One US Muslim Group Declines to Meet Pope, others warily accept

Unease with Pope Benedict XVI’s approach to Islam has led a US Muslim group to decline to join an inter-faith event with the pope later this week. Salam al-Marayati, executive director of the Los Angels based Muslim Public Affairs Council, said that the event seemed “more ceremonial than substantive” and his organization would not participate. He said he was disappointed that no time was made for even a brief private meeting with U.S. Muslim leaders during the pope’s six-day visit. Several other U.S. Muslim leaders expressed similar concerns, but pledged to participate in the Washington gathering. “Our going there is more out of respect for the Catholic Church itself,” said Muzammil H. Siddiqi, chairman of the Fiqh Council of North America – “Popes come and go, but the church is there.” Siddiqi, who is co-chairman of the West Coast Muslim-Catholic Dialogue, is among the Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Jain and Hindu leaders scheduled to meet with pope Benedict on Thursday at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center.

Suspect ‘vowed lesson for West’

The suspected leader of an alleged plot to blow up transatlantic planes mid-air promised to teach the West a “lesson they will never forget”, a court heard. Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 27, made the vow during the 16-minute “martyrdom” video played at Woolwich Crown Court. Prosecutors say eight men planned to kill thousands by detonating home-made bombs, disguised as soft drinks, aboard flights to North America. All deny conspiring to murder and endangering planes in 2006. ‘Time has come’ Jurors were shown footage of what prosecutors said was Mr Ali wearing a black and white headscarf, against a backdrop of a black flag covered with Arabic writing. In the video, he said: “This the opportunity to punish and humiliate the kuffar [unbelievers], to teach them a lesson they will never forget.

Candidates not courting the Muslim vote

At the 44th annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) last September, all of the Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls were invited to attend – not a single one accepted the invitation. Even though presidential candidates aren’t courting Muslim voters, the community will have a voice come November. Many groups, including ISNA and the American Muslim Council are mobilizing people to register and inform voters on positions and issues that affect Muslim Americans. Perhaps unsurprisingly, civil rights and the war in Iraq are two major issues of concern – but so are family topics of education and healthcare.

Religious Leaders Condemn Terrorist Acts: Fiqh Council of North America issues fatwa

Washington — Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders in the United States have joined together in an interfaith peace-building effort to condemn terrorism and the violence it causes. In supporting this initiative, the Fiqh Council of North America issued a fatwa, or religious edict, saying “there is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism.” Merle D. Kellerhals Jr. reports.

Citizenship and Immigrant Incorporation, Comparative Perspective on North America and Western Europe

In recent years, scholarly attention has shifted away from debates on ethnicity to focus on issues of migration and citizenship. Inspired, in part, by earlier studies on European guestworker migration, these debates are fed by the new “transnational mobility”, by the immigration of Muslims, by the increasing importance of human rights law, and by the critical attention now paid to women migrants. With respect to citizenship, many discussions address the diverse citizenship regimes. The present volume, together with its predecessor (Bodemann and Yurdakul 2006), addresses these often contentious issues. A common denominator which unites the various contributions is the question of migrant agency, in other words, the ways in which Western societies are not only transforming migrants, but are themselves being transformed by new migrations (Palgrave).

Table of Contents

    Introduction—Y. Michal Bodemann
    PART I: THE CHANGING NATURE OF MIGRATION IN NORTH AMERICA

  • The Changing Nature of Migration in the 21st Century: Implications for Integration Strategies—Aristide Zolberg
  • The Economic Adaptation of Past and Present Immigrants: Lessons from a Comparative-Historical Approach—Ewa Morawska
  • Citizenship and Pluralism: Multiculturalism in a World of Global Migration—Irene Bloemraad
    PART II: DIASPORA, RELIGION AND COUNTER-TRADITIONS

  • Islam and Multicultural Societies: A Transatlantic Comparison—Jocelyne Cesari
  • The Changing Contours of Immigrant Religious Life—Peggy Levitt
  • Crafting an Identity in the Diaspora: Iranian Immigrants in the United States—Valentine M. Moghadam
    PART III: IMMIGRANT WORKERS AND THE NATION-STATE

  • Nation-State Building Projects and the Politics of Transnational Migration: Locating Salvadoran Migrants in Canada, the United States and El Salvador—Patricia Landolt
  • Freedom to Discriminate: National State Sovereignty and Temporary Visa Workers in North America—Nandita Sharma
  • Professionals and Saints: How Post-Soviet Immigrants Do Home-Care Work—Cinzia Solari
    PART IV: IMMIGRANT INTEGRATION INTO SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS

  • ’We Are Together Strong’?: The Unhappy Marriage between Migrant Associations and Trade Unions in Germany—Gökçe Yurdakul
  • Liberal Values and Illiberal Cultures: The Question of Sharia Tribunals in Ontario—Donald Forbes

A New Face for Islam in North America

Ingrid Mattson had given up God. She had stopped saying her rosaries, stopped taking Communion. She was an atheist, abroad in Paris the summer before her senior year of college. But she could not stop listening to the Koran. “Forget it,” she told herself. “This can’t be happening to me.” Yet day after day, she popped the cassette into her Walkman, mesmerized by the chanting and oddly moved by lines such as: “The sun and the moon follow courses computed. And the herbs and the trees both bow in adoration_ It is he who has spread out the earth for [his] creatures.” When she returned home to Canada after that summer of 1986, Mattson signed up for the only Arabic class she could find. It was full of 8-year-old immigrants, who soon came to resent her for winning so many of the chocolates the teacher awarded top students. Mattson wanted to enjoy hanging out in bars with her brothers, the way she always had. Instead, she found herself at her sewing machine, stitching head scarves. That spring, she gathered several Muslim friends as witnesses and pledged herself to Allah. It was an unusual move for a white Canadian ex-Catholic. And it set Mattson down a trailblazing path. About 60,000 Muslims in the U.S. and Canada recently elected Mattson, 43, president of the largest Muslim organization on the continent, an educational and professional association called the Islamic Society of North America. She is the first woman, nonimmigrant or convert to Islam to become president of the group. Her election comes at a tumultuous time for the estimated 6 million Muslims in the U.S. Nearly 40% of Americans admit prejudice against Muslims, according to a recent poll by USA Today and Gallup. A similar percentage support mandatory identification cards for Muslims. And one in five Americans said they would not want a Muslim neighbor. Many Muslims are hoping Mattson can soften this fear. She does not speak with a foreign accent. She doesn’t wear a veil, though she does cover her head with a thick, dark scarf. Soft-spoken and quick to smile, Mattson is a suburban soccer mom; she cheers at her son’s games, helps her daughter with college applications, gardens, hikes, reads the New Yorker, laughs at Paris Hilton’s reality TV. “Many Americans think we didn’t arrive in this country until 9/11. She helps people know we’re part of the American landscape,” said Aneesah Nadir, the president of an Islamic social services agency based in Phoenix. Such comments were a frequent refrain at the Islamic society’s annual convention, which drew more than 32,000 Muslims to this suburb of Chicago earlier this month. Mattson was mobbed by fans wanting to take her picture. One father brought his five daughters from South Carolina to meet her. “She’s a visible refutation of stereotypes,” said Hasan Aijaz, a college student from Virginia. Outside the organization, Muslims have greeted Mattson’s election more warily. She’s received angry letters from conservatives who resent having a woman in charge. Such critics often cite an ancient hadith, or narrative about the life of the prophet Muhammad, stating that no good will come from entrusting leadership to a woman. The Islamic left has questioned Mattson’s credentials as well. A traditionalist who dresses in modest ankle-length skirts and loose blouses – and who prefers, whenever possible, to avoid shaking men’s hands – Mattson pushes women’s rights only so far. She has called for mosques to dismantle any barriers that block women from seeing or clearly hearing the imam during prayer. But she does not support the more radical, feminist notion that women should pray alongside men – or even lead men in prayer. Many Muslims argue that such an arrangement would distract men from God or lead to immoral conduct. Mattson explains her objection this way: The prophet would not have approved. Mattson’s journey to Islam began when she was a teenager in the Canadian town of Kitchener, Ontario. As a girl, she had been the most pious in her family of seven children, but when she entered high school, she began to find bedrock concepts such as the Holy Trinity illogical. The nuns and priests at her Catholic school were unable to answer her questions. “Accept the mystery,” they told her. She couldn’t. Though she stayed on at St. Mary’s High School, Mattson stopped looking for God. Years later, during her summer in Paris, Mattson became friendly with several West African Muslims. They introduced her to Islam; her spirit stirred. “What moved me most was the way the Koran described the majesty and beauty of creation,” she said. One of her favorite passages tells of God’s handiwork: “He has let free the two bodies of flowing water, meeting together… Out of them come pearls and coral… And his are the ships sailing smoothly through the seas, lofty as mountains.” After graduating from the University of Waterloo, Mattson worked in a refugee camp in Pakistan, where she met her husband, an Egyptian engineer. He took care of their small children while she earned a doctorate in Islamic studies from the University of Chicago. Since 1998, she has been teaching about Islam at Hartford Seminary, a nondenominational Christian institution in Connecticut. As president of the Islamic Society of North America – an unpaid part-time post – Mattson will lead a diverse organization that trains Muslim leaders, sets standards for hundreds of mosques, helps immigrants adjust to American life and serves as an umbrella uniting associations of Muslim engineers, doctors and other professionals. She will also be a very visible spokeswoman for the faith – a role she relishes. In particular, she can’t wait to refute the notion that Islam is a religion solely “for brown and black people,” she said. “When African Americans make the move to Islam, it’s considered valid. When I do, it’s considered cultural apostasy, as if somehow I’ve abandoned my whiteness to become an ‘other,’ ” Mattson said. In the past, many Muslims – like evangelical Christians before them – argued that they had to isolate themselves from American politics and culture in order to keep their faith pure. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, Mattson argues that Muslims no longer have that luxury. “We need to form an axis of good with our neighbors,” she said. “We’re 2% of the American population. How are we going to be effective unless we make alliances?” Her push for interfaith partnerships got off to a shaky start when the Islamic society invited former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami to address the convention. Jay Tcath, vice president of the Chicago Jewish Federation, accused the organization of “a dereliction of civic responsibility” for honoring Khatami despite his record of human rights abuses. The Anti-Defamation League also takes issue with the Islamic society for having provided a forum for anti-Semitic language at several conferences over the years, said Deborah Lauter, the group’s national civil rights director. The organization’s leaders “have been in bed with extremist groups,” Lauter said, “[so] we go into these relationships with some serious concerns.” Mattson says her group does not invite speakers “known for offensive statements,” but offers “as broad a platform as possible for legitimate views.” At the convention’s opening seminar, Mattson urged her fellow Muslims to step proudly into mainstream society, to engage their neighbors and promote their good works until Americans stop associating Islam with terror. “Islamic medical clinics… Islamic ethics. Islamic charity. These are the terms that should come off the tips of tongues,” she told a cheering crowd. “Islamic intellectuals. Islamic peace movements. Islamic human rights… This is who we are!”

