Why this site?

Here at What if they were Muslim we question what would happen if a Jewish, Christian, Hindu, ______(insert religion of choice) were to commit a crime in the name of their faith. Would it be treated the same way if a Muslim committed the exact same crime? Would very little emphasis be put on the perpetrators religion? Would it be stressed that the act is an aberration, a misrepresentation of the religion? Would the religion be mentioned at all?

Another Tid-Bit...

WITWM is not a site that opines on the “what if” scenario of your favorite Hollywood star being a Muslim. It has nothing to do with Angelina Jolie or Johnny Depp, etc. It has everything to do with the double standards in both media and pop culture that perpetuate the myth that Islam is inherently more violent than other religions or the root cause of misdeeds by Muslims.

Archive: Media

Sri Lanka’s Buddhist Extremists Threaten BBC and Muslim Journalists

No-Halal-Sign-300

Sri Lanka’s Buddhist extremists threaten BBC and Muslim journalists

(Colombo Page)

Feb 18, Colombo: BBC Sri Lanka Correspondent Charles Haviland said that he and his crew were threatened while they were filming a rally of Sinhala Buddhist extremist organization Bodu Bala Sena yesterday at Maharagama.

The hardline Sinhalese Buddhist group called Bodu Bala Sena held a protest rally Sunday at Maharagama to call for the abolition of the Halal certification of foods and asked the business owners to remove Halal certified food from their stores by March 31.

“As we finished filming at the rally, our three-member BBC team and driver were seriously threatened with violence by some members of a mob of more than 20 young men who told us not to drive off,” Haviland said in a statement.

“Some police arrived and looked on as my Sri Lankan colleagues were verbally abused in filthy language, described as “traitors” and accused of having “foreign parents” and working for a “foreign conspirator” who was “against Sri Lanka”,” Haviland said.

The protesters have threatened the newsman and his crew and warned them not to return to the location.

A reporter from the Navamini Muslim newspaper was also harassed by the crowd and handed over to the Maharagama police. Police detained the reporter until 8:30 p.m. before releasing him.

The Sri Lankan government and the Muslim clerics’ organizations have repeatedly said that Halal certification is voluntary for Sri Lankan businesses and it is necessary when Sri Lanka exports food items to European, Middle Eastern and South East Asian countries.

The President has also urged the extremist Buddhist group not to arouse communal disharmony inciting violence.

What If They Were Muslim?: Zionists and Islamophobes Try to Quash Academic Freedom

Brooklyn

by Mooneye & Garibaldi

A planned Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) forum at Brooklyn College on February, 7th has brought together an angry assortment of Zionists and Islamophobes, including influential New York lawmakers who are threatening to slash the funding of Brooklyn College for hosting and co-sponsoring the event–describing it as “anti-Semitic.”

Amongst those threatening Brooklyn College are: NY State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who called for the racial profiling of Arabs and South Asians in 2009 because they fit the “terrorist” description. Alan Dershowitz, a well known apologist for Israeli war crimes has a track record of advocating for the suppression of Israel critics, and has made such absurd claims as the assassination of Bobby Kennedy by Sirhan Sirhan was,

“[I]n some ways the beginning of Islamic terrorism in America. It was the first shot. A lot of us didn’t recognize it at the time.”

Also advocating the suppression of the event is the Anti-Defamation League, an organization with a “very mixed” and troubling record on Islamophobia and which too often paints critics of Israel and Zionism as “anti-Semites.”

Glenn Greenwald who has covered the controversy in two extensive pieces over the past week in the Guardian described the efforts by Dershowitz and NY lawmakers this way,

Plainly, this entire controversy has only one “principle” and one purpose: to threaten, intimidate and bully professors, school administrators and academic institutions out of any involvement in criticisms of Israel.

Democracy Now which invited opponents to the BDS event, including the NY lawmakers (they all rejected the invitation) had a revealing report on the controversy, including interviews with one of tomorrow’s speakers, Omar Barghouti, as well as Glenn Greenwald:

In a break with the past, when such pressure would likely have led to the administration of such a college caving-in to the demands of Dershowitz and his allies, Brooklyn College has stood its ground,

The college administration has so far stood their ground. Brooklyn College spokespeople have said that the Political Science Department’s sponsorship of the event does not mean that it is endorsing the event, and that the college administration is “not going to tell members of our faculty what they can and cannot choose to support.”

In another unique development Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a self-described “big supporter of Israel” has come out strongly in support of academic freedom,

“If you want to go to a university where the government decides what kind of subjects are fit for discussion, I suggest you apply to a school in North Korea,” he said in a news conference at City Hall.

This may be a turning point in the public debate over the limits of criticizing Zionism and the state of Israel. In the past reflexive accusations of “anti-Semitism” drowned nuanced discussion on Zionism, Israel and Palestinian rights, now we are witnessing a hopeful sign of more balanced public discussion.

