Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Just War"

Question: Is there such a thing as a 'just war'? In his Nobel speech, was President Obama right to speak in these theological terms about war? He also stated that 'no holy war can ever be a just war.' Do you agree or disagree?

It is interesting that the December 11th Wall Street Journal headlined “Obama Defends ‘Just War’ as Oslo,” but never addressed what a just war was. The war in Afghanistan is a just war in that it is a war of last resort, waged by a legitimate authority, to redress the wrong suffered in the United States on September 11, 2001. There is a reasonable chance of success to re-establish peace, and the violence inflicted is proportional to the injury suffered. Also, the weapons used in this war discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. This war effort is not a crusade or “holy war,” blinded by jingo-ism or nationalism. The preceding is not true in black-and-white terms, but after President Obama’s speech, we should be willing to trust the information in front of him and the decision he felt obliged to make.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

White House Also A Home

Christmas decorations at the White House include a crèche in the East Room (despite reports that White House social secretary Desirée Rogers suggested that the Obamas were planning a "non-religious Christmas.") Should the White House, whose residents serve all Americans, display a crèche or a menorah or any strictly religious symbols during the holidays?

White House Also A Home
The residents of the White House should feel free to use any tasteful expression of the season that is meaningful to them. They might also want to consider other symbols of major religions represented in the United States. I do not consider the President and his family to be employees of America just because they reside in the White House. The White House is a very important symbol to the American people, but it is also home at present to the President, his wife and two daughters. We are blessed to have them there. I hope their Christmas season is truly joy-filled despite the excessive hustle and bustle that surrounds them even on a “normal” day.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Swiss Minaret Ban: A Wrong Step in the Right Direction

Swiss Minaret Ban: A Wrong Step in the Right Direction

The L.A. Times reported (12/1/09) that by a “national referendum, [the Swiss voted] …with 57.5% of the vote, to ban the construction of new minarets across Switzerland. The ban is wrong and mean-spirited. However, in that it could lead to increased interfaith dialogue, the ban could be a step in the right direction – and can be reversed.

The Swiss can look at other western countries, such as the U.S., to see that despite religious tensions, minarets are legal and beautiful. Their ban speaks volumes about the status of religious expression and understanding in Switzerland.

At this difficult time, it will be important that Swiss Muslims practice tolerance, and intensify efforts to communicate with, and thus educate, their detractors. Humans are threatened by what they don’t know. The Swiss are threatened by the increasing presence of Islam in their country. It seems that Muslims have kept a low profile there. Now is the time for Muslims to speak out in communities – especially in the workplace, where Muslim individuals are known and respected for the work they do. That respect can be transferred to their religion if Muslims would speak appropriately of their faith such as at lunch or on work breaks.

Christian religious leaders in Geneva and elsewhere in Switzerland must lead efforts to increase communication with their Muslim sisters and brothers. Muslim leaders must be sure not to proselytize as they reach into Swiss communities to forge bonds of unity. The vote was taken but the ban is not the end of the story. Hopefully the Christian and Muslin communities in Switzerland can work together for better future relations, as well as an increased presence of beautiful Islamic architecture.