New Book: Religion in Public Spaces – A European Perspective

Religion in Public Spaces: A European Perspective

Ashgate, September 2012

Edited by Silvio Ferrari and Sabrina Pastorelli, both at The University of Milan, Italy Series : Cultural Diversity and Law in Association with RELIGARE

This timely volume discusses the much debated and controversial subject of the presence of religion in the public sphere. The book is divided in three sections. In the first the public/private distinction is studied mainly from a theoretical point of view, through the contributions of lawyers, philosophers and sociologists. In the following sections their proposals are tested through the analysis of two case studies, religious dress codes and places of worship. These sections include discussions on some of the most controversial recent cases from around Europe with contributions from some of the leading experts in the area of law and religion.

Covering a range of very different European countries including Turkey, the UK, Italy and Bulgaria, the book uses comparative case studies to illustrate how practice varies significantly even within Europe. It reveals how familiarization with religious and philosophical diversity in Europe should lead to the modification of legal frameworks historically designed to accommodate majority religions. This in turn should give rise to recognition of new groups and communities and eventually, a more adequate response to the plurality of religions and beliefs in European society.

Contents: Religion and rethinking the public-private divide:
introduction, Marie-Claire Foblets; Part I Religions and the Public/Private Divide: Public and private, a moving border: a legal-historical perspective, Kjell Å. Modeer; Socio-historical perspectives on the public and private spheres, Adam Seligmann; The ‘public-private’ divide on drift: what, if any, is its importance for analysing limits of associational religious freedoms?, Veit Bader; Religious freedom and the public-private divide: a broken promise in Europe?, Alessandro Ferrari; The ‘public’ and the ‘private’ in the common law and civil law traditions and the regulation of religion, Jean-François Gaudreault-DesBiens and Noura Karazivan; Contested normative cultures. Gendered perspectives on religions and the public/private divide, Hanne Petersen; Religion in the European public
spaces: a legal overview, Silvio Ferrari. Part II Religion and the Dress
Codes: From front-office to back-office: religious dress crossing the public-private divide in the workplace, Katayoun Alidadi; Religious dress codes: the Turkish case, A. Emre Öktem and Mehmet C. Uzun; Religious dress codes in the United Kingdom, Javier Garcia Oliva; Religious dress codes: the Italian case, Sabrina Pastorelli; Religious dress codes: the Bulgarian case, Maya Kosseva and Iva Kyurkchieva; Comparing burqa debates in Europe: sartorial styles, religious prescriptions and political ideologies, Sara Silvestri. Part III Religion and the Places of Worship: The right to establish and maintain places of worship: the developments of its normative content under international human rights law, Noel G. Villaroman; The places of worship in France and the public/private divide, Anne Fornerod; ‘Stopp Minarett’? The controversy over the building of minarets in Switzerland:
religious freedom versus collective identity, Vincenzo Pacillo; Places of worship: between public and private: a comparison between Bulgaria, Italy and the Netherlands, Tymen J. van der Ploeg; Index.

About the Editor: Silvio Ferrari is Professor of Canon Law, University of Milan and President, International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies, Italy. His research interests are in the areas of Church and State in Europe; Comparative law of religions, and Vatican-Israel relations. He has published widely on these and related areas.

Sabrina Pastorelli is research fellow at the Institute of International Law – section of Ecclesiastical and Canon Law – University of Milan, Faculty of Law. She is also a member of the Groupe Sociétés, Religions, Laïcités (GSRL-CNRS/École Pratique des Hautes Études-Sorbonne) and teaching assistant at the Catholic University of Paris – Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences. Her research interests include sociology of religion; new religious movements; law and religion in Europe; religious education; regulation of religious pluralism; state public policy and religion. She is a member of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion (ISSR); the Association for Sociology of Religion (ASR); the Italian Sociological Association (AIS).

Reviews: ‘This book offers more than its title promises. It is not only about Europe or about religion. Insightful, suggestive and as diverse as its contributors, it contains a persuasive reflection on the need to rethink the very notion of public space that Western democracies have used since the nineteenth century.’
Javier Martinez-Torron, Complutense University School of Law, Spain

‘This is a highly important book in a remarkable controversy. Silvio Ferrari and Sabrina Pastorelli present a rich volume full of information, thought, and insight – presenting masterpieces of interdisciplinary research and political guidance. The book is a most valuable contribution to freedom and equality throughout Europe.’
Gerhard Robbers, University of Trier, Germany

British citizens are joining a so-called Jihad in Syria

There have been reports about the involvement of British citizens in the conflict in Syria. Due to the captivity of British photojournalist Mr Cantlie and Dutch photojournalist Mr Oerlemans, the British public has become concerned about young ‘jihadist’ Britons fighting in Syria. In this regard, MP Khalid Mahmood has warned the government about young British Muslims being radicalized by the conflict in Syria.

Mr Cantlie had previously informed the media that some of his captors were of British origin. He further revealed that while they were captives they also met a British doctor who was fighting against the Syrian government. The British doctor was working in an NHS hospital in London but when the uprising broke out he took a sabbatical and joined the fighters in Syria. They interviewed the doctor while he treated the photojournalists for their wounds sustained during their failed attempt to escape from captivity.

Further, BBC4’s Radio Today program has revealed the growing number of Britons fighting in Syria. Security Correspondent Frank Gardner travelled to Birmingham to investigate the news. He found that many young Britons are travelling to Turkey and easily crossing the border in order to participate in the conflict.

Anti-Islam Ads Remixed in San Francisco and New York

As my colleague Benjamin Weiser reported last month, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had violated the First Amendment rights of a pro-Israel group by refusing to run an ad that refers to Arabs as “savage” on 318 city buses.

The ad campaign was devised by Pamela Geller, the crusading anti-Islam blogger who fought to block the construction of an Islamic cultural center and mosque near the site of the World Trade Center two summers ago. The full text of the ad, which refers to a statement by Ms. Geller’s intellectual hero Ayn Rand, reads: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.” Then, between two Stars of David, the tag line appears: “Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”

While the judge gave the New York City transit system 30 days to consider its options for appeal, the ads have already appeared on the sides of buses in San Francisco, provoking anger from Muslims and supporters of the Palestinian cause.

As the local ABC affiliate in San Francisco reported, the city’s Municipal Transportation Agency took the unusual step of denouncing the ads and running huge disclaimers on the sides of the buses to disavow what a spokesman called the “repulsive” message from Ms. Geller’s group it was forced to accept.

Anti-Islamic ad claiming “it’s not Islamophobia, it’s Islamorealism” goes up in NY train stations

(CBS/AP)  An anti-Islamic advertisement has gone up at several Metro-North Railroad stations in Westchester County.

It reads: “It’s not Islamophobia, it’s Islamorealism.”

The signs were paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, an organization ran by blogger and political activist Pamela Geller. It associates Islam with 19,250 terrorist attacks carried out by extremists since the 9/11. She told CBS radio station 1010 WINS in New York that the sign is intended to tell people that it is not “Islamophobic’ to oppose jihad terror.”

“The ad is just stating a fact. There have been well over 19,000 jihadi attacks since 9/11,” Geller said. “People need to know this. Obviously, everybody is surprised by this number and I think that’s part of the reason why we need to run these ads. People need to know this is going on across the world.”

The Metropolitan Transpiration Authority in New York (MTA) said it doesn’t support the sentiment displayed in the ad but doesn’t bar advertising based on content, according to CBS station WCBS in New York.

WCBS also reported that the American Freedom Defense Initiative previously attempted to place another ad with the MTA that had a picture of a mosque next to a plane flying toward the World Trade towers with the words “Why There?” In a decision earlier this summer, the federal court declared that the MTA would be violating the American Freedom Defense Initiative’s First Amendment rights if they blocked that ad, according to CBS radio station WCBS 880 in New York.

The AFDI’s Pamela Gellar argues that the ad isn’t offensive at all and simply points out facts. “It is, as the ad says, Islamorealistic.” But at least one prominent pro-Israel group disagrees. In a statement to NBC4, the Anti Defamation League said, “We believe these ads are highly offensive and inflammatory. Pro-Israel doesn’t mean anti-Muslim.”

Last month, pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel ads appeared at Metro-North stations.

MTA Chairman and CEO Joseph Lhota said the agency may discuss its policies on political ads in September.

Muslim American summer camp blends faith and fun

Camp Izza in Pasadena and Irvine aims to help Muslim children take pride in their culture and faith. The summer includes prayers and Koran recitation as well as water balloons and scavenger hunts.

 

Camp Izza, believed to be the only Muslim summer camp in the U.S. that is accredited by the American Camp Assn. Located on school campuses in Irvine and Pasadena, Camp Izza is run by husband and wife Omar and Munira Ezzeldine as a means of instilling izza — the Arabic word for “pride” — in Muslim youths.

“We want the kids to be proud of who they are as Muslims,” said Omar Ezzeldine, 36, who was born in Los Angeles to Egyptian parents.  The children at Camp Izza face a challenge their parents did not: establishing their identities in a culture where anti-Islamic rhetoric can be found in political campaigns, cable news punditry and Hollywood films.

“It’s important for [my son] to be somewhere where a positive attitude toward his faith is reinforced,” said Samar Ghannoum, 46, who sent her 8-year-old Kareem to the camp this summer. “He is the future, in a lot of ways. He is American and Muslim.”

And it’s likely that the Camp Izza model will be duplicated because the U.S. Muslim population is growing at a relatively fast pace.

Hundreds in Joplin, Missouri, rally for Muslims and mosque

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) – A rally for Muslims in Joplin, Missouri, drew hundreds of people on Saturday night, nearly three weeks after a local mosque was destroyed by a fire which members of the Islamic community suspect was a hate crime, the organizer of the event said.

The gathering at a city park was promoted on a Facebook page as a way to show “that love is stronger than fear or hatred.” Organizers saw the rally in part as a giving-back to the local Muslim community because their mosque was a relief center for victims of the May 2011 tornado in Joplin, which took 161 lives and damaged or destroyed more than 8,000 buildings.

The fire that destroyed the Joplin mosque happened the morning after a white supremacist shot dead six worshipers at a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee, then killed himself after he was wounded by police. Police and Sikh temple members speculated that he might have mistakenly thought Sikhs were Muslims.

About $406,000 has been raised to rebuild the Joplin mosque. The donations have far exceeded the goal of $250,000, said Kimberly Kester, spokeswoman for the Islamic Society of Joplin.

Military judge asserts right to order Fort Hood shooting suspect forcibly shaved before trial

FORT WORTH, Texas — A judge has the authority to order an Army psychiatrist charged in the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage to be forcibly shaved before his murder trial, military attorneys told an appeals court Wednesday.

The attorneys, in a document filed on behalf of Col. Gregory Gross, contend that forcibly shaving Maj. Nidal Hasan would not violate the American-born Muslim’s religious freedoms and said it is similar to “and no more invasive than” a judge’s right to restrain a defendant who is disruptive during a court-martial.

“Forced shaving is not a novel concept in the military,” military attorneys said in the judge’s response filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. They cited no specific cases of other soldiers being forcibly shaved. “Army regulations expressly authorize nonconsensual haircutting and face-shaving for recalcitrant incarcerated soldiers. … If the judge has authority to bind and gag a disruptive accused (soldier), then certainly he has authority to forcibly shave (Hasan).”  The trial is expected to last more than two months at Fort Hood, about 125 miles southwest of Fort Worth.

CAIR Asks GOP to Reject Anti-Islam Platform Plank

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 8/24/2012) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today asked the Republican Party to reject a newly-adopted platform plank that includes a section supporting a ban on foreign law, which its sponsor admits targets the religious principles of American Muslims.

 

CAIR noted that the plank appears to be modeled on dozens of bills introduced in state legislatures nationwide based on draft legislation promoted by David Yerushalmi, an infamous Islamophobe with a history of bigoted statements targeting women, African Americans and people of the Jewish faith.

While leaders like Speaker Boehner and Sen. John McCain were rightly praised for taking a strong stand against Rep. Michele Bachmann’s witch hunt against Muslims in the U.S. government, don’t give the party of Lincoln a pass on Islamophobia just yet. In Tampa this week, GOP leaders adopted a plank to their platform supporting a ban on foreign law and aimed at Shariah, the Islamic religious law that many conservatives insist is secretly insinuating itself in the U.S. The platform still has to be approved by the entire convention in a vote next week, but generally, most things approved by the platform committee make it into the final platform.

Caller to NYC newspaper: Bacon in park before Ramadan was for animals, not meant to offend

NEW YORK — A New York City newspaper says it received an anonymous call from a person claiming to have discarded spoiled bacon in a park where Muslims had scheduled Ramadan prayers.

The caller said he was putting it out for seagulls and raccoons to eat, not as an anti-Muslim statement.

The Staten Island Advance (http://bit.ly/O3kqjw ) said the message was left Tuesday on a reporter’s voicemail.

The caller said “It was not any … anti-Muslim act, and I did not want to offend anybody.”

The NYPD is investigating the incident as a possible hate crime. It was informed of the call but declined to discuss it.

NYPD official: Muslim spying by secret Demographics Unit generated no leads, terrorism cases

NEW YORK — In more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloguing mosques, the New York Police Department’s secret Demographics Unit never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation, the department acknowledged in court testimony unsealed late Monday.

The Demographics Unit is at the heart of a police spying program, built with help from the CIA, which assembled databases on where Muslims lived, shopped, worked and prayed. Police infiltrated Muslim student groups, put informants in mosques, monitored sermons and catalogued every Muslim in New York who adopted new, Americanized surnames.

Civil rights lawyers believe the Demographics Unit violated those rules. Documents obtained by the AP show the unit conducted operations outside its jurisdiction, including in New Jersey. The FBI there said those operations damaged its partnerships with Muslims and jeopardized national security.

After the AP began reporting on the Demographics Unit, the department’s former senior analyst, Mitchell Silber, said the unit provided the tip that ultimately led to a case against a bookstore clerk who was convicted of plotting to bomb the Herald Square subway station in Manhattan. Galati testified that he could find no evidence of that.

Attorney Jethro Eisenstein, who filed the Handschu case more than 40 years ago and questioned Galati during the deposition, said he will go back to court soon to ask that the Demographics Unit be shut down. It operates today under a new name, the Zone Assessment Unit. It recently stopped operating out of state, Galati said.

“This is a terribly pernicious set of policies,” Eisenstein said. “No other group since the Japanese Americans in World War II has been subjected to this kind of widespread public policy.”

Dozens of members of Congress have asked the Justice Department to investigate the NYPD. Attorney General Eric Holder has said he was disturbed by the reports. But John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, has said he is confident the NYPD’s activities are lawful and have kept the city safe.