The Parliament Blog

Archive for the ‘quran’ tag

Remembering Quran Burning Day as a Win for Religion

Janaan Hashim, Parliament Trustee

I love my city of Chicago. One of my prouder moments occurred in 2010 which, to me, witnessed the manifestation of about ten years of outreach, communication, and deepening mutual respect across normative borders. It came out of years of interfaith dialogue and growing friendships.

At the end of that summer, I arrived home from my studies in Amman, Jordan to a welcome of something called “Quran Burning Day” as promulgated by some obscure preacher in Florida named Terry Jones.

I chuckled. I sighed. I knew that this preacher and his hate didn’t represent Christianity or those Christians beyond his flock. That’s illogical and runs contrary to my exposure and readings on Christians and their faith. He is an anomaly. Then I wondered how different today’s world would be if people thought similarly about Muslims and Islam when an anomaly decides to do some hateful act in the name of Islam. My following of this newest offense, I thought, would end there as I had better things to do with my time than give attention to this hate-monger.

A few days later I received a call to serve as the host of an interfaith press conference on Eid al-Fitr. This is the day of celebrating the completion of Ramadan and the fasting that comes with it; it was also the day of this Quran burning event.

Around 10,000 people attend the prayer and celebration each year at Toyota Park, home to Chicago’s soccer team. The field was packed with worshipers as our interfaith guests observed from the bleachers.

After the prayer, I was ready to move the press conference along, pressured with 14 people from 14 different faith traditions all wanting to voice their stand against the hate thrown toward Islam and its adherents. As I walked into the press room, I was given an additional five names.

To move a press conference along swiftly with a small handful of speakers is tough given news crews cannot stay long. But this was a powerful group with a powerful, single message: the Chicago interfaith community stands behind its Muslim brothers and sisters.

One local TV news station dedicated about 4 minutes of clip after clip, faith leader after faith leader, saying the same thing. The message denounced with a forceful voice any concerns that the same type of hate would be tolerated in Chicago. I’ll never forget Rev. Gregory Livingston, a Baptist, staring straight into the cameras and, with his bold, robust voice saying to the Florida preacher, “Brother, you’ve got it wrong.”

Such bonds of support and brotherhood is not strange in the world of religion. When people think religion polarizes us, a closer look indicates otherwise. It’s not religion that is polarizing, but those who want religion to polarize that causes the divide. To me, this position is simply playing into the hands of religious zealots and terrorists, reinforcing their warped perspective of religion.

People of faith trust their scriptures and one thing that interfaith dialogue has taught me is that, at their core, no faith in the world calls for hate of the other, destruction of civilization, or annihilation of different beliefs. Having nearly 20 faith traditions represented at this press conference exhibited the bond of brotherhood through several of our faiths’ common denominators: being your brother’s keeper; speaking the truth; standing against hate; educating the ignorant; detachment from self.

Knowing with full confidence that my friends of different faiths – indeed, different theologies and practices of worship – had my back did not arise out of a vacuum. This was the natural consequence of years of cooperation, discussion and firm belief that in coming together as an act of personal faith, we are taking strides toward creating a better world.

Janaan Hashim is a trustee of the Parliament of the World’s Religions an attorney with Amal Law Group, LLC and adjunct professor at McCormick Theological Seminary.

President Jimmy Carter’s “Call to Action” on Women, Religion, Violence and Power; (Excerpt Features 2009 Parliament)

From A CALL TO ACTION by Jimmy Carter. Copyright © 2014 by Jimmy Carter. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

 

All the elements in this book concerning prejudice, discrimination, war, violence, distorted interpretations of religious texts, physical and mental abuse, poverty, and disease fall disproportionately on women and girls.

I saw the ravages of racial prejudice as I grew up in the Deep South, when for a century the U.S. Supreme Court and all other political and social authorities accepted the premise that black people were, in some basic ways, inferior to white people. Even those in the dominant class who disagreed with this presumption remained relatively quiet and enjoyed the benefits of the prevailing system. Carefully selected Holy Scriptures were quoted to justify this discrimination in the name of God.

There is a similar system of discrimination, extending far beyond a small geographical region to the entire globe; it touches every nation, perpetuating and expanding the trafficking in human slaves, body mutilation, and even legitimized murder on a massive scale. This system is based on the presumption that men and boys are superior to women and girls, and it is supported by some male religious leaders who distort the Holy Bible, the Koran, and other sacred texts to perpetuate their claim that females are, in some basic ways, inferior to them, unqualified to serve God on equal terms. Many men disagree but remain quiet in order to enjoy the benefits of their dominant status. This false premise provides a justification for sexual discrimination in almost every realm of secular and religious life. Some men even cite this premise to justify physical punishment of women and girls.

Another factor contributing to the abuse of women and girls is an acceptance of violence, from unwarranted armed combat to excessive and biased punishment for those who violate the law. In too many cases, we use violence as a first rather than a last resort, so that even deadly violence has become commonplace.

My own experiences and the testimony of courageous women from all regions and all major religions have made it clear to me that as a result of these two factors there is a pervasive denial of equal rights to women, more than half of all human beings, and this discrimination results in tangible harm to all of us, male and female.

My wife, Rosalynn, and I have visited about 145 countries, and the nonprofit organization we founded, The Carter Center, has had active projects in more than half of them. We have had opportunities in recent years to interact directly among the people, often in remote villages in the jungles and deserts. We have learned a lot about their personal affairs, particularly that financial inequality has been growing more rapidly with each passing decade. This is true both between rich and poor countries and among citizens within them. In fact, the disparity in net worth and income in the United States has greatly increased since my time in the White House. By 2007 the income of the middle 60 percent of Americans had increased at a rate twice as high as that of the bottom 20 percent. And the rate of increase for the top 1 percent was over fifteen times higher, primarily because of the undue influence of wealthy people who invest in elections and later buy greater benefits for themselves in Washington and in state capitals. As the conservative columnist George Will writes, “Big government inevitably drives an upward distribution of wealth to those whose wealth, confidence and sophistication enable them to manipulate government.”

Yet although economic disparity is a great and growing problem, I have become convinced that the most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge is the deprivation and abuse of women and girls, largely caused by a false interpretation of carefully selected religious texts and a growing tolerance of violence and warfare, unfortunately following the example set during my lifetime by the United States. In addition to the unconscionable human suffering, almost embarrassing to acknowledge, there is a devastating effect on economic prosperity caused by the loss of contributions of at least half the human beings on earth. This is not just a women’s issue. It is not confined to the poorest countries. It affects us all.

After focusing for a few years on the problem of gender discrimination through our human rights program at The Carter Center, I began to speak out more forcefully about it. Because of this, I was asked to address the Parliament of the World’s Religions, an audience of several thousand assembled in Australia in December 2009, about the vital role of religion in providing a foundation for countering the global scourge of gender abuse. My remarks represented the personal views of a Christian layman, a Bible teacher for more than seventy years, a former political leader.

I reminded the audience that in dealing with each other, we are guided by international agreements as well as our own moral values, most often derived from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Bible, the Koran, and other cherished texts that proclaim a commitment to justice and mercy, equality of treatment between men and women, and a duty to alleviate suffering. However, some selected scriptures are interpreted, almost exclusively by powerful male leaders within the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and other faiths, to proclaim the lower status of women and girls. This claim that women are inferior before God spreads to the secular world to justify gross and sustained acts of discrimination and violence against them. This includes unpunished rape and other sexual abuse, infanticide of newborn girls and abortion of female fetuses, a worldwide trafficking in women and girls, and so-called honor killings of innocent women who are raped, as well as the less violent but harmful practices of lower pay and fewer promotions for women and greater political advantages for men. I mentioned some notable achievements of women despite these handicaps and described struggles within my own religious faith. I called on believers, whether Protestant, Catholic, Coptic, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or tribal, to study these violations of our basic moral values and to take corrective action.

No matter what our faith may be, it is impossible to imagine a God who is unjust.

