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Divine Dispatches: Religion roundup

Discussion in 'Interfaith Dialogues' started by spnadmin, Jul 29, 2010.

  1. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Jun 17, 2004
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    Divine dispatches: a religion roundup

    When I worked in the Manchester office of the Guardian I often wrote the Northerner, a round-up of northern news. This feature is a bit like that, except it's about belief and will never mention Coleen McLoughlin, unless she becomes a nun.

    • As it happens there have been lots of nuns in the news this week – singing, fugitive and fake – but let's kick off with a story about Wrexham, a town so often in tune with the zeitgeist. The BBC reports that the council there is considering offering a funeral that mixes up the divine with the secular.

    Civil ceremonies could fill a gap in the market, it is claimed, by allowing people to pick traditional elements of a burial or cremation without having to go the whole religious hog. Stephen Caldecott, a local funeral director, thinks the civil funerals could catch on.

    "There is a demand for this kind of service," he said. "A lot of people still want a traditional funeral, but we are getting more and more requests from people who do not want a minister but do want a hymn."

    It was Benjamin Franklin who said nothing in life was certain except taxes and death. The folk of Wrexham, it would seem, are hedging their bets with the latter.

    • Pakistan is reaching out to Buddhists. In a classic case of fiddling while Rome burns, diplomatic, tourism and economic officials are making concerted efforts to bring more Buddhists across the border. The Bangkok Post says the Pakistani ambassador Sohail Mahmood has organised visits by Thai Buddhist leaders to Pakistan's Buddhist heritage sites such as Taxila, Takht-i-Bahi and the neighbouring city remains at Sahr-i-Bahlol. Both are among the six Unesco heritage sites in Pakistan.

    Pakistani tourism officials also want to learn from the Thai experience of crisis management.

    One said: "We need to rectify the negative propaganda against Pakistan. Negative travel advisories are damaging the image of the country as reported in the western media." Ah yes, those pesky travel advisories. Nothing to do with sectarian violence then.

    • Women's headgear continues to fascinate the media and sometimes in not so obvious ways. The Toronto Star claims turban wearing – among young Sikh women – is on the rise. "Local Sikh leaders estimate at least a few hundred women wear the turban. In fact, there are more women who wear the turban in North America than in Punjab, India, where the majority of Sikhism followers live." Can anyone verify this?
    "People are way more traditional here", haminder Singh, a Mississauga-based Sikh scholar, tells the paper.

    "They are worried about losing their religion and culture and so become more orthodox", he said. "It's a way for some people to protect their religion." There are varying views on whether Sikh women are required to wear the turban although there is nothing in Sikh tradition that says women are required to cover their hair.

    Mandeep Kaur Uppal, the focus of the article, says she wears the turban because "our gurus said all Sikhs should wear it, and that includes women".

    • At least in this instance women are deciding what to put on their heads, or not, and why. For Muslim women, it appears that male intervention is still required. There are numerous, breathless, reports of a Saudi scholar saying it is OK for women to uncover their faces if there is a veil ban in their home country, a statement sure to cause a surge of niqabi liberation in mainland Europe. No mention is made of the fact that nobody really pays that much attention to Saudi scholars – except the media and the Saudis – and that there are lots of Saudis who say a lot of stuff all the time. Anyone remember the one-eyed veil? To Saudi scholars reading this, a little consistency please. Women get very easily confused.

    • And finally, the ever-excellent NPR carries a report on a Jewish American delegation freshly returned from Israel, where they went to oppose a bill in parliament. The group fears the bill would give Orthodox religious authorities in Israel the power to judge which conversions to Judaism are legitimate and therefore decide which converted Jews are eligible for Israeli citizenship. The story also pops up on the New York Times. Both reports attempt to unpick a complicated and emotive subject.

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