The fine line between religion and politics

AND STILL IN NEW HAVEN — After a day of theological talk about love — and few political statements — the Palestinian chief justice, Shaykh Tayseer Rajab Al-Tamimi, turned up the heat.

He started off repeating some of the day’s main themes: that religious authority should be used to bring people together and not worsen divisions.

But then he gave the kind of political examples (from his point of view) that others had stayed away from.

He said that there was interfaith peace in the Holy Land “until the Zionist-Israeli occupation started in our land.”

He said that Jerusalem is the “scene of the most horrible genocide and ethnic cleansing.”

“The problem is not with religions,” he said, “but with those who function in those religions to achieve their own interests, political interests or expansionist interests.”

I don’t think he was talking about the resurgent Taliban.

I’m not sure if there were any rabbis in the audience at that point, but no one commented on Al-Tamimi’s points.

After he was done, another Muslim scholar stood to complain that an earlier speaker had ignored numerous persecutions against Muslims.

In the day’s final moments, all the talk about love was taken over by talk about…other things.

The conference continues tomorrow. There will be panel discussions on “love and speech” and “love and world poverty.”

I won’t be back, though, as much as I would love to hang around the Yale campus all week…

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.