Authorities say ISIS-linked family conducted suicide bombings at Indonesian churches

K9 police examine the scene following attacks outside the Surabaya Pentecostal Church (GPPS) in Surabaya, East Java, on May 13. A series of blasts struck three churches in Indonesia on Sunday, killing at least 13 people and wounding dozens in the deadliest attack in years in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country. (AFP/Juni Kriswanto)

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, May 13, 2018:

A family of Islamic State supporters carried out suicide bombings at three churches in the Indonesian city of Surabaya earlier today, according to authorities. “We have identified the bombers. It is highly likely that they shared a familial background,” Indonesian police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian said, according to the The Jakarta Post.

According to Gen. Tito’s account of events, the father of the family “allegedly dropped off his wife and two daughters, aged 9 and 12,” at the Indonesia Christian Church. The mother reportedly blew herself up in the company of her children. The father set off to bomb the Surabaya Center Pentecostal Church, driving his minivan at the building. Meanwhile, two of the couple’s sons attacked the Saint Mary Immaculate Catholic Church.

The Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility for the bombings, but did not identify the terrorists in its first statements. “Three martyrdom attacks result in at least 11 Christians and church security guards being killed and 41 being injured in the city of Surabaya located in the region of East Java in Indonesia,” the group’s Amaq News Agency reported. Amaq’s casualty claim was generally consistent with independent reports. The number of people killed has reportedly risen to 13, while more than 40 were wounded.

The Islamic State then issued a longer claim as well, describing the perpetrators as “soldiers” of the so-called caliphate. The claim did not indicate any familial bond between the terrorists, nor did it provide the level of detail offered by the police.

“After putting their trust in Allah, several Khilafah soldiers set out towards three Crusader temples located in Surabaya city in East Java region in eastern Indonesia,” the Islamic State’s claim reads. “The first istishhadi targeted the Pentecostal Central Church with his explosive vehicle, while the second one detonated his explosive vest in the Santa Maria Catholic church. Meanwhile, the third attack targeted the Indonesian Christian Church with an explosive motorbike.” The self-declared caliphate describes the victims as “Crusaders.”

According to Tito, the family was associated with Jamaah Anshar Daulah (JAD), and some reports indicate that members of the family may have spent time in Syria.

The US State Department designated JAD as a terrorist organization in Jan. 2017. The US government noted at the time that JAD “is a terrorist group based in Indonesia that was formed in 2015 and is composed of almost two dozen Indonesian extremist groups that pledged allegiance to” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Foggy Bottom also noted that JAD provided the personnel for the Jan. 2016 attack in the capital of Jakarta. That plot was orchestrated by Bahrun Naim, an Islamic State cyber planner who has remotely directed a series of plots in Indonesia. [For more on Naim and JAD’s role in the Islamic State’s network, see FDD’s Long War Journal report: Indonesian authorities hunt Islamic State operative’s cyber recruits.]

The church bombings came just days after other Islamic State-affiliated militants orchestrated a prison riot in Depok, south of Jakarta.

The Islamic State and its predecessor organizations have long targeted churches in Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere.

The cover story (“The Ruling on the Belligerent Christians”) of the ninth edition of the group’s Rumiyah (“Rome”) magazine, released in May 2017, contained a lengthy defense of operations aimed at Christian civilians. The author concluded that “targeting these churches with ruin and destruction is a matter that is permitted in the Shari’ah, and it is allowed to use this as a means of attaining closeness to Allah.” That is, the jihadists argued that “martyrdom” attacks aimed at churches would allow the perpetrators to achieve divine glory. Rumiyah’s authors told readers that even the blood of Christian women and children is permissible. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Islamic State leader in Egypt says church bombings aren’t popular.]

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.

Indonesia: Jakarta’s Christian governor guilty in “blasphemy” trial, gets two years prison

Jihad Watch, by Robert Spencer, May 9, 2017:

Ahok committed the cardinal sin of being a Christian in a position of authority. Islamic law forbids non-Muslims to hold authority over Muslims. That Ahok was governor of Jakarta made something like this show trial inevitable. That Islamic supremacists got him on blasphemy, and had to get him in the first place for the crime of being a Christian in authority, is an indication of how far Indonesia has moved from its supposedly “moderate” character.

“Jakarta governor Ahok found guilty in landmark Indonesian blasphemy trial,” by Ben Westcott, CNN, May 9, 2017:

(CNN)Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, commonly known as Ahok, has been sentenced to two years in prison, after being found guilty of blasphemy in a trial seen as a test of Indonesia’s religious tolerance.

In April, prosecutors had called for the blasphemy counts to be dropped in exchange for a lesser charge of “spreading hate,” but the judges appear to have ignored that recommendation.

The controversial Chinese Christian politician was put on trial in December over accusations that he insulted Islam while campaigning for re-election. He repeatedly denied the charges.

Ahok was detained immediately after the verdict and taken to the Cipinang detention center in East Jakarta, local media reported. He said he would immediately appeal the court’s decision.

The Jakarta governor sparked controversy in late 2016 after quoting a verse from the Quran to prove to his supporters that there were no restrictions on Muslims voting for a non-Muslim politician.

Almost no one who has been charged under the blasphemy law has ever escaped conviction, associate professor of Indonesian politics at the Australian National University Greg Fealy told CNN.

“The blasphemy law has really been a blight on the rule of law and democracy in Indonesia for decades,” he said, adding that “the fact that Ahok was charged at all was really a product of massive street demonstrations that frightened the government into acting.”

Growing conservatism

…While Indonesia has built a reputation as a tolerant, diverse nation, experts say Ahok’s conviction is the latest example of the country’s growing conservatism.

Recent years have seen large anti-LGBT protests in Jakarta in early 2016, a push to criminalize homosexual sex and passionate reactions to allegations of blasphemy.

An estimated 200,000 people converged on the center of the Indonesian capital to demand the arrest of its minority-Christian governor on November 4.

Since an edited video of Ahok’s remarks was released, hundreds of thousands of Muslim Indonesians have protested against him on the streets of Jakarta, with many calling for his jailing or even execution.
Roads near the Agriculture Ministry where the verdict was due to be delivered were closed from Monday evening in preparation, local media reported….

Pence Visits Mosque, Declares Indonesia’s Moderate Islam ‘an Inspiration to the World’

Vice President Mike Pence poses with, from left, his daughters Audrey and Charlotte, his wife Karen, the chairman of Istiqlal Mosque Muhammad Muzammil Basyuni and the Grand Imam of the mosque Nasaruddin Umar in Jakarta on April 20, 2017. (Adek Berry/Pool Photo via AP)

PJ Media, by Bridget Johnson, April 27, 2017:

Vice President Mike Pence visited the Istiqlal mosque in Jakarta today during the first visit by a Trump administration official to Indonesia.

The Masjid Istiqlal, the largest mosque in southeast Asia that can accommodate 200,000 worshipers, is the same one President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama visited during Obama’s 2010 trip to the world’s most populous Muslim country.

As is custom, Pence removed his shoes while wife Karen Pence and daughters Audrey and Charlotte also donned headscarves.

The family met Grand Imam Haji Nasaruddin Umar and other officials, toured the prayer hall and saw how the five-times-a-day call to prayer is done.

Pence then joined and spoke at a closed-door interfaith dialogue with representatives from Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism and Islam.

At Merdeka Palace remarks with Indonesian President Joko Widodo before the mosque tour, Pence said President Trump “sent me here as a sign of the high value the United States places on our strategic partnership with Indonesia.”

“As the second and third largest democracies in the world, our two countries share many common values — including freedom, the rule of law, human rights, and religious diversity,” he said. “The United States is proud to partner with Indonesia to promote and protect these values, the birthright of all people.”

Pence talked about multiple areas of cooperation, including leveling the playing field “to ensure that American exporters can fully participate in the Indonesia market, the same freedom that Indonesia exporters have had in many sectors in the United States for many years.”

“The United States is also proud to be one of Indonesia’s oldest and most engaged defense partners. And under President Trump we are firmly committed to continuing to collaborate on the security of both of our peoples. A stronger defense partnership will serve us well as we confront the various security threats and challenges that we now face. And of course, one of the greatest threats we face is the rise and spread of terrorism,” he added.

