Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A “Goode” Day for Religious Pluralism: Interfaith Delegation visits Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA)


Prior to the swearing-in of the 110th Congress, Representative Virgil Goode (R-VA) issued an inflammatory statement criticizing incoming Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN), a Muslim, for choosing to use the Qur'an, Islam's Holy book, at his unofficial swearing-in ceremony as a member of the House of Representatives. This statement, along with his remarks suggesting that an increase of Muslims in our country constitutes a danger, led to a petition campaign asking Mr. Goode to revisit his remarks. More than 8,000 signed the petition.

The following reflection of that visit was written by Vince Isner, director, FaithfulAmerica [

Washington, January 30, 2007 – High on the wall of Congressman Virgil Goode's D.C. office, just as he had noted in his now famous letter to constituents, was a framed poster stating "In God We Trust."

High on the opposite wall a television played Fox News, most of it centered around the war in Iraq.

Below, as our small delegation of religious leaders took their seats, I recalled the statement from Goode's letter in response to newly elected Muslim representative Keith Ellison's decision to use a Qur'an for his unofficial swearing-in. "When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Quran in any way." Speaking on the subject of immigration, Goode added, "...if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Quran."

I introduced the delegation: With me were the Rev. Greg Anderson, a Baptist Minister from Virginia's 5th District, the Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell from the National Council of Churches, Michael Kelly from the Islamic Society of Central VA, Mohamed Elsanousi of the Islamic Society of North America, and Dr. Sayyid Syeed, the Islamic Society's National Director.

We got right down to business. "We come bearing gifts," I began as I handed Mr. Goode the binder containing a petition with 8,000 signatures from concerned persons across the nation. "It is a gift, because these signatures represent people who believe in the power of your words to hurt or to heal. We have come to share what we believe is an opportunity for you to help lead the way in promoting a season of understanding around this issue."

Mr. Goode listened as each member of the delegation spoke their minds and hearts. Their points were compelling, from stating how disparaging remarks from an elected official fuels anti-American propaganda abroad, to reminding the Congressman that his words and actions must extend beyond his personal religious views. At one point I was struck by the irony of the moment when I could hardly hear Dr. Syeed, a wise and seasoned man of peace, because of a hair-loss commercial blasting out of the television overhead.

I also wondered if Congressman Goode could hear.

I soon got my answer. When we had finished, Congressman Goode leaned across his desk, thanked us for our remarks, and told us unequivocally that he stands by his earlier statement. "I didn't say anything that was untrue." Indeed, technically speaking, we were all in agreement. What he said could be factually supportable, and each is entitled to his or her own rights under our constitution. It was what was implied in the statements that raised such national concern - though apparently not uniformly throughout Goode's district, where letters of support outweigh letters of rebuke.

Congressman Goode then remarked that America is a nation where religious freedom abounds, "but if this nation had a majority of Muslims," he said, "I'm not sure it would be the case." Then gesturing to Dr. Syeed, he added, "Of course, if they were all more like you, I don't think there'd be a problem."

I held by breath. Privately I thought, "People used to say that about races of men and women… You're not like the rest of them. If more of them could be like you, we wouldn't have to worry. Why, you're a credit to your race."

Yes, it could have gone badly. But it didn't.

Instead, it became both a kind gesture and Holy moment, because Mr. Goode was sincere in his compliment, and, in Dr. Syeed's wisdom, he – indeed all of us – understood that this is how seeds of understanding are planted.

Despite years of Mr. Goode's apparent preconceptions, misconceptions, misunderstandings, or whatever it is that causes barriers where bridges might otherwise be… despite these and even a blaring television overhead, they were no match for a chance to sit eyeball to eyeball with deep and loving people whose lives are a genuine expression of what they believe.

Perhaps this was one of the first times Congressman Goode has met a peace-loving, broad-minded Muslim who is far more like him than unlike him (though I hear he has had some friendly exchanges with Rep. Ellison) and we hope it won't be his last.

I closed our visit by sharing with the group about my friend Zufar, a Muslim from Pakistan who is now a citizen of the U.S. and lives in Virginia with his American-born wife – who happens to be Catholic. She is dying of ALS. (Mr. Goode immediately asked how she was doing – not feigned, but from a genuine sense of concern.) "Not well," I replied. What keeps her alive after five years battling the disease and what inspires me is the way in which Zufar cares for her day after day, year after year, with little respite. His abiding Muslim faith is one reason for his devotion to his wife, and yet he takes great joy when her Catholic friends come to visit, pray for her, hold her hand, and sing Christian songs. I told Mr. Goode, "When I am stressed and feel like being less than my best as a person, it is my Muslim friend who helps me to be a better Christian."

