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Naw Ruz: Celebrating the Bahá’í New Year

Dear Friends,

With the spring equinox comes Naw Ruz, the Bahá’í New Year festival! The holiday celebrates the spring season and has been fixed at March 21st for those celebrating outside of Iran. 
 
The Bahá’í Faith is the second most widespread religion in the world in terms of geographical reach. So wherever you are in the world, you may know or work with someone celebrating Naw Ruz!
 
Take a look at our Naw Ruz Fact Sheet for more information about this holiday, the Bahá’í Faith, and the potential workplace implications of Naw Ruz.

Warm regards,

Mark Fowler
Deputy CEO, Tanenbaum 
 

 Photo: The Iran Project

Church Construction Approved Near Ground Zero: News Roundup

In the news this week: A Greek Orthodox church destroyed on 9/11 is approved to rebuild, American-Muslim scholars issue Fatwa supporting U.S. Constitution, Baha’i educators receive multi-year sentences in Iran, and other stories.

Ten years after tiny St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church was destroyed by falling rubble from the World Trade Center towers, church leaders reached an agreement Friday (Oct. 14) to rebuild at Ground Zero.
The church, founded by Greek immigrants in 1916, sat in the shadow of the twin towers and was the only religious building to be completely destroyed during the 9/11 attacks. Washington Post
 
A federal judge in Houston has approved settlement of a lawsuit several veterans groups filed against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, accusing the department of religious discrimination. U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes approved the consent decree on Wednesday. The agreement was made public last month.
 
Three Houston veterans groups and a pastor filed the lawsuit earlier this year. It accused VA officials of banning such religious words as "God" and censoring their prayers at soldiers' funerals at the Houston National Cemetery. The Liberty Institute, a Texas religious rights organization representing the veterans groups, says the agreement ends religious hostility at the cemetery. NECN
 
Islamic scholars tired of conservative charges that Muslims in the United States constitute a radical fifth column bent on subverting American values and obligated by their religion to launch jihadist terror attacks are fighting back by issuing a fatwa.
 
The Islamic religious ruling, a "Resolution On Being Faithful Muslims and Loyal Americans," is a response to what its authors call "erroneous perceptions and Islamophobic propaganda" that has built up for a decade following the 9/11 attacks and subsequent terrorist plots by adherents of al-Qaida and other extremist groups. It was issued in Virginia late last month by the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA), a group of Islamic scholars who meet several times a year to draft opinions on issues of concern to American Muslims. Huffington Post
 
Tunisia, the first country to rise up in the so-called Arab Spring, may also become the region’s first new democracy to vote an Islamist party into power.
 
Ennahdha, an Islamic party legalized only six months ago, is the front-runner in the Oct. 23 vote to choose an assembly to write a new constitution, according to an OpinionWay poll released just before a pre-election polling ban took effect on Oct. 1. The party says it won’t impose its views on what is now the most secular country in the region. Business Week
 
For the first time, Pope Benedict has invited non-believers, in addition to representatives of all faiths, to the religious peace gathering in Assisi due to take place on 27 October. Independent Catholic News
 
Egypt’s military officials added an anti-discriminatory measure Saturday in response to last week’s religious demonstration that escalated into one of the country’s deadliest riots since former President Hosni Mubarak was driven out of office in February.
Under the new measure, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender, nationality, language and religious affiliations.   Global Post
 
More than two dozen Somali Muslim drivers for Hertz at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport are being fired after refusing to clock out for daily breaks during which they normally pray.
 
The 26 workers drive the company's rental cars to and from the airport for cleaning and refueling. They are among 34 Hertz employees suspended Sept. 30 for failing to clock out before breaks.
 
Teamsters Local 117, which represents the workers, said Hertz agreed during contract negotiations last year that union members would not need to clock out during prayer breaks. But the company maintains workers were violating a settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reached two years ago. Yahoo
 
Seven Baha'i educators in Iran have each received four- or five-year prison sentences, according to reports received by the Baha'i International Community. Baha’i World News Service
 
 

 

Spiritual Women Win Nobel Peace Prize: News Roundup

In the news this week: the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to three spiritual women, anti-Semitic incidents in the US rise, the Supreme Court hears a case about religious exception in matters of discrimination, and other stories.

By honoring three brave, determined women – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakul Karman, the Nobel Peace Committee shines light on true heroines of our time. This prize of prizes points to two realities that politicians, academics, and media have long downplayed. Women and those they care for suffer disproportionately in war and conflict. But they are also at the forefront of work for peace. Women tend to be shoved to the sidelines when it comes to negotiations and treaties, barely visible in photos of the peace tables across the world. But where it really matters you find women at work. The Nobel trio honors hundreds of thousands of unsung heroines in far flung, often dark corners of the world.
 
But there's a special dimension that gets precious little attention: religion as an inspiration for women's work for peace, and the support they get from their faith communities. Huffington Post
 
The number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States increased for the first time since 2004, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s annual audit.
 
The ADL Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents released Tuesday showed that there were 1,239 incidents in 2010, up slightly from the 1,211 reported the previous year. The audit tracks assaults, vandalism and harassment reported during the calendar year in 45 states and the District of Columbia. The numbers reached a record high in 2004, with 1,821 incidents reported. Jewish Daily Forward
 
The Ashland man who allegedly plotted to fly explosive-laden, remote-controlled airplanes into federal buildings in Washington, D.C., was asked to leave a Roxbury mosque last year because of his radical Islamic views and suspected support of Al Qaeda, a mosque official said yesterday. Boston Globe
 
Desmond Tutu and José Ramos-Horta wrote an open letter to the international academic community about the lack of freedom of education in Iran. They call to their colleagues to come to the aid of Baha’is whose lives are being subjected to oppressive laws. Huffington Post
 
The United States Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday in a major case testing the rights of teachers in religious schools. At rock bottom, the issue is who is a minister and when, if ever, that individual is exempt from the nation's civil rights laws.
 
Civil rights statutes do provide some exceptions for religious institutions. The laws allow religious organizations to prefer their own believers in hiring, for instance, and they allow churches and other religious organizations to require their employees to adhere to certain religious tenets. But what happens when a parochial school fires a teacher because she invokes her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the law that bars discriminating against the disabled? The answer to that question could have huge implications. NPR
 
California's governor has signed a bill that that will prevent local governments from banning male circumcision. Gov. Jerry Brown's office announced that the Democrat signed AB768, a bill written in response to a ballot measure proposed in San Francisco. Huffington Post
 

 

Oregonian Couple’s Religious Exemption Defense Fails: News Roundup

In the news this week: another religious exemption defense fails in Oregon, Christians fear future in Syria, a Jewish man encounters bias from a state agency, and other stories.

Another couple in Oregon is found guilty of manslaughter despite their religious exemption defense. The couple, of the Followers of Christ, prayed over their ill newborn boy for the nine hours he was alive. A pediatric expert who testified at the 10-day trial said the baby had a 99.9 percent chance of surviving if he had been taken to a hospital — the standard response for premature babies born at home. Even defense medical experts agreed hospitalization was the right choice. The Oregonian
 
An unemployed Jewish man in San Francisco received a notice to attend a “re-employment eligibility assessment appointment” on September 29, the first day of Rosh Hashanah. When he notified the EDD that he would need to reschedule for religious reasons, he was told that he was at risk of losing his unemployment benefits if he did not show up on the 29th. He appealed to the California State Employment Development department, but the EDD said that no special accommodation could be made. In the end, the local office accommodated Weinberger, but Weinberger is in touch with the Anti-Defamation League about the incident. Jewish Daily Forward
 
Kazakhstan’s upper house of parliament approved a bill Thursday that backers say will help combat religious extremism, but that critics call a blow to freedom of belief in the ex-Soviet nation.
 
The bill approved by the Senate will require existing religious organizations in the mainly Muslim nation to dissolve and register again through a procedure that is virtually guaranteed to exclude smaller groups, including minority Christian communities. Washington Post
 
Warning that Christians currently suffer more persecution because of their faith than any other religious group, the Holy See today told the United Nations the denial of religious freedom threatened peace and security and precluded integral human development. UN News Centre
 
With chaos in Syria growing, some of the country’s Christians fear that a change of power could usher in an anti-Christian regime. NY Times
 
Shoreh Rowhani, an Iranian Baha’i and promising young student, has run up against a system which – while promising opportunity on the surface – is blocking her from earning her degree. She asked officials why her application was rejected as incomplete. "They told me that this has happened because you are a Baha'i," she reported in a letter recently sent to several human rights organizations. Baha’i World News Service
 
Vanderbilt University is requiring religious student organizations to remove requirements that the groups’ leadership be of the faith the organization is affiliated with. The groups contend that this amounts to religious discrimination. The Tennessean

 

Baha’is Continue to be Persecuted in Iran: News Roundup

In the news this week: Iranian lawyer arrested for representing Baha’is, the President supports Israel at the UN, a Muslim woman declares candidacy for French President, and other stories.

As a number of Baha'is in Iran await trial for providing higher education to youth barred from university, the Baha'i International Community has been distressed to learn of the arrest of a lawyer who was preparing to defend them.
 
Abdolfattah Soltani – a senior member of the legal team representing the prisoners – was arrested last Saturday. Mr. Soltani was a co-founder of the Defenders of Human Rights Center along with four other lawyers including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi. The Tehran-based Center was shut down in a police raid in December 2008.
 
An Amnesty International appeal calling upon Iran to release Mr. Soltani immediately has described him as "one of the bravest human rights defenders in Iran…"  Baha’i World News
 
President Obama is at the United Nations this week for the opening of the annual General Assembly meeting–where the U.S. is working the global precincts to avoid a vote on Palestinian statehood. Chicago Sun-Times
 
A woman fighting France's ban on Islamic face coverings was fined 120 euros ($162) Thursday for wearing a burqa, the first fine handed down by a French court over the controversial law.
 
Hind Ahmas sought out the punishment so she could take her fight to a higher court, she told CNN. A second woman, Najet Ait Ali, was fined 80 euros ($108) in the same court appearance.
 
"I am happy to be fined, since I can now take this to the European Court of Human Rights," Ahmas said. CNN
 
Kenza Drider, a Muslim woman, declared her longshot candidacy for French President Thursday, the same day that a French court fined two women who refuse to remove their veils. All three are among a group of women mounting an attack on the law that has banned the garments from the streets of France since April, and prompted similar moves in other European countries. Associated Press
 
In a rude shock to the Sikh community in North Carolina, a Sikh owned convenience store was damaged Sept 7, in a suspected case of hate related arson.
 
The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that the Sikh owned State Line Grocery convenience store was badly damaged in an early morning fire, which is under investigation as a potential hate crime specifically due to the graffiti that was spray painted on the walls of the convenience store stating, “9-11 Go Home”. India Post
 
Muslims in Kashmir, in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent, are supporting the re-building of a Christian school that was destroyed by fire during anti-Christian violence one year ago. ENI News
 
One of the world’s leading Muslim clerics will issue a global declaration against terrorism at a speech in London on Saturday. Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri will make the declaration at the ‘Peace for Humanity Conference 2011’ at Wembley Arena.
 
The peace declaration, which will call for an end to terrorism and for the protection of human rights in new Arab regimes, is expected to be signed by major religious and political leaders. The Independent
 

 

Around the Web: Religion and Diversity Education

Have some time on your hands? Take a minute to read up on some of the news of the week concerning religion and diversity in the educational sphere. Around the Web is a feature that brings together a variety of recent articles that address the issues of religion and diversity and their places in education (public and private)!

We’d love to hear your thoughts on these links!

February 21st is International Mother Tongue Day! Celebrate!

Diversity education bill proposed in California after school shooting.

Florida State Board of Education rules that evolution is a “theory,” not a fact, that should taught in Florida schools.

“Bill of Responsibilities” to be taught to secondary students in South Africa, highlights respect for diversity.

Durban, South Africa school denies admission to Sikh boy based on his appearance.

Economic Diversity @ Stanford- the university will now offer tuition breaks to families with incomes under $100,000.

The number of multiculturalism courses being offered in high schools and colleges is on the rise.

For information on Tanenbaum’s programmatic offerings in Religion and Diversity Education, check out our trainings and curricula!