FaithWorld

Q+A – Why Sarrazin comments on Jews, Muslims cause outcry in Germany

sarrazin (Photo: Thilo Sarrazin at presentation of his book in Berlin, August 30, 2010/Fabrizio Bensch)

German central banker Thilo Sarrazin has divided public opinion with remarks about Muslim immigrants and comments about the genetic make-up of Jews, prompting calls for him to step down.

Leading politicians have called for the Bundesbank to dismiss the 65-year-old, who has dominated headlines in the public furore surrounding the launch of his book, “Deutschland schafft sich ab” (Germany does away with itself).

The Bundesbank has met to discuss Sarrazin’s fate this week, but has yet to announce a formal decision.

Following are some questions and answers about the case and why it has sparked such outcry in Germany.

WHAT CAUSED THE CONTROVERSY?

WHAT WAS THE REACTION?

IS IT EASY TO FIRE BUNDESBANK BOARD MEMBERS?

WHY DOES IT MATTER TO GERMANY?

Read the answers in this Q+A by Dave Graham here.

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God did not create the universe, gravity did, says Stephen Hawking

hawkingGod did not create the universe and the “Big Bang” was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics, the eminent British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking argues in a new book.

In “The Grand Design,” co-authored with U.S. physicist Leonard Mlodinow, Hawking says a new series of theories made a creator of the universe redundant, according to the Times newspaper which published extracts on Thursday. (Photo: Stephen Hawking,  June 20, 2010/Sheryl Nadler)

“Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist,” Hawking writes. “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”

German Jews want central banker sacked for comments on Jews and Muslims

sarrazin (Photo: Thilo Sarrazin at the presentation of his book in Berlin, August 30, 2010/Fabrizio Bensch)

Germany’s Jewish community has urged the central bank  to sack a board member who polarised the nation by making disparaging comments about Muslim immigrants and asserting that Jews have a particular genetic makeup.

Dieter Graumann, vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said on Tuesday that Bundesbank board member Thilo Sarrazin was out of line, even as polls showed many Germans support his views.

Sarrazin, 65, has published a book — Deutschland schafft sich ab (Germany does away with itself) — in which he argues Muslim immigrants are undermining German society, refusing to integrate and sponging off the state, according to excerpts in the media.

from India Insight:

Are there too many sacred topics in India?

Protests and television debates on the apex court's decision to OK  the publication of a book on Maratha ruler Shivaji, banned in 2004 by the Maharashtra government, has put India back in the spotlight on the question of freedom of expression.

India is secular and a democracy but a country with a billon-plus population -- consisting of hundreds of tribes, clans and castes following myriad beliefs -- can be pretty fickle when it comes to defining 'sensitive' topics and easily susceptible to parochial politics.

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The list of subjects considered "sacred" in the country include the extended Gandhi family, Ambedkar, Periyar, Subhash Chandra Bose, Rabindranath Tagore, Veer Savarkar and maybe a few thousand more people, said an editorial in the 'Mint' daily.

Egyptian Christians want action on “insulting” novel

copts

Egyptian Copts celebrate the Feast of Assumption in Dronka, 400 km (310 miles) south of Cairo on August 21, 2008/Amr Dalsh

Egyptian Christians have called for government action against the author of a widely read novel they say insults Christianity, in an unusual case that puts freedom of expression in Muslim-majority Egypt under fresh scrutiny.  Government investigators are looking into the complaint filed by a group of Egyptian and some foreign Copts against Youssef Ziedan, a Muslim who wrote the 2008 award-winning novel Azazeel (Beelzebub).

Azazeel, which won the 2009 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, backed by the Booker Prize Foundation, tells the story of a 5th-century Egyptian monk who witnesses debates over doctrine between early Christians. Mamdouh Ramzi, a Coptic lawyer, said the author insulted priests and bishops and said many things with no proof or evidence from books or history … He is not a Christian man, what does he know about the Church?”

U.S. Muslim group calls textbooks discriminatory

world of islamU.S. Muslim activists launched a campaign on Wednesday against a series of educational books that they say promote anti-Islamic sentiment among American school children.  “The World of Islam,” a 10-book series, encourages young readers to believe Muslims are terrorists and seek to undermine U.S. society, said the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy organization.

One book contains the passage: “For the first time, Muslims began immigrating to the U.S. in order to transform American society, sometimes through the use of terrorism.”

