Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Controversy over 9/11 Museum Film

Here's an interesting debate for a religions class.

Should the National September 11 Memorial Museum show an introductory film, called “The Rise of Al Qaeda,” that refers to the terrorists as "Islamist" and “jihadist?”

That's exactly what the National  Memorial intends to do when it opens on May 21st, according to  this fascinating story in the New York Times.

To many, including an interfaith advisory group of clergy members, those words means Muslim. As Akbar Ahmed, the chairman of the Islamic studies department at American University, noted in an interview with the New York Times, when you associate the terrorists' religion with what they did, "you associate one and a half billion people who had nothing to do with these actions and who ultimately the U.S. would not want to unnecessarily alienate."

The Museum does not want to make changes. Should they?  Is it necessary or important to associate religion with the perpetrator of any heinous crime?

Here's a  viewpoint from Ani Zonneveld who  wrote a essay for the the Huffington Post called Museum of Intolerance.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Two Girls Debunk Religious Stereotypes

Here a young Muslim and a young Jew challenge the stereotypes that, as Upworthy (where I found the video) says, " have worked so hard to keep them apart."

Upworthy is right when they call this "an absolutely stunning performance." Thanks to Al Beeson for tweeting the link.

How Young Sikhs Fight Bias

Here's a great story about religious intolerance and how one group of young Sikhs is trying to combat it.

Sikhs face more discrimination than most religious minorities in this country.  And in schools, young Sikhs are often bullied and called names. Harassment increased after the terror attacks in 2001 and seemed to resurface in 2012 when a white supremacist killed six Sikhs in a Wisconsin Sikh temple.

According to this interesting story in the Washington Post, Sikh middle school students in Potomac, Maryland recently formed a Cultural Awareness Club to try to teach their peers their basic beliefs and customs. One Sikh leader in Rockville, Maryland noted that if  "young Sikhs are seen as leaders now, people wearing turbans when they run for office will be more accepted.”

Here is a short video about bulling that the Post ran with their story.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Pope Francis to Hold Double Canonization

Here's a great clip from the PBS News Hour about Pope Francis's decision to canonize Pope John XXIII who served from 1958 to 1963 and Pope John Paul II, who served from 1978 to 2005.

How does a Pope get canonized? Does he really have to have performed two miracles? Don't popes usually canonize only one pope at a time?

News Hour religion reporter, Rachel Zoll, answers all these questions int this short interview.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

What Makes Jerusalem so Holy

BBC News has a great map, essay, and even video clips explaining why Jerusalem means so much to Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The map above, which is clearer on the BBC site, shows the major sites.

The BBC site has several video clips explaining the different sites. In one, a tour guide gives you a quick trip around the major sites.

al-Aqsa mosque important to Muslims

Western Wall important to the Jewish faith

Church of the Holy Sepulchre, holiest place in Christianity

"How to Meditate in a Moment"

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Many Meanings of Dharma

What does dharma mean?  When we study Hinduism in World History, we define dharma as a Hindu's religious duty. But Robert E. Buswell, Jr. and Donald S. Lopez, Jr in a essay for Tricycle Magazine note that dharma has many meanings, especially as it applies to Buddhism.

For example, Buswell and Lopez note that dharma was important before the birth of the Buddha. "In Vedic literature,"  they say, "it often refers to the ritual sacrifice that maintains the order of the cosmos."

Later, when the British East India Company colonized India, company agents translated dharma to simply mean "law." According to Buswell and Lopez, "this led in turn to the common 19th- and 20th- century rendering of the term as “law” in Buddhist contexts, as in “the Buddha turned the wheel of the law.”

Dharma has other distinct meanings in Buddhism. But the most common usage, Buswell and Lopez note, refers to "teachings" or "doctrines." "This sense of dharma as teaching, and its centrality to the tradition, is evident from the inclusion of the dharma as the second of the three jewels (along with the Buddha and the sangha), in which all Buddhists seek refuge."

Buddhist Superheroes of Peace: Animated Dcoumentary

Here's  an animated feature documentary in which three superheroes of peace use the five Buddhist powers--insight, diligence, concentration, and mindfulness--to change the world.

