Posts Tagged ‘Muslims’


Bryan Fischer: Jewish People & Other Non-Christians Don’t Have First Amendment Rights
By Kyle Mantyla

 

On his radio program yesterday, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer declared, onceagain, that only Christianity is protected by the First Amendment and that all non-Christians—including Jews, Muslims and Native Americans—have no constitutionally guaranteed right to freely practice their faiths.

Fischer, who routinely puts forward a completely incoherent theory regarding the meaning of the First Amendment, was discussing a case involving a North Carolina inmate who is suing for the right to practice Wicca when he declared that “worshipers of the devil” and all other non-Christian faiths are not entitled to First Amendment protections.

“The blunt, simple, direct, straightforward answer is that Wiccans do not have First Amendment rights,” he said, “nor do Muslims, nor do Jews, nor do Native Americans, nor do Rastafarians, nor do any practitioners of any other religion other than Christianity.”

“Whatever the First Amendment is about, whatever protections it extends in the federal Constitution, those were just for Christianity,” Fischer insisted. “Christianity has First Amendment rights under the federal Constitution, no other religion does.”

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Ronaldo Schemidt / AFP / Getty Images

Former Mexican drug lord Raul Hernandez Lechuga, center, with other alleged Zetas drug cartel members and some of their weapons in Mexico City in 2011. Although ISIL has captured the U.S. media’s attention, other groups closer to home pose much more of a threat.

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Mexican drug cartels are worse than ISIL
Western obsession with the Islamic State is fueled more by bigotry than any genuine assessment of risk or atrocities

The horrific rampage of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has captured the world’s attention. Many Western commentators have characterized ISIL’s crimes as unique, no longer practiced anywhere else in the civilized world. They argue that the group’s barbarism is intrinsically Islamic, a product of the aggressive and archaic worldview that dominates the Muslim world. The ignorance of these claims is stunning.

While there are other organized groups whose depravity and threat to the United States far surpasses that of ISIL, none has engendered the same kind of collective indignation and hysteria. This raises a question: Are Americans primarily concerned with ISIL’s atrocities or with the fact that Muslims are committing these crimes?

For example, even as the U.S. media and policymakers radically inflate ISIL’s threat to the Middle East and United States, most Americans appear to be unaware of the scale of the atrocities committed by Mexican drug cartels and the threat they pose to the United States.

Cartels versus ISIL

A recent United Nations report estimated nearly 9,000 civilians have been killed and 17,386 wounded in Iraq in 2014, more than half since ISIL fighters seized large parts on northern Iraq in June. It is likely that the group is responsible another several thousand deaths in Syria. To be sure, these numbers are staggering. But in 2013 drug cartels murdered more than 16,000 people in Mexico alone, and another 60,000 from 2006 to 2012 — a rate of more than one killing every half hour for the last seven years. What is worse, these are estimates from the Mexican government, which is known to deflate the actual death toll by about 50 percent.

Statistics alone do not convey the depravity and threat of the cartels. They carry out hundreds of beheadings every year. In addition to decapitations, the cartels are known to dismember and otherwise mutilate the corpses of their victims — displaying piles of bodies prominently in towns to terrorize the public into compliance. They routinely target women and children to further intimidate communities. Like ISIL, the cartels use social media to post graphic images of their atrocious crimes.

The narcos also recruit child soldiers, molding boys as young as 11 into assassins or sending them on suicide missions during armed confrontations with Mexico’s army. They kidnap tens of thousands of children every year to use as drug mules or prostitutes or to simply kill and harvest their organs for sale on the black market. Those who dare to call for reforms often end up dead. In September, with the apparent assistance of local police, cartels kidnapped and massacred 43 students at a teaching college near the Mexican town of Iguala in response to student protests. A search in the area for the students has uncovered a number of mass graves containing mutilated bodies burned almost beyond recognition, but none of the remains have been confirmed to be of the students.

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A still from a video released by ISIL’s official website in September 2014.
AFP / Getty Images

While the Islamic militants have killed a handful of journalists, the cartels murdered as many as 57 since 2006 for reporting on cartel crimes or exposing government complicity with the criminals. Many of Mexico’s media have been effectively silenced by intimidation or bribes. These censorship activities extend beyond professional media, with narcos tracking down and murdering ordinary citizens who criticize them on the Internet, leaving their naked and disemboweled corpses hanging in public squares. Yet American intellectuals such as Sam Harris appear to be more outraged when Muslims protest or issue threats in response to blasphemous or anti-Muslim hate speech than when cartels murder dozens of journalists and systematically co-opt an entire country’s media.

