Dec. 5, 2006
Dec. 7, 2006

Dec. 6, 2006

THAT BIBLE-QUR'AN CONGRESSIONAL CONTROVERSY

No doubt you've been following the story of Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, and his desire to take his oath of office using the Qur'an instead of the Bible. Ray Hanania is a fellow member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists with me and an interesting Arab commentator -- and comedian. For something a little different on this subject, I thought you might be interested in Ray's take on the Ellison controversy.

* * *

FACTORING IN RELIGION IN IRAQ

As you know, the Iraq Study Group released its long-anticipated report this morning on what policy changes to make. Click here for a story about President Bush receiving the report.

AlimosqueAs you also know, the primary three factions fighting for control of Iraq are the Sunnis, the Shias and the Kurds (who are mostly Sunni, also). The Saddam Hussein regime represented oppressive Sunni control of a largely Shia country. The Kurds mostly control their own area in the northern part of Iraq.

(A photo disclaimer: The picture you see here today is not from Iraq. Rather, it's the Mosque of Muhammad Ali -- no, not that Muhammad Ali -- at the Citadel in Cairo, sometimes called the Alabaster Mosque. I took this photo when I was there in 2002, and in many ways to me this building represents Islam worldwide.)

Well, with all of that as background, I thought today it might be helpful to give you some resources to help you better understand the Sunni-Shia split in Islam. There are a few theological differences between them, but the split isn't so much theological as it is rooted in an ancient disagreement over who should have been the proper successor to the Prophet Muhammad as the leader of Muslims. Sunnis today make up 85 to 90 percent of the approximately 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide while Shias represent 10 to 15 percent. (For an interesting Shia site, click here.) A third path in Islam is known as Sufism and is considered the mystic approach.

First, for a general introduction to Islam from an Islamic perspective, click here. A section here called "Introduction to Islam" has some brief basic information about the differences between Sunnis and Shias. Another introduction is Islam, also from an Islamic perspective, can by found by clicking here.

As regular readers of this blog may know, I'm reluctant to provide many links to Wikipedia because it's a source known for occasional inaccuracies. But the Wikipedia link on Islam seems pretty decent. I suggest you pay special attention to Section 5, which outlines the Sunni-Shia split and offers some thoughts on historical relations between the two branches.

PBS has some brief, but helpful, information about Islam. Click here for its Sunni-Shia description and here for its broader collection of Islamic information.

One of the more helpful academic sites is from the University of Georgia. It devotes quite a bit of space to understanding Shias and Sunnis.

Fordham University also has a useful site. If you go there, scroll down to "Islamic Faith and Theology" under "Contents."

There are dozens of books that can be helpful, too. Let me just name two relatively recent ones: Understanding Islam: An Introduction, by C.T.R. Hewer, and The Heart of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity, by Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Another excellent scholar of Islam is John L. Esposito. Try his book, What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam, or Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam, or Islam: The Straight Path.

I hope the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group has drawn on the expertise of religious scholars so that its report is not blind to how religious realities affect what is happening in Iraq and how things might go better there. We'll see. After we get a chance to read what was releaseed today, in fact.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.

P.S.: I'll be giving the sermon at an Advent service at 7 o'clock tonight at Old Mission United Methodist Church on Shawnee Mission Parkway in Fairway, Kan. The service will be a joint gathering of Old Mission, St. Agnes Catholic Church, Roeland Park United Methodist Church, Southridge Presbyterian Church and Westwood Christian Church. Please come if you're interested.

P.P.S.S.: At the instigation of one of the regular readers of this blog, a small group of the folks who often leave comments here gathered for a meal and some discussion the other night. What a fascinating group of folks. Patricia, whose idea this was, brought along Michelle, a reader just back from living in Egypt. Keith was there, along with Kansas Bob and his wife. Howie showed up, as did "openmind" and his fiancee. And D.A. joined us a little late but in time for some great talk. My bride Marcia was the photographer. If the group gathers again, please join us.

Blogmeal

Comments

Dolores Lear

thePriest.

Thank you for your comments on Atlantis, Dec. 5. I put my comments there this morning.

Bill your comments above on Muslims sounds like the breaks in the Christian religion also.

The main two groups are Catholic and Protestant, with Mormons as the smallest group. Will the Mormons be acknowledged in government, during this election?

I have protested God in government for many years now, and also think if people have to swear by their word, it does not need a holy book to do so. But 'if' it does, they should use the holy book of their religion, or the Constitution.

The USA is supposed to have Freedom of religion, not a Civil religion as many citizens think Christianity is in the USA, because the majority worked Christianity into government with holidays, icons and prayer.

Now that more people have different religions than Catholic and Protestant, it is starting, finally, for people in the minority to protest the Christian religion rites and icons in government, and want to stand up for their rights.

Our going into Iraq, has given the Iraqis the incentive to stand up for their differences, and now how will it end? Equality for all?

How will the rights of our minorities end? Equality for all?

How will the rights of the Crew on our Home Planet end? Equality for all?

Peace and Jesus' Asexual Agape Love.

Dolores Lear

Jesus.
Matthew 5: 33-37. KJV. "Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; niether by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool; neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea,yea; Nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil."

This goes on through v.48, and is a good read, on how far we have come away from the Truth Jesus taught.

Peace.

keith

Interesting comment from Ray Hanania. How should one view Prager, and the "issue" of Ellison's using the Qur'an for his symbolic swearing in as a member of Congress?

I support Prager's right as a citizen to spout such garbage. I have my rights, too. I don't tune in to his radio tripe. I stand and say he's a bigot and a scumbag and a lousy commentator and he's as bad, as evil, as hateful as Farrakhan and Sister Claudette. Such is the nature of "talk radio." I try to avoid most all of it while monitoring from afar. It's political agenda driven. It has all the depth of an ameoba. It appeals to emotional, not rational analysis and discussion.

Which brings me to several questions and comments. (1)Hanania notes that Prager "is White and is a member of the government-appointed US Holocaust Memorial Council." In his update post, Hanania writes, "Prager, who is Jewish..." Is either fact germane? (2)Hanania notes that Ellison is African-American. Is this significant? (3)I don't know how the "traditional" Muslim community views the Nation of Islam. Do they view it as a "legitimate" form of Islam like Sunni, Shia and Sufi, or anathema as I think most Jews view "Messianic Judaism" and "Jews for Jesus"?

Now I'm going to dig thru Bill's "click heres" and try to learn something!

Patricia

To its credit, the Jewish Anti-defamation League issued a scathing criticism on Prager's column. They did not, however, call for his resignation from the Holocaust Memorial Council. http://www.adl.org/PresRele/DiRaB_41/4934_41.htm

My search for the "Prager-defense" position took me to blogsite "Little Green Footballs". It sees Muslims as being "out to get" Prager in calling for his resignation from the Holocaust Memorial Council.

This site, incidentally, was key in the Dan Rather/60 Minutes scandal. I am impressed at the large number of what I'd consider anti-Islamic postings. And the hundreds of vitriolic comments in response to those postings. http://www.littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/

Josh Marshall, whose blog "Talking Points Memo" is one of the best and most edgy progressive sites, has an interesting take on the controversy this morning. He has quite a few posts on Prager to check out. http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/

Here's Marshall's most recent post, a very pointedly different perspective:

"Okay, I can't help it. Just a bit more on Dennis Prager. MJ Rosenberg calls Prager and self-hating Jew. I wouldn't argue with that for a moment. But somehow that phrase just doesn't do Prager justice.

Here's a Jew who says that no Jew should be able to serve in the US Congress unless he or she is willing to have a copy of the New Testament on hand when they take the oath of office. I'm not sure if one can appreciate this without having the context of Prager's general sanctimony and cloying ethnic self-abnegation. But it's hard for me not to imagine Prager as one of Jews in the Medieval Europe arguing that living in the Ghetto and maybe wearing these funny hats might actually be a good thing after all. I'll refrain from invoking the toxic parallels of more recent vintage.

I can't help but wonder, deep down, what he's trying to prove to whom.

Maybe he so hates and is so frightened of Muslims that he's willing to sell out his religion and Jewishness, to slap on yellow badge of second class status, in the hopes that the Christians will protect him.

The guy gives Uncle Toms a bad name."

Patricia

"Hanania writes, "Prager, who is Jewish..." Is either fact germane?"

It probably shouldn't be. I had no idea that he was Jewish until this morning when it seems to be surfacing as Jewish groups and Muslims groups got involved in examining his status on the Holocaust Memorial Council. It does make it more newsworthy when you have a Jew criticizing a Muslim, because of the ongoing problems in the Middle East.

I do think there's a sense that Jews or blacks or any group that is unfairly discriminated against or is recipient of hate speech has a greater responsibility in NOT discriminating or using hate speech.

It may not be fair, but it's a reality.

Dave Miller

Sorry I missed the first annual gathering of the blog faithful!

Looks and sounds like you all had a great time.

Just to help me put names with faces, could the faithful identify each other and themselves, please? (Now what happens in the Jerusalem Bakery stays in the Jerusalem Bakery. I understand that. So I'm not asking for the secret handshake or anything. :-)

In the center on the left is Bill...who looks just like his handsome picture. To his right is Michelle, right? Then who's the handsome moke to Michelle's right? And who's the guy to Bill's left, smiling and leaning into the camera? And then to his left is...well, it looks like Santa Claus!! Santa, is that you at the end of the table, on the left side?

And then who's on the right side of the table, starting with the lovely lass closest to the camera (is that you, Donna?), and ending with the gentleman with the full head of hair there on the end? (Keith of shiny pate, I'm guessing that's you to the left of the well-coifed gentleman on the end.)

Please...introduce yourselves to us absentees!

Patricia

There may be those who would prefer anonymity, Dave. I'll give you a roster, off-blog.

Dave Miller

"There may be those who would prefer anonymity, Dave."

Sure. Screen names are fine. I don't think I would know anyone's given name anyway, unless they've used it here on the blog.

Dave Miller

Okey doke. Patricia has been kind enough bakcchannel to propose a rationale for anonymity, which makes sense to me. So I hope everyone will kindly disregard my asking for any kind of disclosure here.

It does raise a couple of fascinating issues, though, which aren't entirely tangential to the topics under discussion on today's blog.

How safe is it to express an opinion which might be at odds with other cultural trends in our daily environments?

I suppose that this is finally a social-psychological question, since it has to do with subtle pressures to conformity. These remain hidden from us most of the time, but become salient at crucial points like a swearing in ceremony.

Most of the time we probably feel safer than we really are in our environments, because the pressures are not that apparent...

Dolores Lear

Looks like you all had fun at the first blog get-together.

The K.C. STAR has a religious article by Vern Barnet every Wednesday.

I brought up the Star on the web but could not find the Barnet article. So will say a few things about it. Read it if you have access to it. Keith you will like it.

"Recognizing our common humanity ought to be easy, but the world is a mess with fear, deceit, oppression, theft and assault. Religions should be teaching love, but the news suggests they create turmoil. Faiths ought to bring people together, but religons themselves are divided. -

"For example, when people speak of our common humanity, what does that mean? Normative Christian doctrine teaches that humans are born with a sinful nature; Confucians assume each child is born good."

Right up my alley. All are born with a sinful nature. Heterosexual Body Birth does give all some Good and Evil genetics, and with the environment one is born in, in some the Good comes out and in some the Evil comes out.

No child born by Body is all Good.

It is time to look at the genetics of all the Breeding on Earth of trees, flowers, animals, etc., trying to make perfect or throughbreds, but it is impossible without the High Tech Science to clean up the Evil genetics in the seed. Even throughbreds and plants have defective seed and the Evil or basic product comes out in their later reproduction.

So it also happens to Humans, and it is time to have compassion for all the mis-bred people that do not come out average, or are born in disadvantaged locations all around the Home Planet that brings our their Evil genetics.

With High Tech Science reproduction and High Tech Science Equality, all Life on Earth has proper housing, food, and living space. And 'Eternal' Pure-bred Asexual Physical Life After Brith.

There is Heaven on Earth on Pure-bred planets like our HTA have, once we learn who the Angry and Killing Gods are, and who the Gods of Peace and Agape Love are.

Peace and Jesus' Asexual Agape Love.


Dolores Lear

Looks like you all had fun at the first blog get-together.

The K.C. STAR has a religious article by Vern Barnet every Wednesday.

I brought up the Star on the web but could not find the Barnet article. So will say a few things about it. Read it if you have access to it. Keith you will like it.

"Recognizing our common humanity ought to be easy, but the world is a mess with fear, deceit, oppression, theft and assault. Religions should be teaching love, but the news suggests they create turmoil. Faiths ought to bring people together, but religons themselves are divided. -

"For example, when people speak of our common humanity, what does that mean? Normative Christian doctrine teaches that humans are born with a sinful nature; Confucians assume each child is born good."

Right up my alley. All are born with a sinful nature. Heterosexual Body Birth does give all some Good and Evil genetics, and with the environment one is born in, in some the Good comes out and in some the Evil comes out.

No child born by Body is all Good.

It is time to look at the genetics of all the Breeding on Earth of trees, flowers, animals, etc., trying to make perfect or throughbreds, but it is impossible without the High Tech Science to clean up the Evil genetics in the seed. Even throughbreds and plants have defective seed and the Evil or basic product comes out in their later reproduction.

So it also happens to Humans, and it is time to have compassion for all the mis-bred people that do not come out average, or are born in disadvantaged locations all around the Home Planet that brings our their Evil genetics.

With High Tech Science reproduction and High Tech Science Equality, all Life on Earth has proper housing, food, and living space. And 'Eternal' Pure-bred Asexual Physical Life After Brith.

There is Heaven on Earth on Pure-bred planets like our HTA have, once we learn who the Angry and Killing Gods are, and who the Gods of Peace and Agape Love are.

Peace and Jesus' Asexual Agape Love.


Dolores Lear

Sorry for the repeat but I had to go through the verifing process and it got posted 2 times.

