November 9, 2019

India's Supreme Court ruled Saturday that a Hindu temple could be built on the site where a mosque was illegally razed by Hindus in 1992 in the town of Ayodhya, ending a decades-long dispute.

Many Hindus believe the site to be where the god Ram was born, and that a Hindu temple once stood on the spot before India's Muslim rulers built a mosque there in the 16th century. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu who in his initial 2014 campaign promised to build the temple, urged for calm Saturday, as did Muslim leaders, The Washington Post reports.

So far, that's held, although Ayodhya reportedly remains alert, and a heavy security presence has taken over the streets to prevent any clashes. Some people were reportedly happy to have a ruling one way or the other in the hopes that it will mean the end of tensions. Still, lawyers for the Muslim parties rejected a five acre land grant as consolation, and they will ask the court to review its decision. It's reportedly unlikely to be overturned.

Ultimately, the decision is seen as another victory for Modi, under whom Hindu nationalist movements have strengthened, often at the expense of India's Muslim community. Read more at The Washington Post and Deutsche Welle. Tim O'Donnell

June 15, 2017

On Tuesday, delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting approved statements condemning gambling and Planned Parenthood, and approving public officials who demonstrate "consistent moral character" and "choose not to meet privately with members of the opposite sex who are not their spouse," but they did not get a chance to vote on a resolution rejecting "the retrograde ideologies, xenophobic biases, and racial bigotries of the so-called 'Alt-Right.'" That resolution, introduced by black Texas pastor Rev. Dwight McKissic, was "too open-ended," explained Barrett Duke, chairman of the resolutions committee, which declined to put forward McKissic's resolution.

That changed on Wednesday, after a strident backlash on social media and from some SBC delegates, when Southern Baptist leaders introduced a new resolution that stripped out some of McKissic's language but affirms that Southern Baptists "decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ" and "denounce and repudiate white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as of the devil." The delegates, or messengers, overwhelmingly approved that resolution then gave a rousing ovation after its passage.

Duke apologized to the delegates for "the pain and the confusion that we created for you and the watching world when we decided not to report out a resolution on alt-right racism," saying he shares his coreligionists' abhorrence of the "particularly vicious form of racism that has manifested itself in the alt-right movement." Duke's 10-member resolutions committee has one black member; the SBC is 85 percent white and only 6 percent black, according to Pew.

"I saw people identifying themselves as Southern Baptist and members of the alt-right, so this is horrifying to me," McKissic explained. "I wanted the Southern Baptist Convention to make it very clear we have no relationship to them." When the convention did not move forward on the resolution, that upset a lot of younger and minority SBC delegates, and McKissic said he was disappointed, too. "I thought it would be a slam dunk, but I misread Southern Baptists apparently," he said. But it turns out lots of white Southern Baptists were riled up, too. "I don't think they anticipated how white people would get upset about this and demand something be done," McKissic said. "I'm encouraged and heartened by this. It was the white people who said, no we will not take this sitting down. We don't want this association with the convention." Peter Weber

November 3, 2015

Americans are becoming less and less religious, according to a Pew Research Center study released Tuesday. Taking measure of the U.S. religious landscape in 2014, the survey found that "nones" — a growing minority that says they do not belong to an organized faith — are on the rise even as the certainty that God exists has fallen since Pew last tested the waters in 2007.

However, compared to other "advanced industrial countries," Pew learned that the number of American adults who believe in God is still remarkably high, even as it's dipped to 89 percent from 2007's 92 percent. The bigger drop came in the "certainty" that God exists: In 2007, 71 percent of Americans could say they were certain, whereas only 63 percent reported being so today.

In addition to the rise of religious nones (who now make up 23 percent of the U.S. population, compared with the 77 percent of Americans who identify with a faith), millennials are also effecting the overall climate of the religious landscape. Compared to older generations like the Baby Boomers, far fewer millennials are certain God exists (only about one half report that they are), with just four in 10 millennials saying religion is important to them or that they pray every day.

But religion aside, Americans may be making gains spiritually. In a jump since 2007, six in 10 Americans now report that they feel a deep sense of "spiritual peace and well-being" regularly, while 46 percent feel a deep sense of "wonder about the universe" at least once a week. Jeva Lange

September 21, 2015

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) voluntarily jumped into the fray of the GOP presidential field's opinions on Muslim people Monday after calling hypothetical questions about a Muslim president a "dumb game."

NBC's Chuck Todd broached the subject Sunday with Ben Carson, days after rival Donald Trump told a town hall supporter he'd be looking at the idea to "get rid" of Muslims and also didn't correct the supporter's assertion that President Obama is Muslim. Carson explained that he wouldn't vote for a Muslim president because he doesn't believe Islam is consistent with the U.S. Constitution.

Jindal posted his own take in a cheeky statement Monday, outlining a laundry list of requirements a Muslim candidate would need to meet to earn his support:

If you can find me a Muslim candidate who is a Republican, who will fight hard to protect religious liberty, who will respect the Judeo-Christian heritage of America, who will be committed to destroying ISIS and radical Islam, who will condemn cultures that treat women as second class citizens and who will place their hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution, then yes, I will be happy to consider voting for him or her. If you can't, I'll settle for voting for a Christian Governor from Louisiana. [Bobby Jindal]

Trump, meanwhile, has since tried to clarify his controversial town hall response by declaring, "I love the Muslims." On the Democratic side, frontrunner Hillary Clinton tried to shut down the discussion with a simple tweet. Julie Kliegman

June 1, 2015

The Muslim woman who was denied a job at Abercrombie & Fitch because she wore a headscarf won her discrimination case Monday, Reuters reports. The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 in her favor in a landmark case for religious freedom and workplace discrimination.

In 2008, an Abercrombie Kids store in Oklahoma told Samantha Elauf, then 17, that she wasn't hired because the headscarf she wears for religious reasons violated the company's "look policy." Julie Kliegman

January 15, 2015

Duke University announced Tuesday that Muslim students would be able to chant a weekly call to prayer from the iconic Duke Chapel bell tower.

Not so fast. After a Christian evangelist criticized the change, Duke reversed its decision Thursday, The News & Observer reports. Instead, the students will chant from the quad outside the chapel.

Michael Schoenfeld, Duke vice president for public affairs, indicated in a news release that Tuesday's announcement was reversed because it didn't have the unifying effect intended on campus. Julie Kliegman

November 10, 2014

A Mormon bishop in Los Angeles who wrote a blog post condemning Mormon Senate Leader Harry Reid as an "embarrassment" to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has since apologized for his tone.

Mark Paredes, The Associated Press reports, "expressed his belief that Democrats' support of same-sex marriage, abortion rights, and gambling runs contrary to positions" of the Mormon Church. Having gone so far as to declare Reid "unworthy" of entering Mormon temples, the bishop nevertheless recanted when his criticism drew ire from Mormon Democrats.

"I do apologize for the tone of the article, for giving the impression that I was criticizing Sen. Reid in my role as an LDS bishop, and for implying that I am in a position to judge the senator's temple worthiness," Paredes told AP, adding, "However, I can't apologize for criticizing his advocacy of certain issues and on behalf of certain interests."

Despite the fact that Paredes posted a disclaimer declaring his post to be his own personal opinion, the LDS Church issued a statement saying that it "was 'entirely inappropriate' for church officers to use their titles while publishing such political views."

Crystal Young-Otterstrom of Salt Lake City, vice chair of LDS Democrats, said Paredes’ apology has been accepted, but that the bishop should meet with Mormon Democrats and be educated, because, as Young-Otterstrom put it, "We are Democrats because of our Mormon beliefs and not in spite on them." Teresa Mull

June 24, 2014

Malaysia's highest court upheld a ban on Christians saying "Allah," the Arabic name for God, in a highly contested case Monday.

AFP reports that the Catholic church had challenged the ban in an effort to use "Allah" in Catholic newspaper The Herald, citing references to Allah by name in religious literature and Malay-language Bibles. The case spent six years in court and contributed heavily to the nation's religious tension, provoking attacks on Christian churches and eventually two bombings on a Malaysian church in January.

While Christians in Malaysia thought the ruling impacted their religious freedom, the Muslim community, Malaysia's majority religious group, applauded it.

"We must defend 'Allah' because this is our religious obligation. I hope other communities, including Christians, understand this," Ibrahim Ali, head of Muslim rights group Perkasa, told AFP. Meghan DeMaria

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