Tag Archives: Muslims

On the Table, 8/8

The US economy is in shambles, people are starving in Somalia, the European economy is diving as well…but here’s a little slice of the bright side of life.

These are some recent articles from Good Magazine – an online and print medium devoted to social change, and the NY Times:

“Summer is the season for awareness-raising road trips. The latest one we’re excited about is the Food and Freedom Rides, which is spreading the word about our broken food system in communities across the South and Midwest. Kicking off in Birmingham, Alabama with meetings with civil rights leaders today and yesterday, the movement pays tribute to the 50th anniversaryof the anti-segregation Freedom Rides that roiled the South and galvanized the civil rights movement…Along the way, the 12 traveling activists hope to “expose injustice in the food system, and reveal real solutions in both urban and rural communities” by putting a spotlight on local food activism [Read on]….”

Read more:

  • Check out their itinerary here.
  • Learn more about the Freedom Riders by watching this PBS documentary.

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August 6th marked the beginning of Ramadan for the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims. “Alas, many Americans are still completely ignorant to Islam’s holiest month of observance. For the next four weeks, Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq are out to change that.

Ali and Tariq are the two young Muslims behind the project 30 Mosques in 30 Days. Since August 1, when Ramadan started this year, the duo have been traveling to a new state each day and meeting with a new Muslim community. They then document their experiences with multimedia presentations on their blog. The goal is to hit 30 states and 30 mosques in 30 days, thereby introducing the world to the wide breadth of wonderful people composing Islam, a religion and culture still considered by many to be foreign and scary….” [Read on]

Read more:

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A protest in Santiago, Chile, last month. Students have held rallies of up to 100,000 people and taken control of dozens of schools around the country

“…If the Arab Spring has lost its bloom halfway across the world, people here are living what some have come to call a Chilean Winter. Segments of society that had been seen as politically apathetic only a few years ago, particularly the youth, have taken an unusually confrontational stance toward the government and business elite, demanding wholesale changes in education, transportation and energy policy, sometimes violently.

…The education protests have become ever more creative. There are at least two or three people jogging at all times around La Moneda, the presidential palace, trying to complete 1,800 laps to symbolize the $1.8 billion a year that protesters are demanding for Chile’s public education system. They carry flags that say “Free Education Now.”  Others have held a mass kiss-in, dressed like superheroes, danced as zombies to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and even staged fake group suicides where they fall in a heap of bodies….” [Read on]

Read more:

  • Check out more photos of the protests here.
  • Learn about the leader of the university student group, Camila Vallejo Dowling.  Her blog (in Spanish) is here.  The translated version is here.
  • Learn more about their list of demands here.  The Wiki site is actually pretty informative as well.

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You aren’t responsible for Quran burners. Don’t hold Muslims responsible for 9/11.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.  I hope you find this essay thought-provoking and informative during this day of remembrance.  Let’s hope we can finally learn from 9/11  and work toward resolution and peace.

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William Saletan for Slate, link to article here.  Embedded links from original article.

Two days ago, hundreds of Afghans gathered in Kabul to denounce the United States for burning the Quran. They torched American flags, chanted “Death to America,” and carried signs calling for the death of President Obama. Some of them hurled rocks at U.S. troops. A student in the crowd said of the planned Quran burning: “We know this is not just the decision of a church. It is the decision of the president and the entire United States.”

He’s wrong, of course. The Quran burning is the brainchild of a Florida minister and his tiny fundamentalist church. It has been condemned by the White House, the State Department, the commanding U.S. general in Afghanistan, Christian organizations, and countless Americans. But when clerics in Egypt denounce the incendiary plan, we feel the heat. When thousands of Muslims rally against it in Indonesia, they do so outside our embassy. When an imam in Kabul threatens retaliation, he casts a shadow on all of us: “If they decide to burn the holy Quran, I will announce jihad against these Christians and infidels.”

This is how it feels to be judged by the sins of others who destroy in the name of your faith. You’re no more responsible for 30 Christian extremists in Florida than Muslims are for the 19 hijackers of 9/11. Yet most of us, when polled, say that no Muslim house of worship should be built near the site of the 9/11 attacks. In saying this, we implicitly hold all Muslims accountable for the crime of those 19 people.

Now you know how it feels to be judged that way. It’s inaccurate, and it’s wrong.

Of course the two situations are different. The hijackers killed 3,000 people; the Quran burners would destroy only their own property. The hijackers were organized by a global terrorist network; the Quran burners are acting alone. But the Quran burners claim to speak for Christianity, just as the hijackers claimed to speak for Islam. And the Quran burners have many open supporters on Facebook in addition to others who are quietly cheering them on.

You, your country, and your faith are being held accountable for the deeds of these people. A widely viewed YouTube video combines “International Burn-the-Quran Day” shirts proclaiming “ISLAM IS OF THE DEVIL” (marketed by the same Florida church), satirical cartoons about the Prophet Mohammed, European criticism of Islamic veils, and myths about U.S. troops flushing a Quran down a toilet. The video says these “attacks on Muslims,” including U.S. invasions of Muslim countries, expose the “hatred of the disbelievers.” It calls on Muslims to “rise up and do something.”