This also bodes well for those who are truly concerned about fighting anti-Semitism since it rescues it from the clutches of those who trivialize real anti-Semitism by conflating it with criticism of Zionism and Israel.

One can only imagine the Islamophobic repercussions that would have ensued if a lobby of Muslim organizations and lawmakers attempted a parallel attack on academic freedom. Hackles of Islamization and Islamic incompatibility with freedom would be endless.

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Judith Miller & Omar Barghouti–BDS Movement for Palestinian Rights. Thursday, February 7, 2013, 6:30 EST. Brooklyn College E 27th St and Campus Road Brooklyn, NY 11210 Student Center Building PENTHOUSE

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Update I: Our description of Dov Hikind’s extremism was not complete. Max Blumenthal has more on Hikind, including the fact that he was a member of the JDL and suspected of involvement in terrorism, (h/t: Dmitri)

Hikind gained his earliest experience in the early 1970s in local New York politics as an acolyte of Meir Kahane, the fanatical rabbi-turned-Israeli Member of Knesset who called for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and establishment of a theocratic state of “Judea” in the West Bank. “I’m proud of every single moment, let me make that very clear. Rabbi Kahane had a great influence on me,” Hikind declared in 2008. Under Kahane’s guidance, Hikind became active in the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a nationwide extremist network that attacked Arab-American and Soviet targets while rallying vigilante squads to “protect” working-class Jews living in African-American and Puerto Rican neighborhoods.

Related:

-Dershowitz fights academic freedom at Brooklyn College

-Alan Dershowitz to Brooklyn College: Academic Freedom For Me But Not For Thee

Modesty in Ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn Is Enforced by Secret Squads

Faceless heads model on Lee Avenue in Brooklyn, where women’s clothing stores have been warned not to use mannequins. Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Modesty in Ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn Is Enforced by Secret Squads

By (NYtimes.com)

The Brooklyn shopkeeper was already home for the night when her phone rang: a man who said he was from a neighborhood “modesty committee” was concerned that the mannequins in her store’s window, used to display women’s clothing, might inadvertently arouse passing men and boys.

“The man said, ‘Do the neighborhood a favor and take it out of the window,’ ” the store’s manager recalled. “ ‘We’re trying to safeguard our community.’ ”

In many neighborhoods, a store owner might shrug off such a call. But on Lee Avenue, the commercial spine of Hasidic Williamsburg, the warning carried an implied threat — comply with community standards or be shunned. It is a potent threat in a neighborhood where shadowy, sometimes self-appointed modesty squads use social and economic leverage to enforce conformity.

The owner wrestled with the request for a day or two, but decided to follow it. “We can sell it without mannequins, so we might as well do what the public wants,” the owner told the manager, who asked not to be identified because of fear of reprisals for talking.

In the close-knit world of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, community members know the modesty rules as well as Wall Street bankers who show up for work in a Brooks Brothers suit. Women wear long skirts and long-sleeved, high-necked blouses on the street; men do not wear Bermuda shorts in summer. Schools prescribe the color and thickness of girls’ stockings.

The rules are spoken and unspoken, enforced by social pressure but also, in ways that some find increasingly disturbing, by the modesty committees. Their power is evident in the fact that of the half dozen women’s clothing stores along Lee Avenue, only one features mannequins, and those are relatively shapeless, fully clothed torsos.

The groups have long been a part of daily life in the ultra-Orthodox communities that dot Brooklyn and other corners of the Jewish world. But they sprang into public view with the trial of Nechemya Weberman, a prominent member of the Satmar Hasidim in Brooklyn, who last week was sentenced to 103 years in prison after being convicted of sexually abusing a young girl sent to him for counseling.

Mr. Weberman, an unlicensed therapist, testified during his trial that boys and girls — though not his accuser — were regularly referred to him by a Hasidic modesty committee concerned about what it viewed as inappropriate attire and behavior.

The details were startling: a witness for Mr. Weberman’s defense, Baila Gluck, testified that masked men representing a modesty committee in the Hasidic village of Kiryas Joel, N.Y., 50 miles northwest of New York City, broke into her bedroom about seven years ago and confiscated her cellphone.

The Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, who prosecuted the Weberman case, has now received allegations that members of a modesty committee forced their way into a home in the borough, confiscating an iPad and computer equipment deemed inappropriate for Orthodox children, officials say. Allegations have also surfaced that a modesty committee threatened to publicly shame a married man who was having an affair unless he paid the members money for what they described as therapy.

“They operate like the Mafia,” said Rabbi Allan Nadler, director of the Jewish studies program at Drew University in Madison, N.J.

Rabbi Nadler, who testified at Mr. Weberman’s trial, said that modesty committees did not have addresses, stationery or business cards, and that few people seemed to know where their authority originated, though it was doubtful, he said, that they could continue operating without the tacit blessings of rabbinical leaders.

