Wouldn’t it be amazing to zigzag across the country, visiting mosques and writing about the people that use them? Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq thought so. Now they are on the second leg of a Ramadan road trip fueled by faith, food, and good old-fashioned male privilege. Recently, in an attempt to explore the gender divide in Muslim places of worship, the duo documented the women’s area of a mosque that hosted them in Little Rock, Arkansas. This could have been a great opportunity for Ali and Tariq to reflect on their privilege. Instead, they chose to exert it over the women they visited, leaving a number of them upset – and rightfully so. Continue reading
When 2011 began, we could scarcely have imagined the changes it would bring to the Middle East. Near the end of 2010, a young Tunisian man, crushed between the humiliation of poverty and the brutal whims of dictatorship, had burnt himself alive in a desperate act of protest. His blunt message struck a chord in the hearts of his compatriots, and in what seemed like the blink of an eye, strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was shaken from power. Egyptians followed suit with a revolution of their own, and before long, practically the entire region found itself in a state of revolt. The ’Arab Spring’ had finally come.
Thanks to modern technology, a wealth of information about these uprisings has been shared in real time, often in the form of photographs. Below are four of the most arresting images from the ‘Arab Spring’. Each illustrates a different dimension of the abuse that the people of Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Syria, Yemen and other countries have suffered for decades.
1. Police brutality: Riot police in Bahrain shoot tear gas; as one takes aim at protesters, the other triumphantly raises his middle finger. Many countries in the Middle East are known for corrupt, thuggish police forces that operate above the law and use torture on an industrial scale. These men are deeply resented by the populations they terrorize; this anger has been a driving force behind many of the 2011 protests. Continue reading
It would be hard for anyone to ignore the growing anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States. (If you hadn’t noticed it, this horrifying video will bring you up to speed.) The transition seemed to begin during the 2008 presidential campaign, when a segment of the Republican party used Islam as a smear against Democratic candidate Barack Obama. In 2010, the “ground zero mosque” controversy went further, establishing Islamophobia as a force to be reckoned with in mainstream American politics. While this seemed inevitable to some people, it was not a natural development; this was the the triumph of a well-oiled PR campaign.
In the last couple of decades, a full-blown industry has developed before our eyes, driven by best-selling authors, prominent media personalities, influential nonprofit organizations and terrorism “experts” all bent on portraying Islam and Muslims as threats to the United States. These voices include non-Muslims, ex-Muslims, and even a few self-styled “devout Muslims”.
This industry churns out books, media reports, policy briefs, and even Congressional testimony on a daily basis, and it is heavily bankrolled. Knowing who its leaders and institutions are is the first step in defusing their message, but keeping track of them can be a dizzying task. Thankfully, a lot of hard work has been done to map this sprawling constellation of bigotry. Now, all Americans who value peace and tolerance can get a clear picture of what they are up against. Continue reading
[This is a very rich article that not only examines the process of political radicalization among Muslim Indonesians, but also gives a great general overview of Indonesian Islam and its major institutions. It is a long piece, but well worth the time. Set it aside for later!]Muslim Education, Celebrating Islam and Having Fun As Counter-Radicalization Strategies in Indonesia – Part I
by Mark Woodward, Inayah Rohmaniyah, Ali Amin and Diana Coleman
The July 17, 2009 bombings of the Ritz-Carlton and J W Marriot hotels in Jakarta rekindled suspicions that Indonesia’s vast network of private Islamic boarding schools (pesantren) and schools run by the modernist Muslim organization Muhammadiyah might be breeding grounds for radical Islamist ideologies, if not actual terrorist training centers. Yet spokespersons for Indonesian Muslim organizations have consistently denied that there are links between Islamic education, radicalism, and terrorism, but the perception persists in Indonesia as well as in the West. There are at least 17,000 pesantren in Indonesia, most of which are loosely tied to the theologically conservative, but politically progressive, Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU). Muhammadiyah operates a vast comprehensive educational system at instructional levels including kindergartens, primary, middle and secondary schools, colleges and universities that teach secular as well as religious subjects, and a small number of pesantren. If alarmist claims about Muslim Schools and radicalization were valid, there would be serious cause for concern. Fortunately, evidence suggests that they are mistaken.
An important piece of news was just released out of Indonesia, a country which in recent years has witnessed a disturbing spike in violence against Christians and members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. The article outlines a statement made by an executive board member for Nadhlatul Ulama during a recent hearing on religious violence that took place in Indonesia’s House of Representatives.
Nadhlatul Ulama (“NU”) is Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization and an enduring cultural institution. Founded in 1926, it represents tens of millions of Muslims, exerting enormous influence across the archipelago through its massive network of scholars, religious schools and social services. NU’s recent statement, described in the article I have translated below, is an important message for Indonesian Muslims to take to heart: Continue reading
As the sun sets on 2010 here in the US, a car pulls up to the entrance St. Mark & St. Peter’s Church in Alexandria, Egypt,
Shards of glass skip across the charred pavement. The air hangs heavy, thickened by smoke and the unmistakable smell of burning flesh. Nearby, a man collapses against a wall, car alarms ringing in his ears. Too stunned to make sense of what has happened, he fumbles about himself, feeling for wounds, making sure organs are intact.
Before long, the place is teeming with activity as cars and ambulances dart in and out, a crowd gathers and police struggle to keep order. In the chaos that ensues, communal rioting breaks out after a group of Christians tries to burn down a mosque.
“We will protect the cross!”, shouts an impassioned group of Copts. “Allahu akbar!” (“God is the greatest!”) answers a band of Muslims. Twenty-one people have died.
As this news reaches me, I can only react with sadness and disbelief. Is this really happening?
Making it all the more surreal is the fact that less than 400 miles from Alexandria stands one of the most enduring testaments to Muslim-Christian harmony on earth: Continue reading
It was refreshing to hear you speak so candidly and powerfully about the (mis)treatment of Muslims in today’s media. Clearly, the other commentators on Morning Joe were not used to hearing such penetrating critiques of their profession. Your words may be hard to swallow for some people, but self scrutiny is the only way to mature and improve. We need more discussions like this in our country.
As a Muslim – and I think I speak for many, many others – the first thought that came to mind after hearing your commentary was alhamdulillah (thank God).
Thank you for speaking up for Muslims, especially when there are so many incentives for you to perpetuate the standard narratives.
There was one thing, though, that I wish you would have added. Continue reading