Archive for Christians

Bob Simon Lays the Smack Down on Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , on April 23, 2012 by loonwatch

A follow up to our story on the Christians of Palestine. We mentioned that Bob Simon of 60 Minutes was going to do a report on Christians in the Holy Land and I have to say he did a pretty good job.

He covered the plight of Christians in the Holy Land and how there has been a slow exodus over the past few decades due to Israeli occupation policies. He also covered the Kairos initiative and how that is making inroads within Palestinian society.

Most intriguingly, Bob Simon lays the smack down on Israeli Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren at the 11 minute mark. Oren also does some blame shifting, saying that it is Muslims who are persecuting Christians not Israelis:
http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7406228n
Veteran CBS News correspondent Bob Simon experienced something while reporting a “60 Minutes” piece last night, that he’d never before. His story was on Christian residents leaving the Holy Land and the causes behind it: Islamic extremism? Israeli occupation? or something more? Simon interviewed clerics from the Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran faiths, also Palestinian residents of the West Bank, and Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Dr.Michael Oren. But Oren didn’t like the premise of the story and called Simon’s boss, CBS News chairman and “60 Minutes” EP Jeff Fager long before it story aired.

“Mr. Ambassador, I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve received lots of reactions from just about everyone I’ve done stories about. But I’ve never gotten a reaction before from a story that hasn’t been broadcast yet,” said Simon. “Well, there’s a first time for everything, Bob,” said the ambassador.

Israel Really Isn’t All That Friendly to Its Christians

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon Violence, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2012 by loonwatch

The shameless Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, attempted to manipulate Christian reality to score points in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some well informed commenters responded to Oren with facts:

Israel Really Isn’t All That Friendly to Its Christians

(Wall Street Journal)

Regarding Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s “Israel and the Plight of Mideast Christians” (op-ed, March 9): No doubt, his piece will be compelling for many readers. Christians in North America are generally sympathetic to Christians who suffer elsewhere. More negatively, many respond well when blame for that suffering is placed on Muslims. The biggest problem with Mr. Oren’s analysis, however, is that it stands in sharp disagreement with the perspectives shared by those he presumably wants to protect. Mr. Oren seeks to speak for Palestinian Christians before he has spoken with them.

Palestinian Christians have produced major studies of Palestinian Christian demographic trends. Difficulties created by Israeli occupation policies far outweigh pressure from Muslim neighbors as reasons for Christian migration from the West Bank. According to a study by the Bethlehem-based Diyar Consortium, “most of those who choose to emigrate” are “aggravated by the lack of freedom and security.” At “the bottom of the scale,” they found, “are family reunification, fleeing religious extremism and finding a spouse.”

It is irresponsible for Amb. Oren to make political points among some segments of the U.S. population by intentionally disregarding factors contributing to Palestinian Christian migration away from their homeland. By blaming their condition on Muslims alone, while ignoring the negative effects of Israeli occupation policies, including the debilitating economic effects of the separation barrier, Mr. Oren is using anti-Muslim sentiments among some Americans to hide the effects of Israeli policy. This cynical political rhetoric fuels extremism and does not promote peace.

The Rev. Robert O. Smith

Chicago

 

I am a Palestinian Christian, and the numbers and facts given by Mr. Oren are erroneous and misleading. With the creation of the state of Israel, 80% of Palestinian Christians were forced into exile. The number of Christians in Jerusalem dropped dramatically since the occupation of the city in 1967, and Palestinian Christians are denied access to Jerusalem. To pretend that their numbers greatly increased contradicts all statistics, including Israeli statistics. Allowing “holiday access to Jerusalem’s churches to Christians from both the West Bank and Gaza” is denying free access, and those permits are given selectively, in small numbers and revoked often with the “closure” of the occupied territories. Pretending to defend the interests of the Christians contradicts facts on the ground, where Christians suffer the same consequences of military occupation as all Palestinians. Most of the land belonging to Christians in Bethlehem is being confiscated with the building of the separation wall. Is that the “respect and appreciation” the Christian community receives from the Jewish state?

Fr. Jamal Khader, D.D.

Dean of the Faculty of Arts

Bethlehem University

Bethlehem

 

I am one of those Palestinian Christians that Mr. Oren refers to, who live inside Israel. At no time in my life have I ever felt the “respect and appreciation” by the Jewish state which Mr. Oren so glowingly refers to in his last paragraph. Israel’s Christian minority is marginalized in much the same manner as its Muslim one, or at best, quietly tolerated. We suffer the same discrimination when we try to find a job, when we go to hospitals, when we apply for bank loans and when we get on the bus. In my daily dealings with the state, all I have felt is rudeness and overt contempt.

Fida Jiryis

Fassuta, Israel

 

Amb. Michael Oren presents a distorted and inaccurate account of Christians in Palestine. He conveniently omits gross Israeli violations against the Palestinian Christian community, such as Israel’s revocation of residency rights to many whose birthplace was Jerusalem, or the fact that it restricts their right to worship in their holy sites by imposing an onerous permit system to access the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem or the baptism site on the River Jordan. Even family visitations between Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem are heavily restricted.

It doesn’t stop at that. Recently there has been a spate of attacks by Jewish extremists vandalizing Christian properties and spray-painting slogans denouncing Jesus and Mary and attacking Christianity.

Finally, Palestinian Christians are a vibrant component of Palestine’s social, cultural and religious fabric. Many of our most prominent figures in politics, academia and the arts are Christian. This is the case precisely because of a long history and deeply rooted culture of tolerance and integration in Palestine.

Ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat

General Delegation
of the PLO to the U.S.

Washington

British Government Says Christians Don’t Have Right To Wear Cross Or Crucifix At Work

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 14, 2012 by loonwatch

After facing consequences for refusing to cover or remove their crosses at work, two Christian women are taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights. A group of ministers is set to back employer regulations banning religious regalia in the workplace, arguing that wearing crosses aren't a "requirement" of the Christian faith.

After facing consequences for refusing to cover or remove their crosses at work, two Christian women are taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights. A group of ministers is set to back employer regulations banning religious regalia in the workplace, arguing that wearing crosses aren’t a “requirement” of the Christian faith.

So let me get this straight, the state religion of England is the Church of England yet wearing a Cross or Crucifix to work is not allowed? While it may not be a “requirement” as hijab is seen to be by many Muslim women, how can this not be a needless infringement and violation of one’s freedom of religion?

British Government Says Christians Don’t Have Right To Wear Cross Or Crucifix At Work

(HuffingtonPost)

Two British women are headed to court to argue for the right to wear Christian crosses at their workplaces, but a group of Christian ministers is reportedly set to back employers’ rights to ban the regalia.

At the heart of the issue is whether or not the crosses are a “requirement” of the Christian faith.

According to a document leaked to the Telegraph that allegedly contains their arguments, the ministers are set to tell the court that crosses are not required by religious doctrine, thus supporting the government’s case that employers cannot be forced to allow such symbols.

Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin were both told by their employers to cover or remove the Christian symbol hanging around their necks. When they refused, they each faced consequences.

Eweida, a British Airways employee, was placed on unpaid leave in 2006 when she refused to remove the symbol, according to CNS News. She argued that coworkers of other affiliations were allowed to showcase symbols of their faiths. Eweida took the airline before a British employment tribunal alleging religious discrimination but lost the case.

The company eventually changed its uniform policy and rehired Eweida, but did not compensate her for the suspension period.

In Chaplin’s case, the longtime nurse was reprimanded for refusing to cover up a cross around her neck, RT reports. She was subsequently assigned to desk work instead of her usual rounds.

Now, it will be up to the European Court of Human Rights to decide if wearing a cross or crucifix is a right under Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Article 9, “Freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” states the following:

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance. 2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Lawyers for the women allegedly plan to argue that right to wear a cross is covered under Article 9 as a “manifestation” of religious expression, CNS News reports.

But the British Foreign Office has already prepared the following statement, which was published in the Telegraph:

In neither case is there any suggestion that the wearing of a visible cross or crucifix was a generally [recognized] form of [practicing] the Christian faith, still less one that is regarded (including by the applicants themselves) as a requirement of the faith.

The case has been criticized by Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, who was unhappy officials were “meddling” in the matter.

Sentamu expressed his feelings on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, the Telegraphreports.

“My view is that this is not the business of government, actually,” he said. “I think that is a matter really for people and that we should allow it.The government should not raise the bar so high that in the end they are now being unjust.”

Andrew Brown, a blogger for the Guardian, questions what exactly qualifies as a “requirement” of the faith:

Does Christianity demand that its adherents wear a cross? The courts here have decided that it doesn’t, but I’m not sure the question is well framed. You might as well ask “does Christianity demand that you go to church on Sundays?” or “does it demand pacifism?” There are just too many Christianities for such a question to make sense.

US Atheist Group Targets Muslims and Jews

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on March 5, 2012 by loonwatch

Atheist  Billboard

American Atheists has taken aim at Muslims and Jews with new billboards in Arabic and Hebrew. While atheists should be absolutely free to compete in the marketplace of ideas just like everyone else, this group isn’t merely offering an alternative to religion.

Despite their presumed appreciation for rational skepticism, the group appears to have been taken in by so-called “ex-Muslim” and confirmed loon, Ibn Warraq, and their negative portrayal of Islam sounds like it was cut-and-paste from a far right anti-Muslim hate site.

US atheist group targets Muslims and Jews

by Bob Pitt, Islamophobia Watch

CNN reports that the American Atheists organisation are targeting Muslim and Jewish communities with billboards in Arabic and Hebrew describing God as a “myth”.

Warraq and GellerPamela Geller and Ibn Warraq

“We are not trying to inflame anything,” American Atheists president Dave Silverman is quoted as saying. “We are trying to advertise our existence to atheists in those communities. The objective is not to inflame but rather to advertise the atheist movement in the Muslim and Jewish community.”

Yeah, right.

American Atheists, you may recall, is the organisation involved in the “Zombie Muhammad” case, in which one of their members claimed that he was assaulted by a Muslim during a Halloween parade. After the case was dimissed because of lack of supporting evidence, American Atheists expressed outrage that the judge had refused to take the word of a white American over that of a “Muslim immigrant”.

The American Atheists website features a long essay attacking Islam and Muslims which the authors state is “greatly dependent upon the excellent books written or compiled by Ibn Warraq”. It contains passages like these:

Mohammedans prefer to be called Muslims – a term derived from the Arabic ’aslama, meaning ‘to resign oneself [to Allah]‘. They prefer their religion to be called Islam (from Arabic ’islam, meaning ‘submission’) rather than Mohammedanism. Most western scholars have gone along with this, rather than risk the wrath of purportedly peaceful members of ‘the third great Abrahamic faith’. Nevertheless, Mohammedanism seems to be a perfectly appropriate name for a religion which currently poses so great a threat to secular civilizations throughout the world….

Despite the occasionally tolerant references in the Qur’an to “People of the Book” (Jews and Christians in addition to Muslims), the non-Muslims need to be eliminated. Convert them or kill them, or make them pay a religious ransom to continue the private practice of their religion. (Of necessity, Muslims must reject the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.) Atheists and Agnostics, who deny the reality of Allah, are also wicked blasphemers. They need to be eliminated also. It is preferable to kill them.

True, the authors go on to state that intolerance is “a natural attribute of all monotheistic religions”. However, no extended essay can be found on the American Atheists site attacking Christianity and Christians in equally vitriolic terms.

But this has become a distinguishing feature of the so-called “new atheism”. The legitimate secular objective of separating church and state has been sidelined in favour of attacking minority ethno-religious communities, and Muslims in particular, often employing language which is indistinguishable from that of the racist right.

A Global War on Christians in the Muslim World?

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2012 by loonwatch
Newsweek
February 12 Cover

Career hatemonger Aayan Hirsi Ali‘s alarmist screed in the February 12 issue of Newsweek is a jumble of half truths culled together with the obvious purpose of demonizing Muslims. Despite her agenda-driven fear mongering, Hirsi has sparked an important debate about the plight of religious minorities caught in the crossfire as the so-called “Clash of Civilizations” continues to escalate.

We previously cross-posted an article from Jadaliyya refuting Hirsi’s account, and now offer another perspective from John L. Esposito, Professor of Religion and International Affairs at Georgetown University.

A Global War on Christians in the Muslim World?

by John L. Esposito, Huffington Post

Religious minorities in the Muslim world today, constitutionally entitled in many countries to equality of citizenship and religious freedom, increasingly fear the erosion of those rights — and with good reason. Inter-religious and inter-communal tensions and conflicts from Nigeria and Egypt and Sudan, to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia have raised major concerns about deteriorating rights and security for religious minorities in Muslim countries. Conflicts have varied, from acts of discrimination, to forms of violence escalating to murder, and the destruction of villages, churches and mosques.

In the 21st century, Muslims are strongly challenged to move beyond older notions of “tolerance” or “co-existence” to a higher level of religious pluralism based on mutual understanding and respect. Regrettably, a significant number of Muslims, like many ultra conservative and fundamentalist Christians, Jews and Hindus are not pluralistic but rather strongly exclusivist in their attitudes toward other faiths and even co-believers with whom they disagree.

Reform will not, however, result from exaggerated claims and alarmist and incendiary language such as that of Ayan Hirsi Ali in in a recent a Newsweek cover story, reprinted in The Daily Beast.

Hirsi Ali warns of a “global war” and “rising genocide,” “a spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animus by Muslims that transcends cultures, regions, and ethnicities” and thus “the fate of Christianity — and ultimately of all religious minorities — in the Islamic world is at stake.”

Hirsi Ali’s account, for surely it is not an analysis, mixes facts with fiction, distorting the nature and magnitude of the problem. It fails to distinguish between the acts of a dangerous and deadly minority of religious extremists or fanatics and mainstream society. The relevant data is readily available. Nigeria is not a “majority-Muslim” country of 160 million people with a 40 percent Christian minority” as she claims (and as do militant Islamists). Experts have long described the population as roughly equal and a recent Pew Forum study reports that Christians hold a slight majority with 50.8 percent of the population.

Boko Haram, is indeed a group of religious fanatics who have terrorized and slaughtered Christians and burned down their churches, but they remain an extremist minority and do not represent the majority of Nigerians who reject their actions and anti-Western rhetoric. Gallup data finds that a majority of Nigerians (60 percent) “reject the anti-Western rhetoric” of Boko Haram.

Curiously, Hirsi Ali chooses not to mention that in the Jos Central plateau area both Christian and Muslim militias have attacked each other and destroyed mosques and churches.

Another example of failing to provide the full facts and context is the Maspero massacre. Coptic Christians have a real set of grievances that have to be addressed: attacks on churches, resulting in church destruction and death and injuries, the failure of police to respond to attacks, and a history of discrimination when it comes to building new churches and in employment.

Hirsi Ali rightly attributes the genesis for the assault against Christians to the Egyptian security forces. Although some militant Egyptian Muslims did in fact join the violence against Christians, she overlooks the fact that increasingly Christians have been joined by many Muslim Egyptians in calling for this discrimination and backlash to be addressed. Thus, she fails to mention the many Muslims marched in solidarity with the Christians against the security forces and were also injured as a Reuters article dated Oct. 14, 2011 reported: “At least 2,000 people rallied in Cairo on Friday in a show of unity between Muslims and Christians and to express anger at the ruling military council after 25 people died when a protest by Coptic Christians led to clashes with the army.”

She also fails to recognize the continuing state violence in Egypt against activists and protestors regardless of their faith.

Thousands of Muslims turned up in droves outside churches around the country for the Coptic Christmas Eve mass, in solidarity with a beleaguered Coptic community offering their bodies, and lives, as “human shields,” making a pledge to collectively fight the threat of Islamic militants and build an Egypt free from sectarian strife: “Egypt’s Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as “human shields.”

Ali also points to the “flight” of Christians from the Middle East as proof of widespread persecution. According to Gallup surveys in Lebanon, however, Muslims are slightly more likely than their Christian counterparts to want to flee the country permanently and for Muslim and Christian alike the reason they give is primarily economic.

More problematic and deceptive is Hirsi Ali’s charge that: “What has often been described as a civil war is in practice the Sudanese government’s sustained persecution of religious minorities. This persecution culminated in the infamous genocide in Darfur that began in 2003.” Sudan has certainly been a battleground for decades, but to say that Darfur is an example of the Muslim-Christian genocide is flat out wrong. The black African victims in Darfur were almost exclusively Muslim. The killers were Arab Sudanese Muslims (janjaweed) who murdered black Sudanese Muslims.

Addressing the issue of religious freedom requires greater global awareness and a concerted effort by governments, religious leaders, academics and human rights organizations, as well as curricula reform in many seminary and university religion courses (particularly comparative religion courses), to counter religious exclusivism by instilling more pluralistic and tolerant visions and values in the next generation of imams, priests, scholars and the general public. However, when lives are at stake and the safety and security of all citizens threatened, accurate and data driven analysis is crucial. Inflammatory statements and unsubstantiated generalizations exacerbate the problem, risk more strife or even violence and do little to contribute to finding a solution.

Haaretz: Jerusalem Christians are Latest Targets in Recent Spate of ‘Price Tag’ Attacks

Posted in Loon Violence, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2012 by loonwatch

Some more analysis of the ongoing “price tag” attacks against Muslims and Christians in Israel:

Jerusalem Christians are latest targets in recent spate of ‘price tag’ attacks

“Price tag” graffiti was spray-painted in Jerusalem again Sunday night, with vandals this time targeting a downtown church.

The attack on the Narkis Street Baptist Congregation marks the latest in a series of price tag attacks that have targeted Muslim, Christian and leftist institutions in the capital over the last two months. But police believe most of the vandalism is not the work of an organized group; rather, they say, the spray-painted slogans are largely copycat actions carried out by lone individuals.

The original price tag attacks, in contrast, were thought to be the work of a group of settlers seeking to set a “price tag” on house demolitions in the settlements via retaliatory attacks on Palestinians and/or Israeli soldiers.

The attacks during the past two months have included the torching of cars belonging to Arab residents of Jerusalem’s Kiryat Moshe neighborhood; spray-painting slogans on a Christian cemetery on Mount Zion; spray-painting slogans on Peace Now’s office in the capital, as well as the house of Peace Now activist Hagit Ofran; threats against Peace Now secretary general Yariv Oppenheimer; and an arson attack on an ancient mosque in the city’s Geula neighborhood. Over the last week alone, a bilingual school and two churches have been vandalized, including the Baptist church vandalized Sunday.

In both church attacks, the vandals spray-painted slogans denouncing Christianity, Jesus and Mary, such as “Jesus is dead,” “Death to Christianity” and “Mary was a prostitute.” They also included the by-now customary “price tag” slogan.

The Jerusalem police said they have arrested several suspects in this spate of attacks, including one for the attacks on Peace Now and one for the vandalism of the bilingual school. The latter suspect, arrested last week, said he vandalized the school to avenge the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team’s loss to two Arab teams two weeks ago, according to police. Police believe that many of the other attacks are similarly motivated by ordinary hooliganism, rather than ideology.

“It’s intolerably easy,” one senior Jerusalem police officer said. “Any child can take a spray can and spray it, and people know it will be broadcast. Not every case is really nationalistic.”

But to victims, the motive is irrelevant. Jerusalem’s Christian community increasingly feels under assault, and that is especially true for Christians living in Jewish neighborhoods. Priests in the Old City, especially Armenian priests who must often transit the Jewish Quarter, say they are spat on almost daily.

“It’s almost impossible to pass through Jaffa Gate without this happening,” said a senior priest at one Jerusalem church.

The spitting has become so prevalent that some priests have simply stopped going to certain parts of the Old City.

The Baptist church has been attacked twice before: It was torched in 1982 and again in 2007. “We mainly feel sad” about the attacks, said the church’s pastor, Charles Kopp. “It hurts us that anyone could even think we deserve such treatment. They don’t know us, but they apparently oppose anyone who doesn’t identity with them. I wish them well; I have no desire for revenge.”

Baptist priests don’t normally walk around in priestly garb, but Kopp said he would be afraid to walk through the Old City if he did.

Jacob Avrahami, the mayor’s advisor on the Christian community, visited the Baptist church on Monday to condemn the attacks. “They feel besieged; you can see it on them,” he said.

Dr. Gadi Gevaryahu, whose Banish the Darkness organization works to combat racism, said his big fear is that “one day, they’ll attack a mosque or a church with people inside and there will be a terrible conflagration here.”

“Over the last two years, 10 mosques have been torched here, and today it’s clear that it’s not just aimed at Palestinians or Muslims, but at foreigners in general,” he said.

Gevaryahu also offered a practical suggestion: Security cameras, he said, should be installed on every sensitive building in the city.

Newsweek Trumpets Hirsi’s War Against Muslims

Posted in Loon People, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2012 by loonwatch
War on Christians
February 12 Cover

Newsweek has apparently abandoned any pretense of actual reporting in favor of tabloid-style sensationalism. Career hatemonger Aayan Hirsi Ali‘s alarmist screed in the February 12 issue is a jumble of half truths culled together with the obvious purpose of demonizing Muslims, at the expense of Christian minorities she pretends to defend.

Hirsi ignores US-led invasions–actual wars–against one Islamic country after another, and the impact on Christians, especially in Iraq. In fact, according to her apocalyptic vision, the West must destroy Islam, by any means necessary–in the name of peace and civilization, of course.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s War

by Anthony Alessandrini, Jadaliyya

For a couple of centuries now, we have had to make due with Samuel Johnson’s famous phrase: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Thanks to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, we can now revise this phrase for the twenty-first century. Tthe last last refuge of a scoundrel, it appears, lies in taking up the battle against something called “Christophobia.”

Hirsi Ali coins this term as part of her alarmist and deeply hateful cover story for Newsweek. “The War on Christians” is splashed across the cover, but the actual target of Hirsi Ali’s piece becomes more clear in the title provided for the online version of the piece: “The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World.”

The terms of Hirsi Ali’s argument, such as it is, are all set out in her opening paragraph:

We hear so often about Muslims as victims of abuse in the West and combatants in the Arab Spring’s fight against tyranny. But, in fact, a wholly different kind of war is underway—an unrecognized battle costing thousands of lives. Christians are being killed in the Islamic world because of their religion. It is a rising genocide that ought to provoke global alarm.

The criminally careless tossing out of the term “genocide” gives us a clue about what is to come. So too does the style, which is a classic version of her usual mode, that of the lone brave voice crying out about injustice in the wilderness, surrounded by dupes who are too busy portraying Muslims as “victims or heroes.” Fortunately, Hirsi Ali is prepared to offer us “a fair-minded assessment of recent events and trends,” leading to what she sees as her inevitable conclusion and allowing her to coin her useful new term: “the scale and severity of Islamophobia pales in comparison with the bloody Christophobia currently coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to the other.”

Having already reached her inevitable conclusion in her opening, Hirsi Ali appears to feel little need to support it with anything so mundane as actual facts. Instead he offers a loosely-connected cherry picking tour that ties together incidents of violence against Christians and other religious minorities in Nigeria, Sudan, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, and Indonesia. All the instances she references are real and terrible acts of violence. And all of them are symptoms of complex political and social situations that need to be analyzed and addressed. This makes it all the more horrible that Hirsi Ali treats them as mere data to be added to her deeply simplistic argument. Indeed, she raises the same two points in each case: first, that Muslims are killing Christians; second, that the world (by which she means “the West”)—apparently distracted by its uncritical admiration for the revolutionaries of the Arab Spring and its obsession with stamping out Islamophobia—stands idly by and watches. So Hirsi Ali is forced to beg her readers to help break what she refers to as a “conspiracy of silence.”

Were the consequences of such an argument not so grave—and I will come to those consequences shortly—it would be possible to simply dismiss this article as the nonsense that it is. To reduce the complexity of the political violence in Nigeria and Sudan to instances of “Christophobia,” for example, is simply ludicrous, as is the suggestion that somehow Western political and media figures have been “reticent” or “silent” when it comes to Darfur. This is in no way to downplay the full horror of these situations; indeed, what is most disturbing here is Hirsi Ali’s cursory citing of them—Nigeria merits just two paragraphs of her article, Sudan just one—in the service of her hateful argument.

In other cases, what is striking is the utter thinness of the arguments she tries to marshal. When, for example, she tries to make the case that “not even Indonesia…has been immune to the fevers of Christophobia,” she cites data complied by the Christian Post suggesting an increase in violent incidents against religious minorities of nearly forty percent between 2010 and 2011. Again, this is certainly a cause for concern, but it would be interesting to ask Hirsi Ali how she would compare this increase to the more than fifty percent increase in hate crimes against Muslims in the United States between 2009 and 2010, as reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. She might also have turned to data on Indonesia produced by Human Rights Watch rather than that of an obscure Christian website, which would have confirmed her point about an increase in attacks on religious minorities (including Ahmadis) in Indonesia—except that rather than attributing this increase to the rise of “Christophobia,” HRW’s conclusion about this key US ally is quite different: “The common thread is the failure of the Indonesian government to protect the rights of all its citizens.”

Of course, these sorts of fact-free claims about the “Muslim world” by conservative commentators are nothing new. What is more worthy of note, however, are those claims by Hirsi Ali that suggest a number of moves taken out of the contemporary neo-conservative playbook. Hirsi Ali’s connections to the neo-con movement—she is, among other things, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute—have been widely noted. For example, Hamid Dabashi lists her prominently among the “comprador intellectuals” who have helped sell the neo-con agenda in the United States and Europe. (Indeed, it is clear that the title of her article is meant to resonate in this election season with the claims being made by conservatives about an alleged “war on Christians” here in the United States.)

One strand of this neo-conservative reasoning as it can be read out of Hirsi Ali’s article has to do with her references to Egypt. She only devotes one paragraph to Egypt, but the print version of the article includes four images (including the cover image), some quite graphic, of violence against Copts in Egypt. Hirsi Ali preludes her point by noting that the alleged rise of Christophobia in Egypt comes “in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.” Her key example is the attack by security forces on pro-Coptic protesters outside Maspero on 9 October 2011, which killed at least twenty-four people and wounded more than three hundred. From this example, Hirsi Ali moves forward with her relentlessly superficial line of argument: “By the end of the year more than two-hundred thousand Copts had fled their homes in anticipation of more attacks. With Islamists poised to gain much greater power in the wake of recent elections, their fears appear to be justified.”

The first and most obvious problem here, of course, is Hirsi Ali’s attempt to transform an attack by security forces against protesters—the sort of attack that has marked the bloody fule of the Supreme Council of Armed Force (SCAF)—into yet another example of “Muslims attacking Christians,” driven solely by the relentless power of Christophobia. The deeper problem, and the one that betrays the mark of neo-con logic, is her implication that the source of this violence springs from, not the US-supported and armed military junta currently ruling Egypt, but the forces supposedly unleashed by the Arab Spring. This becomes clear in the final sentence, which resonates with the neo-con mantra that has been constant since the beginnings of the popular uprisings: if they get their democracy, we’ll wind up with the Islamists.

This disdain for the forces of democracy in Egypt (as contrasted to the neo-cons’ own preferred model of “democracy promotion” through military intervention) becomes even clearer in the admiring take on Hirsi Ali’s article posted on the blog of the National Review by Nina Shea. Concurring with Hirsi Ali’s thesis regarding the rise of Christophobia in the region, Shea adds, “Unfortunately, Arab democracy in Iraq and Egypt, the ancient homelands of two of the three largest Middle Eastern Christian communities, seems to be exacerbating the religious persecution.” (“Arab democracy,” we are thus invited to conclude, must be quite different from, say, “Western-style democracy.”)

As Shea notes, Hirsi Ali also uses the example of violence against Christians in Iraq, which is again awarded a full paragraph of attention. “Egypt is not the only Arab country that seems bent on wiping out its Christian minority,” she writes, continuing her “fair-minded assessment.” She goes on to note the rise in violence against Iraqi Christians since 2003, and the fact that thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled the country—“as the result of violence directed specifically against them”—leading to what she calls “an incipient genocide or ethnic cleansing of Assyrians in Iraq.”

And then, she moves on. The fact that 2003 is hardly an arbitrary date is not so much as acknowledged. Here we find yet another example of the almost unbelievable gall exhibited by neo-cons, as part of the larger forgetting of the war on Iraq in the United States. That Hirsi Ali—who was, like her neo-con colleagues, a vocal supporter of the war—can avoid not only accepting responsibility for the shattering of Iraqi society, but can actually use this shattering to advance her own hideous Islamophobic arguments, is simply obscene. Just as she fails to acknowledge that the attacks on pro-Coptic protesters in Egypt need to be understood within the larger framework of SCAF’s systematic attacks on all protesters, so she refuses to acknowledge that the thousands of Christians who have fled from Iraq are part of the one and a half million Iraqis who have been made refugees by the war she supported.

This forgetting of the carnage unleashed by the criminal war against Iraq is especially important today, as some of the same neo-con forces have not ceased to bang the drums for a new war against Iran. Hirsi Ali, not surprisingly, whole-heartedly endorses an attack on Iran. This is one of the clear dangers presented by her article in the current moment. I had decided not to mention another, more intimate connection between Hirsi Ali and neo-con ideology, represented by her marriage to the dean of neo-imperialists, Niall Ferguson. But it becomes impossible not to mention this connection when, in the very same issue of Newsweek—in fact, only four pages away from her article—we find an article by Ferguson, arguing vigorously for supporting an Israeli attack on Iran, using logic that could have been lifted straight out of the pro-war op-eds of 2002 (“Sometimes a preventive war can be a lesser evil than a policy of appeasement.”) Hirsi Ali only manages to work Iran into her argument regarding “Christophobia” in an indirect way, but given her long-standing views—she has, for example, argued that the Bush administration should have attacked Iraq and Iran after 9/11—her larger framework is clearly intended to support this march towards a new war.

But this is still not the most insidious aspect of Hirsi Ali’s argument. This becomes apparent only as she reaches her conclusion, which begins with a reiteration of her two theses: “It should be clear from this catalog of atrocities that anti-Christian violence is a major and underreported problem.” Helpfully, she goes on to offer an explanation for both aspects of the problem. This “global war on Christians” is not, she suggests, the result of coordination by “some international Islamist agency.” “In that sense,” she goes on, “the global war on Christians isn’t a traditional war at all. It is, rather, a spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animus by Muslims that transcends cultures, regions, and ethnicities.”

In a word: Muslims are killing Christians because Muslims hate Christians. And if this global war remains “underreported,” Muslims are to blame for this as well: part of the reason for “the media’s reticence on the subject,” she suggests, “may be the fear of provoking additional violence,” but the “most likely” explanation is “the influence of lobbying groups such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.” Such groups, she concludes, “have been remarkably successful in persuading leading public figures and journalists in the West to think of each and every example of perceived anti-Muslim discrimination as an expression of a systematic and sinister derangement called ‘Islamophobia’—a term that is meant to elicit the same moral disapproval as xenophobia or homophobia.”

We discover a few important things here. The first is that the seeming disconnectedness of Hirsi Ali’s argument is in fact intentional. There is no need to draw logical or factual connections between the various incidents she raises because the logic can be found in the very structure of her thesis: what she cites are simply examples of Muslims attacking Christians, and Muslims attack Christians because Muslims hate Christians. When Egyptian security forces attack Coptic protesters, it is not the army attacking protesters; it is Muslims attacking Christians. When Iraqi Christians flee the violence of a country destroyed by a US-led war and occupation, it is not Iraqis fleeing from carnage; it is Christians fleeing from Muslims. Hirsi Ali has developed the perfect machine for circulating and defending Islamophobia, since it directly implicates every individual Muslim in the actions of every other individual Muslim—not to mention the actions of any government of any Muslim-majority state. And, as an added bonus, it even manages to implicate the imputing of Islamophobia itself as part of the problem, since she sees this as part of the sinister “conspiracy of silence” that allows this global Christophobia to flourish.

Hirsi Ali’s “war,” in other words, guarantees the continuing stigmatization of Muslims in North America and Europe. This is what allows her to speak of a “global war on Christians in the Muslim world.” In addition to resonating with the US’s “global war on terror,” what this phrase signifies is that the Islamic “threat” is a global one. So what might appear to be a minority community under siege in the United States, Hirsi Ali suggests, is in fact part of a threatening wave of genocide; the “spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animus by Muslims that transcends cultures, regions, and ethnicities” exists, in inchoate form, everywhere. No one (Christian) is safe.

Allow me to state the obvious, which is that Hirsi Ali’s argument has an immediately recognizable pedigree. The attempt to justify the oppression of minority groups by producing them as threats to “our way of life”—including the assertion that the same groups have the mysterious power to bewitch, dupe, and silence the unwary through conspiratorial means and shadowy organizations—has been a standard practice of racism and fascism, those precursors of Islamophobia; Hirsi Ali is a connoisseur of all three. Her supposed defense of an embattled minority is a thinly disguised attempt to extend and expand the ongoing repression of Muslim minority communities. The logic of her argument is precisely the same as that which has underwritten the violent policing of Muslim communities in the name of fighting “homegrown terrorism,” which has had such horrific consequences for these communities (not to mention for civil liberties more generally).

Hirsi Ali, like Ferguson and the rest of the neo-con forces, is eager to wrap herself in the mantle of “Western” virtues such as skepticism and secularism, against the forces of sectarianism and fundamentalism that they see as constitutive of the “Muslim world.” But what could possibly be more sectarian and fundamentalist than Hirsi Ali’s vision of the world, with its terrifying simplifications and generalizations, and its reduction of genuine situations of violence and suffering to data whose only purpose is to power her relentless Islamophobia machine?

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 1, 2012 by loonwatch

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich

Singling Out Islam: Newt Gingrich’s Pandering Attacks

The former House speaker regularly calls for treating Muslims differently — and his discriminatory remarks are mostly forgiven. 

It’s interesting to observe what qualifies as beyond the pale in American politics. For bigoted newsletters written two decades ago, Ron Paul is deemed by many to be disqualified from the presidency. I don’t fault anyone for criticizing those newsletters. I’ve done so myselfThey’re terrible. So is the way he’s handled the controversy. But isn’t it interesting that Paul has been more discredited by years-old, ghostwritten remarks than has Newt Gingrich for bigotry that he’s uttered himself, on camera, during the present campaign? It’s gone largely ignored both in the mainstream press and the movement-conservative organs that were most vocal condemning Paul.

That’s because Muslims are the target. And despite the fact that George W. Bush was admirably careful to avoid demonizing a whole religious faith for the actions of a small minority of its adherents — despite the fact that Barack Obama too has been beyond reproach in this respect — anti-Muslim bigotry in America is treated differently than every other kind, often by the very same people who allege without irony that there is a war in this country against Christians.

In the clip at the top of this post, Gingrich says, “Now, I think we need to have a government that respects our religions. I’m a little bit tired about respecting every religion on the planet. I’d like them to respect our religion.” Of course, the U.S. government is compelled by the Constitution to afford protection to religion generally, and “our” religion includes Islam, a faith many Americans practice. That’s just the beginning of what Gingrich has said about this minority group. In this clip, he likens Muslim Americans seeking to build a mosque in Lower Manhattan to Nazis building next to the Holocaust Museum. He once suggested that the right of Muslims to build mosques should be infringed upon by the U.S. government until Christians are permitted to build churches in Saudi Arabia, a straightforward suggestion that we violate the Constitution in order to mimic authoritarians. He favors a federal law that would pre-empt sharia law — though not the religious law of any other faith — from being used in American courts, which would be the solution to a total non-problem.

And no surprise, for he regularly engages in the most absurd kind of fear-mongering. To cite one example:

I think that we have to really, from my perspective you don’t have an issue of religious tolerance you have an elite which favors radical Islam over Christianity and Judaism. You have constant pressure by secular judges and by religious bigots to drive Christianity out of public life and to establish a secular state except when it comes to radical Islam, where all of the sudden they start making excuses for Sharia, they start making excuses that we really shouldn’t use certain language. Remember, the Organization of Islamic Countries is dedicated to preventing anyone, anywhere in the world from commenting negatively about Islam, so they would literally eliminate our free speech and there were clearly conversations held that implied that the U.S. Justice Department would begin to enforce censorship against American citizens to protect radical Islam, I think that’s just an amazing concept frankly.

If Gingrich believed all of this it would be damning. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether it is more or less damning that his tone, and much of his substance, is in fact a calculated pander. Justin Elliott at Salon demonstrated as much when he delved into how Gingrich used to talk about these issues:

Gingrich’s recent rhetoric represents a little-noticed shift from an earlier period in his career when he had a strikingly warm relationship with the American Muslim community. As speaker of the House in the 1990s, for example, Gingrich played a key role in setting aside space on Capitol Hill for Muslim congressional staffers to pray each Friday; he was involved with a Republican Islamic group that promoted Shariah-compliant finance, which critics — including Gingrich — now deride as a freedom-destroying abomination; and he maintained close ties with another Muslim conservative group that even urged Gingrich to run for president in 2007.

The article goes on to note:

Gingrich’s warm relations with the Muslim community continued well into the mid-2000s. Around 2004, for example, he participated in a planning meeting of the Islamic Free Market Institute, according to an activist who also attended the meeting. “His tone was nothing like what you hear today,” recalls the activist. “He was very positive, very supportive. His whole attitude was that Muslims are part of the American fabric and that Muslim Americans should be Republicans.” By the standards of the Gingrich we know today, the Islamic Free Market Institute was essentially engaged in “stealth jihad.” The now defunct group, founded by conservative activist Grover Norquist in 1998 to woo Muslim Americans to the GOP, was involved in educating the public and policymakers about Islamic or Shariah-compliant finance. Its 2004 IRS filing reported the group spent tens of thousands of dollars to “educate the public about Islam[ic] finances, insurance, banking and investments.” To most people, there’s nothing nefarious about Islamic finance — there is a large international banking business centering on special financial instruments that are compliant with Islamic strictures against interest, and so on.

