Switzerland is looking to change the law on assisted suicide to make sure it is only used as a last resort by the terminally ill. “We have no interest, as a country, in being attractive for suicide tourism,” Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf told a news conference in the capital Berne.
In a move that may literally take the breath away from many of the world’s Orthodox Jews, a group of Israel’s top rabbis recently ruled that riding in what for decades have been designated as “Shabbat (Sabbath) elevators,” is against Jewish law. This decision — already been opposed by other leading rabbis — could force many Jews who live in apartment buildings to sweat their way up staircases once a week.
Remember all the talk about France banning the burqa and niqab Muslim veils for women a few months ago? That project is now in the parliamentary inquiry phase, a six-month fact-finding mission expected to wind up late this year and produce a draft bill to outlaw them. That’s the way France handled it in 2003 when it wanted to stop Muslim girls from wearing headscarves to state schools. But the process seems more complex this time around. There’s less passion and more hesitation in the debate. A smooth progression from the inquiry to the ban and to its implementation no longer looks assured.
Indonesian artist Agus Suwage knows what it is like to run up against the religious conservatives. Four years ago, he was hauled into parliament, where lawmakers accused him of blasphemy and of producing pornography dressed up as art. Today, facing an even more restrictive climate in Indonesia, Suwage refuses to be silenced and has made those restrictions the focus of his art.
Pressure is growing in Europe for some form of legalised euthanasia but few governments have gone as far as the Benelux countries in allowing assisted suicide in clearly defined cases. The mix of growing public support for ending lives of the terminally ill or brain dead but continued prohibitions on it in the law has led to some long and hard-fought legal battles in Italy (Eluana Englaro) and in France (Vincent Humbert).
Eager to attract Middle East investment but uneasy about linking faith and finance, the French parliament has opted for some legislative sleight-of-hand to pass a law allowing the issuance of interest-free Islamic “sukuk” bonds. The move is part of France’s two-year drive to create a new European hub for Islamic finance, whose value globally is estimated at $1 trillion. But instead of introducing a separate bill, which would attract attention to it, the governing UMP party tucked the proposed change of French trust law into a larger bill on financing reform for small and medium-sized companies. And it chose to do this by introducing it as an amendment in the second reading of the bill — the one that usually gets fewer headlines.
A new French law means the Church of Scientology cannot be dissolved in France even if it is convicted of fraud, it has emerged during a trial of the organisation. A prosecutor has recommended that a Paris court dissolve the church’s French branch, which has been charged with fraud after complaints by former members who say they gave huge sums to the church for spiritual classes and “purification packs”.
Muslims who commit adultery in Indonesia’s Aceh province may be stoned to death under a controversial new sharia law passed by the local parliament on Monday. Aceh is the only province in predominantly Muslim Indonesia to use sharia for its legal code, introduced as part of an autonomy deal in 2002.