COMMENTARY: `The Siege’ reveals a fault line in American popular culture

c. 1998 Religion News Service (Rabbi Rudin is the National Interreligious Affairs Director of the American Jewish Committee.) UNDATED _ The film,”The Siege,”has been sharply criticized by some Islamic organizations who complained that the movie presents a distorted and unfair picture of Islam and Muslims. But the controversy actually reveals more about American popular culture and history than it does about Muslims and their religion.”The Siege”represents another chapter in the continuing struggle between artistic freedom and the sensibilities of various religious, racial, and ethnic groups; between independence and control.”The Siege”graphically describes how an authoritarian U.S. Army general suspends constitutional guarantees when New York City is threatened by Arab terrorist groups. The tyrannical officer forces many innocent Muslims into makeshift internment centers in Manhattan. Two FBI agents, one black and the other Arab Muslim, are the film’s heroes because they defend traditional constitutional freedoms by arresting the general. The movie ends with the Muslim prisoners reunited with their families as the general is led away for trial.

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c. 1998 Religion News Service UNDATED _ Exit the drunken sailor and lovesick adolescent. There is a new gang of marked men and women in tattoo parlor lore: evangelical Christians. More than a millennium after church authorities condemned tattooing as”a form of deviltry”that disfigured the body, a new generation of evangelical youth are permanently altering their bodies with images of crosses, sacred hearts and angels. From the”modern skin art”of Finest Lines in Wickliffe, Ohio, to joints like Sid’s Tattoo Parlor in Santa Ana, Calif., where all four artists are conservative Christians, Generation Xers are transforming a cultural fad into distinctive statements of faith.

HOLIDAY FEATURE:  White American converts to Islam a growing minority

c. 1998 Religion News Service UNDATED _ Ismail Royer remembers the sunny fall afternoon seven years ago when a songbird heard in a suburban St. Louis park transformed him from a lapsed Catholic into a believing Muslim. Royer heard the sound that changed his life as he and a Muslim friend sat in Manchester Park engaged in yet another of their intense discussions about God. Suddenly, the bird’s melodic call grabbed Royer’s attention _ and his spirit took flight.”My heart turned that day,”he recalled.”It was a combination of how perfect the day was, how perfect the bird was, a feeling that how could all this just be an accident.

HOLIDAY FEATURE:  White American converts to Islam a growing minority

c. 1998 Religion News Service
UNDATED _ Ismail Royer remembers the sunny fall afternoon seven years ago when a songbird heard in a suburban St. Louis park transformed him from a lapsed Catholic into a believing Muslim. Royer heard the sound that changed his life as he and a Muslim friend sat in Manchester Park engaged in yet another of their intense discussions about God. Suddenly, the bird’s melodic call grabbed Royer’s attention _ and his spirit took flight.”My heart turned that day,”he recalled.”It was a combination of how perfect the day was, how perfect the bird was, a feeling that how could all this just be an accident.

NEWS FEATURE: Holiday book guide on religion and spirituality

c. 1998 Religion News Service UNDATED _ Every year, American publishers release around 50,000 titles to an often dazed book-buying public. With the arrival of the colder months, many bibliophiles snap up larger than usual numbers of volumes _ some intended for personal pleasure on windy, wintry evenings, and others bought as gifts. Here, for those who aren’t sure what to buy, is a guide to 17 of the most interesting new and recent titles. Coffee table cornucopia For many, nothing says gift-giving like a big, hefty, luxuriously illustrated book.