Where the Meat Meets Muslim Standard

There’s just one place in North America where an observant Muslim can follow Jared’s diet, the two-sandwich-a-day plan that helped Subway pitchman Jared Fogel lose 245 pounds. The Subway restaurant that adheres to Islamic restrictions is off Route 27 in Iselin. The eatery is indiscernible from other Subways except for a neon green sign in the window spelling out “halal,” the Islamic equivalent of kosher.

Mosques Conflicts in Western Europe

The Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (JEMS) publishes the results of first-class research on all forms of migration and its consequences, together with articles on ethnic conflict, discrimination, racism, nationalism, citizenship and policies of integration. Contributions to the journal, which are all fully refereed, are especially welcome when they are the result of comparative research, for example within Europe or between one or more European country and the countries of North America and the Asia-Pacific. The journal tends to focus on advanced industrial countries and has distinguished associate editors from North America and the Asia-Pacific.

American Muslims Gather In Dallas To Talk About Sharing Their Faith With Others

By Greg Flakus Dallas Hundreds of Muslims have gathered in Dallas, Texas for the Islamic Society of North America’s Third Annual South Central Regional Conference. The main goal of conference organizers is to build understanding with people of other faiths. Several hundred people came together in a hotel ballroom Friday to pray as the three-day conference got under way. Although men and women sat in separate sections of the hall, the Muslim cleric spoke to all believers, calling on them to be charitable toward their non-Muslim neighbors, not as a pretext for attracting them to Islam, but because that is what God calls on them to do. The message is similar to what might be heard in a Christian or Jewish service, because, as Muslim leaders are quick to point out, the three religions share common origins and beliefs. All three religions are based on belief in one God, yet many non-Muslims still regard Islam as an exotic religion. The theme of this conference is “Sharing Islam with our Neighbors,” and organizers note that this does not necessarily refer to proselytizing. The secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America, Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, says that the eight-to-ten million people of the Islamic faith who live in the United States today are in a unique position to help Americans understand this religion and its worldwide influence. “Muslims of America are an asset to America because they are bridge between America and the rest of the Muslim world and we take that role very seriously,” he said. Mr. Syeed says those Americans who embrace Islam also have a responsibility to bring about a better understanding of this country in the areas of the world where Islam is the dominant religion. “Muslims in the world have to understand that there is a Muslim population here who are practicing Islam in their day-to-day lives. Then, it is our duty to express, interpret and explain Islam to our fellow Americans, and it is our duty to explain America to our fellow Muslims,” he said. Muslims here feel a special bond with other Muslims in the Middle East and are concerned about the turmoil in that region. One of the main speakers at this conference is a State Department official who has come to explain U.S. policy in the Middle East. This conference also includes special sessions on the growth of Islam among American Latinos, including forums conducted in Spanish where people explain why they converted to Islam.