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Archive for the ‘General News’ Category



How a California Gurdwara From a Century Ago Can be a Model for Interfaith Harmony

Mar26

by: Murali Balaji on March 26th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

The popular narrative in media and textbooks on the South Asian American population is that they’ve only existed in the United States for a few decades.

But such a narrative misrepresents and obscures a much longer history, especially at the turn of the century, when several thousand Indians settled in regions like Northern California. It’s the largely untold story of the migration of Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims from pre-partition India from the late 19th century up until the passage of the Asian Exclusion Act (which was passed to limit Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and Indian migration).

Even before the act was passed, migrants from India faced many obstacles, including systemic discrimination and outright violence. The 1907 “anti-Hindoo” riots in Bellingham, Washington, for example, targeted mostly Sikh laborers whom whites had accused of stealing lumber jobs. Bellingham is only about an hour north of Bothell, Washington, where a Hindu temple was recently vandalized.

Still, in their small conclaves, the immigrants of different faiths began to find ways to develop a community identity, in part because they were largely shunned by whites. At the time, about two-thirds of Indian immigrants in California at the turn of the century were Sikh, and as a result, the Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan Society — a gurdwara — opened in Stockton in 1911.

Because Hindus and Muslims in the region were still small in number, and unable to get the approvals to build any sites of worship, the Stockton gurdwara served as a place of worship for all three religions. While Hindu-Sikh co-worship was common in northern India for centuries, a place for all three groups in the United States was created by circumstance and sustained through interfaith bonds.

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Tribute to Karen McCarthy Brown: Author of Mama LoLa or the Book that Kept Me in Grad School

Mar18

by: on March 18th, 2015 | Comments Off

News that Karen McCarthy Brown passed away after years of deteriorating illness reached me earlier this month. I kept it to myself. When more official announcements from Drew University–where she was Professor Emerita of anthropology and sociology of religion — showed up on my Facebook feed this past Sunday, I shared it with the following comment:

Reading Karen’s Mama Lola kept me in grad school. Vodou got a human face from her. A tremendous loss, indeed.

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Uncle Pentagon: Growing Up in the Shadow of the American War State

Mar11

by: Frida Berrigan on March 11th, 2015 | Comments Off

A black and white photograph of a young boy holding a woman's hand as they walk in front of the Pentagon.

Growing up as the daughter of two prominent activists, Friday Berrigan spent much of her childhood at the Pentagon. Above, the author (at about two) and Rosemary Maguire at the River Entrance to the Pentagon in 1976. Credit: Frida Berrigan.

The Pentagon loomed so large in my childhood that it could have been another member of my family. Maybe a menacing uncle who doled out put-downs and whacks to teach us lessons or a rich, dismissive great-aunt intent on propriety and good manners.

Whatever the case, our holidays were built around visits to the Pentagon’s massive grounds. That’s where we went for Easter, Christmas, even summer vacation (to commemorate the anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki). When we were little, my brother and sister and I would cry with terror and dread as we first glimpsed the building from the bridge across the Potomac River. To us, it pulsated with malice as if it came with an ominous, beat-driven soundtrack out of Star Wars.

I grew up in Baltimore at Jonah House, a radical Christian community of people committed to nonviolent resistance to war and nuclear culture. It was founded by my parents, Phil Berrigan and Liz McAlister. They gained international renown as pacifist peace activists not afraid to damage property or face long prison terms. The Baltimore Four, the Catonsville Nine, the Plowshares Eight, the Griffiss Seven: these were anti-Vietnam War or antinuclear actions they helped plan, took part in, and often enough went to jail for. These were also creative conspiracies meant to raise large questions about our personal responsibility for, and the role of conscience in, our world. In addition, they were explorations of how to be effective and nonviolent in opposition to the war state. These actions drew plenty of media attention and crowds of supporters, but in between we always went back to the Pentagon.

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“Islam in America”: A Conversation with Jonathan Curiel

Mar11

by: Joseph Richard Preville and Julie Poucher Harbin on March 11th, 2015 | Comments Off

The book cover of 'Islam in America' by Jonathan Curiel showing the statue of liberty and a minaret.

How do Muslims fit into the quilt of American history? Jonathan Curiel investigates this question in his new book, Islam in America (I.B. Tauris, April 28, 2015). “America’s first Muslims,” he writes, “were perceived as less than human – people put in chains, forced to do field work at gunpoint, required to take new names and a new religion. So much has changed in 400 years, even if the struggle for acceptance is an ongoing one.”

Jonathan Curiel is a former staff writer for The San Francisco Chronicle. His work has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Salon, The Columbia Journalism Review, Los Angeles Times, and Tablet. He is the author of Al America: Travels Through America’s Arab and Islamic Roots (The New Press, 2008), which won an American Book Award in 2008.

Curiel’s new book is a readable and reliable history of the Muslim experience in America. It will help Americans to understand their Muslim neighbors and to celebrate the Abrahamic diversity of religious life in the United States.

Jonathan Curiel discusses his new book in this exclusive interview.

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Together We are Strong (On the Labor Horizon at This Moment)

Mar10

by: Aryeh Cohen on March 10th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

A Lyft car with the pink mustache driving in San Francisco.

Classifying workers as independent contractors leaves companies like Uber and Lyft prone to wage theft, regardless of how explicit it may appear. Is this really a "sharing economy?" Credit: CreativeCommons / SPUR.

At a dinner the other night I was talking to a good friend who works in the hi-tech industry. Knowing that I blog about economic justice issues he suggested I write about the “Uber and Lyft economy.” “The whole world is Uber and Lyft,” he said, arguing that the working conditions of Uber and Lyft drivers – wherein the company controls the working hours and working conditions of the drivers, and yet considers them to be independent contractors and therefore is not responsible for paying their social security tax, health insurance, etc. – are not exclusive to Uber and Lyft. Rather, he said, corporations in general were trying to move to a model wherein all workers were independent contractors and therefore the corporations have no obligations to them beyond basic salary.

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Are Pilots Deserting Washington’s Remote-Control War?

Mar9

by: Pratap Chatterjee on March 9th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A drone pilot sitting in front of a computer.

Hundreds of U.S. Air Force drone pilots have quit, and potential candidates are backing away from the training program altogether. Credit: Galleryhip.com.

The U.S. drone war across much of the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa is in crisis and not because civilians are dying or the target list for that war or the right to wage it just about anywhere on the planet are in question in Washington. Something far more basic is at stake: drone pilots are quitting in record numbers.

There are roughly 1,000 such drone pilots, known in the trade as “18Xs,” working for the U.S. Air Force today. Another 180 pilots graduate annually from a training program that takes about a year to complete at Holloman and Randolph Air Force bases in, respectively, New Mexico and Texas. As it happens, in those same 12 months, about 240 trained pilots quit and the Air Force is at a loss to explain the phenomenon. (The better-known U.S. Central Intelligence Agency drone assassination program is also flown by Air Force pilots loaned out for the covert missions.)

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The King and the Ring: On Purim and Violence

Mar4

by: Aryeh Cohen on March 4th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

The question, twenty years after Baruch Goldstein slaughtered 29 Palestinians at prayer, wounding tens more, is this: How can we celebrate Purim? Goldstein, heard the reading of the Megillah on Purim night, heard (for the fortieth time?) that the Jews took vengeance on their enemies, slaughtered thousands of men, women, and children. Twice. Goldstein, a medical doctor, then rose early in the morning, went to the Tomb of the Patriarchs and shot his M16 until he was overpowered and killed, having killed or wounded tens of praying innocents. How do we read this tale of revenge when we know that that revenge, the Purim revenge, the revenge of “the Jews got their enemies in their power” (Esther 9:1) has been wreaked?

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Global Divestment Day: Undermining the System that Causes Climate Change

Feb13

by: on February 13th, 2015 | Comments Off

Calling on the United Methodist Church to Divest from Fossil Fuels.

 

Check out the many divestment actions that are taking place around the world today–Global Divestment Day.

The movement to divest from fossil fuels undermines the system that is causing climate change. The worldwide system of unrestrained free-market capitalism, dominated by global corporations and fueled by money, is based on the view that market forces will sort everything out.

Those of us who are working to get our churches, synagogues, colleges, and other institutions to divest from fossil fuels are challenging this system by saying, “Money is not the highest value.” There are good financial reasons to divest from fossil fuels, but even if there weren’t, “If it’s wrong to wreck the planet, then it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage.” There are values in life that are more important than money.

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Muslim Lives Matter: Double Standards and Islamophobia in Chapel Hill

Feb12

by: Jacob Klein on February 12th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

The news that three young people – Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha – were killed Tuesday near University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is finally making its way into the mainstream press following social media outcry over an initial silence on the evening news and in local newspapers.

Picture of a man and two woman smiling at a graduation.

We must take action in memory of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha so Islamophobic violence like the Chapel Hill shooting doesn't happen again. Credit: Our Three Winners (www.facebook.com/ourthreewinners).

The media’s slow response to this tragic loss – something that would otherwise be all over the 24-hour news cycle – is a painful reminder of how racism and Islamophobia distort reporting on crimes like these. This wasn’t a favored story because the victims were Muslim, and because their alleged killer is a white man.

Most sources that have reported on the Chapel Hill Shooting, as it’s come to be called, make mention of a parking dispute as a potential cause for the killings. Some highlight this more than others, a Fox Nation post going as far as to say in the headline that “Parking dispute, not bias, triggered triple murder.”

However factual the parking dispute may be, how does it come to pass that neighbors disagreeing over parking turns into an execution-style murder spree? Police have reported that all three were shot in the head, an act that undermines potential arguments of a heated fight. And according to some reports, gunshots may have numbered up to ten.

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The Winter of the Gaza-Sderot Discontent

Dec9

by: Julia Chaitin on December 9th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

War in Gaza

Gazans pick up the pieces after buildings are demolished in Gaza City. Credit: Creative Commons/Al Jazeera English

The temperatures rose sharply in the Gaza-Sderot region during July and August. But it wasn’t the heat that made our lives unbearable; it was the third war that tore through our area in less than six years. It was the lethal ping pong of over 5000 Israeli bombings in Gaza and over 4000 rocket attacks on Israeli communities that killed nearly 2200 Gazans, and wounded over 10,000 and that took the lives of 70 Israelis and wounded 875. In addition to the deaths and injuries, ‘Protective Edge’ – or what I termed Unprotected Abyss – forced half a million Palestinians in Gaza from their homes during the war (many still have no homes to return to), and led to the two-month escape of nearly 8000 Israelis – mostly young families – all desperate to find shelter from the bombs, rockets, mortar shells and bullets.

In the south, we knew that after Prime Minister Netanyahu declared the Hamas responsible for the kidnap and murder in mid-June of the three boys – Naftali, Gilad and Eyal – Israelis lucky enough to have ‘safe rooms’ or friends and relatives in the north, would soon be running in their direction. Even though the intelligence branch of the army knew that the terrorists came from Hebron, the air force was sent to punish Gaza. This is the script we know by heart: we go in and bomb, they respond with rockets.

It was not satisfying to be in the know then, nor is it comforting to be in the know now.

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