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Religious Freedom: Why Now? Audio
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Should Just War Be Abolished?
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Holy Mary in a Bikini? #BurkiniBan
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Religious Freedom, An American Export
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Should the German Government Regulate Language of Religious Rites?
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Fr. Hamel’s Martyrdom – Or Is It?
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More on Muslims at Mass
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Muslim-Catholic Solidarity in DC after Murder of Fr. Hamel
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How to Think About Islam in These Times
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Bridging Mars and Venus for Religious Freedom

Religious Freedom: Why Now? Audio

 

Religious Freedom: Why Now? Defending an Embattled Human Right is available now in audio. Stream or download for free at Soundcloud.

Audiobook promoShaykh Hamza Yusuf of Zaytuna College implores,

Religious persecution, like slavery, is not a thing of the past. It is very present and must be addressed. This essay is a call to take the problem seriously. To continue to ignore this problem is to become part of it.

Regarding Religious Freedom: Why Now? Noah Feldman, Harvard University Bemis Professor of Law, explains:

Rich in theory and practical wisdom, this collaborative, landmark work deepens the traditional arguments for religious freedom and articulates a strategy for pursuing religious freedom internationally. Its central claim – that religious freedom is a good in itself, but will also reduce violence and terror – is especially timely in the current political situation in the Middle East, when Western policymakers might be tempted to support repressive regimes in the name of stability. It will be valuable to policymakers, scholars, religious leaders, and anyone interested in the relation between religion and public life.

Resulting from the collaboration of “experts from the fields of psychology, sociology, law, philosophy, theology, political science, and international relations,” Religious Freedom: Why Now? “offers a robust consideration of religious freedom’s present condition and the prospects for its future.” The lead author is Dr. Timothy Shah, Senior Advisor at the Religious Freedom Institute.

In addition to listening to this new audio version, you can read the original text version of Religious Freedom: Why Now? at Scribd.

Should Just War Be Abolished?

Last April, a conference took place in Rome, sponsored by Pax Christi, that called the Catholic Church to replace its traditional just war theory with a peace doctrine.  We covered it earlier in ArcU.  My colleague at Notre Dame and ArcU contributor, Gerard F. Powers, was interviewed on the conference by Our Sunday Visitor. Read here his case that the Church should not abolish the just war theory but rather ought to develop the “just peace,” or “peacebuilding” doctrine latent in its social teaching.

Then, Eli S. McCarthy of Georgetown University responds to Powers on behalf of the Rome conference, which he attended, calling for a more radical revision of the Church’s teaching in the direction of non-violence.  See here.

 

 

Holy Mary in a Bikini? #BurkiniBan

I hereby bestow The Most Incongruous Tweet of the Day Award on Ambassador Gérard Araud, French Ambassador to the U.S.

Today Ambassador Araud tweeted with strong approval a video of St. Mary fully, modestly clad right in the midst of his pro-burkini-ban Tweetstorm today. (His tweets are captured in screenshots here.)

In honor of the Feast of the Assumption today he tweeted a video of a statue of St. Mary from the Basilica Notre Dame de la Garde (“Our Lady of the Guard”) in Marseille, France, a pilgrimage site for many on this important Catholic feast day.

Notre Dame de la Garde in Marseille, France

Notre Dame de la Garde in Marseille, France

In nearly the very same moment he followed his tweet of Notre Dame de la Garde with a tweet asserting, “A burqa is not a neutral attire. It conveys an conception of the woman as a object of lust, a subject and not an agent of history.”

Araud_Tweets

In this statue of St. Mary the Ambassador so honored, she is dressed very modestly, in a loose fitting robe covering her entire body, except her head, which is covered in part by a crown.

This leads me to several questions for you, Ambassador Araud.

Is St. Mary’s gown in this statue “not a neutral attire,” thus requiring that the French government should demand the Catholic Church create a new statue, and with her being at the sea, see to it that she be dressed only in a bikini? After all, according to you Mr. Ambassador, “It is to the state to protect women from cultural oppression” (by which I understand you to mean that the state should protect women from their own personal choice to dress modestly).

Does St. Mary’s body being covered make her de facto an “object of lust”? (St. Mary, really??)

Does St. Mary’s body being covered make her — St. Mary of all women —  de facto “not an agent of history”?

Ambassador Araud, I would like to know: If St. Mary did indeed have her body covered, instead of wearing a bikini, as one might presume she did when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her, does this nullify St. Mary’s agency in her great “Fiat!” unto the Lord?

And Ambassador Araud, you have not yet answered Daniel Stublen’s question to you, “@GerardAraud what about nuns’ habits?”

In the event you or any of your staff in Washington, DC would be interested in discussing Islam and religious freedom sometime, I assure you the modestly dressed women who work at the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom (CIRF) would greatly welcome such an opportunity. And with their degrees from Princeton University, the University of Chicago, Stanford University, and Yale University and their leadership in founding CIRF, I can assure it would likely be apparent that modest attire and women’s agency are no contradiction of terms.

Religious Freedom, An American Export

It was a pleasure to review Anna Su’s book on religious freedom in American foreign policy, Exporting Freedom: Religious Liberty and American Power, for The Immanent Frame.  Su adopts a middle ground in recent debates.

The United States is unique among nations in claiming a heritage of religious freedom and a mission to spread it overseas.  This is difficult to dispute.  What has become hotly disputed is how this is to be regarded.

An “orthodox” view holds that the United States has played a special role—a providential part, as some would have it—in carrying a universal message of religious freedom to the world.  First, American colonies were havens for religious refugees; then the American founding was a milestone for constitutional norms of religious freedom; then, over the subsequent two centuries, the United States became a haven for religious people unwelcome elsewhere: Baptists, Mormons, Mennonites, Muslims, Amish, Catholics, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others.

So convinced Americans have been of their ingenious experiment in religious liberty that they have sought to spread it overseas.  As Anna Su tells the story in her new book, Exporting Freedom: Religious Liberty and American Power, the U.S. extended religious freedom through its colonial occupation of the Philippines in the early twentieth century; its advocacy of the League of Nations after World War I; its efforts to shape international norms in the United Nations system and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the aftermath of the Second World War; its occupation of Japan after the same war; its formulation of a human rights policy in the 1970s; its International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), passed by the U.S. Congress in 1998; and its occupation of Iraq after its war there in 2003.  In the orthodox view, all of these episodes were a straightforward promotion of American principles.

In recent years, this view has come to be challenged by a “revisionist” view held by scholars who, as Su puts it, “have begun to question the right’s claim to timelessness, universality and neutrality” (for my own review of this school, see here).  Led by political scientist Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, anthropologist Saba Mahmood, and legal scholar Peter Danchin, this school of critics holds that religious freedom and the view of religion on which it is based is not universal but rather particular to the West and its history of Reformation and Enlightenment.  Following the late French philosopher, Michel Foucault, they portray the United States’ promotion of these principles as little more than a neo-imperialist “project” that manifests American power.  Proponents of this view make up the lion’s share of statements in aforum hosted here at The Immanent Frame.

One can imagine a middle ground that eludes both the orthodox view’s idealism and the revisionist view’s reduction of religious freedom to power.  Call it “power plus purpose.”  In this view, the United States promotes religious freedom through its “preponderance of power,” to borrow the title of a prominent work in U.S. diplomatic history, and promotes religious freedom selectively according to the contours of this power, but does not promote religious freedom simply as a tool of its power.  It is broadly in this middle zone that Su’s “complementary . . . new vantage point” is located.

The book’s greatest value, though, in my view, is its tracing of the cause of religious freedom through the history of American foreign policy.  Recommended!

Should the German Government Regulate Language of Religious Rites?

