Muslim Women Clerics Play Indispensable Role

ING News & Information, 7/3/08

In this Edition:

  • Latest News on ING Blog
  • Cultural Diversity Workshop for Teachers at UC Santa Cruz Extension, 6/28/08
  • National General Assembly, Presbyterian Church, 6/23/08
  • ING Finishes Spring Semester, 6/13/08
  • Thank You for Your Support!

Survey finds world’s top 10 intellectuals are Muslims

WASHINGTON – The bimonthly US international affairs journal Foreign Policy has just published a survey of the world’s top 20 public intellectuals and the first 10 are all Muslims. Fethullah Gülen, who heads a network of schools and media that is probably the world’s largest moderate Muslim movement, came first. Other Muslim religious personalities made the top 10 — weekly preacher on al-Jazeera satellite television Youssef al-Qaradawi (3rd), popular Egyptian television preacher Amr Khaled (6th), Iranian reformist theologian Abdolkarim Soroush (7th), and Swiss-born scholar Tariq Ramadan (8th). Second was Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi economist who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for the microcredit project run by his Grameen Bank.

Teaching not preaching In CA Bible Belt

“We can’t preach, but we can teach,” teacher Yvonne Taylor said. Using “Teach Don’t Preach” as her motto, Taylor guides the world religions course at Johansen High. “And now we’re going to be looking at Judaism, Christianity, and Islam,” Taylor said to her class. Most schools studiously avoid religion. In fact, Modesto is the only public school district in America where students have to study all major religions to graduate. “The United States is one of the most religious countries on Earth. And yet Americans know almost nothing about religion,” said Stephen Prothero, author of a new book, “Religious Literacy.” Prothero believes Modesto should be a model for the country, because America is paying a price for knowing so little about the world’s religions. “Religious illiteracy imperils our Democracy at home and it puts to a huge test our ability to conduct foreign policy overseas,” Prothero said. “What’s going on now in Iraq and in Iran and in Burma – these are religious people acting for religious reasons.” “In Islam, we’ll be talking about the five pillars,” Taylor said to her class.”

Woman imams [clerics] play indispensable role in China’s largest Muslim region

YINCHUAN, June 23 (Xinhua) – “At a tiny courtyard mosque in China’s most populous Muslim region, Jin Meihua leads other women in prayer and chants. Every day, the 44-year-old dons a black robe and violet scarf and preaches to dozens of women at the Little White Mosque in northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous region, where most of the country’s Islam-faith Hui ethnic minority live. She is a female imam or “ahong,” pronounced ah-hung, from the Persian word “akhund” for “the learned.” In China, a female imam is an innovation, despite being rare in Arab countries. ‘Many female Muslims do not have the benefit of a school education. Although they are Muslims, they know nothing about the Qu’ran. I want to teach them the holy scriptures and hope they can be inspired and think independently,’ she said. ‘Women ahong are the best qualified to do this because they can communicate with the female faithful in ways the male ahongs can’t.’ As early as the late Ming dynasty (around the 17th century), the faithful had set up female Muslim schools around the country. These turned into female mosques operated by women imams in late Qing dynasty (around the 19th century). The practice of female imams then spread to all the Chinese Muslim societies, said Shui Jingjun, a Henan Provincial Academy of Social Sciences researcher. Currently, Ningxia has more than 80 female imams. There are more than 3,600 registered mosques and 6,000 ahongs in the region, he said.

Health care report 2008: Cultural training helps health care groups better serve their patients

Susan Heffner, a registered nurse, admitted she hadn’t been exposed to many cultures. That is, until she began her nursing career at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Now the clinical nurse educator is training others to recognize and work successfully with the variety of people who come to the medical center as patients or staff. She credits Deborah Davis, who holds a doctorate in social work, with introducing her to the program that educates staff on the importance of understanding cultures, beliefs and backgrounds unlike her own. Davis manages the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Employment Equity for the medical center. The department began its Achieving Cultural Competency in Healthcare workshops in fall 2005, offering the program to the medical center’s more than 7,200 employees. Approximately one-third of the employees have attended so far, Davis said. Students in their first year at the medical school at Hershey take an eight-session course in health care diversity. New medical center employees are introduced to the topic during their orientation. The purpose of the workshop is “to teach people to become culturally astute,” Davis said. “We want them to be more knowledgeable of different cultures, and also to ask the right questions that may impact their health care.”

