CAIR

Why is it so important to certain Muslims to practice beheading?

Why is it so important to certain Muslims to practice beheading?

TERRY’S QUESTION:

What is it with Muslims and beheadings? Where does that (tradition) come from?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

Islam has no hesitation about capital punishment when proper legal procedures are observed and death is hudud (mandatory) under Sharia (religious law). Traditionally this covers such infractions as murder, adultery, homosexual activity, political rebellion, and apostasy, including (under the strictest regimes) conversion to a different religion.

Beheading has a long human history, but what’s remarkable in the 21st Century is its continued use by certain sectors of Muslims while, as the question implies, much of the world regards it as repugnant. Today’s terror sects demonstrate that decapitation remains singularly effective for striking fear into the hearts of subjects and for expressing contempt toward victims. The current “Islamic State” caliphate, a.k.a. ISIS, proudly posts its bloodthirsty videos for another purpose, inspiring excitable youths to join its revolt against traditional religious authorities and attack despised fellow Muslims and non-Muslims.

We also have official incidents -- minus video publicity -- such as Saudi Arabia’s mass execution January 2 of 47 alleged terrorists and political dissidents. The event included beheadings, including of a popular Shia activist, along with deaths by firing squad. Such executions are not unusual for the kingdom. By media accounts, it decapitated some 1,100 defendants in 1984-2004, and at least 57 in 2014 alone, for crimes ranging from drug-running to religious apostasy. Several Muslim regimes that formerly used this method of execution have abandoned it. That leaves Saudi Arabia as unique, and especially noteworthy because it purports to preserve pure and authentic Islamic practice.

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On the red-hot Islam beat: (1) Helpful, if recycled, info, (2) far-fetched 2016 scenarios

On the red-hot Islam beat: (1) Helpful, if recycled, info, (2) far-fetched 2016 scenarios

The Council on American-Islamic Relations reports that 2015 has produced at least 63 incidents of vandalism and harassment against U.S. Muslims, the most since it started counting in 2009 and three times the 2014 total -- a spot story to pursue.

The biggest spike of such crimes occurred in November, likely a reaction to “Islamists” downing a Russian plane in Egypt October 31 followed by atrocities in Lebanon, Nigeria and Paris that together slaughtered  429 innocent victims and injured hundreds more. Next came the San Bernardino attack that murdered 14 partygoers and injured 22, then the December 15 announcement of an anti-terror military alliance among 34 Muslim nations.

CAIR provides new news. But recycled information can be manna on the red-hot Islam beat as newswriters prepare explainers. The ever-reliable Pew Research Center has assembled prior data for a valuable online report, “Muslims and Islam: Key findings in the U.S. and around the world.” Thank you Pew. 

We learn – or are reminded -- that Pew surveys show 86 percent of U.S. Muslims think violence against innocent civilians is rarely or never justified, compared with 7 percent who think it’s sometimes justified, and 1 percent saying it is often justified. 

That’s somewhat reassuring, though the “sometimes” number is worrisome and, by Pew’s estimate of 1.8 million U.S. Muslim adults, 1 percent saying “often” equals 18,000 radicals. Notably, 48 percent of U.S. Muslims think their religious leaders haven’t done enough to oppose Islamic extremists.

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Associated Press goes overboard on Muslims 'under siege' headline

Associated Press goes overboard on Muslims 'under siege' headline

I must say, the headline stood out: 

Muslim spokesman: As boy departs, Muslims feel ‘under siege'

Too bad the story had little to do with it. First, I read this Associated Press story about how the family of Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old boy who was wrong accused of bringing a bomb — which turned out to be a clock — to school has decided they’d do better in Qatar. We critiqued some of the press coverage here.

The AP story got some intriguing quotes from two Muslim sources who disagreed with the family’s move:

Yaser Birjas, imam of the Valley Ranch Islamic Center in Irving, said he wishes the 14-year-old well but worries about the stress that can come with celebrity.
"I hope that he does not get overwhelmed and consumed with that because now the expectation of him is so high," Birjas said. "And he's just a kid."
Birjas cautioned that people who move from America to Muslim countries are often disappointed when they discover restrictions they never experienced in the U.S.
"Here in America, you have much more freedom practicing the faith," he said.
For others, the family move to the Middle East sends an unfortunate message.
Yousuf Fahimuddin, a Muslim journalist in the San Francisco Bay area, believes the family's departure will only perpetuate the idea that Muslims are not loyal to the U.S.
"I don't think moving to Qatar, a country with its own share of problems, constructively helps fight prejudice," Fahimuddin said in an email.
Instead, he said, "Muslims should try to share their common humanity with others to demonstrate that they are regular people."
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the U.S. has seen a significant rise in the level of anti-Muslim sentiment — feelings he said were reflected by the political attacks of GOP presidential candidates such as Donald Trump and Ben Carson.
"The Muslim-American community feels under siege by all this," Hooper said.

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Muslim-Americans are uncomfortably yanked into center of new political storm

Muslim-Americans are uncomfortably yanked into center of new political storm

Time for beat reporters to dig out their lists of good U.S. Muslim sources again.

Quite suddenly, the United States has tumbled into a major interfaith moment. The current episode began with a New Hampshire town hall question tossed at GOP candidate Donald Trump on September 17. In case you missed it, a man wearing a TRUMP T-shirt stated:

“We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one. You know he’s not even an American -- birth certificate, man. But anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question. When can we get rid of them?”

 Note: Get rid of alleged training camps? Or get rid of American Muslims, who are the country’s “problem”?  

Either way it was an unusually perfervid attack, compounded by raising of the oft-refuted but persistent claims that President Barack Obama is Muslim and also wasn’t born in America so  is an illegal president. Trump’s fuzzy response didn’t address any of that and he was uncharacteristically silent the following day.

Meanwhile Washington’s Council on American-Islamic Relations was quick on the uptake, as usual. Its chief lobbyist Robert McCaw said that “in failing to challenge the questioner’s anti-Muslim bigotry and his apparent call for the ethnic cleansing of American Muslims, Donald Trump sent the message that Islamophobia is acceptable.”

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Paranoia and outrage over a proposed Muslim cemetery in Texas: What are the facts?

Paranoia and outrage over a proposed Muslim cemetery in Texas: What are the facts?

A Dallas Morning News columnist offered this take on the furor caused by a proposed Muslim cemetery in rural Texas:

Muslim cemetery near Farmersville scares the wits out of some

Watch this video from a Dallas television station, and it's hard to argue with that assessment.

But here at GetReligion, we focus on news coverage, not opinion articles. Blah. Blah. Blah.

So how'd the Morning News do covering this controversy as a news story?

Not bad, actually.

The lede:

FARMERSVILLE — There’s a Buddhist meditation center on the outskirts of town, and a Mormon church recently opened along Audie Murphy Parkway.
But it’s the prospect of an Islamic cemetery that has upset some residents in this Collin County city with a population of fewer than 4,000. In shops along the brick-lined streets of the quaint downtown area, many wonder, “Why Farmersville?”
“The concern for us is the radical element of Islam,” David J. Meeks, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, said of the Islamic Association of Collin County’s plan to build a cemetery west of the city.
While a cemetery seems benign enough, the pastor is convinced that it will be the start of a Muslim enclave in the heart of this rural community.
“They will expand,” Meeks said firmly. “How can we stop a mosque or madrassa training center from going in there?”

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What's a progressive Muslim? Don't ask, just read and nod

What's a progressive Muslim? Don't ask, just read and nod

Reading the Associated Press's recent article on so-called progressive American Muslims is like a game of fill-in-the-blanks. Except that the blanks are never filled.

With its usual broad strokes, AP paints a broad mural of younger American Muslims who are getting more comfortable as Americans and less so as Muslims.  It starts with the tried-and-true anecdotal lede: Omar Akersim of Los Angeles, who prayed and fasted for Ramadan and is (shock alert!) openly gay.

The story then opens the nut graphs:

Akersim, 26, is part of a small but growing number of American Muslims challenging the long-standing interpretations of Islam that defined their parents' world. They believe that one can be gay and Muslim; that the sexes can pray shoulder-to-shoulder; that females can preach and that Muslim women can marry outside the faith — and they point to Quran passages to back them up.

The shift comes as young American Muslims work to reshape the faith they grew up with so it fits better with their complex, dual identity, with one foot in the world of their parents' immigrant beliefs and one foot in the ever-shifting cultural landscape of America. The result has been a growing internal dialogue about what it means to be Muslim, as well as a scholarly effort to re-examine the Quran for new interpretations that challenge rules that had seemed set in stone.

"Islam in America is being forced to kind of change and to reevaluate its positions on things like homosexuality because of how we're moving forward culturally as a nation. It's striving to make itself seen and known in the cultural fabric and to do that, it does have to evolve," said Akersim, who leads a Los Angeles-based support group for gay Muslims. "Ten or 15 years ago, this would have been impossible."

All of that is so eloquent, it's easy to forget some difficult questions. But we'll ask anyway.

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Define 'Islamist' and please be specific

Last week, the people who produce the Associated Press Stylebook issued a few revisions. One of them was for the term “Islamist.” It used to read:

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