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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
Hindu anti Christian feeling is so strong in India there appears to be some kind of attempted smear campaign against Mother Teresa beginning
— Tony McLean (@DorvalTony) February 24, 2015
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:
"@TheTweetOfGod: I wonder how Mother Teresa is doing down in hell." Brutal
— chuck (@chuck07j) February 24, 2015
"I'm very skeptical of anyone who wants to 'help others' there's always some sort of hidden agenda" "100% mother Teresa loved being famous"
There is nothing new in it. Not only RSS but many have been questioning Mother Teresa's intentions for years.
— Shiv Mishra (@mishrashiv) February 24, 2015
@Swamy39 Also The Mother Teresa Organisation did Organs Trade with the Street Poor People. She helped herself for monies! She is rather Evil
— SANSKRIT UNIVERSITY (@SanskritVarsity) February 24, 2015
In August, Bhagwat stirred up religious tensions in the Hindu-majority country by announcing, ”The entire world knows that the people who live in India are Hindus. Just as the Germans have Germany, the English have England, and Americans have America. … All the people of this country are Hindus,” Bhagwat said.
Since then, there have been several attacks on Christian churches in India. In January the only Christian church in an Indian village in Telangana state was burned down, reportedly by Hindu supremacists.
Archbishop Anil JT Couto of New Delhi told NDTV, ”A clear pattern of orchestrated attacks is emerging as more and more churches are targeted, vandalised and set on fire.” He said, “This is very disturbing and we request the authorities to take adequate measures to bring to book the miscreants who are threatening to weaken the social fabric of this great nation.”
But Vikjay Paul at Chakra News echoed Bhagwat’s call for Hindu nationalism. He said Christian humanitarian workers take advantage of the poor and convert them through “gradual force” by luring them with food and the promise of education. Paul said:
As in other countries such as Pakistan or Bangladesh with Muslim majorities, who sustain and fight for their religion, why can’t Hindus do the same for their countries religion without getting criticism from fellow Hindus? How has a country’s majority, including the government become so blind to such appalling act’s that hinder and take advantage of religious freedom?
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a self-avowed Hindu nationalist — and lifelong member of the RSS — has been criticized for not doing enough to protect the Christian minority in his country.
Supporters of Mother Teresa rushed in to defend her on Twitter:
Mother Teresa in slums days when RSS called these people untouchables pic.twitter.com/CiygsMTfQp"
— Supari Journalist (@sonykalloor) February 24, 2015
Mother Teresa being persecuted by the press and naysayers. No surprise to Evangelical Christians or Catholics. We still win! #JesusisLord
— ❤ Dr Melinda Thomas (@drmelindafaith) February 23, 2015
Mother Teresa converted potential delinquents into constructive citizens of the country. Totally guilty of conversion, I say.
— Yours Idly (@calmchor) February 24, 2015
The attack on mother teresa is not just against religion but against goodness its a slander to speak about service to the dying desolate
— lygia (@nickomelo) February 24, 2015
You say Mother Teresa had conversion in her mind? I'd say, you might not be completely wrong!
— BrainFag (@j_cheryl) February 24, 2015
Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, & always start with the person nearest to you. ~Mother Teresa
— Sharnicka (@PrettiDymndz) February 24, 2015
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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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
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.
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.
… 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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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
President Obama is denying a former top political adviser’s contention that he intentionally deceived voters about his position on gay marriage in an interview published Wednesday. The president said David Axelrod, his former senior adviser, was “mixing up my personal feelings with my position on the issue” when he said Obama publicly backed civil unions rather than gay marriage because it was more politically palatable.
“I always felt that same-sex couples should be able to enjoy the same rights, legally, as anybody else and so it was frustrating to me not to, I think, be able to square that with what were a whole bunch of religious sensitivities out there,” Obama said in an interview with BuzzFeed. The president said he sincerely felt that civil unions were “a sufficient way of squaring the circle,” but learned over time that gay couples felt they were stigmatized by being denied full access to marriage.
“I think the notion that somehow I was always in favor of marriage per se isn’t quite accurate,” Obama said.
Um, yeah. Here’s how my old employer, Time Magazine, reported on this very subject yesterday:
As a state senate candidate in 1996, Obama filled out a questionnaire saying “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.” But 12 years later as a candidate for president, Obama told Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church that marriage could only extend to heterosexual couples. “I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman,” Obama said at the time. “Now, for me as a Christian — for me — for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God’s in the mix.”
After two years in office, Obama began telling reporters he was “evolving” on the issue, and supported the repeal of the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act. But Obama didn’t publicly support same-sex marriages as president until Vice President Joe Biden got out ahead of him in an interview with Meet the Press, saying he was “absolutely comfortable” with the unions.
Who ya gonna believe? Barry or your lying ears?
Despite criticism of his comments on a recent trip to London, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is standing by his assessment of certain Muslim neighborhoods as “no-go zones” for other Britons.
“I knew that my comments were going to rile up people on the left. Whenever you speak honestly about the threat of radical Islamic terrorism, the politically correct crowd does not like this,” Jindal said today on CNN. “I was very clear. No-go zones are areas where people are trying to impose Sharia law, where women don’t feel as comfortable going in without wearing veils from the outside. The police are less likely to go in. The left try to jump on the semantics. I don’t care if you call them sensitive urban zones, the way the French do, or no-go zones.”
“Here’s the bigger point. The bigger point is that Islam has got a problem. Muslim leaders have got to condemn, not just generic acts of violence, but these individual terrorists, saying these fools aren’t martyrs; they’re not going to enjoy a reward in the afterlife; they’re going straight to hell.”
The potential 2016 presidential candidate — Jidal told MSNBC today he’s “thinking about it” — stressed he would “hope and believe a majority of Muslims don’t condone the beliefs of these terrorists, but it’s important for Muslim leaders to condemn the individuals committing these acts.”
“And then for the west, it’s important for officials to insist people coming into our countries assimilate and integrate. We don’t want to give people the same freedom we give to everybody and allow them to use those freedoms to undermine our freedoms. And that’s a dangerous trend. You’re seeing it in Europe, and it could happen here in America if we’re not careful,” Jindal continued.
The concept of “no-go zones,” he clarified, doesn’t “mean by law you’re not allowed to go in those; it’s not like there are fences around these neighborhoods.”
“But the point is, is that women who are outsiders don’t feel as comfortable going in. They feel if they’re not veiled, they’re not welcome there. The police will tell you. The police have said this. That they get lower reports of serious violent crimes. There are attempts by the local communities to impose as much of Sharia law as they can,” the governor said. “Absolutely, you see these areas in the U.K. and in France, and the reality is, you get second-, third-generation immigrants there that don’t consider themselves parts of those society. Now to their credits, the French prime minister and others are speaking out against the threats of radical Islamic terrorism. Our president doesn’t like to use those words.”
“Here in America, here’s the threat I see. I’m not saying we’ve got those zones here, but I’m saying if we continue to insist on hyphenated Americans, if we don’t view America as a melting pot, if we refuse to teach about America as an exceptional country with English as our language, we risk going down the path that Europe has gone where they don’t insist on assimilation and integration.”
Two weeks ago, the Council on American-Islamic Relations issued an open letter to Jindal and other potential Republican presidential candidates stressing that “Islamophobic fear mongering during the 2012 campaign did not translate into a nomination for GOP presidential hopefuls Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum.”
“CAIR advises that by not giving a platform to Islamophobia, holding accountable those candidates that do use their campaigns to foster anti-Muslim sentiment and making a concerted effort to engage Muslim voters, your campaign and the Republican Party will be closer to its presidential aspirations.”
Jindal was specifically accused by CAIR of “Muslim bashing” with his “decision to repeat the already discredited no-go zone allegation.”
If you ever doubted for a moment that the Gray Lady has become a crack whore for the Obama administration, put your doubts aside:
Scheduled to deliver an invocation at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo last week, Moujahed Bakhach of the local Islamic Association of Tarrant County canceled his appearance because of the backlash brought on by a prayer he had offered a few days before. The imam had been asked to confer a blessing on horses, riders and members of the military. He was met with gasps from the audience and social media complaints: “Outraged at a Muslim prayer at an all American event!” “Cowboys don’t want it!”
Vocal anti-Islamic sentiment is undergoing a revival. Four days before the imam’s canceled benediction, protesters at the State Capitol in Austin shouted down Muslim speakers, claiming Texas in the name of Jesus alone. In North Carolina two weeks earlier, Duke University’s plan to broadcast a Muslim call to prayer was abandoned amid threats of violence. Meanwhile Gov. Bobby Jindal, Republican of Louisiana claimed that if American Muslims “want to set up their own culture and values, that’s not immigration, that’s really invasion.”
Jindal, of course, is right: it is an invasion, consciously orchestrated by the Saudis and abetted by the Muslim sympathizer in the White House. Naturally, the Times can’t let such truth-telling stand, and so — carrying Obama’s water, as usual — it comes up with this apologia:
No matter how anxious people may be about Islam, the notion of a Muslim invasion of this majority Christian country has no basis in fact. Moreover, there is an inconvenient footnote to the assertion that Islam is anti-American: Muslims arrived here before the founding of the United States — not just a few, but thousands.
They have been largely overlooked because they were not free to practice their faith. They were not free themselves and so they were for the most part unable to leave records of their beliefs. They left just enough to confirm that Islam in America is not an immigrant religion lately making itself known, but a tradition with deep roots here, despite being among the most suppressed in the nation’s history.
Oh, for God’s sake: seeing conspiracies everywhere, the modern anti-American Left now simply asserts as fact something that is prima facie risible — in this case, that Muslims have had any meaningful role in the foundation of the United States of America. After citing a couple of examples of possibly Muslim slaves among the human cargo in the South, the writer, Peter Manseau, goes on to claim:
The story of Islam in early America is not merely one of isolated individuals. An estimated 20 percent of enslaved Africans were Muslims, and many sought to recreate the communities they had known. In Georgia, which has joined more than a dozen states in the political theater of debating a restriction on judges’ consulting Shariah, Muslims on a secluded plantation are known to have lived under the guidance of a religious leader who wrote a manuscript on Islamic law so that traditional knowledge might survive…
Islam is part of our common history — a resilient faith not just of the enslaved, but of Arab immigrants in the late 19th century, and in the 20th century of many African-Americans reclaiming and remaking it as their own. For generations, its adherents have straddled a nation that jolts from promises of religious freedom to events that give the lie to those promises.
In a sense, Islam is as American as the rodeo. It, too, was imported, but is now undeniably part of the culture. Whether or not protesters in Texas and elsewhere are ready for it, it is inevitable that some Muslims will let their babies grow up to be cowboys. A few cowboys may grow up to be Muslims as well.
Remember: they never stop, they never sleep, they never quit.
Oh for the days when music was about music. Perhaps that hasn’t truly existed since the pioneers strummed banjos on their front porches, but hey we can dream. Anything is better than the farce dished out at this year’s Grammy Awards by the likes of sinner-turned-saints Katy Perry and Queen Bey and the Grand Poobah of Liars Barack Obama. Kanye was still Kanye, terrorizing the stage with his unwanted opinions, but at least he’s being true to his Messiah complex. The rest of them cracked open the Eau de Hypocrisie in their SWAG bags way too early.
On the Sunday night preceding the release of Fifty Shades of Grey in movie theaters nation-wide, the music industry famous for turning women into greased-up, slimmed-down sex objects suddenly decided it gave a damn about sexual assault. Not because they really do, but because sexual assault sells. Just ask Lena Dunham and that chick who lugs a mattress around Columbia U. Autism replaced AIDS and now that we’ve decided vaccines aren’t an assault on our children we’ve turned our collective head and trumped up statistics towards sexual assault.
Big Brother Barry broke into the awards show to lacquer us with the false 1 in 5 narrative before commanding us to hashtag our support for the White House’s campaign against sexual assault on campus. Cue “domestic violence activist” testimony neatly leading into a performance of “By the Grace of God” by Katy Perry sans beach-ball bikini and shark dancers. Beyonce, far from the wet, lap-dancing prostitute of last year, appeared in angelic white garb to sing “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” for the show’s holiest of finales. Pop-meets-penance, it was a spectacle worthy of a holy institution. The only thing missing was Steve Martin in his sparkling jacket promising to heal us all, at least the straight men, of their demon sexuality.
Prior to this tent revival escapade, Madonna touched on the music industry’s pagan affair with lusty sexuality in her trademark style. Clad as a matador, men dressed as faceless bulls with Satanic horns danced around her while she declared her ability to rise up (via harness, apparently) and “live for love” despite being “knocked down” by previous lovers. Lyrically she hasn’t generated anything unique since the ’80s and the techno-pop beat was more worthy of Cher or Kylie Minogue than Madonna at her most innovative. But her visual style paid homage to the reality of a Hollywood soaked in bizarre, painful sex and enjoying it thoroughly.
Were honest statistics and less theatrics used in addressing the real issue of sexual violence, the Grammys would have seemed more authentic and less like damage control following Rolling Stone‘s massive faux pas when it came to reporting on the campus rape epidemic that isn’t. When Perry and Bey quit getting naked on their knees, call me. Until then, regardless of how many layers of white they wear they’re just dancing in the shadow of Madonna, the music industry’s reigning pagan priestess.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced today that Sept. 24 will be when Pope Francis makes history as the first pontiff to address a joint session of Congress.
“We are humbled that the Holy Father has accepted our invitation and certainly look forward to receiving his message on behalf of the American people,” Boehner told reporters today.
The pope took his time to respond. Boehner first invited Francis in March 2014.
“It is my great privilege to announce that His Holiness Pope Francis will visit the United States Capitol on Thursday, September 24, 2015. On that day, he will become the first leader of the Holy See to address a joint meeting of Congress. It will be a historic visit, and we are truly grateful that Pope Francis has accepted our invitation,” Boehner said in a formal announcement released by his office.
“In a time of global upheaval, the Holy Father’s message of compassion and human dignity has moved people of all faiths and backgrounds,” he continued. “His teachings, prayers, and very example bring us back to the blessings of simple things and our obligations to one another. We look forward to warmly welcoming Pope Francis to our Capitol and hearing his address on behalf of the American people.”
Boehner, who is Catholic, led an effort to urge Pope John Paul II to address Congress in the 1990s, but that never worked out. No pope has addressed Congress before.
Whereas Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) freaked out about Boehner inviting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, she joined Boehner extending the invitation to Francis in March.
Pelosi said today she was “honored and overjoyed” that the pope accepted.
“Pope Francis has renewed the faith of Catholics worldwide and inspired a new generation of people, regardless of their religious affiliation, to be instruments of peace. In the spirit of the namesake of San Francisco, St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis’ universal message of love and compassion speaks to millions around the world,” she said.
“We are eager to welcome His Holiness to the U.S. Capitol and we look forward to hearing his call to live our values, to protect the poor and the needy, and to promote peace.”
Pope Francis’ swing through the U.S. in September will take him to Philly and New York in addition to D.C. He’ll be addressing the United Nations General Assembly in NYC.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said President Obama has “been anticipating a visit from Pope Francis here to the United States for quite some time.”
Asked if Vice President Joe Biden would attend the pope’s address, Earnest said Biden’s schedule “for that period of time has not been set but I would anticipate that he would be there.”
“So why can’t you say the same about Prime Minister Netanyahu?” a reporter asked.
“Well, the vice president’s schedule for the first week of March is also not yet set,” Earnest replied. “…There has been at least one previous occasion during his tenure as the vice president where he’s been unable to attend a joint session of Congress, because he was traveling overseas. So when we have more details about the vice president’s schedule for the first week of March, we’ll certainly let you know.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who was “delighted” by the announcement, said he hopes “very much that Congress listens closely to the pope’s message.”
“The pope has played an extraordinary international role since he was elected in speaking out about the growing gap between the rich and everybody else and the power large financial institutions exert over the American and world economies,” Sanders said.
“The American people look forward to hearing Pope Francis’ call to love our neighbors and to find new and creative ways to meet the pressing needs of those who exist on the fringes of society,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. “From the slums of Buenos Aires to St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis is moving the hearts of millions and inspiring a new generation with an engaging and compelling style. I join Speaker Boehner in welcoming this inspirational leader, with his simple message of compassion and openness to others, to the Capitol.”
It’s been a great week for parents who are figuring out the best way to discipline their kids. The day after a suburban Atlanta barber went viral with his embarrassing haircut method of discipline, the ever controversial Pope Francis has said that he thinks parents have the right to “smack” their child for bad behavior.
The Pope recalled a conversation he had had with a father, who told him that on occasion he hits his children if they have been naughty.
The Pope, smiling and miming the action of slapping a child on the bottom, said: “One time, I heard a father say, ‘At times I have to hit my children a bit, but never in the face so as not to humiliate them.’
“That’s great. He had a sense of dignity. He should punish, do the right thing, and then move on,” he told around 7,000 people gathered in the Pope Paul VI Hall on Wednesday.
Naturally, the anti-spankers jumped out in full force to condemn the pontiff.
“It is disappointing that anyone with that sort of influence would make such a comment,” said Peter Newell, the coordinator of the Global Alliance to End Corporal Punishment of Children.
Peter Saunders, the founder of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, told The Telegraph: “I think that is a very misguided thing to have said and I’m surprised he said it, although he does come up with some howlers sometimes.”
Others came to Pope Francis’ defense.
But the remarks were defended by Father Antonio Mazzi, a priest well-known in Italy for his television appearances.
“This Pope is always astounding us because he uses the same language we use. Naturally there will be psychologists who protest, but they make me laugh,” he said.
The pope has a history of controversial statements. Most recently, he remarked that that he would punch anyone who insulted his mother.
In other news related to Pope Francis, House Speaker John Boehner announced that the Pope will address Congress in September, making him the first pontiff to address a joint session of Congress.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / giulio napolitano
President Obama called out the Crusades and Inquisition as times when “people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ” at this morning’s National Prayer Breakfast, and advocated not insulting religions “just because you have the right to say something.”
Obama said the annual event is “a chance to reflect on my own faith journey.”
“Many times as president, I’ve reminded of a line of prayer that Eleanor Roosevelt was fond of. She said: Keep us at tasks too hard for us that we may be driven to thee for strength. Keep us at tasks too hard for us that we may be driven to thee for strength,” he said. “I wondered, at times if maybe God was answering that prayer a little to literally.”
He reflected on “realities” around the world from ISIS — “a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism” — to “religious war” in the Central African Republic.
“Humanity’s been grappling with these questions throughout human history, and unless we get on our high horse and think that this is unique to some other place — remember that during the Crusades and Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ,” Obama said.
“…So it is not unique to one group or one religion; there is a tendency in us, a simple tendency that can pervert and distort our faith. In today’s world when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance. And God compels us to try.”
Obama advocated starting with “some basic humility.”
“I believe that the starting point of faith is some doubt, not — not being so full of yourself and so confident that you are right and — and that God speaks only to us and doesn’t speak to others, that God only cares about us and — and doesn’t care about others, that — that somehow we alone are in possession of the truth,” he said. “…And so, as people of faith, we are summoned to push back against those who’ve tried to distort our religion. Any religion for their own nihilistic ends.”
He added that “part of humility is also recognizing in modern, complicated, diverse societies the functioning of these rights, the concern for the protection of these rights for each of us to exercise civility and restraint and judgment.”
“And if, in fact, we defend the legal right of a person to insult another’s religion, we’re equally obligated to use our free speech to condemn such insults and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with religious communities, particularly religious minorities who were targets of such attacks. Just because you have the right to say something, doesn’t mean that the rest of us shouldn’t question those who would insult others in the name of free speech.”
Calling the United States “one of the most religious countries in the world — far more religious than most western developed countries,” Obama stressed separation of church and state. “…Humility — a suspicion of government getting between us and our faith, we’re trying to dictate our faiths or elevate one faith over another.”
Obama then quoted the Torah, an Islamic hadith, and the Bible to back his call to live by the “Golden Rule.”
“If we are properly humble, if we drop to our knees on occasion, we will acknowledge that we never fully know God’s purpose. We can never fully fathom his amazing grace,” he said. “We see through a glass darkly, grappling with the expanse of his awesome love. But even with our limits, we can heed that which is required, to do justice and love kindness and walk humbly with our God.”
Thousands of high school students in Los Angeles are hearing positive messages of faith thanks to the efforts of one outreach organization.
About 2,500 students at 15 high schools hear the gospel each week through campus Christian clubs, which invite One Voice representatives to speak, [coordinator Allan] Giglio says. Kids have been saved from drugs, violence, sexual sin, and hopelessness.
Teachers and students alike have found themselves amazed at the effectiveness of the clubs.
Roosevelt teacher Samuel Alba acts as a teacher advisor for the Christian club. Both his father and grandfather ministered in Mexico and the U.S., where they saw extraordinary things happen. But he has seen nothing like the current outpouring of the Spirit.
“This is a whole new thing,” Alba says. “This is something extremely new to the students. Many days you see kids with tears asking Christ to come into their hearts.”
Hugo Aguilar started a Christian club at Kennedy High School in Granada Hills last year called “the Love Club.” When he heard about One Voice, he invited them to speak. From 30 students, the group skyrocketed to 60 at the next meeting and then to 140 at the third, he says.
“It was nuts. I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life,” Aguilar said. “It was just amazing to see so many people responding to Jesus.”
The Los Angeles school system allows students to run Bible studies and Christian clubs. Administrators monitor the meetings from time to time, but for the most part the clubs meet with little resistance because teachers and principals see the positive effects of students turning away from drugs and gang violence.
Leaders often lure students in with free pizza, but the life-changing message of Jesus Christ keeps them coming back.
Today, Aguilar leads youth leaders in lunch-time prayer on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. “It’s just awesome to see God bringing in people,” he said.
Who knew you could do this with a horse and buggy?
Shayla Buhl, who was working at the Polk Market and Deli in Ashland County, Ohio, filmed this scene of an Amish buggy doing donuts in the parking lot.
“This made my night.. lol. Amish buggy doing donuts,” Buhl wrote on her Facebook page.
“I just looked out the window and grabbed my phone. They had it up on two wheels at one point,” she said.
Ohio is home to the largest Amish settlement in the world. Approximately 40,000 Amish live in the region that includes Holmes, Wayne, and Ashland Counties. The Swartzentruber Amish, considered to be among the most conservative of the Amish sects, call Ashland County home. They shun nearly all modern technology and drive simple black buggies with two kerosene lanterns and no windshields.
Hat Tip: Grabien
When it comes to our relationship with the Islamic world, even well-known liberals are starting to wonder what the Obama administration is trying to get at. During a recent appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, MSNBC pundit Rachel Maddow chatted with the renowned host on the state visit to honor the late Saudi king. Both personalities were puzzled at America’s strange relationship with an obvious ideological enemy, with Maddow commenting, “The list of people who they sent… I mean, it’s amazing that we weren’t there! …They went way down the list of people you’ve ever heard of in the pages of foreign policy. Everybody!”
