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On Being Sikh in America: News Roundup

This week in the news: Park51 overcomes one more obstacle, a Canadian school’s religious accommodation stirs up controversy and more.

  • A NYC judge dismissed a lawsuit by an ex-NYC firefighter who sought to stop the construction of the Park51 Cultural Center (often incorrectly called the “Ground Zero Mosque”). Reported The New York Times: “In a decision issued on Friday, Justice Paul G. Feinman of State Supreme Court in Manhattan wrote that Mr. Brown was “an individual with a strong interest in preservation of the building” but added that Mr. Brown lacked any special legal standing on its fate…Mr. Gamal’s [Park51’s developer] lawyer, Adam Leitman Bailey, called the decision “a victory for America” and said: “Despite the tempest of religious hatred, the judge flexed our Constitution’s muscles enforcing the very bedrock of our democracy.””
  • The Associated Press ran a piece on discrimination against Sikhs post-9/11: “Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Sikhs have reported a rise in bias attacks, both verbal and physical, against them. The backlash that hit Muslims across the country has expanded to include them and their faith as well, with some assuming the sight of a long beard and turbaned head can only mean one thing…The Sikh Coalition said there have been at least 700 attacks or bias-related incidents against Sikhs since Sept. 11 in the U.S.”
In related news, Orange County Register columnist David Whiting wrote a moving column on “Wearing a Turban in the Face of Hate,” a look at Sikh family’s dedication to both preserving their traditions and educating others about Sikhism.
  • Controversy sparked in a Toronto school this week. The school, which has a large Muslim population, sought to accommodate students who needed to participate in Friday congregational prayer by allowing group prayer in the school cafeteria during class hours; previous, students would miss class time leaving school grounds to get back and forth from the local mosque. However, there’s real question as to whether this accommodation, however well-intentioned, violates Canadian law. The Canadian Jewish News, AFP, and The Globe and Mail all cover the story.
  •  A new study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine finds that talking about hospital patients’ religious needs results in greater overall satisfaction. Senior study author Farr Curlin of the University of Chicago found that: “41 percent of patients wanted to discuss religious or spiritual concerns with someone while in the hospital, and 32 percent of all patients said some discussion did occur. Among those who had taken part in discussions, 61 percent spoke with a chaplain, 12 percent with a member of their own religious community, 8 percent with a physician, and 12 percent with someone else.” However, “Half of the patients who wanted a discussion did not have one (20 percent of patients overall) and one in four who did not want a conversation about spiritual issues had one anyway.” Newswise has more information.
More stories are available, as always, in the News section of our site. Enjoy the weekend!

 

The Most Dangerous Countries for Women: News Roundup

In the news this week: the Thompson Reuters Foundation lists the most dangerous countries for women, the City of Francisco issues its first response to the proposed circumcision ban, and other news.

Forbes reported on countries that the Thompson Reuters Foundation listed as the five most dangerous for women. Experts ranked the countries on six high-risk categories and found Somalia, India, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Afghanistan to be the most dangerous. The categories were “health threats, sexual violence, non-sexual violence, harmful practices rooted in culture, tradition and/or religion, lack of access to economic resources and human trafficking.”

The City of San Francisco has issued its first response to the proposed circumcision ban. The city’s attorney’s office argued that the proposed law would be unconstitutional if it applies to religious figures, but not medical professionals. This is relevant because opponents of the ban have brought a lawsuit at the state level asserting that local governments do not have the authority to restrict medical procedures. If the state agrees, then medical professionals would be exempt from the ban. According to the city, if medical professionals are exempt, then prohibiting religious figures from performing circumcisions would be unconstitutional. San Jose Mercury News

SikhSiyasat.net is reporting that, “The Sikh Coalition testified in support of a proposed law that would significantly enhance religion-based protections for New York City employees. The proposed law, introduced by Council Member Mark Weprin (D-Queens), would significantly increase the obligations of city employers to respect the right of Sikhs to maintain their articles of faith in the workplace without discrimination.”

Santa Rosa County School District became a battle ground between the American Civil Liberty Union and Liberty Counsel, a conservative Christian legal group, three years ago. The two groups have finally come to an agreement. The ACLU and the school originally signed a consent decree that ensured school employees would not promote religion, but the Liberty Counsel saw the decree as too stringent. After years of litigation and negotiation, the two organizations have agreed to language that satisfies both parties. NorthEscambia.com

In New Zealand, a Saudi Arabian student was refused boarding on a public bus because of her Muslim attire. Just two days earlier, another woman was told to remove her veil by a different driver. "Both drivers … claim it's not religious … but they genuinely have a phobia of people wearing masks, hence why we have not dismissed them," general manager Jon Calder said. Both drivers have been sent to counseling programs (The Dominion Post). Meanwhile, the New South Whales (Australia’s most populous state) Premier has announced that police will soon be able to demand removal of any head covering, regardless of religious significance. The Premier was quoted as saying, "I have every respect for various religions and beliefs, but when it comes to enforcing the law the police should be given adequate powers to make a clear identification." The Australian

In other news:

 

Tackling Anti-Muslim Sentiment in the Workplace with SHRM

As 2010 drew to a close, it was hard to avoid the signs of growing anti-Muslim sentiment – a steadily increasing (and unprecedented) rise in Muslim discrimination complaints to the EEOC , the continuing debate around the Park51 Cultural Center (also known as the “Ground Zero mosque”), and extremists like Pastor Terry Jones stealing the lime-light with shocking threats that carried weight across the globe. Looking ahead to the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, we felt it was time to address how anti-Muslim sentiment is affecting workplaces head-on.

We approached some of our close friends and experts who have worked in Human Resources and those who have experienced being Muslim in U.S. workplaces.  We agreed that making as many members of the human resources community aware of this timely matter was important. We reached out to Dr. Shirley Davis, Director of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives at the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and asked if we could include a panel at the SHRM 2011 Annual Conference & Exposition in an effort to get HR and management looking at how they should proactively relieve tensions and support inclusivity even during such divisive times. Dr. Davis honored our request and included Tanenbaum’s panel in the impressive offerings of the conference.
 
The conference, which finished up its 63rd year last week, consistently provides HR professionals with easily-applied and important tools that can be used the moment they step back into their offices.
 
On Tuesday morning, Tanenbaum’s CEO Joyce Dubensky, moderated the panel discussion, entitled “Getting It Right: Understanding Current Dynamics of Religious Diversity in the Workplace.” Panelist Lobna Ismail, Founder & President of Connecting Cultures, spoke to the experience of being Muslim in the workplace, and the great impact anti-Muslim media images can have on the people coming to your offices every day. Eric Peterson, Manager, Diversity and Inclusion at SHRM, provided information about the practical resources that managers can use to inform themselves, inform their employees, and ultimately mediate those tensions. Finally, Mark Fowler, Tanenbaum’s Director of Programs, provided insight into some of our better practices around addressing this sensitive topic.
 
Over 40 people attended the session, and were extremely active and engaged in the conversation. Some questions from the audience included how to address those who think offices should operate under a Christian norm, and how to address issues around possible proselytizing.
 
While successful sessions like these leave us with hope that anti-Muslim sentiment will settle down in the United States, controversy and discrimination continue to show up in our workplaces. This past Monday, the EEOC filed a claim against Rent-A-Center for failing to accommodate a Christian employee’s needs. Unfortunately, religious discrimination in the workplace, across all traditions, is still a concern. However, proactively addressing these issues by debunking stereotypes and training managers and employees how to communicate respectfully can be a great place to start.  
 
To that end, Tanenbaum has joined Prepare New York, a coalition of New York based interfaith organizations. Tanenbaum has created some education materials to help you facilitate conversations around the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and address anti-Muslim conduct in workplaces overall. For more information, click here. We’ll also be hosting a webcast on August 4th in partnership with SHRM entitled “The 10th Anniversary of 9/11: Preparing for Diverse Reactions from a Diverse Workforce.” Stay tuned for details on registration.

