FECRIS – Inquisiton of the 21st century

2 12 2012

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The Inquisition was an ecclesiastical body of Catholic Church set up in medieval times to search and destroy any attempt of heresy. Although the times of the Inquisition are far behind us, people who wish to punish any form of belief outside of the frame of historic religions, are still among us.

FECRIS, acronym for Fédération Européenne des Centres de Recherche et d’Information sur le Sectarisme (European Federation of Centers for Research and Information on Sects), is an umbrella organization of about 25 anti-religious organization from 16 countries. A key objective of FECRIS is establishment of European Observatory on groups of religious, esoteric or spiritual nature so that anti-religious groups in various countries can exchange information. In the minds of FECRIS members any and every minority religion is labeled as “sect” and attacked in orchestrated media campaigns. The only real product of FECRIS is increased intolerance of minority religions in several European countries.

The Journal for the Study of Beliefs and Worldviews recently published a 200 pages long research of the Human Rights Without Frontiers under title larger image Freedom of Religion or Belief, Anti-Sect Movements and State Neutrality/A Case Study: FECRIS.

Central-European Religious Freedom Institute commands this book to all individuals and organizations caring about human rights and religious freedom.

HRWF-logoPDF version is available at the web site of Human Rights Without Frontiers by clicking on the logo of Human Rights Without Frontiers.

Paper copies of the book can be ordered directly from the publisher by writing to or by clicking on picture below.

FECRIS-book

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Alkotmánybírósági indítvány az egyházügyi törvény egyes rendelkezései miatt

13 08 2012

Az alapvető jogok biztosának álláspontja szerint több ponton is ellentétesek a hatalommegosztás elvével, a tisztességes eljáráshoz való joggal, valamint jogorvoslathoz való joggal az egyházak elismerését szabályozó törvényi rendelkezések. Szabó Máté több vallási szervezet kezdeményezésének elemzése után az Alkotmánybírósághoz fordult.

A lelkiismereti és vallásszabadság jogáról, valamint az egyházak, vallásfelekezetek és vallási közösségek jogállásáról szóló törvény elődjét az Alkotmánybíróság közjogi érvénytelenségre hivatkozva 2011. december 19-én megsemmisítette. Az Országgyűlés ezt követően december 30-án fogadta el az új szabályozást, amely 2012. január 1-jén hatályba is lépett. Az ombudsman azonban Alaptörvény-ellenesnek találta a rendelkezések között azt, amely – a hatalmi ágak megosztásának alkotmányos alapelvét kikezdve – az Országgyűlés egyedi és megfellebbezhetetlen döntésétől teszi függővé az egyházi státusz megadását.

A vallásszabadsággal való szoros kapcsolat elengedhetetlenné teszi, hogy az egyház elismerésével, az egyházi státusz megadásával kapcsolatos döntés feleljen meg az alapjogokkal szemben támasztott összes garanciális követelménynek. Ha az egyházi státusz megadásánál a döntéshozót mérlegelési jog illeti meg, akkor törvényben kell szabályozni a mérlegelés szempontjait. Az ilyen elvek, rendelkezések hiányoznak a törvényből, és ez a döntéshozatalt politikai alkuk tárgyává teheti. Szükség lenne továbbá az elutasító döntés megindokolására is, de a törvény ebben az esetben sem ír elő indokolási kötelezettséget. Így nem tudhatjuk meg, mi az elutasítás alapja – állapította meg Szabó Máté. Az egyházi státuszról hozott döntéssel szemben pedig mindenképpen jogorvoslatot kell biztosítani és ez is hiányzik a jelenlegi szabályozásból.

A törvény ugyan meghatározza, hogy milyen feltételek fennállása esetén lehet kérelmezni az egyházi státuszt, a feltételeket teljesítő szervezeteknek azonban nem biztosít alanyi jogot ahhoz, hogy el is ismerjék őket egyházként. Az egyházi státusszal kapcsolatban ugyanis az Országgyűlés diszkrecionális jogkörben, azaz szabad mérlegelés alapján hozza meg a döntését, azt nem köteles indokolni és nem biztosított olyan jogorvoslati eszköz sem, amely az Alaptörvény értelmében annak minősülhetne.

