Syria, October 4, 2012 : British Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama last week made key statements at the UN about the conflict in Syria. They both spoke strongly against President Bashar al-Assad and condemned the atrocities committed by his troops, calling for regime change.
But there was no word about the grave abuses being committed by the opposition forces whom Britain, the US and other Western powers are supporting. Just over a week before Mr. Cameron and Mr. Obama addressed the UN, Human Rights Watch released a report that documented evidence of armed opposition groups in Syria subjecting detainees to ill-treatment and torture, and committing extrajudicial or summary executions.
Nor did the British and US premiers make any mention of the terrible plight of the Christian community in Syria, which has been deliberately targeted by the rebels from almost the very beginning of the 18-month uprising.
Barnabas Fund has been gathering information from trusted contacts on the ground in Syriaand has decided to release some of this information so that the sufferings of Christians there can no longer be ignored by the international community. This report is by no means exhaustive; it is intended to illustrate something of the breadth and depth of the crisis that has engulfed Syria’s Christian community.
The country’s 2.3 million Christians have been well treated and enjoyed considerable freedoms under President Assad regime and are consequently assumed to be supporters of his government. Their vulnerability has intensified with growing numbers of Islamist militants joining the opposition campaign.
- barnabas team
Nigeria, September 28, 2012: On Thursday, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, and Pastor Laolu Akande, Executive Director of the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans (CANAN), blasted the terrorist group Boko Haram for the bombing of a Catholic church in northern Nigeria. The terrorist group — an al-Qaeda affiliated Islamist organization — killed a woman and a child and injured 48 other churchgoers.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the latest atrocity waged by the Islamist terror group Boko Haram in Nigeria. The bombing at Saint John’s Catholic Church in Bauchi is the latest in ongoing, coordinated attacks by Boko Haram on Catholic and other Christian churches in Nigeria, including the 2011 Christmas Day and 2012 Easter Day bombings,” said Rep. King.
“The Muslim world exploded over a ridiculous YouTube video and the Obama administration couldn’t apologize enough, but Christians being murdered, tortured and having their churches burned to the
ground by Muslims appears to be ignored by Obama and his sycophants,” said counterterrorism expert and former police commander George Wilkinson.
Since January 2011, these terrorist attacks have killed over 1,500 Nigerian Christians, according to the Nigerian government.
“Boko Haram is closely tied to al-Qaeda’s regional affiliates in North and East Africa, and presents a potential threat to our Homeland and citizens. With a renewed sense of urgency, we once again call upon the U.S. Department of State to formally designate Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization,” said King.
Twice this year, Rep. King and Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA), Chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, have requested that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton designate Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).
Last year, under the leadership of Subcommittee Chairman Meehan, the Committee released a bipartisan report entitled, “Boko Haram – Emerging Threat to the U.S. Homeland” and convened a related hearing.
Pastor Akande and other Nigerian-American Christians established CANAN on Sept. 11, 2012, to address the Boko Haram terrorist killings in Nigeria and other broader issues related to Nigerian-Americans.
Boko Haram is an Islamic sect that believes politics in northern Nigeria has been seized by a group of corrupt and apostate Muslims. It is waging a war against them in order to set up a separate caliphate.
- examiner, usa
These have come from unsurprising quarters, such as Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. On Tuesday 25 September, Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which comprises 56 Muslim-majority states, called for expressions of “Islamophobia” to be curbed by law. Erroneous comparisons are being made with laws that criminalise anti-Semitism; these rightly protect individuals from prejudice purely on the basis of their racial identity, as opposed to protecting beliefs and ideas from criticism or challenge. What the OIC is seeking is in no way to be equated with, for example, Britain’s archaic and toothless blasphemy law; rather it is a privileged and protected status for Islam.
This is not a new campaign by Muslim leaders. For twelve years, the OIC campaigned for a “Defamation of Religion” UN resolution. Support began to diminish as Western nations realized the consequences for freedom of speech, and in 2011 the OIC moderated its demands. The latest resolutions have shifted focus, seeking to protect individuals from discrimination or violence rather than protecting particular religions from criticism.
The danger now is that, in the face of intensifying and widespread Muslim violence in response to perceived offences to Islam, Western states will give in to fear and sacrifice vital freedoms in the interests of global security.
Sadly, a number of senior Anglican leaders have already surrendered. In a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon dated 15 September, four bishops called for a UN declaration to outlaw “intentional and deliberate insulting or defamation of persons (such as prophets), symbols, texts and constructs of belief deemed holy by people of faith”.
Their appeal came, they wrote, “in view of the current inflamed situation in several countries in response to the production of a film in the USA which evidently intends to offend our Muslim brothers and sisters by insulting the Prophet Mohammed, and in view of the fact that in recent years similar offensive incidents have occurred in some European countries which evoked massive and violent responses worldwide”.
