Saturday, September 11, 2010

Gay-Hating Cult Vows to Burn Korans if Jones' Church Doesn't

Kansas-Based Westboro Baptist Church, Which Has Drawn Much Controversy (and Lawsuits) Over Its Rabidly Homophobic Protests at Funerals of American Soldiers Killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, Says it Will Burn Copies of Muslim Holy Book if 'Sissy Brats of Doomed America' Persuade Jones into Calling Off His Planned Burning on 9/11 Anniversary, Which Is on Hold -- For Now

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UNYIELDING CULT A THREAT TO U.S. TROOPS? -- A member of the rabidly anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church holds highly inflammatory signs in a recent protest at the funeral of a U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan. Westboro, whose members are made up entirely of the family of its iron-willed leader, Fred Phelps, insist that U.S. troops' deaths are "God's punishment for America tolerating homosexuality." Westboro has now vowed to burn copies of the Koran, the Islamic holy book, after the Rev. Terry Jones shelved plans to burn Korans outside his Pentacostalist church in Florida today (Saturday), the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. (Photo: Getty Images)



(Posted 5:00 a.m. EDT Saturday, September 11, 2010)
(Updated 12:00 noon EDT Saturday, September 11, 2010)

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SATURDAY EXTRA
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By SKEETER SANDERS


A rabidly anti-gay Kansas-based cult -- which has drawn nationwide outrage for staging protests at the funerals of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan -- has vowed to burn copies of the Koran, now that the pastor of a fundamentalist church in Florida has put on hold his planned burning of the Muslim holy book that was scheduled for today (Saturday), the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

In a press release posted Friday on its Web site, GodHatesFags.com, the Westboro Baptist Church announced that it will "burn the Koran and the doomed American flag" at noon local time today (1:00 p.m. EDT) at its headquarters in Topeka.

The cult branded Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida a "false prophet" who allowed himself to be "bullied by sissy, intolerant rebels worldwide into cancelling plans to burn that blasphemous idol called the Koran."

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BULLETIN -- PASTOR JONES NOW SAYS HE'LL 'NEVER' BURN KORANS

NBC News

NEW YORK -- The Florida pastor at the center of a raging controversy over a planned burning of the Koran declared Saturday that his church will not burn the Muslim holy book, "not today, not ever" -- even if an equally controversial Islamic cultural center and mosque is built near Ground Zero.

In an appearance on NBC's "Today" show, Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville said that his goal all along was "to expose that there is an element of Islam that is very dangerous and very radical" and that by announcing that his church would burn copies of the Koran, "we have definitely accomplished that mission."

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FLORIDA PASTOR BACKS OFF AMID DIRE WARNINGS OF NEW WAVE OF TERROR ATTACKS

Amid worldwide outrage from Muslims and threats of violence, Jones announced Thursday that he was putting on hold his plans to burn copies of the Muslim holy book after receiving a telephone call from Defense Secretary William Gates, who, according to press reports, warned him that he and his followers would put the lives of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in "grave jeopardy" and urged him not to carry out his plans.

Meanwhile, the international police agency Interpol and the U.S. State Department issued warnings that terrorist attacks would likely increase around the world if the Koran burning went ahead.

Jones told reporters at a Thursday press conference that his decision not to carry out his planned Koran burning was prompted by assurances from a local Muslim imam that a controversial Islamic cultural center and mosque to be built two block away from Ground Zero -- where the twin towers of the World Trade Center were destroyed by al-Qaida terrorists -- would be moved to s site farther away.

But in New York, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who purchased the property last December on which the proposed center would be built, denied any such agreement. "I am glad that Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Korans," Feisal said in a statement. "However, I have not spoken to Pastor Jones or to Imam Musri [of Florida]. I am surprised by their announcement. We are not going to toy with our religion or any other. Nor are we going to barter. We are here to extend our hands to build peace and harmony."

