Good News and Bad News for Muslims in 2007

Good News and Bad News for Muslims in 2007

by Sheila Musaji

THE BAD NEWS

There was a lot of bad news for Muslims in 2007 (and we might as well look at that first).  Some of the bad news was brought to us by non-Muslims, for example:  Alarming statements continued to be made, mosques continued to be vandalized and attacked, there continued to be Islamophobic incidents.  We also had Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week which was held on college campuses across America, a Judge upheld the U.S. entry ban for Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan;  Obsession:  Radical Islam’s War With the West? continues to be shown on college campuses across the country.  Policy Exchange’s recent report on extremism in British mosques received a lot of publicity although the recent information that it seems evidence was fabricated [1] and [2] has not received much attention.  (This trend of the original story making the front page headlines, but when they are found not guilty or innocent, that goes somewhere on the back pages in small print.  is still a common occurrence.)

We are still asked to explain or respond to just about every incident involving a Muslim that happens anywhere in the world.  In fact, there have been so many such responses that The American Muslim has had to divide its response section into five parts — - RESPONSES TO CLAIMS MADE BY SPECIFIC INDIVIDUALS AND ORGANIZATIONS - RESPONSES TO MISREPRESENTATION OR MISINTERPRETATION OF QUR’AN VERSES, ARABIC TERMS, PROPHET MUHAMMAD  - RESPONSES TO ALLEGATIONS AGAINST ISLAM AND MUSLIMS IN GENERAL  - RESPONSES TO ALLEGATIONS & CLAIMS AGAINST SPECIFIC INDIVIDUALS & ORGANIZATIONS  -  RESPONSES TO ALLEGATIONS & CLAIMS MADE ABOUT SPECIFIC INCIDENTS, ISSUES AND EVENTS 

According to various polls and surveys - Most Americans think the founders wanted a Christian U.S.  Attitudes toward Muslims are mixed in Europe and the U.S. 

However, the bad news was also brought to us by Muslims doing the wrong thing in the name of Islam.

The ISNA and WD Muhammad Conventions were still held in Chicago on the same week-end, but separately.  We were unable to agree on the dates for Eid (both of them).

The annual Muslim Day Parade held in NYC was Hijacked by Extremists.  We also had:  The Sudanese “Teddy Bear Incident”; the murder of Aqsa Parvez; the Saudi rape case verdict;  the Al-Qaeda Suicide Bombing of a Mosque in Pakistan; Abdul Rahman al-Barak, a Saudi “scholar” who issued a fatwa declaring Shiites to be infidels; the kidnapping of journalist Alan Johnston in Palestine; the Minnesota Muslim cab drivers who refused to carry blind passengers with guide dogs; the Malaysian Catholic Herald, a publication by and for Catholics in Malaysia, was told that it can no longer publish its Malaysian language edition if it continues to use the word “Allah” to mean God; the Taslima Nasreen case;  and, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. 


THE GOOD NEWS

The most important good news stories were:

1.  Muslim Scholars Appeal to Christian Scholars for Dialogue and Peace - “A Common Word” document issued in October by 138 Internationally known Muslim scholars from all schools of law.  And, these same scholars followed this up with an historic Christmas greetings message, and accepted a dialogue invitation from the Vatican.

2.  A number of important breakthroughs in Sunni-Shia relations (all building on the breakthrough Amman Statement issued in 2005).  - The Shia-Sunni Dialogue to Save Lives in Chicago issued a communique.  National Muslim leaders from Sunni & Shia communities signed a Code of Honor’ to Promote Intrafaith Harmony,  and more signed on to the document at the ISNA convention.  Indonesia hosted an international meeting of Sunni and Shia scholars. (see our Sunni Shia Unity Resources collection)

3.  100+ Notable Muslim leaders, scholars, and activists issued a statement affirming Freedom of Faith in IslamWe the undersigned Muslims from diverse backgrounds affirm:  The freedom of faith and the freedom of changing one’s faith. In light of the Qur’anic guidance and the Prophetic legacy, the principle of freedom of faith does not lend itself to impose in this world any punishment or retribution solely for apostasy; thus there ought not to be any punishment in the name of Islam or fatwa calling for the same.

