Hospitals urge Muslims to donate organs

Hospitals in the West Midlands are urging Muslims to consider donating their organs for patients waiting for transplants. Muslims needing an organ donation, such as a new kidney or liver, wait on average a year longer than non-Muslims.

This is due to a lack of donors coming forward from a matching ethnic background. The reason for the lack of suitable ethnic donors is uncertainty over whether Islam condemns or condones the practice of organ donation.There is much confusion, in part because there is nothing in the Koran which can be referred to, and because scholars have differing opinions.

The shortage of donors is not just a British problem. In April, Islamic scholars came together at Karachi University in Pakistan to discuss the issue. Figures from the Global Observatory on Donation and Transplantation show that there are fewer organ transplants from deceased people in Muslim-majority countries, compared with the rest of the world.

For some states of course, that could be down to a lack of investment in medical facilities. For others, it is a religious matter.

Dr Adnan Sharif warns waiting lists for organs are getting longer
Dr Adnan Sharif warns waiting lists for organs are getting longer

NYPD working to increase ranks of Muslims in department

NEW YORK — The New York Police Department is working to recruit more Muslims, and is asking for help within the community to better refine outreach aimed at stifling the lure of overseas terror groups, officials said Monday.
Right now, there are about 800 Muslim uniformed police officers out of about 35,000, according to the NYPD Muslim Officers Society. Of those, only about 20 are higher ranked officials. Lt. Adeel Rana, commanding officer of the community affairs immigration outreach unit, said there has been a slow increase over the past decade, but it has been rapidly changing in the past year and a half.

80% of Dutch people lack any contact with Muslims

The vast majority of the Dutch population don’t or scarcely ever have any contact with Muslims or are even open to the possibility. This was shown in a random survey among more than a thousand Dutch respondents commissioned by the EO, the Dutch Evangelical Broadcasting Station. 80 percent don’t or hardly ever have contact with Muslims. Of this percentage only 5 percent is said to be open to a the possibility of meeting Muslims.

The research was executed right after the rise of the terror group IS last summer. More than half of the respondents expressed that their view of Islam became more negative. 60 percent felt threatened, 20 percent of which felt personally threatened. The research didn’t show a differentiation between non-believers and churchgoers. Both are equally negative about Islam.

“Muslims Condemning Things” Tumblr shows many Muslims speaking out against terrorism

In America, there are a lot of stereotypes about Muslims, ranging from the ill-informed, like thinking all Muslims are Arabs, to the downright harmful, like thinking that all Muslims are terrorists or at the very least have terrorist sympathies. Although this is obviously not true, people still expect Muslims to condemn terrorist actions in order to “prove” that they aren’t secretly rooting for the extremists — and then as soon as a new story breaks, the questions begin again about why the Muslim community hasn’t condemned these actions. But now a new Tumblr, Muslims Condemning Things, has appeared to combat this ridiculous cycle.

The Tumblr is exactly what it sounds like: it show instances of Muslims condemning extremist actions, terrorist groups, instances of persecution in the the Muslim world, and just about everything that people continually insist that Muslims should condemn. The site’s curator writes,

This site is not meant to be a comprehensive catalog of instances of Muslims condemning violence and terrorism. Rather, it’s a sampling, and one that we hope will convey the idea that the vast majority of Muslims around the world reject extremism, violence and fanaticism.

Examples range from individual Muslims speaking out against ISIS to Iranian Muslims protesting the persecution of Christians in Iran. And just a quick glance should drive home the point that most Muslims, are not, in fact terrorists.

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.

A Militant Jewish Group Confronts Pro-Palestinian Protesters in France

August 6, 2014

Several hundred pro-Palestinian demonstrators rampaged through the Jewish quarter of this northern suburb of Paris in July, some chanting, “Death to Jews.” As the rioters attacked a funeral home and set fire to a pharmacy, a band of young Jews formed a human shield in front of the city’s main synagogue, brandishing motorcycle helmets as weapons.

Foot soldiers of a French offshoot of the Jewish Defense League, a far-right Zionist group that advocates muscular self-defense in the face of violence and anti-Semitism, they faced off with the crowd as protesters clashed with riot police officers.

“If it wasn’t for those boys, this whole neighborhood would have been burned and turned into hell,” said Fortunée Fitoussi, a cashier at Boulangerie Nathanya, a popular bakery in a large Jewish neighborhood of kosher grocery stores and blocky apartment buildings in Sarcelles often called Little Jerusalem.

But while some Jews embraced members of the group as heroes, it also added a volatile element to France’s sometimes violent street protests as the Gaza war fueled tensions, especially between Muslims and Jews, in a climate of growing anti-Semitism in France and elsewhere in Europe.

The group models itself loosely on the Jewish Defense League in the United States, an organization founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was assassinated in 1990, and whose Kach party was banned in Israel as racist. The American group has been listed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a terrorist organization. The French interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, warned in July against “excesses” of the French League, prompting speculation that he was considering banning the group.

The French news media has characterized the French League as a dangerous vigilante group, though experts say it is small, disorganized and less militant than its American counterpart.

Founded in France in 2003 by former members of Betar, the youth movement linked to the Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the French League has roughly 400 members. They are predominantly young Sephardic men from working-class suburbs, some trained in krav maga, a hand-to-hand martial art used by the Israeli military. Critics accuse the group of advocating violence and racism, noting a past entry on the League’s Facebook page that referred to Arabs as “rats.”

“They are dangerous, violent and anti-republican,” said Sihem Souid, a human rights activist whom the League has lambasted on its website and accused of encouraging anti-Semitism. Ms. Souid, who works for a victims’ organization attached to the Justice Ministry, vehemently denies the accusation and has called for the group to be banned.

In a rare interview, one of the group’s senior officials, a burly 62-year-old former law enforcement official who declined to give his full name but called himself Eliahou, summarized the French League’s philosophy: “I would rather be a mean Jew than a dead Jew.”

Eliahou said the League had no qualms about harassing people wearing kaffiyehs, the black-and-white scarf that is a symbol of Palestinian resistance, on the Rue des Rosiers, a street lined with Judaica shops and falafel joints in central Paris. “This is our neighborhood,” he explained. “Our aim is to annoy people who hate Israel and are anti-Semites.”

Eliahou said anti-Semitic violence was swelling the group’s ranks, with 10 recruits joining every day, while donations had poured in from as far away as Canada. Though his claims were not possible to verify, the group’s members are being embraced across Jewish neighborhoods in the French capital as gutsy, if hotheaded, protectors, residents said.

During another attack in July at a synagogue in an eastern district of Paris, on the Rue de la Roquette, several witnesses, including Jean-Yves Camus, director of the Observatory of Political Radicalism at the Jean Jaurès Foundation in Paris, credited the League with helping to fend off up to 150 pro-Palestinian demonstrators as congregation members cowered inside.

Several congregation members who were there said demonstrators, some wielding metal bars and bats, had tried to scale the walls while League members forced them back by tossing tables and chairs. Palestinian groups accused the League of provoking the attack by taunting demonstrators and throwing projectiles.

Mr. Camus said he had studied the group extensively and concluded that it was capable of fighting but did not resemble its American counterpart, a serious terrorist organization.

Still, members have gained reputations as provocateurs. Bernard Ravenel, a member of the France Palestine Solidarity Association, said that in 2004, half a dozen masked members of the League tried to break down the door to the group’s headquarters to disrupt a conference. Eliahou denied that the attack took place.

In 2012, the French Jewish Union for Peace demanded that the group be disbanded, accusing it of making threats. Members have also interrupted a reading in Paris organized for Jacob Cohen, a writer critical of Israel, heckling him as a “collaborator.”

That year, a member of the League sprayed Houria Bouteldja, a French-Algerian activist, with red paint as she stood near a museum devoted to Arab culture.

Roger Cukierman, president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, dismissed the League as marginal. The Protection Service of the Jewish Community, a security body that works closely with the police, is highly effective, he said, and hundreds of officers from the French security services have been deployed in recent weeks to maintain order. But he dismissed claims by pro-Palestinian groups and the French news media that the League had provoked recent anti-Semitic attacks.

