FaithWorld

INTERVIEW – NY imam plans a “Muslim Y,” not a “Ground Zero mosque”

nyc mosque 1When Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf decided to build a Muslim cultural centre in lower Manhattan, the model he chose couldn’t have been more mainstream American — the Young Men’s Christian Association chapters found in cities across the United States.

The institution he had in mind was the 92nd Street Y, a Jewish adaptation of the YMCA concept that is one of New York’s leading addresses for residents of all religions or none to visit for public lectures, debates, concerts or educational courses. (Photo: A demonstrator at a Landmarks Commission’s hearing on the proposed Muslim community center in New York, July 13, 2010S/Keith Bedford)

But Rauf’s project is better known here now as the “Ground Zero mosque,” after the term for the World Trade Centre site. Families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and conservative politicians have mounted an emotional campaign to block it, claiming that locating it only two blocks north of the site was a provocation.

“We repeatedly say we are neither a mosque nor within Ground Zero, but they just shout back ‘Ground Zero mosque,’ ‘Ground Zero mosque,’” Rauf, 61, told Reuters in an interview. The planned building will have a prayer room for Muslims, he said, but it would only be a small part of the 13-story complex.

Rauf said the YMCA, which began in London in 1844 as Christian centre for young working men and quickly spread to the United States and other countries, had long worked to promote understanding across religious, ethnic and social dividing lines in modern societies. Now called simply “the Y,” its facilities across the United States offer exercise classes, education and community activities.

Two US broadcasters reject ad against mosque near 9/11 site in New York

USA/Two major United States broadcasters have rejected an advertisement that urges viewers to protest against a mosque planned two blocks from Ground Zero, the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York.  The ad by the National Republican Trust PAC– labeled inflammatory by critics — mixes images of 9/11 and Muslim militants while slamming a controversial proposal to build a mosque and Muslim community center in lower Manhattan. (Photo: Christian procession near Ground Zero in New York April 2, 2010/Jessica Rinaldi)

“To celebrate that murder of 3,000 Americans, they want to build a monstrous 13-story mosque at Ground Zero,” says the narrator over images of the destroyed World Trade Center. “This ground is sacred, where we weep, they rejoice … that mosque is a monument to their victory.” For the ad, see the YouTube video below.

NBC Universal advertising standards manager Jennifer Riley said the broadcaster didn’t take issue with the content, but rather the vague construction of its narration: “This ad, which ambiguously defines ‘they’ as referenced in the spot, makes it unclear as to whether the reference is to terrorists or to the Islamic religious organization that is sponsoring the building of the mosque.” Read the full story here.

Strong support to outlaw face veils as France prepares to vote ban

France’s plan to ban full face veils, which comes up for a vote in the National Assembly on Tuesday, enjoys 82% popular support in the country, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. Its neighbours also approve — 71% of those polled in Germany, 62% in Britain and 59% in Spain agreed that there should be laws prohibiting the Muslim veils known as niqabs and burqas in public. burqa 1(Photo: French woman fined for wearing a niqab while driving outside court in Nantes June 28, 2010/Stephane Mahe)

The poll, conducted from April 7 to May 8, did not range further afield, but reports from other countries show support there as well. The lower house of the Belgian parliament has voted for a ban, which should be approved by the Senate after the summer. In the Netherlands, several bills to ban full veils in certain sectors such as schools and public service are in preparation. Switzerland’s justice minister has suggested the cantons there should pass partial bans but make exceptions for visiting Muslim tourists (the wives of rich sheikhs visiting their bankers in Zurich or Geneva?)

The big exception in the Pew poll is the United States, where 65% of those polled disapprove of a ban and only 28% support the idea. The poll did not investigate the reasons for this difference, so we can only assume it has to do with the more widespread acceptance of religion in public life in the U.S. and a more open approach to immigration.

Hundreds of thousands mourn Lebanon’s Grand Ayatollah Fadlallah

fadlallah burial (Photo:  Lebanese Shi’ite Muslims carry coffin Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah in Beirut, July 6, 2010/Sharif Karim)

Lebanon’s Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah was buried on Tuesday, mourned by hundreds of thousands who paid homage to an early mentor of Hezbollah who became one of Shi’ite Islam’s highest authorities.

Fadlallah, who died on Sunday aged 74, was a revered marja’a, or source of emulation, for many Shi’ites across the Middle East and Central Asia. He was seen as the spiritual leader of the militant movement Hezbollah when it was formed after Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. When the group was blamed for abduction of Westerners in the 1980s and attacks on U.S. and French targets in Lebanon, Fadlallah repeatedly called for the hostages to be released, saying he opposed kidnappings, and he later distanced himself from Hezbollah’s close ties to Iran.

Fadlallah was known in Shi’ite circles for his moderate social views, especially on women. He issued several notable fatwas, or religious opinions, including banning the Shi’ite practice of shedding blood during the mourning ritual of Ashura.

GUESTVIEW: Our American heritage: the Protestant legacy on the Supreme Court

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The U.S. Supreme Court, 23 June 2003/Brendan McDermid

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Elizabeth E. Evans is a U.S. freelance journalist living in Glenmoore, PA who writes about religion.

By Elizabeth E. Evans

It is hard to evaluate the significance of history while it is being written.  But in considering whether it matters that there possibly will be no Protestant on the Supreme Court when it convenes next fall, one thing is clear – it’s a fascinating time to be a student of Christian practice in America.

Does the lack of Protestants of any stripe on the Court truly matter to anyone save those who might feel upset that their denomination is left out?  Arguably not.  In a time of increasing ethnic and religious pluralism, and with tectonic changes going on within Protestantism and Catholicism in the United States, it is possible that the old categories simply don’t work anymore.

Burmese monks who fled to the U.S. are a vanishing breed

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Monks sit in protest as riot policemen and troops block access to Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon on 26 Sept 2007/Adrees Latif

Burmese monks were beaten, jailed and killed while protesting Myanmar’s military regime in 2007, and dozens found refuge in America.  But now most have been forced to swap their saffron-colored robes for blue-collar workwear and abandon their monkhood out of a need to scratch out a living in their adopted land.

The few remaining monks are clinging to their vocation in the rundown former textile mill town of Utica some 240 miles (380 km) north of New York City, trying to adapt.

French foreign minister gets ready for criticism over planned burqa ban


(French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Europe 1 radio, 2 May 2010/Dailymotion)

France hasn’t even presented its draft bill to outlaw Muslim face veils yet — in contrast to Belgium, which has started voting on its ban — but Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner is already preparing for the wave of criticism from abroad it will provoke. He told Europe 1 radio on Sunday that he’d already warned the government at a cabinet meeting about what to expect.

“The United States are very attached to religious liberty and there will be lots of NGOs and American foundations that will want to point out our mistake,” he said (in the video above in French). “I think they’ll also be convinced that we are for religious liberty but there is no religious recommendation to veil one’s face.

Catholic Church at crossroads in Milwaukee over abuse charges

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Sexual abuse victims meet journalists outside the Cousin's Center, owned by the Milwaukee Archdiocese in St. Francis, Wisconsin March 25, 2010/Allen Fredrickson

Stung by fresh charges of priestly sexual abuse and allegations of a cover-up that reach the Vatican, the Roman Catholic Church in the United States faces a crisis of empty pews and empty coffers.

Attendance was down noticeably at some Easter Sunday services in Milwaukee, reflecting the litany of troubles facing the U.S. Church and a torrent of criticism over its handling of abuse cases.

Sex abuse scandals shake Church but not faith

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Catholics at Easter Mass at the Beijing Southern Catholic Church April 3, 2010/Petar Kujundzic

Sexual abuse by clerics and accusations of cover-up have rocked the Roman Catholic Church and disturbed churchgoers around the world, but many believers say the scandals have not shaken their faith.  From Rome to Rio de Janeiro, Paris to Dublin and from Warsaw and Washington, Easter sermons were overshadowed by allegations of priests molesting children, especially in Europe and the United States, and the Church’s mishandling of the crisis.

Across Pope Benedict’s native Germany, hundreds of long-concealed reports of sexual abuse have emerged and shattered a notion abuse was only a U.S. and Irish problem.  “It’s the greatest loss of confidence in the Catholic Church since the Hitler era,” said Christa Nickels, a member of the Central Committee of German Catholics and a Greens party leader.

Holy bubble! Churches struck down by foreclosures

By the time thousands of parishioners stream into the 3,000-seat Ebenezer AME Church on Easter Sunday, church leaders hope to have something else to celebrate: financial revival.

The congregation, one of America’s largest, has been scrambling to raise funds to save the arena-sized sanctuary from potential foreclosure. To that end, it has enlisted national leaders, such as the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Harvard Law School’s Charles Ogletree, who was President Barack Obama’s law professor.

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Thanks to its 10,000-member congregation and connections with business and civic leaders, Ebenezer expects to avoid the fate of a growing number of U.S. churches, which are defaulting on loans, facing foreclosure and even declaring bankruptcy at an unprecedented pace.