Campaign Against Violent Muslim Extremism Produces Longest Hashtag Ever

Categories: Religion

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Courtesy Talib Abdur-Rashid
Muslim leaders denounced religious extremism Tuesday. Today, simultaneous sermons will speak out against violence.

Muslim leaders across NYC are preaching simultaneously today against religious violence. The move was announced earlier this week by the Islamic Leadership Council of New York.

"There are violent extremists who are Muslims, but their acts of terrorism are not Islamic," said council president Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid, at a press conference Tuesday. "Our ultimate goal is to raise the level of awareness in a way that helps to inoculate the Muslim community against cries and appeals from elsewhere calling Muslims to violent extremism."

They'll be doing that not only with their sermons, but also with an...erm, unique social-media presence, noted Huffington Post religion reporter Jaweed Kaleem:


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Seminary Faculty Walk Out After Accusing Dean of Racism, Sexism, Saying He 'Loved Vaginas'

Categories: Religion

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Kelly Martin via Wikipedia
General Theological Seminary is the oldest seminary of the Episcopal Church.
There is a schism under way at the Episcopal Church's oldest seminary, General Theological. Eight of the seminary's 10 teachers walked out on Friday after accusing the school's new dean of creating a campus environment characterized by "deep despondency, anxiety, hostility, fear, and retaliation."

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Inmate Can Sue Rikers Island for Keeping Him in Isolation During Muslim Prayer Service

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krystian_o via Compfight cc
On November 22, 2011, Rikers Island guards put Kevin Phillip into a segregation housing unit. It was punishment for something he did. Phillip spent 36 days there. On two Fridays over that stretch, Phillip asked the guards if he could attend a Muslim prayer service at the jail. The guards said that he was not allowed to while he was on punishment in the isolation unit.

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Despite Atheists' Best Efforts, the Ground Zero Cross Can Stay at the 9/11 Museum

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Image via Facebook
The cross in its new home at the 9/11 Museum.
The 17-foot-high, 4,000 pound cross fashioned from a column and a cross-beam recovered from the wreckage of the World Trade Center can stay at its new home at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, a federal appeals court has ruled. The decision brings an end to a lawsuit from the American Atheists, who in 2011 sued a whole bunch of people and agencies, including New York City, the Port Authority and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg over the cross, which they argued was an illegal religious monument in a government-funded museum.

The American Atheists' lawsuit was already
dismissed by a federal judge in 2013. But they appealed that decision to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, who ruled yesterday that no, really, the cross can stay.


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Prisoner Who Refused Water During Ramadan Can Sue on Religious Grounds

Categories: Courts, Religion

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Leshaines123 via Compfight cc
In November 2003, prison guards at the Wende Correctional Facility in upstate New York ordered Darryl Holland to take a drug test. He had three hours to provide a urine sample. But the order was not so simple. Holland was Muslim and it was Ramadan and he had not drunk any water all day. The guards gave him water to drink for the sample. Holland refused to drink it and asked if the guards could take the sample after sundown, once his fast was over.

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Suspect in Mosque Stabbing Arrested Again for Emails Threatening to Kill and Castrate Director of Muslim Group

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Image via.
Nihad Awad, CAIR's national executive director, was sent threatening emails. The FBI says Bernhard Laufer is responsible.
A Queens man awaiting trial for allegedly stabbing a Muslim man in 2012 has been arrested again. Bernhard Laufer, 56, was arrested on Saturday after an investigation by the FBI's Civil Rights Squad revealed that he sent a series of emails threatening the director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil liberties organization based in Washington D.C.

Laufer is awaiting trial for allegedly lying in wait outside a Flushing mosque at 5 a.m. on November 18, 2012, then stabbing 57-year-old Bashir Ahmad six times when Ahmad arrived to unlock the mosque for morning prayers. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a press release at the time that Laufer had yelled "I'll kill you Muslim [expletive redacted]" at Ahmad as the attack continued. Ahmad told the Daily News that Laufer stabbed him six times in the back, cut his head and thumb, and bit the tip of his nose.

Laufer wasn't identified in the attack until June of 2013. In the meantime, he appears to have been busy: in a federal complaint, the FBI says that Laufer began sending threats to CAIR about ten months after the attack, in October of 2013.

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Harlem Church Puts Up Yet Another Homophobic Sign

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Image via Joe My God
ATLAH World Missionary Church, the Harlem religious institution best known for its pastor's peculiar fixation on homosexuality, has put up yet another floridly offensive sign, this one stating the need to "take Harlem back" from both "pinch nose sellout Negros" and "demonic homos."

In February, ATLAH's pastor James David Manning briefly attracted worldwide attention with a sign in front of the church that warned that President Obama had loosed "homo demons" upon the black community. He followed with a sign stating the need to "stone homos."

In the intervening months, Manning continued his relentless schedule of blogging, hosting a virtually non-stop podcast, the Manning Report, as well as many hundreds of lengthy YouTube videos. But he failed to recapture the public's attention. Now he seems to have returned to his winning formula. Joe Jervis at the popular LGBT blog Joe My God was first to report the new sign, which, as you can see above, is filled with the same spirit of Christ's love as the previous ones.

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Indictment Officially Ties Rabbis to Three Divorce Extortion Kidnappings

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Brian Stauffer
As we detailed in our December feature story, Bad Rabbi, members of Brooklyn's Orthodox Jewish community have accused Mendel Epstein of kidnappings and assaults since the mid-1980s. Epstein, the locals claimed, specialized in coercing husbands to grant their wives a get, the document required for a divorce under the religion's law.

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Simcha Bulmash Is the Fourth Person to Plead Guilty in Divorce Extortion Case

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Brian Stauffer
Our December cover story on the divorce extortions.
The convictions in the divorce extortion case keep rolling in this month. On Tuesday Simcha Bulmash, 30, pleaded guilty in federal court in New Jersey to participating in the kidnapping and assault scheme that targeted Orthodox Jewish men who refused to grant their wives a divorce. He is the fourth to do so over the last three weeks.

Like the three before him, Bulmash was arrested in an October 2013 FBI string operation that led to charges against 10 men, including Mendel Epstein, the divorce broker from Brooklyn accused of orchestrating the plot. And also like the other three others who have pleaded guilty, Bulmash admitted that the October 2013 incident was not the first time he had participated in the scheme.

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Accomplice Pleads Guilty in Divorce Extortion Case Against Mendel Epstein

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Brian Stauffer
Our December cover story on the divorce extortions.
On Thursday, David Hellmen, a 31-year-old personal trainer from Brooklyn, became the first person to plead guilty to participating in the kidnapping and extortion scheme that targeted Orthodox Jewish men who refused to grant their wives a divorce.

Hellmen was arrested in a New Jersey FBI sting in October 2013. The sting led to charges against ten men, including Mendel Epstein, the rabbi accused of leading the operation. In addition to admitting to the October plan, Hellmen confessed to another incident: "that on Aug. 22, 2011, he and others went to a residence in Brooklyn where they restrained, assaulted and injured a man in an attempt to extort a divorce from him," the U.S. Attorney's Office of New Jersey said in a statement.

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