Dec 30, 2013

Roads of Arabia Exhibit Opens in Houston

Source: SUSRIS
Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), opened a major heritage show at the Museum of Fine arts in Houston on Wednesday (Dec 18) and highlighted the significant role played by Islam in bolstering security and stability in Arabia.“ Islam also enriched the Arab culture and civilization,” the SCTA chief said in his speech at a dinner banquet after the opening, which included several US officials, academics and former Secretary of State James Baker.

Dec 18, 2013

An Introduction to Jainism

By Dr. Sulekh Jain
Jainism, an ancient religion originating from India- with Hinduism and Buddhism- is an integral part of India. The Jain tradition, which enthroned the philosophy of ecological harmony and non-violence as its lodestar, flourished for centuries side-by-side with other schools of thought in ancient India. It formed a vital part of the mainstream of ancient Indian life, contributing greatly to its philosophical, artistic and political heritage. During certain periods of Indian history, many ruling elites as well as large sections of the population were Jains.

Dec 9, 2013

The Holy Ghost Inspires Us All

By Ramona Siddoway

For anyone curious about the basic principles followed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), the Articles of Faith provide an overarching framework of our beliefs. While the Articles of Faith are not complete in explaining all of our beliefs they are a good summary of LDS scripture and principles that are taught and understood by the members of our faith. This is an ongoing series about basic beliefs of Latter-day Saints and how they fit into an interfaith community; this particular post discussed the concept of the Holy Ghost.

Dec 4, 2013

I Do... Take You and Your God?

By Felicia Woodard
In the world we live in today, we have crossed social boundaries and norms when it comes to living, schooling, employment, and yes, dating. TLC’s All American Muslim 2011 reality series about a young Muslim woman marrying an Irish-Catholic man was highly talked about. Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of former POTUS Bill Clinton, had a highly publicized interfaith marriage as she, raised Methodist, married fiancé Marc Mezvinsky, who was Jewish.

Nov 29, 2013

An American Muslim Thanksgiving

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: Tikkun Daily
This year will be the first time my family officially participates in the tradition of Thanksgiving, despite having lived in the United States for the last 15 years. That’s not to say I’m against American holidays, but being an American Muslim often implies conflict in terms of national and international observances. So while other immigrants are quick to participate in the celebrations of their adopted countries, American Muslims like me, who identify strongly with their religion, find it difficult to tread this path lightly. Here’s why. 

Nov 22, 2013

The Vocal (Christian) Minority

By Felicia Woodard

We all say the same thing. Not all Christians are alike. Not all religious people are alike. I believe it and I know it. There are wonderful people in my life that prescribe to various religions and they are kind and selfless - warm, giving, individuals, as well as progressive thinkers. Yet, why is it that rhetoric such as those in the image to the left are so prevalent when defining Christians and Christianity today?

Nov 19, 2013

Sikh Religious Rights Versus the IRS

A Houston woman who carries a ceremonial dagger as a part of her religious garb has been fighting for her right to carry the dull blade into a downtown Houston federal building for nearly nine years and it appears now that the law may be on her side. The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Sikh woman's religious rights may have been violated by the IRS, leaving the door open for Kawaljeet Kaur Tagore and her counsel to continue pursuing litigation. 

Nov 15, 2013

Why Religious Charities in Houston Wish More People Were in Church

Source: Houston Matters

Back in the early 1980s, about six or seven percent of Houstonians did not affiliate themselves with any religion. Today, that number has nearly doubled. Houston Matters (88.7 KUHF) considers what this trend means for established religious institutions in Houston, and the services they provide, now and in the future. Click on the audio clip below to hear from Dr. Lynn Mitchell, Director of Religious Studies at the University of Houston, and Lauren Santerre, Director of Interfaith Relations at Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston.

