France’s far-right party: No funds for religious groups

March 3, 2014

 

Marine Le Pen, whose party is riding a wave of anti-immigration and anti-Muslim voter sentiment around Europe, says it will cut public funds to religious groups in towns where it wins municipal elections this month.

Le Pen told The Associated Press in an interview that secularism will be strictly applied in towns where her far-right National Front prevails on March 23 and 30, and that referendums will be held on major issues. Le Pen, 45, praised the recent Swiss decision, in a referendum, to cap immigration, saying countries have an “inalienable right” to control their borders.

The National Front reached a high in 2012 when Le Pen scored 18 percent in presidential elections. But the party wants to establish itself in towns around France with the municipal vote. Le Pen, who wants France to abandon the euro currency and leave the European Union, also hopes to boost her party’s strength in European Parliament elections in May. She contends the EU, along with immigration and global financing, are crushing the values of French civilization. Le Pen claimed the Swiss decision, passed by a razor-thin 50.3 percent “yes” vote, would have sailed through France with a 65 percent approval rating if such a referendum held here.

Le Pen has worked to remove the stigma that has kept the party out of mainstream politics by giving it a kinder, more politically correct face. But the National Front has forged ahead with its anti-immigrant stance, especially regarding Muslims. That theme is reflected in other European far-right parties that she hopes will have resonance among voters choosing who runs their daily lives. In towns the National Front might win, Le Pen said that local taxes would be lowered and public funds would be denied to any association with a religious character.

Current law forbids funding religious organizations, but they can receive money if their work also addresses the general interest. In reality, that means many associations would risk losing public funds. A strict application of the principle of secularism could mean removing halal food in school cafeterias, forbidding Muslim women in scarves to accompany children on class trips, and prevent Muslim women from renting public swimming pools after hours. “I’m absolutely not afraid to be called anti-Muslim because I’m not,” Le Pen said.

Le Pen — who calls herself a “patriot” rather than a member of the extreme right — claims that her party neither deals in nor encourages the rising Islamophobia in France. She blames “political-religious groups” who want to install Muslim Sharia law in France and use “massive immigration” to do so. “We don’t have problems with Islam,” she said. But “France has Christian roots. They (the French) want to recognize their own country, recognize their lifestyle, their habits, their traditions.’’

 

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/french-far-right-no-funds-for-religious-groups/2014/03/03/569fa4d2-a2e7-11e3-b865-38b254d92063_story.html

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/

NC Muslims hope Gov. Pat McCrory vetoes anti-Shariah bill

North Carolina Muslims hope they can persuade Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, to veto a bill that prohibits state judges from considering “foreign law.”
“It’s going to be tough,” said Rose Hamid of Charlotte. “But I do believe there is a chance.”
Muslims across the state oppose the bill they think is motivated by intolerance and may potentially infringe on other religious groups. Bills against judicial consideration of “foreign laws” are believed to really be opposing Shariah, or Islamic law.
If McCrory signs the bill, North Carolina would become the seventh state to have an anti-Shariah law, joining Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. In May, Alabama lawmakers approved a like-minded constitutional amendment that state voters will consider in 2014.
Dozens of anti-Shariah law bills have been proposed in roughly 30 states in the last few years, and Muslim Americans expect many more bills in the years to come. “It’s not a trend that’s going away,” said Saylor.

Arab Spring Adds to Global Restrictions on Religion

pew restrictionsIVAt the onset of the Arab Spring in late 2010 and early 2011, many world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, expressed hope that the political uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa would lead to greater freedoms for the people of the region, including fewer restrictions on religious beliefs and practices. But a new study by the Pew Research Center finds that the region’s already high overall level of restrictions on religion – whether resulting from government policies or from social hostilities – continued to increase in 2011.

 

Before the Arab Spring, government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion were higher in the Middle East and North Africa than in any other region of the world.1 Government restrictions in the region remained high in 2011, while social hostilities markedly increased. For instance, the number of countries in the region experiencing sectarian or communal violence between religious groups doubled from five to 10. (See sidebar on the Middle East-North Africa region.)

The Americas, Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and the Asia-Pacific region all had increases in overall restrictions on religion in 2011. Government restrictions declined slightly in Europe, but social hostilities increased. Asia and the Pacific had the sharpest increase in government restrictions, though the level of social hostilities remained roughly the same. By contrast, social hostilities edged up in sub-Saharan Africa, but government restrictions stayed about the same. Both government restrictions and social hostilities increased slightly in the Americas.

The new study also finds that reports of harassment or intimidation of Muslims increased worldwide during 2011. Muslims were harassed by national, provincial or local governments or by individuals or groups in society in 101 countries, up from 90 countries the year before. Christians continued to be harassed in the largest number of countries (105), although this represented a decrease from the previous year (111 countries). Jews were harassed in 69 countries, about the same as the year before (68). (For details, see Number of Countries Where Religious Groups Were Harassed, by Year chart.)

The number of countries with overall increases in restrictions compared with the previous year outnumbered those with decreases. However, a larger share of countries (35%) had a decrease in at least one of the 20 types of government restrictions or 13 types of social hostilities measured by the study compared with the previous year (28%). Examples include a relaxation of registration requirements for religious groups in Austria; efforts to overturn a centuries-old law barring the British monarch from marrying a Catholic; and elimination of a requirement in Jordan that groups, including religious groups, obtain prior permission from the government before holding public meetings or demonstrations.6 (See sidebar on initiatives aimed at reducing religious restrictions.)