And so he does.

Perhaps the most hopeful outcome of our visit was that Mr. Goode said he would accept an invitation to attend a Muslim service or gathering. I suspect he will take some heat in his district back home for that, but imagine all of those faces he will meet – peace loving, broad-minded Muslims, like those in our little group, who love their country and wish the best for all Americans. Imagine that day when a leader on the world stage is confronted with the faces of all of those men, women, and children who understand that with hands open – and not clenched fists – we can nourish one another in wonderful ways.

That should be a very good day indeed.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Jews for Jimmy -- from Ethics Daily

Jewish Voice for Peace demonstration at Brandeis

Prominent leaders like Abraham Foxman and Alan Dershowitz don't speak for the entire U.S. Jewish community in condemning former President Jimmy Carter for comparing Israeli occupation of the West Bank with South Africa's system of apartheid.

A New York Times photo with a caption describing an anti-Carter protest Tuesday at Brandeis University ironically featured prominently an Antiwar League banner reading, "US and Israel, Hands Off Iran. No More Wars for Oil Empire and Israel."

Alongside the Antiwar League at the Brandeis rally were members of Jewish Voice for Peace, a decade-old activist organization working for peace, social justice and human rights informed by Jewish tradition.

Jewish Voice for Peace is gathering signatures on an on-line petition urging Congress to heed Carter's leadership in "crafting a Middle East policy leading toward a just peace."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Tens Of Thousands Protest Iraq War In D.C.

(AP) WASHINGTON Convinced this is their moment, tens of thousands marched Saturday in an anti-war demonstration linking military families, ordinary people and an icon of the Vietnam protest movement in a spirited call to get out of Iraq.

Celebrities, a half-dozen lawmakers and protesters from distant states rallied in the capital under a sunny sky, seizing an opportunity to press their cause with a Congress restive on the war and a country that has turned against the conflict.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Urge ABC News to Reconsider Hiring Glen Beck

(Washington, DC - 1/23/07) -- ABC's "Good Morning America" recently announced that Glenn Beck has been hired as a regular commentator on its program. Many of you might be aware of Beck from his CNN Headline News show or his talk-radio show, where he has consistently fueled his commentary with vitriol and falsehoods toward Muslims.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), the Arab American Institute (AAI), and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) have joined together to take action and voice their opposition over the decision of ABC's "Good Morning America" to hire Glenn Beck. On Monday, they sent a letter to ABC/Disney expressing dismay and requesting a meeting to discuss its concerns.

MPAC also urges its supporters to call and email ABC News to express dismay over "Good Morning America's" decision. During his tenure at CNN Headline News and as a talk-radio host, Beck has demonstrated an obvious anti-Muslim and anti-Arab prejudice in his broadcasts through threats and blatantly inaccurate statements.

"[Glenn Beck's] addition to Good Morning America would disseminate his prejudiced, openly-hostile and ignorant commentary to an even broader national audience, and diminish the credibility of your reputable and highly-rated news show," said the organizations' letter to ABC/Disney. "To provide a platform for his hateful speech is dangerous and irresponsible, and we strongly and urgently implore you to reconsider this move."

ABC News initially responded to the organizations by expressing willingness to discuss their concerns, although it added that it does still intend to hire Beck. The full text of the organizations' letter to The Walt Disney Company CEO Robert Iger, ABC News President David Westin, and Good Morning America Senior Executive Producer Jim Murphy is detailed below:

Dear Mr. Iger, Mr. Westin and Mr. Murphy,

We are gravely concerned that ABC News has hired Glenn Beck as a regular commentator on "Good Morning America." As a talk-radio host and during his tenure with CNN, Beck has consistently fueled his commentary with vitriol and falsehoods aimed at stirring resentment towards Muslims and Arabs.

His addition to Good Morning America would disseminate his prejudiced, openly-hostile and ignorant commentary to an even broader national audience, and diminish the credibility of your reputable and highly-rated news show. To provide a platform for his hateful speech is dangerous and irresponsible, and we strongly and urgently implore you to reconsider this move.

Several disturbing instances highlight Beck's blatant anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias:

On August 10 and September 5, 2006, Beck stated that Arab and Muslim Americans are apathetic to terrorism - completely ignoring the positive contributions of the community, especially in regard to national security - and warned that Muslims "who have sat on [their] hands the whole time" rather than "lining up to shoot the bad Muslims in the head" will face dire consequences. One of those consequences being that Muslims will be "looking through a razor wire fence at the West."

