Religion-Based Bigotry: Shouldn’t this be an oxymoron?

November 19, 2007, 1:56 pm | Posted by

Hate crimes were up 8% in 2006. Religious bias was blamed for 18.9 percent of the incidents; sexual orientation bias for 15.5 percent, and ethnic or national origin for 12.7 percent. Explicit religious bias is shown at close to 20%. Certainly there is a link between the homophobic stances of many religious groups and the atmosphere of intolerance that gives space for violent actions taken towards the GLBTQ community.

It is heartening, then, to hear of Faith In America’s newly launched “Call to Courage” campaign, which is being run in early Presidential primary and caucus states to engage and educate citizens about religious teachings and practices that foster discrimination and oppression against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. In an interview with Bob Abernathy of Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, Rev. Jimmy Creech, Faith in America’s Director said, “We really do believe that conversation, that dialogue, that being together in a civil, neutral setting will make it possible for us, first of all, to understand one another better, and then secondly to begin to recognize the need for change.”

The debate over homosexuality centers on scriptural interpretation, but disagreements over theology and doctrine need not lead to discrimination and disrespect. That is something that all people of faith should be able to agree on.

UPDATE: A Washington Post Article Today focused on the geographical disparities in hate crime reporting. Alabama, for example, does not consider crimes connected to sexual orientation to be hate crimes.

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Lessons from Islamo-fascism awareness week

November 14, 2007, 2:09 pm | Posted by

Note: FPL intern Nouf Bazaz recently led an interfaith response to Islamo-fascism Awareness Week. Below is her reflection on the meaning of the event.

David Horowitz’s Islamo-fascism Awareness Week, hosted by the Young America’s Foundation (YAF) recently concluded at universities across the nation. At George Washington University, the Peace not Prejudice campaign simultaneously launched as a peaceful alternative similarly came to a close. In the aftermath, one thing has become painfully clear: the entire campus, including YAF, played right into the hands of the political machine that will continue to churn out hate long after Islamo-fascism Awareness Week is forgotten. Several other key lessons can be drawn from the highly politicized sequence of events that divided our campus.

On Thursday, October 25th, Peace not Prejudice and Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week met in a climactic fashion. A speech by David Horowitz was juxtaposed to an interfaith prayer vigil titled “Pray for Peace,” headlined by six prominent religious figures and Ambassador Edward Gnehm.

When David Horowitz stepped on stage he began shouting at the GWU administration and student body in a fit of rage. He accused the president of the University of heading a “lynch mob” against conservative white students and further shrieked about the treachery of the American Left. If it was not evident enough before, it now rang crystal clear: The purpose of Islamo-fascism Awareness Week had nothing to with Islam. Muslims were merely the latest in a long line of victims carved up at the political chopping block. Horowitz serves only as the overzealous errand boy behind the knife, dutifully obliging the system for paycheck after paycheck. In typical fashion, he went on to depict Muslims as violent and merciless henchmen that would bring about the destruction of the West. At the end of his diatribe he dramatically stated, “You have to understand who your enemy is” or else you are “defenseless.”

Lesson 1: Hate is the greatest weapon of war.

By accurately equating Horowitz’s words with hate speech, one serves only to strengthen Horowitz’s claims of being victimized. With this coveted “victim card” tucked safely in his pocket, he adroitly avoided and twisted every question he was asked. There was no room for dialogue.

The ending of Horowitz’s speech pushed the prayer vigil off to a late start. As a modest-sized crowd settled in their seats, the speakers made their way to the podium. Immediately hope permeated the room as they exclaimed that equipped with the message of “Peace on Earth,” we will move forward united. Each speaker expounded on the idea that if we truly live our lives with the understanding that all of mankind is created in the likeness of God, all outward differences, and thus sources of prejudice, fade away. Ambassador Edward Gnehm related that same sentiment to his tenure in the Middle East: Behind the deceptive veil of politics, we are one and the same.

Lesson 2: Division is merely a political artifice

As the vigil drew to a close, one of the speakers posed a question to the few dozen people in the audience: Who believes that if we were talking about hate rather than love, and division rather than unity, that this room would be full? Every single hand immediately went up.

It was undeniable that the peaceful vigil failed to draw close to the same numbers that Horowitz’s hateful speech did. Playing right into the hands of the political demon, hate conquered love. The division of our campus not only formed the crux of Horowitz’s speech but attracted reporters from across the globe. It is amid this sea of shouting voices and empty words that truth ceases to exist. Within this vacuum, the mainstream media had their story long before George Washington University heard anything about Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.

It is our responsibility to break the cycle of hate that has trickled down from the political juggernaut to our own universities. Through the darkness of the storm that inundated our campus, the prayer vigil stood as a beacon of light. In order to truly eliminate the ignorance that breeds prejudice and division, we must strengthen interfaith and cultural bridges. If you say that you love God, then you must prove it by embracing the simultaneous diversity and unity of creation.

Lesson 3: It is often the few that bring about the liberation of the many.

Nouf Bazaz

Islamic Alliance for Justice, President

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Mukasey: What is this torture you speak of?

November 1, 2007, 1:32 pm | Posted by

Michael Mukasey stands to become the chief law enforcement officer of United States, so his opinion on the legality of various interrogation techniques is more than an abstract or academic concern. Mukasey can say with great certainty that torture is unconstitutional, but that’s not so meaningful if you don’t quite know what torture is. He’s not so sure about waterboarding (which was used in the Spanish Inquisition):

Sen. Whitehouse called Mukasey’s answer “purely semantic” and “a massive hedge.” I’d also add “absurd.” If it’s hard for him to make up his mind about whether waterboarding is torture, it should be easy for us to make up our minds about him.

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Support for the silenced and brutalized people of Myanmar

September 28, 2007, 3:10 pm | Posted by

CNN is reporting that Myanmar’s military junta is cutting off its people’s communication with the outside world in order to suppress reports of government brutality:

The Internet connection in Myanmar was cut Friday, limiting the free flow of information the nation’s citizens were sharing with the world depicting the violent crackdown on monks and other peaceful demonstrators.

Myanmar-based blogs went dark suddenly. But London-based blogger Ko Htike — who has been one of the most prominent bloggers posting information about the violence — has vowed to keep up the fight, saying where “there is a will, there is a way.”

“I sadly announce that the Burmese military junta has cut off the Internet connection throughout the country,” he said on his blog Friday. “I, therefore, would not be able to feed in pictures of the brutality by the brutal Burmese military junta.”

You can do several things to stand with the Burmese people who are currently under attack by the government that has oppressed them for decades.

Sign the petition holding the UN Security Council and the government of China accountable for the bloodshed.

Email their American embassy at and

Tell your friends, family, networks and constituencies to get involved.

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Reflecting on a Civil Rights milestone

September 24, 2007, 9:43 am | Posted by

Fifty years ago Sunday, nine black teenagers integrated Little Rock’s Central High School under the armed guard an elite U.S. military unit. Little Rock Nine member Jefferson Thomas’ spare recollection is a reminder that movements are made of countless acts of individual courage and grace:

Half a century later, sluggish desegregation and rapid resegregation have diluted the legacy of the Little Rock Nine, and the injustice of separate and unequal education persists. Segregation and education are every bit as urgent moral issues now as they were 50 years ago, but the clearly justice-centered approach and energy have dwindled in the “post-Civil Rights era.”

The Miami Herald’s Leonard Pitts, for my money America’s most underrated columnist, puts it all in context of faith and values:

From the vantage point of half a century, it seems an absurd drama. You shake your head at the fatuity of the adults in the old news footage, their mouths twisted, fists clenched, eyes alight, and you marvel that they were driven to such a fury, such a madness, by so innocuous an event. You wonder what in the world they could have been thinking.

But of course, that’s an easy one. They were thinking they were right.

We always expect evil to look different, obvious. We are always anticipating the pointed ears and the pitchfork, the black stovepipe hat and the Snidely Whiplash mustache. The truth, however, is that evil is rather banal. You might pass it five times a day and never recognize it for what it is.

The pale men and women who took to the streets of Little Rock, Ark., in 1957 would have been, in the overwhelming majority, Christian people. They paid their taxes. They helped the poor. They visited the sick. They held hands over hearts for the Pledge of Allegiance. They were decent folks, except they had this evil belief that people with dark skin were of a savage, yet simultaneously child-like, lower order and that if anyone sought to mix pale and dark, pale must resist by any means necessary.

If you had suggested to them that this was wrong, they would looked at you askance, maybe even laughed, and wondered what was wrong with you. Because they knew they were right, knew it in their bones, knew it in their Bibles, knew it with certitude, knew it beyond all question.

Five decades later, there is a starkness, a black and white purity, to the issues argued those tense days in Little Rock streets: inclusion versus exclusion. It is enough to make one nostalgic. After all, after affirmative action, after busing, after O.J., after Cosby, after Imus, there is little starkness, much less purity, to the conflict between pale and dark. All is complexity, all is gray.

Or maybe that’s just the self-deluding conceit of a generation that is pleased to think of itself as enlightened beyond history, pleased to look back on past events and tsk tsk the behavior of the poor, benighted souls who lived through them.

Yet in Jena, La., six American children with dark skin were charged with attempted murder after jumping a pale child whose injuries amounted to a black eye and a concussion.

In Tulia, Tex., 38 mostly dark-skinned people were convicted of drug dealing on the perjured testimony of a pale cop known to describe dark people with a racial slur.

In Paris, Tex., a dark-skinned girl who shoved a teacher’s aide was given seven years by a judge who had earlier given probation to a pale-skinned arsonist.

All this not in 1957, but now.

Yet, it has become common for some pale Americans to deny that these and other inequities have anything to do with skin tone. That’s an absurdity we left in the ’50s, they say. We are beyond that. There are no pale Americans and dark Americans. There are only Americans. They wish dark Americans would understand this and get over it already.

And it’s the darnedest thing. If you suggest that they are wrong, they will look at you askance, maybe even laugh, and wonder what is wrong with you. Because they know they’re right, know it in their bones, know it in their Bibles, know it with a certitude.

Know it beyond all question.

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