FaithWorld

U.S. legal win could help Islamic finance counter sharia concerns

bankislamA U.S. court decision to dismiss a case alleging that AIG’s (AIG.N) sharia-compliant businesses promoted religious doctrine looks likely to boost confidence in the industry and lift sales of Islamic products in the longer term.

A Michigan district court rejected on Friday a claim filed by U.S. Marine veteran Kevin Murray in 2009 that the U.S. government violated the constitution by allowing funds from insurer American International Group’s $40 billion bailout to be used to fund its Islamic insurance businesses. (Photo: A logo of Malaysia’s Bank Islam in Putrajaya September 3, 2008/Bazuki Muhammad)

Lawyers say the case is significant for the industry in the United States, which has struggled with a backlash against Islam, and is looking for support from the courts and government to promote Islamic finance as a legitimate business.

Islamic finance has been plagued by criticism in the U.S. that it is a means of funneling funds to terrorists or a plot by Muslims to spread a system of Islamic principles known as sharia has plagued the industry in the U.S.

“The case helps the industry by putting the fringe element that is fearful of sharia in its place,” said Isam Salah, partner at King & Spalding in New York. “But I expect we’ll see more of these kinds of cases as we see a multi-pronged effort to combat all things Islamic in the U.S.”

U.N. restores gay reference to violence measure

united nations (Photo: United Nations headquarters in New York, July 31, 2008/Brendan McDermid)

The United States has succeeded in getting the United Nations to restore a reference to killings due to sexual orientation that had been deleted from a resolution condemning unjustified executions.

Western delegations were disappointed last month when the U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee approved an Arab and African proposal to cut the reference to slayings due to sexual orientation from a resolution on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions.

The 192-nation General Assembly approved on Tuesday a U.S. amendment to the resolution that restored the reference to sexual orientation with 93 votes in favor, 55 against and 27 abstentions. The amended resolution was then adopted with 122 yes votes, one against and 62 abstentions.

Does FRC index underline weak link between faith and family?

The conservative Christian, Washington-based Family Research Council (FRC) has just released its first “Annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection.” You can click here to see its full details.

The “Index of Belonging” is 45 percent and that of “Rejection” is 55 percent. The report’s author, Patrick Fagan, who heads FRC’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute, says the following:

“Only 45 percent of U.S. teenagers have spent their childhood with an intact family, with both their birth mother and their biological father legally married to one another since before or around the time of the teenager’s birth … 55 percent  of teenagers live in families where their biological parents have rejected each other. The families with a history of rejection include single-parent families, stepfamilies, and children who no longer live with either birth parent but with adoptive or foster parents.”

Family Research Council to issue “Index of Family Belonging and Rejection”

Indices are all the rage these days. In his recently published and thought-provoking ”Why the West Rules — For Now,” historian Ian Morris has created an “index on social development” which, among other things, attempts to measure the West and East’s “energy capture.”

There are of course plenty of other examples (and future historians will no doubt see it as a sign of our times — as Morris notes, ages get the “thought they need”). The latest addition to this swelling modern family of indices will come on Wednesday when the conservative, Washington-based Family Research Council (FRC) releases its  first annual “Index of Family Belonging and Rejection.” The index is a product of its Marriage and Religion Research Institute.

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The details of the index will be released at 10:00 EDT on Wednesday but FRC has already made public the fact that it finds that “less than 50 percent of American children have spent their childhood belonging in an intact family.” It defines an “intact family” as one where “a child’s birth mother and biological father (were) legally married to one another since before or around the time of the child’s birth.” The study will also rank all 50 states and America’s 25 largest cities.

U.S. appeals court hears key California gay marriage case

marriage 1Three federal appellate judges considering whether to allow gay marriage in California hear arguments on Monday in a case many expect to land in the U.S. Supreme Court and set national policy. California voters, with a reputation for social liberalism, shocked the United States in 2008 when they narrowly approved the Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage only months after the top state court opened the door to same-sex weddings. (Photo: Same-sex marriage proponents at City Hall in San Francisco, August 12, 2010/Robert Galbraith)

More than 40 U.S. states have outlawed such unions, but the California challenge could shape the nation if the Supreme Court decides to review the appeals court decision. A lower court struck down the ban earlier this year, ruling that marriage is a fundamental constitutional right and that the defenders of the ban showed no justifiable reason for limiting the institution to opposite-sex couples.

marriage 2The ruling is on hold, though, while under appeal. (Photo: A man opposed to same sex marriage at City Hall in San Francisco, August 12, 2010/Robert Galbraith)

The Prop 8 ban proponents say the lower court ignored common wisdom and history that limits marriage to a man and a woman in order to spur procreation. Gay marriage proponents successfully argued in the lower court that the definition of marriage has changed over time, for instance including polygamy in some societies. Same-sex marriages would not harm the institution, they contended.

Canada’s anti-polygamy laws go on trial in Vancouver

jeffsA Canadian court opened hearings on Monday into whether anti-polygamy laws violate constitutional protections of religious freedom. The court is wrestling with civil liberties and moral questions surrounding a breakaway sect of the Mormon church that has practiced plural marriages at its compound in rural British Columbia since the late 1940s. (Photo: U.S. polygamist group leader Warren Jeffs escorted into a court hearing, in Las Vegas, Nevada, August 31, 2006/Steve Marcus)

“We are beginning on an historic reference,” Robert Bauman, chief justice of the British Columbia Supreme Court told a packed courtroom in Vancouver.

The provincial government asked the court to probe the law’s constitutionality ahead of a criminal case against leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that is expected to test the issue.

Factbox-U.S. cites repression of religious freedom around the world

The United States on Wednesday unveiled its annual survey of religious freedom, citing countries ranging from North Korea to Eritrea as repressing religious liberties.

Following are some of the conclusions from the State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report on eight countries previously named as areas of “special concern” over their limits on religious freedom.

religious 1MYANMAR (BURMA)

The report said Myanmar’s military rulers ignored constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and systematically restricted efforts by Buddhist clergy to promote human rights and political liberties.

Europe cited in US religious freedoms report

minaret 1 (Photo: A cow in a Swiss meadow next to billboard against minarets in Zwillikon November 13, 2009/Christian Hartmann)

The United States voiced concern on Wednesday over deteriorating religious freedoms in many parts of the world, including several European countries where “harsh measures” limiting religious expression have been put in place.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled the latest State Department report on global religious freedom, which rates countries around the world.

“Religious freedom is both a fundamental human right and an essential element to any stable, peaceful, thriving society,” Clinton told a news conference

Word clouds drift apart in Obama’s speeches to the Muslim world

obama jakartaWord clouds are graphic games that sometimes tell more than a plain text. Look at the results below for U.S. President Barack Obama’s “speech to the Muslim world” today in Jakarta and his first such address in Cairo last year. I’ve analysed the two in a report here, but word clouds tell the story a different way. (Photo: President Barack Obama in Jakarta, 10 Nov 2010/Barbara Walton)

Judging by the frequency of the words, today’s speech was much more a speech about Indonesia than anything else. The message to the greater Muslim world — here’s what the world’s largest Muslim country can do! – only comes through between the lines. But it was clear enough when Obama strung these words into sentences.

Another point is how strong the focus is on secular concepts such as democracy, progress and development. “Muslim” and “Islam” are also-rans while “Koran” doesn’t appear at all.

First group of Anglican bishops to convert to Rome

williams benedict (Photo:  Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Pope Benedict celebrate evening prayer at Westminster Abbey in London September 17, 2010/Richard Pohle)

Five Church of England bishops opposed to the ordination of women bishops will take up an offer by Pope Benedict and convert to Roman Catholicism, heralding a possible exodus of traditionalist Anglicans.

The bishops will enter full communion with Rome through an ordinariate, a body proposed by the pope last October to let traditionalists convert while keeping some Anglican traditions, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales announced.

The ordinariate will let married clerics become Catholic priests, in an exception to the Vatican’s celibacy rule, but not bishops. Married Anglican bishops who convert may be granted a special status almost equivalent to their former rank.