Breaking the Ramadan fast in the company of Jews

July 10, 2014

(RNS) Muslim tradition calls for breaking the Ramadan fast in the evening with a date and a sip of water, and increasingly these days, the company of Jews.

Muslim-Jewish iftars are popping up across the nation, bringing together dozens and sometimes hundreds of people for a celebratory Ramadan meal and a chance to forge interfaith friendships.

This Ramadan, as Jews and Muslims exchange rocket fire in Israel and Gaza, those attending these meals say they are all the more significant, as a way of demonstrating that Jews and Muslims have much in common, and can enjoy each others’ food and company.

In Los Angeles on Thursday (July 10), an iftar that bills itself as the single largest gathering of Muslims and Jews in the city, is sponsored by NewGround, an organization that works year-round on Muslim-Jewish relations. The group exists to build resilient relationships that both groups can draw upon in particularly difficult times, said Rabbi Sarah Bassin, NewGround’s former executive director.

“Yes, we are in another awful flare-up of violence and both of our communities are suffering,” Bassin said. “That will be acknowledged at the iftar.”

At Muslim-Jewish iftars, particular attention is paid to food. In Los Angeles, the meal will be both halal and kosher, in keeping with both Muslim and Jewish dietary laws, which often overlap. Neither faith community eats pork, for example. Out of respect for Muslim tradition, no alcohol will be served.

Some of these interfaith Iftars will be hosted in mosques or other Muslims institutions — on Sunday (July 13), for example, at the Institute of Islamic and Turkish Studies in Cary, N.C. Others will take place in synagogues.

NC Muslims hope Gov. Pat McCrory vetoes anti-Shariah bill

North Carolina Muslims hope they can persuade Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, to veto a bill that prohibits state judges from considering “foreign law.”
“It’s going to be tough,” said Rose Hamid of Charlotte. “But I do believe there is a chance.”
Muslims across the state oppose the bill they think is motivated by intolerance and may potentially infringe on other religious groups. Bills against judicial consideration of “foreign laws” are believed to really be opposing Shariah, or Islamic law.
If McCrory signs the bill, North Carolina would become the seventh state to have an anti-Shariah law, joining Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. In May, Alabama lawmakers approved a like-minded constitutional amendment that state voters will consider in 2014.
Dozens of anti-Shariah law bills have been proposed in roughly 30 states in the last few years, and Muslim Americans expect many more bills in the years to come. “It’s not a trend that’s going away,” said Saylor.

NC Senate passes ‘Sharia law’ bill

RALEIGH — The state Senate on Friday passed a bill that would keep courts from recognizing Sharia law.

While proponents of the legislation said it would keep people safe from foreign laws, critics derided the bill as sending a message of intolerance and bigotry to followers of Islam.
The Senate had already approved the measure when it was attached to a controversial measure that would impose stricter regulations on abortion providers in the state. But the foreign law provision wasn’t sufficiently critiqued because abortion overwhelmed the floor debate, said Sen. Floyd McKissick, a Democrat from Durham.

Now called House Bill 522, the provision’s contents haven’t changed. It reminds judges that the U.S. and N.C. constitutions are the law of the land and no foreign law can supersede them. Sometimes international laws are used in court as evidence before a judge, or in written opinions. But this bill would stop judges from considering foreign law when it violates a citizen’s constitutional rights.

“Unfortunately we have judges from time to time … that sometimes seem to forget what the supreme law of the land is, and sometimes make improper rulings,” said Sen. E.S. “Buck” Newton, a Wilson Republican and the legislation’s Senate sponsor.

Though the bill doesn’t specifically mention it, Newton was clear during Friday’s session that the legislation targets Sharia law, a legal system based on the religious and moral tenants of Islam. Few Muslim countries apply the entire body of rules, instead choosing measures relevant to them. More than 60 countries use at least part of Sharia law in their governance.

Its improper use has “worked to deprive” U.S. citizens and immigrants of their constitutional rights, Newton said. There have been 27 reported cases around the country in which Sharia law has been used, he added.

More than 20 states have introduced legislation banning Sharia law or foreign law in state courts. Many bills – including North Carolina’s – would apply only to cases in which the application of foreign law would violate a person’s constitutional rights.

Sen. Ellie Kinnaird of Chapel Hill, a Democrat, said she thinks the bill’s sponsors don’t truly mean to inform judges that foreign law is unacceptable, but rather the people of North Carolina.

