Would transplants from pigs to people break religious dietary laws?

From the department of Applying Ancient Religious Beliefs to Modern Technologies…

We have an article from Ari Stillman at ReligionDispatches.org about the possibility of growing human organs in pigs for transplantation into humans. Apparently, pigs have already generated “human blood” after being injected with human blood cells.

According to the Telegraph of London, these techniques could provide a solution to the current shortage of available organs.

Professor Hiromitsu Nakauchi, director of the centre for stem cell biology and regenerative medicine at the University of Tokyo in Japan, tells the Telegraph: “Our ultimate goal is to generate human organs from induced pluripotent stem cells…”The technique, called blastocyst complementation, provides us with a novel approach for organ supply. We have successfully tried it between mice and rats. We are now rather confident in generating functional human organs using this approach.”

Stillman raises the very interesting question of whether traditional Judaism and Islam — which prohibit the eating of pork — would allow for “xenotransplantation” using pigs.

Scholars from both traditions say that saving a life generally takes precedence over other rules.

And the pig would not actually be eaten, but would only, well, produce organs that would become part of human bodies. Hmmm.

Stillman writes: “Of course, the question is bound to surface at some point as to whether they have to use a pig? Why not another animal so as to save the trouble of these religious debates? Unfortunately (or quite fortunately, depending on your orientation), pigs are anatomically and physiologically similar to man. Coupled with their low maintenance, it makes them ideal surrogates for the growth of human organs. If you believe in intelligent design and techno-determinism, then maybe this is just indicative of God’s progressive sense of irony.”

(AP Photo/David Duprey)

A public Muslim service in Peekskill

I just got back from Pugsley Park in Peekskill, where the Islamic Center of Peekskill held a very public celebration of Eid ul-Fitr, the Islamic festival that marks the end of Ramadan.

The group held their prayers and celebration outdoors so their non-Muslim neighbors could see them.

Several senior members and the groups’ imam, a 45-year-old fellow from Senegal, told me that public perceptions of Muslims will only change when non-Muslims see how Muslims act and live.

During his sermon, Imam Papa Sall repeatedly said that Muslims have to be true to themselves by living honorable, honest lives that will influence the way non-Muslims understand their faith. Words won’t do, he said.

It was a quiet morning on Main Street in Peekskill. Many people were at work, of course. A good number of people slowed down in their cars to see what was happening, but then went off to continue their day.

It was interesting, at least to me, that the Islamic Center of Peekskill chose to have this first public celebration just as Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is FINALLY making the media rounds to talk about himself and the plans for the downtown Islamic center.

Maybe it’s time for a Muslim public relations firm to get off the ground and to help Muslim groups in the U.S. figure out how to better communicate with all those Americans who still know nada about Islam and are unlikely to ever pick up a Quran.

The Muslim community in the U.S. is growing by the day. Its leaders must be more visible and must do a better job of communicating.

At Pugsley Park, the Islamic Center set up a table of pamphlets. I saw many of the same pamphlets I’ve seen at various mosques and Islamic events over the years.

But “Islam: The True Religion of God” and “Who Invented the Trinity” won’t cut it anymore. They’re proselytizing tracts that might have been enough when no one was paying attention to Islam. Today, they’re liking to offend passers-by.

The American Muslim community has to do better.

Why did he stab the cabbie?

The story of Michael Enright, the Putnam County guy who allegedly stabbed a Muslim cab driver yesterday, will draw national attention for some time.

At least until we have some idea why he did it.

The cabbie, Ahmed H. Sharif, has made clear that he believes he was stabbed because he is a Muslim.

Just got a press release announcing that a coalition of Muslim groups on Monday at the National Press Club in D.C. will release a “public service announcement” that responds to the Great Mosque Controversy and the cabbie stabbing.

It says: “The PSA will showcase American Muslims of diverse ages and backgrounds responding to the fears and concerns many Americans may have about Islam and Muslims.”

The producer of the PSA, a fellow by the name of David Hawa, says: “I think people need to hear from the average American Muslim about who we are and where we stand. This PSA will give me and other American Muslims the opportunity to talk directly to the American public –  free of any fear that politics or agendas are driving the discussion.”

Two other “Islam-related” notes:

1. In case you missed it, while I was on vacation, the Pew Forum released a poll showing that 18 percent of Americans believe President Obama is a Muslim. Only 34 percent of adults say he is a Christian.

Wow.

From the release:

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According to the survey, nearly one-in-five Americans (18%) now say Obama is a Muslim — an increase from 11% in March 2009. Only about one-third of adults (34%) say Obama is a Christian, a sharp decrease from 48% in 2009. Fully 43% say they do not know what Obama’s religion is. The survey was completed in early August, before Obama’s recent comments about the proposed construction of a mosque near the site of the former World Trade Center.

The belief that Obama is a Muslim has increased most sharply among Republicans (up 14 points since 2009), especially conservative Republicans (up 16 points). But the number of independents who say Obama is a Muslim has also increased significantly (up eight points). There has been little change in the number of Democrats who say Obama is a Muslim, but fewer Democrats today say he is a Christian (down nine points since 2009).

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2. Politico has a story about a group of American imams visiting the Auschwitz and Dachau concentration camps.

The group stopped to pray at Dachau. An organizer said: “All of the tourists stopped in their tracks. I don’t think anyone has ever seen anything like it.”

Photo: (New York Taxi Worker Alliance)