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Religion news and blog articles from The Huffington Post

Last feed update: Sunday February 19th, 2017 04:41:26 PM

Steve Bannon’s Cardinal Pal Denies Guam Post Is Pope Punishment

Sunday February 19th, 2017 07:24:59 AM Mary S Papenfuss

An arch-conservative American cardinal has denied that his sudden posting to Guam in the wake of a Vatican fake news attack on Pope Francis is a punishment from the liberal pontiff.

The Vatican dispatched Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke to Guam to be the judge at a trial there of an archbishop who was removed from office last year after several allegations of child sex abuse. Burke insisted the trial will likely be finished by the summer and told Mediaset in Italy that the posting was normal and not a punishment from the pope, though the two men have clashed in the past.

Burke was named in a recent New York Times article as a friend of Donald Trump’s top aide Steve Bannon. They’re both members of an emboldened Catholic power base — self-described “rad trads,” or radical traditionalists — pushing for a stricter interpretation of Church teachings, according to the Times. The pope, on the other hand, is one of the more liberal pontiffs of the last several decades. He preaches compassion, has encouraged protesting to achieve justice, is concerned about climate change and has attacked policies of the Trump administration without mentioning the president’s name.

Burke recently angered the pope after reportedly demanding the suspension of a leader of a traditionally conservative Catholic charity organization, the Knights of Malta, for arranging the distribution of free condoms in Myanmar. Francis also was recently the target of a fake publication designed by conservatives to look like the official Vatican newspaper. A phony interview in the paper mocked his liberal views

Burke’s Guam trial is already experiencing trouble. An altar boy who had accused the local archbishop of sex abuse has refused to take the stand, the Catholic News Agency reported.

His lawyer complained that the boy would be intimidated at the hearing because he would be surrounded and questioned by Catholic priests acting as the defense attorney, the prosecutor and the judge — yet the boy’s lawyer would not be allowed to be present to advise his client.  

Advocates for victims of priest sex abuse complained about the choice of Burke for the case. They said the conservative cardinal has in other cases “consistently defended accused clergy and played hardball with victims,” Anne Barrett Doyle, a co-director of told the Pacific Daily News.

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How A Hijab-Friendly Brooklyn Salon Became A Space For Women’s Empowerment

Friday February 17th, 2017 11:41:15 PM Antonia Blumberg

Muslim cosmetologist Huda Quhshi used to lug her supplies around New York City, cutting and coloring women’s hair over sinks in crowded apartments. 

But Quhshi’s days of itinerant hairstyling are over. Last month, in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bay Ridge, the 37-year-old realized her lifelong dream of opening a salon that caters entirely to women. Her salon, Le’Jemalik, has become a kind of sanctuary for women who want to let their hair down in a ladies-only space.

“It’s a place where you can come and feel relaxed, and just have a beautiful experience without worrying that a man is going to walk in,” Quhshi told The Huffington Post.

Le’Jemalik, which means “for your beauty” in Arabic, offers a full range of services, from hairstyling to nails, waxing and makeup. It even sells wedding dresses and offers regular seminars for beauty professionals looking to enhance their skills.

The salon hosted its grand opening on Jan. 29, with hundreds of visitors stopping by to glimpse the space, Quhshi said. It had already attracted a fair amount of media attention, not only as a business run by and for women but as a place where Muslim women, in particular, can feel safe and welcome.

Not all Muslim women cover their hair or wear hijabs. But those who do maintain a commitment to covering in front of men to whom they aren’t related. It’s a tradition upheld by some Orthodox Jewish women, as well.

Some salons have dividers or rooms in the back to accommodate women with these religious requirements. But Quhshi said she wasn’t aware of any other salons in New York City where the entire space is a men-free zone.

Men are allowed in the front waiting area of Le’Jemalik, but the actual service area lies behind a double door that only women may pass through. 

Quhshi said the salon has attracted many Muslim and Jewish clients since it opened. But she emphasized that “this space is for all women.”

“I’ve had women from other faiths tell me that they’re so excited about this space, even though they’re not Muslim,” she said. “They’re happy to be able to support a woman-run business and come here just because they want to feel comfortable.”

As a hijab-wearing Muslim woman of Yemeni descent, Quhshi said she hopes she can be an inspiration to other women who may have to overcome bias to achieve their goals. 

“I want to help other girls follow their dreams,” she said. “I’m definitely happy to empower other women and make other women feel like I’ve opened doors for them.”

Check out the HuffPost video above.

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The Key To Respecting Religious Groups We Don’t Agree With, According To Reza Aslan

Friday February 17th, 2017 08:55:39 PM Antonia Blumberg

It’s easy to write off belief systems that may seem strange or foreign. But perhaps there’s something even the most devout among us can learn from exploring the unknown.

That’s the premise of author and scholar Reza Aslan’s new CNN show, “Believer,” which explores some of the world’s most misunderstood religious sects.

“My intention with everything I’ve ever done in my career has been to find ways to break through the walls that separate us, whether that’s religion, nationality or what have you,” Aslan said in a recent interview with The Huffington Post.

And that’s the primary aim of “Believer,” Aslan said, which premieres on Sunday, March 5. “Our hope is to introduce people to world views and faith communities that may seem a little strange and foreign and even frightening, but after watching me go through the experience of becoming part of these communities they may seem more relatable.”

