The site will continue to show the engagement of American Muslims in the national history of America. However, it is now an all volunteer organization and will begin a slow transformation over 2014. Please stay with us and check-in often.
As ISIS appears to be gaining ground in Iraq, there seems to be a lack of a grand strategy coming out of the White House. The low hum of drone warfare, as opposed to coordinated decisive victories like in Irbil, creates a greater potential for feeding ISIS' propaganda machine. The United States must think more comprehensively than a military intervention.
It is obvious that most Muslims across the world find the actions of the so-called “Islamic State” abhorrent; from condemnation in the US and UK, to satire in the Middle East, there is no point in elaborating my own personal opposition to them. However, while they may denigrate the name of the religion, and spitting on the declaration of faith they sewed into their flag, I will not give them the power to define my faith in relation to them. So, I am not ISIS, let me tell you who I am.
On Sunday, September 21, I was blessed to be asked to join The Ark, organized by Auburn Seminary and Groundswell (with help from lots of named and unnamed supporters) for the People's Climate March. The New York Times found it an “odd juxtaposition," that so many faith groups were next to one another, missing the point that we all share one planet. More importantly, the NYT is in the business of showing us in conflict, not the billions of ways we get along with one another because of all the things we have in common.
Like so many others on Green Faith Street, I marched because it is a moral imperative. Although I could easily point to the Quran and show how defiling and wasting water are potentially the greatest sins in the tradition, I want to move immediately to a broader discussion. The ethics of caring for God's creation is a means of being God conscious.
There is a power in raising our hands for Ferguson. We do not raise our hands like the Illuminati or a Rockefella [sicknowledge]; we do not raise our hands to act out an NWA lyric; we do not even raise our hands in an “Allah Akbar.” Instead, we raise our hands in surrender. Our submission is to the police. The power in raising our hands is with the police. It’s not an act of agency, but a recognition of the value(lessness) of brown and black bodies. This submission to authoritarianism should concern us.
Hussein Rashid, a professor at Hofstra University and an Islamic scholar, said these debates have been raging within the Muslim community, who are fragmented on what should be eaten. Other issues include whether stunning an animal before death is halal and the age-old debate on whether it’s okay to eat meat slaughtered by Jews and Christians.
Quoting Islam's holiest text to make that point was smart, said Hussein Rashid, a religion scholar at Hofstra University in New York. "ISIS violates every single tenet of this verse, so Barfi shows them to be ignorant," he said.
"By using the Quran as the basis for debate he also demonstrates that ISIS does not actually base themselves in Muslim traditions, but in the language of hatred and rage."
Likewise, Barfi's use of the phrase "debate with calm preachings" rings a particular note in Islam, Muslim scholars said.
It recalls earlier eras in Muslim history, when caliphs sometimes settled disagreements between Muslims, Christians and Jews through debates, not violence. That point is key, since ISIS presents itself as the true reincarnation of early caliphs.
"They fought wars, but warfare and slaughter were not the things to strive for," Rashid said. "Training swords was easy, but training minds was hard. You proved your quality through debate."
Following my previous post on putting the Aga Khan’s speech at Brown in a historical context, I want to spend some time on his discussion of technology and human interaction. Rather than speaking only to the Nizari Ismaili community, or to concerns that affect only Nizari Ismailis, he is addressing a larger human concern. If, as the Qur’an states, the Prophet Muhammad was sent as a mercy to all mankind, than it is only logical that his descendants and the inheritors of his spiritual authority should continue to speak and work for the betterment of humanity, not just the segment that agrees with them.
Recently, the Aga Khan gave a speech at Brown University. As the head of a community of Muslims spread throughout the world, a community to which I belong, the speech needs some reflection. As the Imam, or Divinely appointed head of the community, it would be a mistake to read his comments as a concern for the moment.
Defending a woman’s right to choose what she does or does not wear on her head is a noble, if misguided, fight. The freedom to choose how you appear in public is part of a constellation of basic human rights that cut across divisions of religion, culture, class and history. But it's not the most serious concern to women and girls around the world.