Special Report to the Prime Minister of France mentions FOREF’s Role in torpedoing Rudy Salles’ Report

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French Anti-Cult Organisation MIVILUDES Recognizes FOREF’s Achievements in Promoting Universal Human Rights

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PARIS/STRASBOURG, 15.05.2015 (FOREF) –  A bit more than a year ago, on the 10th of April 2014 the motion of the rapporteur Mr. Rudy Salles titled “The protection of minors against excesses of sects” was debated at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Mr. Salles’ original resolution was flatly rejected by the Council. Contrary to his aims, the Council’s final resolution stressed the freedom of belief for both traditional and non-traditional forms of religion to be an equal right for all. Moreover, the Assembly is unequivocally committed to a policy against discrimination of minors on grounds of religion or belief, especially in schools and other educational institutions. MIVILUDES, a French GONGO and main financier of FECRIS, has publicly recognized FOREF’s achievements in pointing out crucial shortcomings in Mr. Salles’ draft in its latest report.  

Mr. Salles is a member of the French National Assembly and long-time associate of Mr. Georges Fenech, former head of the MIVILUDES, an organization within the French executive commissioned to monitor religious minorities (“cults” and “sects”). In March 2014 FOREF has filed an official complaint against the resolution of Mr. Salles, who clearly violated the code of conduct for rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly: rapporteurs are required to respect the principle of neutrality, impartiality and objectivity. It was evident that Mr. Salles’ personal interests were informed by MIVILUDES which aims to achieve “European harmonization” for the collective fight against “sects” or “cults” via portraying an alleged threat of “minors.” Thus, FOREF advised to conduct a careful investigation into MIVILUDES’ agenda and to withdraw Mr. Salles’ mandate on the theme of minority religions.

In MIVILUDES’ recent report* that was addressed to the Prime Minister of France, Mr. Manuel Valls, FOREF’s contribution to work out the controversial aspects of Mr. Salles’ draft resolution has been clearly acknowledged: 

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Technocratic Bureaucracy and Judicial Activism contradicting the Original Idea of Human Rights

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The Fruits of Human Rights Hubris

Comment by Aaron Rhodes

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LONDON, 15.05.2015 (FOREF) – Reactions to Prime Minister Cameron’s plan to loosen the United Kingdom’s relationship to the European Court of Human Rights have been predictably hysterical and infused with partisanship.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has called the plan “appalling,” adding that “the idea that we take away human rights, I think, is just an awful suggestion, so the Scottish Government will oppose that and work hard to make sure that in Scotland people still get vital human-rights protection.” Others have warned that the proposal would send out a terrible signal about the United Kingdom’s commitment to human rights, putting it in the same league as Belarus and Kazakhstan. Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, called the plan “the gravest threat to freedom in Britain since the Second World War.”

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Austria’s Islamic Reforms

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Austria’s Islamic Reforms

Opinion by Soeren Kern

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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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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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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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