Religion in Review 19 May 2013
Mon 13th May – Sun 19th May
Abu Qatada Promises to Leave the UK
Abu Qatada has promised to leave the UK and return to Jordan, should the country ratify a deal to ensure he receives a fair trial. Home Secretary Theresa May has failed to extradite Abu Qatada due to the possibility that he would be tortured in his home country of Jordan. The news was thus a welcome relief for the Coalition Government.
Burma Accused of Genocide
Maung Zarni accused the Burmese government of intentionally working with Buddhist extremist factions in the country to conduct a ‘genocide’ against the Rohingya Muslims. The academic and activist was speaking at a panel discussion on the topic at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT). Zarni’s comments are part of an increasing media and political focus on the strife in Myanmar.
Turkey is currently investigating an alleged attempt to kill the Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The plot came to light on Friday 10th May, after which the security around the Patriarch was substantially increased. Three men have been arrested in connection with the plot.
Voting for the Pakistani parliament took place on Saturday 11th May. The election marks the first time a democratically-elected government has handed over to a democratically-elected government in the nation’s history. Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistani Muslim League was elected Prime Minister claiming 125 of the 272 seats available. This is the third time he has led as Prime Minister of Pakistan. Imran Khan, former Cricketer turned philanthropist, won opposition for his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. The party has generally been an outsider, campaigning on a largely anti-corruption stance, and thus becoming Pakistan’s second party is a significant and noteworthy achievement. The incumbent Pakistani People’s League, led by Bilawal Bhutto, lost the majority of its seats and came in third. The day itself was marred with violence, 20 people having lost their lives in attacks.
End of Segregation at Wailing Wall
A court order has given Israeli Jewish women the right to pray at the Wailing Wall in the same way as men. The order was met with strong opposition from ultra-Orthodox Jews and the women needed police protection in order to carry out the rites. In the previous months the lobby group Women of the Wall, have been campaigning for equal access to the wall – something that until recently was a crime. Other issues of gender segregation promoted by ultra-Orthdoox Jews in Israel, such as women sitting at the back of buses, have been promised to be outlawed by the Israeli government
Pope Francis Canonizes Hundreds of New Saints
On Sunday 12th May, Pope Francis beatified the 813 Martyrs of Otranto, taking the record for the most sainthoods divulged by a single Pope. The 813 new saints were killed in southern Italy during the Ottoman invasion in 1480, supposedly for refusing to accept Islam. The plan to saint the martyrs was made by Pope Benedict, but following his retirement, it was necessary for Pope Francis to conduct the same ceremony.
Church of Wales Plea for Volunteers
A single sermon, written by Bishops and delivered in churches across Wales, called for greater activism and contribution by lay Christians. The Church of Wales has been forced to close 85 churches in the last decade. The sermon addressed this and spoke of how the days of a parish vicar were numbered, and the communities would need to work together to address spiritual needs. The full sermon can be watched online.
Muslim Students’ Anger at Demonisation
A research document produced by campaign group Student Rights has attacked the practice of seating segregation in events run by Islamic Societies at British Universities. The Times ran with this headline, prompting debate and discussion on Islamic Societies and their role on campus. A number of Muslim students responded to the accusations, arguing that gender segregation was both optional and a choice and that the document demonised Muslim students on campus.
Sex Abuse Allegations
The Church of England has launched an inquiry into allegations of sexual abuse by the former Dean of Manchester Cathedral, Robert Warrington. Archbishop John Sentamu said the Church considered the allegations ‘with utmost seriousness’.
UKIP Councillor Forced to Step Down
A recently elected UKIP councillor has stepped down after it came to light he posted a number of Islamophobic and antisemitic messages on Facebook. Comments such as ‘Some cancers need to be treated with radiation, Islam is one of them’ with an image of an exploding nuclear bomb as well as calls to ‘hang’ Muslim women, were made by the councillor online. He later claimed ‘I’m not a racist, all my friends know me better than that. ‘What I wrote was stupid, but it wasn’t racist. I am not racist. I’m the only white guy on my local five-a-side football team.’
Temple Shooter Radicalised Online
Wade Michael, the man who entered a Sikh Temple in the US, killing six and injuring four others, was radicalised online in months prior to the shooting according to recent evidence. Court documents showed how Michael spent increasing amounts of time on far-right and white power websites. The trial is ongoing.
Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Condemns ‘TV Fatwas’
The rising popularity of cable and satellite TV channels that allow callers to request fatwas and religious guidance on television has been condemned by the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar. He argued the ‘weird’ fatwas often came from those without an appropriate background in Islamic scholarship.