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Rohingya: On the Brink of Genocide – Combating Extremism

Photo Credit: Kevin Frayer | Getty Images

Dear Friends:

The photos are heart-wrenching. In one, a woman embraces the lifeless body of a toddler. In another, a teary-eyed young boy holds out his hand, desperate for food. These are the faces of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority community in Myanmar—now facing ethnic cleansing. Maybe you’ve seen their faces in the news:

Persecuted by Buddhist extremists for decades, the Rohingya are also part of one of the largest refugee communities in the United States.

That is why, for this month’s installment of Combating Extremism, we invite you to learn more about the Rohingya and to start a conversation in your community about extremism and this crisis:

The Rohingya Crisis is a stark reminder that extremism touches people from all religions. By combating extremism anywhere, we combat extremism everywhere.

In solidarity,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

P.S.: If you want to support the Rohingya, here is a list of organizations taking action.

P.P.S.: And if you want to support Tanenbaum’s work in bringing clarity to these complex issues, please donate here.

Tanenbaum Supports Religious Pluralism and Condemns the RAISE Act

Tanenbaum strongly condemns the proposed amendments to current U.S. immigration policy. As outlined in the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Economy Act (RAISE) and supported by the current Administration, the proposals are alarming. By seeking to cut legal immigration to the U.S. in half by 2027 and to cap the number of refugees at 50,000, the RAISE Act would actually institutionalize bias against people who practice one of the minority religions in the U.S. Tanenbaum therefore calls on Congress to reject the bill.

Tanenbaum’s CEO, Joyce Dubensky, notes, “The White House is telling us that this bill is not meant to target any particular group. But the truth is that this bill would thwart immigration, especially by people from minority religions in our country—like Muslims and Hindus, who have increasingly needed to come to this nation for safety, opportunity and better lives.” Dubensky believes this proposal should concern all of us.

“This is a critical moment in America’s history. Not only are we deeply polarized, but nationally, we are conflicted about whether to embrace our traditional values of welcoming the stranger. Many are more concerned with insulating themselves from current demographic shifts. Yet, these shifts are part of our global reality,” Dubensky said. “So the real question for all of us is, what does it mean to be an American? Do we welcome the stranger like our many religious and secular values urge? Or do we turn from the people who need us?”

Tanenbaum cautions our government’s leaders that passing the RAISE Act would backfire. Rather than protect our nation, it would amplify Islamophobia, legitimatize irrational fears of refugees and immigrants, and fuel hate crimes against people from religious minorities that are already reaching epidemic levels. We urge, instead, that our nation’s leaders prove that they value inclusivity by passing policies that honor and uphold religious freedom and diversity, which RAISE does not.

As Dubensky explains, “Simply stated, RAISE would raze our nation’s foundational values in the guise of sound immigration policy.”

Getting Holy Days & Rituals Right – Health Care Insights

Dear Friends,

This month, Tanenbaum’s Health Care Insights series features the intersection of holy day and ritual observances and patient care. One example involves Ramadan, which ended on the evening of Friday, June 24th. What do we mean? Read on.

The Scenario: A Muslim patient with diabetes is determined to fast for Ramadan.

Click here to learn what a health care provider needs to know to balance the patient’s health with his/her religious observance, and to review more examples of religious observance showing up in health and hospital care.

Explore the many ways religion and health care intersect! For additional case studies from our medical school curriculum, click here. To learn more about the relationship between religion and health care, purchase Tanenbaum’s full Medical Manual here.

In friendship,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

P.S. (Contact us for discounted bulk and institutional purchase rates for the eBook version.)

Against the Ban? 5 Things You Can Do Now

Dear Friends,

For 25 years, Tanenbaum has worked for a world where differences are respected. And that means we ask the hard questions…

  • Is your America the country that turns away human beings—fleeing a death sentence in their home countries?
  • Is your America the country that says only persecuted Christians deserve protection?
  • Is your America the country that says every person who follows Islam is a suspected terrorist?
  • Is your America the country that protects freedom of religion—but only for some people?

If you answered no… here are 5 actions you can take…

1. INSIST ON THE FACTS

2. HELP TEACHERS TEACH THE FACTS

3. SHARE AND LISTEN WITH THOSE WHO DIFFER

  • Identify your own biases. What prevents you from hearing your neighbor who differs from you?
  • Respectfully share an article that moves you with someone who disagrees with you. Let them know you wanted to share it— because it was important to you. And openly listen when they respond.

4. BE AN ALLY FOR JUSTICE AND INCLUSION

  • Stand up for Persecuted Christians – and also for Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Druse, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, Yazidis, Bahai’i and people of all religions.
  • Say out loud that good people can have different views.
  • Call or email politicians who oppose the ban to thank them.
  • Use Social Media and be a voice for justice and inclusion (share good ideas—including this email!)

5. BE HEARD—ADD YOUR VOICE

  • Oppose the “Executive Order Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Entry into the United States by Foreign Nationals” – and urge President Trump to rescind it!

From my vantage point, these five actions help to combat extremism—because extremism is not only random, unexpected acts of violence. It’s also the hatred, exclusion and venom that breeds violence.

Stand with us for the country we love and our right to be different, respected and safe. We can do that…if each of us works together.

Yours,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

Call for Justice in Queens Killing

Dear Friends,

Religious leader Imam Maulama Akonjee and his associate, Thara Uddin, prayed together at the Al-Furqan Jame Mosque in Queens before walking outside into the sunlight. Minutes later, they were executed, leaving a community, and a nation, in fear, anger and mourning.

We can’t begin to imagine how a person becomes a cold-blooded killer, possessed by such hatred that they are brazen enough to execute people on a summer afternoon. We may never understand the real motive, but we know the heart-wrenching impact that the deaths of these two men is having on our community.

Not only were they abruptly taken from their families, neighbors and the Al-Furqan Jame Mosque, but the horrific crime is fueling anxiety in Queens and across the nation. Everywhere you look, people are on edge because of rhetoric in the media, hate crimes and acts of terrorism (perpetrated by individuals of varied religions and beliefs). The result is mistrust and division.

This is where we all need to step in, to stand together and not allow fear to break our neighborhoods apart. As a unified group of individuals from different religious and belief traditions, cultures and ethnicities, our call for justice is louder than the fear. It’s time to stand tall and be loud!

In solidarity,

Joyce S. Dubensky               Mark E. Fowler
CEO, Tanenbaum                  Deputy CEO, Tanenbaum

Extreme Prejudice: Live Webinar on Tuesday, April 19, 2016

april_webinar-ExtremePrejudice

Extreme Prejudice
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
04:30 PM Central Daylight Time
Duration: 1 Hour

Click here to Register to watch the recording!

Why teach about extremism? Not teaching about it can put students in danger. Lack of education about religious diversity has left students—particularly Muslim and Sikh students—vulnerable to bias and bullying by classmates and teachers who don’t understand the full context of religious extremism. This hostility can make it difficult for students to learn and even puts their physical safety in jeopardy. Expanding your students’ knowledge of world religions—and the diversity that exists within them—is critical to combating these dangerous stereotypes and fostering empathy in the school community.

Join us and our friends from the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding for this one-hour webinar, and learn try-tomorrow strategies that can help you teach about extremism accurately and safely, such as discussing extremism across multiple religions, examining the economic and political contexts in which extremism arises, highlighting religious peacemakers and empowering your students to make their school more inclusive.

You’ll receive a certificate of completion once you finish this webinar!

Maysoon Zayid & The First Ever Muslim Stand-Up Comedy Festival

Maysoon Zayid

Pictured: Maysoon Zayid; Photo Credit: Earl Wilson/The New York Times

Too often, when people hear the word “Muslim” they have one-dimensional images pop into their mind. Women wearing all black and covered, so only their faces – or just their eyes – can be seen. Bearded men carrying weapons. Terrorism.

Such associations stereotype 1.6 billion people. And fabulous comedians will make that point. Take a look and even go and laugh with them at America’s first ever Muslim stand-up comedy festival, The Muslim Funny Fest. From July 21 to July 23 in New York, the not-for-profit festival features top Muslim American comedians from the United States, Canada and Dubai.

Co-organizers of the festival, Dean Obeidallahand and Maysoon Zayid, are mainstays in the comedy circuit. “We’re not censoring any of the comics,” Ms. Zayid said to The New York Times. “They can talk about whatever they want. We’re not telling anyone, ‘Oh, this is a Muslim comedy festival, so you can’t talk about the fact that you love bacon sandwiches.’ ”  Zayid can also boast having the most viewed TED Talks session of last year, in which she found humor in growing up in New Jersey as a Palestinian American with cerebral palsy.

In addition to stand-up, Zayid tries to battle discrimination with humor via Twitter. In one tweet she jokes, “A lot folks don’t realize you can be Muslim and American. They’re all, “Go back to your own country!” and I’m like, “You mean NJ?”

But there is a serious issue that underlies the festival. “We didn’t start doing the ethnic comedy and Muslim comedy until we felt our community was under siege and that we could no longer just step onstage and be treated as an equal,” Ms. Zayid said in a phone interview with the New York Times.

Whether Muslim or not, we all love to laugh. Humor is a universal joy that binds us all and one we all can support

For details about the festival visit http://muslimfunnyfest.com

What the spring equinox means to Rufai Sufis

For people all over the world, the spring equinox is symbolic of renewal, rejuvenation and revitalization. For a group of Sufis in Kosovo, it is the mark of something much more. It is at this time that members of the Rufai branch of Sufism – Islamic mysticism – hold an annual ritual ceremony wherein they celebrate the birth of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the first cousin of the Prophet Muhammad and a revered figure in Islam. The ceremony also commemorates the celebration of the Persian New Year, Nowruz. The uniqueness of this ceremony is exemplified by music, chanting and dancing, fused with the clashing of cymbals and incantations of prayers in the languages of Arabic, Turkish and Albanian.

Photo Credit: Faisal Anwar

Photo Credit: Faisal Anwar

As men chant and sway in conjunction with one another, Sheikh Adrihusein Shehu, who presides over the practice today in Kosovo, removes an iron needle known as a zarf from the mihrab – the enclosed prayer space – behind him, blesses it with his lips, and inserts it slowly into the cheek of those taking partaking in the ritual.

The practice is said to be painless. Shehu’s eldest son, Sejjid Xhemal, expresses that “it is a good feeling, I feel spiritually stronger.” He also emphasized that those partaking are neither intoxicated nor in a trance, but that they are conscious of their practice.

During a tradition Nowruz ritual, a member of the Sufi sect pierces himself with a zarf - an iron skewer. [Credit: Ferdi Limani/Al Jazeera]

During a tradition Nowruz ritual, a member of the Sufi sect pierces himself with a zarf – an iron skewer. [Credit: Ferdi Limani/Al Jazeera]

The practice is rooted in an ancient tradition founded by a spiritual leader Pir Sejjid Amhed Er Rufai, whose practice is upheld until this day. “Our founder Pir Sejjid Ahmed Er Rufai made a miracle in his time to show others that God exists, and now we do this for tradition,” Xhemal said in an interview with Al Jazeera.

Friar Ivo, a celebrated Tanenbaum Peacemaker in Action and Catholic Franciscan interfaith worker in Bosnia, praised Sufism by stating that Sufi spirituality and practice is “very dedicated to peace and cooperation,” and that practitioners “are open to other religious experiences.” Friar Ivo expressed that despite Sufism having different branches, as a whole it should be should be celebrated.

In Kosovo, a relatively young country still recovering from political turmoil, Sheikh Shehu preaches a profound message of peace, tolerance and understanding, calling on his followers to look past incidental differences and to look towards transcendental commonalities.

“We all have faith, but in form we are different … one goes to church, one to synagogue, one to the mosque. But we are all going because of belief in God. We must turn toward love, who gives you the right to hate?” said Shehu in the interview with Al Jazeera.

Prior to the start of the Nowruz ritual. [Credit: Ferdi Limani/Al Jazeera]

Prior to the start of the Nowruz ritual. [Credit: Ferdi Limani/Al Jazeera]

In a world where we too often find the prevalence of darkness and hate, Shehu and his followers offer a radical and compelling message:
One of illumination and love.

Pay Up or Die: Christians in Iraq Update

This man fled from Mosul by car. He checks on his belongings before walking to the Khazair checkpoint. He hopes to travel to Erbil. Many others arrive without any belongings. UNHCR / R. Nuri

Iraqis flee from Mosul. UNHCR / R. Nuri

Have you been following the news about Iraq, ISIS (now IS) and what’s happening to Christians in areas IS controls? Take a quick look with us.

This past Saturday, as reported in Breaking Israel News and other media outlets, the Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) “issued a deadline for Christian residents of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, to leave, pay, convert or die.

The Islamic State is requiring residents of Mosul to pay the jizyah:

Jizya (sometimes written as jizyah and pronounced “jiz-yuh”), as explained by Forbes, “is the term for a tax paid by non-Muslims. The tax is the result of a centuries old contract called a dhimma. Under a dhimma, non-Muslims who lived in a Muslim state were protected under the law so long as they paid the tax: they were referred to as ahlu dh-dhimmati (people of protection) or simply al-dhimma or dhimmis. The arrangement is sometimes referred to as a ‘residence in return for taxes.’”

The Guardian noted Christians and Muslims lived together in peace in the city of Mosul. An estimated 100,000 Christians lived in Mosul before the U.S. invaded Iraq prior to 2003. The estimated population before last month’s takeover was 5,000. Now Christians are fleeing and The Guardian reported that there are as little as 200 Christians left in the city.

More than a month ago, the Anglican Communion News Service described the growing crisis: “An estimated half a million people, including hundreds of Christian families, are fleeing the area with many attempting to find refuge in the nearby Kurdish provinces of Northern Iraq. At least one Assyrian church in Mosul has been burned down in the recent violence.”

