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Op-Ed

Terror in the Name of Religion

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Bill Fletcher
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
NNPA Columnist

 

It has been deeply disturbing to hear and read suggestions that there is something inherently violent in Islam that distinguishes it from other religions. It is also a false notion, and one which we must dispel immediately.

Let’s start with the obvious facts. Islam has somewhere around 1.2 billion followers on planet Earth. All one has to do is to count the number of terrorists who have been involved in various actions over the years to see that we are talking about a minuscule percentage of adherents to extremism. The recent killings in France involved less than a dozen terrorists, for instance.

Thus, a reasonable person would ask who, in their right mind, would suggest that on the basis of such small numbers, that an entire religion is extreme, violent and outside of the human family? The answer is that this is not about being in one’s right mind; it is about a political agenda that wishes to demonize a religion plus suppress any and all discussions about the foreign policies of Western countries toward the Arab and Muslim Worlds.

Let’s think about another religion. Consider for a moment that official Christianity endorsed the slave trade. What conclusions should we draw from that? Here’s another example: What about the Ku Klux Klan that, again, in the name of Christianity, carried out open terrorist warfare against African Americans and their allies. What are the implications of this for Christianity?

These are only three examples, but one can go on with many more. Rarely do I hear such a discussion in the mainstream media. How can anyone suggest that Islam is any more violent than any other religion or, more specifically, how can anyone suggest that religious extremism is somehow limited to adherents of Islam?

The simple answer is that one cannot. Unless one wishes to ignore key facts, it does not add up. But if you need one more story to convince you that we should be very careful about allegations suggesting that Islam is particularly violent, consider this. When the Mongols invaded Europe in the 1200s, they caught Eastern Europe by surprise. The Europeans did not know who the Mongols were and they could not figure out how to stop them, given the superiority of the military approach of the Mongols.

The Christian East Europeans concluded that the Mongols were actually devils, of some sort, and that they had been sent to Europe to destroy the Christians. Guess who they blamed for this? Jews. And, as a result, massive pogroms (lynchings) of Jews took place, including the incineration of entire villages of Jews.

The point here is not an attack on Christianity. In every religion there are examples of extremism in the name of that religion. Hindu extremists in India have attacked Indian Muslims as well as promoted the development of India’s nuclear weapons. Irish Protestants carried out terror attacks against Irish Catholics for decades in the name of religion. Extremism is not limited to one religion; it can always fly the banner of this or that religion in order to advance its nefarious objectives. For this reason we should step away from blind, ahistorical indictments of a religion because of the insane actions of some who would use its name.

 
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English. He is a racial justice, labor and global justice writer and activist. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

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Ben Jealous

COMMENTARY: Make Banks Make Good on Their Pledge to End Fossil Fuel Financing

ConocoPhillips needs more than the disastrous approval it won from the Biden administration last week to proceed with its Willow oil drilling project on Alaska’s North Slope. It needs $8 to $10 billion to build 199 wells, hundreds of miles of road and pipelines, a processing plant, and an airstrip on 499 acres that are vital to caribou, migratory birds and indigenous people.

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Ben Jealous is executive director of the Sierra Club. He is a professor of practice at the University of Pennsylvania and author of “Never Forget Our People Were Always Free,” published in January.
Ben Jealous is executive director of the Sierra Club. He is a professor of practice at the University of Pennsylvania and author of “Never Forget Our People Were Always Free,” published in January.

By Ben Jealous

ConocoPhillips needs more than the disastrous approval it won from the Biden administration last week to proceed with its Willow oil drilling project on Alaska’s North Slope. It needs $8 to $10 billion to build 199 wells, hundreds of miles of road and pipelines, a processing plant, and an airstrip on 499 acres that are vital to caribou, migratory birds and indigenous people.

While President Biden certainly could have stopped Willow, so can the financial institutions helping create it. Willow is just the most recent example of banks’ complicity in preserving fossil fuel extraction through a continuing flow of money to Big Oil and Gas — all despite pledging a year ago to pursue the net zero carbon emissions we need to save the planet.

That’s why I joined activists from Third Act Tuesday on a block in Washington to protest among the offices of banking giants Bank of America, Chase, Citibank, and Wells Fargo in our nation’s capital. Third Act is a group founded by environmentalist and author Bill McKibben to bring together Americans over 60 to campaign for a sustainable planet. While I’m still too young to join, I was part of demonstrations they organized at bank branches across the country.

We were there to call out these “dirty” banks’ practices and their unacceptable costs — both immediate and long-term. Right now, any money that goes to Willow and fossil fuel projects like it, is money that won’t be invested in a clean economy, particularly in fledgling companies that are finding sustainable ways to power the planet. It’s those jobs that Alaskans and their descendants really need.

Longer term, the banks’ lending will weaken the impact of an historic $370 billion investment our country will make in the next decade on green technology and alternatives to oil and gas. As those investments pay off, there will be less and less demand for oil coming from projects like Willow. But the supply will remain steady (for 30 years in Willow’s case). So, gas will be cheaper for the holdouts who continue to use it, making it even harder to push them to make the switch.

The situation got even more dire with the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and the shadow of doubt it unfairly cast on other regional banks. Banks of that size have been vital to the growth of the clean economy. For example, Silicon Valley reportedly financed 60% of community solar energy projects in which property owners jointly construct a solar facility to power their neighborhoods.

The consequence of the turmoil has been to concentrate even more power in the biggest banks. Bank of America, for example, took in close to $15 billion in new deposits in a matter of days after Silicon Valley was taken over by federal regulators.

