Religious Groups’ Views on End-of-Life Issues

November 21, 2013

 

In the following summaries, religious leaders, scholars and ethicists from 16 major American religious groups explain how their faith traditions’ teachings address physician-assisted suicide, euthanasia and other end-of-life questions. (For an in-depth look at public opinion on end-of-life issues, see “Views on End-of-Life Medical Treatments.” And for an overview of the political, legal and ethical dimensions of the end-of-life debate, see “To End Our Days.”)

Assemblies of God

The Assemblies of God, the largest Pentecostal denomination in the United States, opposes physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. The denomination teaches that life is a sacred gift and that only God should determine when life ends. “We simply feel that it is not our prerogative to end life,” says Edgar R. Lee, chairman of the church’s Commission on Doctrinal Purity. “God is the giver of life, not us.”

At the same time, the church allows that life need not be sustained at all costs when there is no hope for recovery. “We leave room for people to [reject] artificial means of life support,” Lee says. Indeed, he adds, the church “does not frown on” the use of pain medication to alleviate suffering, “even in cases where it might contribute to hastening death.”

Islam

Islamic teachings oppose physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. “Muslims believe that life is sacred and comes from God; therefore it is a sin to take life,” says David Stephen Powers, a professor of Near Eastern studies at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

Islam also teaches that God alone decides how long someone will live and when they will die, according to Ayman Shabana, a visiting fellow at the Islamic Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Mass. “There is this reluctance … to make any kind of decisions that would end life prematurely because it is believed that [these decisions] are solely in the hands of God,” Shabana says.

Islam’s views on such issues as assisted suicide and euthanasia also are influenced by the belief that suffering and other difficulties might be beneficial, Shabana says. “There is this notion that you don’t always know what’s good for you,” he says, “so it may be right that you should go through some kind of difficulty that tests your faith.” Indeed, Shabana says, “in the Islamic tradition, end-of-life suffering is seen as a way to purify previous sins so that by the time you meet God, you do so in a [more pure] state.”

While Islamic thinkers oppose hastening death, they also generally believe that the terminally ill need not employ extraordinary means and technologies to delay dying. “We are basically talking about the difference between a conscious decision to end life, which is wrong, and life ending by itself,” Shabana says, adding that the line between the two is not always clearly defined.

For more information:

Aramesh, K., and Shadi, H. 2007. “Euthanasia: An Islamic Ethical Perspective.” Iranian Journal of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, volume 6, supplement 5, pages 35-38.

 

PEW.com: http://www.pewforum.org/2013/11/21/religious-groups-views-on-end-of-life-issues/

One mosque, many faiths

November 19, 2013

 

We all sat in a circle, surrounded by the tranquility of a richly decorated mosque in Washington, D.C. We were for once away from all schisms- of religion, faith and nations. Ten American students, a Pakistani professor and an Indian journalist- we all sat in a circle to explore the space where divides end, and our unity begins.

For these students at American University, the experience was a novel one–for most of them, it was their first ever visit to a mosque. Our group was a concoction of identities – Native Americans, Roman Catholics, Moroccan Jews, and me, a Sikh from the Indian side of Kashmir.

The visit was scheduled to give students an experience of a mosque and to clear misperceptions about clashes of faiths. We chose to visit the Islamic Center in D.C., a mosque designed by an Italian architect and constructed in the 50′s. The imam at the center led us through the prayers and explained the three categories in Islam- aMuslim, who may or may not be truly spiritual; a Momim, a believer who practices his belief faithfully; and the highest category of a Muhsin, who is benevolent, charitable and a humanitarian to all mankind. For him, spreading education or ilm met with the highest category- a reason why he often addressed Professor Akbar Ahmed as Muhsin. Imam Abdullah M Khouj, who is from Mecca, became a Hafiz, or someone who memorizes the entire Koran, at the age of 11. He clearly held high reverence for scholarship and service, perhaps even greater than just practicing beliefs.

In the mosque, under the magnificent bronze Egyptian chandelier, we sat together in a circle as teachers and learners. We discussed why women pray in separate spaces, why religions have sectarian divides. We explored how humility and submission are at the core of spirituality, how various faiths were connected with a common thread.

When we were about to leave, I turned to Imam Khouj and told him that the holy text of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib, repeats the name Allah 46 times. Our professor reiterated that the fifth Sikh Guru asked a Muslim Sufi saint, Mian Mir, to lay the foundation stone of the Holiest Sikh shrine, the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Here we were, a Pakistani professor, an Indian journalist and 10 American students, attempting to find bridges between faiths. My mind raced back to the raging battles between nations, to the gunfire on the borders, to attacks on places of worship, to condemnation in the name of faith. Far away from these clashes, here we were as a small group, dissolving divides that we had known, finding common spaces.

 

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/wp/2013/11/19/one-mosque-many-faiths/

“Maybe we are hated” – The experience and impact of anti-Muslim hate on British Muslim women

“Maybe we are hated” – The experience and impact of anti-Muslim hate on British Muslim women

 

Authors: Dr Chris Allen, Dr Arshad Isakjee and Özlem Ögtem Young

 

Overview and website: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/social-policy/departments/applied-social-studies/news-and-events/2013/11/lifting-the-veil-on-anti-muslim-hate-crimes-against-british-women.aspx

The Queen is to appoint aristocrat who converted to Islam as her High Sheriff

November 17, 2013

 

An aristocrat who converted to Islam has been nominated to be the High Sheriff of Lincolnshire, the monarch’s representative in the county. The Earl of Yarborough, who uses the name Abdul Mateen, will take the unpaid role next year. He inherited the bulk of a £68 million estate, which includes Brocklesby Park in Lincolnshire, 27,500 acres of farmland, and one of Britain’s finest private art collections when his father died in 1991.

 

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/theroyalfamily/10454383/The-Queen-is-to-appoint-aristocrat-who-converted-to-Islam-as-her-High-Sheriff.html

British Guantanamo Bay inmate Shaker Aamer speaks from prison cell for first time on US TV show

November 19, 2013

 

The last British prisoner being held at Guantanamo Bay has spoken from his prison cell for the first time. Shaker Aamer, who has been incarcerated at the US military prison since 2002, spoke to CBS’s 60 Minutes show.

Shouting from his cell he said: “Tell the world the truth … Please, we are tired. Either you leave us to die in peace – or either tell the world the truth. Open up the place. Let the world come and visit. Let the world hear what’s happening. “Please colonel, act with us like a human being, not like slaves.”

Mr Aamer, one of 164 prisoners at Guantanamo, has been held for 11 years without charge and is accused of being a close associate of Osama bin Laden, which he denies. He has been cleared for transfer by both the Bush and Obama administrations, according to Reprieve, the legal charity and human rights group which is representing him.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister David Cameron raised Mr Aamer’s case with President Barack Obama at a G8 summit and the British government has repeatedly stated that it wants him returned to the UK. Despite having British residency and a British wife and four children living in Battersea, London, US authorities have repeatedly threatened to send him back to Saudi Arabia, his birthplace, against his wishes.

Mr Aamer was detained in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2001 after he went to the country to carry out voluntary work for an Islamic charity, Reprieve said. It is alleged that he was tortured at the Bagram Air Force base while being questioned by US forces and in February 2010 it emerged that the Metropolitan police was investigating allegations of MI5 complicity in his torture.

“The Deputy Prime Minister went on to raise Mr Aamer’s case with Vice-President Biden in September. We are confident that the US government understands the seriousness of the UK’s request for Mr Aamer’s release. Although he admitted that “Any decision regarding Mr Aamer’s release ultimately remains in the hands of the United States government. We continue to monitor Mr Aamer’s welfare through engagement with the US authorities.”

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/british-guantanamo-bay-inmate-shaker-aamer-speaks-from-prison-cell-for-first-time-on-us-tv-show-8949925.html

Muslim Women more likely to suffer Islamophobic attacks than men

November 19, 2013

 

Muslim women are more likely to be subjected to Islamophobic attacks than men, especially if they are wearing the niqab or other clothing associated with their religion, a study has found.

Maybe We Are Hated, a report on the impact of Islamophobic attacks, written by Dr Chris Allen, a social policy lecturer at the University of Birmingham, will be launched in the House of Commons on Wednesday. It is intended to look beyond the statistics and, for the first time, give a voice to the female victims of Islamophobia.

Allen interviewed 20 women aged between 15 and 52 about their experiences. Fiyaz Mughal, from Faith Matters, which commissioned the report, said: “This is the first time Muslim women’s voices have been given life in terms of anti-Muslim prejudice. We keep hearing people saying: ‘What are the numbers?’ We can understand that, but it’s important to recognise the actual impact on people.”

Tell Mama, a hotline for recording Islamophobic crimes and incidents, found that, excluding online abuse and threats, 58% of all verified incidents between April 2012 and April 2013 were against women and that in 80% of those cases the woman was wearing a hijab, niqab or other clothing associated with Islam.

According to Allen, some of the women said their experiences had made them question their Britishness, with one saying her husband wanted them to leave the country. He said a refusal to take Islamophobia seriously risked giving credence to the “clash of civilisations” narrative promoted by Islamists and the far right.

“It feeds into the rhetoric of the Islamists saying: ‘No matter how hard you try, you will never belong here, they hate you,” he said. “When it comes to Muslims, they won’t tackle these issues. It adds fuel to the fire.”

 

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/20/muslim-women-islamaphonic-attacks

 

Four British nationals killed fighting alongside al-Qa’ida in Syria

November 21, 2013

 

Four British nationals have died while fighting for a rebel extremist group against the forces of president Bashar al-Assad in Syria, reports say. Their deaths highlight the increasing international scale of the conflict, and come amid fears of the threat posed by extremists returning to the UK once their part in the war is over.

Security officials and experts say there is a real danger that the Islamists will look to pass on the skills and experience learned in Syria, radicalising and training up more recruits back in Britain. Among the four British fighters killed in recent months was Mohammed el-Araj, 23, from Ladbroke Grove in West London, according to reports. He died while his group in the al-Nusra front, a rebel force linked to al-Qa’ida, was attempting to ambush Assad’s troops in August. He reportedly went by the name “Abu Khalid”, and appears armed with an AK-47 and dressed in rebel uniform in photographs taken in Syria.

Security concerns over what might happen if fighters like Araj survive the conflict and are allowed to re-enter the UK were raised last month when two men who had returned from Syria were arrested on suspicion of hatching a terrorist plot.

The Foreign Office said it was looking into the report that four British nationals had been killed in recent weeks in the conflict.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/four-british-nationals-killed-fighting-alongside-alqaida-in-syria-8953596.html

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10464423/Four-British-jihadists-killed-fighting-for-al-Qaeda-in-Syria.html

Universities ‘can segregate men and women for debates’

November 22, 2013

 

Universities can segregate students during debates as long as the women are not forced to sit behind the men, university leaders have said. Segregation at the behest of a controversial speaker is an issue which arises “all the time” and banning men and women from sitting next to each during debates is a “big issue” facing universities, Universities UK has said.

As a result they have issued guidance which suggests that segregation is likely to be acceptable as long as men and women are seated side by side and one party is not at a disadvantage. In a new guidance on external speakers, vice-chancellors’ group Universities UK says that universities face a complex balance of promoting freedom of speech without breaking equality and discrimination laws.

When considering a request for segregation, they warn, planners must think about whether a seating plan could be discriminatory to one gender – for example if women were forced to sit at the back of the room it could prove harder for them to participate in the debate.

Apart from the controversies surrounding segregation, Universities UK say that academic institutions are facing a legal minefield when organising external speakers and their guidance aims to help them find the balance. An example of the fine balance is illustrated when the report goes on to say that if side-by-side seating was enforced without offering an alternative non-segregated seating area, it could be deemed as discriminatory against men or women who hold feminist beliefs. It adds: “Concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system.”

“These are issues that are arising all the time and these are really difficult issues,” said Universities UK chief executive Nicola Dandridge. “What emerged from our work on this particular issue is that there is no clearly defined right or wrong here as to whether to allow or outlaw segregation. It is going to very much depend on the facts of the case.” She added: “External speakers play an important role in university life, not least in terms of encouraging students to think for themselves, challenge other people’s views and develop their own opinions.

“Although most speakers are uncontroversial, some will express contentious, even inflammatory or offensive views. Universities have to balance their obligation to encourage free speech with their duties to ensure that the law is observed, the safety and security of staff, students and visitors secured, and good campus relations promoted. In practice, achieving this balance is not always easy.

 

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/10468115/Universities-can-segregate-men-and-women-for-debates.html

School children as young as 8 told they would be labelled ‘racist’ for missing school trip

November 22, 2013

 

Parents have criticised a school after children as young as eight were told they would be punished for racism if they did not attend a religious workshop about Islam. Angry mums and dads were sent a letter by Littleton Green Community School, in Huntingdon, Staffordshire, warning their children would be considered racist if they did not go on the school trip.

The visit to Staffordshire University – for Year 4 and Year 6 pupils – had been arranged as part of the children’s “cultural education” on November 27. Headteacher Lynn Small wrote to parents and said if kids did not attend a “racial discrimination note” would be made on the pupil’s records and would remain there for their school careers. On top of that, they were also ordered to pay £5 towards the cost of the trip.

Parents have criticised the school’s “ludicrous” threats and accused the school of trying to blackmail them. Stacy Waldron, 26, who has an eight-year-old daughter at the school, said: “I feel my child will be racist if I don’t allow her to go. “This is my choice, not hers, and she shouldn’t have to pay for it.”

Mum-of-four Tracy Ward added: “I was shocked by the letter. To be told my kids have got to attend this workshop is disgusting. “Everyone should have a choice but that’s my opinion and I don’t want a stain on my kids’ record as a result. “They are not old enough to be called racist.”

Her sister Donna, whose daughter also attends the school, said: “It’s not our religion. We should have a right to stop our children going.”

Around 100 pupils across four years were expected to take part in the course – which would have involved them being shown Islamic artefacts. But after parents contacted the school they were then forced to make an embarrassing U-turn and withdraw the threat after council chiefs intervened.

South Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson slammed the original move – labelling it “bonkers”. He said: “The idea of attaching a ‘racial discrimination note’ to children’s education records saying it will remain on their file for the duration for their school career seems unfair, particularly when it is no the child’s decision whether or not he or she attends.

Defending the decision Mrs Small said that exposing the pupils to other faiths was part of the school’s statutory duty. She said: “We are a mainly Christian school, but we have to cover at least one other religion as part of the national curriculum. This visit is part of that. “They would not be taking part in any religious practices. We have had similar workshops on a variety of religions in the past – including one on Islam with no problems at all and the children have absolutely loved it. “We have pupils and teachers at the school who belong to the Islam faith and it is right for the children to understand and appreciate their faith as well as their own.”

A spokesperson for Staffordshire County Council said: “This is a school matter and the council was only contacted once the letter had been sent.

 

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10468353/School-children-as-young-as-8-told-they-would-be-labelled-racist-for-missing-school-trip.html

Young Italian Muslims Festival

By Maria Teresa Martinengo

November 18, 2013

As part of the Youth festival in Turin, an exhibition of images in Turin is on view, an orientation program, a day of “open mosques,” walks through places of worship in San Salvario, a lecture on the Quran and the prophets of the Bible, and the play ” the taste of pistachios.” Additionally, the festival will host sports tournaments, a meeting on the family in Islamic countries, and art workshops on photography. The program is part of the fourth annual Young Italian Muslims in the North West, which opens Saturday morning in Piazza Castello. The 2013 edition is proposed as a Festival, a series of events by which the GMI even more than in years past, “make themselves available” in a city of youths mostly born to parents originating from Egypt and Morocco.

 

The program

“Turin with New Eyes” is a tribute to the first capital of Italy: a photographic exhibition in Turin seen through the eyes of the city’s “new” citizens it will be on display on Saturday in Piazza Castello, from 10am to 8pm.

“The Future” is a project dedicated to career choices and university orientations. Through the knowledge of the professions, the orientation will present the new world of work and courses of study offered by the University of Turin and the Piedmont region. The project, which will take place in schools throughout the school year, will debut on Saturday.

 

The theater company

The Theatre Company of Young Muslims of Italy (GMI  Section of Turin) will perform “The Taste of pistachio.” Which will show a multitude of different characters on stage.

Additionally, after Turin Spirituality, 2013, the Group proposes to read the pages of the Koran, which special attention to verses about the prophets, Wednesday 27, at 8 pm.

 

Mosques open

The program includes art workshops, male and female football tournaments and various sporting events, including “On the Path of Knowledge,” a walk in the atmosphere of interfaith San Salvario: from Waldensian Evangelical church to the church of Saints Peter and Paul, Saturday 30 at 10 am. The same morning, from 9am to 12pm, mosques will be open to visitors.

 

La Stampa: http://www.lastampa.it/2013/11/18/cronaca/presentato-il-festival-dei-giovani-musulmani-italiani-PGO21m5NITnR7loCrNQpqJ/pagina.html