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Israel Meeting on Faith and International Development, Tel Aviv University

Israel Meeting on Faith and International Development, Tel Aviv University

Because of a suggestion from James Wolfensohn while he was in Israel, I was part of an exciting workshop in Neve Ilan at the end of last month. In a nutshell, the meeting was presented as the second designed to reflect on and to revitalize both Jewish and Israeli development work, and to draw together both religious and secular experience and approaches.

Where's the Speech on Religion?

Where's the Speech on Religion?

Avoid religion and politics at the dinner table -- so goes the conventional wisdom. Tempers will flare and appetites curdle with the passions that both topics so often arouse. But in reality we need to get the kind of dinner-table discussions going that can help overcome some deep and poorly understood prejudices about religion in American life.

Food, Faith and Frustration

Food, Faith and Frustration

You can't miss rising food prices if you do the grocery shopping or listen to the radio these days. They are causing real pain all around the world as family budgets everywhere are squeezed. There's no end in sight, though hunger is much more prominent at least in policy discussions, from Davos to U.S. political campaigns.

Oil on the Waters

Oil on the Waters
"Come with an example of a situation where you were judged by a stereotype. Tell about how it affected you and what you tried to do to address it." A group of strangers tackled that tantalizing assignment one evening last month. We were invited to a lovely dinner at a private Washington home for an introduction to the "Public Conversations Project".

Passionately Moderate in Doha

Passionately Moderate in Doha

Where are the passionate moderates in Islam, Madeleine Albright wanted to know. Why does all the passion seem to come from extremists? The former secretary of State was speaking at the recent U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, sponsored by the Brookings Institution. To the Islamic world, her message was that what we need now is “moderates on the march, moderates with swagger.”

Islam, Dreams and Old Clothes

Islam, Dreams and Old Clothes
From videos left behind by suicide bombers to movies like Syriana, Americans have become quite familiar with radicalized Muslim youth. But last week, a remarkable Egyptian evangelist, whose influence reaches across much of the Muslim world, offered a different vision: young Muslims driven by both hope and faith. At the U.S.-Islamic World Forum that just wrapped up in Doha, Amr Khaled was everywhere with his message that faith is a powerful force and motivator for young people in the Middle East, but that it doesn't have to lead to jihad.

AIDS Wars

AIDS Wars

I should have been prepared for the backlash! I stepped right into the middle of a heated controversy when I co-authored a report for Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs in November about the role of religious organizations in the battle against HIV/AIDS. Just last week, an angry letter from the Gerard Health Foundation in Boston to Georgetown University’s president actually called for the report’s withdrawal, with a litany of accusations. The complaint? That our report gives insufficient “credit” to promoting abstinence and faithfulness as a central approach to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and that it reveals an “anti-Catholic bias” in its treatment of Church teaching on condoms. Perhaps nowhere is the role of religion in public policy and service delivery more significant than in the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The storm around the Berkley Center report is a depressing illustration of how hard dialogue can be. And how important.

Women's Place

Women's Place
As I ventured into the hotel lobby in Jeddah earlier this week, I was not thinking about the role of women in Islam, but the issue came abruptly into the picture. In my terms I felt pretty well covered in a mid-calf dark red suit with long sleeves, but I was quickly conscious of disapproving stares from two hotel porters. One asked me what I was looking for in a way that made it clear I did not belong there. I knew that women in Saudi Arabia are required to wear the long black robes known as abayas in public places, and I was hoping to find a shop that sold them in the lobby. In the meantime, I thought I would be given a pass in this hotel that catered to Western visitors. It was my temporary home–for me, it wasn't really a public place, was it? The porter's glance told me otherwise. My abaya search was unsuccessful and I turned to a planned meeting with a colleague (a man) whom I had known for years. We sat down at a café in the middle of the lobby. A waiter materialized instantly, but said that these tables were for men only. There was a "family" section, hidden to one side, where they were willing to serve us. It's been a long time since I felt that combined sense of being unwelcome and disapproved of.

Why Women Might Support Religious Fundamentalism

This is a guest post by Zainab Salbi, President, Women for Women International. It is part of the Faith, Gender, and Development research of the Religion and Global Development Program at the Berkley Center.

The emergence of religious fundamentalist movements in many parts of the world is the result of a variety of historical and socio-political processes. By examining women’s attraction to the Islamic revivalist movement in the Middle East general themes emerge which are applicable in other countries albeit within their own unique religious and cultural contexts. Contrary to popular beliefs of Muslim women as complacent and docile, in supporting Islamic fundamentalist movements women in the Middle East operate as active agents seeking to advance their own interests through the revival of religious traditions.