September 10, 2007

Pluralism Project Newsletter
September 10, 2007
In this Issue:
  • Diana Eck’s Comments
  • “Prospects for Pluralism: Voice and Vision in the Study of Religion”
  • Fremont, USA
  • Change From Within: Diverse Perspectives on Domestic Violence in Muslim Communities
  • New Interface for Religious Diversity News
  • Religious Diversity News: Top Headlines
  • International News: Top Headlines

Diana Eck’s Comments
[ Image: photo of summer symposium guest with interns ]
Dear Friends,
As we head into the fall months, we are grateful for a busy and productive summer here at the Pluralism Project. Our internship program concluded with a Summer Research Symposium, which featured the interns’ work on updating and revising our World Religions in Boston resource. The symposium was covered in the Boston Globe. We are deeply indebted to the eleven young women who dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to the task of renewing and building up relationships with our religious neighbors throughout the city. To see a compilation of their work, visit
[ Image: photo of Jain delegation ]
In late August, I also received a delegation of eight Jain leaders from the United States, Canada, and England who are all involved in enhancing the study of the Jain tradition in colleges and universities. The study program they have evolved, the International Summer School for Jain Studies, brings students and teachers to India each summer for a comprehensive introduction to Jain academic studies. I have offered to help make this program known to our network of Pluralism Project students and scholars. Their website is In the context of their visit, I also went once again to the Jain Center of Greater Boston in Norwood.
Teaching here at Harvard begins on September 17. I look forward to seeing many of you when the Pluralism Project network gathers for an update at the AAR in San Diego. Note in the program book that our reception is Friday evening, November 16, 9-11 PM. Please email if you would like to join us.

All the best,

“Prospects for Pluralism: Voice and Vision in the Study of Religion”

The recently published Journal of the American Academy of Religion 2007 includes Dr. Diana L. Eck’s 2006 Presidential Address to the American Academy of Religion, “Prospects for Pluralism: Voice and Vision in the Study of Religion.”
[ Image: image of AAR Journal cover ]
Abstract: “This paper addresses religious pluralism as an academic, civic, and theological challenge. Looking at religious communities in their connections and interrelations is a critical academic challenge for students of religion who would gain insight into the dynamics of religious life and identities today. The encounter of people from different religious traditions in hometown America has reshaped the context of religious life, calling for attention and serious study. In short, the study of a complex city like Fremont, CA, might well be the study of today’s Silk Road, today’s convivencia. Religious pluralism is also a critical civic issue for citizens of increasingly diverse societies, raising fundamental questions about the nature of civic polity, the ‘we’ of our civic life. And, to be sure, religious pluralism is a critical theological issue for people of faith, raising fundamental questions about one’s own faith in relation to the religious other. Scholarly, civic, and theological issues have their own distinctive realms of discourse and require us to think carefully about the meaning of ‘voice’ in our work. We cannot evade the question of voice in thinking theoretically about pluralism, for diversity is not only the characteristic of the worlds we study but of our own identities, our multiply-situated selves.”

For the full text of the paper, published online and available in PDF, visit:

Fremont, USA
[ Image: photo of Fremont 4th of July parade ]
Filmmaker and Pluralism Project Affiliate Rachel Antell and Senior Researcher Ellie Pierce are now at work on the documentary film Fremont, USA. The city of Fremont, California is home to Peace Terrace, where Muslims and Methodists built houses of worship side by side and Gurdwara Road, where a large and vibrant Sikh community gathers together and engages in creative forms of outreach. Here, the diversity of the global Buddhist community is also in evidence, as Thai, Chinese, and Burmese temples dot the landscape, as well as a modest ranch house at the foot of the Fremont Hills which serves as a women’s monastic retreat center. As filming for this project was underway, Alia Ansari, an Afghan-American woman, was murdered while walking along a Fremont street with her three year old daughter. The murder brought fear to the immigrant communities: Was she killed because of her headscarf? Was it a hate crime? How will the larger community respond? This film will make the challenges of religious diversity vivid, visible, and accessible for discussion. We offer our sincere thanks to Diana Rowan Rockefeller, who provided funding towards the completion of this important project.

Change From Within: Diverse Perspectives on Domestic Violence in Muslim Communities

“To date, domestic violence in Muslim communities has received little attention. This book is one of the first edited volumes to focus on domestic violence in Muslim families. Bringing the experiences of diverse domestic violence advocates to the table, voices in this text include religious leaders, service providers, and researchers from multiple disciplines. Four survivors also share their stories, illustrating some of the challenges they faced, as well as their paths to healing. This volume illuminates unique domestic violence issues that Muslims face, and emphasizes Islam’s intolerance to abuse.”
[ Image: image of book cover ]
This volume is edited by Maha B. Alkhateeb and Salma Elkadi Abugideiri, co-directors of the Peaceful Families Project (PFP), “a national organization that facilitates domestic violence awareness workshops for Muslim leaders and communities, provides cultural sensitivity trainings for providers and professionals, and develops resources regarding abuse in Muslim communities.” The organization was founded in 2000 by Sharifa Alkhateeb, Maha’s mother. Sharifa, a pioneering advocate for Muslim women’s rights, passed away in 2004, and our documentary film, Acting on Faith: Women’s New Religious Activism in America, is dedicated to her memory.

For more information about the Peaceful Families Project, and Change From Within, visit:

[ Image: Religious Diversity News icon ]

New Interface for Religious Diversity News

Earlier this month, we launched the new and improved interface for our news article database, “Religious Diversity News.” RDN offers a selection of current news articles related to religion in multireligious America and religious pluralism in other international contexts, with searchable archives going back to 1997.

The new interface allows users to easily navigate between our domestic and international collections, to follow ongoing stories, and to search an array of key themes. New features include options to save and email stories. The simple, intuitive format is intended to aid researchers and interested readers alike. Thank you to our webmaster Alan Wagner for this marvelous new interface.

Religious Diversity News: Top Headlines

Palos Mosque Controversy a Harvard Case Study
A case study entitled, “A Mosque in Palos Heights,” written by Pluralism Project Senior Researcher Ellie Pierce, will be used by educators to draw lessons from the controversy surrounding plans to build a mosque in suburban Chicago.

In a Rich White U.S. Enclave, the New Mayor Stands Out: A Turban-Wearing Sikh
Harvinder Anand, a native of India and a Sikh, is the first member of a minority group to be elected mayor of a village in Long Island, New York.

Boston Takes on New Religious Profile
The work of summer interns for The Pluralism Project highlights the growing religious diversity of Greater Boston.

Hindu Temple in Atlanta Suburbs Will be Largest in US
A new BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Temple that will serve the burgeoning Hindu community of Atlanta opened in August; it is the largest of its kind in the United States.

International News: Top Headlines

‘Feed the Homeless Campaign’ by Sikhs Shatters Records (Canada)
A Canadian Sikh group’s campaign to feed the homeless has reached thousands in Vancouver since it was launched in January.

New Zealand’s Buddha Boom
A new census reveals that there are over 50,000 Buddhists in New Zealand, making it the second largest religious group in the country.

Mosque Project Stirs Concerns About the Integration of Islam in Germany
Plans by Cologne’s Turkish Muslim population to build a mosque in the city have spurred controversy among community members.

International Interfaith Conference on AIDS Held in Sri Lanka
200 Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim religious leaders from Asian nations gathered in Colombo to assess the responses of faith communities to HIV and AIDS.