Banning Male Circumcision in Cologne, Germany


An upcoming mosque in Cologne. Photo: The Guardian, UK

We have written about female circumcision and the difference between circumcision and female genital mutilation here on Inside Islam, but male circumcision, a common practice in Muslim communities, has not been discussed. Many other groups also circumcise male children for both religious and non-religious reasons. The World Health Organization estimates that about a third of men internationally are circumcised. Around 70% of them are Muslims.

But on Tuesday, a German court in Cologne condemned the practice of circumcising boys, saying that it violates a “fundamental right to bodily integrity.” Continue reading

Navigating Islam as a Deaf Muslim


Friday prayers interpreted in British sign language. Photo: Muslim Deaf UK

The call to prayer, issued five times in day in cities across the globe, is one of the most beautiful, spiritually uplifting sounds, regardless of whether one is Muslim or not. The sound even inspired Irish Catholic actor Liam Neeson to consider converting to Islam. He describes the sound as “the most beautiful, beautiful thing.”

But many Muslims around the world will never hear the beauty of the call. Although there is no official estimate of the number of deaf Muslims, the World Health Organization estimates that about 275 million people worldwide (Muslim and non-Muslim) have moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears. Continue reading

Bridging the Faiths through Art

Hatemi speaks to visitors about his work at a recent gallery opening. Photo: Haydarhatemi.com

The state of Kentucky has a strong tradition of political conservatism and also, unfortunately, a long history of bigotry. Although this means that it has become one of the more hostile places for Muslims in the US, this Islamophobic atmosphere hasn’t stopped Iranian-born artist Haydar Hatemi from creating art in his Lexington basement studio that builds bridges between Muslims and non-Muslims.

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Jesus Tells Episcopal Priest to Embrace Islam

Ann Holmes Redding. Photo: Spirituality of Qur'an

It sounds ridiculous to many and even Dr. Ann Holmes Redding herself laughs when recalling the moment. In 2006, Redding, an Episcopal Priest, invited a Muslim leader to present a class at the church in Seattle, Washington, where she directed the education programs. There she learned an Islamic zikr, or meditation technique. That experience was an opening to the call.

It came with such clarity and such power, that I could understand it as nothing else but an invitation from God.

Redding recently spoke with me about her unlikely spiritual journey, and the blessings and challenges that she’s been presented with as a result of her dual Christian and Muslim identity and practices.

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Six Rupee Bullet

Actors and members of the UW-Madison Pakistani Students Association following the performance of Six Rupee Bullet. From left to right: Rehan Rauf, Rafay Ahmad, Anoushka Chia Syed, Saad Siddiqui, Umar Anjum. Photo: Shoaib Bin Altaf.

This past fall, members of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Pakistani Student Association (PSA) held an event titled Pakistan ki avaaz, or the voices of Pakistan. The featured event of the evening was a traditional Ghazal music performance from Pakistani legend, Munni Begum, however, the most intriguing portion of the program was Six Rupee Bullet, a short play written and performed by PSA members.

The play offered a variety of perspectives related to U.S. drone strikes, poverty, and Islam in contemporary Pakistani society. In an interview with Inside Islam, Umar Anjum, co-playwright and Urdu instructor at UW-Madison, said that the PSA was inspired to come up with a serious play that draws attention to what is going on in Pakistan. Anjum, a native of Lahore, Pakistan, wrote,

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Irish Muslim activist takes on FGM


Ifrah Ahmed. Photo: DigitalJournal.com

In past posts, we’ve attempted to clarify issues around Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Female Circumcision (FC), and their perceived relation to religion and culture. Here are the facts: Islam, Christianity, nor any other world religion mandates any type of FC or FGM. Some forms of FC are considered FGM, depending upon the type of procedure. The practices are either forced upon women, expected of women, or in the rare case, embraced by women. FC and FGM are performed primarily on African girls and women or those from African backgrounds living in the West. A few countries in Asia have also been documented as practicing FC or FGM.

FGM has become a topic of focus for local activists in Africa and Asia, as well as the broader international community. Activists fighting against FGM have found a champion in an unlikely place—Ireland, where a significant number of women (over 3,000) have been subjected to it. Although substantial, the number pales in comparison to the 140 million women and girls worldwide who have undergone the procedure.

Ifrah Ahmed, a 23-year-old, Somali-born, Muslim activist has only been in Ireland for 6 years, but she’s already played a key role in shaping Irish policy regarding the practice. Ahmed underwent double mutilation as a child and still suffers from serious problems as a result of the procedures. She says that sometimes the pain is so bad that “I fall down and I feel like I’m going to die.” Continue reading

Post-Revolutionary Transitions in the Middle East

Egyptian women wait in line to vote in Cairo during the May presidential election. Photo: Amr Nabil/AP

With the Egyptian presidential run-off election approaching, I thought that I would gain more perspective on the political transitions of other Muslim-majority countries. In a conversation with Inside Islam, Paul Kubicek, political science professor and recent presenter at our Islam and Democracy Conference, offered his thoughts on the similarities and differences between the political systems of Turkey, Egypt, and other emerging democracies in the Middle East.

Inside Islam: Do you think the future role of Islam in Egyptian politics in the coming months will accurately reflect the beliefs of Egyptians regarding that role? In other words, whatever emerges from these elections, are the results likely to reflect Egyptian society?

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Muslim women in India seek equal rights under personal law

Zakia Soman, founding member of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan. Photo: CivilSocietyOnline.com

Muslim women in India are organizing against what they see as unfair laws regarding marriage, divorce, and property rights. Although the Indian Constitution offers all citizens equal rights irrespective of gender and religion, these rights do not extend to personal law. India does not have a uniform civil code; in family matters, legal decisions are based on religious law.

Muslims in India are governed by the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act of 1937, which defines the scope of Muslim personal law as including all affairs regarding succession, marriage, dissolution of marriage, guardianship, and property rights. Muslim personal law is largely uncodified, and legal decisions are made by courts on the basis of the Qur’an and hadith. Organizations like the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind (JUH) see themselves as spokespersons for the Muslim community, and lobby the government in cases where they believe Muslim law is being impinged upon.

Women’s groups have criticized the AIMPLB and JUH for their retrograde views regarding women’s rights. Continue reading

Tennessee Islamic Center delayed on procedural technicality

The sign has been spray-painted with the words "Not Wanted." Photo: CNN

The proposed Islamic center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is no stranger to controversy. Since 2010, plans to set up the facility have been constantly thwarted by opponents. Some argued that Islam is not a legitimate religion and thus not protected under the U.S. Constitution. Others protested that the mosque would create traffic problems and lower housing values. Still others decided to take the law into their own hands, spray-painting “Not Welcome” on signs announcing the center, and even setting fire to construction equipment and vehicles.

The center prevailed through a string of lawsuits, so opponents adopted another tactic, this time attacking the planning commission who granted the building permit. Now it seems that construction may be held up on procedural grounds. On May 30, a county judge ruled that plans for the center, which had previously been approved by the planning commission, are now “void, and of no effect.” Continue reading

Life and Death

Verse 156 in Chapter 2 of the Qur'an is read whenever someone dies. It translates as "Surely we belong to God and to Him shall we return."

There are many stereotypes about Islam and Muslims which the Inside Islam project has focused on dismantling. One of the most persistent negative images of Muslims is that they do not value life. The terrorist attacks carried out by a minority of Muslims have led some people to perceive Islam as a violent religion that encourages death for the sake of God. As we have said before, however, this idea is not supported by the Qur’an. While death is a fact of life that is repeatedly addressed in the Qur’an, Muslims are taught that life is extremely valuable and that they should work to lead righteous lives. Continue reading