Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘Islam’

Agatha Christie Meets Nora Roberts

Killing at the White Swan Inn by Carole Hall.
Melange Books, 2017
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

whiteswannIf Nora Roberts, Agatha Christie, and Salman Rushdie wrote as a ménage à trois, Killing at the Swan Inn could be the story they birthed. Ms. Hall has written a tale that combines a cozy murder-mystery, with contemporary romance, and cultural differences, which converge in the Berkshires at Margot’s newly acquired inn (The White Swan). 

The characters who inhabit the inn, and who visit, are introduced in quick succession, with readers understanding, and cheerleading, for each to find release from an abusive relationship (Veronica Hewitt), forgiveness and redemption (Charles Allan Whittaker), safety from a vengeful family (Soraya and Omar Sulaman-Mamoud), and love (Isobel, Manager John, Charles, and Detective Adrian Reynolds).

Those who work at the inn, and mourn the loss of long-time owner, Isobel’s mother Claire, run the inn like a family, and try to make the well-known, and famous men and women that visit, a sense of it being their home as well. This sense of caring for one another is evident and visceral throughout, and one of the strongest characteristics of the story. Humanity at its best.

Killing at the White Swan is an enjoyable, and brief visit, with people you’d want to meet in person, let alone spend a weekend at the inn.

Muslims Protect Christians

Bishop thanks Muslims for protecting Christians in Egypt’s Al-Khosous

A senior Coptic bishop has praised Muslims in Al-Khosous who attempted to protect Christians during a recent bout of sectarian violence that left five people dead.

“The loving Muslims who protected Christians and the church during the deadly clashes in Al-Khosous highlighted the mistakes of the fanatics and showed the true meaning of religion and love,” Bishop Moussa, who is in charge of youth affairs at the Coptic Orthodox Church, said in a statement on Wednesday.

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“Our only consolation is that the victims gave their lives as a testimony to God and their pure souls ascended to heaven…,” he added.

Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, along with other bishops, will on Thursday accept condolences from public figures at the papal headquarters in Abbasiya.

Deadly clashes erupted in Al-Khosous in Qalioubiya on Saturday after a group of Christian teenagers allegedly daubed what some Muslims deemed offensive symbols on the walls of an Al-Azhar institute in the town, state news agency MENA reported.

Four Christians and one Muslim died in the violence that followed.

On Sunday, a funeral for the Christian victims of the violence was held at St Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo. As mourners were leaving the cathedral they were attacked by unknown assailants. Two people died and at least 90 were injured in the ensuing violence.

Police fired teargas and birdshot directly into the cathedral compound, sparking uproar among the Christian community.

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Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed,
National Director
Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances
Islamic Society of North America
Phone 202-544-5656 Fax 202-544-6636
110 Maryland Ave NE, Suite 304
Washington DC 20002
www.ISNA.net

Muslims, Words and Dr. King

A Muslim Reflection on Dr. King’s Legacy of Peace Through Words
by Najeeba Syeed-Miller. Posted 1/21/2013.
Follow Najeeba Syeed-Miller on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NajeebaSyeed

The shaykh with whom I studied ethics would speak nearly perfect Arabic throughout the day and address everyone in his path with great respect, even in the grammar of his speech. I asked him why he put such care into his choice of words, he would say, “Najeeba, most importantly, in the form of our words, we should pursue beauty and elevate discourse.”

His words and monumental effort in expressing himself in a way that was sublime has always stayed with me. In essence, he was establishing a confluence between the choice of words he used, their elegant arrangement, his affect and the cognitive functions of communicating. He rounded these together in every utterance so that each sound he made was calibrated to increase beauty in the world and create a relational quality in the way he spoke with others.

As I reflect on why Dr. King so profoundly affected my journey as a peacemaker, it is because he also exemplified that capacity to elevate discourse by harnessing the resources of language to move the level of discussion deeper and higher. In this process, his prose and speeches resonated particularly with those who knew his context. At the same time, they echo in ways that are illuminating with a universal radiance because they appeal to the heart, mind and soul at the very same time.

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As a Muslim, I have been taught the Qur’anic principles of engagement: To speak with the best words and with words of goodness when I am in a state of difference with another. Often in the past, I thought of this injunction as emphasizing the idea of persuasiveness. I have since found that there are other important aspects to these teachings that emphasize generosity and respect for the other in exchanges.

In thinking about the language of my teachers and Dr. King, I have come to recognize that one major element of constructing conversations that are beautiful in both form and process is this encompassing eloquence that can integrate emotional and cognitive approaches to social change.

It is easy to separate thought and emotion, to parse out the heart from the head. What makes Dr. King’s words drum in our hearts and minds far after we’ve first read them or heard them is the genius of his understanding that social justice is not merely an externally focused pursuit of rights;it is a rearrangement of the interior human landscape in how we see and feel about ourselves, the world and one another.

There is an element of slowing down, appreciating his text and speeches because of their sheer beauty. It causes me to listen both to the content and the orchestration of his language. I am engaged with the ideas and the emotional quality. He speaks of the greatest ugliness manifested by humanity in ways that push me to see that internally, I too, may be capable of such monstrosity if not for the vigilance necessary to keep my heart, mind and actions intertwined to actualize dignity and peace. He behooves us to respond with an ethical approach not just in action, but also in insuring that even (or especially) an enemy is never demonized nor dehumanized in our depiction of them.

So perhaps one lesson to glean from our celebration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is how we can move beyond competitive modes of talking, into a state of communal conversation that solemnizes an oath to speak with such careful thoughtfulness, so that the very act of forming a word is a sacred exertion of our highest sense of self.

Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus

Guest blog for Washington Post
by Vineet Chander, Valarie Kaur and Najeeba Syed-Miller
12 August 1012

In Conversation: Sikhism, Islam, and Hinduism

One week after the Sikh shootings in Oak Creek, Americans have learned more about the Sikh community, many for the first time. A brief introduction to Sikhism has caused people to wonder about the relationship between Sikhism, Hinduism and Islam.

Each religion is a distinct tradition with unique sets of beliefs, practices and values, and at the same time, all three have coexisted for many hundreds of years in the South Asian region of the world. India is home to one of the world’s largest Muslim populations and the birthplace of Hinduism and Sikhism. Of course, it has often been a complex, difficult and troubling history. But we have also seen moments of solidarity between these communities. We recall the slogan some of our grandparents used to sing in India: Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isaee! Hum Saray Hai Bhai Bhai! “Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian. We are all brothers (and sisters).”

In the U.S., Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs share similar challenges in our pursuit to live, work, and worship in caring and safe communities. Hindu and Muslim Americans across the nation have reached out to Sikh neighbors to express their grief and support. In that spirit, we three authors – a Hindu American chaplain, a Muslim American peacemaker, and a Sikh American advocate – engaged in a conversation about the similarities and differences between our faith traditions.

How We See God

Vineet: Hinduism is the oldest of the three faith traditions, made up of diverse practices and beliefs that all approach the divine differently. In fact, Hinduism itself is so diverse that it is difficult and even misleading to categorize it using Western frameworks like “monotheistic” or “polytheistic.” Still, most Hindus say that, ultimately, they believe in one Supreme Being who is both transcendent and imminent. Some Hindus emphasize God’s oneness with the universe, seeing the divine in everything and everything in the Divine. Others emphasize God’s distinct personality and form, seeing Him as our divine parent and us as His eternal servants. Hinduism also recognizes the presence of devatas (often translated as “demigods”), celestial beings who manage the affairs of the cosmos. Hindus see devatas similar to angels or partial manifestations or energies of the One Supreme. Hindu teachers often speak of God as a great flame from which small sparks (all beings) emanate. In this sense, Hinduism holds that the divine is inconceivably one with His creation and yet always infinitely more vast and powerful. Hinduism suggests that Divinity can thus be manifest in the natural world, and that an important part of spiritual wisdom is learning to recognize it.

Najeeba: As a Muslim, I believe in the divine presence of God. Often you might here this referred to as Allah, which simply translated into English means “The God.” Islam is founded on the belief in tawhid, or the oneness of God, a monotheistic divine entity with no particular form and not in the image of a person. The Koran describes God as the light of the heavens and of the earth. God is also described with 99 attributes including the one we as Muslims call upon before any act, “the Most Merciful.” Muslims follow a tradition of prophet Muhammad that states, “God is beautiful and loves beauty.” God is viewed as deeply connected to the spiritual consciousness of humans and accessible through prayer. Even the plants and trees of this Earth are considered as part of the forms that adore God according to the Koran. Oneness of humankind emanates from the belief in one God, and the diversity of humankind under the umbrella of a common humanity. The basis for relations with other humans is mercy. Prophet Muhammad said “God does now show mercy to those who do not show mercy to others.” The holy book of the Muslims is the Koran and the sayings of the prophet Muhammad are the hadith, which are important sources for religious understanding. Muslims share with Christians and Jews many common prophets, from Adam to Jesus who is viewed as an important prophet but not the son of God. Muslims also highly value education; prophet Muhammad instructed Muslim women and men to pursue knowledge from “the cradle to the grave.” Thus, individual Muslims are also encouraged to learn for themselves and insure that they are always intellectually and spiritually improving themselves throughout the course of their lives.

Valarie: Sikhism is the youngest of the three religions. The Sikh religion was born in 15th century Punjab (now northern India and Pakistan), a rich meeting place for Hinduism and Islam that oversaw the rise of devotional (bhakti) traditions on either side of the Hindu-Muslim divide: Sufi Islam called for inward love for Allah, and Hindu Bhakti traditions advocated personal devotion. The founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak, established a new devotional tradition based on direct loving devotion to one divine, Ik Onkar, and a commitment to social justice. As a Sikh, I see God as infinite, formless, creative, without fear and enmity, timeless, and self-existent. The unity of all that we know – human and divine – forms the basis of all of our relationships. “God’s in the self and the self is in God,” says Guru Nanak. “The fire is put out through knowing the One is within and without.” God is called by hundreds of names in the devotional poems of our scripture: Vaheguru, Hari, Allah. Through constant remembrance of the Divine, we silence the ego, realize mystical union beyond language and thought, and experience the interconnectedness between self and all. The experience is mukti, liberation: the feeling of freedom and ecstatic bliss when “the breath sparks and the sky thunders.” It produces an unending flow of compassion for all beings, fulfilled through seva or divinely-inspired service.

How We Pray

Vineet: Hindus engage in spiritual practice (called sadhana) in a variety of ways. They engage in ritual worship, formally in temples or informally in their homes. Such worship may involve reciting prayers or chanting sacred mantras, observing periodic fasting, or offering gifts in charity to the less fortunate. In addition, Hindus may practice their faith through study of sacred texts, through regular meditation and introspection, and even (or, we might say, especially) through performing their day-to-day duties in a selfless and generous spirit, in a way that uplifts themselves and others. While Hindus may occasionally emphasize some of these practices over others, most Hindus see them all as interconnected pieces of a singular, cohesive engagement with their faith. One of the most often misunderstood Hindu practices, at least in the West, is the use of visual representations or icons of the divine. Many Hindus (though not all) believe in connecting with God through forms, called murtis, considering them to be manifestations of the supreme in tangible forms that we can relate to and render service to. This allows Hindus to focus their meditation, have a more personal exchange with God, and to express their devotion to Him through rituals.

Najeeba: Ritual prayer is prescribed five times a day and in addition, zakat, or alms giving to the poor are key practices at the core of a Muslim community. Muslims may worship communally at the masjid, and congregational prayer accompanied by a sermon are regular features in the life of a Muslim community held on the designated Jum’ah of Friday of every week Muslims perform rituals of fasting during the month of Ramadan which is our current 30 day spiritual exercise in self-regulation and avoiding of food, anger and arguments during the day light hours Muslims also avoid consumption of alcohol or other intoxicating substances with the understanding that clarity of the mind is important to utilize the gift of aql or reason to make good decisions in life. Muslims are always concerned about their internal state as it relates to honesty, good works and kindness to others. “Every act is but its intention,” is a teaching of Prophet Muhammad and so reflecting on why one is doing even good acts becomes important so that one’s ego is not inflated. Contemplative practices such as dhikr (ritual chanting), dua (supplication) and other spiritual practices are utilized to bring one’s higher self into consciousness and work to reduce the ego. Family is the organizing unit of a Muslim community and honoring mothers, fathers and the elderly is considered a righteous act.

Valarie: Sikhs pray together in houses of worship and learning called gurdwaras [doorways to the divine] where we recite and sing devotional songs or shabads from our scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib. Through music and poetry, we meditate on the name of God in order to taste the bliss of divine union. In our devotion to the divine, Sikhs wear five articles of faith, including kesh (uncut hair), meant for women and men equally. Men traditionally wrapped their long hair in turbans. Some women wear turbans too, but most simply cover their heads with headscarves when praying. Our faith teaches equality between women and men and people of all classes and backgrounds. Our tenth leader requested us to drop our surnames (a marker of social status), and instead, embrace a shared surname: all women adopted the last name “Kaur” and men took the last name “Singh.” “Sikh” literally means ‘to learn,’ calling us to learn our whole lives.

How We Serve

Najeeba: Muslims are constantly admonished to perform sadaqa or charity for people within our community and for those who are not Muslim as well, especially for neighbors. The teaching regarding neighbors is not only for Muslims, it extends to the greater community whoever they may be and the circumference of neighbors is considered nearly one’s whole city by some scholars. According to the Koran, Muslims must give charity to many categories of individuals including: the poor, the needy, orphans, widows, those traveling and without homes. Charity is in many forms, it can be in actual money or comfort. Prophet Muhammad instructed Muslims that “The doors of goodness are many… removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one’s arms–all of these are charity prescribed for you.” He also said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.” Inherent in this structure of offering charity is to also ensure that those who are in the situation of potentially being abused must also be given justice in terms of their rights. Many second generation Muslims in the United States have become engaged in civil rights work, environmental justice and social work projects because of the emphasis on caring for those who have little access to resources or power to change their circumstances for the better.

Vineet: Hinduism has traditionally championed extending charity and justice to others as an inseparable part of living a life of dharma. Classical texts, such as the Upanishads and the Gita, describe that one the fundamental virtues to aspire towards is the awareness of the interconnectedness of all beings. Thus, these texts teach, the wise share in the joys of others and work to alleviate their suffering. More recently, the saints of the Bhakti movement—a movement of spiritual and social reformers renewing Hinduism’s devotional tradition, spanning from the 12th century to the modern day—have echoed these sentiments, and have even taken them further. “The truly devout Hindu,” one teacher declared, “is known best by this quality: he cannot tolerate the suffering of another.”

Valarie: Sikhs often recite the line from scripture: “Truth is higher than everything else; but higher still is truthful living.” We express our devotion through living an honest life of service to all. Sikhism has three pillars in our practice: Naam Japna, remembrance of the divine; Kirat Karna, earning an honest living, and Vand Chakna, sharing all resources with society. Every gurdwara serves langar, a free communal meal open to all people, and this practice encourages a commitment to divinely-inspired service or seva. A new generation of Sikh Americans is engaging in seva through various forms of service: making films, running social action campaigns, becoming lawyers, public servants, scholars, and more. In the wake of the tragic shooting in Oak Creek, Sikh Americans organized vigils, worked with law enforcement, and in a time of grief, found the courage to call for an end to hate and violence – not just against our community but all people.

What Inspires Us

Vineet: I draw my inspiration from the Bhagavad Gita (a sacred Hindu text which means “the Song of God”). The Gita is a dialogue between Arjuna, a great prince, and Lord Krishna, who is revealed to be the Supreme in human-like form. Throughout the text, Krishna teaches about dharma, one’s right way of living. He suggests that one should perform activities in a spirit of service and detachment, and especially emphasizes love and devotion as the essence of all religious practice. In the Gita, Lord Krishna displays his awe-inspiring majesty as the creator of all that is. And yet, he asks us to choose to be his instruments in this world. I am struck by this beautiful and seemingly paradoxical reality– that we can be so humbled and small before the Divine, and yet so radically empowered to reflect his love. In my own life and work, I aspire to be an instrument of this love, compassion, and justice in all that I do.

Najeeba: I am a peacemaker, a Muslim and an American. Deeply embedded in my beliefs is the saying of prophet Muhammad that Muslims were commanded to “make peace,” with others and that we are to be a mercy for others. In every facet of my life I seek to make peace between people and to save human lives, my faith guides me in the Koranic injunction that to save one human is as if one saved all of humanity.

Thus, whenever violence occurs, I find ways to make peace between people and to contribute to my country, my neighborhood and my family. Fidelity to my nation is also a key belief for Muslims, when one takes an oath, adhering to it is a central tenet of Islamic teaching and for me the basis of my commitment to my country.

With Vineet and Valarie I share a love of South Asian cultural heritage and the many common values we share as Americans to work together to build stronger ties between all communities with peace at its heart.
Valarie: The Sikh ideal is the warrior-saint: one who walks the earth devoted to God and committed to fight injustice in all forms. In the 17th century, a Sikh woman Mai Bhago became the first female warrior-saint and led Sikhs who had abandoned battle back into battle herself: she became the warrior-saint she was waiting for. Inspired by Mai Bhago, my modern-day sword and shield is film and law: using storytelling and advocacy, I am grateful to be able to fight and serve my community alongside my fellow Sikhs and Americans.

Valarie Kaur, a filmmaker, legal advocate, and interfaith organizer, is founding director of Groundswell, a multifaith initiative. Her documentary “Divided We Fall” is the first feature film on hate crimes against Sikh Americans after 9/11. Follow her on Twitter at @valariekaur.

Vineet Chander is coordinator for Hindu Life at Princeton University, a Religious Life Leader at the Lawrenceville School, and adjunct professor at Farleigh Dickinson University. Follow him on Twitter at@vineetchander.

Najeeba Syeed-Miller is a professor at Claremont School of Theologyand director/founder of the Center for Global Peacebuilding. She is two-time recipient of the Jon Anson Ford Award from the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission and a leading figure in the establishment of Claremont Lincoln University, a jointly owned university with Muslim, Hindu, Jain, Jewish and Christian partners. You can fol. Follow her on Twitter at @najeebasyeed

For additional photos and links, go to Washington Post.

Islamic School In Synagogue

Islamic school plans to move onto St. Louis synagogue campus
July 20, 2012

(JTA) – An Islamic school in the St. Louis area, the Al Manara Academy, is planning to move onto the campus of a local synagogue, B’nai El Congregation in Frontenac, Mo.

By August, the Islamic day school plans to move to the space previously occupied by the Saul Mirowitz Day School-Reform Jewish Academy, according to the St. Louis Jewish Light. A conditional permit of use was approved Tuesday by the Frontenac City Council, limiting the number of students to 100, the newspaper said.

Amye Carrigan, B’nai El president, told the Jewish Light that a “firm, signed lease agreement” is not yet signed with the Reform congregation. “If and when it happens, I hope it’s going to be a very positive thing for the community,” she said. “This arrangement can be a wonderful opportunity for understanding and promoting positive outcomes.”

Earlier this year, the Reform Jewish Academy merged with the Solomon Schechter Day School of St. Louis to form the Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School. It will operate on the campus of Congregation B’nai Amoona, which previously housed the Schechter school.

Phillip Paeltz, a board member of Al Manara Academy, told the Jewish Light that the operation is “an Islamic school which seeks to train students in the Islamic faith, but also prepares them for a multicultural world.” He said, “As Muslims, we refer to all Jews as people of the book. In so many places in the world there are conflicts between Muslims and Jews. Hopefully, this is a time when we seize the opportunity to work together.”

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Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed,
National Director
Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances
Islamic Society of North America
Phone 202-544-5656 Fax 202-544-6636
110 Maryland Ave NE, Suite 304
Washington DC 20002
www.ISNA.net

One God – Muslim and Jew

From Syracuse.com
by Sean Kirst/The Post-Standard
4 May 2012

A message for Shabbat: Love and mercy from the same God.

A quiet friendship breaks down walls: Photo (below) Imam Yaser Alkhooly (right), of the Islamic Society of Central New York, Rabbi Daniel Fellman of Temple Concord in Syracuse and Mohamed Khater (left), president of the Islamic Society. They’re pictured here at the Islamic Society; Alkhooly and Khater will speak tonight at Temple Concord.

Rabbi Daniel Fellman of Temple Concord was walking across a driveway last winter when he slipped and fell. While Fellman manages to laugh about the pain — leave it to him, he says, to find the only patch of black ice in Syracuse during an historically mild winter — the impact was no joke. It broke his back.

He soon heard from many worried friends, including Yaser Alkhooly and Mohamed Khater of the Islamic Society of Central New York. Alkhooly is imam – a religious leader and teacher – at the Comstock Avenue mosque, while Khater serves as president of the Islamic Society. Fellman was not surprised at their concern, even if that bond might be startling to Americans accustomed to supposed animosity between Muslims and Jews.

