Category : Other Faiths

(WSJ) Tunku Varadarajan: India’s Imaginary ‘Love Jihad’–Judges break up the marriage of a Hindu woman who converted to Islam

This is the story of Hadiya, currently the most famous woman in India. Like any person of modest profile rocketed into national headlines, she’d rather be leading an anonymous life. But her parents—and the Supreme Court of India—will not let her.

Hadiya, a medical student, was born 25 years ago into a Hindu family in the southern state of Kerala. In 2015 she converted to Islam, and last year she married a Muslim man. In the process, she changed her Hindu given name from Akhila Ashokan to the adoptive Muslim Hadiya.

Her parents, appalled by the decision, urged the courts to annul her marriage in December 2016. They contended that she had converted to Islam under duress. Worse, they alleged that their daughter’s husband, Shafin Jahan, was involved in terrorism and intended to traffic her to Syria.

In a judgment that was startling in its paternalism and sexism, the Kerala High Court annulled Hadiya’s marriage, holding that she could not possibly have converted and married of her own free will.

Read it all.

Posted in Hinduism, India, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

(NYT) Praise and Alarm From American Jews Over President Trump’s Jerusalem Move

If he was hoping for thunderous applause from American Jews, President Trump may be disappointed.

His announcement on Wednesday that he will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital went down well with those on the political right, who have urged the step for years. They will be telling him so at the White House Hanukkah party on Thursday, they said.

But other Jewish leaders said they were more worried than glad, fearing that the precipitous step would inflame tensions in the region, provoke more terrorism, put peace with the Palestinians even farther out of reach, and worsen the diplomatic isolation of both Israel and the United States. They say they wish he had held off, as previous presidents have done.

“Jerusalem has always been the most delicate issue in every discussion about peace,” said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest branch of American Judaism. “So we’re very concerned that the announcement will either delay or undermine the very, very important resuming of a serious peace process.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Other Faiths, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle

(WSJ) Luke Goodrich on the Masterpiece Cakeshop Case–Religious freedom is for Christians, too

Most strikingly, a disproportionate share of religious freedom cases are brought by non-Christian minorities. The proportion of religious-freedom cases brought by Hindus was five times their share of the population in the six states under 10th Circuit jurisdiction. The factor was 10 for Native Americans and 17 for Muslims. The most underrepresented group? Christians, who were involved in only one-fourth as many cases as their share of the population.

That means that religious freedom protections remain especially important for non-Christian minorities. But it also raises a question: Why is there so much hand-wringing about a handful of religious-liberty cases brought by Christians?

This is because the political left applies a double standard. If religious liberty is invoked by a favored minority, it is legitimate. But if it is invoked by a Christian with traditional moral views, it is seen as an excuse for hate. Progressives engage in culture-war bullying when religious liberty would stand in the way of their social views. One of the Colorado state commissioners in Masterpiece Cakeshop called the Christian baker’s religious-freedom claim “one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric that people can use—to use their religion to hurt others.”

But if religious liberty means anything, it means the right to live according to your beliefs when most people think you are wrong.

So when Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, stands before the Supreme Court Tuesday, he may have some unlikely allies rooting for him: non-Christian religious minorities.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality

“The love that brings new life into the world” – Rabbi Sacks on the institution of marriage

The fifth development shaped the entire structure of Jewish experience. In ancient Israel an originally secular form of agreement, called a covenant, was taken and transformed into a new way of thinking about the relationship between God and humanity, in the case of Noah, and between God and a people in the case of Abraham and later the Israelites at Mount Sinai. A covenant is like a marriage. It is a mutual pledge of loyalty and trust between two or more people, each respecting the dignity and integrity of the other, to work together to achieve together what neither can achieve alone. And there is one thing even God cannot achieve alone, which is to live within the human heart. That needs us.

So the Hebrew word emunah, wrongly translated as faith, really means faithfulness, fidelity, loyalty, steadfastness, not walking away even when the going gets tough, trusting the other and honouring the other’s trust in us. What covenant did, and we see this in almost all the prophets, was to understand the relationship between us and God in terms of the relationship between bride and groom, wife and husband. Love thus became not only the basis of morality but also of theology. In Judaism faith is a marriage. Rarely was this more beautifully stated than by Hosea when he said in the name of God:

I will betroth you to me forever;

I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, love and compassion.

I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will know the Lord.

Jewish men say those words every weekday morning as we wind the strap of our tefillin around our finger like a wedding ring. Each morning we renew our marriage with God.

 

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Posted in Judaism, Marriage & Family, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Robert George–Poe Francis can help Myanmar’s Muslims, but the best way is behind the scenes

Pope Francis was in Myanmar this week spreading the Word of God. Many observers wondered if he would use a specific word: Rohingya. Barring an unforeseen statement—always possible on the papal plane home—it appears the Holy Father won’t, though he alluded to the crisis the word evokes.

Rohingya is the name of a persecuted religious and ethnic minority in the nation once known as Burma, where about 88% of people practice the Theravada Buddhist religion. The Rohingya are Muslims loathed and feared by those who insist on calling them “Bengalis,” as if they were foreigners in their own country. They are also targets of various forms of legally sanctioned discrimination and humiliation. Recently Myanmar’s military authorities have subjected them to ethnic cleansing. This has left between 600,000 and 900,000 of Myanmar’s 2.2 million Rohingya as refugees in bordering Bangladesh.

The word Rohingya offends the group’s persecutors. That’s because it implies recognition of the humanity and basic rights the Myanmar government denies. This would seem to create a perfect opportunity for Pope Francis, which is why human-rights activists called on him to speak the word boldly in public. But silence and speaking out both come with serious risks.

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Posted in Buddhism, Ethics / Moral Theology, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Myanmar/Burma, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(Globe+Mail) Sheema Khan–Women need to play a role in ‘restoring’ Saudi Islam

In a wide-ranging interview with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Salman (a.k.a. “MBS”) discussed, among other topics, the recent anti-corruption drive and liberalization of Saudi society. Call it a kinder, gentler form of authoritarianism – with a progressive touch. Notably, MBS refused to address his country’s interference in Lebanese politics or its unconscionable scorched-earth policy in Yemen.

Nonetheless, Mr. Friedman was effusive of MBS’s plans to veer Saudi Islam to a “moderate, balanced Islam that is open to the world and to all religions and all traditions and peoples.” The Prince calls it a “restoration” of the faith to its origins – namely the Prophetic period in the early 7th century. This has the potential to reverse the puritanical strain (Wahhabism) currently at the heart of Saudi society, where, for example, a woman is under male guardianship from cradle to grave.

The late Sunni scholar Abdul Halim Abu Shaqqa chronicled in his comprehensive study of the Koran and authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad, Muslim women were far more engaged in society during the Prophetic era. They had more rights and opportunities to build a vibrant society, in partnership with men, than many contemporary Muslim cultures (including Saudi Arabia).

Mr. Friedman believes this “restoration” project “would drive moderation across the Muslim world.” In fact, most of the Muslim world has soundly rejected Wahhabism. Yet, the deeply entrenched patriarchy of Saudi society finds parallels in many Muslim countries.

Read it all.

Posted in Islam, Religion & Culture, Saudi Arabia, Women

(ACNS) Archbishop of Canterbury intervenes in Anglo-American diplomatic Twitter row

In a rare political intervention, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has explicitly criticised the US President Donald Trump for retweeting anti-Muslim videos posted by a British far-right extremist group. Archbishop Justin said “it is deeply disturbing that the President of the United States has chosen to amplify the voice of far-right extremists.” The UK Prime Minister Theresa May also criticised the US President, but was slapped down by Mr Trump, who told her to “focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism.”

The original tweets were posted by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, a minority political party with virtually no support in Britain outside its estimated 1,000 followers. In a 2014 parliamentary by-election in the Rochester and Strood constituency, Fransen received just 56 of the 40,065 votes cast. She is currently awaiting trial in Belfast on charges of using “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour” and in Kent for inciting racial hatred.

She and her followers have stormed mosques and carried out what they call “Christian Patrols” – marching in paramilitary-stule uniforms carrying a large cross in areas of the UK populated by people who – either themselves or through their ancestors – have roots in south-Asian countries. She claims to be Christian but it is not known if she attends any church. Her actions and those of Britain First have been condemned by Christian leaders from across the denominational spread.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, --Social Networking, Archbishop of Canterbury, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Muslim-Christian relations, Office of the President, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture

(PRC) Europe’s Growing Muslim Population–Muslims are projected to increase as a share of Europe’s population–even with no future migration

In recent years, Europe has experienced a record influx of asylum seekers fleeing conflicts in Syria and other predominantly Muslim countries. This wave of Muslim migrants has prompted debate about immigration and security policies in numerous countries and has raised questions about the current and future number of Muslims in Europe.

To see how the size of Europe’s Muslim population may change in the coming decades, Pew Research Center has modeled three scenarios that vary depending on future levels of migration. These are not efforts to predict what will happen in the future, but rather a set of projections about what could happen under different circumstances.

The baseline for all three scenarios is the Muslim population in Europe (defined here as the 28 countries presently in the European Union, plus Norway and Switzerland) as of mid-2016, estimated at 25.8 million (4.9% of the overall population) – up from 19.5 million (3.8%) in 2010.

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Posted in Europe, Immigration, Islam, Religion & Culture, Sociology

Bishop of Egypt Mouneer Anis responds to the Terror Attack On the Al-Rawda Mosque

From there:

It was reported that a group of terrorists bombed the mosque, and opened fire on the people during the Friday prayers at 1.30 pm. It is said that most of the people killed are Sufis. It is known that militant Salafi and Jihadist groups consider Sufis as heretics. They used to target policemen, soldiers and Christians but now Muslims are also targeted. No group is exempt. This massive bloody attack is the largest during the last few years.

Many world leaders condemned the attack and expressed their support to Egypt in its war against terrorism. We, Egyptians, are determined to fight terrorism and support President Abdel Fatah El Sisi who is leading the war against terrorism in the region.

Terrorism is a great threat to the whole world. This fact puts the responsibility on the international community to stop all groups and organisations which financially support these terrorist groups. These organizations take advantage of the freedom in the European countries to raise funds to support terrorists to carry out their bloody attacks on human beings.

Please pray for the families who lost their loved and the injured.

Posted in Egypt, Islam, Jerusalem & the Middle East, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Religion & Culture, Violence

(NYT) Militants Kill 305 at Sufi Mosque in Egypt’s Deadliest Terrorist Attack

 Militants detonated a bomb inside a crowded mosque in the Sinai Peninsula on Friday and then sprayed gunfire on panicked worshipers as they fled, killing at least 305 people and wounding at least 128 others. Officials called it the deadliest terrorist attack in Egypt’s modern history.

The scale and ruthlessness of the assault, in an area racked by an Islamist insurgency, sent shock waves across the nation — not just for the number of deaths but also for the choice of target. Attacks on mosques are rare in Egypt, where the Islamic State has targeted Coptic Christian churches and pilgrims but avoided Muslim places of worship.

The attack injected a new element into Egypt’s struggle with militants because most of the victims were Sufi Muslims, who practice a mystical form of Islam that the Islamic State and other Sunni extremist groups deem heretical. And it underscored the failure of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has justified his harsh crackdown on political freedom in the name of crushing Islamic militancy, to deliver on his promises of security.

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Posted in Egypt, Islam, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Violence

(1st Things) Matthew Rose–Our Secular Theodicy

I live in Berkeley, one of the most religious cities in America. Its churches are being converted into mosques and Buddhist temples, but its one true faith endures. A popular yard sign states its creed: “In This House, We Believe: Black Lives Matter, Women’s Rights are Human Rights, No Human is Illegal, Science is Real, Love is Love, and Kindness is Everything.” The sign is both profession and prophecy. Like the biblical Joshua whose promise it echoes (“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”), my neighbors are in a holy vanguard. They have seen the future America, have identified its present enemies, and are leading us into a promised land.

The biblical politics of my secular neighbors would not have been lost on Ernst Bloch. Bloch was an atheist who believed Jesus was the Messiah, a Stalinist who disagreed with Marx, and a materialist who embraced natural law theory. For the moment you will have to take my word that this can make sense and that it is worth the modest effort to understand how. You would be within your rights to be skeptical. No doctrine has been refuted so often as Marxism, and the debates that consumed Bloch’s long life are dead. Yet the utopian spirit to which he gave original, sometimes brilliant, and more often bizarre expression has never been more alive, and to visit his work is to witness a moment when Christian faith began to transmute itself into the progressive creeds of today.

In a series of books beginning in 1918 and ending shortly before his death in 1977, Bloch proposed that the central category for understanding politics is eschatology—our anticipation of a future society that will reveal the meaning of human history and redeem its fallen state. He named this kingdom “utopia” and argued that its arrival is the object of every human hope and the justification of every human suffering. Bloch lived under Hitler, Vichy, and the gaze of Walter Ulbricht, the Stalinist leader of East Germany, making his work an anguished commentary on the darkest moments of the twentieth century. But his millennial hopes, expressed in critical dialogue with Christian theology, continue to inspire many.

Bloch is a guide into the concealed theology of contemporary liberalism, whose outlook remains profoundly, if paradoxically, biblical in one respect. Having rejected a Christian understanding of nature, it retains an intensely Christian understanding of history.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Secularism

(PRC FactTank) Assaults against Muslims in U.S. surpass 2001 level

The number of assaults against Muslims in the United States rose significantly between 2015 and 2016, easily surpassing the modern peak reached in 2001, the year of the September 11 terrorist attacks, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of new hate crimes statistics from the FBI. In 2016, there were 127 reported victims of aggravated or simple assault, compared with 91 the year before and 93 in 2001.

But assaults are not the only form of hate crime carried out against Muslims and other religious groups. The most common is intimidation, which is defined as reasonable fear of bodily harm. Anti-Muslim intimidation also increased in 2016, with 144 reported victims, compared with 120 the previous year. These numbers, however, are still dwarfed by the 296 victims of anti-Muslim intimidation in 2001.

Certain types of crimes that damage or destroy property, including vandalism, also have risen, from 70 cases against Muslims in 2015 to 92 last year.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Islam, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Economist) What Buddhism teaches about peace and war

But it is in Myanmar where Buddhist violence has become most familiar of late. A monk called Ashin Wirathu has led demands for a harsh response to a perceived Muslim threat. His organisation, Ma Ba Tha, has supposedly been banned, but it still presses the authorities to take the hardest of lines against the Rohingya Muslims, of whom over 600,000 have been expelled to Bangladesh. Ma Ba Tha disseminates the idea that Myanmar’s overwhelming Buddhist majority is threatened by the Muslim minority. The stance is criticised by some Asian Buddhists. The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, has rebuked his coreligionists for persecuting the Rohingya, saying they should “remember Buddha”. He insisted that the faith’s founder would “definitely help those poor Muslims”.

Like every other important religion in history, Buddhism engenders powerful protective feelings among its followers, especially when sacred history and national history become intertwined, as happens in Sri Lanka. In the collective memory of Sri Lankan Buddhists, the emergence of their nation is seen as linked with the advent of their faith in the era of King Ashoka, if not earlier. And whenever people feel a threat to their identity and origins, they can easily be induced to lash out with disproportionate force, just as medieval Christians marched to war when told that their faith’s holiest places in Jerusalem were being desecrated. Moreover, as with any vast corpus of sacred texts and annals, things can be found in the Buddhist tradition to justify violence, at least in self-defence. Medieval Japan, for example, had its Buddhist warrior monks. And even the Dalai Lama agrees that one can take limited action in self-defence. If a man is aiming a gun at you, he once said, you can shoot back, but to wound rather than kill.

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Posted in Asia, Buddhism, Ethics / Moral Theology, Myanmar/Burma

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks–Truth emerges from disagreement and debate

Coming in to Broadcasting House this morning I saw for the first time the statue unveiled this week, of George Orwell, with its inscription on the wall behind, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” How badly we need that truth today.

I’ve been deeply troubled by what seems to me to be the assault on free speech taking place in British universities in the name of “safe space,” “trigger warnings,” and “micro-aggressions,” meaning any remark that someone might find offensive even if no offence is meant. So far has this gone that a month ago, students at an Oxford College banned the presence of a representative of the Christian Union on the grounds that some might find their presence alienating and offensive. Luckily the protest that followed led to the ban being swiftly overturned. But still …

I’m sure this entire movement has been undertaken for the highest of motives, to protect the feelings of the vulnerable, which I applaud, but you don’t achieve that by silencing dissenting views. A safe space is the exact opposite: a place where you give a respectful hearing to views opposed to your own, knowing that your views too will be listened to respectfully. That’s academic freedom and it’s essential to a free society.

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Posted in Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Language, Philosophy

(BBC) Rowan Williams: Anti-Semitism an ‘urgent issue’

Anti-Semitism is not a problem of past, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has warned.
Speaking on the 500-year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, Williams highlighted Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic views.
“Like it or not, that is part of the story that leads to Germany in the 1930s,” he told the Today programme.

Watch it all.

Posted in Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Judaism, Lutheran