USA, May 21, 2012: Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on lawsuits filed today against the Obama administration. At issue is the constitutionality of the Health and Human Services edict seeking to force Catholic non-profits to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptive services and sterilization in their insurance plans:
This is a great day for those who believe in religious liberty. Suing the Obama administration for seeking to trash the First Amendment rights of Catholics are 43 Catholic dioceses and institutions from all over the nation.
Among those filing suit are: the Archdiocese of New York; the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.; the Archdiocese of St. Louis; the Diocese of Rockville Centre; the Diocese of Dallas; the Diocese of Fort Worth; the Diocese of Pittsburgh; the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend; the Michigan Catholic Conference (which represents all seven dioceses in the state); Catholic University of America; Franciscan University of Steubenville; and the University of Notre Dame. Entities ranging from retirement homes to publishing houses joined the lawsuits.
There will be more. And depending on how the U.S. Supreme Court rules next month on the constitutionality of ObamaCare, this may just be the beginning.
Catholics are sending an unmistakable sign to President Obama, Kathleen Sebelius, et al. that we will not be obedient. We will not do as we are told. Instead, we will do what is just. The Catholic rebellion has begun.
Indonesia: Historic Christian prayer gathering underway
It’s a historic prayer gathering in many ways, not the least of which is Indonesia’s decision to host the event. The huge Southeast Asian island nation is home to the world’s largest Muslim population.
“That’s what we are well-known for, but there’s something else taking place in our country,” one Indonesian woman said.
Her words echo a deep desire among Indonesia’s minority Christians to make the name of Jesus Christ famous.
“We are a small percentage of the population, but we are compelled to tell others about Christ,” the woman said.
Winds of Revival
A massive prayer movement is underway, connecting some 500 Indonesian cities with more than 5 million believers.
This week, an hour’s drive south of Jakarta, the capital city, Indonesian churches invited more than 9,000 Christians to take part in the World Prayer Assembly 2012.
“We feel that the epicenter of the world revival is going to be Asia and especially Indonesia,” World Prayer Assembly’s John Robb told CBN News.
Such a large Christian event has never been held in this majority Muslim country.
“We see the WPA as kind of a stepping stone toward the fulfillment of Habakkuk 2:14: ‘For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea,’” Robb said.
For five days, representatives of more than 60 countries will network and strategize on how to bring Christ’s salvation and healing to the nations.
“A new wave is coming so we wanted to catch it, the spirit of prayer, so that we can bring revival to our nation,” Pricilla Abbathurai of India said.
USA, April 12, 2012: In recent years, we’ve begun to brace ourselves for news of bombings, burnings, and other attacks on churches full of Christian worshipers on religious holy days — for example, in Nigeria, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Ethiopia. This violence comes out of the growing community of Salafi Muslims, adherents of the radical brand of Islam that is Saudi Arabia’s official doctrine and which Saudi Arabia exports throughout the Sunni world. We’ve also come to expect the willful blindness of the Obama administration about the religious implications of these horrific events. Last weekend’s Easter Sunday was no exception.
On Easter morning, a Protestant church in Kaduna, Nigeria, was targeted by a suicide car bombing that killed 39 and wounded dozens, apparently the handiwork of Boko Haram, the Salafi network whose stated aim is to turn Africa’s largest country into a sharia state. Last Christmas, Boko Haram had bombed St. Theresa’s Catholic Church outside the capital Abuja killing 44 worshipers, as well as attacked various Christian churches in the towns of Jos, Kano, Gadaka, and Damaturu.
Four days have now passed and there has been no official comment from the Obama administration about this most recent monstrous example of anti-Christian persecution. However, on April 8, that is, Easter, Secretary Clinton did manage to issue one press release. It announced that “today we celebrate the history, impact and culture of Romani people” (formerly called “gypsies”), and inveighed against Europe, demanding that it become “more inclusive.” But for the northern Nigerian Christians savagely attacked on one of their most important religious days, there has not been a word of condolence.
Even worse, the day after the Nigeria church bombing, at a forum on U.S. policy toward Nigeria held at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, Clinton’s Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson — overlooking Boko Haram’s self-proclaimed identity, pattern of behavior, statements and very name, which means “Western education is a sin” — publicly denied that Boko Haram has religious motives. He went out of his way to stress: “Religion is not driving extremist violence in . . . northern Nigeria.”
Carson is articulating official U.S. policy. Its theory is that Boko Haram is “exploiting religious differences” to “create chaos” to protest “poor government service delivery,” poverty, and a variety of good-governance concerns. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (on which I served as a commissioner until last month) finds that Boko Haram’s violence is indeed “religiously motivated.” Even Nigeria’s Committee of Imams of the Federal Capital Territory has acknowledged that the church bombings are done in the name of Islam and condemned them as “deviant.”
Elsewhere, too, the Obama administration has demonstrated a persistent refusal to acknowledge the pattern of Salafi persecution of Christians. On November 1, 2010, Salafis blew up Baghdad’s Our Lady of Salvation Catholic Church during a Sunday Mass, killing or wounding virtually all of the congregation, including three priests. This is what the White House said:
The United States strongly condemns this senseless act of hostage taking and violence by terrorists linked to Al-Qaeda in Iraq that occurred Sunday in Baghdad killing so many innocent Iraqis. Our hearts go out to the people of Iraq who have suffered so much from these attacks. We offer sincerest condolences to the families of the victims and to all the people of Iraq who are targeted by these cowardly acts of terrorism.
There was no acknowledgement that the “innocent Iraqis” targeted in this catastrophic attack were all Christians, that the massacre took place in a church, and that it occurred during Sunday worship. It mistakenly describes as “senseless” what was all too sensibly a deliberate and horrific act of religious cleansing against Christians targeted for their faith. That church bombing — one of 70 in Iraq since 2004 — was the watershed moment for Iraqi Christians: Many then concluded that there would be no future for them in Iraq, and en masse abandoned their ancient homeland.
And in Egypt, in October 2011, when the Arab Spring had long since turned into the Coptic Christian Winter, Egyptian government forces massacred two-dozen Copts as they were staging a peaceful street protest in Cairo’s Maspero area. They were demonstrating precisely to demand religious freedom in the face of Salafi religious violence against Coptic churches and the failure of the Egyptian security forces to protect them from it. After the Maspero massacre, the White House stated: “Now is a time for restraint on all sides so that Egyptians can move forward together to forge a strong and united Egypt.”
The statement made no mention of the identity of those who were killed. Nor did it acknowledge that they were attacked while demonstrating against church bombings and burnings in that country on Christmas, New Year’s Day, and many other occasions. And, it drew a moral equivalency between the victims and their aggressors. My Hudson colleague and Coptic expert Samuel Tadros ironically commented: “Perhaps I ought to join the president in his concern and call for restraint: I call upon the security forces to refrain from killing Christians, and upon Christians to refrain from dying.”
It is not as though the administration is reticent in cases involving other religions. On October 4, 2011, and on January 11, 2012, when two mosques were vandalized — though no one was hurt — in Israel, the State Department issued two statements. They were quite specific about the identity of the victims and impassioned in moralizing against the attacks:
The United States strongly condemns the dangerous and provocative attacks on a mosque in the northern Israeli town of Tuba-Zangariyye, which took place on October 3. Such hateful sectarian actions are never justified.
The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms today’s most recent vandalizing of a mosque, as well as the burning of three cars, in the West Bank village of Deir Istiya. Hateful, dangerous, and provocative actions such as these are never justified.
Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia –the fountain head of Salafi thought and our “strategically” — King Abdullah retains in his distinguished cabinet as Grand Mufti, Salafi Sheikh Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah Aal al-Sheikh, who recently issued a fatwa declaring it “necessary to destroy all the churches in the region,” including those outside of Saudi Arabia, itself (which, of course, does not have any churches to blow up). The Kingdom will not be hearing from the Obama administration about the need to be “inclusiveness” though — here, again, it has fallen silent.
- nina shea, hudson institute’s center for religious freedom
“No Lady Gaga performance at the 2012 Grammys? Bummer. But wanna-be controversial rapper Nicki Minaj was happy to do her best Gaga imitation,” the Hollywood Reporter wrote of the spectacle, which featured dancing monks and altar servers and ended with Minaj levitating in the presence of a “bishop.”
In a Feb. 13 statement, Catholic League President Bill Donohue wondered, “Is Nicki Minaj possessed?” Donohue, however, was not the only one perplexed by the appearance of Minaj’s altar ego “Roman Zolanski” – who began the number by singing a Broadway tune in a mock-confessional, and later had her frenetic rapping interrupted by a hymn-singing choir.
Reactions on the social media network Twitter, as reported by the Washington Post, included: “Can’t go to sleep, I’m scared Nicki Minaj is going to come in my room,” and “Dear Nicki Minaj, you make me grateful for fast forward on DVR.” One Twitter user quipped that the blind soul singer Stevie Wonder was “the luckiest man in the crowd at the Nicki Minaj performance.”
Donohue, however, was not amused by the garish and sexualized use of Catholic imagery. “All of it was approved by the Recording Academy, which puts on the Grammys,” he noted. “Whether Minaj is possessed is surely an open question, but what is not in doubt is the irresponsibility of the Recording Academy.” “Never would they allow an artist to insult Judaism or Islam.”
The Catholic League president has previously criticized similar decades-old stunts by Madonna, as well as Lady Gaga’s 2010 revival of religious motifs in her “Alejandro” video. In his reaction to the 2012 Grammys, Donohue said it was “bad enough that Catholics have to fight for their rights vis-à-vis a hostile administration in Washington without also having to fend off attacks in the entertainment industry.” “The net effect, however, will only embolden Catholics, as well as their friends in other faith communities,” he predicted.
Minaj had arrived at the awards ceremony in a red cowl, alongside an older man dressed as a Catholic bishop. Described by some media reports as a “Pope look-alike,” he figured in her act’s pyrotechnically-enhanced finale along with the mock altar servers, choir, and various backup dancers. The rapper, whose work incorporates a variety of flamboyant fictional personas, was nominated for “Best New Artist” but lost out to folk-rock band Bon Iver.
White House ignores wives of imprisoned Chinese Christians * Sharqia: Church and homes set on fire by some 2,000 Muslim extremists
Evangelical Fellowship of Indian (EFI) News:
Chhattisgarh: Prayer service disrupted and a School attacked
Jharkhand: Christians attacked, but police fail to arrest attackers
- Dr. Richard Howell
United Christian Federation For Justice Invites you for a meeting on continued attacks on Christians and Institutions & Saffronisation of 5th and 8th Std text books. It will be held at St.Andrews Church hall,Cubbon Road, 4 pm on 18th Feb 2012.
- Rev..Manohar Chandra Prasad & Pericho Prabhu
The weekend primetime Bible-based Kannada teleserial is to be telecast on DDI and Chandana for the first time on 18th February 2012, 7.30-8.00 pm, and the second episode on 19th Feb same time.
- Cynthia Stephen
Video on how Anaekal Jesuit Priest was treated by Hindutva mob
- Alwyn D’souza
White House ignores wives of imprisoned Chinese Christians
International Christian Concern (ICC) learned yesterday that the White House has ignored multiple attempts by the wives of imprisoned Chinese Christian human rights activists to obtain a meeting with the president, vice-president, or a member of the current administration.
The two women, Li Jing and Geng He, testified at a Congressional hearing yesterday of the “horrific” abuse their husbands, Guo Quan and Gao Zhisheng, both Christians, have faced for their stance on human rights at the hands of the Chinese government. Meanwhile, just a few miles away, China’s Vice-President, Xi Jinping, received an unprecedented welcome at the Pentagon, complete with a 300 man honor guard and a 19 gun salute.
The news comes as reports of government persecution in China, especially against Chinese house church Christians, are on the rise. According to rights group ChinaAid, 2011 marked the worst year for religious freedom in China since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, and 2012 is expected to be even more difficult. China also blocked an attempted visit to investigate religious human rights abuses a few days ago by the U.S ambassador for international religious freedom, Suzan Johnson Cook.
When asked during the hearing how her husband found the courage to speak out when faced with torture and imprisonment, Li Jing responded that the Bible taught love as a commitment, and that as a Christian, her husband feels compelled to speak for those who are oppressed.
Later, in an interview with ICC, Li Jing related how her husband had drawn inspiration from his Christian faith when authoring two of the four books which would eventually result in his imprisonment. Despite this, her faith remains steadfast and she hopes that her son, Guo Yi, will be able to learn more about Christianity while growing up in the United States.
International Christian Concern’s Regional Manager for China, Ryan Morgan, said “Yesterday, the Obama administration demonstrated a blatant disregard for the ongoing violations of human rights and religious freedom taking place in China. Has the presidential administration decided that the very values it was elected to protect mean nothing when it comes to our relationship with China? This is completely unacceptable, and for the sake of every human rights activist facing oppression at the hands of the Chinese government, we call on the Obama administration to reverse course and address human rights abuses in China openly and at the highest levels.”
Sharqia: Church set on fire by some 2,000 Muslim extremists
Egypt, February 15, 2012: Clashes in the village of Meet Bashar ended last night after the mediation of some Muslim Brotherhood leaders. For Fr Rafic Greiche, the victory by Islamist parties in the elections has increased anti-Christian attacks.
A mob of nearly 2,000 radical Muslims, mainly Salafists, set fire to the Church of St Mary and St Abram in the village of Meet Bashar, in Zagazig, Sharqia province (50 kilometres north-east of Cairo). Since Sunday, the area has been the scene of clashes between Muslim extremists and Christians. Calm returned to the area after mediation by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, who convinced the Salafists to leave the village.
The violence was caused by the disappearance of Rania Khalil, a Christian teenager who went missing last Sunday. Her father is a convert to Islam. She was found today and is in police custody. She and her mother will be interrogated by police. Salafists believe she was abducted by Christians to prevent her conversion to Islam.
Since the victory of Islamist parties in Egypt’s recent elections, anti-Coptic attacks have increased across the country. The latest occurred on 27 January in the village of Kobry-el-Sharbat (el-Ameriya), near Alexandria, said Fr Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church.
On that occasion, Salafists tried to burn the homes of the village’s 62 Coptic families, after some Muslims accused a Christian tailor, Mourad Samy Guirgis, of having “illicit” pictures of a Muslim woman on his mobile phone.
“Muslim radicals use conversions to Christianity from Islam as a pretext to attack and scare the Coptic community so that it will flee,” Fr Greiche explained. “This is happening across Egypt.”
“In Western media, the prevailing idea is that religious clashes between Christians and Muslims happen only in Upper Egypt and Cairo’s slums, where people are ignorant. In fact, when it comes to conversion from one religion to another, there is no distinction between rich and poor, educated and uneducated, Upper or Lower Egypt.”
In Muslim society, anyone who converts to Christianity becomes an outcast, Fr Greiche said. By contrast, those who speak out against forced conversions to Islam are not protected by the authorities and in most cases are forced to withdraw their accusations under pressures and threats.
Things are bound to get worse, the clergyman believes. “Salafists are Egypt’s second largest party. After the election, they hold 20 per cent of the seats in parliament. In the next few months, they could use their political power against Christians.”
