Posted by Kendall Harmon

For months he taunted, knife in hand, his voice slightly muffled behind the mask that became the grim symbol of Islamic State barbarism.

But when the identity of the killer known as “Jihadi John” was revealed Thursday, the profile that emerged was disturbingly familiar: a young man whose parents’ decision to immigrate to the West afforded him a comfortable life and an education, but who ultimately found identity and succor in extremist ideology.

His name is Mohammed Emwazi. And despite friends’ descriptions of a polite and quiet man not capable of violence, Emwazi’s links to extremist groups appear to have been long-standing, and he was well known to counterterrorism officials in London before he went to Syria.

Read it all.

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Posted February 27, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Austria’s Parliament passed a law Wednesday (Feb. 25) that seeks to regulate how Islam is administered, singling out its large Muslim minority for treatment not applied to any other religious group.

The “Law on Islam” bans foreign funding for Islamic organizations and requires any group claiming to represent Austrian Muslims to submit and use a standardized German translation of the Quran.

The law met with little opposition from the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic population, was backed by Austria’s Catholic bishops, and was grudgingly accepted by the main Muslim organization. But it upset Turkey’s state religious establishment.

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Posted February 26, 2015 at 11:08 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

An interim government would be “alien to the constitution” says Mohammed Bello Adoke, the attorney-general. Mr Jonathan told the FT such a government could only emerge from a military coup. However, he could theoretically push back the polls and extend his tenure on a rolling six month basis by declaring the nation at war with Boko Haram insurgents. This would require the — unlikely — endorsement of two-thirds of the National Assembly. Alternatively if for whatever reason no winner emerges by May 29, the senate president, former army colonel David Mark, would stand in with 60 days to organise elections.

The fear is that without popular legitimacy, any government — military or civilian — will struggle to repair the fissures that will appear should Gen Buhari’s followers in the north believe him to have been cheated of victory. The same applies to a lesser degree to Mr Jonathan’s supporters, with former warlords in the oil-producing Niger delta threatening to take up arms again should he be bullied out of office. In such a febrile environment, there is a risk of ethnic killing especially in the north — as happened in 1965 in the run up to the Biafran civil war.

Nigeria has withdrawn from the brink on a number of occasions since. This time the army, potentially divided and already pinned down by Boko Haram, might have difficulty containing violence across many fronts, and the country’s future as one nation would be at stake. “These next five weeks are among the most dangerous in Nigeria’s history,” says Nasir el-Rufai, a former government minister contesting the Kaduna state governorship.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

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Posted February 26, 2015 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Given that the connection of Islam to Muslim-majority cultures is particularly strong, does there not need to be, nevertheless, a proper distinction between religion and culture? Should not this be so, even if many cultural practices and values are derived from a particular religious tradition? The problem with identifying culture entirely with religion is that contextualization can begin to look very much like capitulation. The issue becomes sharply focused in the debate about “insiders,” or followers of Jesus within Muslim communities who maintain their Muslim identity. To what extent has there been conversion if people continue to participate in the salat (ritual prayer), make the shahada (the Muslim profession of faith), derive their knowledge of Jesus and devotion to him mainly from the Qur’an and the Hadith, and so on? Other questions concern the relation of communities of such followers (if they are in communities) to other local churches and the worldwide church. Also, how are persons and cultures to be transformed by the Gospel if the status quo ante is largely maintained? There remain serious questions about whether such communities or persons will be allowed to survive within the Dar al-Islam (House of Islam).

We must remember that evangelists and missionaries stand within the apostolic tradition and are not semidetached from it or outside it altogether. This means, for instance, not making up elements of contextualization but using the rich and varied sources of Christian tradition—for example, in patterns of worship, liturgy, the public reading of the Scriptures, and forms of private devotion. In Islamic contexts, we are particularly fortunate that so much has been taken from Eastern Christian traditions and can be reappropriated without violence to the integrity of the Gospel. The problem sometimes is that Western Christian missionaries, and even Westernized indigenous Christians, are unaware of this rich heritage waiting on their doorstep or are suspicious of it. In some places, Islam is an import into an existing Christian culture; elsewhere, both Christianity and Islam have come from outside. Whatever the case, rich resources for inculturation are available because of the historic interaction between Muslims and Christians. Let us use them!

The book represents a brave attempt at assessing the many opportunities and problems for Christian witness in Muslim contexts. I hope it is only the beginning and that some of the issues raised in this review essay will be tackled at the next conference and in any publications that result from it.

Read it all (requires free registration).

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Posted February 26, 2015 at 5:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The World Council of Churches condemns the latest attacks and atrocities by the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) most recently against Christian villages in the region of Khabour in the governorate of Hassake, Syria. According to reports received, in the early morning of 23 February large numbers of IS fighters attacked these villages, killing a number of civilians, taking approximately 100 people captive, and provoking a mass exodus from these communities. These attacks seem to be attempts at opening a new corridor towards the Turkish border that could facilitate the procurement of both weapons and mercenaries.

Read it all.

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Posted February 25, 2015 at 5:41 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In other words the Muslim states have often denounced “terrorism,” but only by defining that term to exclude any and all attacks against Israel and miscellaneous other depredations, such as against Americans in Iraq, undertaken in the name of “national resistance.” To countenance terror in some cases is to countenance terror, period. Who, after all, would support terror on behalf of causes that he opposes? Just as the only meaningful test of support for free speech is support for speech with which one does not agree, so the only meaningful measure of opposition to terrorism is to condemn it even if carried out in the service of a cause of which one approves.

This the Muslim world remains reluctant to do. Palestine is its signature cause. Although the Palestinians did not invent terror, it was Fatah and kindred Palestinian groups that in the 1970s, with their attacks on airplanes, ships, trains, embassies, and even the Olympic Games, made terrorism the scourge of international life that it is today and inspired others to emulate their deeds. Yet how many Muslim voices can be heard anywhere decrying Palestinian terror? Even the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas, which has repeatedly renounced terrorism, continues to honor child-murderers and pay stipends to imprisoned terrorists and the families of deceased terrorists. Its official news agency described last summer’s killers of three Israeli teens as “martyrs.” This past November, when four rabbis were hacked to death in prayer in Jerusalem, Abbas condemned the deed, but that same day, as Palestinian Media Watch has documented, Fatah’s Facebook page signaled to the Palestinians that he did not really mean it. It posted a clip from a television interview with one of Arafat’s bodyguards describing how Arafat sometimes bowed to foreign pressure to condemn terror attacks but would do so insincerely because, the guard explained, Islam allows lying under such circumstances. Any viewer would grasp the implication that Abbas was acting in the same manner as his predecessor.

Aside from playing semantic games with the word terrorism, there is another reason that helps to explain why the world’s Muslim governments maintain a strong front in defense of terrorism even while surveys, like Pew’s, suggest that most Muslims reject violence against civilians. The political dynamics of any community are shaped only in part by the proportion of people who believe one thing or another. They are also shaped by the intensity with which views are held. A huge advantage accrues to those who, in Yeats’s line, “are full of passionate intensity.” Today, in the Muslim world, the passionate ones are the Islamists.

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Posted February 25, 2015 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

[ISIS] ...militants have kidnapped dozens of people from Christian villages in Syria, a human rights watchdog has said.

According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the militants stormed at least two villages, inhabited by the ancient Assyrian Christian minority, shortly after dawn, taking some 90 civilians captive.

Nuri Kino, the head of the activist group A Demand For Action, quoted villagers who fled the attacks as saying between 70 and 100 people are being held.

A number of children are understood to be among them.

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Posted February 24, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The brother of two of the 21 Coptic Christians murdered in Libya last week has thanked their killers for including the men's declaration of faith in the video they made of their beheadings.

Speaking on a live prayer and worship programme on Christian channel SAT-7 ARABIC yesterday, Beshir Kamel said that he was proud of his brothers Bishoy Estafanos Kamel (25) and Samuel Estafanos Kamel (23) because they were "a badge of honour to Christianity".

Harrowing scenes of the murders have been seen around the world. The last words of some of those killed were "Lord Jesus Christ".

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Posted February 21, 2015 at 4:26 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...privately, the Saudi view is that the air campaign against ISIS, now more than six months old, is not working.

"Having simply these pinprick attacks on certain areas is not going to resolve the issue," says Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief who also served as the ambassador to the U.S. from 2005-7.

An outspoken member of the royal family, Faisal, 70, no longer holds a senior post. But his views are considered to reflect the general thinking of the Saudi leadership.

He says the air strikes against ISIS are too limited and not well coordinated. In addition, he insists the coalition effort is undermined by politics in Europe and mistrust in the Middle East.

Read it all.

