Last month, Egyptians went to the polls to vote on a referendum for constitutional amendments that would pave the way for free elections later this year. Since Hosni Mubarak stepped down on February 11th, Egyptians have witnessed a wave of political activity. Various groups are trying to mobilize to be prepared to participate in the parliamentary and presidential elections. In this new atmosphere, there continues to be fear of an Islamist take over.
Despite its wealth of intellectuals, higher education institutions, and rich arts tradition, Pakistan has become increasingly choked by violent extremist elements. Initially foreign in origin, these elements are now seen as “indigenous” violent fundamentalism.
Inadequate land reform, an ambiguous national ideology, and politically motivated Islamic nationalization efforts by both internal and external forces have separated Pakistan on many measures from its rival and socio-historical “cousin” India. The pockets of social and religious conservatism within Pakistan’s borders are foreign to a majority of regional historical narratives, but extremist influences are rapidly growing.
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.
Tomorrow, March 2nd, on Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders, Jean will talk about non-violent resistance in the Middle East. The recent protests that began in Tunisia and Egypt and led to the ousting of both leaders have now spread to Yemen and Libya. What has caught the attention of the world is how peaceful, for the most part, these protests have been. When there has been violence, it has come from the government forces.
Discussions of these protests have characterized Islam–as embodied in groups like the Muslim Brotherhood— as something negative and more importantly violent, almost completely ignoring Islam’s tradition of non-violent resistance. This tradition stems from historical events, discussions about warfare, and Qur’anic verses that demonstrate the need for peaceful engagement. Continue reading
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.
This year’s Christmas celebrations in Iraq were subdued. Many of Iraq’s Christian citizens have fled after the massacre in the Syriac Cathedral of Baghdad where gunmen from a group linked to Al-Qaeda took over 100 hostages. In the end, 44 were killed. The fact that Christian citizens in Iraq fear for their life and have become the targets of violence by people claiming to act in the name of Islam troubles me. It is another example of a group of Muslims taking Islam hostage to put forward their own political agendas.
This past November in Pakistan, Aasia Bibi, a Christian, was sentenced to death by hanging. Bibi is accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad during an argument with co-workers. According to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, the punishment for defiling the Qur’an is life imprisonment, but for insulting the Prophet the penalty is death.
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
On August 3rd, 2010, a New York City Landmark Preservation Commission vote cleared the way for construction of a much-debated Islamic center. The center will be called Cordoba House, after the city in Andalusia where Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived together in tolerance and respect. I wrote about Cordoba last December, when the plans to build this cultural center emerged. Cordoba House will include a mosque, but it will much more than that–it will be like a YMCA and open to the community. Although it is frequently referred to in the mainstream media as the “Ground Zero Mosque,” it is not primarily a mosque, nor is it located at Ground Zero. Opposition to the project has received a lot of attention recently, but it should be noted that there is also a good deal of broad-based support for Cordoba House as well.
Among the arguments for the cultural center is the right to build a place of worship and the need to encourage moderate Muslims who are trying to counter the voices of the extremists. These were points that Mayor Michael Bloomberg reiterated in his speech in support of building the center. Mayor Bloomberg emphasized the right of Muslims, as well as other religious groups, to build places of worship and rejected the idea that the government should strip them of this right because some do not like their faith. One of his most important points was that Muslims are part of America, just like other immigrants. Continue reading