Muslims


Celebrating Eid Around September 11th

This year, Ramadan started on August 11th 2010, and is expected to end either on September 9th or September 10th (29 or 30 days from the day it started depending on the sighting of the moon via several methods) and there are mounting fears that Muslims all around America may suffer a backlash on Eid al-Fitr. It just so happens that this joyous Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan coincides with the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001.

For those who may not know, the Islamic calendar uses the lunar system and that is why it rolls back 11 days each Gregorian year. The average length of a 12-month lunar year is 354.37 days, which is 10.8751 days short of the average length of the solar year (365.2422 days). Most lunar calendars (ie. Hebrew, Chinese, etc.) add a 13th “leap” month every 24 to 36 months. They do so to maintain the synchronization between lunar years and the four seasons. This is not the case with the Islamic Hijri calendar.

Eid al-Fitr, expected to be on either Sept. 9th or 10th 2010, celebrates the completion of the month of Ramadan, in which Muslims fast and increase their spiritual devotions. On this day, Muslims all over the world thank Allah for his blessings upon them and for the gift of fasting.

Although, there is the sense of excitement between Muslims in America about this Eid, there is also a great sense of fear. These fears do not seem unreasonable in the current climate of heightened attention and sensitivity with the media fiasco surrounding Muslims, the “ground zero mosque” and the “National Burn the Quran Day” sponsored by the “Dove World Outreach Center.”

These recent events and the adverse media coverage have left some second generation Muslim Americans feeling like pariahs in their only land. Some of us have come to realize with certainty that there are Americans who are publicly and subliminally promoting the idea that Muslims are outsiders in our own lands and are unwelcome to stay here.

In light of these current events, some leaders of Islamic centers around the nation are worried and many ordinary Muslims fear celebrating our post-Ramadan festival as normal as in every other year. Some have even gone as far as to cancel their annual carnival held the Saturday after Ramadan because it falls on September 11 and they do not want to be seen celebrating on that day. There is a difference between canceling their carnival due to the sensitivity of this event versus canceling it due to fears of violence. One is being considerate of the situation while the other is being terrorized and scared!

Fears of aggressive violence and retaliation against centers and places of worship are rising to new levels given some of the aggressive protests and vandalism that has taken place at various mosques around the country in the past few weeks.

In the face of such terrorizing events, we the Muslims are left with one of two solutions, a) just don’t show up to the Eid prayer and stay home in fear of any aggressive confrontation, or b) disregard those threats and show up and celebrate our Eid as we normally do. It is my opinion that if we don’t show up, we will be declaring our defeat to bigotry and xenophobia. That is why I highly recommend that everyone show up and encourage other Muslims around him/her to make an extra effort to show up this year. As a matter of fact, please invite one or two of your non-Muslim friends or coworkers. Also make sure you bring your camcorder or have the video recording option on your cell phone ready, in case any bigoted event takes place.

Either way, whether peaceful Eid celebrations go on as planned or are interrupted by protesters, please go to the Eid prayer, dress nicely, exchange gifts and take this as an opportunity to educate the majority of our American neighbors that are misinformed about our religion and celebrations.

An excellent post from MuslimMatters.org.


How To Combine Religion And Science

Once again it is that time of the year again where Muslims all over the world begin fasting during the blessed month of Ramadan. As exciting of a period it is for Muslims, it seems that every year there seem to be some controversy as to when the new month should begin. Even though the past few years had gone well, it is back to business as usual this year with not only Canada and the United States differing on opinion but various states with the US observing it on two different days as well.

Islamic months follow the moon to determine when the new month will begin but it should not be confused or mislabeled as a lunar calendar. The Islamic calendar has months which either have 29 or 30 days and the length of each month vary from year to year. Traditionally, the first day of each month is the day (beginning at sunset) of the first sighting of the new crescent moon (or hilal as it is called) shortly after sunset.

