Countering the rise of radicalism in private Islamic schools in Indonesia – Opinion – The Jakarta Post

More on increased radicalization in Indonesia and the influence of Islamic schools, with a useful breakdown of the different types:

A series of terrorist acts has rocked Indonesia in the past week. Starting from a clash in a detention centre at the Police Mobile Brigade headquarters in Depok, West Java, last week, attackers then bombed three churches in Surabaya, East Java, last Sunday, followed by another terrorist bombing at Surabaya Police Headquarters. Dozens were killed and wounded.

In response, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has reiterated the government’s commitment to exterminate terrorism down to its roots.

We must appreciate Jokowi’s statement. However, terrorism is a complex issue because there is no single factor that can explain why a person becomes a terrorist.

The importance of schools to prevent radicalism

One of the strategies that the government can use to stop terrorism in Indonesia is to take preventive steps using educational institutions to promote tolerance, which can eventually stop the spread of radical thoughts.

But what is happening in Indonesia is the opposite. Many schools in Indonesia have become fertile ground for radicalism.

The latest surveys from the Wahid Institute, Pusat Pengkajian Islam Masyarakat and the Centre for Study of Islam and Society (PPIM) and Setara Institute have indicated the spread of intolerance and radical values in educational institutions in Indonesia.

A student tolerance survey from Setara Institute in 2016 revealed that 35.7% of the students showed a tendency to intolerance in their minds, 2.4% were involved in acts of intolerance, and 0.3% had the potential to become terrorists. The survey was based on 760 respondents who enrolled in public high schools in Jakarta and Bandung, West Java.

Surveys from the Wahid Institute and PPIM have shown the same worrying trend.

The characteristics of schools prone to radicalism

In 2017, I was involved in research on efforts to respond to radicalism at 20 private Islamic schools in Central Java. The research involved academics from Monash University in Australia, Walisongo State Islamic University in Semarang, Central Java, and Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta with funding support from the Australia-Indonesia Centre.

We managed to identify three types of schools that are prone to radicalism. In accordance with confidentiality principles, we will not publish the schools’ names in this article.

These three types of schools are:

1. Closed schools

Instead of embracing changes, this type of school offers students a narrow perspective and tends to shut them off from foreign ideas.

We interviewed one of the headmasters from these schools. He explained the importance of Islamic civilisation to protect students against Western values.

Aside from see Islam and the West as being in conflict, closed schools also stress the importance of practising their version of Islamic teachings and reject the moderate Islam that most Muslims adhere to in Indonesia.

2. Separated schools

These schools can be identified from their teacher recruitment system and their limited participation in social activities.

The teacher recruitment process in these schools is very strict, especially the recruitment of religion teachers. In addition, these schools do not want to participate in social activities that they deem to be against their values.

This type of school is very different from other Islamic schools that are affiliated with the country’s more traditional Muslim organisations such as Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) or Muhammadiyah. Whereas separated schools recruit religion teachers from their own groups only and will use their networks to recruit alumni who share the same Islamic values, NU and Muhammadiyah schools will not consider differences in their teachings as an issue. For example, one of the headmasters from a NU-affiliated school stated that his school also recruited teachers from Muhammadiyah.

NU and Muhammadiyah schools are also active in social activities, including interfaith activities. Separated schools are not.

3. Schools with pure Islamic identity

The third type can be identified by the way they create students’ Islamic identity. The schools that are prone to radicalism tend to build in a student a single Islamic identity, refusing other identities.

This understanding is different from other Islamic schools, which tend to consider that a person’s identity as a Muslim is not against his/her other identity. Moderate Islamic schools do not see a conflict between their students’ identity as Muslims and as Indonesian citizens.

When a school builds this single Muslim identity, that school will also foster radical attitudes among students as they only believe in a single Islamic interpretation that is in line with their values.

Headmasters from this type of school usually order their students to follow all religious rituals at schools, despite the students’ different religious background.

A headmaster told us that his students with a NU background must abandon their prayer ritual in the morning called qunut when they are enrolled in his schools.

This policy is different from other schools that allow flexibility for their students in their religious practices.

In addition, the rejection of other identities creates a “we versus them” attitude not only between different religions but also within the larger Islamic community itself.

What we can do

These three types of schools contribute to the growth of intolerance as well as radicalism at schools, which can lead to terrorist acts.

Therefore, we believe that the recent terrorist attacks should give momentum to the government to plan preventive measures to promote diversity, social integrity and diverse identities in various schools across the country.

The government’s campaign on tolerance should reach different educational institutions via the Culture and Education Ministry as well as Religious Affairs Ministry.

The government must also provide platforms and programs to promote tolerance. Apart from that, related government institutions in the regions must develop the capacity to identify schools that are prone to radicalism and apply persuasive approaches to prevent the spread of radicalism in those schools.

via Countering the rise of radicalism in private Islamic schools in Indonesia – Opinion – The Jakarta Post

The core Isis manual that twisted Islam to legitimise barbarity | The Guardian

Horrific:

The jihadist manual behind the brutality that underpinned Islamic State has been revealed for the first time in new analysis of a 579-page text, written by the Isis ideologue Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir.

The text attempts to legitimise the barbarous acts of the jihadist group, including the mutilation of corpses, the trade in human organs, beheading, the killing of children along with “scorched earth operations” and global terrorist attacks.

After two years examining and transcribing the document, experts at the counter-extremist group Quilliam have completed a meticulous appraisal of the extremists’ core textbook along with a robust theological rebuttal of its “twisted” interpretation of Islamic teachings. Used by Isis and its supporters to validate a large range of horrific acts, the “bible for jihadists” provided the theoretical and legal framework for the violent terrorist group.

“There is a startling lack of study and concern regarding this abhorrent and dangerous text in almost all western and Arab scholarship,” says the report. “We hope to expose and deconstruct this unprepossessing yet deeply insidious and pernicious text.”

Known as the Fiqh al-Dima (or The Jurisprudence of Blood), the book is the key Salafi-jihadist text. It attempts to justify the use of weapons of mass destruction, perpetrating genocide, the murder of non-combatants, the taking of sex slaves and hostages.

Researchers for Quilliam managed to acquire a copy of the manual online in 2015, after researchers spotted the Fiqh al-Dima being used to teach new recruits to Isis’s caliphate in Syria. Back then, Islamic State’s self-styled caliphate encompassed vast swaths of Syria and Iraq and a population of up to eight million. Since then the group has lost 98% of territory in the two countries and is now largely confined to a strip of desert straddling the Iraqi-Syrian border.

The manual offers the group guidance on “military retreat” with a chapter devoted to “surrender vs fighting to the death” that says jihadists should choose death instead of handing themselves over to the enemy.

However, Sheikh Salah al-Ansari, a senior Quilliam researcher who translated the manual from Arabic and wrote the rebuttal, said no religious requirement existed to “fight to the death” and that the Islamic tradition of warfare encouraged the humane treatment of prisoners of war. “Our work comprehensively debunks and rejects Isis’s proto-Islamic arguments, demonstrating their ignorance and disregard for traditional Islamic scholarship as well as for the basic humane and Islamic values of mercy and compassion,” said Ansari.

The titles of the text’s 20 chapters include “Beheading, decapitation and mutilation”, “Kidnapping warring infidels” and “How to kill spies”.

Another chapter, titled “Indiscriminate killing of warring infidels”, opens with an inflammatory message that calls for force to be used against unbelievers: “Kill them, fight them by every means that may snatch away their souls, drive their spirits from their bodies, cleansing the earth of their filth and removing their scourge from mankind, whatever that means may be.”

A separate chapter documents attempts to justify the use of weapons of mass destruction. “The central aim for which we strive – and we do so with all available strength – is the acquisition of weapons, weapons of mass destruction, for there is no escaping the obligation to defend against these defiant perverters of faith and end the aggression of the malodorous filth against Islam and its people,” writes Muhajir, the Isis author.

Each point he makes is theologically rebutted by Quilliam using the Qur’an, Islamic teachings and reference to acts prohibited by Islamic warfare ethics and Islamic morality. “This text offers intricate details on the use of jihad in its traditional Sunni discussion, and misuses these features to provide Islamic legal cover to terrorist operations,” said Ansari.

Among one of its central strands is the distinction between the “lands of Islam” and the “lands of unbelief (kufr)” and the notion that jihadists are entitled to fight the unbelievers.

“This entire binary construct is a later invention of Muslim theologians that is now obsolete, and so the justification of excommunication (takfir) and military attacks against civilians on this basis is completely absurd,” says the Quilliam report. Even so, Ansari said history had proved that some were swayed by the text, even chapters 11 and 12, which attempt to provide an Islamic sanction for the mutilation of bodies, the cutting of body parts and beheading.

“A susceptible and vulnerable reader who has no previous training in Islamic jurisprudence might easily become seduced by this book because it is written in a way that gives the impression that it has religious weight. While the text is somewhat based on traditional readings, it does not reflect the diverse and pluralistic complexities of Islamic rulings,” said Ansari.

The jihadis’ interpretation of jihad – the text has also been used by al-Qaida and Nigeria’s militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, to justify and commit atrocities – would have been core teachings to Isis’s 6,000 European Muslims who travelled to the calpihate, of which about 850 were British.

“They would have been introduced to this book, it is their bible, their most important text,” said Ansari.

via The core Isis manual that twisted Islam to legitimise barbarity | World news | The Guardian

Understanding other religions is fundamental to citizenship | Big Think

Valid points on the process of dialogue and understanding with respect to religions but applicable more broadly:

By walking down the street of any major city, you are likely to see more diversity than an 18th-century explorer did in a lifetime. People with very different ideas of how society should function must live together, and there is no idea more divisive than that of religion. Many of the most important moral disagreements break out along religious lines. Indeed, differing religious views on freedom, sexuality and justice threaten social cohesion. That must not be allowed to happen.

One crucial way that people can best learn to live with one another is by increasing their religious literacy. In 1945, the British author C S Lewis said that one will gain greater insight into other belief systems by stepping inside and looking ‘along’ them, rather than looking ‘at’ them from the outside. He explained this by analogy. Think of the difference in the experience of looking at a beam of light through a window, in comparison with the experience of looking along it. It is from within that we can test a system’s internal consistency and its ability to form and inform the believer. The idea is to see religion not merely as a set of propositions held in the head, but, in the words of the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, as a ‘lived experience’.

The key to this kind of understanding is dialogue. This isn’t the all-too-common conversation in which the goal is to poke holes in another’s religious argument. Rather, the purpose is only to understand, however fanciful or wrong the beliefs might appear. It requires moral imagination, letting the human voice of a believer express in concrete terms how his or her world is experienced. When questions are asked, they are there to reveal rather than eviscerate. It’s similar to how you experience stories, entering into them imaginatively and empathising with the characters. Stories are at the heart of human life, and also at the heart of religions. It is through understanding the way that human stories are affected by religious ones that we begin to look along that beam of light, rather than at it.

