Top EU official: Religious slaughter bans paint Jews, Muslims as ‘medieval’

Belgian bans on the ritual slaughter of animals practiced by Jews and Muslims risk painting these minorities as “medieval” communities with no respect for animal life, the EU’s top official tasked with fighting anti-Semitism across Europe said.

Since 2019, citing concerns about animal welfare, the Belgian regions of Flanders and Wallonia have outlawed the killing of animals without pre-stunning, practiced by religious Jews and Muslims to ensure they can eat ritually pure kosher or halal meat.

“The discussion itself puts the Jews and also the Muslims in this case into a corner of ‘you do harm to animals, or you are medieval’,” said Katharina von Schnurbein, during an interview with POLITICO on Wednesday, at the European Jewish Community Center in Brussels.

The bans were challenged by religious groups but upheld by the Court of Justice of the EU in late 2020, in a surprising decision that said EU countries could restrict no-stun slaughter to promote animal welfare, without infringing religious rights, even though EU law explicitly provides an exemption for religious slaughter. Bans are permissible provided countries do not contravene the EU’s charter of fundamental human rights, the court ruled.

“In some countries, we have seen also that this was only the start, and then the discussion about circumcision was next,” von Schnurbein said.

Religious groups fear the ruling will pave the way for more bans across Europe, but it is “difficult to say” if other EU countries will follow suit, she said. EU countries like Sweden, Slovenia, Denmark and Austria had already placed restrictions on religious slaughter before Belgium’s move.

But von Schnurbein also said that although the European Commission is bound by the legal ruling, “many” other EU countries could find a different balance between animal welfare and religious freedoms, and uphold the derogation to allow the practice.

“What we want is to see that Jews feel they can live their lives in accordance to their religious and cultural traditions,” she said.

Speaking just before the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which falls annually on January 27, she encouraged countries like Sweden and Estonia to correctly transpose a 2008 EU measure into their national laws that will ensure that publicly condoning, denying or trivializing genocides like the Holocaust and other kinds of hate speech are treated as a crime.


Hamtramck’s all-Muslim City Council condemns antisemitism

Hamtramck’s City Council, whose six members are all Muslim, has approved a resolution strongly condemning antisemitism.

The resolution is being praised by Jewish groups in Michigan and nationally as a moment of interfaith unity in speaking out against hate. The council also approved statements condemning hate against Bosnian Muslims and women who wear Islamic headscarves.

The resolution on antisemitism was passed unanimously 5-0 in a City Council meeting Tuesday night. It makes reference to the Jan. 15 attack in a Texas synagogue where a suspect from England made antisemitic remarks while taking hostage several Jewish congregants, including Michigan native Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker.

The resolution reads in part: “Hamtramck City Council condemns all forms of antisemitism and declares its support for the Beth Israel Congregation in Texas, all members of the Jewish community in Hamtramck, the metro Detroit area, and beyond.” It said everyone “has the right to practice their faith and live their life free from intimidation, harassment, and fear of violence.”


Official new pamphlet aims to help Latter-day Saints understand, treat Muslims better

Elder David A. Bednar repudiates stereotypes about Muslims. Pamphlet outlines common values shared by the 2 faiths.

A new 35-page pamphlet called “Muslims and Latter-day Saints: Beliefs, Values, and Lifestyles” appeared online Wednesday on websites and apps of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Why it matters: Muslim and Latter-day Saint leaders work together across the world because of their shared values. Latter-day Saint leaders have said they want church members to better understand Muslims, work and live together with them and help root out bias against Islam.

  • The pamphlet’s publication was first announced in October at a BYU conference on Islam. Learning more about Muslim neighbors “will help us be more kind and more accurate in what we say and feel about each other,” Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said at the time.
  • Elder David A. Bednar of the Twelve used the conference to repudiate all disparaging statements made by Latter-day Saints about Muslims, including those that repeated stereotypes. He called stereotypes wrong and offensive: “Such biases cause those who feel that way to overlook the kindness and goodness of the overwhelming majority of all Muslims,” he said.
  • Elder Bednar said the booklet was produced over several years with the help of Muslim imams.


Young Muslims and Christians reluctant to share their faith online, study says

They fear being excluded and losing job opportunities, a research among members of ethnic and religious minorities in Norway shows.

According to a recent study of the University of Agder in Norway, young Norwegian Muslims and Christians “carefully consider what type of religious content they share in social media, to avoid social exclusion and conflict” and not to miss job opportunities.

Associate professors at Department of Sociology and Social Work of the University of Agder, Ronald Mayora Synnes and Irene Trysnes, interviewed 25 young people (13 female and 12 male), aged between 16 and 35, who are active in two Muslim and two Christian minority congregations in Oslo: an Eritrean and a Chinese church and two Muslim mosques.

The research aims to “examinehow young Muslims and Christians with ethnic minority backgrounds in Oslo reflect on their use of social media as a way to present themselves and their religiosity”.

The authors of the research divided the respondents in 3 groups: those who avoid to share or publish anything related to religion on social media; the ones who “maintain a clear distinction between how they present themselves in the various groups they participate in”; and those who share religious content.

Fear of stigmatisation

Those who refrain from expressing their religious beliefs and identities on social media, “are mostly male, and they had different reasons for refraining from doing so”, says the research.

Most of them, “are afraid of being excluded from the community of friends and being given stereotypical attitudes and characteristics”, points out Synnes.


Seattle’s Interfaith Community Sanctuary includes Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus

Jamal Rahman is cofounder and Muslim Sufi imam at Interfaith Community Sanctuary in Seattle. He is a popu­lar speaker and author on Islam, Sufi spirituality, and interfaith relations. Interfaith Community Sanctuary won second prize in the 2020 UN World Interfaith Harmony Week Prize from A Common Word.

Tell us about how Interfaith Community Sanctuary became a reality. Where did the idea come from?

In 1992, I was very keen to establish community in Seattle. I left my previous career and began teaching self-development classes. I was trained in Sufism, the mystical side of Islam, so that’s what I taught. I was surprised by how many people came to take the classes.

In seven years we had a few hundred people. From there we started to ask: What does it mean to have an interfaith worship service? We were people of different religions, mostly Christians but also Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus. All of us were looking for a connection to something higher and deeper.

What kind of worship could we do that unites everyone? There are a few things that transcend the boundaries of religion. One is silence. There’s no such thing as a Jewish silence or Islamic silence; it’s just silence. So, we decided, let’s just practice silence in each of our Sunday worship services.

Second, music. Everybody loves music. We had chanters from different traditions, so we added chanting. I would always quote Rumi, “Music is the sound of the spheres. We have been part of this harmony before.” And once we chant and sing and play music, it keeps our remembering fresh and it doesn’t matter what your religion is.

Food is how we came to know the other on a human level. We built that in as well. So we focused on silence, chanting, and food.

Over time, we came to say that we focus on essence, not form. We asked: What is the experience, the taste, we want? We would also say that we wanted to move from a knowledge of the tongue to a knowledge of the heart. That can come from personal relationship, connection, spiritual companions in your life, music, silence, and sharing different spiritual practices.

Every tradition says a person is to become a better human being, a more developed human being. And everyone wants to be of service to God’s creation in a genuine way. Rabindranath Tagore has this wonderful poem: “I slept and dreamed: / Life was joy. / I awoke and found life was service. / I served and lo, service was joy.”


Unstable Plateau (2): How Muslims, Christians work for peace in troubled Nigerian state

Years of ethnic and religious crises in Plateau State have taught residents to live among their own people.

When the conflict among heterogeneous groups in Plateau State began to worsen, the groups devised a means to protect themselves: partition their settlements.

Because the houses of minority groups are almost always prime targets, it was a way of forging a common front when hostilities broke out, residents said.

A partitioned Muslim settlement in Dutse Uku area of Jos North LGA overseeing a Christian settlement. [Yusuf Akinpelu/Premium Times]

Moving in unfamiliar zones is not what many residents do, much less living among opposite parties.

But Juliana Alao, a Christian from Oyo State who had stayed with her younger sister for over 25 years in Gangare, a Muslim-dominated ward in Jos North Local Government Area (LGA) of the state, is defying that safety measure.

Aunty Mai Allura (nurse), as she is called in the area, had resisted persuasion by her friends and family to leave the area, some offering to house her to rescue her from the risks of living in a Muslim-populated area.

When her relatives or friends visit, they would rather wait to be collected by the roadside, she said.

Gangare, one of the 14 wards in Jos North LGA has been a haven for a Christian family for decades. [Yusuf Akinpelu/Premium Times]

“Everybody would say ‘leave Gangare.’ Why I didn’t leave is that they didn’t touch me. They didn’t do anything to me. Even when I am in the church and there is a crisis, they will call me to wait for them to come and pick me up,” she said.

“’You, a Christian, alone will pass through Gangare?’ she recalled being told after service one Christmas.

“Because of the way they honour me when I am with them, I have peace. Just leave me,” she would tell them.


U.S. Charities Funneled More Than $105 Million to Anti-Muslim Groups, New Report Finds

A new report revealed that organizations deemed Islamophobic by the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights group received more than $105 million in donations from U.S. charities between 2017 and 2019.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said in a Jan. 11 report titled “Islamophobia in the Mainstream” that it studied the tax records of 50 organizations it had previously identified as the largest funders of anti-Muslim causes, and found that 35 of them were the source of a total of $105 million directed at such groups. CAIR has researched Islamophobia in the U.S. for decades and has been at the forefront of high-profile legal battles involving violations of Muslims’ religious liberties. For the purposes of its research, CAIR identifies organizations as Islamophobic if they support policies that lead to discrimination against Muslims, demean Muslims because of their religion or allege that Islam represents an existential threat to the U.S (or partner with other organizations that do).


Arctic Islam: the Midnight Sun, the ‘Isha Prayer, and Islamic Law and Practice

The Nord Kamal Mosque in Norilsk, Russia is the northernmost mosque in the world

“No major religion’s daily ritual observances are tied more closely to the movement of the Sun than Islam’s, so what do they do when the Sun never rises or sets?”1) This question provides an entry point for an analysis of the impact of the Arctic on Islamic law and practice. Universal religions, such as Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism, frequently reach geographic areas far removed from their region of origin in their search for new converts.2) Islam, for example, is prominent throughout Asia and North Africa, having spread far beyond its beginnings on the Arabian Peninsula. An important consequence of this aspect of universal religions is the necessity of adapting to widely divergent cultures and climates. One of the most complicated such adaptations is that of Islam to the Arctic.

This article will use the term “the latitudinal problem” to describe the difficulty of reconciling Islamic practice with Arctic conditions. I will explore the latitudinal problem through three different time periods: medieval, the nineteenth century, and the modern day. In the medieval period, Muslim travelers to the northern regions remarked on the starkness of Arctic solar conditions, but rarely considered the practical implications for Islamic practice. In the nineteenth century, Islamic reformists clashed with religious authorities on the possibility for ijtihad (independent legal reasoning) concerning the ‘isha prayer. In the contemporary world, Muslims in the Arctic must navigate global problems including skepticism of migrants, ethnic division, religious extremism, and securitization. Still, Arctic Islam retains an important distinctiveness due to the unique challenges posed by the climate and solar conditions. This article will show that far from being a remote region with little importance for Islamic thought and practice, the Arctic instead raises profound questions of religious evolution and legal authority that resonate through the entirety of the Islamic world and beyond.

Introduction to Islamic practices affected by the Arctic

All Muslims are required to fulfill the five pillars of Islam. Two of these pillars are affected by the latitudinal location of the practitioner. The first is fasting during the month of Ramadan. According to the Qur’an, Muslims must fast from dawn to sunset during Ramadan. The second relevant pillar of Islam are the five daily prayers: FajrDhuhr‘AsrMaghrib, and ‘IshaMaghrib and ‘Isha are undertaken at sunset and twilight respectively.3) Both Ramadan fasting and the daily prayers were developed in the Islamic homeland of the Arabian Peninsula. As such, the timing of such activities is based on the solar behavior of that region. In the Arctic, however, the conditions are quite different. In exceptionally high latitudes, 24-hour day or nights occur, removing any solar context for fasting or daily prayers. In lower latitudes, the timing of prayers will be affected and the length of Ramadan fasting will be either far more or far less demanding than was originally intended.4) Muslims, both religious scholars and lay practitioners, have grappled with the effects of latitude on Islamic practice for several centuries. The first to do so were travelers to then remote and largely unknown regions.


Muslims in interfaith bonds are proliferating. Imams willing to marry them are not.

(RNS) — When Faiqa Cheema and Jeff Beale were planning their September 2021 wedding, it was important to Cheema that it include elements of the traditional ceremony of her Muslim faith, while also being meaningful for her husband, who was raised Baptist.

The couple’s path to their dream interfaith wedding turned out to be more complicated than they expected. While such unions are increasingly common, Muslim clergy have long frowned on marrying outside Islam, and Cheema and Beale struggled to find an imam who would officiate, much less adapt the Islamic ceremony, known as a nikah, to recognize Beale.

Many imams refused to marry them, Cheema said, because their bond is “against Islamic teaching and was a sin.” Beale was told to consider converting to Islam. “It’s not something that I wanted for him,” Cheema said.

Their search only came to an end when Cheema ran into the Instagram profile of Imam Imaad Sayeed. The founder of The London Nikah, a 10-year-old marriage agency that is now based in New Jersey, Sayeed has officiated some 250 Muslim interfaith weddings in the past five years, marrying couples from around the world.

RELATED: Why should there be a surcharge for having a Hindu wedding?

Sayeed’s busy schedule, he said, is the result of being one of the few imams willing to conform the nikah to demographic reality.

According to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, 79% of U.S. Muslims who are married or living with a partner are with someone of the same religion. That leaves 21%, presumably, in interfaith relationships.

The rules about intermarriage favor men, according to Imam Abdullah bin Hamid Ali, head of the Islamic Law program at Zaytuna College, a Muslim liberal arts school in Berkeley, California. Ali said the Quran is clear that men are allowed to marry non-Muslim women as long as their brides are “People of the Book” — Christians or Jews, both of whom recognize Abraham as their spiritual forefather, as Muslims do.


Since Jan. 6 attacks, spiritual leaders unify to combat Christian nationalism

The Jan. 6 insurrection of the U.S. Capitol drew recent attention to the phenomenon of Christian nationalism, but religious and spiritual leaders acknowledge its existence long before that.

his article is the fourth in a series on Christian nationalism supported by the Pulitzer Center.

(RNS) — Shannon Rivers believes that Indigenous people are the moral compass of the United States.

A member of the Native American Akimel O’otham, or River People of the Southwestern U.S., Rivers points to historical accounts of the northeastern Wampanoag, who in the 1600s taught the Pilgrims how to grow crops and weather harsh winters. “W

We were the ones who had that initial moral understanding of how you take care of one another and we still maintain that today, despite every wrong that has been done,” said Rivers, who is a spiritual counselor for incarcerated Native Americans. “Indigenous peoples still gather. They still pray for those who are settler societies.”

The Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol introduced many Americans to the phenomenon of Christian nationalism, as some of the rioters carried crosses or invoked the name of Jesus. But for many non-Christian Americans, Christian nationalism is an unavoidable fact of life.

RELATED: Post-Trump, Christian nationalists preach a theology of vaccine resistance

Rivers said the history of Christian nationalism began when the European settlers answered the Native Americans’ welcome with a belief that divine providence had ordained their domination of Indigenous land.