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Indian Muslims do not need special treatment

Change has come to India. The great democracy is undergoing an unprecedented churning and a new political narrative is emerging. Pundits agree that the emergence of “common man” has shaken the old, ossified power structures to the core and cynical, old politics and politicians are being forced to embrace the new grammar of change. Yes, change. Change is the buzzword. For some though, the more things change the more they remain the same. For once, I agree with Narendra Modi. Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde’s concern over the victimization of Muslims and his warning to state governments against the targeting of Muslim youths is nothing but a “brazen and callous attempt to woo the minority community.”
Arab News

Officials In Laos Tell Christians To Renounce Faith In Jesus Christ Or Be Deported
Imagine being told that if you did not give up your faith in Jesus Christ that you would be forced out of your town and lose all of your property. That is precisely what a group of Christian families in three villages in the nation of Laos were told by their government officials after it was discovered that they were meeting regularly for home Bible study and worship.
Beginning and End

What is Paganism? Part I: The Basics: Religion, Spirituality, and Stories
I was recently involved in an intense discussion arising over an article linked from The Wild Hunt. The article complained about a friend’s statement describing Paganism to an interfaith audience, and I responded by defending him. After that the discussion took off in the direction of “Who is a Pagan and how do we know?” I continued until, in my judgment, we were getting too testy. Best to stop.

The Spirituality of Writing
My spirituality as I define it is intimately connected with my writing–even more so now that I’ve been exploring my writing purpose more intently–and drives it in a way that makes it more meaningful and satisfying. And I’ve seen the spirituality/essence/core of other writers too. At Saturday’s goal setting workshop, Shari Caudron connected writing and spirituality without hesitation and without apology. I could see it and feel it from her and it enriched my workshop experience even more.
Denise Vega

Religion Destroying Alliance
One religion demands to manage the Dining hall. Sausages and bacon cannot be served. Utensils should only be used for food approved by that religion. Meals must be prepared in the prescribed manner, by approved staff and served in accordance to the religious calendar. Another religion wants to control the routine of the school. To determine days and times learning, exams and sports can be held; when the day starts, what can or cannot be done and when and how the school should worship. Another desires to determine the running of the chapel by deciding who can lead, preach, or pray. Women should not be allowed near the front or even to stand in chapel. The traditionalists even claim that circumcised boys should not be instructed by women.
All Africa

Nigeria’s religious leaders welcome controversial anti-gay law
Christian and Muslim leaders in Nigeria welcomed a controversial law that bans same-sex marriages and imposes a 14-year jail term for homosexual relations. On Monday (Jan. 13), President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, which parliament passed in May. The law follows a similar one passed in Uganda in December, which imposes life imprisonment for some types of homosexual acts.
The Washington Post

The Church of ‘Yeezianity’ Is a New Religion That Worships Kanye West
“Yeezianity” is either an actual new religion that considers rapper Kanye West to be its “savior” or a hilarious and elaborate art project that almost approaches the brilliance of West’s work. Either way, the “Church of Yeezus” has a very comprehensive website, which presents the religion as an “anonymous group who believes that the one who calls himself Yeezus is a divine being who has been sent by God to usher in a New Age of humanity.”



Muslim community not yet convinced about AAP

The popularity of the Aam Aadmi Party has skyrocketed after the party’s stunning debut in Delhi assembly elections in December 2013. National parties like BJP and Congress are now concerned about AAP’s rising popularity while regional parties look clueless in the face of the new political development. The aura around Narendra Modi has diminished a bit after AAP came to power in Delhi. Now all the parties have to factor in the AAP effect in their electoral strategy. Till now every thing has gone in favour of AAP. But the only concern for the party could be the Muslim factor. The Muslim leaders as well as the voters have demanded party’s clarification on the issues related to the community before extending their support. There seems to be not much support for AAP among the Muslims.
IBN Live

Religion can’t determine guilt, Modi writes to PM
Dubbing as a “brazen attempt” to woo the minority community home minister Sushilkumar Shinde’s remarks on minority youths in jails on terror charges, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said it marked a “new low” for the country. He also asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to advise his cabinet colleague not to focus his attention on minorities alone as “principles at stake” could not be sacrificed “at the altar of political expediency”.
The Times of India

Mastermind Of The Sept. 11 Attacks Wants To Convert His Captors
The mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks now says that the use of violence to spread Islam is forbidden by the Quran, a major shift away from the more militaristic view he had put forward previously. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s thinking is detailed in a first-of-its-kind 36-page manifesto obtained by The Huffington Post. In a departure from his previous stance, which led the Guantanamo Bay prisoner to tell a military commission, “it would have been the greatest religious duty to fight you over your infidelity,” KSM, as he’s known in intelligence circles, instead seeks to convert the court to Islam through persuasion and theological reflection, going so far as to argue that “The Holy Quran forbids us to use force as a means of converting” and that reaching “truth and reality never comes by muscles and force but by using the mind and wisdom.”
Huffington Post

The Irish and Asian Buddhism is a  story that goes back 14 centuries
In pre-independence Ireland, Buddhism was a symbol of human difference, a religion older than Christianity and now coming very close to home – in racehorse names and advertising quotes, movies and novels, exhibitions and university courses. Molly Bloom’s soliloquy immortalises a Burmese Buddha statue that once stood in the National Museum entrance; but by the time Ulysses was written, Irish writers and artists had been playing with Buddhist culture for a century.
The Irish Times

Religious groups face increased hostility worldwide – report
Violence and discrimination against religious groups by governments and rival faiths have reached new highs in all regions of the world except the Americas, according to a new Pew Research Centre report. Social hostility such as attacks on minority faiths or pressure to conform to certain norms was strong in one-third of the 198 countries and territories surveyed in 2012, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, it said on Tuesday. The report found the highest social hostility concerning religion in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Somalia and Israel.

