Dec 22, 2015

The Day my American-Born, Muslim Son Asked for a Christmas Tree

By Mansoora Bhatti
I’m so excited mama!’ exclaims my 3-year-old son, after an exhausting day of shopping. ‘I’m just so excited for Christmas!’

These words bring a flood of thoughts to my mind. Being a Muslim American, this is the first time I will have to explain to him the Muslim perspective on the most prominent display of religion in the U.S., Christmas.

Dec 14, 2015

This Holiday Give the Gift of Muslim Cultures

By Saadia Faruqi
If I know one thing as an author, it is this: fiction has a unique way of breaking stereotypes and showcasing the naked truth in more ways than one. In my book Brick Walls: Tales of Hope & Courage from Pakistan, I use every story to advance a non-stereotypical agenda. Yes, it has oppressed Muslim women, but they rise to challenges and break free of their oppression. True, there is a terrorist, and even mention of the Taliban, but accompanying those men are others who possess amazing courage and hope for a better future. Bottom line: as an author, I know how important it is to change mainstream media narratives and tell our own stories.

Nov 27, 2015

My Muslim-American Thanksgiving

By Saadia Faruqi
"Amma, will we have to eat turkey?"
"Amma, are you sure we can celebrate Thanksgiving even though we're Muslim?"
The questions start even before Thanksgiving break comes around, usually around the time of the fall party at school and the coloring papers with Mr. Turkey who begs to be hidden so that nobody eats him. My first generation Pakistani-American children, now 9 and 6, struggle with much these days, and Thanksgiving is just another worry as they try to live life with dual identities. Imagine how much harder it is for an immigrant like myself.

Nov 6, 2015

What Exactly is Interfaith Dialogue

By Saadia Faruqi
I’ve been working in the field of interfaith activism for almost fifteen years, and when I started it wasn’t actually a profession and it didn’t even have a name. People would look at me strangely if I said I wanted to visit a church or a temple, because I was obviously a Muslim. There was an idea that we were all different and we stuck to our kind, stayed in our spaces. There was little overlap. I remember how difficult things were after 9/11 and how my ideas of meeting with other faiths was met with resistance and even ridicule. 

Oct 6, 2015

Why I Turned to Fiction

By Saadia Faruqi
Since Brick Walls has been published I’ve had the opportunity to visit a lot of cities and give a lot of talks. I’ve spoken to a diverse audience about my interfaith work, my article writing, my non-profit consulting. The most frequent question I get asked, though, is why I decided to write fiction. I’ve been writing for years, and it’s mostly been boring, technical, non-creative work. Where did the sudden urge to write not one but seven short stories come from?

Sep 26, 2015

Can Interfaith Dialogue Lead to Racial Justice?

By Saadia Faruqi
O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another.The Holy Quran 49:13
I was born and raised in Pakistan, a country predominantly Muslim. I never knew about lofty ideas such as interfaith dialogue, although I had friends who belonged to other faiths. Religion wasn’t really discussed, it made us all uncomfortable and slightly offended. How do you talk about different beliefs if everybody thinks they have a monopoly on the truth?

Sep 15, 2015

The Jewish New Year

By Rabbi Howard Siegel
Source: Houston Chronicle
“Fact” is defined as “a thing that is indisputably the case.” One such indisputable fact is Change. Nothing in life stays the same. This is the result of another indisputable fact-Time. Time and Change co-exist in tandem with one another. The passing of time is often measured by change.   A baby is born, learns to walk and talk, grows into adulthood, marries, has children, ages, and dies. Every stage of life is accompanied by changes in fashion, culture, and philosophy. One may argue the only constant in the entire universe is God, and even God changes!

Sep 8, 2015

The Power of an Image

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: Tikkun Daily
A picture is worth a thousand words, even more so in the digital age than ever before. My experience has been that images are amazing things, with the power to anger, comfort or heal. They have the power to change opinion, to reflect harsh realities. And the last two days have been fraught with all the baggage that comes from one tiny image with a huge message. You know the one I’m talking about, of course. Who hasn’t seen the image of little Aylan’s still body on the beach? Who hasn’t been moved by the thought of a little boy drowning for the mistakes of his countrymen? I know I have. Yesterday while driving on the highway to pick up my kids from school, I listened to NPR’s account of refugees like Aylan’s family and their dangerous trek through Hungary, and I burst into tears. I had to navigate to the side of the road to calm down before I caused an accident. Why? Because it could be me, it could be my child’s drowned body, it could be any of us.

Aug 18, 2015

Ever Wonder Where is God?

By Rabbi Howard Siegel
In every generation the same question is asked: Where is God? Seldom is there a satisfying answer. We celebrate a birth by proclaiming God’s divine presence, a wedding by crediting God with a “match made in heaven” (even though reportedly 50% fail!), and we comfort mourners with the notion their beloved has been returned to his/her divine maker. So, is God “here” or “there” or “everywhere”? The simple answer is “yes” to all three. Still, I’m left asking, “Where is God” now?

