Exploring Muslimness in the Aftermath of September 11, 2001 by Stephanie Arel

In my last post, I addressed the deeply personal accounts of Haroon Moghul’s self- and religious exploration in his memoir How to be a Muslim: An American Story. This post will broaden that reading to consider an October 2017 interview with Moghul at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City.

The interview echoes themes relevant to current global crises which implicate religion including how religious rhetoric circulates to support extremist violence and Islamophobia. Exploring how the events of 9/11 intertwine with such crises adds depth to understanding Moghul’s individual experience.

Continue reading “Exploring Muslimness in the Aftermath of September 11, 2001 by Stephanie Arel”

Anti-Muslim Demonstrations Demand Our Response by Katey Zeh

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On June 10th anti-Muslim demonstrations were held in 28 cities across the United States, including one a few miles down the road from me at the North Carolina Capitol grounds in Raleigh. Organized by ACT for America, identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as the largest Anti-Muslim hate group in the country, these “anti-Sharia” gatherings were advertised with propagandist messaging like “If you stand for human rights, please join us to march against Sharia” and “Sharia is incompatible with our Constitution and our American values.”

It’s no coincidence that these anti-Muslim demonstrations were organized during LGBTQ Pride month, specifically the weekend before the one year mark of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando that left forty-nine people dead and fifty-three others wounded, nearly all of whom were young members of the Latinx community. The shooter Omar Mateen had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State before opening fire at the gay club. Scott Pressler, one of the major organizers of the anti-Muslim gatherings, claims that the Orlando massacre was a wake-up call that led him to do two things: to come out as a gay man, and to join ACT for America “to fight for my community, my country.”

ACT for America operates under the guise of human rights and women’s liberation to justify its anti-Muslim, white Supremacist agenda. The organization’s founder, Brigitte Gabriel, cited acts of violence against women including female genital mutilation and honor killings as the basis of organizing these anti-sharia demonstrations. She criticized U.S. feminists, claiming (falsely) that they have we have been silent on these issues. In an interview Scott Pressler also tried to appeal to feminists in joining his anti-Muslim crusade when he said, “ We [the LGBTQ community] are under attack simply because of our sexuality. Just like women, just for being born a female you are already under attack, and I think that’s demonstrative of how extreme radical Islam really is.”

Continue reading “Anti-Muslim Demonstrations Demand Our Response by Katey Zeh”

Islamophobia is Gender Violence and a Feminist Issue

The case of Larycia Hawkins, an African-American Christian, Associate Professor of political science at Wheaton College in the United States, who published a photo on Christmas day on Facebook wearing a headscarf in solidarity with Muslim women victims of Islamophobia, has raised a significant controversy about whether non-muslim women wearing the hiyab is useful for Muslim women and our feminists struggle in Islam or not. Beyond the debate about veils, the heated discussion that followed reminds us that Islamophobic violence against Muslim women is a gender matter that must be addressed not only by Islamic feminists, but also by all decolonial feminists.

According to Itzea Goicolea Amiano, a Spanish researcher, in her work “Feminismo y Piedad” (“Feminism and Piety”):

Gender Islamophobia is a term that refers to the xenophobic and Islamophobic attitudes mixed with sexist and misogynist discourses that oppress, discriminate and targets with a negative preference for Muslim women more than muslim men …

Continue reading “Islamophobia is Gender Violence and a Feminist Issue”

Declaring a Theological State of Emergency: Trump’s Ignorance Must Not Be Ours by Mary E. Hunt

Mary HuntOn CNN’s State of the Union, Donald Trump reiterated his call to bar Muslim immigration to the U.S. and predicted that his fellow presidential candidates would soon come around to his position.

This prompts me to  declare a theological state of emergency. And I urge religious first responders to step forward.

His anti-Muslim rhetoric has caused Muslims to fear for their lives and well being—and it runs counter to the American Constitution on matters religious, although that does not seem to deter its adherents.

Because the content of these statements is focused on a specific world religion, I believe that scholars and activists of many religions need to step forward in concrete, educational ways.

