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

Inside Islam Radio: Review and Preview

On the most recent Inside Islam radio show, Islam and Science, Jean talked with George Saliba, professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Columbia and a leading expert on the history of Islamic science, and Ehsan Masood, author of Science and Islam: A History.  In addition, the show aired a recorded interview with Nidal Guessom, professor of physics and astronomy at the American University of Sharjah.

The show explored the contributions of scientists under the Islamic Empire and the role they played in the rise of modern science.  The questions discussed included:

  • Why have the contributions of these scientists been ignored?
  • What role can religion play in advancing science?
  • What were the reasons for the decline of Islamic science?
  • What is the state of scientific inquiry in the Islamic world?

In general, the show shed light on an important part of scientific history and generated discussion even after its airing with a blog entry on MuslimMatters.org .

The next Inside Islam radio show will air on March 11th and will focus on the art of reciting the Qur’an. The Qur’an may be one of the world’s most misunderstood texts. Many do not realize that there is an aesthetic dimension that plays a central role in eliciting an emotive response in the listener. The show will explore this aesthetic aspect in order to shed light on the Qur’an.

Have you ever heard the Qur’an recited? What was your reaction? Do you think that there is an emotive response to Qur’anic recitation? Why? Do you have a specific Qur’anic reciter that you enjoy listening too? Is there something about Qur’anic recitation you have always wanted to ask? Please leave your comments and questions below and they may appear on the air on the next Inside Islam show.

Islam in Iran: Interview with Saideh Jamshidi

saidehIran is very much in the news. For example, the mass protests against last year’s disputed presidential election generated tremendous support for the Iranian people. Also, Tehran’s nuclear program is causing fears that Iran is moving towards a military dictatorship with the ability to launch devastating terrorist attacks. But how do ordinary Iranians view their country and Islam? I talked to Saideh Jamshidi recently, a journalist born and raised in Iran. She came to the US in 1999, has been working for Free Speech Radio News, and just started her graduate study in journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Continue reading

My Name is Khan

This past week the film My Name is Khan was released to audiences worldwide and has broken global box office records. The Bollywood film examines a topic that the American media shies away from:  the struggles of Muslim Americans after the September 11th attacks.

This highly anticipated film tells the story of Rizwan Khan, a Muslim with Asperger’s syndrome, who moves to San Francisco to live with his brother. There he meets and marries Mandira. Rizwan, Mandira, and her son Sameer live together and both Mandira and Sameer take on the last name Khan. However, after the attacks of 9/11, they face prejudice. Mandira blames their struggles on the new last name “Khan.” In order to stay in Mandira’s life, she tells him he must tell Americans and the President that his name is Khan and that he is not a terrorist. This mission leads him on a journey across the United States, in which he is detained, imprisoned, and tortured because he  is seen as a terrorist suspect, even when he tries to inform the FBI about Faisal Rahman, who espouses violent rhetoric at the local mosque.

Continue reading

Clinton at US-Islamic World Forum

From February 13th-15th, the seventh annual US-Islamic Forum was held in Doha, Qatar. The annual conference, hosted by the Brookings Institution and Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, brings together experts and policymakers from around the Muslim world and the United States. The conference–titled “Writing the Next Chapter”–focused on President Obama’s approach to the Muslim world and his speech in Cairo last June to examine the the changes and opportunities that emerged as a result of Obama’s call to build new bridges. The speech was screened at the opening session of the conference.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the conference and echoed President Obama’s message. Clinton emphasized that President Obama is still committed to fulfilling his promises to work towards a two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians, to close Guantanamo, to engage countries like Iran through dialogue, and to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While recognizing the impatience of many in the Middle East that no tangible change has occurred, she asserted that these kinds of changes require assistance from the worldwide community. The United States, she underscored, cannot do this alone.  She went on to discuss the issue of airport security and the need for freedom of expression. Continue reading

Muslim-Christian Coexistence in Egypt

Last Thursday, Egypt unveiled the restored St. Anthony’s monastery near the Red Sea. This monastery is considered to be the oldest in the world. The state-sponsored renovation project has taken 8 years and cost $14.5 million and according to Egypt’s chief archaeologist, Zahi Hawass,  represents how Muslims and Christians coexist and share a heritage. This comes within a month of the shootings on Jan. 6th, the Coptic Christmas eve, in which six Christians and Muslim guard were killed.

While there is an ongoing investigation of the shooting and the incidents of violence between the two groups has increased, events like this are important. As  I mentioned in my post on the January 6th shootings, Muslim and Christian Egyptians share a heritage. It is vital to preserve all aspects of this heritage because I think both faiths call for respect and tolerance of the other. So, while I don’ t think that renovating St. Anthony’s monastery will alleviate the real problems in Egypt or erase the tension, it is a promising gesture and shows that there is a positive past to build on.

Do you think that this renovation represents coexistence between Muslims and Christians? Can projects like this bring people together? Please share your comments below.

Ban the Burqa in France?

Last July, I wrote about President Nicholas Sarkozy’s comments on the burqa. Since then, a number of steps have been taken towards a partial ban on the burqa that included setting up a panel to discuss the issue as well as a national debate on French identity.

Over the last six months, the panel has been studying the burqa in France and a few weeks ago released its recommendations to prohibit women who wear the burqa from using any public services like schools, hospitals, and public transportation. The panel determined that the burqa is not compatible with the ideals of secularism and French values. Moreover, proponents of a ban assert that the burqa oppresses women and represents a growing faction of radical Muslims.  Opponents of the ban argue that it strips Muslim women of the personal liberties they are guaranteed in France and will in fact lead to further isolating these women. Continue reading

Helping or Hurting Muslims?

On Tuesday night, I attended Ayaan Hirsi Ali‘s talk “Refuse to be Silenced: Feminism Today” as part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Distinguished Lecture Series. This series aims to generate constructive dialogue around controversial issues. I was hesitant to go to the lecture because I was aware of her story and her attitudes towards Islam; however, I decided to go and listen to hear what she has to say.

Ali is a Somali and Dutch writer, politician, and critic of Islam. She was born to a Muslim family in Somalia and in the early part of her life was a practicing Muslim. In 1992, she arrived in the Netherlands and was granted political asylum. She has written that the reason for her fleeing to the Netherlands was a forced marriage. However, it came to light in 2006 that she had given false information on her asylum application, so the exact events that led to her arrival in the Netherlands are unclear. She was voted into the Dutch parliament in 2003 and later resigned as a result of the asylum controversy. In 2002, Ali left Islam and became an atheist. Continue reading

American Perceptions of Muslims

biasCoverEven though two thirds of Americans (63%) admit that they have little or no knowledge about Islam, according to a recent Gallup poll, almost half of Americans acknowledge some level of prejudice against Islam (53%) and Muslims (43%). Furthermore, “personal affiliation with a Muslim may help to soften extreme prejudice, but is not enough to eliminate it.”

Comparing what Americans believe Muslims think to what Muslims actually think, the study finds a big gap between the two. For example, only 16% of Americans agree that “most Muslims around the world believe that women and men should have equal rights,” while in reality, majorities of people in more than 35 Muslim countries surveyed by Gallup support gender equality. The support is above 73% even in conservative Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, and Egypt. Continue reading

Student Reporter on UW Campus Muslims

UW students Dalia Saleh and Akbar Yakub (credit: Mary Langenfeld)

UW students Dalia Saleh and Akbar Yakub (credit: Mary Langenfeld)

This is a guest post by Clare Milliken, a UW-Madison undergraduate majoring in journalism. She recently published a story about the Muslim student community on campus in the Isthmus newspaper.

Working as a reporter opens your eyes to the world, allowing you an intimate look into others’ lives, cultures, and experiences. Never have I appreciated this ability as much as I did writing on UW’s Muslim community.

I began my research on a December Thursday at the Muslim Students Association meeting at Memorial Union. I tried, as much as possible, to immerse myself in Muslim students’ lives, from musical tastes to prayer practices. After 20 interviews, secondary research, and my first Friday service at a local mosque, I began writing the piece in the hopes of granting other people this “reporter’s window.” Continue reading