October 2, 2006

Pluralism Project Newsletter
October 2, 2006
In this Issue:
  • From Diana Eck
  • Director Diana Eck on NPR
  • Conference on Women in Religion in the 21st Century – October 17-19, 2006, New York City
  • Seminar with Al-Qasemi Academy College of Education and the American Jewish Committee
  • World Religions After September 11: A Global Congress
  • World Premiere of Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath
  • Comparative Study of Post 9/11 Discrimination on South Asian American Communities
  • Pluralism Project Summer Research Symposium
  • Minority Faith Involvement in the 2006 Immigration Debates
  • Religious Pluralism in Malaysia
  • Religious Pluralism in Indonesia
  • Racial Diversity and Buddhism in the U.S.
  • Youth Religious Leaders Visit from Kyrgyzstan
  • Rochester, NY: Black and Latino ‘Storefront’ Churches
  • New Affiliate: Dr. Paul Bramadat
  • Religious Diversity News: Top Stories
  • International News: Top Stories

From Diana Eck

Dear Friends,
Since you last heard from us, we have brought our summer internship program to a close, launched a new academic year, and welcomed new Harvard Divinity School student staff to the Project. We have had two groups of international visitors to the Pluralism Project –a group of youth leaders from Kyrgyzstan and a group of faculty from Al-Qasemi Academy, an Arab College in Israel based on Islamic principles and dedicated to building a culture of dialogue.

On September 21, the U.S. Government again denied a visa to our colleague Tariq Ramadan. I have written the third of what are now a series of three OpEd pieces on the exclusion of Ramadan and its implications for the work of pluralism. The first two are linked below and the third is forthcoming. I would recommend “Manifesto for a New ‘We’ ” to be found on Ramadan’s own website. The issues at stake for freedom of intellectual exchange in the American academy are very serious.
Please stay in touch with us about news in your area.

“Why Exclude a Muslim Voice?” Boston Globe Sept. 4, 2004

“Shutting Out a Voice for Islam” Boston Globe, Feb 7, 2006

“Manifesto for a New ‘WE’ “

Religious Diversity News: Tariq Ramadan

Director Diana Eck on NPR

On September 20, 2006 Pluralism Project Director Diana Eck spoke on the National Public Radio show Here and Now: United States of Religion. You may listen online to the program Here and Now: United States of Religion.

Conference on Women in Religion in the 21st Century – October 17-19, 2006, New York City

The Interchurch Center in New York City will host a conference to “explore the very important roles that women of all ages, races and creeds play in Religion in the 21st Century.” The Pluralism Project is one of over 40 organizations that is endorsing the event. With an impressive list of presenters, including many of our Women’s Networks members, the conference will explore women’s leadership in faith traditions, religious education, social justice advocacy, and interreligious relations. Various women filmmakers and authors will be featured. Our Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre will offer a screening of Acting on Faith, moderate a session of younger leaders, and present her work on interfaith women’s networks in the United States.

For more information, please see www.womeninreligion2006.org.

Pluralism Project Women’s Networks

Acting on Faith

Seminar with Al-Qasemi Academy College of Education and the American Jewish Committee
[ Image: Dr. Eck receives scroll. ]
On September 14, 2006, the Pluralism Project hosted the president and faculty of Al-Qasemi Academy from the Arab town of Baqa el Garbiya in Israel for a session on how religion is taught in American universities. This visit was part of the seminar, developed by the American Jewish Committee’s Heilbrunn Institute for International Interreligious Understanding in cooperation with AJC’s Israel office, entitled, “Living as a Minority in a Democratic Society: The American Experience of Muslims and Jews.” Presenters included Dr. Diana L. Eck, director of the Pluralism Project, Dr. Hassan Abbas of the Kennedy School of Government, and Dr. Jay Harris of the Department of Middle Eastern Studies.
The college’s brochure describes their mission as follows: “Not merely another college training teachers, Al-Qasemi is proposing an alternative reality where the Arab minority in Israel would free itself of the norms resisting change that characterize developing societies and proceed into a progressive future. The vision of the college goes beyond its local boundaries into initiating a dialogue with the culture of the world. Raising the emblems of respect for diversity and a humanistic Islam, an Islam capable of coping with the challenges of the twenty first century, we introduce ourselves as active partners in the construction of the global culture.”
[ Image: Dr. Harris presents to group. ]
Dr. Essawi , President of Al-Qasemi Academy, describes the joint project with the AJC as follows: “Al-Qasemi Academy and AJC’s shared seminar and other future projects prove not only how necessary but also how possible it is to create a different reality, one that enables and advances opportunities for true human dialogue. As a Muslim college of education, Al-Qasemi locates Islam within the broader, pluralistic and most importantly humane context of cultures and religions in the world. We believe that Islam thought and practice, based on the values of respecting diversity, personal and collective freedom takes the Arab community in Israel into advanced stages of a modern life style. Such Islamic liberal thought also introduces Muslims as active partners in the Modern culture of the world.”
The college’s website, in Arabic and Hebrew, is online at http://www.qsm.ac.il.

World Religions After September 11: A Global Congress

From September 11-15, the World’s Religions After September 11: A Global Congress took place in Montreal, Canada. Assistant Director Kathryn Lohre presented a paper titled: “Women’s Interfaith Initiatives in the United States Post 9/11.” She also screened the film Acting on Faith: Women’s New Religious Activism in America. The Congress, attended by religious leaders and scholars from around the world, was addressed by the likes of Karen Armstrong, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Rabbi David Rosen, Deepak Chopra, and Harvey Cox. The overarching theme of the event was: Can religion be a force for good?

World’s Religions After September 11: A Global Congress

“Women’s Interfaith Initiatives in the United States Post 9/11”

Acting on Faith

World Premiere of Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath

Pluralism Project Affiliate Valarie Kaur’s film made its World Premiere on the eve of the five-year memorial of Balbir Singh Sodhi’s murder. As writer and producer of the documentary, Kaur tells the story of how she responded when this Sikh man from her community was murdered in the aftermath of September 11. On September 14, the Phoenix Sikh community hosted the event in memory of Sodhi and all hate crime victims. On September 25, the Asian-American Center at Tufts University sponsored the Boston Premiere.

Divided We Fall Website

Comparative Study of Post 9/11 Discrimination on South Asian American Communities

The Discrimination and National Security Initiative (DNSI), a Pluralism Project Affiliate, has released a report entitled “We are Americans Too: A Comparative Study of the Effects of 9/11 on South Asian Communities,” on the five-year memorial of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. The report is available for download from their website.


Pluralism Project Summer Research Symposium
[ Image: Interns and staff gather after the conference. ]
The summer research of our student staff and summer interns culminated in a research symposium held in Harvard’s Barker Center for the Humanities on August 15. An intense morning of presentations covered a wide range of topics including Muslim artists and activism, religious pluralism in Malaysia and Indonesia, faith bloggers, the role of the New York City Council regarding religious pluralism, women’s interfaith initiatives and more. Reports on the ICNA-MAS, Kaur Voices, JAINA and Young Global Leaders conferences are now completed. We extend our thanks to our summer interns, each of whom contributed significantly to our research, and to fostering a robust and pluralistic environment in our office. We wish them all the best as they head back to school and work, and are confident that they will continue to be engaged in issues of religious pluralism wherever they may go.
We offer you online the full set of research reports, profiles, and conference reports.
Summer research included a slide show on Boston-area universities’ interfaith worship spaces entitled Sacred Space–Practices and Potentials.

Minority Faith Involvement in the 2006 Immigration Debates

Research Associate Laine Walters reports on immigrant involvement in the current immigration debate. In recent months, Muslim, Sikh and Hindu immigrants have organized to make their presence known and to vocalize their faith commitments to American ideals at stake in the national immigration reform debates. Most of the activism of immigrant communities has involved protesting the enforcement measures of the House bill, which would not provide “a pathway to citizenship” like the Senate bill, but would increase border patrol and require local and state police across the nation to report illegal immigrants to immigration authorities as part of their everyday police work.

Minority Faith Involvement in the 2006 Immigration Debates

Religious Pluralism in Malaysia

Research Associate Rodney Yeoh reports on the multi-ethnic and multi-religious society of Malaysia. Historically, Malays are entitled to special rights and privileges in the country as part of an ‘ethnic bargain’ during the formation of Malaysia in 1957 after nearly two decades under British rule. In exchange, the Chinese and Indians were granted Malaysian citizenship. This ‘ethnic bargain’ highlights the mutual respect and tolerance among these ethnic groups; this mutual respect became the foundation for Malaysia’s multi-religious society. Recent economic growth has brought benefits and challenges, and the government’s promotion of silence rather than discussion of religious difference is problematic.

Malaysia, Truly Asia? Religious Pluralism in Malaysia

International News: Malaysia

Religious Pluralism in Indonesia

Summer Intern Agus Nahrowi reports on religious diversity in Indonesia. Although 80 percent of the population is Muslim, Indonesia is not an Islamic state. Indonesia recognizes five religions, which are Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Indonesia’s constitution assures the right for all persons to worship according to his or her own religion. Still, there are areas of violent conflict that threaten multi-religious coexistence.

Religious Pluralism in Indonesia

International News: Indonesia

Racial Diversity and Buddhism in the U.S.

Research Associate Kate Dugan writes, “One of the challenges facing American Buddhism today is the need to fully recognize the experiences of Asian immigrants in the U.S., Asian Americans, European Americans, African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, as well as all other people of color who practice Buddhism. People of color are negotiating spaces within predominantly European American sanghas (Buddhist communities). Buddhist centers across the country are starting to host people of color retreats and meditation groups. These efforts are led by Buddhist teachers of color whose work to reduce the isolation people of color have felt is starting to have an impact. They work in tandem with a handful of organizations for people of color to sustain these efforts beyond just one or two retreats. Additionally, White people active in Buddhist centers are working to understand racism in their own lives and communities. Together, these efforts are attempting to reshape American Buddhism into racially diverse and integrated communities. “

Racial Diversity and Buddhism in the U.S.

Youth Religious Leaders Visit from Kyrgyzstan
[ Image: 8 guests from Kyrgyzstan, translators, and hosts. ]
On August 21, the Pluralism Project hosted a meeting with eight youth religious leaders from Kyrgyzstan who were visiting the U.S. under the auspices of the U.S. State Department. They are educators, imams, and organizers exploring issues of religious diversity. Susan Lloyd McGarry of the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard joined us.

Rochester, NY: Black and Latino ‘Storefront’ Churches
[ Image: Iglesia de Cristo Yo Soy la Puerta ]
Pluralism Project Affiliate David Day has expanded his project’s coverage of the religious diversity of Rochester, NY to include a pictorial survey of the Black and Latino ‘storefront’ churches. The list of over 70 churches includes links to photographs and brief personal narratives of visits. Dr. Day’s accompanying essay outlines the historical background and continuing significance of these small urban churches.

Directory of Storefront Churches with links to Photographs

Small Urban Black & Latino Churches in Rochester, NY

The Rochester Pluralism Project

New Affiliate: Dr. Paul Bramadat

We are pleased to welcome Dr. Paul Bramadat as a Pluralism Project Affiliate. He has done extensive research on religion and ethnicity in Canada, and on religion and international migration with the Metropolis Project. Current international work includes co-editing a volume of state-level case studies of how countries respond to the challenges and opportunities of religious diversity, and Canadian research includes life history interviews of Canadian West Indian Christians of South Asian origin.

Religious Diversity: Challenges and Opportunities in Canada and Around the Globe

Religious Diversity News: Top Stories

9/11 Anniversary Coverage 2006

Ingrid Mattson Puts a Female Face on Islam in North America

Many Faiths Continue to Help Katrina Victims

Woman to Lead Orthodox Synagogue (New York)

International News: Top Stories

Controversy Over Pope Benedict XVI’s Remarks on Islam

Tariq Ramadan

Chair of Largest Indonesian Muslim Organization Elected to World Council of Religions for Peace Board