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Posted February 20, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

ithin the narrow bounds of its theology, the Islamic State hums with energy, even creativity. Outside those bounds, it could hardly be more arid and silent: a vision of life as obedience, order, and destiny. Musa Cerantonio and Anjem Choudary could mentally shift from contemplating mass death and eternal torture to discussing the virtues of Vietnamese coffee or treacly pastry, with apparent delight in each, yet to me it seemed that to embrace their views would be to see all the flavors of this world grow insipid compared with the vivid grotesqueries of the hereafter.

I could enjoy their company, as a guilty intellectual exercise, up to a point. In reviewing Mein Kampf in March 1940, George Orwell confessed that he had “never been able to dislike Hitler”; something about the man projected an underdog quality, even when his goals were cowardly or loathsome. “If he were killing a mouse he would know how to make it seem like a dragon.” The Islamic State’s partisans have much the same allure. They believe that they are personally involved in struggles beyond their own lives, and that merely to be swept up in the drama, on the side of righteousness, is a privilege and a pleasure—especially when it is also a burden.

Fascism, Orwell continued, is
psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life … Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people “I offer you a good time,” Hitler has said to them, “I offer you struggle, danger, and death,” and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet … We ought not to underrate its emotional appeal.
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Posted February 20, 2015 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India said on Tuesday that his government would not “accept violence against any religion, on any pretext” and that it would take forceful steps to prevent and prosecute such crimes, in a speech widely interpreted as a response to a series of attacks on Roman Catholic churches in and around New Delhi.

“My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the minority or the majority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly,” Mr. Modi said at a New Delhi ceremony to honor the recent canonization of two Indians by the Vatican. “I strongly condemn such violence. My government will act strongly in this regard.”

For weeks, church officials and rights campaigners have urged Mr. Modi to address a growing sense of insecurity among the country’s religious minorities, which include large populations of Muslims and Christians.

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Posted February 17, 2015 at 6:34 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Authorities in the landlocked African nation of Niger have arrested 160 suspected Boko Haram militants allegedly involved in deadly attacks near that country's border with Nigeria, a national police spokesman said Tuesday.

The arrests happened over the last two days in Niger's Diffa region, which borders Nigeria. Those taken into custody include Kaka Bunu, who police spokesman Adil Doro said was "involved in the recruitment of (Boko Haram) members."

Some of the suspects fled south, only to be arrested while on the run or in "their hiding places," said Yakubu Sumana Gawo, the governor of Niger's Diffa region.

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Posted February 17, 2015 at 7:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Egyptian army launched airstrikes against ISIS targets in Libya hours after the release of a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Copts kidnapped by Libyan Islamists in December 2014 and January 2015. One may be tempted to say that President Sisi’s response to these murders is comparable to King Abdullah’s after a Jordanian pilot, Moaz al-Kasasbeh, was burned to death by ISIS. However, a closer examination of both leaders’ reactions shows a number of significant differences.

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Posted February 17, 2015 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has called for a United Nations resolution allowing international forces to intervene in Libya.

There was no other choice, he told French radio. "We will not allow them to cut off the heads of our children."

Egyptian jets bombed IS targets on Monday in response to a militant video of the apparent beheadings of 21 Egyptian Christians.

Rival militias have been battling for control in Libya since 2011.

Read it all.

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Posted February 17, 2015 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It is with great sadness I write you today about the heinous murder of 21 Egyptian Christians at the hand of the so-called lslamic State branch in Libya. These men from the Upper Egyptian city of Samalout are no different from thousands of other Muslim and Christian Egyptians in Libya, seeking employment to support their families back home.

Except that these 21 were specifically chosen for their Christian faith. The video of their beheading expressed the lslamic State's intention to increasingly target the Copts of Egypt. This morning the Egyptian government launched airstrikes on lslamic State positions. lt has declared a week of mourning, banned further travel to Libya, and will work to facilitate the return of all Egyptian citizens. The foreign minister has been dispatched to the United Nations to discuss the necessary international response.

The Anglican Church in Egypt and the world expresses its deep condolences to the families of these men, and also to his Holiness Pope Tawadros ll, patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Please join me in praying for peace in Libya, Egypt, and the entire Middle East. Please pray the international community will act in wisdom, correctly and efficiently, and support Egypt in its war on terror. Please pray the churches of Egypt will comfort their sons and daughters, encouraging them to resist fear and hatred. And please pray for the perpetrators of this terrible crime, that God would be merciful to them and change their hearts.

Jesus tells us in John 16:33, "ln the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

Such cheer may seem impossible, but it is God's promise. Please pray for us, that we may live lives worthy of his name, and hold to the testimony exhibited by the brave Egyptians in Libya.

--The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Anis is Archbishop of the Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa

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Posted February 16, 2015 at 2:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

"The terrible cruelty of the murders in Denmark, Libya and Nigeria call for deep compassion for the bereaved and killed. The killers seem to rejoice in ever more extreme acts carried out to inflict ever greater terror. We must all weep with those affected, and know that in the love of Christ all evil will be overcome.

Read it all.

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Posted February 16, 2015 at 10:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Pope Francis on Monday denounced the murder of 21 Coptic Christians by ISIL militants in Libya. The Islamist terrorist organization released a video of the killings on Sunday.

Speaking in Spanish to an ecumenical delegation from the Church of Scotland, the Holy Father noted those killed only said “Jesus help me.”

“They were murdered just for the fact they were Christians,” Pope Francis said.

“The blood of our Christian brothers is a witness that cries out,” said the Pope. “If they are Catholic, Orthodox, Copts, Lutherans, it is not important: They are Christians. The blood is the same: It is the blood which confesses Christ.''

Read it all.

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Posted February 16, 2015 at 9:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Egypt's Copts are the largest Christian community in the Middle East and are estimated to account for around 15% of the country's population.

"Coptic" is used to describe the native Christians living in the country, where Christianity is a large minority religion.

The Coptic Orthodox Church was founded in the first century by Saint Mark the apostle, who wrote the second Gospel of the New Testament.

Read it all.



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Posted February 16, 2015 at 8:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon




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Posted February 15, 2015 at 2:14 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A video has emerged showing the beheadings purportedly of 21 Egyptian Christians who had been kidnapped by Islamic State (IS) militants in Libya.

The footage shows a group wearing orange overalls, being forced to the ground and then decapitated.

Egypt's National Defence Council is to meet in emergency session to discuss its response to the killings.

Read it all.

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Posted February 15, 2015 at 2:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Nigerian militants attacked villagers and paramilitary forces in neighboring Chad on Friday, killing at least six people in a clash that appeared to be revenge for Chad sending combat troops to fight the Islamic insurgency.

The Boko Haram insurgents were said to have arrived in the early hours of Friday as part of a group of thousands of Nigerian refugees flocking to Ngouboua, a village located north of the capital, Ndjamena, according to military officials and civilians who spoke to The Wall Street Journal.

The gunmen killed six people—five civilians and a paramilitary officer. They also wounded three other officers while four members of Boko Haram were killed, according to these people.

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Posted February 13, 2015 at 1:01 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In an attempt to find a peaceful alternative for those in the Islamic world who advocate violence for political and religious goals, Christians in the West shouldn’t distort the history of Christianity, or stand idly by while others do so. Letting this version of events shape perceptions of Christian history invariably means a portrait of religion as a force of darkness, while science and technology will always be beacons of sanity and light.

The narrative portraying religious conviction as antithetical to reasoned comity among people and nations is easy enough to fall into. At the national prayer breakfast last week, for instance, President Obama compared the excesses of the Crusades and the Inquisition to the terrorism of today’s radical Islam. The president went on to condemn (rightly) those who advance their religious convictions with violence.

But what he and many others miss is the conviction that Western core values come from a faith in which God enters into human history precisely to save the world from the erring reason that fails, among other things, to recognize that terrorism is an affront to God and humanity.

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Posted February 13, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

When Islamic extremists snatched more than 270 girls from the Chibok boarding school in Nigeria in the dead of night, protests broke out worldwide. The U.S. pledged to help find them, and the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag was born.

Some 10 months later, most are still missing. The Boko Haram extremist group sees the mass kidnapping as a shining symbol of success, and has abducted hundreds of other girls, boys and women. The militants brag to their new captives about the surrender of the Chibok girls, their conversion to Islam and their marriage to fighters.

"They told me the Chibok girls have a new life where they learn to fight," says Abigail John, 15, who was held by Boko Haram for more than four weeks before escaping. "They said we should be like them and accept Islam."

Read it all.

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Posted February 11, 2015 at 8:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

What do the ancient Christian communities of the Middle East, many of them threatened with extinction in lands where they have survived since the dawn of their faith's existence, most need from their co-religionists in the West? Some want more military support, but others take a different view. That difference emerged during a visit to London by Archbishop Bashar Warda, the top Catholic cleric in Erbil, the only Iraqi city where Christians live in significant numbers.

