Protests over a Depiction of God

This past year the Middle East was defined by the Arab uprisings that began in Tunisia and spread to Egypt, Yemen, Libya, and Syria. Tunisians were the first to successfully remove their leader, President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, in January.  While the successful removal of Ben Ali was a sign of hope and change, Tunisia is undergoing a difficult transition with instability, continued protests, and in some case violence. One example of this continued instability is a series of protests around the recent broadcast of the film Persepolis. Continue reading

Charitable Pakistan

A food distribution shop in Lahore, Pakistan. Shops like these are common near Sufi shrines where impoverished citizens receive free meals through the donations of individuals. Photo: Colin Christopher

Mainstream media in the U.S. often focuses on stories of breakdown rather than success, especially when dealing with the world outside our borders. Nowhere is this more apparent than in media treatment of Pakistan, which may have one of the most lopsided ratios of negative to positive news stories of any country in the world. No one can deny the great challenges it faces, but what mainstream media stories about suicide bombings and natural disasters fail to capture is the strong charitable and philanthropic tradition of Pakistani society.

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On Polygamy

A recent radio program on Asian Network Reports Special focused on the increase of polygamy among British Muslim men. Although bigamy is banned in the United Kingdom, according to Islamic Sharia Council, there has been a noticeable increase in the rates of polygamous marriages in the last 15 years. Continue reading

American Imam

Marc Manley, Self-Portrait

Marc Manley is an American writer and educator, currently serving as the Muslim Chaplain at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Islam at times can seem, to the outside observer, to be a peculiar religion in that there is no formally established hierarchy or pecking order. There is no priesthood, no monasticism (though there are traditions of asceticism). A Muslim’s “confession” of sin is directed solely to God without an intermediary, so to speak, as is the role of the priest in Catholic traditions. In this context, what is the role of an imam? How does it differ from other religious traditions? And how is it seen specifically in the American Muslim context? That is, what is it that an imam does? What are his duties and are they restricted to the mosque? Can the imam play a social role, from personal counseling to advocating for social consciousness and justice? To begin, let us take a short view at its lexical meaning as well as how the word is mentioned in the Qur’an as well as in the Prophetic Statements, hadith.

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Yemeni Woman Wins Nobel Peace Prize

On Friday, October 7th, three women were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize: Tawakul Karman from Yemen and Ellen Johnson Surleaf and Leymah Gbowee from Liberia. Tawakul Karman is a Yemeni journalist and activist. Karman, 32, mother of 3, and the first Arab woman to win the prize, has been a central figure in Yemen’s revolution to remove President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Referred to by some as the “Mother of the Revolution,” she began her activist work several years ago. Continue reading

Is Voting Enough?

Many people associate Islam with Saudi Arabia, assuming that what happens in the Saudi Kingdom reflects the law and spirit of Islam. While it is true that the Arabian Peninsula is the birthplace of Islam, the Saudi Kingdom and its specific interpretation of Islam does not represent the faith more broadly. Continue reading

The History of Hate

The revered 20th century Catalan Painter Salvador Dali also created images gruesomely depicting the Prophet Muhammad

Today, Thursday, October 6, Luis Bernabé Pons, Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Alicante in Spain, will be speaking about Islam and Christianity in 16th century Spain. The event will focus upon the Lead Books of Sacromonte and will take place at the Pyle Center in Madison Wisconsin @ 7 PM.

Earlier this week, Reem and I had the privilege to speak with Luis Bernabé. We discussed a variety of topics related to the history of Islam, but his presentation exploring the history of the Occident‘s misrepresentation of Islam stood out the most. Continue reading

It’s Not The Law, But You Really Shouldn’t Drive, Miss

Saudi Citizen Manal al-Sharif Driving in Saudi Arabia

The western media seems to have a field day with reports of Muslim peoples’ and Islam’s “repression” of women. It’s often overstated or even completely fabricated, but some of Saudi Arabia’s cultural practices and laws are clear examples of plain and simple repression of women.

Although nowhere in the Qur’an does it speak of women’s being prevented from operating any sort of transportation, the Saudi Government has never allowed women to drive within the country. The mobility of women is strictly controlled and limited to specific public and private spaces, and the inability to drive is symbolic of this reality. It’s ironic that a woman may hire a taxi, driven by a male stranger, but is not able to drive herself. Continue reading

Muslim Women Compete to Preach

This month a new reality show will start airing in Malaysia. Solehah, which means “pious one,” is a reality show where women compete to be named the best preacher. Contestants will be judged on their religious knowledge, personality, and oratory abilities.

What makes this show unusual is the fact that women are competing in a field usually reserved for men. There is already a hit reality show called Imam Muda in Malaysia where men compete to be the best imam. Women can give dawah (call to Islam) but men are often at the forefront. This show, however, demonstrates the role that women play in communicating the faith. Continue reading

Khalil Bendib: A Muslim American Political Cartoonist

On Friday, September 30th, the Institute for Research in the Humanties (IRH) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison hosted a symposium titled “Arab Spring and the Humanities.” Khalil Bendib, an Algerian American Muslim artist and political cartoonist, was among the speakers. In his presentation, Bendib spoke about his personal story and the challenges he faces as a political cartoonist. According to Bendib, his biggest challenge is finding places that will run his work without censoring it. Continue reading