Stop Hate 2000 Newsletter August 30, 2005

Dear Friends,

During July the attention of many people around the world was focused on the terrorist attacks in London and in other areas around the world. The terrorist attacks in London appear to be motivated partly by religious beliefs. History records many acts of injustice and hate inflicted in the name of religion. Some Nazis used religion as an excuse to hate and kill Jewish people. Unfortunately, religious hated has not been aimed at only one group of people. Hatred is an equal opportunity employer – willing to employ anybody and everybody in acts against others. At one time or another, Islamic, Jewish, and Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians have all suffered from religiously inspired hatred. Homophobia and transphobia may have a religiously inspired element for some people.

Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck wrote the book The Road Less Traveled. A few of the things he identifies as being part of the dirty bath water surrounding religion includes holy wars, inquisitions, human sacrifice, superstition, dogmatism, rigidity, cruelty, book-burning, witch-burning, fear and “morbid guilt.” Religion has also been a source of many wonderful things. Because men and women of God from many different world religions have contributed much to relief the pain and distress humanity feels, we cannot easily conclude that religion is bad. Scott Peck asks the question if it is belief in God or the human tendency to be dogmatic that is the problem.

There is nothing wrong with holding to the ideals, beliefs and values of a faith. There is not even anything wrong with adhering doggedly to the beliefs, dogma and values of a faith tradition. The problem comes when we are mean-spirited, cruel and hate filled toward those who do not share all of our spiritual perspectives on life. One reason why people react with cruel and hate-filled responses to those who do not share their spiritual beliefs, values or practices is very weak faith. Hate-filled people are easily threatened by those who do not live, think and worship exactly as they do. They fear coming in contact with people who have different beliefs might make them less acceptable to God. Perhaps, the real problem with religiously based hate is that we tend to make God in our own image – into a cruel, heartless, God who will not accept anybody who is different than we are.

Islam is not to blame for the terrorist attacks in London. A few extremists are to blame for the terrorist attacks in London. Terrorism that appears to be conducted by some Islamic extremists is a concern to many Islamic spiritual leaders. News reports carry stories of Islamic clerics saying that the murder of innocent people is not in harmony with the principles of Islam. We commend those Islamic people who are bravely speaking out against violence.

A few articles that could be of interest to those who are following the terrorist attacks in London appear below:

  • British Broadcasting Corporation - A July article reports about leaders from a number of world religions, including Islam, condemning the bombings in the London subway and bus system.

  • Daily Times - The July article in the daily times titled British Muslims at forefront in fight against dark forces reports on a meeting of some important British Islamic leaders. Mufti Muhammad Gul Rehman Qadri is cited in the article as characterizing the situation as a holy war of Muslim versus Muslim. The article reports on a fatwa as saying, "The attacks in London have no Islamic justification . . ."

  • News Telegraph - An article reports an Islamic leader as telling moderate Muslims that they do not have to be defensive about being British citizens.

  • British Broadcasting Corporation - Feature Faces Behind the Faith. In this article, six Islamic people share about their faith. This article helps put a face on Islam and can help people understand that the extremists who engage in terrorist attacks do not represent all of Islam. This is an excellent article for people who are not acquainted with the diversity present in Islam.

We encourage everybody to be very kind and generous to Islamic people. In most of Europe and North America, Islam is a minority religion. Many Islamic people may be living with fear, because of the terrorist attacks in London. They have some reason for fear. In a Religion News Service article in the Adventist Review, Robert Nowell writes, "In the three weeks after July 7, 269 religious hate crimes were recorded, compared to 40 in the equivalent three-week period in 2004. Most of these were verbal abuse and minor assaults, but they also included damage to mosques." The good news is that Americans seem to have a more positive view of Islam than they had after the terrorist attacks of September 11. Holly Rossi, in a Religion News Service article in the Adventist Review reports the percentage of Americans with a positive view of Islam increased from 45% after 9-11 to 55%.

The Canadian law legalizing same-sex marriages passed both the House of Commons, the Canadian Senate and received Royal Ascent. Same-sex marriages are now legal across Canada. The Conservative Party of Canada says they will revoke the legal right for gay people to get married, if they are elected as the next government. The battle for gay marriage rights in Canada is probably far from being over. Should the gay marriage debate gain national attention again, there could be an increase in violence aimed at gay people.

The PlanetOut web site has a news story about the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem, Israel. A man was charged with three accounts of attempted murder for stabbing three people at the Parade. Fortunately, none of the victims were seriously injured.

Our hearts really go out to those members and adherents of the United Church of Christ congregations that have been the targets of arson and/or vandalism. Since the United Church of Christ started the God is Still Speaking campaign, which openly advertises to gays and other people who traditionally do not feel welcome in churches, a couple of their congregations have faced attacks from people who might be opposed to gay rights. PlanetOut carries a story about anti-gay graffiti and arson taking place at St. John's Reformed United Church of Christ in Middlebrook, Virginia. The entire story can be read at PlanetOut.

The memorial pages of our web site have been updated. There are five or six new memorial pages for the victims of hate crimes. One of the additions is for three year old Ronnie Antonio Paris. He was killed by his father. According to news reports, it appears his father was trying to teach him to fight, so he would not grow up to be gay. Links to numerous memorial pages can be found at Stophate. We are willing to create simple memorial pages for the victims of hate crimes or to link to existing memorial pages. You are welcome to email us with suggestions for new memorial pages.

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