American Christians often send each other Christmas letters. Oddly, these letters rarely reference Jesus – or any of the other messengers of God, peace and blessings on all of them.
Christmas letters usually just provide a superficial summary of what the letter-writer and family have been doing during the previous year. Most of them are devoid of spirituality.
You’d think a Christmas letter would invoke angels, blessings, self-sacrifice, holiness, purity, miracles, redemptive love, dreams and visions, divine healing, hopes of paradise and aversions to hellfire, and so on. You’d expect a Christmas letter to be written in the spirit of Jesus, that most radical of spiritual healers and miracle-workers, who taught a vastly expanded form of consciousness based on universal love – a form of consciousness capable of turning ordinary life into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Thomas Jefferson’s Quran: How Islam Shaped the Founders
by R.B. Bernstein
What role did Islam have in shaping the Founders’ views on religion? A new book argues that to understand the debate over church and state, we need to look to their views on Muslims, writes R.B. Bernstein.
One of the nastiest aspects of modern culture wars is the controversy raging over the place of Islam and Muslims in Western society. Too many Americans say things about Islam and Muslims that would horrify and offend them if they heard such things said about Christianity or Judaism, Christians or Jews. Unfortunately, those people won’t open Denise A. Spellberg’s Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders. This enlightening book might cause them to rethink what they’re saying.
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast
Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an examines the intersection during the nation’s founding era of two contentious themes in the culture wars—the relationship of Islam to America, and the proper relationship between church and state. The story that it tells ought to be familiar to most Americans, and is familiar to historians of the nation’s founding. And yet, by using Islam as her book’s touchstone, Spellberg brings illuminating freshness to an oft-told tale.
Spellberg, associate professor of history and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, seeks to understand the role of Islam in the American struggle to protect religious liberty. She asks how Muslims and their religion fit into eighteenth-century Americans’ models of religious freedom. While conceding that many Americans in that era viewed Islam with suspicion, classifying Muslims as dangerous and unworthy of inclusion within the American experiment, she also shows that such leading figures as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington spurned exclusionary arguments, arguing that America should be open to Muslim citizens, office-holders, and even presidents. Spellberg’s point is that, contrary to those today who would dismiss Islam and Muslims as essentially and irretrievably alien to the American experiment and its religious mix, key figures in the era of the nation’s founding argued that that American church-state calculus both could and should make room for Islam and for believing Muslims.
As Spellberg argues with compelling force, the conventional understanding of defining religion’s role in the nation’s public life has at its core a sharp divide between acceptable beliefs (members of most Protestant Christian denominations) and the unacceptable “other.” Many Protestant Americans, for example, disdained the Roman Catholic Church because of their memories of the bitter religious wars of the Protestant Reformation. Further, Pennsylvania’s constitution and laws allowed voting, sitting on juries, and holding office only to those who professed a belief in the divine inspiration of the Old and New Testaments.
By contrast, Thomas Jefferson, a central figure in Spellberg’s book, had a strong, lifelong commitment to religious liberty. Jefferson rejected toleration, the alternative perspective and one embraced by John Locke and John Adams, as grounded on the idea that a religious majority has a right to impose its will on a religious minority, but chooses to be tolerant for reasons of benevolence. Religious liberty, Jefferson argued, denies the majority any right to coerce a dissenting minority, even one hostile to religion. Jefferson rejected using government power to coerce religious belief and practice because it would create a nation of tyrants and hypocrites, as it is impossible to force someone to believe against the promptings of his conscience. Jefferson embraced religious liberty and separation of church and state to protect the individual human mind and the secular political realm from the corrupting alliance of church and state. His political ally James Madison, echoing Roger Williams, the seventeenth-century Baptist religious leader and founder of Rhode Island, added that separation of church and state also would protect the garden of the church from a corrupting alliance with the wilderness of the secular world.
Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders. By Denise A. Spellberg 416 pages.
Ranged against separation was a view of church-state relations teaching that government could accommodate religion and need not be neutral between the cause of religion in general and that of irreligion or atheism. Adherents of this view included Samuel Adams, Roger Sherman, and Patrick Henry. The ongoing struggle between these two points of view has shaped and continues to shape American religious history and the law of church and state under the U.S. Constitution.
Spellberg adds to this familiar story well a valuable and unfamiliar twist, introducing Islam as a focal-point of American thought and argument. Were Muslims to be excluded from America? Was Islam antithetical to American ideas of religious freedom and openness of citizenship?
Spellberg begins her answers to these questions by analyzing Europeans’ and Americans’ negative and positive images of Islam between the mid-sixteenth century and the eighteenth century. For example, the French jurist and philosophe Charles Louis Secondat, baron de Montesquieu, made Muslim diplomats the viewpoint characters of his pathbreaking satirical novel The Persian Letters, which presented European laws, institutions, manners, and morals from an “outsider” Muslim perspective. Yet many Europeans and Americans, seeing Muslims as perennial adversaries of Christianity from the Crusades, insisted that Muslims had no claim to religious liberty because of their supposed hostility to the idea of liberty. Turning from a general overview to focus on Jefferson, Spellberg devotes the core of her book to examining his seemingly antithetical views with regard to Islam and its believers. Though Jefferson was a harsh critic of Islam as a religion (as he was of all Abrahamic religions) and of the hostage-taking and ransom-seeking practices of Muslim states in the Mediterranean (the “Barbary Pirates,” against whom he unsuccessfully tried to organize a Euro-American naval alliance), he also was a staunch advocate of religious freedom even for those falling outside the conventional spectrum of Protestant Christian believers, including Catholics, Jews,and Muslims. Jefferson’s views differed from those of his friend and diplomatic colleague John Adams, who dismissed Jefferson’s quest for an alliance against the Barbary states as unrealistic and who rejected the inclusion of Muslims within an evolving American definition of religious freedom.
Saudi Arabia, a major supporter of opposition forces in Syria, has increased crackdown on its own dissenters, with 30,000 activists reportedly in jail. In an exclusive interview to RT a Saudi prince defector explained what the monarchy fears most.
“Saudi Arabia has stepped up arrests and trials of peaceful dissidents, and responded with force to demonstrations by citizens,” Human Rights Watch begins the country’s profile on its website.
Political parties are banned in Saudi Arabia and human rights groups willing to function legally have to go no further than investigating things like corruption or inadequate services. Campaigning for political freedoms is outlawed.
One of such groups, which failed to get its license from the government, the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), was cited by AFP as saying the kingdom was holding around 30,000 political prisoners.
Twenty cars were burned and four people arrested early today in a second night of violence in a Paris suburb after allegedly heavy-handed police action to enforce France’s ban on the full-face Islamic veil.
Riot police were on patrol in the same suburb west of Paris this afternoon when a fire broke out in a disused furniture warehouse, but it was not immediately clear whether this had been started deliberately. Six young people were arrested in the suburb of Trappes on Friday night when 200 rioters besieged a local police station to protest against police violence. A 14-year-old boy suffered a serious eye injury.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls appealed for calm. Community leaders said that the riots were a response to the frequent violence and insulting language used by police, rather than a protest against the two-year-old law banning burkas or other full-face coverings.
On the second night of protest about 50 young people burned cars and threw Molotov cocktails at riot police. Both sides agree the protests began when a three-man police patrol stopped a young woman wearing a face veil on Friday night. The woman’s mother and husband became involved in an argument with the officers.
Police say the older woman rammed one officer with a pushchair, and her husband punched another and then tried to throttle him.
We are told, “and how” we are told, aided by every discredited media hack on the planet, that poor Snowden is flying to Russia where he will either be given “safe passage” or “considered” for asylum.
The New World Order is holding a “morality play,” and we all have tickets.
Snowden’s baggage includes, we are told, a “Wikileaks legal team” and four computers, carrying details of intelligence intercepts against Russia and China. Please note, Russia and China are among the top four nations when it comes to international “cyber bullying,” with multi-billion dollar budgets.
The real violator, behind NSA monitoring, in control of social media, of Wikipedia, of YouTube and Google, monitoring all world mobile communications and, more importantly, in control, not just of a majority of the world’s media and entertainment but the governments of Britain, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Turkey, the United States and dozens of others as well, is Israel.
One of Iran’s official press agencies published photos showing the public amputation of a thief’s fingers on Wednesday. These show a man getting his finger chopped off with a machine resembling a rotary saw.
WARNING: These images may shock viewers.
We contacted many of our Observers in Iran to ask them about this machine. Some of them had heard about it before, but many discovered its existence through these morbid photographs, which were reportedly taken on Thursday. According to the INSA press agency, the man shown getting his finger cut off was charged with robbery and adultery by a court in the southwestern city of Shiraz. He was also accused of being at the head of a criminal organisation. On top of losing one of his fingers, he was sentenced to three years in prison and 99 whip lashes.
It is quite something else to know, with all that is absolute, that a malevolent government in Washington, controlled by gangsters, criminals, mass murders, hears your thoughts, tracks your movements, knows what you buy, where you drive or walk, what you eat, believes it understands what you feel, does all of these things, not out of love but out of fear and malice.”
Today, President Obama appointed Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, as his representative on the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Almost immediately, the Israeli/American media, including many violent and extremist publications, went on the attack. Below are the words of Salam Al-Marayti from December 2011, as he describes the attack American Muslims have been under, an attack of ever increasing intensity in the last 10 months: Continue reading »
In a video you won’t see on CNN or ABC, Israeli Sephardic Rabbis Greeted Ahmadinejahd in New York City on Yom Kippur.
Iran’s President was visibly moved by the emotional prayers for peace and friendship spoken by the Israeli Rabbis. The Sephardic Rabbis praised Iran’s leaders for 1,000 years of peaceful relations with 50,000 Jewish families in Tehran.
This extraordinary event might account for Ahmedinejahd’s subdued criticism of Israel in his speech on the floor of the United Nations later that day. Major media have observed that Iran’s President only briefly mentioned Israel once. Nobody asked why he might have softened his tone.
Let’s make this video go viral, people! There’s great hope for peace, if we can follow these Rabbis’ superb example and treat each other with respect.
Message sent to me with youtube link. If after watching this you do not begin to understand how people are being deceived then you are in a coma. And we all deserve to suffer the consequences of our ignorance. Continue reading »
I contemplate my recent trip to the Islamic Republic of Iran and ask myself who wants war between America and Iran. I quickly surmise that it is not the American people, nor the Iranian people, but globalists (international bankers and their multinational beneficiaries). They control Israel, the American media and most of our politicians…and by extension our foreign policy.
My journey to this exotic and little understood land began with an invitation to “New Horizon – The First International Independent Filmmakers Festival”. It was a conference and festival held in Tehran from September 2nd through September 7th. Filmmakers and intellectuals from around the world attended. It was one of the most stimulating experiences that I have ever had and an effective bridge between diverse cultures and perspectives – with the purpose of promoting truth, justice, liberty, and peace.
This initiative was undertaken, not by America or other world leaders, but by a country unfairly besieged with sanctions and threats of war. My observations were in stark contrast to the perceptions of most Americans. What I experienced was a devout country with a love of God, family, and nation – and an uncompromising respect for the noblest of human endeavors.
As I write this, a giant, beautiful book, Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, lies next to me. Khayyam’s wonderful poems have survived the test of time and are a testament to the normally peaceful spirit of the Persian people. This treasure was given to me by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Inside its back cover, he inscribed the following for me (transcribed from Farsi): Continue reading »
Much remains unanswered about the US-made film that sparked riots across the Arab World, but more is unraveling by the day regarding the movie’s producer. Now it’s reported that the man behind ‘Innocence of Muslims’ was once a federal informant.
In the wake of a serious of violent outbursts that have targeted American facilities abroad and left at least 40 dead including one US ambassador, authorities and media outlets in the United States continue to comb through information about the film that’s considered the catalyst in the attacks, an anti-Islam flick branded overseas under the name ‘Innocence of Muslims.’ Less than a week after four Americans were killed at a US consulate in Benghazi, it’s now being revealed that the film’s producer, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, worked for the feds.
A court transcript obtained by the Smoking Gun shows that, as recently as 2010, Mr. Nakoula was identified as a federal informant, a title that his attorneys hoped would help in his case when he went before sentencing that year over an earlier conviction for check fraud.
Before he was involved in the making of a noxious video that provided an excuse for anti-American riots in the Middle East, and before he was convicted of federal bank fraud, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was arrested on charges relating to the making of angel dust.
Court records reviewed by Danger Room show that Nakoula and a co-defendant were brought before the Los Angeles County Superior Courthouse in Downey, California on April 15, 1997. They were charged with possessing the narcotic’s chemical precursors with “the intent to manufacture phencyclidine,” otherwise known as angel dust or PCP.
Mystery deepens over US film linked to Benghazi protests
Cast say they were misled as evidence suggests film was post- dubbed and questions arise over funding and identity of director
(Photo and video not Guardian whose article is deceptive and contradictory, Editor)
The anti-Islamic video that inflamed mayhem in Egypt and Libya and triggered a diplomatic crisis is at the centre of a growing mystery over whether it is a real film – or was ever intended to be.
Initial reports about The Innocence of Muslims being a $5m production made by an Israeli-American director named Sam Bacile unravelled on Wednesday as ruins of the US consulate in Benghazi continued to smoulder.
Bacile – originally described as a California-based Jewish real estate developer – appeared to be a fake identity, and Hollywood could find no trace of his supposed feature-length attack on the prophet Muhammad. The blasphemous, 13-minute “trailer” posted online – a ramshackle compilation of scenes which depicted Muhammad as an illegitimate, murderous paedophile – was real, but there was growing doubt that a film existed.
America’s top military officer condemned in the strongest possible terms a Defense Department course that taught troops to prep for a “total war” on Islam using “Hiroshima”-style tactics.
“It was totally objectionable, against our values and it wasn’t academically sound,” Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at a Pentagon press conference on Thursday. The instructor responsible for the course, Army Lt. Col. Matthew A. Dooley, is “no longer in a teaching status,” Dempsey added — but he is still employed at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va.
The U.S. military taught its future leaders that a “total war” against the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims would be necessary to protect America from Islamic terrorists, according to documents obtained by Danger Room. Among the options considered for that conflict: using the lessons of “Hiroshima” to wipe out whole cities at once, targeting the “civilian population wherever necessary.”
The course, first reported by Danger Room last month and held at the Defense Department’s Joint Forces Staff College, has since been canceled by the Pentagon brass. It’s only now, however, that the details of the class have come to light. Danger Room received hundreds of pages of course material and reference documents from a source familiar with the contents of the class.
“The ruling class has the schools and press under its thumb. This enables it to sway the emotions of the masses.” – Albert Einstein
“There is no such thing, at this date of the world’s history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar weekly salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone. The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press? We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities, and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.” – John Swinton, former New York Times Chief of Staff
“We are grateful to The Washington Post, The New York Times, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost forty years. It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subject to the bright lights of publicity during those years. But, the work is now much more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national autodetermination practiced in past centuries.” – David Rockefeller, founder of the Trilateral Commission, in an address to a meeting of The Trilateral Commission, in June, 1991.
Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders in the Holy Land joined forces Monday to launch a multi-faith environmental campaign, citing religious injunctions to protect the Earth across their three faiths.
Among their plans are the convening of an international conference of religious leaders in New York ahead of the 2012 UN General Assembly, a North America public relations campaign and training future clerics on the importance of environmental issues, one of the organisers said.
At the Jerusalem launch of the Interfaith Centre for Sustainable Development, rabbi David Rosen noted that the obligation upon humans to care for their surroundings comes near the very beginning of the Bible.
“That is the original charge in the first chapters of Genesis, given to the first man and woman, not purely to develop, to till the land, but also to protect it… to conserve it,” he said, to nods of agreement from a Roman Catholic bishop and the Palestinian deputy minister of religious affairs.
“The main religions should really study the ecological crisis together, because our destiny is common,” bishop William Shomali said. “If Earth is polluted it is polluted for Muslims, Christian and Jews.”
Laying out the centre’s plan of action, rabbi Yonatan Neril said that the campaign was not limited to monotheistic faiths.
“(One) project is to have a speaking tour of North America of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish religious teachers, as well as Hindu and Buddhist teachers, to raise awareness about environmental sustainability from a faith perspective, he said.
The Israeli Prime Minister’s 19-year-old son posted disparaging comments about Arabs and Muslims on his Facebook page, an Israeli paper reported yesterday.
Earlier this year, Yair Netanyahu posted that Muslims “celebrate hate and death,” the Haaretz daily said. After Palestinian assailants entered a West Bank settlement and stabbed five members of an Israeli family to death, he wrote that “terror has a religion and it is Islam”.
Yair Netanyahu, the eldest of Benjamin Netanyahu’s two sons, is currently a soldier in the Israeli military’s media liaison unit. A lawyer for the Netanyahu family, David Shimron, said the comments were those of a “teenager” and were “taken out of context in an attempt to defame the Prime Minister and his family”.
The Prime Minister’s son also ran a Facebook group that called for a boycott of Arab businesses, and used obscenities to describe Arabs. Haaretz said the comments were removed within hours of the paper’s request for a response from the Prime Minister’s representatives.
President says intelligence was 55/45, man inside compound could have been “prince from Dubai”; Abbottabad resident tells BBC man seen watching television in video released by White House was his neighbor, not Osama
During his 60 Minutes interview with CBS News last night, Barack Obama admitted that US intelligence was only 55/45 confident that Bin Laden was even in the compound raided last Sunday night, fearing that the occupant could actually have been a “prince from Dubai,” a skepticism shared by residents of Abbottabad, one of whom told the BBC that the man seen watching television in the tapes released by the White House Saturday was in fact his neighbor, not Bin Laden.
The relevant comments are made after the 10 minute mark.
“Obviously, we’re going into the sovereign territory of another country and landing helicopters and conducting a military operation. And so if it turns out that it’s a wealthy, you know, prince from Dubai who’s in this compound, and, you know, we’ve spent Special Forces in — we’ve got problems,” Obama told 60 Minutes host Steve Kroft.
“At the end of the day, this was still a 55/45 situation. I mean, we could not say definitively that bin Laden was there. Had he not been there, then there would have been significant consequences,” the president added.
Two Muslim religious leaders were asked to leave a commercial plane in Memphis and were told it was because the pilot refused to fly with them aboard.
The two men had been on the way to a conference on Islamophobia on Friday.
Masudur Rahman, a professor of Arabic at the University of Memphis, and Mohamed Zaghloul, Imam at the Islamic Association of Greater Memphis, were asked to deplane Atlantic Southeast Airlines flight 5452 from Memphis to Charlotte. Mr Rahman said they were subjected to additional security checks after the plane had left the gate.
After additional screening, the two men were cleared by Delta representatives to reboard the plane, but were then told the pilot would not take them.
“To say that Islam belongs in Germany is not a fact supported by history”, Mr Friedrich said.
Let’s make up some other dumb statements:
That women should have equal rights is not supported by history and religion either!
That Christianity belongs in Europe has been certainly not a fact supported by history in 33 A.D.!
Hans-Peter Friedrich: insisted that immigrants ought to be aware of their host country’s “Western Christian origins” and learn German “first and foremost”.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s newly appointed Interior Minister has reignited an already-heated immigration debate by insisting that Islam “does not belong” in Germany – a country with a resident population of four million Muslims.
Hans-Peter Friedrich took office only last week in a cabinet reshuffle, but his outspoken views have provoked instant condemnation from opposition MPs and a vitriolic response from Islamic groups which have branded them a “slap in the face for all Muslims”.
“To say that Islam belongs in Germany is not a fact supported by history”, Mr Friedrich said. At the weekend, he underlined his position, insisting that immigrants ought to be aware of their host country’s “Western Christian origins” and learn German “first and foremost”.
Veils that cover the face to be illegal from next month, with President Sarkozy accused of trying to win far-right votes
A woman in a niqab walks with a child in the Tuileries, in Paris, France. Photograph: Horacio Villalobos/EPAFrom
Saudi tourists window-shopping on the Champs-Élysées to Muslim women in a departure lounge at Charles de Gaulle airport or the few young French converts on suburban estates, any woman who steps outside in France wearing a veil that covers her face will be breaking the law from next month.
France’s bitterly divisive debate on Muslim women’s clothing took a new turn when the legal details of the controversial “burqa ban” were published in a decree by the prime minister. From 11 April women will be banned from wearing the niqab – full-face Muslim veil – in any public place, including while walking down the street, taking a bus, at a bank, library or shop, or in a cinema or theatre. It will be illegal for a woman in niqab to visit the Louvre, or any other museum, take a train, visit a hospital or collect her child from school.
Face veils will be outlawed virtually anywhere outside women’s own homes, except when they are worshipping in a religious place or travelling as a passenger in a private car, although traffic police may stop them if they think they do not have a clear “field of vision” while driving. Women wearing niqab will be fined €150 (about £130) and be given a citizenship class to remind them of the republican values of secular France and gender equality. Any third party found to have coerced a woman into wearing the face covering, for example a husband or family member, risks a €30,000 fine and a year in prison.
(from left to right) Tom Ricks of Foreign Policy magazine and The Washington Post, along with fellow FP editors Joshua Keating and Blake Hounshell all rushed to discredit Hersh and the contents of his January 17th, 2011 speech.
It seems unusual for a staid, respected publication (one that has received three National Magazine Awards in just this past decade) to start treating a celebrated journalist (who himself has won two National Magazine Awards in just this past decade) as if he were nothing more than a paranoid crank.
It seems unusual, but it’s exactly what the staff of Foreign Policy has done to Seymour Hersh, following a lecture the venerated reporter gave at Georgetown University’s campus in Doha, Qatar. You may know Hersh as the dogged investigator who exposed the My Lai Massacre during Vietnam. You may know him as the staff writer for The New Yorker who published some of the earliest pieces on Abu Ghraib in May 2004. You might even know him as the man derided and then vindicated for claiming that Dick Cheney was running a secret assassination squad right out of the Vice President’s office. (In truth, the squad was and is a bipartisan affair, initiated under Clinton and still operative under Obama.)
Yet, given the Foreign Policy staff’s derisive commentary on Seymour’s January 17thtalk, you would think he was some credulous rube midway through his first Dan Brown novel.
Hersh “delivered a rambling, conspiracy-laden diatribe here Monday,” Blake Hounshell reported on the magazine’s Passportblog. His delusional fantasia: The existence of ties between the U.S. Military’s Joint Special Operations Command and a secretive Catholic order called the Knights of Malta. As Hounshell elaborates: