Another perspective of from the tragedy of last year’s Boston Marathon


RUNNING THE BOSTON MARATHON IN A HIJAB

Leanne-290Like many participants in the Boston Marathon on Monday, Leanne Scorzoni will be running to honor the victims of last year’s bombing. But Scorzoni will also be running in a hijab: she converted to Islam after the attack, and wants her participation to emphasize that Boston’s Muslim community was also hurt by the bombings.

Scorzoni has never run the race before, but the thirty-two-year-old Boston native has watched from the sidelines for decades. Scorzoni was raised in nearby Danvers, and every year her family would arrive at a spot near the corner of Clarendon and Boylston Streets at about 8:30 a.m. sometimes bringing pots and pans to help cheer on marathoners.

Last year, Scorzoni staked out the same spot near the finish line and waited to be joined by a friend of hers named Sam. Unfamiliar with Marathon Monday tradition, he arrived late and, at about 2:30 P.M., he asked where the nearest bathroom was. Scorzoni was reluctant to give up her view of the race, but eventually agreed to guide her friend through the crowds. When the bombs exploded at 2:50, the two were browsing at a nearby Banana Republic on Newbury Street, approximately four blocks away from the finish line. The store’s loud music muffled the blasts, but when Scorzoni turned on her cell phone, she found dozens of texts from friends and family, asking where she was and if she was O.K.—she had been standing less than two blocks away from the initial explosion. Scorzoni doesn’t believe a divine power carried her away from the attack that killed three people and injured more than two hundred and sixty: “It was because my friend had to pee,” she said.

The next day, Scorzoni says, local F.B.I. agents visited her at her job at Massachusetts General Hospital, where they asked about a photo she had uploaded to Facebook of Sam, who is Muslim and from the Middle East. Shaken by the bombing and the encounter with the F.B.I., Scorzoni regularly checked in on her Muslim friends in the days after the bombing. As the media began to sort out the background of the Tsarnaev brothers, local reports also began to surface of sporadic verbal and physical attacks on Muslims, and of hate mail being sent to mosques, including the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, in Roxbury, which the Los Angeles Times originally reported that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had attended, confusing it with the Islamic Society of Boston, located in Cambridge. Scorzoni read about the letters on the center’s Facebook page, but she also saw the many comments of support that came from across the country.

Leanne ScorzoniScorzoni was raised Catholic, but she abandoned the Church in 1999, shortly after family members publicly announced that local priests had sexually abused them. “I was eighteen; I was angry. I was just like, I’m not doing this anymore,” she said, adding that she would often belittle friends and family members over their religious beliefs.

Years later, one of her relatives who had been abused told Scorzoni that he had gotten over his anger toward religion and that she needed to do the same. When she moved back to Boston, in 2011, she remembered seeing many ads for the I.S.B.C.C. on public transportation around the city, and later found out that the center was two blocks from where she lived. She first visited the I.S.B.C.C. in the summer of 2012; on her way to the grocery store, she asked a woman who was leaving the mosque if anybody could visit. “I was thinking it was like Mormonism, where only Mormons can go in,” she said.

Scorzoni went into the center’s bookstore, where she met Sam for the first time and engaged in a three-hour discussion about religion with the shop’s owner. As she began to make new friends at the mosque, she would observe prayer services and occasionally sit on prayer rugs and meditate. The I.S.B.C.C. thus became a special place for her: it was she where she began to feel comfortable again with being in religious surroundings. In Islam, Scorzoni found “more of a sense of ritual and meditation and contemplation I wanted in my life.”

Five weeks after the bombing, she called Suhaib Webb, the imam of the I.S.B.C.C., and told him that she was ready to convert. She walked to the mosque in jeans, a shirt, and flip-flops; after the ceremony, she and Sam celebrated just as casually, eating watermelon and chicken fingers on the mosque’s steps.

The I.S.B.C.C. has been a visible force in the local Muslim community’s efforts to support victims of the bombing. Last Friday, the I.S.B.C.C. organized a khutbah, or sermon, in remembrance of victims, and, on Tuesday, Webb spoke at a night of “Remembrance and Hope” at the Old South Church. Scorzoni was also in attendance and, at one point during the evening, runners were asked to stand. “Everyone started clapping, and all the runners just started crying, and soon everyone was crying,” she said. “Everyone in the church prayed for all of us, not even just the runners—prayed for the city.”

While she regularly attends services and will wear a hijab on Monday, Scorzoni also carries what she describes as “white privilege,” which many other Muslims do not have. She works part-time teaching English as a second language; many of her students are young Muslims living alone in the United States or working seventy-hour weeks to support their families here. She knows that the Tsarnaev brothers, who lived in the United States for almost a decade, also had better upbringings than many other Muslims in the area, and thinks that their actions left lingering scars for those who dissociate from their radicalism.

“I just see it as the same way there’s good Catholics and you have the Westboro Baptist Church,” she said, referring to the extremist group that often stages protests against the gay community. “It’s just such a helpless anger, when you curl your hands into fists and you just want to say, ‘You’re forcing everyone else to go five steps back from where they’ve come from.’ These two kids just cheated other people out of their livelihood, their spots—people who could’ve made their own lives better.”

Two other I.S.B.C.C. members will join Scorzoni on Monday to run in the marathon. Officially, Scorzoni is running to raise money for Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Pediatric Hematology and Oncology. But, when people ask Scorzoni what they can do to help, she tells them to go to the marathon and show that the tradition will continue, uninterrupted.

On Monday, when Scorzoni crosses the finish line, her family will be there to cheer her on, as will Sam and other friends from the I.S.B.C.C. “I believe we are moving away from, ‘Hey, look, a Muslim doing something normal,’ ” Scorzoni said. “Now we see a myriad of cultures and religions here, as it should be.”

 

 

America rejects Arabs even at memorials


RAY HANANIA

Like all Americans this week, I paused to commemorate the tragic violence that took place at the end of the Boston Marathon last year on April 15 killing three and injuring 263 more.

But I was disappointed that the one-year commemoration in Boston of the terrorist killings reflected the same kind of selfish commemoration that has cloaked many past acts of violence. Muslims and Arabs were excluded, as if we were not Americans.

I can tell you upfront that I am an American. I am insulted that people in the US continue to stereotype their anger to direct their hatred against people who are Arab or Muslim. I can tell you that unlike most Americans, I served in the US military active duty during the Vietnam War. I was proud to be able to continue what my brother and father and uncle did, all of whom served in the US military.

My father and uncle served four years through World War II fighting the Nazis in Europe and defending freedom as much as anyone else who wore or did not wear a military uniform. Yet, they and I are constantly disrespected by the undercurrent of revenge hatred that permeates America today.

The Boston terrorists, Tamerian Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, happened to be Muslims. And in their planning of this vicious attack, they asserted that they were defending Islam, as if Islam had chosen them as the religion’s defenders.

The fact is the two killers just happened to be Muslims and in fact were not true Muslims. They were not Arab. Yet Americans continue to hold Arabs and Muslims responsible for every act of violence by every crackpot who comes from the Middle East or a Muslim country. The Tsarnaevs were from Chechnya, where the Muslim population has been brutalized by the Russians.
They don’t represent Islam. They don’t represent Arabs. And they certainly don’t represent me, or other Arabs, Christian and Muslim, who continue to be persecuted and vilified in the news media and by political opportunists who seek to exploit the growing racism in America to advance their individual political agendas.

I know that I could have sung “America the Beautiful” as powerfully and as meaningfully as anyone. I am as patriotic and more patriotic than any of those who were invited to speak at the commemoration ceremonies.

I was disappointed, but not surprised, that no high profile Muslims or Arabs representing the other victims in this vague and blurring concept of the “War on Terrorism” were invited to speak or participate or to express their own patriotism and demonstrate that they are “Boston Strong,” too.

Just this past week, a white man was arrested and charged with the murder of four innocent civilians at Jewish community centers in Kansas City, yet no one dared to denounce him as a “white terrorist” or as a “Christian terrorist.” The suspect’s Christian religion suddenly had become insignificant, even though it reflects a disturbing far rightwing corner of American militant and fanatic Christians.

He’s “different” from Christians and doesn’t represent the “Christian” religion. Yet somehow, all Muslims and even Arabs, Christian and Muslim – and yes, Christian Arabs do exist America – are represented by the self-proclaimed two Islamic terrorists who murdered innocent Americans so viciously and so cowardly in Boston last year.

I want to know when the real America will return? When will the America that stands up for justice, freedom and fairness return to this country? When will Americans stop pretending to embrace the US Constitution and the “American way” and start living it? Stop talking and start doing. Because what many Americans are doing is not what America stands for.

I’m an American. I’ve done more than most Americans by serving my country when the call to stand up and put my life on the line was made when I was younger. I didn’t hesitate. I was there in uniform ready to fight, doing what I was told.

And I am tired of having to remind people who claim to be American, but are not, that I am more of an American than they could ever be. Because I believe in justice. I believe in fairness. I believe that one man’s insanity does not represent the beauty of an entire race of people. I reject racism. I reject racial hatred. I reject xenophobia. I reject discrimination.

I embrace true American patriotism, which means speaking for and defending every American regardless of their race, religion or their creed. And, added to that, true American patriotism means that we stand together regardless of the race, religion or the creed of the terrorist fanatics who deserve our scorn as a nation.

I happen to be Christian, too. But if you think of me as a Muslim, I am as proud to be thought of that way as I am proud to be a real American.

Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist. He is the managing editor of The Arab Daily News at www.TheArabDailyNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @RayHanania.

Lies, damned lies and statistics


The following article is not so much about statistics as it is about the how and why Islam has become popular in America but in reading it what angered me is the use of a statistic…the number of Muslims in America.  The statistic of 1,349,000 Muslims in America as of 2012 is hilariously funny and pathetically short of the real numbers.  I understand however why the number HAS to be that low for it makes it far more comfortable for people to fathom and tolerate a religion that has been so beguiled and vilified.  In other words it keeps the mass hysteria and panic down, for now, to a minimum.  But all one need do is look up the numbers for themselves to see that the number of Muslims in America is much greater than 1.3 million with figures ranging from the equally pathetic 2 million to 7 million and all of these numbers are merely guesses because such data is not allowed to be collected in a government sponsored census for reasons of privacy and freedom from suspicion of suppression of religion.  These are my pet peeves; the article below is about how people come to adopt and practice Islam in an increasingly secular country.  I hope you enjoy it

 

Though Will Caldwell was born, raised and college educated in Georgia, he is uncomfortable praying there.

He has felt that way since a clear summer evening in 2007 at a nondescript gas station off a nondescript interstate somewhere between Savannah and Macon. He was on his way home to Saint Simons Island from Emory University, where he had just finished his junior year. Caldwell had pulled his red Mini Cooper into the rest stop because the sun was starting to set and, since he had converted to Islam one year earlier, this meant that it was time to pray.

In the empty field next to the gas station, he found a discrete corner, laid out his mat and began to recite the holy verses, first standing, then bent forward, then on his knees with his head to the ground. He noticed two people looking at him, secretively peering out from behind their truck. Uneasy, he rushed through the ritual, folded up his mat and got back in the car to leave. As he pulled away, he could see in his rear view mirror a cop car pulling into the parking lot. The people who had been staring were flagging down the police officer and pointing at Caldwell. He drove on at an intentionally moderate pace, and the cop did not follow, but he has not risked praying publicly in the South since.

