In the News: Ireland: Abortion Law Changes

Eighth Amendment committee agrees to recommend abortion law changes, Sarah Bardon, The Irish Times, 2017-12-13.

The Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment has agreed to recommend a series of changes to abortion laws, including access to terminations without restriction up to 12 weeks. After three months of evidence from experts, the committee proposed repealing Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, which gives the unborn and the mother an equal right to life.

This is a major advance for women’s rights in a country where Catholic obscurantism has always retarded such rights. The “Oireachtas” is the Irish legislature. Our friends of Atheist Ireland work for these rights as a member of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment.

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In the News: Saudia Arabia: Apostasy Penalty Unchanged

Official source denies allegations that the Kingdom is planning to abolish apostasy penalty, Saudi Press Agency, 2017-12-02.

An official source declared to the Saudi Press Agency that the allegations published by some sources in good intention or otherwise that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is embarked on abolishing the apostasy penalty are altogether false and incorrect. The source explained that such groundless claims are absurd according to the ruling system of governance and as per the practices of this blessed country since its institution. He confirmed that the public prosecution is embarked on taking the necessary legal measures to sue who dared to disseminate such lies which go contrary to the constitution of this country. The source stressed that such issue was already determined and un-negotiable at all in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The criminalization of apostasy (leaving one’s religion)—especially when punishable by the death penalty—constitutes a total negation of freedom of conscience. Indeed, such a law is barbaric. Despite any rumours we may have heard about reforms in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Press Agency assures us that the country’s legal system will continue to be barbaric by refusing to abolish the penalty for apostasy. Even worse, according to the above news report, it is apparently illegal even to say that such a change could envisaged!

In the News: MNA Agnès Malthais proposes a commission on indoctrination by sects

Endoctrinement des sectes: Maltais veut une commission parlementaire (Indoctrination by Sects: Maltais Wants a Parliamentary Commission), Ian Bussières, Le Soleil, 2017-11-23

MNA Agnès Malthais has asked the Commission on Institutions of the Quebec National Assembly to investigate methods of indoctrination used by organized sects and how members are impacted by them. Eventually, she envisions a parliamentary commission dedicated to this topic. This proposal is motivated by the case of Éloïse Dupuis, a young Jehovah’s Witness who died recently, shortly after giving birth and refusing a blood transfusion. Mme Malthais is particularly concerned about sect members facing a medical emergency, especially women, and she questions to what extent the consent of a person who has been a member for years can be truly free and voluntary.

Indoctrination is a staple of religions in general, not just those which are typically referred to as “sects.” In reality, mainstream religions such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, etc. are merely sects which have succeeded in establishing themselves and enduring.

In the News: Transport Canada Allows Small Blades on Airplanes

Transport Canada decision to allow blades on planes incurs wrath of Quebec politicians, Angelica Montgomery, CBC News, 2017-11-22.

In a nearly unanimous vote, Quebec’s lawmakers have passed a motion asking the federal government to review Transport Canada’s decision to allow finger-length blades onto most of the country’s airplanes.

The federal Transportation Department announced that, starting next Monday, knives with blades six centimetres in length or less will be allowed on Canadian flights, with the exception of those destined for the U.S.

The new directive bans “Knives with blades of more than 6cm.” This rule is apparently recommended by the European Union. Is this a reasonable rule? Or, on the other hand, in the Canadian context, is it a religious accommodation aimed at courting the votes of religious communities in general and practising Sikhs in particular?

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In the News: In Malaysia, Atheism is “Unconstitutional”?

Atheism is ‘unconstitutional’, says Malaysian deputy minister: Report, Channel NewsAsia, 2017-11-23.

KUALA LUMPUR: Atheism is “unconstitutional” and should not be allowed in Malaysia, said Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki […] atheism “contradicts” both the Malaysian Federal Constitution and the Rukunegara (Malaysia’s National Principles). He cited the first principle in the Rukunegara, which is “Belief in God” and Article 11 in the Federal Constitution. “We need to understand, that in the Malaysian context, our Federal Constitution states that freedom of religion is not freedom from religion,” he said as quoted by the Star.

