Muslim Extremists Increasingly Target Moderate Muslims

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Khaled Abou El Fadl had argued that nothing in democracy violates Shariah or Islamic law, but the conservative commentator whom he was debating on an Egyptian talk show in March equated that view with support for America’s invasion of Iraq. To some Muslims, that position is a betrayal of faith and punishable by death. And sure enough, the phone at El Fadl’s father’s home in Cairo, where the Islamic law scholar from UCLA was staying, started ringing with death threats. “In the ’60s, an accusation like that could be made on TV, but you wouldn’t get death threats,” El Fadl said.

Muslim Extremists Increasingly Target Moderate Muslims

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Khaled Abou El Fadl had argued that nothing in democracy violates Shariah or Islamic law, but the conservative commentator whom he was debating on an Egyptian talk show in March equated that view with support for America’s invasion of Iraq. To some Muslims, that position is a betrayal of faith and punishable by death. And sure enough, the phone at El Fadl’s father’s home in Cairo, where the Islamic law scholar from UCLA was staying, started ringing with death threats. “In the ’60s, an accusation like that could be made on TV, but you wouldn’t get death threats,” El Fadl said.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Vatican Report on Condoms and AIDS Expected `Soon’ VATICAN CITY (RNS) Acting on a request by Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican is set to issue a document on condom use by people with AIDS and other “grave diseases.” In an interview published Sunday (April 23) in the leftist daily La Repubblica of Rome, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, who heads the Vatican’s health care department, said his office had been “carefully” studying the issue and would release its findings “soon.” He did not indicate whether the Vatican intended to relax the decades-long condom ban that has drawn sharp criticism in light of the AIDS epidemic that has ravaged Africa and other parts of the developing world. “It is Benedict XVI who asked us for a study on this particular aspect of using a condom by those afflicted with AIDS and by those with infectious diseases,” Barragan said without elaborating on the document’s contents. Barragan’s interview came two days after the leftist monthly L’espresso published comments by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini calling condom use a “lesser evil” when used to prevent AIDS infection. Martini, the former archbishop of Milan once considered a contender for the papacy, has been a leading voice in the liberal wing of the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Vatican Report on Condoms and AIDS Expected `Soon’ VATICAN CITY (RNS) Acting on a request by Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican is set to issue a document on condom use by people with AIDS and other “grave diseases.” In an interview published Sunday (April 23) in the leftist daily La Repubblica of Rome, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, who heads the Vatican’s health care department, said his office had been “carefully” studying the issue and would release its findings “soon.” He did not indicate whether the Vatican intended to relax the decades-long condom ban that has drawn sharp criticism in light of the AIDS epidemic that has ravaged Africa and other parts of the developing world. “It is Benedict XVI who asked us for a study on this particular aspect of using a condom by those afflicted with AIDS and by those with infectious diseases,” Barragan said without elaborating on the document’s contents. Barragan’s interview came two days after the leftist monthly L’espresso published comments by Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini calling condom use a “lesser evil” when used to prevent AIDS infection. Martini, the former archbishop of Milan once considered a contender for the papacy, has been a leading voice in the liberal wing of the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

Muslim-on-muslim violence; lessons learned from a son’s suicide

In Monday’s RNS report Omar Sacirbey writes about Muslim-on-Muslim violence, in which extremists are targeting moderate Muslims: Muslim-on-Muslim violence has existed since Islam’s Prophet Muhammad died in 632. But now, some observers say, Islamic extremists are expanding their campaign of violence from non-Muslim targets to include moderate Muslims whom they view as obstacles to the establishment of Islamic rule. At the same time, extremists are also expanding the criteria by which one can be considered an apostate, blasphemer or heretic, and thus fair game for punishment or death. The violence has sparked debate across the Muslim world over who has the authority to judge someone an apostate, and pushed extremist groups to come up with new justifications to spill the blood of fellow Muslims. Mormon senator Gordon Smith has published a book about the life lessons he learned from his son’s suicide, reports Don Colburn: Garrett Lee Smith, the son of Sen. Gordon and Sharon Smith, R-Ore., killed himself in his college apartment in Utah on Sept. 8, 2003.

Who’s in charge at public schools?

Quote of the Day: Lexington, Mass., Schools Superintendent Paul Ash “We couldn’t run a public school system if every parent who feels some topic is objectionable to them for moral or religious reasons decides their child should be removed.” -Superintendent of Schools Paul Ash of Lexington, Mass., responding to complaints about a Lexington teacher who read a book about same-sex marriage to a class of second-graders. He was quoted by The Boston Globe.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Eds.: Scot Sloan in the 9th graph below is cq. Minister, Activist William Sloane Coffin Eulogized at Riverside Church (RNS) Thirteen hundred people gathered at New York’s Riverside Church on Thursday (April 20) to celebrate the life of minister and activist the Rev. William Sloane Coffin Jr. Coffin was eulogized by author and journalist James Carroll, as attendants filled the sanctuary to show their appreciation for the man who led this church from 1977 to 1987 and provided the voice for a host of anti-war and civil rights causes. Coffin, 81, died April 12 of congestive heart failure. “Life in death, that contradiction _ no, that paradox _ is a fitting last subject of the sermon that was Bill Coffin’s life,” said Carroll.

Overnight Protest to Lift Cause of Exploited Children of Uganda

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) For one night, for one purpose, thousands of people intend to flood parks and streets across the country, armed with sleeping bags and pillows. Their goal: A very visible protest to highlight the plight of what they call the “Invisible Children” of Uganda. The campout, slated for April 29, is the latest effort of the three-year-old Invisible Children campaign, a youth advocacy operation urging awareness for children’s suffering in war-torn Uganda. The movement took its name from a movie, “Invisible Children,” by Jason Russell and his friends Bobby Bailey, 24, and Laren Poole, 22.

Lamott Sheds Light on Seeing the Light

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) In an era when people so easily label themselves and others as conservatives or liberals, religious or secular, and so on, Anne Lamott remains a refreshing anomaly. She’s liberal, yes, a 50-ish single mother known for her dreadlocks, but she also writes about God and how she discovered faith. Her honesty and humor draw in readers who might otherwise shy away from the subject; they find themselves laughing at her unflinching takes on the spiritual struggle. She is acerbic, as well, on politics, relationships and the thighs she calls her “aunties.” While Lamott has written several novels, she’s probably best known for “Operating Instructions,” about her son Sam’s first year of life, and her classic book of essays on writing, “Bird by Bird.” When her book “Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith” debuted in 1999, Lamott was newly sober and a recent born-again Christian.

COMMENTARY: Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, a Dazzling Scholar and Leader

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg’s death on Monday (April 17) at age 84 robs both America and the world Jewish community of a dynamic and gifted leader. He combined significant scholarship at prestigious academic institutions _ including Columbia, Dartmouth, Princeton, Rutgers and the Hebrew University _ with the presidency of the American Jewish Congress and the vice presidency of the World Jewish Congress. Yet he still maintained enough time and energy to be the senior rabbi of a large U.S. synagogue, Temple Emanu-El in Englewood, N.J. Most clergy, Jewish or Christian, would happily settle for just one of Hertzberg’s achievements _ esteemed congregational leader, respected university professor, or honored president of two major organizations. But Hertzberg represented something more than an outstanding professional resume.

COMMENTARY: Judas, Dan Brown and Jesus

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen such an explosion of public interest in Jesus _ from a variety of angles old and new (some would say odd). Whether this fascination simply means that Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” has created a new industry, or whether it signals something deeper _ that’s up for debate. As a pastor with 24 years of ministry experience in a nontraditional setting and as an author on related matters, I think it’s a good measure of both. Through this resurgence of interest in the known Gnostic gospels, through intrigue surrounding the newly discovered Gospel of Judas, as well as through interest in all things Da Vinci, Americans are expressing, I believe, a simultaneous spiritual disappointment and hope _ and each has live political ramifications.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Evangelical Coalition Says Global Warming Worries Overblown WASHINGTON (RNS) A coalition of evangelical religious leaders has launched an education campaign that will try to persuade pastors and churchgoers that dire predictions about global warming are overblown. The Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, supported by Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and others, announced Wednesday (April 19) that its Cornwall Network of Churches campaign will provide information that can be distributed to parishioners or used to influence sermons. It’s the latest salvo in an escalating political battle among evangelicals over the environment and global warming. In February, a more moderate evangelical group, the Evangelical Climate Initiative, was launched.

RELIGION BEST-SELLERS

(Editor’s note: This April list is compiled by Publishers Weekly magazine from data received from general independent bookstores, chain stores and wholesalers in the month of March. Copyright 2006 Publishers Weekly. Distributed by Religion News Service.) HARDCOVER 1. Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, by Bart Ehrman. (Harper San Francisco, $24.95) 2.

In His First Year, Pope Surprised Both Supporters and Critics

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) On April 19, 2005, the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square cheered wildly as Pope Benedict XVI appeared on the papal balcony, the successor to Pope John Paul II. Conservatives were heartened because they felt the newly elected pope shared their views and would continue the legacy of John Paul. Although liberals applauded the selection, many expressed deep concerns about Benedict’s record as the Vatican’s chief doctrinal enforcer.

COMMENTARY: Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, a Dazzling Scholar and Leader

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg’s death on Monday (April 17) at age 84 robs both America and the world Jewish community of a dynamic and gifted leader. He combined significant scholarship at prestigious academic institutions _ including Columbia, Dartmouth, Princeton, Rutgers and the Hebrew University _ with the presidency of the American Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Congress. Yet he still maintained enough time and energy to be the senior rabbi of a large U.S. synagogue, Temple Emanu-El in Englewood, N.J. Most clergy, Jewish or Christian, would happily settle for just one of Hertzberg’s achievements _ esteemed congregational leader, respected university professor, or honored president of two major organizations. But Hertzberg represented something more than an outstanding professional resume.