Posts from December 2015 (Page 3)

‘I Emphatically Refuse’: Muslim ACLU Activist Explains Why She Won’t Condemn Islamic Terrorism

The deputy director of the ACLU of Michigan said in an op-ed Monday that she refuses to condemn radical Islamic terrorism in order to prove her allegiance to the United States.

Rana Elmir wrote that she’s “consistently and aggressively asked” to condemn Islamic terrorism, and is tired of having her religious views linked to atrocities like the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and in Paris and San Bernardino this year.

“I emphatically refuse,” she wrote in an opinion piece in The Washington Post.

The op-ed was titled: “Stop asking me to condemn terrorists just because I’m Muslim.”

Elmir, who lectures on issues related to Islamophobia, free speech and the intersection of race, faith and gender, asserted that she “will not be bullied into condemning terror perpetrated by psychopaths who misrepresent and distort Islam for their deranged purposes.”

Elmir compared the terror created by groups like the Islamic State and Boko Haram to “the terror advanced by mostly white men,” which she says happens at the rate of one mass killing every two weeks in the U.S. For example, Dylann Roof’s attack on parishioners of a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., Robert Dear’s attack on a Planned Parenthood facility, the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and “the slaughter of moviegoers in Colorado or Louisiana” — none of which she says she was asked to comment on.

Guilt by association is more prevalent in the case of American Muslims, Elmir argued, and the distinction between radical and peaceful Muslims is better made in silence.

“Muslims across the globe are not threats. They are threatened,” Elmir wrote, arguing that Muslim victims are wrongly pressed by politicians and journalists to publicly apologize for “the ideology that contributed to their own persecution.”

Such apologies, according to Elmir, become “admission[s] of guilt” that contribute to further Muslim oppression in America.

“The pernicious disease that is Islamophobia is spreading at home, thanks to a steady diet of repugnant rhetoric and equally misguided policies,” she wrote, citing a rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes reported to the FBI in 2014. Condemning Islamic extremism would only serve “zealots who will never be satisfied,” Elmir wrote.

Muslims have been subject to slavery and persecution since America’s founding, she said.

“The first Muslims in the United States were brought over bound as slaves, not immigrants,” Elmir wrote. “While some American Muslims have prospered, many face challenges — poverty, unemployment and undereducation.”

But condemning or claiming terrorism through an apology is the wrong course of action, Elmir concluded.

“Terrorism is not mine,” she said.

H/T: Washington Post

‘Sweet Cakes’ Owners’ Bank Accounts Seized as Damages for Refusing to Bake Wedding Cake for Lesbian Couple

Melissa and Aaron Klein (Sweet Cakes By Melissa/Samaritan's Purse)

On Monday, the Associated Press reported that “Sweet Cakes by Melissa” owners Melissa and Aaron Klein paid their state-ordered damages to a lesbian couple with check totaling $136,927.07 — but that isn’t the whole story.

According to Fox News writer Todd Starnes, who spoke with Melissa Klein a few weeks before Christmas, Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries confiscated all of the money in her checking and savings accounts, including one that had money set aside for her church tithe. They totaled nearly $7,000.

Melissa and Aaron Klein (Sweet Cakes By Melissa/Samaritan’s Purse)

“It was like my breath was taken away,” Klein told Starnes. “I panicked. Everything was gone.”

“We had three accounts,” she added. “I have one account that’s labeled, ‘God’s money’ – our tithing. They just took it.”

It is not directly clear why the $7,000 was confiscated by the state prior to Christmas. Monday’s check of nearly $137,000 included interest accrued for not paying the state on time. According to Starnes, the check was for the full amount owed to the state’s government and was raised through donations to the family.

The damages were awarded in July for “emotional suffering” caused by Sweet Cakes by Melissa for refusing to make a wedding cake two years ago for Laurel and Rachel Bowman-Cryer. The bakers said their refusal was prompted by religious beliefs.

