WASHINGTON – Many conservative Christians have long regarded the media as enemy territory, where traditional values are at best misunderstood and often mocked. So you might think they would relate sympathetically to Muslim outrage over the Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban. That outrage has sparked violent protests throughout the Islamic world. But concerns about the goals of radical Islamic leaders, a sense that a double standard pervades the Muslim media and a general distaste for organized violence have overridden any empathy most Christian conservatives might feel for angry Muslims. “Unfortunately, the protesters are hinting that the cartoonist might have been right,” said the Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. “They’re killing fellow Muslims and destroying property. Maybe the radical protests are validating the cartoon instead of proving that cartoon wrong.” No Christian leader ever espoused violence to retaliate against Piss Christ, the controversial 1989 artwork — a photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine — by Andres Serrano, even though that riled many Christians, noted Gary Bauer, president of American Values and a longtime leader among religious conservatives. “I understand why any religious person would get upset if they think their faith is disparaged in a drawing or a cartoon,” Bauer said. “But… how can (the cartoons) engender a greater emotional reaction than the daily bombings and attacks by groups claiming to do them in the name of Allah? “It doesn’t look like a call for respect,” Bauer concluded of the Muslims’ protests. “It looks like a call for submission.” Indeed, many evangelical Christians see militant Islam replacing communism as the greatest global threat, said Allen Hertzke, professor of political science and director of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma. “They see this phenomenon as part of an orchestrated effort by what they call Islamo-fascists to take over the Islamic world,” Hertzke said. Then there’s the apparent double standard for acceptable religious satire in Muslim media, especially regarding Jews. Jews are routinely lambasted and stereotyped in the Muslim media. Hertzke recalled a Syrian TV program shown in Jordan that depicted Jews using the blood of children to make matzo. A recent cartoon on a Muslim group’s Web site showed Adolf Hitler in bed with Anne Frank, a teenage Jewish martyr during World War II, saying, “Write this one in your diary, Anne.” “Many evangelicals have very positive views toward Jews, and evangelicals support Israel,” said John Green, a professor at the University of Akron who specializes in religion and politics. “And it’s interesting that in the protests of these cartoons, the language quickly turned anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. That sends up a red flag for evangelical Christians.” Christian conservatives also generally echo the views of the Bush administration, which condemned the Muslim violence but backed off early criticisms of the cartoons themselves. President Bush pointed out that such are the vagaries of life with a free press. “The appreciation of pluralism is something that every religious group has to grow in,” Haggard of the evangelicals’ group said. “We evangelicals struggle with this issue every time we send one of our kids off to college. But we think pluralism is a high value…. Radical Muslim extremists have to grasp that pluralism is a fact of life for all cultures. We’re into a new world.”
By Khalid Hasan WASHINGTON: American Muslims have expressed outrage following the assertion by popular right-wing Fox News host Bill O’Reilly that Muslim holidays should not be observed since America is a Judeo-Christian country. On the October 27 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly called the idea of closing public schools for the observance of Muslim holidays _absurd’. He made the remark during a discussion with Hillsborough County (Florida) Commissioner Brian Blair, who opposed the Hillsborough County School board’s decision to keep public schools open on Yom Kippur and Good Friday during the 2006-07 school year, a departure from the school district’s earlier practice of closing schools on those days. In December 2004, Hillsborough County Muslims, with the backing of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), asked the school board to close schools on the Muslim holiday of Eid-ul-Fitr. Instead of giving students the day off on Eid-ul-Fitr, the school board voted to keep schools open on Yom Kippur and Good Friday during the 2006-2007 school year, arguing that the school district could close schools on days when a substantial number of students would be absent, but could not close schools specifically for the observance of religious holidays. Students however can take the day off on such occasions. In his discussion on the question with Blair, Bill O’Reilly said, So a Muslim wanted a Muslim holiday, which is absurd in a Judeo-Christian country. I mean we can’t be having Hindu and Buddha. I mean, come on. I mean this country is founded on Judeo-Christian traditions. Those traditions have been in play for more than 200 years. Christmas is a federal holiday. You know, somebody walks in and says, _Well, I just moved here and I want, you know, this Shinto shrine.’ And you’re going, _Well, look, this is a traditional American situation that we’ve done for hundreds of years.’ But now you knocked it out.
Female Muslim teachers in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia will be banned from wearing hijab at schools from next summer, according to a German press report. Officials in the State told Wednesday’s edition of the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung that the hijab ban would take effect from August 2006, Reuters reported. “Female and male teachers are not allowed to express any world views or any religious beliefs, which could disturb or endanger the peace at school,” North Rhine-Westphalia schools minister Barbara Sommer said. “That’s why we want to forbid (female) Muslim teachers at state schools from wearing headscarves.” State officials maintained that the decision would be probed with the Muslim groups in the state. They denied that the hijab ban was targeting religious beliefs of the Muslim minority. Germany’s constitution obliges the states to maintain strict religious neutrality but it does not enshrine a formal separation of church and state. Islam comes third in Germany after Protestant and Catholic Christianity. There are some 3.4 million Muslims in the country, including 220,000 in Berlin, and Turks make up an estimated two thirds of the Muslim minority. Controversy The hijab ban in schools has been a controversial issue in Germany for several years. The superior administrative court of Bremen ruled Monday, August 29, to ban a Muslim teacher from teaching in schools for her refusal to take off her hijab. Germany’s highest tribunal, the constitutional court, ruled in 2003 that Baden-Wuerttemberg was wrong to forbid a Muslim teacher from wearing hijab in the classroom. But it said Germany’s 16 regional states could issue new legislations to ban it if they believe hijab would influence children. The states of Hamburg, Mechlenburg-Vorpommern, Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt and Thuringen still allow teachers to wear hijab. The state of Hessen also made amendments to its school laws, banning teachers from wearing any symbols of religious or political nature while allowing them a limited right to put on Christian or western symbols. In Bavaria, laws were enforced in 2004 banning teachers from wearing religious symbols that are not harmonious with Christian cultural values. The state of Brandenburg made the same amendments in 2003. Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations – unlike the symbolic Christian crucifixes or Jewish Kappas. France spearheaded anti-hijab European countries with its lower house of parliament adopting the controversial bill on February 10 last year with an overwhelming majority. The text, put forward by President Jacques Chirac’s ruling center-right Union for a Popular Majority (UMP) party and supported by the left-wing opposition Socialists, was adopted by a vote of 494 to 36. Shortly afterwards, other European countries followed the French lead. The French ban, described by international rights watchdogs as amounting to religious discrimination, prompted demonstrations across Europe. International figures also stood behind the Muslim right, including London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who said Paris’s move is an anti-Muslim measure and accused Chirac plays a terribly, terribly dangerous game.
On the July 14 edition of the Christian Broadcasting Network’s The 700 Club, host Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition of America, blurred the distinction between radical Islamists and the Muslim community at large, claiming that Islam instructs its followers to commit acts of terrorism: ROBERTSON: Don’t you feel it rather interesting that every time you have a story about terrorism, it is linked to Muslim extremists? You don’t hear somebody, “Christian extremist killing film producers, Christian extremists blowing up trains.” It just doesn’t happen. But it’s Muslim extremists and, ladies and gentlemen, Islam, at least at its core, teaches violence. It’s there in the Quran in clear, bold statements. Well over 100 verses dealing with violence against infidels, and that is what they’re taught. They’re also taught to sacrifice themselves in jihad against infidels to gain paradise. It is part of the teaching of that faith. And I know people so reluctant to say, “Lets not identify those terrorists with these wonderful people.” Well, yes, they may be wonderful people, but this is what that faith teaches, and those who believe it sincerely in their hearts are those that think Osama bin Laden is their great hero. And I think we need to recognize that. Political correctness says that you’re not supposed to recognize this, but it just happens to be the truth. Every story, you see it over and over again, Muslim extremists blew up trains, Muslim extremists assassinated film producers. Muslim extremists blew up a crowded shopping center in Netanya [Israel]. Muslim extremists, it’s always Muslims, and that’s where it comes from, it’s the breeding ground. And then it’s radical clerics who incite this kind of violence, and it’s time we recognize it and begin to deal with it.
Patrick Goodenough, International Editor (CNSNews.com) – In a victory for British Muslim campaigners, the House of Commons Monday passed a bill aimed at curbing religious hatred, despite critics’ warnings that it could worsen relations between religious communities. The Racial and Religious Hatred Bill passed its third reading by a 301-229 vote, just hours after Prime Minister Tony Blair’s press secretary declined to rule out using the measure, if it becomes law, against Muslim figures who may incite violence against Christians and Jews. Spokesman Tom Kelly told a Downing Street press conference he would not get into hypothetical speculation about individuals, but the law would be there and it would be applied correctly. Last Thursday’s terrorist bombings in London have focused renewed attention on controversial Muslim figures based in the capital who have long advocated jihad against the West. Islamic organizations have lobbied hardest for the legislation, saying their community needed protection, given an increase in anti-Muslim sentiment after 9/11. They argued that while Jews and Sikhs were already protected by race-hate laws – because they are seen as ethnic groups as well as religious ones – Muslims were not covered in this way, hence the need for a specific religious hatred law. Two previous attempts by the Labor government to get the law passed since 2002 failed, the first running into strong opposition in the upper House of Lords, and the second running out of time earlier this year when parliament was dissolved ahead of elections. After Monday’s Commons vote, the bill now goes to the House of Lords where it is again expected to face tough objections. If passed, the legislation will create a new offence, applying to written material and public verbal comments “that are threatening, abusive or insulting [and] likely to stir up racial or religious hatred.” Anyone convicted under the law could be jailed for up to seven years. Opposition parties – and some Labor MPs – oppose the bill for various reasons, including concerns that it could stifle free speech or infringe the right of the adherents of one faith to question the claims of another. Opposition lawmakers proposed an amendment that would outlaw religious hatred in specific cases where it is used as a pretext for stirring up hatred against an ethnic group. But the proposal was defeated Monday by 291 votes to 233. Senior Conservative lawmaker Dominic Grieve said in the Commons that the bill was “catastrophically flawed” and would not improve race relations. “If the government really wants to tackle this issue, it is going to have to get away from the promises made to various people of some equal playing field, accept that religion and race are different, start to look at the real nature of the problem and try to come up with some constructive solutions,” he said.b What About The Koran? In an earlier Commons debate, a Conservative MP raised the possibility that the law, if passed, could outlaw the reading of passages of the Koran that called for harsh treatment against Christians and Jews. Following those assertions, a delegation of prominent Muslims held talks last week with the government minister responsible for the bill, Paul Goggins, to check whether the legislation could affect reading and quoting from the Koran and other Islamic texts such as the Hadith — the traditional sayings of Mohammed and other early Muslim figures. There were concerns in the Muslim community “that dawah [proselytizing] and propagatory practices may be curtailed under the new legislation,” the Muslim Weekly reported. The delegation suggested that it may be preferable to “totally exempt” Islamic texts from the bill. “The minister assured the Muslim community that there was nothing in the bill that would prevent scholars from delivering their sermons or from reciting from the Koran,” the Muslim publication said. Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) Secretary-General Iqbal Sacranie, who headed the delegation, said afterwards he was glad the confusion had been cleared. “Muslim scholars may proceed uninhibited in the performance of their duties,” he said. The MCB has led the lobbying to get the law passed. The Barnabas Fund, a British charity working among Christian minorities in Islamic countries, has played a key role in Christian opposition to the bill. Commenting on the Muslim Council’s attempt to get the Koran exempted from the law, the Barnabas Fund said Muslim leaders in Britain had done their best to have themselves protected by the proposed law. “Now faced with the anti-Christian and anti-Semitic parts of their holy books it appears some are realizing that unless they claim exemption they also will be vulnerable to prosecution,” it said. “This shows the desperate need for Islam to reform itself. Muslim leaders must have the courage to reform their faith and reinterpret the war passages of the Koran and Hadith in a spiritual and peaceable way.” The Barnabas Fund said the bill could cause disharmony among different faiths in Britain. “It also has the potential to silence those who speak out on behalf of millions of people who suffer as a result of particular religious teachings, such as Muslims who convert to another faith (who should be executed according to Islamic law) or Dalits (treated as ‘untouchables’ in the traditional Hindu caste system).” Other opponents of the bill include lawyers, civil libertarians, and actors such as comedian Rowan Atkinson who worry it would outlaw religious jokes. On Monday leaders of evangelical African and Caribbean churches in Britain rallied against the bill, saying it could affect their ability to share the Christian gospel with non-Christians. A petition signed by hundreds of British churches and handed to the government Monday warned about the effects on freedom of speech, saying that “the mere quoting of texts from both the Koran and the Bible could be captured and criminalized by this law.” Also lobbying in parliament was Australian evangelical pastor Danny Nalliah, who together with a colleague has been found guilty of vilifying Islam under a similar law in the Australian state of Victoria. The two pastors face the possibility of going to prison if they defy — as they intend to do — a judge’s order to apologize publicly. Some critics have accused the British government of pushing the bill as a sop to Muslims who traditionally support Labor but were angered by the government’s policies on Iraq. “In essence Labor aims to reward the MCB with a piece of legislation in return for the Muslim vote during the election,” says Sunny Hundal, editor of Asians in Media, a media industry magazine. In an article published last week, Hundal criticized the bill, saying that while “Islamophobia is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with” the legislation would likely affect voices within the Asian community that go against “politically correct stances.”
A German court has ruled that a regional ban on Muslim teachers wearing headscarves in state schools must also apply to Christian nuns, reports say.
Centuries after Christian building was put at the centre of C_rdoba’s mosque, Vatican hears Spanish appeal to allow Islamic worship there. Muslims across Spain are lobbying the Roman Catholic church in the southern city of C_rdoba to make a symbolic gesture of reconciliation between faiths by allowing them to pray in the city’s cathedral. C_rdoba’s renaissance cathedral sits in the centre of an ancient mosque complex, and local Muslims want to be allowed to pray there again. They have appealed to the Vatican to intercede on their behalf.
President Jacques Chirac has called on for a law banning Muslim headscarves, Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses from French state schools. “In all conscience, I consider that the wearing of dress or symbols which conspicuously show religious affiliation should be banned in schools,” he said in a speech on the long controversy over the role of religion in French public life.
Controversy in Italy over a local judge’s decision to order the removal of school crucifixes has died down, following intervention by higher authorities to guarantee their presence. Despite initial appearances, the matter was not a question of church-state conflict. Neither was it a simple Christian-Islam clash.