Why it’s absurd that a Muslim leader’s presence at the Washington National Cathedral is controversial

This opinion piece is by Hussein Rashid, PhD, founder of islamicate, a consultancy focusing on religious literacy.

President Trump is expected to appear Saturday at an interfaith service at Washington National Cathedral where Mohamed Magid of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society will offer the Muslim call to prayer.imrs

Several outlets reported a controversy over Magid’s participation in this service. While there may be fellow Muslims who disagree with the decision to participate by Magid or any other faith leader, that should not serve as a distraction. The larger controversy over an imam’s inclusion of the event demonstrates a continued lack of understanding of Muslim spiritual life and acceptance of Muslims as inherently different than American.

The adhan, or call to prayer, is an important aspect of Muslim devotional life. It can be prayerful, but it is not part of a formal prayer. To suggest that Magid is praying, presumably for the success of Trump, is mistaken. When Magid calls out “I bear witness that there is no deity but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God,” there is no benediction for anyone. There is only the praise of the divine. By framing it simply as a prayer, someone who is unfamiliar with a quarter of the world’s population may think that despite Trump’s hateful rhetoric to his fellow Americans, they are ready to submit to him unconditionally.

What makes Magid’s participation controversial for many Americans is that he is Muslim with a religious leadership role and a congregation. Yet many other faith leaders are also at this event, and no one seems to see their presence as controversial.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

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These Muslim Teens Just Went To Their First Women’s March. They Could Have Led it.

muslim-womenWASHINGTON ― Early Saturday, Ekram Seid hopped on a city bus with her sister, Yasmin, and made the trek across town for the Women’s March on Washington. Neither had been to a political march before, but they felt a responsibility to go to this one.

“I’m the oldest of three girls,” Ekram told The Huffington Post, standing in a sea of people chanting and waving signs advocating social justice issues and opposing President Donald Trump. “So I just came here because I have to lead by example for them that it’s important that we speak on the issues that matter to us. And sometimes we have to take action.”

Ekram and Yasmin stood out in the crowd. Both are under 5 feet tall. Both wore hijabs. And both are teenagers. Ekram, 18, is even shorter than her younger sister and has braces.

Yasmin, 13, stood quietly by her big sister. But once they spoke, they were far beyond their years. Both described what is at stake for Muslim women and other minorities if they don’t engage in politics and stand up for their rights.

“Donald Trump doesn’t scare me,” Ekram said. “It’s that it’s 2017, and there are people with this very provisional mindset, that kind of scares me and worries me. But I’m not scared for me. I’m scared for my sisters. I feel like I can handle anything.”

Yasmin, who is in eighth grade, said she wanted to be at the march because “I wanted to hear what people had to say and I’m a feminist, so it means a lot to me.”

Asked what it means to be a feminist, Yasmin replied, “Women’s empowerment and the belief that women can do anything men can do. And can do it better.”

Ekram, who starts college on Monday and wants to be an art therapist, chimed in, “I think everyone should be a feminist because women give life. If you’re not a feminist, you’re not supporting your mother. You’re not supporting yourself.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

Cardinal joins interfaith leaders in ‘Faith Over Fear’ walk to promote unity

walk-1-webCardinal Donald Wuerl joined Washington-area religious leaders Dec. 18 in leading an interfaith walk that organizers said was designed “to express our solidarity and our commitment to unity, understanding, and inclusion.”

The interfaith pilgrimage walk, dubbed “Faith Over Fear: Choosing Unity Over Extremism,” began at Washington Hebrew Congregation in Northwest Washington, and included stops at the National Cathedral and the Islamic Center. At each site, there was a call to prayer, a scripture reading, and a brief reflection.

“We leaders are united in our concern at the rise in hate speech, the increase in violence against racial, ethnic and religious minorities, and the ugly consequences that ensue when people’s actions are informed by inflammatory rhetoric, misinformation and careless slander,” Cardinal Wuerl said, reading from a statement at the beginning of the walk.

Also participating in the walk were the Right Rev. Michael Curry, presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington; Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig, senior rabbi of Washington Hebrew Congregation; Imam Johari Abdul Malik of Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center; and about 200 others who came to pray and show solidarity with people of other faiths.

“We share the Abrahamic faith,” Bishop Curry said, “and the challenge before us is – out of our great diversity – to make a real tapestry.”

Cardinal Wuerl also lead the participants in reciting the prayer of St. Francis. Prior to leading the prayer, he told the gathering that during Pope Francis’s Sept. 22-24, 2015 visit to Washington, the pope “walked our streets and reminded us we have the power to make a better world – but we have to reach out to one another.”

Bishop Budde, also noting that “we belong to different branches of the Abrahamic family,” urged the participants to “come together to create a climate in which we practice hospitality, protect those who are vulnerable, defend religious freedom, engage in respectful dialogue about our disagreements, and love one another regardless of our differences.”

She added that “all have a welcome place in our land.”

Rabbi Lustig echoed that sentiment and said participants must strive to keep “America a place where people of all faiths are welcome.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CATHOLIC STANDARD 

The only difference between a Christian gunman and a Muslim terrorist is racism

rtsco5hYesterday, a man opened fire in the visitors center of the US Capitol. He drew his weapon and pointed it at officers, one of whom fired and struck the suspect before he could go any further. The media would later learn that the same man had shouted “I am a Prophet of God” from the balcony of the House of Representatives in 2015.

