As we stood at city hall marking the end of the Milad Parade and Festival procession, I glanced over to the women standing next to me with a homemade banner. After introducing myself and my Christian mother, I kindly asked Ann Clune if I could take a picture of her banner. Ann told me that her daughter had spent time making her the banner, which read, “True Peace Comes Not From Bombs, Change The Cycle.”
During a brief talk with Mr and Mrs Jim Clune, I learned that the two had done some online advertising for the event. The Clunes are Catholics and attend St. James Church in Johnson City, NY, and are members of a peace vigil group that has been meeting weekly with other groups in the town’s Federal Building for over 9 years now.
Another attendee, Ms. Grace Walter –who also attended last year’s program– had this to say: “It reminded me of the civil rights movement when blacks, along side with whites, marched for equality. I hope that Muslim-Christian dialogue continues.”
-Islamic Post Staff Writer, Jameelah Kareem
By Jameelah Kareem
Islamic Post Staff Writer
(IP) –After nearly 30 years of serving as a director of faith formation at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral on Capitol Hill, Dr. Ann Holmes Redding announced she had converted to Islam in an interview with the Seattle-based Diocese of Olympia’s newspaper, Episcopal Voice.
Yet, Dr. Redding does not feel she has left Christianity at all. “The way I understand Jesus is compatible with Islam,” she said. “I was following Jesus and he led me into Islam.”
Dr. Redding had begun to study Islam in the awake of the tragedy of 9/11 and her conversion was sparked by an inter-faith gathering she attended 3 years ago. “It was much more this overwhelming conviction that I needed to surrender to God and this was the form that my surrender needed to take,” she recalled, as reported by CNN.
Despite an uproar on the part of some church members, Dr. Redding remained firm in her beliefs and convictions. Dr. Redding states that some interpret her being a Muslim as her “abandoning the church… and that [there] comes an understanding that you have to be one or the other, and most people would say that. It simply hasn’t been my experience that I have to make a choice between the two,” the minister told Seattle Times.
Redding does not believe that God and Jesus are the same, but rather that God is more than Jesus. And she believes that Jesus is the Son of God insofar as all humans are the children of God, and that Jesus is divine, just as all humans are divine — because God dwells in all humans.
Many others like Dr. Redding have come to realize that the differences between Christianity and Islam are as thin as a line, and that the two religions should unite in preparation for Jesus, the Spirit of God, to return.
Last month marked Redding’s 25th Anniversary of her ordination as an Episcopal priest. Two hundred of Redding’s friends turned out for her commemoration of the event and also came to celebrate the publication of an interfaith book she co-authored. Dr. Redding called the event a celebration of “her movement into the next phase of ministry as both Christian and Muslim.”
Dr. Redding is working to establish Abrahamic Reunion West, a nonprofit institute to bring together the Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
“As frightening as it is,” she said, “I’m willing to let God be in charge of this path of mine.”
By Fatimah Dawud
Islamic Post Staff Writer
BINGHAMTON –The United Muslim Christian Forum (UMCF) was recently invited to be a part of a tour of Binghamton hosted by Mayor Matthew T. Ryan, to review accomplishments of his past years in office and to discuss his future plans should he be re-elected joining a small crowd that chanted, “Four more years!”
“I think UMCF presence made a big statement for the Muslim community as a whole by being there,” noted a representative of the group. “Upon arrival, there were only about 30 people in attendance, so they were able give our congratulations and support to the Mayor directly before talking with other supporters.”
Mayor Matthew Ryan led the one mile walk around Binghamton which started at the Perry building (a historical site in Binghamton), passing by Abu’s House of Halal, and ended at the Regency Hotel. There the Mayor gave a press conference to announcing his running for another Mayoral term of four years.
“Jawad and Ahmad Muhammad, had the opportunity to stand next to Mayor Matthew Ryan as he delivered his speech.” By this time total number in attendance to this event went from 30 to 150 people.
As the day concluded the Mayor spoke with members of the United Christian Muslim Forum extending his gratitude for their attendance. The mayor was the guest speaker at the recent UMCF parade.
By Fatimah Dawud
Islamic Post Staff Writer
(IP) –Members of the Muslims of the Americas (MOA) and other groups attended the prayer vigil at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Binghamton, NY. The community stood in unified grief over the shooting tragedy that left 14 dead last month. MOA members Abu Amir, Ibrahim Caba, M Asraf, Fatimah Begum, Shireen Rashid, Umm Shafi, Bilquis Abdallah, Layla Abdullah, Hanan Aziz and others lit candles in support of the people who lost family members and friends after a gunman attacked the American Civic Association center while English classes were in session for immigrants. The following is a narrative of Fatimah Begum, who attended the vigil:
“When we first got there we were greeted with welcoming smiles and hugs. Deacon Barbara Hayden came right up to us and thanked us for coming. After her, other pastors, deacons, and fathers came and greeted us. We thanked them for inviting us and mentioned that we came on behalf of His Eminence, El Sheikh Syed Mubarik Ali Shah Gilani.”
“The first to speak was the Head of the Broome County Council of Churches, Mr Sellepack. He opened with a welcoming address, and mentioned Muslims as friends, saying Muslims and Christians have to come together in this time of need to join together for peace for the community. He thanked us for being there.
“After the refreshments, Mr. Sellepack came down and again thanked us for coming and we talked about future projects together to help the community.”
Fatimah Begum continues: “Camera men for all TV stations across the country were there, BBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and other local new stations. Most stations were able to come in to tape the vigil; however, Deacon Barbara came to tell us that Fox News came to the door and asked to come in and tape the prayer vigil but she told them they were not welcome in her church. She felt that they insulted us with their recent report and said she does not want to have anything to do with them. They stayed outside.
“We mingled and exchanged information with others, talked about how we are going to assist and console the families, and left our names and numbers for where we could be reached if anyone might need our services, and prepared to take our leave. We were walking out we met the Imam of one of the mosques here in Binghamton and he told us that two Muslim women were killed in this tragedy.”
Other major news networks had been scheduled to visit Holy Islamberg and interview a family living in a model Muslim village during the weekend following the parade. However, MOA postponed the media gathering after hearing news of the tragedy that shook Binghamton, grieving the small city and its Muslim neighbors in Holy Islamberg, which is located a short distance away.
Filed under: Business/Economy, Interfaith, International, May Volume I - 2009, National, Religion, World
(IP)– This month, regulatory bodies are reviewing the excessive interest, or usury, being charged by credit card companies. After being pursued in an antitrust case for “non-compliance” to European Commission rules regarding cross border fees, MasterCard settled out of court. While, according to European Union regulators, the credit card company agreed to reduce fees that raise costs for retailers, the New York Times reports MasterCard said the reduction was simply provisional and that it would continue a broader battle over the level of the fees in court. Here at home, United States lawmakers moved, in turn, to provide people with credit card debt relief from abusive rate and billing practices, as reported by Market Watch. A new Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights would restrict retroactive rate increases on existing balances, double-cycle billing, and “due-date gimmicks,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, who has spearheaded the legislation. Market Watch further noted, “The proposals approved by a House subcommittee are similar to final rules passed late last year by the Federal Reserve and other regulators… [In addition] a Senate committee approved its own set of credit card restrictions.”
This issue at stake for the European Commission and American lawmakers and regulators is the age-old question of controlling the flow of usury –the excessive rate of return charged by banks and lending institutions on interest-based loans. Financial experts recently criticized the wildfire spread of usury as being one of the major factors that led to the current economic crisis.
Usury had been strictly regulated in most countries until the late 1600s when usurious practices were first officially sanctioned by a head of state, William of Orange in Britain, who supported the establishment of the Bank of England –a private institution at the time. The practice of high rates of return gradually spread, but the institution was nevertheless widely viewed with distaste. Because it is easy for anyone –but particularly poor people and those in desperate circumstances– to find themselves in a reciprocating pattern of debt due to compound interest and the like, usury has been taken as a form of oppression. In this sense, secular and religious norms are in agreement. The major religions have been against such banking practices since their inception.
The First Council of Nicaea in 325, forbade clergy from engaging in usury which, at the time, meant interest of any kind. Pope Clement V made the belief in the right to usury a heresy in 1311. Islam has always forbidden interest, whether by modern definitions of usury or not, and continues to uphold the same prohibition. The Torah also carries prohibition of usury.
But in 2009, after many centuries, usurious practices seem to have overwhelmed religious awareness, as creditors consistently offer credit cards, mortgages and loans at extremely high rates of interest to people who are known to be unable to repay the principle, let alone the interest. The global economy has been headed toward its present state for many years, with few preventive measures having been taken against such forms of predatory business. Beginning in the 1960s deregulation of usury began to occur in the United States, and individual states initiated their own individual practices and laws regarding what were deemed usurious and illegal and what was not. In some states, debtors have been known to be charged in excess of 300% interest in extreme cases.
Author Thomas Geoghegan, was interviewed recently on DemocracyNow! regarding his work which recently appeared in Harper’s Magazine entitled “Infinite Debt: How Unlimited Interest Rates Destroyed the Economy.” In this excerpt from the interview, Mr Geoghegan explains in a simplified form how the “real economy,” or manufacturing, was in essence destroyed over time by the financial sector.
“If you’re able to charge 30 percent or, in a payday lender case, 200 or 300 percent, you don’t care so much if the loan —in fact, you actually want the loan not to be repaid. You want people to go into debt. You want to accumulate this interest. And this addicted the financial sector to very, very, very high rates of return compared to what investors were used to getting in the real economy, the manufacturing sector, General Motors, which would give piddling five, six, seven percent returns.
“So the capital in this country began to shift in the financial sector. That’s why the financial sector began to bloat up. That’s why we ended up, by 2006, having a third of all profits going into the banks and the financial firms and not into the real economy.”
If Mr Geoghegan’s “real economy” is based in the manufacturing and sale of physical goods, the financial sector would then be a virtual economy –one whose primary method of trade and profit are loans that, having scant basis in monetary gold or silver, are based upon the trustworthiness (credit) of the financial institution granting the virtual money.
But the hardship endured by honest people struggling to make a variety of monthly payments is not make-believe. The interest (sometimes called late fees) on car payments, business loans, credit cards, mortgages, student loans, and even hospital bills and cell phones is generally billed first and compounded with each failed due date until the full debt could become impossible to repay. The creditor is often able to recover the original debt, even with a decent profit, but the debtor doesn’t always get out of the clear. If not, before the creditor writes off the remaining debt on company taxes, the institution may then sell the remaining balance to a third party collection agency. At this point, the debtor must pay the transferred balance plus any additional collection fees (more interest).
While some loan practices are being reviewed by US lawmakers in favor of the consumer, a range of consumer, community and civil rights groups recently objected to the leading bill in Congress set to deal with the issue of payday loans. Consumers Union, Americans for Fairness in Lending and six other groups say the Payday Loan Reform Act of 2009, would actually protect the “predatory payday loan business model and will stall or stop the significant progress that has been made at the state level to curb usurious lending.” In a letter to members of Congress, the groups state “Although this bill shares the same title as H.R. 2871 in the last Congress, it will have the exact opposite impact on consumers.” The Washington Independent alleges the new bill to be “loophole-ridden” and faults lobbyist influence.
The Center for Responsible Lending says interest rate caps are the only solution to a worsening predatory situation, and will cost taxpayers nothing. “Payday loans carry annual interest rates of around 400 percent. They trap people in debt to the extent that the average borrower has nine payday transactions a year,” the Center reported. “[While] Barack Obama has… proposed a combination of cutting taxes and encouraging spending to aid in economic recovery… predatory lenders are stripping cash from the earnings of working people who fall into this same demographic –at astounding rates.”
This may not bode well for an already struggling US economy.
Filed under: Interfaith, International, May Volume I - 2009, Politics, World | Tags: christian zionism, zionism
(IP) –The Independent’s reporter, Donald MacIntyre, states in his article, “Israeli’s Told to Fight ‘Holy War’ in Gaza,” “Many Israeli troops had the sense of fighting a “religious war” against Gentiles during the 22-day offensive in Gaza, according to an Israeli soldier. The soldier testified that the “clear” message of literature distributed to troops by the rabbinate was: “We are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle, God brought us back to this land and now we need to fight to expel the Gentiles who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land.” Reuters, the Jerusalem Post, the UK Times, Haaretz, and the BBC noted similar reports about the espousing of a holy war against the Muslim and Christian Arabs of Palestine.
Even with the new Benjamin Netanyahu administration, elected after the strikes against Gaza began, a historian of Israeli expansionism, Rev Dr Stephen R Sizer, wrote that Israel is being steered “very definitely to the Right and away from an integrated society and peace with the Palestinians.” He further noted, “Barack Obama is going to have his work cut out to keep the Two State solution alive.”