Similarly, Westerners across various political spectrums were outraged when ISIL seized 1,500 Yazidi women, committing sexual violence against the captives and using them as slaves. Here again, the cartels’ capture and trafficking of women dwarfs ISIL’s crimes. Narcos hold tens of thousands of Mexican citizens as slaves for their various enterprises and systematically use rape as a weapon of war.

U.S. media have especially hyped ISIL’s violence against Americans. This summer ISIL beheaded two Americans and has warned about executing a third; additionally, one U.S. Marine has died in efforts to combat the group. By contrast, the cartels killed 293 Americans in Mexico from 2007 to 2010 and have repeatedly attacked U.S. consulates in Mexico. While ISIL’s beheadings are no doubt outrageous, the cartels tortured, dismembered and then cooked one of the Americans they captured — possibly eating him or feeding him to dogs.

The US government cannot formulate an effective response to the narcos’ severe threats because the American public is far too busy disparaging Islam while the US military kills Arabs and Muslims abroad.

The cartels’ atrocities are not restricted to the Mexican side of the border. From 2006 to 2010 as many as 5,700 Americans were killed in the U.S. by cartel-fueled drug violence. By contrast, 2,937 people were killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Over the last decade, some 2,349 Americans were killed in Afghanistan, and 4,487 Americans died in Iraq. In four years the cartels have managed to cause the deaths of more Americans than during 9/11 or either of those wars.

Barack Obama’s administration claims ISIL poses a severe threat to U.S. interests and national security. However, the militants were primarily concerned with seizing and holding territory in Iraq and Syria until the U.S. began targeting them. Even now, while they have called for lone wolves to carry out attacks on targets in the United States, so far those arrested in connection to ISIL have been trying to go and fight abroad rather than plotting domestic attacks. To the extent ISIL wants to kill Americans, its primary tactic has been to try to lure U.S. troops to its turf by publicly executing citizens they already hold hostage. In fact, several U.S. intelligence officials have asserted that ISIL poses no credible threat to the United States homeland. However, the same cannot be said of the cartels.

Narcos have infiltrated at least 3,000 U.S. cities and are recruiting many Americans, including U.S. troops and law enforcement officers, to their organizations. They have an increasingly sophisticated and robust foundation in the U.S., with Mexican cartels now controlling more than 80 percent of the illicit drug trade in the United States and their top agents deployed to virtually every major metropolitan area. There are no realistic assessments indicating that ISIL could achieve a similar level of penetration in the United States.

Explaining the dissonance

It is clear that the anti-ISIL campaign is not driven by the group’s relative threat to the United States or the scale or inhumane nature of their atrocities. If these were the primary considerations, the public would be far more terrified of and outraged by the narcos. Perhaps the U.S. would be mobilizing 50 nations to purge Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel rather than shielding it from prosecution, helping it polish off its rivals or even move drugs into the United States.

Some may argue that despite the asymmetries, the cartels are less of a threat than ISIL because ISIL is unified around an ideology, which is antithetical to the prevailing international order, while the cartels are concerned primarily with money. This is not true.

A good deal of the cartels’ violence is perpetrated ritualistically as part of their religion, which is centered, quite literally, on the worship of death. The narcos build and support churches all across Mexico to perpetuate their eschatology. One of the cartels, the Knights Templar (whose name evokes religious warfare), even boasts about its leader’s death and resurrection. When cartel members are killed, they are buried in lavish mausoleums, regarded as martyrs and commemorated in popular songs glorifying their exploits in all their brutality. Many of their members view the “martyrs” as heroes who died resisting an international order that exploits Latin America and fighting the feckless governments that enable it. The cartels see their role as compensating for state failures in governance. The narco gospel, which derives from Catholicism, is swiftly making inroads in the United States and Central America. In short, the cartels’ ideological disposition is no less pronounced than ISIL’s, if not worse.

Unfortunately, the U.S. government cannot formulate an effective response to these much more severe threats because the American public is far too busy disparaging Islam while the U.S. military kills Arabs and Muslims abroad. One thing is certain: America’s obsession with ISIL is fueled by Islamophobia rather than any empirical realities.

 

Musa al-Gharbi is a senior fellow with the Southwest Initiative for the Study of Middle East Conflicts (SISMEC).

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.

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Despite Wingnut Freakout, Obama Is Right: Christian Violence Is Just as Bad as Muslim Violence
If anything, the president understated the case.

Photo Credit: Mykhaylo Palinchak/Shutterstock.com

This week, President Obama met with Muslim leaders in a private political meeting for the first time in his six-year presidency. The meeting set off predicatable angry reactions from the political right, with Fox News’ Sean Hannity even saying he wished Obama had demanded that the leaders publicly denounce radical Islam. Obama further raised the hackles of the Christian right when he said at the National Prayer Breakfast that no religion has a monopoly on violence, saying, “And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. Slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

The reaction to these comments was apoplectic. Rush Limbaugh called it an “insult” to Christianity; the Tea Party News Network said Obama threw “Christians under the bus”; the Daily Caller surmised that Obama’s remarks were designed to “curb” criticism of Islam.

All of these critics failed to engage with the substance of what Obama was saying. The president was not attacking Christianity, he was simply noting that just as ISIS may be using the name of Islam to rally followers to its violent agenda, extremists within the Christian faith have done the same thing historically. Violence has been in the mainstream of Christianity throughout history.

If anything, Obama didn’t go far enough in his remarks. Christianist violence isn’t a relic of the Crusades; it continues today, and in many of its forms is just as violent as what we are seeing from ISIS.

Christian Violence in the Past Century

In the spring of 2013, Middle East historian Juan Cole decided to compare the body counts between violence committed by Christians and that committed by Muslims in the 20th century. He found that Muslim violence has claimed the lives of around 2 million people, mostly during the Iran-Iraq war and the war in Afghanistan, while violence by Christians claimed the lives of close to 100 million people. Here’s what that looks like on a pie graph:

Click to enlarge.

Some of this Christian-led violence is well-known: the World Wars, the Holocaust, the colonial wars in Southeast Asia and Africa. Critics of this analysis would be quick to say that this violence may have been by Christians, but it wasn’t in the name of Christianity. But in virtually every conflict Cole ticks off, the combatants were overtly religious, and often invoked their religion as part of their military campaigns, just as many of the Islamist militants today are not fighting solely due to a religious grievance, but are organized around groups that share a common religious and cultural background.

But religion has played a more explicit role in some of the 20th-century conflicts involving Christians. For example, the 1990 sectarian warfare in the Balkans culminated in an explicit genocide against Muslim Bosnians by Serbian Orthodox Christians. As Balkans researcher Keith Doubt explained in a 2007 paper, the Serbian Orthodox Church was one of the prime movers in the campaign to scapegoat Bosnian Muslims and justify the eventual ethnic cleansing and genocide that took place. He notes that the “role of the Church as protector of the Serbian nation gave the Church increasing social control, and with this power clergy fermented a xenophobic and bigoted attitude towards Muslims in former-Yugoslavia.”

The Church there was so involved in the eventual atrocities it actually dispatched Orthodox chaplins to bless “Serbian forces, such as the elite Panthers commando unit, which has been accused of committing numerous atrocities, before they set off on operations.” The Church would offer “Serb warriors communion without requiring confession,” giving them absolution for the crimes they were committing to create a “Greater Serbia.”

If the Serbian Orthodox Church’s role in the genocide in Bosnia has been forgotten by many, the role of Catholic churches in Rwanda’s genocide is likely even less known. During that mass slaughter, “Churches became sites of slaughter, carried out even at the altar.” One of the figures indicted in the genocide there was Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, who used to wear a gun on his hip and colluded with a Hutu militia who massacred hundreds of people seeking shelter in his church. After the genocide concluded, various Catholic clergy actually helped church ministers who were guilty of murder flee the country and re-settle elsewhere, including one who allowed all of the men, women, and children hiding in his church to be killed when the church was bulldozed. The BBC actually ran a story in 2004 of a Rwandan girl who converted to Islam after the genocide because churches actively participated in it but mosques did not.

Today’s Christian Violence

Months before ISIS’s brutal beheadings were turned into Western headlines, the Associated Press ran a single paragraph on a beheading that took place in the Central African Republic. The paragraph noted, dryly, that a Christian militia there beheaded a young Muslim man, one of the last Muslims left in the village his colleagues had fled. The story ended up in a blurb on page A11 of The New York Times.

Human Rights Watch goes deeper into the situation in a brief published in December 2014:

The vast majority of Muslims in western parts of the country fled brutal attacks by Christian and animist anti-balaka militia in late 2013 and early 2014. Those who were not able to reach Cameroon or Chad became trapped in the enclaves, where they have spent months living in difficult conditions. UN officials, as well as African Union (AU) MISCA and French Sangaris peacekeepers supported evacuations in late 2013  and early 2014, helping thousands of Muslims to seek safety, including in Cameroon. […] By December  2014, an estimated 415,000 people, most of them Muslim, had fled the country and another 10,500 were protected by peacekeepers in a handful of western enclaves – Carnot, Yaloké, Boda, and Berbérati, among others.

