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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.

School Cancels Halloween for Religious Reasons: Top 5 news stories

 

Did TGI Friday's staff trick Muslim woman into eating bacon? Hobby Lobby apologizes, says it will carry Jewish holiday itemsTurkey Lifts Longtime Ban on Head Scarves in State Offices School Cancels Halloween For Religious Reasons BBC journalist faced discrimination 'because he was Coptic Christian'    

Last week's top news, from our perspective:

Did TGI Friday's staff trick Muslim woman into eating bacon?
Is it a corporation's job to stop religious hate crimes in the workplace? Read this story about a popular restaurant chain and what it's employees are capable of alledgely doing. Being proactive is the answer.

 

Hobby Lobby apologizes, says it will carry Jewish holiday items
After potential customers took offense to Hobby Lobby not carrying merchandise related to Hanukkah, conservative billionaire owner Steve Green announced that hew will start carryign some Jewish holiday items.

 

Turkey Lifts Longtime Ban on Head Scarves in State Offices
From the article: "The head scarf ban is one of the most emotionally charged issues in Turkey. It has long divided the country, pitting a rising group of religiously observant Turks who govern the country against a once-powerful secular elite that has struggled to regain control over the Turkish state."

 

School Cancels Halloween For Religious Reasons
Halloween has been cancelled in at least one school in the United States and in several in Canada. The fall celebrations was cancelled at Inglewood Elementary School in Montgomery County, Pa. "in order to comply with a Supreme Court edict that public schools not promote any religion."

 

BBC journalist faced discrimination 'because he was Coptic Christian' 
Despite appearing as an analyst on Islamic movements and Arabic politics on television and radio, including BBC channels–and winning an internal award for his work–a journalist claims that he was passed up for a promotion because he is a Coptic Christian.

A Sikh Captain America in Central Park: Top 5 news stories

Captain America in a turban • Poll: American Jews identifying as more cultural, less religious • Is Christian-owned Hobby Lobby boycotting Hanukkah? • The Religious Dorm at the Public University When Holidays Collide, You Get The 'Menurkey'

Last week's top news, from our perspective:

Captain America in a turban

An American Sikh man put on a Captain America costume and explored New York City. The piece he wrote about the experience is fun, funny, enlightening, hopeful, and more.
 

Poll: American Jews identifying as more cultural, less religious

The percentage of Jews who identify as Jewish solely by culture or ancestry rather than religion has jumped from 7 percent to 22 percent since 2000, according to the poll, the first comprehensive survey of American Jews in more than a decade.
 

Is Christian-owned Hobby Lobby boycotting Hanukkah?

The national craft store owned by conservative billionaire Steve Green seemingly refuses to carry merchandise related to Hanukkah because of Green’s “Christian values,” and some Jews are taking offense.
 

The Religious Dorm at the Public University

Kosher dorms, Christian fraternity houses and specialized housing based on values have become part of modern college life. But the dorm on Troy's campus of 7,000 students is among a new wave of religious-themed housing that constitutional scholars and others say is pushing the boundaries of how much a public university can back religion.
 

When Holidays Collide, You Get The 'Menurkey'

In a rare convergence of the calendar, Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights that typically commences close to Christmas, fall on the same date in 2013: Nov. 28. And Thanksgivukkah has become a bold platform for expression, with creations ranging from sweet-potato latkes to the "Menurkey."

The reason for the fuss: It is a holiday mashup that has happened only once before—in 1888—according to those who track the Jewish calendar. And it is one that isn't set to happen again for potentially another 70,000-plus years.

Hate Crime Opponent Becomes A Victim: Top 5 News Stories

Hate Crime Opponent Becomes A Victim Abercrombie to Change "Look" Policy After Religious Discrimination Ruling Virginia candidate says non-Christians worship ‘false religions’ The Evangelical Orphan Boom Atheism starts its megachurch: Is it a religion now?

Last week's top news, from our perspective:

Hate Crime Opponent Becomes A Victim

Last year, Prabhjot Singh wrote an op-ed calling for the government to track anti-Sikh violence. This month, he became a victim of a similar attack near his home in New York City. He talks with NPR host Rachel Martin about the attack, and what he hopes comes out of it.

His gratitude is particularly hopeful: "I feel very fortunate that it wasn't worse because I've certainly seen worse. I'm deeply fortunate that my child and my wife, who I dropped off at our house just seven to 10 minutes earlier, weren't with us."

Abercrombie to Change "Look" Policy After Religious Discrimination Ruling

Following a spate of anti-discrimination lawsuits, the company will have to change its "Look" policy to accommodate all forms of religious dress. Specifically, it can no longer penalize employees for wearing hijabs, which were long considered an affront to the company's "all American" ideal.

The court battles began in 2010, when a then 18 year-old Halla Banafa sued Abercrombie for denying her a stockroom job at the Abercrombie Kids store in Milpitas, on grounds that she wore a headscarf. Another Muslim woman named Hani Khan sued the company in 2011, alleging that she had been fired after a manager objected to her headscarf as well.

