Friday, October 11, 2013

Week's-End News Round-Up: Catholic Bishops and Shutdown, Exporting of Anti-Gay Hate by U.S. Religious Right, Malala Yousafzai

As the work week ends, valuable news commentary I've noticed in recent days, which adds new information to discussions we've had here in the past:

1. At her Enlightened Catholicism site, Colleen Kochivar-Baker takes note of the story about which I blogged yesterday--the 26 September letter of the U.S. Catholic bishops to Congress encouraging Congress to hold the re-funding of the federal government hostage until the bishops (and any private employers citing conscience) obtain the "right" to circumvent the Affordable Care Act and deny contraceptive coverage to employees. Colleen:

This is a story that should make the rounds because it clearly shows that the USCCB is one of the guiding hands behind the Tea Party wing of the GOP.  They have not only taken on the smell of the elephant, they are one of the big bull elephants creating the biggest stink.

2. At Americablog, Becca Morn has just launched a three-part series on the exporting of anti-gay hate to other parts of the world by the American religious right. As Morn notes, she's building on Miranda Blue's four-part series for Right Wing Watch, about which I blogged recently (here and here). As Morn notes, Blue's series is a must-read series for anyone interested in the topic of how the U.S. religious right stirs anti-gay hate (and violence in other places in the world.

But Morn thinks Blue might have put the point more sharply: the American religious right is not, she thinks, merely stirring up homophobic prejudice that already exists in other places; it's deliberately injecting that prejudice in many cultures:

The only detail I disagree with is the possibly misleading title of her first part, "How the American Right Came to Embrace Russia’s Anti-Gay Crackdown." In truth, I believe the motivation and apparent urgency of Russia’s anti-gay crackdown came from the American right. Just as they’re doing in other countries all over the globe (emphasis in original).

Miranda Blue's series notes that Brian Brown, leader of the virulently anti-gay group National Organization for Marriage, went to Russia this past summer with a group of anti-gay French activists with whom he'd been working to gin up hostility to gay folks in France. Brown spoke to the Russian Duma's Committee on the Issues of Family, Women, and Children and to the Committee of Foreign Affairs, urging the Duma to ban adoption of children by same-sex children.

3. Yesterday, the Maddow Blog published a translation (by Natasha Lebedeva) of Brown's comments to the Duma. Note that in his comments to the Duma committee, Brown makes a claim that NOM continues repeatedly to make, which is false: he states that a majority of Americans are opposed to same-sex marriage, though polls show a slim majority (and a growing one) of Americans accepting marriage equality. The goal of these anti-gay groups as they export American-style homophobia to other parts of the world is clear: as they lose their battle against marriage equality in the U.S., they intend to create anti-gay sentiment elsewhere in the world and then use it as a political tool as they continue to fight against gay rights in the U.S.

As James Nichols reports at Huffington Post, gay activist Fred Karger has called for an investigation of Brian Brown's activities in Russia as a violation of the Logan Act, which prohibits U.S. citizens from conferring with leaders of foreign governments against the interest of the U.S. government and without its authorization. David Badash reports yesterday at The New Civil Rights Movement site that the Justice Department has indicated it will review Karger's complaint.

4. The young Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban for the crime of attending school--Malala Yousafzai--continues to be in the news. I blogged about (and here) Malala in July when she addressed the U.N. and that group declared 12 July "Malala Day."

Yesterday, Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. This past Sunday, I found Adam B. Ellick's New York Times article and documentary clip about Malala moving, though her father's determination to push her into the limelight gave me pause to think. But, as I do think more about that determination, I'm struck by Malala's own obvious strength of character, which protects her from being anyone's pawn, and by the need of a young woman in a culture so repressive of women's rights to have as many strong protectors around her as she can find.

I'm particularly taken with Yasmine Hafiz's article at Huffington Post yesterday, viewing Malala as a voice of Islam for a new generation of Muslims. Hafiz writes,

Malala presents an alternate narrative to the hijacking of Islam by the Taliban; using the Muslim faith as a framework to argue for the importance of education rather than making Islam a justification for oppression. She doesn't hesitate to directly challenge the Taliban, saying in a speech to the UN, "They think that God is a tiny, little conservative being who would send girls to the hell just because of going to school. The terrorists are misusing the name of Islam and Pashtun society for their own personal benefits."

Again, hope. Which I'll take where I can find it. Even when it seems to glimmer in very dark places, whose darkness have the potential to quench the light of hope--but which seems ultimately unquenchable, over the course of human history. Since the darkness cannot grasp the light.

(Thanks to Chris Morley for noting Fred Karger's complaint vs. Brian Brown in comments here in the past two days.)

The graphic: a photo by Berenice Abbott of a newsstand at 32nd St. and Third Ave., Manhattan, 19 Nov. 1935, from the NYPDL Digital Gallery.

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