” Know Islam” Booth At Farmers Market

(Worth reading news article in Washington Post, especially questions posed by the visitors and its answers. f sheikh)

The mother and daughter arrived just before 8 a.m., unpacking the table and folding chairs from the back of a white minivan. It was a chilly 43 degrees, and the sun cast long shadows between the farmers market stalls and the funnel cake truck, the smell of grilled meat and wood smoke hovering.

Sureyya Hussain carefully laid out the Korans.

Soon, the curious passersby began to approach with their questions, their comments and their concerns. The answers, Hussain hoped, would inform and enlighten — or at least spur constructive conversations about being Muslim in America.

“We wanted to have a voice about what Islam is for us,” said Hussain, 50, who organizes the monthly table, where anyone can come to learn about Islam.

Muslims have been facing what they see as a tide of vitriol against them during the past two years, which has included hate crimes and harassment. Muslim leaders say that sentiment is fueled by the policies of President Trump’s administration, including attempts to ban immigration from Muslim-majority countries.

Add to that the terrorism done in the name of the Islamic State extremist group — including a deadly truck attack on Halloween afternoon in New York City — and many Muslims feel like there is a constant need to defend their identities and religion from suspicion.

For some of the nation’s small-town mosques and groups of recent immigrants, the instinct has been to turn inward, keep a low profile, buy security cameras, and tell young people to avoid confrontations. Other communities have tried the exact opposite: public engagement.

The Islamic Center of Las Cruces, the only mosque in this desert town of 101,000 about an hour north of the Mexican border, is one of them.

Mustafa Azimi, sitting in the middle, and other members of the local mosque speak about their religion with passersby. They also provide free Korans and pamphlets on different Islamic beliefs. (Ivan Pierre Aguirre/For The Washington Post)

Hussain and other members of the mosque’s Dawa — or outreach committee — come here, to the town’s farmers market, and set up a sign that says “Know Islam” amid the stalls hawking apples, kettle corn and handmade soaps. They provide free Korans and pamphlets on different Islamic beliefs, and then they sit there for five hours, offering themselves up for whatever comes their way.

They want to get out in front of the hate, nip it in the bud before it starts. Let them come with their stereotypes and their fears, but give them answers.

The questions on a typical Saturday have range: “What do you worship?” “Do you wear your scarves in the shower?” “Do you walk behind your husband?” (The answers to the last two were “No.”)

Sometimes the conversations get difficult — maybe even a little uncomfortable or combative — but the volunteers do their best to stay calm and friendly.

The visitors on this Saturday included dog-walkers, families and elderly couples. There was a man with a bicycle who asked if all Muslims are required to make the hajj pilgrimage — no, they said — and another man who asked if it was appropriate to address Muslims with “Salaam” — sure, they said.

At one point, Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), trailed by a small scrum of aides and local TV reporters, stopped by and greeted everyone at the table.

Then came the two heavily tattooed, bearded men in motorcycle apparel who wanted a copy of the Koran. And then there was the woman wearing a small dog in a pouch, who asked whether anyone was interested in puppy adoption, before adding a comment they have heard from others in this liberal-leaning city that backed Hillary Clinton: “I want to apologize for this president. He does not represent us.”

One woman, who introduced herself as Hannah, a recent college graduate and Christian, asked if they had ever read the Bible and whether Muslims view it as “corrupted.” She also wondered how Muslims think about sin if they don’t believe Jesus died for them.

“For us, prophets die, prophets sacrifice, and that’s what makes them great,” Hussain explained. “We disagree on the fact that human beings carry the stain of original sin. But that doesn’t mean we can’t converse and can’t be friends.”

A lot of people have questions about what Muslims believe, especially when it comes to violence, Christianity and America.

Sureyya Hussain, who organizes the monthly table, answers questions about her religion. ‘We wanted to have a voice about what Islam is for us,’ she said. (Ivan Pierre Aguirre/For The Washington Post)

So the group hands out pamphlets like “What do Muslims think about Jesus?” and “Muslims stand against terrorism if they stand with Islam.” And they display a collection of books with titles like “All-American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim” and “The Muslim Next Door; The Qur’an, the Media, and that Veil Thing.”