“We don’t know the League, and we don’t want to know it, and I am sad that youths feel attracted to this organization,” he said. “But I understand when youths say that we are faced with a pogrom and need to defend ourselves.”

Law enforcement officials said some League members had criminal records. A leading member of the Protection Service, who asked that his name not be used, citing security concerns, said members did not have adequate training, were overly aggressive and were giving Jews a bad name.

But Chantal Haziot, owner of a Judaica shop in the Jewish quarter of the Marais, expressed a more common refrain heard these days: “People are afraid, and, like them or not, I am happy they’re there.”

Dutch Mosques Release Statements of Tolerance

August 1, 2014

The Netherlands’ Council of Mosques and the Union of Dutch Moroccan Mosques are emphasizing tolerance and opposing anti-Semitic sentiment. Both organizations are concerned with increases in violence and expressions of hatred towards Jews and Muslims. The Council of Mosques has adopted a declaration expressly criticize Muslims guilty of anti-Semitic incidents. Regarding such incidents, a spokesman for the Islamic organizations commented that “there are many people who claim to use the freedom of speech. We are not opposed, but in this country we have to be protective of one another.”

According to the mosques, it is not prohibited to criticize Israel, but this is not a license for anti-Semitic nor anti-Muslim statements or actions. The declaration reads, “Jews in the Netherlands are brothers of the holy book and maintain a fraternal relationship”.

According to the spokesman for the organizations, almost all mosques in the Netherlands are working along with the declaration.

In Sarcelles, Muslim and Jewish dignitaries pray for peace

July 22, 2014

On Sunday, July 20 violence marred a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Sarcelles. In its aftermath leaders from both the Muslim and Jewish communities, including France’s chief rabbi Haim Korsia and the imam of Drancy, Hassen Chalghoumi, gathered to pray together.

The multi-faith prayer took place in the town’s synagogue under the protection of local police and included singer Enrico Macias and writer Marek Halter. Soon after Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Buddhist leaders gathered at the French president’s official residence to denounce anti-Semitism. “The president of the Republic reminded us that the fight against anti-Semitism will be a national cause,” underlined president of the Central Israeli Consistory Joel Mergui.

The violent riots took place in Sarcelles, a city north of Paris, known for its large North African Jewish community and often referred to as “little Jerusalem.” Cars were burned and stores were ransacked, including a kosher grocery store. Eighteen people were arrested and eleven remain in police custody, four of whom are minors.

“I didn’t sleep at night, I was anxious. People from all places live together here, we don’t understand,” said a 67 year-old Jewish resident whose car was destroyed. The city’s mayor Francois Pupponi later stated that “the Jewish community is scared” and no longer feels secure.

Interfaith leaders launch daylong unity fast for Mideast peace

July 14, 2014

While the violence escalates in Israel and Gaza, a movement is taking hold that unites Jews, Muslims and others in a campaign for peace.

On Tuesday (July 15), a daylong fast is planned as part of a public effort to show unity in the fight against war and violence in the region.

Using the Twitter hashtag #HungryforPeace, the cause started in Israel and gained strength in England, promoted by Yachad, a U.K.-based pro-Israel, pro-peace group. Last weekend, it was announced in temples, mosques and churches in the U.S.

Pastor Steve Norman of Kensington Church near Detroit used Twitter to call his 10,000-strong congregation to join him in the fast after reading about the efforts of Muslims and Jews to publicly stand together.

“It just seemed right to follow their lead,” said Norman, whose church sponsors several trips to Israel and the West Bank each year.

The latest series of clashes between Israel and the Palestinians are blamed on the kidnapping of three Israeli young men who were later found dead, as well as the reported revenge killing of a teenage Palestinian boy from East Jerusalem. In the words of Lee Ziv, an Israeli peace activist, “The tears of an Israeli mother over her dead son are identical to those of a Palestinian Mother.”

Ziv started a Facebook page called “The Bus of Peace” and is organizing a bus to drive from Jerusalem to Gaza with flowers and peace slogans to demonstrate the goodwill of many Israelis toward the people of Gaza. In the past, she has gathered blankets and other supplies to donate to those living in Gaza.