Archive for the ‘Mosque’ Category

Religion Not Dead In America

March 10, 2008

By Stephen Prothero
USA Today

Numbers lie, but they also tell tales, untrustworthy and otherwise. So the key question stirring around the much discussed U.S. Religious Landscape Survey released in late February by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life is what tale does it tell about the religious state of the union.

For some, the story of this survey, based on interviews in multiple languages with more than 35,000 U.S. adults, is the strength of American religion.

Not too long ago, I wrote that American atheism was going the way of the freak show. As books by Christopher Hitchens and other “new atheists” climbed the best-seller lists, I caught a lot of flak for that prophecy. But atheists make up only 1.6% of respondents to this survey. And 82% of respondents report that religion is either somewhat or very important in their lives.

Others find in this new data a nation of religious shoppers: 44% of the Americans surveyed have traded in their original religious home for another. Apparently, the grass is also greener at the church, synagogue or mosque next door.

Still others, noting that only 51% of Americans describe themselves as Protestants, see Protestantism teetering on the verge of becoming a minority.

Catholicism is at least by some readers of the tea leaves in trouble, too, now that ex-Catholics constitute 10% of the population.

Diminished safeguards

The tale I take away from this study is that shifts in the political and moral winds are transforming American religion. Many believe that the Founders separated church and state in order to save the federal government from the interference of overzealous ministers. Not so. The purpose of the First Amendment‘s establishment clause — which prohibits the federal government from passing laws that favor any one religion (atheism included) — was to safeguard religion against the encroachment of politics. And this new survey suggests that those safeguards are, well, going the way of the freak show.

The key subplot here is the rise of “nones,” a category growing faster than any other religious group. Of all adults in the USA, 16% say they are religiously unaffiliated, while 7% were raised that way. Moreover, 25% of younger Americans (ages 18-29) report no religious affiliation at all.

It is important to emphasize that this march of the “nones” is by no means beating the drums for the old secularization thesis, which posited that as societies embraced modernization they would shun God. This is because many “nones” are quite religious. In fact, many Americans refuse to affiliate with any religious organization not because they do not believe in God but because they believe in God so fervently that they cannot imagine any human institution capturing the mysteries of the divine. In this study, only about a quarter of all “nones” call themselves atheists or agnostics. In other surveys, about half the unaffiliated typically affirm the Christian God.

What does the rise of the “nones,” particularly in Western states and northern New England, demonstrate? Not the sickness of religion in general but the health of a new kind of religion — a more personal and less institutional form often parading under the banner of “spiritual but not religious,” an option that, among my Boston University students at least, seems as popular as the smoothie stand in the student union.

Two related factors seem to be at play in the rise of the “nones”: a decline in the stigma of being a religious free agent, and an increase in the stigma of being a church member. According to Darren Sherkat, a professor of sociology at Southern Illinois University who has written widely on religious demographics, Americans have long “overconsumed religion because of social constraints.” It used to be that you were considered a bad citizen, a bad marriage prospect and a bad employee if you didn’t show a little faith in faith. And plainly it is still imperative for presidential candidates to pledge their allegiance to God as well as flag. But in recent years, the moral failings of Ted Haggard, John Geoghan and other men of the cloth have been broadcast from National Public Radio to YouTube. As the almighty have fallen, atheists have felt empowered to stand up and ask whether religion really is any sort of guarantor of moral behavior. What is so moral about affiliating with gay-bashing gay evangelists or pedophilic priests?

As Sherkat explains, more parents are deciding to raise their kids without any religion. And more of those children are staying unaffiliated as adults. All this is happening because the status gap between “nones” and believers has never been narrower.

Plainly, the Republican Party gained ground over the past quarter-century by attaching itself to family, morality and God, even as the Democratic Party lost ground by focusing on such matters as rights and reason. In the process, the Republicans became the party of God and the Democrats the party of secularism — not a good strategy for the Democratic Party in a country where 96% of voters believe in God. So Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are both taking pains to pitch their party as a party of prayer and piety.

Even so, for much of the past generation, “Christian” and “conservative” have seemed to be interchangeable terms. It should not be surprising if at least some on the left who once upon a time might have described themselves as “Christians” have decided to jettison that affiliation for political reasons. Such reasons, it should be emphasized, are basically the same ones why so many Europeans have divorced themselves from their country’s established churches: because the marriage of a given church with a particular political regime is never eternal, and when it ends it leaves a lot of angry children in its wake.

Customized religion

Another story buried in the data of this new survey is the power of evangelical Protestantism, and particularly non-denominational churches. Of those surveyed, 44% called themselves “born again” or “evangelical” Christians, and among religious options non-denominational Protestantism is one of the fastest growing.

This story of the revenge of the evangelicals might seem at odds with the tale of the rise of the “nones,” but the impulse underlying them is the same. The USA is rapidly becoming a culture of customization. People want to write their own marriage vows and have tailor-made funerals. They gravitate toward religious options that are more personal and less institutional. In this respect, the “unaffiliated” and the “non-denominational” Protestant are cut from the same cloth.

