The Parliament Blog

Archive for the ‘barack obama’ tag

Obama Pays Tribute To First Sikh-American Congressman

Dalip Singh Saund (C), the first Asian-American elected to the Congress, flanked by US President John F. Kennedy (L) and Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson.

from The Link, Leading Indo-Canadian Newspaper

WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama on Tuesday heaped praise on Punjab-born Dalip Singh Saund, the country’s first Indian-American member of the Congress. In his address at the annual gala of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies, the US President described the late Saund as a “trailblazer”.

“They were trailblazers like Dalip Singh Saund, a young man from India who came to study agriculture in 1920, stayed to become a farmer, and took on the cause of citizenship for all people of South Asian descent,” the President said to applause.

“And once Dalip earned his own citizenship, he stepped up to serve the country he loved-and became the first Asian-American elected to the Congress,” he added.

Saund was born in 1899 in Chhajalwadi village of Punjab. He came to the US in 1920 to study food preservation at the University of California at Berkeley. He eventually switched to mathematics and earned a master degree and a PhD in the subject.

Despite his educational qualifications, Saund took a job as a lettuce farmer since farm labour was the only work South Asians were permitted to do in the US in the 1920s. Indians were also not eligible for US citizenship at that time.

Following an amendment to the law, Saund became a citizen in 1949 and in 1956 was elected as a lawmaker representing California in the Congress, where he served three terms.

Click here to read the full article

Michael Lerner: There Is a Nonviolent Alternative to War with Iran

by Rabbi Michael Lerner
from Huffington Post

President Obama is under immense pressure from Netanyahu and his allies in the U.S. Congress, AIPAC, Christian Zionists and Republican candidates for the presidency to give Netanyahu private assurances that if the U.S. strategy to stop Iran from developing the capacity (not the actuality) for nuclear weapons doesn’t work, the U.S. will back an Israeli first strike.

This is the moment for peace oriented voices to speak out and say no to an Israeli first strike with American overt or covert backing. We at Tikkun magazine and our Network of Spiritual Progressives have launched a national campaign to say no! We are attempting to buy space in major newspapers and electronic media on the web to launch this campaign quickly before Obama and Netanyahu meet next week. Please get involved here.

There is a non-violent way to deal with all this. The background info:

Apparently the U.S. and Israel are debating the best method for coercing Iran to stop developing the capacity for nuclear weapons. Israel believes that goal requires a military strike; the U.S. talks of “crippling” economic boycotts. Other military and strategic experts have argued that neither path is likely to succeed in the long run as long as Iran finds itself in a world in which nearby China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Israel all have powerful nuclear military capacities. And with Iran certain to face nuclear obliteration should it use its nukes in a first strike against Israel or anyone else, it is more likely that continuing extremes of poverty, oppression from Western supported elites, and social injustice, rather than the threat of Iranian nukes, will continue to be the primary destabilizing factor among the tens of millions of Middle East Muslims in the coming decades.

Imagine instead if the U.S. were to announce our new non-violent path to homeland security: a strategy of generosity, acknowledging the pain and distortion hundreds of years of Western colonialism has brought to the region, particularly to the Palestinian people, and simultaneously launching a Global Marshall Plan (already introduced to Congress by Hon. Keith Ellison as House Res. 157) aimed at ending poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education and inadequate healthcare both at home and around the world. Dedicating 1-2% of our gross domestic product each year for the next twenty (to be collected not through taxes on ordinary citizens but a 1% Tobin tax on all international transactions of one million dollars or more).

Click here to read the full article.

Seeking Sikh-Muslim peace

by Dylan Kaplan
from Washington Post

The large Sikh men with long white beards pounded the drums. Sikh men with red, blue, and orange colored turbans sat cross-legged in all corners of the sanctuary. Women dressed in bold blue, green, and purple Punjabi suits sat consumed in prayer. As I sat on the red carpet among the 300-400 guests in the audience with my hair covered in an orange cloth and my feet crossed I could not help but realize the significance of this moment as the Sikh prayers seemed to float towards heaven and consumed me. I had to constantly remind myself that I was not in a Sikh Gurdwara, the temple of worship for Sikhs, in a village in the Indian Punjab but in Rockville, Maryland.

Last Sunday, November 13th, I had the privilege of attending the most important Sikh holiday, honoring Guru Nanak, the revered founder of Sikhism. My mentor, Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, whom the BBC calls “the world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam” was invited by the Sikh community to give the keynote address. This was the first time that a Muslim had ever been invited to speak at this very large Sikh temple. Ambassador Ahmed spoke about religious pluralism and tolerance and the need for Muslims and Sikhs to live at peace. The ambassador explained that through Guru Nanak’s life we “learn how he promoted the dialogue between the two great religions of India; Hinduism and Islam which added to the beauty and birth of Sikhism.” Ahmed quoted one of his favorite sayings of Guru Nanak: “When I give myself to thee O Lord, the whole world is mine.” He also spoke of the great Sufi Islamic saint Mian Mir, who, in an act of religious pluralism, was invited by Guru Arjan to lay the foundation stone at the Golden Temple, the Mecca of Sikhism.