— Zainah Anwar, founder of Sisters in Islam, Malaysia

In the following pages I will outline how I learned more and more about these issues, as a child, a submarine officer, a farmer, and a church leader during the civil rights struggle, as a governor and a president, as a college professor, and in the global work of The Carter Center. During the nine decades of my life I have become increasingly aware of and concerned about the immense number of and largely ignored gender-based crimes. There are reasons for hope that some of these abuses can be ended when they become better known and understood. I hope that this book will help to expose these violations to a broader audience and marshal a more concerted effort to address this profound problem.

I will explore the links between religion-based assertions of male dominance over women, as well as the ways that our “culture of violence” contributes to the denial of women’s rights. I maintain that male dominance over women is a form of oppression that often leads to violence. We cannot make progress in advancing women’s rights if we do not examine these two underlying factors that contribute to the abuse of women.

In August 2013 I joined civil rights leaders and two other American presidents at the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered there in 1963. As I looked out on the crowd and thought about the book I was writing, my thoughts turned to a different speech that King made, in New York City four years later, about America’s war in Vietnam, in which my oldest son was serving. King asserted, “I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.” King went on to ask that we Americans broaden our view to look at human freedom as inextricably linked with our commitment to peace and nonviolence.

Using this same logic, it is not possible to address the rights of women, the human and civil rights struggle of our time, without looking at factors that encourage the acceptance of violence in our society — violence that inevitably affects women disproportionately. The problem is not only militarism in foreign policy but also the resort to lethal violence and excessive deprivation of freedom in our criminal justice system when rehabilitation alternatives could be pursued.  Clearly, short-term political advantages that come with being “tough on criminals” or “tough on terrorism” do not offer solutions to issues like persistent crime, sexual violence, and global terrorism.

I realize that violence is not more prevalent today than in previous periods of human history, but there is a difference. We have seen visionary standards adopted by the global community that espouse peace and human rights, and the globalization of information ensures that the violation of these principles of nonviolence by a powerful and admired democracy tends to resonate throughout the world community. We should have advanced much further in the realization of women’s rights, given these international commitments to peace and the rule of law. Instead many of the gains made in advancing human rights since World War II are placed at risk by reliance on injury to others as a means to solve our problems.

We must not forget that there is always an underlying basis of moral and religious principles involved. In August 2013 Pope Francis stated quite simply that in addition to the idea that violence does not bring real solutions to societal problems, its use is contrary to the will of God: “Faith and violence are incompatible.” This powerful statement exalting peace and compassion is one on which all faiths can agree.

In June 2013 The Carter Center brought together religious leaders, scholars, and activists who are working to align religious life with the advancement of girls’ and women’s full equality. We called this a Human Rights Defenders Forum. Throughout this book I have inserted brief statements from some of these defenders that offer a rich array of ideas and perspectives on the subject.

“A Call to Action” © 2014 by Jimmy Carter. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster Inc., N.Y

Christian and Jewish Women Create Film About Syria’s Muslim Girls

 

A photo of the film cover. Photo from “The Light in Her Eyes” website.

by Julia Meltzer and Laura Nix, Filmmakers, “The Light in Her Eyes”

In a courtyard off a busy street in Damascus, Syria, boisterous girls run and play before class starts in the women’s side of Al-Zahra mosque. Inside the mosque, preacher Houda al-Habash teaches the Qur’an, educating women and girls about their religion, and their rights, within their faith. Julia Meltzer lived in Damascus in 2005, and from the moment she first entered Al-Zahra mosque, she recognized what a unique place it was. Houda’s school was well-organized and energized—filled with women and girls supporting each other in their studies.

Most people don’t associate Islam with women’s rights, and that’s exactly what we found interesting about the Al-Zahra Mosque Qur’an School. Inside this community, we uncovered a lively debate about women’s roles as mothers, teachers, wives, workers, sisters and daughters. Houda insists that secular education is an integral part of worship, because it gives her students the tools to make decisions about their futures. However, the school also emphasizes the importance of modesty and piety. These women and girls are following “the straight path” of Islam, because they want to live according to its structure, rules and ethics.

