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High Percentage of Southern Republicans Believe Obama is Muslim: News Roundup

In the news: southern republicans believe Obama is Muslim, a court battle is waging in Britian over the right to wear crosses at work, atheists are staging a public rock festival on a military base, and other stories.

After years of battling false claims and viral emails alleging that he is a Muslim, President Obama hasn’t gotten far among Republican voters in Alabama and Mississippi – about half still believe he is Muslim and about 1 in 4 believes his parents’ interracial marriage should have been illegal, a new poll shows.
 
The poll of Mississippi Republicans found that 52% said they believed Obama is a Muslim, 36% weren’t sure and only 12% said they believed he is a Christian. He fared slightly better in Alabama, where 45% said he is a Muslim, 41% weren’t sure, and 14% said he is a Christian. LA Times
 
ABC’s new fall show, “GCB,” met with some objections from conservative and Christian groups from its inception, and Friday Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich threw in his opinion about the show, saying it was an example of the “bias of elite media.”
 
The show, starring Kristin Chenoweth, is based on the novel “Good Christian Bitches” by Kim Gatlin but the title was changed to “GCB” for the show.
 
Gingrich told a crowd of mostly teenagers at a campaign stop at Gulfport High School that the network running the show would have handled a show with the word “Muslim” differently. ABC News
 
Christian activists in Britain are furious at the arguments their government will use against them when Europe's highest court considers whether employees have the right to wear crosses that show over their uniforms.
 
Britain will argue that the two Christian women at the center of the case had the option of quitting their jobs and working elsewhere, so they are not covered by European human rights law, according to legal papers obtained by CNN.
 
"Employees who face work requirements incompatible with their faith, and have the option of resigning and seeking alternative employment, cannot claim for a breach of Article 9" of the European Convention on Human Rights, Britain will argue.
 
The government will also say that wearing a cross is not a requirement of Christianity, so wearing one in public is not protected by the law. CNN
 
After more than a year of planning, atheists in the military will stage a public festival and rock concert celebrating their lack of religious beliefs at North Carolina's Fort Bragg, one of the largest U.S. military bases.
 
Dubbed "Rock Beyond Belief," the event is believed to be the first of its kind to highlight "freethought" — atheism, humanism and skepticism — on a U.S. military base. USA Today
 
New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly on Thursday challenged city council members who want to create an inspector general to regulate the department's surveillance of Muslims, saying his department needs no additional oversight.
 
In sometimes heated exchanges with council members at a budget hearing, Kelly defended his department's counterterrorism surveillance program as well as another crime-fighting policy, the stopping, questioning and frisking of people on the street. Huffington Post

 

Administration to Work With Arab Spring Islamist Parties: News Roundup

In the news this week: the Obama administration is set to work with Muslim world Islamist parties, the Palestinian Authority concedes defeat in statehood bid, an interfaith event is held at Park 51, and other stories.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared Monday that the Obama administration would work with ascendant Islamist parties of the Muslim world, answering one of the central U.S. policy questions resulting from the Arab Spring. Associated Press
 
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Wednesday an enforcement initiative to protect the religious rights of increasingly diverse New Yorkers while they're at work and elsewhere. NBC New York
 
Coney Island Bialys and Bagels, teetered and fell in September, after Steve Ross, whose grandfather began the company 91 years ago, called it quits. In a twist of history — and, one might say, a twist of bread as well — the store has been saved by two Muslim businessmen who leased the space and started a corporation under almost the identical name. They’ll keep the kosher shop’s offerings the same, preserving its history. Jewish Daily Forward
 
The Palestinian Authority has conceded defeat in its effort to have the state of Palestine recognized by a majority of the UN Security Council. The Palestinians learned on Tuesday that Bosnia planned to abstain in a vote on the issue, leaving the PA with only eight supporters, when nine are needed. Jewish Daily Forward
 
As war, the economy and persecution by Muslim extremists push Arab Christians and religious minorities out of the Middle East, the refugees and immigrants are quietly settling in small pockets across the U.S. They are reviving old, dormant churches, bringing together families torn apart by war and praying collectively in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus. Religious experts say their growing presence in the U.S. is all about survival as Christians and religious minorities continue to get pushed out of the Holy Land. Associated Press
 
On Tuesday, November 15th at 7:00 PM (EST), the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard will hold an event hosted by Park51 and Center for Inquiry NYC, in partnership with a wide swath of NYC-based organizations, to discuss communities for the nonreligious and the role of atheists in interfaith work, while launching two groundbreaking new initiatives: The Humanist Community Project, and Values in Action at the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard.
 
"The Humanist Community Project seeks to unify millions of nonreligious Americans and develop a comparable social and cultural experience to that of a religious congregation," said Greg Epstein, the Humanist Chaplain at Harvard and author of the New York Times bestselling book, Good Without God. "We are convinced, based on history, sociological research, and personal experience, that the success of the Humanist and secular movement depends almost entirely on our ability to build strong local communities." The Open Press
 

 

Baha’is Continue to be Persecuted in Iran: News Roundup

In the news this week: Iranian lawyer arrested for representing Baha’is, the President supports Israel at the UN, a Muslim woman declares candidacy for French President, and other stories.

As a number of Baha'is in Iran await trial for providing higher education to youth barred from university, the Baha'i International Community has been distressed to learn of the arrest of a lawyer who was preparing to defend them.
 
Abdolfattah Soltani – a senior member of the legal team representing the prisoners – was arrested last Saturday. Mr. Soltani was a co-founder of the Defenders of Human Rights Center along with four other lawyers including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi. The Tehran-based Center was shut down in a police raid in December 2008.
 
An Amnesty International appeal calling upon Iran to release Mr. Soltani immediately has described him as "one of the bravest human rights defenders in Iran…"  Baha’i World News
 
President Obama is at the United Nations this week for the opening of the annual General Assembly meeting–where the U.S. is working the global precincts to avoid a vote on Palestinian statehood. Chicago Sun-Times
 
A woman fighting France's ban on Islamic face coverings was fined 120 euros ($162) Thursday for wearing a burqa, the first fine handed down by a French court over the controversial law.
 
Hind Ahmas sought out the punishment so she could take her fight to a higher court, she told CNN. A second woman, Najet Ait Ali, was fined 80 euros ($108) in the same court appearance.
 
"I am happy to be fined, since I can now take this to the European Court of Human Rights," Ahmas said. CNN
 
Kenza Drider, a Muslim woman, declared her longshot candidacy for French President Thursday, the same day that a French court fined two women who refuse to remove their veils. All three are among a group of women mounting an attack on the law that has banned the garments from the streets of France since April, and prompted similar moves in other European countries. Associated Press
 
In a rude shock to the Sikh community in North Carolina, a Sikh owned convenience store was damaged Sept 7, in a suspected case of hate related arson.
 
The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that the Sikh owned State Line Grocery convenience store was badly damaged in an early morning fire, which is under investigation as a potential hate crime specifically due to the graffiti that was spray painted on the walls of the convenience store stating, “9-11 Go Home”. India Post
 
Muslims in Kashmir, in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent, are supporting the re-building of a Christian school that was destroyed by fire during anti-Christian violence one year ago. ENI News
 
One of the world’s leading Muslim clerics will issue a global declaration against terrorism at a speech in London on Saturday. Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri will make the declaration at the ‘Peace for Humanity Conference 2011’ at Wembley Arena.
 
The peace declaration, which will call for an end to terrorism and for the protection of human rights in new Arab regimes, is expected to be signed by major religious and political leaders. The Independent
 

 

Post 9/11 Stories and More: News Roundup

In the news this week: 9/11 dominated the news cycle, and with that, we bring you a number of those stories from a Muslim perspective and others about how religion and, specifically, Islam are perceived in the post-9/11 world.

When U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison was elected to Congress in 2006, five years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he was the first Muslim-American lawmaker on Capitol Hill.

Both the Bush and Obama administrations have sometimes asked for Ellison's help to give the American point of view to foreign religious leaders and media. He's also traveled to the Middle East on behalf of the White House.

"It's better to reach out and find some common ground, and I'm happy that they invited me to do and I'm glad to do it — for any administration, regardless of party," Ellison said. MPR News

Eboo Patel of Interfaith Youth Core writes:  by the 1990s, Muslims began looking outside our own community, launching projects to strengthen ties between us and the rest of the country.

The idea behind these new organizations was simple: Muslims were now calling America "home" and Islam called us to cooperate with and serve neighbors of all backgrounds.

"Home is not where your grandfather was born," says one leader, Muslim Public Affairs Council founder Maher Hathout, "but where your grandchildren will be buried." CNN

On the ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, many Americans are wondering whether the risk of a terrorist attack against America has been reduced. The picture is mixed. With the death of Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda is weaker. With revolutions in several Arab countries, frustrations with unpopular autocratic governments – a recruiting theme for terrorist groups – have been mitigated. But one important contributing factor has not improved – widespread anger at America in the Muslim world.

Muslims have much they do not like about how America treats them. But there is one thing that is the most fundamental: their perception that America seeks to undermine Islam – a perception held by overwhelming majorities. CNN

For Muslim-American parents, who saw Islam transformed overnight from an often-ignored religion to one of the most-discussed in the country and who can share stories of love and hate in the face of tragedy, there's a stark contrast between being a Muslim in the United States before 9/11 and after. But a new generation is coming of age who hasn't known that divide. Huffington Post

In social studies class, a boy passed Halla Abdelrahman a pocket dictionary.
“Open it,” he said.
She turned to a bookmarked page. The entry for “terrorist’’ was marked with a yellow highlighter.

Laila Alawa was bicycling to the town library. Two boys on bikes zoomed past.
“Go back to where you came from,” they yelled.

For show-and-tell, Marwa Salem brought in kahk, the Egyptian cookies she loved to make with her mother at the end of Ramadan. Some of the other third-graders scoffed.
“We don’t eat Muslim food,” they said. “You probably poisoned them.”

It was their country too, but in the weeks and months after Sept. 11, it didn’t always feel that way. Boston Globe

Barash of Farmington Hills, a former bus mechanic at SMART, said that colleagues repeatedly hurled racial slurs against him and made violent threats around the start of the Iraq war because he happened to be Chaldean — Iraqi Catholic.

One co-worker would ask him where his camel was; another placed a towel on his head and tried to imitate Arabs. Others placed photos of terrorists on Barash's time card and talked about killing all Iraqis in front of Barash. Detroit Free Press

One CNN blog author posits: September 11 didn't just change America. It changed the nation's attitude toward religion. Here are four ways:

  1. A chosen nation becomes a humbled one.
  2. The re-emergence of "Christo-Americanism."
  3. Interfaith becomes cool.
  4. Atheists come out of the closet. CNN
In a report called “What It Means To Be American,” two think tanks surveyed Americans on their attitudes toward their fellow citizens. While the results suggest that people embrace the idea of diversity, they also show a country that is sensitive to religious and ethnic divisions—particularly when beliefs are broken down along party lines. Time

 

The Administration Adjusts Middle East and Muslim Relations Policy: News Roundup

In the news this week:  the Obama administration shifts Muslim and Middle East practice and policy, new trends in higher education religious studies, and more:

Changing the White House’s Approach to Middle East and Muslim Relations
President Obama’s Middle East speech is the most apparent evidence of a shift in Middle East policy. NPR interviewed Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nation, to discover the key learnings from the speech. His call for a restoration of pre-1967 borders between Israel and the Palestinian Territories is the most striking departure from current policy. This shift has garnered a wide range of reactions, some of which are chronicled in The Huffington Post.
 
On a practical level, Federal agents displayed a different approach in dealing with three Florida Muslims arrested this past week. The men are accused of providing funding and resources to the Pakistani Taliban. 
The raids were conducted under new national rules of engagement intended to show more sensitivity toward religious practices and tamp down the flames of haters after a series of outreach meetings in South Florida this year among federal law enforcers and Muslim leaders.   Miami Herald
Since the arrests, federal authorities have consistently spoken out against generalizing the local and national Muslim community. They have also staunchly supported Muslims as valued citizens of the United States.
 
New Religious Studies Trends
It seems that institutions of Higher Education have caught the interreligious bug. We’re seeing more and more colleges introduce curriculum, majors, or entire schools devoted to new areas of religious study. 
A Methodist couple and long-time trustees of the Claremont School of Theology (California) gave $50 million to establish Claremont Lincoln University, the nation’s first interreligious university, which will share a campus with Claremont School of Theology starting this fall. Patheos
The school will also work with the Islamic Center of Southern California and hopes to integrate schools in Buddhist, Hindu, and other traditions in the future. 
Each participating institution will contribute to the curriculum at Claremont Lincoln, which will offer such graduate programs as interreligious studies, comparative religions, and conflict resolution.  The Jewish Journal of Greater L.A.
Pitzer College, also in California, will be the first in the nation to offer a degree in secularism. 
This fall, Pitzer will inaugurate a department of secular studies. Professors from other departments, including history, philosophy, religion, science and sociology, will teach courses like “God, Darwin and Design in America,” “Anxiety in the Age of Reason” and “Bible as Literature.”   New York Times
In order to make this program a reality the department chair fought to show that studying non-belief is just as legitimate as studying belief. He stressed that the program will not demean religious individuals/religions just as religious programs don’t demean non-religious individuals/entities. 
 
 
In other news: