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Support a platform for Muslims

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

“When we view ourselves as the protagonist of a story in which we are always right, we collect grievances about other people by noticing everything we do and noting the ‘injustices’ that are done to us.  All of this builds resentment within us and instigates conflict.”  –Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah 

fedwa wazwaz
A Somali MPR reporter is stopped at the courthouse where he’s been going every day.

A 6th grade Muslim schoolgirl in New York is called “ISIS,” put in headlock, and punched as middle-school boys tried to pull off her headscarf.

A fourteen-year-old boy who wants to show his clock to a teacher is treated as a terrorist.

My daughter is called a “terrorist” in school.

These are not isolated incidents, but part of an increasingly powerful narrative about Muslims. I get up early to read the news. When I do, I find Muslims all over the world, mainly in a negative light, often framed as a stereotype of violence and hatred.

In the last year, the voices of ISIS and their supporters have been saturating the internet—both because of their shocking acts and because of how well they fit with stereotypes of the “eternally violent” Muslim. One would think they are the majority of Muslims rather than a fringe minority.

All around the world, Muslims are working as journalists, attending school, inventing things—but extremists get the coverage and the mic. The picture is overwhelmed by them, and they seem like the majority.

Read the rest of this entry

A Successful Interfaith Gathering at Brooklyn Park

By Engage Minnesota

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On January 28th, Brooklyn Park Mayor Lunde and community faith leaders came together at the Community Engagement Gathering.

More than 100 community members and staff attended this first time event. There was a panel of speakers representing all three mosques in the Brooklyns as well as a Christian church and a Christian counseling center. Next, youth from Ja’afari Islamic Center presented on “Islam 101”. Finally, attendees participated in conversations at their table around the question, “What can we do as a community to make sure all community members feel safe and welcome?”

The overarching theme was the following: We have more similarities than differences; by acknowledging the uniqueness of our individual faiths and cultural communities, being open to learn from one another, engaging in honest dialogue, building positive relationships in our neighborhoods, and celebrating our rich diversity, we create a welcoming and safe environment for people of all faiths.

The efforts will continue at the individual, family, organizational and community-wide levels.  This month’s Community Engagement Gathering will include a presentation by Oromo community members on their unique culture. Thursday, February 25, 5:45 – 7:30 p.m.

Please RSVP to Josie Shardlow, Community Engagement Coordinator, 763-493-8388

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A holiday letter from Muslim leaders in Minnesota

By Multiple authors, Star Tribune

Two faiths, one hope — for peace

To our Christian brothers and sisters:

Out of our shared love for the Messiah, Jesus, Son of Mary, Peace Be Upon Him, we greet you with peace and joy during your celebration of his life.

The Bible refers to him as the Messiah and describes the annunciation, his miraculous birth and his numerous miracles.

The Qur’an refers to him as the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary. It teaches about his miraculous birth and how his mother Mary was honored above all the worlds. Muslims are instructed to invoke peace upon him whenever his name is mentioned.

The Qur’an narrates the story of the angel who visited Mary, saying “O Mary, indeed God has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of all the worlds.” (Qur’an 3:42)

The angel said, “O Mary, indeed God gives you good news of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary. He will be honored in this world and the Hereafter and he will be among those closest to God. He will speak to the people in the cradle and in maturity and he will be of the righteous.” (Qur’an 3:44-45)

Continue reading at Star Tribune…

 

This article was submitted by Imam Asad Zaman, Muslim American Society of Minnesota; Dr. Odeh Muhawesh, Imam Hussain Islamic Center; ShaykhaTamara Gray, Rabata/Daybreak Bookstore; Dr. Tamim Saidi, Masjid Al Kareem; Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota; Dr. Shah Khan, Islamic Center of Minnesota; Dr. Onder Uluyol, Islamic Resource Group; Zafar Siddiqui, Al Amal School; Imam Sharif Mohamed, Islamic Civic Society of America — Masjid Dar Al-Hijrah, and Owais Bayunus, Islamic Center of Minnesota.

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If you like this piece, share it on social media. We invite you to join us in this project on our social media sites. We welcome your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a commentary, podcast or photo story. (For more information, email engageminnesota@gmail.com.)

 

Blessed Festival of Sacrifice

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

fedwaI am rewriting a blog I wrote for Eid ul-Adha, or Festival of Sacrifice.  September 24, 2015 is a special day for Muslims all around the world. Eid ul-Adha is one of the major Muslim holidays. It comes right after the fifth pillar of Islam called the Hajj or pilgrimage. The Hajj commemorates the life and trials of Prophet Abraham’s family, upon them peace and blessings. Once in a lifetime, every adult Muslim who has the physical and financial ability is required to make a pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah, home of the Ka’bah, which Muslims believe was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael, upon them be peace.

I made the trip last year and this year, my brother Kennedy is experiencing the special event.

The Hajj pilgrimage is an extremely communal event as over two million Muslims, men and women of varied ethnicities and nationalities, dressed in simple white clothing symbolizing the equality of all people, perform identical rituals.

Eid ul-Adha celebrations are similar to Eid ul-Fitr with the addition of sacrificing a lamb, goat or cow to commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, who Muslims believe was miraculously replaced by a lamb, similar to the Biblical story.

Jeewan Chanicka explained Abraham’s sacrifice in his Hajj reminders with the following words:

But it wasn’t his son that was slaughtered. It was his attachment. It was his attachment to anything that could compete with his love for God. And the beauty of such a sacrifice is this: Once you let go of your attachment, what you love is given back to you– in a purer, better form. So let us ask ourselves during these beautiful days of sacrifice, which attachments do we need to slaughter?

People share the meat of the animal with the poor and needy, relatives and friends.

The day begins with a special congregational prayer followed by a short sermon. People are dressed in their best clothing, and children traditionally receive new clothing as well as other gifts. Food, holiday congratulations, and festivities such as rides, balloons, and other fun activities for children follow the prayers. The holiday lasts for four days during which people usually visit or invite each other.

In conclusion, I want to share Rumi’s Eid al-Adha Poem.

BISMILLAH! (In the name of God!)

It’s a habit of yours to walk slowly.
You hold a grudge for years.
With such heaviness, how can you be modest?
With such attachments, do you expect to arrive anywhere?

Be wide as the air to learn a secret.
Right now you’re equal portions clay
and water, thick mud.

Abraham learned how the sun and moon and the stars all set.
He said, No longer will I try to assign partners for God.

You are so weak. Give up to grace.
The ocean takes care of each wave
till it gets to shore.

You need more help than you know.
You’re trying to live your life in open scaffolding.

Say Bismillah, In the name God,
As the priest does with knife when he offers an animal.

Bismillah your old self
to find your real name.
– Jalaluddin Rumi

I wish everyone in all places at all times a blessed Eid Mubarak. May God accept your good deeds and all your efforts during the blessed month of Dhul Hijjah (the name of the month in the Muslim lunar calendar).

Fedwa Wazwaz is a Palestinian-American born in Jerusalem, Palestine and raised in the US.  She is the chair for the Interfaith Relations at Islamic Center of Minnesota.  She has completed training in restorative justice at the University’s Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking.  She was a 2008-2009 policy fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.  She lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

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Chattanooga Killings: Motive Unknown

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

But they have no knowledge therein.
They follow nothing but conjecture;
and conjecture avails nothing against Truth.

(Quran 53:28)

fedwaOn July 16, 2015, Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez killed five U.S. service members in a shooting rampage in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  The 24-year-old gunman, joked that he was just an “Arabian redneck,” was smoking marijuana with friends and struggled to stay devout to Islamic teachings.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, immediately condemned the deadly attack in Tennessee.

In a statement, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said:

“We condemn this horrific attack in the strongest terms possible. Such inexcusable acts of violence must be repudiated by Americans of all faiths and backgrounds. The American Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow citizens in offering condolences to the loved ones of those killed and injured and in rejecting anyone who would harm our nation’s safety and security. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families impacted by this tragedy.”

Likewise, the Minnesota chapter of CAIR responded immediately as well.  Executive Board Member Sakinah Mujahid who is a 13 year veteran of the US Army said:

“We condemn this horrific attack in the strongest terms possible. Such inexcusable acts of violence must be repudiated by Americans of all faiths and backgrounds. The American Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow citizens in offering condolences to the loved ones of those killed and injured and in rejecting anyone who would harm our nation’s safety and security. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families impacted by this tragedy.”

Initial theories on the possible motive behind the Chattanooga killings appear to be just pure conjecture or guesswork.

In an effort to fill in the gaps while reinforcing the stereotypes that inform our world view, people espouse these speculative theories to create a sense of control or to separate themselves from the horrible crime as far as possible.

Some non-Muslims indicate normal Islamic teachings as a possible motive for the crime, while some Muslims are pointing to some of his unIslamic behavior.

Islamic teachings did not radicalize him.  Many Muslims believe in the teachings that the world is a prison, meaning – be patient as when one is in a physical prison – you accept it and seek God’s help to be patient.  Deal with life’s hardships and don’t expect utopia.  Not all Muslims who believe that go shooting people.  I believe that.  It teaches one to expect hardships in life.  i discussed this Islamic teaching in a blog on Lessons on Power and Oppression from Moses.  From the blog, here is a clarification of what life is a prison means:

He[Moses] had completely nothing with him, and fully exhausted himself – to the very depth of his body and soul in pursuit of survival.  It is not an easy experience – but in that state – what does he do?

Some would commit suicide, others go on shooting rampage, and others on drugs to numb their feelings or escape from the pain, fear and a whole new reality.  He just experienced and accepted the event.  He surrendered to the new reality he was in as this is where God brought him to.  Then, in a state of dire need and exhaustion, he saw two women who had a need.  Instead, of being absorbed with his need and his near starvation and exhaustion, he got up and approached them, asked a clarifying question, then addressed their need.  He asked them for nothing in return.  He made no assumptions or ugly accusations about their standing with their flock instead of a male relative.  Afterwards, he turned to God and put forth his prayer asking for “whatever good that You bestow on me.”

Life is a prison is about surrendering to God’s will and facing hardships with faith.

Likewise, I know many Muslims who engage in unIslamic behaviors, like drugs, drinking and even go to strip joints, etc.,  That doesn’t mean they are going to shoot people as well.  Some of them would go out of their way to help people.  They are human beings struggling with human problems in their lives like most humans do in various parts of their lives.  Some of them turned their lives around.  We read such stories all the time.  Here is a recent story on StoryCorps here.

There is no clear predictor for what turns a person to engage in violence.   A 2008 UK study showed no identifiable pattern to “radicalization.”  In the document, Rethinking Radicalization from the Brennan Center for Justice:

An in-depth empirical study by the UK’s security service MI5 found that “there is no single pathway to extremism,” and that all those studied “had taken strikingly different journeys to violent extremist activity.”

The point is – we are just conjecturing and sensationalizing a feel good story.

Simply put, the motive for the Chattanooga killings is unknown.

Fedwa Wazwaz is a Palestinian-American born in Jerusalem, Palestine and raised in the US.  She is the chair for the Interfaith Relations at Islamic Center of Minnesota.  She has completed training in restorative justice at the University’s Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking.  She was a 2008-2009 policy fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.  She lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

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WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?

If you like this piece, share it on social media.  We invite you to join us in this project on our social media sites.  We welcome your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a commentary, podcast or photo story. (For more information, email engageminnesota@gmail.com.)

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