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I’m Only Going to Do Business in States That Support the First Amendment From Now On

Monday, March 30th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard
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This protest movement against Indiana’s Religious-Freedom Restoration Act has gotten completely out of hand. The outrage is based on lies, misinformation, and propaganda about things that are not even in the law.

Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote in a Washington Post editorial that the new law says “individuals can cite their personal religious beliefs to refuse service to a customer or resist a state nondiscrimination law.” That’s a complete fabrication and the Washington Post allowed him to get away with it.

You will not find one word in the law that allows someone to refuse service to a customer. All it says is that the government must show a compelling interest if it’s going to force people to violate their religious beliefs and if people believe the government has done so, they are allowed to raise religious liberty as a defense in a court case. That’s all. Not one word about gay lunch counters and no separate drinking fountains, despite the hyperbole comparing the RFRA to Jim Crow laws.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence told George Stephanopoulos on Sunday that an “avalanche of intolerance” has been poured out on his state and the media coverage has been “shameless and reckless.” To read media reports, half the country is boycotting the state, taking their business to neighboring states, half of which have practically the exact same law. Even the NBA weighed in, bothering fans who wanted nothing more than to enjoy a basketball game by self-righteously declaring that they’re not anything like those bigots in Indiana.

There is a powerful, vocal minority of activists in this country that despises the First Amendment. Oh, they like it just fine if it protects pornography or the rights of children to receive explicit sex instruction in schools, but if it’s speech they don’t agree with — like someone having a deeply held religious belief that homosexuality is sinful — it’s considered hate speech and it needs to be banned.  They don’t mind religious liberty if it means that native Americans can smoke peyote, but the minute that Hobby Lobby objects to paying for abortion pills, all bets are off. They don’t want tolerance, they want complete compliance with their moral hegemony.

 

 

In case you’re interested, here are the states with laws in place protecting religious liberty, in case you want to consult it when you’re deciding where to do business (from the Washington Post):

imrs

 

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The One Important Fact Every Media Report Left Out About That ‘Town That Banned Swearing’

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 - by Kathy Shaidle

no-swearing

 

A week or so ago, everyone was having lots of Footloose-joke fun at the expense of Canada’s “The Town That Dreaded Curse Words”:

Taber, Alberta — population around 8,000 — has not only banned swearing, but “yelling and screaming” are now also against the law in the small community.

Serious questions came up, too, like whether the bylaw violated (admittedly comical) Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

But what nobody dared to report, until Maclean’s did just now, was just who all these anti-social miscreants were, the ones that necessitated the passing of such a wacky-sounding law in the first place.

Turns out, they’re young Mennonites.

Huh? That sounds like a bigger joke than the original story, right?

(“What kind of Buddhism is this, Otto?“)

But even Maclean’s buries the (other) lede until mid-way through their piece:

These troublemakers aren’t just Mennonites.

They’re Mexican Mennonites.

Who’ve brought with them their culture’s well-documented indifference to such uptight Anglo-Saxon values as prioritizing higher education; cooperating with one’s neighbors to maintain a safe, clean, quiet, civilized public square; and interacting with (surprisingly non-bribable!) authorities in a respectful, law-abiding fashion.

Victor Davis Hanson, please pick up the (off-) white courtesy phone.

And press #2 for Spanish.

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Shot by Cops After Yelling Nazi Slogans? Depends on the Color of Your Skin

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Kathy Shaidle
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Calgary Muslims shout “Heil Hitler” at pro-Israel demonstrators (August 2014, via BCBlue)

 

Over at TheRebel.media, Ezra Levant continues to follow the ongoing saga of the cops in his hometown — Calgary, Alberta — and what seems like their weird double standard when it comes to troublemakers who shout Nazi slogans in public.

Last year, a bunch of Muslims yelled “Heil Hitler!” at a pro-Israel rally. 

The cops stood by and did nothing, and I’d argue that that was the right response. Free speech, right?

But over the weekend, a decidedly Caucasian-looking dude shouted “White power!” at some “anti-racism” demonstrators.

A run-in with police followed — and he was shot.

This comes shortly after the perps at yet another incident in Calgary — a Muslim-led riot during which a Jewish family was attacked in broad daylight — were finally sentenced to… write essays as punishment!

Ezra squeezes a lot into this short video, including revelations as to just who was behind that rather arbitrary “anti-racism” rally:

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VIDEO: Ayaan Hirsi Ali Speaks Out in New Book ‘Heretic’

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Watch as the infamous activist, blacklisted by Brandeis University for her anti-Islam views, discusses her new book Heretic and the concept of reforming Islam. Martha Raddatz has no problem outing herself as a turncoat feminist, accusing Hirsi Ali, herself a survivor of female genital mutilation, of unfairly attacking Islam now that she has left the religion.

Raddatz and the pro-Islam Manalo Omar are also quick to gang up on Hirsi Ali when she highlights one of the many Qu’ranic calls for death to infidels currently being used to justify Sharia law and jihad, citing both “the Torah” and “the Bible” as containing violent verses. When Hirsi Ali replies by questioning where the Christians are who take these verses as literally as their Islamic counterparts, Raddatz changes her line of questioning without changing her politically correct tone.

“Doesn’t [your book] incite people to hate Muslims?” is Raddatz’s conclusion, not her query, proving once again that the West’s multiculturalist elite are the greatest threat to Islamic reform.

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Jindal: U.S. ‘Shouldn’t be Blindly Following Europe’ by Letting in Muslims Who Promote Sharia

Thursday, March 19th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said his proposal to restrict immigration of Muslims who promote sharia law isn’t religious discrimination but protecting the freedoms of all Americans.

Jindal, a potential 2016 candidate, recently said “we shouldn’t tolerate those who want to come and try to impose some variant or some version of Sharia law.”

Explaining his position last night on Fox, Jindal stressed “we don’t discriminate against anybody of any religion and certainly there are many Muslims that are proud patriotic Americans. That’s great.”

But, he added, “it’s also true there are radical Muslims, Muslims that want to treat women as second-class citizens.”

“There are those who want to use our freedoms to undermine the freedoms of others. It makes no sense to let those types of folks come into our country. It is just common sense. The question I’ll specifically ask for example is would I be for allowing ISIS members to come to America? Why would I want to allow people who want to kill Americans to come to America?” Jindal said.

“In America, we say you have the right to believe what you want as long as you’re not harming others. So as long as you’re not trying to limit the freedoms of other people, we believe in the right of freedom of self-expression, religious liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of association. You don’t have the right to come here and say for example that you think women should be treated as second-class citizens. You don’t have the right to say others don’t have the same freedoms we give to you.”

The governor stressed that “we shouldn’t be blindly following Europe where you have second- and third-generation immigrants that don’t assimilate, don’t integrate, don’t consider themselves parts of that society.”

“We’ve historically said you can’t come here in years past during the Cold war, if you come here to promote communism, if you’re coming here to undermine America’s foreign policy, if you’re supporting a group that’s an enemy of the United States,” Jindal said.

“…We don’t want people who are going to undermine freedoms of other people. If we don’t insist on that, we’re going to go the way of Europe. I think that’s a dangerous thing. Again, we believe in religious liberty, but it doesn’t mean you can use your freedoms to undermine the freedoms of other people.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations accused Jindal of fearmongering on the campaign trail.

“Do we want to protect our country from people who want to do us harm? Absolutely. But you look at criminal activity, not thought,” said CAIR official Corey Saylor. “It’s an unfortunate reality that some politicians will pick on minorities rather than offer solutions to the economic and real national security issues our country faces.”

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VIDEO: Sore Losers at CNN Dub Bibi ‘Racist’

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

What the Netanyahu election-day robo call actually said:

Voter turnout in the Arab sector is three times higher! The threat is real: Abu Mazen’s calls and American money are getting the Arab vote out. Go and vote.

Why it was a reiteration of the truth, not race-mongering:

After the V15 story broke, the Free Beacon reported on a “confidential strategy memo” sent out last December by Ameinu, the American wing of Israel’s Labor movement, soliciting funds for a “massive, non-partisan Get Out The Vote (GOTV) campaign” in Israel. Touting their American contacts “…with experience in similar recent operations, including the Obama presidential campaign,” the memo details a direct link between Ameinu and the organization tagged to operate the GOTV campaign, Givat Haviva, a recipient of State Department funding.

Ameinu claims it broke from the alliance with what eventually became V15 before the V15 campaign was formed, instead choosing to direct its non-partisan fundraising efforts specifically towards Israel’s Arab community who, while traditionally Left-leaning, were not necessarily registered with any particular party.

The post-election reality? The Joint List, a coalition of three Arab and one Arab-Jewish party “will be the third largest faction in the Knesset bringing with it formidable political power.” Something that does not reassure anonymous Israeli Christian Arabs who refused to vote for an Islamic party, along with more anonymous Israeli Arabs who “…feel uncomfortable voting for a party that has members who will do nothing to advance the rights of women and homosexuals.”

How the Leftist-funded and fueled “Anybody but Bibi” crowd is playing it:

Like Taylor Swift, no matter what tune they hum their lyrics remain the same.

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Northern Ireland Politician Demands Biden Apologize for ‘Disgraceful’ Orange Joke

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

Vice President Joe Biden isn’t getting St. Patrick’s Day cheer from Belfast after a joke he made during a holiday event this morning.

Biden welcomed Taoiseach Enda Kenny to the Naval Observatory for the annual Paddy’s Day breakfast, quipping “anyone wearing orange is not welcome in here” while posing for photos on the front porch. Biden then said he was joking.

Orange refers to the Protestants in Northern Ireland, who wear the signature color on marches through Catholic neighborhoods. Biden is Catholic.

At the breakfast featuring eggs, potatoes, and Irish soda bread, Biden later referenced the cross-party talks to resolve strife in Northern Ireland, saying “we need genius on all sides right now to lock this agreement down,” according to the White House pool report. “To finally, finally, finally again bring an end to this dark chapter.”

William McCrea, a Democratic Unionist Party member of Parliament, called on Biden to apologize.

“I don’t see it as humorous in the manner it was said. When Northern Ireland is making such an effort to make St Patrick’s Day an inclusive celebration, Joe Biden’s comments were disgraceful and careless,” McCrea said in a statement released by the DUP.

“Whether they were intended as a joke or not, the comments are a slur on those who would be known as ‘orange’ i.e. Protestants. This term is much wider than anyone who is a member of the Orange Order.  It has traditionally been used to define people from the Protestant faith,” he continued. “VP Biden should apologise for his remarks and take corrective action to prove in a practical way that people who are from a Protestant background are welcome in the White House. Undoubtedly if he had made such a remark about any other faith group there would be calls for his resignation.”

Biden has essentially, at one time or another, made remarks about everybody, including offending Jewish groups by calling money lenders “shylocks” last September.

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You Don’t Have to be Catholic to Benefit from Lent — So Suffer a Little For Your Own Good

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 - by Michael Walsh

Don’t take it from me; take it from Arthur Brooks in the pages of, believe it or not, the New York TimesA life entirely devoted to the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain is a fool’s errand:

We don’t want to suffer — we hate it, in fact. Yet it is suffering that often brings personal improvement. Not all pain is beneficial, obviously. But researchers have consistently found that most survivors of illness and loss experience “post-traumatic growth.” Not only do many people find a greater emotional maturity after suffering; they are even better prepared to help others deal with their pain. That is why after a loss we turn for comfort to those who have endured a similar loss.

Sages throughout history have relished the enigma that pleasure is undefined without suffering. In the words of Carl Jung: “There are as many nights as days, and the one is just as long as the other in the year’s course. Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.” The Tao Te Ching extends the metaphor: “Difficult and easy accomplish each other, long and short form each other, high and low distinguish each other.”

… in this season of Lent, hundreds of millions of Catholics are pondering their own inadequacies and inviting discomfort through abstinence and fasting. In a postmodern era, where death is taboo, pain is pointless, and sin is a cultural anachronism, what could be more rebellious?

But the spirit of these practices is open to everyone, religious or not. Think of it as a personal declaration of independence. The objective is not to cause yourself damage, but to accept the pain and fear that are a natural part of life, and to embrace them as a valuable source of lessons to learn and tests to pass.

A few years ago I attended Mass at St. Monica’s in Santa Monica, Calif., about as “welcoming” a parish as you can imagine. It happened to be the Sunday before Lent and the padre’s sermon was on the subject of the season fast approaching three days later. “Have a good Lent,” he told the congregation, an expression (coming from the Irish penitential wing of Catholicism as I do) I had never heard before. But, for the reasons Brooks points out above, it made a lot of sense. No pleasure without pain, no gain without loss. As the poet Milton wrote in the famous Areopagitica:

Good and evil we know in the field of this world grow up together almost inseparably; and the knowledge of good is so involved and interwoven with the knowledge of evil, and in so many cunning resemblances hardly to be discerned, that those confused seeds which were imposed upon Psyche as an incessant labour to cull out and sort asunder, were not more intermixed. It was from out the rind of one apple tasted that the knowledge of good and evil, as two twins cleaving together, leaped forth into the world. And perhaps this is that doom which Adam fell into of knowing good and evil, that is to say of knowing good by evil.

I’ll have a lot more to say on this subject in my forthcoming book, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace, out this summer from Encounter Books. I hope you will have a chance to read it.

 

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Drug Dealing Pastor Charged With Shooting Teen

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

Hollywood loves to portray pastors and church leaders as men with dark secrets lurking behind their work for God, and sometimes a story comes along that fits that narrative. This week, a Boston pastor and school administrator shot a 17-year-old in the back of the head in an apparent dispute over the pastor’s drug dealing operation.

To the kids at Boston’s English High School, where the Rev. Shaun O. Harrison Sr. was considered the dean of students, the pastor and prominent antigang activist was known by the nickname that adorned his office door: “Rev.”

And that, police say, is how a 17-year-old student found bleeding from a bullet fired into the back of his head identified the man who shot him Tuesday.

“Rev,” police and prosecutors say, was leading a double life.

Arraigned in Roxbury District Court on Thursday, Harrison, 55, is accused of attempting to execute a student he had been mentoring at English, but was also allegedly selling marijuana as part of the pastor’s drug operation.

[...]

Through an attorney, Harrison denied the charges.

In court, Suffolk Assistant District Attorney David Bradley described the alleged attack as an “execution-style shooting” of a teen who survived despite being shot behind the ear.

The Boston Globe describes a scenario that reads like a movie plot featuring henchmen with matching tattoos doing the bidding of their dealer, a man who led anti-gang efforts within his community.

Naturally, news of Harrison’s arrest brought out a chorus of incredulity from people who served alongside the pastor.

“I was stunned beyond description,” Rev. Dr. Gregory Groover, pastor of the Charles Street AME Church where Harrison attended services, told Fox2Now. “He seemed to consistently care with a deep heart for saving young people who were in the streets or gang related, prison-involved. That was the population that his life seemed to center around.”

[...]

“It doesn’t sound like our Shaun,” Rev. Opal Adams, an associate pastor at the Roxbury church, told the Boston Globe. “It’s not the character of the man we knew.”

The school system released Harrison from his position at the school.

Image courtesy of the Boston Globe.

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Fox News: America Not a ‘Christian Nation’

Saturday, March 7th, 2015 - by Michael Walsh

I’ll let you stop laughing… okay, now you can go ahead and read Peter Manseau’s opinion piece on the Fox News site:

Within the last few days, we’ve seen protestors holding crosses shout “go home!” at Muslims in front of the Oklahoma State Capitol, several Idaho state senators refuse to listen to a Hindu invocation, and new poll numbers suggesting that a majority of Republicans — 57 percent — “support establishing Christianity as the national religion.” In a year already filled with attacks and harassment of religious minorities across the country, the rise of such “Christian nation” rhetoric is troubling. But it’s not new.

No mere assessment of the religious affiliations of population, the argument that America was at its founding and remains a nation Christian in character has served as cover for a variety of racist and nativist sentiments for generations. It can be found in the writings of those who warned that Catholics threatened the nation’s “free institutions” and fanned the flames of a mob’s destruction of a New England convent in 1834, just as it can been seen decades later in newspaper reports warning that non-Christian Asian immigrants would cause the West Coast to be “swamped, inundated, despiritualized, and un-Americanized.”

The insistence that the United States is explicitly Christian arises from the assumption that a majority of citizens have been members of one church or another since the nation’s founding. Yet historians have estimated the number of American church-goers in 1776 to be only around 350,000 — less than a fifth of the population.

Okay, that’s enough. There’s always some wisenheimer intent on “proving” that black is really white, up is really down and in is really out, when you stop to think about it. It’s a kind of sophomoric lawyerism gone wild, the notion that “we could make the argument that,” no matter how risible. (Very akin to the obvious fraud of “man-made climate change,” in fact.)

Conveniently, Manseau ignores the difference between Protestant denominations and the establishment of a state religion. When Massachusetts and Connecticut established Congregationalism as their established churches, they weren’t choosing between Islam and Christianity, or even between Catholicism and Protestantism. The idea of an established religion was exclusively Protestant, and they were simply choosing among sects, which they called “religions.” Nor does “church-going” equate to being Christian; if it does, Barry Hussein is in big trouble.

Even as a matter of demographics, “Christian nation” raises questions. A large number of the people whom we now acknowledge as Americans often go uncounted when we look back at our country’s earliest days. More than a hundred thousand Native Americans, mostly unconverted before the Trail of Tears, were pushed beyond the borders of the United States with the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

That same year, the enslaved population numbered in the millions—in much of the South, they made up half the population. Given that only a tiny percentage of the enslaved were Christians when they arrived, early America likely included more men and women with connections to African beliefs than members of many Protestant denominations. What do these uncounted non-Christians do to the idea that America began as a “Christian nation”?

The answer is: absolutely nothing. Neither the Indians nor the black slaves of the period were citizens of the new nation. Blacks only became full citizens during Reconstruction, and the Indians were not given citizenship until 1924, under the Republican president Calvin Coolidge.

In the end, this piece of drivel turns out to be — surprise! — an apologia for Islam, as you’ll see on the next page…

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Israeli Court Rules to Allow Jewish Prayer on Temple Mount

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 - by Chris Queen

An Israeli judge has reversed a police policy that barred Jews from praying on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

Temple activists were euphoric Monday after a precedent-setting ruling by Magistrates’ Court Judge Malka Aviv in the case of Yehuda Glick vs. the Israeli Police, a day earlier. The judge ruled that the police “must make sure that Jews are able to pray on the Temple Mount” – in a ruling replete with harsh criticism of the police’s policies on the Temple Mount.

Activists were quoted on a Temple activists blog as saying: “This day will be remembered for generations in the annals of the struggle for the return of Jews to the Temple Mount.”

The police are legally bound “to ensure that Jews are able to pray on the Temple Mount, and not to act sweepingly to prevent Jews from praying on the Temple Mount,” the judge determined.

Attorneys for Rabbi Glick pointed out the historic nature of the ruling.

Attorney Aviad Visoly, who represented Glick said Tuesday that the verdict “has made prayer on the Temple Mount ‘kosher’. In essence, the court took the Supreme Court’s rulings about the Jews’ right to pray on the Temple Mount, and implemented them.”

“This is almost the first ruling – and certainly the most sweeping – in which the court implements the right of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount. From today, every Jew is allowed to pray on the Temple Mount. The prayer itself is not an offense.”

Prior police policies had barred Jewish prayer at the site for fears that such actions would spark Palestinian violence. Judge Aviv ruled the policy “arbitrary” and “without appropriate consideration” and awarded Glick roughly the equivalent of $125,000 in damages and $37,700 in legal fees.

The site is an important one in both Jewish and Christian history:

Temple Mount is considered to be one of the most important religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. Jews, Christians and Muslims all consider it sacred, making it one of the most contested sites in the world. Among Christians and Jews, there is some dispute as to whether it is the biblical Mount Moriah or Mount Zion.

According to Jewish tradition, it is the place where God’s presence is most manifested, and followers of rabbinic Judaism believe it to be the site where God gathered dust to create Adam.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Mikhail Markovskiy

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Feminists Fail to Notice Netanyahu’s Stand for Muslim Women

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Fast-forward to 19:12 (or better yet, just watch the whole thing).

In the world of contemporary feminist politics, criticism of Islam is off the table. Unless, of course, you’re a female Muslim in a Muslim-dominated country who desperately seeks reform. If you are, you’re stuck banging your head against the wall as your sisters in the West do everything to ignore you in pursuit of wage equality, sexual consent apps, and chronicling Lena Dunham’s latest hair adventure.

Most women who follow feminist media is sadly too drunk on the Kool Aid to realize that popular sites like Jezebel, Feministing, the Mary Sue, Everyday Feminism, and the Feminist Majority Foundation have all failed to comment on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s historic address to Congress. Their flagrant ignorance of the most important foreign policy issue of our time is inexcusable. The willful blind eye they continue to turn towards women oppressed by radical Islamic rule is unforgivable. In one simple, powerful sentence Netanyahu did what contemporary feminists in the West refuse to do:

In this deadly game of thrones, there’s no place for America or for Israel, no peace for Christians, Jews or Muslims who don’t share the Islamist medieval creed, no rights for women, no freedom for anyone.

His Game of Thrones mention received more attention than did the fact that Netanyahu equated “freedom for anyone” with “no rights for women.” There’s your meme. There’s your platform. There’s your unifying fact: If women are not free, no one is free. And yet here Western feminists remain embroiled in a heated debate over Patricia Arquette’s lack of “intersectionality“. There’s an age-old meme for that one, too: It’s the pot calling the kettle black.

In appearing before Congress today, Bibi Netanyahu did more for women oppressed by Islam than the feminist movement has on a worldwide scale. He joins a small but powerful group of real feminists including Nonie Darwish, Wafa Sultan, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali who are brave enough to use their western platforms to speak out on an issue vital to women across the globe. Israel’s Prime Minister ended his speech by quoting Moses: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them…“. It’s time contemporary feminists ask themselves what they are so afraid of.

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American Blogger Hacked to Death by Islamists in Bangladesh

Friday, February 27th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

A Bangladeshi-American secularist blogger who had received frequent threats from Islamists was hacked to death on a Dhaka street Thursday night.

Ansar al-Islam Bangladesh used its Twitter account to claim responsibility for the murder of Avijit Roy before its account, Ansar Bangla 7, was taken down.

“The target was an American citizen.. 2 in 1. #America recently martyred 2 of our brothers in #Khurasan & #Shaam. #Revenge+#Punishment,” read one of the tweets.

Roy is a dual U.S.-Bangladesh citizen who lived in Georgia and was in Bangladesh for a month, according to the Associated Press. He reportedly has a daughter currently attending school in the U.S. His wife, Rafida Ahmed Bonna, was with him at the time of the attack and was severely wounded, with one of her fingers severed by the pair of machete-wielding attackers.

Roy’s blog in the 90 percent Muslim country, mukto-mona.com, translates to “free thinking” and featured atheist, humanist and nationalist writers. He was also an author whose books included The Philosophy of Disbelief and The Virus of Faith — further stoking outrage of Islamists.

He and his wife had just left a book fair when they were attacked. Roy was struck in the head and died on the operating table at Dhaka Medical College and Hospital, Reporters Without Borders said.

“The measures so far taken have not led to the arrest and trial of the perpetrators and instigators of crimes of violence against journalists and bloggers. The police and judicial authorities need to focus on the right target,” Benjamin Ismaïl, head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk, said. “It is unacceptable for them to spend so much time searching news outlets, arresting journalists, censoring news and investigating bloggers, when the many attacks on bloggers are still unpunished.”

State Department press secretary Jen Psaki opened Friday’s briefing with the attack and said the administration “condemns in the strongest terms the brutal murder of Avijit Roy, which was horrific in its brutality and cowardice.”

“Avijit was a journalist, a humanist, a husband, and a friend, and we extend our condolences to his family and friends. He was taken from us in a shocking act of violence,” Psaki said. “This was not just an attack against a person, but a cowardly assault on the universal principles enshrined in Bangladesh’s constitution and the country’s proud tradition of free intellectual and religious discourse.”

“…Clearly, we know his background, which was why I outlined it, but don’t have anything to ascribe in terms of a motive in this case.”

But Islamists targeting secularist bloggers is sadly nothing new in Bangladesh.

In 2013, they put out a call for bloggers deemed blasphemers to be murdered. In January 2013, blogger Asif Mohiuddin was stabbed by Islamists yet survived. On Feb. 15, 2013, Ahmed Rajib Haider, a blogger who also criticized Islamic fundamentalism, was hacked to death and no one was convicted in the attack.

Ansar al-Islam took credit for Haider’s slaying in a November Facebook post, and included Mohiuddin’s face on a hit list of future targets.

“We call on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government to leave no stone unturned in investigating and prosecuting the attack on Avijit Roy and Rafida Ahmed Bonna,” Committee to Protect Journalists Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz said. “This attack is emblematic of the culture of impunity that pervades Bangladesh, where the lack of accountability in previous attacks on the press continues to spurn a deadly cycle of violence.”

Reporters Without Borders said 19 bloggers have been listed as targets on Islamist websites since the 2013 demonstrations.

Instead of going after the Islamists, the press-freedom group said, the Bangladeshi authorities began shutting down websites and arresting bloggers.

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Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 - by Michael Walsh
"Minnesotans"

“Minnesotans”

Importing Somalis — among the most troubled and troublesome people in the world — to Minnesota, that is:

The State Department has helped to relocate tens of thousands of refugees from the war-torn African nation of Somalia to Minnesota, where they can take advantage of some of America’s most generous welfare and charity programs. But the effort is having the unintended consequence of creating an enclave of immigrants with high unemployment that is both stressing the state’s safety net and creating a rich pool of potential recruiting targets for Islamist terror groups.

In the fiscal year that ended in September, Minnesota welcomed 1,118 Somali refugees arriving directly from Africa, most of them without family ties to the state, according to State Department statistics. Overall, more than 30,000 Somalis live in the midwestern state comprising the nation’s largest concentration of Somali immigrants, according to U.S. Census data.

Many of the refugees settle near the Twin Cities, with Minneapolis being dubbed “Little Mogadishu” after the capital of Somalia. This population is also being targeted by Islamist terror organizations like the Islamic State and al-Shabab, a Somalia-based group with links to al Qaeda, according to U.S. officials.

Among Minnesota-based Somali-Americans, American converts to Islam or Somali refugees, there have been numerous convictions for various levels of collaboration with Islamist terror groups, plus reports of fighting with al-Shabab or other Islamist groups.

Who was it who said “the Constitution is not a suicide pact”? (Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson.) Neither is Christian charity. The Scandinavians of Minnesota will have as much opportunity to regret this as their cousins back home in Sweden and Norway do today.

On Sunday, al-Shabab made a propaganda video warning of an attack on shopping malls around the world, including the Mall of America in Minnesota. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the terror attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya two years ago, which left 67 dead.

“We have definitely seen targeted terror recruitment videos, videos aimed and targeted directly at the youth here in Minnesota primarily within the Somali community,” said Kyle Loven, an FBI spokesman in Minneapolis. “They’re going after disaffected youth — those who are isolated. We can’t get into specifics, but we’ve been involved in major investigations since 2007 and continue to be.”

Wow. Just wow.

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IMF Chair’s ‘Conspiracy Against Women Working’ as Effective as Obama’s Generic ‘Extremism’

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Lip Service

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde followed Obama’s trendsetting “War on Muslims” narrative, thus failing the cause of women’s equality across the globe. The Feminist Fail started out on the right track:

Nations should remove laws that prevent women from working in order to increase the female labour supply and boost their economies, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde has said.

“In too many countries, too many legal restrictions conspire against women to be economically active,” Lagarde wrote in a blog. “In a world in search of growth, women will help find it, if they face a level playing field instead of an insidious conspiracy.”

What exactly is this “insidious conspiracy” Lagarde is referring to? Don’t worry, she hasn’t taken the Patty Arquette pill, although she’s definitely drinking the Obama Kool Aid, because it’s all downhill from here:

But the IMF has to tread a careful line on this issue to avoid explicitly critiquing the laws in its 188 member countries, including states like Mali and Yemen, which have been among the worst performers on indices of gender equality.

Mali and Yemen, both Muslim-dominated states. Mali’s logo, “one people, one goal, one faith” is a contradiction in terms, at least when it comes to fostering economic growth, which is the only topic up for discussion on Lagarde’s watch:

The IMF has sought to couch its arguments in economic terms, saying in a previous study that having as many women in the labor force as men could boost economic growth by 5% in the United States, 9% in Japan and 34% in Egypt.

Note the radical climb in potential economic growth when the stats begin speaking to Muslim nations? Oops. Guess Lagarde’s staffers didn’t get the “War on Muslims” memo until after they prepared their findings, to which they quickly tacked on the following caveat:

“In recommending equal opportunities …this study does not intend to render a judgment of countries’ broadly accepted cultural and religious norms.”

Classy. Let’s talk about an obvious problem without directly drawing attention to it, since the problem is defended by radicalized terrorists. Is that called the White Elephant defense strategy?

 

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State Dept. on ISIS Kidnapping of Christians: ‘The Majority of Its Victims Have Been Muslims’

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

The State Department this evening responded to ISIS’ mass kidnapping of Christians in Syria by stressing that the terrorists harm all religious groups.

Estimates of the number of kidnapped Assyrians from villages near Tel Hmar have ranged from at least 90 to as high as 200. Thousands fled with no possessions as ISIS attacked in the early morning hours. Members of the ancient community speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

The Assyrian Human Rights Network said ISIS moved the hostages to the Abdul Aziz Mountains region, where they fear the terrorists will use the Christians as human shields against Kurdish fighters.

Said State Department press secretary Jen Psaki in a statement sent to reporters tonight:

The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms ISIL’s attacks yesterday on predominantly Assyrian Christian villages in the northeast Syrian province of Hasakeh, where they kidnapped dozens of civilians, including women, children, priests, and the elderly. Hundreds of other civilians remain trapped in villages surrounded by ISIL fighters, and clashes continue between ISIL and local forces defending their communities. ISIL burned and destroyed homes and churches, and the violence has reportedly displaced more than 3,000 people. We demand the immediate and unconditional release of the civilians taken captive yesterday and of all those held by ISIL.

ISIL’s latest targeting of a religious minority is only further testament to its brutal and inhumane treatment of all those who disagree with its divisive goals and toxic beliefs. ISIL continues to exact its evil upon innocents of all faiths, and the majority of its victims have been Muslims. People of all faiths and many religious leaders throughout the region have united in condemning ISIL’s depravity, including its mass killings, rape, sexual enslavement, lashing, stoning, crucifixion, torture, and public murders of hostages.

Earlier this month, ISIS was ordering Assyrians to remove crosses from their churches. About 600 families are now sheltering at the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary in Al-Hasakah, suffering from “a significant lack of blankets, water, food and heating fuel,” the Assyrian Human Rights Network said.

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Look Who’s Going to Jail

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015 - by Michael Walsh

That would be the daughter of Barack Hussein Obama’s spiritual mentor and the man who “baptized” him into whichever variation of “Christianity” the president currently claims to adhere:

Jeri L. Wright, the daughter of President Barack Obama’s controversial former pastor, was headed to jail Monday after a judge revoked a deal that allowed her to remain free as she awaits sentencing on a money-laundering conviction.

U.S. District Judge Sue E. Myerscough ruled there was probable cause to believe Wright committed a separate theft while on bail, thereby violating terms of her supervised release, according to Sharon Paul, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in the Central District of Illinois. The judge ordered Wright, who appeared in court in Springfield, to be taken into custody by U.S. marshals.

Wright, 49, of Hazel Crest, is the daughter of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the Chicago minister known nationwide for the controversy his sermons created for Obama in the 2008 presidential election. Last March, Jeri Wright was found guilty of money-laundering, lying to federal investigators and lying to a grand jury over her role in a state grant-fraud scheme orchestrated by one of her childhood friends, former Country Club Hills Police Chief Regina Evans.

Prosecutors now say Wright was taking part in another scheme — this one involving ghost payrolling — even as she was standing trial.

“Money-laundering” and “lying” don’t sound very Christian to me, but what do I know, I’m Catholic. Really, you can’t make this stuff up.

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Iran’s Supreme Leader Claims That Religious Minorities Are Safe In His Country

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

Iran’s Supreme Leader Seyyed Ali Khamenei recently told a group of religious minority leaders in the country that they are safe and have always been under Iran’s watch.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, stated that based on Islamic teachings, followers of other religions should be treated with justice and fairness.

He went even further and added, “Muslims in Europe and America face death threats. There is a great propaganda campaign against them, and their places of worship are under constant attack.”

He claimed, “Such treatment of non-Muslims is nonexistent in the history of our Islamic regime. Even our hotheaded conservative youth do not allow themselves to attack a non-Muslim.”

Naturally, Khamenei’s statements hold no water whatsoever when stood up against the facts.

Such claims of tolerance of non-Islamic faiths by the Iranian Supreme Leader are made while a large number of religious minorities have been imprisoned and executed since the establishment of the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Even religious minorities that are recognized in Iran’s constitution have been harassed, persecuted and marginalized since the early days of the Islamic Revolution, which has led to a mass migration of many religious minorities, especially Jews and Christians.

[...]

In 1979, when the Islamic Revolution took place, the Armenian-Iranian population was around 180 thousand. Comparing this number to the new census of the community, 60 percent of Armenian-Iranians have left the country. There has been a significant drop in the Iranian Jewish population as well.

Several United Nations special reports and resolutions have condemned the violation of Human Rights, especially the violation of the rights of religious minorities.

Also, Ahmad Shaheed, the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Iran, wrote in his report, “At least 307 religious minorities are being held in Iran’s prisons for their faith, including 136 Bahai’s, 19 Dervishes, 50 Christians, 90 Sunni Muslims, and two Zoroastrians.

In addition, Open Doors’ 2014 World Watch List ranked Iran among the ten countries where Christians are persecuted the most. Its 2013 list put Iran in the 9th spot, but in 2014 Iran was moved to the 7th spot.

Christians face persecution and death, while practitioners of the Baha’i faith lose all social rights and face execution. Sunni Muslims may not build their own mosques in Tehran.

There’s no word on what, if any, statistics and facts Khamenei attempted to use to back up his claims.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Bruce Stanfield

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Over 50% of Jewish College Students Encounter Anti-Semitism on Campus

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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The JTA reports:

More than half of current American Jewish college students have personally witnessed or experienced an anti-Semitic incident, according to a new study.

Some 54 percent of Jewish college students participating in the survey  released Monday by the Louis D. Brandeis Center and Trinity College said they had experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism within the past academic year. The survey was taken in the spring of 2014, prior to the outbreak of hostilities last summer in Gaza.

The online survey of 1,157 students, conducted by Trinity College Professor Barry Kosmin and Associate Professor Ariela Keysar, found that percentages of students reporting encounters with anti-Semitism were relatively consistent across gender, religious outlook, and geographical region.

Students who affiliate with the Conservative and Reform movements were more likely to report such experiences than Orthodox students, with 69 percent of Conservative students, 62 percent of Reform students and 52 percent of Orthodox students responding that they had reported anti-Semitic encounters. Those who said they were always open about their Jewishness on campus were roughly as likely to have encountered anti-Semitism as those who said they were never open about their Jewishness, at 58 percent and 59 percent respectively.

According to the report, those taking the survey defined the term “anti-Semitic incident”. The organization Jew Hatred on Campus, a new organization established by the David Horowitz Freedom Center,

…compiled a list of the 10 U.S. campuses having the worst anti-Semitic activity in 2014.  Universities included in the top 10 played host to numerous incidents of anti-Jewish acts, such as Israeli Apartheid Week (a week-long event that demonizes the Jewish state); interrupting university activities by staging mock “checkpoints” on campus; campus speakers that call for the destruction of the Jewish state; and verbal or physical harassment and violence against Jewish and pro-Israel students.  These anti-Semitic incidents occur on university property, often with the support of university funds, despite the fact that such behavior is explicitly forbidden under campus codes of conduct.

From my own personal experience I’d add to the list a set of individual encounters with various students who questioned me as to why “there are so many of you in the media” and demanded my opinions about the”injustice” of the non-massacre at Jenin. In the case of these encounters, each oddly enough motivated by foreign students from Middle Eastern Muslim nations, the interrogators waited until we were alone with no witnesses before launching the “conversations”.