 

Workplaces and the 10th Anniversary of 9/11: Invaluable Resources for Creating a Culture of Inclusion

As 2010 drew to a close, it was hard to avoid the signs of growing anti-Muslim sentiment _- a steadily increasing (and unprecedented) rise in Muslim discrimination complaints to the EEOC , the continuing debate around the Park51 Cultural Center (also known as the “Ground Zero mosque”), and extremists like Pastor Terry Jones stealing the lime-light with shocking threats that carried weight across the globe. Looking ahead to the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, we felt it was time to address how anti-Muslim sentiment is affecting workplaces head-on. 

We approached some of our close friends and experts who have worked in Human Resources and those who have experienced being Muslim in U.S. workplaces.  We agreed that making as many members of the human resources community aware of this timely matter was important. We reached out to Dr. Shirley Davis, Director of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives at the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and asked if we could include a panel at the SHRM 2011 Annual Conference & Exposition in an effort to get HR and management looking at how they should proactively relieve tensions and support inclusivity even during such divisive times. Dr. Davis honored our request and included Tanenbaum’s panel in the impressive offerings of the conference.
 
The conference, which finished up its 63rd year this past Wednesday, consistently provides HR professionals with easily-applied and important tools that can be used the moment they step back into their offices.
 
On Tuesday morning, Tanenbaum’s CEO Joyce Dubensky, moderated the panel discussion, entitled “Getting It Right: Understanding Current Dynamics of Religious Diversity in the Workplace.” Panelist Lobna Ismail, Founder & President of Connecting Cultures, spoke to the experience of being Muslim in the workplace, and the great impact anti-Muslim media images can have on the people coming to your offices every day. Eric Peterson, Manager, Diversity and Inclusion at SHRM, provided information about the practical resources that managers can use to inform themselves, inform their employees, and ultimately mediate those tensions. Finally, Mark Fowler, Tanenbaum’s Director of Programs, provided insight into some of our better practices around addressing this sensitive topic.
 
Over 40 people attended the session, and were extremely active and engaged in the conversation. Some questions from the audience included how to address those who think offices should operate under a Christian norm, and how to address issues around possible proselytizing.
 
While successful sessions like these leave us with hope that anti-Muslim sentiment will settle down in the United States, controversy and discrimination continue to show up in our workplaces. This past Monday, the EEOC filed a claim against Rent-A-Center for failing to accommodate a Christian employee’s needs. Unfortunately, religious discrimination in the workplace, across all traditions, is still a concern. However, proactively addressing these issues by debunking stereotypes and training managers and employees how to communicate respectfully can be a great place to start.  
 
To that end, Tanenbaum has joined Prepare New York, a coalition of New York based interfaith organizations. Tanenbaum has created some education materials to help you facilitate conversations around the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and address anti-Muslim conduct in workplaces overall. For more information, click here. We’ll also be hosting a webcast on August 4th in partnership with SHRM entitled “The 10th Anniversary of 9/11: Preparing for Diverse Reactions from a Diverse Workforce.” Stay tuned for details on registration.

 

An Open Letter to the Airline Industry

In a global society, air travel is one of the mediums by which the world turns. It must never be a resource that is denied to someone on the basis of their religion, race, ethnicity, country of origin or any of their identities. 

In the past week, this mandate of fairness has been grossly violated multiple times. Acts of bias by employees of airlines have caused disruption, embarrassment, hurt and anger. We call on the airline industry to address acts of profiling and bias, both as they occur and with training and education that prevent this problem from worsening. We therefore submit this open invitation to the airline industry to address the challenges of balancing rational fears with irrational bias.
 
The Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding is a secular, nonsectarian organization that neither promotes nor denigrates religion. For over ten years, we’ve worked with global companies to effectively manage their multi-religious and non-believing employees and customers.
 
Sadly, we have been predicting an uptick in acts of bias against Muslims or those perceived as being Muslim in the run-up to the tenth anniversary of 9/11. The King hearings and the hate talk that followed the death of Osama bin Laden showed we were right.
 
Such anti-Muslim sentiment and bias is now an endemic societial challenge, and we saw its harsh manifestation in the airline industry this week. In Tennessee, two imams were removed from a flight – after they were cleared by security – because the pilot objected to them on the basis of their Islamic attire. Days later, another two imams suffered a similar fate in New York City, with one being removed from one flight and transferred to another and the second being denied boarding permanently. The destination of all four passengers? A conference on how to proactively address Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States.
 
This is not the first incident of religious bias in the airline industry – recall the “six imams” case in 2006, where six imams were removed from a flight in Minneapolis and interrogated for several hours. Nor are Muslims the only victims of religious profiling. In the past year, multiple flights have been diverted after staff became suspicious of Jewish passengers’ practice of wrapping tefillin – a set of small black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Bible, connected with leather straps that are wound around the arm/hand and head – as part of ritual prayer.
 
The industry must proactively and aggressively address these events.
 
Compassionately, two of the profiled imams have responded to the incidents this week by requesting sensitivity training for pilots. We add our voices to theirs, calling on the industry to institute a comprehensive training program, especially for the members of its workforce who have direct contact with religiously and culturally diverse customers. Clearly, some level of education and awareness-raising is needed to stem the flow of these incidents and prevent future profiling episodes. While we recognize that there are legitimate safety concerns when it comes to air travel, no person should ever be mistreated merely on the basis of religious dress, or forced from a plane because staff does not understand his or her religious practices.
 
Respectfully yours,
Joyce Dubensky
Executive Vice President & CEO, Tanenbaum

 

Bin Laden’s Death Is No Excuse for Hate Speech

Osama bin Laden was one of history’s most infamous voices of hate and terror. Because the U.S. stood firm in opposition to terrorism, he is silenced and can no longer promote his violent agenda. For that, Tanenbaum is thankful.

Across the country, the media has portrayed scenes of national jubilation. However, there is another, dangerous voice that is simultaneously emerging: the voice of hatred.
 
On Twitter today, we see racial epithets used to describe bin Laden. We see stereotyping of all people who follow Islam. The venom expressed is not different in kind from the hatred that Osama bin Laden spewed.
 
The question for those who tweet, write blogs, participate on Facebook and join in the media debate is: “Why so you think your blind hatred, unjust stereotypes of Muslims and promotion of violence is so different from bin Laden’s hate?” And the answer, of course, is that it isn’t.
 
Failing to recognize our common humanity is the first step in dehumanizing others, and a dangerous progression toward creating a country based on hate rather than respect, justice and inclusion.
 
Today should be a marker for the Unites States. Osama bin Laden will no longer be a cause of injury, death, pain. What today must not be is a marker where people in our nation target fellow Americans – whether they are Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Jew, Christian or Atheist.
 
Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO, Tanenbaum

“Are you a Muslim?”: News Roundup

This week in the news: Senator Durbin’s hearings focus attention on Muslim civil rights in the U.S., and a disturbing hate crime at a Staten Island school points to the need for increased multicultural and multi-religious education. 

“Are you a Muslim?”
That’s what 12-year-old attacker Osman Daramy asked his 13-year-old victim before beginning to beat her and trying to rip the hijab, or headscarf, from her head. (SI student slapped with hate crime charge after trying to rip off religious headscarf, New York Post)
“Osman and an unidentified 13-year-old girl allegedly beat the terrified eighth-grader at around 1 p.m. Tuesday behind the building but still on school property. They allegedly punched and kicked her until she collapsed to the ground.
 
Osman also tried to rip off the victim's hijab, the scarf covering her hair, but she managed to fight him off, authorities said.
 
Daramy is being charged with assault and aggravated harassment along with the hate crime charge; he’ll be tried as a juvenile and faces up to 18 months in juvenile detention if convicted. (NY boy, 12, charged with hate crime on Muslim, Yahoo News/Associated Press)
 
 
It’s terrible to hear about hate crimes, religious or otherwise, but it’s especially disturbing when they involve children. If we want to remain global leaders, our students will have to become adults who can traffic in differences – including religious differences. With our educators, we can stop such brutal attacks and prepare the next generation.
 
We need educators to present balanced and factual information on different religions. But they often tell us they're afraid to touch the subject. Teachers can’t promote a religion in school, but they can (and should) teach about it. Knowledge about the world’s religions is an essential part of a quality education and critical to living respectfully among differences.
 
Muslim Civil Rights
This Tuesday, Senator Dick Durbin chaired hearings on Muslim civil rights in the U.S. Although not planned in reaction to the Peter King hearing on Muslim radicalization, held earlier in March, they were seen as something of a response:
“Unlike King’s hearing, which deliberately focused on the individual experience of witnesses whose families were torn apart by Muslim radicalization, Durbin’s session attempted to make a point based on data: That civil rights violations against American Muslims are on the rise.
 
There’s little doubt that public rhetoric surrounding Islam has grown sharper in the past year, including by some political, military and religious leaders. But Durbin and witnesses — primarily lawyers who focus on civil rights issues — cited government data suggesting that discrimination cases also are rising in schools, at work and in other places.” (Sparring, but few fireworks at Muslim civil rights hearing, Washington Post)
According to the Justice Department, there have been 800 documented instances of violence against Muslims or those perceived to be Muslim since 9/11. (Senate hearing spotlights anti-Muslim bigotry, USA Today)
 
Read more in additional articles at USA Today and The Washington Post.
 
In other interesting news this week:

 

Would you be okay with a mosque in your community? News Roundup

This week in the news: Is religion going extinct in some countries? Would you be okay with a mosque being built in your neighborhood? Does denial of time off to perform the hajj equal religious discrimination? And Senator Dick Durbin plans his own hearings on Muslims – on protecting their civil rights. 

Religion Endangered?
A new study based on the census data of nine countries – Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland – claims that, given current trending, religion will die out in those nations.
 
Presented at the American Physical Society meeting in Dallas, Texas, the study used nonlinear dynamics to come to its conclusions, analyzing trends in religious adherence and looking at the relative utility of religion.
 
While one of the study participants noted that there are some shortcomings to the mathematics, he still termed the finding a “suggestive result.”
 
Read more at the BBC, or view the full study online.
 
The Mosque in Your Neighborhood
Mosque building projects across the country have faced protest in recent years, from Temecula, California to Murfreesboro, Tennessee to Bridgewater, New Jersey to lower Manhattan. According to the ACLU, anti-mosque activity (ranging from lawsuits to vandalism) has occurred in 21 states over the past five years.
 
Now, a survey finds that, in fact, most Americans would be “okay” with a mosque in their community.
“The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Thursday found that 69% of Americans would be "OK" with a mosque in their area while 28% would not.
 
But there are big differences depending on where you live. Half of rural Southerners say they disapprove of a mosque in their neighborhood, while 42% say they would be "OK" with it.
 
That rises to roughly three-quarters among those who live in cities and suburbs.” (CNN)
 
Pilgrimage Time
Middle school teacher Safoorah Khan had been teaching math in a Chicago suburb for nine months when she put in a request for three weeks off to perform the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
 
The school denied her request, stating that it could not afford to lose its only math lab instructor for three weeks during the end of the marking period, an important time. Ms. Khan resigned from her position and made the trip.
 
Now, the Justice Department is intervening on her behalf, claiming that the school’s refusal to allow the time off amounts to religious discrimination. Under the Justice Department’s suit, the school violated Ms. Khan’s civil rights by making her choose between her job and her religious practice.
 
The lawsuit is drawing lots of fire from those who say it is a pretense. “As the case moves forward in federal court in Chicago, it has triggered debate over whether the Justice Department was following a purely legal path or whether suing on Khan’s behalf was part of a broader Obama administration campaign to reach out to Muslims.” (Washington Post)
 
Michael Mukasey, attorney general under G.W. Bush, calls it a “dubious judgement” and “a real legal reach,” while Thomas Perez, current attorney general for civil rights, says the Justice Department is “trying to defend the religious liberty our forefathers fought for.” (UPI)
 
A New Set of Hearings
On the heels of Rep. Peter King’s hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims comes a new set of hearings, this time on defending Muslims-Americans’ civil rights.
 
In a statement released Tuesday night, Senator Dick Durbin, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, Human Rights, and the Law and host of the hearings, emphasized that the Constitution “protects the free exercise of religion for all Americans.”
 
“During the course of our history, many religions have faced intolerance,” he said. “It is important for our generation to renew our founding charter’s commitment to religious diversity and to protect the liberties guaranteed by our Bill of Rights.” (Washington Post)

 

Press Release: Coalition Formed to Bolster Tolerance and Healing as 10th Anniversary of 9/11 Approaches

“Prepare New York” seeks to embrace, not divide

New York City –– Six of New York’s most prominent interfaith organizations announced today the formation of a coalition to equip New Yorkers to promote religious pluralism and counter intolerance of religious differences in anticipation of the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

The coalition, Prepare New York, was formed in part as a response to the national and international headlines surrounding last summer’s proposed Muslim Community Center in lower Manhattan. The purpose of the coalition is to shift the emphasis from one of fear and mistrust to one that celebrates New York’s extraordinary diversity of religious freedom and expression.

“We hope this coalition will use the occasion of the 10th anniversary of this tragedy to build a foundation for long-term healing among all residents of our city,” said the Rev. Robert Chase, Executive Director of Intersections International, one of the coalition partners.

Prepare New York seeks to strengthen the social fabric of the city and serve as a model for other settings across the country by carrying out a comprehensive, multi-pronged effort to inspire New Yorkers to engage in the difficult but necessary dialogue about religious diversity. This process will hopefully give voice to the millions of people who are ready to move beyond hate and toward healing.

The effort will feature online and offline components and viral marketing for diverse religious voices. The goal is to change the narrative that continues to characterize American Muslims as suspicious and unpatriotic.

Online curricula and other resources are being developed that build mutual respect and understanding across lines of faith and culture, promote tolerance, and celebrate the rich diversity that is central to the fabric of life in New York.

The coalition, which has secured pledges for funding from The New York Community Trust, Odyssey Networks, and The Collegiate Church of New York, is preparing to hold 500 facilitated “coffee hour conversations” in congregations, cultural centers, and work places around the city to dispel misconceptions and stereotypes of Muslim Americans and other minority faith communities.

In addition, Prepare New York will work with faith leaders, public officials, 9/11 family groups, and community groups to hold public gatherings leading up to September 11, as well as beyond the actual anniversary, enabling residents to not only memorialize the loss and pain of 9/11, but inspire them to experience a more communal and comprehensive healing.

“I am exceptionally proud to be a New Yorker,” said Hussein Rashid, Ph.D., a principal instructor at Quest, another of the coalition partners. “After the events of 9/11, we came together as a city. Now, 10 years later, we need to actively work to heal our city, to have some of the conversations we never had, and to lead our country by example. This coalition of faith-based organizers and institutions is our contribution back to New York City.”

The Prepare New York coalition includes Auburn Seminary and its Center for Multifaith Education, Interfaith Center of New York, Intersections International, Odyssey Networks, Quest, and the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding. September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and 9/11 Communities for Common Ground are serving as advisers to the coalition.

For more information, visit Prepare New York’s website, www.prepareny.com.

“You’re not my brother”: News Roundup

This week in the news: changes to the leadership of the controversial Park51 project in lower Manhattan, the uproar over remarks made by new Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and the exclusion of kirpan-wearing Sikhs from a discussion on multiculturalism at Quebec's National Assembly:

Park51
Park51's developer Sharif el-Gamal announced that Imam Feisal Rauf would be stepped down as the head of the project, which will now be helmed by Imam Abdallah Adhami, who leads another downtown Manhattan mosque.

“While Imam Feisal’s vision has a global scope and his ideals for the Cordoba movement are truly exceptional, our community in Lower Manhattan is local,” said Mr. Gamal, referring to the imam’s longstanding work in promoting interfaith understanding. “Our focus is and must remain the residents of Lower Manhattan and the Muslim American community in the greater New York area.” (The New York Times – registration required)

It's unknown whether the change in leadership will reduce support for the project, as Imam Feisal and his wife Daisy Khan known as interfaith leaders who have spent much of their lives advocating for interreligious understanding (although the Imam attracted more than his share of critics during the height of the Park51 debate).

Imam Feisal began a speaking tour of America last week urging Muslims to play an active role in shaping discourse in America. He began his tour in Detroit; the Detroit area is home to the largest Muslim community in the United States.

"Our role now is to depoliticize our faith," he said, adding that Islam must not be used as a wedge between Democrats and Republicans or political ideals anywhere in the world.

"What we do here in America, brothers and sisters, is watched by the world," Rauf said. "We have to find ways to make sure who we are and what we represent becomes a recipe for healing." (The Canadian Press)

“You're not my brother.”
On the day of his swearing-in, new Alabama Governor Robert Bentley ran afoul of religious an atheist groups when he declared, speaking at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, where Dr. Martin Luther King once spoke:

"Now I will have to say that, if we don't have the same daddy, we're not brothers and sisters…So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother." (Los Angeles Times)

Groups as varied as American Atheists and the Anti-Defamation League spoke out against the Governor's remarks.

"It is stunning to me that he'd make those remarks. It's distressing because of the suggestion that he feels that people who aren't Christian are not entitled to love and respect," said Bill Nigut, the ADL's regional director. "On the day that he is sworn in as governor, he's sending a statement to the public saying if you're not Christian you can't be with me. From our point of view that is proselytizing for Christianity and coming very close to a violation of the First Amendment." (ABC News)

Two days after making the remarks, Governor Bentley issued an official apology: "If anyone from other religions felt disenfranchised by the language, I want to say I am sorry. I am sorry if I offended anyone in any way," he told reporters Wednesday after meeting with leaders of other faiths in his new office.” (The Huffington Post) The apology fell short for the ADL; said Nigut, “An apology is only meaningful if it is consistent with a sincere understanding of what a person has done wrong. If Gov. Bentley were to say: ‘I realize I was wrong that we are all brothers and sister, and not single out only the ones who believe in Jesus Christ.'” (Fox News)

Kirpan Ban
Two weeks ago, we reported on a Michigan school district that banned a 4th grader from wearing a kirpan, the small ceremonial dagger worn by baptized Sikhs. This week, kirpan bans were in the news again, this time in the Quebec National Assembly.

“The four Sikhs had been invited to appear before a legislative committee debating a bill that deals with the reasonable accommodation of religious minorities. But the group never got through the metal detectors at the entrance of the National Assembly building as security agents ruled the kirpans, or ceremonial daggers, they carried were a potential weapon.”

“It’s a bit ironic. We were here to speak on the issue of accommodation and we weren’t accommodated,” said the group’s legal counsel, Balpreet Singh.” (The Globe and Mail)

Said Louise Beaudoin, chief provincial spokesperson for the bill being debated (known as the niqab bill, which would require anyone dispensing or receiving government-paid services to show their faces), “Religious freedom exists but there are other values. Multiculturalism may be a Canadian value. But it is not a Quebec one.” (Canada.com)