FaithWorld

Dutch concerns over Islam, globalisation drive Wilders’ support

wilders

Geert Wilders,5 March 2010/Suzanne Plunkett

After scoring gains in local elections, Dutch anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders is now primed to make waves in a national poll in June by tapping into discontent over Islam and globalisation.

In the first test of public opinion since the collapse of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende’s coalition government last month, Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) became the largest party in the city of Almere and came second in The Hague on Wednesday.

Drawing strength from a savvy public relations machine and a populist anti-immigration stance that plays well with part of the electorate, Wilders also represents a vote against the political elite, political experts say.  “He thrives on discontent in society and multiculturalism and he has targeted Islam,” said Nico Landman, an associate professor in Islamic studies at Utrecht University.

Muslims now make up about 6 percent, or 1 million of the 16 million population of the Netherlands.  “We need to give an opposing voice and that’s what we want to keep doing and we haven’t done that enough,” said Henny Kreeft, chairman of the Dutch Muslim Party chairman.  “Wilders creates fear and reacts to the Islamisation of the Netherlands, but there is no Islamisation of the Netherlands.”

Read Aaron Gray-Block’s full analysis here.

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Italian Muslims approve pope’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate

caritas-in-veritate1When Pope Benedict issued his encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Love in Truth) in July, he addressed it to “the bishops, priests and deacons, men and women religious, the lay faithful and all people of good will”. That list puts Catholics first, but it gets around to a wider audience by the end. Maybe because of that sequence, most of the discussion about the document has been in Catholic circles.

But in the pope’s back yard, i.e. in Italy, the message has attracted a wider audience. In a rare reaction from a non-Christian organisation, the Italian Muslim association Comunità Religiosa Islamica (CO.RE.IS.) Italiana has welcomed the encyclical and drawn parallels between its outlook and that of Islamic economic and social thinking. CO.RE.IS presented its reaction on the occasion of the Ecumenical Day of Christian-Islamic Dialogue in Italy on Tuesday. Following are some excerpts:

“The recent financial crisis, that witnessed an almost worldwide economic crash, should constitute a further confirmation of the impossibility of establishing a presumed society of wellbeing only upon market rules, excluding any transcendence, any metaphysical and religious perspective, as the pontiff has well expressed it … Just like the market cannot find in itself the meta-principles that would discipline it according to nature and to the function that God has entrusted to man on earth, money and capital cannot constitute a value in themselves, regardless of the finality of actions and of the realities that underlie their use…

Bishop sees slow progress on churches in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s ban on churches on its territory is a thorny issue that loomed over the Catholic-Muslim Forum meeting this week in Rome. Some Catholics say the question of religious freedom for minority faiths in Muslim countries is so important that the Vatican should insist on strict reciprocity in such interfaith talks.  (In photo: St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church opens in Doha on 15 March 2008/Fadi Al-Assaad)

However, more believe it is not a good idea to make the dialogue hostage to a single issue, so it did not become a dealbreaker here. It did get discussed in the closed-door talks, which delegates said were quite lively at times, and it was referred to in the final declaration. Cynics may say nothing was resolved, but there are interesting nuances that could lead to change.

The final declaration had this to say: “Genuine love of neighbour implies respect of the person and her or his choices in matters of conscience and religion. It includes the right of individuals and communities to practice their religion in private and public.” Having Muslim delegates sign up to a statement that non-Muslims should be able to worship publicly in Muslim majority countries, i.e. have their own churches, is an important step. This is clearly aimed at Saudi Arabia, where the rights of other faiths are most clearly limited. A Catholic delegate told me some Muslims did not like the final part about practising religion in private and public but their delegation head, Bosnian Grand Mufti Mustafa Ceric, reminded them that this passage could also help minority Muslims who want to build mosques in Western countries. This is an interesting example of how the globalisation of Islam is starting to influence the traditional Muslim world.

Christian-Muslim statement on world financial crisis

Common Word conference at University of Cambridge, 11 Oct 2008/Sohail NakhoodaThe Common Word group of Muslim scholars met Christian leaders and theologians in Cambridge and London this week. Discussions in this interfaith dialogue have mostly been theological, based on the idea that the love of God and neighbour is a core dogma of both religions. In a statement on Wednesday, they included a paragraph about the world financial crisis. There have been lots of comments from various faith leaders about the crisis, but this is the first Christian-Muslim statement I’ve seen.

Here’s the paragraph:

We live in an increasingly global world that brings with it increased interdependence.  The closer we are drawn together by this globalisation and interdependence, the more urgent is the need to understand and respect one another in order to find a way out of our troubles.  Meeting at a time of great turbulence in the world financial system our hearts go out to the many people throughout the world whose lives and livelihood are affected by the current crisis.  When a crisis of this magnitude occurs, we are all tempted to think solely of ourselves and our families and ignore the treatment of minorities and the less fortunate.  In this conference we are celebrating the shared values of love of God and love of neighbour, the basis of A Common Word, whilst reflecting self-critically on how often we fall short of these standards.  We believe that the divine commandment to love our neighbour should prompt all people to act with compassion towards others, to fulfil their duty of helping to alleviate misery and hardship.  It is out of an understanding of shared values that we urge world leaders and our faithful everywhere to act together to ensure that the burden of this financial crisis, and also the global environmental crisis, does not fall unevenly on the weak and the poor.  We must seize the opportunity for implementing a more equitable global economic system that also respects our role as stewards of the earth’s resources.

Do you see any link between faith and the financial crisis? Could this crisis lead to tensions between people of different religions — or bring them closer together?

In God’s name — The Economist surveys religion in the world

The Economist cover, Nov. 3, 2007The Economist, which printed God’s obituary in its millennium issue, has produced a long and very interesting survey on religion and politics around the world in its latest issue. There’s also an editorial on the separation of church and state and an audio interview with the author John Micklethwait.

As the editor of one of the leading journals of the globalised world, it’s interesting to hear what he says about religion:

“Religion is a bulwark against globalisation for a lot of people. I think you see this particularly in the Islamic world,” he said. But there was also a positive side, which he said could be seen in the United States where so many people read Rick Warren’s book The Purpose-Driven Life. “They’re saying, look, here’s a lifestyle that helps you get the best out of globalisation. I think a long time ago, we made this sort of category mistake, which was to associate modernity with secularism. I think, really, modernity goes much better with pluralism.”