The video also features a sign at a rally: “No More Mosques.” Our indiscriminate, collective-responsibility campaign against mosques is being used in an indiscriminate, collective-responsibility campaign against us and our troops.

A pastor who preaches at a nearby Florida church is aghast at the global outrage the Quran-burning minister has provoked. “He represents only 30 people in this town,” the pastor tells the New York Times. “It needs to get out somehow to the rest of the world that this isn’t the face of Christianity.”

It will, Reverend. Right after it gets out to the rest of the world that we don’t think the 9/11 hijackers are the face of Islam.

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Female Imams Blaze Trail Amid China’s Muslims – NPR

I thought this story was really fascinating, having just been to China and having studied women’s history.  Normally religion has excluded women from the higher ranks (Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism, etc.), but this story shows how women are making a space for themselves in religion, Islam, and in China.

by Louisa Lim

July 21, 2010

Third of five parts

Yao Baoxia is a female ahong, or imam, at Wangjia Hutong Women's Mosque in Kaifeng, in central China. She sits alongside believers during prayers, not in front of them like male imams. She believes male and female imams are equal in their role as teachers and leaders of prayers. Ariana Lindquist for NPR

It is 5:50 in the morning, and dark shadows scurry through narrow alleys to the mosque, as the call to prayer echoes from a minaret in Kaifeng. This city in central China’s Henan province has an Islamic enclave, where Muslims have lived for more than 1,000 years.

In an alleyway called Wangjia hutong, women go to their own mosque, where Yao Baoxia leads prayers. For 14 years, Yao has been a female imam, or ahong as they are called here, a word derived from Persian.

As she leads the service, Yao stands alongside the other women, not in front of them as a male imam would. But she says her role is the same as a male imam.

“The status is the same,” Yao says confidently. “Men and women are equal here, maybe because we are a socialist country.”

“I didn’t go to school when I was small,” she chuckles. “We were all too poor; none of us girls studied. But I came here to play and study. The old imam was very, very old — she was 80-something, and she had bound feet.”

Tang is sitting in the mosque’s washroom as she talks. This is where women conduct ritual ablutions before prayer. This space — and the mosque itself — doubles as a social center for these women, the heart of a community.

In Kaifeng, there are 16 women’s mosques, one-third the number of mosques for males.

Ariana Lindquist for NPR For Bai Yanlian becoming a female imam took seven years of study, including three years of Arabic-language training. She then had to take an exam to get a license from the state.

A Unique Chinese Tradition

Shui Jingjun, of the Henan Academy of Social Sciences and co-author of a book on the phenomenon, says that so far there are no women’s mosques in other countries. In most of the Muslim world, women pray behind a partition or in a separate room, but in the same mosque as men.

Shui points out that the women’s mosques in China are administered independently, by women for women, in addition to being legally separate entities in some cases.

“After reform and opening up [in 1979], some female mosques registered independently, which shows the equality of male and female mosques,” she explains.

Controversy still rages in the Muslim world about whether women can be imams. In 2006, Morocco became the first country in the Arab world to officially sanction the training of female religious leaders.

China is the only country to have such a long history of female imams. However, there are things that, according to the customary practices of Chinese Muslims, female imams can’t do.

They can’t, for instance, lead funeral rituals or wash male corpses.

Forty miles away in the provincial capital of Zhengzhou, white-sashed mourners wail as they process through the streets carrying the coffin from a mosque. No female imams are participating.

Ariana Lindquist for NPR Women pray at a the Wangjia mosque in Kaifeng. There are 16 women's mosques in the city, one-third the number of mosques serving male Muslims.

Opposition Still Exists To Women’s Roles

In central China, most Muslims support the female mosques, but there is some resistance closer to China’s border with Pakistan and Afghanistan, closer to the harder-line Wahhabi and Salafi influences.

“Historically in northwestern China, there were no female mosques,” says Shui, the researcher. “There was resistance because people thought that building female mosques was against the rules of religion. But in central China and most provinces, people think it’s a good innovation for Islam.”

In the past decade, some women’s mosques have been established in northwest China. The phenomenon appears to be spreading, helped politically by the Islamic Association of China, a state-controlled body that regulates Islam and issues licenses to practice to male and female imams alike.

Greatest Challenge Is Economic

In the women’s mosques, most of the faithful are elderly. Young women with families often don’t have the time to worship, especially given the lengthy purification rituals several times a day.

Third-generation imam Sun Chengying, who has been practicing for 21 years, worries about the future.

“I haven’t had any students since 1996,” she says, shaking her head. “Women don’t want be imams anymore, because the salaries in the mosques are too low. No one is willing to do it.”

Female imams sometimes earn as little as $40 a month, one-third of what can be earned in other jobs. Younger women need to earn more to support their families.

And so it appears the future of female imams in China is threatened — not by the state, not by resistance from inside Islam, but by the forces of market economics.

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