Every aspect of a politician’s life is magnified and critiqued, especially during an election. When people think of Mitt Romney, the word Mormon might come to mind. Some believe that Romney’s LDS faith is one of his defining values, while others may ignore his religion and personal life, and look purely at his political ideologies.
The fact is, personal experiences and beliefs (not necessarily religion), will always influence a person’s decision making. While Romney may be the first Mormon presidential candidate, he certainly is not the first man of God. Going back to the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln spoke of the “nation under God”. Many presidents incorporate the idea of God into their speeches, without narrowing down to a particular religion. Whether it is Muslim, Mormon, Catholic, etc., the unity of faith in a higher power seems to be more important than a single denomination.
The United States is fundamentally Christian, but I feel that people today are much more accepting when it comes to many ideologies. Americans are able to identify, for the most part, what makes a good politician for their nation, rather than a good pastor. Religion may influence his decisions, but Romney is clearly intelligent and has used much more than the ideas of Joseph Smith to achieve the status of a presidential candidate. While religion is important to many, it is a small detail that is overshadowed by political fundamentals. Romney is looking to get a job as a politician, not a minister.
-MelissaK
#349

Almost all the dead were Christians

Multiculturalism is something that Canadians are very proud of. The fact that many different cultures can live together peacefully makes Canada one of the best countries to live in. Unfortunately, not all nations have the same level of acceptance. Extreme racism towards people of different religions was the foundation for Nazi Germany’s genocide of the Jews. For Germans the only acceptable religion was their very own Germanic religion. Nazi Germany therefore depicts state perpetrated violence against members of a group. A group is ‘a biological entity made up of distinct racial, cultural, and intellectual substance.’ State perpetrated violence against religious groups is currently an issue for Egypt. On October 9th 2012 several thousand Egyptians marched through Cairo on the year anniversary of a brutal massacre of 26 Christians. The events that transpired a year earlier resulted when Coptic Christians were peacefully protesting the government’s failure to take any action against a string of attacks that had burned down a church. Egypt’s military vehicles wildly sped into the crowd, driving back and forth over protesters, killing 15. Another 11 died of gunshot wounds. What is troubling is that the new Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi has not brought justice to the perpetrators. A president should have the duty to protect any civilian no matter their religion, should he not? In light of these events it is important to ask if Coptic Christians will ever be safe in their own country. Another thing to question is whether civilians have more of a duty towards their state or their religion?

-MG

#349

Legal systems worldwide have encompassed freedom as a human right through a colorful array of channels to invoke a sense of identity and free expression among the masses.  The secular states of the West promote freedom of rights, freedom of art and freedom of religion.  The recent anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims” has ignited protests across the Muslim world, resulting in several deaths including a US ambassador in Libya. The creator of the video was a Coptic Egyptian with a US citizenship. According to an article translated from German by Paul Cohen, Muslim protests show limits of free speech. Critics argue in some Islamic countries there is a blurring of the differences between religion and politics. The offensive portrayal of the Islamic prophet has caused great political damage. Politicians argue the west is losing credit that it gained from its opposition to dictators such as Libya’s Gadhafi and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. Was this act of free speech a blatant attack on the Islamic religion to deliberately provoke global unrest, or an attempt to shine a negative light on the faith to steer people away from it such as Jakob Wilhelm Hauer sought to move Germany away from Christianity during the Third Reich. The article states the ambassador was killed by Radical Islamists but he also died for the freedom of the Christian agitators. There are laws in some countries that deem blasphemy a crime but little of this legislation is effective. If those laws are not advocated the fine line between religion and politics diminishes.
-MD
#349

The Reality that Faces the Middle East and the Whole World

Israeli fighter planes were scrambled to intercept an unmanned aircraft that ventured into restricted Israeli airspace on Saturday October 6th.  Hezbollah has claimed responsibility and also put forth the threat that they have “more surprises and would not hesitate to use them in any future war with Israel.”  The aircraft was reported as being made in Iran, a fundamental enemy of the state of Israel, before being assembled by Hezbollah in Lebanon.  This event is greatly magnified by the fact that Iran is suspected of supporting many Islamic terrorist organizations while simultaneously developing its own nuclear technology.  The threat of war in the region is becoming more real every day with events like this reinforcing the image of Islamic militant groups (such as Hezbollah) as being real and dangerous threats to the Jewish state of Israel.  Although it is said that this drone was not equipped with weapons, I believe it is only a matter of time before armed drones can and will be sent into Israel.  This event is significant because it proves Iran’s continued anti-Semitic views, which leads me to believe that Israel will execute a preemptive military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities sometime after this year’s U.S. presidential election.  The political climate of the region is hard for me to comprehend because I have been raised in a liberal secular society; however it is important to realize that in countries like Israel and Iran politics is just one branch of the religion that shapes their lives and worldviews.  Although the event of a drone being flown into Israel seems rather insignificant to us as Canadians, news such as this raises big questions about the responsibility of Canadians (and the rest of the world) to ensure that a destructive, possibly nuclear war never comes to fruition anywhere on the planet.   
-GS
#349

A Goodbye to Minority-Faith Chaplains and Freedom of Religion

For a government that has taken leaps and bounds towards solidifying Canada’s commitment to freedom of religion with actions such as establishing the Office of Religious Freedoms, contrary to this commitment, the Canadian government has taken steps to end all part-time chaplaincy contracts in Canada’s federal prisons. These part-time chaplains unfortunately represent all but one of the minority-faith chaplains in the Canadian prison system. Although Public Safety minister Vic Toews stated that these cuts are due to an inappropriate use of taxpayer money, it isn’t hard to see how some might speculate that these cuts will clearly restrict freedom of religion within prisons. The question is begged, does Toews believe in freedom of religion, or freedom of Christianity? Although it is clear that more than half of the inmates in Canada’s federal prison system identify as either Catholic or Protestant, it is foolish to assume that inmates of minority faiths are in less need of committed spiritual assistance.  The argument has been made that Christian chaplains will be obligated to tend to the spiritual needs of all inmates, not just Christians, and that spiritual assistance could come in the form of referral to volunteer chaplains. However, this form of spiritual assistance hardly demonstrates a commitment to equal access to spiritual assistance. In reality, time can only tell whether these cuts will prove to create the efficient chaplaincy system that Toews envisions, or if the cuts will create a system that neglects the spiritual health of inmates of minority faiths.

-JimB

#349

 

This news story tells the tale of two brothers from Tripoli, Libya, and their relationship to America and Al Qaeda. In an interview the eldest and only living brother, Abdel Wahab Mohamed Qaid, explains his Brother’s reasons for becoming apart of Jihad against the West, and his own reasons for not. In the end both brothers disagreed with the tendency for Americans to perceive every Islamic militant as being apart of Al Qaeda and a threat to the West. Qaid argues that this is simply not true. While the article presents a necessary perspective that is often silenced or forgotten in the war on terrorism, it  also demonstrates that the line which separates religion from politics is not always found. For the youngest brother, Abu Yahya, what was first a political fight against dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, became a political war infused with religion against the West. Abu Yahya became his own weapon when he “joined the global jihad against the West”. But was he partaking in a religious or political war? The Muslim brothers interpret (have interpreted) their world through the words written in the Qur’an and therefore it isn’t one or the other. One could argue that their actions are not so much solely religious or political as they are a reality comprising of both. Perhaps the American’s reaction towards any found Islamic militant is a response to such a reality because the Americans fear that these men act politically as religious fundamentalists, which is contrary to the American way. Every Muslim, especially the militant ones, become a threat because one fails to understand that although there often is no distinguishable separation between the Muslim religion and politics, not every Muslim (actually very few) is acting out against the West. One forgets that each person despite their religion still has their own lens with which they perceive the world. This would account for the various ideologies which include political views, that were and are active among the various Islamic militant groups or individuals, and which were ignorantly ignored. As well, one forgets the ideologies of the American’s themselves which fueled the imprisonment of many Muslim men, including Abu Yahya. 

-EmilyS

#349

 