Maddow and Letterman raise a good point. Saudi Arabia was the fountain for Sunni Jihad, Iran was the fountain for Shi’ite Jihad. Both strains of Islam harbor a virulent hatred for each other that is currently playing itself out in the Sunni-backed ISIS revolution against Shi’ite-dominated governments. It seems that the only thing the two Islamic parties can agree on is their hatred of the Jews and, by virtue of their Biblical relationship with Jews, Christians. So, what are the leaders of a traditionally Judeo-Christian nation doing sucking up to the Sunni powerhouse of the Middle East?
Historically speaking, Saudi Arabia is the West’s creation, Brit T.E. Lawrence’s romantic notions carved into a losing deal with the Saud family exactly 100 years ago this year. As with any other regime, moral disagreements have been set aside over the generations in favor of political alliances, economic deal making, and a lot of bowing to the student on behalf of the supposed master. Moralists outraged by social media evidence of Sunni Islam’s humanitarian crisis playing out in Saudi Arabia have less sway over ending America’s “creepy, totally dependent” relationship with the kingdom (as Maddow dubbed it) than do the changing dynamics in the oil industry. It would seem that very little has changed in a century.
After all, this wouldn’t be the first time celebrities used their star power to address ideological threats abroad. Hollywood’s stars spoke out against Nazism in the late 1930s and were warned to shut up by FDR’s lackey, lest they be blamed for antagonizing us into an unnecessary war. So, when two of the most liberal pop personalities begin questioning America’s moral imperative in the Middle East, how far will they get? Will we see Maddow, Letterman or the like championing the cause of Christopher Cramer, the U.S. defense subcontractor who mysteriously died last month while working for Israel’s Elbit Systems in Saudi Arabia? Or will he be yet another forgotten casualty in the Obama administration’s defense in the War on Muslims?
Winfield, Alabama, is a sleepy little town not far from Birmingham where about 5,000 people work, live, and worship – a city where the year’s biggest event is Mule Day every September.
Winfield has also become the site of a fight over religion. Because the greatest defense against theocracy is an attack on a tiny Southern town, militant atheists have targeted the town over a proclamation the mayor and city council issued back in December of last year “acknowledging the blessings of God and expressing a desire to seek Divine guidance.”
Over the next several weeks, the city received blistering letters of condemnation from the American Civil Liberties Union and Freedom From Religion Foundation decrying the alleged violation of separation of church and state. The FFRF letter was particularly harsh, suggesting that God was the mayor’s “imaginary friend” and that, if God did exist, he probably did not care about the small Alabama town.
The Pacific Justice Institute has come to the defense of Winfield, citing recent rulings that support the town’s proclamation and its decision to stand behind it.
In response, PJI sent a letter to Mayor Randy Price late Friday, pointing out the proclamation’s consistency both with recent cases and historic American traditions. The PJI letter noted the omission in either the ACLU or FFRF letters of failed attempts by those groups to mount similar legal challenges. Within the last few years the FFRF lost a legal challenge to President Obama’s continuation of the National Day of Prayer proclamation, and the ACLU lost a case where it had sued over Ohio’s state motto, “With God all things are possible.” Court decisions in this area have also allowed local proclamations and resolutions to voice anti-religious sentiments. For instance, the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the right of San Francisco officials to issue scathing denunciations of religious groups and the Catholic Church, in the name of free speech.
PJI’s president, Brad Dacus, weighed in:
This proclamation does not compel or coerce anyone to do anything. As with any governmental action, not everyone is going to like it, but that doesn’t make the proclamation unconstitutional.
Here’s hoping that, in the end, Winfield will prevail against the forces trying desperately to be the squeaky wheel against the First Amendment.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley