Environmentalism, not Terrorism

Photo: Lila Garnett

Following his appearance on a recent Inside Islam Radio Show, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin–environmental activist and author of Green Deen–spoke to a large crowd at the University of Wisconsin-Madison about Islam’s obligation for Muslims to care for the planet. The event drew Muslims and non-Muslims of all ages, and Abdul-Matin’s presentation matched the practical approach of his book.

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CNN’s “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door”

On Sunday, March 27th, CNN aired “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door,” in which correspondent, Soledad O’Brien went to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to examine the controversy around the building of an Islamic center.

In 2010, the city commission committee approved  plans  for the local Muslim community to build a 52,000-foot facility that would include not only a mosque, but also a school, a swimming pool, a gym, and a cemetery. Residents of Murfreesboro, which houses 180 churches and currently one mosque, came out in protest of the the Islamic center. In addition to protests, the sign at the site of the future center was vandalized twice: the first time the words “not welcome” were sprayed on it and the second time it was cut in half. Also, the construction equipment at the site was doused with gas and lit on fire. Finally, some residents filed an unsuccessful lawsuit to stop construction of the mosque.

O’Brien interviewed both opponents and supporters of the project. The question that emerged throughout the interviews was this: Is the problem with the building of the mosque itself or is the prevalent emotion symptomatic of a broader Islamophobia?

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Tespihe in Albania

Man with Prayer Beads Photo: Colin Christopher

From Tirana to Tetova, they can be seen in public and in private, hanging from the rear view mirrors of taxis, and lying atop intricate prayer rugs. For some, tespihe (“prayer beads” in Albanian) are used as religious, intentional acts of worship and remembrance of God–zikr. For most Albanians however, sliding the 33 circularly attached beads through one’s fingers has been stripped of its religious significance. Now, tespihe represent a tradition or habit Albanian men saw their father’s fathers pass time with while sipping small cups of thick, muddy-colored coffee in the town square.

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The Bubu Shaman Women of Kyrgyzstan

Traditionally Dressed Kyrgyz Woman

Fatima Sartbaeva is a doctoral student of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying female shamans among Muslim Kyrgyz and Kazakhs.

The Central Asian Republics, which include Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, make up one of the geographically largest Muslim populations in the world. For example, in my homeland of Kyrgyzstan eighty percent of the population is Muslim, consisting of various ethnic groups such as the Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Tatar, Tajiks, Kazak, Uigur, and Dungan. At present, although the Kyrgyz are officially categorized as being Sunni Muslims, their pre-Islamic Shamanic believes and practices are still visible in their everyday lives.

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Conference on Muslims and the Media

On March 23rd and 24th, Muslim Voices, an organization that “aims to increase intercultural dialogue and understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims,” held a conference at Indiana University titled “Re-scripting Islam: Muslims and the Media.” The conference explored the multiple narratives of Islam and Muslims in the media.Various panelists spoke about different avenues that Muslims and non-Muslims are using to engage in discussions about Islam.

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Sexual Extremes Lead to Confusion

Women in Saudi Arabian Mall

In the past two decades, a large number of wealthy and highly educated (mostly) males from Gulf States (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, etc.) have attended top universities here in the U.S. Many of them leave a land where women are barred from driving, a special police force monitors dress behavior in malls, and literalist wahaabi Islam continues to flourish. When they arrive on university campuses here, many of these young men are overwhelmed by the high visibility and frequency of sex and drugs.
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Muslim Hipsters

Environmental Activist Ibrahim Abdul-Matin

On the next Inside Islam Radio Show, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin will discuss his environmental jihad and the Islamic principles that influence his eco-conscious activism. Abdul-Matin will also speak at a public event held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Abdul-Matin, a New York City native and Brooklynite, in many ways represents a new wave of Muslim-Americans born and raised in the United States. Stylish, artistically inclined, and socially conscious, the 34-year-old Abdul-Matin represents a growing number of hip and influential Muslims. These Muslim “hipsters,” prominent in artistic, academic, and social justice movements, often come from urban middle- to upper-class backgrounds and have a strong interest in a particular subcategory of global pop culture. Continue reading

The Voices of Arab Youth

Egyptian Protesters Photo: Felipe Trueba/EPA

From the Tunisian fruit vendor’s desperate last act to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Arab youth–both Muslim and Christian–have demonstrated their intolerance for the status quo. A new level of youth engagement in Arab politics has taken shape, and the images of these massive demonstrations have disproved a consistent, and largely western fear of Islamic extremism overtaking most young Muslim minds in the Middle East.

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Green Deen Radio Show

This Thursday, March 24th, Jean will talk with Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, the author of Green Deen: What Islam Teaches about Protecting the Planet. The show will explore how Islam instructs followers to be environmentally conscious and how this consciousness can be the foundation for interfaith environmental work.

Abdul-Matin’s central premise is that the world is a mosque, a house of God, and thus sacred. Therefore, we have a responsibility not only to take care of the environment but to protect it. He maintains there are Islamic teachings that instruct Muslims to live what he refers to as “Green Deen” (deen means religion in Arabic), which he maintains “is about transforming our public,  private, and civic sectors. It’s about bridging the innovation gap and moving all the world’s fundamental human connection to the environment.”

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The “Islamic” Republic of Pakistan

Despite its wealth of intellectuals, higher education institutions, and rich arts tradition, Pakistan has become increasingly choked by violent extremist elements. Initially foreign in origin, these elements are now seen as “indigenous” violent fundamentalism.

Inadequate land reform, an ambiguous national ideology, and politically motivated Islamic nationalization efforts by both internal and external forces have separated Pakistan on many measures from its rival and socio-historical “cousin” India. The pockets of social and religious conservatism within Pakistan’s borders are foreign to a majority of regional historical narratives, but extremist influences are rapidly growing.

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