That makes it even more imperative that we hold these banks to their pledges not to fund new fossil fuel projects (HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank, is keeping that promise). Third Act has suggestions that most people can take to be part of that accountability — cut up credit cards issued by the banks and move deposits out of them, not into them. When more and more people do that, they will be strengthening the case of a small group of the banks’ investors who have begun introducing resolutions at shareholder meetings calling for an end to fossil fuel financing.

Throughout our country’s history, it’s been profitable to consider certain people and places as disposable. We know where continuing that unjust path will lead — to a planet that’s too polluted and too hot to be livable. We’ve passed the time when financial institutions can postpone an end to their investment in the climate’s demise. It’s time these dirty banks put their money somewhere else.

Ben Jealous is executive director of the Sierra Club. He is a professor of practice at the University of Pennsylvania and author of “Never Forget Our People Were Always Free,” published in January

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Ben Jealous

COMMENTARY: A Historic Vote and the Tools It Gave Us

Vice President Kamala Harris is sure to be remembered every March in Women’s History Month as the first woman and the first person of color to serve our nation in that position. As notable as those two facts are, she may grow to be known just as much for a single vote in the Senate that helped save the planet.

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Caption: Ben Jealous.
Ben Jealous

By Ben Jealous

Vice President Kamala Harris is sure to be remembered every March in Women’s History Month as the first woman and the first person of color to serve our nation in that position. As notable as those two facts are, she may grow to be known just as much for a single vote in the Senate that helped save the planet.

Last August, she broke the 50-50 deadlock between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate to pass the Inflation Reduction Act. That historic package, along with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that Harris had crisscrossed the country in 2021 to build support for, give us a once-in-a-generation chance to protect the climate and build a cleaner, fairer economy.

Both laws bear Harris’ mark. For example, the two packages provide billions to replace diesel school buses with electric ones and an additional tax credit for purchases that counties and cities make on their own. As a senator, Harris repeatedly sponsored bills to electrify the nation’s school buses. Similarly, she championed proposals to help recovery in low-income communities that bear a disproportionate burden of pollution and climate; the IRA includes $60 billion directed to help those places.

Harris’ role inside and outside Washington on environmental issues isn’t surprising. When she was elected San Francisco’s district attorney 20 years ago, she started one of the first environmental justice units in a prosecutor’s office. When she moved on to be California’s attorney general, she fought to protect the state from fossil fuel interests, winning tens of millions in civil settlements and a criminal indictment against the pipeline company responsible for an oil spill off Santa Barbara, as well as suing the federal government to block fracking off the coast. It’s a path others have been able to follow in the years since (Columbia University keeps a database of attorneys general’s environmental actions now).

It’s a concern that runs deep. Like I did, Harris grew up in environmentally conscious northern California in a household deeply involved in the civil rights movement. She learned early that conservation was a good thing, so much so that she has joked she couldn’t understand as a youngster why people she knew said conservatives were bad.

The Biden-Harris administration has provided leadership. With Congress, they’ve given us the tools to clean up pollution, to boost communities’ resilience to climate related natural disasters like wildfires, and to create good jobs in clean manufacturing across the country in unprecedented ways. Through the infrastructure and inflation reduction packages, the United States can spend more than double protecting Earth than we spent putting astronauts on the moon.

“I think we all understand we have to be solutions driven. And the solutions are at hand,” Harris said at a climate summit earlier this month. “We need to make up for some lost time, no doubt. This is going to have an exponential impact on where we need to go.”

It’s time for the rest of us to pick up those tools and build. There are powerful interests that would be more than happy to let the inertia that allows people and places to be treated as disposable continue indefinitely. Our planet can’t afford that, and we have to marshal a movement to prevent it.

Ben Jealous is executive director of the Sierra Club. He is a professor of practice at the University of Pennsylvania and author of “Never Forget Our People Were Always Free,” published in January.

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Bay Area

OPINION: Mayor Sheng Thao’s Decision to Fire Police Chief Difficult but Necessary

After a 30-day suspension and the inaction of the empowered Police Commission, Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao made the difficult but necessary determination to administer discipline for the complicit cover-up actions of the chief of police.

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Jose Dorado
Jose Dorado

By Jose Dorado and Mariano Contreras

After a 30-day suspension and the inaction of the empowered Police Commission, Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao made the difficult but necessary determination to administer discipline for the complicit cover-up actions of the chief of police.

The Latino Task Force supports Thao’s decision to fire Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong. All Oakland Police Department sworn officers who participated in concealing facts should receive similar discipline. Further, those officers who refused to engage in the cover-up should be recognized and commended.

Decades of cover-ups and no accountability in OPD were rampant before the Riders case gave way to the now 20-year-old consent decree. By firing the chief, Thao sent a clear message that the deep-seated blue wall of cover-up will no longer be tolerated in Oakland.

Thao displayed authentic leadership by weighing the implications and impact that police misconduct and untruthfulness have on all Oakland residents. Bold and necessary decisions are generally opposed by a few, while positively affecting many.

Only with accountability and resolute leadership can we achieve constitutional policing in Oakland. Just as important, the community’s involvement and oversight are necessary to ensure fair and sustainable policing.

Direct community involvement demanding OPD accountability and supporting the tough decisions necessary to achieve this must be emphasized.

The Latino Task Force unequivocally supports the mayor’s decision.

Jose Dorado and Mariano Contreras are members of the Latino Task Force.

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