What Hillary Clinton Should Say about Islam and the “War on Terror”

The following is part of a speech that I think Hillary Clinton should deliver between now and November. Its purpose is to prevent a swing toward Trump by voters who find Clinton’s political correctness on the topic of Islam and jihadism a cause for concern, especially in the aftermath of any future terrorist attacks in the U.S. or Europe.

Source and Author: Sam Harris

Emphasis Mine

The following is part of a speech that I think Hillary Clinton should deliver between now and November. Its purpose is to prevent a swing toward Trump by voters who find Clinton’s political correctness on the topic of Islam and jihadism a cause for concern, especially in the aftermath of any future terrorist attacks in the U.S. or Europe.—SH

Today, I want to talk about one of the most important and divisive issues of our time—the link between the religion of Islam and terrorism. I want you to know how I view it and how I will think about it as President. I also want you to understand the difference between how I approach this topic and how my opponent in this presidential race does.

The underlying issue—and really the most important issue of this or any time—is human cooperation. What prevents it, and what makes it possible? In November, you will be electing a president, not an emperor of the world. The job of the president of the United States, even with all the power at her or his disposal, is to get people, both at home and abroad, to cooperate to solve a wide range of complex problems. Your job is to pick the person who seems most capable of doing that.

In the past, I’ve said that groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda have nothing to do with Islam. And President Obama has said the same. This way of speaking has been guided by the belief that if we said anything that could be spun as confirming the narrative of groups like ISIS—suggesting that the West is hostile to the religion of Islam, if only to its most radical strands—we would drive more Muslims into the arms of the jihadists and the theocrats, preventing the very cooperation we need to win a war of ideas against radical Islam. I now see this situation differently. I now believe that we have been selling most Muslims short. And I think we are all paying an unacceptable price for not speaking clearly about the link between specific religious ideas and the sectarian hatred that is dividing the Muslim world.

All of us, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, must oppose the specific ideas within the Islamic tradition that inspire groups like ISIS and the so-called “lone-wolf” attacks we’ve now seen in dozens of countries, as well as the social attitudes that are at odds with our fundamental values—values like human rights, and women’s rights, and gay rights, and freedom of speech. These values are non-negotiable.

But I want to be very clear about something: Bigotry against Muslims, or any other group of people, is unacceptable. It is contrary to the values that have made our society a beacon of freedom and tolerance for the rest of the world. It is also totally counterproductive from a security point of view. However, talking about the consequences of ideas is not bigotry. Muslims are people—and most of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims simply want to live in peace like the rest of us. Islam, however, is a set of ideas. And all ideas are fit to be discussed and criticized in the 21st century.

Every religious community must interpret its scripture and adjust its traditions to conform to the modern world. Western Christians used to murder people they believed were witches. They did this for centuries. It’s hard to exaggerate the depths of moral and intellectual confusion this history represents. But it is also true that we have largely outgrown such confusion in the West. The texts themselves haven’t changed. The Bible still suggests that witchcraft is real. It isn’t. And we now know that a belief in witches was the product of ancient ignorance and fear. Criticizing a belief in witchcraft, and noticing its connection to specific atrocities—atrocities that are still committed by certain groups of Christians in Africa—isn’t a form of bigotry against Christians. It’s the only basis for moral and political progress.

One thing is undeniable: Islam today is in desperate need of reform. We live in a world where little girls are shot in the head or have acid thrown in their faces for the crime of learning to read. We live in a world where a mere rumor that a book has been defaced can start riots in a dozen countries. We live in a world in which people reliably get murdered over cartoons, and blog posts, and beauty pageants—even the mere naming of a teddy bear. I’m now convinced that we have to talk about this with less hesitancy and more candor than we’ve shown in the past. Muslims everywhere who love freedom must honestly grapple with the challenges that a politicized strand of their religion poses to free societies. And we must support them in doing so. Otherwise, our silence will only further empower bigots and xenophobes. That is dangerous. We are already seeing the rise of the far right in Europe. And we are witnessing the coalescence of everything that’s still wrong with America in the candidacy of Donald Trump.

