Martin Luther King Jr., Thief

Earlier this month, France’s top rabbi Gilles Bernheim resigned, brought down by a plagiarism scandal of his own making (see here and here and here). Geoffrey Alderman, in the Jewish Chronicle online, makes a very good point when, after roundly condemning Bernheim for his thievery, he asks

why one serial plagiarist has been exposed and disgraced, while another has been canonized.

Alderman says he knows a famous theologian who never repented and got away with repeated acts of plagiarism — and so do you.

That theologian is Martin Luther King Jr, the celebrated civil rights activist who was infamously assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, 45 years ago this month.

King … was not just a plagiarist. He was an habitual plagiarist. His Boston University PhD, awarded in 1955, contained numerous plagiarized passages — a conclusion endorsed by a board of inquiry established by that university some years later. To those of you interested in learning more about this, I recommend Plagiarism & The Culture War, a meticulous exposé of King by Theodore Pappas from 1994. Pappas reproduces, side-by-side, passages from King’s PhD and from the work of a fellow Boston University student, whose doctoral dissertation had been approved in 1952.


King went on to publish articles and books that incorporated — without attribution — passages lifted from the works of others.

I knew of King’s well-deserved reputation as a serial adulterer, but the plagiarism allegations were new to me. They shouldn’t have been, I suppose, because as it turns out, King’s thievery is a well-established fact. Wikipedia delicately refers to “authorship issues” surrounding the civil-rights hero — but stripped of euphemisms, King’s behavior was clearly pretty disgusting:

During the late 1980s, as [King’s personal] papers were being organized and catalogued, the staff of the project discovered that King’s doctoral dissertation at Boston University, titled A Comparison of the Conception of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman, included large sections from a dissertation written by another student (Jack Boozer) three years earlier at Boston University.

As Clayborne Carson, director of the King Papers Project at Stanford University, has written, “instances of textual appropriation can be seen in his earliest extant writings as well as his dissertation. The pattern is also noticeable in his speeches and sermons throughout his career.”

Boston University, where King received his Ph.D. in systematic theology, conducted an investigation that found he plagiarized major portions of his doctoral thesis from various other authors who wrote about the topic.

According to civil rights historian Ralph E. Luker, who worked on the King Papers Project directing the research on King’s early life, King’s paper The Chief Characteristics and Doctrines of Mahayana Buddhism was taken almost entirely from secondary sources. [Luker] writes: “Moreover, the farther King went in his academic career, the more deeply ingrained the patterns of borrowing language without clear attribution became. Thus, the plagiarism in his dissertation seemed to be, by then, the product of his long-established practice.”

Even after the extent of King’s academic fraud came to light, Boston University never revoked his doctorate. All the school did was append a letter to his dissertation in the university library, noting the plagiarism.

This old Stranglers song sums it up for me.

[photo of Martin Luther King via Charisma News]

Making Amends, Making A New Movie: Weepy Dutch ‘Fitna’ Blasphemer Converts to Islam

Arnoud van Doorn, who came to modest prominence as a Dutch politician for the anti-immigration / anti-Islam PVV party, had a remarkable change of heart recently. He has seen the light, the truth, and the way — and it is Islam, van Doorn has decided.

In other words, the Dutchman is a convert to the very religion he justifiably made a career out of criticizing and lampooning.

Formerly a close associate of PVV head honcho Geert Wilders, with whom he made the 16-minute movie Fitna (below) to show that Islam is an inherently violent faith, van Doorn now distances himself from Wilders, the PVV, and Fitna.

Last month, when he broke the news of his conversion with a Tweet that said “there is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his Prophet,” most people thought it was a prank, some comedy performance whose punchline would soon be revealed. But if van Doorn is playing a hoax on us, he has the stamina — and the cojones — of a prize bull camel.

Over the past couple of days, the newly-minted Dutch Muslim visited the prophet Mohammed’s mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia, and then traveled on to Mecca for meetings with Islamic officials who presented him with a deluxe copy of the Qur’an. According to local media, van Doorn not only “wept in repentance” for his “evil deeds”; he also shed “tears of remorse.”

Yesterday, the Saudi Gazette published this photo of van Doorn:


The caption reads:

Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, head of the Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, delivers a copy of the Holy Qur’an to Arnoud Van Doorn during a reception in Makkah on Sunday as Shahzad Muhammad (right), head of the Canadian Dawa Association (CDA), looks on.

Van Doorn understands people’s surprise over his 180-degree turn, he told Al-Jazeera.

“In my own close circle people have known that I have been actively researching the Qur’an, Hadith, Sunnah and other writings for almost a year now. In addition, I have had numerous conversations with Muslims about the religion.” …

“I have heard so many negative stories about Islam, but I am not a person who follows opinions of others without doing my own research,” he said. “Therefore, I have actually started to deepen my knowledge of Islam out of curiosity.”

After that, there was more crying (emotionally, van Doorn may well be the Dutch twin of perennially teary House Speaker John Boehner):

“I couldn’t control my feelings when I stood in front of the grave of the Prophet (pbuh) as well as in Rawdah Sharif, near the pulpit used by the Prophet (pbuh). When I prayed at Rawdah Sharaif [Mohammed’s mosque, TF], my eyes were full of tears as I had the feeling that I am in a part of the Paradise.”

But that’s not all. Van Doorn announced that he will soon make another movie: a positive and reverential one about the Muslim warrior-prophet he has come to love. It’ll be the antithesis of this:

The Moral Compass team will let you know when his exciting new film debuts. We’re sure there won’t be a dry eye in the house, least of all van Doorn’s.

Is Church ‘Good For You’? Jury Still Out.

Quite the statement by an op-ed contributor to the New York Times:

One of the most striking scientific discoveries about religion in recent years is that going to church weekly is good for you.

That’s a line from a short essay the Times published yesterday, called “The Benefits of Church.”

The term “scientific discovery” conjures up hard science — the ones and zeros of digital data, rock-solid math, the incontrovertible observations of physics — and that’s not at all what we’re looking at here. What author T.M. Luhrmann (photo) claims as the scientific truth is in fact a squishy, shapeshifting approximation of it, that can change completely depending on whom you ask, what religion they adhere to, what type of god they believe in, and even where they live. More on that in a minute.


Religious attendance — at least, religiosity — boosts the immune system and decreases blood pressure. It may add as much as two to three years to your life. The reason for this is not entirely clear.

But Luhrmann gamely gives it a go:

Regular church attendees drink less, smoke less, use fewer recreational drugs and are less sexually promiscuous than others.

Exactly. And those behaviors have nothing to do with church (or religion) per se. Refraining from promiscuity, booze, and drugs bestows likely health benefits that are also enjoyed by people who choose these things without ever setting foot inside a church.

Luhrmann also believes in the life-lengthening religious power of what she calls “absorption,” which she describes as

the capacity to be caught up in your imagination, in a way you enjoy. What I saw in church as an anthropological observer was that people were encouraged to listen to God in their minds, but only to pay attention to mental experiences that were in accord with what they took to be God’s character, which they took to be good. I saw that people were able to learn to experience God in this way, and that those who were able to experience a loving God vividly were healthier — at least, as judged by a standardized psychiatric scale.

Fine, but I’d wager that non-believers who meditate, or who frequently immerse themselves in the comfort of a quiet forest spot or a beautiful night sky, will experience the same effect. Absorption can even come from losing yourself in poetry, art, or music.

As for that psychiatric scale to which Luhrmann refers, maybe we can spare a thought for the fact that a belief in the classical, wrathful Christian god is substantially correlated with different types of mental illness, as a team of psychologists at Marymount Manhattan College found recently. I wrote about it here. Are those believers healthier, and will they live longer? I doubt it.

Further putting the kibosh on Luhrmann’s theory is that church, and religious faith in general, is often highly stressful for believers. For instance, the less flexible of religious faiths (such as Wahhabi Islam, hard-line Christian evangelism, and conservative Catholicism) tend to do a number on young people, gay or straight, who are intelligent and courageous enough to ask question. Those with probing attitudes are typically frowned upon by their elders and by many of their less-critical peers, which often leaves them socially unmoored and ‘lost’ for a number of years, while they work through religious issues. Surely such a state of mind is not a contributor to great health.

Neither, by the way, is living in any society, from the West Bank to Myanmar to Northern Ireland, where there is a lot of religious hatred, and where people must frequently fear for their safety. (In that same vein: If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably sense, as do I, that the rapists, thieves, and murderers who populate it neither spread nor enjoy inner peace and calm.)

Even in the relatively strife-free parts of the West, it’s clear that outsized guilt over sexual and other matters is part and parcel of much of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Guilt cannot be conducive to overall health, I should think.

Finally, there’s the quality-of-life issue. I’d rather enjoy myself thoroughly, and live two or three or even ten years shorter, than spend my life on my knees praying to a figment of the collective imagination, and carefully hewing to the fingerwagging tenets of a buzzkill faith.

‘Glory,’ a Zombie Woman, Excites the Faithful

An apparent case of mistaken identity in Tanzania has caused horror and morbid curiosity among locals, who claim it is proof that people can rise from the dead.

A woman who many believe died and was buried five years ago was seen again the other day. (I guess we could say she resurfaced.)


She has been admitted to a hospital’s intensive care unit to help keep out the spooked and the curious. Initially, the ex-corpse had been given standard hospital accommodations, but the medical facility soon found itself under siege from throngs of people trying to get a closer look to the ostensible zombie.

Though the woman, who formally remains unnamed as family members haven’t yet shown up to confirm her identity, is unable or unwilling to speak, she does sing and chant, but only at night, says physician Gasper Nduasinde, a member of the hospital’s medical team. After dark, he says, she bursts out in religious songs and prayers.

The one time she did manage to squawk a word in an attempted conversation, it was to say that her name is Utukufu  — “Glory.”

[T-shirt via Teenormous]

Islamist Plotters Sentenced in Toy-Car Attack

It was a plan that seemed to come straight out of the U.K. comedy Four Lions, a movie about hapless homegrown jihadists (recommended). Or maybe it was inspired by the Stonehenge scene in This is Spinal Tap (watch the funny at 2m14s).

But this was no fiction: Islamist would-be terrorists in Britain were sentenced to extended jail time for plotting an attack on British reserve troops by using a remote-controlled toy car packed with explosives.

Investigators said Thursday Britain’s domestic spy agency of MI5 and police were able to stop Zahid Iqbal, Mohammed Sharfaraz Ahmed, Umar Arshad and Syed Farhan Hussain before they could launch the deadly attack.


Iqbal and Ahmed were given extended sentences of 16 years and 3 months, which means they will be in jail for more than 11 years and put on parole for the rest of the time. Arshad was sentenced to more than six years in jail, while Hussain received more than five years. …

The men were recorded discussing sending a remote-controlled toy car carrying a homemade bomb under the gates of an army reservist center in Luton, and speaking of using instructions in an al-Qaida manual to make an improvised explosive device.

[perp photos via the Washington Post]

Pastor Nicks Church Member’s Knickers ‘To Pray’

A thieving pastor’s pure intentions became clear after he was caught with a congregant’s missing panties and bra: He explained that he needed them to pray for her.

The police in Lagos [Nigeria] on Monday arraigned a 25-year-old pastor, Tommy Issachar, over an alleged stealing of a female church  member’s underwear and N10,000 ($63) cash.


[The prosecutor] said that the accused stole two pants, one bra and a cash sum of N10,000 belonging to Mrs Gift Bassey.

“The accused, a pastor of All Nations Evangelical Church, Oshodi, was invited to a programme at the headquarters of the church which was the complainant’s church. The complainant and her husband accommodated him (pastor) in their house for three nights to conduct a special prayer session related to her husband’s business,” he said. …

“At first, the accused denied taking those underwears but later confessed that he actually took them. He said that he wanted to use them to pray for her, but denied taking the money,” the prosecutor said.

After the victim notified the police, the pastor allegedly sent her a series of text messages threatening to “eliminate” her.

[image via Sharenator]

Slut Shaming of the Third Kind

A group of self-styled modesty enforcers in Kenya attacked a women for wearing a skirt that they deemed too short; and to show their horror of female flesh, they forcibly stripped her naked and ripped up every last bit of clothing she was wearing.

The men attacked the woman claiming that she was dressed inappropriately. The woman was spotted walking on the street in Kitengela, a town in Kenya.


The angry mob claimed the dress was too short. They argued with the woman to change into something more appropriate. When the woman ignored their request the men attacked her and undressed her.

The men then ripped her clothing apart so she could not put them back on, claiming that “it was better for her to go naked because her intentions were clear,” according to press reports in Kenya. …

“Most women in the town of Kitengela dress modestly, and everyone is expected to adhere to their standards,” [said witness] Aminah Wangai.

The reports do not specify the religion of the attackers, but don’t point your finger at the usual suspects just yet. Kenya is overwhelmingly Christian  — appr. 83% of the population — and only 11 percent Muslim.

[image via Glogster]

Amusing Church Signs

A church just down the road from where I live frequently tries its hand at patriotism and clever aphorisms — and comes up short on both accounts.


Apparently god doesn’t believe in spelling either.

The Tsarnaevs’ Islam: Boxing Bad, Bombing Good

Who knows what goes through the demented minds of religious killers? A news team at the Wall Street Journal put together a relatively thorough profile of suspected Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and while it’s not exactly enlightening — mental pathology is difficult to enlighten — it is plenty sad and often chilling.

Some passages:

His mother encouraged him to turn to Islam. “I told Tamerlan that we are Muslim, and we are not practicing our religion, and how can we call ourselves Muslims?” Mrs. Tsarnaeva said. “And that’s how Tamerlan started reading about Islam, and he started praying, and he got more and more and more into his religion.

Tell me again how more piety = better morals.

Tamerlan quit drinking and smoking, gave up boxing because he thought it was in opposition to his religion, and began pushing the rest of his family to pursue stricter ways, his mother recalled.

“You know how Islam has changed me,” his mother, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in Makhachkala, Dagestan, says he told her. …

Tamerlan persuaded his mother to cover herself up, which she says at one point distressed her husband, Anzor. “He said, ‘You are being crazy, covering yourselves,'” she recalled her husband saying. She said that she told him, “This is what Islamic men should want. This is what I am supposed to do.”

Allah commanded it. And soon, in her son’s mind, Allah started commanding a lot of other things too.

People who knew him say Tamerlan would express outrage when he perceived a religious slight and was critical of Muslim immigrants’ efforts to assimilate in the U.S.

In one incident last November, Tamerlan confronted a shopkeeper at a Middle Eastern grocery store in Cambridge, near a mosque where he sometimes prayed, after seeing a sign there advertising Thanksgiving turkeys. “Brother, why did you put up this sign?” the shopkeeper, Abdou Razak, recalled him asking angrily. “This is kuffar” — an Arabic reference to non-Muslims — “that’s not right!”

At Friday prayers that month, Tamerlan stood up and challenged a sermon in which the speaker said that, just like “we all celebrate the birthday of the Prophet, we can also celebrate July 4 and Thanksgiving,” according to Yusufi Vali, a mosque spokesman. Mr. Vali said Tamerlan stated that he “took offense to celebrating anything,” be it the Prophet’s birthday (which not all Muslims celebrate) or American holidays.

Tamerlan also protested at Friday prayers in January, around the Martin Luther King Day holiday, when a speaker compared the civil-rights leader with the Prophet Muhammad, Mr. Vali said. Tamerlan interrupted the sermon and called the speaker a hypocrite.

But the most neck-snappingly bizarre snippet from the whole article is the answer to why Tamerlan Tsarnaev stopped boxing, a sport for which he had a rare talent.

[His father] Anzor Tsarnaev said he was “outraged” by his son’s decision to drop boxing. He said Tamerlan told him that a Muslim must not punch another man in the face. [emphasis added]

In this version of Islam, Allah tells you not to punch another man in the face — but says it’s fine to blow up innocent people by detonating pressure cookers filled with shrapnel.

In summary:


Got that?