At a meeting yesterday in the House of Lords, co-organised by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, the archbishop reminded people of the hard realities facing his flock. As of a result of last year's onslaught by Islamic State, perhaps 400,000 people fled their homes in Mosul and the neighbouring Nineveh Plain and many sought refuge in the adjacent area controlled by the Kurdish regional government. The displaced include Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities. Of the 300,000 or so Christians who remain in Iraq (down from 1.4m a couple of decades ago), the great majority now live in Kurdistan, of which Erbil is the capital.

Iraqi Christians are practical, energetic sorts, the archbishop told his British hosts, and they are not sitting around bemoaning their fate. Huge efforts are being made to get the displaced families, who are now holed up in tents, portakabins and half-built shopping centres, into better accommodation where they can become economically active and their children can pursue studies. The archbishop is working hard to start, by next autumn, a new university which will be Catholic in inspiration but open to all faiths.

Read it all.

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Posted February 11, 2015 at 7:59 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram continues to strengthen its hold over Nigeria’s Muslim-majority north-eastern states, and the Nigerian government seems to be permanently on the back foot.

This week, the government announced it has decided to postpone the Presidential election that was due to be held on February 14th, saying that it needs more time to wrest control from Boko Haram, and ensure a safe and secure poll.

Boko Haram’s stated aim is to establish an Islamic Caliphate in the north of Nigeria, and ultimately to impose sharia law across the whole country. But the religious agenda doesn’t tell the whole story.

Listen to it all.

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Posted February 11, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon




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Posted February 10, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Boko Haram insurgents from Nigeria bombed a Niger border town, killing five people, and carried out attacks in neighbouring Cameroon, kidnapping a bus full of passengers, military and local sources said on Monday.

The jihadist sect has killed thousands of people and kidnapped hundreds in a bid to impose its rule in northeastern Nigeria, and stepped up cross-border incursions into Cameroon.

An intensification of attacks near Lake Chad, a crossroads between Nigeria, Chad, and Niger, has sent tens of thousands of Nigerians fleeing across the borders. The escalating crisis prompted Nigeria to postpone its 14 February presidential election.

With the Nigerian army struggling to contain the militants, bordering countries have launched a regional offensive against them, spurring a series of revenge attacks inside Niger and Cameroon.

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Posted February 10, 2015 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Jonathan has been sharply criticized for his management of the Boko Haram crisis and some Western leaders suggested the postponement was a last-ditch effort to shore up his vote.

But church leaders in the war-hit regions welcomed the move.

“Many Christians here had not collected their voter cards and this may afford them time to do so,” said the Rev. John Bakeni, the secretary of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri.

Bakeni said the Maiduguri region does not favor Jonathan but most people have accepted the electoral commission’s explanation of wanting to tackle insecurity in the northeast.

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Posted February 10, 2015 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

This country’s opposition joined the U.S. and local business leaders on Sunday in criticizing the government for postponing a tight presidential election, as the political mood shifted sharply in Africa’s largest democracy.

Many voters here learned Sunday morning that the Feb. 14 election would be delayed six weeks. The decision came the night before from Nigeria’s electoral commission after the military said its campaign against Boko Haram, the Islamist group it has been battling for nearly six years, couldn’t spare the soldiers needed to ensure a safe election.

But the move—taken a week before what polls indicate would be the closest election in Nigerian history—touched a nerve in this country, whose military spent decades overturning or postponing elections until it allowed civilian rule in 1999.

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Posted February 9, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Obama administration has touted the modest successes in recent months of Iraqi forces and paramilitary fighters, backed by U.S. air power, as they have fought to wrest towns, villages and parts of Iraq’s rugged countryside from the Islamic State.

Now, the renewed U.S. campaign in Iraq faces a greater challenge as American advisers scramble to prepare Iraqi forces for an offensive to reclaim some of Iraq’s most important cities, which remain under the militant group’s control.

Attempting to take back the city of Mosul, the country’s ­second-largest, as well as Tikrit and Fallujah, will test not only the fighting power of Iraqi forces and the country’s fragile sectarian compact but also President Obama’s indirect strategy for containing the Islamic State.

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Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted February 9, 2015 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Nigerian government’s military campaign against the Islamist militants of Boko Haram began in 2009, but it was the abduction of the schoolgirls last year that thrust Nigeria into the spotlight and alerted the world to the growing threat of a force that now controls large swaths of Africa’s most populous country. As the continent’s top petroleum producer and the home to rapidly growing telecommunications and entertainment industries, a secure, efficient Nigeria could be a beacon of stability in tumultuous West Africa. But should the country crumble under economic mismanagement and an insurgency that already has free rein over territory roughly the size of Costa Rica in northeastern Nigeria, it risks pulling much of the unstable region down with it.

Whoever wins this month’s election won’t have an easy job. The next President will be tasked with addressing the corruption, military weakness and economic inequities that have enabled Boko Haram to thrive. He will also have to cope with the plunging price of crude, which has seen the oil-dependent government’s revenue tumble. Recent opinion polls conducted by research group Afrobarometer show that the election is too close to call.

Many Nigerians and outside observers fear that a long-standing rivalry between Buhari’s largely Muslim base in the north and Jonathan’s southern Christian supporters could erupt into bloodshed over election results that would benefit no one but Boko Haram. “You can be sure Boko Haram are watching what is happening with the elections,” says Jacob Zenn, an Africa analyst for the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington-based research institute. “They are likely to take advantage of any instability to carry out attacks.”

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Posted February 8, 2015 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Prince of Wales has described the extent to which young people are becoming radicalised as "alarming" and one of the "greatest worries".

In an interview with Radio 2's The Sunday Hour, Prince Charles spoke of his hopes to "build bridges" between different faiths.

He also spoke of his "deep concern" for the suffering of Christian churches in the Middle East.

He is currently in Jordan on a six-day tour of the region.

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted February 8, 2015 at 11:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The horrific murder of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh has generated shock and outrage around the globe. And if recent history is a guide, this brutal act will only deepen opposition to ISIS, and to violent extremism more generally, in Jordan and other predominantly Muslim nations.

At the Pew Research Center, we’ve been asking questions related to extremism on our international surveys for over a decade, and what we’ve generally found among Muslim publics is that support for extremism is low, while concerns about it are high.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureSociologyViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted February 7, 2015 at 10:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

They came in the dead of night, their faces covered, riding on motorcycles and in pickup trucks, shouting “Allahu akbar” and firing their weapons.

“They started with the shootings; then came the beheadings,” said Hussaini M. Bukar, 25, who fled after Boko Haram fighters stormed his town in northern Nigeria. “They said, ‘Where are the unbelievers among you?’ ”

Women and girls were systematically imprisoned in houses, held until Boko Haram extracted the ones it had chosen for “marriage” or other purposes.

“They were parking” — imprisoning — “young girls and small, small children, parking them in the big houses,” said Bawa Safiya Umar, 45, whose 17-year-old son was killed when her town fell under Boko Haram’s control. “They parked 450 girls in four houses.”

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Posted February 6, 2015 at 6:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Boko Haram fighters have killed about 90 civilians and wounded 500 in ongoing skirmishes in a Cameroonian border town near Nigeria, the latest sign of the Islamic extremist group’s extended threat across the region.

An estimated 800 Boko Haram militants have waged gruesome attacks, including burning to death civilians, on the town of Fotokol since Wednesday. Cameroon’s information minister, Issa Tchiroma, told The Associated Press that they’ve also burned churches and mosques in addition to looting livestock and food.

Security experts believe the fighters crossed into Cameroon from nearby Gamboru, a Nigerian border town that had been a Boko Haram stronghold since November. Gamboru was retaken earlier this week when Chadian and Nigerian air strikes, supported by Chadian ground troops, drove them out.

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Posted February 5, 2015 at 4:32 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Declarations of outrage swept the Middle East on Wednesday as a region already steeled to the brutality of the Islamic State expressed horror at the group’s killing of a Jordanian pilot by setting him on fire.

The region’s leaders have denounced the militant group on many occasions in the past, but the spectacle of an Arab pilot being burned alive in a cage triggered some of the harshest reactions yet.

Images of the grisly killing of Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh were broadcast on TV channels around the region, and the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat headlined its coverage with a single word: “Barbarity.”

“This killing really strikes at home for audiences across the region. Most of the people executed by [the Islamic State] have been foreigners, but this time it was an Arab-Muslim man,” said Labib Kamhawi, a political analyst based in the Jordanian capital, Amman. “That has had a bigger impact on people.”

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Posted February 4, 2015 at 3:28 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

He came from Algeria seeking a better life, anticipating an escape from poverty, oppression, and hopelessness. In Paris, he found a low-skill job and had children and grandchildren. As French citizens, they had the right to an education and health care. But they grew up in the ghettos that ring France’s major cities, surrounded by families like theirs, literally on the margins of society. Unable to integrate fully, they had few opportunities for economic advancement. Paradise was never gained.

