Religion news 13 June 2022

Image credit: Imam Qari Asim, Facebook

Imam Qari Asim sacked over his stand on Lady of Heaven film

Imam Qari Asim, one of the most influential and high-ranking Muslim leaders in the UK, has been sacked by the government from his roles as an independent adviser on Islamophobia and deputy chairman of the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group. The news was announced in a letter from the Department of Levelling Up, made public on their website. He says he heard about it from the media and had not received any personal letter nor had any communication before the letter was published. The department said it was because of his support of a campaign to ban the film The Lady of Heaven, which is about Fatima the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad. Qari Asim had said in a Facebook post that the film was deeply offensive and disparaging to Muslims. The department, in the unsigned public letter, said his comments had encouraged communal tensions and it was no longer appropriate for him to continue in work designed to promote community harmony. Late last night, in a statement on Twitter, Qari Asim comprehensively denied the criticism that he had undermined democratic values and said the government’s actions fuelled a perception that it was not interested in tackling anti-Muslim hatred. He is the head imam at the Makkah mosque in Leeds, a lawyer and has been appointed MBE for services to the community.

Faith groups line up against plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda

Campaigners and their legal teams fighting the deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda are making their case at the Court of Appeal this morning. Their attempt to block the first flight out failed in the High Court, and so they are appealing. Lawyers are representing trade unions and campaigners, but opposition to the government’s proposal has also been widespread among religious groups. The Archbishop of Canterbury has said it is opposite the nature of God. Prince Charles, who will become supreme governor of the Church of England when he becomes king, is reported to have said it was “appalling”. This weekend, Iain Greenshields, the moderator of the Church of Scotland, said it contradicted the basic teachings of the Christian faith. And at a protest in Manchester, clerics included the Rev Laurie Windle who said many of her congregation were appalled by what they saw as an ungodly asylum system. It is thought that the first flight is scheduled for Tuesday.

Knee treatment forces Pope Francis to cancel south Sudan trip

The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis has been forced to postpone his trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and south Sudan in early July, on the advice of doctors concerned that travelling would jeopardise the treatment of his knee, which has caused mobility problems. He was due to be accompanied by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields, both of whom have wished him well. It is hoped the trip will take place later this year.

Shortfall of RE teachers in schools as demand rises

The National Association for Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE) says there is a shortfall of RE teachers despite a survey showing there was a 23 per cent rise in the provision of RE in schools. Using data from the recruitment agency TeachVac, it says the number of advertisements for RE vacancies is higher than the number of trainee teachers coming through the system and this is a disaster. It points to a recent government admission that a quarter of lessons of secondary RE are taught by those who have not studied the subject beyond A-level, a higher figure than for other subjects. NATRE is calling on the government to review the teacher supply model to take account of the number of teacher specialisms in the workforce, reintroduce bursaries for secondary trainee teachers of RE from September 2022 and initiate a National Plan for RE.

Hajj applications closed for domestic pilgrims as numbers rocket

Arab News reports that the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has closed registration for domestic pilgrims for this year’s Hajj season, due to take place in early July. A total of 390,000 people had requested a place, which will be decided by lottery. This is the first fully open Hajj since Covid-19 lockdowns. Visitors from abroad have been asked to apply showing evidence of Covid vaccines. Their applications, too, will be decided by an e-lottery.

€6m project to restore Renaissance synagogues in Venice

The Associated Press reports that work is underway to restore 16th-century synagogues in Venice, considered to be the only Renaissance synagogues still in use. They are in an area thought to be the first ghetto, out of sight from the main streets and located on the top floors of buildings where Jewish families lived. The historian David Landau says the buildings have been altered beyond recognition over the centuries and needed to be cared for. The cost is expected to run to €6m.


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