Pope Says Christians and Muslims Must `Work Together’

c. 2006 Religion News Service ROME _ In his first meeting with Muslim leaders since making controversial remarks on Islam, Pope Benedict XVI renewed his rejection of religiously motivated violence on Monday (Sept. 25) and appealed to leaders of both faiths to promote religious tolerance. The meeting was the latest chapter of the pontiff’s ongoing campaign to advance “frank and sincere dialogue” between Christians and Muslims while seeking to quell the anger from his use of a medieval text that called the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad “evil and inhuman.” “Christians and Muslims must learn to work together,” Benedict said at the papal summer palace in Castel Gandolfo, “in order to guard against all forms of intolerance and to oppose all manifestations of violence.” Benedict spoke Monday to an audience of local Muslim clerics and ambassadors representing 22 countries with predominantly Muslim populations. The format of the encounter, arranged in the wake of violent protest over Benedict’s remarks at the University of Regensburg in Germany, did not allow for a response from the Muslim representatives.

Iranian Pursuit of Beauty ÆÂ? An Age-Old Ideal Unveiled

c. 2006 Religion News Service SHIRAZ, Iran _ Kill me but make me beautiful. It may be an ancient Iranian saying, but women here are taking it as seriously as ever. They want smaller noses. They want highlights in their hair, even though the Islamic government calls for it to be covered by roosary, or headscarf, in public.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Separation of Church and State: A Lie or a Forgotton Safeguard?

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Senate candidate Katherine Harris, R-Fla., recently annoyed the hornets in the church/state nest by announcing in an interview with the Florida Baptist Witness newspaper that the separation of church and state was a lie. She claimed that believing in the separation of church and state made people think “that they needed to avoid politics.” And they shouldn’t think that, she said, because “God is the one who chooses our rulers.” Of course those two things don’t go together. If God chooses our rulers independently, then why have a democracy at all? And if God relies on our electoral system, well …

Tehran Women Make Their Own Statement, in Color: By NAWAL QAROONI

c. 2006 Religion News Service TEHRAN, Iran _ On a crowded street recently, women muscled into a boutique that boasted signs of sales: up to 75 percent off. From behind the glass door, a gray-haired man shouted at the customers who pushed forward as if they were rushing a concert stage. The store, Kasa, was too full. “Wait until it empties,” he pleaded.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Pope Asks For a Meeting With Muslim Leaders VATICAN CITY (RNS) Under pressure to clarify his position on Islam after making remarks that angered many Muslims, Pope Benedict XVI has invited representatives of Muslim countries to meet with him in Rome on Monday (Sept. 25). In a statement issued Friday (Sept. 22) the Vatican announced that Benedict and his top adviser on Islam, Cardinal Paul Poupard, had called a meeting with Muslim clerics at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence outside of Rome.

Conservative Christians Rally for “Values’’

c. 2006 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ More than 1,000 conservative Christians gathered for a “Values Voter Summit” Friday (Sept. 22), hearing Republican members of Congress and evangelical leaders calling on pastors to preserve their traditional values without fear of criticism from church-state separationists or the Internal Revenue Service. Focus on the Family Chairman James Dobson and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins rallied like-minded Christians in a panel discussion in which they addressed their legal right to be vocal on the political scene. Perkins announced that his organization and the Alliance Defense Fund will work to defend those who challenge pastors who preach on election-related issues.

Katrina-depleted Jewish Community Begins High Holy Days with Heavy Heart

c. 2006 Religion News Service NEW ORLEANS _ Their numbers diminished by a third since Hurricane Katrina, their congregations and service agencies battered, members of New Orleans’ Jewish community are celebrating the High Holy Days at home for the first time in three years. Last year thousands of Jews scattered by Katrina found themselves in Houston, Atlanta and Baton Rouge, La., for the beginning of the solemn 10-day period of reflection and atonement. In 2004, another storm, Hurricane Ivan, chased them and an estimated 600,000 residents out of the area for Rosh Hashana before that storm veered into the Alabama Gulf Coast. “Now everyone’s just happy to be home,” said Roselle Ungar, interim executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans.

Ethical Questions Surround Unregulated Sperm and Egg Donations

c. 2006 Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly (UNDATED) Ryan Kramer was born 16 years ago, after his mother received donor sperm. “I had no idea where the sperm came from or anything about the donor,” said his mother, Wendy Kramer. “It was always kind of a mystery.” When Ryan was 2 years old, Kramer said, “he came to me and said, `So, did my dad die or what?”’ The older Ryan got, the more curious he became. “There was this whole other side of me that I really was unsure where it came from.

Merry Ramadan?

Muslims Try to Shield Ramadan from Commercialization RNS’s Omar Sacirbey looks at the effects of commercialization on the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in this week’s full-text article, linked above. Quotes: “There’s no doubt that there’s commercialization,” said Mohammed Abdul Aleem, CEO of Islamicity.com, a mainly educational Web site that also sells a variety of Islamic-themed goods through its online “bazar.” “But the nature of Ramadan forces you to focus on the spiritual aspect, and the commercial aspect is quite minimal because it’s 30 days of fasting, and the prayer rituals that are within Ramadan, they are difficult to commercialize.” and “We’re not taught to be austere in all aspects,” said Adnan Khattak, a sales manger at http://www.islamicbookstore.com. “Having family-oriented fun is not discouraged.”

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2006 Religion News Service Muslims Collect Money to Rebuild Burned Churches (RNS) A group of American Muslims is using compassion to counter the violent reactions of fellow Muslims who were angered by Pope Benedict XVI’s controversial remarks about Islam. The Florida office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Thursday (Sept. 21) that it will deliver $5,000 in seed money to help repair six churches in the Palestinian Territories that were damaged by Muslims who were infuriated by the pope’s speech. “We’re still waiting for a detailed report from the Catholic Near East Welfare Association to find out the full cost of the damage,” said CAIR-Tampa Executive Director Ahmed Bedier, announcing the campaign with Catholic officials in St.

Muslims Confront Problem of `Overreaction’ and Violence

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) For most American Muslims, Pope Benedict XVI’s use of a quote by a Byzantine emperor who called the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings “evil and inhuman” _ during a lecture that endorsed interfaith dialogue _ smacked of hypocrisy. Then again, so did the violent reaction of some of their fellow Muslims overseas, whose attacks against churches and calls for the pope’s head contradict the Muhammad they know, who preached religious tolerance and turning the other cheek. The pope’s comments revived lingering resentment that erupted earlier this year when European newspapers published less-than-flattering cartoons of Muhammad. At the same time, a second round of violent Muslim reaction seems to confirm for many the image that Muslims see themselves _ and Muhammad _ as immune from criticism.

COMMENTARY: For Everything There is a Season

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Because the Jewish autumn harvest holiday of Sukkot begins only five days after the spiritual magnificence of Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), it sometimes gets short shrift in observance and attention. But Sukkot, mentioned 21 times in the Hebrew bible, is one of Judaism’s most joyous and religiously profound festivals. This year, the eight-day holiday begins at sunset on Oct. 6 and concludes on Oct.

FDA Nominee Faces Another Block _ From Conservatives

c. 2006 Religion News Service WASHINGTON _ First it was a handful of liberals blocking President Bush’s choice to head the Food and Drug Administration, demanding the agency end delays and make a decision on the over-the-counter sale of an emergency contraceptive pill opposed by the religious right. Now that the “morning-after pill” has been approved for women 18 and over without a prescription and the Democratic objections have been dropped, two conservatives with their own agendas have stepped forward to thwart the formal confirmation of acting FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach. “The FDA commissioner has to be the toughest job outside a Supreme Court justice to get passed here,” said Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “It seems to be the nature of the position, a kind of Catch-22,” he said.

Books Highlight Evangelical Political Divisions

c. 2006 Religion News Service (UNDATED) New books hitting the shelves this year are giving evangelicals a platform to voice concerns about how their faith is being expressed in politics. Here’s a sampling of titles offering a critique: Thy Kingdom Come: An Evangelical’s Lament: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America By Randall Balmer Publisher: Perseus ($24.95, 242 pp.) Summary: A professor of American religious history skewers his contemporaries who, in his view, misrepresent the values of his faith. The nub: American evangelicalism historically defended society’s most vulnerable elements, but today in politics it suppresses and exploits them. Excerpt: “I write as a jilted lover.