On November 14, 2006, Beck interviewed then Congressman-elect Keith Ellison and asked him to "prove to me that you are not working with our enemies" simply because of Ellison's religious affiliation.

On November 15, 2006, Beck said he was surprised by a letter written by an American criticizing Al Qaeda because "the man who wrote it is a Muslim."

These are only a few instances of his inflammatory rhetoric. Many more examples can be provided.

We urge you to reconsider your hiring of Glenn Beck. Additionally, we are formally requesting a meeting with you and Good Morning America's producers to address this troubling situation. We hope this can help us to establish a dialogue with ABC/Disney to ensure that the company's decisions reflect an accurate understanding of the Arab and Muslim American communities. We hope to hear from you at your earliest convenience to address this timely matter.


James Zogby, President, Arab American Institute
Kareem Shora, Executive Director, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Salam Al-Marayati, Executive Director, Muslim Public Affairs Council

ABC News responded to our letter, which is promising, but we need your help in order to encourage positive action on the part of ABC News regarding this matter. Click here to see ABC News' response.

MPAC, AAI and ADC are asking supporters to call and email ABC News and voice their concerns about "Good Morning America's" decision to hire Glenn Beck. Included below is a sample email and contact information to call the show.

Phone calls are an extremely effective tool for action. Take just a few minutes to call the ABC switchboard in New York at (212) 456-7777 and urge ABC to reconsider.

When you call ABC News, be sure to mention the following points:
If you are a GMA viewer, let them know.
Politely but firmly convey your concern that adding Beck to the GMA staff would weaken the show's journalistic integrity and jeopardize its reputation as a fair and objective news program.
State that by giving Beck such a prominent platform to spread dishonest and hurtful statements, ABC is perpetuating fear of Muslim communities and is inciting hatred toward Muslim Americans. See sample of his comments above.
Ask ABC News to reconsider its hiring of Beck.


If you are able, please supplement your emails with a phone call to ABC's switchboard. You can use the points listed above to write an email, or feel free to send the


Dear Mr. Westin and Good Morning America Staff,

As an ABC News viewer, I am concerned by your recent decision to hire Glenn Beck.

Glenn Beck has used his radio and television shows to spread false and hurtful statements about the Muslim and Arab American communities, and his dangerous language helps perpetuate fear and prejudice towards us. In light of his previous comments and on air rhetoric, I worry that he will use "Good Morning America" to spread this rhetoric to an even broader audience.

I am also concerned that that his addition to "Good Morning America" will weaken the show's journalistic integrity and jeopardize its reputation as a fair and objective news program. Beck himself says he is not a journalist, calling himself, "a conservative with his own bias."

I urge for you to reconsider your hiring of Glenn Beck. Thank you for your consideration.


On August 10 and September 5, 2006, Beck stated that Arab and Muslim Americans are apathetic to terrorism--completely ignoring the positive contributions of the community, especially in regard to national security--and warned that Muslims "who have sat on [their] hands the whole time rather than 'lining up to shoot the bad Muslims in the head' will face dire consequences. One of those consequences being that Muslims will be "looking through a razor wire fence at the West."

On November 14, 2006, Beck interviewed then Congressman-elect Keith Ellison and asked him to "prove to me that you are not working with our enemies" simply because of Ellison's religious affiliation.

On November 15, 2006, Beck said he was surprised by an American criticizing Al Qaeda because "the man who wrote it is a Muslim."

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Another View of the State of the Union Speech

The State of the Union Speech, by Tony Auth

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Obama Rips Fox News Over Madrassa Story -- Faith Leaders Deplore and Condemn Smear Tactics

With a staffer declaring, "We will not be swift-boated," Sen. Barack Obama fought back Wednesday against an allegation that he was educated at a radical Islamic school as a child in Indonesia.

A statement by the Obama campaign stated: "To be clear, Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian who attends the United Church of Christ in Chicago. Furthermore, the Indonesian school Obama attended in Jakarta is a public school that is not and never has been a Madrassa."

Interviews by The Associated Press and CNN at the elementary school in Jakarta found that it's a public and secular institution that has been open to students of all faiths since before the White House hopeful attended in the late 1960s.

The National Council of Churches issued the following press release and a statement by Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar which was signed by eight other religious leaders:

Religious leaders from many faith traditions are expressing outrage at recent political tactics in the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign.

