U.N. panel OKs measure on Islam

Islamic countries pushed through a resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council on Friday urging a global prohibition on the public defamation of religion – a response largely to the furor last year over caricatures published in a Danish newspaper of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. The statement proposed by the Organization of Islamic Conference addressed what it called a “campaign” against Muslim minorities and the Islamic religion around the world since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. The resolution, which was opposed by a number of other non-Muslim countries, “expresses deep concern at attempts to identify Islam with terrorism, violence and human rights violations.” It makes no mention of any other religion besides Islam, but urges countries “to take resolute action to prohibit the dissemination of racist and xenophobic ideas and material aimed at any religion or its followers that constitute incitement and religious hatred, hostility, or violence.” The resolution was adopted by a 24-14 vote with nine abstentions. Canada, Japan and South Korea joined European countries in opposition, primarily citing its excessive focus on Islam and incompatibility with fundamental rights such as the freedoms of speech and thought. “The problem of religious intolerance is worldwide and not limited to certain religions,” said Brigitta Maria Siefker-Eberle of Germany, speaking on behalf of the 27-nation European Union. There are 17 Muslim countries in the 47-nation human rights council. Their alliance with China, Cuba, Russia and most of the African members means they can almost always achieve a majority. Human Rights Watch said the resolution could endanger the basic rights of individuals. The council, which last year replaced the discredited U.N. Human Rights Commission, has no power beyond drawing international attention to rights issues and scrutiny of abuses in certain countries. The move at the council was initiated last year after protests across the Islamic world drew attention to caricatures of Muhammad first printed in Danish paper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005.

German Justice Failures: Paving the Way for a Muslim Parallel Society

A recent ruling in Germany by a judge who cited the Koran underscores the dilemma the country faces in reconciling Western values with a growing immigrant population. A disturbing number of rulings are helping to create a parallel Muslim world in Germany that is welcoming to Islamic fundamentalists. She didn’t know it, nor did she even expect it. She had good intentions. Perhaps it was a mistake. In fact, it was most certainly a mistake. The best thing to do would be to wipe the slate clean. Last week, in the middle of the storm, Christa Datz-Winter, a judge on Frankfurt’s family court, was speechless. But Bernhard Olp, a spokesman for the city’s municipal court, was quick to jump in. Olp reported that the judge had been under emotional stress stemming from a murder that had been committed in her office 10 years ago, and that she was now planning to take a break to recuperate. He also mentioned that she was “outraged” — not about herself or her scandalous ruling, but over the reactions the case has triggered. The reactions were so fierce that one could have been forgiven for mistakenly thinking that Germany’s Muslims had won the headscarf dispute and the controversy over the Mohammed cartoons in a single day and, in one fell swoop, had taken a substantial bite out of the legal foundations of Western civilization.

Paving the Way for a Muslim Parallel Society

Paving the Way for a Muslim Parallel Society A recent ruling in Germany by a judge who cited the Koran underscores the dilemma the country faces in reconciling Western values with a growing immigrant population. A disturbing number of rulings are helping to create a parallel Muslim world in Germany that is welcoming to Islamic fundamentalists. She didn’t know it, nor did she even expect it. She had good intentions. Perhaps it was a mistake. In fact, it was most certainly a mistake. The best thing to do would be to wipe the slate clean. Last week, in the middle of the storm, Christa Datz-Winter, a judge on Frankfurt’s family court, was speechless. But Bernhard Olp, a spokesman for the city’s municipal court, was quick to jump in. Olp reported that the judge had been under emotional stress stemming from a murder that had been committed in her office 10 years ago, and that she was now planning to take a break to recuperate. He also mentioned that she was “outraged” — not about herself or her scandalous ruling, but over the reactions the case has triggered.

Muslim woman sues judge over veil

A Muslim woman whose small-claims court case was dismissed after she refused to remove her veil sued the judge Wednesday, saying her religious and civil rights were violated. Ginnnah Muhammad, 42, of Detroit, says in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit that Judge Paul Paruk’s request to remove her veil – and his decision to dismiss her case when she didn’t – was unconstitutional based on her First Amendment right to practice her religion. The claim against Paruk also cites a federal civil rights law in alleging that Muhammad was denied access to the courts because of her religion. Muhammad wore a niqab – a scarf and veil that covers her head and face, leaving only the eyes visible – during the October hearing in Hamtramck, a city surrounded by Detroit. She was contesting a $2,750 charge from a rental-car company to repair a vehicle that she said thieves had broken into. Paruk told her he needed to see her face to judge her truthfulness and gave her a choice: take off the veil while testifying or have the case dismissed. She kept it on. Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co. then filed a claim seeking a judgment of $2,000 against Muhammad. A hearing is set for April 18 before Paruk in Hamtramck’s district court. Muhammad’s attorney, Nabih Ayad, said that she unsuccessfully sought to get a different judge to hear the case and that she and her client plan to ask him to remove himself from the case. A message seeking comment was left Wednesday for Paruk. Metropolitan Detroit has one of the country’s largest Muslim and Arab populations. The lawsuit says that because of that, others have either come before Paruk or will come before him. “Thus, future harm is imminent.” “You should be able to be who you are as long as you’re not a criminal or hurting other people,” said Muhammad, who converted to Islam when she was 10 and runs an aromatherapy business in suburban Detroit. “I want to make sure everyone across the board is able to practice their religion freely in a democratic society.” Muhammad said she would have removed her veil before a female judge. “The way I believe in Islam is that a woman is very virtuous,” she said. “We should be covered when we come out. This protects me as well as other people. I believe that God wants me that way.” Michigan law has no rules on how judges should handle religious attire of people in court.

Rewriting the ad rules for Muslim Americans

Consumer companies and advertising executives are focusing on new ways to reach out to Muslim consumers in the United States. Grocers and consumer product companies are considering ways to adapt to Muslim dietary prescriptions, including the concern over the use of gelatin and pig fat often used in food, cosmetics, and cleaning products. Retailers are looking to provide more conservative skirts – not just in the colder months, but in summer too, hoping to appeal to Muslim women conscious of modest apparel. Companies in the Detroit area, with one of the largest Muslim populations in the country, are making some visible changes in their stores. A McDonald’s there serves halal Chicken McNuggets, the Walgreens has signs in both English and Arabic, and the local Ikea has been touring local homes and talking to Muslims to figure out their needs. In other cities, stores like Macy’s and Whole Foods, are the increasing number of Muslim-owned companies and media outlets, are allowing some Muslims to feel increasingly validated, and a bit less othered.

New Translation Prompts Debate on Islamic Verse

Laleh Bakhtiar, an Iranian-American scholar, had already spent two years working on an English translation of the Koran when she came upon Chapter 4, Verse 34. The hotly debated verse states that a rebellious woman should first be admonished, then abandoned in bed, and ultimately beaten – the most common translation for the Arabic word daraba – unless her behavior improves. Daraba has been translated as beat, hit, strike, scourge, chastise, flog, make an example of, spank, pet, tap and even seduce; Ms. Bakhtiar was convinced she found the correct translation when she came upon a definition for daraba as to go away. When the prophet had difficulty with his wives, what did he do? He didn’t beat anybody, so why would any Muslim do what the prophet did not? she asks. Critics fault Ms. Bakhtiar on her familiarity with religious tradition and Arabic grammar, the two touchstones of Koranic translation. Ms. Bakhtiar said she expected opposition because she is not an Islamic scholar and because men in the Muslim world, she said, disapprove of an American woman reinterpreting the prevailing translation. They feel the onslaught of the West against their religious values, and they fear losing their whole suit of armor, she said. But women need to know that there is an alternative. Conservative scholars suggest the verse has to be taken at face value, with important reservations. Sheik Ali Gomaa, the Islamic scholar who serves as Egypt’s grand mufti, said Koranic verses must be viewed through the prism of the era. The advice is always broad in order to be relevant to different cultures and in different times, he said through a spokesman in an e-mail message. In our modern context, hitting one’s wife is totally inappropriate as society deems it hateful and it will only serve to sow more discord.