Execution, imprisonment of two Christians to be determined *Iranian convert asylum seeker scalded in Turkey
United States of America, February 11, 2012: Next week, two Christian men – one in Iran and the other in Algeria – are scheduled to plead their innocence one last time in court. The judge presiding over each case will reexamine their crimes and decide whether or not to uphold the court’s initial verdict. For the Algerian, next week could be the start of a five year prison sentence. For the Iranian, it could mean his execution by hanging.
Youcef Nadarkhani, the pastor of a house church in Rasht, Iran, was arrested in October 2009 for opposing the education practice that forces non-Muslim students to read the Quran in school. Nadarkhani had argued that the Iranian constitution permits children to be raised in their parents’ faith rather than in accord with the State-institutionalized religion. For defying Iranian authorities, Nadarkhani was charged with apostasy.
Jason DeMars, president of Present Truth Ministries, said that Iranian officials used pressure tactics during Nadarkhani’s imprisonment as an attempt to coerce him to renounce his Christian beliefs, which included arresting his wife and threatening to seize his children.
On September 22, 2010, Nadarkhani was issued the death sentence for his conversion to Christianity and for inciting the conversions of other Muslims. Nadarkhani appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Iran, claiming he had never been a Muslim and therefore could not be found guilty of apostasy. However, a written verdict upholding the death penalty and ordering an investigation was handed down on June 12. A reexamination of the case to determine whether Nadarkhani will live or die will be held on Sunday, September 25.
“If [Youcef Nadarkhani] is found to have been a Muslim before his conversion, the court can carry out his execution,” said Tiffany Barrans, the International Legal Director at the American Center for Law and Justice.
Less extreme but also significant is the trial of Siagh Krimo. Krimo was arrested in Oran, Algeria on April 14, 2011 for giving a CD about Christianity to his neighbor. On May 4, he was given a five year prison sentence for blasphemy based on Article 144 bis 2 of the Penal Code. Krimo appealed the decision, and like Nadarkhani, will have his sentence reexamined next week. His final verdict is expected to be handed down on September 29.
“Siagh Krimo is in stress and anxiety over his wife and their beautiful baby girl,” an Algerian church leader and a friend of Krimo’s, who for security reasons will remain anonymous, told International Christian Concern. “Their whole life was turned upside down overnight just for preaching the gospel to a Muslim.”
Human rights organizations and religious freedom commissions have appealed to the U.S. government to intervene immediately and decisively on behalf of the two Christians.
“Time is of the essence here. This man’s [Nadarkhani] life is at stake,” said Leonard Leo, chairman of the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom, an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission. “We call upon our government and the international community to press for his release and ensure that Iran takes no extreme action in this case or in others like it.”
“International pressure impacts Iran, and the regime has shown leniency in some cases where there is international scrutiny,” Leo continued.
While the U.S. does not have a diplomatic relationship with Iran, it can call on other countries that do to pressure the Iranian government to adhere to international human rights standards. As for Algeria, the U.S. State Department said in its report on International Religious Freedom that it is U.S. policy to engage the Algerian government on religious freedom concerns.
At a press conference marking the report’s release on September 13, Secretary Clinton said that “the protection of religious freedom is a fundamental concern of the United States going back to the earliest days of our republic, and it remains so today.” Human rights advocates commend the stance expressed by the Obama administration to defend religious freedom and hope that everything that can possibly be done is being done for the complete and immediate acquittals of Youcef Nadarkhani and Siagh Krimo.
- aidan clay
Iranian convert asylum seeker scalded in Turkey
February 02, 2012: A persecuted Iranian convert to Christianity who was forced to flee his homeland was beaten and scalded with hot water by his employer in Turkey, where he has been seeking asylum. Yousef Fallah Ranjbar left Iran in December 2008 because of the problems he was experiencing as a result of his Christian faith. He, like many other Iranian converts, sought refuge through the United Nations’ Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Ankara, Turkey.Yousef has faced many setbacks in his case, throughout which he has been continuously working 14-hour days, doing hard labour in tough conditions, for a maximum of 20 Turkish Liras (£7).
He has continued to face persecution. Yousef’s Turkish employer took exception to his Christian faith and has repeatedly denied him his pay as a result.
On one occasion, after Yousef had asked for his pay several times, the employer and several other workers attacked him; they beat him and poured hot water over him, causing severe scalding on his back.
Yousef reported the incident to the police and the case was pursued. But the trial has been postponed because the employer failed to appear for the hearing.
“One example of hundreds”
According to Iranian Christian news agency Mohabat News, Yousef is “just one example of hundreds of Iranian Christian asylum seekers who are living in such situations in Turkey”.
Yousef is still awaiting a decision on his asylum case after a series of delays and interviews and an appeal. Mohabat News said that interviewers and decision-makers at UNHCR fail to understand the danger facing converts to Christianity in Iran and so often turn down their asylum appeals.
Iranian converts live under the constant threat of arrest, imprisonment, torture and possibly even death, as numerous cases have shown.
Most recently, on 18 January, convert Leila Mohammadi was jailed for two years having been declared guilty of “broad anti-Islamic propaganda, deceiving citizens by formation of what is called a house church, insulting sacred figures and action against national security”.
- barnabas team
UK, November 28, 2011: At about eight o’clock on a dull autumnal morning, a mother is preparing breakfast for her young son in the kitchen of an unassuming private house on a little modern estate in Leicester. The doorbell rings. Outside, a series of people carriers and estate cars are rolling up one by one; out of them tumbling a succession of children in twos and threes, all in traditional Islamic dress.
By 8.30, 26 children – some of them only just old enough for school, some almost grown – are sitting in tight rows on the floor of a little inner room, reciting morning prayers in Arabic and in English. By 9.30, the conservatory has become an infant classroom, the dining room has been taken over by the juniors and in the living room, year 7 and 8 girls are preparing to spread their geography projects across the laminate flooring.
By now, the mother has vanished – she doesn’t want her name or address to be used, she says, because already families are turning up at odd hours asking to look round the “school” – and Fatima D’Oyen, director of Manara Education, has taken charge with her small team of staff.
There’s no doubting that the Manara academy is a most unusual educational institution. But it’s also part of a national trend. Although the number of Islamic schools is still small – around 140 at the latest count, just 12 of them state-funded – it is growing fast. About 60 of these schools have opened in the last 10 years; several in the last couple of months. And the demand from parents seems to be huge – one school in Birmingham recently attracted 1,500 applications for just 60 places. At least five Islamic schools have recently applied to be free schools, although so far only one has been approved.
Manara is one of two Islamic schools that have opened in Leicester this autumn – although in its case, the word “school” can only be used loosely. Manara operates just three mornings a week, and its pupils are registered as home-educated.
Because Manara operates on a part-time basis, it does not need to register with the Department for Education as a school. But the rise in the number of Islamic schools has raised some concerns. Leicester City Council has called for national guidance to ensure that parents who send their children to “flexi schools” like Manara can be sure the staff have criminal record checks and their buildings are safe. And in some areas, full-time schools have opened without registration – meaning that there are no checks on the suitability of their staff or the quality of their curriculum.
D’Oyen aims to open a fully registered, full-time school next year. Until recently, she was the headteacher of another Muslim school in Leicester, but left earlier this year – and decided to start her own school. She quickly found that the formalities required were much more cumbersome than in her native US, where she had previously helped to set up an Islamic school in New Mexico.
“The Department for Education wanted everything done six months in advance; they wanted a plan of the building, they wanted to come and inspect,” she says. “They wanted to see our curriculum plans in detail – a lot of rigmarole. And we wanted to be open in September. So legally we are a private tuition service – like a supplementary school, but during the day.”
Despite its unconventional setting – D’Oyen was invited to tea with the family who live here and seized on the idea that the house could be turned into a school – the children seem contented and the curriculum varied. Manara is experimenting with Montessori teaching methods, and religious education includes moral and personal discussions as well as study of the Qur’an. The time spent by many children learning the Qur’an at madrasas – often 10 hours a week or more – can rob them of their childhood, D’Oyen believes, and she hopes to provide a more humane alternative. The pupils will learn about gardening and alternative technologies, and have access to the garden, which is used as an outdoor classroom.
“We’d like to teach a long morning, which would include some Islamic education, and then in the afternoons children would have more choice of activities – arts, crafts, PE,” D’Oyen says. “We want the children to have creativity in their lives, and to follow some of their interests.”
She foresees no problems at all in finding pupils – another Islamic school in Leicester already has five applications for each place. The demand from Muslim parents for an education outside the mainstream is growing, she says.
Others in the Muslim world agree with her. Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, founder of the Muslim Institute thinktank, says there is a growing feeling among Muslim parents that mainstream schools are not serving their children well: “If schools are focused on raising standards and on ensuring that there is discipline, I think most people are happy with that,” he says. “But more and more parents are concerned about the quality of education, and about discipline.”
Yet in some areas, situations have arisen that have caused concern. A headteacher in the north of England, who asked not to be identified, described how an Islamic school had opened up two years ago without permission opposite her own primary school. “It operated for about six months without registration, and then it was forced to close. It didn’t take long before it was registered and reopened again,” she says. “Some lovely ladies came to see me and they invited me and my deputy to see what was happening there. But I have to say I found the whole thing very worrying indeed – it’s just so divisive.” She had been trained as an Ofsted inspector, she said, and did not believe that the school would have been allowed to operate in the state sector. Its buildings, even after renovation, were unsuitable, she said, and its curriculum was too narrow, with every lesson being linked in some way to the Qur’an or the life of the Prophet Muhammad.
The Association of Muslim Schools, set up 20 years ago to support a then-tiny band of institutions, acknowledges that in response to a growing demand for Islamic education, a number of full-time schools have opened without proper formalities.
“The Department for Education is in constant contact with us, and they do tell us if someone’s operating without registration,” says Shazad Mohammed, the director of the association. “Then we visit to stress the importance of registering – the local authorities have to know where the children are, for safeguarding purposes. We strongly discourage this – it is illegal to operate without registration.”
But it is hardly surprising that there should be some breaches, he adds – the UK has two and a half million Muslims, and the number is rising fast. The majority are aged between 13 and 25. One highly regarded Muslim school, the Al-Hijrah school in Birmingham, has introduced a lottery system to allocate places because up to 25 parents are competing for each one.
In Leicester, the city council says it is anticipating a rise in the number of “flexi schools” like Manara, and it has asked the government to address the issue. “It is anticipated that this form of education may become more common, and the local authority has asked that the Department for Education consider producing national guidance for parents and providers around the quality of provision, including criminal record checks, health and safety and planning permission,” it said in a statement.
The DfE welcomed Leicester’s commitment to working with home educators, but did not respond to requests for a comment on whether there should be more regulation of the sector.
But for Fatima D’Oyen, the road ahead seems clear. Leicester’s home education inspector paid her a visit this month, and was apparently impressed. Attempts to regulate the sector further would be counterproductive, she argues. “My perspective is that 95% of parents can be trusted to do what is best for their children,” she says. “I don’t believe it is either possible or desirable to try to regulate, especially if the desire to do so comes from racism or misplaced paternalism. The reality is that most Muslims setting up or working at Islamic schools, whether part-time, full-time, supplementary or otherwise, do so out of a sense of altruism and wanting to help children get a good education.”
- fran abrams
USA, October 30, 2011: Dr. Angana Chatterji and her husband Dr. Richard Shapiro – renowned Professors of California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) have been illegally suspended by the CIIS Authorities. We know, as two leading social anthropologists their contribution for democracy, secularism and human rights is well-known. Particularly, Dr.Angana’s studies exposing plights of victims of communal violence in Orissa and the political designs behind the communalisation process have greatly influenced the people to understand the truth.
In support of them, their students have sent the petitiononsite and request you to sign.
Graduate Students Pursue Legal Action Against California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS)
Following months of unsuccessful negotiations with school administrators to safeguard their education
(San Francisco, October 25, 2011)– Thirty-eight students out of department of fifty have retained the Law Offices of Michael S. Sorgen to pursue legal action against the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) following the suspension of two core faculty of the Social and Cultural Anthropology (SCA) Department, Chair Richard Shapiro and Professor Angana Chatterji. These students believe the investigation into Chatterji and Shapiro has been in violation of institutional due process and protocols and are raising questions regarding the authority and ethics of particular administrators. The matter is currently before a Faculty Hearing Board, which is slated to convene later this week.
“Our initial analysis leads us to believe there to be serious violations of student rights,” states Sorgen, who has sent multiple letters to the Institute requesting a meeting with CIIS counsel and Administration since August 3, but this meeting has yet to materialize. The Law Offices of Michael S. Sorgen litigates matters pertaining to civil rights and education at federal and state levels, and one of their specializations is student rights.
The proceedings at CIIS have thrown Anthropology students’ lives and education into uncertainty, resulting in detrimental impacts on their physical and emotional well-being. Many have disenrolled and all have struggled to piece together their lives with the disruption and damage to academic studies and community-based advocacy work; some are scrambling for livelihoods without financial aid, while international students had to choose between paying for unwanted classes and losing their student visas. The situation has been exacerbated by what they strongly feel has been mistreatment by CIIS and the circulation of lies by Administration to justify the recent actions taken against core Anthropology faculty and a majority of students. Many students believe administrative actions have been inconsistent in dealing with student complaints. In late April 2011, a grievance was filed against a part-time faculty by 36 students, and students have received no formal report regarding their complaint to date; they suspect the investigation into the part-time faculty was used as a façade to extract information from students to build a case for what they understand as a “witch hunt” leading to the suspension of the two professors.
Unnamed students who participated in the investigation have stated it is not their intent to ‘bring down’ the department, but have struggled to have their concerns and issues heard preceding the investigation. Other students demanding the reinstatement of faculty are concerned that the Administration is using student concerns as fuel to dismantle the department. The Student Handbook outlines a formal grievance procedure, and many students demanding Chatterji and Shapiro’s reinstatement do not understand why it has been bypassed, nor why the two faculty have been banned from teaching and advising during these proceedings. Moreover, many communications by the Academic Vice President (AVP) and Dean of Students (DoS) appear to be contradictory around the suspension and the investigation.
Many students are disturbed that the proceedings seem in opposition to all institutional and faculty-led review mechanisms, which indicate high student satisfaction rates and a well-functioning department, including the promotion Chatterji received in 2009 (with outstanding commendations) and the renewal of Shapiro’s contract on April 1, 2011. For more than three months, students have repeatedly requested accountability and clarifications from CIIS Administration around the proceedings toward safeguarding their education and well-being. They say that their complaints, questions, and requests for meetings, starting 6/28, did not result in a collective meeting with Administration until 8/26. Students were disappointed that this meeting did not address their needs satisfactorily, and on September 8, 39 students signed a symbolic no-confidence motion against the DoS and the AVP, who also holds the titles of Interim Anthropology Department Chair, Dean of Faculty, Chief Academic Officer and Secretary to the Board of Trustees.
The Academic Vice President has recommended termination of Chatterji and Shapiro to the Hearing Board, and students now believe that their dismissal was the objective of particular administrators preceding May, when the AVP claims to have initiated the investigation. A worker in higher administration has just placed on record a ten-page statement, which has been submitted to the Faculty Hearing Board. The statement describes events that led to the worker’s understanding that the Dean of Students sought to instigate an investigation targeting Professors Richard Shapiro and Angana Chatterji and the Anthropology Department, beginning in March 2011, and that she requested and obtained permission from the AVP in April 2011 to do so. Further, the statement details tactics of the ‘investigation’ that the worker witnessed and experienced, including the coercive solicitation of student complaints through promises of ‘protection’ and compensation for those willing to participate, and intimidation for those unwilling (to participate.) This statement is in contradiction to CIIS Administration’s October 14 ‘fact’ sheet which states: “It was not proactively initiated by the CIIS Administration.”
