#IStandWithAhmed

Fourteen-year-old Ahmed Mohamed said he didn’t feel like a human being. He felt like a criminal.

After creating a digital alarm clock, Ahmed brought his invention to school wanting to impress his teacher. Instead, he was told to not show anybody. When the alarm from the clock rang in class, he was forced to repeatedly explain that it was just a clock that he had invented. Eventually, Ahmed was arrested and taken to a room where he was interrogated and persistently accused of making a hoax bomb.

Did the police officers who cuffed the young man actually believe the invention was a bomb?

Even after Ahmed kept explaining it was just a clock, the officials had the audacity to say that he should have been more “forthcoming” about his invention. What more was he supposed to say? Were they expecting him to admit to their presumptions?

The arrest itself is quintessentially a xenophobic overreaction, hoaxed with a declaration of a security issue.

A wall of phobia has been built that condemns all people with racial, religious, cultural or even geographic ties to Islam, immediately assuming that they are “terrorists.”

“He was mistreated in front of his friends and his teachers,” his father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, said. “That is not us. That is not America.”

I cannot help but think that if a child whose name was different were in the same position, the teachers would have simply warned him. Contrarily, perhaps his teachers would have even applauded him. And in the case of whether the other student’s invention was actually reported, when pulling the student outside, the police officer would certainly not have said, “That’s who I thought it was.”

Apparently, according to Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd, Ahmed’s arrest was simply a “naïve accident.” If I naïvely or accidentally do something wrong, I apologize.

Of course, the school and police department’s apology is to suspend Ahmed from school for three days and take away his invention.

People like Ahmed who bring forth their intellect to enrich academics, regardless of their cultural background, are the pride of our schools and communities. Ahmed’s story signifies a unified movement to end xenophobic ideologies and actions, and that is why I stand with Ahmed.

H&M Wins Over Muslim Girls Everywhere with New Model

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If you’ve been skulking around Muslim Twitter lately, or anywhere else that’s on the internet you’ll know of the woman who is currently brining hijab into the present fashion conversation. Her photo has been passed along thousands of times. She stands in a doorway in big round movie star shades with wide legged palazzo pants, a pink overcoat, a checkered hijab, and a look that says yes, I am this gorgeous all the time. 

The woman’s name is Maria Hidrissi and she is one of the new poster children for H&M’s new conscious clothing line coming out for the fall fashion season.

Maria Hidrissi didn’t just model for an ad campaign, she awakened the people. In a simple and quiet way she made others look at a Muslim woman without fear or contempt but with a healthy curiosity.

Because sometimes,  throwing Muslim rage at social issues doesn’t always work. Being super nice doesn’t always work either. But to stand and be noticed, to be accounted for, that’s an example anyone can follow. So we are thankful to Maria Hidrissi for having impeccable taste in clothing and a facial expression that kills. Personally, I hope to see her in more ads for different brands who want to be bold enough to let Muslim women be seen.

Muslim women will make themselves seen whether we are invited to the table or not. tweet

And please believe, various clothing brands, that one way or another Muslim women will make themselves seen whether we are invited to the table or not.

What a guy!

Jeff Cook is pastor of Atlas Church in Greeley, Colorado and fasting the month of Ramadan as a sign of solidarity with Muslims.

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Jeff writes:

Over the last 50 years, Christians and Muslims have found countless reasons to kill one another. For every graphic image Americans see of ISIS, there is a parallel photo of a young Muslim boy killed in his homeland because of Western activities. Bloody tally marks have become so common we no longer see death. We see routine.

It’s time for a new way forward.

Last spring, I saw a set of photographs on Twitter of Islamic Americans who chose to fast during Lent as a sign of solidarity with their Christian neighbors (see #Muslims4Lent). I saw pictures of children who looked very different from my own holding up signs with their names and a commitment to give up their favorite toys or fast food for forty days. They were telling my kids, “We appreciate you and your culture and your faith and we want to elevate your time of devotion in our hearts.”

I saw pictures of young Muslim males with signs in hand, not highlighting our distinctions or past injuries, but outlining where they would sacrifice for Lent in order to journey with me during the season I held as most holy.

And I was moved.

Did these Muslims believe that Jesus was crucified to defeat sin and death? Probably not. Did these Muslims believe Christ should be declared “Son of God” or that his resurrection was the decisive event in world history? Again, no. But this did not keep them from saying, “We will stand beside Christians during Lent because we share this planet, because God gifts us the same sun and rain, because we need a new way forward.”

These pictures challenged me. In seeing men my own age with signs that not only said they wished me well but proclaimed my value and the value of my faith, all my natural distrust fell to the side. I realized in fresh ways that I’m tired of voices telling me that in order to love my country I need to be suspicious of Arabs. I’m tired of feeling the only response available to graphic videos is fiery retaliation. Most of all, I’m tired of being just a bystander and having nothing to offer for the cause of reconciliation and peace in a world that God loves so much.

But I hope this will change. My heart and trajectory need to change from one of simply criticizing war-profiteers and cable news channels to actually taking a decisive posture.

This year during Ramadan (June 16- July 17), I will fast and pray for those who embrace Islam: people I have not yet met, whose stories I have not heard, but whose lives matter to God and whose acts of devotion often display a character I would wish for myself and my sons.

Following Jesus is not an obstacle to such solidarity. In fact, I feel encouraged to celebrate Ramadan because I am a Christian.  It is because I know Jesus is Lord that I can live without fear, that I can challenge myself to love more deeply and creatively. Table-fellowship is always a subversive act for the Christian, and it is because I follow Jesus that I can eat alongside as well as refrain withanyone—no matter who they are, no matter what they believe, no matter what they have done.

I am not interested in fasting this month for ascetic reasons. I am not converting to Islam. I will embrace the self-sacrificial practices of others around the world because Jesus reminds me that it is those who hunger that will be filled, that the meek alone will inherit the earth, and that those who make peace will be called children of God.

I recognize not everyone reading this follows Jesus, but if you wish to join If you wish to join me and many others, post a photo on twitter and tag it #Christians4Ramadan.

MUST SEE: Does Islam Promote Violence?

This is a must see clip that bats down the ignorance we see and know.

Muslim scholar Reza Aslan went on CNN last year to counter ignorance around Islam by commentators such as Bill Maher, who said Muslims believe “humans deserve to die for merely holding a different idea or drawing a cartoon or writing a book or eloping with the wrong person.”

Aslan responded by saying, “When it comes to the topic of religion, [Maher’s] not very sophisticated in the way he thinks.”

He went on to assert, for example, that it’s “factually incorrect” for Maher to call female genital mutilation an “Islamic problem” when it also happens in Christian countries like Eritrea and Ethiopia.

For the full interview watch the interview above.

#IAmMuslimIAmHuman

Sydney siege: confronting our anti-Islam backlash

In the aftermath of the Sydney siege, I hope the outpouring of support for the Muslim community will define us more than the anti-Islam sentiment that ignited immediately. But I’m sceptical.

As I write this, NSW police have announced an end to the Sydney Siege. Two innocent people have died, as well as the gunman. Rather than speculate in the midst of this meagre amount of information, I prefer to cast my mind back to those early minutes and hours when the news broke that a gunman was holding people hostage in the Lindt Chocolat Café in Martin Place.

No sooner had the terrible story come to light, than the media speculation, misinformation, and outright lies came flying thick and fast. Leading the way was The Daily Telegraph, which didn’t bother itself with such pesky irrelevancies as “facts” and “evidence” when it announced that “IS takes 13 hostages in city café siege”.

Of course, it was not an Islamic State flag, nor was the perpetrator, Man Haron Monis, associated with any terrorist group. As his lawyer said: “This is a one-off random individual. It’s not a concerted terrorism event or act. It’s a damaged goods individual who’s done something outrageous.”

But of course, by then the damage was done. Despite the fact that the police didn’t call it a “terrorist attack”, and that the perpetrator was a classic “lone wolf”, with a string of violent offences, the fact he was also Muslim means that, to many western audiences, his actions reflected on Islam and all Muslims.

Shortly after the siege’s defining image – workers holding up the black Shahada flag in the window of the Lindt café – was beamed around the world, Lindt’s Facebook page was flooded with messages of “support”, congratulating the company for not being Halal certified, immediately linking Islam itself with the incident.

While it is true that this gunman put Islam front and centre by utilising that flag, let’s put the emphasis where it belongs. He may have made it about religion, but the operative word here is “he”, and not “religion.”

Like many other violent men, Man Haron Monis was charged with many crimes, including being an accessory to his wife’s murder. Also like many other violent men, he slipped through the legal cracks and went on to offend in one of the most horrific ways possible.

Despite the copious amount of western criminals and gunmen who have held up, shot and killed many innocent people – one of the most recent incidents of which took place in Melbourne just two weeks ago – no one would seriously suggest they represent the entirety of white society, nor do they cause widespread fear and panic. But such is the marginalisation of Muslims that they are not given the benefit of being individuals.

The reason is simple. Westerners are regarded as complex human beings who are driven and influenced by a wide range of factors, including politics, mental health, and personal dispositions. Meanwhile, Muslims are often represented as a marauding horde, a grotesque collective that acts on nothing other than primitive, religious ideology.

This dehumanising depiction may fit neatly into The Daily Telegraph’s irresponsible “clash of civilisations” style rhetoric but does little to tell us anything about the reality of our world.

But let’s back up for just one moment. Yes, it was a Muslim man who held those hostages, causing the death of two. What this should tell us is that our global society has a problem with violence. More specifically, we have a problem with widespread male violence and an unwillingness to even recognise, let alone confront it.

By allowing ourselves to believe this latest gunman did it purely because of Islam, we don’t have to confront those questions about what it means to be human, and the violence that is indelibly entrenched in our collective experience of humanity.

The Sydney Siege was not an organised terrorist attack. It was a violent rampage by a narcissistic man who should have been put away a long time ago, and who used Islam as a convenient peg for his own delusions and grievances.

What remains to be seen now is whether the outpouring of support for the Muslim community that spontaneously arose with the #IllRideWithYou hashtag will define us more as a nation than the anti-Islam sentiment that ignited even more quickly.

While I fervently hope for the former, the history of our society’s attitude to Muslims, along with its reluctance to confront its own violent tendencies, leaves me feeling sceptical.

As a Guardian columnist noted on her Facebook page this morning:

So what I’m supposed to take away from this horrific event is that the issue is that the perpetrator is a Muslim extremist who was granted asylum and not that he was a man who should have still been in jail and who had a demonstrated history of self-entitlement crimes including several physical and sexual battery charges against him as well as being an accessory to his wife’s murder? Glad that’s sorted then.