Tag: Muslims

Build the wall? Bar refugees? Christians debate Trump’s orders

Build the wall? Bar refugees? Christians debate Trump’s orders

Faithful contemplate how to balance compassion for immigrants with concern for national security.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

An Iraqi refugee who serves as a Christian missionary in the heavily Arab community of Dearborn, Mich.

Canadian church members who adopted a Syrian refugee family with six children.

An Illinois minister who prays with loved ones of undocumented immigrants facing deportation.

All voice strong opinions on President Donald Trump’s push to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and temporarily bar refugees from seven countries deemed terrorism threats.

The Christian Chronicle invited them and others to share their perspectives on how to balance compassion for immigrants with concern for national security.

Read the full story.

This story appears in the online edition of The Christian Chronicle.

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After Orlando, Christians eager to learn more about jihad and ordinary Muslims

After Orlando, Christians eager to learn more about jihad and ordinary Muslims

In the Florida city where the nation’s worst mass shooting occurred, sessions on ‘Understanding Islam’ draw crowds.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

ORLANDO, Fla. —Months ago, organizers of a biennial Christian conference in Florida invited longtime minister James Moore to speak on “Understanding Islam.”

Interest in the subject intensified, though, after a gunman who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist group opened fire at a gay nightclub not far from the Rosen Centre Hotel, where 2,000 members of Churches of Christ from 14 states and six nations gathered.

Suddenly — and sadly — Moore’s breakout sessions tackling questions ranging from the meaning of jihad to how to interact with ordinary Muslims became much more timely.

“ISIS is on everybody’s mind,” said Moore, using another term for the Islamic State as he spoke at the recent Equip Conference— formerly known as the Spiritual Growth Workshop.

“Islam is a big subject, and we could spend from now until Jesus comes talking about Islam,” he told a crowd of about 200 who came to one of his sessions — which were moved to a larger banquet hall to accommodate the size of the audiences.

After Omar Mateen fatally shot 49 people and wounded 53 others at the Pulse nightclub on June 12 — one month ago — Christians such as Alina Wyder felt a need to become better educated on Islam.

This is the second of a three-part series in The Christian Chronicle.
San Bernardino massacre puts focus on Muslims

San Bernardino massacre puts focus on Muslims

Jihadist theology vs. mainstream Islam debated. 

Finalist (part of three-story portfolio), Magazine News Religion Reporting, Religion News Association

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — Anger.

That was minister and elder Royce Bell’s first reaction when a friend called to tell him her son, Robert Adams, had died in the terrorist attack on county employees enjoying a holiday celebration.

In all, the Dec. 2 massacre by Islamic extremists wielding military-grade rifles killed 14 and injured 21 — stunning this city of 215,000 about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

“I cannot fathom a religion … that so radicalizes its adherents to where they become murderers and evildoers,” the San Bernardino Church of Christ preacher said, referring to the jihadist theology espoused by the terror group Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS.

The California tragedy came on the heels of coordinated suicide bombings and shootings that claimed 130 lives in Paris on Nov. 13.

Among America’s estimated 2.7 million Muslims, both attacks stirred fears of a backlash — concerns ratcheted up when presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Addressing the nation from the Oval Office, President Barack Obama declared that the San Bernardino killers “had gone down the dark path of radicalization, embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against America and the West.”

Obama urged Americans not to define the fight with terrorists as a war between America and Islam.

“Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors,” the president said.

Read the full story.

This story appears in the January 2016 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

The long road from Baghdad

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The long road from Baghdad (reporting from Dearborn, Mich.): Wissam Al-Aethawi endeavors to take the Gospel to the epicenter of Arab life in America. 

DEARBORN, Mich. — In the heart of this Detroit suburb, Muslim women who wear hijabs to cover their heads abound.

Signs for Middle Eastern restaurants, halal meat markets and even national chain stores such as Walgreens appear in Arabic and English.

Cedar trees — the national symbol of Lebanon — line the streets.

A century after Henry Ford recruited thousands of Lebanese, Yemeni and other immigrants to work in the auto industry, this Michigan community boasts the largest concentration of people of Arab origin outside the Middle East. They comprise roughly 40,000 of Dearborn’s total population of 100,000.

“I call it the Arab Chinatown,” Christian missionary Wissam Al-Aethawi, 36, says as he drives along Warren Avenue, the city’s business and cultural hub.