“We just learned about this employee statement indicating that Dean of Students initiated this investigation proactively in the Spring, confirming what students suspected. We are outraged and appalled to hear about the coercive solicitation of student complaints– how is this ‘research’ or ethical? The ways in which administrators continue to broadcast ‘facts’ in disregard of what has already been communicated to students is a gross betrayal of student trust in the administrative procedure and administration claims of good faith,” said Tanisha Payton, an SCA doctoral student.
Elizabeth J. Pimentel, an MA student, adds, “Chatterji and Shapiro were tried, judged and sentenced before they could ever respond to allegations made against them. Then they were told not to speak of it, and asked to be available for the remainder of the investigation, making Chatterji’s human rights work in Indian-administered Kashmir impossible. We are extremely concerned for communities and those struggling for justice in Kashmir.”
The latest actions by the Administration also include a publicly circulated ‘fact’ sheet dated 10/14 on the investigation of the Anthropology Department which students can refute point-by-point based on their interactions and documented exchanges with CIIS Administrators. Students perceive their mistreatment by CIIS as part of a trend in higher education toward the consolidation of autocratic administrative power and the dissipation of faculty and student rights. The Institute does not have a tenure system, nor does it have a faculty, student or staff union. Professor Shapiro has been at the Institute for 25 years, and Professor Chatterji has been there for 14 years. Both have been vocal advocates for collaborative governance and tenure.
The Department’s curriculum prioritizes social justice and advocacy research and is connected to community organizations and human rights activists around the world. “My work this summer was in support of refugee rights in Burma, and I had to cut my trip short because of the suspension of my advisor,” stated Jen Cordaro, another doctoral student in the Anthropology Department. “This targeting of our faculty has wide-reaching repercussions on marginalized communities around the world– these damages are immeasurable.”
On October 15, 40+ SCA students and supporters of Chatterji and Shapiro staged a rally at CIIS during a Board of Trustees meeting. The rally had multiple demands, including: 1) the immediate reinstatement of Professors Chatterji and Shapiro to full faculty status, 2) the immediate addressal of outstanding student grievances against the professors, but that such grievances be dealt with through the established institutional procedures, 3) the empowerment of CIIS senior faculty to constitute a body to investigate the role of the President, the AVP, and Dean of Students in the actions against the Anthropology faculty and their students and to determine appropriate disciplinary action, including termination of the named administrators.
On the day of the rally, MA student Safiya Bird-Whitten broke a 13-day fast she had undertaken in “protest of what feels like is the demonization of two professors who have helped [her] believe that [she] indeed [has] the capacity to be influential, who have challenged [her] more intellectually than [she has] ever been challenged before.”
Professors Chatterji and Shapiro have received an outpouring of support from academics, community organizations, and activist networks, including Asia Human Rights Commission, Jammu Kashmir Civil Society Coalition, and from organizations like the publishing group Verso who recently released the book called Kashmir: The Case for Freedom. Chatterji is a contributor alongside Arundhati Roy and Tariq Ali.
Angana Chatterji and Richard Shapiro work with social justice issues and disenfranchised communities. Chatterji is internationally renowned for her work as co-convener of the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir (IPTK), and currently has sedition charges against her for her research into mass graves in the region. Shapiro, her life partner, was banned from Indian in November 2010 in connection with her work. Shapiro, also the Department Chair, is known for his anti-racist, anti-Islamphobic, and alliance building work.
The World Trade Center Memorial seems like a logical place to erect a symbol of Christianity. But an atheist group is challenging the cross at this historic location.
American Athiests wants to tear down the World Trade Center cross at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City and has filed a lawsuit, American Atheists v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, in New York state court Monday. But Christian legal experts say the attempt is completely out of step with the Constitution.
“One atheist group’s agenda shouldn’t diminish the sacrifice made by the heroes of 9/11,” says ADF Senior Counsel Byron Babione. “A cross like this one simply does not amount to a government establishment of religion under either the U.S. Constitution or the New York Constitution.
“The cross is not only known far and wide as a religious symbol, but also as a symbol of death, remembrance and honor for the dead. Americans have long recognized this. Nothing in the Constitution authorizes atheists to scour the landscape on a mission to seek and destroy memorial crosses.”
The American Center for Law and Justice plans to file a friend-of-the-court brief backing the legality of the Ground Zero cross on behalf of a former 9/11 firefighter and first responder.
“This is another pathetic attempt to rewrite the Constitution and rewrite history by removing a symbol that serves as a powerful remembrance to that fateful attack nearly 10 years ago,” says Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ. “This lawsuit is deeply flawed and without merit. It is just the latest chapter of an anti-God strategy employed by atheist organizations across the country—a strategy offensive to millions of Americans, a strategy that we’re confident will ultimately fail in court.”
The ACLJ’s amicus brief supports the legitimacy of the cross, formed by two intersecting steel beams that withstood the Twin Towers’ collapse on Sept. 11, 2001. Among those represented by the ACLJ in its brief is former NYC firefighter and first responder Tim Brown, who lost nearly 100 friends in the attack.
“We will aggressively defend the placement of this cross,” says Sekulow. “This memorial, a powerful part of the history of 9/11, serves as a constitutionally-sound reminder of the horrors that occurred nearly a decade ago.”
Relentless. That’s how some might describe the Roswell Independent School District. That’s because the New Mexico system appears to be on a mission to squash the Word of God on its campuses, according to a lawsuit Liberty Counsel filed.
The suit alleges the Roswell Independent School District retaliated against a Christian group called Relentless, punishing and suspending its members for buying and giving fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts with Bible verses to each of their teachers.
The students went to great lengths to share the Word of God. The closest Krispy Kreme shop was in Texas. Some members of the group drove almost six hours round trip, stayed overnight, got up at 3 a.m., filled their car’s back seat with fresh doughnuts and got back to school on time to deliver the doughnuts. When they handed out the doughnuts, a Scripture verse was included. One student was immediately sent home and two others were forced to spend a Saturday morning sitting alone in the classroom for four hours as a punishment.
“Some teachers are worried about their students giving them bullets, and this school suspends students over a Bible verse! These students are living their Christian beliefs by showing kindness,” says Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel and dean of Liberty University School of Law. “It is outrageous that the Roswell school officials are mean to these students solely because they are hostile to their Christian faith.”
In the past these students have handed out sandwiches, hot chocolate and candy canes to the student body and faculty. They helped staff with the trash and fellow students with their lunch trays and also distributed rocks with affirming words like “U are wonderful” painted on one side and “Psalm 139” on the other. However, the school has allegedly bullied and suspended students who were exercising their freedom of religion by distributing abstinence wristbands and plastic models of babies at 12 weeks gestation, bringing attention to the life of the unborn.
When the plastic babies were handed out, school officials allegedly said, “It’s time to shut this down. Some people are getting offended.”
That morning, one student had decided to take her own life because of her past decision to abort. When she received a model baby with the Scripture, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made,” she cried and prayed with the students and her life was saved, both physically and spiritually with the forgiveness of God.
However, the students were then pulled out of class and instructed to cease their “Christian” acts, because they had made their point.
July 8, 2011, Cuba — An evangelical pastor once jailed by the regime of Fidel Castro arrived in the United States from Cuba yesterday with his family under a special resettlement program for political refugees.
The Rev. Carlos Lamelas, 50, his wife Uramis and two daughters, Estephanie, 18, and Daniela, 10, landed at Miami International Airport Thursday evening (July 7) on a direct flight from Havana.
Lamelas, who once served as national president of his denomination in Cuba, was granted asylum in the United States due to persecution he has endured for more than five years at the hands of Cuban authorities. On Feb. 20, 2006, security officials conducted an early morning raid of his home and arrested Lamelas.
They accused the successful evangelist and church planter of “human trafficking,” a charge related to aiding Cubans who wish to escape Cuba without government permission. Those close to Lamelas, however, said police targeted him because he had challenged the Castro regime on religious liberty issues.
During his imprisonment, hundreds of letters poured in from fellow Christians around the world, confirming their prayers for him and offering encouragement. Jailers admitted to Uramis Lamelas that the correspondence created difficulties for them, and that they “had decided on a change in procedure.”
Four months after his arrest, Lamelas was unexpectedly released. Authorities tried him in court in December of 2006. The state prosecuting attorney recommended acquittal on the human trafficking charge, which carries a sentence of up to nine years in prison.
Later that month, however, the court convicted Lamelas on a previously unannounced charge of “falsifying documents” and fined him 1,000 Cuban pesos (US$45). The move was seen as an effort to save face and send Lamelas a message that he was still under surveillance.
Denied means of employment following his imprisonment – leaders of his denomination had earlier expelled Lamelas from the church at the behest of government authorities – he supported his family as a freelance photographer.
Fearing another unexpected arrest and possible long-term imprisonment, Lamelas applied for political asylum in 2010 but was denied. He described the ordeal to friends as “our spiritual waters of Mara. As when Moses was leading the God’s people through the wilderness and, hungry and thirsty, they found the bitter waters of Mara.”
A U.S. official in Havana familiar with the Lamelas case encouraged him to reapply for asylum. Following interviews with the family on March 22, the Department of Internal Security determined they qualified as political refugees.
The family will be resettled in Texas under the auspices of the Division of Refugee Affairs of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Lamelas admitted that the news that they had qualified as political refugees came as a shock, albeit a welcome one. Tense months of waiting and uncertainty had aggravated nagging health problems – he has suffered from chronic stomach ailments since his imprisonment. But once he learned of the asylum decision, he began to recover.
“For our part, we have been open to the will of God, and we know He will take us where we can best serve Him,” he wrote. “Our moral commitment with the Lord’s work is permanent and without borders . . . We know that many brothers and sisters have collaborated for our benefit – we’re sorry not to know specifically who they are. Nevertheless, we want them to know that our love and gratitude is sealed in our hearts for the rest of our lives.”