Nigerian Islamists Clash With Soldiers: 185 Dead

While I have no deep affection for Christianity, at least Christ was the peacenik hippie type, whereas Mohammed was a highway robber and warlord. You could say that Boko Haram and its fellow Islamist thugs only follow in their blessed prophet’s footsteps.

Fighting between Nigeria‘s military and Islamist extremists killed at least 185 people in a fishing community in the nation’s far northeast, officials said on Sunday.


The fighting in Baga began Friday and lasted for hours, sending people fleeing into the arid scrublands surrounding the community on Lake Chad. The unrest saw insurgents fire rocket-propelled grenades and soldiers spray machine-gun fire into neighbourhoods filled with civilians.

By Sunday, when government officials felt safe enough to see the destruction, homes, businesses and vehicles were burned throughout the area.

The assault marks a significant escalation in the long running insurgency Nigeria faces in its predominantly Muslim north, with extremists mounting a coordinated assault on soldiers using military-grade weaponry.

[image via Asian History]

A Regular Find: Fetuses in Church Bathrooms

When you find three fetuses in a church’s women’s bathroom, as happened yesterday in the Philippines, it might be worth wondering whether the remains were left by a regular female churchgoer who could enter and exit the place without drawing suspicion. But that’s not really how this news story is presented:

Three fetuses were found inside the toilet of a church in Novaliches, Quezon City, Saturday morning.

Flora Duran, a maintenance worker, was cleaning the women’s room at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy on Quirino Highway around 8 a.m. when she discovered the fetuses stuffed in a green shopping bag.

Novaliches police station investigators said the discovery raised the possibility that an abortionist was operating just within the community.


I see. “An abortionist” who is “operating just within the community.” Very delicate language there, rich with the politics of distancing and prevaricating.

But fetuses show up in church bathrooms in the Philippines more often than you might think. So often, in fact, that Manila’s archbishop wrote a pastoral letter about it a few years ago.

Alarmed over the number of fetuses left in churches and other public places, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales Thursday issued a pastoral letter to remind Catholics about the “evils of abortion.”

On Tuesday night, two fetuses were found in Manila’s most prominent Catholic churches — the Manila Cathedral and Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo.

The first, believed to be that of a six to seven month-old boy, was discovered by a churchgoer at Manila Cathedral in Intramuros at around 5 p.m. … At about 6:45 p.m., another fetus was found inside a box in Quiapo Church by a Black Nazarene devotee who thought it contained a bomb.

More Filipino church-fetus cases here and here and here.

[cartoon via sodahead]

No Milk Today (And For the Last 55,000 Days)

The village of Chaura in Jharkhand, India, boasts a nice herd of cows. Each family owns at least two of the bovines. Almost anywhere in the world that means a steady supply of milk, but Chaura is different. For a century and a half, maybe longer, no one has dared milk the local cows. The villagers love milk, but they trek back and forth to buy it from neighboring hamlets.

Why? It’s on the advice of a 19th-century Hindu priest, says one of the elders, Kunaram Hansda, 70.

“My father used to say a priest had warned the villagers not to milk the cows,” he said, adding, “Those who dare to defy the diktat suffer physically and mentally.”

Local lore has it that some ancestors had killed two black cats for sneaking up to their kitchens and emptying the milk pots. Days later, several villagers fell sick as “the cats’ spirits” lay a curse on the village. Thereafter, goes the story, anyone consuming the milk of their cows would fall ill.

Some say that Chaura’s cows will only produce cursed milk that turns red, but no one has apparently dared put the claim to the test for generations.

If the liquid did turn out to have a reddish tint, there would be a good explanation — and the spirits of dead cats have nothing to do with it.

Dr Manoj Tiwary, veterinary physician and junior research officer at the Institute of Animal Health and Production (IAHP), Ranchi, said, “These cows might be suffering from Mastitis disease due to which blood sometimes mixes with the milk, giving it a reddish colour. It’s a bacterial disease and prone to be contagious. But [the reason] would be clear only after a proper examination of the cows.”

For now, the 150-odd families of Chaura will just continue to buy their milk elsewhere, spending their meager resources on something they could produce themselves, and enriching their neighbors in nearby villages.