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

Student gets 40 years for terror campaign against Muslims

October 25, 2013

A white supremacist terrorist who stabbed a grandfather to death and bombed mosques in an effort to trigger a racial war on Britain’s streets has been jailed for life. Ukrainian student Pavlo Lapshyn, 25, was told he would not even be considered for release until his minimum tariff of 40 years was served. The judge did not impose a whole-life sentence, which the prosecution had requested.

Lapshyn’s campaign began in April 2013, just five days after his arrival from Ukraine, where he had won a prize to gain work experience in Britain. Lapshyn found Mohammed Saleem, 82, going home after praying at his local mosque. The student approached him from behind and plunged a hunting knife into him three times with such force that one wound went through to his front. After Saleem’s murder, Lapshyn started placing homemade explosives outside mosques on Fridays, the main day of Muslim prayer.

The device he planted in July, which had 100 nails wrapped around it to maximise the carnage, was aimed at worshippers at the Tipton mosque, where 300 were people were expected to attend prayers. Prayers that particular Friday were held an hour later, thus avoiding mass casualties. The device was so powerful it left nails embedded in tree trunks, police said.

Devices had also been placed outside mosques in Walsall and Wolverhampton.

Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale, the head of the West Midlands police counter-terrorism unit, said Lapshyn had shown no remorse or regret and describing the 40-year term as extremely lengthy.

The Guardian:

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/oct/25/ukranian-white-supremacist-murder-mosque-bombs-pavlo-lapshyn

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/oct/25/student-40-years-terror-campaign-muslims

Somali-American man convicted in 2010 Portland, Ore., Christmas bomb plot apologizes

PORTLAND, Ore. — A young Somali-American man convicted of plotting to bomb a 2010 Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland’s town square has written an apology letter in advance of his sentencing and says he renounces his former beliefs.

In the letter filed Friday by his lawyers in federal court, Mohamed Mohamud offers to speak to young Muslims “to help keep them away from the path of extremism” and tells U.S. District Judge Garr King he turned to books to help himself “walk a better path.” His reading list ranges from “The Grapes of Wrath” to President Barack Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope” to “A Zombie Apocalypse.”

Mohamud was arrested Nov. 26, 2010, after pressing a button on a cellphone that he believed would detonate a 1,800-pound diesel-and-fertilizer bomb near thousands of people at the annual holiday gathering.

The bomb was a fake supplied by undercover FBI agents posing as al-Qaida recruiters.

Trial set to begin for 21-year-old suspect in Portland Christmas tree-lighting bomb plot

PORTLAND, Ore. — For more than two years, the only image the public has had of the man accused of plotting to detonate an 1,800-pound bomb at a Portland Christmas tree-lighting ceremony is this: A sullen-faced, sunken-eyed terrorism suspect in a mug shot taken just hours after his arrest.

At the trial that begins Thursday, Mohamed Mohamud’s attorneys will attempt to present a different image, one of an impressionable teenager lured by undercover agents with the FBI, which snared one of its youngest terrorism suspects with his arrest in November 2010.

At issue is whether Mohamud was entrapped, as his defense claims, when he gave the go-ahead for the detonation of what he thought was a bomb at the Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. The bomb was a fake, provided by FBI agents whom the 19-year-old thought were his jihadist co-conspirators.

As a senior in high school, Mohamud had begun writing articles for an online English-language jihadist magazine called “Jihad Recollections” under the pen name Ibn al-Mubarak, advocating physical fitness for the mujahedeen in places where they couldn’t find exercise equipment.

Journalist Trevor Aaronson found a common thread in such sting cases, documented in a forthcoming book, “The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism,” which spends a chapter on elements of the Mohamud case.

“(The stings) all have minor variations, but they’re all pretty much the same in that they involve people who don’t have the capacity to commit the crimes” for which they’re prosecuted, Aaronson said.

Aaronson said Mohamud didn’t have access to bomb-making materials and, while he espoused anti-Western views, showed no capacity for carrying out acts of terror.

“If you’re going to prosecute every loudmouth,” Aaronson said, “our courts would be clogged.”

 

Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association helping Hartlepool

A group of Muslims in Hartlepool have helped to plant 450 trees in their home town.

It is the latest volunteer project undertaken by the members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association.

Members of the group give up their free time every weekend in an attempt to improve the society in which they live.

Sheraz Kasi, a spokesperson for the group members, who worship at a mosque in Turnbull Street, Hartlepool, said the tree planting had been done with the Wild Green Spaces in Hartlepool project team.

US citizen believed to be on no-fly list detained in Britain following trans-Atlantic cruise

McLEAN, Va. — An Oregon man who traveled by train and boat from the West Coast to England because of his apparent placement on the no-fly list has been detained in Great Britain.

Michael Migliore, a 23-year-old Muslim convert, tried unsuccessfully for months to fly to Italy, where he planned to live with his mother.

Migliore says he was told he is on the no-fly list, though U.S. officials refuse to confirm it. He believes he’s on the list because he refused to cooperate with FBI agents who wanted to question him after an acquaintance was charged in a plot to bomb a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland.

Tension grows between Calif. Muslims, FBI after informant infiltrates mosque

Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the FBI has used informants successfully as one of many tactics to prevent another strike in the United States. Agency officials say they are careful not to violate civil liberties and do not target Muslims. But the FBI’s approach has come under fire from some Muslims, criticism that surfaced again late last month after agents arrested an Oregon man they said tried to detonate a bomb at a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. FBI technicians had supplied the device.

In Irvine, California, a sting backfired when the infiltrated FBI informant, Craig Monteilh, himself was turned in by the mosque leaders as a possible jihadist. Muslims were so alarmed by his talk of violent jihad that they obtained a restraining order against him. He had helped build a terrorism-related case against a mosque member, but that also collapsed.

Compounding the damage, Monteilh has gone public, revealing secret FBI methods and charging that his “handlers” trained him to entrap Muslims as he infiltrated their mosques, homes and businesses. He is now suing the FBI.

Some Muslims in Southern California and nationally say the cascading revelations have seriously damaged their relationship with the FBI, a partnership that both sides agree is critical to preventing attacks and homegrown terrorism.

“The FBI wants to treat the Muslim community as a partner while investigating us behind our backs,” said Kurdi, the Loyola student. “They can’t have it both ways.”

Somali-born teen held in Oregon car-bomb plot

Federal law enforcement officials arrested Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, and accused him of plotting to bomb the square during a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon. The charges against Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a Somali-born 19-year-old who was caught in a federal sting operation, are testing tolerance in a state that has been largely accepting of Muslims.

Many questions remain about the extent of Mr. Mohamud’s connections to Islamic extremists, whom investigators say he wrote to and plotted with, as well as about the apparent contradictions in his personal life, as a studious, friendly teenager and a young man seeking to wage jihad within his adopted country.
Many Muslims in Oregon worried that they would face a backlash. And on Sunday, local Muslim leaders emphasized that the case was an isolated incident. Portland Mayor Sam Adams said Sunday that he beefed up protection around mosques “and other facilities that might be vulnerable to knuckle-headed retribution” after hearing of the bomb plot. The move followed a fire Sunday at the Islamic center in Corvallis, a college town about 75 miles southwest of Portland, where suspect Mohamed Osman Mohamud occasionally worshipped, prompting an FBI arson investigation and concern about the potential for more retaliation.

A House for Two Religions

24 October 2010

Last Sunday, the social project “72 Hours without Compromise” came to an end. 436 youths of different religious backgrounds participated in the project, which involved the construction of a tree house in the middle of the district of Lend, in Graz. For some of the youths it was a good chance to meet people of the same age, but of a different religious background. Nonetheless, as 18-year-old Markus said while sawing a board in half, “everyone has their own prayers, but when it comes to work there’s no difference.”

Art Students Hang Wilders Doll From Tree

On September 8 police in The Hague found a doll depicting Freedom Party (PVV) leader Geert Wilders hanging from a tree near the central station. The doll had a picture of Wilders affixed to it with a knife, and smeared with a substance intended to look like blood. Police arrested four individuals aged 18-19, students from the Hague art academy. Two of them have since been released, according to Trouw.

The first year student who made the doll explains that he wanted to respond to the position of Muslims. He feels they are “in a manner of speaking, being hung from the highest tree”, Telegraaf reports. According to the maker, the photo of Wilders has nothing to do with the politician as a person, but symbolizes the movement he stands for.