Muslims’ Christmas Greeting to Their Christian Brothers and Sisters

On Christmas Eve, the StarTribune published a moving open letter from Minnesota Muslims to their Christian brothers and sisters.[1] As a Minnesota Christian, I thank them for this message and for their implicit endorsement of the Thanksgiving Day Interfaith Worship Service at Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church and the recent Call to Compassion by Minneapolis’ clergy, including Imams. Here is the text of the letter.

“Out of our shared love for the Messiah, Jesus, Son of Mary, Peace Be Upon Him, we greet you with peace and joy during your celebration of his life.”

“The Bible refers to him as the Messiah and describes the annunciation, his miraculous birth and his numerous miracles.”

“The Qur’an refers to him as the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary. It teaches about his miraculous birth and how his mother Mary was honored above all the worlds. Muslims are instructed to invoke peace upon him whenever his name is mentioned.”

“The Qur’an narrates the story of the angel who visited Mary, saying ‘O Mary, indeed God has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of all the worlds.’ (Qur’an 3:42).”

“The angel said, ‘O Mary, indeed God gives you good news of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary. He will be honored in this world and the Hereafter and he will be among those closest to God. He will speak to the people in the cradle and in maturity and he will be of the righteous.’ (Qur’an 3:44-45)”

“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.’ (Qur’an 3:47)”

“The Qur’an describes how the baby Jesus, immediately upon birth, looked up to his mother and comforted her: ‘Do not be sad; your Lord has provided beneath you a stream. And shake toward you the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates. So eat and drink and be contented.’ (Qur’an 19:24-26)”

“The Qur’an describes many instances in the life of Jesus: how he preached the worship of God and compassion to people, how he healed the leper, how he healed the blind, and even how he brought the dead back to life.”

“Our two religions, Christianity and Islam, which both profess love and reverence for Jesus as a central figure in each of our religions, constitute over half of the population of the world.”

“Mercy and compassion, charity and love are the divine attributes that the Christmas season evokes among Christians. A mother’s devotion, a child’s love, and the promise of God’s mercy and grace in the coming of Jesus to us are sentiments that Muslims can share and appreciate.”

“In the Bible, we are told that Jesus, in response to a question about the most important commandment, is said to have answered: ‘You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is similar. You should love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ (Matthew 22:35-40) Jesus added that those whose hearts are filled with such love of God and neighbor live not far from the kingdom of God. (Mark 12:34)”

“Similarly, the Qur’an teaches us that to ‘worship God being sincere to Him in faith, to incline towards the truth, to establish prayer and to give alms to the poor is the essence of the religion.’ (Qur’an 98:5) ‘ … And you should forgive and overlook: Do you not like God to forgive you? And God is The Merciful Forgiving.’ (Qur’an 24:22)”

“The Prophet Mohammad, Peace Be Upon Him, taught: ‘None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself.’ (Bukhari & Muslim)”

“In the words of St. Paul, let us put on the armor of light which is the teaching of God that we are to love one another that we might together better confront the dark that lies within some human hearts which are far from God. (Romans 13:12)”

“As Jesus taught so movingly, let our lights so shine together before all people that they may see our good works which glorify our God in Heaven. (Matthew 5:16)”

“Jesus taught us that we should not live by bread alone but by every word of God. (Matthew 4:4)”

“Thus, we applaud the good hearts and loving deeds seeking to please God in His mercy and compassion that are befitting for us not only during this Christmas season but also every day of every year. Let all people, Christians and Muslims, who love Jesus, peace be upon him, come together to practice what he preached. Let peace and goodwill spread among us all.”

“We invite all our Muslim brothers and sisters of goodwill to join us in this open letter at this Christmas season and throughout the year as peace and joy, love of God and neighbor, are to be with us always.”

============================================

[1] A holiday letter from Muslim leaders in Minnesota, StarTrib. (Dec. 24, 2015). The signers of the letter are Imam Asad Zaman, Muslim American Society of Minnesota; Dr. Odeh Muhawesh, Imam Hussain Islamic Center; Shaykha Tamara Gray, Rabata/Daybreak Bookstore; Dr. Tamim Saidi, Masjid Al Kareem; Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota; Dr. Shah Khan, Islamic Center of Minnesota; Dr. Onder Uluyol, Islamic Resource Group; Zafar Siddiqui, Al Amal School; Imam Sharif Mohamed, Islamic Civic Society of America — Masjid Dar Al-Hijrah, and Owais Bayunus, Islamic Center of Minnesota.

 

 

 

 

 

Two Women “Shakers” Rock Minneapolis Dinner

On May 19th two of Newsweek’s “150 Women Who Shake the World”[1] highlighted the annual fundraising dinner of Minneapolis’ Advocates for Human Rights[2] that was attended by over 600 people.

One was Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Iran’s first women judge and the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate for 2003 for her courageous work supporting democracy and human rights in her country.[3] Her human rights work began with the Islamic Revolution in 1979 when she was dismissed as a judge because she was a woman. In 1992 she began a private law practice in Iran that concentrated on taking child abuse cases and representing political dissidents, members of the minority Bahai faith, journalists and families murdered by the government. In 2009 threats against her and her family forced them to leave Iran. Dr. Ebadi received Advocates’ highest honor, the Don and Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award.

Dr. Ebadi was introduced to the audience by the other “Shaker,” Cheryl Thomas, Advocates’ own Director of Women’s Human Rights.[4] Newsweek praised Thomas for her work with local partners around the world writing laws that better protect women and girls. For the last two decades, she has improved legal protections for women suffering from domestic abuse and other forms of violence in places as diverse as Central and Eastern Europe, South Asia, the former Soviet Union, and Morocco. Thomas is an attorney and the founder in 1993 of the Women’s Human Rights program at Advocates.  She previously has been honored as a Changemaker by Minnesota Women’s Press and as one of 15 experts from around the world to participate in a United Nations Expert Group Meeting on good practices in legislation on violence against women.

At the dinner Advocates also granted a Special Recognition Award to the Islamic Resource Group that has been a strong and positive voice for Muslims in Minnesota.[5] The Group seeks to eliminate stereotyping of Muslims through educational programs. Its new video “Muslims in Minnesota” was shown. It documents a Muslim presence in Minnesota going back to the 1880s. Now there are an estimated 140,000 Muslims in the State. They are making an ever growing impact on the state and on the nation–from the first Muslim Congressman to the largest Somali Muslim population in the U.S.

Founded in 1983, Advocates helps individuals fully realize their human rights in the United States and around the world. Its innovative programming has touched the lives of refugees and immigrants, women, ethnic and religious minorities, children, and other marginalized communities whose rights are at risk. The Advocates strengthens accountability mechanisms, raises awareness, and fosters tolerance.


[1] Newsweek, 150 Women Who Shake the World (Mar. 14, 2011).

[2]  Advocates for Human Rights, http://www.theadvocatesforhumanrights.org/.

[3]  Wikipedia, Sharin Ebadi, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shirin_Ebadi.

[4]  AHR Press Release, The Advocates’ Cheryl Thomas Named One of 150 “Women Who Shake the World” by Newsweek  (Mar/ 9, 2011), http://www.theadvocatesforhumanrights.org/uploads/cheryl_thomas_-_150_women_who_shake_the_world_3-9-11.pdf.

[5] Islamic Resource Group, http://www.irgmn.org/index.php ( the video mentioned in the text may be purchased from the Group).