World Hijab Day celebrated on February 1st

world-hijabOn February 1st, millions of women, either Muslim or non-Muslim, prepared their headscarf to don hijab for a day, showing solidarity and respect to Muslim women’s choice to cover.

“I think it is important today to try to understand and experience other cultures and belief system,” Elizabeth Croucher, a non-Muslim Londoner, told OnIslam.net.

Muslim and non-Muslim women wearing a traditional Islamic head scarf will march on the streets of 116 countries to mark the third anniversary of World Hijab Day.

The World Hijab Day, held for the third consecutive year, is the brain child of a New York resident, Nazma Khan, who came up with the idea as a means to foster religious tolerance and understanding. Suggesting the event, Khan wanted to encourage non-Muslim women to don the hijab and experience it before judging Muslim women.

Women’s Mosque of America hosts first Friday Prayer in Los Angeles

Women attend the first jumma prayer at the Women's Mosque of America in Lose Angeles on January 30, 2015. (Photo: Religious Dispatches)
Women attend the first jumma prayer at the Women’s Mosque of America in Lose Angeles on January 30, 2015. (Photo: Religious Dispatches)

On Friday, January 30th, 2015 the Women’s Mosque of America hosted its first Friday Prayer at its location in Los Angeles. Founders and co-Presidents, M. Hasna Maznavi and Sana Muttalib welcomed the group of worshipers, journalists, and curious guests stating that at this new mosque, “we will not be policing any bodies.” According to Maznavi, the “policing” of bodies was one of the primary reasons that led her to creating a mosque for women.

The mosque itself is symbolic of the struggle of young American Muslims to create their own identities that are not only compatible with Islam but also reflective of the social progress that they are a part of. Young Muslims are pushing back against rigid social and gender norms brought to the country by their parents and grandparents that are only tangentially related to Islam. Maznavi notes that although they respect the orthodox beliefs, they also want to stretch them to be more inclusive.

 

Islamic Institute for Advanced Studies Condemns Barbaric Violence

“The members of the Islamic Institute for Advanced Studies, French citizens of Muslim faith, express their horror and indignation following the abominable attack against the journalists at Charlie Hebdo, which caused many deaths and injuries. They express their compassion for the victims, and address their most sincerest condolences to the families affected. They wholly and unequivocally condemn this barbaric violence.

While everything suggests, unfortunately, that those responsible for the killings claim to act in the name of Islam, the members of IHEI wish to reaffirm that no crime can legitimately claim faith in God alone. This is intolerance, ignorance and violence that use Islam, as well as other religions, as a means for personal vengeance against society, or for combat between imagined and constructed identities, both being very far removed from the faith. With all that has occurred, French and European Muslims are trying to understand how such exploitation has become possible by doing all they can to promote comprehension of Islam as a religion of understanding and love.

In conclusion, the members of the IHEI are worried by the current climate where violence committed in the name of Islam justifies all misinterpretations of the religion. They call on their fellow citizens to break from this vicious cycle where the fear of some feeds on the fear of others. The members of the IHEI wish to reaffirm their participation in national solidarity during this mourning period. They will continue without respite, as they have done for years, to weave links between people and cultures that allows us to live together in harmony, despite our differences, in a peaceful and constructive manner, and with respect for the laws of the Republic.”

Islamic Institute for Advanced Studies

New Study of Post-Migrant Germany asks: “Do you love Germany?” [PDF DOWNLOAD]

"Naika Foroutan (pictured above) headed the interdisciplinary research group at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin that conducted the "Post-migrant Germany" study, which exposed ambivalent attitudes towards migration." (Photo: Qantara.de)
“Naika Foroutan (pictured above) headed the interdisciplinary research group at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin that conducted the “Post-migrant Germany” study, which exposed ambivalent attitudes towards migration.” (Photo: Qantara.de)

“A new study entitled “Post-migrant Germany” set out to investigate attitudes on national identity in Germany. According to the results, these attitudes are ambivalent: people in Germany are open-minded, yet many in mainstream society have major reservations with respect to Muslim immigrants.” Claudia Mende reports for Qantara.de.

[Click for Qantara’s Summary of the Report in English]

[Copy of Report – Only Available German]

Mosque leader compares being gay to paedophilia and murder

March 20, 2014

 

The chairman of a mosque at the centre of a BBC censorship row over the issue of being both Muslim and gay has compared homosexuality to being “a compulsive murderer, gambler, or paedophile”.

Free Speech, the BBC 3 debate show, deliberately dropped the question “When will it be right to be Muslim and gay?” on its March 12 episode at the request of the Birmingham Central Mosque where it was being filmed. The live programme, which featured a panel including government minister and Lib Dem peer Susan Kramer, broadcast a pre-recorded question by Asifa Lahore, who bills himself as Britain’s “first and only gay Muslim drag queen”.

A week later Dr Mohammad Naseem, the mosque’s long-time chairman, defended his decision in a letter sent to Huffington Post UK.