If the hilal is not immediately visible after the 29th day of a month which could be because either the sky was too bright or the night was far too cloudy when the moon sets, then the following day is the 30th month. Whenever such a sighting is claimed, it is usually verified by a couple of reliable eyewitnesses before being generally accepted by the entire community. Determining the most likely day that the hilal could be observed was a motivation for Muslim interest in astronomy, which put Islam in the forefront of that science for many centuries.

There are a few problems that arise with the paragraph above. Since there were no modern technology at the time lunar observation first started in Islamic history, there are some schools of thought that claim that only when the moon is visible by the naked-eye should it be claimed that is a new moon while others on the other hand state that with the development of such technologies, the Muslim community should be able to easily come together and adapt scientific advancements with religious traditions in order to simplify the matter. The problems don’t end there as mass communication was slow during the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that local communities only observed the new month once the moon was visible in their locale. However now with instant communication worldwide, there are some who say that since there is only one moon that if it is verified that a moon was visible in South America or Asia, that it should be good enough for all Muslims worldwide to accept it.

Due to modern advancements in science it is very easy to say that Muslims should just begin using lunar calculations in determining the new date of the month but you would be hard pressed to find a unanimous consensus amongst 1.2 billion people around the world. There however should be some sort of compromise available allows all the people of this faith to observe Ramadan or any other start of the month in complete unity in order to better present it to the rest of the world.

Some on the more conspiratorial side claim that it is the local Muslim leaders who refuse to come together and develop a method that could be observed by all in unison. They say it is because they refuse to give up their stake of power in the current setting and by compromising on a method that would make it simple but would require them to give up their decision making powers since almost everything would be determined scientifically.

Hopefully there will be a time soon enough with maybe the upcoming generation where there will be development in terms of having less and less occasions with Muslims observing Ramadan and celebrating Eid on different days but that day can’t come soon enough.


Poll Finds U.S. Muslims Thriving, but Not Content

 

An excellent find by Chill yo Islam Yo from the New York Times on the state of contentment of American-Muslims as opposed to Muslims all around the world. THe general consensus seems to be that they doing pretty well but they are not very content. 

 

A Gallup poll of Muslims in the United States has found that they are far more likely than people in Muslim countries to see themselves as thriving.

In fact, the only countries where Muslims are more likely to see themselves as thriving are Saudi Arabia and Germany, according to the poll.

And yet, within the United States, Muslims are the least content religious group, when compared with Jews, Mormons, Protestants and Roman Catholics.

Gallup researchers say that is because the largest segment of American Muslims are African-Americans (35 percent, including first-generation immigrants), and they generally report lower levels of income, education, employment and well-being than other Americans.

But American Muslims are not one homogeneous group, the study makes clear. Asian-American Muslims (from countries like India and Pakistan) have more income and education and are more likely to be thriving than other American Muslims. In fact, their quality of life indicators are higher than for most other Americans, except for American Jews.

“We discovered how diverse Muslim Americans are,” said Dalia Mogahed, executive director and senior analyst of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, which financed the poll. “Ethnically, politically and economically, they are in every way a cross-section of the nation. They are the only religious community without a majority race.”

The Gallup study is significant because it is the first to examine a randomly selected sample of American Muslims. Gallup interviewed more than 300,000 people by telephone in 2008 while conducting broader polls, and focused on 946 who identified themselves as Muslims. (The margin of sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points.)

Previous studies of American Muslims located respondents based on surnames, mosque attendance or geographic clusters, which polling experts say can skew the results.

Gallup asked an extensive battery of questions, producing a picture of American Muslims through the prisms of race, gender, class, age and education. The international comparisons were possible because of earlier Gallup studies of Muslims overseas.

American Muslim women, contrary to stereotype, are more likely than American Muslim men to have college and post-graduate degrees. They are more highly educated than women in every other religious group except Jews. American Muslim women also report incomes more nearly equal to men, compared with women and men of other faiths.

