Century Marks

Century Marks

Muslim rocks

A group of young Muslim musicians, known as “nasheeds,” are combining hip-hop, country and pop music with the traditional message of their faith.  Nasheeds are supposed to “remind people of God,” said 22-year-old Mo Sabri of Johnson City, Tennessee, one of the first Muslim singers with his own channel on Pandora. His most popular song, “I Believe in Jesus,” has been viewed on YouTube more than a million times. Sabri said he wrote the song as a reminder that Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet and that all faiths should follow Jesus’ command to love one’s neighbor (RNS).

One accord

A study in Sweden suggests that when people sing together their heartbeats tend to be synchronized. When singers in a high school choir were hooked to heart rate monitors, the monitors showed their heartbeats were most in sync for a humming and a mantra exercise, and least coordinated when singing a hymn. Group singing could be found to have cardiovascular benefits (CNN, July 8).

Patriotic preaching

Holy war is often identified with something from the distant past like the Crusades. James P. Byrd, author of the new book Sacred Scripture, Sacred War: The Bible and the American Revolution, argues that the American Revolution was like a holy war. Patriots, believing in the justice of their cause, appealed to scripture, backed by preaching from pulpits. George Washington insisted on having chaplains in the army and he ordered his soldiers to attend services. Appeals for victory were made to God in battle. Even the skeptical Thomas Paine used scripture in his “Common Sense,” the most influential revolutionary pamphlet (Washington Post, July 5).

Questioning a pope

When Pope Francis met recently with thousands of Italian and Albanian schoolchildren, he threw aside his prepared speech and invited the children to ask questions. One young girl, no more than six, asked if he wanted to be pope. He first said that only someone who hated himself would want that job. More seriously, he responded: “I didn’t want to be pope.” When asked about his decision not to live in the luxurious papal apartments, he said it was a matter of personality. “I need to live among people.” He concluded the 30 minutes of banter with the children by saying to them: “Don’t let anyone rob you of hope” (Huffington Post, June 7).

Kosher no more

The Polish parliament has rejected a bill backed by the prime minister that would allow slaughterhouses to kill animals using Jewish kosher and Muslim hallal methods. The procedure was stopped last year by court action, which deemed the practice of slitting an animal’s throat and letting it bleed to death a form of animal cruelty. Some observers believe that anti-Semitism lurks beneath this decision, a sensitive matter in a country where millions of Jews were killed during the Nazi occupation of Poland (Reuters).