“I remember I brought some of the kids from our temple over here (to the Islamic Society) and they saw me put my arm around Yaser and Mohamed, and they were shocked,” Fellman said. “They were amazed, but I thought it’s good that we show them we can care about each other, as we want them to care about each other.”

The connection takes the spotlight tonight, when Alkhooly and Khater visit Temple Concord to speak during Shabbat, or the observance of the Jewish sabbath. Alkhooly said he intends to address the “two central components” of Islam, which involve the “oneness of worshipping one God” and the need for all Muslims to show mercy.

Those qualities, he said, provide a unifying factor for three great religions whose roots begin with Abraham — Islam, Judaism and Christianity. As for Khater, he intends to make a similar point: “We might have different laws, each of our religions might ask us to do different things, but in the end we have the same God and the values are really similar.”

Fellman said the friendship goes back for a few years, to the angry national dispute about the potential opening of an Islamic community center near the site of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City. Because the men who attacked the twin towers came from Muslim backgrounds, some Americans saw it as inappropriate to build a center for Islamic culture near a place of tragedy.

For his part, Fellman viewed those objections as baseless. He does not blame the millions of Muslims across the world for the actions of a few, any more than he would blame all Christians or Jews for the criminal actions of individuals raised within those faiths. Fellman made that point during an appearance on Central Issues, a WCNY television program hosted by George Kilpatrick. Alkhooly was a guest on the same show. Afterward, the two men found themselves sharing tales about their children.

“Yaser and I began to get to know each other,” Fellman said. The conversations became more frequent when Fellman, Khater and Alkhooly all served on ACTS, or The Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse. That coalition of local religious groups is dedicated to helping those of any faith who suffer from need or neglect.

“We live in Syracuse,” Alkhooly said, “and we all want to improve the city.”

The three friends concede they have political differences about Israel, the fate of the Palestinians and the Middle East. But political disagreements, they said, should not be enough to shatter larger commonalities. Indeed, one way toward resolving seemingly impossible global stalemates may be through small steps in faraway communities.

Work together, they agree, and it becomes impossible to see each other as the enemy.

Khater and Alkhooly noted how fear of the stranger has applied to each wave of American immigrants. Those barriers were easier to overcome, they said, when groups from different nations attended the same church. The fact that Muslims go to a mosque and Jews to a synagogue can still trigger suspicions about the motivations of each group.

What’s important to remember, Alkhooly said, is that American Muslims have the same goals as anyone else: They want peace, security and education for their children.

With Khater, Alkhooly will bring that message tonight to Temple Concord. While the three men say it will be a significant event, Fellman said it is only one result of the outreach that Khater and others within the Islamic Society have been doing for a long time.

“This is really nothing new,” Fellman said. “Mohamed has spent years and years building bridges in this community. If you ask me, for the rest of us, the real question is: Why has it taken this long?”

Sean Kirst is a columnist with The Post-Standard

Muslims Protecting Christians

Protest: Muslim Youths Guard Churches
From Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed
Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances
Islamic Society of North America
Niger, 10 January 2012

Some youths, mainly Muslim faithful, organised themselves into groups yesterday to guard worshippers in some churches in parts of Minna, Niger State capital, as part of a solidarity gesture against the removal of oil subsidy.

LEADERSHIP observed in Kpakungu area of Minna that some of the youths earlier dispersed by the Police on Friday from protesting at the Polo Field, Minna, had regrouped to protect some of the churches.

It was observed that the youths mounted the gates of the churches as their Christian counterparts were worshipping, and conducted themselves peacefully in order not to cause any apprehensions.

The youths, under the umbrella of Concerned Minna Residents, were last Friday dispersed by the police for lack of identity, with the Commissioner of Police, Ibrahim Mohammed Maishanu, saying they could not be granted a permit to hold protest.

The leader of the group, Awaal Gata, told LEADERSHIP in an interview at St Mary’s Catholic Church, Kpakungu, said, “we are protecting our fellow Christian brothers and sisters to show the people that our leaders cannot use religion to divide us.

“In this struggle, we are determined to make sure that the removal of fuel subsidy will not stay; we want to send a signal – by coming here to protect our Christians friends and to show that we are one and our Christian brothers will do same on Friday,” he added.

Asked whether they got police permit to do what they were doing, he said: “We are peaceful; we are here to protect ourselves and to emphasize that security is not only in the hands of the police – security is the responsibility of every citizen.”

Muslim’s Condemn Bombings

Muslim Leaders Condemn Christmas Day Bombings
27 December 2011

From Kunle Akogun, Damilola Oyedele in Abuja, John Shiklam in Kaduna, Tunde Sanni in Ibadan, Mohammed Aminu in Sokoto and Hammed Shittu in Ilorin.

The umbrella Islamic body for Muslims in the North, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), yesterday condemned the bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State and another church in Jos, Plateau State, saying it is not in a religious war against Christians. Both incidents claimed the lives of over 40 persons.

But the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the 19 Northern states and FCT warned yesterday that the attacks may spark a religious war.

Secretary General of JNI, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, while reacting to the bombings in a telephone interview with THISDAY, said Islam, as a religion, respects human lives and would do everything to preserve it.

“Human lives must be preserved and protected by all including security agencies; it is rather unfortunate that Nigerians are losing their lives to bomb blasts,” Aliyu said.

