Around the Web

Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:

Around the Web

Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:

Conference: Freedom of Religion or Belief (Rome, Nov. 8)

On November 8, the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), jointly with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperationwill host a conference titled “Freedom of Religion or Belief: Promoting Peaceful Coexistence Through Human Rights”  at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Rome. A brief description of the event follows:

IDLO.jpgIDLO jointly with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation will organize a half-day conference on “Freedom of Religion or Belief: Promoting Peaceful Coexistence Through Human Rights” to discuss the role of the rule of law in enabling the right to freedom of religion or belief.

The event will mark the launch of IDLO’s report Freedom of Religion or Belief and the Law: Current Dilemmas and Lessons Learned, a study offering informed reflections on the critical importance of religious tolerance in contributing to respect for other human rights, strengthening good governance and the rule of law, and enabling peaceful coexistence.

IDLO’s report intends to contribute to the public debate by showing that just and equitable rule of law frameworks are an essential requirement for societies to safeguard the right to freedom of religion or belief, and to balance this right fairly with other rights and interests. Strong legal frameworks can also help to reduce the capacity of extremist organizations to draw public support and legitimacy from politicized religious rhetoric.

Format:

The conference will take place during the morning of Tuesday 8 November 2016 at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Rome. The event is scheduled to start at 9.30am and will close at 12.30pm.

IDLO’s new report Freedom of Religion or Belief and the Law: Current Dilemmas and Lessons Learned will be distributed to participants during the conference.

Working languages: English and Italian (with simultaneous translation)

Participation:

Event participation is by invitation only.

More information on the event can be found here.

Harris & Nawaz, “Islam and the Future of Tolerance”

In October, Harvard University Press will release “Islam and the Future of Tolerance” by Sam Harris (Project Reason) and Maajid Nawaz (Quilliam). The publisher’s description follows:

In this short book, Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz invite you to join an urgently needed conversation: Is Islam a religion of peace or war? Is it amenable to reform? Why do so many Muslims seem drawn to extremism? What do words like Islamismjihadism, and fundamentalism mean in today’s world?

Remarkable for the breadth and depth of its analysis, this dialogue between a famous atheist and a former radical is all the more startling for its decorum. Harris and Nawaz have produced something genuinely new: they engage one of the most polarizing issues of our time—fearlessly and fully—and actually make progress.

Emon, “Religious Pluralism in Islamic Law”

In November, Oxford University Press will publish Religious Pluralism in Islamic Law (OUP November 2012) by Anver M. Emon (U. of Toronto’s Faculty of Law). The publisher’s description follows.

The question of tolerance and Islam is not a new one. Polemicists are certain that Islam is not a tolerant religion. As evidence they point to the rules governing the treatment of non-Muslim permanent residents in Muslim lands, namely the dhimmi rules that are at the center of this study. These rules, when read in isolation, are certainly discriminatory in nature. They legitimate discriminatory treatment on grounds of what could be said to be religious faith and religious difference. The dhimmi rules are often invoked as proof-positive of the inherent intolerance of the Islamic faith (and thereby of any believing Muslim) toward the non-Muslim.
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Clark, “Abraham’s Children”

The s0-called Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all claim to be the People of God. In fact, each claims to be the  People of God, to the exclusion of the others. One possible implication is that rival claimants are imposters who must be punished, and at times each Abrahamic religion has behaved very intolerantly towards adherents of the other faiths. That is not the only possible implication, however. Rather than anticipate the Last Judgment, one might leave punishment to God and show charity to the members of the other covenants, and at times each Abrahamic religion has been tolerant of its rivals. A new book by Calvin College Professor Kelly James Clark, Abraham’s Children: Liberty and Tolerance in an Age of Religious Conflict (Yale 2012), emphasizes this second, more hopeful response. The publisher’s description follows:

Scarcely any country in today’s world can claim to be free of intolerance. Israel and Palestine, Northern Ireland, Sudan, the Balkans, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, and the Caucasus are just some of the areas of intractable conflict apparently inspired or exacerbated by religious differences. Can devoted Jews, Christians, or Muslims remain true to their own fundamental beliefs and practices, yet also find paths toward liberty, tolerance, and respect for those of other faiths?