“…Finally, with President Trump’s leadership, the United States intends to deepen our cultural ties with the nation and the good people of Indonesia. Later today I’m greatly humbled to have the privilege to visit Indonesia’s national mosque, where I’ll have the opportunity to speak with leaders of many faiths. And, Mr. President, I’m very much looking forward to that visit and that honor.”

Pence noted that “the largest majority Muslim country, Indonesia’s tradition of moderate Islam, frankly, is an inspiration to the world.”

“In your nation, as in mine, religion unifies — it doesn’t divide. It gives us hope for a brighter future, and we are all grateful for the great inspiration that Indonesia provides for the world,” the vice president added. “Rest assured, under President Trump, the United States welcomes all who share our values and strive for that brighter future.”

The population is Indonesia is about 87 percent Muslim, 7 percent Protestant, 3 percent Catholic, and less than 2 percent Hindu with other faiths including Buddhism and Confucianism making up the balance.

Widodo said that next month a U.S.-Indonesian team “will discuss the arrangement of trade and investment bilateral between the countries based on the principles of win-win solution.”

“As the largest Muslim population country in the world, as well as the third largest democracy in the world, Indonesia also agree to strengthen cooperation on peace,” Widodo added. “That is what I can convey to you all in this auspicious occasion.”

Islamic State launches suicide assault in Indonesia’s capital

Oscar Siagian/Getty

Oscar Siagian/Getty

Long War Journal, by Bill Roggio, January 14, 2016

The Islamic State claimed credit for a suicide assault in the capital of Jakarta that killed two people. Indonesian officials said the Islamic State fighters are fighters linked to a cell that is based in Syria.

Islamic State split up into at least two teams and opened fire at Starbucks and a department store in downtown Jakarta, according to Reuters. Police exchanged gunfire with the jihadists for three hours before the attack was defeated. Some of the gunmen were killed and some blew themselves up, while two of them were captured. The Islamic State fighters detonated several bombs during the fighting.

Civilian casualties were surprisingly low given that both attacks took place in crowded locations. One Canadian and one Indonesian citizen were killed during the fighting.

The Islamic State immediately claimed credit for the attack in an official communique that was disseminated by the groups supporters on social media websites.

“A security detachment from the soldiers of the Caliphate target a gathering of the charges of the Crusader alliance in Jakarta city,” according to the statement which was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.

The Islamic State claimed that fighters armed with “light weaponry and explosive belts” attacked after “several timed canisters” or explosives were detonated. According to the Islamic State, “nearly 15 Crusader foreigners” and their local guards were killed. The Islamic State routinely exaggerates the effects of their attacks.

Indonesian officials immediately linked the attack to the Islamic State’s headquarters in Syria. Jakarta’s police chief said that an Indonesian known as Bahrun Naim, who is based in Raqqa, Syria, plotted the Jakarta assault, Reuters reported.

Today’s attack in Jakarta is the latest claimed by the Islamic State outside of Iraq and Syria. Most recently, in November of last year, the Islamic State executed a complex suicide assault in Paris, France, that killed more than 120 people.

The Islamic State in Indonesia

Jihadists in Indonesia who previously have been loyal to al Qaeda have been divided since the Islamic State was formed in June 2014.  A number of jihadists previously loyal to Jemaah Islamiyah, al Qaeda’s branch in Indonesia, split from the group in August 2014 shortly after Abu Bakr al Baghdadi declared the Islamic State and named himself as “caliph”.  Jemaah Islamiyah is responsible for numerous deadly terrorist attacks in Indonesia over the past two decades, including the deadly bombing in Bali.

Shortly after Baghdadi’s announcement, Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader and cofounder of Jemaah Islamiyah as well as the emir of Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid, pledged allegiance to Baghdadi. Bashir, a veteran jihadist, made his pledge to Baghdadi while in prison. In 2011, he was convicted of “committing a criminal act of terrorism” by founding and supporting a terrorist group known as al Qaeda in Aceh and sentenced to 15 years in prison. The sentence was later reduced to nine years.

Following Bashir’s oath of loyalty to Baghdadi, Bashir’s sons, Abdul Iim Rohim and Rosyid Ridho, and a number of senior jihadists broke away from the veteran jihadist and spiritual leader and formed their own group, known as Jemaah Ansharusy Syariah. According to the Jakarta Post, more than 50 percent of Bashir’s followers abandoned him and joined Jemaah Ansharusy Syariah.

Mochammad Achwan, the emir of Jemaah Ansharusy Syariah, admitted to the Jakarta Post at the time of the split that his group is part of al Qaeda’s global network and receives orders and advice from leaders overseas.

“Our sharia councils in Yemen and Syria have denounced ISIL [Islamic State] because the group has deviated from the right course in forming a caliphate,” Achwan said. “We received our direction from our respected clerics in JN [Jabhat al Nusrah, or the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria], and we have supported the group in many ways.”

In addition to Bashir’s Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid, another group, known as the Mujahidin Indonesian Timur, has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State. Both groups are listed by the US as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Abu Warda Santoso, the leader of the Mujahidin Indonesian Timur, has also sworn allegiance to Baghdadi.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal.

***

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The Indonesian Jihad on Christian Churches

Gatestone Institute, by Raymond Ibrahim, November 11, 2015:

  • “We will not stop hunting Christians and burning churches. Christians are Allah’s enemies!” – Islamic leaders, Aceh region.
  • In other parts of Indonesia, where Islamic law, or Sharia, is not enforced, churches, even fully registered ones, are also under attack
  • On Dec. 25, 2012, with all required paperwork in place, when the congregation assembled on empty land to celebrate Christmas, hundreds of Muslims threw rocks, rotten eggs, and bags filled with excrement at the Christians. Police stood by and watched.
  • For Indonesia, the country once hailed as the face of “moderate Islam,” the “extremist” behavior one would expect of ISIS has apparently become the norm.

In compliance with Islamic demands, Indonesian authorities in the Aceh region have started to tear down Christian churches. Their move comes after Muslim mobs rampaged and attacked churches. At least one person was killed; thousands of Christians were displaced.

On Friday, October 9, after being fired up during mosque sermons, hundreds of Muslims marched to the local authority’s office and demanded that all unregistered churches in Aceh be closed. Imams issued text messages spurring Muslims from other areas to rise up against churches and call for their demolition.

On Monday, October 12, authorities facilitated a meeting with Islamic leaders and agreed to demolish 10 unregistered churches over the course of two weeks.

Apparently this was not fast enough to meet Muslim demands for immediate action. On the following day, a mob of approximately 700 Muslims, some armed with axes and machetes, torched a local church, even though it was not on the list of churches agreed upon for demolition.

church burning

The Muslim mob then moved on to a second church, an act that led to violent clashes. One person, believed to be a Christian, died after being shot in the head. Several were injured, as Christians tried to defend their church against the armed mob.

Approximately 8,000 Christians were displaced; many fled to bordering provinces. Their fears were justified: Islamic leaders continued issuing messages and text messages saying, “We will not stop hunting Christians and burning churches. Christians are Allah’s enemies!”

Instead of punishing those who incited violence and took the law into their own hands by torching and attacking churches, local authorities demolished three churches (a Catholic mission station and two Protestant churches) on October 19. In the coming days, seven more churches are set to be demolished; in the coming months and years, dozens more.

Authorities had originally requested of church leaders to demolish their own churches. “How can we do that?” asked Paima Berutu, one of the church leaders: “It is impossible [for us to take it down] … Some of us watched [the demolition] from afar, man and women. It was painful.”

The situation in Aceh remains tense: “Every church member is guarding his own church right now,” said another pastor

As for the displaced Christians, many remain destitute, waiting for “desperately needed clean water, food, clothes, baby food, blankets, and medicines.” As Muslim militants were reportedly guarding the border with an order to kill any Christians crossing the line, reaching the Christians is difficult.

Many Muslims and some media try to justify this destruction by pointing out that the churches were in the wrong for not being registered. In reality, however, thanks to Indonesia’s 2006 Joint Decree on Houses of Worship, it is effectively impossible to obtain a church permit. The decree made it illegal for churches to acquire permits unless they can get “signatures from 60 local households of a different faith,” presumably Muslims, as well as “a written recommendation from the regency or municipal religious affairs office” — that is, from the local sheikh and council of Muslim elders: the same people most likely to incite Muslims against Christians and churches during mosque gatherings. Christian activists say there are many mosques that are unregistered and built without permits, but the authorities ignore those infractions.

Others try to justify these recent attacks on churches by pointing out that they took place in Aceh, the only region in Indonesia where Islamic law, or Sharia, is officially authorized, and where, since 2006, more than 1,000 churches have been shut.

Yet in other parts of Indonesia, where Islamic law is not enforced, even fully registered churches are under attack. These include the Philadelphia Protestant Church in Bekasi — nearly 1,500 miles south of Sharia-compliant Aceh. Even though it had the necessary paperwork, it too was illegally shut down in response to violent Muslim protests. On December 25, 2012, when the congregation assembled on empty land to celebrate Christmas, hundreds of Muslims, including women and children, threw rotten eggs, rocks, and plastic bags filled with urine and feces at the Christians. Police stood by and watched.

A church spokesman stated, “We are constantly having to change our location because our existence appears to be unwanted, and we have to hide so that we are not intimidated by intolerant groups. … We had hoped for help from the police, but after many attacks on members of the congregation [including when they privately meet for worship at each other’s homes], we see that the police are also involved in this.

Bogor is another area where Islamic law is supposedly not enforced. Yet the ongoing saga of the GKI Yasmin Church there illustrates how Islamic law takes precedence over Indonesian law. In 2008, when local Muslims began complaining about the existence of the church, even though it was fully registered, the authorities obligingly closed it. In December 2010, the Indonesian Supreme Court ordered the church to be reopened, but the mayor of Bogor, refusing to comply, kept it sealed off.

Since then, the congregation has been holding Sunday services at the homes of members, and occasionally on the street, to the usual jeers and attacks by Muslim mobs. On Sunday, September 27, the church held its 100th open-air service.

The Indonesian jihad is taking place in varying degrees all throughout the East Asian nation and is not limited to Sharia-compliant zones such as Aceh. For the country once hailed as the face of “moderate Islam,” the “extremist” behavior one would expect of the Islamic State (ISIS) — hating, attacking, and demolishing churches — has apparently become the norm.

Raymond Ibrahim is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War in Christians (published by Regnery in cooperation with Gatestone Institute, April 2013).

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The U.S. Embassy’s Problem in Indonesia Isn’t Scheduling

Fireworks for the Fourth of July in Washington D.C.

Fireworks for the Fourth of July in Washington D.C.

Fourth of July celebrations were re-scheduled out of respect for Ramadan. This approach highlights Western inability to engage constructively with the Islamic world.

Clarion Project, by Elliot Friedland, June 8, 2015:

This year the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, celebrated the Fourth of July a month early so as to avoid clashing with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Not only is this absurd, but what could have been a beautiful and respectful intercultural moment instead became a case study of the problematic and wrong-headed way Western leaders often engage with the Muslim world.

The Fourth of July, as America’s Independence Day, should be marked on that day by members of its diplomatic corps, who are America’s representatives around the world. After all, it is the job of American ambassadors to represent their country. That includes proudly celebrating American holidays and presenting the best of America to the world.

Moving Independence Day, on the other hand, belittles America’s standing in the world and shows others that America’s traditions, customs and festivals are negotiable.

The baffling part is that the Fourth of July is not in any way incompatible with Ramadan. One is a religious holy month that Muslims believe commemorates the first revelation of the Quran by Mohammed. The other is a national holiday celebrating independence.

Fourth of July celebrations could easily have been combined with an iftar dinner, the traditional Muslim post-Ramadan feast, taking place after dark and after the fasting has ended. Fireworks are better at night anyway.

Such a thing would have been an appropriate and encouraging demonstration of two cultures coming together in mutual respect to honor each other’s traditions.

Celebrating iftar and the Fourth of July one after the other should also have been no problem, if celebrating them both together seems too much like celebrating neither. If that would not have worked, a more low-key (and foodless) celebration during the day could easily have been arranged.

Many countries around the world celebrate such days and there is no indication that celebrating them causes offense to Muslims (or other faith groups).

Radical Islamists find national holidays offensive because they don’t believe in nations, holding instead that sovereignty belongs to Allah alone and power should be wielded in his name by the caliph. No doubt they will be overjoyed at the decision of America to move the Fourth of July.

But radical Islamists are not the group with which that America needs to be ingratiating itself. On the contrary, they have to be firmly and resolutely opposed to this group.

In and of itself, moving Independence Day is purely symbolic and some might argue, trivial.

But in diplomacy, symbols are very important. This is symptomatic of a broader unease and inability of Western leaders to engage constructively with Islam. In this case they simply negated the American in deference to the Islamic – a pointless gesture which only serves to embolden radicals, infuriate anti-Muslim bigots and confuse moderates.

In other cases, such as Dutch MP Geert Wilders’ preposterous call to ban the Quran, Westerners have demanded that Muslims negate their tradition, religion and culture.

Both approaches are fundamentally flawed.

If we are serious about combatting radical Islamism and supporting open and tolerant Muslim societies then we have to be confident in the ability of two cultures to interact together.

Rather than being a fine example of cultural sensitivity, this moving of Independence Day sends the message that the organizers themselves do not believe that American Independence is compatible with Islam.

That is a far bigger problem than mere scheduling.

Egypt Proposes ‘International Law to Criminalize Contempt of Religion’

Reuters

Reuters

Breitbart, by THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, PH.D, June 8, 2015:

On Sunday, Egypt’s minister for Religious Endowments, Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, called for an “international law to criminalize contempt of religion,” which would make it a crime to publish articles or cartoons showing disdain or ridicule of religions.

Contempt of religion is already illegal in Egypt, with a punishment of between six months and five years in prison and a fine of 500 to 1,000 Egyptian pounds. In recent years, many people have been arrested on this charge and faced trial. As recently as last week, an Islamic show host was sentenced to prison in absentia for accusations of being in contempt of religion.

A Ministry official announced the proposal in Gomaa’s name during a conference for world religious leaders in Kazakhstan this weekend.

Though Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has not publicly weighed in on the proposal, he has been calling upon Egypt’s Islamic institutions, including Al-Azhar, the Ministry of Religious Endowments, and Dar Al-Iftaa to “renew religious discourse” since early this year.

The president has emphasized the importance of “correcting religious speech so that it is in accordance with the tolerant Islamic teachings,” as well as insisting that it “eliminate sectarian disputes and confront extremism and militancy.”

This is not the first time such a proposal has been made. Last January, following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, the Qatar-based International Union of Muslim Scholars called for protection for “prophets” and urged Islamic countries to submit a draft law to the UN, outlawing defamation of religions. The union said the UN should then issue a “law criminalizing contempt of religions and the prophets and all the holy sites.”

Though Gomaa has said he believes such an international law should criminalize contempt of religion universally, “without any discrimination,” skeptics are already wondering whether a statute of this sort would not invite selective enforcement based on personal beliefs.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, a legal organization, warned that under such a law, “anyone could be presented to court” for publishing an article, images or any material on any religion if the opinion expressed is different from that of the ruling faction.

The warning is not an exercise in hyperbole. Complaints of selective enforcement of Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa are a regular occurrence in countries that still have them, such as Indonesia, Pakistan, and even Egypt itself.

According to Paul Marshall of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, while Islam is zealously guarded, people publicly insult Judaism and its adherents “everyday and every way in Egypt,” without anyone being called to task under the contempt of religion law.

Thus, while the Egyptian law is, in theory, meant to discourage people from offending people’s religious sensitivities, it is, instead, used to stifle free speech and intimidate those who do not subscribe to the standard.

More importantly, the principles of freedom of speech and of the press are meant not only to protect the speech of individuals with whom we agree, but above all, to protect those with whom we do not agree.

A healthy criticism of religion, like criticism of politics and culture, is a hallmark of a free society. All freedoms can be abused, but their abuse does not negate their value or the wisdom of defending them.

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