BBC apologises for ‘what is the right punishment for blasphemy?’ tweet

Broadcaster says it never intended to imply blasphemy should be punished and said the tweet was poorly worded

BBC Asia has apologised after it posted the question what is the right punishment for blasphemy? on its Asian Network Twitter account.

The tweet was intended to promote a debate about about blasphemy on social media in Pakistan with presenter Shazia Awan.

In an apology, the network said it never intended to imply that blasphemy should be punished and said the tweet was poorly worded.

BBC Asian Network (@bbcasiannetwork)

Apologies for poorly worded question from #AsianNetwork yday. Q was in context of Pak asking FB to help we shd have made that clear 1/2

March 18, 2017

BBC Asian Network (@bbcasiannetwork)

We never intend to imply Blasphemy should be punished. Provocative question that got it wrong 2/2

March 18, 2017

It emerged this week that Pakistan has asked Facebook and Twitter to help identify Pakistanis suspected of blasphemy so it can prosecute them or pursue their extradition.

Under the countrys blasphemy laws, anyone found to have insulted Islam or the prophet Muhammad can be sentenced to death.

The interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said an official in Pakistans Washington embassy had approached the two social media companies in an effort to identify Pakistanis, either within the country or abroad, who recently shared material deemed offensive to Islam.

He said Pakistani authorities had identified 11 people for questioning over alleged blasphemy and would seek the extradition of anyone living abroad.

The BBCs tweet prompted anger and disbelief on social media. Human rights campaigner Maryam Namazie said the tweet was disgraceful.

Maryam Namazie (@MaryamNamazie)

Disgraceful that @bbcasiannetwork @ShaziaAwan would ask what ‘punishment’ should be for blasphemy. You know people get killed for it.

March 17, 2017

Malcolm Wood (@Askrigglad)

@BBCNews We could inform the BBC’s Asian Network there should be NO punishment for blasphemy. We’re not living in the Middle Ages

March 18, 2017

Clive Norman (@Clive752)

@bbcasiannetwork The fact that it appears that BBC Asian network has not roundly condemned punishment for blasphemy. One has to conclude you support it!!

March 18, 2017

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/mar/19/bbc-apologises-for-what-is-the-right-punishment-for-blasphemy-tweet

‘Open the doors’: the Catholic churches hiding targets of Dutertes drug war

Despite the climate of fear in the Philippines, a growing number of churches have opened their network of safe houses to people at risk of being killed

The Catholic church in the Philippines is operating a network that hides addicts and others targeted in president Rodrigo Dutertes bloody drug war, priests have told the Guardian.

More than 7,000 people have been killed by Philippine law enforcement officers and vigilantes in Dutertes crusade against alleged addicts and dealers, often in hit-and-run style attacks by gunmen on motorcycles.

Victims are occasionally tipped off in advance that they are on a kill list and attempt to flee into hiding.

At his church in Quezon City on the outskirts of Manila, one of the few to have provided sanctuary is Father Gilbert Billena, despite admitting that he voted for Duterte in the election last year.

Even me, I was in favour of the war on drugs but I didnt expect this outcome, he said.

Many Filipinos support the executions, believing their neighbourhoods are safer, while others are afraid to speak out for fear that they will be accused of collaboration.

Despite the fear, a growing number of churches have opened their doors and their network of safe houses to people at risk of being targeted.

In one hideaway is an 18-year-old who asked for anonymity. In December, he survived a deadly vigilante-style shooting at a house party in one of the Philippines major cities. Seven people, most of them teenagers, were killed. He suffered a bullet in his abdomen.

The young man lives in fear, afraid the shooters may want to finish the job. There were rumours that there was a survivor and it was me the ones who did this would think theres a witness, he said.

Immediately after the slaughter, he sought sanctuary from the only institution that would take him in.

The church has helped him find temporary work, which he says he enjoys, but he worries about being exposed to strangers. Fireworks frighten him and he suffers from nightmares and insomnia.

These are the people who have been targeted by the cops, says Billena, the spokesman for Rise Up, a multifaith movement founded to resist the drug war. We offer the church to them on the condition that they should be serious about changing [their lives].

Father
Father Gilbert Billena at a church in Quezon City, Manila. Photograph: Poppy McPherson

Despite mounting casualties, the senior leadership of the church in the majority-Catholic Philippines was initially silent on the lethal campaign. Many within its ranks were initially proponents.

But faced with growing numbers of dead, attitudes are changing. Sermons written by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and read out at Sunday services all over the country earlier this month labeled the anti-drug crusade a reign of terror.

The numbers of churches actually taking action against the campaign are still fairly few. Within Billenas diocese, there are only five or six, he says, despite an instruction from Antonio Tobias, Bishop of Novaliches, to give help to those in need.

He told me personally: Give them sanctuary. Open the doors of the churches, Billena says. Many also are not doing perhaps because they are afraid. They do not know how to do it.

The concept of providing sanctuary has a long history within Christian tradition. During the early years of the religion, fugitives were legally entitled to shelter in churches if they could get one body part inside the building or simply clasp the rings on the doors. Though the official right to sanctuary was phased out by the end of the 1600s, the practice has continued informally.

It has far more recent precedent in the Philippines during the Marcos era when churches harboured journalists, senators and other intellectuals declared enemies of the state by the regime. One of the most famous is the Baclaran, or the Redemptorist church, which runs several safe houses.

Us Redemptorists, weve been in more difficult situations before, says Brother Jun Santiago.

Clasped
One 18-year-old in hiding witnessed a massacre in his neighbourhood. Photograph: Poppy McPherson

The Baclarans outspoken response to the drug war has made it a target for criticism. In a speech last year, Duterte singled out a photographic exhibition put on by the church that displayed the dead bodies of victims.

Although the drug war has slowed since Duterte announced a temporary pause in late January, the killings continue. The president has called in the army to take over from the police.

And Dutertes allies still pursue his critics, with police arresting a senator on Friday who has been the most high-profile voice of dissent. Senator Leila de Lima insisted she was innocent of the drug trafficking charges that could see her jailed for life, saying they were put forward to silence her.

Last month, we had two visitors straight from Malacaang, from the palace, says Santiago, referring to the residence and workplace of the president. They were our friends but they gave us some indicators that you are under watch.

The local police are aware of the presence of drug addicts protected by the church.

Nevertheless, the church continues to offer sanctuary and helps raise funds for families who cannot afford to bury their dead.

If we were intimidated, that would be the end of the role of the church, says Santiago, adding that at least 20 people he knows have been given sanctuary, some of them moved from place to place to ensure their safety.

Recently, he helped a woman whose sister was selling shabu, or methamphetamines, after losing her job at a beauty salon.

Masked men came into the house and dragged the woman away, telling her family to go to the local police station if they wanted answers. They later found her body in a nearby alley.

Her sister got a text from a number she believes belongs to a local police officer saying she would be next. We have eyes that watch over you, it read.

The 32-year-old and her three small children tried to shelter with neighbours but they were too scared to take her in. Eventually she found her way to the Baclaran, which found them somewhere to stay.

She says that after her sisters burial, she decided to kick her own habit. I thought: Im also going to bury my vice, she says. I want to regain myself and retaliate later on.

This whole thing the war on drugs it is only the small-time people being targeted, she says. Normally we look at the tree and cut the roots, and end things, but this time its the other way around cut the branches and the roots still remain.

Additional reporting by Rica Concepcion.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/28/catholic-churches-hiding-targets-of-dutertes-drug-war

Urban burqa: challenging ‘knee-jerk’ judgments in pictures

Australian photographer Fabian Muirs 2014 series Blue Burqa in a Sunburnt Country was a response to the Abbott governments proposal to impose a burqa ban. In 2017, Muirs Sydney-shot sequel, Urban Burqa, comes into a much changed world.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2017/feb/01/urban-burqa-challenging-knee-jerk-judgments-in-pictures

Maggie Rowe on how she escaped from evangelical hell

In a blistering new memoir, the comedy writer recalls her youth as an obsessive-compulsive believer and how she ended up in a strip club

Maggie Rowes dark, funny new memoir, Sin Bravely (subtitle: My Great Escape From Evangelical Hell), opens under the watchful gaze of a shifty-eyed Jesus. As she sits with her mother in the waiting room of the Christian mental health rehabilitation center, the author then 19 glares up at the painting, suspicious of the Nazarenes serene expression. She knew his perfect love could curdle into indifferent cruelty in an instant, and that she could be cast aside, damned for eternity, on a whim. Rowe was filled with doubt, even as she awaited her admittance into Grace Point Evangelical Psychiatric Institute a last-ditch effort to curb the obsessively pious Born Again Christians all-consuming worries about going to hell.

I did not want to see a traditional therapist because I figured they would try to dissuade me from a belief in hell, that theyd tell me the whole thing was a fairy tale or opiate and that seemed incredibly dangerous, Rowe explained. I needed someone to work within my belief system, so I was really happy when my parents found Grace Point for me.

Raised in the Evangelical Christian church, Rowe was always a believer. Even as a child, Rowe found herself consumed by worry over whether she truly had been saved, and whether her acceptance of Jesus Christ had stuck. Shed said the words, but what if she hadnt really meant them? What if she hadnt meant them enough? She lugged around a massive Bible, memorizing lines of Scripture the way other kids memorize baseball stats, but as her familiarity with it grew, so did her fears of inadequacy.

Her parents encouraged her to get baptized at age nine, hoping to quell some of her fears about really being saved, but the ceremony only served to exacerbate her worry. Plagued with recurring thoughts about eternal damnation, Rowe sought answers from her local pastor, who seemed overwhelmed by the little girls questions and left her feeling even more anxious. As she grew older, she struggled to balance her religious morals with the temptations and realities of American youth; when she left for college, the worry went along with her. Even as she rationalized experimenting with drinking and sex, her old fears refused to let go. After a trying sophomore year, her parents checked her into the Grace Point for the summer, where the bulk of Sin Bravelys narrative takes place.

There, Rowe introduces us to a curious cast of characters one might say colorful (especially in the case of the perpetually irate, reformed biker who found Jesus after dropping a hellish mixture of angel dust and crack) but overall, the personalities she encounters are painted in sad, anxious shades of black and grey. Grace Point is not a happy place, despite the forced cheerfulness of its employees; the friendships Rowe forms during her time there feel rare and precious, glimmers of light in the fog of meetings, therapy and the misguided exclamations of her dangerously clueless counselor, Bethanie.

The smug, saccharine Bethanie the closest thing to an outright villain found in Sin Bravely constantly tries to force wildly inaccurate diagnoses on Rowe for the sake of what seems like convenience, if not outright ignorance. Group therapy sessions with her were a nightmare, as she steamrolled discussions and thundered against what she saw as heretical ideas, even when her tactics came to the detriment of her patients. Rowe saw her as both an adversary and an almost pathetic figure, one with whom she locks horns more than once.

Bethanie was one of those people that you encounter in all walks of life who lacks a healthy skepticism of her own opinions, who is really sold on her own ideas, Rowe reflects. That attitude is especially dangerous in mental health. My bumper sticker is Dont believe everything you think.

It takes a light hand to keep such serious subject matter from sinking into the doldrums, but Rowe deftly juxtaposes dark humor with raw emotion without ever yanking the reader out of the story.

I really worked to keep it in the nineteen year old voice and not jump into my perspective now. When I was going through earlier drafts I would try to catch moments where the voice slipped into my current one, where it would be a little too wry, a little too confident or certain or calm, Rowe explains. It helped that I had two giant notebooks from the time I was there where I journaled about every bit of the experience. I also saved folders of handouts from the different therapists that I took notes on, so I had a lot of help in remembering what I was like then and how I thought.

The books biggest breakthrough moment comes near the end, when the centers no-nonsense Dr Galvade diagnoses Rowe with a very specific kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Being able to put a name to the condition thats dominated her life fills the author with hope, as does a phrase sin bravely offered up by Dr Benton, the psychiatrist who becomes her greatest ally at Grace Point.

Using phrases or mantras to encourage and comfort myself has been a powerful practice for me. For years I would say to myself Remember the purple sky when I was feeling anxious, which to me meant remember a sense of internal spaciousness and kindness toward myself, says author Maggie Rowe. Theres so much junk that goes on in my head, I think its important to add some friendliness to the mix.

Martin Luthers adage to sin bravely in order that you may know the forgiveness of God and Bentons admonition to ease off the Bible a little dovetail to leave Rowe feeling very brave indeed. Her newfound comfort with the idea of being bad take her to a strip club and onto the stage. Despite the power of her new mantra, Rowes night at Lookers ends in crisis.

As the taste of blood seeps into my mouth, I think, Dear God, Ive done the same thing again. Ive made the same mistake. What is wrong with me? The throbbing bass of the song Centerfold bangs in my ears. My blood runs cold. My memory has just been sold. Its loud. Too Loud. I press my earlobes over my eardrums. Was sinning bravely just an excuse to sin? My eyes smart from the dense smoky air, my contacts sticking to my eyes, my eyelids sticking to my contacts. The air and the volume are punishing. Im sorry, I say to God over the throbbing bass line banging into my head. Im sorry. I got it wrong.

Rowes younger self spends most of the book beating herself up, which her current counterpart draws on to deftly illustrate the panic, incessant anxiety, and rote repetition that accompanied her brand of obsessive-compulsion. Young Maggie is a sympathetic character, and a frustrating one; its hard to resist the impulse to yell at this ghost girl to just snap out of it, to calm down, to stop fretting about hellfire and worry more about her homework but thats now how anxiety works, and to ignore that is to render the reader as crass and tone-deaf as the hated Bethanie.

Rowe navigates the tangle of her own messy emotions with a firm hand and an eye for detail. Poignant little moments abound, and some of the most interesting (and ironic) ones appear when she allows glimpses into the inner lives of her fellow Grace Pointers. The heart pulls towards wine-sipping Cindy with her doomed dreams of motherhood, and stone-faced art professor Dwayne, whos only there on court orders and isnt even that religious: Im no fan of born-agains, but theyre better than junkies. Her motley crew could have easily veered into farce, but instead, became the most stable aspect of Rowes anxious summer.

Her time at Grace Point left a profound impact on her, and as Rowe tells it, was the catalyst for the next stage of her evolving relationship with spirituality and faith. The experience began to dislodge my belief in a literal reading of the Bible. After that I began to visualize God differently, as a spirit of kindness, she says. Theres an Indigo Girls song that I used to sing to myself a lot He is only what is best in us, whats decent and kind and right. I began praying to a higher spirit within myself.

Now married and working as a TV writer and actor in LA, Rowe seems to have found peace, as well as a healthy distance from the tumultuous period of her life we observe in Sin Bravely. Shes moved away from her Born Again beginnings, instead embracing meditation and, at one point, starting a whole new religion called Pyrasphere, a satire on what has been called prosperity theology.

Shes come a long way from being that little girl with the big Bible and even bigger worries about hell, but hasnt turned her back on the church entirely. Sin is just less of a concern than her overall well-being these days.

I continued to suffer from anxiety and obsessive thoughts although the thoughts stopped centering on hell. I moved into an ashram called the Himalayan Institute after college and studied meditation, which made an enormous difference. Meditation helped to watch the thoughts and feelings come and go and not get caught up in their storms, she explains. Today, I regularly attend two Buddhist organizations, the Zen Center of Los Angeles and Against the Stream, but I also attend certain Christian functions. I try to cultivate a generous, kind spirit and am open to anything to help get me there.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jan/10/maggie-rowe-interview-memoir-sin-bravely-evangelicals

Bomb threats target Jewish community centers from Florida to New Jersey

Authorities say it is not clear whether threats against centers in six states, prompting several evacuations, were linked

Jewish community centers in several states have been targeted with bomb threats, but authorities said it was not immediately clear whether the threats were linked.

A Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokeswoman, Amanda Hils, said in an email that the agency was aware of the threats and its field divisions were ready to assist state and local law enforcement.

The Maitland Jewish community campus was evacuated on Monday for the second time in a week because of a bomb threat. The complex includes a school, community center, a Holocaust museum and the offices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando.

Police said no explosives were found after bomb threats were received at the Miami Beach Jewish community center and the Jewish Community Alliance of Jacksonville.

A Miami-Dade police bomb squad was dispatched to the Alper Jewish community center, where staff evacuated hundreds of children as an abundance of caution after a bomb threat was called in, said Alvaro Zabaleta, a Miami-Dade police detective.

As a community, we must always be vigilant when it comes to security, the Greater Miami Jewish Federations director of community security, Brenda Moxley, said in an email.

In Nashville, Tennessee, police responded to the Gordon Jewish community center after a security guard received a bomb threat over the phone.

No explosives were found, but 225 people in the building and an adjacent school were evacuated, said Mark Freedman, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee.

In Delaware, the Siegel Jewish community center in Wilmington was evacuated after a bomb threat was called in.

Buildings were evacuated and authorities investigated similar threats in Tenafly, New Jersey, and Columbia, South Carolina. In Maryland, threats were also called into Jewish community centers in Baltimore and Rockville.

Last week, bomb threats also targeted two Jewish preschools in Tampa and an Orange County Jewish community center.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/09/jewish-community-centers-bomb-threats-florida-new-jersey

Pope Francis says it is ‘not right’ to identify Islam with violence

Leader of the Catholic church says all religions have a small fundamentalist group and that faith was not the only cause of terrorism

Pope Francis has said it was wrong to identify Islam with violence and that social injustice and idolatry of money were among the prime causes of terrorism.

I think it is not right to identity Islam with violence, he told reporters aboard the plane taking him back to Rome after a five-day trip to Poland. This is not right and this is not true.

The pope was responding to a question about the killing on 26 July of an 85-year-old Roman Catholic priest during a church service in western France. The attackers forced the priest to his knees and slit his throat. The killing was claimed by Islamic State.

I think that in nearly all religions there is a always a small fundamentalist group, he said, adding We have them, referring to Catholicism.

I dont like to talk about Islamic violence because every day when I look at the papers I see violence here in Italy – someone killing his girlfriend, someone killing his mother-in-law. These are baptised Catholics, he said.

If I speak of Islamic violence, I have to speak of Catholic violence. Not all Muslims are violent, he said.

He said there were various causes of terrorism.

I know it dangerous to say this but terrorism grows when there is no other option and when money is made a god and it, instead of the person, is put at the centre of the world economy, he said.

That is the first form of terrorism. That is a basic terrorism against all humanity. Lets talk about that, he said.

When he started the trip on Wednesday, the pope said the killing of the priest and a string of string of other attacks were proof the world is at war but that it was not caused by religion.

He told reporters on the plane that lack of economic opportunities for young people in Europe was also to blame for terrorism.

I ask myself how many young people that we Europeans have left devoid of ideals, who do not have work. Then they turn to drugs and alcohol or enlist in Isis, he said, referring to the group also known as Islamic State.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/01/pope-francis-says-it-not-right-to-identify-islam-with-violence

Search engines’ role in radicalisation must be challenged, finds study

Nearly 500,000 online searches a month return Islamist material, says report that advocates multilateral approach to removing extremist sites

More than 484,000 Google keyword searches a month from around the world, including at least 54,000 searches in the UK, return results dominated by Islamist extremist material, a report into the online presence of jihadism has revealed.

The study found that of the extremist content accessible through these specific keyword searches, 44% was explicitly violent, 36% was non-violent and 20% was political Islamist in content, the last being non-violent but disseminated by known Islamist groups with political ambitions.

The study is one of the first to expose the role of the search engine rather than social media in drawing people to extremist jihadi material on the web. It argues the role of the search engine a field dominated by Google has been a blind spot that has been missed by those seeking to measure and counter extremist messages on the internet.

Although the UK governments Prevent strategy claims the internet must not be ungoverned space for Islamist extremism and British diplomats have taken the lead in the global communications fight against Islamic State on the net, the study suggests government agencies are only at the beginning of a labyrinthine challenge. So-called counter-narrative initiatives led by governments and civil society groups are under-resourced and not achieving sufficient natural interest, suggesting the battle of ideas is not even being engaged, let alone won.

The study, undertaken jointly by Digitalis and the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics, will be challenged by those who claim it advocates censorship, has blurred the lines between political Islam and violent extremism and cannot validly quantify the presence of extremism.

But the findings come in a week in which there has been a spate of terrorist attacks in Germany and France, some undertaken by young people either radicalised on the internet, or using it to feed their obsession with violence. Many of the jihadist foreign fighters in Syria were radicalised online as the search engine gradually overtakes the library and the classroom as a source of information.

The study, entitled A War of Keywords: how extremists are exploiting the internet and what to do about it,argues many of the legitimate mainstream Islamic scholarly websites host extremist material, including jihadi material, often without any warning or safeguards in place.

It also argues non-violent Islamist organisations, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, have a very strong online presence and dominate the results for some keyword searches. Some of the most popular search words used were crusader, martyr, kafir (non-believer), khilafa (a pan-Islamic state) or apostate.

In a condemnation of government efforts it finds very little of this content is challenged online. Analysing 47 relevant keywords, the search-engine analysis found counter-narrative content outperformed extremist content in only 11% of the results generated. For the search term khilafah, which has 10,000 global monthly searches, the ratio of extremist content to counter-narrative is nine to one.

This is partly because counter-narrative sites lack search engine optimisation so they do not rank high enough in searches, By contrast, Khilafa.com, the English website of Hizb ut-Tahrir, had more than 100,000 links into it.

The study also warns some of the most-used Muslim websites such as Kalmullah.com and WorldofIslam.info host traditional Islamic content alongside extremist material so are knowingly or unknowingly abusing the trust of their readers.

The study also claims a user can come across extremist content relatively easily while browsing for Islamic literature. Few effective restrictions apply to accessing Islamic State English-language magazine Dabiq or Inspire magazine, which is linked to al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula. Both are readily available to browse and download through clearing sites.

The study produced its headline numbers by looking at the average monthly number of global searches conducted in Google for 287 extremist-related keywords 143 in English and 144 in Arabic. It then looked at two samples totalling 47 keywords, the first sample focused on the most-used words and the second sample on the keywords deemed to be most extremist. The research then analysed the first two pages thrown up by the search for these keywords.

The authors acknowledge the difficulties technology companies face in policing the results of their search engines. Google is responsible for 40,000 searches a second, 2.5 billion a day and 1.2 trillion a year worldwide. Facebook boasts more than one and a half billion users who create 5 billion likes a day.

Dave King, chief executive of Digitalis, argues: While the companys advertising model is based on automatically mining the content its users create, their ability to distinguish a single credible kill threat from the plethora who have threatened to kill in jest is highly limited.

The study recommends governments, the United Nations, technology companies, civil society groups and religious organisations together establish a charter setting out a common definition of extremism and pledge to make the internet a safer place.

Technology companies, the report says, could work with governments to shift the balance of the online space, as well as share analytical data and trending information to bolster counter-efforts. It suggests search engine companies have been reluctant to or unable to alter the search algorithms that are responsible for search page rankings.

The authors also call for a debate on the murky dividing line between violent and non-violent extremist material online, arguing such legal definitions have been achieved over copyrighted material, child pornography and hate speech all of which have been subject to removal requests.

Exiisting content control software that prevents access to graphic or age-restricted material could be used and warning signals put on sites.

A Google spokesperson said: We take this issue very seriously and have processes in place for removing illegal content from all our platforms, including search. We are committed to showing leadership in this area and have been hosting counterspeech events across the globe for several years. We are also working with organisations around the world on how best to promote their work on counter-radicalisation online.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jul/28/search-engines-role-in-radicalisation-must-be-challenged-finds-study

Jesus’s wife papyrus probably fake, say experts

New evidence indicates the fragment in which Jesus refers to my wife is likely to be a modern forgery

A Harvard professor who caused a huge splash when she unveiled a small fragment of papyrus that she said referred to Jesus being married now says it is likely to be a forgery.

Harvard Divinity School professor Karen King revealed the piece of papyrus in Rome in 2012. The fragment, written in Coptic, includes the phrase, Jesus said to them, My wife.

Right from the beginning, it sparked controversy and debate among scholars. Doubts about its authenticity emerged almost immediately.

King said it is more likely than not that the fragment is a modern forgery. She cited an investigative article published last week on the website of the Atlantic magazine that raised questions about the owner of the papyrus, Florida businessman Walter Fritz. The Atlantic also was the first to report her concession that the papyrus is likely to be a fake.

If you ask me today which direction am I leaning more toward ancient text or a modern forgery based on this new evidence, Im leaning toward modern forgery, King told Associated Press.

The Atlantic found inconsistencies in Fritzs story about how he came to acquire the papyrus and in a document he gave to King purporting to authenticate it.

This evidence does make a difference in judging whether it was a forgery or not, and it pushes the evidence toward it being a forgery, King said.

A valid telephone number could not be found for Fritz. In an email sent to the AP on Monday, Fritz included a letter he sent to the Atlantic in which he denied forging, altering or manipulating the papyrus or its inscription.

Mark Goodacre, a professor of religious studies at Duke University in North Carolina, said doubts about the fragment were raised within hours of King exhibiting the text at a conference in Rome.

When you show something like that to people who spend their entire lives staring at these things, a lot of them could straightaway tell there was something fishy about it, Goodacre said.

He said he credits King with having a lot of guts to acknowledge that she could have been duped.

King said she has always maintained that the fragment wasnt evidence about whether or not Jesus was married.

Its at most a part of the early Christian story about should Christians marry, and so on and so forth, she said.

She added that she is not happy about being lied to, but felt oddly relieved after reading the Atlantic article.

I think having the truth is always kind of centring, she said.

David Hempton, dean of Harvard Divinity School, said in a statement that its mission is to pursue truth through scholarship, investigation and vigorous debate.

The school is grateful to the many scholars, scientists, technicians and journalists who have devoted their expertise to understanding the background and meaning of the papyrus fragment, Hempton said.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/20/jesuss-wife-papyrus-probably-fake-say-experts