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Posts tagged ‘Mosque’

Muslims Protect Christians

Human chain formed to protect Christians during Lahore mass
By Web Desk / Aroosa Shaukat
Published: October 6, 2013
The Express Tribune

LAHORE: The Muslim and Christian communities came together during Sunday mass in a show of solidarity in Lahore.

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Hand in hand as many as 200-300 people formed a human chain outside the St Anthony’s Church adjacent to the District Police Lines at the Empress Road, in a show of solidarity with the victims of the Peshawar church attack two weeks back, which resulted in over a 100 deaths. The twin suicide attack on All Saints church occurred after Sunday mass ended and is believed to be the country’s deadliest attack on Christians.

Standing in the small courtyard of St Anthony’s Church, as Mufti Mohammad Farooq delivered a sermon quoting a few verses of the Holy Quran that preached tolerance and respect for other beliefs, Father Nasir Gulfam stepped right next to him after having conducted a two hour long Sunday service inside the church. The two men stood should to shoulder, hand in hand as part of the human chain that was formed outside the church not just as a show of solidarity but also to send out a message, ‘One Nation, One Blood’.

As part of an attempt to sensitize the public at large, the human chain was the second such event after a similar had been organized in Karachi last week outside the St Patrick’s Cathedral by an organization called Pakistan For All – a collective of citizens concerned about the growing attacks on minorities.

“Well the terrorists showed us what they do on Sundays. Here we are showing them what we do on Sundays. We unite,” said Mohammad Jibran Nasir, the organizer who made the calls for the event on social media.

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Flying in from Karachi for the human chain, Nasir and his group are out to advocate the need for interfaith harmony. “I see no reason why our politicians and our leaders should not come out of their houses, leave the luxury of their secure homes and stand in solidarity with the common man”, he said.

As the service concluded inside the church, the courtyard echoed with slogans of ‘Dehshut gardee murdabaad’ and ‘Muslim Maseehi ittehad zindabaad’ as members of the Sunday service emerged.

Led by Taimur Rahman, activist and member of the music band Laal, the congregation in the courtyard proceeded with sermons and chanting as the crowd increased in number.

Later, the congregation moved onto the street where they chanted slogans and formed the human chain, as police cordoned off the roads leading to the church to allow for the congregation to move.

Mariam Tariq who was attending the service along with her daughter also joined the chain. “We have lost so many of our loved ones over the past few years” said Tariq as she broke into tears.

See more photos at The Express Tribune with the International Herald Tribune.

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

Religious Co-operation

From Tablet

A Bronx Tale
by Ted Regencia and Lindsay Minerva
23 January, 2012

A Bronx Tale

After the congregants of an Orthodox synagogue could no longer afford their rent, they found help in the local mosque.

Near the corner of Westchester Avenue and Pugsley Street in Parkchester, just off the elevated tracks of the No. 6 train, Yaakov Wayne Baumann stood outside a graffiti-covered storefront on a chilly Saturday morning. Suited up in a black overcoat with a matching wide-brimmed black fedora, the thickly bearded 42-year-old chatted with elderly congregants as they entered the building for Shabbat service.

The only unusual detail: This synagogue is a mosque.

Or rather, it’s housed inside a mosque. That’s right: Members of the Chabad of East Bronx, an ultra-Orthodox synagogue, worship in the Islamic Cultural Center of North America, which is home to the Al-Iman mosque.

“People have a misconception that Muslims hate Jews,” said Baumann. “But here is an example of them working with us.”

Indeed, though conventionally viewed as adversaries both here and abroad, the Jews and Muslims of the Bronx have been propelled into an unlikely bond by a demographic shift. The borough was once home to an estimated 630,000 Jews, but by 2002 that number had dropped to 45,100, according to a study by the Jewish Community Relations Council. At the same time, the Muslim population has been increasing. In Parkchester alone, there are currently five mosques, including Masjid Al-Iman.

“Nowhere in the world would Jews and Muslims be meeting under the same roof,” said Patricia Tomasulo, the Catholic Democratic precinct captain and Parkchester community organizer, who first introduced the leaders of the synagogue and mosque to each other. “It’s so unique.”