In a recent position paper, the Bavarian center-right German political party Christian-Social Union (CSU) asserts that in mosques in Germany, “sermons should be given mostly in German or be otherwise understandable.” Ironically they demand this “in order to foster integration.” I say “ironically” because the reality of German society is that other religious communities hold their services in a wide variety of languages, so it does not make sense that strict adherence to German in religious services would help Muslim immigrants in Germany “integrate” into a society in which religious freedom allows variety.

Perhaps even stranger is that the CSU position paper notes, as if with alarm, that at present Germany does not have “one Islam, rather Islamic currents in various forms.” Newsflash: has the CSU ever heard of the Reformation? Perhaps the Thirty Years War? How about the Peace of Westphalia? Germany has not had “one Christianity” for centuries. Today Christian communities in Germany include, among others, Catholic, mainstream Protestant/Lutheran, Reformed, Evangelical, and Orthodox. Even just among the Orthodox Christians in Germany, some are Greek, some Serb, others Russian, etc. Just within the Catholic Church in Germany, there are far more various theological “currents” than I have space to begin to enumerate here.

On Facebook German journalist Ali Mete, Editor-in-Chief at the online journal IslamIQ, questioned,

If one considers the consequences of the CSU demand for making German mandatory in mosques, does this then also mean that the Russian-Orthodox services should be held in German? What about Polish services in Catholic churches? And what about [other] Christian services in the languages of worshipers’ countries of origin?

When I lived in Nuremberg Germany a few years ago, my church had services in both German and Arabic. Almost every major city in Germany has church services in English.

And then there are the Jewish, Buddhist, and other religious communities in Germany. Would it really be an appropriate use of state power for the German government to (try to) regulate the language used in these and other religious services?

As for the demand “sermons should be given mostly in German or be otherwise understandable,” the CSU has not explained what “otherwise understandable” means, i.e. they left their demand for “understandable” ununderstandable. And why stop at just the sermons? Would this mean that priests celebrating Mass in Latin would be required to articulate their speech rather than mumble so that these rich texts are “understandable”? (Gosh, I might support this! Well, not really, but I admit this would be a silver lining to such an awful intrusion of the state.)

In addition, I can’t help but note that the CSU paper fails to question whether having sermons be understandable is actually desirable. After all, my Muslim friends complain almost as much as my Catholic Christian friends about bad sermons. When I asked an American Catholic friend how he avoids getting depressed by bad sermons, he told me, “I sometimes go Mass in Spanish. This way I don’t understand the sermon, so I don’t get depressed!”

But on a more serious note, the decline in Germans’ interest in religious freedom and their own constitution is alarming. The party platform of Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party calls for limiting religious freedom for Muslims, and now comes this call from the CSU for the German government to regulate language in Muslims’ Friday communal prayer. One can only hope that German Muslims who have petitioned for religious freedom and respect for Germany’s constitution, and Christian leaders such as Cardinal Woelki, Archbishop of Cologne, who have voiced support for religious freedom, will not become lone voices crying in a German wilderness of waning religious freedom.

Fr. Hamel’s Martyrdom – Or Is It?

The recent killing of Fr. Jacques Hamel by two Muslim extremists has provoked a debate in Europe that has synthesized the question of Islam with the meaning of martyrdom.  New York Times columnist Ross Douthat considers the debate in his column of this morning.

He reports two dueling interpretations among Catholics.  Here is the conservative one:

To many conservative Catholics, Father Hamel is an archetypal Christian martyr — killed in a sacred space by men motivated by hatred of his faith, dying with the words, “Go away, Satan!” on his lips. To cultural conservatives more broadly, he’s a potent symbol of the jihadi threat to Europe’s peace.

But there is a different interpretation:

But within Catholicism there is also strong resistance to this interpretation. It starts at the very top, with Pope Francis, who has deliberately steered clear of the language of martyrdom — first describing the priest’s murder as “absurd,” and then using one of his in-flight press conferences to suggest that the killers were no more religiously-motivated than a random Catholic murderer in Italy.

 Meanwhile, amid calls of “Santo subito!” — “Sainthood now!” – two of the pope’s biographers, Austen Ivereigh and (in these pages) Paul Vallely, wrote essays warning against doing anything that might inflame interreligious tensions or otherwise play into the Islamic State’s bloodied hands.
In this narrative, which is also the narrative that many secular Europeans reached for, Father Hamel’s murder belongs not to the old iconography of a church militant under siege by unbelievers, but to the modern vision of a multicultural, multireligious society threatened primarily by ignorance and fear. So the appropriate response is to reassert the importance of religious tolerance, to highlight commonalities between French Muslims and their Catholic neighbors, to create a broad category of “peaceful religion” and cast jihadists outside it.

These interpretations, says Douthat, need not be mutually exclusive:

In theory, it should be possible (for a pope, especially!) to plainly call Father Hamel’s death a martyrdom while also rejecting sweeping narratives about Islamic violence or religious war.

Yet, Douthat ends up questioning the optimism of a certain post-Vatican II liberalism in whose eyes Fr. Hamel’s murder was never supposed to happen.

Muslim-Catholic Solidarity in DC after Murder of Fr. Hamel

In response to the murder of Fr. Jacques Hamel in France on July 26 by two men claiming allegiance to ISIS, Muslims in France and other countries, including the U.S., reached out to Catholics today to show solidarity by attending Mass.

I was deeply moved that three Muslims – Imam Suhaib Webb, Maggie Siddiqi, and Sameer Siddiqi – came to Mass in Washington, DC today with Dr. Paul Heck and me at our parish, the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. They came because they, as Muslims, wanted to show their solidarity with Catholics after the murder of Fr. Hamel while he was saying Mass.

Neither Paul Heck nor I had ever met these Muslims before.

A few days ago Fr. Matthew Schneider, LC, tweeted, “We can’t show ISIS we’re afraid. Let’s all go to a Catholic Mass this Sunday to show solidarity since they killed a priest. #IAmJacquesHamel.” When I saw on Twitter that Imam Suhaib Webb had responded, “Fr. I will be there,” I invited Imam Webb to come to Mass with me. And come he did, plus Maggie and Sameer Siddiqui came too after hearing Imam Webb’s July 29 Friday sermon encouraging Washington, DC Muslims to go to Mass this Sunday as a show of solidarity.

They accepted an invitation from a stranger. They all came to say, “We stand with you. We care.”  Strangers reaching out, strangers meeting, strangers supporting each other across differences of faith. In this way we bear witness to ISIS and to the world that love is stronger than hate. Fr. Schneider is right: “We can’t show ISIS we’re afraid.” Stronger together, we won’t.

 

 

Bridging Mars and Venus for Religious Freedom

Robert Kagan once wrote a book called Americans are from Mars, Europeans from Venus.  In the past few years, the United States as well as several European countries, the European Union, and Canada have developed policies promoting religious freedom (though Canada has recently reversed course and closed its Office of Religious Freedom).  Does this development show a turn towards cooperation and emphasis on common priorities?

Perhaps, but Mars-and-Venus-like differences have persisted.  Europeans stress “religious engagement” and “Freedom of Religion or Belief” while the U.S. is more likely to trumpet religious freedom.  Europeans are prone to a multilateral approach while the United States finds it natural to go at it alone.  Western European states host more secular populations than the United States.

Seeing hope for cooperation among the U.S. and its European allies over a critically important principle but also realizing the need for bridging differences, the British Council awarded one of its “Bridging Voices” grants to the University of Sussex and the University of Notre Dame to pursue a pair of policy dialogues on “Freedom of Religion or Belief and Foreign Policy,” both of which were held in 2015 at Wilton Park in England and Georgetown University in the United States.  The results are summarized in a policy brief that presents recommendations for a unified foreign policy of promoting global religious freedom.

 

 

 

 

 

© Daniel Philpott The views expressed in this forum are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily represent those of Daniel Philpott, CCHR, or the University of Notre Dame.