The Administration Adjusts Middle East and Muslim Relations Policy: News Roundup

In the news this week:  the Obama administration shifts Muslim and Middle East practice and policy, new trends in higher education religious studies, and more:

Changing the White House’s Approach to Middle East and Muslim Relations
President Obama’s Middle East speech is the most apparent evidence of a shift in Middle East policy. NPR interviewed Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nation, to discover the key learnings from the speech. His call for a restoration of pre-1967 borders between Israel and the Palestinian Territories is the most striking departure from current policy. This shift has garnered a wide range of reactions, some of which are chronicled in The Huffington Post.
 
On a practical level, Federal agents displayed a different approach in dealing with three Florida Muslims arrested this past week. The men are accused of providing funding and resources to the Pakistani Taliban. 
The raids were conducted under new national rules of engagement intended to show more sensitivity toward religious practices and tamp down the flames of haters after a series of outreach meetings in South Florida this year among federal law enforcers and Muslim leaders.   Miami Herald
Since the arrests, federal authorities have consistently spoken out against generalizing the local and national Muslim community. They have also staunchly supported Muslims as valued citizens of the United States.
 
New Religious Studies Trends
It seems that institutions of Higher Education have caught the interreligious bug. We’re seeing more and more colleges introduce curriculum, majors, or entire schools devoted to new areas of religious study. 
A Methodist couple and long-time trustees of the Claremont School of Theology (California) gave $50 million to establish Claremont Lincoln University, the nation’s first interreligious university, which will share a campus with Claremont School of Theology starting this fall. Patheos
The school will also work with the Islamic Center of Southern California and hopes to integrate schools in Buddhist, Hindu, and other traditions in the future. 
Each participating institution will contribute to the curriculum at Claremont Lincoln, which will offer such graduate programs as interreligious studies, comparative religions, and conflict resolution.  The Jewish Journal of Greater L.A.
Pitzer College, also in California, will be the first in the nation to offer a degree in secularism. 
This fall, Pitzer will inaugurate a department of secular studies. Professors from other departments, including history, philosophy, religion, science and sociology, will teach courses like “God, Darwin and Design in America,” “Anxiety in the Age of Reason” and “Bible as Literature.”   New York Times
In order to make this program a reality the department chair fought to show that studying non-belief is just as legitimate as studying belief. He stressed that the program will not demean religious individuals/religions just as religious programs don’t demean non-religious individuals/entities. 
 
 
In other news: