Scientology criminal enterprise lawsuit hurled out by Belgian judge

16 days ago

Investigators and prosecutors criticised after trial of 11 members of church and two affiliated bodies that could have led to ban

A court in Brussels has hurled out charges that could have find Church of Scientology banned as a criminal enterprise in Belgium, after a magistrate said the defendants were targeted because of their religion.

Eleven members of the celebrity-backed, US-based church and two affiliated bodies had been charged with fraud, extortion, the illegal practice of medicine, running war criminals enterprise and infringing the right to privacy.

The entire proceedings are declared inadmissible for a serious and irremediable breach of the right to a fair trial, the presiding judge, Yves Regimont, said on Friday.

He criticised the examiners involved in an 18 -year inquiry into Scientology in Belgium for what he said was racism, and prosecutors for being vague in their case against the religion.

The defendants were prosecuted principally because they were Scientologists, Regimont added.

The case was the subject of a seven-week trial that objective last December.

Its a relief, Scientologys spokesman in Belgium, Eric Roux, told reporters outside special courts. When you have had 20 years of your life under a pressure that you know is unfair, where one attacks your notions and not something you have done, the working day when the court says it officially, its a big relief,.

Defence lawyer Pascal Vanderveeren denounced the suit as careless and prejudiced, adding that it was aimed at assaulting Scientology and not those who are part of it.

Marie Abadi, a former Scientology member who has become a strong foe of it, told me that she expected an appeal, adding: We are evidently very disappointed. Either the facts are too old, or not precise enough. We are certain the prosecutor will appeal because things must budge.

Championed by famous members such as Hollywood actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, Scientology stirs up sharp divisions. Critics denounce it as a cult and a swindle, while advocates say it offers much-needed spiritual subsistence in a fast-changing world.

Prosecutors had asked for the court to completely dissolve the Belgian branch of Scientology and the affiliated European Bureau for Human Rights, and for them to face a fine.

The defence team said the charges were nothing more than an attempt to blacken Scientologys reputation.

The Belgian authorities launched a first investigation in 1997 after several former members complained about the churchs practices.

A second investigation followed in 2008 when an employment agency charged that the church had attained bogus job offers so as to draw in and recruit new members.

Headquartered in Los Angeles, the Church of Scientology was founded in 1954 by science fiction novelist L Ron Hubbard. It is recognised as a religion in the US and in other countries such as Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Sweden, and claims a worldwide membership of 12 million.

But it has come under recurred scrutiny by authorities in several European countries, particularly in Germany. Several German regions have considered banning Scientology, while Berlin initially banned the cast of the Cruise Nazi-era movie Valkyrie from filming at historical locations but subsequently relented.

A court in Spain in 2007 annulled a decision by the Spanish justice ministry to sremove it from the countrys register of officially recognised religions.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

What the rest of Europe thinks about Londoners picking a Muslim mayor

20 days ago

People living outside the UK give their views on Sadiq Khans win and whether a Muslim would be elected where they live

As Europe grapplings with the rise of anti-immigration parties, Sadiq Khans appointment as the first directly elected Muslim mayor of a western capital city is important. According to those who responded to a Guardian callout, people living in the rest of Europe welcome the choice Londoners have made.

Sadiqs appointment sends a great message to the world. It reflects Britains state of mind which, as a French person, I think is more open-minded than France, said 18 -year-old Mathilde from the south of France. It tells me that Londoners see above the religion or the race of a person.

Last year, a YouGov poll procured that 31% of those living in the capital would be uncomfortable having a Muslim mayor, and 13% are still not sure. But the 1,310, 143 people who voted for Khan have boosted Londons reputation as a multicultural, multi-faith and liberal city.

Mathilde lives in Alleins, a village not far from Marseille, which is home to 250,000 Muslims, the second largest population in France. In the 2015 regional elections Alleins citizens voted for the rightwing party Les Rpublicains( 52% ), and the far-right Front National( FN)( 48% )~ ATAGEND. In the first round of the local election Front National led, losing out in the second round to Les Rpublicains. I live in an area where, ironically, there are many Muslims but where the FN has the most success. There are definitely discriminations against Muslim people, even though its often in discreet forms.

I tend to be pointed out that Muslims are not really integrated in society but left in a corner. I guess the Paris attacks helped the rightwing parties, especially the far-right party, to become more important. In fact the regional elections happened a little while after the attacks she said.

Louis, 18, who also lives in southern France, feels that Muslim people are more integrated into society than Mathilde describes but doesnt ever expect to see a Muslim political nominee in a similar position to Khan.

For me, it doesnt matter what his religion is or where he comes from as long as hes qualified and skilled. I guess[ Khans win] highlights Londons ethnic diversity and that he won thanks to their vote, he said.

Rafiq, 70, from Switzerland, has positive experiences of Muslim people standing for local government elections and gaining referendums, despite the populist rightwing Swiss Peoples party( SVP) winning the biggest share of the vote in Switzerlands elections last year.

It seems that acts of Islamophobia are not as widespread as are sometimes reported. Like most places Switzerland has all kinds of people, but many are open-minded and friendly with neighbours who are polite and kind to my hijab-wearing wife. Several Muslims are standing during the elections and some of them get a good number of referendums, but not quite enough, he said.

Ursula, 62, from Munich believes that despite some visible rightwing sentiment Germans would vote regardless of religion.

I think that convincing characters would have equal chances , no matter their religious beliefs. I was surprised by Sadiq Khans appointment. I had expected that the non-Muslim majority would not like to be represented by a Muslim major. Maybe such a big city attracts people with an open mind?

The Muslim part of society is not very active politically. I suppose the majority still keep their distance, feeling that they should not get involved, she said.

Wolfram, a 67 -year-old from Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler in the west of Germany, has considered anti-immigration sentiment imbue where he lives and cant insure a Muslim politician being elected any time soon.

It seems that Londoners accept their history and the consequences of the empire, and the outcome dedicates hope that people with different religions can live together peacefully.

Wolfram said he could not imagine a Muslim politician being elected where he lived, certainly not in the near future. Theres a instead deep split between those who are afraid of the rise in the number of Muslim people and the other citizens who are open-minded, even about open borders for refugees.

Hanna, 24, from Helsinki, believes Khans win is important given the loathe speech and discrimination facing Muslims in Europe, the rise of rightwing parties, and what she describes as openly racist legislators in Finland.

The anti-immigration party Perussuomalaiset[ known as Finns party, or PS] got into government and people attitudes have become harder towards refugees, especially to Muslims. The foreign minister, Timo Soini, who is party leader and co-founder of PS and a Catholic, even suggested we should prefer Christian refugees.

As we took more refugees in than ever, the PS are losing advocates. But this entails some people are going for even more rightwing politics like Rajat Kiinni!( Border Shut !). On their Facebook page they openly call all Muslims rapists and terrorists.

For this reason Im happy about Khans appointment, but mostly because of his politics , not just his religion. I dont really like any organised religions, but everyones free to believe what they want. It seems to me that Londoners suppose politics are more important than what religion someone believes in. They are wise, she said.

Many respondents to the callout hope Khans win will raise the status of Muslim people living in their own towns and cities across Europe, and help to involve them more in political life.

