On August 21st, with Ramadan beginning in most countries the following day, President Obama issued a Ramadan message to Muslim communities around the world. This is another gesture by the President to work on the relations between the United States and Muslims worldwide. For me, though, this message was unique. Growing up as a Muslim American, Ramadan was never formally recognized by the larger American community, except on a local level. President Obama’s more visible efforts to fully incorporate the Muslim American community have led to more awareness–positive awareness, I should say–of Islam and the commonalities that it shares with other faiths.
The question of marriage outside of one’s faith is not specific to any one religion. Each religion, I am sure, encourages adherents to marry within the faith. Yet while this is true across faiths, and even cultures, Islam is often singled out in a negative light. It seems that there are many who are willing to listen to critiques of Islam that show it to be backwards, oppressive, and intolerant without considering the viewpoints of the adherents and without considering its history and diversity. As a case in point, I want to focus on the issue of marriage in Islam, specifically on Asra Nomani’s article “My Big Fat Muslim Wedding” in Marie Claire, G. Willow Wilson’s response, and the recent Doha Debate on whether a Muslim woman should be allowed to marry anyone she chooses, in which Nomani appeared. Continue reading
A few weeks back, I reviewed the “To the Best of Our Knowledge” show “Reclaiming Islam” on which Christopher Caldwell discussed his most recent book, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West. What Caldwell said during the short segment was not entirely representative of the larger message in the book. However, my own reading of his argument was incredibly skewed and, well, wrong. On Thursday, August 13th, Christopher Caldwell joined Here on Earth to talk in more depth about the book and the issue of Muslims in Europe. In preparation for the show, I had a chance to read the book and understand his argument more fully. Continue reading
It is interesting how the context you grow up in can determine a lot of what you come to learn in your life. Growing up in a Sunni family and mostly Sunni community, I knew very little about Iran except that it was a Muslim country–Shia predominantly, near Iraq, and that the language spoken was Farsi and not Arabic. Although I grew up in a very diverse community, I did not come to meet many Iranians. When I look back at it now, it seems to me that part of the reason that I am not familiar with that part of the Muslim world is that in some ways it was always distant.
With all that is happening in Iran–the elections and post-election protests, I wanted to know more about a part of the world that still remained unfamiliar to me. This past week, I got my chance to learn more about Iran by reading Hooman Majd‘s book The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran. Majd will be joining Here on Earth tomorrow to talk about his book and Iran. Continue reading
Jerusalem, al-Quds in Arabic, is one of the most contested places on earth. The city and its significance to the three Abrahamic faiths cannot be emphasized enough. Sometimes, however, in the midst of the political battles around the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, the importance of the sacred city within Islam is lost. Many people assume that only Mecca and Medina are sacred to Muslims, without realizing that they consider Jerusalem the third holiest of places. I decided to address this issue based on the news of Palestinian families being evicted in East Jerusalem. While the political element is extremely necessary to assessing the situation, I feel that there is always an assumption that Jerusalem is just a political symbol for Muslims, when in fact it is much more than that. Continue reading
Around August 22nd, Ramadan will begin. Ramadan, as I mentioned in an earlier post, is supposed to be a month of fasting, increased reading of the Qur’an, and prayer. In the 20th century, the spirit of Ramadan has taken a different turn in parts of the Muslim world, where commercialism has tapped into the financial potential of the month. This aspect of Ramadan is most obvious in the Middle East where for many Ramadan has become a month of feasting, increased shopping, and parties! In the United States, while there are some companies such as Hallmark which are starting to make greeting cards for Ramadan and Eid ul-Fitr (the holiday marking the end of Ramadan), Ramadan has yet to be as commercialized as Christmas. Continue reading