Archive for the ‘Islam’ Category

Here’s a couple updated news tidbits you might remember from earlier posts:

Seven Columbia faith groups are participating in an interfaith service at the Mid-Mo Pride Fest on Sunday. Missourian neighborhood reporter Megan Stroup wrote a story at a sister blog. The service was one we mentioned a week or so ago in a story about Dick Blount, who has been helping get the service organized.

Another of our sister sites, MyMissourian.com, posted a story about the Islamic school in Columbia. The story is written by the school’s principal and talks about the school’s history and mission.

Tribune columnist T.J. Greaney had an update about how the faith community is uniting to support the family of drowning victim Jean Marie Vianey Mugabo-Kenda.

Wissel Joseph of Haiti, a deacon in the church, said that when he heard of the drowning he despaired, wondering what good could come of something so senseless. But the kindness of the church and the community at large has helped him see a greater meaning.

“God is using his death to show us the spirit, to bring people together,” Joseph said. “Breaking the barriers of languages, nations, religion, denomination. The way people have come together gives us a taste of how it’s going to be in heaven and how we’re supposed to be as Christians.”

And a follow-up to a story we first reported on last fall when former Kanakuk Kamps leader Peter Newman was charged on several counts of sexual abuse. Many Columbia families have ties to the Christian camp and knew Newman. Earlier this week, Newman was sentenced to two life-terms in prison for sexually molesting children at the camp near Branson.

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New York (CNN) — Plans to build a mosque two blocks away from ground zero have set off an emotional debate among area residents and relatives of victims of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.”

To read full article click here.

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I have recently discovered VBS.tv. It’s an interesting site that specializes in documentary style videos. Many of their pieces have been featured on cnn.com. The most recent one that have caught my attention is the “Mecca Diaries.”

These videos center around the hajja pilgrimage Muslims must make once in their lifetime to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It is one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith. The first person account of the trip really intrigues me. The blunt honesty during portions of the videos is really striking to me. I hope you all enjoy these.

Mecca Diaries: Part 1 (Click on image to view video)

Mecca Diaries: Part 2 (Click on image to view video)

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Much has been made over the role of Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan’s deep Muslim faith in the mass shooting at Fort Hood earlier this month, in which he opened fire at the massive Texas installation and killed 13 people. The day after the shooting, the Washington Post ran quite a long profile of Hasan, paying a great deal of attention to his faith and how it shaped his life and military service. More recently, NPR aired a story this week on a damning evaluation Hasan received from the Army in 2007, which made mention of his habit of proselytizing to patients — a habit that makes sense in light of a comment in the WaPo story that “his faith was the only outgoing thing about him” — among a laundry list of reasons why the evaluator felt he lacked professionalism and a work ethic. Several news outlets have wondered whether Hasan’s faith was the primary motive for his rampage; their claims are reinforced by eyewitness accounts that told of Hasan shouting, “Allahu akbar!” (“To God be the glory!”) as he opened fire with his personal handguns.

But, as with any situation, there is another side to consider. Shortly after the shooting, the Missourian‘s Jeremy Essig wrote an analysis of news coverage of Fort Hood up to that point, questioning the validity of featuring Hasan’s faith so prominently in the news and adding, “Jason Rodriguez killed one person and injured five others in a mass shooting on Friday in Orlando, Fla. Who knows Rodriguez’s religion?” And the religion section of the La Canada (Calif.) Valley Sun assembled a panel of local clergy to debate whether too much had been made of the issue of Hasan’s faith.

But all of those are just others’ opinions. What do you think, dear reader? Should the media be focusing on and analyzing Hasan’s faith? Are they doing too much of it?

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Yahoo recently published an article around the upcoming movie “2012” that I found particularly interesting. The movie directed by Roland Emmerich is a disaster film about the end of the world in 2012, which is when the Mayan calendar ends.

Many famous landmarks are slated to be destroyed in this film, including many religious sites. One image from the trailer shows the dome of St. Peter’s at the Vatican rolling toward a crowd of worshippers.  The one religious site does not meet a tragic fate is the Ka’bah.  The Ka’bah is located in Mecca and the center of the Hajj – the largest pilgrimage in the Islamic faith.

The director wanted to include the destruction of the Ka’bah in the film but did not want to have a fatwa placed on his head. A fatwa is a ruling, or legal opinion, of Islamic law issued by an Islamic scholar. The term fatwa entered Western consciousness when Ayatollah Khomeini issued a death sentence in the form of a fatwa in 1989 to a British author, Salman Rushdie, for alleged blasphemies in his novel “The Satanic Verses.”

