Dec 25, 2014

Muslim Memories of Christmas

By Saadia Faruqi
Today is Christmas Day, and I want to take this opportunity to wish my friends and colleagues a very happy Christmas. Some among my circle express surprise, even shock, at my supposed participation in this very non-Muslim tradition each year. These are the people who don't know me, I suppose. These are the people who don't know what Islam is truly about. Christmas to me and countless other Muslims is a very positive, joyous occasion for a number of reasons. Here then, are a few of them:

Dec 17, 2014

Christmas with an International Flair

Houston’s one and only Indian Christmas celebration was hosted on December 20th at the Stafford Civic Center. As always the auditorium was packed to watch an awe inspiring program by Houston Indian Fellowship.

Dec 5, 2014

Book Review: Jesus and Buddha

Source: Goodreads
Three thousand miles from where Jesus was born, another miraculous birth occurred: the Buddha (also said to be born without a father - editor). As the Buddha walked on water, passed through walls, and raised the dead, so did Jesus in his day. As the Buddha fed 500 with a few small cakes, so did Jesus work with loaves and fishes. Five hundred years after a terrible earthquake marked the death of the Buddha, the earth shook again when Jesus breathed his last. 

Nov 29, 2014

Celebrating Religjons on Thanksgiving

By Saadia Faruqi
Thanksgiving is such an American holiday. Turkey, stuffing, apple pie and football… what could be more American than that? Well, how about religion, or rather many different religions? 
It used to be that Thanksgiving was strictly a family affair. Extended family members would often brave snow storms and other kinds of bad weather to arrive at the doorstep like Prodigal Sons and Daughters.

Nov 27, 2014

Lobbying for an Accurate Portrayal of Hinduism and Its Role in American Society

By Jawahar Malhotra
The most powerful testimonial on the impact of inaccurate portrayal of Hinduism in the text books used in American schools comes from a young Indian man who is a product of these very schools. He speaks about the shame he felt in classes in Philadelphia as he heard the unflattering description of Hindus and how the text on Hinduism swiftly moved from 500 BC to Buddhism.

Nov 20, 2014

Yezidi’s State their Plight in Houston

By Jawahar Malhotra
At the fundraiser for the Hindu American Foundation held this past Saturday, November 15, the plight of the tiny Yezidi community which has lived for generations in the northeastern portion of Iraq, bordering on Kurdistan and Turkey, was brought out and the HAF taken on their cause and vowed to help in whichever way they can.

Nov 14, 2014

Texas Sikh Women Wins Kirpan Lawsuit

Source: Sikh 24
A former Internal Revenue Service worker in Houston has settled a federal lawsuit that alleged she was fired for insisting she be allowed to wear a three-inch Kirpan [a kirpan is a ceremonial knife worn by followers of the Sikh faith - editor].

Nov 4, 2014

Finding Common Ground in Grief

By Saadia Faruqi
The last month has been a roller coaster for me personally. A friend, who became a friend only through interfaith dialogue, was grieving. Her younger sister had suddenly been taken to the hospital with several imminent health concerns, and finally after about three weeks of ups and downs, hope and despair, she passed away. I don’t need to explain how my friend felt; grief translates across boundaries of geography, culture and faith. What was interesting to me was how I felt, and how I reacted to this illness and death. How, even in the midst of grief and pain, I could learn an interfaith lesson.

Nov 1, 2014

Why Write? To Save the World Perhaps

By Shane Fernandez

I have been a writer since the day I could hold pen to paper. That was some twenty years ago, and I wouldn't even remember it if it wasn't for my proud Indian mother taking a picture with her Polaroid camera when I wrote my first words. It was just my own name, in clumsy childish, handwriting, but Ma was proud nonetheless. The picture has since then been lost, but my mother's pride, and my own love of writing has only gotten stronger.

Oct 27, 2014

Bringing Interfaith Dialogue from Pakistan to the United States

By Saadia Faruqi
I was recently selected as a 2014 Contributing Scholar of the State of Formation, an online forum for emerging religious and ethical leaders. As part of my first assignment I was asked to submit an essay answering the question: why are you committed to building interfaith relationships with people of other religions? Here is my response:

Oct 23, 2014

Can Christians Celebrate Diwali?

By Ken Chitwood
Source: Deseret News

The lights are hung, the candles lit, the feast prepared, the New Year is almost here, families gather and the children wait to hear the dramatic re-telling of stories from the ancient past. No, it is not Christmas, nor is it Hanukkah or Kwanzaa; steeped in mythical tales, religious devotion, and socio-cultural importance, it is the Hindu festival of Diwali, celebrated in India and throughout its diaspora spread across the world.

Oct 20, 2014

Hindus of Greater Houston Hold Diwali Food Drive

By Venugopal Menon
Source: Voice of Asia
Hindus of Greater Houston wishes all a very happy Deepavali, the festival of lights. The ‘Festival of Lights’ signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair. As an appropriate gesture, and corresponding to their 25 year observance of Janmashtami together, the several Hindu temples and organizations of Houston are celebrating Diwali by helping the Food Bank of Houston and serving the needy.

Oct 18, 2014

Houston's Problems With the First Commandment and the First Amendment

By Andrew T. Walker
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
News that Houston city officials are requesting materials from pastors pertaining to efforts to repeal a controversial non-discrimination ordinance makes for troubling precedent about the future of free speech and religious liberty in America.

Oct 16, 2014

No! Houston Council Don't Read Those Sermons!

By Marty Troyer
Restricting equal rights continues to be the media story embraced as definitive of Houston’s Christian community. Systemically disenfranchised communities such as people of color, women, immigrants, the physically disabled, and people who have been ostracized based on sexuality are all protected by #HERO, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance passed this summer. And yet the some Christians feverishly protest its implementation.

Oct 13, 2014

Columbus Day Revisited

By Tom Blakeley
Today is Columbus Day, a holiday at my kids' school and my wife's work. It is allegedly the day in 1492 that Christopher Columbus "arrived" in the Americas, discovered this great and glorious land we call our own. Early this morning, though, I read on the CNN news website that many Americans don't celebrate Columbus Day anymore. Was this another holiday destined to die in the face of political correctness? I decided to investigate further.

Oct 12, 2014

Youngest Nobel Peace Prize Winner - Yes She's Female and Yes She's Muslim

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: Tikkun Daily
I switched on my computer early this morning to get a lovely surprise: Malala Yusufzai won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014. For all those who think Muslim women are too oppressed, too quiet, or too busy being mothers and housewives, to make international news, todays’ announcement from the Nobel Peace Committee may have come as a bit of a shocker. For me, it was validation of a lot of things. 

Oct 10, 2014

The New God of Football

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: Sacred Matters

The NFL made headlines yet again earlier this week, for imposing a penalty on Muslim football player Hussain Abdullah and then promptly retracting the penalty and issuing an apology. Most people like myself heard of the apology before the penalty and had to backtrack to find out exactly what occurred on Monday night. I think Abdullah was confused by all the attention as well. His offense: prostrating in prayer after a touchdown in a game against the New England Patriots. 

Sep 24, 2014

Leadership Through Service

By Fatima Ali
On Sunday, September 14th I headed to my third iLead meeting of the 2014-2015 program year. I knew this session would be on service so I expected to explore the ideas behind community service and learn about how others have improved their communities. However, when I left, I felt empowered knowing that I would have the chance to do the same with my peers.  

Sep 18, 2014

Reza Aslan Talks About Jesus Before Houston Visit

Source: Houstonia
Religious studies scholar Dr. Reza Aslan made international news last year after being challenged by Fox News interviewer Lauren Green on his qualifications to write Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. Why would Aslan, a Muslim, want to write a book about Jesus? Green asked. After the video went viral, drawing widespread mockery of Fox News, Aslan's book shot from fourth to first on the New York Times best-seller list. To promote the release of the paperback edition of Zealot, Aslan will give a talk Friday night at downtown's Christ Church Cathedral. The ticketed event, with an admission price that includes a signed copy of the book, is being organized by Brazos Bookstore.  

Sep 11, 2014

9/11: Never Forget

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: Tikkun Daily
Do you remember where you were, what you were doing that fateful morning on September 11, 2001? A Pew survey shows that 97 percent of Americans remember exactly where they were when 9/11 occurred, the highest percentage, followed by JFK’s assassination (95 percent) and Pearl Harbor (89 percent).

Sep 5, 2014

The Christian Cross, Texan Identity and Tex-ianity

By Ken Chitwood
Crosses come in various shapes, sizes, and colors. They are ubiquitous in homes across the United States and pepper the abodes of people throughout the world. Odds are, you have one hanging in your home whether you are religious or not. The art of the cross is a wide and diverse stream with the cross being transformed and translated throughout the ages to speak in new ways to new people in many contexts. Crosses are both religious and civil symbols, co-opted by various cultures and movements as articles expressing deeper realities and worldviews.

Aug 27, 2014

Was Being Brown Michael Brown's Problem?

By Pastor Keion Henderson
It was a warn sunny day in July of 1999. The city was Fort Wayne, a medium sized town in the northeastern corner of Indiana. My mother saw me off and wished me well, as I drove due east to visit a college in an effort to ascertain a basketball scholarship. Paying for college was not even an option. If it were not for this great nation, and it’s commitment to higher education, I would have never been able to attend. 


Aug 22, 2014

Michchhami Dukhadam OR Asking Forgiveness

By Dr. Sulekh Jain

On the auspicious occasion of the holy festival (Paryushan and Das Laxan Parvas) of the Jains (from August 22 –September 8), we seek and beg your forgiveness for our intentional and unintentional wrongs, excesses and sins, that we might have done to you that caused harm and hurt to you in any way during the last year. We do the same to everyone.

Aug 12, 2014

Why Study Religions If You Don't Want to Convert?

By Amy Nolan-Smith
Are you the type of person who loves to explore other faiths? Do you ask questions of every person regarding their culture and practices? Do you find music from a choir, the call of the adhan and the cantor's recital of the Torah equally inspiring and pleasing to the ear? I know I do, and sadly, I am often perceived negatively because of it.

Aug 6, 2014

Book Review: Keeping Faith at Home

By Rev. Beth Ellen Cooper
It has been some time since I’ve posted, on anything at all. I’m very blessed by my congregation, and I am nearing the end of a five-month sabbatical from church life. Part of that break, has also been a break from general church life, and a time for me to spend more mindful time with my own partner, and my young daughters. But during this break, I was given a copy of Seamless Faith.

Jul 23, 2014

Book Excerpt: The Whispers of Water

By Magi Flow
Source: Amazon
The Whispers of Water is a compilation of spoken word derived from the author's point of view. It unfolds truth told by the Spirit, and confirms the revelation of life through biblical reference, praise, poetry, and theology. According to the book description on Amazon, this book serves as evidence to the world that spiritual freedom is created through the lessons learned from carnal captivity, as well as allowing God’s word to reside within our hearts. Although written from a Christian perspective, the lessons may be beneficial for all faiths.

Jul 18, 2014

Fasting for Peace

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: Tikkun Daily
If you live in a major U.S. city chances are that you’ve heard of Ramadan, the sacred Islamic month in which Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. Ramadan used to be a strange and unknown religious celebration in the United States a few decades ago. Now, thanks to the negative and positive publicity American Muslims have received in recent years, everybody knows when and why we are fasting. Everyone from the White House to the local church and synagogue is holding interfaith iftar events (breaking of the fast) for their Muslim friends and neighbors. I should be proud and happy that my esoteric religious ritual is no longer looked upon as an undue hardship forced upon me by my religion. That finally the American public is ready and willing to accept me, with my five daily prayers and my fasting and my hijab, as one of them. I should be attending those interfaith iftar events with happiness and fervor. But I’m not.

Jul 15, 2014

Mayor's Interfaith Ramadan

Mayor of Houston Annise Parker has said that Houston was a city harboring hardworking individuals and that the exemplary harmony amongst the people belonging to different religions and cultures distinguished it from other cities of the USA.

Jul 4, 2014

Happy Birthday America!

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: Tikkun Daily
July 4, 2014. My dear adopted country, I am so happy to be a part of yet another celebration of independence, another anniversary of your birth! For the last fifteen years I have celebrated with you, and with each passing year I have realized how special you are to me. Many people, especially the talking heads on certain cable news networks, think that the scarf on my head diminishes in me the ability to feel loyalty and pride, but they are wrong. I can wear whatever I want, pray however I wish, and still wave the American flag high on the fourth of July. Despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that I am American Muslim I have a deep appreciation of what those two things mean in that combination.

Jul 1, 2014

Things A Christian Can Learn During Ramadan

By Rev. Nell Green
ABP Blog
Ramadan begins on June 28th. Ramadan is the month when people who follow Islam fast from the time the sun comes up until it goes down. They do this for 30 days. Sometimes my Muslim friends laugh at me because they say I keep up more than they do about when Ramadan starts and ends. I admit, I pay attention to it. I think this month when Muslims fast from sun up to sun down is pregnant with possibilities not only for them but for me. Why?

Jun 24, 2014

God is Not Interested in Party Politics

By Daniel Johnson
If one watches the antics of the group known as Westboro Baptist Church you come away with a few conclusions: (1) They are a bunch of religious nuts. (2) There must be people who agree with them. (3) They must be Republicans.

Jun 17, 2014

Book Review: Orientalism

Source: GoodReads
Orientalism by Edward Said (original publication 1978) is a fascinatingly interesting book. It is also a book that is virtually required reading if you are going to say anything at all about post-colonialism. Whether you agree or disagree with the central theme of the book is almost beside the point. This work is seminal and landmark – so it can be avoided only at your own cost.

Jun 11, 2014

Bergdahl and the Broader Conversation

By Saadia Faruqi
It is indeed a joyous time: the last American POW is finally home. Who can deny that the U.S. military has indeed fulfilled its promise that it will leave no man (or woman) behind? Sargent Bowe Bergdahl has hardly been released, however, when the magnificent, wonderful story of courage and patriotism was transformed into, in Jon Stewart’s words, a complicated, clouded, controversial story. He has been called a deserter, a traitor and a coward. It seems as if even our soldiers are not guaranteed our respect after risking their lives for our freedoms.

May 23, 2014

A Labyrinth Emerges in Houston's Freedmen's Town

By Mike Pardee
A multi-faith, highly diverse group of volunteers has been hard at work in April and May on a uniquely exciting art and service project. This motley group of pilgrims is collaborating to install an 11-circuit labyrinth in a prayer garden right in the shadow of Houston’s skyscrapers downtown. They have worked on constructing the labyrinth’s foundations for the past 5 consecutive weekends. In the final 2 weeks of their project (Saturday mornings May 24th and 31st), they plan to finish installing the labyrinth’s serpentine path itself. New volunteers who would like to participate are welcome to join them either day. Their aim is to dedicate the completed labyrinth structure and other enhancements during a closing celebration at 10:00AM on Saturday, June 7th.

May 16, 2014

Apostacy, Blasphemy and Other Ugly Things

By Ayesha Richards

This week, the western world was in shock at yet another barbaric punishment from a Muslim country. Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman who converted to Christianity, was sentenced to death by a Sudanese Shariah court. As a result, yet again I had to field countless questions and comments from my customers and colleagues at work. As a nurse, I suppose people know and trust me, and as the only Muslim woman in a busy private practice, I suppose I am the only guide to all things Islamic for many.

May 11, 2014

The True Meaning of Motherhood

By Shahina Bashir
Source: Greed for Ilm
It’s that time of the year again. Your mailbox is overflowing with advertisements from various stores enticing you with valuable coupons. And each time you log in to check your email messages you are bombarded with more solicitations. You walk into your local mall and every store is claiming it has the best sale of the year. Yes, we are headed straight into one of the biggest celebrations of the year- Mother’s Day. It is the second most gift giving holiday following Christmas. But is Mother’s Day all about giving gifts and taking moms to their favorite restaurants for a meal?

May 7, 2014

Muslim Inmates Aren't Treated Fairly in Texas

Texas discriminates in limiting religious services for Muslim inmates to one hour a week, under supervision by guard, chaplain or volunteer, a federal judge ruled. Bobby Brown raised the challenge by resurrecting his 1969 class action against the Texas Department of Corrections over its treatment of Muslim inmates. Though the department, now known as the Texas Department of Criminal Justice or TDCJ, was bound by a 1977 consent decree to treat Muslim inmates equally as compared with adherents to Catholic, Protestant and Jewish faiths, it moved to terminate the consent decree in August 2012.

May 3, 2014

Hucksters and Texas Tent Revival Politics

By Carol Morgan
Source: Houston Press
Religious liberty is at the very heart of what it means to be an American, yet Texas conservatives and our state's activist pastors have conveniently forgotten that. Lately, it feels as if Texas is waging some sort of religious war on a number of different fronts. Throughout history, politicians have embedded a few religious references in their speeches, but nothing close to what we're seeing lately. Beginning in earnest with Ronald Reagan's nomination in 1980 and continued by Bill Clinton, "Religispeak" has evolved into a must-have tool for every conservative's campaign rhetoric and policy effort. In the same way that sex sells in the media, politicians discovered that religion does also.

May 1, 2014

Religion and Worker's Rights

By Jessica Nguyen
What do workers' rights, immigration reform and government accountability have in common? For many, the answer is religion. After all, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and virtually every other religion in the world teaches values of mercy, justice, and rights to the downtrodden in society. So it should come as no surprise that religious groups across the country are coming together this May Day, as well as other days of the year, to fight for rights to workers, regardless of faith, immigration status or socio-economic status.

Apr 27, 2014

Lessons of Easter and Passover

By Tim Neeley

April was a commemorative month for two of the major religions of the world. Jews commemorated the event of Passover, while Christians celebrated Easter. But the fact that they coincide in time each year is in no way their only similarity. In fact, both holidays have much in common with each other, and both can be a source of wisdom for the world.

