Muslims attend Sunday Mass after priest’s murder

Muslims attended Catholic mass in churches around France in solidarity and sorrow following the brutal murder of a priest in an ISIL-linked attack.

More than 100 Muslims were among the 2,000 who gathered at the cathedral of Rouen near the Normandy town where two teenagers killed 85-year-old Father Jacques Hamel.

“I thank you in the name of all Christians,” Rouen Archbishop Dominique Lebrun told them. “In this way you are affirming that you reject death and violence in the name of God.”

Nice’s top imam Otaman Aissaoui led a delegation to a Catholic mass in the southern city where Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel carried out a rampage in a truck on Bastille Day, claiming 84 lives and injuring 435, including many Muslims.

“Being united is a response to the act of horror and barbarism,” he said. The Notre Dame church in southwestern Bordeaux also welcomed a Muslim delegation, led by the city’s top imam Tareq Oubrou.

“It’s an occasion to show [Muslims] that we do not confuse Islam with Islamism, Muslim with jihadist,” said Reverend Jean Rouet.

The Muslims were responding to a call by the French Muslim council CFCM to show their “solidarity and compassion” over the priest’s murder on Tuesday.

“I’m a practising Muslim and I came to share my sorrow and tell you that we are brothers and sisters,” said a woman wearing a beige headscarf who sat in a back pew at a church in central Paris:

Giving her name only as Sadia, she added softly: “What happened is beyond comprehension.”

 Prime Minister Manuel Valls called on Sunday for a new “pact” with the Muslim community in France, Europe’s largest with around five million members.

“Islam has found its place in France … contrary to the repeated attacks of populists on the right and far-right,” he said, condemning “this intolerable rejection of Islam and Muslims”.

Also on Sunday, dozens of prominent Muslims published a joint letter warning that “the risk of fracturing among the French is growing every day.”

The signatories, who included academics as well as medical professionals, artists and business leaders, pledged: “We, French and Muslim, are ready to assume our responsibilities.”

Both of the 19-year-old attackers – Adel Kermiche and Abdel Malik Petitjean – had been on intelligence services’ radar and had tried to go to Syria.

 Meanwhile, a Syrian refugee who was taken in for questioning after a photocopy of his passport was found at Kermiche’s house has been released, a source close to the investigation said. “Nothing suggests he had any involvement” in the attack, the source said.

However, Petitjean’s 30-year-old cousin was to appear before an anti-terrorist judge later on Sunday.

Prosecutors said they have asked that the suspect, named as Farid K, be charged with “criminal association in connection with terrorism”. The suspect “was fully aware of his cousin’s imminent violent action, even if he did not know the precise place or day”, the Paris prosecutor said in a statement.

Media reports, meanwhile, said investigators had established that Petitjean and Kermiche met through the encrypted messaging app Telegram.

Kermiche described the modus operandi of the attack on the priest in an audio posted on Telegram just a few days beforehand.

Near completion of new mega mosque “De Westermoskee” in Amsterdam

The building of the Netherland’s largest mega mosque (800 square meter and room for 1700 worshippers) has sparked some controversy over the last two decennia of its establishment. For years the building process was frustrated by several conflicts between the initiating Islamic foundation and the municipality of Amsterdam and housing cooperatives. Despite these obstacles the mega mosque is planned to be ready for interior design and decoration by the end of November.
The mosque board is already in communication with artists from Turkey for the realization of classical Islamic calligraphy in the mosque’s interior. A salient feature of the mosque will be the incorporation of indigenous influences from the artistic style and local culture of Amsterdam on ceilings and walls as well as in the tapestry. According to the mosque board the “Westermoskee” was build with the intention of opening up to not just practicing Muslims but also for the general public. The mosque intents to organize guided tours, expositions, and seminars on Islam. It also intends to involve neighborhood inhabitants in the development of social activity programs.

Hip hop mogul Russell Simmons urges dialogue between Muslims and Jews during Israel visit

To hip hop and fashion mogul Russell Simmons, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is like “a rap beef” that can be resolved through dialogue and understanding.

“A little trust, and it’s over,” he said.

When he isn’t managing his clothing line Phat Farm or promoting artists, Simmons champions an eclectic mix of causes, from veganism to gay rights to yoga.

In Israel, he’s focusing on interfaith trust. He said creating dialogue should be as simple as a mediating a rap battle, were it not for the political deadlock between Palestinians and Israelis.

Muslims and Jews “have the same aspirations and goals that are much greater than the things they call differences,” Simmons said.

Simmons arrived in Israel on behalf of a foundation that aims to promote face-to-face dialogue between ethnic and religious communities. He discussed yoga with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Ahmed Hussein, and received a blessing from the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz.

Simmons even did a headstand in front of the Dome of the Rock, one of the holiest sites to Muslims, though he said it was “for the kids” and not for any yogic spiritual reason.

Welcome to the Counter-Jihad

The Arab world is poised for an era of political and cultural renewal. In dramatic succession, popular uprisings have toppled long-reigning dictators even as others cling to power. Amid these momentous events, scholars, journalists and politicians are scrambling to explain how these revolutions came about after years of political stagnation and dashed attempts at reform.

Robin Wright’s “Rock the Casbah,” though it was mainly reported before this year’s convulsions, tackles these questions directly. Wright, a veteran foreign correspondent, argues that the Arab world’s younger generation is at the vanguard of a sweeping and seductive cultural revolution. Setting out to challenge the lazy trope that Islam is incompatible with modernity and democracy, she traveled across the Middle East — with forays into the wider Muslim world — to profile hip-hop artists, poets, playwrights, feminists, human rights activists, TV imams, comic book creators and comedians.

Canadian Muslim artists talk about identity

The Globe and Mail – July 4, 2011
This article profiles three Canadian Muslim artists: Sabrina Jalees, a lesbian comic of Pakistani-Swiss heritage who grew up in Toronto; Yassin Alsalman, a Montreal rapper known as The Narcicyst who uses the aggressive language of hip hop to denounce the heavy hand of U.S. Homeland Security and the war in Iraq; Boonaa Mohammed, a spoken word poet of Ethiopian extraction who celebrates Islamic history in his artwork when he is not teaching at an Islamic school in Scarborough, Ont.
But people who want to blend in rarely become artists: Jalees, who points out she could pass for Portuguese, began making jokes about her Pakistani heritage because she wanted to confront people’s new discomfort with Muslims.
The artists disagree about how well this work is received in Canada and how much Canadian attitudes are shifting. Alsalman, for example, argues that racism is still very prevalent and that the image of Muslims is generally a negative one; others perceive a gradual change in attitudes since the panic of 2001, precisely because people have been forced to confront the prejudices expressed against Muslims, and add that the popular rebellions of the Arab spring have helped build a more positive and diverse image.

Singer Sami Yusuf at a crossroads

13 August 2010

Sami Yusuf is one of the biggest names in Muslim pop. The Iranian-born,
British Muslim artist is one of the most popular singers in the Arab
world and the Middle East. He has released three albums since 2003, sold
millions of records and played to hundreds of thousands of fans across
the globe.

But the singer is now at a crossroads. He has decided to set his sights
on a non-Muslim audience by singing more commercial songs without
religious themes. This is the dilemma facing Sami Yusuf now: how can he
reconcile his Muslim faith with the ruthless demands of a pop industry
that makes its biggest profits from the most outrageous artists?

“Muslims in Britain: An Introduction” by Sophie Gilliat-Ray (Cardiff University) Cambridge University Press, June 2010

Archaeological evidence shows there was contact between Muslims and the British Isles from the 8th century. Beginning with these historical roots, Sophie Gilliat-Ray traces the major points of encounter between Muslims and the British in subsequent centuries, and explores Muslim migration to Britain in recent times. Drawing upon sociology, anthropology, politics, and geography, this comprehensive survey provides an informed understanding of the daily lives of British Muslims. It portrays the dynamic of institutions such as families, mosques and religious leadership, and analyses their social and political significance in today’s Britain. Through the study of the historical origins of major Islamic reform movements, it draws attention to the religious diversity within different Muslim communities, and sheds fresh light on contemporary issues such as the nature of religious authority and representation. It also considers British Muslim civic engagement and cultural life, particularly the work of journalists, artists, sports personalities, and business entrepreneurs.

Contents
Acknowledgements; Preface; Part I. Historical and Religious Roots: 1. The roots of Islam in Britain; 2. The development of Muslim communities; 3. Middle Eastern religious reform movements; 4. South Asian religious reform movements; Part II. Contemporary Dynamics: 5. Profiling British Muslim communities; 6. Religious nurture and education; 7. Religious leadership; 8. Mosques; 9. Gender, religious identity and youth; 10. Engagement and enterprise; Epilogue; Appendix: Source notes for researchers; List of references; Glossary; Index.

Who is the German state supposed to chose as representatives of Islam?

This article discusses the difficult task of Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière of choosing Muslim representatives for the upcoming Islam conference. While it is true that the Islamic Associations are not representative of all German Muslims, the author argues, the latter also fail to exercise their right to form religious associations. If those who feel unrepresented by the current associations do not organize themselves, the state can do little about it. Meanwhile the state has tried to address this problem by inviting individuals (Muslim intellectuals or artists), but the author criticizes that this is the wrong approach, because individuals do not represent any larger group either and do not have to report back to anyone. To his opinion, the state is left with the associations currently active in Germany and it is up to the Muslim population at large to found other bodies if they feel unrepresented.

Islamic art on show at British Foreign and Commonwealth Office

A new exhibition of Islamic art and photography has gone on show in the historic Durbar Court at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The exhibition featured contemporary art and photography by British Muslim artists. Visitors to the Islamic art exhibition saw work by some of the UK’s leading Muslim artists. The show’s organiser said Ramadan is the perfect time of year to showcase Muslim talent.

Nazish Jalini, who helped arrange the event said the idea struck her as she tried to start a Muslim social network and thought that during Ramadan would be the ideal time to showcase Muslim talent through art. Speaking at the launch of the exhibition was Imran Daud, whose company Elevation Arts represents some of the UK’s finest up and coming artistic talent:

“I think this is an important exhibition because you need to showcase Islamic art, it’s an emerging art form, it’s something that we need today in order to be able to speak to wider communities, to bridge the gap, there’s a lot of forces out there who seek to polarize and cause divisions between communities and I think art is one of those things that is used to transcend normal modes of communication it brings out things that are deeper and underlying issues that you might like to express in a way that is not hostile.”

Dutch artists integrate veil debate in artworks

A Dutch artist and fashion designer plan to discuss the strong emotional sentiments concerning Muslim headwear at an event at the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven on November 23, 2008. The two plan to present their work in order to integrate their opinions about the burqa and the hijab or headscarf.

The strong feelings that Muslim headwear evokes among Dutch nationals is something artist Joeb Koenings feels important to discuss. “Design always has the capacity to provoke emotions among people. The garment is automatically associated with a culture that many people fear. People respond very instinctively when they see a burqa or Muslim headscarf,” says Koenings.

Fashion designer Cindy van den Breman will discuss her collection of fashionable Muslim headwear. Breman has also been involved in developing the first prototype of Muslim sportswear. The two plan to discuss the changing viewpoints of clothing, style, and modesty in light of issues surrounding Islamic garments in the Netherlands.

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