Category archives: Religion & Culture

Islamism and Ferguson: There is No Moral Equivalence Between Them

by Rob Schwarzwalder

September 25, 2014

In his speech yesterday at the United Nations, President Obama used the shooting of an unarmed African-American man in Ferguson, Missouri to note that America indignation at evil is not self-righteousness. Here is what commentator Richard Grenell, a former American U.N. official, said about the President’s comments:

In a summer marked by instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri: (said President Obama). Morally equating the events of Ferguson to Islamic terrorism and Russia’s annexation of Crimea gives foreign diplomats from Arab countries and Russia the excuse they need to dismiss America’s condemnation of their actions. For anyone thinking that President Obama didn’t purposefully mean to equate the world’s problems with the events in Ferguson, two sentences later Obama blamed globalization for the public’s outrage in Ferguson: “And like every country, we continually wrestle with how to reconcile the vast changes wrought by globalization.” Overstating America’s issues doesn’t make us relatable; it makes others’ issues easily dismissible.

Equating a single and widely-condemned act of violence in America’s heartland, one that drew the personal attention of the Attorney General of the United States and enough FBI agents to make Al Capone shudder, with the systematic, calculated, and extensive mass murders perpetrated by the Islamic thugs in Iraq is such poor judgment as to be almost beyond belief. I am not diminishing the seriousness of Michael Brown’s killing, but it is not analogous to what so-called “ISIS” is doing in the Middle East.

The Islamists, as a matter of ideology, political conviction, and religious commitment, are dedicated to executing an agenda of death, including the murder (and beheading) of small children. Here is what Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Diane Feinstein (D-CA) says about what the Islamists are doing:

I have a picture of what I estimate to be a 6-year-old girl in a gingham party dress, white tights, a little red band around her wrist, Mary Janes [shoes], and she’s lying on the ground, and her head is gone,” Feinstein said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “This could be an American child. It could be a European child. It could be a child anywhere,” the chairwoman added. “This is the mentality of the group that we are so concerned with. They have killed thousands; they are marching on; they have an army; they are well organized.”

A spasm of cruelty in Ferguson is not like a comprehensive program of genocide. The Russian invasion of Crimea and its threat to the Ukraine are the policies of a government, not the excesses of a single policeman. The President blurred the line between acknowledging America’s imperfection, in some contexts a good thing, with the outright humiliation of our country before the world.

There is no moral equivalence between America and ISIS. Mr. Obama would affirm this, surely, but in his desperate effort to discourage criticism he plays into our adversaries’ hands. Those who would highlight America’s flaws either to minimize their own evil or, out of envious hostility, to tear down rather than emulate the world’s greatest beacon of liberty, opportunity, and hope — that would be the United States of America — are wrong. President Obama seems to have internalized their criticisms, which says a lot about his approach to American foreign policy over the past nearly six years. A lot that’s disturbing.

All but a relative handful of the countries represented in the United Nations are authoritarian regimes, outright dictatorships, or hereditary (even if benevolent) monarchies. Anti-Semitism, cruel religious persecution, severe political repression, systemic policies that entrench poverty, quenching or abridging all the freedoms “endowed by their Creator” to their citizens: These things constitute the normal course of events in the majority of the world’s nations, all of which, to one degree or another, regularly castigate our country.

To allow such brutes, whether in developing countries, the Communist world, or totalitarian regimes to cow America into Uriah Heepish hand-wringing is maddening. No American, and certainly no American President, should succumb to it.

The Importance of Christian Culture

by Nathan Oppman

September 23, 2014

When confronting groups like ISIS or Hamas, it is often difficult for the West to understand the grotesque violence and reckless hatred that these groups promote toward those with whom they disagree. These groups do not wish to negotiate or reason. They wish to conquer and rule. On the one hand, the West has seen the all-too familiar horrors of despotic regimes such as those in 20th century Russia and Germany. It has also witnessed the tight grip of control maintained in such places as North Korea and China. All of these places have been the locations of mass executions and violence against peaceful citizens. Since most of these atrocities occurred far from the U.S. it can be difficult to come to terms with the reality that so many innocent people were killed. It was difficult to grasp the horrific Holocaust against the Jews or to understand the rigor of the Soviet GULAG system until eyewitness accounts became widely available. The Islamists doing so much harm in Iraq are evil but not unique. In Sudan, Islamists threatened to kill a woman, Meriam Ibrahim, simply because she refused to renounce her Christian faith. The Islamist culture is one of fear and death. Liberating Western (Christian) beliefs such as the dignity of every person, freedom of religion, and the good of peace are all undermined in Islamist theology.

Western culture has a great many flaws but much of its underlying philosophy is still providing a foundation for peace and prosperity today. Pretending that all cultures are equal or that Western culture is no different than any other culture undermines observable truth. It is easy to sit at home and play armchair philosophical quarterback or to theorize that economic concerns are driving violence but the thousands who die in the name of Islam in the Middle East don’t have such a luxury. Sometimes, a wake-up call is needed. If you would like to see a woman who experienced the cruelty of Islam and is a clear demonstration of the difference between cultures, please plan to attend the Values Voter Summit Gala honoring Meriam Ibrahim. Her story reminds us that the truth is worth fighting for and that some evils can’t be ignored with political rhetoric. May this woman shock our sedated Western mindset with the reality that there is a battle for truth taking place in cultures around the world. One side battles for a culture where a woman and child are seen as a mortal enemy for their beliefs. The other fights for a culture where that same woman is honored for her beliefs. In this cultural war with the lives of so many at stake may truth win, may freedom reign.

The Savagery and Horror of ISIS

by FRC Media Office

September 18, 2014

With the continued savagery of ISIS in the news, FRC’s Bob Morrison and Ken Blackwell have two op-eds in American Thinker that examines the stance that the U.S. has taken on this group.   Both Blackwell and Morrison’s recent article looks at how President Obama has dealt with ISIS and the growing threat that this group poses on global security.

President Obama is locked in a Westphalian mindset. That seminal 1648 Treaty of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years War in Europe and gave us the nation-state system we see today. Or most of it. What ISIS shows, however, is that the Westphalian definitions really don’t apply in the Mideast. It was an Egyptian diplomat who famously said: “There is only one nation over here; the rest are tribes with flags.”

Fortunately, President Obama realizes that you cannot give credence to a border between Iraq and Syria. He says he will hammer ISIS in Syria. Go to it. (Unfortunately, this president seems not to recognize a border between the Mexico and the U.S., either.)

You can read more from their op-ed here.

Thirty years ago, FRC’s Bob Morrison watched a beheading video. And he has never forgotten the horror of it. Here’s his column that ran in American Thinker on August 30, 2014

Truett Cathy, “Chick-fil-A Founder, a Champion of Conservatism and Chicken” — and of Christ

by Rob Schwarzwalder

September 8, 2014

S. Truett Cathy, founder of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain, has died at the age of 93. As the Wall Street Journal notes, he was a champion of “conservatism and chicken,” but it omits his other, most profound championship: The good news of Jesus Christ.

Mr. Cathy’s comments about his relationship with God shows that his faith was not an ancillary part of his life; it was at the heart of it: “I became a Christian at age 12; that’s not to say that everything I’ve done since that time is becoming to a Christian, but I believe the Lord had blessed us because we recognize Him on this special day we call Sunday … I do not condemn a person for opening on Sunday; it is just a principle I stand very firmly on for my business.”

Mr. Cathy founded the WinShape Foundation out of his deep love for children, born of his own straitened childhood. As its website describes it, “The WinShape Foundation was created by Chick-fil-A founder, S. Truett Cathy, and his wife, Jeannette, in 1982. The simple vision then, as it is today, was to strengthen families and bring people closer to God and each other. Each ministry within the WinShape Foundation is committed to equipping Christ-centered servant leaders who live life on purpose; with purpose; from children to college students, families, couples, business leaders and others in need around the world.”

He never lost perspective on what’s important; “It’s OK to have wealth,” said Mr. Cathy, “but keep it in your hands, not in your heart.”

Mr. Cathy shared his testimony in his book, Eat Mor Chikin, explaining how Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus on the necessity of being born again changed his life. You can read his account in his book — or, as I’m sure Mr. Cathy would have agreed, go to the original source (the Gospel of John, chapter 3) and read it for yourself.

A wonderful life, well-lived, not just because Truett Cathy was ethical or kind or generous or successful, but because the love of Jesus infused him.

A “God” that is not God; Victoria Beeching, love and acceptance

by Travis Weber

August 21, 2014

At First Things, Professor Robert George usefully explains internal viewpoints that are shaping external issues which are shattering our culture today.

The other week, Victoria Beeching, a well-known singer in the Christian music scene, came out and announced: “I am gay and God loves me just the way I am.” Ok, got it. But one understandable response to such a statement might be: “What makes you say that?”

In his article, Professor George looks to Plato’s description of the three forms of “atheism” — the belief that there simply is no God, the belief that God exists but doesn’t really care what goes on down here, and the belief that there is a God who sees what’s going on down here, but he is malleable and makes no demands of us. This third form, Professor George argues, is the biggest threat to the West today.

I would agree. Most acknowledge some sort of god, and many appeal to his existence regarding earthly affairs. While their appeals vary widely in form and substance, they still appeal to a god in some way, and thus recognize his relevance for our lives today. These facts dispense at the outset with the first two forms of atheism mentioned above. All one has to do is look to the appeals all around us and all over social media — “Jesus is love”; “Jesus never condemned anyone”; and Ms. Beeching’s “I am gay and God loves me just the way I am” etc., etc., to get a sense of the overwhelming prevalence of the view that God won’t tell you what to do, He just wants to hang out, and He loves you regardless of your actions. This view is of course convenient for human beings to hold (as Professor George points out), and ultimately places our authority over that of God — consequently removing Him from that station of authority in our lives which defines His very existence. God is thus obliterated, and our “god” becomes our desires.

No doubt some reading this will call me a “hate-monger” or some such term, and in doing so, will only help me prove my point. Nevertheless, I will point out, as it is important to do, that my communication of these truths is done in love. Of course, God’s love is all-encompassing and greater than we can conceive, but this does not entitle us to deny His truths and objective reality. A firm distinction must be made between loving the person no matter what he or she chooses to do (and we are all called to do that), but not enabling him or her to live according to a subjective reality based on one of these forms of atheism. It is no love which ceases to act to draw people into a right relationship with God (which is my desire) — but this can only be done by presenting the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God.

The Roots of the Islamist Movement

by Connor Headrick

August 18, 2014

The recent conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip has reignited debates about moral culpability, civilian casualties, and the actual history of the relationship between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs. What drives both sides in the conflict? What are their ultimate goals? In a recent article, I examined the stated purpose of Hamas, a terrorist group with the self-articulated goal of destroying Israel and the Jews.

How can such a claim be taken seriously? In the West, we find it hard to grasp the fact that calls for genocide can be issued with utmost conviction and commitment. How can a movement of individuals desire the destruction of an ethnic group? Can it really be out of pure racism or hatred? Surely there must be another explanation.

And so we come to one of the darkest movements of our day: Islamism. The Islamist movement is defined by Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum as “an ideology that demands man’s complete adherence to the sacred law of Islam and rejects as much as possible outside influence, with some exceptions (such as access to military and medical technology). It is imbued with a deep antagonism towards non-Muslims and has a particular hostility towards the West… Islamism is, in other words, yet another twentieth-century radical utopian scheme. Like Marxism-Leninism or fascism, it offers a way to control the state, run society, and remake the human being. It is an Islamic-flavored version of totalitarianism.”

Again, the idea of Islamism as an ideology that is actually serious about promoting a totalitarian society strikes our Western sensibilities as strange. Surely, we may think skeptically, there must be some misunderstanding, some nuance to the situation that simply isn’t apparent.