Caldwell is soft spoken. He pauses thoughtfully before talking and sometimes between sentences. He wears a plaid button down shirt, slacks and small, round wire-framed glasses. His wide-set green eyes gaze out earnestly from his creamy white face. One quickly gets the sense that he is a kind and spiritual person. Perhaps this is his fatal flaw. After growing up in the Episcopal Church, Caldwell rediscovered his spirituality in Islam and decided to convert. Now, less than a hundred miles from where he was raised, onlookers see Caldwell’s prayer as a potential threat. Why might this be?

“The political context we are in is so charged with anti-Muslim rhetoric that it’s almost impossible, I would say, for that conversion not to have some kind of political ramifications even if the convert in no way intends it,” says Brannon Ingram, a professor of religious studies at Northwestern University, who specializes in Islam and Sufism. In July of 2013, Fox News correspondent Lauren Green interviewed religion scholar Reza Aslan about “Zealot”, a book he just had written about Jesus Christ. She repeatedly questioned his credentials and asked him to explain how a Muslim could write about Christianity. In 2013, a Pew Research Center for the People & the Press study found that 45 percent of Americans believe that Muslims face “a lot” of discrimination.

Negative sentiments about Muslims most often link to an association of Islam with radicalism and terrorism. A 2007 document by the New York Police Department entitled “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat,” says, “Jihadist ideology is the driver that motivates young men and women, born or living in the West, to carry out an ‘autonomous jihad’ via acts of terrorism against their host countries.” Because of these beliefs, the police instated surveillance over New York City’s mosques and Muslim communities using informants, neighborhood mapping, photos and video footage. When the American Civil Liberties Union caught wind of this policy in June of 2013, they sued the NYPD.

Muslim converts have received extensive media attention. Katherine Russell, the widow of one of the notorious Boston Marathon bombers, began practicing Islam after meeting her husband. Samantha Lewthwaite, known as the “White Widow” after her husband’s 2005 suicide bombing in London public transit, is among the suspects implicated in the Nairobi mall massacre in September 2013. She, too, is Muslim convert. Nicholas Brody, a main character of the popular television show “Homeland”, becomes a Muslim while he is imprisoned by al-Quaeda in Damascus, Syria. Once back in the United States, he collaborates with his captors to plot and execute terror attacks.

Karen Danielson, DanielsonDirector of Outreach at the Chicago chapter of Muslim American Society, says that any event that brings Islam into the public consciousness — for negative or positive reasons — generates interest. “After 9/11 for example, there was a large influx of converts. Sometimes people come forward hostile, but then even they end up converting because of what they discover,” she says. “They investigated, they read the Quran, and it answered a lot of questions that they had before.” Danielson herself found Islam in 1983 when she was a young adult. She has worked in community building for Muslims ever since and has interacted with hundreds of converts and support groups.

Despite their powers of attraction, these terror-infused portrayals are very problematic for converts, says Iqbal Akhtar, a professor of Islamic Studies at Florida International University. New Muslims are forced to view themselves as outsiders in their own culture and are not given the opportunity to reconcile the different parts of their identities. “Even if in day-to-day interactions you can pass for being American or not being differentiated, you live in a society where the media is constantly defining the Muslim as an ‘other,’” says Akhtar. “All these things fit into how you define yourself.”

Converts to any faith seem increasingly abnormal as the United States gravitates farther away from religion. According to a Pew Research study, the number of Americans who do not affiliate with a religion has gone up by 5 percent in the past five years, from 15.3 percent in 2007 to 19.6 percent in 2012.

IRAQI-AMERICAN MUSLIMS CELEBRATE IN DEARBORN OUSTER OF HUSSEINYet the number of Muslims in the United States is increasing. In the seven years that followed the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, the Muslim American population grew from 1,104,000 to 1,349,000, according to the 2012 census. And in a study of that same time frame, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that 40 percent of Muslims in the United States were not raised with the faith, but joined it as adults.

This anomalous increase in religious practice may be because conversion to Islam is quick and very simple. “It really just requires reciting a formula called the shahada in front of a number of witnesses,” says Ingram. He translates the verse to mean, “There is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger.” And that’s it. There’s no training, no test. You just recite the creed. Ingram attributes the successful global spread of Islam to the ease of this process.

The difficulty for many converts comes in the change of daily customs, rather than in the change of faith. In 2005, at the age of 36, Jennifer Gauthier converted from Catholicism to Islam in order to marry to a Muslim man. The pair has since moved to Alexandria, Egypt. “I would say the greatest challenges I face are more related to Islamic cultural traditions rather than what I understand from the Quran,” she says. “My dad and I have had many conversations about Islam and Catholicism and have found many overlaps.” She says it made a big difference that she already felt comfortable with the idea of one god.

American faceSaba Safder, Scholarship Manager at the national non-profit Islamic Society of North America and a Muslim convert from Methodism, speaks to the challenging cultural adjustments. “In the beginning it was hard to fit in. Sometimes when I came to the mosque, my scarf may not have covered all my hair, or my sleeves may not have been as long as they should have been,” she said. “There were many times that women would correct my praying or how I dressed.”

Many converts also felt alienated because of their whiteness. DanielMooreIn theory, explains Ingram, Islam is meant to be a race-free religion. But in practice, he says, this is not the case. “In the popular imagination Islam is still very much,” – he makes air quotes with his fingers – “a brown person’s religion.” And this belief, he continues, is somewhat valid. “American Muslim communities can be very closely knit in terms of some ethnic background,” he says. “Not just immigrants from or descendants of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent, but even specific regions in India.”