“They walk into a store and say it would be a shame if your window was broken or you lost your clientele,” he said. “They might tell the father of a girl who wears a skirt that’s too short and he’s, say, a store owner: ‘If you ever want to sell a pair of shoes, speak to your daughter.’ ”

In Israel, there have been similar concerns. Though no modesty committee was overtly involved, there has been anger over ultra-Orthodox zealots who spit on and insulted an 8-year-old girl for walking to school through their neighborhood in a dress they considered immodest.

In Brooklyn, Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who has represented the heavily Hasidic neighborhood of Borough Park for 30 years, said that he had never met a modesty committee member, but that “there are a lot of independent operators that believe they are protecting God and have to do this kind of stuff, and that’s sickening and gives us all a black eye.”

“If you want to advocate modesty,” he added, “do your thing, but when you stuff it down my throat physically, that undermines us and hurts us.”

Hasidic leaders contend that the modesty committees are nothing more than self-appointed individuals who, indignant at some perceived infraction, take matters into their own hands.

“These are individual people who decide to take on this crusade,” said Rabbi David Niederman, who as president of the United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg is a sometime spokesman for the Satmar Hasidim. “You see posters telling people do this and do that. It does not represent an authorized body.”

But many Hasidim say they have seen or heard how a shadowy group of men seeks to pressure parents to rein in children who wear dresses too short or stockings too thin, or who chat on cellphones with friends of the opposite sex. One family reported being harassed because the wife had stepped outdoors with a robelike housecoat rather than a long dress.

While many of the rules of conduct are announced on Yiddish broadsides posted on trees, lampposts and walls, residents of Hasidic neighborhoods say some store owners have received rough verbal warnings from a modesty committee to stop selling magazines that carry photographs considered too revealing, or articles that dispute the Satmar Hasidim’s belief that Israel should not have existed until the Messiah’s arrival.

The Central Rabbinical Congress of the United States and Canada, in addition to certifying foods as kosher and adjudicating matrimonial and commercial disputes, does at times remind the Satmar community of the community’s modesty rules. It is made up of scores of rabbis, but it has an address — it is housed on the second floor of a Williamsburg row house — and it signs every decree it issues.

“We give out proclamations,” said Rabbi Yitzchok Glick, its executive director. “We don’t enforce. It’s like people can decide to keep Shabbos or not. If someone wants to turn on the light on Shabbos, we cannot put him in jail for that.”

But Hasidim interviewed said squads of enforcers did exist in wildcat form.

“There are quite a few men, especially in Williamsburg, who consider themselves Gut’s polizei,” said Yosef Rapaport, a Hasidic journalist, using the words for “God’s police.”

“It’s somebody who is a busybody, and they’re quite a few of them — zealots who take it upon themselves and they just enforce. They’re considered crazy, but people don’t want to confront them.”

Newtown kids v Yemenis and Pakistanis: what explains the disparate reactions?

Tariq Aziz, 16-year-old casualty of a US drone attack in Waziristan

Tariq Aziz (centre, second row) attending a meeting about drones strikes in Waziristan, held in Islamabad, Pakistan oin 28 October 2011. Three days later, the 16 year old was reported killed by a drone-launched missile. Photograph: Pratap Chatterjee/BIJ

Newtown kids v Yemenis and Pakistanis: what explains the disparate reactions?

Numerous commentators have rightly lamented the difference in how these childrens’ deaths are perceived. What explains it?

By Glenn Greenwald (guardian.co.uk)

Over the last several days, numerous commentators have lamented the vastly different reactions in the US to the heinous shooting of children in Newtown, Connecticut as compared to the continuous killing of (far more) children and innocent adults by the US government in Pakistan and Yemen, among other places. The blogger Atrios this week succinctly observed:

“I do wish more people who manage to fully comprehend the broad trauma a mass shooting can have on our country would consider the consequences of a decade of war.”

My Guardian colleague George Monbiot has a powerful and eloquent column this week provocatively entitled: “In the US, mass child killings are tragedies. In Pakistan, mere bug splats”. He points out all the ways that Obama has made lethal US attacks in these predominantly Muslim countries not only more frequent but also more indiscriminate – “signature strikes” and “double-tap” attacks on rescuers and funerals – and then argues:

“Most of the world’s media, which has rightly commemorated the children of Newtown, either ignores Obama’s murders or accepts the official version that all those killed are ‘militants’. The children of north-west Pakistan, it seems, are not like our children. They have no names, no pictures, no memorials of candles and flowers and teddy bears. They belong to the other: to the non-human world of bugs and grass and tissue.

“‘Are we,’ Obama asked on Sunday, ‘prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?’ It’s a valid question. He should apply it to the violence he is visiting on the children of Pakistan.”

Political philosophy professor Falguni Sheth similarly writes that “the shooting in Newtown, CT is but part and parcel of a culture of shooting children, shooting civilians, shooting innocent adults, that has been waged by the US government since September 12, 2001.” She adds:

“And let there be no mistake: many of ‘us’ have directly felt the impact of that culture: Which ‘us’? Yemeni parents, Pakistani uncles and aunts, Afghan grandparents and cousins, Somali brothers and sisters, Filipino cousins have experienced the impact of the culture of killing children. Families of children who live in countries that are routinely droned by the US [government]. Families of children whose villages are raided nightly in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Meanwhile, University of Michigan professor Juan Cole, at the peak of mourning over Newtown, simply urged: “Let’s also Remember the 178 children Killed by US Drones“. He detailed the various ways that children and other innocents have had their lives extinguished by President Obama’s policies, and then posted this powerful (and warning: graphic) one-and-a-half-minute video from a new documentary on drones by filmmaker Robert Greenwald (no relation):

Finally, the Yemeni blogger Noon Arabia posted a moving plea on Monday: “Our children’s blood is not cheaper than American blood and the pain of loosing [sic] them is just as devastating. Our children matter too, Mr. President! These tragedies ‘also’ must end and to end them ‘YOU’ must change!”

There’s just no denying that many of the same people understandably expressing such grief and horror over the children who were killed in Newtown steadfastly overlook, if not outright support, the equally violent killing of Yemeni and Pakistani children. Consider this irony: Monday was the three-year anniversary of President Obama’s cruise missile and cluster-bomb attack on al-Majala in Southern Yemen that ended the lives of 14 women and 21 children: one more child than was killed by the Newtown gunman. In the US, that mass slaughter received not even a small fraction of the attention commanded by Newtown, and prompted almost no objections (in predominantly Muslim nations, by contrast, it received ample attention and anger).

It is well worth asking what accounts for this radically different reaction to the killing of children and other innocents. Relatedly, why is the US media so devoted to covering in depth every last detail of the children killed in the Newtown attack, but so indifferent to the children killed by its own government?

To ask this question is not – repeat: is not – to equate the Newtown attack with US government attacks. There are, one should grant, obvious and important differences.

To begin with, it is a natural and probably universal human inclination to care more about violence that seems to threaten us personally than violence that does not. Every American parent sends their children to schools of the type attacked in Newtown and empathy with the victims is thus automatic. Few American parents fear having their children attacked by US drones, cruise missiles and cluster bombs in remote regions in Pakistan and Yemen, and empathy with those victims is thus easier to avoid, more difficult to establish.

One should strive to see the world and prioritize injustices free of pure self-interest – caring about grave abuses that are unlikely to affect us personally is a hallmark of a civilized person – but we are all constructed to regard imminent dangers to ourselves and our loved ones with greater urgency than those that appear more remote. Ignoble though it is, that’s just part of being human – though our capacity to liberate ourselves from pure self-interest means that it does not excuse this indifference.

Then there’s the issue of perceived justification. Nobody can offer, let alone embrace, any rationale for the Newtown assault: it was random, indiscriminate, senseless and deliberate slaughter of innocents. Those who support Obama’s continuous attacks, or flamboyantly display their tortured “ambivalence” as a means of avoiding criticizing him, can at least invoke a Cheneyite slogan along with a McVeigh-taught-military-term to pretend that there’s some purpose to these killings: We Have To Kill The Terrorists, and these dead kids are just Collateral Damage. This rationale is deeply dishonest, ignorant, jingoistic, propagandistic, and sociopathic, but its existence means one cannot equate it to the Newtown killing.

But there are nonetheless two key issues highlighted by the intense grief for the Newtown victims compared to the utter indifference to the victims of Obama’s militarism. The first is that it underscores how potent and effective the last decade’s anti-Muslim dehumanization campaign has been.

Every war – particularly protracted ones like the “War on Terror” – demands sustained dehumanization campaigns against the targets of the violence. Few populations will tolerate continuous killings if they have to confront the humanity of those who are being killed. The humanity of the victims must be hidden and denied. That’s the only way this constant extinguishing of life by their government can be justified or at least ignored. That was the key point made in the extraordinarily brave speech given by then-MSNBC reporter Ashleigh Banfield in 2003 after she returned from Iraq, before she was demoted and then fired: that US media coverage of US violence is designed to conceal the identity and fate of its victims.

The violence and rights abridgments of the Bush and Obama administrations have been applied almost exclusively to Muslims. It is, therefore, Muslims who have been systematically dehumanized. Americans virtually never hear about the Muslims killed by their government’s violence. They’re never profiled. The New York Times doesn’t put powerful graphics showing their names and ages on its front page. Their funerals are never covered. President Obama never delivers teary sermons about how these Muslim children “had their entire lives ahead of them – birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.” That’s what dehumanization is: their humanity is disappeared so that we don’t have to face it.

But this dehumanization is about more than simply hiding and thus denying the personhood of Muslim victims of US violence. It is worse than that: it is based on the implicit, and sometimes overtly stated, premise that Muslims generally, even those guilty of nothing, deserve what the US does to them, or are at least presumed to carry blame.

