Ramadan Kareem 736.3

by Michael Josephson on August 16, 2011

in Commentaries, The Nature of Character

Ramadan Kareem. Ramadan Mubarak. Kul ‘am wa enta bi-khair! (May every year find you in good health!)

Please forgive my pronunciation, but I want to respectfully offer warm wishes and greetings to my Muslim brothers and sisters during the holy month of Ramadan.

To those whose entire perspective of Islam and the Qur’an is shaped by fear and hatred of Muslim extremists committed to the concept of jihad, violent holy war against non-Muslims, it is important to know that the vast majority of the one and a half billion Muslims in the world have the same aversion to terrorism and murder as you and I.

Just as most Jews and Christians do not define their beliefs or guide their lives by the hard passages of the Bible that endorse cruel, violent, unjust, and intolerant behavior, most Muslims do not live by similarly hard passages of the Qur’an.

Most Muslims draw on their holy scripture for lessons about virtue and living a good and worthy life.

During Ramadan, devout Muslims demonstrate their faith through prayer, fasting, and righteous conduct. They are expected to avoid unkind acts and words and resist the sins of envy, greed, and anger. Although charity and good deeds are always important in Islam, they have special significance during Ramadan, as reflection on the meaning of life and the self-discipline and sacrifice entailed in the prayers and fasting are meant to enhance understanding, sympathy, and charity for those who are less fortunate.

The spirit of Ramadan is gratitude and loving kindness.

So I close with these traditional wishes:

May the Ramadan bring you peace and prosperity, good health and wealth, and brighten your life forever. May the spirit of Ramadan illuminate the world and show us the way to peace and harmony.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

__________

More on Ramadan, adapted from infoplease’s “Ramadan and Eid-al-Fitr” page, and Wikipedia’s “Ramadan” page.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, in which each month begins with the sighting of the new moon. Because the lunar calendar is about 11 days shorter than the solar calendar, Islamic holidays “move” each year. In 2011, Ramadan began at sundown on July 31st and will end on the evening of August 30.

Muslims believe that during the month of Ramadan, Allah revealed the first verses of the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam to the prophet Muhammad.

Ramadan is a month to get closer to the almighty and recommit to religious principles. Prayer, fasting, and self-sacrifice rituals are intended to teach Muslims about patience, spirituality, humility, gratitude, charity, and other virtues of human perfection.

Muslims practice sawm, or fasting, for the entire month of Ramadan. This means that they may eat or drink nothing, including water, while the sun shines. Fasting is one of the Five Pillars (duties) of Islam. As with other Islamic duties, all able Muslims take part in sawm from about age twelve.

During Ramadan in the Muslim world, most restaurants are closed during the daylight hours. Families get up early for suhoor, a meal eaten before the sun rises. After the sun sets, the fast is broken with a meal known as iftar. Iftar usually begins with dates and sweet drinks that provide a quick energy boost.

Fasting serves many purposes. While they are hungry and thirsty, Muslims are reminded of the suffering of the poor. Fasting is also an opportunity to practice self-control and to cleanse the body and mind. And in this most sacred month, fasting helps Muslims feel the peace that comes from spiritual devotion as well as kinship with fellow believers.

In addition to fasting, participating Muslims refrain from sex and other self-indulgences during daylight hours.

On the evening of the last day of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate the night Muhammad first received the revelation of the Holy Qur’an. According to the Qur’an, this is when God determines the course of the world for the following year.

Ramadan ends with the festival of Eid al-Fitr, which in 2011 occurs on August 30. Literally the “Festival of Breaking the Fast,” Eid al-Fitr is one of the two most important Islamic celebrations. (The other occurs after the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca.) At Eid al-Fitr, people dress in their finest clothes, adorn their homes with lights and decorations, give treats to children, and enjoy visits with friends and family.

Story of Muhammad and the Roots of Islam, adapted from Between Sundays

Muhammad was born in 570. His father died around the time of his birth, and his mother died when he was six years old. He was raised by his grandfather and an uncle who was a tribal leader. (In those days, most people living in Arabia were nomads. Families, or clans, were organized together into tribes.)

The only people more powerful than tribal leaders were poets. Poets were believed to be possessed of spirits known as “jinn” that inhabit the natural world. Arabs believed jinn could work good and evil, so keeping the spirits happy was important: Most tribes also believed in other gods and goddesses, including Allah (the creator of the universe) and his three daughters.

Each year local tribesmen visited Mecca to see the KaBah, an area built around a mysterious and sacred black stone (possibly a meteorite) that contained a sanctuary dedicated to these goddesses. With these annual pilgrimages, Mecca became an important commercial center as well as a religious center.

During Muhammad’s early adult life in Mecca, Arabian society began to become more concerned with individual prosperity than clan and tribal community. At age 25, Muhammad married an older, wealthy merchant woman. He became involved in commerce and traveled frequently to areas north of Mecca, where Christianity and Judaism were prominent.

Muhammad was only mildly happy with the comforts that wealth brought, and he was quite concerned about the decline of traditional values and community. He began to spend a lot of time alone in meditation and prayer.

In 610 Muhammad was traveling home one night when he passed a poor and homeless boy staring blankly out in the night. This caused Muhammad to reflect more deeply about how more people seemed concerned only about themselves. Tribal wars were increasing, and in Mecca money and commerce seemed to dominate everyone’s thoughts and actions. He was troubled when he thought of the misery of poor people like this young boy.

Consumed by these thoughts, Muhammad went to a favorite cave outside Mecca to spend the night fasting and meditating. As he sat in silence, the angel Gabriel appeared, held Muhammad tightly in his arms, and ordered him to recite a short set of words. When Muhammad did so, the angel released him and disappeared. As Muhammad fled from the cave, he heard a voice say, “Muhammad, you are the Messenger of God. And I am Gabriel.”

When Muhammad got home, he told his wife Khadijah what he had seen and heard. He said he was afraid he was losing his mind. But the visions of Gabriel continued. Each time Muhammad was asked to recite certain words before the vision would let him go. Khadijah was sure the words had come from God and that Muhammad had been chosen by Gabriel to be a messenger of God, just as the angel had said. It took Muhammad several years of experiencing the visions to come to believe they were truly revelations from God.

By 613 Muhammad was preaching openly in the streets. He declared that there was only one God, Allah. He preached that Allah was all-powerful and that a day of judgment would come to all people. To worship any other gods, or jinn, was to violate the absolute oneness of Allah. The merchants and leaders in Mecca saw Muhammad’s ideas as threats to the established religious system that kept them wealthy and in power. Hostility against Muhammad grew until his life was in danger.

In 619 Muhammad moved his family and supporters away from Mecca to nearby Ta’if for refuge. The main tribe there refused to let them stay, so they were forced to return to Mecca. That same year, both Muhammad’s wife and his uncle Abu Talib died. In the middle of his sadness and troubles, Muhammad had the most remarkable experience of his life.

One night Gabriel came to Muhammad in his sleep. But instead of talking to him, he flew with Muhammad on a winged horse to Jerusalem, where from a large rock, they ascended to heaven. In heaven Muhammad met with Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. At the end of his journey, it is said that Muhammad stood before God.

Muhammad’s followers increased and so did the hostility against them. In 622 Muhammad heard that a group from Mecca were planning to kill him. He arranged to leave Mecca that very night with Abu Bakr, his closest friend. They fled to a cave outside of town where they hid for three days. According to legend, the mouth of the cave was covered with a fine spider’s web just moments before the Meccan assassins rode by. When they saw the delicate web covering the entrance, they were sure no one could have recently gone inside.

Muhammad and Abu Bakr traveled to the city of Medina where they formed the first Islamic community. This journey, known today as Hijrah, marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Salim J Kanji August 18, 2011 at 9:46 pm

Mike,
When you thing about it, it’s a whole month of “Christmas Spirit”

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Anonymous August 18, 2011 at 10:17 pm

At the time Hitler came to power most Germans were peaceful respectful citizens living in harmony side by side with Jews. It didn’t take long before these individuals were singing a different tune slaughtering a people whose contributions to culture, science, and creativity are sorely missed. Don’t be so naive or so tolerant to assume that a people whose premise is frankly lack of tolerance that the world as we know it will never be the same.

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David August 19, 2011 at 3:08 am

I believe it is fair that most Germans, disagreed with what the Nazis were doing, and would have been especially repelled had they known of the extermination of Jews, but we still conquered Germany with military might, and won a declaration of surrender. How is the Arab World, who produces terrorists different? They will not think twice before killing you, or me. It is in my mind not pertinent that most Arabs might not agree with what their home grown terrorists do. If we have a war to fight, it is with all Arabs, not just one’s we choose. We have unwisely chosen to pour our money into a war we cannot win. The money however, is insignificant when compared with volumes of Americans lives we have lost in the war. Is this a moral way for our country to act? I say no!

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Dave P August 19, 2011 at 5:23 am

The Muslim Declaration of Independence:
All men are endowed by their creator with inalienable obligations to martyrdom, obedience and the pursuit of jihad.
I think this sums up the difference between Muslim and western cultures.

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John Silva August 19, 2011 at 9:02 am

I have appreciated your comments, theories and opinions in the past, I’m sorry to say I no longer care to hear your current liberal opinions and comments. The Muslim faith could very well be a peaceful movement, (to some) however, the lost lives of our men and woman on and off the battle field, both abroad and within our borders prove that peace is not at the forefront of their agenda. As my bible says, and Im paraphrasing, we will all be held accountable for what we say. It’s wiser to speak fewer words. Please remove me from your mailing list. And thank you for the words of wisdom you’ve shared in the past.

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R Toal August 19, 2011 at 9:16 am

Then why do their governments historically mistreat their Christian minorities? Why are leftists like Dr Josephson always acting like apologists for Islam?And yes, Apostasy for Islam is punishable by death which can be administered by any muslim with the opportunity to do so upon issuance of a fatwa by a muslim scholar.Yikes!!!
Still, you are correct, the vast majority of muslims are good people and I wish them well. Islam itself is incompatible with the values of western culture.Muhammad himself had enemies assassinated, prisoners executed; he had 13 wives including a 9 year old. He’s a great role model for our young men on how to treat women, right?

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Jean August 19, 2011 at 10:07 am

It would be easier to believe that the majority of Muslims decry the terrorist acts and the violence of their Muslim radicals if they stood up loud and clear and condemned this behavior. Sadly, I don’t see that happening which is why most of us learned all we needed to know about Islam on 9/11.

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Mike August 19, 2011 at 10:24 am

Michael,
I am glad to see there are still sane people, such as yourself, in this country. Individuals who have posted negative comments to your article are small minded people who are not willing to look beyond the sound bites they hear on TV. FRankly, there is minimal difference between Judaism, Christianty, and Islam values. They are like three ersions of the same software. They all have glitches and some people seem to focus on the glitches instead of focusing on what works. No religion out there is perfect. I myself don’t subscribe to any, but I like all religions and I do onto others…
Keep up the good work.
Mike

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Lisa August 19, 2011 at 10:27 am

It is not true that an Arab will kill you kill you without concern. I lived in the Arab world for 10 years and I never met an Arab like that! There are bad people in every culture if you have the courage to look and see the truth. From a world perspective many cultures are different from each other and it is our responsibility to learn other languages and cultures at the same time protect yourselves from harm.

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Jobu August 19, 2011 at 10:27 am

Jean, try turning off FOX News and Rush Limbaugh. Maybe then you’ll see it.

