Ed Husic: First Muslim MP in Australia

Yesterday, September 28th, history was made in Australia. The first Muslim Member of Parliament was sworn in using the Qur’an. Edham (Ed) Husic, the son of Bosnian Muslim immigrants, was elected into office on August 21st and became the first Muslim lawmaker on the federal level in the 109-year history of the country.

His election, however, was not without its trials. In 2004, Husic ran for a seat but lost the election. Flyers were distributed that said that he was a devout Muslim trying to push for Islam in Greenway, in Western Syndney. In this election, Husic faced similar challenges from his opponent David Barker, who posted anti-Islamic comments on his Facebook page and tried to highlight Husic’s Muslim background. Barker, however, was asked to step down by the Liberal Party.

Although Muslims only make up 1.5% of the total Australian population, Husic’s win has meant a move towards more tolerance and acceptance. In this context Husic has called on the Australian Muslim community to be more vocal in their opposition to terrorism and said that a collective effort is needed to ease the tensions that have emerged since 9/11.

With all the conflict surrounding Muslim citizens, mosques, veiling, and immigration in America and Europe, this story reminds us that there are positive steps toward tolerance.

What do you think of this story? Is it significant that Husic was sworn in on the Qur’an?  Do you think his election indicates more tolerance? Please share your comments below.

Al-Madrasa: A Center for Tolerance

With all the controversy over Cordoba House in New York, many have forgotten that its name stems from Al-Andalus (Andalusia) or Muslim Spain, an excellent example of interfaith tolerance and harmony. Al-Madrasa or The Faculty of Andalusian Studies located in Alquería de Rosales, Spain, is a center that encourages that spirit of tolerance by opening its doors to those of any faith.

Al-Madrasa is a center for for the study of Muslim Culture and Andalusian history founded 17 years ago by Professor Abdus Samad Antonio Romero, a Sufi Muslim convert, and his wife. In addition to being a center for Islamic study, Al-Madrasa hosts a summer program for children from 8-16 years old. In this program, children study Arabic, learn to make Andulusian ceramics, go swimming, and participate in many other activities that you would find in any summer camp. The difference, however, with Al-Madrasa is that, while its facilities include a mosque and the call to prayer is heard 5 times a day, it also encourages children from other faith traditions to participate. The purpose of Al-Madrasa is to engender positive dialogue between different traditions.

Initiatives like Al-Madrasa are a dire necessity. To have people meet, eat together, and share positive activities creates a more open atmosphere to examine differences and to find points of commonality.  Moreover, a place like Al-Madrasa, will do much to demonstrate that Muslims in Western nations are invested in their countries and like their fellow citizens want to live together peacefully.

Have you heard of Al-Madrasa? Do you think initiatives like this can work to create tolerance? Does something like Al-Madrasa exist in the United States? Can it help to ease tensions? Please share your comments below.

Controlling women is not part of Islam

In Saudi Arabia, there is a movement to put an end to the guardianship system that controls the lives of women. Under this system, Saudi women cannot work, study,travel, or even open a bank account without the permission of their guardian–a man. Opponents of this system, like Wajeha Al-Huwaider, a Saudi women’s activist, argue that it prevents women from carrying out normal lives. Supporters, on the other hand, maintain that the guardianship system is in line with Islamic law and have even gone so far as to launch the campaign “My Guardian Knows What’s Best for Me.”

Arguing that guardianship stems from Islam strips women of the very rights that Islam itself gives them. For example, education is a right for both women and men. A hadith, saying of the Prophet Muhammad, that is often cited is “The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim.” – [Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 74] In this hadith, no distinction is made between women and men.  Also, it is well known that  Ayesha, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad, played a big role in preserving many of the hadiths that directly contribute to our knowledge of him. Continue reading

Burning the Qur’an

As the month of Ramadan comes to an end, many Muslims and non-Muslims alike are concerned about the plans of a Florida church to burn copies of the Qur’an on the 9 year anniversary of 9/11. Ramadan is more than just a month of fasting; it is a month that celebrates the Qur’an and for it to close with such an affront to the faith is troubling.

Despite numerous calls by officials and condemnations of the Qur’an burning rally, Dove World Outreach Center‘s pastor Terry Jones has said that the church will carry out the public burning. General David Petraeus has said that the Qur’an burning could endanger American troops; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that the burning is a “disrespectful and disgraceful act“; and even the Vatican has said that this is an “outrageous and grave gesture.” Continue reading

All-Female Mosques in China

One of the stereotypes of Islam is that  it forces women to be subservient and prevents them from full participation in society. While there are societies that I would argue do misappropriate the faith to serve their own interpretations, numerous examples exist of how Muslim women not only participate, but take on leadership roles. One such example is in China where Muslim women not only have their own mosques, but also have their own female imams.

China is not often thought of when one discusses Islam, but it should be. Not only does it have over 20 million Muslims (much larger than the American Muslim population), it has the unique tradition of independent all-women mosques. Some of these mosques date from over 100 years ago and the imams are formally trained. Many of the women’s mosques began as Qur’anic schools for girls, providing education they were not able to find elsewhere. Continue reading