Jul 1, 2015

Inclusion & Dialogue During Ramadan

By Saadia Faruqi
The holy month of fasting for Muslims, called Ramadan, is finally here and there has never been more media publicity about it. Have you noticed how even mainstream news publications are writing about Ramadan these days? From photo essays of fasting scenes around the world, to op-eds about what it means to fast and how the act of fasting can bring everyone closer together, everyone seems to be writing about Ramadan.

Jun 29, 2015

It's Time for Community in Ramadan

By Saadia Faruqi
Last Friday at congregational prayers, I had an eye-opening experience. As I entered my mosque parking lot, I saw two Caucasian women, possibly a mother and daughter, holding up a sign that read, "Please Help, Need Money for Food and Rent." I found it disturbing, even though my hometown of Houston is ridden with poverty and homelessness. So what was wrong with this picture? The mosque I attend is a Pakistani community, with the occasional Indian or Bangladeshi standing out like a sore thumb. Yet here were two white women standing outside practically begging.

Jun 26, 2015

Getting to Know Our Neighbors

By Nancy Agafitei
About five years ago, I was visited at the library by Saadia, one of the Muslim ladies in our community who used the library with her young children. She came with a request to hold a book fair at the library. She wanted to display books that informed people about her faith, and to offer short talks that addressed topics of current interest about Islam. I think she expected me to decline, or at least debate, her request. For me, though, it was a simple choice -- public librarians are all about giving people access to all kinds of information. I got out the calendar and booked a room for them on a Saturday afternoon.

Jun 17, 2015

Faith Behind Bars

By Alex Hannaford
Thomas Whitaker grew up in his parents’ devout Christian faith, but after eight years on death row, he’s rejected the religion he followed for 27 years. In fact, he’s rejected any belief in a divine power at all. Whitaker was sentenced to death in 2007 for organizing the murder of his family in order to collect an inheritance of $1.5 million, prosecutors said. Fueled by what they described as an “irrational hate,” he paid his roommate, 21-year-old Chris Brashear, to carry out the shooting of his brother, mother and father. Whitaker’s dad was the only one who survived.

May 25, 2015

The Seeds of Intolerance

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: Tikkun Daily
Hate disguised as free speech is a particularly ugly thing. Google Maps labeling the White House as N****r House is no less disgusting than a French magazine drawing the Prophet Muhammad in a stereotypical or untrue sketch. As I see the intolerance among us grow and ultimately divide us, I fear for the world we will leave our children and grandchildren in. Instead of learning to live in peace and love, we still think of ourselves as Muslims, Jews, Christians, white, black, brown, Israeli, Palestinian.

May 19, 2015

Taboo Topics

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: State of Formation
I’ve been working in the field of interfaith dialogue for more than a decade. On good days it’s a lot of fun, and I really see the benefit. On bad days, it’s nothing but headache and heartache. Why? Maybe because there are some topics that are off-limits, and so become the elephant in the room in a very difficult way.

May 14, 2015

Racism Masquerading as Environmentalism

By Stephen Fuqua
A disturbing thing happened at Earth Day Texas – racists and nativists showed up masquerading as environmentalists. A tweet from the Southern Poverty Law Center alerted me that anti-immigrant groups with white supremacist ties would be out at Earth Day Texas. Seeing one of their (unmanned) booths was, therefore, not a surprise. But being verbally accosted at my own booth was.

Quba Islamic Institute Rebuilding

By Bishop Michael Rinehart
WithImamsAs you may recall, on February 13 a fire was started at the Quba Islamic Institute in Houston. Christians and Jews rallied around leaders at Quba, who eventually asked for the charges to be dropped. 

May 7, 2015

Just Perish: Faith & Social Advocacy

By Felicia Woodard
Source: Girl Learns World

The story of Esther is one of the most popular stories in the bible, especially for young women.  It has been extremely romanticised and even commercialized in movies, Pinterest quotes, & used for every women's conference to motivate women to "receive their breakthrough" & "prepare to meet their king".

Apr 29, 2015

Nepal Earthquake and an Interfaith Response

By Jessica Nguyen
The news coming from Nepal is truly horrifying. An earthquake that started out small has now engulfed entire cities in tragedy, and thousands are feared dead. It is distressing that the poor keep bearing the brunt of nature's fury, and many in the faith community ask why? Why do the poor suffer and what can we do to help our brothers and sisters in need?

Apr 17, 2015

A Muslim's Reflections on Holocaust Remembrance Day

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: Tikkun Daily
Shalom and Peace! Today on Holocaust Remembrance Day I would like to share a recent experience that changed my perspective in an unexpected way. My perspective about Jews, about the Holocaust, about myself. Sounds mysterious? I didn’t mean it to be. Let me go back a couple of weeks and start again.

