The Prophet as Statesman

One of the biggest challenges for Muslims around the world is the plethora of negative stereotypes that have come to be associated with Islam, many with a very long history. Among the most pervasive of these are related to the Prophet Muhammad, who is still not understood by many non-Muslims. Throughout my life, I have been repeatedly asked about the Prophet’s life and specifically his role as prophet, statesman, and in some situations military leader. Many find it disconcerting that he led his followers into battle. They often compare him to Jesus to show that he was not peaceful. However, the Prophet did not engage in indiscriminate warfare, but instead opted for diplomatic options whenever possible. Being a statesman does not take away from his prophethood; rather, his conduct as a statesman and military leader serves as an example of leadership. Continue reading

Making It More Difficult for Moderate Muslims

As surely everyone knows, this Friday, April 29th, the UK’s Prince William and Kate Middleton will be married at Westminster Abbey. People around the world will be watching the wedding and participating in the celebration. Not all are happy with the upcoming event. An anti-war and extremist Muslim group in Britain called “Muslims against Crusades” (MAC) made plans to protest the royal wedding and the “English Defense League” (EDL) an ultra-nationalist group said that they would counter-protest.

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Radio Show on Radicalization Hearings

Rep. Keith Ellison Testifying at the hearings

On Wednesday, March 16th, Here on Earth host Jean Feraca will talk with Prof. Ingrid Mattson, director of the Duncan Macdonaled Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at the Hartford Seminary and previous president of the Islamic Society of North America, about Representative Peter King’s hearings “on the extent of radicalization in the American Muslim community and that community’s response.” According to Rep. King, Muslim organizations have not cooperated  enough with the government to prevent more attacks by radicalized Muslims.

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Attempted Attack on Mosque in US

On January 24th in Dearborn, Michigan, Roger Stockham, a 63-year-old Vietnam veteran, was arrested at a traffic stop near the Islamic Center of America, one of the largest mosques in the United States. Police got a tip after Stockham went to a local bar and bragged that he was going to cause a big explosion. Police officers found explosives in the trunk of his car.

This is not the first time that Stockham has been in trouble with the law. In 1977,  he held a psychiatrist hostage and, in 1985, planted a bomb in an airport in Nevada. He also threatened to kill President George W. Bush. According to some sources, Stockham says that after returning from Vietnam he converted to Islam and is now part of an Indonesian mujahadin group. It is not clear, then, why he would target a mosque. Moreover, Stockham rejected to be represented by a Muslim lawyer. Stockham faces 20 years in prison on a terrorism charge.

This story comes after increased attacks on mosques around the United States, according to the Council of America- Islamic Relations. Interestingly, this story did not get much attention in mainstream media. Some may argue that it was because of the protests in Egypt that began the next day. However, I have to wonder if it had been an attempted attack by a Muslim on a major church, what kind of coverage that story would receive.

Did you hear about this story? What was your reaction? Why do you think there was little mention of this attempted attack in the news? Please share your thoughts below.

Radicalization Hearings Will Alienate Muslim Americans

In December, Representative Peter King, the new chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, announced that he planned to hold hearings on the threat of radical Islam in America. According to King, Muslim American leaders have failed to combat extremism and that is why someone like Nidal Hassan was able to carry out an attack. Possible witnesses to testify at these hearings include Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Continue reading

The Violence Needs to Stop: This Is Not Islam

Last week, I wrote about the killing of Iraqi Christians by extremists in the name of Islam. Unfortunately, events over the weekend require me to return to this topic yet again. Just after midnight January 1st, there was a deadly attack in Alexandria, Egypt on the Saint’s Church. Twenty-one people were killed and some 79 were injured as a car bomb exploded outside of the church after New Year’s Mass. Not only is this event tragic but it puts the Coptic community in Egypt on edge ahead of their Christmas on January 7th.

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When Profiling Doesn’t Work

Paulin-Ramirez left and LaRose right

Paulin-Ramirez left and LaRose right

The issue of racial profiling to stop terrorist attacks was made more complicated last week when the arrest of Colleen LaRose was made public and Jamie Paulin-Ramirez was arrested. LaRose and Paulin-Ramirez, both American, were arrested for being involved in a  plot to kill the Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks for his depiction of the Prophet Muhammad in 2007.

The cases of LaRose, who called herself “Jihad Jane,” and Paulin-Ramirez, dubbed “Jihad Jamie” by the media, raise the issue of how effective  racial profiling is. Both women are Americans who had converted to Islam and allegedly planned to kill Vilks.  The fact that these two women do not fit the stereotypical profile of a terrorist underscores the fact that there really is not one definition. We saw this also with Joseph Stack’s attack on the IRS building. Continue reading

There are more to fatwas than Rushdie

How come we don’t hear moderate Muslim scholars condemning terrorism? This question arises repeatedly with regard to Islam’s stance on violence and terrorism. Of course Muslims as individuals and communities have spoken out against terrorism repeatedly and many scholars have come out against this kind of violence, but their voices do not seem to be heard.

Another Muslim scholar is joining the many who have condemned terrorism. Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, the head of Minhaj ul Quran, will deliver a fatwa in Britain in the next weeks condemning terrorism and outlining in a 600-page document why actions like suicide bombings are against Islam. Continue reading

When do we call it terrorism?

Last week, Joseph Stack flew an airplane into an IRS building, killing himself. Stack left behind a suicide note  in which he outlined the reasons for his attack: political grievances against the United States government. After the attack, many news outlets hesitated to refer to Stack’s attack as “terrorism” and instead called it a “criminal act.” Even the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement saying that Stack’s attack was not a terrorist act.

While this distinction may not seem important to some, labels of acts now carry serious consequences from racial profiling on airline flights to all-out war. An obvious example of this is the War on Terror that resulted from the 9/11 terrorist attacks. When one compares the Stack story to other events, it appears that when a violent act is committed by a Muslim, there is no hesitancy to label it as terrorism, no matter what the circumstances. In light of Stack’s attack many are asking this question: when do we call an act of violence terrorism? Continue reading

Interview with Farha Tahir

The Fort Hood shooting in November and the arrest of five Virginia young men in Pakistan in December have shocked many Americans in a different way than 9/11 did. The terrorists in the 2001 attack were Islamic extremists from abroad, but the suspects in the two recent cases are American Muslims raised and educated here in the States. Even though it’s not clear whether the Fort Hood suspect was motivated mainly by his religious belief, the case with the five Virginia Muslims is definitely clear: despite their middle-class upbringing and higher education, they are still susceptible to twisted logic of extremism and the recruitment effort by terrorist organizations. Why?

To find out how American Muslims and their communities are wrestling with the question, I talked to Farha Tahir, a graduate student at the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has been actively involved in the national American Muslim community since high school. She was a recipient of the Gamaliel Chair in Peace and Justice in 2003 for her interfaith work. Continue reading