Attempted Attack on Mosque in US

On January 24th in Dearborn, Michigan, Roger Stockham, a 63-year-old Vietnam veteran, was arrested at a traffic stop near the Islamic Center of America, one of the largest mosques in the United States. Police got a tip after Stockham went to a local bar and bragged that he was going to cause a big explosion. Police officers found explosives in the trunk of his car.

This is not the first time that Stockham has been in trouble with the law. In 1977,  he held a psychiatrist hostage and, in 1985, planted a bomb in an airport in Nevada. He also threatened to kill President George W. Bush. According to some sources, Stockham says that after returning from Vietnam he converted to Islam and is now part of an Indonesian mujahadin group. It is not clear, then, why he would target a mosque. Moreover, Stockham rejected to be represented by a Muslim lawyer. Stockham faces 20 years in prison on a terrorism charge.

This story comes after increased attacks on mosques around the United States, according to the Council of America- Islamic Relations. Interestingly, this story did not get much attention in mainstream media. Some may argue that it was because of the protests in Egypt that began the next day. However, I have to wonder if it had been an attempted attack by a Muslim on a major church, what kind of coverage that story would receive.

Did you hear about this story? What was your reaction? Why do you think there was little mention of this attempted attack in the news? Please share your thoughts below.

Islam and the Egyptian Uprising

Alexander Hanna is a PhD student in Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He studies social movements in the Middle East and political uses of social media. He is currently in Cairo.

Mainstream news outlets have been making a lot of noise about the Muslim Brotherhood and  the possible Islamist threat coming from the impending downfall of President Mubarak’s 30 year-old regime. This point is generally overstressed — although the Muslim Brotherhood is a large opposition group and has been supporting the protests in the past few days, they were not the progenitors of the uprising and are not the current leaders of it.

Video: Alexander Hanna

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Is U.K. Multiculturalism Failing?

Photo: AP

Billed as one of the most important speeches of his first nine months in office, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s address to world leaders at the Munich Security Conference in Germany highlighted his disapproval of multiculturalism and the alleged rise in extremism in the U.K. linked to its failure. Cameron criticized Britain’s “tolerance for segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to British values” and called on European governments to practice “a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism.”

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Christian and Muslim Solidarity in Egypt

Egyptian Christians protecting Muslims as they pray

Everyone has been watching Egypt since January 25th when the first protests began calling for President Hosni Mubarak to step down after almost 30 years in power. Many have discussed the political future of Egypt should Mubarak leave before the September elections. However, an aspect of the story that has been under-reported is the solidarity between Christians and Muslims in these protests.

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What’s at Stake for the Radical, Violent Islamists

Photo: Sarah Carr

Perhaps surprisingly, there’s nothing scarier for Al-Qaeda, Hamas, and other radical groups–each aiming to achieve different goals–than the Arab people overthrowing their U.S.-backed dictators to achieve democracy and other freedoms.

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Understanding the Qur’an

An upcoming Inside Islam radio show at the end of February will focus on the Qur’an. Professor Anna M.  Gade , author of The Qur’an: An Introduction, will join the program to shed light on the text that many do not understand.  Some like Geert Wilder have gone so far as to compare it to Hitler’s Mein Kampf and others like Terry Jones called for people to burn copies of the Qur’an.

Professor Gade was part of an earlier program on the art of reciting the Qur’an. In this program, she will talk with Jean about the content of the Qur’an so that listeners have a better idea about the complexity of the text, its moral message, and its role in the lives of Muslims worldwide.

What would you like to know about the Qur’an? Do you think that it calls for violence? Have you ever read a Qur’an? What was your reaction? Please share your thoughts below.

A Guide: How Not to Say Stupid Stuff about Egypt

Since the international media started following the situation in Egypt closely, a number of inaccurate, ignorant, and occasionally racist commentary from otherwise reputable new sources have been passed over without a thought. Since we write about Islam and Muslims, and Egypt is 90% Muslim, we thought it was relevant. And funny. The blogger Sarthanapalos has received a great deal of attention for this response:

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Islam’s Role in Egypt’s Secular Revolution

Mona Mogahed is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and lived in Cairo between 2008-2009. She is a native of Madison, Wisconsin and currently resides in Washington, DC.

When a wave of self-immolation attempts began sweeping the Arab world following the now historic actions of Tunisian citizen Mohamed Bouazizi, Muslim clerics scrambled to issue statements condemning suicide in Islam. Al-Azhar, the world’s most respected institution of Sunni learning, released a statement declaring that “Islam categorically forbids suicide for any reason,” while a Saudi scholar called self-immolation a “great sin” and asserted that Islam “bans suicide even if living conditions are hard.” Of course, few Muslims would argue that suicide is not forbidden in Islam, but both the timing and nature of these statements left little doubt that the dictums were government directives – urging citizens to refrain from the extreme forms of protest that led to the eventual ousting of Tunisian dictator Ben Ali. One Azhar sheikh even went so far as to claim that protesting was forbidden in Islam (other Azhar scholars did the responsible thing by disagreeing with him, even calling Ben Ali’s removal a pious act).

It has long been a strategy of dictatorial governments like Mubarak’s 30-year old regime to try using Islam as an effective means to control citizens, appealing to a common currency that few would muster enough sacrilege to object to (with Azhar-sanctioned legitimacy, the regime has God on its side after all). And Egyptians are indeed a deeply religious people – arguably the most religious in the world. A recent Gallup poll found that a whopping 99% of Egyptians answered “Yes” to the question “Is religion an important part of your daily life?

It comes as a surprise to some, therefore, that the country’s current popular uprising has not taken on an explicitly Islamic bent. Protesters’ demands are quite simple: get Mubarak out. The role Islam has played thus far has been mostly organic and far from political. Until today, the most successful demonstrations took place on Friday, January 28th. These protests were scheduled immediately following the Friday prayers, benefiting from the already-critical masses which regularly turn out to attend these services. Committed protesters paused their chants in order to line up and perform daily prayers, bowing and prostrating beneath riot police and military tanks, gestures extensively documented in a slew of powerful images and videos.

But these were not political acts. These were merely practicing Muslims taking a few moments to perform prayer as they would on any other occasion, whether they were battling Egyptian security forces over control of a major bridge, or just experiencing a regular day in the office.

What does this mean for the revolution? Regardless of who takes rule after Mubarak, be it explicitly religious leadership such as the Muslim Brotherhood or a more secular figure like Mohamed El-Baradei, the powerful place religion occupies in the hearts and minds of Egyptians is unlikely to be affected. Contrary to an unfortunate misunderstanding espoused by government-puppet Muslim clerics and anti-Muslim zealots seeking to pit religion against freedom, lived Islam cannot be boiled down to a mere instrument of control or a series of punitive measures. In fact, as in the Egyptian uprising, the faith there is so much a part of Egyptian life that it seems to transcend such politics. It is there, simply as a matter of course, motivating people, enriching their lives, informing their decisions (both political and, more often, just everyday), but may ultimately go unaffected by the outcome of this historic moment.

What role does religion play in the current Egyptian protests and elsewhere? The majority of these protesters are Muslim. How does that change the perception of Islam?