April 7, 2006

Pluralism Project Newsletter
April 7, 2006

In this Issue:
• Director Diana L. Eck’ s Comments
• Peacemaker Jean Zaru Visits Cambridge
• Chandra Muzaffar Lectures on “Emergent Asia: Whither Religion?”
• National Day of Prayer Controversies
• Emerging Forms of Muslim Women’s Leadership
• International Center Profiles
• Prisons Accommodate Religious Diversity
• Gamma Gamma Chi Sorority
• Boston Ten Civic Practices
• Boston Faith Quilts Celebration to Include Interfaith Panel
• Encountering the Dharma: Richard Seager’s New Book
• Screenings of “Divided We Fall” at Harvard
• Religious Diversity News: Top Headlines
• International News: Top Headlines

Director Diana L. Eck’ s Comments

As you will see, this past month has been extremely busy at the Pluralism Project. The first week in April brought some renewed contacts with international visitors who have been helpful to the Project. Jean Zaru spoke at The Memorial Church on her faith and work as a Christian Palestinian woman, living under occupation for more than half of her life. Many will remember Jean from her powerful participation in the Women, Religion, and Social Change conference three years ago. Chandra Muzaffar from Malaysia was also here. We co-sponsored his public lecture at the Center for the Study of World Religions and also convened a group of Pluralism Project faculty and students along with Malaysian and Indonesian students for a dinner and seminar on “Religious Pluralism and Malaysia.” It is extremely interesting to see the ways in which the issues we are studying here in the American context are truly international issues. The challenge of multireligious democracies is certainly one of the most pressing issues of our time. The presence of both Jean and Chandra has been stimulating for our international initiative. I send warm greetings to all of you who engage with us in thinking about these issues. Diana

Peacemaker Jean Zaru Visits Cambridge

[ Image: Jean Zaru ]

Jean Zaru, a Palestinian Christian who is active in the nonviolent struggle to end the occupation of her country, visited Cambridge to speak at Memorial Church on April 2, 2006, and share her thoughts with a group convened by the Pluralism Project at a luncheon at Lowell House. She is a founding member of Sabeel, an ecumenical liberation theology center in Jerusalem, and the author of A Christian Palestinian Life: Faith and Struggle. In 2003, she participated in the Pluralism Project’s conference on Women, Religion, and Social Change as part of our Women’s Networks initiative. You might note that Sabeel has come under some attack in the U.S. because of its concern for “morally responsible investment,” an issue that many churches and Jewish peace movements are also taking up. The statement prepared on this subject is at Sabeel’s website and is supported by Friends of Sabeel in the U.S.


Chandra Muzaffar Lectures on “Emergent Asia: Whither Religion?”

[ Image: Chandra Muzaffar ]

On April 4, 2006 the Pluralism Project co-sponsored a talk by Chandra Muzaffar entitled, “Emergent Asia: Whither Religion?” Dr. Muzaffar is a leading human rights activist, author, and teacher. He is the president of the International Movement for a Just World, an NGO in Kuala Lumpur that addresses the challenges to social justice and human dignity in global politics. His latest book is Global Ethic or Global Hegemony? During his Cambridge visit, Dr. Muzaffar also participated in a dinner seminar with students and faculty on “Religious Pluralism in Malaysia.”


Global Ethic or Global Hegemony?

National Day of Prayer Controversies

On the first Thursday in May, the National Day of Prayer will be observed across America. Controversies have arisen as many towns now wrestle with the issues of inclusivity and exclusivity in public religious events and the non-establishment of religion in civic events. This report, by Managing Director Grove Harris and Research Associate Emily Ronald, examines different celebrations from 2005, and looks at the controversies generated by the exclusivist agenda of the non-governmental, self-appointed “National Day of Prayer Task Force.”

America’s National Day of Prayer

Emerging Forms of Muslim Women’s Leadership

[ Image: Diana Eck and Raheel Raza ]

On March 2, 2006, the Pluralism Project co-sponsored an event with the Kennedy School of Government’s Women in Public Policy Program and the Islam in the West Project entitled, “Emerging Forms of Muslim Women’s Leadership.” The featured speakers included Sarah Eltantawi, media commentator on American Muslim affairs and Middle East policy and doctoral student in religious studies at Harvard University and Raheel Raza, author of Their Jihah…Not My Jihad!: A Muslim Canadian Woman Speaks Out. Ms. Raza was also the first Muslim woman to lead congregational Friday prayers in Canada. In a Q&A session, the participants discussed the presentations and explored questions of Muslim women’s leadership. A reception and book signing followed the discussion, which drew more than 75 people from the Harvard community and the greater Boston area.

[ Image: Diana Eck and Sarah Eltantawi ]

Please view photos from the event.

Please see our online report which offers snapshots of Muslim women’s leadership around the world.

International Center Profiles

We are pleased to provide a set of profiles on international centers prepared by Staff Researchers Rodney Yeoh and Tony Watson. To date, their work has focused on Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Jordan, Indonesia, and the Philippines. This is part of our new International Initiative, which expands our study of pluralism to other multi-religious societies.

International Profiles

Prisons Accommodate Religious Diversity

[ Image: Susan Van Baalen and colleagues with Grove Harris ]

On March 7, Managing Director Grove Harris met with Chaplaincy Administrator Sister Susan Van Baalen and her colleagues Chaplains Bruce Fenner and Manuel Codero of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. This chaplaincy team is passionate about offering religious accommodation for all in prison. They have written a reference guide to help prison chaplains negotiate diverse requests. It offers practical guidelines on religious observances and items for use in prison; for example, only plastic prayer beads are allowed. It also offers brief background in the beliefs, history, and theology of each tradition. The guide is continuously expanded to include additional religious traditions, as prison populations reflect American religious diversity. To date, it includes fourteen religious traditions: Buddhism, Eastern Rite Catholicism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Moorish Science Temple of America, Nation of Islam, Native American, Odinism/Asatru, Protestant Christianity, Rastafari, Roman Catholic Christianity, Sikh Dharma, and Wicca.

Inmate Religious Beliefs and Practices (Technical Reference Manual)

Religious Diversity News: Prisons

Pluralism Project Research: Sweat Lodges in American Prisons

Pluralism Project Research: Nur Ashki Jerrahi Order/Sufi Prison Project

Selected Links: Religious Pluralism and Prisons

Gamma Gamma Chi Sorority

Research Associate Kate Dugan has written a report on Gamma Gamma Chi, the first Muslim sorority in the U.S. The sorority’s mission is “to promote positive visibility of Muslim women and Islam in general.” Initiated by a Muslim student in North Carolina, Gamma Gamma Chi is gaining momentum on college and university campuses across the country. In January 2006, Gamma Gamma Chi received institutional approval from the University of Kentucky and hopes to have a chapter on campus by the end of the 2005-2006 academic year. The organization has received strong interest from women at Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College, Rutgers University, and all institutions in the University of Maryland system. The founders hope to establish five local chapters each year on college campuses by 2015. Members of Gamma Gamma Chi chapters will be active in their local communities, maintain high academic standards and uphold Islamic customs and practices.

Gamma Gamma Chi Sorority

Boston Ten Civic Practices

Research Associate Laine Walters has recently completed a top-ten list of organizations in greater Boston that serve as models for religious engagement in civic life. Through lobbying efforts, dialogue groups, artistic expressions, youth leadership, and networking with other organizations, these organizations are offering visible and viable ways to improve the city of Boston. The list is not exhaustive, nor is it necessarily representative of the religious diversity in the Boston area. Nevertheless, it offers a set of creative and compelling examples that could be transferred to other multi-religious cities.