"We are writing to deplore this despicable tactic," said the Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and eight other leaders. "We have had enough of the slash and burn politics calculated to divide us as children of God," said the leaders today in an open letter to the religious community

"The bitter, destructive politics that have so riven our country in recent years cannot stand," states the open letter. "As American leaders of different faiths - Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Jew - who have worked cooperatively and greatly respect all of the 2008 candidates in both parties, we do not offer this statement as an endorsement of any individual candidate. However, certain moral standards should infuse our national dialogue, and the recent attacks on Sen. Obama violate values at the heart of this dialogue. The false and malicious attacks levied at him are anathema to all of our faith traditions, and we condemn them outright."

Several websites carried the reports that Obama's early education was linked to radical Islamic schooling. CNN reported extensively last night there is no truth to the allegations and the senator has strongly denied the story. One cable news program, "Fox and Friends," aired a discussion assuming the story to be factual.

"I've been saying for awhile now that we must not let fear, fundamentalism and Fox News set our nation's agenda," said NCC's Edgar separately. "Now it appears Fox News is using a political candidate to further foment a fear of fundamentalism in hopes of dividing Americans and pitting people of faith against one another. Faithful Americans must stand up and say no to such sinful behavior," Edgar said.

"It is important that we take a stand today against this willful, malicious attempt to mislead and inflame - and against any further attempts to use political attacks to divide the religious community," concluded the letter.

In addition to the NCC's Edgar the open letter was signed by Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner; Imam Mahdi Bray, executive director, Muslim American Society, Freedom Foundation; Rev. Stephen J. Thurston, president, National Baptist Convention of America; the Rt. Rev. Preston W. Williams, president, Global Council of Bishops, African Methodist Episcopal Church; Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, executive director, NETWORK; Rev. John H. Thomas, general minister and president, United Church of Christ; Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president, Interfaith Alliance; Rabbi Jill Jacobs, director of education, Jewish Funds for Justice.---NCC News contact: Dan Webster, 212.870.2252,

Making Music Speak for Those Without a Voice

This morning's New York Times carries a great report on the Monday night concert "Requiem for Darfur" at Carnegie Hall. George Mathew, the conductor of the orchestra was also the organizer of the concert -- gathering musicians, students from Juliard as well as top professionals from many orchestras around the world, and organizing the recipients of the funds, UNICEF, Refugees International, Jewish World Service and the National Council of Churches. The NCC as a member of the Save Darfur Coalition is already engaged in advocacy. However, we hope to use the funds to take a delegation of religious leaders to connect with religious leaders in Sudan, to raise public awareness and advocate for a just settlement of the issues.

Here's a quote from Anthony Tommasini's NY Times article:

Verdi's great work, presented not just as a prayer for the dead but as a call to compassion and purpose, came through affectingly. The apocalyptic Dies Irae ("The day of wrath, that day will dissolve the world in ashes") is always chilling. But it is hard to describe the effect of hearing this ferocious music while seeing a photograph by Ron Haviv projected on the wall behind the performers: it showed a painting by a Sundanese boy (now a refugee in Chad) of his home village burning, with bodies on the ground and attacking militia on horses.

For me, the most powerful picture is the one that is featured above. It is of a young woman who has clearly suffered a great deal, but still stands tall. There's a sadness in her eyes, but they are also defiant. This nameless woman to me stands for all those who hold a great sense of dignity in the midst of utter adversity.

Mia Farrow (UN goodwill ambassador to Darfur) and Jan Egeland (former UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs) spoke at the concert. Pictures taken by Ms. Farrow were projected to the wall behind the orchestra. To me, the concert was a prayer, both of intercession for the people of Darfur and of commitment to redouble my efforts for a just solution there.

I join in the chorus of congratulations to George Mathew for this masterful accomplishment!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

From Brandeis: Get a grip, folks -- Jimmy Carter is not an enemy!

M.J. Rosenberg (Director of Policy at Isreal Policy Forum) in a letter to the editor of Justice (student newspaper) takes Brandeis to task for inviting Alan Dershowitz to speak immediately after President Carter speaks.

I was appalled by the initial decision to invite President Carter only if he was paired with Alan Dershowitz. The presence of a former president enhances the reputation of any university and suggesting that he be paired with anyone else insults the president and the presidency. In this case, Brandeis behaved not like the great university it is, but like a Jewish organization, which it isn't. There is no "correct" Brandeis position on Israel or on anything else.

