Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events
Sunday, August 5th DION Suburban Urban Interfaith picnic
at Belle Isle State Park –
Go to www.Detroitinterfaith.org for more information.
Sunday, August 5th, 1:15 – 4:30 pM
Zoroastrian Film Fest
See article below.
Saturday, August 11th 10:00 AM
Kirk in the Hills
1340 West Long Lake Rd, Bloomfield Hills
Discussion on crisis with children on the border
See article below.
Friday, August 24th
Backpack stuffing for the children at Greater New Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit
586 Owen St., Detroit, 48202
Contact Janelle if you would like to help. firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, September 26th 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
WISDOM at Zaman for a Voluntary Culinary Day
26091 Trowbridge St., Inkster, 48141
See Flyer Below
Wednesday, October 10th 7:00 – 9:00 PM
WISDOM’s Five Women Five Journeys
Muslim Unity Center, 1830 W. Square Lake Rd. Bloomfield Hills
Monday, November 5th 1:00 – 3:00 PM
WISDOM’s Five Women Five Journeys at SOAR
(Society of Active Retirees)
Birmingham Temple 28611 W. 12 Mile Road, Farmington HIlls
Sunday, November 11th 11:00 AM
Jewish Community Center Book Fair WISDOM presentation
of book Friendship and Faith
6600 W. Maple Rd., West Bloomfield
Sunday, November 11th, 3:00 PM – 6:00 PM
InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit
Panel on “Religious Sensitivities” at st George Antiochian Orthodox Church, 2160 Maple Rd., Troy 48083
Stay tuned for upcoming flyer!! Mark your calendars
The Zoroastrian Association of Michigan
(ZAOM) is proud to present… .
The Zoroastrian Film Festival
Date: Sunday August 5th from 1:15PM to 4:30PM
Venue: Farmington Public Library Main Auditorium, 32737 W. Twelve Mile Road, Farmington Hills, MI 48334.
We have specifically picked films that are educational and inspiring to our younger generation so if you are a parent with young children or teenagers do plan on coming.
The main feature film we will be showing is the digitally remastered version of “On Wings Of Fire” Zubin Mehta’s search for his religion and his people, a film odyssey that spans 3,500 years !! Running time 90 mins. The other two films are short documentaries….”Keepers of the Flame” highlights the role early Parsi pioneers played in building India’s industrial landscape and how they had to fight the British bureaucratic system that was stacked against them. Running time 60 mins.
“Not Just Milk & Sugar” a short documentary that throws light on the Parsis, their religion & customs, their contributions to the fabric of modern India and the problems they face due to a dwindling population. Running time 16 mins. All are welcome to attend. This is a FREE event but we request you to register if you are planning on attending by emailing email@example.com
As we have limited screen time, we will have to start the program as soon as set up is complete so please plan to arrive in a timely fashion. Tea & light refreshments will be served.
Hope to see you all at the Z Film Fest !!
On Saturday, August 11, Kirk in the Hills, 1340 West Long Lake Rd,, Bloomfield Hills, will be hosting a discussion on how the crisis with children on the border reaches us here in SE Michigan. We will hear from representatives of Bethany Christian Services and the Mexican Consulate in Detroit share what has happened, how they are responding and how we as faith communities can become involved in this critical issue.
The event will be in St Andrew’s Room at 10am. For more information, contact Pastor Fernando, firstname.lastname@example.org. Ph: (248) 973-8012
Learning about education:
the experience of Ahdieh Foundation
In the Central African Republic a Baha’i-inspired organization is learning about fostering the emergence of schools from the grassroots, sustained by the local communities themselves. Ahdieh Foundation focuses on efforts to promote community schools, providing teacher training and other support to these community initiatives.
The foundation’s experience sheds light on the capacity and initiative of the people of the Central African Republic, which stands in contrast to the political instability and sectarian violence that are major features of the country’s global image.
“Ahdieh Foundation is part of a network of Baha’i-inspired organizations in Africa that are striving to see how to promote education at the grassroots and how to build capacity in communities to take charge of the education of the younger generation,” explains Nakhjavan Tanyi, the Continental Programme Coordinator for this network.
Like other Baha’i-inspired organizations, Ahdieh Foundation views its work as a process of learning about applying the Baha’i teachings and knowledge accumulated in various fields of human endeavour for the progress of society.
“The work of many Baha’i-inspired organizations focuses a lot on the community level. The long-term vision is how to help a community address all dimensions of its development. Usually it starts with one small effort or one particular dimension, in this case education,” says Mr. Tanyi.
Since its establishment in 2003, Ahdieh Foundation is gaining insights about the role of the teacher, the parents, and the school in a community. These insights, along with principles drawn from the Baha’i writings, shape the way teacher training is approached, how teachers are accompanied, and the functioning of each school in relation to the community.
“Many communities used to think that only teachers have knowledge to educate the children and that as a parent, you bring your child to school, leave the teachers to impart their knowledge and do not get involved,” says Mr. Judicaël Mokole, one of the staff at Ahdieh Foundation.
“Community schools are changing this idea,” he continues. “Parents and community members start seeing the school as an entity through which they can think and reflect and contribute to the education of their children.”
The approach taken by Ahdieh Foundation to starting schools seems to be central to fostering this sense of ownership. “The organization will start a conversation with communities about what they themselves can do to be able to educate their own children,” Mr. Tanyi says. “Where members of a community, and its leaders, show a willingness to participate in that effort, then the idea is introduced of them being able to start a school that would grow organically over time that would start with a preschool. Then, depending not only on the availability of human resources in that community, but also the willingness of the community to continue, that school can grow and add a grade each year.”
“It’s best to start with the simplest thing and then build capacity over time for more complex things,” Mr. Tanyi explains.
The teachers, Mr. Tanyi says, are identified by the community itself.
“The idea is not to get someone from outside. It’s to get someone from within the community, who knows the community, who is familiar with its people, who knows its reality,” Mr. Tanyi explains. “What we see in this individual who arises to start teaching is not just a teacher whose work is limited to a classroom, but someone who can become an agent of change in a community.”
Drawing on the latent capacity of a community allows the schools to operate in a region that has experienced ongoing civil conflict since 2012.
“These community schools were the only schools that continued functioning in many parts of the country during the civil unrest,” states Mr. Mokole. “This was partly because the teachers of the community schools were local to the area. The community they served in was their home. They had nowhere to run to when the rebels came.”
“The content of the teacher’s training also helps them conceive of their work as service. It’s not merely a job they are doing to get money. They are teachers because they are motivated by a desire to prepare the younger generation for the future,” he continues.
The teachers also receive a small stipend, funded by parents and community members, for school supplies and personal expenses, Mr. Mokole explains. “And it will always be like this. Our experience has been that if you come with a salary sourced externally and pay the teacher in this way, from the top down, in the community there is something that is lost, that does not feel right, and the community school slowly crumbles,” he adds.
Similarly, Mr. Mokole says that when the initiative and resources come primarily from outside, or when the focus is on just providing a school building, communities do not have a sense of responsibility and investment in the school.
“It’s not uncommon to see schools built by outside organizations being used to house sheep and goats, or where people are using the desks and chairs in these buildings for cooking. From this you can see the value of the process starting from within the community, by the villagers themselves,” states Mr. Mokole.
The community members show such love for the simple structures they have built for their schools with their own hands, using materials such as straw, mud or wood, Mr. Mokole adds. From time to time, as schools grow, there may be needs for which the resources available to the community are not sufficient, Mr. Tanyi says. “There will sometimes be needs for funds to come from outside. But we try to think very carefully about at what point we do that. We try to wait until the point when the community has really taken ownership of the project,” he notes.
“By no means are we saying that this is the solution to education at the grassroots,” clarifies Mr. Tanyi, “but we are very hopeful that this approach could help us really think about how to raise people in the community that can be protagonists of change and can spearhead development processes in their community.”
At present, 150 people who have participated in Ahdieh Foundation’s training program are providing education to nearly 4,000 students in 40 community schools, 10 of which offer the complete primary cycle, from kindergarten to grade six.