He wrote: “There are people with homosexual tendency in Muslim countries but they respect the law and control their desire as others do.” Human beings do have weaknesses and tendencies which are not socially acceptable and so they try to have a control over them and do not give in. “A compulsive murderer, gambler, paedophile etc. could present the same logic and ask for accommodation by the society. Are we going to accept on the basis of freedom of action?”

Dr Naseem said Lahore “does not know his religion and has not got much links with it. He would have, otherwise, known that it is prohibited in Islam. If he wants to pursue [sic] his inclination then he is free to leave Islam and follow any ideology that suits him.”

Dr Naseem said the subject of homosexuality was not the topic for a TV discussion show but something that should be investigated by specialists and added that “Not being able to accept them in religion should not be confused with denying them their human rights such as their right to have education, employment, housing and respect.”

Free Speech said in a statement: “The Birmingham Mosque had offered the venue as a location for an episode. When asked if there were any issues for discussion that would be off limits, no concerns were raised. As a result the production company, together with the BBC and the mosque, made the decision to postpone the debate of the topic homosexuality and Islam until March 25th but agreed to show the pre-recorded segment.

 

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/10710750/Mosque-leader-compares-being-gay-to-paedophilia-and-murder.html

The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/03/19/gay-muslim_n_4993241.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-26576673

The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/mar/14/bbc3-free-speech-debate-gay-muslim

 

Muslim Christmas Celebrations Gain Footing In America

December 24, 2013

By Omar Sacirbey

 

RNS – A generation or two ago, when America’s Muslims were new immigrants who made up an even smaller minority of Americans than they do today, the lights, trees, carols, gifts and festive spirit of Christmas were viewed by many Muslims as a threat to their children’s Islamic faith.

But these days, a growing number of Muslims celebrate Christmas, or at least partake in some ways, even if they don’t decorate their homes with trees and a light show. Indeed, many Muslim families have created their own unique Christmas traditions.

“I teach my three children, who attend public school and happen to be born into an interfaith Christian-Muslim family, that we absolutely do celebrate Christmas because we are Muslim,” Hannah Hawk of Houston wrote in an email. Rather than putting up a tree or lights, “we celebrate the reason for the season, Jesus, by studying all that is written about him in the Quran and by examining historical theories.”

The Hawks also give to charity, bake treats for neighbors, invite them to dinner, and wish friends, colleagues and teachers “Merry Christmas” with cards and phone calls. Hawk’s kids get together with Christian friends to perform various good deeds. This year, they will play songs (violins, viola, trumpet, cellos, bells) at a local community hospital for patients recovering from surgery.

To be sure, some Muslim leaders still criticize Christmas celebrations as assimilation gone too far.

Imam Muzammil Siddiqi, a former president of the Islamic Society of North America, has argued that Muslims should not celebrate Christmas because the holiday commemorates the birth of a figure revered by Christians as the Son of God, which violates Islamic beliefs.

“We should tell our children that we are Muslims and this is not our holiday,” Siddiqi said in comments posted at the website OnIslam.net. “This is the holiday of our Christian neighbors and friends.”

To protect their children from the attraction of Christmas, he said, Muslim parents should take advantage of Islamic camps and conferences established at this time of year for this very reason.

But others see a new generation of Muslims born or reared in the United States who feel secure enough to view Christmas as another tradition they can relate to, and to celebrate it in a wide variety of ways — as do their Christian neighbors.

“Muslims should join their Christian neighbors to celebrate Christmas,” said Rizwan Kadir, a financial adviser who is active in his Muslim community in suburban Chicago. “We also believe in Isa,” Kadir added, using the Arabic name for Jesus, “and he has a very special place in Islam.”

While Muslims don’t believe Jesus was crucified or that he is part of the triune Godhead, they do believe in the Virgin birth, and claim Jesus as a prophet — a predecessor to Muhammad — who ascended to heaven, and will return as part of the Second Coming.

Kadir adds that Muslims shouldn’t retreat from Christmas festivities. His family doesn’t put up a tree or lights, but Kadir does go to holiday parties at work, wishes friends and neighbors a “Merry Christmas,” and watches “It’s A Wonderful Life,” and “Home Alone” — a Kadir family tradition.

“To me, those are just fun things that people do around this time of year,” said Kadir. “It doesn’t make you a Christian. It doesn’t mean you’re compromising your faith.”

That view, however, has taken time to evolve.

Zeyna Ahmed, the American-born daughter of Egyptian parents, remembers that her mother liked some aspects of Christmas. But her father “stifled it.”

“Their way of holding on to their heritage was just pushing everything that was Muslim,” said Ahmed, who lives in Easton, Pa.

When her four children started asking why the family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, she felt it wasn’t adequate to say, “because we’re Muslim,” since “we also believe in Jesus,” Ahmed said.

