Muslim Superhero Kamala Khan No Match for Real-life Islamophobia

This coming January, Marvel Comics will launch the new monthly, Ms. Marvel. Photo:RNS / courtesy of Sara Pichelli, Marvel Comics

When Marvel Comics announced the debut of its latest superhero — a 16-year-old Pakistani-American Muslim from Jersey City, N.J. — it was correctly seen as a positive development. Created and written by two American Muslim women, Kamala Khan (aka Ms. Marvel) holds promise.

But while Khan is a comic book character, she should not become a caricature.

“Her brother is extremely conservative,” the editor, Sana Amanat, told The New York Times. “Her mom is paranoid that she’s going to touch a boy and get pregnant. Her father wants her to concentrate on her studies and become a doctor.”

American literature is replete with tales of assimilation, from “My Antonia” to “The Joy Luck Club.” The overprotective mother and the demanding father are staples of the genre. But with Khan, there is an additional twist: The “conservative” brother.

U.K. Minister Sayeeda Warsi Calls on West to Protect Christian Minorities

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, U.K. minister for faith. Photo: Kaveh Sardari/Council on Foreign Relations. Via RNS.

The highest-ranking Muslim in the British government on Friday called on Western governments to do more to protect besieged Christian minorities across the world, particularly in the Holy Land where they are now seen as “outsiders.”

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the government’s minister for faith and the first Muslim member of a British cabinet, said religious freedom is a proxy for human rights and must not be an “add-on” to foreign policy.

“A mass exodus is taking place, on a biblical scale,” she said in a speech at Georgetown University. “In some places, there is a real danger that Christianity will become extinct.”

Is Yoga Religious? An Indian Court Mulls Mandatory School Exercises

Private yoga instructor Shailendra Singh (far right) leads a group at The Yoga Guru club in Delhi. Photo by Vishal Arora via RNS

The Supreme Court of India is weighing whether yoga has a religious element, as it decides if public schools may teach the ancient discipline in the country where it originated.

India’s school policy considers yoga an integral component of physical education. But the court has expressed caution, and is considering arguments that yoga has a religious component. The issue is complicated because India is a secular democracy but has pockets of Hindu nationals who would like to force their way of life on others.

“Can we be asking all the schools to have one period for yoga classes every day when certain minority institutions may have reservations against it?” the court asked Oct. 18, referring to Christian and Muslim groups.

Religious, Civil Rights Groups Demand Investigation of NYPD Spying

An NYPD car drives through the streets of New York City. Photo via RNS/courtesy Giacomo Barbaro via Flickr

A coalition of 125 religious, civil rights, and community-based organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice Thursday urging a civil rights investigation into a New York City Police Department program that spies on Muslims.

Groups from several faith traditions signed the letter including the Presbyterian Church (USA), the National Council of Jewish Women, the Hindu American Foundation, and the Sikh Coalition. Civil rights groups include the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, South Asian Americans Leading Together, and the National Network for Arab American Communities.

The NYPD program is already the target of two federal lawsuits, one filed in June by the ACLU and the City University of New York Law School’s Center for Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility, and the other filed in June 2012, by several Muslim plaintiffs represented by Muslim Advocates and the law firm Bhalla and Cho.

American Jews Say Others Face More Discrimination

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Commuters on subway on June 28, 2012 in New York City. pio3 /

American Jews say they face discrimination in the U.S., but they see Muslims, gays, and blacks facing far more.

This and other findings from the recently released Pew Research Center’s landmark study on Jewish Americans help make the case that Jews — once unwelcome in many a neighborhood, universitym, and golf club — now find themselves an accepted minority.

“While there are still issues, American Jews live in a country where they feel they are full citizens,” said Kenneth Jacobson, deputy national director of the Anti-Defamation League, which was founded in 1913 to combat anti-Semitism.

WATCH: 'There's Nothing Faithful About Torture'

Alongside members of NRCAT, Lisa Sharon Harper discusses Christian opposition to

Alongside members of NRCAT, Lisa Sharon Harper discusses Christian opposition to torture.

Sojourners supports the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT). NRCAT recently released five Youtube videos to counter the claims found in pop-culture that torture is acceptable. Check out this video of people of faith speaking to core faith values that underlie their anti-torture work,, which features Sojourners' Lisa Sharon Harper.

Water Initiatives Get Congregations to Pledge to Conserve

Children from Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, N.J., under the sign for Spalsh! Kid's Camp. Photo via RNS/courtesy Betsy LaVela

At an interfaith summer camp in northern New Jersey, two dozen children explored a swamp to learn how creatures depend on safe water.

In Southern California, a Unitarian Universalist congregation installed a dry well so water from its church rooftops drains into underground pipes to replenish the water table.

In Vermont, members of a Lutheran church removed cars and appliances that had been dumped in a nearby stream and restored its banks with local willows and oaks.

Across the country, water has become more than a ritual element used in Christian baptismal rites or in Jewish and Muslim cleansing ceremonies. It has become a focus for worshippers seeking to go beyond water’s ritual symbolism and think more deeply about their relationship to this life-giving resource.

Denim Burqa Ad: Bold or Insulting?

Diesel jeans ad photo courtesy Twitter. Via RNS

Islamophobic or empowering? Those are among the reactions to a new Diesel jeans ad featuring a heavily tattooed, topless white woman wearing a redesigned, denim burqa.

The slogan next to her: “I Am Not What I Appear To Be.”

Racist and condescending are among the criticisms that have been leveled at the ad, created by Nicola Formichetti, former stylist to Lady Gaga, who made waves last month with her song “Burqa.” But others, including a female Muslim marketing consultant who advised Diesel, said the idea was to make people question assumptions and stereotypes.

England Debates Full-Face Veils in Courtrooms

A woman wearing a niqab (far right) takes a nap in the London subway. Photo: RNS, Courtesy of Kamyar Adl via Flickr

A  senior judge, leading members of Parliament, and human rights activists are calling for an urgent debate on the explosive issue of whether Muslim women should be allowed to wear veils when they testify in court.

The call for national debate follows Judge Peter Murphy’s Sept. 16 ruling that a 22-year-old Muslim woman standing trial on charges of intimidating a witness at a north London mosque must remove her facial veil, called a niqab, when testifying so the jury can better evaluate her facial expressions.

If she refuses, the woman — known only as Defendant D — could face a prison sentence for contempt of court.

Rival to Miss World Will Crown a Pious Muslim Woman

Nina Septiani of Indonesia was crowned Miss World Muslimah 2012. Via RNS/The World Muslimah Beauty/Facebook

After hardline Islamists voiced opposition to the Miss World contest now being staged in Muslim-majority Indonesia, a rival World Muslimah beauty contest exclusively for Muslim women will announce its winner on Wednesday in the capital of Jakarta, though the U.S. candidate suddenly dropped out.

“Muslimah World is a beauty pageant, but the requirements are very different from Miss World,” the pageant’s founder Eka Shanti told Agence France-Presse.

“You have to be pious, be a positive role model and show how you balance a life of spirituality in today’s modernized world,” she said.