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Vow of Freedom of Religion Goes Unkept in Egypt

CAIRO — The architects of the military takeover in Egypt promised a new era of tolerance and pluralism when they deposed President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood last summer.

Nine months later, though, Egypt’s freethinkers and religious minorities are still waiting for the new leadership to deliver on that promise. Having suppressed Mr. Morsi’s Islamist supporters, the new military-backed government has fallen back into patterns of sectarianism that have prevailed here for decades.

Prosecutors continue to jail Coptic Christians, Shiite Muslims and atheists on charges of contempt of religion. A panel of Muslim scholars has cited authority granted under the new military-backed Constitution to block screenings of the Hollywood blockbuster “Noah” because it violates an Islamic prohibition against depictions of the prophets.

The military leader behind the takeover, Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, often appeals to the Muslim majority in a language of shared piety that recalls Anwar el-Sadat, nicknamed the believer president, who invoked religious authority to bolster his legitimacy and inscribed into the Constitution the principles of Islamic law.

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Death threats issued as Sharia Watch launches in London

A new group has been launched at the House of Lords to campaign for greater recognition of the threat posed by Islamic Sharia law. Sharia Watch UK says it wants to highlight the impact of Islamism in Britain and campaign against the prevalence of Sharia tribunals, particularly where it relates to women's rights. VoR's Tim Ecott spoke to Anne Marie Waters, spokesperson for Sharia Watch, and to Aina Khan, a solicitor in London who specialises in applying Sharia law within the English legal system.

“Our aim is quite simply to tell the truth," says Waters. "There is a large lack of knowledge of what Sharia Law actually stands for, what it does to women, how it treats women. And our aim is simply to tell the public – warts and all – what Sharia is: its views of women, its views of free speech, its threat to democracy, how it is operating in Britain, the organisations behind it and what their agendas are, and, indeed, the public support that such organisations receive from public figures.

Where do you see the threat coming from?

“It’s acceptance of it by the mainstream, that is a huge issue. If you look at what Sharia says about women, for example, it essentially advocates the slavery of women. If you strip it away and bear it down, that’s what it is, it’s the slavery of women, it’s the ownership of women. It degrades and humiliates women and yet it is accepted by the mainstream and supported by mainstream figures."

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Secularism — the BJP’s greatest enemy

The BJP, in political terms, is not a political organisation; it is a socio-religious platform devoted to the promotion of Hindu culture and religion

The largest democracy in the world is at work again. Over 845 million voters are exercising their right of franchise one more time. The electoral exercise will continue till May 9. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA), led by the Indian National Congress, and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are the major contenders for power. Congress has been in power many times since India gained independence. Over this period it lost some popular support and leaned on regional parties to help rule the country. When support from regional parties plummeted in 1998, a coalition led by the BJP emerged as the stronger and came to power in New Delhi that year. Its victory sparked a wave of anxiety amongst Muslims in India. Neighbouring countries, especially Pakistan and Bangladesh, felt concerned about their bilateral relations with India. The BJP is now poised to come to power again.

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Church of Flying Spaghetti Monster, with 'Pastafarian' followers, allowed to register as religion in Poland

'Pastafarians' in Poland unfurled a banner with the words ‘Do not fear the Monster!’ as a Warsaw court upheld their right to register as a religion. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is considered to be an atheistic caricature of orthodox religions.

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Thursday, April 10, 2014, 4:12 PM
 

Poles Celebrate Religious Recognition of FSM

Pastafarians Pawel Ziemba, left, and Joanna Lewandowicz, right, pose with a knitted image of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Pastafarians in Poland are rejoicing over a new ruling that lets their church apply to register as a religion.

Shouts of “pasta” filled the air outside a Warsaw court Tuesday as Judge Wlodzimierz Kowalczyk overturned a previous ruling that had banned the noodle worshippers from being recognized as an official faith community.

The judgment was based on a technicality, Polskie Radio reports. Kowalczyk said the group hadn’t been given a required two-month extension for submitting outstanding documents.

Despite the close call, the Pastafarians were happy about the win.

“Yesterday was filled with signs indicating the Monster’s goodwill,” the Polish group wrote, according to a translation obtained by Patheos. “The Monster’s followers spread out a banner on the stairs of the Court bearing the uplifting words “Do not fear the Monster!” and — following a tradition sanctified over centuries — repaired to a nearby restaurant for a bowl of spaghetti and a small beer.”

The Catholic Church in Poland has spoken out against the Pastafarians, claiming the movement is anti-Catholic provocation.

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster started in the United States in 2005 as part of the backlash against the Kansas State Board of Education's decision to teach intelligent design in public schools.

Pastafarians say they believe the world was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster and take Friday as their religious holiday. Practioners insist their religious beliefs are genuine, although many consider the movement to be a caricature of orthodox religion.

Pastafarian prayers end with the word “R’amen,” a reference to both Japanese noodles and to the Christian “Amen.”

TOMASZ GZELL/EPA

Pastafarians in Poland are rejoicing over a new ruling that lets their church apply to register as a religion.

Shouts of “pasta” filled the air outside a Warsaw court Tuesday as Judge Wlodzimierz Kowalczyk overturned a previous ruling that had banned the noodle worshippers from being recognized as an official faith community.

The judgment was based on a technicality, Polskie Radio reports. Kowalczyk said the group hadn’t been given a required two-month extension for submitting outstanding documents.

Despite the close call, the Pastafarians were happy about the win.

“Yesterday was filled with signs indicating the Monster’s goodwill,” the Polish group wrote, according to a translation obtained by Patheos. “The Monster’s followers spread out a banner on the stairs of the Court bearing the uplifting words “Do not fear the Monster!” and — following a tradition sanctified over centuries — repaired to a nearby restaurant for a bowl of spaghetti and a small beer.”

The Catholic Church in Poland has spoken out against the Pastafarians, claiming the movement is anti-Catholic provocation.

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster started in the United States in 2005 as part of the backlash against the Kansas State Board of Education's decision to teach intelligent design in public schools.

Pastafarians say they believe the world was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster and take Friday as their religious holiday. Practioners insist their religious beliefs are genuine, although many consider the movement to be a caricature of orthodox religion.

Pastafarian prayers end with the word “R’amen,” a reference to both Japanese noodles and to the Christian “Amen.”

In January, Pastafarian ‘minister’ Christopher Shaeffer was sworn into Pomfret, N.Y.’s Town Board while wearing a colander on his head.

 

An atheism association is founded . . . in Turkey

The locals of the association were opened in Istanbul's Kadıköy district. Agos Photo

The locals of the association were opened in Istanbul's Kadıköy district.

The first Atheism Association has been officially founded in Turkey, becoming a legal address in an effort to stand up for the rights of atheists in the country, daily Radikal has reported.

“No atheists will be alone anymore, either on the streets or in courts,” the association said via its official Twitter account.

It also invited “everyone who wants to meet or be a member” to its office, located in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district.

In an interview with daily Agos last month, the founders of the Initiative of Atheism Association, Tolga İnci and Ahmet Balyemez, said they thought there should be a place to provide legal support to people facing problems as atheists.

“Even saying ‘I am an atheist’ has begun to mean an insult to Islam in Turkey. The prime minister’s remarks that ‘every atheist is a terrorist’ are being taken as normal,” they said in the interview. “We need to say ‘we are here’ as atheists ... We are not related to any ideology. We want to approach atheism scientifically, not ideologically.”

'I have to help the people of Bangladesh'

Asif Mohiuddin is one of Bangladesh's most famous bloggers. As an open atheist in a mainly Islamic country, he has been attacked and thrown in jail for his beliefs. DW caught up with him after his recent move to Germany.

 In addition to being an active blogger, Asif Mohiuddin co-founded the Shahbag movement in Bangladesh, which has been arguing for the strict division of state and religion in the country, as well as justice for victims of Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence.

Mohiuddin recently arrived in Germany on a one-year scholarship. He says that living in Germany now means he can walk the streets safely. But still, he says, he has to keep his location secret.

DW: What did you write on your blog that was so offensive? Can you give us examples of what it might be that Islamists found so blasphemous?

Asif Mohiuddin: I wrote a blog entry about women's rights which caused problems. In the Koran, Chapter 4, Verse 34, it says that a man can beat his wife, if she doesn't obey her husband. I criticized that because in modern civilization there is no place for hitting anybody. Also, according to Sharia law, if someone leaves Islam, then that person has to be killed. I don't think that is a good thing, so I criticized that. And that is why people got angry.

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Hate speeches in India expose Hindu nationalism's violent and fascist agenda

Indian American coalition calls on India's Election Commission to take decisive action; urges Hindu American Foundation to condemn hate speeches

Maryland, USA (April 22, 2014): The Coalition Against Genocide (CAG) today condemned statements by senior leaders of Hindu nationalist organizations, collectively known as the Sangh Parivar, openly inciting people to violence against religious minorities. These leaders also claimed that all Indians who are opposed to the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi will be driven out of India into neighboring Pakistan after the ongoing parliamentary elections.

Hindu nationalism, also known as Hindutva, is a supremacist ideology that aims to establish a theocratic Hindu state in India. It is different from the religion of Hinduism which espouses pluralist traditions. The founding fathers of Hindutva visited Mossoulini's Italy to study Fascism and borrowed the concept of religious nationalism from Fascism and Nazism.

In a clear manifestation of the outlines of fascism driving the Hindutva supremacist movement, four senior Hindutva leaders - two from the BJP, another from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), and the fourth from the Shiv Sena, unambiguously stated their position with regard to the fate of Modi's critics and that of India's 200 million religious minorities.

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US Government Promoting Islam in Czech Republic

More recently, Muslims in the Czech Republic have tried to ban a book they say is Islamophobic, and have filed a ten-page criminal complaint against its formerly-Muslim author.

The Czech government has approved a new project aimed at promoting Islam in public elementary and secondary schools across the country.

The project—Muslims in the Eyes of Czech Schoolchildren—is being spearheaded by a Muslim advocacy group and is being financed by American taxpayers through a grant from the US Embassy in Prague. (The US State Department is also promoting Islam in other European countries.)

The group says the Czech Ministry of Education has authorized it to organize lectures and seminars aimed at "teaching Czech schoolchildren about Islamic beliefs and practices" and at "fighting stereotypes and prejudices about Muslims."

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Croatian Bishop Says Godless PM Boosting Atheism

Catholic bishop criticizes atheist Prime Minister for not having gone to church on the day marking Croatian statehood on June 25.

Bishop Vlado Kosic of Sisak, said while presiding over a religious service that Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, a declared atheist, was deliberately promoting atheism.

“This is an attempt to violently promote atheism and anti-Catholicism in Croatian society,” Kosic said, referring to the Prime Minister's announcement that he and other non-religious ministers would not be going to church on the day marking Croatian statehood.

“They should be in church together with their religious people, since they are their representatives,” the bishop added.

Milanovic said that as an atheist he did not want to go to the church on state holidays, as Catholics in Croatia usually do, including all former Croatian presidents and prime ministers.

The Prime Minister's remarks made waves in Croatia, a predominantly Catholic country where almost 90 per cent of the population declare themselves as Catholics.

The Vatican struggles to address child abuse allegations

Last week Pope Francis asked for forgiveness for the damage done to children who have been abused by members of the clergy and asserted that sanctions must be imposed to tackle the problem of child abuse within the Church. It is the first time a pope has ever taken personal responsibility for the abuses committed by the Church’s priests.

In a speech made during a meeting with the International Catholic Child Bureau, a non-governmental child rights group, Pope Francis stated, “I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests, quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests, to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children.”

The statement is being described as Pope Francis’ strongest stance on the issue thus far. It comes after a scathing United Nations report lambasted the Vatican earlier this year for failing to protect children from child abusers within its ranks and for turning a blind eye or covering up cases of molestation and rape over the decades.

Measures taken by the Church to stop child abuse

The Vatican confirmed in January that Pope Benedict XVI had defrocked almost 400 priests in a two-year period due to child abuse allegations. Since taking over the papal office Pope Francis has vowed to continue the changes instigated by his predecessor.

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Call to cut millions spent by NHS on religion

THE NHS is spending millions of pounds a year on running ­chaplaincy services which offer spiritual care and religious support to patients.

Health boards collectively spend about £3.7m a year on the internal departments, including paying salaries of full-time "generic" NHS chaplains who are tasked with providing support to all who ask for it.

In addition, the NHS has made payments of almost £600,000 to churches to attend to the religious needs of individual patients in the past three years, figures obtained by The Herald under Freedom of Information laws revealed.

More than 85% of spending on the external bodies went to the Roman Catholic Church, largely in exchange for priests to come in to hospitals and perform sacraments such as the last rites, which NHS chaplains are not able to carry out.

Scotland's largest health board, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said its in-house chaplaincy department was allocated a budget of £632,665 in 2013/14, with the service "providing non-denominational support to our 38,000 staff and all our patients".

It also pays £75,000 per year to the Archdiocese of Glasgow and the Diocese of Paisley in exchange for "on-call" priests, "to provide the Sacramental ministry that Roman Catholic patients and families expect".

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