Feminism in faith – revolutionizing religion: Top 5 news stories

Feminism In Faith: Four Women Who Are Revolutionizing Organized ReligionBehind the numbers: Religious ‘nones’ may not be who you think they are • For Hateful Comic in France, Muzzle Becomes a MegaphoneAnti-Muslim speakers still popular in law enforcement trainingWorldwide, Many See Belief in God as Essential to Morality

Last week’s top news, from our perspective:

Photo credit: Buzzfeed

Feminism In Faith: Four Women Who Are Revolutionizing Organized Religion

The first publicly ordained Orthodox Jewish female rabbi; an attorney leading the campaign to ordain Mormon women; a nun whose career was threatened for daring to question the Virgin Mary as a symbol of subservience; a Muslim journalist whose organization is re-translating the Qur’an’s most controversial verse. Bringing change to institutions entrenched in centuries of tradition takes a very specific kind of fighting spirit.

Behind the numbers: Religious ‘nones’ may not be who you think they are

In recent surveys, the religious “nones” — as in, “none of the above” — appear to lead in the faith marketplace. In fact, “none” could soon be the dominant label U.S. adults pick when asked to describe their religious identity.

But they may not be who you think they are. Today, “nones” include many more unbranded believers than atheists, and an increasingly diverse racial and ethnic mix.

For Hateful Comic in France, Muzzle Becomes a Megaphone

Thirty-eight times in recent years the French authorities have charged the comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala with violating anti-hate laws. The government has urged cities and towns to ban his performances, and some have done so, canceling his sold-out shows. Senior officials have condemned him as an anti-Semitic Holocaust denier who is inciting hatred.

Yet the campaign against him shows few signs of succeeding. Not only has he escaped conviction in many of the cases brought against him or, at worst, had to pay fines, he has easily circumvented limits on his public appearances via the Internet and social media. One of his videos, posted just in February, a riposte to the Interior Ministry and specifically Manuel Valls, the interior minister, received almost two million views in the first week it was up.

Anti-Muslim speakers still popular in law enforcement training

While Muslim-American activists and media reports have raised awareness about anti-Muslim trainers, occasionally resulting in curriculum reviews and canceled classes, many say the problem persists because there are too few police administrators to properly vet courses and instructors.

The consequences, critics add, go beyond political incorrectness and include undermining public safety and obscuring real dangers as police officers chase bad leads based on profiling.

Worldwide, Many See Belief in God as Essential to Morality

Many people around the world think it is necessary to believe in God to be a moral person, according to surveys in 40 countries by the Pew Research Center. However, this view is more common in poorer countries than in wealthier ones.

In 22 of the 40 countries surveyed, clear majorities say it is necessary to believe in God to be moral and have good values.

Anti-Semitic incidents and trends in Europe: top 5 news stories

Are the French Anti-Semitic? • Pigs’ Heads Sent To Rome Synagogue And Israeli Embassy Britain: Anti-Semitic Incidents Fall • Prayers And Religion Make An Appearance At Sochi OlympicsObama: Religious Freedom a US Diplomatic Priority


Last week’s top news, from our perspective:


Are the French Anti-Semitic?

A 2012 poll by the U.S. Anti-Defamation League, which has tracked attitudes to Jews in France, reported that the overall level of anti-Semitism increased to 24 percent of the population, up from 20 percent in a previous poll just four years before.

The league also found that 35 percent of French people believe that “Jews have too much power in the business world,” while 35 percent believe “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them during the Holocaust.”

Some commentators say France’s Jewish community – at around 500,000, the largest in Europe – has no future. One Paris rabbi is quoted as saying 80 percent of young couples about to marry tell him this.


Pigs’ Heads Sent To Rome Synagogue And Israeli Embassy

Offences against Jewish targets in Rome including a pig’s head sent to the city’s main synagogue caused outrage in Italy on Saturday in the run-up to International Holocaust Remembrance Day next week.

“This is a vile and cowardly act which offends the Jewish community and all Romans on the eve of the memorial day,” Nicola Zingaretti, president of Lazio, the region in which the city of Rome is located.