Also in an OpEd in today's Justice, Harriet Feiberg takes Jewish leaders who've been unfairly critical of Carter to task. She writes:

A bit of dark humor that I remember from years ago is this definition of chutzpah: A man who kills his parents and then says "have pity, I'm an orphan." Sadly, this scenario fits what has happened with Carter: We Jews have taken a gentle man who cared deeply and equally about Israel and about the Palestinians and who sought a reasonable and just political solution, and have gradually driven him away, then complained he wasn't with us. Many Israeli and US Jewish leaders who pride themselves on looking out for Israel's welfare have rebuffed Carter not only by supporting the opposite of what he counseled but by comments ranging from dismissive to insulting.

Hence it is not surprising that his new book evinces a certain coldness toward Israel and a tendency to blame. Yet community leaders who are now up in arms about the book aren't taking any responsibility for that result. Might I suggest that a number of Jewish leaders here and in Israel contemplate engaging in Teshuvah (repentance) for how shabbily they have treated Carter.

Meanwhile, Carter in his post-presidential years has gone from strength to strength and has become a near-reverential figure to millions in the United States and around the world because of his involvement with Habitat for Humanity and because of the Carter Center's impressive international work in human rights, health and education.

Get a grip, folks. Israel has real enemies. Jimmy Carter is not an enemy. Amnesty and Human Rights Watch are not enemies. Critics should not be automatically treated as adversaries. Now, twenty-seven years after Camp David , there are no good solutions to the West Bank situation, only some that are not as bad as others. Was Carter so wrong?

And, of course, there are many others like Carter. Israel's friends who because of that friendship want to say and do what is right and just, which may indeed be critical of Israeli policies. Let me echo Harriet Feinbloom -- Get a grip folks! These are not your enemies!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Jimmy Carter to Speak at Brandeis, Tuesday, Jan 23rd 4:30 p.m.

In what promises to be a very interesting event, President Carter will speak at the predominently Jewish Brandeis University Tuesday evening at 4:30 p.m. The event will be broadcast live of CSPAN and will be streamed on the web.

For web streaming click on the link:

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The War Within -- CNN Investigative Report by Christiane Amanpour

Hanif Qadir (a Youth Worker) holds pool tournaments between
Muslim youths and British police officers.

I just watched most of the premier broadcast of Christiane Amanpour's investigative report on how radical and moderate Muslims are battling for young English minds. It is very well done. Click here for more information and schedule for future broadcasts

The UK was rocked by the attacks of July 7, 2005 and the attempted attacks that failed two weeks later. Since then, Britons have many questions about the role of the Muslim community.

Amanpour says: "What struck us most was how deeply the Iraq war has radicalized today's generation of young Muslims in Britain. Whether extreme or mainstream, they are angry about the war, angry that their country so devotedly follows U.S. foreign policy, angry at what they see as a worldwide war against Muslims and Islam."

"In our investigation, we found shocking evidence of the bigotry, intolerance and hatred preached by some Muslim fundamentalists in the UK. We met men like Anjem Choudary of the now-banned Al-Mahajiroon extremist group, who denounces democracy and predicts Britain will be ruled by Sharia, Islamic law. He publicly distances himself from suicide bombings here in the UK, mindful of Britain's tough new anti-terrorism laws, yet we filmed him openly condoning violent Jihad abroad."

"We found a deep sense of Islamophobia on the rise here in Britain and across Europe. The European Monitoring Center, which tracks religious and ethnic bias, says Muslims regularly face abuse, threats, attacks and misunderstanding."

Hanif Qadir "who runs a youth center in a London neighborhood with a large Muslim population said the message of extremism preys on many kids who see no way out of their ethnic ghettos. There are incredibly brave Muslims who've been forced to become unofficial activists for tolerance and integration. In Walthamstow -- where two dozen young Muslim men were arrested last summer for allegedly plotting to blow up U.S.-bound planes with liquid explosives -- Qadir, the youth worker, has reached out to teenagers. His youth center now tries to lead the disaffected and alienated along a different path, urging them to watch out for extremist preachers in their mosques and arranging pool tournaments with the beat cops as one way to forge a closer community bond.

In Birmingham, home to Britain's second-largest Muslim community, a Muslim artist nicknamed "Aerosol Arabic" is trying to be a role model to students and the angry young people in his community. Along with a priest he is doing cross-cultural art projects that build a sense of acceptance and togetherness.

While some Muslim women in the UK are feeling the intense pressure of a chorus of ministerial calls to remove their niqabs, a veil that covers most of the face, we meet one Muslim woman, a comedian, who is trying to promote tolerance through a unique brand of comedy-club humor.

As a small band of Muslim extremists try to promote their agenda at a campus debate at prestigious Trinity College, we traveled to Ireland to hear mainstream Muslims try to win back the public podium. One young Muslim calls the violence and intolerance some extremists promote a mental illness, not an ideology."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Requiem for Darfur

The NCC is supporting this special performance of Verdi's Requiem as a benefit for Darfur. The performance is scheduled for Monday, January 22nd, 8:00 p.m. at Carnegie Hall in New York. It features top musicians from many orchestras and will be conducted by George Mathew. We will receive a portion of the proceeds to use in advocacy towards seeking a negotiated settlement to the conflict. Other recipients include, UNICEF, Refugees International and American Jewish World Service. I encourage you to attend and contribute.

Please see the NCC website for further details

Monday, January 15, 2007

WWMD -- What Would Martin (Luther King, Jr) Do?

On this day commemorating the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. I went back and read his "Beyond Vietnam -- Time to Break the Silence" speech given on April 4th, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York City. If we want to hear what King would say or do in our present predicament in Iraq -- with President Bush's intentions to go against Iran and Syria becoming clear last Wednesday -- we should read this speech. Here's an excerpt from the end of the speech, and a link to the entire speech.

The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality...and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing "clergy and laymen concerned" committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.

And so, such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.

In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years, we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has now justified the presence of U.S. military advisors in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru.

It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin...we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Sandbagging Jimmy Carter

Yesterday 14 members of an advisory board at the Carter Center resigned to protest his new book Palestine: Peace not Apartheid, which criticizes Israeli policy in the Palestinian territories. The 200 member board is responsible for building public support for the Carter Center and is not the Center's governing board. While the 14 includes several prominent Jewish leaders, the group insisted that their religious affiliation did not influence their decision. On Thursday, the Central Conference of American Rabbis which represents nearly 2000 Reform rabbis said they would cancel a visit to the Carter Center in protest, when its holds its Convention in Atlanta in March.

Despite the American Jewish leadership's attempt to present a united front against Cater, the debate rages on. Yesterday's New York Observer reported on a meeting at the Village Temple in New York where 100 people, almost all Jewish (one wore Muslim head covering), gathered to learn about conditions in the Occupied Territories. They came to know the facts, they said. The speakers were a former Israeli soldier and a former Palestinian resistance fighter. They said the following:

—There are 530 checkpoints in the West Bank. Only 30 are on the Green Line between the West Bank and Israel. Yes; some of those have stopped suicide bombers. The purpose of the other 500 has nothing to do with security. "The strategy there is to destroy Palestinian society, to prevent any joint organized struggle [against the occupation]," said the Israeli.

—The Israeli P.M. recently promised the Palestinian President that the checkpoints would be relaxed. They have not been. "The army receives these instructions and... does not take the instructions," the Israeli said, citing Israel's leading newspaper. Thus the army acts on its own as a repressive force (Israeli generals have long defied civilian supervision).

—The Palestinian, his brother, and his father have spent 25 years in Israeli jails, much of that time without due process, for such offenses as graffiti and other statements opposing the occupation. The man's family has lost many acres of its land to Jewish settlers, in a village outside Bethlehem.

—Arbitrary laws prevent Israelis from carrying Palestinians in their cars in the Occupied Territories. The intention, says the Israeli, is to keep the two sides from talking.

The article goes on to say, "The situation these men describe is worse than apartheid. 'Three and a half million people live without any rights,' said the Israeli, whose own sister was killed by a suicide bomber. 'You want to stop these people [suicide bombers], you should give them a reason to live.'"

Meanwhile, an influencial article: "This Road is for Jews Only: Yes, There is Apartheid in Israel" is making the rounds. It is written by Shulamit Aloni, the former Knesset member and Education Minister of Israel who was awarded both the Israel Prize and the Emil Grunzweig Human Rights Award by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. This I think is a demonstration that there is greater openness to debating this issue in Israel, while the debate in the United States is constricted by the Jewish lobby.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Remembering Abraham Joshua Heschel

Abraham Joshua Heschel (front row second from right) marching with Martin Luther King, Jr at Selma, Ala. March 21, 1965

Today is Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel's 100th birth anniversay.

"When God gets up in the morning, the Holy One gathers the angels of heaven around and asks this simple question: “Where does my creation need mending?” Theology, said Rabbi Heschel consists of worrying about what God worries about when God gets up in the morning.

Some of his sayings resonate 35 years after his death: "Wonder rather than doubt is the root of all knowledge. ... Life without commitment is not worth living. ... In regard to cruelties committed inthe name of a free society, some are guilty, while all are responsible.... When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people; as I grow older, I admire kind people."

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was born on Jan. 11,1907 in Warsaw, Poland. When he died in 1972, he was one of the most important Jewish theologians of the 20th century. Yet he also had a profound impact on many Christian clergy and lay people; the late Coretta Scott King called Heschel "one of the great men of our time."

He would likely have been one of the 6 million Jews to die in the Holocaust had he not come to Cincinnati in 1940 to teach at Hebrew Union College, the Reform Jewish seminary. In 1945, he moved to the Conservative movement's Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, where he taught Jewish ethics and mysticism until his death. There, he achieved international acclaim as a giftedteacher who inspired two generations of students, including many spiritual disciples.

Heschel's mastery of philosophy, authentic Kabbalah, Hasidic thought and Jewish mysticism was linked to a reverence for the biblical prophets, a love for the state of Israel, and a hatred of all forms of racism, bigotry and prejudice. Yet, academic teaching alone was insufficient for him, and Heschel translated his Judaism into decades of social justice activism and he became a leader in the American civil rights struggle. The iconic photo (above) shows Heschel marching together with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala., during the 1960s. It was a moment, he said, when "I felt my legs were praying."

During the Second Vatican Council in Rome (1962-1965), Heschel met Pope Paul VI and helped pave the way for the historic "Nostra Aetate"Declaration that forever changed Catholic-Jewish relations. It was Heschel who persuaded the pope to delete a proposed paragraph thatreferred to converting Jews to Christianity.

At his death, Heschel was a prominent foe of the Vietnam War. He angered many when he offered the nation this choice: "Losing face (by withdrawing) or losing our souls (by continuing an unjust war)."

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Say "NO" to Escalation

This evening, President Bush is expected to announce an escalation of troops to Iraq. The President is calling it a “troop surge.” Yet experts warn that the President’s actions amount to an act of desperation, and that as proposed, the increase in troops amounts to little more than putting more American “targets” in lethal crosshairs of an Iraqi civil war. Moreover, the American people and the new Congress have stated overwhelmingly that they do NOT want to escalate the war. They want to END it!

Join Faithful America, Win Without War Coalition who, immediately following the President’s announcement, will call for a national grassroots response that will take place within 24 hours, at 7pm on the following day, to say "NO!" to the President.

This means that on Thursday people across the country are coming together in a variety of events to tell both the President and Congress that Americans do NOT want more troops in Iraq. Can you attend one of these events?

Become part of an event in your community HERE.

Events are springing up all over the country, but there's always room for more. If you don't see an event in your area, you can host your own. They're easy and we've done most of the legwork for you -- compiling an event kit that is chock full of information, tips, and tools (including posters) to make each event a success. Visit to host an event this Thursday -- and be sure to advertise it to all your friends and neighbors.

One more thing – Your ONLINE actions make a difference also. Please take a moment to sign the “Mandate for Peace” petition that already has more than 30,000 signatures! To sign the petition, go HERE.

Finally, whatever your faith tradition, we ask you to pray for, meditate upon, and lift up PEACE. With more than 3,000 of our soldiers dead, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi innocents dead, wounded, or displaced, all from a war of our country’s making, we who love peace MUST do all we can to stop it. For the first time in more than four years we have a Congress who is willing to stand up to the President on this horrendous war. Let’s give them the support they need to stop this latest reckless act of aggression and begin bringing the peacemaking process.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Bishop of Colombo: "Resist Violence -- Make 2007 a Year of Peace"

The beginning of the year saw several incidents of violence in Sri Lanka, signalling a further deterioration of the unstable security situation there. From that context as he has done for years, my friend, the Anglican Bishop of Colombo, Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera speaks a courageous message of hope for peace. I attach his statement in its entirety, so that others of us can begin to get an understanding of what is going on there. How the international community could expand and deepen its engagement in the crisis in Sri Lanka is a question that will occupy our thoughts and discussions early this year.

A Statement by the Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Colombo

The vicious violence unleashed against Sri Lankan civilians by Sri Lankans at Iluppaikkadavai, Nittambuwa and Godagama, within the first week of the new year shocked and disturbed an already desperate nation and must be condemned forthright.

The Government of Sri Lanka must take responsibility for the deaths and injuries caused to civilians through the aerial bombing at Iluppaikkadavai . According to reports this is a clear shift from the often propounded stance of restrained and retaliatory strikes, and amounts to an arbitrary act of war. The Government simply cannot expect to claim credibility as a responsible democratic Government by talking peace and waging war at the same time.