Polygamy, Practiced in Secrecy, Follows Africans to New York

Thousands of New York’s African immigrants are thought to be practicing polygamy as they did in their native countries, where it is legal; practice is clandestine because polygamy is grounds for exclusion from US under immigration law; no agency is known to collect data on polygamous unions, and many agencies that deal with immigrant families in New York have adopted don’t-ask-don’t-know policy; some men have one wife in US and others abroad; Islam is often cited as authority that allows polygamy, but practice is cultural tradition in Africa that crosses religious lines, and some Muslim lands elsewhere sharply restrict it; some African immigrant women speak bitterly of polygamy, saying they had no choice but to accept their husband’s other wives; many women accept situation, fearing to expose their husbands to arrest or deportation; presence of polygamy in New York was revealed after March 7 fire in Bronx that killed woman and nine children in two families from Mali.

Muslim face veil banned in Quebec vote

Muslim women will have to remove their face coverings if they want to vote in upcoming elections in Quebec, a government official said Friday, reversing his earlier decision to allow the veils. Marcel Blanchet, the French-speaking province’s election chief, had been criticized by Quebec’s three main political leaders for allowing voters to wear the niqab, which covers the entire face except for the eyes, if they signed a sworn statement and showed identification when they vote. But Blanchet reversed his earlier decision Friday, saying it was necessary to avoid disruptions when residents go to the polls. “Relevant articles to electoral laws were modified to add the following: any person showing up at a polling station must be uncovered to exercise the right to vote,” he said. Blanchet had to get two bodyguards after the Quebec elections office received threatening phone calls and e-mails following his initial decision to allow niqabs. He said some residents had threatened to protest Monday’s vote by showing up at polling stations wearing masks. The reversal was condemned by Muslims groups who said it could turn their members away from the polls. “I am so saddened, I doubt many of these women will show up at the polls on Monday after all this mockery,” said Sarah Elgazzar of the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations. Many European countries are also grappling with the issue of Muslim veils. In Britain, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw caused a stir last year when he said he wanted Muslim women to abandon the full-face veil, while a Muslim teaching assistant in northern England was suspended from her job for refusing to remove one. France passed a law in 2004 banning Islamic head scarves in schools, and the Netherlands has announced plans for one banning full-length veils in public places. Germany also has a law banning teachers in public schools from wearing head scarves. Last week in Quebec, a young Muslim woman was forced to quit her job at a prison after she refused to remove her headscarf. The public security department supported the decision, citing security concerns, but Muslim groups pointed out that the Canadian Armed Forces allow women to wear headscarves on active duty. Last month, an 11-year-old Muslim girl from Ontario participating in a soccer tournament in Quebec was pulled from the field after she refused the referee’s request to remove her headscarf.

European Apostasy – Speech of Pope Benedict XVI

Europe is moving towards self-apostasy, forgetting the universal and absolute values which it once sparked. As it demographically implodes, it might have reached its twilight in history,losing its confidence in its own future, this according to Benedict XV. In a passionate analysis of the current state of the old continent the Holy Father spoke to participants of a congress about the Treaties of Rome, titled Values and Perspectives for Europe’s future, sponsored by the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE). In his address he highlighted the many positive aspects that European integration has brought about like the fall of the curtain of injustice between east and west, the reconciliation of Europe’s eastern and western lungs, the search of economic integration and an appropriate institutional structure for the European Union which now includes 27 members and aspires to a global role in the world. Another important issue that the Pontiff highlighted was the need for a better balance between wealth, competitiveness and the legitimate expectations of the poor and the marginalised. But Benedict XVI also slammed the attempt to build a common house by disregarding the identities of the peoples of the continent and dismissing Christianity in which a vast majority continues to identify themselves. The Holy Father stressed the ambiguity that characterises the European Union in which the search for moral values and the common good takes place by means of compromises that involve agreements that are harmful to man’s nature, thus betraying the role as spark and yeast of universal values the continent has always performed. In the Pope’s opinion among the causes of the current situation, pragmatism, relativism and especially secularism stand out since because of them Christians see themselves denied the right to intervene in public debates or at least with their contribution [treated] as an attempt to protect unjustified privileges. Finally, the Pontiff urged Christians to strongly defend the truth of man without being discouraged. You know that with God’s help you must contribute to building a New Europe, one that is realistic without being cynical, rich in ideals, inspired by the everlasting and bright truth of the Gospel. Here is the full text of the Pope’s speech: Your Eminences, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, Members of Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen! I am particularly pleased to greet you in such great numbers at this Audience on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome on March 25, 1957. On that day an important step was taken in a Europe that had come out of World War Two beaten, a continent that sought a future of peace and greater social and economic prosperity in which nations would neither deny nor lose their identities. I am pleased to greet Mgr Adrianus Herman van Luyn, Bishop of Rotterdam and Chairman of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, and thank him for his kind words. I am pleased to greet the other prelates, the distinguished guests and all those who are taking part in the congress currently under way sponsored by COMECE in order to reflect on Europe. Since that month of March 50 years ago, this continent has gone a long way and this has led to the reconciliation of its eastern and Western halves, its two _lungs’, linked by a common history that a curtain of injustice had arbitrarily split. Economic integration has stimulated this political process and favoured the still ongoing and difficult search for an appropriate institutional structure for the European Union which now includes 27 members and aspires to exercise a global role in the world. In recent years people have come understand more and more the need for a better balance between economic and social policies based on actions that can create wealth and increase competitiveness without disregarding the legitimate expectations of the poor and the marginalised. However, from a demographic point of view Europe seems to be on a path that might lead to its twilight in history. Not only does that threaten its economic growth but it could cause huge problems in terms of social cohesion, and especially favour a dangerous individualism that does not care about the future might have in store. One might even think that the European continent is losing confidence in its future. As for respect for the environment and a balanced access to resources and energy investments, there is little solidarity at both international and national levels. And the process of European unification itself does not seem welcome to everyone because many _chapters’ of the project seem to have been _written’ with little consideration for what people expect. From all this it is clear that it is unthinkable that we can build an authentic “common European house” by disregarding the identities of the peoples of this continent of ours. It is an historical, cultural and moral identity even before it is a geographic, economic or political reality. It is an identity built on a set of universal values in which Christianity played a role in moulding them, which gives it a role that is not only historical but also foundational vis-_-vis Europe. Such values, which constitute the continent’s soul, must continue in the Europe of the third millennium as a _spark’ of civilisation. Should they fail, how could the “old” continent play the role of “yeast” for the whole world? If on the 50th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, the governments of the Union want to be “closer” to their citizens, how can they exclude from Europe’s identity an essential element like Christianity in which a vast majority continues to identify themselves? Is it surprising then, that whilst it aspires to be a comm+H582unity of values, modern Europe seems to question universal and absolute values? Even before it is against God, doesn’t this singular form of _self-apostasy’ not lead the continent to doubt its own identity? We end up this way spreading the view that _judging the goods’ is the only way for moral judgment and that having a common good is synonymous with compromise. In reality, if reaching compromises is a legitimate act of balancing different interests, it becomes a common evil every time it involves agreements that are harmful to man’s nature. A community that is built without respect for the authentic dignity of human beings, that forgets that each person is created in God’s image, ends up not doing any one any good. This is why it is seems ever more necessary that Europe be wary of that widespread pragmatic attitude that systematically justifies compromising on essential human values as if accepting an allegedly lesser evil inevitable. Ultimately such pragmatism is not as balanced and realistic as some might have it because it denies human nature its inherent value-oriented and idealistic dimensions. When on such pragmatism are grafted secular and relativistic tendencies and currents, we end up with Christians as such being denied the right to intervene in public debates or at least with their contribution dismissed as an attempt to protect unjustified privileges. In the present historical moment and its many challenges, if the European Union is to uphold the rule of law and effectively promote universal values, we must clearly recognise that human nature has something stable and permanent to it and that it is the source of common rights for all individuals, including even those who deny them. In this context, the right to conscientious objection must be safeguarded every time fundamental human rights are violated. Dear friends, I know how difficult it is for Christians to indefatigably defend the truth of man. Never be weary, nor be discouraged! You know that with God’s help you shall contribute to building a New Europe, one that is realistic without being cynical, rich in ideals, inspired by the everlasting and bright truth of the Gospel. For this reason never shy away from European public debates and be aware that Europe is already a part of what goes on at the national level. In addition, tak
e effective actions in the cultural sphere. Do not submit to the logic of power for power’s sake! Let Christ’s warning be a constant stimulus and support: _But if salt loses its taste [. . .] It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot (cf Mt 5: 13). May the Lord make all your efforts fruitful and help you recognise the value of that which is positive in today’s civilisation; may it give courage to denounce all that is contrary to human dignity. I am certain that God shall not fail to bless the generous effort of those, in a spirit of service, work to build a common European house in which every cultural, social and political contribution is geared towards the common good. To you, who are already involved in various ways in that important human and evangelical enterprise, I direct my strongest encouragement. In particular, I assure you that I shall remember you in my prayers and, whilst I invoke the maternal protection of Mary, Mother of the Word made flesh, I give you, your families and communities in a heartfelt manner my most affectionate blessing._

German Judge Condemned for Citing Quran

Politicians and Muslim leaders denounced a German judge for citing the Quran in her rejection of a Muslim woman’s request for a quick divorce on grounds she was abused by her husband. Judge Christa Datz-Winter said in a recommendation earlier this year that both partners came from a “Moroccan cultural environment in which it is not uncommon for a man to exert a right of corporal punishment over his wife,” according to the court. The woman is a German of Moroccan descent married to a Moroccan citizen. The judge argued that her case was not one of exceptional hardship in which fast-track divorce proceedings would be justified. When the woman protested, Datz-Winter cited a passage from the Quran that reads in part, “men are in charge of women.” The judge was removed from the case on Wednesday and the Frankfurt administrative court said it was considering disciplinary action. Court vice president Bernhard Olp said Thursday the judge “regrets that the impression arose that she approves of violence in marriage.” While the Quranic verse cited does say that husbands are allowed to beat their wives if they are disobedient, Germany’s Institute for Islamic Questions noted that such an interpretation was no longer standard. “Of course not all Muslims use violence against their wives,” the group said in a statement. Olp said the judge thought she was protecting the woman, who had been granted a restraining order against her husband. She had seen no reason to grant help in paying court costs for a fast-track divorce. Olp said her reasoning was unacceptable, but insisted it was a “one-time event” that would not have an effect on other cases, or on the final ruling in the divorce proceedings. The latest uproar comes amid an ongoing debate in Germany about integrating its more than 3 million Muslims, most of them from Turkey. A decision last year to cancel an opera featuring the severed heads of the Prophet Muhammad and other religious figures out of security concerns caused a furor and was later retracted. Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries condemned the judge’s decision. “Every so often, there are individual rulings that seem completely incomprehensible,” she said. Lawmakers from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats said traditional Islamic law, or Sharia, had no place in Germany. “The legal and moral concepts of Sharia have nothing to do with German jurisprudence,” Wolfgang Bosbach, a lawmaker with the Christian Democrats, told N24 television. “One thing must be clear: In Germany, only German law applies. Period.” Ronald Pofalla, the party’s general secretary, told Bild: “When the Quran is put above the German constitution, I can only say: Good night, Germany.” Representatives of Germany’s Muslim population were also critical of the ruling. “Violence and abuse of people – whether against men or women – are, of course, naturally reasons to warrant a divorce in Islam as well,” the country’s Central Council of Muslims said in a statement. The mass-circulation Bild daily asked in a front-page article: “Where are we living?” The left-leaning Tageszeitung headlined its Thursday edition: “In the name of the people: Beating allowed.”