FaithWorld

from Tales from the Trail:

No decision yet on Obama Golden Temple visit: White House

Hold onto your, er, hats.

Talk that U.S. President Barack Obama has canceled a visit to The Golden Temple in Amritsar because of a dispute over headgear may be premature, the White House said on Wednesday.temple

"We pick sites on foreign trips based on what the president wants to accomplish," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters traveling on Air Force One. Not, presumably, the outfit he might have to wear at a given site.

Obama had been expected to visit the Golden Temple in northern India, a pilgrimage site for Sikhs, during his tour of the country next month. But Indian media reports said Obama's handlers balked at the idea of the U.S. president wearing a headscarf or skullcap while touring the site.

Obama faces persistent talk among some members of the U.S. public that he is a Muslim and, the reports said, aides said pictures of him wearing such headgear could fuel such rumors.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is a Sikh.

Gibbs said Obama's final itinerary during his India trip had yet to be finalized, but he expected it would be in the course of the next week.

Obama answers the question: Why are you a Christian?

obama (Photo: President Barack Obama talks with voters in Albuquerque, New Mexico, September 28, 2010/Larry Downing)

President Barack Obama spoke openly about his faith on Tuesday, describing himself as a “Christian by choice” while reiterating his belief in the importance of religious tolerance. Obama, who polls show many Americans think is a Muslim, was asked by a participant at a campaign-style event in Albuquerqe, New Mexico about why he was a Christian.

“It was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead — being my brother’s and sister’s keeper, treating others as they would treat me,” he said. “And I think also understanding that, you know, that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings — that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes, and that we … achieve salvation through the grace of God.”

The president, who has voiced strong support for the right of Muslims to build a community center near the site of the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York, said he tried to express his religious beliefs through his job. “I think my public service is part of that effort to express my Christian faith,” he said.

Religious tension marks Sept. 11 anniversary

tension 1Religious tensions are overshadowing the anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States where President Barack Obama urged a Christian preacher to abandon a plan to burn copies of the Koran.

And a day ahead of Saturday’s ninth anniversary, a report warned that the United States faced a growing threat from home-grown insurgents and an “Americanization” of the al Qaeda leadership. (Photo: Outside the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida September 10, 2010/Scott Audette)

On Friday, Obama appealed to Americans to respect the “inalienable” right of religious freedom and said he hoped the preacher would abandon his plan to burn the Muslim holy book, saying it could deeply hurt the United States abroad.

from Tales from the Trail:

Obama ready for battle with Republicans but wants no war with Islam

President Barack Obama may be ready for battle with Republicans over the economy, but he made clear Friday there was one conflict he didn't want -- a war with Islam.

Obama told a White House news conference Republicans were "holding middle class tax relief hostage" while insisting on tax breaks for the rich that would cost $700 billion over 10 years.

OBAMA/"The policies that the Republicans are offering right now are the exact policies that got us into this mess," the president said.

Obama says not worried by “rumors” that he is a Muslim

obamaA public opinion poll showing Americans are increasingly convinced, wrongly, that he is Muslim does not trouble him, President Barack Obama said on Sunday.

“It’s not something that I can, I think, spend all my time worrying about it,” Obama said in an interview with NBC News, dismissing the results of a recent Pew Research Center survey. (Photo: President Barack Obama in New Orleans, August 29, 2010/Jim Young)

“I’m not going to be worrying too much about whatever rumors are floating out there. If I spend all my time chasing after that, then I wouldn’t get much done,” he said in the interview (NBC video here — these comments start at 08:33)

Chrystia Freeland: Mosque madness and midterms

mosque screengrab

On “This Week” with Christiane Amanpour, Reuters global editor at large Chrystia Freeland says President Barack Obama’s speech in support of the Cordoba House cultural centre and mosque that would occupy a building two blocks from Ground Zero in downtown Manhattan displays leadership and conviction. (Photo: videograb/This Week/ABC)

Here is an excerpt from the broadcast on Sunday August 15:

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Did Bloomberg inspire Obama’s speech about NYC Muslim cultural centre?

obama mosque 1There was an interesting echo at the White House when President Barack Obama came out in favour of the proposed Cordoba House Muslim cultural centre near the site of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York (see our news report here).  Controversy about the project, which opponents call the “Ground Zero mosque,” has been swirling in New York for weeks and went national recently when Republicans Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich joined the critics’ campaign. But until the annual Iftar dinner he hosted on Friday evening, the president had kept out of what his spokesman called “a matter for New York City and the local community to decide.” (Photo: President Obama addresses White House Iftar meal, 13 August 2010/Jason Reed)

Reading his comments, it looks like Obama not only let NYC authorities decide the issue — favourably for the project, as it turned out, as both the local community board and the landmarks commission voted overwhelmingly to let it go ahead. He may also have taken pointers for his speech from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has stood solidly behind the project despite all the emotion it has stirred up.

obama mosque 2After the Landmarks Preservation Commission cleared the last administrative hurdle to the plan — rejecting the opponents’ bid to protect the 1857 building standing on the proposed Cordoba House site from being torn down — Bloomberg delivered a forceful speech on August 3 defending two long-standing American traditions.

from Tales from the Trail:

Obama sits down with Rev. Billy Graham

President Barack Obama had his first face-to-face talks on Sunday with one of America's top spiritual leaders, the Reverend Billy Graham.

Graham, 91, who is ailing with Parkinson's disease, has  prayed with U.S. presidents over the course of the past 50 years or so.BILLY GRAHAM

Obama visited his Montreat log cabin home at the end of a weekend trip to western North Carolina.

Stupak now target of all sides in abortion debate

Up until a few days ago Bart Stupak, an unassuming Democratic congressman from Michigan, was a hero among American activists opposed to abortion rights (who refer to themselves as “pro-life”). This was because Stupak had managed to insert strong language in the House of Representatives version of the healthcare bill aimed at preventing any federal tax  funds from being used for abortion.

What a difference a weekend makes. President Barack Obama clinched the votes he needed to win passage for his healthcare overhaul on Sunday by winning over a handful of Democratic abortion rights opponents, led by Stupak, with the pledge of an executive order affirming restrictions on the use of federal funds for the procedure.

USA-HEALTHCARE/

Stupak was suddenly a traitor to the cause, with barbs like “Judas” thrown his way on the blogosphere. Randy Neugebauer, a Republican congressman from Texas,  reportedly yelled “Baby killer!,” while Stupak explained why he was finally going to support the bill. Neugebauer was later quoted as saying he was referring to the bill and not Stupak himself, but that is the kind of emotional language one often hears in the shouting matches on this issue.

Obama’s boyhood Jakarta home district sees shift to stricter Islam

jakarta mosque

Indonesian Muslims pray at the Istiqlal Grand Mosque in Jakarta 9 March/Supri

Some things in the central Jakarta district of Matraman have barely changed since the late 1960s, when United States President Barack Obama lived and played there.  Old men train their racing pigeons on the badminton court and screaming children chase each other through the winding, grimy alleyways. But if Obama does decide to drop by his old neighborhood when he visits Indonesia next week, he may notice change around the community’s mosque.

The local mosque has become a meeting spot for members of the small but vocal Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), an extremist group famous for smashing up bars that serve alcohol and which made headlines when its followers assaulted several elderly men and women at a peaceful interfaith rally in 2008.

“Now there are so many radicals around here. We don’t agree with them but there’s definitely more than there was before,” said Ali Rully, a pensioner who was a high school student when little “Barry” Obama lived here.