Apr 13, 2015

Religious Responses to the Death Penalty

By Adam Santosh
The death penalty is a huge and often contentious issue today, and Texas with its capital punishment laws is at the forefront of all discussions. I recently reviewed an important document by the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy, which offered some points to ponder from a multi-faith perspective.

Apr 7, 2015

Lent from an Atheist's Perspective

By Shannon Smith
This year, as Lent comes to a close, I am writing a confession. This year, Lent was a fulfilling and spiritual experience for me. For millions of Americans who participate in Lent in some form or the other, I am sure this is not news. They experience Lent by fasting or giving up something else of value, each year for the sake of a higher power. Not so for me. The reason why observing Lent was a confession for me, is that I'm not a Catholic, or even a Christian. I am a proud atheist.

Mar 27, 2015

Celebrating Women's Interfaith History

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: State of Formation

March is women's history month and usually that means a celebration of women from a national or cultural perspective. In the United States that implies celebrating American women of independence, courage and fortitude, whether they are white, black or Latina. More importantly, however, I believe that we must also celebrate women from an interfaith perspective, because the female gender has so much to offer in that field.

Mar 16, 2015

Education Can Win the Hearts and Minds of the People

Source: Dialogue Institute Southwest
Sister Martha Ann Kirk has spoken publicly about her trips to Iraq and her time in that beleaguered country — where so little hope seems to exist, especially for educational opportunity for girls. But this time she was on a panel at the United Nations, where she was invited to speak about her research on the ground.

Feb 25, 2015

Landmark Ruling Nets First Sikh Officer with Turban, Beard in Harris County

It was a matter of pride for the 50 or so members of the local Sikh community who had gathered in the Officer’s Dining Hall of the Harris County Sherriff’s Administrative Offices on 701 N. San Jacinto St, next to Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston.  They came to celebrate not only one of their own becoming a police officer, but to witness history in making as one more visage of mainstream rule crumbled to the power of the diversity that is the cornerstone of this region’s appeal.

Feb 18, 2015

SermonSlam shakes up Interfaith Dialogue

By Sonia Zuniga
Source: The Cougar
Being true to themselves while expressing their beliefs courteously to members of another faith was the challenge six students faced at UH’s first SermonSlam Tuesday in the Student Center Legacy Lounge, part of A.D. Bruce Religion Center’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Feb 16, 2015

Can We Just Love Each Other?

By Saadia Faruqi
Today is Valentine’s Day and as a Muslim I’m expected to write terrible things about it. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that the whole concept of sexual promiscuity dressed up as “love” is pretty awful and sends a very negative message to younger generations. I’m appalled at the seasonal displays at Wal-Mart and CVS and all the other stores where alcohol, chocolate and sexy nightwear jostle for space as if one cannot be used except with the crutch of the others. I am horrified when my five year old daughter comes home from kindergarten telling me some boy is always trying to kiss her but she’s not interested because he’s not handsome. Yet today all the parents of my children’s classmates sent home 26 Valentine’s Day cards and candy and little hearts because it’s so cute.

Feb 2, 2015

Americans Know Nothing about Sikhism: Study

Although more than half a million Sikhs live in the US, a majority of Americans are unaware of what Sikhism is and some admit wariness when seeing their Sikh neighbors, according to new study. Conducted by Washington-based Hart Research Associates, the study released here Tuesday, shows that there is enormous potential to increase awareness and enhance positive sentiments toward Sikhism within the broader American public.

Jan 26, 2015

Terrorism is a Matter of Privilege

By Daniel Johnson
Source: Free Thoughts
As I watch the latest episode in international terrorism play out and the inevitable blaming of Islam for extremist behavior, I wonder if we will ever see the same blaming of Christianity for its extremist activity. As it currently exists, the discussion of terrorist actions can only apply if you are a Muslim or a person of color, or by some happenstance both at the same time.

Jan 19, 2015

What the Interfaith Community Can Learn from MLK

By Saadia Faruqi
Today (January 19th) is Martin Luther King Day, celebrated by millions across the United States. We all know Dr. King very well, of course, and although his courageous efforts were for the betterment of the African American community, he has now become a national icon – a symbol for freedom, civil liberties and justice. He is not just a man but an image standing for the downtrodden sections of society and demanding their rights.  

Jan 15, 2015

Hip Hop and Religion

Source: Houston Press
About 30 minutes before the Tuesday-night Conversation at the Menil Collection was scheduled to begin, all of the best seats stuffed inside Renzo Piano's low-slung masterwork were already taken. All of the bad seats, too. Still, people continued to press inside, sitting, standing or stooping in whatever space they could find. When even the museum's wings filled up and there was no more room left anywhere, folks finally just propped the door open and huddled together outside in the cold.