White House releases public/private guidelines

WASHINGTON — A new White House report that offers guidance on public/private partnerships between the government and faith-based groups leaves critical questions unanswered and does not resolve the issue of religious groups’ ability to discriminate in hiring and firing, church-state watchdogs said.

The 50-page report, issued Friday (April 28), comes 18 months after President Obama issued an executive order calling for more transparency as faith-based groups work with the government to meet social needs.

The report breaks little new ground, but reaffirms that:

— A faith-based organization can provide federally funded social services without removing religious art, scriptures and symbols from their facilities.

— Explicitly religious activities can’t be supported by federal funds but are permitted if they are funded privately and occur at a separate time and location from programs that receive government money.

— Beneficiaries who object to the religious character of a provider must be referred promptly to an alternative.

Joshua DuBois, director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, called the guidance “an important step” in implementing the recommendations from a blue-ribbon advisory board.

German Muslims Identify More With Germany Than the General Public

A new report published today by Gallup and the Coexist Foundation shows that German Muslims identify more with Germany than the general public do. The report, The Gallup Coexist Index 2009: A Global Study of Interfaith Relations, is the first annual report on the state of faith relations in countries around the world and reveals that more than two out of every five German Muslims (40%) identify with Germany compared to a third (32%) of the general public. It also shows there is gulf of misunderstanding; nearly four out of ten (39%) of the general public believe that Muslims living in Germany are loyal to Germany. This compares to more than seven out of ten (71%) German Muslims who say Muslims are loyal to Germany. The German public and German Muslims are very much aligned in their views when it comes to what drives integration. 97% of the public believe that mastering German is crucial as do 96% of Muslims; 94% of both groups believe finding a job is important; and 95% of Muslims say getting a better education is critical compared to 86% among the general public. The report’s authors say this research shows that religion and national identity are complementary rather than competing and dispels the myth that Muslims do not feel loyalty to Germany, despite the preconceptions among the general public. The Executive Director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies Dalia Mogahed says there needs to be a renewed debate about the views of the majority of Muslims. Ms Mogahed, who was recently appointed to President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, highlighted how the report had broken down many of the myths about Muslim’s attitudes. “This research shows that many of the assumptions about Muslims and integration are wide of the mark. German Muslims want to be part of the wider community and contribute even more to society. “The trust that German Muslims place in the country’s institutions proves that strong religious beliefs don’t translate into a lack of loyalty,” she said at the launch of the findings.

Muslim woman’s appointment as Obama advisor draws optimism in US-Muslim relations

Dalia Mogahed, a senior executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, was appointed to Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The selection by Mogahed is viewed by many Muslims in the US and many in the Middle East as a step by the Obama Administration to move beyond the stereotypes and prejudices that they believe have been cast upon Muslims since September 11, 2008. The move to appoint a hijab-wearing Muslim woman is also seen as step to improve relations with Islam, which many Muslims see has badly damaged during the Bush administration.