Spotlight: Muslims and Jews Inspiring Change (MAJIC)

In California, Muslim and Jewish high school students are working together to improve the community they live in and help their neighbors who are in need. This year they were named the faith-based organization of the year, one of eight awards presented by the state of California on May 22. After only a year of doing this program, they made a huge impact on their community and the interest is only growing from this point on.

MAJIC is actually a project from the organization New Ground, which was founded in 2007 to bring Muslim and Jewish adults together in conversation. Therefore the new group, MAJIC, was an attempt to make this message applicable to high school students. Obviously this message was received and the outcomes were outstanding.

Photo Credit: MAJIC

Read more about MAJIC here!

One of their main projects was a Carnival Against Hunger which attracted between 100-150 people to come and play games to raise money for the cause, learning about hunger in their communities through the games played. At this event people also could plant fruit trees and package food for local hunger organizations. Several other locations in the area also had stations to educate people about what they could do about hunger in their community.

As a leader of an interfaith group, I find this really inspiring and applaud MAJIC for their success and well-deserved award. I think we can all learn a lot from the example of this group and bring a little interfaith “magic” to our own communities. Keep up the great work MAJIC!

For more information check out the group’s Facebook page.

Muslim Women Converts Tell Their Stories

When I was a freshman in college I did a final project on the Muslim tradition of the hijab. I was, and still am, fascinated by the tradition of covering one’s head and what motivates one to do so or not. However, one thing I never thought of was what would people think of me if I became Muslim and started wearing one. In the UK, women of all backgrounds are converting to Islam and receiving varied support and responses from their communities for it.

muslim women

Photo Credit: Huffington Post

This Huffington Post article describes the results of a study done in the UK.

I found the results overall very interesting.Women who were white felt that they were viewed as a “trophy” or “victory” by heritage Muslims, not seen as being legitimate women of faith. Some of these women stated that they resented being seen only for the “color of their skin” and not for their religious beliefs. It’s ironic that by the heritage Muslims having the tendency of putting these women on display has negative effects, which is probably not the intent. It just goes to show that sometimes given a group extra attention can actually be unwanted attention.

Many women were also rejected by their family and friends or at the very least questioned and chastised because of their choice to convert. Much of this I believe is because there are many misrepresentations of Islam and a lack of education about the religion. The study showed that many women were asked why would a  “liberated/free Western woman embrace a backward faith that oppresses her?” This clearly shows a lack of understanding about the faith that their loved one converted to. Another individual case study talked about how her parents kicked her out and told their friends and neighbors that she had died. When she went to another country to do service, her family reported her as a terrorist to the authorities.

Clearly, there is a lot of pain and misunderstanding that comes with conversion. When reflecting on this article, I had a thought: interfaith cooperation doesn’t just affect social change, but affects a person’s individual faith too. It seems like an obvious statement, but I know that I can sometimes get caught in such a big picture mindset that I forget how important the individual faith journey really is in the big picture experience. If the individuals close to the women in the study were more open to other faiths or knew more about Islam, those women may have had a more positive experience with their faith journey and could have shared that with their family and friends. Community is crucial to faith development, and some of these women have been deprived of that.

I think that we all can not only take the time to learn about other faiths, but be open to helping other people grow in their faith, whatever it is. As a community of interfaith leaders we need to not only support change, but support each other.

What Interfaith Leaders Can Do to Help Boston (and the World)

Although I usually don’t post on the weekends, I feel as though with the recent current events it is my duty to contribute to this one corner of the internet which is mine about what is going on right now. If my post makes even one person think differently, feel something different, or do something different than that makes this whole post more than worth it.

I, like many people in my country and in the world, am filled with so much emotion. There is the feeling of loss, feeling of anger towards the bombers, feelings of disgust towards all of the hate, and honestly a sense of fear for the future. How exactly does one cope with so many emotions in such a volatile time?

By making a difference.

Eboo Patel, founder of the Interfaith Youth Core, posted a video regarding the Boston Massacre and inspiring interfaith leaders to take action:

“These young people didn’t represent anyone… The murderers of all traditions belong to one tradition: the tradition of murders. We need interfaith leaders to say that loud and clear.”

The brutal and unsolicited discrimination that is now happening in this country because of the Boston bombing is what should be our main concern right now. Many people who preach hate and intolerance, especially towards Muslims, are using this as a way to convince people of their unjust cause. But how is responding to an act of hatred with more hatred going to solve anything? How is hurting other innocent people based on the color of their skin or the religion they belong to going to solve anything?

It’s simple: It won’t.

Omid Safi’s post 10 Essential Points about the Boston bombers, Islam, and America puts a lot of this into perspective. I highly suggest taking a look at the piece, it really put a lot of things into perspective for me. Reading the piece really solidified for me how discrimination is a huge problem in this tragedy. Cited  are some instances of outward physical violence towards people purely because of the color of their skin and religion. Why is this ok? When a white middle aged man went and killed innocent people in a Sikh temple this past summer  white men were not afraid to leave their houses for fear of violence. Why was it different that time?

For many reasons such as the media, misinformation, and fear people seem to have this idea that it is totally acceptable to make a group of people who are different the scapegoat. However responding to violence with violence, no matter how common, is truly a terrible coping mechanism.

So what can we do about it?

Education is key. Educate yourself, educate those who are close to you, even people who aren’t close to you! The more people who know what it means to be Muslim, what the culture of Chechnya is like, and more importantly what it means to treat each other like human beings the better. Preach love and tolerance of our neighbors, not hate and intolerance. We are a great country, a great WORLD, full of  kind people who do great things. Show that to people, remember the good things.

In the words of Gandhi, “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” Humanity is a beautiful ocean. Be proud of it and share it with everyone.

Note: On April 23rd, 2013 this post was published on IFYC’s blog. See the post here!