Tag Archives: Human Rights

O’Halloran, “Religion, Charity and Human Rights”

This month, Cambridge University Press releases Religion, Charity and Human Rights by Kerry O’Halloran (Queensland University of Technology). The publisher’s description follows:

For the first time in 400 years a number of leading common law nations have, fairly simultaneously, embarked on charity law reform leading to an encoding of key definitional matters in charity legislation. This book provides an analysis of international case law developments on the ever growing range of issues now being generated by clashes between human rights, religion and charity law. Kerry O’Halloran identifies and assesses the agenda of ‘moral imperatives’, such as abortion and gay marriage that delineate the legal interface and considers their significance for those with and those without religious belief. By assessing jurisdictional differences in the law relating to religion/human rights/charity the author provides a picture of the evolving ‘culture wars’ that now typify and differentiates societies in western nations including the USA, England and Wales, Ireland, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

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“Democracy, Law and Religious Pluralism in Europe” (Requejo & Ungureanu, eds.)

Next month, Routledge Press will release Democracy, Law and Religious Pluralism in Europe: Secularism and Post-Secularism, edited by Ferran Requejo and Camil Ungureanu, both of Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. The publisher’s description follows:

Democracy, Law and Religious Pluralism in Europe

In contrast with the progressive dilution of religions predicted by traditional liberal and Marxist approaches, religions remain important for many people, even in Europe, the most secularised continent. In the context of increasingly culturally diverse societies, this calls for a reinterpretation of the secular legacy of the Enlightenment and also for an updating of democratic institutions.

This book focuses on a central question: are the classical secularist arrangements well equipped to tackle the challenge of fast-growing religious pluralism? Or should we move to new post-secular arrangements when dealing with pluralism in Europe? Offering an interdisciplinary approach that combines political theory and legal analysis, the authors tackle two interrelated facets of this controversial question. They begin by exploring the theoretical perspective, asking what post-secularism is and looking at its relation to secularism. The practical consequences of this debate are then examined, focusing on case-law through four empirical case studies.

This book will be of interest to students and scholars of political theory, philosophy, religion and politics, European law, human rights, legal theory and socio-legal studies.

European Human Rights Court to France: Do Whatever You Want

This week, Americans understandably have been occupied with the Hobby Lobby case and its implications for religious freedom in our country. But across the Atlantic, the European Court of Human Rights was handing down its own decision on the scope of religious freedom, S.A.S. v. France. The European Court held that France’s ban on clothing designed to cover one’s face in public–what everyone knows, for obvious reasons, as the “burqa ban”–does not violate the European Convention on Human Rights. The court’s ruling reveals the challenges of enforcing a regional, European standard with respect to religious expression.

Some background: Article 9 of the European Convention recognizes a right to manifest one’s religion or belief, subject to limitations that are necessary to promote certain legitimate state interests, including public safety and “the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” Any such limitation must be proportionate to the interest the state asserts. The European Court has made clear that Article 9 need not apply uniformly across Europe. Given different national histories and cultures, states have discretion to adapt article 9 in light of the needs and values of their particular societies. The Europeans refer to this discretion as the states’ “margin of appreciation.”

France argued that the ban on burqas is necessary to promote public safety and protect the rights and freedoms of others–specifically, the right of people to live in an “open society” characterized by “civility” and “social interaction.” The court rejected the first argument. Even assuming the burqa posed a risk in some circumstances, it held, a blanket ban is disproportionate. If the concern were public safety, a more targeted ban would be appropriate–in the context of security checks, for example.

The court agreed with France, though, that the ban could be justified on the basis of promoting an “open society”–at least, an open society in the French manner. Obviously, not all societies see the burqa as problematic. In Europe, only Belgium has a similar ban. But the French people had decided that the burqa violates “the ground rules of social communication” in their country. This decision deserved deference, the court held. Given the margin of appreciation in such matters, the court would honor France’s determination that “the voluntary and systematic concealment of the face is … incompatible with the fundamental requirements of ‘living together’ in French society.”

This level of deference is really quite breathtaking. Essentially, the European Court is saying, a state can ban religious expression in order to maintain local norms of “living together.” What ban on religious expression would not be allowed under such a standard? Let’s pose a hypothetical case. France already prohibits conspicuous religious dress in public schools. Let’s assume France decides to extend this ban to all public places, arguing that conspicuous religious dress in public creates unnecessary tension and interferes with social interaction à la française. Under the court’s deferential approach, wouldn’t such a ban be permissible? What would be the basis for second guessing France’s assertion about what French social norms require?

The deference to national norms is unavoidable in the context of the Council of Europe, a regime that includes scores of states with widely varying cultures and histories. One size simply doesn’t fit all. If the European Court is to have any legitimacy, it will often need to defer to national judgments on sensitive issues. Still, the European Court purports to pursue a common European standard in respect of human rights. Decisions like S.A.S. suggest that pursuit has a long way to go.

Trejo, “Popular Movements in Autocracies: Religion, Repression, and Indigenous Collective Action in Mexico”

This July, Cambridge University Press will publish Popular Movements in Autocracies: Religion, Repression, and Indigenous Collective Action in Mexico by Guillermo Trejo (Duke University). The publisher’s description follows.Popular Movements in Autocracies

This book presents a new explanation of the rise, development and demise of social movements and cycles of protest in autocracies; the conditions under which protest becomes rebellion; and the impact of protest and rebellion on democratization. Focusing on poor indigenous villages in Mexico’s authoritarian regime, the book shows that the spread of U.S. Protestant missionaries and the competition for indigenous souls motivated the Catholic Church to become a major promoter of indigenous movements for land redistribution and indigenous rights. The book explains why the outbreak of local rebellions, the transformation of indigenous claims for land into demands for ethnic autonomy and self-determination, and the threat of a generalized social uprising motivated national elites to democratize. Drawing on an original dataset of indigenous collective action and on extensive fieldwork, the empirical analysis of the book combines quantitative evidence with case studies and life histories.

USCIRF Issues Annual Report

The US Commission on International Freedom (USCIRF), an independent, bipartisan government advisory body, has issued its annual report for 2014. As it does every year, the report designates countries with bad records on religious freedom. The “countries of particular concern” for 2014 are Burma, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. In addition, the report names countries with somewhat less bad, but still problematic records, the so-called “Tier 2 countries”: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Russia, and Turkey. Finally, the report names countries and regions that merit watching, including, somewhat surprisingly, Western Europe, which makes the list this year, among other reasons, because of recent bans on religious dress and ritual slaughter.

Among the report’s recommendations is a call for the United States to coordinate its efforts on behalf of international religious freedom with global actors–not only the UN and the OSCE, but also other national governments that now make religious freedom part of their foreign policy. The geopolitics of religious will be the the subject of one of the panels at our upcoming conference on international religious freedom this summer in Rome (watch this space for further details).

The report is pretty long, about 200 pages, but quite worthwhile. For a good summary, check out this piece by the Commission’s Knox Thames and Elizabeth Cassidy.

Barras, “Refashioning Secularisms in France and Turkey”

9780415821780This month, Routledge publishes Refashioning Secularisms in France and Turkey: The Case of the Headscarf Ban by Amelie Barras (University of Montreal). The publisher’s description follows.

Over the past few years, secularism has become an intrinsic component of discussions on religious freedom and religious governance. The question of whether states should restrict the wearing of headscarves and other religious symbols has been particularly critical in guiding this thought process.

Refashioning Secularisms in France and Turkey documents how, in both countries, devout women have contested bans on headscarves, pointing to how these are inconsistent with the ‘real’ spirit of secularism. These activists argue that it is possible to be simultaneously secular and religious; to believe in the values conveyed by secularism, while still remaining devoted to their faith. Through this examination, the book highlights how activists locate their claims within the frame of secularism, while at the same time revisiting it to craft a space for their religiosity.

Addressing the lacuna in literature on the discourse of devout Muslims affected by these restrictions, this book offers a topical analysis on an understudied dimension of secularism and is a valuable resource for students and researchers with an interest in Religion, Gender Studies, Human Rights and Political Science.

Baran, “Dissent on the Margins: How Soviet Jehovah’s Witnesses Defied Communism and Lived to Preach About It”

Next month, Oxford will publish Dissent on the Margins:9780199945535_140
How Soviet Jehovah’s Witnesses Defied Communism and Lived to Preach About It, by Emily B. Baran (Middle Tennessee State University). The publisher’s description follows.

Emily B. Baran offers a gripping history of how a small, American-based religious community, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, found its way into the Soviet Union after World War II, survived decades of brutal persecution, and emerged as one of the region’s fastest growing religions after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. In telling the story of this often misunderstood faith, Baran explores the shifting boundaries of religious dissent, non-conformity, and human rights in the Soviet Union and its successor states.

Soviet Jehovah’s Witnesses are a fascinating case study of dissent beyond urban, intellectual nonconformists. Witnesses, who were generally rural, poorly educated, and utterly marginalized from society, resisted state pressure to conform. They instead constructed alternative communities based on adherence to religious principles established by the Witnesses’ international center in Brooklyn, New York. The Soviet state considered Witnesses to be the most reactionary of all underground religious movements, and used extraordinary measures to try to eliminate this threat. Yet Witnesses survived, while the Soviet system did not. After 1991, they faced continuing challenges to their right to practice their faith in post-Soviet states, as these states struggled to reconcile the proper limits on freedom of conscience with European norms and domestic concerns.

Dissent on the Margins provides a new and important perspective on one of America’s most understudied religious movements.

 

Hinojosa, “Latino Mennonites”

Next month, Johns Hopkins University Press will publish Latino Mennonites: Civil Rights, Faith & Evangelical Culture by Felipe Hinojosa (Texas A&M University). The publisher’s description follows.book cover

Felipe Hinojosa’s parents first encountered Mennonite families as migrant workers in the tomato fields of northwestern Ohio. What started as mutual admiration quickly evolved into a relationship that strengthened over the years and eventually led to his parents founding a Mennonite Church in South Texas. Throughout his upbringing as a Mexican American evangélico, Hinojosa was faced with questions not only about his own religion but also about broader issues of Latino evangelicalism, identity, and civil rights politics.

Latino Mennonites offers the first historical analysis of the changing relationship between religion and ethnicity among Latino Mennonites. Drawing heavily on primary sources in Spanish, such as newspapers and oral history interviews, Hinojosa traces the rise of the Latino presence within the Mennonite Church from the origins of Mennonite missions in Latino communities in Chicago, South Texas, Puerto Rico, and New York City, to the conflicted relationship between the Mennonite Church and the California farmworker movements, and finally to the rise of Latino evangelical politics. He also analyzes how the politics of the Chicano, Puerto Rican, and black freedom struggles of the 1960s and 1970s civil rights movements captured the imagination of Mennonite leaders who belonged to a church known more for rural and peaceful agrarian life than for social protest.

Whether in terms of religious faith and identity, race, immigrant rights, or sexuality, the politics of belonging has historically presented both challenges and possibilities for Latino evangelicals in the religious landscapes of twentieth-century America. In Latino Mennonites, Hinojosa has interwoven church history with social history to explore dimensions of identity in Latino Mennonite communities and to create a new way of thinking about the history of American evangelicalism.

Kundnani, “The Muslims Are Coming!”

Next month, Random House will publish The Muslims Are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror by Arun Kundnani. The Muslims are Coming! The publisher’s description follows.

Death came instantly to Imam Luqman, as four FBI agents fired semiautomatic rifles at him from a few feet away. Another sixty officers surrounded the building on that October morning, the culmination of a two-year undercover investigation that had infiltrated the imam’s Detroit mosque. The FBI quickly claimed that Luqman Abdullah was “the leader of a domestic terrorist group.” And yet, caught on tape, he had refused to help “do something” violent, as it might injure innocents, and no terrorism charges were ever lodged against him.

Jameel Scott thought he was exercising his rights when he went to challenge an Israeli official’s lecture at Manchester University. But the teenager’s presence at the protest with fellow socialists made him the subject of police surveillance for the next two years. Counterterrorism agents visited his parents, his relatives, his school. They asked him for activists’ names and told him not to attend demonstrations. They called his mother and told her to move the family to another neighborhood. Although he doesn’t identify as Muslim, Jameel had become another face of the
presumed homegrown terrorist.

The new front in the War on Terror is the “homegrown enemy,” domestic terrorists who have become the focus of sprawling counterterrorism structures of policing and surveillance in the United States and across Europe. Domestic surveillance has mushroomed—at least 100,000 Muslims in America have been secretly under scrutiny. British police compiled a secret suspect list of more than 8,000 al-Qaeda “sympathizers,” and in another operation included almost 300 children fifteen and under among the potential extremists investigated. MI5 doubled in size in just five years.

Based on several years of research and reportage, in locations as disparate as Texas, New York, and Yorkshire, and written in engrossing, precise prose, this is the first comprehensive critique of counterradicalization strategies. The new policy and policing campaigns have been backed by an industry of freshly minted experts and liberal commentators. The Muslims Are Coming! looks at the way these debates have been transformed by the embrace of a narrowly configured and ill-conceived antiextremism.

Patterson, “Genocide in Jewish Thought”

This January, Cambridge University Press will publish Genocide in Jewish Thought by David Patterson (University of Texas- Dallas).  The publisher’s Genocide in Jewish Thoughtdescription follows.

Among the topics explored in this book are ways of viewing the soul, the relation between body and soul, environmentalist thought, the phenomenon of torture, and the philosophical and theological warrants for genocide. Presenting an analysis of abstract modes of thought that have contributed to genocide, the book argues that a Jewish model of concrete thinking may inform our understanding of the abstractions that can lead to genocide. Its aim is to draw upon distinctively Jewish categories of thought to demonstrate how the conceptual defacing of the other human being serves to promote the murder of peoples, and to suggest a way of thinking that might help prevent genocide.