This story has been repeated millions of times in the countries of Western Europe, with immigrants and their families ending up poor and excluded. In the worst-case scenario, they are recruited by extremist groups that seem to offer what they are missing: a sense of belonging, identity, and purpose. After a lifetime of marginalization, participation in a larger cause can seem worth the lies, self-destruction, and even death that inclusion demands.

In the wake of the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris and the thwarting of another attack in Belgium, Europe needs to take a good look at itself.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchChildrenMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaAlgeriaEuropeFranceSpain* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEschatologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted February 2, 2015 at 7:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Boko Haram, the terrorist organization that controls vast swaths of territory in northeastern Nigeria and has expressed support for the Islamic State, has grabbed headlines around the world for recent outrages, including what may have been one of the worst terror attacks of the modern era and attacks using bombs strapped to girls, one perhaps as young as 10.

Little attention, however, is being paid to another humanitarian crisis spawned by Boko Haram that, if left unattended, has the potential to destabilize the region and bolster the group for years to come.

As Boko Haram has advanced, tens of thousands of people have fled into fragile neighboring countries that are ill equipped to provide shelter. This influx of refugees is sowing the seeds of a prolonged humanitarian and security crisis. The United States should lead an urgent international response to address the emergency and prevent greater damage.

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Posted February 1, 2015 at 12:35 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Female-only mosques may exist in China, Chile and India, but Muslim leaders say this could be the first in the U.S.

The inaugural prayer Friday marked the launch of the Women's Mosque of America, a nonprofit that hopes to create a space where Muslim women can "bring their whole self," learn more about their faith and foster bonds of sisterhood.

"Muslim women haven't had a forum," Yasmeen Ruhge, a cardiologist from Pasadena, said as she waited for the service to begin. "When we go to the mosque we have to sit on one side. Not that we aren't equal, but this gives us a freedom to talk as all women and create an independent role."

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureUrban/City Life and IssuesWomen* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted January 31, 2015 at 1:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

There is not much information on life in territories Boko Haram controls. Unlike ISIS, Boko Haram does not overtly intend to establish governance structures or provide public services. The administration of a heavily populated metropole like Maiduguri might be beyond Boko Haram’s capacity. Rather than occupying Maiduguri, Boko Haram might conduct a series of bloody raids targeting the federal facilities, military, and police. It would not be surprising if Boko Haram tries to take control of the airport and airbase.

Borno and the northeast generally support the political opposition instead of the governing power. A credible presumption is that most Nigerians in the northeast would support Mohammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) against incumbent Goodluck Jonathan and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). However given Boko Haram’s presence, it is unclear whether many in Borno will actually be able to cast ballots. Indeed, a large scale Boko Haram attack on Maiduguri, with the loss or destruction of the airport and the airbase, would be a major blow to the Nigerian government and could have consequences for the February 14 elections. It would also reinforce the widespread view among Nigerians outside the northeast that the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan is failing to provide for the security of its citizens, a view that increases support for Buhari in parts of Nigeria that have previously not supported him.

In this pre-election period, Boko Haram has been a political football between the PDP and the APC. Boko Haram’s perspective appears to be ‘a plague on both your houses.’ It may have tried to assassinate Buhari and the Shehu of Borno, and it has also threatened death to Jonathan many times.

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Posted January 30, 2015 at 4:28 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As Christianity has taken many twists and turns in its history, so has Islam, and so might it again, only this time moving toward the more open posture of most contemporary Western Christians. The Christian experience should caution us against assuming there is something intrinsic to Islam that mandates that Islamic societies be anti-modern. In fact, in the 16th through 20th centuries, liberal ideas were imported into Muslim societies with remarkable success, and harmonized with Islam, especially in the Ottoman Empire. Less happily, at critical moments in Islamic history, reactionary interpretations—or misinterpretations—of the Quran and Shariah triumphed over others.

Fortunately, some Muslims have begun to reinterpret ancient traditions in light of modernity and begun their own, albeit often-quiet reformations, distressed by the authoritarian elements smuggled into their tradition. They are intent on synthesizing—as have so many branches of Judaism and Christianity—features of their religious traditions with democratic ideas. Such reformations have been institutionalized successfully in several countries with significant Muslim populations, such as Turkey and Tunisia.

We can only hope that, with the quickening pace of historical change in modernity, Islam can adjust more rapidly than Christendom, so that a broad-minded form of the religion will prevail. Muslims will have to recognize what the West, through many centuries of hard experience and reflection, has learned: that religious texts arose in a particular context and must be reinterpreted in the new context of modernity; that pluralism within one’s own tradition and the tolerance of other faiths must be appreciated anew; and, finally, that the coercive imposition of faith will generate only nominal or hypocritical, not authentic, conversions.

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 30, 2015 at 11:20 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In a recent study, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue estimated that of the 3,000 Western Europeans thought to have travelled to Syria and Iraq, about 500 were women. It is difficult to know for sure how many of these are British, but accounts on social media suggest they make up a significant proportion.

The report, entitled Becoming Mulan, found that the sentiment of building a new home for Muslims was the main draw for women, although some did express a willingness to fight. The title of the report quotes one girl who tweeted that she wanted to "pull a Mulan" by heading to Syria, a reference to the Chinese legend about a woman who took her father's place in the army, which inspired an animated film.

The report's co-author Ross Frenett explains why this was interesting. "We found this particularly striking because the first cultural reference she can come up with is actually a Disney movie, which is fascinating because these people are Western, but also simultaneously loathe Western society," he says.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchViolenceWomen* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 29, 2015 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Nigeria's army failed to protect Baga's civilians despite warnings that militants were going to attack, rights group Amnesty International has said.

Some reports say as many as 2,000 people died in Boko Haram's raids on the north-eastern town this month, but the government puts the toll at 150.

Amnesty quotes an unnamed senior army source as saying the Islamist militants told residents about the offensive.

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Posted January 28, 2015 at 5:11 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, who took the helm of the world’s last absolute monarchy Friday, faces turbulence at home and abroad but is unlikely to change the course set by his predecessors.

“We will continue adhering to the correct policies which Saudi Arabia has followed since its establishment,” the king said in his first speech after succeeding his half-brother, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, who died early Friday at the age of 90.

Salman, 79, was serving as defense minister when Saudi Arabia joined U.S.-led airstrikes against the Islamic State. During his tenure, Saudi forces in the south came under attack by Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Houthis, now the dominant military and political force in Yemen, are backed by Saudi Arabia’s main rival and greatest threat in the region — Iran.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastSaudi Arabia* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted January 27, 2015 at 11:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As campaign season ramps up ahead of Nigerian general elections on February 14th, President Goodluck Jonathan has sought to downplay an insurgency in the country’s northeast that has been raging almost as long as he has been in power. The rise of Boko Haram, a Nigeria-based militant Islamist group best known for vicious attacks on military targets and its penchant for kidnapping women and girls and conscripting men and boys, has stymied Jonathan’s government since the former vice-president ascended to the presidency in 2010.

The insurgency has killed an estimated 11,000, according to the Council on Foreign Relation’s Nigeria Security Tracker. Unable to defeat it, the Jonathan campaign has chosen to all but ignore it as the president asks his people for an additional four-year term. But that strategy backfired on Saturday night, as militants swept into the strategic northern capital of Maiduguri just hours after Jonathan stumped for support from city residents.

The militants, who reportedly infiltrated the city of two million disguised as travelers on local buses, laid siege to key military installations and battled into Sunday. The Nigerian army eventually beat them back, but the fact that they were able to penetrate the city undetected raises questions about the military’s ability to defeat the movement....

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Posted January 27, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE BishopsEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Parishes* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamSecularism

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Posted January 26, 2015 at 7:22 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Is Boko Haram becoming Africa’s Islamic State? In its bloodlust and ambition to hold territory, it certainly resembles the jihadists in Iraq and Syria. Boko Haram has carved out a “caliphate” the size of Belgium in the impoverished north-eastern corner of Nigeria. And like IS, it is exporting jihad across post-colonial borders...

What started as a radical but mostly political movement in 2002 has turned, especially since a heavy-handed crackdown in 2009, into a jihadist insurgency that has grown more violent every year. In April 2014 it abducted 276 girls from the town of Chibok. Some fled, some died, and many were sold into slavery or forced to “marry” fighters. Now the uprising is spreading to other countries. A week ago, 80 Cameroonians were kidnapped. Chad is sending troops to help Cameroon; Niger and Benin also feel threatened.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 26, 2015 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Boko Haram is about more than disenfranchisement and a quest for identity.

Its mission is to establish Islamic law — or at least Boko Haram’s version of it — over Nigeria. It is driven by a religious fundamentalism that sanctions the deliberate destruction of churches and the slaughter of worshipers.

On Christmas Day it targets churches. There’s nothing secular about Boko Haram.