“I think the audience is really wider,” Kinnaird said.

 

NC man sentenced in conspiracy to behead witnesses from homegrown terrorism trial

RALEIGH, N.C. — A North Carolina man was sentenced Friday to four life terms for plotting to behead federal witnesses whose testimony helped convict him for his role in an earlier plot to slaughter U.S. servicemen and their families.

Hysen Sherifi, 29, was one of six Raleigh-area Muslims convicted in 2011 of planning to attack the Marine base in Quantico, Va., and overseas targets.

Shortly after starting his 45-year prison sentence in the terror case, Sherifi approached another inmate to help him hire a hit man to behead government informants and FBI agents. He recruited his younger brother Shkumbin Sherifi, 23, and former special education teacher Nevine Aly Elshiekh, 48, to help pay the hit man and organize the murders.

But the inmate whose help Sherifi sought turned out to be yet another government informant. FBI agents then staged an elaborate sting that involved secretly videotaped meetings with a woman posing as the go-between for a fictional hit man named Treetop and doctored photos that appeared to show the corpse of a beheaded witness in a shallow grave.

GOP Rep. Objects To Community College’s Books On Islam: ‘It Is Appalling’

Representative Walter Jones (R-NC) slammed a decision by Craven Community College to purchase 25 books on Islam and Muslim culture, claiming it is biased against the Christian faith and a waste of taxpayer money.

The school, located in New Burn, North Carolina is a recipient of a grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The grant is “intended to address both the need and desire of the American public for trustworthy and accessible resources about Muslim beliefs and practices and the cultural heritage associated with Islamic civilizations.”

In a letter to the Craven Community College Board of Trustees, Jones says it is “appalling” to him that “a federal agency like NEH is wasting taxpayer money on programs like this.” He has consistently opposed and voted against funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

NC men convicted of plotting attack on Marines base get lengthy prison sentences

RALEIGH, N.C. — Two men were sentenced Friday to long prison terms for their roles in a North Carolina-based terror ring that aspired to kill U.S. military personnel.

A federal judge in New Bern sentenced accused ringleader Daniel Patrick Boyd to 18 years. Boyd is a 42-year-old Muslim convert who lived near Raleigh and pleaded guilty in 2011 to charges of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and plotting to murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons abroad.

In June, a jury found 36-year-old Anes Subasic guilty of the same charges. The Bosnian native got a 30-year sentence.

Prosecutors said the men were members of a terrorist cell that raised money, stockpiled weapons and trained for jihadist attacks against those they considered enemies of Islam. All seven men convicted as members of the plot, including two of Boyd’s sons, were either U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. An eighth indicted man is believed to be in Pakistan.

Dylan Boyd was sentenced in December to eight years in federal prison and Zakariya Boyd was sentenced to nine years.

Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, Ziyad Yaghi and Hysen Sherifi were convicted after a month-long trial held last year around the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, each receiving prison terms of between 15 and 45 years.

The men were convicted following testimony by two FBI informants that members of the group plotted to attack the U.S. Marine Corps base at Quantico, Va., and earlier attempted to travel to Israel with the intent of creating mayhem.

NC man faces trial in plot to hire hit man to behead witnesses in his brother’s terrorism case

WILMINGTON, N.C. — A North Carolina man must stand trial in a plot to hire a hit man to behead three witnesses from his brother’s terrorism case, a federal magistrate judge ruled on Friday.

Following a day-long preliminary hearing, federal Magistrate Judge Robert B. Jones Jr. also ordered Shkumbin Sherifi held without bond.

Sherifi, 21, was arrested last weekend after FBI agents tracked him to a Jan. 8 meeting in the parking lot of a Wilmington Food Lion grocery store with a government informant posing as the representative of a hit man. He is accused of paying the informant $4,250 toward the first killing while his mother waited nearby in a Honda minivan.

NC terrorism suspect who was charged along with father pleads guilty to plotting violent acts

Zakariya “Zak” Boyd, 22, pleaded to a single count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. Boyd faces up to 15 years in prison.

Boyd’s father, Daniel, pleaded guilty in February. Daniel Boyd was described by prosecutors as the ringleader of a conspiracy aimed at supporting and participating in violent actions abroad on behalf of a radical jihadist political agenda. The indictment alleged the men raised money to buy assault weapons and conduct training exercises, and that they arranged overseas travel and contacts to help others carry out violent acts.