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The Althea W. and John A. Schiffman Lecture in Religious Studies series continued on Oct. 6 at the Columbia College campus with guest speaker Robert Wright. Wright, a Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation gave a lecture on “The Evolution of God,” which is also the title of his latest book. Wright is a journalist, an author and a research scholar in religion. His latest book, The Evolution of God, grapples with the evolution of God and the three Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism). The book argues that pursuits of religion and the divine are valid even in the scientific era we live in.

Wright, whose religious beliefs are unclear, took an outsider’s point of view during the lecture. The “evolution of God” he refers to is not biological, but how ideas about God have changed over time and with the evolution of customs, traditions, etc. Given the way the world is melding together and becoming increasing intertwined, Wright brings up some interesting points about the relationship between different religious faiths.

“The Clash of Civilizations” is a theory that religious and cultural beliefs are and/or will be the main sources of conflict in the modern era. Wright questions what will happen to major civil societies if the three Abrahamic beliefs do not find a way to get along and have a sort of social cohesion. This raises an interesting point: history, globalization and economic interdependence have pushed societies to a point where we have learned to tolerate what we never would have accepted even a hundred years ago, let alone thousands of years ago when these three religions were first being introduced. Will we continue this trend to tolerate one another for our own survival, or have we reached a breaking point where political interests and fringe groups have interfered with morality and toleration?

Wright argues that morality was never an issue of religion in the ancient world, and that “moral monotheism” becomes a part of religion’s mission overtime. He says that religion first questioned why good and bad things happened within a society, with no emphasis on the importance of a strong moral compass. I wonder whether the reason humans have begun to put a greater emphasis on morality is a result of industrialization and globalization. We all have to get along to survive.

Going back to “The Clash of Civilizations,” Wright lectured that when religions see a benefit or a peaceful coexistence with another religious group, they are more inclined to find a basis for toleration. However, if they see a threat or rival in the other religion, they will use the parts of scripture that allows for belligerence as opposed to tolerance. Wright compares this idea with doing “business” with other religions. In the Muslim holy text, he says, there is a line that reads, “kill the polytheists wherever you find them.” Put in context, it’s saying that the war being waged in that part of the text is not about religion, but about whose side you are on because the line is saying to kill polytheists who are fighting against them, not with them. That is an example of toleration because it benefits you.

To wrap up his lecture, Wright concludes that history has pushed the three Abrahamic religions to a moral test which suggests that a larger purpose is moving society as a whole closer to moral truth. Wright says that salvation can only come about if there is a movement toward that moral truth around the world, and if that movement continues instead of falling prey to the Clash of Civilizations theory. What Wright strongly argues is that this larger purpose unfolding on Earth is one with a moral perspective. I guess, whether the movement purposeful, whether there is a God or supernatural entity behind it or whether it gives credence to the existence of divinity is up to each individual.

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In 2004, a law was passed in France prohibiting the Islamic hijab (as well as other ostentatious religious symbols) in public schools. This was a significant show of the country’s commitment to secularity, going beyond what Americans would call a separation of church and state. By involving the government in matters of religious identification, France seemed to be taking extreme measures to ensure that the state was neutral, especially in light of criticism that the law was targeting Muslims.

Now, the French are at it again with an address yesterday from President Nicolas Sarkozy saying burqas “will not be welcome” in France. A burqa is an outer garment worn by some Muslim women covering their entire body and veiling their face and head. Sarkozy called the garment a “sign of the subjugation, of the submission of women.”

In many instances, Sarkozy is probably correct. Many Muslim women who wear the burqa do so because their husbands force them to. However, some do so out of religious reverence and respect for religious tradition.

Although I can’t say whether or not I support the burqa (how can I either support or condemn it when I am separate from the religious convictions that are so intertwined with its purpose), I know I cannot support the government officials who say it is unwelcome. Sarkozy is no more affected by or experienced with the burqa than I am.

Sure, if Sarkozy truly believes that burqas “imprison” women, he has an obligation to take a stance. But I think this response is one of fear. A fear of Muslim extremism in relation to the rising Muslim population. As with the banning of religious symbols in schools, the hope is to encourage moderate practice of religion, straying from fundamentalism that seems to threaten France’s secularity.

The president of France’s Representative Muslim Council, Mohammed Moussaoui, said the council supports Sarkozy’s position and also supports a moderate form of Islam. However, he did say a proposed study on burqas would stigmatize French Muslims.


Though a secular state, why is it so important that religious people cannot practice their beliefs to the fullest extent (short of compromising any other person) without government meddling? Isn’t the point for the state to be devoid of religious affiliation and mandates? The instance of the hijab ban and the current call for burqa removal make it seem like the government is taking sides, if only one against Muslims practices.

Do you think the French government should be able to mandate whether a religious garment, such as the burqa, can be worn?

Read about Sarkozy’s speech here.

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On Monday, June 15, 2009, Iranian opposition demonstrators protest in support of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, in Tehran. Opposition supporters defied a ban to stage a mass rally in Tehran in protest at President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's landslide election win, as Iran faced a growing international backlash over the validity of the election and the subsequent crackdown on opposition protests. (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

In 1979, Iran officially became the Islamic Republic of Iran. Thus ensued a theocracy that is difficult for Western minds to comprehend, where religious laws and beliefs are essentially the guiding force of governmental institutions. According to the Iranian Constitution,

It crystallizes the political aspirations of a nation united in faith and thinking which provides itself with an organization so that in the process of transformation of ideas and beliefs, its way may be opened towards the ultimate goal (moving towards God).

What a wonderfully flowery idea of a nation united in faith working together in government. What a striking contrast to the events we have seen in Iran in the past week. Instead of a united body, Iran has become a battleground over the elections held last week in which an early victory was called for incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while opposition supporters, particularly backers of opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi, have suggested a stolen vote, demonstrating in large protests throughout the country.

The heated debate and governmental defiance seems to me to be complicated by the deep religious ties of the the Theocratic model. In Iran, governmental leaders are also seen as religious authorities, particularly demonstrated by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds the highest position in Iranian government. According to an article about the Iranian unrest in the New York Times, a senior prosecutor in the province of Isfahan said protesters could even face execution under Islamic law. At the same time, reformist clerics have been actively involved in leading opposition protests. According to the same article, many Iranians are hopeful to receive some answer from the government during sermons to be given by senior clerics tomorrow at Friday Prayer. Will these be true messages of faith, or ones tainted by governmental corruption?

Nice try, Iran. In theory, a theocratic government may be the true picture of unified faith and belief system reflected in those hopeful words of the Iranian constitution. But if I am not mistaken, the recent events in Iran have far differed from Islamic principles the government claims to uphold.

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One of the five pillars of Islam involves giving charity to those in need, or zakat. This seems a simple enough process, one practiced by the faithful as well as the secular community. However, for many Muslims, alleged connections between Muslim charity organizations and terrorists groups overseas make fulfilling the requirement difficult and even risky.

In October 2004, the Islamic American Relief Agency in Columbia was raided by Federal agents on suspicion because of alleged ties with Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida and the Taliban, according to an article published in the Missourian October 14, 2004. In connection with that raid, the home of the agency’s executive director, Mubarek Hamed, in Columbia. Two years later, the FBI also searched the home of prominent Islamic community leader and Columbia businessman Shakir Abdul-Kaf Hamoodi, though reports would not confirm or deny the search’s relation to another search of Muslim charity organization Life for Relief and Development. Find that article here.

Now, according to a report on NPR, President Obama says he would like to help Muslims to fulfill their religious duty. Though Obama did not elaborate, many Muslim leaders have been asking for a list of organizations approved by the Treasury Department in hopes of escaping later interrogations in relation to charitable donations.

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As President Obama made his way through the Muslim world last week, “rumors” thought to have been put to rest after his campaign resurfaced full force in the blogosphere. Remember when both liberals and conservatives were up in arms at allegations that Obama was Muslim? If you do, then there is no news here.

A recent blog published by Jake Trapper, senior White House correspondent for ABC News sent bloggers into a frenzy. The post, entitled The Emergence of President Obama’s Muslim Roots, recounted a conversation with a White House aid who spoke openly about Obama’s Muslim father. Though he asserted his father was “basically agnostic” last spring, Obama himself further solidified the situation in his address to the Turkish parliament this April, saying he has Muslim family members.

While many have launched into a heated debate over whether Obama is Muslim or if his claims to follow Christian doctrine are true, I simply wonder what it matters? It seems to me that a great deal of intolerance has surfaced during the ordeal. If American citizens are so upset at the notion that their president may have Muslim roots, what message does this send to the rest of the world, particularly the Muslim one?

A Washington Post faith blog post by Feisal Abdul Rauf suggested that “in just a few sentences he demolished the phony theory of the ‘Clash of Civilizations,’ which insists that Islam and the West must always be in conflict. Instead, he declared that the United States is not at war with Islam and outlined a plan for how the conflict can be resolved. Perhaps most important, he put religion at the core of the peacemaking process. For too long, Americans had come to fear Islam as an intolerant, violent religion. Obama cited examples from the Quran that belied those stereotypes. He emphasized the core similarities among Judaism, Christianity and Islam. ‘Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism,’ [Obama] said. ‘It is an important part of promoting peace.'”

What if Obama gave a similar speech to his own country? Rauf said, “For too long, Americans had come to fear Islam as an intolerant, violent religion.” I am not convinced that many Americans do not still believe in this way.

From BBC: A Muslim family watches President Obama's address

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