A weekly compilation of news about Muslims:
A 12-year anniversary
Next week marks 12 years since 9/11, but opportunities for reflection have not diminished. You may have seen those bumper stickers that read “I Learned All I Need to Know About Islam on 9/11.” The Onion did a nice riff on that mentality. “Local man Scott Gentries told reporters Wednesday that his deliberately limited grasp of Islamic history and culture was still more than sufficient to shape his views of the entire Muslim world,” The Onion reported.
Ground Zero mosque opponent finds company
One of the most outspoken critics of a plan to build a community center and mosque near Ground Zero has been Sally Regenhard, whose son, Christian, a firefighter, was killed on 9/11. While explaining her opposition to the community center project in a 2010 article in the Daily Beast, she tried to distinguish herself from what she called “tea baggers and monkey-god people,” a reference to former Tea Party Express leader Mark Williams calling Allah the Muslim “monkey god.” Instead, sadly, she’s been teaming up with Pamela Geller, the anti-Muslim blogger and head of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Next week, Regenhard will be speaking at a 9/11 press conference sponsored by Geller who is expected to object to the 9/11 museum.
Pastor razes myths about Muslims
Pastor Ben Daniel of San Jose’s Foothill Presbyterian Church is debunking myths in a new book, “The Search for Truth about Islam: A Christian Pastor Separates Fact from Fiction.” In one recent presentation at a California church, Daniel told listeners that Islamophobia goes back to the 18th century, and that fear is never productive, nor does it make people safer.
McCain gives Fox TV personality his comeuppance
Sen. John McCain is not perfect, but he has often stood up to Islamophobia, including crazy ladies and crazy pastors. This week, he gave the often-ignorant Brian Kilmeade of Fox his comeuppance for criticizing the phrase “God is Great.”
Walmart employee fired
An assistant manager at a Walmart in Hamburg, N.Y., near Buffalo, was fired after posting an anti-Muslim Facebook rant about two women he photographed in the store. The employee posted a photo of the two fully covered women, and wrote: “Halloween came early this year…do they really have to f….n’ dress like that…your in my country…get that f….n’ s..t off!!!!!”
Omaha leads innovative interfaith project
Omaha may not be the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of innovation and inclusion. But this Midwestern city has a long interfaith tradition and is currently home to what might be the most innovative interfaith experiment in the world, the Tri-Faith Initiative, where Muslims, Jews, and Episcopalians have bought a bankrupt golf course, and are building a mosque, synagogue, church. I had a chance to report about this project for One Nation Indivisible, a webzine produced by the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice at the Harvard Law School.
Pat Robertson’s new neighbors
When someone hates a group of people because of their race or religion, getting to know them is one of the best antidotes. Maybe that’ll happen with Pat Robertson’s anti-Muslim feelings when a new mosque opens in his hometown of Virginia Beach. So far, neighbors in this Christian stronghold have embraced the new mosque project.
Muslim and Jews coexist in Azerbaijan
Some 300 years ago, Jews who lived in a mountainous region of mainly Shiite Azerbaijan asked the local shah to protect them from Persian raiders. Since then, relations between local Jews and Muslims have thrived. While these interfaith relations remain intact, the community is threatened by an exodus to the country’s capital Baku, as well as Russia and Israel.
Interfaith imam attacked
Hassen Chalghoumi, a French-Tunisian imam known for promoting Jewish-Muslim relations, was punched and shoved to the ground by an attacker on Sunday at a hotel near the Tunisian capital of Tunis. Chalghoumi, who is imam of a mosque in the Drancy suburb northeast of Paris, has also been a vocal opponent of Islamic radicalism. To one conservative blogger, it is Chalghoumi’s attacker who is devout, but not the imam, whose mosque draws about 2500 worshippers for Friday prayers.
Indonesian Muslims say no to Miss World
My RNS colleague Richard Ehrlich had a story this week about Indonesian Muslim clerics asking the government to cancel this month’s Miss World pageant because exposing women exposing too much skin supposedly violates Islam. Even when organizers proposed sarongs instead of bikinis, the clerics wouldn’t budge. Maybe they would change their minds if they knew a Muslim woman had been crowned Miss USA?
America’s first Muslim frat
I can see it now, khat bashes, hijabi raids, and thobe parties. The University of Texas at Dallas is home to the first Muslim fraternity in America, Alpha Lambda Mu, also known as Alif Laam Meem (three mysterious letters in the Quran). They even have a “kufi krew.”
“I went to public school, I played Xbox Live all the time with my friends who weren’t Muslim, and I regrettably ate too much fast food. I’m a proud American Muslim, and I see no contradiction of those two titles,” one of its members, originally from Plano, Texas, told The Independent.