Islam In America

Islam In America

Duke University Backtracks on Diversity

posted by Suzy Shuraym

This writer isn’t sure what to think about this turnaround on the part of Duke University’s administration. First they announced they’d do the call to prayer from the Duke Chapel bell tower for Friday’s jummah prayer. Then, yesterday they come out with this press release:

“Duke University has reconsidered a previously announced plan to present a traditional Muslim call-to-prayer from the Duke Chapel bell tower, campus officials said Thursday.

“The call to prayer, or ‘adhan’, which announces the start of a weekly jummah prayer service that has been held in the Chapel basement for the past several years, will not come from the bell tower on Friday as announced earlier.


“’Duke remains committed to fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus for all of its students,’ said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations. ‘However, it was clear that what was conceived as an effort to unify was not having the intended effect.’

“Jummah prayers have taken place in the basement of Duke Chapel for many years, and start with the traditional call to prayer chant. Members of the Muslim community will now gather for the call-to-prayer chant on the quadrangle outside the Chapel, a site of frequent interfaith programs and activities, before moving to its regular location for prayers. More than 700 of Duke’s 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students identify as Muslim.


“’Our Muslim community enriches the university in countless ways,’ said Schoenfeld. ‘We welcome the active expression of their faith tradition, and all others, in ways that are meaningful and visible.’”

(Do note that the plan was ONE call to prayer each week, not five each day.) What do you think? Bad timing due to events in France and Belgium? Bad decision to allow the call to prayer? Bad decision to rescind the plan?


Being Muslim in Europe

posted by Suzy Shuraym

Abdelkader Benai, a Muslim born in the Netherlands, has penned a powerful meditation on the Charlie Hebdo massacre in The New York Times.

“When I was 17, I found ‘The Satanic Verses’ tucked away in a school library,” he writes. “I grabbed it, started reading and was mesmerized. Here was a young man struggling with his faith in a faithless world — an immigrant son from a deeply religious home thrown into a world where everything is embraced and nothing is sacred. It confirmed what I had felt deep inside: a free and open society is a threat to religious people. Their religion will be mocked — sometimes even suppressed — and this will provoke anger.”


He says, “What happened last week is not about lack of humor, or a failure to understand caricature. Nor is it about hatred of the West. It’s about anger taking a wrong turn.”

Those who perpetrated the massacre “fell prey to a powerful delusion…. the same delusion I felt as a teenager: that by attacking the messenger your anger will disappear and you will be victorious. But the only way to conquer your anger is to understand where its roots lie. For me the freedom to doubt, to not choose sides and to feel empathy for characters and people with whom I disagree was liberating.”

For Mr. Benai, reason allows him to accept that, inevitably, some people will disagree with him — and that it’s OK, not a cause for murder.


Tout Est Pardonée

posted by Suzy Shuraym

hebdoThe next cover of Charlie Hebdo features Muhammad holding a sign reading, “Je suis Charlie.” The tagline: “All is forgiven.” The magazine plans to print 3 million issues just one week after its editorial staff was gunned down by terrorists.


What Can Muslims Do….

posted by Suzy Shuraym

“What can Muslims do to reclaim their ‘Beautiful Religion’?” asks the headline for a full-page advertisement in yesterday’s (11 January 2015) New York Times.

The ad, from the Gatestone Institute, points to “behadings and savagery by ISIS, female genital mutilations and honor killings, the abduction of girls by Boko Haram, the execution of innocents in Iran, the slaughtering and enslaving of Christians in Egypt and Africa and Yazidis and Kurds in Iraq and Syria, rampant anti-Semitism and other crimes against humanity committed by those who claim to represent Islam”.

It is an eloquent plea for denial and “relative silence” among Western Muslims to stop.


But this observer wonders about the source. A check of the website for the Gatestone Institute turns up no copy of the declaration published in the ad (although the ad itself says it can be found there) and does not mention the list of signers (from across the United States and Canada plus the United Kingdom). You can see it on Tarek Fatah’s website.

Gatestone bills itself as “a non-partisan, not-for-profit international policy council and think tank”, but it’s chaired by John R. Bolton, former United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations who’s also a Fox News contributor. Gatestone itself was founded in 2011 by Nina Rosenwald (an heiress of Sears Roebuck), who has been a key philanthropic backer of anti-Muslim groups and individuals in the U.S. Bolton is often described as a neo-conservative.

What’s your take on what’s bound to be a controversial full-page statement?

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