May 4, 2006

In this Issue:
  • Director Diana L. Eck’s Comments
  • Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak
  • Voices of Liberal Islam in Indonesia
  • Screenings of “Divided We Fall” at Harvard
  • American Made Premieres on Television
  • Survey on the National Day of Prayer 2006
  • Building the Interfaith Youth Movement: Beyond Dialogue to Action
  • The Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Syriac, and Indian Churches in America
  • Religious Diversity News: Top Headlines
  • International News: Top Headlines

Director Diana L. Eck’s Comments

On April 21-22, I participated in “The Mosque in the West” symposium sponsored by the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT (AKPIA). I was asked to present an introductory paper on “Muslims and Mosques in America — Visible and Vulnerable.” For me, however, the most interesting part of the symposium was the opportunity to hear from several of the architects who have been involved in the design of Islamic institutions in North America: Gulzar Haider who designed the Bait-ul-Islam mosque in Toronto and the ISNA headquarters in Plainfield, Indiana; David Donnellon who designed the new Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan; and Gregg Cribb, whose firm has designed the Islamic Society of Boston in Roxbury. If you are not familiar with Omar Khalidi’s work at AKPIA, be sure to look at the website for images of these mosques.

Islamic Architecture

Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak
[ Image: Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur, Diana Eck, and Sarah Eltantawi ]
On May 2, 2006, Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur and Sarah Eltantawi joined the Pluralism Project for a luncheon discussion. Abdul-Ghafur is the editor of LIVING ISLAM OUT LOUD: American Muslim Women Speak which features 15 American Muslim women dealing with the complexities of forging their own identities while contributing powerfully to public life. Sarah Eltantawi contributed to the book and is a cofounder of the Progressive Muslim Union of North America and from 2001-2004 served as Communications Director for the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Washington, DC. The speakers drew out a lively discussion among the large group convened to hear from and about Muslim women who “don’t remember a time when they weren’t both American and Muslim.” As Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur put it, “Now more than ever, the world needs to hear our voices.”

Voices of Liberal Islam in Indonesia
[ Image: Rodney Yeoh introduces Ulil Abshar Abdallah ]
On April 17, 2006, the Pluralism Project sponsored a luncheon discussion titled “Voices of Liberal Islam in Indonesia” with two young and prominent Islamic thinkers, Ulil Abshar Abdallah and Sukhidi Mulyadi. Abdallah is the founder of Liberal Islam Network, a leading Islamic organization which promotes the notion of a liberal Islam in Indonesia. In 2002 Abdallah and members of the organization were given a fatwa death sentence by Javanese clerics due to their writings on pluralism. Abdallah is currently pursuing graduate studies at Boston University. Mulyadi is an affiliate of the Liberal Islam Network, and he is currently completing his MTS degree at Harvard Divinity School. Mulyadi has published extensively in Indonesian as well as international journals. Their presentations provoked lively discussion that touched upon topics like the role of shari’ah and the state, the role of Islam in Indonesia, and religious pluralism.
Liberal Islam Network

Screenings of “Divided We Fall” at Harvard

Student Affiliate Valarie Kaur is currently working on the director’s cut of her documentary film, “Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath.” As writer and producer, 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 expert analysis into a cross-country road trip that confronts the forces dividing Americans in times of crisis. The Pluralism Project will sponsor a director’s cut screening at Harvard University in Cambridge on Sunday, May 7 from 7-9 p.m. at the Harvard Film Archive, main auditorium ($8 regular admission, $6 students, Harvard faculty & staff, senior citizens). 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.
[ Image: Arts First logo ]
Divided We Fall Website
Harvard Film Archive

American Made Premieres on Television

This short film, directed by Sharat Raju, will premiere on public television in May. “When a Sikh American family’s car breaks down en route to the Grand Canyon, their only hope of escape is the remote desert highway and the occasional passing car. When car after car fails to stop, family members are forced to confront their notions of faith, conformity, tradition, and sacrifice — and question what it means to be ‘American’ today.”

American Made Broadcast Schedule

Survey on the National Day of Prayer 2006

The Pluralism Project is conducting research on National Day of Prayer events in May 2006. If you attend an event, please take a few minutes and fill out our online survey. Thank you!

National Day of Prayer 2006 Survey

Building the Interfaith Youth Movement: Beyond Dialogue to Action

This new book covers the growing numbers of young people of all backgrounds who are committed to interfaith understanding and cooperation. It includes concrete descriptions of various interfaith youth projects across the country — from an arts program in the South Bronx to the national Interfaith Youth Core based in Chicago. Additional chapters articulate the theory and methodology of this important new movement. Diana L. Eck wrote the preface, and Grove Harris contributed the chapter on youth and the Pluralism Project. The table of contents and reviews are available online from Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

The Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Syriac, and Indian Churches in America

Student Research Affiliate Michael Allen’s work on “The Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Syriac, and Indian Churches in America” is now available online. His work provides an introduction to the six churches, as well as a set of research profiles from the Atlanta area. “Oriental” Orthodoxy is one of the most ancient and yet least well-known communions within Christianity. Their heritage traces back to the first centuries of the Christian era and they continue to number millions of believers in their home countries; nonetheless, they are virtually unknown to many Americans, for whom Christianity means essentially Catholicism, Protestantism, and Eastern Orthodoxy. In America, these minority churches have grown remarkably over the past four decades. The Coptic Church, for example, had no parishes before 1969; today it has over 180,000 members.

Orthodox Christianity: The Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Syriac, and Indian Churches in America

Religious Diversity News: Top Headlines

Religious Leaders Raise Their Voices in the Immigration Debates
A diverse group of religious leaders gathered in Washington DC to raise their voices alongside thousands of other demonstrators for immigrant rights. Similar gatherings took place in cities across the country.

Santa Clara Holocaust Remembrance Event Includes Other Faiths
Holocaust Remembrance Day was commemorated in Santa Clara County for the first time in its ten-year history by people of a wide variety of ethnicities and faiths attempting to change the perception that the Holocaust is a Jewish issue.

Groundbreaking Held for New Jain Center
A Jain community in Southern California recently broke ground for a new spiritual center, cultural center, and a renovated education complex, which they hope will be completed by October 2007.

LA Mayor Sports Turban to Sikh Vaisakhi Celebration, Sikhs Donate to Food Bank
In celebration of the Sikh festival of Vaisakhi, 15,000 Sikhs, friends, and elected state and local officials gathered at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Rochester Second-Generation Hindus are at Home in Two Cultures
As the Indian population in Rochester grows, second-generation Hindu teenagers find themselves at a crossroads of Indian and American cultures. Oftentimes bridging the divide for older generations, these youngsters seem at home in what sometimes seems like two separate worlds.

International News: Top Headlines

Four Canadian Cities to Launch Muslim Newspaper
The Muslim Free Press was officially launched on Saturday, April 15, 2006. The paper will be distributed in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver, with the aim of increasing understanding about Islam amongst the general Canadian population. The editorial board of the paper includes Christian and Hindu members.

Renewed Faith Grows in Post-Communist China
Many Chinese people are seeking a return to religious roots after years under atheist Marxist ideology. Earlier this month, China’s top religious official, Ye Xiaowen, said that historically, Buddhism has played a great role in “promoting a harmonious society” in China.

Hindu American Foundation Applauds Dalits Building Temple in Orissa, India
The Hindu American Foundation has issued a statement in support of a group of dalits who are building their own temple in Orissa, India, after being denied entry into the local village temple by Hindus of other castes.

Shia Muslims Plan to Build Sikh Shrine in Basra, Iraq
A group of Shia Muslims in India have begun a campaign to build a Sikh shrine in Basra, Iraq as a gesture of thanks to the Sikh community for turning over the shrine of the eighth imam at Samana, India to the Shia Muslim community.