The Islamic body also tasked security agencies to fish out the perpetrators and bring them to justice, stressing that it is only when the culprits are fished out and punitive measures taken against them that it would serve as deterrent to others planning to carry out such nefarious activities.

In his reaction, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, who joined other Muslims in voicing condemnation against Boko Haram, said taking of human lives in the name of religion was strange in Islam.

The sultan, at the formal opening of Islamic Vacation Course (IVC) organised by Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN), B-Zone, said dispute could only be resolved through dialogue and not by violence or bloodbath.

He said Islam abhorred violence and called for unity among Muslims to address the challenges facing them.
“Violence is not part of the tenets of Islam and would never be allowed to tarnish the image of the religion,” the sultan said.
Chastising Boko Haram, another Islamic group, Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC), said “cold blooded murder of innocent worshippers” was “horrifying and sickening”.

In a statement by its Director of Media and Communications, Disu Kamor, MPAC described the perpetrators of the dastardly act as “criminal and devilish hate cultists bent on imposing their evil ideology on us”.

“On this occasion and in similar incidents, Nigerian Muslims and Muslims everywhere stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Christian brothers and sisters and we are determined to continue to work together to remove the mischief of those seeking to destroy peaceful co-existence and harmony. We feel the sorrow and share the grief of all that were affected by this tragedy – this evil attack is a crime committed against mankind,” MPAC added.

Also, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) said it is “shocked and petrified by this development”.
MURIC in a statement by Dr. Ishaq Akintola disagreed with Boko Haram, which had said it carried out the attack to avenge the killing of Muslims during the last Sallah.

He said: “The attackers cannot claim that they were revenging the attack on Muslims in Jos during the last Eid el-Fitr on August 30, 2011 which left many Muslims dead because Christians celebrating Christmas earlier on December 25, 2010 were the first to be killed in bomb explosions.

“Nothing in the scriptures of Islam justifies this kind of attack. We therefore assert clearly, unequivocally and unambiguously that Boko Haram is not fighting for Nigerian Muslims.”

Similarly, the Chairman of the Sokoto State chapter of Izalat Bida’a Waikamtul Sunnah (JIBWIS), Sheikh Abubakar Usman Mabera, said the killing of innocent citizens, under any guise, is a case of murder and in contrast to Islamic teachings.

“Whoever takes the life of a fellow human being has committed evil irrespective of his religion – whether Christian or Muslim – and will pay for his sins. So, this is an act of terrorism which is against Islamic teachings,” he said.

Mabera, who frowned on the act, said: “Almighty Allah forbids the killing of a fellow human being. Whoever thinks that he is carrying out Jihad by destroying places of worship and killing innocent citizens is ignorant of Islam because the religion forbids that.”
The Muslim Congress frowned on the Madalla blast and said the continued killing of innocent Nigerians by the activities of Boko Haram is uncalled for and should be condemned by all Nigerians.

The Amir of the Congress, Mallam Abdulraheem Lukman, said in a statement that: “The endemic killings can best be described as inhuman, wicked, condemnable and totally unacceptable in civilised societies.

“The action is even more repulsive during the periods of celebrations and this is highly condemnable.”
CAN in the 19 Northern states and Abuja has warned that attacks on churches by Boko Haram are capable of igniting a religious war in the country.

But labour unions in the country have urged Christians not to retaliate the Christmas attacks on churches in Niger, Plateau and Yobe States which left scores of people dead.

The pan-Northern Nigeria group, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), also condemned the attacks yesterday, warning that they serve no good in the prevailing circumstances.

At a news conference in Kaduna yesterday, Secretary-General of Northern CAN, Elder Saidu Dogo, said the bombing of churches and killing of Christians was an invitation to religious war in Nigeria.
Dogo urged Islamic leaders to call the perpetrators of the dastardly act to order to avert confrontation, saying that no group should push the other to the wall to fan the ember of religious war.

He said if the authorities fail to track down those behind the killings of innocent Nigerians, “we shall henceforth in the midst of these provocations and wanton destruction of innocent lives and property be compelled to make our own efforts and arrangements to protect the lives of innocent Christians and peace-loving citizens of this country”.

While calling on Christians to be law abiding, he expressed the need for them to defend themselves whenever the need arises.
He called on the Muslim Umma and Ulamas in Nigeria “to live up to their responsibilities by calling to order, all Islamic sects in the country to have respect for human lives and stop these killings. For we fear that the situation may degenerate to a religious war and Nigeria may not be able to survive as one. Once again, enough is enough”.

“We appreciate the efforts of the Federal Government and its security agents in trying to curtail these attacks. However, we are piqued that the efforts of government are being undermined by the sponsors of the Islamic fundamentalists in the North.

“We are particularly disturbed that the perpetrators of these dastardly acts and their sponsors are well known to government and no serious or decisive actions have been taken to stem their nefarious activities.

“The Federal and state Governments of Niger, Plateau, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and such other areas that these wanton destruction of lives and property have been or are being perpetrated, should arrest and bring to book all the perpetrators and their sponsors.

“Government at all levels should provide 24 hours security services to all churches, Christian religious institutions and organisations in the county, especially in the North.

“We are also calling on the federal and state governments to urgently stem these massacres of Christians and the destruction of their churches and property in the North. The attacks so far have proved that some Islamic fundamentalists want to exterminate Christianity in the Northern states. We are assuring all Christians that the church will not allow that to happen,” Dogo said.