Moein Khawaja, civil rights director for CAIR in Pennsylvania, said the group has gotten dozens of complaints about the books, which are intended for middle- and high-school students, from Muslim parents around the country.

A small book on a huge topic — about responding to suicide

troybook2There’s a knock on the door and it’s your ashen-faced neighbour come to tell you her son has just been found hanging in his bedroom. Your brother calls to inform you that his daughter has taken her life. You are shocked and speechless. And then what do you do? (Photo:  Philip McTaggart and Fr Aidan Troy at Belfast book launch, 1 Dec 2009/John Harrison)

Aiden Troy knows those helpless moments well. A few years ago, he got those messages — and saw some of the evidence –14 times in two months. As a Catholic parish priest in Belfast, he was often one of the first to be called by family or friends of the deceased. Sometimes police would call him first and ask him to break the news to the family and help in any way he could. In a very short time, he became more familiar than he ever expected with tragedies people usually think only happen to others.

“It is nearly impossible if you have not been there to describe what those first few moments following discovery are like. They are frightening to behold … There is no instruction book that can tell us how to cope with a suicide,” Troy says. But after years of dealing with suicide and suicide support groups, he decided to write “some tentative suggestions and observations born of my experience, in the hope that they may be helpful in a pastoral context.” He wrote it not only for other priests and not only for other Catholics, but for “a wide range of people who come into contact with suicide … the immediate family, neighbours and community … medical and hospital personnel, ambulance and police services, suicide support groups and clergy, undertakers and morgue personnel.”

Germany asks if Islam impedes on freedom of speech

GERMANY/A decision by the German publisher Droste not to print a murder mystery about an honour killing because it contained passages insulting Islam has raised questions in Germany about religion impeding on freedom of speech.

Droste publishers said they would have published the book, entitled “To Whom Honour is Due”, had author Gabriele Brinkmann softened the tone in some sections In one, for example, an angry character tells another to dispose of a Koran using a crude phrase we would not reproduce here. “The author was not prepared to change the derogatory passages, which would have  been a condition for the publication,” Droste said in a statement on its website. (Photo: The Merkez Mosque in Duisburg, Aug 21, 2009, Reuters/Ina Fassbender)

Little did they realise what a stir this decision would cause in Germany, which is sensitive to any compromise on freedom of speech and where security fears over Islamists have blocked several artistic ventures in recent years. “For me, it is about the principle. That is why I went public about this. I won’t hurry to be obedient and carry out self censorship,” Brinkmann told German media.  “Justified fear or cowardice?” asked the headline in the daily Hamburger Abendblatt.

Adapting the U.S. “Koran for Dummies” for French readers

koran-for-dummies-175coran-pour-les-nuls-175If you don’t know anything about the Koran but want to learn, does it make any difference if you’re an American “dummy” or a French “nul”? That  isn’t meant to cast doubts about knowledge on either side of the Atlantic. But it does arise now that the French version of the American guide to Islam’s holy book has just been published in Paris.

The book at right is based on the original text at left, but it would be wrong to call it a translation. First Editions, the French publisher of the “Pour les Nuls” (“For Dummies”) books, took the U.S. original and asked a leading Paris-based Islam specialist, Franco-Algerian Malek Chebel, to adapt it for French readers.

Chebel, who has also just published his own translation of the Koran and an accompanying “encyclopedic dictionary,” explained at the book presentation here that he had to make several changes. The original text by Sohaib Sultan, now the Muslim chaplain at Princeton University, was fine for U.S. readers, he said. “There weren’t errors,” he explained, “but I had to make some fundamental changes. I told the editor, she checked with the American publishers and asked if they agreed. They went along with it. So I worked from that basis and the book became a French book.”

Author of new Galileo book says old trial has current relevance

earthmovessThe current struggles between religion and science in areas such as evolution and “intelligent design” are thrown into sharp relief in a new book on the great Italian astronomer Galileo and his trial by the Roman Inquisition.

Author Dan Hofstadter says the Galileo affair was “the great religion-science clash of 1633 that in some form has persisted into our time.”

Indirectly verifying Hofstadter’s thesis, a Vatican official — Monsignor Sergio Pagano, head of the Vatican’s secret archives — said earlier this month that the Roman Catholic Church should not fear scientific progress and possibly repeat the mistake it made when it condemned Galileo.