Monday, October 06, 2014
Austria Aims to Stop Funding for Islam, Promote Standardized Version of Qur’an
Amid growing concern across Europe about the threat of spreading jihadism, Austria’s coalition government on Thursday unveiled far-reaching legislation which aims to stamp out foreign influence on and funding for Austria’s Muslims, and also envisages a standardized German-language version of the Qur’an.
A major consequence of the law, which is due to come into effect from January, would be the rescinding of permits for scores of Turkish imams, or religious teachers, paid for by the Turkish government.
Austrians of Turkish descent make up the biggest group of Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic country, followed by those of Bosnian background. Muslims comprise about six percent of the population.
Like those in many other European countries, Austrian authorities are deeply concerned about Islamist radicalization of Muslim citizens at home and abroad. As many as 140 Muslims who are Austrian citizens or residents are believed to be fighting with jihadist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL).
Foreign Affairs and Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz said Thursday there should be no contradiction between being a devout Muslim and a proud Austrian.
The draft bill, which aims to regulate Muslims’ rights and obligations and revises a 1912 law that officially recognized Islam, states that religious doctrines, institutions and practices must not conflict with the laws of Austria. If teaching institutions promote negative views of society or jeopardize public order, their recognition may be withdrawn.
Foreign funding of operating costs for mosques, schools and other Islamic facilities will be prohibited.
As in many other European countries, Austrian officials are concerned about foreign imams who speak little of the local language, are not well-integrated into local society, and who may be spreading radical views.
Imams working in Austria will be expected to have Austrian theological training so as to better connect with the local community. Religious organizations will be required to show a unified German-language version of their doctrine and religious texts, including the Qur’an.
The Qur’an proposal is potentially controversial, since Muslim scholars teach that the Qur’an – in the original Arabic – is the actual divine revelation given by Allah to Mohammed over a 23-year period in the 7th century. Translations in any other language are considered no more than approximations of the meaning, and not the Qur’an itself.
Kurz said in a recent radio interview there were “countless translations, countless interpretations” of the Qur’an, and having a uniform German translation would help to prevent extremist “misinterpretations.”
It was in the interests of the Muslim community, he said, that words in the text are not “incorrectly interpreted and reproduced.”
Other provisions in the draft law cover issues like religious holidays, dietary matters and cemeteries. Genital mutilation is forbidden, although circumcision is expressly permitted.
The bill was drafted in consultation with two recognized Islamic bodies, the mainstream Islamic Religious Community in Austria and a body representing Alevis, a Muslim sect sometimes viewed as heretical by Sunnis, originating in Turkey.
The Vienna daily Wiener Zeitung noted in an editorial that some of proposed new regulations, such as the ban on foreign funding, were not applicable to other religions.
“But as long as murderers refer to Islam at the beheading of helpless hostages, Islam is just not a religion like any other,” it said. “Every law is a child of its time.”
In response to the rise of ISIS, the Austrian government last month announced a ban on ISIS symbols, plans to revoke the citizenship of any dual citizens who join the jihad, and new rules making it harder for minors to travel outside the European Union.
Earlier this year Austrian media reported on cases of teenage girls of Bosnian origin who traveled to Syria to “marry” jihadists and then join the fight, after being radicalized by an imam at a Vienna mosque.
Being a crank is not a crime
Now you don't even have to break the law to be banged up for what you say
Over the past month, people across the Midlands and northern England have had strange leaflets stuffed through their letter boxes. The leaflets aim to bring public attention to what the leaflets refer to as the ‘evils of homosexualism’. The leaflets state that ‘Homosexuality is not natural’ and that Gay Pride marches are ‘lewd, silly and simply satanic; the delight of demons’. The unpleasant literature has appeared in Preston, Lincoln, Leicester and Chester, coinciding with Gay Pride events in each of the towns.
Earlier this year, the leaflets also showed up in towns in the south of England. Witnesses in Lincoln told local press that they saw a man dressed in a monk’s habit delivering them. The description matches reports of a man who was seen posting similar flyers in Brighton during the summer.
You’d hope that the prospect of one nutter disseminating weird leaflets would spark little more than bemusement – and it’s likely that the majority of recipients simply brushed the whole thing off. Yet police forces across the North have been inundated with calls in recent days from offence-seekers demanding that something be done.
The calls for a crackdown on these offensive materials was bolstered by Gay Pride organisers. Lincoln Pride spokesman Adam Shorter told the Lincolnite: ‘As a community organisation, we fully respect every person’s right to free speech and opinion in a public forum. However, this method of posting such distasteful leaflets at someone’s home is disrespectful and should not, in our opinion, be allowed… it worries us that this type of propaganda could negatively affect a person’s wellbeing or make them question their sexuality or identity.’ Meanwhile, Preston Pride organiser Steve Griffin told the BBC that the flyers’ fire-and-brimstone rhetoric ignored the New Testament teaching of ‘love thy neighbour’ – he is seemingly unaware of the New Testament’s numerous prohibitions on homosexuality.
It’s disheartening to see gay-rights organisers be so blasé about calling on the law to censor views they find offensive. It was not too long ago that the law was used to crackdown on any public expression of homosexuality for precisely the reason that it offended the status quo. It was not until 1982 that the last vestiges of the Buggery Act (1533) were repealed. Section 28 of the Local Government Act, which banned local authorities from ‘promoting homosexuality’, was not repealed until 2003.
Nowadays, UK police forces are particularly overzealous when it comes to investigating speech crimes. Twitter trolls have been subject to dawn raids for tweeting nasty things to celebrities while football fans have been banged up for singing politically incorrect songs. But what about offensive speech that isn’t illegal? What about when it’s just, as in this case, one nutter professing his odd, old-fashioned religious beliefs? Well, if this case is anything to go on, this technicality needn’t get in the police’s way.
In response to the anti-gay leaflets, Lancashire police vowed to investigate ‘with a view to discussing the impact the leaflets have had’. While Lincolnshire police said that, while they recognised the right to freedom of speech, ‘when that expression causes others offence and worry, we will step in’.
Of course, the content of these leaflets will have, understandably, offended some people. But it’s deeply concerning that a section of the public think being offended is enough to go to the police and demand those responsible be punished – especially when no laws have actually been broken. Going to the cops over trivial matters would once have been ridiculed. Now it seems that it is something to be encouraged, both by nominally liberal gay-rights organisations and the police themselves.
Shorter’s suggestion that the content of one leaflet could potentially pose a threat to gay people’s ‘wellbeing’, speaks to a common assumption today that offensive speech can cause genuine emotional and mental harm. But if there is someone who could be so perturbed by the bile of one nutter that they’d be left mentally scarred, then all the laws in the world can’t protect them.
The police’s reaction to what are, in effect, nuisance calls about a non-crime shows that they no longer see their role as enforcing the law so much as pandering to the complaints of the easily offended. Such an attitude can only have a stifling effect on the very same values of tolerance and freedom that Gay Pride organisations claim to champion.
Postscript: Since this article was written, it has been announced that a 53-year-old man has been questioned by police in Stoke-on-Trent in connection with the anti-gay leaflets. He has not been charged, but the Harborough Mail has reported that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is under under pressure to bring charges against him.
Fined $13,000 by State, Farmers Are Fighting Back Against ‘Discrimination’ Ruling
A couple who declined to allow a same-sex wedding ceremony on their family farm in upstate New York filed an appeal today that their attorney says will challenge “every facet” of a recent discrimination ruling against them.
In September 2012, a lesbian couple approached Cynthia and Robert Gifford about holding their wedding on the Giffords’ Liberty Ridge Farm. The Giffords, who both grew up in Clifton Park, N.Y., declined, citing their religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman.
Because Liberty Ridge Farm is open to the public for seasonal activities, such as its annual fall festival, the state of New York classifies it as a public accommodation that cannot discriminate on the basis of certain personal characteristics, including sexual orientation.
The lesbian couple, who recorded a telephone conversation with Cynthia Gifford, complained to the New York State Division of Human Rights, which is specifically chartered to prohibit “discrimination” based upon sexual orientation, among other characteristics.
In July, an administrative law judge found the Giffords had discriminated against the couple and ordered fines totaling $13,000—$1,500 mental anguish fine to each of the women and a $10,000 civil damages penalty to the state.
The Giffords didn’t know about the official complaint until a TV reporter showed up to interview them about it.
“There was the reporter and the camera person, and I thought, ‘Oh great, we’re going to get some publicity about our fall festival,’” Cynthia Gifford recalled. “And the reporter asked if we could step away from the customers—I did not understand why.”
The state human rights commissioner’s final order Aug. 8 required the Giffords to pay the $13,000 within 60 days, plus accrued interest of $195. The Giffords also had 60 days in which to appeal the ruling.
Gifford told The Daily Signal this week in an exclusive interview that she and her husband decided to fight the charges because they were “disappointed” by the judge’s narrow view of both the evidence and the law.
Their attorney, James Trainor, who is associated with Alliance Defending Freedom, said the family was “appealing every facet of the judge’s decision” and that he is confident their “constitutional rights and religious beliefs will be fully considered.”
Melisa Erwin and Jennifer McCarthy, the lesbian couple who filed the complaint, declined comment to The Daily Signal. They did speak out in a 2012 interview with WNYT.
The Giffords’ refusal to book their wedding ceremony “makes you feel like people out there are judging and think [a same-sex marriage] is wrong,” Erwin said. “People are people and everyone should be treated fairly,” added McCarthy.
The Giffords contend their decision was not about the couple’s sexual orientation but about upholding their own religiously based views on marriage. “We open our doors for a certain part of the year for everyone to come and enjoy God’s country that we’re so blessed to live on,” Cynthia Gifford said.
“We feel the judge did not consider our religious beliefs or the Constitution, so we were very disappointed in that fact and decided to appeal hoping we would have the opportunity for a court to consider our religious rights and constitutional rights,” she said.
We just believe that a marriage is between a man and a woman, and we do not want to hold a [same-sex] marriage ceremony here on our family farm because the state tells us we have to do it.
The $13,000 in fines “took a punch financially on us,” Cynthia Gifford said, and led them to another decision that will cost them more money: to stop holding wedding ceremonies at Liberty Ridge Farm.
Otherwise, she said, the Giffords would be required to institute anti-discrimination re-education classes and procedures for their staff.
The Giffords will continue to hold receptions at the farm, she said, but the decision “is likely to affect our business dramatically” since most area couples book ceremonies and receptions together.
Mariko Hirose, the lawyer for Erwin and McCarthy, declined to comment for The Daily Signal. In a previous interview with Religion News Service, Hirose said:
"All New Yorkers are entitled to their own religious beliefs, but businesses cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation any more than they can based on race or national origin."
Lourdes Centeno, director of external relations at the New York State Division of Human Rights, declined to comment, saying “the order is out and that’s all we have available at the moment in terms of public information.”
Trainor, who doesn’t expect a ruling on the appeal until next July, said he will build his case around guarantees of religious freedom and free speech built into the federal and state constitutions.
[The judge’s decision] is forcing them to both practice their beliefs a certain way, as well as express or speak an affirmation of the state’s version of marriage by hosting these things in their home. What does that tell an observer? That they totally agree with it—that they’re totally in favor of it. So it forces that type of speech but it also doesn’t allow them to carry out and practice their own religious belief that marriage was designed to be, by God, between one man and one woman.
Ryan T. Anderson, who researches and writes about marriage and religious liberty as the William E. Simon Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, echoed Trainor’s argument.
“While Americans are free to live as they choose, no one should demand that government coerce others into celebrating their relationship,” he said. “All Americans should remain free to believe and act in the public square based on their beliefs about marriage without fear of government penalty.”
Asked what she would say to Erwin and McCarthy about the Giffords’ decision to appeal, Cynthia Gifford said: “I would hope that they would understand that we respect everyone for who they are, and that we would like to have respect for our religious beliefs to be acknowledged as well.”
Australia: Muslims need to stop playing the victim
RAIDS by Australia’s counterterrorism units continued yesterday in Melbourne and come just weeks after the raids across eastern Australia in response to an allegedly imminent terrorist attack in Sydney.
On Wednesday last week, Australia woke to news that a Victorian police officer had shot dead a youth during a horrific attack at a suburban Melbourne police station that left two policemen seriously wounded, one of whom nearly lost his life.
Predictably, there were calls from a few Islamic community leaders for an “open and independent” investigation into the police shooting.
It occurred to me that I have never heard the Catholic or Anglican archbishop make a similar call when one of their flock is gunned down attempting to murder a police officer.
Just as predictable was the stampede of senior police, politicians and other identities placating Islamic leaders after the shooting.
Of course, what would a terrorism-related incident be without some mention somewhere of the youth being “disenfranchised” from mainstream society?
These disenfranchised youth have access to free health, free education, subsidised medicines, public housing and transport. They are free to practise any religion they want, marry whom they want and, if they feel inclined, work for a fair wage and get to live in one of the safest nations on Earth. And did I mention that they also get free legal representation?
What a burden of rights, gifts and privileges these disenfranchised youth have. It must be this burden that makes so many of them want to leave and go to countries in the Middle East that are the complete opposite of ours.
The Islamic community needs to own up to the not so insignificant problems that they have, ask for help and stop playing the victims.
A final note on this current situation comes via Fairfield Local Court, which handed a man a two-year good behaviour bond for possessing a stun gun — an offence that can carry up to 14 years’ imprisonment.
The man, Ahmad Rahmany, was arrested and charged during Sydney’s counterterrorism raids. According to his lawyer, the charge had nothing to do with terrorism.
It must have been unfortunate for Ahmed Rahmany that the police who conducted the raids on his house were from a counterterrorism unit.
Mr Rahmany was quoted as saying the raid on his house was “horrific” and “unAustralian”.
Am I missing something?
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.