Also in June, Tanenbaum Peacemaker Rev. Canon Andrew White described the growing violence in Iraq:

“Iraq is now in its worst crisis since the 2003 war. ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Group), a group that does not even see Al Qaida as extreme enough, has moved into Mosul, which is Nineveh. It has totally taken control, destroyed all government departments. Allowed all prisoners out of the prisons. Killed countless numbers of people. There are bodies over the streets. The army and police have fled, so many of the military resources have been captured. Tankers, armed vehicles and even helicopters are now in the hands of ISIS.”

For the moment, we are grateful that Andrew is safe. He returned to England on July 15 and, on July 19, sent out a request for prayers on his Facebook page:

“We seriously need your prayers. ISIS have stated they will start killing all the Christians in Mosul from mid-day Saturday unless they convert or pay jazeera tax, this is really serious we need your prayers.”

Meanwhile, Christians who have chosen to stay in Mosul are afraid. But, at the same time, they have found support from their Muslim friends as reported in The New York Times

“A Muslim woman sitting next to her in the pew reached out and whispered, ‘You are the true original people here, and we are sorry for what has been done to you in the name of Islam.’”

At Tanenbaum, we call on all of us to acknowledge what is happening to the Christians in Mosul and to the entire society of which they were such an integral part. We thank our Peacemaker in Action, Andrew White, for what he has done to support the Christian community in Iraq and to overcome the conflicts. We are committed to working with him and our Peacemakers – and to keep pursing a time when we will have a more peaceful world that truly accepts difference.

Top news stories you need to know

A collection of top news stories from July 4 – July11, 2014:

ISIS destroys shrines, Shiite mosques in Iraq •  Netanyahu calls father of slain Palestinian teen • 63 women and girls escape Boko Haram after clashes With Nigerian Military • ISIS shows off child recruits • Obama’s faith-based advisers divided over religious exemption for anti-gay discrimination • Learning More About The Hindu Religion

"Pictures posted on the Internet by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) showed Sufi shrines were demolished by bulldozers. (Photo: Twitter)" - Al Arabiya NEWS

“Pictures posted on the Internet by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) showed Sufi shrines were demolished by bulldozers. (Photo: Twitter)” – Al Arabiya NEWS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ISIS destroys shrines, Shiite mosques in Iraq
Jihadists have destroyed at least six Shiite mosques and four shrines devoted to Sufi and Sunni Arab figures in Iraq’s Nineveh province. Images of the destruction using explosives and bulldozers were posted by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/IS).

Netanyahu calls father of slain Palestinian teen
After a suspected revenge attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the father of Mohammed Abu Khdair, whose son was kidnapped and burned alive by suspected Israeli right-wing extremists.

“I would like to express my outrage and that of the citizens of Israel over the reprehensible murder of your son,” Netanyahu said. “We acted immediately to apprehend the murderers. We will bring them to trial and they will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law,” he continued.

“We denounce all brutal behavior. The murder of your son is abhorrent and cannot be countenanced by any human being,” Netanyahu expressed.

63 women and girls escape Boko Haram after clashes With Nigerian Military
Nigerian security sources have reported that 63 girls and women have escaped from Boko Haram, the group that is trying to create an Islamic state located in northern Nigeria. The hostages were captured as a group of 68 girls and women during a siege that left their village of  Kummabza burned to the ground.

The Nigerian women and girls found the opportunity to escape during fighting between the Nigerian military and Boko Haram.

Over 200 schoolgirls abducted in April from Chibok remain held captive by Boko Haram in Nigeria.

 

ISIS Shows Off Child Recruits in Front of their "Registration Office" -SYRIA: direct

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ISIS shows off child recruits
Using Twitter, a pro-ISIS combatant named al-Simsim published a picture of young children recently recruited by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. “May God give them strength,” was al-Simsim’s message in addition to a comments that children are “racing to join the ranks” of ISIS.

The children were photographed in ragged clothing in front of an ISIS “registration office” in al-Bab, a town in the Aleppo province of Syria.

Obama’s faith-based advisers divided over religious exemption for anti-gay discrimination
Faith-based advisers for President Obama are divided over an upcoming executive order that would legally prohibit discrimination against sexual orientation among federal contractors. The key issue is if this directive should allow a religious exemption. A letter to the president this Tuesday, July 8 stated:

“An exception would set a terrible precedent by denying true equality for LGBT people, while simultaneously opening a Pandora’s Box inviting other forms of discrimination.” The letter was signed by over 100 signatories.

Last week, a letter requesting an exemption had been signed by former advisory council members along with Obama’s former chief liaison to evangelicals. Their request stated, ““A religious exemption would simply maintain that religious organizations will not be automatically disqualified or disadvantaged in obtaining contracts because of their religious beliefs.”

Learning More About The Hindu Religion
After reviewing a map developed by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, Arizona authors learned that Hinduism has the second largest number of members in their state. On a visit to the Ekta Mandir temple in Phoenix, Sarah Ventre narrates her compelling experience.