So, for the last seven years, Ahmed, who is divorced, has celebrated Christmas with a tree, lights, and acts of charity. She also gets a menorah for Hanukkah and cooks a big meal on the last night.

“I want to expose them to different traditions,” Ahmed said, referring to her kids. “I feel like if you respect their holidays, they’ll respect our holidays. It develops mutual respect.”

Hawk agreed. “Christmas, like Ramadan, is the perfect interfaith footbridge for Muslim-Christian fellowship,” she wrote. “Both are the perfect times to hold interfaith vigils, pray together for peace, and pledge to uphold God’s message to spread goodwill and reach out to and help the less fortunate in our society.”

Some Islamic leaders have come on board, too.

Imam Talal Eid of Quincy, Mass., a former member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, cited the 13th verse of the Quran’s 49th chapter, which states that God created “peoples and tribes that you may know one another.”

And, he added, at a time when some Christians and Jews in America have fasted in solidarity with Muslims during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Muslims should reciprocate.

“This is not about theological details,” said Eid. “This is a matter of fellowship and social activity. There is nothing wrong with exchanging gifts and participating.”

 

Religion News Service/Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/24/muslim-christmas-celebrations_n_4494836.html?utm_hp_ref=religion

M&S apologises after Muslim assistant refused to sell customer alcohol

December 23, 2013

 

Marks & Spencer has apologised after a Muslim member of staff refused to sell a customer alcohol. “The issue arose after an unnamed customer at a London store was “taken aback” when an “extremely apologetic” Muslim checkout worker asked them to wait for another till to become available.

The customer told the newspaper: “I had one bottle of champagne, and the lady, who was wearing a headscarf, was very apologetic but said she could not serve me. She told me to wait until another member of staff was available. I was taken aback. I was a bit surprised. I’ve never come across that before.”

Drinking alcohol is forbidden in Islam, and some Muslims refuse to handle it. M&S said its policy applied to staff of all religions, not just Islam. The spokeswoman said: “Where we have an employee whose religious beliefs restrict food or drink they can handle, we work closely with our members of staff to place them in suitable role, such as in our clothing department or bakery in foods.

The case highlighted differences among retailers on whether religious staff should have to carry out certain jobs, the Telegraph said. Sainsbury’s guidelines say there is no reason why staff who do not drink alcohol or eat pork on religious grounds cannot handle them, the newspaper reported, while Tesco said it made “no sense” for staff that refused to touch items for religious reasons to work on a till. Muslim employees at Asda do not have to work on tills if they object to handling alcohol, while Morrisons said it would “respect and work around anyone’s wishes not to handle specific products for religious or cultural reasons”, the Telegraph said.

 

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/dec/23/marks-and-spencer-muslim-alcohol

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/10533728/MandS-faces-furious-backlash-from-customers-over-Muslim-policy.html

Debating Islam: Negotiating Religion, Europe, and the Self

Conspicuously, Islam has become a key issue in most European societies with respect to issues of immigration, integration, identity, values and inland security. As the mere presence of Muslim minorities fails to explain these debates convincingly, new questions need to be asked: how did Islam become a topic? Who takes part in the debates? How do these debates influence both individual as well as collective self-images and image of others? Introducing Switzerland as an under-researched object of study to the academic discourse on Islam in Europe, this volume offers a fresh perspective on the objective by putting recent case studies from diverse national contexts into comparative perspective.

Link to the book’s website and publisher: http://www.transcript-verlag.de/ts2249/ts2249.php

Popular Party (PP) figure calls for the closing of “unlicensed” and “illegal” mosques in Spain

November 11, 2013

 

Alberto Fernandez, deputy of the Popular Party (PP) in Barcelona has asked the mayor Xavier Trias to close all Muslim centers that have no license.
Fernandez has also denounced a Pakistani cultural center located in the Poble Sec (Barcelona) as an illegal center.

Finally, he has asked the City Hall to ensure the legality of these centers, as well as to ensure that they respect the values ​​of coexistence and democracy and that these centers “do not cause the formation of ghettos in some neighborhoods.”

 

Abc.es : http://www.abc.es/local-cataluna/20131115/abci-alberto-fernandez-reclama-cierre-201311151844.html

European Commission against Racism and Intolerance Releases Netherlands Report

October 15, 2013

 

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has released a fourth report on the Netherlands. The third cycle of the report was released in 2008, and this most recent report covers the situation until March 2013.

With respect to Muslims, the ECRI notes that while discriminatory incidents against Muslims appear to have decreased, reported offences against individuals of Moroccan heritage have increased, and online discriminatory statements largely concern Muslims (and Jews). The ECRI further called on Dutch authorities to oppose manifestation of anti-Muslim sentiment in politics and to “refrain from promoting debate on policies that have as their main objective the polarization of Dutch society around issues of relevance to Muslim communities”.

 

Full ECRI report: http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/ecri/country-by-country/netherlands/NLD-CbC-IV-2013-039-ENG.pdf