According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Islam in itself is Neither Good or Bad



Let's face it. American news reporting can be tedious at best. Take for instance the recent bashing of the Islamic nations by Bill Maher who made crass stereotypical statements about the Muslim religion without distinction. Admittedly yes, there is violence in the Muslim religion. But this is not the point. Why? Because there is also violence in every religion and not just Islam. Why is that?

Because religious violence stems from the heart of its religious advocates and not from the religion itself. Religion is neither good nor bad, it just is. But it becomes either good or bad in the hands of its beholder. Either loving or violent.

For instance, modern day Christianity abounds with pertinent historical examples both past and present. But so too will any religious faith when conscripted into the hands of zealots and unquestioning worshippers.

To compound the problem, the author of a highly disliked book about Jesus, Reza Aslan, spoke out against Bill Maher's perturbations claiming him to be naive if not ignorant. Of course, Reza sits on the downside of conservative American media because of his book claiming Jesus to be a mere mortal (and more zealot) and not the Son of God. Already one can sense the tightening of the political coil in reaction to Reza's comments about America's media hero, Bill Maher, known for his scything  late-night political humor.

But regardless of Reza's personal opinions about Jesus, the church, or the Christian faith, as an American-Islamic scholar, it is also important to give this author a fair hearing when he speaks out about his quizzical observations towards the American media when portraying the Muslim religion from only its violent aspects when held in the hands of Muslim madmen.

Reza's point is that each Muslim country has its own religious beliefs and practices pertaining to its own interpretation of humanizing behaviors as well as dehumanizing acts. Consequently, when speaking of Islam it is important to distinguish each Islamic nation from the other. To not think of each country as carrying its Islamic faith in equal weights and values as its Islamic neighbor.

Meaning that, what goes on in the African nation of Muslim Somalia does not necessarily carry through over into Muslim Pakistan. What occurs in Saudi Arabia may not be true in Syria or Jordan. Each nation has its own interpretation of Islamic laws and one may rightly surmise that each Islamic nation is in the throes of how to interpret those laws as respecting human rights and freedoms. Especially as Western and Asian civilizations are now violently colliding with Mid-Eastern and African (tribal) civilizations and culture.

For us here at Relevancy22 that must be the question: How can we help give to Muslim nations the time and political tolerance they will need to update their religion into the 21st Century's cry for human rights and more religious freedoms? Which same rights and freedoms America even now struggles to interpret for its own citizens in respect to its "illegals" (a nasty word I no longer recognize and heartily reject), genders, homophobias, and racial minorities quickly becoming majorities.

Certainly, the right to authoritarian control and oppression is abominable. Even more so is the committal of unspeakable acts of persecution and horror upon the personages of those Muslims and non-Muslims terrorized within their own Islamic states. We feel their pain caught in the violent, inhuman transition of social evolution struggling for basic human freedoms and respect.

All humanity - and especially religious humanity - must speak out against such cruel atrocities being committed knowingly and legally within any nation or religion refusing to stop abominable acts of bigotry, prejudice, and repression of personal freedoms.

And yet, it is not enough to broadly paint every Muslim nation as like its own neighbor. Each nation houses a unique Muslim culture and religion that is as distinguished from itself as it is like itself within its basal cores of belief.

As example, when coming to the Christian faith we cannot expect a Catholic to think or act like a Protestant in all areas. Nor a Lutheran with a Reformed person of faith. Nor a Regular Baptist to that of a Southern Baptist. Nor an Irish Christian to think like his/her's Asian counterpart. Each Christian faith differs from its brother and global sister even as its basal core is committed to worshipping God in Spirit and in Truth through acts of love, charity, mercy, forgiveness, and forbearance.

But of course the American press makes its money by selling fear and alarm (and in this case, bigotry) towards Muslimism. It knows which bells to ring for which audience it wishes to sell its news products to - making its viewers no less guilty than the news agencies themselves.

Alas, let us not be naive consumers of media digests. In fact, let us be less patient with any news agency purporting truth under the guise of fear and alarm and blatant bigotry. Let us become contrarian thinkers like Reza who hear the discrepancies all too clearly. Who wish to make an end to all such false reporting and stereotypical labeling of people groups. How? Simply by turning off the station, the cable program, or not receiving the media journal or paper regularly beating its way into our mail boxes, our emails, or our doorsteps. They are unwelcomed. And clearly so.

Whatever you may think of Reza as a Jesus-author, let us thank him for his sympathetic stand for those Muslim brothers and sisters who wish to pursue the humanitarian aspects of their religion against the violence by so many of Islam's false worshippers and miscreants.

Likewise may every worthy religion pursue this standard of humanitarianism for all - and not just for some privileged few who have cravenly elected themselves as judge-and-jury, god-and-ruler, of mankind.

And in this sublime truth may we sense a global brotherhood and sisterhood committed to acts of love and charity and not to acts of inhuman control and oppression. We live in a global world of tolerance and forbearance. Let us then act like good global citizens and behave accordingly with one another granting peace and goodwill to all.

R.E. Slater
October 2, 2014





Reza Aslan Blasts Bill Maher, Media For 'Unsophisticated' Reporting On Islam

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/30/reza-aslan-bill-maher_n_5907612.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

The Huffington Post | By Antonia Blumberg
Posted: 09/30/2014 1:12 pm EDT Updated: 09/30/2014 3:59 pm EDT

Reza Aslan has a thing or two to say about media coverage of Islam.

Speaking with CNN on Monday Aslan criticized comedian Bill Maher for characterizing female genital mutilation as an "Islamic problem," in addition to making several other sweeping generalizations about the faith.

"When it comes to the topic of religion he's not very sophisticated in the way that he thinks," Aslan said.

On Friday the comedian went on a rampage against Americans who defend Islam but criticize Christian group's homophobia. “If we’re giving no quarter to intolerance,” Maher said, “shouldn’t we be starting with the mutilators and the honor killers?"

Aslan objected to Maher's blanket rejection of Islam, saying:

"The problem is that you’re talking about a religion of one and a half billion people, and certainly it becomes very easy to just simply paint them all with a single brush."

While he called for a more nuanced approach to reporting on Islam, Aslan agreed that practices like stoning and genital mutilation "must be condemned because they don't belong in the 21st century."

In addition to this important lesson for media outlets, Aslan had a message for the Islamic State, which he has condemned for promoting a distorted version of Islam:



Reza Aslan offers his reaction to Bill Maher's recent remarks regarding the link between violence and Islam:


Reza Aslan: Bill Maher Not Very Sophisticated



Reza Aslan Slams Bill Maher for Facile Arguments’ About Muslim Violence


Published on Sep 29, 2014
Religious scholar Reza Aslan took some serious issue on CNN Monday night with Bill Maher‘s commentary about Islamic violence and oppression. Maher ended his show last Friday by going after liberals for being silent about the violence and oppression that goes on in Muslim nations. Aslan said on CNN that Maher’s arguments are just very unsophisticated.



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Related News

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Ben Affleck in passionate defence of Islam on Bill Maher show
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/11141733/Ben-Affleck-in-passionate-defence-of-Islam-on-Bill-Maher-show.html

1:56PM BST 05 Oct 2014

Ben Affleck became embroiled in a furious debate about Islam on an American television
show, accusing the host of being racist and the guests of being ignorant

Ben Affleck, the Oscar-winning actor and director, has launched a ferocious defence of Islam, after becoming involved in a heated argument when he appeared on an American chat show.

Affleck, the star of Good Will Hunting and director of Argo, appeared on HBO’s television show Real Time with Bill Maher to promote his latest film, Gone Girl.

But instead of talking about the film, the 42-year-old found himself in a furious discussion with both Maher and Sam Harris, the author of a series of books on religion.

Maher, an outspoken atheist and critic of Islam, said last week in his show that “vast numbers of Muslims around the world believe that humans deserve to die for merely holding a different idea, or drawing a cartoon, or writing a book, or eloping with the wrong person.”

He said: “Not only does the Muslim world have something in common with ISIS, it has too much in common with ISIS.”

This week he returned to the theme, beginning a discussion on how Islam is viewed and analysed.

Mr Harris said: “When you want to talk about the treatment of women and homosexuals and free thinkers and public intellectuals in the Muslim world, I would argue liberals have failed us.

“The crucial point of confusion is we have been sold this meme of Islamaphobia – where every criticism of the doctrine of Islam is conflated with bigotry towards Muslims as people. Which is intellectually ridiculous.”

Affleck was angered by his comments, questioning Harris’ interpretation.

“You are saying that Islamaphobia is not a real thing?” he said. “It’s gross, it’s racist. It’s like saying ‘that shifty Jew’.”

Harris replied: “Ben, we have to be able to criticise bad ideas. And Islam at this moment is the motherload of bad ideas.”

Affleck looked shocked, muttering “Jesus Christ!” under his breath and sitting back in his chair. He then responded, telling Harris: “That’s an ugly thing to say.”

Maher backed up the author, telling Affleck that he was wrong to state that fundamentalist beliefs were only held by “a few bad apples”.

Affleck countered: “How about the more than a billion people who aren’t fanatical, who don’t punish women, who just want to go to school, have some sandwiches, and don’t do any of the things you say all Muslims do?”

When Michael Steele, a political analyst, attempted to support Affleck, arguing that many moderate Muslim voices were not given the same amount of coverage as extremist ones, he was shouted down by Maher.

“It’s the only religion that acts like the Mafia. That will ------- kill if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture or write the wrong book,” said Maher.

Affleck replied to his host: “Your argument is, ‘You know, black people, they shoot each other.’” Maher replied: “No it’s not! It’s based on facts!”

After ten minutes of fierce argument, Maher moved on – accepting that the panel would never see eye to eye.


Bill Maher, Ben Affleck And Sam Harris In Heated Row
About Islamophobia And Radical Islam




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Muhammad Syed and Sarah Haider

Reza Aslan is Wrong About Islam and This is Why
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/10/05/reza-aslan-is-wrong-about-islam-and-this-is-why/

by Hemant Mehta
October 5, 2014

This is a guest post written by Muhammad Syed and Sarah Haider (below). They are co-founders of Ex-Muslims of North America, a community-building organization for ex-Muslims across the non-theist spectrum, and can be reached at @MoTheAtheist and @SarahTheHaider.

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This past week, a clip of Reza Aslan responding to comedian Bill Maher’s comments about Islamic violence and misogyny went viral.

Maher stated (among other things) that “if vast numbers of Muslims across the world believe, and they do, that humans deserve to die for merely holding a different idea or drawing a cartoon or writing a book or eloping with the wrong person, not only does the Muslim world have something in common with ISIS, it has too much in common with ISIS.” Maher implied a connection between FGM and violence against women with the Islamic faith, to which the charming Aslan seems to be providing a nuanced counterbalance, calling Maher “unsophisticated” and his arguments “facile.” His comments were lauded by many media outlets, including Salon and the Huffington Post.

Although we have become accustomed to the agenda-driven narrative from Aslan, we were blown away by how his undeniably appealing but patently misleading arguments were cheered on by many, with the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple going so far as to advise show producers not to put a show-host against Aslan “unless your people are schooled in religion, politics and geopolitics of the Muslim world.”

Only those who themselves aren’t very “schooled” in Islam and Muslim affairs would imply that Aslan does anything but misinform by cherry-picking and distorting facts.

Nearly everything Aslan stated during his segment was either wrong, or technically-correct-but-actually-wrong. We will explain by going through each of his statements in the hopes that Aslan was just misinformed (although it’s hard for us to imagine that a “scholar” such as Aslan wouldn’t be aware of all this).

Aslan contends that while some Muslim countries have problems with violence and women’s rights, in others like “Indonesia, women are absolutely 100 percent equal to men” and it is therefore incorrect to imply that such issues are a problem with Islam and “facile” to imply that women are “somehow mistreated in the Muslim world.”

Let us be clear here: No one in their right mind would claim that Indonesia, Malaysia, and Bangladesh are a “free and open society for women.” Happily, a few of them have enshrined laws that have done much to bring about some progress in equality between the sexes. But this progress is hindered or even eroded by the creeping strength of the notoriously anti-woman Sharia courts.

For example:

Indonesia has increasingly become more conservative. (Notoriously anti-women) Sharia courts that were “optional” have risen to equal status with regular courts in family matters. The conservative Aceh province even legislates criminal matters via Sharia courts, which has been said to violate fundamental human rights.

Malaysia has a dual-system of law which mandates sharia law for Muslims. These allow men to have multiple wives (polygyny) and discriminate against women in inheritance (as mandated by Islamic scripture). It also prohibits wives from disobeying the “lawful orders” of their husbands.
Bangladesh, which according to feminist Tahmima Anam made real advancements towards equality in its inception, also “created a barrier to women’s advancement.” This barrier? An article in the otherwise progressive constitution which states that “women shall have equal rights with men in all spheres of the state and of the public life” but in the realm of private affairs (marriage, divorce, inheritance, and child custody), “it acknowledges Islam as the state religion and effectively enshrines the application of Islamic law in family affairs. The Constitution thus does nothing to enforce equality in private life.”

And finally we come to Turkey, a country oft-cited by apologists due to its relative stability, liberalism, and gender equality. What they consistently choose to ignore is that historically, Turkey was militantly secular. We mean this literally: The country’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, created a secular state and pushed Islam out of the public sphere (outlawing polygamy, child marriages, and giving divorce rights to women) through (at times, military) force. He even banned the headscarf in various public sectors and is believed by some to have been an atheist.

Only apologists would ignore the circumstances that led to Turkey’s incredible progress and success relative to the Muslim world, and hold it up as an example of “Islamic” advancement of women’s rights. In fact, child marriages (which continue to be widespread in rural Turkey), are often hidden due to the practice of “religious” marriages (Nikah) being performed without informing secular authorities. Turkey was recently forced to pass a law banning religious marriages with penalties imposed on imams for violations.

Aslan’s claim that Muslim countries “have elected seven women as their heads of state” is an example of “technically true, actually false” — a tactic we have often noted among religious apologists.

It is true that there have been seven female heads of state in Muslim-majority countries, but a closer inspection would reveal this has little to do with female empowerment and often has much more to do with the political power of certain families in under-developed parts of the world.

It is well-known that Benazir Bhutto, a woman, was democratically elected in Pakistan. What is not as well-known is that her advancement had much to do with her family’s power in her party (Pakistan People’s Party) and little to do with female empowerment. Her father was once Prime Minister of Pakistan, and she was elected to the position fresh from her exile in the West with little political experience of her own. After her assassination, her nineteen year old son assumed leadership of her political party — as was expected by many familiar with the power their family continued to hold.

Similarly, Sheikh Hasina (the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh) is the daughter of the founding father of the country, Sheikh Mujibur-Rehman. Khaleda Zia, the predecessor of Sheikh Hasina, assumed power over her party after the assassination of her husband — the seventh President of Bangladesh.

In addition, Megawati Sukarnopotri, former President of Indonesia, was the daughter of Sukarno, the founding father of Indonesia.

To anyone familiar with women’s rights around the world, neither Pakistan, Bangladesh, nor Indonesia can be considered states with a stellar track record. It is likely that in these cases, the power of political dynasties was the key factor in their success.

Furthermore, female heads of state were elected democratically in Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, and Kosovo. But, as before, a closer inspection reveals a complicated reality. All three states are secular, where religion was forcibly uprooted from the government — due to Atatürk (in the case of Turkey) or Communism (in the cases of Kyrgyzstan and Kosovo).

Predictably, Aslan fails to mention any of this.

Finally, we get to Aslan’s claim that it is “actually, empirically, factually incorrect” that female genital mutilation (FGM) is a “Muslim-country problem.” Rather, he believes it is a “central African problem.” He continues to state that “nowhere else in the Muslim, Muslim-majority states is female genital mutilation an issue.”

This is an absolutely ridiculous claim.

The idea that FGM is concentrated solely in Africa is a huge misconception and bandied about by apologists with citations of an Africa-focused UNICEF report which showed high rates of FGM in African countries. Apologists have taken that to mean that it is *only* Africa that has an FGM problem — even though FGM rates have not been studied in most of the Middle East or South and East Asia. Is it an academically sound practice to take a lack of study as proof of the non-existence of the practice? Especially when there is record of FGM common in Asian countries like Indonesia (study) and Malaysia? It is also present in the Bohra Muslim community in India and Pakistan, as well as in the Kurdish community in Iraq — Are they to be discounted as “African problems” as well?

We do not yet have the large scale data to confirm the rates of FGM around the world, but we can safely assume that it is quite a bit more than just an “African problem.” It is very likely that FGM *did* originate in the Middle East or North Africa, but its extensive prevalence in Muslim-majority countries should give us pause. We are not attempting to paint FGM as only an Islamic problem but rather that Islam does bear some responsibility for its spread beyond the Middle East-North Africa region and for its modern prevalence.

So is there any credence to the claim that Islam supports FGM? In fact, there is. To name two, the major collections of the Hadith Sahih Muslim 3:684 and Abu Dawud 41:5251 support the practice. Of the four major schools of thought in Sunni Islam, two mandate FGM while two merely recommend it. Unsurprisingly, in the Muslim-majority countries dominated by the schools which mandate the practice, there is evidence of widespread female circumcision. Of particular note: None of the major schools condemn the practice.

This isn’t the first time Reza has stated half-truths in defense of his agenda. In his book No God But God, he misleads readers about many issues including the age of Muhammad’s child-bride Aisha. Scripture unanimously cites Aisha’s betrothal at age 6 or 7 and consummation at 9. Similarly, he quotes Mariya the Copt as being a wife of the prophet when overwhelming evidence points to her being Muhammad’s concubine.

We believe that Islam badly needs to be reformed, and it is only Muslims who can truly make it into a modern religion. But it is the likes of Reza Aslan who act as a deterrent to change by refusing to acknowledge real complications within the scripture and by actively promoting half-truths. Bigotry against Muslims is a real and pressing problem, but one can criticize the Islamic ideology without treating Muslims as themselves problematic or incapable of reform.

There are true Muslim reformists who are willing to call a spade a spade while working for the true betterment of their peoples — but their voices are drowned out by the noise of apologists who are all-too-often aided by the Western left. Those who accept distortions in order to hold on to a comforting dream-world where Islamic fundamentalism is merely an aberration are harming reform by encouraging apologists.


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