- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2008

Conversion news

“Reports are circulating this morning that one-time King of Pop Michael Jackson has converted to Islam and adopted the name Mikaeel. The Sun reports that Mikaeel (which is the name of ‘an angel of rain’ in the Koran) ‘donned Islamic garb to pledge allegiance to the Koran in a ceremony at a pal’s mansion in Los Angeles.’

“The Jackson children — Michael, Janet, LaToya, Tito, Jermaine, and Co. — were all raised in Indiana as Jehovah’s Witnesses. … The Jackson children have not been recently spotted knocking on any doors or handing out religious pamphlets. In 1989, Jermaine Jackson converted to Islam, and many believed his brother Michael might follow. …

“As for whether Islam will provide Michael Jackson with inner strength and peace, that’s yet to be determined. However, he seems to have already embraced the notion of wearing a burqa in public.”

— Lilit Marcus, writing on “Michael Jackson Follows Jermaine’s Path to Islam” on Nov. 21 at Jewcy.com

Muslim tolerance

“As President Bush made clear in his remarks at the U.N. meeting, tolerance is understood in the West as respect for religious freedom. For the Muslim leaders in New York, tolerance means respect for religion itself, particularly Islam. As the astute Turkish political observer Ziya Meral pointed out, if Muslim leaders really wanted tolerance for different religious viewpoints, they would be holding similar discussions within their own societies. But no such discussions are going on.

“Especially since 9/11, Islam has been publicly scrutinized, criticized, and sometimes ridiculed in the West to an extent never seen (or permitted) in Muslim lands. Many Muslims feel deeply offended by this, as well as troubled by the violent responses the criticism has sometimes drawn from Muslims - riots, death threats, even murders. Their leaders’ solution is to try to halt the cycle by demanding an end to criticism of Islam, even in private speech.

“For the past decade, the Saudi-based Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has pushed the U.N. to adopt a universal ban on defaming Islam. This measure would aim to curb the freedom not only of Danish cartoonists, but also of scholars, writers, dissidents, religious reformers, human rights activists, and anyone at all anywhere in the world who criticizes Islam. This is already the effect of the domestic laws against apostasy and blasphemy that exist in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, and other states of the Islamic Conference.”

— Nina Shea, writing on “Worldwide Hate Speech Laws?” in the Nov. 24 issue of the Weekly Standard

‘Flat Earth’ belief

“I have a particular interest in memes about our ancestors, which are usually employed in order to idealize or mock the past. As an example of the latter, take the still-quite-common belief that people in the Middle Ages, guided by Biblical literalism, believed that the world is flat — Doesn´t the Bible say something about the four corners of the earth? — and had to be corrected by Christopher Columbus and other great navigators of the Renaissance.

“My friend and colleague Tim Larsen was even at a church once which featured a series of apologies for bad things Christians have done in the past, and one of them was for teaching that the earth was flat.

“However, this is nonsense. You can go all the way back to the seventh century and scholars like the Venerable Bede knew perfectly well that the world is spherical. The meme that medieval Christians taught the flatness of the earth was generated by a couple of anti-Christian polemicists in the latter part of the nineteenth century. And by the way, the scholar who made this scam generally known was no devout Christian: it was Stephen Jay Gould.”

— Alan Jacobs, writing on “Centering” at the American Scene blog Nov. 15

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