Perhaps it’s time campus Jewish groups start offering Krav Maga classes.

 

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Hindu Nationalist Leader Unleashes Incendiary Attack Against Mother Teresa

Monday, February 23rd, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

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Mohan Bhagwat, head of the Hindu nationalist RSS organization, said on Monday that Mother Teresa’s prime motive in serving the poor was converting them to Christianity.

Speaking at a function for an NGO in the village of Bharatpur, Bhagwat said, ”It’s good to work for a cause with selfless intentions. But Mother Teresa’s work had ulterior motive, which was to convert the person who was being served to Christianity.” He added, “In the name of service, religious conversions were made. This was followed by other institutes, too.”

Mother Teresa, a Roman Catholic sister, was the founder of the  Missionaries of Charity, a religious and charitable organization that provides home, food, medical and hospice care for the poorest of the poor in India and 132 other countries around the world.

At the same event, former director general of Border Security Force Prakash Singh also complained about Mother Teresa.

“There are many other organizations that have done far more good work than her. But Christians, with the help of media were able to publicize their work,” said Singh.

The comments unleashed a Twitter storm of anger directed at Mother Teresa:

 

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New England: Shame of a Nation

Monday, February 23rd, 2015 - by Michael Walsh

The part of the country where the American Experiment of “One Nation, Under God” truly started is now the least religious area of the nation:

A new Gallup poll offers some clues about Americans’ church attendance—and the sizeable difference depending on the state where you live.

Gallup asked 177,030 American adults, “How often do you attend church, synagogue or mosque—at least once a week, almost every week, about once a month, seldom or never?” It ranked all 50 states and the District of Columbia according to how many responded that they attend religious services “at least once a week.”

Residents of Utah are most likely to attend a religious service weekly. According to Gallup, Utah owes its No. 1 ranking to Mormons, who “have the highest religious service attendance of any major religious group in the U.S.” Utah is followed by Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas.

Residents of Vermont are least likely to attend church weekly, followed by New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts and Washington State. Gallup notes that the New England region reports the lowest levels of church attendance in the nation, with Connecticut and Rhode Island not far behind the rest of the region, at Nos. 10 and 17, respectively.

Not surprisingly, the top ten states for religious attendance are red/conservatives states, while the bottom ten are largely blue.

For most segments of U.S. society — blacks being the exception — those who are the most religious are also most likely to be Republican, which helps explain the significant relationship between states with the highest church attendance and those that are traditionally red states. Church attendance also provides ties that bind members to their communities, and research shows that at the individual level, those who are most religious have higher well-being than those who are less religious.

Talk about a long, slow slide… not only does New England now boast the worst weather, the highest taxes, the highest cost of living, the dumbest liberals, the least pleasant people and the homeliest women — surely these things are all related — but it has completely transformed itself from a God-fearing, arms-manufacturing, whaling, hunting and fishing region of self-reliant yeomen farmers and traders into a steaming pile of Leftist atheism. Congratulations.

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Hollywood’s Rich & Famous Trumpet Wage Inequality

Monday, February 23rd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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By the time most folks at home had passed out from boredom, or gone to bed because they have real jobs to wake up for on Monday morning, Patricia Arquette sobered up enough to use her Best Supporting Actress win to preach to the choir about wage inequality.

Snort, blink, roll over, resume snooze.

The speech stood in stark contrast to host Neil Patrick Harris’s earlier joke about the $160,000 SWAG bags being given to those nominated in the Oscars’ top 5 categories. After saying that the bags were loaded with such goodies as two vacations and a $20,000 astrology reading, Harris joked that the bags also contained “an armored car ride to safety when the revolution comes.” The stars clad in gold and diamonds responded with appropriate Marie Antoinette-style laughs and gloved claps.

Having won the Oscar, Arquette won’t be getting any SWAG. Those bags are only for the runners-up. Perhaps that’s what she meant when she referenced wage inequality among the rich and famous. Shouldn’t all the beautiful people get $20,000 astrology readings for free?

92.5 million of the Oscars’ potential viewers are currently jobless. For Arquette’s reference, that’s boys as well as girls. Those 92.5 mil and their employed compatriots just spent a week listening to their president tell them he could solve the problem of terrorism (not Islamic, just terrorism) by offering ISIS members (ironically notably all Islamic terrorists) the power of job creation. While the men of ISIS would argue that they already have jobs, I bet the women that have been kidnapped by ISIS and forced into marriages/sex slavery would really dig some income equality right now. Or perhaps just some equality in general.

But hey, Hollywood women suffer. They don’t get paid “as much” and they definitely don’t all get the SWAG at the parties. Thanks, Patricia, for addressing the economic inequalities in our society that, much like the revolution preached and fostered by your fellow stars, is the responsibility of none other than Hollywood’s favorite politicians.

Had Arquette really wanted to bring a much-needed laugh to the boring ceremony, she would’ve threatened that Hollywood’s women would join ISIS if their wage issues weren’t resolved. If there’s anything that can’t wear down radical, non-descript terrorists, it’s the incessant whining of spoiled socialists.

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With Only a Few Months Left to Live, What Would You Do?

Friday, February 20th, 2015 - by Michael Walsh
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The great neurologist, Dr. Oliver Sacks, is now facing just such a scenario:

A MONTH ago, I felt that I was in good health, even robust health. At 81, I still swim a mile a day. But my luck has run out — a few weeks ago I learned that I have multiple metastases in the liver. Nine years ago it was discovered that I had a rare tumor of the eye, an ocular melanoma. Although the radiation and lasering to remove the tumor ultimately left me blind in that eye, only in very rare cases do such tumors metastasize. I am among the unlucky 2 percent.

I feel grateful that I have been granted nine years of good health and productivity since the original diagnosis, but now I am face to face with dying. The cancer occupies a third of my liver, and though its advance may be slowed, this particular sort of cancer cannot be halted.

It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can. In this I am encouraged by the words of one of my favorite philosophers, David Hume, who, upon learning that he was mortally ill at age 65, wrote a short autobiography in a single day in April of 1776. He titled it “My Own Life.”

Few if any of us have lived the kind of productive life Dr. Sacks has. A best-selling author, he’s seen his book, Awakenings, turned into an Oscar-nominated movie with Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, and had another book, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, turned into an opera by composer Michael Nyman.

I have been lucky enough to live past 80, and the 15 years allotted to me beyond Hume’s three score and five have been equally rich in work and love. In that time, I have published five books and completed an autobiography (rather longer than Hume’s few pages) to be published this spring; I have several other books nearly finished…

I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming. This is not indifference but detachment — I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future. I rejoice when I meet gifted young people — even the one who biopsied and diagnosed my metastases. I feel the future is in good hands.

Read the whole beautifully written thing and then ask yourself — what would you do?

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.

 

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India’s Prime Minister Promises to Protect Religious Minorities

Thursday, February 19th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has finally broken his silence on attacks by Hindu militants against Christians and other religious minorities. He made a promise to protect these minorities at an event honoring two new Catholic saints from India.

“I condemn all incidents of violence where religious minorities were targeted,” Modi told an event organized by the Christian community to celebrate the beatification of two Indians by Pope Francis late last year.

“No religious group can incite violence … my government will ensure there is complete freedom of faith.”

Modi, a self-proclaimed Hindu nationalist, rarely attends events organized by minority communities.

His decision to appear among Christians followed a drubbing for his party in elections to the Delhi local assembly last week, where it won just three of 70 seats, raising concerns that it could face setbacks in other state elections on the horizon.

The poll took place against the backdrop of a clash between police and priests, nuns and parishioners who were protesting over a series of vandalism and arson attacks on churches.

In a nation with a large Hindu majority – nearly 80% of Indians identify as practicing Hinduism – Modi’s remarks represent a shift toward protection of those who practice other faiths, and it’s a welcome change to critics of the Modi administration.

In January, Christian leaders criticized Modi for his previous silence on the attacks on churches in Delhi. The series of incidents in the region led Christian leaders to believe there was pattern in the attacks on Christian churches, motivated by religious radicals in the country.

“These are not isolated events. It is the fourth attack on a church in Delhi archdiocese since December 1,” Father [Savarimuthu] Shankar said in January, according to UCA News.

Christian leaders previously stated that Modi’s denouncement of the attacks will help strengthen the relationship and ease tensions between Christians and Hindus.

“The prime minister owes an answer to all. … In fact his silence is eloquent and disturbing,” opposition Congress Party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said to UCA News.

Militants have targeted converts from Hinduism to other religions in particular, but Modi vows that his administration will not tolerate such violence.

Religious conversions have become a sensitive issue in recent months after hardliners with links to the BJP said Hinduism was under threat and started a campaign to convince Christians and Muslims to change their faith.

“My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly,” Modi said.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock /Nisarg Lakhmani

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Obama: People Who ‘Spew Hatred’ Toward Muslims, Immigrants Feed ‘Terrorist Narratives’

Thursday, February 19th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama told a gathering of international dignitaries today that “all of us have a responsibility to refute the notion that groups like ISIL somehow represent Islam, because that is a falsehood that embraces the terrorists’ narrative.”

He also called on Muslim clerics and organizations to “push back not just on twisted interpretations of Islam” but “on the lie that we are somehow engaged in a clash of civilizations.”

“Obviously, there is a complicated history between the Middle East, the West, and none of us I think should be immune from criticism in terms of specific policies, but the notion that the West is at war with Islam is an ugly lie. And all of us, regardless of our faith, have a responsibility to reject it,” the president said.

“At the same time, former extremists have the opportunity to speak out — speak the truth about terrorist groups. And oftentimes, they can be powerful messengers in debunking these terrorist ideologies. One said, ‘This wasn’t what we came for, to kill other Muslims.’ Those voices have to be amplified.”

Among other components of his anti-extremism plan already outlined, including jobs and good governance, Obama stressed ensuring “that our diverse societies truly welcome and respect people of all faiths and backgrounds, and leaders set the tone on this issue.”

He noted “acts of anti-Semitism” in Europe, “or in some cases, anti-Muslim sentiment or anti-immigrant sentiment.”

“When people spew hatred towards others because of their faith or because they are immigrants, it feeds into terrorist narratives. If entire communities feel they can never become a full part of the society in which they reside, it feeds a cycle of fear and resentment and a sense of injustice upon which extremists prey,” Obama continued. “And we can’t allow cycles of suspicions to tear at the fabric of our countries.”

“So we all recognize the need for more dialogues across countries and cultures. Those efforts are indeed important. But what’s most needed today, perhaps, are more dialogues within countries, not just across faiths, but also within faiths. Violent extremists and terrorists thrive when people of different religions or sects pull away from each other and are able to isolate each other, label them as ‘they,’ as opposed to us, something separate and apart.”

So, Obama said, “let’s share the truth of our faiths with each other.”

He announced a program named after murder U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens “to connect 1 million young people from America and the Middle East and North Africa for dialogue.”

“In some of our countries, including the United States, Muslim communities are still small and, you know, relative to the entire population. And as a result, many people in our countries don’t always know personally somebody who is Muslim. So the image they get of Muslims or Islam is in the news. And given the existing news cycle, that can give a very distorted impression,” he said. “A lot of the bad, like terrorists who claim to speak for Islam, that’s absorbed by the general population; not enough of the good — the more than 1 billion people around the world who do represent Islam, and are doctors and lawyers and teachers and neighbors and friends.”

“So we have to remember these Muslim men and women, the young Palestinian working to build understanding and trust with Israelis, but also trying to give voice to her people’s aspirations; the Muslim clerics working for peace with Christian pastors and priests in Nigeria and the Central African Republic to put an end to the cycle of hate; the civil society leaders in Indonesia, one of the world’s largest democracies; parliamentarians in Tunisia working to build one of the world’s newest democracies; business leaders in India with one of the world’s largest Muslim populations; entrepreneurs unleashing new innovations in places like Malaysia, health workers fighting to save lives from polio and from Ebola in West Africa and volunteers who go to disaster zones after a tsunami or after an earthquake to ease suffering and help families rebuild, Muslims who have risked their lives as human shields to protect Coptic churches in Egypt and to protect Christians attending mass in Pakistan and who try to protect synagogues in Syria.”

Obama reminded all that a Muslim police officer was killed in the Charlie Hebdo massacre and a Muslim employee saved Jews at the kosher grocery store.

“It’s not a question of Jews or Christians or Muslims,” he said. “We’re all in the same boat, and we have to help each other to get out of this crisis.”

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VIDEO: Saudi Cleric Says Earth Can’t be Rotating Because This Cup

Thursday, February 19th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson
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Thanks to Al-Arabiya for circulating this gem on the same week of Galileo’s birth:

Answering a student question on whether the Earth is stationary or moving, Sheikh Bandar al-Khaibari replied: “stationary and does not move.”

He then attempted to support his argument by quoting some clerics and selected religious statements. But his most controversial method to debunk the rotation theory was a “logical” deduction in which he used a visual.

“First of all, where are we now? we go to Sharjah airport to travel to China by plane, clear?! focus with me, this is Earth;” he said, holding a sealed water cup.

He argued that if a plane stops still in air “China would be coming towards it” in case the Earth rotates on one direction. It the Earth rotates on opposite direction, the plane would never reach China, because “China is also rotating.”

The sheikh also said the moon landings were a hoax, which actually just puts him the company of a bunch of American conspiracy theorists.

Twitter is huge in Saudi Arabia, so the mocking came swiftly after his Sunday science lesson.

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Kerry: Fight Against Extremism Can’t be ‘Distracted’ by ‘Hatred or Bias’

Thursday, February 19th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

In advance of his address to the Countering Violent Extremism summit today, Secretary of State John Kerry advocated deploying a more “creative arsenal” to fight ISIS rather than just the “rational and often necessary response” of military force.

“A safer and more prosperous future requires us to recognize that violent extremism can’t be justified by resorting to religion. No legitimate religious interpretation teaches adherents to commit unspeakable atrocities, such as razing villages or turning children into suicide bombers. These are the heinous acts of individuals who distort religion to serve their criminal and barbaric cause,” Kerry wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

“A safer and more prosperous future also requires us not to be distracted by divisions grounded in hatred or bias. There is no room in this fight for sectarian division. There is no room for Islamophobia or anti-Semitism. Violent extremism has claimed lives in every corner of the globe, and Muslim lives most of all. Each of us is threatened, regardless of ethnicity, faith or homeland. We must demonstrate to the terrorists that rather than divide us, their tactics unite us and strengthen our resolve.”

Kerry touted the week’s summit, which was the administration’s answer to the January terrorist attacks in Paris, as an event to “adopt an action agenda that identifies, shares and utilizes best practices in preventing and countering violent extremism.”

He added that the agenda items will be brought up at the United Nations General Assembly in September.

“Eliminating the terrorists of today with force will not guarantee protection from the terrorists of tomorrow. We have to transform the environments that give birth to these movements. We have to devote ourselves not just to combating violent extremism, but to preventing it. This means building alternatives that are credible and visible to the populations where terrorists seek to thrive,” Kerry wrote.

“The most basic issue is good governance. It may not sound exciting, but it is vital. People who feel that their government will provide for their needs, not just its own, and give them a chance at a better life are far less likely to strap on an AK-47 or a suicide vest, or to aid those who do,” he added, mentioning job training and eliminating corruption.

He lauded the “power of the international community to make positive progress” on things like battling Ebola.

“We are in this for the long haul. We can send a clear signal to the next generation that its future will not be defined by the agenda of the terrorists and the violent ideology that sustains them; we will not cower, and we will prevail by working together. Indeed, there are roles for everyone, from religious and government leaders to academics, NGOs and the private sector. Our collective security depends on our collective response,” Kerry wrote.

“The 20th century was defined by the struggle to overcome depression, slavery, fascism and totalitarianism. Now it’s our turn. The rise of violent extremism challenges every one of us, our communities, our nations and the global rule of law. But the extremist forces arrayed against us require that we charge forward in the name of decency, civility and reason.”

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Obama: ‘No Religion Is Responsible for Terrorism’

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

WASHINGTON — President Obama gave a lengthy defense of the administration’s policy to not link Islam to terrorism, telling the summit on Countering Violent Extremism this afternoon that “no religion is responsible for terrorism; people are responsible for violence and terrorism.”

He gave as examples of extremism the 1994 Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11, the Fort Hood massacre, the Boston Marathon bombings, and “horrific acts of violence at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee or at a Jewish community center outside Kansas City.”

“Most recently, with the brutal murders in Chapel Hill of three young Muslim Americans, many Muslim Americans are worried and afraid. And I want to be as clear as I can be, as Americans all faiths and backgrounds, we stand with you in your grief and we offer our love and we offer our support,” Obama told the crowd in the South Court auditorium.

The president called “groups like al-Qaeda and ISIL” a challenge for the world, as “we’ve seen deadly attacks in Ottawa and Sydney and Paris and now Copenhagen.”

“Given the complexities of the challenge and the nature of the enemy, which is not a traditional army, this work takes time and will require vigilance and resilience and perspective,” he said. “But I’m confident that just as we have for more than two centuries, we will ultimately prevail.”

He defined violent extremism: “We don’t just mean the terrorists who are killing innocent people; we also mean the ideologies, the infrastructure of extremists, the propagandists, the recruiters, the funders who radicalize and recruit or incite people to violence.”

“Around the world and here in the United States, inexcusable acts of violence have been committed against people of different faiths by people of different faiths, which is, of course, betrayal of all our faiths. It’s not unique to one group or to one geography or one period of time.”

Obama addressed the “fair amount of debate” over the terms used to describe the terrorist threat.

“We must never accept the premise that they put forward, because it is a lie, nor should we grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek. They are not religious leaders; they’re terrorists,” he said of ISIS’ claim to be the Islamic State. “And we are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

Al-Qaeda and ISIS, he added, “do draw selectively from the Islamic texts. They do depend upon the misperception around the world that they speak in some fashion for people of the Muslim faith, that Islam is somehow inherently violent, that there is some sort of clash of civilizations.”

“Of course, the terrorists do not speak for a billion Muslims who reject their ideology. They no more represent Islam than any madman who kills innocents in the name of God, represents Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism or Hinduism.”

He lauded religious leaders who “preach that Islam calls for peace and for justice and tolerance towards others.”

