Category Archives: Organised Religion

Jehovah’s Witnesses Had Foes Before Putin

Leonid Bershidsky writes for Bloomberg:

When the Russian Supreme Court banned Jehovah’s Witnesses and ordered the confiscation of the denomination’s property on Thursday, it wasn’t the first time. The faithful were outlaws in the Soviet Union, too, until that country’s final year. The stubborn group will fight on — but the court has delivered another chilling reminder that President Vladimir Putin’s Russia is even less free than the USSR was.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are a U.S.-based global religious organization, and they often are targeted by authoritarian and belligerent governments because members don’t believe in government authority. They don’t vote, serve in the military, salute flags or hail leaders. When the Nazis came to power in Germany, the Witnesses wouldn’t use the Nazi salute because, according to their beliefs, it amounted to idolatry. Hitler responded by sending more than 10,000 “Bible Students,” as they called themselves then, to prisons and concentration camps, where their pacifism particularly inspired torturers.

In the Soviet Union directly after World War II, Witnesses were mostly concentrated in western Ukraine and Transcarpathia, and they had the bad luck to trade Nazi persecution for the equally harsh Stalinist kind. In two secret operations in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Witnesses were removed to Siberian labor camps. There were only about 10,000 of them then. But adherents of the denomination didn’t stop practicing and preaching in exile and in the camps, and when, after Stalin’s death, the state stopped systematically imprisoning them and switched to a harassment tactic, the flock started growing.

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The Meaning of Milo

Ross Douthat writes for The New York Times:

[…] From Dubya’s evangelical conservatism to Milo’s Rimbaudian new right, from “marriage is between a man and a woman” to “well, we draw the line at ephebophilia” is a rather dizzying trajectory. But if you understand what’s happened to cultural conservatism over the last decade, the strange career of Yiannopoulos makes a striking sort of sense.

First, post-1960s social conservatism — the bigger-than-the-religious-right tent that once included a lot of moderately religious fellow travelers — has collapsed back to its zealous core. On practically every issue save abortion, liberals won the culture war decisively, and religious conservatives awoke to find themselves strangers in their own country, dismissed as bigots from liberalism’s pulpits and stuck on the wrong side of 40-60 or 30-70 public-opinion splits.

But social liberalism’s sweeping victory produced new forms of backlash — less traditionalist and more populist, less religious and more rowdy, not sacred but profane. These forms of resistance take aim at liberalism’s own forms of social-justice sanctimony, which have smothered academic life and permeated notionally apolitical arenas from late-night comedy to sportswriting. The resisters don’t exactly have a program. Instead, they’ve got a posture — a “whaddya got?” rebellion against any rules that the new liberal order sets.

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Trump’s Inaugural Address: A Call For Holy War

Kevin Gosztola writes for Shadowproof:

President Donald Trump at the Inauguration. (Screen shot from White House live stream)President Donald Trump used his inaugural address to call for the “civilized world” to unite “against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.” It received one of the most enthusiastic responses from the crowd in attendance at the National Mall.

The words evoked memory of President George W. Bush and his administration. After the September 11th attacks, Bush referred to the “war on terrorism” as a “crusade.” It suggested the Bush administration meant to fight terrorism as a kind of holy war against Muslims.

Trump did not use the word “crusade,” but there was a distinct Christian theocratic theme to his gung ho declaration to “reinforce old alliances and form new ones” in the fight against “radical Islamic terrorism.”

 

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Jeremy Scahill on Betsy DeVos Lying During Her Senate Confirmation Hearing and Her Brother Erik Prince’s Ties to Donald Trump

Amy Goodman speaks to investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill about Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos lying during her Senate confirmation hearing and her brother Erik Prince‘s links to Donald Trump. (Democracy Now!)

Could Leah Remini’s Series Be Scientology’s Church Abuse Scandal?

Bethany Mandel reports for The Federalist:

Image result for Leah Remini scientologyLast week A&E aired not one, but two new episodes of its series exposing Scientology, “Scientology: The Aftermath.” Both shed light on the darkest elements of the group, which the series charges has terrorized and even caused the deaths of opponents and followers alike. What makes Scientology a cult instead of just an extreme religion? These two episodes explained the difference better than any of the previous episodes.

The first new episode was an aired edition of a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) in which actress Leah Remini answered viewers’ questions about the cult. She sat opposite the former International Spokesman of Scientology and one of its most famous defectors, Mike Rinder, and interviewed a series of the most famous foes of Scientology, including the subject of a groundbreaking book, entitled “The Unbreakable Miss Lovely.” It’s from perhaps the most famous contemporary Scientology chronicler, a journalist who first exposed the group.

Other guests included Karen de la Carriere, the ex-wife of Scientology President Heber Jentzsch and mother to Alex Jentzsch. Karen squarely blames Scientology for Alex’s untimely death. This episode was a last-minute addition to the rotation of eight episodes A&E filmed in Remini’s series, which is the first of its kind about the “religion” on television.

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A Deadly Day: Russian Ambassador Assassinated, Berlin Truck Crash and Zürich Mosque Attacked

Amy Goodman speaks to Phyllis Bennis, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and the author of several books, about the three deadly events which took place on 19th December and the wider context surrounding them. (Democracy Now!)

Donald Trump’s Capitalist Christianity Has Old Roots

Ellen Wayland-Smith writes for The Conversation:

A long tradition of Christian thought encourages believers to forgo worldly pursuits—like making money—and instead focus on the spiritual prize of salvation. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth,” the evangelist Matthew warns Christians, “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”

But the Protestant Reformation changed this way of thinking. According to German sociologist Max Weber, the Protestant virtues of thrift, delayed gratification and professional diligence in the pursuit of wealth gave birth to modern capitalism.

Business success became a sign of God’s favor, and nowhere more than in America did this ethos achieve such florid expression. During the 19th century, an American prosperity gospel—the conviction that God wanted Americans to live in material abundance—began to take shape. Meanwhile, the country witnessed an explosion of Christian sects and offshoots, from Methodists to Mormons.

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Donald Trump and Christian Fundamentalist Power: Interview with Jeff Sharlet

Thom Hartmann speaks to Jeff Sharlet, journalist and author of The Family, about the power Christian fundamentalists will wield under a President Donald Trump, (Thom Hartmann)

Europeans Greatly Overestimate Muslim Population, Poll Shows

Pamela Duncan reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Europeans greatly overestimate Muslim population, poll showsMembers of the public in European states including France, Belgium, Germany and the UK greatly overestimate their country’s Muslim population and the rate at which it is growing.

An Ipsos Mori survey that measured the gap between public perception and reality in 40 countries in 2016 found French respondents were by far the most likely to overstate their country’s current and projected Muslim population.

The average French estimate was that 31% of the population was Muslim – almost one in three residents. According to Pew Research, France’s Muslim population actually stood at 7.5% in 2010, or one in 13 people.

French respondents were also widest of the mark when it came to the projected Muslim population in 2020. The average prediction was that Muslims would make up 40% of the French population in four years’ time, almost five times the 8.3% Pew Research projection.

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Mike Pence Has “Militant Agenda” Against Women, the Poor, Immigrants, LGBTQ People

Juan Gonzalez speaks to Jeremy Scahill, investigative journalist and co-founder of The Intercept, who says despite Mike Pence frequently being portrayed as a counterbalance to Trump, his ascendance to the second most powerful position in the U.S. government is a “tremendous coup for the radical religious right.” (Democracy Now!)

Team Trump’s Message: The Clash of Civilizations Is Back

Michael Hirsh reports for Politico:

161119-Michael-Flynn-GettyImages-599941542.jpg[…] Welcome back, approximately, to the world just after 9/11, when terror hung in the air, fear was raw and palpable and Islamophobia was so rampant that George W. Bush felt compelled to go to a Washington mosque six days after the attacks and declare: “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.” Barack Obama, having inherited a much bigger global war from Bush after the invasion of Iraq, has avoided any talk of Islam at all and insisted on calling the enemy merely “violent extremism.” Obama repeatedly sought to remind Americans that it was precisely the idea of a “clash of civilizations” that Islamists embraced—because it frames the conflict as one against all of Islam and its culture, not just the jihadists.

But the incoming president, Trump, appears open to the clash-of-civilizations idea—one that fits neatly with his view of an America that rejects “globalism,” tightens up its borders against immigrants, and bans most new Muslims from coming in until they can be “vetted.” “I think Islam hates us,” Trump told CNN’s Anderson Cooper last March. While he said he was speaking of radical Islam, he added: “It’s very hard to define. It’s very hard to separate. Because you don’t know who’s who.” For the Trump team, who did not respond to a request for comment, Muslims appear to be guilty of radical sympathies until proven innocent.

That approach, some scholars say, will be a terrible mistake, 15 years into what is already seen by some as a “Forever War.”

“Sadly, Trump traffics in a similar ‘clash of civilizations’ narrative to that of Al Qaeda and ISIS,” says Fawaz Gerges of the London School of Economics, author of the recently published book ISIS: A History. “They all view the world in binary terms. … What Trump and his followers do not get is that their inflammatory rhetoric plays into the hands of ISIS and Al Qaeda, who labor hard to convince skeptical Muslims that the West is waging a war against Islam.”

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Just What Trump Needs: Religious Right Says He Was Elected By God

Peter Montgomery reports for Right Wing Watch:

Image result for trump religious rightReligious Right leaders were some of Donald Trump’s most fervent supporters in the presidential election—offering dozens of religious justifications for backing Trump in spite of his evident arrogance, dishonesty, mistreatment of women, and other character flaws. Telling the supremely narcissistic Trump that he has God’s special backing seems to be pouring gasoline on the fire, and that’s what Religious Right leaders have been doing since Election Day. “The Lord did this!” exulted former Rep. Michele Bachmann on the night of the election. Televangelist and End Times huckster Jim Bakker called Trump’s victory “the greatest miracle I have ever seen.”

George Barna, an evangelical pollster and Religious Right activist, appeared after the election on “Stand in the Gap,” a radio program hosted by the American Pastors Network’s Sam Rohrer. Barna gushed that voter turnout among SAGE (Spiritually Active Governance Engaged) Christians—his term for “real Christians” who attend church often and are politically active—was “astounding.” He said SAGE Christians were “the single most united and strongest segment backing Donald Trump.”

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Mike Pence Will Be the Most Powerful Christian Supremacist in U.S. History

Jeremy Scahill writes for The Intercept:

Image result for Mike Pence Will Be the Most Powerful Christian Supremacist in U.S. HistoryThe election of Donald Trump has sent shockwaves through the souls of compassionate, humane people across the country and the world. Horror that a candidate who ran on a platform of open bigotry, threats against immigrants and Muslims, and blatant misogyny will soon be president is now sinking in. Trump appointed a white nationalist, Steve Bannon, as chief White House strategist — which was promptly celebrated by the American Nazi Party and the Ku Klux Klan. Bannon and other possible extremist Trump appointees, such as John Bolton, a neocon who believes the U.S. should “bomb Iran,” and the authoritarian Rudy Giuliani, are now receiving much deserved public scrutiny.

The incoming vice president, Mike Pence, has not elicited the same reaction, instead often painted as the reasonable adult on the ticket, a “counterbalance” to Trump and a “bridge to the establishment.” However, there is every reason to regard him as, if anything, even more terrifying than the president-elect.

Pence’s ascent to the second most powerful position in the U.S. government is a tremendous coup for the radical religious right. Pence — and his fellow Christian supremacist militants — would not have been able to win the White House on their own. For them, Donald Trump was a godsend. “This may not be our preferred candidate, but that doesn’t mean it may not be God’s candidate to do something that we don’t see,” said David Barton, a prominent Christian right activist and president of Wall Builders, an organization dedicated to making the U.S. government enforce “biblical values.” In June, Barton prophesied: “We may look back in a few years and say, ‘Wow, [Trump] really did some things that none of us expected.’”

Trump is a Trojan horse for a cabal of vicious zealots who have long craved an extremist Christian theocracy, and Pence is one of its most prized warriors. With Republican control of the House and Senate and the prospect of dramatically and decisively tilting the balance of the Supreme Court to the far right, the incoming administration will have a real shot at bringing the fire and brimstone of the second coming to Washington.

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Michele Bachmann On Donald Trump’s Victory: ‘The Lord Did This’

The Hatred that Trump’s Lies Will Leave Behind

Juan Cole writes for Informed Comment:

147841543577687Whether Trump wins or loses (and in my view there isn’t much chance he can win), he will leave behind a toxic legacy of increased racial and religious hatred, which he has deliberatedly stirred up in order to take the focus off his policies– policies that will hurt workers and will throw even more money at the super-wealthy. This use of racism to divide the working class and whip up support for the business classes is as old as American capitalism.

Trump has galvanized sentiment against Latinos and immigrants (a minority of Americans of Latino ancestry is first-generation immigrants) by loudly proclaiming that they are guilty of all kinds of crimes. In fact, violent crime has fallen 48% in the US since the early 1990s, yet in the past 25 years immigration has soared. Research shows that immigrants commit less crime than the native-born. It isn’t hard to figure out why. First, those who don’t yet have citizenship are afraid of being deported, so they keep their noses clean. But more importantly, and contrary to what Trump alleges, immigrants are go-getters who have taken the big step of leaving home to accomplish something. They are highly motivated to succeed and often bring with them a great deal of human capital. As for jobs, immigrants aren’t stealing them from the native born. They are doing different jobs than locals with the same educational attainments. That’s because they often don’t have as good English skills or can’t afford to turn down menial jobs. The hatred against immigrants Trump has fostered is based on a set of lies, lies that are easily shown to be falsehoods. But it is a little unlikely that this hatred of foreigners will subside Wednesday, whatever happens.

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Religious Right Not True Believers in Trump, But See Him as a Tool

Paul Jay speaks to journalist and author Frederick Clarkson who says that Donald Trump is not seen as a moral or religious leader, but as a vehicle for their political purposes. (The Real News)

HyperNormalisation by Adam Curtis

Documentary by British filmmaker Adam Curtis released on 16th October 2016 exclusively on BBC iPlayer. (BBC)

Erdogan could use the coup against him to turn Turkey towards full-scale Islamisation

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

an102884259epa05427172.jpg[…] The programme of Mr Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) since they won their first general election in 2002 has been to reverse the secularisation introduced by Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the republic in 1923.  As the AKP has tightened its grip on power, it has chipped away at the secular institutions of the state and encouraged the Islamisation of education and social behaviour as well as seeking to cull non-Islamist officials and officers.

Mr Erdogan has said that he wants to see “the growth of a religious generation”, which would replace long-standing secular domination in Turkey. His foreign policy since the Arab Spring in 2011 has been to support the largely Sunni Arab uprising in Syria in alliance with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, though his efforts to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad have so far failed. This strategy included tolerance for extreme Islamist jihadi movements such as Isis, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, enabling them to establish networks of support inside Turkey. However, in the summer of 2015 the Turkish government agreed to let the US and four other states, including the UK, use Incirlik air base in south east Turkey for air strikes against Isis. Gunmen and bombers from the Islamist group attacked Ataturk Istanbul airport in June killing 42 people.

The failed coup will enable the implementation of Mr Erdogan’s long-desired presidential system based on Islamic values. It is unlikely to face much resistance now from people who do not want to be labelled as coup sympathisers. Not only are large numbers of soldiers and officials being arrested, but they are being publicly humiliated by being beaten, forced to strip to their underwear and lie crammed together on the floor of wherever they are being held. The commander of Incirlik air base, Gen Bekir Ercan Van, was shown on film handcuffed and being bundled into the back of a van.