Az ombudsman hangsúlyozza: az Országgyűlés Magyarország legfőbb népképviseleti szerve, amelyből következően az Országgyűlés olyan politikai fórum, amelynek elsődleges szerepe a törvényhozás, továbbá az Alaptörvényen és törvényen alapuló más politikai döntések meghozatala. A hatalmi ágak elválasztásának elve alapján az Országgyűlés nem láthat el olyan feladatot, amelynek során ad hoc jellegű, megfelelő alkotmányos garanciákat nélkülöző politikai döntést hoz az alapvető állampolgári jogok tekintetében.

Az indítvány a http://www.ajbh.hu/allam/jelentes/201202784Ai.rtf oldalon olvasható.

Forrás: Alapvető jogok biztosa





HUNGARY: The Ombudsman turned to the Constitutional Court because of the provisions of the Law on Churches

13 08 2012

BUDAPEST, August 13, 2012 – According to the opinion of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights the legal provisions regulating the recognition of churches are in contrary to the principle of separation of power, to the right to fair procedure and to the right to legal remedy. After analysing the initiatives of many religious organisations Szabó Máté turned to the Constitutional Court.

The Ombudsman finds the provision contrary to the Fundamental Law, which not considering the constitutional principle of separation of power among government branches allows the Parliament to decide by itself and  on church status recognition without the right to an appeal.

The close relation to freedom of religion makes it indispensable that the decision on the recognition of the church, on rendering the religious status meets all guarantees protecting fundamental rights. If it is at the discretion of the decision-maker to give the religious status, then the aspects of deliberation have to be regulated by Act. The Act lacks such principles and provisions. The refusal should be reasoned, but the Act also lacks the requirement of reasoning in case of refusal. Thus we would never learn the reason of the refusal – stated Szabó Máté. Legal remedy has to be guaranteed against the decision on church status and the current regulation lacks it.

The Ombudsman emphasises that on the basis of the principle of separation of power the Parliament cannot exercise tasks, during which it makes political decisions affecting fundamental civil rights without having appropriate constitutional guarantees.

Source: Hungarian Commissioner for Fundamental Rights





German court outlaws religious circumcision

27 06 2012

Members of the high priesthood place their hands to bless a baby
after a Rabbi performed a ceremonial circumcision (AFP/File, David Furst)

BERLIN — Circumcising young boys on religious grounds amounts to grievous bodily harm, a German court ruled Tuesday in a landmark decision that the Jewish community said trampled on parents’ religious rights.

The regional court in Cologne, western Germany, ruled that the “fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents”, a judgement that is expected to set a legal precedent.

“The religious freedom of the parents and their right to educate their child would not be unacceptably compromised, if they were obliged to wait until the child could himself decide to be circumcised,” the court added.

The case was brought against a doctor in Cologne who had circumcised a four-year-old Muslim boy on his parents’ wishes.

A few days after the operation, his parents took him to hospital as he was bleeding heavily. Prosecutors then charged the doctor with grievous bodily harm.

The doctor was acquitted by a lower court that judged he had acted within the law as the parents had given their consent.

On appeal, the regional court also acquitted the doctor but for different reasons.

The regional court upheld the original charge of grievous bodily harm but also ruled that the doctor was innocent as there was too much confusion on the legal situation around circumcision.

The court came down firmly against parents’ right to have the ritual performed on young children.

“The body of the child is irreparably and permanently changed by a circumcision,” the court said. “This change contravenes the interests of the child to decide later on his religious beliefs.”

The decision caused outrage in Germany’s Jewish community.

The head of the Central Committee of Jews, Dieter Graumann, said the ruling was “an unprecedented and dramatic intervention in the right of religious communities to self-determination.”

The judgement was an “outrageous and insensitive act. Circumcision of newborn boys is a fixed part of the Jewish religion and has been practiced worldwide for centuries,” added Graumann.

“This religious right is respected in every country in the world.”

Holm Putzke, a criminal law expert at the University of Passau, told the Financial Times Deutschland that the ruling was “enormously important for doctors because for the first time they have legal certainty.”

“Unlike many politicians, the court has not allowed itself to be scared off by charges of anti-Semitism or religious intolerance,” added Putzke.