Houda’s version of women’s rights doesn’t look like ours. We were raised in the West by feminist mothers, grew up attending marches for reproductive freedom and identify as third-wave feminists. But the deeper we dove into Houda’s community, the more we realized how much our guidelines for judging women’s liberation and autonomy were informed by the parameters of our culture and experiences. As filmmakers, we believe it’s our job to understand our subjects, and to tell truthful stories about their worlds.

Click here to read the filmmakers’ full statement and to watch a trailer of the film

Why I’m Motivated to Bridge Religious Differences

by Dawud Walid

My passion for bridging religious differences has been shaped not only by my spiritual connection to the Islamic tradition, which promotes striving towards the common good, but also by how I was raised.

As a youth, I was privileged to travel abroad with my father, who worked for an agency that promoted trade and commerce.  I was exposed at a young age to people of diverse ethnic backgrounds as well as introduced to people of various faiths.  I met people who practiced indigenous African religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  I visited a Catholic church in West Germany prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall and toured the home of Anne Frank in Amsterdam.

Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib, who was a cousin and disciple of Prophet Muhammad, said, “People are enemies of what they do not know,” and “Whoever is ignorant of a thing finds fault in it.”

I believe that much of the conflict that exists among people of diverse faith traditions—that is not rooted in politics—is mere ignorance of the other.  Therefore, based upon my experiences in which I find confirmation from my spiritual tradition, organic intermingling and purposeful dialogue with others are the only hope that we have in cultivating peaceful coexistence between various peoples of faith.  Hence, I have been involved in both interfaith and intrafaith activism for the last 15 years.

Though I am an advocate of interfaith and intrafaith activism, I am certainly not a proponent of theological relativism, the concept that all philosophies are equally valid and that we must affirm others’ theology even when it conflicts with ours.  I find such relativist discourse to be unauthentic and counterproductive.  The purpose of interfaith and intrafaith dialogue is for us to recognize our differences to dispel misconceptions, which breeds fear of the other, so we can move towards the states of tolerance, peaceful coexistence and optimally mutual cooperation to make a more just world.

The Qur’an states (5:2), “Cooperate with each other in virtue and piety, but do not cooperate with each other in sin and enmity.”

As a member of the Metropolitan Detroit Interfaith Workers Rights Committee, I join others of various faith traditions to advocate for labor rights and social justice based upon our sincerely held beliefs, not to convert them to my theology.  With rights to have the existence of unions and collective bargaining being stripped, to Wall Street banks secretly renegotiating lenders’ mortgages, which have caused thousands of American citizens to become homeless, we need each other as various faith groups to challenge these injustices.  Jews cannot do it alone, Christians cannot, nor can Muslims.  It is through such collaboration based upon our acceptance of transcendent values within our separate traditions, which will earn us the pleasure of the Divine according to my belief.

As there is a need for interfaith cooperation, I also see the necessity for intrafaith dialogue and cooperation among Muslims.  Thankfully, American Muslims have not experienced sectarian tension that has led to violence as in Iraq and Pakistan.  Irrespective of schools of thought within Islam, Muslims share common social challenges, which need to be addressed, and one of the most pressing is Islamophobia.  Mosque construction projects have been met with vitriol across America in which anti-Muslim bigots do not distinguish whether the majority of worshipers in the mosque are Sunni or Shia Muslims.  When I’ve interviewed Sufi Muslim women, who were discriminated against due to wearing hijab, the offenders did not distinguish between whether they were members of a Sufi order or not in their discrimination. In all of these scenarios, to the offenders these were Muslims all the same.  Hence in 2006, I joined Islamic religious leaders in Metro Detroit from various traditions to clarify misinformation disseminated about Islam.  This convening then gave birth to continuing monthly meetings in which other common challenges are discussed between Muslims of various persuasions.

Life is short, and none of us know how long we will have to work to effectuate change for a better world.  The Creator will take care of the afterlife; that will all work itself out.  I believe that this world was entrusted to us to protect the creation and to cultivate the common good for all human beings.  My work in bridging religious differences has been and hopefully continues to be for the common good of all of us.

Dawud Walid is the Executive Director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI), an imam, and board member of the Metropolitan Detroit Interfaith Workers Rights Committee.