In other words, what ISIS is doing to Yazidis and other groups it has deemed the enemy, Christian militias in the Central African Republic are doing to Muslims. We just aren’t hearing about it, because the victims aren’t as easy to relate to as ISIS’s western captives.

Even the ISIS televised executions of journalists aren’t particularly unique to Islamist terrorism. They’re copying a technique pioneered by Christian-led Mexican cartels, who for years beheaded and otherwise assassinated journalists who objected to their agenda. We rarely identify the cartels as Christian in nature, but there are deep financial links between Mexican churches and the cartel organizations.

No Monopoly On Violence

None of this is to argue that Christians are uniquely violent; that would be as wrong-headed as the Fox News argument about Islam’s insidiousness. It is just to point out that any large organization with enough people in it is capable of succumbing to tribalism, to the idea that our group is “good” and other groups are “bad” and should be feared, or disenfranchised, or even killed. That’s as true of Christianity as it is Islam, or Judaism, or Buddhism, or any large-scale ideology or religion. President Obama wasn’t wrong; if anything, he understated his case.


Religion Explained In 12 Seconds!

From – “Family Guy”


Fear, Incorporated: Who’s paying for all that Islamophobic paranoia?
By Stephen M. Walt

One of the distinctive features of American democracy is the permeability of our political institutions. It’s an incredibly wide-open system, given First Amendment freedoms, the flood of money that corrupts the electoral process, and a wide array of media organizations and political journals that can be used to disseminate and amplify various views, even when they have no basis in fact.

This situation allows small groups of people to have a profound impact on public attitudes and policy discourse, provided that they are well-organized, well-funded, and stay on message. And if you don’t believe me, then take a look at the Center for American Progress‘s new report Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America. It’s a remarkable piece of investigative work, showing how small set of right-wing foundations and individuals have bankrolled the most vocal Islamophobes in contemporary U.S. politics, such as Frank Gaffney, Daniel Pipes, Daniel Horowitz, and Robert Spencer.

Here’s an excerpt from the press release:

Following a six-month long investigative research project, the Center for American Progress released a 130-page report today which reveals that more than $42 million from seven foundations over the past decade have helped fan the flames of anti-Muslim hate in America…

Over the past few years, the Islamophobia network (the funders, scholars, grassroots activists, media amplifiers, and political validators) have worked hard to push narratives that Obama might be a Muslim, that mosques are incubators of radicalization, and that “radical Islam” has infiltrated all aspects of American society — including the conservative movement.

The irony in all this that the extremists examined in this report have gone to great lengths to convince Americans that there is a vast Islamic conspiracy to subvert American democracy, impose sharia law, and destroy the American way of life. Instead, what we are really facing is a well-funded right-wing collaboration to scare the American people with a bogeyman of their own creation, largely to justify more ill-advised policies in the Middle East.


Mother Jones magazine reports on an “incendiary Dutch journalist” named Joshua Livestro who is apparently working on Sarah Palin’s political action committee (emphasis mine):

Not surprisingly, Livestro’s views skew to the right. He helped to found the Edmund Burke Foundation, a right-wing Dutch think tank created to push back against progressive politics in the Netherlands. In one manifesto, citing the number of Muslims in the Netherlands, the foundation warned of ethnic conflict and said the country’s borders should be closed. In the Dutch magazine Vrij Nederland, Livestro once wrote that the gruesome photos depicting detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib resembled little more than an out-of-control frat party; he complained that Abu Ghraib critics were “cry-babies” exaggerating the episode’s signficiance. On his blog, Livestro similarly quipped that the CIA’s torture techniques—with the exception of waterboarding—were milder than the hazing methods of fraternities.

Livestro founded the Edmund Burke Foundation along with a fellow Dutch journalist named Bart Jan Spruyt, who went on to advise the virulently Islamophobic Dutch politician Geert Wilders.  Spruyt accompanied Wilders on a trip to the United States in 2005, the purpose being for Wilders to publicize here “what is happening to his country because of the rise of radical Islam and why he is promoting a moratorium on non-western immigration.”  (Spruyt has now distanced himself from Wilders.)

It’s no surprise that Palin would be tied to an anti-Muslim Dutch writer.  Palin has stoked bigotry against Muslims herself, from referring to the president as Barack Hussein Obama to calling on “peaceful Muslims” to “refudiate” the “Ground Zero mosque” to defending Franklin Graham, who once called Islam a “very evil and wicked religion.”  She’s also the hero of the Tea Party, a right-wing movement that’s no stranger to anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment.

Race and religion-baiting of President Obama and Muslims will be par for the course if/when Palin runs for president in 2012.