Sometimes though, there are the people who don’t have any questions, just opinions.

It was late morning, the throngs of people growing between the stands of pecans and dried chile peppers, when a man with a black Chihuahua in a pink sweater walked by. Azimi immediately felt a surge of anxiety.

The last time this man came by the table, the conversation quickly got heated and voices were raised.

But John Thomas and Robertita — the Chihuahua — wandered over anyway. Thomas is a member of ACT for America, a group that has accused U.S. Muslim organizations of supporting terrorism and of trying to impose Islamic law across the country.

He wanted to talk about “political Islam,” which he believes is “a threat to our Western values.”

full article

Is tide turning in Pakistan?

( The following news article and a column by Nadeem Paracha, PML-N moving towards center, is a hopeful sign for Pakistan to turn away from militancy. F. Sheikh)

Pakistan honors Nobel winner in physics 37 years late. But his religion still stirs anger.

In most countries, it would hardly require an act of courage for the government to rename a university science center after a native-born Nobel Prize-winning physicist who died two decades earlier.

But the belated honor that Pakistan announced Tuesday for the late Abdus Salam was a bold step in the ­Muslim-majority democracy, where officials often feel the need to appease religious hard-liners at the expense of progress and international stature.

Salam was a member of the Ahmadiyya community, a minority sect that is ostracized and reviled by many Muslims in Pakistan, and whose schools and places of worship have been the frequent target of attacks.

So touchy are Pakistan’s majority Sunnis about Ahmadis — who consider themselves Muslims but are widely viewed as heretics — that the decision to add Salam’s name to the National Center for Physics is the first official honor he has received in his homeland. Salam won the Nobel in 1979, sharing it with two theoretical physicists from the West. He died in 1996 in London.

“The government should be congratulated for correcting a historic injustice,” said Pervez Hoodbhoy, a professor of physics at Quaid-i-Azam University, where the center is located.

The move shows that Pakistan is finally “ready to move ahead in science . . . irrespective of faith,” Hoodbhoy said. “It will help soften Pakistan’s image, which is badly needed when we are accused of being intolerant and terrorist.”

But even as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issued a statement saying Salam’s “remarkable achievements earned fame and prestige for the country” and “deserve to be valued,” critics were cursing the physicist in online posts as a “thug,” a spy and a “traitor to Islam.” Salam left Pakistan in the 1970s after its legislature declared Ahmadis to be non-Muslims, and he worked from then on in the West.

Other Pakistanis, while praising Sharif for taking a step no previous government leader had risked, said it meant little as long as members of the country’s 4­-million-strong Ahmadi minority are still persecuted.

“This is indeed welcome news, but can the prime minister explain to us why the Ahmadi community is being hounded, beaten, jailed and brutalized?” one woman commented on Facebook.

In the past several years, Ahmadis have faced deadly attacks, some by local Muslims whipped up by conservative Islamist preachers and others carried out by terrorists. In 2010, suicide attackers from a Sunni militia killed 94 people and wounded more than 120 in simultaneous assaults at two Ahmadi community centers in Lahore.

Last month, a more subtle but damaging episode took place: a whisper campaign suggesting that one of the top candidates to become the army chief had family ties to Ahmadis.

Read more

posted by f.sheikh

A Toddler Sentenced To Life By Egyptian Military

NYT;

CAIRO — As alibis go, this one would seem to be airtight: Your honor, my client was only a year old at the time of the crime.

But it did not stop an Egyptian military court from convicting the accused, a boy now 3 ½, of killing three people, carrying guns and firebombs, blocking a road with burning tires, and trying to damage government buildings — and sentencing him to life in prison.

The verdict came last week in a mass trial of 107 people suspected of being members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, and the charges stemmed from the protests, street clashes and police crackdowns in Egypt after the military overthrow of the elected Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, in 2013. Hundreds of people were killed and thousands were jailed.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/24/world/middleeast/egypt-toddler-life-sentence.html?ribbon-ad-idx=12&rref=homepage&module=Ribbon&version=origin&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Home%20Page&pgtype=article