Welcome to the first edition of Moozweek, a weekly round-up of interesting things having to do with Muslims and Islam, and that you perhaps haven’t seen elsewhere.
The Tsarnaev Brothers…
This week’s news continued to be dominated by the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Answers, albeit lacking many details, began to emerge about what motivated the Chechen-American brothers, with many reports citing their growing interest in religion. But Suhaib Webb, an Oklahoma-born convert and imam at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, wrote in Thursday’s New York Times that religion pulls young Muslims away from extremism, not pushes them into it. Webb, who I profiled for The Boston Globe in 2011 when he arrived in Boston, also appeared on Piers Morgan, and the Sunday Morning talk shows, and was praised by many Muslims for being an able spokesman.
The week closed Friday with conflicting reports, one from the AP, and one from the Boston Globe, about whether the suspects’ mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, was put on a U.S. government terrorist watch list in 2011.
Has the Tsarnaev case proven that the United States has one court system for Muslims and another for other Americans? Andrew Rosenthal argues yes in The New York Times.
Attention has also turned to the war-torn region of Chechnya, where many people think they might find what drove the Tsarnaev brothers to become killers. That’s the wrong take-away, argued Georgetown University professor Charles King in “Not Your Average Chechen Jihadis,” in ForeignAffairs.com. “The Tsarnaevs seemed quintessentially American. Perhaps that is one reason their involvement in the Boston bombing is so horrifying,” King writes.
Still, King adds, this is bad news for Muslims in Muslim-majority regions like Chechnya and Dagestan, as the U.S. is more likely to turn a blind eye to Russian human rights abuses there, which are well-documented by human rights organizations, like Human Rights Watch.
Speaking of Human Rights…
Two important human rights reports were released Monday April 22.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom issued its first ever report on Syria, “Protecting and Promoting Religious Freedom in Syria.”
The 14-page report “found that the increasingly sectarian nature of the conflict has created a climate in which the human rights of all Syrians, including religious freedom, have been violated,” The USCIRF said in a release. “The conflict also threatens Syria’s religious diversity, as members of the smallest minority communities are either fleeing the country or face an uncertain future in a post al-Assad Syria.”
Human Rights Watch released “‘All You Can Do is Pray’: Crimes Against Humanity and Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Arakan state.” The 153-page report describes how Burmese authorities, Buddhist monks, and members of the Arakan ethnic group have attacked and driven out some 125,000 Rohingyas since last year. Living in refugee camps, many now face the danger of disease, the report said.
Cops and Courts…
The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Oklahoma filed a friend-of-the-court brief Monday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit arguing that a police officer does not have the right to deny an assignment to serve people who do not share his faith. The case was brought after Captain Paul Fields of the Tulsa Police Department refused to attend, or to delegate an attendee, for a law enforcement appreciation day held in 2011 by the Islamic Society of Tulsa. Fields claimed the mandate violated his Christian faith.
“As a police officer, Capt. Fields is bound to serve the entire community, regardless of whether or not they share his beliefs,” said Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, in a statement.
On Thursday, the Council of American Islamic Relations filed a lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Corrections failed to provide Muslim inmates with adequate diets during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to sunset.
On Monday April 22, The Secretary-General of the World Council of Churches, Olav Fykse Tveit, met with the Grant Mufti of Egypt, Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim, in Cairo, where the two leaders discussed the importance Muslim-Christian cooperation, and the rights of minorities in democracies. Tveit’s visit comes at a time when some Muslims have attacked Christians in Egypt, including recent assaults against St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo.
The United States Pakistan Inter-religious Consortium is meeting this week and next in Islamabad and Lahore to find ways to improve Muslim-Christian relations. The year-old project is in part sponsored by Intersections International, a New York City NGO that promotes cooperation between communities in conflict.
Muslims in Hollywood…
At its 22nd Annual Media Gala on April 27, the Muslim Public Affairs Council will present three Voices of Courage and Conscience Media Awards, which honor people or projects that depict Muslims as normal or positive. This year’s winners include:
The Fox TV Series “Bones,” which includes the recurring Muslim character Arastoo Vaziri, a software engineer, and played by the Tehran-born actor Pej Vahdat. “For many, Vahdat’s character is the only encounter they may have with an American Muslim and the only image they see that counters the pervasive negative stereotypes too often found on film and TV screens about Islam and Muslims,” wrote MPAC, which has an office in Hollywood.
Five Broken Cameras, an Oscar-nominated documentary showing the struggles of Palestinians living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
And The Sundance Institute Feature Film Program, which eight years ago helped create the Rawi Middle East Screenwriters Lab. Since then, the screenwriters lab has helped more than 50 filmmakers from Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan Lebanon, Morocco, The Palestinian Territories, Saudi Arabia, and Syria.
If you happen to be in central London, the Board of Deputies of British Jews in Bloomsbury launched recently launched “The Righteous Muslim Exhibition,” which includes photos of 70 Muslims who sheltered Jews during the Holocaust.
Pittsburgh goes Persian? Steel goes Ceramic? If you’re in the Three Rivers city, swing by the Frick Art and Historic Center, which through June 16 features “A Kind of Alchemy” Medieval Persian Ceramics.”
From the Museum: Recognized today as one of the major artistic expressions from the lands of Islam, Medieval Persia’s beautifully decorated luxury ceramics have been prized by collectors over the centuries, but little-known by the general public.
Quote of the week
“They don’t want Islam misunderstood. They want their young people to be more conversant with the true peaceful nature of Islam. They are frustrated and angry about the casualties drone strikes make in civilian communities. They have hope in the potential of young people and women. They want to collaborate with us to change the conditions that breed radicalized young adults; those who are disenfranchised, marginalized, hopeless, misunderstood, and angry. We are listening to and telling stories. Learning and connecting. These are first steps.” Rev. Jacqui Lewis of the Middle Collegiate Church, New York, blogging during an interfaith visit to Pakistan.