EXTREMELY HOMOPHOBIC WESTBORO UNLIKELY TO BE PERSUADED TO BACK DOWN

Unlike Pastor Jones, however, the Phelps clan at Westboro is unlikely to be persuaded to back down form its threat to burn Korans. In fact, the cult has burned the Muslim holy book before, in 2008. But at that time, their book-burning drew almost no media notice.

Westboro's absolute hatred of homosexuality is what drives its highly controversial actions. It has drawn nationwide outrage for its protests at the funerals of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and is the defendant in a harassment lawsuit by the father of a soldier killed in Iraq that has gone all the way to the Supreme Court. The justices will hear arguments in the case when the high court begins its 2010-2011 term next month.

Westboro's extreme homophobia is what also drives its hatred of Muslims. It openly accuses the Prophet Mohammed -- without a shred of proof -- of being a pedophile. In its announcement of its planned Koran burning today, the cult employs highly inflammatory language against not only Muslims, but also Catholics. "Like priests-rape-boys Catholicism, Islam is just another false religious system with a pedophile as its prophet," the Westboro statement says. "You’re not supposed to be finding common ground with idolatrous perverts, but throwing down their altars, as God instructed!"

State and federal laws have been passed to keep Westboro picketers hundreds of feet away from the military funerals. But the cult is highly litigious: Shirley Phelps-Roper, the eldest daughter of pastor Fred Phelps, is an attorney and has filed numerous lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of those laws. She's also countersued the plaintiff in the case now pending before the Supreme Court.

The cult was expelled in 1991 from the conservative Southern Baptist Convention in part for its extremist interpretations of the Bible and for its membership being exclusively of the Phelps family.

"We share concern over the unbiblical views and offensive tactics of Fred Phelps and his followers," the SBC said in a statement posted on its Web site. "His church is not in any way affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, and his extreme position not only stands in contrast to ours, more importantly they stand in contrast to God's Word. . ."

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Volume V, Number 35
Copyright 2010, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.



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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Furor Over N.Y. Islamic Center Renews Debate Over Federal Government Spying on Muslims

Civil-Liberties Watchdogs Say Proposed Cordoba House Islamic Cultural Center Near New York's Ground Zero Is Likely to Come Under Intense U.S. Government Surveillance Once It's Completed; ACLU Sues FBI for Information on the Bureau's Surveillance of Muslims in California and Elsewhere; FBI Says No Probable Cause -- or Warrant -- Is Required for Such Surveillance



As controversy over a proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque to be built two blocks from New York's Ground Zero continues to rage, new concerns are being raised by civil-liberties watchdogs that the planned Cordoba House and other Muslim houses of worship across the country are being subjected to intense U.S. government surveillance. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act seeking information on the FBI's probe of Muslims in the San Francisco area. For its part, the FBI says that no suspicion of wrongdoing is required for the agency to conduct such surveillance. (Photo courtesy Getty Images)


(Posted 5:00 a.m. EDT Tuesday, September 7, 2010)

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SPECIAL REPORT
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By WILLIAM FISHER
Inter-Press Service
(Published under a Creative Commons license)


The bitter controversy over the building of an Islamic community center and mosque near the site of the terrorist attacks in New York on September 11, 2001 is sparking new fears of government snooping on Islamic holy places -- which it now claims it can do without a warrant.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Asian Law Caucus and the San Francisco Bay Guardian newspaper are suing the FBI in U.S. District Court in San Francisco over the agency's failure to respond to a five-month-old request for information on its investigation of Muslim groups in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The groups are seeking details under the Freedom of Information Act of any surveillance the FBI has carried out since 2005 on area mosques and Islamic centers, as well as information on the recruitment of Muslim school children into the agency's Junior Agent Program.

ACLU ATTORNEY: FBI SHOULD TARGET SPECIFIC SUSPECTS, NOT SPY ON ALL MUSLIMS

Julia Harumi Mass, staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, told IPS that the FBI "should focus its resources on targets for whom it has specific facts that support a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, rather than using undercover informants to spy on people in their houses of worship."

