Moozweek: A weekly round-up of news about Muslims and Islam in America and abroad.

Arabic flashcards could get you arrested

Makes sense that the federal. government would want to hire people who speak Arabic, given the United States’ relations with the Muslim world. But then why would anyone want to learn Arabic when studying it might get you arrested? That’s what happened to Nicholas George who was arrested after two TSA agents at Philadelphia International Airport discovered he was carrying flashcards with Arabic phrases. A judge dismissed his lawsuit against the TSA.

Books teaching Arabic

Lets hope Hanadi Rashadi drives rather than flies to future book signings. The Sudanese-born Arabic teacher now living in Clemmons, N.C., has just published a book on how to learn Arabic, and has also put out some Arabic instructional videos using a puppet named Koko. Those interested in learning Arabic may also want to consider “Sugar Comes From Arabic” by Barbara Whitesides, a writer who taught herself and whose book takes an unusual approach: teaching the letters of Arabic in the order of the letters in the English alphabet.

Interpreting the sword verse

A twitter feud erupted recently between anti-Muslim blogger Robert Spencer and British Muslim activist Mohammed Ansar, after a UK court found two Muslim converts guilty of murdering a British soldier, Lee Rigby. One of the converts was filmed immediately after the murder invoking a verse in the Quran’s ninth chapter, know to some as the “verse o the sword,” which has been used by terrorists to justify murder and by Islamophobes to demonize Islam as an evil monolith.

According to Spencer, Ansar tweeted after the verdict that despite the killers’ claims, terrorism violates Islamic teachings. Spencer challenged Ansar, whose life has been threatened by extremists,  to offer an interpretation of the sword verse that doesn’t promote violence, and after Ansar provided one of many condemnations against terrorism, Spencer basically said those interpretations are wrong and that the killers’ interpretation was right. Isn’t that like Muslims telling Christians that Charles Manson’s interpretation of the Book of Revelation is the only right interpretation, and everybody else’s is wrong?

Anti-Muslim writer Robert Spencer

Robert Spencer image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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

Judge rejects Geller’s free-speech claims

A federal judge has rejected an anti-Islamic groups’ claim that its free speech rights were violated when the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authorityrejected a bus ad it considered “demeaning and disparaging.” The ad, created by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a group founded by anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller, read, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel; defeat Jihad.”

Geller had similar battles with public transport systems in New York City, Washington D.C., ChicagoSeattle, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority logo

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority logo courtesy

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

Appalachian admonition

Leaders in southern West Virginia are condemning a vandalism attack against the Islamic Society of the Appalachian Region Worship Center, which has also drawn the interest of the FBI. “The vandalism of any place of worship violates our country’s most sacred values,” said Booth Goodwin, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia. The local Bluefield Ministerial Association condemned the vandalism as “the antithesis of our Appalachian values.”  The Islamic Center was vandalized Sunday or Monday, according to news reports. Some people, however, think Muslims are making a big deal out of nothing.

Muslim-Jewish cooperation

The final month of 2013 offers some encouraging examples of Muslim-Jewish cooperation. In England, the Bradford Reform Synagogue faced closure just last year, but was saved by the local Muslim community, which engineered a fundraising effort that according to The Guardian has secured the long-term future of the synagogue.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Muslims and Jews don’t just go to Chinese restaurants on Christmas Day, but have been strengthening their relations by teaming-up to perform good deeds – tzedakah in Hebrew and sadakah in Arabic.

And speaking of linguistic similarities, check out this article from The Jewish Daily Forward, which traces the rabbinical roots of Salam Alaikum.

Police try to improve relations with Muslims

In New York City this month, Muslims and non-Muslims gave newly appointed NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton a wary greeting after he said he would forgo policies that isolate Muslims.  One story suggests Bratton might be sincere: He scrapped a Muslim mapping project when he was top cop in Los Angeles.

The police department in Fort Worth, Texas, is also finding that community outreach to Muslims works, according to a recent article, while the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has also elevated transparency over secrecy.

NYPD officers watch a parade

NYPD officers watching a parade in New York (2010). Photo courtesy Pim Stouten via Flickr

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

A story of hope from the Central African Republic

Although reports of horrible fighting between Muslims and Christians continue to pour out of the Central African Republic, one Muslim and one Christian leader offered hope and a path to peace, in a compelling story by Carlotta Gall in The New York Times. While many observers say the conflict is sectarian, GlobalPost has an article arguing that it’s more political.

Egypt labels Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group

In response to a suicide bombing earlier in the week that killed 16 people at a police station in Egypt’s Nile Delta, the military-backed interim government declared Wednesday that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization. The Brotherhood, however, denied responsibility for the bombing, while a group reported to be inspired by Al Qaida claimed responsibility. The country’s deputy prime minister warned that simply belonging to the group would warrant punishment.

Ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi

Mohamed Morsi photo courtesy Jonathan Rashad via Flickr

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

Mughals in Cleveland

The Cleveland Museum of Art has acquired an “unparalleled” collection of 95 paintings from the major Islamic Courts of the 16th-century Mughal Empire, which spanned India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.  According to the New York Times, the new collection will transform the CMA into a premier center of Indian Islamic art. Other great places to see Mughal art include the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Cleveland Museum of Art, view from South

Cleveland Museum of Art, view from South photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

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

Soccer heals

For those of you with an early case of World Cup fever, here is a beautiful 5-minute ESPN documentary about how soccer is helping heal the tiny nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where ethnic cleansing ravaged the nation, especially Bosnia’s Muslims. But they have proven resilient, and are now sending an excellent team, many of them former refugees, to Brazil.


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