modern standards of human rights. First, Shariah lays out corporal punishments, such as chopping off hands, stoning, flogging and beheading. The Islamic legal code also proscribes crimes like apostasy, blasphemy and extramarital sex — none of which can be a crime at all in any liberal society.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

The Shoe Is On the Other Foot: Pluralism and the Qur’an

lead_960The raging fires of the immigration debates in the U.S. illuminate what Muslim immigrants have known for a long time — America is not and really never has been a melting pot. The ugly rhetoric surrounding the plan for a mosque and community center near Ground Zero, and recent assaults such as those on the Bridgeport, CT mosque in my neighborhood, illustrate well the difficulties Muslims face on a regular basis. Nonetheless, Muslims have actually managed to survive quite well in the West and have even succeeded in persuading many American citizens of the right of Islam to exist as a legitimate partner in the complex balance of religious life in this country.

For many Muslims the shoe is now slipping onto the other foot. The issue is becoming not only whether they and their religion are accepted by other Americans, but whether Islam itself can find a way to live out the pluralism that many are persuaded is at the heart of the Qur’an’s message. Studies now show that while early generations of Muslims tried to honor that pluralism in relation to other religious groups, more exclusivist views came to prevail and communities such as Christians and Jews found themselves increasingly discriminated against by Islam. Exegetes turned from verses of the Qur’an that insist that God willed different religious communities rather than a single one, and emphasized those verses that affirm that the only true religion in the eyes of God is Islam.