Archive for the ‘ US Commission on International Religious Freedom ’ Category

Pat Robertson’s anti-Islam remarks put new Virginia Governor-elect McDonnell in a tough spot

Virginia Beach, Virginia USA- Rev Pat Robertson is coming under fire by Virginia Muslims and others nationally including several Christian and Jewish organizations regarding his recent comments about Islam when discussing the Fort Hood tragedy on his Tv show, The 700 Club. Robertson stated on his show that Islam is “not a religion” but a “violent political system” and that those who practice it should be treated like members of a communist or fascist party. It’s a violent political system bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world and world domination. “

Robertson has been preaching since at least 1960 when in that year he established the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The CBN is now seen in 180 countries and broadcast in 71 languages. According to Wikipedia, “Robertson founded CBN University in 1977 on CBN’s Virginia Beach campus. It was renamed Regent University in 1989. Robertson serves as its chancellor. He is also founder and president of the American Center for Law and Justice, a public interest law firm that defends Christians whose First Amendment rights have allegedly been violated. The law firm, headquartered in the same building that houses Regent’s law school, focuses on “pro-family, pro-liberty and pro-life” cases nationwide. Robertson is also an advocate of Christian dominionism – the idea that Christians have a right to rule.”

He has been in controversy before when he made disparaging remarks about Islam the religion versus the extremists who claim to be of that faith. The issue has incensed Muslims in Virginia and across the United States as well as prominent members of Christian and Jewish faiths as well as several Democrats on the Hill.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) issued this strong statement condemning Robertson: “ When a prominent Virginian chooses to engage in hate-filled rhetoric that divides us and has the potential to fuel real discord in our polity, leaders cannot remain silent. That is why I am calling on Mr. Robertson to apologize to my constituents – Muslim and non-Muslim – for the hurt he has caused and the damage he has done. It is a week overdue.”

To add fuel to the fire and cause further embarrassment in other conservative quarters, Virginia’s new Republican Governor-elect Bob McDonnell, who has previously studied as a law student at Robertson’s university and was also given thousands of dollars as donations by Robertson, was asked about Robertson’s disturbing remarks towards ALL Muslims. Asked if he thought the comments by the preacher were “appropriate.” While stressing that he wants “people of all faiths” to part of his administration, McDonnell refused to condemn Robertson specifically, citing the First Amendment. “You know, I’ve got probably 15,000 donors to the campaign, and I can’t stand to defend or support every comment that every donor might make. I think people are entitled under the First Amendment to express whatever opinions they may have.”

In response to this dangerous stupidity, on November 16 Mark Pelavin, Director of the Commission on Interreligious Affairs of Reform Judaism and Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, sent a letter to Reverend Pat Robertson, asking him to retract his comments.

The letter states:

“Dear Rev. Robertson,

“On behalf of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, representing the largest stream of American Jewry in North America, I write to express our outrage at the remarks pertaining to Islam that you made on “The 700 Club” on November 9, 2009.

“When speaking about this month’s tragic shooting at Ft. Hood, you referred to the alleged shooter’s religion, saying, “Islam … [is not] a religion, it’s a political system, a violent political system, bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world and world domination, that is the ultimate aim…and I think we should treat it as such and treat its adherents as such as we would members of the communist party or members of some Fascist group.”

“We understand and share your concern about Muslim extremists. Too often, they have blasphemed their own faith, just as extremist Jews and extremist Christians have done. The danger posed by those who resort to violence in the name of religion is real, and it does seem to have been a significant part of the story at Fort Hood. But, of course, that is not what you said.

“Rather you made the outrageous and bigoted claim that Islam itself is the problem – and, in doing so, you denigrated the faith of some 1.5 billion people.

“How disappointing to see a religious leader stoop to this level, attempting to delegitimize one of the world’s great faiths based on the actions of someone who perverts its teachings. Do you not have any Muslim friends? Have you no Muslim colleagues? Have you never met a peaceful Muslim, someone with whom you might find common ground? If not, how sad. If so, how do you reconcile their life with your claim that Islam is “a violent political system” and “not a religion”?

“One of the advantages of having your own television program is the opportunity to revisit statements you have made. I sincerely hope you will do so in this case. ”

McDonnell attended law school at what was then called CBN University, the Virginia Beach school founded by Robertson and named after the Christian Broadcasting Network, whose studios share the campus. After the school changed its name to Regent University, McDonnell served on the board of trustees for eight years and last year spoke at its law school graduation. Robertson’s ever increasingly alarming remarks against Islam are not new, what is very disturbing to generalize the faith of Islam and a religion of over a billion people buy the actions of a few such as Major Hasan in the Ft Hood attacks. How can an entire religion, a fellow Abrahamic faith (along with Christianity and Judaism) be reduced to a non-religion status by a prominent Baptist minister and Tv personality and also not have an incoming governor of a state bordering Washington DC rebuke these irresponsible comments?

What is most troubling is that the incoming Governor of a major state such as Virginia is not as of yet disavowing Pat Robertson’s anti-Islam comments. One can only hope that the Governor elect has enough sense to know that he needs to have the support of the approximately 200,000 to 230,000 Muslim population of Virginia and the surrounding area when his re-election comes around again in four years.

Reported by Manzer Munir for


Pakistani minister promises to revise blasphemy law despite death threats


 Islamabad, Pakistan- The minister for minority affairs of Pakistan, Shahbaz Bhatti,  promised to work to amend the blasphemy laws used to target non-Muslims in Pakistan such as Christians and Hindus and said he was ready to die fighting for this cause.

A Member of Parliament and head of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), Shahbaz Bhatti was visiting Washington DC at the invitation of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which awarded him a first-of-a-kind medal for championing the rights of minorities in Islamic Pakistan.

A Catholic member of President Asif Ali Zardari’s administration as a federal minister for minority affairs, he took over the job last year when it was made a cabinet level position in Zardari’s cabinet.

Bhatti said he has received threats for his work on numerous occasions. Earlier this month, Pakistan’s religious affairs minister was wounded in an assassination attempt in Islamabad that left his driver dead.

“I personally stand for religious freedom, even if I will pay the price of my life,” Bhatti said. “I live for this principle and I want to die for this principle.”

Pakistan’s law against blaspheming Islam carries the death penalty. While no one has ever been sent to the executed for the crime, activists say the law is used to exploit others out of personal vendettas by some in the Muslim community against Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhist minorities in Pakistan.

A 25-year-old Christian jailed on blasphemy allegations earlier this week died in prison. Authorities said he committed suicide but civil rights activists suspect that he was tortured by the police.

The death came several weeks after an angry mob killed seven Christians in an arson attack that destroyed about 40 houses in the town of Gojra in central Punjab province.

Christians and other religious minorities have a long history of persecution and discrimination in all walks of life in Pakistan by the Muslim majority. This is a sad reality and a country such as Pakistan that was founded for religious freedoms for the Muslims of India in 1947, has to do a much better job at protecting the 3 to 5% of the population that does not share the Islamic faith.

Unfair, subjective and antiquated laws such as Pakistan’s blasphemy laws need to be urgently amended so that the non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan do not live in fear of an upset neighbor calling the authorities and falsely claiming an individual blasphemed the religion of Islam. Furthermore, if an individual is indeed ever guilty of blasphemy, the death penalty is a rather harsh punishment for simply stating one’s opinions, no matter how offensive to the faithful.

Although he may face strong resistance by some of the extremist and ultra religious members of Parliament in Pakistan, many moderate and enlightened Pakistanis support the minister for minority affairs and hope that he is successful in amending this archaic law.

Christian Pakistani Children












Reported by Manzer Munir for

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