Archive for Interfaith

Dearborn: Muslims and Members of Other Faiths Successfully Counter Anti-Muslim Conference

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Blogs, Loon People with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2012 by loonwatch

MSNBC describes it as “dueling in Dearborn.” I think the real story is the rejection of Islamophobia, and the anti-Islam outsiders who arrived only to agitate:

Dueling in Dearborn over murder of a 20-year-old woman

By Kari Huus, msnbc.com

In Dearborn Mich., a Detroit suburb known for its concentration of Muslim Americans, anti-Islam leaders from around the country are gathering to discuss how to rescue women from that faith. The “Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference on Honor Killings” on Sunday is named for a local Muslim woman murdered one year ago.

But Muslims, civil rights groups and other religious leaders say the conference is merely another event put on by well-known bigots to attack the minority religion. Their response was to schedule a town hall meeting just a few miles away on Sunday called “Rejecting Islamophobia: A Community Stand Against Hate.”

The honor killing conference, organized by Pamela Geller, who became nationally famous for her vocal opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque, aka Park 51 in Manhattan, is based on the premise that Mokdad, 20 years old when she died in April 2011, was the victim of an honor killing justified by Islam.

Mokdad’s family maintains that the killing was a tragedy that has nothing to do with their Islamic beliefs, according to a report in the Detroit Free Press.

“It’s not a case based on honor,” Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor Bill Cataldo, chief of homicide, told the Free Press on Friday.

In court, prosecutors have said the motive for Mokdad’s killing was that her stepfather, Rahim Alfetlawi had “been sexually abusing her,” Cataldo said, according to the report. They argue that when she threatened to go public about the abuse he killed her.

Cataldo said the family strongly objects to the conference using Mokdad’s killing, which they say was a tragedy that had nothing to do with their faith.

Geller insists this was an honor killing carried out by a devout Muslim because his stepdaughter was not following Islam, and that the family is covering it up. She alleges that law enforcers systematically cover up honor killings here and elsewhere under “stealth enforcement” of Islamic shariah law.

On her web site, Geller says: “Despite pressure from the media and members of Jessica’s family who want to cover up the honor killing aspect of her murder, we are not going to change the name of the conference. Unlike those closest to her, we are going to honor Jessica’s memory and stand up against the brutal practice that took her life.”

The Dearborn conference will feature speeches by Geller and Robert Spencer — author of the blog “Jihad Watch” — as well as several like-minded legal and religious figures. They have also invited a young man who says he was Mokdad’s friend to offer “firsthand testimony” that she was a victim of honor killing.

Stop the Islamization of America, which Geller and Spencer founded, has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit civil rights watchdog.

“Pamela Geller is the anti-Muslim movement’s most visible and flamboyant figurehead,” according to a profile published by SPLC on its web site. ”She’s relentlessly shrill and coarse in her broad-brush denunciations of Islam and makes preposterous claims.”

The Arab American Institute, a decades-old community organization in the Detroit area, discouraged Muslims and their supporters from protesting at the site of Geller’s conference.  But they organized a competing event, said AAI president Jim Zogby, because Geller and Spencer have become too prominent to ignore.

“Geller and Spencer have thousands of followers, and are given airtime to spew their hate on major American news networks, as if they are respected analysts with just another viewpoint,” Zogby said on the AAI announcement for the “Rejecting Islamophobia” town hall in Detroit.

Although many Americans have never encountered a Muslim in person, about 43 percent questioned in a recent Gallup Poll said they felt at least “a little” prejudice against Muslims.

“This group, we cannot ignore. This is the time for our community to take a stand, along with all those who value America’s commitment to diversity and freedom of religion, against the politics of division and bigotry promoted by the Islamophobes.”

A variety of community, interfaith and religious leaders and Michigan public on their agenda, for a “community conversation about how to respond to these continued attacks,” said Zogby.

One participant who was just on his way to the town hall was Dawud Walid, who heads the Michigan office of the Council on American Islamic Relations, a civil rights advocacy group for Muslims.

“I think firstly we have to better expose who these anti-Muslim bigots are as well as their funders,” said Walid. “We believe that the Islamophobia that permeates our country is being pushed by a well-organized, highly-funded network.”

He says that while Dearborn and Detroit have become a focus for the activities of Geller and others of like mind, the problem is bigger.

“Islamophobia is a national illness,” he said.

Angry, Paranoid and Sporting a Fu Manchu: A Triumphant Terry Jones Does Dearborn

Posted in Loon Pastors with tags , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2012 by loonwatch

Terry Jones

Terry Jones is a crackpot “Reverand” who gained infamy by publicly burning the Qur’an.

Last year Jones was denied a permit to protest on Good Friday in front of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan, prompting howls of protest all across the looniverse. Anti-Muslim bigots accused the court of subverting the US Constitution and caving in to Sharia.

Dearborn is home to America’s largest Muslim community, and a model of interfaith tolerance. Jews, Christians, and Muslims responded to Jones’ hateful message by holding their own rally and carrying a banner that read:

“We, as caring neighbors in southeastern Michigan, stand together in condemning the actions of those who spew hate and fear, and who misuse and desecrate holy books of faith.”

Before and during the rally, hundreds of people signed a 50-foot-long banner that exhorted them to oppose Jones and remember the best parts of their faith. Jones was briefly jailed and banned from returning to the mosque for three years.

This year, a Michigan judge overturned the decision to ban Jones, and the “Reverend,” dressed in a dapper black leather ensemble and sporting a carefully trimmed fu manchu, delivered an impassioned speech about the grave danger Islam poses to America–to all 20 of his supporters.

Florida pastor at Dearborn protest: ‘Islam has one goal — that is world domination’

By Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press

Speaking today in front of the biggest mosque in Michigan, the Florida pastor known for burning the Quran blasted Islam and called upon Americans to take back their country.

Islam has one goal — that is world domination,” said Terry Jones, wearing sunglasses, jeans and a faded black-leather jacket. “It’s time to stand up.”

Holding signs in English and Arabic that read “I Will Not Submit,” about 20 supporters cheered as Jones and his assistant spoke outside the Islamic Center of America, a Dearborn mosque that sits off Ford Road. Framed by the mosque’s minarets, Jones said he’s concerned that the growth of the Muslim population in metro Detroit and the U.S. will lead to the oppression of non-Muslims.

“Muslims, no matter they go around the world … they push their agenda on the society,” said Jones. “We must take back America.”

The mosque was placed on lockdown Saturday afternoon, with about 30 police cars from Detroit, Dearborn, Wayne County and Michigan surrounding the complex, which also includes several churches. Traffic in and out was prevented, disappointing some worshippers who were not aware of Jones’ rally and couldn’t access the mosque. During the anti-Muslim rally, an electronic billboard with the Islamic Center read: “Happy Easter.”

About 500 feet from Jones was a group of counter-protesters, some of whom were with an activist organization, By Any Means Necessary (BAMN). Police prevented them from approaching the grassy area in front of the mosque where Jones spoke. Muslim leaders had urged people not to attend the counter-protest. Unlike Jones’ last two visits to Dearborn, this one was uneventful with no arrests and no street clashes.

Jones said during his talk that he’s also concerned about the free speech rights of Americans. Over the past year, Jones has battled the City of Dearborn for the right to speak in front of the mosque. Last year, a Dearborn judge threw him briefly in jail and ordered him to stay away from the mosque for three years. That decision was later overturned by a Detroit judge.

Last month, the city asked Jones to sign a legal agreement before protesting. Jones then filed a lawsuit, prompting a Detroit federal judge to rule Thursday in his favor. Jones was represented for free in his battles with the city by the Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center, a conservative Christian group established by Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan.

During the talk, some supporters of Jones made derogatory remarks and jokes about Muslims. When Jones criticized Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson during his speech, one supporter blurted out: “Throw ‘em in the pit with the Muslims.”

After the rally, supporters of Jones posed for photos in front of the mosque.

A crew from Real Catholic TV, a media outlet based in Ferndale that’s owned by a member of Opus Dei, was at the rally. Its host, Michael Voris, said he supports Jones’ right to free speech and some of his views. Jones, who was a pastor in Germany, said Europe is increasingly under the sway of Islamic law.

“There are whole sections of London ruled by sharia law,” Voris said. “I think there’s the potential to happen in the U.S. what has happened — and is happening — in Europe.”

Tim Voss, 64, of Wayne, said he came Saturday to support Jones because “sharia law is the most dangerous thing. We can’t have it in this country.”

Down the road, counter-protester Laura Dennis, 38, of Detroit, held up a sign that read: “God Loves Us All.”

Speaking about Jones, Dennis said: “This guy’s just a hate monger, no different from the Klan or a Nazi.”

Happy Passover and Easter Weekend

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , on April 7, 2012 by loonwatch

To all those celebrating and reflecting on Passover and Easter, may this be a blessed time for you all.

May it be a time free of hate and filled with peace, security and spiritual renewal.

Happy Passover:

Happy Easter:

Robert Spencer Fail: Tries to Use Death of Pope Shenouda III to Promote Sectarianism and Islamophobia

Posted in Feature, Loon Blogs with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2012 by loonwatch

JihadWatch’s anti-Muslim fear-mongering director Robert Spencer likes to selectively highlight the most egregious and sectarian statements by Muslims to further his hate agenda against Islam/Muslims.

In the wake of the death of the Coptic Pope Shenouda III he posted a piece about how a cleric named Wagdi Ghoneim said that the death of Pope Shenouda was a “relief” because the Pope caused “sectarian strife” and sought to make Egypt into a “Coptic state.”

To address that specifically, I wonder if the irony is lost on Wagdi Ghoneim, he accused Pope Shenouda of having furthered “sectarian strife” but by writing what he did he himself engaged in “sectarian strife.”

While there are small fringe groups of Copts who wish to turn Egypt into a Coptic state, trying to push this concept as emerging from the Pope, or the mainstream of Copts is similar to the “Islamization” myth that ironically Spencer and his acolytes regularly engage in. The Pope himself was a nationalist and opposed “foreign intervention” and stated that while Copts are “marginalized” in Egypt they are not “oppressed.”

That said, the main point I want to highlight is the fact that Robert Spencer is attempting to shift focus from the overwhelming support and expressions of condolences and grief from Muslims for the passing of the Pope. He chooses one cleric and tries to attribute it as the general feeling of Muslim Egyptians.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

High ranking Muslim politicians, scholars, clerics, intellectuals and lay people expressed their sympathy and sadness at his passing.

“His holiness lived and died as a loyal patriot to his country,” Parliament Speaker Saad el-Katatni, an Islamist, told a joint meeting of the two chambers of parliament Saturday.

Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb, Grand Imam of al-Azhar, the highest seat of religious learning in the Sunni world, offered his condolences to the Egyptian people for such a great loss, saying,

“Egypt has lost one of its rare men at a sensitive moment when it most needs the wisest of its wise – their expertise and their purity of minds.”

Egypt Mufti Sheikh Ali Gomaa also mourned the deceased pontiff as a great Egyptian and patriot, saying,

“His death is a tragedy and a great loss for Egypt and its people of Muslims and Christians.”

Freedom and Justice Party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm and the party with the largest majority in parliament stated,

“The Freedom and Justice Party sends its deepest condolences to the Egyptian people and our Christian brothers over the death of Pope Shenouda III,” FJP leader Mohamed Mursi said.

Presidential contenders such as Amr Moussa and Ahmed Shafiq also expressed their sadness,

Presidential aspirant Amr Moussa said he was saddened by Pope Shenouda’s death.

“We have lost a great value and a pre-eminent pope,” said Ahmed Shafiq, another presidential contender, and a Mubarak-era prime minister.

For more see: Egypt Muslims Mourn Pope Shenouda’s Passing

Here is a picture of Egyptian Christians expressing their thanks and reciprocating the “love” they received at the death of their leader:

Pope_Shenouda_Muslim_Christian_Unity

Egyptian Christians stand in front of a picture of the late Pope Shenouda III after receiving condolences from both Muslims and Christians. Signs read in Arabic (H/T: ZH):
“We feel your love. Thank you, Muslim brothers and sisters”

Sonny Singh: We Are All Muslims: A Sikh Response to Islamophobia in the NYPD and Beyond

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 13, 2012 by loonwatch

Sonny Singh: We Are All Muslims: A Sikh Response to Islamophobia in the NYPD and Beyond

As a brown-skinned Sikh with a turban on my head and a long beard on my chin, I deal with my fair share of racist and xenophobic harassment regularly, including in my home of New York City, the most diverse city on the planet. It usually takes the form of someone yelling or perhaps mumbling at me: Osama bin Laden/terrorist/al Qaeda/he’s going to blow up the /go back to your country/etc. Less often, someone might threaten me, get in my face, or in one case, pull off my turban on the subway.

My experience is not terribly unique for a turban-wearing Sikh in the United States. Especially since 9/11, we Sikhs have become all too familiar with racial epithets, bullying and violence. Just last month, a gurdwara in Michigan was vandalized with hostile anti-Muslim graffiti. Last year, in what we can assume was a hate attack, two elderly Sikh men were shot and killed while taking an evening walk in a quiet neighborhood in Elk Grove, Calif.

Many talk about the prevalence of anti-Sikh attacks as a case of “mistaken identity.” Sikhs mistaken for Muslims. Indeed, we are by and large attacked because of anti-Muslim bigotry. The Michigan gurdwara was targeted for that reason, and most of us who experience racist harassment as Sikhs in the U.S. experience it through the vilification of Muslims and/or Arabs.

Ironically, many Sikhs themselves vilify Muslims or at least distance themselves from the Muslim community at every possible opportunity. I remember in the days, weeks and months after 9/11, the first thing out of the mouths of many Sikhs when talking to the press, to politicians or even to their neighbors was, “We are not Muslims.” While this is of course a fact, the implication of the statement if it stops there is: You’re attacking the wrong community. Don’t come after us, go after the Muslims! Sikhs believe in equality and freedom and love our country and our government. But Muslims? We don’t like them either.

The roots of anti-Muslim sentiment in the Sikh community run deep in South Asia, from the days of the tyranny of Mughal emperors such as Aurangzeb in the 17th century to the bloodshed in 1947 when our homeland of Punjab was sliced into two separate nation-states. Despite these historical realities, Sikhism has always been clear that neither Muslims as a people nor Islam as a religion were ever the enemy. Tyranny was the enemy. Oppression was the enemy. Sectarianism was the enemy. In fact, the Guru Granth Sahib, our scriptures that are the center of Sikh philosophy and devotion, contains the writings of Muslim (Sufi) saints alongside those of our own Sikh Gurus. Nevertheless, historical memory breeds misguided hostility and mistrust of Muslims, especially in the contemporary global context of ever-increasing, mainstream Islamophobia.

What is it going to take for Sikhs and Muslims to join together in solidarity against the common enemies of racist harassment and violence, racial and religious profiling, and Islamophobic bigotry? Perhaps the recently exposed NYPD spying program (along with the “education” officers have received about Islam) will serve as a wake up call to my community (and other communities for that matter) about how bad things have really gotten. While we Sikhs confront bigotry on a daily basis from our neighbors, classmates, co-workers, employers and strangers on the street, our Muslim American counterparts are systematically targeted by our own government. (I should note that, of course, Sikhs too are profiled by law enforcement in less repressive, though still troubling, ways, especially at airport security).

Sikhism was born hundreds of years ago in part to stand up for the most oppressed and fight for the freedom and liberation of all people. If this isn’t reason enough for us to make the cause of rooting out Islamophobia from the NYPD and other law enforcement and government agencies our own, we only have to return to the bleak reality we Sikhs in the U.S. still face right now in 2012. A time when gurdwaras are still vandalized with anti-Muslim statements, Sikh kids are still being bullied and tormented at school every day, and I am called Osama bin Laden while walking down a Manhattan street for the 258th time (no I’m not counting).

“We are not Muslims” hasn’t been so effective for our community, has it? Even if we do so in a positive way that does not condone attacks on Muslims, simply educating the public about the fact that we are a distinct community and that we in fact “are not Muslim” will not get to the root of the problem. As long as we live in a country (and world) where an entire community (in this case, Muslims) is targeted, spied on and vilified, we will not be safe, we will not be free.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his letter from a Birmingham jail in 1963, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

I hope the NYPD’s blatant assault on the civil rights of our Muslim sisters and brothers propels us Sikhs as well as all people of conscience to action. Perhaps “We are not Muslims” will become “We are all Muslims,” as we come together to eradicate Islamophobic bigotry in all its forms.

Nigeria: The Imam and the Pastor by Journeyman Pictures

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2012 by loonwatch

Imam_AlShafa_Pastor_James_Wuye

Pastor James Wuye and Imam Al-Shafa

In the past year Nigeria has been the scene of much religious and sectarian violence. We have commented on this violence in the past, as well as the efforts to transcend the violence through inter-faith dialogue and action, Nigerians Want to Transcend Sectarian and Ethnic Violence.

Below is a heart-warming story of a Muslim scholar and a Christian priest who both headed militias that were involved in sectarian violence but transformed themselves into peacemakers. (H/T: AMTR)

In the 1990s, Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye led opposing militias in Northern Nigeria. Now the men work together bridging religious conflicts between Christians and Muslims that have killed thousands.
‘My hate for the Muslims then had no limits’ states Pastor Wuye, whose militia killed Imam Ashafa’s spiritual leader and two cousins. Ashafa spent 3 years planning revenge, until one day, a sermon on forgiveness changed his life. The men met and are now working on a peace accord. Imam Ashafa explains, ‘even though we differ in some theological issues, we will make the world a safer place’.

The Imam and the Pastor:

Both Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye are still working hard to try and combat violence and hate. Recently they sent out an appeal for help:

NIGERIA under siege – an appeal to the global community

Today, our beloved country Nigeria is passing through a turbulent period of insecurity and desecration of places of worship and human life is no more sacred.  People are living in a state of fear and uncertainty of what would happen next.

We need the support of people of good will to salvage our nation from bloodletting, wanton destruction of lives and properties and the consequent threat to our nascent and fragile democracy and the nation’s survival.

We appeal to global citizens on behalf of widows, orphans, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other vulnerable people who are victims of this inhumanity to support us and other peace ambassadors with relevant resources, materials that would facilitate a process of sincere dialogue to restore sanity, reconciliation and peaceful coexistence in our country, Nigeria.

Pastor Dr. James M. Wuye/Imam Dr. Muhammad N. Ashafa

Imam, Priest, Rabbi Work Together to Educate in Q-C

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2012 by loonwatch

Imam, priest, rabbi work together to educate in Q-C

Being in a place such as the Quad-Cities, where most residents tend to be tolerant and some are interested in the world’s major religions, makes it possible to host joint classes on Islam, Judaism and Christianity in a special three-week series, a local religious leader said.

“I feel we have a unique situation here, among the United States,” the Rev. Mike Schaab from St. Pius X Catholic Church in Rock Island said. “People of different faiths in other parts of the country and the world would be loath to walk down the street with one another.”

The Inter-religious Dialogue sessions begin Thursday and will be led by Schaab, Imam Saad Baig from the Islamic Center of the Quad-Cities in Moline and Rabbi Tamar Grimm of the Tri-City Jewish Center in Rock Island.

“Seeing what is beautiful about another faith tradition is a life skill,” said Grimm, who also appreciates the fact that the Quad-City community is a place where such lessons can be held openly and celebrated.

This area is a very good location for interfaith dialogue, Baig agreed.

“We are blessed to have people from every walk of life here in the Quad-Cities,” he said. “We try to inform those individuals who come and who see value and potential in this kind of program.”

A rarity at first

Such cooperation between faiths was a novelty when it began many years ago. But it has evolved over time, Schaab said, including special commemorations of 9/11, and the recent 10th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks, an event that attracted an overflow crowd to Augustana College in Rock Island.

The interfaith sessions are designed with a tone free from politics.

“Our goal is to educate, to give people information,” Grimm said. For example, the first session will be on the separate calendars, holy days and celebrations of the three faiths. It will take place at the Islamic Center.

Grimm intends to talk about the cycle of the year in Judaism and how it begins in the autumn. She also will speak about symbolism in the Jewish holidays. Catholics are on the Gregorian calendar, Schaab said, while many Muslims follow a lunar calendar.

A tour that will wrap up the first event at the Islamic Center will include time to witness Muslims in prayer, Baig said. Visitors will see inside the building, its special setting, and then be invited to watch as evening prayers are conducted.

The classes should be appealing, Schaab said. During the Feb. 16 session, visitors will see an actual Torah scroll at the Tri-City Jewish Center, and they will be able to view a copy of the Koran, the Muslim holy book.

“Looking at sacred scriptures will be very interesting to many Christians,” Schaab predicted.

“Each one offers something unique,” Grimm said. “But at the same time, it amazes me how much we share, in every one of our traditions.”

Schaab, the Catholic priest, believes that knowledge gained from the Inter-religious Dialogues deepens faith. “We want to be supportive, appreciative and sensitive to one another,” he added.

Baig, a Muslim imam, said such education teaches respect for all faiths. There also is value in seeing leaders of these faiths together on one stage, he pointed out. Baig cited a phrase that he believes is central to the outreach effort: “The more you sweat in making peace, the less you will bleed in war.”

Grimm, who took over her part in the forum from her predecessor, Rabbi Michael Samuel, hopes to find continuing acceptance for the lessons.

“People are curious, people want to know and people want to understand,” she said.