FaithWorld

U.S. university drops plan to honor activist critical of Islam

(Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Dutch parliamentarian, gestures as she speaks at the European Parliament in Brussels February 14, 2008. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir )

A private university outside Boston has decided not to award an honorary degree to a Somali-born women’s rights activist who has branded Islam as violent and “a nihilistic cult of death.”

Brandeis University said it had decided not to award an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Dutch parliamentarian who has been a prominent critic of the treatment of women in Islamic society.

Hirsi Ali said in a 2003 interview with a Dutch newspaper that by modern standards, the Muslim prophet Mohammed could be considered a pedophile, and in a 2007 interview with the London Evening Standard called Islam “a destructive, nihilistic cult of death.”

“We cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values,” the university said in a statement late Tuesday. “We regret that we were not aware of these statements earlier.”

from John Lloyd:

Modi: Democrat or divider

India’s 815 million voters started the five-week voting cycle earlier this week. It’s already being celebrated as a triumph just for taking place -- “the largest collective democratic act in history,” according to the Economist.

The winner will matter. India now punches far below its demographic weight -- its 1.24 billion people are served by just 600 diplomats, about the same number as the Netherlands. The United States, with 314 million people, has 15,000. But that apparent lack of interest in making a mark on the world seems about to end.

What had seemed a likely victory for the first minister of the northwestern state of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, has now hardened into a near certainty -- at least for much of the Indian media. Modi, self-made, ambitious and energetic at 63, has the ability to project India’s latent power. He wants growth, which India greatly needs to raise more of its citizens out of poverty and to provide jobs for its expanding population.

from India Insight:

Young professionals in Bangalore favour Modi’s promise, shrug off riots

As far as Vinod Hegde is concerned, Indian prime minister candidate Narendra Modi bears no responsibility for the 2002 Gujarat riots. More to the point, Hegde doesn't care.

Hegde, a 26-year-old stockbroker in Bangalore, said that for people like him, the Gujarat chief minister is the only choice to lead India after countrywide parliamentary elections that began this week.

Allegations that Modi failed to stop or even allowed deadly riots in 2002 don't sway his vote, Hegde said. And if the ruling Congress party’s candidate is Rahul Gandhi, the choice becomes even clearer.

Vatican takes a stab at banking purity

(An exterior view of the tower of the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR) in Vatican City in 2011. REUTERS/Stringer )

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)

By Edward Hadas

The Vatican’s bank easily became a scandalous financial institution of world renown. Pope Francis is betting it will not be too hard for the Institute for the Works of Religion (known as the IOR, after its Italian initials) to transmogrify into a model of probity.

France’s far-right to ban faith-based school lunch options in towns it governs

(Marine Le Pen, France’s far-right National Front political party leader, delivers a speech at the party headquarters in Nanterre, March 30, 2014.  REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol)

Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen said on Friday it would prevent schools from offering special lunches to Muslim pupils in the 11 towns it won in local elections, saying such arrangements were contrary to France’s secular values.

France’s republic has a strict secular tradition enforceable by law, but faith-related demands have risen in recent years, especially from the country’s five-million-strong Muslim minority, the largest in Europe.

Appeals court upholds New York City ban on worship services in schools

(The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, 10 July 2012/Bjoertvedt )

New York City’s ban on religious worship services inside school buildings after hours was ruled constitutional on Thursday by a federal appeals court.

In a 2-1 decision, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the New York City Board of Education’s regulation, created so the city would not be perceived as endorsing religious activity in a public forum, “was consistent with its constitutional duties.”

The rule prohibits school buildings from being used for religious worship services or as houses of worship, but the city allows groups to use schools for non-religious activities.

Man and myth collide as Indian Hindu nationalist Modi eyes final ascent to power

(Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi addresses his supporters during a rally ahead of the general election in Itanagar in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh March 31, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer)

Narendra Modi spent his childhood in a modest three-room dwelling made of mud and brick nestled in a narrow, crowded lane in the western Indian town of Vadnagar.

The tea stall his father ran with the help of his sons is just as it was then, a small shed of patched blue-grey tin on the platform of the ramshackle railway station nearby.

Pussy Riot protesters cleared of religious hatred charge in Russia

(Russian punk band Pussy Riot members Maria Alyokhina (L) and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (2nd L) along with a masked member speak to journalists during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, in Adler February 20, 2014. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov)

Two women from Russia’s Pussy Riot protest group who were jailed for a song deriding President Vladimir Putin were cleared in a Moscow court on Friday of inciting religious hatred.

But the court knocked only one month off their two-year sentences, upholding a charge of hooliganism.

Belgian Trappist monks overwhelmed by their “world’s best beer” tag

(Two glasses of Trappist Westvleteren beer are seen at the brewery in Westvleteren February 18, 2014. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir)

Having a beer rated as the world’s best and selling out in minutes should be a brewer’s dream, but for the Trappists who brew Westvleteren ale at a monastery in western Belgium it seems more of a burden.

Monks at the Sint Sixtus abbey have been selling to locals since 1878, limiting production so that brewing never took over monastic life or earned more than the community needed.

Queen Elizabeth gives Pope Francis eggs, whisky, beer at Vatican meeting

(Britain’s Queen Elizabeth (C) and Prince Philip (L) present gifts to Pope Francis during a meeting at the Vatican April 3, 2014. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini)

Queen Elizabeth met Pope Francis for the first time on Thursday and gave a bemused pontiff culinary delights from the royal estates, including a dozen eggs and a bottle of whisky.

“I’ve also brought something from all our estates, which is for you personally,” said the queen, wearing a lavender dress and a purple hat, as she handed Francis a wicker basket full of food at the end of a 17-minute private meeting in the Vatican.