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MUSLIM BAN: History Repeating Itself?

Dear Friends,

The current news cycle is reporting that President Trump will soon issue an executive order temporarily banning all travel to the U.S. by men, women and children from seven predominantly Muslim countries and precluding most refugees from entering our country. While it appears that these bans will be time-limited for most, they may be indefinite when it comes to Syrian refugees.

In the name of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and basic human decency, Tanenbaum calls on President Trump to refuse to issue an executive order that would bar a single religious group from entering the United States.

This potential policy bears the harrowing hallmark of U.S. treatment toward refugees during the Holocaust. Then and now, such policies—even if short-lived—can amount to a death sentence. During World War II, the U.S. turned away thousands of Jewish men, women and children fleeing imminent extinction in Europe, fearing they might be “Nazi spies.” Upon return home, actual Nazis sent these innocent individuals to Auschwitz to die. Their only crime: being Jewish.

Today, the refugees are people fleeing terror, whether from terrorist groups like ISIS and Al-Shabaab, or from governments that slaughter their citizens as collateral damage. Even if there is an executive order that makes an exception for persecuted religious minorities, such as the many Christians suffering in the Middle East, every indication is that this would not include the Muslims who are also living in imminent danger—in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa. Their only crime: being Muslim.

Terror does not discriminate, but a ban like this would make the U.S. a nation that does.

Equally alarming, a ban on Muslims with visas or those seeking them would have consequences that most Americans would not support. Students currently in the U.S. would not be able to visit their families abroad, because they might not be allowed to return. Muslim U.S. citizens awaiting the arrival of a spouse or other loved one might not be able to reunite. Fears of deportation and internment would heighten for Muslims living in the U.S. And all Americans, not just those from the Muslim community, would be further disconnected, as unfounded stereotypes about our Muslim neighbors become the law of our land.

And the refugees. While strong safeguards must be in place to identify those that are a threat, we must remember that, whether Jews from Europe during the 1940s or Muslims from the Middle East and Africa today, we are talking about innocent men and women just like us, who seek only to save their lives, and the lives of their children, by finding a safe-haven in a nation founded in the name of religious freedom.

Our government’s decision to deny refuge for Jews, who left their homes out of desperation, will forever remain a stain on America’s claim to being a moral compass. Let us not make the same mistake again.

With commitment to our nation’s values,

Joyce S. Dubensky
Tanenbaum CEO

President Obama’s Condemnation of Islamophobia is Admirable – and Overdue

Yesterday President Obama addressed thousands of American-Muslims at the Islamic Society of Baltimore during his first visit to a mosque in the United to condemn anti-Muslim rhetoric.

“We applaud President Obama for his important demonstration of solidarity with the Muslim community – yet we also believe his speech is long overdue,” said Tanenbaum | Center for Interreligious Understanding CEO Joyce Dubensky. “In this climate of increasing religious bias and discrimination, he has taken an important step forward in demonstrating how respect can be put into practice, as modeled by our First Amendment.”

Tanenbaum said that as citizens, we should encourage our political leaders to unify divisions within Americans, including religious differences. Regarding the upcoming political election, Dubensky stated, “Regardless of political affiliation, it’s the responsibility of our next president to take an early stance against the stereotypes, hate and alienation that result when people think that terrorism and Islam are synonymous.”

Tanenbaum offers a range of educational curricula and other materials including its Combating Extremism resources, which help teachers and individuals address extremism constructively in classrooms and communities.

Four Missionaries may face Libya death penalty after arrest in Benghazi: News Roundup

In the news this week, four missionaries arrested in Benghazi may face Libya death penalty, Pope electors are sizing up their peers, and other stories.

Four foreign missionaries were arrested in Benghazi, Libya, last week on charges of printing and distributing materials that promote Christianity. One is an American citizen.
The Associated Press, which broke the news, reports that Benghazi police claim to have "found 45,000 books in [the missionaries'] possession and that another 25,000 have already been distributed."

"They were arrested on Tuesday at a publishing house where they were printing thousands of books that called for conversion to Christianity," Hussein Bin Hmeid, spokesman for Libya's Preventative Security, toldReuters. "Proselytizing is forbidden in Libya. We are a 100 percent Muslim country and this kind of action affects our national security." Christianity Today

There is no formal nominating process for choosing the man to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, and campaigning for oneself is counterproductive. But the cardinals who will file into the Sistine Chapel next month to elect a new leader of the Roman Catholic Church have been quietly sizing up potential candidates for years.

They were impressed when the young soon-to-be-cardinal of Manila, Luis Antonio Tagle, told bishops gathered for a momentous synod in Rome last October that the church should listen more and admit its mistakes. They took note a year ago when Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York delivered a winning address on evangelization to the College of Cardinals, the day before the pope gave him the red hat of a cardinal. The New York Times

A U.N. committee has accused U.S. legal authorities of failing to fully pursue cases of child sex abuse in religious groups, an issue especially troubling the Roman Catholic Church.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child wrote this month that it was “deeply concerned” to find widespread sexual abuse by clerics and staff of religious institutions and “a lack of measures … to properly investigate cases and prosecute them”.

Britain’s National Secular Society, which drew attention on Monday to the little-noticed report, said it hoped the Catholic pope to be elected next month would open Church files to help prosecute as yet undiscovered cases of clerical sexual abuse. Reuters

Employees at a Motor Vehicle Commission office in New Jersey called the police on Feb. 2, when a man claiming to be a "Pastafarian" — a follower of a parody religion called the "Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster" — refused to take a pasta strainer off his head for a new license photo.

Aaron Williams, 25, told employees at the South Brunswick motor vehicle office that “his pasta strainer was a religious head covering and it was his right to wear it for his license photo,” according to a South Brunswick Police Department report newly obtained by The Smoking Gun.
 
Per The Smoking Gun, officers were eventually able to convince Williams to remove the strainer for his picture and reported that Williams was calm and cooperative throughout the incident. The tongue-in-cheek Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was founded, in part, to protest the teaching of creationism in schools, according to CBS New York. The Huffington Post
 

Vicious Cycles of Hatred: Ambassador to Libya Murdered

The vicious cycles of hate must stop.

Tanenbaum condemns the September 11, 2012 attack in Libya that killed four U.S. Embassy staff, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.  These murders are utterly reprehensible and deserve the global denunciation they have received from political, community and religious leaders, including many Muslims. 

The attacks coincided with the promotion of an anti-Islamic film produced in the United States.  Initial reports indicated that the violence was a response to the video.  Evolving information now suggests otherwise.  It appears that the Libyan murders were planned beforehand, and that the film was used as a cover for the planned assault.

In either case, religious difference was exploited to propagate hate.  Either militants encouraged conflict through the manipulation of religious sentiment or an angry mob reacted to hate speech with deadly violence.

In contrast to the attacks in Libya, reports have emerged about a protest in Cairo where demonstrators tore apart an U.S. flag and replaced it with a flag favored by conservatives and extremists.  In Afghanistan, a Taliban spokesman advocated for revenge over the video through a statement.  There are no reports of personal violence or deaths.

While Tanenbaum does not condone the property violence in Cairo – breaking into the U.S. embassy and tearing apart and replacing the U.S. flag – we do support the Egyptians who engaged in peaceful protest.  The freedom of speech that allows the anti-Islamic video to be disseminated is precisely the same freedom that should be employed by those who oppose religious prejudice in all its forms.

But with freedom of speech comes responsibility.  Neither the people who created and promoted the video nor the Taliban spokesman recognized that responsibility. Rather, they spewed their hate – and thereby contributed to a global cycle of violence that is undeniable.

This tragedy is yet another example of how hate begets hate. And how hate builds a more violent and dangerous world for each of us. 

To be clear, hate mongering and murder are not moral equivalents. But let’s also be clear, hate contributes to such violence.  And this gives extremists the fuel they need to grow their numbers. 

Please join Tanenbaum in standing with the victims’ loved ones and in speaking out to condemn the cycles of hate, violence, and extremism.
 

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO