Moozweek: A weekly round-up of news about Muslims in America and abroad.
The world’s most influential Muslims
The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman, Jordan, has released its fifth edition of “The Muslim 500: The world’s most influential Muslims,” and as usual, the list makes for some fascinating browsing. There are roughly 40 Muslims on the list who are U.S. citizens — about the same number as last year — plus several others who are nationals of other countries but live, teach or have some other connection to the United States.
The highest ranking Americans on the list are George Washington University Islamic Studies professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr (39th), and Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson (41st), an Islamic scholar and co-founder of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, the first Islamic liberal arts college in America. Other Muslim Americans on the list include boxer Muhammad Ali; lawyer and women’s rights activist Azizah al-Hibri; technology entrepreneur turned philanthropist Omar Amanat; hip-hop artist Yasin Bey, a.k.a. Mos Def; and Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America.
No. 1, is Grand Sheikh Ahmad Muhammad Al-Tayyeb of Al Azhar University in Cairo, while the highest-ranking woman is Sheihkha Munira Qubeysi (17th) of Syria, who heads the largest Islamic female movement in the world.
Anyone not on the list that you think should be?
Another Fox faux-pas?
It’s time for the monthly (or is it semi-monthly) Fox Faux Pas report. This week, Fox and some like-minded conservative websites turned a story about the YMCA starting a female-only swim program for local Somalis in St. Paul, Minn., into a chance to incite Islamophobic fears. The program, Fox anchor Heather Nauert reported, was evidence that Shariah law is “changing everything” in America. For their efforts to protect us from “creeping shariah,” Fox was mocked by The Daily Show and others.
Come to think of it, I did a story in 2009 about a similar female-only swim program at MIT, and learned that some Jews, Pentecostals and others also believe in gender-separate swimming. What will the Muslims want next? Female-only gyms?
Online hate report
Interested in anti-Muslim hate speech on Facebook? Then check out a new report, Islamophobia on the Internet, by the Online Hate Prevention Institute in Australia, which explored 50 Facebook pages, including one called “The Islamic Threat,” which boasts more than 113,000 supporters.
Judge dismisses discrimination claim
A federal district court in Indiana has ruled that the state of Indiana did not discriminate against the religious beliefs of Robert Ogle when it fired him for forwarding a picture demeaning to Muslims. Ogle was fired in 2010 after circulating a picture of a barbecue restaurant with a marquee that read “Safest Restaurant On Earth. No Muslims Inside.” Ogle added the comment “I think this is is wonderful.”
Ogle said he was expressing his religious beliefs, but the judge reasoned that because his single-sentence comment did not mention a specific religion, he had no claim, and that the firing was justified under state anti-discrimination laws.
Interfaith immigration fast
The Muslim Public Affairs Council and Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice put out a joint call to their supporters, urging them to participate in a “national day of fasting” on Friday, Dec. 6, in support of the nation’s undocumented immigrants.
“Together we are drawing upon Judaism’s and Islam’s oldest traditions to atone for Congressional obstruction, to better understand and mourn the loss that thousands of families have suffered in being unjustly separated, and to deepen our resolve to continue the fight for immigration reform,” the groups said in a statement.
Sheikh rescues Armenian monastery
If you like interfaith stories, then you’ll love this AFP article about an Arab sheikh who donated nearly $2 million dollars to rescue the 10th century Haghartsin monastery in Armenia. Once a fine example of medieval Armenian architecture, the elements and age had taken their toll on the monastery, which had fallen into disrepair and faced destruction.
“Without doubt it was God who brought the sheikh to Haghartsin,” said the local priest, Aristakes Aivazyan.
Morocco announces Peace Corps contribution
Morocco, the first country to recognize American independence, announced last month that, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, it would make a “multi-year” contribution to support the Peace Corps’ works in Morocco, where more than 4,530 Peace Corps volunteers have worked since the program was started in 1963. When King Hassan II of Morocco visited the White House in 1963, President Kennedy commented: “Though a wide ocean separates our countries, they have been bound together throughout our history.”
Congress seeks to protect Rohingya Muslims
The Council on American-Islamic Relations and other Muslim organizations are calling on supporters to call on their representatives in the U.S. Congress to support House Resolution 418, which urges the government of Myanmar (a.k.a. Burma) to end persecution of the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority, and calls on the U.S. government and the international community to pressure the Burmese government to do whatever it can to ensure that all minorities in the country are safe and free. I’d hyperlink to some stories about the resolution but there doesn’t seem to be much. One person who has written about HR 418 is Islamophobe Pamela Geller, who in the past has denied the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia’s Muslims and is now urging supporters to tell their representatives to vote no against the Rohingya protection resolution. Another person who wrote about it is former Islamophobe Charles Johnson, who called out Geller.
Farewell to a people’s poet
Egypt and the rest of the world lost a lion in poetry this week with the death of Ahmed Fouad Negm. His use of colloquial Egyptian fostered a bond with Egypt’s masses, who soon labeled him the Poet of the People, and enlisted his verses in street protests over the decades. But because he was a secularist, he was loathed by many religious conservatives.