Peace.

keith

patricia writes, "I do think there's a sense that Jews or blacks or any group that is unfairly discriminated against or is recipient of hate speech has a greater responsibility in NOT discriminating or using hate speech./It may not be fair, but it's a reality."

I AGREE that taking a stand should involve a sense of consistency and integrity. The ol' "what's good for the goose is good for the gander." I DISAGREE in the sense that failure to be perfectly consistent in all applications does not disprove the argument.

Pointing out the lack of perfection is easy to use to negate underlying criticisms without ever addressing them. Like the legal system at times, it can make the victim look guilty and distract from the issue at hand. Yet I think it's a good reminder that ALL deserve some basic respect.

keith

Dolores, thanks for pointing out the Vern Barnet column today. I read him regularly. Today's column is at http://tinyurl.com/wolte

I find him online by going to kansascity.com, then clicking "FYI/Living" in the left-hand column, and then clicking "Faith" when it expands.

I read a lot of newspapers online, and the Star's web site is one of the worst for homepage content and navigation.

Patricia

"Pointing out the lack of perfection is easy to use to negate underlying criticisms without ever addressing them."

I'm not sure that I fully understand what you mean by the term 'underlying criticisms'. What, specifically, are the criticisms?

"I read a lot of newspapers online, and the Star's web site is one of the worst for homepage content and navigation."

AMEN. Getting to the Faith section is tricky. Getting back to the home page from Buzz Blog is impossible.

I was hoping that you would weigh in on Marshall's "Uncle Tom" commentary. He also links, at his site, to a Rosenberg editorial that's interesting in its discussion of "legacy of the Shoah" and "non-denominational religious Jew".
http://www.tpmcafe.com/blog/coffeehouse/2006/dec/05/congress_needs_to_kick_prager_off_holocaust_council

Patricia

Thank you SO much for the educational posting, with links, on Islam today, Bill. I'm still wading through, as I'm trying to get a project fiinished.

I hope that Ron is reading, because you're providing the resources he needs to answer the questions he has been posing during the last few weeks.

Kudos.

Kansas Bob

Hope I didn't goof up by posting the pic with first names on my blogsite (http://whataboutkansasbob.blogspot.com/2006/12/blog-supper.html).

I enjoyed hearing everyone's story and putting a face to a name. Look forward to the next time.

Kansas Bob

Try this link as the other dosen't work:

http://whataboutkansasbob.blogspot.com/2006/12/blog-supper.html

keith

patricia, while I LOATHE Prager, I found both Josh Marshall and MJ Rosenberg rather over-the-top in their castigation of Prager. In some ways it reminds me of certain politicians who imply "if you don't agree with me, you're an unpatriotic traitor."

I think the facts about what Prager said are more than enough to convict him of bigotry if not stupidity. I've said here before that while I defend Prager's right to say that stuff, it doesn't change my opinion that he's an a*&(^&^s&*^*s&^

Patricia

Let me not mince words and very publicly say what I have backchanneled.

It would seem that when people are posting to a blog using pseudonyms and without last name that there well may be a reason for that. Some seem to go out of their way to post without even giving e-mail. It surely must be obvious that the reason is that they seek anonymity.

There are plenty of good reasons for that including employer searches and identity theft. There's been lots of news lately about the college careers ruined because young people posted ill-advised blogs that turned up being found and read by admissions committees.

My own opinion is that it is good blog etiquette to ask before identifying someone else.

I, personally, would prefer that info about myself and my family remain anonymous to the general public until such time as I choose to publish under my name.

D.A.

I would like to pass along a Thanks for the get together on Monday night. It was nice to put faces to names. But it was also nice that so many different faiths could sit at one table, converse, share, joke, dine and all with a ahared sense of community and well-being. We differ on so many things...and certainly there is fair question as to the "freedom" of religion espoused in this country, but I do recognize that our little party would not have been possible in so many other places of the world. Interfaith dialogue is really interpersonal dialogue. That is how true Peace will be achieved.

Donna

Michelle

Hi everyone,

I want to post more comments later. I had a very good time at the dinner. It was very nice to meet you all. For those that didn't make it I hope you make it next time. Keith, many Muslims don't regard the Nation of Islam as Islam. Because the don't tend to follow the basic doctrine of Islam. So to many their take on religion of Islam is not Islam. I don't have much time now but I will elaborate a little more about the topic today later. Oh, by the way in case you couldn't guess I am the one in the scarf :)
Ok everyone take care and have a peaceful day!

Michelle

Keith

Thanks, Michelle! In the context of the article Bill linked us to, I wasn't sure. It's good to get that settled in my mind.

Betsy

Wish I could have joined you all, but I teach on Monday nights.
Maybe next time.

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