Virginia candidate says non-Christians worship ‘false religions’

Jewish groups called on the Republican candidate for Virginia’s lieutenant governor to explain a sermon in which he said non-Christians are engaged in a “false religion.”

E.W. Jackson, a pastor, on Sunday preached at the Restoration Fellowship Church in Strasburg, Va.

“Any time you say there is no other means of salvation but through Jesus Christ, and if you don’t know him and you don’t follow him and you don’t go through him, you are engaged in some sort of false religion, that’s controversial,” Jackson said, according to a recording first reported Monday by the Washington Post. “But it’s the truth.”

The Evangelical Orphan Boom

Evangelical adoptions picked up in earnest in the middle of the last decade, when a wave of prominent Christians, including the megachurch pastor Rick Warren and leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, began to promote adoption as a special imperative for believers.

Atheism starts its megachurch: Is it a religion now?

Yesterday, The Sunday Assembly—the London-based “Atheist Church” that has, since its January launch, been stealing headlines the world over—announced a new “global missionary tour.” In October and November, affiliated Sunday Assemblies will open in 22 cities: in England, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, the United States and Australia. “I think this is the moment,” Assembly founder Sanderson Jones told me in an email last week, “when the Sunday Assembly goes from being an interesting phenomenon to becoming a truly global movement.” Structured godlessness is ready for export.

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.

A weekend of staggering bloodshed

Today is a scary day to read the news. Over the weekend, premeditated attacks on a shopping mall in Kenya and a church in Pakistan killed 68 and 78 people, respectively. Both attacks were carried out by radical Islamist groups that targeted non-Muslims.

In New York City, an American Sikh man was assaulted by a group of young men. While they beat him, they yelled “Get him!” as well as “Osama” and “terrorist.” His teeth were dislodged and he sustained multiple fractures throughout his body.

Tanenbaum strongly condemns each of these extremely hateful acts, acts that destroy our shared humanity. We imagine a world that respects difference and where every person is safe. As Dr. Prabhjot Singh, the victim in the New York City attack, said, “I want it so that my 1-year-old has nothing to fear…”

Today, we send our thoughts and prayers to all those who are dealing with devastating pain. We will continue to combat religious prejudice in an effort to eliminate these horrors.

(Photo credit: Mohammad Sajjad/Associated Press)

Religious diversity is increasing at the office, and so are pitfalls: Top 5 News Stories

Religious diversity is increasing at the office, and so are pitfalls

As religious diversity in the workplace increases, the opportunities for conflicts over religions also rises. In fact, one-third of American workers report that they have seen or experienced religious bias in the workplace. From Atheists to Evangelicals, discrimination based on beliefs or non-beliefs is a significant issue for employers and employees alike.

March on Washington showcased religious roots of Civil Rights …    

Modern advocates for civil rights often forget that the Civil Rights movement was largely grounded in religious roots. Religious leaders used their pulpits and their religions as sources for justice and racial equality. "It was natural for blacks to turn to the church in the civil rights movement as it was always this solid rock amid oppression," Aldon Morris, a sociologist at Northwestern University said. "You could summon up a great deal of courage through religion. It could empower people to confront all kinds of obstacles, including violence."

Labor Day and the unions' forgotten religious roots    

Labor Day orignated as the brain-child of the Noble Order of the Knights of Labor. The first labor unions joined forces with religious insitutions to defend the poor and provide legitimacy to the movement. But as religiosity is on the decline, the future of Labor Day hangs in the balance.

Atheist group can sue IRS over enforcement of pulpit politicking

A federal judged granted the atheist group Freedom from Religion Foundation permission to proceed with its lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service. The group is suing the IRS for not enforcing its ban on the political activity of tax-exempt religious organizations. The FFRF wants the IRS to strengthen the ban.

Haynes column: School surrenders to religious intolerance    

A school put up a bullitein board about the five pillars of Islam as part of a curriculum that educates students about different faiths within their historical context. A picture of the board uploaded to facebook sparked community outrage as the misleading tag accused the board of promoting Islam while Christian prayers were strictly forbidden. Though this was not the purpose of the bullitein board, and other bullitein boards featuring different religions are placed around the school, the administration decided to take down the board on Islam. 

Workers find widespread religious bias on Labor Day Weekend

Today, Tanenbaum released What American Workers Really Think About Religion: Tanenbaum’s 2013 Survey of American Workers and Religion. For a limited time, you can download the report for free. The results are striking:

  • Over half of employed Americans agree that there is a lot of discrimination against Muslims in the U.S.
     
  • One in three American workers have actually experienced or personally seen incidents of religious bias when they go to work.
     
  • Six in ten white evangelical Protestants agree that discrimination against Christians has become as big a problem as discrimination against other religious minorities.
     
  • 60% of atheists believe that people look down on their beliefs, as do nearly one-third of non-Christian religious workers (31%) and white evangelical Protestants (32%).

The survey polled over 2,000 American workers about thier experiences with religious discrimination at work and more generally.

Workplaces are a microcosm of America. They are becoming more diverse and, according to the survey, employees in diverse workplaces experience or witness more incidents of religious conflict. In addition, employees at workplaces with a culture of respect and accommodation have a higher level of satisfaction.

In the near future, in order to attract and keep the best talent, companies will need to become more proactive about addressing religious diversity. America will follow. We will need to address religious diversity in order to reduce conflicts and ensure that people of all backgrounds feel at home in the US.

 

Growing Religious Intolerance in Pakistan: Top 5 News Stories

Religions asking if test-tube burgers allow them to keep the faith •  Indonesian president worried by growing religious intolerance • Lutherans elect Elizabeth Eaton first female presiding bishop of ELCA • Hindu groups in US protest religious discrimination in Pakistan • Man held after Buddhists use Malaysia Muslim prayer room​

Last week's top stories, from our perspective:

Religions asking if test-tube burgers allow them to keep the faith
A biologist from Maastricht University presented meet grown in-vitro from the stem cells of a cow. Is it possible that religious authorities will give this new food their approval? If so, what does this mean for halal and kosher meats? Abdul Qahir Qamar of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy in Saudi Arabia has said that as long as the cells are not banned under the halal laws, in-vitro meat "will not be considered meat from live animals, but will be cultured meat."

Indonesian president worried by growing religious intolerance
According to Human Rights Watch, more than 260 violent incidents occured against religious minorities in Indonesia. The country's president, Susilo Bamban Yudhoyono, has said that he is working to curtail corruption but others in the country say otherwise. 

Lutherans elect Elizabeth Eaton first female presiding bishop of ELCA
Rev. Elizabeth Eaton is the first female presiding biship of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which is the United States' largest Lutheran body — with more than 4 million members in 9,638 congregrations.

Hindu groups in US protest religious discrimination in Pakistan
A group of US-based Hindu organizations gathered in Manhattan near Pakistan's consulate to voice concern against religious discrimination of Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and others in Pakistan. Narain Kataria, organizer of the rally said "This is nothing but religious apartheid for the entire world to see. Almost all the Hindus and Sikhs have been religiously cleansed from Pakistan with the blessings of the government." 

Man held after Buddhists use Malaysia Muslim prayer room
RA resort owner in Malyasia faces up to two years in jail for allowing a Buddhist to use the resort's Muslim prayer room because no other hall was available. The owner is now being investigated for "defliing a place of worship with intent to insult the religion."

One Year Since Sikhs Slaughtered: Top 5 News Stories

The State Department announced this week the creation of its first office dedicated to outreach to the global faith community and religious leaders.Sikhs Remember Tragedy By Embracing Faith •  Pope on homosexuals: 'Who am I to judge?' • Iran’s supreme leader issues edict on banned sect, tells people to avoid dealing with Baha’is • This Heroine Wears a Burqa to Fight Evil • State Dept. seeks to broaden religious reach

Last week's top stories, from our perspective:

Sikhs Remember Tragedy By Embracing Faith

On August 5th, 2012, a gunman opened fire at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek, just south of Milwaukee. He killed six people. This August, the temple will hold a series of events to honor the victims, including a continuous recitation of the Sikh holy book, cover to cover. It's a ritual that happens at both happy and sad events, and is intended to bring peace and solace. (Photo credit from Mother Jones)

Pope on homosexuals: 'Who am I to judge?'

On the flight back to the Vatican from Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis fielded questions from reporters in the plane's press compartment. The Pope answered many questions, but the one gaining the most attention is: when asked about the Vatican's alleged "gay lobby," the Pope replied that while a lobby might be an issue, he doesn't have any problem with the inclination to homosexuality itself: "Who am I to judge them if they're seeking the Lord in good faith?" he said.

Iran’s supreme leader issues edict on banned sect, tells people to avoid dealing with Baha’is

Iran’s supreme leader is urging Iranians to avoid all dealings with members of the banned Baha’i sect in a possible prelude to further crackdowns on the minority.Iran already bans the Baha’i, a religion founded in the 1860s by a Persian nobleman considered a prophet by followers. Muslims consider Muhammad the final prophet. Many consider Baha'is to be among the most discriminated against religious minorities worldwide.

This Heroine Wears a Burqa to Fight Evil

A new cartoon in Pakistan features an unusual role model for female empowerment: a woman who uses martial arts to battle colorful villains such as Baba Bandooq, a Taliban-esque figure who tries to shut down her school, and Vadero Pajero, a corrupt politician. In the cartoon, a schooteacher, Jiya, transforms into the heroine by donning a burqa. There are supporters and detractors abound.

State Dept. seeks to broaden religious reach

​The State Department announced this week the creation of its first office dedicated to outreach to the global faith community and religious leaders. The State Department said the new office “will focus on engagement with faith-based organizations and religious institutions around the world to strengthen U.S. development and diplomacy and advance America’s interests and values.”