by: Lubna Qureshi on May 11th, 2015 | No Comments »
On Sunday, May 3rd two gunmen were shot dead as they opened fire at the security guard, outside the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland Texas where, “Draw Muhammad” art contest was in progress. The gunmen planned to commit a heinous act of terrorism and in its pursuit shot the security guard on duty. The intended act of terrorism is as despicable as it can be so is the caricature drawing contest organized by the American Freedom Defense Initiative. Though Pamela Geller, the executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, exercised her legal right of freedom of expression yet her expression was not free from malice and spite towards Muslims.Of course, no one can stop anyone from practicing the First Amendment and the right to free speech. We Americans cherish the freedom to say what’s on our mind. However, freedom of expression becomes questionable when it focuses on maligning the faith or religious beliefs of any one, and in this case, 1.6 billion Muslims around the world.
Many argue that the cartoon contest was an innocent art event, with a glitzy prize of $10,000, where artists from around the nation gathered to exhibit their artistic talents. Some state that mere caricatures of the Prophet of Islam should not offend anyone since it’s just ink on the paper. Yet many fail to understand why the cartoon depiction of Prophet Muhammad is so upsetting to the practicing Muslims. Therefore it is essential to understand the logic that fosters the high standard of devotion and loyalty.
by: Jeff Vogel on May 9th, 2015 | 6 Comments »
Oil and finance executives will hide the truth about their products for as long as we let them. These religious extremists worship the false idol of money. Above, a flare at an ExxonMobil oil refinery. Credit: CreativeCommons / Kristian Dela Cour.
We live in an age of terrifying high-definition spectacles, with beheadings and massacres some of the horrors that fill us all with fear and dread.
These gruesome spectacles have profound side effects on our perspective. They obscure the brutality and terror caused by our bombs and drones and they distract our attention from those predators who cause suffering on a far grander scale than any jihadists.
These grander predators wear power suits. They run our largest banks and corporations. They run them recklessly. The financial industry frauds that nearly collapsed the world’s economy left behind, according to the best estimates, at least 5,000 suicides, to say nothing of the millions of people who lost their jobs and homes. We have auto industry execs who value profit over safety, defense contractors who pound the drums for military engagement, private prison company chiefs who lobby to keep their cells full.
I consider all these power suits religious extremists. They worship money.
by: Edith Lutz on May 8th, 2015 | 3 Comments »
The perennially increasing military budgets of world powers have resulted in unprecedented militarization, in the middle of which often sits Israel. Peace, on the other hand, is a child of nonviolent communication and empathy. Credit: CreativeCommons / Palestine Solidarity Project.
Promoting the capacity for empathy and supporting measures that help to develop empathy would be the better way to pave the path towards peace in the Middle East — and perhaps the only viable one.
It would certainly be a cheaper one. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) the total sum of the world’s military expenditures in 2014 amounted to 1,776 billion dollars. With $610 billion, the United States was far and away at the top of the league. The U.S.A. exported armaments worth more than $20 billion, making it the world’s leading exporter, too. In some cases the United States is very generous and offers additional military aid (supporting their own killing industry in the process). Israel, for example, is such a beneficiary. It receives military aid of about $3 billion annually. The U.S. has also helped with additional aid in special cases, such as the funding of the Iron Drone project with $429 million in March 2014 or with $576 million for the Tamir interception missiles in July 2014 (Haaretz,10 March/18 Aug 2014). Egypt is the second-largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. “In the interest of U.S. national security” and despite the protests of human rights activists, the States is going to resume its frozen military aid. President Obama has asked the Congress for $1.3 billion in military aid for Egypt per year. (Reuters)
Within two of the most prominent monotheistic religions in the world, Judaism and Islam, tradition dictates it blasphemous and highly insulting for any person to physically depict their G*d in Judaism, and the Prophet Muhammad in Islam, even positively or respectfully. So why then did the so-called American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) and its leader, anti-Islam activist Pam Geller, organize their “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, a small suburb near Dallas? Geller offered a $10,000 prize to be awarded for the “best” cartoon caricature of Muhammad.
According to Geller, as well as the invited keynote speaker, far-right politician Geert Wilders, head of the Dutch Freedom Party, the event was called as an exercise in free speech. Evidently, Geller chose the site in reaction to a pro-Islam gathering, “Stand with the Prophet” held there last January. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which follows extremist hate groups, defines AFDI as an extremist right-wing organization.
by: Lubna Qureshi on April 28th, 2015 | 4 Comments »
The American Freedom Defense Initiative is continually allowed to run such repulsive ads as the one above. But free speech, when based on religious hatred, is detrimental to the morals of a society as a whole. Credit: CreativeCommons / OneCitizenSpeaking.com.
A recent ruling by a federal judge permitted the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) to display hateful advertisements on New York subway cars and buses. The tasteless ads relate the killing of Jews to Islamic teachings. This is nothing new for the AFDI. Since its inception in 2010, the AFDI has taken it upon itself to promote hateful advertisement by maligning the religious teachings of Islam under the flag of free speech. Pamela Geller, the self-proclaimed Islamophobe, organized the ad campaign. However, Geller fails to comprehend the long term consequences of the hate messages that may incite more anger and detestation in an already turbulent landscape. Although AFDI claims to exercise its right to free speech, it fails to realize the responsibilities that come with practicing the first amendment. The neglect of such responsibilities may be more harmful than even imagined.
by: Claire Curran on April 25th, 2015 | 1 Comment »
People of faith aren’t just waking up to the climate crisis, they’re leading the way. Across the country, people are bringing the wisdom of their faith traditions to their work on climate change because they know they’re better together. They know its not just about individual faith communities lowering their carbon footprints, its about collaborating around shared values, and building the world they know is possible in practical and systematic ways. Check out these five inspiring stories and then consider how you can be Better Together.
1. Standing Up for Socially just Solar
People of faith in Minneapolis were excited about promoting solar in their faith communities, but as they started to look at the details, it became clear that community solar gardens were not going to be accessible to low income communities. A team of solar developers, contractors, faith leaders, business owners, and college students, representing diverse faith traditions came together design a community solar garden that is accessible to all.
by: Tim Brauhn on April 24th, 2015 | No Comments »
I took Interfaith Youth Core up on their challenge for Better Together Day on April 14th and reached out to others of faith or philosophical tradition to have a conversation about what they believe and what values inspire them to do good in the world. I did this because I believe that when it comes to religion, we’re too often told that our differences define us. I’m for fixing that. Join me.
I’m a Catholic. For the past nearly-decade, in my work as an interfaith leader and through my job at Islamic Networks Group, I’ve been lucky to meet a huge variety of non-Catholics. I’m talking denominations and sects and sub-sects and sub-sub-sects of faiths from all around the world, and even a few who believe that they are from another planet. Many of these interactions have been casual, unremarkable even, but on occasion, I’ve found myself challenging my own stereotypes and misperceptions about other faiths.
by: Patrick M. Johnson on April 21st, 2015 | No Comments »
Blogs and social media have made it possible for isolated and discriminated-against people of faith to safely contend with the messages they encounter within religious discourse.
When you grow up in a religious environment, it has the potential to become a large part of your identity. It should be noted here that this is not the case for all people raised within a religious household, however it has the potential to become a way to identify yourself within society, as well as to help shape and form your moral and ethical guidelines and views of the world. However, this can occasionally conflict with other aspects of your identity, particularly when one identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community.
While there are religious denominations and beliefs that are very accepting of those within the LGBTQ community — the Unitarian and Episcopalian Churches are prime examples — this is not the case with all religious beliefs. While there is sometimes an easy knee-jerk reaction to proclaim that those who identify as homosexual should just switch their beliefs to a sect that is accepting (an opinion I have seen stated in more than one discussion about this topic), that is not always desired, as the core beliefs that come along with religious convictions are not (and should not) be that easily swayed. This represents the common way this debate is usually framed (especially among non-religious individuals or among LGBTQ individuals who are religious but belong to a very accepting church, such as Unitarian), which is the question, “How can you believe in a religion that doesn’t accept or tolerate your lifestyle?” It is seen as much easier to simply find a religion that fits your life and modify your beliefs to mold to that, rather than live in a state of cognitive dissonance where you know that your life and your religious beliefs are (at least on occasion) at odds with one another.
by: Aryeh Cohen on April 20th, 2015 | 1 Comment »
We are on a journey. This period that we are now moving through, the seven weeks that start on the second day of Passover and end at Shavuot or Weeks, the next holiday in the calendrical cycle, is a journey from Egypt to Sinai. It is deeply symbolic that as the first day of Passover was waning this year, we were marking the 47th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This year that anniversary was marked amidst the outcries of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, amidst the sounds of gunshots and the cries of unarmed black and brown men killed by officers of the law, of the state.
We are on a journey—but where are we going?
We know where we are coming from. We are coming from the Egypt of the three evils, as Dr. King described them, racism, poverty, and militarism. As the Yiddish proverb goes: any place can be your Egypt, any place can be your Promised Land. Today in the United States we are facing these same interrelated issues. Poverty overwhemingly impacts communities of color. Communities of color are impoverished by mass incarceration. The United States incarcerates more people than any country in the world. Those people are then barred from the right to vote, have a harder time getting housing, or a job. As Michelle Alexander has argued, this is the new method of social control, of racist social control. A new Jim Crow in impact even if not in explicit intention. The police and incarceration regime are more and more militarized. While there are exceptions, the pictures that the whole world saw of police officers in Ferguson, MO in camouflage uniforms pointing assault weapons at unarmed civilians, is more often than not the rule.
Craig Wiesner and Derrick Kikuchi are co-founders of Reach And Teach and manage Tikkun/NSP web operations.
As we waited to check our luggage and get our boarding passes at the Charlotte NC airport we watched as couple after couple got to the counter, handed over their tickets, chatted with the agent, and then went on their way to their gates.
All seemed normal.
Then, when we stepped up to the counter, the agent looked at me and said “You, get back in line!” Pointing at my travel mate, and husband, I responded “We’re together.” She very loudly said “No. You have to come up here separately.” I responded quietly “You’ve had couple after couple come up here and check their bags and get their boarding passes.” She boomed out “You ARE NOT a couple.” “Yes, we are.” “Not in my line you’re not.” She then asked me if I wanted to travel at all that day, because if I didn’t get back in line she would make sure I didn’t fly anywhere that day.
This was around 20 years ago. Humiliated and near tears, I quietly stepped away from the counter while my husband checked his bag.