She added, "The lawsuit we have brought is one seeking records, so that we -- and the public -- can evaluate the FBI's policies and practices to make sure they enhance national security without undermining our civil liberties.

"We have not sued for any misconduct other than failing to provide governmental records as required by law," Harumi continued.

FBI: NO SUSPICION OF WRONGDOING NEEDED FOR SURVEILLANCE

But, according to the FBI itself, the agency needs no suspicion of wrongdoing before it initiates surveillance.

In a July 28 letter addressed to Senate Judiciary committee members Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) -- following the testimony of FBI Director Robert Mueller -- the agency said that suspicion of wrongdoing was not necessary to launch an investigation against an individual or organization.

"No particular factual predication is required" for the initiation of a preliminary investigation, according to the FBI's operational guidelines.

FBI'S POSITION BLASTED AS 'DRAGNET' APPROACH

"This is intelligence gathering run amok," said Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. "The FBI is saying it can initiate surveillance without a reason."

"This is a dragnet way of uncovering information and a dramatic step backwards in the history of civil rights," he charged.

"The FBI has made an admission that we've known all along: That the agency is allowed to surveil without any suspicion of criminality," according to Nura Maznavi, counsel for the Program to Combat Racial and Religious Profiling at Muslim Advocates, an affiliate of the National Association of Muslim Lawyers.

PLAINTIFFS ACCUSE FBI OF RACIAL PROFILING OF MUSLIMS

Muslim Advocates, the ACLU, and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee are among the organizations claiming that the FBI's guidelines use race as a basis for determining whether to initiate surveillance, thereby unfairly targeting Muslims.

But Mueller told the Senate Judiciary committee that race and religion could not be used as sole criteria for initiating an investigation of a person or organization.

Maznavi and Buttar have accused the FBI of initiating investigations in Muslim homes and mosques that they characterized as "general fishing expeditions" that could lead to clues about other members of the community.

The FBI also visits people at their jobs, said Maznavi, adding that such surveillance impacts a person's reputation at their place of employment.

The agency also frequently sends informants into mosques, Maznavi alleged, pointing to two high-profile cases in California and Florida. Such a practice makes congregants suspicious of one another and promotes fear within the community, she said.

FBI MAY BE VIOLATING FOURTH AMENDMENT

The basis of the FBI's contention is unclear. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guards against unreasonable searches and seizures. It specifically requires search and arrest warrants be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.

The ACLU of Northern California made its initial request for records under the Freedom of Information Act in March, according to their complaint. The plaintiffs hope to persuade the U.S. District Court to force the FBI to process their FOIA request and release the records immediately.

The plaintiffs first sought out the FBI records after area Muslims contacted the ACLU and the Asian Law Caucus with concerns that the Bureau was scrutinizing their activities and attempting to recruit "informants and infiltrators," according to the ALC.

In a statement, the group said the FBI had failed to produce its records despite admitting in March that media attention on the investigation of Muslim groups entitled his clients to expedited processing of their FOIA request.

"The lawsuit is about transparency," said Somnath Raj Chatterjee, a pro bono lawyer for the groups.

In 2009, it was revealed that the FBI used paid informants and agents provocateurs in U.S. mosques. The American Muslim community says this news sends a devastating message to community leaders and imams who have worked diligently to foster greater understanding between law enforcement and their communities.

Following the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the Justice Department began rounding up Arabs and other Muslims and -- mistakenly -- anybody who looked "Middle Eastern," including Sikhs from South Asia, according to a 2008 report by the Center for Constitutional Rights.

In the months after the attacks, some 5,000 men were held in detention without charges, most without access to lawyers or family members. There were no prosecutions and no convictions of any of these people, according to the CCR report.

Some, who were in the U.S. with expired visas or who had committed other immigration infractions, were deported.

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Volume V, Number 34
Special Report Copyright 2010, Inter-Press Service. Published under a Creative Commons license.
The 'Skeeter Bites Report copyright 2010, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.



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