The pig’s head was sent in a parcel to Rome’s Grand Synagogue on Friday and similar packages were also addressed to the Israeli embassy in Rome and to a museum holding an exhibition on the Nazi Holocaust.

Officials said that anti-Semitic graffiti were also scrawled on the walls of a municipal building in the city.


Britain: Anti-Semitic Incidents Fall

Anti-Semitic incidents recorded in Britain have fallen to the lowest annual level since 2005, a Jewish advisory body reported Wednesday, and said the decline may have been due to a recent lack of “trigger events” in the Middle East. The 529 anti-Semitic incidents recorded in 2013 was down 18 percent from the previous year, according to a report by the Community Security Trust, which advises Britain’s estimated 260,000 Jews on safety issues.

The number of violent assaults remained the same as in 2012 at 69, the lowest level since 2003. While attacks on Jews show a decline, Muslim groups say anti-Islamic incidents are on the rise, partly fueled by the killing of a British soldier by two Muslim converts in London last May.


Prayers And Religion Make An Appearance At Sochi Olympics

Carl Dambman has spent years preparing for Sochi, traveling from his Seattle home to athletic competitions in the United States and internationally, improving his skills ahead of the Winter Olympics.

But Dambman, 63, isn’t an athlete. Instead, he’s one of dozens of chaplains volunteering at the games, where organizers have set up three multi-faith centers at the Olympic and Paralympic villages for competitors and their coaches.

“In such a high-pressure, high-stakes place, you never know what someone will want to talk about, but we’re there for them,” said Dambman, an Olympic wrestler in the 1970s who now ministers internationally for Athletes in Action.


Obama: Religious Freedom a US Diplomatic Priority

President Barack Obama told a non-denominational gathering of political leaders Thursday that freedom of religion across the world is important to national security and is a central tenet of U.S. diplomacy.

Speaking at the annual National Prayer Breakfast, Obama cast his message as an international call for human rights, singling out countries that he said have fallen short, particularly when it comes to extending protections and freedoms to all faiths.

Problems with religious rights and opportunity at UN: Top 5 news stories

United Nations too Christian, claims reportReport: 8 countries on UN Human Rights Council restrict religious freedomConcern Over an Increasingly Seen Gesture Grows in FranceNazi graffiti on Stockholm mosqueThicker brain sections tied to spirituality: study

Last week’s top news stories, from our perspective:


United Nations too Christian, claims report

Christianity dominates the United Nations and more diversity is needed to increase non-Christian representation in world peacemaking, according to a study.

Research undertaken by Prof Jeremy Carrette, with colleagues from the University of Kent’s department of religious studies, has revealed that more than 70% of religious non-government organisations (NGOs) at the UN are Christian, and that there is historical privilege in allowing the Vatican a special observer status, as both a state and a religion.

The report, called Religious NGOs and the United Nations, calls for greater awareness, transparency and equality in the way religious NGOs operate within the UN, and more emphasis on religious tolerance.


Report: 8 countries on UN Human Rights Council restrict religious freedom

Eight of the 47 countries that hold seats on the United Nations Human Rights Council imprisoned people in 2013 under laws that restrict religious freedom, according to a new report from Human Rights Without Frontiers International, a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Belgium.

The eight UNHRC member states on the group’s second annual World Freedom of Religion or Belief Prisoners List, released Monday (Dec. 30), are Morocco, China and Saudi Arabia (whose new three-year terms begin Wednesday) and current members India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Libya and South Korea.

Hundreds of believers and atheists were imprisoned in these and 16 other countries for exercising religious freedom or freedom of expression rights related to religious issues, according to the report. These rights include the freedom to change religions, share beliefs, object to military service on conscientious grounds, worship, assemble and associate freely. Violations related to religious defamation and blasphemy are also included in the report.


Concern Over an Increasingly Seen Gesture Grows in France

No one seems to know just what is meant by the “quenelle,” the vaguely menacing hand gesture invented and popularized by a French comedian widely criticized as anti-Semitic, but it is clearly nothing very nice, and it appears to be spreading.