No less than Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has said so himself. Claiming credit for a massacre that took place in the northeastern Nigerian town of Baga — in which hundreds were shot on sight or dragged from their homes and killed — Shekau said in a YouTube video, according to the Associated Press: “We are the ones who fought the people of Baga, and we have killed them with such a killing as he [Allah] commanded us in his book.”

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 24, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Nigeria’s campaign against Islamist Boko Haram insurgents is being hampered by “cowards” in its armed forces, its presidential security adviser said in a rare public sign of high-level unhappiness with the effort.

In its bloody uprising to carve out a breakaway Islamic caliphate, Boko Haram has seized much of Nigeria’s northeast and poses an existential threat to Africa’s most populous state and biggest energy producer, as well as at least three of its neighbors.

Boko Haram claimed a Jan. 3 attack on the town of Baga that killed scores, possibly hundreds, of civilians and left the extremists in control of the headquarters of a regional multinational force, including troops from Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted January 23, 2015 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

While much will be made in the coming months of France’s intelligence failures, the West’s inability to appreciate the role that women play in terror should come under the highest scrutiny. Take the role of women in the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL. While the group oppresses many women, many also flock to its ranks. Roughly 10 percent of its Western recruits are female, often lured by their peers through social media and instant messaging. The percentage is much higher in France: An estimated 63 of the 350 French nationals believed to be with the group are women, or just under 20 percent.

This story is both a new one and an old one. Women have long been involved in terror of all stripes, from female neo-Nazis in Europe to Chechen “black widow” suicide bombers.

Indeed, despite stereotypes about their domesticity and passivity — the idea that they must always be under men’s influence or tricked into joining — women are drawn to groups like the Islamic State by many of the same forces as men: adventure, inequality, alienation and the pull of the cause.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolenceWomen* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 23, 2015 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the video...TIME foreign correspondent Simon Shuster discusses how French colonialism and immigration policies throughout Europe helped fuel migration from the Muslim world.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryEurope* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted January 22, 2015 at 3:19 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I’ve never been a fan of global conferences to solve problems, but when I read that the Obama administration is organizing a Summit on Countering Violent Extremism for Feb. 18, in response to the Paris killings, I had a visceral reaction: Is there a box on my tax returns that I can check so my tax dollars won’t go to pay for this?

When you don’t call things by their real name, you always get in trouble. And this administration, so fearful of being accused of Islamophobia, is refusing to make any link to radical Islam from the recent explosions of violence against civilians (most of them Muslims) by Boko Haram in Nigeria, by the Taliban in Pakistan, by Al Qaeda in Paris and by jihadists in Yemen and Iraq. We’ve entered the theater of the absurd.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsEconomyThe U.S. GovernmentForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralOffice of the PresidentPresident Barack ObamaTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 22, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The tide of foreign volunteers crossing from Turkey into Syria to fight for Isis cannot be stopped, the Turkish Prime Minister has warned, with authorities unable to close the porous 510-mile border between the two countries.

Ahmet Davutoglu, whose government has been accused of not doing enough to stop jihadi fighters from Britain and other countries crossing into Syria, told The Independent that Turkey could not put “soldiers everywhere on the border”. He added: “In any case, there isn’t any state on the other side [of the frontier].”

Turkey plays a crucial role in the Syrian crisis because of its long border with the country, part of which is now controlled by Isis. Mr Davutoglu described how Turkey’s close relations with Bashar al-Assad – “I visited there 62 times in 10 years” – soured in 2011 when “Assad started to kill his own people”.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureTravelViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEuropeTurkeyMiddle EastSyria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted January 21, 2015 at 6:11 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Why did the Security Council condemn Boko Haram now?

The scale of the attack likely forced the council to adopt its first statement on the threat of Boko Haram, and was aimed directly at the Nigerian government's sensitivity to foreign criticism, says Darren Kew, an expert on Nigeria at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.

"The government is very sensitive to international embarrassment and this announcement will get its attention. With an upcoming election, it will push President Goodluck Jonathan to take more comprehensive action in Boko Haram," Mr. Kew says.

The attacks have also involved troops of neighboring countries and bled over the Nigerian border, making the problem a regional one. Most recent was the seizure of hostages in Cameroon on Sunday, with about 24 later released.

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Posted January 21, 2015 at 4:10 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A Supreme Court that has extended the reach of religion into public life in recent years ruled Tuesday (Jan. 20) that spirituality can overcome even prison security concerns.

The court came down decisively on the side of a Muslim prisoner whose beard had been deemed potentially dangerous by Arkansas prison officials. Growing a beard, the justices said, was a Muslim man’s religious right.

The unanimous opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, had been widely anticipated despite two lower court decisions upholding the state’s no-beard policy. The ruling extended the high court’s reverence for religious beliefs and observances. In its last term, the justices allowed family-owned businesses with religious objections to deny health insurance coverage for contraceptives, and the court also upheld prayers at municipal government meetings.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPrison/Prison MinistryReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 21, 2015 at 11:04 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A man purporting to be the leader of the Boko Haram Islamist group has said in a video that his fighters carried out a deadly attacks on the Nigerian town of Baga earlier this month.

The man said to be Abubakar Shekau said people were killed "as our Lord instructed us", threatening more raids.

He taunted nearby countries' leaders.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 21, 2015 at 6:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The U.S. has said it won’t be sending soldiers to fight ISIS but some Americans have found their own way there

When the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) surrounded the Yezidi tribes on Sinjar Mountain in August last year, Dean Parker was at his job as a commercial painter in the U.S.. That evening, he saw news reports of Kurdish fighters trying to liberate the mountain.

“I made the decision right there,” says Parker, now sitting in his hotel room in the northern Iraqi city of Sulaymaniyah. “I was online booking a ticket.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.Middle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 21, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“It’s neither beheading unbelievers nor terror that besmirch Islam,” he argued, but rather “all those who want Islam to be in the image of Mandela or Gandhi, without bloodshed and beheadings.” The provocative writer then added, “That isn’t the religion of Mohammed, who was sent out with his sword until Judgment Day; Mohammed, of whom the only chapter in the Koran that bears his name is called the war chapter. ... All those who try to paint Islam as a religion of peace, doves and love ... are doing so under the influence of the West’s false views and its evil ideas, which are being exported to the Islamic nation in order to weaken it.”

The author wasn’t making anything up. He cites Islamic sources. These are the same sources from which all Muslim religious scholars derive their worldviews.

So who is the abductor and who is the abductee in this story?

It seems that Islam needs a serious ideological shake-up. Or to be more precise, it needs a revolution that will bring it into alignment with the modern era. The “sacred” job of being the standard-bearer of this revolution must fall on the shoulders of Muslim intellectuals everywhere. For only a root canal of Islam’s ideas can move the Arab and Muslim world toward modernity.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 21, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

However, the dean of Duke Divinity School, Richard Hays, raised concerns about the use of the chapel for the Muslim call to prayer if it’s seen as a Christian church (given its history and iconography), rather than a neutral space on campus.

“There are serious questions...about the wisdom and propriety of allowing Duke chapel to be used for this purpose,” he said in a statement. “Despite some common beliefs and traditions, Christianity and Islam stand in significant theological tension with one another.”

Durham resident and author Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove wrote that while he was “glad Duke Chapel hosts a vibrant Christian congregation,” he did not see the space as holy ground.

“The Dukes are buried in the crypt, not saints. Robert E. Lee's statue is in the entryway. Muslim prayers would not desecrate ground marked by the blood of Christian martyrs,” he wrote. “It would, instead, be an act of hospitality to hallow a messy place.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch HistoryLiturgy, Music, WorshipParish Ministry* Culture-WatchEducationReligion & CultureYoung Adults* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* Theology

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Posted January 21, 2015 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, the bishop said Nigeria’s military was weakened by incompetence, corruption and Boko Haram infiltration within its ranks.

He warned that drastic action was urgently needed as the attacks earlier this month in the town of Baga showed that Boko Haram was poised to become a threat well beyond Nigeria’s borders and was recruiting from Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Libya.

Bishop Dashe Doeme, whose diocese is the heartland of the Islamist terror group, said: “The West should bring in security – land forces to contain and beat back Boko Haram. A concerted military campaign is needed by the West to crush Boko Haram.”

Read it all from Catholic Herald.

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Posted January 20, 2015 at 6:16 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Muslims around the world are “the only ones that can actually win this battle because it is about an extremist ideology that they are going to have to stand up against,” says Haris Tarin, director of the Washington office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Read or watch and listen to it all.

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Posted January 18, 2015 at 1:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the first few days after Boko Haram’s recent attack in the remote village of Baga, most of the news coverage I saw about it concerned the lack of news. Why, the media wondered, was the media not more interested? As many as 2,000 people had been slaughtered, a figure that, if true, would dwarf the number killed in Paris around the same time.

