Archive for category Islam

The Christian Grinches who almost stole Christmas


I guess it’s becoming a holiday tradition for me to make spicy chocolate crunch, since this is the second year in a row that I’ve done it.  Pretty astounding for me to stick with anything that long.

So I wrapped up a package of candy and topped it off with a Fuentes cigar tied with a red ribbon, to take over to my next door neighbor’s house.  Walking up their front steps,  I considered how to greet them, as they are devout Muslims.  I decided that this year I was going to go against my better instincts and say “Merry Christmas”.  For the past 3 or 4 years I’ve been a staunch advocate of  the  “Happy Holidays” approach.

When Asan opened the door he beat me to the punch with his own hearty “Merry Christmas”! And why not? It’s an American custom, a tradition that really has little to do with religion anymore.  The Christmas season has always been about the universal ideal of  “peace on Earth, good will towards men”.  That is, until some mean old Christians went and ruined it.

No one used to worry about offending anyone with “Merry Christmas”.  I used to work for a reformed Jewish fellow and we made no bones about the season being about Christmas.   Hanukkah fell in their somewhere,  but it surely wasn’t a Hanukkah season.  We put a tree up in the restaurant lobby every year and, yes,  there was a menorah on the mantle.  We both enjoyed the season and we both enjoyed the business that the season generated.   I never gave my personal greetings much thought, but probably gave equal time to Christmas, the Holidays and New Year.

But then some overly sensitive, paranoid and doctrinaire Christians became offended by the lack of “Christ” in the Christmas season (as if Christ hadn’t been upstaged by Santa Clause since long before WWII).  They mounted a national campaign designed to regain uncontested control of the holidays.  Coming from their lips “Merry Christmas” was no longer a  heartfelt greeting meant to wish people joy and happiness, it was now a challenge like  “I dare you to knock this frankincense off my shoulder!”  Or the Christian equivalent of the Black Power salute:  a symbol of defiance in the face of ‘secularists’ and solidarity among the ‘faithful’.   Where is the grace in that?

All of a sudden it became difficult for the rest of us to wish people a merry Christmas.  These zealous Christians had created an air of tension where there was none before.  It wasn’t the  ‘secularists’ or the rare militant atheist who made the Christmas greeting into a politically incorrect statement – it was the result of needy, insecure Christians demanding that everyone confirm their religious tradition.  In their fervent devotion to the idealized story of the birth of a  baby God they effectively  buried the adult Jesus’ message beneath the sands of a mythical Bethlehem.

But not quite. I find it heartening, when a  devout Muslim man is able to share the true spirit of Christmas with a jaded, cynical  Christian like myself, without compromising his own faith in the process.

Merry Christmas!

and

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah!

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The longest word in the dictionary is all about the problem with Christians in politics


When we were kids they told us that the longest word in the dictionary was antidisestablishmentarianism. Though I could spell it, I never really knew what it meant.

Until recently, when it occurred to me that if the Founders had actually been Christian, as many neo-evangelicals claim, and not the Deists they actually were, then it is unlikely that the United States as we know it would ever have existed.

Because the founding documents were not Christian, but the product of secular deistic philosophy, they  expressly forbade the establishment of a national religion in general, not just in specific, as many of today’s religious conservative suggest.  It is not only that they made sure that no denomination – Anglican, Congregationalist or Roman Catholic – would hold sway over other denominations but that Christianity itself would not be privileged.  Which makes sense when we remember that Deists are generally distrustful of organized religion, particularly of Christianity, which many of the most influential founders had personally rejected.

Without the constitutional disestablishment of religion, in an America governed by explicitly specific Christian values, I seriously doubt we would today enjoy any of the rights that we  take for  granted.  Because  a Christian (near) theocracy would find itself  at odds with true democracy.  True democratic principles – individualism, free thought, self-reliance, the right to protest authority – are not exactly compatible with those  Christian doctrines about the sovereignty of God and the power he has granted authority (as some Christians will admit).

