Tariq Ramadan to Speak at 9/11 Forum in Montreal

The National Post – September 6, 2011

 

The Dalai Lama will join controversial Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan in Montreal for the Second Global Conference on World’s Religions After Sept. 11 organized by McGill University and the Université de Montréal. Organizer Arvind Sharma, a professor of comparative religion at McGill, says the goal is to debate how religions can contribute to peace in the world. Rather than promising inspiration in a world plagued by religious tumult, the conference has already stirred up controversy and dissension as critics charge that the Dalai Lama is being duped into promoting Islamic fundamentalism. Mr. Ramadan will be participating in a panel discussion on Peace Through Religion with Robert Thurman (Buddhism), Gregory Baum (Christianity) and Steven Katz (Judaism). In addition to the Dalai Lama, there will also be a presentation by author Deepak Chopra.

For Tarek Fatah, founder of the Canadian Muslim Congress, this is just a way of saying religions are above reproach and tacitly endorsing Sharia law, and he is furious the Dalai Lama would be asked to support that. Mr. Sharma says he understands that Mr. Ramadan is a controversial figure, but says he is the most prominent voice on the place of Islam in the modern world.

Forensic Psychiatrist Reflects Canadian Omar Khadr and Islamic Fundamentalism in Guantanamo Bay

The National Post – February 19, 2011
This article reflects the opinion of Dr. Michael Welner, an expert forensic psychiatrist witness in numerous high profile civil and criminal proceedings in the United States. Here he reflects on the impact of prison relating to the fundamentalism of Omar Khadr:
Against the backdrop of these competing forces, the United States Department of Defense asked me as a veteran of highly sensitive forensic psychiatric assessments to appraise the risk of one such Guantanamo detainee, Omar Khadr. Mr. Khadr, by his own statements in 2002 and most recently in October 2010, admitted to throwing a grenade that killed Sfc. Christopher Speer as he inspected the scene of a recently completed battle. Khadr was 15 at the time that he killed Speer.
When I interviewed Khadr last June in my capacity as a forensic psychiatrist, he was an English-speaking, socially agile 23-year-old with the kind of easy smile that so similarly warms those who encounter the Dalai Lama and Bin Laden alike. Anticipating his eventual release, the military commission asked me to go beyond the natural tendency of advocates and adversaries to see what they want to see in Omar the man.
In American as well as Canadian facilities, tens of thousands of inmates are converting to Islam every year. Yielding to the notion that they are respecting religion, corrections officials have failed to make a committed effort to staff prisons with devout, forceful but peaceful-minded Muslim imams. As a result, the more charismatic, Machiavellian, and aggressive leaders within North American corrections facilities dominate and influence vulnerable and often alienated Muslim prisoners. These influences remain after prisoners are released and have been implicated in American terror attacks by American-born ex-cons.

Schools in Quebec to Celebrate Diverse Religious and Culture Holidays, Including Eid al-Adha

Schools in Québec are now required to note the passage of holidays like Eid al-Adha, Hanukkah, Diwali and the birth of Sikh guru Nanak. These dates are part of a controversial new course on ethics and religious culture making its debut in classrooms this fall. One school, Loyola High School in Montreal, is going to court in protest. More than 600 parents at the private Catholic school have requested exemptions to allow their children to opt out of the course. The school’s principal, Paul Donovan has stated that “if you’re going to allow Catholic schools to exist, then you have to allow them to be Catholic.”

Jean-Pierre Proulx, a University of Montreal education professor who advised the provincial government on the new course, stated, “We’re not aiming to form good Catholics or good Protestant or good Jews. We want to form good cultivated citizens, who are tolerant and able to enter into dialogue with others.”

The Dalai Lama will travel to the province next year to show his enthusiasm for the ethics and religious culture class.

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Schools in Quebec to Celebrate Diverse Religious and Culture Holidays, Including Eid al-Adha

Schools in Qu_bec are now required to note the passage of holidays like Eid al-Adha, Hanukkah, Diwali and the birth of Sikh guru Nanak. These dates are part of a controversial new course on ethics and religious culture making its debut in classrooms this fall. One school, Loyola High School in Montreal, is going to court in protest. More than 600 parents at the private Catholic school have requested exemptions to allow their children to opt out of the course. The school’s principal, Paul Donovan has stated that if you’re going to allow Catholic schools to exist, then you have to allow them to be Catholic. Jean-Pierre Proulx, a University of Montreal education professor who advised the provincial government on the new course, stated, We’re not aiming to form good Catholics or good Protestant or good Jews. We want to form good cultivated citizens, who are tolerant and able to enter into dialogue with others. The Dalai Lama will travel to the province next year to show his enthusiasm for the ethics and religious culture class.

Muslim TV channel stages interfaith game show

Britain’s first interfaith game show is to be launched, pitting Jews against Muslims, Sikhs against Christians and Hindus against Buddhists, with contestants competing for cash prizes. Faith Off, the working title of a series on the Islam Channel, will attempt to promote good relations and mutual respect between Britain’s religious communities. Two teams of four will go head to head in each episode, answering quick-fire and general knowledge questions in the eight-part series hosted by the Muslim comedian Jeff Mirza. There will be a multiple choice current affairs segment in addition to a home or away round, where contestants can answer questions on their own faith or the opposing team’s for further points. Players will also have to identify religious figures, such as the Dalai Lama and the Pope, from blurred footage. The programme is likely to have all the elements of a traditional gameshow – a garish set, flashing lights, puns and loud buzzers – plus the added twist of headscarves, turbans and yarmulkes. Participants in the show, the makers say, will have varying degrees of knowledge. Some of the contestants responded directly to online adverts on Muslim websites, while others were found via the Islam Channel’s networks. The show is not aimed at theologians or scholars, said its producer, Abrar Hussain, who also produced the programme Model Mosque, a national competition to find Britain’s best mosque. Hussain said: “We’re living in a multifaith, multicultural society. I know a bit about Christianity but nothing about Judaism.

Moderate Muslims Seek Help From The Dalai Lama

SAN FRANCISCO – Prominent Muslim dignitaries on Saturday met for the first time with the world’s most influential Buddhist, the Dalai Lama, enlisting his help in quelling fanatical ideologies within Islamic communities and improving the faith’s declining image in the West. The summit was a measure of the desperate concern among moderate Muslim leaders and scholars about religious extremism and increasingly negative views of their faith arising from Western concerns about terrorism. Indeed, Islam traditionally has not recognized Buddhism. “The main issue of this conference is to provide a platform to teach that there is no room today to say or invest in anything but love,” said Imam Mehdi Khorasani of Marin County, who had extended the invitation to the Dalai Lama. “We are happy and grateful for His Holiness’ decision to lend his energy to this cause.” Appearing comfortable and jovial in his maroon and saffron robe before a crowd of about 600, the Dalai Lama, 71, was true to his image as one of the world’s most avid advocates for peace. “Some people have an impression that Islam is militant,” he said, seated in lotus position on a center-stage baronial chair at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins hotel. “I think that is totally wrong. Islam is one of the world’s great religions and it carries, basically, a message of love and compassion.” He pointed to his homeland of Tibet as an example of a place where Buddhists and Muslims have existed together in peace for centuries. In an interview earlier, the Nobel laureate and religious leader of Tibetan Buddhism said, “Promoting the genuine message of Islam and the proper impression of the Muslim world – that is my hope. “Some of my Muslim friends have told me that those people who claim to be Muslims, if they create bloodshed, that is not genuine Islam,” he said. “Those few mischievous ones do not represent the whole Muslim community.” Some of those in attendance suggested that the open display of mutual support might not play well with more extreme members of either Islam or Buddhism. “It’s a brave thing for imams to reach out to the Dalai Lama – it’s likely to be seen in some circles as an act of weakness and undignified of their own traditions,” said Caner Dagli, assistant professor of religion at Roanoke College in Salem, Va. “The Dalai Lama is also putting himself out on a limb by standing with his Muslim brothers and sisters,” he said. “But I’m happy about all that. It’s right that they should be allies.” One difference is that although the Dalai Lama holds an unquestioned position as spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet, Islam has no similar central authority uniting its members. Hence, Muslims around the globe interpret the faith quite differently and are more divided among themselves. That the meeting came together at all was remarkable, coming near the date of the prophet Muhammad’s birthday, as well as during Passover and Easter weekend. It also followed the release last week of the recorded sounds of struggle and panic when Sept. 11 hijackers took control of United Airlines Flight 93 and screamed, “Allah is the greatest,” as the plane went down. But the Dalai Lama, who normally books his appearances seven years in advance, and the Muslim leaders and scholars from around the world broke their holiday commitments to attend the hastily organized event. “This meeting had to happen,” said Dan Kranzler, a philanthropist and one of the gathering’s sponsors. “The 90% of the Muslim world that is moderate and peace-loving wants to overcome the radical ideologies of the rest,” said Kranzler, who is Jewish but refers to himself as a “universalist.” “If there is anyone in the world who can cheat the odds and make that happen it’s the Dalai Lama.” Organizers called it an extraordinary convergence. Essentially, Muslim leaders were seeking the Dalai Lama’s rock-star status, broad appeal and skills as a neutral conciliator in dealing with divisiveness within their faith, deepened by worldwide media attention. Even moderate Muslims, who make up most believers, are not united enough to impose their visions of peace and tolerance on those who are intolerant or promote violence. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, founder of the Zaytuna Institute in Hayward, which is dedicated to reviving the sciences of classical Islam, pointed out another reason for wanting the Dalai Lama on their side. “Buddhism gets the best press of any religion in the world,” he said. “Islam gets the worst press because it’s associated with war and belligerence. “When a recent Gallup Poll asked Americans what they respected about Islam, 38% answered not a thing, and 12 % said they weren’t sure,” he said. “Yet one-fifth of humanity is Muslim. “So we are delighted that the Dalai Lama wants to understand how we view this situation and assess what his own community can do to alleviate the problems,” he said. Under tight security, the Dalai Lama initially met privately with 40 leaders, including Mahmud Kilic, a professor of Sufism and president of the Turkish and Islamic Art Museum in Istanbul; Sayyid M. Syeed, head of the Islamic Society of North America, the largest umbrella organization of Islamic centers in the United States; and Ahmad Al-Hashimi, president of the Ihsan Muslim Heritage Society of Ontario, Canada. One proposal that emerged from the discussions was a possible visit by the Dalai Lama to Saudi Arabia. Later, on stage, he was flanked by religious leaders and scholars including Huston Smith, emeritus professor of religion at UC Berkeley; Thomas Cleary, a Harvard professor whose interpretation of the ancient Chinese “Art of War” became a bestseller; and Robert Thurman, a Columbia University professor known as the Billy Graham of Buddhism. In an interview, Smith said the meeting was in direct response to the violent exploitation of one of the great traditions. “The world is in flames. We are at war with Islam,” he said. “The Muslim leaders here wanted to talk to the Dalai Lama about what they could do to persuade terrorists that their terrorism only increases terrorism.” Though Muslim leaders called for the gathering, it was organized and funded by a coalition that included film producer Steven Reuther and Kranzler, who made his fortune in the computer software industry. In an effort to make Muslim guests feel as comfortable as possible in their daily prayers, the organizing team determined the exact direction of Mecca from the Nob Hill hotel – 15 degrees east of north. Receptions were alcohol-free and vegetarian, in keeping with practices of Islam and Buddhism. Dozens of participants wore white scarfs that had been draped around their necks by the Dalai Lama in private sessions.