Just a few months ago, the New York Times reported that the Obama administration has re-defined the term “militant” to mean: “all military-age males in a strike zone” – the ultimate expression of the rancid dehumanizing view that Muslims are inherently guilty of being Terrorists unless proven otherwise. When Obama’s campaign surrogate and former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the US killing by drone strike of 16-year-old American citizen Abdulrahman Awlaki two weeks after his father was killed, Gibbs unleashed one of the most repulsive statements heard in some time: that Abdulrahman should have “had a more responsible father”. Even when innocent Muslim teenagers are killed by US violence, it is their fault, and not the fault of the US and its leaders.

All of this has led to rhetoric and behavior that is nothing short of deranged when it comes to discussing the Muslim children and other innocents killed by US violence. I literally have never witnessed mockery over dead children like that which is spewed from some of Obama’s hard-core progressive supporters whenever I mention the child-victims of Obama’s drone attacks. Jokes like that are automatic. In this case at least, the fish rots from the head: recall President Obama’s jovial jokes at a glamorous media dinner about his use of drones to kill teeangers (sanctioned by the very same political faction that found Bush’s jokes about his militarism – delivered at the same media banquet several years earlier – so offensive). Just as is true of Gibbs’ deranged and callous rationale, jokes like that are possible only when you have denied the humanity of those who are killed. Would Newtown jokes be tolerated by anyone?

Dehumanization of Muslims is often overt, by necessity, in US military culture. The Guardian headline to Monbiot’s column refers to the term which Rolling Stones’ Michael Hastings reported is used for drone victims: “bug splat”. And consider this passage from an amazing story this week in Der Spiegel (but not, notably, in US media) on a US drone pilot, Brandon Bryant, who had to quit because he could no longer cope with the huge amount of civilian deaths he was witnessing and helping to cause:

“Bryant and his coworkers sat in front of 14 computer monitors and four keyboards. When Bryant pressed a button in New Mexico, someone died on the other side of the world. . . .

“[H]e remembers one incident very clearly when a Predator drone was circling in a figure-eight pattern in the sky above Afghanistan, more than 10,000 kilometers (6,250 miles) away. There was a flat-roofed house made of mud, with a shed used to hold goats in the crosshairs, as Bryant recalls. When he received the order to fire, he pressed a button with his left hand and marked the roof with a laser. The pilot sitting next to him pressed the trigger on a joystick, causing the drone to launch a Hellfire missile. There were 16 seconds left until impact. . . .

“With seven seconds left to go, there was no one to be seen on the ground. Bryant could still have diverted the missile at that point. Then it was down to three seconds. Bryant felt as if he had to count each individual pixel on the monitor. Suddenly a child walked around the corner, he says.

“Second zero was the moment in which Bryant’s digital world collided with the real one in a village between Baghlan and Mazar-e-Sharif.

“Bryant saw a flash on the screen: the explosion. Parts of the building collapsed. The child had disappeared. Bryant had a sick feeling in his stomach.

“‘Did we just kill a kid?’ he asked the man sitting next to him.

“‘Yeah, I guess that was a kid,’ the pilot replied.

“‘Was that a kid?’ they wrote into a chat window on the monitor.

“Then, someone they didn’t know answered, someone sitting in a military command center somewhere in the world who had observed their attack. ‘No. That was a dog,’ the person wrote.

“They reviewed the scene on video. A dog on two legs?”

Seeing Muslim children literally as dogs: few images more perfectly express the sustained dehumanization at the heart of US militarism and aggression over the last decade.

Citizens of a militaristic empire are inexorably trained to adopt the mentality of their armies: just listen to Good Progressive Obama defenders swagger around like they’re decorated, cigar-chomping combat veterans spouting phrases like “war is hell” and “collateral damage” to justify all of this. That is the anti-Muslim dehumanization campaign rearing its toxic head.

There’s one other issue highlighted by this disparate reaction: the question of agency and culpability. It’s easy to express rage over the Newtown shooting because so few of us bear any responsibility for it and – although we can take steps to minimize the impact and make similar attacks less likely – there is ultimately little we can do to stop psychotic individuals from snapping. Fury is easy because it’s easy to tell ourselves that the perpetrator – the shooter – has so little to do with us and our actions.

Exactly the opposite is true for the violence that continuously kills children and other innocent people in the Muslim world. Many of us empowered and cheer for the person responsible for that. US citizens pay for it, enable it, and now under Obama, most at the very least acquiesce to it if not support it. It’s always much more difficult to acknowledge the deaths that we play a role in causing than it is to protest those to which we believe we have no connection. That, too, is a vital factor explaining these differing reactions.

Please spare me the objection that the Newtown shooting should not be used to make a point about the ongoing killing of Muslim children and other innocents by the US. Over the last week, long-time gun control advocates have seized on this school shooting in an attempt to generate support for their political agenda, and they’re perfectly right to do so: when an event commands widespread political attention and engages human emotion, that is exactly when one should attempt to persuade one’s fellow citizens to recognize injustices they typically ignore. That is no more true for gun control than it is the piles of corpses the Obama administration continues to pile up for no good reason – leaving in their wake, all over the Muslim world, one Newtown-like grieving ritual after the next.

