Religious Diversity News

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Young U.S. Imams Found Seminary, Reach Out to Younger Generation

Source: The New York Times

On June 18, 2006 The New York Times reported, “Every seat in the auditorium at the University of Houston was taken, and the crowd was standing in the back and spilling out into the lobby, straining to hear… Sheik Hamza Yusuf, in a groomed goatee and sports jacket, looked more like a hip white college professor than a Middle Eastern sheik. Imam Zaid Shakir, a lanky African-American in a long brown tunic, looked as if he would fit in just fine on the streets of Damascus.

Both men are converts to Islam who spent years in the Middle East and North Africa being mentored by formidable Muslim scholars. They have since become leading intellectual lights for a new generation of American Muslims looking for homegrown leaders who can help them learn how to live their faith without succumbing to American materialism or Islamic extremism….Most American mosques import their clerics from overseas, some who preach extremism, some who cannot speak English, and most who cannot begin to speak to young American Muslims growing up on hip-hop and in mixed-sex chat rooms. Mr. Yusuf, 48, and Mr. Shakir, 50, are using their clout to create the first Islamic seminary in the United States, where they hope to train a new generation of imams and scholars who can reconcile Islam and American culture…The seminary is still in its fledgling stages, but Mr. Yusuf and Mr. Shakir have gained a large following by being equally at home in Islamic tradition and modern American culture.” For more information on Yusuf and Shakir’s seminary, called the Zaytuna Institute, visit the school’s website at

Young Video Makers Try to Alter Islam’s Face


Source: The Los Angeles Times

When Ali Ardekani started fishing around on the Internet a couple of years ago for video blogs about Muslims, he did not like what he found: either the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims were depicted as bloodthirsty zealots, or they were offering defensive explanations as to why they were not.

“Arabic sounds foreign and scary — you don’t know what is going on,” Mr. Ardekani said in an interview at his small Sherman Oaks apartment, its walls decorated with Koranic verses. “Or they show a woman with the veil, who doesn’t speak, and it is assumed if she did speak she would say, ‘Help me!’ ”

So Mr. Ardekani, a 33-year-old Web designer, cast himself on his video blogs as Baba Ali, an outsize character with a serious religious message who both dissects and lampoons the lives of American Muslims.

Mr. Ardekani is among the most visible of a new wave of young American Muslim performers and filmmakers trying to change the public face of their religion. His most popular video posting — “Who Hijacked Islam?” — has garnered more than 350,000 hits on YouTube since July 2006. Of course the uphill battle such efforts face is reflected in the comments section. One viewer remarked darkly, “It’s Muslims that do the hijacking.”

These video pioneers’ arena of choice is mostly YouTube and similar Web sites, which young Muslims extol as a new way to take their arguments public. The role model is Bill Cosby, who young Muslim filmmakers believe changed the perception of African-Americans by depicting them as ordinary.

Young Woman Leads Bay Area Chapter of CAIR

Source: CBS 5

On August 15, 2005 CBS 5 reported, “Just weeks before bombers attacked the London subway, Safaa [Ibrahim] — barely 30 years old — was named regional director of CAIR, the Council for American Islamic Relations. She is the first woman to ever lead the Bay Area chapter. Within days, CAIR was answering the attacks with television ads, a groundbreaking move that Ibrahim supports… While this may be one of the most difficult times for Muslims in America, Safaa Ibrahim believes it’s also a time of tremendous opportunity. After putting in hundreds of hours as a volunteer for CAIR, she has big plans for the future. She’s already scheduling a youth conference, a Muslim civil rights campaign, and an interfaith open house that will include mosques all over the Bay Area. Her priority is to promote understanding of Islam.”

Young Women Begin Peace Fellowship

Source: Catholic News Service

The Australian bishops have selected seven women from three states for the second Young Catholic Women’s Interfaith Fellowship program which promotes young women’s participation in the Church.

According to a bishops’ statement, the Fellowships are being offered through the Australian bishops’ Office for Participation of Women and with the generous sponsorship of many religious orders, catholic agencies and dioceses.

The Director of the Office, Kimberly Davis says that this year’s Fellowship follows the successful inaugural program in 2006, of which she is a graduate.

“The fruits of the Young Catholic Women’s Interfaith Fellowship are difficult to articulate in a short ‘outcomes-based’ statement. It was an experience that allowed personal growth, academic growth and spiritual growth,” Ms Davis said.

The Fellowship aims at promoting the participation of young women in the Church and targets the development of leadership skills in promoting interfaith relations.

Young Zambian Teens Pull Together in Service Program

Author: Staff Writer

Source: Baha’i World News Service

The Tonga tribe has lived in southern Zambia for hundreds of years, and members are proud of their longstanding traditions and strong social codes. But leaders say some of the customs are eroding – young people, for example, no longer seem to respect the elderly.

A new program involving hundreds of young teens working in small groups may help change that – and simultaneously help the youngsters get along better with each other.

Younger Generation of Muslims Turning Their Backs on Britian

Source: BBC News

On March 7, 2004 the BBC News reported, “Navid Akhtar is a practising Muslim deeply concerned about a growing trend among his contemporaries toward a separatist ideology that turns its back on Britain. He wrote this personal account for Sunday’s Five Live Report: ‘Young Muslims are opting out. They’ve renounced the Islam of their immigrant parents and feel disillusioned with a society that they perceive as racist. Many are turning their backs on democracy and Britain. And they are finding a new identity in a brand of Islam that is radical and intolerant. Out of 1.8 million Muslims living in Britain today, the highest proportion have their roots in Bangladesh and Pakistan-administered Kashmir…Settling into Britain has not been an easy experience and many feel excluded from the mainstream. The worst hit are the young, who find themselves at odds with their parents’ insular Asian culture and a Britain they believe is hostile towards them.”