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'I Have Embraced Islam and Say the Word Allah'

Forced conversion to Islam trickles into the news. Plus: W.V. school dispute keeps going, WSJ highlights Purpose Driven criticism, reading this Weblog may make you fat, and other stories from online sources around the world.

Today's Top Five

1. Compulsion in religion
"There is no compulsion in religion," says the Qur'an. "We were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint," says Steve Centanni, the Fox News correspondent who was kidnapped with cameraman Olaf Wiig. "Don't get me wrong here. I have the highest respect for Islam, and I learned a lot of good things about it, but it was something we felt we had to do because they had the guns, and we didn't know what the hell was going on," he said.

Hard news coverage of the forced conversion—which echoes the Jill Carroll kidnapping—has been limited. Discussion has been mostly limited to conservative columnists, op-ed writers, and bloggers. That's unfortunate, since it places the debate in a "neo-conservatives" vs. "Islamofascists" narrative instead of a larger discussion of human rights.

Perhaps the reporters already feel defensive on the subject—The New York Times, among others, took much criticism for its initial headline, "2 Kidnapped Journalists in Gaza Freed Unharmed," before it changed it to "Fox News Journalists Free After Declaring Conversion on Tape." And perhaps the wind was taken out of reporters' sails by Centanni's apparent enthusiasm for Islam (leading some to accuse him of Stockholm Syndrome) and his shrugging the conversion off as a minor inconvenience on the way to freedom.

But the compelled conversion story has moved on and grown beyond kidnapped reporters. Almost every day, of course, religious liberty watchdogs like Compass Direct and AsiaNews.it report stories of Christians forced to convert to Islam or punished for converting out of it. For whatever reason, those rarely attract mainstream news attention. But politics stories do attract mainstream news attention, so it's ...

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Weblog
Launched in 1999, Christianity Today’s Weblog was not just one of the first religion-oriented weblogs, but one of the first published by a media organization. (Hence its rather bland title.) Mostly compiled by then-online editor Ted Olsen, Weblog rounded up religion news and opinion pieces from publications around the world. As Christianity Today’s website grew, it launched other blogs. Olsen took on management responsibilities, and the Weblog feature as such was mothballed. But CT’s efforts to round up important news and opinion from around the web continues, especially on our Gleanings feature.
Ted Olsen
Ted Olsen is Christianity Today's managing editor for news and online journalism. He wrote the magazine's Weblog—a collection of news and opinion articles from mainstream news sources around the world—from 1999 to 2006. In 2004, the magazine launched Weblog in Print, which looks for unexpected connections and trends in articles appearing in the mainstream press. The column was later renamed "Tidings" and ran until 2007.
Previous Weblog Columns:
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