A great interview with Interfaith Youth Core founder Eboo Patel is up on Real Clear Religion. Patel, who wrote a nice review of Akbar Ahmed‘s documentary Journey into America, which I directed, is one of the most important leaders in the U.S. today for his impressive work in promoting pluralism and interfaith dialogue.
RealClearReligion: What is the Interfaith Youth Core?
Eboo Patel: We want to make interfaith cooperation a social norm in the United States. We think that is a generational endeavor. So, over the course of the next thirty years, we try to impact the conversation about religion in public discourse in moving the conversation from faith as a barrier to faith as a bridge, we partner with higher education institutions to help them model interfaith cooperation, and we train young people to be interfaith leaders.
RCR: Where’s the starting point for interfaith conversations?
EP: The starting point is: How does your faith or philosophical identity inspire you to serve others?
RCR: Only service?
EP: It’s service. It’s compassion, hospitality, and mercy. How does your faith tradition speak to those concepts and how are you inspired to apply them?
Tags: American identity, American society, Bridge building, Compassion, Eboo Patel, Faith, Higher education, Interfaith cooperation, Interfaith Dialogue, Interfaith leaders, Interfaith Youth Core, Mercy, Pluralism, Religion and Spirituality, Religion News, United States
In the summer of 2009 I travelled to Sorèze, an enchanted village in the south of France. The purpose of the trip was to screen my documentary Journey into America at the Culture and Cultures Intercultural International film festival at the Château de Padiès, a mansion built on the site of a former castle, located in the outskirts of the village of Lempaut in the department of Tarn.
Denis Piel, an internationally acclaimed photographer who directs the film festival, was kind enough to put me up at the Abbaye Ecole in Sorèze, a hotel which is close to beautiful mountains and spotted with quaint village houses and medieval stones streets.
According to its website, the Abbey was built sometime in the 700s and was later pillaged and destroyed by the Normans in the 10th century. It was restored and enjoyed a period of prosperity. Razed to the ground in the 16th century during the Wars of Religion, in the 17th century it was rebuilt once again, affiliated to the Congregation of Saint-Maur and dedicated to “Our Lady of Peace.”
The picture of Ecole’s gate is one I snapped upon arrival in Sorèze. So peaceful!
Tags: Catholicism, Château de Padiès, Enchanted village in southern France, Film festival, France, Journey, Old abbey, Our Lady of Peace, Photograph, Photography, Pictures, Southern France, The Abbaye Ecole in Sorèze, Travels, Wars of Religion
A new report carried out by the U.S. State Department found that discrimination against Jews and Muslims is on the rise around the world. This is discouraging news for those who are involved in efforts to improve relations among members of the Abrahamic tradition. The report, which is called the International Religious Freedom Report, concludes that anti-Islamic sentiment is on the rise across the European Union and the Asian continent. Similarly anti-Semitism is increasing worldwide, especially in Venezuela, Egypt and Iran. In Egypt in particular, anti-Semitic statements are rife in the media, with some commentators suggesting the Holocaust was a hoax. I haven’t read the report yet, but I’m hoping attention was also given to the persecution of Christians worldwide, especially those in Egypt and Pakistan.
Tags: Abrahamic tradition, Antisemitism, Bigotry, Bridge building, Discrimination, Egypt, European Union, Holocaust, Interfaith, International Religious Freedom Report, Jews, Peace, Religion News, Religious freedom, Tolerance, Understanding, United States, United States Department of State, US State Department
By Craig Considine
Although they are typically seen to represent overwhelming opposites, the Prophet Muhammad and America’s founding fathers shared many common characteristics and beliefs, which can be seen in historical documents. By comparing the speeches and texts that they left behind, we can learn of the similar viewpoints that Muhammad and the founding fathers held on issues pertaining to equal rights and religious liberty.
Prophet Muhammad and the American founding fathers shared an interest in protecting people regardless of their ethnicity, religion, or sexuality. Muhammad, for example, received revelations from God, who directed him to celebrate diversity and cherish it as a staple of Muslim society. Muhammad’s encounter with God would later be recorded in the Quran, which states, “O mankind, We created you from male and a female and made you into tribes and nations that you may get to know each other.”
Furthermore, in his final sermon at Mount Arafat in 632 AD, Muhammad left a code of equality for Muslims to follow. “An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab,” he stated, “nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab… a white person has no superiority over black nor does a black have any superiority over white except by piety and good action.” The Quran and Muhammad’s final sermon show his apathy for judging people based on their beliefs or skin color and his indifference to a homogenous society based on exclusive requisites for belonging.
America’s founding fathers had a similar apathy for determining a person’s societal worth based on ethnicity and heritage. In 1776 several of America’s founding fathers gathered in Philadelphia to write the Declaration of Independence, which held a strong and clear position on promoting equality similar to that of the Quran and Muhammad’s final sermon. The second paragraph of the Declaration states that Americans are “to hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” which mirrors the progressive spirit of Muhammad written down over 1,000 years prior to the founding of the United States.
When the American Constitution was ratified in 1787, the founding fathers also put into practice that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise therefore,” which suggests that by law no particular group is to be treated as superior to another group in the United States. Similarly, the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution “prohibits the denial of suffrage based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” which again cements a culture based on civic principles instead of more absolute and ethnocentric requirements.
The founding fathers’ interest in safeguarding equality in diverse circumstances is similar to Muhammad’s concern for tolerance in his multifarious Muslim community. Muslims worldwide and Americans would be wise to remember this balanced approach in finding parity in their own communities today.
Historical documents also show that Muhammad and America’s founding fathers were compassionate men. The depth of Muhammad’s humanity can be found in the Constitution of Medina, a document he created to ensure that the more vulnerable members of society felt safe and protected under the majority Muslim rule. Also referred to as the Medina Charter, Muhammad’s Constitution gave equal rights to non-Muslims living under an Islamic government. “Strangers” in Muhammad’s Muslim society were to be treated with special consideration and “on the same ground as their protectors.” Acting as a social charter for all Muslims to live by, the Medina Constitution helped to actualize the idea of a single community made up of a diverse people living under one government and under one creator.
Ten centuries after Muhammad’s charter, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson would adopt a similar societal structure as the basis for their new nation. In 1783, Washington wrote that “the bosom of America is open to receive… the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions, whom [Americans] shall welcome to a participation of all [their] rights and privileges… They may be [Muslims], Jews, or Christians of any sect.”
Likewise Thomas Jefferson, who authored the Declaration of Independence, wrote in a document for the Virginian colonial legislature that “the Jew, the Gentile, the Christian, and the [Muslim], the [Hindu], and infidel of every decimation” are accepted as equal citizens in the United States. The Constitution of Medina and documents of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson show that welcoming vulnerable groups who are perceived as outsiders is a central component of what it means to be Muslim and American. Muslims worldwide and American citizens should defend the creeds of their founding fathers and fight against prejudice and discrimination in their respective societies.
Muhammad and the American founding fathers were keen to respect Judaism. Muhammad’s Medina Charter singled out Jews, who “shall maintain their own religion and the Muslim theirs… The close friends of Jews are as themselves.” Muhammad added in the Constitution that “those who followed [Jews] and joined them and struggled with them… form one and the same community.” Muhammad’s tolerance of Judaism is strikingly similar to that of Washington, who in 1783 wrote in a letter to the Jewish Community of Rhode Island that “the children of the stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, [will] continue to merit and enjoy the goodwill of their inhabitants.” This tribute to Jews by Muhammad and Washington is an important reminder for Muslims worldwide and Americans in their own struggles against anti-Semitism.
Both Muhammad and the American founding fathers also worked to assure women’s rights. In a time when women had few – if any – rights in Arabia, Muhammad helped liberate women with divinely sanctioned social, property, and marital rights. The Quran states that men and women were created “of a single soul, male and female.” Under sharia, or Islamic law, women were able to own property, freely spend their earnings, and agree or disagree to marriage arrangements – all unprecedented rights prior to God’s revelation to Muhammad. He also requested that men treat their daughters and wives with dignity and respect. “Do treat your women well and be kind to them,” he is reported to have said in a hadith, or saying of the Prophet Muhammad.
In the same disposition, the language of the Declaration of Independence, although written at a time when women were not considered to be equal to men, later inspired American women to fight for their “inalienable rights,” such as the right to own property and vote in elections. Although it did not explicitly verify the human rights of women, the Constitution was later reformed in the Nineteenth Amendment that prohibited voting discrimination on the basis of sex. The on-going struggle of equal rights for women in the United States and around the world is also an effort to reaffirm the democratic outlook of Muhammad and the founding fathers. Muslims worldwide and Americans should commemorate their standpoint by treating women with the utmost courtesy and respect.
The impartial temperament of Muhammad and the American founding fathers is being challenged today by people who proclaim that Islamic principles and American values are incompatible. The example of Muhammad and founding fathers like Washington and Jefferson should remind us of our duty to uphold universal ideals even when intolerant people and dogmatic organizations seek to destroy bridges for mutual cooperation.
Tags: Civic principles, Color blind, Congress, Declaration of Independence, Democracy, Equal rights, Equality, George Washington, George Washington and Jews, God, Humanity, Islam news, Jews, Medina Constitution, Mount Arafat, Muhammad, Muhammad and Jews, Muhammad's final sermon, Muhammad's Medina charter, Muslim society, Pluralism, Prophet Muhammad and American founding fathers, Qur'an, Quran and the U.S. Constitution, Race, Religion, Religion News, Religious freedom, Scripture news, Thomas Jefferson, U.S. Constitution, United States, Women's rights
May 19, 2013 Be a good Christian, forget Hollywood scandals and help the homeless, suggests Pope Francis
I like Pope Francis more and more with each passing day!
On May 18, the Pope raised the issue of the “moral crisis” plaguing the hearts and minds of Christians around the world. To explain the crisis, Pope Francis used the state of homelessness as an example. He stated to a huge international audience in St. Peter’s Square:
“Today, and it breaks my heart to say it, finding a homeless person who has died of cold, is not news. Today, the news is scandals, that is news, but the many children who don’t have food – that’s not news. This is grave. We can’t rest easy while things are this way.”
What Pope Francis said is true. I can attest to his remarks when I’m in the United States, a country increasingly obsessed with the personal scandals of people like actors and singers.
In the morning my mother turns on the news and the coverage is often about the latest divorce or drunk driving charge from an actor you see on the big-screen or a singer you hear on the radio. There is hardly, if ever, anyone talking about being a good Christian and giving to the homeless or refraining from chasing money or material objects.
Pope Francis has called the interest in the social lives of strangers and the complete disregard for the poor a “crisis of values.” He summed it up as follows:
“This is happening today. If investments in banks fall, it is a tragedy and people say ‘what are we going to do?’ but if people die of hunger, have nothing to eat or suffer from poor health, that’s nothing. This is our crisis today. A Church that is poor and for the poor has to fight this mentality.”
The Pope suggested that Christians need to be more like Jesus: courageous and interesting in seeking out those who need help most.
Lately I have done what is within my means to help those who are most in need. In an effort to fight stereotypes of homelessness, I shared one particular poem of a homeless man in Dublin with the Irish Independent. At the beginning of the last Lent season, I also went around Dublin and helped those homeless by filling their cups with money.
We end on an inspiring thought from one of Pope Francis’s role model, Francis of Assisi who used to say:
“Let us begin, brothers, to serve the Lord God, for up to now we have made little or no progress” (1 Celano, #193).
