Image via RNS/Smithsonian

The exhibit is not intended as commentary on today’s politics, its organizers said. Work started on the project six years ago, before sharp rises in Islamophobic rhetoric and violence in the U.S. and Europe, and before Muslim immigration and culture became a flashpoint in American and European politics.

But the Smithsonian is not sorry for the timing, and hopes the exhibit can help quell fears of Islam and its followers.

Catherine Woodiwiss 12-19-2015

Image via /

I often find that the general public really has no idea that teachers are allowed to teach about the world’s religions in public schools. There’s a clear disconnect between what educators are doing and what the public thinks they can do. Then you add to this that people really don’t know that much about religions in general. The idea that a kid’s going to get converted by trying to write calligraphy, even if it’s a statement of faith — I mean, that seems like, really?

Photo via Rosie Scammell / RNS

The Vatican's new Arabic-language guidebook. Photo via Rosie Scammell / RNS

The Vatican has released a new Arabic-language guidebook, the first of its kind, which aims to bring the culture of the Catholic Church to a new audience.

Titled The Vatican, its Significance and its Monuments, the guidebook hit bookstores around the Holy See late last month and goes beyond sightseeing tips.

The book’s author, Edmond Farhat, said he was compelled to write the guide after a lengthy diplomatic career representing the Vatican across North Africa.

Photo via Zaytuna College / RNS

Mark Delp teaches formal logic to Zaytuna College freshmen. Photo via Zaytuna College / RNS

A college that requires the study of both Wordsworth and the Quran for graduation is now the first fully accredited Islamic university in America.

Zaytuna College, a five-year-old institution in Berkeley, Calif., was recognized in March by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, an academic organization that oversees public and private colleges and universities in the U.S.

The accreditation means Zaytuna, which owns only two buildings and has 50 students, is a legitimate institution of higher learning, only a few blocks from its esteemed neighbor, the University of California, Berkeley.

“Being accredited puts us at the same table” as other accredited colleges and universities, said Colleen Keyes, Zaytuna’s vice president of academic affairs.

“It makes us equal partners.”

For faculty — of which Zaytuna has 15 — it lends credibility and status.

Gary M. Burge 08-02-2011

I prefer my revolutions to be simple: A corrupt dictator/tyrant, an oppressed population, inspired reformers who risk their lives, calls for democracy, waves of marchers in the streets, background music from Les Misérables. The stories from Tunis and Cairo were epochal. The Arab spring was in full bloom as calls for participatory government could be heard from every corner of the Middle East.

Then there was Syria. The Assad government has been infamous in its intolerance to dissent. It is a military regime whose 30-year leadership under Hafez al-Assad (1930-2000) established it as one of the most severe in the region. In 2,000, after the death of Hafez, the world was intrigued to see his second son -- Bashar al-Assad -- ascend the throne. Bashar was an ophthalmologist who had studied in London, but because of his older brother's death in a car accident in 1994, he was called to follow his father. Bashar speaks English and French fluently and has been as critical of the U.S. as he has been of Israel.

Vanessa Ortiz 04-29-2011
Well, the last time I checked, women were in the front lines of civil resistance struggles in" target="_blank
Lynne Hybels 02-15-2011

Last week, I received this photo of Maggie, an Egyptian Christian friend who is a documentary filmmaker. When I asked her if I could post the photo on my blog, she sent me this email in return:

Samuel Nichols 01-04-2011

For nearly six years, the Palestinian residents of the West Bank village of Bil'in have held a weekly nonviolent demonstration against the separation wall -- a barrier cutting through large portions of

Uri Dikulous 04-01-2010
On the heels of President Barack Obama's surprise visit to the troops in Afghanistan on Sunday, Vice President Joseph Biden and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin revealed a surprise of their own:
Troy Jackson 03-26-2010

From the window of my hotel room in Bethlehem, I could see the "security" wall that separates the West Bank from the rest of Israel.

Jarrod McKenna 05-13-2009

"Jesus Killed Mohammed" was written in Arabic in large red letters on the side of a U.S. Army Special Forces vehicle, armed to kill and rolling through a town in Iraq. It sounds like a bad Mad-Maxesque Hollywood adaption of the Crusades set in our contemporary context. The scene gets more chilling and horrific:

Rabbi Arthur Waskow 01-22-2009
I thought God -- the real God, the One who cares passionately about justice, peace, and diversity -- came out rather well in the inaugural ceremonies.