The World Health Organisation has estimated that nearly one in three males under 15 is circumcised. In the United States, the operation is often performed for hygiene reasons on infants.

Thousands of young boys are circumcised every year in Germany, especially in the country’s large Jewish and Muslim communities.

The court specified that circumcision was not illegal if carried out for medical reasons.

© 2012 AFP




Anti-Buddhism campaign in Austria

4 03 2012

HRWF (02.03.2012) – On 12 February, the construction of the biggest Buddhist temple in Europe was rejected by 67% of the population of Gföhl  who had been consulted on this issue. The mayor, Karl Simlinger, accepted the decision of the population. In the newspaper Standard, Bop Jon Sunim, a Buddhist monk and initiator of the project, commented the result of the referendum as follows: “The fact that the inhabitants of Gföhl have finally voted against the Buddhist temple is the result of a hate campaign of political and religious opponents.”

Among the promoters of this campaign, it is worth mentioning the “Austrian Society for the Protection of Tradition, Family and Private Property” (TFP) which distributed leaflets to incite the people against the Buddhist temple. “Buddhism in Austria, a wolf in the sheepfold”.

Prof. Christian Brünner, a constitutionalist from Graz and former president of the conference of the rectors, unambiguously criticized the anti-Buddhist hate campaign and the popular consultation.

Source: Human Rights Without Frontiers





Freedom of religion or belief in Russia

29 02 2012

HRWF (28.02.2012) - Human Rights Without Frontiers presents you an overview of incidents having taken place in Russia in the second semester of 2011. The full overview covering the 12 months can be found on the homepage of our websitehttp://www.hrwf.net

By Flint Timmins for Human Rights Without Frontiers

5 July

The Supreme Court of Russia overturned the 24 February ban on the Grace Church of Khabarovsk; however, the Khabarovsk Regional Court has initiated new procedures against the church’s leaders and membership. The Grace Church was accused of failing to maintain proper financial records as well as employing preaching methods, such as saying prayers loudly, speaking in “tongues,” and faith “healings,” that “changed the psychological state” of its members.

18 July

A Baptist conscientious objector was held in a psychiatric hospital since 1 July for observation following his refusal to take up arms. Igor Shlak, a 20-year-old Baptist, refused to serve in his military unit, desiring instead to perform alternative service. Six months before being called into the military, Shlak submitted written requests to the Tyumen and Nizhnetavdinsk Districts Military Enlistment Office in central Russia. He was told that he had not been selected for alternative service.

8 August

In the city of Chelyabinsk police raided the home of Muslim Nursi reader Gulnaz Valeyeva, claiming to have thwarted a suicide bomber plot. The home is used by local Muslim women for prayer. Police confiscated over 500 pamphlets and other religious material as well as instructions for preparing explosives. Local Muslims claim the instructions were planted by the raiding police.

8 August

The home of Nursi reader Farida Ulmaskulova was raided by police officers while she was conducting a religious education class for Muslim girls between the ages of 11 and 17 in the village of Aznalino, Safakuleev district, Kurgan region. Police confiscated religious texts, course materials, and DVDs. The girls were detained and questioned, being released in the evening.

25 August

Police officers and government officials carried out 19 simultaneous searches on Jehovah’s Witnesses’ homes in the Sea of Azov city of Taganrog. Church leaders say that such search raids are designed to intimidate and subdue the religion.

7 September

  • Ustina Chernishoff of Brazil was found in a community of Russian Old Believers on the banks of the Yenisei River in Siberia. Chernishoff, 23, was reported to Interpol as missing by her mother in Brazil after Chernishoff stopped sending letters. Chernishoff moved to the community with her father and brother in 2006 and spent much of her time making copies of religious texts. The Old Believers are Orthodox Christians who broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th Century.
  • Nursi reader Rashid Abdulov was sentenced to one year of compulsory labor for extremism. The Ulyanovsk Prosecutor’s Office stated that they felt the sentence was too light, preferring instead a 4-year sentence in a labor camp. Abdulov, a citizen of Azerbaijan, was first detained in January by the Russian secret service on charges of spreading Nursi teachings.
  • In the Chuvash Republic of western Russia, three Jehovah’s Witnesses were taken into custody while police searched their and other Witnesses’ homes. The police seized Bibles, personal computers, legal documents, and personal valuables. In the Chuvash cities of Cheboksary, Novocheboksarsk, and Kanash, Jehovah’s Witness worship services were interrupted by police and members were searched and fingerprinted.