Nov 13, 2013

Some Useful Commandments For Inter-Religious Dialogue

By Dr. Sulekh Jain

Before commencing with interfaith dialogue, it is important to establish some ground rules, or rather some golden rules for behavior. Here are some excellent recommendations for inter-religious or interfaith dialogue, written by a very dear friend Professor Cromwell Crawford, Professor Emeritus, University of Hawaii, Honolulu.

Nov 10, 2013

The Consequences of Public Prayer

By Ramona Siddoway 

I read with interest about the Supreme Court deciding the fate of prayers in New York public meetings. This case centers on a suit brought in Greece, NY and the overtly Christian prayers offered at the beginning of the Town Hall meetings. At first an informal complaint was registered and as a result 4 of 12 meetings were opened with prayers from other faiths. But the feeling of being on the outside still persisted with those who were in the minority of this dominant Christian group.

Nov 7, 2013

Worship and Sexuality: the Sacred and the Profane

By Felicia Woodard                                                     

To say sexuality and worship in the same sentence would raise some eyebrows. In context of the west, we are socially  taught that these things do not, should not, and cannot coexist. on the contrary, I feel that we as a western nation/culture of people, must be understood that various cultures, religions, and people of different regions and philosophies do not share this same sentiment. 

Nov 2, 2013

Semitic Brothers - Israeli And Palestinian

By Rabbi Howard Siegel
In 1996, Bill Moyers, then host of the new MSNBC program Insight, convened a group of Jewish and Christian theologians, authors, poets, and philosophers to discuss the Book of Genesis in a television series called Genesis: A Living Conversation.  The result was a 21st century understanding of the ancient underpinnings of monotheism, the belief in the One God.

Oct 31, 2013

How to Celebrate Religious Freedom Day

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: Tikkun Daily
Amidst news of violence, kidnappings, imprisonments and much more, the world quietly celebrated International Religious Freedom Day on October 27. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement to mark this important ideal of the American consciousness with words that sounded well-intentioned and carefully thought out. He mentioned the experiences of the first pilgrims who established colonies in what was later to become the United States of America due to a desire for religious liberty and discussed the role this nation has played up till today in offering a refuge to all peoples facing persecution for their faith.

Oct 28, 2013

Breaking Bread in Faith and Love

By Cathy Lynn Grossman 
In the Bible, few dine alone. Small wonder that Christians and Jews see sharing a meal with family, guests and strangers as a form of spiritual nourishment and hospitality — as valuable as the bread passed around the table. Although the holiday season’s family feasts are fast approaching, many say it’s the weekly family meal that matters most across time.

Oct 20, 2013

Faith and Baptism

By Ramona Siddoway
In continuation of my series of the Articles of Faiths of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, this post deals with the fourth article and how people of all religions can identify with topics such as faith and baptism.

Oct 13, 2013

Proof of Religion

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: Tikkun Daily
Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard famously said, “Once you label me you negate me.” But despite this, it seems that as human beings, we love labels. We spend much of our lives labeling not just others but ourselves as well. Skin color, race, education level, professional qualifications… you name it, we’ve got it and using it with gusto. Some labels – like doctor, author, white person – we apply on ourselves with pride, while others – black, dropout, druggie – are pasted on our psyches by others without our consent.

Oct 5, 2013

Muslim Women Set Precedent for Religious Freedom

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: Tikkun Daily

Religious accommodation in the workplace seems to be gaining strength in recent times. Last month, corporate America received a huge setback as retail giant Abercrombie and Fitch was found by a federal judge to have discriminated against a Muslim clerk who wore a hijab to work and was subsequently fired.

Oct 1, 2013

Lecture: Peace Building Through Art and Dialogue

Art and dialogue are powerful mediums that can transform hearts and minds, even those of supposed enemies. Creativity for Peace uses art to give young Israeli and Palestinian women a language to communicate their shared fears, pain and begin healing and peace-building.

Sep 26, 2013

Coexistence (AKA Articles of Faith Part 2)

By Ramona Siddoway

Last month I wrote about the first two articles of Mormon faith, with the intention of removing stereotypes and misunderstandings. While these articles are not complete in explaining all the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, they are a good summary of LDS scripture and principles taught and understood by the members of our faith.

Sep 17, 2013

Celebrating Religious Differences

By Saadia Faruqi

Some of us working in the field of interfaith dialogue have rosy ideas about loving each other and forgetting our differences. We bring people of different faiths together for talks, social service projects and much more; the understanding while doing all this is that our similarities are much more in quantity and quality than our differences, and that we should all get along despite everything. While noble, this ideology is also terribly flawed, according to a book I've recently started reading, by Stephen Prothero entitled "God is not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World and Why their Differences Matter".

Sep 13, 2013

Twelve Years Later, Words Are Still Not Enough

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: Tikkun Daily
Actions speak louder than words. It’s a litany spoken by teachers to students, parents to children, wives to husbands (and sometimes vice versa) thousands of times around the world each day in tens of different languages. It echoes in my mind from my own childhood, and although it irritated me beyond belief as a child, I have often found myself repeating the very thing to my own little ones. “Saying sorry after hitting your sister is all very good, but actions speak louder than words” or “You may say you love your mom, but when’s the last time you helped me out around the house?” Sound familiar? Because despite the fact that this little sentence is so clichéd it ought to be outlawed, it also happens to be the essence of human nature.

Sep 8, 2013

Buddhist Temple Thrives in the Heart of Montrose

By Kyrie O'Connor
You'd be forgiven if, driving past Dawn Mountain, you thought it was a creatively named architecture firm. Though it's housed in a neat brick building on busy Richmond Avenue near South Shepherd, it's a Tibetan Buddhist temple and community center. Founded in 1996, Dawn Mountain is the creation of Anne Klein, a professor of religious studies at Rice University, and her husband, Harvey Aronson, a therapist, and it is the outcome of an unlikely life journey for a girl from Albany, N.Y., and a boy from Brooklyn. 

Aug 29, 2013

Sis, Tata or Mum Nell

By Rev. Nell Green
Source: ABP Blog


They call me “Tata”. That is what many francophone people call their aunts. I am not their aunt, however. They are Senegalese after all, and I am American.  However, we would all say that race, nationality, language nor culture changes the fact that we are family.  

Aug 21, 2013

Mormon Articles of Faith Part 1

By Ramona Siddoway

In 1842, John Wentworth, editor of the Chicago Democrat, asked Joseph Smith to provide information about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, explaining the basic beliefs and principles of this newly reorganized religion. In addition to sending information about the history of the church as well as an overview of his own personal religious experiences, Joseph Smith included a summary list of thirteen items or basic points of belief. These points were called “the faith of the Latter-day Saints” and later became known as the Articles of Faith.

Aug 12, 2013

Ramadan Roundup

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: Tikkun Daily

The Islamic month of Ramadan is at an end, and right about now many Muslims across the world are celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr – the biggest celebration of the year – as well as expressing sadness at having bid adieu to a time full of blessings. The repetition of fasting and praying is such in this month that many events blend into each other, seemingly endlessly and with the danger of being forgotten. Here then, is a roundup of what occurred in the United States in the month of Ramadan and how it affected the millions of Muslims in this country.

Jul 29, 2013

When Will the Dates Be Served?

By Saadia Faruqi
A Hotchpotch Hijabi in Italy

Interfaith Ramadan events are constantly on my mind these days. As interfaith liaison for my mosque I’ve been organizing weekly women’s Iftaars every year for three years, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to talk about some lessons learned on this blog here and here. With two weeks remaining until we bid farewell to another sacred month, it may be time to discuss some stereotypes that I’ve witnessed among our guests and how I’ve tried to dispel some of them.

