Russia: Counterterror Law tightened, Basic Freedoms threatened
By IVAN NECHEPURENKO
Moscow/Russia, 24.06.2016 (NYT) – Russian lawmakers adopted on Friday a set of measures that proponents said were aimed at combating terrorism, but that human rights activists condemned as an assault on freedoms of speech, privacy and conscience.
The measures, passed on Friday by the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of Parliament, introduced a prison sentence of up to one year for failure to report a terrorist act or armed mutiny in the planning stages. The lawmakers also forced cellular and internet providers to store all communications data for six months and to help security services decipher all messaging applications.
The bill, which must be approved by the upper chamber and signed by President Vladimir V. Putin, also banned proselytizing, preaching and praying outside officially recognized religious institutions, among other measures.
Vienna, 14.07.2016 (FOREF) – The Forum for Religious Freedom Europe presents three recently published annual reports by the European Intergroup on FoRB & RT, Human Rights Without Frontiers Int’l and the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe. In addition, FOREF recommends an article published by UN Special Rapporteur on FoRB, Heiner Bielefeldt, titled “Misperceptions of Freedom of Religion or Belief”.
(2) The HRWF Int’l Freedom of Religion or Belief World Report 2015 – Religious Minorities under Oppression Human Rights Without Frontiers International (HRWF Int’l) is a Brussel-based non-profit association that aims to inform European and international policies in order to uphold democracy, the rule of law and human rights globally. Among the range of activities of the HRWF Int’l are field missions, research, analysis and monitoring of various human rights concerns in many countries around the world. A wide global network of correspondents and associated member organizations provides the NGO with reliable first-hand information.
(3) Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe – 2015 Report The Austria-based “Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe” investigates, documents and reports cases of intolerance and discrimination against Christians in Europe. The NGO informs international government institutions and reports to politicians, NGOs and the media. The Observatory is a member of the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) of the EU.
(4) Misperceptions of Freedom of Religion or Belief This older, but nonetheless relevant article by Heiner Bielefeldt, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, illuminates typical concepts and political ideas that blur the status of freedom of religion as fundamental human right. Those concepts include blasphemy and apostasy legislation, state imposed interreligious harmony, or ideological versions of state secularism. Bielefeldt also discusses the relation between the freedom of religion and other human rights.
Pakistan: Christian seeks police help, instead receives death sentence for ‘blasphemy’
Gujranwala/Pakistan, 2016-07-01 (WWM) – An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has sentenced a Christian man to death for committing blasphemy against the prophet of Islam. Anjum Sandhu, 60, had initially sought police protection in May 2015, after alleging he was the victim of blackmail and extortion, but he was instead charged with blasphemy by the police, after the men he had accused levelled charges against him.
On 27 June, 2016, Sandhu was sentenced to death and fined 500,000 Pakistani rupees ($4775). Javed Naz and Jafar Ali, the two he had accused of blackmailing him, have also been sentenced to death, but must first serve 35 years in jail. They were each fined 80,000 rupees ($764).
Sandhu, who has an Honours degree in Chemistry and a Masters in English Literature, is one of the three directors of eight branches of the Science Locus School in Gujranwala. In May 2015, Sandhu went to the police to report that Naz and Ali had extorted 20,000 rupees ($191) from him and were demanding a further 50,000 rupees ($477).
“Naz had previously worked at the school, but was dismissed for leaking examination papers, according to one of Sandhu’s relatives,” human rights activist Napoleon Qayyum told World Watch Monitor. The police report, dated 15 May, 2015, states that after Sandhu identified the two, they were arrested and the police found that they had at least 20,000 rupees between them, which the police took from them. But the two men then told the police that Sandhu, during a discussion at his school, had “used blasphemous words” and that they had a recording of him doing so.
However, a close relative of Sandhu’s, who did not wish to be identified, told Qayyum that in 20 years of running schools, Sandhu had never shown any “inclination towards discussing religion”. The relative added that, “since the passing of this judgment, we have locked our houses and moved to an undisclosed location for fear of our lives”.
In Pakistan, dozens of people have been killed over a suspicion they committed blasphemy. Several Christian settlements have also been attacked, looted and set on fire on the pretext of blasphemy.
Sociologist: Labels “Sect” or “Cult” applied for exerting Social Control
Reno/Nevada, 05.07.2016 (FFR) – James Richardson is a foundation Professor of Sociology and Judicial Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. He has specialized in the Sociology of Religions and New Religious Movements. In this interview with the “Newspaper for Unsolved Crimes” he speaks about labels used by anti-cultists, including FECRIS, Alexander Dvorkin and the dubious role played by the Russian Orthodox Church.
Richardson states that the terms “sect” and “destructive cult” are “social weapons to use against groups that you do not like. They are part of an effort to exert social control over unpopular groups or groups that someone in a position of power does not like.” People who label a group or organization as a “sect” or “cult” aim at achieving power over them, the “right” to exert social control and do terrible things to such groups. He continued to explain: “If person is a member of a regular religious organization that is accepted and as religious organization, they can exert their rights for religion – that is a human right – but you can say “this is not a religion, that is a sect or cult”, then it does not qualify for those protection so you can do anything you want to – treat them badly, beat them up, or you can eve kill them.”
This is precisely the strategy of anti-cultists: First, they apply a label to discredit religious groups. Then they justify discriminatory practices against the members of such groups.
Al-Azhar: Apostasy is ‘Treason’ and deserves Death Panalty
By World Watch Monitor
Cairo/Egypt, 22.06.2016 (WWM) – To convert away from Islam is “treason” that should carry the death penalty, according to Sunni Islam’s topmost religious authority.
“The penalty for an open apostate, departing from the community, is well stipulated in Sharia,” Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayyib declared on Egypt television last week. “An apostate must be pressed upon to repent within a variable period of time or be killed,” el-Tayyib stated, reiterating Islam’s traditional position during a 16 June episode of a daily TV program featuring him.
The ‘Good Imam’ is broadcast every day during the Muslim month of Ramadan, a time of fasting, intense worship and increased zeal across the Islamic world. Shown over Egypt’s state TV, it is also broadcast by several private satellite channels across the Arab world and Muslim diaspora.
Apostasy manifests itself as crime that has to incur a disciplining punishment…
Apostasy and Blasphemy Laws Violate Human Rights and Human Nature
Vienna/Geneva, 20.06.2016 (FOREF/SMPF) – Two international human rights organizations today began a campaign to end laws that make it a criminal offense to change one’s religion and “insult” religions.
The Forum for Religious Freedom –Europe and Set My People Free are meeting delegations to the United Nations and with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva to discuss how to end apostasy and blasphemy laws.
“Nineteen (19) UN member states criminalize apostasy, and in 12 of those states, apostasy is punishable by the death penalty, while almost 25 percent of countries worldwide have blasphemy laws. Both kinds of laws violate basic human rights standards protecting freedom of religion and freedom of expression,” the two organizations said.
An open letter to UN delegations and a list of recent victims of apostasy and blasphemy laws are attached.
For more information: Aaron Rhodes, +49-170- 323-8314
Kamal Fahmi, +46-703 -419- 766
USA: Free Association imperative for LGBT Rights and Religious Liberty to coexist
By Ramona Tausz
Washington D.C., 15.06.2016 (The Federalist) – The deplorable state of religious freedom in America is due to a fundamental shift in how our country views First Amendment freedoms, speakers at the Cato Institute’s “Protecting Religious Freedom” conference declared yesterday.
Moreover, they argued, today’s increasing numbers of private businesses prosecuted for failing to service same-sex weddings or provide contraception drugs cannot be remedied through public accommodations and exceptions, such as Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, but only by returning to a lost understanding of liberty and First Amendment rights.
“We at Cato have long supported both religious liberty and gay rights, insofar as the agenda of each is consistent with the liberty of unlimited constitutional government,” Roger Pilon, founding director of the Cato Center for Constitutional Studies, said. “But we draw the line when same-sex couples turn around and use government to force venues against their religious beliefs to participate in same-sex ceremonies, as happens too often today.”
Dialogue at the conference between Pilon and Louise Melling of the American Civil Liberties Union confirmed that the issue at stake is whether the harm of violating First Amendment rights is greater than the harm to a person’s dignity when he is refused service due to sexual orientation or lifestyle choices.