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#MILFORD >> Working on the premise that knowledge is the best deterrent to prejudice and fear, Imam Sami Abdul Aziz told a large audience at Milford Library Thursday that it's important for people of other religions and #Muslims to understand one another.
Aziz, Wesleyan University's #Muslim chaplain and Imam, or leader, at Bloomfield Muslim Community Center, said it is important "especially in these times to clear up misconceptions."
Aziz and his wife, Vjosa Qerimi, were brought to Milford for a program co-sponsored by the library and advocacy group Milford Speaks Out, titled "Understanding #Islam." The couple runs the nonprofit Common Ground Institute, an Islamic consulting firm that holds sessions such as Thursday's to educate the public.
Aziz said he started the institute after receiving an email regarding a beheading in #Syria by ISIS, from a "#Christian elder" with whom he served on an interfaith council. He was shocked this man he served with would even make the association.
Aziz said he never wanted anything to do with thinking about ISIS - as it wasn't any Islam he knew - but the email made Aziz realize it was something people were thinking about. So to dispel that misconception of a violence factor in the religion, he decided to begin educating people.

In a presentation sprinkled with humor and the similarities between Christian and Muslim values and beliefs, he had the audience captivated.
He said people not only misperceive Islam, they also have a fear of the #Arabic language, noting the story of #Italian mathematician who was reported as suspicious at an airport because he looked Arabic and was working on math problems someone mistook for Arabic.
"This is not a way to determine if someone's evil," he said to the audience members, who asked many questions.
He said followers of Islam are diverse in race, nationality, ethnicity and language. He said there are 50 majority Muslim countries and they practice vastly differently. In #SaudiArabia, where Muslim women aren't allowed to drive, there have been Muslim female pilots who have landed planes there. He said there are eight Muslim countries that have had female presidents. CONTINUE READING 👇👇👇

We did a little jump for joy when we found out last year that a #hijabi #emoji would be added to keyboards … and now we can finally use it.

#Twitter has just added 69 brand-new emoji to its roster, an employee for the social media platform announced on Wednesday.

Among them is a woman in a #headscarf, a woman breastfeeding, a #pretzel and dinosaurs, designer Bryan Haggerty revealed.

The Emoji 5.0 lineup also includes a more diverse range of skin tones, #Emojipedia confirmed, adding that “in total there are 239 new emoji included in this release” (when you take updates and small changes into account). However there is one small set-back – for the time being, anyhow – with some of the icons not supported on iOS, macOS, Windows and Android devices just yet, as these apps use native emoji.

Some of the characters need Unicode 10.0 to work, which will be added to #Apple and #Android platforms in updates later this year, Wired reports.

However those using Twitter on desktop will be able to use and view all of the new icons. “Apple is expected to offer support for the new emoji in its upcoming iOS 11 software update, while those with access to the Android O developer preview should be able to see the emoji already,” the tech magazine said.

Why we’re getting the #hijab emoji (finally)

A campaign to introduce the icon found success last year, after the Unicode Consortium, the non-profit responsible for developing new emoji, approved the idea.

The idea was spearheaded by Rayouf Alhumedhi, a 15-year-old originally from #SaudiArabia who is currently living in #Berlin.

The teen was trying to find an image to represent herself in #WhatsApp one day when she realised there was something missing. There was no emoji for a hijab – even though the traditional covering is donned by 550 million #women around the world. “Women all across the globe choose to wear the headscarf because of its evident indication of their faith and identity. However, the hijab stretches much further than a piece of cloth on your head. It also influences the way you talk, the way you act and ultimately, your #lifestyle. To say it’s an integral aspect of women’s CONTINUE READING 👇👇👇

Authorities in northwestern #China’s #Xinjiang region are confiscating all #Qurans published more than five years ago due to “extremist content,” according to local officials, amid an ongoing campaign against “illegal” religious items owned by mostly #Muslim ethnic #Uyghur residents.

Village chiefs from #Barin township, in #Kashgar (in #Chinese, #Kashi) prefecture’s #Peyziwat (#Jiashi) county, recently told RFA’s Uyghur Service that hundreds of the #Islamic holy books printed before 2012 had been seized since authorities issued an order recalling them on Jan. 15.

The Qurans were appropriated as part of the “Three Illegals and One Item” campaign underway in Xinjiang that bans “illegal” publicity materials, religious activities, and religious teaching, as well as items deemed by authorities to be tools of terrorism—including knives, flammable objects, remote-controlled toys, and objects sporting symbols related to #Islam, they said.

Emet Imin, the party secretary of Barin’s No. 1 village, told RFA that authorities had confiscated 500 books in the recent campaign sweep of households beginning in January, “most of which were Qurans published before 2012.” “They can keep Qurans that were published after August 2012, according to an order from the top, but they are not allowed to keep any other versions,” Imin said. “Other versions should be recalled entirely, even if they were published by the government.” Imin said that according to the order he received from his superiors, there were “problems” in the earlier version of the #Quran related to “some signs of extremism.” “Therefore, we issued a notice on Jan. 15 urging residents to hand over older Qurans and warning them they would bear the consequences if banned versions were found in their homes,” he said. “As a result, most of them brought their Qurans to us. We gathered all [the books] at the village office and [earlier this month] we took them to the office of United Front Work Department,” he added, referring to a Communist Party agency responsible for handling relations with China’s non-party elite.

Only materials signed off on by official religious organizations endorsed CONTINUE READING 👇👇👇

SWIPE ⬅️ The First Lady and First Daughter have wore head coverings in the presence of #Catholics, but they did not in the presence of #Muslims.

Following the tradition of other diplomats, #MelaniaTrump decided to forgo a head covering when she visited the capital of #SaudiArabia - a #luxury yet to be extended to other foreign #women, or the #kingdom's female residents.

In 2013, #DonaldTrump criticised #MichelleObama for not wearing a head scarf in Saudi Arabia.

Diplomatic protocol dictates that as the spouse of a foreign leader, Melania was not expected by the #Saudis to wear the covering.

On Wednesday, moving onto to the third leg of Donald #Trump's world tour 2K17, the First Family visited #PopeFrancis, in #Vatican City.

Visitors to #VaticanCity are asked to keep their shoulders covered, and their skirts below the knee. Head coverings are not expected of visitors to the papal state.

Melania Trump and #IvankaTrump did however, wear head coverings.

Melania wore a #mantilla - a lace #headscarf in her audience with #Pope Francis.

During the presidential campaign of 2016, Pope Francis called the President's border wall policy 'not #Christian'. In the social and civil context as well, I appeal not to create walls but to build bridges, to not respond to evil with evil. To defeat evil with good, the offence with forgiveness. A Christian would never say 'you will pay for that.' Never.

At the time, Donald Trump responded by saying the Pope's questioning of his faith was 'disgraceful'. During a debate with his opponent #HillaryClinton, Trump criticised her for accepting donations to the Clinton Foundation from #Saudi Arabia.

His criticism cited the character of the #SaudiArabian regime:

These are people that push gays…off buildings. These are people that kill women and treat women horribly and yet you take their #money.

Mr Trump recently signed off on a $100 billion Saudi arms deal.

#Somalia is in crop-killing drought after years of poor rainfall. About half the country’s population needs help with basic #food and water. According to the #UnitedNations, one million children under the age of the five face acute malnourishment. “What’s happening in Somalia, #Sudan, and #Ethiopia is famine. And when I talk about famine, it’s on a Biblical scale,” says Mohamed Ahmed, the Minneapolis creator of 'Average Mohammed,' an anti-ISIS web series. “There’s no food, no water, no grass, no nothing. So people are basically deciding which kid should live and which kid should die.” Somalia last suffered a famine in 2011. It killed nearly 300,000 people – half of them young children. In an appeal for global aid two months ago, UN relief head Stephen O’Brien asked wealthy countries not to wait for photos of emaciated children before acting.

The looming famine has been heavy on the minds of the #Somali diaspora in #Minnesota. Luul Osman, founder of the youth mentorship nonprofit Hilaac, worries about the family she left behind. “Always, I feel something for my people, the place I was born, the people I was surrounded by when I was young, and I told myself I have to do something,” Osman says.

So when she met Jay Perske of Sareen Ministries, a church and mosque collaboration, she asked for some interfaith help with a fundraising campaign.

Perske, who gives mosque tours to anybody who’s interested, had luckily just taken a couple executives of Feed My Starving Children on a tour. Feed My Starving Children is a Minnesota nonprofit that ships 300 million cheap and nutritious meals a year to more than 70 countries in need. It had helped during the 2011 Somali famine, and agreed to help again.

Osmaan, Perske, and about a dozen other Somali leaders came up with the idea of holding a food-packing #marathon that would take 30,000 volunteers to produce 6 million meals bound for Somalia, from June 2-5 at St. Paul’s RiverCentre.

So far, hundreds of #churches have pledged about 12,000 volunteers and raised more than $30,000 for shipping. Perske says that since imams have been pushing the event during Friday service CONTINUE READING 👇👇👇

SWIPE ⬅️ Nimo Abdi, a 22-year-old #Kent resident, says she struggles with stereotypes others have about the #hijab.
“People make it as if it’s like, there’s no grey area, like it’s just black and white. But, to me, I don’t really see it like that,” she said.
“They make it seem like … it’s religious, there’s no other way that they can wear it,” Abdi said. “And I see it as: it can be fashionable — like right now I’m wearing it with a hat. It can be a political symbol. Because nowadays especially with the president in place, it can be like, ‘Hey, this is who I am and I’m not afraid to show it.’”
Though Abdi views herself as a feminist, she says she feels like there is a certain branch of the movement that doesn’t include people like her.
“There’s a version that says ‘let me liberate you,’” she said.
Abdi and many other local #Muslim women who wear hijabs say they don’t need saving. From #fashion shows to college degrees, Muslim #women in #Seattle and beyond are confronting negative stereotypes about who they are and what they wear.

Earlier this month, the Malikah Festival in #Redmond celebrated the culture and beauty of #modest #dress. The event featured local artists and vendors as well as food and dance.
The highlight of Malikah — the #Arabic word for “queen” — was a fashion show, which displayed the modest styles predominately from the #MiddleEast and North #Africa. Young models in flowing abayas walked up and down the aisles, pivoting with perfection and presenting designs ranging from sporty to couture, with #hijabs to match.
Lee Mozena, the creator of the festival, said in an email that the festival aimed to bring the hijab and other forms of cultural and religious dress into the mainstream.
“People can learn about each other through simple activities — like enjoying fashion together.” {Controversy over modesty}
The hijab and other head coverings like the #burqa or #niqab remain a topic of controversy, particularly in Western nations where some people believe that modesty seems incompatible with modern feminist thought.

#France, for example, effectively banned the burqa in 2010 when its parliament passed CONTINUE READING 👇👇👇

Most days, the only #Christian many Al-Amal School students interact with is their school counselor.

On Wednesday, fifth-graders from the private #Muslim school in Fridley met a playground full of #Catholic school students at Merriam Park in #StPaul . “They are different from what I’m used to,” said Al-Amal student Imran Osman. “Overall, they’re good people.” Students from Al-Amal and St. Mark’s Catholic School in St. Paul have been exchanging letters for weeks to learn about each other’s #school and religion.

Muslims #pray more often, they learned, but Catholic prayers are longer.

The Fridley students are learning #Arabic as a second language, the St. Paul students #Spanish.

Neither class likes #broccoli.

Meeting in person for the first time Wednesday, they found more common ground in a love for #soccer — or at least end-of-year field trips to the park. “We learned that a bunch of them play soccer and they’re pretty decent. Some of them are pretty fast,” said Al-Amal student Ahmed Syed.

St. Mark’s fifth-grader Maggie Kappelhoff explained the purpose of the get-together: “I think there’s been a little bit of fighting between #Muslims and #Christians, so we did this to get to know other people and become friends,” she said.

Kappelhoff learned the #hijab that some Muslim girls and women cover their hair with is “just kind of a traditional thing.” Some of the Al-Amal girls wore easy-to-remove #hijabs in case one of their pen pals wanted to try it on. “It’s really fun to learn about different cultures because it’s so different from your own,” Kappelhoff said.

The idea for the exchange came from Kelley Stoneburner, who is school counselor for Al-Amal and has a relative attending St. Mark’s. “By this age, (Al-Amal students) have had some exposure to being teased by non-Muslims. And being private school kids, they’re pretty sheltered in the Muslim community,” she said.

Stoneburner and St. Mark’s teacher Rachel Ogard said neither school’s fifth-grade curriculum includes lessons on different religions.

But this year, to kick off the exchange with Al-Amal, St. Mark’s Principal Zach Zeckser led a special lesson CONTINUE READING 👇👇👇

#Muslims around the world will begin celebrating the holy month of #Ramadan, as they fast and pray for a spiritual rejuvenation, starting Saturday, May 27.

As this year's Ramadan coincides with summer in the Northern Hemisphere, people living in this part of the world will have to fast for longer hours than Muslims in the Southern Hemisphere.

This Ramadan, Muslims in #Turkey will be fasting for almost 17 hours. Even though it might seem like long hours, fasting hours in some #Scandinavian cities would be even longer.

For instance, the fasting period during Ramadan in one of #Sweden's northernmost cities of #Kiruna, #Norway's #Tromso and #Iceland's #Reykjavik will be around 22 hours. Muslims living in #Helsinki, #Stockholm, #Oslo and #Copenhagen will be fasting for almost 20 hours.

In comparison, Muslims in the rest of #Europe will be fasting between 18 and 16.5 hours.

Muslims in #Washington, #US will fast for almost 17 hours and those living in and visiting #Mecca, the holiest city for Muslims will fast around 15 hours. Meanwhile, Muslims in #China will be fasting for around 16 hours.

However, Muslims living in countries in the Southern Hemisphere, like #SouthAfrica, #Argentine and #Chile will fast the shortest, just around 12 hours. #Muslim #Muslimah #Muslimahs

In the village of #Kefraya in #Lebanon’s Western #Beqaa District, a #Muslim sheikh and a #Christian #nun work together to serve the poor, the sick and the needy.
Sister Maria Abou Haidar and Sheikh Ahmad Alkhahl have joined forces with other volunteers at the Order of Malta Lebanon, an extension of one of the oldest religious #Catholic Orders (The Sovereign Order of Malta), to serve patients from some forty #Lebanese villages, as well as hundreds of #Syrian refugees.
“I think this image of me with the sheikh shows there is a coexistence between #Christians and #Muslims,” Sr. Abou Haidar tells #Rome Reports, which recently released a video featuring her and Sheikh Alkhahl.
“It is useful not only for the #MiddleEast, but also for #Europe, which is not accustomed to seeing this kind of coexistence that we have had for 1,600 years.”
The Order of #Malta, which is managed by the Sisters of Charity of Besançon, began operating during the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990).
Despite its predominantly Christian background, the foundation serves people in need all across Lebanon regardless of their religious beliefs and political affiliations, sending a crucial message of coexistence.
“The Order serves those whom life did not favor, with love, dignity and in respect of all their differences,” its official website states, adding that it offers social and medical help to “the sick, the needy, the elderly, the disabled and the #refugees”.
The Order currently acts through a network of 30 different operations, staffed by a total of 340 personnel. It works under the authority of The Sovereign Order of Malta, which operates in over 120 countries, providing medical and social assistance to those in need, along with emergency relief.
The Sovereign Order of Malta dates back to the late 1040s, having been originally established as a #church, a convent and a hospital in #Palestine’s #Jerusalem, offering care for #pilgrims of different faiths and races.
When asked about his work at the Order, Sheikh Alkhahl explained, “First, we are children of man, we are all human. The human being has to respect this despite the different denominations of faith. CONTINUE READING 👇👇👇

An appeals court from the #US state of #Virginia refused on Thursday to reinstate President #DonaldTrump's temporary #TravelBan on travellers from six #Muslim-majority nations, stating it was rooted in "intolerance". The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 10 to 3 against Trump's travel ban, and indicated opponents of #Trump were likely to succeed at trial in showing the policy violates US constitutional prohibitions on religious discrimination.

The decision, written by Chief Judge Roger Gregory, described Trump's executive order as using "vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination". Gregory quoted statements by Trump during his campaign calling for a "#MuslimBan", and wrote that a reasonable observer would likely conclude the order's "primary purpose is to exclude persons from the #UnitedStates on the basis of their religious beliefs". Trump's administration argued the court should not look beyond the text of the executive order, which doesn't mention religion. The countries were not chosen because they are predominantly Muslim, but because they present "terrorism" risks, the administration claimed.

Attorney-General Jeff Sessions said it is the president's "duty to protect our communities from terrorism" and vowed to bring a review of the latest ruling to the US Supreme Court. "President Trump's executive order is well within his lawful authority to keep the nation safe," Sessions said in a statement. "The Department of Justice strongly disagrees with the decision of the divided court, which blocks the president’s efforts to strengthen this country's national security… The president is not required to admit people from countries that sponsor or shelter terrorism, until he determines that they can be properly vetted and do not pose a security risk to the United States." This renewed blow to the #WhiteHouse represents another step in the legal battle with the US Supreme Court making a definitive ruling.

The appeals court was reviewing a March ruling by #Maryland-based federal judge Theodore Chuang that blocked part of Trump's March 6 executive order barring people CONTINUE READING 👇👇👇

A #Muslim man is suing Little Caesars for $100 million after he says he was served and then accidentally ate pepperoni made with pork, a #food prohibited by #Islamic law.
The complaint says Mohamad Bazzi of #Dearborn ordered #halal #pizza twice from the shop on #Schaefer in Dearborn. The boxes were labeled "halal," but the pies inside were topped with regular pepperoni.
Majed Moughni, Bazzi's attorney, said he rushed to file the lawsuit Thursday, the eve of #Ramadan, so no other #Muslims would accidentally eat pork from the pizza shop during the holiday. "It's really upsetting," Moughni said. "My clients want the public to know. Especially during Ramadan, it would be a travesty if Muslims ... in Dearborn bought pizza from Little Caesars and discovered they were eating pork." He added that for a Muslim, consuming pork is "one of the worst sins you can do." A spokeswoman for Little Caesars did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
The lawsuit, filed in Wayne County Circuit Court, says the first incident happened March 20. Bazzi and his wife were midway through eating a pizza he had brought home from the shop when they realized it had pork pepperoni.

Bazzi knew it was pork because he used to work in a pizza place and knows the different types of pepperoni, Moughni said. He also said Bazzi's wife could tell because she is a #Catholic convert to Islam who grew up eating pork.
They "became sick to their stomach," according to the lawsuit. Three days later, they filed a #police report.

The second incident happened May 24, the day before the lawsuit was filed.

When Bazzi confronted the shop manager, according to the lawsuit, she told him at one point that Bazzi had asked an employee to put a halal sticker on the pizza box, a claim Moughni disputes. Bazzi secretly recorded the conversation.
Halal is the #Muslim equivalent of #Judaism's #kosher and requires that meat be prepared according to Islamic guidelines, such as reciting a prayer while the #animal is cut. "There's different #schools of Islamic law that allows for the eating of chicken and beef, but there is no such thing as halal pork. CONTINUE READING 👇👇👇

#Canadians can now tack on stamps that celebrate the #Muslim #holiday of #Eid, alongside ones that mark #Christmas and #Chinese New Year.

#Canada Post has issued a special one for Eid, two festivals meaningful to #Muslims.

At an unveiling in #RichmondHill, #Ontario. Tuesday, the organization said it made sense to add a stamp commemorating the holidays. “As Canada reaches its 150th birthday, our stamp committee reflected on some themes that need to reflect the Canada of today,” Canada Post CEO Deepak Chopra said, as quoted by IQRA.

The colourful new stamp, which features light and dark blue and orange with a yellow geometric pattern over top, was inspired by Islamic architecture, according to Canada Post.

The #Arabic text inside the pointed arch, which symbolizes the importance of #beauty, #unity and light, reads “#EidMubarak,” which translates to “Have a #HappyEid.” #EidAlFitr falls at the end of June in Canada and signifies the end of #Ramadan, the month where Muslims fast from dawn until dusk. #EidAlAdha, or the Festival of Sacrifice, marks the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac to obey #God.

Both festivals can include special prayers, extravagant meals and visits with loved ones. More than a million people in Canada identified as Muslim in 2011.

For more than 50 years, the postal service issued a Christmas stamp around the holidays. More recently, it started issuing two every year, one to celebrate the #Christian celebration and the other a secular holiday one.

It has also issued a Chinese #NewYear stamp every year since 1997, according to the National Post, and those to mark Black History Month since 2003.

The Eid stamp isn’t the only new religious design you’ll see popping up at postal outlets this year.

The service will issue a Hanukkah stamp, as well as two stamps marking Diwali, the #Hindu festival of lights.

The new designs will be available for the next three years, and may become permanent if they sell well, Canada Post’s director of stamp services Jim Phillips told the Post. #Canadians

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