Theologians must be among the first responders on this one. And we need to start at the beginning since Mr. Trump’s ignorance of the Muslim faith mirrors that of many Americans. “Islam” has become a code word for terrorism. In fact, it is the name of a monotheistic faith tradition based on the Qur’an which is practiced by more than 1.6 billion people, nearly a quarter of the world. Its practitioners are referred to as Muslims.

So our popular pedagogy must begin in order to right the wrongs of misinformation and demagoguery. Just as Christianity and Judaism have many expressions, so too with Islam. It is for Muslims to sort out their internal matters—but it is incumbent on global citizens to inform ourselves so as not to be cowed by the likes of Trump.

For example, a group of Muslims, including feminist journalist Asra Nomani, is calling for a new movement:

“We are Muslims who live in the 21st century. We stand for a respectful, merciful and inclusive interpretation of Islam. We are in a battle for the soul of Islam, and an Islamic renewal must defeat the ideology of Islamism, or politicized Islam, which seeks to create Islamic states, as well as an Islamic caliphate. We seek to reclaim the progressive spirit with which Islam was born in the 7th century to fast forward it into the 21st century. We support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by United Nations member states in 1948.

We reject interpretations of Islam that call for any violence, social injustice and politicized Islam. Facing the threat of terrorism, intolerance, and social injustice in the name of Islam, we have reflected on how we can transform our communities based on three principles: peace, human rights and secular governance. We are announcing today the formation of an international initiative: the Muslim Reform Movement.”

Do Mr. Trump and the sector of the American public that agrees with him have any such information? I doubt it. Nor do they apparently have much experience with Muslim neighbors who live and work peacefully in virtually every part of the country.

Ignorance of religion is an acute problem in the United States. We have a lack of basic education about religion. Few school districts venture into the topic with their students. So it is not until tertiary education that most American young people have any formal instruction, if then, about religions other than their own. There must be a better way.

I propose that religious professionals, whether educators, pastoral people, or activists, become part of the solution by engaging in a massive, differentiated educational campaign to counter the negative narratives about Islam. This does not mean that anyone need convert to Islam. It is simply that in a democracy we owe one another a fair rendering of our faith traditions. That Mr. Trump’s remarks about Islam have caused such damage already, and could give license for more violence, add urgency to this task.

It is time for community forums where the basics of Islam can be explained in every part of the country. Radio shows, teleconferences, videos, social media posts, religious education classes, community group meetings might usefully focus on the basics of Islam. Simply to demystify the terms and show how ordinary Muslims go about their ordinary law-abiding lives would go a long way toward stemming the current tide.

I do not expect Muslims to educate the rest of us. But those who want to collaborate with other religious first responders are more than welcome. Among feminist colleagues, plans are afoot to launch some modest efforts, but we recognize and respect the need for safety and security for those who have been put in harm’s way by ignorant rhetoric and unconstitutional proposals.

It is non-Muslims who must bear the burden of this education about religion.

Not since the Nazi period has the specter of religiously-based oppression taken on such a heightened profile, with the potential for such devastating results. I believe it is a true emergency for which strong and constructive countermeasures are necessary.

The following is reprinted with permission from Religion Dispatches. Follow RD on Facebook or Twitter for daily updates.”

Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D., is a feminist theologian who is co-founder and co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA. A Roman Catholic active in the women-church movement, she lectures and writes on theology and ethics with particular attention to liberation issues.

 

 

Mr. Big Man by Jameelah Medina

Jameelah Medina

This past week, I have discussed with college students the time I was wrongly arrested and harassed by an Islamophobic Sheriff Deputy several years ago, which led to a successful court case against my county spearheaded by the ACLU. I opened up the discussion with the following religiously feminist spoken word piece I wrote:

 

Mr. Big Man

You told me what to write, word for word for word for word in my statement,

To get me caught up in your trickery is what you meant,
Acting like you were my friend,
Just so that you could win,

Me over and dictate the stroke of my pen,

But then Continue reading “Mr. Big Man by Jameelah Medina”

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