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Remembering Ramadan 3 August , 2011

I received strange glances and expressions of doubt when I said that I would be fasting for Ramadan this year. What business does a non-Muslim have in fasting for Ramadan? What is there to gain from depriving yourself of food and water during some of the hottest and longest days of the year? Why should I care?

This month, I will attempt to engage in routine prayer and meditation. I will abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset, and a will make an effort to quell violent and hurtful thoughts and speech. I will attempt to read a significant amount of the Qur’an and New Testament and participate in volunteer and charity efforts that benefit the local or global community.

I am presented with an opportunity to grow in my humanity. This past year, I have constantly found myself over-committed and lacking time for proper reflection and growth. I look forward to taking this time to grow consciously – to nourish relationships, reflect on my goals and values, and grow in love, peace, and humility. In starving my senses, I become aware of the beauty of life that surrounds me. Participating in Ramadan is a test of my personal commitment and ability to set aside the year (and years) ahead for long-term and life-long inner transformation.

Ramadan, to me, is not a ritual shrouded in Oriental mystique, but a profound period of spiritual development and ascension that is practiced by dozens of my friends and colleagues, hundreds of Chicagoans, and thousands of Americans. In a society that often sets spirituality in the periphery of life, the chance to engage in a period of reflection and intention is an opportunity not to be missed.

I have been reminded that I am a non-Muslim. Having been raised in the Catholic tradition, I am familiar with periods of reflection and abstention, and have fond moments of looking forward to Lent as a time to grow closer to God. I still look forward to Lent as a time to focus on the spiritual dimensions of life, but as I grow as an interfaith leader and as I grow to recognize the inherent wisdom in the diverse spiritual expressions of humanity, I see the value in reaching beyond faith divisions and embracing those elements that will guide me on my journey to the Divine.

My decision to fast is also a multi-faceted act of solidarity. In doing so, I am not only standing in solidarity with all the hungry and suffering in the world and with Muslim brothers and sisters. I am standing with all who face persecution based on their religious identities. As we have seen in years passed, Muslims face discrimination and persecution in the United States and elsewhere. As an interfaith leader, I take issue and fight to counter not only this faith-based division, but all acts of faith-based division around the world.

In fasting, I hope to make a conscious commitment to continue my work in the world. Thousands around the world not only suffer from lack of food and water, but from lack of acceptance, love, understanding, and a place to call home. Let us all, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, take time to remember this reality and remember our power to change the world for the better during this month.

An original post by Peter Dziedzic, a World Faither

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Muslims promoting interfaith relations during Ramadan 1 August , 2011

Starting today, Muslims throughout North America will face nearly 16-hour days of fasting for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Ramadan is a time of self-purification, self-restraint and inner reflection for Muslims, who abstain from food and drink and other sensual pleasures during daylight hours.

During the month, believers focus on piety, charity and self-improvement.

This Ramadan, however, many suburban Muslims are reflecting on how far they have come as a community in the 10 years since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks sullied the image of the religion practiced by nearly 1.3 billion people worldwide.

On that ill-fated Tuesday, 19 al-Qaida terrorists hijacked and flew two commercial jet airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, another into the Pentagon, and crashed a fourth headed toward Washington, D.C., in a field in rural Pennsylvania.

The attacks killed nearly 3,000 people — mostly civilians — from more than 70 countries, shocked the world, and shook the Muslim community to its core.

Some community leaders view Sept. 11 as a wake-up call that prompted Muslims to come out of their shell. It spurred more interfaith dialogue and outreach efforts, often held during Ramadan, as a means of breaking down barriers and improving relationships with non-Muslims.

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From CNN Belief Blog: My Take: Egypt 2011 is Not Iran 1979 by Stephen Prothero 2 February , 2011

Filed under: Interfaith Issues — Administrator @ 12:10 pm
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Americans are understandably both manic and depressed about recent developments in Egypt. The mania comes from 1776 and our own history of casting off a Pharaoh in the name of freedom. The depression comes compliments of 1979 and Iran, which saw populist street protests against a pro-American dictator co-opted into an Islamic Republic deeply hostile to the West.

And there are parallels between Iran back then and Egypt today. Both are large countries with sizeable, largely Islamic populations. And the leading opposition party in Egypt is the Muslim Brotherhood.

But Arab Egypt is not Persian Iran, for the following four reasons:

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Bob Roberts On Faith: How can Muslims and Evangelicals Work Together? 6 January , 2011

If working across various faith and national lines has taught me anything in the last fifteen years, it’s that we really don’t know each other like we think we do.

There is a real problem with merely reading and hearing lectures – it is outside the context of real people and everyday life. I was once visiting with Grand Mufti Ceric Mustafa of Bosnia and I made the comment, “All this talk seems to lead nowhere, instead we should focus on how we can serve people together.” He chimed in that he had been in talks for 60 years and had very little to show for it.  READ MORE

 

Board Member Imam Khalid Latif on Salon.com 17 May , 2010

Imam Khalid Latif, a World Faith board member, as well as the chaplain at the New York University’s Islamic Center, was featured in Salon.com’s story about Muslim leadership’s difficulties in addressing the needs of an American-born generation of Muslims.  To read about it, please see the article.

 

A Christian’s Response to Anti-Islamic Extremism 2 October , 2008

This is an op-ed I am distributing.  We will see if it gets picked up.

For those of you who missed it, a Dayton, Ohio mosque was attacked by a chemical irritant that a was reportedly sprayed into a window during a Ramadan prayer of 300 people, many of which were women and children.  It has so far received little media attention.  Occurring last Friday, September 26, it came at the end of a week where Dayton saw thousands of copies of the anti-Muslim “documentary” Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West was distributed in major newspapers city-wide.  This demands both some critical thought, and a clear response from the those who passionately abhor communal hatred and violence, no matter who’s the victim or perpetrator.

So a little more back story for those of you who didn’t see Obsession.  I remember when I first saw the film at New York University, with fellow interfaith activists Imam Khalid Latif and Rabbi    Yahuda Sarna.  Christians, Muslims, and Jews alike were appalled at the constant abuse of history to lump secular independence movements with religious, Sunni with Shiia, and Political Islam with Terrorists’ Extremism, giving a message that, “They hate you, so you should hate them.”

Us v. Them

This dialectal rhetoric has been used on all parties to demonize “them,” victimize “us,” and create a common enemy by abusing religious language for political gain.  Obsession gives light on the domestic example of this, where presidential and senatorial candidates encourage fear-mongering to bolster support.  Ignorant Fear breeds ethno-religious hatred, which in turn inspires communal violence.

As an American, I am ashamed.  Our American values does in fact have influence from religious traditions, and those traditions were used to inform equality, securing freedoms for minorities, whether religious, political, or ethnic.  Many of those victims of the Dayton Mosque attacks were Iraqi refugees, who came to the US to escape a regime that used chemical gases their own citizens.  One mother asked, “If not here, where can I go where my children will be safe?”

Countering this, we need to challenge ourselves, both personally, and as a nation.  With some estimates counting over 5 million Muslim Americans, it is time we include this diverse group of South Asian, Arabs, and African Americans into the fold of the American identity, as we have with Irish, Polish, Chinese Americans, and more.  Those of us of the Christian faith do not have a monopoly on religious values that promote freedom and equality, but share them with our fellow Muslim Americans, among others.  It is time we acknowledge our shared values (including freedom and democracy), respect our differences (like culture), and celebrate our common humanity.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a faith-hero of mine, is the quintessential voice on the matter.  His relevance to those times and now is because he did not simply write off on Jim Crowe laws as some morally-ambiguous “wrong,” but addressed the issue by expounding how such laws were unAmerican, and that continued inactivity was unChristian.  His letter from Birmingham Jail was written to religious leaders, which inspired even non-Christians, such as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who soon joined the movement.

Taking action in my own life, the post-911 world inspired me to begin filming a documentary while on a 6-nation Middle East tour developing projects for the NGO World Faith.  The premise was conversations between me, the white Christian American, and different people from various communities, mostly Muslim and Arab.  What ensued are conversations that leave me with a general message from the Middle East:
“We don’t hate you, and we love your democracy, we are just completely frustrated by the American foreign policy, don’t trust you to spread democracy (with US support of such non-democratic regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt), and feel humiliated by the western ignorance of our religious and cultural identities.”

The worldwide Gallop poll, representing the thoughts of a billion Muslims, support these findings.

Eboo Patel, my friend and a leader of interfaith activism, defined the issue of the Faith Line: it’s not a divide between those of different faiths, but between anyone that uses faith to divide and those to heal.  As comedian Maz Jabroni says it more simply, “There are haters of all kinds…”

So the question is, are you a hater?  Then let’s see some love.  Start with your neighbors, and maybe we can replace “us and them” with “now and then,” making Islamophobia a brief chapter in American history.

About the Author
Frankie Fredericks is the Executive Director of World Faith, a youth-led interfaith community service non-profit active in five countries.  Frank was featured on Good Morning America with Eboo Patel as a Fellow of the Interfaith Youth Core, and interviewed by Al-Akhbar Magazine in Lebanon, Al-Jadid TV, and Nile FM in Egypt.  Residing in New York City, he works as an Online Marketing Consultant, runs the independent label Conar Records, and is an active member of the Grammy Association.

blog:  worldfaith.wordpress.com            www.worldfaith.org        

 

My Close Cousin 22 November , 2007

Filed under: Blog Post — Frank Fredericks @ 2:46 pm
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Often in the language of a religious community, any of them, the common terminology for your fellow like-minded theist is that of “brother” or “sister.” This concept appears instinctual in some ways, yet reveals the hope of a (more…)