FaithWorld

Obama meets Dalai Lama at White House, China sees U.S. interference

(The Dalai Lama arrives to deliver A Talk for World Peace on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington July 9, 2011/Yuri Gripas)

China accused the United States on Sunday of “grossly” interfering in its internal affairs and seriously damaging relations after President Barack Obama met exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama at the White House. Obama met the Nobel Prize laureate for 45 minutes, praising him for embracing non-violence while reiterating that the United States did not support independence for Tibet.

China, which accuses the Dalai Lama of being a separatist who supports the use of violence to set up an independent Tibet, reacted swiftly, saying Obama’s meeting had had a “baneful” impact, and summoning a senior U.S. diplomat in Beijing.

“This action is a gross interference in China’s internal affairs, hurts the feelings of the Chinese people and damages Sino-U.S. relations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement released in the early hours of Sunday. “The Dalai Lama has for a long time used the banner of religion to engage in anti-China splittist activities,” he added.

Obama stressed the “importance he attaches to building a U.S.-China cooperative partnership,” the White House said. “The president reiterated his strong support for the preservation of the unique religious, cultural and linguistic traditions of Tibet and the Tibetan people throughout the world,” spokesman Jay Carney said after the meeting. “He underscored the importance of the protection of human rights of Tibetans in China. The president commended the Dalai Lama’s commitment to nonviolence and dialogue with China.”

Hillary Clinton seeks to smooth Islamic defamation row with OIC

(U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu (L) in Istanbul July 15, 2011/Murad Sezer)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agreed with a major global Islamic organization on Friday to pursue new ways of resolving debates over religion without resorting to legal steps against defamation. Clinton met Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the head of the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), in Istanbul to help set up new international mechanisms both protect free speech and combat religious discrimination around the world.

“Together we have begun to overcome the false divide that pits religious sensitivities against freedom of religion. We are pursuing a new approach based on concrete steps to fight intolerance wherever it occurs,” Clinton said.

“The Ledge” equals “God for Dummies” – film review

(Actor Charlie Hunnam poses for a portrait while promoting the movie "The Ledge" during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah January 22, 2011/Mario Anzuoni )

Can’t wait until Thanksgiving dinner to witness a pointless conversation between a pompous fundamentalist Christian and a sneering atheist? Then “The Ledge” is the movie for you.

This shrill and pedantic exercise in speechifying gives us “deep” conversations about religion and the afterlife that wouldn’t pass muster in a freshman Philosophy 101 study group, delivered with all the earnestness and lack of subtlety of the old “Davey and Goliath” show. (If that Christian cartoon had featured Liv Tyler’s breasts, that is.)

U.S. shifts to closer contact with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood

(U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a news conference in Budapest June 30, 2011/Bernadett Szabo)

The United States will resume limited contacts with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed on Thursday, saying it was in Washington’s interests to deal with parties committed to non-violent politics. While Clinton portrayed the administration’s decision as a continuation of an earlier policy, it reflects a subtle shift in that U.S. officials will be able to deal directly with officials of the Islamist movement who are not members of parliament.

The move, first reported by Reuters on Wednesday, is likely to upset Israel and its U.S. supporters who have deep misgivings about the Brotherhood, a group founded in 1928 that seeks to promote its conservative vision of Islam in society. Under president Hosni Mubarak, a key U.S. ally, the Brotherhood was formally banned, but since the ousting of the secular former general by a popular uprising in February, the Islamists are seen as a major force in forthcoming elections.

U.S. to resume formal Muslim Brotherhood contacts, official says

(The skyline of Washington DCl, May 22, 2009/Larry Downing)

The United States has decided to resume formal contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, a senior U.S. official said, in a step that reflects the Islamist group’s growing political weight but that is almost certain to upset Israel and its U.S. backers.  “The political landscape in Egypt has changed, and is changing,” said the senior official, who spokeon Wednesday on condition of anonymity. “It is in our interests to engage with all of the parties that are competing for parliament or the presidency.”

The official sought to portray the shift as a subtle evolution rather than a dramatic change in Washington’s stance toward the Brotherhood, a group founded in 1928 that seeks to promote its conservative vision of Islam in society. Under the previous policy, U.S. diplomats were allowed to deal with Brotherhood members of parliament who had won seats as independents — a diplomatic fiction that allowed them to keep lines of communication open.

Where U.S. diplomats previously dealt only with group members in their role as parliamentarians, a policy the official said had been in place since 2006, they will now deal directly with low-level Brotherhood party officials.

National impact expected from New York gay marriage law: experts

(A rainbow flag symbolizing gay pride hangs from the awning of a store in New York June 22, 2011/Shannon Stapleton)

When New York became the sixth and by far the largest state to legalize same-sex marriage, following a grueling overtime session in the state legislature, it immediately transformed the national debate over the issue, legal experts said.

With a population over 19 million — more than the combined population of the five states that currently allow gay marriage, plus the District of Columbia, where it is also legal — New York is poised to provide the most complete picture yet of the legal, social and economic consequences of gay marriage.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania turns to God for fiscal relief

(The state capitol dome over Harrisburg, 24 December 2004/Pollinator)

 

Pennsylvania’s debt-ridden capital of Harrisburg has tried every form of fiscal belt-tightening, from layoffs to furloughs to filing for bankruptcy. Now, it is turning to God.

Mayor Linda Thompson said on Friday she will join religious leaders in three days of fasting and prayer to encourage “a cooperative spirit among government leaders, the business community and citizens.”

“I am open about my faith and will be participating in the voluntary prayer and fast,” Thompson said in a statement. The city is now weighing a financial rescue plan presented by the state.

Ayman al-Zawahri: Suburban doctor who became chief of al Qaeda

(Ayman al-Zawahri speaks from an unknown location, in this still image taken from video uploaded on a social media website June 8, 2011/Reuters TV)

 

The Egyptian who has taken the helm of al Qaeda after Osama bin Laden did not emerge from the crowded slums of Egypt’s sprawling capital a militant or develop his ideas in any religious college or seminary. Instead, Egyptian-born Ayman al-Zawahri was raised in Cairo’s leafy Maadi suburb where comfortable villas are a favourite among expatriates from the Western nations he rails against. He studied at Cairo University and qualified as a doctor.

The son of a pharmacology professor was not unique in his generation. Many educated youngsters were outraged at the treatment of Islamists in the 1960s when Egypt veered towards a Soviet-style one-party state under socialist Gamal Abdel Nasser. Thousands of people suspected of subversion were thrown into prison after show trials. “Zawahri is one of the many victims of the Nasser regime who had deep political grievances and a feeling of shame at Egypt’s defeat by Israel in 1967. He grew up a radical,” said Khalil al-Anani, an expert in Islamist movements at Durham University.

U.S. working dads’ top priority is giving family love – survey

(Colt Groff, carrying his daughter Peyton Groff (L), and Jason Hill, carrying Trayson Groff, look at the smoke from the Wallow wildfire in Apache County, Arizona June 9, 2011/Joshua Lott )

Many fathers these days want it all — time with kids, promotions at work and a spouse who shares the parenting duties. But some say they would trade in their commute and office gig for a stay-at-home role.

With Father’s Day just around the corner, a new study surveying nearly 1,000 fathers in the United States working at Fortune 500 firms takes a look at just how hard it is for dads to balance their work and life goals. The study titled “The New Dad: Caring, Committed and Conflicted” was unveiled on Wednesday by the Boston College Center for Work & Family.

Q+A: Women’s rights in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban

(Afghan men and women teachers attend their graduation ceremony in Kabul March 30, 2011/Omar Sobhani)

Women have won hard-fought rights in Afghanistan since the austere rule of the Taliban was ended by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001. But gains made in areas such as education, work and even dress code look shaky as the government plans peace talks that include negotiating with the Taliban.

Reuters Kabul has produced a Q+A to accompany the feature How will Afghan women fare in Taliban reconciliation? by Amie Ferris-Rotman. Click here to read it in full.