Fans of the performer, Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, send him photos of themselves performing the gesture in front of historic monuments, next to unwitting public officials, at weddings, under water and in high school class photographs, but also, increasingly, beside synagogues, Holocaust memorials and street signs displaying the word “Jew.” At least one young man appears to have posed for a quenelle outside the grade school in Toulouse where, in 2012, four Jews were killed by a self-proclaimed operative of Al Qaeda.


Nazi graffiti on Stockholm mosque

Swedish police have opened a hate-crime investigation after swastikas were spray-painted on the entrance of a mosque in downtown Stockholm.

Omar Mustafa, the head of Sweden’s Islamic federation, says employees discovered the vandalism as they arrived to open the mosque Thursday morning. He posted pictures of the graffiti on Twitter.

Mustafa said the mosque is targeted by hate mail or vandalism about twice a month, but this is the first time the entrance was defaced with swastikas since the mosque was built in 2000.


Thicker brain sections tied to spirituality: study

For people at high risk of depression because of a family history, spirituality may offer some protection for the brain, a new study hints.

Parts of the brain’s outer layer, the cortex, were thicker in high-risk study participants who said religion or spirituality was “important” to them versus those who cared less about religion.

“Our beliefs and our moods are reflected in our brain and with new imaging techniques we can begin to see this,” Myrna Weissman told Reuters Health. “The brain is an extraordinary organ. It not only controls, but is controlled by our moods.”

Atheists face death: Top 5 news stories

Atheists face death in 13 countries, global discrimination: study • Romanian state TV airs Christmas carol about burning Jews, celebrating Holocaust • Insisting Jesus Was White Is Bad History and Bad Theology • Rick Warren’s bogus Jewish deli analogy • Health Matters: Medicine’s Growing Spirituality

Last week’s top news stories, from our perspective:
Atheists face death in 13 countries, global discrimination: study

In 13 countries around the world, all of them Muslim, people who openly espouse atheism or reject the official state religion of Islam face execution under the law, according to a detailed study issued on Tuesday.

And beyond the Islamic nations, even some of the West’s apparently most democratic governments at best discriminate against citizens who have no belief in a god and at worst can jail them for offences dubbed blasphemy, it said.

The study, The Freethought Report 2013, was issued by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), a global body uniting atheists, agnostics and other religious skeptics, to mark United Nations’ Human Rights Day on Tuesday.

(Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)
Romanian state TV airs Christmas carol about burning Jews, celebrating Holocaust

A Romanian public broadcaster distanced itself from a Christmas carol celebrating the Holocaust that aired on the new channel. TVR3 Verde, a television channel for rural communities, presented the carol on December 5 during its maiden transmission.

Sung by the Dor Transilvan ensemble, it featured the lyrics: “The kikes, damn kikes, Holy God would not leave the kike alive, neither in heaven nor on earth, only in the chimney as smoke, this is what the kike is good for, to make kike smoke through the chimney on the street.”

In a statement Tuesday, TVR3 said it did not select the carol but only broadcast songs that were chosen and compiled by the Center for Preservation and Promotion of Traditional Culture, which belongs to the eastern county of Cluj.
Insisting Jesus Was White Is Bad History and Bad Theology

Fox News television host Megyn Kelly told viewers on her December 11 broadcast that Jesus and Santa are both white men.

“Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change,” Kelly said. “Jesus was a white man, too. It’s like we have, he’s a historical figure that’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa, I just want kids to know that. How do you revise it in the middle of the legacy in the story and change Santa from white to black?”

Setting aside the ridiculousness of creating rigidly racial depictions of a fictitious character that does not actually exist—sorry, kids—like Santa, Kelly has made a more serious error about Jesus. The scholarly consensus is actually that Jesus was, like most first-century Jews, probably a dark-skinned man. If he were taking the red-eye flight from San Francisco to New York today, Jesus might be profiled for additional security screening by TSA.
Rick Warren’s bogus Jewish deli analogy

Speaking on Huffpost Live a couple of days ago, Rick Warren compared Obamacare’s contraception mandate to a law requiring Jewish deli owners to sell pork, saying that if the latter took place, “I would be out there with the rabbis protesting that. Why? I don’t have a problem with pork, but I believe in your right to not have to sell pork if it’s not in your faith.”

Let it be noted that Warren plagiarized…well, appropriated…this analogy from Archbishop William Lori, who, testifying before Congress in his capacity as chairman of the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty in February of last year, delivered himself of The Parable of the Kosher Deli. As I tried to make clear, the analogy didn’t work then, and it hasn’t improved with age. If I may be permitted to cannibalize myself…
Health Matters: Medicine’s Growing Spirituality

In a health crisis, patients and families may turn to a member of the hospital staff who offers help beyond the physical aspects of medical treatment: the chaplain.

With growing recognition of the role of spirituality in health care, hospital chaplains are being called on to help patients cope with fear and pain, make difficult end-of-life decisions and guide families through bereavement after a loss. They may help sick or dying patients reconnect with estranged family members. New guidelines call for chaplains to be included on teams of doctors and nurses who provide palliative care—which specializes in relieving the pain, symptoms and stress of serious illness. And chaplains often step in to help clinicians deal with their own feelings of stress and burnout.

Are for-profit businesses religious entities? Top 5 news stories

Supreme Court takes up contraceptive mandate • Church of England approves female bishops plan • Could Spreading European Anti-Semitism Drive Jews From Homelands? • Soy Sex Story: Atrocious ‘Reporting’ on Insular Religious Groups • Hate Crime Incidents Were Down Slightly Last Year

Last week’s top news, from our perspective:
Supreme Court takes up contraceptive mandate

The Supreme Court announced on Tuesday (Nov. 26) that it will decide whether for-profit businesses can be treated like religious entities in a politically and constitutionally freighted test of the Obama administration’s mandate that employers include free contraception coverage as part of their health plans.

The cases, which will probably be argued in March and decided in June, will not deal with a string of other lawsuits over the mandate that have been filed by nonprofit faith-based groups. Those complaints are still working their way through the lower courts.

(Photo: Johnny Armstead/Demotix/Corbis)

Church of England approves female bishops plan

The Church of England is on course to give its final approval to female bishops next year after its General Synod voted in favour of new proposals to bring women into the episcopate, raising hopes of an end to the damaging and frequently bitter 20-year standoff between modernisers and traditionalists.

On the third and final day of its meeting in London, the synod voted in favour of the new plans by an overwhelming majority of 378 to eight, with 25 abstentions.

Could Spreading European Anti-Semitism Drive Jews From Homelands?

Conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, known as the FRA, “Discrimination and hate crime against Jews in E.U. Member States: experiences and perceptions of anti-Semitism” surveyed 5,847 individuals 16 years old and over who considered themselves Jewish, residing in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The headline figures were frightening enough. Across Europe, 66% of Jewish people see anti-Semitism as a problem in their respective countries today — as high as 90% in Hungary and 85% in France. The perception, moreover, is that over the past five years, the level of anti-Semitism has increased, with 76% of respondents saying it had gone up a lot or a little.

Soy Sex Story: Atrocious ‘Reporting’ on Insular Religious Groups

Multiple news outlets, including the Independent and Slate, recently linked to a story, originally posted in English on, claiming that a Hasidic group banned soy products because they ‘lead to homosexual sex.’

The problem with this outlandish story was that it was completely unverified; none of the outlets actually interviewed or did any on-the-ground investigation. Ultimately the story was retracted, but the damage was already done.

Misreporting on insular religious societies like the Amish or Hasidic Jews may be due to a number of issues, from the difficulty of contacting individuals for interviews to the fact that insular communities are less likely to challenge a story.

Hate Crime Incidents Were Down Slightly Last Year

The FBI is reporting that hate crime incidents were slightly down last year.

Numbers released by the FBI Monday showed there were 5,796 such incidents in 2012, compared to 6,222 in 2011.

All but six of the incidents were motivated by a single bias. Of those, just under half were motivated by racial bias; about one in five were motivated by sexual orientation bias; just below one in five were motivated by religious bias; and just over one in 10 were motivated by ethnicity/national origin bias. Bias against people with disabilities accounted for 1.6 percent of the incidents.

Religion in the Philippines: Top 5 news stories

Philippines typhoon aftermath: Religion as solaceReligious conflict rips through Central African Republic • Casting Light on Little-Known Story of Albania Rescuing Jews From Nazis • Myanmar rejects U.N. resolution on Rohingya Muslims • Frescoes Some Say Show Early Women Priests

Last week’s top news, from our perspective:
Philippines typhoon aftermath: Religion as solace

The day after the typhoon, Father Edwin Bacaltos stepped out of the compound of the Church of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in central Tacloban and began his work.

The scene was one of unspeakable horror. Dead bodies were strewn all over the place. The debris of shattered buildings and their contents filled the street.
Religious conflict rips through Central African Republic

A cycle of violence in the Central African Republic is quickly degenerating into a religious conflict between Christians and Muslims, amid a deteriorating humanitarian crisis, church leaders and U.N. officials warn.

The armed conflict has produced 400,000 internally displaced persons and 64,000 refugees. International groups say people are in urgent need of relief aid.
Casting Light on Little-Known Story of Albania Rescuing Jews From Nazis

There were a handful of European nations where the Nazi killing machine sputtered, but few seem more remarkable and less illuminated than Albania.

With ordinary Albanians moving Jews from hide-out to hide-out to elude capture, Albania saved virtually all of its 200 native Jews and 400 Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria. The country also helped spirit hundreds more over from Nazi-occupied Balkan lands.

“Albania was one of the only European countries that had more Jews at the end of the war than at the beginning of the war,” said Michael Berenbaum, former project director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Myanmar rejects U.N. resolution on Rohingya Muslims

Myanmar rejected on Thursday a U.N. resolution urging it to grant citizenship to the Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority group, and accused the United Nations of impinging on its sovereignty.

The U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee resolution, which passed on Tuesday, also called on Buddhist-majority Myanmar to curb an increase in violence against Muslims since military rule ended in March 2011.

“Citizenship will not be granted to those who are not entitled to it under this law no matter whoever applies pressure on us,” government spokesman Ye Htut said in a statement. “It is our sovereign right.”
Frescoes Some Say Show Early Women Priests

The Vatican on Tuesday unveiled newly restored frescoes in the Catacombs of Priscilla, known for housing the earliest known image of the Madonna with Child — and frescoes said by some to show women priests in the early Christian church.

Rise of anti-Semitism in Europe: Top 5 news stories

Jews in Europe Report a Surge in Anti-Semitism • Elderly Woman’s Killing Lays Bare Myanmar’s Religious Divisions • Minority report: Why Baha’is face persecution in Iran • Atheist ‘Megachurches’ Crop Up Around The World • Sakena Yacoobi Wins Opus Prize

Last week’s top news stories, from our perspective:

Jews in Europe Report a Surge in Anti-Semitism

Fear of rising anti-Semitism in Europe has prompted nearly a third of European Jews to consider emigration because they do not feel safe in their home country, according to a detailed survey of Jewish perceptions released Friday by a European Union agency that monitors discrimination and other violations of basic rights.

The survey, by the bloc’s Fundamental Rights Agency, focused on eight countries that account for more than 90 percent of Europe’s Jewish population and found that “while member states have made sustained efforts to combat anti-Semitism, the problem is still widespread.”

Elderly Woman’s Killing Lays Bare Myanmar’s Religious Divisions

Paralyzed from the waist down, Daw Aye Kyi was too heavy for her daughter and granddaughter to carry into the surrounding jungle when a Buddhist mob stormed through this rice-farming village hunting for Muslims.

Three men brandishing machetes and knives ignored pleas for mercy and lunged at Ms. Aye Kyi. Her daughter and her granddaughter fled. Several hours later, Ms. Aye Kyi’s body was discovered, slumped next to the smoking cinders of her wooden house. The police say she was stabbed six times. She was 94 years old.

Ms. Aye Kyi was one of five Muslims killed in the attack on Thabyu Chaing last month.

