There were several interesting Ramadan stories from newspapers across the country. The (Minneapolis) Star Tribune reported that growing numbers of non-Muslims are taking part in Ramadan (and not just the iftars), while The Salt Lake Tribune and the Hartford Courant explored how fasting Muslims are faring with some of the hottest and longest days of the year. Other newspapers, such as The Columbus Dispatch and The San Diego Union-Tribune, wrote stories about Muslims using Ramadan as a way to build bridges with their local communities.
In a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the head of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Dawud Walid, invoked Ramadan in calling for Tehran to release Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine and Michigan resident who has been accused of spying.
Sports fans will like this short video and profile from ESPN.com, about Texas University football player Rami Hammad, a freshman offensive lineman and potential star who intends to fast through his team’s summer workouts. It seems dangerous in that Texas heat, but there are other athletes who have fasted and excelled, as well as fatwas that have excused athletes from fasting if it endangers their health or livelihood.
Google is helping Muslims celebrate with a live stream of scenes from The Grand Mosque in Mecca, while Maccah TV, produced by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Culture and Information, is live streaming late-night Ramadan prayers, known as Taraweeh, from The Grand Mosque.
The Transportation Security Administration got in the holiday spirit by telling travelers not to freak-out if they see Muslims acting differently in airports or airplanes because of Ramadan. Is that good?
A Pew Research Center survey of some 38,000 Muslims in 39 countries found that a median of 93 percent of Muslims around the world fast, although there were regional variations, with fasting nearly universal in South and Southeast Asia, but observed by less than half the population in Albania, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan. The survey also found that a median of 77 percent of Muslims regularly give “zakat,” or charity, while 63 percent pray five times daily.
Let’s hope people in the Middle East don’t tarnish their Ramadan by watching Khaiber, a TV series airing this month that dramatizes a seventh-century battle between Muslims and Jews in the Arabia, and reportedly vilifies Jews. According to the Anti-Defamation League, “Episodes aired to date have revealed classic anti-Semitic motifs, including a Jewish conspiracy to undermine Arabs, as well as depicting Jews as cheap, greedy and immoral.”
A Srebrenica anniversary
This week also saw the 18th anniversary of the Serbian genocide of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in the town of Srebrenica. It was the worst atrocity in Europe since the Holocaust. On Thursday, some 10,000 people attended the burial of 409 newly identified victims, including a baby. While war may be over, a collection of Serb nationalists, their allies and Islamophobes continue to downplay what happened at Srebrenica. Chief among them is blogger Pamela Geller, who has also denied dismissing the Srebrenica genocide. But over at The American Muslim, blogger Sheila Musaji has a thorough list of Geller’s unsavory pronouncements about Bosnia.
Force-feeding in Guantanamo
Yasiin Bey, the rapper and movie actor formerly known as Mos Def, has joined the uproar against the forced-feeding of 44 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay who are on hunger strike. How does he show his disapproval? By appearing in a chilling five-minute video in which he subjects himself to the force-feeding procedure. It takes some nerve to watch.
The Pentagon, however, decided not to perform the forced feedings during the fasting hours of Ramadan. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, members of the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment called it a “form of abuse” that is forbidden by the International Committee of the Red Cross and other major organizations.
Early Wednesday, members of the Victoria Islamic Center in Victoria, Texas, discovered an “H” and an “8,” shorthand for “hate,” spray-painted on the side of the mosque. The attack follows a paint-ball attack against another Texas mosque last month, the McKinney Islamic Association.
Fox News host blunders
Fox News host Bob Beckel first made, then took back, a statement that no more mosques should be built in America until we can figure out which Muslims are terrorists and which are not. Media Matters points out that is only the latest in a long line of Islamophobic comments by Beckel.
Catholic Diocese cancels Islamophobe talk
The Catholic Diocese of Sacramento has cancelled a talk by anti-Islam blogger Robert Spencer. Spencer was scheduled to speak at the Northern California Catholic Family Home School conference on July 26-27, which was being held at a local church. But the conference sponsor, the Napa Valley-based Kolbe Academy Home School program, has found a new venue to hold the conference, so Spencer’s talk will go on.
Portrait of a Muslim Apartheid fighter
A little-known footnote in the fight against apartheid is the role played by Muslims, who represented a significant minority in South Africa. Fortunately, The New York Times reminds us with a nice piece about Ahmed Kathrada, one of Nelson Mandela’s closest lieutenants.
New prog blog
Anyone who’s worked at the more conservative Islamic Society of North America and is also the co-founder of Muslims for Progressive Values must have some pretty interesting thoughts on faith. One such person is Pamela Taylor, a Harvard Divinity School grad now living in Cincinnati, who unveiled a new blog this week at Patheos.com.
Have a cool photo about Ramadan? Send it to the 3rd annual “Capture the Spirit of Ramadan” photo competition, which was started by photographer Basel Almisshal, a professional photographer. This year’s contest started July 10, and new photos will be posted on the competition website daily, organizers said.