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Uprisings in the Arab World: Seeking Understanding

TunisiaOur Multifaith Department at RRC maintains close touch with young, thoughtful Muslims. These Muslim leaders of tomorrow attend RRC's Muslim-Jewish summer retreats, work with our students in our service learning course on Islam and come to RRC to lecture or to participate in our salon. Afterwards, we stay in touch, through Facebook, emails, blogs and more. When complicated world events challenge us--as they have in the last few weeks--we especially appreciate these  connections.

With the uprising in Egypt now riveting everyone's attention, I turned to my computer to see what some of these smart young Muslims were thinking and writing. For example, Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian born journalist living in New York, was a guest lecturer in our Islam class last year and will be returning this spring to teach again. Mona is an award-winning syndicated columnist. Before she moved to the U.S. in 2000, she lived in Saudi Arabia for nine years and was a Reuter’s correspondent from Cairo and later from Jerusalem where she was the first Egyptian journalist to live and to work for a western news agency in Israel.

Mona EltawayThis week, Mona's voice has been much in demand. You can read some of her postings in The Guardian and other newspapers by going to She writes,

How did they do it? Why now? What took so long? These are the questions I face on news shows scrambling to understand. I struggle with the magnitude of my feelings of watching as my country revolts and I give into tears when I hear my father's Arabic-inflected accent in the English of Egyptian men screaming at television cameras through tear gas: "I'm doing this for my children. What life is this?"

You can watch Mona interviewed by Amy Goodman here.

Haroon MoghulHaroon Moghul, a Columbia University Ph.D. candidate in Middle Eastern Studies, has studied Arabic in Egypt and Pakistan, as well as Persian, French, Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi. Haroon has directed the Islamic Center at New York University, and now maintains a popular blog where he compiles his many interviews and opinion pieces, while also running the Maydan Institute. A piece he wrote after the uprising in Tunisia helped me understand how the relationship between Islam and the state means something very different in Iran than in Tunisia, and how we can be led astray by our own assumptions regarding religion, secularism and government.

Here he explains why Egypt's uprising is not Islamic, and in this conversation he shares important insights about the Muslim Brotherhood, American Muslims and the campaign on the right to protect America from "Sharia Law."

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