FaithWorld

European rights court backs French ban on Islamic full-face veil

(A women, wearing a niqab despite a nationwide ban on the Islamic face veil, gives a phone call outside the courts in Meaux, east of Paris, September 22, 2011. REUTERS/Charles Platiau )

(A women, wearing a niqab despite a nationwide ban on the Islamic face veil, gives a phone call outside the courts in Meaux, east of Paris, September 22, 2011. REUTERS/Charles Platiau )

The European Court of Human Rights upheld France’s 2010 ban on full-face veils in public on Tuesday but acknowledged the law could appear excessive and feed stereotypes.

Judges at the Strasbourg-based court, by 15 to 2, said the ban did not violate religious freedom and aimed to ensure “respect for the minimum set of values of an open democratic society” which included openness to social interaction.

In their ruling, which cannot be appealed, the judges “accepted that the barrier raised against others by a veil concealing the face in public could undermine the notion of ‘living together’” that France defended in its argument, the court said in a statement.

It was the first time the court has ruled on niqab and burqa veils, which have stoked controversy in several European states although few women wear them. A French Muslim woman filed the suit for discrimination and breach of religious freedom

from India Insight:

Short skirts, bad stars, chow mein: Why men in India rape women

Demonstrators from All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) hold placards and shout slogans during a protest against the recent killings of two teenage girls, in New Delhi May 31, 2014. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

The 2012 Delhi bus rape case and an ever-longer list of rapes and murders in India have prompted politicians and public figures in India to cite plenty of implausible reasons why rape happens and why men brutalise women or portray women in ways that suggest they had it coming. Many people, when speaking out, tend to minimise the crime or rationalise it in ways that sound ludicrous to many. We created this list of such comments more than a year ago, but it seems like it's time to add some new entries.

(Updated July 15, 2014) Binay Bihari, minister for art, culture and youth affairs in the state of Bihar: The minister said that mobile phones and non-vegetarian food are reasons for a surge in rape cases, NDTV reports. "Many students misuse mobile phones by watching blue films and hearing obscene songs which pollute their mind," he said. On food, he reportedly said that non-vegetarian food "contributed to hot temper... and cited sermons of sants that pure vegetarian food kept the body and mind pure and healthy." (NDTV)

(Updated July 2, 2014) Tapas Pal, lawmaker from Trinamool Congress: The popular Bengali actor was caught on camera threatening workers of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and their families. "If any opponent touches any Trinamool girl, any father, any child, I will destroy his entire family. I will unleash my boys, they will rape them, rape them," Pal said in the video. Pal later apologised for what he termed a "gross error of judgement". (Indian Express)

U.S. Supreme Court upholds private firms’ religious objections to contraception

(Anti-abortion demonstrators cheer as the ruling for Hobby Lobby was announced outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington June 30, 2014. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that business owners can object on religious grounds to a provision of U.S. President Barack Obama's healthcare law that requires closely held companies to provide health insurance that covers birth control. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst )

(Anti-abortion demonstrators cheer as the ruling for Hobby Lobby was announced outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington June 30, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst )

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that owners of private companies can object on religious grounds to a provision of President Barack Obama’s healthcare law that requires employers to provide insurance covering birth control for women.

The decision, which applies only to a small number of family or other closely-held companies, means an estimated several thousand women whose health insurance comes via such companies may have to obtain certain forms of birth control coverage elsewhere.

Israel’s top court says mother need not have son circumcised

(Relatives look at a baby after his circumcision in Jerusalem September 24, 2012. Circumcision, the surgical removal of the foreskin of the penis, is a ritual obligation for infant Jewish boys performed eight days after birth as a mark of faith ordained by the Bible, and is widely practiced in Israel both by religious and secular Jewish families. Picture taken September 24, 2012. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

(Relatives look at a baby after his circumcision in Jerusalem September 24, 2012. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

Israel’s Supreme Court has overturned a ruling by a court of rabbis that would have forced a mother to have her son circumcised under the terms her divorce.

Circumcision is not legally obligatory for Jews in Israel, but a rabbinical court presiding over the woman’s divorce case had ruled she must fulfill her husband’s wish to carry out the procedure in a religious rite known in Hebrew as a “brit milah”.

U.S. cancels visa of hardline Sri Lankan Buddhist monk, his group says

(A Buddhist monk from the "Buddhist Power Force" holds up a placard as they march towards the Indian High Commission during a protest against the Indian government in Colombo July 10, 2013. The organisation accused the Indian government of failing to prevent a series of explosions on Sunday that occurred in and around the Mahabodhi Temple complex located in Bodh Gaya, the place where the Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte )

(A Buddhist monk from the “Buddhist Power Force” holds up a placard as they march towards the Indian High Commission during a protest against the Indian government in Colombo July 10, 2013. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte )

The United States cancelled the visa given to a Sri Lankan Buddhist monk heading a hardline group accused of involvement in violence against Sri Lanka’s minority Muslims, an official of the group said on Monday.

Clashes erupted on June 15 in Aluthgama and Beruwela, two towns with large Muslim populations on the island’s southern coast, during a protest march led by the hardline group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), or “Buddhist Power Force”.

from The Great Debate:

Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision puts faith in compromise

Anti-abortion demonstrators high five as the ruling for Hobby Lobby was announced outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington

On Monday the Supreme Court decided its most anticipated case of the year. According to a sharply divided 5-4 court, the government cannot compel a closely-held corporation to provide contraceptive coverage as part of its Affordable Care Act-mandated employee insurance plans.

This was the expected result: four conservatives in favor, four liberals against, and Justice Kennedy concurring in the middle. Yet while many are calling the ruling a victory for conservatives and a loss for women’s (and by extension, LGBT) rights, Justice Alito’s majority opinion is actually far more limited than many had expected. Here’s why.

First, the opinion is limited to closely-held corporations. This distinction makes sense. An individual’s beliefs may be attributed to a family-owned business much more reasonably than to a large corporation. Hobby Lobby, the named plaintiff in the case, is indeed large: it has over 500 stores, and over 13,000 employees. But it is family-owned, and the owners’ devout Christian faith is evident throughout the company -- including its advertising, product choices and employment policies.

After years off-stage, Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Sistani takes charge

(Volunteers, who have joined the Iraqi Army to fight against predominantly Sunni militants, carry weapons and a portrait of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani during a parade in the streets in Baghdad's Sadr city June 14, 2014. An offensive by insurgents that threatens to dismember Iraq seemed to slow on Saturday after days of lightning advances as government forces regained some territory in counter-attacks, easing pressure on the Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad. REUTERS/Wissm al-Okili ()

(Volunteers, who have joined the Iraqi Army to fight against predominantly Sunni militants, carry weapons and a portrait of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani during a parade in the streets in Baghdad’s Sadr city June 14, 2014. REUTERS/Wissm al-Okili)

Najaf is far from Baghdad’s palaces and the battlefields of northern Iraq. Its mud-brick houses, dirt alleys and concrete office blocks project little in the way of strength or sway. But it is here, where Iraq’s most influential clerics work from modest buildings in the shadow of a golden-domed shrine, that the country’s future is being shaped.

Over his past three Friday sermons, Iraq’s top cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, an ascetic 83-year-old of almost mythological stature to millions of followers in Iraq and beyond, has seized his most active role in politics in a decade.

On eve of Supreme Court ruling, Americans oppose contraceptive ban: poll

(Numerous news crews await outside the Supreme Court in Washington June 25, 2014. The Court is expected to rule on several key cases in this term, most notably the Hobby Lobby contraception case that asks whether owners of companies with strongly held religious views can seek an exemption from the birth control provisions of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. REUTERS/Gary Cameron )

(Numerous news crews await outside the Supreme Court in Washington June 25, 2014. REUTERS/Gary Cameron )

A majority of Americans oppose letting employers, based on their religious views, exclude certain contraceptives from workers’ insurance coverage, says a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll ahead of a U.S. Supreme Court decision expected on Monday.

In one of the most closely watched cases of the year, the nine-member court will weigh whether for-profit corporations may raise religious objections to a mandate in President Barack Obama’s signature 2010 healthcare law that their insurance cover contraceptives.

Record turnout for Singapore gay rally amid religious protests

(Participants form a giant pink dot at the Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park in Singapore June 28, 2014. The annual Pink Dot Sg event promotes an acceptance of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in Singapore, according to organizers. REUTERS/Edgar Su )

(Participants form a giant pink dot at the Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park in Singapore June 28, 2014. REUTERS/Edgar Su )

One of the largest crowds ever recorded in Singapore for a civil society gathering turned out on Saturday at a gay rights rally, against a backdrop of noisy opposition from religious groups in the run-up to the event.

An estimated 26,000 people descended on Hong Lim Park for the “Pink Dot”, an annual event since 2009 that aims to discourage discrimination against same-sex couples.

Sectarian genie is out of the bottle from Syria to Iraq

(Shi'ite volunteers patrol the area as they take part in securing the area against the predominantly Sunni militants from the radical Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) at the desert region between Kerbala and Najaf, south of Baghdad, June 28, 2014. Iraqi party leaders planned delicate talks that could end Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's divisive rule after a top Shi'ite cleric called for a new premier to be chosen without delay to tackle Islamist rebels threatening to tear apart the country. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani )

(Shi’ite volunteers patrol an area against the predominantly Sunni militants from the radical Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) at the desert region between Kerbala and Najaf, south of Baghdad, June 28, 2014. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani )

As jihadists storm through the Sunni heartlands of Iraq towards Baghdad, where a Shi’ite government they regard as heretic clings on, they have lifted the veil on deep sectarianism which has also stoked the fires of Syria’s civil war and is spilling over into vulnerable mosaic societies such as Lebanon.

The sectarian genie is now well out of the bottle, eclipsing traditional inter-state rivalries that plague the Middle East – even if these still play a part in the drama.