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News from USA: Muslim Americans more popular than the Tea Party

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  • Zafar Khan
    Muslim Americans more popular than the Tea Party Thursday, 17 October 2013
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 29, 2013
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      Muslim Americans more popular than the Tea Party
      Thursday, 17 October 2013

      http://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/world/2013/10/17/Muslim-Americans-more-popular-than-the-Tea-Party.html

      Tea Party favorites Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin and Larry Klayman spent most of last week bashing Muslims and introducing the “Quran” and “Allah” to the shutdown and debt ceiling debate that they are losing in Congress.
      Unfortunately for them, Muslims are in fact more popular and viewed more favorably by Americans than the far right movement.
      Having failed at governance and the basic task of securing an operational government, the Tea Party leaders had to retreat to ugly screams of Islamophobia in order to distract attention from their downfall and to drum up support with fear tactics. Larry Klayman, a clownish figure who started the Tea Party group Freedom Watch, brought a whole new dimension to the budget and debt ceiling debate last weekend, claiming that the U.S. is “ruled by a president who bows down to Allah” and who needs to “put the Quran down.” Klayman is not alone, 17 percent of Americans -mostly his constituency, according to a Pew poll - believe that U.S. President Barack Obama is a Muslim.
      Islamophobia
      Klayman was speaking at the World War II memorial, a site that bears the names of American soldiers who lost their lives during the war. Those names include Muslims and Christians and Jews, who, unlike Tea Party zealots, thrived and fought the fascists and the Nazis for a pluralistic society, and on behalf of a country that espouses one vision for all its inhabitants.

      The same Islamophobia was demonstrated a few days before at the Values Voters Summit where rising Republican Senator Rand Paul spoke of a “worldwide war on Christianity” from “Boston to Zanzibar,” declaring that the terror act in Boston “was against us as a people, a Christian people.” The senator obviously missed the fact that some of the 144 injured in the bombing were Muslims, including a Saudi student, and the dead suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was denounced by the Muslim community and denied burial by a Boston mosque.
      But these kinds of details don’t help Tea Party leaders in shoring up their base and spewing division to cover up their political failure in Washington. The Tea Party star Sarah Palin wants “Allah to sort out” the Syrian conflict, while Congresswoman Michele Bachmann sees in the war and Obama’s strategy a sign of “the end of times.”
      Less favorable than Muslims
      Islamophobia is a strategic distraction stemming from the legislative blunders that the Tea Party movement is facing in Washington. Their positions are out of touch with mainstream Americans and the vast majority of the electorate who are looking for economic recovery and not bankrupting the country. This trajectory has made the Tea Party even less popular than Islam in the view of most Americans.
      According to a Wall Street Journal-NBC poll released on Friday, the popularity of the Tea Party has hit its lowest since 2010, with a favorability of 21 percent among Americans. No party in American politics has been that unpopular since 1992, and on a scale close to that of the Congress. Such numbers would make the Tea Party even less popular than colonoscopies and root canals (PPP poll).
      Don’t get me wrong, Muslims’ and Arab Americans’ popularity is not skyrocketing by any means, but they are viewed more favorably than the Tea Party. A Zogby poll in August of 2012 puts favorability of Muslims at 40 percent, almost double that of the Tea Party. A Pew Poll right after the Boston bombing last May reveals that 46 percent of Americans don’t think that Islam encourages violence, while 42 percent think it does. The same poll finds that nearly two-thirds of U.S. Muslims, 63 percent, say there is no inherent contradiction between being devout and living in a modern society such as the U.S., and only 1 percent find that violence against the innocent is justifiable.
      These numbers should be an eye-opener for Tea Party leaders, whose movement today is more isolated and detached from the American political mainstream than any time before. Spreading falsehoods about Muslims or claiming that Obama is one will not help in cutting the deficit or balancing the budget or reforming healthcare. If anything, the Tea Party should look closer at the record of the Founding fathers that it claims to represent. They would find in Thomas Jefferson’s Quran a true symbol of what America is: An exceptional experiment in pluralism and tolerance.
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      Muslims have been woven into fabric of America
      By Robert Azzi
      October 13, 2013 2:00 AM

      http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20131013-OPINION-310130322

      In 1682, Virginia promulgated a regulation that defined a slave as all from "heathenish, idollatrous (sic), pagan and mahometan (sic) parentage," and in 1685 the Spanish Council of the Indies ruled, "The introduction of Mohammedan slaves into America is forbidden on account of the danger which lies in their intercourse with the Indians."

      Oh, the dilemmas early settlers and colonialists had to confront — whether to enslave Muslims, or ban them in order to deny them "intercourse with the Indians."

      Over past years I have given presentations on Muslims in America. In a presentation I have called, "President Jefferson's Qur'an," I outline America's historical engagement with Islam.

      Last week, at the Exeter Historical Society, I had to add a local footnote when I read that New Hampshire law enforcement authorities were investigating a "bias motive" in the July 2013 vandalism at the Islamic Society of Greater Manchester construction site — vandalism that cost more than $30,000 to repair .

      The perpetrators, ages 11 and 13, caught red-handed through video surveillance, allegedly bragged online of their actions and posted comments on anti-Muslim hate sites.

      Beyond the attacks, what caught my attention was how little had been reported in the New Hampshire press and how negligible the public response to an act against a small, exposed community in our midst trying to deepen its American roots.

      In my presentations, I note that perhaps as many as 20 percent of America's slaves were Muslim, many sold by Muslim slave traders, and I attempt to track the path America has taken from a slave-holding nation to a democracy that promises the same rights and privileges to all citizens.

      It has not been an easy path, and there are clearly contradictions between the privileges, profit and power of a nation built with slave labor on stolen land, and a nation that aspired to be built along Enlightenment principles espousing a belief "that all men are created equal."

      Cotton Mather, best known for his inflammatory role in provoking the Salem Witch Trials, who had excoriated the Barbary pirates as "Mahometan Turks, and Moors and Devils," was himself caught, in 1721, in a clash between crescent and cross. He was not an ignorant man: Regardless of his weaknesses and prejudices he was a widely read scholar who tolerated no theological limits on his learning. Having read about the Ottoman use of inoculation against disease, he advocated for its use during the Boston smallpox epidemic of 1721.

      His embrace of a foreign cure roiled entrenched segments of both the scientific and religious communities, and brought him threats, "Cotton Mather, you dog, dam (sic) you! I'll inoculate you with this; with a pox to you!" and a primitive explosive device thrown into his house.

      When Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, a signer of our Declaration of Independence, wrote, "True freedom embraces the Mahometan and Gentoo (Hindu) as well as the Christian religion," a sentiment that clearly repudiated his commonwealth's 1682 regulation while at the same time leaving unchallenged his state's institution of slavery, he reflected a cultural schizophrenia with which many still struggle, while Theophilus Parsons, one of its authors, said that the 1780 Massachusetts Constitution was designed to ensure "the most ample of liberty of conscience" for "Deists, Mahometans, Jews and Christians."

      The Treaty of Tripoli, signed at Tripoli on Nov. 4, 1796, and signed by President John Adams on June 10, 1797, included the clause, "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion, — as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen (Muslims), — and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan (Mohammedan) nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

      The first iftar, the sunset meal that marks the end of a day of fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadan, was first hosted by a president of the United States by Thomas Jefferson on Dec. 9, 1805, to honor a visiting envoy, Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, from Tunis who was in Washington to negotiate ongoing issues over the Treaty of Tripoli and the continuing activities of some Barbary pirates. Jefferson, in deference to his visitor, changed the mealtime from the usual 3:30 p.m. to "precisely at sunset."

      Early Americans were not averse to learning about Islam. The Library of Congress owns a 1764 edition of the Quran that belonged to Thomas Jefferson, purchased while he was a student at the College of William and Mary. John Adams, who helped defend the Amistad mutineers, owned a copy of the first Quran printed in America (Springfield, Mass., 1806) that is now in the collection of the Boston Public Library.

      Today, historians are now learning of slaves like Omar ibn Sayyid, a learned Muslim scholar who was kidnapped from his African home during a period of warfare and ended up living in the Carolinas. Sayyid may have been "one of the (if not the) most educated slaves in North Carolina ...; the author of the only known autobiography of a slave written in a native language, and one of the most documented examples of a practicing-Muslim slave." (Davidson College Web site)

      When Dwight Eisenhower spoke at the Islamic Center of Washington dedication in 1957, at the time the largest Muslim place of worship in the Western Hemisphere, he reaffirmed America's foundational principle of religious freedom, saying, "America would fight with her whole strength for your right to have here your own church and worship according to your own conscience. This concept is indeed a part of America, and without that concept we would be something else than what we are."

      From America's first slaves, from the first mosque built on the North Dakota plains to the community of Albanian Muslim textile workers who worshipped in Biddeford, Maine, to the Muslims struggling to build community in Manchester, Muslims have been woven into the fabric of America.

      On Jan. 4, 2007, Rep. Keith Ellison was sworn into Congress, its first Muslim, using President Jefferson's Quran, an embrace of the historical continuity of American values.

      Perhaps thinking introspectively, Cotton Mather once wrote, "Ah! Destructive Ignorance, what shall be done to chase thee out of the World?" The "Destructive Ignorance" of the Manchester 11-year-old and 13-year-old vandals was not self-inspired: It clearly reflected the prejudices of adults who taught them, adults who do not embrace American values — values that embrace the hospitality and vision of an inclusive public square.

      In one of the most remarkable documents written by a Founding Father, George Washington wrote to the Touro Synagogue in 1790, "May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig-tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid."

      George Washington's affirmation of America's foundational principle of religious freedom is a message not just to the Jews of Rhode Island but an eternal message to Americans of all faiths — to all Americans - and continues to this day.

      Robert Azzi is a writer and photographer living in Exeter. He may be reached at theother.azzi@....
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      The Surprising Story Of 'Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an'
      by NPR STAFF
      October 12, 2013 3:34 PM

      http://www.npr.org/2013/10/12/230503444/the-surprising-story-of-thomas-jeffersons-quran

      Thomas Jefferson had a vast personal library reflecting his enormous curiosity about the world. Among his volumes: a Quran purchased in 1765 that informed his ideas about plurality and religious freedom in the founding of America.

      In her book Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an: Islam and the Founders, author Denise Spellberg draws parallels between the beliefs of the founding father and religious tolerance in the United States today.

      "I think that there is anxiety about what Muslims believe, largely because people don't understand Islam very well. I think that was also true in the 18th century," Spellberg says. "It strikes me that Jefferson was theorizing for a future that included Muslims — not in spite of their religion, but because of it and because of his notion of universal civil rights."

      She sat down with All Things Considered host Arun Rath to discuss Jefferson's Qur'an and the lasting impact of the third U.S. president's views on religious freedom.

      On how Jefferson came to have a Quran:

      "He actually was a bibliophile from the beginning. He ordered this Quran in 1765, eleven years before he wrote the Declaration of Independence. He was a law student at the time, and he had the book shipped from England to Williamsburg, Va. ... There's an entry in the local newspaper because they were the booksellers for the time.

      ...

      "Europeans, and Americans after them, in this period tended to be quite hostile toward Islam. And yet Jefferson was curious about the religion and law of Muslims, and that's probably why he bought the Quran."

      On his views of religious freedom:

      "Jefferson was unique in many ways. He criticized Islam as he did Christianity and Judaism. He talked about Islam as a religion that repressed scientific inquiry — a strange idea he got from Voltaire that wasn't right — but ... was able to separate his principles about Muslim religious liberty and civil rights from these inherited European prejudices about Islam.

      "He did the same thing when arguing for the inclusion of Catholics and Jews, actually. He had not very good things to say about either Catholicism or Judaism, but he insisted that these individual practitioners should have equal civil rights. ... [Jefferson] resisted the notion, for example, that Catholics were a threat to the United States because of their allegiance to the pope as a foreign power. There were many Protestants who would have disagreed with him about Catholics, and many who would have disagreed with him about Muslims.

      "They were the outsiders, whose inclusion represented the furthest reach of toleration and rights. So for Jefferson and others — and he was not alone in this, although it was a minority — for him to include Muslims meant to include everyone of every faith: Jews, Catholics and all others. And to exclude Muslims meant that there would be no universal principle of civil rights for all believers in America."

      On the Muslim population in America during the 1770s:

      "Jefferson and [George] Washington and others were theorizing about a future American population when, ironically and tragically, they never knew that real Muslims were already in America. But they were slaves, brought from west Africa against their will.

      "We don't know how many were the first American Muslims; we think they numbered in the thousands or tens of thousands. And it's not impossible that Jefferson actually owned Muslim slaves from Africa, but there's no direct evidence of it. That's not the case for George Washington, his neighbor in Virginia.

      "Washington, among his taxable items ... someone on his plantation listed the names of Fatimer and Little Fatimer. And despite being spelled with an 'er' at the end, this is clearly the name of the prophet's daughter Fatima. So there were Muslim women working on Washington's plantation at the same time he was inviting people of all faiths to a protected religious liberty and rights in the United States."
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      CAIR on 9/11: What's Un-American?
      Interview with CAIR Florida's Executive Director Mr. Hassan Shibly
      By Politics Zone Staff
      Wednesday, 11 September 2013 00:00

      http://www.onislam.net/english/politics/americas/464437-what-is-un-american-cair-on-911-anniversary.html

      In these twelve years that passed since 9/11, Muslims have evolved from the brink of being called "terrorists" and lived in the drapes of undutiful apology for what have been defaming the image of peaceful Muslims and Islam in total.

      OnIslam.net took some questions to the most influential Islamic organization in the US, the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR).

      Mr. Hassan Shibly, the Executive Director of Tampa Chapter of CAIR, thankfully spoke to OnIslam.net in an email-based interview on the anniversary of 9/11, in attempt to shed light on the realities that the American Muslims community is living through twelve years after the tragic events.
      ...
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Largest U.S. Muslim group shuns controversial 9/11 march
      Wednesday, 11 September 2013

      http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/world/2013/09/11/Largest-U-S-Muslim-group-shuns-controversial-9-11-march.html

      The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, has said it will not participate in or endorse the “Million American March Against Fear” on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
      “We’re concerned that the event has aligned itself with so-called 9/11 truthers,” Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s communications director, told Al Arabiya.
      He was referring to those who express doubts about the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks.
      Hooper said it was unlikely that any mainstream Muslim-American organization would participate in the march, which is being organized by the American Muslim Political Action Committee.
      AMPAC founder MD Rabbi Alam told Al Arabiya that the aim of the event, in Washington DC, is “to stand for the rights of Muslims,” and to “change the negative perception of Muslims in America.”
      The event was originally named the “Million Muslim March,” but was changed in February to include a larger number of people, Alam said.
      The campaign has caused a storm in the U.S. media, with reports that it is being led by radicals.

      “Whether or not al-Qaeda is completely mythical, the so-called ‘Islamic terrorist threat’ is pure hallucination,” reads a statement on AMPAC’s website.
      “The whole ‘terrorist threat’ is a hoax invented by fear-mongering politicians to control our minds and pick our pockets,” the statement added.

      The campaign announced on its Facebook page that Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus from Missouri, would attend the rally.

      However, Michele Rooney, Cleaver’s communications director, denied this, telling Al Arabiya in an email: “MD Rabbi Alam is a constituent of Missouri’s Fifth District - and per his request - the Congressman was happy to meet with him in his Kansas City office last week.”
      Distasteful and offensive

      Many see the timing of the event as distasteful and offensive.
      The rally is “exploitative,” seeking to take advantage of the Sept. 11 attacks to “blame America for their so-called complaints of Islamophobia,” said Zuhdi Jasser, a prominent Islamic scholar and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, who frequently writes for the Huffington Post.
      “It’s put together by groups that are proven ‘truthers’ who deny that 9/11 was committed by al-Qaeda,” and who are “profoundly anti-Semitic,” he added.
      AMPAC’s hard-line ideas are “a symptom of the deeper problem of the continuous threat of radical Islam and political Islam domestically and globally in radicalizing Muslim populations,” said Jasser.

      “If Muslims have grievances they want heard, pick any other day but 9/11,” which was “about America being attacked by a radical Islamist group, al-Qaeda, that continues to threaten us,” he added.
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      UT Dallas Is Home to America's First Muslim Fraternity
      By Eric Nicholson Thu., Sep. 5 2013 at 10:29 AM

      http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/unfairpark/2013/09/ut_dallas_americas_first_musli.php

      Alif Laam Meem -- or, for those who prefer fraternities to go by a Greek acronym, Alpha Lambda Mu -- first blipped across the national radar this past spring when they attended Mayor Mike Rawlings' anti-domestic-violence rally outside City Hall. A photo the group posted to Facebook showing members holding a sign reading "Muslims say NO to domestic violence!" went semi-viral as the Internet applauded them for battling the stereotype that Islam is inherently misogynistic.
      "We wanted to clarify the misconception that any kind of domestic violence is allowed in our religion," ALM founder Ali Mahmoud told ABC News. "And it may seem apparent through the media that it's allowed, but that's majorly a cultural phenomenon and not an actual teaching of our religion."

      See also: At the Mayor's Rally Against Domestic Violence, Big Promises and Some Mixed Messages

      The group was brand new at the time, having been founded the previous month. Now that it's a bit better established, it's enjoying a second burst of media attention, this time focused not on any specific issue but on the mere existence of a fraternity whose members foreswear alcohol and pre-marital sex.

      On Tuesday, Britain's The Independent ran a profile of America's "first all-Muslim frat.".

      "The idea of a Muslim fraternity seemed heretical," says Ali. However, as they worked on the idea they realised that many Muslim men at university felt that they either had to compromise their social life in order to live by the values of Islam, or compromise the values of Islam in order to have a social life. Ali believed a balance was achievable, and that was the path the establishment of Alpha Lambda Mu was trying to pave.
      They created the fraternity, based on the principles of Islam - mercy, compassion, justice, integrity, honesty, unity, love, and sincerity - in order to prove that a modern Muslim college student could live as a dignified, respectable man and still have an organic college experience. They hope that in their fraternity, their members - 'young, self-actualised Muslim men' - will be servants to their families and every aspect of their greater community.

      In the piece, and in an article on Huffington Post that followed it, Mahmoud takes pains to stress the group's essential Americanness.

      "I personally grew up in Plano, Texas," he tells the Independent. "I went to public school, I played Xbox Live all the time with my friends who weren't Muslim, and I regrettably ate too much fast food. I'm a proud American Muslim"

      HuffPo offers proof of that, writing that Mahmoud's "slight Texas accent is a testament to his American upbringing."

      Better proof is probably offered by their irreverent sense of humor, as showcased by their "Kufi Krew." See for yourself:

      ALM has gotten a bit of pushback, most prominently by way of a widely shared Tumblr post from a student at Cornell who wondered "why any religious organization would strive to be modeled after a gendered institution with roots in white supremacy and elitism," but the response has been positive. At UTD, they have been welcomed.

      Right now, the frat is preparing for UTD's rush week, which starts Monday. They expect to welcome 30 to 40 new members.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Growing up Muslim in America
      By Anna Fifield
      July 19, 2013 2:08 pm

      http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/42275248-ef46-11e2-bb27-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2ZhFa6xTn

      A generation of Muslim Americans has come of age in the shadow of 9/11 amid a climate of paranoia, verbal abuse and vandalism. Anna Fifield reports

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      The sound of the muezzin calling Muslims to prayer rang out from the unassuming mosque on Fifth Avenue, the main drag in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, one recent Friday lunchtime. “Hasten to the prayer, hasten to success,” the voice intoned in Arabic.
      Bearded men hurried to the mosque, which opened straight on to the street, while one woman shrouded in black from head to toe yelled into her cell phone, also in Arabic. Another, in more colourful hijab, struggled in vain to divert her children’s attention as they passed a shop whose cheap toys had spilled on to the road.

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      With Ramadan approaching, the local Balady market displayed signs counting down the days until the holy month of fasting began, as shoppers navigated their trolleys around towers of imported dates and olive oil. Nearby, a shop touted “fashionable Islamic clothing” and a restaurant advertised “halal Chinese” – no pork, no alcohol. The scene could almost have been one from Cairo or Damascus, except for the shops with ads for phone cards in Spanish and the fact that the buses ran on time.
      Bay Ridge is geographically close to the hipster Brooklyn neighbourhoods of Park Slope and Williamsburg but could not be more culturally different. It is a world away from the financial district in Manhattan, the epicentre of the September 11 2001 attacks. But Brooklyn is also home to the largest group of people in the US who trace their lineage back to the Arab world, according to census data. And while the heightened sense of a threat from Islamic terrorism that existed post-attacks may have gone, it has given way to a persistent, low-level paranoia that pervades the everyday lives of the million-plus Muslim Arab Americans living here and throughout the country.
      Islamophobia in the US is becoming entrenched, according to some Muslim leaders. “We’re living in one of the most hostile civic environments for the Muslim community,” says Faiza Ali, a community organiser at the Arab American Association in Bay Ridge. “And it’s gotten worse since 9/11.”
      Hate-crime statistics collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation showed a sharp spike in violence against Muslims after the 2001 attacks, which levelled out until 2009, when it started ticking up again. There are always problems following events carried out by Muslims, such as the Boston Marathon bombings in March.
      The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that in 2011, 21 per cent of the religion-based complaints it received were from Muslims – although they comprise less than 1 per cent of the population.
      Situated in an old doctors’ clinic, the Arab American Association provides advice on everything from immigration to health insurance. It also fights practices it considers discriminatory, such as the New York Police Department’s surveillance programme, revealed in 2011, under which agents routinely observe Muslims going about their lives.
      “Islamophobia has become institutionalised in New York – by our police department, elected officials, politicians who are running for office,” says Ali, a 28-year-old of Pakistani heritage, who became a student activist after being harassed in the wake of the 2001 attacks. “The environment is really difficult. It’s as if we are walking in a city that is our home but feeling like we are strangers,” she says in her office, where the walls are decorated with signs bearing slogans such as “Praying while Muslim is NOT a crime!”

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      Examples can be seen across the country. In New York, opposition has raged against Muslim community centres such as the Park 51 centre planned for near Ground Zero. In Florida, the pastor Terry Jones wants to burn Korans. In Tennessee, vandalism and bomb threats greeted plans to open a mosque in Murfreesboro. Then there are the attempts by state legislators in North Carolina and Oklahoma, among others, to ban recognition of sharia law.
      “I feel like the anti-Muslim feeling has really become more pronounced in the last few years,” says Moustafa Bayoumi, a literature professor at Brooklyn College and author of the book How Does it Feel to be a Problem: Being Young and Arab in America. He cites polls from The Washington Post and The Economist that found that the number of people admitting to negative feelings towards Muslims had risen from the 20 per cent bracket in 2002 to more than 50 per cent by 2010.
      When his book came out in 2009, Muslim readers told Bayoumi it painted too positive a picture, so much had the environment changed in the interim. It has since deteriorated further, he tells me as we sit in a café selling organic chai lattes in the trendy Brooklyn neighbourhood of Prospect Park. “It took a while for the narrative to take hold, that Muslims were the enemy population,” he says.
      This is despite the fact that Islamic terrorism is well down the list of threats to life in the US. Thirty-three Americans were killed by Muslim-American terrorists between the 2001 attacks and the end of last year, according to Charles Kurzman, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina. Twice as many – 66 – were killed in mass shootings by non-Muslims in 2012 alone.
      The US has been through periods of hostility towards ethnic groups many times before, for example towards German and Japanese Americans in the middle of the last century. But these have been discrete periods in history. There is no end in sight for the war on terror.
      ...
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      Muslim-Americans Observe Ramadan with Fasts and Prayer
      Mohamed Elshinnawi
      July 08, 2013

      http://www.voanews.com/content/ramadan-us/1697545.html

      WASHINGTON — The Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins Tuesday and Muslim-Americans of diverse backgrounds and national origins will be gathering in Islamic centers across the United States to worship and celebrate their faith.

      Muslims around the world observe Ramadan with a set of traditional rituals. Families shop at Halal meat stores, prepare Iftar meals to break their dawn-to-dusk fasts with family and friends, pray together and help the poor.

      For Muslim-American groups, Ramadan has served as an occasion to educate the American public about the religious observance and the Islamic faith in general. The educational events include holding open houses at local mosques and Islamic centers, public lectures on Ramadan, interfaith Iftars dinners and TV ads reminding all Americans that Muslims are an integral part of U.S. society.

      "We try to make people feel like they are in any Muslim country and Muslim community,” said Imam Abdulla Khouj, president of the Islamic Center in Washington D.C. “We offer the meal to break their fast. We have more than 600 people, males and females, their children, and families. They break their fast and pray with us.”

      After the Iftar meal, Muslim families perform the nightly prayer. Ali Gamay, a Muslim American businessman, explains:

      "Ramadan nightly prayer is an expression of devotion and seeking forgiveness. Each night we finish reciting one chapter of the holy Koran. By the end of the holy month of Ramadan, we have completed the, 30 chapters of the holy book," Gamay said.

      Presidential Ramadan greetings

      Since the early 1990s, U.S. presidents have issued Ramadan greetings each year to the more 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide.

      Imam Khouj believes the presidential greetings have helped to raise awareness among Americans about Ramadan.

      "The president of a great country acknowledges the fact that people are fasting and somehow shares with them their feelings, and at the same time makes them feel that they are welcomed in this country," said Khouj.

      Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations says, "The Council on American Islamic Relations sends out information relating to Ramadan to our non-Muslim constituency and friends as well as we organize programs in which we speak about Ramadan.”

      Special programs for Muslim-Americans also are held in Dearborn, Michigan, where many Muslims have made their homes in recent decades. Imam Hassan Qazwini leads the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn.

      "For the English-speaking part of our congregation, we will have a special program because we believe they will be the ambassadors of Islam to non-Muslims, therefore there will be a very specialized program designed for the youth to expand their knowledge about Islam." Qazwini said. “During Ramadan, the young people here - like their parents - help the poor, whether Muslim or not.”

      Qazwini said as many as 1,000 people attend evening prayers at Dearborn’s Islamic Center of America each day during Ramadan.
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      Local Muslims hope Ramadan events will build bridges with non-Muslims
      By JoAnne Viviano
      The Columbus Dispatch Tuesday July 9, 2013 7:31 AM

      http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2013/07/09/ramadan-events-aim-to-build-bridges.html

      Muslims in central Ohio are inviting their non-Muslim neighbors to learn more about the Islamic holy month of Ramadan by partaking in one of the evening fast-breaking meals that mark the observance.

      Such meals, called iftars, start with water and dates and include prayer and often a reading from the Muslim holy book, the Quran.

      The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Groveport plans a July 27 interfaith iftar that will feature a panel of members of various religions discussing their own fasting traditions, said Dr. Abdus Salam Malik, the group’s president.

      “A lot of people have misconceptions, and problems arise in the community when people don’t know each other,” Malik said. “So we want people to come and get to know each other and, once they know each other, they realize that ... everybody has human values, good values. That creates better understanding and better peace.”

      Ramadan begins its first full day today and ends with the Eid al-Fitr holiday on Aug. 8. Throughout the month, Muslims abstain from food, water, smoking and sex from sunrise until sunset.

      The Columbus chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations plans to play host to about 250 people at its interfaith iftar on July 19, said spokeswoman Hannah Tyler. This is the 16th year the group has sponsored the event; Muslims are asked to invite friends, neighbors and co-workers to share in the meal.

      Tyler said that central Ohio has largely embraced the Muslim community, in part because it has long been home to a large Somali population that practices the faith. That exposure, she said, leads to understanding.

      “Columbus, in general, just seems to be tolerant,” she said. “It seems to be a good place to live for any type of ‘other’ or minority.”

      Other Ramadan events include a July 27 intra-faith iftar in Dublin for Muslims of different denominations and organizations, said Fazeel Khan of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Islamic Society in Dublin, the sponsor.

      “It is an opportunity for us to strengthen the bond between Muslims of different groups, an effort that we believe is also very much needed today in addition to building bridges between people of different religions,” Khan said.

      At the Noor Islamic Cultural Center in Dublin, young people are collecting food for the Hilliard Food Pantry as part of a Ramadan project, said Imran Malik, a center board member. He and Dr. Malik are not related.

      Imran Malik said that while interfaith cooperation has been more successful in urban areas, progress also has been made in increasing understanding in the suburbs of Hilliard and Dublin. Noor and several churches in the area formed the Safe Alliance of Interfaith Leaders last year to hold events and perform community-service projects.

      “One thing that we often discuss is that we as human beings, we are very similar in a lot of ways,” he said. “Our differences are very few, but our similarities are multitude.”

      Khan said he has found non-Muslims eager to learn about the faith through his work organizing an annual interfaith symposium and speaking to professional groups and churches in the Columbus area.

      “I’ve personally found people in Ohio to be very open to learning more about this faith that they hear so much about every day via various media reports,” Khan said. “Understandably, some are suspicious and have a somewhat negative view of the religion, but the fact that they are willing to listen, engage in dialogue and be respectful is noteworthy.”

      Ramadan 2013
      Muslims begin their first full day of fasting today for the Islamic month of Ramadan. The month lasts until Eid al-Fitr on Aug. 8. Facts about the observance:

      • Ramadan is the ninth lunar month of the Islamic calendar; it begins about 11 days earlier each year. Throughout the month, healthy adult Muslims abstain from food, drink and other sensual pleasures from sunrise until sunset each day and read as much as possible from the Islamic holy book, the Quran.

      • Each evening at sunset, Muslims hold an iftar, or a fast-breaking, with their families and communities, often starting with traditional dates and water and then having a meal. The fast-breaking also includes prayer.

      • Fasting became obligatory for Muslims in the year 624. It is called for in the Quran as a way to learn self-restraint. Muslims believe fasting helps them gain compassion for the needy, self-purification, discipline and a spiritual focus.

      • Fasting is one of the “five pillars” of Islam. The others are a declaration of faith, daily prayers, charity and making a pilgrimage to Mecca.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Islamic law in U.S. courts
      By MICHAEL KIRKLAND, UPI Senior Legal Affairs Writer | May 19, 2013

      http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2013/05/19/Under-the-US-Supreme-Court-Islamic-law-in-US-courts/UPI-64481368948600/

      WASHINGTON, May 19 (UPI) -- Does Islamic law, Sharia, have a place in American courts? A lot of state legislatures don't think so, and there is a movement to ban its application in domestic courts, state and federal.
      It's one of those national issues that for now is not before the U.S. Supreme Court, but almost inevitably will be before the justices somewhere down the line, even if just in the petition stage.

      Sharia, based on the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, is often a consideration in family issue cases involving U.S. Muslims. But its precepts apply to all aspects of life, and its severest critics allege it is a factor in some acts of terror.

      How widespread is the movement to ban Sharia and any foreign law from domestic courts?

      Legislators in at least 32 of the 50 U.S. states introduced bills from 2010 to 2012 to limit consideration of foreign or religious laws in state court decisions, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reports.

      During those two years, Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee enacted such bills.

      In Oklahoma, the law explicitly banned judicial consideration of Islamic law, or Sharia. The ban was approved by the voters.

      The ballot measure read: "This measure amends the State Constitution. It changes a section that deals with the courts of this state. It would amend Article 7, Section 1. It makes courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases. It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia Law.

      "International law is also known as the law of nations. It deals with the conduct of international organizations and independent nations, such as countries, states and tribes," the ballot issue read. "It deals with their relationship with each other. It also deals with some of their relationships with persons.

      "The law of nations is formed by the general assent of civilized nations. Sources of international law also include international agreements, as well as treaties.

      "Sharia Law is Islamic law. It is based on two principal sources, the Koran and the teachings of Mohammed. Shall the proposal be approved?" the ballot read, then offered voters a choice of yes or no.

      Seven out of 10 voted yes.
      ...
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      In life and words, Muslim leader bridges cultures
      By Lisa Wangsness | GLOBE STAFF MAY 12, 2013

      http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/05/11/imam-william-suhaib-webb-emerges-face-boston-muslim-community-time-crisis/Kd8v0O48vkHSZAnOpYCqOI/story.html

      On a rainy afternoon in early April at Boston’s largest mosque, the sheikh in the seersucker suit was in his office, offering comfort and advice.

      To a young student wondering if he should get engaged: “Aw, man, just go for it!”

      To a middle-aged man agonizing over how to care for his dying father: “You should preserve life as best you can.”

      To a sobbing young woman who told him about problems at home: “I have someone who can help you, a Muslim counselor. . . . Let’s talk about fixing it.”


      Days later, bombs exploded on Boylston Street. And the unlikely face of the Muslim community in its time of crisis became this 6-foot-5-inch, blond-haired, blue-eyed former hip-hop DJ whose grandfather was a fundamentalist Christian preacher.

      William Suhaib Webb, imam of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in Roxbury, has been a target of conservative Muslims on the Internet, who call him a sellout, and of other critics who say he is an extremist.

      He has tried, for better or for worse, to respond to all of it — in his sermons, on CNN, on Twitter. At the same time, he has endeavored to improve the mosque’s relationships with Jewish and Christian leaders in Boston.

      “I’m just exhausted,” the 40-year-old Webb said, sipping a flask of coffee in his book-lined office overlooking the busy intersection of Tremont Street and Malcolm X Boulevard. “I don’t have days anymore. I just have . . . smears.”

      Webb, who memorized the Koran while living with his parents in Oklahoma and became an advanced Islamic legal scholar after years of study in Cairo, has in recent years become among the most famous imams in America.

      He has 34,000 Twitter followers and a “virtual mosque” website that gets some 13,000 page views a day. In his sermons and in social media, Webb — many followers call him “sheikh,” an honorific for a respected teacher — toggles effortlessly between English and Arabic, dropping words like “baller” and references to “The Walking Dead,” a television show about zombies, into exegeses of Sufi poetry.

      When he came to the cultural center 18 months ago, he faced significant challenges. He had to connect with immigrants from all over the world, as well as their US-born children and converts from other faiths. He also had to be a bridge to the city’s other faith communities, someone who could help the city move beyond concerns, particularly among some Jewish leaders, that the mosque’s leadership had extremist ties.

      Webb, for his part, had his own big plan — to establish one of the first Muslim seminaries in the country. He wanted to nurture a new generation of American imams and Muslim women scholars — orthodox, but culturally conversant and civically involved — and to educate more casual students about their faith.

      The Marathon bombings cast Webb and his mission into a crucible. In the media, Islam was on trial again, and Webb was, too.

      * * *

      Webb grew up outside Oklahoma City. His grandfather, the preacher, was a strict conservative — no dancing, no shorts. His parents are what he calls “post-Woodstock Christians,” more accommodating of modernity.

      He has positive memories of church, “fellowship with great, wonderful people.” But he could never get his head around Jesus. What color was the son of God? How could God choose a race for himself when he assumed human form?

      By his late teens, Webb was popular figure in the Oklahoma City hip-hop scene, a pot-smoking DJ with a gang affiliation. Once, he says, he found himself in a car during a drive-by shooting.

      Abdulsamad Frazier, a close friend from those days, remembers Webb as friendly and generous, though he kept dangerous company.

      “If anybody in the neighborhood messed with him, he would hold his ground,” Frazier said. “He hung around with some major guys, guys who were real serious guys.”

      But Webb was unhappy, searching. He began learning about Islam through friends in the hip-hop world. Curious, Webb checked a copy of the Koran out of the library.

      To his surprise, it mentioned Jesus and Mary. But it resonated with him in a way the Gospels never had. It was 1992, the year of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles.

      “The idea that God is not a human being, God is not a color — that was what I was looking for my whole life,” he says now.
      ...
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Vermont Muslims seek dialogue, greater understanding of Islam
      Weekly discussions held by Vermont Muslims encourage dialogue, greater understanding of Islam
      May 3, 2013

      http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20130503/NEWS/305030027/Vermont-Muslims-seek-dialogue-greater-understanding-of-Islam?gcheck=1

      Tarek Badreldin said he takes issue with the tendency of American journalists to use the word “terrorism” only when describing mass killings committed by Muslims.

      “When the Connecticut shooting happened and more than 20 children were killed, no one said it was a terrorist attack,” Badreldin, 35, of Essex Junction said. “And before that, I think there was a shooting in the cinema. And no one said that this is a terrorist attack – it is a crime and they start to search for psychological reasons for that. Except when the one who’s doing a crime is a Muslim, they say he did that because of his religion.”

      Badreldin has been fielding questions about Islam every other Saturday for the past few months at the Fletcher Free Library in Burlington. A week ago, on the eve of one of his biweekly question and answer sessions, Badreldin said he expected to be asked about the Boston bombing. He invited the Free Press to attend the session, but said there probably wouldn’t be too many other people there.

      “I think the timing is not so good, because 4 to 5, this is, especially in the summer, this is in the middle of the day,” Badreldin said. “The attendance we have is one, two, sometimes three.”

      As it was, eight people, including this reporter and three members of AmeriCorps, came in from the sun that afternoon to question Badreldin. His wife, meanwhile, played with their two young children outside the circle of chairs.

      Asked about the schism that split Islam into the Shia and Sunni denominations, Badreldin launched into a centuries-long history lesson. Asked whether he believed in the separation of church and state, he said he did not.

      “Separation is like saying Allah doesn’t know what’s good for us, and we know better,” Badreldin said. He said Islamic law forbids banks from charging interest rates and demands the poor be fed and housed. Asked whether the law tolerates nonbelievers, he said it does.

      Mai Ali, Badreldin’s wife, responded to a question about why Muslim women wear the hijab.

      “This is what Allah told us to do,” she said. “We choose to follow his orders.”

      Two of the AmeriCorps members, Fatuma Hassan, 22, and Isra Kassim, 20, both of Burlington, also wore hijabs. Hassan said doing so kept men from checking her out.

      “Guys, they are crazy. Sorry, but seriously,” she said. “They respect me if I cover myself.

      “It is a practical religion,” Badreldin added later. “It doesn’t care about what people love, or what people desire, just about what’s good for them.”

      No one asked him about the bombings.

      Fear of a backlash
      Badreldin, a Green Card holder from Egypt, moved to the United States in 2006 when his employer, Mentor Graphics, assigned him to a new job. The consulting engineer said he has since adapted to his new country and learned, for instance, how to pray in the changing room at the mall using an iPhone app to determine the direction of Mecca.

      “Before there were smartphones, it was very difficult,” he said.

      He said after the bombing, he read about Muslims being accosted and assaulted in Boston and worried about the safety of his own family. He said his wife stayed home from their weekly prayer meeting at the Islamic Society of Vermont in Colchester, and they mulled whether to attend a barbecue organized by the center. They ultimately went, and had a good time.

      Badreldin’s Imam, Islam Hassan, said visitors to the Islamic Society of Vermont have been coming in to ask him about the attacks.

      “When something like this happens, a lot of people come,” Hassan said. “It gives us a chance to talk about the true nature of our religion.”

      A photo taken of Boston’s Boylston Street moments after the bombing remained on the center’s website Friday, accompanying a statement that condemned the attack.

      “The Islamic Society of Vermont and the Vermont Muslim community is deeply saddened by the tragic occurrence at the Boston Marathon,” it read. “We are concerned for the loss of life and injuries to the victims. Our prayers and thoughts go out to the victims and their families, to the marathon organizers, runners and fans, and to our Boston community at large.”

      Muhyedeen Battah, a member of the society’s executive committee, said such sentiments are overshadowed by the words of a violent minority.

      “In every faith,” Battah said. “Someone will take pieces, a version that applies to their own agenda and forget about the rest of the whole thing.”

      The society’s mission includes making “Islam and Muslims better understood by others” and “promoting friendly relations with other religious groups and associations in the State of Vermont.”

      Toward those ends, Badreldin has traveled as far as Derby Line to talk about Islam. Closer to home, the Islamic Society hosts informational sessions twice a month at the Colchester mosque. Hassan said the organization also planned to take part in Green Up Day activities Saturday.

      The good works and manners of Muslims, he said, often go farther than proselytizing in terms of spreading the faith.

      Terrorism defined
      Badreldin defines terrorism as “the killing of innocent people for no reason.”

      “It doesn’t matter if you kill them using a strike from a drone, or killing them using a tank, or killing them using a car bomb,” he said. “So if terrorism is defined as innocent people being killed for no reason, then you find that a majority of these incidents are not committed by Muslims.”

      Those committed by Muslims, he said, often stem from exposure to war and oppression.

      “If you are unable to express yourself peacefully, you will go to violence, and this was the problem with the majority of Muslim countries,” he said. “If you give them freedom and they are free to choose their ruler, to choose how they are living, then this will end the reasons for extremism.”

      People also turn to extremism, he said, “to take revenge” against superior forces.

      “If you don’t have an army strong enough to fight a big army, then you will go to guerrilla war,” he said. “You wouldn’t have enough power to stand in an open field, and you will have to hide and while you are hiding, this is not a good way to get correct religion education.

      “But if it is in a calm situation,” he added. “This would allow a good environment to teach people.”
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Mixing Islam with medicine
      By Claire Bushey April 29, 2013

      http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20130427/ISSUE01/304279977/mixing-islam-with-medicine

      A Chicago doctor who owns a lavish Middle Eastern eatery on West Randolph Street wants to open the first outpatient surgery center in Illinois that he says will follow Islamic law.
      Dr. Naser Rustom, who opened Alhambra Palace in 2007, has in mind a venture with a much more religious flavor. He proposes to establish a $5.5 million medical facility in southwest suburban Orland Park that would cater to Muslims, including space for prayer and ritual washing and partitions for enhanced patient privacy.
      The proposal reflects how more businesses are looking to tap into the growing population of Arab-Americans and Muslims, offering products ranging from home mortgages to meat that satisfy religious standards. This comes at a time of passionate national debate over the religious rights of business owners, sparked by scores of lawsuits filed against the Obama administration over a regulation that requires employer health care plans to cover contraceptives.
      Some interpretations of Shariah, or Islamic law, require strict segregation of the sexes, a practice that Dr. Rustom doesn't intend to follow because, in his view, it likely would violate federal and state laws.
      While his plan is aimed at conservative Muslims, his pitch may be driven more by marketing than dogma.
      “It's not as if we can open up the books of Islamic law and find a chapter on what makes a Shariah-compliant health care facility,” says Kristen Stilt, a professor at Northwestern University Law School who has studied the development of Islamic law.
      An internist, Dr. Rustom is a 1984 graduate of the University of Damascus in Syria who completed his residency at Cook County Hospital eight years later.
      His medical career has been low-key compared to Alhambra, a cavernous, 24,000-square-foot restaurant that looks like a Disney version of a Moorish castle. Located along Randolph Street's restaurant row, the venture offers Middle Eastern cuisine and entertainment, including belly dancing and live music.
      His plan for the Orland Park surgical center is a sign of how the Chicago area's Muslim population is booming. Fueled in part by immigration from the Middle East and South Asia, the number of local adherents to Islam more than doubled, topping 300,000, between 2000 and 2010, and is expected to continue to climb.
      The center would lease space in a vacant Plunkett Furniture Co. store near the Orland Square Shopping Center. More Arab-Americans live in the southwest suburbs than anywhere else in the Chicago area, according to Dr. Rustom's application with the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, citing demographic data.
      Services would include gastroenterology, general surgery and treatment for pain management, the application says. The facilities board must approve the project.
      Patients of all religious and cultural backgrounds will be treated at the center, which will not be different from other surgery centers except “to the trained eye,” the application says.
      INTERPRETATION
      Shariah is based on the Quran and other Islamic texts, but some aspects are open to interpretation, experts say.
      In the Middle East, many health care facilities segregate waiting rooms by sex, says Rina Spence, a health care management consultant in Boston who worked in the Middle East for more than a decade.
      Dr. Rustom doesn't plan to adhere to that practice, says Robyn Fina, an employee of Dr. Rustom's who is managing the project.
      “We recognize that a health care facility that is fully compliant with Shariah law would likely violate a number of state and federal laws,” Ms. Fina says in an email. Dr. Rustom declines to be interviewed. Interaction between the sexes will be kept “at a modest level,” she adds.
      Some Muslims, particularly recent immigrants and women, delay seeking medical care because of perceived conflicts between their beliefs and the U.S. health care system, says Dr. Aasim Padela, an emergency medicine physician and director of the Initiative on Islam and Medicine at the University of Chicago.
      For example, female Muslims in Chicago who say they had experienced discrimination at a health care facility are five times less likely to receive regular mammograms than Muslims who did not feel bias, according to a study by Dr. Padela.
      See some basic stats on Chicago's growing Muslim and Arab population
      By focusing on Muslims, Dr. Rustom is following a path used by businesses in other industries.
      Devon Bank started offering Shariah-compliant mortgages and commercial loans a decade ago, says David Loundy, CEO of the bank, which is located near Devon and Western avenues on the North Side, in an area bustling with Muslim businesses.
      The deals use alternative structures, such as rent-to-own, because Islam forbids the payment of interest.
      Best Chicago Meat Co., based on the Northwest Side, began selling halal meat, which is butchered in accordance with Islamic precepts, about five years ago, President David Van Kampen says. Halal meat accounts for 8 to 10 percent of annual revenue of more than $23 million.
      At Indie Burger, a trendy eatery in Lakeview, customers can request sandwiches made with organic, grass-fed halal beef, says co-owner Cyrus Rab, who is Muslim. What they can't get is alcohol, which is proscribed by Shariah.
      A liquor license came with the location, but Mr. Rab opted to make the restaurant BYOB, even though he's not exceptionally devout. “I still respect my faith,” he says.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Growing Population Of Muslims Calling Tijuana Home
      By Brooke Binkowski
      March 28, 2013

      http://www.fronterasdesk.org/news/2013/mar/28/growing-population-muslims-calling-tijuana-home/

      TIJUANA, Mexico -- Mexico is a predominantly Catholic country, but the border city of Tijuana has always hosted a more diverse population of worshipers. In the last few years, one of the largest religions in the world has begun making inroads and building a presence there.

      Every day, at a small, nondescript building in Playas, Tijuana, a handful of people gather to pray. They are worshiping at a masjid, or mosque, one of two new Islamic centers within a mile of one another, both of which have opened within the past three years. This mosque is called Masjid al-Islam, and it opened just over two years ago to give the estimated 200 practicing Muslims in Baja California a place to worship.

      The population here is small, but incredibly diverse. People from all over the world attend this mosque; there are people here from India, Costa Rica, the Middle East, and of course all Mexico and the United States. They are all bumping up against the border together. While some live in this sleepy beach community by choice, many more are stuck here waiting for visas or, in recent years, deportees caught up in the net of the United States' ever-more-aggressive immigration policies.

      "It changed my life, you know," says Amir Carr. He is a native Californian, and a convert to Islam. He is lanky and tall, wearing glasses and a taqiyyah, or prayer cap. He is sitting in a wheelchair across from his wife, Na'eema, who is wearing a loose blouse and a head scarf.

      "I was a — a street kid, you know. I got put in this wheelchair for hanging out and hanging out with gangs and stuff like this, and I got shot. And for the first time I sat down in my life and listened, and when I listened to Islam, it actually changed my life," Carr said.

      After Carr got out of prison in California, his wife Na'eema, a Mexican national, was deported.

      “They pulled us over for speeding, and they deported her within about an hour. It was so quick that you just couldn't even believe it," Carr says, shaking his head. He ended up moving to Mexico to be with her. That was five years ago, and they have both been there since.

      Samuel Cortes, another convert, grew up in Glendale, on the outskirts of Los Angeles. He was a longtime gang member who was deported after spending time in prison for aggravated assault.

      “I started gangbanging when I was 9. I stopped when I was 21. When I decided to put that aside, if it wasn't other gang member from other neighborhoods who were trying to kill me, it was my own neighborhood that was trying to come after me because I wanted to change my life," Cortes said.

      Cortes said he was ready to settle down, and he has. He got married and now has a baby daughter. While he admits that moving to Tijuana was not his first choice, he is happy with the turn his life has taken.

      "I left everything back there [in the United States] and that's fine. I mean, hopefully, one day I'll be able to get my visa and go back forth and just visit my family. But for the time being, I'm just mostly concentrated on my daughter, Islam, and work," he said.

      Cortes and Carr are part of what the Council for American-Islamic Relations calls says is the fastest growing number of post-9/11 converts in the United States. According to CAIR, Latinos made up 12 percent of all converts in 2011, compared to only 6 percent in 2000.

      Dr. Khaleel Mohammed, a professor of Islamic and religious studies at San Diego State University, says he believes that the relatively high rate of Latino converts is due to the influence of the Roman Catholic Church.

      “The Catholic emphasis on family and family values meshes a lot with Islam. The difference, however, is that whereas many Catholics see the Roman Catholic values being eroded in the United States in particular, a lot of them are seeing in Islam a difference in that there are more Muslims trying to stick to the traditional Islamic values than leave them aside," Mohammed said.

      Combine that alignment of values and growing number of converts with the United States' stricter immigration controls, and you end up with a visible Muslim presence in Tijuana.

      Muhanna Jamaleddin is the imam (spiritual leader) and founder of Masjid al-Islam. He was born in Ramallah in the Palestinian territories.

      "I never thought 'I'm gonna live in Mexico,' honestly. So all these reasons come from God, and we thank Allah," he said.

      He, too, followed a winding path to Tijuana, moving here from the U.S. with his wife after she lost her visa. Now he conducts sermons in three languages: Spanish, English, and Arabic.

      Amir Carr says many Muslims, whether or not they end up in Tijuana by choice, end up staying in Mexico rather than trying to get back into the United States. He said it's much easier to be openly Muslim here. He compares that to stories from the U.S., where people routinely demonstrate against Muslims moving into their neighborhoods, or building mosques.

      “When we open a masjid here they don't even blink. They look with curiosity and they ask, but for sure they don't march. I mean, for sure nothing negative comes out of them. They just accept it as they would accept anybody else," Carr said.

      The worshipers are not entirely transplants. Amidst the international crowd are converts from within Mexico. Imam Muhanna says that describes half the people who attend there, and possibly even more — and growing.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Boston Students Become Muslims For A Day
      OnIslam & News Agencies
      Friday, 29 March 2013 00:00

      http://www.onislam.net/english/news/americas/462017-boston-students-become-muslims-for-a-day.html

      BOSTON – Non-Muslim students at Boston University have volunteered to spend a day wearing headscarves as part of the university’s March’s Islam Awareness Month in a trial to correct misconceptions about Islam and hijab.

      “I saw the poster at the GSU Link and thought this was a really interesting thing to do,” Dian Qu, a College of Arts and Sciences student, told BU Today.

      “I asked them to show me how to put it on, but I forgot, so I did it my own way,” Qu, who is from China, added.

      Hijab: What’s It All About?

      Hijab Handout Clears US Misconceptions

      US Students Don Hijab, Support Muslims

      American Team Don Hijab to Support Captain

      Qu was not alone in this experience.

      She is among 40 non-Muslim women at BU who volunteered to spend a day wearing headscarves as part of the BU Hijab Day Challenge.

      Her boyfriend insisted she remove the scarf while they walked together. She refused.

      “I just turned around and walked on my own,” she said.

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