Religion News Roundup: Quidditch, bulletproof turbans, church bans Tai Chi class, more…

RNB Religion News Roundup: a compendium of blurbs and links to, for the most part, religion-related stories and religion research resources you may have missed.

You’ll find religion news stories ranging from serious to seriously offbeat.

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• In Ghana, [t]he District Chief Executive (DCE) for Bongo, Mr. Clement Abugri Tia, has threatened to cause the arrest and prosecution of anyone who would unjustifiably accuse his or her neighbour of being a witch or wizard. … According to him, witchcraft has no scientific evidence, and cannot also be supported by any law, therefore people cannot use it to violate the rights of others, by subjecting them to all forms of physical assaults, or in some cases killing them because they claim these persons are witches.

Mr. Abugri urged his people to leave those they claimed were witches or wizards to God to judge, since he was the only one who knows a man’s heart, and the only one who could judge such people, if really they were so.

• A less serious item: They’re playing in rain-sodden fields near the University of Wisconsin-Madison Natatorium, not in the airspace next to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And instead of zipping loop-de-loops on bewitched broomsticks, they trot doggedly with kitchen brooms between their legs.

But the nine UW-Madison students – all women – are shouting to each other about quaffles, bludgers and golden snitches, and, despite a steady rain, are clearly delighting in a vigorous game of Quidditch. Yes, Quidditch. The once-fictional game from the Harry Potter series has been translated for Muggles, or non-magical humans, and is becoming increasingly popular across college campuses.

Feng Shui

• Hong Kong: A court battle over the fortune of eccentric Hong Kong tycoon Nina Wang began Monday, pitting a charitable foundation against a feng shui master for her estimated 13-billion-dollar estate. The eight-week trial will decide whether Wang, who at one stage was Asia’s richest woman, left her entire fortune to businessman and feng shui master Tony Chan when she died of cancer in 2007 at age 69. Opposing Chan’s claim is Wang’s Chinachem Charitable Foundation, which is now controlled by her siblings, who say a will awarding Chan the huge fortune is a fake.

We’re talking Hong Kong dollars here. The amount translates to $4.2-billion…

The backstory: The sole beneficiary of Hong Kong tycoon Nina Wang’s multi-billion-dollar fortune is a low-key businessman and feng shui enthusiast, a lawyer said on Friday, playing down the likelihood of a court battle with her family.


• The Guardian reports that Sikh police seek bulletproof turbans: Sikh police officers want special bulletproof turbans to be developed so they can serve in firearms units, according to the new British Police Sikh Association. The Sikh religion requires its male followers to wear the turban, but existing police safety helmets do not fit on top of them.

Insp Gian Singh Chahal, vice-chairman of the British Police Sikh Association, said the Home Office needed to make provision for Sikhs and recognise that they had a role to play. He told Police Review: “Sikh officers have been prohibited from becoming firearms officers because our religion does not allow us to remove the turban.

Catholic Church

• Father Alberto Cutié, the celebrity priest at the center of a storm sparked by photos of him in a romantic embrace with a woman on the sands of Miami Beach, tells CBS News he’s had sex with her. He says he’s mulling his next move, which he says could range from breaking up with her to marrying her. The woman, he indicated, wants to marry him. Conceding he’s become “kind of a poster boy” for the debate over priests being celibate, Cutie’ said priestly celibacy is good, but should be optional.

Among 400 Catholics polled in Miami-Dade, most supported scandal-hit Rev. Alberto Cutie’, saying the church’s celibacy rules are outdated.


Two Amish families are out of their western Pennsylvania homes after a judge found them in contempt of court for failing to abide by municipal building and sewage regulations.

Tai Chi

A Baptist Church has decided to banish tai-chi classes from its hall because it says they clash with the Bible.
The perceived clash between the Eastern philosophies associated with tai-chi and Biblical teachings has created the religious and community furore in North-West Tasmania. The Wynyard Baptist Church has decided to banish tai-chi classes from its hall because of the discipline’s links with Taoism and Zen Buddhism.


Russell Shorto, a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, describes what it is like living in Amsterdam, Netherlands — and in the process disabuses his fellow Americans of many misconceptions about the country and its social welfare system:

There is another historical base to the Dutch social-welfare system, which curiously has been overlooked by American conservatives in their insistence on seeing such a system as a threat to their values. It is rooted in religion. “These were deeply religious people, who had a real commitment to looking after the poor,” Mak said of his ancestors. “They built orphanages and hospitals. The churches had a system of relief, which eventually was taken over by the state. So Americans should get over ‘socialism.’ This system developed not after Karl Marx, but after Martin Luther and Francis of Assisi.”

Shorto’s fourth and most recent book is “Descartes’ Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason.” Bonus at that link: a 4’48” video in which Shorto introduces the book — filmed against the scenic backdrop of Amsterdam.


The proverb says that good advice is beyond all price. But for callers to an Islamic advice line it will be 75p a minute.

Next month sees the UK launch of el-Hatef el-Islami, one of the world’s most popular Islamic hotlines. Dubbed dial-a-fatwa and dial-a-sheikh in its native Egypt, it will draw on the expertise of scholars from Cairo’s al-Azhar University to provide perplexed believers with help and religious rulings (fatwas) on everyday dilemmas. British callers can ring in with their problems, and access the answer up to 48 hours later by punching in a pin number. The hotline will also include an email facility, with advice sent in English, Urdu and Arabic at a cost of 69p a message.

El-Hatef el-Islami’s founder, Cherif Abdel Meguid, launched the service in Egypt nine years ago and the UK operation is its first foray into English-speaking countries.

In a bid to get more Muslim Americans working in the Obama administration, a book with resumes of 45 of the nation’s most qualified—Ivy League grads, Fortune 500 executives and public servants, all carefully vetted—has been submitted to the White House. The effort, driven by community leaders and others, including Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), was bumped up two weeks ahead of schedule because White House officials heard about the venture, said J. Saleh Williams, program coordinator for the Congressional Muslim Staffers Association who sifted through more than 300 names. … The effort aims to get the administration focused on Muslim Americans, a group that has at times felt like a pariah. During the campaign, Obama’s staff prevented Muslim women wearing head scarves from being photographed behind him, in one of many incidents that left Muslim Americans feeling slighted by the candidate.

A Muslim police chef claiming religious discrimination for being asked to cook pork sausages, bacon and black pudding today began his case against Scotland Yard. Hasanali Khoja says the Met Police was unable to guarantee that he would not have to handle pork products when he moved to be senior catering manager at the force’s offices in the Empress State Building, west London.

A Gallup poll examining Muslim integration in major European countries has shown that Muslims identify more strongly with the countries they live in than the population as a whole. The global study of interfaith relations showed that more than two-thirds of Muslims living in Britain, Germany and France state they are loyal to the countries they live in, even though they identify equally strongly with their religion.

However, in what the report described as a ‘gulf of misunderstanding’, only about between 30 per cent of the total population in the three countries believed that Muslims were loyal to the state. — DPA

The survey by Gallup has found that 77 per cent of Muslims say they “identified with the UK” compared with only 50 per cent of the public at large. Most Muslims – 75 per cent – say they also identify with their religion, according to the poll conducted with the interfaith Coexist Foundation.

Muslims also outscored the general public for their belief in courts, honest elections, financial institutions and the media. Confidence in the military was the only area where British Muslims scored lower than the general public.

Gallup conducted face to face interviews with more than 500 Muslims over 18 in areas where they made up more than 5 per cent of the population. That was compared with a telephone poll of 1,000 people aged over 15, weighted to reflect the general population.

• UK: A Muslim father asked the Court of Appeal to overturn an order which placed his young son in the care of his Christian grandparents. … He attended the hearing yesterday, but had his case rejected as “unarguable” by a top judge.

Hawaii’s state Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill Wednesday to celebrate “Islam Day” — over the objections of a few lawmakers who said they didn’t want to honor a religion connected to Sept. 11, 2001. … The bill seeks to recognize “the rich religious, scientific, cultural and artistic contributions” that Islam and the Islamic world have made. It does not call for any spending or organized celebration of Islam Day.

Government agents searching for evidence of terrorist funding acted reasonably when they broke down a Muslim family’s front door, entered with guns drawn and handcuffed a frantic woman and her teenage daughter, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday. … The raid on the Herndon home of Iqbal and Aysha Unus and their daughter, Hanaa, was one of several conducted in northern Virginia in 2002, months after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. No charges were filed as a result of the search, part of a federal anti-terrorism investigation called “Operation Green Quest.” Agents targeted the home of Iqbal Unus, an employee of the Islamic Institute of Islamic Thought, because he was an officer or adviser in three organizations the government suspected of supporting international terrorism. … The Unus family did prevail on one point: The court reversed U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema’s decision ordering them to pay more than $40,000 in attorney fees and costs for one of the defendants, Rita Katz, an author and terrorism researcher who provided the government information about Islamic organizations operating in the United States.


• In the tiny Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, high in the Himalayan mountains, [u]nder a new Constitution adopted last year, government programs — from agriculture to transportation to foreign trade — must be judged not by the economic benefits they may offer but by the happiness they produce.

Thailand’s Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a 50-year jail sentence for a former Buddhist abbot accused of raping nine underage hill-tribe girls kept in his care. Chamlong Polseu, 65, once a popular meditation guru who went by the clerical name Pawana Phuttho, was initially sentenced to 160 years in prison for raping and molesting the underage girls, but the jail term was reduced to 50 years.


• Interested in Christian apologetics? Then you will likely be interested in Apologia Report, a weekly research journal that summarizes and reviews numerous magazines, journals, books and news publication to identify the most valuable resources to aid Christians in their study of other worldviews. Previously available by paid subscription only, Apologia Report is now provided free of charge.

Ever so briefly

• The Los Angeles Times has an opinion piece titled, Catholic Church’s long road to accepting Judaism: The Vatican today is not the same institution that once fostered anti-Semitism.

• In Wollongong, Australia, police has been called in to safeguard the Wesley Church of the Mall because the 127-year-old sandstone building is being eroded by people both urinating and fornicating against the walls.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has incorrectly kept nearly 24,000 people on a terrorist watch list on the basis of outdated or sometimes irrelevant information, while missing people with genuine ties to terrorism who should have been on the list, according to a Justice Department report released Wednesday.

While congregation numbers continue to slide, a Church of England social networking website aims redress the balance.


Here’s what Religion News Blog’s editors twittered recently:

• Father Alberto Cutie’ says he broke his vows and may marry ‘beach woman’:

• Muslim chef sues Scotland Yard over pork sausages:

• Church wall eroded by wee and sex:

• Catholic Church’s long road to accepting Judaism:

• Converting Islamic ideals to a hip-hop flow:

• Richard Dawkins is doing religion a favor…:

• Idea that God would create the mechanism of evolution makes acceptable sense to scientist:

• Vietnam Authorities Halt Construction Work On Church Land:

• Court battle over late widow’s $4.2-billion gift to Feng Shui master: €¢ Background:

• Saudi judge: It’s OK to slap spendthrift wives:

• Trial: can family reject son’s cancer treatment? Son says treatment would violate his religious beliefs:

• ‘Dial-a-fatwa’ to launch in UK:

• No rooms for Jews: antisemitic hotel in Tyrol causes shockwaves:

• Faith is growing ever more extreme but a new book on the evolution of God gives Andrew Sullivan hope:

• Ohio teen expects to be suspended for trip to prom:

• WORLD Magazine examines fallen preacher Todd Bentley’s faith healing claims:

• Book Review: Khomeini’s Ghost – The Iranian Revolution and the Rise of Militant Islam:

• Activist calls for protection against evil spirits in election:

• Saudi Arabia’s morality police launch program to combat witchcraft and sorcery:

• UK: Bomb made by inmates to blow up Muslim prisoners came within moments of exploding:

• Security heightened for prayer-death trial: €¢ Background:

• Dalai Lama asserts that compassion is emphasized by Islam:

• Pope’s speech disappoints Muslim leaders:

• Brazil evangelicals target drug lords:

• In Iran, Christians face detention without charge, just for practising their beliefs:

• Trial for jailed cult leader Tony Alamo moved to July:

• Pope preaches tolerance:

• The Book ‘American Grace’ and How the Young View Religion:

• Controversial anti-Islam rally gets underway in Cologne:

• UK: Suspected arson attack on Islamic centre:

• UK: Huge blaze destroys Sikh temple:

• Muslim dentist ‘refused to treat female patients unless they wore Islamic dress’:

• Obama Picks Egypt for Muslim Speech:

• Judge orders Amish families out of homes:

• Obama to give speech to Muslim world on June 4:

• German city braces for anti-Islamization rally by rightists:

• The doomsday preacher who ‘saved’ Kenya Prime Minister Raila Odinga:

• Oklahoma senators salute pioneer evangelist Oral Roberts:

• President’s Late Mother Improperly, Posthumously, Baptized as Mormon: – #religion #mormon See:

• Witch hunts, murder and evil in Papua New Guinea:

• Bay Area witch wishes people would stop asking if she’s a good witch or a bad witch:

• Austria recognizes Jehovah’s Witnesses:

• Book about being raised among Jehovah’s Witnesses sends writers down memory lane:

• Survey: Jehovah’s Witnesses pray the most:

• Scientology Security Permits Not Valid: €¢ Related: Scientology problems:

• La Santisima Muerte: Inside the Death Cult: €¢ More about Santa Muerte:

• UK: Queen’s medal of honour scrapped because it’s too Christian for Muslims and Hindus:

• Islamic feminism on the rise:

• Pope arrives in Jordan to Islamic leaders’ protests:

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday May 11, 2009.
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