In the News: Calligraphy, Coens, a Caffeinated Casket and much more!

A round-up of recent religion news. Continue Reading →

The Great God Pan Still Lives

Ed Simon reviews Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East

by Gerard Russell. Continue Reading →

In the News: Racism, Ramadan, Romanian Witches and more!

A round-up of the week’s religion news. Continue Reading →

In the News: Emanuel A.M.E., Encyclicals, Etsy, and more!

A round-up of the week’s religion news. Continue Reading →

Muslim Attitudes

Comment by NYU assistant professor/faculty fellow Jeremy Walton on yesterday’s New York Times article, “Koran burning in NATO Error Incites Afghans,”  (February 21, 1:39 pm):

These comments are, on the whole, atrocious and disturbing, for two reasons. First, there seems to be absolutely no interest or concern on the part of most NYTimes readers to comprehend Muslim attitudes toward the Qur’an. As a professor of Islamic Studies, I begin every class on the Qur’an by emphasizing that it should not be understood as a mere ‘book’–it is both more and less. Less because Muslims don’t read the Qur’an cover-to-cover like a novel; more because it is, along with the exemplary conduct of the Prophet Muhammad, the authoritative source of wisdom about the universe and humanity’s place within it for Muslims. Qur’anic passages suffuse Muslim life and worship. The performance of salat, the five daily prayers, is an embodiment of the Qur’an, and Qur’anic verses saturate daily speech and life in most Muslim contexts. Muslims who cannot fully comprehend the linguistic meaning of the text due to illiteracy in Arabic respect the Qur’an no less because of this fact. Is it any surprise that some devout Afghani Muslims take umbrage to the disrespectful actions of their military occupiers? Of course, dismissal of religious attitudes is a secular privilege that we all share, but this brings me to my second objection to the bulk of the comments here: Even if you choose to denigrate the actions of some Afghani Muslims, do not make the vicious mistake of all prejudice and bigotry, the substitution of the actions of a few (the protesters) for the whole.

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Terry Jones Takes Dearborn

Yesterday Terry Jones held another rally in Dearborn, Michigan, outside the Arab International Festival, to raise awareness for the encroachment of Islam in America.  Abby Ohlheiser was there.

This was the plan: Terry Jones would speak at City Hall then march with his supporters up to the annual Arab International Festival in Dearborn, MI, a city with one of the largest Arab populations in the country. The walk is 13 blocks. He got half a block before police put him in a car.  Six protesters from the affirmative action group By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) were arrested.  The rest stood in his path, yelling, getting as close as they could without touching. Jones wore a bullet proof vest under his white t-shirt, as did his friend and fellow speaker pastor Wayne Sapp.

Last time Jones was in Dearborn, he was pelted with shoes and water bottles, something repeatedly referenced today.  But he keeps coming back.  Regardless of the angle, there’s something going on here, some importance perceived by, at least, Jones, that his message be heard in this place at this time.  He’s going to return again, he said, even after the mob.  And likewise, his presence makes Dearborn a site for others–his detractors, his supporters with side causes of their own–to get attention for their messages.

Before the rally began, Jones asked his supporters to join him for a pep talk. “If you’re taking a stand with us we’d like you up to the fence real quick,” he said. Jones told the small gathered crowd, maybe 30 people, about the size of the counter protest (and the media presence, who were pushed against the edge of the press pen trying to hear),  “What’s very important is that we will not in any way retaliate…in every sense they will see god’s love and patience.” Continue Reading →

Osama Bin Laden, Dead

Typing this, I hesitate.  Is this a mere death?  An assassination?  A murder?  And if not the latter, why not?  Mass murderers and perpetrators of genocide have been brought to trial, yet the U.S. now abandons established paths of justice.  They’ve “taken him out.”  Have we already tried bin Laden in our media, determined him guilty beyond doubt, not worthy of justice except the justice that we see in death? Continue Reading →

Preaching Against the Wars

The Proper 29 Project, created by Mennonite pastor Mark Villegas and named for Reign of Christ Sunday (November 21, also known as Proper 29), asks pastors to “address the violence in Iraq and Afghanistan” in their sermons.  Writes Anna Groff at The Mennonite:

Villegas is pastor of Chapel Hill (N.C.) Mennonite Fellowship and a columnist for The Mennonite. He informed all the pastors he knows about the project–many of which are Mennonite. As of Nov. 4, several Mennonite pastors told him they would participate.

Some of the non-Mennonite pastors told him they would receive negative response if they preached about this issue.

“It’s hard here in North Carolina,” said Villegas on Nov. 4. “Our economy is tied to the military-industrial complex. Preaching about the suffering cause by U.S. forces in Iraq hits too close to home in a state that has such a high military population.”

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Apologizing in Advance

Yesterday several hundred Afghans gathered to protest the planned 9/11 burning of the “Koran” at Dove World Outreach Center in Florida. Reports Reuters:

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said the “United States government in no way condones such acts of disrespect against the religion of Islam, and is deeply concerned about deliberate attempts to offend members of religious or ethnic groups.”

“Americans from all religious and ethnic backgrounds reject this offensive initiative by this small group in Florida, a great number of American voices are protesting the hurtful statements made by this organisation,” it said in a statement.

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