Religion News Roundup, March 30, 2011

    Religion News

  • Jury selection begins in baby exorcism capital murder trial: Jessica Carson is accused of killing her 13-month old daughter Amora Bain Carson in 2008, after what she told authorities was an exorcism to get demons out of the child. Carson’s husband, Blaine Keith Milam, was sentenced to death for the murder.
  • France’s Islam debate attacked: Religious leaders in France’s are protesting at plans for a political debate next week on Islam’s role in the country. The top representatives of France’s Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists published a joint statement today saying the debate could add “to the confusion in the troubled period we are traversing.”
  • Moscow prosecutor refuses to ban Protocols of the Elders of Zion, one of the most infamous fake anti-Semitic book: Moscow’s chief prosecutor has refused to ban the sale of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, one of the world’s most infamous fake anti-Semitic texts, Moscow-based For Human Rights organization said Monday.
  • Christians reject Malaysia government offer to resolve dispute over seized Bibles: A dispute over the use of the word “Allah” as a translation for God prompted custom authorities to hold 5,000 Indonesian-produced Bibles since 2009 and another 30,000 earlier this year. The government bans the use of “Allah” in non-Islamic texts, saying it could confuse majority Muslims or be used to convert them. The ban is being reviewed by a court. The government last week offered to release the Bibles if the words “For Christianity” are stamped on them, scraping plans to put serial numbers and seals on each after Christians slammed the move as desecrating their holy book.
  • Geert Wilders ‘hate speech’ trial to go ahead in Amsterdam: Mr Wilders, whose Freedom Party props up the government, had argued the court could not try the case as the alleged offences took place in The Hague. He insists his remarks on Islam were part of a legitimate political debate.
  • First medical expert testifies in sweat lodge case: Defense attorney Truc Do wrote out two lists on a white easel for jurors in the self-help author James Arthur Ray’s manslaughter case — one with symptoms of heat exhaustion and the other with symptoms of heat stroke. As she questioned the state’s first medical expert on the witness stand Tuesday, she put a check mark next to the symptoms that could be indicative of poisoning as well as exposure to heat during a sweat lodge ceremony.
  • Turkish police search theology professors’ homes in murder probe: Police raided the Istanbul apartment of Zekeriya Beyaz, a well- known theologian who had written an unpublished manuscript on the political activities of certain religious movements in Turkey, along with the homes and offices of at least four professors in other provinces. Two Turkish converts to Christianity and a German national who ran the Zirve publishing house, which distributed Bibles, were murdered in the eastern province of Malatya in April 2007. While the trial of the suspected murderers continues, prosecutors have begun exploring whether the killings are connected to Ergenekon, an alleged nationalist network accused of plotting to bring down the government. The separate Ergenekon investigation and trial has seen the arrests of hundreds of people, including numerous journalists, academics and politicians, since it was launched in 2008.
    Hate Groups

  • Only 14, Bangladeshi girl charged with adultery was lashed to death: Hena Akhter’s last words to her mother proclaimed her innocence. But it was too late to save the 14-year-old girl.
    Her fellow villagers in Bangladesh’s Shariatpur district had already passed harsh judgment on her. Guilty, they said, of having an affair with a married man. The imam from the local mosque ordered the fatwa, or religious ruling, and the punishment: 101 lashes delivered swiftly, deliberately in public. Hena dropped after 70. Bloodied and bruised, she was taken to hospital, where she died a week later. Amazingly, an initial autopsy report cited no injuries and deemed her death a suicide. Bangladesh is considered a democratic and moderate Muslim country, and national law forbids the practice of sharia. But activist and journalist Shoaib Choudhury, who documents such cases, said sharia is still very much in use in villages and towns aided by the lack of education and strong judicial systems. The Supreme Court also outlawed fatwas a decade ago, but human rights monitors have documented more than 500 cases of women in those 10 years who were punished through a religious ruling. And few who have issued such rulings have been charged. Note: Religion News Blog classifies news about crimes committed in the name of Islam under the heading ‘Hate Groups.’ There are many expressions of Islam, ranging from moderate to destructive. Destructive Islam must be combated fot its hate crimes. In addition, civilized countries must never allow for Sharia to be practiced.
  • Al Qaeda: Arab revolts herald “great leap forward”: Western and Arab officials say the example set by young Arabs seeking peaceful political change is a counterweight to al-Qaeda’s push for violent militancy and weakens its argument that democracy and Islam are incompatible. But al Qaeda preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, in an article published online on Tuesday, said the removal of anti-Islamist autocrats meant Islamic fighters and scholars were now freer to discuss and organise.
    Analysis, Commentary, Opinion

  • How Evangelists Invented ‘Dravidian Christianity’: In south India, a new identity called Dravidian Christianity is being constructed. It is an opportunistic combination of two myths: the “Dravidian race” myth and another that purports that early Christianity shaped the major Hindu classics.
  • Why There Are Still Atheists: For many atheists, it’s not “cool, rational inquiry” that led to their atheism. Rather, in many cases it’s complex moral and psychological factors that produce atheism. For example, Spiegel points to research suggesting that some prominent atheists had broken, defective relationships with their fathers. Others live in perpetual disobedience and rebellion—resisting lifestyle changes required upon adopting theism. And still others confess that they just don’t want there to be a God.
  • Creation Museum Founder Disinvited from Homeschooling Conferences: Conference organizer said that Ken Ham made ‘unnecessary, ungodly, and mean-spirited’ comments about Biologos’s Peter Enns.
  • Israeli-Palestinian standoff: Never-ending ‘eye for an eye’: “Each strike by Palestinians against Israelis and each strike by Israelis against Palestinians are in retaliation for a previous attack,” said Stephen Johnson*, a Christian worker among Palestinians. “‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ is never ending.” It’s been years of territorial back and forth for the two groups, ending most recently in 2009 after a war that saw 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis die. Since then, relative calm had pervaded, and Israel had seemed like the eye of the political storm sweeping the region. But that all changed in the past few weeks.
  • Blasphemy laws punish Muslims, too: Terry Mattingly comments on a recent news story
  • Fasting and praying for the poor: Faced with an unjust rule of Persian king who threatened the very lives of her Jewish people, the Jewish heroine Queen Esther called on the faithful to fast and pray for their rulers to have a change of heart. Taking their cue from Esther, a diverse coalition of religious leaders — from Bread for the World, World Vision, MercyCorps, Sojourners, the ONE Campaign and the Alliance to End Hunger — are calling on Americans of good faith to join them in fasting and prayer to protest proposed budget cuts that would jeopardize the poor, sick and hungry at home and abroad.

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