Today’s edition includes stories about a radicalisation prevention program that may backfire. A protest against Whole Foods over its link to Marc Gafni. Iglesia ni Cristo, a powerful cult of Christianity, endorses presidential candidates. Plus: Religion and Cult News Quick Takes
Additional items may be posted throughout the day.
Does the UK’s covert propaganda bid to stop people joining Isis alienate Muslims?
The UK government has embarked on a series of clandestine propaganda campaigns intended to bring about “attitudinal and behavioural change” among young British Muslims as part of a counter-radicalisation programme, the Guardian reports.
However, the methods of the Research, Information and Communications Unit (Ricu), which often conceal the government’s role, will dismay some Muslims and may undermine confidence in the Prevent counter-radicalisation programme, which already faces widespread criticism.
The paper sees it as a “sign of mounting anxiety across Whitehall over the persuasiveness of Islamic State’s online propaganda,” but notes that critics say it risks alienating UK Muslims.
The article says that “[m]uch of Ricu’s work is outsourced to a London communications company, Breakthrough Media Network.”
[Breakthrough Media Network’s] relationship with Ricu helps them get their own messages to a wider audience, and that they retain editorial control over counter-radicalisation communications.
However, a series of Ricu and Breakthrough documents seen by the Guardian show that Ricu privately says it is the one retaining editorial control, including over the products produced as part of these partnerships.
Inside Ricu, the shadowy propaganda unit inspired by the cold war: The Guardian unravels the secretive workings behind a campaign to stop UK Muslims from falling prey to Islamic State — The Guardian, May 2, 2016
Prevent strategy ‘sowing mistrust and fear in Muslim communities’: UK’s terror watchdog urges review of government’s anti-radicalisation scheme, saying it is significant source of grievance — The Guardian, Feb. 3, 2016
‘You worry they could take your kids’: is the Prevent strategy demonising Muslim schoolchildren?: Teachers now have a statutory duty to spot signs of ‘non-violent extremism’, with children as young as three being referred for anti-radicalisation. Does the policy safeguard vulnerable pupils — or discriminate against Muslims? — The Guardian, Sept. 23, 2015
Abuse Groups to Protest at Whole Foods 365 Launch in LA over links to Marc Gafni
National advocacy organizations for raising awareness of childhood sexual abuse issues are backing a protest at the inaugural opening of Whole Foods 365 store, May 25 in Los Angeles. Planning is underway for a coordinated protest at a Whole Foods store in New York City.
The protests are in response to Whole Foods co-founder and co-CEO John Mackey’s link to spiritual leader and former rabbi Marc Gafni, as reported by The New York Times in December.
More than 100 rabbis have authored a petition demanding that Whole Foods sever ties with Gafni.
Understanding the Marc Gafni Story, Part II, Mark Oppenheimer — Tablet, Dec. 29, 2015. A follow-up to the New York Times story mentioned above.
Why You Should Boycott Marc Gafni’s Movie, “RiseUp”, Huffington Post, May 3, 2016
Cult expert Steven Hassan keeps track of the Marc Gafni story on Twitter.
Philippines: Powerful cult of Christianity endorses presidential candidates
Iglesia ni Cristo, one of the largest and most powerful religious movements in the Third World, has officially endorsed Rodrigo Duterte for President and Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for Vice President in Monday’s national elections.
Members of the cultic movement vote en-bloc, falsely laiming that the Bible teaches the practice.
INC announced its endorsement through a circular read during worship service by executive minister Eduardo Manalo, who called on the sect’s members to vote as one on Monday.
“This is based on the teachings in the Bible that were taught to us even before we were accepted as members of the Church of Christ. We have faith that it is God’s teaching that there shouldn’t be division among us, but that we should be one in thinking and one in judgment,” Manalo said in Filipino.
The INC head cited I Corinthians 1:10 and Romans 15:6 in claiming that the sect’s unity came “in the name of Jesus Christ, for the glory of God and for the sake of the church.”
Theologically Iglesia ni Cristo is a cult of Christianity, since the movement’s teachings and practices fall outside the boundaries of the Christian faith.
Sociologically INC has some cult-like elements as well.
Recent scandals involving the Iglesia ni Cristo cast doubt on the practice of bloc voting. Will INC members still obey their ministers on election day? — Rappler, May 1, 2016.
Revolt in the Iglesia ni Cristo: Over 100 years old, no one ever imagined the INC was in the throes of dissension in 2015, with no less than members of the family entangled in a bitter quarrel — Rappler, Dec. 23, 2015.
Former INC pastor flees Philippines to seek refuge in Canada — Asian Pacific Post, May 5, 2016
Religion and Cult News Quick Takes
- Junkie jihadis and the narcotic ways of war
‘Reports of ISIS fighters, jihadist terrorists and insurgents fuelled by drugs on their murderous rampages have generated outrage and astonishment. Drugs and warfare have always gone hand in hand…’
- Amish beard-cutting convictions upheld by federal appeals court
Read more about this beard-cutting cult
- Scientology’s Attempts To Protect Tom Cruise & David Miscavige Against Tell-All Book Backfire
Wonder what has the destructive cult so worried? Read the book.
- ISIS banners at the gates of Europe
“[T]he Islamic State — in sovereign form, not merely as an idea — is now separated by only a relatively narrow stretch of water from the southern tip of Europe. […] From a European point of view, the nightmare scenario is not only the flow of migrants itself, nor the chance of IS attacks from the sea. Rather, the combination of the two — the prospect whereby IS will seek to infiltrate fighters and organizers into the continent by way of the flow of migrants is what keeps European security officials awake at night.”
- Are polygamous Mormons part of Western narrative? The High Country News thinks so
GetReligion, a blog that examines and critiques the way the media covers religion news, takes a look at how and why an environmental journal based in western Colorado covers a polygamous sect. The journal rarely reports on anything to do with religion, but it does address the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS). The FLDS, one of many offshoots of the Mormon Church, has been in the news due to the crimes committed by its leader, Warren Jeffs, and others in the cult.1
- Theologically the Mormon Church and its offshoots are considered cults of Christianity ↩