Religious Diversity News

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Controversy Over New Movie, “The Seige”

Source: The New York Times

A New York Times article on August 24, 1998, reports on
Muslim concern over the trailers for the film “The Siege.” “American
Muslims and Arab-Americans who have seen the trailers are sounding
the alarm at what they fear is a dangerous film that will feed
suspicion and hatred of Arabs and Muslims in this country.” They are
writing in protest while the film is being edited prior to November
release. The director Mr. Zwick is quoted as saying the film “very
much touches on the themes of repression and racism that exist, I
believe, often on or just below the surface of this society.” And
while he cannot predict the impact of his work, he hopes it will be
provocative and encourage dialogue rather than reinforce stereotypes.

Tragic Killing at Florida Sikh Gurdwara

Source: Sun-Sentinel

On August 23, 1998, one Sikh shot and killed another Sikh (and
wounded two others) before shooting himself. Both men were devoted to
the gurdwara. Long standing differences led to this unexpected
tragedy despite the gurdwara’s efforts to negotiate a reconciliation.
One area of difference concerned seating in the gurdwara; this
relates to humility and equality which are profound concerns in this
faith tradition. Some of the media coverage was seen as problematic.
“What happened at the Gurdwara could have happened at a church, a
synagogue, or mosque here or in any other part of the world.
Unfortunately, there will be some stereotyping of Sikhs as a violent
people on account of this sad event, which is certainly not what
Sikhism represents.” (Editorial in the Sun-Sentinel, August
31, 1998, p.1A; articles appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, the
Miami Herald, and the St. Petersburg Times)

Offensive Strike Targets Terrorists, Not Muslims

Source: The New York Times

A New York Times article on August 22, 1998 reports on
President Clinton’s important distinction as follows: “In explaining
the decision to strike targets in Afghanistan and Sudan on Thursday,
the Clinton administration has been careful to say that the United
States was aiming at terrorist organizations and their bases, not at
a religion with adherents worldwide. “I want the world to understand
that our actions today were not aimed against Islam,” President
Clinton said Thursday, in remarks that were unusual in a speech on
national security for their recognition of the broad importance of a
religious faith, and for declaring that faith to lie beyond any goals
of U.S. foreign policy. Instead, Clinton carefully distinguished
between Muslims — followers of what he called “a great religion” —
and radical groups that hold to “a horrible distortion of their
religion to justify the murder of innocents.”

Phoenix’s ‘Voices of Faith’

Source: The Arizona Republic

On August 20, 1998, The Interfaith Action Coalition of Arizona
sponsored a free musical event in downtown Phoenix entitled, “Voices
of Faith: Enjoying Your Neighbor’s Religious Sounds and Feelings.”
The event attracted approximately 2,000 people and brought together
Baha’is, Buddhists, Catholics, Mormons, Protestants, Christian
Scientists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs in order to share how
they each experience God through music. The Interfaith Action
Coalition sponsored the extravaganza to “promote tolerance and unity
among different faiths.”

Native Americans Need Prayer Permits on Mt. Graham

Source: The Arizona Republic

On August 15, 1998, The Arizona Republic published an
article about the new University of Arizona policy to require prayer
permits of Native Americans if they want to cross near the
university’s $200 million telescopes on Mt. Graham, a 10,700 foot
peak which is a part of the Pinaleno Mountains. The San Carlos
Apaches and other native peoples hold the Pinaleno Mountains of
southeast Arizona as sacred. Many Native Americans feel the permits
are an attack on their religious freedom and some have planned
unauthorized ascents of Mt. Graham in protest. Michael Cusanovich,
University of Arizona vice president for research and graduate
studies, defends the permit policy: “We made a policy to make it
clear to the public…that if they want to come in, we encourage
that, but that we would make permits available to them….It’s not
meant to be restrictive. It’s meant to be inclusive.” Plagued by what
Cusanovich calls “monkeywrenching” of construction efforts by
environmentalists, the telescope project on Mt. Graham was only
allowed because of special exemptions to the Endangered Species Act.
Wendsler Noise, a noted opponent to the telescope project and a San
Carlos Apache, was arrested for trespassing on Mt. Graham while
praying, but was later acquitted. He stated: “I don’t think I should
have a permit. We are the original inhabitants of this land. We are
not going to vandalize their telescopes. They know that for all these
(hundreds) of years, the Apaches have gone there to pray. I can’t see
why we need permits now.”

Ground Blessing for First Hindu Temple in Wisconsin

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

On August 11, 1998, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
reported that a blessing of the ground ceremony took place on August
9th in Pewaukee, WI. The approved worship center, set to be
two-stories and 22,000 square feet, will serve approximately 1000
families in Wisconsin. Many of the Hindus in the area had to make
regular sojourns to Chicago because there was no temple in Wisconsin.
There will also be a smaller temple on the site for Jains to worship
and meet.

Library of Congress Exhibit on Religion and the Foundation of America

Source: The Weekly Standard

On August 3, 1998, The Weekly Standard issued an article
in response to an exhibit at the Library of Congress, entitled
“Religion and the Founding of the American Republic.” The exhibit,
which ran through August 22nd, presented materials from early
immigrant writings and political documents of the founders. According
to the reviewer, the documents seem to indicate that “religion and
government were understood by the nation’s founders to be quite
close.” The separationist view of a “wall of separation between
church and state,” as indoctrinated in the 1947 Supreme Court case
Everson v. Board of Education, has its roots in Thomas
Jefferson’s writings. But, according to the reviewer, the founders
“sought the official separation of church and state in order to build
civil and religious liberty on the ground of equal natural rights,
but they never intended – indeed they roundly rejected – the idea of
separating religion and politics.”

U.S. Culture Tests Faith of Worshippers

Source: Los Angeles Times

On July 20, 1998, the Los Angeles Times published a story
concerning how “America’s individualist culture is reshaping both the
ways people worship and the institutions in which they do so.” Maher
Hathout, a physician and spokesman for the Islamic Center of
California, stated “Here [U.S.], it is an open market of ideas and it
makes people think again and again about themselves, what they
believe in and what they stand for.” This has resulted in a change of
mission for many temples, churches, mosques, and synagogues to meet
the needs of the faithful in America.