So in 2004 Gingrich attended a planning meeting of a group devoted to promoting Shariah-compliant finance. Fast forward to 2010 and here’s what he said in his speech to the American Enterprise Institute: “[I]t’s why I think teaching about Sharia financing is dangerous, because it is the first step towards the normalization of Sharia and I believe Sharia is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it.”

If an American politician suggested, of Christians or Jews, that they should be required to take a special loyalty oath before assuming office; that the government should restrict where they’re permitted to build houses of worship; that laws should be passed singling out their religious law as odious; that they don’t count when Americans talk about “our” religion; that their main lobbying group should be aggressively investigated: if any American politician said any of those things, they’d be regarded as an anti-religious bigot engaged in a war on Christianity.

Whereas the accusation that there’s something wrong with Gingrich’s rhetoric is met on the right with righteous indignation, as if he is the put-upon victim of political correctness or the elite media.

In the 1980s, the Ron Paul newsletters played on white anxiety about urban crime and racism toward blacks. It was awful. And apparently America didn’t learn its lesson, for Gingrich 2012, like Cain 2012 before it, is playing on majority anxieties about terrorism and xenophobia toward Muslims. This is particularly dangerous in the civil-liberties climate produced by Bush and Obama, where American citizens can be deprived of their liberty and even their life without charges or due process, a protection that is especially valuable to feared minorities.

Santorum: Equality ‘doesn’t come from Islam’ but from ‘God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob’

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2012 by loonwatch
Rick Santorum
Rick Santorum

Santorum: Equality ‘doesn’t come from Islam’ but from ‘God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob’

by 

Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum provoked an angry response from the Council on American-Islamic Relations Saturday for saying equality “doesn’t come from Islam“ but ”from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

“I get a kick out of folks who call for equality now, the people on the left, ‘Well, equality, we want equality.’ Where do you think this concept of equality comes from?” Santorum said during a South Carolina campaign stop Friday, ABC News reported. “It doesn’t come from Islam. It doesn’t come from the East and Eastern religions, where does it come from? It comes from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that’s where it comes from.”

The former Pennsylvania senator, a Catholic, has spoken openly about faith on the campaign trail.

“So don’t claim his rights, don’t claim equality as that gift from God and then go around and say, ‘Well, we don’t have to pay attention to what God wants us to do. We don’t have to pay attention to God’s moral laws.’ If your rights come from God, then you have an obligation to live responsibly in conforming with God’s laws, and our founders said so, right?” Santorum asked.

In a statement, CAIR communications director Ibrahim Hooper called Santorum’s remarks “inaccurate and offensive,“ and said the organization was sending the candidate a copy of the Quran so he could ”educate himself.”

“The Quran, Islam’s revealed text, is the best refutation of Mr. Santorum’s inaccurate and offensive remarks, which are unbecoming of anyone who hopes to hold our nation’s highest office. Christians, Jews and Muslims all worship the same God and share religious traditions that promote justice and equality,” Hooper said. “We suggest that Mr. Santorum educate himself about Islam and the American Muslim community by reading the Quran that we will send to his campaign headquarters next week.”

Happy Holidays!

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , on December 25, 2011 by loonwatch

Happy Hannukah and Merry Christmas to the loonwatchers who are celebrating this holiday season.

UK Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and others join Christians to wish Happy Christmas 4 All

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , on December 19, 2011 by loonwatch

Merry Christmas

UK Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and others join Christians to wish Happy Christmas 4 All

By Alexander Goldberg
(Reuters)

There are no Christmas trees in my home, not even a Chanukah bush, no sign of tinsel and no sound of children singing carols. If I was asked on Facebook to describe my relationship with Christmas, like most Jews I would opt for the  ‘it’s complicated’ or even the ‘separated’ status. The personage of Jesus, whose birthday it marks, is the main theological divide between Christianity and Judaism. So whilst a minority in my community do mark it in some way, it would be difficult for me as an observant Jew to do so. Perhaps therefore, it is surprising to some that I have joined the HappyChristmas4All campaign. So why?

For me, it comes down to good neighborliness. It gives me no satisfaction to see others denigrate another person’s religious festival or stop my neighbours from practising their beliefs. That’s why I joined the HappyChristmas4All campaign that has attracted over a thousand supporters on Facebook and captured the attention of the broadcast media in Britain. People have signed up for their own reasons, but in essence Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs and secularists have joined together to say Christmas in Britain must be respected. Some from other communities have gone further and I have learnt this week from both Muslim and Buddhist friends the meaning that the birth of Jesus has in their traditions.

The ‘War on Christmas’ myth needs to be debunked. I share similar concerns to my closest Christian neighbours that the festival risks becoming on one hand a secular consumerist feast or on the other a time when the majority of the population wrongly believes it has to play down celebrations so as not to offend others.

Consumerism is dangerous. The current global economic crisis has shown what happens when we borrow beyond our means. Christmas is a time of great debt for many families who face huge pressures to get those close to them expensive and highly marketed gifts. I share the concerns of those that see this consumerist festival is slowly usurping the religious one that promotes ‘Peace on Earth’ and encourages family gatherings. A religious Christmas is a tonic to this excess and a national consumerist festival is of no interest to any of us.

Playing down Christmas celebrations is not the answer either. We should not make it into some inert ‘Winterval’ or generic ‘Holidays’ which is increasingly popular in the United States. There is a tendency to roll the Jewish holiday of Chanukah into Christmas and celebrate the Holiday period along with Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year and Thanksgiving. Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate it if someone offers me Happy Chanukah greetings or wants to play ‘spin the dreidel.’ But let’s face it — Chanukah is a minor Jewish festival whilst Christmas is one of the most important days of the Christian calendar. So why ‘big up’ Chanukah or have our neighbours downplay Christmas? Indeed, critics of the term ‘Happy Holidays’ deem it to be either consumerist in its origins or an attack on the centrality of Christmas for the majority of the population in the United Kingdom and the United States.

The ‘War on Christmas’ seems to take away enjoyment for the majority of people and only a few bitter secularists and some ideological extremists, who want to be on the fringe of society, want to see that happen. Surely a Christmas tree or lights on the Main Street or at City Hall can’t possibly offend anyone. The notion is simply ridiculous. I used to get phoned up by public sector workers two weeks before Christmas when I was the Senior Race Equality Officer at the UK Government’s Commission for Racial Equality. They were concerned that placing a Christmas tree in the town hall would offend non-Christians. In the main, the same authorities were marking Eid, Diwali and Chanukah where there were sizeable relevant populations. So I asked them, why not Christmas? I told them that I would be offended if 85% of the population could not celebrate their festival. Point taken, my advice was often met with relief and I am probably responsible for saving a dozen or so Christmas trees in town halls across Britain.

Journalists have been fascinated by the numbers of religious leaders from Jewish, Muslim and Sikh backgrounds joining in with this call to respect Christmas. Even the orthodox Chief Rabbi of Britain, Lord Sacks, joined in. On a recent visit to the Scottish Parliament, he stated that “Jewish and other faith communities love the fact that Christians celebrate ChristmasWhen I go to Trafalgar Square and hear carols being sung, I feel uplifted.”

When they ask me what I am doing this Christmas, I tell them that I have a role. The country still needs people to work or volunteer. At Christmas time, members of my family offer to take colleagues shifts at work or volunteer in understaffed charities in order to help others take the time off to celebrate their festival, or else look in on those that may be lonely over this period. And when asked, I urge members of my community to do likewise. In other words, to show respect for Christmas and their neighbours. Happy Christmas for all…

ADL Urges Chief Rabbis to Denounce Spitting at Christians

Posted in Loon Rabbis with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2011 by loonwatch

If Muslims were committing this disgusting practice you can be sure that the hatemongers would be up in arms declaring Islam a “vile and intolerant” religion. They would also claim that this is the “pure Islam, etc.”

ADL urges chief rabbis to denounce spitting at Christians

The Anti-Defamation league (ADL) called on the Chief Rabbinate of Israel to publicly denounce “the repulsive decades-old practice by ultra-Orthodox Jews of spitting at Christian clergymen they encounter in the street.”

“This repulsive practice is a hateful act of persecution against another faith group and a desecration of God’s name according to Jewish law,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “This display of hate and bigotry has no place in Israel and is inimical to Jewish values of treating all people with respect and kindness.”

The ADL sent Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger a letter, urging them to meet with Haredi leaders to put a stop to this practice and to cooperate to educate their community about respect for other faiths and coexistence.

Spitting Jews Ultraorthodox

Are evangelicals a national security threat?

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2011 by loonwatch

(cross-posted from Salon)

A new poll suggests that American Christians (unlike Muslims) are likely to put their faith before their country

By David Sirota

If you have the stomach to listen to enough right-wing talk radio, or troll enough right-wing websites, you inevitably come upon fear-mongering about the Unassimilated Muslim. Essentially, this caricature suggests that Muslims in America are more loyal to their religion than to the United States, that such allegedly traitorous loyalties prove that Muslims refuse to assimilate into our nation and that Muslims are therefore a national security threat.

Earlier this year, a Gallup poll illustrated just how apocryphal this story really is. It found that Muslim Americans are one of the most — if not the single most — loyal religious group to the United States. Now, comes the flip side from the Pew Research Center’s stunning findings about other religious groups in America (emphasis mine):

American Christians are more likely than their Western European counterparts to think of themselves first in terms of their religion rather than their nationality; 46 percent of Christians in the U.S. see themselves primarily as Christians and the same number consider themselves Americans first. In contrast, majorities of Christians in France (90 percent), Germany (70 percent), Britain (63 percent) and Spain (53 percent) identify primarily with their nationality rather than their religion. Among Christians in the U.S., white evangelicals are especially inclined to identify first with their faith; 70 percent in this group see themselves first as Christians rather than as Americans, while 22 percent say they are primarily American.

If, as Islamophobes argue, refusing to assimilate is defined as expressing loyalty to a religion before loyalty to country, then this data suggests it is evangelical Christians who are very resistant to assimilation. And yet, few would cite these findings to argue that Christians pose a serious threat to America’s national security. Why the double standard?

Because Christianity is seen as the dominant culture in America — indeed, Christianity and America are often portrayed as being nearly synonymous, meaning expressing loyalty to the former is seen as the equivalent to expressing loyalty to the latter. In this view, there is no such thing as separation between the Christian church and the American state — and every other culture and religion is expected to assimilate to Christianity. To do otherwise is to be accused of waging a “War on Christmas” — or worse, to be accused of being disloyal to America and therefore a national security threat.

Of course, a genuinely pluralistic America is one where — regardless of the religion in question — we see no conflict between loyalties to a religion and loyalties to country. In this ideal America, those who identify as Muslims first are no more or less “un-American” than Christians who do the same (personally, this is the way I see things).

But if our politics and culture are going to continue to make extrapolative judgments about citizens’ patriotic loyalties based on their religious affiliations, then such judgments should at least be universal — and not so obviously selective or brazenly xenophobic.

Fake Nigerian Christians Burnt Alive Photo Resurfaces on Facebook

Posted in Feature, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 21, 2011 by loonwatch

It looks like the myth that Geller was pushing some months ago about Muslim hordes incinerating Nigerian Christians is resurfacing once again, this time on Facebook.

A blog by the name of Waffles at Noon covers the re-emergence of the photo:

A horrifying photo has surfaced on Facebook, one that claims the dead, charred bodies in the photo are Christians burnt alive by Muslims in Nigera. A common caption reads reads:

Christians burnt alive by Sunni Muslims in NIGERIA…(Posted by Jillian Becker in Africa, Arab States, Christianity, Christians burnt alive by Sunni Muslims, Islam, Muslims, jihad)…..PLEASE SHARE IT OR JUST UPLOAD YOUR OWN…BUT SOMEHOW SPREAD IT IF YOU’RE EVEN 1% CHRISTIAN — It is still not over yet! —

Waffles goes on to cite our piece from April that points out the fact that the picture is a fake.

Below is our post exposing the absurd falsity of attempting to pass the Congo gas tanker explosion as an example of Nigerian sectarianism.

******************

Pamela Geller Watch: Ties Gas Tanker Explosion in Congo to Electoral Violence in Nigeria

Pamela is claiming in a blog titled, Nigeria: Muslim Hordes Mass Slaughter Christians that a gruesome picture is evidence of Muslim violence against Christians in Nigeria (be warned the picture is gruesome):

A terrible and horrifying picture indeed.

Pamela brags that she wrote about it “first” back on April 19, and then wonders “why” is America fighting in Libya to restore a “universal Caliphate?”

Huh??

It turns out however that the above picture is not evidence of some “Muslim rampage” in Nigeria! The charred bodies are a tragic result of a tanker explosion in the CONGO!! A whole other country the last time I checked! Here is the evidence from Afrik.com (I give you the Google translation since it was originally in French):

The explosion, on July 3, a tanker in the town of Sange, South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has resulted in 235 deaths.

Here is the original French language report where you will also find more pictures: RDC : les images atroces du drame de Sange au Sud-Kivu

You will also see an interesting picture of Muslim UN soldiers, possibly from Pakistan helping to respond to the tragedy.

Here is a report from Reuters with some more pictures:

(Reuters) – At least 230 people were killed when a fuel tanker overturned and exploded in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, unleashing a fire ball that tore through homes and cinemas packed with people watching World Cup soccer.

Officials said on Saturday the explosion late on Friday also injured 196 people, adding that the death toll could rise.

They described scenes of devastation in the town of Sange, where houses were burned and bodies littered the streets. Some people died while trying to steal fuel leaking from the tanker, but most were killed at home or watching World Cup soccer in cinemas.

Many of the bodies were charred beyond recognition.

United Nations helicopters began airlifting injured people to hospital, while Congo’s army, which lost a number of men in the blast, has sent soldiers in to help with the rescue.

“Our latest numbers are 230 dead and 196 injured,” Madnodje Mounoubai, a spokesman for the U.N. mission, said. Congo’s government also gave the same number of dead.

Marcellin Cisambo, governor of South Kivu province, where the incident took place, said the blast occurred when the fuel truck overturned, leaked fuel and then later exploded.

It was not immediately clear what caused the initial accident or later blast, but local people said the truck, which was part of a convoy, stopped when the road seemed to crumble, toppling the vehicle and spilling fuel. Fire then erupted.

“It’s a terrible scene. There are lots of dead bodies on the streets. The population is in terrible shock — no one is crying or speaking,” Jean-Claude Kibala, South Kivu’s vice governor, said from Sange, which is between the towns of Bukavu and Uvira.

“We are trying to see how we can coordinate with (the U.N.) to manage the situation and how to take the wounded to hospital,” he added.

TANKER ACCIDENTS

Roads in the area are notoriously bad after years of war and neglect in the vast central African nation.

“Some people were killed trying to steal the fuel, but most of the deaths were of people who were indoors watching the (World Cup) match,” Cisambo said.

There have been numerous similar accidents across Africa, where crowds gather around fuel tankers involved in crashes, only for the tanker to explode.

Millions of football fans across Africa were watching Ghana, the continent’s last team in the World Cup, play Uruguay in the quarterfinals of the tournament on Friday evening.

For many, who have no electricity at home, makeshift cinema halls are the only option for watching the football.

“My children were watching the football match in the cinema and then they ran out to see the petrol,” said Kiza Ruvinira, who lost three children and his sister-in-law in the blast.

“I went out to see what happened and I found my three children’s bodies myself. I don’t know how to go on.”

Mubaya Mumasura also lost three family members: “I don’t know what to do with myself I am so sad. I want the government to assist all the victims and help us.”

Congo’s weak government has difficulty providing even the most basic services, so U.N. peacekeepers began airlifting some of the wounded to nearby hospitals and aid workers were called in to help with medical treatment.

“The national Red Cross is working on collecting the bodies and taking them to the morgue, but the priority is obviously to take the wounded to the hospital,” International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) coordinator Inah Kaloga told Reuters.”

Kaloga said aid workers were trying to identify bodies before they were buried, but many were completely charred.

“It’s a catastrophe,” said Captain Olivier Hamuli,” spokesman for Congo’s military operation in South Kivu, adding that 13 soldiers had been injured and another 10 were missing.

The Kenyan driver of the truck is being held by the police.

Alain Ilunga, deputy CEO of Congo’s storage and distribution company, which is already investigating the incident, said the truck was carrying 49,000 liters of petrol at the time.

(Writing by David Lewis; editing by Ralph Boulton)

Church and Mosque Join Forces to Feed Flood Victims

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2011 by loonwatch

Muslims and Christians coming together in face of devastation.

Church and Mosque Join Forces to Feed Flood Victims

ROTTERDAM JUNCTION – There’s been so much hardship and heartache since Tropical Storm Irene.

One silver lining though, the devastation has brought people together in a heart-warming way.

We’ve seen signs of this every day since the storm. On Saturday, members of a church and a mosque joined forces to feed people cleaning up in Schenectady County.

A little over a month after Tropical Storm Irene wreaked havoc in the Capital Region, residents affected by massive flooding continue to pick up the pieces of their lives and rebuild.

The waters have receded in Rotterdam Junction, but help from the community has not dried up.

“The community has been about the best thing going. Everybody has pitched in,” says Jan Hunter, a flood victim.

Hunter has a crew working on her home that was flooded on route 5S. Noon time Saturday and lunch was delivered to her doorstep for everyone.

“They brought in lunch today, which has been wonderful.” says Hunter.

The delivery came from a group of volunteers, donating their time, trying to make sure those who were affected by flooding, don’t have to worry about putting food on the table.

“We have people in need. Some of us who were fortunate we didn’t lose anything, we’re coming together to help those who have,” says Joann canary.

Canary started what she called the “Sandwich Brigade” a week ago, delivering fresh sandwiches to homeowners. This weekend, she and her church joined forces with the Bait Ul Noor Mosque in Rotterdam Junction to feed even more people.

“How could you look at a neighbor struggling and not want to jump in and help. We’re part of this community and we consider it a great honor that we’re able to do something today,” says Tahira Khan.

Khan brought a mixture of Indian food and sandwiches from Subway. The volunteers then filled up four cars with the goodies — driving to four different spots in Rotterdam Junction to hand them out.

“It’s tough times around here. I want to see them all get back,” says Canary.

As you can tell, it’s all turning personal to the volunteers. While they haven’t been affected, they all know someone who have or have become friends with the victims.

The Young Conservative’s Hip Hop Guide to Muslims (Satire)

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2011 by loonwatch

Young Con is doing his thang. Check out the video and the facts below.

The Young Conservative’s Hip Hop Guide to Muslims (Satire)

The Young Conservative’s Hip Hop Guide to Muslims is social commentary through satire on the gross, yet common misconceptions perpetuated about Muslim people. Cutaways to competing facts are provided to help fight ignorance and intolerance.

Sources:

Statistic in Open – 3 of 4 people Republicans believe “Islam teaches hate”

Step 1 – Ethnicity/Demographics of Muslims

  • 60% Asian
  • 20% Arab
  • 17% Subsaharan-African

Step 2 – FBI Terrorism Report – Chronological Summary of Terrorist Incidents in the United States 1980-2005

Step 3 – “Islam is Violence”

  • George W. Bush: “Islam is Peace
  • Chapter 5, verse 32 – “We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person — unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land — it would be as if he slew the whole people; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.”

Step 6 – “They hate women” – 4 of 5 most populous Muslim-majority nations have elected female heads-of-state

  • Indonesia – Megawati Sukarnoputri
  • Pakistan – Benazir Bhutto
  • Bangladesh – Khaleda Zia & Sheikh Hasina
  • Turkey – Tansu Ciller

Step 7 – FDR Inaugural Speech – March 4, 1933

  • “The only thing we have to fear is Muslims“
  • “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”

Step 8 – Jesus in the Quran, “The Messiah”

Bossier Mosque Vandalized

Posted in Loon People, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 10, 2011 by loonwatch

Reportedly, someone left pork on the door handles at a mosque.

Bossier Mosque vandalized

By Brittany Pieper – email

In the wake of 9-11 many Muslims suffered persecution. Today, in the days after Osama Bin Laden’s death, Muslims in the Shreveport -Bossier community feel they’ve been disrespected again.

They reported to police that a white male in a blue pick-up truck tampered with the doors at the Mosque. When he left, they discovered he had left pork on the door handles so people would have to touch it to go inside. Muslims do not eat pork, and try to avoid it because they consider it unclean.

Mosque members are not pressing charges, but reported the incident to police so it would be on file. Police say it could be considered a hate crime.

“It appears that the individual who did this tried to intimidate the individuals at this location,” said Mark Natale, a spokesman for the Bossier City Police Department.

Local leaders from other religions say they were saddened to hear about the incident.

“It’s kind of chilling. I mean, I know that nobody was physically hurt, but psychologically it’s hurtful,” said Susan Gross, the Executive Director of the North Louisiana Jewish Federation.

“It’s not helpful for anyone. Whether you’re Muslim, Jewish, or Christian, it’s not helpful. It doesn’t build bridges,” said Paul Martin, the Assistant Rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Shreveport.

Members of the Mosque say they just hope nothing like this happens again.

Burning the myths about Islam

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2011 by loonwatch

What Pastor Terry Jones did was uncalled for, and what the people in Afghanistan did was uncalled for, but in no way can we equate one’s reaction as more barbaric as the other. Terry Jones is living in his little heaven up in Gainseville, Fla. compared to how the people in Afghanistan are living: facing a war, oppression, deep poverty, etc.

Burning the myths about Islam

The ‘Arab Spring’ shows that the Quran burning riot in Afghanistan had little to do with Islam itself.

by: Anas Altikriti, from AlJazeera

“]The complete apathy of the ‘Arab spring’ in regards to the burning of a Quran reveals how anger-fuelled riots are borne from suppression of freedom, not the allegedly violent qualities of Islam [REUTERS

The recent violent protests in Afghanistan – a reaction to the burning of the Quran by a small church in the United States last month – recalled an inescapable reality.

Extremists on all sides – whether in free, democratic America, or in corrupt, occupied Afghanistan – create havoc and chaos, demonstrating the danger brought about by a deadly cocktail of ignorance and idiocy. Ultimately, they cause the deaths of innocent people.

Some cite the difference between the two acts: one saw the burning of a book, while the other claimed human lives.

This is of course true, but what exactly did the mastermind of this foolish and hate-filled act expect, other than a reaction somewhere on the Muslim side?

His bark worse than his bite

Pastor Terry Jones, of the formerly obscure Dove World Outreach Church in Florida – a parish of no more than a few dozen weekly followers – has been enjoying fame and possibly even fortune since calling for a ‘Burn the Quran’ day last September.

He was dissuaded from carrying out his act following a worldwide outcry from Christians and denunciation from American political, religious and community leaders.

But it seems that Jones had an itch that simply had to be scratched, and in March, he and some of his comrades burnt a copy of the Quran.

Strangely though, whilst last year’s threat resulted in outrage throughout the Muslim world and mass protests in most Arab countries, the act itself – once carried out – brought almost no reaction from the streets of those same countries, apart from the ones in Afghanistan.

Hundreds of thousands hit the streets of Cairo, Damascus, Amman, Sanaa and many other Arab cities last summer denouncing Jones, burning effigies and flags and calling for a global campaign to ‘protect the Quran’.

I recall receiving hundreds of emails and texts messages expressing outrage, and calling for immediate action in protest against this heinous act.

Yet now that Jones has actually carried out his threat, not one single demonstration was held, no mass protest was called for, no texts or email messages criss-crossed the ether, and no days of anger were organised.

Recapturing a people’s dignity

One would have expected such protests to come easily to the masses already camping on the streets of Cairo, Tunis, Damascus, Sanaa and Benghazi. Logistically, the scene was set; all would have been ready for such action, but nothing of the sort came to light.

There is no suggestion that those masses revere the Quran any less, or that they see the act carried out by Jones as any less repugnant. So why the apparent inaction? Because the ‘Arab spring’ has elevated minds as well as aspirations, a trend absent still in the contexts of Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries where corruption is still riding a wave.

One cannot say for sure whether it was the upheavals in the region that had the Arab nations looking elsewhere to exert their collective energies, but it is without a shadow of a doubt that the absence of ‘anti-Terry Jones’ protests was not due to a lack of energy or of ability.

For several years, those studying the Arab world through the mobility and narrative of the masses have emphasised that the number one priority for the Arab people (and Muslims by extension) is the pursuit of freedom and the recapture of their long-lost dignity.

Manifestations of religious, ideological, and cultural extremist behaviour were essentially a reaction to stagnant political climates imposed by despotic regimes, lack of human rights and absence of any hope in a better future.

Thus those people – who considered it their ultimate objective a few months ago to demonstrate anger and outrage for the threat to burn the Quran – today were in no doubt whatsoever that today their priority was to remove those regimes that have ruled them so inhumanely for so long.

Defying political models

Therein lies an important message for those Westerners who make a living from counter-terrorism and eradicating extremism: Supporting despotic regimes and dictators for short-term political and economic gains begets extremism that takes shape in a religious, social, political, ideological or cultural format.

The claim that removing or compromising regimes, such as that of Mubarak, Ben Ali, Saleh, Gaddafi or Assad will inevitably bring an extremist element to government is baseless, as demonstrated by events unfolding before us.

In all of the examples of the nations that revolted against their tyrants, rather than witnessing violence, the world saw protesters insisting on peaceful means despite them being confronted hired thugs and armed security forces.

Those same nations exemplified the meaning of national unity in practise rather than words. Muslims and Christians protected each other, came to each other’s aid and guarded each others’ holy places of worship against the threat of arson and vandalism by elements who had an interest in anarchy and division breaking out.

As soon as the opportunity emerged, those who had lived their lives merely dreaming of living under a democracy someday turned out to be brilliant democrats in practise.

What remains to be seen is whether the West will adapt to the new terrain and change its ways too.

The mood for change

Travelling the region extensively and conversing with people from all walks of life, one cannot miss the the new air of confidence about the Arab citizen.

Whether in Egypt where the revolution is in full swing and some significant fruits have been borne, or in other countries where no mass protests have been reported, there is no doubt that the mood is one for change and transformation.

Conversations in the Arab street are much more bold, brazen and uncaring about who might be eavesdropping. It’s simply a matter of time, but change is certainly now a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.

Once free, the Arab and Muslim nations will not resort to violence, extremism and isolationist practises, as some would like the world to think.

Once free, those nations will see the act of Terry Jones as the petty and foolish gesture that it undoubtedly was, and will realise that it brings more damage upon him and his reputation than upon the object of his deranged hatred.

Anas Altikriti is president and founder of the Cordoba Foundation.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Muslims face growing attacks in Ivory Coast crisis

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on April 3, 2011 by loonwatch
In this photo taken on March 22, 2011, people pay there respects to Imam Souleyman Sissouma and his family at the Bilal Mosque during a funeral service in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Souleymane Sissouma was the third imam slain this month in a wave of anti-Muslim attacks so brutal his surviving family members were too afraid to attend his funeral. At least 10 mosques across Abidjan have been burned, and another was abandoned after attackers threw a grenade through a window during prayers. (AP)

What if the Muslims were attacking churches and killing innocent people, this would reach American channels quicker than we would realize. In the Ivory coast Muslims have been facing attacks for a while but recently these attacks are on the rise.

Muslims face growing attacks in Ivory Coast crisis

By MARCO CHOWN OVED | AP

As dozens of mourners gathered at a mosque, the twisted wreckage of a burned car lay outside — another sign of the growing campaign of violence against Muslims who widely support Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner of November’s presidential election.

Ouattara, who is Muslim, is locked in a battle with the entrenched president Laurent Gbagbo for power, and their conflict is veering dangerously toward sectarian violence.

At least 10 mosques across Abidjan have been set ablaze, and another was abandoned after attackers threw a grenade through a window during prayers.

“Us Muslims, we’re not safe. We are the object of every kind of violence. We’re afraid. We don’t know how this is going to end,” said Imam Idriss Koudouss, president of the National Islamic Council. “And we aren’t even involved in politics.” Ouattara supporters also have been beaten to death with bricks, even doused with gasoline and burned alive. Cell phone videos of the horrors are traded on the street and broadcast on state television along with calls to arms.

“It’s the political manipulation of ethnicity,” said Corinne Dufka, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch.

“The root of the conflict is competition for political power and the fault lines are drawn along religious, ethnic and national lines.”

November’s presidential election was supposed to reunite the country after a 2002-2003 civil war split it into a rebel-controlled north and a loyalist south. But when Gbagbo refused to recognize UN-certified results showing that he lost, Ivory Coast was plunged back into a cycle of violence.

The UN says up to 1 million people have fled the fighting and at least 462 people have been killed, though Ouattara’s camp puts the toll at 832. The vast majority of these deaths were Ouattara supporters who were abducted and killed by Gbagbo-allied security forces, human rights groups say.

“We’re afraid. Everyone’s leaving,” said Abdias Goita, a father of two who waited outside the Malian embassy for evacuation Friday. “My brother had his door broken down by pro-Gbagbo militias. He gave them all the money he had — about 200,000 francs ($430) — but they slit his throat anyway.” During the presidential campaign, little was made of the fact that Ouattara would be Ivory Coast’s first Muslim president, drawing much of his support from the north. In the aftermath though, pro-Gbagbo police and militias have been widely accused of targeting Muslims because they are perceived as being defacto Ouattara supporters.

Last week, riot police showed up at Imam Sissouma’s mosque, arresting him and his son and taking the offering box. A fellow imam immediately called the interior minister to plead for their release and thought everything would be fine when Sissouma’s wife called to say they were back at home, safe and sound.

But Sissouma’s wife called back a half hour later to say the riot police had executed him and five other people, including his elderly mother.

Interior Minister Emile Guirieoulou acknowledged receiving the call, but refused to confirm the arrests or the killings, because the investigation is ongoing.

“In Ivory Coast, there have never been religious problems, Christians and Muslims live side by side. This tragic incident is a pure result of the political crisis,” said Imam Moussa Drame, whose own mosque was attacked in December.

Some 38.6 percent of Ivorians are Muslim, and 32.8 percent are Christians, according to the CIA World Factbook. An inter-religious council, made up of Christian and Muslim leaders is one of the country’s most respected institutions.

But xenophobia has long been a problem in this country, which has attracted millions of immigrant laborers from neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso. They came to work on plantations, especially cocoa farms that produce the raw material that goes into much of the world’s chocolate.

Resolving who would even be allowed to vote in the presidential election took years.

Now armed youth who support Gbagbo are stopping and threatening people at makeshift roadblocks across Abidjan.

Those with northern or Muslim names are accused of being pro-Ouattara rebels, and are beaten or killed, activists say.

Human Rights Watch reported dozens of ethnically and religiously motivated killings earlier this month, often carried out by the police or by pro-Gbagbo youth with police consent. Ouattara supporters were beaten to death “with bricks, clubs, and sticks, or doused them with gas and burned them alive.” Cell phone videos of the incidents have been posted on YouTube and Facebook, often accompanied by dehumanizing and anti-Muslim comments.

Fueling the fire is a relentless campaign of what the UN has called “lies” and “propaganda” on Gbagbo-controlled state television. The Radio-Television Ivorienne (RTI) is referred to by some foreign journalists as TV Mille Collines, in reference to the radio station that encouraged the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

In one report aired last week, the anchorman smiled as he described a dozen alleged rebels killed by pro-Gbagbo soldiers in central Abidjan as “culled like little birds.” Graphic images of their bloodied bodies were interspersed with images of soldiers giving each other high five and cheering crowds.

“The future Gbagbo proposes for his country is war, anarchy and violence, with ethnic, religious and xenophobic dimensions,” wrote Louise Arbour, president of the International Crisis Group, in an open letter this week.

The Understanding Jihad Series: Is Islam More Likely Than Other Religions to Encourage Violence?

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 11, 2011 by loonwatch

Having been a very strong advocate of religious tolerance and pluralism, it is with great reservation in my heart that I publish the Understanding Jihad Series, which compares violence and war in the Judeo-Christian tradition to the jihad of Islam.  Certainly, the intention is not to target one particular faith or religious group.  Quite the contrary, the goal is to prevent religious majoritarianism, whereby the dominant religious and cultural group is able to target weaker, poorly represented minority populations.  These articles are meant to prevent a certain level of religious smugness that has become quite prevalent today.  In the words of Prof. Philip Jenkins, “Jews and Christians…so ignore their own scriptures that they become self-righteous” towards Muslims and Islam.

The aggressive way that anti-Muslim propagandists have pushed the Islamophobic idea–that Muhammad/Islam/Quran/Sharia/Allah are so uniquely violent and warlike–has made it almost impossible for me not to write such articles.  The data makes my case overwhelming: a recent Pew Research poll found that almost half of U.S. adults think that the Islamic religion is more likely to encourage violence than other religions, a figure that has almost doubled since 2002.  A clear majority of conservative Republicans (66%), white Evangelicals (60%), and Tea Baggers (67%) believe Islam is more violent than other religions, with a plurality of whites (44%) and older folks (42-46%) also thinking this.  (Of note is that blacks, Hispanics, and liberal Democrats are significantly less bigoted towards Islam.)  The idea that Islam is more violent than other religions–held most strongly by old white conservatives–is a key pillar to the edifice of Islamophobia.  The need for the Understanding Jihad Series seems self-evident.

Any time Islam is mentioned on the internet, pseudo-experts ferociously start copying and pasting a litany of Islamic texts to whack Muslims over the head with.   This anti-Muslim sentiment, fueled by profound ignorance (of both their own scriptures and Islamic), is no longer limited to fringe elements and has found its way into the mainstream.  Pro-Israeli hawks, in particular, have tried to transform this bigotry of Islam from a merely theological tussle into state policy.  It is hoped that pointing to Judeo-Christian scriptural sources that are far more violent than what is quoted from Islamic sources will instill in the extremist Zionists and Messianic Christians a level of religious humility.

My fear in so doing, of course, is of offending well-meaning Jews and Christians.  Indeed, while it is true that there is a definite link between Zionism and Islamophobia, it is also true that some of the most effective defenders of Muslims are in fact Jews.  These include such notable personalities as Glenn Greenwald, Richard Silverstein, Jon Stewart, Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky, Max Blumenthal, and–without naming names–even some writers of LoonWatch (gasp!).  To be absolutely clear, I do not think that Judaism and Christianity are violent religions.  What I am simply trying to prove is that just because certain Quranic verses seem violent, one cannot make sweeping statements of the religion based on this…no more so than showing certain violent Biblical verses would prove the inherent nature of Judaism or Christianity.  When people from the majority group realize that their own religious tradition also has “problematic” texts, they are usually more hesitant to rush to judgment about other faiths.

Although in the past I have compared Islam to Christianity–such as when I compared the traditional Islamic concept of “dhimmi” to the traditional Christian concept of “perpetual serf”–in the Understanding Jihad Series the comparison will more often be made with Judaism.  The reason for this is that it is much easier to compare Islam to Judaism because both are very similar in basic structure.  The Jewish Halacha is equivalent to the Islamic Sharia and the rabbinical tradition is analogous to the Islamic jurisprudential tradition.  The similarities between the two religions are actually quite uncanny. Therefore, it makes sense to invoke this comparison.

The reader should not think that I believe that a certain religion or another is violent.  Rather, there exist peaceful and violent interpretations of religion.  I reject the view held by religious orthodoxy that the human mind is simply an empty receptacle that unthinkingly “obeys” the divine plan.  Hundreds of years after their prophets have died, believers (of all faiths) are forced (by virtue of not having a divine interlocutor) to exert their own minds and ethics to give life to texts, to render 3D realities from 2D texts.  Such an elastic idea–that a religion is whatever its believers make it into–is certainly anathema to orthodox adherents who simply desire a step-by-step instruction manual to produce human automatons.  But the truth is that even these orthodox adherents necessarily inject into the religious texts their own backgrounds, beliefs, and biases.

One can see why I do not think that simply showing a Biblical verse here or there would prove that Judaism or Christianity are violent faiths. There is a long journey from what is on the page to what is understood and put into practice.  And once this reality is comprehended, it is hoped that Jews and Christians will gain a larger perspective when they approach Muslims and their religion.

It should be noted of course that not all Islamophobes are Jewish or Christian.  Many are ex-Muslims who feel that their former religious affiliation gives them a free pass to be bigoted.  This is hardly surprising, given that historically the worst oppressors of the Jewish minority in the Western world were actually ex-Jews converted to Christianity.  Though they think of themselves as truly special, there is nothing unique about apostates from a religion; they have existed throughout history, and it was not uncommon for their zeal for their new religion to convert into wholesale bigotry for what they left behind.

When I argued that Moses was more violent than Muhammad, one critic pointed out that atheists would condemn both.  Yet, one only needs to glance at anti-Muslim websites to see that these atheistic Islamophobes try to (and need to) prove that Muhammad/Islam/Quran/Sharia/Allah areuniquely violent.  Short of proving this uniqueness, their agenda fails.  Thus, it hardly matters to the effectiveness of my article whether or not one believes in Jewish or Christian prophets.  If we use the exact same standards applied to Islam to all religions and find them to be as violent or more violent than Islam, then what exactly is their point?  This question is what my articles force onto them, to which the “I am not a believer” excuse hardly suffices.

There will definitely be those militant atheists who genuinely can’t tolerate any religious faith.  These are the equal opportunity haters.  But because they do not single out Islam, I am less bothered by them.  Although many of their rantings are childish, they are not as destructive because they do not specifically target vulnerable minority populations.

Having thus expressed my general discomfort in writing these articles, I hope my readers can take into account context and intent.  If, for example, a white supremacist site compiled a list of all criminals that are black, this would be a clear case of bigotry.  An effective and appropriate way to counter this list would be to produce an even longer list of white criminals.  Even though the action is the same (producing lists of criminals of a particular race), it is the context and intent that are all important.  It is in a similar fashion that I am producing a “counter-list” of Biblical verses to counter the popular list of Quranic quotes that Islamophobes like to share.  LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series will categorically answer the question that an alarmingly high number of Americans answered incorrectly: is Islam more likely than other religions to encourage violence?

I would nonetheless strongly caution overzealous Muslim readers from using these articles to stir hatred against Jews and Christians, noting that Islam has no shortage of “problematic” texts.