Category : Other Faiths

(BBC) Faith in ruins: China’s vanishing beards and mosques

“The BBC has found new evidence of the increasing control and suppression of Islam in China’s far western region of Xinjiang – including the widespread destruction of mosques.

Authorities provided rare access to religious sites and senior Islamic officials to support their claim that their policies only target violent religious extremism, not faith itself.

But after his official tour was over, China Correspondent John Sudworth set out to investigate.”

Watch it all (about 5 1/3 mins).

Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NYT) A Muslim Family Sought Help at the Belgian Embassy in Beijing. The Police Dragged Them Out.

The last time Abdulhamid Tursun spoke to his wife, she was huddled in a Beijing hotel room with their four children, frightened after being evicted from the Belgian Embassy in the dead of night. Suddenly, plainclothes police officers burst into the room, cutting off the couple’s video call.

Mr. Tursun says he has not heard from her since.

His wife, Wureyetiguli Abula, 43, had gone to the Belgian Embassy to seek visas so the family — from the Uighur Muslim minority group — could be reunited with Mr. Tursun, 51, in Brussels, where he won asylum in 2017.

But instead of finding protection, Ms. Abula and her children, ages 5 to 17, were dragged away after the Chinese police were allowed to enter the embassy.

Now the case is raising alarms back in Belgium, where lawmakers are asking how it could have happened and where Mr. Tursun’s family has been taken. It illustrates how, two years after China began detaining Uighurs in a vast network of internment camps, the group has limited protections — even from Western democracies — against persecution by the Chinese government.

Read it all.

Posted in Belgium, Children, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

(BBC) Inside China’s ‘thought transformation’ camps

The BBC has been given rare access to the vast system of highly secure facilities thought to be holding more than a million Muslims in China’s western region of Xinjiang.

Authorities there insist they are just training schools. But the BBC’s visit uncovers important evidence about the nature of the system and the conditions for the people inside it.

Watch it all (just under 12 minutes).

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NPR) A Muslim In Rural, White Minnesota On How To ‘Love Thy Neighbor’

He had left a good job in a leadership position at a successful hospital in Harrisburg, Penn., in order to practice medicine in a rural, underserved area.

[Dr. Ayaz] Virji says he “had the BMWs, the nice house, but it wasn’t enough for me, I wanted to do more.” Rural America faces a shortage of doctors, with many residents forgoing care and saying locations are too far away. “So I felt like I should do something about that. And it was back to the idea: If not me, then who?” he says.

He moved with his family to Dawson, Minn., in 2014. As far as he knew, they were the only Muslims in town. Virji describes the small city — population 1,500 or so — as filled with “very gracious” people who welcomed the family to the community.

“People there are kind, you know, many of them are far better than I am as a person.”

But something seemed to change when Donald Trump started whipping crowds into a frenzy with anti-Muslim rhetoric. For Virji, the 2016 election was a turning point. He wondered how his neighbors, who had been so welcoming, could vote for someone who said that “Islam hates us” and had proposed a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Mandy France, who was training to be a local pastor at the time, invited Virji to give a lecture about his faith. He ended up giving a series of talks about Islam to his neighbors and people in surrounding communities in 2017. Virji wrote about the experience in the book Love Thy Neighbor: A Muslim Doctor’s Struggle for Home in Rural America. He talked with NPR’s Michel Martin.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Islam, Religion & Culture

(Local Paper) Emanuel AME church, shooting survivors form bonds with other traumatized houses of worship

Monday will mark four years since an angry young man with murderous intent slipped into Emanuel and headed for 12 people settling in for Bible study. He sat with them for about an hour, not speaking, until they shut their eyes for closing prayer.

Then he pulled out a gun.

Nine people died that night, including the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the church’s pastor and a state senator who was sitting beside the killer.

And the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., a retired minister who led the study most Wednesdays.

And Myra Thomson, who led it for the first time that night.

And Susie Jackson, at 87 the oldest among them to die.

And her nephew Tywanza Sanders, the youngest at 26.

And their cousin Ethel Lance, the church’s sexton, a mother of five.

And the Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor, mother of four.

And the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, mother of three.

And Cynthia Graham Hurd, mother of none but mentor to hundreds in her decades as a beloved librarian.

