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Posted by on in American Muslims

By Robert S. McCaw

The Fourth of July is a time when we come together as a nation to celebrate our independence and political freedoms. This Independence Day, I will be joining my family in a small coastal town just south of Boston to show off my newborn son and enjoy a traditional halal barbeque and lobster clambake.

I will also be observing Ramadan, a month of spiritual reflection marked by fasting and appreciating the blessings God has provided my family, community and nation. On this day, the American Muslim iftar, or fast-breaking meal, will be accompanied by neighborhood barbeques, sweet dates and fireworks.

I will not take my independence and freedom for granted. I will thank my maternal grandfather and great uncle, who joined the U.S. Coast Guard and Marines respectively, for their service during the Korean War. I will remember my paternal grandfather, who served in the U.S. Navy as an aviator during World War II and the Korean War, my father and paternal uncle who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, and send a note of appreciation to my cousin who currently serves as a command sergeant major in the Army.

While my family eats together, we'll surely be listening to the Boston Pops on the radio and hearing the distant roar as spectacular city fireworks are met with local neighborhood firecrackers. That day, we will be celebrating America as much as our ties to each other.

My family is a reflection of America's religious and politically diversity. Politics aside, my mother is Methodist, my aunt is Universal Unitarian, my grandfather is Episcopalian, my mother's cousins are Jewish, and my wife, son and I are Muslim.

My great grandmother, the daughter of Swedish immigrants who became the matriarch of a sprawling New England family, would often sit on the porch during such celebrations and smile to herself with a sense of great pride while gazing at the diversity of her linage.

As Americans, we each have a personal story for how we have come to express ourselves as patriots and how we celebrate our hard-won freedoms. From the Declaration of Independence, through wars and struggles for equality and civil rights and acknowledging our diversity as a source of national strength, celebrating the Fourth of July is a reminder of who we were and what we have all become: American.

Robert S. McCaw is the government affairs manager at CAIR's national office in Washington, D.C.

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Posted by on in American Muslims

From-Fear-to-Understanding-IslamOn Tuesday, April 29, interfaith leaders and community members gathered at the St. Francis Convent in Little Falls, Minn., for a community dialogue on "Tolerance and the Fear of Islam." The event was organized after community leaders and activists considered the negative impact a speech by an anti-Muslim speaker had in the same community last year.

Approximately one-third of the audience consisted of individuals hostile to Islam and Muslims – and they came prepared with their Islamophobic books. They handed out hate-filled flyers and started heckling, but eventually they started to listen.

CAIR-MN Brings Dialogue on Tolerance to Little Falls

http://mcrecord.com/2014/04/30/cair-brings-dialogue-on-tolerance-to-little-falls/

CAIR-MN Civil Rights Director Saly Abd Alla presented first, when the crowd was the most hostile. She spoke about the history of religious intolerance in America and provided some much-needed context and education. The heckling gradually diminished as her presentation went on.

Then CAIR-MN Outreach Director Jaylani Hussein presented on Islam 101. His Quran recitation was one of the most beautiful things I have witnessed. I could see that, whether they wanted to admit it or not, the recitation touched some of the individuals hostile to Islam and Muslims- to the point that they were bowing their heads down. He did a great job in making connections to things community members could relate to like sports and winter weather, and showed everyone how normal Muslims are.

Lastly, Father Virgil Petermeier of the St. Cloud Muslim-Christian Dialogue spoke about his positive experiences living with Muslims in Indonesia for 36 years. He told the story of when the monastery was burned to the ground, the Muslims in their community helped rebuild it. He said how when a senior pastor fell ill, a Muslim woman doctor drove two hours while she was fasting and saved the pastor's life. He said how Muslim students attended the Catholic school and demonstrated how the local imam, Baba Haji, greeted him with both arms raised whenever he saw him. These stories were imperative in countering all the negative stories of Christian-Muslim relations some people had heard.

The Q&A was respectful and organized, thanks to the efforts of moderator Kevin LaNave, director of the Center for Learning Services and Social Change. Attendees asked real questions they have about Islam and Muslims and the panelists openly and honestly answered them.

After the event, many people stayed back. Some of the same people who had been distributing hateful flyers at the beginning of the event were now talking to us. They were asking questions.

My most memorable moment from the evening was at the very end. The host of the Little Falls Dialogue had told us that he was fielding hate calls all week. Some people were trying to intimidate him into cancelling the event. There was one call that stood out to him - it was from one of his donors. The individual said that he would withdraw his donation if this event took place. The host politely told him that he was sorry to lose the donation, but that the event would go on as scheduled. He was not going to cancel it. When the event was finished and we were all walking out together, a Muslim stopped the host and said, "You may have lost one donor for holding this event, but you gained another one,"- and handed him a personal check.

This event won't change everyone, but I saw firsthand how many people changed. Most people had never met a Muslim, let alone sat and listened to them talk for two hours. What a wonderful world this could be if everyone just listened - even if it's for two hours in a convent in Little Falls, Minnesota.

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Lori Saroya is executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN). She may be contacted at [email protected].

Event sponsors included: Little Falls Partners for Peace, Brainerd Area Coalition for Peace, Building Blocks of Islam, and the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN). It was hosted by the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls at the St. Francis Convent.​

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Posted by on in American Muslims

CAIR: Love for Jesus Can Bring Christians, Muslims Together

IMPORTANT NOTE: This commentary was very popular with readers nationwide when it was first distributed before Christmas several years ago. It is being offered again this year for those publications that were unable to publish it previously.

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ISLAM-OPED is a syndication service of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) designed to offer an American Muslim perspective on current political, social and religious issues. ISLAM-OPED commentaries are offered free-of-charge to one media outlet in each market area. Permission for publication will be granted on a first-come-first-served basis.

Please consider the following commentary for publication.

CONTACT: [email protected]
TEL: Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787, 202-744-7726 (c)

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Love for Jesus Can Bring Christians, Muslims Together
By Ibrahim Hooper
Word Count: 569

[Ibrahim Hooper is National Communications Director for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil liberties group. He may be contacted at: [email protected] ]

“Behold! The angels said: ‘O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him. His name will be Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and in (the company of) those nearest to God.’”

Before searching for this quote in the New Testament, you might first ask your Muslim co-worker, friend or neighbor for a copy of the Quran, Islam’s revealed text. The quote is from verse 45 of chapter 3 in the Quran.

It is well known, particularly in this holiday season, that Christians follow the teachings of Jesus. What is less well understood is that Muslims also love and revere Jesus as one of God's greatest messengers to mankind.

Other verses in the Quran, regarded by Muslims as the direct word of God, state that Jesus was strengthened with the “Holy Spirit” (2:87) and is a "sign for the whole world.” (21:91) His virgin birth was confirmed when Mary is quoted as asking: “How can I have a son when no man has ever touched me?” (3:47)

The Quran shows Jesus speaking from the cradle and, with God’s permission, curing lepers and the blind. (5:110) God also states in the Quran: “We gave (Jesus) the Gospel (Injeel) and put compassion and mercy into the hearts of his followers.” (57:27)

As forces of hate in this country and worldwide try to pull Muslims and Christians apart, we are in desperate need of a unifying force that can bridge the widening gap of interfaith misunderstanding and mistrust. That force could be the message of love, peace and forgiveness taught by Jesus and accepted by followers of both faiths.

Christians and Muslims would do well to consider another verse in the Quran reaffirming God’s eternal message of spiritual unity: “Say ye: ‘We believe in God and the revelation given to us and to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and it is unto Him that we surrender ourselves.’” (2:136)

The Prophet Muhammad himself sought to erase any distinctions between the message he taught and that taught by Jesus, who he called God’s “spirit and word.” Prophet Muhammad said: “Both in this world and in the Hereafter, I am the nearest of all people to Jesus, the son of Mary. The prophets are paternal brothers; their mothers are different, but their religion is one.”

When Muslims mention the Prophet Muhammad, they always add the phrase “peace be upon him.” Christians may be surprised to learn that the same phrase always follows a Muslim’s mention of Jesus or that we believe Jesus will return to earth in the last days before the final judgment. Disrespect toward Jesus, as we have seen all too often in our society, is very offensive to Muslims.

Unfortunately, violent events and hate-filled rhetoric around the world provide ample opportunity for promoting religious hostility. And yes, Muslims and Christians do have some differing perspectives on Jesus’ life and teachings. But his spiritual legacy offers an alternative opportunity for people of faith to recognize their shared religious heritage.

America’s Muslim community stands ready to honor that legacy by building bridges of interfaith understanding and challenging those who would divide our nation along religious or ethnic lines.

We have more in common than we think.

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Posted by on in American Muslims

Growing up, Thanksgiving was always one of my favorite holidays. It brought fun, food and family, without the stress of having to buy presents or decorate. As I've grown (a little bit) older, I've also greatly come to appreciate the opportunity to reflect on, and share, those things I am grateful for.

When life is so busy, it is easy to miss the things our family, friends and neighbors do for us. We may nod or say a quick thanks, but we also may be in such a rush that we don't even consider their contributions at all. Also, having grown up in the U.S., it is easy for me to forget all the amazing opportunities our country and society has provided me. And of course, it is impossible to fully reflect on all the blessings God provides us with.

From my discussions and work in the community, I know that almost all American Muslims feel a similar deep gratitude towards our community, country and Creator. Unfortunately, our appreciation may be missed or drowned out by Islamophobia and media distortions. But no one can correct this except us. Also, as American Muslims, we have a duty to publicly demonstrate the true spirit of Islam, which includes humility and thankfulness.

This is why myself, and others at CAIR, plan to use time to privately and publicly demonstrate our gratitude for all God has provided us. This will help communicate to our neighbors the things American Muslims truly hold dear, including our friends and family, our constitutional freedoms, and the work of our partners, allies and supporters. Of course this is not a new idea, but something we do need to be constantly reminded of. Others, such as Nadia Roumani of the Muslim Giving Project and Umar Hakim of the ILM Foundation, have already identified the need and encouraged American Muslims to share their gratitude. We are very happy to join in the campaign and add our voice to theirs.

Social media is one way we can publicly share these messages of appreciation, and this week we will be sharing messages on social media cites using the hashtag #MuslimsThank. In addition to sending messages directly to those we can thank (such as supporters and allies) we can also use the platform to identify the freedoms and ideals we benefit from. This will be a great way to show our American neighbors that we have more in common than they may think.

But before we get to the many others necessary to thank, I and others at CAIR first need to thank our supporters and the entire American Muslim community. It is an absolute blessing to be able to work to protect and empower our community; those of us able to work professionally towards these goals are incredibly fortunate. Of course we wouldn't be able to do this without your financial and other support or without the many community members who are our inspiration. May God reward you with goodness.

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