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June 2015 eGazette – Islam and Americas

– 5 Facts About Thomas Jefferson’s Faith – Was President Thomas Jefferson a Muslim? – America is Getting Less Christian and Less Religious, Study Shows – The Price I Pay For Respecting Islam – How the “Ban” on Images of Muhammad Came to Be – The Holy Quran Applauded as a Landmark Contribution to ‘Words of Justice’ by the Harvard University – The Founding Fathers of USA and Islam

Al Islam eGazette

5 Facts About Thomas Jefferson’s Faith


Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC. He was the first US President accused of being a Muslim

Thomas Jefferson was a staunch supporter of religious liberty, but his quest to make sure church and state stayed separate in American politics earned him plenty of enemies.

The mudslinging came to a head during the bitter presidential campaign of 1800. Jefferson’s Federalist opponents accused him of being an atheist and a libertine — a philanderer without morals or sense of responsibility. Jefferson won the election.

Although Jefferson was reluctant to talk about his personal beliefs in public, his private letters reveal that he was a deeply spiritual man who spent a considerable amount of time thinking about God.

In honor of Jefferson’s 272nd birthday, here are five facts about this Founding Father’s faith.

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Was President Thomas Jefferson a Muslim?

It is a book review of Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders by Denise A. Spellberg (Knopf)

Reviewed by Abbas Milani, who is s the director of Iranian Studies at Stanford University and the author, most recently, of The Shah (Palgrave Macmillan). He is a contributing editor at The New Republic.


Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC

In the smear campaign before the election for the presidency of the United States, one candidate was accused by his opponents of being a closet Muslim. Some Christians “viewed all Muslims as agents of religious error and a foreign threat.” The United States faced a hostage crisis, as many Americans were taken hostage by Muslim powers and freed only after a ransom was paid. In one country alone, “more than one hundred Americans had been captured and imprisoned.” Accounts of these captivities, even forced conversions, were often bestselling books. Piracy off the coasts of North Africa was a major problem for American cargo ships. A “social Christian,” hoping to preserve “a purely Protestant Christian America,” was worried that aliens might take over the reins of power in the country and opined that “the few … Jews, Mahomedans, Atheists or Deists among us” must, in the name of prudence and justice, be excluded “fromour publick offices.”

The time was not the 2000s but the 1790s, and the presidential candidate was Thomas Jefferson, who was, in Denise Spellberg’s words, “the first in the history of American politics to suffer the false charge of being a Muslim, an accusation considered the ultimate Protestant slur in the eighteenth century.” And it was not Captain Phillips who was taken hostage by Somali pirates. Much of Spellberg’s book is an account of those troubled times, and the remarkable efforts by a colorful cast of characters—many of the Founding Fathers, activists, clergymen, and politicians—to create a constitution that would, at least in theory, allow anyone who swore allegiance to it to become not just a citizen of the United States but even its president.

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America is Getting Less Christian and Less Religious, Study Shows

The Huffington Post | By Carol Kuruvilla

Even though some politicians claim America is a “Christian nation,” the share of the population that identifies as Christian has declined significantly in recent years.

New statistics from the Pew Research Center show that between 2007 and 2014, the number of Americans who identify as Christian dropped by nearly eight percentage points, from 78.4 percent to 70.6 percent.

At the same time, Pew’s 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study found that the number of people who are religiously unaffiliated — either atheist, agnostic or simply “nothing in particular” — has grown by more than six percentage points, from 16.1 percent in 2007 to 22.8 percent in 2014.

There are now approximately 56 million religiously unaffiliated adults living in America, according to the study, which is a follow-up to a similar study conducted in 2007. The “nones,” as they are known, are more numerous than either Catholics or mainline Protestants, and second only to evangelical Protestants.

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The Price I Pay For Respecting Islam

By Craig Considine: Sociologist, Speaker, Writer


 

Huff Post: Never in my wildest imagination did I ever think I would become a scholar focusing on Islam and Christian-Muslim relations. Growing up, my passion was playing basketball and following the Boston Celtics. I never had any Muslim friends. In fact, I did not even know a single follower of Islam until my college years. If you had asked me when I was 16 years old, “What is a Muslim?” I would not be able to answer you.

Everything changed when 9/11 happened. Muslims were seen as “terrorists” and Islam was an “evil” force that had to be crushed by “freedom loving people.” When it came time to choose an academic discipline in college, I chose “Islamic studies,” not because I wanted to learn about a great religion and world civilization, but rather to work for the CIA and become a spy to nab the “bad guys.”

One of the first classes that I enrolled in at American University was “The World of Islam.” I figured this was a way for me to learn about why an event like 9/11 happened. On the first day of class, I learned about basic Islamic principles like giving alms to charity and praying five times per day. I was told about a hadith, or saying of the Prophet Muhammad, which stated: “the ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.” I remember one of the Muslim students in the class standing up and reciting a Qur’anic verse, which read: “taking the life of an innocent person is like killing all of mankind.” What I learned on that first day of class was not reflective of what you hear daily in the media about Islam and Muslims.

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How the “Ban” on Images of Muhammad Came to Be

Source: Newsweek

By Christiane Gruber

Epigraph:

Have We not opened for thee (Muhammad) thy bosom, and removed from thee thy burden, Which had well nigh broken thy back, and We exalted thy name? (Al Quran 94:2-5)


A frieze, designed by Adolph Weinman, on the north wall of the US Supreme Court depicts great lawgivers of the Middle Ages. Holy Prophet Muhammad is shown holding a Quran and a sword (presumably for defensive war)

In the wake of the attack on Charlie Hebdo, a flurry of articles have explored whether images of the Prophet Muhammad are “banned” in Islam. While some Muslim voices are adamant that this is strictly the case in Islamic law, others (both Muslim and non-Muslim) have cautioned that it is not so.

Most public discussions of this so-called ban have explored verses in the Koran and Sayings by the Prophet, neither of which yield decisive results. What has been lost in the mix, however, is an exploration of the evidence found within Islamic law. Indeed, if one is to speak of a “ban,” then one must canvas a variety of Islamic jurisprudential sources in order to determine the legality or illegality of representing the Prophet in Islamic traditions. And if one carefully mines the sources, the results become much clearer — and much more nuanced and complex than one might anticipate.

There exist many handbooks of Islamic law that compile opinions on a number of matters. In regard to image making, the earliest and most synthetic source is the medieval law book of Ibn Qudama (died 1223), a towering Sunni theologian of the medieval period. In his handbook, Ibn Qudama discusses the various possible “abominations” that can occur at wedding ceremonies, including the playing of music and backgammon, the consumption of liquor, and the presence of images. As for the legality of images, he notes that the question is complicated because it depends on what the images depict and where they are situated. (See footnote 1.)

He thus concludes that images are not prohibited per se; rather, their legality depends on content and context.

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The Holy Quran Applauded as a Landmark Contribution to ‘Words of Justice’ by the Harvard University

Sources: Emirates 24/7Words of Justice by Harvard Law School Library

Epigraph:

“Blessed is He (Allah) Who has sent down the Discrimination (the Quran) to His servant (Muhammad), that he may be a Warner to all the worlds.” (Al Quran 25:2)

Faculty of law says the Quranic verse (4:136) is one of the greatest expressions for justice

The US Harvard University has posted a verse of the Holy Quran at the entrance of its faculty of law, describing the verse as one of the greatest expressions for justice in history.

Verse 136 of Sura Al Nisa (women chapter) has been posted at a wall facing the faculty’s main entrance, dedicated to the best phrases said about justice.

A Saudi student who studies at Harvard published a picture of the poster in his Twitter page, according to the Saudi Arabic language daily Ajel.

“I noticed that the verse was posted by the faculty of law, which described it as one of the greatest expressions for justice in history,” Abdullah Jumma said.

Harvard University was established in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1636 as the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States.

There are two dozen quotations on display, in the art installation, created by the Harvard University. The three, most prominently displayed, at the entrance of the art installation, are quotes from St. Augustine, the Holy Quran and Magna Carta.

To read more click here


 

June 2015


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The Founding Fathers of USA and Islam

Source: Library of Congress

By James Hutson: Chief of the Manuscript Division and the author of many books, including, most recently, “Religion and the Founding of the American Republic,” 1998.

With more than 55 million items, the Library’s Manuscript Division contains the papers of 23 presidents, from George Washington to Calvin Coolidge. In this article, Manuscript Division Chief James Hutson draws upon the papers of Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other primary documents to discuss the relationship of Islam to the new nation.

Many Muslims feel unwelcome in the United States in the aftermath of September 11, according to newspaper reports. Anecdotal evidence suggests that substantial numbers of Americans view their Muslim neighbors as an alien presence outside the limits of American life and history. While other minorities—African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans—were living within the boundaries of the present United States from the earliest days of the nation, Muslims are perceived to have had no part in the American experience.

Readers may be surprised to learn that there may have been hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Muslims in the United States in 1776—imported as slaves from areas of Africa where Islam flourished. Although there is no evidence that the Founders were aware of the religious convictions of their bondsmen, it is clear that the Founding Fathers thought about the relationship of Islam to the new nation and were prepared to make a place for it in the republic.

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