Religious Diversity News

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‘Americanization’ of Muslims and Islam

Source: Star Tribune

On May 29, 1999, the Star Tribune published an article
on the third biennial conference of the National Student Conference
on Islam at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. The theme of this
year’s conference, “Muslims & Christians, Friendship &
Faith,” expounds on the Student Conference’s goal of instilling an
understanding of Islam and Muslim culture in undergraduate and
seminary students. Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, professor of the History of
Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at the Center for
Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, gave a
lecture at the conference on the Americanization of Muslims and
Islam. Haddad stated that Muslim faith and practice in the United
States is vibrant and growing at a fast pace: “some kind of Saudi
Islam seems to be the norm. They’re doing a lot of reinterpretation.”
She also addressed the fact that many children of Islamic immigrants
attempt to distance themselves from the culture and religion of their
parents. Haddad interviewed a range of white American female
converts, who feel more comfortable in American society as Muslims
because they are “respected for who they are rather than for the way
they look.” In addition, women’s lives are not “tied to an outside
job” and the role of wife and mother takes precedence. Mark N.
Swanson, director of the Islamic Studies Program at Luther, stated:
“Every group in the United States has Americanized in some sense.
Each one has to find its own axis of acculturation. Different
communities find their place along the axis where they’re loyal to
their traditions and also feel they have a role in this society.”

The Changing Face of Judaism

Source: The New York Times

On May 27, 1999, The New York Times published an article
on the contents of the Pittsburgh Principles. The document is divided
into “three broad sections of beliefs, in the worship of God, the
observance of the Torah and devotion to Israel.” The document
specifically addresses for the first time in a declaration of Reform
principles the issue of mitzvot, which are sacred obligations that
are observed more closely by Conservative and Orthodox Jews. The
document states that “some of these mitzvot, sacred obligations, have
long been observed by Reform Jews; others, both ancient and modern,
demand renewed attention as the result of the unique context of our
own times.” The document also addresses homosexuality, religious intermarriage, and recent converts. The Pittsburgh Principles are a
beginning point for further meetings to translate the principles into “concrete terms.”

The Changing Face of Judaism

Source: New York Daily News

On May 27, 1999, the Daily News of New York reported that
the principles laid down in Pittsburgh by the Central Conference of
American Rabbis does not mandate actions for Reform Jews, but it
offers “guidelines for observing traditional Jewish practices, such
as wearing prayer shawls, following kosher dietary laws, studying
Hebrew and Observing Shabbat.” Cantor Rebecca Garfein of the Bronx’s
Riverdale Temple stated: “They’re looking for meaning and something
to hold on to in the age of globism, this age of technology, when
almost everything today is a push of the button. People are looking
for more meaning in their lives.” Rabbi Ronald Sobel of Temple
Emanu-El in New York was not so optimistic about the principles: “The
document itself is unimportant. What is troubling is the atmosphere
that has created this document [which is] a departure from historic
Reform Judaism that was unapologetically inclusive and universal,
[and that is] a step away from a Liberal Jewish religious life where
ethics and morality are consciously more important than ceremonies
and rituals.”

The Changing Face of Judaism

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

On May 27, 1999, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the
Central Conference of American Rabbis in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
endorsed a measure by a vote of 324-68 to encourage Reform Judaism
toward the observance of more traditional rituals and practices, such
as keeping kosher, wearing a yarmulke, and praying in Hebrew.
Reform Judaism’s founding platform in 1885 eschewed many Jewish traditions
because they were viewed as obstacles to “modern spiritual
elevation.” Rabbi Michael Siegel, the newly elected president of the
Chicago Board of Rabbis, stated that, “a move back to the traditions
in religious life is taking place in America in general and the
decision by the Reform movement to include more Hebrew in its
services, and return to the tradition, is an indication of what goes
on around the country.”

The Changing Face of Judaism

Source: The Times-Picayune

On May 27, 1999, The Times-Picayune reported on the
Pittsburgh meeting, mentioning that the Pittsburgh Principles
encourage immigration to Israel, welcome marriage to non-Jews who
“strive to create a Jewish home,” and encourage Jews to be
missionaries to those unaffiliated with any faith.

Florida Moves to Preserve the Miami Circle

Source: The Miami Herald

On May 25, 1999, The Miami Herald reported that Governor
Jeb Bush and the Florida Cabinet decided to make the Miami Circle, a
38-foot-diameter stone formation in downtown Miami that dates back to
the Tequesta Indians, a priority for the state land purchasing
program. The Circle became a controversial discovery when developers
unearthed the site on land that had been purchased to build a large
office complex. The fate of the Circle, which is on the
south bank of the Miami River, is still in limbo. The county has sued
the developer and the city to buy the land and preserve the site.
Miami Mayor Joe Carollo is trying to move the formation because he
doesn’t want to lose the tax revenue from the proposed development.
Archaeological researchers at the site concluded that, “it seems
likely to us, based on an examination of the overall site area, that
the circular feature is only part of a larger site complex.”

Mosque Vandalized in Illinois

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

On May 24, 1999, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the
mosque at the Islamic Foundation in Villa Park, Illinois was
vandalized when a basketball-sized concrete block was thrown through
the mosque’s windows on the morning of May 15th, 1999. Though the
vandals left no sign of anti-Islamic graffiti, members of the mosque
believe it was a hate crime because of the size of the rock and the
repeated presence of a white van with four teenagers outside the
mosque on the morning of May 15th. Religious leaders in the Chicago
area have announced their support for the mosque and decried the
vandalism. About 20 religious leaders and local politicians
symbolically carried the stone out of the mosque on a sheet,
re-enacting an episode from the life of Muhammed that quelled a
dispute.

The Changing Face of Judaism

Source: The Boston Globe

On May 24, 1999, The Boston Globe published an article on
the changes affecting Reform Judaism. Describing the Pittsburgh
Principles, Jonathan Sarna, professor of American Jewish History at
Brandeis University, stated: “In many ways, it’s a little bit like a
political platform. It seeks to allow large numbers of people to feel
comfortable and tries not to alienate anybody. And in a voluntary
religious environment where you want as many members as possible,
that’s probably wise.” Rabbi David Wolfman, executive director of the
Northeast Council of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations,
stated: “We (as Reform Jews) feel very comfortable as
Americans and now we are reclaiming those traditions that have always
been ours. It doesn’t mean we’re going to become less liberal or less
progressive.”