Tag Archive: islam

Herman Cain Muslims


WASHINGTON — Republican Herman Cain is apologizing to Muslim leaders for vitriolic remarks he made about Islam while campaigning for the presidential nomination.

The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO has said communities have a right to ban Islamic mosques because Muslims are trying to inject sharia law into the U.S. He’s also said he would not want a Muslim bent on killing Americans in his administration.

On Wednesday, Cain met with four Muslim leaders in Sterling, Va. He said in a statement later he was “truly sorry” for comments that may have “betrayed” his commitment to the Constitution and the religious freedom it guarantees.

He also acknowledged that Muslims, “like all Americans,” have the right to practice freely their faith and that most Muslim Americans are peaceful and patriotic.

Ramadan And Fasting


NEW YORK — In a crowded dorm meeting room last week, Khalid Latif posed an unusual scenario to dozens of students and young professionals gathered for a weekly Islamic studies class.

“A girl walks into a (mosque) and she’s wearing a miniskirt,” the 28-year-old Muslim chaplain proposed to the group at New York University. “What do you think?”

Some participants giggled. Others looked perplexed. Traditionally, women and men are expected to wear conservative clothing in mosques. Most women who do not typically cover their heads will wear headscarves in a mosque. But the idea of a girl in a miniskirt entering an Islamic house of prayer? Absurd.

The answer, Latif suggested, was not to scold or ignore the woman, but to welcome her to pray.

“Your tongue has been given to you as a way of being closer to others and closer to the divine,” he told the group. “Think of how you use your tongue.”

The lesson is one of many the 28-year-old Muslim chaplain at the university has imparted in recent weeks as part of a popular series of classes and discussion groups he launched ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, which begins Aug. 1.

Little changes each year about the fasting month except its dates, which are determined by the lunar calendar. Muslims awake before dawn for breakfast and abstain from food, water and sex during the day before breaking their fasts with group dinners at night. The days are punctuated by prayers, and Muslims try to read the Quran, their holy book, at least once in its entirety before the month’s end. Mosques will also often organize community service activities.

But in his six years as the Muslim chaplain at New York University, Latif said he has noticed that Ramadan has become routine for many Muslims. As the director of the university’s Islamic Center, he works with hundreds of students, among them American-born Muslims, converts and international students from Islamic countries. The diversity of the group, he said, means a lot of varying ideas and questions about Ramadan and Islam.

A few weeks ago, Latif proposed an idea to those Muslims, many who have observed Ramadan since puberty, the time of life at which Muslims are required to start the practice of fasting: How about a class about Ramadan? Despite it being summer, when the student population empties out of NYU, hundreds of people signed up via the organization’s email list and website. The Islamic organization has hosted social events during Ramadan for years, but a class to teach Muslims about one of the most integral aspects of their religion was a new idea.

“We wanted to create an open space outside the mosque. A lot of Muslims get into a frame about religion where they feel unwelcome or judged or feel like religion is a set of rules,” said Latif, whose group has been meeting for six weeks to prepare for Ramadan. Latif’s students have kept daily journals of their spiritual progress, which they will consult during Ramadan as the group meets for dinners and more discussions to break the fast.

“Yet Islam is about reality. What fasting teaches you is the reality of your own situation and those around you. It allows you to think of what you can start changing about yourself,” he added.

Maureen Ahmed, a 22-year-old recent graduate of Stony Brook University, started coming to Latif’s classes after hearing about them from friends and watching online sermons about womens’ rights posted by Latif, who is also an imam (prayer leader). Unlike at many mosques, the majority of the class’s attendees have also been women.

“I don’t know where I stand with Islam myself,” said Ahmed, who is a research assistant at the Institute of International Education in Manhattan. Ahmed has fasted during Ramadan since she was young, but says she has only recently “come into my own terms about my religion.”

“I don’t have my parents telling me how to practice or what to do anymore. I have to figure it out on my own and what it means to me,” said Ahmed. “It’s good to come here and know if you don’t wear an hijab (headcover) or have other questions, that it’s OK.”

Ahmed participated in the recent conversation about the woman in the miniskirt as part of a class on the subject of character. Other classes have focused on Muslims’ intentions, habits, prayer and gratitude, as well as the legal aspects of fasting during Ramadan.

“Why you do what you do is really important, especially in regard to fasting. It’s much more meaningful if you look at it as more than abstaining from food,” said Latif, echoing one of the course’s themes.

Sara Mahmoud, who is studying for a graduate degree in public health at Columbia University, also recently began attending the classes with her friends after hearing about them from other Muslims.

“They help us get pumped up — as a group — about Ramadan,” she said. One of the simplest lessons from the discussions is about health and nutrition, she added. “A lot of people, when they break the fast, they’ll just gorge on tons of greasy food. You’re supposed to be taking care of yourself, not overeating.”

Latif, who was raised in a Pakistani-American family in New Jersey before attending NYU and training in chaplaincy at Hartford Seminary, said he was motivated to teach about Ramadan by his experiences as a counselor. As a chaplain at both NYU and the New York Police Department, he gets many questions from Muslims and non-Muslims alike about Islam. Hosting his classes outside of a mosque — the group also plans to meet in the basement of a Catholic church for breaking-the-fast dinners during Ramadan — may open up the discussion, he said.

In addition to the debate about the miniskirt, Latif posed another challenging question at the meeting last week.

“What is a good Muslim?” he asked the crowd.

“A good Muslim is one who prays five times a day,” a man offered in reply.

“Being a good Muslim is being kind to others,” another man suggested.

A woman chimed in: “Who is to judge?”

Terror in the Name of God


Since the capture of Anders Behring Breivik, the Oslo terrorist and murderer, at least two critical issues have emerged. The first is his sanity, or lack thereof. The second is that Breivik’s assaults may have been ideologically motivated. According to Breivik’s logic, the murder of 76 people was necessary to challenge the Muslim takeover of the West. It was also an act directed at some of the people who, in his mind, were making the conquest possible: liberals or, more specifically, the Labor Party.

But as important as these issues may be for determining his status as a terrorist, there is another important point to consider about the ruthlessness of his intents and actions. Breivik, like the vast majority of terrorists in the world, was a male.

On the surface of things, this may be a rather obvious and seemingly trite point to make given the horrific nature of his actions. For most analysts, what matters is that he’s a fundamentalist Christian, a terrorist, a racist, a murderer and possibly insane.

But in his own mind, Breivik is also a patriot. He is a man committed to the defense of his nation from the external threat of the “Other” — in this case, the Muslim other. According to Breivik, Norway, and the West more generally, are locked in a struggle with two possible outcomes: a West dominated by Islam or free of its presence.

Sound familiar? It is. Much like bin Laden and his associates, the ideas and visions circulating in Breivik’s mind closely resemble the cosmic battle imagined in the minds of al Qaeda fighters: the fear, the external threat, the internal traitors, the violent resistance, the utopian future. Breivik, like bin Laden, is nothing short of the archetypal extremist whose ghastly deeds reveal the malevolence of passion when mixed with fear and hate.

But Breivik, like bin Laden and a long list of others, is a man. And like the many men before him guilty of pitiless crimes against humanity, he acted in a way that begs us to consider the relationship between such violence and his notions of manhood.

Why, in other words, do some men seem to find violence as a reasonable course of action when dealing with a perceived threat?

Part of the answer, we believe, has to do with something much larger than Breivik’s sound or unsound mind — gender. Men like Breivik all imagine their communities as uniquely feminine. This idea is effectively communicated through the language of their struggle. Breivik, for example, claimed to be defending the “honor” of the West and, in his manifesto, regularly refers to the “penetration” of Muslim armies throughout history and the “rape” of Europe.

These men also believe that, in defending some imagined “sacred community,” they are also defending manhood. Most of us think of communities as something like the family. We think of the people at the local and national levels as our brothers and sisters of sorts — people with whom we share duties and obligations. Beyond our borders, however, are the outsiders — the other families. In this sense Breivik is much like the rest of us: a modern-day tribalist.

Where Breivik and others stop being like us is how they think about the tribe. Breivik believes the west exists as an essentially pure and vulnerable tribe. An important aspect of Breivik’s actions lies in the fact that he believes the pure feminine family of the West needs protection by the warrior men of which he is a part.

A quick glance at Breivik’s 1,500 page manifesto reveals explicit antipathy for “feminism” and its role in the Islamization of Europe. He refers to the “Knights,” who will lead the revolution fighting “bravely” as men defending their civilization. The manifesto is all about a macho world waging war on “feminism” and “Muslims” at one and the same time.

Of course, this is not to say that women have refrained from the glory of human cruelty. But there is something peculiar about the fact that it is mostly men who commit the extreme violence of terrorism. For reasons rarely considered by analysts, men like Breivik seem to feel a great sense of urgency to act violently in the name of their people — imagined or real — and defend its honor and purity.

Thinking about Breivik and others like him, we might do well to think more about their manhood as much as their ideologies since, more often than not, the two seem to go hand-in-hand in the play of their madness.

(CNN) – Given initial suspicions that Friday’s bombing and mass shooting in Norway were carried out by Islamic militants linked to al Qaeda, the way police ended up describing the suspect behind the attacks came as a big surprise even to many security experts: The alleged attacker was called a “Christian fundamentalist.”

But experts on European politics and religion say that the Christian fundamentalist label could overstate the extent to which the suspect, Anders Behring Breivik – who has told authorities that he carried out the attacks – was motivated by religion, and the extent to which he is tied to a broader religious movement.

“It is true that he sees himself as a crusader and some sort of Templar knight,” said Marcus Buck, a political science professor at Norway’s University of Tromso, referring to an online manifesto that Breivik appears to have authored and which draws inspiration from medieval Christian crusaders.

My Take: Norway attacks shows terrorism isn’t just Islamic

“But he doesn’t seem to have any insight into Christian theology or any ideas of how the Christian faith should play any role in Norwegian or European society,” Buck wrote in an email message. “His links to Christianity are much more based on being against Islam and what he perceives of as ‘cultural Marxism.'”

From what the 1,500-page manifesto says, Breivik appears to have been motivated more by an extreme loathing of European multiculturalism that has accompanied rapid immigration from the developing world, and of the European Union’s growing powers, than by Christianity.

“My impression is that Christianity is used more as a vehicle to unjustly assign some religious moral weight,” to his political views, said Anders Romarheim, a fellow at the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies. “It is a signifier of Western culture and values, which is what they pretend to defend.”

“I would say they are more anti-Islam than pro-Christian,” Romarheim said in reference to what appear to be Breivik’s views.

The manifesto is religion-obsessed in that it rants for long stretches against Muslims and their growing presence in Europe.

Who is Anders Behring Breivik?

It calls for a European civil war to overthrow governments, end multiculturalism and execute “cultural Marxists.” The manifesto includes a link to a video asserting that the majority of Europe’s population will be Muslim by 2050 “unless we manage to defeat the ruling Multiculturalist Alliance.”

The author of the document identifies himself as Breivik, but CNN could not independently verify that he wrote the document, and Norwegian authorities would not confirm that the man in their custody wrote the manifesto, saying it was part of their investigation

Opposition to booming Muslim immigration to Europe, exacerbated by high birth rates in the Muslim community, has become a mainstay of Europe’s burgeoning far-right, helping right-wing parties gain seats in parliaments across the continent.

But those right-wing movements are mostly secular. Europe’s hard right does not have deep ties to Christianity in the way that the United States’ conservative movement is entwined with evangelical Christianity and other theologically conservative religious movements.

A far-right comeback in Europe

Recently adopted European laws aimed at curbing Islam’s public visibility, including France’s new burqa ban and Switzerland ban on minarets – towers that a part of mosques – were secular causes, not ones championed by Christian interests. Many Christian groups oppose such bans.

“The bulk of the anti-Muslim sentiment is not against Muslims as such, but is a secular rejection of how some Muslims allegedly want to place Islam at the center of society,” Buck said. “It is more anti-religious than anti-Muslim.”

Breivik’s apparent manifesto, by contrast, cites biblical verses to justify violence for political ends.

“Clearly, this is not a pacifist God we serve,” it says. “It’s God who teaches our hands to war and our fingers to fight. Over and over again throughout the Old Testament, His people are commanded to fight with the best weapons available to them at that time.”

“The biggest threat to Europe is the cultural Marxist/multiculturalist political doctrine of ‘extreme egalitarian emotionalism,'” the manifesto goes on. “This type of political stance involves destroying Christendom, the Church, our European cultures and identities and opening up our borders to Islamic colonization.”

The video that’s linked to in the manifesto also includes some religious language: “Celebrate us, the martyrs of the conservative revolution, for we will soon dine in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Experts on religion in Europe said those faith-infused views are likely peculiar to the suspected gunman and do not appear reflect wider religious movements, even as they echoes grievances of Europe’s right-wing political groups.

“He was a flaky extremist who might as well have claimed to be fighting for the honor of Hogwarts as for the cause of Christ,” said Philip Jenkins, a Pennsylvania State University professor who studies global religion and politics, describing the suspected Norway attacker. “He did not represent a religious movement. … People should not follow that Christian fundamentalist red herring.”

At the same time, Breivik told investigators during interviews that he belongs to an international order, The Knights Templar, according to Norwegian newspaper VG, which cited unnamed sources.

He described the organization as an armed Christian order, fighting to rid the West of Islamic suppression, the newspaper said. He also told investigators he had been in contact with like-minded individuals and said he counts himself as a representative of this order, it said.

For many in Norway, the potential implications of the suspected killer’s religion are still settling in.

“This is the first time we’ve heard of Christianity/religion as a driving force behind right-wing extremism,” Buck said. “The mainstream right-wing movements in the Nordic countries (very small and disorganized groups in Norway) would generally point to the Old Norse beliefs, if anything.”

“Norwegian, Nordic and European society,” he said, “were totally unprepared for a violent attack from someone who calls himself Christian.”

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