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

The Education of Mohammad Hussein

Television is seldom considered a venue for accurate or sympathetic depictions of Muslims. But once in a while, exceptions come along, and the most recent is a documentary, The Education of Mohammad Hussein, which will premier January 6 on HBO. Produced by female-owned Loki Films,  which also produced Jesus Camp,  this film follows students at the Al-Iklhas Training Academy, an Islamic school in Detroit over the course of a year, taking viewers inside a tight-knit Muslim community.

“There is an entire generation of American Muslim children who do not know a world before September 11,” says the synopsis. “Their faith is scrutinized and their patriotism questioned, even before they can grasp these very adult concepts.”

HBO logo

HBO logo courtesy HBO ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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

How to slam an Islamophobe? Quote The West Wing

When Lord Malcolm Pearson of the United Kingdom Independence Party recently cited some controversial verses from the Quran, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi,  a Muslim Tory peer and the country’s Minister of State for Faith and Communities, knew exactly how to answer: Quote President Jed Bartlet from the hit show The West Wing. In one episode, Bartlet slams a conservative radio host by quoting a few controversial verses from The Bible. Mehdi Hasan of The HuffintonPost UK has the full story. It’s not the first time The West Wing has taken on Islamophobia and terrorism.

As for Baroness Warsi, don’t think her excoriating Lord Pearson makes her an apologist for Islamic radicals. In fact, she’s quite good at condemning terrorism.

Alabama conservatives want textbooks revised

Alabama State Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice will review 12 social studies textbooks after the Birmingham chapter of ACT! for America, the group founded by anti-Islam activist Brigitte Gabriel, and the Eagle Forum of Alabama, complained that the textbooks are anti-Christian and pro-Islam. The groups said Alabama’s textbooks don’t mention the Virgin Birth (unlike the Quran) or Jesus’ divinity, and don’t talk about the “true” nature of Islam.”

Given what Gabriel has said about Islam, “true” probably means demonic.

A decision to approve a list of social studies books to be used in the state was postponed pending Bice’s review, and will be made next month. The Montgomery Advertiser argued that theological issues are better left for family or Sunday school, while teaching Islam and Muhammad in a historical (not theological) context makes sense, since Islam is a major historical force and Muhammad a major historical figure.

Similar textbook controversies have sprung-up in Florida and Texas.

Islamic studies 0, government 2

A federal judge this week dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the government’s right to search travelers’ laptops and other electronic devices. The lawsuit was filed in 2010 by Pascal Abidor, a McGill University graduate student in Islamic studies.  U.S. border agents removed Abidor from an Amtrak train crossing from Canada to New York, then handcuffed, detained and interrogated him for several hours. His laptop was seized for 11 days. The ruling follows another recent ruling in which a judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by a man who was arrested by TSA agents at Philadelphia International Airport because he was carrying Arabic flashcards.

South Carolina police arrest a shooter in Islamville

Police in the South Carolina town of York arrested a 37-year-old man after witnesses reported he fired shots at a village of Muslim homes in the town known as Islamville. The African American Muslim community was established more than 30 years ago on about 34 acres of land by a man named El-Sheikh Syed Mubarek Ali Shah El-Gilani. A 2006 report by the Regional Organized Crime Information Center claims Gilani is an internationally known terrorist, but Gilani claims he and his followers are Sufis, while news reports say he hasn’t been on any terrorists lists for more than 10 years.  Bassam Tariq, one of the creators of  30 Mosques (in 30 days) had perhaps the most interesting report on Islamville.

Syrian refugees brace for winter

While fighting rages between the Syrian regime and rebels, refugees’ lives are going from bad to worse as a harsh winter takes hold in places like Lebanon, a country of about 4.4 million people, where more than 800,000 Syrian refugees have sought shelter. While the United States accepts more refugees than any other nation, according to The Washington Post, it only accepted about 90 refugees from Syria last year. The report also noted that while the U.S. is the single biggest Syrian humanitarian aid donor, the aid is not reaching many refugees who need it most.  As the New York Times reports, aiding refugees who don’t live in camps is even harder than aiding those who do. Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations, explains why this war hits children especially hard, and warns that the outcome is only more instability.

President of Syria, Bashir Hafez al-Assad

President of Syria, Bashir Hafez al-Assad photo courtesy of James Gordon via Flickr

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

Egypt detains journalists

Egyptian prosecutors have detained three journalists working for Al Jazeera English, including the broadcaster’s Cairo bureau chief, Mohamed Fahmy, a Canadian-Egyptian citizen. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Syria was the most deadly country in the world for journalists, followed by Iraq and Egypt. Some two-thirds of journalists killed in the world last year were killed in the Middle East.


Iran memoir

Given what happens sometimes to Americans who visit Iran, one may wonder why the son of an exiled Iranian diplomat, grown-up years later, would want to take his wife and child to live in Tehran for a year. But that’s exactly what journalist Hooman Majd did in 2011. He wrote about his experience in “The Ministry of Guidance Invites You To Not Stay: An American Family in Iran.” Novelist Laila Lalami was drawn to the book, and called Majd “a keen and intelligent observer of political life in Iran,” while The Guardian, the Financial Times, and NPR all gave the book positive reviews.

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani

Official photo of Hassan Rouhani, the 7th President of Iran. Photo courtesy via Wikimedia Commons

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

NYT lauds Qatar’s disruptive museum director

If you think art does people good, then you’ll like what Sheikha al-Mayassa Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, chairwoman of the Qatar Museums Authority is doing. The sheikha was featured on a select list of “Disrupters” compiled by the New York Times arts section. In 2013, she installed sculptures by some of the world’s greatest artists in Qatar city, as well as 14 sculptures, known as The Miraculous Journey, which chronicles pregnancy and includes a 46-foot anatomically correct baby boy.

Qatar Museums Director

Sheikh Hassan bin Mohammed bin Ali Al-Thani and Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani visit the Barjeel Art Foundation in March 2011. Photo courtesy of Barjeel Art Foundation via Flickr

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



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