Sabbath Railway Work Angers Ultra-Orthodox in Israel

Working on Sabbath to keep trains running in Israel has resulted in a political storm. Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered the work stopped during the Sabbath hours to satisfy ultra-Orthodox parties that form part of his ruling coalition. Ultra-Orthodox Jews insist upon a strict Shabbat observance. However, the High Court of Justice overruled Netanyahu's order stating that orders only from Labor Minister Katz were enforcable. Katz ordered resumption of work, even during Sabbath hours, angering the ultra-Orthodox. Before the court's intervention, trains were shut down across the nation during Shabbat leaving many stranded commuters, including soldiers who could not return to their posts.

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Female Genital Mutilation in Russia

Until recently, Female Genital Mutilation (FMG) has been legal in Russia. However, legislation recently was drafted banning the practice after a Muslim, a Christian and a Jew caused an uproar over the procedure.

When asked about FGM, Mufti Ismail Berdiev said FGM was a 'healthy custom' that should be practiced on all women 'to end depravity on Earth and reduce sexuality.' He opined that at creation women were destined for the birthing and raising of children and that FGM does not interfere with this God-given directive.

Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin of the Russian Orthodox Church agreed that FGM was a 'time-honored practice' but was probably unnecessary for Orthodox Christian women because promiscuity was not a problem for among them.

Rabbi Boruch Gorin neither condoned or condemned FGM but agreed that men are surrounded by many sexual temptations.

Mufti Ismail Berdiev later claimed he was joking about FGM but stressed that women's sexuality must be restrained. 

Hijab Now Part of Approved Uniform for Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Police in Scotland

Muslim women who choose to become part of the RCMP may now wear the hijab while on the job. The Mounties became the third police force in Canada to allow the hijab. Officials noted that the decision reflects Canada's growing diversity and hopes to encourage Muslim women to become Mounties. The hijab has been worn by Muslim female members of the Canadian military since 1996.

Scotland Police, also in an effort to recruit more minorities, have also approved the hijab as part of its official uniform. 


Fighting Radical Islam, Germany Grants Islam Same Legal Standing as Christianity and Judaism

There is no separation of church and state in Germany. It levies a church tax to support established religions. Islam is Germany's fastest growing faith and its members seek the same legal standing as those who follow Judeo-Christian beliefs. Part of this goal has been realized as Islam is now part of public school and university programs just as Judaism and Christianity are. Teachers of Islam can now receive state-certified training for teaching Islam in public schools. Germany hopes that such measures will counteract radical Islam.

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US Supreme Court Hears Headscarf Case

Samantha Elauf claims Abercrombie and Fitch refused to hire her because of her religious belief requiring the wearing of a black headscarf. Abercrombie and Fitch has a work rule prohibiting employees wearing either hats or anything black. However, this work requirement was not raised during the interview when Elauf wore a black headscarf. While Justice Samuel Alito stated the reason Elauf was denied a job was because Abercrombie and Fitch assumed she would wear the black headscarf every day to work, Abercrombie and Fitch denied that Elauf was the victim of religious discrimination.

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Canadian Citizenship Requires Swearing Allegiance to the Queen

The Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the appeal of a lower court decision retaining swearing 'allegiance to Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors' in the oath new citizens are required to pledge. Three permanent and long-time residents of Canada sought Canadian citizenship but refused to swear allegiance to the Queen. Only one of the three refused on religious grounds but all three must now either repeat the phrase pledging  allegiance to the Queen or remain permanent residents and not citizens of Canada.

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Hate Crimes and Discrimination Against Christians in India

Upset over increasing theft, vandalism and arson of their churches, Christians in India's capital city marched to the home of the official responsible for law and order. However, some were arrested because his home is located in an area of Delhi banning protests. India is officially a secular country but the vast majority of the population are Hindu. Christians have faced religious intolerance since British rule because Christianity is viewed as a Western religion and associated with colonialism. However, Christians claim that intolerance is increasing with the election of a Hindu nationalist party. Because they do not trust the police, the Christians are asking for an independent judicial inquiry. They also state that they are not asking for safety because they are Christians but as citizens of India.

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Palestinian Christians Feeling Isolated and Depressed Call for Peace Talks to Resume

While Palestinian Christians comprise about eight percent of the population of the West Bank and only one percent in Gaza, more Christian Palestinians migrate each year than Muslim Palestinians. This is because Christian Palestinians generally are wealthier and better educated. As a result, the population of Christian Palestinians is decreasing each year. However, those Christian Palestinians that remain call for peace talks to resume between Palestinians and Israel. Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the Pope's representative in the Holy Land and first Palestinian to serve in that capacity, states that if the present situation continues it will only lead to the end of Israel as "Israel cannot survive surrounded by enemies."

Baptist pastor Rami Khouri in Bethlehem agrees. "The situation is getting worse. We are losing a golden opportunity for negotiations, and this may be the last chance before the big war that is going to take place in the Middle East," he stated while noting that Palestinian Christians have increasing "feelings of isolation, anger and depression." Palestinian Christian Nora Carmi observing a double standard by the world regarding the slaying of Jews and cartoonists in Paris stated, "The whole world protested what happened in Paris but when the same thing happens to a whole population nobody says anything."

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Refusing to Print Anti-Gay Messages Results in Charge of Religious Discrimination

For refusing to print anti-gay slogans on two cakes, a Colorado baker is facing a charge of religious discrimination. Marjorie Silva agreed to bake two cakes in the shape of Bibles but refused to write the anti-gay messages and pictures on the cakes the customer requested. Silva, a Christian, found the messages hateful. However, she offered the customer a pastry bag and icing so he could finish the Bible-shaped cakes she provided. The customer refused and filed a complaint with the Civil Rights division of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies.

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Imprisoned for Watching Volleyball

A woman holding British and Iranian citizenship has been imprisoned in Iran's infamous Evin prison for trying to enter a stadium and watch a men's volleyball game between Iran and Italy. Males and females watching sports together where men are not fully clothed is considered un-Islamic. Islamic religious scholars deem the law necessary to protect women from 'lewd behavior'.

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