Latest News

Friday, March 2, 2012 - 10:30
by Noah J. Silverman 28 February 2012 New York, New York - In 1924, Norman De Nosaquo, a Jewish student at the University of Wisconsin, wrote a letter to the editor of the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle in which he observed, “It is only through organised groups [that one can] accomplish anything of good for the advancement of the knowledge of the Jewish people.” The occasion of the letter was the recent establishment of a new institution at the University of Illinois – the first of its kind – dedicated to proactively helping Jewish students maintain and strengthen their Jewish identity. De Nosaquo called for Jewish leaders in Wisconsin to “launch a state-wide campaign for a community house for the Jewish students” at the University of Wisconsin as well. The name of this nascent Jewish student organisation was Hillel. The word “Hillel” derives from the name of a rabbinic sage from the first century, now famous for the ethic of...Read More
Friday, March 2, 2012 - 10:28
By Marwa Helal 28 February 2012 New York, New York - A few weeks ago, the New York Police Department (NYPD) made headlines when it was discovered that a controversial film, "The Third Jihad", which claims to explore radical Islam in America, was shown to nearly 1,500 officers during a counterterrorism training in 2010. Due to the sensationalist tone of “The Third Jihad” – which portrays Islam as one of the main culprits for violence and terrorism in the United States – some Muslim Americans worry that the police department was training officers to treat all Muslims as suspects. Recent media reports point to continuing problems between the NYPD and Muslim communities, including new reports of NYPD surveillance that took place between 2006 and 2007 on local Muslim Student Association chapters in universities in the northeast. On the one hand, these reports clearly risk inflaming mistrust between American Muslims and the police, but they...Read More
Friday, March 2, 2012 - 10:27
by Persheng Vaziri 28 February 2012 New York, New York - If you could climb over the mountain of threats and political posturing that are part of the language used by the United States, Europe and Iran and look out, you might see the light of a movie screen. If you set aside the loud clamour in the West about Iran’s nuclear development and the irrationality of its leadership, you might hear the soft but tense voices of characters on that movie screen dealing with one Iranian family’s conflict. The movie’s female lead, Simin, wears a headscarf, but contrary to stereotypes of Muslim women, also demonstrates self-awareness and strength – evident in her difficult decision to leave Iran with her daughter even if it means separating from her husband. Her daughter, Termeh, is stuck with an impossible choice between her mother and father, Nader, who doesn’t want to give in to his wife’s demands to leave and is too proud to ask her to stay. This...Read More
Friday, March 2, 2012 - 10:22
by Lisa Schirch and Karim Merchant 28 February 2012 London - Recent news of US troops burning copies of the Qur’an in Afghanistan sparked protests and fuelled violence. In response, US President Barack Obama apologised and US military leaders in Afghanistan announced that all foreign troops will receive training on how to handle religious materials. This current crisis signals the need for more significant changes to the international forces' mission, as well as the preparation that members of the military receive. Such change must go beyond the current plans for a US drawdown. Coming on the heels of night-time raids and civilian casualties, Afghans see this incident as part of a larger failure rather than an isolated error – and it indicates the need for systemic change. Numerous polls, such as a 2011survey of Afghan citizens by the Asia Foundation, indicate that Afghans feel culturally humiliated and fearful of international military forces. Many Afghans...Read More
Monday, February 27, 2012 - 14:34
by Rev. Wayne Lavender 21 February 2012 Sulaymaniyah, Iraq - Soon after the tragic attacks on 11 September 2001, I left the church where I had been serving as the senior pastor for 12 years, sensing a call to work for peace and justice. I travelled up and down the east coast of the United States to speak about peace, reconciliation, conflict resolution and mediation wherever I could find an audience – churches, synagogues, civic organisations, schools and clubs. I saw the 9/11 attacks as crimes against humanity committed by a small group of politically motivated individuals who were using religion as the means to justify their actions. I sought to offer and advocate for a different response from the United States than an escalation of violence – a response more true to the predominantly peaceful texts of the Abrahamic religions. I helped create coalitions of Jewish, Christian and Muslim clerics who were opposed to the war policies being pursued by the United...Read More
Monday, February 27, 2012 - 14:25
by Daoud Kuttab 21 February 2012 Amman - Palestinian reconciliation took a major step forward recently following an agreement that included President Mahmoud Abbas taking on the additional position of prime minister. The Doha Agreement between leader of the Hamas political bureau, Khaled Meshal, and Abbas that was signed earlier this month has led many to ask: has Hamas capitulated to the demands of Fatah? Were Qatari financial incentives a reason for this sudden breakthrough? What could have led Meshal to sign a deal that would publically set him against Hamas leaders in the Gaza strip, such as Mahmoud Al Zahar, who accused him of signing it without their knowledge? Certainly geopolitical developments following the Arab Spring played a role. In recent months, Hamas (especially its Damascus-based leadership headed by Meshal) has been distancing itself from the Syrian government. The violence of the Bashar al Assad regime against Muslim Brotherhood activists in Syria...Read More
Monday, February 27, 2012 - 14:22
by Lulua Asaad 21 February 2012 Vienna - Why do men in Saudi Arabia educate their female children if women aren’t able to work later? This is the question Khalid Al-Khudair, founder of the employment platform Glowork, asked. The question actually arose when his sister Aia, who graduated with a degree in psychology from a Canadian university, returned to Saudi Arabia. Even though she had a driver available to take her to major companies to submit her resume, she still found it difficult to find a job because most companies had out-dated websites, making it hard for her to learn about new positions in the first place. In addition, most companies in Saudi Arabia recruit based on personal recommendations, rather than a systematic, merit-based approach. But Al-Khudair's sister, like many other Saudi women, was motivated and unwilling to give in to the obstacles that women face in job hunting. Aia took a job at Glowork to help women who had gone through the same...Read More
Monday, February 27, 2012 - 14:21
by Naazish YarKhan 21 February 2012 Chicago, Illinois - Ayad Akhtar’s American Dervish, set in pre–9/11 American suburbia, is a bold debut novel, where the author seems to hold the American Muslim community by the collar, and shake it into recognising its failings – whether they are anti-Semitism, the unwillingness to accept that Muslims come in various shades or the rush to judge the depth or nature of another person’s engagement with God. With Qur’anic verses as its linchpins, the novel portrays the multiple ways in which the protagonists’ understanding of their faith informs their choices. In doing so, Akhtar provides a more complex, nuanced picture of Muslim Americans. The story follows a 10-year-old protagonist, Hayat Shah, who is enamoured with his mother’s best friend, Mina, whom he first sees in a photograph. His fascination grows once she arrives with her preschool-age child to live with Hayat’s family in Milwaukee....Read More
Monday, February 27, 2012 - 14:20
by Muqtedar Khan 21 February 2012 Newark, Delaware - In February, Americans celebrate Black History Month. It is also during this month in 1965 that Malcolm X, an African American Muslim minister and civil rights activist, died. His legacy is important for Muslims and non-Muslims alike – and one that has influenced many Muslim Americans, including myself. One cannot reflect on the condition of African American communities in the United States without being confronted by the intensity of black suffering. In the world’s richest nation, poverty rates are higher among black Americans than any other group. Despite the historic fact of having a black president in the White House, black Americans are often politically marginalised. For instance, there are no African Americans in the US Senate. When it comes to racial injustice, we are still at the beginning of America’s redemption. The story of Malcolm X’s life is well-known. He was born to parents who...Read More
Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - 15:31
by Moriel Rothman 14 February 2012 Jerusalem - Late last month I went to the children's memorial in Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem. I stood there and took in the names, the candles and the glass. And I felt confused and sad and a little bit broken. It was 27 January, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and it was the first time I had gone to the memorial in five years. I went because I wanted to reclaim a small part of myself and my history from the tornado of political and historical ownership that twists so jaggedly in this place. When I realised that International Holocaust Remembrance Day was approaching, my first thought was, "great – another opportunity for Israel's leaders to make the world feel guilty and back away from their criticism of its settlements." After reading the works of Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt, who wrote in the 1960s about using the Holocaust to justify Israeli injustices, and hearing Benyamin...Read More
Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - 15:22
By Mohamed El-Sayed 14 February 2012 Cairo - Egypt continues to struggle with violence in the wake of political uncertainty and transition. Yet despite the domestic turmoil, there has been a positive development – the relationship between the United States and the Muslim Brotherhood has improved after decades of mutual distrust. In January, high-level US and Muslim Brotherhood officials met and posed for pictures at the headquarters of the Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in Cairo. This meeting constitutes the first step towards greater understanding between the two sides and an acceptance of new political realities in the region. For decades, the Muslim Brotherhood criticised the United States for supporting dictatorships in the Arab world. On the other hand, the United States never believed political Islamic movements to be capable of adopting and abiding by the rules of democracy and maintaining US interests in the region. This gradual...Read More
Thursday, February 16, 2012 - 12:28
by Jonathan Laurence 14 February 2012 Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts - Just over 1 per cent of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims reside in Western Europe, yet this minority has had a disproportionate impact on religion and politics in its new home. In just fifty years, the Muslim population has ballooned from some tens of thousands to 16 or 17 million in 2010 – approximately one out of every 25 Western Europeans. On the one hand, there is a growing belief among native European populations that Islam, once allowed to flourish unchecked in post-war Europe, must be halted. This worldview exhorts Europeans to awaken from their slumber and defeat “Eurabia”. Against this narrative is the view, held by some Muslim community leaders, that European governments are uniformly repressive and intolerant of diversity. Both narratives are inadequate, and more importantly, each misses the broader trend of what is actually happening on the ground. Europeans and Muslims...Read More
Thursday, February 16, 2012 - 12:14
by Suci Haryati 14 February 2012 Jakarta - Many people would argue that football (or soccer as it is known in the United States) is as much a spiritual experience as it is a physical activity. As the World Cup and other regional league and club games have shown, it has the ability to move people – both in positive and negative ways. It can be seen as positive in that it brings people of various backgrounds together through a shared activity, negative in that fanaticism among its followers can lead to outbursts of violence. One may even claim in jest that football is a religion. The Muslim world has a huge football fan base. The sport has permeated local cultures, academic inquiries, art forms, politics and even religion itself. Indonesia is one example of the latter. Arguably the most extreme example of the mixing of football and religion in Indonesia is the fireball game. The game involves using a coconut shell, which is set ablaze and used as the football. It is...Read More
Thursday, February 16, 2012 - 12:00
by Mehnaz M. Afridi 14 February 2012 New York, New York - As I listen to sound bites of news, a swarm of words sting me: Iran, Israel, nuclear, Palestine-Israel at a standstill, Muslims kill Jews, and Jews kill Muslims. As a Muslim woman who teaches classes about the Holocaust at a Catholic college, I am constantly frustrated by the media coverage of the Middle East which overwhelmingly serves to highlight and entrench national and religious tensions, prejudice and conflict. A recently-aired documentary by filmmaker Karen Ghitis, on Al Jazeera, was an extremely heartening exception to the rule. The film, Jerusalem SOS, showed Jews and Muslims saving each other’s lives. The documentary, which aired last month, portrayed Arabs wearing orange vests printed with the red Star of David teamed up with haredi (or ultra-Orthodox) Jews with side curls, black skullcaps and tzitziot (knotted ritual fringes on their garments). And both groups have only praise for each other....Read More
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - 11:48
The Impact of Defense Secretary Panetta's Announcement on a New Timeline February 2012 | On the Issues by Andrew Wilder, Shahmahmood Miakhel and Omar Samad February 6, 2012 Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters this week on his way to Brussels that the U.S. would end the combat mission in Afghanistan by the end of 2013. American troops, he said, would transition to a train-and-assist mission. The statement took many NATO officials there by surprise. The administration has sought to clarify that the American combat mission would not end completely, but would be greatly reduced. USIP’s Andrew Wilder, who directs the Afghanistan and Pakistan programs, Shahmahmood Miakhel, director of USIP’s office in Kabul, and Omar Samad, a senior Afghan expert at USIP, gave their perspectives on the matter.   What do you think the defense secretary’s announcement will mean for NATO operations on the ground? Does it help or...Read More
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - 11:43
  February 2012 | News Feature by Steven Heydemann February 6, 2012 After several days of intensive negotiation, Russia and China vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution on Saturday, February 4 that would have required Syria to implement the terms of an Arab League transition framework. The week before, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary-General of the Arab League Nabil Elaraby, and the Foreign Minister of Qatar briefed the U.N. Security Council in support of the UNSC resolution, which was modeled on a transition framework and approved by the Arab League on January 22. The U.S., U.K. and French delegations all conveyed the view that they were prepared to force a Russian veto if the UNSC could not reach a consensus that reflected the essence of the Arab League framework. Behind this tough talk, however, Western and Arab League members of the Council worked strenuously to develop a resolution that...Read More
Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - 14:09
by Maria Golia 07 February 2012 Cairo - On 3 February I walked around my downtown Cairo neighbourhood to see how the latest street battles were proceeding. They began again (for the third time in as many months) following a 1 February riot in a Port Said sports stadium in which 74 people died. It seems fans flooded the pitch and started brawling after a soccer game. It wasn’t the first time the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) was accused of either inciting violence or failing to stop it, but the headlines screamed “massacre!” before the dead were in their graves. By nightfall on 2 February protests had erupted into street fights with security forces near Cairo’s Ministry of the Interior just off Tahrir Square. The blocks between my flat and the Ministry were quiet, with hardly a car in sight. I passed several junk-collectors wheeling their hand carts, calling out, “bikya, bikya!” – an Arabic transliteration of...Read More
Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - 14:08
by Ruth Eglash 07 February 2012 Jerusalem - Just days after long-time Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiators Yitzhak Molcho and Saeb Erekat clashed yet again at a meeting in Jordan, thousands of young people from across the Middle East gathered together online for an event which set a new standard for mutual understanding and partnership. Conferences bringing together Jews and Arabs might be nothing new. But what set this particular event apart is that it happened in the virtual world of Shaker, a Facebook application that allows for instantaneous interaction between users utilising cartoon-like personas that have conversations or attend events. The brainchild of YaLa Young Leaders – an online movement formed by Israelis and Palestinians last May and already “liked” by more than 50,000 people on Facebook – the conference garnered vast media attention and even attracted some high-profile dignitaries, including Jordan’s Prince Hassan bin Talal,...Read More
Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - 14:07
by Shazia Kamal 07 February 2012 Washington, DC - In a 2009 report by Gallup entitled Muslim Americans: A National Portrait, surveyors found that only 51 per cent of Muslim American youth (ages 18 to 29) were registered to vote – the lowest percentage recorded amongst young Americans. With the 2012 elections approaching in November, Muslim Americans are aiming for a higher percentage of registered voters and accordingly a higher turnout at the polls. Imams and Muslim community activists across the United States are encouraging young Muslims to play their part in addressing and remedying the ills they see in their communities. Their calls are rooted in a verse from the Qur’an which states, “Truly, God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves” (13:11). Understanding this call to action through their faith, Muslim Americans can work towards becoming effective agents of change and a recognisable voting bloc for...Read More

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