ISIS: Wake-up Call to Muslim Women?

Amina Wadud
Amina Wadud

Why is Isis a wake-up call to Muslim women?
by Homa Khaleeli
April 13, 2015

With her warm manner, academic language and grey-tinged dreadlocks partially covered by a headscarf, Amina Wadud makes an unlikely rebel. But the 62-year-old African-American professor, the daughter of a Methodist minister, is one of Islam’s leading feminists. Ten years ago, she faced down a bomb threat in New York when she led Friday prayers to a mixed congregation of men and women – something many religious scholars argued was forbidden in Islam. Three years later, she defied protests from local groups to do the same in London. Not content with taking on the mosques, now she has her sights set on revolutionising sharia councils and the laws that underpin them.

Sharia, she points out, is a world view, “the divine order of the universe”. What she is interrogating is fiqh, the Muslim legal tradition of man-made rules based on almost exclusively male interpretations of sacred texts. “When we are talking about laws, we are into talking about who is interpreting the laws, and what judicial methods they use,” she tells me. “The prophet made radical reforms but [Muslims] didn’t keep pace with that. If you start with that and no one else on the planet has it, you should be ahead of anyone else on the planet with regards to gender. But instead we let patriarchy to take over.”

Wadud is working with Musawah, an organisation campaigning for gender equality, and has contributed a chapter to its new book, Men in Charge? Rethinking Authority in Muslim Legal Tradition, which focuses on just one verse in the Qur’an – (4:34) that the authors have called “the DNA of patriarchy”. It is this verse that scholars have used to insist that God has given men authority over women – leading to wildly discriminatory laws of which Saudi Arabia’s infamous guardianship system (which prevents women from having medical procedures, taking a job or getting an education without the permission of a male guardian) is just one example.

While much of the Qur’an speaks of justice and spiritual equality, the prominence given to the interpretation of this verse has led to discriminatory laws and, as Wadud points out, “completely patriarchal” sharia councils. In the UK, hold power to dissolve marriages and have been criticised for discriminating against women.

“I have more optimism than I thought I would ever have before I died,” she says, pointing out that, even in countries such as Saudi Arabia, women have successfully campaigned to be able to stand for certain offices, vote in certain elections and increase the number of jobs they can do. “You have no place on the planet Earth where women are not on the move,” she says, firmly.

Even the terrifying rise of Isis doesn’t quell her hope. “The worst manifestation of Islam in our time is the so-called Islamic State,” she says, “but it might be our salvation. This is a powerful wake-up call: just because people say they are doing something in the name of Islam does not mean you have to agree with them. And as soon as you have the freedom not to agree with an interpretation of Islam, then the question of interpretation comes up and that’s my life right there – talking about how Islam has always been filtered through the interpretation of people who have the power.”

Indeed… might we also say that just because Christians or Jews or Hindus or Buddhists say “they are doing something in the name of [their religion or their God] does not mean that you have to agree with them.”

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/apr/13/why-is-isis-a-wake-up-call-to-muslim-women?CMP=share_btn_tw

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ISIS: Wake-up Call to Muslim Women?

Christians Talking to Muslims

Is Dialogue with Islam Possible?
By Thomas Reese
March 13, 2015 for the National Catholic Reporter

“It is dialogue and cooperation on the local level that makes a difference.”

Granted the Islamic State group and the multiple conflicts occurring in the Middle East, is dialogue with Islam possible? This was the question asked by Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, nuncio emeritus to Egypt and former president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
As a member of the Society of Missionaries of Africa and an Arabic and Islamic scholar, Fitzgerald is especially qualified to discuss this topic, as he did in a March 6 lecture at The Catholic University of America sponsored by the Institute of Policy Research and Catholic Studies and the Africa Faith and Justice Network.

Despite having spent most of his life in dialogue with Islam, Fitzgerald is not blind to the difficulties of dialogue. He began by examining three elements that make dialogue difficult with certain categories of Muslims.

First, “there is a great difference in the experience of Jesus and Muhammad, and thus in the foundational experience of these two religions,” he said. Both were prophets with a message of conversion to the world. Both gathered around them disciples.

“Yet Jesus preached the kingdom of God, a kingdom which was not of this world,” Fitzgerald explained. “His was an essentially religious message which, although it was designed to have an effect on people’s behavior in this world, could be lived out within any political setting.”

“[Muhammad’s] message too was essentially religious, the acknowledgement of the one God as against the prevalent polytheism, but it had a social dimension to it, which was to bring about the formation of a new community bound not by blood ties or tribal loyalty, but by religion: the Umma.” The Umma was both a religious and a political community, and it took up arms to survive. Muhammad was both a prophet and a statesman.

Pre-Constantine Christianity, on the other hand, was a purely religious movement that did not take up arms to survive.

“So although Christianity was, as it were, taken over and used by political entities, in the first place by the Byzantines and then afterward by various monarchs and rulers, in essence, it remains independent of any political power,” Fitzgerald said. “Whereas Islam, from its very beginning as a separate community, has been both religious and political, and one would be tempted to say that striving to defend the community, if necessary by force of arms, is a natural component of the religion.”

There is a tendency among Muslims to look back to its first period, that of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs, as the time of glory and true Islam. This has inspired numerous revivalist movements throughout history. Jihads against Muslims who did not practice a pure version of Islam became common. Most of these movements were local and short-lived, but the Wahhabi movement, which started in the 18th century, is still with us and finds sponsorship in Saudi Arabia.

The attraction of the caliphate is the second issue examined by Fitzgerald. He notes that Islam split into Sunni and Shiite factions after the death of Muhammad because of disagreements over succession.

The Shiite believe that Muhammad appointed Ali, his cousin, as his successor. For the Shiite, each imam designates his successor, who must belong to the family of the prophet. The Shiite believe that there were 12 imams following Muhammad and that the 12th imam went into occultation and will return at the end of time to bring about a reign of justice.

Sunnis believe Muhammad made no provision for succession and therefore succession would be determined through election by prominent members of the community.

Yet despite these divisions, the caliphate during its period of Islamic expansion and prosperity acted as a focal point of unity for Muslims. This lasted until the mid-10th century, when the caliphate began to lose its importance until Mustafa Kemal Ataturk finally abolished it in 1924.

Although an attractive ideal, the caliphate has not always been a dominant factor in the life of Islam and certainly for centuries has not functioned as a unifying political power. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s pronouncement that he is the caliph has been condemned by Muslim authorities. A leading scholar, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, has said that the title of caliph can “only be given by the entire Muslim nation.”

The last point Fitzgerald examines is Shariah by which the Umma is to be regulated. He notes that there are four sources for Shariah: the Quran; the Sunnah, or tradition of the prophet; qiyas, or analogy; and ijma, or consensus among scholars. The multiple sources and textual ambiguity lead to debate and disagreements over Shariah so that there are at least four different schools of interpretation.

So when it is proclaimed that Shariah law is going to be applied, the question will arise as to which Shariah. Who is going to decide which type of Shariah law is to be applied, and who is to control its application, seeing that all the conditions are fulfilled before a judgment is given?

Fitzgerald concluded: “The takfiri jihadists who have proclaimed an Islamic State where Shariah law will be observed under the guidance of a self-designated caliph are not upholding Islamic tradition, whatever they may say.” He said he believes that dialogue is impossible with such people “who are convinced they hold the truth and therefore have no need of listening to others.”

But dialogue with other Muslims is possible, he argued. He pointed to four types of dialogue that are possible and encouraged by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue: the dialogue of life, the dialogue of action, the dialogue of discourse, and the dialogue of spiritual experience.

The dialogue of life, or what Fitzgerald calls harmonious living, takes place “where people strive to live in an open and neighborly spirit, sharing their joys and sorrows, their human problems and preoccupations,” in the words of the pontifical council.

Christians and Muslims have been living side by side for centuries in Africa and Asia, and now Muslims are present in increasing number in Europe and North America.

“Steps have to be taken in order to allow people to get to know one another and to create harmony,” Fitzgerald said. Increased violence has made this more difficult, but also more necessary.

Second, there is the dialogue of action where Christians and Muslims work together to face up to problems of society. Christians and Muslims have found common cause in the pro-life movement as well as in advocating human rights, social reforms, and care of the environment. Working together creates understanding and trust.

The third is the dialogue of discourse where, according to the pontifical council, “specialists seek to deepen their understanding of their respective religious heritages, and to appreciate each other’s spiritual values.” Themes such as justice in international trade relations, business ethics, problems of migration, media and religion, respect for the environment, and questions of bioethics have all been taken up in these dialogues. Some dialogues have also discussed purely theological topics like the foundations for holiness and reason, faith and the human person.

Finally, there is the dialogue of religious experience, where, according to the pontifical council, “persons, rooted in their own religious traditions, share their spiritual riches, for instance with regard to prayer and contemplation, faith and ways of searching for God.” Religious communities like the Benedictines and Trappists have been involved in such dialogues.

Fitzgerald concluded “that Christian-Muslim dialogue exists, and therefore it is possible.” But the situation is uneven. “There are places where there is very little or no interest at all in such dialogue, yet there are other places where relations with Muslim neighbors have become a normal concern for Christian communities.”

But at the same time that cooperation is growing, so too is mutual suspicion, which renders dialogue more difficult.

Fitzgerald puts little faith in international meetings of religious leaders and scholars. It is dialogue and cooperation on the local level that makes a difference. He said local dialogue should not be seen as a fire brigade for responding to a crisis, but as a preventive strategy that builds relationships that inoculate communities from being drawn into violence by suspicions and misunderstandings.

“It entails increasing mutual knowledge, overcoming prejudices, creating trust,” he explained. “It means strengthening bonds of friendship and collaboration to such an extent that detrimental influences coming from outside can be resisted.”

“Its aim is to build up good relations among people of different religions, helping them to live in peace and harmony,” Fitzgerald said. He noted that where Muslim and Christian leaders and communities have a history of cooperation, conflict is less likely to escalate into violence.

“It is the conflict that makes the news, not the absence of conflict,” he noted. “And yet this absence of conflict is really the good news.”

Where conflict has occurred, there will be a need for a purification of memories, which “means listening to the differing accounts of the same events, paying attention to both facts and perceptions, and trying to come to a common understanding,” he explained. “When the past is examined with honesty, it will usually be seen that all is not black and white. There can be wrongs on both sides. In any case, the acknowledgement of wrongs done, of injustices, of atrocities is an important step in any process of reconciliation.”

“Interreligious dialogue should lead to a common search for understanding, to a shared sympathy for those who are suffering and in need, to a thirst for justice for all, to forgiveness for wrong done, together with a readiness to acknowledge one’s own wrong-doings, whether individual or collective,” Fitzgerald concluded. “This would seem to be the true way forward for Christian-Muslim dialogue.”

***Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a senior analyst for National Catholic Reporter and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. His email address is treesesj@ncronline.org. You can follow him on Twitter: @ThomasReeseSJ

http://ncronline.org/blogs/faith-and-justice/dialogue-islam-possible

Christians Talking to Muslims

Prayer for Muslim-Jewish Relations

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joshua-stanton/prayer-for-muslim-jewish_b_6448608.html

Article by Rabbi Joshua Stanton

“Too many Muslims and Jews have not lived up to their values in responding to the attacks in France.

In the United States, I have heard too many Jews whose views I usually respect speak of the closing of Paris’s synagogues last night for security reasons as justification to likewise close Paris’s mosques for an evening as collective punishment. In the United States, I have heard too many Muslims whose views I usually respect talking about media bias as a reason to forgo speaking out against the brutality in Paris. I have seen too many Jews ignore the shootings at French mosques in the time since the attacks in Paris began, and I have seen too many Muslims use the Middle East conflict as pseudo-explanation for the killing that has taken place in France of Jewish citizens.

We are two American religious communities in such pain from the outburst of extremist violence in France that we not only have forgotten each other. We have forgotten ourselves.

Muslim and Jewish communities in America are for the most part glowing examples of collaboration. Just think back a couple of months to the conference at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America with leaders from the Islamic Society of North America and Hartford Seminary on enduring and meaningful Muslim-Jewish engagement. Think of the incredible twinning of mosques and synagogues around the country. Think of the thousands of hours of community and civic service we do together. Think of how far we’ve come compared to so many Jewish and Muslim communities around the world.

In my own life, I think of beloved Muslim friends and mentors, who have shaped who I am as a rabbi and a human being today. The Eboo Patel’s of the world. The Abdullah Antepli’s of the world. The Khalid Latif’s of the world. If ever there were other mensches like them.

We have too much to lose to lose each other in this painful international fray.

The violence of this week took the lives of innocents, whom we must all mourn. But the ricochet of violence this week has taken our innocence and set back Muslims and Jews living thousands of miles away from these events more than I could have imagined. Extremists have already done too much harm. We cannot let them do injury to the incredible strides Muslims and Jews have taken in the United States to build bridges and prevent strife, to care for each other and share in each other’s lives.

My prayer for Muslims and Jews, most especially those in America, is that they find their highest selves, even in this time of pain. We still can be at our best as individuals and communities even when the world feels like it is at its worst. We still can be the beacon of light America’s communities so often have been to their counterparts overseas. We still can quash extremism in its many manifestations and preempt violence. We still can undermine hate with hope and loathing with loving. We can still build relationships and see them to fruition.

May the Divine spark help each of us return to that sacred place of peace within, so that we can spread it to the reaches of a world that is in so much need of it. The possibility for so much good in Muslim-Jewish relations resides with us, most especially as American Jews and Muslims. It is our sacred obligation to more fully realize that possibility in our lives and translate it into meaningful action in our world.”

Follow Rabbi Joshua Stanton on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/JoshuaMZStanton

Prayer for Muslim-Jewish Relations

Jerusalem

I’ve been thinking, feeling and praying “coexistence” these most recent days…my personal response to so much ignorance, fear and hate surrounding me. Faithful followers, please pray for peace… pray for peace that MUST begin with each and every one of us! Politicians do not make peace… we do.

I had the opportunity last evening to attend the opening of the Annual Las Vegas Jewish Film Festival. Eleven award-winning films over two weeks; a warm welcoming Jewish community of fellowship and acceptance even though I am not Jewish and complimentary tickets from new friends…it doesn’t take much to keep this interfaith minister happy. I am honored and thrilled to participate and listen to the kind of thoughtful discussion that most definitely makes film festivals excellent adventures.

The opening film viewed by more than 300 in attendance was Jerusalem, a National Geographic Entertainment move filmed in 3D IMAX.

I guess I knew this going into the theater… but like so much of learning… I didn’t fully realize its implications.

So here’s the deal: Jerusalem is one of the world’s oldest and most enigmatic cities. Literally, this tiny place is geographically situated at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and The East. It’s been been destroyed and rebuilt countless times over more than 5,000 years. It’s enduring will to live and its message of hope is extraordinary. Other than having its own pure source of underground water in a barren desert, what keeps this place alive?

Literally within the confines of just 0.9 square kilometers (0.35 sq mi), the Old City thrives within the bustling modern city of Jerusalem. Indeed, it’s an absolutely central city to all three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Jerusalem surrounds hugely important religious sites: the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque for Muslims, the Temple Mount and Western Wall for Jews and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for Christians.

Added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site List in 1981, traditionally, the Old City is roughly divided into four uneven quarters: the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter and the Armenian Quarter. Largest populations are found in the Islamic and Christian quarters – all surrounded by Jews.

What’s so extraordinary is that within the City of Jerusalem three separate and distinct religious cultures with complicated and volatile histories coexist.

From the film’s commentary:

“It is easy to understand why Jerusalem has so often been the site of armed conflicts over the centuries. Temples have been torn down only to be rebuilt as pagan shrines or churches. Churches have been burnt down. Mosques have been converted into churches. There have been 118 conflicts in and for Jerusalem over the past 4,000 years. Jerusalem has been conquered 44 times. It has been besieged 23 times, completely destroyed twice and has seen 11 transfers from one religion to another. It has only changed hands peacefully twice.

Jews, Christians, and Muslims have plenty to be angry about. We could hold grudges across the centuries. Yet, our calling is toward love, to be neighbors. Muslim rulers like Saladin and Suleiman the Magnificent permitted worship of all religions in Jerusalem. They were good neighbors. The city has seen periods of reigns marked by intolerance and injustice followed by periods of peace and prosperity. Diversity has distinguished Jerusalem across the centuries and even today. The four major quarters of the Old City — Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Armenian — reflect the rich history and the deep love that each community feels for Jerusalem.”

The film strengthen my commitment to hope, (the fundamental mission of my ministry) and my resolve to live and study in Jerusalem soon. I have much to learn there.

Jerusalem is a stunningly beautiful film that delivers a profound message of religious tolerance and coexistence. Consider taking the opportunity to see it.

http://www.jerusalemthemovie.com/#/?modal=0&page=home

Blessings!

Jerusalem

8 Stories of Jewish and Muslim Compassion

Muslim Harim Hamad guards the only  Jewish synagogue in Arazon
Muslim Harim Hamad guards the only Jewish synagogue in Arazon, Morocco

As an interfaith minister, I study the very best teachings of the world’s religions and honor the spiritual wisdom of their beliefs and traditions.
I believe all paths lead to one God, the Divine, the Sacred. Each path reflects the rich diversity of our collective human experience. Religion is one strand of the fabric of who we are as a species.

Differences abound. Different gene pools, cultures, histories, geographical and climactic adaptations… we seem to have mastered our differences quite well.
But so many of our difference represent nothing more than different groups of people in collective search of a bit of purpose and meaning in their often chaotic, unpredictable and uncontrollable lives. Indeed, we cherish our joys but also mourn our sorrows.

We don’t have to look very far to realize that people are people with varying degrees of successes and failures when it comes to coexistence. Some individuals coexist better than others. Some couples coexist better than others. Some families/tribes coexist better than others. Some groups/nations coexist better than others. Some religions coexist better than others. Often, coexistence is not easy but it can be accomplished and it can flourish.

The ongoing intolerance, fear and vengeful behavior between Jews and Muslims is tragic and painful. It’s ungodly and despite its pretenses has nothing to do with spirituality… little to do with religion… and everything to do with both subtle and overt politics throughout millennia. It is, as I understand it, a stain upon our human evolution on this planet. (Christianity’s contribution to the terror will be the topic of another blog post).

I am committed to coexistence personally and professionally. I love my Jewish friends. I love my Muslim friends. I love having them to vegan brunch or lunch or dinner together… as I orchestrate opportunities to shake hands, see their bodies and souls and listen to each other as they share healthy, cruelty-free food and drink… over my glass-top table… my profane alter where “God and man at table are sat down.”

Regardless of that which is declared politically correct these days, I have come to believe that both Judaism and Islam are valid pathways to the Sacred. I believe that Israel is right. I believe that Palestine is right. I believe that Israel is wrong. I believe that Palestine is also wrong.

If war is to be the ultimate result of the Abrahamic religions’ coexistence… if the tribes of Abraham – Jews, Christians and Muslims cannot coexist – a friend says – then God has failed us.

I choose not to live that way. If Jews, Christians and Muslims cannot coexist, I believe that we have failed God.

Bluntly, I look for hope where ever I can find it. I choose to find hope here. Read with me:

As 2014 draws to a close we wanted to honor some of the inspirational individuals that rose above the political tensions that divide Jews and Muslims and extended a hand of friendship. (Courtesy of the Interfaith Council of Southern NV, of which I am a member).
http://www.judaism-islam.com/8-touching-stories-of-jewish-and-muslim-friendship-from-2014/4/
Blessings!

8 Stories of Jewish and Muslim Compassion