What Is Scripture: Muslims and Mormons

The Qur'an. Image from Wikimedia Commons

The Compilation of Latter-Day Saints's Standard Works. Image from Wikimedia Commons

by James Faulconer
from Patheos.com

Because of the alliterative relationship between the words “Mormon” and “Muslim” and because of widespread ignorance among Americans about both groups, it isn’t at all unusual for people to confuse Mormons with Muslims. Given events of the last ten or fifteen years and the current political campaign, that ignorance is abating for both groups.

Most people know that Mormons are not Muslims. And, probably partly because of Mitt Romney’s campaign, they fear Mormons less than Muslims. Sixty percent of those polled are comfortable or somewhat comfortable with a Mormon presidential candidate. Only 38 percent feel that way about a hypothetical Muslim candidate. So Mormons have less work to do explaining themselves than Muslims, but both share the need to do that explaining.

It isn’t unusual to have Muslim visitors come to Brigham Young University, and because of my work at the university, I’m sometimes asked to help host them. When I first started doing this, I was a little nervous. I wasn’t afraid of Muslims, but I was ignorant of them. As a result I was nervous about how to talk with them. Everything I knew about Islam was merely factual, stuff I learned in school and from books, and from reading the Quran about fifteen years ago. To my knowledge, I had visited and talked with a Muslim face-to-face only once in my life before four years ago.

Click here to read the full article

Being a Muslim and Being a Feminist Are Not Mutually Exclusive

By Fatemeh Fakhraie
From Common Ground News Service

Portland, Oregon – People, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, often tell me that I can’t be both a Muslim and a feminist. At a recent book reading in Oregon, for example, a male audience member asked me, “How does that even work?” These questions demonstrate some of the rigid misconceptions individuals have about Islam and feminism; many people think that they’re mutually exclusive categories. In fact, as a Muslim feminist, I have found them to have more in common than people realise, especially when it comes to social justice.

Ethos – the fundamental spirit that guides my faith– is more important to me than edicts, or strict dogma, and so when religious questions arise, I defer to big-picture themes. One of Islam’s major themes is that of equity and justice. The Qur’an details equitable divorce proceedings, fair treatment of orphans and just conduct when it comes to prisoners of war — situations that differ in details and circumstances in our modern times, but which are often fraught with unfairness and injustice. When I read the holy book, the themes of justice and dignity for humanity stand out to me.

These themes are the same ideals I take from feminism. Some assume that feminism is concerned only with the protection and advancement of women. But as a bi-racial Muslim woman, I can’t ignore the ways that different socially constructed categories, such as gender and race, interact and interrelate. My feminism is concerned with the dignity and rights of every person. Regardless of gender, race, religion, ability, or anything else, we all deserve to have control over our own destinies, earn equal compensation for our work and have the same chances at happiness and success.

Click here to read the full article

January 30th, 2012 at 10:45 am

Studying Sacred Texts Online to Encounter Another View of God

Martin Luther King, Jr. --ON Scripture

by Matthew L. Skinner

Research consistently shows that people—and I’m thinking primarily of those in my home country of the United States—know alarming little about the basic contours of the world’s religions.

Runaway ignorance about the foundational tenets or central writings of religions, whether of other religions or even one’s own, threatens to undermine the prospects for constructive inter-religious dialogue and cooperation. But a corollary ignorance should generate as much concern. Consider how widespread is misunderstanding of or unfamiliarity with the ways that religious beliefs and texts are interpreted or put into practice.

People of faith can promote religious literacy and better acquaint our neighbors (and ourselves) with our beliefs; but to do so without showing them how our faith is meaningfully lived out, how it helps us makes sense of our lives and our world, accomplishes little. Worse, it risks reducing the notion of “religion” to a list of definable assertions or a set of historical processes.

In my vocation as a scholar who educates students to serve in Christian ministry, I emphasize the need for biblical interpreters to be more forthcoming, more public, about their hermeneutical presuppositions and tendencies. Pastoral leadership, I believe, is less about transmitting “what the Bible says” than it is about attending to the ways faithful imaginations get shaped through attentive, critical, and corporate interaction with the Bible. Other Christians may approach scripture out of a different set of values, but I would expect them to agree that the goal of having and reading a Bible is not to amass more information so much as it is to meaningfully indwell and practice their faith.

Given these convictions, it makes sense that I became part of an editorial team responsible for launching nearly six months ago a Web-based resource called ON Scripture—The Bible. Produced weekly by Odyssey Networks, the multi-faith media coalition, and published on their website, Huffington Post Religion, and the Protestant preaching site Day 1, ON Scripture—The Bible is simply an investigation of a biblical text, offered in a way intended to show readers how the Bible might affect people’s interactions with the trends and events that inform our lives. An accompanying video follows the biblical themes or a current event, making for a richer exploration into lives of faith.

I knew ON Scripture—The Bible would, as it has done, provide Christians a forum for learning more about—and vigorously discussing—how the Bible is faithfully interpreted in light of current news and social realities. My pleasant surprise has been discovering that it brings others, especially those interested in reading the Bible over Christians’ shoulders, into the conversation, as well. Whether out of curiosity, worry, or respect, others want to see what Christians are doing with their scriptures.

By making the study of scripture more public, ON Scripture—The Bible welcomes others into discourse around the nature of the Christian Bible, hermeneutics, and practices of faith, whether they realize that this is what they are doing or not.

Having glimpsed the potential for a resource like this to attract and promote not just intra-faith but also interfaith conversation, Odyssey Networks expects to launch ON Scripture—The Torah in early 2012. This will feature rabbis and Jewish scholars writing weekly on Torah passages. The possibility of a third ON Scripture resource, dedicated to interpretation of the Quran, sits on the horizon.

These resources cannot make up for our culture’s shortcomings in “religious literacy.” But they do much to promote “religious fluency,” which consists of a curiosity and ability to be in informed, constructive conversation with a religious tradition, whether one’s own or someone else’s. It is about becoming familiar with people’s ways of living their faith.

The focus on sacred texts provides a fitting arena for welcoming others to observe a religious worldview in action. At the same time, it affords anyone with a computer the opportunity to examine other religious perspectives. For in doing so, I do not just read another’s sacred text; I watch another person enter into creative and expectant dialogue with this text. The encounter becomes personal, and a clearer window into a lived faith. To peer inside other people’s scriptural interpretation—and inside another religion’s scripture—is to gain a better sense of their understanding of who or what God is, and their understanding of what it means to respond to this God.

Matthew L. Skinner is Associate Professor of New Testament at Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, MN, and a contributing editor to ON Scripture—The Bible.

 

Thank You, Steve Jobs, From a Muslim Innovator

by Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid
from Huffington Post

The first time I visited the offices of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, I noticed Apple’s Macs all over the place. “Some people are trying to change the world!” I thought to myself. Here were individuals committed to engaging otherwise warring religious groups for the common good — a revolutionary idea indeed. It was just those types of “crazies” who embraced Macintosh early on. I was one of them.

It was an Apple publicity campaign that included images of Einstein, Gandhi, Jim Henson and Muhammad Ali all stating: “Only those who are so crazy as to think they can change the world can truly change the world.”

Steve, born Abdul Lateef Jandali, was the son of Abdul Fattah John Jandali, a Syrian Muslim, and Joanne Schieble, an American Christian mother whose conservative father refused to let them get married. So Steve was given up for adoption. As a school dropout, sometimes, the only full meal he had was at a Hari Krishna langar. Later he converted to Buddhism. And many wonder why he would walk around without shoes at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA.

In the United States, where diversity is becoming as American as apple pie, Steve Jobs’ story must be inspiring to all who believe in our nation’s future and its contribution to humanity. While our country was going downhill because of wars and the economy, Apple was rising to become the number one company in the world, giving clues to America of what needs to be done to turn things around for all of us.

Click here to read the full article

Islamophobia’s Implications for the United States

by Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy and Akbar Ahmed
from Huffington Post

Amid a surging fear of Muslims — Islamophobia — in our nation, it is time for all of us to improve our understanding of Islam and our relationships with Muslims — if not because it is right to do this morally, then because it is in our best interests nationally.

