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Archive for the ‘Inter-Culturalism’ Category



For Hindu Americans, Long-Term Hopes for Pluralism About More Than Just Days Off

Feb10

by: Murali Balaji on February 10th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Tulsi Gabbard, America's first Hindu member of Congress. Creative Commons/AFGE

At a time when our struggle for civil and human rights seems daunting given the vitriolic political climate, one of the most striking lessons from history is that movements for social change never go smoothly.

In fact, one of the lessons many of us fail to appreciate from the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s is how many internal struggles there was among the various groups and leaders that were calling for change. Ava DuVernay’s masterful Selma captured some of these struggles from the perspective of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., but there were many ideological, geographical, cultural, and religious fault-lines that hindered attempts to articulate a unified message for full equality and suffrage.

After the passage of the Civil Rights Act, some of those tensions remained, even as groups such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and NAACP continued to try to impact long-lasting change.

Today, new battlefronts in the call for civil rights have emerged, most notably for recognizing the rights of religious minorities in a rapidly diversifying country. Religious pluralism is no longer just an ideal, but a reality that cities and communities across America are coming to grips with.

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For many Jews, anti-Arab racism hits home

Dec9

by: Keren Soffer Sharon on December 9th, 2015 | 12 Comments »

Following the devastating attacks in Paris, right wing forces have been fanning the frightening flames of anti-Arab racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia. There have been calls for increased surveillance of Muslim communities, unconstitutional registration of American Muslims, and religious tests for Syrian refugees seeking safety in the United States.

A transit camp (maabarah) for Mizrahi immigrant refugees in 1952

I am Mizrahi. I’m a Jew, and like many Mizrahim, I’m also an Arab. We Arab Jews have a unique perspective to offer on the Syrian refugee crisis, and on the Islamophobic and anti-Arab backlash that we are seeing in this country and across the globe. For me, anti-Arab racism is not something abstract. It’s not something that needs a historical analogy to feel visceral. The hatred and fear directed toward our Arab and Muslim friends is an attack on the Arab heritage of Mizrahim and on our rich history as Jews.

Mizrahi Jews (meaning “Eastern”) are Jews who for over 2,500 years were indigenous to the Middle East, North Africa, parts of Asia and the Balkans. For much of this time, Mizrahim were deeply rooted in the Muslim-majority societies in which they lived. Our ultimate displacement was the result of several historical forces, including the establishment of the state of Israel by Ashkenazi (European) Jews with the support of imperial powers.

In the late 1930s, Ezra Haddad, an Iraqi Jewish author and historian, proclaimed, “We were Arabs before we became Jews,” in Al-Akhbar, an Iraqi daily newspaper. Before British and French colonialism, Arab Jews, Arab Muslims and Arab Christians shared communities, identities and homes – in the deepest sense. My mother’s maiden name is Soffer, which means “scribe.” My ancestors were Torah scribes in Basra, Iraq, dating as far back as anyone in my family can remember. There was no place my family would have called home before Basra. Like other Iraqi Jews, my family was part of a thriving Jewish community living among other religious minorities in a society that was widely tolerant of non-Muslims. We shared the physical, cultural and psychic space that made us all Arab. It is only recently, through the centralizing of the Ashkenazi narrative as the dominant Jewish story, that our identity as Jews is supposed to override our identity as Arabs.

There is no history to support the claim that Jews and Muslims are, or have ever been, perpetual enemies. Let us not forget that when both religious groups were expelled from Spain by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492, it was Muslims who welcomed Sephardi Jews (meaning “from Spain”) into Morocco and parts of the Ottoman Empire. And contrary to the notion that Jews were never safe in Muslim-majority territories, it was actually the Christian territories where they faced the most virulent forms of Antisemitism. Jews and Muslims were both demonized and targeted during the Spanish Inquisition under the same system of Christian hegemony that would later form the political foundations of white supremacy as we know it today.

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Open Letter to Dr. Ben Carson

Sep21

by: on September 21st, 2015 | 8 Comments »

Dear Dr. Carson,

I write to express my disappointment at best for your statements on the NBC Sunday broadcast of “Meet the Press” on September 20, 2015. Host Chuck Todd raised the controversy surrounding Donald Trump’s failure to correct an audience member in a town hall meeting in New Hampshire last week who asserted that President Obama is a Muslim, and then he advocated for the forceful deportation of Muslims from the U.S. Todd then asked you about your take on the controversy, to which you replied that a Muslim should not become president of our country: “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”

As a highly educated person, as a candidate for the presidency, and as someone who has co-authored, along with your wife Candy, a book titled A More Perfect Union: What We the People Can Do to Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties, you should have a more enlightened understanding of our nation’s foundational document.

In the book you write generally about the “basic principles” of the Constitution and how “they relate to our everyday lives.” You go on to state: “I believe that making a difference starts with understanding our amazing founding document, the U.S. Constitution.” You assert that both you and Candy wrote the book to “help defend” the Constitution “from those who misinterpret and undermine it.”


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Help Wanted to Pressure US Embassy Official

Aug13

by: on August 13th, 2015 | 16 Comments »

A friend of mine, Eritrean-American journalist Michael Abraham, is without resources or means of subsistence in Nairobi because a white US Embassy official will not give him the proof of his US citizenship that he needs to work as foreign correspondent or obtain emergency assistance from media rights groups as a journalist in distress having lost everything in the bloody South Sudan war. He has been offered both employment and assistance, if he can show his passport.

He can’t, because his passport is being held by a hotel manager who will not give it back until he pays the money he owes the hotel. But without a job, he can’t repay the hotel.

The embassy is refusing to provide a temporary proof of citizenship which would enable him to get a job as journalist. Isn’t that illegal? What can Michael do from here? Is there anyone reading this with the legal knowledge to give him free advice?

Here’s the whole story, which appears to be yet another tale of a white official acting racist. I have written it up as a press article, but I haven’t yet found any publication interested. When there is another unarmed Black citizen shot every few days in the US, I guess no one is up for paying attention to a Black citizen being blackballed by our embassy thousands of miles away. But if you have any legal advice, please do email me. The story in full:

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KKK Posing as Victim of “Cultural Genocide”

Jul9

by: on July 9th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

An group protests a KKK rally by holding up signs delcaring love.

In Athens, Atlanta in September, 2007, a group protests a KKK rally. The Klan is discussing holding another rally in response to the anti-Confederation flag movement. Credit: CreativeCommons / 57allison.

For literally decades, calls have gone out by civil and human rights advocates to remove of the battle flag of the Confederacy from public sites like state capitol grounds and other government buildings. This movement gained enormous momentum recently following the brutal racist murders of nine parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charlestown, South Carolina by an avowed white supremacist.

On his Facebook page, the 21-year-old gunman posed for pictures wearing a military-style jacket with insignia patches of flags of apartheid South Africa and white ruled Rhodesia (today known as Zimbabwe). In another picture, he waved a Confederate battle flag, and in another, he stood holding a burning American flag. In addition, he wore a T-shirt with the number 88 printed on the front, he had 88 Facebook friends, and he scribbled that number in the South Carolina sand. “H” is the 8th letter of the alphabet, and in white supremacist circles, “88″ symbolizes “Heil Hitler.”

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Pope Francis’s Encyclical and the Coming of Age of Creation Spirituality

Jul6

by: Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox on July 6th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

 

Aerial shot of melting glaciers.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Doc Searls.

Pope Francis’s recent encyclical boasts a title borrowed from the famous poem to Brother Sun and Sister Moon by his namesake, Francis of Assisi. “Laudato si’”, which translates as “Praise Be to You”, carries a message and a spirit that echoes much of the soul of St. Francis. Humans around the world are eager for some moral voices to stand up and be counted, so beset are we by multinational corporations and their lobbyists and their media moguls who, like secular popes, declare infallibly each day what is and is not news while they pad their corporate pockets with dark money raised by an avalanche of consumer goodies most of which feed the world unnecessary goodies. Surely this is one reason the Dalai Lama has the following he does. And it is the reason Pope Francis is being heard by more and more people around the world and why, borrowing from his idol, Pope John XXIII, he addressed this encyclical on climate change and ecology to all persons of the world, Christian or not, believers or not.

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Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus Welcomes Pope’s Encyclical on Climate Change

Jun22

by: Sunita Viswanath and Christopher Fici on June 22nd, 2015 | Comments Off

An aerial shot of Herbert Volcano Caldera.

Credit: CreativeCommons / U.S. Geological Survey.

In his recent eco-encyclical (ecology and economy) Laudato Sii (“Praised Be”), Pope Francis invited every person on the planet into dialogue on the many pressing ecological issues facing humanity – and their impact on the poorest people of the world. The reality of climate change “represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day” (#25). Humankind is responsible for care of the natural world, and that responsibility extends toward protecting poor and vulnerable people and our children and grandchildren.

Pope Francis made five key points in this teaching document, a new foundation of Catholic teaching on the environment:

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In-Between “Racialized” Category of European-Heritage Jews

Jun19

by: on June 19th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

An older Jewish gentleman.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Thomas Hawk

Sometimes I don’t know which side of the wall I’m on.
—Wladylaw Szpilman, The Pianist

On numerous occasions, I have attended the annual National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s “Creating Change” conference, bringing together grass-roots activists from throughout North America as well as other countries around the world. At one of the conferences in the early 1990s, I was a participant in a well-attended workshop titled “Activists of Color/White Activists Dialogue” facilitated by two highly-respected activists: a woman of color and a white Christian man.

When the workshop began, the woman outlined the agenda for the next one-and-one-half hours: the workshop would concentrate on the concepts of “race” and dialogue across racial divides, and include two separate panels of participant volunteers: one composed of four people of color, the other of four white people. Panel members were to each, in turn, answer four questions put to them by the facilitators, first the people of color panelists followed by the white people panelists. The questions were: 1. “What do you love about being your racial identity?” 2. “What has been difficult for you growing up this racial identity?” 3. “What do you never want to hear said again about or seen done to people of your racial identity group?,” and 4. “How can people of other racial groups support you and be your allies?”

As she explained the intended focus and agenda, great confusion came over me: Should I volunteer? Well, maybe, but I really can’t because I’m not sure if either of the categories on which the panels are organized include me. I know for certain that I am not eligible to volunteer for the “persons of color” panel. But, also, I feel as if I somehow don’t belong on the “white persons” panel either. Maybe I should just listen to the panelists, which I did.

But, what caused my bewilderment? What got in my way of self-defining as “white”? From where was this feeling of not-belonging on either panel, or my feeling of in-betweenness coming? Thinking back, I came to realize that it stems, I believe, from both personal and collective experience.

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The Pope Might Save the Planet… if You Would Join an Interfaith Effort to Support His Direction!

Jun18

by: on June 18th, 2015 | 5 Comments »

A portrait of Pope Francis.

Credit: Alberto Pizzoli via Getty Images.

The Pope issued a powerful letter to the world today, called Laudato Si, in which he called upon the people of the world as well as the members of the Catholic Church to make saving the planet from environmental destruction the major and urgent focus of our activity in the 21st century. And he highlighted how climate change will be particularly destructive to the poor. I want to share with you the following piece I wrote, which appeared on the front page of the Huffington Post today. If you prefer, you may read it there. Please never say “I didn’t know what to do in face of the environmental crisis,” because we at Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives are inviting you to become involved with us in some very specific steps you could take! Please read the article below!

Warm regards and blessings,

- Rabbi Michael Lerner

Pope Francis’ Laudato Si plea for environmental sanity and a serious recommitment to the Bible’s call for humanity to be stewards of this planet earth just might make a huge difference by puncturing through the emotional depression that keeps most of the people of the earth paralyzed in face of the growing crisis.

It is not that people don’t know about the environmental crisis that keeps us stuck in our current situation. It is rather that most people are unable to see any way out of the mess that global capitalism has created for us. Feeling hopeless about the possibility of the kinds of fundamental transformations needed to save the planet, much of humanity has chosen the ostrich strategy: deny the problem, and focus instead on getting as much as one can for oneself in the decades ahead as the planet whimpers under the increasing destructiveness of the capitalist imperative to growth without limits and accumulation of money, power or things as the only meaning to life. Yet it is this very growth and accumulation of things, produced at the expense of the earth, that guarantees earth-destruction if not of the planet than at least of its life-support-system that makes human life on it possible.

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Stop the Canonization of Friar Serra, Patron Saint of Colonizers and Racists!

Jun17

by: Matthew Fox on June 17th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

Statue of Junipero Serra in profile

Credit: CreativeCommons/ millerm217.

Do we really need a Patron Saint of Colonizers? A Patron Saint of Racists? That is what is at stake in the dangerous canonization of Father Junipero Serra (1713-1784) that the Vatican is threatening during the papal visit to the United States in Fall 2015. We must stand with indigenous people everywhere and resist loudly this grave injustice. The native people I know are furious and fuming and for very good reasons. As one Native American leader named Toypurina put it, “by virtue of this canonization of a conqueror, the pope has declared war on Native Peoples, globally.”

Pope Francis has the support of many vis-à-vis his efforts to critique our failing economic system, clean up the Catholic Church, and pronounce about eco-theology and climate change. We all wish him well and extend him our prayers, but this canonization issue could seriously mar those efforts, as well as his soon-to-be-released encyclical on ecology. After all, indigenous wisdom, unlike most Western religion, has never forsaken the sense of the sacredness of the cosmos. Why continue to insult indigenous peoples? Isn’t their wisdom needed more than ever for an environmental awakening today?

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