As complex as every movement is upon deeper examination, the core tenants of the Islamist movement are very black and white. At the root of Islamism is a desire for the establishment of Islamic government under Islamic law, and an accompanying hatred of and desire for the destruction of the Jews. Hamas’ Charter is a clear example of this, but Islamism is much bigger than simply Hamas. The history and statements of the movement itself prove it.

Islamism, German analyst Matthais Kuntzel explains, was born in the 1930s, and it grew into an immediately recognizable organization. “It was the Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928, that established Islamism as a mass movement,” Kuntzel writes. It was and remains to this day the ideological reference point and organizational core for all later Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda and Hamas.” Incidentally, Hamas was spawned by the Muslim Brotherhood, and Article Two of its own charter declared it to be one of the wings of the Muslim Brothers in Palestine.

The Brotherhood itself was founded by Hassan al-Banna, an Egyptian born in 1906. Middle East scholar David Meir-Levi writes, “While still in his teens, the young al-Banna and friends…met frequently to discuss the situation in the Middle East, to argue about the ills of Arab society, and to lament the decline of Islam. Their angst was in large part a reaction to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the end of the Muslim Caliphate, the British occupation of Egypt, and the resulting exposure of Arab society to Western values.”

Though the group began as an organization which met to preach on the need for moral reform, the face of the Muslim Brotherhood soon changed. “As the group expanded during the 1930’s and extended its activities well beyond its original religious revivalism, al-Banna began dreaming a greater Muslim dream: the restoration of the Caliphate. And it was this dream, which he believed could only become a reality by the sword, that won the hearts and minds of a growing legion of followers.”

The “Caliphate,” according to the Encyclopedia Britanica, is “the political-religious state comprising the Muslim community and the lands and peoples under its dominion in the centuries following the death of the Prophet Muhammad.” () In other words, the goal of the Brotherhood is to re-establish Islamic hegemony over lands once ruled by Muslim leaders.

Kuntzel further analyzes the primary goals of Islamism in its formative days. He writes, “It is true that British colonial policy produced Islamism, insofar as Islamism viewed itself as a resistance movement against ‘cultural modernity.’ The Islamists’ solution was the call for a new order based on sharia. But the Brotherhood’s jihad was not directed primarily against the British. Rather, it focused almost exclusively on Zionism and the Jews.”

Meir-Levi introduces a major player in the history of the Muslim Brotherhood: the Hajj Amin al-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. In the Great Arab Revolt of 1936-1939, Al-Husseini “incited his followers to a three-year war against the Jews in Palestine and the British who administered the Mandate. In 1936 the Brotherhood had about 800 members, but by 1938, just two years into the ‘Revolt,’ its membership had grown to almost 200,000[.]”

The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood was not peaceful, either. “To achieve that broader dream of a global jihad,” Meir-Levi writes, “the Brotherhood developed a network of underground cells, stole weapons, trained fighters, formed secret assassination squads, founded sleeper cells of subversive supporters in the ranks of the army and police, and waited for the order to go public with terrorism, assassinations, and suicide missions.”

Islamism has a history of violence and the pointed goal of re-establishing an Islamic Caliphate. Here, the history of Islamism grows even darker.

It was during this time,” Meir-Levi writes, “that the Muslim Brotherhood found a soul mate in Nazi Germany. The Reich offered great power connections to the movement, but the relationship brokered by the Brotherhood was more than a marriage of convenience. Long before the war, al-Banna had developed an Islamic religious ideology which previewed Hitler’s Nazism. Both movements sought world conquest and domination. Both were triumphalist and supremacist: in Nazism the Aryan must rule, while in al-Banna’s Islam, the Muslim religion must hold dominion. Both advocated subordination of the individual to a folkish central power. Both were explicitly anti-nationalist in the sense that they believed in the liquidation of the nation-state in favor of a trans-national unifying community: in Islam the umma (community of all believers); and in Nazism the herrenvolk (master race). Both worshipped the unifying totalitarian figure of the Caliph or Führer. And both rabidly hated the Jews and sought their destruction.”