http://nyti.ms/RuGIjf

Pakistan has recently been the host of a violent, controversial act that is believed, by the nation’s religious officials, to have been in abidance with Shari’ah Law. It is understood that if a country’s dominant religion is Islam, the Muslims are obligated to enact Shari’ah law. It is viewed that one who wholeheartedly believes in the Holy Quran must accept that the Book comprehensively defines every area of human activity and behaviour. However, much of the religion and how one goes about conducting their religious actions is based on interpretation. Therefore, it is hypocritical to enact a religious law in a nation where religious differences are visible. Although Pakistan is predominantly Sunni Muslim, there are vast Shi’a, Ahmadi, Ismaili, Christian, and Sikh minorities. Integrating such an idea into a government infrastructure, political and religious conflicts would be definite; all laws would be attributed to God’s will, yet contradict each other diametrically. Daily, innocent children are killed, the blood of countless civilians is shed, and schools and hospitals are attacked. To label any of those inhumane acts as Islamic law is profoundly wrong and misguided. It is unfortunate that Islamic values, at times, are interpreted in the most violent, and barbaric of ways. Malala Yusofzai was only 14 years old when she was shot outside of her school in the Taliban ruled, northern Pakistan. There are several chapters within the Quran that encourage education, the liberation of women, and prohibit against any form of violence towards them. The Taliban often manipulate Quranic verses to satisfy their personal violent, illiberal, and fundamentalist ideologies. Is it justifiable, under Islamic law, to commit such heinous crimes against humanity?
-FaizaC
#349

Non-Christian Chaplains Fired for not Being Christian

Effective the end of March, 2013, the Canadian federal government is cancelling all contracts of non-Christian prison chaplains. Although Canada does not have a formal separation of state and religion in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we are a country with religious freedom.  Based on statistics collected by CBC News, the cancellation of contracts with non-Christian chaplains will leave 43% of prisoners without proper religious counselling. There has been a cry of outrage from chaplains and religious leaders, accusing the Canadian government of blatant discrimination.

In Minister Vic Toews email to CBC News, he states that: “the government … is not in the business of picking and choosing which religions will be given preferential status through government funding. The minister has concluded … chaplains employed by Corrections Canada must provide services to inmates of all faiths.” The government clearly has given preferential status and it is without a doubt towards Christians. Speaking from a position of Christian privilege, Toews doesn’t realize a Christian chaplain cannot provide adequate counselling to people of different religions.

Although Toews claims that letting go of the non-Christian chaplains will save the money of taxpayers, he has failed to take into account that Canadian taxpayers are of all religions. Perhaps the Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and countless other religious denominations, would like to contribute their tax money towards rehabilitating members of their own religion? If the federal government is going to pay for chaplains at all, they should represent the broad spectrum of faith we have in Canada.

-AmandaC
#349

The story provides comprehensive details on the recent VP Debate, but what those on either side of the abortion debate will be interested in is the candidates’ religiously inspired stance on this issue. Biden and Ryan agree with their church’s (Catholic) stance that abortion is wrong and for the next four years the office of the Vice President of the United States will carry this view, regardless of who wins this November. Biden however chooses to ignore his convictions and wishes to maintain status quo laws on abortion, while Ryan is resigned to the fact even with Republican control of the white house, little would likely change when it comes to abortion law in the United States.
Later in the debate they disagree on the methods an administration should take to tackle modern day war criminals like Syria’s Assad, or Libya’s late Gadhafi. But both were vehemently opposed to the actions of dictators such as these, and were determined to stop them.
At this point I found it interesting that a modern American government would likely be at odds with history’s most notorious war criminals – the Nazi’s, but for different reasons than one might think.  Where these two governments would disagree is on the social morality of abortion! Surprisingly numerous high ranking fascist Nazi’s were opposed to abortion, they felt it robbed Germany of its future, while many in the “world’s bastion of freedom” (the USA) see the termination of pregnancy as a right that needs to be protected. Is a right to abortion then the highest form of an advanced liberty? And if so, whose liberty is it?
-JustinL
#349

The civil war in Syria, when all other factors are stripped away, can be boiled down to an age old conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. The conflict between the two contesting Muslim groups has origins dating back to the year 632 AD, but still proves to be a major driving force in the current political environment. President Bashar Assad of Syria, who is aligned with the Shiite Muslims, authorized the killing of the countries majority Sunni population by his Shiite supporting government. This conflict is not just limited to Syria. Sunni and Shiite groups from surrounding countries are entering the conflict to provide aid to their respective Muslim denominations in Syria. In the middle east, an area in which religion and politics are very closely intertwined, a conflict such as the one in Syria has the potential to escalate and quickly become out of control. When religious beliefs have a controlling effect on political agendas, moral and ethical guidelines begin to become blurred in respect to the treatment of religious populations.  When religious populations are oppressed, such as the Syrian Sunni Muslims, in a community as tightly knit as the Muslim community, a widespread backlash is practically inevitable. It has been stated by numerous members of the international community, such as Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, that Assad’s government has lost all legitimacy by committing such crimes against his own people. Statements such as these have major ramifications on the Syrian political sphere.
-HarryW
#349