Christianity at risk of extinction in areas of persecution, says Warsi

November 15, 2013

 

Christianity is in danger of extinction in some countries because of persecution in areas where its followers are in the minority, a British government minister has said. Christians were being driven out of regions in countries such as Syria and Iraq, where the religion first took root, said Lady Warsi, who has responsibility for faith communities.

She raised her concerns and called on politicians in countries such as Pakistan to “set the tone” for tolerance of religious minorities. Lady Warsi told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “I’m concerned that the birthplace of Christianity, the parts of the world where Christianity first spread, is now seeing large sections of the Christian community leaving, and those that are remaining feeling persecuted.

She said 83% of countries had constitutions guaranteeing freedom of religion, but did not implement those provisions. “There’s an international consensus, in the form of a Human Rights Council resolution on the treatment of minorities and tolerance towards other faiths. But we need to build political will behind that.

Asked whether Lady Warsi’s warning of the possible extinction of some Christian communities was correct, the leader of Catholics in England and Wales, the archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, told Today: “I think in some parts of the Middle East that is probably true.

 

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/15/christianity-risk-extinction-persecution-minority-warsi

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/persecution-threatens-extinction-of-christianity-in-ancient-homelands-warns-baroness-warsi-8941249.html

One million Muslims will wear Remembrance poppies despite extremists’ opposition, say researchers

November 6, 2013

 

More than one million Muslims will be sporting poppies this weekend to mark Remembrance Sunday despite the bitter opposition of Islamist hardliners, research disclosed tonight. Some radical voices argue that poppy-wearing, ceremonies to commemorate the fallen dead and the one minute’s silence on Armistice Day are all forbidden to devout Muslims. But a new survey shows large numbers of people from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds, who comprise about two-thirds of the Muslim population, support the sale of poppies.

The think-tank British Future said the findings equated to some 800,000 poppy-wearers from these two groups alone and calculated the overall figure for the Muslim community to be well over one million. It released the research in an effort to counter charges that British Muslims are unpatriotic because of protests against UK troops returning from war zones.

Although they acknowledge many Muslims are uncomfortable about military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, several major mosques have set up poppy stalls this week. They argue that thousands of Muslims were killed in the First World War serving in the British Indian army. The radical Islamist Anjem Choudray retaliated this week by denouncing supporters of Remembrance Sunday as hypocrites, bootlickers and sycophants and said Muslims who sell poppies today will “burn in hellfire tomorrow”.

The survey found 62 per cent of ethnic minority Britons said they would wear a poppy on Sunday. That included 69 per cent of people of Indian heritage, 53 per cent from Pakistani backgrounds, 46 per cent of Bangladeshi heritage, 74 per cent of Black Caribbeans and 55 per cent from Black African background. There are no figures for white Britons although researchers believe they would not be significantly higher than for other groups.

Dilwar Hussein, Chair of the charity New Horizons in British Islam, said: “These figures show most ordinary British men and women of Muslim background are just like the rest of us when it comes to Remembrance Day. As they go about their daily business as British citizens we should acknowledge this quiet yet profound form of integration.

The figures emerged as the Islamic Society of Britain (ISB) joined imams and the London Faith Forum this week to urge more British Muslims to wear poppies and support tributes to the war dead. The ISB says on its website: “Remembrance Day will be taking place throughout the country with many different approaches of appreciation. We urge and encourage you to become involved by participating in your local areas.”

It says: “It is easy to forget that millions of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and people of other minority faiths have served in the British Armed Forces across two World Wars, facing down the hatred of Nazism and helping keep Britain safe in its direst hours of need.”

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/one-million-muslims-will-wear-remembrance-poppies-despite-extremists-opposition-say-researchers-8924933.html

Court decision on school swimming for Muslim pupils

Sep 11th

 

The Federal Administrative Court of the city of Leipzig has rejected the complaint of a Moroccan family from Frankfurt, complaining against obligatory swimming education for their thirteen years old daughter. According to the court, religion is not a sufficient reason to avoid public swimming. A whole-body swimsuit (Burkini) is reasoned to be sufficient covering the entire body, enabling Muslim girls to participate at school swimming.

 

The Minister of the German State Hesse interpreted the court rule as a pathbreaking decision for the integration of migrants. The court in Leipzig reasoned its decision with the aim to ensure the application of law to all subjects. No minority group should be excluded from German society.

 

Stop playing political football with black and ethnic minorities

A study carried out by cross-party organisation Operation Black Vote showed the number of black and minority ethnic (BME) voters had grown by 70% since the last election. Using the 2011 census, it calculated that in England and Wales there are168 seats where the black and ethnic minority population holds greater sway than the majority. It is a significant number that means that not only is the BME vote increasing but with this growth comes a variance in voting patterns. A growing class of educated, affluent British Asians has grown up over the past decade who are concerned about the community they live in and the current political climate.

 

For example in Bradford the Respect campaign recruited Asian women, targeted community centres, visited homes, sent campaigners who spoke Punjabi and Urdu and most importantly asked the constituents what they wanted from their representatives. This one-to-one strategy empowered a sector of the community that had for too long been marginalised and disenfranchised. Up until then, the men of the house decided which party the family as a collective would vote for. The women of Bradford seized this opportunity and quickly spread the word that there was finally a party that appreciated their involvement.

 

Let this serve as a lesson to mainstream parties: you can win the votes of the Asian women by engaging them in dialogue, by addressing their concerns and assuring them that their voices are valuable. And by Asian women I mean ALL Asian women, those who are educated, uneducated, those who work and those who are stay-at-home mums and carers. Mainstream parties also need to engage BME youth, many of whom worry about rising tuition fees, lack of employment opportunities, the glass ceilings they will encounter because of their backgrounds, racism and the discrimination they face.

 

There is a growing interest in politics within the BME communities, it is time to respect and engage with them in the most effective manner possible so our multicultural society can take the most benefits from their respective contributions.

British government’s silence over attacks on Muslims is worrying, and divisive

Britain's prime minister David CameronLast week, a nail bomb partially exploded at a mosque in the West Midlands – the fourth attack in two months on mosques in Britain during Friday prayers. A suspect in one of those attacks is also being questioned in connection with the killing of Mohammed Saleem, a Muslim pensioner in Birmingham, who was stabbed to death as he returned home from prayers. The police response to these attacks has been heartening, but the silence from government and the establishment in general, has been deeply worrisome.

 

When Lee Rigby was murdered, politicians of every stripe scrambled to condemn and reassure. Cobra, the country’s top emergency response mechanism, was convened under the home secretary, Theresa May. David Cameron reassured Britons that “we will never buckle in the face of terrorism”. Compare this with near-silence that greeted the recent mosque attacks. Muslims have become accustomed, almost resigned, to media double standards – there is no example starker than the wildly different coverage of Rigby and Saleem’s killings. But the failure to mobilise, condemn and reassure on the part of the political class is potentially far more dangerous.

 

It suggests not only that a Muslim life is less sacred than a non-Muslim one, but that Muslims do not have the same rights as others to be reassured. That attacks on them are attacks on a minority, and not on British citizens. Muslims are not members of a minority that should be grateful Cameron magnanimously declares it not a threat. They are British citizens who are increasingly under more urgent and immediate risk of terrorist attack than others.

 

These are not the everyday hate crimes that we have sadly become inured to, and which are faced by all religious minorities. Jews in the UK, for example, have for years experienced anti-Semitic attacks including desecration of holy sites and abuse of religious figures. In this most recent wave of targeting Muslims, however, we are not simply talking severed pig’s heads and swastikas, but violent terrorist crime that aims to maim and claim lives. To some extent the disproportionality of the response can be attributed to the fact that Britain has suffered a scarring terrorist attack perpetrated by Muslims, and foiled others in the making. But the government is there to serve its citizens equally. The constant refrain is that Muslims are an insular minority that poses an integration challenge, existing on the fringes of British life. But when they are consistently treated by different standards in terms of their rights as citizens to security and succour, it only confirms that the fringe is where they belong.

 

New State contract guarantees Muslim participation in German media council

July 5

 

The State of Baden-Württemberg and the public media Südwestrundfunk have agreed to open the media council for Muslim and Sinti minority groups. Minority groups will be represented in the media council of public service broadcasting. The treaty is perceived as a milestone towards ethnic and religious plurality in German media.

Islam in Schools? Cantone what do you think? Asks deputy governor Michele Guerra

June 4, 2013

 

Michele Guerra gran consigliere for the Northern League, raises awareness about education of Islam in schools to the Canton government and raises questions about Islam in Ticino.

 

The deputy refers in particular an interview appeared recently through the Cdt to an Ticino Imam. The Imam confirmed that Islam is a reality in Europe and due to this it should be taught in public schools to stop prejudice acts and worse, terrorism.

 

According to Guerra this proposition is “disconcerting.”

 

Islam, explains Guerra, “represents a recent minority especially for Ticino. In the second place, it’s not certain that education in public schools would deter acts of vandalism or terrorism.”

 

Guerra, who is against teaching Islam in schools, he has appealed to the State government to stop the Imam’s proposition.

On the Muslim Question by Anne Norton – review

Anne Norton rejects the ‘clash of civilisations’ view of Islam and the west, but offers little to replace it. Lawrence Rosen is the author of Varieties of Muslim Experience and The Culture of Islam offers the review of Anne Norton’s new publication On the Muslim Question.

 

Anne Norton thinks that the “Muslim question” is, if anything, a question about non-Muslims. She is straightforward in denying the claim that Islam and the west are involved in a “clash of civilisations”; castigating writers of various political persuasions who have, blatantly or inferentially, put forward this view. She thus criticises writers such as John Rawls (as well as those, such as Michael Walzer and Michael Ignatieff, who “have urged them on”) for saying that Muslims constantly seek empire and territory, for stereotyping Muslims’ political orientation as the antithesis of liberalism, and for promoting a false history that conceals liberalism’s own failings. In an effort to find more common ground, she underwrites Derrida’s assertion that Islam is “the other of democracy” because Muslim states could retain their distinctiveness while recognising Israel and promoting democratic values. And she surprisingly lauds Sayyid Qutb, the Islamic theorist executed by Nasser in Egypt, because “even this intolerant, fanatic man has something to teach us about human rights, human dignity, and equality”, given his support for private property and women in the workplace.

 

In a series of chapters on sexuality, freedom of speech and democracy, Norton recognises that valid differences of orientation exist. But she does not always help her own case by making assertions that are variously vague, trivial or wrong. For example, she says that terrorism is the precursor to democracy (as if the course of the Arab spring was inevitable), that randomness is “terrifying” (so much for evolutionists), that “Germany has no neo-Nazis” (when they number upwards of 5,000), that the publishers of the Danish cartoons “intended to provoke” (and not just insult) Muslims, that the veil is “profoundly erotic” (for elderly women?), or that calling your sports team the Redskins “honours an old enemy” (tell that to Native Americans).

 

But if the clash-of-civilisations approach is false, what options exist for addressing the differences presented by a Muslim minority in a western country? Having dismissed many of the arguments of western intellectuals about Islam, Norton indicates that neither outright assimilation nor distant toleration is to be preferred: rather she chooses the third option, moving “us” closer to “them”. Indeed, she seems to regard this as already having happened. True, some issues may be resolving themselves internally: many Muslim women have found common sartorial ground, older ones having given up the full veil, younger ones the miniskirt, both adopting a simple head scarf. And once we eliminate the clash-of-civilisations notion from our vocabulary, the mutual accommodations that already exist at the local level may only increase. But a common meeting ground is not always easily achieved.

 

Such a position may, however, come at the price of not really attending to the distinctiveness of the “other”. Norton knows little about Muslims: she gets her few references to Arabic wrong and never discusses the scholarship on Islam and Muslim cultures. In the absence of any understanding of Muslims in their own terms, moving closer to them risks being yet another exercise in self-congratulation: it yields few insights about us and none about them, and thus lacks both genuine understanding and real moral bite.

 

Muslims, like every minority, appreciate the need for camouflage in the face of muted suspicion, even if that need has diminished somewhat in the years since 9/11 and 7/7. But living as a chameleon may be harder now that we all notice each other noticing each other. Under such circumstances, anonymity, for many Muslims, may stifle their sense of valid difference and deprive non-Muslims of really seeing their neighbours. If that happens, we may avoid the “clash”, but it may come at the cost of an arrangement neither community should be eager to call “civilisation”.

 

Dutch Schools Reluctant to Accept Minority Pupils

26 April 2013

Dutch primary schools are refusing to accept children with an ethnic background, reports newspaper Trouw. The refusal is based on fears that children of an ethnic background will drive down test scores, and that those who do not speak Dutch as a first language will have a negative impact on the school’s performance scores. In addition, the schools are worried that they may become classified as “too black” and therefore unpopular with white parents. Trouw bases its report on information from the Nijmegen based KBA bureau following a research project.

Some 12% of Dutch primary schools have more than 50% ethnic-minority pupils. Parents of children with a minority background who try to register their children at white schools hit a variety of obstacles, Trouw said. These range from simply feeling unwelcome to long waiting lists. In some cases they are referred to a more mixed school ‘where there is more experience with language disadvantage’.

Celebrating Darwin: Religion And Science Are Closer Than You Think

The MIT Survey on Science, Religion and Origins, which we’re officially publishing today in honor of Charles Darwin’s 204th birthday. We found that only 11 percent of Americans belong to religions openly rejecting evolution or our Big Bang. So if someone you know has the same stressful predicament as my student, chances are that they can relax as well. To find out for sure, check out this infographic.

So is there a conflict between science and religion? The religious organizations representing most Americans clearly don’t think so. Interestingly, the science organizations representing most American scientists don’t think so either: For example, the American Association for the Advancement of Science states that science and religion “live together quite comfortably, including in the minds of many scientists.” This shows that the main divide in the U.S. origins debate isn’t between science and religion, but between a small fundamentalist minority and mainstream religious communities who embrace science.

So is there a conflict between science and religion? The religious organizations representing most Americans clearly don’t think so. Interestingly, the science organizations representing most American scientists don’t think so either: For example, the American Association for the Advancement of Science states that science and religion “live together quite comfortably, including in the minds of many scientists.” This shows that the main divide in the U.S. origins debate isn’t between science and religion, but between a small fundamentalist minority and mainstream religious communities who embrace science.