Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the co-director of the upcoming documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!" and co-host of a new CNN podcast "The Big Three" that looks at the top three stories of the week. Follow him on Twitter @deanofcomedy.
By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
(CNN) - I'm an American-Muslim and I despise Islamic terrorists. In fact, despise is not even a strong enough word to convey my true feelings about those who kill innocent people in the name of Islam. I hate them with every fiber of my being.
I'm not going to tell you, "Islam is a religion of peace." Nor will I tell you that Islam is a religion of violence. What I will say is that Islam is a religion that, like Christianity and Judaism, is intended to bring you closer to God. And sadly we have seen people use the name of each of these Abrahamic faiths to wage and justify violence.
The unique problem for Muslims is that our faith is being increasingly defined by the actions of a tiny group of morally bankrupt terrorists. Just to be clear: The people who commit violence in the name of Islam are not Muslims, they are murderers. Their true religion is hatred and inhumanity.
The only people terrorists speak for are themselves and the others involved in their despicable plot. They do not represent me, my family or any other Muslim I know. And believe me, I know a lot of Muslims.
Editor's Note: Hussein Rashid is a native New York Muslim. He teaches at Hofstra University in the department of religion. He is an associate editor at Religion Dispatches, a term member on the Council on Foreign Relations, and fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.
(CNN) - After the tragic Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, a dramatic firefight in Watertown and the final capture of one of the two suspects, there are two names tied to this tragedy: Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, two brothers believed to be behind the attack.
We are learning quite a bit about them: where they grew up, what the older brother may have believed and how friends and family remember them.
However, whatever we learn about them does not tell us why they did what they did – only parts of who they are. It is easy, in the initial aftermath of the bombings, to make careless associations between identity and motive, similar to post 9/11 reaction.
But this time, there is a change in rhetoric of how potential suspects are identified, particularly if they are Muslim. It is because of this change we are learning to move past paralyzing fear and maturing in how we think of what it means to be American. FULL POST
Editor's note: Farhana Khera is the president and executive director of Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy organization dedicated to promoting freedom, justice and equality for all, regardless of faith.
By Farhana Khera, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Like so many Americans across the country, I was shocked when I heard of the attacks at the Boston Marathon. A part of me immediately traveled back to when I was cheering runners myself as a student at Wellesley College, the midpoint for the marathon, a time when such dangers as bombings never crossed our minds.
Boston is an indelible part in the personal history and identity of those who have lived or attended school in the city. That someone had detonated bombs at an event that symbolized unity in a place known for its rich diversity and as a birthplace of our nation's freedom was heartbreaking.
This last week has seen a whirlwind of fighting in a dramatic manhunt, leaving an entire city on lockdown and lives in danger. I am heartened to hear stories where the human spirit rose above the ugliness and absolute horror facing the community. Law enforcement officers and other first responders risked their lives to help others. Several marathoners ran straight to the hospital to give blood, and doctors rushed to hospitals. A restaurant opened its doors and offered free food to its neighbors while they were stuck in a lockdown.
It is these testaments of unity and heroism that make us stronger. Bostonians are coming together and helping each other because, as U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said, "When tragedy strikes, we are ... one family. We hurt together, we help each other together."
By Julie Cannold, CNN
New York (CNN) - A Brooklyn man was arrested and charged on Thursday with hate crimes after 12 mezuzahs were set ablaze as they hung on door frames outside Jews' homes.
Ruben Ubiles, 34, was arrested on 17 charges, many of them hate crimes, including burglary, arson, criminal mischief and reckless endangerment, according to the New York Police Department.
New York (CNN) - Police have identified a suspect in a string of potential hate crimes in New York in which 12 mezuzahs were set ablaze as they hung on door frames outside Jews' homes.
Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette.
By Ruben Navarrette Jr., CNN Contributor
(CNN) - "It's about time!"
That was how a friend and fellow Mexican-American Catholic responded to the news that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina had been elected the first Latino pope in the nearly 2,000-year history of the Catholic Church. It was one of those spontaneous utterances that, while not politically correct, was at least honest and heartfelt.
It's about time.
By Ed Payne and Devon Sayers, CNN
(CNN) - The questions go to the heart of the issue, presenting scenarios some may find challenging.
The Boy Scouts of America, now considering a change in the group's longstanding policy against allowing openly gay members, has sent out a questionnaire that goes beyond a simple yes or no on the subject.
Among them: Is it acceptable for a gay scout and a straight scout to share a tent on an overnight camping trip?
The survey sent to leaders and parents includes five multiple-choice answers ranging from "totally acceptable" to "totally unacceptable."
In February, the Boy Scouts of America's national executive board postponed a vote on lifting its outright ban on openly homosexual scouts and troop leaders.
The decision will be made at the organization's annual meeting in May, where about 1,400 members of the group's national council will take part, the board said.
The organization said at the time that it would "further engage representatives of Scouting's membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns."
Read the survey (pdf)
The Boy Scouts said in a statement Tuesday that they're in the "listening phase" and are "reviewing a number of issues and how they will impact the BSA, including youth, chartered organizations, parents, and financial, fundraising, and legal concerns."
The survey's nine questions directly address those concerns and point to the complexities of the issues involved.
Here's one of the questions from the survey:
"David, a Boy Scout, believes that homosexuality is wrong. His troop is chartered to a church where the doctrine of that faith also teachers that homosexuality is wrong. Steven, an openly gay youth, applies to be a member in the troop and is denied membership. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for this troop to deny Steve membership in their troop?"
Another question asks if a lesbian mom should be allowed to be den leader, if the church it's chartered to has no problem with homosexuality.
The issues are challenging for an organization that has many ties to organized religion, many of them conservative.
(CNN) - CNN's Miguel Marquez says immigrants hope the next pope will focus on issues like human rights and economic justice.
Editor’s note: Enuma Okoro is a public speaker and lecturer on faith, spirituality and identity. She is author of three books, including her latest, "Silence: And Other Surprising Invitations of Advent" and writes a blog, Reluctant Pilgrim.
By Enuma Okoro, Special to CNN
(CNN) – Before I am an American, I am a Christian.
This order of self-identifying does not in any way negate the gifts and responsibilities that come with my being an American, a Nigerian-American at that.
But it brings me face to face with the tension of claiming my faith identity above all else in a culture that's more comfortable glossing over challenging – and sometimes painful – elements of spiritual narratives in exchange for what can be mass produced and neatly packaged in a box.
While many are in the midst of Christmas cheer, I am still in the season of Advent, a time of waiting and preparation for the birth of Jesus Christ.
For Christians, it is a time to mark a new year, a beginning. It is a time that I contemplate the pending miracle of Christmas.
The Advent invitation to silence, to open lament, to hope, to trust, even when it seems foolish, that God keeps God’s promises is a time to remember who we are. Especially now, after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Advent helps me remember we are all to be a part of the healing of the world.
My fear is that most of us miss the true meaning of this time because of our American cultural tendency to mine the sacred for what can be mass consumed.
We also live in a “feel good” culture in which we strive to make ourselves as comfortable as possible.
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) – Military development. Academics. Athletics. Three pillars of Army values that cadets at America's most prestigious military academy live by.
But West Point cadet Blake Page says there is one other unspoken pillar at the United States Military Academy: religion.
That's why, with just five months left before graduation, Page quit.
And he did it in a most public fashion – in a fiery blog post.
"The tipping point of my decision to resign was the realization that countless officers here and throughout the military are guilty of blatantly violating the oaths they swore to defend the Constitution," wrote Page, 24, in The Huffington Post. FULL POST
What defines you? Maybe it’s the shade of your skin, the place you grew up, the accent in your words, the make up of your family, the gender you were born with, the intimate relationships you chose to have or your generation? As the American identity changes we will be there to report it. In America is a venue for creative and timely sharing of news that explores who we are. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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