Courtesy: Pew Forum
The Pew Research Center this week revealed another extensive and newsworthy piece of research: The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society. The results of the survey, which consisted of more than 38,000 interviews of Muslims in Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia in approximately 80 languages, reveals many things on many topics. Some revelations are interesting, others curious, and a few even downright alarming. As an American Muslim, though, I was mostly interested in the appendices, which discuss the attitudes of U.S. Muslims and compared them to similar themes among Muslims of other countries. Here’s my take:
Jason Collins today became the first active NBA player to reveal his gay identity in the league’s history. And he did so on the pages of Sports Illustrated with the grace and stoicism befitting an accidental activist, which indeed is what Collins has become: a brave activist determined to combat the homophobia and hatred rife in American sports.
Not because he set out for this to be his mission. But because nobody else has done so.
I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.
I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.
At Boylston and Berkeley, 8:00 a.m., Monday April 22
Two days after the Boston Marathon bombings, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick was asked in a public radio interview if there would be a permanent memorial to the victims of that horrific act. Patrick understandably felt it was too early to speculate about such a memorial – this was before the dramatic lockdown of Boston and surrounding communities. He went further to say that the most fitting tribute would be to return next year with the biggest and best marathon ever.
That surely would be a testimony to the city’s spirit, but it seems the governor, as a good technocrat, was missing the point. Fact is, people were already finding makeshift ways to memorialize the event. And if past atrocities are a guide, they’ll eventually find a permanent space for that solemn purpose.
If I didn’t know this already, I’d have found out just by standing for a few minutes near Copley Square this past Monday morning, at the intersection of Boylston and Berkeley streets.
Boylston, a crime scene, was still closed at the time. But people stood silently on a sidewalk at the corner, leaning against a police barricade in front of a popup memorial. They gazed at the flowers, flags, candles, handwritten notes, and other items left by anonymous people. They stared at three white crosses in the center of that growing memorial – in remembrance of the three who perished in the twin bombings of April 15. The shrine to eight-year-old Martin Richard was teeming with Teddy Bears, balloons, and children’s books.
by: Lynn Feinerman on April 26th, 2013 | 9 Comments »
Memorial for the Boston Marathon attack on April 15, 2013. Credit: Creative Commons/AnubisAbyss.
On April 20, 2013, days after the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon event, President Obama asked: “Why did young men who grew up and studied here as part of our communities and our country, resort to such violence?”
Media reported that on April 22, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger of the two brothers accused in the bombings, answered Obama’ s question. He stated they bombed the event in reaction to U.S. attacks on Islam.
Is Obama listening to that answer? How does he interpret it? Are the mainstream media, and in particular Fox News’ Erik Rush, listening to that answer?
I don’t think Erik Rush is listening. I doubt, in fact, that the Obama administration is listening to that answer… heeding the message. And innocent U.S. citizens are paying the price.
The gloves are finally off: according to a poll, one third of Americans want a state religion. Two hundred years after the United States was created by men and women fleeing the stifling rule and religious persecution of their homes, we have come full circle by expressing a desire by some to return to a state sanctioned religion. No surprise that the preferred state religion is Christianity. Reflecting on the reasons for such a supposedly non-American public opinion, the pollsters wonder if it could be “reflective of dissatisfaction with the current balance of religion and politics”. In my mind, however, the results of the poll point to some deep-rooted issues, which instead of being dismissed as inconsequential because it could never actually happen, should be analyzed to understand the thought process of millions of the population.
Nothing is as beautiful as union and unity of mind. Nothing compares with being one – provided each individual is honored and respected. Each individual! Inside that little word, you can hear the matchless value it declares – undividable, must-not-be-broken, I am somebody, an individual. Yet individuals long to be not set apart. We seek unity, community, love, peace – a new heaven and a new earth. The matchless value in the hearts of all peoples in all times is that we may be one. E pluribus unum, reads the Great Seal of the USA: “Out of many, one.” To preserve the integrity of each and the unity of the one – this is hard. It is what makes life hard in our very imperfect nation. It is what makes life hard in our very imperfect church – hard for the one deep reason, that we long to be our self, and we long to be together. And we want both now, because time is short. Every love song, every national anthem, every hymn to God, every I have a dream! is woven from the wondrous deep wish that each one be one, and that all may be one. All the promises of God revealed to us through our faith aim for peace along this path. Christians call it the way of the Cross.
