Conservative Christians Grapple With Whether ‘Religious Freedom’ Includes Muslims

Religious liberty is a rallying cry for many evangelical voters, and it has been popping up repeatedly throughout this presidential campaign. But in the current political climate, some conservative Christians are struggling with how to apply religious freedom to other faiths — like Islam.

gettyimages-511417216_wide-9ca339f29729234d10067f665d79b4b12b43a004-s800-c85Texas Sen. Ted Cruz made religious freedom a hallmark of his failed campaign for the Republican nomination. Now, presumptive nominee Donald Trump is picking up the theme.

On June 21, in a room full of evangelical leaders in New York City, Trump again promised to protect religious freedom. The presumptive GOP nominee said if he’s elected, “people are going to say ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”

For decades, fights over religious liberty in the U.S. have mostly been about the religious liberties of Christians. Evangelicals have rallied around issues like prayer in public schools, and more recently, whether conservative Christian vendors should be required by law to provide services for same-sex weddings.

But now, as the nation’s small but growing Muslim population gains a higher profile, other questions are emerging, including debates in several communities over the right to build mosques.

“I would like to know how in the world someone within the Southern Baptist Convention can support the defending of rights for Muslims to construct mosques in the United States when these people threaten our very way of existence as Christians and Americans?” Wofford said. “They are murdering Christians, beheading Christians, imprisoning Christians all over the world.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM NPR 

Whose extremism? Using the phrase ‘Islamic extremism’ — or not.

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Donald Trump is very clear on the subject: If President Barack Obama doesn’t use the words “radical Islamic terrorism” to discuss the brutal killings in Orlando, “he should immediately resign in disgrace!”

Most Republicans seem to agree that it’s essential to link Islam to the tactics and goals of extremists and terrorists. Nebraska’s Republican Sen. Benjamin Sasse (no fan of Trump) to Obama: “You’re wrong. Telling the truth about violent Islam is a prerequisite to a strategy.” South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted that Obama “shows a total disconnect from the problems we face in confronting/defeating radical Islam.” GOP strategist Ed Rogers wrote that the president’s refusal to refer to “radical Islam” was “a remarkable display of arrogance and tone-deaf rhetoric.”

Hillary Clinton has decided to do an end run around the issue. “Radical jihadist, radical Islamism, I think they mean the same thing. I’m happy to say either, but that’s not the point.” For her, the challenge is to go after the perpetrators of hateful crimes without tarring an entire religion — or being distracted by a rhetorical sideshow.

Let’s say Trump and his allies are right — that it’s important to label the religious underpinnings of those who seek to kill innocents; that when a killer calls on religion to justify his actions, let’s identify that religion for all to see.

But can we really stop with Islam?

Take Robert Dear, the deranged man who in November took a semiautomatic rifle into a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo. He killed three and wounded nine. His motivation? To be “a warrior for the babies.”

Dear is not just an extremist: He is a “Christian extremist.” He called his anti-abortion activism “God’s work.” He dreamed that “(w)hen he died and went to heaven, he would be met by all the aborted fetuses at the gates of heaven and they would thank him …” He sprinkled his confession to the police with Bible phrases.

To understand Dear, don’t we have to understand the Christian teachings this Christian extremist believed he was upholding?

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

Christians join Muslim Ramadan in symbolic act of solidarity in Iraq

iraqi-christiansThe Chaldean Patriarchate invited Iraqi Christians in the war-torn country to celebrate the Holy Ramadan with their fellow Muslim citizens as a symbolic gesture of solidarity.

Heeding the call of Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, Iraqi Christians joined Iraqi Muslims Friday, June 17 in celebrating the holy month of Ramadan by fasting and prayer.

“In this way we just wanted to propose a Christian gesture: as Christians, we are confident that fasting and prayer, also shared with others, can work miracles, while weapons and military interventions only kill,” Sako told Agenzia Fides.

Muslims around the world celebrate Ramadan by dawn to dusk with fasting and intense prayer. They commemorate the time believed when Allah revealed the Quran to Prophet Muhammad.

The Christians also accompanied their symbolic gesture with acts of charity as they pray for peace and stability in a country that’s ravaged by Islamic State terrorists and produced a large number of internally displaced people.

“Today we will offer, through Caritas Iraq, a contribution of $50 thousand in favor of the refugees of Fallujah,” said Sako.

The patriarch added that they planned to “symbolically offer” Iftar to some Iraqi Muslims as they break the day’s fasting. He noted that although many Muslims expressed gratitude, some Christians abroad criticized their gesture.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN TIMES 

 

If Islam Is a Religion of Violence, So Is Christianity

julia_ioffeby Julia Ioffe

The world’s oldest religions all have troubling histories of bloodshed. Singling out Islam is just Trump’s latest, hateful hypocrisy.

Angel with a gun

Angel with a gun

 

Speaking after “appreciating the congrats” on the Orlando shootings, Donald Trump again insisted that what mowed people down at Pulse was not an assault rifle but radical Islam, because in Trump Tower, it cannot be both. Trump’s world is binary. It is zero-sum: Either guns kill people or radical Islam kills people. In that world, only one religion can be bad, and so Christianity is good and Islam is bad. Christianity is peaceful and Islam violent. Christianity is tolerant and Islam intolerant. Both are inherently one thing or the other, immutable blueprints etched in stone for the behavior of their respective adherents.

This is a worldview that is shared by people who are Trump supporters and not Trump supporters. In the secular vernacular, we might call this view “Manichean,” that is, a binary between light and darkness, good and evil.

But it’s worth noting that “Manichean” was originally used to describe a religion that spread from Persia to the eastern and northern African parts of the Roman Empire in the third century, one that influenced many early Christians. If the word “Manichean” has negative connotations today, it might be because it was deemed a heresy by the early Catholic Church, one that needed to be ruthlessly rooted out of the Christian universe. And I mean ruthlessly: Adherents of a Manichean-tinged Christianity had their goods confiscated and were put to death, even if they converted to proper Christianity but still kept in touch with their Manichean contacts. Even St. Augustine called for their energetic persecution.

How a Gaza Christian became a blind Muslim’s eyes

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The man constantly checked his watch as he stood at the entrance to the Borno Mosque in the center of Gaza City. Anyone coming across him couldn’t help but wonder why he wasn’t praying inside with the others. Why did he keep checking his watch? For whom or what was he waiting? Then a man wearing dark glasses exited the mosque. The man at the door guided him and helped him put on his shoes. Al-Monitor asked after the two men and found that the one by the door is a Christian who regularly waits there to assist his blind Muslim friend.

Kamal Tarzi, 55, known as Abu Elias, has stuck by his Muslim friend, the 45-year-old pharmacist Hatem Khreis since Khreis lost his sight preparing a prescription five years ago. Tarzi says he is Khreis’ best friend and eyes.

“Hatem and I have been friends for 15 years, and we have been through joy and pain,” Tarzi told Al-Monitor. “I always accompany him, and people are shocked when they learn that I am Christian and that he is Muslim, given the depth of our relationship.”

Tarzi explained how he came to escort his friend: “After my friend lost his sight, his life turned upside down. He went from preparing medical prescriptions for patients to relying on people’s help to be able to live his daily life and take his own medicine.

“Growing up, Hatem would always perform prayers at the mosque, but after the incident five years ago, he was no longer able to do so because there was no one available to guide him there. I saw how he would shed tears whenever the call to prayer would come from the mosque. That is why I decided to take him to the mosque to pray as he did in the past.

“The first day I helped him get to the mosque, four years ago, he was so happy. So I told him I would be taking him every day to perform all the prayers. He was thrilled to hear my decision. It was as if he had found something he had lost for a long time.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL MONITOR 

I reported Omar Mateen to the FBI. Trump is wrong that Muslims don’t do our part.

By Mohammed A. Malik June 20 at 1:40 PM

Mohammed A. Malik is an entrepreneur in Port St. Lucie, Florida.98628728_Republican_presidential_candidate_Donald_Trump_addresses_members_of_the_National_Rifle_Asso-large_trans++eo_i_u9APj8RuoebjoAHt0k9u7HhRJvuo-ZLenGRumA

Donald Trump believes American Muslims are hiding something. “They know what’s going on. They know that [Omar Mateen] was bad,” he said after the Orlando massacre. “They have to cooperate with law enforcement and turn in the people who they know are bad. … But you know what? They didn’t turn them in. And you know what? We had death and destruction.”

This is a common idea in the United States. It’s also a lie. First, Muslims like me can’t see into the hearts of other worshipers. (Do you know the hidden depths of everyone in your community?) Second, Trump is wrong that we don’t speak up when we’re able.

I know this firsthand: I was the one who told the FBI about Omar Mateen.Omar Mateen_1465752671151_2934278_ver1.0

I met Omar for the first time in 2006 at an iftar meal at my brother-in-law’s house. As the women, including his mother and sisters, chatted in the living room, I sat with the men on the patio and got to know him and his father. Omar broke his Ramadan fast with a protein shake. He was quiet — then and always — and let his dad do the talking.

[Rep. Jim Himes: Why I walked out of the House’s moment of silence for Orlando.]

I’d seen them before at the oldest mosque in the area, the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce. We have a lot of immigrants in our community. They grew up in other countries, often with different sensibilities. A few don’t understand American culture, and they struggle to connect with their American-born or American-raised kids.

I came here from Pakistan in 1979 when I was 6 years old, grew up in Queens (like Omar) and Fort Lauderdale, went through the American education system, and assimilated well. So I was able to make better inroads with young people in our community, including that introverted teenager I met at the iftar. I tried to stay in touch with the younger generation, acting as a mentor when I could.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

Orlando Killings Rob Young New York Muslims of a Cherished Holiday Respite

18MUSLIMTEEN-slide-N801-master768For Muhammad Hannan and other Muslim high school students in New York City, this has been a Ramadan of contrasts and conflicting emotions.

The joy of breaking a 16-hour fast with the first bite of a sweet date. The horror of hearing about the attack on a gay nightclub in Florida that left 49 dead. The drudgery of reviewing a year’s worth of earth sciences and trigonometry notes. The frustration of defending Islam — and the right to be in this country — after another terrorist attack carried out in the name of the Islamic State.

“I just don’t get it,” said Muhammad, a 17-year-old junior at Abraham Lincoln High School in Coney Island, Brooklyn, who immigrated from Pakistan with his family in 2014. “Islam is all about peace. In Ramadan, we don’t even curse. You’re not supposed to do anything bad.”

Ramadan is usually Muhammad’s favorite time. This year, though, the holiday, which encompasses a month of fasting from dawn to dusk, has not offered its usual refuge. Already, Ramadan coincided with the Regents, the series of state tests that most high school students in New York take.

Then on Sunday, a Muslim man born in New York, Omar Mateen, called 911 to proclaim his allegiance to ISIS and opened fire in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

Within a day, Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, was renewing his call to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

And the day after that, another student in Muhammad’s English class started echoing Mr. Trump’s call.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES