Hungry for Ramadan

Hungry for Ramadan

Reconciling 9/11 and Ramadan

muslimpeacemarch.jpgIt is a difficult and challenging situation this year in that my attempts at building an internal serenity for the start of Ramadan are coinciding with the anniversary of 9/11. I spend much of the whole year (every year since 9/11) dealing with the aftermath of those terrible events through my community work and writings, and in Ramadans past I’ve been able to take a break from that, however short, in order to get myself in the proper frame of mind. But not this year.
In the past, I’ve used the month of Ramadan to introduce those who are not Muslim to something I feel is truly beautiful about my religion. Most people are familiar with the external (i.e. political, cultural) aspects of Islam, but few understand the internal, more spiritual ones. Being visibly Muslim, in that you are foregoing food and drink in plain view, provided a perfect opportunity for that dialogue–assuming, of course, that the news didn’t provide a distraction.


But this Ramadan has been heralded by images of Osama bin Laden taunting us from his cave and exhorting non-Muslims to accept Islam, obviously unaware that the actions of him and his kind have done more to bring curses down upon our beloved Prophet Muhammad and turn people away from Islam more than anything in Islam’s history. It’s imagery and words like this, and the strong feelings they evoke in me, that I have to push aside in order to focus on starting this month right.
The terrorism that I read about in the news represents the polar opposite of what Ramadan stands for. Ramadan is about opening yourself up to God’s mercy, enduring patience in the face of discomfort and adversity, and providing assistance to those less fortunate. Extremism and terrorism is just the opposite–the ultimate exercise of self-indulgence and inflicting merciless hardship on the innocent.
While I’ve been very vocal about the need to have a zero-tolerance policy against extremism within Islam, I have in the past bristled at the idea of a Muslim anti-terrorism march. I’ve felt that calls for such a march were a kind of loyalty test, meant more to placate those who distrust us than to actually combat extremism. But I had the pleasure of participating in a Muslim peace march on Sunday, which helped me remember that Muslims in America cannot truly be at peace unless our neighbors feel safe in our presence. Organizers of the march hope to make it an annual pre-Ramadan tradition, and it is one that I think will serve all Americans well.
It may not be fair, given that ordinary Muslims did nothing to bring our non-Muslim neighbors a sense of unease, but Ramadan reminds me that good things come with patience, perserverance, and selflessness. And if a concerted message for peace helps bring about harmony between Muslim Americans and their fellow citizens, then it may indeed be a very good way to begin the month.

  • Visit Beliefnet’s gallery of “American Muslims Condeming Terrorism,” and learn more how prominent American Muslims are condeming extremism and terrorism through words and actions.
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    posted September 10, 2007 at 9:57 pm

    I think what would be nice to read about, rather than “aspects” of the religious side of Islam, is why every Islamic country on Earth does not allow religious freedom to other religions, and to allow other people of other religions to spread their ideas about their religions?
    There are many wonderful things about Muslims and the way in which they live their lives. But, the five-billion of us that are not Muslims and will never embrace Islam and become Muslims for any reason, need to know why we cannot live “within” Islamic countries and communities in freedom to live our lives like Muslims get to live theirs?
    Please blog on that.

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    posted September 11, 2007 at 8:52 am

    I’m sorry but have you ever been to a Muslim country, the majority of ‘Islamic countries’ does allow for religious freedom.

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    posted September 11, 2007 at 10:41 am

    Yes, it would certainly be nice to read about Muslim countries that allow other religions to flourish… if such countries do exist. RZ claims that they do, but does not cite examples.
    I would also enjoy reading about Muslim saints or humanitarians.

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    posted September 11, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    I personally think that whatever the majority religion is in that country, there are going to be people who are going to try to stop a particular religion to flourish. This is not just only limited to Muslim countries. To be honest, according to the Qu’ran, Muslims are supposed to live side by side with those of other religions. You can’t blame the Qu’ran for the mistakes of the people. Just like you can’t blame the Bible on why people do stupid things.
    just my two cents..
    P.S. There are countries like U.A.E, Turkey, Tunisia that allows other religions to flourish.

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    posted September 11, 2007 at 1:34 pm


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    posted September 11, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    In most muslim countries, one would be jailed or even killed for ‘trying to convert muslims’, which means that non-muslims need to live in fear of being too visible and necessarily have to live in underground lives.
    India, in its short life, a mostly Hindu country, has had two prime ministers who were muslims although muslims comprise less than 15% of the population. That would NEVER happen in a muslim country: a Hindu would NEVER be allowed to be president, or probably alderman, judge or hold any other public office, this is simply unthinkable. In the vast majority of muslim countries he wouldn’t even be allowed to openly practice his faith.
    And so the question, rz, is completely legitimate.

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    posted September 11, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    Malaysia, Dubai/UAE, and Morocco are just a few countries where Muslims, Jews and Christians live together peacefully.

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    Shahed Amanullah

    posted September 11, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    …a Hindu would NEVER be allowed to be president, or probably alderman, judge or hold any other public office, this is simply unthinkable.
    Someone hasn’t done their homework. Rana Bhagwandas was very recently the first Hindu and the second non-Muslim to serve as chief of the highest court in Pakistan (source)

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    posted September 11, 2007 at 9:44 pm

    “It may not be fair, given that ordinary Muslims did nothing to bring our non-Muslim neighbors a sense of unease. . .,”
    Um, you may need to read some history. Islam started by the violent war to overthrow the Meccans and establish Mohammads revelation of “Islam.”
    Now, I know many non-violent Muslims, and my dentist is a Muslim (and is very non-violent towards my teeth, but the reason that non-Muslims have an “unease” about Muslims is that the long history of violence towards non-Muslims is down-played or utterly ignored by Muslims.
    This time on earth is all about choices. Whether good ones or bad ones no one has to choose evil. My hope is that Muslims and Islamic countries open up to allow all people to choose for themselves what they will or will not believe. I’m sorry Shahed, Islam has an even worse history than European Christendom in not allowing people to freely choose what they want to believe and how they want to live. Today. 9-11-07 is a perfect example.

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    Yusuf Isa Cuevas

    posted September 12, 2007 at 6:49 am

    No Donny, you must read must about history. Islam as a very long tradition in tolerance about another religions. Is it writing in Holy Quran. As an example, when sepharad jews was expeled from Spain in s. XV by the Catolic Kings, they founded shelter in islamic countries like the Ottoman Empire. The persecution of armenian and lebanese christians in Turkey, began when Ottoman Empire broke down and the lay Republic was proclamated. This is just an example of many others. Yes, is a pity that today muslim countries give such proofs of intolerance, but this is something relativy new, caused by West policy in Middle East about Israel and the palestinian question.

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    posted September 12, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    This is another excellent piece, offering a peaceful vision of Islam. I hope the concept and reality of the Muslem Peace Parade continues to meet your expectations.
    I am beginning to be concerned about your choices of reading in history. I think you might want to try some other sources. Perhaps you should ask your dentist for sme ideas. Islam has been mysterious for a long time, and from that mystery has come some dangerous fantasies. As we push through the mystery and learn more and more I think all of us will discover that just as Christianity has been guilty of great and horrible villainy, as well as grand and glorious success, the same is true for Islam in all its expressions. Expand your reading selections and don’t trust only one set of sources or purported authorities.

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    posted September 12, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    Thank you, Mr. Amananullah, for an excellent piece about peace. I couldn’t agree more that Bin Laden and extremists in Islam have done more to turn people off to Islam than Islam’s worst enemies.
    Since 9/11, I have been obsessed with learning as much as I could about Islam and about progressive voices within Islam in order to overcome my knee-jerk reaction of rage.
    I have to admit that a lot of what I’ve read (and a lot that has happened since 9/11) has made me even angrier, but along with that is coming a sense of greater clarity and a belief that there is a difference between Islam as practiced by millions of ordinary Muslims and the ideology of the extremists, which I believe is truly totalitarian, though it starts from the idealistic place of achieving tawhid. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, as the saying goes. Thanks for listening, and good evening.

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    posted September 17, 2007 at 8:21 am

    I have read all of the articles about Ramadan and it sounds so spiritual. What I don’t understand is why don’t the muslims who condemn the terrorist speaking out and condemning the terrorist action in the media? Is it the media who chose not to cover the real muslims and their beliefs or are the muslims chosing to to remain silent? Since 9/11 the only media coverage about the muslims condemning terrorist was on Fox news. Yes, most Americans don’t trust muslims with the feeling the terrorist act like our friends then try to destroy us. Can someone explain the virgins at death and what the true meaning of this? All religions have their extremist. Is it true this war is about the Muslims wanting everyone to turn to their faith only? Is it about our support of Israel? Why the bombings around the world and so much destruction and death? If you want us to be comfortable with you speak out and condemn the extremist with us.

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    posted September 17, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    When I was in college studying religions of the world, Islam turned out to be my least favorite, not because I am Jewish, but because of our text book about Islam. I read that Islam began as a warring religion against anyone who would not accept this new religion as
    THE Religion. It has taken me many years to realize, textbook or no textbook, judging a religion (or anything) by one “authority’s” own bias for or against something is not an educated basis for accepting or rejecting anything. I am a teacher now and have many students of many different religions and belief traditions, including, of course, Islam. I am colleagues with teachers who are Muslims. I have always felt at home with Christians, having grown up in the United States, but when I am discussing Judaism and Islam with my students and colleagues, I feel a little homesick for the remarkably similar and sacred “textbooks” called the Qu’ran and the Torah. Read them, sometime, if you haven’t already. You will, I believe, find them easy to compare making it more easy to wonder, why do we hate each other? Really and truly, what’s with that? :-

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    Jim Fritz

    posted September 17, 2007 at 9:19 pm

    I was very interested in the comments of Yusef Isa Cuevas and beg to disagree with some of his statements. Long before Islam clashed with western ideas, non-Muslims living within the Islamic state were subjected to a special tax which faithful Muslims did not have to pay. Non-Muslims were often persecuted when external problems arose and their testimony in legal questions was not afforded the same weight as was that of Muslims. How can that be viewed as fair and equal? And, no missionary work was permitted as is the case in most Muslim countries today. If it is illegal for non-Muslims to attempt to preach their religion in these countries why should Muslims be allowed the opportunity to spread their religion in our country or in any other predominantly Christian western nation? Mr. Cuevas felt that people should learn their history; he should take his own advice and not forget about these aspects of Muslim-non-Muslim relations. While the ideas of “people of the book” may have been respected, the people who held these beliefs were not always afforded the same respect.

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    Shahed Amanullah

    posted September 18, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    Kathy –
    I understand your frustration – it is similar to our frustration that we cannot get our voices in the media because the extremist voices seem to be so much more interesting for them. Here is a list of fatwas against extremism, and here is a list of statements as well. I wish there were not Muslims who have extreme views, but I assure you that most Muslims don’t subscribe to them. And I will keep working to make sure that those with extreme views are marginalized from our community (or better yet, corrected).

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    posted September 19, 2007 at 8:43 am

    Shahed I lived in NJ at the time of 9/11 and could see the smoke from the towers and know of people who lost their lives. I sat worrying about a close friends daughter who worked at the towers but was on another assignment that day, but we did not know that. I see how our politicans have taken all of this for their politcal gain with disregard for our safety. I hear silence from the muslim population condemning the action and seeing the sites put on your last response does no good unless people know it is there. The terrorist who attacked were neighbors to some and their children played with the children of the neighborhood. I see our politicans making everything politically correct for the Islamic worship and Christians scorned for their beliefs. I am getting frustrated with all of this. Do you have the right in our airports to to chant and pray and not expect us to react? This is what we are seeing and yes, making us frustrated and causing disharmony with the Muslims. I sat in an airport last month and saw 2 arab descend men with lap tops sitting in a corner observing, talking and then disappeared and I became very nervous. I am not alone with my thinking believe me so if the terrorist are the minority the majority better start being more vocal. Go on radio shows, TV shows and if not allowed find other ways of voicing the truth if that is what you believe in.

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    posted September 23, 2007 at 8:42 pm

    Many, many Muslim leaders have spoken out as they are able. It is unfortunate that our media has not carried this message.
    Maybe we need to stop asking the Muslim community to speak out and start asking our media to report it when they do.

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