Islamic studies scholar Armina Omerika: “Muslims need new ways to approach their religious heritage”

The German Evangelical Church′s relationship with Luther shows Muslims that it′s possible to find and develop a way of engaging critically with your own religious tradition, says Islamic studies scholar Armina Omerika in an interview with Canan Topcu.

When did you first hear about Martin Luther?

Armina Omerika: I think I heard his name for the first time as a schoolgirl, in history lessons, but I don′t remember precisely when that was. For me, the figure of Luther is part of my general knowledge.

But many Muslims don′t even know about Luther′s existence, let alone his significance for Christianity – isn′t that true?

Omerika: I can′t say whether, what or how much each individual knows. And it certainly depends on a person′s educational background. The level of awareness of Luther among Muslims certainly also has something to do with the context in which they learn about Christianity.

In some Muslim societies – in the Middle East, for example – other forms of Christianity are more well known: Oriental Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. What people in Germany are often unaware of is that Muslim intellectuals in the Middle East actually studied the Reformation in depth during the 19th century, being sometimes even influenced by contemporary debates within German Protestantism.

Nevertheless, even people with a biographical connection to Christianity aren′t necessarily particularly well informed about Luther as a historical figure or his theological relevance.

From the viewpoint of an Islamic theologian, what stands out about Luther?

Omerika: The fact that Luther questioned the status of clergy keeps being picked up on by Islamic theologians – mainly because this institution doesn′t exist in Islam at all. In terms of the history of ideas, however, what is important to Islamic theologians is Luther′s image of Islam and Muslims and how it developed. It is well worth taking a closer look at the historical reception, the context and the reasoning behind such a negative image of Muslims.

In my view, it functioned as intra-societal criticism and had little to do with Muslims, particularly since Luther had absolutely no contact with Muslims; they weren′t part of his world. The criticism of Muslims was linked to criticism of the Catholic Church.

Is it actually important for Muslims today to study Luther?

Omerika: Yes, absolutely. One of the main arguments for studying Luther is the way he and his legacy are now being handled by Protestant theologians. The Evangelical Church in Germany, as well as colleagues in university theology departments, communicate and discuss Luther′s position on Jews, women, Muslims and social hierarchies quite openly. At the same time Christian theologians remain willing to pick up on other ideas put forward by Luther, building on them and bringing them to fruition.

The Evangelical Church′s relationship with Luther shows Muslims that it is also possible for us to find and develop a critical approach to our own religious tradition.

The current “situation” in the Islamic world is often explained by the fact that there was no Reformation there. So does Islam need its own Reformation?

Omerika: I don′t think calls for reformation contribute much to the theological debate. Luther′s thought and work should be seen as a reaction to a very specific historical context. And that context can′t be mapped onto present-day Muslim societies. The problems that without doubt exist in the Islamic world are entirely different to those that existed in the German principalities of the 15th and 16th centuries; the crises in Muslim societies are the result of many factors such as poverty, the battle for resources, post-colonial problems, an absence of the rule of law and insufficient democratic legitimisation.

As far as Islamic thought is concerned: yes, it needs to reorient itself, the traditional texts need to be re-read and historicised. Traditional modes of thought should be examined to see whether their methodological and epistemological bases still provide a firm foundation today. Not just the content, but the processes by which we engage with the content need to be re-examined. There needs to be some thought given to whether the positions taken in the past still offer adequate solutions for Muslims today. The answer to these problems does not, however, lie in a reformation modelled on historical examples from another age.

Muslims certainly need new ways to approach their religious heritage – with a view to the present and the future – but what they don′t need is the approach favoured by radical factions: drawing on the past, a time when there were entirely different social models. Nor however do they need to draw on the Reformation, which for all its benefits, remains a historical phase that can never be recalled.

Canan Topcu

© Qantara.de 2017

Translated from the German by Ruth Martin

Francois Fillon, embracing his Catholicism, challenges France’s secular tradition

When French presidential contender François Fillon marked the Feast of the Assumption last summer, he attended Mass at Solesmes Abbey, a Benedictine monastery known for resisting the anticlerical purges of the French Revolution. The trip, coming just weeks after the slaying of a Catholic priest in a terror attack, didn’t go unnoticed.

“He doesn’t hide the fact that he’s Catholic,” said Christophe Billan, head of Sens Commun, a grass-roots movement comprising thousands of French Catholics.

In France, the strict separation between personal faith and public life, known as laïcité, is a pillar of national identity. However, a confluence of events—from the legalization of gay marriage to the more recent string of Islamist terror attacks—has many conservative voters looking to the country’s Christian heritage as a bulwark.

Mr. Fillon’s candidacy is seizing on that impulse. In publicly embracing his faith, the 62-year-old is tapping a wellspring of Catholic voters who have begun coalescing into a potentially decisive voting bloc.

His performance during the country’s first-ever conservative primaries provided the clearest sign yet of the revived Catholic vote. After lagging behind rivals for weeks, Mr. Fillon spent the homestretch of the race debating opponent Alain Juppé over which of them stood closer to the teachings of Pope Francis —a development Le Monde described as “unprecedented.”

More than two-thirds of the people who voted in the primaries described themselves as Catholic in exit polls, and they helped hand Mr. Fillon a commanding victory. Pollster OpinionWay said 83% of Catholics who regularly attend Mass voted for Mr. Fillon and 68% of nonpracticing Catholics also backed him. Between 55%-60% of the overall French electorate identifies as Catholic, according to Jerome Fourquet, director of polling firm IFOP.

“I’ve never been so consciously influenced by my being Catholic,” said Catherine Mordant, 46 years old, a stay-at-home mother of four children who voted for Mr. Fillon. “Now we have to act, because the problem is really crucial.”

The Catholic vote is shaping up to play an unusually prominent role in the general election in May, when polls predict Mr. Fillon will face-off against Marine Le Pen , leader of the far-right anti-immigrant and anti-euro National Front party.

Many conservative Catholics shifted to the National Front during recent regional elections, feeling more at home with its call for revived nationalism than with the pro-EU principles—free movement of people and goods—espoused by other parties.

A quarter of self-described practicing Catholics voted for the National Front in December 2015 regional elections, up from 16% in local races in March of that year, according to IFOP.

Mr. Fillon’s Catholicism reassures voters who want to show support for French traditions. “The National Front has made a lot of progress with this group,” said Mr. Fourquet. “They could come back to the center-right with Fillon.”

The rise of a Catholic vote in France is a measure of how deeply the continent has been shaken by a series of crises, from the arrival of migrant waves from the Middle East to the surge in political parties questioning the future of the European Union itself. Just over a decade ago, it was France that led a successful campaign to prevent any reference to Europe’s Christian heritage from being added to the European Union’s constitution.

Today the EU is grappling with nationalist movements that point to President Vladimir Putin of Russia as a model of leadership, preferring his authoritarianism to the uncertainty clouding the economic bloc. Mr. Fillon has cultivated ties with Mr. Putin, criticizing sanctions the EU imposed on Russia after its forced annexation of Crimea.

Mr. Fillon has been careful to couch his talk of faith in language respectful to secularism. His support for Church teachings are personal choices, he says, not policy prescriptions. He has said he is personally against abortion but believes pro-choice laws shouldn’t be changed, and that he wouldn’t repeal the gay-marriage law but would revise sections that legalized adoption by gay couples.

Still, the politician has gone further than many of his peers in demanding space for religious voices in the public square. “Whenever the nation faces fundamental questions—life, death, what makes us human beings—it’s important that the point of view of religions not be ignored,” Mr. Fillon wrote in a chapter dedicated to faith in his book “To Do.”

In September, he returned to the question of religion and Republican values with the publication of a follow-up, best-selling volume, “Vanquishing Islamic Totalitarianism.”

“Let’s stop kidding ourselves,” he wrote. “France doesn’t have a problem with religion [in general]. The problem is linked to Islam.”

French secularism grew out of the 18th-century Enlightenment and the 1789 Revolution. It was codified in a 1905 law on the separation of church and state that strictly limited the display of religious symbols in public places and forbade religious instruction in public elementary schools.

Designed to curb the influence of the Catholic Church, the law also helped lay the foundations for political conduct in the post-World War II era. French Catholics followed the cues of statesmen from Charles de Gaulle to François Mitterrand, who mainly kept their religious beliefs to themselves.

Any public references to faith were discreet. Mr. Mitterrand was praised for a 1981 campaign poster that set him against a bucolic background dominated by a church bell tower—a symbol of the central place of Christianity in the secular nation’s heritage. At the same time, the church’s cross had been airbrushed out.

The balance between public service and private faith has come under strain as the children and grandchildren of North African immigrants in the 1960s have come of age. These younger generations of one of Europe’s biggest Muslim minorities tend to practice stricter forms of Islam.

In response, successive French governments have become increasingly strict in their application of secularism. A debate over students wearing Islamic head scarves led to a 2004 ban on wearing religious symbols in general in public schools, including crosses and yarmulkes.

Catholics who once steered clear of politics out of respect for laïcité gradually found reason to speak up. One moment came in 2013 after newly elected president, Socialist François Hollande, signed legislation legalizing gay marriage. To the surprise of many, hundreds of thousands of Catholics took to the streets in what was known as a “manif pour tous,” a protest march for everyone.

“A cornerstone was being touched—defining the identity of the child, the couple—and we were barred from the debate,” said Mr. Billan of Sens Commun.

Seizing on the momentum of the protests, Mr. Billan and others founded the grass-roots movement, called “common sense,” with 9,000 members across the country. Though not officially Catholic, the group aimed to pressure lawmakers on a platform consistent with church teachings. Suddenly, French Catholics had a lobby.

The group found a kindred spirit in Mr. Fillon. He had grown up in Sarthe, a rural area nestled in France’s northwest, where he attended a Jesuit school. He recited morning prayers and mealtime benedictions.

“I grew up in a world where the Catholic faith structured whole sections of your social life,” Mr. Fillon wrote in “To Do.”

As prime minister between 2007 and 2012 to then-President Nicolas Sarkozy, Mr. Fillon’s social conservatism took a back seat to his role as a technocrat carrying out economic policy.

When he returned to the opposition as a lawmaker in 2012, however, Mr. Fillon clashed with Mr. Hollande’s Socialist government. He voted against the gay-marriage bill and criticized the government for not doing more to protect Christian minorities in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East, organizing a rally in June 2015 to support them.

“We are all Eastern Christians!” Mr. Fillon told the crowd.

A year later, Mr. Fillon met with Mr. Billan of Sens Commun, seeking the group’s support to better compete with Messrs. Sarkozy and Juppé, who had the support of the machinery of the conservative party, the Républicains.

Sens Commun had built the kind of grass roots organization Mr. Fillon lacked. It had phone banks, a social-media operation and local chapters across the country that would eventually be called upon to canvass for voters and drive them to the polls.

Weeks later France was hit by a pair of terrorist attacks. The first, a truck attack on a Bastille Day fireworks display in Nice that killed 86 people, struck at a symbol of national unity.

Less than two weeks later, the brutal slaying of Rev. Jacques Hamel, 85, while he celebrated Mass in a small town church in the country’s north stirred a rare outpouring of support for France’s Catholic roots. Thousands of people, including Mr. Fillon, packed into Notre Dame of Paris to celebrate a Mass in tribute to the priest.

Thibault Fraisse, a 28 year-old doctor from the town of Aurillac in central France, said he worried the priest’s slaying and other attacks were an outgrowth of Muslim communities isolated from the rest of French society. He said wider acknowledgment of France’s Christian past, and a vote for Mr. Fillon, could act as a counterweight.

“We have to recognize that France is first and foremost a country with Catholic roots,” said Mr. Fraisse, who describes himself as a nonpracticing Catholic.

In August, Mr. Fillon held a rally near his hometown, where he warned of a France “ashamed” of its history and reminded the crowd he had recently celebrated the Feast of the Assumption at the nearby Abbey of Solesmes.

“You just heard the bells ringing,” Mr. Fillon said, gesturing toward the Benedictine monastery. “A thousand years of history! How can you not feel the force, the power, the depth of this past that forged us, that giv

 

Dutch academics contemplate what to do with IS Returnees

An ISIS fighter in Iraq. The Netherlands joins the rest of Europe pondering the question: what to do with returning fighters? (Photo: AP)
An ISIS fighter in Iraq. The Netherlands joins the rest of Europe pondering the question: what to do with returning fighters? (Photo: Reuters)

Manuele Kalsky and Wim van Vlastuin about the question: ‘what to do with returnees from Syria?’ According to Kalsky it is ‘not done’ to question WHY youth from the Netherlands leave for Syria; condemning them is all you seem allowed to do. To her this a moral failure from society. The possible solutions that are being mentioned are harsh: punish them and maybe take their nationality. But: a violence response only leads to more violence. Kalsky says that a violence response is a sign of weakness that has characterized the society since 9/11.

She further says that we forget our tradition of openness, tolerance and hospitality – formed by Humanism the Enlightment and Christianity. Is ‘loving your enemies’ a sign of weakness or wisdom? – she questions.

Referring to both returnees from Syria and the Bible she mentions the story of the ‘lost son’, wherein the father celebrate his return, even though other family members don’t comprehend. This is the attitude society should have when someone returns from Syria: don’t outcast such a person, try to understand them.

Everyone deserves a second chance, although everyone is also responsible for his own deeds. If you deserve punishment, you should be punished. But a punishment that changes behavior is most desirable, for example directed at de-radicalization.
According to Wim van Vlastuin forgiveness only makes sense when someone shows repentance. Mercy and forgiveness should be part of a basic attitude towards returnees, but those should not be misunderstood: people might deserve legal punishment for the cruelties they might have committed. A trajectory could end with a ‘statement of repentance’ and someone who truly repents, shall carry his punishment.

Van Vlastuin thinks that a primary reaction towards returnees indeed would be a harsh one, but the problem is a lot more complex. And mercy and justice go ‘hand in hand’. Forgiveness is a central concept in Christianity: it opens the possibility for taking a new stance or position. Without forgiveness and repentance, a negative attitude is all you are left with.

From Islam to Christ: the Conversion of Muslims from the Director of the Apostle

In an interview with director Cheyenne Carrone, whose latest movie The Apostle pays homage to a priest that she knew in her childhood whose daughter was killed by a young Muslim. The priest wanted to remain living near the boy’s parents “to help them live.” She was also inspired by a former Muslim who converted to Christianity and attended the same church as her.

She said that it is less likely for someone to convert from Islam to Christianity because it is forbidden. One hadith states, “One who leaves the religion, kill them.” She recognizes that in France this doesn’t happen and that “many Muslims are tolerant of conversion to Christianity when it comes to their brothers.”

When asked if she felt that “the difficulty for some Muslims to accept the conversion of their brethren tends to intensify,” she said “I don’t know. But I have a feeling that on the contrary things are changing, and that tolerance is slowly growing.”

Carrone has had difficulty finding movie theaters that will show her film due to its subject.

Christians and Muslims of Nevers unite against killings in Gaza

August 6, 2014

August 6, “Mossoul’s persecutions. The killings in Gaza. ‘No cause is more important than the other.’  Injustice must be fought wherever it comes from,’” said Izzet Cosgun and Father Jean Baffier in a joint statement discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Cosgun is a Muslim teacher currently working in a Catholic school. Father Baffier is in charge of “relationships with the Muslim world” in his department at the school.

Both have worked together in a joint initiative to host a meeting in Nevers to discuss the current situation in Gaza. “Muslims are concerned by what is happening in Gaza, but are also in solidarity with what is happening to Christians in Iraq,” affirmed Cosgun. When commenting on the political situation in Iraq he stated that any violence was “mercenary acts that do not represent our beliefs.”

Father Baffier confirmed that a delegation of French bishops gathered in July in northern Iraq to express “the solidarity of Christians in France.” The bishops “brought another point of view. It’s not Islam that is fighting Christianity over there. It’s a band of rebels that took power in that city. Don’t make it a misunderstanding. This would only play into the hands of those who want to divide France.”

“Christians are on their ancestral territory in Mossoul,” said Cosgun. He added, “They are at home. Like the Palestinians are at home in Gaza. Like French Muslims are at home in France.”

When discussing the recent incident of racist tagging in Charité-sur-Loire, Cosgun said that “People that do that are enemies of peaceful coexistence. It’s necessary to fight this because the future, it’s peaceful coexistence. Why leave the situation up to those who represent nothing?”

Cosgun believes that “it’s not his meeting that’s going to change things” but hopes that political leaders will pay attention to the initiative. He cited Rumi: “If the fair had as much courage as the unjust, the world would be less unfair.”

The leaders of three mosques in Nevers will be present at the meeting. The bishop has also urged all the parishes in the area to participate.

Church Dialogue on Islam

January 12, 2014

 

While world events play out around the globe, it can be hard to fully grasp the role that religion plays. One local church is helping people better understand the world around them, but not exclusively through Christianity. “Welcome to Christ Episcopal Church if you’re visiting. This is our Tour of Islam,” said Adult Formation Leader at Christ Episcopal Church Charles Crawley. Islam is one of the world’s largest religions, accounting for about 20 % of the earth’s population. But, “people are just trying to understand what it is, because we just don’t have a good basic understanding,” said Crawley.

Kirkwood Professor of Religion Dr. Peter Jauhiainen says people often narrowly define the religion. “That provides a distorted understanding of what it’s all about,” said Dr. Jauhiainen. So Christ Episcopal Church organized its Tour of Islam. The idea is to help people of all faiths have a better understanding of world events and other religions. “We, it seems to me, operate on rumors, on information from people who don’t have a complete understanding,” said Doug Anderson.

Those misconceptions can easily affect how we understand the world around us, both past and present. “The other thing I remember from ’73 is the Arab Oil Embargo. Most of us are old enough to remember 25-cent gas,” said Dr. Jauhiainen.
Organizers say knowing more about our surroundings often leads to knowing more about other people, but simple tolerance isn’t enough. “Tolerance is lower on the diversity scale if you want to speak that way. But to move to acceptance, approval and affirmation of people that are different than us,” said Crawley. “I’m more concerned about understanding broad ideas and movements and changing attitudes, that’s more important,” said Dr. Jauhiainen.
CBS Iowa: http://www.cbs2iowa.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/church-dialogue-islam-24459.shtml

Debate on European Islam: A Mined Terrain

November 28, 2011

The concept of European Islam has proved to be a constant source of controversy. For some it embodies the deliverance of Islam from everything that is perceived as backward looking and pre-modern. Others fear that a European Islam is a watered-down religion, a kind of government-controlled “state Islam”, prepared to fully accommodate to the wishes of the authorities. By Claudia Mende

Initial debate on European Islam was ill-fated. The German political scientist Bassam Tibi introduced the concept in the early 1990s. He linked the concept with a severe criticism of traditional Islam, which, in Tibi’s view, has experienced nothing akin to the Enlightenment. He thereby launched a head-on clash with many Muslims. Bassam Tibi proposed European Islam as an alternative model to the Islam practiced in the Arab world and to everything that appears deplorable there.

According to Tibi, Muslims should adopt the dominant European culture as their own, and many considered this to be nothing less than a call to assimilation. Since this inauspicious start, discussions on a European variety of Islam have been sharply polarized.

Varied lives of European Muslims

Of course, living in Europe influences the outlooks and beliefs of Muslims here. Yet, is it possible to reasonably speak of a European Islam? This question was the theme of an international conference recently hosted by the Catholic Academy in Stuttgart, Germany.

Some 15 million Muslims currently live in Europe. Their ways of life and identities are highly varied.

While the Muslim community in Western Europe consists mainly of immigrants who have arrived since the 1950s as well as their descendants into the fourth generation, Islam in the Balkans has a totally different face. In Bosnia, Muslims can look back upon a centuries-old history and they have long since regarded themselves as Europeans.

Even in Poland, in addition to recent immigrants, there exists a small minority of Muslim Tatars, who settled in the country 600 years ago. Islam in France has strong roots in North and West Africa, while in Britain, the vast majority of Muslims have immigrant backgrounds from Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The German Islam Conference has also asserted its desire to make a contribution to European Islam, thereby giving it the air of a project imposed from above. Does the state intend to embrace the representatives of Islam for as long as it takes until some sort of secularized “Islam light” emerges? Would this be a “tamed” Islam, as its disturbing aspects will have been shed? And by disturbing, we mean here those aspects that sound “unenlightened” to European ears, such as the Sharia or the lack of a separation between church and state.

Some critics of the German Islam Conference, which was initiated by former Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, view such moves as an attempt by outsiders to interfere in an internal Islamic debate.

Parallels with Christianity

The German-Turkish sociologist Levent Tezcan from Tilburg University in the Netherlands sees Christianity as the reference point in the discussion about a European Islam. He says that European Islam may develop just like Christianity did. It would mean that Islam, as Christianity before it, eventually could overcome its conflict with modernity and reconcile itself with the modern world.

This is precisely where the critics view the danger and sense with foreboding a watering down of their religion. They see the empty pews in churches and express the fear of abandoned prayer rooms in the recently built mosques. The fear is that the forces binding the faithful to their own traditions will eventually wane. Just as Christian churches are struggling with declining membership, Muslims also dread the day when they lose their young people to a secular Europe. The prospect of such a decline arouses fear in many Muslims. As Tezcan puts it, the “landmines” are ready to explode in the debate on European Islam.

The situation is equally tense for those Muslims questioning for themselves what a European Islam really means. This question is especially pertinent for younger Muslims, those in the third and fourth generation, as they no longer feel closely bound to their “homeland.” This is particularly the case in Germany, where Turkey has traditionally claimed the right to influence the Turkish-Muslim community and its development. Ditib, the Turkish-Islamic Union, is an umbrella organization representing almost 900 mosque communities in Germany. It is closely tied to Diyanet, the Turkish religious authority in Ankara. Kerem Öktem from St. Anthony’s College at Oxford University has described Diyanet, with its close to 100,000 employees, as a kind of “Islamic mini Vatican.”

Close religious ties abroad

Through the religious authorities, the Turkish state exerts structural influence on Ditib, and thereby also on Turkish Muslims in Germany. The Turkish state pays the salaries of the hodjas, i.e. Muslim scholars, in the Ditib mosques, and the president of Ditib in Germany also serves as the embassy counsellor for religious affairs at the Turkish embassy in Berlin. Even Prime Minister Erdogan has frequently intervened in the debate on immigration in Germany and has warned his fellow countrymen against assimilation.

Such close ties to a foreign country are unimaginable for Muslims from Bosnia. They have a completely different perspective on this issue from the Islamic associations in Germany. Already back in 1882, Bosnia withdrew from the authority of Sheikh ul-Islam in Istanbul. “It was painful, but it was the right decision in the long run,” asserts Senad Kusur from the Bosnian Educational, Cultural, and Sports Association in Vienna. He asks provocatively, “Will Western European Muslims have their 1882, too?”

At the moment, this would be unthinkable for the representatives of Ditib and Milli Görüs, the Turkish diaspora organization in Europe. The question provokes fear in their hearts. In light of a growing Islamophobia in Europe, they are not at all certain whether their children will be able to enjoy equal rights as Muslims in Germany.

For many association representatives Turkey remains a lifeline, symbolically, at the very least. Mustafa Yeneroglu, Secretary General of Milli Görüs, says that the members of the association still live with one foot in Turkey. “If things don’t work out in Germany, then there is always the option of returning to Turkey,” he says. But do the subsequent generations see things the same way?

The structures of the religious organizations indicate another story. According to the sociologist Levent Tezcan, the sort of mosque associations that exist in Germany are not to be found in Turkey. The manner in which the mosque associations are organised is typically European, he claims. The more Islamic structures are created in Germany, the more an association such as Ditib would organize things in a manner specific to Germany, thereby loosening the ties to Diyanet. While the younger generation of Muslims is pushing for greater integration into German society, older Muslims fear the loss of connection to their homeland. They fear the day will come when their children no longer understand Turkish.

Critical voices sidelined

At present, significant structures for Islam in Germany are being created through the establishment of programmes in Islamic theology at German universities and the introduction of courses in Islam at schools in most German states. Rabeya Müller from the Centre for Islamic Women’s Research (ZIF) in Cologne cautions, however, that dialogue within the Muslim community leaves much to be desired and critical voices are sidelined.

Is the much-heralded European Islam merely a construct that has little to do with the daily reality of Muslims, as Taner Yüksel, head of the education department at Ditib, believes? In case of doubt, real life is one step ahead of the intellectual debates. A European Islam is already far more than what the Islamic functionaries are willing to acknowledge.

Qantara.de – http://en.qantara.de/content/debate-on-european-islam-a-mined-terrain

Christianity at risk of extinction in areas of persecution, says Warsi

November 15, 2013

 

Christianity is in danger of extinction in some countries because of persecution in areas where its followers are in the minority, a British government minister has said. Christians were being driven out of regions in countries such as Syria and Iraq, where the religion first took root, said Lady Warsi, who has responsibility for faith communities.

She raised her concerns and called on politicians in countries such as Pakistan to “set the tone” for tolerance of religious minorities. Lady Warsi told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “I’m concerned that the birthplace of Christianity, the parts of the world where Christianity first spread, is now seeing large sections of the Christian community leaving, and those that are remaining feeling persecuted.

She said 83% of countries had constitutions guaranteeing freedom of religion, but did not implement those provisions. “There’s an international consensus, in the form of a Human Rights Council resolution on the treatment of minorities and tolerance towards other faiths. But we need to build political will behind that.

Asked whether Lady Warsi’s warning of the possible extinction of some Christian communities was correct, the leader of Catholics in England and Wales, the archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, told Today: “I think in some parts of the Middle East that is probably true.

 

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/15/christianity-risk-extinction-persecution-minority-warsi

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/persecution-threatens-extinction-of-christianity-in-ancient-homelands-warns-baroness-warsi-8941249.html

Florida Parents Protest Textbook With Chapter About Islam

November 6, 2013

 

Parents upset about a history textbook that they say emphasizes Islam more than other religions protested outside Volusia County school district headquarters.

The parents claim that the book contains too much information about Islam and not enough about Christianity and other religions. There was even a call by organizers asking students to go home and tear the section on Islam out of their books.

Because tearing up (or burning?) books is always the proper response to such things.

The county district was forced to postpone a Tuesday meeting “in the interest of public safety.”

“This group is holding a protest and rally to oppose the teaching of the historical and basic pillars of Islam to students in Volusia County,” said Hassan Shibly, Florida executive director of CAIR, a Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization.

“It is displaying an alarming level of intolerance and brazen disregard of minority religions… We find their actions un-American and against every core principal that makes this country so great.”

The textbook in question, Prentice Hall World History, protesters claim, devotes an entire chapter to Islam and teaches children about how it came to be and about the building of the Muslim empire, while Christianity and Judaism are referenced only in small paragraphs here and there.

And we can see the problem here: Where in America will the children learn about Christianity?

Of course, the protesters claim that this is in no way about getting all worked up and encouraging kids to vandalize a schoolbook because they think Islam is un-American and evil.

It’s about religious equality!

You know, with all the crazy things going down in Florida, such as a law that makes it perfectly legal for a person to shoot and kill another person because he or she feels threatened, and with people with serious medical conditions that can be alleviated only with medical marijuana having their homes raided by cops like they’re the leader of a drug cartel, it’s good to know there are citizens out there tackling the truly important issues.

 

Broward-Palm Beach New Times: http://blogs.browardpalmbeach.com/pulp/2013/11/florida_parents_protest_textbo.php