Lady Gaga Denied Concert Permit by Indonesian Authorities

Lady Gaga Photo: Real Hollywood

International pop star Lady Gaga was recently denied a concert permit for her upcoming Jakarta concert due to pressure from a few conservative Indonesian-based Muslim groups. The majority of Indonesians are likely offended by some of Gaga’s music and her concert performances, as her art is viewed as immodest and out of line with Islamic principles. However, the overwhelming majority of Indonesians have also taken little interest in actively preventing Gaga from taking to the stage on June 3. Interestingly, however, Indonesian authorities, supposedly following secular laws, have had a poor track record on cultural and religious tolerance, and since 2008, socially conservative Islamic organizations have successfully campaigned against a variety of western artists from performing in Indonesia: Mötley Crüe, N*E*R*D, Rihanna, Akon, 50 Cent, and Avenged Sevenfold have all cancelled their shows due to similar types of pressure.

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The Muslims Are Coming!

Comedy is one of the many means by which people deal with stereotypes. Muslim Americans have used comedy for some time to break down the negative stereotypes about Islam and Muslims. The idea is that if people can laugh together then barriers break down. In other words, it is a constructive way to have people reflect on what they think about Muslims. We have addressed the topic of Muslim American comedians before here on Inside Islam through both blog posts and radio programs. In this post, I will focus on the upcoming comedic film The Muslims Are Coming! Continue reading

Indigenous Mexican Converts

Imam Salvador Lopez Lopez (a.k.a. Muhammad Amin) performs zikhr, or remembrance of God, in a San Cristóbal mosque. Photo: Radio Netherlands Worldwide

In my recent post about the history of Islam in Mexico, I mentioned that Muslims in the country are generally concentrated in four cities: Tequesquitengo in Morelos, Torreón in Coahuila, San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas, and Mexico City.

While Muslims in Mexico represent diverse Islamic denominations, Muslims in San Cristóbal de las Casas are different from the other groups in the country. For one thing, they’re all converts. For another, they’re mostly descendants of the Mayan and Tzotzil indigenous groups.

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The Importance of the Mother in Islam

Yesterday, many parts of the world celebrated Mother’s Day, focusing on mothers and their contributions to their families. Since there is a negative stereotype of how Islam views women, many people may not know that mothers specifically and parents in general are held in very high esteem in the faith. There are verses in the Qur’an and hadith that emphasize the burdens that a mother carries and the respect that should be accorded to her. In this post, I will focus on the importance of mothers in Islam. Continue reading

Muslim-American Fencer Rises Above Tough Competition

Photo: Natalie Keyssar/WSJ

Maplewood, New Jersey, fencing star Ibtihaj Muhammad was recently named International Sportswoman of the Year by the Muslim Women’s Sports Foundation. In an interview, Muhammad, the third of five children in an athletic family, said that she initially began fencing because it easily allowed her to be fiercely competitive while maintaining her ability to wear hijab and present herself in modest dress. If her upcoming Olympic trial performance matches her world ranking, she’ll be one of two American women to fence in the London Olympic Games this summer. Although it cannot be confirmed, as the U.S. Olympic committee does not survey athletes’ religious backgrounds, Muhammad is probably also the first practicing Muslim woman to represent the U.S. in any Olympic event.

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The Debate Over Music

Duff/Daff (Source: chandrakantha.com)

One of the controversial topics that Muslim scholars have debated throughout Islam’s history is whether music and singing are halal (permissible) or haraam (forbidden). As I mentioned in an earlier post on the singer and songwriter Maher Zain, Muslims vary in their opinions on music. Since this topic has been extensively discussed and most of the opinions either way can be very lengthy, in this post I will just summarize some of the key points on the contention over the issue of music and singing. Continue reading

Banning Halal Meat?

Muslims in the United Kingdom have a new challenge facing them. Following attempts by other European nations like France, some British politicians have called for a ban on any meat that comes from an animal which has not been stunned before slaughter. Thus, the ban affects halal (sometimes also called dhabiha or zabiha) and kosher meats.

According to supporters of the ban, the manner in which Muslims and Jews traditionally slaughter is more painful to the animal than stunning the animal first and then slaughtering it. As in the Jewish tradition, Muslims have a particular manner in which they must slaughter an animal. The animal’s throat is slit to induce quick bleeding to reduce suffering. In order to do this, Muslims are instructed to make sure that the knife is sharpened. Also, in order to be as humane as possible, the knife should not be sharpened in front of any animals and one animal should not be slaughtered in front of another. Continue reading

Islam in Mexico

In Chiapas, Mexico, portions of the indigenous populations, such as Mayans and Tzotzils, have embraced Islam. Photo: Tumblr: Ihavefaith

Nayantara Mukherji is a journalist, editor, Inside Islam radio producer, and a recent addition to our writing team.

Although traditionally known for its strong Catholic community, Mexico is also home to a small yet diverse community of Muslims. According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the country had about 110,000 Muslims in 2009. That’s less than 1 percent of the population of Mexico. But according to Zidane Zeraoui, professor of international relations at the Technological University of Monterrey, the history of Islam in Mexico goes back to its earliest days.

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All-Girl Prom Inspired by Islamic Modesty

Over 100 girls attended Hamtramck High School's first ever all-girl prom. Photo: Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

The dream of one Bengali-American Muslim girl came true last week, when over 100 girls packed a local hall to dance, eat, and pray as part of Hamtramck High School’s first ever all-girl  prom. The story has made the New York Times, Boston Globe, and other international media giants, and has created some interesting discussion around gender in Islam and religion in the public sphere.

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Maher Zain: A Muslim Musician

Muslims around the world are using multiple media to express their identities. For many Muslim artists, music has become an important space to talk about their faith and the struggles they face. The music ranges from the overtly political to the spiritual. The focus of this post is Maher Zain, a Swedish Muslim of Lebanese descent who rose to fame in 2009 and just released his most recent album Forgive Me this past April. Zain’s music is influenced by his faith and has strong religious overtones. Continue reading