These Anglican leaders (the Most Revd Mouneer Anis, President-Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Rt Revd Michael Lewis, Bishop in Cyprus and the Gulf, the Rt Revd Dr Bill Musk, Area Bishop for North Africa, and the Rt Revd Dr Grant Le-Marquand, Area Bishop for the Horn of Africa) are no doubt well intentioned, attempting to protect their vulnerable churches from Islamist violence and even their eradication. But in the same way that paying the ransom demands of hostage-takers only encourages kidnappings, giving in to Islamist violence will only strengthen the hand of extremists.
While Barnabas Fund absolutely condemns Innocence of Muslims and indeed any use of language, images or media that is abusive towards the leaders of other religions, the violent Islamic response that has caused dozens of deaths and the destruction of property is entirely unjustifiable and reprehensible. The charge of “blasphemy” or “offence” should not be used either as a reason to engage in violence or as a reason to curtail freedom of speech and conscience.
A global blasphemy law must be firmly resisted for a number of reasons. Firstly, it directly contradicts existing human rights law. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.
It is quite proper for the law to protect individuals from discrimination or violence on account of their beliefs, but it is not the role of states to protect beliefs per se.
Secondly, a law against the defamation of religion would in reality protect Islam more than other religions. The fervency that drives the extremists and the fear that grips their targets, as recent events have evidenced, would see to that. While Christians try to follow Christ’s command to “turn the other cheek” in response to insults and attacks, Muslims are called instead to restore their honour when it has been taken from them, and doing this is more important to them than life itself.
Christianity is one of the most maligned religions in the world; Christ is routinely abused, ridiculed and misrepresented in films, television programmes, adverts and articles. Christians have had to learn to bear the pain this causes them in order for the full freedoms that form the basis of any civilized and democratic society to be upheld.
As the debate over the conflict between Western freedoms and Islamic sensitivities continues, it is essential to understand that Muslims believe power and honour rightly belong to them. The Quran says:
“But honour, power and glory belong to Allah and to His Messenger [Muhammad], and to the believers.” (sura 63, verse 8 )
Thirdly, a global blasphemy law would put Christians and other religious minorities in Muslim-majority contexts in a position of increased marginalization and danger. One has only to look at the effect of “blasphemy laws” in specific countries such as Pakistan, where Christians and other non-Muslims are extremely vulnerable to false accusations. Many people spend years languishing in prison and are sometimes even murdered over the flimsiest accusation of blasphemy. Criminalizing blasphemy in Pakistan has not resulted in greater harmony between religious groups; it has given the full force of the law to Islamic sensitivities, which has only served to exacerbate tensions between Muslims and minorities.
Finally, the calls from Muslims for protection and respect for Islam are outrageously hypocritical given the treatment of Christians and other religious minorities in most Muslim-majority contexts. Christians are routinely and systematically discriminated against, persecuted and violently attacked; in some countries, especially in the Middle East, there is a deliberate Islamist campaign to eradicate Christianity altogether.
While there remains such demonstrable lack of respect within Islam for other religions and their followers, demands for a global blasphemy law cannot and should not be taken seriously.
And those who may be prepared to sacrifice vital freedoms in the misguided belief that this will afford protection from extremist violence would do well to remember Benjamin Franklin’s famous words:
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
- barnabas edit
Honoring mother who died for her unborn baby *Atheists sue priest for praying at World Trade Center Cross
Who was Maria Cristina Cella Mocellin? A mum who gave up treatment because it could have endangered the life of the child she was carrying. A 90’s mum, who grew up in a parish a few hundred metres away from Milan’s great Parco Nord (North Park), where Benedict XVI will meet families from across the world on 2 and 3 June.
A “lay woman and mother” whose cause for beatification completed its diocesan stage a few days ago and is about to be examined by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome….
…. In 1994, while expecting Riccardo, her third child, a cancer that she had already been ill with when she was 18 came back. At that point she made the difficult choice of putting the baby’s life first. The meaning of that act is revealed in a letter she herself wrote on the 25 September 1995 in the Marostica hospital as she sensed what was about to happen (she died a month later).
She wrote to her son who was only a few months old and is now a teenager. That letter is worth a thousand words.
Atheists sue priest for praying at World Trade Center Cross
Father Brian Jordan is finally emerging from a nightmare. For months, he had been named as a defendant in a suit brought by atheists who protested him praying before the “Trade Center Cross” after Sept. 11. The atheist group recently dropped their attack against Father Jordan — for now.
But the case continues, and it raises troubling questions about the emerging anti-religious, and specifically anti-Catholic, prejudices in American society, a prejudice only compounded by the Obama administration’s insistence on forcing Catholic institutions to violate their beliefs through the provision of health insurance for contraception services, including abortion-inducing drugs.
From the wreckage of the Twin Towers after the Sept. 11 attack, rescue workers found steel beams fused together in the shape of a cross. Many Christians working at the site in the days and weeks afterward found the object comforting. A Catholic priest, Franciscan Brian Jordan, blessed the cross, and services were performed there. He notes that “I spent many, many months ministering to the rescue workers at Ground Zero. Their spirits were uplifted by remembering that God is still with us, even when unimaginable disaster strikes. And the World Trade Center Cross became a source of inspiration for those workers.”
The cross is now located within the National September 11 Memorial & Museum on government property. That decision spurred a lawsuit by American Atheists, Inc. against the memorial, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the state of New Jersey and other people and entities, including Father Jordan and his parish, the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus. The atheists want the cross removed from the memorial, despite it being an integral part of the history of 9/11 and its importance to many of the rescue workers.
USA, April 07, 2012: Few presidents have spoken more often or more articulately about their religious beliefs — or faced such hostility from some quarters about their policies on church issues.
President Obama stood before an audience of distinguished Christian clergy and lay leaders and took on the mantle of pastor in chief.
“I have to be careful,” he joked at the White House’s annual Easter prayer breakfast. “I am not going to stand up here and give a sermon. It’s always a bad idea to give a sermon in front of professionals.”
With that, he gave a sermon, telling the story of Christ in the garden of Gethsemane and his eventual crucifixion, a sacrifice that “puts in perspective our small problems relative to the big problems he was dealing with.”
Few presidents have spoken about their religious faith as often, as deeply or as eloquently as Obama. “We worship an awesome God in the blue states,” he declared at the 2004 Democratic convention, and he has sought since then to rebuild ties between the Democratic Party and the world of faith.
Yet no president has faced such sustained hostility over issues of faith, including Republican charges that he is waging a “war on religion,” widespread suspicion about the sincerity of his Christian faith, and the persistent legend that he is a practicing Muslim.
More moderate groups have generally seen Obama’s record on faith issues in a much more favorable light. But even some of them have been upset by his administration’s handling of certain issues, most notably the decision — later modified — to require the insurance plans of many religiously affiliated institutions to cover contraception.
“We’re very, very concerned about that,” said Galen Carey, vice president of government relations for the National Assn. of Evangelicals, which objected to the government deciding which religious groups qualified for an exemption from the rule.
At the same time, Carey expressed a nuanced view of Obama’s record. “There are some things that President Obama has done that have been helpful,” he said. “There are some policies that we definitely take exception to, but to say the president is hostile to religion, I think, would not be correct.”
Obama gets generally high marks from faith organizations for maintaining, and in some ways strengthening, the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships begun by President George W. Bush. Obama faced pressure from secular liberals to scuttle the office, which was seen as blurring the line between church and state. Instead, he used it to reach out to faith groups across a broad spectrum of theology and politics.
“The president was very bold in deciding not just to drop something that a lot of people who supported him thought was not a great idea,” said Stanley Carlson-Thies, who served under Bush in what was then called the Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives.
Under Joshua Dubois, a Pentecostal minister Obama appointed to head the office, it has expanded its focus from primarily funneling government contracts to faith-based groups to also engaging religious organizations as volunteers. It has, for instance, trained churches and other religious organizations in disaster preparedness and response. It also enlisted more than 1,000 churches in a Job Clubs program to help the unemployed.
A rather different message has emerged from the Republican presidential contest. “This president is attacking religion, and is putting in place a secular agenda that our forefounders would not recognize,” his likely Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, has said.
Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have used stronger language. Gingrich has described Obama’s policies as “the most secular anti-religious bigotry that we’ve ever seen in a president,” and Santorum said Obama’s reelection would ensure that “the practice of your faith will be dictated by the federal government.”
The Republicans were referring primarily to one or more of several decisions.
One was the contraception mandate, which particularly offended the Roman Catholic Church. Obama’s compromise — having insurance companies provide the contraception without church involvement — did little to assuage Catholic bishops or other staunch critics, in part because the new rules did not grant a full exemption to religiously affiliated institutions, such as hospitals and schools, that primarily serve people of other faiths.
Such an exemption is “way too narrow,” said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, which is on the liberal end of the theological and political spectrum. “I think that everyone from left to right should be deeply troubled.” Saperstein added that he was satisfied with the administration’s compromise but believed the controversy had needlessly shifted the discussion from women’s health to religious freedom.
Obama has also been criticized for a decision to deny a contract to the Catholic Church’s Migration and Refugee Services to help victims of sexual trafficking, apparently because the agency refused to counsel victims about access to contraception and abortion.
- los angeles times
USA: 99.98% of priests are innocent
USA, April 11, 2012: Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on the findings of the 2011 Annual Report on priestly sexual abuse that was released by the bishops’ conference; the survey was done by a Georgetown institute:
The headlines should read, “Abuse Problem Near Zero Among Priests,” but that is not what is being reported.
According to the 2011 Official Catholic Directory, there are 40,271 priests in the U.S. The report says there were 23 credible accusations of the sexual abuse of a minor made against priests for incidences last year. Of that number, 9 were deemed credible by law enforcement. Which means that 99.98% of priests nationwide had no such accusation made against them last year. Nowhere is this being reported.
Here are more data from the report that won’t appear elsewhere: almost all the offenses involve homosexuality. Indeed, 16% of the credible allegations made against priests who work in dioceses or eparchies, and 6% of religious order priests, involved pedophilia. In the former category, 82% of the alleged victims were male; in the latter, the figure is 94%. In other words, we are not talking about kids as victims, and we are not talking about females: we are talking about postpubescent males who were allegedly violated by adult males. That’s called homosexuality.
When did these alleged offenses take place? Overall, 68% took place between 1960 and 1984; 1975-1979 being the most common period (among religious order priests, 33% took place before 1960, and another 40% took place between 1960-1980). In 75% of all the cases, the accused priest is either dead or has been dismissed.
Since more than 10% of the credible allegations were found to be false or unsubstantiated, it makes one wonder how many of the total number of accusations are bogus. The bishops should commission a study of those priests whose reputations have been ruined by cash-hungry liars and their rapacious lawyers; the looters should also be studied. The Catholic League would be happy to make a generous donation.
- catholic league
USA, March 26, 2012: The U.S. Congress has appointed two individuals, Dr. Robert P. George and Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, to serve as Commissioners on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
Comprised of nine commissioners, USCIRF monitors and advocates for religious freedom abroad wherever that right is being abused. USCIRF also offers policy solutions to improve conditions at the critical juncture of foreign policy, national security, and international religious freedom standards. On March 20, the Commission issued its 2012 annual report which recommended to the Secretary of State that the Obama administration designate 16 nations as countries of particular concern under the International Religious Freedom Act.
Dr. George was appointed by The Speaker of the House John Boehner. Dr. Jasser was appointed by the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“USCIRF welcomes the appointments of Dr. George and Dr. Jasser,” said Leonard Leo, USCIRF chair. “Along with my fellow Commissioners, Azizah al-Hibri, Rev. William Shaw, and Theodore Van Der Meid, we look forward to the many contributions they will make to the Commission’s work. USCIRF has accomplished much, but much is left to be done. The Commission will continue to work with Congress and the Executive Branch to ensure that religious freedom is upheld as a universal human right, and that policies advancing its protection are fully integrated components of U.S. foreign and national security policy.”
Dr. Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He has served on the President’s Council on Bioethics and as a presidential appointee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. He is a former Judicial Fellow at the Supreme Court of the United States, where he received the Justice Tom C. Clark Award. A graduate of Swarthmore College and Harvard Law School, Professor George earned a doctorate in philosophy of law from Oxford University. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa at Swarthmore, and received a Knox Fellowship from Harvard for graduate study in law and philosophy at Oxford. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and is a recipient of the United States Presidential Citizens Medal and the Honorific Medal for the Defense of Human Rights of the Republic of Poland.
Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser is president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy which advocates for the preservation of the founding principles of the U.S. Constitution, liberty and freedom, through the separation of mosque and state. He is also a founding member of the American Islamic Leadership Coalition which represents a diverse group of reform minded American Muslim leaders. The son of Syrian immigrants, Dr. Jasser is a former Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy where he served 11 years. Dr. Jasser is a nationally recognized expert who is widely published and has spoken at hundreds of national and international events and given testimony to Congress on the value of the centrality of religious liberty in the contest of ideas within Islam. Dr. Jasser is an author and a physician currently in private practice in Phoenix Arizona specializing in internal medicine and nuclear cardiology.
USA, February 27, 2012: Many in the media are indignant with Reverend Franklin Graham, head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Invited on “Morning Joe” last Tuesday to discuss Christian persecution, the hosts turned the focus to interrogating Graham on whether he thought President Barack Obama was Christian or not. Though the Reverend concluded that Obama “has said he’s a Christian, so I just have to assume that he is,” he appeared skeptical, suggesting Obama’s policies disagree with Christian principles, and thus earning the full ire of much of the fourth estate.
Intrinsically trivial on many levels, this incident nevertheless brings several important points to the fore.
First, Graham was absolutely right to say that, “under Islamic law, the Muslim world sees Barack Obama as a Muslim, as a son of Islam”: according to Sharia, if one’s father is Muslim, one automatically becomes Muslim. In fact, the reason behind last week’s church attack in Egypt, when thousands of Muslims tried to torch a church and kill its pastor, is that a Christian girl fled her father after he converted to Islam: she did not want to be Muslim, and was rumored to be hiding in the church. (This would not be the first time in recent months that churches were attacked on similar rumors.)
Because of this automatic passage of Islam from father to son—with the death penalty for those seeking to apostatize, the condemned Iranian pastor being just the most visible example—and because Obama attended a madrassa (a Muslim religious school) during his youth in Indonesia, many Muslims are convinced that Obama is a “secret” Muslim. In a Forbes article, “My Muslim President Obama: Why members of the faith see him as one of the flock,” writer Asma Gull Hasan elaborates:
[Since Election Day, I have been part of more and more conversations with Muslims in which it was either offhandedly agreed that Obama is Muslim or enthusiastically blurted out. In commenting on our new president, "I have to support my fellow Muslim brother," would slip out of my mouth before I had a chance to think twice. "Well, I know he's not really Muslim," I would quickly add. But if the person I was talking to was Muslim, they would say, "yes he is." …. Most of the Muslims I know (me included) can't seem to accept that Obama is not Muslim. Of the few Muslims I polled who said that Obama is not Muslim, even they conceded that he had ties to Islam…. The rationalistic, Western side of me knows that Obama has denied being Muslim, that his father was non-practicing, that he doesn't attend a mosque. Many Muslims simply say back, "my father's not a strict Muslim either, and I haven't been to a mosque in years." Obama even told The New York Times he could recite the adhan, the Islamic call to prayer, which the vast majority of Muslims, I would guess, do not know well enough to recite. [Read the entire article, which is more eye-opening than the author probably intended.]
Another reason why many Muslims believe Obama is Muslim (a reason Ms. Hasan’s article understandably omits) is that, under the Islamic doctrine of taqiyya, Muslims are permitted—in certain contexts even encouraged—to deny being Muslim, if so doing secures them or Islam an advantage. Accordingly, Islamic history is full of stories of Muslims denying and publicly cursing Islam, even pretending to be Christian, whenever it was strategic.
In other words, if an American president was a secret Muslim, and if he was lying about it, and even if he was secretly working to subvert the U.S. to Islam’s advantage—not only would that be justified by Islamic doctrines of loyalty and deception, but it would have ample precedents, stretching back to the dawn of Islam. Such as when Muhammad commanded a convert from an adversarial tribe to conceal his new Muslim identity and go back to his tribe—which he cajoled with a perfidious “You are my stock and my family, the dearest of men to me”—only to betray them to Islam’s invading armies.
Graham further upset “progressive” sensitivities by saying “All I know is under Obama, President Obama, the Muslims of the world, he seems to be more concerned about them than the Christians that are being murdered in the Muslim countries,” adding that “Islam has gotten a free pass under Obama.”
Yet who can deny this? Whether by expunging any reference to Islam in U.S. security documents, or enabling Muslim persecution of Christians, or ordering NASA to make Muslims “feel good” about themselves, or bowing to the anti-Christian Saudi king—the President has made his partiality for Islam very clear: Islam is undoubtedly getting a “free pass” under Obama.
What Franklin Graham’s critics fail to understand is that, when it comes to Obama’s religious identity, the Reverend probably has Jesus’ dictum in mind: “By their fruits shall ye know them”—that is, pro-Islamic actions speak louder than Christian words.
- raymond Ibrahim
Rev. Franklin Graham: Obama helps Islamists, ignores Christian Persecution *Rev. Franklin Graham questions Christianity of Obama and Romney
USA, February 21, 2012: The Rev. Franklin Graham says President Barack Obama has “given Islam a pass,” including ignoring atrocities against Christians in the Muslim world — so much so that the evangelist says he cannot “categorically” say Obama is not a Muslim.
In a stunning interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Tuesday, the renowned Christian leader and son of the Rev. Billy Graham expressed shock that Obama was doing little to protect Christians across the Muslim world against a wave of persecution.
MSNBC’s liberal hosts were flummoxed by Graham’s strong rebuke of Obama, and they asked him whether he believes the president is a Christian.
“You have to ask that of President Obama,” Graham shot back. “You can ask me do I believe you’re a Christian. I think people have to ask Barack Obama. He’s come out saying he’s a Christian. So I think the question is, what is a Christian?”
Graham said he asked Obama about his faith when he was first running for president.
Graham related their conversation: “He said that he was working on the south side of Chicago in the community and they asked him what church he went to.
“He said I don’t go to church. Then they said if you are going to work in our community you have to join one of the churches. Then, of course, he joined Reverend Jeremiah’s church. So that’s what his answer to my question was.”
Again queried about Obama’s faith, Graham repeated: “You have to ask him. I cannot answer that question for anybody. All I know is I’m a sinner and that God has forgiven me of my sins because I put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ.”
Graham added that he accepts Obama’s claim he’s a Christian at face value, but said ultimately only God knows his heart.
He did note that Obama has shown strong empathy toward Muslims, and the president has an Islamic background.
“Under Islamic law, under Shariah law, Islam sees him as a son of Islam, because his father was a Muslim, his grandfather was a Muslim, his great-grandfather was a Muslim,” Graham said.
“So under Islamic law, the Muslim world sees President Obama as a Muslim, as a son of Islam. That’s just the way it works. That’s the way they see him.”
Asked whether he believes Obama is “categorically not a Muslim,” Graham said, “I can’t say categorically because Islam has gotten a free a pass under Obama.”
Graham noted that Obama’s Middle East policies have helped Islamists while hurting Christian minorities throughout the region.
“We see the Arab Spring, and coming out of the Arab Spring, the Islamists are taking control of the Middle East. And people like [Hosni] Mubarak was a dictator, but he kept the peace with Israel and the Christian minorities in Egypt were protected.
“Now those Christian minorities throughout the entire Arab world are under attack. A Newsweek magazine cover story last week [was about] was the massacre of Christians in the Islamic world. From Europe all the way through the Middle East to Africa into East Asia, Muslims are killing Christians.
“The president can come out and make a statement demanding that if these countries do not protect their minorities, no more foreign aid from the United States. They are not protecting the minorities. The society in these Islamic countries is not protecting the Christians anymore.”
Graham added: “And hopefully, the people that are in power are going to protect the minorities, and Christians in the Muslim world are the minority. Egypt is like 13 million in the minority. Nigeria is 80-some million, but they’re still a minority.
“These Christians are having their churches burned. They’re being raped. Women are being raped. They’re being murdered. Because under Shariah law Muslims can take a Christian’s property, take a Christian’s life, can take his daughter. And this is what is happening. The governments are not able to protect the minorities in the society. And they’re unwilling to protect them. If a government is not going to protect the minorities, we should not give them one dollar of U.S. aid.”
Graham claimed Obama is doing little to nothing to help persecuted Christians.
“And he’s got the power of the White House,” Graham complained. “He could be speaking to these countries right now, demanding that they protect the Christians in those countries. He’s been quiet about it.
“We have an aid station in Southern Sudan. The Sudanese dropped bombs on it right before Christmas. We have a Bible school. Just two weeks ago the Sudanese air force dropped eight bombs on that Bible school. Why doesn’t the president come out and try to bring peace to the Sudan?”, he asked.
Rev. Graham questions Christianity of Obama and Romney
Asked in an interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” if he believed Mr. Obama was a Christian, Graham said he would “have to assume” he is because “he has said he’s a Christian,” but then added that he cannot answer the question himself.
“You’ll have to ask President Obama,” Graham said, when asked directly what he believes about Mr. Obama’s faith.
“You can ask me ‘Do I believe you’re a Christian?’ I think the best thing for a person is to ask you directly, so I think people have to ask Barack Obama. He’s come out saying that he’s a Christian, so I think the question is ‘What is a Christian?’” Graham said.
Graham was also asked about the former Massachusetts governor, who is in tight race with Rick Santorum, a conservative Catholic, in next week’s Republican primary in Michigan.
“Most Christians would not recognize Mormonism as part of the Christian faith,” Graham said, declining to say outright that he does not count Romney, a Mormon, as a Christian.
“I’m just saying most Christians would not recognize Mormonism,” Graham said. “Of course, they believe in Jesus Christ, but they have a lot of other things they believe in too that we don’t accept theologically. But he would be a good president if he [won] the nomination.”
Graham suggested Mr. Obama is not as Christian as he could be, or as Christian as other presidential candidates on the trail.
“But the question is: What is a Christian? And a Christian is a person that believes Jesus Christ is God’s son who died on a cross for our sins who God raised to life. And that if we put our faith and trust in him, then God will forgive us of our sins. Now, that’s the definition of a Christian. I was 22 years old when I asked Christ to come into my heart. You cannot be born a Christian; you can only be converted. And that is by putting your faith and trust in Christ,” Graham said.
He said that, in a conversation he’d had with Mr. Obama a number of years ago, the president told him he’d started to go to church while working on the south side of Chicago because leaders in the community told him it was a necessity.
“So therefore, by your definition, he’s not a Christian,” prompted MSNBC’s Willie Geist.
“Again. You’d have to ask him. I cannot answer that question for anybody. All I know is that I’m a sinner and that God has forgiven me of my sins. Because I put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ. That’s all I know,” Graham said.
Graham had a different response when asked if Santorum was a Christian.
“Do you believe that Rick Santorum is a Christian?” asked Geist.
“I think so,” said Graham.
“How do you know? If the standard is only the person knows what’s within him, when you apply it to the president why is it different for Rick Santorum?” asked Geist.
Graham said he believes Santorum is “a man of faith” because of the “stand he takes” on moral issues.
“Well, because his values are so clear on moral issues. No question about it,” Graham said. “And I just appreciate the moral stand that he takes on these things. So I believe that he is. He comes from a Catholic faith; I’m Protestant so there are a lot of differences between what he believes and what I believe. But yet I think he is, no question, I believe he’s a man of faith.”
John Heilemann, a journalist and guest on the show, accused Graham of applying an “incredible double standard” to Mr. Obama and Santorum on the question of religion, given that previously he’d said that one can’t know the depth of another’s religious faith.
“No. I asked President Obama how he came to faith in Christ. And he said ‘I don’t go to church,’” Graham said. He said Santorum had been more persuasive on the question when he had a similar conversation with him about faith.
“You have to look at a person does with his life. Anyone can say that he’s a Christian, but you look at how they live,” Graham said.
Graham also said he thinks Gingrich is a Christian.
“I think Newt is a Christian,” he said. “At least he told me he is.”
UK, November 28, 2011: At about eight o’clock on a dull autumnal morning, a mother is preparing breakfast for her young son in the kitchen of an unassuming private house on a little modern estate in Leicester. The doorbell rings. Outside, a series of people carriers and estate cars are rolling up one by one; out of them tumbling a succession of children in twos and threes, all in traditional Islamic dress.
By 8.30, 26 children – some of them only just old enough for school, some almost grown – are sitting in tight rows on the floor of a little inner room, reciting morning prayers in Arabic and in English. By 9.30, the conservatory has become an infant classroom, the dining room has been taken over by the juniors and in the living room, year 7 and 8 girls are preparing to spread their geography projects across the laminate flooring.
By now, the mother has vanished – she doesn’t want her name or address to be used, she says, because already families are turning up at odd hours asking to look round the “school” – and Fatima D’Oyen, director of Manara Education, has taken charge with her small team of staff.
There’s no doubting that the Manara academy is a most unusual educational institution. But it’s also part of a national trend. Although the number of Islamic schools is still small – around 140 at the latest count, just 12 of them state-funded – it is growing fast. About 60 of these schools have opened in the last 10 years; several in the last couple of months. And the demand from parents seems to be huge – one school in Birmingham recently attracted 1,500 applications for just 60 places. At least five Islamic schools have recently applied to be free schools, although so far only one has been approved.
Manara is one of two Islamic schools that have opened in Leicester this autumn – although in its case, the word “school” can only be used loosely. Manara operates just three mornings a week, and its pupils are registered as home-educated.
Because Manara operates on a part-time basis, it does not need to register with the Department for Education as a school. But the rise in the number of Islamic schools has raised some concerns. Leicester City Council has called for national guidance to ensure that parents who send their children to “flexi schools” like Manara can be sure the staff have criminal record checks and their buildings are safe. And in some areas, full-time schools have opened without registration – meaning that there are no checks on the suitability of their staff or the quality of their curriculum.
D’Oyen aims to open a fully registered, full-time school next year. Until recently, she was the headteacher of another Muslim school in Leicester, but left earlier this year – and decided to start her own school. She quickly found that the formalities required were much more cumbersome than in her native US, where she had previously helped to set up an Islamic school in New Mexico.
“The Department for Education wanted everything done six months in advance; they wanted a plan of the building, they wanted to come and inspect,” she says. “They wanted to see our curriculum plans in detail – a lot of rigmarole. And we wanted to be open in September. So legally we are a private tuition service – like a supplementary school, but during the day.”
Despite its unconventional setting – D’Oyen was invited to tea with the family who live here and seized on the idea that the house could be turned into a school – the children seem contented and the curriculum varied. Manara is experimenting with Montessori teaching methods, and religious education includes moral and personal discussions as well as study of the Qur’an. The time spent by many children learning the Qur’an at madrasas – often 10 hours a week or more – can rob them of their childhood, D’Oyen believes, and she hopes to provide a more humane alternative. The pupils will learn about gardening and alternative technologies, and have access to the garden, which is used as an outdoor classroom.
“We’d like to teach a long morning, which would include some Islamic education, and then in the afternoons children would have more choice of activities – arts, crafts, PE,” D’Oyen says. “We want the children to have creativity in their lives, and to follow some of their interests.”
She foresees no problems at all in finding pupils – another Islamic school in Leicester already has five applications for each place. The demand from Muslim parents for an education outside the mainstream is growing, she says.
Others in the Muslim world agree with her. Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, founder of the Muslim Institute thinktank, says there is a growing feeling among Muslim parents that mainstream schools are not serving their children well: “If schools are focused on raising standards and on ensuring that there is discipline, I think most people are happy with that,” he says. “But more and more parents are concerned about the quality of education, and about discipline.”
Yet in some areas, situations have arisen that have caused concern. A headteacher in the north of England, who asked not to be identified, described how an Islamic school had opened up two years ago without permission opposite her own primary school. “It operated for about six months without registration, and then it was forced to close. It didn’t take long before it was registered and reopened again,” she says. “Some lovely ladies came to see me and they invited me and my deputy to see what was happening there. But I have to say I found the whole thing very worrying indeed – it’s just so divisive.” She had been trained as an Ofsted inspector, she said, and did not believe that the school would have been allowed to operate in the state sector. Its buildings, even after renovation, were unsuitable, she said, and its curriculum was too narrow, with every lesson being linked in some way to the Qur’an or the life of the Prophet Muhammad.
The Association of Muslim Schools, set up 20 years ago to support a then-tiny band of institutions, acknowledges that in response to a growing demand for Islamic education, a number of full-time schools have opened without proper formalities.
“The Department for Education is in constant contact with us, and they do tell us if someone’s operating without registration,” says Shazad Mohammed, the director of the association. “Then we visit to stress the importance of registering – the local authorities have to know where the children are, for safeguarding purposes. We strongly discourage this – it is illegal to operate without registration.”
But it is hardly surprising that there should be some breaches, he adds – the UK has two and a half million Muslims, and the number is rising fast. The majority are aged between 13 and 25. One highly regarded Muslim school, the Al-Hijrah school in Birmingham, has introduced a lottery system to allocate places because up to 25 parents are competing for each one.
In Leicester, the city council says it is anticipating a rise in the number of “flexi schools” like Manara, and it has asked the government to address the issue. “It is anticipated that this form of education may become more common, and the local authority has asked that the Department for Education consider producing national guidance for parents and providers around the quality of provision, including criminal record checks, health and safety and planning permission,” it said in a statement.
The DfE welcomed Leicester’s commitment to working with home educators, but did not respond to requests for a comment on whether there should be more regulation of the sector.
But for Fatima D’Oyen, the road ahead seems clear. Leicester’s home education inspector paid her a visit this month, and was apparently impressed. Attempts to regulate the sector further would be counterproductive, she argues. “My perspective is that 95% of parents can be trusted to do what is best for their children,” she says. “I don’t believe it is either possible or desirable to try to regulate, especially if the desire to do so comes from racism or misplaced paternalism. The reality is that most Muslims setting up or working at Islamic schools, whether part-time, full-time, supplementary or otherwise, do so out of a sense of altruism and wanting to help children get a good education.”
- fran abrams
USA, November 16, 2011: Nuns as corporate activists may sound an improbable proposition.
But not in the United States where some religious groups have formed a corporate responsibility committee to combat “troubling developments” at the businesses.
Flexing their financial muscles on issues from investment returns to workplace violence, Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia have become one of the groups of corporate activists around.
The nuns have gone toe-to-toe with Kroger, the grocery store chain, over farm worker rights; with McDonald’s, over childhood obesity; and with Wells Fargo, over lending practices.
They have tried, with mixed success, to exert some moral suasion over Fortune 500 executives, a group not always known for its piety.
“We want social returns, as well as financial ones,” said Sister Nora Nash of the congregation.
“When you look at the major financial institutions, you have to realize there is greed involved.”
Sister Nash and her team from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility are an unusual example of the shareholder activism that has ripped through corporate America since the 1980s.
The nuns also plan to use the investments in their retirement fund to become Wall Street’s moral minority.
In 1980, Sister Nash and her community formed a corporate responsibility committee to combat what they saw as troubling developments at the businesses in which they invested their retirement fund.
A year later, in coordination with groups like the Philadelphia Area Coalition for Responsible Investment, they mounted their offensive.
They boycotted Big Oil, took aim at Nestlé over labor policies, and urged Big Tobacco to change its ways.
Eventually, they developed a strategy combining moral philosophy and public shaming.
Unsurprisingly, most companies decided they would rather let the nuns in the door than confront religious dissenters in public.
Sister Nash and her cohort have gained access to some of the most illustrious boardrooms in America.
Robert J. Stevens, the chief executive of Lockheed Martin, has lent her an ear, as have other big names.
The Sisters of St. Francis are hardly the only religious voices challenging big business.
They have teamed up on shareholder resolutions with other orders, including the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth and the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, both in New Jersey.
The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, the umbrella group under which much of Sister Nash’s activism takes place, includes Jews, Quakers, Presbyterians and nearly 300 faith-based investing groups.
The Vatican, too, has weighed in with a recent encyclical, condemning “the idolatry of the market” and calling for the establishment of a central authority that could stave off future financial crises.
“Companies have learned over time that the issues we’re bringing are not frivolous,” said Fr. Seamus P. Finn, a Washington-based priest with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and a board member of the Interfaith Center.
“We’re not here to put corporations down. “We’re here to improve their sense of responsibility,” Sister Nash concluded.