Tags: Activism, Christian, Christian values, Fighting homelessness, Francis of Assisi, Good Christians, Homelessness, Jesus, Moral crisis, Moral values, Morality, Pope Francis, Pope Francis on fighting poverty, Pope Francis on homeless, Religion and Spirituality
“I have been struck [...] by the human and moral values which Americans as a people share with Islam. We share, first and foremost, a deep faith in the one Supreme Being. We are all commanded by Him to faith, compassion, and justice. We have a common respect and reverence for law. Despite the strains of the modern age, we continue to place special importance on the family and the home. And we share a belief that hospitality is a virtue and that the host, whether a nation or an individual, should behave with generosity and honor toward guests. On the basis of both values and interests, the natural relationship between Islam and the United States is one of friendship. I affirm that friendship, both as a reality and as a goal [...] [and] am determined to strengthen, not weaken, the longstanding and valued bonds of friendship and cooperation between the United States and many Muslim nations.” - President Jimmy Cater (February 7th, 1980)
“I wanted to know the best of the life of one who holds today an undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind… I became more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet the scrupulous regard for pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle. When I closed the second volume (of the Prophet’s biography), I was sorry there was not more for me to read of that great life.” – Mahatma Gandhi
“The Islamic teachings have left great traditions for equitable and gentle dealings and behavior, and inspire people with nobility and tolerance. These are human teachings of the highest order and at the same time practicable. These teachings brought into existence a society in which hard-heartedness and collective oppression and injustice were the least as compared with all other societies preceding it….Islam is replete with gentleness, courtesy, and fraternity.” – H.G. Wells
“Islam is a religion of success. Unlike Christianity, which has as its main image, in the west at least, a man dying in a devastating, disgraceful, helpless death… Mohammed was not an apparent failure. He was a dazzling success, politically as well as spiritually, and Islam went from strength to strength to strength.” – Karen Armstrong
“… since September 11th event, in many occasion I always come forth, with a defense of Islam. Islam like any other major tradition. I think the very praising Allah means love, infinite love, compassion, like that. I understand Islam, they usually carry rosary, all 99 beads, different name of Allah, all refer compassion, or these positive things.” – Dalai Lama
“Islam brings hope and comfort to millions of people in my country, and to more than a billion people worldwide. Ramadan is also an occasion to remember that Islam gave birth to a rich civilization of learning that has benefited mankind.” – George W. Bush
“Love Sufism …’the divinity of the human soul… Within Our spiritual heart there is a direct connection to God… I have respect for all faiths. All faiths. But what I’m talking about is not faith or religion. I’m talking about spirituality.” – Oprah Winfrey
“… the religiosity of Muslims deserves respect. It is impossible not to admire, for example, their fidelity to prayer. The image of believers in Allah who, without caring about time or place, fall to their knees and immerse themselves in prayer remains a model for all those who invoke the true God, in particular for those Christians who, having deserted their magnificent cathedrals, pray only a little or not at all.” – Pope John Paul II
“It was the first religion that preached and practiced democracy; for, in the mosque, when the call for prayer is sounded and worshippers are gathered together, the democracy of Islam is embodied five times a day when the peasant and king kneel side by side and proclaim: ‘God Alone is Great’… “ - Sarojini Naidu
“I have been struck [...] by the human and moral values which Americans as a people share with Islam. We share, first and foremost, a deep faith in the one Supreme Being. We are all commanded by Him to faith, compassion, and justice. We have a common respect and reverence for law. Despite the strains of the modern age, we continue to place special importance on the family and the home. And we share a belief that hospitality is a virtue and that the host, whether a nation or an individual, should behave with generosity and honor toward guests. On the basis of both values and interests, the natural relationship between Islam and the United States is one of friendship. I affirm that friendship, both as a reality and as a goal [...] [and] am determined to strengthen, not weaken, the longstanding and valued bonds of friendship and cooperation between the United States and many Muslim nations.” – Jimmy Carter
“After I have read the Quraan, I realized that all what humanity needs is this heavenly law.”
“The legislation of quran will spread all over the world, because it agrees with the mind, logic and wisdom.” – Leo Tolstoy
Tags: Allah, Compassion, Dalai Lama on Islam, George W. Bush on Islam, God, H.G. Wells on Islam, Interfaith Dialogue, Jimmy Carter on Islam, Karen Armstrong on Islam, Leo Tolstoy on Islam, Love, Mahatma Gandhi on Islam, Muslims, Non Muslim quotes on Islam, Oprah Winfrey on Islam, Oprah Winfrey on Sufism, Peace, Peaceful religion, Pope John Paul II on Islam, Prophet Muhammad, Quotes on Islam, Qur'an, Religion, Religion and Spirituality, Sarojini Naidu on Islam
Flying into Dublin over a year ago, our plane glided through a majestic sky that was truly awe inspiring. I use a quote from Boston native Ralph Waldo Emerson, a transcendental philosopher, poet, and humanitarian for inspiration.
I took this picture in the summer of 2012 in Glencolumbkille, Ireland. Glencolumbkille is located in a quiet area on the coast of Donegal. My lady and I had just returned to our place after a magical drive to the abandoned seaside village called Port.
May 15, 2013 Video: “You’re all illegal here! We didn’t invite any of you!” says indigenous American man
Basically the U.S. was a country built on “illegal immigration,” so who has the right or power to stop “illegal immigration” now!? Did the indigenous Americans (“Native Americans”) ask the European settlers for their green cards? Did they ask for any identification? How about their visas?
My mentor Professor Akbar Ahmed has a new article out in Common Ground News Service where he discusses the field of interfaith/intercultural dialogue and why it’s as important as ever. Here’s a quote from Professor Ahmed:
“I have found that ultimately it is ignorance, a lack of compassion, a feeling of helplessness and overwhelmingly misplaced rage that drives individuals to lash out at each other and commit acts of aggression.”
Professor Ahmed also advises:
“… the necessity for interfaith understanding becomes even more urgent. It is much more difficult to hate – or even dislike – a person based on religious beliefs alien to you when you have met them, shared a meal or a cup of tea, listened to their successes or defeats and allowed yourself a moment to recognise them as human.”
Wise words from the mentor!
- Full version of Akbar Ahmed’s documentary “Journey into America” (craigconsidinetcd.wordpress.com)
- Overcoming fear after the Boston bombings (craigconsidinetcd.wordpress.com)
Go on a journey into the heart of Islam’s mystical side – Sufism. Explore the roots of Sufi music, art, poetry, etc. Sufi music is particularly thrilling and attracted me to study more about Islam. I highly recommend this short piece from Channel 4. The presenter takes the audience to Sufi shrines of the Virgin Mary and examines in more detail the Sufi links to Christianity. Enjoy!
Tags: Challenging stereotypes, Channel 4, Christianity, God, Interfaith, Islam, Muslim, Muslims, Peaceful Islam, Pluralism, Religion and Spirituality, Sufi, Sufi music, Sufis, Sufism, Sufism and Christianity
Here’s another interesting response to yesterday’s post. I’m interested in hearing how people would answer the question in the title.
I don’t believe extremism, like ignorance, can be reasoned with. It comes from such a deep place inside someone, a place of fear. I think even Jesus recognized some people were not able to be reasonable… that is if this quote was written accurately in the bible: Matthew 7:6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” -Attempts at holding conversations with extremists (religious or political) are a waste of time and energy because they’re not capable of mentally processing another point of view. The strength of their emotion doesn’t allow it. I’m not saying that to be condescending or judgmental, I simply think it is a fact, no more, no less. It is what it is. Humans are for the most part, emotional creatures. – I believe we each walk our own path and that we must all be allowed to do so. – Some choose to walk in darkness and fear.
Tags: Bible, Christian, Emotions and religion, God, Jesus and religious extremists, Matthew 7:6, Reason and religion, Religion and fear, Religion and Spirituality, Religious commentary, Religious extremism
That was a simple poem with a lovely sentiment. Thanks for that.
As a Muslim, I would’ve been outraged before. But I’m beginning to see that I call his God ‘Allah’ and he calls my Allah, ‘God’. Its a British-football-American-soccer thing. I feel a majority of people grasp this now.
What emanates from the comment is a ‘cult’ approach to religion – where there are teams instead of principles. Its a battle of cultures/nations as opposed to one of ideologies. And this has led to us all believing that when talking about ‘believers’ – the Bible means (mostly white) Christians and the Qur’an, (most Arab) Muslims. That’s simply not true.
All of this has to do with geography and boundaries of religions (Muslims / Christian / Hindu countries). As nations integrate more and more people from other religions – when I hear of Christianity from a brown man – I will understand it better. And vice-versa.
Peace out, brother.
About three weeks ago I wrote a poem for the Huffington Post Religion called “Allah or God, It Doesn’t Matter to Me.” While the poem did not receive a ton of attention, a few Huffington Post users left their thoughts, of which one stood out more than the others. Alongside posting several biblical passages which had no context or description, the user said:
“Allah is a fake God that does not exist and is the heart of deception. No real Christian that believes in God/Christ of the scriptures can have anything to do with cults and doctrines of demons.
You will, with your own eyes, see the resurrection/rapture and all of the cults, interfaith movements, emergent churches and nonbelievers left behind to face Gods wrath.”
The user also posted a video (below) on his own preparations for the rapture.
How do you feel about the rapture? What does the response and video tell us about religious extremism in general?
Tags: Allah, Bible, Christian, Christian fundamentalists, Christianity, Christianity and Islam, God, Huffington Post, Jesus, Religion and Spirituality, Religious deception, Religious extremism, The rapture
MAKE WAY FOR THE LITTLE MAN!!!! My nephew, Colton Christopher Close. He is a champ already as you can see. He takes after his uncle for being a big baby boy! I was nearly 11 lbs, the Little Colt Man was a whopping 10 lbs! We are truly blessed!
On Monday I visited the Dover Rug Company in Natick, Massachusetts for an interview with CEO Mahmud Jafri, who happens to be a very down-to-earth and insightful man. Mahmud is a successful businessman who happens to also be a proud Bostonian, American, Muslim and Pakistani.
When I was entering the Dover Rug building, I noticed a painting to the left of the main door. With a sociological lens on my brain I drifted over to the painting for a closer look. I had never seen this painting before so I was a bit puzzled. I wondered if it was placed there by Mahmud and if so, what the painting might say about the man himself.
The painting happens to be the work of Norman Rockwell. I’m assuming the work is called “The Golden Rule” as the quote you see above is inspired by “the golden rule” passage in Matthew 7:12: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
Here is what Mahmud said about the story behind the painting:
I was visiting [his museum] with my children and I was in the Berkshires… I saw this painting there and I absolutely loved it.
Mahmud continues to explain why the painting moved him:
I do a fair amount of [interfaith] work here… I’m the former co-chair of the Jewish-Muslim dialogue here in Boston with the American Jewish Committee. Just last Wednesday I was at this interfaith service with the Committee and the American Islamic Congress. Governor Patrick spoke there and there was a reception after.
And we end on Mahmud’s powerful message…
I really think there are plenty of opportunities for us to come together on the majority of the issues. The few differences should not keep us apart… You’re better off being engaged however strong your differences may be as opposed to [divided] and let the differences multiply.
Tags: American Islamic Congress, American Jewish Committee, Art history, Berkshire, Boston, Dover, Dover Rug Company, Golden Rule, History, Inspiration, Interfaith, Interfaith Dialogue, Mahmud Jafri, Matthew 7:12, Norma Rockwell, Norman Rockwell, NormanRockwell, Paintings, The Golden Rule, United States
“Kia kaha” is a New Zealand term of comfort (an equivalent of be strong – thoughts are with you).
So “Kia kaha” to one and all!
The Guardian Witness has a new assignment called Public Art.
Whether it’s a traditional statue or graffiti on the wall of an underpass – public art is all around us. But is it always good? Public art can be controversial, the latest proposed occupant of the Fourth Plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square is a recent example. Please share the best and worst public art – whether it’s as famous as Mount Rushmore, or something only known about in your local area.
I posted some of the pictures I’ve taken over the years in my travels.
See the pictures at Guardian Witness
Tags: Art, Craig Considine, Guardian, Guardian Witness, Inspiration, John Lennon Wall, Love Revolution, Photographs, Photography, Pictures, Prague, Public art, Published art, Published photographs, Street art
By Craig Considine for Morocco World News
The recent development of the Moroccan government opposing the US-led initiative to extend the directive of UN peacekeepers in the Western Sahara to human rights monitoring has caused friction between Moroccans and Americans. This spat threatens to harm a relationship which has been based in mutual respect and cooperation for over 240 years.
Tags: American government, American Revolution, Christian nation, Diplomacy, George Washington, Moroccan government, Morocco news, Morocco-American relationship, Moulay Suliman, Mutual respect, Political news, Politics of Morocco, Politics of US, Respect, Sultan Abdallah, Thomas Barclay, Treaty of Marrakech, US news, Western Saharan
In the face of racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, or whatever you call hate in modern America, I am still optimistic about the future of the United States.
From day one, the mission of America has been progress, progress, progress. We need thoughtful writers and bridge builders to keep it going.
There are thousands and thousands of Americans fighting messages of hate. America is in good shape, so long as the struggle against ignorance continues.
Insisting on civil discourse and religious tolerance are the proper ways to discuss bad speech. We can’t fight hate with hate and expect peace.
America was founded on the idea that all human beings have inherent dignity and rights. If we turn this idea on its head, we turn America on its head. We must protect these rights to make sure that the idea of America doesn’t end.
If you don’t call out discrimination, if you don’t condemn hatred based on skin color or religious beliefs, you’re not a “good American.” “All men are created equal” is one of the principle sentences in the Declaration of Independence.
What do we have as Americans if we don’t adhere to the egalitarian spirit of our founding documents?
Tags: Abraham Lincoln, All men are created equal, American culture, American exceptionalism, American identity, civil discourse, Commentary on American society, current-events, Declaration of Independence, Hate, Human rights, Inspiration, Islamophobia, Politics, Race-Ethnic-Religious Relations, Religion, Religious freedom, Society, Toleration, United States, United States Declaration of Independence, Vision of America
May 4, 2013 After bombings, Bostonians must remember its founding fathers’ “model of Christian charity”
Boston’s anti-Muslim backlash, which I touched upon in the Huffington Post Religion, in the aftermath of the marathon bombings reminds me of John Winthrop, one of Boston’s founding fathers, and his famous sermon “A Model of Christian Charity.”
Winthrop’s sermon, delivered in 1630 aboard the Arbella ship before English Puritans settled in what they called New England, is a document, according to scholar of Boston Shaun O’Connell, which defines the particular combination of idealism and anxiety which characterizes our notions of what it means to be Bostonian. He said:
“[Bostonians] must delight in each other, make others’ conditions our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together: always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, our community as members of the same body… For we must consider that we shall be like a city upon a hill, the eyes of all the people are upon us.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself! Winthrop’s vision of love and community is more needed now than ever to overcome the animosity and constriction in the aftermath of the bombings.
Though Winthrop was no perfect man, as none of us are, his “Model of Christian Charity” sermon is certainly an ideal to help drive the Boston community forward in the future.
- Overcoming fear after the Boston bombings (craigconsidinetcd.wordpress.com)
Tags: A Model of Christian Charity, Arbella, Boston, Boston Marathon bombings, Bostonians, Christianity, English Puritans, Founding Fathers of Boston, Huffington Post, Islamophobia, John Winthrop, Model of Christian Charity, Muslims, New England, Puritan, Shaun O'Connell, Tolerance, Winthrop
“So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.” – Revelation 3:16
Here’s a look at Pope Francis’ meaningful words about how many of today’s Christians are too “wrapped up in [their] petty things, [their] jealousies, envy, careerism, in going ahead selfishly.”
According to the Pope, “lukewarm Christians without courage” are too enveloped by a “tepid atmosphere.” He adds that “because tepidness draws you inside, and problems arise among us; we have no horizons, we have no courage, neither the courage to pray toward heaven nor the courage to proclaim the Gospel. We are lukewarm.”
How do you feel about the Pope’s comments? To what extent might you consider yourself a “lukewarm Christian?”
Read more about what Pope Francis said about “lukewarm Christians” at Catholics News
Tags: Catholic Church, Christian, Christian News, Christianity, Gospel, Lukewarm Christians, Mass, Materialism, New Testament, Pope, Pope Francis, Religion and Spirituality, Religion News, Revelation 3:16, Vatican
One of the best phrases in the human language: “Tikkun olam (Hebrew: תיקון עולם or תקון עולם), meaning “to heal a fractured world.”
Note: My fellow Needhamite Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal Ph.D. wrote a powerful response in Wicked Local Needham to the Boston marathon bombings. Dr. Asmal previously served as president of the Islamic Center of Boston and the Islamic Council of New England. He is a retired physician and is also a current member of Needham Clergy Association and Needham Human Rights Committee. Dr. Asmal is clearly writing in the pluralist spirit of the American Revolution.
By Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal
It is sad that it takes a tragedy to remind us of our common humanity and the fragility of our existence. From it we should all learn to work together to promote peace harmony and goodwill in our great country, and throughout our fractured world. As a miniscule but significant start in the direction of recognizing our universal commitment to these ideals we can start by immortalizing the youngest, and the one Islam views as completely free of sin because of his age of innocence, Martin Richard, already guaranteed a place at God’s side, by signing his guest book at http://www.legacy.com/guestbooks/guestbook.aspx?n=martin-richard&pid=164273823 May his memory forever be etched in our collective psyche as a reminder of this day of infamy.
Read the full article
Tags: American Revolution, Boston, Boston Marathon, Boston Marathon bombings, Boston marathon bombings reaction, Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal, Facebook, Fractured world, Freedom, God, Humanity, Islam, Islam in Boston, Islamic Center of Boston, Islamic Council of New England, Martin Richard, Muslims in Needham, Needham, Needham Clergy Association, Needham Human Rights Committee, Needham Massachusetts, Religion and Spirituality, Twitter, United States, Wicked Local Needham, WickedLocal
“I searched for God among the Christians and on the Cross and therein I found Him not.
I went into the ancient temples of idolatry; no trace of Him was there.
I entered the mountain cave of Hira and then went as far as Qandhar but God I found not.
With set purpose I fared to the summit of Mount Caucasus and found there only ‘anqa’s habitation.
Then I directed my search to the Kaaba, the resort of old and young; God was not there even.
Turning to philosophy I inquired about him from ibn Sina but found Him not within his range.
I fared then to the scene of the Prophet’s experience of a great divine manifestation only a “two bow-lengths’ distance from him” but God was not there even in that exalted court.
Finally, I looked into my own heart and there I saw Him; He was nowhere else.”
Tags: Christianity, Constantinople, God, God location, Heart, Hira, Islam, Istanbul, Kaabar, Mysticism, Photography, Picture, Poems, Poetry, Qandhar, Religion, Rumi, Süleymaniye Mosque, Searching, Spirituality
Many of you might notice how the pronunciation of Considine, my last name, sounds like the surname Constantine. In fact, the surname Considine is the Anglicanized version of the Gaelic surname Mac Consaidin, which in the Gaelic language literally means “Son of Constantine.”
The origins of the Irish surname Considine dates back to at least 1179 with Constantine O’Brien, fifth in descent from Brian Boru, referred to by many as the first high-king of Ireland. Constantine was Bishop of Killaloe and attended the Council of Lateran in 1215. All Considines in the world are direct descendants of Constantine and thus also Brian Boru.
The name Constantine can be traced back to Constantine the Great, also known as Saint Constantine, who was Roman emperor from 306 to 337. Constantine is famous for being the first Roman emperor to embrace the teachings of Jesus Christ and convert to Christianity. In doing so he broke from the policies of earlier emperors who persecuted Christians for their beliefs in Jesus and the one true God.
In reading more about the life of Constantine, we can see that he issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed tolerance of all religions throughout the Roman Empire and permanently established religious toleration for Christians, who were assured legal rights, including the right to build churches and set up communities. In addition Christians had previously confiscated property returned to them through the Edict. Here is one of its key passages:
“Our purpose is to grant both to the Christians and to all others full authority to follow whatever worship each person has desired, whereby whatsoever Divinity dwells in heaven may be benevolent and propitious to us, and to all who are placed under our authority. Therefore we thought it salutary and most proper to establish our purpose that no person whatever should be refused complete toleration, who has given up his mind either to the cult of the Christians or to the religion which he personally feels best suited to himself. It is our pleasure to abolish all conditions whatever which were embodied in former orders directed to your office about the Christians, that every one of those who have a common wish to follow the religion of the Christians may from this moment freely and unconditionally proceed to observe the same without any annoyance or disquiet.”
Another edict issued to the eastern Roman Empire provinces following Constantine’s victory over Licinius in 324 states his views on toleration most explicitly:
“For the general good of the world and of all mankind I desire that your people be at peace and stay free from strife. Let those in error, as well as the believers, gladly receive the benefit of peace and quiet…May none molest another; may each retain what his soul desires, and practise it… let no one use what he has received by inner conviction as a
means to harm his neighbour. What each has seen and understood, he must use, if possible, to help the other; but if that is impossible, the matter should be dropped.”
As you can see in these passages, tolerance was something of the utmost importance to Constantine. I am proud to carry his name because he was a man who appeared to understand the value of protecting and promoting religious freedom. As many of you know, I am quite active in interfaith dialogue and writing about the commonalities between Christianity and Islam. Maybe my interest in these matters was passed on to me by the grace of Saint Constantine.
Tags: Bishop of Killaloe, Brian Boru, Christian, Christian history, Christianity, Christians, Considine, Constantine, Constantine O'Brien, Constantine the Great, Council of Lateran, Edict of Milan, Family history, Gaelic, Interfaith Dialogue, Irish genealogy, Jesus, Religious freedom, Religious tolerance, Roman, Roman Emperor, Roman Empire
I visited the Hagia Sophia at the end of 2011. It is the most magnificent building I have ever seen. A truly inspiring and breathtaking experience.
Tags: Architecture, Arts and Entertainment, Byzantine Empire, Craig Considine, Enlightenment, Greek Philosophy, Hagia Sophia, Holy Wisdom, Istanbul, Light, Photograph, Photography, Picture, Plato, Turkey
Last night I attended the “Muslim Women in the Arts” exhibit at the American Islamic Congress on Newbury Street in Boston. The featured artist was Nada Farhat, a women originally from Saudi Arabia, currently living in Boston. Farhat describes her art as “really a kind of healing soul… My art is who I am… Paint and canvas are what I really need to be free.” Among Farhat’s creations included beautiful works titled “Carpets of Arabia” and “A Quilt of Journeys.”
I was particularly moved by her memorial to those individuals who were directly impacted by the recent Boston bombings. The tribute, titled “Journeys Home,” was located on a wall by the door at the entrance of the American Islamic Congress. At the top of the memorial was a quote which reads: “We press on, never to abandon our home, just as us it never abandons.”
As you see in the picture below, there are four red prayer beads which honor the four individuals who were killed during the bombings and the manhunt which followed. Below the four red prayer beads are 181 additional prayer beads to pay tribute to those individuals who were injured by the bombings.
Farhat also gave us copies of a poem by her husband Rick Zand. It’s a beautiful poem which also pays tribute to the city of Boston and all Bostonians who were impacted by the bombings. I have copied the poem below the pictures.
Journeys Home by Rick Zand
When we endured the din
that ceased the drumbeat of footballs
and suffocated our cheers;
we witnessed the flight of morality,
and along with it our collective spirit.
But didn’t we survive The Boston Massacre,
the Siege of the city,
the Revolutionary War?
We endured the Great Fire that ravaged
our buildings; the catastrophic flood of molasses;
we suffered riots and racism.
Yet we gave birth to a nation;
We were the first state to abolish slavery.
We ushered into life President John Adams, John Quincy Adams,
John F. Kennedy, and George Bush.
We inspired such luminary writers as Holmes, Emerson, Alcott and Longfellow,
to name but a few.
And, on April 19, 1897,
Boston began the world’s oldest annual Marathon.
Many times we have pondered the tenacity
of that which we cannot comprehend.
Still, every morning for over three centuries,
Boston awakens beneath a sky that is sometimes blue-eyed,
other times sea-washed;
but always reassuring.
Now the sounds of Copley resume,
traffic and taxis, the shuffle of pedestrians;
Newbury cafes stir to life in the spring air.
So, we press on, never to abandon our home,
just as it never abandons us.
The recent events in Boston remind me of a conversation I filmed between my mentor Professor Akbar Ahmed and Professor Noam Chomsky on fear and American identity. In the aftermath of the Marathon bombings, we have already seen instances where fear takes over the hearts and minds of Bostonians and Americans. On the Huffington Post Religion, I reflect on these issues through my own personal experiences with different Muslim communities in Boston. Full article
Tags: Akbar Ahmed, American Islamic Congress, Barry Hoffman, Boston, Boston Marathon, Boston Marathon bombings, Boston mosques, Bostonian, Craig Considine, Huffington Post Religion, Islam in Boston, Islamic Center of Wayland, Marathon, Massachusetts, Muslims in Boston, Noam Chomsky, Pakistanis in Boston, Suhaib Webb, United States
The Great Mosque of Aleppo, also called the Ummayad Mosque, is crumbling because of the war in Syria. The BBC is reporting that its minaret has fallen to the ground and now lays ruined in a pile of rubble. In my opinion it doesn’t matter if Assad’s troops or the “rebel forces” destroyed it. The mosque is crumbling and that’s all that really matters to me. No point in playing the blame game. The fact of that matter is the world is slowly losing “one of the most beautiful mosques in the Muslim world,” that according to UNESCO in late October 2012. UNESCO has called for protection and respect for the site, but these calls have fallen on deaf ears. It’s a true tragedy not only for the Syrian people and Muslims worldwide, but also for those who appreciate the glories of Islamic art.
Tags: Art news, Bashar al-Assad, BBC, Great Mosque of Aleppo, Islamic architecture, Islamic art, Minaret, Muslim, Muslim world, Syria, Syria news, Syrian people, Syrian War, Umayyad Mosque, Ummayad mosque, UNESCO
Richard Falk, an American professor of international law at Princeton University, recently suggested that US foreign policy is to blame for the Boston Marathon bombings. His sentiments remind me of Noam Chomsky’s famous quote about terrorism: “Everybody’s worried about terrorism. Well, there’s a really easy way; stop participating in it.”
Do you agree with Falk’s words?
The American global domination project is bound to generate all kinds of resistance in the post-colonial world. In some respects the United States has been fortunate not to experience worse blowbacks, and these may yet happen, especially if there is no disposition to rethink US relations to others in the world, starting with the Middle East. Some of us naively hoped that Obama’s Cairo speech of 2009 was to be beginning of such a process of renewal, and although timid in many ways, it was yet possessed of a tonality candidly acknowledged that relations with the Islamic world needed a fundamental moves by the US Government for the sake of reconciliation, including the adoption of a far more balanced approach to the Palestine/Israel impasse.
Falk’s full post can be read here
Tags: Barack Obama, Blowback, Boston Marathon, Boston Marathon bombings, Global politics news, International Relations, Middle East, Noam Chomsky, Princeton University, Richard Falk, Terrorism, United Nations Human Rights Council, United States, US foreign policy, US politics news
By Qasim Rashid for Huffington Post Religion
Muslims condemned 9/11, we condemned 7/7, we condemned the Fort Hood tragedy, we condemned the underwear bomber, we condemned the Times Square bomber, and now yet again we find ourselves condemning the Boston Bombers on the mere suspicion that they were “motivated by Islam.”
And this is why I am unsure if people hear Muslims when Muslims declare — in response to every violent act or attempt at violence — that Islam condemns all forms of religious violence and terrorism. Because even after condemning the Boston bombers, I receive messages that the condemnation wasn’t “loud enough” or “clear enough” or passionate enough.” ” In other words, all they heard from me was blah blah blah blah blah.
And the fact is Muslims have gone far beyond mere condemnation but taken action. The Muslims for Life campaign has raised over 25,000 blood donations in the past two years to honor 9/11 victims. The #MyJihad campaign serves to demonstrate Jihad’s true meaning. The Muslims for Peace campaign champions true, peaceful Islam. I could go on but hopefully you get the picture.
Tags: #MyJihad, 9/11, Boston, Boston Marathon, Boston Marathon bombers, Huffington Post Religion, Islam, Islam in US, Islamophobia, Jihad, Jihad true meaning, Muslim response to terrorism, Muslims, Muslims for Peace, Qasim Rashid, Radical ignorance, Radical Islam, Religious violence, Terrorism, Violence, War on Terror
April 23, 2013 Catholic bishop fights opponents of immigration reform after Boston Marathon bombings
Source: Religion News Service
“Opponents of immigration … will seize on anything, and when you’ve got something as vivid and as recent as the tragedy in Boston it puts another arrow in their quiver,” New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told reporters.
“To label a whole group of people — namely, the vast population of hard-working, reliable, virtuous immigrants — to label them, to demean them because of the vicious, tragic actions of two people is just ridiculous,” he said. “Illogical. Unfair. Unjust.”
Tags: Boston, Boston Marathon bombings, Cardinal, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Catholic Church, Catholicism, Fairness, Immigration, Immigration reform, Justice, Labeling, New York, Political news, Religion News, Stereotypes, Timothy M. Dolan, United States, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, US Conference of Catholic Bishops, US immigrants
By Akbar Ahmed for National Geographic
It was the matter-of-fact tone of the Pakistani boy in Brooklyn that disturbed me and brought tears to my research team. Traveling throughout the country in 2008 and 2009 for my book Journey into America, we were in a Shia mosque in an area called Little Pakistan, which has shop signs in Urdu and people walking about in traditional Pakistani dress.
The two young men who wreaked havoc in Boston last week reflected some of the dilemmas of the Brooklyn boy. The older brother admitted he had no American friends and had recently returned to his ancestral land for several months. The younger one resented being questioned by fellow Muslims at the local mosque about being a convert and may have seen this as a social rejection.
Like the Brooklyn boy, the suspected bombers found themselves suspended in that dangerous territory between two worlds—the old not quite faded from their lives and the new still too new to absorb them.
In addition, the young men had a defined tribal background—and it’s in that background that we must look to gain any kind of understanding of their actions.
Tags: Akbar Ahmed, Boston, Boston Marathon bombings, Chechens, Identity crisis, Immigrant experiences, Immigrant youth, Islam in US, Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam, Little Pakistan NYC, Muslim Americans, Tribal code of honor, Tsarnaev brothers
By Andrew Rosenthal for The New York Times
The Boston Marathon bombings are closer to the colloquial and legal definitions of terrorism than the Aurora shooting, but not the Oklahoma bombing, or the Arizona attack.
The real difference is that Mr. Tsarnaev is a Muslim, and the United States has since the 9/11 terrorist attacks constructed a separate and profoundly unequal system of detention and punishment that essentially applies only to Muslims.
Tags: Andrew Rosenthal, Arizona, Boston Marathon, Boston Marathon bombings, Detention, Double-standard, Islam in the US, Law, Legal definition of terrorism, Muslim, Muslim Americas, New York Times, Oklahoma City bombing, Political news, Religion News, September 11 attacks, Terrorism, Timothy McVeigh, Tsarnaev, United States
*Published on Huffington Post Religion*
I’m a Catholic
but I think Islam is beautiful
Some think I’m interested in converting
No, I’m not
it just makes me think of the one above
Whether it’s called Allah
it doesn’t matter
I think of him
I think of heaven
A place of no worries
A place of peace
A place with no pain
A beautiful place
for all kinds of people
Isn’t this what matters?
I’m happy to finally present in its entirety Akbar Ahmed‘s “Journey into America,” which I had the honor of directing.
“Journey into America” is arguably the most comprehensive documentary ever done on Muslims in America. The film explores the issue of what it means to be American through the lens of Muslims.
Ahmed’s documentary has been called “an essential pillar in the effort to build the interfaith bridge of understanding” by Congressman Keith Ellison, America’s first ever Muslim representative on Capitol Hill. Ellison added that “Journey into America” will inform, provoke, and inspire Americans of all colors, cultures, and faiths.”
A complete list of blurbs and reviews can be found here.
Before watching make sure to switch the viewing setting to HD for best quality.
Tags: 9/11, Ahmed, Akbar Ahmed, American culture documentary, Capitol Hill, Documentary, Film-work, Full version, Islam in America, Islam in America documentary, Islamophobia documentary, Journey into America, Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam, Keith Ellison, Muslim, Muslims in America documentary, Pakistan, Politics documentary, Religion documentary, United States, War on Terror
I felt very discouraged at Mass this morning. The priest virtually incited hatred of Islam. In paraphrasing he said something like “The Boston Marathon bombings was part of the global jihad of Islamic supremacists on Christians.” He followed these loaded statements by talking about evil, the devil and how Islam has basically “always been this way.”
These threatening words are careless at best. Throwing the word jihad in a sermon without any context or discussion of the various forms of jihad might lead worshippers to believe that jihad is about only mass murder and destruction. The speech also hits on all the major stereotypes like “Muslims are inherently violent” and “Islam supports terrorism.” It’s truly shameful behaviour, especially considering it came from a “holy man.”
I don’t know about other worshippers, but I go to church for spiritual reasons, not to hear about someone’s political beliefs. I also don’t attend Mass to indulge in fear mongering. If I wanted to do that I would go to a lecture by some prominent bigot who bashes Islam for a living.
Politicizing the Marathon bombings, especially in a holy space, is outrageous and radical. I can only imagine what Pope Francis I, who has spoken so openly about improving relations between Catholics and Muslims, would say about these inflammatory remarks.
I plan on meeting with the priest and handing him a copy of the documentary I made called “Journey into America,” which examines American identity through the lens of Muslims and which calls for a return to the pluralist vision of the American founding fathers.
Tags: Boston, Boston Marathon, Boston Marathon bombing, Catholic Church, Christian, Church sermon, Global Jihad, Inciting hatred of Islam, Islam, Islamic supremacists, Jihad, Muslim, Politicizing tragedies, Pope Francis I, Religion, Religion and Spirituality, Spirituality, Terrorism, United States
I only get a chance to come back home to Boston a few times a year. When I returned last December I came home to the news of the terrible tragedy known as the Newtown Massacre in Connecticut, where 20 little children and 6 adults died at the hands of a crazed gunmen. Unfortunately my return on April 15th – Marathon Monday in Boston – was even more traumatic.
I feel that my home is a very sick place at the moment. The current events are all about gun control, random shootings, other violence, and terrorists. People are living in a constant state of fear and paranoia.
Over the last few days many people have said to me “You just aren’t safe anywhere anymore.” That’s a massive change in thinking since I was a kid.
The Marathon bombing was surreal. Terrorism is different when it hits the place you were born and raised. It was the first time I was present in a “state of terror.” We were told not to even leave our house.
Thank God the drama is over now. Everyone is so relieved. Bostonians can now move on and begin the healing process, which certainly won’t be easy. There’s a danger of rising nativism and anti-Muslim sentiment in the city. The challenge now is to make sure that pluralism is reinforced. We can’t fight extremism with extremism.
To be honest there’s something very bizarre with how Bostonians react to terrorism and the killing of civilians. It seems that they only react with shock and grief when the victims are “one of their own.”
Why don’t Bostonians react with the same emotion when little Pakistani children die at the hands of American drones? Is American life more sacred than Pakistani life? Is this not hypocrisy? The different reactions are weird to me. A child’s life is sacred no matter where the child might live.
On a brighter note the collective response of Bostonians is truly remarkable. I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a place or city that has such a strong collective bond.
There’s something definitely different with Bostonians. It’s like they are all part of a big tribe. There’s a different code of honor here. Bostonians have a different edge, a different psyche. An attack on one is really an attack on all.
The determination and perseverance of the city is amazing. Perhaps it’s rooted in the rough conditions of the early Boston settlements, which date back to the 17th century. That was certainly a difficult period to live. Maybe their traits have carried over through the generations.
It’s been a very challenging few days in Boston. So many emotions have run through me, some good and some not so good. I’m disappointed with the strange contradiction present in Boston about how and when Bostonians show support for victims of awful tragedies.
In another way the response to the Marathon bombings has reinvigorated my Bostonian identity. I’m happy to be a part of a city that has such a strong sense of solidarity. This is a gritty city that could never back down from adversity.
This is something to really savor.
Tags: Boston, Boston Marathon, Boston news, Bostonian, Bostonian identity, Bostonians, Civilians, Extremism, Muslims in Boston, Reaction to Marathon bombing, Reflecting on Marathon bombings, Solidarity, Terrorism, Tribes, United States, Violence
You can read more about the life of Akbar the Great in my Huffington Post Religion article, “Finding Tolerance in Akbar, the Philosopher-King”
Akbar the Great, ruler of most of South Asia in the 16th and early 17th century, rejected bigotry and made unprecedented moves to help non-Muslims feel at peace in his Mughal empire. In reflecting more closely upon his character and conduct, we can see how Akbar’s actions are antithetical to current discrimination and violence against vulnerable religious communities around the world today, especially in Pakistan, a land he once ruled.
Tags: Akbar the Great, Din-e-Ilahi, Fatehpur Sikri, Huffington Post Religion, Ibidat Khana, Islam news, Mughal Empire, Muslim news, Religion News, Religious freedom, Religious tolerance, South Asia, Sufism