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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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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This Is Where I Need to Be

Amna Ahmad, New York City high school oral historian, This is Where I Need to Be project

The old saying “children should be seen, but not heard” still rings true today. Although the majority of the population in many countries is younger than 25, youth perspectives are rarely, if ever, taken seriously. This is especially true for those under the age of 18 and those who come from minority groups such as people of color or Muslims. This Is Where I Need to Be: Oral Histories of Muslim Youth in NYC attempts to break these barriers by providing a platform for diverse young Muslims of color living in New York City to voice their perspectives. You can watch a video clip of Palestinian-American Amna Ahmad’s reading of Bengali-American Taseen Ferdous’s contribution to the book.

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Ramadan, Beyond the Fast

Sultan Ahmed (the Blue Mosque), Istanbul. Photo: Colin Christopher

In a few months, Eid al-Fitr will mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan. The most significant Islamic religious observance of the year, Ramadan is primarily known for its requirement that practicing Muslims in good health and of appropriate age abstain from food, drink, and sexual activity from dawn til sunset. Those that are able and interested recite Qur’anic verses during the evening hours, as it is recommended for Muslims to read all 114 verses, or suras, over the duration of the lunar month. But there’s much more to Ramadan than this.

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45 American Men on Being Muslim

Coverage of Muslim men in the American media is almost completely limited to three narrow situations: Middle Eastern politics, violent extremist movements, or oppression of women. All-American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim provides a glimpse into the lives of the other 99% of Muslim men in the U.S. Initiated largely by well-educated, young Muslim Americans, this book is the latest in an intentional strategy to reshape American attitudes about Muslims and Islam through personal stories.
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Inside Islam Coming to a Close

Regretfully, after nearly four years of operation, we will be publishing our final Inside Islam post next month. As part of its Academia in the Public Sphere initiative, the Social Science Research Council has provided us with funding for an unprecedented four consecutive cycles. Since August of 2008, we’ve published more than 500 blog posts, broadcast over 100 radio shows, and reached a following of 25,000 unique readers per month. And quite fittingly, just a few moments ago, we received our 10,000th follower on our @insideislam twitter feed.

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Equitable Distribution of Wealth: The Economic System of Islam

New York City. Photo: The Rag Blog

This post is co-written by Inside Islam blogger Colin Christopher and Anwar Bin Hayat, Secretary to the Vice Chancellor of Lahore Islamic University. Bin Hayat has also served as a financial officer for more than 25 years and has graduate degrees in economics, Islamic studies, and a higher diploma in Islamic Law and the Judiciary.

Given the current fiscal crises in wealthy countries and the Occupy Movement’s response to wealth distribution, Islamic perspectives on economics have garnered increasing attention in even non-Muslim majority countries. In this post, we’ll attempt to highlight some core Islamic principles that specifically address wealth, distribution, and justice. Islam not only requires the fulfillment of everyone’s basic needs, primarily through a respectable source of earning, but also emphasizes an equitable distribution of income and wealth so that, in the words of the Holy Qur’an, “Wealth does not circulate only among your rich.” (59:7)

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Lady Gaga Denied Concert Permit by Indonesian Authorities

Lady Gaga Photo: Real Hollywood

International pop star Lady Gaga was recently denied a concert permit for her upcoming Jakarta concert due to pressure from a few conservative Indonesian-based Muslim groups. The majority of Indonesians are likely offended by some of Gaga’s music and her concert performances, as her art is viewed as immodest and out of line with Islamic principles. However, the overwhelming majority of Indonesians have also taken little interest in actively preventing Gaga from taking to the stage on June 3. Interestingly, however, Indonesian authorities, supposedly following secular laws, have had a poor track record on cultural and religious tolerance, and since 2008, socially conservative Islamic organizations have successfully campaigned against a variety of western artists from performing in Indonesia: Mötley Crüe, N*E*R*D, Rihanna, Akon, 50 Cent, and Avenged Sevenfold have all cancelled their shows due to similar types of pressure.

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