The ACF, on its part, condemned the frequent explosions, saying the Christmas attacks were capable of diverting attention to religious crises that would serve no one good.

The forum, in a statement emailed to THISDAY by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Anthony Sani, urged Boko Haram to embrace dialogue in pursuit of the resolution of whatever grievances it had with the authorities, stressing that the bombings and killing of innocent Nigerians and destruction of property were misguided.

“The spate of bomb blasts on Christmas day, which were directed at places of worship across some parts of the North, is a serious source of concern to Arewa Consultative Forum, to Northern Leaders and to the good people of the North, indeed, to patriotic Nigerians.

“Source of concern not because past bombings were less serious but because those on the Christmas day are capable of diverting attention to religious crises that would serve no one, including the perpetrators, any good now and for a long time to come.
“Consequently, ACF calls on the perpetrators of violence to stop forthwith and avail themselves to due process of addressing perceived grievances that are in place.

“ACF also wishes to say killing of innocent Nigerians is not correct and offends God and many people’s sense of justice. This is because a good number of those who go to places of worship are not lettered in either Western or Islamic education.
“More so that Western education is not necessarily the cause of the collapse of national ideals, moral values and cause of indiscipline in the polity, since there are examples of Muslim countries and Christian countries with western education that are morally sound. Turkey belongs to the former and Nordic country of Norway belongs to the later.

“Nigerians of all faiths must therefore come together and confront corruption in all ramifications by inspiring cultural renaissance for collective good. Corruption in Nigeria is not an exclusive preserve of Western education but a national malaise that should be confronted by all, and not government alone. Enough of the bombings and killing of innocent Nigerians,” the ACF said.
The Trade Union Congress (TUC) warned that there are certain disgruntled elements in the polity who want to divide Nigeria along sectarian lines.

President General of the TUC, Comrade Peter Esele, in a telephone conversation with THISDAY in Abuja yesterday, appealed to Nigerians, especially Christians, to be calm and avoid being incited to reprisal.
He added that it was necessary for Nigerians to stay united at these critical moments and not to allow any plot that is aimed at dividing the country along religious or ethnic lines to succeed.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) called on the Federal Government to make the fight against crime and terrorism its priority rather than diverting the attention of Nigerians with its debate on the need to remove fuel subsidy.

It added that it is necessary that the root causes of insecurity – poverty and unemployment – be addressed as budgeting huge sums of money for security would not solve the problem.

In a statement yesterday, the Acting General Secretary of the NLC, Comrade Owei Lakemfa, condemned the attacks in strongest terms, describing the perpetrators as “terrorists whose minds are as blurred as their vision”.

He called on Nigerians not to be deterred by the terrorists or give up on building a peaceful and united country where the will of the people would prevail.

Muslim & American

Resolution of the Fiqh Council of North America. Adopted in its General Body Meeting held in Virginia on September 24-25, 2011

On Being Faithful Muslims and Loyal Americans

Like other faith communities in the US and elsewhere, we see no inherent conflict between the normative values of Islam and the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Contrary to erroneous perceptions and Islamophobic propaganda of political extremists from various backgrounds, the true and authentic teachings of Islam promote the sanctity of human life, dignity of all humans, and respect of human, civil and political rights. Islamic teachings uphold religious freedom and adherence to the same universal moral values which are accepted by the majority of people of all backgrounds and upon which the US Constitution was established and according to which the Bill of Rights was enunciated.

The Qur’an speaks explicitly about the imperative of just and peaceful co-existence, and the rights of legitimate self-defense against aggression and oppression that pose threats to freedom and security, provided that, a strict code of behavior is adhered to, including the protection of innocent non-combatants.

The foregoing values and teachings can be amply documented from the two primary sources of Islamic jurisprudence – the Qur’an and authentic Hadith. These values are rooted, not in political correctness or pretense, but on the universally accepted supreme objectives of Islamic Shari’ah, which is to protect religious liberty, life, reason, family and property of all. The Shari’ah, contrary to misrepresentations, is a comprehensive and broad guidance for all aspects of a Muslim’s life – spiritual, moral, social and legal. Secular legal systems in Western democracies generally share the same supreme objectives, and are generally compatible with Islamic Shari’ah.

Likewise, the core modern democratic systems are compatible with the Islamic principles of Shura – mutual consultation and co-determination of all social affairs at all levels and in all spheres, family, community, society, state and globally.

As a body of Islamic scholars, we the members of FCNA believe that it is false and misleading to suggest that there is a contradiction between being faithful Muslims committed to God (Allah) and being loyal American citizens. Islamic teachings require respect of the laws of the land where Muslims live as minorities, including the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, so long as there is no conflict with Muslims’ obligation for obedience to God. We do not see any such conflict with the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. The primacy of obedience to God is a commonly held position of many practicing Jews and Christians as well.

We believe further that as citizens of a free and democratic society, we have the same obligations and rights of all US citizens. We believe that right of dissent can only be exercised in a peaceful and lawful manner to advance the short and long term interests of our country.