In the four countries with decreases of 1.0 to 1.9 points (Bangladesh, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and the United States), some hostilities that occurred in the year ending in mid-2010 did not reoccur in 2011. In the United States, for instance, multiple religion-related terrorist attacks occurred in the year ending in mid-2010, but none occurred in 2011.15

Among countries with small changes on the Social Hostilities Index (less than 1.0 point), 69 had increases (35%) and 59 had decreases (30%).

Considering all changes in social hostilities from mid-2010 to the end of 2011, regardless of magnitude, 49% of countries had increases and 32% of countries had decreases. The level of increase in social hostilities during the latest year studied remained unchanged from the previous year (from mid-2009 to mid-2010).

RestrictionsIV-web

Pro-Islamic adverts taken down from London railway stations

12 January 2012

Muslim charity The Qur’an Project was displaying pro-Islamic posters in five major London Railway Stations – Waterloo, Victoria, Liverpool St, Marylebone and St Pancras International during the period 10 – 24 December 2012. The project aimed to tackle Islamophobia by educating people about Islam. The places had been reserved and they had agreed on the cost of the advert. However, the adverts were taken down by JCDecaux, the company who manages advertising in the UK railways.

In their letter to The Qur’an Project, JCDecaux gave the following reason: “…rail companies have pointed out that this is not acceptable and we should not have done so. As a consequence, we began the process of removing your posters from the rail stations over the weekend…”
The move has been considered to have Islamophobic motivations since JCDecaux and Network Rail have allowed similar campaigns for other religious groups over the last two years.

Glasgow Muslim students fight against prejudice

3 December 2012

Glasgow City Council has been working hard to promote racial and religious equality in Glasgow, in order to foster better relations between religious groups residing in the city. In the wake of the anti-Islamic movie, Innocence of Muslim, the City Council has discussed plans to support Glasgow’s 30,000-strong Muslim community and protect faith groups from similar behavior.

Madihah Ansari, a student at Glasgow Caledonian University, is joining the efforts to promote religious understanding in Pollokshields. She has introduced ‘New to Islam’ classes for the city’s recent Muslim converts, Madihah is taking the chance to share the message of her religion with those who have only a basic understanding of Islam.

The classes are held at Madrasa Taleemul Islam on Nithsdale Road, on weekly basis and give all attendees an insight into the world’s fastest-growing religion.

Imams and other non-Christian chaplains terminated in Canadian jails

News Agencies – October 5, 2012

 

The Canadian federal government has decided to end its contracts nationwide with minority-faith chaplains who had been working part-time in the country’s federal prisons.

Full-time chaplains who remain will be expected to provide spiritual guidance to inmates of all faiths. Finance minister Vic Toews ordered a stop to the tendering of new contracts last month after he announced that he was “not convinced” all chaplaincy services were an appropriate use of taxpayer money.

 

The email cited a memo from Don Head, commissioner of the correctional service, who said the government had decided to move exclusively to a “full-time chaplaincy model with continued reliance on the voluntary support of our community partners.” Renewal options for all part-time contracts “will not be exercised.”

 

According to corrections data, in the last fiscal year, 36 per cent of inmates identified themselves as Catholic, 18 per cent as Protestant, five per cent as Muslim, four per cent as native spiritual, two per cent as Buddhist, one per cent as Jewish and one per cent as Sikh. Twenty percent said they were non-religious, seven per cent said they belonged to “other” religious groups, and six per cent answered “unknown.”

Survey: Americans overstate size of religious minorities

The typical American underestimates how many Protestants there are in the U.S., and vastly overestimates the number of religious minorities such as Mormons, Muslims, and atheist/agnostics, according to a new study.

Grey Matter Research and Consulting asked 747 U.S. adults to guess what proportion of the American population belongs to each of eight major religious groups: Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, atheist/agnostic, believe in God or a higher power but have no particular religious preference, and any other religious group. The average response was that 24 percent of Americans are Catholic, 20 percent are Protestant, 19 percent are unaffiliated, 8 percent are Jewish, 9 percent are atheist or agnostic, 7 percent are Muslim, 7 percent are Mormon and 5 percent identify with all other religious groups.

Respondents were correct on Catholics — 24 percent of the country is Catholic. But according to the 2008 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 51 percent are Protestant, 12 percent are unaffiliated, 2 percent are Jewish, 4 percent are Atheist/Agnostic, less than 1 percent are Muslim, 2 percent are Mormon and 4 percent identify with all other religious groups.

Closure of prayer room in the University of East Anglia upsets Muslim students

11 June 2012

 

British Muslims have always expressed their displeasure for their situation in the British Higher education system. Unlike other religious groups such as Christians and Jews who have mostly found their place in the system due to their long history in Britain, Muslim students have always found it difficult to live in the system that at best tries to tolerate rather than welcome them. Thus, most of the time there is a lack of basic services including prayer facilities in the campus.

 

In a recent example of this, the University of East Anglia decided to close their prayer room which in return received negative reactions from the Muslim students.

White House releases public/private guidelines

WASHINGTON — A new White House report that offers guidance on public/private partnerships between the government and faith-based groups leaves critical questions unanswered and does not resolve the issue of religious groups’ ability to discriminate in hiring and firing, church-state watchdogs said.

The 50-page report, issued Friday (April 28), comes 18 months after President Obama issued an executive order calling for more transparency as faith-based groups work with the government to meet social needs.

The report breaks little new ground, but reaffirms that:

— A faith-based organization can provide federally funded social services without removing religious art, scriptures and symbols from their facilities.

— Explicitly religious activities can’t be supported by federal funds but are permitted if they are funded privately and occur at a separate time and location from programs that receive government money.

— Beneficiaries who object to the religious character of a provider must be referred promptly to an alternative.

Joshua DuBois, director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, called the guidance “an important step” in implementing the recommendations from a blue-ribbon advisory board.