The historical ties between the Nazism and Islamism are not simply ideological similarities. The relationship between the two movements is frightening. Meir-Levi adds:

When the Second World War broke out, al-Banna worked to firm up a formal alliance with Hitler and Mussolini. He sent them letters and emissaries, and urged them to assist him in his struggle against the British and the westernized regime of King Farouk. The Intelligence Service of the Muslim Brotherhood vigorously collected information on the heads of the regime in Cairo and on the movements of the British army, offering this and more to the Germans in return for closer relations. During the ‘Great Arab Revolt’ of 1936-9, which al-Husseini helped organize and which Germany funded, the swastika was used as a mark of identity on Arabic leaflets and graffiti. Arab children welcomed each other with the Hitler salute, and a sea of German flags and pictures of Hitler were displayed at celebrations.

Additionally, when al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, fled from British troops sent to end the Arab Revolt, he found his way to Berlin, where he worked with the Nazis for the remainder of World War II. Kuntzel notes, “Based in Berlin from 1941 to 1945, he had directed the Muslim SS divisions in the Balkans and had been personally responsible for blocking negotiations late in the war that might have saved thousands of Jewish children from the gas chambers.”

Chuck Morse, a journalist, radio show host, and author who has written extensively on the ties between Islamism and the Nazis, states, “It should be noted that the main line of propaganda used by Hitler and the Mufti against the Jews was that there was a Jewish conspiracy to rule the world. This was the basic thesis used against the Jews by Hitler in Mein Kampf and previously, in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Russian forgery that was widely disseminated in those years.”

Al-Husseini’s actions are further documented by Meir-Levi: “On March 1, 1944, the Mufti called out in a broadcast from Zeesen: ‘Arabs! Rise as one and fight for your sacred rights. Kill the Jews wherever you find them. Kill them with your teeth if need be. This pleases God, history, and religion. This saves your honor.’ His goal, with the help of the Nazis, was ‘to solve the question of the Jewish elements in Palestine and in other Arab countries as required by national interests, and in the same way as the Jewish question in the Axis lands is being solved.’ His own memoirs, and the testimony of German defendants at the Nuremberg trials later on, showed that he planned a death camp modeled on Auschwitz to be constructed near Nablus for the genocide of Palestine’s Jews.”

After the end of World War II, however, Western leaders allowed al-Husseini to escape punishment “to avoid spoiling their relations with the Arab world,” as Kuntzel puts it. It was this same al-Husseini who, along with al-Banna, spearheaded the movement to reject a two-state solution in 1947.

Meir-Levi continues:

[W]hen the question of Palestine came before the United Nations, he and Hassan al-Banna urged the Arab world to unite in opposition to it. The two men saw in the UN resolution for the partition of Palestine an example of the ‘Jewish world conspiracy,’ even though the plan provided for an Arab state in Palestine alongside of the Jewish one. But in their view a state for the Arabs of Palestine took a back seat to the eradication of Zionism and the annihilation of Palestine’s Jews. No Arab head of state had the courage to contradict al-Husseini’s rejectionism, and the Arab world’s enthusiastic reception of his message of hate and genocide ended any possibility of the peaceful implementation of the UN resolution and the creation of an Arab and a Jewish state side by side in the Palestine Mandate (80% of the Mandate had already been allocated to Jordan, whose population was more than two-thirds Palestinian Arab).

The wars against Israel in the following years further illustrate that the hatred of the Jews was not merely rhetoric. It was a firm belief which drove the Islamists to action.

As the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Arabia and Morocco invaded Israel in 1948, the general-secretary of the Arab League, Abd al-Rahman Azzam (aka Azzam Pasha), who had previously stated privately that he considered the partition of Palestine to be the only rational solution, now stood shoulder to shoulder with the Mufti. ‘This war,’ he declared on the day of the Arab attack, ‘will be a war of destruction.’ It was: but it was the armies assembled by Arab generals, many of whom had fought with Rommel in behalf of the Third Reich that were destroyed.