9 September

In the region of Belgorod, the Federal Migration Service raided the Friday prayers of the local Muslim community Peace and Creation. Masked police interrupted the prayers and detained over 150 men. The men were searched, had their cell phones confiscated, and were taken to various police stations. The police said that the raid was aimed at “uncovering illegal migrants” and other migration violations, though only six of the detained were found to be illegal migrants. Local Muslims believe the raid was a response to a local television news report on the Muslim’s celebration of Ramadan, which boasted over 1000 attendees.

19 September

The Yoshkar-Ola City Court ordered five internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to two Jehovah’s Witness websites. Prosecutor Andrei Nazarov argued that the sites jw.org andwatchtower.org contain some works that are currently on the Federal List of Extremist Materials, prompting the court to ban access to the sites. A third site, jw-media.org, was also blocked even though it was not mentioned in the official ruling.

20 September

The Lenin District Court rejected the appeal of Nursi reader Ziyautdin Dapayev’s three-year prison sentence. Dapayev, 29, was sentenced under “extremism” for possessing banned religious literature written by Muslim theologian Said Nursi. Dapayev was accused of being “deliberately engaged in attracting residents of Dagestan to study and spread the teaching of Said Nursi.” Over 1,800 books, pamphlets, and other materials were taken from Dapayev’s home and turned over to the Muslim Board of Dagestan, a city along the Caspian Sea, with the instruction that the literature be destroyed.

2 October

In a letter presented at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw, the Brussels-based human rights NGO Human Rights Without Frontiers called on the Russian government to: revise Article 14 of the Law on Freedom of conscience and association; end the misuse of Article 282 of the Criminal Code in harassing religious groups; end the harassment against Jehovah’s Witnesses and Nursi readers; dissolve the Ministry of Justice’s Expert Council for conducting State-Religious Studies; and to fully implement the decisions of the European Court concerning freedom of religion. 

7 October

  • The Russian Ministry of Justice proposed amendments to Russia’s religious law. The proposed amendments would: require all religious groups to register with the Ministry of Justice, even if the groups do not plan on seeking the status of a legal entity; limit the teaching of religious doctrines to officially registered religious associations; permit religious organizations to publish books and teach children only if the group belongs to a centralized religious association;  and allow the state to reject or revoke religious registration if the “goals and activities” of the group violate Russian law. The proposed law would effectively eliminate the legal distinctions between religious “organizations” and “groups.” Under current law, religious “groups” in Russia are allowed to operate privately and without being registered, allowing small groups of citizens to easily organize themselves in religious groups for the purpose of religious studies and prayer meetings.
  • The Kemerovo diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church protested against the entry of Andrei Matuizhov into the All-Russia National Front (ONF), a wing of Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party. Matuizhov is a former pastor of the “Love of Christ” evangelical church, which was closed by authorities in 2007 for allegedly violating religious laws. Matuizhov then joined the “New Generation” evangelical church, which was accused of extremism. Upon hearing of Matuizhov’s intent to join ONF, the Kemerovo diocese issued a statement to believers to oppose Matuizhov’s inclusion, stating that he might “lobby for ideas that will not serve the strengthening of our society but its moral degradation.”

10 October

In the city of Tomskthe Ministry of Justice sought to place the Hare Krishna text “The Bhagavad-Git As It Is” on the Federal List of Extremist Materials. Prosecutors claimed that the book “contains signs of incitement of religious hatred and humiliation of an individual based on gender, race, ethnicity, language, origin or attitude to religion.” The Tomsk Region Ombudsperson of Human Rights, Nelli Krechetova, criticized the accusation, stating that it was an attempt to restrict the religious freedom of Hare Krishnas.

12 October

An Evangelical Christian-Baptist church in Vladivostok, located near the eastern border with China, was vandalized when a small group threw stones at windows.

3 November

Following the appeal of the Gorno-Altaisk Prosecutor’s Office, the Gorno-Altaisk City Court reversed the acquittal of Jehovah’s Witness Aleksandr Kalistratov and found him guilty of inciting religious hatred, sentencing him to 100 hours of community service. Human rights NGO Amnesty International called the decision “an attack against freedom of expression, of opinion, and freedom of confession.” Kalistratov was acquitted of extremism charges under Article 282 of the Criminal Code on 14 April. Kalistratov was accused of distributing copies of religious works banned by the Gorno-Altaisk City Court. Kalistratov was the first Jehovah’s Witness put on trial in post-Soviet Russia.

Mid-November

The sms message system operated by Russia’ Hare Krishna’s was shut down without warning by the Russian communications company NSS. The message system allows the 3,000 subscribers to send daily quotes, announcements, and event notices. It is unknown whether the government was involved in the shutdown.

2 December

Four of the nine Jehovah’s Witnesses works banned by the Salsk court in June were officially placed on the Federal List of Extremist Materials. Additionally, nine other works were ruled “extremist” by the far eastern Sakhalin region’s Makarov District Court on 18 October. Officials from the religion claim that they were not informed of the Makarov decision until 11 November.

8 December

In a new report on the website www.jw-media.org, the Jehovah’s Witnesses documented over 1,000 instances of religious intolerance from 2009 to 2011. Religious discrimination against Jehovah’s Witnesses on the part of Russian officials and the general public has increased severely, consisting of over 120 home raids, 500 instances of interfering with proselyting activity, and 420 detentions or arrests.

12 December

An article on Russian “anti-sect” websites was published, criticizing the bigotry and falsehoods spread by these websites. The criticisms were aimed at Alexander Dvorkin, head of the Ministry of Justice’s and vice-president of the pan-European anti-sect organization FECRIS, and Alexander Kuzmin, Member of the Expert Council for Conducting Religious Studies Expert Analysis and operator of several “anti-sect” websites. The sites contain articles accusing non-Orthodox religions of witchcraft, murder, rape, and other crimes.

22 December

  • The Jehovah’s Witness Aleksandr Kalistratov was acquitted of spreading “enmity and hatred” in the Siberian city of Altaisk. Kalistratov had previously been found guilty of inciting religious hatred and sentenced to 100 hours of community service. He appealed the decision, having once been found innocent at the original trial which took place on 14 April.
  • A Russian court banned several pieces of Falun Gong literature, including its main text “Zhuan Falun.” The human rights NGO Human Rights Without Frontiers suggested that the decision may have come due to pressure from China, which is attempting to stamp out Falun Gong.

28 December

The Tomsk City Court refused to classify the Hare Krishna text “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” as “extremist.” The decision came partially in response to protests in India over the case. Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna called the case an attack on the “very soul of our great civilization.”





HUMAN RIGHTS ALERT: Discriminatory actions against Hungarian Jai Bhim Buddhist Community

23 02 2012

By Jura Nanuk/CERFI

Hungarian Jai Bhim Buddhist Community operates several educational programs for Roma children and young adults in Hungary, using philosophy of Buddhism to help their integration into Hungarian society. In their work they are following the example of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Indian political leader and philosopher, born in untouchable caste, so called Dalits. Ambedkar converted to Buddhisms and inspired many of Dalits to do the same thus escaping humiliating life of untouchable Indian caste.

On February 23, police came to Sajokaza village to “investigate” the fact that in small Roma village 300 inhabitants identified themselves as Buddhists in last population census. Authorities found this suspicious and started an “investigation”, which might represent violation of Data Protection Law, as religious affiliation is considered sensitive personal data per Hungarian law, and nobody has the rights to investigate somebodies religious affiliation.

Day latter, police entered Jai Bhim school building in Sajokaza, arresting three teenage girls. The girls were arrested and handcuffed and taken into local police station. From the recording of the school security cameras which recorded in full the arrest, it is clearly visible there was absolutely no need to use the handcuffs as the girls were not resisting the arrest and were not representing threat to themselves or others.

Needless to say, Hungarian Jai Bhim community lost their religious status due to repressive Hungarian law on churches  which affected hundreds of Hungarian religious communities.  When Jai Bhim’s  request for re-registration was refused by justification that they filed the papers one day too late which has nothing to do with the truth.