Boston Ten Civic Practices

Boston Faith Quilts Celebration to Include Interfaith Panel

[ Image: quilt ]

The Faith Quilts Project’s community celebration at Boston’s Cyclorama will now include an interfaith panel on Monday, April 10 at 7 p.m. Entitled “Spiritual Leadership in Difficult Times,” the panel and dialogue will include Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Buddhist, Sikh, Wiccan, and unaffiliated speakers, including Managing Director Grove Harris.


Encountering the Dharma: Richard Seager’s New Book

Pluralism Project advisor Richard Seager’s new book, Encountering the Dharma: Daisaku Ikeda, Soka Gakkai, and the Globalization of Buddhist Humanism, has been published by the University of California Press. “This engaging, deeply personal book, illuminating the search for meaning in today’s world, offers a rare insider’s look at Soka Gakkai Buddhism, one of Japan’s most influential and controversial religious movements, and one that is experiencing explosive growth around the world. Unique for its multiethnic make-up, Gakkai Buddhists can be found in more than 100 countries from Japan to Brazil to the United States and Germany.”

Encountering the Dharma

Screenings of “Divided We Fall” at Harvard

Student affiliate Valarie Kaur is currently working on the final cut of her film, “Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath.” As writer and producer of the documentary, Kaur sets out to tell the story of how she responded when a Sikh man from her community was murdered in the aftermath of September 11. The film weaves analysis and commentary into a cross-country road trip that confronts the forces dividing Americans in times of crisis. The Pluralism Project will host a final cut screening at Harvard University in Cambridge on Sunday, May 7 from 7-10 p.m. at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Main Auditorium. The film will also be highlighted on Saturday, May 6 at 2:30 p.m. in Room B04 as part of the Harvard ARTS FIRST Performance Fair.

Divided We Fall Web Site

[ Image: Arts First logo ]

ARTS FIRST Performance Fair Schedule

Harvard Film Archive Schedule

Religious Diversity News: Top Headlines

Weinstein Launches Military Religious Freedom Foundation
Mikey Weinstein, a 1977 graduate of the Air Force Academy recently founded the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) which will serve as a watchdog organization, protecting the separation of church and state within the Armed Forces.

Iowa State Legislature Opens with Hindu Prayer
A Hindu priest offered the opening prayer at a legislative session in the Iowa House and Senate for the first time in history earlier this month.

Idaho Governor Joins Hundreds at Controversial Prayer Breakfast
Early this month, Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne joined hundreds at the Idaho State Prayer Breakfast despite protests by religious leaders who alleged that the keynote speaker was anti-Muslim.

“Divided We Fall” by Tracy Wells
Research Associate Tracy Wells wrote an article in Furman Magazine about her work as communications director for the film “Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath,” a documentary about hate crimes against Sikh, Muslim and Arab Americans in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

“The Crime of Being a Muslim Charity” by Laila Al-Marayati and Basil Abdelkarim
In an opinion piece by two members of KinderUSA, a Muslim-American nonprofit humanitarian organization, Al-Marayati and Abdelkarim criticize the U.S. Treasury Department’s seizing of assets of Muslim charities in what they claim to be an arbitrary manner.

International News: Top Headlines

Controversy Over Cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (Denmark, International)
Continuing coverage of the aftermath and responses to the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper and their subsequent re-publication in newspapers throughout the world.

Varanasi Bombings (India)
Continuing coverage of the March 7 bombings in Varnasi, India, including articles on sectarian violence between Hindus and Muslims as well as bridge-building between these two communities.

Muslim Women’s Organization Releases Media Guide to Covering Islam (Australia)
The Islamic Women’s Welfare Council of Victoria, Australia, has released a media guide to help journalists balance their coverage of Muslims. The guide provides background information on Islam and contact information for media spokespersons within the Victoria Muslim community.

Chief Rabbi of Israel Urges a UN of Religious Bodies (Israel)
Speaking at the International Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace in Seville, Spain, Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger, has called for the creation of a world body with representatives from the world’s major religious traditions to work toward concrete initiatives for peace.