Islamist writer Sayyid Qutb, who visited the United States in the 1950s and was upset by what he perceived as the West’s cultural corruption, perpetuated the core ideologies of Islamism and the hatred of the Jews. Meir-Levi examines Qutb’s influence on Islamism:

But whatever America’s intentions, Qutb declared in his seminal essay, ‘Our Struggle against the Jews,’ it was crucial to understand that the Jew was the root of all the world’s evil. Picking up on the Nazi ideology he had ingested as a member of the Brotherhood, Qutb wrote that Jews were responsible for the world’s moral decay, and the West’s animalistic sexual depravity. It was the Jews who had created the anti-Islamic doctrines of atheistic materialism, godless socialism, and democratic individualism. The Jews, therefore, were the perpetual enemies of Islam. This essay, arguably the single most important manifesto of Islamic fascist anti-Semitism in the modern world, was distributed in millions of copies throughout the Islamic world with the help of Wahabbist Islamic sect in Saudi Arabia.”

Qutb, whose understanding of American history reads a like a junior high parody, even hated the fact that Americans have green grass lawns. He was instrumental in providing continuing momentum for the Islamist movement.

Kuntzel brings us full circle in his statement addressing how we interpret these behaviors from a Western mentality.

The refusal…to recognize the substance of Islamist ideology — the death cult, the hatred of the Jews, and the profound hatred of freedom — leads back again and again to the mistaken ‘discovery’ that the ‘root cause’ of terrorism is U.S. policies. Ultimately, the refusal to recognize al-Qaeda’s true motives results in a reversal of responsibility: The more deadly the terrorism, the greater the American guilt.”

He continues

The same pattern explains the bizarre reaction to the Middle east conflict that is widespread in the West: The average observer, ignorant of the anti-Jewish content of the Hamas Charter, has to find some other explanation for terrorism against Jews, which must be — Israel. It is not the terrorists who are guilty, but their victims. Finding suicide terrorism incomprehensible, Westerners rationalize it as an act of despair that invites sympathy…Here, too, following the principle of ‘the more barbaric the anti-Jewish terror, the greater the Israeli guilt,’ the bombers’ victims become the scapegoat for global terrorism. The old stereotype of Jewish guilt is thus amplified in contemporary form — and only encourages the terrorists.

The hatred of the Jews within Islamism is not an antiquated notion that has died away through the years. It continues to this day. Meir-Levi observes, “The long legacy of Arab and Palestinian Nazism, and the Hitlerite themes of lebensraum, ethnic cleansing and genocide, continue to echo in the Middle East today. Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, said of the Jews after the Lebanon war of 2006: ‘If they gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them nationwide.’ Mahmoud Zahar, Hamas Foreign Minister, says: ‘I dream of hanging a huge map of the world on the wall at my Gaza home which does not show Israel on it.’ And most chillingly, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former President of Iran, looks ahead to the next holocaust and final solution: ‘The use of a nuclear bomb in Israel will leave nothing on the ground, whereas it will only damage the world of Islam.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once said, “Now, as for Israel, if history has taught the Jewish people anything, it is that we must take calls for our destruction seriously. We are a nation that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust. When we say ‘Never again,’ we mean never again.”

The infamous al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, expressed a hatred toward the Jews which even played into his opposition toward America. He said in a letter addressed to the American people, “The Jews have taken control of your media, and now control all aspects of your life making you their servants and achieving their aims at your expense…Your law is the law of rich and wealthy people…Behind them stand the Jews who control your policies, media and economy.”

In a post-9/11 trial in Hamburg, the ideas of Mohamed Atta, one of the pilots who flew aircraft into the World Trade Center, and the others among the conspiracy came under scrutiny. Kuntzel reports, “One participant in the Koran circle meetings, Shahid Nickels, said Atta’s Weltanschauung was based upon a ‘National Socialist way of thinking.’ Atta was convinced that the Jews were striving for world domination and considered New York City the center of world Jewery, which was, in his opinion, Enemy No. 1. Fellow students who lived in Motassedeq’s [another of the al-Qaeda cell responsible for the 9/11 attacks] dormitory testified that he shared these views and waxed enthusiastic about a forthcoming ‘big action.’ One student quoted Motassedeq as saying ‘The Jews will burn and in the end we will dance on their graves.’”

The violence of the Islamist movement is especially clear today within Iraq, where the self-proclaimed Islamic State has declared itself to be the new Islamic Caliphate. The article ISIS and the Birth of Early Islam” compares the violence in Iraq today to the violent expansion of Islam in its early years, stating, “When an invading force entered a non-Muslim land, individuals had three choices: convert to Islam, pay a tax (jizya), or die. Fast-forward to today and this is the very same thing that is happening to Christians in Iraq by the Islamic State.” The same article observes, “Christian homes are being marked with the Arabic letter ? (nun) for Nazarene, reminiscent of the Jewish Star of David in the early days of Nazism in Germany. Thousands are fleeing, dying, or being left for dead by having food and water sources cut off from them.” Other Islamic nations and organizations are not happy with the creation of ISIS, but one fact is clear: ISIS is the product of a virulent Islamist ideology that utilizes violence against those who do not adhere to its tenants.

The movement of Islamism and its calls for genocide of the Jews now and throughout history are real. Let us recognize the Islamist movement as the threat it is, and stand up against the perpetuation of a belief that calls for the annihilation of Israel and all Jews.

The Government’s Judgment of Religion

by James Wheeler

August 6, 2014

Others have written about the threats posed to religious liberty by the President’s Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of so-called “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” and by the White House’s refusal to provide a more robust religious liberty exception. However, the administration’s interpretation of the effect of the executive order is even more troubling. In fact, the administration’s interpretation could very well turn religious liberty on its head.

In a statement, the administration insisted that religious organizations can decide to hire only members of the same religion, but cannot refuse to hire someone “who is of [their] faith who happens to be LGBT.” What about those religions that would hold that a willfully practicing, unrepentant homosexual could not be a member of that religion? If such an individual claims to share the religion of a potential employer, must the employer hire the individual? The administration’s statement sure seems to suggest that. What’s more, Travis Weber, Director of FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty, asked the administration to clarify this important matter in an online Q & A session over a week ago and the administration has so far refused to do so — the White House instead responded to softball questions and platitudes about what a great job the administration is doing on a variety of topics, many irrelevant to the actual Executive Order.

The administration’s interpretation would upend one of the most fundamental principles in religious liberty law: The government cannot decide which religious doctrines are valid and which are not. But that is what the government would do if it forced a religious organization to employ a practicing homosexual in violation of the religious beliefs of the organization simply because the practicing homosexual “is of [its] faith.” The administration is telling millions of Americans that believe that homosexual behavior is a sin and that willful, unrepentant sins necessitate removing an individual from fellowship that those beliefs are unimportant. They are telling us that the government, and not we, will decide whether an individual who violates the tenants of our faith is still a member of our religion. That has been the very antithesis of religious liberty jurisprudence for decades, if not centuries. For the government to single out some beliefs for approbation and others for reprobation is to make government the arbiter of religious belief, something completely forbidden by the Constitution.

Because of these implications of the administration’s interpretation of the executive order, virtually every court that has ever considered religious exemptions in other non-discrimination laws has concluded that they must reach to employment decisions that are religiously motivated without considering whether the employer and employee share the same faith, even when the language of the exception appears limited to only decisions based on whether the employee belongs to the employer’s religion. These courts have recognized that to examine whether an individual shares the religion of an employer would require a court to examine the relative importance of beliefs within a religion (i.e. which beliefs about conduct, if violated, are enough to kick a person out) and would necessarily entangle courts in deciding questions of religious doctrine. Unfortunately, the administration is unwilling to acknowledge this problem; instead insisting that while it is permissible to not consider an individual a member of your religion for a multitude of reasons, if your reason is that individual’s unrepentant, willful homosexual practice, then your reason isn’t really religious enough to be protected. That turns religious liberty on its head, and was wisely forbidden in the Constitution.

Genocide in Iraq

by Travis Weber

July 31, 2014

It is hard to ignore the disturbing reports emerging from Iraq which contribute to mounting evidence of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’s (ISIS) extermination of Christians and anything reflecting the Christian religion. Congressman Frank Wolf and others have spoken persuasively and forcefully on this tragedy. Yet judging by the actions (or lack thereof) of our president and the other leaders of the free world, one wouldn’t think much was going on in Iraq. However, the available evidence shows that ISIS’s extermination of Christians is one of the clearest cases of genocide since World War II.

What little President Obama has said about preventing atrocities in foreign lands has centered on the Responsibility to Protect – a relatively recent doctrine which is not clearly established or grounded in international law. While its validity can be debated, there exist clearer grounds on which to address the plight of Iraq’s Christians  – the obligation to prevent genocide contained in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948.

After the horror of the Nazi ideology and ensuing Holocaust was fully realized, the nations of the world gathered together, formed the United Nations, and affirmed they would never let such horrors happen again. The Genocide Convention laid down into international law a binding treaty arrangement in which contracting nations agreed to “undertake to prevent and to punish” genocide. As part of this obligation, parties could “call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action … as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide.” Some argue that the “obligation to prevent” is not a clear, independent requirement of the treaty, but that argument is overcome by the clear language and purpose of the treaty, and a decision of the International Court of Justice holding that the treaty contains a clear, independent obligation to prevent genocide. Indeed, the whole point of the treaty was to prevent horrors like the Holocaust from happening again.

According to the Convention, genocide consists of “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” –

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

While only one of these acts is required to have genocide, ISIS clearly appears to have engaged in at least the first three acts listed above. It appears to have undertaken them with the “intent to destroy” Christians and Christian heritage in Iraq “in whole,” and at least “in part.” Christians are a “religious group.” If the elements of this crime are not met in this case, I’m not sure when they are.

The responsibility to prevent genocide contained in the Genocide Convention requires that the United States and other parties to the treaty act to prevent genocide when they recognize it is occurring. It is difficult to deny that genocide of Iraq’s Christians is currently underway. In other instances, nations have refrained from calling genocide “genocide” (such as in the Darfur region of Sudan several years ago, or in Rwanda in the early 1990s) out of fear of triggering their legal obligation to act to prevent genocide under the Genocide Convention. Is this the effect the treaty was intended to have? It is inconceivable that a mechanism designed to prevent future atrocities would be used as a reason to avoid denouncing those atrocities. Yet there is reason to believe nations have and will continue to operate this way.

While governments may try to craft arguments against their obligation if they do not want to address the issue, that will become more difficult as more facts come to light. The evidence from Iraq is clear – ISIS’ stated intent is to target Christians, which is a classification based on religion, one of the requirements for genocide. No nation which is a party to the Genocide Convention should be able to escape its requirement to act to prevent what ISIS is now doing to Iraq’s Christians.

Over twenty years ago, President Clinton hesitated to take decisive action to stop genocide in Rwanda. He avoided calling it genocide precisely because of the concerns expressed here – the United States would be obligated to do something if genocide was recognized. As a result, over a million lives were lost. Several years later, President Clinton went to Rwanda and admitted his error.

 

Yet this is precisely the point of the binding legal “obligation to prevent” contained in the Genocide Convention – it should not be able to be manipulated according to the shifting winds of foreign policy. It was always understood that binding obligations were necessary to prevent nations from wavering in the future when memories of the Holocaust started to fade.

The Genocide Convention was designed to prevent future horrors. Yet the nations of the world now stand by as genocide of Christians occurs before their very eyes in Iraq. All the elements of this crime are met, and we have an obligation to prevent it. What are we waiting for? That same question, which was asked of Nazi appeasers in the 1930s and President Clinton in the 1990s, will someday be asked of us about Iraq.

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