The Bombings in Moscow

I planned to  take a break from writing about violence, but after reading about the bombings in Moscow’s metro, I felt compelled to respond. Yesterday, two women with bombs strapped to their bodies went to metro stops and detonated them as the doors of the carriages opened. The reports now are that 38 people were killed and more than 60 injured. Although it has not been confirmed, officials in Moscow are suggesting that a Chechen group is behind the attack. Continue reading

Al-Andalus: A Meeting of Cultures

Alhambra in Spain

Alhambra in Spain

Yesterday, I attended a lecture put on by Dialogue International about the musical tradition of Al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain. Ethnomusicology professor Dwight Reynolds talked about the history of what is now called Andalusian classical music and how it is preserved in the present day.

Performance played in the lecture

According to Prof. Reynolds,  the period of Al-Andalus was defined by tolerance, diversity, intercultural exchange, and innovation. One clear example was the music in which Jews, Christians, and Muslims all contributed. While this music was Arab in that the songs were sung in Arabic, there was a move away from regional traditions in the Arab world to a cosmopolitan tradition where a new class of professional musicians, from numerous backgrounds, came together and produced a new style  of courtly music.  Eventually, the people of Al-Andalus started to think of themselves as an important cultural center that rivaled Baghdad in the East. Continue reading

Jail Time for Gaza Protest

Should someone be sentenced to prison for throwing a bottle at a police officer in a political demonstration? That is what Yahia Tebani, a Muslim Brit, is facing when he is sentenced this month.  Tebani is one of 78 protesters, young men in their 20s and almost all Muslim,  who are being charged with public order offenses. This story goes back to the Israeli attack on Gaza in December of 2008 and January of 2009. Continue reading

When Profiling Doesn’t Work

Paulin-Ramirez left and LaRose right

Paulin-Ramirez left and LaRose right

The issue of racial profiling to stop terrorist attacks was made more complicated last week when the arrest of Colleen LaRose was made public and Jamie Paulin-Ramirez was arrested. LaRose and Paulin-Ramirez, both American, were arrested for being involved in a  plot to kill the Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks for his depiction of the Prophet Muhammad in 2007.

The cases of LaRose, who called herself “Jihad Jane,” and Paulin-Ramirez, dubbed “Jihad Jamie” by the media, raise the issue of how effective  racial profiling is. Both women are Americans who had converted to Islam and allegedly planned to kill Vilks.  The fact that these two women do not fit the stereotypical profile of a terrorist underscores the fact that there really is not one definition. We saw this also with Joseph Stack’s attack on the IRS building. Continue reading

The Camel Method: Converting Muslims to Christianity

Building bridges between different faith communities can be a challenge, especially if the end goal is conversion. Part of true interfaith dialogue is an acknowledgment that the real goal is finding common spaces and that conversion is unlikely. When the focus is on winning adherents to a faith, it ceases to be a bridge-building exercise and becomes missionary work. This is the case with the Camel Method, developed by Kevin Greeson to bring Muslims to Christianity by using the Qur’an.

Camel is an acronym for Chosen Angels Miracles Eternal Life. This method aims to win Muslim converts to Christianity by beginning with passages about Jesus in the Qur’an. For example, a missionary using this method would make reference to the 19th chapter, Surah Maryam, which tells the story of the birth of Jesus, Isa in the Qur’an,  and ask if any other prophet had such a miraculous birth. Continue reading

Hearing the Recited Qur’an: Drs. H.Hasan Basri from Sulawesi Indonesia

This is a guest post by Anna M. Gade, Associate Professor in the Department of Languages and Cultures of Asia and the Religious Studies Program at UW-Madison, and the author of The Qur’an: An Introduction.HasanBasriColor She will be the guest of today’s Inside Islam radio show on Wisconsin Public Radio March 11 at 3 p.m. CT (4 p.m. ET).

A way to introduce the Qur’an to students in a classroom in Religious Studies is to present the text as religious Muslims experience it daily: embodied in voice and sound, expressed in rhythm and pitch. If listeners do not immediately understand the meanings of all the Arabic words they hear, they may share this experience with about four-fifths of the world’s Muslims who are also not native Arabic speakers. Approaching the Qur’an in this way, hearing real voices render what is believed to be God’s unchanging speech, can help learners to imagine the diverse global contexts across space and over time in which the Qur’an is faithfully rehearsed. Continue reading

Islam and Fashion: Style Islam

Muslims have used fiction, poetry, and music to relay to the world the message that Islam is about peace and does not condone violence. Fashion is also a medium on that list. Melih Kesmen began Style Islam, an Islamic-themed clothing line, in Germany three years ago and now it is in high demand in Europe and the Middle East.

Kesmen began the project after the Danish cartoon controversy. He wanted to challenge the stereotypes of Islam that were being circulated.  Using hip clothing style, Kesmen introduced a new way to expose people to the core messages of the faith, at the center of which is peace.

Some of the designs read: “Terrorism has no religion,” “Hijab. My right. My choice. My life,” and “Jesus & Muhammad: Brothers in Faith.” The clothing line shows that Islam is about more than what appears in the media–it can be hip, too.

What do you think of these designs? Is clothing a good way to relay a message? Can a tee-shirt change people’s minds about Islam? Please share your thoughts below.

Caning in Malaysia

Last month, three women were caned in Malaysia for extramarital sex. The Malaysian government said that these canings were carried out under sharia, Islamic law. These women were the first to receive this kind of punishment. Many in Malaysia and in human rights groups have condemned these canings and have called for Malaysia to stop using this kind of corporal punishment.

This story for me raises a number of issues related to Islamic law. First, it raises the question of what exactly Islamic law means for people nowadays. If these women were in fact receiving a punishment in accordance with religious law, is it really possible that all the conditions were met?According to Asifa Quraishi, a law professor at UW-Madison, who was on the Inside Islam radio show Women and Shariah, there are specific conditions that must be met in order for an individual to receive corporal punishment for extramarital sex that include having four people testify that they witnessed the actual act. They also have to concur on all the details.  How likely is it that these three women were seen in this situation? Continue reading

Should the Khutbah be in English?

Growing up in the United States, I assumed that the language of the khutbah, the Muslim Friday sermon, was not an issue of serious contention. Since my community is very diverse, the common language is English. Arabic is used when the Qur’an is cited, hadith related, and supplications recited. However, the English translations are usually provided. Of course, there are many communities with a large percentage of a particular immigrant group in which Arabic, Urdu, Somali, etc. are used.

I always assumed that the reason why English was used in my community stemmed from the need for the congregation to comprehend and reflect on the message of the sermon, which they could only do if they understand the language. Moreover, since many Muslim Americans like me grow up being exposed to Arabic but not necessarily understanding it, it was important to find a way to make young Muslims feel connected to the mosque and language plays a big role in that. Continue reading