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Nevine August 19, 2011 at 10:30 am

It’s nice of you to wish them a happy Ramadan, but do we need to know about the history. You are right most of the people are good but it’s a hateful religion. No matter how nice we are to them they still think we are infidels. They are worse than the Germans.
Maybe as a project you should have someone translate the Koran for you………don’t read the English version. It has been sugar coated to mak them sound less violent. Only the ones that are educated and don’t practice the religion according to the Koran are the ones that can relate to the rest of the world.
If I sound bitter, I am, they invaded my country, threatened to kill us if we don’t convert or made us pay higher taxes…..we fled our own country for a better life away from them, and now, they have spread like wild fire.

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Anthony August 19, 2011 at 11:21 am

Reading these posts to your commentary is sad. Our nation’s history is mired with prejudice, intolerance and self-righteousness and here we are in 2011 with another new (fill in persecuted group) that the mob is ready to lynch. If you want to see peace in the world, it has to start from within, and that means changing our attitudes about our neighbors, regardless of their race, culture, religion, sexual orientation or political persuasion. And if you’re truly a follower of Christ, be honest with yourself and ask WWJD! Come on people, STOP THE HATE!

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Hughey August 19, 2011 at 3:09 pm

It’s not about hate. It’s about what is reality. I am afraid Jean has it right. Where is the Muslim community attempting to stop the terrorists? I am not educated in the religion to be at a point of judging, but I can tell you this: if there were Christians out in the world, committing equal acts of terrorism against the Arab world, the Christian community would be calling those terrorists to task.

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Jobu August 19, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Hughey and Jean both, step out of the bubble, unclog the military-industrial B.S. from your ears, and wipe the xenophobia from your eyes.
Here are several Islamic statements against terrorism:
http://kurzman.unc.edu/islamic-statements-against-terrorism/
And here’s a page with several links to Muslims’ condemnation of terrorism:
http://www.muhajabah.com/otherscondemn.php

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Elba August 19, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Hughey writes, “if there were Christians out in the world, committing equal acts of terrorism against the Arab world, the Christian community would be calling those terrorists to task.”
What do you mean “if”? By your statement, I just assume you protested against the war in Iraq. You cried out against the deaths of over 100,000 civilians. When Blackwater mercenaries gunned down unarmed civilians, you stood up and said “Not in my name!” When the Wikileaks video came out showing America’s good Christian helicopter pilots killing journalists and children, you called those terrorists to task.
And for that I thank you, Good Christian Hughey!

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Noora August 19, 2011 at 3:49 pm

I am a Muslim living in a Muslim land, your website is a great resource for my character building classes that I conduct in a local evening school, I couldnt believe it when it saw your post about Ramadhan, you have spoken the truth when it comes to us..thank you just doesn’t seem enough! If any one wants to know anything about Islam, for example, how porphet Muhammad treated his wives I will be more than happy to help, no my intention is not to convert, my intention is to bring all of us together, I want what you want peace and harmony in this world!

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R. Toal August 19, 2011 at 8:14 pm

First, Elba: Our troops are in Iraq in retaliation for the terrorist attack of 9/11, and as a preemptive move to prevent another attack. These actions are morally justifiable under “Just War” theory. Christianity has nothing to do with it. But, I suspect that you knew this but just ranted off anyway.
Second, Noora: There are plenty of sources for accurate information
about Islam without input from a non-scholar like you whose views are likely highly biased. Muhammad had 13 wives. His favorite was
Aisha who he bedded when she was 9 years old and he was in his early fifties. This behavior was not uncommon in seventh century
Arabia. The problem is that Muhammad is a role model for all time. The legal age for marriage for girls today in the Islamic republic of Iran is, yes you guessed it,nine years old.This is horrific.Try to imagine the lives of these girls. Its heart breaking and is uncivilized barbaric behavior.

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Nora August 20, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Being a Muslim teenager in high school is really hard when it comes to ramadan. Your influenced to say unkind things daily, inappropriate words are used commonly, and avoiding fasting is the easiest way to not be looked at like a freak. On top of that, most everyone has their mind set that all muslims screech,”Allah!” while they crash a plain into a building. Yes, we were at war with arabians. And yes, Usama Bin Laden was Muslim and muslims did attack on 9/11. But that doesn’t mean that being a muslim means your going to attack America. And this article reminds me that I have to be proud to be a muslim and to stand up for my Islamic Values. And I have to remember to be open minded, even when others are prejudice.

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David August 22, 2011 at 7:46 am

Obviously, you are a very intelligent person and in the past I have thoroughly enjoyed your commentaries related to character building. However, I must totally agree with John Silva in an earlier posted comment. I believe we are being naive to think that there is not a Muslim threat in just about every country in which Muslims reside in the world. No doubt there are “peaceful” Muslims out there, but can you tell me how I should be able to tell the difference between those that are “peaceful” and those who want to kill me and my family? I know of no other world religion that has a segment of members that will kill you if you do not accept their beliefs. I know of no other world religion that calls people who believe different than they “infidels.” Can you name one Muslim world leader who condemned the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center? Do you know what Sharia Law is in Muslim countries and the fact it is rearing its ugly head right here in America? This is America!! We have laws to protect our citizens. We do not need laws from other countries and/or cultures to be used here. Frankly, I am appalled that someone with your intelligence and influence can write a commentary on Muslims that I believe borders on ignorance. You would be well served to stick to a topic on which you are well versed – the development of character.

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A Muslim August 22, 2011 at 3:08 pm

As a Muslim and an American I would like to thank you for your article. Overall it was very good for someone outside the faith. I truly appreciate your effort and wish you good health now and for the year to come. I find it really ironic that so many of your readers display their lack of character in the their remarks, because it truly does count. Especially when dealing with someone you don’t like. It follows a trend that I see all across print media in the comment sections. I can tell you this. I feel HATE coming from the common non-Muslims, much more than I have even experienced from the common Muslim. Do you really think that with well over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world that if our religion told us to kill you and your loved ones for not being Muslim, that there would be ANY peace in the world, ever!? By the way, last I knew, Hilter was a Christian…

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Don August 22, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Thank you, Mr. Josephson, for your commentary. I hope you never let the naysayers above get you down. I find the level of hatred in their hearts equal to, or surpassing, the Muslims they purport to know…that exist only in their imagination…or, are found within the rantings of Fox News. I’ve worked with numerous Muslim Americans during my thirty-four year engineering career and have found all to be kind, hard-working, patriotic Americans who love this country. They, as with so many immigrants to America that I’ve known, have humbled this native-born American by their passion for America and its values…as they often have come from countries where there is no freedom…something I’ve never known. I honestly don’t know how to deal with the hatred shown by some of the posts above…other than to call it what it is.

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Mohammad Yacoob August 23, 2011 at 8:00 am

Michael, Thank you for writing about Ramadan. We Muslims believe in Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses & Jesus and other Prophets. I will not be a Muslim, if do not belive in them. The God in the Koran(Quran) ordered Muslims to fast and said that it was made obligatory for the earlier people and that Muslims are not exempt from it.
We have always condemned the terrorists among Muslims. I would like to quote Dr. Maheer Hathout, one of our American leaders who wrote in Los Angeles Times.

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Alison Tibbals August 24, 2011 at 11:08 am

For David……….what about the Christian religious fanatic and his followers who gunned down a Medical Doctor who performed legal abortions in the name of Jesus? When we look closer to home (and in our hearts) we are all the same, flawed, prejudiced humans attempting to make sense out of our world. Perhaps if we stop looking outward so much we’d have more time to work on ourselves peacefully.

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Mary August 24, 2011 at 12:29 pm

I have a dear muslim friend who dismisses the fact that Muhammed married 6 year old Aisha because “it was acceptable at the time”.
I don’t know of ANY adult that can fathom acceptance of such perversion. Much less the facts of Muhammad’s life: He beheaded the males of the Qurayzah tribe and enslaved their wives and children. Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf and Asma bint Marwan were poets who Muhammad ordered assassinated for mocking him!
Safiyya hint Huyayy, Muhammad took as his wife after killing her husband Kinana.
Zaynab was his daughter-in-law who he married by saying Allah commanded this.
Does this sound like someone worthy of your praise?

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LAWRENCE Chapman August 24, 2011 at 5:37 pm

NOT ALL MUSLIMS ARE TERRORIST BUT MY PROBLEM IS THAT YOU CAN’T TELL. I HAVE A NEIGHBOR WHO CLAIMS TO BE MUSLIM. I FEAR THAT HE MAY ONE DAY TURN OUT TO BE A TERRORIST. ISLAM IS NOT WHAT WE DEFINE A RELIGION. IT IS A WAY OF LIFE.

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Anisah D August 25, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Ramadan Kareem, I must say I’m saddened to read the arrogance and hate and bigotry of my fellow Americans. They mere the voice of Nazi Germany so well! As an American whose ancestry reaches all the way back to the Massachusetts Bay colonies & even Native America… I’m sick of my fellow Americans ASSUMING all Muslims are “foreign” simply because the religion is “foreign”. With that logic may I point out all Christians are foreigners and so are all Jews and everyone else who is not practicing the Red Road! Far too many of those commenting here clearly have never picked up a Quran and read it. Instead they have been spoon fed the Nazi propaganda of Hate being spewed by Islamophobic political and religious machines and talking heads. Its a shame too many of my fellow Americans don’t read for themselves any more. They are becoming easy sheep being herded to the slaughter for the sake of what? I pray we collectively pull our American pride out of the lower extremities soon; before we find we are truly no different than the dictatorships that were recently toppled by Muslims-Christians-Druze-Jews and other religious people in “Muslim nations”. Yeh, while they fight for democracy, it seems my own countrymen and women are becoming victims of their own hate. I pray that will soon change. My ancestors didn’t fight the American Revolution, war of 1812, Civil War, and many others so that our generation could give Tyranny a foothold in America.

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Robert Griffin August 26, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Ramadan Kareem Michael,
I am deeply saddened by many of the responses here. We listen too little and shout too loud. All too often we know neither our own history nor that of others.
Many Muslim leaders spoke out against suicide bombers and terrorism, but there was no perceived interest in the public, so the information was not widely published.
Are there disturbing things in the Koran? I am certain there are. Are there disturbing things in the Bible? I know there are. Do some Muslims want to impose harsh laws on their countries? Indeed yes. Do some Christians want to impose harsh laws on their countries? Absolutely (check out Theonomy and Dominionism for examples).
During the Middle Ages, the Moslems tended to treat the Christians in the same fashion as the Christians treated the Jews. Such behavior is always a temptation to a dominant group.
Did Moslems force conversion on some people and populations? Absolutely. Did Christians do that? Yes indeed. Charlemagne forced the Saxons to convert; the Teutonic Knights imposed Christianity on several north-central European populations.
And the Jews forced the Edomites to convert to Judaism.
There is more I would say, but too many have covered their hearts and ears with cement and blindfolded their eyes, that seeing they would not see, hearing they would not hear, and repentance would remain far from them.
Thanks for your courage,
Be Well,
Bob Griffin

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ray toal August 30, 2011 at 7:58 am

To my Muslim Friends and now my fellow citizens:
Immigrants don’t come to America and change it. Rather, they come to America and are changed by it just like my immigrant parents . They then work to change the place they come from to make it more like America.
Your job is to change the places you come from so they are more like America. You who come from Iran should try to get the minimum age for girls to be married from 9 yrs. to at least 15 yrs. You should all be working to see that christian minorities in muslim countries get the same rights that you claim in this country.

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