A 2007 Oregon law protects the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing and public accommodations. The state ruled it also bars private businesses from discriminating against potential customers.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

College’s Muslim Student Association Demands ‘Zero Tolerance Policy’ Against ‘Islamophobic Speech and Actions’

Image source: Facebook / SDSU Muslim Student Association.

The Muslim Student Association at San Diego State University recently issued a list of demands directed at the administration, students and political leaders in an effort to combat Islamophobia on campus.

The demands — which include “a zero tolerance policy explicitly for Islamophobic speech and actions” and mandatory “bystander training” for faculty, staff and students — were posted on the group’s Facebook page after a female Muslim student was allegedly attacked by a white man in a campus parking lot on November 19, about a week after the terrorist attacks that killed 130 in Paris.

A campus police report described the aggressor, who hasn’t been caught, as a white man in his 20s who grabbed the female student’s hijab and made racist comments to her, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

The female student has not been identified publicly, but Hanif Mohebi — executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-San Diego — said he met with the student and offered comments on her behalf.

“The attacker came at the student from behind and choked her with the hajib, or headscarf,” Mohebi told the Union-Tribune. “He told her, ‘Get out of this country.’ That she was a terrorist and that ‘you people bombed Paris.’”

Several comments on the article suggest that the attack might have been a hoax. But less than a week after the alleged attack, the Muslim Student Association staged an anti-Islamophobia rally that gained the support of hundreds of students.

It was at the rally that the Muslim Student Association presented its list of demands:

Image source: Facebook / SDSU Muslim Student Association.

The document demands that local, state and federal political leaders “cease their fear mongering anti-Islamic rhetoric” and “recognize that the dehumanization of refugees and scapegoating of the Muslim faith enables an environment for attacks like this to occur.”

The MSA also demanded that students who witnessed the November 19 attack “step forward and help aid in the investigation.”

The university has yet to provide a formal response to the demands, though members of the administration have seen the list and are “meeting internally and with the students to discuss their concerns,” Beth Chee, an SDSU representative, told The College Fix in an email.

University president Elliot Hirsham issued a statement on the attack: “We unequivocally condemn all forms of bigotry and any efforts to intimidate, harm or demean any members of our community.”

In a twist, Jewish students have accused the MSA of rejecting help from Students Supporting Israel.

Another campus group — Students for Justice in Palestine, which helped organize the MSA rally — allegedly rejected the signature of Students Supporting Israel on the MSA’s list of demands.

“When asked why SSI was excluded from the statement, the response was simple and damning: ‘It didn’t serve the interests of the community,’” Anthony Berteaux, vice president of public relations for SSI, wrote in The Jerusalem Post. “A rally that was supposed to serve as a unified solidarity march against hate became politicized and divided.”

“Out of the over 30 organizations that had signed the document, SSI was the only organization to be excluded from the statement,” Berteaux reported.

SDSU has experienced problems with anti-Israel rhetoric. In 2013, the professor of an Arabic language course eliminated the country of Israel on a map, replacing it with “Palestine.” After a pro-Israel student group called Stand With Us demanded action on the part of the university, SDSU released a statement calling the map “inaccurate” and “unacceptable.”

Ted Cruz Requests ‘Thoughts & Prayers’ for Those Affected by Texas Storms. But Some Folks Take Exception to That.

In the wake of the deadly storms that hit Texas this weekend — particularly the Dallas area, where 11 people were killed as tornadoes tore through nearby towns — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on Sunday urged “thoughts & prayers” for those affected by the severe weather:

Tragic news out of Texas. Please join me in keeping those impacted by this severe weather in your thoughts & prayers

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) December 27, 2015

While most responded positively to the appeal from the Republican presidential candidate, others got downright nasty after reading it:

@tedcruz @NBCNews thoughts and prayers are a way of doing nothing and feeling good about it.

— Michelle M (@mmteachswim) December 27, 2015

@tedcruz yup…thinking and praying…that ought to fix things right up. good job Teddy…this is EXACTLY what you were elected to do

— Latikia (@latikia) December 27, 2015

@tedcruz why are you praying after a storm when your God was the one who did it in the first place?

— GOP’ers hate facts (@ccblueyes70) December 27, 2015

@tedcruz thoughts and prayers haven’t worked out too well. I’m going with prayers and thoughts on this one. See if that way works

— Blowhard McGee (@BlowhardMcGee) December 27, 2015

(H/T: Twitchy)

Israel’s Most Popular Name for Baby Boys Might Shock You

Photo: Shutterstock

Muhammad was the most popular name given to baby boys in Israel last year, according to figures published Sunday by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

Image source: Shutterstock

The name of the Islamic prophet secured the top position most likely because one out of every seven Muslim boys born in Israel in 2014 was given that name.

Another non-Muslim majority country in which Muhammad in its various English spellings secured the most popular baby name spot is the U.K.

About 20 percent of the Israeli population is of Arab descent, and the vast majority of them are Muslims.

The most popular baby girl’s name in Israel, Noa, has biblical roots. Noa was one of the five daughters of Zelophehad described in the book of Numbers; she appealed to Moses to inherit the property that would have been due to their deceased father in the Land of Israel.

Moses accepted the argument, setting the stage for women’s property and inheritance rights as Noa and her sisters had no brothers. At the time, males would have been the preferred heirs.

Muslim Families Out to Eat on Christmas Eve Finished Their Meals and Asked for the Check. What They Saw on the Bill Returned to Their Table Is Going Viral.

When a group of Muslim families finished their meals at an Olive Garden on Christmas Eve in Augusta, Georgia, they asked for the check.

But when the bill arrived, it came with a note: “Paid. Merry Christmas, beautiful family.”

Eslam Mohamed posted a photo of the receipt on Facebook where it has been shared more than 19,000 times. Mohamed wrote in the photo’s caption that the group of seven adults and five children were clearly recognized as Muslims due to the hijabs worn by the women and the language they spoke.

Yesterday i went to Olive Garden restaurant to have dinner with nice families. We were a group of 7 adults and 5…

Posted by Eslam S. Mohamed on Friday, December 25, 2015

“Yes, someone paid for us and wrote those wonderful words on the receipt. I can’t express how this act touched our hearts,” Mohamed said in the Facebook post. “Among all the bad things happening to Muslims and the hate speech that the presidential candidate had made lately, there is still light in the dark, there is still hope within the frustration. All what I can say to who did that, Merry Christmas to you too and God bless such a beautiful heart you have.”

According to Facebook, Mohamed is from Egypt but is studying immunology at Augusta University.

Front page image: Shutterstock

(H/T: IJ Review)

‘Nonsensical’ Rash of Nativity-Scene Baby Jesus Thefts Hits New Jersey Churches

Image source: Saint Clare RC Church.

Police are still searching for suspects who stole a statue of baby Jesus from the nativity of a North Jersey church over the holiday weekend.

Church officials said that this is the fifth theft of this nature to occur in New Jersey this Christmas season.

James Goodness, the Newark Roman Catholic Archdiocese spokesman, confirmed that four other churches in the archdiocese had lost statues of the baby Jesus, and called the thefts “nonsensical.”

Image source: Saint Clare RC Church.

Father Peter Galbick of St. Clare’s Catholic Church in Clifton said the statue was stolen between 7 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. Sunday, WNBC reported.

“We are deeply disturbed that some group or person stole the baby Jesus from the outdoor nativity last night … on the second day of Christmas,” a message on the St. Clare RC Church’s website said. “Let us continue to pray for the conversion of sinners, most especially those that did this act.”

The other churches who lost their Jesus statues included Our Lady of Sorrow and St. Cecilia, both in Kearny, Sacred Heart in Lyndhurst and Queen of Peace in North Arlington.

“It’s very sad that someone would look to do this, not just because it’s Christmas, but anytime,” Goodness said.

As police continue to gather information, St. Clare’s has asked people to post photographs of the baby Jesus statue on Facebook.


Archaeologists Find ‘Impressive’ Ancient Statue That Could Symbolize Jesus or the Flock of the ‘Good Shepherd’

The ram with the Caesarea coast in the background (Photo courtesy: Vered Sarig/The Caesarea Development Corporation)

Israeli archaeologists announced Sunday the discovery of a ram statue in the ancient port city of Caesarea they believe may have been meant to depict either Jesus or the Good Shepherd’s flock.

“In ancient Christianity Jesus was not portrayed as a person. Instead, symbols were used, one of which was the ram,” excavation directors Dr. Peter Gendelman and Mohammad Hater said in a joint statement announcing the Christmas Eve discovery of the marble ram.

The ram with the Caesarea coast in the background (Photo courtesy: Vered Sarig/The Caesarea Development Corporation)

The Israel Antiquities Authority offered this historical background on the biblical narrative that may have inspired the artist who created the sculpture:

In Christian art the ram is often depicted carried on the shoulders of the “Good Shepherd” (that is, Jesus, who is portrayed as the shepherd tending his flock), and sometimes the ram is situated to the left or right of Jesus. In Christianity the ram, like the lamb, represents the faithful, or Jesus himself, whose anguish and death were meant according to Christian belief to atone for original sin.

John 1:29 reads, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'”

The Israeli archaeologists took note of the special timing of the discovery.

“It may or may not be a coincidence, but the statue was uncovered on Christmas Eve,” Gendelman and Hater said.

Archaeologists explained that the ram has been used to portray both Jesus and his flock in ancient art. (Photo courtesy: Vered Sarig/The Caesarea Development Corporation)

The ram depiction – which the archaeologists described as “impressive” – was found near an ancient Byzantine period church in the city along Israel’s northern Mediterranean coast.

“The statue that we found might have been part of the decoration of a Byzantine church from the sixth–seventh centuries CE at Caesarea. By the same token it could also be earlier, from the Roman period, and was incorporated in secondary use in the church structure,” the excavation directors said.

In addition to the Christian significance, the ram was used in Greek and Roman art, sometimes appearing alongside the Greek god Hermes and his Roman equivalent Mercury. It was also used to represent the Egyptian god Amun.

The excavation is being conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Caesarea Development Corporation.

Stephen Colbert Reveals the One Person He Wishes He Could Interview

Image source: CBS News

If talk show host Stephen Colbert could interview anyone, it would be Jesus — and he has quite a few questions about that afterlife.

In an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” the “Late Show” host said he would ask Jesus if he would ever be able to see his loved ones who have died again. He told CBS’ John Dickerson that he would also ask the central figure in Christianity if “this is all there is.”

“Is it all here, or is there something after this,” Colbert said of the questions he would ask Jesus. “Is the Kingdom of Heaven around us, and we just don’t see it? If I’m good, do I get something? Or is just being good what I get?”

Image source: CBS News

Colbert, who has been outspoken about his Catholic faith, said he doesn’t “put that much in it anymore.”

“I’m actually much more enjoying being with the people that I’m with now,” Colbert said.

The venerable comedian said he’d also ask Jesus for an “interim grade” and for him to “put a good word in to his dad” for him.

Watch the clip of Colbert’s interview, to be aired Sunday, below.

Pope Issues Christmas Indulgences to Spread Message of Mercy

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has issued a Christmas Day indulgence for Catholics around the globe in hopes they spread the church’s message of mercy in a world torn by “murderous evil,” war and poverty.

Speaking Friday from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis said he hoped the indulgence would encourage the faithful in his Holy Year of Mercy “to welcome God’s mercy in our lives, and be merciful with our brothers to make peace grow.”

An indulgence is an ancient church tradition related to the forgiveness of sins.

Francis announced the indulgence after delivering his annual “Urbi et Orbi (To the city and the world)” speech listing global hotspots and his prayers for an end to human suffering.