Zafar Siddiqui

Zafar Siddiqui is a co-founder of the Islamic Resource Group (IRG), an educational outreach organization dedicated to building bridges between Muslims and people of other faiths. He currently serves as the director of interfaith and civic relations at IRG. Read more about Zafar Siddiqui.

#JeSuisAhmed and #JeSuisDalia

Posted by: Zafar Siddiqui Updated: January 11, 2015 - 10:28 AM

The following two hashtags have gone viral in the social media.  #JeSuisDalia and #JeSuisAhmed.

The generalizations that we see in response to the terrorist attack in France are blurring the reality. These two hashtags give us a better understanding of the reality - an individual who paid with his life to protect others, and another individual who is being asked to answer for someone else’s crime. 

#JeSuisAhmed

Ahmed Merabet, a French Muslim policeman, died trying to protect a publication that had mocked and derided his own religion. This strikes at the root of Islamophobes' tactics of blaming an entire religious group based on the actions of a few. 

#JeSuisDalia

This comment by Dalia Mogahed is a brilliant response to those who demand that Muslims anywhere in the world apologize for the actions of terrorists. The bigotry and prejudice that is inherent in most of these demands is thoroughly debunked by the excellent response from Dalia. When Anders Breivik killed dozens of young people in Norway, the world's Christians didn't have to apologize, and it should be the same for Muslims.
 

U.S. Muslims Condemn Paris Terror Attack, Defend Free Speech

Posted by: Zafar Siddiqui Updated: January 8, 2015 - 12:22 AM

The American Muslim community condemned the heinous attack on the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that resulted in the death of twelve journalists and two police officers.  Major American Muslim organizations issued press releases condemning this attack and reiterated their support for freedom of speech.  The first casualty in these attacks was a French Muslim police officer, Ahmed Merabet, who was killed in the shooting as he defended the journalists from terrorists.

I would like to share some of the press releases by American Muslim organizations.

Minnesota based Islamic Resource Group (IRG) issued the following statement:

IRG and its affiliates nationwide join fellow Americans in extending their deepest condolences to the families of the victims of today’s horrific attack at the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris today which took the lives of twelve people. No belief, cause, or grievance justifies such senseless violence. We pray that the perpetrators be found and quickly brought to justice. As Muslims, people of other faiths, and leaders across the world condemn this attack, we affirm the following values and principles: 
 

  1. We affirm and uphold the sanctity of all human life, the taking of which is among the gravest of all sins.
  2. We affirm the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and speech.
  3. We affirm the right to security in one’s livelihood, profession, and residence.
  4. We believe that God created us with all the diversity of race, religion, language, and belief to get to know one another, not to despise or hate one another.
  5. We believe that Islam is above all a religion of peace and mercy, and that Muslims are obligated to model those traits in their lives and characters and to work for the good of our homeland and society, wherever that might be.

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) issued the following press release:

(Plainfield, IN 1/7/15) Today the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) condemned the shooting attack on the Paris office of the French weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Twelve people were killed today in the attack by three hooded individuals armed with AK-47 rifles. The perpetrators escaped by car and remain at large. As they ran back to their car, the attackers reportedly shouted, "We have avenged Prophet Muhammad. We have killed Charlie Hebdo."

According to the media reports, the magazine has been threatened and attacked in the past because of its derogatory references to Islam and its Prophet Muhammad.

In a statement ISNA President Azhar Azeez:

"We condemn this barbaric attack which was seemingly done to undermine freedom of speech. Speech, even when it is offensive to our religious traditions and sensibilities, can never be a justification to kill.

"Our condolences and prayers go out to the victims and their families for this senseless act of violence. We hope that law enforcement apprehends the perpetrators and bring them to justice for their crimes."

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is the largest and oldest Islamic umbrella organization in North America. Its mission is to foster the development of the Muslim community, interfaith relations, civic engagement, and better understanding of Islam

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued the following press release:

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 1/7/15) - The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today condemned a shooting attack on the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and repeated its defense of freedom of speech.

Twelve people were killed today in the attack by individuals reportedly shouting "God is great" in Arabic. While no one has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack, the magazine has been threatened and attacked in the past because of its derogatory references to Islam and its Prophet Muhammad. The perpetrators remain at large.

In a statement, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said:

"We strongly condemn this brutal and cowardly attack and reiterate our repudiation of any such assault on freedom of speech, even speech that mocks faiths and religious figures. The proper response to such attacks on the freedoms we hold dear is not to vilify any faith, but instead to marginalize extremists of all backgrounds who seek to stifle freedom and to create or widen societal divisions.

"We offer sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed or injured in this attack. We also call for the swift apprehension of the perpetrators, who should be punished to the full extent of the law."

CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

Muslims Love Jesus

Posted by: Zafar Siddiqui Updated: December 25, 2014 - 2:30 AM

Yes, it is the truth that Muslims love Jesus (peace be upon him).

A Muslim’s love for Jesus is not surprising in view of the following verse (and many such references) in the Qur’an that highlights the connection that Muslims feel with Jesus and Mary (peace be upon them).

"[And mention] when the angels said, "O Mary, indeed God gives you good tidings of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary - distinguished in this world and the Hereafter and among those brought near [to God ].

He will speak to the people in the cradle and in maturity and will be of the righteous.

She said, "My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?" [The angel] said, "Such is God ; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, 'Be,' and it is.

And He will teach him writing and wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel." (Qur’an 3:45-49)

I decided to pose a question to Muslims asking them to share with me what Jesus and Mary mean to them. Here is a sampling of the responses I received:

 “To me, Jesus (peace be upon him) means caring for the poor and destitute, forgiveness, and unparalleled optimism.”

“Jesus means to me both the kinship and the divide between Islam and Christianity. He brings our religions together as one, yet separates them so completely. He is our example and our guide, confounding and apportioned. He is our hope. He is their hope. “

“When I wear the hijab, I emulate Mary (peace be upon her).  Modesty isn't a new concept or limited to Islam. It has been passed down from generations of noble and pious figures such as Mary. She exemplifies and personifies modesty, nobility, chastity, and piety for me. Truly, a mentor and role model in her own league!”

 “One of the most important aspects I admire about Mary (peace be upon her) is her strong faith and belief in Almighty God. She retreated to a distant and isolated place on command of God to give birth to Jesus (peace be upon him). No pain in the world can be compared to the state when a woman in labor; moreover, she was all alone with no one to help her as a midwife. Yet she had faith in God who took care of her throughout her pregnancy. After the birth of Jesus (peace be upon him), God commands her to reveal the miracle to the people and she does not doubt, object to, or question that command. She did not fear facing the slanders from people for she had God on her side who helped her refute all allegations by having baby Jesus (peace be upon him) speak to the people on her behalf. “

“I love reading the following verse (3:50) in the Qur’an about the miracles that Jesus performed.  'Indeed I have come to you with a sign from your Lord in that I design for you from clay [that which is] like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird by permission of God. And I cure the blind and the leper, and I give life to the dead - by permission of God. And I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your houses. Indeed in that is a sign for you, if you are believers.’”

“The Prophets and Messengers of God are all one, we prefer none of God's Messengers over others, and unto Him do we submit. A mockery of one of them is a mockery of all of them. And as for those of us who are keen on celebrating the birth of the Prophet Muhammad daily or weekly or monthly, might I suggest that your December gatherings focus on the birth, life, message, teachings, ascension, and the Second Coming of Jesus, the Messiah, the Spirit of God, and to host our Catholic and Protestant friends, brethren, and neighbors to partake in your readings, feasting, and celebration. “

In my earlier blogs, I have written extensively on how Jesus and Mary (peace be upon them) are viewed in Islam. You can read these at the following links :

Walking in the footsteps of Jesus

Mary, mother of Jesus

Wisdom of Jesus

I would like to wish Christian readers a joyous and peaceful Christmas holiday season.

A Reading of the Chapter of Mary in the Qur'an

Posted by: Zafar Siddiqui Updated: December 19, 2014 - 11:51 PM

I would like to share with the readers the following interfaith program that will be held at the Daybreak Press Global Bookshop & Gathering Space. The program will focus on the similarities between Christianity and Islam by honoring Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the birth of Jesus. There will be a reading from the Chapter of Mary (surah Maryam) from the Qur’an, the Muslim holy book. The event will take place on Monday, December 22 at 6:30 PM, and will include refreshments.

What: A Reading of the Chapter of Mary
When: Monday, December 22, 2014
Time:  6:30 PM
Location: Daybreak Press Global Bookshop, 1665 Grand Ave., St. Paul, MN 55105
Cost: FREE and open to public

RSVP on Facebook at this link.

On Condemning Terrorism

Posted by: Zafar Siddiqui Updated: December 17, 2014 - 9:59 AM

I read the sad news in the Star Tribune about the Pakistani Taliban killing 141 children at a school in Peshawar. The very mention of a school shooting brings back terrible memories of Columbine, Sandy Hook, and other such tragedies. I decided to read through the readers’ comments. What I expected was a show of empathy and solidarity with the hapless parents of these dozens of kids who died at the hands of terrorists. However, to my utter shock, I saw some blaming Islam, while others were regurgitating the oft answered question “Why are Muslims not condemning terrorism.”

Coming on the heels of the terror in Sydney, wreaked by a deranged lunatic who happened to be Muslim, this tragedy in Pakistan shocked the world to its core. The savagery of this terrorist act can be gauged by the fact that even the Afghan Taliban issued a condemnation of this action by the Pakistani Taliban.

As I was going through my Facebook page, I came across an incredibly eloquent and truly heartfelt post by Munazza Humayun, a Twin Cities Muslim and an attorney by profession. This expression of outrage and frustration is something I believe is felt by a vast majority of American Muslims. I am reproducing her post with her permission below.

Another day, another tragedy. More grumbling from certain quarters that "moderate" Muslims are silent, that they don't condemn terrorism and tacitly support it. And once again, I try to decide whether I should write something. You know, to condemn terrorism, being a "moderate" Muslim and all (whatever that means).

I guess I'll give it a shot.

"I don't support killing children." 

But that seems really weak. Doesn't go far enough.

"I strongly condemn the killing of innocent people."

No. Not profound enough. Sounds like a prepared statement. Doesn't seem heartfelt.

So what would be heartfelt? Unfortunately, what's heartfelt is not eloquent. It provides no answers. No satisfying explanation that neatly distances "moderate Muslims" from the ideologies of terrorists. Because the truth is, I can't wrap my mind around, let alone be able to explain to someone else, what the ideologies of terrorists are.

Here's the truth: I don't understand. I just don't. I don't know how anyone could justify this. It makes me sad. The kind of sad where you find tears suddenly rolling down your cheeks, tears for strangers, while you're sitting in a deli eating breakfast and CNN comes on the TV, with a story about the lawyer who was killed in the Sydney cafe siege while trying to protect her pregnant friend from gunfire. Followed by picture after picture from Peshawar of parents and relatives with grief-stricken faces, clutching their dead children.

I'm sad that I have to write this and prove my humanity. And I doubt that this will satisfy those who demand that the "silent" Muslim majority speak out against terrorism. But I suspect that this captures what many Muslims feel every time something like this happens. We feel numb, lost, distraught, sick, sometimes unable to keep the tears from spilling in public places, and often unable to find the magic words that would put that special "Moderate Muslim" gloss on the standard, average-person reaction to inexplicable, sickening violence.

My heartfelt condolences to the parents and relatives of the students who lost their lives in this senseless tragedy in Pakistan. I pray that all the children in the world are safe from any harm. 

Meet a Minnesota Muslim Veteran

Posted by: Zafar Siddiqui Updated: November 11, 2014 - 11:20 PM

Yasir Ishtaiwi, member of Red Bulls Minnesota Army National Guard

Thank you to all veterans for serving our country and protecting our freedoms!

The Muslim Experience in Minnesota project aims to capture and convey the Muslim experience in Minnesota through oral interviews and photographic portraits. This Minnesota Historical Society funded project documented 40 Minnesota Muslims chosen carefully to represent a diverse collection of experiences.

Continuing in the series of interviews from the Muslim Experience in Minnesota project, in this entry, I feature Yaser Ishtaiwi, a member of the Red Bulls Minnesota Army National Guard and a veteran of Iraq war. Here is an excerpt from his hour-long interview which can be found at this link.

“I joined the Army National Guard in 1992 and since that time I have been committed to the Guard. Right now, I have a family and I’m still committed to the Guard and everything I did before. I served two years in Iraq, between 2005 to 2007, with the Red Bulls Minnesota Army National Guard. And right now I work with my engineering degree as a product development engineer in one of the leading companies in Minnesota.

My family has long ties with the United States. My grandfather from my mom’s side came to the States in 1935 and he worked here for a while. My mom’s cousin actually was a captain in the US army serving in Vietnam in 1966. When I came, I came in ’89 to continue education, and that’s the reason I came. Originally I am from a city 10 miles north of Jerusalem in what’s called the West Bank, Palestine right now.

I am a strong supporter of Muslim integration in this society: bring down all the walls, talk to your neighbors, make business with your neighbors or people that you know if you have common ground of a business ideas and things like that.

Working with the Muslim community is something that I love to do from early time I came here to the States, because to find a place where you feel that you are not a stranger, you have to connect with your community. I always tell my friends and everybody I interact with, ‘we want to be good citizens, ask for our rights as good citizens. But at the same time we have to fulfill our duties as good citizens, too.’ That’s when you can ask for everything you want as a citizen.”

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