Jul 26, 2013

To The Place Where the Streams Flow

By Rabbi Laura Sheinkopf

I spent my high school years at a New England boarding school called Northfield Mt. Hermon where I recently returned for my 25th reunion.  Yes, it did make me feel old.  But it also made feel lucky – lucky to have attended such a beautiful and enlightened school.  Truthfully my landing in 9th grade was more like a crash landing.  I was thoroughly consumed by my own adolescent drama when I came for my interview.  It was the morning after a heavy snowfall and I was sleeping in back of the car.  I woke up just as the campus came into view.  It looked like a postcard – impossibly picturesque, a cluster of buildings that included a big stone chapel and bold red barn huddled together on a blanket of thick new snow.  I fell in love with it instantly.  It looked like a place where there might be a place for me – whoever that turned out to be.  

Jul 17, 2013

Friends of Iman Interfaith Iftaar

Christ Church Cathedral in Houston hosted an interfaith Iftaar on July 11, presented by the Friends of Iman, a group of young adults who organize education and interfaith activities in memory of Iman Haq, a young Muslim woman who died two years ago at the age of 20. An Iftaar is a traditional Islamic dinner observed during the month of Ramadan, when the community gathers together to break their daylong fast as the sun goes down.

Jul 14, 2013

Ten Reasons Why I Pray During Ramadan

By Rev. Nell Green
Source: APB Blog
My initial experiences with Ramadan years ago in West Africa were at times confusing to say the least. I will never forget getting caught in an awful traffic jam in the main thoroughfare of one of the most congested neighborhood markets. People were scurrying, buses and cars were honking, and voices were raised as everyone wanted to hurry and make it home to break the fast. Unfortunately, the sun began to set and the jam was at a standstill. Out from the market flowed vendors with dates, juice, water, bits of bread etc. to serve the stranded motorists and break the fast.

Jul 10, 2013

Religious Freedom Implies Protection of all Religions

By Ramona Siddoway
“[Religion] remains the most powerful community builder the world has known,” says Jonathan Sacks, chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. “Religion is the best antidote to the individualism of the consumer age. The idea that society can do without it flies in the face of history.” Many secularists and young adults erroneously believe that personal freedoms and religion can be separated, that religious freedom (or lack of) has little or no effect on other liberties of our day-to-day life.

Jul 4, 2013

What July 4th Means to an Immigrant

By Shahina Bashir
Sixteen years ago at the Immigration and Naturalization Services offices in Baltimore, Maryland I repeated these words of oath: "I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."

Jun 24, 2013

Blasphemy Laws Hurt No Matter Who They Target

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: Tikkun Daily
The term blasphemy law is an immediate turn-off for most people, implying intolerance for freedom of speech and religion, mostly in an Islamic context. Not surprisingly, in recent times, Muslim countries have become notorious for their blasphemy laws, punishing everyone who has a different view of religion than their own. We hear almost on a daily basis of Christians and other minority groups within Muslims being punished under blasphemy laws in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt and even moderate Indonesia for the slightest of assumed offences.

Jun 17, 2013

Freedom versus Free Exercise of Religion

By Ramona Siddoway
“We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” Article of Faith #11, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On May 16th, Dallin H. Oaks, an Apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a former professor at the University of Chicago Law School and former justice of the Utah Supreme Court, was awarded the prestigious Canterbury Medal for lifetime service in promoting the cause of religious freedom.

Jun 7, 2013

Free Speech on Social Media: Anything Goes

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: Tikkun Daily
In continuation of my series on First Amendment rights as they impact religious minority groups, I address current controversy over social media posts maligning religious groups. My previous post in this series entitled Does Freedom of Speech Allow Stereotyping discussed a greeting card that stereotyped Muslims as terrorists in an unusually offensive and glaringly inaccurate way. This week I have chosen another unfortunate event, a Facebook post that ignited debate over the possible classification of certain types of content as threats instead of free speech. Tennessee County Commissioner Barry West posted a picture on his Facebook page showing a cowboy aiming a shotgun at the camera with the caption “How to Wink at a Muslim”.

Jun 4, 2013

Religion as a Bridge of Cooperation

By Nancy Agafitei

In January of 2013, the Barbara Bush Branch Library received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association entitled Bridging Cultures: Muslim Journeys. Termed a “bookshelf” grant, it provides a collection of 25 books, 3 DVDs, and other special resources chosen with a view to familiarizing the American public with Islam and the cultural heritage of Islamic civilizations around the world.

May 30, 2013

Dispelling Mormon Myths Part 2

By Ramona Siddoway
Last month I wrote about some common myths about the Mormon church. I continue the discussion this month with Myth #3: Mormons have more than one wifeThe practice of having more than one wife – polygamy – is strictly prohibited and not endorsed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today.

May 23, 2013

Interfaith Communities Respond To Disasters Together

By Esmeralda Valague, MA 

June is the beginning of the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season but this year, we have already had several disasters including the one in Moore, Oklahoma on May 20 to remind us of how fragile our safety and security can be in an ever-changing world. Though every disaster is traumatic and causes a lot of pain and suffering, disasters also tend to bring out the best in humanity – particularly in drawing together diverse groups toward the common cause of relief and recovery. Go to any disaster scene yourself and ask people what their religion is and you will find that people are doing what needs doing and not caring about the differences.

May 12, 2013

I Became a Mother on Mother's Day

By Rabbi Laura Sheinkopf
I became a mother on a stormy Mother’s Day in the year 2000.  My labor may have been induced by an infection and accompanying fever.  And what a labor it was! The sun rose and set. Nurses came and went. By the time my son was born, I barely knew my name, let alone the day. But it was Mother’s Day, and everyone made quite a fuss about that. In my post-partum haze, I thought it was strange, if sweet, to focus on this seemingly superfluous detail. Nothing could have made me any happier or more relieved than I already was. In the hours just after my son was born, my thoughts centered on physical wellbeing, not the larger meaning of the moment.

May 10, 2013

Does Religious Freedom Allow Stereotyping?

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: Tikkun Daily 
These days, anything and everything can be uttered under the guise of free speech. We can hurt the religious sensitivities of others, call people names, stomp our foot on someone considered the son of God by billions. It’s all protected in the name of free speech. Don’t get me wrong, as an American Muslim I am indescribably thankful for the freedoms I receive in this great nation of ours. Without the First Amendment, I’d be unable to practice my religion freely, take time off for Friday prayers, invite friends over to my local mosque or even write posts such as this one in a Jewish publication. No doubt about it, freedom of speech is probably the greatest liberty and blessing we all enjoy here in the United States. But sometimes I think we misunderstand this freedom altogether. 

May 3, 2013

American Muslims are Moderate and Peaceful - Who Knew?

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: Tikkun Daily
The Pew Research Center this week revealed another extensive and newsworthy piece of research: The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society. The results of the survey, which consisted of more than 38,000 interviews of Muslims in Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia in approximately 80 languages, reveals many things on many topics. Some revelations are interesting, others curious, and a few even downright alarming. As an American Muslim, though, I was mostly interested in the appendices, which discuss the attitudes of U.S. Muslims and compared them to similar themes among Muslims of other countries. Here’s my take:

Apr 30, 2013

My Boston Takeaway

Rev. Nell Green
Source: ABP News Blog
These posts are truly difficult to write; partly because if you want to be real then you have to confess some things and partly because events such as occurred last week are not easy to process. I am not sure you ever finish processing them. I try to imagine what it must have been like to be in that crowd enjoying a national event with family and friends only to have it literally ripped apart by explosives. 

Apr 29, 2013

Dispelling Mormon Myths Part 1

By Ramona Siddoway
A couple of months ago an Women’s Interfaith Discussion Group met to discuss common misconceptions people have about other religions. Besides walking away with much more respect for other religions and the amazing women in that group, I think we all agreed that for the most part we don’t know squat about anybody else’s religion. Not really. We tend to lump everyone into large stereotypical groups with not much more than media, hearsay, and Hollywood to back any of our claims.

Apr 22, 2013

Athiests Find a Sunday Morning Connection with Other Non-Believers

By Kimberly Winston
HOUSTON (RNS): Sunday mornings at Houston Oasis  may have the look and feel of a church, but there’s no cross, Bible, hymnal or stained glass depictions of Jesus. There’s also nary a trace of doctrine, dogma or theology. But the 80 or so attendees at this new weekly gathering for nonbelievers come for many of the same reasons that others pack churches in this heavily Christian corner of the Bible Belt — a sense of community and an uplifting message that will help them tackle the challenges of the coming week, and, maybe, the rest of their lives.

Apr 17, 2013

Boston Attack a Test Case for Interfaith Relationship Building

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: Tikkun Daily
The nation is still reeling from shock after Monday’s attack on the Boston Marathon. Gun violence notwithstanding, this is perhaps the first real terrorist attack on US soil after 9/11. Understandably emotions have been running high; no surprise then, that as the events unfolded many people, including the media, jumped on the “Blame the Muslims” bandwagon. The New York Post famously inflated casualty numbers and reported that a Saudi man was apprehended as a suspect by the police. Social media was inundated by predictions of guilt and accusations of violent jihad, at the same time as the Muslim community mobilized to condemn the attacks.

Apr 10, 2013

Muslim Women Don't Need To Be Rescued

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: Tikkun Daily

It seems that controversy over the hijab – the Islamic tradition of covering a woman’s hair and body – will not die down anytime soon. Governments such as France and Germany seem to be dead set against it, while theocracies such as Saudi Arabia go the other extreme by forcing women to cover. But ask the average Muslim woman, and she will probably wonder what the fuss is all about. Since when is dress a political statement, even a weapon? FEMEN – a feminist Ukrainian protest group – seems to think it is, and is up in arms over the hijab, declaring April 4 as International Topless Jihad Day. What FEMEN activists perhaps did not expect was that Muslim women who wear the hijab are a tad possessive about their right to wear it, and don’t take lightly to a declaration of jihad (Arabic for struggle) against it. 

Apr 4, 2013

What Pope Francis Might Mean for Muslim-Christian Relations

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: Tikkun Daily

The news out of the Vatican seems to be getting more and more fascinating every day. An avid researcher of all religions - and especially interested in all things Catholic because of my educational ties with convents - I have been following the abdication of Pope Benedict and the election of Pope Francis, and all that's happened in between these two major events, with great interest. When Benedict resigned, I felt a moment or two of incredulity, because it's practically unheard of. Then I followed the whole voting process, including the betting, with bated breath. And I haven't been disappointed, for Pope Francis is proving to be an absolute gem in so many ways. As I said, fascinating news... even though I'm a Muslim.

Mar 29, 2013

Being Easter People in the Interfaith Environment

By Rev. Nell Green
Source: ABP News Blog

I sometimes preach a sermon entitled “The Four Little Candles.” The author of the original story is unknown. In it I tell the story of four little candles that were burning softly and quietly.  Listening closely you can hear them speak. The first little candle is peace. Lamenting that the world no longer wants to try and keep the peace the candle becomes tired and slowly goes out. The second little candle, faith, cries for a world that finds faith superfluous and unnecessary. A gentle breeze comes along and blows out the little flame of faith. Love, the third little candle angrily huffs that people don’t even know how to love the ones that love them, much less someone else. Suddenly, the candle ceases to burn.

Mar 24, 2013

Music - The Composition of Faith

By Ramona Siddoway

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life,” said German novelist Berthold Auerbach (1812-1882). In the early years of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Emma Smith, the wife of Joseph Smith, was asked to compile a book of hymns for the new church. What I love about this story is that while some new hymns were written more than half were selected from hymns already being used by other churches. I love the fact that, for at least some other Christian churches, we are still singing many of the very same hymns. While some of our doctrine may differ we share a deep connection with the music of faith and I feel a deeper sense of connection with other religions.