Shot in 2015, the series is broken into six, hour-long segments that show Aslan’s immersive journey into a different faith community. He spent seven to 10 days with each group, exploring Ultra-Orthodox Judaism in Israel, Scientology in the U.S., Hindu asceticism in India, Vodou in Haiti, Santa Muerte in Mexico, and an apocalyptic doomsday cult in Hawaii.

Aslan has made a career of challenging stereotypes and misconceptions people hold toward different religions, but he admitted there were times he was forced to confront his own bias while filming the show.

“A lot of times I was thrown into a situation and told to follow everyone else. And I was often confused, often scared, anxious, occasionally disgusted. Those are just real emotions,” he said. “But in accepting that, I was able to have a real, authentic spiritual experience in almost every episode.”

In one scene with the Aghori, a Hindu sect in India that rejects common notions of purity and pollution, Aslan found himself sitting on a beach, covered in cremated ashes, and listening to a guru threaten to kill him if he asked any more questions.

Aslan gently called the director over and said, “I feel like this may have been a mistake.” It would have been a moment of comic relief, except that the sentiment was entirely sincere.

“When I called the director over I think he thought I wasn’t being serious,” Aslan told HuffPost. “But I was like, ‘No really, let’s distract him and I’ll make a run for it.’”

That desire to literally run away from something foreign and even frightening may be relatable for viewers, Aslan said. It’s what drives people to reject beliefs and traditions they don’t understand. But it can also obscure whatever commonalities we may share with the very group we’re rejecting. 

“The Aghori have a foundational notion that there’s no purity and pollution. Nothing you do, eat or wear can separate you from God. And I actually one hundred percent agree with that ― intellectually, spiritually and emotionally,” Aslan said.

Viewers may find themselves similarly relating to faith groups that previously seemed foreign or bizarre, he said. And in times of heightened polarization such as these, that’s an important realization to have.

“My hope is a show like this could go a long way toward giving people a close look at other communities and other ways of being and maybe even addressing some of the fear and xenophobia that has gripped large parts of this country in the wake of the election,” Aslan said.

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Ellen Helps Pay Off Muslim Refugee’s Student Debt

Friday February 17th, 2017 07:53:36 PM Carol Kuruvilla

For HuffPost’s #LoveTakesAction series, we’re telling stories of how people are standing up to hate and supporting those most threatened. What will you stand up for? Tell us with #LoveTakesAction.

When Ekhlas Ahmed, a refugee from Darfur, Sudan, first came to the United States, she didn’t speak a word of English. After getting off at the wrong bus stop on her first day of school and wandering around lost for eight hours, the young girl promised herself that she would master her new language.

She studied hard in school and also tuned in to The Ellen Show, carefully jotting down and memorizing some of the words host Ellen Degeneres used on the program.

About ten years later, Ahmed is a grad-school student, an activist, and a high school English teacher in Maine who spends extra time helping multilingual students prepare for college.

After Ahmed wrote DeGeneres a thank you letter for helping her learn English, the teacher was invited to appear on “The Ellen Show” on Thursday ― and she got a surprise that made her break down in tears.

DeGeneres teamed up with Shutterfly to pay off Ahmed’s grad school debt, giving her a check for $22,000. 

“Every once in a while a story finds its way to me that puts everything in perspective,” DeGeneres said on the show.

“Your story is so inspiring,” she added later on.

Ahmed became a refugee at the age of 12, after war broke out in her native Sudan. According to Maine Public, her family spent two years in Egypt before being resettled in Portland, Maine, when Ahmed was a teenager. 

“My parents wanted a better life for us and they had to take us out of there,” Ahmed said.

Sudan is one of the seven Muslim-majority countries targeted in President Donald Trump’s beleaguered travel ban. 

After coming to America, Ahmed became a community activist, raising awareness about armed conflict in Sudan and its effects on women and children.

The young woman is now an AmeriCorps teacher at Casco Bay High School in Portland, Maine, and is the school’s first alumni staff member. She coordinates the school’s Make It Happen! program, which helps multilingual students navigate the college admissions process and connects them to leadership and professional development opportunities. Ahmed is also working towards a master’s degree in education.

“You love teaching because you realize how important it is,” DeGeneres told Ahmed during the interview.

“It is!” Ahmed said. “It is so important for me to be there for the students and for me to be a role model for them, because when I was their age, I didn’t have someone that was an immigrant from Africa, an immigrant who went through college and graduated, and didn’t speak English but now is in a classroom in front of them, so I wanted to give them that.”

Know a story from your community of people fighting hate and supporting groups who need it? Send news tips to

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Tennessee Man Convicted Of Plot To Round Up Militia, Attack Muslim Community

Friday February 17th, 2017 07:11:02 PM Nick Wing

A Tennessee man was found guilty on Thursday of plotting in 2015 to round up a militia and burn down a mosque, school and cafeteria in the upstate New York community of Islamberg, which is home to a mostly Muslim population, prosecutors said.

Robert Doggart, 65, was convicted in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga of solicitation to commit arson and violate civil rights, as well as of making a threat in interstate commerce, the Department of Justice said in a written statement.

Attorneys for Doggart did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Doggart was arrested by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in April 2015 after telling a government informant in wire-tapped phone calls that he planned to recruit a militia and travel to Islamberg, about 145 miles northwest of New York City, prosecutors say.

The group planned to burn down the community’s mosque and shoot anyone who tried to stop them, according to the criminal complaint.

“The defendant sought out others to join him in a violent attack on a community of men, women, and children because of their religion,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler said in the statement.

Defense attorneys argued in court that Doggart had exaggerated his intentions to attack Islamberg after being encouraged by the informant and that he never had a solid plan in place, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.

The attorneys also argued that Doggart believed Islamberg residents were training for guerrilla warfare against the West, the newspaper reported.

Islamberg, started by a group of African-American Muslims who moved from U.S. cities in the 1970s, is a gated community with dirt roads and several dozen small homes near the town of Hancock in New York’s Catskills Mountains.

The 200 or so members of the community, in which children are home-schooled and residents worship at a mosque built on the 70-acre property, follow a Pakistani Sufi cleric.

Doggart, who had been confined to his home since his apprehension, was taken into custody following Thursday’s verdict, WRCB TV news reported. His sentencing is scheduled for May, it reported.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Leslie Adler and James Dalgleish)

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These Fashion Industry Immigrants Have A Powerful Message For Donald Trump

Friday February 17th, 2017 07:03:43 PM Jamie Feldman

The fashion industry has a few choice words in response to President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration policies ― four words, to be exact.

Eighty-one members of the industry banded together to declare “I am an immigrant” in the video above, including Adriana Lima, Grace Coddington, Diane Von Furstenberg and Prabal Gurung. According to organizers at W magazine, the clip is designed to make a “defiant” statement of unity. 

The minute-and-a-half video is a powerful who’s-who of influential fashion folk, who “aren’t as insulated as they might seem,” wrote W’s Katherine Cusumano “They’ve been equally appalled by the rhetoric stemming from Washington, perhaps because so many members of this colorful community are immigrants themselves, certainly friends, partners, collaborators, admirers of immigrant artists and designers.” 

I am an Immigrant” was released just one day after restaurants in several major cities participated in the “A Day Without Immigrants” protest, closing their doors to show what our country would look like without the immigrant community that’s the bedrock of the restaurant industry. Clearly, as this video proves, the fashion industry would suffer greatly as well. 

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WWJND? (What Would Jesus Never Do?)

Friday February 17th, 2017 04:41:41 PM Derek Penwell

Remember when “WWJD?” was a thing? What would Jesus do? Remember that? It was supposed to be a reminder to people (evangelicals mostly) to stop and ask themselves how Jesus might respond to any given situation, and then act accordingly.

Oh, come on. You remember, right? The bracelets, the t-shirts, the dog tags, the coffee mugs, the bumper stickers?

The WWJD-thing was a modern take on Charles Sheldon’s 1896 bestseller, In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do? The premise of the book was straightforward: The world would be transformed if Jesus’ followers would just ask themselves before doing anything, “What would Jesus do?”–which would then provide an ethical roadmap to follow.

Simple, right? In fact, I used to think it was overly simplistic, since there are a lot of things we don’t have explicit information about “what Jesus would do.” To the extent that Jesus had an opinion about abortion or same sex marriage, for example, the Gospel writers never thought those opinions sufficiently important to share them with us.

Moreover, we’re are all amazingly good at getting Jesus to conform to our own particular framing of him. At least one of the take-aways from the various searches for “the historical Jesus” is that we often wind up finding a Jesus who cares about the things we care about and who hates the things we hate. In other words, attempting to find the historical Jesus often produces only a Jesus who looks pretty much like we do.

Look, I’m not always sure what Jesus would do in pursuit of God’s reign of justice and peace, but there are some things I’m sure as hell he’d never do.

But the fact that Jesus never explicitly addresses things like the date rape drug or the environmental destruction of the planet through industrialization doesn’t mean we can’t draw some conclusions, based on who the Gospel writers portray him to be, as well as the kinds of principles to which he committed himself. I suspect most of us can imagine Jesus coming out strong against things like nuclear war, exploitation on reality T.V., or Justin Bieber.

In fact, in our current political environment, I wish there were more evangelicals who were preoccupied with figuring out how Jesus might respond to the world we live in. “What would Jesus make of Donald Trump?” for instance, seems like an especially pertinent line of inquiry at this moment.

Even so, I know it’s not always easy to determine exactly what Jesus would do. And that got me to thinking about apophatic theology, which seeks to develop a picture of God through negative reference, by trying to produce a picture of what God is not (e.g., God is not a liar, finite, anti-creation, etc.).

So then I thought: “It might be a helpful exercise to begin to wonder not just WWJD? (What would Jesus Do?) but WWJND? (What Would Jesus Never Do?).”

Therefore, I thought I’d offer up a few things that, based on a reading of the Gospels, I find it difficult to imagine Jesus getting behind:

  • Not quite sure, for example, how it is that we can square the circle of Jesus’ love of the stranger with immigration agents tearing parents away from their babies so that we can maintain the febrile fantasy that we’re all safer when we treat the undocumented like criminals, or the convenient fiction that all our good agricultural and domestic jobs are safe for the millions of white folks who desperately want them.

  • I have a difficult time believing that Jesus – who was pretty quick on the draw when it came to dispensing free health care – would appreciate all the politicians, healthcare corporations, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical concerns getting rich on the backs of those who need healthcare most and can afford it least.

  • Pretty sure Jesus would have avoided stigmatizing “the little ones” by suggesting that kids who receive free lunch should “earn” those lunches by mopping the floors.