As a result, when Caldwell enters a Muslim center for the first time, he says he gets one of two reactions to his whiteness. The first is suspicion. In a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, he recalls, he could feel everyone’s eyes on him. Muslims sometimes suspect that he is an FBI agent, working for the aforementioned government surveillance, he says. “I just try to deal with it because I understand it.” he says. Others place him on a pedestal. Immigrants trying to assimilate into white American society take his race as a sign of their success. “Seeing a white person [practicing Islam] sort of validates their own religious existence. There’s a lot of embedded racial assumptions about that,” he says. “I don’t think it’s a desirable situation for me or for them, but it is the case nonetheless.”

Some converts are forming their own groups, one of which is Ta’leef Collective. Founded as a resource for new Muslims and prospective converts, Ta’leef runs classes, discussions and support groups. Its headquarters are in Fremont, Calif., but it opened a Chicago chapter in 2012. Ta’leef stays away from the media for fear that it will portray them badly. “Our concern is both one of how we are represented to the larger American population and how we are represented to other Muslim communities,” said Caldwell, who is a participant. “A lot of what we do would be controversial to other Muslim communities in the sense that it’s not a mosque but it’s a Muslim community. That doesn’t fit so well into the parameters of what they expect.”

New Muslims often especially need this social outlet after distancing themselves from their former lives. “I very rarely associate myself with the community I was raised in. I have strong contacts with my family, but many times I just feel like it is hard to belong,” says Safder. “There are too many media influences that give people a preconceived idea before seeing that I am still the same person.”

If not at home, how do converts find Islam? Danielson was in her first year at Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, Iowa. She intended to lead missions targeting Muslims. To prepare, she studied the Quran and was deeply moved by it. “It was through my personal reading of Quran that I had my own private conversion,” she says. “I felt like my questions were answered. The deep bigger questions about justice and life in general. What is the universe all about? What does everything mean?” She says she never found this type of spiritual guidance in the Bible and converted to Islam one month after.

Caldwell’s story of coming to Islam is strikingly similar. An altar boy in his youth, Caldwell looked up to his Episcopal priest and wanted to follow in his footsteps. While an undergraduate at Emory University, he learned that seminary students studied Greek but not Hebrew. In order to understand the Old Testament, he started taking Hebrew classes. These led him to Jewish studies classes. Judaism introduced him to the possibility of practicing other religions, but it was too connected to an ethnic and cultural history for him to fully embrace it, he says. “I guess in a lot of ways Islam is a natural place to look at that point.” He started reading the Quran and spent the summer and fall of his junior year in Jerusalem. He promised himself that he wouldn’t make any big decisions until he finished it. One month into his studies in Israel, he finished the Quran and converted to Islam.

Ingram has noticed a trend in why people like Danielson or Caldwell may gravitate toward the religion. “I’ve spoken to a few white converts over the years who said Christianity never made sense to me, the trinity never made sense to me, the idea of God being one and three at the same time never made sense to me,” he said. “Islam doesn’t have that problem. People are attracted to the comparative simplicity of Islam’s notion of God.”

Their strong connection to Islamic theology helps converts deal with stigma. “We know that Islam does not preach terrorism. We know Islam does not preach extremist radical thought. Those things are not linked to Islam. They’re linked to Muslims,” says Danielson. “Muslims are people. They have so many factors that motivate who they are. Yes, Islam influences them, but they have their economic condition and their political situation, too.”

Gauthier puts this idea concisely. “A saying I’ve heard often — and I think it applies to all religions — is ‘Don’t look to Muslims to understand Islam. Look to Islam itself,’” she says.

But, according to Danielson, converts need to change people’s preconceptions about Muslims. “We have to get our voice heard better. Islam should be understood better, and that’s a difficult position to be in,” she says. “First-hand knowledge of Islam and Muslims needs relationship building and a genuine commitment to long-term cooperation.”

Islam in America-The Source


I’ve always thought if you wanted to get information the best place is the source.  Islam is a diverse, multi-ethnic community that has been progressive, influential and peaceful force in America.  Here is one perspective of the religion in America

Now, don’t say you haven’t heard or don’t know.

Islam and the West-A history shrouded in mystery


It shouldn’t be……Islam has been a constant in the western world just as much as Christianity and the European empires of England, France and Spain, yet far too many people don’t know that about the Islamic religion.  I’ve posted on this blog before the lecture of one American Muslim scholar, Jerald Dirks that relates historical documents about Islam and Muslim interaction with Europeans and indigenous people of North America that dates anything written by contemporary historical scholars.  Here again I post his lecture

Now comes word of the reasons why Thomas Jefferson possessed an English copy of the Quran, which leads me to wonder has anyone asked themselves why would he want one?

Long before Europeans governed Muslim colonies, interest in Islam and its cultures ran high in Europe. Part of the reason was political. Three Muslim empires dominated large parts of Asia: the Ottomans in Anatolia, the Mediterranean and Arabia; the Safavids in Persia; and the Mughals in India.

These Muslim dynasties were not just powerful but were also admired for their refined arts and culture — music, poetry, gardens, ceramics and textiles. Moreover, books in Arabic offered knowledge of many fields to those who learned the language. Not just the sciences and philosophy but even Arabic literature enticed European translators. Thus, in 1704 a Frenchman first translated the “1001 Nights,” whose tales soon became an enduring classic of European as well as of Arabic letters.

Above all else, the religion of Islam itself seemed an especially compelling field of inquiry to a variety of European scholars and thinkers. How had a handful of Muslims emerged from the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century to conquer so much of the known world? This was one of the great questions of world history, as both the French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire and the English historian Edward Gibbon agreed. In addition, philosophers and freethinking Christians deemed the central tenet of Islam, the unity of God, more rational than the mystery of the Christian Trinity. Thus, many different Europeans attributed singular importance to Islam and the language of its revelation, Arabic.

Courage


Sarajevo_Muslim_Jewish_Veil_Yellow_Star

Muslim veiled woman, Zejneba Hardaga (right) and Jewish woman, Rivka Kalb (2nd from right) and her children (with beret) are guided on the streets of Sarajevo in 1941. Zejneba covered the yellow star on the Rivka’s left arm with her veil. Bahrija Hardasa, sister-in-law of Zejneba, is on the far left.

 

Hat tip-Loonwatch

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hijab

What is offensive about this picture?


snorestop-hed-2013Evidently some in America don’t like the imagery of an American soldier hugging a niqaabi clad woman in this snorestop advertisement that’s appearing in California.  Too many of us are still in the business of deciding for others who they can and cannot mate with.  Perhaps that is the discontent many have with Obama; the thought that a white woman would actually have sex with an African man and produce a child that would be as competitive in the western world as any  white child is too fearful a thought for some.

America is too culturally diverse today to have such limitations placed on people and their choices. There are Americans embracing Islam and Muslim women/men are marrying them and many of them are in the US military. Neither act, accepting a religious belief and being American or in the service of your country  is mutually exclusive unless you’re a bigot who believes in really antiquated notions of racial superiority being diluted with co-mingling.

Meet the players behind the picture

Conversion


From this

to this Arnoud van Doorn

I felt ashamed standing in front of the Prophet’s grave. I thought of the grave mistake which I had made by producing that sacrilegious film. I hope that Allah will forgive me and accept my repentance.

 

Arnoud van Doorn has proven extremism is self defeating.  Who would have thought this producer of that once vilified film Fitnah which demonized and slandered Muslims would one day embrace them as his equal but his story is proof that our destinies are not solely ours and neither is the knowledge of our future.  My hope is van Doorn  will be a committed Muslim and citizen of his country who will effectively counteract the bigotry and racism of his countrymen.

Rihanna and the Emiratis


I don’t like Rihanna, neither her music nor her look.  Perhaps it stems from the time when she and Chris Brown were an item and allowed herself to be his punching bag.  I dislike like women who don’t have a high enough regard for themselves to keep from being abused by anyone, especially men with Napoleonic complexes, however I was slightly perplexed to hear she was thrown out of the Shaikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi for what some thought were inappropriate photographs she took there the day of a concert she was to perform later in the same city.     Looking at the photos, they are typically Rihanna, toned down quite a bit.

rihanna et.co

When you consider she sometimes looks like this, however Rihanna’s photo shoot was timid in comparisonrihanna swimsuit

Everybody knows Rihanna’s schtick, EVERYBODY except those in the UAE it appears.  She is no secret, she’s not an enigma she is what you see and as the photos and others on her instagram account show, sometimes you see more of her than at other times.

The UAE has had this problem however for some time of people who go to that country and flaunt themselves in ways Emiratis consider disrespectful of their way of life.  For many westerners, baring skin, drinking and carousing is as natural to them as it is for people of the Gulf praying five times a day or covering one’s self fully in 100 degree weather. How then do you reconcile the two opposites into a peaceful coexistence?  It’s clear for Emiratis, that kind of existence is not desirable if it means accommodating the likes of Rihanna which is why she was kicked out from the masjid.  It’s important to note that she was allowed to continue with her lackluster concert according to some, but the bigger problem is how can a country that wants to live its austere religious lifestyle justify making itself a center of tourism and commerce that invites a lifestyle completely opposite of those principles?  Emiratis want to have their cake and eat it too, they want to live as Muslims while entertaining people from all walks of life who are only interested in that country as a place of fun and sun and for the moment it’s hard to imagine how that integration can happen without conflict of the sort that resulted at Shaikh Zayed’s masjid.  Emiratis should not be surprised nor upset that what you see is what you get is coming into their country they just have to figure out if they want to keep having them come.

Music and Islam


I’m a big fan of Tariq Ramadan who has done a commendable job of incorporating his very Western personality into his Islamic way of life and I have often quoted him here at Miscellany101.wordpress.com.   He wrote a piece indirectly about music, more directly about Yousuf Islam and there are several points he made that resonated with me which I wanted to share here.

For Muslim women and men around the world, his story embodies a powerful lesson. We hear of “Islamic chants” (anacheeds) that are supposedly “Islamic” because they express religious themes, or because they employ no instruments, or because they are based on traditional or Qur’anic texts. In this light, only such chants are permissible (halal) in Islam, the only form of creativity recognized. There are indeed scholars who hold such a position, but it is far from unanimous. In To Be a European Muslim (written in 1996) I dealt with these views and took a clear position on music in Islam. Not only is it permitted, but Muslim women and men must also reconcile themselves with art, with creativity, and with the imagination in all its dimensions. Guided by their ethical bearings, they must not allow themselves to be enchained by the adjective “Islamic” that ends up isolating them, suffocating them, and depriving them of their creative energy in the universe of art, of music, painting, sculpture and literature. Muslims are constantly justifying themselves; they feel obliged to describe everything as “Islamic” to satisfy and to conform to the norm. But our ethical concerns must not force upon us an obsession with the norms of “licit” and “illicit” (halal and haram).

Seen in this light, any song, any form of artistic expression that celebrates humanity, love, justice, the quest for meaning, and peace is, in fact, in full conformity with Muslim ethics and needs no further qualifiers. Meaning, hopes and human edification are to be felt and to be lived; they have no need of a normative framework that bridles and ultimately annihilates them. The expression of ultimate ethical causes in art transcends the narrow limitations of specific ways of belonging, and brings together the universal quality of all that is most precious to humans, who can feel themselves uplifted, broadened, vibrating, becoming more human, more peaceful; who can feel themselves being regenerated by a voice, a hand, a pen or a brush. Music can be a prayer, a painting a path, a song a story: as long as art speaks to mankind of its heart, its wounds, its hopes, tears, smiles and aspirations, it forms the universal language of humankind and can bring about by way of imagination, emotion and the heart what no dialogue of reason or of civilizations can hope to offer.

Eid al-Adha photos


There are some nice photographs of Muslims celebrating eid al-adha in 2012 the world over.  Photos like this one of Muslims in Lagos, Nigeria nigeriaare worth your attention.  Go here to look at the rest of the pictures that depict the diversity of the Muslim community.

Eid al adha-2013


While the world waits for its major super power to default and throw international economies into a tailspin, Muslims the world over are celebrating the festival for the annual pilgrimage, or Hajj. hajj Over two million Muslims participated this year, 2013 and to them and Muslims the world over, congratulations on the occasion of eid al-adha.

eid

Looka’ here


Found this article floating around Facebook and thought it a harbinger of things to come in America.  Women in western societies are accepting Islam absent male influence; they are deciding on their own to embrace a religion that many see as oppressive to women and women’s rights, yet in doing so making a statement that they want to decide their future, their relationships independently and in their own way.  That’s what western societies offer their citizens…the right to choose, and it seems so long as freedom of religion is not criminalized like other free choices that used to be available to women….the number of women who embrace Islam will most likely increase for the time being.

However, this young woman’s life choices seems to be a precursor to becoming Muslim.  Reading her story might make it easier for objective observers to see why women in America accept Islam

hijabi

I am an American non-Muslim woman who has chosen to wear the hijab. Yes, you did read that correctly! I am not conducting an experiment on what the hijab is like or trying to explore the lives of Muslims. I have made a permanent life decision to only show my face and hands while in public, and I love it!

When I was younger, I found the hijab to be beautiful, but unfortunately I thought that a lot of the myths about the hijab were true, and so I was daunted by it. When I started college I studied Arabic and made friends with the Muslim students in my classes. A few of the girls wore a hijab, and even though I liked the look of it and respected their right to wear it, I thought that it was oppressive.

Unfortunately, around the same time, I began to notice that some of the men at my university would openly speak about their female classmates as though they were moving pieces of meat. I would often have to hear stories that I rather wouldn’t about what these boys would like to do to this girl or that one, and I began to notice their looks. Before entering university, I would catch men looking at me in an inappropriate way from time to time, and I would just ignore it, but after hearing these conversations and feeling their many looks, I couldn’t just ignore it anymore.

I mentioned how I felt to some of my classmates, and often I got responses like “boys will be boys,” or “it’s just their biology, they can’t help their behavior.” At the time, I bought these responses, and I thought that my discomfort was just my problem. I thought that these people had a right to behave the way they were, and I had no right to try and stop them. When I got engaged, this all changed.

My fiance is my soulmate. We met in junior high and were friends for years before we began dating. He had asked me out a few times before then, and even though I turned him down, he always behaved around me in a respectful way. It was because of how he always treated me that I eventually agreed to go out with him. The day he proposed to me is, so far, the happiest day of my life. Once I made the decision to make a lifelong commitment to him and only him, it seemed obvious that no one had the right to treat me like their sex object. Whenever I would notice someone looking at me inappropriately, I no longer felt uncomfortable, I felt outraged! But I still had no idea what I could do about it.

couple

Finally, one day I saw one of my hijabi friends at school and ran over to say hi to her. She started to walk towards me, and for some reason I was just struck by her. She was wearing a scarf and an abayaa like she normally did, but in that moment she looked regal and powerful. In my mind I thought, “Wow, I want to look just like that.” I started researching the hijab, and I learned more about why Muslims wear a hijab, what makes a hijab a hijab, and how to wrap scarves. I watched youtube videos, browsed online hijab shops (including Haute Hijab) and the more I saw the more I was impressed by how these hijabi women exuded class and elegance. I wanted so much be like these women, and couldn’t get the hijab out of my mind. I even started dreaming about it!

There were many things I liked about the hijab. I liked the thought of having so much control over my body and how the outside world saw it, but what I also liked was how well it fit with my feminist beliefs. As a feminist I believe that women and men should be equals in society, and that the norm of treating women like sex objects is a form of unequal and unfair treatment. Women in American society are looked down upon if they don’t dress in order to be attractive for others, but I believe that women shouldn’t have to conform to some ridiculous and unattainable standard of beauty. The hijab is a way to be free of that.

However, the way the hijab best complemented my feminist beliefs was how it was about so much more than women’s clothing. As I understood it, the hijab is about how men and women should interact while in public. Men also dress in a non-revealing way, and both men and women are supposed to treat each other with respect. I was happy to learn that both men and women were expected to be responsible for their own actions, and impressed at how egalitarian the ideals of the hijab are.

At this point, I was certain that I wanted to wear a hijab, but I had a problem. I was afraid that wearing a hijab as a non-muslim would be offensive, and I was too afraid to ask my friends. I found one youtube video on the subject, and though it said that it wouldn’t be offensive, I still wasn’t sure. But eventually, after weeks of thinking about the hijab, I finally asked one of my friends. She told me that she wouldn’t be offended, and then pointed out that Muslims aren’t the only ones who wear headscarves, many Jews and Christians do as well.

I started wearing it off and on for a few weeks after that, and once I felt comfortable I always wore it when I left home. Soon after, I left for an internship in Jordan. I was afraid that the Jordanians would not like that I was wearing a hijab, but quickly after I got off the plane I found otherwise! When I told people that I was an American non-Muslim, they were excited to see that I wore a hijab. People often told me that they thought it was a very good thing that I was wearing it, and some people were touched that I would show such respect to their culture. Best of all, I will never forget the sight of a fully grown man jumping with excitement because I was wearing a jilbab! These memories will always bring warmth to my heart, and they give me strength back in the states when I have to deal with angry glares or awkward questions about my hijab.

Sometimes I will still catch men looking at me in a disrespectful way, but I take joy in knowing that though they may try, they still cannot see what they want to. Because of the hijab, I understand that my body is my right, and I will be forever grateful to the Muslim women who taught that to me.

 

 

Chaos in Egypt


Some people seem to think this is what is necessary to restore democracy in Egypt after a coup replaced a democratically elected Egyptian president.  If this is what’s necessary to reinstitute democracy in Egypt then Egypt is doomed. No matter what one may think of the Muslim Brotherhood, if their distaste allows them to accept this level of violence against citizens of a country they suffer from a pathology akin to murder or genocide.  This is not how government should change hands and this level of violence should be condemned.  Any and all aide should be stopped and economic sanctions began immediately for as long as any Egyptian government condones and enacts this level of violence against its own.

A protester comforts a wounded colleague after Egyptian security forces began to clear a sit-in by supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in the eastern Nasr City district of Cairo, Egypt,

A protester comforts a wounded colleague after Egyptian security forces began to clear a sit-in by supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in the eastern Nasr City district of Cairo, Egypt,

A bullet hole is seen in the front of a gas mask belonging to a supporter of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo's Nasr City district, Egypt, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. Egyptian police in riot gear swept in with armored vehicles and bulldozers Wednesday to clear two sprawling encampments of supporters of the country's ousted Islamist president in Cairo, showering protesters with tear gas as the sound of gunfire rang out. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)

A bullet hole is seen in the front of a gas mask belonging to a supporter of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo’s Nasr City district, Egypt, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. Egyptian police in riot gear swept in with armored vehicles and bulldozers Wednesday to clear two sprawling encampments of supporters of the country’s ousted Islamist president in Cairo, showering protesters with tear gas as the sound of gunfire rang out. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)

The GOP is a bad joke


Louie Gohmert - Caricature

Louie Gohmert – Caricature (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

Perhaps this is why Republicans are against immigration because they see an Islamist in every Hispanic immigrant that comes into this country.

‘Radical Islamists’ Learn Spanish, Pretend To Be Hispanic, Claims Rep. Louie Gohmert

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, believes he has solved a terrorist tactic.

While speaking to the Longview, Texas Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Gohmert claimed “radical Islamists” were learning Spanish “because we don’t have any fear of Hispanics coming into the country.”

Gohmert added that he is opposing immigration reform based on the theory, noted News-Journal.com.

“The FBI director has confirmed more than once that we know that there are radical Islamists that change their names to Hispanic-sounding last names, they come to Mexico and get and ID, and some of them even learn a little bit of Spanish so that they can try to act as if they’re Hispanic,” Gohmert said (video below). “Why? Because we don’t have any fear of Hispanics coming into the country, but we’ve got concerns about radical Islamists.”

He also suggested that real undocumented Hispanic immigrants might lie about how long they have been in the United States in order to stay under the DREAM Act, which is supposed to be for immigrant children who were brought to America by their undocumented parents.

Gohmert also said the United States was the best country “because most Americans, generally speaking, had a faith in God, they had a devotion to family and they had a hard worth ethic,” but lamented that might not be true today.

It seems the only policy this demented party has is to instill fear and hatred in the hearts of Americans against others who are different.  The GOP accentuates differences, points them out and builds policy around them which is not very constructive in a country of over 300 million people from all walks of life, if not suicidal for a political party.  All of that doesn’t seem to matter to the likes of Gohmert, who has taken boorish behavior to a new level as a member of Congress.  Want to see more of his outlandish actions go here, here , here and here.  A four time elected US representative, Gohmert resonates with that part of the DemonicGOP that believes Obama is a foreign socialist Muslim who wants to destroy the American way of life….and did I mention he’s been elected FOUR times!  God help us!!

Congratulations on Eid al-Fitr


eidCongratulations to those who fasted during the month of Ramadan in, for some in the West, is the hardest time of the year to do so, the summer months of heat and long daylight hours.  It is quite a feat. It also appears God helped you divert a catastrophe for some, by making the month 29 days and making it easy to spot the crescent moon for those of you who take that kind of thing seriously.  There were some bumps along the way however…just ask the people of Ras al-Khaimah in the UAE.

Naturally there are countries that will have their eid celebration on different days and that’s a part of the diversity of Islam, isn’t it?  The earth is not flat, it’s round, multi-dimensional, multi-cultural, but wherever you are enjoy your day of feast and celebration.  Pray for those in war torn areas who hopefully can take the time out from their troubles to reflect on something that may be positive about where they are and pray for them that their suffering may be relieved.  Finally, take a moment to thank the Creator for the Mercy He extends to all humanity, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.  Mercy is a Beautiful thing; an attribute we should try to embody more often in our day to day interactions.

 

Ramadan Mubarak


Ramadan Mubarak to the readers of Miscellany101

Ramadan Mubarak to the readers of Miscellany101

Yes it’s a few days early, but not as early as can be found in some newspapers across the Arab Muslim world where March, 2013 was when Ramadan’s start date was announced.  It really doesn’t matter when it was announced or when it’s said it WILL begin, what matters is you enjoy the month of fasting and get the optimum benefit from observing it.  During the month of fasting and reflection I hope you will pause a time or two to read what’s written on the pages of Miscellany101.wordpress.com

Islam in Mexico


Mexican Wave

In Tijuana on the Mexican-US border, Islam is beginning to establish a presence – not just imported by Muslim immigrants but also chosen by native Mexicans, despite occasional disapproval and suspicion from their families. Amy Leang reports

Naima (née Nancy) Carr, 29, seated in black hijab, and Jamila (née Daniela) Ortiz, 24, standing in red hijab, pray at the Masjid Al-Islam located in the Las Playas neighborhood of Tijuana. 'A lot of my family has stopped talking to me because of my religion,' said Carr who married an American convert but chose to follow Islam of her own volition after witnessing his dedication to ritual during Ramadan two years ago. -

Naima (née Nancy) Carr, 29, seated in black hijab, and Jamila (née Daniela) Ortiz, 24, standing in red hijab, pray at the Masjid Al-Islam located in the Las Playas neighborhood of Tijuana. ‘A lot of my family has stopped talking to me because of my religion,’ said Carr who married an American convert but chose to follow Islam of her own volition after witnessing his dedication to ritual during Ramadan two years ago. -

Jamila Ortiz, a 24-year-old divorced mother of two and massage therapist in Tijuana, Mexico, belongs to a growing number of “reverts”, the name given to Mexicans who believe they were born into Islam but had their original faith changed by their families. For them, this is not a conversion but a return.

