USA: A Misguided Policy Promotes Denial, Not Reform

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USA: A Misguided Policy Promotes Denial, Not Reform 

By Aaron Rhodes

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WASHINGTON, 02.03.2015 (FOREF Europe) – The U.S. administration’s efforts to detach the brutal terrorism of the Islamic State (IS) from Islam are clearly meant to counter the tendency to find all Muslims guilty for the acts of a few, a tendency which, it is feared, could drive masses of hitherto peaceful people into the ranks of international jihadism. To use only anodyne terminology like “violent extremism” to describe what the IS does is a political strategy to avoid offending Muslims, and to preserve ties with some moderate Muslim leaders.

The strategy may have worthy aims, but it is counterproductive in the long term. The administration’s transparently political and manipulative statements lack credulity.  And neither President Obama, nor any other political leader, has any standing to hold forth on what is or is not “true Islam.”  The intellectual and verbal gymnastics of the President and his staff confuse the public, especially as more expert analyses appear that confirm the Islamic qualities of the Islamic state, and opinion polls show that significant proportions of Muslims worldwide sympathize with jihadist violence on religious grounds. The application of political messaging, as opposed to offering intellectual and moral clarity–which is what leaders are supposed to do–is resulting in cynicism and anti-Muslim bigotry.

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International Human Rights Activist Aaron Rhodes in an exclusive interview with The Oslo Times

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International Human Rights Activist Aaron Rhodes in an exclusive interview with The Oslo Times

By Hatef Mokhtar 

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HAMBURG, 11.02.2015 (Oslo Times) – International Human Rights Activist, essayist and university lecturer based in Hamburg, Germany, Aaron Rhodes, in an exclusive interview with The Oslo Times International News Network’s Editor-in-Chief, Hatef Mokhtar, spoke about pertaining human rights issues in Europe including the growing religious and political extremism in various countries across Europe. Rhodes, who is also a co-founder of the Freedom Rights Project, a human rights research initiative and think-tank, which documents and analyzes trends including the inflation, dilution and politicization of human rights in international law, also gave his views on what he thinks is the biggest threat to humanity today.

Excerpts:

Can you tell us a little about your background and how you came to be involved with human rights?

Human rights were important to me because of my studies in political philosophy, which brought a respect for the principles of liberalism, and also because of values instilled by my family.  In the 1980s, as a university administrator, I got involved with efforts to assist scholars working in communist countries; eventually I was engaged to manage a project to assist universities in post-communist countries.  From there I went fully into human rights as director of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights.  

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GERMANY: Anti-Cult Activism vs. Sociology of Religion. A matter of opinion?

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GERMANY: Anti-Cult Activism vs. Sociology of Religion. A matter of opinion?

The Twelve Tribes Controversy Continued

by Erich Mayer

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child custody

MUNICH, 12.02.2015 (FOREF Europe) – On Sept. 5, 2013 German authorities seized 42 children from a Twelve Tribes Community in Klosterzimmern, near the Bavarian town of Nördlingen. 100 policemen and 60 social workers executed the raid in the early morning and the children were taken by force. One anti-cult activist has showed distinctive engagement in this case: Sabine Riede, managing director of Sekten-Info NRW, was directly involved in preparing the raid against the community. She also wrote the preface to Robert Pleyers’ apostate story “Satan Never Sleeps” (2014). FOREF Europe analyzed her allegations and contrasted them to the statements of Susan Palmer, a scholar of sociology and expert on the “Twelve Tribes”, that she made in her “Update on the Raid of the Children of the Twelve Tribes in Germany” written in January 2014, on-site at the Klosterzimmern Community.

 1. NATURE OF THE ACTION

Riede boasts about the police raid that took over 40 children away from their parents: “It is the biggest action of this kind in the history of the Federal Republic of German. The taking into custody was well prepared…” Palmer on the other hand claims that “This raid was prompted by allegations of physical abuse. But when doctors examined the children, they found no evidence.”

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FRANCE: Compromising Freedoms Clouds Fight Against Terrorism

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FRANCE: Compromising Freedoms Clouds Fight Against Terrorism

By Aaron Rhodes

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statue of liberty paris

PARIS, 15.01.2015 (FOREF Europe) – A day after at least 1.5 million came out to protest the murder of Charlie Hebdo journalists and support freedom of speech, the French Minister of the Interior announced criminal proceedings against Dieudonné, a comedian, for his “apology for terrorism.” After participating in the demonstration in Paris, Dieudonné posted that he felt like “Charlie Coulibaly,” thus provocatively combining the name of the victimized publication with that of the terrorist who killed four Jews at a kosher supermarket a day after the Charlie attack.

Diedonné had already been banned from performing in France for his harsh satire of Jews. French law criminalizes defamation and incitement to discrimination, hatred or violence against people based on their race or religion. But while the courts have ruled that Charlie Hebdo‘s irreverent cartoons spoofing the Pope and Mohammed did not constitute such an offence, they ruled differently against Dieudonné’s caustic humor, fueling stories about a Jewish conspiracy, especially among Muslim youth. Less than a handful of public figures stood up for freedom of expression in his case.

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GERMANY: Controversy Surrounding “Twelve Tribes” – Sociologist Warns against Targeted Misinformation by Sect Experts

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GERMANY: Controversy Surrounding “Twelve Tribes” – Sociologist Warns against Targeted Misinformation by Sect Experts

How a Religious Community Gets Harassed by Authorities Spurred on by FECRISDo “Sect Experts” Use Controversial Deprogramming Methods to Turn Children against their own Parents?

FOREF Reports Exclusively

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Police raid at the religious community “Twelve Tribes” in Nördlingen, Bavaria.

