They are part of the national fabric that holds our country together. They contribute to America in many ways, and deserve the same respect as any of us. I pledge to spread this message, and affirm our country’s principles of liberty and justice for all.
Posted by mfa on Thursday, October 11th, 2012
We recently had the chance to sit down with Sojourners founder and CEO, Jim Wallis, and talk to him about the organization’s interfaith initiatives, and more specifically, their recent partnering with the Shoulder to Shoulder campaign. In the 2-minute video below, Wallis discusses the importance of defending everyone’s religious liberty and building relationship across faith traditions to overcome fundamentalism.
Sojourners is a national Christian organization committed to faith in action for social justice. We seek to inspire hope and build a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world. With a 40-year history, Sojourners is a nonpartisan leader that convenes, builds alliances among, and mobilizes people of faith, focusing on racial and social justice, life and peace, and environmental stewardship. Working through Sojourners magazine, Sojourners’ website sojo.net, public speaking events, media outreach, educational resources, books, advocacy, and trainings, Sojourners is an internationally influential voice at the intersection of faith, politics, and culture.
In addition to being the CEO of Sojourners, Wallis is a bestselling author, public theologian, speaker, and international commentator on ethics and public life. He recently served on the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and currently serves as the chair of the Global Agenda Council on Faith for the World Economic Forum.
A testament to Wallis’ commitment to standing with American Muslims is the advertisement campaign recently launched by Sejourners, which reads “Love Your Muslim Neighbors”, in response to the negative auti-Muslim subway ads.
Posted by mfa on Wednesday, April 11th, 2012
Our newest video, entitled “Muslim Man Feeds Homeless Through Christian Charity”, features Muslim Lakhani, a DC-based entrepreneur and philanthropist of Pakistani origin, and Major Stephen Morris, commander of the National Capital Area Division of The Salvation Army. Together, they tell the story of how Lakhani came to be a major supporter of the Salvation Army in DC and how their interfaith collaboration has birthed a true friendship.
Major Morris is a fourth generation Salvationist. Through the Salvation Army network, he received a call one day informing him of Muslim Lakhani’s interest in helping the organization’s local chapter. That same day, the two met at Lakhani’s home and before the day was over, Lakhani sealed his commitment to supporting the program that feeds the hungry in DC.
In the video, Lakhani explains that as a follower of Islam, sedekah is a pillar of his beliefs, just like Tzedakah in Judaism refers to charity. Similarly, Major Morris talks about how the Christian scriptures have taught him the importance of helping the hungry. Although they adhere to different religions, both Lakhani and Major Morris have found common ground by working from the shared values in their respective faiths to help those in need. More than that, Major Morris adds, the partnership between the two men has led them to connect “at a real heart level” and build a life-long friendship.
Posted by mfa on Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012
Last night I read the news announcing Saturday Night Live’s newest addition, comedian Kate McKinnon – the show’s first openly lesbian cast member. I felt really excited. I have been a fan of SNL ever since I arrived in the U.S. from Israel almost 8 years ago. SNL has been for me not only a source of entertainment, but also a place where I could learn about American pop culture and attitudes towards politics and current events. My favorite cast members from recent years have been the hilarious and multi-talented women performers – Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, and Kristen Wiig. While all of those funny ladies have left a big mark on the show and have extended their talents to writing, producing, and starring in their own projects, they are still a minority compared to the number of men playing lead roles in comedy films, TV programs, and skit shows. There always seems to not be enough women comedians in mainstream American television, including SNL, so whenever new female cast members are added to the show, I take notice. As an advocate for gay rights, the fact that the new woman cast member is a lesbian made an even more positive impression on me. American society may be more open to gay people being part of the mainstream than ever before, but recurring controversies, such as the One Million Moms campaign against Ellen Degeneres, remind us of the fact that there are still plenty of homophobes in the country, and that they are very vocal about their views.
This got me to thinking: if someone who’s as controversial as an openly lesbian comedian could land a spot on a mainstream program like Saturday Night Live, when will the time come for the first Muslim to be cast on SNL? The only performer who comes close to that at this time is Nasim Pedrad, who is Iranian-American. While she seems to have embraced her background and even drawn from it for her characters (prior to SNL Pedrad had a one-woman show called “Me, Myself and Iran” and on SNL she has played Christiane Amanpour and Azam Farahi), it is very difficult to find the answer to whether she is Muslim or not. Would it hurt her popularity if she was Muslim and open about it? Possibly. But that seems very unfair when you consider how open Jewish cast members such as Seth Meyers and Andy Samberg are about their religious and cultural background. I won’t complain about it being okay to be both openly Jewish and popular; after all, I’m Jewish myself, but the double standard does bother me. I firmly believe that everyone, regardless of their profession or role in society, should be able to feel proud about where they come from and what they believe in.
Speaking of popular Jewish comedians, Jon Stewart is coincidentally one of the only big names in the industry writing for an openly Muslim comedian, Aasif Mandvi. My favorite thing about the pairing is that just as Stewart doesn’t hide the ways in which his upbringing has shaped his worldview (we all know he grew up in a progressive, New York Jewish household), neither does Mandvi. Of course, in Mandvi’s case, the fact that he’s Indian and not Middle Eastern (as most would think), is not usually brought up, but his religious background often gets highlighted, so much so that Stewart usually refers to him as the Daily Show’s “Senior Muslim Correspondent”. Obviously the title is more for a comic effect than actually attributing any real expertise to Mandvi on everything Islam-related, but the mere vocal acknowledgment that Mandvi is in fact a Muslim, is in my opinion quite unprecedented and as such, definitely a step in the right direction.
That said, it’s important to remember that while The Daily Show has made room for a Muslim comedian without making him hide his religious beliefs, it is still a program that mostly attracts the left wing leaning American public. Aasif Mandvi’s religious identity has not been very controversial because the people who watch the show tend to be progressive liberals. That is why I think that if Saturday Night Live, a program with a rich history and a huge following that cuts through most demographics, added to its cast an openly Muslim comedian, that would make a really significant impact. If they didn’t care about possible backlash when hiring Kate McKinnon from homophobic viewers, they should also not pay attention to Islamophobic audiences and worry about how they may respond to a Muslim performer. Take your pick, SNL, there are many talented Muslim-American comedians out there (refer to our previous posts) . You just need to make the move.
Posted by Anni on Tuesday, March 27th, 2012
After yesterday’s post about the infuriating behavior of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools—they refused membership to Iman Academy, a Muslim school in the state, and made headlines by refusing to reschedule a game with a Jewish Orthodox school (the game fell on the Sabbath)—I’ve been thinking a lot about religious holy days and public education. Christmas has always been a school holiday, while other non-Christian holidays like Hanukkah or the two Muslim holidays of Eid, have not. I think this is an important issue to discuss. If we are giving kids days off for Christmas, don’t we have an obligation to respect all other religious days? If we don’t respect other religious days, should we start having school on Christmas?
Posted by Anni on Monday, March 26th, 2012
I was an athlete all through school. I played soccer and basketball for all four years of high school and all four years of college. We played a lot of parochial schools in our league. They would pray before games and again afterwards. We also played Orthodox Jewish schools and had to plan our games around Jewish holidays. I don’t ever remember there being any conflict about the fact that we were playing religiously oriented teams so I was rather surprised to read about the recent controversy in Texas.
Posted by Anni on Friday, March 23rd, 2012
If I were asked to identify one entity that I felt, if changed, would dramatically improve the image and lives of Muslims in America, it would be Fox News. This is thoroughly unsurprising. Fox has a longstanding reputation for vitriol. Even Fox’s fans recognize the polarization—for Fox vs. against—that splits our popular culture like a knife through butter. But they may not recognize the fabricated stories, the lack of fact checking, or the rampant opinion masquerading as real news. And can we really blame them? Every program on the network is designed to entertain, to shock, to terrorize, and to rally, and each of those things is compelling.
Posted by Anni on Thursday, March 22nd, 2012
Dean Obeidallah is a comedian with a mission. He wants to show Americans that Arabs can laugh. In an interview for CNN, he talks about the strangeness of the stoic Arab in popular culture—serious, dangerous, and up to no good—who laughs maniacally and only at misfortune. He wants to change that cultural meme by cracking everyone up. Obeidallah accomplishes this by doing what all comics do: making merciless fun of his own people.
Posted by Anni on Wednesday, March 21st, 2012
After the All American Muslim/Lowe’s fiasco I’m a little overwhelmed with television. I’ve read about a hundred blog posts about why reality television is the right forum for exploring islamophobia, and about a hundred posts about why it’s all wrong for the job. To summarize: reality television’s ubiquity makes it accessible, but it also cheapens human experience and sensationalizes real issues. Reality television isn’t real, it’s edited and produced. The image we see of a “normal” Muslim family is a product of our appetite for entertainment. This means, while it may do some good, it may also be exploitative and misleading.
Posted by Anni on Tuesday, March 20th, 2012
I am not a religious person. When I was a child, my parents encouraged me to attend religious events, to find my own way. I went to a Catholic church for a while, then to a synagogue, then to a mosque. I read the Bible, the Quran, the Popol Vuh, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Torah. In the end, I couldn’t decide which story made the most sense. Why should I believe in Jesus over Zeus? I realized that, for me, evidence-obsessed as I am, the thing that made the most sense was no story at all. Sometimes I wish I had a shared story with a group of people, so we could all feel connected. For me, the lure of religion (and please forgive me if this is sacrilegious) is more about people, friends and neighbors, than it is about God. Though I do feel connected to other non-religious people, it’s informal and we don’t have a place of worship.
Posted by Anni on Monday, March 19th, 2012
Before 9-11 the word Muslim meant Muhammed Ali, Kareem Abdul Jabbar or Malcolm X. To an American teenager, these associations were formative. Muslims were pop culture icons. They were idolized alongside the rest of our political figures, sports stars, and Hollywood actors. But then 9-11 happened and everything changed. I think this is a tragic but deeply interesting example of how our media, our politicians, and our prejudices can transform our cultural perceptions, shaping the prejudice of an entire generation.