German Jews, Muslims Ride Tandem
Bikes In Show Of Solidarity
The Berlin bike ride illustrated unity between two groups that have felt increasingly under attack in Germany.
Jews and Muslims gathered in Germany’s capital on Sunday to ride bikes together as a sign of unity amid increasing anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in their country. Jewish participants were paired with Muslim participants on tandem bikes during the interfaith tour of Berlin. The bikers started at Berlin’s imposing Holocaust memorial and wove their way through the city to Bebelplatz, a city square with a dark history. In 1933, Nazis ordered the burning of around 20,000 books in an effort to purge universities of “the un-German spirit” and “Jewish intellectualism.”
About 50 people attended, according to Deutsche Welle (DW), including rabbis, imams and lay members of each religious group. Christians, non-religious Germans, and Berlin politicians also took part in the event. Some participants wore white vests with the words “Jews and Muslims for respect and tolerance.” “I think it’s important that Muslims and Jews, as members of two minorities in Germany, do not allow themselves to be played off one against the other, but instead, together, oppose anti-Semitism and Islamophobia,” Sejfuddin Dizdarevic, a Muslim participant, told Agence-France Presse in a video.
Rabbi Elias Dray, one of the organizers of the event, told The Associated Press that he hopes the joint bike ride helps Muslims and Jews in Berlin get to know one another better. “There’s often prejudice in places where there’s little contact,” Dray said.
In recent years, members of both religions have been concerned about a rise in anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant sentiments in their country. Germany took in more than 1 million immigrants in 2015 and 2016, according to Reuters, including many who were fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.
Backlash to the influx of migrants helped a far-right nationalist party, Alternative for Germany, gain a foothold in the German Parliament last year for the first time. AfD leaders are known for openly anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant stances, the AP reports, and have less frequently expressed anti-Semitic views, as well.
Germany’s Interior Ministry recorded at least 950 hate crimes against Muslims or mosques in the country in 2017, including physical assault, threats, mosque vandalization, and demonstrations against the “Islamization” of Germany. Adding to the tensions, some of the newer Muslim migrants have expressed anti-Semitic sentiment. In April, a 19-year-old Syrian refugee was caught on tape in broad daylight attacking a man wearing a Jewish skullcap in Berlin. The attack elicited condemnation from both Jewish and Muslim groups and sparked public marches in support of German Jews.
Berlin imam Ender Cetin told the AP that by riding in unity with Jewish Berliners, he’s sending a signal to the Muslim community that “we will not tolerate anti-Semitism.” Cetin and his friend Dray often visit Berlin schools together to teach students about religious tolerance, DW reports. “The majority of Muslims and Jews want to live peacefully together,” Cetin said.
Yael Merlini, a Jewish woman who participated in Sunday’s interfaith bike ride, told AFP that she was happy about the opportunity to get to know her Muslim neighbors. “I’m happy to get to know Muslims and that they get to know me, and that they understand Jews should not frighten them and the other way around,” Merlini said
WEST BLOOOMFIELD SYNAGOGUE OFFERS YEAR-LONG COURSE IN JEWISH HISTORY:
BLENDED ONLINE AND IN-PERSON LEARNING
Rabbi Steven Rubenstein from Congregation Beth Ahm
In its second year of creative partnership with Hebrew College, one of North America’s flagship centers of lifelong Jewish learning, Cong. Beth Ahm in West Bloomfield (5075 W. Maple, West Bloomfield) is launching a new course for adult learners starting in August 2018 and running through May 2019, taking students on a journey through one of the most transformative periods in Jewish history, when the rabbis of the Talmudic period infused the Judaism of their day with creative interpretations based on the Oral Law, enabling what had been a biblically-based, Temple-centered sacrificial cult to morph into what we now call “the rabbinic tradition” – the source of contemporary Jewish thought and practice.
The course consists of 10 modules featuring engaging video lectures by Prof. Christine Hayes, Rabbi Jane Kanarek, Prof. Jonathan Klawans, and Rabbi Micha’el Rosenberg and will offer probing discussion and immersion in core texts, taking students on a tour through the diverse world of Jewish sects and varying religious practices that flourished in ancient Israel and Babylonia from the aftermath of the Bible to 1st century Judaism.
Students will work their way through the course one module per month, watching the lectures on their home computers or other devices. Rabbi Rubenstein will lead a group online session one Thursday night each month to discuss that month’s video and its related study materials. He will also meet with participants one Shabbat afternoon a month to build upon the material in each module. Thanks to underwriting from Beth Ahm’s Thumin Fund for Jewish Education, tuition for “Rise of the Rabbis” is only $36 for Beth Ahm members and $50 for others.
For more information about “Rise of the Rabbis” including a course syllabus and details about the four distinguished instructors, go to http://www.hebrewcollege.edu/
Registration is through the Hebrew College website: https://register.
During the academic year 2017-2018, Beth Ahm offered another course through Hebrew College entitled “Journey Through the Bible” with Prof. Marc Brettler.
For more information about “The Rise of the Rabbis” and other lifelong Jewish learning opportunities at Beth Ahm, all are welcome to contact Rabbi Rubenstein at (248) 851-6880 or e-mail email@example.com
Check out this terrific video put together by a rabbi and an imam!
Here are some words about the video by Rabbi Esther Hugenhotz!
Click on the link below to see the video!
A year ago, Imam Qari Asim and I made this short video for the British civic organization ‘The Great Get Together’. The video went viral.
In light of the increasing polarization and division in our society and the marginalization of immigrants, refugees and religious/ethnic minorities, we need to say this LOUD: We stand with each other.
Next week will be the first time I celebrate the Fourth of July in the United States. I am incredibly privileged as a new immigrant in the United States. This has been an amazing move for my family and myself. I am also incredibly privileged to have the freedom to practice my faith.
This shouldn’t be a privilege; it should be a right extended to all, just as the Torah tells us time after time: ‘you shall have one law for the native-born and the stranger.’
Hungry for Justice (Detroit Jewish News) by Rob Streit
Faith leaders meet to voice support for SNAP benefits.
People have a right to eat. That was what an interfaith group of spiritual leaders who met at Greater Baptist Church in Detroit on June 14 said, as they called on Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., to support SNAP benefits in the Farm Bill. Stabenow is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, which drafts the bill.
The Farm Bill is a sweeping omnibus bill that encompasses all food and agricultural policy in the U.S. Every five years, the bill gets renewed by Congress in an often-contentious process. The bill is up for renewal this year, and lines are being drawn. The House version of the bill calls for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – or SNAP – to meet new work or job training requirements to receive benefits. The Senate’s version does not include this change to SNAP benefits.
“They are still arguing if people have a right to eat,” said Rev. Charles Christian Adams, presiding pastor of the Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit. “We will not support any of it – to balance the economy of this country on the backs of the poor. We are determined to support our legislators that are fighting for SNAP.”
Several in the interfaith coalition called Hungry For Justice said that their faiths mandate they help to feed the hungry and assist those in need.
“I give my strong support to SNAP because I believe my faith commands me to do so,” said Rabbi Ariana Silverman of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue. “God commands 36 times to love strangers and support the needy in the first five books of the bible.” The faith leaders said that the work requirements were draconian and did more harm than good.
“Eighty percent of people who receive food stamps are already working,” said Rev. James Perkins, pastor of Greater Christ Baptist Church in Detroit. “The remaining lack skills or have mental illness or other health issues.”
Perkins said he was disenchanted with the attempt to cut SNAP.
“This administration has demonstrated they’re doing a reverse Robin Hood. They’re simply taking from the poor and giving to the rich; making the rich richer and making the gap between the haves and have-nots wider,” he said.
Community activist Sabrina Cotton was in attendance as well. She highlighted her own struggle with trying to feed her baby after her food assistance benefits were cut. Her daughter is underweight due to the lack of nutrition. Cotton also struggles to feed herself.
“I only have $20 to feed myself after buying my child’s food,” Cotton said.
Cotton is not alone. One in seven people in Michigan relies on SNAP to eat. Food insecurity is widespread throughout the state as well as the nation.
“Sixty-two percent of SNAP recipients are families with children. Forty-seven percent of families have elderly or disabled people. Fifty percent have working members in their family,” said Rev. Steve Bland of Liberty Temple Baptist Church in Detroit. “There are no welfare queens here.”
Silverman spoke of scripture verses where God commands the holy to leave the corners of their fields for the needy when it comes time to reap. “If we fail to do so, we cannot call ourselves holy,” she said.
The Senate Farm Bill was approved in committee in a 20-1 vote. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the full Senate will likely vote on the bill before the July 4 recess. It would then need to be reconciled with the House version.
Multiracial churches increase as blacks,
whites learn to worship together
Religion News Service
For two and a half years, Ja’mel Armstrong and Matt Ness have jointly led One Church, a congregation striving to be diverse in a neighborhood in Louisville, Ky., that is more interracial than most. It’s a work in progress, they acknowledge, but the African-American and white co-pastors say they believe their congregation, which is close to 50 percent black and 50 percent white, is more fulfilling than the more racially segregated churches they used to lead.
“On our own, we just didn’t feel like that’s who we were meant to be,” said Ness, who formerly led a mostly white church. “The picture we believed in was much broader than the local church I was pastoring and the local church Ja’mel was pastoring.”
Matt Ness is a pastor at One Church, an interracial congregation of the Evangelical Covenant Church, in Louisville, Ky. Photo courtesy of One Church
The co-pastors’ congregation is part of the Evangelical Covenant Church – a small denomination that claims to be one of the most diverse in the country. One Church is part of a trend reported by scholars this month: Multiracial churches are on the rise and so is the percentage of U.S. congregants who attend them.
The percentage of U.S. multiracial congregations almost doubled between 1998 and 2012, from 6.4 percent to 12 percent, according to a study published in June in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. In the same period, the percentage of U.S. congregants attending an interracial church has reached almost one in five, advancing from 12.7 percent to 18.3 percent. The 2012 statistics are the latest available. Co-authors Kevin Dougherty, a sociology professor at Baylor University, and Michael Emerson, provost at North Park University, defined multiracial congregations as ones in which no single racial or ethnic group constitutes more than 80 percent of the people in the pews. But the co-authors point out that interracial congregations have long faced a number of challenges. And their recent findings show that while the average percentage of black congregants in multiracial congregations has increased, the percentage of Latinos in those kinds of churches has decreased in the same period.
“When you bring groups, different ethnic groups, together in a congregation, they come with different cultures, and those cultures include all types of expectations,” said Dougherty, citing music styles and food choices. “To help them develop a sense of shared identity above and beyond those cultural differences is a key part of the adaptability necessary for a multiracial congregation to succeed.”
Ness, co-pastor of the Louisville church, alternates preaching with Armstrong. He said before One Church opened its doors, they formulated a nontraditional approach to music. The worship team includes a gospel-style keyboardist, a blues, rock and country guitarist and a jazzy drummer and bassist. Singers represent a range of genres.
“We didn’t want to be defined by a particular style and so we didn’t tell you to stand up. We didn’t tell you to lift your hands. We didn’t tell you how to worship,” said Armstrong. “The goal was: If you are naturally contemplative in your worship style, then you be that. If you are naturally expressive, then you be that.”
It didn’t work for everyone. Armstrong said there was a gradual “mass exodus” from the 250-attendee first service in January 2016, with the congregation dropping to about 50. The congregation has since doubled to 100 after attracting new congregants. The Rev. Michael Davis, the African-American teaching pastor at 10-year-old Downtown Church in Memphis, Tenn., said intentionality is key to multiracial churches. His congregation strives to have leaders of different races regularly preaching and making announcements. The church avoids identifying with political parties and instead seeks to foster an environment where various viewpoints can be aired.
“So nobody is trying to suffocate the identity of any of our minorities,” said Davis, who co-leads the fledging congregation with its white founder, Richard Rieves. “It’s intentionality, it’s empowerment and it’s sacrifice.”
The congregation, which Davis calls a “multiracial/class plant” or offshoot of the mostly white Second Presbyterian Church, meets in Clayborn Temple, a historic church that once housed a predominantly white congregation and later a mostly black one. But Davis acknowledges that his Evangelical Presbyterian Church congregation that is 70 percent white and 30 percent minority (mostly blacks but including some Asians and Latinos) hasn’t achieved all its milestones toward integration, including among its smaller community groups attended by some of the 300 who worship together on Sunday.
“Are we doing it perfectly?” Davis said. “No. Because there are some times where I have to talk to some of my groups that are predominantly white and say, ‘How do we get more diversity?'”
As they strive for inclusiveness, leaders of multiracial churches say they sometimes feel like they are on their own without many role models.
Ness, 39, who has pastored for 16 years, said, “I feel like I’m brand new at my job when I started this.” Armstrong, 38, agreed that the nontraditional church stands out from others: “We almost feel a lot of times that we’re on an island.”
The Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, a Chicago Theological Seminary professor, informally polled former students and found they have seen evidence of the new survey’s findings about the growth of interracial congregations.
“One woman graduate who identified as white indicated that she had ‘pastored a black church for seven years,'” said Thistlethwaite, whose seminary is affiliated with the United Church of Christ. “A number of graduates emphasized, however, that there have been congregations that have been racially diverse for many years, with racially diverse pastoral leadership.”
Photo courtesy of Downtown Church
The survey, based on data from the National Congregations Study, also found an increase in black clergy leading multiracial congregations, rising from less than 5 percent in both 1998 and 2006 to 17 percent in 2012. The Rev. Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, professor of African-American studies and sociology at Colby College, said the willingness of white congregants to join churches with black pastors is a positive sign, given the long history of segregated Sunday morning services.
“Although white people have always been willing to appropriate style and music from black churches, they have resisted black leadership,” Gilkes said. “This new moment in American religious life could be quite helpful in countering many negative current events in the area of race relations.”
Despite the challenges of interracial cooperation, Davis said, he sees rewards as he helps lead his Memphis congregation.
“I experience the body of Christ more, the wider scope of it, and so it broadens my perspective of who the Lord is,” he said. “Being in a multiracial church, you see the beauty of different cultural backgrounds, different walks of life.”
Bomb Rattles an Afghan Minority
So Small ‘No One Is a Stranger’
New York Times
KABUL, Afghanistan – In downtown Kabul, from a large mural painted on blast walls at the end of a busy shopping street, the piercing eyes of Komal Singh, now a fourth grader, peer out at the narrow junction.
For the past couple of years, the mural has carried an anticorruption message: “Bribetakers are not hidden from the eyes of God and the people.” Now, that mural carries a further, unwritten reminder: Another Afghan child is deprived of a father. On Monday, Komal traveled to the eastern city of Jalalabad with her mother, Preeti, sister Pari and brother Prince to cremate her father, Rawail Singh, who was among the 19 people killed this weekend in a bombing outside a compound where President Ashraf Ghani was holding meetings. Fourteen of the victims, including Mr. Singh, were Sikhs – members of a tiny religious minority in the country – who were just arriving for an audience with the president when a suicide bomber ripped through the crowd. The death of Mr. Singh, who, as part of an activist group of artists had beautified many of the ugly blast walls that have turned Kabul into a maze, devastated friends and activists in the city, where he lived. But the blow was much larger to Afghanistan’s shrinking Sikh population. Years ago, before the country sank into a four-decade war, there were as many as 65,000 Sikh families across Afghanistan, community elders estimated in the absence of official numbers. But decades of war and persecution have shrunk their numbers to about 800 people, according to Charan Singh, a member of the central Sikh temple in Kabul.
“No one is a stranger – everyone is a cousin or a distant relative,” Mr. Singh said. Of the 14 Sikh victims of the blast on Sunday, a dozen were cremated in Jalalabad, including Rawail Singh, a native of the city. All either lived in the city or had roots there.
Two bodies – those of the only Sikh candidate for the Afghan Parliament, and of a shopkeeper who sold herbal medicine – were taken to Kabul. They were mourned by a couple of hundred people gathered at a temple, a nondescript two-story building in the north of the city, before the bodies were taken to be cremated. Rawail Singh, who was in his late 40s, worked at a media company in Kabul and was an active member of the civil society scene. He was also involved in organizing a music festival in Bamian Province, west of Kabul, to promote understanding and empathy. “A couple of years ago, Mr. Singh and I lost a friend who was a doctor in the attack on the 400-bed hospital,” recalled Omaid Sharifi, who leads ArtLords, the group of activist artists. “Mr. Singh said: ‘Omaid, do you know when would be our turn? Today we lost this friend; tomorrow or the day after it would be one of us. Who knows?'”
Mr. Singh had recently enrolled Komal in the prestigious Afghanistan National Institute of Music, where she learned to paint and play music in addition to regular fourth-grade subjects. She had just been accepted into a sitar class, a notable achievement for a student of her age. “I was thinking of calling her father and giving him the good news,” Ahmad Sarmast, the school’s director, said wistfully. Mr. Sarmast, who has lost students in other attacks, said the school was at a loss for how to console Komal. “We don’t know what to tell her,” he said.
The parliamentary candidate who was killed, Avtar Singh Khalsa, had long established his credentials as a community leader. Mr. Ghani’s predecessor, Hamid Karzai, even appointed Mr. Khalsa as a senator. But now the candidate wanted to try his luck at gaining a seat in Parliament through a popular vote.
In interviews after announcing his candidacy, Mr. Khalsa had emphasized how proud he was of not leaving Afghanistan during some of its darkest days – including the early 1990s, when a rocket killed eight members of his family in Gardez, the city where he lived before moving to Kabul. The shopkeeper, Raju Singh, a homeopath, was 27 and married when he was still a teenager. He had four children, the oldest an 8-year-old boy. His father-in-law, Gulbeer Singh, received the call with news of his death on Sunday evening, and rushed to Kabul from the city of Ghazni.
“My daughter is so young, I don’t know how to talk to her,” Gulbeer Singh said at the temple. “I am sick, but still I am alive,” added Mr. Singh, 50, who has diabetes. “My son-in-law is gone. It is not fair at all.”
When the two corpses arrived from Jalalabad, they were briefly unloaded in the temple so that loved ones could say their goodbyes. The funeral procession then made its way through afternoon traffic toward an old corner of the city called Qalacha. The Army ambulances carrying the bodies, and three minibuses carrying the mourners, passed through the Baharistan area, where Raju Singh had his herbal medicine shop. The bodies arrived at a large compound that is used as the crematory, its garden lined with hollyhock flowers. There, final prayers were read – some from memory, others from iPhone screens – and the bodies were scented with rose water and placed on stacked logs. The mourners waited to start the cremation until Mr. Khalsa’s oldest son, Narendar Singh Khalsa, had arrived from Jalalabad, his left hand in a sling, his white clothes covered in blood. He had been wounded in the suicide bombing.
“We are ruined, we are ruined,” he said, smacking his face after his final goodbyes with his father. His friends tried to hold him back.
The cremation logs were lit, the wind fanned the fire. The crowd slowly dispersed. Mr. Khalsa’s sons exited the crematory barefoot. They walked up the pebbled alley that led to the main road, passing a small mosque where a chorus of children repeated their late-afternoon studies.
Muslim girls kicked out of public pool after officials said hijabs would clog filtration system
Tahsiyn Ismaa’eel has been taking children from her Wilmington, Del., summer camp to Foster Brown pool for years. She can see the free public pool from the back of her school, Darul Amaanah Academy, so about 3:30 p.m., the hottest point in the day, they routinely donned their swimming attire and walked over. And just as regularly, Ismaa’eel said, they experienced anti-Islamic harassment. It started the first day Ismaa’eel and about 15 children went to the pool in late June. A staff member told her that her children couldn’t wear “that cotton” to the pool, she said during an interview with The Washington Post.
But “that cotton” included clothes required by their Islamic faith: hijabs for the girls, but also modest dress that typically covered their shoulders and most of their legs – even in the pool. Pool officials spoke of the dangerous weight of wet cotton and said the girls’ religiously required clothing could put a strain on the pool’s filtration system. They cited a vaguely worded, unposted policy.
Ismaa’eel cited the Koran, explaining that the children were required to dress modestly. That’s why many of the little girls in her group wore hijabs and T-shirts and shorts that come down to their knees. The camp director grew up in Wilmington, has swum in that pool before and has been bringing overheated children to splash in it for years. In all that time, she’d never seen anyone wearing cotton asked to leave. But Ismaa’eel said she – and the students at her summer Arabic enrichment program – picked up notes of something more sinister this time.
“We, as a group, were being talked about,” Ismaa’eel said. “One child said they heard the word ‘Muslim.’ ” The conflict reached a climax last week when a pool official tapped several of Ismaa’eel’s hijab-wearing wards on the shoulder and told them they had to leave. “I believe it was discrimination, deep down in my bones,” she told The Post. If there is a policy, it should be posted and applied to everybody, she said. Her students “were not allowed to enjoy a public facility that everyone has access to.”
She was apparently not the only person to feel that way. “All Americans are entitled to reasonable religious accommodations while using public facilities,” said Zainab Chaudry, spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “And it is unlawful to discriminate against members of any group because of their religious attire.” Public outcry ensued as word spread, and Saturday, Mayor Mike Purzycki reaffirmed “the city’s long-standing policy that all people are welcome at city pools.” He faulted not just the city’s handling of the incident but also the justifications it made after the children were kicked out. “We should be held accountable for what happened and how poorly we assessed this incident,” Purzycki said in a statement. “I apologize to the children who were directed to leave a city pool because of the religious-required clothing they were wearing. We also referred to vaguely-worded pool policies to assess and then justify our poor judgment, and that was also wrong.”
Purzycki said he planned to meet soon with the camp director to address her concerns and apologize in person. Ismaa’eel said she was happy with the mayor’s apology – at least until she and her kids trekked to the pool on Monday. Sitting there was the same woman who kicked them out last week.
“If she really did do something wrong, why is she still there?” Ismaa’eel said. “That would be the biggest apology.” She didn’t stick around for another “I’m sorry.” Instead she turned the children around, marched back to the school and started the van. A short time later, she went live on Facebook, shooting an image of a little girl in tights, a life jacket and a hijab, wading into a pool.
“When they shut down one pool on you,” Ismaa’eel wrote, “go have fun in another.”
Interfaith week to bring together different faith groups
An interfaith group stops at the San Diego Mormon Temple near La Jolla as part of a bus tour to various places of worship in the San Diego area.
(courtesy California Interfaith Association)
Interfaith Awareness Week is slated to bring together community members of various faith traditions from throughout San Diego County and across the state. Each day from Aug. 5-11, different faith centers will host an event open to the public.
“The idea is for people from different faith groups to come together and learn from each other,” said the Rev. Stephen Albert, president and co-founder of the Poway Interfaith Team and founder of the California Interfaith Association, which connects interfaith groups across the state.
“Interfaith asks you to believe in your faith so strongly that you want to tell others how much it means to you. At the same time, it asks you to recognize that others may feel just as strongly about their faith and for you to listen to them,” Albert said.
The Interfaith Awareness Week grew out of a five-day interfaith conference last August at UC San Diego – the North American Interfaith Network’s conference, which drew more than 250 people representing 20 faiths. The event was organized by the Poway Interfaith Team formed in 2006 to support interfaith dialogue.
One of the accomplishments of the conference, Albert said, was to get proclamations from 15 of 18 mayors and city councils in San Diego County, stating that the cities would honor and respect all people from all faiths, cultures and backgrounds. In March, the California State Assembly and the governor approved Interfaith Awareness Week as the second week in August each year.
Albert created the California Interfaith Association this year to connect dozens of Interfaith organizations across the state. Currently the group links nearly 60 groups which promote respect among different faith groups.
“The mission of the California Interfaith Association is to highlight the abundance of interfaith activity in our state and to raise awareness that bringing people together in discussion and to socialize as friends is a much more valuable exercise than splitting people apart due to fear and mistrust,” Albert said.