Reuters blog archive
France's ruling conservatives are pressing ahead with a public debate on Islam and secularism on Tuesday despite criticism that it is an excuse to pander to far-right voters ahead of a general election next year. President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party said in December that it would host a public forum to address fears about Islam's role in French society, following controversy over Muslim street prayers, halal-only restaurants and full-face Islamic veils.
But a hail of criticism from religious leaders and some party members has forced the UMP to downsize the event and fight off accusations that a focus on Islam will provide cover for the airing of anti-Muslim prejudices among the French.
"They can't cancel it now," said Jean-Francois Doridot, an analyst at the Ipsos polling agency. "It's a sort of trap that is closing around the UMP, and they are trying to get themselves out of it one way or another."
from Tales from the Trail:
The Tea Party is coming to Washington to turn up the heat on the Congress -- just as a new poll finds that public support for it has waned.
Members of the conservative Tea Party movement plan to hold a rally on Thursday outside the U.S. Capitol, urging Republicans to stand firm in their showdown with Democrats over proposed spending cuts.
Four hundred rabbis published a letter on Thursday calling on Fox News to sanction host Glenn Beck for repeated use of Nazi and Holocaust imagery and for airing attacks on World War Two survivor George Soros.
In an open letter to Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp, which owns Fox, the rabbis also demand an apology from Fox News chief Roger Ailes for characterizing Beck's Jewish critics as nothing more than "left-wing rabbis."
Prejudice against Muslims has "passed the dinner-table test" and become socially acceptable in Britain, says the Conservative Party's chairwoman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi.
Warsi, a Pakistan-born minister without portfolio in Prime Minister David Cameron's cabinet, will say in a speech at the University of Leicester on Thursday evening that dividing Muslims into "moderate" and "extremist" fuels intolerance, according to prepared remarks published in the Daily Telegraph.
The conservative Christian, Washington-based Family Research Council (FRC) has just released its first "Annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection." You can click here to see its full details.
The "Index of Belonging" is 45 percent and that of "Rejection" is 55 percent. The report's author, Patrick Fagan, who heads FRC's Marriage and Religion Research Institute, says the following:
Indices are all the rage these days. In his recently published and thought-provoking "Why the West Rules -- For Now," historian Ian Morris has created an "index on social development" which, among other things, attempts to measure the West and East's "energy capture."
There are of course plenty of other examples (and future historians will no doubt see it as a sign of our times -- as Morris notes, ages get the "thought they need"). The latest addition to this swelling modern family of indices will come on Wednesday when the conservative, Washington-based Family Research Council (FRC) releases its first annual "Index of Family Belonging and Rejection." The index is a product of its Marriage and Religion Research Institute.
One little-reported aspect of the political wrangling around attempts to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bans gays from serving openly in the U.S. military was how the religious right tied it to another hot-button cultural issue: abortion.
This would certainly have caught the attention of socially conservative Republicans who were instrumental in defeating a measure aimed at its repeal in the U.S. Senate on Thursday night.
Pope Benedict's surprising view that condoms can sometimes be used to fight AIDS has kindled a lively debate among Roman Catholic theologians and commentators about whether this amounts to a change in Church thinking.
His comments and a Vatican clarification that expanded on them seem to leave no doubt that Benedict has spoken with unprecedented frankness for a pontiff and shifted the focus a bit from the Church's rejection of condoms to avoid disease.
Pope Benedict will boost the European majority among the men due to elect his successor when he creates 24 new cardinals at the Vatican on Saturday. The nominations are part of a wider strategy by the German-born pope to strengthen Roman Catholicism in Europe. The following is a guest contribution and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Jean-Marie Guénois is deputy editor-in-chief of the Paris daily Le Figaro and a specialist on religion. The article first appeared in French on his Religioblog.*
By Jean-Marie Guénois
We always knew that Benedict XVI is a European pope, but lately he’s been proving this more and more clearly. In this phase of his five-year papacy, the the old continent is clearly his priority. For the past two years, the European destinations have taken precedence over all his travel (France, Czech Republic, Malta, Cyprus, Portugal, United Kingdom). Twelve of his 18 international trips have also been devoted to Europe. As for the visits due next year, they will all be in Europe: Croatia, Spain and Germany (his third visit there as pope).
from Afghan Journal:
The United Nations has set up a new super agency to better fight for the rights of women around the world including Afghanistan. This week UN Women, as the new body is called, held elections to choose countries to sit on the board and the results have triggered a storm of criticism even before the new agency formally comes into being next January. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia were in the running for a seat, and while Iran got displaced at the last minute in the vote, the Saudis are through.
And that has provoked the wrath of rights activists and commentators. The idea of the conservative desert kingdom, where women cannot drive or take significant decisions without the permission of a male relative or work as supermarket cashiers, leading a global fight for the promotion of women's rights is hard to accept, they say. How can you take the UN seriously, asks Greg Scoblete in a short piece on Real Clear World's Compass blog headlined : Saudi Arabia bastion for women's rights.