Required to study Islam: Religious Freedom?

Is forced Muslim religious education compatible with freedom of religion? We don’t tend to have court news quite this interesting (as far as religion goes) here in New Zealand.

I’m not commenting on this case because of the details that brought the parties to court, so let me quickly summarise what I think are the facts and then move on to what interests me.

  • The tenant is a Muslim woman. The landlord is a 73-year-old ordained pastor from Nigeria.
  • The tenant has had between 12 and 15 people staying in the rented apartment, which the landlord does not permit (or at least does not want, I don’t know if it’s contrary to the lease).
  • The tenant claims that the landlord has a history of shouting anti-Islamic abuse at her and that she pushed her, making her fall down some stairs.
  • The landlord denies treating the tenant this way, saying that the tenant had a vendetta against her because she wouldn’t let more people live in the apartment and because of her religion.
  • The judge found against the landlord, also noting that previous tenants have taken out prevention orders against her.

That brings us up to the part that I’m interested in. Here’s what the judge did:

He sentenced her to two years in jail on the assault and battery charge for pushing Suliman but required her to serve only six months, with the remaining 18 months suspended if she complied with certain probation conditions.

“I want you to learn about the Muslim faith,” he said. “I want you to enroll and attend an introductory course on Islam. I do want you to understand people of the Muslim faith, and they need to be respected. They may worship Allah … but they need to be respected.”

Continue reading “Required to study Islam: Religious Freedom?”

Do not fight hate with hate

“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:34)

YESTERDAY IN Sydney armed man Haron Monis, carrying an Islamic flag, took hostages in a Sydney café in a siege that captured the attention of the world. Less than a day later, it was over, and Monis, along with two members of the public, lay dead. There will be some who, I suspect, over and above mourning the loss of innocent life, use this event to reinforce their view that religion is uniquely dangerous. My heart sank as the story broke, both because of the horror faced by the poor victims, but also because of the inevitable backlash against Muslims in general that we may be about to see. This has nothing to do with what I think of Islam. I am hardly an advocate. But it has everything to do with the excuses we sometimes make to overlook the ways in which we fail to love others. Continue reading “Do not fight hate with hate”

Why are you quoting Sam Harris on Israel? (Religion is not the problem!)

Why are we all suddenly going to Sam Harris for insight on Gaza?

Intelligent Design advocacy groups are doing it. Some of my Christian friends on Facebook are doing it. People are gleefully quoting some recent comments from Sam Harris about why he doesn’t criticise Israel but is sharply critical of Hamas. Here’s the snippet being passed around like reefer at a Green party conference: Continue reading “Why are you quoting Sam Harris on Israel? (Religion is not the problem!)”