Inayat Omarji vividly remembers the worried reaction when he first looked into renovating the abandoned church in his neighborhood: “There’s a bearded young Muslim chap involved in a church! Whoops! He’s gonna turn it into a mosque!”
At the time, Omarji was head of the local council of mosques, but there already were three or four in his neighborhood in Bolton, England.
“What it needed is a place where people could meet, people can come to, people can socialize,” he says.
Omarji and other local Muslims decided to turn the church into a community center for everyone. That was ten years ago. Now, amid stories about religious friction and ethnic tensions, the transformation of All Souls Church provides a story of harmony and integration in one culturally diverse community. […]
The headlines have been grim. Europe’s Jews face “rising anti-Semitism”; in some countries, many are leaving in “record numbers.” In separate incidents in recent months, gunmen have targeted Jews and Jewish institutions in Paris and Copenhagen. Even the Jewish dead have not been left in peace, with reports of graves being desecrated.
But the future of tolerance and multiculturalism in Europe is far from bleak. The bigotry on view has been carried out by a fringe minority, cast all the more in the shade by the huge peace marches and vigils that followed the deadly attacks. And some communities are trying to build solidarity in their home towns and cities.
One group of Muslims in Norway plans to form a “ring of peace” around a synagogue in Oslo on Saturday. On a Facebook page promoting the event, the group explained its motivations. Here’s a translated version of the invite:
Islam is about protecting our brothers and sisters, regardless of which religion they belong to. Islam is about rising above hate and never sinking to the same level as the haters. Islam is about defending each other. Muslims want to show that we deeply deplore all types of hatred of Jews, and that we are there to support them. We will therefore create a human ring around the synagogue on Saturday 21 February. Encourage everyone to come!
Since I have a couple of minutes for Pages today, in addition to the story about the Muslim teen who was run down and killed in Kansas City, let me also call your attention to this story from a couple of days ago about an incident in Germany.
It’s unlikely to get much press here in the U.S. because I doubt that a Muslim doing the ultimate good deed—giving her life to protect others—is considered newsworthy. It doesn’t make good clickbait since, generally speaking, the narrative seems to be Muslims are scary and dangerous, people to be feared & reviled, not lauded as heroes for selfless acts. If she’d been a suicide bomber…
Okay, I’m gonna stop there because this stuff is making me cranky.
Large crowds in Germany have been paying their final respects to a young woman who was killed defending two girls from harassment.
Tugce Albayrak died on Friday after she was hit on the head and left in a coma outside a McDonald’s near Frankfurt.
Hundreds of mourners attended a service at a local mosque before she was due to be buried in her home town.
A man of 18 remains in custody over the 15 November attack, which shocked Germany. […]
A call to prayer rang out and a few flakes of snow fell as hundreds of mourners huddled together in front of Tugce’s coffin. It was a bleak scene. A funeral in the car park of a mosque on an industrial estate. A German and a Turkish flag stood out, colourful, against the grey sky.
Tugce, who was of Turkish descent, has become a national heroine in Germany. […]
My news aggregator found this fascinating blog post on students in a Masters level class in Medieval Studies, specifically one on ‘race and representation’.
Most interesting was the observation on how similar the way Wilson described Brown was to the way medieval authors described Muslims and other outsiders; infantilizing the protagonists of their work and demonizing ‘the other’. To me it shows how useful a good education is, and sadly, how little people have changed.
Muslims in Montgomery County asked the school district — the largest in the state with 140,000 students — to close schools on their two most important religious holidays, just as the district does for major Christian and Jewish holidays.
Instead, the school board voted 7-1 on Tuesday to strip all mention of religious holidays from the calendar, even though Christian and Jewish holidays remain official days off.
Next year, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha both happen to fall on vacation days. So all the school board would have had to do is add the holiday names to the calendar as a symbolic gesture…
The school board’s decision seems to have made everyone mad: Muslim leaders are furious that the board would get rid of religious holidays before acknowledging Muslim ones, while conservative media outlets are accusing the board of “banning” Jewish and Christian religious holidays in order to appease Muslims.
Fear, ignorance, xenophobia, racism and religious fanaticism combine to create a toxic stew of dumbassery.
Fearing that America would soon go the way of a Europe that he claimed is “hopelessly lost” to Muslim population growth, [Family Research Council vice president Jerry] Boykin insisted that “Americans” (among whom he evidently doesn’t include Muslim-Americans) must increase the average birth rate to supersede that of the country’s less-than-one-percent Muslim minority. “It is a very serious issue, which is why Americans need to have more babies and populate this country with red-blooded patriotic Americans,” he said.
Oh, where to start?
First off, Muslims make up less than 4% of the European population excluding Turkey. And even if you include Turkey, it’s still only about 6%. That might go as high as 8% by 2030, but still a minority. How is that ‘hopelessly lost”?
Then we have Boykin’s seeming belief that patriotism can be inherited.
But, of course, it isn’t hard to see the racist dog-whistles behind this rant. It’s another white guy worried that all those darkies will destroy the “purity” of “red-blooded” Americans. (Although, I don’t think red is the color he’s really worried about).
A post last week on the website Family Security Matters — which was founded by Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy and counts a Center official as a member of its board — suggested that the U.S. “tailor the language of Section 2 of the Communist Control Act of 1954” to read that “the organization known as Islam shall be outlawed in the United States.”
(In case you’ve forgotten, FSM is the website that published an essay in 2007 suggesting George W. Bush commit genocide in Iraq and then declare himself emperor of the United States. rationalwiki.org)
But rightwingwatch.org only scratches the surface of the crazy in this latest essay. The author goes on:
And finally, we Americans have always prided ourselves on our ingenuity. Whatever problems we’ve confronted, we have found ways to solve them. So let’s use that ingenuity to change, to the extent possible, the hearts and minds of Muslims around the world.
Because nothing helps wins the “hearts and minds” of people like declaring their religion illegal. But go on….
Scientists have been working since 1947 to perfect 3-dimensional holographic imaging, but the greatest advances in the art were made by physicist Lloyd Cross in 1972. Cross developed the integral hologram by combining white light transmission holography with conventional cinematography to produce lifelike moving 3-dimensional images. It gives special effects technicians the ability to produce the Prophet Mohammed, in three dimensions and in living color, and we can make him deliver any message we want, to any audience we assemble.
Because it worked for Tupac?
More: Stop the Anti-Semitism When Talking Gaza
By Dean Obeidallah
Criticism of Israel’s actions in Gaza is one thing. But anti-Semitism is quite another. Keep it away. Far, far away.
At a crowded Muslim-American event I attended Sunday in North Jersey, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim elected to Congress, spoke about a range of issues. The audience, many of whom have supported Ellison since he was first elected in 2006, cheered many of his comments, but the biggest applause line came when Ellison said: “There’s absolutely no place for anti-Semitism in discussing Israeli policy.”
And that reaction is not atypical in my experience. On Saturday, I attended another large Muslim-American event in Long Island, New York, and that same sentiment was expressed there.
Muslims, like Jews, are a minority faith in America. Consequently, we have endured our share of vicious barbs launched by hate-group leaders, elected officials and even clergy members of other faiths. This has made us keenly aware of the pain of being demonized simply for our faith. That is why Ellison and I and the Muslims I know find it so despicable to see instances of anti-Semitism arise over the conflict in Gaza.
This is especially the case in Europe. While the media have noted that in large part the rallies there opposing the Netanyahu government’s military action in Gaza have been peaceful, there has been an alarming amount of anti-Semitism on display.
“Gas the Jews” and “Death to the Jews” have been heard at some rallies. Firebombs have been thrown at synagogues in France and Germany, and Jewish-owned businesses in Paris have been vandalized. As Daniel Schwammenthal, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Transatlantic Institute explained to the International Business Times, “If you attack a synagogue, explain to me what this has to do with being concerned about Gaza. You just want to hurt the Jews.” He’s 100 percent correct.
This type of conduct is despicable. Period. There’s no “but” or “let me explain why I said or did that.” It doesn’t matter how much you are angered or heartbroken by the image of children being killed in Gaza. And being of Palestinian heritage, I’ve been very aware of the suffering of Palestinian civilians well before social media has recently made this information instantaneously accessible. So I say this as someone who is very supportive of Palestinian humanity.
Anti-Semitism is morally wrong. It’s just like racism, Islamaphobia, homophobia, or any other type of hate. It can’t be tolerated, defended, or contextualized regardless of the form it manifests.
I really don’t have much to add except to say that I’m really glad to see this because we don’t need to be fighting with each other over here too. We can get along.
Muslim-Jewish iftars are popping up across the nation, bringing together dozens and sometimes hundreds of people for a celebratory Ramadan meal and to forge interfaith friendships.
This Ramadan, as Jews and Muslims exchange rocket fire in Israel and Gaza, those attending these meals say they are all the more significant, as a way of demonstrating that Jews and Muslims have much in common, and can enjoy each others’ food and company.
In Los Angeles on Thursday (July 10), an iftar that bills itself as the single largest gathering of Muslims and Jews in the city, is sponsored by NewGround, an organization that works year-round on Muslim-Jewish relations. The group exists to build resilient relationships that both groups can draw upon in particularly difficult times, said Rabbi Sarah Bassin, NewGround’s former executive director.
“Yes, we are in another awful flare-up of violence and both of our communities are suffering,” Bassin said. “That will be acknowledged at the iftar.”
At next week’s “Iftar in the Synagogue” at Chicago Sinai Congregation, “we will try to figure out how we can deal with the tragedy overseas and move forward,” said Husna Ghani, management consultant at the Council of Muslim Organizations of Greater Chicago. “That’s the whole point.” […]
Jews and Muslims conducted a joint prayer session for the safe return of three Israeli teenagers abducted five days ago near the site of their kidnapping south of Jerusalem Tuesday
About two dozen Jewish residents of the Etzion bloc and rabbis arrived at the junction where officials believe the kidnappers drove after abducting the three yeshiva students.
The prayer session was organized by the Tag Meir forum, a grassroots organization created to fight Jewish nationalist vandalism targeting Palestinians. Prominent rabbis and public figures, including former Meimad minister Rabbi Michael Melchior; educator Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun from nearby Alon Shvut; and Hadassah Froman, the widow of rabbi and peace activist Menachem Froman from the settlement of Tekoa, recited psalms or spoke at the event, alongside a handful of Muslims.
“Our hearts are torn at this moment, and my heart goes out the mothers of these children,” said Sheikh Ibrahim Al-Hawa from the Jerusalem neighborhood of A-Tur on the Mount of Olives, before reciting the first chapter of the Quran, the Fatiha.
“There is a wall between our two nations, and we hope to remove the wall separating the hearts of humans … we pray that God return these youngsters to their mothers as soon as possible, God willing,” he added, speaking in Arabic.
Melchior told the audience that he had spoken to Islamic clerics who expressed their concern over the fate of the youths, demanding their immediate release “without any debate or negotiation.”
“Not only are the people of Israel in distress, but they [the Palestinians] are in great distress as well. They feel that a crime has been perpetrated. All that is left to do is to pray for God’s mercy,” Melchior said.
That sentiment was expressed by Ziad Sabatin, 42, a Palestinian peace activist from the village of Husan, west of Bethlehem.
“Any person of faith should be here today,” Sabatin told The Times of Israel. “Man is holier than land.”