Inspite of denials, the finger clearly points at the LTTE for the deaths and injuries of the victims of the bus bombs at Nittambuwa and Godagama. These deliberate and calculated attacks on civilians can easily, and are perhaps meant to, provoke a reaction that leads to war. The LTTE has failed to convince the world that it can change its ways.

Both continuing violent agendas demonstrate the helplessness and vulnerability of civilians when parties with access to weapons adopt violent agendas and refuse to consider more civilised options. They also demonstrate how easily civilians become expendable targets when the “enemy” is illusive or securely protected.

Consequently the people of this country must take note of these serious trends and the propaganda that accompany them. War should not be rationalised and under no circumstances can violence against civilians be justified. The history of our bleeding nation reminds us that unless we all come to our senses, stand for the dignity of life for all and create a shift towards a political resolution we will continue to suffer this type of carnage.

The intimidating war culture and its ever widening tentacles must be transformed. Our children have a birthright to a safe today and an integrated tomorrow. Poverty must be addressed and the poor liberated from their misery. We must draw from our still available moral values and spiritual strength and become the dignified and civilised nation we have the potential to become.

I consequently appeal once again to the President to act for the greater good of all people of all communities. I urge the President to counter the violence of the first week of 2007 by declaring this year as the year of peace; and to immediately declare an unilateral truce, provide relief and humanitarian aid to all trapped communities, and initiate a wise and sincere course of action towards peace conversations. The nation and the world will rally round this healing initiative and make it work. I urge the LTTE to consider the suffering of the Tamil people whose cause it says it advocates, and to reciprocate.

When fighting and destruction exhaust a people we stand at the threshold of reconciliation and peace.

The Rt Revd Duleep de Chickera
Bishop of Colombo
9th January 2007

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Broad Coalition of Religious Leaders Call for Middle East Peace

A broad coalition of Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders issued a statement on Dec. 12, 2006 calling for a renewed initiative towards peace in Israel and Palestine.

"As Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders, our shared Abrahamic faith compels us to work together for peace with justice for Israelis, Palestinians and all peoples in the Middle East," reads the preamble of the group's statement. "As Americans, we again ask the United States to make peace in the Middle East an urgent priority. Our nation has an inescapable responsibility and an indispensable role to provide creative, determined leadership for building a just peace for all in the Middle East."

The statement, entitled "Arab-Israeli-Palestinian Peace: From Crisis to Hope," says the "United States must make peace in the Middle East an urgent priority. Achieving Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace will have positive reverberations in the region and around the world. Our nation and the world will be much safer if peace takes hold in the Middle East."

Read the NCC press release here

Read the complete statement here

Friday, January 05, 2007

An Interfaith Education for Mr. Goode: A Faithful America Petition

As the 110th Congress was sworn in yesterday, Faithful America sent out an alert to its network asking them to support a call for Mr. Goode to apologize for this inflamatory remarks and inviting him to a learn about Muslims and immigration. We want to invite him to a mosque in his own congressional district. Please go to the following URL and sign the petition.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Virginia Congressman Digs in His Heels in Islamophobia

In a blog post in today's USA Today, Virgina Congressman Virgil Goode dug in his heels in a response to the spate of criticism he was getting on his bigotted remarks about Congressman-elect Keith Ellison of Minnesota's decision to use the Qur'an for his "photo-op" swearing in ceremony. (Please scroll down to my blog entries of Nov. 29 and Dec. 16 for related stories.)

In the ceremony with legal binding, the swearing-in is administered to the in-coming congresspersons as a class by having them raise their right hand. No Bibles or other books are used for the legal ceremony. This is the practice only in presidential swearing-ins.

Mr. Goode reiterated today that his Islamophobic position that unless illegal immigration is curbed and diversity visa program stopped, there will be more Muslims in congress. He says this despite the fact that the debate since his letter two weeks ago that started this row, many have pointed out that Keith Ellison's ancestors came to this country in the 1760s, perhaps earlier than Goode's ancestors. Also in the debate there has been ample reference to the fact that Muslims comprise a significant segment of the religious fabric of our nation. If all borders are closed tomorrow, that will not prevent Muslims being elected to congress. The illegal immigration issue in this context is a red herring!

In today's column he also engages in the Islamophobic practice of fear-mongering. "Let us remember that we were not attacked by a nation on 9/11; we were attacked by extremists who acted in the name of the Islamic religion." We were attacked by deranged lunatics of an ultra-extremist faction. To lump all Muslims in that camp and to refuse to allow the use of the Quran by a Muslim colleague based on that reasoning is dishonsest.