Terrorism, right?

Except the shooter’s name was Larry Dawson, and he’s not Muslim.
Now I know there’s always a difference between how you want to define a word and how society around you chooses to. A fair definition of terrorism might be one that describes violence against civilians by a non-state actor or actors, in the service of a political cause.

But most of our media has its own definition of terrorism: A Muslim did it.
Once we learned that Dawson wasn’t Muslim, reporters went out of their way to calm the American public. There was still almost no other information about the case, the suspect, or his motivations. “Don’t worry,” one outlet after another told us, “it’s not terrorism.”
But if a Muhammad Dawson had rushed in and opened fire, screaming “I am a Prophet of Allah,” what then? Today we’d be discussing a new and even more offensive policy proposed by Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz. Meanwhile Donald Trump would be making the rounds on TV, offering ever more outrageous, unconstitutional, and Geneva-noncompliant policy proposals.

I’m not arguing that Dawson was in fact a terrorist. I’m pointing, once again, to the double standard in how we treat Muslims. That we collectively breathed a sigh of relief when we found out there was no material connection to terrorism because the shooter was just a crazy guy screaming about God says a lot. More Americans die from this kind of violence than from terrorism. But so long as gun violence is not terrorism, the public is urged to go about business as usual.

FULL ARTICLE FROM QUARTZ

60 Imams, Rabbis Meet In Washington For Muslim-Jewish Interfaith Summit

thumbRNS-IMAMS-RABBISa-427x320(RNS) Frustrated by dangerously high tensions between Jews and Muslims in the Holy Land, 60 imams and rabbis gathered Sunday (Nov. 23) to hatch concrete plans to bridge the gulf between their communities, minus the kumbaya.

The “2014 Summit of Washington Area Imams and Rabbis,” its organizers hope, will be the first of many such gatherings of Jewish and Muslim clergy in cities across the U.S.

After prayers and a kosher-halal lunch at a Washington synagogue, the clergy resolved to limit the feel-good dialogue and spent the afternoon trading ideas both tried and novel. Among them: joint projects to feed the homeless, basketball games between Muslim and Jewish teens, Judaism 101 courses for Muslims and Islam 101 for Jews.

“Host a Seder in a mosque and hold an iftar dinner at a synagogue,” suggested Rizwan Jaka, who chairs the board at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Northern Virginia.

They threw out tough questions: “Do you invite people in your community who are particularly closed-minded to participate in interfaith dialogue?” asked Dan Spiro, co-founder of the Jewish-Islamic Dialogue Society. “Something to think about.”

And when Jews and Muslims meet, several imams and rabbis advised, do not sidestep the focal point of their mutual pain: the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Rage over the ability of both faiths to worship at Temple Mount — a site holy to Muslims and Jews, has heightened tensions with the violence culminating last week in a Palestinian attack on Jews praying in a Jerusalem synagogue that killed four worshippers and a Druze police officer.

“Discuss things from a spiritual narrative as opposed to a political narrative,” suggested Imam Sultan Abdullah of the New Africa Islamic Community Center in Washington, D.C.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

Washington Cathedral’s first Muslim prayer service interrupted by heckler

Muslim Prayer ServiceIn a corner of Washington National Cathedral, several hundred Muslim worshipers and other invited guests gathered Friday afternoon for a first-ever recitation of weekly Muslim prayers at the iconic Christian sanctuary and to hear leaders of both faiths call for religious unity in the face of extremist violence and hate.

The Arabic call to prayer echoed among the vaulted stone arches and faded away, followed by an impassioned sermon from Ebrahim Rasool, a Muslim scholar who is South Africa’s ambassador to the United States. Rasool called on Muslims, Christians and others to come together and make “common cause” in the fight against extremists who appropriate Islam.

“We come to this cathedral with sensitivity and humility but keenly aware that it is not a time for platitudes, because mischief is threatening the world,” Rasool said. “The challenge for us today is to reconstitute a middle ground of good people . . . whose very existence threatens extremism.”

The event was closed to the public, and there was heavy security, with police checking every name and bag. Organizers from several area Muslim institutions said there had been concerns about security and threats after the event was publicized and that they and cathedral officials wanted to limit it to a small and selected group.

Nevertheless, the carefully scripted ceremony was marred once when one well-dressed, middle-age woman in the audience suddenly rose and began shouting that “America was founded on Christian principles. . . . Leave our church alone!” She was swiftly ushered out by security aides, and the service continued.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

US Muslims Launch Counter Hate Campaign

WASHINGTON – A US Muslim civil liberties and advocacy group has announced its plans to erect its own advertisements in Metro stations to combat anti-Muslim hateful ads that equate Muslims with “savages.”

“We take these hate messages very seriously,” Nihad Awad, Executive Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations, told WUSA news channel on Friday, October 12.

“They need to be countered through collective American efforts to reject Islamic phobia and hate mongering and celebrate the forgiveness, free speech but also civil speech.”

The ad campaign is the second in an American state following earlier campaign in New YorkThe counter ad campaign was planned after a federal judge ruled that no one could stop the signs from going up in Washington metro stops, citing freedom of speech.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ISLAM ONLINE