I finally agree with Megyn Kelly of FoxNews on something! Incredible!


Megyn_Kelly_4Megyn Kelly suggested in response to her latest proclamation that Santa Claus and Jesus were both white that she was just trying to inject some humor into her show saying, ‘Humor is part of what we try to bring to the show. Sometimes that’s lost on the humorless.’ 

I must admit it’s not lost on me, because I think FoxNews is a joke whenever it goes on the air and Kelly is just one of the comediennes in the FoxNews lineup.  Every year this time FoxNews goes on the war on Christmas alert with outrageous stories and commentary about how a Christian tradition is slowly being eroded by multiculturalism or hordes of foreigners immigrating illegally to the shores of America; now however, we must conclude such stories that run on that network are meant to be humor, just as I have been thinking and writing all along.

Kelly’s latest pronouncement does give a revealing look into her psyche who I guess considers herself a Christian and her perceptions of Jesus Christ.  She takes great comfort in projecting for herself an image of Christ that looks like her, white jesus

even though there is very little religiously that speaks to his color

the Bible is far less descriptive on the matter of Jesus’ skin color than we are. Christian scriptures say very little about Jesus’ physical appearance. They do not comment on his nose, eye color, skin pigmentation, or hair. The glaring exception is Isaiah 53:2, which prophesies that the messiah won’t be much to look at, another fact that places the Bible at odds with the “well-groomed surfer-dude Jesus” who’s often put forth.

It’s clear Megyn doesn’t take her religion seriously any more than she takes her job at FoxNews which leads me to ask if Jesus looked like this black jesuswould Megyn be a Christian?

George Bush today


Jewish Bible InstituteImagine, we elected this man as president twice!  He couldn’t bring on the apocalypse as president so he’s trying to do it as an ex-president?

Next week, former President George W. Bush is scheduled to keynote a fundraiser in Irving, Texas, for the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, a group that trains people in the United States, Israel, and around the world to convince Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah. The organization’s goal: to “restore” Israel and the Jews and bring about about the second coming of Christ.

Bush would not be able to engage in such activity as president because it certainly be viewed as a violation of the First Amendment separation of church and state rights but pursuing such an agenda as a private citizen can only make one ask is this the true George W. Bush?  But isn’t this what Christianity believes, that no one can be saved unless they accept Jesus as their savior?  In that regard Bush is doing nothing more than what his religion demands.  The notion that people aren’t good enough as they already are however, is an idea that has to be abandoned if we are to live as citizens of America.

Losing my religion for equality…


Jimmy Carter  JC

I HAVE been a practicing Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.

In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.

The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family.

It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices – as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.

I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge. But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy – and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.

The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. We have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights and have recently published a statement that declares: “The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.”

We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasise the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world’s major faiths share.

The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place – and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence – than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.

I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn’t until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.

The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.

Well said, sir and thank you!

 

 

 

Symbolic perhaps, but interfaith cooperation has always been a part of sincere believers’ practice


Who Guards The Most Sacred Site In Christendom? Two Muslims

Every Christian knows the holiest places in Christendom are in Jerusalem. The holiest of all, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, was erected in 325, over the site where it is believed Jesus was crucified, buried and rose from the dead.

Yet, few know that it is a Muslim who opens and closes the only door to this holiest of Christian sites.

In fact, it’s two Muslims: one man from the Joudeh family and another man from the Nuseibeh family, two Jerusalem Palestinian clans who have been the custodians of the entrance to the Holy Sepulchre since the 12th century.

English: Jerusalem, Church of the Holy Sepulch...

English: Jerusalem, Church of the Holy Sepulchre Deutsch: Jerusalem, Grabeskirche (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every morning, at 4:30, Adeeb Joudeh travels from his apartment outside the walls of the Old City to bring the cast-iron key to the church, just as his father and his forebears did before him.

Once there, he entrusts the key — looking like a 12-inch (30-centimeter) long iron wedge — to Wajeeh Nuseibeh, who knocks at the gate to call the priests and the pilgrims who spend the night praying inside. From inside the church, a wooden ladder is passed through a porthole to help him unlock the upper part of the enormous door.

Then, he unlocks the lower one before handing the precious key back to Joudeh. The ritual is reversed every evening at 7:30, after hundreds of tourists and pilgrims have left the church.

During holidays, such as Holy Week, which culminates Sunday with the Christian Easter, the elaborate opening and closing ceremonies take place several times a day.

Why the elaborate ritual? As often happens in Jerusalem, a city holy to several peoples and religions, there are different versions to explain why two Muslim families hold the key to the holiest site in Christendom.

“After the Muslim conquest in 637, the Caliph Omar guaranteed the Archbishop Sophronius that the Christian places of worship would be protected and so entrusted the custodianship to the Nuseibehs, a family who originated in Medina and had had relations with the Prophet Muhammad,” said Nuseibeh, a retired 63-year old electrician, while waiting in a nearby cafe to carry out his duties at the Holy Sepulchre.

“It happened again in 1187, after Saladin ended the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. He chose our family again to look after the peace between the different Eastern and Western Christian confessions, which were at odds over control of the Sepulchre,” he said with a gentle smile, sitting next to his son, Obadah.

To this day, coexistence among the several Christian churches sharing the Holy Sepulchre is a delicate one. Catholic, Greek, Armenian, Coptic, Syriac, and Ethiopian Orthodox monks have resorted to fists more than once to defend their respective denomination’s rights and privileges in the church, as defined in an decree by the Ottoman Empire, known as the Status Quo of 1853.

Such impious brawls between clergy proved Saladin’s prescience 1,000 years ago, when the sultan sealed the second front gate of the church and entrusted control of the remaining entrance to neutral custodians.

The Nuseibehs claim that the Joudehs entered this story only in the 16th century, after the Ottoman Turks gained control of Palestine and decided to charge a second family with the responsibility of guarding the key.

“Yes, we share the responsibility with the Joudehs, and sometimes we argue, as happens in a family,” Nuseibeh said.

Each Maundy Thursday since the end of the 19th century, the two Muslim families give the key to the Holy Sepulchre to the local Franciscan friars, for as long as it takes to walk to the church in a procession and to open the door after the morning liturgies. When those are completed, the friars return the key to the families.

This ceremony, which confirms in practice the validity of the Muslim families’ custodianship, is repeated with the Greek and Armenian communities, on Orthodox Good Friday and Holy Saturday, respectively.

“Right now, I have in my hands the keys to Christendom’s heart. This is a very important moment for us,” said the Rev. Artemio Vitores, the Spanish Franciscan who is the vicar Custodian of the Holy Land, during the Maundy Thursday procession.

“For centuries, Christian pilgrims were denied entry to the church, or had to pay huge sums to pray on the Sepulchre,” he said, all while holding the key.

At the head of the procession, Vitores was flanked on one side by Wajeeh Nusseibeh, his son Obadah and two cousins, all of whom were equally compensated by the friars for their services with the symbolic sum of $60.

On Vitores’ other side were Adeeb Joudeh, wearing an impeccable dark gray suit, and his 19-year-old son Jawad.

For about 20 minutes, Joudeh ceded control of the only existing key to the Holy Sepulchre. While there is another key, it is broken and no longer used. The functioning key is normally kept in a small office attached to the church and is guarded by an employee of the Joudeh family.

“This key has seen Saladin and every generation of my family since 1187. To me, it’s an honor to be in charge of the holiest of Christian places,” Joudeh said, while walking the cobblestoned alley leading to the Holy Sepulchre.

He insisted on showing on his smartphone what he claimed are 165 official decrees confirming the Joudeh family’s role as custodian of the church over the centuries.

“My ancestor who was given the keys was a sheik, a highly respected person, who was not supposed to perform physical labor, such as climbing the ladder to open the gate,” Joudeh explained. “That’s why the Nuseibehs were called in to perform this duty. Unfortunately, they feel still ashamed of being just the doorkeepers.”

At the end of the procession, the key was welcomed by cheerful pilgrims waiting in front of the church.

For a few minutes, everybody stared at the solemn opening of the gate before rushing in.

Moments later, Adeeb Joudeh walked home with his son, as did Wajeeh Nuseibeh. They will come back here, time and again, at the gate of the Holy Sepulchre: two Muslims, coming in peace to bear the key to the heart of Christianity.

Give it up for……..


a non profit, progressive  political action committee dedicated to the defense of America that was able to put enough pressure on a US Army General and known Islamophobe, one LtGen William Boykin to not appear at a West Point Prayer Breakfast.  Boykin is famous for such utterances as

I want to come skidding in there on all fours. I want to be slipping and sliding and I want to hit the gates of heaven with a bang. And when I stand up and I stand before Christ, I want there to be blood on my knees and my elbows. I want to be covered with mud. And I want to be standing there with a ragged breast plate of righteousness. And a spear in my hand. And I want to say, “Look at me, Jesus. I’ve been in the battle. I’ve been fighting for you.” Ladies and gentlemen, put your armor on and get into battle.

What are you prepared to give up for America? Are you willing to pay the ultimate price?..there is no greater threat to America than Islam….

and other wild rants which you can read about here. VoteVets however got Boykin to withdraw from speaking at the breakfast  saying,

‘..the calls from veterans, activists, and civil rights leaders around the country made this decision possible. I’m glad that the cadets will not be forced to hear the words of an anti-Muslim general whose rhetoric does not align with the values of our military and also endangers our troops in combat.’  

What’s frightening, unfortunately is that Boykin was invited to speak at West Point by people who know his views and may even subscribe to them. One can only conclude there are plenty of others like him, equally divisive and inflammatory in the US military who may very well be responsible for the behavior of US military personnel in faraway Muslim countries  like Iraq and Afghanistan.  We have an idea of how some in the military have behaved abroad, publicly desecrating enemy dead and murdering women and children and then covering up the crime.  Are we to conclude that the right to speech we hold dear is responsible for this type of criminal behavior, especially when it’s spoken from so high up the chain of command? That’s for others to decide; for now, Boykin won’t appear at the breakfast.  You can be sure, however there are other venues lined up for him at which to speak.

It’s that time of year again-time to incite divisiveness and add a little bit of victomhood with it


English: The 2005 White House Christmas Tree, ...

Image via Wikipedia

Every Christmas season, people on the Right of the political spectrum, and especially now with a black President with a funny sounding name or whenever the opposition party is in power, tell America how they are being denied their right to celebrate Christmas, or how the religious significance of the holidays is being taken away from it.  We won’t even talk about how rarely do those same self-righteous right wingers talk about spending time in their houses of worship or how extremely commercial the season of Christmas is and how important it is that people BUY things or SPEND all of their money and then more money that they don’t have to pull the economy out of its year long doldrums in order to keep alive the god of Capitalism.  The Right wants America to feel victimized that the lack of mentioning  the baby Jesus will get in the way of celebrating Christmas; saying Season’s Greetings or Happy Holidays is akin to ethnic cleansing, racial bigotry, and makes the holiday season far less rewarding for them. Robert Parry of ConsortiumNews.com wrote about this phenomenon six years ago.

….the Right’s media has created another world for its followers – where Christians are persecuted for celebrating their faith, where they are repressed by cruel non-Christians and evil secularists.

This perceived persecution exists even as America’s downtowns and shopping malls are bedecked with the red-and-green Christmas colors and Christmas symbols are everywhere, even in cities like New York with large populations of Jews and Muslims.

Somehow, listeners to Fox News and right-wing talk radio are convinced that Christmas is threatened despite the fact that Christmas carols are pumped into nearly all public places, including elevators and grocery stores where both Christians and non-Christians must go.

Another major beef from conservative Christians is that the federal courts have restricted displays of the baby Jesus in the manger on government property and that public schools have replaced “Christmas concerts” with “winter concerts” and the “Christmas vacation” with a “winter vacation.”

Nevertheless, schools are closed for about two weeks to accommodate Americans wishing to celebrate Christmas. Despite the U.S. principle of separation of church and state, Christmas remains an official federal holiday, an exception to the rule that is afforded no other religious observance. Jews, for instance, don’t expect Christians to honor Yom Kippur by taking the day off, nor do Muslims expect the government to show undue deference to Ramadan.

In 2005, led by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, some conservative Christians boycotted stores that offered their customers the non-sectarian greeting of “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” In some cases, “Merry Christmas” is now spit out as fighting words…

This season is no different.  Among some of the articles lamenting the absence of “Christ” in Christmas is this one from Conservative News Central

The 63-foot Sierra White Fir lighted at the U.S. Capitol Grounds on Dec. 6 as the official 2011 Capitol Christmas Tree includes a prominently displayed ornament paying homage to President Barack Obama, but includes no ornament readily visible to a person standing near the tree’s base that uses the word “Christmas,” or includes an image of the Nativity, or bears the name or image of Jesus Christ.

This very first paragraph speaks to the immaturity of the argument that follows.  Because no one sees an ornament of Christ while standing at the foot of the 63 foot tall tree but did see one for Obama means there is a war against Christian is an insanely absurd notion that in today’s America is too easily believed by far too many people.  It doesn’t matter to the purveyors of such filth that what was done to this tree is the same thing that has been done in years past, where a state theme is selected and citizens of that state determine what it is placed on the tree. For the previous three years, Wyoming, Arizona and Montana have had the honor, or rather distinction of doing the same thing, with the same results but no mention of the heresy of omitting Christ from their ornaments was written about.  Perhaps Terrence Jeffrey, the author of CNC’s article,  didn’t get the memo on how the Capital Christmas tree is decorated or maybe he was confused with it and the White House Christmas tree urban legend, categorically denied, that said the 2011 Christmas tree will be referred to as a “Holiday tree” and will not display religious themed ornaments.  Accuracy or truth is the first casualty in the war being waged by the Right for the soul of America.

Rachel Maddow uncovered another one of the war on Christians during Christmas themes, equally false and easily verified as such, with respect to Sarah Palin. You can read and hear about it here.  Instead of spreading holiday cheer, members of the Right want to spread dissension and discord…hardly the themes worth mentioning when celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace.  So, my question is why are Americans so easily distracted from that fact by such charlatans of faith?  Not everyone in America is a Christian, that’s a fact.  Not everyone believes in Christ as the son of God…that’s a fact but that should not deter those who do from enjoying and celebrating this holiday.  Neither should they make non Christians feel they are any less citizens of this Republic for not joining them in that celebration.  That is the beauty of freedom of religion.  No one is a victim when it is practiced unfettered by each and every one of us.  Christians should tell those who make it a seasonal war of hate and division to get on with the celebration and spend less time with the fighting.

 

Assaulting adherents of a faith because of their religious texts is a funadmentally flawed concept for Christians


and here’s why.

the Bible overflows with “texts of terror,” to borrow a phrase coined by the American theologian Phyllis Trible. The Bible contains far more verses praising or urging bloodshed than does the Koran, and biblical violence is often far more extreme, and marked by more indiscriminate savagery….

portions of the Bible, by contrast, go much further in ordering the total extermination of enemies, of whole families and races – of men, women, and children, and even their livestock, with no quarter granted…..

Commands to kill, to commit ethnic cleansing, to institutionalize segregation, to hate and fear other races and religions . . . all are in the Bible, and occur with a far greater frequency than in the Koran.

and so it goes.  With all the Biblical references to death, murder, terror does that mean that Christians are terrorists and murderers and in order to preserve mankind we must institute collective punishment against all those who proclaim the Christian faith.  Such talk is ludicrous, yet it is the type of talk directed towards Muslims who have been living peacefully, relatively speaking, for decades if not centuries in North America.  The purveyors of this idea of collective punishment, a Biblical injunction ironically enough, claim that they are not racist or bigoted because Islam is an ideology, not a race, but they seek to make  illegal practices of Muslims associated with the Islamic religion, like the ritual washing before prayer, or even the prayer itself even when such actions are beneficial to the greater society and not just Muslims like interest free banking, and they claim this is not racism or bigotry?  It is the very definition of bigotry: intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself  and xenophobia.

To say that terrorists can find religious texts to justify their acts does not mean that their violence actually grows from those scriptural roots….The difference between the Bible and the Koran is not that one book teaches love while the other proclaims warfare and terrorism, rather it is a matter of how the works are read. Yes, the Koran has been ransacked to supply texts authorizing murder, but so has the Bible…If Christians or Jews want to point to violent parts of the Koran and suggest that those elements taint the whole religion, they open themselves to the obvious question: what about their own faiths? If the founding text shapes the whole religion, then Judaism and Christianity deserve the utmost condemnation as religions of savagery. Of course, they are no such thing; nor is Islam.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

 

America’s corrputed notion of Christianity


The Founding Fathers wanted government to  make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof prescient in their vision that doing so would lead to a fragmented Nation, but racism has driven those who aspire to power to insist that their religion should reign supreme in the body politic of America because it’s what this country was founded on.  We’ve disputed that notion a time or two here.

ConsortiumNews’ writers have weighed in heavily on this subject in a series of thought provoking articles.  This one examines how Christianity has morphed into something that allows its followers to wage war, death and destruction on enemies real and imagined and in the process stray far away from its core values.

The first Christians tried to be faithful to Jesus’s commandments to “put away the sword,” ”do not repay evil for evil,” “do unto others that which you would have them do unto you,” “do good to those who persecute you,” “pray for those who despitefully use you,” “love your neighbor as yourself,” “turn the other cheek,” “love your enemies” and “love as I have loved you.”

Jesus’s earliest followers regarded the human body as the holy temple of God here on earth, and, knowing that violence to a holy place was considered an act of desecration (and therefore forbidden), they refused to kill or maim other children of God, and therefore they also refused, out of conscience, to become killing soldiers for Rome.

Martyrdom, in the first three centuries, was regarded as the ultimate act of social responsibility. And the church flourished!

The Roman Emperor Constantine first recognized Christianity as a valid religion around 311 CE and he made Christianity the official state religion within decades.

He showered the now-legal church with the goodies of the Empire and the Christians accepted them, not aware that property, dominative power, wealth and the tight connections to militarism were eventually to become curse for the church.

Before long Christians began endorsing, and then participating in, un-Christ-like acts of homicidal violence in war.

n 311 CE, you could not be a Christian and be a killing soldier in Rome’s army. By 416, you couldn’t be in the Roman army unless you were a Christian! It had all turned around in 105 years, and Christianity has been a war-tolerating religion ever since….

Massacres of non-Christian “infidels” in the Crusades were soon followed by massacres of fellow Christians. In the Middle Ages, the organized church actively persecuted, tortured and murdered millions of women who were feared as intellectuals, midwives and “witches.”

The use of atomic bombs against the civilian targets of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was perhaps the spiritual low point in Christendom’s history of un-Christ-like cruelty and inhumanity to man.

It is a little known fact that Ground Zero for the second bomb was the largest Christian church in the Orient. The Nagasaki Urakami Cathedral and most of its members were vaporized in nine seconds by an all-Christian bomb crew on Aug. 9, 1945. American Christianity remains unrepentant.

And then there was the horrific example of German Christianity, easily Nazified because of its historical connections to Prussian militarism, and therefore allied to Hitler’s policy of perpetual war.

Many “good Germans” had good-paying healthcare-related jobs but they found themselves obediently participating in the extermination of the mentally and physically deformed “useless eaters.”

Many “good Germans” earned their livings participating in the oppression and extermination of gypsies, homosexuals, trade unionists, liberals, communists and Jews; and many churches consented to those atrocities by their silence.
The Jewish Holocaust occurred in part because the German churches had, for centuries, falsely blamed the Jews for killing Jesus (a myth), ignoring Jesus’s commandment to “love as I have loved you.”

The movements of Gandhi, King and Jesus, as well as a multitude of other examples of successful nonviolent, faith-based resistance movements throughout history, are proof that nonviolence can work, but they are only for the faithful and the courageous.

Far more courage is demanded of unarmed resisters who may be forced to jail or to their deaths, than is asked of modern super-patriotic warriors who do battle using highly lethal, high-tech weaponry that almost guarantees their physical survival.

 

Most likely the founding fathers were good students of history.  They realized that if the State endorsed one religion, Christianity for example, over another it would lead to the corruption of that religion which could be easily pliable in the hands of the omnipotent state and thus loose its religious character and meaning.  Maybe that’s why they weren’t too keen on insisting that America was to be a Christian nation; they possessed crystal balls that allowed them to peer into our future and see how religion could metastasize into large mega churches with their own television stations that would swindle people out of their money and their souls while feeding them into the meat grinder of an expansionist state that needs bodies to fight wars of empire.  This might be one of the endearing legacies of our founding fathers, that in refusing to refer to America as a Christian country they hoped that would make us  more Christian. Sadly, such is not the case.

South Africa and her Muslims got it right!


America needs to sit back and take a page from the South African playbook on how to handle religious bigotry.

A judge in Johannesburg, South Africa, has blocked a plan by a Muslim to burn Bibles on the anniversary of Sept. 11.

An Islamic intellectual organization, Scholars of the Truth, had sought the order. It bans the burning of any holy books. “I’m very pleased the judge came to this decision. Not only did he ban this protest but he also banned other people from burning the Bible,” The Christian Scientist Monitor quoted plaintiff’s lawyer Yasmin Omar as saying.

The order also covers the burning of other holy books, including the Koran. Mohammed Vawda planned to burn the Bibles in response to a plan to burn hundreds of copies of the Koran in Gainesville, Florida. The preacher pushing the Florida book burning has backed down.

“What Mr. Vawda wanted to do is not just morally wrong but is an affront to Islam. We regard Jesus as a prophet who is part of the Koran so if he burns the Bible, he is burning part of the Koran,” said Omar.

There are an estimated 1 million Muslims in South Africa and 30 million Christians. Judge Sita Kolbe issued his ruling after a four-minute hearing.

Did anyone notice how, a) it was a Muslim organization that sought the ban and b) it was such a no brainer it took only 4 minutes for the judge to assent and set it in motion?!?  Too bad the wheels of American justice don’t turn as quickly in such matters.  We could learn a thing or two from our brothers in South Africa.  Viva Mandela!

A Christian Cleric’s Response to a Christian’s burning of Qurans


Hat tip


Respected Pastor Terry Jones,

I have read your worldwide call for the burning of the Quran on this coming 11th of September. Your message stated that you are a pastor of one of the churches in Florida in the United States of America.

As an Arab Catholic priest from Damascus (Syria), I wondered what would be your objective, as an American pastor, for such a call?

I wondered, and I ask you: What are your responsibilities as a pastor?
Are you really a Christian pastor serving God in a church in America?
Or are you merely a layperson from America who is pretending to be in the service of Christ?

Did you give in to your nationalism (Americanism) rather than giving in to your Christianity?

What is your aim with that call?

(Do you wish) to further fuel hatred among people? Is that consistent with (the teachings of) Jesus, whom you represent in your eyes and the eyes of many others?
Tell me, is there in the character of Jesus, in his words or in his actions anything that would remotely justify even a hint of promoting disdain and hatred among people?

Have you forgotten that Jesus was completely for love, forgiveness and peace? Have you forgotten what he taught us when he told his disciples and the people after them to tell God the heavenly Father of all to “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who wrong us”? You overlooked or forgot that when Jesus was hanging on the cross and being subjected to insults and vile words, he raised his voice, saying, “O Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Who, then, do you represent or who are you trying to guide with this call of yours?

Isn’t it enough what has been happening since September 11, 2001: the killing, destruction, displacement and starvation of hundreds of millions of people throughout the world, from Palestine – the land of Jesus – by your leaders in particular, headed by George Bush, who was claiming direct communication with God?

Wouldn’t you agree with me that with your call (to burn the Quran), you have demonstrated that you are really unfamiliar with Jesus and that you desperately need to re-discover him again to be a true Christian pastor who calls, like Jesus, for the comprehensive love and full respect for every human being and a commitment to the full and wonderful teachings that call upon all believers, without exception, to always stand beside the poor, the oppressed and the disadvantaged?

My brother Pastor Terry Jones. Can you tell me, honestly, if Jesus came today, whose side would he take?

Is it the side of the powerful and arrogant oppressors who dominate the world and endlessly plunder its resources, violate its laws and international treaties, and kill people in their countries and destroy houses on top of their owners and turn them into refugees across the earth? Or is it the side of those who are oppressed, the disadvantaged, hungry, and homeless?

Did you forget what Jesus himself would say on the Day of Judgment to each person in front of him: “All that you did to one of my brothers, you actually did to me”?

I wonder if you have overlooked or forgotten that Jesus did not point in that speech on the Day of Judgment to the religion of any of those mistreated persons. He only referred to everyone as belonging to the human race and to his standing with the deprived, the weak, and the oppressed in this world.

So how could you as an American Christian pastor stand with the oppressors from your country whose injustice has spread around the world?

Aren’t you afraid of when you appear before Jesus on Judgment Day and you are burdened with a heavy conscience, like your leaders who are blinded by the gods of power, money, control and greed?

My brother Pastor Terry. Do you think I am being unfair if I conclude that your hatred toward Islam is what drove you to such a reprehensible call for the burning of Islam’s holy book, the Quran?

But let me ask you, as a Syrian Roman Catholic priest: What do you know about Islam? It appears to me from your call to burn the Quran that you are ignorant of Christ and Christianity, and that makes me believe that you are also ignorant of Islam and Muslims.

Believe me, it is not my intention to indict you and it is not my intention to engage with you in a religious debate about Christianity or Islam. However, after I prayed for a long time, let me suggest for both of us to make a joint effort on this coming September 11.

You might ask me what effort can we do jointly when you are in Florida and I’m in Damascus?

He is my suggestion.

I invite you to visit Syria, where you will be my guest and the guest of many of my Muslim and Christian friends. Syria is a country populated mostly by Muslims and in which Christians are indigenous to the land and have lived side-by-side with Muslims for centuries and centuries.

Come and don’t worry about anything.

Come and you will find out about Islam and Muslims what will comfort you, please you, surprise you, and even lead you, from where you are today in Florida, to invite all people to live in respect, love and cooperation among all people.

This is what people need rather than the un-Christian call to fuel the sentiment of hatred and division.

Come to Syria and you will be amazed by the good nature of people and their faith, their relations, friendly cooperation and openness toward all strangers.

Come to Damascus to witness and live an experience that is not in your mind nor the mind or expectation of all the churches of the West or their bishops, pastors, and clergymen.

Come to see and hear two choruses, Christian and Muslim, singing together during Christian and Islamic holidays to praise Allah, the One God, who created us all, and to whom we all return.

My brother Pastor Terry.

I call you my brother and I am serious about calling you brother and about my invitation to you. I await a word (of reply) from you. Trust me that you will find a brother in Damascus, actually many brothers.

Please contact me and don’t delay. I am waiting for you in Damascus.

I ask God to make our anticipated meeting the beginning of a long and interesting path that we undertake together with other brothers in Damascus and around the world.

How desperate is the need of our world for bright roads.

Come, the road to Damascus is waiting for you.

Father Elias Zahlawi

From Your Neighbor…..perhaps


A Daughter of Detroit, by Najah Bazzy

I was born on April 15 in Downtown Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital on a Christian holiday, Good Friday, to a blue collar Arab Muslim family, while all of America was rushing to the post office to mail their taxes, in a decade called the Sixties that would belong to civil rights, civil strife, old glory, grief, and greatness.

With such a start I can’t pretend to be surprised that a lot of my life has since been shaped and defined by civil rights, human rights, grief and sadness, joy and greatness. My father called me Najah, (it means ‘success’), after an artist named Najah Salam. Salam, the root word of Islam, means ‘peace.’ I learned early in life that a person who aspires to peace would model success, while a person who aspires to success may not always be peaceful. I am a Muslim by birth and by choice, a person who submits her will to God in a collaborative partnership between Creator and Created. The message of Islam in the Holy Qur’an, coupled with the example of the Messenger Muhammed and his holy family’s way of life, play key roles in shaping who I am, what I do, how I do it, and why.

Being a Muslim is not rooted in the rote performance of religious rituals. It is based on living your faith every moment of the day. Islam is cellular to a devout Muslim. It is a blue print for humanity, a blue print I use daily as a guide. I pay reverence to my Lord, and I reference His messengers, including Muhammed, Jesus, Moses, Noah and Abraham. It is, however, the life of Muhammed that has most influenced how I conduct myself and make decisions. He was the most complete of human beings, a mosaic of man and prophet, who taught us how to live a faithful life through his day-to-day example. He was, to paraphrase one of his contemporaries, the living Quran manifested in humanity. For Muslims, he is the divinely inspired messenger whose teaching completes the divine ring of dialogue between humankind and the Creator, beginning with Judaism and ending with Islam.

*

I measure my daily life by my impending death, as did the Prophet Muhammad. For me, he remains a constant reminder of the sacredness of time. He did not waste time. He utilized every moment to be of service to his Creator. For Muslims, Muhammad is the exemplary manifestation of a principled life. He has taught me that each breath is a gift, as is every thought. He has taught me to be efficient.

As a Muslim nurse, I am doubly aware of my physical body and its miracle. How it moves, walks, talks, sees, hears, speaks, and regenerates itself. Muhammad’s prayers and supplications have been handed down to us. Through them, I have learned to thank God for all of these faculties, which allow me to be productive as a human. I might have been created a bird, or an animal that slithers on the floor. I might have been born to crawl on my belly or carry a burden on my back. Instead, I was born a human, with a brain, free will, a heart that loves, and a womb that can bear children. How grateful I am to this Creator, and how worthy He is of my admiration and acknowledgment.

Raising a righteous family has been a primary goal in my life. I sometimes ask myself about the legacy or imprint I want to leave behind. When I depart this life what will my children say about me? I look to Muhammad’s legacy to help me answer these questions. On his deathbed he said, “I leave behind two weighty things, the Holy Quran and my revered Family. And he who holds firm to these two will never go astray; they will meet me at the fountain of abundance in Heaven.” I draw from these words the notion that our legacy lies in our most inspired actions and in our children.

Islam has taught me how to live with a conscious difference. It has taught me to be a nurse of a different kind, one that advocates for the rights of patients to exercise their faith, so that as they lie sick in their hospital beds their faith can play its proper role in their healing or their dying. Islam has taught me to be a daughter of a different kind, often through lessons derived from the life of the Prophet’s glorious daughter, Fatima. The Messenger taught me how to be a parent of a different kind, one that would not favor a son over a daughter, one that would love children and grandchildren. Islam has taught me how to be a wife of a different kind, one who understands that a marriage is a society’s strongest unit, because the family rests on its foundation. Islam and the Prophet have taught me how to exercise modesty as a testimony to the status of women. It has taught me that women are not commodities to be exploited by a billion dollar pornography industry. A woman is precious, valuable. She is not for sale. In all these ways, Islam has taught me how to hold my physical nature back, and move my humanness forward. This is the way I’d like to be remembered. This is the legacy I want to leave my children.

My favorite “watch words” are called the Key to Success. They were written by an unknown author. When I was in junior high school, it was a tradition for the ninth-grade class to pass down the “Key to Success” to upcoming students. It was a large, white key made of hard cardboard wrapped with red ribbon. The words inscribed on the key became a creed for me. It was presented to me as an upcoming class representative, and the following year I presented it to the next class. I quote it here because it expresses the legacy I’d like to leave behind. Its message is the cellular message of Islam.

“She was a success because she lived well, laughed often and loved much. She gained the respect of intelligent people and the love of little children. She filled her niche and accomplished her task whether by a kind gesture, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul. She always looked for the best in others and gave the best she had to give. For mom was a person for whom peace was a noun, verb, adjective, and an article of her faith. Her success was that she was a Muslim, she loved Islam, the faith of peace, and to God she did indeed humbly submit.”

Every person should have a mission and vision, says Steven Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Today, corporate America looks to Mr. Covey to teach principle-centered guidelines to run profitable businesses with integrity. I was introduced to his lessons and philosophy as part of a corporate training seminar for the health care system I worked for. Covey says that to be effective you need to start with the end in mind, as your first guiding principle. His second guiding principle is, Put first things first. I became enthralled with Mr. Covey’s message because it expresses Islam’s code of conduct in plain English. Its value system has been around for 1500 years, (somewhat longer than Mr. Covey). As I listened to the trainers teach the seven habits for success, I thought to myself, How interesting: I grew up with the seven habits rooted in my faith. Using Covey’s frame of reference, the developer of my program is God, the trainer is Muhammed, and the training manual is the Holy Quran. As a nurse in my field, these principles resonate with the tone of who I am now and who I will continue to be.

Through everyday learning experiences like this one, I have come to see that the principles I was taught as a child are principles worth sharing. For a Muslims, to “think with the end in mind” means to strive each day on earth to be worthy of Heaven. “Putting first things first” means giving God first place in life, my family second, and all else will follow. This coordination of priorities is powerful and effective in building a character of peace and success. Islam is indeed a way of life. Muslims believe that everything we do is a form of worship. Even sleep is a form of worship.

*

My first conscious memory, at the age of three-and-a-half, is marked with vivid images I still recall.

My mom was opening the oven to baste the turkey and, as always, I was under foot. I remember the smell, and the hustle of the kitchen laid with gray and red tiled linoleum. I remember my mother in her white shirt and apron, and how pretty I thought she was. Then I heard a sudden scream from the living room and my mom rushed to my father, who stood motionless, crying out loud. Seeing my father cry surprised me; I’m not sure that I understood anything except the sadness. I also recall a few days later, televised pictures of the hearse and seeing a little boy about my size saluting his daddy’s flag draped casket. I remember the death of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.

More than pictures, the sadness remains imprinted on my brain. This first impression of grief, I am sure, remains the unconscious base of my deep feelings for the dying and for those they leave behind. Today in my practice as a nurse, I am keenly aware of the power of grief and how it manifests itself in the many patients I see and serve.

I am one of those privileged people whose work permits me to listen often to the war stories of men, women and children. Over the last decade, many of my patients have immigrated from Bosnia, Kosovo, Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq. When they relate heart-wrenching stories of losing their homes, their babies, their spouses, their parents, their hope and even their minds, I listen and cry along with them, wondering at our cruelty and hoping that one day mankind will grow up. If it weren’t for my faith in Islam, and my belief in a Judgment Day that will bring justice to oppressors and joy to those oppressed, I would not be able to do my work. It is hard to fathom the mind of a child who has watched a bomb falling on his home. It is difficult to hear elders speak of the black skies over Iraq after the air strikes, the fleece of white sheep turned black by debris, the wanton destruction of life in the years following the Gulf War. Yet with each painful story comes a surrender, an acceptance, and a proof that the human spirit has the capacity to endure somehow, some way. It is one of the aspects of my work that intrigues and attracts me and keeps me coming back.

Certain events in the Prophet Muhammad’s life affirm my own responsibility to the poor, the orphaned, the wayfarer, and even to one’s enemies. I keep these stories close to me.

According to one report, the Prophet had a neighbor, a pagan Meccan with a tribal mentality who hated him. Every night, the man would place his household trash in front of the Prophet’s door to humiliate him. Each morning the Prophet would open his door to leave his home and be greeted with the man’s garbage. In time, however, the neighbor fell ill, and the Prophet knocked at his door and went in to visit him. When the Prophet sat by his bedside, the man was so surprised, he asked, “What would bring you here to see me? Don’t you know I don’t like you?” The Prophet said, “Yes I know, but I am a man of principle, and my faith tells me to take care of my neighbors and to visit the sick. You are my neighbor and you are sick.”

This story has always been dear to me. Through it, I’ve been taught something about humility, grace, and caring for the ill. And because the man was of Jewish descent, the story also teaches me to respect people whose faith differs from mine.

*

One day I was giving a lecture to a group of nurses on caring for Muslim mothers. I was out of state and speaking at a hospital that served a high concentration of Muslim women seeking obstetric services. My lecture was on Women in Islam the first hour, and Care of the Muslim Mother the second hour. I was explaining the ethical code of Islam concerning birthing, death, burial of babies and fetuses, abortion, genetic counseling, grief counseling and other related issues. When the discussion ended, a managing nurse came to me and asked if she could see me privately. She wore a troubled expression. Of course I obliged. When we were alone, she began by asking if I had a strong stomach. Then she invited me to visit their pathology laboratory. As I followed her through the corridors, she unlocked one door after another. I could feel a coolness as we approached the room, and then we entered a typical pathology lab. There the woman raised her hands and gestured to the shelves lining the walls. “Here is our museum of babies,” she said. “I don’t know what to do with them all. I’ve had them on shelves here for years.”

I could see by their dated labels that some of the containers were seven years old. I looked at the white tubs filled with human beings, little bodies of people in formaldehyde, and my eyes welled. Some of the containers held two and three babies settled on top of each other. They ranged in fetal age from 12 weeks to full term. Little hands and feet, little faces and bodies. I thought of the Prophet.

Each day as he left his home, on the way to his Mosque in Medina, he would stop at the cemetery along the way. He would stop on the way and again coming back and say Salaam, the salutation of peace, to the people in their graves.

I asked to be left alone for a while. When the nurse had gone, I began to lift down the containers one by one. I said “Assalamu Aleikum, little ones, from me and your Messengers.” As I looked over the lab file of 220 babies with no names, I thought of the Prophet’s warning to care for the orphaned and those who are homeless and helpless. I wondered what to do and knew from his teaching that Muslims must be buried. But the responsibility, I slowly realized, was not just to bury the Muslims among these babies (of which I found none), but to bury all of them, since Islam concerns itself with everyone.

In the old days in Arabia, before Muhammad became a prophet, there was a widespread practice of burying babies alive- especially baby girls. Later, Muhammad put a stop to this. The Holy Quran contains a verse that says babies buried alive will call out a question on Judgment Day, before God’s eternal tribunal of justice, asking what sin they had committed to warrant being buried alive.

I recall all this now because it taught me two things: The babies in their bottles were orphaned, homeless, helpless. And I was guided.

On another occasion a mother miscarried her fetus, which fell into the toilet.

The mother became so upset that the nurse panicked. I was entering the room to visit the mother and heard the commotion. Luckily, I caught the nurse, who was about to flush the toilet, grabbing her hand. Then I found a sifter and lifted the baby. As we rinsed it, it lay in the palm of my hand, about 10 weeks old. That baby was buried, like the others.

*

When I was about fifteen, I began to assist in the ritual washing of the Muslim women who have died. The first person I attended was my aunt, who passed away suddenly. She was the love of our lives and many of us grieved for her. I remember watching as we wrapped her body with the plain sheets Muslims use to shroud the dead. I recall how we placed a scarf-like head covering over her hair. I remember thinking, How interesting it is, that we are born without clothes but die shrouded. I wondered: Were we born naked and innocent, only to die shrouded, as if to cover up a life of sins? I wasn’t learned in the rites of Islam at 15. I was a practicing young Muslim girl, who observed modesty in my character and clothing, but there was a lot I didn’t understand.

One day a few years later, I came across a book called simply, Muhammed. It was a biography. Near the end, when I reached the part about his death, I wept over the story. How does the world lose an Abraham, a Moses, a Jesus, a Muhammad? How does the world recover from such a loss? He died in his home, in the arms of his beloved cousin and son-in-law Ali. In my tradition Ali, who was raised by the Prophet, washed, shrouded, and buried the Prophet’s body. Reading about this, I recalled the shrouding of my aunt, and realized that if the Prophet was shrouded, it must teach us something about death: The body is a dignified gift and carrying case, and even in death the genitals should be covered and the body clothed. I began to revise my thought of a few years before, about shrouding and sin, for I realized that Muhammad was a man without sin, yet in death he was shrouded.

From that time on, the circumstances surrounding death became sacred moments for me. Today, I spend many of my working hours helping people through the dying process, the grieving process, and more. I advocate for improved hospice services, and I belong to several coalitions dedicated to treating people with dignity near life’s end.

*

When I was growing up my grandmother lived with us. She was my love and I was hers. We shared the same bedroom. She would tell me stories of the old country and her youth. One day she called me to our room. I was about 20 at the time. . She told me to get a pad and paper and write her last will down. I wasn’t ready to live without my grandmother. I would never be ready. But I sat with her, and as she spoke her wishes, I wrote them down. She asked me to be sure her shroud was white and green, to visit her grave often, to always plant flowers at her grave. She asked me to be sure her daughters and I washed her and to be sure no one other than us saw her. She held me to this Amana or trust, that I would care for the elderly and that I would never as a nurse be harsh with the ill or the elderly. I have until this day lived up to the promise. Tomorrow, God willing, I’ll go on.

The Prophet Muhammed was once brought to a dying man who was suffering so terribly with a lingering illness. The Prophet asked many questions and discovered that this was a man who had been harsh with his mother, and she in turn was unforgiving of him for it. The Prophet went to speak to the mother. “Will you forgive your son? He is suffering because you have not forgiven him for what he has done to you.” The woman replied, “He was too harsh with me, after I gave him all I had in my life.” At this point, the Prophet of God instructed his companions to build a bonfire. And he said to her, “Then push your son into this fire.” She said, “Prophet of God, you ask me to do what I cannot, he is my son.” The Prophet replied, “If he dies without your forgiveness the fire will be his eternal home.” The mother quickly forgave her son, and he died in peace.

I carry these stories with me. They are living lessons of a dynamic faith.

*

This year my mother joined me on the Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. It was the second time each of us had performed these sacred rites. Holding her hand, praying next to her, eating with her, and hearing her supplication for her children, as she made her circuit around the holy Ka’ba, are among the peak memories of a lifetime. I looked at my mother often on our trip.

A young person once asked the Prophet, “If my mother and father call me at the same time, to whom should I respond?” the Prophet replied, “Your mother.” “And the second time?” The Prophet replied, “Your mother.” “And the third time?” The Prophet replied,”Your mother.” “And the fourth time?” The Prophet replied, “Your father.”

Although I am 42 years of age, my mother looked after me constantly while we were on the pilgrimage. She tried to feed me and felt concerned about my whereabouts every minute that I was not with her. In short, she worried about me as though I were a baby. I thought, “Yes indeed, all six of her children will always be her babies. Just as all four of my children will always be my babies.” I watched her with sadness in my heart because she was aging, slowing down and, when fatigued, forgetful.

There we were in Mecca, the Prophet’s birthplace, and then Medina, his chosen place of refuge, the two holiest cities in Islam, and I was with my mother. I couldn’t help recalling in those surroundings that the Prophet Muhammed had lost his father soon after his birth, or that he had lost his mother a few years later. I wondered about the trials of a child without parents, how much he must have missed them. He knew what it was to be orphaned. When he called upon his people to care for orphans, he knew first hand the lonely heart of a child without parental love. At the age of seven or so, he came into the protecting arms of his grandfather, Abu Muttalib, but lost him too before long, then passed into the hands of a loving uncle, Abu Talib, who raised him into adulthood. No wonder this safety net, the extended family, remains important in Islam. For me, it is as important as the nuclear family.

In Mecca and Medina, I could feel the presence of this man, this messenger, Muhammed. I could feel his spirit and his blessings in my life. In Mecca when I prayed before the Ka’ba, and again in his Mosque in Medina, I recommitted myself to being the best example of a human being that I can be. I recommitted myself to the principles laid down by this most complete human being: a man and a messenger, a father and husband, an advocate for human rights, founder of a just and fair government. If more people knew his story and the world in which it took place, they would understand that Muhammad liberated women and the voice of the oppressed. He exiled racism, freed slaves, married widows, and protected orphans. Moreover, his message lived after him, and soon united much of the world under the banner of monotheism. Muhammad’s teaching lives on today, attracting new people, revitalizing the lives of those who learn about him. He makes me proud to be a Muslim.

Main Stream Media At it Again-What the AP left out of Obama’s speech


The AP posted a transcipt of Obama’s speech in Cairo, but this is what they left out:

Threatening Israel with destruction — or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews — is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people — Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland.  For more than 60 years they’ve endured the pain of dislocation.  Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead.  They endure the daily humiliations — large and small — that come with occupation.  So let there be no doubt:  The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable.  And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.  (Applause.)

For decades then, there has been a stalemate:  two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive.  It’s easy to point fingers — for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by Israel’s founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond.  But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth:  The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.  (Applause.)

That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest.  And that is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience and dedication that the task requires.  (Applause.)  The obligations — the obligations that the parties have agreed to under the road map are clear.  For peace to come, it is time for them — and all of us — to live up to our responsibilities.

Palestinians must abandon violence.  Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed.  For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation.  But it was not violence that won full and equal rights.  It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding.  This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia.  It’s a story with a simple truth:  that violence is a dead end.  It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus.  That’s not how moral authority is claimed; that’s how it is surrendered.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build.  The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities.  To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel’s right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s.  The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.  (Applause.)  This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace.  It is time for these settlements to stop.  (Applause.)

And Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society.  Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be a critical part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

And finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities.  The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems.  Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state, to recognize Israel’s legitimacy, and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs.  (Applause.)  We cannot impose peace.  But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away.  Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state.  It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

Too many tears have been shed.  Too much blood has been shed.  All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra — (applause) — as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer.  (Applause.)

The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons.

This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran.  For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is in fact a tumultuous history between us.  In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government.  Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians.  This history is well known.  Rather than remain trapped in the past, I’ve made it clear to Iran’s leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward.  The question now is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude, and resolve.  There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect.  But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point.  This is not simply about America’s interests.

Hat tip to Kabobfest.

Take that!


An in your face moment brought to you by the Israeli government.  I wonder what text books taught that young man that Jews killed Jesus and that they should be proud?