Unmosqued: Documentary exploring the future of the American mosque

A new documentary trains a critical eye on the mosque in America. Unmosqued trains a critical eye on the future of the mosque in America. Based on research compiled by Dr. Ihsan Baghby at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, Unmosqued, is a look into the dynamic and future of the American mosque.

More information on the film and the research that led to the creation of the film can be found here.

Film poster advertising "Unmosqued: A film about the mosque in America." (Unmosqued)
Film poster advertising “Unmosqued: A film about the mosque in America.” (Unmosqued)

Laila Alawa: Do we really need mosques in America?

Laila Alawa, Associate Editor at Islamic Monthly, views the controversial documentary film Unmosqued and offers some observations on the mosque and its function and future in America. Situating her argument in a larger view of faith in America, Alawa writes, “There are buildings scattered across America, empty of purpose and congregations, simply because people left – and never turned back. For the future of mosques in America, Muslim Americans who have been unmosqued must make a decision. Alongside this sense of urgency, however, is a sense of freshness: the community, innovations and conversations taking place in third spaces is unlike any that happened within mosques – and for now, that’s okay. The future of faith in America might just not take place within a conventional center of worship. For many, that’s just how it’s going to be.”

"Mother Mosque of America," Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
“Mother Mosque of America,” Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Muslims fare better in America than in Europe

A recent Pew Study revealed that Muslims in America fare better than Muslims in Europe. The results of the study illustrate American Islam as diverse, integrated, well-educated and economically successful. Additionally, American Muslims are more tolerant of other sects within Islam. Their experience and situation in America is in stark contrast to the experiences of Muslims in Europe like the Turks in Germany and North African immigrants in France. As a community, they overwhelmingly reject terrorism and identify as first as Americans and then as Muslims. 20140906_USC635

Alabama’s chief justice: Buddha didn’t create us so First Amendment only protects Christians

Speaking at the Pastor for Life Luncheon, which was sponsored by Pro-Life Mississippi, Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court declared that the First Amendment only applies to Christians because “Buddha didn’t create us, Mohammed didn’t create us, it was the God of the Holy Scriptures” who created us.

“They didn’t bring the Koran over on the pilgrim ship,” he remarked January 17 at the event in Jackson, Mississippi. “Let’s get real, let’s go back and learn our history. Let’s stop playing games.”

He then noted that he loves talking to lawyers, because he is a lawyer who went to “a secular law school,” so he knows that “in the law, [talking about God] just isn’t politically correct.” He claimed that this is why America has “lost its way,” and that he would be publishing a pamphlet “this week, maybe next” that contained copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, thereby proving that all the people “who found this nation — black, white, all people, all religions, all faiths” knew that America was “about God.”

He later said the “pursuit of happiness” meant following God’s law, because “you can’t be happy unless you follow God’s law, and if you follow God’s law, you can’t help but be happy.”

“It’s all about God,” he continued. “We’ve made ‘life’ a decision taken by man,” he said, and “taken ‘liberty,’ and converted it to ‘licentiousness. We’ve taken ‘pursuit of happiness,’ and reduced it to materialism.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called on Alabama’s governor and attorney general to reaffirm the constitutional rights of all that state’s citizens after video surfaced in which Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court seemed to claim that the First Amendment only applies to Christians because “Buddha didn’t create us, Mohammed didn’t create us.” Justice Moore went on to state: “They didn’t bring the Koran [Islam’s revealed text] over on the pilgrim ship.”

Republican conference objects to anti-Islam label

March 29, 2014

 

There are lots of threats to America and ways to destroy the U.S., and it’s not just one particular kind of enemy who might do it, members of the Tennessee Republican Assembly were told Saturday.

They heard a session on economic warfare. They heard about electromagnetic pulse — damaging bursts of atmospheric energy triggered in space or by atomic bombs. They heard about Russia and China backing nuclear weapons in North Korea and Iran.

The point is, speakers said, there’s no single issue to worry about. And they objected to characterizations of the event as anti-Islam, despite top billing for authors who have written at length about Islam’s threat to America.

The Tennessee Republican Assembly’s annual conference came under scrutiny recently by area Muslims, who wanted the Tennessee Republican Party to disavow it after confusion over the two groups’ relationship.

Tennessee GOP deputy executive director Michael Sullivan said the groups are unaffiliated, so the party couldn’t comment on the assembly’s activities.

But the assembly calls itself “The Republican Wing of the Republican Party,” and the event stage in a packed ballroom at the Millennium Maxwell House was adorned with a banner inviting people to join the RINO Hunters Club. It stands for Republican In Name Only.

Michael Del Rosso, an event headliner who helped write “Shariah: The Threat to America,” took that stage to criticize the U.S. for failing to protect its energy and communications systems from electromagnetic pulse, and he discussed legislation aimed at doing that. His formal speech held few mentions of Islam, but he discussed the book and the topic at length afterward.

He’s not anti-Islam, he said, and in fact likes to barbecue lamb for his Muslim friends. He’s simply bringing to light documents proving that the nation’s Islamic centers are terrorist recruiting stations and that America is in danger of falling under Shariah.

Drost Kokoye, a board member with the American Muslim Advisory Council, said she was still comfortable characterizing the conference as anti-Islam since that topic was used to promote it — including in a picture on the event’s website.

“To say we’re not just against Muslims, we’re against everyone against America, it carries the connotation that all Muslims are against America,” she said. “That’s hyper-paranoia. Sadly, it works here.”

The Tennessean: http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2014/03/29/republican-conference-objects-anti-islam-label/7058227/

Jeh Johnson, Homeland Security chief, cites threat as some travel to fight in Syrian civil war

February 7, 2014

 

Delivering his first policy address since taking office in December, Johnson covered a broad range of topics, from appropriate uses of force by Customs and Border Protection agents to declining worker morale at Homeland Security, which has consistently received some of the lowest scores in the federal government’s annual worker-satisfaction survey.

The secretary noted that his morning intelligence briefings range in scope from “the latest terrorist plotting to a weather map,” adding that his department must constantly evolve to answer national security threats and hazards.

“Syria has become a matter of homeland security,” said Johnson, 56, the fourth Senate-confirmed secretary of Homeland Security.

Johnson said people from North America and Europe are traveling to war-torn Syria to fight, adding that “they will encounter radical, extremist influences” and possibly return to their home countries with the intent to do harm.

He also discussed home-grown terrorism, saying: “We face threats from those who self-radicalize to violence, the so-called ‘lone wolf,’ who did not train at an al-Qaeda camp overseas or become part of an enemy force, but who may be inspired by radical, violent ideology to do harm to Americans.”

He noted the Boston Marathon bombings in April that killed three people and wounded more than 200 others. The attacks were allegedly carried out by two brothers living in the United States who spent time in Muslim-dominated parts of Central Asia. One of the suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed in a shootout with police, and the Justice Department has said it will seek the death penalty against the other, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

 

Washington Post.com: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/federal_government/jeh-johnson-homeland-security-chief-cites-threat-as-some-travel-to-fight-in-syrian-civil-war/2014/02/07/b1e8635e-9038-11e3-b227-12a45d109e03_story.html

Coke’s Multilingual “America the Beautiful” Ad Sparks Conservative Outrage

February 2, 2014

 

A Super Bowl commercial featuring a polyglot America outraged right-wingers—some of whom thought “America the Beautiful” was the national anthem.

Coca-Cola is by no means a progressive company.  The soda maker has long been targeted for boycotts by some labor rights groups for undermining workers’ rights at bottling plants in Colombia–and being complicit in the deaths of the labor organizations.  There’s also the environmental waste their plastic bottles generate.

But on Sunday night, during the Super Bowl, they became a target of a much different kind of boycott lead by conservatives.  A Coca-Cola ad featured the song “America the Beautiful” in multiple languages.  Images of a Muslim woman, a Jewish man, and more flashed on the screen.

Right-wingers were none too pleased.  On Twitter, the hashtag #boycottcoke picked up steam, though some of that was progressives’ making fun of their outrage.

Outside of Twitter, the outrage was just as ridiculous.  Former Congressman and Tea Party star Allen West wrote that it was “a truly disturbing commercial,” as Talking Points Memo notes.

Coke used “a deeply Christian patriotic anthem whose theme is unity – in several foreign languages,” wrote Michael Patrick Leahy on Breibart.com, who added that it featured gay people–the horror!

Perhaps the funniest part of the whole affair was some Twitter xenophobes saying the ad desecrated the “national anthem.”  In case they’re reading this: it’s not the national anthem.
Link to Video: http://youtu.be/443Vy3I0gJs

Alternet.org: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/cokes-multilingual-america-beautiful-ad-sparks-outrage
RNS.com: http://cathylynngrossman.religionnews.com/2014/01/31/cheerios-msnbc-race-super-bowl-ad/

Best Buy commercial points way to greater Muslim acceptance

January 24, 2014
(RNS) Viewers watching the American Football Conference championship game between the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots earlier this month may have seen a Best Buy commercial for a Sharp 60-inch television that seemed ordinary, but in one way was extraordinary.
The ad shows a young, clean-shaven salesman named Mustafa talking about the television, advising customers and relaxing at home watching movies and football with his friends.

“I’m never going to get these guys out of here,” he jokes to his girlfriend at the end.
While the commercial never identifies Mustafa as a Muslim, many might assume that given his name, a diminutive for Muhammad. For viewers used to seeing negative images of Muslims on television, the commercial was a rare exception.

“He has all the right stuff,” said Timothy de Waal Malefyt, a longtime advertising executive who now teaches at Fordham University in New York. “He has a girlfriend. He has Anglo friends. And he’s watching ‘Despicable Me’ and football. It’s very American.”

Muslims in commercials are still rare, but that could be changing as the acceptance of Muslims accelerates across America.

The Best Buy commercial, scheduled to run through Feb. 1, sparked a flurry of Twitter chatter after it debuted.

Best Buy spokesman Jeffrey Shelman said the ad featured actual Best Buy employees, chosen based on their tech knowledge and on-camera performance. As for Mustafa, he works one day a week at Best Buy’s El Segundo, Calif., store.

RNS.com: http://www.religionnews.com/2014/01/24/best-buy-commercial-points-way-greater-muslim-acceptance/

Muslim Christmas Celebrations Gain Footing In America

December 24, 2013

By Omar Sacirbey

 

RNS – A generation or two ago, when America’s Muslims were new immigrants who made up an even smaller minority of Americans than they do today, the lights, trees, carols, gifts and festive spirit of Christmas were viewed by many Muslims as a threat to their children’s Islamic faith.

But these days, a growing number of Muslims celebrate Christmas, or at least partake in some ways, even if they don’t decorate their homes with trees and a light show. Indeed, many Muslim families have created their own unique Christmas traditions.

“I teach my three children, who attend public school and happen to be born into an interfaith Christian-Muslim family, that we absolutely do celebrate Christmas because we are Muslim,” Hannah Hawk of Houston wrote in an email. Rather than putting up a tree or lights, “we celebrate the reason for the season, Jesus, by studying all that is written about him in the Quran and by examining historical theories.”

The Hawks also give to charity, bake treats for neighbors, invite them to dinner, and wish friends, colleagues and teachers “Merry Christmas” with cards and phone calls. Hawk’s kids get together with Christian friends to perform various good deeds. This year, they will play songs (violins, viola, trumpet, cellos, bells) at a local community hospital for patients recovering from surgery.

To be sure, some Muslim leaders still criticize Christmas celebrations as assimilation gone too far.

Imam Muzammil Siddiqi, a former president of the Islamic Society of North America, has argued that Muslims should not celebrate Christmas because the holiday commemorates the birth of a figure revered by Christians as the Son of God, which violates Islamic beliefs.

“We should tell our children that we are Muslims and this is not our holiday,” Siddiqi said in comments posted at the website OnIslam.net. “This is the holiday of our Christian neighbors and friends.”

To protect their children from the attraction of Christmas, he said, Muslim parents should take advantage of Islamic camps and conferences established at this time of year for this very reason.

But others see a new generation of Muslims born or reared in the United States who feel secure enough to view Christmas as another tradition they can relate to, and to celebrate it in a wide variety of ways — as do their Christian neighbors.

“Muslims should join their Christian neighbors to celebrate Christmas,” said Rizwan Kadir, a financial adviser who is active in his Muslim community in suburban Chicago. “We also believe in Isa,” Kadir added, using the Arabic name for Jesus, “and he has a very special place in Islam.”

While Muslims don’t believe Jesus was crucified or that he is part of the triune Godhead, they do believe in the Virgin birth, and claim Jesus as a prophet — a predecessor to Muhammad — who ascended to heaven, and will return as part of the Second Coming.

Kadir adds that Muslims shouldn’t retreat from Christmas festivities. His family doesn’t put up a tree or lights, but Kadir does go to holiday parties at work, wishes friends and neighbors a “Merry Christmas,” and watches “It’s A Wonderful Life,” and “Home Alone” — a Kadir family tradition.

“To me, those are just fun things that people do around this time of year,” said Kadir. “It doesn’t make you a Christian. It doesn’t mean you’re compromising your faith.”

That view, however, has taken time to evolve.

Zeyna Ahmed, the American-born daughter of Egyptian parents, remembers that her mother liked some aspects of Christmas. But her father “stifled it.”

“Their way of holding on to their heritage was just pushing everything that was Muslim,” said Ahmed, who lives in Easton, Pa.

When her four children started asking why the family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, she felt it wasn’t adequate to say, “because we’re Muslim,” since “we also believe in Jesus,” Ahmed said.

So, for the last seven years, Ahmed, who is divorced, has celebrated Christmas with a tree, lights, and acts of charity. She also gets a menorah for Hanukkah and cooks a big meal on the last night.

“I want to expose them to different traditions,” Ahmed said, referring to her kids. “I feel like if you respect their holidays, they’ll respect our holidays. It develops mutual respect.”

Hawk agreed. “Christmas, like Ramadan, is the perfect interfaith footbridge for Muslim-Christian fellowship,” she wrote. “Both are the perfect times to hold interfaith vigils, pray together for peace, and pledge to uphold God’s message to spread goodwill and reach out to and help the less fortunate in our society.”

Some Islamic leaders have come on board, too.

Imam Talal Eid of Quincy, Mass., a former member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, cited the 13th verse of the Quran’s 49th chapter, which states that God created “peoples and tribes that you may know one another.”

And, he added, at a time when some Christians and Jews in America have fasted in solidarity with Muslims during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Muslims should reciprocate.

“This is not about theological details,” said Eid. “This is a matter of fellowship and social activity. There is nothing wrong with exchanging gifts and participating.”

 

Religion News Service/Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/24/muslim-christmas-celebrations_n_4494836.html?utm_hp_ref=religion