Religion in the News: 13th May – 19th May

Welcome to Religion in the News.

 This week,

HuffPost reports: ‘Progressive Women Of Faith Decry Restrictive Abortion Bills As Immortal’

Progressive faith leaders have been speaking up against bills in America that cut women’s access to safe and legal abortions, which includes the bill in Alabama that makes the performance of an abortion at any stage of pregnancy illegal. The bill further rejects abortion for pregnancies from rape or incest.

Some members of the Religious Coalition of Reproductive Choices said that the bill in Alabama was an affront to their religious convictions. They produced the further statement which reads:

“These laws are designed and supported by elected officials who speak of their conservative Christianity as though it were the only authentic religious point of view. It isn’t.”

The Coalition went on to say that Americans are not all  Christian; the conservative Christian perspective is not the only one  Americans come from, many other faiths, and people of no faith are all Americans, all with authentic religious or non-religious views.

The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), along with many other women of faith took to twitter to express their thoughts and feelings towards the restrictive bills.


World Religion News reports: ‘Women of Faith Denounce Abortion Bills’

This piece continues with the issue of the Alabama bill which restricts the rights of women to safe and legal abortions, stating how if the bill is signed by Governor Kay Ivey, it will apply to all those living in Alabama in six months.

This piece further states that Liberal clergy has been a feature of the reproductive rights movement since before the original bill (Roe v. Wade) which legalised abortion in 1973.


Religion News Service reports: ‘Israeli Health Advocate Pens Prayer To Encourage Vaccination’

During the worldwide measles outbreak in early spring 2019, Orthodox Israeli woman Hannah Katsman wrote a prayer to encourage religious parents to vaccinate their children.

The prayer asks for the vaccines to bring health, redemption, and blessings, while protecting from terrible diseases. It further asks God to bless the nurses and doctors providing the vaccines with ‘long and peaceful life, financial security and success’.

The prayer came as cases of measles were beginning to increase around Israel, according to this article.

Katsman stated that some orthodox people were being hit the hardest due to the communities’ high birth rates, and the higher-than-average percent of babies who are too young to be vaccinated. Many rabbis endorse vaccination, however.

Katsman hopes the prayer will be translated into Yiddish, the language spoken by many ultra-Orthodox Jewish people.


Religion News Service further reports: ‘Vatican, Catholic Colleges Weigh-in On Emerging AI Ethics Debate’

Marquette University professor Shion Guha began a class on artificial intelligence and ethics which attracted many students, he states that the ethics applied in the field of artificial intelligence have stemmed somewhat from the Catholic Church’s teachings about ethics.

The article further states that Catholic leaders appear increasingly interested in the field, with the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life pairing up with Microsoft to honour a doctoral student defending their dissertation on the intersection of ethics and artificial intelligence.

Pope Francis commented on the issue of ethics and AI directly after this partnership was announced, stating that:

‘…the designation of ‘artificial intelligence’, although certainly effective, may risk being misleading… The terms conceal the fact that… functional automatisms remain qualitatively distant from the human prerogatives of knowledge and action… therefore they can become socially dangerous.’


The Guardian reports: ‘Sikhs Call Headpiece Sold By Gucci Disrespectful Mimicry’

Gucci has been criticised for selling a headpiece which resembles a turban, which is insensitive towards Sikhism and Sikhs.

The Sikh Coalition tweeted on the issue stating that the turban is not just a fashion accessory but is a ‘sacred religious article of faith’.

The retailer changed the name of the item from ‘Indy Full Turban’ to ‘Indy Full Head Wrap’, however Gucci has yet to comment.

Creative director for Gucci, Alessandro Michele apologies later, saying that the mistake was made due to ‘cultural ignorance’, moreover saying that ‘ignorance is not an excuse’.

The reason, according to this article, for the outrage at this turban was that it is very similar to the everyday turbans worn by practicing Sikhs, ‘this turban is like mimicry’, stated Sukhjeevan Singh, a spokesperson for the Sikh Council UK.


The Guardian further reports: ‘Pasta strainers and pirates: how the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was born’

Pastafarianism is almost fifteen years old, and the religion is recognised by New Zealand.

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has two potential explanations for its creation, the article states. One insists that an invisible monster made from spaghetti, and two meatballs created the universe after heavily drinking. His followers worshiped him in secret for hundreds of years, before becoming known more recently.

The other explanation is that Bobby Henderson, an Oregon State University graduate wrote to the Kansas Board of Education in 2005 in protest the teaching of intelligent design with evolution in schools. His argument stated that the arguments for intelligent design based on a scientific theory also applies if the universe was created by a flying spaghetti monster.

Pastafarianism does not ask for funds from its followers,  has no hierarchy, nor physical place of worship, instead it offers its followers eight ‘I’d really rather you didn’ts’.

“I’d love to tell you that our traditions are all planned… but much of it just happens and either it sticks, or it doesn’t. Like spaghetti.” Bobby Henderson states.

The church takes Christian arguments against evolution and mimics them, exposing the contradictions of religious arguments against rationalism.

Henderson stated: “I take from this that religion mainly is about community, and also that members shouldn’t have to justify the absurdity of their gospels. To Mormons, I’m saying it’s OK that your gospel story is nuts.”


Al Jazzera reports: ‘Austria MPs approve law banning headscarf in primary schools’

The law imposed by the right-wing government avoids being directly discriminatory of Muslims by saying that any “ideologically or religiously influenced clothing which is associated with the covering of the head” is banned, although representatives of the government’s coalition parties have been clear that the law targets Muslim headscarves.

One spokesperson said the law was “a signal against political Islam”.

The head coverings worn by Sikh and Jewish students would not be affected according to the government.

In response, almost the entire opposition voted against the measure, with the Austrian constitutional court likely to challenge the move as such legislation normally needs a two-thirds majority to be passed.

The Muslim community organisation (I.G.G.O.e.) condemned the proposals for the legislation as “shameless” and as a “diversionary tactic”.


Al Jazzera further reports: ‘Sri Lanka: Curfew lifted amid religious tension’

This article consists of a video interview that highlights the difficulties faced by Sri Lanka in building back up relations between the Buddhist and Muslim population.

Following gang attacks on Muslim businesses and mosques, Sri Lanka imposed a curfew since Monday 16th May.  It has now been lifted, with the government saying it is now peaceful enough in the nation. Moreover, the nation’s government has blamed extremist Buddhist groups for the attacks saying that groups are under investigation.


BBC News reports: ‘The British Victorians who became Muslims’

This historical piece gives light to British people who renounced Christianity for Islam during the era of the British Empire, including Solicitor William Henry Quilliam, who became Abdullah after his conversion, which he was not obliged to do but did so anyway.

The 31-year-old converted after his experience of seeing Moroccans praying on a ferry on the Mediterranean in 1887. He described his new faith as being “reasonable and logical and, personally, I felt it did not contradict my beliefs”.

Quilliam became a preacher and helped convert 600 people in the UK, according to the article, further establishing the first mosque in Liverpool, 1887.

He had a pamphlet named ‘Faith of Islam’, which summarised the religion, and was translated into thirteen different languages, Queen Victoria ordered said pamphlet at the time. However, wider society viewed Islam as a violent religion.

Many Liverpudlian converts at the time faced abuse for their faith at the time, despite official recognition.

The Mosque set up in 1887 is still used to this day by Muslims and is named after Abdullah Quilliam.

The article goes on to discuss Lady Evelyn Cobbold, and Robert Stanley, who also converted to Islam in this period. Lady Evelyn embarked on the  Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and wrote of the ‘dominating influence of women’ in Muslim culture, while Stanley became close friends with Quilliam, becoming a Muslim at seventy years of age, changing his name to Reschid.