Parliament

Austrian Bill Would Ban Foreign Funding for Mosques

Eyüp Sultan mosque in Telfs, Austria. Photo courtesy of Hafelekar via Wikimedia Commons/RNS.

Austria’s Muslim community is incensed over the government’s plans to amend the country’s century-old law on Islam.

The new bill, championed by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration Sebastian Kurz, forbids foreign funding of mosque construction or of imams working in the country and requires a unified German-language translation of the Quran.

The government argues the legislation, which Parliament will vote on this month, will help combat Islamic radicalism. Muslim groups and civic activists say it flouts the principle of equality.

“There is a general tone of mistrust toward Muslims,” said Carla Amina Baghajati, a prominent Muslim rights activist and spokeswoman for the country’s Islamic Religious Authority, referring to the bill. “The 1912 Islam law has set up a model of how state acknowledgment of a religious minority can help this minority better integrate. Muslims in Austria are proud of this law.”

Parliament Bars Church of England from Hosting Gay Weddings

Photo: Lasse Kristensen / Shutterstock

Gay Marriage Illustration. Photo: Lasse Kristensen / Shutterstock

CANTERBURY, England — The British government unveiled a proposal on Tuesday that excludes the Church of England and the Church in Wales from planned legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry in churches.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller told Parliament the new plan would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in some churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques, but definitely not in the established church, where both the outgoing and incoming archbishops of Canterbury insist that marriage remain between a man and a woman.

"We will write on the face of the bill a declaration that no religious organization, or individual minister, can be forced to marry same-sex couples or to permit this to happen on their premises," Miller told the House of Commons.

Religious groups, including Quakers, Unitarians, and some liberal Jewish groups, welcomed the news because they favor same-sex marriage. The Church of England, the Church in Wales, the Roman Catholic Church, most Muslims, and Orthodox Jews oppose the move.

A Backward Step for Democracy in Britain

Nicholas Watt writes for The Guardian

"Nick Clegg's hopes of reforming the House of Lords, completing a journey begun a century ago by his Liberal predecessors, ran into severe trouble on Tuesday when 91 Tory MPs defied a three line whip to vote against the measure in the largest rebellion of the parliament. A furious David Cameron confronted the leader of the Tory rebellion just outside the House of Commons division lobbies late on Tuesday night as it became clear that normally loyal Tory MPs were determined to register their opposition to House of Lords reform."

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Egypt Court: Parliament Dissolved, Elected Illegally

CNN reports on worrying developments in Egypt:

"Egypt's highest court on Thursday declared the country's parliament invalid and cleared the way for a member of former President Hosni Mubarak's regime to run in a presidential election runoff this weekend.

The Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that parliament must be dissolved, state TV reported. An Egyptian constitutional law expert told CNN that following the court's decision, a political decision would be made about whether to dissolve parliament.

Following the ruling, Egypt's interim military rulers claimed to have full legislative control of government. Parliament had been in session for just over four months."

When It Comes to Welfare Reform, Britain is Not So Great

Union Jack mural in disrepair. Image via http://bit.ly/wLwse2.

Union Jack mural in disrepair. Image via http://bit.ly/wLwse2.

Gandhi once said that "a nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable." Today, it strikes me that the "Great" in Great Britain should probably be quietly dropped, and replaced with "Abject," "Inadequate" or something equally disparaging.

For that is how the UK is currently treating its most vulnerable — the young, the elderly, the disabled — inadequately, abjectly and without compassion. For the last few weeks, a battle has been raging between the government, the legislature, the Church, organizations, and the general public over a piece of legislation called the Welfare Reform Bill.

The bill is wide ranging in its ‘reforms’, covering a myriad of social security measures – from disability benefits, to welfare offered to the unemployed and their families and children. At a time when austerity and budget cutting is front and center of the government’s agenda, ‘reform’ is a by-word for ‘cutbacks’.

The crux of the legislation is an attempt to distinguish between different categories of "the poor," to weed out the “undeserving” from the “deserving.” Sadly, as can be seen from the uproar that the Bill has caused, this attempt has failed.

Voices from the Web (and World): Responses to the Troy Davis Execution

troy-davi-amnest-intl-photo"Continuing a cycle of violence through state-sanctioned actions does not bring justice but only creates a culture of death and retribution. As a pro-life Christian, I believe the execution of Troy Davis shows a failure of moral leadership by both our country and the state of Georgia. The doubt surrounding the case of Troy Davis has served as a wake-up call to many in this country that our justice system is flawed and should not hold the power of life and death over any person. Justice should restore and heal, not destroy." -- Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis statement today, Friday Sept. 23

Just Jesus and an Unjust July 4: Why I Don't Celebrate Independence Day

My friends and I can be stupid. Add explosives to the equation and the idiocy quotient increases exponentially. Such was the case every 4th of July during high school. A group of about 20 of my friends and I would get together to barbecue and play with illegal fireworks. At any unsuspected moment while taking a bite out of a burger, an M-80 could be lit under your seat, a sparkler thrown at your chest like a dart, or a mortar could be shot like a bazooka, catching bushes on fire. These chaotically stupid memories simultaneously serve as some of the most fun I can recall experiencing. So for me, Independence Day equals fun.

However, there's a deeper reality to this holiday. Only about three years ago did I realize that in celebrating Independence Day, I'm also glorifying the roots on which this nation was founded: an unjust war. The "rockets red glare" and "the bombs bursting in air" remind us not of the day God liberated the colonies, but of the moment in history when our forefathers stole the rhetoric of God from authentic Christianity to justify killing fellow Christians. There's two reasons I'm convinced that celebrating Independence Day celebrates an unjust war.

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