Now, it is true that this politicized strain of Islam is a source of much of the world’s chaos and intolerance at this moment. But it is also true that no one suffers more from this chaos and intolerance than Muslims themselves. Most victims of terrorism are Muslim; the women who are forced to wear burkhas or are murdered in so-called “honor killings” are Muslim; the men who are thrown from rooftops for being born gay are Muslim. Most of the people the world over who can’t even dream of speaking or writing freely are Muslim. And modern, reform-minded Muslims, most of all, want to uproot the causes of this needless misery and conflict.

In response to terrorist atrocities of the sort that we witnessed in Paris, Nice, and Orlando, we need to honestly acknowledge that we are fighting not generic terrorism but a global jihadist insurgency. The first line of defense against this evil is and always will be members of the Muslim community who refuse to put up with it. We need to empower them in every way we can. Only cooperation between Muslims and non-Muslims can solve these problems. If you are concerned about terrorism, if you are concerned about homeland security, if you are concerned about not fighting unnecessary wars and winning necessary ones, if you are concerned about human rights globally, in November you must elect a president who can get people in a hundred countries to cooperate to solve an extraordinarily difficult and polarizing problem—the spread of Islamic extremism. This is not a job that a president can do on Twitter.

I want to say a few words on the topics of immigration and the resettlement of refugees: The idea of keeping all Muslims out of the United States, which my opponent has been proposing for months, is both impractical and unwise. It’s one of those simple ideas—like building a wall and deporting 11 million undocumented workers—that doesn’t survive even a moment’s scrutiny. More important, if you think about this purely from the point of view of American security, you realize that we want Muslims in our society who are committed to our values. Muslims like Captain Humayun Khan, who died protecting his fellow American soldiers from a suicide bomber in Iraq. Or his father, Khizr Khan, who spoke so eloquently in defense of American values at the Democratic National Convention. Muslims who share our values are, and always will be, the best defense against Islamists and jihadists who do not.

That’s one reason why the United States is faring so much better than Europe is. We have done a much better job of integrating our Muslim community and honoring its religious life. Muslims in America are disproportionately productive and prosperous members of our society. They love this country—with good reason. Very few of them have any sympathy for the ideology of our enemies. We want secular, enlightened, liberal Muslims in America. They are as much a part of the fabric of this society as anyone else. And given the challenges we now face, they are an indispensable part.

Despite the counsel of fear you hear from my opponent, security isn’t our only concern. We also have an obligation to maintain our way of life and our core values, even in the face of threats. One of our values is to help people in need. And few people on earth are in greater need at this moment than those who are fleeing the cauldron of violence in Iraq and Syria—where, through no fault of their own, they have had to watch their societies be destroyed by sectarian hatred. Women and girls by the tens of thousands have been raped, in a systematic campaign of sexual violence and slavery. Parents have seen their children crucified. The suffering of these people is unimaginable, and we should help them—whether they are Yazidi, or Christian, or Muslim. But here is my pledge to you: No one will be brought into this country without proper screening. No one will be brought in who seems unlikely to embrace the values of freedom and tolerance that we hold dear.  Is any screening process perfect? Of course not. But I can tell you that the only way to actually win the war on terror will be to empower the people who most need our help in the Muslim world.

The irony is that my opponent in this race, who imagines that he is talking tough about terrorism and ISIS and Islam, has done nothing but voice inflammatory and incoherent ideas that, if uttered by a U.S. president, would immediately make the world a more dangerous place. Being “politically incorrect” isn’t the same as being right, or informed, or even sane. It isn’t a substitute for actually caring about other people or about the consequences of one’s actions in the world. It isn’t a policy. And it isn’t a strategy for winning the war against jihadism, or a war of ideas against radical Islam…

see:www.samharris.org

The Moral Challenge Bernie Sanders Brought to the House Falwell Built

Source:ourfuture

Author:Issah J. Poole

Emphasis Mine

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Monday went to a pillar of the religious right – Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. – to make the case that fighting for economic justice is as moral an undertaking as such cornerstone issues for Christian conservatives as opposing abortion.

“It would, I think, be hard for anyone in this room to make the case that the United States today is a just society or anything close to a just society,” he said in his speech to packed convocation at the school founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, known for forming the Moral Majority political organization and leading its fervent crusades against gay rights, reproductive choice and other progressive positions on social issues. “There is no justice when the top one-tenth of 1 percent own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. There is no justice when all over this country people are working longer hours for lower wages, while 58 percent of all new income goes to the top 1 percent.”

Nor is there justice, he said, when “low-income and working-class mothers are forced to be separated from their new babies one or two weeks after giving birth” because “the United States is the only major country on earth that does not provide paid family and medical leave,” or when “thousands of people in this country die each year because they don’t have health insurance and don’t get to a doctor when they should.”

I am not a theologian or an expert on the Bible or a Catholic,” he said at one point. “I am just a U.S. senator from the small state of Vermont. But I agree with Pope Francis when he says, ‘The current financial crisis… originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.’”

Sanders early in his address quoted the words of Jesus Christ in the gospel of Matthew (as rendered in the New International Version, a Bible translation popular with conservatives): “So in everything, do to others what you would have them to do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” He closed with a challenge to students seeking to discern how to apply that scripture and other themes of the Gospel to their political engagement: “I would hope very much that as part of that discussion and part of that learning process, some of you will conclude that, if we are honest in striving to be a moral and just society, it is imperative that we have the courage to stand with the poor, to stand with working people, and when necessary, take on very powerful and wealthy people whose greed, in my view, is doing this country enormous harm.”

In a question-and-answer session afterward, Liberty University Vice President for Spiritual Development David Nasser sought to show common ground with Sanders on making eradicating the vestiges of racism and racial inequality from the society a top priority. But when Nasser quoted presidential candidate Mike Huckabee in saying that racism “is a sin problem, not a skin problem,” Sanders reminded him that it took a Supreme Court, a civil rights movement and “public policy” to end segregation and lay the groundwork for improved race relations.

Sanders also challenged people who fight for “the protection of the unborn” to join him in the fight against threats to the already-born as a result of budget decisions being made by Republicans in Congress, such as proposals that he said would cause 27 million people to lose access to health care, cut billions of dollars in foods assistance to low-income families and cut funding for college aid for low-income students by $90 billion – while giving $250 billion in tax relief over the next 10 years to the top 0.2 percent of wealth holders.

“I don’t think that’s a moral budget,” he said.

See: http://ourfuture.org/20150914/the-moral-challenge-bernie-sanders-brought-to-the-house-falwell-built

5 Bobby Jindal Moments That Prove His ‘Stupid Party’ Bona Fides

The Louisiana governor’s support of the Religious Right’s attack on gay rights should give you pause.

Source: Right Wing Watch, via AlterNet

Author: Brian Tashman

Emphasis Mine

It is almost sad to watch Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, struggling at 0 percent in presidential polls, embrace the “dumbed-down conservatism” and “stupid party” mantras that he once vociferously denounced. Jindal, who today made his presidential bid official today, has by now emerged as a “stupid party” standard-bearer:

Spreading Creationism

As we’ve reported, “Jindal has led an aggressive push in his home state for the privatization of public education and the taxpayer funding of religious schools, even directing taxpayer dollars to schools espousing Creationism, which he said would let kids ‘be exposed to the best facts.’”

Thanks to Jindal’s policies, taxpayer money is now going towards Creationist schools which teach that humans and dinosaurs lived side-by-side, citing  dragons and the Loch Ness monster as proof. At the same time, Jindal has cut the state university system’s budget to the bone and advocated for even deeper cuts.

Jindal’s support for Creationism in schools has brought international notoriety to the state, as over 70 Nobel Laureates signed a letter reminding the governor that “scientific education should accurately portray the premises and processes of science. Teaching religious ideas mislabeled as science is detrimental to scientific education: It sets up a false conflict between science and religion, misleads our youth about the nature of scientific inquiry, and thereby compromises our ability to respond to the problems of an increasingly technological world.”

Sharia A-Comin’!

While Jindal made Louisiana a laughingstock with his stand for Creationism, he brought the state further disrepute when he traveled abroad to claim that Sharia law “no-go zones” are springing up around Europe and will soon come to the United States. Seemingly relying on debunked talking points from Fox News and anti-Muslim activists, Jindal didn’t know how to react when a reporter in London asked if he could name a single Sharia law “no-go zone” in the British capital. He responded that he did not actually know where they exist.

Anti-Gay Activism

Jindal has been so committed to the Religious Right’s attack on gay rights that when state lawmakers backed away from legislation that would have potentially enshrined discrimination into law, Jindal signed an executive order based on the controversial bill. The governor believes that gay rights opponents are the “real victims of discrimination” in American society, pointing to A&E’s temporary suspension of the show Duck Dynasty after one of the cast members made racist and homophobic statements in a magazine interview as a sign that First Amendment freedoms are under “assault” as part of a “war on religious liberty.”

Religious freedom laws which don’t include protections for anti-LGBT businesses, Jindal warned, are “dangerous” and represent “an attack on our Constitution.”

A closeally of anti-gay extremist Tony Perkins, Jindal has also courted radical figures such as David Lane, who organized Jindal’s “Response” prayer rally. Prayer rally organizers distributed materials blaming gays for Hurricane Katrina and the whole thing was paid for by the American Family Association , one of the most virulently anti-LGBT groups in the country.

Caving To Anti-Tax Extremists

When it came to choosing between solving Louisiana’s self-inflicted budget crisis or catering to a D.C. lobbyist, Jindal chose the latter, leading to a rebellion even among his fellow Republicans. Jindal wants to keep his no-tax bona fides in place for the presidential campaign, and as a result has to please anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, whom some in Louisiana have calledGovernor Norquist” since Jindal will apparently only approve budget plans that have his blessing.

Instead of raising taxes outright to stave off a budget shortfall, the governor worked with Norquist on an opaque and complicated revenue scheme known as the SAVE Act which one lawmaker called the “DUMB Act.” With actions like these, it is no wonder that not even a third of Louisiana voters give Jindal a positive job approval rating.

Common Core Reversal

Once such a strong public supporter of Common Core that his endorsement of the education standards was featured in a pro-Common-Core ad by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Jindal read the polls about GOP resistance to Common Core — and the many conspiracy theories surrounding it — and has since emerged as one of its most vociferous critics.

Of course, Jindal’s attacks on Common Core defied reality, as he claims that it is a federal government takeover of education policy, even though it is and always has been a state-led initiative. “Look at the math, it makes absolutely no sense to a lot of our kids, including my own children,” he said.

He has even gone so far to file a lawsuit to block the implementation of Common Core, an effort rejected in court.

 

Brian Tashman is a research associate at Right Wing Watch, the blog of People for the American Way.

See: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/5-bobby-jindal-moments-prove-his-stupid-party-bona-fides?akid=13251.123424.vcMfzg&rd=1&src=newsletter1038465&t=13

Faithless

The uproars around Indiana’s new law and Scientology’s alleged abuses show how poorly we understand religious freedom

Source: Tablet

Author: Liel Leibovitz

Emphasis Mine

Just in time for Passover, that perennial blockbuster about a persecuted people struggling to free itself from the house of bondage, our hunger for sensational stories of religious intolerance was sated this week by a double serving of men of faith behaving badly. In Indiana, a state law designed to safeguard religious freedoms stirred controversy, with everyone from Hillary Clinton to Miley Cyrus crying out that the legislation is little more than a thinly veiled attempt to allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers. And on HBO, a new documentary about Scientology presented the Creed of Cruise as a sinister, violent cult designed to prey on the weak of heart and mind, a cabal of conspirators that has thrived largely due to its ability to muscle the authorities into exempting it from taxation. Spend too much time breathing in the fumes of the Internet outrage machine, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that we still had Pharaohs among us, mighty, imperious and bent on imposing their will on those yearning to be free.

Reality, thankfully, is far airier. Everywhere from Bloomington to Beverly Hills, our freedoms are doing just fine. The only thing that’s plagued is our religious imagination, that empathic quality necessary for envisioning a role for faith in public life. And that’s a big problem.

Consider the case of Indiana. The state’s law is a version of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which that bearded zealot Bill Clinton signed into law in 1993 after it enjoyed the support of all but three members of the Senate. Indiana is the 20th state to pass a local version of the RFRA, as the act is commonly known, into law; it was preceded by hotbeds of religious extremism like Connecticut and Rhode Island. No one cared then; why should we care now?

Because, said the law’s opponents, Indiana’s version of RFRA extended religious protections to private disputes as well, which means, say, that if a pious pastry chef in Terre Haute is commissioned to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, he could refuse on the grounds that his faith prohibits blessing gays with buttercream icing. To safeguard against such an alarming scenario, the state legislature, after much pressure, amended the law to exclude protections to anyone refusing “to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing” to anyone based on “race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service.”

It’s a soothing clarification, but one that may not have been altogether necessary. Under RFRA, anyone seeking protection on religious grounds has to prove that his or her core beliefs have been compromised. A Christian could compellingly argue, for example, that providing his employees with access to the morning-after pill stands in fundamental contradiction to his beliefs; this is what David Green, the owner of the Hobby Lobby chain of DIY stores, did in his now-famous—and successful—lawsuit. But search Corinthians as diligently as you will and you’re still not likely to find anything that might keep a florist from arranging a bouquet of peonies for two women who wish to exercise their state-given right and get married.

This isn’t to say that the original law’s purpose wasn’t to give weight to religious considerations when faced with other competing interests; writing in The Wall Street Journal, Indiana’s Gov. Mike Pence stated clearly that the law’s passage was influenced by the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling. Nor is it to say that no business would ever use the new law—even with the existing amendment in place—to try and discriminate against customers, and some critics argue that the language of the Indiana law—covering religious freedoms that are “likely to be” compromised—is too vague. Still, federal and state public accommodations laws are likely to prove a major hurdle to any future attempts to invoke RFRA as a reason to refuse someone service, which may help explain why, in three decades of federal and state laws, such attempts have been without precedent. More important, any business practicing discrimination will face the ultimate arbiter, the market: In his op-ed, Gov. Pence wrote that he would never frequent a business that refused to serve gay customers, and it’s highly likely that many, many others, in Indiana and elsewhere, would feel the same way.

And yet, many wagged their fingers at Indiana this week, including the presumed Democratic presidential candidate, who came out publicly in support of gay marriage long years after so many of us took to the streets to march for this fundamental civil right. “Sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today,” Hillary Clinton tweeted. “We shouldn’t discriminate against ppl bc of who they love #LGBT.” That the law has nothing to do with love, and that it is far, at least for anyone with a dollop of intellectual honesty, from a clear act of discrimination against the LGBT community was beside the point.

Why, then, the uproar? You may want to look for clues in Alex Gibney’s Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. The well-made film is a real-life thriller, and if you want to know whodunit you needn’t look further than its subtitle. The movie’s larger point isn’t that Scientology is particularly pernicious—although it goes to great lengths to portray its leader, David Miscavige, as a tiny, tanned tyrant—but rather that all faith is or may become so, what with its being so absolute and all. Scott Foundas, Variety’s chief film critic, reflected the same sentiment when he called Going Clear “a great film about the dangers of blind “faith”.

It’s a strange point to make about a film whose most prominent interviewees are longtime adherents of the faith who have chosen to leave the church. In lengthy, candid confessions, these men and women, even the ones with the biggest axes to grind, describe decades of faith that was anything but blind. They talk about feeling baffled by rituals, confused by the religion’s secret dogma, and put off by some of its more demanding practices. In other words, they sound exactly like every other current or former believer in America, struggling to balance the hawkish skepticism of modern life with the radical receptivity every religion requires as a precondition. Watching the documentary, you suspect that the only reason these lapsed believers are dramatically lit and seated in front of a camera is that their particular faith happens to have a relatively brief history; its foundational myths still haven’t hardened into gospel, and its originators have not yet transcended into sainthood.

You could subject any Mormon to allegations of a Founding Father suspected of charlatanism, accost any Catholic with tough questions about excommunication, and question any Jew about believing in a book filled with improbable miraculous stories. If Scientology seems strange to us, it’s because it’s still a religion busy being born, embryonic and turbulent and closely connected to its charismatic founding fathers. In this, it’s no different from any other religion, and like any other religion, it, too, should face scrutiny from outside observers wondering what it’s all about. And if it is indeed a major world religion destined to thrive millennia from now, such scrutiny will only make it stronger by forcing it to clearly define its practices and beliefs.

But any scrutiny ought also to be purposeful and respectful, not dismissive, and it should attempt to weigh Scientology on the same scale we use to take the measure of all other religions. The Scientological story about the evil galactic overlord Xenu and his atomic bombs—which the film presents as one of its most damning pieces of evidence against the religion—is not any more or less incredible than the tale of the Red Sea splitting in half or that bit about Moses summoning a downpour of frogs or any wonderful story about Jesus. Incredible stories are an indispensable part of religion; they challenge us to push past our reservations and into different planes of consciousness. Believers understand this, which is why even those of us who accept these tall tales process them first and foremost as metaphor. I can believe that my soul was physically present at Sinai and still read the story of the Exodus not as pure history but as a narrative designed to inspire me to contemplate liberty, justice, and oppression. And I can do all that while remaining committed to the standards of rational inquiry in other realms of life that do not involve the metaphysical. Faith does not turn its adherents blind; instead, it allows them to entertain several seemingly incompatible ideas, urging them to strike a balance between what they are willing to embrace a priori and what they demand to see empirically proven. This complexity is one of faith’s chief pleasures, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to those who can only imagine it as a prison.

Which brings us back to Indiana. Those alarmed over its RFRA legislation are vexed in part because they assume the worst about the men and women most likely to claim religious protection these days. In its editorial about the Indiana law, the New York Times was frank in admitting that the fault lies not in the law’s logic but in its likely champions: “Religious-freedom laws,” the Times wrote, “which were originally intended to protect religious minorities from burdensome laws or regulations, have become increasingly invoked by conservative Christian groups.” When you cannot imagine the faithful as anything but mindless boobs more likely to respond to coercion and hate than to reason, you’re likely to see the question of religious freedom not as an absolute good worthy of protection no matter who its benefactors but as just one component of a practical political worldview, colored by other considerations. This is why the Times—as well as many, one suspects, of those crying foul over the Indiana law—is willing to accuse local conservative legislators of harboring the most benighted schemes while simultaneously cheering on talks with the murderous theocracy in Iran. When professed in Indianapolis by domestic political opponents, religion is a tool of oppression. When expressed in Isfahan with calls of “Death to America,” it’s just a quaint cultural affectation.

It’s time we rejected this lazy relativism. Luckily, we’ve the perfect story of universal religious freedom coming our way this weekend at the Seder. May it, and the four mandatory glasses of wine required for its proper telling, leave us all a bit more imbued with divinely inspired empathy, imagination, and joy.

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

See: http://tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/190030/faithless?utm_source=tabletmagazinelist&utm_campaign=4aa9285a62-Monday_April_6_20154_6_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c308bf8edb-4aa9285a62-206691737