The Fiqh Council of North America calls on all Muslim Americans and American citizens at large to engage in objective, peaceful and respectful dialogue at all levels and spheres of common social concerns. We call upon all Muslim Americans to be involved in solving pressing social problems, such as the challenge of poverty, discrimination, violence, health care and environmental protection. It is fully compatible with Islam for Muslims to integrate positively in the society of which they are equal citizens, without losing their identity as Muslims (just as Jews and Christians do not lose their religious identity in doing the same).

We believe that emphasis on dialogue and positive collaborative action is a far better approach than following the paths of those who thrive on hate mongering and fear propaganda. Anti-Islam, anti-Semitism and other similar forms of religious and/or political-based discrimination are all forms of racism unfit for civilized people and are betrayal of the true American as well as Islamic values.

May the pursuit of peace, justice, love, compassion, human equality and fellowship prevail in the pluralistic mosaic that is the hallmark of our nation.

Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed,
National Director
Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances
Islamic Society of North America
110 Maryland Ave NE, Suite 304
Washington DC 20002
www.ISNA.net

Anti-Shariah Movement

The Anti-Shariah Movemenet and Jewish Law by Jacob Bender. From Aslan Media.

The front-page article in The New York Times on July 31, 2011, by reporter Andrea Elliott, described some of the personalities involved in the nation-wide campaign against what they call “the danger of Islamic law.”

One of these personalities is David Yerushalmi, a Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn, who the article describes as exercising “a striking influence over American public discourse about Shariah.” Joining forces with right-wing think-tanks, Yerushalmi has “written privately financed reports, filed lawsuits…and drafted the legislation” that aims to cast Shariah as the gravest contemporary threat to American freedom. A Web site of Yerushalmi’s organization goes so far as to propose a sentence of 20 years for anyone found guilty of observing Islamic law.

As an American Jew, I was immediately interested in Yerushalmi’s involvement in the campaign against Shariah. A documentary filmmaker by training and profession, I have spent the last several years directing Out of Cordoba, a film about the two greatest thinkers to emerge from medieval Muslim Spain, Ibn Rushd (Averroes) the Muslim, and his Jewish counterpart, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimun (Moses Maimonides). These two geniuses, both born in the Andalucian city of Cordoba, were philosophers committed to balancing the ancient Greek rationalism of Aristotle with the revealed truths they found in the Qur’an and in the Torah, as well as serving as court physicians to their local rulers in Spain and in Egypt, respectively.

Averroes and Maimonides were also judges of Shariah and Halakhah (Jewish religious law), believing that religious law was the foundation of God’s will on earth, and the basis of just and rational societies, guiding not only religious practices and beliefs of an observant Muslim or a Jew, but also the numerous day-to-day aspects of their lives.

What is striking about Maimonides — generally considered to have had the most influence of any individual on the Jewish religion over the last millennium — is the profound influence of Muslim thinkers upon his thought. Ironically, Yerushalmi seems totally ignorant of this Islamic influence upon his own religious traditions. In Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, his great code of Halakhah, as well as in the Guide for the Perplexed, his philosophical masterpiece, Maimonides cites numerous Muslim writers, including Ibn Sina (980-1037), Al-Farabi (872-951), and Ibn Hazm (994-1064). Late in his life, while serving as the court physician to Saladin in Egypt, we find Maimonides reading the numerous commentaries on the works of Aristotle written by Averroes. Maimonides lived all his life in the Muslim lands of Spain, Morocco, and Egypt, and was steaped in the latest intellectual trends of his day.

Except for the Mishneh Torah, all of Maimonides’ books, responsa, and correspondence were written in Arabic. That over three-quarters of the world’s Jews once lived in the dar-al-Islam (Muslim lands), and that Arabic was once also the language of Jewish people, are historical facts of little use to the Ashkenazic-centric worldview of people like Yerushalmi, ignorant as they are of the heritage of those Jewish communities beyond the confines of Eastern and Central Europe, known to scholars and lay-persons alike as Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews. It is important to note that Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed was often banned in many of the yeshivot (rabbinical schools) of Eastern Europe, for its espousal of the pagan Aristotle.

We should not be surprised at all that Yerushalmi, a practicing attorney, has no academic training in Islamic jurisprudence, nor in Jewish history, and that among his legal clients is Pamela Geller, another star of the bigoted Islamophobic circus that also includes Robert Spencer, Rev. Franklin Graham, and Daniel Pipes. (Full disclosure: A Web site associated with the anti-Shariah movement, http://www.SheikYerMami.com, accused me of being a long-time agent of Saudi Arabia because part of the funding for my film Out of Cordoba was provided by the Alwaleed bin Talal Foundation, together with the governments of the United States and Spain. Saudi Prince Alwaleed’s foundation has also made generous donations to such dangerous and subversive institutions as Harvard University and the Jesuit Georgetown University, as well as to the Louvre Museum in Paris.)

What should be abundantly clear from all of this is that the anti-Shariah movement has no interest in either history or facts. On the former, any honest reading of the history of Western Civilization will acknowledge the vast influence of Muslim thinkers across a wide range of human disciples, be it in philosophy, theology, architecture, grammar, poetics, mathematics, medicine, or astronomy. And regarding the current debate over Shariah, the simple fact is that this a red herring if there ever was one, for there is no vast Muslim conspiracy to advance the “Shariahization” of the United States that anyone can truly identify.

Read entire article at: Aslan Media

Jacob Bender is the director of the award-winning documentary Out of Cordoba. He can be reached at jacob@outofcordoba.com.

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