Ahmed reminded us about the pain of partition when in 1947 India and Pakistan separated. He urged that the healing process begin. When Ambassador Ahmed finished, Dr. Rajwant Singh, chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, said “my heart was pounding with the power of his words” and that Ambassador Ahmed’s message was very important for the entire south Asian community. Later Manjula Kumar, a prominent Indian and a director at the Smithsonian institute, wrote that Ahmed was “creating history … I have never had such a wonderful experience at any Gurdwara”.

In addition to Dr. Singh we met White House representative Tuyet G. Duong. She spoke about the Obama administration’s desire to strengthen the relationship between the White House and the Sikh community. She told us about the similarities she found in her Buddhist faith to Sikhism. We also met Dr. Nisar Chaudhury, the president of the Pakistan American league , who was visiting his first Gurdwara and was thrilled. We were also introduced to Sardar Harcharan Singh Brar, who is head of the Mian Mir foundation in Amritsar. This is the equivalent of an Israeli Jew leading a foundation whose namesake is a Palestinian Muslim. I left the event feeling confident that if Muslims and Sikhs can be friends that Muslims and Jews can be too.

Click here to read the full article

Obama Praises Interfaith Dialogue as Religious Leaders Meet

from AFP/Yahoo news

US President Barack Obama sent a message to world religious leaders meeting in Assisi on Thursday, speaking of the power of interfaith dialogue to help the afflicted and bring peace.

“Through interfaith dialogue, we can unite in common cause to lift the afflicted, make peace where there is strife, and find the way forward to create a better world for ourselves and our children,” he said.

Click here to read the full article

The Deviance of Twisting Religion into Politics

by Anthony Stevens-Arroyo
from Washington Post

“Pray for President Obama,” as GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry implored at his recent prayer event –it sounds like a pious religious message, right? Yet beware of the religious hypocrites who twist religion into hatred of ‘the other.’

Check out the t-shirts and bumper stickers that cite Psalm 109:8, circulated among some conservatives opposed to President Obama. That passage reads: “May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership.” The next verse asks God to intervene so that “… his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.” Rather than a prayer, this is a biblical curse. It may provide a titillating “ha-ha” moment for in-the-know conservative elites, but it is little else than the manipulation of religion in order to spread hate.

Click here to read the full article

August 24th, 2011 at 10:42 am

Critics Push Obama To Change Faith-Based Hiring Rules

By Lauren Markoe from the Huffington Post

A group of clergy and lawmakers is trying to overturn a nearly decade-old policy that allows faith-based organizations that receive federal funds to hire and fire employees on the basis of religion.

Critics say President Obama has reneged on a campaign promise to repeal the policy, which was put into place by President Bush in 2002.

“It is shocking that we would even be having a debate about whether basic civil rights practices should apply to programs run with federal dollars,” said Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va.

“There is just no justification for sponsors of government-funded programs to tell job applicants, ‘We don’t hire your kind.”‘

Scott has sponsored legislation to repeal the policy. But advocates for the change say the most effective route would be for Obama to issue a new executive order to overturn Bush’s, Scott told reporters on Tuesday (June 21).

Bush introduced the policy to advance what he deemed a more faith-friendly federal approach toward charitable organizations that receive federal contracts for social services. Previously, groups that received government money were forbidden to consider religion in their employment decisions.

Bush, however, argued that while an organization accepting federal support could not refuse to help people based on their religion, it should be able to take religion into account when hiring and firing employees…

Click here to read the full article

June 26th, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Obama’s Middle East Speech: Religious Leaders Respond

by Jaweed Kaleem
from HuffingtonPost

Religious leaders are responding to President Barack Obama’s ‬much-anticipated speech on the Middle East, in which the president said that “all faiths must be respected” and suggested “bridges be built among them.‬”

Much of the sweeping speech addressed political and economic issues in light of recent democratic movements in the majority-Muslim region. Obama promised U.S. support for democracy, human rights and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But Obama, who famously addressed the Muslim world from Cairo University in two years ago in a speech focused on Islam, also discussed religion several times in Thursday’s comments.

“We support a set of universal rights. Those rights include free speech; the freedom of peaceful assembly; freedom of religion; equality for men and women under the rule of law; and the right to choose your own leaders — whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus; Sanaa or Tehran,” Obama said in the hour-long speech.

Click here to read the full article

The Greater Jihad of Friendship

The Rev. Dirk Ficca, Executive Director of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, addresses the current climate of Islamophobia at a recent Friendship and Dialogue Iftar dinner hosted by the Niagara Foundation.

Rev. Dr. Dirk Ficca from Niagara Foundation.

October 8th, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Engaging Religious Communities Abroad: One Year Post-Cairo

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dirk Ficca, Executive Director, Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions
Eboo Patel, Executive Director, Interfaith Youth Core
Afeefa Syeed, Senior Culture and Development Advisor, Asia and Middle East Bureaus, U.S. Agency for International Development
Moderated by Rachel Bronson, Vice President for Programs and Studies, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs

June 4, 2010 marks the first anniversary of President Obama’s speech at Cairo University, during which he outlined a path toward “a new beginning” with Muslim communities around the world. During his speech the President recognized the importance of engaging not only with governments but with economically and politically influential sectors of societies, including Muslim communities. It follows that the next steps will include a strategy to engage religious communities of all faiths in addressing pressing foreign policy challenges, and to build the institutional capacity to support it. The Chicago Council is particularly interested in the Administration’s follow-up to the Cairo speech given our recent task force report, Engaging Religious Communities Abroad: A New Imperative for U.S. Foreign Policy, which outlines specific policy recommendations towards such a strategy. Join us for an important conversation that will serve as both a one-year anniversary review of President Obama’s speech in Cairo and the Chicago presentation of The Chicago Council’s task force report.

Dirk FiccaDirk Ficca serves as executive director of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions. Ficca worked closely with the religious and spiritual communities of the Chicago metropolitan area to plan and organize the 1993 Parliament event in Chicago. Ficca is an ordained Presbyterian minister and prior to joining the Council served for eleven years as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Benton Harbor, Michigan. He teaches at DePaul University, the Lutheran School of Theology, and Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary.

Eboo PatelEboo Patel is the founder and executive director of Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based institution building the global interfaith youth movement. He is author of Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation. He is a member of President Obama’s Advisory Council of the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and is a board member at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and served as a member of the Chicago Council task force that produced Engaging Religious Communities Abroad. He holds a doctorate from Oxford University, where he studied on a Rhodes scholarship.

Afeefa SyeedAfeefa Syeed is senior advisor at the USAID Middle East and Asia Bureaus. Syeed designs and implements initiatives and training to address issues of engaging traditional and religious leaders and institutions, radicalization, madrassah enhancement, mainstreaming gender, and other emerging programs in the Middle East and Asia. Her work has also included advising the White House, NSC, DOS, and DHS on the same issues. She has consulted with the UN Democracy Fund, World Bank, the U.S. State Department Office for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Department of Human Rights and Labor, and various in-country and international organizations.

The panel will be moderated by Rachel Bronson, Vice President for Programs and Studies, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs

The Chicago Club
81 East Van Buren Street
Chicago, IL 60605
Business attire is required.

5:30 p.m. Registration and reception
6:00 p.m. Presentation and discussion
7:15 p.m. Adjournment

Individuals $10
President’s Circle, Corporate Members, and Student Members complimentary

Register Now

Globalization, Religious Change and the Common Good

by R. Scott Appleby in the Journal of Religion, Conflict and Peace

While hardly new in world politics, religion has returned in force to the international agenda. The Shi‘ite revolution in Iran (1978-1979) and the political awakening of the New Christian Right in the early eighties in the United States roughly coincided. Both events surprised journalists and politicians who bought in to a version of the secularization thesis and therefore underestimated or ignored the enduring power of religion to mobilize protest movements. The nineties saw the increasing prominence of Hamas (Sunni), Hezbollah (Shi‘ite), and Gush Emunim (Jewish) in shaping the conflict in the Middle East, the electoral and cultural successes of militant Hindu nationalism in India, and the spread of Sunni Muslim radicalism, Al-Qaeda style, in parts of the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia.

Yet the U.S. government was slow to respond effectively to situations where religion played a major role. Even after the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, it was commonplace to hear U.S. officials describe the Ayatollah’s revolution as fundamentally a secular movement—a socio-economic protest cloaked up in pseudo-religious wrappings. There is perhaps no more eloquent testimony to the secular bias that has distorted U.S. foreign policy than the fact that the word “religion” does not appear in the index Diplomacy, Henry Kissinger’s encyclopedic account of American statesmanship, published in 1994. Nor does it appear in the index to Paul Collier’s recent book about world poverty, The Bottom Billion, despite the fact that many of the conflicts involving religious actors occur in underdeveloped countries.

Click here to read the full article