The relationship started years ago, when the Young Israel Congregation, then located on Virginia Avenue in Parkchester, was running clothing drives for needy families, according to Leon Bleckman, now 78, who was at the time the treasurer of the congregation. One of the recipients was Sheikh Moussa Drammeh, the founder of the Al-Iman Mosque, who was collecting donations for his congregants—many of whom are immigrants from Africa. The 49-year-old imam is an immigrant from Gambia in West Africa who came to the United States in 1986. After a year in Harlem, he moved to Parkchester, where he eventually founded the Muslim center and later established an Islamic grade school. Through that initial meeting, a rapport developed between the two houses of worship, and the synagogue continued to donate to the Islamic center, among other organizations.

But in 2003, after years of declining membership, Young Israel was forced to sell its building at 1375 Virginia Ave., according to a database maintained by Yeshiva University, which keeps historical records of synagogues. Before the closing, non-religious items were given away; in fact, among the beneficiaries was none other than Drammeh, who took some chairs and tables for his center.

Meanwhile, Bleckman and the remaining members moved to a nearby storefront location, renting it for $2,000 a month including utilities. With mostly elderly congregants, Young Israel struggled to survive financially and, at the end of 2007, was forced to close for good. The remaining congregants were left without a place to pray. During the synagogue’s farewell service, four young men from the Chabad Lubavitch world headquarters in Crown Heights showed up. Three months earlier, Bleckman, then chairman of the synagogue’s emergency fund, had appealed for help from the Chabad.

“The boys from the Chabad said they came to save us,” said Bleckman. “We were crying.”

At this point, Chabad took over the congregational reins from Young Israel, with members officially adopting the new name Chabad of East Bronx. Still, for the next six to seven weeks, Bleckman said they could not even hold a service because they had nowhere to hold it.

When Drammeh learned of their plight, he immediately volunteered to accommodate them at the Muslim center at 2006 Westchester Ave.—for free.

“They don’t pay anything, because these are old folks whose income are very limited now,” said Drammeh, adding that he felt it was his turn to help the people who had once helped him and his community. “Not every Muslim likes us, because not every Muslim believes that Muslims and Jews should be like this,” Drammeh said, referring to the shared space. But “there’s no reason why we should hate each other, why we cannot be families.” Drammeh in particular admires the dedication of the Chabad rabbis, who walked 15 miles from Brooklyn every Saturday to run prayer services for the small Parkchester community.

For the first six months, congregants held Friday night Sabbath services inside Drammeh’s cramped office. As more people began joining the congregation, Drammeh offered them a bigger room where they could set up a makeshift shul. (When it’s not in use, students from the Islamic school use it as their classroom.) Inside the synagogue, a worn, beige cotton curtain separates the men and women who attend the service. A solitary chandelier hangs just above the black wooden arc that holds the borrowed Torah, which is brought weekly from the Chabad headquarters. A large table covered with prayer books stands in the center, and a picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe is displayed prominently on a nearby wall. During Shabbat, when Jewish congregants are strictly prohibited from working, they have to rely on the Muslim workers at the center or on Drammeh to do simple chores such as turning on the light and switching on the heater.

At first, it did not make sense, said Hana Kabakow, wife of Rabbi Meir Kabakow. “I was surprised,” said the 26-year-old congregant who was born and raised in Israel. “But when I came here I understood.” The Kabakows have been coming to the service from Brooklyn for the last two years.

Harriet Miller, another congregant, said she appreciated the center’s accommodating the synagogue. “They are very sweet people,” said the 79-year-old Bronx native and long-time resident of Parkchester, who added that she welcomes the new Muslim immigrants in her neighborhood: “We were not brought up to hate.”

Drammeh also understands the importance of teaching tolerance more broadly, and for turning the school—which was itself founded at the nearby St. Helena Catholic Church on, of all days, Sept. 11, 2001—into a model of sorts for religious tolerance in New York.

“We’re not as divided as the media portrays us to be,” Drammeh said. “Almost 90 percent of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian teachings are the same.”

His latest project involves introducing fifth-grade Jewish and Islamic school students to each other’s religious traditions. Other participants of the program, now in its sixth year, include the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan, the Al Ihsan Academy of Queens, and the Kinneret Day School of Riverdale. At the end of the program, students organize an exhibit that shows family artifacts of their respective cultures and religion. The principal of the Islamic school, who is also Sheik Drammeh’s wife, said that even after the program ended, the participants became “fast friends” and would visit each other’s homes.

“They would have birthday parties together,” Shireena Drammeh said. “When someone invites you to their house, I mean, that says it all right there and then.”

Read entire story at Tablet.

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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