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.

Exhibit Showcases Muslims Who Saved Jews in Holocaust

When learning about the Holocaust in school we always talked about all of the kind Christians who hid Jewish families in their homes to prevent them from being sent to concentration camps. However, less discussed in history classes are the Muslim families who did the same thing! In London a exhibit, photos and stories will be displayed educating the public and preserving the history of these families.

Read all about it on BBC!

Hardaga family

Photo Credit: BBC

While history is always important to preserve, it is especially important to remember this special relationship between Muslims and Jews, mainly in Bosnia. Currently there is tension between Muslims and Jews, causing there to be varying opinions on how Muslims should view the Holocaust. Fiyaz Mughal, co-author of the Role of Righteous Muslims describes the religious tension:

“One of the main drivers of the project is that there are some small sections in Jewish communities who are trying to rewrite history and say that Muslims overwhelmingly helped the Nazis. And on the other side, there is a small section of the Muslim community who do not want to talk about the Holocaust for the sake of not wanting to build up an empathy with Jewish communities. That is unacceptable, because factually it’s untrue.”

That’s why the exhibit is there: to build bridges. If history is displayed for all to see, accurately showing their inspiring stories, then it sets an example for current religious leaders to follow so that they can work together. If the people during the Holocaust could set aside their differences and work out of love rather than hate, then today’s religious people can form similar friendships. This really is a great example for all of us regarding interfaith dialogue, not just Muslims and Jews. I just wish I was in London to be able to see the exhibit!