In this vitally important book, fifteen influential practitioners of the Abrahamic religions address religious liberty and tolerance from the perspectives of their own faith traditions. Former president Jimmy Carter, Rabbi Arik Ascherman, Indonesia’s first democratically elected president, Abdurrahman Wahid, and the other writers draw on their personal experiences and on the sacred writings that are central in their own religious lives. Rather than relying on “pure reason,” as secularists might prefer, the contributors celebrate religious traditions and find within them a way toward mutual peace, uncompromised liberty, and principled tolerance. Offering a counterbalance to incendiary religious leaders who cite Holy Writ to justify intolerance and violence, the contributors reveal how tolerance and respect for believers in other faiths stand at the core of the Abrahamic traditions.

Nussbaum, “The New Religious Intolerance”

From Harvard University Press, a new book by Martha Nussbaum (University  of Chicago), The New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the Politics of Fear in an Anxious Age (forthcoming 2012). The publisher’s description follows.

What impulse prompted some newspapers to attribute the murder of 77 Norwegians to Islamic extremists, until it became evident that a right-wing Norwegian terrorist was the perpetrator? Why did Switzerland, a country of four minarets, vote to ban those structures? How did a proposed Muslim cultural center in lower Manhattan ignite a fevered political debate across the United States? In The New Religious Intolerance, Martha C. Nussbaum surveys such developments and identifies the fear behind these reactions. Drawing inspiration from philosophy, history, and literature, she suggests a route past this limiting response and toward a more equitable, imaginative, and free society.

Fear, Nussbaum writes, is “more narcissistic than other emotions.” Legitimate anxieties become distorted and displaced, driving laws and policies biased against those different from us. Overcoming intolerance requires consistent application of universal principles of respect for conscience. Just as important, it requires greater understanding. Nussbaum challenges us to embrace freedom of religious observance for all, extending to others what we demand for ourselves. She encourages us to expand our capacity for empathetic imagination by cultivating our curiosity, seeking friendship across religious lines, and establishing a consistent ethic of decency and civility. With this greater understanding and respect, Nussbaum argues, we can rise above the politics of fear and toward a more open and inclusive future.

Martyrs’ Mirror: The Paradoxical Road from Persecution to Tolerance

Last month, Adrian Chastain Weimer, assistant professor of history at Providence College, published Martyrs’ Mirror: Persecution and Holiness in Early New England (Oxford).  The book studies seventeenth-century colonial conceptions of martyrdom and religious persecution and the ways in which these conceptions unexpectedly shaped American civil rights landscape, especially in the areas of religious liberty and tolerance.

Weimer explores the power of martyrdom in the religious imagination in the early New England colonies.  The Puritans were subject to a variety of persecutions in England.  In the colonies, the memory of such persecution was fresh, informing the Puritans’ self conception as martyrs; so, as early as 1641, the Massachusetts Body of Liberties already outlawed the practices employed by the English to persecute them like oath ordeals before ecclesiastical courts under threat of torture, imprisonment, and death.  (It was this memory that would eventually develop, for example, into the constitutional prohibition against forcing persons to incriminate themselves.  See R. Carter Pittman, The Colonial and Constitutional History of the Privilege Against Self-Incrimination in America, 21 Va. L. Rev. 763 (1935) for a full discussion of this development.)

Complicating the picture, however, Professor Weimer adds the fact of religious persecution by Puritans in the colonies.  New England Congregationalists, Separatists, Quakers, Baptists, and Antinomians all suffered for their beliefs in England and also conceived of themselves as martyrs, a perception that only deepened when the Puritans, in turn, targeted them in the New World.  This passing on of persecution from Puritans to other dissenting religionists created a form of competition amongst early Americans to cast themselves in the narrative role of the persecuted martyr.

Weimer argues that, through this narratological competition, these ugly conflicts gave rise to paradoxical notions of religious tolerance.  The coveted narrative of persecuted martyr, which suggested divine favor, actually led to colonists’ looking askance at persecution.  Ultimately, what these diverse groups shared were memories of persecution.  And eventually, these memories and the competition for the role of martyr gave rise to legally enshrined rights of religious freedom that have developed until today.

Please see Oxford University Press’s description of the text after the jump. Continue reading

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