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Banning the burqa and the European identity crisis

23 02 2012

By Maurits Berger of Leiden University 

The Dutch cabinet announced on January 27 that it will submit to parliament a bill banning burqas and niqabs, full casket helmets and balaclavas from Dutch streets. The latter are only meant to answer the need for non-discriminatory legislation, because the true intention of the bill was effectively a “burqa ban.” If the bill becomes law, offenders will have to pay a €390 fine.

Whether the bill will pass the two houses of parliament remains to be seen. A burqa ban has been submitted twice in the Netherlands before, in 2007 and 2008, but both came to naught, not in the least because several committees, institutions and the State Council strongly advised against it.

This third time, however, there is more political clout to pass such a bill, because the burqa ban was made conditional to the formation of the current government. An example has been set by France, where their parliament passed the bill in 2010 despite the French State Council strongly advising against it.

It is clear that the burqa ban is not a legal necessity, but a political one. The exact number of women wearing the burqa is not known, but is estimated to be few: several hundred in the Netherlands (out of a population of 16 million) and about 2,000 in France (out of a population of 65 million). And while such attire may be a nuisance or a shocking experience to people encountering them, these women have not manifested themselves as a threat.

Although certain behavior creates disquiet in society, solid legal arguments must support any prohibitions. If, for example, people find it discomforting to stand in the schoolyard among several face-covered black-clad mothers when picking up their children, what exactly are the elements that make up this discomfort? We may not want it or like it, but there are lots of things we do not want or dislike. When do we cross the line where prohibitions are required in order to maintain society’s sense of peace and comfort?

It comes as no surprise, then, that the law passed in France and Belgium, and those recently submitted in Netherlands and Spain, are a wondrous jumble of arguments justifying the burqa ban, ranging from a revival of the “social contract” that allegedly demands open-face encounters to condemnations of Islamic oppression of women. Central themes in the recent Dutch bill are integration and gender equality, with communication as a common denominator (interestingly, freedom of religion is not mentioned).

The integration argument, in short, is as follows: to advance one’s situation one needs to participate in society, and because the Netherlands is “an open society” one can only successfully interact by means of open-face interaction. Covering one’s face is an impediment that, even when self-inflicted, needs to be avoided at all costs – or at least at the cost of €390.

Gender equality is also a recurring theme, but with various twists. The Dutch legislature condemns the face veil as a symbol of women’s oppression, as a means to set women apart from men as non-communicable objects, and as an indicator that men are sexual predators.

These arguments are feeble because their alleged object or aim of protection differs distinctively from the intention of that protection. The aim of the integration argument basically is that women need to be protected against themselves, because wearing the face veil cuts them off from society. The aim of the gender argument is the legislators’ concern with the plight of oppressed women.

Quite awkward, then, to fine the women one wants to protect. However, the intention of the bill is not the welfare of these women, but society’s discomfort with their behavior. Moreover, the ban’s justification is based on the protection of women who have not asked for it.

This was also the main point of critique raised by the French State Council. It stated that the “principle of personal autonomy” is one of the fundamentals of French society, and as long as these women voluntarily choose to wear these garments, one needs to come up with justifiable arguments to impose any prohibitions. And the State Council had not found such arguments.

The Dutch State Council, after its rejection of the burqa ban bill proposed in 2005, was quick in its rejection of the 2012 bill. In doing so it followed its French colleague: women have a basic right to wear what they want, and any legislation imposing a ban on certain garments must have a solid reason to do so.

All of these arguments are legal in nature, however, and will clearly not deter the political will of parliament. Neither does the distinct risk of such a ban being nullified by a higher court such as the European Court for Human Rights. Such a response would take years, and during that time one could successfully impose the ban. A legal loss, but a political gain.

The main political gain, to my mind, is national identity. It is not coincidental that the Dutch and French bills considered in 2005-2007 and 2009-2010, respectively, happened at exactly the same time that the two countries were involved in nationwide debates on their national identities. Since it’s nearly impossible to define one’s identity, it is easier to say what it is not. The burqa served that purpose: wearing the burqa was definitely not French or Dutch.

No wonder that the burqa bans have such feeble legal arguments. Laws are not suitable tools to shape or maintain identities. If one wants to eliminate the burqa – and it is perfectly understandable why one wants to do so – one needs to turn to other measures rather than legislation.