A big reason the Boko Haram killings haven’t gotten much press is that there isn’t much press there. Baga is extremely remote, with little or no cell service, and it is, by all accounts, a war zone. Nor is the Nigerian government cooperative, or forthcoming, about what’s going on: The military claims no more than 150 people were killed, including militants. President Goodluck Jonathan, who is in the midst of a reelection campaign, hasn’t even publicly commented on the attack.

But even if the western media had been more present, I’m not convinced the western audience would have been more interested. Because, at bottom, there’s a pervading sense here that what happened in Paris was decidedly not normal, while what happened in Nigeria decidedly was.

And normal, unfortunately, doesn’t make the news.

Read it all.

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2 Comments
Posted January 18, 2015 at 6:06 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

For busy pastors who want to get better educated about Islamist extremism, Martin Amis's 2008 book, The Second Plane, September 11: 2001-2007 (Jonathan Cape, 208 pages), is most helpful.

It is a collection of 14 pieces, two short stories and 12 essays and reviews. Mr Amis, who describes himself as an agnostic, is a gifted teacher. He provides useful facts about the rise of Islamist extremism in the 20th century in the course of his stimulating and lively discourses.

Terror and Boredom: The Dependent Mind, originally published in The Observer in 2006, is particularly useful for frontline clergy who want to be able to answer people's questions about Islamism and the mentality underlying it. It cannot of course substitute for a pastor's own thinking and theological reflection but it is a useful mental pump-primer

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchBooksReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 17, 2015 at 3:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Five months after the United States began to bomb Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, it still has no new law authorizing this military action. President Obama had asked Congress to pass one. But lawmakers have so far failed to agree. Now the president has reversed course. He said this week he will propose his own law, known generally as an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).

This delay in providing a legal underpinning for the war reveals two nonlegal problems:

One, the threat from terrorist groups keeps shifting in geography and tactics. Are Al Qaeda groups aligned with Islamic State or opposed to it? What if new groups in Libya or Yemen pledge loyalty to IS? What if terrorists carry out attacks on more highly symbolic targets in the West, such as the one on the French satirical magazine?

Two, despite 13 years of experience since 9/11, Americans and their lawmakers have yet to define the core principles – beyond defense of Americans – that would guide the commander in chief in leading all types of counterterrorism activities

Read it all.

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Posted January 17, 2015 at 2:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Ghana's President John Mahama has said he and other African leaders will discuss plans next week to "deal permanently" with Boko Haram militants.

He said he wanted African Union (AU) countries to produce a "specific plan of action" for tackling the Nigeria-based Islamist group collectively.

"This has to end. We have to make this terror end," he said.

Boko Haram has seized control of many towns and villages in north-east Nigeria in a six-year insurgency.

Read it all.

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1 Comments
Posted January 17, 2015 at 9:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

What are the key findings?

In the words of your researcher: “Of all Boko Haram assaults analyzed by Amnesty International, this is the largest and most destructive yet.”
The scale of the destruction suggests a much higher death toll than given by the Nigerian government of 150 people. Some reports claimed that up to 2,000 people might have been killed in last weeks attack.
Over 3,700 structures in the two neighboring towns Baga and Doron Baga were damaged or completely destroyed. The damage and destruction stems from fire.

The destruction is likely higher than visible in the current satellite images. It proved difficult to delineate and confirm individual structures in some densely packed areas and under tree canopies. Additionally, the current analysis only covered two towns—other towns and villages in the area might have been affected as well.

Read it all.

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0 Comments
Posted January 16, 2015 at 12:32 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Duke University has canceled its plan to use the tower of its chapel for a weekly, amplified call to prayer for Muslims.

In a release Thursday, the university said Muslims will instead gather on the quadrangle before heading into a room in the chapel for their weekly prayer service.

“Duke remains committed to fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus for all of its students,” spokesman Michael Schoenfeld said. “However, it was clear that what was conceived as an effort to unify was not having the intended effect.”

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationReligion & CultureYoung Adults* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted January 16, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Condemnation of the new edition of Charlie Hebdo was swift and often fierce Wednesday (Jan. 14) in many majority-Muslim nations after the cover featured a drawing of the Prophet Muhammad with a tear in his eye.

“You’re putting the lives of others at risk when you’re taunting bloodthirsty and mad terrorists,” said Hamad Alfarhan, 29, a Kuwaiti doctor. “I hope this doesn’t trigger more attacks. The world is already mourning the losses of many lives under the name of religion.”

Wednesday’s 16-page issue of the satirical publication featured a cartoon on its cover depicting the prophet holding a sign that says, “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”) — the slogan adopted in support of the weekly after last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris. The headline above the prophet’s head reads, “All is forgiven.”

Read it all.

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4 Comments
Posted January 15, 2015 at 5:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Q: What is unique about the Muslim experience in France?

Because of secularism, Muslim life in France is vastly different from that in other European nations. The Muslim population in France is estimated to be about 5 to 10 percent (about 5 million), the largest community in Europe. But since 1905 the separation of church and state has been codified as law and forms the basis of some of the more controversial decisions in recent history in France: A 2004 law bans veils, yarmulkes, and crosses in schools, and a 2011 law bans full-face coverings, including wearing the niqab, in public. Many Muslims say they view the law of secularism as anti-Muslim, and some Muslim women in France will wear a veil even if they are not particularly religious to promote their cultural identity.

“France’s situation is very singular. Its colonial past weighs extremely heavily on the nation’s collective memory,” says Mansouria Mohkefi, a special advisor for the Middle East and North Africa at the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI) in Paris. “Any type of communitarianism or show of public religiousness is forbidden.”

Read it all.

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Posted January 15, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Amnesty International said satellite images of the towns of Baga and Doron in Nigeria’s northeast provide “indisputable and shocking evidence” of the scale of last week’s attack by Boko Haram.

Images of the towns, 2.5 kilometers apart (1.6 miles), taken on Jan. 2 before the attack and on Jan. 7 after it, showed the extent of the devastation, with more than 3,700 buildings destroyed, Amnesty said in an e-mailed statement. The London-based group said last week it was investigating reports that as many as 2,000 people were killed in the attacks.

The military has disputed the 2,000 casualty figure, saying no more than 150 people were killed. Security forces are struggling to contain a six-year insurgency that has killed more than 13,000 people, President Goodluck Jonathan said in September.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 15, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A weekly call to prayer for Muslims will be heard at Duke University starting Friday, school officials said.

Members of the Duke Muslim Students Association will chant the call, known as adhan or azan, from the Duke Chapel bell tower each Friday at 1 p.m. The call to prayer will last about three minutes and be “moderately amplified,” officials said in a statement Tuesday.

“The adhan is the call to prayer that brings Muslims back to their purpose in life, which is to worship God, and serves as a reminder to serve our brothers and sisters in humanity,” said Imam Adeel Zeb, Muslim chaplain at Duke. “The collective Muslim community is truly grateful and excited about Duke’s intentionality toward religious and cultural diversity.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducationMulticulturalism, pluralismReligion & CultureYoung Adults* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

9 Comments
Posted January 14, 2015 at 3:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A quarter of Jews in Britain have considered leaving the country in the last two years and well over half feel they have no long term future in Europe, according to a survey published on Wednesday.

Additionally, anti-Semitic beliefs are widely prevalent among the wider public with 45 percent of Britons agreeing with at least one anti-Semitic sentiment, the YouGov poll for the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) group found.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesPsychologyReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEurope* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamJudaism* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted January 14, 2015 at 8:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Nigerian security forces repelled an attack by Islamist rebels on the northeastern town of Biu on Wednesday, killing several of the insurgents, witnesses and a security source said.

Several dozen fighters belonging to the Boko Haram militant group drove into Biu in pick-up trucks and on motorcycles, witness Yahaya Mshelliza told Reuters by telephone.

"They came shouting 'Allahu Akbar' (God is greatest) and shooting everywhere, but confronted by the soldiers for three hours, most them were killed," Mshelliza said.


Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 14, 2015 at 7:29 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

As Nigerians prepare for the February 2015 general elections, a cleric of the Anglican Communion in Delta state, Venerable Felix Okonkwo has cautioned Christians to be wary of the All Progressive Congress (APC) saying it is an "Islamic party" with fanaticism as its mantra.

In his sermon during a special thanksgiving service in honour of Ifeanyi Okowa, the governorship candidate of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in Delta State, Ven. Okonkwo told the congregation: "As Christians we have a right to our faith, Nigeria belongs to all of us. If you look at the party, you will agree with me that it is out to promote and propagate the ideas of Islamism. We cannot support such a party. If you go through APC you will know that they have nothing good for this country. Their business is to kill and destroy."

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of Nigeria* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 13, 2015 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Listen to it all from the BBC World service (about 3 minutes and 40 seconds).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesRoman CatholicOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 13, 2015 at 5:30 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“We are in a situation that is a situation of war.” The words of Roger Cukierman, head of the main Jewish representative body in France, reverberated on Sunday at the end of a week that had seen a vulnerable community shattered by the deaths of several Jews in a series of terrorist incidents.

“Jews are very afraid,” says Emmanuelle, a young Jew, who like many did not want her last name used. “There is a real, justified paranoia.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPsychologyReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamJudaismSecularism* Theology

0 Comments
Posted January 12, 2015 at 5:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Read it all.


Filed under: * Culture-WatchGlobalizationLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryEuropeFrance* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

1 Comments
Posted January 11, 2015 at 3:57 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

After days of razing villages and pitiless massacre, Boko Haram finished the week with its most chilling atrocity.

As people bustled through the Saturday market in the Nigerian city of Maiduguri, a device borne by a ten year-old girl exploded near the entrance.

A witness said the girl probably had no idea that a bomb had been strapped to her body.

The explosion just before lunch killed 20, including the girl, and injured 18, according to the police.

Read it all.

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Posted January 11, 2015 at 3:18 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Britain’s fear of criticising Islam has led to a self-imposed ‘blasphemy law’, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has warned.

Lord Carey’s comments come days after the brutal slaughter of journalists at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine, which printed cartoons mocking the prophet Mohammed.

He added that the Press should be encouraged to print controversial material, even if Muslims find it offensive.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesMediaReligion & CultureViolence* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 11, 2015 at 12:45 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It is unbelievable that a modern democracy only managed to get round to disposing of these embarrassing laws so recently, but I find it even more shocking that a de facto blasphemy law is operating in Britain today.

The fact is that publishers and newspapers live in fear of criticising Islam. BBC guidelines, we have learnt recently, forbade the publication of images of the founder of Islam, even though this prohibition has not always been universal or absolute in Muslim history. Hastily revising its own guidelines, the BBC has now re-entered the 21st century, even picturing a Charlie Hebdo front cover on Newsnight featuring a cartoon of Muhammad.

Yet since 1988 and the hounding of Salman Rushdie and his publishers over The Satanic Verses, there has been a threat over free speech posed by radical and political Islam. I wish back then we had dealt with it. Every publisher and newspaper at the time throughout the world should have concertedly published extracts from The Satanic Verses to spread the risk and challenge extremist notions of blasphemy and apostasy, which surely apply only to consenting Islamic believers and not to ‘kaffirs’ and ‘heretics’?

Yet since 1988, the spectre of extremist censorship has reared its ugly head time and time again.

Read it all (requires subscription).


Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamSecularism* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 11, 2015 at 12:32 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In the latest campaign by the African Islamic militant group Boko Haram, hundreds of gunmen reportedly overtook the town of Baga, its neighboring villages, and a multinational military base.

During a five-day attack in Nigeria's northeast, the heavily armed militant group descended on joint-run African military base, one of the few remaining government-run operations in the area. Upon seeing the gunmen, the military guards abandoned their posts.

In recent days, Boko Haram has attacked and destroyed 16 villages. Official death tolls have not been recorded, but reports vary widely, with anywhere from 200 to as many as 2,000 Nigerians killed, according to Amnesty International on Saturday.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted January 11, 2015 at 11:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

...it was only after breaking cover on Tuesday night that he realised the true scale of the attack, which it is feared may be one of the worst in the six-year insurgency.

“For five kilometres (three miles), I kept stepping on dead bodies until I reached Malam Karanti village, which was also deserted and burnt,” he said.

Read it all.

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0 Comments
Posted January 11, 2015 at 4:59 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Islamist extremists behead Western journalists in Syria, massacre thousands of Iraqis, murder 132 Pakistani schoolchildren, kill a Canadian soldier and take hostage cafe patrons in Australia. Now, two gunmen have massacred a dozen people in the office of a Paris newspaper.

The rash of horrific attacks in the name of Islam is spurring an anguished debate among Muslims here in the heart of the Islamic world about why their religion appears cited so often as a cause for violence and bloodshed.

The majority of scholars and the faithful say Islam is no more inherently violent than other religions. But some Muslims — most notably the president of Egypt — argue that the contemporary understanding of their religion is infected with justifications for violence, requiring the government and its official clerics to correct the teaching of Islam.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & CultureViolence* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted January 9, 2015 at 3:35 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The terrorist attack in France that targeted a satirical weekly, killing 12 people, has seen an outpouring of solidarity, both in France and around the world, in defense of shared values of free speech and tolerance.

But at the same time, the attack has given new fodder to Europe's burgeoning populist movements – in a way that could prevent mainstream leaders from easing the tensions in their countries magnified by the assault on the magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Rising resentments across Europe call for leaders to act inclusively against Islamophobia, experts say. But the Continent's populist swing, already eating away at support for mainstream parties, could extract a greater political cost than European leaders are willing to make.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPsychologyReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsImmigrationPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEurope* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

3 Comments
Posted January 9, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Nigeria's militant Islamists have carried out a second attack on the key north-eastern town of Baga, an official has told the BBC.

Boko Haram fighters burnt down almost the entire town on Wednesday, after over-running a military base on Saturday, Musa Alhaji Bukar said.

Bodies lay strewn on Baga's streets, amid fears that some 2,000 people had been killed in the raids, he added.

Boko Haram launched a military campaign in 2009 to create an Islamic state.

Read it all.

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Posted January 8, 2015 at 8:55 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon


This was by some estimates the worst terrorist attack in France since the Algerian war of independence. It followed exhortations from Islamic State in Syria to kill French civilians with any weapon available, but responsibility was claimed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. It is not clear what was behind the timing. Minutes before the gunmen struck, Charlie Hebdo had released a tweet mocking Islamic State’s leader, but this was mild next to the magazine’s earlier broadsides on everything that Islamists hold sacred. In past years it has reprinted the Danish cartoons of Muhammad that prompted riots on several continents. It has printed a spoof issue “guest edited” by the Prophet, and a cover cartoon of an Imam trying and failing to use the Koran to stop bullets.

“I don’t blame Muslims for not laughing at our drawings,” Charlie Hebdo’s editor-in-chief, Stéphane Charbonnier, once said. Neither did he apologise. “I live under French law . . . [not] Koranic law.”

Mr Charbonnier is now dead. While he lived he upheld a priceless tradition of broad and often brutal satire, no punches pulled, no prisoners taken. He and his colleagues were equal opportunity offenders. Islamists were often their targets precisely because of their unconscionable threats and spurious claim to special status. But so were Catholic clergy, cardinals, the Pope and, for what it’s worth, the British.

When President Hollande called Charlie Hebdo a “symbol of liberty”, it was no empty cliché....

Read it all (requires subscription).

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMediaReligion & CultureUrban/City Life and IssuesViolence* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEngland / UKEuropeFrance* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 8, 2015 at 5:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Just before noon, the masked men exited a black car clutching Kalashnikovs and approached the offices of French magazine Charlie Hebdo. The gunmen forced the magazine’s designer to let them into the building and, in what authorities say was a carefully planned attack, deliberately sought out and killed numerous journalists inside. The noise aroused the nearby residents, who fixed cameras on the streets below, capturing a chaotic scene of gunfire, shouting and killing.

The way the men moved in that video — in side-by-side formation while calmly shooting a cop perhaps 30 feet away — betrays a professionalism some experts said suggests the gunmen had significant training before killing 12 people in what’s now considered France’s worst terrorist attack in a generation. “One shoots and executes the officer in stride,” observed the Long War Journal. “Both men move past the body, peer up the street for additional targets, then peel off and move back to the black car and leave the scene of the attack.”

The scene is something the Long War Journal writers have seen before — in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Nigeria. Using heavily armed gunmen to attack “lightly defended civilian targets is commonly used by jihadist groups.” And this one succeeded because the gunmen appeared to be “hardened and well-trained fighters who may have received instructions at a training facility overseas, or locally in France.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolenceYoung Adults* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEuropeFrance* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 8, 2015 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A second Paris shooting kills a policewoman after three suspect al-Qaeda gunmen attack the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine, with 12 dead.

Read it all.

Also, especially for those who read french, Le Monde has a good twitter feed there.

The BBC live blog is here.

Sky news--Paris Shootings: What We Know So Far is over here.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireReligion & CultureUrban/City Life and IssuesViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEuropeFrance* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

0 Comments
Posted January 8, 2015 at 4:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“This is an act of the most extraordinary brutality and barbarity This violence is demonic in its attack on the innocent, and cowardly in its denial of the basic human right of freedom of speech.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury --Justin Welby* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryEuropeFrance* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted January 7, 2015 at 12:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Primate of the Anglican Communion, Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, has said that the 2015 elections will determine Nigeria's future.

Okoh, who spoke at the dedication and hand-over of St. Peter's Church, Umuchu, Anambra State, built and donated by a philanthropist, Godwin Ezeemo, at the weekend, said the importance of the election is one reason why nobody should sit on the fence.

"Nigeria has a very big project this year and that is the elections. You cannot be neutral. Get your own voter's card to decide who will rule over you", he said.

Okoh, however, also predicted that the country will be greater than what it is now and that the evil of insurgency "cannot be the end of Nigeria. Everybody must join hands and fight evil of insurgency".

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of Nigeria* Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 7, 2015 at 7:45 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Politicians and celebrities in Germany have joined a media campaign against Pegida, a group protesting against what it sees as the "Islamisation" of Europe.

Former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and retired footballer Oliver Bierhoff are among 80 figures to back a petition in German newspaper Bild.

It comes after rival rallies took place across the country.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryEuropeGermany* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 6, 2015 at 3:48 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The militant group Boko Haram has seized a town and key multinational military base in north-eastern Nigeria, officials and eyewitnesses say.

A senator in Borno state said troops had abandoned the base in the town of Baga after it was attacked on Saturday.

Residents of Baga, who fled by boat to neighbouring Chad, said many people had been killed and the town set ablaze.

Baga, scene of a Nigerian army massacre in 2013, was the last town in the Borno North area under government control.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesPolice/FireReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeria* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 4, 2015 at 2:40 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

On most afternoons, Mor Barsaumo, a honey-colored, fifth-century stone church nestled in a warren of slanted streets, draws a crowd. In the narrow courtyard, old men smoke cigarettes and drink coffee, while children kick a soccer ball across the stone floor. In a darkened classroom, empty except for a few desks, a teacher gives private lessons in Syriac, derived from Aramaic, the language of Christ.

And now, the refugees also come.

Advised by relatives or other refugees, newcomers to Midyat often make the steps of the church their first stop. Midyat and its environs—known in Syriac as Tur Abdin, “mountain of the servants of God”—are the historical heartland of the Middle East's widely dispersed Syriac Orthodox Christian community. Now the region has become a haven as the fighting in Syria and Iraq has forced Christians to flee their homes.

“All Syriac Christians come here. Most of the aid is delivered from here,” says Ayhan Gürkan, a deacon at Mor Barsaumo and a member of the Tur Abdin Syriac Christians Committee, set up to look after Midyat’s Christian refugees.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted January 2, 2015 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Anti-Christian violence in 2014 saw a transformation from under-told news coverage, to routine reports of radical Islamists seeking to obliterate Christianity’s presence.

Religious freedom experts captured the dire situation of Middle Eastern Christians in comments on Friday to The Jerusalem Post.

"Persecution no longer adequately describes the treatment of Christians in a growing number of Muslim areas.

Religious cleansing, a type of cultural genocide, which is a crime against humanity, is the more accurate description.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsChristmas* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted December 30, 2014 at 4:20 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

I guess you could argue that this is all old news. A lot has happened since late November, and there are plenty of other stories to cover. By and large, the international media have moved on. But the refugees are still there, huddled together on the grounds of the church, or in other sites scattered around Kurdish-controlled territory (which has offered them a warm welcome despite its own lack of resources). The world may have forgotten these people, but they’re still struggling to come to terms with the catastrophe. The accounts repeat and overlap: “I hid our money in the house, thinking we’d be back in a few days. But now we realize that we’ll probably never be able to go back.” “They knew our cellphone number, so a few days later, they called us up and said they’d hunt us down and kill us.” “They took him away, and we’ve never heard from him again.”

Mukhlis Yusef Yacoub, 37, could be considered one of the lucky ones. Thanks to a benefactor from his hometown of Qaraqosh (a predominantly Christian city just east of Mosul), he’s found a job in Erbil, selling clothes from the back of a car, which gives him just enough money to afford a closet-sized apartment for him, his wife, and their three kids. But this is small consolation for the loss of their world.

“They came on August 6,” Yacoub told me, remembering how the jihadists began their assault on Qaraqosh. Islamic State fighters detained him and his 9-year-old son, Mark; his wife and two daughters managed to flee. His captors demanded that Yacoub convert to Islam. When he refused, they beat him so viciously that he lost his sight in one eye. Yet he would not bend — so his jailers decided to go after his son. “They tied a rope around Mark’s body and legs, and then they dragged him down the street behind a car.” But still, he said, he refused to submit. After 7 days, his jailers tired of the game, and they expelled Yacoub and his son from IS-controlled territory. The two of them walked on foot for miles until they reached the safety of Kurdish territory.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, MilitaryForeign RelationsPolitics in GeneralTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle East* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesCoptic ChurchOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted December 30, 2014 at 4:15 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

In April almost 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped in northern Nigeria by the terrorist group Boko Haram.

In the days after the kidnapping some of the girls managed to escape. Now, thanks to the kindness of a Nigerian couple, some of them have travelled to the US and will restart their education there in the New Year.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsChristmas* Culture-WatchEducationReligion & CultureWomen* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryAfricaNigeriaAmerica/U.S.A.* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted December 25, 2014 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Although hundreds of thousands of refugees are displaced from their homes in Iraq and their futures remain uncertain due to the siege of the Islamic State, The Vicar of Baghdad wrote in an online Christmas statement that Christian refugees in Iraq have not been deterred from exhibiting joy in the only thing they have left: the unconditional of Jesus.

Writing from his new temporary home in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ, the Rev. Canon Andrew White, the only Anglican pastor in Iraq, said that even though ISIS has left these displaced Christian refugees with no homes, no clothes and, in some cases, no families, their faith remains strong in the "refugee child," Jesus.

"All you have got left is the love of that refugee child. That to us in the Middle East is all that matters this Christmas," White explained.

Read it all.



Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations* Theology

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Posted December 23, 2014 at 5:40 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

My family is, in many ways, emblematic of America in the 21st century: multiethnic, multicultural, multireligious. I am a Muslim from Iran. My wife is a Christian from western Pennsylvania. That may seem an incongruous coupling. But when we first met, we realized almost immediately that we shared the same values and worldview, even though we expressed those things in a different spiritual language.

That’s all religion is, really: a language made up of symbols and metaphors that allow people to communicate, to themselves and to others, the ineffable experience of faith. I already spoke my wife’s spiritual language (Christianity); I taught her mine (Islam). And now we are a spiritually “bilingual” household. Actually, we are multilingual, considering we are committed to teaching our children all the spiritual languages of the world so that they can choose for themselves which ones, if any, they prefer in communicating their own individual faith experience.

But that is also the reason the prayer was tripping us up that first Christmas together. We were having a difficult time understanding one another’s spiritual languages, let alone coming to a consensus on which language to use.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsChristmasSpirituality/Prayer* Culture-WatchMulticulturalism, pluralismReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslamSecularism* Theology

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Posted December 22, 2014 at 4:29 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“Egypt killed Islam in America,” said one Muslim-American of Egyptian origin, who had been involved in Muslim civic activism for years. He was responding to a question I had about Muslim-Americans’ reactions to the various twists and turns of the Egyptian revolution, after the well-known Swiss-Egyptian academic, Tariq Ramadan, had declared that he would boycott a gathering of Muslim activists in Canada, partly due to political differences over Egypt.

The activist’s answer was flamboyant, and likely overestimated the impact of the Egyptian revolutionary uprising and its aftermath on the development of a specifically Muslim-American consciousness. There are a number of different issues in the international arena that mobilise or interest Muslim-Americans, and there have been for many years – Egypt is certainly not the most critical one. But he had a point in noting that Egypt, before and after former president Mohammed Morsi had been ousted, had created two sharply opposing political camps in the Muslim-American community. That point has some currency far beyond the United States, in Canada as well as a number of European nations. In all of them, large numbers of Muslims are discussing the tensions arising from the Arab uprisings that began in 2011—and Egypt is a big part of that discussion.

The stances of those two camps are not only polarising—they are also inconsistent on the issue of speaking truth to power, in the midst of a multifaceted proxy war that remains deeply energised in the Arab world, and against the backdrop of clear positions on the normativity of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamism.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchHistoryReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsForeign RelationsPolitics in General* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastEgypt* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

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Posted December 21, 2014 at 12:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Flagging morale, desertion and factionalism are starting to affect the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as Isis, testing the cohesion of the jihadi force as its military momentum slows.

Activists and fighters in parts of eastern Syria controlled by Isis said as military progress slows and focus shifts to governing the area, frustration has grown among militants who had been seen as the most disciplined and effective fighting force in the country’s civil war.

The group hurtled across western Iraq and eastern Syria over the summer in a sudden offensive that shocked the world. Isis remains a formidable force: it controls swaths of territory and continues to make progress in western Iraq. But its fighters have reached the limit of discontented Sunni Muslim areas that they can easily capture and US-led coalition air strikes partnered with offensives by local ground forces have begun to halt their progress.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & CultureViolence* Economics, PoliticsEconomyTerrorism* International News & CommentaryMiddle EastIraq* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

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Posted December 20, 2014 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]




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