If a Woman in a Miniskirt Enters a Mosque, How Should Muslims React?

Jakarta, Indonesia Photo: Antara/Rosa, Panggabean

The question above was recently posed by 28-year-old New York University Imam Khalid Latif during a class session teaching Muslims about Ramadan. Latif, a Princeton graduate and also the youngest chaplain ever of the New York City Police Department, has gained a strong following throughout the Northeast and among English-speaking Muslims around the world through his social justice-oriented khutbahs, or Friday sermons, posted through podcasts. His Ramadan class lectures and khutbahs pose questions rarely discussed within Muslim communities and often hit at the heart of the Prophet Muhammad’s most emphasized point: lead by example and don’t judge others. Continue reading

The “New Faces of Islam”?

Hanaa Ben Abdesslem and Hind Sahli Photo: Alex Cayley

2006 Pulitzer Prize winner Robin Givhan recently wrote an article highlighting the personal and professional journeys of two top international models: Hind Sahli from Morocco and Hanaa Ben Abdesslem from Tunisia. The title of her piece: The New Faces of Islam. Right from the outset, I was worried about the direction of the article. Are there really faces of Islam, and if so, what do they look like? What are the faces of Christianity, the Baha’i faith, Sikhism, etc? Givhan’s troubling language and Orientalist thinking becomes even clearer as the piece continues. Continue reading

Pakistani Musicians Making Their Mark

Arooj Aftab Photo: Natasha Jahangir

Significant parts of Pakistan’s governance and security structure may be crumbling before our very eyes, but the country’s musical arts are anything but dead. Those lucky enough to have been exposed to the creative energy of Pakistani musicians know of the contributions from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Farida Khanum, and others. Now, even those outside of South Asia and the world music scene are being exposed to the sounds of the region. Often combined with western influences, and deriving from Sufi traditions, musicians and music from Pakistan are growing in popularity inside and outside South Asia. Continue reading

Tariq Ramadan on the Death Penalty

The death penalty generates a lot of discussion and evokes emotions in many societies for a number of reasons. There are often concerns whether there is a way to determine someone’s guilt with absolute certainty, as was the case with the recent execution of Troy Davis. Davis’s case prompted responses not only around the United States, but also within the Muslim community. Tariq Ramadan, a prominent Muslim scholar, wrote a response titled “On the Death Penalty” where he argues that cases like Davis’s are the reason that the death penalty should be stopped and, specifically in the Islamic context, that there should be a moratorium on the use of the death penalty for certain crimes like adultery and murder. Continue reading

Fear of the Caliphate

In the past year, the Middle East has undergone massive changes that include the removal of the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt and protests that have rocked Libya, Syria, and Yemen. The world watched as the power of decades-long dictators was challenged. While the future is still unknown for these countries, it is clear that the fear of Islam, Islamic law, and an Islamically run government is widespread. As these leaders fell, fear of emerging Islamist governments and a new caliphate, an Islamic government led by a caliph, was repeatedly brought into the discussions. Terms like caliphate, sharia, jizya, and dhimmi continue to be utilized in many contexts to reflect this uneasiness with Islamic rule. Continue reading

Eboo Patel: One Muslim’s Vision for Interfaith Dialogue and Service

Eboo Patel speaks with students, University of Chicago Divinity School Photo: Stephen J. Carrera

On September 27  October 19, Here on Earth Host Jean Feraca will speak with Eboo Patel, founder of Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), to discuss the latest IFYC success in promoting dialogue and strengthening communities through service.

Building on his previous experience with interfaith service projects in South Africa, India, and Sri Lanka, Eboo Patel started Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) in 2002 from the humble settings of a Chicago basement. In just under a decade, Patel’s vision to build religious pluralism has created interfaith dialogue and service projects on all six continents and IFYC has hosted delegations and trainings from 16 countries.

Conferences, trainings, and dialogue are important to IFYC, but the primary purpose of Patel and the other 30 full-time IFYC staff is to build leadership within all faith communities. Patel notes that while 99% the world “inclines towards tolerance and cooperation,” a large portion of the remaining 1% are strong leaders and successful in their pursuit to discriminate and divide. Patel believes that if a larger portion of that 99% become leaders in their own communities, a better, stronger world will emerge.

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A Libyan Image for the World

Photo: Zehra Tajouri

Various iconic photos of the 20th and 21st century have sparked inspiration, reflection, and at times, even outrage; the Afghan girl in National Geographic, the crying Vietnamese children, and the vulture staring at a starving child in Sudan.

A number of images have received a great deal of attention during the Arab Spring, but one sticks out for its powerfully emotional evocation: Zehra Tajouri’s photo of her sister’s humble and defiant pose is one for the history books. The photo, taken and posted on Tajouri’s blog on February 16—the first day of the revolution—received immediate attention inside and outside of Libya.

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On the Qur’an and Knowledge

“And say, Lord increase my knowledge.” (Qur’an 20:114)

There are many misunderstandings that surround the Qur’an. It is often depicted as a book of violence and hatred that only pushes Muslims to blindly commit acts of terror. Many people who have not read the Qur’an or who do not understand enough about it to properly approach it are unable to understand its core messages. Not only does the Qur’an not encourage violence, it provides a guideline to engage the world and to find a purpose in life. One of the main ways it does this is by making knowledge and reason central to religious pursuit. In other words, a major feature of the Qur’an is its emphasis on reason as a means to understanding this world and the Divine. Continue reading

Finding a Place to Pray in the Land of Yogurt

The Acropolis, Athens, Greece Photo: Colin Christopher

While traveling around the Balkans a few year back, it was crystal clear to me that the people of the region have a long memory of their history, and that racism and hatred are far from notions of the past. The Balkans have been the stage for a host of conflicts, both recent and ancient, and the latest developments in Athens highlight age-old tensions related to identity. Amid “fear of an uprising from Muslims,” the Greek Parliament passed an environmental bill with an amendment approving the construction of a large Athens mosque. Nearly two-thirds of Parliament supported the bill. The mosque would serve as a central point of Islamic worship for Athens’s approximately 200,000 Muslim residents. Anti-Muslim activists have accused the Greek Government of “giving in,” and often point to the violent clashes of 2010 between Muslims and other groups related to a Greek law enforcement official stepping on a Qur’an.

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On Hitting Wives

Love and Mercy in Arabic

Among the many stereotypes about Islam is that it is oppressive towards women and that it is a rigid and unchanging faith. Often the hijab and covering in general are mentioned  as examples of this oppressiveness. Another example that is used to demonstrate the faith’s attitude towards women is verse 34 in chapter 4 of the Qur’an:

Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds (and last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance): for Allah is Most High, Great (above you all). (34)

For many, this verse permits men to hit their wives. While it is true one cannot dismiss this verse and must address the issues that it raises, it is equally important to recognize that throughout the history of Islam, discussion, dialogue, and diversity of opinion and interpretation have all be been prominent features of the worldwide Muslim community. This verse, specifically, has sparked and continues to generate discussions in regards to how men should treat women. Continue reading