But we cannot get to unity through our longings. We are too disordered by our own worries. Therefore, profound experiences of joined humanity usually come only in the face of mortal danger. We have seen it in Boston these last days, both in the vast cooperation of the citizenry to apprehend the bombers and in the sudden joy spilling into the streets to thank the authorities after the manhunt was over. When the murderous mayhem at Newtown still stunned our spirits, we experienced a depth of unity – but last week, disunity and party spirit ruled in Washington as the power of the people to join in unified action against gun violence was shattered. In the aftermath of natural disasters like Sandy, the beauty of community builds up. If a terrible war ends, the victors, though not the vanquished, join in joy. Thus danger and release from danger unify those who see the same danger.
Last Tuesday, on Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day), I debated an American supporter of Likud in front of 200 students at the Kushner Academy yeshiva high school in Livingston, New Jersey. Everyone — including my opponent — was polite and friendly, and the teachers repeatedly exhorted the students to be civil and open to hearing a view they may disagree with. Three boys came up to me after to shake my hand and tell me that they were perhaps the only “liberals” in the school.
Although personable, my opponent was loose in his interpretations and misinformed on relevant events in Palestinian-Israeli relations. He even referred to the Boston Marathon bombing of the previous day, before we knew anything about the perpetrators, as if this were relevant to our debate. I don’t recall his exact words, but he insinuated that it proved how violent and undependable “they” are — by which he must have meant Muslims, Arabs and/or Palestinians.
Such generalizations are wrong, of course, but the extremist Jihadi script is out there; sadly, this constitutes a distinct behavioral model for disaffected and maladjusted individuals to embrace for meaning in their lives. From what we know of the Tsarnaev brothers, this seems to be true of the older brother, with the younger pushed along by the overpowering force of the older’s personality. I’m impressed with J. J. Goldberg’s thoughtful piece on this in The Forward, “The Deadly Identity Crisis Along Islam’s Borders.”
To what lengths will patriarchal power and arrogance go to retain its hegemony? We are finding out as the struggle for women’s prayer plays out at the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem, at Judaism’s most holy site and national monument.
Since 1988, Women of the Wall (WOW), a prayer group of women from all streams of Judaism (including Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Renewal, Reconstructionist, and unaffiliated women), has met at the Kotel to welcome each new month in prayer. It’s very simple. They wish to pray with prayer shawls, read from the Torah and pray aloud, as men are able to do freely on the other side of the partition (mechitza), which separates men and women according to Orthodox customs. This bothers the ultra-Orthodox power that reigns, which has made the Kotel its private synagogue, upsetting them to apoplectic proportion.
The nation is still reeling from shock after Monday’s attack on the Boston Marathon. Gun violence notwithstanding, this is perhaps the first real terrorist attack on US soil after 9/11. Understandably emotions have been running high; no surprise then, that as the events unfolded many people, including the media, jumped on the “Blame the Muslims” bandwagon. The New York Post famously inflated casualty numbers and reported that a Saudi man was apprehended as a suspect by the police. Social media was inundated by predictions of guilt and accusations of violent jihad, at the same time as the Muslim community mobilized to condemn the attacks.
The poet who wrote the lyric for that hymn, Rev. Thomas Troeger, teaches at Yale Divinity School, my alma mater. When I attend a conference there, Tom Troeger is often addressing the assembly, so I have developed a feeling for his sharp mind and great heart. For that reason, when I see how long ago Troeger penned these words – almost thirty years – I can’t help but imagine that he would be the first to say that his verse has suffered a reverse at the hands of climate change. God did not mark a line and tell the sea anything, or else the sea wasn’t listening. Ask Sandy. Ask Irene. Ask Katrina. Surf’s up, people, in the worst way. Either God never had a word with the sea . . . or God’s order is out of order.
Today, we are going to think hard about what Christian faith has to do with caring for the earth. We are going to return to the question next week, and the week after, April 28th, when Bill McKibben, the world’s foremost earth care activist, will bring our morning sermon. Now, our preaching, including Mr. McKibben’s, will certainly be preaching. Proclaiming the good news of the gospel is the heart of our message. But we are not going to change the subject.