Islamophobia Hurts America

Religious Freedom and Islamophobia Conference in Philadelphia October 6-8, 2015

Douglas Johnston is known as the “Father of Faith Based Diplomacy. Opening the conference on Religious Freedom and Islamophobia, Johnston said, “The greatest asset we have to fight militant Islam is the American Muslim community. Unfortunately, we have alienated many in this community.” Johnston also said, “As the Muslim community is marginalized, it plays into the hands of extremists.”

Many in evangelical circles are concerned with the impact of overgeneralized anti-Islamic rhetoric and how that impacts common goals that we all share for religious freedom and security. The polarization between the Muslim communities and the Christian communities is doing great harm to our nation and to our Christian witness.

What The Atlantic Gets Dangerously Wrong About ISIS And Islam

Think Progress
February 18, 2015

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Graeme Wood entitled “What ISIS Really Wants,” which claims to expose the foundational theology of the terror group ISIS, also called the Islamic State, which has waged a horrific campaign of violence across Iraq, Syria, and Libya over the past year. The article is deeply researched, and makes observations about the core religious ideas driving ISIS — namely, a dark, bloodthirsty theology that revolves around an apocalyptic narrative in which ISIS’s black-clad soldiers believe they are playing a pivotal role.

Despite this, Wood’s article has encountered staunch criticism and derision from many Muslims and academics who study Islam.  The core issue, they say, is that Wood appears to have fallen prey to an inaccurate trope all too common in many Western circles: that ISIS is an inevitable product of Islam, mainly because the Qur’an and other Islamic texts contain passages that support its horrific acts.

What ISIS Really Wants

the Atlantic
March 2015

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The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.


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Saudi scholar says Muslim women do not need to veil their faces

National Public Radio
December 17, 2014

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Ahmad Aziz Al Ghamdi. He’s a religious scholar, the former head of the religious police in Mecca, a group officially known as the Committee for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice

But norms are changing as global culture is beamed into the kingdom through social media and satellite television.

Hilali-Khan English translation of the Qur’an may promote extremism

The Malaysian Insider
December 1, 2014

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In researching English translations of the Qur’an, I came across this article.  Technically, there are not “translations” of the Qur’an, but rather interpretations. Any translation interjects a certain degree of bias, that is part of the reason people are compelled to make new translations of Bible and the Qur’an.

The Hilali-Khan is the most widely distributed English translation in the world and officially recognized by the Saudi government.  However, a forum in Malaysia has “called out” the translation as promoting extremism.

This widely available translation, called the Hilali-Khan, made Muslims think that Islam was a religion hostile to other faiths, said academic and progressive Muslim thinker Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa.

The seeds of the “Allah” controversy, the custody battles between Muslim and non-Muslim spouses and the spread of anti-Christian feelings in Malaysia can be traced to a certain translation of the Quran, a recent forum on Muslim extremism in Kuala Lumpur was told.

The “Allah” controversy is where some Muslims teach that Christians should not use the word Allah to refer to God.

 

In Islam, What happens after death?

Video view of afterlife

One of the people that submitted questions asked,

 “What happens after someone dies in Islam? Is there a heaven and hell? What does judgment look like? Can a Muslim know his destiny?”

Imam Wasif Iqbal answered some of these questions for us in this series of videos.  This video speaks about the first of two judgment scenes that each individual will experience. He also tells how our deeds in this life will be weighed to help determine the outcome.

If you have questions you would like to see addressed, leave a comment or send me an email.

Are Non-Muslims Treated Equally?

treatment of non-muslims

One of the questions I have received asked me to address the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims. In this video, Imam Wasif explains the taxes (Jizya) that are required of non-Muslims and contrasts Jizya with Zakat that is required of all Muslims. He also references letters written by Muhammad promising protection for non-Muslims.  There is an interesting video on one of these letters here  and a Wikipedia article here.

Pruning the Tree

Diversity within Islam

I found this chart on the Washington Post last year. I keep coming back to it to help people see the diversity within Islam.  If you enlarge the chart to where you can actually read it, fascinating details emerge; the percentages of Shia and Sunni, subsets of each group and about how many are represented in each subset. You will also learn from what subsets the Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIS come. It looks a little like a tree to me.  Perhaps a tree that needs some pruning. Some will dispute the overall 1.6 billion number of Muslims.  I’ve heard numbers between 1.2 billion and 1.6 billion, but clearly this large number resists uniformity.  We desperately need a more nuanced conversation when we speak about what “Muslims believe.”

When I first started building relationships with Muslims, a few of my friends talked about the unity of Islam, the single umma (or community) of Islam.  This was presented as a proof of God’s blessing on Islam and as a stark contrast to the divisions within Christianity.

In time, I found that there was great diversity within Islam. So much so that it is very difficult to say Muslims uniformly believe anything.  I have even heard the five pillars of Islam explained differently and the shahadah (confession of faith) explained differently.

With so many schools of thought and theology within Islam, it is important to see our Muslim friends as individuals and ask their individual perspectives on things.  God has us all on a journey. Is this journey getting us closer to God or moving us further away?

Just as in numerous Christian circles we have different perspectives on how to interpret the Bible and live our faith, our Muslim friends also have different opinions about how to interpret the Qur’an and live out their faith. Christians would not all want to be lumped in with the belief systems of a Jim Wallis, an Al Mohler or Pat Robertson, much less so the systems of Jim Jones or Westboro Baptist.

As we describe the faith journeys of others, we need to keep the “Golden Rule” in mind. A nuanced description of others is useful because it helps clarify our thought process and challenges our assumptions.  This is respectful and honoring.  On the other hand, generalizations can be marginalizing, dismissive and condescending.  This is offensive. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Labels are the tools of antagonists’ and politicians to manipulate an uninformed populace.   They are the lazy man’s way of categorizing others and not dealing with the nuance required to resolve most conflicts.

It is inappropriate and dangerous to make sweeping generalizations based on what one fraction of the whole professes to believe. Would Christians want to be dismissed as racists because the Ku Klux Klan wear crosses on their robes and twist the Bible to support their claims to superiority over the races?

As I looked at the chart above, it reminded me of a tree. If a limb of a tree becomes diseased, it may need to be pruned.  Islam currently has the attention of the world, and people are arguing over who gets to hold the pruning shears and where and how to make the cuts. It seems clear that there is some pruning that needs to be done for the sake of peace and mutual thriving. Some who claim to be Muslims don’t seem to think they can live in peace with the rest of the world. It may be a twig or it may be a branch.  Some non-Muslims want to see the entire tree cut down, but not only is that not possible, its not smart to try.

Our Muslim friends also want to see this blight of Daesh eliminated. We can and must work effectively together to do so. It will be an ideological battle that defines Islam and makes space for freedom of religion for all.  It will be a psychological battle for the individual hearts and minds of people on all sides.  It will be a sociological battle as our society struggles together to overcome the challenges of this era but not also destroy or marginilize our neighbors. It will be a battle of international law and human rights and it may be a military battle as well as misguided souls, created in the image of God, are restrained from hurting others.

 

 

The Diversity of Islam

New York Times
October 8, 2014

Nick Kristof in the Green RoomPulitzer Prize-winner Nicholas D. Kristof says,

Sure, denounce the brutality, sexism and intolerance that animate the Islamic State and constitute a significant strain within Islam. But don’t confuse that with all Islam: Heroes like Mukhtar, Malala, Dadkhah and Rehman also represent an important element.

Let’s not feed Islamophobic bigotry by highlighting only the horrors while neglecting the diversity of a religion with 1.6 billion adherents — including many who are champions of tolerance, modernity and human rights. The great divide is not between faiths, but one between intolerant zealots of any tradition and the large numbers of decent, peaceful believers likewise found in each tradition.

Is there a caliph leading ISIS?  What does that mean?

As we sat in the mosque talking about the differences between the approach of Muhammad and ISIS, our conversation turned to this self-appointed caliph, Al-Baghdadi.  The imam made it clear that Al-Baghdadi is acting from political motives and does not speak for Islam. He referenced hundreds, or possibly thousands, of Islamic scholars who have rejected the man. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) released a similar statement condemning ISIS and advocating rights of minorities in Muslim majority countries. You can see that statement at this link S2S statement on rlgs minorities.  This four minute video is just part of an insightful conversation.  For more videos click here.