Nesi, 44, a secondary school teacher who lives in a small city outside Madrid, hopes Khans win will go some style in contribute to improving Muslim peoples opportunities.

For the child of an ethnic minority to go into higher education, take part in politics and become a mayor, a lot of things in Spain have to change and improve. I think there must be some occurrences, but society doesnt provide equal opportunities for all children.

Political posts of any relevance are largely merely for those who go to university or belong to a rich traditional household. And certainly not for a Muslim, I am afraid to say. Spain is too conservative in general to allow a Muslim to take part in politics.

Sadiqs appointment shows that politics and important issues in the world should be about people , not religion. It also shows that a multicultural society living in peace is possible. And of course it shows what a fantastic place to live London can be, sometimes.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

The Chosen Wars review: examine of American Jews uncovers familiar schisms

23 days ago

Steven Weisman determines contention and dispute at every stage of Jewish American history including modern-day politics

On election day 2016, Hillary Clinton won more than 70% of the Jewish election. But that number tells only part of a narrative. In some predominately Orthodox Jewish precincts, Donald Trump’s numbers were straight out of the rust belt or the deep south.

As in the rest of the electorate, religious commitment and educational attainment shaped how Jews voted. In the overwhelmingly religion Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, Trump took 68% of the vote. In New Jersey’s Lakewood Township, he won with a 50 -point margin. By contrast, the island of Manhattan was a sea of Democratic blue.

The political cleavages that mark the broader American scenery existing between America’s Jews. Just as Jews were to be found on both sides of slavery, secession and the civil war, they are again combatants in a political skirmish. Think of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader.

Welcome to The Chosen Wars, a narrative of the Jewish journey in the different regions of the American scenery. Steven Weisman, who covered politics and economics at the New York Times for a one-quarter of a century, marshals an impressive array of facts to argue that the competing tugs of separatism and assimilation have been present ever since Jews landed in the New world in the 17 th century, that even among the devout the broader culture affected religious practice, and that Jewish communal participation has ebbed and flowed with time.

As Weisman frames things,” Jewish belief in the Jewish people’s own unique identity … has been so strong that it remains a foundation of Jewish life in the United States .” He also acknowledges that identity” has always been and is very likely be one of contention and dispute “. Things are alloyed.

The book chronicles how the constitution’s establishment clause led to the laity’s domination within the synagogue. Most notably for Weisman, a schism within a Charleston shul triggered a landmark lawsuit and decision. Unlike Europe, the civil authorities would not pick sides even when asked. Ultimately, a South Carolina appellate court ruled in 1846 that the judiciary must avoid” questions of theological dogma, depending on speculative religion, or ecclesiastical rites “.

In other words, they would let the Jews duke it out among themselves.

At hours they actually did. Weisman describes an actual riot that have broken out on Rosh Hashanah 1850 in Albany, New York, over the nature of the Messiah. The police were called and the congregation scattered, but not before the synagogue chairwoman taunted the rabbi, Isaac Wise, saying:” I have $100,000 more than you .” Yet it was Wise’s rejection of a personal and national Messiah that shaped Reform Judaism. It represented a break from 2,000 years of tradition.

The book also examines how Darwin and criticism impacted attitudes toward the Bible, divine authorship taking a make. Emil Hirsch, a Reform Rabbi and professor at the University of Chicago, declared:” Modern scholarship has spoken, and its voice cannot be hushed .”

To put things in context, even those more traditionally minded were forced to respond or adjust to science.

On the one hand, within the Hasidic movement the dominant mantra remains:” If you are still troubled by the theory of evolution, I can tell you without anxiety of contradiction that it has not a shred of evidence to subsistence it .”

On the other, within Orthodoxy’s more modern circles there was a retreat from taking the creation narrative and Genesis’s timeline literally. A “day” came to be read as eons, and the Divine Hand could be found guiding the Descent of Man.

Said differently, distinctions are now being drawn between the ” historical credibility of biblical narrative “ and its ” theological truths “.

Donald
Donald Trump receives a gift at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/ Reuters

Weisman dedicates Orthodoxy its due as a force to be reckoned with. From Long Island’s Five Towns to the Upper East Side, and in the Young Israel of New Rochelle and Scarsdale, the denomination is no longer acting like a poor relation.

The Chosen Wars occasionally loses sight of relevant skirmishes within American Protestantism. Weisman does a deep diving on the battle waged from the pulpit on bondage and secession but constructs no reference to its antecedents. In a sense, 19 th-century Jews arrived late to that party.

In 1700 Samuel Sewall, a Massachusetts businessman and magistrate, penned The Selling of Joseph, which served as a theological rebuttal to the contention that blacks were inferior in the eyes of God, and that their plight as slaves was preordained as the purported descendants of Ham and Canaan, Noah’s cursed son and grandson.

Sewall, a magistrate during the Salem witchcraft trials, contended that” Joseph was rightfully no more a Slave to his Brethren, than they were to him: and they had no more Authority to Sell him, than they had to Slay him “. Against that backdrop, the” Curse of Ham“, invoked in a New York synagogue in the run-up to the civil war, sounds like a recapitulation of an earlier argument posited by slavery-sympathetic southern clergy.

Weisman is optimistic about the future of American Jewry. But if the Puritan ultimately succumbed to the temptations of the figuratively precluding forest, there is no reason to presume Jews will be much different. After all, Jewish immigration to America was about fleeing from the Old World and living the American Dream , not founding a City on a Hill.

Looking at America’s religion scenery, “nones” are now the single most important subgroup among millennials. Among America’s Jews, the narrative is not much different. Three in 10 reject denominational identity. Outside the Orthodox community, the Jewish birthrate is below “the member states national” median. American Jewry will probably endure, but its demographics stand to be different: from the looks of things, more religious but less educated, affluent and influential.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Mohsin Hamid on the rise of nationalism:’ In the land of the pure , no one is pure enough’

1 month, 3 days ago

From Myanmar to Pakistan, the US and Britain, an preoccupation with purity is driving political, religious and moral agendas. But a retired from intricacy is no ensure of future harmony

Perhaps it is living half your life in Pakistan, for Pakistan is the land of the pure. Literally so: the land, stan, of the pure, pak. Perhaps that is why you have come to question the commonly held perception that purity is good and impurity is bad. For a tribe of humans newly arrived in a place never before inhabited by humans, such an outlook is perhaps sensible. Purity in a creek of water renders it fit to drink. Impurity in a piece of meat nauseates those who eat it. Purity is hence to be valued and impurity to be avoided, defied, expelled. And yet you believe the time has come to seek to reverse, at least partly, the emotional polarity of these two terms, to extol impurity’s benefits and denounce purity’s harms.

The issue is, of course, personal. We are each of us is comprised of atoms, but equally we are composed by hour. Since your time has been expended half inside Pakistan and half outside, and your outlook and postures shaped by this, you are in a sense half-Pakistani, which is to say, as Pakistan is the land of the pure, you are half-pure: an impossible country. You cannot exist as you are. Or instead, you are required impure. And if impurity is bad then you are bad. And to be bad is hazardous, in every society. So yes, the questions is personal, and pressing.