MUNICH, 01.01.2015 (FOREF) – A good 20 years ago, a branch of the religious community “Twelve Tribes” was established in Germany. In August 2013, the community was prohibited from running a school of their own since they discipline their children corporally – although in a soft manner, as the community emphasizes. One month after that, in a controversial large-scale operation the police went and got 41 children out of the communities in Nördlingen-Klosterzimmern and Wörnitz. At this point after more than a year, 20 children are still in the custody of the Jugendamt (Youth Welfare Office). Susan J. Palmer, sociologist of religion, points out that after the police raids in September 2013, the doctors did not find any evidence of abuse. She criticizes the blind trust the German authorities put in the self-proclaimed sect experts who are running a targeted disinformation and demagoguery campaign against the community.

Note in advance: FOREF distances itself from the use of physical chastisement, even if moderate, and rejects the disproportionately harsh intervention of the authorities in this case as well, which have long term traumatizing consequences for the children. Cf. Art. 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to be protected against the use of force, abuse, and neglect (see below). 

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Austria’s Violations of Freedom of Religion

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Austria’s Violations of Freedom of Religion

FOREF Europe Reports to the UN Human Rights Committee

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VIENNA, 23.12.2014 (FOREF) – The Forum for Religious Freedom Europe filed this report on cases of violations of the freedom of religion in Austria and sent it to the UN Human Rights Committee for further investigation. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR) will host its 113th session from 16 March until 02 April  2015 in Geneva, in which the Country Report Task Forces will consider issues on Austria among other countries.

Note (25.12.2014): After this post was released, the website of HRWF, an international human rights organization, has been hacked by a professional team based in France and taken down from the internet. Therefore, the link to the PDF-File that contained the extensive scientific study on FECRIS will be temporarily dysfunctional.  

1. Brief information about FOREF Europe

The Forum for Religious Freedom Europe is an independent, secular, nongovernmental organization based in Vienna.  FOREF Europe was founded in 2005 by the internationally recognized jurist and expert on freedom of religion Professor Christian Bruenner, who served as Dean of the School of Law and Rector of Graz University and also in the Austrian Parliament, and human rights activist Peter Zoehrer.

FOREF’s website (www.religionsfreiheit.at) was initiated in 1998 “out of necessity”, since the government has just introduced two new laws, severely curtailing the rights of religious minority groups: First, the establishment of a “federal sect observatory office” (Bundesstelle für Sektenfragen) and second, the introduction of a law for “confessional communities”.

FOREF Europe regularly reports to the media, OSCE, US-State Department, Human Rights Without Frontiers and various other human rights organizations on religious freedom violations in Austria and other countries. FOREF Europe has established an international scientific board of experts as well as an interdenominational religious board. Since its establishment, FOREF Europe has achieved a number of important victories in helping victims of religious intolerance to gain respect for their rights and vindicated from injustice, discrimination or persecution. FOREF Europe’s Facebook community numbers over 1000 members.

In 2014, FOREF Europe named international human rights activist Dr. Aaron Rhodes president. Recent actions have included, inter alia, a successful campaign against a discriminatory resolution in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe; a  critical analysis of Hungary’s religion law presented to the OSCE; a critical analysis of the decision by the European Court of Human Rights to uphold France’s ban on the burqa; a detailed report on actions by German authorities against a minority Christian group; and an analysis of Austria’s proposed law on Islam.

 

2. Brief Summary of Concerns

Austria’s population is over 60 percent Catholic. Islam, with around 574,000 Muslims constitutes the second largest faith community. There are approximately 600 religious minority groups. Only 17 faith communities enjoy special privileges by the state.

The Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee on Austria following its review in 2007 made no reference to problems of freedom of religion.  FOREF wishes, in this brief report, to express concern about policies of the Austrian federal state that violate the spirit and letter of Article 18 of the Covenant, particularly as regards equal treatment of religious communities and neutrality. Austria has embraced policies and practices that demonize “sects” and “cults,” and most recently has promoted legislation imposing grossly unequal treatment on the Austrian Muslim community. Austria also finances anti-cult organizations such as GSK (a branch of FECRIS), which spread biased and distorted information stigmatizing new religious movements and their members.

 

3. Anti-Cult Efforts of the Austrian Federal Agency for Sect Issues[1] (Bundesstelle für Sektenfragen)

The Austrian government’s campaigns against so-called “sects” and “cults,” especially through the establishment and actions of a “Federal Agency for Sect Issues” (BSS), have demonized religious minorities and placed the state in opposition to these groups, while cooperating with the established churches.

  • The executive director of the BSS, Dr. German Müller, is a former co-worker of the association GSK (Gesellschaft gegen Sekten und Kultgefahren), the Austrian branch of FECRIS. His longstanding mentor, Friedrich Griess (a technical engineer by profession), is the co-founder of FECRIS.[2]
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Exploiting Chinese Culture to Justify Repression?

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Exploiting Chinese Culture to Justify Repression?

By Aaron Rhodes

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BEIJING, 26.11.2014 (China in Perspective) – China’s human rights record has deteriorated under the rule of President Xi Jinping. The persecution of religious minorities and human rights activists has worsened. The ability of Chinese to speak and associate freely has been further restricted. China has even more aggressively rejected international concerns about such problems, with official sources denying the existence of universal human rights values and claiming a special Chinese approach to human rights. 

At the same time, Xi has frequently invoked ancient Chinese philosophical traditions, in particular traditional Confucianism, as legitimating the restriction of individual rights and freedoms, suggesting that the idea of human rights is “Western,” incompatible with Chinese culture. Xi told President Obama that due to differences in history and culture, “it is only natural that we have some differences on the issue of human rights.”

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