Dr. King: A Pragmatic Dreamer

Source: Seattle Times

This past week, the US celebrated one of the great moral and theological figures of American history, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King rarely directly addressed the topics and themes that we focus on here at Inside Islam, but his unique combination of pragmatism and dreaming allowed his faith-inspired message of peace, love, and brotherhood to flourish throughout the world in a way that we can still learn from today. Although the roots of his oratorical style derived from a specific Southern Baptist upbringing, his words continue to inspire all people. King called upon communities to come together to combat societal problems, something that is woefully missing from contemporary discussions.

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Tariq Ramadan on The Muslim Brotherhood

Tariq Ramadan Photo: britishmuseum.org

Next Wednesday, January 25, Jean will speak with Oxford University Professor Tariq Ramadan about the Muslim Brotherhood. Ramadan, the grandson of the Muslim Brotherhood’s founder and a leading scholar of political science and Islam, will speak with Jean about the Muslim Brotherhood’s platform and its likely influence on Egypt in the coming years.

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Three Ways, One World, Our Choice

On December 25, Tariq Ramadan spoke to thousands of Muslims at the RIS conference in Toronto. Photo: Aqnus Febriyan

This past week, tens of thousands of Muslims gathered in Toronto for the 10th annual Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS) Conference. To highlight the conference theme, Control, Chaos or Community: Three Ways, One World, Our Choice, speakers from around the world stressed the importance of self-reflection, community service, and social activism.

I’ve been writing over the past year about Muslim-based organizations and initiatives that are countering extremism, participating in the political process, and serving communities. The annual RIS conference has turned into a central meeting point for this growing movement that was initiated and organized by predominately young Muslims born and raised in North America.

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Muslim and American

On October 12th, Tarek Fatah posted a conversation with Ayaan Hirsi Ali on The Huffington Post. In this conversation, Fatah and Ali, a former Muslim and well-known critic of Islam, discussed many issues, ranging from extremist activity among Muslims to Muslim citizenship in the West. Of these topics, I would like to focus on the place of Muslims in the West, specifically in the United States.

Ali is surprised that Muslims who spend the majority or all of their lives in the United States still adhere to Islam. She expects these Muslims to discard their beliefs in order to be truly American because in her perception there is a clear contradiction between the practice of Islam and being an American. In another context, she argued that Muslims in the United States should all accept Christianity in order to have a place in America. In her conversation with Fatah, she suggested that organizations like the Islamic Society of North America and the Council on American-Islamic Relations had secret agendas because they attempt to portray a positive picture of Islam and fight for Muslims’ civil rights. Continue reading

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

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

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

Signs of Hope in Egypt’s Sectarian Violence

A Muslim Egyptian holding a Qur'an and a Coptic Egyptian holding a Cross

In the last few months, the Middle East has undergone tremendous change with revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt leading to the resignation of Presidents Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak. During these revolutions that inspired others across the region in Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, and Syria, different segments of society united with the goal of removing the leaders. In Egypt, especially, Muslims and Christians stood together, even protecting each other while they prayed.

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Sharia Courts in Nigeria

Sign for Zamfara State Sharia Court in N.W. Nigeria

Sharia, an Arabic word translated as “way” or “path,” is the code of conduct or religious law in Islam, and has been the subject of a number of recent hate rallies and growing prejudice against Muslims in the U.S. and around the world. A few countries with significant Muslim minority populations have experimented with various ways of integrating sharia into their legal systems, often using it in civil law situations involving divorce, inheritance, etc. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation with 156 million people, is a good example of the diverse forms of sharia implementation.

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Will Islamists Take Over in Egypt?

Last month, Egyptians went to the polls to vote on a referendum for constitutional amendments that would pave the way for free elections later this year. Since Hosni Mubarak stepped down on February 11th, Egyptians have witnessed a wave of political activity. Various groups are trying to mobilize to be prepared to participate in the parliamentary and presidential elections. In this new atmosphere, there continues to be fear of an Islamist take over.

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