WASHINGTON (RNS) An evangelical pastor from Texas joined American Muslim leaders Thursday (July 23) in denouncing recent anti-Muslim comments by evangelist Franklin Graham as they announced upcoming efforts to build bridges between their religious communities.
In response to the killing of five service members in Chattanooga, Tenn., last week, Graham, son of evangelical leader Billy Graham, wrote on Facebook that the U.S. should bar Muslims from immigrating.
Just weeks before Scotland’s independence referendum, the country joins the rest of the UK with the growing crisis of disenfranchised, and subsequently radicalized, Muslim youth. After disappearing from her Glasgow home in November 2013, 20 year-old schoolgirl Aqsa Mahmood, now known as “Umm Layth,” resurfaced in Syria apparently married to an ISIS fighter and living with other British Nationals. During a press conference on Tuesday, Mahmood’s father Muzaffar said, “[Aqsa] may believe that the jihadists of Isis are her new family, but they are not, they are simply using her.” He called her change the result of “bedroom radicalization,” referring to the influence of internet forums, blogs, and even Facebook as the source of his daughter’s metamorphosis from schoolgirl at the private Craigholme School to ISIS bride. Friends describe her as an average, fun-loving girl who enjoyed clothes, make-up and gossip. This description of a fully Western adolescent is now a common refrain among Muslim families and communities left stunned by the radicalization and subsequent departure of their youth to join ISIS.
Until this last week, Mahmood frequently communicated with other Muslims and potential converts to ISIS’s cause through social media, especially through Twitter. Her tweets include references to life as an ISIS bride, but also references to recent terror attacks: “Follow the example of your Brothers from Woolwich, Texas and Boston etc. Have no fear as Allah swt is always with the Believers.” (@ummLayth), June 27th, 2014. Her chilling 140 character call to arms was deleted with her account around September 3rd when her name and story gained national attention.
Mahmood represents a growing number of young British nationals leaving their homes to join ISIS, with an estimated 500 British-born Muslims now active in Iraq and Syria. Concerns over UK Muslims joining ISIS escalated after the murderer of James Foley in August appeared to be British.
Paris is about to lose its first Muslim mayor.
Dr. Arjumand Hashmi, a prominent cardiologist selected by his Paris City Council peers to be mayor in 2011, confirmed Wednesday that he won’t seek the mayor’s post next Monday.
That’s when the council is set to canvass votes from Saturday’s election and pick a new leadership team.
Hashmi, 53, will remain on the council for at least another year before his term expires next May. But with two of the four council members who were solidly in his corner losing their seats Saturday, Hashmi would’ve had to fight to keep the top post.
He said he possibly could have mustered the four votes needed to hang onto the job. Instead, he decided to use the coming year to focus on his District 7 constituents and contemplate his political future.
“I’ve had an extremely good three years,” Hashmi said in a phone interview Wednesday. “My term is coming to a completion next Monday and I’m very thrilled by the fact I’ve had a wonderful council and team to work with. And we’ve achieved some things that no other council has achieved in the last 30 years.
“We brought accountability, transparency and we have improved the health, safety and quality of life of our residents, and I’m very proud of it,” said Hashmi, the director of interventional cardiology at Paris Regional Medical Center.
During the five-way race in the Republican primary to represent a 12-county Hill Country district in the Texas House, two candidates, Rob Henneke and Andrew Murr, largely focused on the state’s water policy and ensuring local control of decisions on education and infrastructure.
The two have advanced to the May 27 runoff to succeed State Representative Harvey Hilderbran, Republican of Kerrville, who ran for state comptroller.
But the conversation in the campaign to represent House District 53 has shifted in a new phase. Discussions about water, taxes and immigration have been somewhat overshadowed by provocative topics like Shariah law, the Islamic code of law derived from the Quran.
“I’m going to be the candidate that’s going to fight to advance the constitutional conservative principles that I believe in and that this district believes in,” Mr. Henneke, a former Kerr County attorney, said.
Mr. Murr, a former Kimble County judge and county attorney, said his brand of conservatism would appeal to voters. “The message of having a voice coming from local government worried about issues like water and property rights resonates with a lot of people,” he said.
During a recent appearance on a local radio program about religion, the two candidates squared off, sharing their views on water, immigration, anti-abortion efforts and Shariah law.
“I’m very concerned about the infiltration of our society by Muslims right now in Texas,” Mr. Henneke told listeners. “I don’t think people are aware about how pervasive that has become in our society.”
He said he would support in the next legislative session the passage of the American Laws for American Courts Act, which would forbid the use of foreign law in the state’s courts.
The true story of a Muslim immigrant who tried to save the white supremacist who shot him in the face
On Sept. 21, 2001, Rais Bhuiyan, a Bangladeshi immigrant, was working in a gas station minimart in Dallas when a burly man with tattoo-covered arms walked up to the counter and pulled out a shotgun. Bhuiyan moved to hand over the money in the cash register, but the man seemed uninterested in that. “Where are you from?” he demanded to know, before shooting Bhuiyan in the face.
Although the shotgun’s pellets missed Bhuiyan’s brain by millimeters, 35 of them remain lodged in his body to this day; he is nearly blind in one eye. His would-be killer, who apparently thought he’d finished Bhuiyan off, had already killed Waqar Hasan, also a convenience-store worker, and would go on to kill another man, Vasudev Patel, 11 days later. When he was caught shortly afterward, Mark Stroman, who mistakenly believed that his victims were Arabs, would claim to be an “allied combatant” in the newly declared war on terror, a self-proclaimed “American terrorist,” striking back at those who, he wrote, “sought to bring the exact same chaos and bewilderment upon our people and society as they lived in themselves at home and abroad.”
Stroman turned out to be an ex-con and rumored member of the Aryan Brotherhood with a long history of trouble with the law. Despite his belief that hate-crimes legislation levied extra punishment on people like him, prosecutors had to try him for killing Vasudev Patel while committing the crime of robbery because only then was he eligible for the death penalty. Nevertheless, as the prosecutor acknowledged to Indian-American journalist Anand Giridharadas, whose moving and indelible “The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas” tells the extraordinary story of Stroman’s crime and its aftermath, it was the hatred behind Stroman’s actions that made the state’s attorneys determined to send him to death row. They succeeded.
It’s a manifestly inspirational story, the kind easily told in a newspaper article to which readers can and have attached comments marveling over the human capacity for goodness and the irony of a Muslim behaving with greater Christian charity than the jingoistic Bible thumpers all around him. Bhuiyan became a potent public speaker. When he finally got the chance to make his plea for Stroman’s life at a hearing on the day the execution was scheduled to take place, his words left listeners — including that most stoic of all legal professionals, the court reporter — in tears.