Monthly Archives: February 2015

Muslims, Murder and Media Bias

With the tragic murder of three young Muslims at Chapel Hill University, apparently by an avowed atheist, it will be interesting to see the reactions from the media, politicians and the public. Let us consider some possibilities, based on recent history.

* A new hashtag, #wearechapelhill will flood the Twittersphere, and people around the world will ‘tweet’ their solidarity with the victims.

* Thousands of people will march at Chapel Hill, all carrying placards reading ‘We are Chapel Hill’.

* World leaders will gather at Chapel Hill, far away, of course, from any of the little people, and march together as a show of solidarity against non-religious-motivated terrorism. Israeli Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu will not be invited, but will show up anyway, and will push his way to the front of the crowd.

* President Barack Obama will decry this as a terrorist act, saying that while not all atheists are violent, those with violent tendencies must be stopped.

* The media will proclaim that Chapel Hill is now the frontier in the war against atheist-inspired terror.

* Atheists around the world will be the targets of harassment and violence.

Now, perhaps we can return to reality for a moment, and give this more serious consideration.

CNN, in its initial report on the crime, said this: “Police haven’t said what may have compelled the accused, Craig Stephen Hicks, to allegedly carry out the attack Tuesday evening. He turned himself in to police later in the night. But given the victims’ religion and comments the alleged shooter apparently left on a Facebook page, many social media users wondered what role, if any, the victims’ faith played.”

Preliminary, unconfirmed reports indicate that the accused gunman knew the victims, and had some conflicts with them over a parking space. Well, that seems to be a far better reason to kill a person than if he or she made a cottage industry out of insulting one’s religion. It will be interesting to see what the media does with this information, should it be confirmed. Will murderers who have twisted parts of a religion to suit their own bizarre beliefs and killed journalists who insulted their religion be seen as worse than a man who kills three people because of a parking-space dispute?

With the flames of hostility towards Muslims constantly being fanned by the government and media, with prominent right wing extremists even calling for their deaths, can this crime be surprising? Following the bombing at the Boston Marathon in 2013, the following Twitter exchange, between FOX News contributor Erik Rush and an individual named Bill Schmalfeldt occurred:

Rush: “Everybody do the National Security Ankle Grab! Let’s bring more Saudis in without screening them.”

Schmalfeldt: “Sweet God are you ALREADY BLAMING MUSLIMS?”

Rush: “@bloodonthemike. Yes, they’re evil. Let’s kill them all.”

Another FOX News political analyst, if such a term can reasonably be applied to a FOX News employee, Andrea Tantaros had these pearls of wisdom to say in August of 2014: “If you study the history of Islam. Our ship captains were getting murdered. The French had to tip us off. I mean these were the days of Thomas Jefferson. They’ve been doing the same thing. This isn’t a surprise. You can’t solve it with a dialogue. You can’t solve it with a summit. You solve it with a bullet to the head. It’s the only thing these people understand. And all we’ve heard from this president is a case to heap praise on this religion, as if to appease them.”

Well, one assumes Ms. Tantaros is gratified that three Muslims from Chapel Hill each did, indeed, receive a bullet to the head. Three down, only 1.8 billion to go.

Prejudice against and corresponding fear of Muslims is nothing new. USA Today reported in 2013 that “Many widely believed Muslims were behind the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, until American militiaman Timothy McVeigh was convicted of the crime.” And following the shootings at Charlie Hebdo, violence against Muslims around the world spiked.

It is still, as is said, early days in the investigation and reporting of this crime. Perhaps it will be seen as just another U.S. campus shooting, so common now as to be hardly newsworthy. Perhaps the religion of the victims and the atheism of the alleged perpetrator will be ignored; after all, when a parking space is at stake, all other considerations pale.

So while the media is to able to paint all Muslims with the same brush as a few extremists in Paris, when Muslims are murder victims, it is merely coincidence. When a Muslim stands on one side of a gun, he and all Muslims are terrorists. When on the other side, they are merely individuals who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It will be interesting to see who is asked to apologize for this crime; perhaps there will be calls for all atheists to do so, although this is, of course, highly unlikely. Atheism is a respected concept in the west, and we all know that atheists, unlike Muslims, are individuals capable of independent thought. It will also be interesting to see how right wing journalists and so-called ministers respond; they are quick to condemn Islam with every invented opportunity, and since they are no fans of atheism, they will have to engage in some interesting verbal gymnastics to condemn atheism without somehow expressing sympathy for Muslims.

