Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Save the gay Saudi diplomat?

A Saudi diplomat, who is seeking political asylum (first reported on September 11th by NBC) in the United States, could very well face an extremely hostile and potentially life-threatening environment if he is returned to Saudi Arabia, cautions the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in a news release yesterday.

As Leonard Leo, USCIRF chair (understatedly) notes: "There is no tolerance for views or beliefs outside the official line [in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia]."

Ali Ahmad Asseri, the diplomat, happens also to be openly gay and has (reportedly) "befriended a Jewish woman."

Mr. Asseri, on his part, claims that the Saudi government terminated him from his job as first secretary at the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles; refusing also to renew his diplomatic passport, because "he openly criticized the Saudi religious establishment on the Internet."

Whatever the facts, according to the U.S. Department of State, homosexuality is indeed punishable by "flogging or death" (and/or at least much abuse in prison) in Saudi Arabia.

Earlier this year, USCIRF confirmed that textbooks posted on the Saudi Ministry of Education’s website "continue to teach hatred toward faiths and beliefs other than the Saudi government-backed version of Islam, and, in some cases, actually promote violence."

As Slate in an article from last September (cited by the most recent USCIRF report on Saudi Arabia) notes:
"In the 1960s and '70s, Wahhabism was fused with radical Egyptian salafism—a return to the way Islam was practiced in the first three centuries of its existence—when Saudi Arabia granted sanctuary to Egyptian firebrands escaping the wave of secular Arab nationalism in their home country.
Now, Wahhabi-salafis exert near-total control over the Saudi ministries of education and justice—and the religious police. Millions of teachers, judges, and sheiks constantly remind the public that the Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia is the only true Islam, and anyone who deviates from the faith is an unbeliever. In some cases, the thinking has gone, those unbelievers deserve to be punished."
So what's really going on here?

According to a report in Foreign Policy:
"Washington [therefore] faces an extremely serious dilemma. If it sends Asseri home, and he is killed, there will be outrage, not only in the United States but especially in Western Europe. On the other hand, if it grants him asylum, it will be opening the door for diplomats representing the majority of the world's states who may declare themselves gay and then seek asylum in America. That may not be a precedent that the United States wishes to set for itself, especially in light of the strong feelings over an issue that continues to divide the American electorate."

If religion were indeed the main concern here, 6 billion plus voices should be raised.

This is just slightly more complicated.

Seems that the USCIRF might just be grandstanding a bit with this one (September-November blues?), but surely, if any country deserves it . . .

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pope visit stirs up animal rights activists, too

A story on food and Sharia law hits the waves today via The Mail, Great Britain's conservative Sunday tabloid while The Pope makes his visit there:
"A Mail on Sunday investigation – which will alarm anyone concerned about animal cruelty – has revealed that schools, hospitals, pubs and famous sporting venues such as Ascot and Twickenham are controversially serving up meat slaughtered in accordance with strict Islamic law to unwitting members of the public. All the beef, chicken and lamb sold to fans at Wembley has secretly been prepared in accordance with sharia law, while Cheltenham College, which boasts of its ‘strong Christian ethos’, is one of several top public schools which also serves halal chicken to pupils without informing them."
Knocking animals out with a bolt gun, the usual action in British slaughter­houses, is expressly forbidden by sharia law. Instead, according to dhabiha, the prescribed method of Muslim ritual slaughter, animals must be sentient when their throats are cut; with the blood allowed to gush and drip out leaving negligible amounts of blood remaining in the body.

Similarities to Jewish dietary laws are likely, but only briefly noted.

Animal rights groups are decidedly beside themselves and their animal friends and see now as the right time to strike.

Read more here.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Tweet and A Whimper

Turns out now that the original Terry Jones "threat" to burn Korans began with a few tweets on Twitter according to this piece from the "On Faith" column yesterday:
"On the afternoon of July 12, the Rev. Terry Jones fired off a series of messages on Twitter, decrying Islam as fascism and President Obama's support for a new Kenyan constitution that could permit abortion and codify Islamic law. His final one for the day said this: 9/11/2010 Int Burn a Koran Day."
While State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley notes that, "this is not the first time something like this has happened," the media and the Muslim world remain rightfully upset with the entire episode, particularly in light of the continuing contentiousness over the proposed Islamic center at Ground Zero in New York City.

Sincere concerns of a "fringe" believer or publicity stunt?

You decide.

In the meantime, (Terry Jones' site) seems to be getting a face lift.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Confronting Hate

According to an announcement on the Military Religious Freedom Foundation website:
"After being contacted by scores of our active duty military clients asking us to do something in response to Terry Jones’ planned “Burn A Koran Day,” MRFF has decided that the most appropriate response would not be to try to stop Jones, but to donate to the Afghan National Army, as a gesture of good will and a statement of opposition to this entirely un-American act of religious bigotry, a new Qur’an for each one destroyed by Jones and his followers. "
Meanwhile, as Pastor Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center before the press once again today stated, "We are not convinced that backing down is the right thing," an Imam from a local Florida Muslim group present, personally approached and urged him to do that very thing.

"I strongly believe at the end of the day he will make the right step and call off the event," said Muhammad Musri, head of the Islamic Society for Central Florida.

And in Washington, D.C., the Council on American-Islamic Relations has said that it will announce on Thursday an initiative, called "Learn, Don't Burn" [Not this one] that will distribute 200,000 Koran texts to replace the 200 copies that the Florida church plans to burn.

Hitchens on "Free Exercise"

Famed author, journalist and atheist Christopher Hitchens currently between lecture engagements and fighting esophageal cancer writes lucidly and provocatively on a subject ever near his heart - the future of human beings, particularly those of us who claim to love God.

As he sums up the current, growing fiasco known as the "Ground Zero Mosque Debate":
"Those who wish that there would be no mosques in America have already lost the argument: Globalization, no less than the promise of American liberty, mandates that the United States will have a Muslim population of some size. The only question, then, is what kind, or rather kinds, of Islam it will follow. There's an excellent chance of a healthy pluralist outcome, but it's very unlikely that this can happen unless, as with their predecessors on these shores, Muslims are compelled to abandon certain presumptions that are exclusive to themselves. The taming and domestication of religion is one of the unceasing chores of civilization. Those who pretend that we can skip this stage in the present case are deluding themselves and asking for trouble not just in the future but in the immediate present."

Hitchens (left) last night in Birmingham [Photo:]

Read the rest of Hitchen's important treatise published on Slate here.