Apr 23, 2014

Why We Aren't Going to Church Anymore

Many people donned their Sunday bests of hats, flowery pastel dresses, and linen or seersucker suits to attend church on Easter Sunday. But it is getting harder and harder to fill those pews even on Easter, the busiest Sunday of the year because, according to a Pew study, the only religious group in the U.S. that is growing is the religiously unaffiliated.

Apr 18, 2014

Man's Rejection of God: Who's Responsible?

Source: The Paper

Religion, if it's for the betterment of humankind, is a good thing. It reaffirms our sense of right and wrong - our moral compass that pulls us back on track when we stray. While there is good and bad in all religions, Christianity seems to come under attack more than most. Mahatma Gandhi was quoted as saying, "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” This is a sad indictment of the Christian community as a whole, but is it true?

Apr 15, 2014

When One of Us is Hurt We All Feel Pain

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: Tikkun Daily

As Passover ends for my Jewish friends, I join them to mourn the attack on the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas. Yes I am a Muslim, and the world doesn’t expect me to sympathize with Jews. But the world is wrong. We have increasingly become divided along religious lines, and Jewish-Muslim relationships have become strained because they have incorrectly become synonymous with the Israel-Palestine issue. This is neither true Islam nor true Judaism.

Apr 10, 2014

A Celebration

By Rev. Nell Green
Source: ABPnews

She is young, energetic and smart. She wants to study genetics. Her English is broken, but she is absolutely determined to make it perfect. She realizes that coming to the US was a chance in a lifetime. He is a gifted and talented musician. He writes music, plays multiple instruments, and sings beautifully. He is never without a smile. His heart’s desire was to experience at least once an Easter Sunday in a church with a choir and orchestra.

Mar 25, 2014

Five Challenges of Diversity

By Rev. Nell Green
Source: ABPnews
How strange it has seemed to us to live in Houston. The Houston we left 28 years ago and the Houston we call home today are two entirely different places, though they share the same geographic location. It was about this time 37 years ago that Butch and I made a drive from College Station, TX to The Galleria Mall in Houston to purchase an engagement ring. Everyone in the mall looked, talked, and acted just about the same. Now when I go to The Galleria no one looks, talks, or acts the same. Mono-culturalism has given over to diversity.

Mar 21, 2014

A Powerful Expression of Love for the Supreme

By Manu Shah
Source: IndoAmerican News
The tinkling of ghungroos, the haunting notes of Krishna’s flute and the evocative dances by the gopis captivated an almost packed auditorium on 15 March in Pearland.  Presented by GOD – Global Organization for Divinity to celebrate their Namadwaar Prayer House’s fourth anniversary, the dance ballet titled Radhe…Radhe… depicted Radha Rani’s divine love for her Krishna through the medium of the Bharatnatyam form of dance. 

Mar 14, 2014

Lent is More Than Just Fasting

By Jonathan Powers
Lent is here again, and Catholics like myself are looking forward to a season of spiritual reflection and prayer. For many, Lent is a time for repentance, for others an opportunity for helping others through charity. At the same time, it has become a question for those who don't believe fasting is the way to earn God's love. Is fasting all there is to Lent? How does one strike a balance between extremes?

Mar 10, 2014

A Visit to a Hindu Temple

By Felicia Woodard
A part of my graduate curriculum is to learn about people and their culture. Culture is such a broad term, but for the sake of space I will not delve into that at this moment.  I will simply assume we can agree that culture may be any shared behavior, ethnicity, religion, tradition, values, and even things we may forget are cultural like the way we respond to things or the tone in our voice. My professor allowed the class an opportunity to visit a place that was different from our own culture. She gave us no restrictions, no leads. She said go; just go and learn. I chose a Hindu Temple.

Mar 5, 2014

Why Everyone Should Care about NYPD Surveillance of Muslims

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: Tikkun Daily
Last week the U.S. district Court dismissed a long-standing case against the NYPD for their secret surveillance of Muslims in New York and New Jersey in the years after 9/11. Yet few Americans outside of the American Muslim community spoke out against the judgment, and not all newspapers carried the news. For the average American of a different faith, this wasn’t really too newsworthy. Here’s why they are wrong.

Feb 25, 2014

Celebrating Black (Muslim) History

By Saadia Faruqi
Source: Tikkun Daily
A brand new year, another February drawing to a close. We all know this month is Black History Month, and the overall impression I’ve got from people who are not black is that nobody truly cares about black history except for African Americans. Granted, PBS airs some specials, and our kids learn about important African American figures in school, mostly the high-profile ones such as Dr. King, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and a few other prominent black activists. for the average American, that’s the extent of our understanding of or participation in Black History Month. Other than that, we defer to the African American community and allow them to claim this “celebration” as their own.