What Constitution? Anti-Muslim Rep. in North Carolina Pushes for Christian Prayer in Government Meetings

blog_religionbelief_2Should local officials be able to start their meetings with prayers that endorse a particular faith? North Carolina State Rep. Michele Presnell thinks so, with one tiny caveat: the faith endorsed must be her own. When asked by one of her constituents whether she would be comfortable with a prayer to Allah before a public meeting, Presnell responded, “No, I do not condone terrorism.”

Despite the disturbing anti-Islamic bigotry in her statement, this illustrates the problem with these religion-specific prayers: someone is always going to be excluded or offended by them, and they can’t possibly account for everyone’s beliefs.

No one should be made to feel like a second-class citizen by his or her own local government, but for the past six years the Rowan County Board of Commissioners have sidelined and excluded Americans of other faiths through the systematic use of prayers specific to only one religion – Christianity.

As if that weren’t enough of a reason to stop or change the prayers, the practice is blatantly unconstitutional. The government generally can’t sponsor prayer at all, but the Supreme Court has carved out a narrow exception to this rule that allows legislative bodies, like a county board, to open meetings with invocations, so long as they do not promote one faith over others.



Egypt blocks YouTube over anti-Islam film

youtubeA Cairo court has ordered the government to block access to the video-sharing website YouTube for a month for carrying an anti-Islam film that caused deadly riots across the world.

Judge Hassouna Tawfiq ordered on Saturday Youtube’s suspension in the country over the film, which he described as “offensive to Islam and the Prophet (Muhammad)”.

Tawfiq made the ruling in the Egyptian capital where the first protests against the film erupted last September before spreading to more than 20 countries, leading to the deaths of more than 50 people.

YouTube’s parent company, Google, declined requests to remove the video from the website last year, but restricted access to it in certain countries, including Egypt, Libya and Indonesia, because it says the video broke laws in those countries.

At the height of the protests in September, YouTube was ordered blocked in several countries, including Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah issued an order blocking all websites with access to the anti-Islam film in the kingdom.

Muslim and Copts Unite Against Hate and Violence

By Salim Al Marayati

On Sept. 17, Muslim and Coptic Christian leaders stood shoulder to shoulder at Los Angeles City Hall, condemning both the hate of the anti-Muslim video,”Innocence of Muslims,” and the violent reactions to the video. The imagery and prose were inspiring.

The following are some thoughts:

We stand here on the steps of this angelic City Hall, praying for God to bring His spirit of love to this city, to this nation and to the world. Our two communities, Coptic Christian and Muslim, have lived side by side for over a thousand years. And yet, we see turmoil here and abroad over a video that dishonors the honorable tenets of our two faiths.

With technology advancing, we grieve over how rapid misunderstandings can spread, both between and about our two communities. Thus, before our Creator and before the people of this great city, we vow to speak out against hate, the hate of a film that denigrates Islam and desecrates its Prophet.

Moreover, we speak out against the violence as a reaction to hate. Indeed, our faiths preach that only love and forgiveness are the proper responses to hate. Jesus and Muhammad were both persecuted, and their response to mockery and insult was simple: Work for peace. Their impact on human civilization was profound. So today, we remind ourselves, our communities and our nation the following:

The video is abhorrent and does not deserve the dignity of any response.

The producers and propagandists of this video speak only for themselves and not for any religion.


Director of al Amana Center in Oman Discusses Unrest in the Middle East


In the wake of the death of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the controversial cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed, The Rev. Douglas Leonard, executive director of the Al Amana Centre, discusses the root of the resulting violence in the Middle East. “Islam happens to be the religion that is tied to this region and so it gets confused with the issue.” Leonard continues, “But this is really not about Islam.”




Al Amana Center Director on the Recent Unrest in the Middle East

Understanding Middle Eastern Reactions to ‘Innocence of Muslims’

The YouTube video “Innocence of Muslims” can now be added to a lengthening list of portrayals of Muhammad that have led to violence, both threatened and real, along with calls for censorship. Examples include the Salman Rushdie affair, occasioned by the 1988 publication of The Satanic Verses, and the notorious Danish cartoons of 2006. Especially given the rank amateurishness of this video, why does it provoke so?

The question can be answered in a number of ways. By far the worst explanation holds that the violence is nothing more than an irrational overreaction to a silly video, one somehow predetermined by attitudes intrinsic to Islam, including intolerance or demagoguery. Muslims, it follows, should get themselves a reformation and chill out.


Don’t Let Extremists We are in a Clash of Civilizations

The so-called ‘culture clash’ between Islam and the West is being deliberately ramped up by Pax Americana’s cheerleaders who prefer this familiar narrative to the more complex reality of a clash of interests between Western and Muslim states.

Karl Marx once said that history repeats itself: first as tragedy, then as farce. The riots and Iranian fatwa calling for the death of Salman Rushdie which forced the British-Kashmiri author into hiding for 13 years, can only be described as tragic – for him and for the cause of freedom and tolerance.

In the years since the 1989 fatwa, the rage expressed at perceived Western “insults” to Islam and its prophet, Mohammed, have transcended tragedy to become farcical, with often tragic consequences. Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” – which, as those who have actually read it are aware, betrays a profound admiration and respect for the person of Mohammed, despite its criticism of religion and human nature – at least had the merit of artistic and literary quality.

In contrast, most subsequent targets of this brand of outrage have been crude and amateurish, such as the Danish cartoons mocking Mohammed, and consciously out to provoke a reaction, like the poorly-scripted and badly-acted “Innocence of Muslims,” which those “pre-incited”, “pre-programmed” Muslim protesters, as the film’s spokesperson Steve Klein described them, obligingly did.


Protests over anti-Islam film and Muhammad cartoons – as it happened


We’re going to conclude our live blog coverage for the day. Here’s a summary of where things stand:

• At least 19 were killed in Pakistan and 160 wounded in clashes during protests over an anti-Islam web video. Smaller such protests played out across the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.

• An estimated ten thousand demonstrators rallied in Benghazi, Libya to call for peace and the disbandment of extremist groups.As midnight local time approaches the demonstrators had moved into multiple compounds associated with Ansar al-Sharia and other radical groups. No violence has been reported.

• A rights group said Syrian forces had targeted and killed an opposition videographer in Hama. Sixteen others were reportedly killed in the assault. The Local Coordination Committees put the number killed in Syria Friday at 117.

• An Israeli soldier and three reported assailants were killed in clashes at the border in the mid-Sinai region. One of the assailants may have detonated a suicide belt.