Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Passover and Happy Easter!

Happy Passover! Happy Easter! Eid Mubarak wa Majeed!

This year, Passover started on March 25 and ends April 2. So, Happy Pesach! Chag Sameach! Eid Mubarak! Happy Holiday to all the folks who are celebrating! 

I remember my first seder, at Lauren Erdreich's parents' house in Edison, NJ, not far from where Lauren and I were in college. I remember being struck by the beauty and value of having an annual celebration focusing on liberation from oppression and enslavement, the moral consciousness this could awaken in a child, and the reminders it provided to adults. 

Over the years I continued to learn about Passover from such sources as T'ruah: the rabbinic call for human rights (formerly Rabbis for Human Rights - USA), Jewish Voice for Peace (l think it's worth noting this from them as well), and Tikkun.

Of course, who says holiday says food, yum! And though I was raised in Morocco, sadly, I have not been to a Mimouna celebration there. Inshallah, next year in Casablanca! I look forward to being able to exclaim, "T'frah, uw t'rbah!" (Be joyous & prosper!)

That first seder was not my last nor was it my only interfaith experiencesharing friends' religious festivals. I grew up in a multi-faith family, in Morocco, a Muslim-majority nation with hybrid heritage proud of its pluralism. Perhaps because of this, interfaith work gives me inspiration and a deep satisfaction.

You can imagine my pleasure, just as Passover is coming to a close, at finding this interfaith, comparative discussion of the Exodus story (how the Jews fled from ancient Egypt, led by Moses) as described in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions.

Passover is not over yet, but today is, of course, Western rite Christians’ Easter. Happy Easter to all those celebrating and observing!

This year, G*d willing, I will travel to Morocco to mark Eastern rite Christian Easter with my mom, who is Greek Orthodox. This year Eastern (or Orthodox) Easter falls on May 5. The Greeks and most Orthodox call Easter Pascha.

The Greek Orthodox Church in Casablanca my mom attends is a part of the Holy Archdiocese of Carthage, itself a part of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa, which rules all of the Orthodox churches in Africa. The names alone, Carthage, Alexandria, sound ancient. They are of course, modern towns in Tunisia and Egypt respectively.

I can barely wrap my head around the ecumenical issues or the denominational differences in any religion, but here goes. The Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa is: 
the second in rank of the fourteen Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, which in their totality constitute the Orthodoxy, one of the three essential doctrines of Christianity, along with the Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Located in Alexandria of Egypt, its spiritual jurisdiction spreads throughout the African continent, which is accounted as a single geographical Church region.
I care about the Greek Orthodox church in Casablanca because of my mother's tie to it and my passion for diversity and inclusion and my dedication to interfaith work. I also care about it because it is part of the cultural patrimony of Casablanca. The church is a solid example of 1920's modernist architecture that can be found across Casablanca and Morocco, and is worth preserving and feeling proud about. Not too long ago it underwent restoration of its icons and internal d├ęcor and I found these photos on Facebook taken by someone who traveled there. [Note, the person who posted the album calls it a "Cathedral" but it has no bishop and is a small community church.]

Enjoy! And Happy Holidays!

Love, Light, & Peace,

Also of interest:

Thursday, March 28, 2013


The US Supreme Court has not yet ruled, but it is clear from anecdotal conversations and news reports as well as from scientific polls that a majority of Americans support equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Not having marriage equality brings real harms. One of them — and I know folks who have experienced this — is related to immigration. Gay and lesbian binational couples have had to fight deportation, separation, and exile caused by the "Defense of Marriage Act" and US Immigration law. And that's just one reason marriage matters. There are a slew of other real world problems that come from not having relationship recognition, economic hardships that different-sex couples need never face.

Beyond this equality and equity issue lies something more basic. 

Marriage equality brings with it something ineffable. Marriage is magic. A Muslim woman friend of mine got married recently in Washington, DC, where it's legal, and had been a critic of the institution. She shared with me that after being wed, she had a realization: something really is different about marriage. She can still articulate and agree with critiques of the institution, but deeply appreciates being married. Perhaps not unlike Feminist Hulk would.

I come to these questions as a lawyer and policy wonk, and also as an American whose commitment to justice, equality, and equity is rooted in my Muslim faith. It was with great pleasure I read Omid Safi's endorsement of marriage equality. Safi, a Muslim American intellectual and spiritual leader, sums up the position of most Muslim Americans I know:
We don't want a two-tiered model of justice. We don't want a two-tiered model of citizenship. A two-tiered justice is not justice, and a two-tiered citizenship is not real citizenship.
He's right. Islam cares about Justice. And Muslims value full and equal citizenship.

I understand some people are truly and honestly conflicted, even morally concerned. Good people, to quote Sen. Claire McCaskill, are troubled by the idea of what same-sex couples do together, let alone them having equal rights. Some of these folks are Muslims.

Everyone has the right to their opinions and values. These rights are trumped by the reality of individuals and children for whom relationship recognition brings with it over 1,000 rights and benefits that flow from marriage. Plus, in a secular democracy in which no religious group or splinter movement within a religious tradition gets to legislate its theology on the rest of us, marriage equality is the logical conclusion.

For those who argue the theoretical point that governments shouldn't be in the business of sanctioning unions in the first place, I say, the fact is governments do sanction them. It's too easy to bandy theory when you have rights and it's not you being denied full participation in a civil institution.

As long as a whole class of citizens does not have access to the rights and benefits (or responsibilities) that are bundled up with marriage, they are denied the equal protection of the laws. 

However the Court may rule, this, to me, is the moral argument in support of marriage equality.

I am deeply grateful to all who have struggled for justice and equality, allies who changed their profile picture on Facebook or donated money and time to advocacy groups, all the folks who marched and demonstrated, wrote letters, spoke to their neighbors, colleagues, and family. I am grateful to all the tireless activists and staff working on these campaigns and issues. So many of you will remain nameless. I may not know you, but I thank you.

And yet, my joy at this apparent progress does not come without sadness. 

The LGBTQ Movement for equality and inclusion must think about what happens next. Equality will have to be defended; there will be a backlash. But even more important, is the thinking about what happens beyond marriage.

Justice means little without equity. Any Muslim can tell you that. While for many, marriage equality is the path to accessing social security survivorship benefits or not paying taxes on property transfers after the death of a life partner, equity means making access to that kind of security possible for all, regardless of marital status.

And if you thought marriage was everything, then you might be wearing blinders. While the media was focused on the amazing possibility of marriage equality, this happened

movement for equality and liberation must think more broadly than simply having rights. Still, I don't see this as a reason for despair or to give up. It just means the struggle continues. As a Muslim, this makes sense to me: #MyJihad (my struggle) is to keep working for justice & equality, equity & access, dignity & inclusion, and security & freedom for all. 

I hope you'll join me.

Love, Light, & Peace,

PS In all this brouhaha, I can't help but wonder, is Pamela Geller's head spinning, seeing so many Muslims not sounding like Fred Phelps and Pat Robertson? KF

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