Muslim organisation organises interfaith vigil

A Muslim organisation in Manchester, the Ramandan Foundation, organised an interfaith vigil in St Ann’s Square for the victims of the Manchester terrorist attack. The ceremony included a message from Pope Francis, read by the regional head of the Catholic Church, the Bishop of Salford John Arnold. There were also speeches by other religious leaders from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim backgrounds.

Georgia Lawmaker Withdraws Bill Targeting Islamic Veils After Backlash

State Rep. Jason Spencer cited the “visceral reaction.”

A Georgia lawmaker withdrew a bill Thursday that would have criminalized Muslim women wearing religious face coverings in public after it received widespread condemnation.

House Bill 3 would have amended an anti-mask rule originally intended to keep Ku Klux Klan members from wearing hoods to commit anonymous hate crimes. Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine), who authored the bill, wanted to change the law to include women wearing veils — like the niqab or burqa.

“After further consideration, I have decided to not pursue HB 3 in the upcoming 2017 legislative session due to the visceral reaction it has created,” Spencer said in a statement. “While this bill does not contain language that specifically targets any group, I am mindful of the perception that it has created.”

Members of Georgia’s Council for American-Islamic Relations said support from interfaith partners helped stop the bill.

“First of all, we want to thank Rep. Spencer for doing the right thing by withdrawing the bill,”Edward Ahmed Mitchell, Georgia CAIR executive director, told The Huffington Post. “We thank our coalition partners, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, who stood up for religious freedom. It was reassuring to see the Georgia community uniting so quickly to say that this is not acceptable.”

She’s an imam in LA and doesn’t have patience for a strict interpretation of Islam

Ani Zonneveld is an imam, and yes, also a woman. She qualifies that she is “an imam with a small “i” — though her reluctance to go with a capital “I” says more about her democratic approach to worship than any deference to Islamic tradition, one that has been and still is very male-dominated. She has no patience for that Islam.

Instead she founded a Muslim community — Muslims for

Credit: Arzeen Photography/Muslims for Progressive Values
Credit: Arzeen Photography/Muslims for Progressive Values

Progressive Values — that embraces gender equality, gay rights and interfaith marriage. And although it is based in Los Angeles, it has spread — often quietly — across the world.

7/7 bombings: British Muslims use ‘breaking the fast’ at Ramadan to remember victims

Mosques all over the UK will open their doors to people of all faiths and none tonight during the “Iftar” meal at sunset on the 10th anniversary of the London 7/7 bombings.

The “Peace Iftars”, which have already begun taking place, are a chance to “remember and pray for all victims of terrorism and stand in solidarity in peace”.

Today’s events are set to take place around the country with mosques inviting their local communities to join in commemoration and to “break bread with Muslims as they break their fast in this holy month of Ramadan”. A national “Iftar” has been organised at the Islamic Cultural Centre in London.

The Islamic Cultural Centre said: “Our thoughts, our prayers and condolences go out to all the victims of these terrible terrorist attacks. As citizens and co-workers of this great city, we share the concerns and fears of fellow Londoners. We use the same transport and live and work in the same buildings and any attack is an attack on us all.”

At Friday prayers this week, the Muslim Council urged imams to discuss the 7/7 anniversary and more recent terror attacks including in Tunisia. The religious leaders were encouraged to remind people “that these killers do not respect the sanctity of life as laid down in Islam”.

Mosques in London, Birmingham and Nottingham will dedicate their 'Iftar' meal at sundown to the victims and survivors of the 2005 terrorist attacks
Mosques in London, Birmingham and Nottingham will dedicate their ‘Iftar’ meal at sundown to the victims and survivors of the 2005 terrorist attacks

Dr Shuja Shafi, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain said: “Despite the evil that was visited upon us on 7/7, we come here hoping for peace and praying for a world free from violence.”

Imam of major Michigan mosque threatens to resign over ethnic controversy and claims of financial mismanagement

Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini, the leader of one of Michigan’s biggest mosques and one of the most popular in the Detroit metro area threatened to resign on Friday. During Friday services at the Islamic Center of America, Al-Qazwini cited ongoing differences with the mosque’s board of directors. He stated that he is the victim of anti-Iraqi racism by the majority-Lebanese board of directors. The majority of the mosque’s members are of Lebanese descent.

Over a two month period last Fall, between October and December, anonymous letters were distributed to members in the mosque parking lot accusing Al-Qazwini of funneling mosque funds to his father’s company in Iraq and of having extra-marital relationships through the Shi’a concept of mut’a or “temporary marriage.” In part, the letters read: “Qazwini is the main obstacle which prevent the payment of all the debt… (he) takes the … contributions and revenues” and gives them to his father, a Shi’a religious leader in Iraq. The letters also criticized Al-Qazwini’s support of the board’s chair who, the author of the missives claimed, was not an observant or good Muslim.

One member of the mosque who supports Al-Qazwini said, “They want to turn the Islamic Center of America into the Islamic Center of Lebanon.”

The Islamic Center of America has long been heralded as one of the most “American” of mosques. Al-Qazwini has done much to establish good interfaith relationships with local church leaders and national politicians.

Editorial: Muslims and Christians in Solidarity in France

The “ethnic and religious purification” in Iraq is shocking the world. In order to resist the forces of the Islamic State, Iraqi forces are receiving reinforcements from the American air force. Although no one is sure if these actions will be “sufficient” to stop these offensives, in France the “non-extremist” Muslims condemn the actions of their fanatic coreligionists. The Rally of French Muslims (RMF) strongly condemned the actions of extremists and stressed that Islam is a “religion of peace.”

The RMF calls on the international community “to act in order to stop a violence that spares no Iraqi ethnic or religious community, and who even attacks historical monuments of world heritage.” It further called for “French Muslims to keep the Iraqi people in their prayers, with respect for diversity and religious beliefs.”

The president of the Union of French Mosques (UMF) Mohammed Moussaoui also “firmly condemned the injustices affecting this community of faith.” The organization stated that “those who persecute men and women for their faith and their convictions bear a heavy responsibility before God and man.” Similar to the RMF, the Union called for member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to “make every effort so that Eastern Christians can practice their faith in dignity and freedom.”

The association Imams of France and its president Ahmed Miktar stated that the violence toward Christians is “condemned by all the ulemas of the Muslim world…The Christians of the Middle East are full citizens. They must be able to live freely in their country without any ideology or any person having the right to take it away.” His association reaffirmed its “support for the Christian part of our country and reaffirmed that these tragedies should not undermine the peaceful coexistence that we have built.”

The article concludes: “We know that we are in solidarity in a struggle that should in no case transform into a conflict of religions and civilization.”

Ramadan tent project

July 25, 2014

Student volunteers have been organising an inter-faith charity project in London during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan for the second year running. The Ramadan tent invites the public to join Muslims breaking their fast at sunset every day. Organisers say the aim is to provide opportunities for young Muslims to meet people from London’s diverse communities. The Ramadan Tent Project is based at Malet Street Gardens in central London.

Guided by History, a Jew Tries to Unite Two Faiths Divided by War in Gaza

August 9, 2014

NEWARK, Del. — Shortly after the latest cease-fire expired in Gaza on Friday, Jacob Bender gingerly climbed the steps of the mimbar, the pulpit at the Islamic Society of Delaware here. A Jew in a mosque, his hands palpably quivering but his reedy voice steady, he read some brief comments to close the afternoon’s worship service, called Juma’a.

Mr. Bender offered both hope and censure, twinned: Muslims and Jews could still be “partners for peace and justice,” he said. Israel and Hamas bore shared responsibility for the current carnage, he added, and more hatred would lead to more violence, while love would lead to reconciliation.

After he finished those words, he intoned the Judaic funeral prayer, El Malei Rachamim, adapting its English translation to remember the victims in Gaza. He closed the prayer by saying “amen,” and the several hundred men and women replied in kind. Then, unbidden, they joined in sustained applause.

It was an emblematic moment for an unusual man. For the past 10 months, Mr. Bender has served as executive director for the chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Philadelphia — the first non-Muslim to ever hold such a high-ranking position within CAIR, as the council is commonly known.

Much of Mr. Bender’s day-to-day work involves domestic issues — a Muslim pupil bullied in his school, a local mosque vandalized, a Muslim security guard forced to remove her hijab while being photographed for a gun permit. Yet the Middle East conflict is not merely the proverbial elephant in the room, but a stomping herd of them.

In the Jewish religious community, Mr. Bender’s fierce critique of Israel has found willing listeners only among the left-leaning fringe, primarily the small Reconstructionist and Renewal movements. The moderate mainstream, while less vituperative than the online antagonists in criticizing Mr. Bender, has treated him as a pariah.

Haïm Korsia: “We all have to protect the Republic”

July 23, 2014

Jewish chaplain and the new Chief Rabbi of France, Haïm Korsia is known for his commitment to interreligious dialogue and to the values of the French republic. He was elected June 22, 2014 and is now faced with a series of attacks against the country’s Jewish community that have occurred during pro-Palestinian demonstrations. In the wake of rioting in Sarcelles Korsia participated in an interfaith prayer session with Drancy’s imam Hassen Chalghoumi in the town’s synagogue. Korsia answered questions in a recent interview with Le Point.

When asked his reaction to the speeches given at the presidential palace and at the prayer session in Sarcelles, he answered that is was a “necessary time for the national community, that needed to express the idea of solidarity between all its peoples, to say that there are things that are unacceptable.”

Korsia affirmed that it was not only up to Muslim leaders to speak out against violent acts. In the words of imam Chalghoumi, those perpetrators “are not in true support of any cause, they are not Muslims, they demonstrate only a rejection of the system and a hate for Jews. It is necessary to recognize this in order to fight: it will not work to be alarmist, but to make a fair observation in order to institute working methods, education, and courage so that there may be a peaceful ‘living together,’ which is France’s true mission.” The rabbi stated, “There is no war of religions, but of Frenchmen who attacked other Frenchmen.”

The rabbi trusts Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve’s statement that there will no future demonstrations. He expressed his surprise at elected officials who attended banned demonstrations, saying, “It is incomprehensible that certain people scoff at the Republic that they are supposed to embody.”

He stressed the importance of interreligious dialogue and of schools to introduce children to classmates with different religions than their own. “Someone else’s religion doesn’t have to be a mystery, a radical otherness, but another form of humanity that is just as deserving of respect,” he said. Korsia believes that this type of dialogue is possible in public schools. “One must go back to basics, at what is at the heart of the republican intention: we are all citizens, and there is a single community that counts: the national community,” he affirmed.

When referring to the “great national cause” he acknowledged the specific fight against anti-Semitism. However he said “it’s necessary to see things as they are: when we engage in methods to fight anti-Semitism, we give the impression that there are two weights, two measures…In reality one must fight against any rejection. The fight against global racism is good, but with a specificity towards anti-Semitism, which must become a great national cause.”

According to the recent findings, 5,000 French Jews have relocated to Israel in 2014 compared with 1,907 in 2012. Korsia stated that this number may be related to the anxiety many Jews feel in France, but is not the only reason for their relocation.

When asked if he believes that the majority of France feels a “softness” towards the anti-Semitic violence that occurred he answered, “not a softness, but an indifference, a resignation.” He stated that it’s necessary to work towards instituting “freedom and brotherhood while at the same time working toward national reconciliation.”

“Muslims of France wish for a united brotherhood” affirm Muslim leaders

July 23, 2014

In a recent statement, Muslim leaders recognize the “particular resonance in our country” of the “war between Israel and Palestinians.” They emphasized that “the Muslims of France wish for one united brotherhood, to live together peacefully.”

“No exterior conflict, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, should, in any case and in any way, be brought into France and most of all affect the relations between our country’s citizens or generate hostile behavior between them,” they wrote.

The leaders condemned “the small minority, who under pretext of defending the Palestinian cause, infiltrate the demonstrations that have peaceful objectives to attack citizens or their places of worship, no matter if they are Christians, Jews or Muslims.”

They called on the Muslim community to stand up to these “‘thugs’ whose objectives are totally foreign to [the community’s] interests and principles.” Reaffirming their support for the Great Mosque of Lyon they called on Jewish leaders to “understand, beyond the passions and legitimate feelings that they feel in regard to Israel, that we as well cannot remain insensitive to these children, to these women and these Palestinian men who die each day.”

The concluded: “We propose to our Jewish citizens of France to discuss together the best ways to resist…proponents of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in France and in the world.”

Statement issued by:

*Laid Abdelkader Bendidi, Président du CRCM Rhône-Alpes

Benaissa Chana, Vice Président du CRCM Rhône-Alpes

Azeddine Gaci, Recteur de la Mosquée Othmane

Kamel Kabtane, Recteur de la Mosquée de Lyon