Muslims open doors and invite the public at the day of German reunification

October 3rd

 

Since October 3rd 1997, the official reunification day of Germany and a public holiday, Islamic organizations and associations held the “day of open doors”. Mosques and Islamic centers all over Germany open doors to invite and gather Muslims and non-Muslims for better inter-religious and cultural understanding. They organize exhibitions, concerts, information desks and discussions. Since 2007, the coordination council of Muslims acts as the patron of this day initiative. The slogan of the event of this year was called “ecology and environmental protection”. Muslims associations aim to show the German public how challenges such as climate change and pollution are of concern of all citizens independent of their religious affiliation.

 

Francis calls for mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims in letter to Al-Azhar

September 18, 2013

The Nuncio to Cairo, Mgr. Gobel, has delivered a letter to the Imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar University calling for a steady return to dialogue

The Al-Azhar University in Cairo – considered one of the most important centres of Sunni Islamic learning  – has announced that Pope Francis has sent a personal message to the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed Al Tayyeb. The most important Catholic website in Arabic, www.abouna.org, published the communiqué issued by Al-Azhar, which mentions that a meeting took place yesterday between Al Tayyeb and the Apostolic Nuncio to Egypt, Mgr. Jean-Paul Gobel. During the face-to-face meeting the Nuncio delivered the message of wishes Pope Francis sent to the Muslim world for the end of the month of Ramadan, along with a personal message from to Pope to Al Tayyeb.

According to Al-Azhar, in his message the Pope stressed the Vatican’s respect for Islam and said he hoped every effort would be made towards achieving “mutual understanding between the world’s Christians and Muslims in order to build peace and justice.” Al Tayyeb apparently replied that the message Al-Azhar wished to get out is one of “respect for people of every religion and the safeguarding of human dignity and the highest values described in the Quran and the Sunnah.” He also said that Muslims are willing “to collaborate to help justice and progress grow among the people of the Earth.”

The communiqué issued by the University of Al-Azhar is important in light of the tensions between the Sunni centre of learning and the Vatican, which exploded in January 2011 after Benedict XVI’s strong condemnation of the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of Alexandria. This led the university to announce it was suspending dialogue with the Holy See. Prior to this, a university delegation would hold meetings with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue every two years. Today’s communiqué alluded to this incident, saying that Al Tayyeb apparently told the Nuncio that casting Islam in a negative light is “a red line” that must not be crossed.

The communiqué does not make explicit reference to the resumption of dialogue. But it is important to bear in mind that in June Al-Azhar said it was waiting for a response to the message of congratulations which Al Tayyeb sent Pope Francis after his election. And it expressed the hope that there would be “a clear demonstration of respect for Islam and Muslims”. This was clearly demonstrated in today’s message. The President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran responded by saying that it was Al-Azhar that had interrupted dialogue with the Holy See. The Holy See had kept the door of dialogue open.

The facts seem to suggest that this rift is healing fast: Al Tayyeb and the University of Al-Azhar have proven to be an important reference point for Christians during the difficult past few months in Egypt. Even during Mohammed Morsi’s presidency the Great Imam had tried on more than one occasion to act as a mediator with Christians, attracting the wrath of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Then, after the 30 June demonstrations he openly supported the ousting of the Islamist president by the military. Importantly, when Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attacked him for this, the Secretary of the Council of Churches of Egypt, Fr. Bishoy Helmy came to his defence. The Apostolic Vicar of Alexandria, Mgr. Adel Zaki told Fides news agency that “a strong collaborative agreement between Al Azhar and the Council of Christian Churches is being registered.”

Christians, Muslims pray together

Muslims and Christians together pray in St. Peter’s Square, each with the words of their own religion. For many it is a “miracle” born by the appeal of Pope Francis who encouraged fasting for peace against the war in Syria. In St. Peter’s square, in the late afternoon, a hundred thousand people came to accept the appeal of the pope. A silent ceremony, with flags ranging from the Syrian flag to those of the color of the rainbow of peace and the Chinese flag to Argentinian flag, the country of the Pope.

An atmosphere of silence, made almost surreal by the presence of Syrians and Muslims in the square: several hundred according to the Arab Community in Italy. Some of them recited the Qur’an: while at the same time came Ave Maria rising from the square. A fusion of faiths and prayers in the name of peace. The verse recited says that Allah has set up a people and a community so that we can know each other – explains Salameh Ashour a Palestinian – The noblest man who loves and fears God refrains from any violence.” Egyptians, Libyans, Syrians, Palestinians, Iraqis and other Arabs mixed on the streets with African, South American and Italian.

For many it was a moment of peace. “Today we have fasted” says Ismael, wrapped in a flag of Syria “we are here because Francis has shown an understanding for our people.” “Unprecedented” for many Catholics “the sort of miracle of Pope Francis.”

Minas, a Syrian wearing the chador and honeymooning in Rome went to St. Peter with her husband for the event: “I just hope” he says “that when we return we will not find Damascus destroyed by bombs.”

 

Rolling Stone Tsarnaev cover draws outrage

The cover of Rolling Stone’s Aug. 1 edition features a photograph of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing in April. Many have responded angrily to the magazine’s treatment of Tsarnaev’s image:

Rolling Stone editors said in a statement that the story falls within the traditions of journalism and the magazine’s commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage.

“The fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is young, and in the same age group as many of our readers, makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue and gain a more complete understanding of how a tragedy like this happens,” the statement said.

Channel 4 to air daily Muslim call to prayer during Ramadan

Channel 4 is to air the Muslim call to prayer live every morning during the month of Ramadan. The broadcaster said it was an act of “deliberate provocation” aimed at viewers who might associate Islam with extremism. The headline-grabbing move will see Channel 4 broadcast the three-minute call to prayer at about 3am for 30 days from the start of Ramadan on 9 July. Channel 4 will also interrupt programming four times on the first day of Ramadan to mark subsequent calls by means of a 20-second film to remind viewers of the approaching prayer time. After that date, the channel will air the 3am call to prayer on live TV, and the other four prayer times will be broadcast on its website.

 

Ralph Lee, Channel 4’s head of factual programming, said: “The calls to prayer prompt Muslims to carry out quiet moments of worship, but hopefully they’ll also make other viewers sit up and notice that this event is taking place.

 

“Observing the adhan on Channel 4 will act as a nationwide tannoy system, a deliberate ‘provocation’ to all our viewers in the very real sense of the word.”

 

The Muslim Council of Britain supported Channel 4’s move.

 

The film, made by production company Watershed, will “feature a range of voices, from imams to architects, feminists to a former rock chick, each providing some serious Ramadan food for thought”.

 

But it is not without discussion from within the community:

 

Nabil Ahmed: ‘This is an opportunity to learn’. There could not be a better time to try to understand Islam than during Ramadan. Muslims believe that Ramadan is primarily about one’s relationship with God, and the effort to live in accordance with a divinely ordained order. It is the month in which the Qur’an was revealed, which Muslims believe is God’s final revelation to mankind. It is thus also the month in which Muhammad was sent to warn humanity of future dangers, as a bringer of glad tidings and as a conduit of God’s mercy. TV should be a medium in which we share our understanding of faith in Britain. Ramadan seeks to reawaken our consciousness of God, but also teaches us to give to the poor and to practise self-discipline in relation to our ego and with material temptations. Fasting is a means, not an end, to reconnect with our divine purpose by not relying on food and drink. Channel 4’s approach is an opportunity for all of us to learn – and to put aside preconceived ideas.

 

Nesrine Malik: ‘To reduce it to a media gimmick is exploitative’. Apparently, there is an urgent need, post-Woolwich in particular, to show that Islam is a religion of peace and sacrifice. This is an inherently contradictory stance. If there is such a charged atmosphere in the UK vis a vis Islam, why “provoke” people by projecting this message even more loudly? It all rather smacks of busy-bodying do-goodery. Even on Arab Muslim satellite channels, only the national ones broadcast the call to prayer, with others merely showing a ticker along the bottom of the screen to indicate sunset and iftar times. Channel 4’s idea might be well-intentioned, but it also seems spurred on by the fact that Islam has become the latest topic of media sensation, to be turned into a spectacle under the guise of “debate” and furthering understanding. The way to do this isn’t to project the call to prayer five times a day in a cultural vacuum. It is instead to resist particularising the Muslim experience by attempting to mainstream it by putting some British Muslim faces in front of the camera as something other than religious curiosities to be examined. Reducing it to a media gimmick is exploitative and an unwise, crude way to promote a sensible discussion.

 

Channel 4 was warned not to give excessive coverage to Ramadan. Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, said: “I wouldn’t object to it as at least it gives some balance to the BBC’s emphasis on Christianity but Channel 4 has to keep it in proportion.

 

On the Muslim Question by Anne Norton – review

Anne Norton rejects the ‘clash of civilisations’ view of Islam and the west, but offers little to replace it. Lawrence Rosen is the author of Varieties of Muslim Experience and The Culture of Islam offers the review of Anne Norton’s new publication On the Muslim Question.

 

Anne Norton thinks that the “Muslim question” is, if anything, a question about non-Muslims. She is straightforward in denying the claim that Islam and the west are involved in a “clash of civilisations”; castigating writers of various political persuasions who have, blatantly or inferentially, put forward this view. She thus criticises writers such as John Rawls (as well as those, such as Michael Walzer and Michael Ignatieff, who “have urged them on”) for saying that Muslims constantly seek empire and territory, for stereotyping Muslims’ political orientation as the antithesis of liberalism, and for promoting a false history that conceals liberalism’s own failings. In an effort to find more common ground, she underwrites Derrida’s assertion that Islam is “the other of democracy” because Muslim states could retain their distinctiveness while recognising Israel and promoting democratic values. And she surprisingly lauds Sayyid Qutb, the Islamic theorist executed by Nasser in Egypt, because “even this intolerant, fanatic man has something to teach us about human rights, human dignity, and equality”, given his support for private property and women in the workplace.

 

In a series of chapters on sexuality, freedom of speech and democracy, Norton recognises that valid differences of orientation exist. But she does not always help her own case by making assertions that are variously vague, trivial or wrong. For example, she says that terrorism is the precursor to democracy (as if the course of the Arab spring was inevitable), that randomness is “terrifying” (so much for evolutionists), that “Germany has no neo-Nazis” (when they number upwards of 5,000), that the publishers of the Danish cartoons “intended to provoke” (and not just insult) Muslims, that the veil is “profoundly erotic” (for elderly women?), or that calling your sports team the Redskins “honours an old enemy” (tell that to Native Americans).

 

But if the clash-of-civilisations approach is false, what options exist for addressing the differences presented by a Muslim minority in a western country? Having dismissed many of the arguments of western intellectuals about Islam, Norton indicates that neither outright assimilation nor distant toleration is to be preferred: rather she chooses the third option, moving “us” closer to “them”. Indeed, she seems to regard this as already having happened. True, some issues may be resolving themselves internally: many Muslim women have found common sartorial ground, older ones having given up the full veil, younger ones the miniskirt, both adopting a simple head scarf. And once we eliminate the clash-of-civilisations notion from our vocabulary, the mutual accommodations that already exist at the local level may only increase. But a common meeting ground is not always easily achieved.

 

Such a position may, however, come at the price of not really attending to the distinctiveness of the “other”. Norton knows little about Muslims: she gets her few references to Arabic wrong and never discusses the scholarship on Islam and Muslim cultures. In the absence of any understanding of Muslims in their own terms, moving closer to them risks being yet another exercise in self-congratulation: it yields few insights about us and none about them, and thus lacks both genuine understanding and real moral bite.

 

Muslims, like every minority, appreciate the need for camouflage in the face of muted suspicion, even if that need has diminished somewhat in the years since 9/11 and 7/7. But living as a chameleon may be harder now that we all notice each other noticing each other. Under such circumstances, anonymity, for many Muslims, may stifle their sense of valid difference and deprive non-Muslims of really seeing their neighbours. If that happens, we may avoid the “clash”, but it may come at the cost of an arrangement neither community should be eager to call “civilisation”.

 

A final document is produced in London after three meetings of Bishops and Delegates regarding relations with Muslims in Europe

A testimony of faith is necessary for a dialogue with all. In Europe today, both to the east and the west, south and in the north the dialogue between Christians and Muslims is inescapable, creating a need for a deeper understanding. Only proper dialogue allows one to approach the Muslim believer free of prejudice. In a secular and plural society, the challenge of education for a diverse audience must also be integrated with a deep understanding of faith and identity. At the same time, a plural society exists only on the condition of mutual respect, and the desire to know each other through an ongoing dialogue. These are some of the reflections made by the bishops and delegates about relations with Muslims during the Episcopal Conferences in London for three days.

The two main themes addressed in the conference were “dialogue and proclamation” and “the question of identity construction of young Christians and Muslims.” The meeting was led by Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard the archbishop of Bordeaux. The conference attracted the participation of bishops and delegates from 20 different organizations including catholic delegates, episcopal organization leaders and cultural organizations.

Oasis, a Center to support a dialogue between Christians and Muslims

April 25, 2013

A plaque commemorating Constantine’s edict on religious freedom is in the Palazzo San Giorgio in a church on via Torino which was built on the ruins of an ancient imperial palace in Milan. Oasis will have its headquarters in Milan; the foundation was founded in Venice in 2004 by Cardinal Angelo Scola. The objective is to promote an understanding between Christians and Muslims, to create spaces for dialogue, and to document the cultural importance that Christianity has had in the history of Islam. And vice versa, a hot topic in Milan, the city where the relationship between Christians and Muslims is not always easy. The opening took place on Monday, April 29 at 6:30pm in Piazza San Giorgio.

Muslims and Catholics in the Same Ground

“Muslims and Christians in the same ground” is the title of an initiative which will take place in the Marghera cemetery Thursday, April 4 at 4PM. The public meeting is dedicated understanding the funerary rites practiced in both Islam and Catholicism. The initiative is sponsored by the Immigration service of the City of Venice, in collaboration with the City of Marghera, and the Marghera Islamic Center and the Parish of the Resurrection.

SF Supervisors Unanimously Pass Resolution Condemning Islamophobic Bus Ads

MUNI-press-conf(SAN FRANCISCO 3/21/13) — On Tuesday, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution condemning the content of Islamophobic advertisements placed on San Francisco buses.

Board President David Chiu sponsored the resolution, introduced at last Tuesday’s meeting. The resolution is the first of its kind in the nation, sending a clear message that San Francisco’s elected leaders stand against hate and Islamophobia.

The group underwriting the ads, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI), has sued several U.S. cities for the First Amendment right to place the ads. The group’s founder, Pamela Geller, has been designated an anti-Muslim hate extremist by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In response, and at the request of 75 organizations and 35 leaders who spoke out following the first round of ads in August, the resolution calls for the proceeds from the offensive advertisements to fund a city-wide study on the impact of discrimination on Arab and Muslim communities.

CAIR-SFBA is an office of CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

The Asian Law Caucus was founded in 1972 as the nation’s first legal and civil rights Asian American organization. Recognizing that social, economic, political and racial inequalities continue to exist in the United States, ALC is committed to the pursuit of equality and justice for all sectors of our society, with a specific focus directed toward addressing the needs of low-income, immigrant and underserved Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The Asian Law Caucus is a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice.