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…


Which Voters Tend to Be More Islamophobic? New National Poll Exposes Massive Party Divide

The partisan split also affects views on going to war.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Steven Rosenfeld

Emphasis Mine

Democrats and Americans under age 35 are much more open to accepting Syrian war refugees and are much less Islamphobic than Republicans and older Americans, a new national poll finds, underscoring the country’s fear-based partisan divides.

Seventy-four percent of Democrats would accept Syrian refugees, while 82 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of independent voters would not, a Quinnipiac University poll reported this week. Similarly, 79 percent of Democrats reject Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s proposal to ban all foreign Muslims from entering the country, while 51 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of independent voters support it. Tellingly, 84 percent of people under age 35 also reject Trump’s ban.

Partisan differences on Islam and Muslims are not new, as other national pollsters like Pew Research Center found. However, what’s striking about the Quinnipiac results is that along with Republicans’ widespread distrust of Muslims and stated fears of Islamic fundamentalists leading terrorist attacks in America, Republicans are much more willing to go to war with ground troops in the Middle East to counter terrorism.

Republicans are least tolerant toward Muslims, the Quinnipiac poll found, echoing Pew’s findings from a year ago. For example, 47 percent of Republicans said mainstream Islam “encourages violence against non-Muslims,” Quinnipiac found, while only 13 percent of Democrats agreed with that assertion. Notably, 74 percent of people under 35 thought that mainstream Islam was a “peaceful” religion. Adding to that, 63 percent of Republicans thought there would be a terrorist attack with large loss of life in the near future on U.S. soil, compared to 30 percent of Democrats. Fifty-one percent of independents also predicted an attack, affirming that most self-described independents are actually disaffected Republicans.

While comparable numbers of Democrats (57 percent) and Republicans (54 percent) thought there was greater danger of an attack from “homegrown jihadists” rather than Syrian refugees, 80 percent of Democrats said that President Obama was taking the threat from ISIS “seriously enough,” while 89 percent of Republicans said he was not.

That split led to predictable partisan differences on the use of military force abroad, with 75 percent of Republicans favoring sending ground troops to Syria and Iraq and only 41 percent of Democrats favoring that approach. About the same number of Republicans said fighting ISIS with overwhelming military force would “be more likely to help end the terrorist threat,” while 49 percent of Democrats said it would do exactly the opposite.

While Quinnipiac’s poll found that Republicans are most likely to be more Islamophobic, the research from Pew suggested that Democrats were still wary.

“Asked to rate a series of religious groups on a ‘feeling thermometer’ from zero (the coldest) to 100 (the warmest), Republicans gave Muslims an average of 33—comparable to their average rating for atheists (34) and significantly lower than any other religious group,” Pew reported last January. “Democrats’ average rating for Muslims was a more neutral 47. Still, Democrats’ ratings for Muslims were lower than for most other religious groups. Among eight groups tested, only atheists (46 average rating) and Mormons (44) rated as low.”

Besides age, with younger people being more positively predisposed toward Muslims and Islam, Pew reported that one’s religion also was a predictive factor. “For instance, we found that no other religious group is cooler toward Muslims than are white evangelical Protestants, who give Muslims an average rating of 30,” Pew said. “Compared with other groups, older Americans and white evangelicals both tend to affiliate heavily with the Republican Party. Republicans also are more likely than Democrats to express strong concerns about the rise of Islamic extremism, and to see Islam as a religion that may encourage violence.”

But beyond the partisan, religious and age differences that account for varying degrees of Islamophobia, Quinnipiac’s poll also found that half of Americans from all parties don’t want to take chances with Syrian refugees—even if they also said homegrown threats were more pressing. “Voters oppose 51-43 percent accepting Syrian refugees into the country, but they also oppose 66-27 percent ‘banning people who are Muslim from entering the U.S.,” the pollsters reported.

American voters are making a distinction between Syrian refugees and Muslims in general,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “A bare majority says keep the Syrians out, but an overwhelming majority rejects proposals to ban all Muslims from our shores.” 

But make no mistake, the most Islamophobic Americans are self-declared Republican and independent voters, both Quinnipiac and Pew have found and confirmed.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of “Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting” (AlterNet Books, 2008).


Donald Trump: The Islamic State’s secret weapon?

Source:Washington Post

Author:Kathleen Parker

Emphasis Mine

Americans looking for a Snuggy Bear and a blankey to ease their anxieties about the Islamic State will have to become more comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty.

From President Obama’s recent terrorism speech in the Oval Office to Donald Trump’s terrifying, race-baiting, religion-testing rebuke in South Carolina, there is little to console those seeking either instant gratification from Obama or sanity from the leading Republican presidential candidate.

While Trump speaks to fear with anti-Muslim rhetoric that builds a wall around our national essence, the president attempts to soothe with reason and inspirational rhetoric more befitting a nation that hasn’t just suffered a horrific terrorist slaughter.

Obama’s speech was never going to satisfy critics and those convinced they know the better route. But the fact of the speech alone — appropriately solemn in recognition of the fact that the killings in San Bernardino, Calif. , and Chattanooga, Tenn., and at Fort Hood, Tex., were terrorist attacks — spoke volumes. And though he identified the California terrorists as Islamic State-inspired, he surely disappointed those insistent in their own cultish fashion that Obama refuses to name the enemy and, therefore, can’t defeat him. An absurdity. A dead terrorist is a dead terrorist by any name.

Obama’s further reiteration of his current course left wanting those longing for the more comforting certitude of the cheerleader with a megaphone. And those hoping for a declaration of the usual sort of war — thousands of ground troops in Syria and Iraq — were doubtless disappointed, as well as affirmed in their belief that Obama doesn’t get it. Or that he’s only trying to preserve his legacy as the non-war president, a trope favored by the right.

But realistically, what president chooses to ignore a necessary war? Who wants to be remembered as the cowardly commander in chief who allowed the world to slip into darkness and despair? No one, and certainly not Obama.

The problem for the president is that the war he is waging feels like a long-term strategy without benefit of the short term. If not ground troops, then what? There is no good answer. This is a new kind of war requiring fresh approaches. The old templates don’t apply because they actually work against us. As soon as we put boots on the ground, the Islamic State is rewarded with the war it wants, with the propaganda machine it can’t otherwise replicate and with the martyrdom its members welcome. Are Americans really ready to watch their military men and women beheaded and burned alive?

Thus, Obama and his advisers have focused on alternative means of defeating a monster that feeds on atrocity and hate. Strategic hits, special operations, counterterrorism propaganda and so on. At home, Obama seems to say, fight hate with love, fear with resilience, monsters with the superior force of good.  By comparison, admittedly, Trump sounds both decisive and definitive.

But — this is no joke — Trump is also the most dangerous person to emerge on the U.S. political scene in decades. As president, he would be the most dangerous man on the planet.

I’ve often objected in my column to invoking Hitler as popular analogue because it trivializes the suffering and slaughter of the Jews. Now I’m not so sure. Remember that before there could be a Holocaust, there was the identification of the Jewish race as the enemy. Trump’s apparent identification of Muslims as “ a problem,” with his threat of a Muslim registry and a religious test at the border, sounds terribly familiar.

Two facts to consider: First, we need the help of the world’s 1.6 billion — and this nation’s 3 million — Muslims if we hope to defeat terrorists who justify their barbarism with their interpretation of Islam. Second, our best defense against radicalization of Muslim Americans is inclusiveness. By marginalizing our own Muslim community through rhetoric, we vastly increase the risk of we vastly increase the risk of radicalization and recruitment.

Obama understands this. He also understands that another ground war in the Middle East risks our becoming entrenched in endless battle against an enemy that can inspire insurgencies indefinitely.

Few doubt that we could easily take over Iraq and Syria in a replay of shock-and-awe, but then what? Invading another Muslim country feeds right into the Islamic State’s playbook and installs a Crusader vs. Caliphate narrative for millennia — or whatever foreshortened era we invent.

Again, ambiguity and uncertainty are our companions for now and probably for a while. In the meantime, our internecine squabbles about our own nation’s principles couldn’t be a better holiday gift to the butchers-in-waiting. And Trump, by dividing us from within, is the enemy’s hero.

Read more from Kathleen Parker’s archive, follow her on Twitter or find her on Facebook.

See: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-islamic-states-secret-weapon/2015/12/08/f6d5dd60-9de3-11e5-bce4-708fe33e3288_story.html?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_opinions

San Bernardino Killings Unleashing Right Wing Wave of Fear Mongering, Islamophobia and War Fever

No voices of reason, restraint or wisdom.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Stephen Rosenfelt

Emphasis Mine

This weekend, America’s right wing—from the 2016 GOP candidates to its media echo chambers on cable TV, online and talk radio—have unleashed what may be their most hate-filled, fear-based, war-mongering fusillade since the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

The attacks—from a former GOP congressman taunting the U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to arrest him after threatening American Muslims on air, to RedState.com encouraging people to shoot the Saturday edition of The New York Times for its editorial calling for a ban on all militarized weapons and to post that image online—are the tip of this latest rage-filled response. Ex-New York Gov. George Pataki, a going-nowhere GOP 2016 candidate, also called for “war on radical Islam” and taunted Lynch. Fox News is berating moderate Muslims to “fix this,” while other right-wingers mock their spokesmen.

This wave of hyperbole comes in the wake of Friday’s law enforcement leak that Tashfeen Malik, the Pakistan-born wife of Syed Farook—who both carried out this week’s mass killing in San Bernardino—had pledged allegiance to ISIS on Facebook. Whether that’s true or not, ISIS, media manipulators themselves, on Saturday called the pair “supporters,” throwing more fuel on the right-wing firestorm.

The American public, which is legitimately shaken by yet another mass shooting, is being subjected to a bottomless season of nastiness, racist hate-mongering and war fever—where any viewpoint urging cooler heads and non-violent solutions is belittled by Republicans or their propagandists.

Hillary Clinton’s post-San Bernardino comments that new federal gun controls were needed now, and such measures have nothing to do with aggressively going after terrorists, was mocked by 2016 GOP hopeful Marco Rubio as “typical of the political left.” In the Senate, Bernie Sanders said militarized weapons should be banned and gun access restricted, adding that more attention had to be paid to treating mental illness.

The escalating right wing hyperbole is not just irresponsible but dangerous, as it promotes undue fears and offers more confrontations and violence as a solution, such as calls for all Americans to carry guns. What’s forgotten in that line of thinking is that many people won’t, or don’t want to use guns.

The GOP presidential candidates, in contrast, relish the thought of war with ISIS. One after another, at Thursday’s Republican Jewish Coalition summit in Washington, declared the nation was “in a time of war” (Ted Cruz), facing “terrorist attack” (Chris Christie), “they’re already here” (Lindsey Graham) and the feds should spy on anyone, anywhere, anytime: “Edward Snowden is without a doubt a traitor and should be tried for treason” (Carly Fiorina).

These trigger-happy remarks mimic their racist frontrunner, Donald Trump, who has said U.S. Muslims should be registered and tracked by federal authorities. It seems like so long ago when he grabbed the headlines with his Mexican-bashing. Other candidates, playing the juvenile game of “I’m-the-toughest,” have mocked Black Lives Matter and been xenophobic, especially with admitting Syrian War refugees. Protesters at Trump events have been ejected, spit upon, or beaten up by mostly white crowds.

What’s lost in all this deliberately fanned chaos and ugly noise is the reality that getting control of America’s epidemic of gun violence—especially the harm by militarized arms—is critically important. Last week saw another failed attempt by Senate Democrats to push for a modest expansion of federal gun laws—increased background checks and banning sales to those on the FBI’s terrorist watch list. Instead, the San Bernardino massacre is expected to drive up gun sales, arms industry officials told reporters.

