Islam

Seventh Art Stand Offers Insights on Islamic Culture

Understanding Islamic People -- Not In Our Town and the Normal Theater are happy to promote The Seventh Art Stand, a nationwide series of films presented by movie theaters and community centers across the U.S. as an act of cinematic solidarity against Islamophobia.

In May 2017, screenings across the U.S. will showcase films from the countries affected by Islamophobia and the travel bans. The Network of Arab Alternative Screens (NAAS) joins U.S. theaters in this coalitional effort to elevate the cinemas and stories of our friends and fellow filmmakers abroad. We believe it is crucial to build a tradition of sharing more stories, voices, and faces on our screens.

Visit https://www.seventhartstand.com.

Janet: Message of Mutual Love Central at Mosque

Janet Guaderrama

Voices of Reason, Action for a Better Tomorrow, and Indivisible IL-18

Members of local politically progressive groups joined Feb. 10 to visit the Masjid Ibrahim (Mosque) for their 1 pm Friday service at the invitation of  Shaikh Imam Abu-Emad Al-Talla (our first speaker at the Not In Our Town rally Feb. 1 at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts). The mosque is located at 2407 E Washington St. in Bloomington.

   Shaikh Imam Abu-Emad Al-Talla chats with Rabbi Rebecca Dubowe, left, and former First Christian Church Associate Minister Kelley Becker during last summer's Not In Our Town: Bloomington-Normal 20th Anniversary.   

 Shaikh Imam Abu-Emad Al-Talla chats with Rabbi Rebecca Dubowe, left, and former First Christian Church Associate Minister Kelley Becker during last summer's Not In Our Town: Bloomington-Normal 20th Anniversary. 

My experience began with "Hello," as I introduced myself to the Imam after the rally. He was very gracious and welcomed anyone to visit their service on Fridays. He was pleased when I told him that I had taken a photo of him during his speech and he asked that I share it with him. I sent the photo from my cell phone to his and that began the conversation about a visit to Masjid Ibrahim.

When we arrived today, we discovered several rituals that occur. The women enter through the left door in the back of the building, and men enter through the door to its right.

Several men graciously welcomed us and the women in our group removed our shoes and were seated in a room separate from the men. The Imam came back to welcome us before his service. We were joined by a gathering group of women worshipers coming from their homes and jobs for prayer. We could see the Imam speaking through windows and hear him through intercom. One of the women turned on a television on the wall and we could view him there also.

We were told that prayers happen 5 times a day in the building, but that Fridays are special, like Sundays are for Christians.

Most of the service was in Arabic, however, occasional English was used to convey the message so that we could understand.

I was particularly taken with the words, "Fly to Allah." We were urged to "Fly to Allah" as Allah (God) is everything and all praise to him. We fly to him to leave our worldly cares and worries, to thank him. We were urged to care for one another, to love each other, to befriend each other, to do charity, to accept everyone, Black and White, Muslim and not as we are all created by Allah.

The women welcomed us after the service was completed and we all had very warm and interesting conversations. The Imam came back after the service to thank us all for coming and welcomed us to come back. He also welcomed anyone to come to join them in prayer any Friday at 1 pm. (The service lasts 45 minutes).

We thanked our new friends for the kind welcome and agreed that we were all moved by our experience.

Burkinis and Bans: Social Pressure Translated Into Law

The burkini, or full body swimsuit, that some Islamic women choose to wear to the beach, was banned in the city of Cannes on the French Riviera this summer, and the ban was upheld by the municipal court in August. A number of arrests have been made since the ban was put into effect and about a dozen beach cities in France have subsequently instituted a similar prohibition. Illinois State University Professor of Comparative Literature Rebecca Saunders is a core faculty member of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Illinois State University. In this analysis, she calls the ban problematic in its ironic call for “decency”: 

David Lisnar, the mayor of Cannes, justified his decision on the basis that burkinis “conspicuously showed off religious affiliation” and “risked disrupting public order at a time when France is subject to terrorist attacks.” His announcement further stated that, until the end of the summer season, beach access and swimming would be “prohibited to all persons not wearing appropriate clothing that respects bonnes moeurs [public decency] and the principle of laïcité [secularism].” He emphasized that any clothing “bearing a connotation contrary to these principles” would be subject to arrest and fine. In a subsequent press conference, he stated that burkinis were a “symbol of Islamic extremism.” Another city official defended the ban speaking of the burkini as a “conspicuous form of dress that signifies allegiance to terrorist movements that are at war with France.”

Unfortunately, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls supported and augmented these stereotypes averring that “the burkini isn’t a fashion. It’s the translation of a political plan, of anti-social attitudes, founded on the enslavement of women.” A lawsuit has been filed by the Federation of Muslims of Southern France and I doubt that the appellate courts will uphold the ban, although any ruling is likely to come after the scheduled termination of the ban on August 31.

Many Muslim women see the burkini very differently: as a way to be comfortable swimming in public or taking their kids to the beach while respecting the Koranic principle of “hijab” or modest dress. In my view (which coincides with a number of Muslim women and other French people), the burkini ban is problematic for multiple reasons, not least because it posits, absurdly, that women must expose their bodies in order to enjoy a public beach and be “decent” (while it’s perfectly “decent” to wear only a sliver of a thong on the same beach). Most women who choose to wear the burkini do so of their own accord and not because they are “enslaved” (as the Prime Minister suggests) and it seems to me nonsensical to suggest that a woman choosing to cover her body (or her head with a scarf) is more oppressed than are Western women who are subject to a kind of regime of obligatory exposure and sexualization — an obligation largely policed by social pressure, but in this case translated into law.

In addition, the idea that wearing a burkini expresses an allegiance to terrorism is not only preposterous, but dangerous; it falsely associates all Muslims with Islamic terrorism and legitimates discrimination against Muslim women. These are effects that potentially remain long after the ban has been terminated. The burkini, moreover, is a garment clearly associated with only one religion which is being singled out for discrimination. (Wearing a cross necklace, by contrast, is perfectly acceptable). The burkini ban is also of course an infringement on the basic personal freedom of a person to dress as s/he sees fit and as s/he desires.

Meanwhile, the ban has created some other absurdist quandaries: what about surfers wearing wet suits? Or the sizeable numbers of extremely rich Saudi Arabian women who vacation on the Riviera (and patronize its most exclusive boutiques and restaurants)? Or women walking on the beach in leggings, a long sleeved T-shirt and hat?

While I disagree with the ban, I think it has to be understood within the context of the French principle of secularism, the history of recent attacks in France, and the large Islamic population concentrated in southern France (which is located near the former French colonies of North Africa). French laïcité is somewhat different in nuance from the American principle of the separation of church and state or of religious freedom. It grows out of the strong anti-clerical strain of the French revolution on which modern French society has been built. While regularly debated and reinterpreted, laïcité or secularism has largely been interpreted as an obligation for public officials to remain religiously neutral, but has sometimes, as in this instance, shaded into the idea that public places must be free of signs of religious affiliation.

This debate has been played out in controversy over the wearing of the veil in public schools and the right to wear the niqab in public and are part of an ongoing struggle to balance French values of secularism, personal liberty and religious tolerance.

Friends Forever Aimed at Bridging Israel's Cultures

Friends Forever, a program that brings Jewish and Arab teens from Israel together for an intensive, two-week experience, will host a talk at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, July 21, at the Bowling and Billiards Center Activity Room at Illinois State University. The event is free and open to the public.

During the event, youth leaders will speak about their own experiences in the program, and the impact of the year-long program in Israel that focuses on community service, self-exploration, and leadership training. Students taking part in the Bloomington-Normal Friends Forever will work on projects that include building a motorcycle together, taking part in a social media workshop, and creating a photo collage with University Galleries.

The goal of the program is for participating teens to return to their communities in Israel, prepared to be ambassadors for peace. Friends Forever works around the globe to help those who live in conflict-prone regions to build lasting friendships across cultural, religious, and political divides. Through the program, Friends Forever brings groups of young peacemakers to New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Louisiana, and Illinois.

Find out more about the Bloomington-Normal chapter of Friends Forever.

Rebecca: In Interfaith Relations, Trust is a MUST

Rabbi Rebecca L. Dubowe  

A few weeks ago, the local Muslim community in Bloomington/ Normal offered an Open House to invite others to learn about their Islam faith. In fact, there was an overwhelming response from the community, which actually led to many people being turned away at the event only because the mosque could not fit everyone. Now this is what I call a good problem!

Rabbi Dubowe at December's NIOTBN-sponsored interfaith rally at the old courthouse in downtown Bloomington.

Rabbi Dubowe at December's NIOTBN-sponsored interfaith rally at the old courthouse in downtown Bloomington.

I know all about what happened at the event because our synagogue, Moses Montefiore Congregation, as the only Jewish community in Bloomington, was going to arrange for a group to visit the Open House. And then we were informed that there was no room! It was until then we all agreed that there should be another open house because of the outpouring positive response and interest for the greater Bloomington/Normal community to get to know their interfaith neighbors.  

According to the Pew, Muslims make up less than 1 percent of Americans. About 1.8 million are adults, and if Muslims of all ages are counted, the total Muslim population in the United States comes to about 2.75 million. These small numbers may mean that most Americans will never come across a Muslim in their day-to-day life, and therefore, they may sometimes make biased assumptions about the entire community. This also means that approximately 8% of Americans may have met a Muslim when it should be 100%.  

Here in the Bloomington/Normal, our chances of meeting a Muslim is far greater than 8% because we have indicated the essential value of knowing our neighbors. When people get to know each other and are willing to listen with open hearts, they are more likely to understand and discover how much they have in common. The efforts for inter- community dialogue are one of the most effective ways to break down stereotypes about race and religion. And this is how trust is built!

The commandment—the obligation to establish relationships with our fellow Muslim neighbors along with our Christian neighbors— is deeply rooted in the Jewish tradition. In the Torah, the Jews are taught to accept others without prejudice or bias. The Torah states, "You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart. Reprove your kinsman, but incur no guilt because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself: I am the Eternal.” In order to wholeheartedly embrace the Biblical teaching of loving one’s neighbor, trust must be taught and shared among us.

As we eagerly proceed with the goal of increased dialogue and interaction with our neighbors, I believe that these principles of Interreligious Dialogue would be a valuable source for us to consider.   Principles for Interreligious Dialogue (Adapted from Leonard Swidler, “The Dialogue Decalogue,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 20/1:1-4).

1. Enter into dialogue so that you can learn and grow, not to change the other.

2. Be conscious of the need to allow people the space to enter the discussion. Some people are less assertive about offering their thoughts, but will be encouraged to do so if more outspoken persons avoid dominating the exchange.

3. Be honest and sincere, even if that means revealing discomforts with your own tradition or that of the other. Assume that everyone else is being equally honest and sincere.

4. Everyone must be permitted to define their own religious experience and identity, and this must be respected by others.

5. Proselytizing or seeking to “convert” the conversation partner is not permitted in an interreligious dialogue setting. Participants should feel free to express their own faith traditions and beliefs, but not try to persuade others to assent to them.

6. Don’t feel that you are the spokesperson for your entire faith tradition or that you ought somehow to know everything there is to know about it. Admit any confusion or uncertainty you might have if a puzzling question arises.

7. Don’t assume in advance where points of agreement or disagreement will exist.

8. Everyone should be willing to be self-critical.

9. All should strive to experience the other’s faith “from within” and be prepared to view themselves differently as a result of an “outside” perspective.

10. Trust is a must. Trust is a must and may we, as the Bloomington/Normal community, look forward to many more Open Houses filled with celebration of diversity, respect, and love.

Rabbi Rebecca L. Dubowe currently serves as the Interim Rabbi for Moses Montefiore Congregation in Bloomington.

Muslims Show Compassion, Share Believes with Community

Julia Evelsizer

The Pantagraph

Stephen Robinson, sociology teacher at Normal Community High School, eagerly accepted a student's invitation to learn about a different religion.

Pantagraph photo by Steve Smedley

Pantagraph photo by Steve Smedley

Robinson is Buddhist. The student is Muslim. The invitation was for Saturday's open house at Masjid Ibrahim mosque, 2407 E. Washington St.

About 100 Christians, Buddhists and atheists filled the mosque to learn more about the Islamic faith from their Muslim neighbors.

“We hope people will use this event to learn more about Islam personally, rather than to only hear what’s reported in the media,” said mosque president, Mohammed Zaman.

Robinson and his partner, Jaime Breeck, attended with their 2-year-old son, Avram.

“We wanted to support the Muslim community and have a better understanding of their faith,” said Breeck.

“We are conscious of the discriminatory culture we live in," added Robinson. "We brought our son here because we want him to learn about all different people and cultures so he can decide what he wants in life.”

Zaman said one of the event's main goals was to dispel myths about Islam.

“Many think the two words that should come after Muslim are ‘terrorism’ and ‘violence,’ but it is a very peaceful religion,” said Zaman.

Guests were greeted at the door and asked to remove their shoes. The mosque provided lunch and reading materials; visitors could ask questions and watch prayers. Each was offered a copy of the Quran to take home.

Director Sabeel Ahmed of Gain Peace, a non-profit Chicago organization whose goal is to educate the public about Islam, was the main speaker.

“We are all a part of this wonderful country and we hope many will leave this event as friends," said Ahmed.

He explained the basics of Islamic beliefs and how closely the religion is tied to Christianity.

“We believe in one God and we worship him as the creator, not creation itself, just like Christians,” said Ahmed.

During his studies of the bible, Ahmed found most of the scriptures to be the same. Muslims believe in Jesus as a prophet and accept him the same way they accept Mohammed as a prophet. They believe Mohammed to be the last prophet of God, with Jesus before him.

“Powerful is not he who knocks the other down. Indeed powerful is he who controls himself in a fit of anger,” said Ahmed, quoting Mohammed.

Kelley Becker, associate minister at First Christian Church in Bloomington, attended with church members. Becker, who works with Not In Our Town of Bloomington-Normal, said NIOT is working with local Hindu and Jewish temples on more open houses. 

“It’s hard to hate people when you come face to face and listen to their stories,” said Becker. “We all see God similarly and we all want the same things for the world and our families.”

IWU Examines Interfaith Understanding With Film, Patel

Words with Gods, which premiered at the 2014 Chicago International Film Festival, is a unique and beautiful film that explores “the relationship between different cultures and religion." It airs at 7 p.m. tonight (Thursday) at Illinois Wesleyan University's Hansen Student Center.

Eboo Patel

Eboo Patel

 "Aboriginal Spirituality, Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, Shinto Buddhism, Orthodox Christianity, Umbanda, Hinduism, as well as Atheism find their expression in this two-hour film,” the film's promotion states. Words with Gods is based on a concept by Guillermo Arriaga with nine episodes directed by him and eight other directors. The music was written and performed by Peter Gabriel.

This event is part of the 3D series and sponsored by Evelyn Chapel and the Multifaith Ambassador Program. For more information, email University Chaplain Elyse Nelson Winger at enelsonw@iwu.edu and visit www.wordswithgods.com.

Meanwhile, Eboo Patel, founder of Interfaith Youth Core, is set to visit IWU on Feb. 17. A Rhodes scholar with a doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford University, Patel has four honorary degrees. His autobiography is required freshman reading on 11 college campuses., and he runs the nonprofit Interfaith Youth Core with 31 employees and an annual budget of $4 million.

 

Open Mosque Day Opportunity to Meet and Learn

Open Mosque Day is an event organized to provide an opportunity for the community to get acquainted with its Muslim neighbors while deepening their understanding of the Islamic faith.

Open Mosque Day is Saturday, February 6, 2016, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Masjid Ibrahim, located at 2407 E. Washington St., Bloomington.

An RSVP for the event would be appreciated, with number of attendees, to openmosqueday@masjid-ibrahim.org.

Program for the event is as follows:

       2-2:20 p.m. -- Gathering and welcome address

       2:20-2.45 --  Break for snacks

       2:45-3:10-- An overview of Islam--A short presentation on Islam and freedom of speech, demystifying the Sharia Law

       3:10-3:30 -- Open Forum: Q&A and discussion. Socialize with local Muslims.

       3:30-3:45 -- Congregation prayer

Refreshments will be available, and free reading material, including books and brochures on Islam, will be available for attendees to take home.

Pamela: Danger in Accepting Ignorance

Pamela Sweetwood

WJBC Forum

Recent events have provoked simplified thinking. To indict Islam as a whole is greatly misguided.   Beliefs are on a continuum. Christians may limit their practice to Easter and Christmas or be overzealous in attacking Planned Parenthood clinics. For years I was heavily involved with the Humane Society. Some would presume I thought and acted the same as PETA activists. I admit they may be more committed to the cause than I but whether their methods or positions are right are up to personal interpretation.   Similar variance occurs within other religious, racial, feminist and political groups.

Our country is diverse and that has been an asset and part of the beauty of America. The political rhetoric of the last few months by various candidates is beyond troubling.With each new target, I expect people will find it unacceptable. That hasn’t happened. The Republican platform tends to be fear-based. It is treading into hate-based.

Candidates of course are entitled to their opinions. I’m in disbelief there are supporters in great numbers sharing such views.

Tolerance and empathy for others are becoming even more critical as demographics change, income disparity widens, and world events demand understanding of the complexities and forward thinking rather than abrupt irreversible reactions.

To presume all who follow Islam is radical is ignorant.   To treat everyone the same within in a category is a great disservice to all. Our greatest danger may be acceptance of intolerance.

Pamela Sweetwood was an ISU student, like many, who never left town. She works in higher education and has a history with many community non-profits organizations.

Interfaith Rally to Show Unity, Promote Freedom

Lenore Sobota

The Pantagraph

Amid anti-Islamic rhetoric elsewhere in the country, the anti-discrimination group Not In Our Town hopes to bring people together Wednesday in an interfaith show of solidarity.

The event, at 6 p.m., is planned for the east side of the McLean County Museum of History downtown — the same side where the World War II memorial refers to the “four freedoms” outlined by former President Franklin Roosevelt, including “freedom of worship” and “freedom from fear.”

The Rev. Kelley Becker of First Christian Church, Bloomington, a co-sponsor of the event, said much of the reaction in the wake of attacks in Paris and California is based on fear.

“Fear is so powerful,” Becker said. “We believe love is more powerful than fear.”

The purpose of the event to show “our Islamic brothers and sisters” that “this community is a safe, welcoming place.”

In announcing the event, organizers encouraged people of all faiths or of no particular faith to stand together to show that stereotyping of groups is not acceptable in the Twin Cities.

Other co-sponsors include New Covenant Community, the Presbytery of Great Rivers interfaith group and the Moses Montefiore Temple, in collaboration with the Islamic Center of Bloomington-Normal and Masjid Ibrahim Mosque.

Mike Matejka, a member of Not In Our Town since it began 20 years ago in Bloomington-Normal, said, “Every movement, group, religion has extremists in it. That doesn't mean that every follower of that movement or religion is an extremist.”

He said Wednesday's event is an opportunity to take a stand and let the local Islamic community know “we're not going to fall into the trap of hatefulness.”

In the event of inclement weather, the event will take place at Major Hall, First Christian Church, 401 W. Jefferson St., Bloomington.

But Becker is hopeful the event can stay outside.

“The idea of coming together in full view of the entire community is a good thing,” she said.

In addition to representatives from various faiths saying a few words, those gathered will also light candles, said Becker, adding, "Lighting candles is so much a part of many faith traditions.”

Matejka acknowledged that some people think the efforts of Not In Our Town, such as posting anti-racism signs, are superficial.

But Matejka said, “It's important that publicly we reinforce those stances, that we're a community that works hard not to just tolerate, but to celebrate our diversity.”

Michael: Reject Islamophobia, 'Meet Our Neighbors'

Michael Gizzi

Illinois State University

Not In Our Town is sponsoring an interfaith, community solidarity event on Wednesday, December 16, 6 p.m., on the east side of the Old Courthouse, 200 N. Main Street, downtown Bloomington.   Co-sponsoring are First Christian Church, New Covenant Community, the Presbytery of Great Rivers interfaith group, and Moses Montefiore Temple, in collaboration with the Islamic Center of Bloomington-Normal and Masjid Ibrahim Mosque.  In case of inclement weather, the event will move to Major Hall, First Christian Church, 401 W. Jefferson, Bloomington.

Not In Our Town is sponsoring an interfaith, community solidarity event on Wednesday, December 16, 6 p.m., on the east side of the Old Courthouse, 200 N. Main Street, downtown Bloomington.   Co-sponsoring are First Christian Church, New Covenant Community, the Presbytery of Great Rivers interfaith group, and Moses Montefiore Temple, in collaboration with the Islamic Center of Bloomington-Normal and Masjid Ibrahim Mosque.  In case of inclement weather, the event will move to Major Hall, First Christian Church, 401 W. Jefferson, Bloomington.

The last month has seen a resurgence in concerns about terrorism, both global and domestic.  Between the ISIS attack on Paris, the Planned Parenthood shooter, and now the San Bernardino attacks, the end result is that American fears about terrorism are now greater than at any time since 9/11.   

Much of this fear has translated into intense unwarranted distrust against Muslims.  Social media has been filled with hateful rhetoric targeting Islam, and an assumption that Islam is a religion of hatred and not peace. All Muslims have been cast into the same categories as being extremist radicalized jihadists. The rhetoric has only been made worse by extreme statements by presidential candidates and other public figures. The end result is a toxic environment in which core American values are being sacrificed for a politics of hatred, fear, and anger. A politics where well over one million American citizens feel threatened, targeted, and in danger.

It is easy to marginalize those who are different; those with names that sound foreign; those who profess a different faith; those who wear different clothing; those who look different. But when we do this, we diminish our own beliefs and faith traditions.  Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all a part of what are called the Abrahamic Faiths -- all share a common belief in the same one God.  A God of peace.  The God of Abraham.  

Abraham is central to the story told in Genesis -- the first book of the Bible.  Abraham has a central role in not only Judaism, but in Christianity, and Islam as well.  In the latter, Abraham, like Jesus, is revered as a prophet. Abraham represents faith, sacrifice, commitment, and patience. These are shared values, of three religions which profess peace and love as their primary values.  Indeed, the very word Islam is derived from the Arabic word “salema” or peace.  Muslims greet each other with “a salaam alikum”  (peace be unto you). This is not just a platitude. It is part and parcel of Muslim belief and practice.

Yet, it is so easy to miss this, when all we see is someone different. It is only in the “other” where we can see the true face of God.  As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks proclaims in his book Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence, “the human other is a divine other” and the supreme challenge is to see God’s image in the one who is not in our image. It is in the desire to seek the divine other that makes it so important to take a stand against bigotry and hatred. And as Rabbi Sacks wrote last week in the Washington Post, “Faith is like a flame. Properly tended, it gives light and warmth, but let loose, it can burn and destroy. We need, in the 21st century, a global Hanukkah: a festival of freedom for all the world’s faiths. For though my faith is not yours and your faith is not mine, if we are each free to light our own flame, together we can banish some of the darkness of the world."

This Wednesday (December 16), people in Bloomington-Normal are taking a stand to banish the darkness. Not in Our Town, along with several faith communities, are gathering together with the Muslim Community to show our support and solidarity. We need to say no to islamophobia. We need to look beyond labels, and meet our neighbors.

From left, Sheikh Ghassan Manasra, Michael Gizzi, Rodef Shalom Eliyahu McLean, Deacon Jiries Mansour, during a recent interfaith dialogue at ISU.

From left, Sheikh Ghassan Manasra, Michael Gizzi, Rodef Shalom Eliyahu McLean, Deacon Jiries Mansour, during a recent interfaith dialogue at ISU.

In doing so, we can learn that Muslims, Christians, Jews, and others have far more in common than we have differences. We need to gather together in solidarity to reaffirm our commitment to peace. In doing so, we can show that there is no place for hatred or fear.  We can pledge that our community is safe and welcoming for all. Join us at 6 pm, at the Old County Courthouse in downtown Bloomington.  

A salaam alikum.  Peace Be Unto You.    

Michael Gizzi is a professor at Illinois State University, and is moderator-elect of the Presbytery of Great Rivers, Presbyterian Church USA. He attends New Covenant Community and leads an interfaith group for the Presbyterian Church.

Twin Cities Muslims Worried by Trump's Proposals

Maria Nagle

The Pantagraph

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's call for barring Muslims from entering the United States sent a chill through Dr. Faisal Ahmed of Bloomington, whose mother still lives in Pakistan.

"She wants to visit her grandchildren, and she could be traveling here and living with us at some point," said the child psychiatrist who was among Muslims who spoke to The Pantagraph on Tuesday at the Islamic Center of Bloomington/Normal.

Trump said he would allow Muslims who are U.S. citizens to leave and return from international travel, but all others would be banned. That would include Ahmed, who wants to become a U.S. citizen, and his mother. 

"It's going to be a catastrophe for most of the Muslims because it's a personal freedom here to see our loved ones and take care of our mothers and fathers when they are sick and old," said Ahmed.

"It's sad because it's dehumanizing a particular religion, which is against the U.S. Constitution," he added.

Muslims haven't experienced a backlash from anyone in Bloomington-Normal, noted Mohammed Zaman, president of Masjid Ibrahim, a mosque in Bloomington. 

"In my 15 years here I haven't really seen any hatred in Bloomington-Normal," said Zaman, an information-technology consultant who moved from Bahrain to the United States shortly before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"We are much more worried about our kids than ourselves right now," said Zaman. "They are the ones who are really facing these challenges.

"We know what is going on and we can answer the questions, but the kids are going to be really confused, and of course, scared a little bit."

Ahmed said he was relieved to see the swift, widespread condemnation of Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric.

"But what (Trump) did manage to attain with this kind of rhetoric is to instill fear in people's minds, both at home and abroad," said Ahmed. "That plays out in what this mad group of people, ISIS, is trying to instill in people: fear."

Reiterating a message on ICBN's website, Ahmed said terrorists claiming to believe in Islam are distorting the true spirit of the religion.

"The Quran states: 'He who kills one person kills all humanity,'" he said.

There are 1.5 billion followers of Islam, and "only a small fraction is doing something bad," said IT consultant Jamal Mohamed of Normal, who moved from India in 2004. "The majority doesn't do that."

Zaman and Ahmed added that they fear that acceptance could change if anti-Muslim rhetoric intensifies.

Zaman's 17-year-old son, Mohammed, a graduate of Normal Community High School, said many of his friends told him that "Mr. Trump took it too far, and I also agreed with them."

He added: "We do not represent anything that has been going on. We know that we are following our path of Islam in the most sincere way possible."

The shootings in Aurora, Colo., and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., were committed by people considered to be social outsiders, and Ahmed said the same is true of radicalized Muslims.

"They don't fit in," said Ahmed. "One of the things I really want to convey is that all these people who have done very terrible things are really alone and aloof and aren't connected to the Islamic community. They have a failed ideology and a divisive ideology that turns brothers against against brothers and people against people."

Trump's statement on Monday came a day after President Barack Obama urged Americans in a televised address not to associate terrorism with all Muslims. Obama warned extremism in some communities is "a real problem that Muslims must confront without excuse."

The men are planning to form a committee to work with law enforcement to ensure safety for local Muslims and the community as a whole.

While they have talked about forming such a committee in the past, "it is a need of the time," said Ahmed.

May: Islamic 'Beauty' Includes Respecting, Protecting Neighbors

May Jadallah

islam.jpg

I would like to invite all of us to take a moment of silence to honor the life of Sandra Bland and the lives of our black sisters and brothers, young and old, that were unjustly and abruptly brought to an end before and after Trayvon Martin. 

I very much appreciate Reverend Jackie Clement’s invitation to speak with you today.  In this time of conflict and political turmoil, I believe that it is more important than ever for people of all faiths to reach out to one another and to develop the mutual respect and understanding that only a sharing of knowledge can bring.  

Events in the Middle East in recent years have been especially troubling.  Like many regions across the globe, the Middle East has experienced unprecedented cultural change in the last two hundred years.  From the subjugation of colonialism to the new opportunities and demands of adaptation to global capitalism, to the creation of the highly industrialized state of Israel in an area which has always been experienced shortages of water, external forces have taken a heavy toll on the people of this region which have led to  heartbreaking internal mechanisms that are devouring it from within.

From as far back as my family history is recorded, my family had lived in the city of Jerusalem.  As recently as my grandmother's generation, it was a city in which Muslim, Jews, and Christians lived together in peace and harmony.  While this has changed dramatically in recent years, my grandmother lived and died in the city of Jerusalem and, during her life, maintained those practices, beliefs, and customs which to my mind exemplify the very best of the religion that is Islam.

The Islamic tradition has four dimensions that were narrated in what is known to Muslims as Hadith Gibril or saying Gabriel. The first is Submission to the will of God, which is called Islam in Arabic; the second is Faith, which is called Iman; the third is Beauty, which is called Ihsan; and the last is Time, al-yawm al-akher (the Last Day). From an Islamic perspective, these are four universal dimensions.  

Submission is the horizontal dimension,  the width; it is reflected in the five pillars of the tradition.  The first pillar is witnessing that there is no deity worthy of worship but God and that Muhammad is a messenger of God.  The second pillar is the completion of five daily prayers.  The third pillar is the obligation to give alms.  The fourth pillar requires fasting during the month of Ramadan. The fifth pillar is the pilgrimage to Mecca.  This is the outward face of Islam.    

Faith, the second dimension, is the vertical dimension, its height. This is the inward dimension, reflected in the belief in things that cannot be seen with the eye: God, His angels, His books; ALL His messengers, the Last Day, and destiny, in both of its dual aspects.

The third dimension is beauty; this represents the depth in the Islamic tradition; its transcendent or  universal aspect.  Ihsan in Arabic literary means making beauty. In the saying of Gabriel, beauty making means, quote “Worship God as if you see God, for if you cannot see Him, know that He sees you.” According to tradition, this is the highest level of human possibility. One becomes part of the divine presence when he or she becomes a beauty maker

Submission and Faith, the first two dimensions, are nothing but empty actions and declarations in the absence of making beauty. This beauty extends particularly to man’s treatment of his fellow man. Prophet Muhammad said specifically, “If you do not respect and protect your neighbor, then you are not a believer.” In another saying, he indicates, “You won’t attain faith until you love to your fellow human being what you love for yourself.”

According to the Islamic tradition, we are all born with an internal mechanism that recognizes beauty. We all attest that a moral act is a beautiful act. Ethics is the highest level of esthetics in the Islamic tradition. An ethical act is a harmonic act that can be seen and heard, recognized and admired by others. Muslims are encouraged to make beauty in all aspects of their lives; the spiritual, their daily activities, and the care of the physical world. 

According to the Quran, beautification is part of God’s creative process: Verse 6 in Chapter 32 in the Quran reads, “It is God who made beautiful everything that He created.” According to Joseph Lumbard, a professor of classical Islam at Brandeis University, “This world can never be perfect, but within the imperfection that defines our earthly existence, we can act beautifully; to make God present in the world, both by being conscious of God and because all beauty ultimately derives from God.”

In many verses, the Quran mentions that God loves the beauty makers; God is with the beauty makers. In the Quran, God instructs us, “Beautify as God has beautified you” (Chapter 28: verse 77). This is the aspect of Islam most in danger of being lost and forgotten in these days of industrialization, war, and turmoil. In the last twenty years in the Middle East, there has been more focus on religiosity, the outward dimension, but very little to focus on spirituality the transcendent dimension that can only be achieved with true inner beauty. 

There is a story told of Omar the son of al-Khattab, the second khalifah after Prophet Muhammad’s passing.  He was known to roam the city of Madinah at night to check on his people. One night, he heard a mother and her daughter talking. The mother was saying that she wanted to water down the milk that they drew from their sheep in order to earn more money in the market.

The girl told her mother that it was against the law and that they were not supposed to do that. The mother responded, “But Omar won’t see us.” The girl immediately replied, “If Omar won’t be seeing us, remember that Omar’s God will.” Omar was so impressed by this girl’s retort that he sent his son to propose to the girl.  

Making beauty, in the Islamic tradition, requires spiritual training. While in the west we think of disease as a physical malady, Islam identified 30 diseases that destroy the heart spiritually.  Some of the more common of these diseases include envy, backbiting, showing off to name a few. However, fortunately, these diseases are curable. A book entitled Purification of the Heart by Hamza Yusef, President of Zaytuna College in California, discusses all the diseases and ways of putting the heart back on its natural track of purity.   

Islam encourages not only great deeds, but small good deeds done on a daily basis because they train the heart to recognize and produce beauty regularly with a small but purposeful effort. In Islam, smiling at others is a form of charity, removing waste away from people’s path is charity; as is checking on one’s neighbors, helping others, saying kind words, and taking good care of one’s family.

Even the articles of submission are based on elements of the environment and the beauty of the natural world. The five daily prayers are marked by the movement of the sun in the horizon. An important aspect of Islam is to be in continuous connection with nature, because the signs of nature are reminders of the bounty of God’s grace and the provisions that are easy to forget when consumed by the tasks and responsibilities of everyday life. The first prayer of the day is signaled by sunset. During that time, Muslims are expected to recognize the change in the natural world that is brought to us by the setting sun; the ways that the plants, animals, moon, stars, clouds, air, and ground change with the gentle movement of the earth in front of the sun. The same is true at night, again at dawn, when the nighttime ends, then at noon when the sun is over head, and last in the afternoon. Observing the shadows, feeling the breeze, recognizing the ultimate beauty in nature is a daily practice and is the true call for prayer and thanksgiving. Unfortunately, in modern life, Muslims sometimes lose track of this framework, this connection to the natural world and its Creator.

As a child, I observed my grandmother who had a garden in Jerusalem.  Every day, she took care of her goats, chickens, fig trees, grape vines, and many other wonderful things she grew in her garden. She would wake up at dawn with an appreciation of nature and start her day by observing and marveling at the beautiful world around her. My grandmother used to talk to her animals, plants, and even the water she used while taking care of them.  As a child, this practice was initially strange to me but one that I grew to dearly love. Only now, as an adult, do I realize that my grandmother's actions were a literal translation in the physical world of the principle of ihsan or beauty making. She extended this to her neighbors as well.  If one of them became sick, she would prepare a small basket and fill it with some homemade cheese or yogurt, eggs, homemade strawberry jam, and any of the produce that was ripening in her garden.

While I currently live half way around the world in a small apartment in this town, I try to keep these practices alive.  Like my grandmother, I do what I can to conserve water, though the need in this country is much less apparent.  I also grow plants, herbs and vegetables on the balcony of my third floor apartment. Like her, I try to take care of and beautify nature as part of a spiritual calling that is supported by many verses in the Quran.

Like my grandmother, I try my best to balance the three aspects of beauty making, the first towards nature, the second towards others, and the last is towards spiritual practice. In order to have the smallest carbon footprint possible, I bike or take the bus to work. While biking, I smile and greet the people I meet along my way.

Spiritually, I try to remember that I am in God’s presence, especially during my daily prayers. This spiritual beauty, while the most appealing, is the most challenging to perfect. And this quest for the creation of spiritual beauty takes us to a discussion of the final dimension.  
A traditional saying states, “If the Last Day comes upon you while you are holding a seedling, take the time to plant it.” I have always been very moved by this saying, with its instruction to continue to promote life and beauty as a means of dispelling  chaos and the fear. 

I would also like to note that from an Islamic perspective, beauty making is not bound to the Islamic tradition only. Muslims believe and recognize that all other traditions, -- Buddhism, Native religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism -- all have the dimensions I presented at the beginning of my talk and all have recognizable elements of beauty that followers of these faiths are highly encouraged to practice and be mindful of. All religious traditions aim to beautify the human character. The Prophet Muhammad said, “I was sent to complete the noble character traits,” and he also said, “Among the best of you is the most beautiful in character traits.”

In this time of turmoil, this responsibility to create beauty is needed now more than ever in the Muslim world. It is an aspect of the tradition that when nurtured and propagated, allow the other aspects to come together as a manifestation of the true spiritual substance and presence.

Enjoy making beauty in every action you take! May God be with you.

May Jadallah will discuss Islamic faith and principles Sunday at Unitarian Universalist Church.

IWU Hispanic Studies Prof Snags Fellowship for Exploring Spanish Cuisine

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded a highly competitive fellowship to an Illinois Wesleyan University Hispanic Studies professor for the translation and critical analysis of a 17th-century Spanish cookbook.

Fewer than eight percent of applicants received fellowships for the 2015-16 academic year such as the one awarded to Byron S. Tucci Professor Carolyn Nadeau. In addition to the NEH fellowship, the Renaissance Society of America has awarded Nadeau a research grant for travel to libraries in Spain and New York in conjunction with the same project.

In 1611, Francisco Martíno Montiño, chef to both King Philip III and IV of Spain, published Arte de cocina, pastelería, vizcochería y conservería (the art of cooking, pie making, pastry making and preserving), which Nadeau calls the most recognized Spanish cookbook before the 20th century. Nadeau proposes to write the first critical edition and translation of Arte de cocina.

Dismissed by cultural historians until recently as too commonplace to merit critical attention, cookbooks are now recognized as valuable primary sources providing “social and cultural meanings of food and, by extension, cultural identity, from the very society that produced them,” Nadeau said.

Because Martíno Montiño’s court cookbook was written for the king’s palette and originally targeted to the royal kitchen staff, Nadeau plans to explain how the book reflects questions of taste beyond the court and social elite to the cottage and farm kitchens across Spain. The number of editions printed – 25 between 1611 and 1823 – point to a wider reading audience, Nadeau noted.

“My critical introduction will explain how court cookbooks compare with cultural practices found in university treatises, religious instruction manuals, women’s domestic manuals, and health manuals,” Nadeau said. “In this way, the project will also bring to light how cookbooks, and more generally the culinary arts, intersect with other types of cultural knowledge and function as potent social, gender, political and cultural markers.” She noted Arte de cocina arrived in the same era that the first vernacular monolingual dictionary was published in Europe. The same era found dramatists producing theatre that explored cultural divides, abuses of political power, and questions of social identity.

“Passionate about this profession, Martíno Montiño wrote with a critical eye, often complaining about the deficits found in other cooking manuals,” Nadeau said. “Yet he conveyed the deepest respect for long-established processes that continued to present challenges for each generation of cooks.

“This type of reverence is evident, for example, in his recipe on how to prepare couscous, a dish with clear ties to Spain’s Muslim heritage, at a time when the state had just exiled all Moriscos, or Muslims recently converted to Catholicism,” Nadeau explained. “He often communicated a sensitivity to diverse palettes by allowing flexibility of meats, fats and other products used in several of his culinary creations.”

Following the same line of inquiry to examine and explain real cultural practices, Nadeau will devote some of her sabbatical next year to preparing most of the cookbook’s 453 recipes to better understand their flavors and subtleties. The archival work in libraries across two continents is exciting, but Nadeau can’t wait to get into the kitchen.

“I’m looking forward to preparing the dishes to better understand the subtleties and flavors,” she said. “This cookbook was considered ‘the’ model for Spanish cooking well into the 19th century. By examining each recipe and his passionate side notes, I can enliven Martínez Montiño’s authorial pride and acute attentiveness to his readers with appropriate glosses.”

Nadeau has written a number of articles on food representation in Golden Age texts. She specializes in 16th- and 17th-century Spanish literature and is the author of three books: Food Matters: Alonso Quijano’s Diet and the Discourse of Food in Early Modern Spain (to be released late 2015); Women of the Prologue: Imitation, Myth, and Magic in Don Quixote I and a critical edition of Francisco de Quevedo’s El Buscón. Nadeau joined the faculty at Illinois Wesleyan in 1994 and has directed off-campus studies in London, Madrid and Barcelona. She has chaired the Hispanic Studies department and received the University’s highest teaching award, the then-named Pantagraph Award for Teaching Excellence, in 2003.

 A later edition of  Arte de cocina, pastelería, vizcochería y conservería

 A later edition of Arte de cocina, pastelería, vizcochería y conservería

Because Martíno Montiño’s court cookbook was written for the king’s palette and originally targeted to the royal kitchen staff, Nadeau plans to explain how the book reflects questions of taste beyond the court and social elite to the cottage and farm kitchens across Spain. The number of editions printed – 25 between 1611 and 1823 – point to a wider reading audience, Nadeau noted.

“My critical introduction will explain how court cookbooks compare with cultural practices found in university treatises, religious instruction manuals, women’s domestic manuals, and health manuals,” Nadeau said. “In this way, the project will also bring to light how cookbooks, and more generally the culinary arts, intersect with other types of cultural knowledge and function as potent social, gender, political and cultural markers.” She noted Arte de cocina arrived in the same era that the first vernacular monolingual dictionary was published in Europe. The same era found dramatists producing theatre that explored cultural divides, abuses of political power, and questions of social identity.

“Passionate about this profession, Martíno Montiño wrote with a critical eye, often complaining about the deficits found in other cooking manuals,” Nadeau said. “Yet he conveyed the deepest respect for long-established processes that continued to present challenges for each generation of cooks.

“This type of reverence is evident, for example, in his recipe on how to prepare couscous, a dish with clear ties to Spain’s Muslim heritage, at a time when the state had just exiled all Moriscos, or Muslims recently converted to Catholicism,” Nadeau explained. “He often communicated a sensitivity to diverse palettes by allowing flexibility of meats, fats and other products used in several of his culinary creations.”

Following the same line of inquiry to examine and explain real cultural practices, Nadeau will devote some of her sabbatical next year to preparing most of the cookbook’s 453 recipes to better understand their flavors and subtleties. The archival work in libraries across two continents is exciting, but Nadeau can’t wait to get into the kitchen.

“I’m looking forward to preparing the dishes to better understand the subtleties and flavors,” she said. “This cookbook was considered ‘the’ model for Spanish cooking well into the 19th century. By examining each recipe and his passionate side notes, I can enliven Martínez Montiño’s authorial pride and acute attentiveness to his readers with appropriate glosses.”

Nadeau has written a number of articles on food representation in Golden Age texts. She specializes in 16th- and 17th-century Spanish literature and is the author of three books: Food Matters: Alonso Quijano’s Diet and the Discourse of Food in Early Modern Spain (to be released late 2015); Women of the Prologue: Imitation, Myth, and Magic in Don Quixote I and a critical edition of Francisco de Quevedo’s El Buscón. Nadeau joined the faculty at Illinois Wesleyan in 1994 and has directed off-campus studies in London, Madrid and Barcelona. She has chaired the Hispanic Studies department and received the University’s highest teaching award, the then-named Pantagraph Award for Teaching Excellence, in 2003.