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Walking Egypt Back From the Brink of Anarchy

By Ebrahim Rasool and Ebrahim Moosa

The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions holds South African Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool in highest esteem for his dedication to peacemaking. Ambassador Rasool, pictured here from the 1993 Parliament (from left) with CPWR Chair Emeritus Howard Sulkin, championed the 1999 Cape Town Parliament as Chair of the African National Congress and has continued on as a trusted CPWR advisor on interfaith resolution for peacemaking over his years as the Premier of the Western Cape, most recently visiting Parliament leaders in December 2012 as Ambassador to the United States from South Africa.

August 16, 2013 – Originally published in The Washington Post.

Ebrahim Rasool is South Africa’s ambassador to the United States and the founder of the World For All Foundation. Ebrahim Moosa is a professor of Islamic studies at Duke University.

Preventing Egypt from sliding into civil war is a global security issue, as young militants who a year ago trusted the ballot box could potentially turn into the next generation of extremists.

What’s urgently needed is a multi-pronged strategy involving people of moral authority and leaders from countries trusted by the Muslim Brotherhood, the military and secular and liberal groups who can help Egypt walk back from the brink of anarchy and its growing loss of life. We believe an internationally constituted group of eminent persons should jump-start such an effort by brokering conditions for talks between all Egyptian players in an inclusive manner.

Such a group should include Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu of South Africa, former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, Tunisia’s Renaissance Party leader Rachid Ghannouchi, former U.S. national security adviser Jim Jones, former Irish president Mary Robinson and veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi. With the support of the African Union, South Africa, Turkey and Qatar on the one hand, and the United States, the European Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council on the other, the group should immediately engage credible Egyptian leaders to facilitate breakthroughs, a task no one inside Egypt can accomplish now.

A first priority for the group is to urge all parties to end the political deadlock by reconstituting an interim but inclusive civilian government of all the political players, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood, along with skilled technocrats. This requires the release of political detainees. These measures should de-escalate tensions despite the already-high recent death toll.Egypt’s interim civilian government should have six immediate priorities:●Lift the state of emergency and free up the political process. Doing so would restore confidence to a damaged political process and start the healing process.●Use Egypt’s current constitution as a draft for discussion on a final document. This would provide continuity with a legitimate, existing political process while acknowledging its shortcomings.

Ebrahim Moosa is Professor of Islamic Studies in the Department of Religion at Duke University. His interests span both classical and modern Islamic thought with a special interest in Islamic law, ethics and theology. In 2007 he delivered the prestigious Hassaniyyah lecture on the invitation of his Majesty King Mohammed VI in Fez. He was named Carnegie Scholar in 2005 to pursue research on the madrasas, Islamic seminaries in South Asia.
Dr Moosa is the author of Ghazali and the Poetics of Imagination, winner of the American Academy of Religion’s Best First Book in the history of religions (2006). He is he editor of books on Modern Islam, Muslim family law and Islamic revival with multiple publications on issues related to classical and modern Islamic thought. He is a Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. 

●Restrict the army to its barracks, enforced by pressure from the United States. If the army retreats, the specter of authoritarian rule will be removed and democratic initiatives will be encouraged.●Deploy police forces to provide effective security with external monitoring. Such a move is necessary to establish law and order in all major cities, one of the grievances of the anti-Morsi protesters.

●Facilitate free and fair elections within a reasonable timeframe, say 12 months.

●Foster institutions for democratic rule and economic recovery. This could include a major aid package from the International Monetary Fund to support economic development plus a donor package targeting the restoration of Egypt’s tourism industry and other infrastructure needs.

For their part, the United States and the European Union must exercise their strategic and economic leverage to rein in the Egyptian army before it entrenches itself and reverses all the gains of the Arab Spring. President Obama’s condemnation of the past week’s bloody violence must be bolstered with decisive U.S. and E.U. action to restrain the army: withholding military aid until an inclusive political process is achieved.

Egypt’s security and stability are vital to the geostrategic politics of Africa, Europe and the Middle East, especially as they relate to the United States. Egypt’s ability to be free and democratic has the potential to forge these values in the broader Arab and Muslim world.

