Moozweek: A round-up of news about Muslims and Islam in the U.S. and abroad.
David Gaubatz, co-author of the 2009 book “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America,” emailed supporters on Nov. 9 to announce his retirement from the counter-jihad world. According to his email, he has become frustrated that other anti-Islamic organizations care more about making money than fighting Islam, with some leaders at anti-Islam groups earning $150,000 a year and more. Still, some anti-Muslim websites, like the subtly hateful BareNakedIslam, took the news hard.
Student journalists write about Islam
It’s nice to see student journalists reporting stories about Muslims in America, and there were a couple of nice examples this week from two states where there aren’t many Muslims. Lucy Schouten at The Digital Universe, a news site produced at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, introduced her readers to Muslims from America, Oman, and Pakistan, who opened-up about intimate subjects such as courtship, gender separation, and assimilation. Gender separation and abstaining from alcohol were topics in a story by George Wood Jr. in the University of Idaho’s Argonaut, titled, “Muslim in Moscow.”
New school calendar excludes Eid holidays
Muslims in Montgomery County, Md., which has one of the largest Islamic communities in America, have sought for years to have their two major holidays, Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr, declared official school holidays. This includes a “school strike” that RNS wrote about last month. While the next holiday to fall in the school year is 11 months away, the controversy was raised again this week when school board officials voted to approve a 2014-2015 school year calendar that excluded the two Eid holidays. Still, supporters were encouraged that two board members voted against the calendar because it left out the Muslim holidays.
Protecting Shiites from Sunni extremists
To show their hatred of Islam’s Shiite minority, Sunni extremists typically strike during the holy month of Muharram, and especially Ashura, which falls today and commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein Ali, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. In fact, the killing has already started in Iraq. Human Rights Watch has called on a Pakistani authorities, who have been criticized for their weak response to anti-Shiite violence, to take more serious measures to protect Shiites during this holy but violent month.
“Pakistan’s leaders need to step-up to their basic responsibility of protecting all Pakistanis instead of allowing killers to remain free,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan’s director of Human Rights Watch, who called for the arrest of extremists that have been responsible for past attacks on Shiites.
While Muharram and Ashura are important to both Sunnis and Shiites, a Pew Research Center report released Nov. 14 offers a detailed look into religious differences between the two communities, and how violence has of late roiled their relations.
At least one Muslim American group, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, called for Muslim unity on Ashura.
Restrictions on Iranian Sunnis
In Shiite-majority Iran, Human Rights Watch reported this week that security forces have on several recent occasions blocked Sunni worshipers from gathering at mosques on important holidays. The group is calling on the country’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, to fulfill campaign promises and stop discrimination against religious minorities.
Confronting slavery in Mauritania
The New York Times had a sad but hopeful piece about growing efforts to abolish slavery in Mauritania, where the practice has sometimes been justified by Islamic scholars and fatwas.
Light in Islamic art
If you would like to see an interesting exhibit on Islamic art, you can go to Seville, or make a shorter stop in Dallas next March. “Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic world,” concludes Feb. 9 in Spain, and then travels to the Dallas Museum of Art.
“I got to understand that Islam makes a clear link with light even when that link is far from apparent,” said Sabiha Al Khemir, the Tunisian-born curator of the exhibit.
Careful crackdown in Turkey
Now that memories of last summer’s anti-government protests are fading, the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is cracking down on dissenters. More than a thousand people have been questioned by police in the last few weeks. But many Turks point out that while the interrogations are severe, the government has arrested relatively few people, and that a generation ago, police brutality, torture and disappearances were far more common.