Campbell University Divinity School professor Tony Cartledge writes of President Obama’s visit to Indonesia:
Unfortunately, since Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population, Obama-haters have used the event to play up their hare-brained game of pretending to believe the president is a secret Muslim (this article cites a number of examples). I never cease to be amazed that so many people are so gullible that they believe believe some of the hogwash they read or hear: a recent Pew Research Center poll reported that 18 percent of Americans believe President Obama — who self-identifies as a Christian and who reiterated his Christian faith while speaking in Indonesia — is a secret follower of Islam. That’s up from 11 percent in March 2009.
Why confuse a mean-spirited conspiracy theory with something as illuminating as facts and a man’s word?
A religious exemption has been added to the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences ban face coverings, which had included on veils won by some Muslim women.
When confronted by actions or motivations that defy explanation, the mouthpieces of secular political culture are content to attribute these actions or motivations to religion and then rush to criticize them as such. While so-called Islamist violence is a particularly frequent object of this type of black box rationality, one also encounters it in less spectacular contexts. Contemporary homophobia in the United States, for example, is typically linked to Evangelical Protestantism and Christianity more generally in public discourse, in spite of the fact that many devout Christians eschew bias based upon sexual orientation and many prominent homophobes have only marginal religious credentials. This is not to deny that some individuals do understand their own violent actions or prejudices as religiously-motivated. However, this fact does not imply that public commentators on religion should take this self-understanding at face value. This is especially the case in politically-charged times, when the attribution of individual causes too easily becomes a blanket description of entire communities and traditions.
Words matter and are doing grave harm in the wake the the Fort Hood killings. Daniel Martin Varisco, who is Professor of Anthropology and Director of Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies at Hofstra University, explains:
The deeper issue here is the politics of blame fueled by fear. Despite several “going postal” episodes in recent years, we still go to our local post offices, and local postal workers have not quit en masse. It sometimes seems like hardly a month goes by without a disgruntled individual going on a shooting spree. To neologize the term “going Muslim” is an insult that would not be tolerated for any other group I know. Were the perpetrators of the Columbine school killings “going teenager”? If a fanatic fundamentalist Christian kills an abortion doctor, is he “going Christian,” or should an Israeli soldier who loses it be considered as “going Jewish”? As much as I hate the term “Islamism,” could Varadanjan not at least have come up with “going Islamist”?
Assuming Nidal Hasan was driven by his religion to kill 13 and wound 31 at Fort Hood is akin to judging Christianity by the actions Timothy McVeigh, who was executed for his role in the Oklahoma City bombing which killed 168 people.
So argued Bruce Prescott, executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists on his Nov. 8 “Religious Talk [mp3]” radio program. He said:
The problem is with the individual. It’s not with the faith.
This is really, really upsetting, because this reall violates the tenets and the principles of my faith, and I believe of Islam. And it is very unfortunate that this happened. But we shouldn’t use it as an issue of religion, and it shouldn’t be framed in that way. I think it concerns some greater issues, such as mental health and the harmful consequences of war. There are many Muslims that proudly and patriotically serve in the American military. About 20,000.
. . .
There’s a verse in the Quran that speaks to this, that if you kill one innocent human being, it’s as if you have killed all of humanity. Conversely, if you have saved one innocent life, it’s as if you have saved all of humanity. It shows the sanctity of human life in the Quran, and it mentions this many, many times.
Prescott and Hashmi touched on the “fear mongering” of the “extreme right wing” in response to the Texas tragedy.
The independent Associated Baptist Press
both failed to report that in its mentioned a reference to Islamophobia in its account of the interview, and subsequently imported the rightist view from the blog of Bryan Fischer, director of issues analysis for the American Family Association. They quoted Fischer as writing, “This is not Islamophobia. It is Islamo-realism.”
Our view of the incident is here.
Of course there is a general relationship between patriarchal religion and domestic violence, and the more rigid and traditional the form of patriarchal religion, the stronger the relationship. Whether this particular murder by beheading in Buffalo was an “ordinary” instance of domestic violence or whether the Pakistani-born Muslim husband was animated by a sense of entitlement derived from his interpretation of Islam, or by his upbringing in a society in which “honor killings” are often winked at by law enforcement authorities, I do not know. [ . . . ] But the official skittishness and media evasions surrounding this case are part of the grand American tradition of pretending that religion has only good effects on individuals and society.
Read her honest, complex and disturbing piece here.
The new ad approved by advertising licensing agency IGP Decaux, reads: “The Good News Is There Are Millions of Atheists In Italy; The Excellent News Is They Believe In Freedom Of Expression.”
Originally the message was “The Bad News Is God Doesn’t Exist, The Good News Is You Don’t Need Him.”
The secretary of the Italian Union of Atheists, Agnostics and Rationalists (UAAR), Raffale Carcano, said the UAAR was working to get the original message approved in cities where IGP doesn’t control advertising.
Heaven only knows whether they’ll succeed.
Egyptian judge, according to WordNet Daily, said:
A woman arrested at the Cairo airport because her identity card described her as a Christian has been threatened for her faith by the judge in her case, according to a new report.
. . .
The decision to grant her bail came Saturday in the hearing before Hashem after Makkar told the judge about her new Christian faith and her abandonment of Islam.
Tawfiq told Compass Direct “the judge then said, ‘I want to talk with Martha alone,’ so we all left the room, and he said to her, ‘Nobody changes from Muslim to Christian – you are a Muslim.’
Read it all here.
Representative in the fullest sense, the National Prayer Service which caps inaugural activities on Jan. 21 will, according to the Associated Press, include participation by:
- Conservative Rabbi Jerome Epstein.
- Orthodox Rabbi Haskel Lookstein.
- Reform Rabbi David Saperstein.
- Islamic Society of North America President Ingrid Mattson (the first woman to head of the nation’s largest Muslim group).
- Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington the Most Rev. Donald Wuerl.
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) president Rev. Sharon Watkins, the first woman to head a mainline Protest denomination and an outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq and of torture, will give the sermon.
Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Protestant.
It seems decidedly appropriate, especially when considered in view of the prayers which will precede the Jan. 21 National Cathedral service. Those will be by gay Episcopal bishop, Gene Robinson, Southern Baptist megachurch pastor Rick Warren and black United Methodist minister Dr. Joseph E. Lowery.
Thus the incoming Obama administration finds its religious voice, not shrill or in any way ideologically narrow-minded, but sweepingly inclusive. A living reflection the historic great melting pot of American culture of which we are all so justifiably proud.
Baptist/Muslim understanding took anoter step this week when the Baptist World Alliance responded to A Common Word Between Us and You from 138 Muslim scholars to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders.
Unlike the earlier A Christian Response to ‘A Common Word Between Us and You’, published in November, 2007, in the New York Times, the BWA response specifically affirmed the Trinity:
There is room for exploration here in ways that are illuminating but not contentious. However, when we speak of the love and mystery of God we must open out an area of belief that we know will be troubling to you, but which is absolutely essential for us in confessing the Oneness of God: we mean the doctrine of the Trinity, God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are well aware that Muslims believe the Christian idea of the Trinity contradicts the affirmation that God has no other being in association with Him. … .
While not giving theological or other ground, the letter concluded on a call for a broader, “grassroots” peace and understanding, saying in part:
It is, however, too easy to keep a dialogue going at the high level of theological conversation alone. Somehow the theological vision which enlivens us must be received at the grassroots and change attitudes and prejudices there. Somehow the members of our communities need to be gripped by the value of respect and honour for all people because of the creation of all by the One God, and because of His love and mercy towards them, however wrong the beliefs of others may seem.
Read the entire letter here.