Welcome to Moozweek, a weekly round-up of Muslim-related news you may not have seen elsewhere.
Moozweek This Week: RIP. Birthrates. The Holocaust. Saudi Suspect. Terror Standards. Wrong Guy. San Franislam. Mono-not. Books.
I guess because its Memorial Day weekend I remembered a poignant photo from the September 29, 2008 issue of The New Yorker. In this black and white image, taken by Platon, Elsheba Khan cradles a gravestone marked with the traditional Islamic crescent and star, in Arlington National Cemetery. It is for her son, Corporal Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, who was killed August 6, 2007, by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Iraq, about 6 months after his 20th birthday.
He was born and raised in New Jersey, was 14 when 9/11 happened, and couldn’t wait to graduate high school so he could join the army.
If you’re among those who believe Muslims don’t belong in America, take a good long look at this photo.
In a Wednesday column cautioning against supplying rebels in Syria with arms because of the myriad ethnic, religious, and military factions in the country, New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman tells readers about two Yemeni village leaders and a Syrian rebel leader who between them have 36 children, 10, 10, and 16. “(H)ow will anyone rule in these countries?” Friedman asks.
To be sure, Syria and Yemen face many serious problems, but double-digit birthrates are not one of them. Yemen’s 2013 estimated birthrate is 4.27 kids per family, Syria’s is 2.77, and in the United States its 2.06.
It seems like one could make the point that these countries have large and restless youth populations without leaving readers with a highly-inflated impression that double-digit birthrates are the norm. It also feeds into an Islamophobic stereotype that Muslims breed like animals, and plan to take over the world by the force of numbers.
Imams visit Holocaust camps…
Put this under “an excellent idea that needs to happen more often” category. Following-up a trip last year by several U.S. imams, a group of imams from around the world spent the last week visiting the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Dachau, and other important sites, under a program sponsored by the U.S. State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom.
“Some of the imams wept at an emotional meeting Tuesday with Jewish Holocaust survivors and their Polish Catholic saviours who told stories of their war-time sacrifice and survival at Warsaw’s Nozyk Synagogue,” an AFP story said of the visit.
Saudi suspect speaks…
The Islamic Monthly, a two-year-old online magazine, has an interesting interview with Abdulrahman Ali Alharbi, the 20-year-old Saudi national who was injured in the Boston Marathon bombing, and also questioned by police at the hospital for nearly 24 hours. Alharbi talks about the explosions, being questioned by the FBI, and how cool it was that the media released his name, address and photos.
From the TIM story: “Within a few minutes of arriving at the hospital, the FBI and Boston Police surrounded his bed. ‘All the police officers and the FBI … and all the nurses and all the doctors were staring at me … I was looking [at] them like, is it because of the color of my skin or is it because of the name of my country?’”
Barbaric. Inhuman. Horrific. Stupid. Un-Islamic. The deadly attack on a 25-year-old British soldier Wednesday in Woolwich, England, by two British Muslims, was all those things. But was it “terrorism?” Glen Greenwald explored this question in Thursday’s Guardian.
“Can it really be the case that when western nations continuously kill Muslim civilians, that’s not ‘terrorism’, but when Muslims kill western soldiers, that is terrorism?”
Terrorism or not, Muslim organizations in the UK, the U.S., and elsewhere swiftly and unreservedly condemned the attack.
The Appeal of Conscience Foundation, a prominent Jewish group led by Orthodox Rabbi Arthur Schneier, and that promotes religious freedom and interfaith work, is under fire for planning to give Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono its World Statesman Award on May 30 in New York, according to The Forward.
Indonesian human rights activists and non-Sunni Muslim leaders are condemning the decision to honor Yudhoyono, who according to Human Rights Watch and the U.S. State Department has presided over a sharp rise in religious discrimination and violence against minority religions, most notably Christians, Shiites, and Ahmadiyyas. The award has also sparked street protests and newspaper editorials.
Indonesia is a very influential Muslim country and important to the U.S. strategically. Of Indonesia’s 250 million people, more than 86 percent, or about 215 million, are Muslim, making it the country with the world’s largest Muslim population. Many Indonesian Muslims are moderate, but there are strong radical parties that have been responsible for terror attacks, or attacks against non-Sunnis and even Muslims who don’t agree with them.
The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, an independent think tank in Washington D.C. specializing mainly in Muslims in North America, has just released a new and interesting study about Muslims in the San Francisco Bay Area. Report authors Farid Senzai of Santa Clara University, and Hatem Bazian of Zaytuna College, estimate that there are 250,000 Muslims in the Bay Area (compared to national estimates of between 3 million and 8 million), accounting for about 3.5 percent of the total area population. About 34 percent were born in America, more than 35 percent were born in South Asian countries, and most of the rest hailed from the Middle East, Africa, Iran, and Europe.
The study also found, consistent with national figures, that Bay Area Muslims had achieved higher educational levels than their non-Muslim neighbors, but inconsistent with national figures, which show Muslims generally have higher incomes than non-Muslims, Bay Area Muslims ($70,686) earned less than other Bay Area residents ($77,879).
While the report is rich in demographic data, what it doesn’t have, and which the authors hope to cover next time, is information about Bay Area Muslim attitudes and opinions on issues like democracy, Islamophobia, homosexuality, and coexistence.
Muslims in the west must continually remind their fellow citizens that Muslims are not a monolith, and it gets old. But given that this view of a monolith is still pervasive, it’s a useful reminder. Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, now out as a film, gives a well-thought and original riff on this well-worn question, in the Sunday, May 19 edition of The Guardian. Among his observations:
“Islamophobia, in all its guises, seeks to minimise the importance of the individual and maximise the importance of the group. Yet our instinctive stance ought to be one of suspicion towards such endeavours. For individuals are undeniably real. Groups, on the other hand, are assertions of opinion.”
Kites to mountains…
Khaled Hosseini, the Afghan American physician-turned-novelist, is back in the news for this third book, “And the Mountains Echoed.” Set in Afghanistan and America, Khosseini explores the relationship between parents and children “and the ways the past can haunt the present according to a May 21 New York Times book review. While Khosseini is perhaps best known for The Kite Runner, the Times called Mountains “his most assured and emotionally gripping story yet.”
Party of God gene…
Joseph Alagha’s latest book, “Hizbullah’s DNA and the Arab Spring,” documents “the social and historical context from which the party emerged, and the role of religion in its political ideology, the book moves on to explain Hezbollah’s infitah (opening up) policy, before assessing its present-day situation. Alagha’s historical argument is used to develop a framework to understand Hezbollah’s contemporary politics, from its dialogue with the West to its inner workings and its domestic focus.” “The author carefully analyses the party’s use of political violence, fruitfully contrasting its ‘martyrdom’ operations (suicide bombings) with the tactics espoused by other non-Islamic (read, secular) and also non-Middle Eastern actors…As is evident in the title, the book not only assesses Hezbollah’s ‘DNA’, but also its stance towards the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, as a general phenomenon and on a state-by-state basis.”