  • I find it impossible to imagine Jesus signing off an any plan that served the rich by lowering their taxes, while at the same time cutting services for the poor.

  • You need to have a much more malleable hermeneutic than I can conjure up on my own to get Jesus–who began life as a political refugee on the run from a murderous government–to say that the issue of refugee resettlement is a matter of indifference to the bible.

  • I can’t help but think that Jesus is doing some sort of celestial face palm every time he sees another of his most publicly pious followers trying to pass legislation permitting Christians to make the lives of LGBTQ people even more miserable than they’ve already been made–all in the name of doctrinal purity.

  • Maybe it’s just my lack of theological sophistication, but it strikes me that the Jesus I read about in the Gospels wouldn’t have hesitated even a moment to call people like Franklin Graham, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell Jr. a brood of vipers or whitewashed sepulchers, rather than bear for a single instant longer their insufferable self-righteousness.

  • Of course, I’m no Al Mohler, but try as I might I can’t envision Jesus giving the official okey-dokie to his most ardent (but most misguided followers) to draw even more unwanted attention to transgender kids, whose only desire is to pee in private.

  • And does anybody seriously think that Jesus would sign off on any plan that further threatened the financial and healthcare stability of the elderly by imperiling Social Security and Medicare?

  • How can anyone believe that Jesus would have any stake in a political or economic system, the primary purpose of which is to justify the selfishness of people who already have more than they need?

Look, I’m not always sure what Jesus would do in pursuit of God’s reign of justice and peace, but there are some things I’m sure as hell he’d never do.

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A Call For Unity

Friday February 17th, 2017 04:00:56 PM Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf

The whole world is watching. It is waiting to see how the great American experiment unfolds. That experiment has been from the founding days of the nation to fashion “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”—as the Pledge of Allegiance reminds us. But some Americans divide on the scope of the nation the Pledge of Allegiance assumes. A recent Pew Poll suggests that many Americans believe it is very important for true Americans to be Christian, or native-born. Michael Anton, now a National Security Council staffer, wrote under the pseudonym Publius Decius Mus during the presidential campaign that diversity was a weakness. Others admit a plurality of religions and national origins into the makeup of American identity. We are divided between these visions. Which one will hold?

We have been here before. President Lincoln wondered in his Gettysburg Address whether a nation “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” could “long endure.” Lincoln was citing Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal.” But, for Lincoln, our equality is more a proposition than a self-evident truth. So long as slavery endured, equality did not reign. Equality was for Lincoln in his speech a “great task” and “unfinished work.”

Three things qualify as “great” in Lincoln’s speech: the Civil War itself, the battlefield of Gettysburg, and the task of the unfinished work to enact equality for all. The greatness of these things is in the magnitude of the challenges they pose, to preserve the union, honor the dead, and realize Jefferson’s vision of equality. The unity of the nation and the vision of equality were in tension. They still are.

At issue are the ingredients of nationhood. What makes us “one nation, indivisible?” Are we one in our sameness or in our differences from each other? Is it our similarities or our complementarities that unite us? Are we a mono-cultural or multicultural society?

If we are divided in how we answer these questions, we have at least one thing in common: we share the sorrow over that very division. Indeed we must if we are as indivisible as the Pledge of Allegiance claims. How do we reclaim the unity we’ve lost?

Our founding documents suggest a way. Jefferson delivered up his Declaration “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.” Lincoln hoped in his Address that “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.”

Neither Jefferson nor Lincoln reference religion. It is only God they name and presuppose. They suggest a different frame of reference for seeing ourselves. They invite us to view ourselves from the vantage point of divine transcendence, or, if we are atheists, from a more cosmic outlook above the daily fray. The ancient Stoics called it the view from above. Compared to what’s above us all, we bond more strongly with our partners in humanity.

In support of this unitive way, our religions lend a hand. For the religions too lament the divisions among us. A poem many Americans know and love, the Masnavi, by the medieval Persian mystic, Rumi, begins on a note of division. The poem opens with the cry of a reed that has been cut from its reed bed. It longs for reunion with its source. The poem has a mystical meaning; but also a political one. It speaks to our time.

Rumi was a Muslim and a refugee. He lived on the move in the medieval Middle East under threat by the conquering Mongols of his day. But he raised a vision of unity. His God was the God equally of all. When we live “under God,” as he believed, the worldviews that name us take back seat. The Quran makes the point repeatedly. Through his prophets, God tells humanity that “your nation is one nation” (Quran 23:52) and charges that we “be not divided therein” (Quran 42:13). God says, “We have … made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another” (Quran 49:13).

Our religions are a resource for unitive thinking. Let them join in support of the facts on the ground. That Pew poll on American identity suggests that as our youngsters age, Americans will increasingly understand their national identity to lie in the peaceable interaction of different religions, customs, and traditions. Harmony among us grows. The conflicts that persist are the darkness before the dawn. If we look keenly enough before us we’ll see and advance towards the age the prophet Isaiah foretold for the nations: “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation” (Isaiah 2:4)—nor red and blue America sharp words against each other. May it be so.

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Studying Racism As An Act Of Repentance And Resistance In The Trump Era

Friday February 17th, 2017 03:49:15 PM Jim Wallis

Last week, a black professor told me he always asks his white students if they have ever heard racism called a sin in the pulpits of their churches growing up. The answer is almost always no. That will be absolutely key to a revival for racial reconciliation and justice — seeing racism as much more than political, but rooted in sin, repentance, morality, and faith. That’s why I wrote America’s Original Sin and hoped it would become a tool for new conversations within and between churches across racial lines. I have already seen how book studies in congregations have become cells for resistance in the Trump era.

In my class at Georgetown University last week, I saw again how the overwhelming facts of racial oppression and discrimination — paired with human stories — can change people. One white student said this to one of her black classmates in the course:

I’ve never known anyone who has been arrested. Not one person, not even an acquaintance of an acquaintance. Incredible as it sounds, knowing you and knowing that your father spent time in prison is the closest connection I have to the prison system.

Her black classmate has shared with us the experience of her father going to prison for 10 years. After minor drug issues — and because of the “three strikes and you’re out” rule — my student said her dad missed her graduation, marriage, and military deployments. He was so dehumanized by the experience of prison, she said she doesn’t know him anymore.

WATCH: Do Black Lives Matter to White Christians? 

Other international and immigrant students in my class spoke personally about their fears of executive orders that could separate them from their families. White students said they couldn’t get their heads around the statistics that one out of every three black men in America will be incarcerated in his lifetime, but they were “infuriated” by it and moved to action.

Another white student told the story of two close friends from high school, an interracial couple who were walking around the Washington, D.C., monuments one day when they were stopped by a white police officer. The officer asked the young woman, “Are you all right?” Confused, she answered, “I’m fine.” Hostile questions came at the young black man, “Are you on any substances?” Startled, he said no. “Do you have any substances on you?” The answer was, again, no, but he was still subjected to a harsh and humiliating search that found nothing, and they were let go. His white girlfriend, who was never searched, had marijuana in her purse.

These “parables” about racism in America are truths that must be told, so that they might set us all free — as the gospels promise. These are the stories that get told in every book cell, study group, or class that deals with racism in America. And they are key to both resistance and change.

I always knew that the release of America’s Original Sin would be painful. The 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin pushed me to write it, but that act of violence was soon followed by yet more killings of young black men and women, one after another — something that had already been happening but was never as visible or as exposed in the larger society as it has now become with the rise of social media and cell phone video. Then, just before the book was published, Dylann Roof murdered nine African Americans during their weekly prayer meeting at Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C. These devout Christians invited Roof into their Bible study — which clearly moved him for a while — and yet he acted on his white supremacist ideology and shot them anyway.

And now the paperback edition of America’s Original Sin is being released this week in the wake of the most vitriolic American presidential campaign in modern history.

Especially painful to me as a white Christian and evangelical is that white Christians — especially white evangelicals — made up the core of Donald Trump’s support.

As Robert Jones of the Public Religion Research Institute explained right after the election, it’s striking to look at a map of the states with the highest percentage of white Christians next to a map of the states Trump won and note how well they match up — especially states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, which had voted reliably for the Democratic nominee for the last several presidential election cycles. In fact, as Jones’ colleague Daniel Cox points out, in spite of the popular narrative that Trump’s victory was a function of a swell in support from white working-class voters, “the proportion of white Christians in each of the 50 states is more strongly correlated with support for Trump than is the proportion of white residents without a college degree in the state.”

That racial divide is nothing new, of course. But in this new age of Trump, many people of color are losing hope for an America that values diversity — and them — and are losing trust in white Christians who loudly claim not to be racist but who clearly decided that Trump’s racial bigotry was not a disqualifier for their vote. White Christians ignored Trump’s bigotry with no seeming understanding of or empathy toward families of color. Further, when white people dismiss the real fears that parents of color have for their children after this election, it painfully reveals the distance of the white majority from people of color in America and the realities of their daily lives.

WATCH: A Letter to My Trump-Voting Family

What in the world do we do about that? I say go right to the sin of racism and ask what repentance from our racial sins would mean — at the heart of our congregations. It’s time for a serious study of the history of racism in America and the narrative that must be changed. It’s time for much more direct proximity between white Christians and Christians of color. It’s time for uncomfortable but honest listening and conversations with one another. It’s time to change our relationships and racial geography, time for prayer, and, most of all, for action to change our practices and our policies. Studying racism in the era of Trump will be an act of reconciliation and resistance.

I actually believe that Donald Trump’s election makes a new and national conversation on racism even more important and more possible. Trump’s election provides both a great danger and a real opportunity to finally deal with race in America.

In our homes and in our churches, we must answer the question: “What should white Christians and white churches do in the Trump era?” Repent of the sin of racism. That means to study, learn, and change our relationships in order to act in changing our practices and policies of racism.

The only answer to the racial divide among Christians — evangelicals in particular — is to go much deeper into what racial equity and healing will require. America’s Original Sin was written for such a time as this. It is a book written to and for white Christians and white churches — to help lead them to new conversations with black and brown Christians and their churches. It could be that studying racism in congregation after congregation, and especially between congregations across racial lines, could be a fundamental building block for genuine racial reconciliation in America.

Racial reconciliation will be an act of repentance and resistance in the Trump era.

Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. His book, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, is available now.

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Muslim Immigrants Are Among America’s Best

Friday February 17th, 2017 01:19:21 PM Russell Simmons

As President Donald Trump signed his executive order two weeks ago ending all resettlement of refugees in U.S. for four months and placing an indefinite freeze on people arriving from seven Muslim majority countries, he claimed these draconian steps are necessary to keep out “radical Islamic terrorists.” The President then declared ominously, “We don’t want them here…We only want to admit into our country those who will support our country and deeply love our people.”

In fact, there is no evidence that President Trump’s poorly thought-through order will keep out any terrorists. Rather, what Trump has managed to accomplish is to bar from the U.S. thousands of innocent and desperate people — Muslims and others ― who are themselves under imminent peril from being slaughtered by ISIS or Al-Qaeda in war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya. Obscenely, among those who have been banned from entry to the U.S. are brave Iraqis who have risked their lives to serve as translators and contractors for the U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq.

Mr. Trump claims implausibly that his executive order “is not a Muslim ban.” However, the sneering subtext to his remarks at the signing ceremony is that America does not want Muslim immigrants because Muslims cannot be trusted to love our country or make contributions to its welfare.

President Trump should tell that to Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni, a world-renowned Algerian-born American physician, radiologist and biomedical engineer who was appointed by President George W. Bush as the 15th Director of the National Institutes of Health; serving from 2002 until 2008. Does President Trump seriously mean to imply that Dr. Zerhouni is not worthy of the respect he has earned for his protean accomplishments because he is an immigrant from a Muslim country?

What about Imam Mohamed Magid, the spiritual leader of the All-Dulles Area Muslim Society, one of America’s largest and most vibrant mosques, who emigrated here from Sudan? Imam Magid, who has worked closely with the FBI to prevent radicalization of American Muslim youth, recently spoke at the Interfaith Prayer Service at the National Cathedral attended by President Trump. Would Mr. Trump dare to suggest that Imam Magid is not a loyal American because he happens to hail from one of the seven countries proscribed in his executive order? 

Ever since his explicit call for a Muslim ban early in the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump has sought to brainwash Americans into believing that immigrants — especially Muslim immigrants — are criminals and terrorists.

How, we wonder, does Mr. Trump relate to Farooq Kathwari, President and CEO of Ethan Allen? In addition to his accomplishments in the business world, the Kashmiri-born Kathwari has served as Chairman of Refugees International, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and in 2007 was awarded the Outstanding American by Choice Award from the Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice. Would the President suggest that the award to Kathwari should be revoked because Muslim immigrants cannot be trusted to love and support America?

There are many more Muslim immigrants the two of us know personally who have made significant contributions to America. We think of Akon, a hip-hop star from Senegal, who has given so many young Americans enjoyment and inspiration through his music. There is Daisy Khan, an immigrant from Kashmir and founder of WISE Muslim Women, who is the initiator of a soon-to-be released study that elucidates the stark differences between genuine Islamic theology and extremist ideology and offers a road map for preventing extremist recruitment.

There is our dear friend Imam Shamsi Ali, born in a remote village in Indonesia, who has risen an acclaimed spiritual leader in New York with a message of love and inclusion. And we think of Khizr and Ghazala Khan, originally from Pakistan; whose son Humayan sacrificed his life in Iraq to save his fellow U.S. Army servicemen and women from a roadside bomb, and who themselves have inspired countless people of all backgrounds by courageously speaking truth to power.

All of the above-mentioned people are Muslim immigrants who have proven through their life’s work that they truly ‘support our country and deeply love our people.’ It is high time President Trump should acknowledge — perhaps through a series of tweets ― that these American patriots and untold thousands of other Muslim immigrants from all walks of life are improving the quality of life of all Americans.

Ever since his explicit call for a Muslim ban early in the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump has sought to brainwash Americans into believing that immigrants — especially Muslim immigrants — are criminals and terrorists. In fact, they are among America’s best.


Rabbi Marc Schneier and Russell Simmons are President and Chairman of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding

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Creationist Ken Ham’s Giant ‘Noah’s Ark’ To Feature Dinosaurs vs. Giants Diorama

Friday February 17th, 2017 10:06:19 AM Ed Mazza

A new display going into the creationist Noah’s Ark attraction in Kentucky shows what appears to be gladiator-style fights involving humans, giants and a dinosaur.

Ken Ham, founder of the group that runs the attraction, tweeted images of the new diorama on Thursday:

The dinosaur is visible in the far right of the first image, which has a giant on the left apparently about to spear a human.

Ham, who believes in a strict literal interpretation of the Bible, claims the planet is roughly 6,000 years old, that humans existed alongside dinosaurs and that Noah even carried dinosaurs with him on the ark during a global flood roughly 4,300 years ago. 

Scientists estimate that dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago, or a good 64.8 million years before the first homo sapiens, who evolved roughly 200,000 years ago.

There is no scientific evidence for a race of giants.

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They Escaped The Holocaust As Children. Now They Have A Message For Trump.

Thursday February 16th, 2017 11:21:03 PM Sarah Ruiz-Grossman

For HuffPost’s #LoveTakesAction series, we’re telling stories of how people are standing up to hate and supporting those most threatened. What will you stand up for? Tell us with #LoveTakesAction.

Jewish Holocaust survivors who fled Nazi Germany and other countries as children have a request for President Donald Trump: “Keep the doors open to refugees.”

In a letter to Trump released Monday, more than 200 family members and survivors of the Kindertransport ― a program that sent around 10,000 Jewish child refugees to Britain from Nazi Germany and other European nations ― urged Trump to continue to resettle refugees, especially children, in America.

The letter, from nonprofit The Kindertransport Association, comes just a few weeks after Trump signed an executive order banning Syrian refugees from the U.S. indefinitely and halting the resettlement of refugees from other countries for at least four months. Though the order is now mired in political and legal challenges, Trump said Thursday that he plans to issue a new order in its place.

“We want to bring our personal experience to bear on what we see as a building crisis,” Melissa Hacker, president of The Kindertransport Association, told The Huffington Post.

For Hacker, the issue is personal: Her mother escaped from Austria to Britain in 1939 through the Kindertransport program, she said.

The letter connects the experiences of child refugees who sought safe haven during World War II to those of child refugees today.

“The Kindertransports saved only 10,000 children,” the letter reads, “a small number compared to the 1.5 million children who were murdered. Yet the children who were saved were able to go to a friendly country ― not through luck, contacts or subterfuge, but through the will of the British people and their elected leaders.”

“We write to urge [Trump] to give other children at risk the same opportunity,” the letter goes on to say.

Today, the world is facing the worst refugee crisis since World War II, according to the United Nations. There are more than 65 million displaced people, including around 21 million refugees, over half of whom are children

More than 200 Kindertransport survivors, all of whom now live in the U.S., and their descendants signed the letter to Trump, Hacker said.

The letter notes that Kindertransport survivors who ended up in the U.S. “have become productive American citizens, including two Nobel Laureates, many successful business people, film and theater professionals, teachers, artists, writers, doctors, and philanthropists.” 

They are pleading for Trump to open America’s doors to child refugees from Central AmericaSyria, and more.

“In Syria, it’s a civil war, cities are being bombed, children are getting killed, and in South and Central America, many children trying to get to the U.S. are in dire situations,” Hacker said. “No one sends their child away, especially traveling alone, without extreme need, worry, and fear.”

The letter follows the United Kingdom’s decision earlier this month to close the Dubs Amendment program for accepting lone child refugees. Only 350 displaced children were able to enter the country, as opposed to the 3,000 previously expected. The Dubs amendment was named after U.K. politician and former member of Parliament Lord Alf Dubs, who himself came to the U.K. through the Kindertransport.

“The United States is a global leader in refugee protection,” the letter reads. “The world is looking to us and following our lead.”

The Kindertransport survivors’ letter warns Trump about the consequences when America closes its doors to people fleeing persecution and conflict.

“In the aftermath of World War II, the price for keeping America’s doors closed to refugees due to fear was made starkly clear,” it reads. “We are among the very few who were welcomed by a country and its citizens and therefore survived.”

In a notorious example of American policy toward Jewish refugees during World War II, a ship called the St. Louis, which was carrying more than 900 mostly-German Jews, sailed first to Cuba and then the U.S. in 1939.

American authorities turned the ship away. Of the people who were sent back to Europe, 254 died in the Holocaust.

See here to read the letter from Kindertransport survivors in its entirety.

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It’s not whining-it’s empathy

Thursday February 16th, 2017 10:32:29 PM Mary Puckett
Recently, a conservative, Christian family member of mine posted to Facebook an interview with James Franco on the Daily Beast where the actor expressed his feelings of depression since Trump’s election. Since most members of my family are Christian and conservative, their comments that followed expressed cynicism for Franco’s feelings, claiming that someone so out of touch with most of society had no place to complain about how trump’s election would affect him. Other comments claimed that millennials like Franco who feel sad at the recent turn of events politically are unable to cope with not getting their way, and these feelings of “depression” are really just pouting. This emotionally coddled generation is, according to the respondents of this Facebook post, unable to deal with even the easiest of life’s challenges. Reactions to an article in the University of Miami Hurricane offer a good example of how conservatives respond to new outlets like intellectual safe spaces, which are meant to provide a neutral zone to individuals experiencing the senses of anxiety and stress brought on by living in a place where one can experience hostility as a reaction to their race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or even political outlook.

Franco is not alone. I and others I know are experiencing a real sense of sadness about the effects of Trump’s policies on other people and the environment, which will, eventually, also affect people who will lack the resources to deal with the forthcoming environmental degradation. I argue, however, that these feelings are not the feelings of a sore loser. This sense of sadness comes from a deep concern for the well-being of others. We are empathizing with those in our society who have become seriously endangered because of trump’s destructive policies and, perhaps most dangerous, the condoned expressions of hate against those who disagree with these policies.

I am no psychologist or theologian. I study religion, but from a social science perspective. I cannot even claim that I am Christian. I do, however, know what Christians believe, though perhaps I should say that I know what Christians are supposed to believe based on what my Sunday School teachers taught me. I was taught that Christians are supposed to love everyone, even if their beliefs differ from my own and even if they look differently than I do. Above all, Christians are supposed to be kind to and help others. Christians are supposed to have empathy for the suffering of other human beings.

I am frustrated that millennials, and I myself am proud to be a millennial, are so often dismissed as being lazy and spoiled. Rather, I think that millennials, including James Franco, are notably more empathic than my parents’ generation. I think that the millennial generation has fully grasped the values that many of us were taught by our conservative, Christian parents: be kind, help others, love others. We live in a nation legislated by people who claim to be Christians. A Christian identity is honored here even by donald trump, who has extended an exception to Christians living in nations affected by the recent refugee ban. So why do these Christians not care for others?

A recent Pew Research Center poll shows that evangelical Christianity in the United States is hemorrhaging membership, mainly through the abandonment of this form of religion by millennials. Is it any wonder that it is difficult to remain faithful to a religious tradition that does not actually practice the teachings of its core religious text? How are we supposed to reconcile this cognitive dissonance?

I have hope for the future of our nation because I think that my generation is actually taking at face value the things that Jesus said about a just society. Upon donald trump’s election, we feel sad because we worry about what his policies will do to harm others, many of whom are society’s most vulnerable: nonwhite people, non-heteronormative people, immigrants, etc. I’d like to say to white, conservative, Christians: Just because you can’t empathize with the hardships of others doesn’t mean millennials like James Franco can’t either.

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This Tween Fashion Brand Just Took A Big Step For Inclusivity

Thursday February 16th, 2017 10:31:43 PM Carol Kuruvilla

Growing up, Muslim fashion blogger Hassanah El-Yacoubi rarely saw Muslim girls like her represented in major American fashion brands. El-Yacoubi told The Huffington Post that this lack of representation in mainstream fashion campaigns creates an “identity complex” for young American Muslims. Many Muslim teens are balancing the challenges of teenage life with the added stress of having their identity as Americans questioned, and even being bullied because of their faith.

That’s why it was especially heartening for the blogger to see Justice, an Ohio-based retail company, reach out to young American Muslims in their latest marketing campaign.

Justice focuses exclusively on fashion for “tween” girls between the ages of 7 and 14. In a recent update to the company’s merchandise catalog, the company chose to include a young model wearing a bright blue hijab. 

The image is now the brand’s cover photo on Facebook and is also featured on Justice’s website. 

El-Yacoubi called Justice’s decision to include a young person in a hijab in its marketing campaign a “leap forward.”

“I honestly teared up when I saw the ad because it’s a celebration of what it means to be different and shows that difference is what makes us beautiful,” El-Yacoubi told The Huffington Post in an email. “It will help the youth cultivate a confident and stronger sense of self at such a young age. By seeing themselves represented throughout mainstream markets it will provide a feeling of belonging, something many of us wished we had growing up.”

Keriake Lucas, vice president of corporate communications for Justice, told The Huffington Post that the photo was part of a marketing campaign for January and February called “See Yourself In Justice.”

Lucas said the campaign was meant to showcase the diversity of the young girls that Justice hopes to reach. The updated catalog coincides with the release of new extended sizes. 

“We’re looking at ways of continuing with our message around inclusivity,” she said. “We’re really proud to project to our girl that we are really dedicated to every girl, every day.” 

Justice is part of the Ascena Retail Group Inc, which also manages brands like Dressbarn, Loft, and Lane Bryant. Justice has over 900 stores located in the United States, Canada, Russia and the Middle East.

Lucas said that this particular marketing campaign will also be featured in stores. 

Sania Siddiqui, a fashion blogger and a mom, told The Huffington Post she would have loved to see an ad like this while she was growing up. 

Now that I am a mother of a baby girl, I want her to be confident in her faith yet proud to be American. When Justice includes a young girl wearing hijab, it shows inclusivity to all young girls from different backgrounds,” Siddiqui wrote in an email. “America’s beauty comes from the diversity of its people. This encourages young American Muslims to be confident in their faith.”

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Interfaith Activists To Descend On Times Square In Solidarity With Muslims

Thursday February 16th, 2017 10:27:58 PM Carol Kuruvilla

New York City’s interfaith activists are getting ready to show President Donald Trump that they’re willing to stand in solidarity with their Muslim neighbors. 

The “Today, I am a Muslim too”rally, scheduled for Sunday in New York City’s Times Square, is expected to bring hundreds of supporters together to protest Trump’s Islamophobic rhetoric and to show their support for American Muslims. More than 5,000 have expressed interest in the event on Facebook. 

“There is no greater time than now to stand up for our Muslim brothers and sisters who are under increasing threat and pressure,” a Facebook page for the rally said. 

The Nusantara Foundation, a Muslim interfaith advocacy organization run by Imam Shamsi Ali, and the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, a non-profit dedicated to strengthening inter-ethnic cooperation, are helping to organize the event. FFEU is spearheaded by Rabbi Marc Schneier and the hip-hop artist Russell Simmons. Women’s March organizer Linda Sarsour will also reportedly be at the event.

American Muslim have been fearful about how the Trump administration’s policies could affect their communities over the next four years. The president has used Islamophobic rhetoric to fire up his base and to justify an executive order on immigration that blocked immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries and drastically reduces the number of refugees accepted into the country. His administration is reportedly planning to revamp a United States program countering all violent ideologies to focus on what he calls “radical Islamic extremism.” 

Rabbi Marc Schneier, the FFEU’s president, told The Huffington Post that the goal of the rally was to demonstrate solidarity with the American Muslim community during this time.

“Because a people who fight for their own rights are only as honorable as when they fight for the rights of all people,” he told HuffPost in an email. “In this spirit, we stand in solidarity with the American Muslim community in the face of growing Islamophobia and Muslim bigotry in our country.” 

Imam Ali told The Huffington Post that he hopes the rally will send a clear message to Trump that people remain united, despite his divisive policies.

“We are bold and united against injustices and committed to bring back America into the right track.”

Correction: A previous version of this article attributed a quote from the FFEU to the organization’s executive director. It should have been attributed to FFEU president, Rabbi Marc Schneier.

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