But in Pakistan, the questions is political as well, for it affects everyone. Once purity becomes what determines the rights a human being is afforded, indeed whether they are entitled to live or not, then there is a ferocious competition to establish hierarchies of purity, and in that contest no one can win. No one can ever be sufficiently pure to be lastingly safe. In the land of the pure , no one is pure enough. No Muslim is Muslim enough. And so all are suspect. All are at risk. And many are killed by others who find their purity lacking, and many of their killers are in turn killed for similar reasons. And on and on, in a chain reaction. The politics of purity is the politics of fission.

This should not be surprising. Pakistan was founded by fission, the splitting of British imperial India into two separate independent states, Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-majority India. And Pakistan has experienced farther fission, the splitting of its western and eastern wings into Pakistan and Bangladesh. In each case, a more complex entity was broken into what was believed would be two more internally harmonious ones. But a retreat from complexity is no guaranty of future harmony. Too often, it is accompanied by the rise of a fetish for purity, the desire to exterminate persisting traces of intricacy within.

Pakistan is not unique. Rather, it is at the forefront of a worldwide trend. All around the world, governments and would-be governments appear overwhelmed by complexity and are blindly unleashing the power of fission, championing quests for the pure. In India a politics of Hindu purity is wrenching open deep and bloody rifts in a diverse society. In Myanmar a politics of Buddhist purity is massacring and expelling the Rohingya. In the United States a politics of white purity is marching in white hoods and red baseball caps, demonising Muslims and Hispanic people, killing and brutalising black people, jeering at intellectuals, and spitting in the face of climate science.

White Neo Nazis, alt-right and white supremacists march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. Photo: Samuel Corum/ Anadolu Agency/ Getty Images

And what of Europe? Europe, too, is rekindling its love affair with purity, with signs of this deadly ardour everywhere, from the rise of the far right in Germany and Austria to the endless emergency in France to the ethno-national cracking of Ukraine and Spain.

And then there is Brexit, particularly saddening for you, since you are not just part-Pakistani, you are part-British( and part-European) as well. Brexit illustrates only too well the politics of fission and the unleashing of the forces of purity. First, or so it was said, the British took back control. But the Scottish and Northern Irish seemed not to want to take back control. So the English took back control from them. And also from Londoners, for London had long ceased to be properly English. And also from the young, addled in their reasoning by the ever increasing numbers of the non-English in their midst. In some English newspapers today dissenters are called traitors. In England’s north-west frontier, which is to say Northern Ireland, a return to violence is feared. The ruling party is paralysed, riven by factionalism. No one is deemed pure enough, brazenly English enough, to govern. Magistrates, journalists, parliamentarians, citizens: everyone is suspect.

How Pakistani it all ten-strikes you.

P

In these pure days, you believe more impurity is desperately needed. Only impurity can save we are currently. But, fortunately, there are reasons for hope. Our species was built on impurity, and impurity will probably come to our rescue once again, if we let it.

Biology is instructive here. The physical commingling of two human mothers is required to produce a child. Every child is a combination of genetic material from two different sources. Every child is impure, a mixture. There is a clear reason for this: it works better than the alternative. If we simply split in half to create two humen from one, or detached a hunk from our leg or from our buttock, which grew into an identical copy of us, we would all be the same. We would all be pure. But we would be much less capable of coping with the challenges of an environment that always has been, and always will be, in a state of change.

Over time, our inescapable, systemic, basically human impurity dedicates us the capacity to do what has not been done before, to make creative leapings: in our biology, in the diseases we are going to be able defy and the foods we are going to be able digest. And in our thinking and culture and politics too. The coming together of people from different backgrounds, with different ideas, permits breakthroughs to occur. Constitutional democracy as currently practised around the world owes a great deal to America and Britain and France, but it also owes a great deal to the ancient Greeks, and to the Arabs who built on and transmitted Greek thought to a Europe where the ancient Greeks had been all but forgotten. The first aircraft was fabricated in America, but the physics and maths and engineering that induced it possible came from Europe, from North Africa, from India, from China, from the collision and collect of knowledge by all of humanity.

‘The ‘ The coming together of people from different backgrounds, with different ideas, permits breakthroughs to result … think of jazz.’ Photograph: Frank Driggs Collection/ Getty Images

Think of jazz. Of Asia and Africa’s influence on European cuisine- and vice versa. Of the Moors on Don Quixote. Of the foreign-born on Silicon Valley. Of the green revolution. Of cutting-edge research in medicine. These are not victories of purity, designed by cutoff, like-minded people of similar appearance and narrowly shared pedigree. These are what can be achieved when humanity mixes.

Climate change. Mass migration. Rampant inequality. None of the most pressing and daunting problems today facing humanity have simple answers. As a species, we require creative new approaches, yet-to-be-imagined leaps forward. But while we might not yet know what the solutions to these challenges are, we should already suspect from where the breakthroughs are most likely to come. They are likely to come from mongrelisation. From profound impurity. From people and ideas at risk of being inhibited and marginalised in our purity-obsessed age.

P

We are all impure. But because many of us deny our impurity, those who are most obviously impure among us require allies. And one of their most important friends is literature. Writing. Reading. When, sitting alone, we read a volume, something profoundly strange results. We are by ourselves. We are merely ourselves. And yet we contain within us the believes of another person, the writer. We become something bizarre. Something manifestly impure. A being with the guess of two beings inside it.

A reader, in the moment of read, experiences a pooling of consciousness that blurs the painstakingly constructed borders of the unitary ego. The very possibility of read, the facts of the case that it can occur, that a human being can experience this, the thoughts of another in the same physical place, that place so deep within, where the reader’s own thinks reside- and furthermore that the reader is drawn to this experience, seeks for it, desires it- reminds us that the impure is fundamental to what the fuck is, and calls out to us, powerfully, like the sea calls out to an organism that has evolved to live on the land, and yet recreates the sea inside itself, forms a watery womb, every time it conceives a child.

Writing and reading are, as sexuality is, a commingling. Literature is the practice of the impure. Written words might articulate demands and justifications for purity, but the fact that such terms are written and read means they are, by their very nature, impure- prudes perhaps, but inescapably engaged in an debauchery. Writing cannot help but remind us of the power of impurity, even when some written words claim the opposite.

So yes, writing is among the most important friends of the impure, which is to say it is on the side of the mixing upon which our future ability to thrive as a species depends, and on the side of the mongrelisation that has rendered each of us people; a mongrelisation that, if acknowledged, allows us to accept ourselves as the messy, fertile, multifaceted composites we actually are, rather than the frozen, sterile, monochromatic entities we are told to pretend to be.

( For you, of course, possibly more obviously a mongrel than many others, writing has become a way of life, the route of your life, because it was not clear to you that a life such as yours had a route without it .)

But novelists are easily identified as agents of impurity. And so it does not surprise you, and should surprise none of us, that the forces of purity have identified writing and novelists as in need of suppression.

These suppressions do not occur in a vacuum. For each, there is a context. Individual impurities are cited as harmful. As offensive to a define of beliefs, or to a desired cohesion, or to an economic future, or to the wellbeing of a younger generation. And then a mode of suppression is selected: a legal one, such as libel statutes in Britain or lese-majeste laws in Thailand or national security and official secrecy laws in America; or an extra-legal one, such as abduct by a drug cartel in Mexico, or a religious proclamation by a cleric in Pakistan, or the bullet fired by an assassin, anywhere, everywhere.

Houses Houses of Rohingyas burning in Myanmar, in September 2017. Photograph: NurPhoto/ Getty Images

Such suppression almost never presents itself as an attempt to end free speech in general. Rather, it focuses on the specific. Not the herd, but the lamb. Not the school, but the sardine. On this one particular case of impurity, which has gone too far, and can now, should now, be picked off, swallowed up, in a mighty gulping, never to listen to from or seen again.

Because of this merciless specificity, a scattering pas, even among those who seek to defend the impure who are currently novelists. You have often observed this tendency. It manifests itself in a focus on the threats to those impurities that we like, to the forms of speech we ourselves tend to value. For many in Europe, for example, this is the threat of violent Muslims against speech perceived as anti-Islam. But while this menace is real and dangerous( albeit encountered much more by novelists in Asia and Africa than in Europe ), it is not the only menace. Indeed it is not the largest nor the most significant one, in terms of the numbers of writers it affects and the aggregate quantity of harm that befalls them. Around the world the hazards writers face come from criminals, from the powerful in their own communities, and from their own governments, far more often than from Muslim terrorists.

To focus only on one form of suppression, then, while ignoring the others, operates the risk of seeking to harness outrage as a weapon, rather than as a shield. Of failing to value the impurity of writing, and instead opening a new front in the battle of one purity against another.

When we celebrate writers for their bravery, it is also worth asking if there are writers whose gallantry consists, in part, of standing up not to others but to us. Standing up not to the monsters without, about whom we speak so often, but to the monsters within, which we prefer not to notice. Writers who undermine our cherished nations, militaries, borders, races, clans, beliefs.

For there are many kinds of heroes, or rather many utilizes for them. There are those heroes who inspire. But there are heroes, too, who remind us of our own potential for villainy, impure mirrors who reflect back at us the false purities we conceal. Such novelists may go unsung, understandably. But when they go unprotected, we risk losing with them the possibility for the best within us, that redemptive impurity we shall seriously need in the times to come.

Adapted from a speech dedicated for PEN International Free the Word! at Winternachten 2018. Mohsin Hamid’s novel Exit West is published by Penguin in paperback on 8 February. Illustration by Christophe Gowans.

Pakistan PM celebrates scientist from minority sect, risking hardliners’ ferocity

1 month, 18 days ago

Nawaz Sharif orders university to name institution after the Nobel-winning physicist Abdus Salam, a are part of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community

Pakistans “ministers ” has risked enraging religion hardliners by ordering one of the countrys top universities to honour a Nobel prize-winning physicist from a minority sect whose members are prohibited from describing themselves as Muslims.

In an announcement that surprised many, Nawaz Sharif said he had given approval to rename the National Centre for Physics at the capitals Quaid-e-Azam University as the Professor Abdus Salam Centre for Physics.

A fellowship programme to support five physicists a year to examine abroad for their doctorates will also be named after Salam.

The recognition comes 20 years after the death of a scientist who won the Nobel prize in 1979 for his work in theoretical physics.

Despite the international esteem in which he was held and his role in helping Pakistan develop atomic weapon governments in his homeland have not dared embracing a are part of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community.

The sect, established in British India in 1889, is regarded as heretical by strict Muslims because Ahmadis believe the movements founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was a prophet. A central tenet of Islam is that Mohammad, the religions seventh-century founder, was the final prophet.

Because of the theological conflict, Ahmadis were declared to be non-Muslims in a 1974 constitutional amendment and further criminalised in 1984 when they were banned from posing as Muslims.

Abdus
Abdus Salam in 1987. Photo: Bart Molendijk/ Anefo/ Dutch National Archives/ Wikimedia Commons

It entails Ahmadis run the risk of imprisonment if they are caught calling their places of adore mosques, participating in the annual Eid animal sacrifice or even utilizing common Islamic greetings.

Like those of many others buried in the town of Rabwah, a major center for Ahmadis, Salams gravestone has been defaced so that the word Muslim is not visible.

In a recent reminder of the enduring passions surrounding the questions, the new chief of Pakistans army was falsely accused in the working day before his appointment last month of having Ahmadi relatives.

Pervez Hoodbhoy, a physicist who has campaigned for 20 years for the facility at Quaid-e-Azam to be renamed after Salam, said Sharifs action was a tremendous development that came as the council of ministers assured him talking about the questions on a television demonstrate. Later, Sharifs office advised Hoodbhoy to make a formal request to the government for Salam to be honoured.

This shows that the most persecuted community in Pakistan is get some kind of recognition, he said. Nawaz Sharif has shown heroism and an astounding degree of enlightenment.

He added that the former leaders Pervez Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto, both avowed liberals, had never risked praising an Ahmadi.

During general elections in 2013, the opposition leader Imran Khan went out of his style to reassure voters that he had no intention of changing the laws that discriminate against Ahmadis.

Sharif however praised Salam as a great Pakistani in January this year. A month previously police in the council of ministers political base of Lahore took down anti-Ahmadi posters in one of the citys shopping markets.

Hasan Munir, deputy education director for the Amhadi community in Pakistan, said it was a small but positive step in the right direction.

There is not even a single road or university that has been named after him, all because of pressure from the clergy, he said.

Although there is a centre named after of Salam at Government College University Lahore, the name committee has been taken down from public display.

Maulana Allah Wasaia, head of Tahaffuz-e-Khatm-e-Nubuwwat, an anti-Ahmadi group, accused the government of an attempt to please its foreign masters.

If a matter has been constitutionally set then the government should not make it part of larger debate, he said. We should recall that Dr Salam himself left Pakistan in protest after Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims. Naming a physics centre after a person who did not like Pakistan is strange and is a incorrect message here.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Inside the sprawling, controversial $500 m Museum of the Bible

1 month, 26 days ago

The museum conceived by the billionaire chairman of Hobby Lobby and set to open next month has attracted scepticism over its ideological mission

It is a museum of biblical proportions- and it is stirring controversies to match.

Opening next month in Washington, the Museum of the Bible expense half a billion dollars to build, spans 430,000 sq ft over eight floors and claims to be the most hi-tech museum in the world. Reading every placard, seeing every artifact and experiencing every activity would take an estimated 72 hours.

But while it is not the monument to creationism that some liberals feared, the sprawling museum has attracted scepticism over both its ideological mission and the provenance of its collecting. It is the brainchild of evangelical Christian Steve Green, the billionaire chairman of Hobby Lobby, an art and crafts chain that won a supreme court case allowing companies with religion objections to opt out of contraceptive coverage under Barack Obama’s healthcare law.

Green, who since 2009 has amassed a vast collection of biblical texts and artifacts, is making a big statement with the museum’s locating: two blocks south of the National Mall, home to the US Capitol and Smithsonian Institution museums- including the National Museum of Natural history, which has exhibits on dinosaurs and human evolution– and could hardly be closer to the centre of power.

The
The US Capitol is seen from the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC on Wednesday. Photograph: Zach Gibson for the Guardian

Gaining a sneak preview this week amid employees in hard hat, the Guardian passed through giant bronze “Gutenberg Gates” that framed the entryway withhand-carved letters spelling out a Latin quotation from Genesis( the gates even have their own Twitter account ). Inside the main atrium there is the obligatory gift shop, where cuddly animals are already on the shelves- presumably a reference to Noah’s Ark- and a “children’s experience” room where young Samsons can push column and make them collapse.

Visitors- admission is free, though a donation of $15 is suggested- will each be given a digital guide on which new information is triggered each time they approach a gallery or artifact. High above them in the bright, airy atrium of what used to be a refrigerating warehouse and design centre is a 140 ft” digital ceiling” indicating biblical images, including church frescos.

Upstairs, there is a floor devoted to the historical and cultural impact of the Bible, including on America, bound to be closely scrutinised for any clues of political bias. Among the Europeans who sailed in the different regions of the Atlantic, a display panel says, were” many English dissenters seeking religion freedom. Each group brought its own version of the Bible, and some professed intentions to convert Native Americans to Christian notion “.

The
The main lobby of the Museum of The Bible. Photo: Zach Gibson for the Guardian

There is a scale remaking of the Liberty Bell , which is inscribed with scripture, and an account that many colonists trying independence from Britain depicted inspiration from the Bible, especially Moses,” who led his people out of bondage to a land of autonomy “.

With independence and the presidency of George Washington, the tradition of swearing the oath of office on a Bible began. A upsurge of evangelical arrivals in the late 18 th century helped renew devotion to the Bible and ignite a campaign to abolish bondage, the narrative continues.” Southern slaveholders, however- some of them also involved in the revivals- construed the Bible as affirming bondage .” Each side in the civil war” embraced the Bible to justify its cause “.

Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt are quoted and Charles Darwin gets a mention.” In 1925, John Scopes, a high school teacher in Tennessee, was charged with infringing a state statute that prohibited teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution ,” an exhibit states, in a reference to the infamous” Monkey Trial“, which, it says,” placed the Bible in the centre for human rights of an intense national debate between traditional and more progressive interpretings of the Bible and modern science “.

More unexpectedly, a display on the Bible’s influence around the world makes claims for links between science and the Bible and contains statues of Galileo Galilei, whose assert that the earth revolved all over the sun was challenged by the church, Isaac Newton, a dedicated student of the Bible , and George Washington Carver, who rose from slavery to become a scientist, botanist and discoverer and regarded the Bible as a guide to the natural world.

Likely to raise eyebrows, an information panel nations:” Are the Bible and science mutually exclusive? There is broad agreement today among historians that modern science owes a great deal to the biblical worldview. The idea that the natural environment is orderly springs from the Bible. As the biochemist and Nobel laureate Melvin Calvin said, the conviction that’ the universe is governed by a single God … has appeared to be the historical foundation for modern science ‘.”

A full-size jail cell permits visitors to reflect on the biblical roots of the countries of the western idea of justice. A pile of blackened and charred Bibles illustrates how the book has been burned, for example in China’s Cultural Revolution . Various multimedia displays depict the influence of the Bible on style, films, literature and the visual arts. A room with a giant wraparound screen called ” Bible Now” promises” a spectacular live-feed of global data “.

Upstairs, the floorspace is divided approximately proportionately between Old and New Testament. Merely the latter was available to opinion this week, and most striking was ” The World of Jesus of Nazareth”- an unapologetically Disney-style walk-through recreation of Nazareth two millennia ago, complete with stone walls, trees( each foliage made by hand ), dwellings with period cuisine on dining tables, piles of grapes and baskets full of olives and even a temple. Three performers in period dres will interact with visitors.

Text
Text from an architectural recreation of the printing bed of the first page of Genesis from the Gutenberg Bible, near the entryway to the Museum of the Bible. Photograph: Zach Gibson for the Guardian

The” History of the Bible” title is styled in an Indiana Jones typeface and is expected to house wide-ranging objects including Torah scrolls and 14 th-century illuminated manuscripts- but not the Qur’an or Book of Mormon. The museum has a long-term alliance with the Israel Antiquities Authority .

This week’s preview tour also included a ballroom and 472 -seat theatre( about to host the musical Amazing Grace ), two eateries named Manna and Milk and Honey, a glass-enclosed top floor with views of the Mall and a rooftop garden devoted to biblical plants. Another attraction will be the amusement park-style” Washington Revelations” ride, which purportedly tricks a person’s mind into thinking they are flying over sites bearing scripture such as the US Capitol, Lincoln Memorial and supreme court.

But preparations have been far from smooth. In July this year, Hobby Lobby agreed to pay a$ 3m fine and forfeit thousands of smuggled ancient Iraqi artifacts that the US government alleged were intentionally mislabeled. The artifacts- including up to 300 small clay tablets, bearing inscriptions in the cuneiform script- were reportedly destined for the museum. Green admitted that Hobby Lobby” should have exercised more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled “.

An
An exhibit at the Museum of the Bible. Photograph: Zach Gibson for the Guardian
Organisers contend that the museum is non-partisan , non-sectarian and educational rather than evangelical, appealing to people of all faiths or no religion.
Cary Summer ,~ ATAGEND its president, said:” We want this museum to be enriching and engaging to all people. To that end, we have tapped many of the world’s leading scholars with expertise across many topics and faith traditions, including those with Jewish, Protestant and Catholic proficiency and perspectives, to help us craft the storylines and narrative themes of this museum .”

But that is not how it began. According to media reports, its first nonprofit filing in 2010 declared that its mission was ” to bring to life the living word of God, to tell its obligating tale of preservation, and to inspire confidence in the absolute authority and reliability of the Bible “.

By 2013, this had been watered down to:” We exist to invite all people to engage with the Bible. We invite Biblical exploration through museum exhibits and scholarly pursuits .”

Green, the Washington Post reported , has promoted a public school curriculum based on the Bible as a factual historical text, while Summertimes consulted for the Creation Museum in Kentucky, which teaches creationism as fact, with exhibits depicting dinosaurs and humen living side by side on a 6,000 -year-old Earth.

Hobby Lobby calls itself a” biblically founded business” and is shut on Sundays. The Green family has been criticised for objecting to having to provide employees with contraceptives for the purposes of the Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare. In 2014 it was granted an exemption to the mandatory contraceptives by the supreme court, a landmark ruling that widened religious rights to some corporations.

Jacques Berlinerblau , a professor of Jewish civilization at Georgetown University in Washington, said Green” has a view of the role of religion in public life. Maybe people should know that before stepping in. The museum has to be very clear about its objectives. I think there’s a lot of misdirection and even deception regarding its goals and theological hypothesis. There is something at the core of this museum that has to enshrine what evangelical Christians do .”

Berlinerblau, writer of The Secular Bible: Why Nonbelievers Must Take Religion Seriously, put the museum’s place in the context of the rise of the conservative Christian motion over the past four decades; Vice-President Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian , has been invited to the opening ceremony on 17 November. Nine in 10 members of Congress describe themselves as Christians, compared with seven in 10 American adults who say the same, according to a recent Pew Research Center analysis of congressional data compiled by CQ Roll Call.

” If you are building a $500 bn museum close to the most powerful deliberative body in the world, you have to understand the optics. This edifice could represent the coming out, again, of evangelical America. I can assure you the museum is going to become a convening platform for conservative Christian activism .”

Atheists, he added, would find the museum” laughable and deplorable “.

Nick Fish, national programme director of American Atheists , an activist group that promotes the separation of religion from government, said:” With many of these religious’ museums ‘, the tendency is to dress up evangelism and dogma with a veneer of academia to give an undeserved shawl of neutrality.

” I don’t want to prematurely pass judgment on the museum without having ensure it, but based on previous statements by the Green family, it seems clear that there will be at least some editorialising in favour of the backers’ religious positions, rather than a serious look at the historic accuracy( and lack thereof) of the Bible .”

Casey Brescia, a spokesman for the Secular Coalition for America, added:” Steve Green utterly has the right to open a Bible museum. That’s of no fear to us. What we would be worried about, as we’ve seen with the Creation Museum in Kentucky, is that he’ll try to get taxpayer money to pay for it.

” By claiming that the museum is intended to’ train’ rather than evangelise, it’s possible that Green is hoping the museum will become a field trip destination for public schools. That would be unconstitutional. Green was already penalty$ 3m after he was caught illegally smuggling artifacts into the country for this museum. Hopefully, he learned his lesson .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Martin Scorsese film recalls martyrdom of Japan’s hidden Christians

2 months, 5 days ago

Ban on Christianity in early 1600 s, the focus of movie called Silence, forced converts to practise in secret, leading to a localised sort of the religion still practised by a few dozen people today

At low tide, Shigetsugu Kawakami can just about make out the prohibited stone from his home overlooking the beach in Neshiko, a tiny village on Hirado island in southern Japan.

According to verbal testimony, at least 70 villagers were taken there and beheaded in the early 17 th century. Their crime had been to convert to Christianity. When we were children, the adults told us that if we climbed on to the rock the village would be cursed, said Kawakami.

Today, ascension rock is a permanent reminder of the atrocities of almost four centuries ago. But the martyrdom of Japans concealed Christians is in danger of being forgotten.

Tens of thousands of Japanese Christians were executed, tortured and persecuted after the Tokugawa shogunate banned the religion in the early 1600 s. With a wary eye on Spanish rule in the Philippines, the authorities dreaded Japan could be the next country targeted by European powers that used Christian teaches as a catalyst for colonial rule.

The ban left Japans 750,000 converts with a selection: renounce their religion or continue to practise their religion in secret, in the knowledge that discovery would almost certainly mean death.

Discussion of Japans Christian heritage has largely been absent from public life since the mid-1 960 s, when Shusaku Endo explored the martyrdom of early converts in his critically acclaimed novel Silence.

Now, Martin Scorsese hopes to ensure their narrative will not be forgotten with a cinema based on Endos novel that is due for release next year.

Starring Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield, the cinema also called Silence follows two Portuguese Jesuit missionaries who are sent to Japan in the early 1600 s to investigate reports that their mentor has committed apostasy. They arrive to find Japanese converts in the midst of a brutal crackdown by the Tokugawa shogunate.

While no official records are kept of the number of modern-day kakure kirishitan ( hidden Christians ), local experts say perhaps merely a few dozen people still consider themselves believers.

Once its saviour, clandestine adore has contributed to a sharp decline in the number of believers. Blended with dwindling, ageing populations on the islands where it once prospered, disciples fear their crypto-Christian tradition is at risk of dying out.

Kawakami, 64, is one of the few concealed Christians who is happy to talk publicly about his faith. We dont practise our faith in public because we are effectively still in hiding, he said. We usually remain quiet and never out ourselves as Christians by appearing on Tv or giving interviews. We dont hold special ceremonies or pray in public. In fact, we dont do anything that would risk dedicating ourselves away.

Remote southern islands such as Hirado demonstrated fertile ground for Catholicism after St Francis Xavier and other missionaries introduced it to Japan in 1549. After a nationwide prohibit was enforced in the early 1600 s, converts devised ingenious ways to keep their religion alive.

They gathered in private homes to conduct religion ceremonies, and figurines of the Virgin mary were altered to resemble the Buddha or Japanese dolls. To the uneducated ear, their prayers voiced like Buddhist sutras, even though they contained a mix of Latin, Portuguese and obscure Japanese dialects. Scripture was passed on orally, since keeping bibles was considered too great a risk. None wore traverses or other religion accoutrements.

The need for secrecy during the course of its 250 years that Christianity was banned meant the version of the religion observed by Kawakamis ancestors little resemblance to its mainstream Catholic origins. Instead, early Japanese Christians incorporated elements of Buddhism and Shinto into their faith until it became a polytheistic creed of its own.

In many styles it was a very Japanese version of Christianity, said Shigeo Nakazono, curator of the Shima no Yakata museum on Ikitsuki, an island near Hirado.

But even this localised sort of Christianity met with fierce opposition from the Shogunate authorities, who devised a singularly cruel exam of loyalty to uncover converts. Suspects were ordered to prove they were not Christians by trampling on fumie images of Christ or the Virgin Mary engraved from stone or wood or face being hanged upside down over a cavity and slowly bled to death.

When the Meiji government lifted the prohibition in 1873, an estimated 30,000 secret Christians came out of hide. Now, Christians of all denominations make up less than 1% of Japans population of 128 million.

Japan was coming under the influence of European industry and technology, and that meant that old objections to Christianity weakened, Nakazono said.

Nakazono wondered whether Scorseses film would bide true to Endos novel, which some have criticised for being preoccupied with martyrdom. If all hidden Christians had been martyrs, there would have been none left, he said. But there were enough people willing to stamp on the fumie , denounce Christianity and then pray God for forgiveness.

At Neshiko beach, ascension stone physical proof that there were those who refused to abandon their faith is half submerged by the incoming tide. Even today, centuries after the last executing, locals remove their shoes before defining foot on the beachs fine white sand as a sign of respect.

Like the rites of the kakure kirishitan , the memories of the executed converts have been preserved by word of mouth a tradition that devotes Kawakami hope that their courage, and faiths, will not be forgotten.

We feel we have a duty to pass it on to future generations, he said. This is something our ancestors risked their lives to tell us.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Atheists who bring logic to the Easter story are missing the point | Julian Baggini

2 months, 13 days ago

Having faith is a complex business. To assume that religious people are either crazy or stupid is lazy, says philosopher Julian Baggini

Many years ago, I had to recount the life of Jesus to a young Taiwanese student who knew nothing about Christianity. As I told him about the virgin birth, the miracles, crucifixion and resurrection, he responded with incredulous laughter.

Most nonbelievers in traditionally Christian cultures would prove a bit more respect. But inside, our reaction is often pretty much the same: how can people actually believe this stuff? Rising from the grave isn’t even the most preposterous part of the Easter tale. Far more bizarre is the claim that God had to send his son to die for our sins. And if God genuinely wanted the whole of humanity to heed his message, why did the resurrected Christ merely reveals himself to a few select people before ascending to heaven?

Vociferous atheists don’t shy away from revealing their mock bemusement at all this. Those of us who induce decided efforts to understand and debate with religious believers might be too polite to acknowledge it, but we often feel just as baffled.

The laziest route to try to cross this credulity gap is to shrug our shoulders and accept that people are often crazy, stupid or both. Yes, there are plenty of people celebrating the resurrection who are sane, intelligent and well-educated, but the objective is statistical anomalies in a world where higher levels of education are strongly correlated with a lack of religious belief.

Smart people can have blind spots, but this quick and easy justification does not do justice to the complexities of religious belief. If we genuinely accept that a disciple in the resurrection can be intelligent, but also think that any intelligent person would find the idea of the resurrection preposterous, the most charitable explain is that intelligent believers are as well informed the implausibility of their beliefs as anyone else. This is indeed what you tend to find if you bother to talk to a Christian. They don’t use the word “miracle” for nothing- they know their religion eludes laws of logic and nature.

Some believe the unbelievable because they have had religious experiences so strong that they are literally unable to doubt their veracity of. It’s hard for those of us who haven’t had such an experience to appreciate how powerful it is feasible to. But once you accept the existence of a divine inventor who has a personal relationship with you, almost anything else is possible. It is not crazy but logical to conclude that what such a God says or does will sometimes be beyond our comprehension. It follows that there is nothing irrational in accepting a narrative that we are unable to make sense of rationally.

What atheists often forget is that many- perhaps most- religion believers are less than completely convinced anyway. Many of them are fully aware of the dissonance between what their faith and their rational intellect tell them. Religion offers many tools to help manage this. It tells people that faith is superior to belief based on evidence.” Because thou hast find me, thou hast believed ,” Jesus told” doubting Thomas”, adding:” Blessed are they that have not insured, and yet have believed .” Religion also tells believers that doubt is to be expected, even welcomed, as part of the journey of faith, all the time reassuring them that God is beyond our understanding. The Easter story thus aims up instead like quantum theory: if you find it easy to believe, you haven’t is understandable. Illogicality is a design feature , not a design flaw.

Anyone astonished that people manage to sustain this dissonance all their lives hasn’t been paying enough attention to what psychology has taught us about our capacities to assert contradictions. What we call our “selves” are far less unified and coherent than common sense suggests. When we say ” a part of me” believes one thing and another part something else, we are being more literal than we suppose. Rejecting disciples as simply deluded could therefore itself has become a way for us atheists to deal with our own dissonance between the belief that Easter is palpable nonsense, and the awareness that apparently intelligent people believe in it. If we really do find implausible beliefs offensive, we ought at the least to have more plausible explanations for why others have them.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Inside the sprawling, controversial $500 m Museum of the Bible

2 months, 19 days ago

The museum conceived by the billionaire chairman of Hobby Lobby and set to open next month has attracted scepticism over its ideological mission

It is a museum of biblical proportions- and it is stirring disputes to match.

Opening next month in Washington, the Museum of the Bible expense half a billion dollars to build, spans 430,000 sq ft over eight floors and claims to be the most hi-tech museum in the world. Reading every poster, considering every artifact and experiencing every activity would take an estimated 72 hours.

But while it is not the monument to creationism that some liberals feared, the sprawling museum has attracted scepticism over both its ideological mission and the provenance of its collection. It is the brainchild of evangelical Christian Steve Green, the billionaire chairwoman of Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts chain that won a supreme court case allowing companies with religion objections to opt out of contraceptive coverage under Barack Obama’s healthcare law.

Green, who since 2009 has amassed a vast collection of biblical texts and artifacts, is making a big statement with the museum’s place: two blocks south of the National Mall, home to the US Capitol and Smithsonian Institution museums- including the National Museum of Natural history, which has exhibits on dinosaurs and human evolution– and could hardly be closer to the centre of power.

The
The US Capitol is seen from the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC on Wednesday. Photograph: Zach Gibson for the Guardian

Gaining a sneak preview the coming week amid workers in hard hats, the Guardian passed through giant bronze “Gutenberg Gates” that framed the entrance withhand-carved letters spelling out a Latin quote from Genesis( the gates even have their own Twitter account ). Inside the main atrium there is the obligatory gift shop, where cuddly animals are already on the shelves- presumably a reference to Noah’s Ark- and a “children’s experience” room where young Samsons can push column and stimulate them collapse.

Visitors- admission is free, though a donation of $15 is suggested- will each be given a digital guide on which new information is triggered each time they approach a gallery or artifact. High above them in the bright, airy atrium of what used to be a refrigerating warehouse and design centre is a 140 ft” digital ceiling” proving biblical images, including church frescos.

Upstairs, there is a floor devoted to the historical and cultural impact of the Bible, including on America, bound to be closely scrutinised for any hints of political bias. Among the Europeans who sailed across the Atlantic, a display panel says, were” many English dissenters trying religion freedom. Each group brought its own version of the Bible, and some professed intentions to convert Native Americans to Christian beliefs “.

The
The main lobby of the Museum of The Bible. Photo: Zach Gibson for the Guardian

There is a scale remake of the Liberty Bell , which is inscribed with scripture, and an account that many settlers seeking independence from Britain described inspiration from the Bible, especially Moses,” who led his people out of bondage to a land of autonomy “.

With independence and the presidency of George Washington, the tradition of swearing the oath of office on a Bible began. A surge of evangelical arrivals in the late 18 th century helped renew devotion to the Bible and ignite a campaign to abolish bondage, the narrative continues.” Southern slaveholders, however- some of them also involved in the revivals- interpreted the Bible as affirming slavery .” Each side in the civil war” espoused the Bible to justify its cause “.

Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt are quoted and Charles Darwin gets a mention.” In 1925, John Scopes, a high school teacher in Tennessee, was charged with infringing a country statute that proscribed teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution ,” an exhibit countries, in a reference to the infamous” Monkey Trial“, which, it tells,” placed the Bible in the center of an intensive national debate between traditional and more progressive interpretings of the Bible and modern science “.

More unexpectedly, a display on the Bible’s influence around the world makes claims for links between science and the Bible and contains statues of Galileo Galilei, whose assert that the earth revolved around the sunlight was challenged by the church, Isaac Newton, a dedicated student of the Bible , and George Washington Carver, who rose from slavery to become a scientist, botanist and discoverer and considered the Bible as a guide to the natural world.

Likely to raise eyebrows, an info panel countries:” Are the Bible and science mutually exclusive? There is broad agreement today among historians that modern science owes a great deal to the biblical worldview. The notion that the natural world is orderly springs from the Bible. As the biochemist and Nobel laureate Melvin Calvin said, the conviction that’ the universe is governed by a single God … seems to be the historical foundation for modern science ‘.”

A full-size jail cell allows visitors to reflect on the biblical roots of the western notion of justice. A heap of blackened and charred Bibles illustrates how the book has been burned, for example in China’s Cultural Revolution . Various multimedia displays depict the influence of the Bible on manner, movies, literature and the visual arts. A room with a giant wraparound screen called ” Bible Now” promises” a spectacular live-feed of global data “.

Upstairs, the floorspace is divided roughly proportionately between Old and New Testament. Merely the latter was available to view the coming week, and most striking was ” The World of Jesus of Nazareth”- an unapologetically Disney-style walk-through recreation of Nazareth two millennia ago, complete with stone walls, trees( each foliage made by hand ), dwellings with period cuisine on dining tables, heaps of grapes and baskets full of olives and even a temple. Three actors in period dres will interact with visitors.

Text
Text from an architectural recreation of the publish bed of the first page of Genesis from the Gutenberg Bible, near the entrance to the Museum of the Bible. Photograph: Zach Gibson for the Guardian

The” History of the Bible” title is styled in an Indiana Jones typeface and is expected to house wide-ranging objects including Torah scrolls and 14 th-century illuminated manuscripts- but not the Qur’an or Book of Mormon. The museum has a long-term alliance with the Israel Antiquities Authority .

This week’s preview tour also included a ballroom and 472 -seat theatre( about to host the musical Amazing Grace ), two eateries named Manna and Milk and Honey, a glass-enclosed top floor with the opinions of the Mall and a rooftop garden to be given to biblical plants. Another attraction will be the amusement park-style” Washington Revelations” ride, which purportedly tricks a person’s mind into thinking they are flying over sites bearing scripture such as the US Capitol, Lincoln Memorial and supreme court.

But preparations have been far away from smooth. In July this year, Hobby Lobby agreed to pay a$ 3m fine and forfeit thousands of smuggled ancient Iraqi artifacts that the US government alleged were intentionally mislabeled. The artifacts- including up to 300 small clay tablets, bearing inscriptions in the cuneiform script- were reportedly destined for the museum. Green admitted that Hobby Lobby” should have exerted more oversight and carefully questioned how the acquisitions were handled “.

An
An exhibit at the Museum of the Bible. Photo: Zach Gibson for the Guardian
Organisers contend that the museum is non-partisan , non-sectarian and educational rather than evangelical, appealing to people of all faiths or no religion.
Cary Summers ,~ ATAGEND its president, told:” We want this museum to be enriching and engaging to all people. To that aim, we have tapped many of the world’s resulting intellectuals with expertise across many topics and faith traditions, including those with Jewish, Protestant and Catholic proficiency and perspectives, to help us craft the storylines and narrative themes of this museum .”

But that is not how it began. According to media reports, its first nonprofit filing in 2010 declared that its mission was ” to bring to life the living word of God, to tell its compelling narrative of preservation, and to inspire confidence in the absolute authority and reliability of the Bible “.

By 2013, this had been watered down to:” We exist to invite all people to engage with the Bible. We invite Biblical exploration through museum exhibits and scholarly pursuits .”

Green, the Washington Post reported , has promoted a public school curriculum based on the Bible as a factual historical text, while Summertimes consulted for the Creation Museum in Kentucky, which teaches creationism as fact, with exhibits depicting dinosaurs and humen living side by side on a 6,000 -year-old Earth.

Hobby Lobby calls itself a” biblically founded business” and is closed on Sundays. The Green family has been criticised for objecting to having to provide employees with contraceptives for the purposes of the Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare. In 2014 it was granted an exemption to the mandatory contraceptives by the supreme court, a landmark ruling that widened religious rights to some corporations.

Jacques Berlinerblau , a prof of Jewish civilization at Georgetown University in Washington, said Green” has a view of the role of religion in public life. Maybe people should know that before stepping in. The museum has to be very clear about its objectives. I think there’s a lot of misdirection and even duplicity regarding its goals and theological premises. There is something at the core of this museum that has to enshrine what evangelical Christians do .”

Berlinerblau, author of The Secular Bible: Why Nonbelievers Must Take Religion Seriously, set the museum’s place in the context of the rise of the conservative Christian motion over the past four decades; Vice-President Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian , has been invited to the opening ceremony on 17 November. Nine in 10 members of Congress describe themselves as Christians, compared with seven in 10 American adults who say the same, according to a recent Pew Research Center analysis of congressional data compiled by CQ Roll Call.

” If you are building a $500 bn museum close to the most powerful deliberative body in the world, you have to understand the optics. This edifice could represent the coming out, again, of evangelical America. I can assure you the museum is going to become a convening platform for conservative Christian activism .”

Atheists, he added, would find the museum” laughable and deplorable “.

Nick Fish, national program director of American Atheists , an activist group that promotes the separation of religion from government, told:” With many of these religion’ museums ‘, the tendency is to dress up evangelism and creed with a veneer of academia to lend an undeserved cape of neutrality.

” I don’t want to prematurely pass judgment on the museum without having find it, but based on previous statements by the Green family, it seems clear that there will be at least some editorialising in favour of the backers’ religion views, rather than a serious look at the historic accuracy( and lack thereof) of the Bible .”

Casey Brescia, a spokesman for the Secular Coalition for America, added:” Steve Green perfectly has the right to open a Bible museum. That’s of no fear to us. What we would be worried about, as we’ve seen with the Creation Museum in Kentucky, is that he’ll try to get taxpayer money to pay for it.

” By claiming that the museum is intended to’ train’ rather than evangelise, it’s possible that Green is hoping the museum will become a field trip destination for public schools. That would be unconstitutional. Green was already fined$ 3m after he was caught illegally smuggling artifacts into the country for this museum. Hopefully, he learned his lesson .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Atheist Group Files Suit To Remove ‘In God We Trust’ From Currency

4 months ago

A group of atheists seeking to drop the phrase “In God We Trust” from U.S. currency filed a federal suit this week in Akron, Ohio, arguing the expres contravenes the separation of church and state.

The group of 41 plaintiffs is led by Sacramento attorney Michael Newdow, who has previously sued the governmental forces to remove the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance, but was unsuccessful.

Because the plaintiffs regularly handle fund as a part of daily life, the suit argues, the phrase “In God We Trust” imposes upon them each time they do so.

One plaintiff “handles U.S. currency almost daily. As a Humanist, she does not believe nor trust in any g-d, ” the complaint reads, substituting “God” for “g-d.”

It continues, “Rather, her beliefs require that she trust in her own abilities and a general responsibility to lead an ethical life. In handling the money, therefore, she is repeatedly unwillingly confronted with the words ‘In G-d We Trust.’ Thus, she is forced against her will to accept and re-distribute to others a message that runs wholly against her belief. Yet it is neither realistic nor reasonable for her to abandon the nation’s currency and use other forms of pay for all of her transactions.”

Manuel Balce Ceneta/ Associated Press
Michael Newdow, an atheist lawyer from California who challenged the Pledge of Allegiance, leavesthe Supreme Court after a hearing in 2004.

Unsurprisingly, the campaign has encountered resistance from religious commentators. Aclj.org, which is associated with the nonprofit religious organisation Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism, Inc ., framed the suit as an “attempt to eviscerate our National Motto – and with it our religion heritage.”

Newdow didn’t immediately respond to a request for remark from The Huffington Post. However, in a 2015 blog on Patheos, a website focused on religion, spirituality and religion, he argued that the phrase “In God We Trust” not only infringes the First Amendment of the Constitution( “Congress shall attain no statute respecting an established in religion” ), but also infringes the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which proscribes the government from burdening a person’s exercise of religion unless it furthers a “compelling governmental interest.”

“There is obviously no compelling government interest in having ‘In God We Trust’ on our fund, ” Newdow wrote. “We did penalty for the 75 years before the phrase was ever used at all, and continues to do penalty for the subsequent 102 years before such inscriptions were constructed mandatory on every coin and currency bill. Similarly, the vast majority of nations manage to function without religion verbiage on their money.”

Read more: www.huffingtonpost.com

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