Far from moving towards a peaceful solution, Israeli authorities are planning to “evacuate and demolish 1,700 homes in East Jerusalem during the current year,” the head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah told Arab News. Arab News also reported the head of the Islamic Higher Committee in Jerusalem, Sheikh Ikremah Sabri’s, elaboration on the new demolition project: “More than 5,500 Israeli housing units were under construction in occupied Jerusalem and 73,000 in the West Bank in order to accommodate more than one million” settlers.
The debate on the legality of such projects spilled into the global arena after millions worldwide protested the bombing of Gaza earlier this year. Reporting on the suppression of the local media giving voice to such protests, Ma’an News stated that a woman and journalist were among those beaten by Israeli troops during a press conference held by the parents of critically wounded American peace activist Tristan Anderson. “Mr. Anderson had an Israeli tear-gas canister shot at his head in Ni’lin … his skull shattered and several surgeries have left him semi-conscious in a Tel Aviv hospital. His parents arrived shortly after Tristan was hospitalized,” wrote Ma’an News. The raid, allegedly ordered by Israeli Minister of Internal Security Avi Ditchter, came early in the media event and prevented Anderson’s parents from addressing the crowd. This is the second case of an American peace activist suffering at the hands of the colonists to have been widely publicized. The first was Rachel Corrie who was bulldozed in 2003 while using a bulwark in front of a Palestinian home in an attempt to stop its destruction.
In February, Israeli media shocked millions of Muslims and Christians by satirizing the miracles of Jesus (the Second to Last Messenger of Islam), the chastity of his Virgin mother Mary and also trying to belittle the Holy Last Messenger Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him). According to the BBC, a Vatican statement said “the show had ridiculed Mary and Jesus ‘with blasphemous words and images’ that amounted to a ‘vulgar and offensive act of intolerance.’” The comedy hour came “to teach a lesson” to a Christian religious figure who had made the mistake of denying the Holocaust. Jerusalem Christians were also prevented by Israeli authorities this year from commemorating their traditional Easter rites.
This begs the question whether there is room in a ‘holy war’ against Christians and Muslims for Christ? Christians who support Zionism say, ‘Yes.’ Christian Zionists adhere to the belief that Jesus (peace be upon him) will not return to the Earth until Armageddon takes place, which in turn occurs after the establishment of the Kingdom of Israel, which includes a new Temple in Jerusalem at the site of the Holy Sanctuary (Haram Sharif) right under the golden Dome of the Rock, which is one of the three most holy sites in Islam.
However, the establishment of the Kingdom of Israel has more to do with awaiting a Messiah foretold in the Torah. According to Christianity and Islam, that Messiah appeared in the form of Jesus Christ, who was widely rejected at that time and even now, which is why Christians who do not support Zionism adamantly say, ‘No,’ to a war between any of the major religions.
Rev Sizer writes in his book Zion’s Christian Soldiers: “The problem with all this speculation about a future Temple in Jerusalem is simply this – from a Christian perspective – it is heresy. There is absolutely nothing in the New Testament about the need for another Temple in Jerusalem – just the reverse…” Sizer concludes: “How tragic that, while the good news of Jesus is intended to bring peace and reconciliation with God and healing between nations, some Christians are fueling religious hatred, and are bent on inciting an apocalyptic war.”
Such a war would pit Christians and Muslims –who share their common values upon the doctrine of Jesus– against each other.
Sources: Stephen Sizer.org, Ma’an News, Arab News, BBC.
Filed under: Front Page News, Interfaith, May Volume I - 2009, National, Uncategorized
Last month, President Barack Obama announced additional members of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, including Dalia Mogahed, the executive director for the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies in Washington, DC. The President’s advisory council is composed of religious and secular leaders and scholars from different backgrounds.
While Mrs Moghahed is the first American Muslim appointed to the task, it is expected that others will follow. The advisory council currently has 17 members.
“This is wonderful. The Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships represent a great deal of compassion, understanding and tolerance for the American people,” says Muhammad Ahmad, a Latin American Muslim and Sufi. “Hopefully this will open the door to understand Islam more here.” While Islam is the fastest growing religion in the West, the majority of Muslims in America are converts (and their descendents) of indigenous roots – mixed Native American and African American ancestry. Whereas according to Arab American historian Nabeel Abraham, the majority of Arabs in the United States are Christian.
Sources: The Development of Arab-American Identity (Univ. Mich. Press 1994), WhiteHouse.gov