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Religion Notes

August 14, 1993|JOHN DART

BERMAN ON ISLAM: Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City) told a public forum at the Islamic Center of Southern California this week that he strongly disagrees with some analysts in Washington who say that the values of Islam and Western democracy are incompatible.

"In so doing, these 'Western' analysts served the purpose of authoritarian and despotic regimes by cloaking acceptance of the status quo as the inevitable political manifestations of Islam," Berman told the Thursday meeting co-sponsored by the Commission on Human Relations for Los Angeles County and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Berman said he is Jewish and pro-Israel, but because he is part of a group that has suffered intolerance and stereotyping for centuries he can sympathize with similar problems faced by Muslims.

"Contrary to a perception popular in many quarters, the Islamic religion is not the antithesis, and automatic enemy, of democracy," said Berman, chairman of the Congressional Subcommittee on International Operations.

Critics forget, he said, that the West is still struggling after hundreds of years to maintain democracy without civil disorders, "but they expect the Muslim world to reach (that) in one jump and without turmoil and upheaval."

Berman, who recently met with Los Angeles Islamic leaders to discuss mutual concerns for the Muslims in Bosnia, also took issue with the notion that Islam presents a monolithic front.

"States with Muslim majorities range from the largely democratic and secular Turkey, to the relatively free-wheeling society of Egypt, to the theocracies of Iran and Saudi Arabia, to the military-dominated states of Syria, Algeria and Indonesia," he said.

CHURCHWOMAN AWARD: Joni Eareckson Tada, the quadriplegic founder-president of a ministry to people with disabilities, will be honored as the 1993 Lay Churchwoman of the Year on Oct. 31 by Religious Heritage of America Inc.

Tada, whose books, radio program, videos and appearances at Billy Graham crusades have made her a celebrity in international evangelical circles, heads the $1.6-million-a-year Joni and Friends Ministry in Agoura Hills.

Previous winners of the churchwoman award by Religious Heritage, based in St. Louis, include Ruth Peale, wife of the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale; Beverly LaHaye, who heads Concerned Women of America; former actress Dale Evans Rogers, and the 1992 winner, Sister Barbara Doherty, president of St. Mary of the Woods College in Indiana.

Tada, who lives in Calabasas, was to receive an award for community service June 10 from the San Fernando Valley Bar Assn. But the award banquet at the Warner Marriott Hotel was canceled two days before it was scheduled, when ministry officials said preparations for the event were not complete. Bar association officials, though disappointed, said that they will eventually present the award in person to Tada at her office.

Religious Heritage also will present a Faith and Freedom award for communications work to former Times religion writer Russell Chandler, who retired in 1991 to write books. His latest, "Doomsday: The End of the World--A View Through Time," will be published at the end of August.

CHOOSING SYNAGOGUES: As Jewish congregations vie for new members prior to the High Holidays in September, the West Valley Jewish Community Center plans to provide neutral turf with a program on "How to Choose a Synagogue" from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Aug. 22.

About a dozen synagogues in the west San Fernando Valley, Simi Valley and Conejo Valley will have booths and short presentations at the Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus Auditorium, 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills, said spokeswoman Rosalie Jotkowitz.

Many synagogues have been advertising or publicizing weekend open houses in August in hopes of attracting unaffiliated Jews, but plans call for an equal footing on Aug. 22 at the community center.

"The synagogues will each have a minute or two to talk about their programs before everyone there between 11:45 a.m. and noon," Jotkowitz said. Reform, Conservative and Orthodox synagogues will be represented, she said. For information, call (818) 587-3300.

RENOVATION FUND-RAISER: Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church in Canoga Park is holding a steak dinner and dance tonight, starting at 6, to assist in raising funds for renovation of its facilities at 22021 Gault St. The dinner and entertainment, which includes mariachi music, costs $15 per person and $25 for couples.

FINANCE SEMINAR: James Canning, who heads the financial office of World Vision International in Monrovia, will lead a seminar on money management for individuals at Calvary Bible Church, 1101 S. Main St., Burbank, at 6 p.m. on Aug. 22. Admission is free. For information, call (818) 845-7448.

News and announcements for this column may be sent to Religion Desk, Los Angeles Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth 91311.

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