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Libya Bans Religious Political Parties: News Roundup

In the news: Report shows anti-Muslim discrimination in Europe, Libya banned political parties based on religion, the annual Holocaust "Day of Remembrance" focuses on the declining number of survivors, and other stories 

Human rights group Amnesty International says Muslims who openly show their faith suffer widespread discrimination in Europe.
 
In a new report, the group urges Europe\\\'s governments to do more to challenge negative stereotypes and prejudices against Muslims.
 
In particular, it says Muslims face exclusion from jobs and education for wearing traditional forms of dress. It also criticises the bans on Muslim women\\\'s veils passed in some states. BBC
 
Polls show 27 percent of Democrats would not vote for a Mormon, versus 18 percent of Republicans. According to Gallup, while only 18 percent of Republicans said they would oppose a Mormon candidate, among Democrats the figure was 27 percent. Newsweek
 
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has ordered military schools to make sure they are not including anti-Islamic themes in training courses, the Defense Department said on Wednesday, after complaints surfaced about the curriculum in a course dealing with terrorism and radicalism.
 
The chairman, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, ordered the review after students questioned some of the teachings in a class called Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism, which was being taught to midlevel officers at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va.
 
General Dempsey’s order was first reported by Danger Room, the national security blog of Wired magazine. It quoted his deputy for training, Lt. Gen. George Flynn, as calling the course “inflammatory” for including the message that Islam was at war with the United States. NY Times
 
Libya, preparing for elections in June, has banned parties based on religion, tribe or ethnicity, the government said on Wednesday, and a new Islamist party viewed as a leading contender signaled it would challenge the decision.
 
National Transitional Council spokesman Mohammed al-Harizy said the council passed the law governing the formation of political parties on Tuesday evening. “Parties are not allowed to be based on religion or ethnicity or tribe,” he told Reuters.
 
He did not make clear how this would affect a political party formed in March by Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists. The new party was expected to make a strong showing in the election, the first since last year’s overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed popular uprising. Reuters
 
The annual Holocaust "Day of Remembrance" was recently observed in Poland and other nations as well, and it took on special meaning this year to historians who are trying urgently to collect the remaining testimonies of eyewitnesses as their numbers dwindle.
 
One survivor dies in Israel every hour, according to the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, a nonprofit group based in Tel Aviv that helps care for needy survivors. Today, there are 198,000 survivors in Israel; 88% are 75 or older.
 
Israel\\\'s Yad Vashem memorial contains the largest archive in the world of historic material related to the Holocaust — or Shoah, as it is known in Hebrew — and it has been intensifying its campaign to record the accounts of survivors. Teams of historians have been dispatched to interview elderly survivors in their homes and collect artifacts. Religion News Service
 

 

American Muslim Woman Killed in Potential Hate Crime: News Roundup

In the news:  An American Muslim woman is killed in California, thousands protest threats to religious liberties, and other stories 

An Iraqi-American woman who used to live in Dearborn was found beaten to death at her home near San Diego in what might possibly be a hate crime. A note calling her a terrorist and saying she should go back to her country was left next to her body, according to friends and family members.
 
The death on Saturday of Shaima Alawadi, 32, after three days in the hospital has prompted an intense outpouring of anxiety and outrage from some, especially among Arab-Americans and on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Some drew comparisons with the killing of Trayvon Martin, an African-American teen shot dead last month in Florida. Detroit Free Press
 
Across the country, thousands of people protested what they saw as a threat to religious liberties in the United States.
 
The protesters' specific complaint was the birth control mandate in the new health care law, but the discontent runs far deeper. NPR
 
The latest Gallup Poll finds Mississippi is the most religious state, with Vermont and New Hampshire ranking as the least.
 
Overall, Gallup says, "America remains a generally religious nation, with more than two-thirds of the nation's residents classified as very or moderately religious."
 
But "dramatic regional differences" highlight and underscore the nation's deep divisions, which spill over into politics and culture. USA Today
 
What would prompt a 23-year-old man, born and raised in France, to chase a small, terrified Jewish girl into a school courtyard, look her in the eye and shoot her in the head?
 
The very idea brings back memories of the 1940s, of an era that many Europeans have worked diligently, with considerable success, to put behind them. But the echoes of history should not be silenced. The tragedy of Toulouse is a call to take another look at that crucial fight against the poisonous prejudice that ultimately devastated Europe in the middle of the 20th century.
 
I believe an honest examination will reveal a blind spot among those fighting prejudice that has allowed the ancient Jew hatred that infected Europe for centuries to survive. The blind spot is this: When the prejudice — and even the call for murder — is made in connection with the Palestinian cause, people look the other way and give it a pass. CNN
 
The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday released records it obtained from the FBI that it said showed the bureau's San Francisco division used its Muslim outreach efforts to collect intelligence on religious activities protected by the Constitution.
 
Under the U.S. Privacy Act, the FBI is generally prohibited from maintaining records on how people practice their religion unless there is a clear law enforcement purpose. ACLU lawyers said the documents, which the organization obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, showed violations of that law. Wall Street Journal
 
 

 

Anti-Semitic Hate Crimes In and Around NYC: News Roundup

In the news: anti-Semitic crimes in and around New York City, the UN backs a Sikh man fighting French religious headgear laws, and other news.
 
Satyendra Singh Huja, a Sikh American, has been unanimously elected as the mayor of Charlottesville, a historic city in Virginia.
 
Huja, who originally comes from Nainital in Uttarakhand, was elected Mayor of Charlottesville early this month. The Times of India
 
They come to talk about their families, to laugh, to learn and to praise Hilda Weiss’s famous chocolate coffee cake. Other than Mrs. Weiss’s recipe from Hungary, they never liked to go on about the past — even if this was the reason that originally brought the women together in a weekly support group for Holocaust survivors.
 
But in recent days, this fragile yet spirited community of elderly women in Borough Park, Brooklyn, found themselves revisiting details of that unspeakable horror, and haunted by events far too close to home.
 
Swastikas, as well as the words “Die Jew,” had been painted on a garage in Midwood and on the stairs of a Jewish school, part of a recent spate of anti-Semitic crimes in Brooklyn, Manhattan and New Jersey and on Long Island. NY Times
 
A Sikh man in France has won the backing of the United Nations Human Rights Committee in his fight over religious headgear.
 
It said France was violating Sikhs' religious freedom by forcing them to remove their turbans when having photos taken for passports and ID cards.
 
Ranjit Singh, 76, said he had turned to the UN because he found the French policy disrespectful and unnecessary. BBC
 
The U.S. Supreme Court said Tuesday that it will not hear Forsyth County's appeal of lower-court decisions that stopped sectarian prayers at the opening of meetings of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners. Winston-Salem Journal

Violent, Anti-Semitic Hate Crimes in Brooklyn: News Roundup

In the news this week: Anti-Semitic hate crime in Brooklyn, the effect of Alabama’s immigration law on students, the (possibly secular) origins of Thanksgiving, and other stories.

Peaceful marchers sent a clear message Sunday to vandals who torched cars and scrawled Nazi swastikas in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Brooklyn where Woody Allen was raised: Don't repeat the kind of attacks that once led to the Holocaust. CBS News
 
Of the 6,628 hate crime incidents reported for 2010, nearly all (6,624) involved a single bias—47.3 percent of the single-bias incidents were motivated by race; 20 percent by religion; 19.3 by sexual orientation; 12.8 percent by an ethnicity/national origin bias; and 0.6 by physical or mental disability. FBI
 
An increasing number of state lawmakers say they are willing to consider critical changes to Alabama’s sweeping anti-immigration law, part of which appears to make proof of citizenship or legal residency a requirement even for mundane activities like garbage pickup, dog licenses and flu shots at county health departments.
 
As they learn more about the breadth of the law, which was already described as the most far-reaching of the state-level immigration laws when it went into effect on Sept. 29, some political leaders have gone beyond acknowledging a general need for “tweaks” to openly discussing specific changes, which in some cases are as substantial as getting rid of certain provisions in their entirety. NY Times
 
Alabama’s new immigration law is already profoundly affecting educational institutions, administrators, teachers, and students in the state. Under Section 28 of the law, every public elementary and secondary school in the state is required to document and report the immigration status of every student in the school. Schools are also required to report on the immigration status of every child’s parents. Center for American Progress
 
TENNESSEE – Local and national Muslims called for state officials Saturday to rebuke state Rep. Rick Womick for remarks he made that all Muslims be removed from the U.S. military. Tennessean
 
Gay and Muslim groups say they are relieved after a Michigan lawmaker agreed to drop a provision in an anti-bullying bill that would have carved out an exemption for religious or moral beliefs.
 
State Sen. Rick Jones, a Republican, inserted a carve-out for a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” in the Senate version of the bill. The state House of Representatives’ version of the bill did not include the provision.
 
Jones on Monday (Nov. 14) said he would drop his amendment and vote for the House version after critics said the language could allow gay, Muslim or other minority students to face harassment. Washington Post
 
Some historians believe the 1621 celebration that's sometimes dubbed the "First Thanksgiving," was not actually a "thanksgiving" day at all. In fact, some historians even call it a "secular event."
 
"The 1621 gathering in Plymouth was not a religious gathering but most likely a harvest celebration much like those the English had known in farming communities back home," write Catherine O'Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac in their book, 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving. USA Today

 

FBI Releases 2010 Hate Crimes Data; Numbers Hold Steady

The FBI released hate crimes data for 2010 earlier today, and the numbers of hate crimes
reported has held steady since 2009.

Religion-based hate crimes accounted for 20% of the total (a slight uptick from 2009’s
19.7%), behind racially motivated crimes.

As in past years, however, religiously motivated crimes led the pack in some states, including
New York.

 
Numerically, religiously motivated crimes accounted for 1,409 reported offenses, broken down
as follows:
  • 65.4 percent anti-Jewish.
  • 13.2 percent anti-Islamic.
  • 9.5 percent anti-other religion, i.e., those not specified.
  • 4.3 percent anti-Catholic.
  • 3.8 percent anti-multiple religions, group.
  • 3.3 percent anti-Protestant. 
  • 0.5 percent anti-Atheism/Agnosticism/etc.
Anti-Semitic crimes remain the most prevalent of those reported. However, there is a slight
shift from 2009, where 70% of religiously motivated crimes were anti-Jewish and only 9%
were anti-Islamic.
 

 

ADL Finds anti-Semitism on the Rise: News Roundup

In the news this week: ADL survey finds increase in anti-Semitic attitudes, a study explores the American Muslim community’s approach to LGBT issues, workplace chaplains become more widely used, and other stories.

Anti-Semitism in the United States has increased slightly since 2009, according to an Anti-Defamation League survey.  Results of the 2011 Survey of American Attitudes Towards Jews in America released Thursday showed that 15 percent of Americans hold anti-Semitic views, an increase of 3 percent since 2009 but matching levels in 2007 and 2005.
 
The survey also found a 5 percent increase, to 19 percent, of Americans who believe that “Jews have too much control/influence on Wall Street.” Other anti-Semitic views remained constant, with 31 percent believing that Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death and 30 percent that Jews were more loyal to Israel then America.    Jewish Daily Forward
 
On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled Michigan state senate passed an anti-bullying bill that manages to protect school bullies instead of those they victimize. It accomplishes this impressive feat by allowing students, teachers, and other school employees to claim that “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” justifies their harassment. Time
 
Just as the Arab spring has upended conventional understanding of Arab and Muslim societies, so a new report on the issues faced by LGBT Muslims challenges the stereotype of Muslim communities in the U.S. and abroad as monolithically closed to conversations about sexuality. Religion Dispatches
 
A small but growing number of companies are employing workplace chaplains  – not, managers say, to bring religion to their workers but to provide comfort during crises and sometimes to assume off-site pastoral duties for those unaffiliated with a religion.
 
"Everybody has problems that can carry over into the workplace," said Richard White, senior vice president for human resources for Herr's in Pennsylvania, which deploys 25 chaplains to its work sites. "If we can help them in any way, we believe the program is good for the employees and for business." The Virginian-Pilot
 
Islamic scholars generally agree that while prayers command high priority, they can be missed or performed later in extenuating circumstances.
 
While Muslims differ about what constitutes extenuating circumstances, many successfully integrate prayer into their workday, often with help from their employers. Still, employers and Muslim workers sometimes clash over prayers. Religion News Service
 
The rising number of Tibetan Buddhist converts from China's dominant ethnic group, the Han Chinese, reflects a remarkable and quiet recovery for Buddhist teachings. Along with a building boom of new or expanded Buddhist monasteries and teaching facilities in the Ganzi Tibetan autonomous prefecture, it amounts to a reversal of some of the damage from Chairman Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution. USA Today

 

Staying Vigilant Against All Religious Prejudice

Working at Tanenbaum is a daily learning experience – and the learning curve is steep and seemingly infinite.  Our office recently realized that sometimes a piece of knowledge becomes so ingrained that it must be explored and relearned.  As a part of an in-house training, Tanenbaum colleagues discussed the history and current state of anti-Semitism.  Some people found that it is easier to be more conscious of anti-Muslim bias than of anti-Jewish bias yet it was difficult to pinpoint exactly why.  It might be because widespread anti-Muslim sentiment is a more recent development or because it gathers more attention in the media.

That’s why it was interesting to see a New York Times article about a Moroccan student who convened a conference remembering the Holocaust.  This student and his classmates, all Muslim, brought together Holocaust survivors and scholars out of their shared interest in Jewish culture and heritage.  This article reminds us that, no matter what your background or experience is, it is essential to remain vigilant against all forms of religious prejudice.
 
Mike Ward
Communications Associate