Come on, atheists: we must show some faith in ourselves
Atheists are very often lumped in with secularists, although these concepts are nothing like the same. But perhaps most vexingly, while the fine distinctions among the religious are pored over in every survey (are you this kind of Christian or that; are you practising, or do you simply tell people you have a spiritual side?), the most important and exhaustive survey we have on British belief doesn’t even ask the question “Are you an atheist?”. In last year’s British Social Attitudes survey 48% of respondents said they had no religious affiliation. A category that accounted for a third of people in 1983 is now nearly half the population. And nobody thought to ask: “Why not? Did you fall out with organised worship and decide to just ad lib at home? Or do you profoundly believe that you can wring more meaning and beauty from the world accepting it as it is, rather than concocting deities?”
The Guardian


Bangla Hindus caught in political crossfire

Activists of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami were blamed for attacks on the Hindus, who were accused of backing Awami League which won the January 5 polls despite a boycott by the opposition.
The Free Press Journal

Is the Bible’s definition of faith opposed to logic and evidence?
Probably the biggest misconception that I encounter when defending the faith is the mistaken notion of what faith is. Today we are going to get to the bottom of what the Bible says faith is, once and for all. This post will be useful to Christians and atheists, alike.
Wintery Knight

‘Hand on the faith,’ Pope instructs parents at baptism
During his homily at Sunday mass, Pope Francis reminded parents who had brought their infants to be baptized of their duty to pass on the faith to their children. “Today, carry this thought home with you. We must be transmitters of the faith. Think of this, think always of how to hand on the faith to (your) children,” he told the families who were gathered for mass in the Sistine Chapel.

PM: Government to administer country based on Islamic principles
The government is committed to ensure that Malaysia achieves the developed nation status by the year 2020 and will use the Islamic principles and syari’a as the mould for administration as provided for by the constitution, said Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
New Strait Times

Beat illness – Build a healthy body – like Chuck Norris
Chuck Norris pummels his enemies and opponents. When it comes to martial arts and his acting roles in television and films (Walker, Texas Ranger/Delta Force), Norris knows how to take care of business. You may have seen him act and, perhaps, talk about exercise (Total Gym), but did you know that Norris also speaks about spirituality walloping pain and disease?


In a culturally diverse India, its New Year all year round

Five days into 2014 already, folks. If you’re one of those who’ve missed out on wishing ‘Happy New Year’ to somebody, worry not. Chances are, you can do so later this month, in March, April, in fact right up till December this year! After all, isn’t the New Year just another calibration on the calendar for Indians all over? In case you miss the Gregorian New Year on January 1, the next New Year may just be around the corner.

Premarital sex ‘immoral’, no religion permits it: Court
Premarital sex is “immoral” and against the “tenets of every religion”, a Delhi court has said while holding that every act of sexual intercourse between two adults on the promise of marriage does not become rape.
The Times of India

Family values & religion: India Inc reluctant to cash in on opportunities in non-veg market?
The headline was waiting to happen: ‘Reliance Retail Chickens out, turns Vegetarian’. For decades, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has kept investors in good spirits by creating shareholder value through multi-billion dollar investments in core assets like refineries and petrochemical plants.
The Economic Times

Religion and Its Role in Human Life
Religion (din) is an all-round movement in the light of faith in Allah and a sense of responsibility for the formation of thought and belief, for the promotion of high principles of human morality for the establishment of good relations among members of the society and the elimination of every sort of undue discrimination. Keeping in view this definition, our need for religion and religious teachings is absolutely clear. To be a little more elaborate, it may be said that we require religion for the following reasons:
AhlulBayt Islamic Mission

African Americans and Religion
It baffles me to no end how blacks can practice a religion introduced to us by slave masters and used to justfiy slavery. I am so passionate about it that I cannot have any respect for black Christians. I think they are so stupid that it has caused me to not have any connection with the black community because church is such a central part of it.  How are atheists who are more open minded manage to keep the peace?
Secular News Daily

After a schism, a question: Can atheist churches last?
The Sunday Assembly was riding high. The world’s most voguish — though not its only — atheist church opened last year in London, to global attention and abundant acclaim. So popular was the premise, so bright the promise, that soon the Sunday Assembly was ready to franchise, branching out into cities such as New York, Dublin and Melbourne. “It’s a way to scale goodness,” declared Sanderson Jones, a standup comic and co-founder of The Sunday Assembly, which calls itself a “godless congregation.”

Is Judaism Past or Future?
I think that what is so unique and meaningful about the Jewish religion is that while we keep creation and revelation burning brightly and strong, we are focused primarily on redemption. Theologically, we are focused on cultivating and taking the light of Or Bereishit and Or Sinai. We then utilize these lights to ultimately move us toward Or Mashiach – a redeemed soul, a redeemed Torah, a redeemed society, and a redeemed G-d, so to speak.
The Jewish Press

Sikhs to observe their 10th Guru’s birth anniversary
People from the community will start the celebrations from Sunday. The Sikh community in Belapur will organise a ‘parbhat pheri’ (early morning processions observed right before gurpurab) on Sunday. The companions, or the sangat who are part of the parbhat pheri, will recite Gurbani kirtan (religious songs).
The Times of India

Why is Mulayam Singh Yadav hacking his own support base?
The assumption behind the question is fairly straightforward. With the decline of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh, the state’s substantial Muslim population turned to Mulayam as its Messiah. Then why is he alienating his vote bank in Muzaffarnagar with such diligence? To begin with, how did he become a leader of Muslims?
India Today