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A Saudi Morals Enforcer Called for a More Liberal Islam, Then the Death Threats Began

Ben Hubbard reports for The New York Times:

For most of his adult life, Ahmed Qassim al-Ghamdi worked among the bearded enforcers of Saudi Arabia. He was a dedicated employee of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice — known abroad as the religious police — serving with the front-line troops protecting the Islamic kingdom from Westernization, secularism and anything but the most conservative Islamic practices.

Some of that resembled ordinary police work: busting drug dealers and bootleggers in a country that bans alcohol. But the men of “the Commission,” as Saudis call it, spent most of their time maintaining the puritanical public norms that set Saudi Arabia apart not only from the West, but from most of the Muslim world.

A key offense was ikhtilat, or unauthorized mixing between men and women. The kingdom’s clerics warn that it could lead to fornication, adultery, broken homes, children born of unmarried couples and full-blown societal collapse.

For years, Mr. Ghamdi stuck with the program and was eventually put in charge of the Commission for the region of Mecca, Islam’s holiest city. Then he had a reckoning and began to question the rules. So he turned to the Quran and the stories of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions, considered the exemplars of Islamic conduct. What he found was striking and life altering: There had been plenty of mixing among the first generation of Muslims, and no one had seemed to mind.

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Saudi Wahhabism a Tool of U.S. Foreign Policy: Interview with Chris Hedges

Paul Jay speaks to journalist and author Chris Hedges about the history of Saudi-promoted Wahhabism and blowback as ISIS attacks their former allies. (The Real News)

Pope attacks culture of ‘perfect people’

Michael Cook reports for BioEdge:

Pope Francis has made a stinging, if familiar, attack on the bioethics of a consumer society in an address in Rome. He decried the tendency to search for the perfect body and to warehouse the disabled out of sight to avoid offending the sensibilities of the “privileged few”.

In an age when care for one’s body has become an obsession and a big business, anything imperfect has to be hidden away, since it threatens the happiness and serenity of the privileged few and endangers the dominant model.

Such persons should best be kept apart, in some “enclosure” – even a gilded one – or in “islands” of pietism or social welfare, so that they do not hold back the pace of a false well-being. In some cases, we are even told that it is better to eliminate them as soon as possible, because they become an unacceptable economic burden in time of crisis.

Yet what an illusion it is when people today shut their eyes in the face of sickness and disability! They fail to understand the real meaning of life, which also has to do with accepting suffering and limitations.

The world does not become better because only apparently “perfect” people live there – I say “perfect” rather than “false” – but when human solidarity, mutual acceptance and respect increase.

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The Muslims Are Coming! The Muslims Are Coming!

Lawrence Pinak writes for Foreign Policy:

[…] Anti-Muslim xenophobia is nothing new. America’s fear of Islam is older than the republic itself. Even before Paul Revere rode through Massachusetts warning, “The British are coming!” his compatriots were effectively saying the same thing about Muslims.

In the 1600s, Cotton Mather, minister of Boston’s Old North Church, fulminated against “Mahometan Turks and Moors, and Devils” when news trickled back to the colonies that Americans were being taken hostage in northern Africa, a precursor to today’s Middle East kidnappings. Mather reassured his congregants that “we are afar off, in a Land, which never had (that I ever heard of) one Mahometan breathing in it.”

But Mather was deluded. It is believed the first Muslim arrived in the New World around 1527 with the Conquistadors; the first documented Muslim settler arrived in the Dutch province of New Netherland — we now know it as the mid-Atlantic states — around 1630. In fact, according to historian Kambiz GhaneaBassiri’s A History of Islam in America, you could almost say that the United States owes its existence to Muslims, since Europeans were, in part, looking for a trading route that avoided the Muslim empires of North Africa and the Middle East. Meanwhile, many of the slaves being dragged ashore in irons were Muslims, prisoners captured by rival tribes who waged jihad against those who did not adhere to their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam — not unlike today’s Islamic State extremists.

Copies of the Quran arrived with early European settlers and would soon be printed in America. Mather himself is said to have read the Muslim holy book regularly; “know thine enemy” and all that.