Becoming literate is a predicate of a stable and peaceful multicultural society. Countries throughout the world are seeing the emergence of a poison-breathing hydra that has never been taught to understand anything other than itself. The inevitable result of this has been the scapegoating, racism, tribalism and isolationism that have marked our recent politics. Increasing religious literacy will not necessarily lead to more agreement – indeed, it might even steel our convictions. But it will lead to being able to ‘disagree better’ (the aim of the Scriptural Reasoning movement) by tampering cheap stereotypes and petty caricatures.

In educational theory, religious literacy could be considered a ‘threshold concept’ for 21st-century citizenship. The word threshold comes from the word threshing: to separate the wheat from the chaff, filtering out what does not nourish in order to be left with what does. A concept that establishes a threshold is one that disabuses us of superficial understandings, and creates something more profound, complex and paradigmatic. For example, a threshold concept in physics would be understanding ‘temperature gradient’, or in literature it could be learning to deconstruct text for analysis. They are a boundary through which one must pass in order to advance in the understanding of a subject, allowing one a fuller grasp of a discipline. Similarly, in the study of religion, and indeed global citizenship, religious literacy should also be deemed a threshold concept, as it moves towards a perspectival understanding of religion rather than a reductionist one. Religion moves from being a set of propositions and practices, to an animating force behind human behaviour – something that needs to be heard in its own key.

Teaching religious literacy requires a focus on process rather than content. Since religious literacy is predicated on meaningful dialogue, the purpose is to develop these skills in students: active listening, honest questioning and humility. Teachers need to create and facilitate encounters of the ‘I-Thou’ variety, in the words of the Jewish theologian Martin Buber – where encounters are deep and genuine, rather than the instrumentalised and utilitarian ‘I-It’ encounters. Buber, unlike Jürgen Habermas (another major proponent of the educational value of dialogue) emphasises the need for dialogue to be based around a common focus – understanding of faith positions provides a worthy and generous focus.

Without developing religious literacy on a societal scale, it is difficult to see how our great multicultural experiment will avoid descending into the tribal warfare that so many are spoiling for. To take a small but current example from the United Kingdom, one could look at the ongoing controversy of Sharia councils. Sharia councils provide legal rulings and advice to Muslims based on interpretation of Sharia law. While they do not carry legal weight in the UK, they effectively arbitrate on a number of issues. The idea that Sharia operates as a parallel legal system in the UK is anathema to some, and petitions are being made to ban such councils. In much of the debate, what is lacking is an ability to see that justice is understood and reasoned differently from different perspectives. Of course, this does not suggest that Sharia courts should have a place in the British justice system, but rather that without some understanding and empathy, without some religious literacy, debates about such issues are liable to create more heat than light. Aeon counter – do not remove

via Understanding other religions is fundamental to citizenship | Big Think

Opinion | The Wrong Way for Germany to Debate Islam – The New York Times

Thoughtful commentary:

It was a warm June day in a northern German village, and I was talking to a Syrian friend outside a local shop. I had just bought some ice cream and offered to share it, but my friend refused. He was observing Ramadan: no food or drink until after sunset.

“If you had found asylum at the Arctic Circle instead of Germany,” I asked, “would you have starved by now?” It wasn’t an entirely academic question. In our village on Germany’s Baltic shore, the sun doesn’t set in summer until around 11 p.m.

My Syrian friend chuckled at the question about the Arctic Circle — where the summer sun never fully vanishes — but insisted: The law is the law; it’s what the Prophet Muhammad commands.

But wouldn’t the prophet be content if you observed, say, Damascus time? I wondered.

He chuckled again: No, this wouldn’t be what he had said.

The exchange left me with mixed feelings. I felt great respect for my friend’s willpower and the idea of Ramadan: to experience deprivation in order to stir empathy with the poor. What startled me, though, was his refusal to question religious commands and at least try to align them with reason without reducing their moral purpose.

This is an anodyne example, but it relates to a conundrum facing Germany as a country. To many non-Muslim Germans, the comparatively high significance that many Muslims attach to divine laws raises the question of to whom all the immigrants and refugees who have come to us in recent years would rather pledge allegiance and loyalty: the state that took them in, or Allah? Are the newcomers really convinced of the blessings of an open, liberal society, or are they just happy to seize its advantages?

The new German minister for the interior, Horst Seehofer, recently addressed this fear with a sentence that was meant as a reassurance to voters: “Islam does not belong to Germany.” With this Mr. Seehofer, who is also the chairman of the conservative Christian Social Union party, is rejecting an opposite claim made back in 2010 by Christian Wulff, then the president, and subsequently by Chancellor Angela Merkel. One of Mr. Seehofer’s party colleagues, Alexander Dobrindt, went even further: “Islam, no matter the form, does not belong to Germany.”

Their provocation is calculated to create a backlash against the naïveté and carelessness of those who have tried to make space for Islam as a part of German culture — a position conservatives think has been dominating public discourse for too long.

What a splendid idea: Counter leftist simplification with rightist crudeness! If there is one thing that doesn’t belong to a enlightened nation like Germany, it is a deliberate coarsening of a debate where a maximum of nuance is needed.

On the surface, of course, there’s an obvious tension between the largely secular, liberal traditions of German culture and those forms of Islam that, for example, place religious law over secular law. But that’s also a moot point: Muslims have been living here in large numbers since the 1960s, and now Germany’s six million Muslims make up roughly 6 percent of the population. The problem is that the way Germany has dealt with them is a history of mistakes.

The first mistake, the one conservatives made, was to believe that the early “guest workers” brought from Turkey in the 1960s, to make up for a labor shortage, would eventually go home again. The second mistake, the one the left made, was to embrace all foreigners, whatever their values. After Sept. 11, more or less all sides have made a third mistake, the failure to ask painful questions about how to reconcile Islam with an pluralist, secular democracy.

Apathy, illusions and false tolerance have left important issues unaddressed for half a century. That has now turned to hostility: Many Germans just don’t believe that Islam is compatible with Western values.

And yet the fact that there are many liberal observant Muslims living in Germany suggests the opposite. These are the people who speak out against false dogma, the overly literal reading of the Quran, and anti-Western teachings. The problem is their small number and the hostility they encounter from fellow Muslims here in Germany.

In a representative survey conducted by the University of Münster in 2016, 47 percent of Turkish immigrants and their descendants said that it was more important for them “to abide by religious commands than by the laws of the country I live in.” Some 32 percent said that Muslims should try to re-erect a social order like the one during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad. And 50 percent said there was “only one true religion.”

These are troubling figures. While giving divine laws priority over worldly laws does not necessarily mean rejecting democracy (many Christians and Jews would subscribe to the same statement), the apparent longing of so many Muslims for an authoritarian rather than an open society is shocking. Their intolerance for those of other beliefs matches a political attitude that surprised this country one year ago: Of the roughly 700,000 Turkish Muslims in Germany who participated in the constitutional referendum in Turkey last April, 63 percent voted in favor of granting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unilateral powers.

This contempt for liberalism is a real problem, but rhetoric like Mr. Seehofer’s will only make things worse. It will compound a feeling, already widespread among Muslims, of not belonging to Germany anyway. The sentence “Islam does not belong to Germany” is a gift to radicals who hold an obsessive, binary, West versus Islam worldview.

So how do we move on? Instead of prolonging the mistakes of the past, the secular majority in Germany should make clear two things to their fellow Muslim citizens. Yes, Muslims belong here — but belonging brings with it expectations. Being a citizen means, first and foremost, upholding the values and laws that make this country so attractive. The secular majority must learn how to convey this expectation in a clear yet civil manner.

Germans struggle with this because they are uncomfortable, for historical reasons, with making such demands of religious minorities. The problem, in other words, is not just politicians who wield stupid slogans. It is also the majority of nonpopulist Germans who are shy about expressing the terms of participation in a pluralist society.

via Opinion | The Wrong Way for Germany to Debate Islam – The New York Times

Christian Colleges Are Tangled In Their Own LGBT Policies : NPR

Interesting – belief grappling with the reality of people:

Conservative Christian colleges, once relatively insulated from the culture war, are increasingly entangled in the same battles over LGBT rights and related social issues that have divided other institutions in America.

Students and faculty at many religious institutions are asked to accept a “faith statement” outlining the school’s views on such matters as evangelical doctrine, scriptural interpretation and human sexuality. Those statements often include a rejection of homosexual activity and a definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Changing attitudes on sexual ethics and civil rights, however, are making it difficult for some schools, even conservative ones, to ensure broad compliance with their strict positions.

“Millennials are looking at the issue of gay marriage, and more and more they are saying, ‘OK, we know the Bible talks about this, but we just don’t see this as an essential of the faith,’ ” says Brad Harper, a professor of theology and religious history at Multnomah University, an evangelical Christian institution in Portland, Ore.

LGBT students at Christian schools are also increasingly likely to be open about their own sexual orientation or gender identity.

At Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., junior Sam Koster, who identifies as queer, finds fellow students to be generally tolerant.

“People I’ve met in the English Department,” Koster says, “even in my dorms, they’re like, ‘Oh, you’re queer? OK, cool. Do you want to go get pizza?’ ”

Staff and faculty at these Christian schools have to balance a need to attend to their students’ personal and spiritual needs with a commitment to their schools’ faith statements or official positions on sexuality.

“You’ve got those two values,” says Mary Hulst, senior chaplain at Calvin. “We love our LGBT people. We love our church of Jesus Christ. We love Scripture. So those of us who do this work are right in the middle of that space. We are living in the tension.”

Calvin College is affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church, which holds that “homosexual practice … is incompatible with obedience to the will of God as revealed in Scripture.” Hulst leads Bible study groups with her LGBT students and discusses with them the passages that refer to same-sex relationships.

“Those are the clobber passages,” Koster says. “They’re used to clobber queer kids back into being straight.”

Koster was troubled by those Bible verses at first but eventually became comfortable with a devout Christian identity and joined the Gay Christian Network.

“When I realized that my faith wasn’t necessarily about the [Christian Reformed] Church, and it wasn’t even necessarily about the Bible but about my relationship with God and that God is all-encompassing and loving, I felt very free,” Koster says.

Koster says Hulst helped guide that faith journey, but Hulst herself is still torn between her love for her LGBT students and her own understanding that the Bible does not really allow them to act on their sexual orientation.

“It’s a place where you need to be wise,” Hulst says. “I tell them I want to honor Scripture, but I also honor my LGBT brothers and sisters.”

It doesn’t always work out.

“Someone from the LGBT community will say, ‘If you will not honor the choices I make with my life, if I choose a partner and get married, then you’re not actually honoring me.’ I can understand that,” Hulst says, grimacing. “I can see how they might come to that conclusion.”

Legal entanglement

In addition to changing social and cultural attitudes, conservative religious schools face a changing legal environment regarding LGBT issues. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

Though the language does not refer to sexual orientation or gender identity, some courts have interpreted Title VII as protecting LGBT individuals and the recent trend has been in a pro-LGBT direction.

Christian colleges and universities also have to consider Title IX of the Higher Education Amendments of 1972: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

As with Title VII, the question of whether “sex” under Title IX should be interpreted as referring to sexual orientation is hotly debated.

In April 2015, during a Supreme Court argument over the constitutional rights of LGBT individuals, Justice Samuel Alito noted that Bob Jones University in South Carolina had lost its tax-exempt status because of its prohibition on interracial dating and marriage.

“Would the same apply to a university or a college if it opposed same-sex marriage?” Alito asked then-U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr.

“It’s certainly going to be an issue,” Verrilli answered. “I don’t deny that.”

The exchange alarmed officials at conservative religious schools, for which the loss of tax-exempt status or federal funding would be devastating. Their anxiety deepened a year later, when the Obama administration notified colleges and universities that it interpreted Title IX as prohibiting discrimination “based on a student’s gender identity, including discrimination based on a student’s transgender status.” Christian schools saw that letter as threatening a loss of federal funding if they refused to accommodate students who identify as transgender and want to be housed with other students who share their gender identity.

Upon taking office, the Trump administration rescinded the Obama directive, but some leaders at Christian schools still fear the cultural and legal trends are in favor of expanded LGBT rights on their campuses, which could mean their policies on sexual behavior could face serious challenges.

Educational institutions can currently apply for an exemption from the nondiscrimination provisions of Title VII by demonstrating that those provisions contradict their religious beliefs, but opinions vary on whether those exemptions will protect Christian colleges that seek to maintain strict student and employee policies relating to sexual orientation.

“Religious exemptions are exemptions because they are for small groups of people, and it doesn’t necessarily undermine the full purpose of the law to have them,” says Shapri LoMaglio, vice president for government affairs at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. “I think case law is upholding the idea that that exemption is the right thing in order to be faithful to the Constitution.”

Other Christian college leaders, however, fear that the application of civil rights law to LGBT individuals could eventually jeopardize religious exemptions.

“Four years down the line, eight years down the line, depending on the makeup of the Supreme Court, depending on who is president, I can see the gay/transgender issue being pushed in a way that would seek to make Christian colleges either surrender their federal funding or change their position and conform with the wider consensus,” says Carl Trueman, a professor of church history at Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania.

Preparing for revoked funding

In a recent article in the journal First Things, titled “Preparing for Winter,” Trueman argued that conservative Christian schools need to begin planning for a “worst-case scenario, where not only federal money but also tax-exempt status is revoked.”

The combination of changing social attitudes and more complex legal issues were major points of discussion when the CCCU assembled representatives of more than 130 of its member institutions in Dallas in late January. College chaplains, student counselors and classroom professors reviewed how they were responding to LGBT students, while administrators and financial officers considered whether they need to prepare for more government scrutiny of their positions and policies on sexual orientation and activity.

One off-the-record session titled “Is Government Funding Replaceable?” was packed solid.

“The fear is so large in many institutions because 40 or 50 or maybe even 60 percent of their budgets are really coming from the federal government,” says Dale Kemp, the chief financial officer at Wheaton College in Illinois and the speaker at the CCCU session. “To think they could survive without that [funding] would be catastrophic.”

Brad Harper of Multnomah University, which affirms that “sexual relationships are designed by God to be expressed solely within a marriage between a man and a woman,” says he has seen growing anxiety about the future of federal aid at like-minded schools in recent years.

“Every single Christian institution is wondering about that, and thinking, ‘What happens if we lose government funding?’ ” he says. “Everybody has done the math about how much money you would have to raise if you lose government funding. You can’t do it.”

Just as vexing are the cultural questions, especially among the staff and faculty who work with LGBT students on a daily basis. All colleges and universities receiving federal aid are required to have a Title IX coordinator responsible for working with students who feel they have been subject to discrimination because of their sex. Whether gay or transgender students are entitled to Title IX protection is unresolved, so Title IX coordinators find themselves having to judge on their own how to respond to those students who seek their help.

“Sex has to do with identity and your gender and with who you are,” says Christine Guzman, the Title IX coordinator at Azusa Pacific University in California, “so if there’s a student who is feeling discriminated against because of their gender, then, yes, absolutely, I’m going to apply that law.”

So far, at least, Guzman is attentive to gay and transgender students despite her school’s official belief that human beings are created “as gendered beings” and that heterosexuality is “God’s design.”

At Calvin College, Hulst says the struggle to find an appropriate response to her LGBT students is among the most difficult challenges she has faced as a college chaplain.

“The suicidality of this particular population is much higher,” she notes. “The chances that they will leave the church are much higher. These [realities] weigh very heavily on me.”

via Christian Colleges Are Tangled In Their Own LGBT Policies : NPR

FATAH: Sandra Solomon’s bigotry helps the Islamists

I don’t normally post articles by Tarek Fatah given I find him overly alarmist but his critique of Sandra Solomon more than merited:

Just when the spectre of a Canadian law based on Motion 103 that would have criminalized the critique of Islam seemed to be receding, one Sandra Solomon has given Islamists a fresh lease on life. Solomon states she is an ex-Muslim convert to Christianity, saying she is a Palestinian who suffered sexual abuse in Saudi Arabia by her former husband.

Last week, Solomon visited a mosque in Mississauga where she tore up pages of the Quran and heaped abuse on worshippers, referring to the Muslim holy text as a “satanic evil book” and said she wants to see the Quran designated as “hate literature.”

Had Solomon simply stood outside the mosque with placards to criticize Islam and protest the Islamic texts that permit wife-beating and promote armed jihad, she would be in her right to do so. But that is not all what she did.

Video footage shows Solomon entered the mosque when worshipers were praying and yelled bigoted epithets. “What God do you worship? You worship Satan, that’s who Muslims worship,” she shouted as she was led out.

In a video that has since been deleted from the Internet, but captured by Global TV, Solomon speaks to the camera boasting that she has been visiting mosques for over a year. She then proceeds to rip pages out of a Quran, and places them on the windshields of cars in the parking lot.

If not hateful, at best Solomon’s behaviour was derisive, uncouth, ill-mannered, uncivil and most certainly undeserving of the cross she proudly wears as a symbol of her faith in Jesus.

On the two occasions that I have run into Solomon, she has come across as someone obsessed with herself, and seeking the attention of people around her. At an event hosted by “Muslims Against M103”, she had to be told to stop addressing the audience from the floor when she started ranting about herself.

If Solomon was protesting the alleged hatred some Muslims have for non-Muslims, then she played straight into the hands of the very people she was opposing.

Hatred cannot be fought with hate (or even love). Wisdom suggests hatred is fought only with truth backed by facts and reason. Unfortunately, Solomon has plenty of hate and totally lacks wisdom. Just a tiny bit of the latter would have made her realize that she is the agent provocateur who unwittingly serves the interests of the people she supposedly opposes.

Earlier this year my colleague Farzana Hassan wrote on these pages that the “M103 report seems to signal victory for citizens who sought to protect free speech.” Her optimism, she said, was based on the fact the wording on the M103 report “certainly appears to accede to their demand that ‘Islamophobia’ not be treated as a special case” as “twenty-nine out of the 30 recommendations in the report even avoid the nebulous and troublesome word.”

Now that Solomon has provided a fresh lease on life to ‘Islamophobia,’ Hassan’s words may well prove to be premature. Already a group The Muslim Council of Peel and some mosques say they are working with the police and “have asked for this to be investigated as a hate incident.”

As for the self-righteous Imams and Islamists who are crying “hate”, perhaps it is time for them to take stock of their own actions. At least 20 times a day, from dawn to dusk in every mosque of Canada, they should stop describing Jews as “people who are suffering the wrath of God” and Christians as people “led astray from the path of God.”

Source: FATAH: Sandra Solomon’s bigotry helps the Islamists

Social conservatives savour victory, thank immigrants: Konrad Yakabuski

Yakabuski picks up on the Pricker-Ibbitson theory in The Big Shift towards more conservative social policies as a result of more religious and socially conservative new Canadians.

The reality is more nuanced as new Canadians, like most voters, are not single issue candidates; after all, the Liberals won the vast majority of ridings in which visible minorities form the majority despite more liberal social views:

Canada has accepted about five million new immigrants in the past 25 years and they have irreversibly changed our political dynamics.

Twenty-five years ago, Quebec’s place within the Canadian federation was almost all we ever talked about. Today, the Quebec question has faded from the national agenda. All we seem to talk about now is diversity.

For most of us, this means ensuring that more women and minorities are represented in all spheres of Canadian life. We have branded ourselves as an immigrant nation that embraces people of all origins. “Diversity is our strength” has become our national motto, replacing A Mari Usque Ad Mare (from sea to sea) everywhere but on our country’s official coat of arms.

What our political elites have a hard time admitting, however, is that diversity is not a one-way street toward harmonious living – what the French call le vivre-ensemble – but a multilane expressway of competing and often colliding values, norms and ideas. Nowhere has this become as apparent as in the emergence of social conservatism as a political force in Canada.

Doug Ford’s election as the leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party would not have been possible without the mobilization of social conservatives. That a strident anti-abortion activist – Tanya Granic Allen – was even on the ballot was proof in itself that this is no longer your father’s PC Party. That Ms. Granic Allen captured almost as much first-ballot support as the centrist Caroline Mulroney, and that her supporters propelled Mr. Ford over the top on the final ballot, was especially sweet for social conservatives.

The latter are now celebrating their new-found political clout — in dozens of languages. Immigration has swelled the ranks of Canada’s social conservatives. Polls shows that Canadian-born voters are less religious than ever, even when they claim to belong to a particular faith. That is not true of immigrants, who often identify more with their religion than their country.

Immigrants have increasingly shaped our communities, our schools and our self-conception as a country. So, it was only a matter of time before they began shaping our politics, too. It is unlikely Ontarians would be debating the province’s new sex-education curriculum at all if only Canadian-born voters were concerned. Resistance to the new curriculum has been strongest among immigrant parents. Some even pulled their kids out of school in protest.

Ground zero for the anti-sex-ed movement is Thorncliffe Park, in Toronto’s inner suburbs, where 70 per cent of the population was born outside Canada and almost 60 per cent of residents speak neither English nor French at home. They’re far more likely to speak Urdu, Farsi and Tagalog.

Campaign Life Coalition, the anti-abortion activist group that has led the fight against Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne’s update to the sex-ed curriculum, publishes some of its literature in 10 languages. The group claims to have signed up 9,000 new PC Party members during the leadership race to support Ms. Granic Allen as their first choice and Mr. Ford as their second.

“New Canadians are extremely important to CLC. It is probably our fastest growth segment in terms of general supporters and activists,” CLC spokesman Jack Fonseca said in an e-mail. “I do believe that their mobilization could shift public policy momentum on life and family issues.”

Not all social conservatives are religious. Chinese immigrants, whom Mr. Fonseca said have accounted for “a lot of growth” in his group’s membership, are among those least likely to practise a religion. But for most social conservatives, religion is the motivating factor in their political mobilization.

More than half a million Muslims immigrated to Canada in the 20 years to 2011, according to Statistics Canada’s National Household Survey. The 2016 census showed that Canada accepted more than 150,000 immigrants from Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria— all Muslim-majority countries – between 2011 and 2016. Tens of thousands more came from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt.

Almost 200,000 Filipino immigrants came to Canada in the five years to 2016, replenishing the pews of the country’s Catholic churches. As with most Canadian Muslims, these Filipino newcomers take their faith ultraseriously.

A 2016 Environics poll showed Canadian Muslims voted overwhelmingly for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in 2015. But that was likely a result of the uproar surrounding Conservative attempts to ban the niqab at citizenship ceremonies and the party’s pro-Israel foreign policy. The same poll found that, among Canadian Muslims, “religious identity and practice are important and growing, in contrast to the broader secularizing trend in Canada.”

How long can these two trends co-exist without colliding? Doug Ford’s leadership win may just have given us the answer.

via Social conservatives savour victory, thank immigrants – The Globe and Mail

Islam doesn’t belong to Germany, new interior minister says

The remarks are slightly more nuanced than the header but still unfortunate. The same remark, “live with us, not next to us or against us” applies to all groups:

New Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Islam did not belong to Germany, in an interview published on Friday, setting him on a collision course with Chancellor Angela Merkel who has stressed the need to integrate Muslims.

Seehofer also set out a range of hardline policies on immigration, as the new coalition prepares to see off the rising challenge of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which entered the national parliament in last year’s elections.

“Islam does not belong to Germany,” Seehofer told mass-selling Bild newspaper, contradicting former German president Christian Wulff who fuelled a debate over immigration in 2010 by saying Islam was part of Germany.

In 2015 Merkel echoed Wulff’s words at a time when anti-immigration campaign group PEGIDA – or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West – was holding marches.

The German government estimates between 4.4 and 4.7 million Muslims are living in Germany. Many of them have a Turkish background and many of the more than a million migrants who have arrived in the country from the Middle East and elsewhere after Merkel adopted an open-door policy in mid-2015 are also Muslims.

Seehofer – a member of Merkel’s CSU Bavarian allies who are further to the right than her own Christian Democrats (CDU) – said he would implement a “master plan for quicker deportations”.

He also promised to do more to tackle the reasons people flee and classify more states as ‘safe’ countries of origin, which would make it easier to deport failed asylum seekers.

“Of course the Muslims living here do belong to Germany,” Seehofer said before going on to say Germany should not give up its own traditions or customs, which had Christianity at their heart.

“My message is: Muslims need to live with us, not next to us or against us,” said Seehofer, who was sworn in as interior minister on Wednesday.

Seehofer is keen to show his party is tackling immigration ahead of Bavaria’s October regional election, when the AfD is expected to enter that state assembly.

In a coalition agreement, Merkel’s CDU/CSU conservative bloc and the Social Democrats (SPD) agreed they would manage and limit migration to Germany and Europe to avoid a re-run of the 2015 refugee crisis.

They also said they did not expect migration (excluding labour migration) to rise above the range of 180,000 to 220,000 per year.

via Islam doesn’t belong to Germany, new interior minister says

The covenant and the courts: Inside a Christian university’s law school crusade

Interesting good long read about Trinity Western, including the policies of its covenant and the realities of student life:

…After so many years of debate, members of the tight-knit Trinity Western community are used to hearing arguments that bear little relationship to their daily lives.

“Academic staff are required to teach students that the Bible is the ultimate, final, and authoritative guide by which ethical decisions are to be made,” Elaine Craig, a Dalhousie University law professor who is widely cited among those opposed to accreditation, wrote in a 2013 paper.

“This compulsory ideological conformity effectively excludes students on the basis of their sexual orientation or marital status,” the United Church of Canada argued in its factum to the Supreme Court. “It is also demeaning and degrading of these individuals, explicitly characterizing them as immoral outcasts, who are worthy of being shunned, or excluded by being pitied.”

“The Covenant is a binding contract. It governs conduct both on and off campus,” intervenors Start Proud and Outlaws intoned in their factum.

But as anyone who has signed a code of conduct or even scanned a list of institutional policies knows, rules are rarely followed to the letter, and recriminations are anything but guaranteed. It is just so at Trinity. Last year the campus newspaper, Mars’ Hill, conducted a survey of covenant compliance. While unscientific, the results were nevertheless revealing: 28 per cent of respondents said they had used marijuana or other non-medical drugs; 55 per cent admitted to drinking to excess; 32 per cent admitted to sex outside marriage; four per cent admitted to having an abortion.