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Cultural Diversity Workshop for Teachers at UC Santa Cruz Extension, 6/28/08

ING speaker Reema Qadry addressed a class of ESL teachers at UC Santa Cruz Extension in Cupertino on Saturday, June 28th. These are future teachers of English as a second language. The instructor wanted to familiarize them with the diversity that may be in their classes, or in case they teach abroad. After providing them with an overview of what it means to be a Muslim, and the basic tenets of the faith, she explained some of the issues that might impact their Muslim students, before responding to their questions. The future teachers were grateful for the opportunity to learn more about the Muslim culture, which they had many of their personal questions about, as well as gaining a better understanding of how to interact with their future Muslim students.

Ecumenical & Interfaith Relations Committee, National General Assembly, Presbyterian Church USA, 6/23/08

ING’s president, Maha Elgenaidi represented ING at the national General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) on Monday, June 23rd in San Jose. She spoke about Islamic perspectives on pluralism with an emphasis on Muslim-Christian relations and shared beliefs and values. The Presbyterians gather each year at a weeklong conference to discuss and debate important issues, and pass resolutions that impact policy for the entire denomination in the U.S. Maha was one of the few religious leaders of other faiths invited to address issues relating to their individual traditions, and answer questions about resolutions that address issues of commonality with their faiths. Passed by the General Assembly this year were resolutions that called for Tolerance and Peaceful Relations between the Christian and Muslim Communities, and an affirmative response to an invitation to interfaith dialogue by 138 Muslim clerics in a document titled “A Common Word Between Us and You.“ For more information on this historic document, visit this site:

ING Finishes the Spring Semester, 6

ING completed another busy academic semester as schools across the Bay Area closed for the summer. The spring semester was packed with presentations to a wide variety of venues, ranging from the usual middle and high schools to colleges, universities, churches and other interfaith groups, clubs, police departments, and other venues. While the audiences were diverse, and the topics varied, the feedback was the same: “appreciation for challenging common stereotypes and helping overcome prejudices.” Thanks to all of ING supporters for making this work possible.

Some highlights of last semester include:

High Schools:

  • Professional Development Day at San Mateo Union High School District, 1/25/08
  • Castro Valley High School’s Days of Diversity, 3/06 – 3/07/08
  • Multicultural Week at Robertson High School, 4/7/08

Colleges and Universities:

  • “Women in Islam” at UC Santa Cruz, 3/06/08
  • “Women in Islam” at UC Davis, 4/22/08
  • “Role of Women & Understanding Hijab” at St. Mary’s College, 4/23/08
  • “Islam and the Muslim Perspective on World Events,” San Jose State, 4/29/08
  • “Feminism and Islam,” Stanford Department of Anthropology, 5/20/08

Faith organizations and Interfaith Events:

  • Epiphany West Conference, 1/30-1/31/08
  • Presentation and Dialogue at Congregation Emeth, Gilroy, 3/08/08
  • Secular Franciscans Learn About Muslim World, 3/27/08
  • “Women in Islam” at the Dominican School, Berkeley, 4/3/08
  • Bible by the Bay Conference, 4/13/08
  • Interfaith Forum at the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment 4/9/08
  • Buddhist Birthday Ceremony at Chung Tai Zen Center, 5/11/08
  • Northern California Religious Leaders in Conversation, 5/20/08

Healthcare Providers:

  • “Women’s Health Care for Muslim Patients,” at Stanford School of Medicine, 2/08/08
  • “Mental Health Care for the Muslim Patient,” at Stanford University, 4/18/08
  • “Health Care for the Muslim Patient,” at Pacific Medical Center, 4/23/08

Community Organizations and Events:

  • Community of Mindful Living Panel, 1/25/08
  • “Not in Our Town”, Silicon Valley Community Foundation Panel, 3/13/08
  • “Getting to know American Muslims and their Faith,” at YMCA of Santa Clara Valley, 3/27/08
  • Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionals, 3/29/08
  • County of Santa Clara Holocaust Remembrance, 4/14/08
  • “American Muslim Community,” San Jose Women’s Club, 5/06/08
  • “Getting to Know American Muslims and Their Faith,” Cupertino Rotary, 5/21/08
  • “Islam & Contemporary Issues,” Albany Rotary Club, 6/03/08

Thank You for Your Support!