Religion in the News: 4th Mar – 10th Mar

Welcome to this week’s Religion in the News.


This week in the news,


Al Jazeera reports: ‘Malaysian jailed for more than 10 years for insulting Islam’

 The 10 year and 10-month long sentence is believed to be the harshest from a Muslim majority nation. Three others were charged for insults against Islam and the Prophet Muhammad on social media.

The person sentenced pleaded guilty to ten charges of anti-religious activity and misusing communications networks.

Under Malaysian law, if a person is found guilty of anti-religious activity, they can receive up to five years in jail, while the misuse of communication networks can result in a year of jail time, and/or a fine of up to 50,000 ringgits ($12,200).


Al Jazeera further reports: ‘France convicts top Catholic official over sex abuse cover-up’

 France’s top Catholic official, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin has been convicted for playing a role in the cover-up of sex abuse. He received a six-month suspended jail sentence and will offer to resign. His lawyers announced they are going to appeal the judgement on the suspended sentence.

Barbarin is the most senior French Catholic official to be caught up in the global scandal in the Catholic church. He further announced that he would present his resignation to Pope Francis in the next few days.

Barbarin’s sentencing is considered a ‘major victory’ for victims of abuse, as during the trial they accused him of being aware of abuse from 2010 onward, while attempting to cover up the abuse.


The Guardian reports: ‘Tories suspend 14 members over alleged Islamophobia’

 Fourteen members of the Conservative party have been suspended due to Islamophobic remarks in online posts found on social media, including comments such as wanting to “turf all Muslims out of public office” and wanting to “get rid of all mosques”. Many such comments were found on a Facebook group in support of Jacob Rees-Mogg.

 The Conservative party is under growing scrutiny for the party’s record on Islamophobia, with people such as former Tory chairman, Sayeeda Warsi calling for senior members of the party, such as Theresa May, to take the problem more seriously.

 A spokesperson at the Muslim Council of Britain said that the posts showed “the scale of Islamophobia at all levels of the party is astonishing”. The council calls for an independent inquiry into anti-Muslim abuse in the party.


The Guardian further reports the opinion piece: ‘There is never a reason for bigotry at the school gates’

 In this piece, the protests from parents of children at Parkfield community school in Birmingham are highlighted.

The “Stop! No Outsiders” protest against the school teaching its pupils about social diversity, including lessons on LGBT issues. Some parents at the Muslim majority school argue that gay relationships are forbidden in Islam, and so the school should not teach values at odds with their beliefs.

The article further talks on how the ‘No Outsiders’ teaching programme was designed by the assistant headteacher at the school, with the consultation of parents throughout. Andrew Moffat, it is reported, had been careful “to keep parents fully informed” and that Muslim parents appeared to accept the programme at the time.


BBC News reports: ‘John Habgood, former Archbishop of York, dies aged 91’

 Lord Hadgood was appointed the position in 1983, holding the role as Archbishop of York for twelve years.

John Habgood was a scientist and philosopher, he was regarded as the most outspoken clergyman of his time.

Margret Thatcher did not recommend him for the position of Archbishop of Canterbury as she considered him too “wet”.

Lord Habgood backed allowing for the remarriage of divorced people, and the re-licencing of remarried priests who had previously divorced. He further favoured the ordination of women and supported guaranteeing several General Synod places being reserved for black members.

Moreover, in the House of Lords, he voted against ‘Clause 23’ which would ban local authorities from “promoting homosexuality”

Current Archbishop Dr John Sentamu stated: “His towering presence, physical, intellectual, and spiritual, was a gift to all who knew him.”


The Independent reports: ‘Russia detains two US Mormons as tensions flare between Moscow and Washington’

 Two American Mormons were detained and found guilty of migration offences in Russia.

A spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed the two American citizens had been arrested in the Russian city of Novorossiysk on Wednesday.

The two, David Gaaga and Cole Brodovsky were arrested in a branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while giving an address in English.

The Russian migration laws allowed for prosecutors to contend that the “English lessons” were not compatible with the religious visas held by the men to enter the country, while the two insisted that speaking in English is part of their religious work.

A spokesperson for the US State Department said that they knew of the arrests and “had no higher priority than the protection of US citizens abroad.”


And finally,

‘photos of the week’ piece by Religion News Service, presenting photos containing forms of religious expression from throughout the week. This week, pictures feature things such as: A Hindu holy man offering prayers during the Shivaratri festival, performers from the Vila Isabel samba school during carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro prior to the Lenten fasting season, and French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin