Muslims call for greater reliance on astronomical calculations

Many Muslims are calling on religious scholars to rely on astronomical calculations to track the moon and jettison the sighting of the moon as a means to determine the start of a new month.

The Fiqh Council of North America, a group of scholars that deals with Islamic law, determined that Ramadan would begin July 9, and that Eid al-Fitr, the religious celebration that follows Ramadan, on August 8, based on astronomical calculations.

But some schools of thought, including those in Saudi Arabia, insist the new moon needs to be seen by the human eye. This is based on the literal interpretation of a saying by Prophet Muhammad, “Do not fast unless you sight the crescent, and do not break your fast till you sight the following crescent.”

The trouble resurfaced this week when some Middle Eastern star-gazers thought a new moon would appear on Tuesday August 6, meaning Ramadan would have lasted only 28 days.

The problem is that Islamic law says Ramadan must last at least 29 days. The last time this happened was in 1984, when misread moon sightings in Saudi Arabia resulted in a 28-day Ramadan. To remedy the situation, Saudi authorities used a little known religious law proclaiming an extra day of fasting.

Next year, Ramadan should start on June 28 or 29.

 More Ramadan in the news

Whatever moon you go by, one thing that has changed over the years is that Ramadan has a much higher visibility in America today than 20 years ago. According to a Factiva search by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, there were nearly 55,000 mentions of Ramadan in the media over the last month, compared to just 314 media mentions during Ramadan 1994.   

 Anti-Muslim blogger gets Catholic invite

Anti-Muslim writer Robert Spencer

Robert Spencer image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Ave Maria Radio, the radio station founded by Dominos Pizza owner Tom Monaghan, will host a conference this Saturday, “Is Islam a Religion of Peace?” While the conference may be akin to asking something as provocative as whether Catholicism is a religion of pedophilia, the bigger problem is the participation of anti-Muslim blogger Robert Spencer, who critics say cherry picks from scriptures to make his points. Spencer, who figured prominently in the writings of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, has in recent months been banned by Catholic dioceses in Worcester, Mass., and Sacramento, Calif., as well as England. Catholic Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing, however, said he would neither endorse nor condemn speakers at the conference. Obama allegations persist

Believe it or not, there are still people who say President Obama is a Muslim, including one protestor at an Obama speech in Phoenix who held a sign reading “impeach half white Muslim.”

Skinheads sentenced

A pair of New Jersey skinheads, Michal Gunar and Kyle Powell, were sentenced Wednesday for attacking three men of Middle Eastern descent in 2011. Gunar, who wielded a knife in the attack and used anti-Arab slurs, was sentenced nearly three years in prison after pleading guilty to assault, while Powell was given 15 months on a conspiracy charge.


Former Governor Mike Huckabee speaking at the 2012 CPAC in Washington, D.C.

Former Governor Mike Huckabee speaking at the 2012 CPAC in Washington, D.C. Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr

This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Huckabee smears Muslims

Following threats of an Al Qaida attack out of Yemen, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee painted Muslims with his terror brush on Monday.

“So the Muslims will go to the mosque, and they will have their day of prayer, and they come out of there like uncorked animals — throwing rocks and burning cars,” Huckabee said on his Cumulus radio program this week.”

Huckabee added, “It never occurs to us (Christians) that on the days in which we are supposed to be humbled by the presence of God that somehow we would rise up and kill innocent people including children,” he continued. Actually, it never occurs to most Muslims either.

Mosque rejected in Chicago suburbs

The city council of Des Plaines, Ill., said it won’t change zoning regulations to accommodate a proposed mosque in a part of town zoned for industrial uses. A lawyer for the Bosnian Muslim group seeking to build the mosque said it would sue the city.

Bus ads rejected in Florida

In Florida, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit agency rejected a proposed bus ad from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, arguing that it promoted religion and therefore violated agency rules. The ad features four men and four women, half identify as Muslims and half as Catholic and Buddhist. The ad includes the CAIR Florida logo, and at the bottom reads, “Embracing Diversity at work. Defending Civil Rights in the community.”

CAIR responded that it is not a religious group, but a civil rights group that assists anyone regardless of their faith.

International court indicts Nigerian terrorist leaders

Leaders of Boco Haram, the Muslim extremist group in Nigeria that has waged a brutal campaign of killing and terror against that country’s Christians and other minorities, were indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The next step would be for the Nigerian government to handover sect leaders to the ICC, although that may prove difficult.

Muslims save lives

Looking for inspiring stories? “The Top 10 list of Muslims Who Save Lives,” by Engy Abdelkader, a human rights lawyer, is a good place to start.

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