Moreover, with Syria’s civil war already spilling over into Iraq and Lebanon, continued violence in Egypt will seriously jeopardize regional security — something that fits al-Qaeda’s agenda.

The cost of doing nothing and simply managing our respective interests is to witness a major Arab country becoming a failed state, a prospect responsible leaders would not wish even on their enemies.

Learn More about Ebrahim Moosa.  Born in South Africa, Dr. Moosa earned his MA (1989) and PhD (1995) from the University of Cape Town. Prior to that he took the `alimiyya degree in Islamic and Arabic studies from Darul `Ulum Nadwatul `Ulama, one of India’s foremost Islamic seminaries in the city of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. He also has a BA degree from Kanpur University, and a postgraduate diploma in journalism from the City University in London.

Previously he taught at the University of Cape Town and was visiting professor at Stanford University 1998-2001 prior to joining Duke University. As a journalist he wrote for Arabia: The Islamic World Review, MEED (Middle East Economic Digest) and Afkar/Inquiry magazines in Britain and later became political writer for the Cape Times in South Africa. He contributes regularly to the op-ed pages of the Washington-Post, New York Times, Atlanta-Journal Constitution, The Boston Review and several international publications and is frequently invited to comment on global Islamic affairs.

Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life Sparks Discussion around the Media and Religious Knowledge

by Diane Winston and John Green
from the Washington Post

A new survey of news consumers and reporters reveals a significant gap between the two groups [the media and the public] on what’s important and how it’s covered. Two-thirds of the public says the news media sensationalizes religion, a view shared by a little less than one-third of reporters. Significantly, almost 70 percent of the public prefers coverage on religious experience and spirituality, while reporters’ focus is on religion and politics.

…One reason for shortcomings in current coverage is that many reporters lack expertise. Half of those surveyed say they don’t know a lot about religion. Only a fifth claimed to be “very knowledgeable,” and most in that small segment said their information was from their own religious practice, self-study and their family background. In the past, news organizations encouraged staff to attend seminars and workshops for continuing education. But in the recent climate of cutbacks, journalists are reluctant to spend time away from the newsroom even if enhancing their skills.

Click here to read the full article.

Click here to read the original report from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life

 

Women Wear Hijabs in Support of Slain Iraqi Woman

by Omar Sacirbey
from the Washington Post

Jean Younis won’t be wearing an Easter bonnet at church this Sunday. Instead, the office manager at Bonita Valley Adventist Church in National City, Calif., will don an Islamic headscarf to support the family and friends of Shaima Alawadi, the Iraqi immigrant and mother of five who died March 24, three days after being beaten in her home in El Cajon, Calif.

“I do expect a reaction, but that’s the point. It needs to be discussed,” said Younis, 59, who predicted that most church members would be supportive or respectfully inquisitive.

She is one of many non-Muslim women to post photos of themselves wearing a headscarf on “One Million Hijabs for Shaima Alawadi,” a recently created Facebook Page that had nearly 10,000 likes on Monday (April 2) and hundreds of photos. Others posting on the page have identified themselves as Catholics, Quakers, Mennonites, Jews, Pagans, and atheists.

Click here to read the full article

Muslim and Hindu Exchange Students, Jewish Teens Learn about Religions

By Tara Bahrampour
From Washington Post

On a balmy November night, a busload of eighth-graders spilled out onto Massachusetts Avenue NW, the girls tentatively pulling on head scarves they had been instructed to bring.

“Does mine look normal?” one asked, cinching it tightly under her chin.

“Mine looks really ugly, doesn’t it?” said another, tugging at a billowy confection of material.

Suitably attired, more or less, they trooped into the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. Many of the students, who belong to an after-school Hebrew program at Congregation Beth El in Bethesda, had passed by the large mosque with the columns and minaret, but they had never gone inside, until now.

The youths are part of a cultural exchange between Beth El and AFS Intercultural Programs (formerly the American Field Service), which brings teenagers from all over the world to live with host families in the United States and sends American teens abroad.

For the program, in its fourth year, eight foreign students being hosted in the Washington area were teaching the Beth El students about Islam, the religion of four of the exchange students; Hinduism, the faith of two of the students, was added this year.

The students — from Indonesia, Lebanon, Yemen, Egypt, Armenia, India and Germany — are here on State Department scholarships and had visited Beth El last monthto give a classroom presentation. Later in the month, the Beth El students joined them on field trips to a mosque and a Hindu temple.

Inside the mosque, the girls and boys removed their shoes and were separated in different rooms. Cucut Syati, 16, a student from Indonesia wearing a purple satin tunic, showed the girls the elaborate pre-prayer washing ritual — hands, mouth, nose, face, arm, head, ears and feet.

Click here to read the full article

Five Lessons on Faith

By Sally Quinn
From Washington Post

It was five years ago this month that we launched “On Faith.” The idea was to inform and educate about all faiths (and no faith) and to initiate an ongoing discussion about the role of religion, values and ethics in our daily lives. I hoped that after learning more, people would become more accepting of those who held different beliefs. Pluralism was the goal.

The discussions we have had over the years have far exceeded my expectations. What I find most gratifying is the inspired contributions from the subjects of our interviews, our contributing writers and our readers. From the volume of e-mails and comments, I know that others find the site as informative, provocative and entertaining as I do.

Since the time we launched I have never been so enthralled, learned so much or been so fulfilled by a subject. It has changed my perspective on life. It is clearly what I was meant to do.

Here are five things I have learned in these five years:

1. Nobody knows.

My favorite bumper sticker and the guiding wisdom for me every day is this: “I don’t know and you don’t either.”

An atheist father was trying to explain to his son that there was no such thing as God. “But Dad,” asked the boy, “how do you know?”

“You’ll just have to take it on faith,” said the father.

That says it all.

We are all taking our beliefs or lack of beliefs on faith.

Although I called myself an atheist when we started this site, I no longer do, thanks to Jon Meacham, the religious scholar and former Newsweek editor who helped launch the site. He also served as co-moderator until last year, when The Washington Post Co. sold Newsweek.

We were having an argument over whether or not I was an atheist. Finally, Jon said something that resonated. He said, “You don’t want to define yourself negatively, and you know nothing about religion.” He gave me a list of books to read and told me to go study religion. If afterward I insisted on calling myself an atheist, he argued, at least I would know what I was talking about.

I was astonished, engaged and finally enlightened by what I read and ashamed at how little I really knew about religion. I’m still reading and still learning, and it seems the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.


Click here to read the full article

December 3rd, 2011 at 9:48 am

Stephen Hawking: ‘There is no heaven,’ God is not ‘necessary’ for creation

From Washington Post

Famed physicist Stephen Hawking said in an interview with the UK Guardian published Monday that he rejects the idea of heaven, calling it a ’fairy story’ for people afraid to die. Hawking also wrote in his 2010 book The Grand Design that he believes God was not ‘necessary’ for the creation of the universe and that ‘spontaneous creation‚’ instead explains existence. Hawking seems confident in his conclusion about God, but then again so do believers. Who is right? Can God and science co-exist?

Among the many respondents are Muqtedar Khan, Christopher Stedman, and Susan Brooks Thislethwaite.

Click here to read the full article

 

 

May 23rd, 2011 at 8:59 am

What turns “the Other” into one of us?

From The Washington Post

The sympathetic coverage of the devastation wrought by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami has overwhelmed the nasty little story of Rep. Peter King’s loyalty hearings aimed at American Muslims. Both news events, however, raise the compelling question of what it takes to turn a group perceived as alien and threatening–whether across the ocean or down the block–into people Americans see as neighbors, fellow citizens, and fellow human beings.

Click here to read entire article.

The Egyptian Revolution: An Interfaith Movement

From The Washington Post

Today’s guest blogger is Frank Fredericks, executive director of World Faith, co-director of Religious Freedom USA, and president of Çöñàr Records.

Seeing the Egyptian protests on American media may lead you to believe that this is an Iranian-style revolution, with a probable result being an Islamic regime. However, when you look at the details of what is happening on the ground, this is an interfaith movement.

Since 2006, I have been frequenting Egypt, spending a month or more at a time staying and working with locals in Cairo and Alexandria. It was in Egypt when I got inspired to found World Faith, and it’s become a second home for me.

Broken messages from my Egyptian friends spiked an unparalleled mix of awe, fear and excitement. While a popular revolution was only a matter of time, the somewhat minute ignition was surprising to say the least. As we’d say, if Egypt was full of Iranians, they would have revolted 10 years ago.