Maurits Berger is the chair of Islam in the contemporary West at the Institute for Religious Studies at Leiden University, and is a senior research associate with the Clingendael Institute for International Relations in The Hague. His research includes the relation between law and religion and the role and influence of Sharia in Western countries.

Source: Human Rights Without Frontiers





Happy Hanukkah!

25 12 2011

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Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday, a Festival of Light, celebrated for eight days and nights. It starts on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev, which coincides with late November-late December on the secular calendar.

In Hebrew, the word “hanukkah” means “dedication”. This holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E.

According to Jewish law, Hanukkah is one of the less important Jewish holidays. However, Hanukkah has become much more popular in modern practice because of its proximity to Christmas.

Hanukkah falls on the twenty-fifth day of the Jewish month of Kislev. Since the Jewish calendar is lunar based, every year the first day of Hanukkah falls on a different day – usually sometime between late November and late December. Because many Jews live in predominately Christian societies, over time Hanukkah has become much more festive and Christmas-like. Jewish children receive gifts for Hanukkah – often one gift for each of the eight nights of the holiday. Many parents hope that by making Hanukkah extra special their children won’t feel left out of all the Christmas festivities going on around them.

Every community has its unique Hanukkah traditions, but there are some traditions that are almost universally practiced. They are: lighting the hanukkiyah candleholder, spinning the dreidel  spinning wheel and eating fried foods.

Lighting the hanukkiyah: Every year it is customary to commemorate the miracle of the Hanukkah oil by lighting candles on a hanukkiyah. The hanukkiyah is lit every night for eight nights.

Spinning the dreidel: A popular Hanukkah game is spinning the dreidel, which is a four-sided top with Hebrew letters written on each side.  Gelt, which are chocolate coins covered with tin foil, are part of this game.

Eating fried foods: Because Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of oil, it is traditional to eat fried foods such as latkes and sufganiyot during the holiday. Latkes are pancakes made out of potatoes and onions, which are fried in oil and then served with applesauce. Sufganiyot (singular: sufganiyah) are jelly-filled donuts that are fried and sometimes dusted with confectioners’ sugar before eating.

In the name of Central-European Religious Freedom Institute,
I wish Chag Urim Sameach to all members of Jewish community!

Jura Nanuk,
Central-European Religious Freedom Institute





Looming De-registration of Churches in Hungary Prompts IRLA Meeting with Ambassador

24 12 2011

More than 300 religious organizations are set to lose legal status on Jan. 1

Dec. 13, 2011 … International Religious Liberty Association leaders met this week with the Hungarian ambassador to the United States in an effort to help officials from that country better understand the potential effects of a looming deregistration of churches.The Law of Churches, set for implementation on January 1, would deregister all but 14 religious denominations in Hungary.

Hungarian Ambassador to the United States, Gyorgy Szapary, met with IRLA deputy secretary generals Dwayne Leslie and Ganoune Diop on December 12 at the Hungarian embassy in Washington, D.C. While the law is still set for implementation, the IRLA representatives later described the meeting as “cordial” and “productive.”

“We expressed our deep concerns to Ambassador Szapary about Hungary’s recently passed ‘Law on Churches’ and its impact, not just on the Adventist Church, but on many other minority religions as well,” said Dwayne Leslie, director of legislative affairs for the IRLA. Leslie represented the IRLA at the meeting along with Ganoune Diop, the organization’s representative to the United Nations.

Following Monday’s meeting, Diop said the ambassador was gracious and receptive to the issues presented.”The meeting provided an excellent opportunity for dialogue — we stated our concerns clearly, and heard the perspective of the Hungarian government,” he said.

When the new law, voted in July, goes into effect next month, it will strip all but 14 “historic” religions of their legal status. Minority religions must then apply to the Hungarian parliament for re-registration.

Since the legislation was passed, Hungary has maintained that the move was not “anti-religion,” but rather a legislative means to root out fraudulent organizations operating behind the protection of religion.

Religious liberty advocates worldwide, however, have decried the law, calling it unnecessary state interference with religion and a setback for human rights in Hungary. More than 300 groups are set to lose their registration, including Hungary’s Methodists, Unitarians, a number of Islamic communities, and many smaller Protestant and evangelical churches.

Source: Bettina Krause/IRLA








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