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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 16th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

This website participates in Inter-religious dialogue as a way to mutual understanding by religions that agree beforehand to live in peace with one-another. This includes Imams in the US and wherever else – that are ready to enter this larger tent.

The following new leaders in Islam are welcome to the above tent – but as a new breed – not as apologists for the “is” – the problem is not the “Misperception” but the hurt from the effect of on-going actions.

The a-priory perception is that Muslims that come to live in the west have done so in order to avoid oppression in their lands of origin – this like all those that moved to the West before them and came from other religious backgrounds. Some came because they were oppressed, others because they did not agree with the oppression – both groups created new harmonies here – that is the melting pot that has to be understood and cherished.

We wish all the best to those interviewed in the following article, and those that go to meetings like the one in Doha, Qatar, mentioned in the article. We hope they change the leadership of Islam, the relationship to their women, the material learned in the madrassas, the perception of the infidel, etc. That does not mean a castration of their culture, but the bringing out to the forefront of the postive in their culture that we can easily admire also. The venom is what has to be removed internally before an attempt to claim misperception. Westerners are ready to accept the idea that the venom is not the juice of the pure religion it claims to be the guardian thereoff.

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Young Western Muslims Fight Misperceptions.
writes Liza Jansen of the IPS, February 16, 2010.

NEW YORK, Feb 15 (IPS) – Islamophobia is rising in the West, and sectarian clashes have undermined unity in the Muslim world, but there is hope from “within”, says a group of young Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow (MLTs) working to address these problems. “There is a lot of misinformation out there about our face, and there are many obstacles to getting the right information out,” Asim Rehman, a member of MLT in the United States, told IPS.

Rehman is also president of the Muslim Bar Association of New York, a professional grouping of Muslim lawyers, law students, and legal professionals. “When you see a 10-second clip of an angry young Muslim but there is no context to it, it disheartens and saddens me that this particular part of the faith has been given priority,” added member Rusha Majeed.

Majeed, also based in New York City, is dedicated to bridging the gap between the wider public and the Muslim community through dialogue, culture, arts, academia and current affairs.

Muslims are currently living in a pivotal period of enormous challenge and transformation, they said, and Muslims seeking positive Islamic solutions must directly tackle this situation.

The MLT programme brings together diverse young Muslims from around the world who are committed to fostering healthy Muslim identities, and working as agents of change in their communities.

In only six years, the network has expanded from 25 countries in Western Europe to about 75 countries all over the world, ranging from Somalia to Iraq to Kosovo, and coming from diverse schools of thought and myriad ethnic, cultural, socio-economic and professional backgrounds.

Rehman says the group’s biggest challenge in the U.S. is undoing the negative perception of Islam. The diverse Muslim community here is an asset in this effort, he said, since “Americans see greater potential for intra- and inter-religious harmony in the U.S. than we do in other countries, because of the melting pot model.”

MLT’s focus for the Muslim community in the U.S. is on interfaith work, building coalitions with different religious communities, and a balanced portrayal of Islam in the media, which is “crucial and critical and a big challenge to keep the conversation going”, according to Majeed.

At the MLT convention in Doha, Qatar, last January, the MLT global network was launched to tackle thorny issues such as violent extremism, competing values, and strained relations with the West.

One of the outcomes was that 86 percent of participants said Muslims face a crisis in religious authority.

“There are competing voices for that space and traditionally there is the Ulema – the educated class of Muslim legal scholars – where people go to,” Majeed explained.

However, many young Muslims don’t know who to turn to if they have questions about Islam, she said, and there is confusion about who is the “right” authority to consult – ranging from the local imam to the popular search engine Google.

“I truly feel that if non-Muslims just knew a little bit more about their Muslim neighbours, and if Muslims themselves were to be a little more open to embrace both non-Muslims and the diversity within Islam, we’d all be in a much better place,” Rehman said.

There are a lot of unqualified Muslim imams in the world, and others blindly follow them, he added.

The MLT programme is the largest of its kind, with 300 young civic-minded Muslim leaders from diverse backgrounds stepping up around the globe as spokespersons, journalists, religious leaders, activists for peace and tolerance, leaders of NGOs, writers and academics.

One Dutch MLT works to affect change by playing music. An Italian MLT and a local imam are working to promote interfaith harmony. And an MLT from Pakistan is involved in reform of the madrasah, the schools of Islamic theology and religious law.

Although the MLT programme does not have an explicit focus on women, the number of female MLTs is remarkable, since many interpretations of Islam oppose women taking leadership roles.

“We aim to keep the group diverse and representative, which includes encouraging women to participate,” said Majeed.

Majeed joined the network two years ago, and says it has provided her with the opportunity to meet a fascinating group of people.

“The MLT programme has done an amazing job in connecting young Muslim leaders around the world,” agreed Rehman. “These are people I can reach out to in participation. It is very inspiring to see people doing the work that they are doing.”

“The MLT network helps building a tremendous confidence for people in their own work. You need a level of pride in order to really make a change for communities,” he concluded.

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