But it’s not, and as my friend Haroon Moghul outlined, it is not Iran nor an Islamic movement. Whether the restrictions put on Christians for interfaith marriages or conversion, or the government’s strong crackdown on devout Muslims are an attempt to punish the Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood), religion has oftentimes stood as a tool of division in Egypt.

Many assume that the Ikhwan would become the dominant player in the protests, they were slow to formally join, recognizing that their explicit support would damage the movement. They even went so far as to release a statement Saturday explicitly stating that they have no desire to lead an interim government, but would rather participate in a multiparty democratic political system. Nobel Peace Prize Winner Mohammed el-Baradei has become the inpromptu voice of the people, who stated that Egypt needs a new government “based on freedom, democracy and social justice.”

The protests have demonstrated explicit interfaith components. It was only a few weeks ago that Egyptian Muslims attended Christmas mass with their Christian neighbors and friends as human shields after the deadly attack on a Coptic church. Mohamed El-Sawy, whose cultural center has hosted World Faith Cairo events, said of faith relations in Egypt, “We either live together or we die together.” Returning the favor, Christians stood guard at mosques across Egypt while their Muslim friends finished their Friday prayers before the day’s protests. When a few demonstrators began chanting “Allahu Akbar,” others convinced them to join together: “Muslim, Christian, we’re all Egyptian!”

Click here to read entire article.

Do Egyptians want both democracy and a role for religion in their government?

From The Washington Post

The dramatic images streaming out of Egypt over the past week suggest that the 30-year dictatorship of America’s close ally, Hosni Mubarak, might be coming to an end.

The world is watching closely to see what kind of country may emerge from the latest popular revolt to rock the Arab world. Yet in the United States, the conversation– as usual when it comes to the Middle East–seems fixated on the singular issue of Islam, and more specifically, on the role that the Muslim Brotherhood may play in Egypt’s future. GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum is already drawing parallels between the young protesters calling for an end to the brutal and repressive Mubarak regime, and the popular protests that, three decades ago, brought down another despicable dictator and former American ally, the Shah of Iran. “We abandoned [the Shah] and what we got in exchange was… a radical Islamist regime,” Santorum said. Mike Huckabee, another GOP presidential hopeful, joined in the hysteria, warning Americans that, “if in fact the Muslim Brotherhood is underneath much of the unrest [in Egypt] every person who breathes ought to be concerned.”

Click here to read entire article.

February 3rd, 2011 at 10:32 am

Making the Internet Moral

stateofformation.orgby Chris Stedman

from the Washington Post

Is the Internet destroying our morals?

Earlier this month, Pope Benedict XVI issued a warning that the Internet was “numbing” young people and creating an “educational emergency – a challenge that we can and must respond to with creative intelligence.”

Speaking at a Vatican conference on culture, Benedict also expressed concern that “a large number of young people” are “establish[ing] forms of communication that do not increase humaneness but instead risk increasing a sense of solitude and disorientation.”

Benedict’s comments created an uproar, but he has a point. Studies show that Internet addiction is linked to depression; in 2007, the comedy website Cracked offered a surprisingly moving take on this phenomenon titled “7 Reasons the 21st Century is Making You Miserable.”

It’s tempting, knowing this, to suggest that we all take a step away from our keyboards, turn off our computers, and go find a field to frolic in.

As much as I love the instant gratification of being able to download the latest Kanye West album the moment it is released and being able to stay connected to my family back in Minnesota through Facebook, I also know that the Internet has created a new kind of culture in which the rules of engagement have shifted dramatically. The rise of cyberbullying in recent years demonstrates that our more-connected world comes with new moral and ethical questions that we must respond to with creativity and acumen.

As we saw with “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day,” culture wars are born online. But I also believe that the Internet has created opportunities to open channels of dialogue that were, previous to now, next to impossible. Where culture wars are born, so too can we build bridges.

With this conviction, I am excited by the launch of State of Formation, a new online forum for emerging religious and ethical leaders from around the world, founded by the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue and run in partnership with Hebrew College, Andover Newton and collaboration with Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Click here to read the entire article