It may be some time, if ever, before the motivation for this savage crime is known. But if stories from the lives of the three victims, who by all accounts appear to have been compassionate, promising young people, can be publicized, perhaps prejudices against Muslims can be somewhat reduced, thus giving the deaths of these three young people some meaning.

 

Muslims, Murder and Media Bias

 

 

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Islam: The new invented enemy

As many writers, including this one, have mentioned more than once in the past, the United States always needs an enemy. For much of the last seventy years, this was dominated by Communism, starting with two world wars and then accelerating with the infamous witch hunts of Senator Joseph McCarthy (R- WI). The U.S. was able to build and expand its vast war machine by scaring the populace into the belief that there was a Communist hiding behind every door, just waiting for the right opportunity to wreak all kinds of havoc. It was this manufactured fear that enabled the U.S. to decimate Korea, and leave military basis there for over 50 years (and counting), and to kill millions of Vietnamese people prior to fleeing that nation in humiliating, well-deserved defeat.

Once the Berlin Wall fell, and many eastern European countries had violent or non-violent revolutions, somehow the glamour of fighting Communism faded. Oh, here and there the leader of a nation that was, perhaps, taking his nation too far to the left had to be eliminated, and this was always done under the lofty banner of freeing an oppressed people, although if they were genuinely oppressed, the U.S. never said it was simply changing their repressive leader for another repressive leader, more to the U.S.’s liking.

But fear-mongering is a tried and true method of operation in the U.S. In 2010, when the government, under Democratic President Barack Obama, decided to elevate itself from Third World status in the context of health care, the opposition party invented the concept of death panels. Here, they proclaimed darkly, government-appointed personnel would determine who was worthy of health care, and who must simply be placed on the side of a mountain to die. The elderly, the infirm, all of society’s most vulnerable citizens, the Republicans warned, would be weeded out by government mandate.

Despite the fact that there was never anything remotely resembling death panels in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care act, these myths persist as reality in the minds of some. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who screamed the loudest, protested that an ‘end-of-life’ counseling provision, that was eventually dropped, was simply a euphemism for death panels. This program, which helped dying people write wills, decide on hospice care, etc. was exactly the same as Ms. Palin signed into law when she was governor. It was fine when proposed by a Republican, but deadly when proposed by a Democrat.

In 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush and his minions terrified U.S. citizens into believing that al-Qaeda, the organization that had hijacked passenger jets and crashed them into various locations in the U.S., was working closely with the government of Iraq, and it was only a matter of a very short time before unspeakably horrible weapons would be decimating U.S. cities. The fact that al-Qaeda had only a minimal presence in Iraq, and that a bipartisan U.S. Congressional commission said there was ‘no credible evidence’ of Iraq’s complicity in the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the fact that United Nations’ weapons inspectors were finding no evidence of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ didn’t matter when fear-mongering couples with war-mongering. Iraq was invaded, with disastrous results for that country and the U.S.

And now that target has been crystallized, with Islam being the new enemy. An ignorant population that understands little beyond white, Anglo-Saxon Protestantism is more than ready to see Muslims as frightening people, little better than savages, who hate the U.S. because of its cherished, if really negligible, freedoms. They wear hijabs and kufeyahs, attend houses of worship without crosses on them, and speak a language that no self-respecting high school ever teaches. They are all, somehow, in the narrow minds of many U.S. citizens, associated with Sharia law, which, in its strictest interpretation, can be harsh. And government officials and right-wing pundits have not hesitated to exploit that concept.

January 29, 2015 marked the eleventh annual Texas Capitol Muslim Day. This event is billed as ‘an opportunity for community members to learn about the democratic political process and how to be an advocate for important issues.’ This does not seem to be anything that should be particularly controversial in any nation that purports to be a democracy. But this was not the case. One state representative, Molly White (R- Belton) disgraced herself by leaving instructions with her staff that any visiting Muslims must renounce terrorism and proclaim their allegiance to the U.S. To add insult to injury, she left an Israeli flag on the reception desk in her office.

Despite considerable criticism, Ms. White persisted in her ignorant display of Islamophobia. She later posted this on her Facebook page: ‘I do not apologize for my comments. … If you love America, obey our laws and condemn Islamic terrorism, then I embrace you as a fellow American. If not, then I do not.’ It seems for Ms. White, every citizen, or at least every Muslim, must wear an American flag label pin (and possibly an Israel flag lapel pin), go around singing the national anthem, and discuss nothing but the horror of Islamic terror. She doesn’t seem particularly concerned about U.S. drone strikes whose ‘collateral damage’ is often innocent people who happen to be Muslim, or the mass killings by Christians of Muslims in Africa. Murder, apparently, is abhorrent when done in the name of Islam, but not when done in the name of Christianity, or by the U.S. government.

The U.S. has unlimited examples of fear mixing with ignorance and begetting violence. Look no further than Ferguson, Missouri, for a recent example of a white police officer, seeing an unarmed black youth and not hesitating to shoot him. Similar incidents would fill volumes to document. And now violence against Muslims, never far beneath the surface but seldom reported, is being condoned and encouraged by a media rabid for an enemy, and a government content to let it do so.

In 2006, when Keith Ellison was sworn in as the first Muslim member of Congress, he took the oath of office with his hand on the Qur’an. This did not sit well with some of his new peers. Rep. Virgil Goode (R–VA) wrote to his constituents about the horror of this event. Such behavior, he intoned, is a threat to “the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America…” Further, he predicted that more Muslims would be elected, and would swear in on the Qur’an. Said he: “…if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Qur’an”. Mr. Goode’s fear of ‘more Muslims elected to office’ apparently resonates with a significant number of voters.

His proclamations are not isolated incidents. Former Arkansas governor and periodic presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has stated that U.S. President Barack Obama and his administration are ‘incapable of knowing the difference between good and evil’, and are ‘bending over backwards to do everything possible to accommodate Muslims but they don’t mind stomping all over Christians and they do it regularly. This is just the most astonishing reversal of true American tradition that I’ve ever seen.’ More of the ‘us vs. them’ mentality that is necessary when inventing enemies.

Arch-conservative commentator Erik Rush, columnist of the radical right’s World Net Daily, last year tweeted that all Muslims should be killed. In an article of January 30, 2015, he said that there is no ‘distinction that exists between Islam and ‘radical Islam.’’ He further said that ‘all Muslims are part of this diabolical design of supplanting Western civilization with an Islamic one.’

These are just a few examples of rampant Islamophobia morphing into hatred and encouraging violence.

There seems to be some general feeling, as articulated so ineloquently by Ms. White, that every Muslim must actively condemn violence done in the name of Islam. As a Christian, this writer feels no need to apologize for the bizarre proclamations of the so-called Christian right, some of which are mentioned above. The peculiar rantings of radical right, Bible-thumping ministers, or the paranoid ravings of extreme rightwing columnists and broadcasters have nothing to do with this writer’s understanding of Christianity. Even more importantly, they have nothing to do with this writer.

Being ‘sorry’ takes two forms. One can be sorry, as this writer is, that Muslims are being harassed, beaten and killed in many parts of the world. However, this writer does not apologize for such behaviors, because he is not perpetrating them. Muslims may be sorry that people were shot and killed in the offices of a French magazine, without apologizing, since they had nothing to do with that crime. The actions of a few do not represent the feelings of the many. This writer may be sorry that so-called Christian pundits declare that marriage equality will bring an end to civilization as we know it, but he does not apologize for those statements, since he is not making them.

But what is any of this? When the media, with complete government consent, views Islam as the enemy and everyone else as the victim, what is the point of logic? Why let facts get in the way of self-righteous hatred? Who is this writer to attempt to deprive the U.S. of the new enemy it has invented?

Yet he will criticize and work to defeat this behavior, so prevalent now in the U.S. and throughout much of the world. It is this Islamophobia, in part, that enables Israel to commit crimes against humanity with impunity. It is this same Islamophobia that enables the U.S. to perpetrate unspeakable terror against countries in the Middle East, all, incredibly, in the name of peace and freedom. That it is all unjust, unreasonable and unsupportable with facts is clear to anyone who will look beyond flashy hashtags and the popular sound bites of the moment. Convincing a population more interested in waving a flag than in human rights and justice is not an easy task. Yet it must be done.

 

http://www.iiprc.org/islam–the-new-invented-enemy-1.html

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The Atonement of Jesus Christ

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is an all-important doctrine for followers of the Savior. Each Sunday, Mormons (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) partake of the Sacrament (bread and water), and ponder on the suffering of the Savior in the Garden and on the cross. The emblems of the sacrament symbolize His body and blood, sacrificed for all mankind, and one recalls His resurrection, all combined in the incomparable events known as the Atonement.

In John 17:3, we read: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Why do we need to know Jesus Christ, and why do we need to know that God has sent Him? Because Jesus Christ is actually the Son of God, and He atoned for our sins.

What is the Atonement?

The Atonement of Jesus Christ provides a way for us to return to live in the presence of our Heavenly Father and the Savior after our mortal life ends. Through the Atonement all mankind will be resurrected and receive immortal bodies like God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. However, in order for us to live in the presence of God and Christ, we have to keep the commandments to the best of our ability. The Atonement  is a gift that we can qualify for through striving to keep the commandments of God and through the mercy and grace of our Savior.

As humans, we all sin, and because no unclean thing can enter the kingdom of heaven we would remain alienated from God. In order to qualify us to be able to return to His presence, an infinite sacrifice was required. Alone, we are unable to pay the price of  redemption, so Jesus Christ paid it for us. That is the foundation of the Atonement; it enables us to repent. Only He could do it. An infinite sacrifice was required, because nothing else could reconcile us to God. Had Jesus Christ only been a righteous man, a gifted teacher, or even a prophet, His sacrifice would have been meaningless. As the literal Son of God, His sacrifice was a divine gift to us, and He was foreordained to make this sacrifice for each of us.

The word “Atonement” is defined as the setting ‘at one’ (at-one-ment) of those who have been estranged from God. Sin is the cause of the estrangement. The Atonement of Jesus Christ, therefore, corrects or overcomes the consequences of sin and enables us to become more ‘at-one’ with God.

In the eternities, justice must be satisfied. Once we have transgressed, there is no way we could—by our own efforts—ever become clean again. The stain of that transgression would always remain, even if we were never to sin again, which, for any human, is simply not possible. Without an intermediary, we would never be able to return to live in the presence of God. By sinning, we violate divine rules, and the only way to compensate is through the grace of a divine redeemer.

A Common Analogy

A common analogy to the Atonement of Jesus Christ is that of the young couple who gets deeply into debt. Credit is easy, so they buy a fancy house, furnish it expansively, purchase a new car, and so on. At some point, their creditor comes to them, demanding payment. They’ve been enjoying their luxuries, and haven’t thought much about this day of reckoning. But now that time has arrived. The creditor tells them that if they cannot pay, he will repossess everything. There is nothing they can do; they simply do not have the money. Even though they could plead for mercy, justice must be served. The creditor must either be paid or be allowed to repossess the financed possessions.

Fortunately for this young couple, a dear friend offers to help pay off their debts. The creditor does not care where the payment is coming from. Justice demands that he be paid in full, so when the friend pays him, he is satisfied. But the friend has put some conditions on his payment of the young couple’s debt. He will pay it, but they must agree to do certain things and follow certain instructions that he will set out for them. And he will help them carry out those directives he now requires.

In the context of the Atonement, that friend is Jesus Christ. All mankind has a debt that we can’t pay by ourselves. Justice demands that it be paid, so He paid it for us. In return, He asks, as His stipulation, that we keep the commandments.

In a manner that is beyond human comprehension, Jesus Christ took upon Himself the penalty for our transgressions. This is basic to the plan of salvation. We knew, as spirit beings before our mortal birth, that we would make mistakes in mortality, but we had the assurance that the way back would be provided. The Savior’s sacrifice is that way back.

Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can overcome all things. The Savior knows everything we experience  – illnesses, sorrows, temptations – because He has borne them all.

Overcoming our Mistakes

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is not only for repenting of very serious transgressions. We can and should utilize this great gift always, to assist us in overcoming the little habits we want to rid ourselves of, as well as, when necessary, repenting of more serious sins. We can and should utilize the gift of the Atonement whenever we feel we need extra help with any of life’s challenges, large or small. In Luke 11:11, we read: “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?” Heavenly Father and the Savior are not going to turn us away if we ask in genuine need for assistance, regardless of how large or small that need may be.

Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. Only He, as the literal Son of God, could satisfy the demands of justice, by providing us, God’s children, with the mercy we require. The infinite Atonement—the full comprehension of which is beyond the ability of any mortal to grasp—is His great gift to us.

More about the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

 “The Atonement of Jesus Christ” was written by Robert Fantina. “The Atonement of Jesus Christ” is important to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. If you would like to know more about Mormons with no obligation, please click on the following links:

 

 

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