The fact is that we live in a world alongside one and a half billion Muslims, and regardless of the desire of some on the fringes of society, our Muslim neighbors are not going anywhere. A failure to understand this population and its religion is bad enough. Choosing to intentionally demonize those who follow this religion and provoke the anger of the Muslim people qualifies not just as insensibility but insanity.

Click here to read the full article

At the Mosque in Beit Fajjar after the Fire

Janaan in mosque at Beit Fajjar

Janaan in mosque at Beit Fajjar

by Janaan Hashim

While wrapping up our one-week visit to Israel and Palestine, human nature’s ugly face left its mark in a house of worship.  Not associated with the Nobel Women’s Initiative, a sister delegate and I embarked on our own to offer our support in the small village of Beit Fajjar in Palestine.

The mosque was, indeed, torched and Qurans were visibly set aflame.  The carpet was some sort of man-made material and so the flames only went as far at the accelerant that caught fire.  Make no mistake, the heat was so intense that the tiles on the pillars weakened their adhesive and they fell off, landing in a mess on the charred floor.  The soot was thick and provided a clear layer on the walls and ceiling; kids wrote in it Islamic phrases in Arabic, such as “Allah” and “Muhammad.”  I didn’t read anything derogatory against the assailants, though clearly the opportunity was there.

Who would do this?  What was their aim?  Why damage a house of worship?

Janaan holding burnt Quran

Janaan holding burnt Quran

The offenders were nearby Israeli settlers.  They left their mark above the front entrance, spray painting “Price Tag” above the door.  This is the price that the Muslims, living in the Occupied Territories, are paying.

The people there were, much to my relief, not angry or spiteful.  Hollywood would have the streets filled with demonstrators all sweaty and angry, fists pumping into the air.  They would want the impression that Muslims and Arabs are emotionally reactionary people; hot-headed if not barbaric.  An Israeli and American flag would likely be burning, perhaps the image of a settler dangling from a noose.  But just as Hollywood creates fiction, so would be such an image.

To the contrary, the imam and others that we talked to were calm and patient.  They showed us the damage; in the corner a TV crew and other media were documenting the hate crime.  At one point, they interviewed the mosque leaders who did not raise their voices or vow for revenge.  They simply allowed the damage to speak for itself.

At one point, I asked to sit and reflect in the mosque.  They left Ann and me there; Ann sitting by the front door as I found a place in the middle of the destruction, devastation and black remains.  I sat and reflected, supplicated.  I prayed for the Creator of all to keep these people strong and I prayed for the settlers who did this—for God to guide them and to realize their wrongs, to become better human beings.

Boys at Beit Fajjar

Boys at Beit Fajjar

Before I left, I found myself surrounded by about 15 curious boys.  I chuckle because I knew what was going on in their minds: we have to see for ourselves the American Muslim woman who wears hijab, can it be?  I realized an all too familiar role when I travel to the Middle East not just as a sister of faith, but as an American Muslim.

I told them to remember their faith.  I told them not to let their anger make them like the people who did this, but instead, to rise to the occasion and to be the Muslims that their faith and their prophet calls upon.  The adults understood, but I wonder about this younger generation.  God willing, I hope and pray they follow the footsteps of their village leadership.

The boys followed Ann and me as we went outside and waited for the bus to return us to Bethlehem.  We noticed some activity on the street with an extremely large tarp and then, minutes later, realized what was happening.   The tarp was hoisted to the roof of the mosque and then dropped down to protect it from nature’s elements.  No loud screaming or protests from the street, just doing the next logical thing—prepare the mosque against further damage.

A few days later, Rabbi Eilberg from our delegation sent me an email with an article attached.  Much to my happiness, a group of Rabbis from a nearby settlement approached the mosque with new Qurans in hand.  They condemned the acts stating that there is no place in the Torah or Judiasm for such acts.

Imagine the effect this bold stand will have on the village leadership and villagers themselves.  Imagine that not only did they receive media attention, not only did an Irish woman and American Muslim visit, but the common hand of faith reached across the aisle to recognize a wrong.  Imagine the effect this will have on creating a better tomorrow.

Janaan Hashim is a member of the Council’s Board of Trustees and the host for Radio Islam.