Minority report: Why Baha’is face persecution in Iran

The Islamic Republic’s 34-year rule has hurt many religious and political groups in Iran, but one community has borne an especially heavy burden: the Baha’is, a religious minority viewed as heretics by some Muslims.

Dozens of Baha’is were killed or jailed in the years immediately following the Islamic revolution in 1979. Billions of dollars worth of land, houses, shops and other Baha’i belongings were seized in subsequent years by various Iranian organizations, including Setad, the organization overseen by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Atheist ‘Megachurches’ Crop Up Around The World

It looked like a typical Sunday morning at any mega-church. Hundreds packed in for more than an hour of rousing music, an inspirational sermon, a reading and some quiet reflection. The only thing missing was God.

Dozens of gatherings dubbed “atheist mega-churches” by supporters and detractors are springing up around the U.S. after finding success in Great Britain earlier this year. The movement fueled by social media and spearheaded by two prominent British comedians is no joke.

Sakena Yacoobi Wins Opus Prize

Sakena Yacoobi, founder and president of the Afghan Institute of Learning, was announced as the winner of the 2013 Opus Prize, an award that “honors unsung heroes of any faith tradition with a $1 million award for efforts to solve today’s most persistent and pressing global issues, including poverty, illiteracy, hunger, disease, and injustice.”

(Congrats Sakena!)

The New York Times publishes Tanenbaum’s letter condemning anti-Semitism

On Friday, The New York Times published “Swastikas, Slurs and Torment in Town’s Schools,” a story about anti-Semitic incidents in an upstate New York school district. Jewish students there report verbal abuse and swastikas on “walls, desks, lockers, textbooks, computer screens, a playground slide – even on a student’s face.”

This is exactly the prejudice–the every day hate–that Tanenbaum is committed to stopping.

That’s why I submitted a letter to the editor that was published this morning in the print and online version of The New York Times.

I invite you to read the story – and my response. Let me know if you see any such prejudice in your life. Let me know if you’ve worked to stop it – or if Tanenbaum can be of help in any way. And please let your friends know about this problem and about how we are standing up against it!








Joyce S. Dubensky, CEO

Terrorism, murder, arson in England, Poland, Germany, & Russia: Top 5 News Stories

Female suicide bomber strikes Russian bus, 6 dead • Student admits murdering 82-year-old man and plotting explosions near mosques • German Synagogues Have Been Attacked At Least 82 Times in Last Four Years • Mosque Torching Draws Kristallnacht Comparison By Polish Jews Muslim prayer house in Russia set on fire

Last week's top news, from our perspective…This past week was unusual in that multiple stories of violence came in from places that we do not typically associate with religious conflict:

Female suicide bomber strikes Russian bus, 6 dead

Possibly married to an Islamist militant, a suicide bomber who blew up a bus in Russia, killing six, was from a troubled area close to Sochi, where the Olympics will be.

The bombing in Volgograd was likely to raise fears of further attacks by Islamist militants as Russia prepares to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in February in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, not far from the mainly Muslim North Caucasus. (Photo Credit: Sergei Ivanishin, Associated Press)

Student admits murdering 82-year-old man and plotting explosions near mosques

A Ukrainian student with a hatred of "non-whites" has admitted murdering an 82-year-old man and plotting to cause explosions near mosques in central England. Pavlo Lapshyn, 25, a postgraduate student from Dnipropetrovsk, in Ukraine, appeared at the Old Bailey and pleaded guilty to murdering Mohammed Saleem as he walked home from a mosque in Birmingham in April.

He also admitted causing an explosion on July 12 near the Kanzal Iman mosque in Tipton, and engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts between April 24 and July 18 this year.

German Synagogues Have Been Attacked At Least 82 Times in Last Four Years

There have been 82 reported attacks on synagogues in Germany from 2008 to 2012, according to a report requested by Left Party legislator and Bundestag Vice President Petra Pau.

But the reported number may actually be too low: An investigation by Germany’s main Jewish weekly, the Juedische Allgemeine, showed that several notable incidents were not included in the report from the German Interior Ministry that was released last week, including an attack on the Dresden synagogue in 2012, as well as desecration of synagogue property in Regensburg and Wuppertal that same year.

Mosque Torching Draws Kristallnacht Comparison By Polish Jews

The torching of a mosque in Gdansk, Poland has rocked the local community, particularly as the incident occurred weeks before the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, or "The Night Of Broken Glass" which was a pogrom against Jews on November 9-10, 1938.

Jewish leaders were quick to point out the "frightening connotations" of the arson in a statement which condemned the attack, reports JTA.

Muslim prayer house in Russia set on fire

Russian police said attackers set fire to a Muslim prayer house in a southern Russian city earlier rocked by a suicide bombing.

Volgograd police said Tuesday someone threw Molotov cocktails at the building late Monday night, but the custodian managed to put it out. Houses with rooms set aside for Muslim prayer are common in southern Russia.

A scary week of hate and violence: Top 5 News Stories

Scores Are Killed by Suicide Bomb Attack at Historic Church in Pakistan  Kenya: 'If You Were Muslim They Let You Go Sikh Columbia Professor, Attacked In Possible Hate Crime Navy Yard shooting puts Buddhism in spotlight: Column Virginia GOP Official Refuses to Apologize for Anti-Semitic Pope Joke

Last week's top news, from our perspective:

Scores Are Killed by Suicide Bomb Attack at Historic Church in Pakistan

A suicide attack on a historic church in northwestern Pakistan killed at least 78 people on Sunday in one of the deadliest attacks on the Christian minority in Pakistan in years.

The attack occurred as worshipers left All Saints Church in the old quarter of the regional capital, Peshawar, after a service on Sunday morning. Up to 600 people had attended and were leaving to receive free food being distributed on the lawn outside when two explosions ripped through the crowd.

Kenya: 'If You Were Muslim They Let You Go

Witnesses to the attack on a shopping centre in Nairobi say gunmen executed anyone who could not recite an Islamic prayer.

Saadia Ahmed, a radio presenter from Nairobi, said: "We heard three explosions outside the building then all of a sudden we heard gunshots and people ducked down.

"A lot of people were shot while they were trying to escape.

"I saw one of the gunmen with an AK-47 and later two of them were talking and it sounded like Somali or Arabic."

Ms Ahmed said the attackers released people who were able to prove they could speak Arabic. The current death toll stands at 68.

Sikh Columbia Professor, Attacked In Possible Hate Crime

A Columbia University professor was assaulted on Saturday night in what police say is being investigated as a hate crime.

According to a New York Police Department source, Dr. Prabhjot Singh, who is Sikh and wears a turban and a beard, was attacked at 8:15 p.m. while walking along 110th Street near Lennox Avenue in upper Manhattan. An unknown suspect or suspects shouted anti-Muslim statements, knocked the professor down and punched him numerous times in the face.

Navy Yard shooting puts Buddhism in spotlight: Column

Aaron Alexis allegedly shot and killed 12 people in cold blood before being killed himself by police on Monday at the Washington Navy Yard.

Alexis was a government contractor and former Navy reservist. But was also a Buddhist who, according to news reports, chanted frequently, wore an amulet of the Buddha around his neck, and regularly attended services at Wat Busayadhammavanaram Meditation Center in Fort Worth, Texas. How are we to make sense of this anomaly — a follower of the Buddha who shoots to kill?

Our stereotype of Buddhists as peacemakers is not unfounded. The Buddha was by all accounts a man of peace, and ahimsa (non-violence) has long been a Buddhist value.

Virginia GOP Official Refuses to Apologize for Anti-Semitic Pope Joke

A GOP official in Virginia refused to apologize for an anti-Semitic joke, although the party’s candidate for governor called it inappropriate.

“I did not tell an anti-Semitic joke,” John Whitbeck, the Republican Party’s chairman in its 10th Congressional District, in northern Virginia, told the Free Beacon on Wednesday. “I told a joke I heard from a priest at a church service.”

Whitbeck, introducing Ken Cuccinelli, the state’s attorney general and GOP candidate for governor, at a rally on Tuesday related a joke with a punchline that had Jews seeking payment from the Vatican for the Last Supper.