Islam and Women in Niger

Even though 98% of its population practices Islam, the Western African country of Niger is a secular state, protected by laws mostly inherited from the French. In recent years, the government has adopted some woman-friendly policies but rejected a few as well. What’s behind those rejections? What role does Islam play in the politics of women’s rights laws? Alice Kang, a PhD candidate in the UW-Madison Department of Political Science and a former SKJ Fellow through Global Studies, spent a year in Niger to look for answers. She sat down with Inside Islam to share her findings.

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Islamic Center near Ground Zero

Ground Zero in New York

An Islamic center near Ground Zero? That’s what Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is hoping for.  Al Farah Mosque on West Broadway has already bought the building at 45 Park Place that used to be the Burlington Coat Factory. The significance of this building goes beyond the fact that it is close to Ground Zero: on September 11th, a piece of one of the two planes went through the roof of the store. The staff were in the basement.

For years the owner of the building was unable to sell it. But this past July, the Cordoba Initiative, an interfaith group founded by Imam Feisal, was one of the investors that finally bought the building. Imam Feisal’s vision for the space is to build a cultural center that would build bridges between the Muslim community and other faith communities. For Imam Feisal, the proximity of the building to ground zero and the fact that a piece of the wreckage fell in that space is a central reason why this building was choosen. A place of prayer and interfaith dialogue, Imam Feisal asserts, will send a different message than that of the extremists.

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What Do People Ask about Islam?

Two weeks ago, I went to a sociology class to give a presentation on Islam. I have gone to this same class for at least the last four years. The experience is always interesting and challenging. Over the years, I have found that many of the questions remain the same, but become more nuanced, although sometimes the questions are new and force me to stop and think. In this post, I wanted to talk about the experience and the questions that students often ask about Islam. Continue reading

Islamic Finance and the Dubai Crisis

islamBankingA year ago we wrote a post about the seemingly unstoppable growth of Islamic finance while Western bankers and investors were entangled in the worst financial mess since the Great Depression. But the recent debt crisis in Dubai has caused many people to wonder whether the phenomenal growth in Islamic finance is a “mirage in the desert” after all. For me, the trouble in Dubai is another example of challenges faced by any socially responsible investment, Islamic or not. Continue reading

A Swiss Perspective on the Minaret Ban

This is a guest post by Dominique Haller, a producer for the Here on Earth show at Wisconsin Public Radio. She is from Switzerland.

The vote banning the construction of minarets in Switzerland leaves that country with many questions. How did it come to this vote? What does the Swiss political system have to do with it? Why did no one – not the politicians, not the polls, not the media – foresee this result? And what are people in Switzerland really expressing with their vote? Continue reading

Banning Minarets

Mosque in Zurich

On November 29th, a referendum was passed in Switzerland to ban the building of minarets. The referendum passed with a 57% majority vote and a 53% voter turnout. Many in the Swiss government have opposed the referendum but according to the Swiss system the referendum will be added to the Constitution.  There are a number of aspects of this recent vote that are troubling. Continue reading

Islam and Politics

“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose,” Antonio says to Shylock in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Religion is often used and misused by politicians to gain power. To understand the intricate relationship between Islam and politics, Brandon Kendhammer, a PhD candidate in political science at UW-Madison, went to Northern Nigeria and studied the implementation of sharia law in the region since the country’s democratic transition in 1999. He sat down with Inside Islam recently to share his experience and research findings. You can watch the whole interview by clicking on the video below. Continue reading

Inside Islam Wins Brass Crescent Award

brasscrescentThe Inside Islam team returned from the Thanksgiving holiday to discover, much to everyone’s surprise and delight, that Inside Islam has been named one of the winners of the 2009 Brass Crescent Awards. To find ourselves in the company of influential Muslim bloggers from all over the world is thrilling, and to be recognized for a “groundbreaking effort” is a great reward, especially for those of us who plunged into this project with a lot of faith, but very little prior experience. We are humbled and honored. On behalf of our entire team, please accept our sincere gratitude.

Did You Go to Hajj?

With the completion of hajj and celebrations of Eid al-Adha that occurred from November 25-30,  I thought it would be a good time to do a follow up on the Inside Islam radio show that aired November 19th, during which Jean talked with Michael Wolfe and Qanta Ahmed about hajj and their personal experiences as pilgrims. The show highlighted the history of  hajj and its links to the Abrahamic lineage as well as the modern logistical difficulties of 2 million plus pilgrims performing the same rituals in 5 days.

This year’s pilgrimage passed without significant casualties. Despite fears around swine flu, it was reported that only 4 pilgrims died as a result of swine flu. There was heavy rain this year that hampered the beginning of the pilgrimage. However, while a reported 100 died from the flooding, none were pilgrims.

What Wolfe and Ahmed both emphasized is that despite the difficulties and the casualties,  hajj does not stop and that alone makes this annual pilgrimage significant and unique.

Were you at the pilgrimage this year? What was the experience like? Have you been to hajj before? We want to hear from you. Help us continue the conversation by leaving a comment below.