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Muslim family’s unforgettable Olive Garden dinner

A Muslim man received an unexpected surprise while dining at an Olive Garden in Augusta, Georgia last week (Credit: Eslam Mohamed via Facebook)Ronald Reagan once observed that all great change happens at the dinner table. On Christmas Eve, Eslam Mohamed and his friends went to their local Olive Garden near Augusta, Georgia, to enjoy an Italian dinner. This group of Muslims, seven adults and five children total, were a bit apprehensive due to the tenor of the climate and the politically charged environment.

Eslam wrote in a Facebook post: "Everyone in the restaurant was knowing that we were Arabs Muslims on the table coz of the language and the ladies were having scarves over their head (Hijab)." However, Eslam and friends would not allow their frustrations or beliefs to hinder them from enjoying a nice meal together.

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Radicalization: America's virtual war against ISIS

A photo posted on internet shows ISIS or Daesh (Daech) or Islamic State group militants posing in Yarmouk (Yarmuk) Palestinian camp, located in a suburb of Damascus, Syria, that is partially now under their control, April 7, 2015 (Credit: AP Images/Balkis Press)In a recent CNN article, Elizabeth Cohen and Debra Goldschmidt examine the efforts taken by the U.S. government to combat the growing recruitment efforts of Islamic extremists. They spoke with a number of experts from varying backgrounds who all came to roughly the same conclusion; namely that while our government's efforts are admirable they are ultimately lacking.

The anti-terrorist campaign waged by the U.S. is called "Think Again, Turn Away." As Nadia Oweidat, a senior fellow in the international security program at New America, described, the problem is largely a misunderstanding of the target audience. She noted that most who are sympathetic to ISIS won't take orders from the U.S. government so mandates to turn away from ISIS are more likely to make them continue exploring it.

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The new nature of conflict in the Republican debates

Republican presidential candidates, from left, Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, and Ben Carson leave the stage following the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas (Credit: AP Photo/John Locher)The final Republican debate of 2015 took place Tuesday night in Las Vegas. While previous debates have touched on a number of subjects, CNN kept the focus primarily on issues of foreign policy and national security. In many ways, by limiting the number of topics addressed, more was actually said by the candidates. They were able to go into greater depth on their policies and, in many cases, offer real answers instead of theoretical platitudes. While the quality and feasibility of those answers can and will be debated heavily over the coming weeks, the chance to gain a measure of insight into what each candidate's presidency might look like was a refreshing shift from the personal attacks and incendiary questions that had largely defined many of the previous debates.

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Mock mass shooting near the University of Texas

Making signs for next Saturday. #EndGunFreeZones (Credit: The Life and Liberty Bill to End Gun Free Zones via Facebook)The gun rights group Come And Take It Texas has made headlines in recent days after announcing that they will hold a mock mass shooting near the University of Texas campus on Saturday. They will begin with "an open carry walk with [their] rifles and legal black powder pistols" before putting up their guns in order to begin the scripted mass shooting with cardboard weapons later that afternoon. Originally, the group had hoped to do the mock massacre on UT's campus. However, they were forced to move the event to just outside of university grounds when the school raised trespassing and other concerns.  

Murdoch Pizgatti, the group's founder, said that the demonstration is designed to help show what can happen when a few gunmen attack an unarmed group of people. He stated, "Our focus is on gun-free zones. They are blue-light specials for people who wish to do evil." Pizgatti went on to insinuate that what happened in Paris was largely the result of the victims being unarmed and that, had they been carrying weapons, the crisis could have been minimized or avoided altogether. The group hopes that their demonstration on Saturday can help people see the merit in their belief that gun restrictions are not the answer to recent atrocities like Paris and San Bernardino.

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Would Jesus own a gun? Biblical reflections on guns

December 5th edition of The New York Times at a newsstand in New York, which, according to publisher Arthur Sulzberger, is running its first front page editorial since 1920 to 'deliver a strong and visible statement of frustration and anguish about our country's inability to come to terms with the scourge of guns' and to call for greater gun control (Credit: AP Photo/Richard Drew)"To him who is in fear everything rustles." Greek playwright Sophocles wrote those words understanding that fear has a way of heightening our senses, making us keenly aware of our surroundings. Fear attunes our ears to the soft rustles and oftentimes intensifies the volume to personally deafening levels. While Twitter and cable news was a little after Sophocles' time, these communicative mediums serve as a megaphone to the rustles of our age, amplifying the fears of many—especially with regards to guns.

For some, the tragic events of days past have reached a crescendo, and action must be taken relative to guns. The New York Times, for the first time since 1920, ran an op-ed entitled "End the Gun Epidemic in America" on the front page of the Saturday edition. They asserted: "​It is a moral outrage and national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency." The Times was not alone. Religion columnist Jonathan Merritt called for Christians to consider picking up their cross and dropping their modern day swords. He noted: "When he [Jesus] hung on a Roman cross, he did not ask his followers to arm themselves. Instead, he prayed: "Father, forgive them.""

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