Welcome to Religion in the News. This week we are taking a different approach to some articles, comparing how some media outlets report on the similar issues.
This week in the news,
The Muslim News reported on Islamophobia in the U.S. being driven by politics, with Muslims being most discriminated against
According to a survey by ISPU of 2,376 Americans with a religious affiliation (which included 804 Muslims), Islamophobia in the United States of America is rooted in politics not a clash of religious beliefs. ‘The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding Islamophobia Index rose from 24 in 2018 to 28 in 2019.’ The index measures how much the public endorses ‘five negative stereotypes’ of Muslims in America, which includes the idea that Muslims in the U.S. are more prone to violence than others and that Muslims are hostile to the U.S.
Groups such as the White Evangelicals scored highly with 35 on the index, indicating some endorse the negative stereotypes. Whereas Jewish people within the survey scored the lowest at 18 on the index.
Furthermore, the report shows that those who personally know a Muslim person are less likely to uphold the negative stereotypes in comparison to those who do not.
These figures indicate that Muslims are the most likely to be discriminated against based on their religious identity in the United States.
Whereas, the Catholic Herald reported this week that Christian persecution is ‘near genocide levels’
This report was led by Anglican Bishop of Truro Philip Mounstephen, which claims Christianity is going to be ‘wiped out’ in parts of the Middle East, with UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt blaming ‘political correctness’ for failure of the government to tackle this issue.
Mr Hunt said that the report and the attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday ‘has woken everyone up with an enormous shock.’
The report suggests that Christians are the most persecuted out of all religious groups in the world. This article states that the population of Palestine is now 1.5% Christian, while in Iraq numbers have dropped from 1.5 million before 2013 to fewer than 120,000 now.
The main concern in this article appears to be that the population of Christians in the Middle East has fallen from 20% to 5%, due to genocide and exodus, stating that the issue is not being tackled due to ‘political correctness’.
Reverend Edmund Tillakaratne told journalists on Thursday 2nd May that Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith had planned for a further week of suspended weekend Masses in Sri Lanka, following the Easter Sunday bombings of two Catholic churches, an evangelical church, three hotels and a private residence. The incidents killed 257 people, with 500 injured the the attacks.
The Catholic Herald writes that The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, with Sri Lankan officials saying that nine suicide bombers were behind the attack, with some suspects still at large.
The Catholic Times states that Muslims were also told to stay home in the previous week when Catholic churches were closed, however Sri Lanka’s Muslim leaders were encouraging Muslims to return to mosques for Friday prayer, with the president of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, Mr Ameen saying they had asked for extra security from the government.
Moreover, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith criticised the government on its lack of sharing intelligence on the Easter attacks, with the Catholic Herald saying that the country’s chief of Police and defense minister had resigned after criticism for the mishandling of intelligence.
BBC News reports: ‘The turban-wearing British bus driver who changed the law’
This article highlights the story of Tarsem Singh Sandhu who, fifty years ago helped to win Sikhs the right to wear turbans at work in Wolverhampton. Mr Sandhu became a bus driver at 23, where the uniform policy meant Sikh men could not grow a beard or wear a turban, which goes against the five articles of Sikh faith (Khalsa).
Mr Singh stated, ‘Turbans are part of us – you can’t leave part of yourself behind.’
Mr Singh contacted Sohan Singh Jolly who at the time was the president of a Sikh political party on Punjab, and a march was held in Wolverhampton which attracted 6,000 Sikhs from across the country demanding change for Sikhs.
Mr Jolly threatened to ‘burn himself to death’ after nothing happened with the march, claiming that it was a privilege to make such a sacrifice for the Sikh community.
The ban on turbans in the Wolverhampton Transport Committee was lifted on the 9th April 1969.
Now, Mr Sandhu said, Sikhs are visible everywhere, and that the city of Wolverhampton has changed drastically since those days.
Huffpost reports: ‘Anti-Semitism Hit ‘Near-Historic Levels’ In 2018, Report Finds’
The Anti-Defamation League has reported that near-record levels of Antisemitic incidents in the U.S. were maintained through 2018, The audit found that assaults against Jewish people had more than doubled since 2017.
The article presents an interactive graph of incidents against Jewish people throughout 2018, showing the highest peak of 300 attacks in November of 2018, just before the mid-term elections.
Religious News Service reports: ‘In India, charges against a Catholic bishop a victory for abused nuns’
Bishop Franco Mulakkal was accused of ‘attacking’ nine nuns from 2014 to 2016, with the Catholic Church remaining silent on the allegations.
This case is the first sexual abuse case involving a bishop to go to trial in India, with Mulakkal potentially facing life in prison.
The Rev. Augustine Vattoly, a priest in the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, has expressed his views on the system, saying:
“It’s because of the age-old belief system that asking questions of priests and bishops is sinful — that they will go to hell,”.
Vattoly further stated that unless the Bishop is convicted, and the church overhauls its values and structures in the interests of transparency and credibility, many young believers will walk away from the church.
Religious News Service further reports: ‘Facebook bans ‘dangerous individuals’ cited for hate speech’
Extremists such as Alex Jones (conspiracy theorist and runner of ‘Infowars’) and Louis Farrakhan (leader of Nation of Islam) formally allowed on the Facebook platform have been banned due to being classed as ‘dangerous individuals’ by Facebook.
The site is making an effort to remove those who promote hate, racism and antisemitism, while those affected by the bans claim it is censorship.
A former Facebook executive claimed that the move is not a big step for Facebook, as this is simply enforcing its already existing policies.
Al Jazeera reports: ‘When does Ramadan begin in 2019?’
The first day of fasting during the holy month begins with the sighting of the new moon, which will most likely be on Monday 6th May this year.
The Holy month of Ramadan is when the first verses of the Qur’an are believed to have been revealed to the Prophet Muhammad over 1,400 years ago, and is observed with ritual fasting, daily prayer, charity and celebration at the end known as Eid-al-Fitr.
Muslim nations such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Indonesia, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are likely to begin observation of the holy month on the Monday.
It has been calculated by astronomers that the new crescent moon is likely to come out on the 4th, but may not be visible. The lunar calendar is of great importance to the observation of Ramadan, with the Muslim lunar month lasting between twenty-nine and thirty days.
Al Jazeera further reports: ‘Ramadan 2019: The health benefits of fasting’
Fasting for Muslims during Ramadan takes place in the hopes of reaching higher ‘taqwa’, which is consciousness of God.
This article claims that fasting was used by the Ancient Greeks to heal the body, moreover, that experts have found the restriction of food intake in the day helps prevent high cholesterol, heart disease, and obesity, while improving mental well-being.
Nutritionist Claire Mahy stated ‘Fasting allows the gut to cleanse and strengthens its lining. It can also stimulate a process called autophagy, which is where cells self-cleanse and remove damaged and dangerous particles.’
The article goes on to speak of when not to fast, as with individuals of compromised health, who should consult a doctor before trying any form of fasting.