The story behind the numbers of this latest survey is not that religion is in trouble. It is that religion is morphing into something new. Faith is becoming more political. But it is becoming more personal at the same time.

Stephen Prothero is the Chair of the Department of Religion at Boston University. He’s also the author of Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — And Doesn’t.

Pakistan’s Tyranny Continues

December 23, 2007
December 23, 2007
Lahore, Pakistan

THE chief justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, and his family have been detained in their house, barricaded in with barbed wire and surrounded by police officers in riot gear since Nov. 3. Phone lines have been cut and jammers have been installed all around the house to disable cellphones. And the United States doesn’t seem to care about any of that.

The chief justice is not the only person who has been detained. All of his colleagues who, having sworn to protect, uphold and defend the Constitution, refused to take a new oath prescribed by President Pervez Musharraf as chief of the army remain confined to their homes with their family members. The chief justice’s lawyers are also in detention, initially in such medieval conditions that two of them were hospitalized, one with renal failure.

As the chief justice’s lead counsel, I, too, was held without charge — first in solitary confinement for three weeks and subsequently under house arrest. Last Thursday morning, I was released to celebrate the Id holidays. But that evening, driving to Islamabad to say prayers at Faisal Mosque….

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Pakistan leader under fire after day of bloodshed

July 20, 2007

by Frank Zeller

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Under fire from suicide bombers, pressured by the White House and facing a key court ruling, Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf was Friday set for one of the toughest days of his eight-year rule.

 wave of suicide attacks sparked by an army raid Musharraf ordered on a pro-Taliban mosque last week reached a new, bloody peak Thursday, claiming 51 lives and bringing the death toll from the backlash of violence to almost 200.

In the day’s three separate attacks, bombers targeted…..

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Mosque Siege Impacts All Pakistan

July 10, 2007

People who came with us fom Peace and Freedom to Peace and Freedom II may recognize the inputs of Muhammad.  Since we innaugurated Peace and Freedom on July 4, 2006, Muhammad has been a frequest contributor.  A professional journalist, Muhammad has been operating in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan between that country and Afghanistan.  He filed this report on July 10, 2007.

Dear John E. Carey,

The Pakistani authorities have launched the operation against the militants in the Islamabad Red Mosque, as you had predicted to me yesterday.  This mosque, as you know, is actually the headquarter of terrorits.

Actually the religious leaders in the Lal Majid have been spoiling the minds of tribal youths for the last several years. I think after their elimination the situation will be change to the better. Thank you very much.

Situation in Pakistan’s capital is still fluid as the troops have been trying to take control of the mosque, but so far they failed in their mission. Resistence from the mosque shows that the militants have huge quatity of arms and ammunition. A report said that troops stormed mosque and attempted to flush out the remaining militants entrenched inside a women’s religious school in fierce fighting that left at least 50 militants and eight soldiers dead.

Events in Islamabad have also been affecting the tribal areas and other parts of the country as according to several officials were killed or injured in the attacks by the militants.

At the moment Swat district and Dir district of North West Frontier Province are the places where the militants have been hitting the government officials through bombs.

Several police officials were killed and maimed.

According to a report, following an attack on a military convoy that killed four troops, including a major and a lieutenant, army contingents have moved to Swat to apparently launch a military operation against the banned Tehrik Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi.The military is moving ahead from bunker to bunker to search for the “militants”, sources said. “The deployment of troops will be completed within two days and an operation against the Tehrik Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) is expected within a week,” they added.“For the first time we have seen such a huge army deployment in the Swat valley,” Ali Zaman, a resident of Chakdara, told Daily Times by phone. According to him the entire valley and Dir district were in the grip of fear.Swat District Coordination Officer Syed Muhammad Javed said the army had been called in to maintain law and order.

“The district administration was left with no option but to call the army to curb growing militancy and attacks on officials of the law-enforcement agencies,” Javed said. “The army has been deployed at the airport, bridges and at government installations,” the DCO said. TNSM activists led by their acting Ameer Maulana Fazlullah have called the army deployment a violation of the peace deal signed by the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA)-led NWFP government and TNSM on May 22, 2007.The government had allowed Fazullah to continue to run his FM radio station. Fazlullah in return had agreed to support a polio vaccination campaign, education for girls and government efforts to maintain law and order in the district. He also agreed to shut all weapon-manufacturing units and training facilities for the militants.

Recently, the maulana asked his followers through his illegal FM radio station to “carry out my mission in case I die in a military operation.” “We are not supporting the militants in Swat and will retaliate if the army attacks us,” he said.

Dear Sir, some of the government officials have been supporting Taliban and terrorists. So far hundreds of terrorists were brought to Bajaur Agency for sending them to Afghanistan to fight against the US forces. I want to stop these people, but at the moment I am helpless.

Just please bring this matter into the notice of US administration as they can pressure Pakistan to take action against the militants in Bajaur Agency tribal areas.

I think compromises at this point will affect war on terrorism. Again thank you very much.

Yours sincerely,

Muhammad Khurshid
Khar, Bajaur Agency,Tribal Areas Pakistan

Troops Attack Mosque In Pakistan

July 10, 2007

By ZARAR KHAN, Associated Press Writer

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Government troops stormed the compound of Islamabad’s Red Mosque before dawn Tuesday, prompting a fierce firefight with militants accused of holding about 150 hostages inside, officials said. At least 40 rebels and three soldiers were killed.

Amid the sounds of rolling explosions, commandos attacked from three directions about 4 a.m. and quickly cleared the ground floor of the mosque, army spokesman Gen. Waheed Arshad said. Some 20 children who rushed toward the advancing troops were brought to safety, he said. 

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Former Pakistan PM to lead talks over besieged mosque

July 9, 2007

by Masroor Gilani

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf Monday appointed a former prime minister to lead last-ditch talks with militant-led Islamists barricaded with women and children in an Islamabad mosque.

Security forces again fired tear gas and exchanged gunfire with the rebels at the Red Mosque, a group said to include foreign fighters and insurgents with links to Al-Qaeda. Twenty-four people have died since Tuesday.

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Terror Cannot Prevail: Pakistan’s Red Mosque Siege Continues

July 9, 2007

Filed by an eyewitness in Islamabad & Peace and Freedom Staff
July 9, 2007

Troops representing the government of Pakistan’s President General Pervez Musharraf continue a tense vigil surrounding the Lal Masjid or Red Mosque here in Islamabad.

Sporadic gunfire erupted again Monday morning as President Gen. Pervez Musharraf called a high-level meeting to discuss the siege.

Musharraf sent in troops on Wednesday, a day after supporters of the mosque’s radical clerics fought gunbattles with security forces.

Special Pakistani forces were sent to contain the terror campaign centred at the Mosque and meant to impose Taliban-style rule in the capital.

The government said it estimated that 23 or 24 have died in this siege.  A mosque spokesman claimed hundreds of men and women died in a military assault on the mosque and adjoining Islamic school.

Reporters have found it difficult to verify either claim.  Getting close to the mosque is now next to impossible due to the military presence and the sporadic gunfire in the area.

The big question is: who will win?  Who will prevail?  Now that a long anticipate ontrontation between the radicals and the more moderate militay regime of President General Pervez Musharraf is underway, what will be the onclusion?

The Christian Sciences Monitor lead editorial today began: “When the violent strand of Islam eventually collapses of its inherent contradiction, that day may have been foreseen in the siege at Pakistan’s Red Mosque. If the military uses wise tactics to end the siege well, civilization will be the victor. ”

“If Mr. Musharraf succeeds in ending the standoff with little bloodshed, the victory will send a strong message to anyone trying to turn Pakistan into ‘Talistan.'”

Terrorism will and must lose.  The hatefull, destructive and self destructive use and abuse of human life caused by suicide bombing and other indiscriminate forms of violence can never be allowed to become a way of life.

Read The Chrisian Science Monitor Editorial “Pakistan Zeroes In.”

Pakistan mosque assault looms amid Al-Qaeda links

July 8, 2007

by Rana Jawad

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan moved closer to an all-out raid on a besieged mosque in Islamabad Sunday, after officials said Al-Qaeda-linked rebels including foreigners had seized control and may start killing hostages.

Government forces tightened the noose on day six of the siege of the Red Mosque, as a top commando was shot dead overnight during an operation to blast through the wall around the building and allow women and children allegedly held inside to flee.

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Pakistan army tries to blast into mosque

July 8, 2007

By Sadaqat Jan
Associated Press Writer
July 8, 2007

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan’s army tried to blast through the wall of a besieged radical Islamic seminary early Sunday to help free hostages held by a cleric and his militant supporters, leaving one commando dead, an official said.

Militants inside the fortress-like Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, opened fire on the army forces, wounding two commandos, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad said. One soldier later died at a hospital.

On Saturday, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf threatened to kill the holdouts unless they surrendered.

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Pakistan’s Musharraf tells mosque rebels to surrender

July 7, 2007

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf told Islamists besieged at an Islamabad mosque to surrender Saturday, amid growing indications that an attempt to shoot down his plane was linked to the standoff.

Military ruler Musharraf said that the hardline students holed up inside the Red Mosque for the past five days must immediately free women and children allegedly being held as human shields, or face death.

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Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf addresses flood victims in Kambo Saeed near Larkana, 480 km (300 miles) from Karachi July 7, 2007. Musharraf told Islamist militants barricaded in a mosque on Saturday to surrender or die, while concern grew for hundreds of women and children inside the beseiged compound in the Pakistani capital. (Stringer/Reuters)