Muslim women in the United States attend mosque as frequently as Muslim men — a contrast with many Muslim countries where the mosques are primarily for men. American Muslims are generally very religious, saying that religion is an important part of their daily lives (80 percent), more than any other group except Mormons (85 percent). The figure for Americans in general is 65 percent.

By political ideology, Muslims were spread across the spectrum from liberal to conservative, with about 4 in 10 saying they were moderates. By party identification, Muslims resembled Jews more than any other religious group, with small minorities registered as Republicans, roughly half Democrats and about a third independents.

There are clear signs of social alienation, however. Lower percentages of Muslims register to vote or volunteer their time than adherents of other faiths. They are less likely to be satisfied with the area where they live. These indicators are “worrying,” said Ahmed Younis, a senior analyst at the Muslim studies center.

“There is still a sense among American Muslims of being excluded from the mainstream,” Mr. Younis said, “and among young people that’s more acute.”

But the perception is far worse among Muslims in England and France, the study found.

Mr. Younis said the finding “reinforces the proposition that the integration process for American Muslims is, on the whole, a much more successful endeavor than it is for European Muslims.”

Chill Yo Islam Yo, May 2009

 

You should read the whole article.


In Obama, Muslims Trust?

(A condensed version of this article should appear in the upcoming print of The Muslim Perspective newsletter.)

Long before the ballots for the 2008 elections were cast, there was an unusual amount of optimism regarding a skinny guy with a funny name from Hawaii and what he could accomplish not only for those here in America but what he deliver for those around the globe. A large community that is going to be impacted is the Muslims not only here but around the world.

The simple rationale for the new hope behind Barack Obama could be found in his political approach to nearly every critical issue facing us today. He has been brutally honest in his assessments regarding the economic turmoil, his willingness to be patient to rally for multi-national support in determining foreign policies, bringing immediate change from the previous administration by admitting early on in the race for Presidency that he was willing to put all options back on the table when dealing with Iran.

President Barack Obama in his inauguration speech spoke to the Muslim world leaving very little to imagination. “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect,” he stated in his address and sought to renew a relationship built upon trust and not based on power or dissent. It has probably been a long time coming but the time is here for the Muslim world to be thrust upon the center state in a positive light by an American President.

“In Islam, there is a hadith that reads ‘None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself,” he said at a prayer service just two weeks after his inaugural address, once again showing his willingness to put asides the philosophical and ideological differences of the past administration in hope for a new beginning.

By no means has this been a smooth campaign to win over the Muslims after a tumultuous past eight years. He drew some heavy criticisms from within his own political party when in an apparent attempt to appear slightly hawkish and readiness to be commander-in-chief, he stated that he was willing to strike within Pakistan, if the Pakistani government would not align militaristic policies with him. He was quoted in saying “if we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will,” Obama said.

Plenty within the Muslim community were also troubled with the fact that throughout the campaign and through the constant baseless attacks on his religious affiliation, he rarely spoke out in favor of Islam. There were consistent photo opportunities released by his staffers and close advisers meeting with Christian and Jewish leaders but very little was done to reach out or extend an olive branch – they seemed to be in repetitive damage control mode to dispel any Obama-Muslim rumors.

There is an unrealistically high amount of expectation for President Obama to provide solutions for not only a failing economy and housing crisis here at home but also a large amount of anticipation has been built up for how he plans to handle the Middle East situation. He has become a superhero of sorts with his intention of taking charge of critical issues and attempting to solve them in these difficult times should lead us to what great uncle Ben once stated to a young Spiderman: With great power, comes great responsibility.

He has a great amount of political capital to work with in his first hundred days in office and it will certainly go a long way to defining the rest of his presidency. His initial plans on whether to be complacent with Iran or aggressive in removing the troops from the occupied areas in Afghanistan and Iraq can be a stepping stone towards proving that he has the right intentions at heart and in mind when dealing with Muslims worldwide towards achieving a better tomorrow.