Thanks, Chris, for the link to Bill Maher’s “Burqa Fashion Show.” An interesting video, I must say, although it reveals more about Maher’s inelegance and his cheap comedy than about the burqa. Like some of his other shows on religion, this one has yet again proven to be void of taste and lacks perceptiveness of the subject matter. I watched Religulous when it first appeared. The only ridiculous thing I found in it was Maher. At least, George Carlin knew what he was talking about when he would attack religion, regardless of the flaws of his arguments. More importantly, he knew how to portray it in a humorous, but tasteful manner.
In June of 2008 the federal government of Canada formally established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as a part of the Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. The TRC is meant to be a body independent of the government that will allow former students of the schools to share their experiences, while at the same time educating the Canadian public about the history of these schools in Canada. The TRC claims to have the following mandate: (1) create a historical record of the policies and operations of residential schools; (2) make a public report that includes recommendations to the government in regards to the residential schools and the their legacy; (3) establish a research centre as a permanent resource; (4) hold 7 national events to promote awareness and education about the schools and their impact; (5) support events for individual First Nations communities; (6) honour and pay tribute to former students in a permanent way. The TRC, after two years of “growing pains” and false starts, seems prepared to finally take off and begin its work. Commission Chair Justice Murray Sinclair, Commissioner Marie Wilson, and Commissioner Chief Wilton Littlechild are set to begin holding the commission’s first national event June 15-19 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The TRC and those supporting it appear hopeful, even after the change of Commissioners through out the last 2 years, and the stalled beginning.
I have given up trying to define religion. I agree with most scholars of religion that attempts at defining it lead to generalizations and undermine the importance of a subject matter in which both internal and external tensions exist. Instead, I challenge my students to look at the ways in which religions struggle for legitimacy and authority. My class focuses on the ways in which religious agents and communities produce narratives as a means of constructing and maintaining their worldviews and identities. This was the topic of my most recent lecture on religious representations of civic space and the Epic of Gilgamesh. I was surprised after my most recent lecture when one of my students declared that I absolutely had to see James Cameron’s futuristic, implicitly anti-war, post-colonial, eco-apocalypse, Avatar.