[…]

“The Government can draw up any legal provisions necessary to prevent such beliefs and doctrines, which is deemed to be a threat to the sanctity of Islam,” said Dr Asyraf, who is also deputy minister in charge of religious affairs. He added that atheism “goes against the laws of public order and morality”. “For instance, anyone who tries to spread ideologies and doctrines that promote atheism and similar beliefs, which tarnish the sanctity of other religions, can be charged under the Sedition Act,” he said.

Dr Asyraf is not the first politician to speak out against atheism in Malaysia. In August, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Shahidan Kassim said the government should track down atheists, sparking fear among some Malay atheists.

The deputy minister’s nonsensical declaration is an expression of classic atheophobia. Fortunately, not all Malaysians agree:

MP: Does freedom of speech also mean you must speak?, MalayMail Online, 2017-11-26.

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 26 ― A deputy minister’s claim that freedom of religion did not equate to freedom from religion was “utter rubbish”, said a federal legislator when noting that the same liberty to speech did not compel a citizen to exercise the right.

Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua also questioned how Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki arrived at his controversial conclusion that atheism was illegal in Malaysia, which the latter made this week in Parliament.

[…]

He also challenged the deputy minister’s view that atheism was the equivalent of propagating non-Islamic beliefs to Muslims, calling it illogical to compare an absence of faith to active proselytisation.

See also:

In the News: Charlottesville: White Supremacists & Islamist Extremists Have Much in Common

The Charlottesville Aftermath Showed What White Supremacists and Islamist Extremists Have in Common, Muhammad Fraser-Rahim & Muna Adil, Newsweek, 2017-08-26

(The authors are associated with Quilliam International.)

This grievance and victimhood narrative is one that is strikingly similar in both strands of violent extremists: While Islamist jihadists are supposedly avenging Western intervention in their home countries, white supremacists at the Charlottesville rally were seen giving delusional statements, such as the comments from 20-year-old student Peter Cvjetanovic: “As a white nationalist, I care for all people. We all deserve a future for our children and for our culture. White nationalists aren’t all hateful; we just want to preserve what we have.”

The same ideological techniques now being employed by white Christians to rally the extremist elements within their community have been used for years by Islamists who have effectively radicalized the adherents of Salafi Islam, an ultraconservative brand of Islam commonly linked to extremism.

Both groups are in search of identity, desire a return to the old way of doing things, and are driven by an irrational devotion to their respective causes. Further, both of these violent offshoots share an equally skewed vision of global politics, sharing delusional beliefs that their identity, culture, and faith is under constant attack from outside sources.

In the News: Islamophobia, What is Wrong About It

Islamophobia – What Is Really Wrong With It,
Accepting the notion of ‘Islamophobia’ means the end of legitimate criticism of Islam. We cannot allow de facto blasphemy to destroy our liberal values.
Benjamin David, Conatus News, 2017-08-26

An important opinion piece discussing the origins and meanings of (and the consequences of using) the highly tendentious term “Islamophobia.”

The problems associated with using the term Islamophobia are profound.[…]:

  1. As many would likely discern, to label someone as ‘Islamophobic’- that is, as somehow having a phobia about Islam and for Muslims, is clearly preposterous. Of course, medically, ‘phobia’ implies an acute mental illness of a kind that affects only a small number of people. […]
  2. Etymological points of contention aside, to label someone ‘Islamophobic’ essentially absolves oneself of the responsibility, both intellectually and with empathy, why someone thinks and acts as they do towards Islam and Muslims, and attempt to modify their perceptions and understandings through engagement and argument. It has the rather scowling repercussion of shutting down debate and failing to address – let alone redress – an interlocutor’s views towards Muslims and/or Islam.
  3. ‘Islamophobia’ suggests that hostility towards Muslims is no different than other forms of hostility such as racism and xenophobia. […] Islam, however, is not a race, ethnicity, or nationality; it is a set of ideas. Critiquing those ideas – such as some of the regnant positions held by the majority of scholars concerning women, LGBT people, apostates, etc., – should never be confused nor conflated with an animus towards a people.
  4. The term implies little difference between an animus for Muslim people within one country and an animus for groups (e.g. ISIS) and regimes elsewhere in the world […]

Many people who identify as Muslim are attacked, harassed and persecuted simply because of their religion. Not only that, given that the majority of Muslims happen to be Middle Eastern looking, many have been subjected to unpalatable degrees of racism. We must call these two things for what they are – anti-Muslim bigotry and racism. The continued acceptance of ‘Islamophobia’ as an inclusive, voguish neologism to capture both manifestations is having grave implications concerning a particular ideology – Islam. The notion of ‘Islamophobia’ is constructed out of a desire to perpetuate a siege mentality and sense of victimhood amongst Muslims, or to put an end to legitimate criticism, or to engage in lazy abuse. The important liberal principles of free speech and open enquiry are being threatened by a wily – and let’s face it, ingenious – new form of censorship. I say ‘censorship’ but many would be inclined to call it by another name: ‘blasphemy’. There are people in Muslim majority countries who face threats from Islamists for daring to leave the religion or thumping for reform. This doesn’t just happen there, of course, because we know only too well what happened to Theo van Gogh and Charlie Hebdo here in Europe. There are many apologists of Islam who, such as the post-Modernist Left, will excuse such atrocities for the most perverse of reasons – social equality. “Muslims and Islam are under attack” they will lament. The time is now for the Left to restitute its defining, quondam principles, lest blasphemy make a bloodcurdling return.

See also:

In the News: Launch of Atheist Magazine in Poland

Kazimierz Lyszczynski Foundation, Press Release 2017-08-10

Kazimierz Lyszczynski Foundation to Launch Przeglad Ateistyczny FKL (KLF Atheist Review)

Warsaw, Poland, August 10th, 2017 – The Kazimierz Lyszczynski Foundation announced today that the premier issue of the first ever atheist magazine in Poland has just been released and will be available under subscription.

The magazine will focus on philosophical, political and cultural topics related to atheism and freedom of conscience in Poland. Given the current climate of national-Catholic ideology imposed by the ruling right-wing party, there is a growing need for an atheistic point of view. The magazine will be released on a quarterly basis.

More information about the upcoming magazine can be found on the Foundation’s website: www.Lyszczynski.com.pl

Email: biuro@lyszczynski.com.pl

Telephone: +48 501518757

In the News: Interview with David Rand, Conatus News

Conatus News Interview with David Rand, President of Atheist Freethinkers, Scott Jacobsen, 2017-08-03

Some excerpts from the above interview:

Undoubtedly the greatest threat for atheists is politicised religion, when religion obtains political power. This is most obvious when that power is exercised by Islamists, who promote a medieval theocratic totalitarianism. However political Christianity remains very dangerous, for example in sub-Saharan Africa, the United States and Poland. The current pope is a silver-tongued obscurantist. […]

I must also point out that one of the greatest threats to secularism (and hence indirectly threatening atheists) in the current political climate is the so-called “regressive left” (I am not satisfied with that term, but have yet to find a better one) which is ferociously anti-secular – so much so that regressive “leftists” tend to demonise secularism by falsely associating it with racism and xenophobia. […]

On the educational front, I would say that our greatest strength is our criticism of communitarianism (a.k.a. multiculturalism) and its extremely deleterious effect on any movement towards secularisation. Being based in Montreal, we are acutely aware of this dynamic. The infamous “two solitudes” must be taken into account in order to understand the fight for secularism in Canada. […]

[…] we must organise and unite on issues we share with other atheists: that is, an uncompromising criticism of religion, recognising that supernatural religious beliefs are utter nonsense, unworthy of our respect. Just as believers have a right to practice their religion, we non-believers have every right to live without having others’ beliefs shoved down our throats. But we must also ally with others who may not identify as atheists in order to promote secularism, which means that believers too would be protected from the religious excesses of their co-religionists and of those who follow other religions.

[…] we must continue (and here is some good news) what atheists have already undertaken with enthusiasm: the analysis, criticism and deconstruction of religious beliefs, dogmas and practices in order to become stronger in our resistance to the ever-present and sometimes overwhelming religious propaganda that floods our society. But that criticism must not stop with Christianity. We must be just as critical of other religions such as Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism, etc., which are minority religions in Canada.

The immediate future looks bleak. […] But in the longer term I am more optimistic. I think the current outbreak of religious fanaticism is part of the death throes of religion. The treachery of religious institutions and the utter vacuity of the extravagant nonsense they promote are becoming increasingly obvious to more and more people. […]

In the News: Ex-Muslims Meet in London

Largest gathering of ex-Muslims in history, CEMB (Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain), 2017-07-25.

The International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression, the largest gathering of ex-Muslims in history, was held during 22-24 July 2017 in London. Over 70 notable speakers from 30 countries or the Diaspora gathered in what was dubbed “The Glastonbury of Freethinkers” and “a Conference of Heroes” to honour dissenters and defend apostasy, blasphemy, and secularism.

[…]

At the conference, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) honoured ten individuals to mark its tenth anniversary, namely Bangladeshi freethinker Bonya Ahmed, Saudi freethinkers Ensaf Haidar and Raif Badawi, Moroccan atheist Zineb El Rhazoui, Philosopher AC Grayling, Centre for Secular Space’s Gita Sahgal and Yasmin Rehman, Algerian Sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas, Jordanian Atheists’ Founder Mohammad AlKhadra, Egyptian Atheist Founder of The Black Ducks Ismail Mohamed and Author and Scientist Richard Dawkins.

Some topics and highlights of the Conference:

  • Screening of Deeyah Khan’s film, “Islam’s Non Believers.”
  • So-called “Islamophobia” and its use by Islamists to impose de facto blasphemy laws.
  • Communalism’s threat to universal rights.
  • Resolution against the no-platforming of Richard Dawkins by KPFA radio station because of Dawkins’ alleged “hurtful” comments about Islam:
    • “Given that most of the speakers and delegates at our conference are Islam’s apostates, many from countries where the legal penalty for apostasy is death, we find it necessary to remind KPFA that criticism of Islam is no different from criticism of Christianity or Judaism. Also, criticism of Islamism is no different from criticism of the Christian-Right, Jewish-Right or Hindu-Right. Criticism of religious ideas as well as violent religious political movements isn’t bigotry but integral to free conscience and expression and vital for human progress.”
  • Resolution condemning Egyptian government for preventing Ismail Mohamed from speaking at the Conference.
  • Resolution calling on organizers of London LGBT Pride whether they side with Islamists who use accusations of “Islamophobia” to attempt to censor criticism and who support judicial murder of ex-Muslims and gay men, or with those who oppose Islamic homophobia and all laws criminalising homosexuality, apostasy and blasphemy.
  • Declaration of Freethinkers for freedom of conscience and secularism, against racism, xenophobia and far-right extremism (such as Islamism).

Finally, the International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression calls for:

  1. End the killing of apostates and blasphemers
  2. Release those on death row or in prison simply because they are atheists, freethinkers, apostates or blasphemers
  3. Repeal apostasy and blasphemy laws
  4. Clarify that freedom of conscience and freedom of belief guarantee the right to freedom of and from religion; and that religion is not an excuse for silencing dissent or threatening other rights and freedoms
  5. Protect the right of freedom of expression to ‘offend’, without which no human progress is possible
  6. A declaration of principles showing that the human right to freedom of conscience is explicitly embedded in human rights documents and is not limited by any right to religious belief.

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In the News: Canada’s Blasphemy Law May Soon be History

Bill would reform Criminal Code provisions on rape shield, 3rd-party records, Cristin Schmitz, The Lawyer’s Daily, 2017-06-06

Excellent news: with Draft Bill C-51, Canada’s blasphemy law may soon be gone!

The proposed legislation would repeal several offences enacted decades ago, deemed obsolete and/or redundant, including:

  • Challenging someone to a duel (s. 71);
  • Advertising a reward for the return of stolen property with “no questions asked” (s. 143);
  • Possessing, printing, distributing or publishing crime comics (para. 163(1)(b));
  • Publishing blasphemous libel (s. 296);
  • Fraudulently pretending to practise witchcraft (s. 365); and,
  • Issuing trading stamps (s. 427).

Now we need is to repeal:

  1. Motion M-103, et
  2. the religious exception in the hate propaganda law.

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In the News: A Month in Prison for Breaking Ramadan Fast in Tunisia

Un mois de prison après avoir mangé en public pendant le ramadan (A month of prison for eating in public during ramadan), AFP, Huffington Post Tunisie, 2017-06-01

Four Tunisians have been sentenced to a month in prison for eating in a public park during ramadan when, according to strict Muslim practice, they should be fasting. Although there is no Tunisian law which enforces the ramadan fast and the constitution is supposed to protect freedom of belief and freedom of conscience, nevertheless the Tunisian constitution also declares that the state is “guardian of religion.”

To impose ramadan is a violation of freedom of conscience.

In the News: Denmark Repeals Blasphemy Law

Blasphemy law in Denmark is no more!, IHEU, 2017-06-02

Today, the Danish parliament — the Folketing — has voted to abolish another European blasphemy law!

Following a controversial prosecution, a serious public and political debate, and now a decisive vote in parliament, Denmark becomes the fifth country in Europe to abolish “blasphemy” laws since 2015. Norway and Iceland abolished their laws in 2015, followed by Malta and France’s Alsace-Moselle region in 2016.

Finally! With the repeal of this Danish law, there is one less excuse for religious fanatics—such as those who govern Saudi Arabia and similar countries—to stifle and persecute the necessary criticism of religion.

Next step: Repeal the Canadian blasphemy law, article 296 of the Criminal Code!

See also:

In the News: Call for the defense of artistic freedom in Poland

In solidarity with our Polish friends, we reproduce here their urgent appeal.

Call for the defense of the Theatre “Powszechny” and of artistic freedom

We urge you to come to defend the Theatre “Powszechny” in Warsaw on Saturday, May 27, at 17:00. We have received information that the authorities encourage the use of violence by the members of the Radical-Nationalist Camp in order to disrupt the peaceful protest and to overcome the citizens’ resistance to the attacks on artistic freedom and on freedom of conscience.

Authors of a long campaign of hatred in the Catholic right-wing media and the perpetrators of the scandalous use of physical violence against the spectators of the performance of the play “Curse” in April have not been held accountable. Now, encouraged by their impunity, the nationalists plan a brutal attack on the artists and the siege of the theater.

It is our duty as citizens to defend fundamental democratic values.

No to the muzzling of artists artists!

No to the Catholic-National terror!

No to the killing of democracy!

We urge our fellow citizens to resist the growing wave of the Catholic-national oppression.

Kazimierz Lyszczynski Foundation, Poland

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In the News: The Kazimierz Łyszczyński Foundation denounces the Polish Catholic Church and its Thugs

Declaration of the KLF in Defense of Freedom of Artistic Creation, Kazimierz Łyszczyński Foundation, 2017-04-26

The Kazimierz Łyszczyński Foundation protests the recent attack on freedom of speech, artistic expression and art in Poland for religious reasons.

After a long campaign of hatred unleashed in the Catholic right-wing media, the representatives of the “All-Polish Youth” (a nationalist organization) used physical violence against spectators of the play “Curse” by Oliver Frljic at the Teatr Powszechny in Warsaw. They tried to block by force the entrance to the theater and prevent the public from attending the performance. After “Golgotha Picnic” and “Death and the Maiden”, this is another example of the use of street violence in order to limit freedom of speech, expression and conscience. These unacceptable attacks on basic democratic values took place with the incitement and approval of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland and the consent of state authorities.

A model of national identity based on the collusion of Catholic fanaticism with exclusionary nationalism, imposed on Poles by the Church, destroys not only Polish democracy, but also threatens the aspirations of the Polish people to live in a free and modern country, a full member of the family of European nations.

Accusations of blasphemy directed publicly by the Polish episcopate at the creators and performers of the play “Curse” express the growing arrogance of Polish bishops. We remind them that “blasphemy” does not exist in the Polish legal system. It belongs to the infamous Canon law, under which the – most unholy – Inquisition cruelly tortured to death tens of thousands of people in Europe. This law is no longer valid or applied in democratic countries. Attempts to revive it and to bring back the stake in Poland must evoke the darkest chapter in the history of both humanity and the Church. By trying to restore the blasphemy law, the bishops and their political allies stand in solidarity with the Islamists and their barbaric treatment of “blasphemers” in the countries which they rule.

We strongly oppose this ideological terror in Poland and express our solidarity with its victims. We support the protest in defense of freedom of thought and expression, organized by Citizens Together in Action, which will be held at the entrance to the Teatr Powszechny in Warsaw, 20 Jan Zamoyski Street, on Sunday, April 30th, 2017 at 16:30 hrs.

We urge our fellow citizens to resist the growing wave of Catholic-national oppression.

In the News: A Universalist Secular Movement in Morocco

Un mouvement universaliste et laïque au Maroc (A universalist, secular movement in Morocco), Rose St-Pierre, L’AUT’JOURNAL, 2017-04-18

MALI poster about abortion
Click to view full size

A courageous young atheist woman Ibtissame Lachgar, is co-founder (along with Zineb El Rhazoui formerly of Charlie Hebdo) of MALI, a secular, universalist, feminist movement in Morocco. Recall that Morocco is a monarchy with a state religion, Islam. The king Mohamed VI is a religious commander, similar to a pope. Thus the country is constitutionally a theocracy and absolute monarchy based on the divine right of kings. Article 222 of the penal code makes it a crime, punishable by up to 6 months in prison, for any person known to be Muslim to break the Ramadan fast publicly.

MALI opposes religious privileges, religion-based laws, theocracy, misogyny, homophobia and all measures which threaten fundamental human rights.

Ibtissame Lachgar rejects cultural relativism and the notion of intersectionality. The rights of women are universal, with no regard for borders, religion or race. Cultural relativism leads to social and legal conformism. There is no such thing as Muslim human rights or Islamic feminism! To “halalize” the rights of women is to go against those rights. To subjugate human rights to religion also excludes the rights of sexual minorities.

See also:

(Correction, 2017-04-26: Article 222 is in the Moroccan penal code, not the constitution as the above summary originally indicated.)

In the News: Laval University Pushes Religious Propaganda

Contre le prosélytisme religieux à l’Université Laval (Against Religious Proselytism at Laval University), Claude Simard, Le Devoir, 2017-04-22

Laval University

The Faculty of Theology and Religious Sciences of Laval University in Quebec City has announced the establishment of a new professorship in the teaching of protestant evangelical “missiology” (missionary activity), using a donation of $420,000 from Evangelical doners in Canada and the United-States. Claude Simard, a retired Laval U. education professor, denounces this religious interference in the operations of a public institution of learning whose proper mission is to promote objective non-partisan education. Instead, this new post will promote ways to be a more effective propagandist for Evangelical Christianity.

Recall that Protestant Evangelical Christianity is a religious denomination which is currently growing and increasing in influence in the world. It is second only to Islam in that regard. By establishing this position, Laval University is abandoning the values of the Enlightenment and returning to the Middle Ages when universities put as much effort into promoting belief as they did knowledge.

Given that “interfaith dialogue” and “diversity” are so fashionable these days, how long will it be before a similar professorate in Islamic “missiology” is established? There is certainly no lack of funds to do so: Saudi Arabia would surely be very happy to provide generous financing, as it does to many mosques throughout the world, as long as the version of Islam taught there is sufficiently Wahhabist.

This is an unacceptable exploitation of an institution of higher learning for the purposes of religious proselytism. It is further evidence, if any were needed, that faculties of canonical theology are anachronisms and have no place in public universities. Theology is a pseudo-science, an empty shell, the study of nothing based on nothing.

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In the News: EU Court: Employers May Ban Religious Symbols

Top EU court rules employers have right to ban religious symbols, France24, 2017-03-14

Private employers may bar staff from wearing Islamic headscarves and other visible religious symbols under certain conditions, the European Union’s top court ruled on Tuesday.

In its first ruling on what has become a major political issue across Europe, the Court of Justice (ECJ) found that a Belgian firm which had a rule barring employees who dealt with customers from wearing visible religious and political symbols in order to project a public image of neutrality may not be guilty of discrimination, if it met certain other conditions. […]

[…] the rule could […] be justified if it was “genuinely pursued in a consistent and systematic manner” with a “legitimate aim”, such as projecting an “image of neutrality” as part of the company’s freedom to conduct business. […]

A reasoned and nuanced decision.

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In the News: Play “Djihad” Censored in Quebec City

Lever la censure sur la pièce «Djihad» (Lift the censorship of the play “Djihad”), Djemila Benhabib, Le Devoir, 2017-03-13

The Belgian play “Djihad” by Ismaël Saïdi, which deals with the issue of Islamist radicalization among youth in Brussels, has been censored in Quebec City. It was to be presented in schools this fall, but the city has nixed that because the play concentrates on radicalization among Muslims. As Djemila Benhabib comments, must the play also deal with radicalization among Buddhists and whale-lovers in order to be fair?

This is another case of censorship similar to the cancellation of an event at the Maison de la littérature in the same city. (See Blog 081: The Repression Mounts, point (4), concerning this issue.)

In the News: Montreal Police Investigating Imams

Montreal police investigating imams for controversial comments, Shuyee Lee, iHeart Radio, 2017-03-10

Montreal police are investigating controversial comments made by Montreal imams at a mosque in St. Laurent captured in YouTube videos.

The 2014 videos were posted by a member of the Al-Andalous Islamic Center which was made aware of them only recently and they have since been taken down.

In one, an imam calls on Allah “to destroy the accursed Jews”, “to kill them one by one” and “to make their children orphans and their women widows.”

The centre has since put out a statement calilng it a “clumsy and unacceptable” phrasing used by a substitute imam, Sayyed Al-Ghitaoui.[…]

But the centre has not addressed another video by its regular imam, Wael Al-Ghitaoui saying Jews were punished by Allah for the Middle East conflict.

[…]

See also:

In the News: Georges Bensoussan Acquitted

French Jewish Historian Cleared Of Anti-Muslim Hate Speech, Cnaan Liphshiz, Forward, 2017-03-08.

A French court acquitted the Jewish historian Georges Bensoussan of hate speech charges over his assertion that Arabs receive anti-Semitism with their “mother’s milk.” […]

Bensoussan, a scholar on the Holocaust and one of the world’s leading historians on Jewish communities in Arab territories, was put on trial in December after a Muslim lobby group and a French human rights organization that was founded by Jews in the 1920s initiated a criminal lawsuit against him for the statement he made during an interview for a radio station in 2012.

The reference to mother’s milk was in a paraphrased quote that Bensoussan attributed to Smain Laacher, a non-Jewish French filmmaker whose family originates from North Africa. In reality, Laacher had said in an interview that for many Arab families, anti-Semitism is in “the air that one breathes.” […]

A victory for freedom of expression and a defeat for Islamists who attempt to censor their critics with specious accusations of “Islamophobia.” Unfortunately, the decision is subject to appeal.

In the News: Quebec City Hospital Restores Crucifix

After outcry, Quebec hospital restores crucifix taken down in interest of ‘religious neutrality’, Graeme Hamilton, National Post, 2017-03-01

After a patient complained last month about the presence of a large crucifix on the wall of the publicly funded Saint-Sacrament Hospital in Quebec City, management determined that in the interest of the “religious neutrality of the state,” it should come down.

[…]

After being confronted with a violent threat, a scolding from government ministers and a petition signed by more than 13,000 people, the hospital announced Wednesday that it was restoring the crucifix to its place inside the main entrance.

[…]

An online petition said taking down the crucifix showed a lack of respect to the nuns who helped build Quebec. […]
Bernard Drainville […] urged listeners of his Quebec City radio show to sign the petition.

This decision is anti-secular and a victory for fundamentalists. Worst of all is the fact that Bernard Drainville supported the return of the crucifix to its place in the hospital. In 2013-2014, Drainville piloted the Charter of Secularism proposed by the PQ government of which he was a cabinet minister. In January of 2015, as a candidate for the leadership of that party, he proposed a new Charter which was a very diluted version of the original. And now, he has apparently abandoned secularism completely.

Secularism means removing symbols of ALL religions from public institutions, including the religion of the Catholic majority, not just symbols of minority religions.

Did you know? Halal is the Offspring of Neoliberalism and Fundamentalism

Did you know that, according to anthropologist Florence Bergeaud-Blackler, the halal market is a recent invention, born as an industry, offspring of neoliberalism and fundamentalism?

Reference: Florence Bergeaud-Blackler : « Le halal est né industriel, fruit du néolibéralisme et du fondamentalisme » (Halal was born Industrial, a Product of Neoliberalism and Fundamentalism), by Sonya Faure & Maryam El Hamouchi, 2017-01-05.

Halal means “permitted” in Arabic. As a theological term it signifies that which a Muslim is allowed to do. But the market has transformed it so that it is now a prescription, that which must be done to be a “good” Muslim.

According to Bergeaud-Blackler, the halal market did not exist as a custom in Muslim countries until industrialists exported it there. The halal market was born in the 1970s and 1980s, as two ideologies triumphed on the international stage: fundamentalist Islam (for example, the declaration of the Islamic Republic or Iran in 1979) and the neoliberalism of Thatcher and Reagan.

Previously, Muslim food habits were limited mainly to the taboo on eating pork. Ritual slaughter was practiced mainly at ceremonies. Islamic butcher shops are a recent phenomenon, a product of the Islamization wave in the 1980s. Halal becomes a strategy of fundamentalists to isolate Muslims in closed communities.

As for the kosher market, Bergeaud-Blackler considers it very different from the halal market. The former has existed for centuries, long before industrialization, and the merchant and religious aspects are more separate than is the case with halal.


Did you know? Billions of Dollars of Canadian Public Funds Go to Religious Organizations?

Did you know that, according to research by Luc Grenon of the Faculty of Law of the Université de Sherbrooke, religious organizations enjoy considerable unjustified fiscal privileges which are not justified by tangible benefits to society?

Some of Professor Grenon’s findings:

  • Of the four categories of charity registered with the Canada Revenue Agency, religious organizations receive the greatest benefit, according to data collected between 1997 and 2010.
  • In 2010, religious organizations received about 40% of charitable donations, resulting in a loss of revenu by the federal state of about 1.08 billion dollars. This does not take into account other tax breaks, such as income and property tax exemptions and partial refund of sales taxes.
  • About half (521 out of 1039) of religious organizations state that they invest 100% of their time and resources in religious activities.
  • Non-religious activities, i.e. those which may be of tangible benefit to society, count for only about 15%.

Reference: Des milliards en fonds publics aux organisations religieuses : charité bien ordonnée? (Billions in Public Funds to Religious Organizations: Is This Money Well Spent?), Robin RENAUD, 2013-10-21.

Significant tax benefits are granted to religious organizations, regardless of confession. Since these benefits are borne by all taxpayers, the social impact of this state funding must be considered, especially when state neutrality in religious matters seems to be a consensus in Canada. Through an analysis of the information returns filed by religious organizations, the writer discusses whether the public funds received can be justified or explained by the services and tangible benefits they provide to society. The writer concludes that the answer should be no.

Analyse des bénéfices publics tangibles offerts par les organisations religieuses (Analysis of Tangible Public Benefits Offered by Religious Organizations), Luc GRENON


In the News: US Law Protects Nonbelievers

H.R.1150 – Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, Congress of the USA, 2016-12-16

(Sec. 2) This bill amends the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA) to state in the congressional findings that the freedom of thought and religion is understood to protect theistic and non-theistic beliefs as well as the right not to profess or practice any religion.

The law was passed by the House of Representatives of the US Congress on December 15th and signed by President Obama on December 16th.