Community News (V11-I8)

February 12, 2009 by  


Eboo Patel appointed to Obama’s Interfaith Council

WASHINGTON D.C– Prominent scholar and activist Eboo Patel has been named to a 25-member President’s Advisory Council composed of religious leaders and scholars from different backgrounds.

“No matter how much money we invest or how sensibly we design our policies, the change that Americans are looking for will not come from government alone,” Obama said, creating the new office by executive order. “There is a force for good greater than government.”

While at home it will focus on making community groups an integral part of US economic recovery as its top priority, beyond American shores the new office will work with the National Security Council to “foster interfaith dialogue with leaders and scholars around the world”.

The revamped office will work on behalf of Americans committed to improving their communities, no matter their religious or political beliefs, Obama said.

“It is an expression of faith, this yearning to give back, this hungering for a purpose larger than our own, that reveals itself not simply in places of worship, but in senior centres and shelters, schools and hospitals, and any place an American decides.”

The new office “will be a resource for nonprofits and community organisations, both secular and faith based, looking for ways to make a bigger impact in their communities, learn their obligations under the law, cut through red tape, and make the most of what the federal government has to offer”.

Headed by Joshua DuBois, a former associate pastor and advisor to Obama in his US Senate office and campaign director of religious affairs, the office will carry out its priorities upholding the principle of “the separation of church and state”.

The revamped office has reignited a contentious debate over whether religious organisations that accept funds from the government should be allowed to discriminate when hiring.

Obama’s executive order does not rescind Bush’s provision to allow faith-based groups to discriminate in their hiring practices, but does provide a legal process for organisations to go through in order to that ensure hiring is legal and non-discriminatory.

Lecture on rise of Muslim and Arab culture in Detroit

TUCSON, AZ–Andrew Shryock, the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan, will give this year’s Sabbagh lecture in Tucson.

Shryock’s lecture, “Best of Times/Worst of Times: Citizenship and Its Contradictions in Arab Detroit,”  is Thursday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m. at the Arizona Historical Society, at 949 E. Second Street in Tucson, on the corner of Park and Second Street.

Both the lecture and the reception that follows are free and open to the public.

Andrew Shryock has done ethnographic research in Yemen, Jordan and among the Arab and Muslim communities of Detroit. Shryock’s published works include “Nationalism and the Genealogical Imagination: Oral History and Textual Authority in Tribal Jordan,” which won the 1997 Albert Hourani Prize. His other books include “Arab Detroit: From Margin to Mainstream” (2000) and “Off Stage/On Display: Intimacy and Ethnography in the Age of Public Culture” (2004).

Next year, Shryock’s latest work on Detroit will appear in “Citizenship and Crisis: Arab Detroit after Sept. 11.” The Detroit Arab-American Study, or DAAS, which is based on interviews with more than a thousand Arab-Americans, produced findings that were both expected and surprising.

Shryock’s lecture will focus on the counterintuitive lessons this study can teach us about Arab Americans and the complex worlds they have created in Detroit.

Pakistani journalist remembered

WASHINGTON D.C.–A large number of Pakistani-Americans Saturday attended the funeral prayer for Khalid Hasan, the legendary journalist, who passed away last week. Besides several Washington and New York-based journalists, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani, visiting PML (N) leader Javed Hashmi, leaders of Pakistan Peoples Party, scholars including Prof Khurram Khursheed, leading U.S. experts and former State Department advisers including Dr Stephen Cohen and Dr Marvin Weinbaum attended the funeral prayer held at Dar ul Huda, Springfield, Virginia.

Meanwhile, several US-based literary organizations Kashmiri leaders including Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, leaders of Pakistani American Congress, PAL-C Advocacy Group on Capitol Hill and Pakistani American League mourned the loss and paid tributes to the memory of the journalist, who authored more than 40 books.

The Pakistani embassy here will host a reference next week to honor the memory of the outstanding writer, who died of cancer at the age of 74.

Close friends of Khalid Hasan and Ambassador Haqqani support the idea of housing the treasured collection of books in the journalist’s study at one place ­ at the proposed Jinnah Center in Washington D.C- for the benefit of Pakistani-Americans.

Khalid Hasan was laid to rest in Vermont, the native state of his wife.

Abusive Criticisms of Islam Violate Code of Ethics, Says Canadian Broadcast Standards Council

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council released its decision concerning an episode of the Lowell Green Show broadcast on CFRA (Ottawa) on December 3, 2007.  Prompted by the internationally-discussed Muslim reaction to the teddy bear naming incident in Khartoum, which fell afoul of Sudanese law, the topic of the day on the open-line talk show was Islam.  The CBSC concluded that some of the comments that the host made about the religion and its practitioners violated the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics.

The Lowell Green Show is a daily open-line talk show on which the host and callers discuss current events.  The question of the day on December 3 was “Is there something inherent in the Muslim faith that promotes violence and oppression of women?”  The majority of callers answered “yes” to the question, but a few callers disagreed.  Green adamantly expressed his own view that “almost every act of terrorism around the world today […] is carried out in the name of Islam.  […]  Don’t tell me this is the work of a few fanatics.”

Despite the fact that Green said, on a few occasions, that not all Muslims are “like that”, he reacted negatively to any caller who answered no to his question, including those who were Muslim or had personal knowledge of Islam and attempted, on that basis, to clarify some of his points.  In one instance, Green responded to a Muslim caller with the word “Baloney!” and, in another, told the sympathetic, apparently non-Muslim, caller she had “abandoned common sense” and was being “silly”.

The CBSC received a complaint from a listener who was concerned about Green’s depiction of Islam and Muslims.  The Ontario Regional Panel examined the complaint under two clauses of the CAB Code of Ethics: Clause 2 (Human Rights), which prohibits abusive or unduly discriminatory comment on the basis of religion (among other things), and Clause 6, which requires the full, fair and proper presentation of opinion and comment.  The Panel found a violation of both clauses.  As the Panel observed, the extending of the debate from the teddy bear incident to Islam itself bore certain consequences:

The broadened nature of the on-air debate does mean, though, that extra care must be taken by the broadcaster to ensure that sweeping generalizations, which are inherently more risky than pointed, focussed discussions, do not fall afoul of either of the foregoing codified standards.

The Panel pointed out that there was no problem with simply addressing the topic, but rather with the way it was handled.  With respect to Clause 2, the Panel made the following comments:

[T]he host has mounted a sweeping, abusive and unduly discriminatory criticism of Islam.  It was uninformed and unfair.  It conceded none of the diversity that exists in Islam or among its adherents.  […] [H]e consistently made it entirely clear that his issue […] was [that there was a problem with the faith and that it] was not the work of a few fanatics, but rather a reflection of the religion, problems and attitudes that he attributed to the “great, overwhelming majority of Muslims in the world.”  Moreover, he brooked no contradictory observations of persons who were admittedly Muslim, informed about the religion, or of a different viewpoint.

With respect to Clause 6, the Panel observed that

Green did not merely disagree with opposing points of view; he mocked, ridiculed and insulted their interlocutors.  Using terms like “silly” and “baloney”, he denied to callers that which is potentially best in talk radio: fair, interactive dialogue.  Although not all broadcasters admit the appropriateness of anything other than pure objectivity on the part of hosts, the CBSC has long upheld the right of talk show hosts to espouse a point-of-view on air.  The right to express an editorial perspective is one thing; the exclusion of the opinions of those who would express a conflicting perspective is quite another.  […]  Disparaging opposing views with condescending, even childish, words such as those noted above is neither fair nor proper.

11-8

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