4. INTERFAITH EFFORTS:  Forty-two national religious leaders (Muslims, Christians, and Jews) from around the country declared violence against women as intolerable and pledged their commitment to its eradication. The National Declaration by Religious Leaders to Address Violence Against Women will be distributed to every battered women’s program in the U.S. Women will see this list and determine whether their faith community supports them in seeking safety for themselves and their children. When people of faith join with other community leaders to address domestic violence, we will see ancient roadblocks turn into resources that save lives and bring healing.    This was followed by Twenty Canadian Muslim Organizations Issuing a statement urging ‘Zero Tolerance’ for Domestic Violence.

60 nationally and internationally recognized Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders issued a plea for peace “A Pax on Both Our Houses”.  which seeks to not only prevent an outright war with Iran, but for Iran & the US to achieve an outright peace.

American Muslim and Jewish groups launch joint curriculum for interfaith dialogue.  “Partnership of Christian, Jewish and Muslim Americans who oppose terrorism” was announced at National Press Club.  In September, 2007, high school students of INTERFAITH YOUTH ACTION  gathered 400 Muslims, Jews,  and Hindus to create “Sharing Sacred Seasons. ”  This historic moment celebrated Ramadan, Jewish High Holy Day and Navaratri.  Over 100 Muslims broke fast in a Jewish sukkah, prayed maghib, then joined the larger community for a kosher-hallal south Asian Ifthar.  Three teens spoke about what the holidays meant to them.  The program and menu were planned by the high school students of the Interfaith Youth Leadership Program.  SEE the 1-minute video.  And, on the last day of this year the Malaysian government has reversed its bad decision to ban the Malay-language section of a Catholic newspaper if it didn’t stop using the word “Allah” instead of God.

5.  The Fiqh Council of North America Reaffirmed its Fatwa Against Religious Extremism.

6.  IMPORTANT FATWAS - Saudi religious scholar Sheikh Salman ibn Fahad Al-Oudah rejected Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda ideology.  Dr. Ali Gomah, Grand Mufti of Egypt banned female genital mutilation  (see also our extensive list of fatwas)

7.  Britain officially changes its terminology.  The words “war on terror” will no longer be used by the British government to describe attacks on the public, the country’s chief prosecutor said Dec. 27.  The term “Islamic terrorist” will also no longer be used. Officials believe it is unhelpful because it appears to directly link the religion to terrorist atrocities.

8.  MUSLIM ORGANIZATIONS and leadership doing the right thing in the name of Islam

Sunni & Shia clerics join Christians for Christmas Mass in Iraq. 

European Muslim leaders rejected call for a bounty offered by Al-Qaeda in Iraq against Swedish cartoonist.

British Muslim leaders introduced guidelines to fight extremism, promote a culture of “civic responsibility” and foster women’s rights in the country’s mosques, Islamic centers and Muslim schools.

Scottish Muslim Leaders organized anti-terror rally


9.  ORDINARY MUSLIMS doing the right thing in the name of Islam

Ten thousand Muslims gathered for a ‘Muslim Live 8’ Concert held in Britain to raise cash for Darfur. 

American Muslims protested at the Saudi Embassy against continuing Saudi destruction of Islamic holy sites. 

The Opus cartoon “incident” was a non-incident

American Muslims issued an appeal to sign a petition to the Taliban to honour the Pashtunwali code & release the Korean hostages. 

American Muslim Doctors denounced UK Terror Plot.  Muslim Peace March in Austin, Texas, rally against terrorism in St. Louis, Missouri

Laleh Bakhtiar’s Qur’an Translation  was released and has caused some serious and positive discussion of the meaning of Qur’an 4:34

In NYC A Muslim man jumped to the aid of three Jewish subway riders after they were attacked by a group of young people who objected to one of the Jews saying “Happy Hanukkah”.

