FaithWorld

from The Human Impact:

Burmese journalist beseeches brethren: Stop with the Muslim hate speech

The slight, soft-spoken woman onstage called on the media and the rest of the country to let go of narrow-minded nationalism.

“This is a time to fight for democratisation. We have to respect each and every ethnic (group) as a human being,” beseeched Mon Mon Myat, whose meek bearing veils her ferocity as a powerful freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker.

It was refreshing to hear these words in a public forum in Myanmar because - let’s face it - such sentiments have been sorely lacking.

Since religious conflict erupted June 2012, killing at least 240 people and displacing more than 140,000, mostly Muslims, Myanmar has been engulfed in hate speech.

Vitriolic and inflammatory comments targeting Muslims, who make up a small fraction of the country, have become worryingly common on blogs, web forums and Facebook pages. Internet access is low - some estimates say only 0.2 percent of the population is online - but young people, as well as a large Burmese diaspora worldwide, are increasingly using social media to share news and opinions.

from Reihan Salam:

Boston and the future of Islam in America

One of the central questions surrounding the Boston Marathon bombings is whether they portend a larger wave of terror attacks by homegrown Islamic radicals. The culprits, two brothers of Chechen origin, one of whom was a naturalized U.S. citizen, had both lived in the country for more than a decade. While the older brother is reported to have been sullen, resentful and ill at ease in his adopted country, the younger brother was by all accounts a well-mannered kid, whose main vice was marijuana. Many fear that if these two men could turn viciously against the country that gave them refuge, the same might be true of at least some small number of their co-religionists.

I grew up in a Muslim household in New York City’s polyglot outer boroughs, and the Tsarnaev brothers strike me, in broad outline, as recognizable figures. The younger brother’s Twitter feed, which has attracted wide attention, reads like dispatches from the collective id of at least a quarter of my high school classmates. Also recognizable is the brothers’ lower-middle-class but gentrifying Cambridge milieu, which bears a strong resemblance to the neighborhood in which I was raised. So like many Americans of Muslim origin, I’ve been struggling to understand what exactly went wrong in their heads. How could a “douchebag” and a “stoner” ‑ and here I’m paraphrasing the words of the Tsarnaev brothers’ acquaintances and friends ‑ have committed one of the most gruesome terror attacks in modern American history? We might never have a good answer to this question, and certainly won’t have a good answer anytime soon. But what we can do is get a sense of what we do and don’t know about U.S. Muslims, and what it might mean for our future.

Although I can’t claim to be representative of U.S. Muslims as a whole, my experience leads me to believe that America’s Muslim community will grow more secular over time. My parents are originally from Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority country of 150 million that is currently in the throes of a violent clash over the role of Islam in public life. While Bangladesh has made impressive strides in a number of social indicators in recent decades, its poverty has sent large numbers of migrants to India, the Persian Gulf, Europe, Southeast Asia and, over the past two decades in particular, the United States.

Al Shabaab recruited dozens of Americans: U.S. report

An al Qaeda-affiliated group in Somalia, al Shabaab, has recruited more than 40 Muslim Americans to its battle in the war-ravaged country and at least 15 have been killed, a congressional report said on Wednesday.

U.S. officials have become increasingly worried about the group, particularly after capturing an al Shabaab commander who had allegedly been a liaison with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an active Yemeni group that has tried to strike the United States.

So far, al Shabaab has conducted only limited attacks outside of Somalia, notably the twin bombings in Uganda that killed 79 people watching the World Cup final last year. The group has waged a long, violent battle to control Somalia.

Dutch vote to ban ritual animal slaughter, Jews and Muslims unite in protest

(Marianne Thieme, leader of the Dutch Animal Rights Party, at a goat farm in Amstelveen, the Netherlands, December 11, 2006/Koen van Weel )

The Dutch parliament voted on Tuesday to ban ritual slaughter of animals, a move strongly opposed by the country’s Muslim and Jewish minorities, but left a loophole that might let religious butchering continue. The bill by the small Animal Rights Party, the first such group in Europe to win seats in a national parliament, passed the lower house of parliament by 116 votes to 30. It must be approved by the upper house before becoming law. It stipulates that livestock must be stunned before being slaughtered, contrary to the Muslim halal and Jewish kosher laws that require animals to be fully conscious.

“This way of killing causes unnecessary pain to animals. Religious freedom cannot be unlimited,” said Marianne Thieme, head of the Animal Rights Party, said before the vote. “For us religious freedom stops where human or animal suffering begins.”

Evangelical Christians from Global South see expanding influence

Prisoners attend a cult meeting presided over by Evangelical pastor Marcos in Rio. 30 October 2009

A survey of evangelical Christian leaders found a Global North-South split on how they see their prospects.

The 2010 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life revealed optimism among 58 percent of evangelical leaders in the Global South – sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East/North Africa, Latin America and most of Asia. But 66 percent of leader in Europe, North America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand tended to be pessimistic about evangelicals’ influence on society. 

from Photographers' Blog:

Srebrenica: The story that will never end

I've been to more than one hundred mass graves, mass funerals and witnessed the long, exhaustive process of victim identification. I took pictures of bones found in caves and rivers, taken from mud, recovered from woods and mines or just left by the road.

Most of these terrible assignments were around the small, used to be forgotten at-the-end-of-the-road town called Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia.

The international criminal court said the most terrible crimes of genocide were committed in Srebrenica area when the Bosnian Serb forces massacred thousands of Muslims after the enclave, ironically under U.N. protection as a safe heaven, was overrun by an army led by its ruthless commander.

Youth volunteers sought for campaign against bigotry

PALESTINIANS-ISRAEL/Two U.S. State Department employees — one who speaks out against anti-Semitism, the other against Islamaphobia – have teamed up to promote a global campaign to get young people to combat racial, ethnic and religious bigotry by volunteering their time for people unlike them.

“For instance, a young Jewish person could volunteer five hours at a clinic that services a Muslim community. Or a Muslim could volunteer several hours to read books to a Christian pre-school. The list goes on and on,” said Hanna Rosenthal, the State Department’s special envoy focused on anti-Semitism.

The campaign, “2011 Hours Against Hate,” grew out of Rosenthal’s friendship with Farah Pandith, the State Department’s special representative to Muslim Communities. Attending a conference two years ago in Kazakhstan, the two arranged to swap speeches decrying hatred against Jews and Muslims, catching the the ear of conferees.

Israeli rabbis tell Jews not to sell homes to Arabs, Netanyahu disagrees (updated)

settlement (Photo: A sign advertising apartments for sale in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim near Jerusalem March 2, 2009/Ammar Awad)

Dozens of Israeli rabbis, some of them civil servants, issued an appeal on Tuesday telling locals not to sell or rent property to non-Jews, drawing condemnation from lawmakers and human rights activists. The open letter underscored Jewish-Arab tensions that have deepened along with Israel’s deadlocked Palestinian conflict, as well as more recent demographic fears triggered by an influx of illegal African migrants.

“The land of Israel is intended for the people of Israel,” Yosef Shainin, chief rabbi of the southern port city of Ashdod and one of the 41 signatories, told Israel’s Army Radio when asked about the letter.

Obtained by Reuters ahead of its planned publication in synagogues and religious journals, the letter quotes warnings by ancient sages that living with non-Jews can lead to “sacrilege.” Other concerns for property values are also raised. Another signatory, Chief Rabbi Mordechai Nagari from the Maale Adumim settlement, said: “If you allow Arabs into Jewish neighborhoods, you are asking for feuds to ensue.”

from The Great Debate:

Islamophobia and a German central banker

How do you reconcile the traditions of many Muslim immigrants with the freedoms and values of 21st century Western Europe?

It's a question that has led to periodic outbursts of vigorous debate from France to Holland and Switzerland. In Germany, the discussion has been relatively subdued. Until now.

Why? A passage in a book considered so unsettling that its author, Thilo Sarrazin, was forced to resign from the board of Germany's central bank this month, provides part of the answer.

German central banker in row over Muslims and Jews resigns

sarrazin quits (Photo: Protestsers call Sarrazin a racist before his public reading in Potsdam, September 9, 2010/Fabrizio Bensch)

A German central bank board member who caused outrage with remarks about Muslim immigrants and Jews resigned on Thursday after coming under pressure from political leaders including Chancellor Angela Merkel. The Bundesbank said Thilo Sarrazin, 65, who accused Turks and Arabs of exploiting the welfare state, refusing to integrate and lowering the average intelligence, would leave his post at the end of the month.

Sarrazin confirmed he had stepped down during a book reading in Potsdam near Berlin. “I found it too risky in the current atmosphere … to stand up to the entire political and media establishment. That would be presumptuous and would not have worked,” he said. “So, a strategic retreat and now (I will) work on the topics that are important to me.”

He had already been relieved of some of his central bank responsibilities over remarks he made last year about immigrants but the strict independence of the central bank made it difficult to have him removed.