“That terrorism is prohibited. The Koran says whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind. Those are the voices that represent over a billion people around the world.”

Obama said the “reality, which, again, many Muslim leaders have spoken to, is that there’s a strain of thought that doesn’t embrace ISIL’s tactics, doesn’t embrace violence, but does buy into the notion that the Muslim world has suffered historic grievances, sometimes that’s accurate.”

“It does buy into the belief that so many of the ills in the Middle East flow from a history of colonialism or conspiracy. It does buy into the idea that Islam is incompatible with modernity or tolerance, or that it’s been polluted by Western values. So, those beliefs exist. In some communities around the world, they are widespread,” he continued. “And so, it makes individuals, especially young people who already may be disaffected or alienated more ripe for radicalization.”

He stressed Muslim leaders “need to do more than discredit the notion that our nations are determined to suppress Islam, that there is inherent clash in civilizations.”

Obama advocated tackling “head-on” terrorist ideologies, encouraging entrepreneurship and addressing “the grievances that terrorists exploit, including economic grievances.”

“There are terrorists who come from extraordinarily wealthy backgrounds, like Osama bin Laden. What’s true, though, is that when millions of people, especially youth, are impoverished and have no hope for the future, when corruption inflicts daily humiliations on people, when there are no outlets by which people can express their concerns, resentments fester. The risk of instability and extremism grow,” he said.

The president said community intervention is needed as well, such as when “faith leaders may notice that someone’s beginning to espouse violent interpretations of religion.”

“I know some Muslim Americans have concerns about working with government, particularly law enforcement. And their reluctance is rooted in the objection to certain practices, where Muslim Americans feel they’ve been unfairly targeted. So, in our work, we have to make sure that abuses stop, are not repeated, that we do not stigmatize entire communities. Nobody should be profiled or put under a cloud of suspicion simply because of their faith,” he said.

“Engagement with communities can’t be a cover for surveillance. It can’t securitize our relationship with Muslim Americans, dealing with them solely through the prism of law enforcement.”

America, Obama said, needs “to show that we welcome people of all faiths” to dismantle the terrorists’ recruitment narrative. He spoke of getting a Valentine from an 11-year-old Muslim girl who wrote, “I am worried about people hating Muslims. If some Muslims do bad things that doesn’t mean all of them do.”

“We can’t paper over problems. And we are not going to solve this if we are always just trying to be politically correct. But we do have to remember that 11-year-old girl. That is our hope. That is our future,” he said.

The president didn’t mention a “military component” to defeating ISIS until the end of his speech.

“There are savage cruelties going on out there that have to be stopped. ISIL is killing Muslims at a rate that is many multiples the rate that they’re killing non-Muslims. Everybody has a stake in stopping them. And there will be an element of us just stopping them in their tracks with force,” Obama said.

“But to eliminate the soil out of which they grew, to make sure that we are getting a brighter future to everyone, and a lasting sense of security, now we are going to have to make it clear to all of our children, including that little girl in fifth grade, that you have a place.”

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Congressmen Jump Into the Fray in Georgia’s Religious Freedom Fight

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

When Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed dismissed fire chief Kelvin Cochran over a book the latter wrote, he ignited a firestorm of controversy that led to a renewed call for a religious freedom law in Georgia. And now, six members of the state’s congressional delegation have gotten involved in the fight, siding with Cochran.

In a move that escalates the fight between Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and supporters of Kelvin Cochran, lawmakers led by Rep. Barry Loudermilk this week said the firing robbed the former chief of his religious freedom to speak and write his view.

“Your action against Chief Cochran appears to violate fundamental principles of free speech and religious freedom,” they wrote to Reed. “As fellow Georgians, we are extremely troubled that a capable and long-standing public servant in our state can be targeted for retaliation and dismissed solely because of his religious views,” they added.

While the city said Cochran’s religious beliefs had nothing to do with his November suspension and eventual firing last month, he and his supporters claim it was retaliation for a book he published over a year ago that, among other things, equates homosexuality with bestiality.

[...]

The letter from the six House members raises the political element in the controversy. In it they said Cochran’s belief in the Bible is at stake.

“Chief Cochran relied upon religious text from the Bible to express his opinions in his personal writings. The only way Chief Cochran cold avoid his views would be to disown his religion,” they wrote. “What could be more intolerant and exclusionary than ending a public servant’s 30 years of distinguished service for his religious beliefs?”

Cochran has filed suit against the city of Atlanta and Reed with assistance from the non-profit group Alliance Defending Freedom. The former chief’s firing has become a cause célèbre among certain circles in Georgia, with multiple petitions popping up on his behalf and supporters such as Ralph Reed and Erick Erickson. One local pundit on the other side of the issue referred to Cochran as “the face of ‘religious liberty’ bills.”

Reed, a Democrat, issued a statement of his own, stating, “It was a decision that was not made lightly because I appreciated Chief Cochran’s service to the City of Atlanta.”

In the meantime, a group of lawmakers have introduced SB129 into the Georgia legislature, a bill designed to “provide for the preservation of religious freedom” in the state. Erickson has already issued a call to action for his listeners to voice their support to their state senators.

Will Cochran’s firing and the firestorm surrounding it be the catalyst for Georgia to pass a religious freedom bill? That remains to be seen, but we’ll stay on top of it and report it here.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Sean Pavone

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Ash Wednesday and Lunar New Year Greetings from the Administration

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

A statement from President Obama:

Today, Michelle and I join our fellow Christians across the country and around the world in marking Ash Wednesday. Lent is a season of sacrifice and preparation, repentance and renewal. Through reflection on the teachings that guide us, we reaffirm our commitment to God and one another — and we remember those who are suffering, including those persecuted for their faith. We join millions in deepening our faith as we look toward the Easter celebration.

Meanwhile, today’s greeting from Secretary of State John Kerry, getting ahead of the occasion:

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to express my wishes of good health, good fortune, and happiness to those around the world celebrating the Lunar New Year on February 19.

As many throughout the Asia-Pacific and in the United States gather with family, let us also remember the closeness we share as global citizens. We can feel proud of the bonds we have strengthened as Pacific nations, and the prosperity and mutual understanding we have jointly achieved. Let us also look forward to the great possibilities of the New Year. As we continue to advance shared cultural understanding, economic cooperation, regional security, and educational partnerships, we will open doors to mutually beneficial opportunities. Let us build on the momentum of our agreements concerning environmental protection, health improvement, and poverty reduction to better the lives not just of individual countries, but the entire world.

President Obama and I look forward to the year ahead. There will be great challenges, but there will also be great achievements as we work together toward common goals. We wish you a festive Lunar New Year celebration, and success and prosperity in the days to come.

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Psaki ‘Not Going to Put New Labels’ on Mass Beheading of ‘Egyptian Citizens’

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

State Department press secretary Jen Psaki stressed the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by ISIS wasn’t just an issue of religion, even when confronted with the pope’s words on the murders.

Pope Francis today said a Mass for “our 21 Coptic brothers, slaughtered for the sole reason that they were Christians.”

“The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard,” Francis said earlier. “It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians!”

Asked about the pope’s reaction in a phone call today with reporters, and asked specifically “does the administration agree” the men were killed because of their faith, Psaki said she was “not going to put new labels or — or, certainly, argue with comments of the pope.”

“But I would say that we have spoken in the past about, you know, our concerns about the, you know, targeting of — of religious groups, and we’ve seen, unfortunately, this happen in Iraq and other places,” Psaki said. “ISIL has gone after not just individuals for religious affiliation but for being a woman, for being — for even people with disabilities. And so we’ve seen the barbarity of their tactics.”

“But, you know, beyond that, obviously, this is simply a horrific attack of terrorism and one that we came out this weekend and joined many countries in the world in condemning.”

The Obama administration stood out among other U.S. allies for not identifying the slain men as Coptic Christians, simply condemning the mass murder of “Egyptian citizens.” Australia, the UK, and Canada all noted the victims were Christian.

Psaki was also asked about spokeswoman Marie Harf’s comments to MSNBC that “we cannot kill our way of this war” and assertion that disaffected jihadists need good-paying jobs.

“Marie, my colleague, was saying what we’ve said many times, which is this is not only a military solution. A military solution will not bring an end to ISIL,” Psaki replied. “That’s why there are several components of our coalition. Yes, the military component is important, and we’ve done thousands of strikes in Iraq and Syria. That’s continuing to pick up, as you know, and you’ve covered quite a bit.”

“But we also need to delegitimize ISIL. If the ideology is out there and growing, ISIL will continue to grow and thrive. We need to cut off their financing. We need to prevent foreign fighters from moving.”

Psaki said Harf was talking “not just ISIL” but referring to the Countering Violent Extremism summit that began in Washington today, which “is broad.”

“It’s not just about ISIL. That’s certainly the part of it. But it’s about countering violent extremism and how to take on this threat over the long term,” she said. “And obviously, there are several components as — and the evidence of that is also all of the different breakout groups that are happening throughout the summit. But, again, I think this is something we’ve talked about quite a bit. And the need to make sure we’re working with countries to address some of the root causes that have led to the — you know, ability to recruit.”

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), whose state includes a “vibrant and thriving Coptic community,” said the “innocent men were murdered because of their Christian faith.”

“But this attack was targeted at all people — Coptic, Egyptian, American, and all who reject extreme ideologies that have no basis in religious doctrine, but rather are rooted in hatred and ignorance,” Menendez added in a statement.

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If You Want to Know Why People Distrust Protestant Fundamentalists…

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015 - by Michael Walsh

… look no further than right here. It’s hard to follow the semi-literate argument, but if I understand the author’s point, he’s saying that, yeah, shame about those executed Coptic Christians but hey — they weren’t really Christians in the first place:

Southern Baptist and evangelical leaders were stumbling over themselves yesterday in a race to demonstrate who was the most sympathetic to our fellow Christians and these brave martyrs for the faith.

Do Southern Baptist leaders and other evangelicals really not know what a Christian is or how you become one? Is it being born into an ethnic group that denies the dual-nature of Christ in his full deity and humanity? Is it embracing a meritorious, works-based salvation nearly identical to that of the Roman Catholic church? Is it in aggressively denying salvation by a personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ? We ask because that’s what Coptic ‘Christians’ believe. This really isn’t new, and we have to wonder why our leaders don’t know what Coptics believe and if they do, what on Earth makes them think they should be categorized as Christians.

Now, sure. In the broadest possible (and most inaccurate) sense possible, the term Christian is applied to the Coptics for the same reason it is applied to Roman Catholics by major media. To secularists, all one has to be to be considered Christian is to call themselves one. In this same sense, the press refers to cultists like the LDS and Jehovah’s Witnesses as Christians as well. There should be no outrage that the press calls them such, or even their outrage representative to evangelicals, Todd Starnes. We get it; they don’t get it. But why again do our Southern Baptist leaders not grasp that?

Maybe it’s one of those “Today we are all Republicans” type things – the expression used by Ronald Reagan’s surgeon the day he was shot – and often used to express solidarity to those suffering. A few weeks ago we are all Charlie Hebdo. So maybe what they mean is, “Today, we are all Coptics.” I think we’re fine with that, in a way. But that’s a far cry from saying, “Today, Coptics are Christians.”

Apparently this has to do with some Protestant wrangle over being saved by faith alone or by faith and good works.

Frankly, now is not the time to confuse for the entire blooming world what it means to be a Christian. We cannot consider the Coptics an unreached people group by the IMB [the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board] one day and then call them Christian martyrs the next. Why anyone should have to point this out to our SBC president is beyond me.

What’s at stake, you see, is the Gospel. May God forbid our (good and honorable) desire to show sympathy for temporal suffering lead us to say careless words that might lead to eternal suffering. The Coptics, by their confession, believe in salvation-by-works. They need to be evangelized, and they need to come to Christ.

To this Catholic, such an attitude is about as far from Christian as I can imagine — but then, I’m not a Southern Baptist who believes I need a personal relationship with Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Southern Baptists apparently don’t consider Catholics to be Christians, either, which was news to me, especially since we started this whole “Christian” thing in the first place.

Help me out here, people. Be sure to read the whole thing, including the author’s answer to the blowback he got near the end of the post.

 

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Obama: FBI Probing Possible Hate-Crimes Violation in Muslim Students’ Murders

Friday, February 13th, 2015 - by Bridget Johnson

President Obama weighed in today on the shooting of three Muslim students in North Carolina, saying the FBI opened an investigation yesterday into the crime.

Craig Hicks, 46, turned himself into police after Deah Shaddy Barakat, Barakat’s wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, were killed on Tuesday. Police in Chapel Hill said initial evidence points to a parking dispute.

Family have said the three youths were shot in the head execution-style inside their apartment. A friend said Hicks previously showed up at the apartment, holding a gun, because he thought they were playing the board game Risk too loud.

Neighbors have called him an “equal opportunity” bully, noting he was unfriendly to everyone and regularly complained while openly carrying a gun. He was also an avowed atheist, liking left-wing personalities on his Facebook page and posting against religion in general. His ex-wife said he loved the movie Falling Down, where Michael Douglas’ character goes on a shooting spree.

His current wife said Tuesday that the killings “had nothing do with religion or the victims’ faith,” then announced Wednesday she’s divorcing him.

“In addition to the ongoing investigation by local authorities, the FBI is taking steps to determine whether federal laws were violated,” Obama said in a statement issued by the White House. “No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship.”

“Michelle and I offer our condolences to the victims’ loved ones. As we saw with the overwhelming presence at the funeral of these young Americans, we are all one American family. Whenever anyone is taken from us before their time, we remember how they lived their lives – and the words of one of the victims should inspire the way we live ours,” Obama added.

He then quoted Yusor, who was going to dentistry school: “Growing up in America has been such a blessing. It doesn’t matter where you come from. There’s so many different people from so many different places, of different backgrounds and religions – but here, we’re all one.”

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), one of two Muslim members of Congress, said yesterday that there seem to be “enough facts” to investigate federal hate-crime violations.

“There certainly are some facts to indicate that this may — their religion may have been a factor. So, I think that it’s very important that we pursue this and get to the bottom of it. I am confident based on my review of the facts that the parking answer is certainly not the whole story,” Ellison told CNN.

The congressman said he came to that conclusion based on “newspaper articles I’ve read and also people I’ve talked to in North Carolina, who have told me that there was some history between the people, that there may have been comments about — there may have been some comments referring to, you know, religious clothing or clothing associated with certain religious practices.”

“What I want to say is that it’s prudent for us not to jump to a conclusion, but it’s also prudent for us to keep all options open, including the possibility that it was a bias motivated crime,” Ellison added. “I just think that — I don’t want anybody to jump to any conclusions. I want us to keep our minds open and follow the facts where they lead us.”

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CanadianJihad.com: Ezra Levant’s New Campaign

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 - by Kathy Shaidle

Canadian author and broadcaster Ezra Levant became a world-famous free speech warrior after a foreign-born imam took him to “human rights” court for publishing the Danish Muslim cartoons.

Levant was forced to educate himself about Muslim concepts like sharia, taqiyya, hudna and other Islamic supremacist concepts, then shared this knowledge with other Canadians and the world.

His latest project, CanadianJihad.ca, teams Levant with Middle East expert Jonathan Halevi, a polyglot who specializes in translating both Arabic jihadist phraseology and the weasel words of so-called “moderates” into plain English.

From the website:

Canadians believe in freedom of speech and freedom of religion. But when Muslim leaders preach violence against women, gays and non-Muslim “infidels”, and even support violent jihad and the creation of an Islamic state, our police and security services have a duty to investigate to see if Canadian laws are being broken.

We call upon the Director of CSIS, the Commissioner of the RCMP, and the Ministers of Public Safety, Justice, National Revenue and Immigration to examine the evidence of extremist conduct compiled on this website to consider if it warrants further investigation and potential action.

At the site, you’ll find videotaped speeches and sermons by “Canadian” Muslim leaders, declaring their sinister intentions for their adopted homeland.

CanadianJihad.ca is clearly inspired by the Conservative government’s proposed anti-terror legislation.

I have mixed feelings about these new laws, but will always support any effort to help dangerous Muslims publicly hang themselves by their own petard.

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The Church Of England Takes The Unprecedented Step Of Opening A Credit Union

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

The Church of England launched its own credit union this week, with two objectives in mind: to create a trustworthy place for Britons to bank and to help lift people out of poverty.

The foundation of the Churches’ Mutual Credit Union is part of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s drive to promote access to responsible credit and savings.

“It could transform the way retail finance is done in this country,” Archbishop [Justin] Welby said, adding that it will put an ethical basis back into the industry and help forge community links back into the sector.

The credit union was launched by leaders of member churches with a video of a ship being launched in the background, emotive music and the slogan: “God bless the CMCU and all who save with her.”

It is currently open to about 60,000 church workers, charities, clergy and volunteers such as church wardens and members of the parochial church council, but will eventually be rolled out to every church member in the country. This could be more than one million people in the Church of England alone, with many hundreds of thousands more in the ecumenical partner churches; the Methodists, Church of Scotland, Scottish Episcopal Church and Church in Wales.

Welby is the first archbishop to come from a financial background, and he refers to the unprecedented launch as “putting our money where our mouth is” to both fight poverty and hold up high ethical standards for the financial marketplace.

Rather than preaching at the problem, the Church is becoming part of the solution.

“Credit unions are essential. We are trying to build a new financial sector in this country,” the Archbishop added. The new credit union was a “major step” in this direction, he said.

Canon Antony MacRow-Wood, president of the new credit union, said: “Of immediate interest to many, especially ordained ministers, will be our plans to provide a competitive car loan scheme (APR 5.54%). The Church forms an obvious community with many shared interests and as such it has a natural fit with the idea of a credit union. The recycling of capital within the community, not least for mission, will be of benefit to all.”

Rev Ken Howcroft, president of the Methodist Conference, said: “The gap between rich and poor seems to be widening and leaving people without the resources to do new things, or even pushing them into crippling debt. When we recognise your interdependence we can share our resources to help each of us meet our needs.”

CMCU treads much of the same ground as American faith-based credit unions like America’s Christian Credit Union and Christian Community Credit Union, but it may well be the first credit union run directly by a church. Its success or failure should make for an interesting story in the years to come.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / yurchello108

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