FaithWorld

from The Great Debate:

Islam, terror and political correctness

-- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

The Islamic terrorists of the Bush era are gone. They have been replaced by violent extremists in a purge of the American government's political lexicon. Smart move in the propaganda war between al Qaeda and the West? Or evidence of political correctness taken to extremes?

Those questions are worth revisiting after the publication in February of two key documents issued by the administration of President Barack Obama, the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review. Both deal with what used to be called the Global War on Terror. Neither uses the words "Muslim" or "Islam."

The QDR says the United States is at war with al Qaeda and the Taliban, and speaks of the threat from "non-state actors" and terrorist networks. The Homeland Security Review identifies "al Qaeda and global violent extremism" as one of the main threats to the United States. No word on religion or al Qaeda's use of a twisted version of Islam to justify mass murder.

To some, this omission amounts to a dangerous failure to deal with the root of the problem, evidence of a mind-set determined to avoid the appearance of anti-Muslim bias even if that endangers national security. Such charges flew thick and fast after a Muslim army officer, Major Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly killed 12 fellow soldiers and an army civilian in a shooting spree last November at the Fort Hood military base, shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is greater) as he opened fire.

from Tales from the Trail:

Haiti … Too Much Suffering

QUAKE-HAITI/Having hurtled by car through the Dominican Republic to the ramshackle Haitian border, I and four other foreign journalists were desperate to reach Port-au-Prince by nightfall. So after exchanging Ramon's beaten-up taxi for the the back of a modern pickup owned by one of Haiti's elite families, our speed stresses were soon put into terrible perspective.

Just a mile or two into Haiti, a group of people stood disconsolately by the road, trying to flag down any vehicle that would stop, and pointing to the collapsed face of a nearby quarry. "There's someone inside there," one of them said, pointing to a pile of rocks.

Before we had time to even consider helping them, our car -- like all the others in the convoy -- had sped off, kicking up dust. The Haitians driving myself and four other foreign journalists into the earthquake zone took the morally nightmarish decision for us. After all, they had their own missing friends and family to find fast in Port-au-Prince.

What were the top religion news stories of 2009?

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Hindu lights Diwali candles in Agartala, India, 17 Oct 2009/Jayanta Dey

It’s Top 10 time again. As 2009 nears its end, Time magazine and the Religion Newswriters Association in the U.S. have produced their lists of the main religion news stories of the year. They take quite different views.

Time‘s list is quite broad, the top three being the advance of secularism in Europe, Pope Benedict’s invitation to conservative Anglicans and President Barack Obama’s decision to expand the faith-based office created by George Bush.

The RNA picked Obama’s Cairo address to the Muslim world as its top story, followed by the role of religious groups in the U.S. health care reform debate and the Fort Hood massacre allegedly carried out by an American Muslim officer.

Thoughts on Obama’s Nobel Theology Prize speech

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President Barack Obama in Oslo, 10 Dec 2009/John McConnico

If there were a Nobel Prize for Theology, large parts of President Barack Obama’s Oslo speech could be cut and pasted into an acceptance speech for it. The Peace Prize speech dealt with war and he made a clear case from the start for the use of force when necessary. While he began with political arguments for this position, his rationale took on an increasingly religious tone as the speech echoed faith leaders and theologians going back to the origins of Christianity.

It started with a hat-tip to Rev. Martin Luther King when he said “our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice” – echoes of King’s 25 March 1965 Montgomery speech saying “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Obama then went into the “just war” theory that says war is justified only if it is a last resort or self-defense, if force is proportional to the threat and civilians are spared if possible. This is a classic Christian doctrine elaborated by Saint Augustine in the fifth century and then by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th. In 2003, Pope John Paul II used this doctrine to justify his opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Obama noted that this doctrine was “rarely observed” but called for new ways of thinking “about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace … Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct.”

from Tales from the Trail:

American Muslims are fierce patriots, Obama says

President Barack Obama can duck a question with the best of them, but when he was asked about the arrest in Pakistan of five allegedly home-grown U.S. jihadists, he seized the opportunity to damp down a potential backlash against American Muslims and praised the community for its "fierce patriotism."
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"What has been remarkable over the course of the last eight, nine years since 9/11 is the degree to which America has reaffirmed the extraordinary contributions of the Muslim American community," he told a brief press conference during his Nobel Peace Prize visit to Oslo.

Pakistani officials said the five young men, students in their 20's from northern Virginia who were detained in a city called Sargodha to the southeast of the capital Islamabad, appear to have been intent on "jihad."

from Tales from the Trail:

Has abortion role been overblown in U.S. healthcare debate?

A new poll by the Pew Research Center and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life suggests that concern about federal funding for abortion is very low on the list of factors driving opposition to President Barack Obama's effort to overhaul America's healthcare system.

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The results of the poll, released on Thursday, show that just 3 percent of healthcare opponents cited abortion funding as their main reason for opposing congressional healthcare proposals.

The biggest reasons, cited by 27 percent of respondents to an open-ended question about their opposition, were that the overhaul would be too expensive and lead to higher deficits and taxes. Another 27 percent said they did not want government involvement in healthcare.

from Tales from the Trail:

Hawaii’s favorite son commemorates its new saint

Father Damien de Veuster, one of Hawaii's most revered figures, was remembered on Friday by the state's most famous -- U.S. President Barack Obama.

The 19th century Roman Catholic priest from Belgium cared for people with leprosy, also known as Hansen's Disease, who had been placed in government-sanctioned quarantine on the Hawaiian island of Molokai.

Father Damien, who eventually contracted the disease and died of it at age 49, is honored around the world as the "leper priest." He is also considered a patron saint of those who suffer from HIV/AIDS and other diseases.POPE

Obama’s Nobel citation speaks of shared values – is hope on top?

obama-at-unThe statement announcing the Nobel Peace Prize for U.S. President Barack Obama says that “his diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population”. (Photo: Obama at the United Nations, 23Sept 2009/Kevin Lamarque)

Is there actually a set of values and attitudes shared by most people around the world? It would be interesting to know exactly what the Norwegian Nobel Committee meant by this. Are they talking about some vague form of world political consensus or even global ethics? The citation text mentions Obama’s “vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons” and his preference multilateral diplomacy, dialogue and negotiations. But none of these efforts has yet borne much fruit.

The citation also mentioned the “hope for the future” it said Obama has given the world. Hope is a powerful force, both in personal and political life. In the Christian tradition, it’s a theological virtue as important as faith and love. And it is a key element of the Obama “yes we can” message.

U.S. Religious Left campaigns for climate change legislation

The U.S. “Religious Left” — which has been active at the grassroots level to support President Barack Obama’s drive for health care reform – has now launched a campaign in support his other major domestic initiative: climate change legislation.

Faithful America, a coalition of progressive evangelical, Catholic, mainline Protestant and Jewish groups, unveiled a video on Thursday urging viewers to “TELL CONGRESS: STOP CLIMATE CHANGE AND ITS EFFECTS.” The campaign is called Day Six.

You can see the video below:

 

A climate bill aimed at reducing America’s emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming is being crafted in the U.S. Senate. The House of Representatives earlier this year passed its own version.

Useful Pew backgrounder on faith and U.S. healthcare debate

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has released a useful backgrounder on the role of faith groups in the increasingly bitter and partisan U.S. healthcare debate. You can read it here.

The report focuses on the two large faith-based coalitions that have emerged on opposite sides of the political struggle to overhaul America’s system of healthcare, which is President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority.

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Faith for Health, is a broad coalition of self-described progressive groups that strongly supports Obama’s reform drive. It  includes mainline and evangelical Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists and Jews.