As Monbiot observed: “there can scarcely be a person on earth with access to the media who is untouched by the grief of the people” in Newtown. The exact opposite is true for the children and their families continuously killed in the Muslim world by the US government: huge numbers of people, particularly in the countries responsible, remain completely untouched by the grief that is caused in those places. That is by design – to ensure that opposition is muted – and it is brutally effective.

Accolades

President Obama, the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, has just been bestowed by TIME Magazine with the equally prestigious and meaningful accolade of 2012 Person of the Year.

Israel Names Its Attack on Gaza After Biblical War Story

Gaza Strike

What if they were Muslim? (H/T: Jack)

Israel Names Its New War After Biblical Story About God Terrorizing Egyptians

by John Cook, Gawker

If you speak Hebrew, the Israeli Defense Forces would like you to refer to the wave of assassination strikes it commenced in Gaza today as “Pillar of Cloud,” a Biblical reference to the form God adopted in order to protect the Children of Israel and strike terror into the heart of Egyptians. If you speak English, it would prefer you to use the less fanatical “Pillar of Defense.”

Israel’s Hebrew-language newspapers are all calling the new operation “Pillar of Cloud” (or so Gawker’s resident Hebrew speaker and Israeli native, Neetzan Zimmerman, tells me.) And that’s how the name of the operation first propagated in the America press. Here is the IDF’s official Hebrew Twitter feed, in answer to a question about the operation’s name, answering “Pillar of Cloud” about 90 minutes ago (thanks again to Neetzan for the translation):

twitter

Here’s what “Pillar of Cloud” means: According to the Bible, during the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, God took the form of a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night, in order to light their way and to frighten the Egyptian army.

Exodus 14:19-20:

Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel.

Exodus 14:24

During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion.

Exodus 13:21-22

By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.

Numbers 14:14

And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, Lord, are with these people and that you, Lord, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

So that’s what a Pillar of Cloud is: A worldly instantiation of an all-powerful, vengeful God seeking to demonstrate the primacy of his chosen people, to guide them in their affairs, and to confound their enemies. And that’s what the people who conceived and executed this wave of strikes against Hamas officials and Gazan civilians chose to call them. If anyone was worried about the increasing religious and ethnic fanaticism of the Israeli leadership, they should still be worried. Did Israel launch this attack because there was no other rational route to maintain its security? Or was it pursuing a broader agenda rooted in ancient mysticism?

English-speakers don’t really have to confront that question: According to the IDF’s English language blog, the operation is simply called “Pillar of Defense.” Much better.

The Israeli consulate did not respond to a phone message.

Update: An IDF spokesman emailed to say that “Operation Pillar of Defense” was not intended as a “direct, word-for-word” translation of “Pillar of Cloud.”

The name is not a direct, word-for-word translation. Like most translations, it is an attempt to convey the spirit of the name, rather than a simple Google Translate.

Regardless of the religious implications, the bible plays an important cultural role in Israel. I think that every example of Bible quotes you cited has defensive connotations, rather than “vengeful.”

Just my two cents.

Related:

I’ll See Your Jihad, and Raise You One Crusade

The Drone and the Cross

Gregory A. Weiler II: Another “Troubled” White…Terrorist?

Gregory Arthur Weiler II, mentally ill man who was going to strike Churches. He has a cat in his arms, can you imagine a Muslim who was charged with terrorism being shown with a cute little cat?

Look at the way the story below about Gregory A. Weiler II, an Illinois man who planned to bomb 48 churches is framed. He is not labeled a terrorist, even though one of the charges he faces is “terrorism,” his biography of dealing with life long depression and mental health issues is prominently highlighted. There are many cases in which the FBI has arrested Muslims who have had a history of mental health issues, who were in fact guided by the FBI every step of the way in cases that are either outright or borderline “entrapment.” One can rarely expect that the  nuance afforded Weiler would ever be given to a Muslim suspected of terrorism.

Juan Cole noted the Top Ten differences Between White Terrorists and Others, his article rings particularly true in light of Weiler’s arrest and the subsequent media coverage.

1. White terrorists are called “gunmen.” What does that even mean? A person with a gun? Wouldn’t that be, like, everyone in the US? Other terrorists are called, like, “terrorists.”

2. White terrorists are “troubled loners.” Other terrorists are always suspected of being part of a global plot, even when they are obviously troubled loners.

3. Doing a study on the danger of white terrorists at the Department of Homeland Security will get you sidelined by angry white Congressmen. Doing studies on other kinds of terrorists is a guaranteed promotion.

4. The family of a white terrorist is interviewed, weeping as they wonder where he went wrong. The families of other terrorists are almost never interviewed.

5. White terrorists are part of a “fringe.” Other terrorists are apparently mainstream.

6. White terrorists are random events, like tornadoes. Other terrorists are long-running conspiracies.

7. White terrorists are never called “white.” But other terrorists are given ethnic affiliations.

8. Nobody thinks white terrorists are typical of white people. But other terrorists are considered paragons of their societies.

9. White terrorists are alcoholics, addicts or mentally ill. Other terrorists are apparently clean-living and perfectly sane.

10. There is nothing you can do about white terrorists. Gun control won’t stop them. No policy you could make, no government program, could possibly have an impact on them. But hundreds of billions of dollars must be spent on police and on the Department of Defense, and on TSA, which must virtually strip search 60 million people a year, to deal with other terrorists.

Family: Elk Grove Village man held in bomb plot ‘can’t hurt anyone now’

By Carlos Sadovi and Dawn Rhodes Tribune reporters

By the time Gregory Weiler II was in his late teens, his family said, the Elk Grove Village native was well down a path toward destruction.

Both his mother and father had committed suicide before he was 16, and Weiler had also tried to kill himself in 8th grade. He had been hospitalized for mental illness at least six times. In between, he had become addicted to heroin and alcohol.

When Weiler, 23, left several years ago to join a religious group in Missouri, his family knew they’d eventually hear that “Greg” had again gotten into trouble.

It happened last week, when Weiler was arrested in Miami, Okla. for allegedly gathering materials to make 50 Molotov cocktails, with plans to bomb nearly that many local churches.

On Saturday, his family in Elk Grove Village expressed relief that Weiler had been caught, certain that he would have followed through with what an Oklahoma court affidavit described as a deadly terrorist plot.

“It’s a blessing in disguise that they were able to get there,” said Weiler’s cousin Johnny Meyers in an interview. “He has to be held accountable. It’s a blessing, he can’t hurt anyone now.”

According to court documents, Weiler was arrested after police found the bomb-making equipment in a garbage can at a motel. He has been charged with violating Oklahoma’s anti-terrorism laws, a legacy of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people.

Entering Weiler’s motel room, police found dozens of empty beer bottles fashioned as Molotov cocktails, along with a torn-up page that had hand-written instructions for making the bombs. The document had a hand-drawn map of 48 local churches, and plans to make more bombs, according to the affidavit.

The churches were “grouped and circled with a key detailing how many nights and how many people,” would potentially be affected, according to the affidavit. Officials said Weiler had plans to videotape the explosions. A hand-written journal discovered in his motel room laid out plans to destroy churches across the U.S. “a tiny bit at a time — setting foundation for the years to follow,” the affidavit said.

Miami Police Chief George Haralson said Weiler checked into the motel on Sept. 20 using an Illinois driver’s license with an address in Washington, Ill., just east of Peoria.

Haralson said police have not found any indication of a partner in the plot.

“To be able to fire bomb 48 churches in a week, that’s an awful lot of effort,” Haralson said. “But we’re confident that he was acting alone.”

As for why Weiler might have targeted the rural community of 15,000 people, “I couldn’t even begin to guess,” Haralson said.

His aunt Joanne Meyers said she believes the latest incident is another example how mental illness has devastated their family. She and her husband Chris took in Weiler after his mother committed suicide in 2002 after years of depression and alcoholism, she said.

Weiler’s father suffered from alcohol and drug addiction before he killed himself in 2005.

And, a sister is hospitalized for mental illness after several suicide attempts, said Meyers.

“We just want people to understand how mental illness such as Greg’s affects our whole family,” Meyers said.

Weiler showed signs of mental illness early, she said. After graduating from Elk Grove High School, he went to Bradley University — where he skipped classes and stole money from friends and family through a pyramid scheme, said Meyers.

About three years ago, Weiler joined a church in Missouri that his family called “a cult.”

Several weeks ago, family members began reading odd missives Weiler posted on his Facebook page, which was the only way they kept in touch with him.

A Sept. 25 entry — apparently written from his motel room — referred to his childhood and focused on the Catholic Church, whose leaders he claimed are responsible for “hypocrisy, murder and deceit.”

He ends: “I have not opened a bible in a while, and I haven’t stepped foot into a church building in quite some time — and though I may be very lonely right now, I am hoping that someone, and maybe someday in the future, someone will take notice.”

Weiler is charged with threat to use explosives, incendiary device, simulated bomb to damage or injure persons or property, and a violation of the Oklahoma anti-terrorism act. He is being held without bail in Ottawa County Jail.

Fox News Host Wants Federal Investigation into ‘South Park’

If a Muslim had said something along the lines of what Todd Starnes said you can bet that the Islamophobia echo chamber would be pushing the line that American Muslims are trying to undermine the First Amendment by pushing blasphemy laws.

What if they were Muslim? (h/t: CriticalDragon)

Fox News Host Wants Federal Investigation into ‘South Park’ for Blasphemy

(RightWingWatch)

Fox News’s Todd Starnes is sick and tired of ‘South Park’ and Hollywood getting a free pass. The Fox News commentator participated in the Values Voter Summit panel on “Religious Hostility in America” over the weekend.

The panel featured the familiar argument that Christians in America are somehow a beleaguered minority that is under constant assault. Starnes claims to have a pile of stories stacked up on his desk about “instances of people who have been facing attack because of their faith in Jesus Christ.”

Speaking of the controversy surrounding the laughably bad “Innocence of Muslims,” Starnes asked why the federal government isn’t investigating “shows like ‘South Park,’ which has denigrated all faiths.” He also demanded to know why President Obama hasn’t denounced Hollywood.

Watch:

We have the seen the administration come out and say, “we condemn anyone who denigrates religious faith.” And they come out in regards to this anti-Muslim film.

Well, that’s well and good, but my question is, when has the administration condemned the anti-Christian films that are coming out of Hollywood? Where are the federal investigations into shows like ‘South Park,’ which has denigrated all faiths?

Where is the outrage when people of the Christian faith are subjected to this humiliation that is coming out of Hollywood?

Religious Right activists have been the most vocal supporters of the filmmakers, if you can call them that, and have rightfully pointed out that the First Amendment protects their activities. Starnes, however, seems to have a double-standard when it comes to speech that he deems offensive to his religious views.

As it turns out, the only investigation going on around the “Innocence of Muslims” concerns whether one of the purported “filmmakers” violated the terms of his probation. Otherwise the government has no place policing speech, regardless of who is offended, and the president is not the film critic in chief. President Obama can be excused, however, for speaking out when Americans are being killed over an amateurish YouTube video.

Rep. Gohmert Likes to “Hug” Muslims; Blames Shootings on Attack on Religious Beliefs

Rep. Lou Gohmert is one of the looniest politicians in Congress. He regularly engages in strange and Islamophobic rhetoric about Islam and Muslims. The Young Turks take issue with Gohmert’s horrendous comments on the reasons for the shooting in Colorado.

Congressman Blames Shootings On Attack on Religious Beliefs

Louie Gohmert “I’m Hugging Muslims Around The World”

GOP Congressional Spokesman: ‘Let’s Hurl Some Acid At Those Female Democratic Senators’

Jay Townsend

If this were a spokesman for the Taliban imagine the outrage at such a proposition! These are the words of a U.S. congressional staffer though, so move along, nothing to see here! </end_sarcasm>

GOP Congressional Spokesman: ‘Let’s Hurl Some Acid At Those Female Democratic Senators’

By Annie-Rose Strasser (thinkprogress.org)

How do you deal with female political opponents? If you’re the spokesman for Rep. Nan Hayworth’s (R-NY) re-election campaign, you might “hurl some acid” at them.

Jay Townsend, a longtime GOP communications director, proposed just that on a Facebook forum with constituents this week. The comment, which is still up here (as of the time of posting), is in reply to another commenter named Tom:

Acid throwing is not a joke. It is a serious and horrific form of gender-based violence. Seventy two percent of the time, victims of acid throwing are women. In fact, an attack occurred in Pakistan just four days ago– two women and one two year-old child were injured.

Charles L. Worley, North Carolina Pastor: Put Gays And Lesbians In Electrified Pen To Kill Them Off

This is just plain craziness. All fundamentalists, of one stripe or another are terrified by the personal lives of homosexuals:

Charles L. Worley, North Carolina Pastor: Put Gays And Lesbians In Electrified Pen To Kill Them Off


The barrage of anti-gay sermons delivered by North Carolina-based pastors to hit the blogosphere continues with yet another disturbing rant caught on tape.

The pastor, identified on YouTube as Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, N.C., condemns President Obama’s much-publicized endorsement of same-sex marriage while calling for gays and lesbians to be put in an electrified pen and ultimately killed off.

“Build a great, big, large fence — 150 or 100 mile long — put all the lesbians in there,” Worley suggests in the clip, reportedly filmed on May 13.

He continues: “Do the same thing for the queers and the homosexuals and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out…and you know what, in a few years, they’ll die out…do you know why? They can’t reproduce!”

He also said that if he’s asked who he’ll vote for, he’ll reply, “I’m not going to vote for a baby killer and a homosexual lover!” Many of the congregants cheer and reply, “Amen.”

Worley added, “It makes me pukin’ sick to think about — I don’t even whether or not to say this in the pulpit — can you imagine kissing some man?”

The pastor’s comments seem in line with statements made by Ron Baity, founding pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Winston-Salem and head of the anti-marriage equality organization Return America, who told his own congregation that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people should be prosecuted as they were historically, and Pastor Sean Harris of the Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville who advocated parents “punch” their male child if he is effeminate and “crack that wrist” if he is limp-wristed.

Similarly, Tim Rabon, pastor at Raleigh’s Beacon Baptist Church, condemned states such as Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maryland which have already “re-defined” marriage to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) couples before asking his congregants, “What is stopping them from refining marriage from a person and a beast? We’re not far from that.”

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