Gilbert Achcar, author of The Arabs and the Holocaust, believes that Holocaust denial in the Arab world would go away if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were resolved. The higher the tension between Israel and Palestinians, the greater the amount of Holocaust denial in the Arab world, he maintains. Likewise, the greater the Israeli-Arab tension, the more Israelis tend to deny what the Palestinians call the Nakba, the catastrophe in 1948 when many Arabs were driven from their homes. Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, has acknowledged the Holocaust, saying it was “the most heinous crime against humanity.” Denial of the Nakba is the official stance of the Israeli government. Achcar notes that Arabs had nothing to do with the Holocaust, whereas Nakba was caused by Israelis (Center for Middle East Studies Occasional Paper Series, No. 3, University of Denver).
Dec 18, 2014
European countries are asking how to deal with hundreds of young Muslims who went to Syria to fight and then returned home. Denmark is experimenting with rehabilitation rather than incarceration. Returning fighters are treated not as criminals but as troubled youth who lost their way and need a second chance. The program, first used with neo-Nazi youth, is voluntary and includes counseling, mentoring, opportunities for more schooling, and meetings with parents. So far the program seems to be working. Denmark has the second highest number of foreign fighters per capita. They “only become ticking bombs if we don’t integrate them” back into society, said a Danish psychologist (New York Times, December 13).
Dec 18, 2014
Muslims in Anchorage, Alaska, have been working for 15 years to build a mosque—the first ever in the state—but they need another million dollars to complete the project. The mosque sits next to a Presbyterian church with which it will share a parking lot. Alaska’s Muslim population is extraordinarily diverse, including people from African, Eastern European, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries, as well as from the lower 48 states. One challenge for Alaskan Muslims is deciding when to hold prayers, since they typically are timed according to sunrise and sunset. In summer in Alaska, the sun never sets entirely. The congregation is currently using a storefront in a strip mall (Al Jazeera, December 5).
Dec 18, 2014
Some people think Pope Francis opened the door to believing that animals have an afterlife. Speaking of the “new creation” God intends, the pope said, “It is not an annihilation of the universe and all that surrounds us. Rather it brings everything to its fullness of being, truth and beauty.” An Italian newspaper concluded that the pope was broadening the hope of “eschatological beatitude to animals and the whole of creation.” But a retired professor at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome cautioned against that conclusion, saying that there will be continuity and transformation between the new and old creations and that the balance between the two can’t be determined (Guardian, November 27).
Dec 18, 2014
Construction of religious buildings is at its lowest level since record keeping began in 1967. Declining participation and financial funding and a shift away from megachurches are cited as reasons for the decline. Congregations are also deciding to put more money into ministry rather than structures. The building of religious structures peaked in 2002 and has been decreasing ever since, though there are signs that it may have bottomed out in 2013. Mormons and Muslims, both with growing populations, are exceptions to this trend (Wall Street Journal, December 4).