Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Jewish High Holidays Reflection 2011


The Coalition for Peace with Justice would like to express its deep gratitude for its friends and supporters who have worked, advocated and donated toward a just peace in Palestine-Israel.


A Personal Reflection on the Jewish High Holidays

by Maggid Rachel Galper

For many Jews, the High Holidays is the time of year we celebrate Creation and the sweetness of the New Year. It is also the time we rededicate ourselves to being Holy vessels by doing teshuvah - turning toward God. We do this by calling out to the Holy One with the Shofar (ram's horn), casting all that separates us from God (our "sins") into the waters during Tashlich, performing mikveh (ritual immersion) in living waters, and doing our best to repair the harm we have caused in the world through prayer, fasting, self-examination, and making amends. We renew our commitment to live and love with a willing spirit, a full heart, and a clear mind. Only then can we be sealed in the Book of Life for another year.

On Yom Kippur (The Day of At-One-Ment), we study the story of Jonah to remind us of the ways in which we, like him, are reluctant prophets trying to avoid our sacred responsibility to care for one another. This responsibility is clearly stated in Isaiah 57-58. Here God tells us to unlock the fetters of wickedness, let the oppressed go free, share our bread with the hungry, take the suffering into our homes and hearts, clothe the naked, and to pay attention to other beings (our kin). "This is the fast I desire!" God tells us. And we are told that if we do this Holy work, we will bring healing, light, and compassion to a dark and troubled world.

In Deuteronomy 30:14, we are reminded that God's teachings are never far away; they are within us, accessible and available. In verses 19-20, God tells us, "I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life- if you and your offspring would live...." So why, with such clear and loving instruction and guidance, is it so hard for us to choose life? Why must we set aside time and space to repent and return to God, ourselves and each other year after year?

Let me tell you a story....

Several days ago, I drove up to the mountains with a friend. It was raining, and everything was blanketed with mist. We visited the plants and trees as we always do, weeding where needed, picking tomatoes and peppers, enjoying the smells of rosemary, lavender, and basil. I noticed that on many of the plants, there were intricately woven spiders webs, laced with countless drops of rain glistening like precious gems along their many strands. I was awed by the beauty of God's creation. But at the same time, I realized that the spiders were constantly building and rebuilding their webbed homes to survive and trap their prey. The earth, my Torah, was showing me that what is beautiful and purposeful entangles and takes life. She was also teaching me that the webs we weave must constantly be made and remade.

I believe this is the blessing and the curse God speaks to us of in Deuteronomy. Thousands of years ago my ancestors stood on two separate mountains, six tribes on each, to shout amen to each of the blessings and curses recited by the Priests and Priestesses in the valley between them- the place of balance and clear seeing. They shouted acknowledgement to show God that they were choosing to live life with full understanding of the consequences for their actions.

During the High Holidays, I accept the same challenge offered my ancestors: to choose life by accepting the blessings and the curses and dwelling in the valley between them. It is a time of being humble and raw before my Maker, and releasing all that does not serve. For me, this means many things. It means accepting Divine guidance and becoming a clear vessel for God's will. It means combating despair. It means pursuing justice and speaking out when it is not being done. It means being compassionate and open to the Divine in everyone I meet- without exceptions. It means confronting bigotry and fundamentalism within and without. It means challenging oppression. And it means weaving a web without becoming entangled in it.

But if the High Holidays were the only time I had in which to do this deep inner searching and cleansing, I would be utterly lost. Fortunately, my tradition gives me opportunities every day and night to do teshuvah, turning toward God, by choosing to be in deep connection with the Holy. Herein lies the core of God's teachings for me: The world I seek to create is not baffling or beyond my reach. It is here and now- already within me, within us, within each moment, within each droplet, strand, and web, within every prayer, and within every amen.

May each and every day be our day for choosing life.

Coalition for Peace with Justice | P.O. Box 2081 | Chapel Hill | NC | 27515

Palestinian and Israeli Bereaved Families for Peace

To read more GO here See the newest effort - "Blood Relations"

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chaplain speaks on racism toward Muslims after 9/11

Student Newspaper - The Daily Orange > News

Chaplain speaks on racism toward Muslims after 9/11
By Hailey Temple

Contributing Writer

Published: Monday, September 26, 2011

Updated: Monday, September 26, 2011 01:09

Earlier this month, Syracuse University students and Americans across the nation recognized the loss of thousands of lives from the terrorist attacks on 9/11 ten years later.

For former U.S. Army Chaplain James "Yusuf" Yee, the 10-year anniversary marked not only a tragedy for the nation, but the revival of the American ideology called Islamophobia, or the sense of fear and hostility toward Muslims that leads to discrimination and racial profiling.

Yee spoke at the Life Sciences Complex on Thursday to a packed lecture hall after being invited by SU's Muslim Students' Association.

When Yee served as a chaplain to Muslims at Guantanamo Bay's Camp Delta in late 2002 into 2003, he said his purpose at the terrorist prison was two-fold: to be a religious adviser to the camp's command and to serve as a chaplain to both American Muslims and Muslim prisoners.

During his 12-month term at Guantanamo Bay, Yee saw firsthand the type of neglect and exploitation Muslim prisoners received from American counterparts.

"I saw religion being used as a weapon," Yee said. "Military guards would intentionally abuse the Quran in order to try and pressure these individuals in Guantanamo to give up some type of information, intelligence if they might have it."

"They wanted to try and break these individuals from their core belief as Muslims," he added.

Despite earning military recognition and high rankings for his religious efforts at Guantanamo Bay, Yee said he became a victim of Islamophobia in 2003 as he was traveling home to visit his wife and child in Seattle before finishing his term at Camp Delta.

While at a stop at Jacksonville Naval Air Station, Yee said he was swarmed by security and intelligence officers, interrogated and secretly arrested and accused for taking classified documents from Guantanamo Bay.

Yee spent 76 days at the Naval Consolidated Brig, a maximum-security prison for American enemy combatants.

"There were stories swirling around in the media that I was this ‘terrorist spy,' that I was working for al-Qaeda and the Taliban as a spy for the prisoners," Yee said.

As a military prisoner, Yee said he experienced the same neglect he saw other Muslim prisoners endure. Much like those prisoners, Yee was shackled "at the wrists, at the waist, at the ankles, in a suit of chains."

Once Yee's name was cleared of these allegations, he was released and reinstated as a military chaplain. He resigned and was honorably discharged from the military in 2003.

Although Yee is no longer a military member, the exploitation he witnessed and experienced as a Muslim continues to be a part of American society, he said.

Despite promises that Guantanamo Bay would close following President Barack Obama's election, the prisons are open and continue to house Muslims that are arrested and accused of terrorist acts.

Yee said he was enthusiastic about Obama's campaign "because he had the strongest position on Guantanamo and taking care of this human rights situation, but it has yet to be done." Now, Yee said he is very disappointed in how Obama has handled the Guantanamo situation.

Yee also described how Islamophobia has taken many forms in American government. After a prominent imam was invited to give the opening invocation for a state legislature, a state representative left the meeting.

"The guy walked out because he said ‘Mohammed is not my God,'" said Yee, followed by a few chuckles from the audience. "Well, Mohammed is not our God either … and this shows the ignorance, the lack of knowledge even our elected officials have about Islam."

Despite the profiling Muslims have received since Sept. 11, Yee and other Muslims remain optimistic about the status of Islam religion in American society.

One way that Yee described as a means of eliminating Islamophobia is by sharing the ‘Muslim narrative,' or as Yee said, by sharing stories of Muslims who also lost their lives on 9/11. Yee said Muslims need to be proactive in the media and share the stories.

Ismail Pathan, vice president of SU's Muslim Students' Association and junior finance major, also said he feels that this message needs to be heard.

"Many people often don't understand that Muslims are Americans, too, and any act against America is an act that is against them, too," Pathan said.

Pathan said this is a time when Muslim Americans need to talk about their experiences, and Yee did that.

For Mushaf Haque, a freshman communications and rhetorical studies major, improving the image of Muslims in America starts at a personal level.

"I am a big believer in leading by example," Haque said. "If my actions portray a positive image of Muslim peoples' lives, then that is my main goal."


See related news items
Andy Worthington's Site here
No More Gitmos here

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Support the work of Project Salam dot org

Please go to oneheartforpeace.blogspot.com or CLICK here for Sunday September 18, 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Flood Victims Need Our Love, Prayers and Acts

GO here and the one right below that post on One Heart For Peace...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

ALLAH: A Christian Response (Three Reviews)

Miroslav Volf (Author)

Frequently bought together with A Common Word: Muslims and Christians on Loving God and Neighbor by Miroslav Volf

Recent disputes like the "ground zero" mosque controversy have their roots in historical conflicts, according to Yale professor and author Volf (Exclusion and Embrace). The author, who grew up in what was then Yugoslavia, explains that Christians' ability to live in community with Muslims depends on their answer to one question: is the God of the Qur'an the same as the God of the Bible?

With a conversational tone and the backing of both sacred texts, the author argues that while beliefs about God may differ, the object of worship for both religions is the same (or at least the objects are "sufficiently similar"). Such "claims are spicy," but come after careful consideration. Volf provides a thorough examination of theology to show the complexity of what seems a simple question of terminology.

Perhaps the most stirring and involved debate concerns the comparison of the Christian Trinity to Allah. On such a heated topic, readers will appreciate Volf's sense of humor and optimism. Though the text may not convince those who fear religious pluralism, his timely call for Christian love toward Muslims should at least lead to further dialogue, if not increased social cooperation. This is an important book.

Product Description
Three and a half billion people—the majority of the world’s population—profess Christianity or Islam. Renowned scholar Miroslav Volf’s controversial proposal is that Muslims and Christians do worship the same God—the only God. As Volf reveals, warriors in the “clash of civilizations” have used “religions”—each with its own god and worn as a badge of identity—to divide and oppose, failing to recognize the one God whom Muslims and Christians understand in partly different ways.

Writing from a Christian perspective, and in dialogue with leading Muslim scholars and leaders from around the world, Volf reveals surprising points of intersection and overlap between these two faith traditions:

• What the Qur’an denies about God as the Holy Trinity has been denied by every great teacher of the church in the past and ought to be denied by Christians today.

• A person can be both a practicing Muslim and 100 percent Christian without denying core convictions of belief and practice.

• How two faiths, worshipping the same God, can work toward the common good under a single government.

Volf explains the hidden agendas behind today’s news stories as he thoughtfully considers the words of religious leaders and parses the crucial passages from the Bible and the Qur’an that continue to ignite passion. Allah offers a constructive way forward by reversing the “our God vs. their God” premise that destroys bridges between neighbors and nations, magnifies fears, and creates strife.

The most surprising part of the book was his analysis of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity in the light of Islamic monotheism. By his accounting, and he relies on traditional orthodox accounts of the Trinity, the affirmations and denials that make up the doctrine are well in line with Muslim teachings on the nature of God. Particularly interesting was his use of Nicholas of Cusa, a Christian theologian and philosopher who wrote eirenically toward Islam in the medieval era.

If you are looking for a thoroughly biblical and deeply Christian rationale for engagement with Muslims, you need to consider this book and its arguments. Volf's style is clear and accessible, with plenty of scholarly substance, yet written in a way accessible to non-scholars. Volf brings in the masterful argument set forth by theologian Nicholas of Cusa (1401 - 1464) and that of Reformer Martin Luther. Volf gave a good summary of the explanation of Nicholas of Cusa of the Trinity to the Muslim so that there is "no dispute between Christians and Muslim about God's unity" (51). One part of his explanation is that "[n]umbers are for creatures. God is not a creature. Therefore God is beyond number - beyond the number one as much as beyond the number three" (52). It must be noted that Nicholas of Cusa came up with this ingenious explanation of the Trinity after the fall and rape of Constantinople in 1453 by the Muslim armies of Sultan Mehmed II and the Christians were trying to sue for peace.

A Timely and Important Work by a Thoughtful and Loving Scholar, April 20, 2011
By Daniel A. Walter "Steelyeye" (Midland, TX USA):

In Allah, Miroslav Volf tackles the controversial question, "Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?" Volf points out that it is only since 9/11 and the emergence of Muslim terrorist groups into the forefront that Christians have begun to ask this question. The book is a timely and carefully written argument from the point of view of a Christian theologian to fellow Christians (with Muslims as an intended and important secondary audience) that demonstrates that indeed the God of the Qur'an and the God of the Bible share sufficient similarities to be deemed the same.

Volf opens the debate by briefly touching on the modern issues contrasting the opposition's viewpoint, exemplified by Pat Robertson, who believe that Allah is a different God from that of Christians, with that of his own. In the wake of the violent reactions throughout the Muslim world to the Danish cartoons that satirically portrayed Muhammad in 2006 and the peacemaking overture of the Islamic scholars who issued the "Common Word" document in 2007, knowing whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God is critical to achieving peace and combatting extremism. Volf does not address the issue of salvation. His stated goal is to lay the theological foundation for peaceful Muslim-Christian relations.

Volf examines the record of Muslim-Christian relations for precedents. His first is Nicholas of Cusa was a cardinal during the sack of Constantinople by Ottoman armies. His recommendation to the pope to arrange an interfaith conference rather than a new crusade was based on his conviction that Christians and Muslims worship the same God with different names and in different ways. His second example is from a century later when the Ottoman armies had invaded Hungary. Martin Luther described Muslims using the same fiery rhetoric as he did for all his opponents. For Luther the Muslims didn't worship a separate God, but like Catholics, Jews, and heretical groups, they did not rightly know the one true God, while acknowledging significant overlaps between the Christian and Muslim understanding of God.

Then Volf returns to the book's central question. He suggests that no two people have the exact same belief in God, even if they share a common faith, so he proposes that the God of Christians and Muslims can be said to be the same if they show sufficient similarity. Volf examines portions of the Qur'an, the Hadith, and the Bible and compares beliefs for normative Muslims and Christians: God is One, God is the Creator, God is transcends creation, and God is good. Also God commands that people love Him and love their neighbor. The key here is "normative." Volf sets aside extremist positions for the moment. Then, he examines the practices of Muslims and Christians. Stated beliefs are one thing. What person practices reflects what he truly believes. He concludes that to the extent that Muslims and Christians hold to the normative beliefs of their religion and practice the commandments to love God and love others, they do worship the same God. Muslims may worship God deficiently since they do not know God as revealed through Jesus Christ, but Volf is not examining the question of salvation.

Volf then examines some of the key differences between the Muslim and Christian conception of God. He clears up many of the misconceptions held by Muslims about the Christian doctrine of the Trinity and paints a picture of the Triune God to highlight another important difference, the nature of God's love. Though in both religions, God commands his followers to love, only in Christianity does God ask believers to love their enemies. The difference comes from the quality of divine love. For Muslims, God's self-love is the source of all human love. For Christians, the inter-personal love of the Trinity is the source. God's love is self-giving rather than self-directed. God does not love what is pleasing to Him, rather God loves and so transforms what is displeasing to Him to what pleases Him. These differences do not indicate that Muslims and Christians worship a different God, but are the basis for fascinating and rigorous debate about the nature of the one true God.

One of the most important points in Volf's argument is the inclusive nature of monotheism. Any attempt the confine God to a marker of identity (his example: the Christian Serbs) effectively reduces God to tribal deity. A community must instead align its own aspirations with God's character and demands. Both Muslims and Christians claim to worship the one God, but both communities often fall prey to having God align with their own narrow viewpoints. Since God does underly the ultimate values of both, this is a foundation for unity and peace.

Volf believes that unity and peace can be shared by Muslims and Christians who maintain an exclusivist religious worldview. Volf does not suggest that Christianity is the same as Islam, just because both adherents worship the same God. Nor must either group surrender the truth claims of their respective religions. Muslims and Christians do not need to settle for relativism. They can disagree with one another on important religious beliefs such as the nature of salvation, while remaining committed to treating one another with dignity and fighting for the common good of all. The foundation for this "political pluralism" for "religious exclusivists" is in the shared belief that the two most important commands are to love God and love one's neighbor. Additionally, a commitment to justice precludes treating the other as second-class citizen. Thus, Volf also has critics of religion, such as the new atheists, in is sights. Monotheism is the basis for a just and ethical, peaceful society, committed to political pluralism. In his words, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of political wisdom in a multi-religious state" (241).

Volf concludes his work by giving ten ways the arguments of his book can be used by Christians, primarily, but also by Muslims to combat religious extremism, including terrorism. The book thus achieves its practical purpose of promoting peace and the common good of Muslims and Christians in society. I highly recommend this book to any Christian (or Muslim!) involved in interfaith dialogue, religious ministry, or mission work. While I don't agree with every point that Volf makes, his writing is very clear, logical, and easy to read. His arguments are well constructed, with a good balance of reason and revelation, with modern and historical examples. Though some of the topics are challenging theologically, it should not be difficult to follow for the layperson. There is a lot of material worth debating and discussing in Christian, Muslim, or interfaith groups.

Look Inside at Amazon.com

Product Details
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: HarperOne (February 15, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0061927074
ISBN-13: 978-0061927072
Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1.2 inches
Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)

Rendition Links (As of Early September 2011)

One way the USA demonstrates the desire for far more than freeing the world of terror is the nearly complete lack of accountability in extraordinary renditions and accompanying torture. This looks like empire mentality along with plain greed for oil and other resources including location. (Which becomes a kind of Crusade once again.)

The following renditions --atrocities and illegal movements to capture (or kidnap) people not even charged yet considered or "used" as "suspects" -- implicates well-known and not-so-well-known airlines and planes. Some of which is coming into focus because of a recent court trial...




(Be sure to see links on right side for international references)

(Andy Worthington on insider)

(by key leader of Inter-religious activists against torture)

(North Carolina Link)

Civilian Contractors own site:


Misc. earlier items:

September 01 2011 or late August:
http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=15654 SEE list of corporations
including Boeing on top

Fayetteville (may have interesting comments?)


August 2011 yet some refer to current concerns or may be earlier:
(See Andy's links to UN reports he helped make and to one by HRW)


Obama's acceptance of torture, renditions:

Interesting use of commentary while not our usual source:

The Guardian Aug. 31 2011


More North Carolina items some MUCH earlier:



Older for record:

(I suspect this one will be updated soon?)

And of course, the State of the Art on State Activism re. torture, ER
and related (keep coming back for more)

Torture is How We Become Villains

Sent from Chuck Fager - a longtime staff director at the Quaker House


During the Quaker House 40th anniversary in 2008, we presented an award to the Fayetteville Observer, for its series of hard-hitting editorials against torture. It was a series unprecedented in "mainstream media", never mind a paper in a major military town.

It remains so; and the OpEd below, just out, is a distinguished addition to this series:

As the paper wrote in 2008: “Torture is not how we overcome villainy. It’s how we become villains. It must be stopped.”

Hang your heads, News-Observer editors. Your craven complicity has been outed once again.

http://fayobserver.com/articles/2011/09/03/1119577?sac=Opin or CLICK here

Published: 12:00 AM, Sat Sep 03, 2011

And from the law professor ... silence
By Gene Smith

Even when I've disliked the drift of certain of President Obama's policies, there's usually been a discernible pattern of thought, an unspoken reassurance that at least he knows the location of "the right track." In one area, though, he's been a total disappointment.

I never expected him to round up Bush administration officials by the busload and haul them off to court, or to have the attorney general prosecute an ex-president and vice president whom Congress had shown little interest in impeaching even when many Americans were calling for just that. But neither did I expect acquiescence.
Pause for a couple of distinctions, small but important.

First, there is such a thing as executive privilege; it is legitimate, and it is deserving of protection.

Second, the Justice Department has some responsibility to mount a vigorous legal defense of whatever is defensible about a previous administration's actions, even if the current occupant of the White House hopes the courts rule the other way.

But: The Obama administration has consistently sided with, remained neutral toward or deflected attention from wrongdoing that needed confronting. And if his argument is that those past deeds were not things he wanted cluttering his first-term agenda, my reply is that his argument makes sense in regard to, say, gun control, but not in regard to the very essence of what America is and does.

"We do not torture," said President Bush, in what became a mantra. "America does not torture."

Everybody now knows that Bush's ritual reassurance was a cold, deliberate lie, recited to a nation that wanted to believe it because we had not yet sacrificed honor on the altar of partisan politics.

Obama's response was to rescind Bush's torture "policy" and substitute his own anti-torture "policy." There can be no such thing. Torture isn't a policy matter. Torture has no constitutional foundation - is in fact contrary to the Constitution every president vows to preserve, protect and defend. The president has no authority to allow it.

What we needed was a carefully drawn lawsuit leading to reaffirmation, in all three branches of government, that the United States, despite these aberrations, still forbids torture and prosecutes torturers. Instead, we got a paper-shuffle.

On the day that Bush leapt to defend the ultra-secret warrantless wiretap program that he'd ordered because he was dissatisfied with the emergency FISA court, he publicly confessed to impeachable offenses. Again, there was a total lack of constitutional authority, total contempt for law. But Obama has steadfastly refused to pursue anyone in Bush's legal brain trust.

This is tricky, but only slightly so. Legal advice to a president from his lawyers, even bad advice, generally is protected. But what John Yoo and his counterpart in the vice president's office concocted was not serious advice. It was chaff, a wordscreen, nonsense clad in legalese so the lot of them wouldn't be left standing there stammering if they were caught doing what all of them knew to be criminal.
I never believed Yoo's legal parody was protected. More importantly, neither did the Bush administration, which did everything in its power to keep the scheme from going to court and being ruled unlawful (which, years later, it was). But now Yoo's yammering that the law is whatever the president wants it to be from moment to moment gets an executive-privilege shrug from Obama.

And Obama's successors, if they wish, can cite his non-response as legal precedent.

A Harvard law professor doesn't get to plead ignorance of that.

Gene Smith is the Observer's senior editorial writer. He can be reached at smithg@fayobserver.com