Religious Diversity News

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Religion and the Internet

Source: USA TODAY

On August 19, 1999, USA Today published an article on the
place of religion in cyberspace. Some, like Richard P. Cimino and Don
Lattin, authors of Shopping for Faith, assert that the
Internet is a “vast, chaotic spiritual supermarket (that) allows
people to go directly to source material – ideas they might not be
exposed to in their church.” Cimino and Lattin state that the most
significant effect of computers on religion over the coming years
will be to “forge direct links between individual believers and
religious groups, bypassing denominational control.” A 10-month study
of Internet religious use, prepared by Ken Bedell for the United
Methodist Church and the Louisville Institute, finds that most people
use the Internet to find information on their own faith, particularly
at the Web sites of their existing churches and denominations.

New Book Explores Muslim Values in America

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

On August 19, 1999, The Christian Science Monitor
published an article on a new book, Islam in America (Columbia
University Press), authored by Jane Smith, professor of Islamic
Studies at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut and co-director of its
Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations. She
states that many Muslim organizations in the United States “are
searching for the essence of Islam” and are also involved in
“determining the nature and authenticity of an indigenous American
Islam.” In a recent interview, Smith stated that “this American
context provides the opportunity for fresh thinking without the sense
that it may be objectionable to somebody.”

Hispanic American Conversions to Islam

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

On August 19, 1999, The Christian Science Monitor
published an article on the small but growing trend of Hispanic
American conversions to Islam. Elizabeth Chawki, one of the
approximately 15,000 Hispanic American converts to Islam, converted
to Islam from her Christian heritage because she perceived a more direct
connection to God, and she appreciated the sense of “brotherhood and
sisterhood,” the daily structure of life, and the inclusion of much
of Jewish and Christian teachings. Benny Garcia, brother of Elizabeth
Chawki and also a recent convert, stated that, “there’s sometimes a
sense of betrayal” from the greater Hispanic Catholic community of
which they are a part, but that has not translated into violence or
discrimination.

Buddhist Temple Honors Slain Victims

Source: The Arizona Republic

On August 15, 1999, The Arizona Republic reported that
Wat Promkunaram, a Vietnamese Buddhist temple west of Phoenix,
Arizona, held two days of memorial ceremonies on the 8th anniversary
of the murders of 9 Buddhists at the temple. Over 70 monks and dozens
of Buddhist followers participated in the ceremonies to honor the
slain victims, 6 monks, a nun, novice, and acolyte, who were murdered
while praying. In the 8 years since the murders, the temple has
changed a great deal, adding an 8-foot
monument with a bust of one of the slain monks, a new building, a
welcome sign, a garden, and a new wrought-iron gate. Prakong Garland, vice-president of the
temple who prepares food for the monks on a weekly basis, stated: “We
like to see the people come, to show us support…It’s more peaceful
here now.”

Shootings at a Los Angeles Jewish Center

Source: The San Diego Union-Tribune

On August 14, 1999, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported
that Buford O. Furrow Jr., the man accused of wounding five people at
the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills, California
on August 10th, had plans to attack other Los Angeles area Jewish
centers. Police found a map in Furrow’s “ammunition-filled van that
indicated he had scouted the Museum of Tolerance, the Skirball
Cultural Center and the University of Judaism.” An hour after the
attack, Furrow shot and killed a postal worker because he was a
non-white “target of opportunity.” Law enforcement officials say that
Furrow attacked the Jewish center to “send a message” to America that
Jews should be killed. Furrow targeted the center in Granada Hills
because security there was light.

Jade Buddha Temple in Houston Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Source: The Houston Chronicle

On August 14, 1999, The Houston Chronicle published an
article on the 20th anniversary of the Jade Buddha Temple in Houston.
In 1979, the temple began with 10 Chinese Buddhists. Now, the temple
is a 2.5 acre Buddhist campus that supports 1,400 members. Most of
the members are of Chinese descent, but there are also people of
Thai, Vietnamese, Burmese, and other origins. About 5% of the members
are Americans who began in other faith traditions. The temple
features a grand hall for weekly services, a smaller meditation hall,
a youth activity center, library, cafeteria, living quarters for two
priests, and a lotus pond with a statue of the bodhisattva, Kwan-Yin.
Last year, Jade Buddha Temple began the Buddhist College, which
offers a 12-week intensive meditation course twice a year. It has
thus far attracted 60 students per session.

The Dalai Lama Visits Indiana

Source: The Indianapolis Star

On August 14, 1999, The Indianapolis Star reported that
Sister Mary Margaret Funk of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech
Grove, Indiana has organized an interfaith peace vigil for a select
group of 800 men and women on August 23rd at St. Charles Borromeo
Catholic Church in Bloomington. Many will be Buddhist leaders from
Asia, Europe, and North America with representatives also attending
from Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam.

News Article Generates Controversy in American Muslim Community

Source: Star Tribune

On August 14, 1999, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis published Hooper’s reply to PIpes’ August 1st commentary. Hooper points out that Daniel Pipes has a history of a “troubling bigotry toward
Muslims.” Citing several quotes from the writings of Pipes and
commentaries on his work, Hooper shows that Pipes has a controversial
stance toward Muslims. In 1983, a Washington Post book review
states that Pipes displays, “a disturbing hostility to contemporary
Muslims…he professes respect for Muslims but is frequently
contemptuous of them….[He] is swayed by the writings of
anti-Muslim writers…[the book] is marred by exaggerations,
inconsistencies, and evidence of hostility to the subject.” In 1996,
Pipes gave a favorable review to a notoriously anti-Muslim book
entitled, “Why I Am Not a Muslim.” In a 1990 National Review
article, Pipes stated: “Western European societies are unprepared for
the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange
foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene…All immigrants
bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more
troublesome than most.”

Shootings at a Los Angeles Jewish Center

Source: The Houston Chronicle

On August 13, 1999, The Houston Chronicle published an
editorial opinion by Donna Ostrower, executive director of the
Houston Chapter of the American Jewish Committee. Ostrower writes
about hate groups such as Christian Identity and World Church of the
Creator, with whom Buford Furrow, Timothy McVeigh, and Benjamin Smith
had connections. With about 90 ministries in 34 states, Christian
Identity is able to promulgate its racist theological message.According to
Ostrower, Christian Identity “distorts Genesis to preach that people of color
are a pre-Adamic creation, like beasts, and that God later created
Adam and Eve, who gave birth to Abel, whose descendants are white,
Nordic, Aryan types, i.e., the “real” chosen people. According to
this racist interpretation of Genesis, Eve was later impregnated by
Satan, producing Cain, and his descendants are the Jews.”