FaithWorld

Russia’s Muslim Chechnya to ban energy drinks

Russia’s Muslim Chechnya region is planning to ban the sale of non-alcoholic energy drinks such as Red Bull to under 18s, saying they are un-Islamic and dangerous, health officials said.

The ban would be the latest restriction from authorities in Chechnya, where shops can only sell alcohol during a small morning time frame, eateries are shut during the Ramadan fasting month and women must wear headscarves in state buildings.

“Energy drinks are comparable to beer,” the deputy minister of health in Chechnya, Rukman Bartiyev, told Reuters, adding that they were harmful to health.

The proposed ban was met with praise from the more conservative sectors of society, but angered ordinary Chechens who are growing increasingly frustrated at laws that only apply to Chechnya and sometimes contradict the Russian constitution.

“There are just too many restrictions lately. We are building a small Islamic state in Russia that looks like Dubai,” said a Grozny resident who gave her name only as Aset, 41.

Hillary Clinton seeks to smooth Islamic defamation row with OIC

(U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu (L) in Istanbul July 15, 2011/Murad Sezer)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agreed with a major global Islamic organization on Friday to pursue new ways of resolving debates over religion without resorting to legal steps against defamation. Clinton met Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the head of the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), in Istanbul to help set up new international mechanisms both protect free speech and combat religious discrimination around the world.

“Together we have begun to overcome the false divide that pits religious sensitivities against freedom of religion. We are pursuing a new approach based on concrete steps to fight intolerance wherever it occurs,” Clinton said.

from Tales from the Trail:

U.S. religious leaders urge moral solution to debt talks

Don’t balance the U.S. budget on the backs of the poor and sick, religious leaders said, suggesting that their churches’ charity work is already overstretched and social havoc could result if the government’s social safety net is abandoned.

Representatives from Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and interfaith groups and churches expressed their collective disappointment with the tone of blame in the debt debate between President Obama and congressional negotiators.

The faith groups have organized a vigil alongside the U.S. Capitol and released a letter appealing to the president and Congress to consider the poor and vulnerable in their negotiations.

“The Ledge” equals “God for Dummies” – film review

(Actor Charlie Hunnam poses for a portrait while promoting the movie "The Ledge" during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah January 22, 2011/Mario Anzuoni )

Can’t wait until Thanksgiving dinner to witness a pointless conversation between a pompous fundamentalist Christian and a sneering atheist? Then “The Ledge” is the movie for you.

This shrill and pedantic exercise in speechifying gives us “deep” conversations about religion and the afterlife that wouldn’t pass muster in a freshman Philosophy 101 study group, delivered with all the earnestness and lack of subtlety of the old “Davey and Goliath” show. (If that Christian cartoon had featured Liv Tyler’s breasts, that is.)

Offending priest handled “by the book” by Episcopal Church leader

The Episcopal Church’s diocese of Nevada sought to calm an uproar over a former Benedictine monk who admitted sexual indiscretions with a parishioner before he was ordained an Episcopal priest by Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who is now leader of the 2.3 million member U.S. church.

“It looks to me like she handled the situation by the book,” Bishop Dan Edwards said of Jefferts Schori’s actions regarding Fr. Bede Parry, a church organist and former Episcopal priest.

Jefferts Schori became the 450-year-old church’s first female leader when she was appointed presiding bishop in 2006.

Americans gave $291 billion to charity in 2010, more than 1/3 to religious groups

(A man dressed as Santa Claus from the Volunteers of America charity waits for donations near the Saks Fifth Avenue store in New York December 19, 2007/Ray Stubblebine)

U.S. donations to charity rose to $291 billion last year, but it was still more than 6 percent below a 2007 record as the nation struggles to recover from its worst recession in decades.  Americans gave nearly 4 percent more in 2010 compared to 2009, the Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University said,  perking up after the recession sparked the biggest giving slump in four decades.

Religious groups accounted for the largest single recipient class by far, receiving more than one third of total donations, according to the study released on Monday.

Will the Arab Spring bring U.S.-style “culture wars” to the Middle East?

(From left: Olivier Roy, Cardinal Angelo Scola and Martino Diez of the Oasis Foundation at the conference on San Servolo island, Venice, June 20, 2011/Giorgia Dalle Ore/Oasis)

Where is the Arab Spring leading the Middle East? What will be the longer-term outcome of the popular protests that have shaken the region since the beginning of this year? Of course, it’s still too early to say with any certainty, even in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt that succeeded in toppling their authoritarian regimes. Some trends have emerged, however, and they’re on the agenda at a conference in Venice I’m attending entitled “Medio Oriente verso dove?” (Where is the Middle East heading?). The host is the Oasis Foundation, a group chaired by Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Roman Catholic patriarch of this historic city, and guests include Christian and Muslim religious leaders and academics from the Middle East and Europe.

In one of the most interesting — and hotly debated — presentations, the French Islam specialist Olivier Roy described the Arab Spring as “a break with the culture and ideologies that dominated the Arab world from the 1950s until recently.” It marks a clear change in the demographic, political and religious paradigms operating there, he said. The old dichotomy of the authoritarian regime or the Islamist state has broken down, he argued, and Islam is taking on a new role in the political process. In the end, the region — or at least the states where the Arab Spring brings real change — could see democratic politics marked not by major efforts to establish an Islamic state but by Muslim “culture war” controversies not unlike the way hot-button issues such as abortion and gay marriage emerge in U.S. political debates.

“Mormon question” may again dog Mitt Romney’s U.S. presidential bid

(U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney talks to supporters in Detroit, Michigan June 9, 2011/Rebecca Cook)

Republican Mitt Romney has remade himself in a second run for U.S. president, with a leaner campaign apparatus and a message focused with laser-like precision on the nation’s economic problems. But the “Mormon question” still remains for the former Massachusetts governor: are Americans ready to put a Mormon in the White House?

Surveys suggest American voters are more accepting of the idea now than when Romney staged his first presidential run in 2008. But at the margins, many remain suspicious of Mormons. A Quinnipiac University poll this week found voters less comfortable with the idea of a Mormon president than having a leader of any religion other than a Muslim, or an atheist.

Pity the pandering U.S. candidate

Politicians pandering for votes on conservative family values issues may want to think again.

A survey of 3,000 Americans by the Public Religion Research Institute found 42 percent said the terms “pro-choice” and “pro-life” both described them well, illustrating the complexity of the abortion issue in the minds of many.

“The terms ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’ does not reflect the complexity of Americans’ views on abortion,” said Robert Jones, head of the institute.

Prayers and religious terms removed from Texas public school graduation

(High school graduates, 25 May 2007 /Chris Moncus)

A U.S. federal judge has ruled that a high school graduation in a suburb of San Antonio, Texas may not include an opening and closing prayer or the words “invocation” or “benediction.” District Judge Fred Biery ruled on Tuesday that using those words would make it sound like Castroville’s Medina Valley High School is “sponsoring a religion.”

“We think that the district has been flouting the law for decades,” said Ayesha Kahn, an attorney for Americans United for Church and State, which filed the lawsuit. “We’re glad that the court is going to put an end to it.”

No appeal of the ruling is planned, and the invocation and benediction will no longer take place, said Chris Martinez, assistant superintendent of the Medina Valley Independent School District. “Our entire school system is set up on following the rules, and we are going to do that,” Martinez told Reuters. “But this is one parent’s opinion of what we are doing. We don’t believe we have done anything wrong.”