Anti-Muslim Extremist Activites in Europe and Perry’s Questionable Statements: News Roundup

In the news this week:  extremist anti-Muslim groups ramp up in Europe, Rick Perry accused of using religion as divisive topic, a Jewish teenager is attacked because of her religion, and other stories.

As 2011 draws to a close, the Huffington Post looks at the top religion stories of 2011. Huffington Post
The Danish Defence League, a year-old far-right group that claims it's not opposed to foreigners in general, just Muslims, represents a new crop of right-wing radicals who don't fit the mold of the boot-stomping, Jew-hating neo-Nazis. This movement claims its fight is against Islam, and uses crusader symbols instead of swastikas. It frames its mission as a cultural struggle, although opponents say it is little more than old-fashioned xenophobia hiding beneath anti-Islamic rhetoric. Associated Press
Egypt's top reformist leader said Sunday the liberal youth behind the country's uprising have been "decimated" in parliamentary elections dominated by Islamists and expressed concern about the rise of hard-line religious elements advocating extremist ideas such as banning women from driving. Huffington Post
In Washington, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom announced that it will close at the end of next week unless Congress passes a re-authorization bill that one senator is blocking.
Rick Perry released a new religion-themed campaign ad Wednesday, promising voters that as president, he would “end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. ” Perry did not immediately make clear which “liberal attacks on religion” he would fight, but said “there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.” Washington Post
It would be easy to dismiss Perry’s message as just a typical appeal to social conservatives or the desperate strategy of a candidate who may have slipped out of contention. But this is new. The casualness with which Perry tosses off the charge about “Obama’s war on religion” is at odds with how corrosive the accusation really is. It encourages citizens to turn against one another in a way that conservatives would denounce as class warfare if the subject were economics. That leaves conservatives with a choice: they can denounce Perry’s ads, or explain why they tolerate such divisiveness when the subject is people’s faith. Time
A Canadian teenager was arrested for allegedly setting a Jewish classmate’s hair on fire after making anti-Semitic remarks. Winnipeg police have charged the 15-year-old boy with assault with a weapon following an investigation of the Nov. 18 incident in the hallway of a local high school. Police say he confronted a 14-year-old girl and made the slurs before pulling out a cigarette lighter and singing her hair. Jewish Daily Forward
A former Macy's employee who said she was fired for refusing to let a transgender woman use the women's dressing room at the Rivercenter mall location is trying to get her job back. The case, pitting freedom of religion in the workplace vs. corporations' growing acceptance for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, has attracted national attention.
Natalie Johnson said that on Nov. 30, she confronted the customer leaving the women's fitting room and politely made clear no men were allowed. Johnson said the customer wore makeup and dressed in women's clothes but was recognizably a man. The customer argued she was a woman, but Johnson said she held her ground. San Antonio Express
A teaching hospital will hire additional staff to help perform abortions after a group of nurses claimed they were forced to participate in the procedures despite religious objections. Huffington Post