Colourful Diwali

Diwali is a Hindu festival and it’s being celebrated today, Thursday 19th October! The great thing about festivals is that they capture the imagination of everybody; you don’t have to be of that faith to enjoy the food, stories and celebration. I love it when you see people with the fairy lights on their houses in October. Some people, lacking in Religious Studies knowledge, would think someone’s put their Christmas lights up crazy early, but those in the know, realise it is just for Diwali!

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You can keep your RS knowledge up-to-date every time a festival comes along, by reading what the newspapers are saying and showing the public. The Evening Standard had a handy guide to Diwali today, whereas the Guardian showed the best pictures from around the world.

You can catch up on all of your main religious festivals by watching the 3 minute animation called Y is for Yom Kippur. Other good short videos are the BBC Teach Festival of Diwali which is 4 minutes long, and the 5 minute long Hindu Story of Rama and Sita.  For a beautiful short video National Geographic have Diwali – Festival of Lights, which is only 3 minutes long.

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Trump gives a punchy speech to the United Nations General Assembly

First of all, what is the UN’s General Assembly?

It was established in 1945 under the Charter of the United Nations, and it takes a central position as the chief deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations. Comprising all 193 Members of the United Nations, it provides a unique space for discussions between world nations. It also plays a significant role in the process of standard-setting and the codification of international law. The Assembly has the power to make recommendations to nations on international issues. It has also started actions—political, economic, humanitarian, social and legal—which have affected the lives of millions of people throughout the world. You might learn how the UN works in Religious Studies lessons in Year 9 and Year 11.

Today Donald Trump gave his first speech to the United Nations as US President and it was full of headline grabbing gambits…

He told the UN General Assembly that America would destroy North Korea if forced to defend itself or its allies. He openly mocked North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, saying: “Rocket man is on a suicide mission.”

North Korea has been testing nuclear bombs and missiles in defiance of the UN.

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had earlier urged statesmanship, saying: “We must not sleepwalk our way into war.” On the photograph below UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is on the left and President Trump on the right:

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The American leader didn’t hold back either by also attacking Iran, saying it was a “corrupt dictatorship” which was intent on destabilising the Middle East. He called on the government in Tehran to cease supporting terrorism and again criticised the Obama-era international agreement over Iran’s nuclear programme, which he called an embarrassment.

With such a bolshy speech by the US President it will be interesting what North Korea, Iran and the USA do next.

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Moeen Ali: English cricketer

Full name Moeen Munir Ali

Born June 18, 1987, Birmingham

Current age 30 years

Major teams England, Worcestershire

Nickname Moe

Playing role Batting allrounder

Batting style Left-hand bat

Bowling style Right-arm offbreak

Height 6 ft 0 in

Education Moseley School

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Moeen has been making the sports headlines in recent days for his incredible hat-trick for England against South Africa in Test at Lord’s. Moeen is only the fourth man in Test history to seal victory with a hat-trick (see video) and the first for 60 years. It has helped England to now lead the series 2-1 with only the fourth Test at Old Trafford to play, starting on Friday.

In 2014 The Daily Telegraph criticised Moeen for his comment that he was playing for his religion: You’re playing for England, Moeen Ali, not your religion. The article referred to how Moeen who had been born in Birmingham 27 years ago to a Pakistani family, must have been proud walking out to bat for England for the first time on a sunlit day at Lord’s Cricket Ground, London. Yet before his big moment in a Test cricket game Moeen had spoken spoke of “representing the Muslim faith”, and of wearing his beard as “a label” and also as a “uniform” in the way that schoolchildren wore theirs. The article was unhappy about Moeen for bringing religion into it, as the journalist Michael Henderson believed it was just about the nation you represent:

“But there is one thing all players must acknowledge: if you are chosen to represent your country, that is who you represent. You may be a Hindu, a Sikh, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jain or (chance’d be a fine thing) a Christian but that is not why you have been chosen. If Moeen Ali does not understand this matter, then perhaps Peter Moores, the England coach, can have a quiet word in his shell-like.”

Were the Telegraph right to have criticised Moeen Ali?

The Guardian newspaper today, was more interested in how Moeen believed that without cricket he would be on the streets and doing drugs. “If it wasn’t for cricket I don’t know what I’d be doing now,” he says. “I could have easily gone into that whole drugs line. I was pretty open to it because my friends were easily influenced. I get dared pretty easy. If someone dares me to do something I’ll just do it. I used to go: ‘Yeah, why not?’”

Moeen thinks that cricket initiatives in local communities can bring people together. He says. “There is such negativity in the media around Islam but when I play cricket for England I don’t have to say anything. I’m hoping people look at me and other Muslims and think: ‘Actually, it will be all right. They’re not too bad.’”

The Guardian continues their interview with Moeen by referring to an issue three years ago when, in Moeen’s fifth Test, against India at the Rose Bowl, he caused controversy on the second day by wearing wristbands which read “Save Gaza” and “Free Palestine”.

“It was humanitarian. I’m actually glad it happened even if I was a bit naive putting them on during the game. But it’s still very close to me. People are quiet but there’s still suffering in Gaza now. There is suffering in many Muslim and non-Muslim countries. We spend billions going into space and we can’t even look after people. I find that hard to accept. We’ve let each other down big time regardless of our colour, faith or community. We should help people without a political agenda. It should be done out of compassion, without hesitation. I find that [lack of compassion] the hardest thing to take these days.”

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Was Moeen Ali right three years ago to have worn charity bracelets with a political viewpoint whilst playing for the England cricket team?

Holy Sites in Jerusalem Re-Opened

Last Friday three Arab Israelis opened fire from a sacred site in Jerusalem which is called Noble (Haram Al Sharif) Sanctuary for Muslims and Temple Mount for Jews. Using automatic weapons the three Arab Israelis killed two police officers and were later shot dead inside the compound. The Holy Sites were re-opened today with stricter security checks.

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The Arab-Israeli conflict is only studied a little in British schools as the focus is on modern wars such as World War I and World War II. We take an initial look at the subject in Religious Studies when studying about pilgrimages and how Jerusalem is contested and valued by Muslims, Jews and Christians. A short BBC video explains the importance of Haram Al Sharif and Temple Mount, and there is a BBC Pictures special about the holy sites, explaining how through modern history there has been unrest over who the site belongs to. The history of the sites brings you closer to understanding both faiths, with important stories for Jews such as Abraham almost sacrificing his son Isaac there, and Temple Mount being where people will receive redemption when the Messiah arrives. Compared to Muslim stories of Muhammad PBUH  having his Night Journey from Makkah to Jerusalem to hear in heaven from Allah about prayer (salah, one of the five pillar of Islam).

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First Female Time Lord

After months of speculation Peter Capaldi’s replacement as Doctor Who is Jodie Whittaker, making her the first female Time Lord.

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Whittaker said: “It feels completely overwhelming, as a feminist, as a woman, as an actor, as a human, as someone who wants to continually push themselves and challenge themselves, and not be boxed in by what you’re told you can and can’t be. It feels incredible.”

She also reassured fans to “not be scared by my gender. Because this is a really exciting time, and Doctor Who represents everything that’s exciting about change,” she said, adding: “The fans have lived through so many changes, and this is only a new, different one, not a fearful one.”

The BBC announced the 13th Time Lord after the Wimbledon’s Men’s Final on Sunday afternoon. You’ll see Whittaker for the first time in this huge acting role when the Doctor regenerates in the Christmas Day show.

Spontaneous Pop Star Heroics

Liam Payne pulling his friend from a burning balcony; Pink comforting a young girl mid-concert and stopping a fight that had broken out in the audience; and Justin Timberlake administering the Heimlich manoeuvre on his friend choking on a peanut. These are all stories of pop starts who might be some people’s heroes for their musical abilities, but have proven themselves to be heroes in emergency situations too.

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Andy Murray corrects journalist’s sexism

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Andy Murray, the British Tennis player, corrected a journalist who was saying that the US player Sam Querrey was the “the first US player to reach a major semi-final since 2009”. He reminded the journalist that he was only talking about male players, as there has been huge success since 2009 by female Americans. For instance since 2009, Serena Williams has won 12 Grand Slam tournaments.

Murray has been widely praised for not allowing such casual sexism.