Two Men Were Stabbed After Giving the Wrong Answer To “Are You Muslim?” Guess How the Media Responded

I wonder if a crime like this will prompt editorial writers and much of the Twittersphere to ask whether Muslims “pose a threat to civil society.” Or whether the pundits will publish headlines that say “This should be a wake-up call to Muslims.”

Of course not. They would never (and they’d be right). But are atheists written about that way? Actually, yes. Yes, we are. Isn’t that an interesting difference?

The stabbings of two people at a Detroit-area bus stop began with what police said was a simple question: Are you Muslim?



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New York Rabbi Mendel Epstein Goes on Trial For Running a Divorce Racket Involving Kidnappings and Cattle Prods

Jewish gets – divorce decrees that, after a marriage fails, can only be provided by the husband – have been the subject of much controversy and even violent crime for years. A woman cannot get remarried under Jewish law unless she can produce a get. But after a marriage goes bad, husbands often withhold the prized document out of spite; or they use it as a bargaining chip in child-custody or alimony disputes. To spur them into compliance, a little extrajudicial persuasion (read: violence, or the threat thereof) may have to be applied.

In 2013, a Brooklyn rabbi named Mendel Epstein was arrested for having organized, in exchange for a king’s ransom, the kidnapping and torture of men who wouldn’t otherwise agree to their wives’ requests for a get.

Two years earlier, New Jersey rabbi David Wax and his wife Judy had been nabbed for allegedly kidnapping and assaulting an Israeli national from whom they were trying to extract a get. The prosecution said that the Waxes administered hours of beatings, breaking the man’s nose; and that they showed their victim a body bag, promising that they would bury him alive if he did not do as instructed.

Epstein and his thugs — including his son David – are now facing the music in secular court.



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Ladies: To Attract Love, Shine Your Yoni At the Moon!

Not since Gwyneth Paltrow steam-cleaned her vagina have I read such sage advice about what women ought to do with their lady parts.

An article in Vice, by Jennifer Schaffer, introduces us to Olivia Olkowski, a shamanic healer who swears by crystals and purple clothes, and who caters to women seeking “love, guidance, and … heart healing.” She does this by re-aligning clients’ invisible vibrations and frequencies, if I’m understanding her correctly. You know Olkowski is the real deal because she stumbled upon her special abilities while she took a three-year “master course” in feng shui.

This is what she tells a group of mostly women looking for a (better) relationship:

“One powerful thing you can do – and I’m not sure how you’ll do this in New York City, ladies – is shine your yoni at the full moon.”

Yoni is Sanskrit for vagina.



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Young Theologian Who Needs a Job Says the Media Must Invest In Journalists Who Understand Religion

I can think of many things that are worrisome about the state of journalism, but I hadn’t yet considered the dwindling number of full-time religion correspondents to be among them. Maybe I’m wrong.

Conor Gaffey (below), writing a familiar plaint for the U.K.’s Catholic Herald, sounds the alarm, after noting that the BBC will be reassigning its head of religion, Aaqil Ahmed, and that religious-affairs writer Ruth Gledhill left the Times last year.

Gledhill herself thought it was a good thing that “religion had been taken out of the sanctuary and into the arena of general current affairs,” as Gaffey puts it, but he has his doubts.

Many papers have columnists on religion (Giles Fraser at the Guardian, for example) or journalists who cover faith among other things (eg, the Telegraph’s John Bingham). But this media landscape suggests that religion does not command anywhere near the same weight of attention and investment as sport, politics or even showbiz.

This is a worrying trend — and not just because I’m a newly qualified journalist with a theology degree in need of full-time employment.



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Could ISIS Forces Attack Italy?

“Italy Fears ISIS Invasion From Lybia,” trumpets a headline in the Daily Beast. The prospect of such a thing initially seems silly and far-fetched, but author Barbie Latza Nadeau, who also contributes to NPR and Newsweek, explains why Italians are worried.

[T]here is no question that there is a palpable tension in Italy over the ISIS threat – Libya is just 109 miles away from the island of Lampedusa and 300 miles from Sicily – made worse by a 64 percent increase in illegal migrant arrivals by sea since last year.  In all of 2014, more than 170,000 people arrived from Libya and Turkey, the highest number ever recorded. Last weekend, as the embassy staff [from the recently-shuttered Italian embassy in Tripoli] made their way to Italy on a mercantile ship, 2,164 migrants left the same Libyan shores en route to Sicily.

Nadeau says the young, untested, and teetering Italian government is taking the ISIS threat seriously. Last week, on Twitter, ISIS members posted links to a video of 21 Coptic Christians being beheaded. That video was titled “A Message Signed With Blood To The Nation Of The Cross.” The title of another recent ISIS production was “We are south of Rome.”

Pure bluster? Perhaps. Reports Nadeau:

Italy has only 5,000 troops available that are even close to deployable, according to the defense ministry. … [T]he military budget was cut by 40 percent two years ago, which has kept the acquisition of 90 F-35 fighter jets hanging in the balance and left the country combat-challenged to lead any mission – especially one against an enemy like the Islamic State. … Anti-immigration politicians have argued for months that it would take little for jihadi fighters to infiltrate a migrant boat and effectively end up taxied into Italy by rescue ships and the Italian navy.



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