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“Islam in America” Now On Youtube

Islam in America Part1

Islam in America Part 2

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Sharing Your Faith Part 5 of 6: How To Transition to Islam

How To Transition to Islam

When you’re in a casual conversation with a stranger or acquaintance, how can you get something about Islam into the conversation?

Brother Chris does not like the idea of Muslims copying evangelical Christians in the way they hand out tracks (informational booklets) and get to be your friend only to tell you about Jesus Christ. He says that people are keen to these tactics, having been heavily used by Christians, and we Muslims will seem duplicitous the second we use a Christian tactic.

Rather than tracks, he proposes using good old-fashioned scrap paper to write down contact information or something about Islam a person indicated they may want to look up later or remember.

Rather than friendship evangelism, he advocates establishing relationships with people for some other reason, some other real reason, rather than only to eventually tell the person about Islam.

The prerequisite to telling others something about Islam is that the faith has to be alive in you. Practice what you want to preach so that when you preach it, it’s real and not preachy.

To answer the question, say something heartfelt about you and Islam and/or being a Muslim that stems from the faith being alive in you when it naturally fits into the conversation. Listen first, and then tie your experience to their experience with a genuine statement about your faith.

Part 6 of 6 in this series will be to reveal Chris’ idea for a hook about Islam. See our previous blog post for a longer explanation (Sharing Your Faith Part 3 of 6: How Do We Talk About Islam In A Compelling Way?) We have not yet heard from enough people to warrant revealing Chris’ hook.

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Sharing Your Faith Part 4 of 6: How To Be In Conversation

How to Be In Conversation

If you’re interested in showing the world that Islam is not the travesty seen on TV, you’ll need to engage individuals on a one-to-one basis so they can get to know a Muslim. People have very different reactions toward “others” when they know and interact with an “other” in person than when they only know about “them” from TV. Even people who complain out loud about minority populations will make an exception to the stereotype in their head if they get to know someone individually.

How to “be in conversation” as in “how to get yourself into conversation”

In order to be available for people to get to know you, you’ll have to be an extrovert naturally or force yourself to be into conversation and people if you are an introvert naturally. Engage in conversation anyplace and everyplace where you see an opportunity—but not necessarily to talk about Islam. People need to see a Muslim being an everyday person experiencing the same problems and delights as everyone else.

Whatever is normal for small talk in your neck of the woods–partake of that. In Minnesota, we talk about how the crops are doing in the summer and how cold it is in the winter.  If you’re on a bus, bring up something about the bus route. If you’re in a parent education class, say something about not being a perfect parent. Mention gas prices, local news, local weather, etc. Pay attention to how talkative people get into conversation with perfect strangers and use their techniques!

How to “be” in conversation as in “how to comport yourself when in conversation”

Components of a good attitude

  • Don’t dismiss anyone as not worthy of getting into conversation with.
  • If you’re feeling shy, remember that you have as much right as they do to be human and to be in conversation–don’t allow yourself to feel unworthy of contributing something.
  • Focus on the current conversation, not on some other aspect of life.
  • Be ready to meet harsh or ignorant comments with humor.
  • Be genuinely curious about and interested in the other person.
  • Don’t get down if someone seems uninterested in conversation.

Listen first (before talking about yourself). Be observant of things you can use in conversation.

Smile. Ask open-ended questions, not yes-no questions. Remember their name.

If you felt rapport with someone and feel like giving them a way to contact you again, write on a slip of paper instead of handing them a business card.

In the next post, we’ll tell you how to get Islam into the conversation!

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Sharing Your Faith Part 3 of 6: How Do We Talk About Islam In a Compelling Way?

How Do We Talk About Islam in a Compelling Way?

Evangelical Trinitarian Christians have a really good hook to use when talking to others about Christianity. Basically it’s “You have sinned. You are going to hell. Unless…” and then they provide the answer for how to end up in heaven instead of hell. This hook works for them when addressing any human in the world because those Christians believe in the doctrine of original sin—everyone is born into sin and will go to hell unless a blood sacrifice is made so that God can forgive the sins. So in their worldview, every human on earth needs to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior in order to get to heaven. That’s why those kind of Christians are so busy peddling their message in every far corner of the world.