Noor Khazendar a Muslim student in Alabama spearheaded a project that raised over $4,000 for Toys for Tots.  Chicago Muslims donate 21,000 pounds of meat to needy.  7th Annual Humanitarian Day served 25,000 Homeless in U.S. During Ramadan.  The UMAA Community Clinic (free clinic) completed 10 years of service to the Los Angeles community.  Fadil Bayyari a Muslim contractor is helping a Jewish congregation build a synagogue in the hills of Arkansas.  Muslim Patrol Quiets Crime in Shaw neighborhood of Washington D.C.  Muslim outreach feeds 30,000 in Canada.  Muslim college students continue fastathon tradition to raise funds for the needy across the country.  Saint Louis Muslim community sets an example for community service with many projects in 2007.  Muslims in London donate meat for the needy.  Detroit Muslims donate meat for the needy. 

An Arab Muslim family took in a homeless Israeli Jewish family in Jerusalem. 

John Butt, the Muslim chaplain at Cambridge University, has started a radio show called “Across the Border”, broadcast to Afghanistan and Pakistan which aims to battle against militants who preach violence in the name of God.

(see also our collection of articles on Ordinary Muslims, and our Ordinary Muslims… power point, a collection highlighting some of the organizations and indviduals who are thinking outside the box, making a difference, winning hearts and minds, standing up for the actual teachings of Islam and countering the false image of islam sometimes projected by extremists.  compiled by Sheila Musaji (.ppt file, 32,695 kB)

10.  GENERAL GOOD NEWS

The “A Muslim a Day” site continues to post a great photo each day, breaking down stereotypes visually. 

 

FILM

:  The film ‘Days of Glory’ added a Muslim page to the film history of WW II.  Prince Among Slaves premieres and wins award for Best Documentary of 2007 at the American Black Film Festival.  The U.S. premier of “Rumi Returning” was very well received“American Ramadan” documentary was released. 

TELEVISION

:  Two new sitcoms showing Muslims as just as goofy as everyone else aired on television.  Aliens in America began on the CW network, and Little Mosque on the Prairie on Canadian television.  Link TV introduced a special section of programs under the heading of “One Nation, Many Voices:  Muslims in America, Stories Not Stereotypes”.

HUMOR:  We are beginning to see lots more humor and satire coming from the Muslim community.  We have groups like Allah Made Me Funny, The Holy Land Comedy TourStand Up for PeaceThe Watch List.  Khalil Bendib is considering throwing his fez into the ring to become America’s First Muslim President.  Shelina Zahra Janmohamed of Spirit 21 has come up with great Eid and moonsighting carols.  Ray Hanania’s Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour is doing well as are many other Muslim and Arab comedians, for example:  Azhar Usman  -  Maz Jobrani  -  Shazia Mirza  -  Dean Obaidallah -  Preacher Moss  -  Ahmed Ahmed  -  Amro Ali  -  We are seeing humorous posts like - Rules for reporting Islam and regular video blogs like Salam Cafe out of Australia.  Even in Iraq Muslims are finding ways to laugh.  (see also our collection of articles on satire and humor).  There really is such a thing as Muslim humor

Islam-themed comic book “The 99” hits U.S. stands.  Each superhero embodies one of the 99 attributes that Muslims ascribe to Allah.

MUSIC

:  Muslim Country-Western singer Kareem Salama released a new album.

ART

:  The political cartoonist, Bendib has released a new book of his work. 

BOOKS:

  Some great books came out this year.  The new edition of Muhammad Asad’s monumental translation and commentary is now available in England and in the USA. This beautiful new edition, published by the Book Foundation and designed by Ahmed Moustafa, includes completely new typography, art and a complete transliteration of the Arabic text.  Feminism beyond East and West: New Gender Talk and Practice in Global Islam, Margot Badran.  The Holy Cities, The Pilgrimage and The World of Islam: A History: From the earliest traditions till 1925 (1344H), Sultan Ghalib al-Qu’aiti.  Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization, Akbar Ahmed.  The Book of Language: A Deep Glossary of Islamic and English Spiritual Terms (The Education Project series), Kabir Helminski,  now available in paperback.  American Crescent, Imam Hassan Qazwini.  Jasmine and Stars: Reading More Than Lolita in Tehran, Fatemeh Kashevarz.  Microcredit And Poverty Alleviation, Tazul Islam.  Asian Islam in the 21st Century, Esposito, Voll, Bakar.  Christianity and Islam in Spain: Christianity and Islam in Spain, Charles Reginald Haines.  The Garden of Truth: The Vision and Promise of Sufism, Islam’s Mystical Tradition, Seyyed Hossein Nasr.  Sufism: Veil and Quintessence A New Translation with Selected Letters (The Writings of Frithjof Schuon).  God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis, Philip Jenkins.  Islam after Communism: Religion and Politics in Central Asia, Adeeb Khalid.  The Inner Journey: Views from the Islamic Tradition (PARABOLA Anthology Series), Wm. C. Chittick (Editor).  Liberation Theology: Islam and the Feminist Agenda in the Qur’an, Omar Naseef.  Scripture, Reason, and the Contemporary Islam-West Encounter: Studying the “Other,” Understanding the “Self”, Steven Kepnes (Editor), Basit Bilal Koshul (Editor).  The Sum of All Heresies: The Image of Islam in Western Thought, Frederick Quinn. 

MEDIA:

  CAIR released “Beyond Stereotypes — American Muslims:  a Journalist’s Guide to Understanding Islam and Muslims” which it hopes to distribute to journalists across the U.S.

MAGAZINES & JOURNALS:

  For years there were really no quality Muslim print magazines and journals.  Now, we have some world class publications.  - Islamica Magazine  -  Seasons, The Journal of Zaytuna Institute -  Emel  -  Illume  -  Q News

VIDEOS:

  We finally have a selection of good videos available (instead of only those produced by either Islamophobes or Muslim extremists).  Progress Theater performance of “The Freedom Song”.  A WHOLE SERIES OF PEACE SONGS:  Peace Is a Hug Away  -  Refuse, Resist, Say No  -  Shahada/Peace song in Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  -  Ye Hum Naheen (We Are Not That)  -  Our World Nasheed, Zain Bhika -  World Peace Song

10,000 Muslims attended Muslim Fest 2007 in Canada.  40,000 Muslims attended the ISNA Convention in Chicago.

AWARDS:

  Shahed Amanullah and altmuslim.com win 2007 Dewey Award.  Sheila Musaji wins CAIR 2007 Community Service Award for Journalism.  Gray Henry-Blakemore, Dr. Waheed Rana, Muhatar Holland, and Sulayman Nyang win Alexander Russell Webb Award from Zaytuna Institute.  Jefferson Award for community service was presented to Samina Faheem Sundas.  She also received the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Prize given by an interfaith and peace organization called Fellowship of Reconciliation for her publication, American Muslim Voice.  Raheel Raza received an interfaith award from the National Muslim-Christian Liaison Committee of the Canadian Council of Churches at their annual Recognition Dinner in Toronto.  Dekha Ibrahim Abdi (Kenya) received the Right Livelihood Award for her work in peace and development. 
Actually, we now have a number of awards -  The Muslim News Awards for Excellence (Britain)  -  Muslim Writers Award  -  The Brass Crescent Awards

ANNOUNCEMENTS OF COMING GOOD NEWS -  Dave Chapelle has announced that he will produce a new movie which will introduce comedy fans to the world’s funniest Muslims. Allah Made Me Funny - The Official Muslim Comedy Tour featuring America’s top Muslim comics Preacher Moss, Azhar Usman and Mohammed Amer.  The New York Arab American Comedy Festival is coming up again in January. 

GOOD NEWS THAT WAS IGNORED

The interfaith plea for peace, “A Pax on Both Our Houses”  was ignored by mainstream media.

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See also Mas’ood Cajee’s top ten good news stories for 2007.  Code Pink’s 10 good things about 2007.  Top weird news stories of 2007.


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