The three superheroes are,Thich Nhat Hanh,  Sister Chan Khong, and Alfred Hassler. The documentary also released a companion series of comic books featuring the superheroes.

The clip above is a trailer for the documentary and below you'll find another trailer.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Reza Aslan on Reddit Again

Reza Alan, author of  Zealtot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth was on Reddit last night. Viewers could ask him anything and they did. Some questions and answers were funny like the two exchanges below and many were serious like the third and fourth.

  • Question: Who would you save from a burning building? 
    • A) Bill O'Reilly 
    • B) Glenn Beck 
    • C) Rush Limbaugh 
    • D) None of the Above 
  • Answer: Well I couldn't carry Rush. Beck wouldn't let a Muslim touch him. So I guess it's Bill.

  • Question: Hello Reza, I have an excellent start up question for you. You and Pamela Geller are stuck on an island, what happens? 
  • Answer:  Are we stuck forever? If so, then I guess it's time to make some hate babies Pam.

But then were more serious exchanges like this:
  • Question: Hey Reza, Big Fan. Biggest misconception about Islam? 
  • Answer: Biggest misconception about Islam is that it is different, or unique, or extraordinary. That somehow it's not like other religions. That the same historical and cultural factors that have shaped every religion in the world did not shape Islam. FACT: Islam is no more or less special or different than any other major religion in the world. Sorry Muslims.

  • Question: Love your books! What do you think needs to happen to overcome the perception on a culture clash between Islam and the West?  
  • Answer: The only way to break down the walls between two is thru art, lit, music, culture, entertainment. This is how perceptions are changed. They remind us that we are not symbols of "other," but just people with same likes and dislikes, same dreams and aspirations, same fears and struggles. So all you Muslims out there trying to change the way your society sees you. Stop becoming doctors and start becoming artists instead.

Religious Symbols

Do your students know the religious symbols?  Here's a great site that reviews the major symbols and here's a link to a symbols quiz that I posted earlier this year.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ganesha Symboism

Studying Hinduism and the popular gods?  Here's a great  graphic showing the symbolism of the various components of the image.

Monday, April 14, 2014

What is Passover?

Teaching Judaism?  Do your students know the story of Passover? Or that it's probably the most practiced Jewish tradition. Vox has a great review of Passover that students might find interesting and readable.

Dara Lind, who wrote the Vox story, notes that Passover has become a big deal not just for Jews in general but for secular Jews too.  That may make it, Lind says, "the most widely observed Jewish tradition among American Jews today."

The chart also shows that "a secular Jew is about twice as likely to attend a Passover seder as he or she is to fast during Yom Kippur, even though the latter is by far the more important holiday."

If you launch the story in cards, you can easily see the different components of the story, which in some ways makes its more readable.

Has Yoga Strayed too Far from Its Hindu Roots

Studying Buddhism? Here's an interesting NPR story (a few year's old) discussing whether American yoga has strayed too far from its Hindu roots and needs standards.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Hollywood Schindler's List during WWII

Here's a fascinating story students might read about heroism during the Holocaust in the 1940s.

Most everyone knows Oskar Schindler, thanks to the book and the movie, Schindler's List. The German businessman saved over 1100 Jews from certain death in the Nazi concentration camps.

Fewer people know the Hollywood mogul, Carl Laemmle, who is credited with saving over 300 Jews during World War II. That is remarkable because Laemmle is probably the only Hollywood mogul to even get involved with the German Jews. Laemmle was the president of Universal Pictures.

According to this excellent story in the New York Times called "Laemmle’s List: A Mogul’s Heroism," Neal Gabler explains that most Hollywood Jews were just trying to fit in. He notes, "almost from the inception of the American film industry, the Hollywood Jews were dedicated to assimilation, not religious celebration. They had come to America to escape their roots, not embrace them."

Laemmle, like Schindler, was different from his peers. Gabler says that he "was terrified of what Hitler’s ascension would mean for his country, for the village of Laupheim (where he was born), for members of his family — many of whom had remained in Germany — and, perhaps above all, for his fellow Jew."

That concern prompted him to risk his fortune to save as many Jews from his hometown as he could. He furnished the American consul with hundred of affidavits, which "were pledges of support that were required of every immigrant to ensure that the individual would not become a public charge."

The story is fascinating, like Schindler's, with twists and turns.

Gabler notes two recent books about Hollywood during World War II say very little about Laemmle. “The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact With Hitler” by Ben Urwand and “Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939” by Thomas Doherty both deal with the complicity of Hollywood with Nazi Germany.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spread of Religion over 5000 years

Watch how the major religions have spread over the last 500 years. According to the The Mail Online, the map comes from a group called Maps of War who now make maps of religion.

Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture at Met Museum

The Metropolitan Museum  of Art in New York City will open a new exhibition on Monday of Hindu-Buddhist art from the earliest kingdoms of southeast Asia. The exhibit  includes over 160 objects and as you can see from the two sculptures here, some are stunning.

The kingdoms of southeast Asia (Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam) are called "lost kingdoms" because, "identities and sometimes very existence only emerged from the historical shadows in the twentieth century, as a result of pioneering epigraphic and archaeological research, much of it recent."

Writing about the exhibit in the New York Times Holland Cotter noted that the beauty of the exhibit will carry you through.  He noted that "everywhere here, in choirs of Buddhas with self-possessed smiles and hands like flowers, in Hindu gods with stern adult faces and the lithe, barely dressed bodies of teenagers at a beach."

The Times has a nice slideshow of some of the image and you can also view many of them on the exhibit site.  You can watch a short clip below about the exhibit form the Voice of America.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Hindu Nationalism and Narendra Modi

Did you know that a 63 year-old Hindu nationalist with a record of stirring up Hindu-Muslim animosity is likely to be India's next prime minister?` Will tension between Muslims and Hindus increase with his election? Will he whip up Hindu nationalism to such an extreme that non-Hindus feel threatened?

Max Fisher answers all these questions in an easy to read essay for Vox called: Everything You Wanted to Know About Narendra Modi's Rise.

You'll learn, for example, that many Indians believe that Modi can help the economy in the same way he helped India's Gujarat state which he's been running since 2002.  And many like his Hindu nationalism. As Fisher notes, "the thing that makes Modi so worrying is also what makes him so popular."

You'll also learn that Modi and his party have talked about changing the country's "no first use" policy" for nuclear weapons.  

And you'll learn about the 2002 riots in Gujarat that marred Modi's image when he seemed to allow Hindu mobs  to retaliate at will against Muslims. According to Fisher, "many reports indicated that the police of Gujarat state did nothing to stop the attacking mobs, and Modi and his government have long been accused of allowing, and potentially abetting, the riots."

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Jewish Art & Artifacts from Muslim Lands

Jews have a strong heritage in the Middle East and parts of North Africa like Morocco. Two new exhibitions in New York focus on that heritage, according to this interesting article in the New York Times.

One exhibition at the Center for Jewish history is called Light and Shadows: The Story of Iranian Jews.  The image above was painted on doors in Iran in the 19th century.

The Museum for Jewish Heritage  has an exhibit which focuses on Iraqi Jewish art called "Discovery and Recovery."

Here is a video clip from the Museum for Jewish Heritage explaining how they are trying to preserve Iraqi art. Saddam Hussein confiscated much of the Jewish archives and stored them in his basement which flooded in 2003. The clip shows how American conservators tried to rescue some of the manuscripts.

The Museum for Jewish Heritage has an excellent online archive. The pages below are from a 1568 Jewish Bible. The description says that it "is one of the earliest printed books discovered in the Mukhabarat headquarters. Printed in late Renaissance era Venice by Giovannidi Gara, the central biblical text is surrounded by rabbinic commentaries." 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Golden Rule Around the World

How do the different religions see the Golden Rule? This poster shows you the similarities and differences. And Scarboro Missions has a cool flash site that allows you click on each religion and see its treatment of the Golden Rule. But you do have have flash on your device to view it.  Here's what it looks like when it loads.