Being Muslims, we know that the doctrine of original sin is false, and we know that there need not be a blood sacrifice made for our sins in order for God to forgive our sins. God may just forgive our sins outright due to his mercy. We Muslims also know that being a Muslim doesn’t guarantee one will end up in heaven and that not being a Muslim doesn’t mean one will end up in hell.

All that being so, how do we present Islam to individuals in a compelling way? In a brief and compelling way?

Brother Chris told us his idea for a brief and compelling hook in class. He had been honing it for four years! We’ll tell you what it is on this blog after we’ve heard from ten of you. Leave a comment and tell us how you present Islam in a brief and compelling way.

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Sharing Your Faith Part 2 of 6: Religious Survey of the U.S.A.

In the first class of the “Sharing Your Faith” seminar, we discussed the findings of a survey done by The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life—the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey.

Based on interviews with more than 35,000 American adults, this extensive survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life details the religious makeup, religious beliefs and practices as well as social and political attitudes of the American public.

The Pew Forum web site shows the results of various aspects of the survey in a very user-friendly format. In class, we discussed the section titled Affiliations. There are sixteen main categories including Evangelical Protestant Churches, Mormon, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Unaffiliated to name a few. In case you’re interested in the nitty gritty details of what the denomination breakdown is under each category, check out their web site—it’s user-friendly like I said.

Living in the Twin Cities area here in Minnesota, one tends to get the idea that there are A LOT of Muslims in Minnesota percentage-wise judging by the number of hijabi sightings one has on a regular basis, and judging by the locations of those hijabi sightings…in the Boundary Waters area, at Sven and Ole’s in Grand Marais, in small towns, on Mississippi beaches (like Hok-Si-La Park in Lake City), in Minnesota State Parks, and of course around Rochester where numerous Muslims work at the Mayo Clinic and affiliated hospitals and where numerous Saudis used to flock for world-class medical treatment.

I was there in southeastern Minnesota in the ’90s for the stories from retailers in Rochester who watched wide-eyed and gleeful as Saudi men bought tens of luxury cars with cash and the women bought up whole racks of clothing. The manager of Whitewater State Park at the time likes to tell the story of the Saudi (or maybe it was Jordanian) prince who wanted to go fishing in Whitewater. He bought all new rods and tackle, probably someplace in Rochester, and then drove into Whitewater with an entourage that took buses to transport. My dad, the manager, got a kick out of watching a servant stand on the sidelines of a ball game in the picnic grounds with a tray of refreshments waiting for the princes to get thirsty. Those trees had never seen such a sight (as far as we know).

But the numbers in this survey say that the percentage of Muslims in the U.S. is not as large as we may imagine—only .6%. So there are more declared atheists in the U.S. than Muslims…and more agnostics, and more people of “nothing in particular.”

The other nugget we took away from the discussion is that most of the people we come in contact with are going to be Christian, either one of the many Protestant denominations or Catholic.

The survey highlights are also an interesting read (although we didn’t discuss these in the class).

The one other topic we talked about was from Part II of the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. The press release titled  New Report from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Finds Religion in U.S. is Non-Dogmatic, Diverse and Politically Relevant says exactly what was so surprising—“The fact that most Americans are not exclusive or dogmatic about their religion is a fascinating finding,” said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum. “Most people will be surprised that a majority of adherents in nearly all religious traditions, including a majority of evangelical Protestants, say that there isn’t just one way to salvation or to interpret the teachings of their own faith.”

I would not have guessed that—judging by the evangelical Protestant world I surrounded myself with before I was a Muslim! We were assured regularly that only our kind of Christian was getting into heaven, and by a shortcut right after death nonetheless, preempting the Day of Judgment; which begs the question, how judgmental could the Day of Judgment be if all the right kind of Christians were already in heaven and everyone else was going to hell?

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Sharing Your Faith Part 1 of 6: Class Announcement

American  Followers of Muhammad, a student group at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, in partnership with Islamic Media is offering a 5-part class titled “Sharing Your Faith.” The class will prepare the average Muslim for sharing their faith in a brief and compelling way to anyone around them who asks about Islam.

Chris Hawes, a former Baptist minister who is now a Muslim, will be teaching the class. See and hear his conversion story on YouTube.

Credit union location California El Centro First Imperial Credit Union Media blog” href=”http://feeds.feedburner.com/islamicmediamn/muiw”>Subscribe to this blog to be sure to find out when we write about what we’re learning in the class.

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A Letter of Sympathy And A Prayer From a Muslim

Violence: A Betrayal of Our Covenant With Our Creator

By guest blogger Fizza Hussain-Razvi

Christmas has passed but every Christmas season, although it is not part of our cultural celebration, I refresh my memory of the Super Man, Jesus Christ, whose birth many celebrate.

Unfortunately, this Christmas season I write with a sad and heavy heart—a heart that has struggled and worked for peace and understanding and helped the deprived, hoping to find a better tomorrow. Instead I see a rather foggy past. We have hardly made a dent in poverty and hunger; social problems are on the rise; our consumption and loans are swelling; and worst of all, an overwhelming presence of violence permeates our societies and the world.

In the midst of indiscriminate violence and injustices by deluded individuals, aggressive governments, and religious fanatics, it has been extremely heartbreaking to learn of the atrocities that are being committed by a handful of supposed Muslims against Christians in Iraq and elsewhere, especially around Christmas. On the contrary, celebrating the birth of Jesus, whom Muslims also love and revere dearly, should be plenty cause for peace and unity.

Any form of violence against innocent people is a betrayal of our covenant with our creator. Such despicable acts are beyond condemnation and completely against the teachings of Islam and are in complete violation of the noble and just precepts of every faith. Such cruelty is not driven by religious teachings but by a deluded mindset that manipulates religion to strum an emotional chord in ignorant, uninformed and, oftentimes, desperate and hopeless individuals.

History is witness that intolerance fueled by ignorance, greed, hypocrisy, hatred, lusts, jealousy and bigotry has given rise to brutal atrocities committed by individuals and institutions who find religious and/or political justifications for their sadistic actions. Such is the human race—noble, dignified, gracious, upright, and gallant on one hand; and at the same time reprehensible, disgraceful, immoral, cowardly, and cruel on the other. Who do we want to be?

Condemning and standing up against injustices and atrocities, irrespective of who the perpetrator or victim is, is a religious responsibility. Jesus’ life is a brilliant example of an uncompromising stance against injustices for the sake of peace.

Prophet Muhammad also was a reformer who took an uncompromising stance against oppression and cruelty toward the weak by those who were economically and politically powerful. He transformed a violent and oppressive society into a moral and upright nation. Unfortunately, just like other men and women who took such stances, he was not without enemies who strove with all their might and power to undermine his reforms during and after this lifetime.

The Quran teaches us that God has made life sacred and that taking one life unjustly is like killing all of humanity and saving one is like saving all of humanity (5:32). Prophet Muhammad’s life and teachings are full of lessons on tolerance, graciousness, and kindness.

Many such verses can be found in the Quran about living in harmony:

  • Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians—any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. (2:62)
  • We gave Moses the Book and followed him up with a succession of messengers; We gave Jesus the son of Mary clear (signs) and strengthened him with the holy spirit. (2:87)
  • It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong). (3:3)

Those who claim to be Muslim and commit shameful atrocities against innocent humans clearly violate the fundamental tenants of Islam—they are not worthy of being called “Muslim.” Muslims are those who peacefully submit to the will of Almighty God—the very same universal God that Abraham, Moses, Jesus (called the Spirit of God), and Muhammad (peace be upon all of them) worshiped.

While I condemn and detest with earnestness the atrocities against Christians in Iraq, the irony is that Saddam Hussein’s right-hand man, Tariq Aziz, was a Christian. He was Foreign Minister (1983-1991) and Deputy Prime Minister (1979-2003) of Iraq and a close adviser of former President Hussein.  According to Mr. Aziz it was not “regime change” in Iraq that the United States wanted but rather “region change.” He summed up the Bush administration’s reasons for war against Iraq briefly: “oil and Israel,” according to Wikipedia.

I offer a heartfelt prayer that Christians and oppressed people everywhere in the world should enjoy freedom, equality, peace, and harmony in every nation; that Jesus’ teachings of humility and compassion to all humans become a beacon of hope to the oppressed so we can live as one noble human community; and that peace reign everywhere.

A blessed Christmas with a sad heart.
Fizza Hussain-Razvi

Quranic quotes taken from:
The Meaning Of The Holy Quran, Abdullah Yusuf Ali

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A Christmas Message From A Muslim

By guest blogger Fizza Hussain-Razvi

With due respect to the holiday traditions, for a moment I would plead to set aside the trees, Santas, shopping, and decorations because the superficial symbols overshadow the great man being celebrated. Celebrating the birth and the inspirational personality of Jesus, the ‘Spirit of God’ as he is referred to in Islam, becomes an obligation and a pleasure.

Growing up as a Muslim in a multi-religious community in India, we shared everyone else’s celebrations and sometimes joined each other in prayer services. There was not a day that our ears did not witness church bells, calls to prayer, and a bhajan (Hindu praise to God) or two.

In the midst of this rich environment, Jesus was always amongst my favorite personalities, my hero, and my inspiration as far back as I can remember. The person responsible for this inspiration was my very dear and wise paternal grandmother from Iran who would read and narrate to us stories from Islamic traditions about the life and teachings of Jesus the Messiah and his virtuous mother Mary.

Through Islam I learned that both Mary and Jesus are highly esteemed and are greatly revered and admired for their virtues in the Noble Quran. Mary is honored by Prophet Mohammad as one of the four greatest women who ever lived, and Jesus’ life and teachings abound in Islamic narrations. It is narrated that Jesus was a humble man with no desire for the material world. He draws an analogy that the love of God and love of the world cannot dwell in the same heart—like fire and water cannot be in the same container.

I was taught that Jesus the Messiah, the Spirit of God, came at a time and to a people who had become devoid of spirituality and morality. In times when spiritual darkness prevails and arrogant, corrupt men proclaim their rule over the people, then the spirits and souls of the common masses become worn out, weary, and shattered. Such was the time of Jesus when inner beauty had lost its charm, overshadowed by vulgarity and shallowness. In that spiritless darkness Jesus’ fearless stance became the beacon for rekindling dwindling spirits of those who desired his radiance.

When Jesus tried to spread this light amongst the decaying spirits, he was dealt arrogance, harshness, and contention, for the dark spirits were fearful of the awakening to humility and loss of power. Thus they defamed him, humiliated him, and called for his crucifixion. Yet nothing shook this solid pillar of uprightness and morality—this pillar was so deeply rooted in God’s love that no amount of hatred or cruelty would sway him in the slightest towards hurting, hating, or subjugating another.

Along with Jesus I came to revere other inspirational personalities and found deep-rooted commonality amongst them which attracted me deeply to their message. They displayed intense compassion towards their fellow humans; they unwaveringly stood up for truth, justice, and equality under all circumstances; and they were passionate and reverent about their mission. They defied oppressive and immoral social norms and threats to their life, preferring their own suffering over accepting injustices and the suffering of others—in short they were selfless.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of this great man, Jesus the Messiah, the Spirit of God, are we ready Christians, Muslims, and people of the world? Are we ready and willing to walk in his footsteps? To live in his image with compassion towards all our fellow beings? To uphold truth, justice and equality? To make these ideals our passion, and, finally, are we ready to make this celebration worthy of the man we are setting out to celebrate? Let Jesus’ words echo as we humbly worship this season, “How many lamps the wind has put out, and how many worshippers pride has corrupted.”

A blessed Christmas season to all,
Fizza Hussain-Razvi

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