This week Faith and Public Life joined 177 other organizations, including faith groups, in releasing a statement that calls upon leaders and everyday Americans to “address xenophobia, racism, and anti-religious hate” in the wake of the deadly shooting at a Milwaukee-area Sikh temple. Though the shooter’s motives still aren’t entirely clear, authorities have identified the man as a member of a white-power hate group.
The statement recounts the history of “bias and violence” that Sikh communities have been subjected to since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. It points out that Sikhs are not the only ones targeted for their appearance or faith—Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities also suffer from a culture of bigotry.
If our core values of pluralism, equality, and inclusion are to be preserved, tragedies like the one in Wisconsin must be denounced at every turn. But we must also condemn those smaller, everyday tragedies that haunt the lives of religious minorities. “The essence of our country,” the statement concludes, “…is E Pluribus unum: out of many comes a strong, unified one.”
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Last week, Interfaith Worker Justice and other religious leaders joined the AFL-CIO, the NFL Players Association, the National Organization of Women and both union and non-union Hyatt Hotel workers to launch “Hyatt Hurts,” a global boycott of Hyatt Hotels. Joining in the long tradition of
religious support for workers’ rights, IWJ has taken an active role in this fight, leading delegations of workers in meetings with hotel managers and organizing prayer vigils inside and outside hotels. “Faith communities want our money to align with our values, which is why Interfaith Worker Justice
supports the Hyatt Global Boycott,” IWJ executive director Kim Bobo explained.
The boycott comes as a response to a long list of grievances against Hyatt. The company is said to be subcontracting workers, firing longtime staff members in favor of others who will work for less, and failing to protect its employees. In 2011, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) leveled $100,000 worth of penalties against the nationwide chain, citing 18 regulation violations.
To learn more about the Hyatt Hurts and to hear the human stories behind the boycott, visit hyatthurts.org.
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Today, Rep. Peter King is holding yet another round of his infamous hearings on “Muslim radicalization,” this time on the American Muslim response to his earlier hearings.
The problem, as usual, is that the central premise of King’s hearings remains untrue: Muslim Americans are neither particularly radicalized, nor are they uncooperative with law enforcement. Expert witnesses have even made a point of telling King this at the hearings themselves.
Faced with this problem, King has taken to ignoring the experts in favor of witnesses who will tell him what he already wants to hear, and this most recent round is no different. Testifying today are three people whose primary qualifications appear to be their willingness to confirm King’s conspiracy theories and falsely implicate their fellow Muslim Americans as contributing to radicalism.
Here’s a quick background on the three witnesses:
Jasser, who testified at a previous round of King’s hearings, is a physician and former Navy medical officer who has become the go-to spokesman of anti-Muslim extremists looking for Muslim allies to baptize their views. Media Matters has compiled information on Jasser here, and he was prominently featured in the Center for American Progress’s Fear Inc. report as one of the Muslim “validators” for Islamaphobic activists.
Jasser most recently came under scrutiny for serving as the narrator for the documentary The Third Jihad, an anti-Islamic movie produced by the right-wing Clarion Fund (whose board Jasser also sits on). The film prompted a major scandal earlier this year after NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly admitted to voluntarily appearing in it and showing it in training sessions for officers.
Nomani is a former Wall Street Journal writer most notable for her support of the misleading and dangerous tactic of profiling people who appear to be Muslims at airports, her defense of NYPD’s illegal spying and religious profiling program, and, of course, her support for King’s original hearings.
Writing in The Guardian today, Nomani previews her testimony at today’s hearing, reiterating these extreme views and attacking critics of the hearings.
A British doctor who grew up in London, Ahmed wrote mostly about international issues and her experience practicing medicine in Saudi Arabia before penning two op-eds in support of King’s initial hearings and another one the following year defending NYPD.
Ahmed’s invitation to speak appears to be the result of a chance meeting with King at her hospital. She also seems to have connected with the Clarion Fund, which published an interview with her earlier this month in which she attacks Muslim-American organizations despite admitting she has no contact with them.
The minority witness is an actual expert on human rights and the legal issues related to counterterrorism, serving as Co-Director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center. She has specifically written about King’s previous hearings and the deficiencies of his and his witnesses arguments.
Photo source: Alex Wong/Getty Images North America
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On Tuesday, the Ohio House of Representatives voted to repeal controversial voting restriction laws that were “supposed to go before voters on Nov. 6 -- the first known case in Ohio history in which legislators repealed a bill up for referendum.”
While any opportunity to reinstate voting rights should come a welcome development, the repeal left in place rules that end in-person voting the weekend before Election Day and prevents Ohioans from acting on their referendum rights.
We Believe Ohio—a group of faith leaders in the Buckeye State—are standing up against these Republican-passed limits to early voting.
A member of the group, Rev. Timothy Ahrens of the First Congregational Church in Columbus, said people of faith have moral obligation to defend voting rights
There seems to be a crisis in this state when lawmakers need to play games and pull tricks instead of restoring the opportunity for voting for all Ohioans. It's a moral issue that we have as a sacred trust in this American democracy an opportunity and a chance to vote. There is a need for early voting and the question before us today is: is early voting going to be Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day? [Editors’ Note: More than 93,000 Ohioans voted during that three-day period in 2008]
As numerous state legislatures work to restrict the voting rights of historically disenfranchised groups of people, people of faith and voters around the country will need to keep standing up for every individual’s right to vote and reject discrimination at the polls.
Christopher Hale contributed to this post.
Photo Credit: Kristin_a. Flickr
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As state level bans of the death penalty gain steam across the United States, an old advocate has re-emerged as a prominent voice against capital punishment: Jimmy Carter.
Last Friday, the former President again called for an end to the death penalty in an editorial for the Associated Baptist Press.
Deploring the United States’ “fascination with the death penalty,” Carter listed out what he called “the overwhelming ethical, financial, and religious reasons to abolish the death penalty.” Carter noted that the death penalty has been unsuccessful in deterring violent crime, decimated states’ budgets and been applied unjustly across racial lines.
Chief among Carter’s concerns, however, is how the death penalty violates the teachings of Jesus Christ. He wrote:
Some devout Christians are among the most fervent advocates of the death penalty, contradicting Jesus Christ and misinterpreting Holy Scriptures and numerous examples of mercy. We remember God’s forgiveness of Cain, who killed Abel, and the adulterer King David, who had Bathsheba’s husband killed. Jesus forgave an adulterous woman sentenced to be stoned to death and explained away the “eye for an eye” scripture.
Sadly, Carter stands in a league of his own. He is the only American President in modern history to advocate for the repeal of the death penalty.
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