While the majority of Mexico is Catholic and generally tolerant of other religions, “reverts” face challenging circumstances at home: their families are often the last to accept their conversion. A turn towards Islam, they fear, is a turn away from them and what it means to be Mexican. Ortiz’s own sister told her she had been “brainwashed” when she first wore a headscarf last year. They stopped speaking for a month.

“Then they decided to be my family again,” says Ortiz. “We just can’t talk about religion.”

TJ, as it is commonly known, is a border town in Baja California that sprang up in the late 19th century and quickly became a popular tourist destination. In more recent times, it was regarded as a violent battleground for drug cartels. At its brutal peak, according to the Trans-Border Institute of the University of San Diego, one out of every eight drug-related killings in Mexico occurred in Baja California. Today the streets are much quieter. Instead of the rattle of gunfire, another sound reverberates; the call to prayer. Since 2010, six new mosques and Islamic centres have opened up in Tijuana and its neighbouring cities throughout the state of Baja California, Mexico.

“When we started here, there were just 30 to 40 Muslims. In three years, it became 200,” says Muhanna Jamaleddin, the Palestinian-American imam of the Masjid Al-Islam in Tijuana’s sleepy, idyllic Las Playas neighbourhood.

Masjid Al-Islam imam Muhanna Jamaleddin, 37, leads a sermon on love at their mosque located in the Las Playas neighborhood of Tijuana. 'Wherever you go in the USA and Canada, people are defending themselves. 'No we are not terrorists.' They don't even have time to do the da'wah. Don't spend time defending yourself. Just do. Act as a Muslim. I see Muslims these days. They are not Muslims. There's a lot of challenges in this country. We are growing. If we don't start it right, we will not succeed,' advised Jamaleddin, a Palestinian American entrepreneur in the gold and silver business who donates his time and money to the mosque. 'Crossing back and forth was difficult. I do all of this for the sake of Allah because I love my religion. I want everyone to know more about my religion. The problem is that we really need an imam who speaks Spanish.'

Masjid Al-Islam imam Muhanna Jamaleddin, 37, leads a sermon on love at their mosque located in the Las Playas neighborhood of Tijuana. ‘Wherever you go in the USA and Canada, people are defending themselves. ‘No we are not terrorists.’ They don’t even have time to do the da’wah. Don’t spend time defending yourself. Just do. Act as a Muslim. I see Muslims these days. They are not Muslims. There’s a lot of challenges in this country. We are growing. If we don’t start it right, we will not succeed,’ advised Jamaleddin, a Palestinian American entrepreneur in the gold and silver business who donates his time and money to the mosque. ‘Crossing back and forth was difficult. I do all of this for the sake of Allah because I love my religion. I want everyone to know more about my religion. The problem is that we really need an imam who speaks Spanish.’

His congregation is a mix of Muslim immigrants from around the Arab world and Mexican nationals. Mexico has always had a population of immigrants from Lebanon and elsewhere, and religious growth has largely been spearheaded by people like Ortiz. While there are male reverts, the majority are women who discovered Islam through their spouses, from other Mexican Muslims or via social networking sites.

That’s how Maryam Alvarez came to develop the Muslim community in Tijuana. An acquaintance had earlier introduced her to the faith and her curiosity led her to seek out other Muslims online.

“I found a sister and then I found another. I put ads up on Facebook and MySpace. They would all meet at my house,” says Alvarez, who was then living in nearby Rosarito. She was one of the first reverts in 2009. A group of 10 women – college students, a teacher, an accountant, an estate agent and a factory worker – followed. They would gather at her home to pray and study Arabic and the Quran, but soon outgrew the space, pooled their money together and created Masjid Al-Islam.

Maryam Alvaarez

Maryam Alvaarez

“This has grown so fast,” says Alvarez, who has plans to create another centre that will incorporate a school and a place to help single mothers and the disabled.

At his home not far from the Masjid Al-Islam, Amir Carr carefully leads Abdullah, who converted nine months ago, in a lesson on the character endings of Arabic at his home. Abdullah traces a series of “wah”s over and over on lined paper as Amir’s wife Naima sorts through piles of clothing donations in the next room.
“The difficult thing about Islam in Mexico is illiteracy. Our goal is to get brothers and sisters to study. It’s important to study Arabic so that we capture the true inspiration of the Quran itself and not the interpretation,” says Carr, who moved to Mexico in 2009 to join his wife. He taught himself Arabic after converting to Islam in a Texas prison, where he was held for a short period for an attempted car robbery. Now his focus in life is to obtain a degree in Islamic studies through an online university. “Islam, the study of it, teaching it and practising it are the few things that have given me a sense of balance and satisfaction,” he says.

AmirCarr

Amir Carr

 

In the most unexpected of places and with limited resources, Islam has begun to prosper due to the enthusiasm of a handful of believers. The community hopes it will soon be able to find an imam who speaks Spanish.

 

“We are looking for a teacher,” says Amir Carr. “We sent a letter to the Egyptian embassyin Mexico City but heard no response so far. We’re looking for volunteers. We need help with materials and things. We’re not going to stay in this mosque forever.”

No Comment


Nabil sounds off on the Woolwich attacks and says exactly what Miscellany101 would say!  This is a brilliant No Comment segment!

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