FaithWorld

“The Jury is Out”: WikiLeaks shows U.S. trying to understand Islam in Turkey

turkey 3 (Photo: A commuter ferry sails past the Blue Mosque in Istanbul September 4, 2010/Osman Orsal)

The WikiLeaks documents from the U.S. embassy in Ankara show several attempts by American diplomats to understand the role of Islam and the Islamic world in the political stand of the governing AK Party of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. Their efforts can be summarised in a subtitle of a cable in 2007 purporting to show “the truth behind the AKP’s “secret Islamic agenda.” It said simply: The Jury is Out.”

Following are some interesting excerpts, with links to the full documents:

20 Jan 2010 — WHAT LIES BENEATH ANKARA’S NEW FOREIGN POLICY

1. (C) There is much talk in chanceries and in the international media these days about Turkey’s new, highly activist foreign policy …  The ruling AKP foreign policy is driven by both a desire to be more independently activist, and by a more Islamic orientation…

turkey 52. (C) Does all this mean that the country is becoming more focused on the Islamist world and its Muslim tradition in its foreign policy? Absolutely. Does it mean that it is “abandoning” or wants to abandon its traditional Western orientation and willingness to cooperate with us? Absolutely not. At the end of the day we will have to live with a Turkey whose population is propelling much of what we see …  Turkey will remain a complicated blend of world class “Western” institutions, competencies, and orientation, and Middle Eastern culture and religion. (Photo: Coffin wrapped in Turkish and Islamic banners at Istanbul funeral on June 3, 2010 for activist killed when Israeli commandos stormed Turkish ship trying to take aid to Gaza/Osman Orsal)

9. (C) Various factors explain the shifts we see in Turkish foreign policy beyond the personal views of the AKP leadership:

– Islamisation: As reported REF B, religiosity has been increasing in Turkey in past years, just as has been seen in many other Muslim societies. The AKP is both a beneficiary of, and a stimulus for, this phenomenon. However, bitter opposition within Turkey against domestic “pro-Islamic” reforms (e.g., head scarves) has frustrated the AKP, and a more “Islamic” or “Middle Eastern” foreign policy offers an alternative sop for the AKP’s devout base…
11. (C) Nevertheless, many in Turkey’s large Westernised elite see the Islamic Outreach as a complement to the alleged AKP plan to Islamise Turkish society, and complain bitterly about their country’s losing its Western moorings. The nationalist segment in Turkey, mobilised most by the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), sees the AKP’s compromises on Armenia, the KRG in northern Iraq, Cyprus, etc, as a betrayal of diaspora “Turks” (the Iraqi Turkomen, Azeris, Turkish Cypriots, etc) and charges that the AKP is trying to replace
the Republic’s organising principle of “Turkism” with the broader Islamic “Umma” …
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21 March 2007 — THE TRUTH BEHIND THE AKP’S “SECRET ISLAMIC AGENDA”

California megachurch seeks bankruptcy protection

crystal one (Photo: Crystal Cathedral, 21 June 2005/Nepenthes)

The Southern California megachurch founded by televangelist Robert Schuller filed for bankruptcy court protection, saying a number of creditors had opted not to prolong a moratorium on debt payments.

Crystal Cathedral Ministries, best known for its weekly “Hour of Power” television program that it claims has 20 million viewers, listed assets and debts of between $50 million and $100 million each, according to documents filed on Monday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Santa Ana, California. Its largest creditors include several U.S. television stations.

Hundreds of U.S. churches have defaulted on loans and even filed for bankruptcy as they struggle to pay debts leftover from a historic building boom now that a deep economic downturn has cut into offerings. Financial woes have hit many large congregrations, from Without Walls International Church of Florida to Shore Christian Center in New Jersey, which filed for bankruptcy.

Many Tea Partiers part of religious right: study

tea party (Photo: Tea Party member Ellie Mels at a Tea Party Fair in Charlotte, Michigan July 24, 2010/Rebecca Cook)

Many supporters of the conservative Tea Party movement that has shaken up politics share the same views as the Christian right on social issues like abortion and the role of religion in public life, according to a poll released on Tuesday.

While the loosely organized Tea Party movement has focused largely on shrinking the size of government and other fiscal issues, its backers are more likely to support government restrictions on gay marriage and other social issues, the Public Religion Research Institute found in its American Values Survey.

The survey found significant overlap between the Tea Party, made up mostly of Republicans, and the religious right, which has played a significant political role for decades.

In the U.S., marriage is for better and for worse, but with a prenup

marriageAmericans are taking a cautious approach to marriage and are seeking more prenuptial agreements before walking down the aisle. And it is not just the wealthy and famous who are looking to safeguard their assets when a marriage crumbles.

More women and middle-class couples are opting for prenups, which can also include adultery clauses, protection of retirement benefits and even custody of the dog, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), which represents more than 1600 lawyers. (Photo:  A couple at a group wedding ceremony at the Shanghai World Expo, May 11, 2010/Aly Song)

A couple participates in a group wedding ceremony hosted by the French Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo May 11, 2010.

U.S. monitoring 11 sites for possible discrimination against Muslims

anti-mosque (Photo: Rally against proposed Muslim cultural center and mosque near World Trade Center site in New York ,August 22, 2010./Jessica Rinaldi)

The U.S. Justice Department has said it is monitoring 11 cases of potential land-use discrimination against Muslims, a sharp increase in cases under a federal law designed to protect religious minorities in zoning disputes.

In a report on discrimination against mosques, synagogues, churches and other religious sites, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said on Tuesday it has monitored 18 cases of possible bias against Muslims over the past 10 years.

Eight of those have been opened since May, around the time when plans for a Muslim community center and mosque near the former site of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan seized media attention and caused a national political uproar. “This fact is a sober reminder that, even in the 21st century, challenges to true religious liberty remain,” the report said.

FBI tells US Mohammed cartoonist to ‘go ghost’ – report

prophet (Photo: Banner at demonstration in Kuala Lumpur against a cartoon of Prophet Mohammed March 26, 2010/Bazuki Muhammad)

A Seattle cartoonist who stirred up a religious storm with a tongue-in-cheek encouragement to draw images of the Muslim prophet Mohammed has gone into hiding after a threat to her safety.

Cartoonist Molly Norris, who published an illustration in April on her website entitled “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,” was told by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation to “go ghost,” according to Seattle Weekly, where Morris was a regular contributor.

“On the insistence of top security specialists at the FBI,” Norris is “moving, changing her name and essentially wiping away her identity,” a Seattle Weekly report said on Thursday.

Obama says not worried by “rumors” that he is a Muslim

obamaA public opinion poll showing Americans are increasingly convinced, wrongly, that he is Muslim does not trouble him, President Barack Obama said on Sunday.

“It’s not something that I can, I think, spend all my time worrying about it,” Obama said in an interview with NBC News, dismissing the results of a recent Pew Research Center survey. (Photo: President Barack Obama in New Orleans, August 29, 2010/Jim Young)

“I’m not going to be worrying too much about whatever rumors are floating out there. If I spend all my time chasing after that, then I wouldn’t get much done,” he said in the interview (NBC video here — these comments start at 08:33)

from The Great Debate:

America’s trouble with Islam

Of the many posters held aloft in angry demonstrations about plans for an Islamic cultural centre and mosque in New York, one in particular is worth noting: "All I ever need to know about Islam, I learned on 9/11."

As an example of wilful ignorance, it's in a class by itself. It passes judgment, in just 12 words, about a sprawling universe of 1.3 billion adherents of Islam (in 57 countries around the world) who come from different cultures, speak a wide variety of languages, follow different customs, hold different nationalities and believe in different interpretations of their faith, just like Christians or Jews. Suicidal murderers are a destructive but tiny minority.

But for the people waving all-I-ever-need-to-know posters in front of national television cameras two blocks from "ground zero," site of the biggest mass murder in American history, Islam equals terrorism. No need for nuance, no need for learning, no need for building bridges between the faiths. The mindset epitomized by the slogan mirrors the radical fringe of Islamic thought, equally doubt-free and self-righteous.

NY Islam uproar shows lack of Muslim leaders, prompts more interfaith support

center support 2 (Photo: Demonstrators for and against the proposed Muslim cultural center and mosque in front of the site in New York, August 25, 2010/Lucas Jackson)

Among the most visible supporters of a proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque near the World Trade Center site have been the city’s Jewish mayor and a libertarian congressman from faraway Texas.

Notably absent from the controversy has been a nationally recognizable Muslim American leader in the style of the late Martin Luther King Jr. who spoke for blacks in the civil rights movement, Cesar Chavez who represented Latino migrant workers or, however briefly, Harvey Milk who stood up for gay rights.

Muslim scholars and political groups have spoken up forcefully in defense of the proposed $100 million cultural center, saying it should be protected by basic tolerance and the constitutional right to freedom of religion. But the Muslim statements have failed to capture national attention, much the way their repeated condemnations of terrorism and specific attacks by Islamist extremists have failed to reverberate in the American consciousness.

Tiger Woods promises to wear Buddhist bracelet forever

tiger woods

Tiger Woods pauses while delivering a statement after admitting cheating on his wife and taking a break from golf, 19 Feb 2010/Sam Greenwood

Rehabilitation and religion were the two themes Tiger Woods was most open about discussing in his first television interviews Sunday since revelations about his marriage infidelities emerged last November.  Woods has long been connected to Buddhism through his Thai mother and he said his detachment from the religion had been behind his fall from grace.

“Going against your core values, losing sight of it,” he said when asked how he lost control of his life. “I quit meditating, I quit being a Buddhist, and my life changed upside down.  I felt entitled, which I had never felt before. Consequently, I hurt so many people by my own reckless attitude and behavior.”