Jindal’s Chronic Islamophobia and Christian Hypocricy

“In other words, we shouldn’t tolerate those who wanna come and try to impose some variant or some version of Sharia law.”

via Megyn Presses Jindal on Suggestion to Ban Radical Islamists from U.S..

The sheer ignorance and myopia of Jindal in this clip is nearly baffling. His message is basically that there are Islamist immigrants who want to treat women as second class citizens, undermine the freedoms of others, and who will weaken American by not believing in American exceptionalism.

“There are Muslims that wanna treat women as second class citizens.”

“There are those who wanna use our freedoms to undermine the freedoms of others.”

“We believe in religious liberty but that doesn’t mean that you can use your freedoms to undermine the freedoms of other people.”

Jindal like so many in the GOP ranks will make statements like these without calling out Christians who do exactly the same thing on a much wider scale than American Muslims. Jindal delivered the commencement speech at Liberty University in May of 2014 where he spoke about his conversion experience, the current “war on religion” perpetrated by the “left,” and his support for Phil Robertson and those who defend “traditional marriage.”

The question is not about what freedoms are limited, but whose freedoms are limited and by what religious beliefs. Christianity gets a free pass on every issue – even if the kind of Christianity he endorses to speak freely is very clear in its understanding of the subordinate role of women to men and consciously and intentionally limits the ability of some Americans to exercise the same rights and freedoms as others. This is no more clear in the case of same gender marriage. It is justified to limit these freedoms as a Christian. Apparently it is not justified to do the same action in the name of Islam – even if Islam generally supports the same views regarding human freedom with respect to women and homosexuality.

This is before we even take on the fact that the way the term Shari’ah Law is casually tossed around in GOP and conservative Christian circles completely misuses and misunderstands what it actually is. It is not a process to compel the infidel to submit to Allah. Shari’ah Law is fundamentally,

“concerned with a set of values that are essential to Islam and the best manner of their protection…Faith in God, the manner of worshipping Him and observance of the five pillars of Islam thus constitute the essential concerns of Shari’ah” (Kamali, 2008, p. 2).

That its application has become overly legalistic in some Muslim communities is known and it has been an area of disagreement in Muslim communities for how Shari’ah is interpreted and applied. This is true in Sufist philosophy which has a more inward focus on one’s mystical communion with Allah as opposed to outward or legalistic displays of legal submission. It is an emphasis on Islam in which one seeks foremost, “sublime feeling of divine presence.” External legality is secondary to this aim.

The overarching Islamic principle of divine unity (tawḥīd) which requires an integrated approach to values should not simply be subsumed under the rubric of legality that focuses on the externalities of conduct often at the expense of the inner development of the human person (Kamali, 2008, p. 4).

Shari’ah is far more complex and nuanced in both its interpretation and application than perhaps Jindal and its staunchest opponents will ever acknowledge. That is beyond a shame. It is the kind of rhetoric that continues to adrenalize intolerance to the degree that even conservative pundits like Megyn Kelly are unable to it bring down to earth. Lest we think that this is limited to conservative media, liberal sources are bleeding with Islamophobia.

An exchange that we need to watch carefully and often is between CNN’s Don Lemon and Alisyn Camerota who are factually incorrect and continue to adhere to their beliefs even when confronted head-on by Reza Aslan. This is precisely why we need stronger departments of religious education as the media shows us time and again that with religion, Americans are chronically and pathetically ignorant. This, not letting those who oppose American exceptionalism become citizens, is the source of American weakness.

Source: Kamali, M. H. (2008) Shari’ah law: An introduction. OneWorld: Oxford.

Gordon College’s Tightrope Between Theology and Diversity

Every religiously-affiliated college and university is discriminatory. The question is the degree to which the institution discriminates and how close those policies come to breaking policy with accrediting agencies and civil authorities. Right now Gordon College is navigating their niche in between these entities.

It is very difficult for a college to maintain its theological integrity when it places values on specific identities and behaviors while at the same time it seeks to expand it programs and ranking as an institution that is advancing potential careers of its students. It is easier for an institution to maintain its boundaries and grow when the social environment in which it sits is more conducive to its given worldview. Institutions like Liberty University or BYU are physically located in environments that are good matches with their policies and honor codes. Both are in very religious areas where the sponsoring denomination of the institution is in the majority of the religious adherents for the region. Internal policies will often have a much better match with civic policies.

Institutions like Gordon College have a different path to carve given that their own religious values may not be as well matched to the environment. This is where internal policy and external pressure find friction. Gordon College finds itself in an area that is less religious and politically liberal creating a disconnect between its worldview and that of the outlying communities. This is no more true than in Gordon College’s policy regarding homosexual behavior.

It is perfectly justified for the institution to have clear religious view on homosexual behavior as it is with many other institutions across the country. There is nothing inherently illegal in such policies as long as it is clear in all of the admission and enrollment literature. As with many evangelical institutions, especially those within the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, Gordon requires students and faculty to profess their Christian faith commitment. This commitment assumes behavioral standards which are binding. The very first of these includes sexual conduct and homosexuality.

A. Practices Governed by Scripture—The following behavioral expectations are binding on all members of the Gordon community.

Those words and actions which are expressly forbidden in Scripture, including but not limited to blasphemy, profanity, dishonesty, theft, drunkenness, sexual relations outside marriage, and homosexual practice, will not be tolerated in the lives of Gordon community members, either on or off campus.

With this in mind, Gordon College is doing something different to address the needs of those in the LGBT community to feel safe at the college, even if the college does not affirm the lifestyles of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender students. The core of the college policy has to do with behavior itself. So the issue for Gordon College is how to be both affirming of its students and clear about its conduct policy in a way that does not outright reject students who may not feel they fit its understanding of what a committed Christian looks like.

(President Michael) Lindsay said in his email that the college has spent the last nine months discussing the issue of human sexuality. On Monday the college announced a series of initiatives, including more training for staff, surveys to address the well-being of students as it relates to sexuality and sexual identity, stronger anti-bullying policies, and the formation of a task force of students, faculty and staff.

Opening up the conversation like this is a new direction for an evangelical college. It might not look like much from an outsider especially from a secular or liberal perspective. However, with the mishandling of sexual abuse that is at the forefront of higher education and the fallout of Bob Jones University’s egregious coverup, this has the potential to be a positive direction for how to handle a religious community that will only be more diverse in its sexuality if Gordon College does not become more prohibitive of the students it accepts.

US Higher Education Gets Islam

In a historic first for the United States, an American Muslim college has now joined the nation’s community of accredited institutions of higher education.

On Wednesday, March 4, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) granted Zaytuna College accreditation.

The school was founded in 2008, “rooting itself firmly in the American liberal arts tradition” and welcomed its first freshman class in 2010 making this is a very fast track top accreditation. Now accredited, the school can apply for federal and private grants as well as student visas. In most ways, this is a school that has now begun as most small, liberal arts colleges began – small, religiously affiliated, and liberal arts. Moreover, the legacy in American higher education of its religiously affiliated institutions is that they have always been rather selective.

Co-founder Hamza Yusuf is an advisor to the Center for Islamic Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and “outspoken critic of extremism.” However, no founding of an Islamic institution of any sort will go without criticism and condemnation. This is falling to Zaytuna’s other co-founder, Hatem Bazian,

Contributor to Al-Jazeera,

Hatem Bazian is coeditor and founder of the Islamophobia Studies Journal and director of the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project, and a senior lecturer in the Departments of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies at Berkeley University.

Bazian is targeted as an anti-Semite with a decidedly anti-Israel agenda. Naturally, the right will put forth the fear that he will use the institution to further his political agenda.

“He’s an anti-Israel activist and he uses academia to further his agenda,” Nonie Darwish, founder of Arabs for Israel and a human rights advocate, told FoxNews.com.

The right-wing media that generates fear over Muslims gathering just about anywhere often conflates Islamism with any view that does not actively engage American exceptionalism much less any Muslim that dares critique the US policies and attitudes towards Muslims. Bazian is vulnerable to feel the fire from the right.

He is outspoken in his criticism of the US policies towards Israel, domestic policies with respect to hate crimes towards Muslims, and an activist working to prevent Islamophobia worldwide.

As we witness recurring attacks on Gaza and the continued unconditional support of administrations in the US, England, France, Germany, Canada and Australia for Israel, one must ask the question as to why Arabs and Muslims should buy products from these countries. How can one stand for justice while purchasing products that provide economic power that is transformed into financial, political and military support for Israel?

Naturally, for some, this translates into: Israel must die, America is the infidel, and capitalism is at war with Allah. For those of us who value reason and educated opinions, Bazian has never said anything of the sort.

Christian institutions such as Patrick Henry College are decidedly religious and political in their mission but will rarely get the same criticism from the right because they forward the agenda of their media megaphones. However, the left has never been that friendly towards an institution like Patrick Henry College which asserts that when government:

1) commands disobedience to God, 2) enjoins the right and duty of human beings to worship God, 3) denies other God-ordained rights by extreme oppression and tyranny, or 4) “when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object (tyranny), evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism” it is the right and duty of godly men and women “to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.”

As a representative of the minority Muslim population, Zaytuna will have an uphill battle to gain public currency of its degree offerings. These offerings are slim at the moment, but will need to expand as the institution grows and will eventually seek re-accreditation.

Congratulations, Zaytuna.

Abortion is Never Permissible at the University of Scranton

The university will no longer cover any abortion procedure in its private health insurance plan. This includes cases where pregnancy resulted from rape, incest, or if the mother’s life is at stake should she continue carrying the fetus. There is one ambiguous consideration when the life of the mother is in question. That includes what university President the Rev. Kevin P. Quinn, S.J. might call, “indirect abortion.”

The moral teaching of the church on abortion is unequivocal, and circumstances, “however serious or tragic, can never justify the deliberate killing of an innocent human being,” Quinn wrote. University insurance would continue to cover medical procedures that are intended to preserve the life of the mother, so long as the procedures are not a direct abortion.

Here is the moral quandary: If there is no doubt that the mother will die as a result of carrying the fetus, electing to allow her death to occur does not, according to this logic, count as the “deliberate killing of an innocent human being.”

It is cases like these where the life of the mother is disregarded in favor of the fetus. This is where we have to address important moral questions. These are questions that have no satisfying answer. But if we are to stand in a firm pro-life stance, we are often faced with difficult decisions. This is the most difficult of all. It is difficult because we have to, in effect, choose between two lives: the woman carrying the child and the child itself.

A rule without exception cannot apply here because the moral issue is simply too complex. The University of Scranton, according to this rule, has made the choice that the life of the fetus is of greater value than the mother. They will never say this outright, but it is nonetheless the substance of the moral reasoning.

It seems that the University of Scranton has concluded that letting someone die is permissible while killing is not. It forces a family to sacrifice one person for the sake of another. The probability of survival of the one that they are saving is irrelevant. In this way, the church is clearly making a utilitarian move which is ironic given that Catholic moral teaching rooted in “natural law” is, in general, opposed to utilitarianism.

Natural law and utilitarianism are compatible provided that a moral agent does not directly intend an evil intermediate action to achieve an end of greater utility. Compared to natural law, utilitarianism is deficient in that it considers only the result- increased pleasure or pain- of an action and not its means. Utilitarianism is therefore one form of consequentialism, defined as an ethical “theory [that] focuses on the good [gained] and gives no weight to the morality of the way [the act is achieved].”

The reasoning must be that the end, saving the fetus, justifies the means, allowing the mother to die. Pushing Catholic doctrine to answer this question garners really slippery responses. Here is how it looks:

The clearest and surest example is the ectopic pregnancy. As everyone knows, should the fetus become lodged in the oviduct or fallopian tube, its continued growth will result in the death of both child and mother. A normal and proper procedure in this case is the removal of the fallopian tube, from which the death of the unborn child inevitably follows. In this case the death of the child is not sought, nor is the mother´s life saved by the child´s dying.

This is not an abortion. Quite simply, the mother´s life is saved by the surgical removal of the oviduct, not by the death of her child.

“I don’t mean to kill you, but what I am going to do will kill you to save the life of someone else, therefore it is morally permissible.” Something unequivocal and absolute has just gotten a pass based on intention. An “indirect abortion” is one where I don’t “intend” to kill the fetus even if I know that what I am about to do will do exactly that. This is sort of like self-defense. “I don’t want to kill you, but to protect my life, I will.”

However, in either case allowing someone to die, or killing in this sort of “indirect” manner is still killing. It is still placing higher value on one life over another. Catholic doctrine is not helping the situation, but making it more difficult and perhaps placing more guilt on the shoulders of the family that has to make a horrible decision. While Pope Francis may call for forgiveness and peace to those in this situation, making the decision itself has become that more difficult for the University of Scranton community.

