Austria’s Islamic Reforms

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Austria’s Islamic Reforms

Opinion by Soeren Kern

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austria islam

VIENNA/NEW YORK, 07.04.2015 (New York Times) – In February, the Austrian Parliament amended the country’s century-old “Islam Law.” The new legislation, though controversial, is a significant achievement. In promoting a moderate, homegrown Islam compatible with democratic values, Austria has taken a positive step to combat extremism while protecting religious liberties.

The original Islam law, passed in 1912, sought to integrate thousands of Muslims who officially came under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire following its annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908. Predominantly Roman Catholic, Austria-Hungary extended Muslims the same rights of worship as other official religions, and granted state protection to Islamic customs, doctrines and institutions. But the empire’s breakup following World War I left just a few hundred Muslims in Austria, and the Islam Law became irrelevant.

The current landscape is vastly different. A 2014 University of Vienna report put the number of Muslims in Austria at over 550,000, or about 7 percent of the national population as of 2012.

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USA: Response to Indiana RFRA

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Response to Indiana RFRA

Statement by the Becket Fund

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becket fund

WASHINGTON, DC, 02.04.2015 (Becket Fund) – Today the Becket Fund hosted a press conference call to discuss the implications of the Indiana’s “fix” to its Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty made following statement:

The proposed “fix” to Indiana’s RFRA is unnecessary. Our country has had over 20 years of experience with RFRAs and we know what they do: They provide crucial protections to religious minorities. The key disagreement is over what should happen in a very small class of cases where individuals are asked to participate in a same-sex wedding in violation of their religious beliefs. In that situation, there are two possibilities: (1) Our government can drive religious people out of business, fine them, and possibly even imprison them; or (2) our government can say that these religious people deserve a day in court, and that courts should carefully balance religious liberty with other competing values.

The original RFRA would give people their day in court; the proposed “fix” would be a green light for driving religious people out of business. Our society should not settle this issue by punishing religious people before they even have their day in court.

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EUROPE: Religious Discrimination in Numbers

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EUROPE: Discrimination against Religious Minorities in Numbers

Report by the Pew Research Center

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WASHINGTON DC, 26.02.2015 (Pew Research Center) – The Pew Research Center has filed a report on the “Latest Trends in Religious Restrictions and Hostilities” in which the forms and numbers of harassment of minority religions in the year 2013 are being analyzed. In Europe, social hostilities against minority religions are on the rise. The following is an excerpt of the report that highlights the Pew Research Center’s findings in European countries. The full report can be seen here.

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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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USA-ESTONIA/

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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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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