Fear of insecurity haunts Hindu voters
Hindu voters in different places including Patgram in Lalmonirhat district and Kalaroa upazila in Satkhira district have expressed doubts whether they can go to polling centres and cast votes peacefully today as fear of insecurity still haunts them against the backdrop of Jamaat-Shibir men’s recent attacks on the community.
The Daily Star

Samajwadi Party government conspiring to take over the land of Muslims: MBMC
Millat Bedari Muhim Committee (MBMC) of Aligarh Muslim University has lambasted the Akhilesh Yadav government of conspiring to take over lands of Muslims displaced in the Muzaffarnagar riots. MBMC secretary Jasim Mohammad said that the state government was forcing the displaced Muslims to submit affidavits for not returning to their homes. Mohammad said this was a conspiracy of the Samajwadi Party to take possession of their homes and lands.
The Times of India

Despite harsh rule over Tibet, Tibetans’ spirit only grows stronger
“We have quite a number of Tibetans from Tibet here and we’re meeting in a free country. People in Tibet continue to hope that those in exile will not forget them. It’s been 54 years since we came into exile and 64 years since 1949. And yet, the Tibetan spirit has not been subdued,” His Holiness said after completing his ten-day teachings in South India.
The Tibet Post

Converging faiths
Last month, a research grant provided by the Saarc Cultural Centre led us to a far away village in the Eastern hills  of Nepal, popularly known as Halesi, located in Khotang district. The field visit was aimed at learning the significance of the Halesi Mahadev, which is a religious centre and draws a large number people from different ethno-cultural backgrounds. Halesi is considered an abode of deities of three major religious faiths—Hinduism, Buddhism and Kirat dharma—along with several local cults and traditions.

Muslims shower petals on RSS march at Jabalpur
On September 15, scores of burqa-clad women showered rose petals at chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s Jan Ashirvad Rath as it swept past Raddi Chowki – a predominantly Muslim-dominated pocket in old city. On Saturday, Muslims at Damoh Naka, barely a stones throw away from the Chowki did it again.
The Times of India

When religion conflicts with football
On Saturdays, Jews celebrate their Sabbath. For Christians, their holy day is Sunday. On the first two weekends in January, the National Football League have their playoff games on both days. What is a person to do when religion and football collide?
The Washington Times

Faith is Something That You Become
Faith is something which is within you. It is your quality. It is something that you become, not something that you believe in. Faith is just a deep falling back into the Existence. You as a person have fallen apart, you have just become like a simple little wave with the Existence. You understand and you experience that you are just a brief happening here. This moment the wave is up, the next moment it will be down. It is not an intellectual understanding, it is a living experience that you just see yourself as a small outcrop of this earth. When you are like this as a living experience, then you are faith. Until then there is no point talking about faith.
The New Indian Express


Finding God in Maximum Security Prison

It was simple curiosity that guided photographer Serge J-F. Levy to New York’s Green Haven Correctional Facility in 2002. “Without having any personal predisposition to any religious activity but having a fascination with how people can work on their spirituality and healing their souls, I was interested in how this was happening in an environment that seemed to be everything but conducive to that,” Levy said.

Jihad most misunderstood concept of Islam: Historian
Jihad normally evokes images of bearded men shaking their fists, smoke bellowing from two towers and hooded men wielding grenade launchers. “So ingrained is the fear of the word that my lecture in Chennai almost got cancelled after some people raised concerns over jihad being the topic,” historian S Irfan Habib said on Friday.
The Times of India

Hydropower and spirituality cannot co-exist
Narendra Modi has criticised the Congress Government of Uttarakhand for not being able to push hydropower projects. He has said that the people of the state are unemployed, but the UPA Government is not concerned. He has also suggested that Uttarakhand should be named a different type of SEZ—Spiritual Environment Zone. He has thus projected hydropower as a solution to the problem of unemployment and he sees no conflict of this with spiritual life. Modi’s understanding is wholly misplaced.
The Free Press Journal

Homosexuality and Islam – Indian Muslims’ Responses
How could a religious minority be against sexual minority, asks a Muslim journalist,  M. Reyaz, who does not see any conflict with being a “believer” and a part of religious minority while at the same time being an empathizer with sexual minority. ‘Not that I was ever a champion of rights of LGBT, certainly my religious beliefs restrains me. But at the same time, I never suffered with homophobia.’ His suggestion for orthodox Muslims is not to impose one’s moral values on others. ‘No one is forcing Muslims to drink alcohol, no one is forcing us to have extra-marital affairs and no one is forcing Muslims to “turn” homosexual. So why this hue and cry? Simply because we do not believe in something, are we thence going to prevent others from practicing it too?’

BJP takes a jab at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 1984 anti-Sikh riots
Stung by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s remark that Narendra Modi will be “disastrous” for the country as PM, BJP hit back suggesting whether Singh should apply the same yardstick to Rajiv Gandhi under whose tenure the 1984 anti-Sikh riots took place.
The Economic Times

Political Islam: A movement in motion
If Maulana Maudoodi, one of two or three people who gave birth to modern political Islam, were to travel through the Muslim world now, he would find some mildly pleasant and very unpleasant surprises. Some 35 years after his death, the political movement he founded, Jamaat-i-Islami, remains an influential force in Pakistan, especially in the area bordering Afghanistan. In Bangladesh, meanwhile, the movement’s leaders look likely to be executed (one has been already) on war-crimes charges relating to the country’s independence struggle in 1971, which they opposed.
The Economist

More Jewish parents question circumcision
When his pregnant wife first challenged circumcising their son, Mike Wallach had a gut reaction: “That’s what we do, we’re Jews!” But doubts about whether the surgery was medically necessary and concern over his wife’s opposition forced Wallach to confront some questions. Can you be Jewish without Judaism’s oldest ritual? he says he asked himself. What does it mean to be Jewish?
The Columbian

Dating, Drugs, Religion & Faith
I am surprised every single day by the world of online dating and fascinated by how dumb men are. Not stupid, although some are, but just dumb. How is it that a man can think using the words sexy, sensual, intimacy, lover, or oral in their profile names will make them attractive? Who told a man that posting a selfie while sitting on the toilet was going to be acceptable? What kind of man thinks pictures of him lying in bed without a shirt on is going to get a woman excited about meeting him? Come on gentlemen.|
Jewish Journal

The Top 11 from ’13: Academic Journals of Sociological Research on Religion
It’s 2014 and time for an annual review of the religion-related articles in the top journals in sociology. As I have done in the past, I use the ISI Web of Knowledge Journal Citation Reports to create the ranking of all sociology journals ranked by last year’s Impact Factor. Below I include a marker “tie” for those that appear in the same journal in the same year. It’s the journal rank that counts so those articles should be more or less ranked about the same. That said, 7 of the first 19 journals with the highest impact factor contained 11 articles related to religion. As of this writing the December issues of the American Journal of Sociology and Sociological Theory were not available so it’s possible that these rankings will miss important articles here.

The Art of Enjoying Life
In Hinduism, appreciation of life is viewed as an art one learns through maturity of thought and experience. In contrast, in western countries there is an assumption that enjoying life is something we acquire through situations or objects. Yet for almost a decade, western governments have seen that “in wealthy countries a continuing increase in economic growth is not increasing well-being,” as the New Economics Foundation states. A NEF study in 2008 found that “life expectancy, voice and accountability, climate, and natural capital were more important than GDP per capita” when measuring life satisfaction in 79 developing and developed countries.
Huffington Post

This Pope Makes Me Want to be an Atheist
The arguments about the current pope’s interpretations of Jesus’ true teachings is convincing me that an atheist has a better chance of hearing him with clarity. The question is why. Why do I come to this conclusion? I think it’s because when I apply this pope’s words, most of the atheists I know are better Christians than many of the Christians I know.
OpEd News

Shine on: 1,600 years of Irish Christianity
Treasures of Irish Christianity defies easy description. It is at once a book of articles with a strong historical bent and a miscellany of devotional or contemplative essays. Seventy-three authors, many of them well-known scholars, provide pieces on many aspects of Irish Christian tradition and belief. The book shines a light on well-known and on comparatively obscure episodes in the history of Irish Christianity from the Conversion, through all the vicissitudes of medieval times to the present day.
The Irish Times

Christianity Makes No Sense
During a talk I gave this fall on the psalms, I confessed: I am, in fact, just like King David. Though I acknowledged that many major details of our lives (gender, epoch, occupation, sling-shot skills, number of spouses, and current sex partners, for instance) are as different as different can be, the more of David’s psalms I read, the more I realize much of our internal lives are same-same. We’re both walking contradictions.
Christianity Today

What If Operating Systems Were Religions?
There is one true religion in operating systems, and it is UNIX. Or maybe it’s not the one true faith: there’s an earlier, older, more arcane religion with far fewer followers, MULTICS, from which UNIX sprang as a stripped-down rules-deficient heresy in the early days of the epoch. Either way, if MULTICS is Judaism (and the metaphor is questionable at this point, for unlike MULTICS, Judaism is still alive), then UNIX is Christianity.

Pakistan court heightens Christians’ wariness
A Pakistani court’s order for only the death sentence to be levied for insulting Islam’s prophet will further endanger Christians and heighten the powers of the Islamic court that issued it, Morning Star News reported from sources inside the country.|
Baptist Press

Real Story of My Spiritual Journey to Reform Judaism
Over the past two weeks I’ve been both heartened and horrified by the spectrum of response to what, I felt, was a spontaneous and sincere statement of unity and joy — my proclamation of “aliyah” to Reform Judaism, made at the biennial conference of the Union for Reform Judaism.
The Jewish Daily Forward

Savage Harvest: Stories of Partition
Sarna’s characters are mostly common people. Their religious identities — as Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs — suddenly become the sole deciders of their fate after the border is drawn. On meeting after Partition, they are distrustful of one another. But as they slowly mingle, they realise that their pasts are similar; they’ve all lost loved ones or been separated from them and, in this similar twisted fate, they find solace in each other as human beings rather than religious beings. This is brought out beautifully in ‘Of one community’ where a Hindu lady, on drinking ‘Muslim water’ instead of ‘Hindu water’, has an urge to throw up when she discovers her ‘mistake’.
The Hindu

Why Do Hindu Beliefs Vary Widely?
Many religions have a clear history that’s easy to trace. Many are founded by one person or inspired by one person. Hinduism is not like that. In ancient times there were simply beliefs and practices. The people in what is now India lived in a certain way and the name for their way of life was simply The Eternal Truth. At that time they had no need to codify or distinguish their beliefs from others. Everyone believed what he believed and there were some common threads and common ideas and worship practices, but people mostly believed and worshiped the way others around them did in their little area.

Govt schemes don’t reach 93% backward caste Muslims: Study
The study was conducted by Razia Patel, head of the Minority Cell, Indian Institute of Education, a semi-government organisation in Pune. Minister of State for Home (urban and rural) and Rural Development Satej Patil released the report at the IIE Friday. “The biggest misconception among the common people and higher officials alike is that Muslims do not have a caste system. There are castes that fall in the category of nomadic tribes and de-notified tribes (NT/DNT) who have issues just like NT/DNT Hindus. These castes are not registered or acknowledged and have had no place in census and socio-economic researches so far,” said Patel.
The Indian Express

Tunisia MPs reject Islam as main source of law
Tunisian lawmakers rejected Islam Saturday as the main source of law for the country that spawned the Arab Spring as they voted for a second day on a new constitution. The voting comes amid concerns that a January 14 deadline for the new  charter’s adoption may not be met because of disruptions and the slow pace of  deliberations.
New Strait Times


The tussle between Science and Religion

The word “religion” is often used, rather effectively, to demonize a category of people who hold a strong conviction about something heavenly or metaphysical and propose to translate that belief into action. Time and again the world has witnessed the conflicts between Science and Religion. Irrespective of the progress we have made in Science, many sections of the society still deem religion to be above all other things. In fact, more than often, scientific ideas have posed a direct challenge to the religious sentiments of many people.
The Indian Economist

Politics of development without Hindus’ safety unacceptable: VHP
The stand was made clear by Pravin Togadia, international working president of the VHP, who is here for a three-day meeting of board of trustees and governing council. He said that the VHP in its meetings with more than 450 MPs from different parties in the last six months has made clear that every political party must give priority to education, health, employment, security and self respect for Hindus including a commitment to build Ram temple at Ayodhya.
The Times of India

50 Great Myths About Atheism
On second thought, maybe 50 sounds like overkill. Surely half a dozen, or 10 at the most, would suffice. Do we really need to challenge the “myth” that the courts recognise atheism as a religion or that atheism is only for an educated elite? I don’t think these are real controversies and that is really the problem with this book – it is preaching, if not to an empty church, then to one filled entirely with fellow theological scofflaws. Vicar Blackford and his excellent organist Mr Schüklenk can lift their fellow spirits to a fine chorus of All Things Godless and Beautiful, but no one is going to be persuaded by any of their 50 carefully constructed mini-debates. Clearly that is not their purpose.
Times Higher Education

7 Ways Christians Should Behave Online
I have had an online ministry for over 15 years. God has humbled me with the way He has chosen to use this influence He has given me. I try not to take it for granted. One thing that has changed since I began ministering online…and it’s changed for all of us…is the rise of social media. Whether you believe it’s a good addition or not, we cannot deny it’s impact on culture or even on the church. Personally, I have chosen to use it for good as much as possible.
Ron Edmondson

2013 Top Fatwas
Religious studies and views, like other areas of people’ lives, have interacted with various events and human concerns. OnIslam Fatwas have drawn very high rates of viewership throughout the year 2013. I’d below highlight 2013 top fatwas and analyze people’s major juristic inquires and concerns so as to encourage further studies and in-depth works on such significant areas:
On Islam

Ian Barbour dies at 90; academic who bridged science-religion divide
For Ian Barbour, the deadly possibilities of the Atomic Age raised questions that science couldn’t answer — a perplexing situation for a young physicist after World War II. He responded to the challenge in an unusual way: After completing his doctorate in physics he enrolled in divinity school and forged a career devoted to bridging the chasm between science and religion.
Los Angeles Times

Meditation, mindfulness and mind-emptiness
Ever been unable to sleep because you can’t switch off that stream of thoughts that seems to flow incessantly, mercilessly through your head? When your mental noise distracts you from the task at hand, makes you forget why you walked into a room, or keeps you awake at night, you’re a victim of what is known in the East as “the monkey mind”. It is this thought stream that, according to Eastern tradition, is the source of much of our modern day stress and mental dysfunction. So, what can you do about it?
The Conversation


Kejriwal’s AAP forms task force to win the trust of Muslims

AAP’s National Executive and Political Advisory Committee member Sanjay Singh said, “We realised that the party did not perform well in the Muslim-dominated areas. I feel that the reason for this was that they did not trust us since we were a new party but now they have seen how we have done and I’m hopeful they will now trust us.”
The Indian Express

Why can’t there be a New Year Puja in a Hindu Temple?
Given the fact that Hinduism has absorbed so much from other religions, I wonder which holy book they referred to incur this conclusion. It is indeed interesting to observe that visiting a temple, early on the January 1 is a custom that probably started in Chennai but it has now grown to all parts of South India. Often temples in Chennai have serpentine queues on January 1.
The Economic Times

For human rights to flourish, religious rights have to come second
We are all human. We are not all of the same religion, or religious at all. One cannot protect religious rights if they are used as a reason to abuse human rights, human equalities, as so often they are. Britain may not be able to export its new-found anti-discriminatory zeal to the rest of the world with much ease. But Britain is in a good position to start working out a framework whereby people with diverse beliefs can live together without conflict, safe in the knowledge that the religious beliefs of all who respect human rights will be respected in turn. People need to answer on Earth to our fellow humans. We can square things with our God, if we have one, when and if that day arrives. Compliments of the season, whatever that means to you.
The Guardian

“Learn what they know, so you know what they need to know”
“A free series of presentations for students to seniors” by Benedictine Father Michael G. Brunner from January four to March one on Saturdays at Saint Anselm Parish Centre in Creve Coeur (Missouri) include Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism and Islam. The flyer, created to announce these World Religions series contains the tagline “Learn what they know, so you know what they need to know.” Distinguished religious statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) on Tuesday, said that this “need to know” tagline was highly inappropriate reference to great world religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism and Islam.
India Blooms

Christians and Muslims: Is there Any Common Ground?
The single most surprising, and disappointing, thing about the various Christian-Muslim dialogue efforts is that the topic of the need for a re-hellenization of Islam – a restoration of philosophy and critical thinking – is almost never addressed in a major, serious way. Yet it is upon this that the future of real dialogue depends. The year before becoming Pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said that, “without peace between reason and faith, there cannot be peace at the world level, because without peace between reason and religion, the very sources of morals and the rule of law dry out.”
Intercollegiate Review

First religious freedom chief aims to make Canada ‘world leader’ in the field
Canada’s first religious freedom ambassador says his job advancing and promoting religious liberty around the globe has an equally important role: to support Canadian diplomats as they work abroad. Andrew Bennett’s vote of confidence in the Canadian foreign service comes despite years of tension between diplomats and the very Conservative government that created his job early last year.
CTV News

When Jews and Blacks Got Along Better Than Ever — in Hip-Hop World
Some of the most talked about releases in hip-hop this year were recorded by Jewish artists: Drake, Mac Miller and Action Bronson. But 2013 also saw a slew of Jewish mentions in hip-hop. “I be out tomorrow, my lawyer’s Jewish,” sang A$AP Ferg in January’s “Work.” “He put in work, got these n—-s going bezerk.” By August, a YouTube video compilation went viral, showing rappers Kanye West, Cam’ron, Killer Mike, Gucci Mane and Jay-Z thanking their Jewish lawyers in songs; a huge Star of David bling adorned the cover of Rick Ross’s latest “The Black Bar Mitzvah.”
Jewish Daily Forward



Abode of Lord Shiva has 1,388 sacred sites of minority community: Survey

Banaras, known as cultural capital of India and sacred city of Hindus, records about one-fourth of its total population (1.65 million in 2010) as Muslims. The importance of Muslims in Banaras is noticed by existence of their 1,388 sacred sites. There are over 3,300 shrines and sacred sites of Hindus. A professor of cultural geography and heritage studies, Banaras Hindu University (BHU) Rana BP Singh conducted a detailed study and survey of Muslim sacred sites. The study titled ‘Muslim shrines and multi-religious visitations in Hindus’ city of Banaras: Co-existential Scenario’ gives a detailed account of such sites.
The Times of India

Jat couple who fought their own to save Muslims
Torched houses and barren streets stare at you as you enter Fugana – one of the nine villages worst hit by the September 8 communal clashes that shook Western Uttar Pradesh and displaced more than 50,000 Muslims. Step a little deeper into the village, you will spot a rare sight – a Muslim woman going about her daily chores. Noorjehan, 50, did not abandon her house during riots, though she knew she was the only one in the community to stay back.
The Tribune

Govt plans PF-like corpus for Muslim education
In a unique initiative modelled after a Haj fund in Malaysia, the Ministry of Minority Affairs is looking at a Provident Fund-like corpus raised through contributions from the community, for investing in higher education infrastructure for Muslims. It has asked SBI Capital Markets — an investment bank and the project advisor — to conduct a feasibility study and submit a report.
The Indian Express

Hindus urge Scotland’s Muirfield golf course to allow women members
Hindus have asked Scotland’s Muirfield, The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, to open membership to women also. Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that women membership was long overdue and it would bring an end to 269-years old gender discrimination. Men only membership policy of Muirfield was highly inappropriate, immoral and archaic, Zed added.
The Jet Newspaper

Regular Event gets Religious Twist
Until mid-December a board put up at the entrance of Azhagankulam, a nondescript village with an equal sprinkling of Muslim and Hindu population in Ramanathapuram district, served as a “warning” to troublemakers. The board read: “Warning: Campaigning using microphones and pasting posters are prohibited. Violators will be severely punished.”
The New Indian Express

Top 10 Forgotten Ancient Religions
The ancient world was home to a huge variety of religions and belief systems. Most have faded away, their temples and statues vanished or half-sunk in the desert sand, their gods barely remembered. The religions on this list were all founded before most of the main religions of today (Christianity, Hinduism, Islam) and most of them have completely died out—although some are being revived by new practitioners.
Humans Are Free

A Brief Note on Christians and Homosexuality
Especially with a certain television show’s antics, there have been recent flare-ups again in the culture wars, with some atheists (and unfortunately, some Christians) saying that Jesus wants His followers to use violence against gay people. Let’s put aside the question of whether Jesus views homosexuality as a sin, not because this is irrelevant to the broader culture war, but because it’s irrelevant to the very specific issue I am discussing.
Free Advice

Spiritual journalism – stirrings of a new awakening in media
Spiritual journalism is not about vague thoughts. It seeks to connect with people, as much as journalism itself. With existence in today’s world becoming increasingly complex, a large number of people, especially the youth, are seeking nirvana or salvation via television or print media. Thus, one finds news organisations devoting increased attention and resources on coverage of spiritual and ethical concerns. A critical change is in the way the field is covered and how much space and airtime are allotted to it. The number of religion reporters — particularly in television, which has largely ignored the topic — is growing as it becomes clear that religion and spirituality are topics that permeate daily life.

Top religion stories of 2013
After the jump, the top religion news stories of 2013, based on a  poll of the Religion Newswriters Association.  Strangely downplayed or omitted:  the persecution of Christians in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East; the new assaults on religious liberty; the new prominence of aggressive atheism; the rise of the “nones.”

Does religion affect economic growth and happiness? Evidence from Ramadan
A fascinating paper by Filipe R. Campante and David H. Yanagizawa-Drott of Harvard. They look at economics around Ramadan month celebrated by Muslims. It seems growth comes down during the month but people are happier:
Mostly Economics

Islam to become Ireland’s second religion by 2043
Islam will become Ireland’s second religion within the next 30 years because of dramatic population growth and immigration.

God is the Highest Perfect Term of Our Being
We are to exceed our human stature and become divine; but if we are to do this, we must first get God; for the human ego is the lower imperfect term of our being, God is the higher perfect term. He is the possessor of our supernature and without His permission there can be no effectual rising. The finite cannot become infinite unless it perceives its own secret infinity and is drawn by it or towards it; nor can the symbol-being, unless it glimpses, loves and pursues the Real-being in itself, overcome by its own strength the limits of its apparent nature. It is a particular becoming & is fixed in the nature of the symbol that it has become; only the touch of that which is all becomings and exceeds all becomings, can liberate it from the bondage to its own limited Nature. God is That which is the All and which exceeds the All. It is therefore only the knowledge, love and possession of God that can make us free. He who is transcendent, can alone enable us to transcend ourselves; He who is universal can alone enlarge us from our limited particular existence.
The New Indian Express




Faith in the family: How belief passes from one generation to the next

For more than three decades Bengtson had strayed far from his Christian upbringing in rural central California, where his father was pastor of a small Evangelical Covenant Church. A sociology professor at the University of Southern California and noted scholar on the dynamics of aging, Bengtson had compartmentalized his faith from his academic work until he began delving into how and why religion is passed down from one generation to the next.
Desert News

Why non-believers need rituals too
One of the problems I have with the New Atheism is that it fixates on ethics, ignoring aesthetics at its peril. It tends also towards atomisation, relying on abstracts such as “civic law” to conjure a collective experience. But I love ritual, because it is through ritual that we remake and strengthen our social bonds. As I write, down the road there is a memorial being held for Lou Reed, hosted by the local Unitarian church. Most people there will have no belief in God but will feel glad to be part of a shared appreciation of a man whose god was rock’n’roll.
The Guardian

Buddhism and biology: a not-so-odd couple
Buddhism’s appeal in the West has thus far mostly involved its promise of increased inner serenity, derived primarily from mindful meditation, to which can be added a developing strain of “socially engaged Buddhism,” as reflected in the political activism of the Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma/Myanmar, and the beloved Vietnamese scholar/monk Thich Nhat Hanh, along with numerous Western activists such as Joanna Macy and the late Robert Aitken. It turns out that in addition, Buddhism and biology have much to say to each other. In part, this might be because Buddhism can be considered as much a philosophy and intellectual perspective as a traditional religion. That is certainly the nature of my own Buddhist “practice,” which has little patience for those aspects of Buddhism that resemble standard religions: belief in various supernatural deities, worship of relics or statues, taking fairy tales as literal truth. But wipe away the mystical nonsense and abracadabra, and we find that many of the foundational ideas of Buddhism converge with newly revealed, empirically-based insights of biology, especially the disciplines of ecology, evolution, genetics, and development.
OUP Blog

Religious without religion
To be a religious believer we have to follow certain strict rules which cannot be violated. For instance as Muslims we believe that Allah is the only God and the Prophet Muhammad is His messenger; we must regularly observe the five daily prayers (shalat), pay zakat (alms), fast (saum) during the month of Ramadhan, and perform the haj (pilgrimage) at least once in a lifetime — all these are the five pillars of Islam. As Muslims we cannot evade those five pillars except for some specific exceptions.
The Jakarta Post

Bruce Langtry on “What is Philosophy of Religion?”
Philosophical discussions of ‘bare’ theism (the proposition that God exists) which completely ignore theistic religion are rarer than one might at first think. For example, although there is little discussion of any theistic religions in Graham Oppy’s Arguing about Gods, Oppy says that the book is specifically about ‘the kinds of arguments that contemporary Christian philosophers of religion typically give when they give arguments on behalf of the claim that the orthodoxly conceived monotheistic god in which they happen to believe exists.’ (Graham Oppy, Arguing about Gods, Cambridge University Press 2006, p.xv). Similarly, John Mackie, in his 1955 article on the problem of evil, makes it clear that his main concern is to argue that ‘religious beliefs are positively irrational, that the several parts of the essential theological doctrine are inconsistent with one another …’ (J.L. Mackie, ‘Evil and Omnipotence,’ Mind 64 (1955), p.200.)
Philosophy of Religion

A guide to the gods and enlightened beings: Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s West Wing
Aside from the purely visual pleasures they provide, the Cleveland Museum of Art’s new Chinese, Indian and Southeast Asian galleries constitute an invitation to learn about Hinduism and Buddhism, the predominant religions represented in the new displays. This admittedly incomplete guide is intended as a rudimentary introduction to some of the religious ideas and holy figures represented in the galleries and to encourage deeper looking, learning and appreciation.

Top 5 Atheist Books of 2013
2013 was a very good year for books and though narrowing them down to five is no easy task, it seemed only right to provide some must read material to start your new year off right.
Digital Journal

‘Bid to Alienate Tribals from Hindu Religion’
Delivering the key-note address at the cultural meeting organised as part of the birth centenary of Balasaheb Deshpande, the founder of Akhila Bharatheeya Vanavasi  Kalyan Ashram, Seema Surakha all-India joint organising secretary A Gopalakrishnan said  here on Thursday that it was from the days of East India Company that the Western Christian missionaries had started the efforts to  convert the tribals on a massive scale.
The New Indian Express

Indian Muslims and Aam Aadmi Party
Now as we see the upsurge of the Aam Aadmi party, Muslim community leadership once again is lagging behind in connecting themselves with the masses through popular movement and failed to create an electoral arithmetic where a vote can be easily transferred to Muslim leaders based on the development issues and this movements can create a mass leaders those are acceptable in the majority community.




Do not be afraid: Pope Francis’s Christmas midnight mass message

On this night let us share the joy of the Gospel: God loves us, he so loves us that he gave us his Son to be our brother, to be light in our darkness. To us the Lord repeats: “Do not be afraid!” (Lk 2:10). And I too repeat: Do not be afraid! Our Father is patient, he loves us, he gives us Jesus to guide us on the way which leads to the promised land. Jesus is the light who brightens the darkness. He is our peace. Amen.

As Christmas dawns
A Christmas editorial that has appeared annually since 1988.
Chicago Tribune

‘Muslims must focus on education to benefit from India’s progress’
The 125th anniversary of well known academic institution Anjuman Hami-e-Islam was celebrated at its sprawling campus in Sadar on Monday morning. The function’s chief guest MSA Siddiqui, who is also the chairman of National Commission of Minority Educational Institutions said, “Muslims need to get out of the minority mindset and focus on educating themselves to reap the benefits of India’s march towards development.”
The Times of India

Sardar Patel was not anti-Muslim, says LK Advani
In his blog, Advani expressed surprise at a “perverse” article in a national magazine which quoted records to brand Patel as a man “rabidly communal in outlook” and Jawaharlal Nehru as a symbol “of secular nationalism”.
IBN Live

VHP, heads of Maths warn govt against Anti-Superstition Bill
Addressing the meeting, Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Gopalji said, “Dharma is the soul of Bharath, Hindus see god in each particle in cosmology, and therefore tree, cow, nature, and stone are worshipped. This is a basic belief of man. We taught about the importance of nature to the world, and today various thinkers agree that the Indian notion of protecting the nature is the best way to achieve world peace.
Daiji World

The year’s 10 most intriguing religion books
Jesus, Paul, food, charity, and prayer were just some of the areas examined in this year’s crop of books under the broad heading of religion. Some of these titles rank at the top of the year’s best books, period. Others barely registered in the mainstream press, but are lavishly praised in their own fields. Here’s Religion News Service’s list of the year’s most interesting religion books, numbered but not ranked.
The Washington Post

Can you be too religious?
Actually, I seriously dislike the words religion and religious. First, there is no such thing as generic religiosity. There are Christians and Jews and Muslims and Hindus. No one practises religion, as such. And second, precisely because the word “religion” describes the common outward format through which these very different belief systems express themselves, it cannot describe each in its specificity. This is particularly tricky when it comes to Christianity, because at its heart is a figure who was thoroughly suspicious and condemnatory of religion. “Jesus came to abolish religion,” says the Washington-based poet and evangelist Jefferson Bethke. His YouTube poem Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus received 16 million views within two weeks of it being released. He’s right: the New Testament must be one of the most thoroughly anti-religious books ever written. It makes Richard Dawkins look very tame fare indeed.
The Guardian

Christians feel pressure to keep silent about their faith, Lord Carey warns
Christians in Britain feel under pressure to keep silent about their faith in public, a former Archbishop of Canterbury has warned, as he accuses the government of being “full of denial” and failing to speak up over human rights abuses across the globe.
The Telegraph

Religion is always in a state of flux
For the many millions of Christians around the world, we remember that while Christmas was previously a pagan festival, the nativity story in the words of the gospel writer Luke was about the miraculous birth of the special child ‘Christ Jesus’ the Messiah. The gospel writer Luke (2:52) writes of Jesus as a man ‘who grew in wisdom, stature and in favour with God and with men’.
The Sentinel

Sociology of religion: A Canadian perspective
Dawson and Thiessen write about the difficulties of defining religion, but they nonetheless make the common distinction between functional and substantive definitions. Despite their earlier tendency towards functionalist definitions, the authors claim to prefer a more substantive approach. Before getting to their definition, they discuss the postmodern critique of religion as a category, e.g., religion, as a concept, is relatively new and coloured by European history.

Religion: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
I’ve been in the study of religion for about 30 years and throughout all that time it has been relatively easy to avoid answering the inevitable personal questions that come up when people hear I work in a department of religion: Do you believe in God? Is American culture morally corrupt without religion? Isn’t religion bad for society?
Huffington Post

Atheist maintains there’s lots to be thankful for in the secular world
Almost every year around this time, I am accosted by at least one or two religious friends, acquaintances or coworkers (but not usually family — they tend to pointedly avoid the subject while in my presence), who seem to think that, as an atheist, I have nothing for which to be thankful. As a result, every year, I am consistently dumbfounded by their utter lack of awareness, intentionally or not, of all the secular reasons for which I (and they) should be thankful, not only on Thanksgiving Day, but every day of our lives.

Whither political Islam?
The downfall of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has put political Islam at a crossroads. Not only has it shown that ideology per se is not a guarantor of political success, but also that Islamists need to rethink their strategy and tactics in order to deal with the new environment following the Arab Spring. However, the debate over the end of political Islam in the Middle East is not only premature but also irrelevant and certainly misleading. Instead it would be more effective to discuss the ideological and political changes that might occur within Islamist movements during crisis time.

PTI to enforce true Islam, claims Imran
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan claimed on Monday that his party would enforce the true Islamic system in the country like the Muslim state founded in Madina by the Holy Prophet (SAW).
The News International

Carlos Santana – Music heals and charisma screams
In a recent PBS NewsHour interview, Santana was asked, “You talk about spirituality. Is it your sense that music is a kind of spirituality?” Santana responded, “It’s not kind. It’s 150 percent. Music was given to tame the beast, as they say in the Bible. You know, … fear and anger.”
Houston Chronicle



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