Reuters’s Parisa Hafezi reports on concern among some Iranian clergy that a secular, democratic Iraq may shift the balance of power within Shi’ite Islam from the Iranian holy city of Qom to Iraq’s Najaf. The holy city of Qom has been not just the center of Shi’ite authority, but also the center of Iran’s conservative political and religious authority since 1979. In contrast, Najaf represents a “more moderate center,” wherein prominent clerics “do not consider ruling the country as their legitimate right.” In addition to the impact the shift could have for Shi’ite Islam, Hafezi writes, “Iran fears Washington may promote Iraq as a model for Shi’ites to emulate in pressing for change in the Islamic state, which Washington accuses of harboring terrorists and pursuing nuclear weapons.”

“He has lifted Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Muhammad Ali and Jesse Jackson. There was Eddie Murphy, Susan Sarandon, Roberta Flack, Yoko Ono, and of course Sting and Richard Gere. Mr. Chinmoy lifted 20 Nobel laureates and a team of sumo wrestlers. He lifted Sid Caesar and a (reformed) headhunter from Borneo.” He is Sri Chinmoy: a 72-year-old spiritual guru, founder of a worldwide empire of meditation centers based in Jamaica, Queens, and, Corey Kilgannon reports in The New York Times, power-lifter of airplanes, schoolhouses, pickup trucks and more than 7,000 people since he started his “Lifting Up The World With a One-Ness Heart” campaign in 1988.

“‘Too often, we hear the words “Muslim” and “terrorist” in the same sentence. But how often do we hear the phrase “Muslim guitarist?”‘” Teresa Watanabe of The LA Timesexplores the progressive Muslim WakeUp! website, which includes sections titled “Hug a Jew” and “Sex and the Umma.”

The Bush-Cheney reelection campaign has distributed specific instructions to their religious supporters detailing 22 “‘duties’” and the dates they must be performed by, The Washington Post’s Alan Cooperman reports. “By July 31, for example, volunteers are to ‘send your Church Directory to your State Bush/Cheney ’04 Headquarters or give [it] to a BC04 Field Rep’ and ‘Talk to your Pastor about holding a Citizenship Sunday and Voter Registration Drive.’ By Aug. 15, they are to ‘talk to your Church’s seniors or 20-30 something group about Bush/Cheney ’04′ and ‘recruit 5 more people in your church to volunteer for the Bush/Cheney campaign.’ By Sept. 17, they are to host at least two campaign-related potluck dinners with church members, and in October they are to ‘finish calling all Pro-Bush members of your church,’ ‘finish distributing Voter Guides in your church’ and place notices on church bulletin boards or in Sunday programs ‘about all Christian citizens needing to vote.’”

Folllowing the Israeli cabinet’s approval of plans to withdraw from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, Rabbi Avigdor Neventzal announced to settlers that anyone who turns over Israeli land could be subject to Din Rodef–a licence to kill a fellow Jew, the BBC reports. Read more.