Religion news 1 July 2022

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Ministers should talk to me says Imam Qari Asim, sacked over Fatima film criticism

Imam Qari Asim, sacked as a government adviser after allegedly supporting a campaign that “encouraged communal tension” over The Lady of Heaven, says the government needs to reconsider and retract statements against him. Speaking exclusively on the Religion Media Centre podcast, he said he was open to having a conversation with ministers. If they had spoken to him first, he would have been able to explain that some of their allegations were completely unfounded. Qari Asim, 44, a lawyer, is an established leader in British Islam. He said he and was stunned and disappointed to discover that he had been unceremoniously dismissed by a notice on a government website, from his roles as independent government adviser to define Islamophobia and deputy chair of the Anti-Muslim Hatred working group. The Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said the government was committed to tackling the unacceptable scourge of anti-Muslim hatred and promoting community cohesion, while standing up for the values that define our country. Full story on our website here and podcast interview with Roger Bolton here

Freedom of religion and belief: we need action, not just talk

The International Ministerial conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief meets in London next week, as delegates say a failure to act on violations, undermines deterrence and kills credibility. Fiona Bruce, MP, the UK government special envoy for the freedom of religion or belief, told a Religion Media Centre briefing that this was a very high priority for the government, which saw these liberties as vital for a secure and peaceful world. Asked whether the government was considering trade sanctions or even public criticism of countries where violations are reported, such as China and India, she said the conference was trying to focus on themes rather than point the finger at individual countries, but the UK government was constantly looking at where it could properly apply sanctions. Knox Thames, who organised the first two conferences in the United States, warned that continued pressure was needed on governments to act. “If all our nations just talk about it, and don’t act, it kills our credibility, it undermines deterrence, and it sells out the victims who are going to be left in these horrible situations”.  Briefing is on our YouTube channel here and full report is here

Online liberal Friday prayers for modern Britain

The Oxford Institute for British Islam (OIBI), a new organisation aiming to encourage a re-interpretation of Islam within modern Britain, is holding online Friday prayers today, which are liberal and progressive, combining “the sacred scripture’s pertinent spirituality with topical worldly secularity”. The event is put on in conjunction with the Open Mosque in Cape Town.  The OIBI says it seeks to offer scholarly insight into the Quran, fostering free thinking “to restore logic and reason to their hitherto blind-believing faith”. Academics associated with the Institute include Dr Usama Hasan, Dr Taj Hargey, Professor Elham Manea and Paigham Mustafa.

Reports that Jehovah’s Witnesses kept database of historic sex abuse cases

A DailyTelegraph investigations team is reported to have found that the Jehovah’s Witness organisation has amassed a secret database of child sexual abuse allegations against its members over the last 25 years. The report, explained in a podcast,  says local groups were asked to log details and pass them to the central office in Chelmsford. The Jehovah’s Witnesses said in a statement that current child protection policies instruct leaders to “make a report to the police wherever it appears that a child is in danger of abuse”.

Broad support for teaching slavery on equal footing with the Holocaust

Jewish News reports that Prince Charles’ suggestion to put the teaching of slavery on equal footing with the Holocaust in British schools has been widely welcomed. The Prince told theheads of Commonwealth governments in Kigali that slavery was “the most painful period of our history” and it is reported that he wants to make the teaching of slavery an educational priority. The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust said it agreed it was important to understand more about slavery and identity-based prejudice. Tim Robertson, chief executive of the Anne Frank Trust, said he believed slavery should, like the Holocaust, be compulsory on the National Curriculum.

Church Commissioners initiative for more affordable homes

The Church Commissioners for England have appointed former Savills associate director Jennifer Longstaff to work on providing affordable housing. The Church Commissioners expect to deliver 9,000 affordable homes across its land portfolio in the next 15 years and seeks to accelerate the delivery of small-scale rural affordable housing sites across England, in partnership with housing associations and local housebuilders. 

Warning that US separation of church and state is under threat

Author and journalist, Emily Tamkin, is warning in the New Statesman that recent rulings by the Supreme Court are threatening to erase the separation of church and state. She cites the ruling that a high school football coach, dismissed after praying on the pitch after the game ended, had been the victim of a violation of his rights, suggesting the government is free to promote religion in schools. A similar point is made in an article in Vanity Fair.

Methodist leaders elected

The Methodist Conference has elected the Rev Gill Newton, from Sheffield, to serve as President and Deacon Kerry Scarlett, from Birmingham, to serve as Vice-President, starting their year of office in June 2023. Kerry founded ADAVU, an anti-trafficking charity and participated in regional network and anti-trafficking campaigns. 

Appeal for stained glass window to remember the Dambusters

Scampton Church in Lincolnshire, is fundraising for a stained glass window to commemorate the Dambusters. The hope is that it will mark next year’s 80th anniversary of the founding of 617 Squadron at RAF Scampton in 1943. The project is £2,000 short of the £18,000 needed, having already received donations from RAF heritage organisations and businesses in the area. BBC story here


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