I Don’t Want Your Sex in a Religious College

No place is too sacred for sex not to be a point of controversy and contention. It is one of the most acute areas of tension among people with differing ideas about who ought to have sex, who ought to have sex with who, when and where people ought to have sex, using prophylactics, and so on. Part of this has to do with the two outcomes of unprotected sex that are likely: pregnancy and disease.

Other areas of controversy come from religious sources. Once religion enters the picture moral imperatives are not simply part of the social consequence of sex, but come from a divine source that defines the very source and purpose of human life itself. You can’t up the ante on sex any greater than eternal perfection.

Enter Pacific Union College where psychology professor Aubyn S. Fulton taught taught ideas about intercourse and homosexuality that were on the edge of, if not fully outside of, the church’s teaching. This teaching has led to discussions between Fulton and the administration about losing his job. Pacific Union is a Seventh Day Adventist sponsored college that offers “an excellent Christ-centered education.” The Seventh-Day Adventist position on same-sex unions is uncompromisingly clear: “Homosexuality is a manifestation of the disturbance and brokenness in human inclinations and relations caused by the entrance of sin into the world.” The position on pre-marital sex is just as clear: “Sexual intimacy outside of marriage is immoral and harmful.” Thus, the problem stems from Fulton’s personal position as confused with making student aware of the church’s position. The church here takes precedence over the individual given the mission of the college is one that builds awareness of the Seventh-Day Adventist understanding of a “Christ-centered education.”

There will always be a tension regarding religious doctrine and the academic freedom of the faculty in religiously affiliated colleges and universities. I argue that if there is no tension, then there can be no religiously affiliated college. In my dissertation I examined this tension both in the history of higher education and in the correlation of religious college mission statements, faculty handbooks, student handbooks, statements of faith, social contracts, etc. The interesting finding is that in almost all cases the religious college cited the tension with secularization as part of its mission. Further, the tension is also a source of identity for these colleges. Incidents such as these continue to make this tension apparent.

A private institution can circumscribe the boundaries of academic freedom as long as it is consistent with the institutional mission and the curriculum. Hence, accreditation is not an issue. Even colleges that are more strict in doctrine and faculty contracts than Pacific Union are accredited.

Maybe the prevailing question is at what point the religious college passes delivering a quality education to forming nothing but an indoctrination program. It is evident that the latter is falling out of its usefulness if religious education is to maintain any value at all in the world.

Religious Colleges: Promise or Peril?

Center Church on the Green

Center Church on the Green – Yale
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/

Religiously-affiliated colleges and universities bear a distinctive trait in the higher education market: they are religious. These institutions are mainly small colleges with varying degrees of religiosity. Many of these schools have abandoned their religious roots from Harvard, Yale, and Princeton to Wake Forest. Some have a present but tense relationship with their religious denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention and its schools. Some will be active participants in their religious heritage while others may only recognize it in the archives and “about” pages of their websites.

A problem that creates strain between a college’s religious identity and its educational mission is called “mission creep.” This is when the fundamental mission of an institution changes over time mostly to adapt to education market changes. As online education, part-time instruction, and pressure towards job preparation increase, mission creep places the religious roots of an institution in danger.

But as Gordon College professor Thomas Albert Howard notes:

For a brighter future, these schools will need to do more than look enviously at the Ivies or anxiously at their peers; they will have to look within and boldly and creatively articulate what sets them apart.

Maintaining a decidedly liberal arts centered curriculum and nourishing religious roots are two critical areas that will support institutional distinctiveness. The hazy spot is how distinctive an institution’s religious identity needs to be while maintaining viability in the higher education market. Over-distinctiveness can creep into sectarianism which relies on a niche of students who are willing to adhere to stricter faith and behavior requirements for matriculation. Under-distinctiveness can lead to a loss of that religious identity.

Yes, there is an opportunity to stand out as an alternative in the market. But the religious institution has to move ahead deliberately and with care in order to be successful. This is not a cheap education, either. As I concluded in my dissertation on this topic:

Diversity implies that institutions have to maintain boundaries in their mission in order to maintain an identity distinct from other colleges and universities. The line to tread is between diversity inside the walls of the evangelical college or university inviting the risk of secularization and raising the sectarian walls so high that fresh thinking can neither get in nor maintain enough intelligibility and coherence for the world outside to care.

Now more than ever, treading the tightrope between the high walls and narrow doors of sectarianism on one end and non-religious secular education on the other is the challenge these institutions will have to answer.