The year in review: 2010 gave us some surprising wins in interfaith dialogue

The year in review: 2010 gave us some surprising wins in interfaith dialogue

By: Ahmed Chaudhry
Community Contributor

The past year has been in interesting one for interfaith dialogue and relations. Whether the global community came out better or worse is debatable, but one thing for sure is that it was varied and diverse in its nature.

The majority of interaction between faith groups throughout history seems to be one of conflict: wars, hate crimes, oppression and the like (a point several of the fiercely anti-organized religion readers of will be sure to superfluously re-iterate). It might be out of scope to say 2010 was different; the Israeli-Palestinian conflict wore on, Qur’ans were burned in America, and numerous religious groups were denied rights to practice freely from the Middle East to China. However, some of these news stories from this past year, while ugly in their appearance, yielded positive gains and unlikely heroes that helped make strides for a more peaceful co-existence amongst faiths.

The summer and fall brought what politicians and news heads cleverly labeled the “ground zero mosque” controversy as well as planned (and in isolated incidences, carried out) Qur’an burnings. In the former, the most ignorant of politicians in conjunction with an increasingly implicit media perpetuated a surge of misinformation that contributed to a (hopefully temporary) rise in Islamaphobia in America. While Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich fought against the “ground zero mosque” which was not planned at ground zero… or a even a mosque, Keith Olberman and American humorist Gladstone amongst others prevented the debate from becoming an entirely one-sided affair. Amidst this entire debacle, which is still causing many Americans on both sides to harbor intense feelings, a veritable Superbowl of interfaith dialogue was initiated.

The latter was also a story which, on the face, seemed yet another of religious conflict as pastor Terry Jones of Florida organized a ‘Burn a Qur’an Day,’ While Jones himself did not carry out a burning, others across the United States actually did, including an incident nearby in Lansing in September. The unlikely heroes that emerged from these events included CAIR director Dawud Walid who made an important distinction between the practice of free speech and a hate crime and Jacob Isom of Amarillo, Texas whose Qur’an stealing stunt went viral on the internet.

It’s no surprise that on the overall spectrum of interfaith interactions, the less pleasant of the bunch tend to make headlines. People seem to have become morbidly fascinated with watching the parts of society that are rapidly deteriorating. Make no mistake, however: 2010 had a good share of advances in interfaith dialogue which should leave people with hope for what’s to come in 2011 and beyond.

The UN General Assembly unanimously proclaimed the first “World Interfaith Harmony Weekbetween all religions, faiths and beliefs” to be observed yearly on the first week of February starting next year. In February this year, an international dialogue between Islam and Eastern religions was held in New Delhi. It was inaugurated by Hamid Ansari, the Vice President of India and was attended by leaders and scholars of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. On Nov. 27 of this year , 150 university scholars and delegates from 25 countries gathered at Dhaka University in Bangladesh for the second International Conference on Inter-religious and Intercultural Dialogue to perpetuate interfaith knowledge and research as well as improve the role of universities in educating youth on interfaith dialogue and working towards peace.

The last is especially significant as it seems it is the world’s youth that made the most positive strides for interfaith understanding in 2010. While much of the world’s older population (though not all of it by any means) was busy muddling their religious convictions in political and judicial affairs, many of the notable advancements, though not making headlines, came from the youth of the world. So is it crazy to think we’re moving in the right direction? Or does that depend on what your opinion of the right direction is?

Ahmed Chaudhry was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and moved to the Michigan in 1994. As a recent graduate of Albion College, where he received a degree in biology and religious studies, he plans to pursue a career in public health.




Obama worse than Bush, Cheney when it comes to terrorism policies

Obama worse than Bush, Cheney when it comes to terrorism policies

By Doug Thompson

Two of former President George W. Bush‘s top intelligence officials say President Barack Obama is far worse than either Bush or former Vice President Dick Cheney when it comes to the so-called “war on terror.”

Speaking on CNN’s Sysyr of he Union, former National Intelligence Director ad retired Vice Admiral Michael McConnell told host Candy Crowley that he admired the Obama White House for being even more aggressive than Bush or Cheney when it came to terrorism issues.

During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Obama attacked Bush over what he then called over-aggressive attacks on anti-terrorism issues.  Since the election, some critics say he has become worse than Bush when it comes to the “war on terror.”

“He’s no better than Bush,” one long-time Democratic strategist told Capitol Hill Blue. “In many ways he’s worse than even Cheney.”

“You commend them for that?” Crowley asked.

“I do commend them for that,” McConnell replied, the web site Politico reported.

Michael Hayden, a retired Air Force genera and former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, joined McDonnell in praising Obama.

“When one is in office, it’s, as the admiral has suggested, when one is in office, that responsibility weighs pretty heavily. And so we’ve seen a powerful consistency between two administrations trying to deal with this problem,” Hayden said. “Actually, I’ve seen it over two administrations, and I thank god every day for the continuity.”

“Regardless of which side of the political spectrum you come from or what your political views might be, these threats are very real and very serious. And we have to — have to deal with them in a very serious way,” McConnell added.

-This article includes information from Josh Gerstein at Politico.



Local advocates keep hope alive for Dream Act

Local advocates keep hope alive for Dream Act
By Jessica Barrow
Sunday, 12.26.2010, 09:31pm

Millions of young illegal immigrants had their hopes dashed on Saturday, December 18th, when the Senate failed to give the 60 votes needed to pass legislation for the DREAM Act.

The DREAM Act, which stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, was a bi-partisan legislation that would have allowed some illegal and deportable youth the opportunity to obtain permanent residency if they met certain requirements.

That bill’s failure to pass stunned many government officials and community leaders. Not only was the DREAM Act an important part of immigration reform, but it was shown to provide a boost for the economy and increase tax revenues. According to a statement made by President Obama, the act could have helped reduce the federal deficit by $2.2 billion in 10 years, while helping to increase the number in the armed forces.

“Those who opposed it, I don’t believe they had any justification,” said Imad Hamad, Director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s Michigan Chapter (ADC-MI). “They aren’t serving the best interest of the nation. They challenge something that helps so many families to become stable and helps kids to obtain a good education and become productive members of society.”

With the DREAM Act having so many benefits, its failure to pass generated many theories.

Dawud Walid, Director of the Council of American Islamic Relations, believe the bill itself was not the issue.

“We believe that it was politics that drove (not passing the act), not the essence of the act itself, with the political climate being so partisan. The anti immigrant sentiments are what we just saw in terms of the vote.”

The DREAM Act, which was proposed nearly 10 year ago, had both Republican and Democratic supporters, due to its targeting of illegal immigrants who came into the country before the age of 16, have a high school diploma, are attending college or joining the military. Such youth would be considered “good citizens” and  earn their permanent residence in this country.

“There were some on the right who said the act was an amnesty act, and that is simply not true,” Walid said. “In essence, the DREAM Act was giving a chance to people who came here not by choice, or their own volition but by their parents, who have shown to be law abiding and productive citizens, the ability become documented and be legal residents. The provisions were very stringent in terms of indicating those who committed felonies or other crimes. There were no provisions of amnesty for criminals.”

“The Dream Act is one of those good efforts that was hopeful to fix some of the broken immigration system which poses a tremendous challenge to our nation,” said Hamad. “For the past three or four administrations, this has been on the table, the need for immigration reform. The DREAM Act was a partial effort and a step in the right direction. It addressed an issue that is of great concern to immigrants: the status of young children who came to this country.”

The act was supported by many of those young children who now attend college, as well as institutions of higher-learning, and legislators.  For those who supported the act, this lack of passage in the Senate is not the end.

“Our movement felt the sting of a temporary legislative setback, but we have not been defeated,” said Ali Noor, Director of the National Immigration Forum and Chair of the Reform Immigration for America Campaign, in a press release.”We may not have won this battle, but when it comes to winning the war between mass deportation and earned citizenship, it’s not a matter of if we win, but when.”

Local community leaders also believe that this was just a small setback.

“People who advocated will not give up,” said Hamad. “It’s valid and legitimate. It is a matter that will be faced today, tomorrow and the day after. It’s not going to end here. Tomorrow (the DREAM Act) will be called another name, but will be the same concept. It’s a  call for reform.”