The Week in Review: March 27 thru April 2

Taliban Targets Christians for Attack on Easter in Pakistan, Killing 70

by Shashank Bengali at The Los Angeles Times

A bomb ripped through a public park packed with families celebrating Easter in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Sunday evening, killing at least 70 people and wounding more than 300 others, most of them women and children, officials said.

A suicide bomber set off an explosive vest packed with ball bearings in a parking lot just feet away from amusement park rides in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, located in a mostly residential neighborhood of western Lahore.

A splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast, which it said was aimed at Christians celebrating the Easter holiday. Pakistan, an overwhelmingly Muslim nation, has a small Christian minority. Officials said they had not confirmed if Christians were the target.

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Federal Judge Voids Mississippi Ban on Same-Sex Couple Adoptions

by Fred Barbash at The Washington Post

A federal judge in Mississippi ordered the state to drop its ban on adoptions by same-sex married couples, saying Wednesday that it doesn’t pass muster under the Supreme Court’s 2015 landmark marriage ruling.

The law was said to be the last of its kind in the U.S. But efforts to skirt the full implementation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges using laws described as “religious freedom acts” remain alive and well in a number of Republican-led states along with measures permitting discrimination against transgender people.

Indeed, the Mississippi legislature has just approved a bill that says, among other things, public employees, businesses, and social workers cannot be punished for denying services based on the belief that marriage is strictly between a man and a woman and that the state government can’t prevent clerks from refusing to license a same-sex marriage. The measure is currently in a conference committee to work out differences between state House and Senate versions.

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ISIS Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s Ex-Wife Saja Al-Dulaimi Speaks

by Cassandra Vinograd at NBC News

What was it like being married to the world’s most-wanted terrorist?

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Iraqi ex-wife described a “shallow” marriage to a “normal family man” who spoke little other than to give “orders.”

The revelations from Saja al-Dulaimi were published in an interview with Swedish newspaper Expressen. NBC News was not able to independently verify its contents.

She said that after her first husband died in an Iraqi resistance group leaving her to care for young twin boys, her uncle approached her father about a potential new husband looking for a widow. That new husband was the current leader of ISIS — but not to al-Dulaimi.

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Some Due Diligence On Mo Ansar

by Jeremy Duns

This is an article about the political and social commentator, communications specialist, civil rights activistbanker, lawyer, theologian, imam, school governor, sex education guide author, lecturer, marriage counselor ,prison chaplain and sheik Mohammed ‘Mo’ Ansar. [Update: If you’ve received an email purporting to be from me saying I believe elements of this article are incorrect or unwise to disseminate further, it’s fake. I stand by everything I’ve written in this article, and encourage you to share it widely.]

A couple of years ago, Ansar was near-ubiquitous as a Muslim spokesman in the British media. In May 2014, he was widely exposed as a fraud in articles by:

● Nick Cohen, writing in The Spectator:

● Iain Dale:

● Jamie Bartlett in The Daily Telegraph:

● John Sargeant:

● Milo Yiannopoulos:

● And by me on this site:

“He tweeted himself into existence. He managed, with no qualifications, experience or credentials, to become a public figure who appeared on Newsnight, the Today Programme, the Big Questions, and elsewhere. In so doing he became a de facto spokesperson for the ‘Muslim community’, a position he did not merit.”— The Daily Telegraph

Many others had been onto Ansar’s ways for some time – there’s a vast encyclopedia-style entry on him online, from which a lot of information in this article is drawn – and a lot of people had seen through him because of his appearance on the BBC programme When Tommy Met Moin 2013. During the programme, Maajid Nawaz of the counter-extremism think tank the Quilliam Foundation asked Ansar if he believed that in an Islamic state, with all the sharia conditions met, thieves should have their hands chopped off. A simple question, but Ansar was notably flustered and unable to give a yes or no answer to it. You can watch the clip here.

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AZ Rep backpedals on Constitutional prayer violation when confronted by Satanists

by Doug Mesnar at The Daily KOS

The Phoenix, AZ City Council, with a decades-long tradition of opening their deliberations with a prayer, found themselves pitched into a confused fury when Satanic interlopers presented a bid to offer an invocation of their own. Unable to engage in religious viewpoint discrimination without committing a Constitutional violation, the Satanic invocation was scheduled to take place this past Feb. 17th. Some Council members and other public officials expressed little concern for legal quibbling or tedious Constitutional “political correctness”, calling immediately for The Satanic Temple to be blocked from speaking.

February 03, 2016, the City Council of Phoenix, AZ convened to consider proposed measures aimed specifically at blocking The Satanic Temple (TST) from delivering any invocations in the “open forum” of their Council Chambers. During the public hearing, state rep. Kelly Townsend, who had been organizing a “prayer rally” to combat TST’s alleged evil, bore false witness before the Council, testifying that TST’s real mission was to silence religious voices. The Council voted to instate a Moment of Silence policy that lasted just long enough to prevent any uncomfortable non-Christian messages from enjoying Free Speech, only to vote one session later to reinstate prayer, but with the restriction that the prayers will be delivered only by approved chaplains. As TST considers its legal approach, Rep. Townsend is self-congratulatory and, naturally, The Satanic Temple is unimpressed.

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On “I Can’t Condemn FGM Because of My Colonialist past”– a Critical Discussion of What Drives the Regressive Left, and How Progressive Allies Can Help

by nietzschesbreeches at The Ex-Muslim

My dear liberal, feminist, anti-racist and otherwise progressive allies—

I want to talk about what we’ve been calling the ‘regressive left’, and invite you to a more critical humanistic attitude.

For an example one of the most egregious manifestations of the regressive left, let me quote Sarah Peace from her (very good) piece ‘Has it become racist to condemn FGM’ (if reading the full piece please be warned that it contains a graphic photograph and descriptions of FGM and violence done to women):

“When probed on the matter, a representative of the Goldsmiths LGBT society responded that as a white person, she “cannot condemn FGM because of my colonial past.” Is this putative desire to carry the burdens of the past squarely on one’s shoulders echoed among feminists? Germaine Greer once argued that attempts to outlaw FGM amounted to ‘an attack on cultural identity’, stating: “one man’s beautification is another man’s mutilation.” Greer was widely condemned, almost unanimously. Nearly 20 years on, some fields of study in academia including critical race and gender theory are reawakening the same argument albeit from a postcolonial perspective – the difference now being that a generation of ethnic minority students have themselves, bought into this defeating narrative. The stance becomes reactionary, and any cause that contravenes the ugly history of colonialism becomes appealing, regardless of the implications.”

I really like that last sentence. Let me repeat: “…any cause that contravenes the ugly history of colonialism becomes appealing, regardless of the implications.”

It’s those implications that I want to talk about, the collateral damage that comes from a too-strong urge to be uncritical of the practices of Other cultures, especially when combined with erroneous assumptions about the geographic proximity of the problems in these cultures—such as the assumption that the only pressing issue plaguing Muslim communities in the West is (the very real, pervasive phenomenon) of anti-Muslim bigotry (and thus it is paramount to combat that at all costs) rather than things like FGM, forced hijab, honor violence, and dehumanizing familial control, which are often not even thought of as problems in the West. An example, to quote Peace again:

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“In God We Trust” Monument Adorns Malvern Courthouse Lawn

by Jessi Turnure at Arkansas Matters

The city of Malvern is known as the “Brick Capital of the World.”

Now though, it’s getting attention for a rock.

The rock sits in front of the Hot Spring County Courthouse with “In God We Trust” inscribed in the center.

County Judge Bill Scrimshire said this is the county’s latest attempt to honor citizens’ beliefs.

Signs on county property that read, “Jesus is Lord over Malvern,” resulted in threats of lawsuits across the country.

Judge Scrimshire said lawyers approved the county’s efforts this time around.

“The basic foundation for religion is to help your fellow man,” Scrimshire said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that being applied to government. ‘In God We Trust’ is our nation’s foundation.”

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The ‘Wives” of Boko Haram

by Andy Spyra at Foreign Policy

Laraba Bitrus was working in a small grocer’s shop in the northeastern Nigerian town of Gwoza when Boko Haram militants invaded. With nowhere to run, the armed men took her captive, beat her with a whip, and forced her to watch as they sawed off her uncle’s head. After 11 days, she fled on foot, traveling through the bush to Madagali, where she stayed until the extremists took over that small town as well, forcing her to flee again: this time further south to Yola, the capital of Adamawa state, where she now lives in the catholic St. Theresa’s refugee camp.

She was one of the lucky ones.

More than six years into their bloody campaign in northern Nigeria and the surrounding Lake Chad region, Boko Haram extremists have killed around 20,000 people. Entire villages have been razed to the ground; men and boys executed or forcibly recruited to join the militants’ ranks; and women and girls taken against their will as wives and household slaves. As part of the group’s brutal effort to establish an Islamic caliphate ruled under a strict interpretation of sharia, its militants have conducted mass rape.

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Democrats Make Last-Ditch Effort to Delay Anti-LGBT Bill in Mississippi

by Dominic Holden at BuzzFeed

The Republican-dominated Mississippi House of Representatives voted on Friday to advance what critics say is the most sweeping anti-LGBT legislation in the United States, allowing denial of products and services in a wide range of venues.

The 69-44 vote was expected to send the bill, which already passed in the Senate, to the governor. However, later in the day, Democrats used a procedure to delay the bill by requiring another vote on Monday — seeking a motion to reconsider, largely considered a formality that buys time — before it can go to the governor’s desk.

In speeches on the Senate floor Wednesday night, Republicans backers argued their legislation fixes problems created for people of faith when the Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality last year.

“It gives protection to those in the state who cannot in a good conscience provide services for a same-sex marriage,” Sen. Jennifer Branning said in an address to her colleagues.

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Bangladesh Considering Abandoning Islam as Its Official Religion Following Wake of Extremist Attacks

by Jennifer Newton at The Daily Mail

Bangladesh could drop Islam as the country’s official religion following a string of extremist attacks against people of other faiths. The supreme court in the South Asia nation has began to hear arguments which challenge Islam’s status as the official state religion.

It comes after a spate of attacks against people of other religions such as Hindus, Christians, and minorities Shi’ites, which have been blamed on Islamic extremists. When Bangladesh was formed in 1971 after the nation split from Pakistan, it was declared a secular state.

However, in 1988 the country’s constitution was amended with Islam declared as the state religion. But this is now being disputed as illegal in the latest court battle and is being supported by religious minority leaders. Meanwhile the US has also warned that ISIS is stepping up recruitment in Bangladesh, even though the government says the extremist problems are home grown.

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