| |1. The Italian church is dissolving its links to the mobПт., 15 дек.[−]
TO ALL appearances, this was a final disentangling of the disreputable connections between the church in southern Italy and organised crime. When a Sicilian mobster known as the “boss of bosses” died in prison last month, a spokesman for the Italian conference of bishops said it would be “unthinkable” to give him a public funeral.
Ultimately, said the spokesman, Salvatore “Tot?” Riina would be judged by God, but the church had a clear duty to set a proper public example, and colluding with lavish obsequies for this multiple killer would have amounted to the very opposite. In the end Riina was given a private funeral in his home village of Corleone, which gave its name to the central family of “The Godfather”, a classic novel and film. A local priest gave a blessing.
So is this a final rupture? It is true that the hierarchs of the church, including Pope Francis, have made a serious effort to disengage their institution from Italy’s notorious organised crime syndicates: Cosa Nostra in Sicily,... Continue reading
|↑|2. New life for the Paris climate dealЧт., 14 дек.[−]
IN MAY France’s environment ministry moved to an 18th-century mansion close to the National Assembly and Elys?e Palace. The relocation—and a pretentious new name, the Ministry for Ecological and Inclusive Transition—hint at Emmanuel Macron’s desire to be seen as a global leader in the fight against climate change.
Since his election to the French presidency seven months ago, green activists have placed their hopes in Mr Macron as a bulwark against his carbon-cuddling American counterpart, Donald Trump. They came to Paris in force for a One Planet Summit on December 12th, at which Mr Macron hosted more than 50 world leaders to celebrate the anniversary of the UN climate compact agreed in the French capital in 2015. Mr Trump, who decided in June to pull America out of that deal, was not on the invitation list.
Mr Macron launched a campaign to attract American green technologists and climate scientists to move to France. Another six countries joined a coalition led by... Continue reading
|↑|3. How best to help women caught between different kinds of family lawПн., 11 дек.[−]
AS IS reported by The Economist in this week’s print edition, almost everybody can agree that there are acute difficulties at the interface between Islamic family law and the liberal West. Especially for married Muslim women, living in a kind of limbo between the Islamic world and the secular world can be exceptionally tough. So far, so much consensus. What people don’t agree on, however, is how to improve this situation.
Start with England, which presents an extreme case of the pathologies facing Muslim minorities in the West. In no other country have so many “sharia councils” sprung up to adjudicate the affairs of Muslim people, especially women who are trapped in unhappy marriages and want a religious divorce. (Some say these councils should be regulated, others want them abolished.) And in no other country is it so common for young Muslim couples to have... Continue reading
|↑|4. How sharia marriages can hurt women in the WestЧт., 07 дек.[−]
SHIRIN MUSA draws on bitter experience to inspire her work to help women caught between legal and cultural worlds. Educated and long-resident in the Netherlands, she was unhappily married to a man from her native Pakistan. In 2009 a Dutch judge put a legal end to their union but her husband would not grant an Islamic divorce. Although she lived in secular Europe, this refusal mattered. If she remarried, she would be considered an adulteress under Islamic law and risk punishment if she returned to Pakistan.
So Ms Musa pursued her spouse through the Dutch courts. In 2010 she received a landmark judgment: he would be fined €250 ($295) a day, up to a maximum of €10,000 ($11,795), as long as he refused to cooperate. This had the desired effect. She then persuaded the Dutch parliament to make holding women in such “marital captivity” a criminal offence, in theory punishable by jail. Now she runs Femmes for Freedom, a charity that campaigns for people in similar situations. “I was lucky... Continue reading
|↑|5. Canada’s problem with polygamyЧт., 07 дек.[−]
More than Canada can handle
MENTION polygamy in Canada and what might come to mind is Bountiful, a suitably named town in British Columbia. It is home to Canada’s best-known polygamist, Winston Blackmore, who has an estimated 148 children. He and James Oler, a fellow adherent of a fundamentalist splinter sect of the Mormon church, practised “plural marriage” for decades until a court found them guilty in July of the crime of polygamy. (Their appeal will be heard on December 12th.)
It was the first conviction for more than a century under a law from 1892 that aimed to stop American polygamists (many of them Mormons irked by their church’s renunciation of polygamy in 1890) from practising in Canada. Authorities had been wary of laying such charges for fear of a constitutional challenge. That obstacle was removed in 2011 when the Supreme Court in British Columbia found freedom of religion could not be used to justify actions that harmed... Continue reading
|↑|6. Donald Trump’s Jerusalem move sparks Christian disputesЧт., 07 дек.[−]
CHRISTIAN leaders reacted with strong emotion to the news that President Donald Trump has recognised as capital of Israel the city where their faith’s foundational events unfolded. Some (especially American evangelicals) were passionately in favour, and others (especially Christians with deep roots in the region) were passionately against.
Paula White, a megachurch pastor from Florida who is a member of the president’s faith advisory council, said: “Evangelicals are ecstatic, for Israel is to us a sacred place and the Jewish people are our dearest friends.” She has repeatedly hailed Mr Trump as a man uniquely sensitive to God’s “divine plan” and willing to take counsel from Christian leaders like herself as to how that plan should be helped along.
Those sentiments are typical of an inner circle of evangelicals that helped to bring Mr Trump to power and that has pressed him to keep his Israel-friendly promises.
Meanwhile Pope Francis spoke of his “deep concern” about the situation created by... Continue reading
|↑|7. A Russian cleric’s turn of phrase evokes some dark memoriesВс., 03 дек.[−]
THIS has been a roller-coaster week in relations between Judaism and Russian Orthodoxy. It started when one of the country’s best-known clerics, a man regarded as personally close to President Vladimir Putin, dropped a verbal bombshell while making an announcement about the hitherto mysterious workings of a church panel which is tasked with investigating the apparent remains of the last tsar and his family, killed by firing-squad in July 1918.
“A large share of the church commission members have no doubt that the murder was ritual,” declared Bishop Tikhon Shevkunov, who is chairman of the panel and abbot of a well-known monastery in central Moscow. Having studied at film school and penned a best-selling work on monastic life in the Soviet Union, the bishop is considered a skilled communicator and his public words are mulled carefully. At a time of mounting tension over the limits of cultural freedom in Russia, Bishop Tikhon... Continue reading
|↑|8. Trees are covering more of the land in rich countriesЧт., 30 нояб.[−]
COLM STENSON drives around County Leitrim, pointing out new tree plantations. In this corner of Ireland, close to the border with Northern Ireland, conifers seem to be springing up all around. The encroachment is not just visual. Mr Stenson, who is a police officer as well as a cattle farmer, recently received a bill from his feed supplier. It came with a brochure advertising easy returns from converting farmland into woods. Forestry companies tout for business in the local livestock market. The forest is “closing in”, he says.
In the 1920s, when Ireland became independent, it was thought to have just 220,000 acres (90,000 hectares) of woods, covering about 1% of the land. Once-extensive forests had been shrinking for centuries. Farmers had cut trees for firewood and to clear space for animals and crops since at least the fourth millennium BC; some tree species were wiped out by disease. Beginning in the 17th century, most of the trees that remained were felled to build ships or fed... Continue reading
|↑|9. The smashers of Mary’s images are acting more against statues than against herЧт., 30 нояб.[−]
ONE OF America’s most outspoken campaigners for a better understanding of, and reform within, the world of Islam is Daisy Khan, a Kashmir-born New Yorker. As the founding director of a movement committed to overcoming “patriarchy” within Islam, she reacted with indignation to news that Donald Trump had retweeted a video of a statue of the Virgin Mary being destroyed.
The implication that Muslims were in general hostile to Mary, or Maryam as she is known in Arabic, was highly misleading, Ms Khan insisted. “The Virgin Mary is someone that Muslims around the world hold as sacred, and a symbol of all that Muslims stand for,” she said, recalling that the mother of Jesus features at length in the Koran, more in fact that she does in the New Testament.
In a tweet, she said the President’s action was an “utterly irreverent” effort to “politicise” a person beloved by 2.2bn Christians and 1.8bn Muslims.
Indeed, Islam shares with most Christians the belief that Mary was a virgin mother whose own birth was a... Continue reading
|↑|10. Greece prepares to do away with compulsory sharia in Western ThraceВт., 28 нояб.[−]
AS PART of a passionate campaign to solve an apparently non-existent problem, American state legislatures have been presented, over the past decade, with at least 120 bills that sought to outlaw the practice of sharia, the Islamic legal system, and 15 of them have been enacted. With or without these laws, America’s attachment to its own constitution and judicial and legal system seems pretty robust.
Things are not quite so clear-cut on the other side of the Atlantic. Thanks to a vagary of history, there is one little patch of the European Union where sharia has hitherto held sway, not as a self-imposed code of behaviour but as a system under which Muslim citizens have been pressured to regulate their business, especially involving inheritance. That region is Western Thrace, a part of Greece adjoining the land border with Turkey. Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s leftist prime minister, is about to introduce legislation that will change that odd state of affairs.
The situation has its roots in regional... Continue reading