Hard-Line Muslims Test Indonesia’s Tolerance

In the city of Bekasi, Indonesia, outside Jakarta, a handful of Christians head to Sunday worship. But before they can reach their destination, they are stopped and surrounded by a large crowd of local Muslims who jeer at them and demand that they leave.

This is the Filadelfia congregation, a Lutheran group. They are ethnic Bataks from the neighboring island of Sumatra who have migrated to Bekasi, and they have been blocked from holding services on several occasions. Recently, a journalist who demonstrated in support of the congregation was beaten by an angry mob.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim majority nation and has drawn praise for its evolution into a vibrant democracy. It’s a country of more than 17,000 islands, with more than 300 ethnic groups who speak about 740 languages. But recent cases of persecution of religious minorities have led some to question whether Indonesia is still living up to its reputation for pluralism and tolerance.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NPR 

Christians & Muslims Affirm Common Values at Beirut Meeting

BEIRUT —

Muslims and Christian leaders from across the Middle East and Denmark wrapped up a three-day conference on religious understanding Thursday in Beirut by highlighting values, such as mercy, respect and caring for the weak, which both faiths share.

The conference, entitled “Building Greater Understanding between Christians and Muslims,” was organized by the Muslim-Christian Contact Group of the National Council of Churches in Denmark and the Arab Group for Muslim-Christian Dialogue. It was supported by the Danish Foreign Ministry.

Reading the final statement, Reverend Riad Jarjour said the conference “had enhanced understanding between Muslims and Christians by focusing on common values which overcome religious and cultural differences.”

The statement said that during the conference, participants discussed issues of faith, common values, religious freedom, coexistence and dialogue between cultures.

Taking part in the conference were Muslims and Christians from Denmark, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iraq. A follow-up conference will be held in Copenhagen Sept. 25-28.

Jarjour, who is general secretary of the Arab Group for Muslim-Christian Dialogue, said that participants agreed on a common message based on a number of principles.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE 

Egypt court gives 12 Christians life sentences

By AYA BATRAWY, Associated Press

CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian court sentenced 12 Christians to life in prison and acquitted eight Muslims on Monday in a case set off by religious tensions in the country’s south.

The Christians were found guilty of sowing public strife, the possession of illegal weapons and shooting dead two Muslims in April of last year in Minya province, about 220 kilometers (135 miles) south of Cairo.

The religious tension in Minya spilled over into violence last year when a Muslim microbus driver, angered by a speed bump outside a wealthy Christian man’s villa, got into a scuffle with security guards who beat him.

After returning to his village of Abu Qurqas that evening, he rounded up the villagers who then gathered outside an ultraconservative Islamist group’s main office there to protest his beating. According to rights researcher Ishak Ibrahim, the Christians nearby thought they were going to be attacked and shot from their rooftops down at the crowd, killing two and wounding two others.

For several days after, angry villagers torched dozens of Christian homes and stores.

The eight Muslims on trial in the same case had been charged with possession of illegal weapons and burning down the Christian-owned homes and stores after the shooting.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS 

American Army Suspends anti-Islam Training Course

Pauline Jelinek and Robert Burns – The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday May 10, 2012 18:27:17 EDT

WASHINGTON — A course for U.S. military officers has been teaching that America’s enemy is Islam in general, not just terrorists, and suggesting that the country might ultimately have to obliterate the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina without regard for civilian deaths, following World War II precedents of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima or the allied firebombing of Dresden.

The Pentagon suspended the course in late April when a student objected to the material. The FBI also changed some agent training last year after discovering that it, too, was critical of Islam.

 The teaching in the military course was counter to repeated assertions by U.S. officials over the last decade that the U.S. is at war against Islamic extremists — not the religion.

“They hate everything you stand for and will never coexist with you, unless you submit,” the instructor, Army. Lt. Col. Matthew Dooley, said in a presentation last July for the course at Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va. The college, for professional military members, teaches midlevel officers and government civilians on subjects related to planning and executing war.

Dooley also presumed, for the purposes of his theoretical war plan, that the Geneva Conventions that set standards of armed conflict, are “no longer relevant.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM ARMYTIMES.COM

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Class suspended over anti-Islam concerns (April 25)

Christians in Syria live in uneasy alliance with Assad, Alawites

DAMASCUS, Syria – Hani Sarhan is a Christian who says none of his relatives works with the regime of Bashar Assad or has anything to do with it.

“But what we heard from (the protesters) at the beginning of this revolution saying, ‘Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the coffin,’ started us thinking about the real aim of this revolution,” he said. “So from this point of view, fearing for my life, I declared my support for President Assad.”

Muslims dominate this nation of 22 million people, but Christians can be found at all levels of Syria’s government, business community and military. The 2 million Christians here trace their roots to ancient communities and have survived under many rulers as Christian enclaves in other Arab nations, such as Saudi Arabia, have withered.

The rebellion of hundreds of thousands of Muslims against Assad that began in March 2011 has not seen Christians abandon their support for the Alawites, the Muslim sect to which Assad belongs and that has controlled Syria for decades. Christians have largely remained quiet as Assad’s forces pummeled rebel cities and towns with artillery, killing close to 10,000 people, according to the United Nations.

FULL ARTICLE FROM USA TODAY 

In Egypt, Dynamic Pragmatist Becomes Top Islamist Candidate

By Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles TimesMay 5, 2012, 8:53 p.m.

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt — The stage along the sea was a politically crafted advertisement for Egypt’s diversity: An unveiled woman chatted with a bearded Islamist and a retired soccer star shared the spotlight with a young hero from last year’s revolution.

A roar erupted from a crowd, mostly students, when a white-haired man in a linen blazer raised his arms. As fireworks flashed in the night sky, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh called for national unity to end military rule and unrest that have soured the euphoria since Hosni Mubarak was forced from power.

“The time when Egyptian blood was shed without a price is over,” said the doctor and former political prisoner, opening his presidential campaign last week in this fabled and flaking city. “The time when Egypt’s dignity was humiliated is over. The time when Egypt’s fortune was stolen to be given to a certain group of people is over.”

Who is Kamal Saleem?: Exposing a Phony Ex-Terrorist

Kamal Saleem is one of a number of Middle Eastern faces, who is currently profiting off of the cottage industry of Islamophobia with his “ex-terrorist” turned holy roller road show.

Saleem claims to be from a Lebanese Sunni Muslim family, which is a descendant of the “Grand Wazir of Islam,” and that he was a terrorist with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).  Furthermore, Saleem states that his terrorism affiliation with the PLO inspired by Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood ended after receiving the “Holy Ghost” and accepting Jesus Christ (Peace Be Upon Him) in his life.  Saleem’s story like his other wannabe “ex-terrorist” comrades, however, just does not add up.

For starters as author Chris Hedges points out, there is no such title as the “Grand Wazir of Islam.” Saleem’s “Grand Wazir” lineage claim is also bizarre due to the fact that the adjective “grand” would not be used in front of the term wazir (advisor) to begin with. Even the title “Grand Wazir” was not bestowed upon Aaron (Peace Be Upon Him), who was a prophet and the wazir of Moses (Peace Be Upon Him) according to the Qur’an!

It’s also very interesting that Saleem claims to have been a terrorist inspired by Islam as a member of the secular, Marxist influenced PLO, whose long time executive committee member and long time spokeswoman, Hanan Ashrawi, was a Christian.  Saleem wants us to believe that Ashrawi, George Habash and the countless others from Christian backgrounds in the secular PLO were also inspired by Islam as he claims was his “terrorist” motive in dealing with the pesky problem of illegal Israeli occupation.

FULL ARTICLE FROM DAUD WALID’S  BLOG