Al-Aethawi, a one-time Iraqi soldier and engineer, believes God led him here — to the epicenter of Arab life in America and the home of the largest mosque in North America — to share the hope he found in Jesus.

This former Muslim’s dream: to establish an Arabic-speaking Church of Christ in Dearborn.

This story appears in the October 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Muslims, Jews work together to build Habitat house in Tyler

Muslims, Jews work together to build Habitat house in Tyler

January 26, 2005, Wednesday, BC cycle
Muslims, Jews work together to build Habitat house in Tyler

BYLINE: By BOBBY ROSS JR., AP Religion Writer

SECTION: State and Regional

LENGTH: 739 words

DATELINE: TYLER, Texas

Anwar Khalifa and Neal Katz laugh and joke as close friends do.

The Muslim developer and the Jewish rabbi share meals at each other’s homes, reflect on the similarities in Arabic and Hebrew, and respectfully agree to disagree on politics.

“I consider Neal a friend, not the rabbi or a Jew,” Khalifa said. “If I need something, I can call him up and say, ‘Hey, Neal, help me.’ ”

The unlikely friendship has produced an unusual partnership in this East Texas town: The Muslim and Jewish communities are working together to build a house with Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit, Christian organization.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, many Muslim and Jewish affiliates had days when they teamed up on Habitat projects. But this is the first house entirely sponsored and built by the two groups, said Heather Hughey, director of development for the Habitat for Humanity of Smith County.

Tamiko Seward, the single mother who will live in the 1,100-square-foot house with her 3-year-old son, Jacob, is neither Muslim nor Jewish.

She’s Baptist.

“Everyone gets along so well, you don’t know who is from what religion,” said Seward, a 26-year-old secretary.

For Khalifa and Katz, that’s the point.

Khalifa, 43, said he was taught as a boy in Egypt to hate Jews. But, he said with a smile, his 13-year-old daughter, Sara, won’t grow up that way.

Katz, 31, said he had no particular views on Muslims while growing up in Virginia.

“But it’s very easy in the Jewish community to become distrustful of Muslims,” Katz said. “It takes a big leap of faith and a lot of effort to see the humanity.”

The friends dubbed the Tyler project the Abraham House after the forefather of Muslims, Jews and Christians. They hope the effort will help improve relations and understanding far beyond this city of 86,000 about 95 miles east of Dallas.

“Anwar and I have always been interested in focusing on what brings us together,” Katz said. “We’re not going to sit here and talk about Israel and Palestine and so forth.”

The friendship started soon after Katz moved to Tyler in 2003 to serve as rabbi of Congregation Beth El, a Reform congregation with about 80 Jewish families.

Katz had called Khalifa, president of Pyramid Homes, about buying a house. The rabbi told Khalifa, who directs the East Texas Islamic Society, that he wanted to get to know him regardless of whether he did business with him.

As it turned out, Katz did not buy a house from Khalifa, but the two began meeting for lunch. “And we just hit it off,” Khalifa said.

They have become such close friends that when a Christian customer recently invited Khalifa to church, he accepted but asked, “Is it OK for me to bring the rabbi?”

“It was great,” Katz chuckled, remembering the man’s stunned reaction.

At one of the friends’ regular lunches, Khalifa proposed the joint Habitat project. Katz liked the idea, and plans for the Muslim and Jewish communities to split the $45,000 cost proceeded quickly from there.

“There was some apprehension in my community, but I think they basically relied on my judgment,” Katz said, “and I think his community relied on his judgment that this was something that we could go ahead and do.”

Since last fall, a few dozen Muslims and Jews have spent most Sundays at the project site, framing, hammering and helping however they can. They hope to finish the house by March.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, the Rev. Jane Lovett-Porr, a retired United Methodist minister, showed her support by bringing lunch, making sure that her potato soup with vegetables conformed to both Muslim and Jewish dietary guidelines.

“So many people isolate themselves from other faiths and people that are ‘quote’ different than they are,” Lovett-Porr said. “But underneath it all, we’re just all alike if we decide to give each other a chance to find that out.”

Mohammad Farooq, a 29-year-old mechanical engineer originally from Pakistan, said the project offers him a double reward: the joy of helping someone get a home and the satisfaction of making new Jewish friends.

“The more you know about them, the more you understand them,” Farooq said. “I think the ignorance about each other is what breeds fear or animosity.”