There are also LGBTQ students at Trinity, as media have reported. Yet the suggestion they might feel welcome despite the covenant “defies logic,” Craig argued in another paper in 2014. “Not only are prospective students required … not to engage in same-sex sexual intimacy under any circumstances, but they are also required to police each other for any breaches of this promise.” (The covenant says it “may at times” be necessary for students “to hold one another accountable,” as most honour codes do.)

Lawyers are naturally going to argue from written policies. But such sweeping statements are simply irreconcilable with the observable reality on campus. And that gets up a lot of noses in the Trinity Western community, including those who would very much like the university to change.

Trinity was first founded as a two-year college on a dairy farm. Today there are all manner of degree options, including education and nursing.(Ben Nelms for National Post)

There is no shortage of such people: In a recent open letter to the community bearing 287 signatures, an LGBTQ-affirming group of Trinity students, faculty and staff, alumni and parents called OneTWU argued “that homophobia and transphobia are affronts to our Creator God,” and that “reconciliation and healing is needed to bridge the gap between the Christian church and the LGBTQ+ community at large.”

Two hundred and eighty-seven signatures is a fair haul in such a small community. And the letter’s language reflects conflicted attitudes about the prospective law school: some strongly believe in Trinity’s right to hold its religious views, even while teaching law, but are also weary of the endless battle and the toll it takes on students.

Bryan Sandberg, who graduated in 2014 and has spoken before about his mostly positive experiences as a gay student at Trinity, says that most in the community are “not rampaging bigots” — “they’re just people” — but the community covenant “explicitly creates this space where homophobia is allowed to exist, where LGBTQ people are viewed as lesser.”

In a word, he says, it is “uncomfortable.”

“These are people who are growing up in churches, who are born into Christian families, and there’s nothing they can do about that. Their faith becomes an extremely important part of who they are,” Cam Thiessen, a graduate student in biblical studies who signed the OneTWU letter as an “ally,” says of Trinity students. Coming to grips with their sexuality in such an environment can obviously be terribly difficult.

“This could have been an opportunity for Trinity to begin making steps toward a more ecumenical approach to this issue — recognizing that there are Christians who are affirming of LGBTQ people and there are entire denominations that are very affirming,” including some evangelical groups, he argues.

“Instead it’s a ton of money and a ton of time going towards fighting for the right to exercise some sort of authority over this group of people” — time and money that Thiessen wishes could go toward “hiring more faculty, or bringing in more guest speakers, or bringing in better resources for people in the LGBTQ community to understand what their place is in this type of religious society.”

In the meantime, however, many students say Trinity is a far more welcoming, tolerant and diverse campus than outsiders realize. Many, including LGTBQ community members and their allies, believe a place they love and where they have felt loved has been unfairly caricatured….

Source: The covenant and the courts: Inside a Christian university’s law school crusade

HASSAN: Enough with the feminists who stay silent on Islam

Some valid points (e.g., on polygamy, FGM), less so with respect to the hijab:

The usual gusto accompanied International Women’s Day on March 8, with enlightened people of both sexes commending the strides we have made. Women debated our roles in this day and age, and how our lot can be further improved.

Needless to say, even after decades of public conversations on women’s rights, their plight in undeveloped nations has not changed much. In fact, in this politically correct era there are some nominal Western feminists who say too little about the suffering of third world women.

As always, developed countries have fared better. The biggest news is the #MeToo movement, which has prompted public conversations on sexual harassment faced by women in various settings, but especially the workplace. Actions bring reactions, however; while the movement has raised awareness on these issues, some employers may now fear to hire women because they anticipate sexual allegations.

There were already issues specific to Canadian women, such as workplace discrimination and lack of comparable wages — an issue our prime minister addressed at Davos. Accounting for missing and murdered aboriginal women is an enduring problem, as are violence and abuse in these communities.

Radical ideologies also turn many Muslim women into victims, even in Canada. This is most offensive to me, as a Muslim woman. Feminist groups, who usually expound a leftist worldview, have often defended discriminatory practices in the name of a “new feminism.”

An opinion piece by Nakita Valerio on the CBC website states that “New feminism is based on the understanding that there is nothing inherently liberating about one expression over another. Rather, the liberation is in a woman’s choice and part of modern gender equality rests on the acceptance of diverse womanhood on her own terms, regardless of one’s background.”

Really? So, by extension, there is nothing inherently constraining in any expression of womanhood. Therefore, a woman who is self-assured, economically independent and capable of making career choices is no more liberated than one who lives her entire life according to the whims of her husband? A woman who “chooses” to let her husband take a second wife because her religion permits it, and then suffers all the consequences of a polygamous union, is as liberated as one who rejects such an arrangement as repugnant?

Let’s extend this argument. Submission to the requirements of one brand of Islam has convinced some women to support the heinous practice of female genital mutilation. Their understanding of religion has brainwashed them into considering this beneficial. Such a procedure subjects them or their daughters to pain and poor health. Are they more liberated because they have defined their femininity in these terms?

Clothing matters less than mutilation. The niqab and hijab may be “mere” pieces of cloth, but the expectation that women will wear them remains an important issue. The requirement is rooted in patriarchy, and it is hard to accept that any woman who “chooses” to wear these garments has somehow defined her womanhood in a liberated way.

The new feminists have regressed if they do not call out such practices with the fervour of #MeToo. Their silence endorses a way of thinking which keeps countless women in permanent submission.

Next International Women’s Day it would be encouraging if the women’s movement redefined some of its goals as universal rather than relative. Culture can never be an excuse.

via HASSAN: Enough with the feminists who stay silent on Islam | Toronto Sun