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Outrage in Multi-Ethnic Malaysia as Government Backs Islamic Law

Praveen Menon reports for Reuters:

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak attends an event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in this March 14, 2016 file photo.  REUTERS/Olivia Harris/FilesPrime Minister Najib Razak’s government threw its support in parliament this week behind an Islamic penal code that includes amputations and stoning, shocking some of his allies and stoking fears of further strains in the multi-ethnic country.

Critics believe the scandal-tainted prime minister is using ‘hudud’, the Islamic law, to shore up the backing of Muslim Malay voters and fend off attacks on his leadership ahead of critical by-elections next month and a general election in 2018.

The government on Thursday unexpectedly submitted to parliament a hudud bill that had been proposed by the Islamist group Parti Islam se-Malaysia’s (PAS).

Although debate on the law was deferred to October by PAS leader Abdul Hadi Awang, its submission to parliament brought criticism from leaders across the political spectrum, including allies of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, who represent the ethnic Chinese and Indian communities.

Najib sought to ease tensions with his allies on Friday, saying the bill was “misunderstood”

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U.S. Army Chaplain Resigns Over Drone Wars

Ann Wright writes for Consortium News:

Rev. John Antal, who resigned as an Army chaplain in protest of drone warfare and other aspects of America's perpetual wars.U.S. Army Reserve Chaplain Captain Christopher John Antal resigned from the U.S. Army Reserves on April 12 in opposition to U.S policies regarding militarized drones, nuclear weapons and preventive war. Antal stated he could not serve as a chaplain for an “empire” and could not “reconcile his duty to protect and defend America and its constitutional democracy and his commitment to the core principles of his religious faith including justice, equity and compassion and the inherent worth and dignity of every person” with policies of the United States.

His letter of resignation stated that he resigned because he could not support “unaccountable killing” through the U.S. armed drone policy and the Executive Branch claiming “the right to kill anyone, anywhere on earth, at any time, based on secret evidence, in a secret process, undertaken by unidentified officials.”

Antal also cites his opposition to the U.S. nuclear weapons policy calling it a policy of “terror and mutually assured destruction that threatens the existence of humanity and the earth.”

In his letter of resignation, Antal refuses to support the U.S. policy of “preventive war, permanent military supremacy and global power projection” in what he calls “imperial overreach through extra-constitutional authority and impunity from international law.”

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Punk Rock vs Sharia Law in Indonesia

Indonesia’s punk scene is one of the world’s biggest and most vibrant. It’s a place where the country’s silenced youth can revolt against endemic corruption, social conventions and their strict families. But in the world’s largest Islamic nation, political authorities and religious fundamentalists persecute this rebellious youth movement. Nowhere is the anti-punk sentiment stronger than in Aceh, Indonesia’s only Sharia province, where 65 punks were arrested and detained at an Islamic moral training camp in which they had their heads shaved and clothes burnt. We travelled to North Sumatra to track down the last punks in Aceh, who still live under constant threat from the sharia police. (Noisey)

Iran: Morality Police App Blocked Hours after Launch

Shima Shahrabi reports for IranWire:

Ershad graphicJust 24 hours after the Android app Gershad was launched, users reported that the Iranian authorities had blocked access to it. The app, designed to help Iranians track — and therefore avoid — Iran’s “Morality Police,” generated huge interest across Iran, particularly in big cities. But a few hours after going live, it was inaccessible.

The name “Gershad” is a play on words, referring to the Persian term for Iran’s special morality unit, which is tasked with identifying and arresting anyone deemed to be “inappropriately” dressed or in violation of Islamic cultural values.

One user, Mohammad Reza, had only been using the app for a few hours on February 8 when his screen began displaying gibberish instead of providing the useful location information it was supposed to. “It didn’t take them even 24 hours,” he told IranWire, adding that he discovered the fault at around 2am .“You have to give it to them: Sometimes they do move fast. Now we need a filter-breaker for Gershad the same way that we need them for Facebook and other apps.”

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Why stoking sectarian fires in the Middle East could be Saudi Arabia’s biggest mistake

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

Protesters burn an effigy of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz outside the Saudi embassy in IndiaSaudi Arabia will be pleased that the furore over its execution of the Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr is taking the form of a heightened confrontation with Iran and the Shia world as a whole. Insults and threats are exchanged and diplomatic missions closed. Sunni mosques are blown up in Shia-dominated areas of Iraq. The Saudi rulers are able to strengthen their leadership of a broad Sunni coalition against an Iranian-led Shia axis at home and abroad.

The motive for the mass execution of Sheikh Nimr and 46 others, many Sunni jihadists, was primarily domestic. The threat to the al-Saud family within Saudi Arabia comes from Sunni extremists in al-Qaeda and Isis and not from the Shia, who are only a majority in two provinces in the eastern region of the country. Furious denunciations by Shia communities and countries will do nothing but good to the reputation of the ruling family among the majority of Saudis.

Saudi Arabia and its fundamentalist Wahhabi variant of Sunni Islam has been blamed by many outside the kingdom as the ideological forbearer of Isis, but the real danger for the monarchy is that it should be seen at home as insufficiently zealous as defender of the faith.

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Saudi Arabia executions threaten to plunge Middle East into greater turmoil

Bill Law, James Cusick and Sam Masters report for The Independent:

The beheading of dozens of Sunni and Shia prisoners by the West’s main Middle East ally, Saudi Arabia, threatens to renew sectarian violence in the oil-rich kingdom and plunge the Middle East into greater turmoil.

The mass executions – in Riyadh, Mecca, Medina and in the eastern and northern regions – have been seen as a bloody statement of intent delivered by an increasingly powerless Saudi Interior Minister.

Among those killed was Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a leading Shia cleric with the rank of ayatollah, a political prisoner and vocal supporter of protests against the Saudi royal family. His death, which has sparked outrage in Iran, the dominant Shia power in the region, is likely to lead to an escalation of hostilities in Yemen, where a proxy war between the two nations is being fought.

Iran’s leaders reacted furiously. Seminary students marched through the holy city of Qom in protest. Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a senior cleric, told the Mehr news agency: “I have no doubt that this pure blood will stain the collar of the House of Saud and wipe them from the pages of history.”

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WikiLeaks Cables Confirm Collusion Between Vatican and Dictators

The Telegraph Leader reports:

Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks released a new archive of 1.3 million diplomatic cables and intelligence records last Monday encompassing the years 1973 through 1976, dubbed “The Kissinger Cables.”

The database includes documents revealing the ruthless operations led by the United States worldwide, at a time when imperialism and neocolonialism were being challenged by marginalized and subjugated peoples worldwide.

Among the cables, a series of diplomatic communications exposes the relationships between the Vatican and a number of dictatorial regimes, from Chile’s Augusto Pinochet to Argentina’s Jorge Rafael Videla to Spain’s Francisco Franco.

On September 11, 1973, a CIA-backed coup led by general Pinochet overthrew the elected government of Socialist Party President Salvador Allende. In Pinochet’s 17-year dictatorship, thousands of left-wing activists, students, trade unionists and anyone suspected of opposing Chilean and worldwide capital were killed or disappeared by the regime.

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When the State Department Tries to Choose Muslim Thought Leaders to Win “Hearts and Minds”

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

[…] Last year, the State Department announced with great fanfare a new social media campaign to counter ISIS’ online messaging. They called it “Think Again, Turn Away,” and created Twitter and Facebook accounts in that name. Its self-described purpose on Facebook: “Our mission is to expose the facts about terrorists and their propaganda. Don’t be misled by those who break up families and destroy their true heritage.”

 
It was a massive comedic failure from the start. And that failure continues. Yesterday, Think Again, Turn Away’s Twitter account promoted and hailed someone they think will serve as an inspiring thought leader for Muslims around the world.
 
Is Ayaan Hirsi Ali likely to be the effective messenger to the Muslim world that the State Department envisions her to be? Last year, she revealed her choice for who should win the Nobel Peace Prize: Benjamin Netanyahu. “He does what is best for the people of Israel, he does his duty,” she said. “I really think he should get the Nobel Peace Prize. In a fair world he would get it.”

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