Nine families, the survivors and the church’s entire congregation found themselves thrust into a journey through what the Bible calls “the valley of the shadow of death.” Then they relived their losses anew with each mass shooting in America, including the Pulse nightclub massacre almost one year to the day after their loved ones died.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Church History, Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Inter-Faith Relations, Judaism, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Wash Post) Ajay Verghese–Is India becoming a ‘Hindu state’?

So what does the BJP’s victory mean for Indian secularism?

First off, the term “secularism” is quite different in Indian politics — it’s not what U.S. audiences imagine it to be: a separation between church and state. Instead, it refers to religious neutrality (dharmnirpekshta): the equal treatment of all religious communities, irrespective of size, by the government.

Secularism in India is less concerned with religion interfering in politics (as in the United States) than with the state interfering in religion. As Rajeev Bhargava argues, Indian secularism is about maintaining a “principled distance” between the state and religion.

To get a better understanding of secularism in India, I conducted research in villages in the northern Indian state of Bihar in late 2017, and in February 2018, I conducted a survey of 900 Hindus across the state on religion and politics.

My preliminary findings show that Hindus in Bihar overwhelmingly support many of the ideals of Indian secularism — even government support for mosques. Critically, however, this is not true for more pious Hindus: The more religious voters are, the more they subscribe to the tenets of Hindu nationalism, especially the idea that Hindus deserve preferential treatment over Muslims.

Read it all.

Posted in Hinduism, India, Religion & Culture

(NPR Codeswitch) The Ramadan Podcast Where Muslims Take It Up A Notch From ‘Islam 101’

In a media landscape that can still be pretty awful for Muslims, Tell Them, I Am, a new podcast from KPCC, aims to give Muslims a space to define their own identities outside of stereotypes and broad generalizations.

Over the course of the series, host and producer Misha Euceph interviewed 22 people, all Muslims, about the defining moments of their lives. While the show dropped episodes every weekday of Ramadan, “Tell Them, I Am” doesn’t really have anything to do with the holiday. “If somebody released something during Christmas time or during Hanukkah,” Euceph says, “they wouldn’t necessarily be asked about like, what are important aspects of Christmas or Hanukkah.”

It’s in each guest’s hands how much they want to talk about culture or religion; for some it’s a central part of their story, for others it’s mostly incidental. Tan France of Queer Eye talks about his first big “I told you so,” which involved his older brother and a metal fan. Ramy Youssef, creator of the Hulu show Ramy, talks about the medical condition that catalyzed his acting career. Alia Shawkat talks about the extremes of her stoner-y teenage rebellion, including borrowing urine to cheat a drug test (Spoiler: It didn’t work).

And every episode of the podcast offers glimpses into Euceph’s story: the fashion she endured to be more popular in middle school; the glamour she didn’t quite inherit from her mother; the drive to prove people wrong that sent her up actual mountains.

Read it all.

Posted in Islam, Religion & Culture

(Independent) Humanist weddings rise by 266 per cent across England and Wales

They are weddings that are, officially speaking, not even legally recognised.

But such a small detail, it seems, is not stopping increasing numbers of couples from opting for humanist marriage ceremonies across England and Wales.

Such weddings have risen by more than 250 per cent in the last 15 years, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The massive rise makes it the fastest growing type of wedding in the country – and comes as the number of faith-based ceremonies fell in the same period.

While humanist weddings went up 266 per cent between 2004 and 2016, Church of England weddings fell by 28 per cent, Catholic by 34 per cent and Baptist by 42 per cent.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(BBC) The man who might have stopped Sri Lanka’s Easter bombings

In March, just over a month before the Easter attacks, a gunman quietly entered [Mohammad Razak] Taslim’s house in the early hours of the morning. He was lying in bed, next to his wife, and his youngest son. The gunman shot him once in the head.

“At first I thought the phone charger had exploded, but I looked and it was fine,” Taslim’s wife told me. “Then I tried to wake him up, and I could smell gunpowder… I reached out to him and I realised he wasn’t conscious. I thought he was dead.”

Taslim was rushed to hospital. He survived the attack, but it’s not clear if he will ever fully recover.

Sri Lanka’s army commander, Lt Gen Mahesh Senanayake, is now playing a leading role in the investigation into the Easter Bombings. He told me it had been confirmed that the “same network” was also responsible for the desecration of the Buddhist statues, the explosives hidden in the coconut grove, and the shooting of Taslim.

He admitted that the previous incidents should have made the authorities more alert to the dangers of a jihadist attack. Instead, warnings by the Indian security services in the days and hours leading up the bombings weren’t followed up, due to what the army commander referred to as problems with “intelligence sharing” between different departments.

Read it all.

Posted in City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Politics in General, Sri Lanka, Terrorism

(Guardian) All Germans urged to wear kippah in protest against antisemitism

Germans of all faiths and none are being urged to wear kippah skullcaps on Saturday as a symbol of solidarity with the Jewish community, after a steep rise in antisemitic attacks.

Protests across the country have been called by the government’s antisemitism ombudsman after he triggered a heated debate when he warned Jews last week not to wear the kippah because of the increasing likelihood of being attacked.

The German tabloid newspaper Bild has been one of the most vocal supporters of the protests, even publishing a cut-out kippah for readers to download and print.

Felix Klein, who was appointed as antisemitism ombudsman a year ago, told German media last week: “I cannot recommend that Jews wear the kippah whenever and wherever they want in Germany, and I say this with regret.”

Read it all.

Posted in Germany, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) David Molton–My Jewish Family’s American Life Almost Wasn’t–They were turned away 80 years ago but made their way to the U.S. eventually

Left alone with three children, my grandmother formed a plan to reunite the family. She spent much of her dwindling savings on a voyage to Cuba aboard the St. Louis. The ship was filled with hundreds of Jews with similar stories. In what should have served as a warning of trouble ahead, the passengers were required to purchase return tickets.

As the ship neared Havana in May 1939, the Cuban government announced it wouldn’t honor the Cuban landing permits sold to passengers by a corrupt Cuban minister. Most passengers weren’t concerned, since they held immigration quota numbers committing the U.S. to grant them entry when their turn came over the next few years. They assumed Washington would move up the timetable and let them enter right away.

Yet the St. Louis was anchored in Havana harbor from May 27 to June 2. A representative from the Joint Distribution Committee, a Jewish relief group, negotiated with the Cuban government to allow the passengers to disembark. Dinghies carried separated family members, including my grandfather, for temporary reunions. President Franklin D. Roosevelt remained silent, and the negotiations failed.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Cuba, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Germany, Immigration, Judaism, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(AP) Washington is 1st state to allow composting of human bodies

Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation Tuesday making Washington the first state to approve composting as an alternative to burying or cremating human remains.

It allows licensed facilities to offer “natural organic reduction,” which turns a body, mixed with substances such as wood chips and straw, into about two wheelbarrows’ worth of soil in a span of several weeks.

Loved ones are allowed to keep the soil to spread, just as they might spread the ashes of someone who has been cremated — or even use it to plant vegetables or a tree.

“It gives meaning and use to what happens to our bodies after death,” said Nora Menkin, executive director of the Seattle-based People’s Memorial Association, which helps people plan for funerals.

Supporters say the method is an environmentally friendly alternative to cremation, which releases carbon dioxide and particulates into the air, and conventional burial, in which people are drained of their blood, pumped full of formaldehyde and other chemicals that can pollute groundwater, and placed in a nearly indestructible coffin, taking up land.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Religion & Culture, Secularism

(Premier) Durham church criticised for offering to cover crosses and host Muslim prayers

A Darlington church is coming under fire after offering to cover up crosses and allow Muslims to say prayers in its building.

St Matthew and St Luke’s had initially invited members of the Muslim community for an event next month to mark Ramadan.

It also offered different rooms to allow segregated worship for men and women.

Upon hearing about the event the Diocese of Durham intervened and told the church it must not hold Islamic prayers in the church building.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Muslim-Christian relations, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer

(PR FactTank) Many Americans see religious discrimination in U.S. – especially against Muslims

While ideas about religious liberty and tolerance are central to America’s founding and national story, different religious groups – including Catholics, Jews and Mormons – have suffered discrimination in the United States at various points in history. Today, Americans say some religious groups continue to be discriminated against and disadvantaged, according to an analysis of recent Pew Research Center surveys.

Most American adults (82%) say Muslims are subject to at least some discrimination in the U.S. today, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in March – including a majority (56%) who say Muslims are discriminated against a lot.

Among U.S. Muslims themselves, many say they have experienced specific instances of discrimination, including being treated with suspicion, singled out by airport security or called offensive names, according to a 2017 survey of Muslim Americans.

In this year’s survey, roughly two-thirds of Americans (64%) also say Jews face at least some discrimination in the U.S., up 20 percentage points from the last time this question was asked in 2016. More say Jews face some discrimination than a lot (39% vs. 24%).

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Islam, Religion & Culture, Sociology

(CLJ) Daniel Philpott–Both Sides of the Culture War Are Partially Wrong About Islam

One side, let us call them Islamoskeptics, will say that the attacks remind us of what only fools fail to perceive: Islam is a violent religion. Westerners who let down their guard or indulge hopes of a peaceful Islam are latter day Neville Chamberlains and invite further violence….

Who is right about Islam? This is the question I take up in Religious Freedom in Islam: The Fate of a Universal Human Right in the Muslim World Today, just published by Oxford University Press. There, I propose religious freedom as the yardstick for assessing whether Islam is peaceful and tolerant or violent and intolerant. A universal human right, religious freedom requires people and states to respect the beliefs and practices of those who espouse different answers to the ultimate questions of life, to accord them the full rights of citizenship, and to refrain from invidious discrimination against them. Religious freedom means that nobody pays a penalty for his or her religious beliefs. I pose this criterion for the world’s 47 (or so) states where Muslims are a majority. This is a good test, for in these states, Muslims possess the demographic power to carry out repression if that is what they wish. If freedom obtains here, then the Muslim world’s capacity for freedom is evidenced.

What results emerge? A landscape view shows that on average, Muslim-majority states are less free than the rest of the world and even less free than Christian-majority states. In the 2011 book, The Price of Freedom Denied, sociologists Brian J. Grim and Roger Finke document that 62% of Muslim-majority countries host a moderate to high level of persecution, in comparison with 60% of all other countries and 28% of Christian countries. More sharply, they show that 78% of Muslim-majority countries contain high levels of government restrictions on religion as compared to 43% of all other countries and 10% of Christian countries. Overall, the Muslim-majority world has a religious freedom problem.

A closer look at this world, however, reveals a more complex and hopeful picture. It turns out that 11, or 23%, of Muslim-majority states are religiously free according to a scale devised by the Pew Forum. These are too numerous to be outliers. In the other 36, or three-quarters, of Muslim-majority states that are not religiously free, Islam is not necessarily the reason for the lack. 15 states are “secular repressive,” meaning that they are governed by a regime that aspires to become a modern nation-state and is convinced that religion can only be a hindrance to this quest—an ideology borrowed from the French Revolution. Examples are Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Uzbekistan, and the other “stans” of Central Asian. True, the other 21 of these unfree states are “religiously repressive” because they are governed by an ideology of Islamism that calls for the imposition of a strict and traditional form of Islam by the state. While these states bear out Islam’s capacity for repression, they are 45%, or less than half, of the total. The French Revolution vies with the Iranian Revolution as the dominant form of repression in the Muslim world.

Both sides of the culture war, then, are partially right and partially wrong, at least on the criterion of religious freedom in today’s Muslim-majority states. That these states are religiously unfree in the aggregate supports Islamoskeptics; that they are diverse supports Islamopluralists. Both positions point to prescriptions. The dearth of religious freedom shows the need for its increase. The diversity in the Muslim world—the presence of some religiously free states, the fact some are unfree because of secularism, not Islam—shows the possibility of its increase. The case for its increase lies in justice. Religious freedom is a human right not only in the legal sense that it is articulated in the world’s major human rights conventions but also in the moral sense that it protects the dignity of persons and communities in their search for and expression of religious truth. Scholars also have shown that religious freedom fosters goods that Muslim states disproportionately lack, including democracy and equality for women, and reduces ills that these states disproportionately suffer, including terrorism, civil war, and poverty.

Read it all.

Posted in Globalization, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(Tablet) Liel Leibovitz–Are Jews no longer welcome in American universities?

When I immigrated to America, 20 years ago this fall, I had just over $2,000 in my pocket that I’d saved working as a night watchman at a factory back home in Israel. I also had an inflatable mattress on the floor of a friend’s one-bedroom in White Plains, New York, and a promise that I could stay for two weeks, maybe three, until I found a place of my own. But most importantly, I had a story about my future.

As soon as I woke up that first morning, I took the train to 116th and Broadway, got off, strolled through the gates of Columbia University, and stood there gazing at the bronze Alma Mater sculpture guarding the steps to Low Library. Her face was serene, her lap adorned by a thick book, and her arms open wide, to embrace, or so I imagined, folks like me who were reasonably smart and wildly motivated and ready to work as hard as was needed to make something of themselves. In a year, maybe two, I thought, I’d find my way into the ivied cloister, and when I emerged on the other end I’d no longer be just another impoverished newcomer: A Columbia degree would accredit me, would validate me and suggest to those around me, from members of my family to potential employers, that I was a man in full, worthy of my slice of the American pie.

It wasn’t a story I had made up on my own. It was, in many ways, the foundational story of American Jewish life in the 20th century. Surveying the student body in major American universities between 1911 and 1913, the newly founded intercollegiate Menorah Association discovered 400 Jews at Cornell, 325 at the University of Pennsylvania, and 160 at Harvard; by 1967, The New York Times reported that 40% of the student body in both Penn and Columbia were Jewish, with Yale, Harvard, and Cornell lagging behind with a mere 25%. For a minority that today is still just three or four generations removed from the deprivations of the old continent and that never rose much further above the 2% mark of the population at large, education—especially at renowned universities—was a magical wardrobe that led into a Narnia of possibilities. All you had to do was open the door.

Sadly, that door is now closing….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Education, History, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Young Adults

(Economist Erasmus Blog) For Western leaders, Ramadan is a time to reassure the world of Islam

The American president is not the only Western leader to have used the holy month to counter the impression of being hostile to Islam. In 2015, Canada’s then Conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper, became the first leader of his country to host an iftar: this was despite the widespread perception that his party was playing to anti-Muslim sentiment by, for example, banning face veils during citizenship ceremonies. His Liberal successor, Justin Trudeau, has been even warmer in his acknowledgement of Ramadan. In one of the first messages issued by a Western leader this year, he said the fast “honours the values at the heart of Islam, like compassion and service to others”.

In constitutionally secular France, the head of state could hardly stage anything remotely resembling a religious ritual in his own residence. But President Emmanuel Macron made a pointed gesture in 2017 by attending an iftar laid on by the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM). He said he wanted to thank Muslim leaders for their support in fighting terrorism. But they were disappointed when he failed to repeat the courtesy last year.

German politicians, too, know how to practise Ramadan diplomacy. In 2015, Chancellor Angela Merkel made a maiden appearance at the annual iftar hosted in Berlin by her foreign ministry. She wanted to make the point that the Muslim faith has a place in German life, despite statements to the contrary by members of her own coalition and challengers on the far-right. “It is obvious that Islam is a part of Germany,” she said, knowing that the statement was far from self-evident to many of her compatriots. Two years later, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, was invited to the German foreign ministry’s sundown dinner as part of a delicate rapprochement between Berlin and Tehran.

In Britain, where officially organised iftar meals and Ramadan wishes have been standard practice in recent years, the government was a bit slower than usual this year in wishing Muslims well for their month of abstinence. But Theresa May, the prime minister who like Mrs Merkel is a Christian cleric’s daughter, used her Twitter feed to observe that “Ramadan represents the universal values of peace, reflection, devotion and charity”….

Read it all.

Posted in Islam, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Easter Attacks Leave Muslims Shaken and in Fear of Reprisals

In the days after the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka, a group of local men gathered outside the home here of one of the bombers to establish what they called a neighborhood watch—and prevent the Muslim family inside from committing more terrorist acts.

Inside, the bomber’s family grappled with grief over what one of their own had done and fear that his actions could bring reprisals against their Muslim minority.

“It is very hard to face people because of what he did, even just going outside is difficult,” said a sister of the bomber, 22-year-old law-school graduate Ahamed Muath Alawudeen. As she spoke, cries of her distraught mother echoed off the tile floors of the spacious home in an upscale Colombo neighborhood.

Since the Islamic State-linked attacks killed more than 250 people at Sri Lankan churches and hotels, Muslims have reported getting detained in security sweeps for simply carrying the Quran. In other cases, they have been refused access to public buses and taxis. On Sunday night, an apparent car accident in the city of Negombo, the scene of one of the bombings, led to a clash between Muslims and non-Muslims, news reports showed.

Sri Lanka’s Muslims, who make up less than 10% of the island nation’s population, have seen lesser sparks turn into fury against them. Last year, in days of religious riots, mobs of Buddhist extremists targeted Muslims for beatings.

Security forces now deployed across the Sri Lankan capital to prevent more terrorist attacks are also on alert for sectarian reprisals.

Read it all.

Posted in Muslim-Christian relations, Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka, Terrorism

(Catholic Herald) Neo-paganism is at the dark heart of the alt-right movement

Katie McHugh, who gained fame as a provocateur of the white nationalist “alt-right,” has left the movement. In a recent interview, McHugh’s message to alt-right friends is “get out while you still can.”

The fascinating profile of her life took her down the rabbit hole of neo-paganism which lies at the dark heart of the movement. Like many lapsed Catholics, McHugh was attracted to aspects of the new paganism which has been steadily growing in post-Christian America. The new paganism is different from the old paganism in that it doesn’t have a thousand functionary gods yet, but like the old paganism, it does have a sacralized view of the world — and man, not God, is the measure of it.

A Catholic friend quoted in the profile reports that in 2014 McHugh had brought him neo-pagan reading materials while he was in the hospital. By some extraordinary grace, McHugh’s friend had the insight to give McHugh St Augustine’s devastating rebuttal of Roman paganism, The City of God Against the Pagans.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Theology, Wicca / paganism

(NR) Dealing with the Shock of an Evangelical Terrorist

So if the concern isn’t over theology — or any specific, known teaching of the church — then why the alarm bell?

It should warn us about our vulnerability. The shooting in Poway is a terrifying reminder that the church isn’t immune to any moral malady that stalks our land. It may land within the church with varying degrees of intensity and frequency, but it will land in the church. And as we see the spread of the very kind of online hate that seduced the Poway shooter, it’s incumbent upon the church to wake up and deal with this modern, deadly incarnation of the very old sin of white supremacy.

In 2015 and 2016, when my family was in the crosshairs of the alt-right — with my adopted daughter the subject of vile and vicious online memes — members of my church (and my Christian friends from across the nation) were shocked and appalled. The vast majority didn’t even know online communities such as 4chan or 8chan existed. Some were completely unfamiliar with terms such as “meme” or words like “sh**posting” or even “trolling.”

Even folks who were far more wise to the Internet’s ways assured me that there was no real risk. The sh**posters and trolls were in it for the “lulz,” the laughs. They just wanted to inflict — and mock — our family’s pain. In hindsight, that complacency was foolish.

Now we know. Now we have no excuse not to know. Among the many malevolent forces that stalk our children — including the children of the faithful — is a new form of an old evil.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Judaism, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(BBC) Anti-Semitism threatens Romania’s fragile Jewish community

Ugly scenes of smashed and toppled headstones at a Jewish cemetery in Romania have shocked the country’s dwindling Jewish community and prompted international condemnation.

Vandals badly damaged 73 gravestones in the north-eastern town of Husi earlier this month, amid a surge in anti-Semitic attacks across Europe.

“It’s a very disturbing event, but it’s nothing surprising,” said Maximillian Marco Katz, founding director of the Centre for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism in Romania.

“It shows that anti-Semitism is alive, it doesn’t matter who did it,” he told the BBC.

“They didn’t knock down two or three gravestones, they knocked down 73 gravestones – that takes some determination and it takes time.”

A criminal investigation has been opened.

Read it all.

Posted in Judaism, Religion & Culture, Romania

(ABC Aus.) Civil celebrants ‘doing it for love, not money’ amid calls for sector review

Wayne Rees will wear just about anything to a wedding, although he draws the line at going nude.

In his 25 years as a marriage celebrant in far north Queensland, he has wed couples while dressed in budgie smugglers, as Santa Claus and even as a Jedi knight.

“This couple were Star Wars fanatics and they said they always wanted to be married by a Jedi knight,” he said.

Read it all.

Posted in Australia / NZ, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Secularism

(Economist Erasmus Blog) Finding a new equilibrium after Christchurch won’t be easy

In response to all this, Muslim representatives frequently stress that the problem of Islamophobia (a term that remains contentious in many countries) is by no means confined to a far-rightist fringe. They insist that an anti-Muslim climate has been created by politicians much closer to the respectable centre-right, or in the French case by zealous advocates of the century-old doctrine of laïcité, or strict secularism.

At Birmingham Central Mosque, one of the leading places of Islamic worship in Britain, the initial reaction to New Zealand’s horror was one of inter-faith solidarity. Representatives of all local creeds gathered to offer sympathy and support. But mosque leaders say their people live daily with abuse, spitting, jostling and in the case of women, attempts to grab their scarves. Nassar Mahmood, a mosque trustee, says social peace in the city is challenged on many fronts. Reduced levels of policing (because of budget cuts) lead to a rise in petty crime that, he fears, may be blamed on Muslims. “We could very easily face attacks similar to those in New Zealand that would destabilise our social harmony,” he says. In the early hours of March 21st, five mosques in Birmingham were attacked with sledgehammers.

Salma Yaqoob, a local politician of the left who may be Birmingham’s best-known Muslim woman, has been adamant that the problem goes far beyond an extremist white-nationalist fringe. Her response to the New Zealand massacre was to “call out” mainstream Tory politicians who in her view played to the gallery with anti-Muslim innuendos.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Australia / NZ, Blogging & the Internet, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Violence

(PRC FactTank) The countries with the 10 largest Christian populations and the 10 largest Muslim populations

“Top 10” lists can often be helpful in displaying and illuminating data. For example, the two tables of countries with the largest Christian and Muslim populations featured here reveal differences in the concentration, diversity and projected changes in the world’s two largest religions.

The two lists show that the global Muslim population is more heavily concentrated in Islam’s main population centers than the global Christian population is for Christianity, which is more widely dispersed around the world. Indeed, about two-thirds (65%) of the world’s Muslims live in the countries with the 10 largest Muslim populations, while only 48% of the world’s Christians live in the countries with the 10 largest Christian populations.

Read it all.

Posted in Globalization, History, Islam, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

(Touchstone) Jacob Fareed Imam–Not Merely Islam: C. S. Lewis Assesses the Religion of Mohammed

Living in Christian Oxford as he did and dying in 1963, C. S. Lewis never directly witnessed the growing scale of Islamic immigration to the United Kingdom in the years after World War II. His exposure to Islam was more literary and intellectual than personal and actual.

Daily interactions between Muslims and Christians in Britain (and throughout the West) have increased vastly since Lewis’s time, yet mutual understanding has not grown with the same rapidity. Particularly now, as Islamic extremism threatens the West with yet another holy war, Christians must understand Islam apart from polemical analyses. Samuel Huntington argues in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (1996) that both of these world religions grew markedly in the twentieth century in large part because many tried to escape modernity and secularity in tradition-dependent claims to truth. Given that so many settled within these traditions, it would be interesting to examine what a major religious thinker of the time thought about the other religion.

Lewis, as one of the greatest Christian thinkers of the twentieth century and somewhat ahead of his time in his familiarity—albeit literary and intellectual—with things Islamic, may assist us in understanding Islam from a Christian perspective.

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Posted in Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Theology

(WSJ) After Mass Detentions, China Razes Muslim Communities to Build a Loyal City

In this old Silk Road city in western China, a state security campaign involving the detention of vast numbers of people has moved to its next stage: demolishing their neighborhoods and purging their culture.

Two years after authorities began rounding up Urumqi’s mostly Muslim ethnic Uighur residents, many of the anchors of Uighur life and identity are being uprooted. Empty mosques remain, while the shantytown homes that surrounded them have been replaced by glass towers and retail strips like many found across China.

Food stalls that sold fresh nang, the circular flatbread that is to Uighur society what baguettes are to the French, are gone. The young men that once baked the nang have disappeared, as have many of their customers. Uighur-language books are missing from store shelves in a city, the capital of China’s Xinjiang region, that has long been a center of the global Uighur community.

Supplanting the Turkic culture that long defined large parts of Urumqi is a sanitized version catering to Chinese tourists. On a recent morning in the Erdaoqiao neighborhood, the once-bustling heart of Uighur Urumqi, nang ovens were nowhere to be seen—but souvenir shops sold nang-shaped pocket mirrors, nang bottle openers and circular throw pillows with covers printed to look like nang.

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Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture

Archbishop of Canterbury: “Hatred of Muslims is blasphemy”

Much of what I was going to say has already been said. The killings in New Zealand are monstrous. The response of New Zealand, all its people, with Muslims in the forefront, is beautiful and inspiring. What they say to each other we say to you. Those who attack Muslims in THIS country or elsewhere attack every human being. You are not “the other”, you are us. Those who act out of hate for Muslims act out of hate for all here. Those who acted or supported the actions in New Zealand attack all of us.

For British Muslims who are feeling under threat, we are with you. Hatred of Muslims denies and blasphemes Christ. Those who co-opt Christian language and history for hatred commit blasphemy.

We will work with Bishops in the Church of England to see how we can be more effective in visible signs of togetherness.

We educate one million children in Church of England schools and have 8000 clergy. We will renew what we do in our Near Neighbours scheme. We will work with bishops to see how we can be more effective in dioceses.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Australia / NZ, Islam, Terrorism

(Post-Gazette) Pittsburgh Area Jewish group creates relief fund following massacre of Muslim faithful in New Zealand

With the shock still fresh and hearts still mending some five months after the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Squirrel Hill, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has set up a relief fund to help the Muslim community in the wake of another deadly hate crime.

The group is soliciting donations to the New Zealand Attack Emergency Relief Fund following Friday’s terror attack at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand that killed 50 people and injured dozens more.

“Show New Zealand and the world how we are all stronger together,” the federation said on its website.

The Jewish Federation is the charitable organization for the Jewish community around the world and has aided many people in crisis — from the earthquake in Haiti to the wildfires in California.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Australia / NZ, Islam, Judaism, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Terrorism, Violence

(NYT) W.S. Merwin, Poet of Life’s Evanescence, Dies at 91

Stylistically, Mr. Merwin’s mature work was known for metrical promiscuity; stark, sometimes epigrammatic language; and the frequent use of enjambment — the poetic device in which a phrase breaks over two consecutive lines, without intervening punctuation.

“It is as though the voice filters up to the reader like echoes from a very deep well, and yet it strikes his ear with a raw energy,” the poet and critic Laurence Lieberman wrote, discussing “The Lice,” a collection whose bitter contents were widely understood as a denunciation of the Vietnam War. He added:

“The poems must be read very slowly, since most of their uncanny power is hidden in overtones that must be listened for in silences between lines, and still stranger silences within lines.”

The themes that preoccupied Mr. Merwin most keenly were those that haunt nearly every poet: the earth, the sea and their myriad creatures; the cycle of the seasons; myth and spirituality (he was a practicing Buddhist); personal history and memory; and, above all, life and its damnable evanescence.

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Posted in Buddhism, Death / Burial / Funerals, Poetry & Literature

(NPR) After New Zealand Attacks, Muslim Americans Call For Action Against Rising Bigotry

As New Zealand grapples with the aftermath of the attack on two Muslim congregations in Christchurch, the mass shootings on the other side of the world have struck fear through Muslim American communities and renewed calls for action against the rise of bigotry in the U.S.

Muslim Americans urged political leaders, local officials and tech companies to confront the alarming spread of hate and racism that in recent years has led to scores of worshippers being slaughtered in religious institutions.

At a press conference in Washington, D.C., Friday, Council on American-Islamic Relations Executive Director Nihad Awad demanded President Trump unequivocally condemn the attacks, saying his words and policies “impact the lives of innocent people at home and globally.”

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Posted in Australia / NZ, Islam, Religion & Culture