Sacred Activism

Sacred Activism is a new category of posts for my interfaith ministry blog. These social ministry issues – their meanings and implications – flow from my inner work of meditation, blessings, prayers and study. My awareness of some of the challenges also come to my attention through my interactions with persons I meet and serve as an urban minister.

I have come to recognize that within my silent times, I frequently experience the visions and voices of the hopeless, lonely, guilty, oppressed, down trodden, poor, ugly.

In many ways, I enjoy the life of a contemplative monk living on the periphery of the Entertainment Capital of the World… a monk in Sin City.

In my silent solitude, I dialogue with my Sacred.

Through my Facebook account, I share daily posts in support of unity, positivity, hope, compassion and forgiveness.

To date, this blog has centered on the themes of my public ministry… an interfaith message that hope = compassion + forgiveness.

Some of my posts will now offer some reflection on moving from contemplation to action… from prayer to sacred activism… from grace to works…from awareness to change.

And so it is…

As always, I welcome your feedback. Namaste!

Black Students In The U.S. Get Criminalized While White Students Get Treatment
The same misbehavior is treated in very different ways.

When black and white kids act up or display troubling behavior at schools, teachers and administrators often address it with differing responses split along racial lines, new research shows.

Black students are more likely to be punished with suspensions, expulsions or referrals to law enforcement, a phenomenon that helps funnel kids into the criminal justice system. Meanwhile, white kids are more likely to be pushed into special education services or receive medical and psychological treatment for their perceived misbehaviors, according to a study released last week in the journal Sociology of Education.

Overall, this pattern often leads to the criminalization of young black students and the medicalization of white students.

The study, conducted by Pennsylvania State University assistant professor of sociology and criminology David Ramey, analyzed the rates of suspensions, expulsions and police referrals at 59,000 schools across the country. He also looked at how many students in these schools were enrolled in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, two programs designed to help kids in need of special services.

Ramey found that schools with larger populations of black students also had higher rates of suspensions, while schools with more white students had a greater number of kids in programs designed for students with special needs.

Ramey offers a few explanations for his findings. For one, to qualify for special services under IDEA, students must be given an official diagnosis from a medical or mental health professional detailing why they need extra help. Schools are given with funds to provide these extra, costly services from the government.

To receive special services under Section 504, however, students must display a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities” but don’t need an official diagnosis. Schools don’t receive any funding for Section 504, so they must draw from their own resources to help students. This helps explain why schools with high populations of minority students are less likely to place students into special education services, according to the new research.

In addition, they study says many black families are “skeptical of medical and mental health research” because of the Tuskegee experiment, which involved researchers in the mid-20th century misleading and mistreating black men involved in a study about syphilis.

Disadvantaged schools also tend to have more one-size-fits-all approaches to discipline, leading to high rates of suspensions and expulsions.

“Where the population is more educated, parents make more money, housing values are greater, those districts tend to give a lot of autonomy to their schools,” Ramey told The Huffington Post.

A more insidious hypothesis is that suspending low-achieving students or medicalizing kids with certain disabilities helps schools boost their test scores.

“Some scholars have suggested that both the suspension and medicalization may be responses to standardized testing,” Ramey said. “If you suspend kids while they’re supposed to take the test, they no longer count against the school’s score.”

“Same thing with kids with borderline learning disabilities and putting them on medication,” he continued. “If a kid is borderline and you give them stimulant medication, that’s going to improve his or her test score and improve the school’s scores.”

Sadly, racial bias could also explain why black and white students are punished differently for similar behavior. Ramey explored this phenomenon in earlier research.

“The bulk of my earlier research looked at how, for the same minor levels of misbehaviors — for example, classroom disruptions, talking back — white kids tend to get viewed as having ADHD, or having some sort of behavioral problem, while black kids are viewed as being unruly and unwilling to learn,” Ramey said in a press release.

Sacred Activism

ISIS: Wake-up Call to Muslim Women?

Amina Wadud
Amina Wadud

Why is Isis a wake-up call to Muslim women?
by Homa Khaleeli
April 13, 2015

With her warm manner, academic language and grey-tinged dreadlocks partially covered by a headscarf, Amina Wadud makes an unlikely rebel. But the 62-year-old African-American professor, the daughter of a Methodist minister, is one of Islam’s leading feminists. Ten years ago, she faced down a bomb threat in New York when she led Friday prayers to a mixed congregation of men and women – something many religious scholars argued was forbidden in Islam. Three years later, she defied protests from local groups to do the same in London. Not content with taking on the mosques, now she has her sights set on revolutionising sharia councils and the laws that underpin them.

Sharia, she points out, is a world view, “the divine order of the universe”. What she is interrogating is fiqh, the Muslim legal tradition of man-made rules based on almost exclusively male interpretations of sacred texts. “When we are talking about laws, we are into talking about who is interpreting the laws, and what judicial methods they use,” she tells me. “The prophet made radical reforms but [Muslims] didn’t keep pace with that. If you start with that and no one else on the planet has it, you should be ahead of anyone else on the planet with regards to gender. But instead we let patriarchy to take over.”

Wadud is working with Musawah, an organisation campaigning for gender equality, and has contributed a chapter to its new book, Men in Charge? Rethinking Authority in Muslim Legal Tradition, which focuses on just one verse in the Qur’an – (4:34) that the authors have called “the DNA of patriarchy”. It is this verse that scholars have used to insist that God has given men authority over women – leading to wildly discriminatory laws of which Saudi Arabia’s infamous guardianship system (which prevents women from having medical procedures, taking a job or getting an education without the permission of a male guardian) is just one example.

While much of the Qur’an speaks of justice and spiritual equality, the prominence given to the interpretation of this verse has led to discriminatory laws and, as Wadud points out, “completely patriarchal” sharia councils. In the UK, hold power to dissolve marriages and have been criticised for discriminating against women.

“I have more optimism than I thought I would ever have before I died,” she says, pointing out that, even in countries such as Saudi Arabia, women have successfully campaigned to be able to stand for certain offices, vote in certain elections and increase the number of jobs they can do. “You have no place on the planet Earth where women are not on the move,” she says, firmly.

Even the terrifying rise of Isis doesn’t quell her hope. “The worst manifestation of Islam in our time is the so-called Islamic State,” she says, “but it might be our salvation. This is a powerful wake-up call: just because people say they are doing something in the name of Islam does not mean you have to agree with them. And as soon as you have the freedom not to agree with an interpretation of Islam, then the question of interpretation comes up and that’s my life right there – talking about how Islam has always been filtered through the interpretation of people who have the power.”

Indeed… might we also say that just because Christians or Jews or Hindus or Buddhists say “they are doing something in the name of [their religion or their God] does not mean that you have to agree with them.”

ISIS: Wake-up Call to Muslim Women?

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr

In these dark days of fear, hatred, intolerance and every injustice in the name of religion…In these days of believers killing one another in the name of their Gods…
In these days of Evil pretending to be Good…

I honor the faith, wisdom and leadership of one Christian minister who changed the history of the United States of America.

Reverend King had the courage to show us what faith in action looks like. He is one of my heroes.


Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr