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Joseph Loconte: How Religion Can End the Politics of Persecution
· August 21, 2013 10:00 AM
Below is an interesting article by Joseph Loconte which explores religion and the conflict in Egypt.
The article originally appeared in The Times of London.
Faith can end Egypt’s politics of persecution
By appealing to the noblest religious impulses, the West can stop violence against Christians
wo days after the ousting of President Morsi of Egypt, Emile Naseem, 41, and his nephew were running for their lives. The Christian businessman had led an anti-Morsi petition, and a mob in their village of Nagaa Hassan attacked the pair with axes and clubs as they scrambled on to a roof and jumped from building to building. As one report put it: “Finally they ran out of rooftops.” Mr Naseem was killed, his nephew badly injured. That day Islamist extremists stabbed to death three other Christians and burnt dozens of homes in the village.
The attack is now considered the prelude to last week’s violence in Cairo between Egypt’s military government and the Muslim Brotherhood. But it is more than that: it represents a larger and more ominous tide of religious persecution that is destabilising societies around the globe.
Several powerful forces are at work. The Arab Spring is unleashing the hatreds of Islamic radicalism against Christian and other religious minorities. According to a report by the Pew Research Centre, countries in the Middle East and North Africa have witnessed “pronounced increases in social hostilities involving religion” since 2011. The violence may be most graphic in Egypt and Syria, where militants are targeting religious groups deemed disloyal to Islam. Shia and Sunni Muslims are no less at risk than Coptic Christians or Bahais.
Nevertheless, human rights groups warn of an “existential crisis” facing Christians in the Muslim world. In Egypt, 16 human rights groups have signed a joint statement condemning incitement to violence against Christians. In Syria, an estimated 300,000 Christians have fled the country. In Turkey, Christians have been publicly called “an internal threat, a danger and an enemy”. Iraq’s Christian population has been devastated by persecution and flight, since the US-led invasion in 2003.
Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians
, Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea blame the globalisation of radical Islam: extremists who view Christian communities as an obstacle to a “purified” transnational Islamic state. Indonesia, for example, has maintained a relatively tolerant society — until recently. Islamists have orchestrated hundreds of attacks on churches, mostly with impunity. In Nigeria the Islamist group Boko Haram — it means “Western education is sinful” — is engaged in a “pogrom” against the nation’s 60 million Christians. A recent attack on a Pentecostal church and two other Christian communities in Kano left nearly 50 people dead.
Another factor is the expansion of laws restricting religious freedom: 64 nations, making up nearly 70 per cent of the world’s population, place high or very high restrictions on religion. Muslim-majority states, which typically criminalise “blasphemy”, or religious speech considered insulting to Islam, are the worst offenders.
Pakistan has been singled out for criticism by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which sees a direct link between blasphemy laws and a culture of religious persecution. Over 18 months, it documented 203 acts of religiously motivated violence, injuring more than 1,800 people and claiming more than 700 lives. The methods included suicide bombings, drive-by shootings, torture, beheadings and mob violence.
A final factor contributing to the rise of religious persecution is the loss of what might be called civilisational memory. Secular elites, especially in the West, tend to view all religious beliefs with indifference or suspicion. They have forgotten how religious ideals can play a crucial role in solving sectarian violence. As a result, their response has been feeble and ineffective.
Remember that in the 17th century churches in England and Europe regarded religious minorities as a criminal underclass: they faced discrimination, imprisonment or even execution. Entire populations lived in the shadows because of religious differences.
How did the West overcome its legacy of bigotry and repression?
It was only when religious leaders viewed freedom of conscience as a natural right that the politics of persecution came under sustained assault. Religious thinkers from John Locke to James Madison dared to imagine a more generous approach to Christian faith. By appealing to the noblest religious impulses, by insisting upon a political system of equal justice for all faiths, they showed antagonists how to live together.
“It is not the diversity of opinions which cannot be avoided,” wrote Locke in
A Letter Concerning Toleration
(1689). “But the refusal of toleration to those that are of different opinions, which might have been granted, that has produced all the bustles and wars that have been in the Christian world, upon account of religion.”
We in the West seem dumbfounded by the revenge of religion: the remorseless acts of terror committed daily in the name of God. It need not be so. Abdurrahman Wahid, the late President of Indonesia, put it this way: “Beyond the daily headlines of chaos and violence, the vast majority of the world’s Muslims continue to express their admiration of Muhammad by seeking to emulate the peaceful and tolerant example of his life.”
There is a path through this wilderness of persecution, if we can summon the wisdom, courage and faith to take it.
Joseph Loconte is an associate professor of history at the King’s College, New York City.
Dr Mark Durie on The Political Spot
· August 28, 2012 10:00 AM
Dr Mark Durie is an Anglican pastor and theologian. He has published three books on sharia law and Islamic issues. He spoke with ACL's Daniel Simon about comments from the former high court judge, Sir Gerard Brennan, who said that sharia law cannot exist alongside Australian law.
MR: Lack of consultation means vilification laws should be put on hold
· August 19, 2012 10:00 AM
For Release: Sunday August 19, 2012
The ACT's proposed religious vilification laws should be put on hold until consultation was held with religious communities, according to the Australian Christian Lobby.
ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said it was extremely disappointing that such controversial laws were being rushed into the Assembly this week when there had been no consultation at all with Canberra's Christian constituency.
Similar laws in Victoria were extremely controversial and led to protracted and expensive legal action which proved counterproductive to social cohesion, Mr Wallace said.
"These same laws were deemed completely unnecessary by the former New South Wales Labor Government which rejected them out of hand.
“While no right thinking person supports vilification of anyone, creating a big legal stick to wield if groups felt vilified would end up suppressing free speech,” Mr Wallace said.
"In a society such as ours which determines its values through the contest of ideas, there needs to be the freedom to engage in robust debate without fear of a legal process being initiated by someone who feels offended.
"The ACT, like the rest of Australia, has defamation laws and these should apply when free speech crosses the line and causes injury."
Mr Wallace said it was wrong that offensive posters had been circulated targeting Canberra's Muslim community but vilification laws were not the way to address this.
Government rejects sharia push
· May 18, 2011 10:00 AM
ACL welcomes the Federal Government’s resolve not to allow aspects of sharia law to be introduced in Australia. Attorney-General
Robert McClelland has reaffirmed
the Government’s position on the matter, saying:
“People who migrate to Australia do so because of the fact we have a free, open and tolerant society where men and women are equal before the law irrespective of race, religious or cultural background.
“Indeed, all applicants for citizenship swear collective allegiance to the people of Australia, and undertake to respect our customs and abide by our laws. The values underpinning those principles will not be changing.”
The Attorney’s comments follow a
newspaper, which highlighted
that the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC), in a
to a parliamentary inquiry into the multiculturalism, had argued for aspects of sharia to be incorporated into Australian law.
AFIC’s president Ikebal Adam Patel, who wrote the submission, “nominated family law and specifically divorce as an area where moderate interpretations of sharia could co-exist within the Australian legal system”,
The Attorney-General’s statement in response to this suggestion is consistent with the
Government’s pre-election commitment
to ACL that “The Gillard Labor Government does not support the introduction of Sharia law in Australia”.
In answering ACL’s pre-election questionnaire to the political parties, the Coalition made it clear to ACL that it too was opposed to the introduction of sharia law in Australia.
is also strongly opposed to the introduction of sharia law, today
that “The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils’ push for Muslims to enjoy “legal pluralism” through sharia, the religious law of Islam, is a bad idea that Attorney-General Robert McClelland was right to stop dead in its tracks”.
The paper features an
extended examination of sharia
and why it is even being considered in today’s multicultural Australia. The comments of legal academic David Flint are especially illustrative in this regard, with the debate said to be “symptomatic of a crippling lack of self-confidence among the Australian governing class about the benefits of parliamentary democracy and the rule of law”.
He argues that “Our single law is based, essentially, on Judaeo-Christian values. It was founded on these values”; values he believes are under increasing attack.
Anglican Minister and Islam expert Mark Durie has also written on the sharia law debate that has occurred this week. His blog article is available by clicking
Sharia law in Australia? ALC’s Wendy Francis on Sunrise
· May 17, 2011 10:00 AM
The ACL’s Queensland Director Wendy Francis has appeared on Sunrise to discuss whether there is a
place for Islamic law in Australia
The discussion, moderated by the breakfast show’s host Melissa Doyle, also included Ikebal Patel, the president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.
This is the text of Wendy’s opening statement:
The Australian Christian Lobby supports freedom of religion but we are opposed to Sharia law being introduced in Australia. Australia is a country that is open to people from all cultural and religious backgrounds and we operate under a system where we are all equal under the law, and that includes men and women. Unfortunately around the world today there are many countries that do not have that freedom, including many who are operating under Sharia law.
Australia needs to speak up for women’s rights under Sharia law
· July 09, 2010 10:00 AM
For release: July 9, 2010
Australia needs to speak up for women’s rights under Sharia law
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) is calling on the Australian Government to join the global campaign to pressure the Iranian Government to save the life of Ms Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani who has been convicted of having an ‘illicit relationship’.
“Although the Iranian Embassy in London has said that Ms Ashtiani will no longer face death by stoning, sentencing someone to death for committing adultery is archaic and inhumane and highlights the poor treatment of women under Sharia Law,” said ACL’s Chief of Staff Lyle Shelton.
Mr Shelton said the Foreign Minister Stephen Smith should call in the Iranian Ambassador Mahmoud Babaei and make plain to him the feelings of the Australian people about the draconian treatment of women under Sharia Law.
The Iranian Government has not yet made clear whether Ms Ashtiani will be spared, or executed by some other means.
“This woman has already had her human rights grossly abused, suffering 99 lashes for her ‘crime’.
“That Ms Ashtiani still faces execution or further punishment reminds the world of Iran’s constant violation of their citizens’ human rights – particularly the human rights of women.
“The Australian Government needs to pressure the Iranian Government to protect the sanctity of life and to protect this woman from such an act of cruelty and ultimately, to have Iran remove stoning and other human rights abuses from its penal code.
“Australia should join the global campaign to uphold this woman’s human rights. Our nation’s silence is disappointing.”
You can throw your shoes at police but only if you are a Muslim
· June 18, 2010 10:00 AM
6 May 2010
British Police have sanctioned the throwing of shoes by Muslim protesters on the grounds that it is a 'symbolic' political gesture rather than a criminal act of violence." So whilst throwing a bottle or a non-Islamic shoe is considered criminal violence; shoe-throwing by a Muslim is an act of "ritual protest". Muslims have quickly used the concession to their advantage pelting Downing Street with shoes during a recent protest against Israel. "Ski boots and clogs were also hurled at the US consulate in Edinburgh in a related protest, in which three policemen were injured."
The decision essentially means that Muslim shoe-throwing is to be "regarded not as an act of violence but as a protected form of speech." One commentator, with tongue in cheek, queried the Muslim's right to throw Ski boots and clogs. "Did the Prophet, blessings be upon him, also take a special interest in ice-skates, toe-capped Doc Martens and spiked golf shoes?" As far as I am concerned he said "Your freedom to swing your arm . . . ends where it meets my nose."
Source: The Australian Prayer Network who attributed the article to The Telegraph (UK)
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