Muslims combat radicalization with online tools

WASHINGTON — A Muslim organization is working to counter radicalization by providing the work of progressive Islam scholars online in simple, youth-friendly language.

Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), a nonprofit group that has established liberal Muslim communities in the U.S. and Canada, created the “Literary Zikr’ website to provide an alternative to the fundamentalist versions of Islam that pervade the Internet.

“We take the scholarship and present it to the people,” said Yarehk Hernandez, a board member of MPV.
The project, named after the Islamic word for remembrances of God, is geared toward ages 13 to 25, when youth “are formulating their ideas about religious identity and culture,” Hernandez said.

By adapting the work of renowned scholars to a Q-and-A format at an eighth-grade reading level, Hernandez hopes the website will “cut through the clutter” of the Internet.

Currently, the website features pieces on Shariah (Islamic law) and sexuality, with more pieces on governance, pluralism, and women’s rights soon to come.

Reactions to the minaret ban: results reveal a “turning point” in Swiss-Islamic relations

Swiss voters’ clear decision on Sunday to ban the construction of minarets has generated a wide range of emotions, from stunned joy to rueful concern. Supporters of the initiative said the Swiss electorate wanted to put a brake on the Islamicisation of their country, whereas opponents were concerned about the violation of rights, not to mention an international backlash and possible boycott of Swiss products.

Nevertheless, Saida Keller-Messahli, president of the Forum for an Advanced Islam, said the public’s fears had been too great and “hatred had won over reason”. She said there would now be legal consequences, since the ban violated the freedom of religion. The Federation of Islamic Organisations in Switzerland also regretted the result, saying the propaganda of the campaign supporters had succeeded in frightening the majority of voters.

“Switzerland has lost,” said Rifa’at Lenzin from the European Project for Interreligious Learning in Zurich, adding that the country was “leading the way” for Islamophobia. Reinhard Schulze, a professor of Islamic studies at Bern University, said he was “very surprised” by the acceptance of the initiative. He described the result as a “turning point”, in that after many years of going in the other direction, voters had once again spoken for an unequal treatment of faiths.

The Council of Religions, a body comprising Christian churches, Jews and Muslims, said in a statement it regretted the result. People of all faiths must work together even harder, it said, for the respect of rights of freedom, for dialogue with the Muslim community and for integration.

“These are values that make Switzerland strong,” it said.