Texas Faith: Taking offense in the name of faith

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It is this hypocrisy that is offending the people of the world,  if you have a powerful lobby, rules don’t mean a thing, and freedom of press applies only to Muslims. Mike Ghouse
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Texas Faith: Taking offense in the name of faith
Rudolph Bush – Dallas Morning News Published: January 20, 2015 11:16 am

The murderers of 12 people in the office of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo justified their actions as revenge for offenses against their Islamic faith. The magazine’s cartoonists reveled in their role as secular provocateurs in the tradition of Voltaire. There is no question that their cartoons were offensive, and not only to Muslims but to devout Catholics and Jews as well.
Their murders cannot in any way be justified and their murderers’ justifications were condemned by people around the world, including many Muslims. Mustafa Riad of the Union mosque in Montpellier, France said this: “To a cartoon you reply with a cartoon, to a drawing with a drawing, to a newspaper article with a newspaper article… But you don’t reply with guns.”

But surely, when any of us sees our deeply held faith and beliefs held up for ridicule it offends. As Pope Francis said: “One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith. There is a limit. Every religion has its dignity … in freedom of expression there are limits.”

Is that so? Is there a limit to what we can express about one another? What is the moral responsibility of the offender? What is the responsibility of the offended? How do we defend our faith against provocation while respecting the freedom of another?
Our panelists consider these questions on the jump.
MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism and speaker on interfaith matters, Dallas

Freedom of speech is the God given right of humans and must be guarded vigorously. Despite the warning, Adam and Eve chose the forbidden fruit. Was God upset with them? Did he slap them for making their free choice? That’s our genesis and that is in our DNA, and of course there is a price to be paid for having that freedom.

I have relentlessly defended the freedom of speech, and indeed making a full feature film call “Sacred” about the Quran burning incident in Mulberry, Florida. As Muslims we did not condemn Pastor Terry Jones actions nor did we curse; instead we heeded God’s advise in Quran, 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend. We listened to Jesus and, “turned the other cheek”, meaning do not aggravate the conflict, same idea was followed by Prophet Muhammad’s non-violent conflict resolutions approach and “Prayed (both interfaith and intrafaith) for the goodwill of the miscreants” through his many examples including the Taif Story.
It saddens me that a few Muslims resorted to violence killing 12 people, claiming to defend the Prophet, as if he needs their protection. Quran expressly forbids taking another life, unless it is in self-defense. I have offered Muslim Solutions to the conflict.
Is there a limit to what we can express about one another? I am completely against the limits; it will be abused any way. I am for education about building cohesive societies. we all have to grow up to be tolerant on one hand, and learn to be respectful of what is dear to others, that includes learning to get the bad guys for their bad acts, and not aimlessly bark at a religion, an intangible.
In case of Charlie Hebdo, as a society, many of us were overjoyed and eager to malign Islam instead of focusing on the individual criminals. It is a dangerous thing to do, as it cause every one to blame the religion and let go of the bad guys.
The problem is not with freedom for speech, but with the element of discretion. When we have a choice to decide what is allowable or not, the freedom of speech becomes vulnerable to implementers’ bias. The conflicts arise not from freedom of speech but from abuse of discretion.
The Sun Times from UK has published a cartoon where Prime Minister Netanyahu is building a wall with the Palestinian blood and body parts, a few concerned members of the Jewish community are calling it Anti-Semitic, and demanding apology and retrieval of that cartoon and there is almost a threat lurking in it. More than likely the Sun Times will apologize and withdraw. It is this hypocrisy that is offending the people of the world that if you have a powerful lobby, rules don’t mean a thing, and freedom of press applies only to Muslims.
What can we do to defend provocation against our faith? What is the responsibility of offended? Our religions offer good guidance and if responsible bodies like Government, civic, religious and non-profit take on to showing the benefits of building and preserving cohesive societies, we may be able to handle these better.
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AMY MARTIN, Director Emeritus of Earth Rhythms and Writer/editor Moonlady News Newsletter

My religion is kindness. Can you imagine how many times a day I am offended? I’d be happy if those that defiled my religion were just terrorists or satirists. Instead, offenses to my faith are staples on television and film and institutionalized in political parties, corporations and other religions that wage war on kindness every day in a multitude of ways.

Demands for respect are quixotic attempts and the impossible task of controlling others’ thoughts. Offended by what someone says about your religion, leader, political party or whatever? Pay them no mind. To react is to give your power away and allow them to control you.
That said, poking a wounded bear with a stick is neither kind nor smart. Paris has large ghettos of unassimilated Middle Eastern and African immigrants that run 40% or more unemployment. They felt humiliated by Charlie Hebdo and the French intellectual elite. So it was less about religion and more about economic disparity and the residual effects of French colonialism. The satirists were aiming at the powerful Muslims, yet their immense oil wealth deflects all barbs.
Those of us on organized religion’s sidelines marvel at a God that is so insecure it needs people to intercede on its almighty behalf. Such a God is much too small. Indeed we live on a polytheistic planet. There is a God of the Christians, a God of the Muslims, a God of the Jews. Peace will come only when we accept there is but one God and it is for all of us.

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CYNTHIA L. RIGBY, W.C. Brown Professor of Theology
I don’t think there is any sure fire way to protect our faith from being maligned. Violent defenses, especially, will serve only to spur greater provocation. Supporting freedom means upholding the rights of others to say what they will, even when what they say is harmful and wrong.
I take, as my model for how to respond to being disparaged for what we believe, Jesus Christ himself. Jesus chastises Peter for cutting off the ear of one of the men who comes to arrest him, warning him that “those who take the sword will perish by the sword.” Jesus refuses, on the day of his trial and crucifixion, to respond to the sarcastic comments made about how he is “king of the Jews” and how he should “save himself.”
Those who want to stereotype and disparage will continue to do so even when people of faith offer good arguments for being more subtle and for making clearer distinctions. I notice this phenomenon in relation to the work of Richard Dawkins, who labels anyone who is a theist “delusional.” Dawkins is obviously intelligent enough to notice that, at very least, some theists are far less delusional than others. As Terry Eagleton points out in his excellent counter to Dawkins, many of the most influential shapers of western culture were theists (see his book “Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate”). Making such observations clearly doesn’t fit with Dawkins’ marketing of the “New Atheism.”
The best thing people of faith can do, as Eagleton does, is represent what we believe as well as we can to anyone who wants to learn about it. Our representation should include naming, condemning, and grieving the ways in which our faith traditions have been used to justify or perpetuate harm. One of the more effective defenses against provocation is to be ourselves provocative about the shortcomings of our traditions, living out our faiths in ways that foster – and foster only – life abundant.

To read the views of the other panelists, please visit Dallas Morning news at – http://dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com/2015/01/texas-faith-taking-offense-in-the-name-of-faith.html/#more-49964

Mike Ghouse

Mike Ghouse is a public speaker, thinker, writer
and a commentator on Pluralism at work place, politics, religion, society,
gender, race, culture, ethnicity, food and foreign policy. He is a staunch
defender of human rights and his book standing up for others will be out soon,
and a movie “Americans together” is in the making.  He is a frequent guest
commentator on Fox News and syndicated Talk Radio shows and a writer at major
news papers including Dallas Morning News and Huffington Post. All about him is
listed in 63 links atwww.MikeGhouse.net and his writings are
at www.TheGhousediary.com and 10
other blogs. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers
pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. 

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