There are many Christians who believe that Satan is real, and that he influences those who do not accept Christian doctrine.  These people are not on the fringe,  but make up the bulk of Christian Right, who have tremendous influence within the Republican party.  It is not too difficult to imagine a Christian government that would accuse those who oppose their God-given authority as being in the clutches of Satan.  After all, this is a frequent complaint coming from the pulpits (and radio pulpits) of American neo-evangelicals, many with strong political ties and a few having sought political office.  Is there any reason to think that they would leave their religious doctrines on the Capitol steps or outside the doors to the White House, as John Kennedy promised to do? On the contrary, they’ve made it plain that they would be intentionally deliberate in applying (their conservative)  religious principles to the execution of political office.

When the media criticized General William Boykin for dressing in combat fatigues, touring churches  and telling them that God was on America’s side while the  idol worshiping Muslim’s are destined  for defeat,  Christian conservatives rallied to his defense.   President George Bush favorably compared American military intervention with God’s will and Sarah Palin recently has said much the same thing.

It is easy to think this way, especially if  your enemies happen to be non-Christians. The prevailing neo-evangelical wisdom is that Islam is a false religion, that Mohamed was a false prophet and that Muslims are misguided pawns of Satan. The Tea Party movement is outspoken about their love of Christianity and their fear and hatred of Islam.

Many Bush appointees  were influence by conservative Christian ideals and now conservative Christians have a loud, if not controlling, voice in the House. There is a very good chance that in 2012 they may find themselves in control of the Senate and the White House as well.

Do we want a government that takes Genesis into account while considering environmental action? Or makes judicial decisions based upon scriptural precepts? (Which is OK as long as that scripture is from the Bible and not the Quran). Or crafts economic policy according to a narrow reading of the Old Testament (which, btw, conveniently  ignores the teachings of Jesus in the process?)  Should our civil rights legislation be pre-determined by men who wrote over 2000 years ago?

Some people asked similar questions back in John F. Kennedy’s day.  To be elected Kennedy had to promise that he would be led by the Constitution and not Roman Catholic orthodoxy.  If an irreconcilable difference presented itself, he would resign his office.  He did not try to square the Constitution to his religion, claiming that our government is founded on his religion, as so many  conservative Christians are saying today.  But he understood that a complete separation of church and state, that which  kept the Protestant majority in check, was the only reason a Catholic would ever be allowed to run for office.

It has become popular to insist that politicians reveal their religious beliefs.  Let’s  be honest; this demand is almost always made to satisfy the doubts of Christians (who question  the wisdom of having non-Christians in office).   Apparently,  Americans of other religions, in minority positions,  need not be concerned about who governs them. Or their own political aspirations.   Fortunately, the Constitution protects politicians from having to comply, although some go to great lengths to  prove their Christian bona fides.

Looking at it from a different perspective,  I believe that any outwardly religious person,  anyone who  is willingly  outspoken about his or her faith or uses it as a political tool towards election,  should take an oath similar to Kennedy’s.

Though not on a Bible.

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As an American living in a glass country, I should hesitate before casting stones


In a recent post, I questioned where the American Muslim outcry was over Pakistan’s  pending execution of Asia Bibi for the crime of blasphemy.  I still think my question is valid, but in asking it I was critical, and perhaps even insulting, to Pakistanis and Muslims.  ” Anon”, a frequent contributor, brought this to my attention, and in doing so, he recited a litany of USAmerican abuses that, at the time, I felt were irrelevant:

“where is the American Muslim outcry “—-I can ask the same—where is the moderate American’s outcry when hundreds of innocent men, women, and children are routinely killed in Pakistan by U.S. drone attacks?—remote controlled planes that indiscriminately kill and decimate villages……attacks which U.S. President Obama wants to escalate into more densely populated towns…….. Yet, they/you are concerned with the life of ONE Christian woman?

(You can read the entire discussion (to date), including some important input from Hasan, who was in agreement with me, yet more qualified to express it than I was :   It ain’t always easy being a friend of Islam .)

Now I am starting to see things more from “anon’s” perspective.

Just the idea of executing someone for speaking their mind  is wrong and indefensible. Yet here in the USA, not that long ago, we have examples of people being imprisoned and even put to death, quite legally, by a jury of their ‘peers’, for similar offenses.  Sometimes they were railroaded,  prosecuted for no other reason than they were of the wrong skin color or  they dared to upset the status quo.

I questioned the sanity of Pakistan having numerous nuclear warheads, yet we have tens of thousands of them.  And, to date, we are the only country  ever to have  used them on innocent people. Twice.

SoI apologize for stepping out-of-bounds. I realize that it was not only insensitive, it was hypocritical and ultimately, counter productive. Though I still think my question is valid,  I doubt if I am qualified to ask it.  Perhaps it is best to let Muslims like Hasan do the asking, (and he is).  Let he who is without sin cast the fist stone,

I believe  “anon” said it best:

well–then, why don’t we all change for the better?–instead of saying—you Muslims should change. Why not make these universal HUMAN problems rather than Muslim or Christian problems? Because pointing fingers doesn’t do much—but extending a helping hand does make things easier.

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It ain’t always easy being a friend of Islam


When a supposedly moderate Islamic government like Pakistan’s has a law on their books making blasphemy a crime, well, they don’t make it any easier for those of us who are friends of Islam.   And when a person is sentenced to death for speaking their mind then it is time for Muslims around the world to speak out against Pakistan and sharia law.  There is no way that any  reasonable person,  of any religious persuasion, can justify persecution.

I don’t care if the women is Christian.  That is irrelevant.  It certainly is a big deal to a lot Christians, but this  would be just as insanely horrible if the accused was Hindu or Wiccan or  Muslim.   Yet, this  incident is providing Christian Islamophic factions (as well as some impassioned atheists)  some heavy ammo in their battle against Islam. And frankly, this particular Muslim fundamentalist position is pretty well indefensible.

I used to think of Pakistan as a civilized place.  The country has produced some extraordinary people who achieved extraordinary things in science and the arts.  Cosmopolitan cities.  Ranked in the top 15% of the world’s economies, according to GDP.  Heck, they even have the atom bomb.

A theocratic country with a medieval  mindset that has the atom bomb. Actually, dozens or maybe hundreds of them.  Gives one pause, doesn’t it?

Now, in Pakistan, there are some loud and courageous dissenting voices, in the media and in government as well.  One politician has introduced an amendment to the anti-blasphemy laws that would eliminate capital punishment for the offense.  Now that’s a good thing but it is not good enough.  No country should have any laws on their books having anything to do with blasphemy or any law protecting any religion from spoken or written criticism.  No country should ever have an overt alliance with any religion, Muslim, Christian or Jewish (sorry Israel and Texas).

I’d like to ask what a lot of people have asked before: where is the American Muslim outcry against Islamist tyranny?  I just spent a lot of time searching for something like this on the web and, well, I can’t find anything of the sort. Why doesn’t CAIR have anything to say about this? I mean, how can they see a major threat to American Muslims with Juan Williams’ relatively harmless off-the-cuff remarks and not see the danger in keeping silent on the tyranny of Pakistani sharia? This is like upbraiding a smoker for polluting the air while sitting behind the wheel of an idling SUV.

I have friends and neighbors who are Muslim.  We tend to keep the conversation outside of religion and away from international politics. But tonight I might risk propriety and ask for their take on this. Do they think  my question is a valid one?   I’ve also met some interesting Muslims on this blog and would like to ask for their thoughts  as well.

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Obama a Christian? Bad news if you are a Teavangelist….


 

…but it could be worse. Enough with the Judeo-Christian stuff. How about some Islamo-Mormon values? There are similarities, out on the extremes.

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A Tea Partier’s worst nightmare


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When I get on an airplane and see people in Christian garb, I’ve got to tell you: I get nervous


And who wouldn’t? I mean, when you consider that, these days, Christian garb is mostly an assortment of tee-shirts with audacious or even combative statements plastered across the front of them. Don’t see too many clerical collars out there any more and what few nuns are left kicked the habit years ago.

Even though I think NPR was just plain idiotic for firing Juan Williams, I can’t agree with his remark. Maybe because I have Muslim friends, but I don’t see anything frightening about their traditional attire. It’s just quaint ethnic clothing like German Lederhosen, French Berets, Texan boots and Baltimore Raven’ beer-helmets. But those Christians – have you ever read some of their tee-shirts? Kinda nutty, in a scary way. What is it that they are trying to say, anyway?

Hey, how come, if the Muslims are supposed to have such a war-like faith, they don’t wear tee-shirts like these? ( And isn’t that last one a baby’s “onesie”? Jeesh!)


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