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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There’s No Substitute for Personal Relationships

For the past four years, the Inside Islam project has been one of a few creative initiatives educating Americans about Islam as part of the Academia in the Public Sphere program. The idea is a good one, encouraging resource-wealthy institutions to interact with the larger public on contemporary and relevant issues. And we aren’t the only project trying to educate, connect, and facilitate dialogue around both controversial issues and more mundane topics related to Islam and Muslims. Muslimah Media Watch, Muslim Matters, and Loonwatch are some of the other active web-based platforms writing about Islam and Muslims. More recently, Crash Course and other internet-based learning tools are reaching out. In only three days, over 100,000 people viewed Crash Course’s latest video on the early history of Islam and Muslims. Click below to see it for yourself.

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Inter-religious Solidarity through Protest

Christians protecting Muslims praying during Nigerian protests against the removal of oil subsidies. Photo: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde

A large portion of global current events coverage in the last year has been directed towards Arab revolutions and their subsequent political transformations–and rightfully so. But Arab Middle Eastern countries aren’t the only places where significant protests have arisen; from Moscow to Malé, Lhasa to Quito, Athens to Delhi, people have taken to the streets to voice their opposition to distribution inequality, ethnic/religious persecution, and corruption. One story that slipped largely under the radar earlier this year is notable for its multifaceted issues as well as some of its parallels to Egypt. Nigeria was the location. Like most of the Arab revolutions of the past year and a half, it was the local Nigerian population, not international actors, that catalyzed the opposition movement and was the source of the protest’s relative success.

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Muslim-Jewish Comedy

Comedian Azhar Usman Photo: Shoaib Bin Altif

Two weeks ago, the Laugh in Peace Tour dropped by the UW-Madison campus to entertain hundreds as part of the White House Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. Chicago-based Muslim-American lawyer-turned-comedian Azhar Usman and Vermont-based comedian and rabbi Bob Alper had the crowd roaring. As Usman entered the stage, Alper conducted a full-body pat-down, poking fun at the ridiculousness of the profiling that Usman has received post-9/11 because of his physical appearance and Muslim name. To return the favor, Usman patted down Alper before performing his own comedy sketch.

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Green Faith Raises Provocative Questions

Last Tuesday night’s panel discussion, Green Faith, drew over 100 people to discuss religiously inspired eco-consciousness and interfaith activism around environmental issues. A number of provocative questions were raised by both panelists and audience members throughout the two-hour event. Local media coverage provided a good summary of the themes covered for those unable to attend.

Panelists from Baha'i, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions spoke with Inside Islam Radio Show Host Jean Feraca at the Green Faith Conference this past Tuesday. Photo: Nayantara Mukherj.

The evening started out with a short video clip and discussion by UW-Madison Associate Professor Anna M. Gade on the tradition of Muslims conserving natural resources in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation. Gade highlighted models for embracing inter-religious cooperation that draw on the Qur’an (e.g. 49:13), values that are highly influential in Indonesia’s religiously pluralistic society today. She also spoke of faith-inspired environmental practices that emphasize loving-kindness and compassion, and reminded the audience that both Muslim and non-Muslims across Southeast Asia have transmitted these philosophies since long before the advent of the “environmental movement” in North America. Continue reading

TONIGHT: An Interfaith Conversation on Faith and Environmentalism

This is the last in our Green Faith series before tonight’s panel discussion in Madison, WI. Panelists will address the following the questions: What aspects of scripture and  practice support or challenge  environmentalism? With such a strong focus on the afterlife, why do Abrahamic faith traditions care about protecting the earth in this life? How can faith-based and non-faith-based organizations work together more effectively on environmental issues?

Earlier posts in this series covered Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Baha’i perspectives as well as an Inside Islam radio show on interfaith dialogue around environmental issues.

Anna M. Gade is an Associate Professor at UW-Madison in the Department of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Religious Studies. She teaches courses on global Islam, Southeast Asia, and approaches to the study of religion.


K.H. Ahmad Yani is the “kiai,” spiritual and academic leader, of Darul Ulum Lido, an Islamic boarding school near Bogor, an hour’s drive from Jakarta, the capital of  Indonesia. Traditional and modern residential religious schools like Darul Ulum are known in Indonesia as “pondok pesantren,” and there are thousands of them across the vast archipelago of this Muslim-majority nation.

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Green Faith: A Baha’i Perspective

This is the latest in our Green Faith series leading up to a panel discussion tomorrow, March 6th, in Madison, WI. Earlier posts in this series covered Muslim, Christian, and Jewish perspectives as well as an Inside Islam radio show on interfaith dialogue around environmental issues.


Don Quintenz Photo: Canoecats

A practicing Baha’i, Don Quintenz has been involved in environmental education for over four decades. Quintenz has worked for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Wisconsin Humane Society, the Milwaukee Public Schools, and is currently the Director of Education and Land Management at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center in Milwaukee.

In 1967 I came to recognize two goals that would ultimately dominate the rest of my life. My first realization was that I wanted somehow to inspire people to continually develop their spirituality. I didn’t feel that people could simply believe a particular doctrine and therefore realize all the potential benefits it could bestow. The second awareness I received was I wanted more than anything else to try to instill in people a love for the natural world. I feel these two goals are more related than you might suspect. Part of the reason for this is my belief in a Creator; and a necessary consequence of that belief is nature must be an expression of God’s will.

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Green Faith: A Jewish Perspective

This is the latest in our Green Faith series leading up to a panel discussion on March 6th in Madison, WI. Earlier posts in this series covered Muslim and Christian perspectives as well as the Inside Islam radio show on interfaith dialogue around environmental issues.


Laurie Zimmerman is the Rabbi of Congregation Shaarei Shamayim in Madison, Wisconsin. She is an avid lover of the outdoors and sees environmental conservation as an important component of a broader social justice movement.

The year after I graduated from college I set off on my own to hike the Appalachian Trail. During the day I slugged through the rain or sweltered in the scorching sun. At night I shivered in my sleeping bag or fought off mosquitoes. Never before had I experienced Mother Nature so intimately. It was both extraordinary and challenging. I had hoped that I would settle into a rhythm and achieve a meditative state as I gritted my way up each mountain. On most days, however, I struggled with boredom, loneliness, and exhaustion.

Nevertheless, I grew to love the rough, raw beauty of the wilderness. I felt at home on the trail. I was in awe of God’s glorious earth each day I climbed a mountain. Every morning I would begin my hike with prayers of gratitude for being alive, for the gift of walking through God’s majestic world. I developed a deep appreciation for the infinite wonder of the earth. This awe carried me through three months of intense hiking and comforted me when I felt depleted.

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Green Faith: A Christian Perspective

This is the second in a series related to our upcoming event, Green Faith: An Interfaith Conversation about Eco-Consciousness and Activism. If you missed the first post in the series, you can read it here and also see the end of this post for information on tomorrow’s related radio show.


Tim Mackie is a teaching pastor at Blackhawk Church in Middleton, Wisconsin, and a faculty member of the Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, where he teaches Hebrew Bible.

I grew up in the heart of a large city, one which is surrounded by immense natural beauty. Portland, Oregon, sits at the convergence of two large river valleys (the Willamette and the Columbia) that join and head into the Pacific Ocean. My earliest memories of the city recall the majestic Mt. Hood, which stands like a sentinel looking out over the city. The coast is just 1.5 hours away, and there is green everywhere you go, all year round.

I took all this for granted growing up, as I got the best of both worlds: a large urban center surrounded by a lifetime’s worth of hiking and outdoor adventure. Growing up in that part of the country had a formative shaping influence on me, but there was one other key catalyst that revolutionized my relationship to the world of nature. When I was 20 years old I became a follower of Jesus, which forced me to rethink a great many things about my patterns of living. Continue reading