There’s “fear in the air,” the Times reported Friday, echoing a national poll released Thursday finding 83 percent of Americans expect a major terrorist attack. Meanwhile, overseas, the U.S. is deepening the military response to ISIS—following the Paris attacks—and NATO allies that had limited their involvement are now sending troops, planes and ships.

In other words, contrary to what the GOP presidential candidates would have the public believe, the U.S. is very much at war in Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, they and their propagandist allies are opposed to removing weapons of war from individuals at home.

Americans who don’t think the answer to violence in America is carrying a gun anytime they step outside find themselves in an escalating climate of real fears, fear-mongering, panic-driven gun sales, and an urge by many to strike real or imagined foes.

What is not happening on as large a scale is hearing enough people put these latest events and trends into perspective, historic contexts or offering wise responses—although The New York Times ran its first front-page editorial in decades on Saturday morning urging Congress to ban militarized weapons and calling the recent domestic gun-caused slaughter as terrorism.

Most of the TV news, however, is reading a different script, hyping the FBI announcement that it was investigating the San Bernardino shootings as a terrorist incident.

That trend in the news business—if it bleeds, it leads—poses a larger challenge for everyone. The southern California killings may end up as no more of a global conspiracy than the mass shooting by deluded loners at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, or at Fort Hood, Texas. What’s clear is too many in the media and political life are obsessing on threats from abroad while ignoring threats at home, namely gun violence.

That upside-down mindset fosters a public belief that such violence is normal and to be expected. The GOP is doing all it can to ignore the gun carnage, turn away from Syrian War refugees, and thwart the Obama administration’s climate change policies, even as a global conference on that real threat is unfolding in Paris and experts say it will worsen the global refugee crisis.

The White House has ignored most of the noise coming from Congress and the 2016 campaign trail, making reasonable-sounding remarks that are quickly overshadowed by hyped headlines. The lack of a stronger, clearer and wiser countervailing presence from Obama has had serious consequences, however.

It’s created a void filled by an onslaught of irresponsible GOP hyperbole and rightwing propaganda, fear mongering and war fever. Ironically, Obama is allowing the end of his presidency to be colonized by exaggerated fears and darkness, when he was elected by a majority of Americans seeking a far more hopeful future.

(Editor’s note: Late Saturday afternoon, the White House announced Obama would address the nation “on keeping the American people safe” on Sunday evening at 8 PM Eastern Standard Time.)

See: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/san-bernardino-killings-unleashing-right-wing-wave-fear-mongering-islamophobia-and-war?akid=13741.123424.rHkGmA&rd=1&src=newsletter1046852&t=6


Six Keys To Understanding ISIS’s Barbarism, Apocalyptic Vision and Desire for an End Times Battle In Syria

The presidential candidates don’t know want they are dealing with.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Steven Rosenfeld

Emphasis Mine

The latest terrorist attacks by ISIS have changed the 2016 presidential race, sparking a range of predictable reactions across the partisan spectrum—from ‘Fortress America” stances from Republicans to Democrats pushing to create a new international coalition and combined military response.

But do most Americans, especially those running for president, understand what ISIS is about: what they believe; seek; why they are so bloody; luring recruits from abroad; and now striking in Paris and Beirut? Last winter, The Atlantic’s Graeme Wood spent weeks with ISIS defenders, sympathetic clerics and academics overseas before writing a revelatory profile, “What ISIS Really Wants.”

After it was published, Wood asked his sources if he got it mostly right. “In general, they saw the portrayal of ISIS in the Atlantic as one they could recognize,” he said in an interview. “They saw it as something that legitimately attempted to portray them in terms they could see and say, ‘Yeah, that’s more or less us.’”

“The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths,” the article’s teaser begins. “It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse.”

What follows are six key takeaways from Wood’s reporting, updated from a previous AlterNet report.

1. They are Islamic. Very. There are many experts in the West and the Middle East, from academics to other conservative Islamics, who, like President Obama, have said that ISIS is not Islamic or is a twisted distortion of the Muslim faith. That’s wrong. ISIS “follows a distinctive form of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy,” Wood writes, explaining that they are not like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt—or even Al Queda under bin Laden—but akin to “the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.”

ISIS lives by the most literal translation of the Koran imaginable, as revealed by Mohammed in the seventh century. A Christian analog would be living under the strict edicts in the Book of Leviticus.

“Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and announcements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationary, and coins, ‘the Prophetic methodology,’ which means following the prophecy and example of Mohammed, in punctilious detail,” Wood writes. “But pretending that it isn’t actually a religion, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combated, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it.”

2. The most extreme of extremist sects. Just as there are many flavors of American evangelical extremism, ISIS is on the furthest end of the conservative orthodoxy, in terms of its beliefs, literal interpretation of seventh-century law and punishment, and what’s required of true believers for jihad. Wood said that ISIS’ beliefs stem from “a branch of Sunnism called Salafism, after the Arabic al salaf al salih, the ‘pious forefathers.’ These forefathers are the Prophet himself and his earliest adherents, whom Salifis honor and emulate as the models for all behavior including warfare, couture, family life, even dentristy.” Before ISIS’ emergence, the Sunnis who were best-known conservative followers of the Koran were Saudi Arabians.

According to Wood, the Saudis and 200 million Shiite Muslins—a denomination that developed later—have sinfully departed from seventh-century law. The examples range from having governments that send diplomats to non-Islamic bodies like the United Nations, to Shiites who worship at the graves of revered imams. The departures—like cursing one’s parents under Leviticus—are punishable by death. “Being lax about calling other people apostates” for voting in elections or being Shiites, like most of Iraq, is a capital offense. “So too are the heads of state of every Muslim nation, who have elevated manmade laws above Sharia by running for office or enforcing laws not made by God,” he writes.

3. To ISIS, required punishment; to others, war crimes. Anyone who followed the news last winter saw ISIS’ horrific videos of beheadings, the burning alive of a captured Jordanian pilot, and the reports of mass executions of men and enslavement of women and children, as well as forcing women to be concubines, such as the Yazidis in northwestern Iraq.

Wood writes that ISIS has published scholarly analyses in its magazine, Dabiq, named for an area in Syria near the border with Turkey where it believes an Armageddon-like battle will occur. One article discusses the punishment for the Yazidis “if they are pagans.”

“The article’s anonymous author wrote, ‘Yazidi women and children [are to be] divided according to the Shariah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations… Enslaving the families of the kuffar [infidels] and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shariah that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Koran and the narration of the Prophet… and thereby apostatizing from Islam.’”

In other words, ISIS sees its carnage as a prayer and required devotion, not as arguably the worst manifestation of evil on the planet today.

4. Top prophecy: they’re in the battle for end times. In America, some evangelical Christians are among Israel’s biggest defenders because they believe it will hasten the end times foretold in the biblical Book of Revelation. ISIS believes in an Islamic version of a similar end-times prophecy, of which they are a central actor. This is key to understanding what their terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut are in part about, which according to Wood is baiting Islam’s enemies to fight them where the end-times battle has been foretold.

Their declaration that the Islamic State is a caliphate, or a state fully enforcing Islamic law—which “had not functioned except in name for about 1,000 years,” Wood writes—is “not just a political entity but also a vehicle for salvation.” States like Saudi Arabia are apostates, he said, because they selectively follow Islamic penal codes, but not “the whole package.” In a similar vein, ISIS considers Al Qaeda to be another effort marred by half-measures.

However, declaring and establishing a caliphate, which requires the taking of territory, is only a step. ISIS “already rules an area larger than United Kingdom,” noted Wood, who spoke at length with ISIS supporters in England and Australia. They told him that only that form of government was legitimate—both requiring people be stoned to death for adultery and providing free healthcare, for example. That purity accounts for ISIS’ appeal to foreigners, Wood said, who feel they are not only living marginalized and mundane lives in the West, but want to take part in the epic battle for the end times.

Bin Laden didn’t talk about the apocalypse. But ISIS’ leaders believe that confrontation is coming and they see signs of it everywhere, Wood said. ISIS propaganda is filled with the belief “that the armies of Rome will mass to meet the armies of Islam in northern Syria; and that Islam’s final showdown with an anti-Messiah [taken to be a mix of Iranian and U.S.-led forces] will occur in Jerusalem after a period of Dabiq.

“It is here, the Prophet reportedly said, that the armies of Rome will set up their camp. The armies of Islam will meet them, and Dabiq will be Rome’s Waterloo or its Antietam,” Wood writes, citing ISIS videos and magazine articles. “Now that it has taken Dabiq, the Islamic State awaits the arrival of an enemy army there, whose defeat will initiate the countdown to the apocalpyse. Western media frequently miss references to Dabiq in the Islamic State’s videos, and focus instead on lurid scenes of beheadings.”

5. The allure for true believers. Oddly, the reference to the armies of Rome might be the only place in Wood’s article where ISIS is willing to bend a little for modernity—by saying its great battle with Islam’s last adversaries could be any infidel army. ISIS believes it will win on the plains of Dabiq and sack some western cities, but it will suffer some big losses before the final confrontation that occurs in Israel.

“An anti-Messiah, known in Muslim apocalyptic literature as Dajjal, will come from the Khorasan region of eastern Iran and kill a vast number of the caliphate’s fighters, until just 5,000 remain, cornered in Jerusalem,” Wood writes. “Just as Dajjal prepares to finish them off, Jesus—the second most revered prophet in Islam—will return to Earth, spear Dajjal, and lead the Muslims to victory.” He notes, “The Islamic State has its best and worst days ahead of it.”

All of this may sound like a middle-school dystopian fantasy novel or video game, where archaic heroes and anti-heroes fight for the fate of humanity on a dreary plain. But it’s all too real in the minds of pious ISIS believers, Wood said, which also explains why it has been able to recruit Muslim seekers and converts from abroad.

These beliefs also mean that “the biggest proponent of an American invasion is the Islamic State itself,” he writes. “The provocative videos, in which a black-hooded executioner addresses President Obama by name, are clearly made to draw America into the fight.”

6. Countering evil in our time. Clearly the first steps in countering the evils an apocalyptic regime like ISIS presents—mass murder, sexual bondage, child slavery and more—is understanding who and what they are, Wood writes. He does not say what is obvious about the current flock of presidential candidates; that appear mostly clueless about ISIS’ beliefs and strategies, or in the case of the GOP would take their bait and deploy troops anew to western Iraq and Syria.

Wood believes ISIS’ agenda and brutality is not just knowable but predictable.

“The ideological purity of the Islamic State has one compensating virtue: it allows us to predict some of the group’s actions,” he writes. ISIS “has an obligation to terrorize its enemies—a holy order to scare the shit out of them with beheadings and crucifixions and enslavement of women and children, because doing so hastens victory and avoids prolonging conflict,” one ISIS defender explained to him. ISIS’ beliefs also bar it from negotiating with what it sees as heretic governments—which the Taliban did in Afghanistan.

“It’s hard to overstate how hamstrung the Islamic State will be by its radicalism,” Wood writes, saying ISIS uses tactics that are truly terrifying, yet it isn’t a terrorist group. “Al Qaeda is ineradicable because it can survive, cockroach-like, by going underground. The Islamic State cannot. If it loses its grip on territory in Syria and Iraq, it will cease to be a caliphate.”

“Former pledges could of course continue to attack the West and behead their enemies, as freelancers,” he continues. “But the propaganda value of the caliphate would disappear, and with it the supposed religious duty to immigrate and serve it. If the United States were to invade, the Islamic State’s obsession with battle at Dabiq suggests that it might send vast resources there, as if in a conventional battle. If the state musters at Dabiq in full force, only to be routed, it might not recover.”

Wood’s profile and analysis is remarkable. But what’s happened since his Atlantic piece appeared in March is equally striking. Last spring, the Iraqi army, backed by a handful of U.S. forces that did not fight in the frontlines, fled from ISIS and abandoned the city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has since been upbraided by American and Iraqi critics for speaking the apparent truth—that ISIS was more determined, strategic and effective than the Iraqi army.

More recently, ISIS has been losing some territory in western Iraq, and has come under attack by some of Russia’s forces and in the past several days, France, in retaliation for its Paris attacks. Meanwhile, Obama has repeated that simply sending in U.S. troops would not lead to lasting gains once they were withdrawn, and has continued to press a mostly covert war in Syria, using special forces and drone assassinations.

But what’s missing in the presidential trail rhetoric—a genuine understanding of ISIS’s goals and beliefs—is very disconcerting. A doomsday-driven Islamic regime is staking out as empire and waiting or foreign infidels to invade. The politicians vying to be the next president have offered little that is insightful about how to confront the newest face of evil in our times. The White House’s policy of containment and slowly reversing ISIS’ gain may be slowly working, but it didn’t stop the Paris and Beirut attacks.

Meanwhile, ISIS’s holy war and atrocities continue—and mostly in Syria and Iraq beyond Western eyes. As Wood writes, “It is a hermit kingdom; few have gone there and returned.”

This article is adapted from a previous article on the same topic.


Why ISIS War Would Make Paris Attacks a Success

Source: Religion Dispatches

Author:Mark Juergensmeyer

Emphasis Mine

Update: According to CNN, “the French air force carried out bombing missions on ISIS targets in Raqqa, Syria, for a second day in a row. France is retaliating against Islamist extremist terror attacks that killed at least 129 people in Paris.” 

When I heard that the French government had identified ISIS as the group behind the horrible multiple attacks on Paris that have left over 120 dead and hundreds wounded, I wondered why. Why would this attack be useful to ISIS? After all, it is an organization that’s primarily focused on Syria and Iraq. And they’ve been having enough trouble just maintaining the area that they control.

In fact, ISIS has not been doing well these days. On the day before the attacks the strategic town of Sinjar has been retaken by Kurdish and Yazidi forces, cutting off the ISIS supply line between Rakka, their main town in Syria, and Mosul, their largest conquest in Iraq. The amount of territory controlled by ISIS has shrunk considerably in recent months.

They are also not as attractive to young Muslims activists as they used to be. Two of their most famous recruits, notorious around the world for beheading ISIS captives, have themselves been killed by target strikes. The number of young people volunteering to join the ISIS forces have dwindled, and scores, perhaps hundreds, have been trying to return home, weary of being used as cannon fodder. ISIS, it appears, is on a downward slide.

But perhaps this is precisely what explains the Paris attacks. ISIS is desperate. It needs a victory, a vivid show of force to bolster the morale of its supporters, attract new volunteers, and with luck, intimidate its foes.

The attacks in Paris may have been calculated to achieve all of these goals. Moreover, if its actions could goad the French and other Western powers into further military action against them, this would fit perfectly into the image of the Western Crusaders waging war against the forces of Islam. No matter that the Islamic forces of ISIS are terrorists and despised by most Muslims around the world; to their supporters and potential volunteers, they are able to project an image of Muslim resiliency if Western forces do in fact become more militarily engaged in Syria and Iraq.

Most acts of terrorism are performances of power by groups that often have very little of it. As with all performances, the critical question is: who is the intended audience? In the case of the Paris attacks it is clearly ISIS’ own demoralized supporters and the French public who could easily be whipped up into enthusiasm for a military attack on ISIS—which is precisely what ISIS wants.

This is why the response to ISIS is such a critical matter. A knee-jerk Islamophobic response that accuses Islam of violence will help ISIS by alienating Muslims and reinforcing the notion that the Islamic world is under siege and needs to be defended. Similarly, policies that will restrict Syrian refugees—themselves victims of ISIS—will only enhance the anti-Muslim image of the West. And military action might make matters worse—much worse.

President Francois Hollande has already proclaimed that ISIS is at war with France. If he were to say that France should also be at war with ISIS, and propose French troops engaging with ISIS on the ground in Syria and Iraq, this would fulfill one of ISIS’ goals. It knows that with the current support of Arab Sunni Muslims in Eastern Syria and Western Iraq a ground war is one that would favor their side.*

If the Sunni Arabs in those parts of Syria and Iraq were to turn against ISIS, however, their game would be over. Their support would fall like a house of cards.

The Sunni Arabs in Iraq were once before lured away from the extremism of al Qaeda in Iraq (the precursor of ISIS) when they were empowered by the American-supported Iraqi government. If the government today in Iraq—and in Syria—were to politically embrace the Sunni Arabs in their countries ISIS would began to crumble from within.

This is what US Secretary of State John Kerry meant when he said, soon after the Paris attacks, that it was a wakeup call for even more vigorous attempts at a diplomatic solution. It is time to defeat ISIS, but not by the military actions that will only enlarge their support. It’s time to defeat them by undercutting their support with political changes in Syria and Iraq.


*While there has neither been a declaration of war nor troop engagement, the French air force has bombed Raqqa, an ISIS stronghold. Juergensmeyer responds: “The French bombing of Raqqa in response to the Paris attacks will give the French public a sense of revenge, though it is unlikely to do much to damage the ISIS infrastructure. Alas, the war rhetoric may actually increase the movement’s appeal to disaffected youth around the world and lead to new volunteers willing to undertake the kind of suicide attacks that led to the horrors of the Paris attack.”


Ben Carson: Screw The Constitution, Muslims Should Be Banned From The Presidency

“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”


author:John prager

Emphasis mine

Among his peers, Ben Carson may be meek and silent, as we have seen at the most recent Republican debate, but when one gets him alone, the braindead neurosurgeon is just as bigoted as the rest of his compatriots. According to Carson, no Muslim should ever be President of the United States.

In an interview with NBC Sunday, Carson explained that Islam should immediately disqualify a presidential candidate. “Let me wrap this up by finally dealing with what’s been going on, Donald Trump, and a deal with a questioner that claimed that the president was Muslim,” Chuck Todd asked the presidential hopeful. “Let me ask you the question this way. Should a President’s faith matter? Should your faith matter to voters?”

“Well, I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter,” Carson replied. “But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the constitution, no problem.”

“So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the constitution?” Todd asked.

No, I don’t. I do not,” Carson said, adding:

“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”

The United States was not founded on one particular religion, no matter how much right-wing extremists like Carson scream it from the mountaintops, but instead on a freedom of religion. In other words, all Americans — Christian, Jew, Pastafarian, Muslim, Dudeist, or any other religion — may be President. Of course, in suggesting a religious test for the office of President, Carson’s suggestion is actually in violation of the Constitution. Article 6 of the Constitution makes this abundantly clear:

“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.“

For a candidate in a party that uses the word “Constitution” only slightly less than they say “Benghazi,” it is rather surprising that Carson would propose an unconstitutional idea like barring Muslims from running for higher office.

One of the right’s favorite boogeymen, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called on Carson to hang his head in shame and drop out of the race after the brain surgeon‘s (a term that it is difficult to use sarcastically in this scenario) horrific remarks. In a statement, the organization blasted Carson’s ignorance and bigotry:

Mr. Carson clearly does not understand or care about the Constitution, which states that ‘no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office,’” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “We call on our nation’s political leaders – across the political spectrum – to repudiate these unconstitutional and un-American statements and for Mr. Carson to withdraw from the presidential race.”

He said this incident demonstrates why the Constitution is needed to protect Americans of all faiths.”

Carson should not only drop out of the race, but out of the public eye because his sole purpose is to serve as an embarrassing reminder that we have a long way to come as a country. Carson is clearly feeling the “Trump effect” and has begun speaking more inflammatory in a desperate grasp for attention that only serves to remind us as to how unqualified he truly is for the job of President. Muslim-Americans have every right participate in the American nation and the right-wing’s campaign to marginalize minorities is an affront to our democracy.


John Prager is an unfortunate Liberal soul who lives uncomfortably in the middle of a Conservative hellscape and likes to refer to himself as an “island of reason in a sea of insanity.” While he is not a fan of politicians, period, he has developed a deep-seated hatred for the bigotry, fear mongering, and lies of the Right Wing. John also works as a counselor at one of Barry Soetoro’s FEMA re-education camps and as a HAARP weather control coordinator. John’s life’s aspiration is to rule the world with an iron fist, or find that sock he’s been looking for. John can be reached at americanlesionx@gmail.com if you have any questions or comments.

See: http://www.occupydemocrats.com/ben-carson-screw-the-constitution-muslims-should-be-banned-from-the-presidency-video/

With Donald Trump, the Nazis Seek to Finally Conquer America

“White power” is the American “Sieg Heil.”

Source: PoliticsUSA


Emphasis Mine

The unholy alliance between ethnic nationalism and big business saw its 20th century heyday in the Third Reich of Adolf Hitler. Ethnic Nationalists in this country have long been looking for their version of Germany’s Führer, and they have finally found him in Donald Trump, and with him, the hope of a 21st century redux.

As the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported the other day,

With his campaign showing no signs on slowing down, Donald Trump continued his war on immigrants by introducing a six-page immigration plan that reads like the playbook of the organized anti-immigrant movement in America. Trump’s plan — calling for mass deportations, a border fence and gutting the 14th amendment — also strengthened his support among white nationalists.

The SPLC’s Hatewatch report shows praise coming in from white nationalist Brad Griffin on his website Occidental Dissent, from Jared Taylor, “one of the most significant white nationalists in the movement today” at American Renaissance, and from former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke.

What happened when Trump addressed a crowd in Mobile, Alabama, ought to give every American pause:

One person could be heard yelling “white power!” during Trump’s remarks, and white nationalist Olaf Childress, editor of the racist paper The First Freedom was on hand to pass out copies to attendees. The New York Times also interviewed a Trump supporter who stated, “Hopefully, he’s going to sit there and say, ‘When I become elected president, what we’re going to do is we’re going to make the border a vacation spot, it’s going to cost you $25 for a permit, and then you get $50 for every confirmed kill. That’d be one nice thing.”

“White power” is the American “Sieg Heil.” As Trump is speaking their language, he will likely hear many more of these.

If you look at Trump’s Greenville, South Carolina crowd, you see his demographic plainly:

The Lindsey Graham crowd. According to Trump, Graham’s former crowd (They’re his now). The combustible center of right wing angst. Old white people.

Trump is no former soldier. Unlike Hitler, he hasn’t faced an enemy in battle, been wounded, or won any medals. But like Hitler, he is subscribing to a homeland “stabbed in the back” mentality that rallies all the disgruntled and discontented to his banner, those who feel they have been betrayed by the establishment.

In 1930s Germany, this was the post-war leftist Weimar government. In 21st century America, it is another “leftist” government that is the target – the presidency of Barack Obama.

Jews, blacks, immigrants. It doesn’t matter. These are all people who are fundamentally unlike us, they say. Germany for the Germans. America for Americans. White. Like Jesus.

Hitler said Germany could be great again. Neither Trump nor Reagan invented the idea of lifting a nation from the ashes and restoring it to its former glory. And like Hitler, Trump is pushing the idea that the military has been betrayed by the politicians, and just as Hitler linked this betrayal to the Jews, Trump is linking it to immigrants:

Like post-war Germany, America is riddled with right wing militias, all eager to come to blows with the communists in their midst. The trouble with that analogy is that here in America, there are really no communists with which to come to grips. So conservatives have invented “other” communists: liberals, progressives, gays, atheists; anyone to the left of where they themselves are.

Despite their claim to represent a “silent majority,” their list of enemies includes most of the population.

Hitler had the Jews. Today’s right wing has had, until recently, to settle for Muslims, atheists, Hindus – and Jews – anyone, really, who isn’t what they perceive to be “Christian” and white. The concept of white has never been entirely about skin color in this country. Once upon a time, even the Irish weren’t considered white. Now Donald Trump has given them immigrants, who are mostly rapists and murderers anyway, he says.

The result of the Trump hatefest should not be surprising:

Stormfront, the Web’s largest white supremacists website founded by former Klan leader Don Black, has no less than nine threads discussing the New York billionaire’s plan. With a history of violence attributed to the site’s users, it’s no surprise that Trump’s supporters have begun calling for the murder of immigrants.

In one thread, a user claimed it would only be plausible to deport 25 percent of the undocumented immigrants in the country. Another user followed up with the statement, “Everyone in favor of shooting the rest…raise your hand.”

In a country where we already have police, the people whose job it is to protect and serve the public, gunning down or killing while in custody those portions of the public of which it does not approve, talk like this is not just talk. We have seen armed white men take to the streets at the possibility of gunning down black protesters in Ferguson. We have white ranchers emerging from armed showdowns with the federal government without consequence, and white militias are already patrolling our southern border while white men with their ubiquitous AR-15s infest restaurants and stores alike, using the Second Amendment like a weapon.

Too much should not be made of Walmart’s decision to stop selling AR-15a – announced the same day two journalists were murdered in Roanoke, Virginia – because the decision was not made in response to shootings there or elsewhere, but according to Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg, “slumping demand,” and the decision to cater to hunters and clay-shooters.

Ethnic nationalists militias will not be hard pressed to continue to arm themselves. The NRA has seen to that.

The biggest difference here is that Adolf Hitler needed the support of the 1 percent, and got it. They supported the Nazi party from its very early days. Donald Trump does not need the support of the 1 percent. He IS the 1 percent. People have always wondered how Germans let themselves be mislead by Hitler, but Americans need wonder no longer: we are seeing it for ourselves in the response to Donald Trump.

The totalitarian demagogue they have been waiting for has arrived, and he is leading them down a rosy path to destruction. We do not have to say violence will result. Violence has already resulted as a couple of would-be Trump stormtroopers beat a Hispanic man in his name.

Indeed, as in the days of Adolf Hitler, violence has preceded him in his march to power, because violence is inherent in the forces he is seeking both to harness and to unleash. And this is but a foretaste of what is to come, because the inevitable consequence of ethnic nationalism when given the power it craves, is ethnic cleansing.

Donald Trump has already promised us that, and look out, because if you’re not with Trump, he has already made clear you are against him, and his well-armed supporters enthusiastically agree.


Governor Rick Perry’s Bizarre, Fringe Mass Prayer Rally

Gov. Rick Perry’s call for a day-long event of prayer and fasting Aug. 6 at a sports stadium in Houston is a dramatic escalation of government meddling in religion

Rob Boston, via Alternet

“American politicians love to invoke religion, and a generic form of an alleged “one-size-fits-all” piety is so common that scholars have even give it a fancy name:ceremonial deism.

Ceremonial deism is what explains “In God We Trust” on our money, “under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance and the tendency of presidents and governors to attend interfaith prayer services whenever there’s a natural disaster.

Despite its short-comings – ceremonial deism doesn’t offer much to non-believers, for example, and many devoutly religious people find it sterile and bland – the practice at least recognizes that religious beliefs come in many forms. Thus, God is appealed to but not Jesus. Prayers are “non-sectarian.”

What’s planned for Texas in August is not ceremonial deism. It’s something else entirely. And it’s a big problem.

Gov. Rick Perry’s call for a day-long event of prayer and fasting Aug. 6 at a sports stadium in Houston is a dramatic escalation of government meddling in religion. Called “The Response,” the event is being coordinated by the American Family Association (AFA), an extreme Religious Right group, as well as other far-right religious groups and figures with controversial theological and political ideas. The rally is exclusively Christian in nature; in fact, it reflects a certain type of Christianity – the fringes of fundamentalism.

What brought this about? Perry’s theological allies claim that America is being punished by God for its wicked ways. They see a national day of repentance as the solution.

On The Response’s website, Perry writes, “Right now, America is in crisis: we have been besieged by financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters. As a nation, we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and thank Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy.”

Of course, this could be just a sheer political ploy. Perry has been openly flirting with a presidential run, and this event could be little more than an effort to curry favor with the Religious Right in advance of that.

Regardless, word is spreading quickly among the religio-political right. Potential attendees to The Response are told to bring a Bible and encouraged to fast – although there will be a few food vendors on site for those who can’t or won’t. The groups behind this effort tend to come from the fringes of Christianity that are obsessed with things like prophecy, direct messages from God, faith healing and so on. These charismatic Christians emphasize a highly charged form of worship that stresses emotional outbursts and a theology of judgment. They seem to be convinced that God has it in for America, mainly because we permit legal abortion, tolerate gays and have a secular government.

Many churches in America preach this theology, and Americans are free to attend these houses of worship and hear it whenever they like. But government endorsement of this sectarian message goes too far – and that’s why more and more people are speaking out over Perry’s prayer confab.

Mainline Christian, non-Christian and secularist groups have protested the Perry event – and rightly so. Perry and his supporters don’t try to downplay the proselytizing nature of the event; in fact, they brag about it. They say non-Christians are welcome to attend to hear a message about redemption through Christ.

Perry defended the event, tellingThe New York Times, “It is Christian-centered, yes, but I have invited and welcome people of all faiths to attend.” He also brushed off charges that the AFA is extreme, calling it “a group that promotes faith and strong families, and this event is about bringing Americans together in prayer.”

Eric Bearse, a spokesman for the event who formerly worked as Perry’s communications director, told American Family Radio, which is run by the AFA, that the event would be evangelistic in tone.

“A lot of people want to criticize what we’re doing, as if we’re somehow being exclusive of other faiths,” Bearse said. “But anyone who comes to this solemn assembly, regardless of their faith tradition or background, will feel the love, grace, and warmth of Jesus Christ in that assembly hall, in that arena. And that’s what we want to convey, that there’s acceptance and that there’s love and that there’s hope if people will seek out the living Christ.”

Allan E. Parker Jr., one of the event’s organizers, writes on its website, “This is an explicitly Christian event because we are going to be praying to the one true God through His son, Jesus Christ.It would be idolatry of the worst sort for Christians to gather and invite false gods like Allah and Buddha and their false prophets to be with us at that time.Because we have religious liberty in this country, they are free to have events and pray to Buddha and Allah on their own.But this is time of prayer to the One True God through His son, Jesus Christ, who is The Way, The Truth, and The Life.”

So, if you’re Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist or even a liberal Christian you are welcome to attend this government-promoted Christian fundamentalist prayer rally – just be prepared to endure hardcore proselytizing designed to persuade you to change your views and leave your “false god” at home.

Perry and his backers ignore one thing: It is absolutely not the job of government to sponsor evangelistic rallies or encourage people to attend them. This type of proselytizing is only appropriate through private, not government-run, channels.

Perry’s partners in this gambit are also problematic. They are best known for angry and divisive rhetoric that often has more to do with politics than salvation. One of the organizers of the event is the International House of Prayer, a controversial congregation based in Grandview, Mo. The church’s founder, Mike Bickle, has been criticized for stressing the need to convert Jews to charismatic forms of Christianity and for a portrayal of Jesus that emphasizes militancy and violence.

Bickle also believes he has been to Heaven – twice. He and his followers are known for embracing a type of “theology of retribution.” They worship an angry deity who punishes his wayward subjects with extreme weather, economic downfalls and terrorism. They approach this god in a spirit of fear and trembling, not love and joy.

And in private venues this is their right. Plenty of churches preach this theology. People attend voluntarily, which is their business only. It’s only when the government elevates this narrow version of Christianity above all other forms of faith and non-faith that we have a church-state problem.

It would also be naïve to overlook the politics of this event. Its most prominent sponsor, the AFA, is well known for slinging extreme anti-gay and anti-Muslim rhetoric. The group, founded by the Rev. Donald Wilmon, got its start in the late 1970s as the National Federation for Decency, determined to clean up salacious TV. (How’s that working out for you, Don?)

Over the years, as cable grew and television became even more risqué, Wildmon branched out. These days, his son Tim oversees a sprawling Religious Right empire (annual budget: $21.4 million) in Tupelo, Miss., hitting on all of the theocrats’ favorite themes: gays are immoral, the public school system is damned, feminists want to destroy families, evolution is a lie, etc.

A rising AFA star is a cranky blogger named Bryan Fischer. In October of 2009, I sat in a crowded hotel ballroom in Washington, D.C., listening to Fischer tell a rapt audience at the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit that Adolf Hitler invented church-state separation.

That rant was tame compared to some of Fischer’s other views. Since then, Fischer has gone on to assert that a killer whale that killed a trainer at Sea World should be stoned to death (because the Bible says so), opined that Native Americans deserved to lose control of the continent because they were Pagans and sexual deviants, called gay sex a form of “domestic terrorism,” advocated for the reintroduction of blasphemy laws in America, insisted that grizzly bear attacks on humans are a sign that “the land is under a curse” and helpfully pointed out that Muslims have no right to build mosques in this country because the First Amendment protects only Christians.

Most Americans do not accept these extreme views. It’s bad enough that Perry is using his government office to promote a prayer rally. It’s even worse that the one he is promoting excludes the majority of Americans. But worst of all is that he is partnering with the radical fringe of the Religious Right to bring it about.

Yet Perry is not only moving forward, he has invited the nation’s other 49 governors to endorse the fundamentalist event! (As of this writing, Govs. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana have said they will attend.)

Here’s the good news: Opponents are speaking out. The Texas Freedom Network, the Houston Clergy Council, the Secular Coalition for America and others have criticized the governor’s role in the rally. Kim Kamen, a Texas-based executive with the American Jewish Committee, cut to the heart of the matter when she toldThe Times, “There are many houses of worship here in Texas, not just Christian churches. As the leader of our state, we hope that he will bear that in mind.”

In mid June, more than 20 members of the clergy from the Houston area issued a joint letter blasting the Perry rally.

“We believe in a healthy boundary between church and state,” it read. “Out of respect for the state, we believe that it should represent all citizens equally and without preference for religious or philosophical tradition. Out of respect for religious communities, we believe that they should foster faithful ways of living without favoring one political party over another. Keeping the church and state separate allows each to thrive and upholds our proud national tradition of empowering citizens to worship freely and vote conscientiously.We are concerned that our governor has crossed the line by organizing a religious event rather than focusing on the people’s business in Austin.”

In addition, the Human Right Campaign, a gay rights organization, slammed Perry for “aligning with groups that, on a daily basis, seek to demonize” gays and lesbians.

There has been talk about a counter event. The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, released a video on YouTube knocking Perry’s prayer idea and calling for moderate and progressive religious and secular leaders to publicly oppose it.

Here’s hoping the momentum continues. Perry’s “fundamentalist-Christians-only” rally isn’t just a violation of separation of church and state, it’s also un-American. The government’s first duty is to treat all of its citizens equally, regardless of race, creed, gender and so on. A governor’s sponsorship of a rally that is truly welcoming to only certain types of Christians flies in the face of that standard.

And to all those fundamentalists out there who think someone’s trying to censor them – don’t even go there. No one is saying you can’t sponsor a rally. You can, using your own money and your own resources. It might even surprise you to learn that there are people well suited and especially trained to run these types of evangelistic events. And get this: The title before their name isn’t “governor,” it’s “pastor.””

Rob Boston is the assistant director of communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which publishes Church and State magazine.

Emphasis Mine